Thursday, February 14, 2008
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — A federal appeals court has overturned a statute outlawing sex toy sales in Texas, one of the last states — all in the South — to retain such a ban.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Texas law making it illegal to sell or promote obscene devices, punishable by as many as two years in jail, violated the right to privacy guaranteed by the 14th Amendment.
Companies that own Dreamer's and Le Rouge Boutique, which sell the devices in its Austin stores, and the retail distributor Adam & Eve sued in federal court in Austin in 2004 over the constitutionality of the law. They appealed after a federal judge dismissed the suit and said the Constitution did not protect their right to publicly promote such devices.
In its decision Tuesday, the appeals court cited Lawrence and Garner v. Texas, the U.S. Supreme Court's 2003 opinion that struck down bans on consensual sex between same-sex couples.
"Just as in Lawrence, the state here wants to use its laws to enforce a public moral code by restricting private intimate conduct," the appeals judges wrote. "The case is not about public sex. It is not about controlling commerce in sex. It is about controlling what people do in the privacy of their own homes because the state is morally opposed to a certain type of consensual private intimate conduct. This is an insufficient justification after Lawrence."
The Texas attorney general's office, which represented the Travis County district attorney in the case, has not decided whether to appeal, said agency spokesman Tom Kelley.
Phil Harvey, president of Adam & Eve Inc., said the 5th Circuit Court's decision was a big step forward. He said his business plans to expand to sell in stores and at home parties, something company consultants had been fearful of doing because of the Texas law.
"I think it's wonderful, but it does seem to me that since Texas was one of three states in the country — along with Mississippi and Alabama — that continued to outlaw the sale of sex toys and vibrators, that it was probably past time," Harvey said Wednesday.
Alabama is in the 11th Circuit. But now it's unlikely that the law in Mississippi, which also is in the 5th Circuit, will be prosecuted, some legal experts said.
Virginia's law barring obscene items is a bit different from other state laws and does not appear to apply to sex toy sales, said Harvey, whose company distributes nationwide.
Louisiana, Kansas, Colorado and Georgia had laws barring obscene devices, but courts have since struck them down. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a Georgia law banning the advertising of sex toys, which can be sold under some approved circumstances.
The 5th Circuit Court's decision is encouraging for Sherri Williams, who has been fighting the issue in Alabama for a decade. Williams, who owns Pleasures stores in Alabama, sued in 1998 after state lawmakers banned the sale of sex toys there. A year ago, she lost her fight again when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to consider a lower court decision upholding the Alabama law as constitutional.
Williams hopes that lawmakers will take notice of the recent Texas case and support a newly filed bill in the Alabama Legislature to overturn the ban on adult toy sales.
"I think the courts are finally listening to the people," Williams said Wednesday. "You have 'Sex and the City,' 'Desperate Housewives' and other shows promoting what society is doing. I think the courts have finally opened their eyes and looked around, which is a miracle in the South."
Опубліковано Jason о 11:27 PM
“It is easy enough to be friendly to one’s friends. But to befriend the one who regards himself as your enemy is the quintessence of true religion. The other is mere business.” - Gandhi
Whether you’re Christian or not, there’s something in the teachings of Jesus that is worth contemplation, for anyone who seeks to be a better person: his urging that we love our enemies.
Not just “Love Thy Neighbor”, which in itself can be a difficult thing.
But “Love your enemies”. That’s a powerful message, and it turns out, one of the greatest challenges in life.
Why is this message an important one, even if you’re not a Christian? I’m not here to discuss Christian teachings, but to address universal problems found in every human being, no matter what your religion or non-religion. And this is a universal problem: the hatred we feel for other people, hatred that wells up inside of us and causes destructive actions, for people who might have harmed us in some way but in the end are fellow human beings who we must live with in a common society.
And it’s an idea that was taught not only by Christ, but by Buddha, Gandhi, and many other great people and religions.
This still might sound a bit grand or preachy, so let me bring this down to an everyday level: is there anyone in your life who you hate or just can’t stand? Maybe someone who just irritates you to no end, who you resent and feel bitterness towards? And if so, are you proud of that? Does it make you happy?
I’d submit that most of us have someone like that, in many cases multiple people in our lives who cause us anger or hatred or at least resentment, for something they’ve done in the past. I’d also submit that the anger, hatred and resentment that lives within us is destructive and counterproductive.
