Thailand worries its fiery sky lantern celebration could bring down a passenger jet

Khom loy lanterns launched into the sky

People release floating lanterns during the festival of Yee Peng in the northern capital of Chiang Mai October 25, 2014. The highlight of the annual festival is the launching of the "Khom loy" or floating lanterns into the night sky.

Dario Pignatelli/Reuters

As part of an annual festival, Thai people launch thousands of burning lanterns into the night sky to mark the Loi Krathong holiday. It's a beautiful and much-loved tradition, but Thai officials are worried that one of the lanterns could get sucked into a passenger jet engine and take down the plane.

They have good reason to worry. More than 1,400 lanterns landed on or near Chiang Mai's airport last year. So this year, the airport has cancelled or delayed more than 150 flights so far over the next three days — the peak of this year's holiday. According to Quartz, Thai officials are establishing a three-mile no-fly zone for lanterns around the country's major airports.

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If you're a woman, Iceland is the best place to be

The World Economic Forum recently rated 142 countries around the world on various measures of gender equality — measuring where the gap between men and women is smallest. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Iceland, with its low level of violence and high political participation rates scored highly, earning the top spot for the sixth consecutive year. Iceland's fellow Nordic countries — Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark — rounded out the top five.

But there were some surprises in the rankings. Nicaragua, for example, took sixth and Rwanda, which had never previously been ranked before, took seventh, propelled, according to The Economist, by "a particularly small gap between men and women in the political-empowerment category." The US took 20th and Yemen came in at #142.

George Takei broke barriers in Hollywood, after facing them as a child

When George Takei was five years old, he and his family were rounded up and herded into internment camps erected for Japanese Americans during World War II. The man you probably know as Mr. Sulu says those early years in confinement greatly shaped his personality — as much or more than his time on Star Trek.

Takei visited the studios of PRI's The World this week and spoke about both his time in an internment camp and what is was like to be one of the first Asian Americans to break through in Hollywood. He also talked about the compromises he had to make to get, including in the sorts of roles he accepted. We have a video of his conversation and more at PRI.org.

This French village is obsessed with throwing wooden spoons

In northern France, local communities seem to have a thing for throwing stuff.

There's the Festival de l'Andouille, where people throw andouille sausages at each other. There's the Fête de Jehan van d'Helle, where people throw wooden pipes at one another. And, finally, there's La Fête Historique des Louches, which translates as the "Historic Ladle Feast," and is a parade where people compete to see how many wooden spoons they can catch.

The festival takes place in Comines, a small French town on the border with Belgium. The story goes that, long ago, the Lord of Comines was imprisoned and to alert his people, he threw a wooden ladle with his coat of arms through his cell bars and into the street. The rest, as they say, is history. 

VICE magazine went to Comines to take in this year's festival in mid-October. Don't miss photos of this year's fierce competition to collect the spoons as residents try to prove they are worthy to live there. 

What does election night have to do with youth football, you may wonder

In two states that voted for President Barack Obama in 2012 — Minnesota and Wisconsin — youth participation in football has declined 15 percent. Three more blue states — Colorado, Massachusetts and Maryland — have all seen declines of at least eight percent. But red states — those that voted for Mitt Romney in 2012 — aren't seeing these declines.

According to new research, which was conducted by the RAND corporation, the decline is mainly among college-educated parents. In fact, parents who voted for Democrats but haven't graduated from college have seen no major changes in the rate at which they allow their children to participate in football.

This shift comes as concerns about concussions and other health risks of football continue to grow. PRI's The Takeaway talked to The New York TImes' David Leonhardt, who reported on this red/blue divide. Leonhardt says this could be a bellweather, much as was seen with smoking, where the college educated lead the way to a broader societal shift.

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Weather around the world

Central and Eastern Europeans are gearing up for a cold, snowy winter that will be almost the exact opposite of what they experienced last year. According to AccuWeather, ski conditions will be fantastic in the Alps, while Italy and the Balkans may see extensive flooding.