Mountains near Sochi. (Photo by CosmoDreamer via Flickr)

Mountains near Sochi. (Photo by CosmoDreamer via Flickr)

Don’t let the glorious white snow fool you—Sochi is Russia’s largest resort town.

Located on the Black Sea, near the border between Georgia and Russia, Sochi has a subtropical climate. A summer getaway for many Russians, the city is a favorite of President Putin himself.

“This is the warmest place ever where the Olympic Winter games have taken place,” said Valentina Zaitseva, a Sochi native and Slavic languages and literatures lecturer at the University of Washington.

Sochi poster image thanks to Keijo Knutas via Flickr. 

Sochi poster image thanks to Keijo Knutas via Flickr.

“We have banana trees, we have palm trees—the climate is very much almost like Hawaii,” she said. “And when people think of Russia, people never imagine anything like Hawaii.”

During the Soviet period, it was a resort town for the elite of the Communist party. Both Nikita Khrushchev and Joseph Stalin spent time in Sochi.

Sochi was a symbol of Stalin’s achievements, according to Glennys Young, a history professor at the University of Washington. “And, for his detractors,” she continued, Sochi was associated “with all that was the dark side of the Stalin era: the purges from 1936-1939, the Gulag, the persecution of some ethnic minorities, and violation of human rights.”

The Soviet era is not Sochi’s only dark mark. The Russian conquest of north Caucasia in 1864 has stirred controversy for centuries, prompting protests leading up to and during the Olympics.

Circassians, a largely Muslim people native to the Caucasus, used to call Sochi home, but now very few of these indigenous inhabitants remain. The site of the last battle of the war, Sochi is holy ground for Circassians.

A Circassian activist living in exile in Tbilisi, Georgia. (Photo by Alex Stonehill, August 2012)

A Circassian activist living in exile in Tbilisi, Georgia. (Photo by Alex Stonehill, August 2012)

Young says Putin was very aware of these facts in choosing Sochi to host the Winter games.

In an email, she described Sochi as “a place connected in Russians’ (and Ukrainians’) minds with the display and performance of power over the twentieth century, as well as the fragility of power.”

Not unlike Putin’s current push for control in Crimea.

Still, Zaitseyza is proud of what the Olympics did for her hometown.

“When you see that someone has put so much time and effort to achieve and show that achievement and then you see that incredible happy face, it is uplifting not only for the person who won it but also for all of us,” she said. “So, no matter what else happens, this is what will still be with us.”

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Activists chain themselves together to block deportation vans in Tacoma on Monday. (Photo by Jill Mangaliman)

Activists chain themselves together to block deportation vans in Tacoma on Monday. (Photo by Jill Mangaliman)

About 50 protesters stood in solidarity in front of the Northwest Detention Center yesterday morning, with more than a dozen of them chaining themselves together to block the traffic leaving the center’s parking lot.

It was Monday — the day of the week when the federal authorities usually send detainees from the Tacoma facility to the airport to fly them back to their countries of origin. Protesters blocked a bus and two vans holding deportees that were attempting to leave the facility.

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TJ Oshie is playing for the US Olympic hockey team this year. (Photo by sarah_connors via Flickr)

TJ Oshie is playing for the US Olympic hockey team this year. (Photo by sarah_connors via Flickr)

The United States sent 230 athletes to Sochi this year to compete in the winter Olympics. Nine of those athletes – or eight if a certain hockey star cannot be claimed – hail from the state of Washington.

That number ranks Washington as one of the top ten states to send Olympians to this year’s winter games.

Washington sent four cross-country skiers (Erik Bjornsen, Sadie Bjornsen, Brian Gregg and Torin Koos), two freestyle skiers (Patrick Deneen and Angeli VanLaanen), a luger (Christian Niccum), a speed skater (J.R. Celski) and a hockey player (T.J. Oshie).

But while sending athletes is good, everyone knows that the athletes have one thing on their minds: winning a medal. That task, so far, has proven difficult for the Washingtonians in Sochi.

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Zara storefront in London, UK. (Photo by Aurelijus Valeiša via Flickr)

Zara storefront in London, UK. (Photo by Aurelijus Valeiša via Flickr)

First Macklemore sweeps the Grammys, then the Seahawks win the Super Bowl…now Seattle’s fashionistas have won their place alongside New Yorkers, Milanos, Angelinos and Parisians.

Seattle’s Westlake Center is home to the newest branch of Zara, the Spain-based international fashion retailer.

I first learned about Zara when I studied abroad in Vienna last spring–and I was thrilled to learn that it was coming to Seattle.

Now could be Seattle’s time to finally step away from our “grunge” reputation and become more relevant on the fashion scene.

Zara, known for its ultra-fast turnaround on  new fashions, is not new to the United States, though some bloggers have argued that Zara’s European sizing won’t work for an American market.

There are seven Zara stores just in Manhattan, and others sprinkled across the country, in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Chicago and others. Zara celebrated its Seattle opening at an invite-only preview event last week.

Since 1992, Satya Nadella has brought Microsoft engineering expertise, business savvy, innovation and the ability to bring colleagues together, says Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

Yesterday was a historic day for Microsoft with Satya Nadella’s appointment as the company’s new CEO.

After a six-month long search following former CEO Steve Ballmer’s retirement announcement, the corporate board appointed frontrunner Nadella CEO over other candidates that included Microsoft executive vice president Tony Bates and Ford CEO Alan Mullaly.

A Microsoft leader for 22 years, Nadella has inspired tech and news analysts to predict that he will usher in a new era for mobile at Microsoft, which has long been stalled during Ballmer’s tenure. This has the potential to push the Gates-founded enterprise to its former legacy of groundbreaking innovation.