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How the Olympics Are Rigged

The Slovenian Ski Association announced today that four ski officials face four-year suspensions for allegedly falsifying race results to help violin phenom Vanessa-Mae Vanakorn, 35, qualify for the Sochi Olympics, where she finished dead last in the giant slalom.

"The starting list included a person who did not even compete; a racer who fell was registered as finishing high in the standings," association president Jurij Zurej said in an interview with the Associated Press. "In addition, the dates of the competitions did not match the actual state when the races were held." The officials' reports stated that two of the four qualifying Slovenian runs took place on January 17, when they in fact took place the following day. 

Vanakorn's camp hasn't commented on the matter, but she has long recognized she's not as gifted in skiing as in music. 

"To just share the same snow, to be able to slide down the same snow that the elite skiers carve down, is just an honor and a privilege," Vanakorn said after her Olympic runs. She finished the giant slalom in 3 minutes, 26.97 seconds—50.1 seconds slower than Slovenian gold medalist Tina Maze.

AP writers pointed out that the investigation puts International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach in a tight spot. Bach, who was photographed with Vanakorn in Sochi, recently added her to an IOC working group on culture policy.

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Hollywood Is Turning "Wild" into a Movie

Fans of Cheryl Strayed’s memoir Wild, take note: A trailer for the movie of the same name was released Thursday. 

Reese Witherspoon plays Strayed in the movie, which was adapted from the New York Times bestseller about a woman who turns to the Pacific Crest Trail to find herself.

And Witherspoon—who won the Oscar for Best Actress for her portrayal of June Carter Cash in 2005’s Walk the Line—looks the part. Bare-faced and gritty, with a monster pack strapped to her back, her character trudges along 1,100 miles of the PCT, trying to cope with the recent death of her mother and the remnants of a destroyed marriage.  

The film, set to release in theaters December 5, also stars Gaby Hoffman and Laura Dern. Jean-Marc Vallée, who directed Dallas Buyers Club, is directing the film. 

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Amazon Drones: Coming Soon to Seattle?

When Amazon said it wanted to deploy drones for speedier (and cooler) deliveries, it was serious. The company has just asked the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for permission to test drones outdoors in Seattle, near its headquarters.

A stamp of approval from the FAA would help put Amazon on track to make delivery drones a reality as soon as possible simply because doing research and development close to home is a lot easier. Currently, the company can test its drones only indoors or in other countries.

Amazon promises it'll be careful when it takes the drones outside. Its small unmanned aircraft would undergo testing with the help of experts like "world-renowned roboticists, scientists, aeronautical engineers, remote sensing experts, and a former NASA astronaut." Plus, the company will put up safeguards like a "geofence," a virtual barrier that would deactivate any drone that passes through it. No word yet from the FAA, but if it means deliveries in less than 30 minutes, we're all for it.

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Cat Got Your Jeans?

We've all heard the saying "give a lion a pair of jeans to chew on and they'll sell at auction for thousands of dollars." Well, not until now.

A group of volunteers has collaborated with the Kamine Zoo in Hitachi, Japan, to auction off "the only jeans on earth designed by dangerous animals" to promote the zoo and conservation. So far, the fundraiser seems to be working. As of Friday, 15 bids had been placed for a pair of men's size 32 jeans. The current bid? $1,194.

Making the jeans is a simple process. A video on the group's site shows volunteers wrapping car tires in sheets of blue denim, setting them inside enclosures, and letting the animals at them for a few hours. Later, the group takes the pieces of "distressed" fabric and sews them into jeans.

Thus far, lions, tigers, and even bears at the zoo have helped create the one-of-a-kind designs.

"We were looking for ways to promote the zoo and wildlife conservation without spending too much," Zoo Jeans project member Takuya Miyamoto said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. "We also wanted to attract a new, younger generation to take an interest in zoos. That's how we came up with the idea of zoo jeans."

