February 14, 2014

Television personality Meredith Vieira will step in for Matt Lauer Friday for NBC's prime-time Olympic coverage.     Photo: Evan Agostini, Invision/Associated Press

Vieira Takes Over NBC Olympic Coverage

After Costas, Lauer step down

First Bob Costas fell victim to an eye infection. Then an exhausted Matt Lauer stepped down, citing an overloaded schedule. Now it’s Meredith Vieira’s turn.

The former Today show co-host will make history Friday by becoming the first-ever woman to anchor NBC’s prime-time Olympic coverage solo. She’ll step in for Lauer, who filled in for Costas during the past three days.

The Sochi Winter Games mark the first time since 1988 that Costas has not hosted NBC’s prime-time coverage.

"Bob’s eye issue has improved, but he’s not quite ready to do the show," NBC Olympics executive producer Jim Bell told Today.com. "If your eyes are sensitive to bright lights, a TV studio is not the place to be."

Now Vieira just has to make sure she doesn't succumb to pink eye, too. She said on the Today show Friday that her "eyes are killing" her. We can only hope that she's joking.

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    Photo: MIKI Yoshihito / Flickr

Jos. A. Bank Acquires Eddie Bauer

For $825 million

Eddie Bauer’s First Ascent line has become a staple in the outdoor industry—and in Outside magazine. From the Gear of the Year award-winning Neoteric shell to the coveted Bacon pack, we’ve been impressed by the company’s innovation and guide-tested apparel.

So when the news broke this morning that menswear retailer Jos. A. Bank plans to purchase Eddie Bauer for a hefty $825 million, we wondered: What exactly does this mean for Eddie Bauer? 

Not a lot, actually.

“For First Ascent specifically, I don’t really expect much to change,” says a source familiar with Golden Gate Capital, which owns Eddie Bauer. “Jos. A. Bank is very supportive of the Eddie Bauer First Ascent strategy, which really focuses on partnerships with top athletes and guides.”

After the acquisition, Eddie Bauer will operate as a separate company under current CEO Mike Egeck. “We are very proud of what we have achieved by refocusing Eddie Bauer on its heritage in serving outdoor enthusiasts and leveraging innovation and product expertise,” Egeck said in a press release. “We are excited to join forces and accelerate our progress.”

According to the source above, Eddie Bauer hopes to open more stores in the U.S., as well as expand into Western Europe and Asia. “From Eddie Bauer’s perspective, now they’re part of a larger platform, they’re part of a bigger business, they’re trying to execute on their retail strategy.”

Which means more great gear for us—check out a few of our favorite items in the Summer Buyer’s Guide, on newsstands mid-April.  

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Luge team relay silver medalists from Russia celebrate during their medal ceremony at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.     Photo: AP Photo/David J. Phillip

Americans View Russians Negatively

Did Russians sabotage Canadian lugers?

No, you're not imagining it: Anti-Russian sentiment by Americans has soared in recent years. In fact, a Gallup poll confirms that Americans haven't felt this negatively about Russia or its president for two decades—since the organization first started asking Americans how they felt about the country.

Sixty percent of Americans view Russia unfavorably, and 63 percent have similar feelings about the country's president, Vladimir Putin. These numbers follow Gallup's findings from last fall that Americans view Russia as an enemy, not an ally, for the first time in 14 years. Negative views of Russia also spiked when the country bombed Chechnya in 1999 and refused to support U.S. military efforts in Iraq in 2003.

These opinions might be rubbing off on our northern cousins. According to ABC News, Canada's luge coach thinks his team was sabotaged during yesterday's luge relay at the Sochi Games. Who does he blame? The Russians.

The coach, Wolfgang Staudinger, has accused Russian track officials of turning up the boiler that controls the track's temperature after Russian lugers finished their run.

"Canada was silver at the top, but the further we went down, the slower we got. That's a clear sign that the track slowed down dramatically," Staudinger told the Toronto Star. "That's not normal."

Still, the Canadians say they won't protest the race's results.

Canada's team took fourth, while the Russians went home with silver.