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The Best Sour Beer in the Country

You might think the sour beer trend evolved quickly, taking over bars and liquor stores seemingly overnight. But the Belgians have been brewing sour beer since the 1800s, and Americans are only now starting to catch up.

Sour beer, or beer with an intentionally tart, acidic taste, is a bit of a rebel in the brewing world. It uses ingredients most brewers avoid at all cost: a strain of the wild yeast Brettanomyces and at least one of the typical souring agents—Pediococcus, Lactobacillus, and Acetabactor—which produce the acids that make sour beer, well, sour.

These microorganisms, common in breweries, ruin “normal” beer by infecting a batch and turning it rank. In sour beer, they create the unique flavor profiles that more and more people are coming to love. “Ninety-nine-point-nine percent of breweries in the world are doing everything they can to keep these guys out of their beer,” says Jason Perkins, brewmaster at Allagash. “That’s kind of the irony of it.”

Wild yeasts and bacteria typically enter the mix via open-air fermentation, intentional inoculation, or barrel aging. The result? A huge variety of sour beer that can fall anywhere from bitingly bitter to pleasantly tart. There’s a wide range of acidities and intensities, but given sour beer’s low pH, the brews often taste more like wine than typical beer and pair well with rich, salty foods.

“Even 10 years ago, wild and sour beer was not on many people’s radar,” says Ron Jeffries, who in 2004 founded Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales, the first brewery in the United States to age all of its beer in oak barrels, resulting in a full lineup of sour, wild ales. For Jeffries, new wild yeasts and bacteria that cause souring are interesting, welcome developments for the brewing world. 

Ready to try some sour suds? Check out some of our favorites: 

Red Poppy Ale, 5.5% ABV

The Lost Abbey (San Marcos, California)
Brewed in a brown ale base and oak-aged for more than six months, this Flanders red ale has hints of vanilla and a mouth-puckering acidity thanks to sour cherries, secondary fermentation, and extensive aging. Proceed wisely.

La Folie, 7% ABV

New Belgium (Fort Collins, Colorado)
Back in 1997, New Belgium was one of the first breweries to brew sours—and the company’s experience shows. La Folie is a delightful sour brown with strong, mixed notes of green apple, cherry, and plum skin. This beer is legendary but probably not the stuff for starters: As New Belgium writes, it’s like “biting into a fresh-picked Granny Smith apple.”

Supplication, 7% ABV

Russian River Brewing Company (Santa Rosa, California)
More cherries and more brown ale, but this time aged in used pinot noir barrels. Described as a little “funky,” and brewed with both Lactobacillus and Pediococcus, this beer has double the sour, an immediate pinot flavor, and good carbonation. 

Humidor Series American Sour Ale, 5.8% ABV

Cigar City Brewing (Tampa, Florida)
With tartness owing to Lactobacillus, this ale is citrusy and has notes of tobacco and pepper thanks to the addition of Spanish cedar. Look out for other Cigar City sours in limited release—brewmaster Wayne Wambles creates winner after winner.

Apricot Ale, 8.5% ABV

Cascade Brewing (Portland, Oregon)
Calling itself the “House of Sour,” Cascade Brewing is one of the best-known breweries for sours in the Pacific Northwest. Though it’s always hard to choose a favorite, Cascade’s Apricot Ale comes out on top. Comprising a blend of blond ales that have been barrel aged for up to one year, the mixture is then aged on apricots for an additional eight months. Not too sweet and not too sour, this one finishes with a lingering acidity and is the perfect refreshment for hot summer days.

Interlude, 9.5% ABV

Allagash Brewing (Portland, Maine)
Moderately tart, this brew is created with two strains of yeast—including a “house” Brettanomyces. This fermentation combination and the ale’s aging in red wine barrels create a dry, lightly carbonated brew with plum, oak, apricot, red pepper, and sourdough flavors. It might not sound like a winning combination, but the ale’s deep flavor profile and dynamism make it an excellent pairing with almost anything.

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