As of Friday morning, Russia's 11 medals narrowly edged out Canada's 10, which has us asking the obvious question: Could the Russians just be better athletes than the Canadians?

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Georgia men have a few more days to prepare for Valentine's Day.     Photo: filmfoto/Thinkstock

Georgia Sheriff Cancels Valentine’s Day

Men are off the hook during ice storm

Sheriff Scott Berry in northeastern Georgia has canceled Valentine’s Day due to inclement weather. The announcement was made on February 12 through the Oconee County Sheriff’s Facebook page and has since garnered a lot of attention.

“The Oconee County County Sheriffs Office announces that Valentines Day has been CANCELLED from a line North of I-16 to the Georgia/Tennessee border.

Men who live in the designated "NO VALENTINES DAY ZONE" are exempt from having to run out and buy lottery scratchers and Hershey bars from the corner stores until February 18, 2014, due to ice, snow, freezing rain."

Although the cancellation of the holiday is clearly a joke, the weather is not. Much of the Southeast is at a standstill after a deadly ice and snowstorm blew through the region earlier this week. Some 700,000 people were left without power, and thousands of flights were delayed or canceled.

The Oconee County Sheriff’s Office is still taking a lighthearted approach to the storm and giving people something to laugh about on its Facebook page.

We just got a phone call from a man with a 517 area code (Michigan) that was furious and wanting to know who we think we are for cancelling Valentine's Day. "You're not a mayor." he said…. He kept on until we asked him if he realized it was a joke. Then he got mad about that.

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A Tunisian woman protests for changes in Tunisia's new government on January 20, 2011, in Tunis.     Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Tunisia Commits to Climate Change

Country writes provisions into constitution

The club of countries constitutionally committed to climate action is an exclusive one. Only Ecuador, the Dominican Republic, and now Tunisia have written climate change provisions into their constitutions.

The North African country's parliament passed a climate change amendment to the new constitution with near-unanimous support from the assembly: 114 votes to zero.

The article obliges the state to guarantee "a sound climate and the right to a sound and balanced environment" and to "provide the necessary means to eliminate environmental pollution," according to Time.

In 2008, Ecuador amended its constitution to say nature "has the right to exist, persist, maintain, and regenerate its vital cycles, structure, functions, and its processes in evolution." In 2011, the Dominican Republic clearly stated that adaptation and mitigation, with respect to changing climate, are the responsibilities of both the government and the citizenry.

The Tunisian parliament has been drafting this constitution since the Tunisian people ousted longtime president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and sparked a wave of protest across the Middle East.

In a statement, Dhamir Mannai, who introduced the climate change amendment, said, "The passage of our new constitution is cause for celebration for many reasons. Having successfully challenged an autocratic regime, Tunisia is now ready to face up to a different kind of challenge: that of climate change."

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Shani Davis of the United States skates in the prototype of Under Armour's speedskating suit during a training session in Sochi, Russia.     Photo: Associated Press

Speedskating Suits Too Slow

Is Under Armour's design to blame?

Just how much difference does having the right gear make? We all know that wider tires, baggy clothing, or waxless skis can result in slower times. But what about vents on a speedskating suit?

That’s the argument the U.S. team is making after its athletes have failed to medal at Sochi. According to the Wall Street Journal, vents on the back of the skintight, aerodynamic suit let heat escape but also let air enter, which creates a drag that prevents athletes from achieving maximum speed.

“We’ll move heaven and earth to make them better,” says Kevin Haley, senior vice president of innovation for Under Armour, the company that designed the uniforms.

Of course, the suits might not be entirely to blame; after all, they went through 300 hours of wind-tunnel testing and had design help from Lockheed Martin's aircraft engineers. Maybe Team USA is having a bad spell. Maybe athletes from other countries are just faster.

"I would like to think that it's not the suit," says Shani Davis, the two-time gold medalist who finished eighth in the 1,000-meter. "I'd much rather blame myself. I just wasn't able to do it today, but other people were."

So far, the best American performance has been a seventh-place finish. Six more long-track events remain, but it’s doubtful the United States can repeat its four medals from the 2010 Vancouver Games.

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