Let’s explore these ideas a little more, if you’re interested.
What Does “Love Your Enemy” Mean?
Well, it’s probably pretty self-explanatory, but I thought it would be good to be clear.
“Your enemy” doesn’t just mean the enemy of your state, of course. We’re not talking about terrorists or the French (kidding!) … we’re talking about people you really dislike, in any way.
Who are these people? Maybe someone who has picked on you or called you names or disrespected you in some way, causing you anger … maybe you hold a grudge against them. Maybe a family member you’ve had a big fight with … maybe you’ve been angry at them for some time. Maybe someone who did something horrible to a loved one, from physically hurting them to hitting them with a car to scarring them from a damaging relationship. Maybe a teacher or a coworker or a boss who is mean to you. You get the picture.
And what does it mean to love these people? Obviously it’s non-romantic love, but there’s lots of different kinds of non-romantic love. There’s the love you have for your children, your siblings, your parents, your best friends … all of these are different in some way. Then there’s the love you have for someone who just did something wonderful for you, whether that’s someone you know or a complete stranger. There’s the love for a child you’ve never met but who somehow pulls at your heartstrings. There’s the love for your fellow human beings — and this is the love I mean.
Have you ever felt non-sexual, non-romantic love for another person who is not a family member or a very close friend? Maybe they did something really nice for you or another person. Maybe you are just feeling really great about humanity right now, for whatever reason. Maybe this is an incredible human being who inspires you or changes lives or volunteers to help the powerless.
To “Love Your Enemy” is to find it in your heart to put aside any wrongs, and to love them as a fellow human being. You don’t have to love them like you love your parents or children or best friend. Just have loving feelings toward them … and if possible, express it through words, or by doing something nice, or with a smile.
It’s not easy, I know. Picture the person you dislike most, and see if it’s easy to find that love for them.
Imagine someone who murdered someone you love. That would certainly be an “enemy”. Could you find it in your heart to love that person? I know that would be the most difficult thing in my entire life … which brings up the question: “Why should I?”
“The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread.” - Mother Teresa
Why Should I Love My Enemy?
It might sound too corny for many of you, and if so, you might not even be reading this by now. That’s OK. This idea might not be for everyone.
After all, this person, my “enemy”, has done something horribly wrong to me … why on earth would I want to love them? What do I get out of it?
This isn’t an easy question, and I won’t be able to explore all the possible answers — that would take a book. But let’s look briefly at a few strong reasons:
- You’ll be happier. If you have anger or resentment inside of you, even if you don’t think about it all the time, there will be times when it surfaces. And that makes you unhappy. It’s destructive, inwardly (it eats you up) and outwardly (you might do destructive things to others). That anger also affects others around you, such as your loved ones, who are most likely affected in some way when you are angry — even if the anger isn’t directed at them. Removing this anger from yourself is a positive thing, and it will make you happier overall.
- You could change that person’s life. Your enemy is a human being, and it’s very possible that your hatred of that person is a source of grief, tension, or hatred in them. Now, that might feel good to you in a vindictive way, but if you look at it objectively, removing your feelings from the situation … hurting another person is always a bad thing. Making them happier is a good thing. And interestingly, making someone happier, no matter who that is, can make us happier.
- You could make a friend. One of the most powerful effects of learning to love your enemy is that your enemy can become your friend. And while it is counterproductive to be fighting with an enemy (it hinders your progress), it is very productive to add new friends to your life — they can help you accomplish things, for example. A new friend, instead of an enemy, makes an incredible difference. And if that enemy is a family member or former friend, reuniting can be extremely powerful and important.
- You set a better example for others. Our actions set an example for other people in our lives. If you have children, for example, they learn from anything you do. Teaching them to hate is not a positive example. But teaching them to overcome that anger and hate, to make up with an enemy, and to love … there is no better example in life.
- It’s better for society. This one seems obvious to me, but it’s important. One little relationship might not seem to make a difference to society as a whole — who cares if I hate another person? But if we all hate other people, it creates a more divisive and fractured and angry society. I see the effects of this everywhere, from media and culture to politics to business to families being disrupted. And the opposite is true — if we can overcome that hatred, and learn to love our neighbor and our enemy, society is better of in so many ways.
- It’s a test of you as a person. This might not be important to many people, but for me it is. I like to think of myself as a good person, but how good am I if I am just loving to my family and friends? That’s extremely easy (usually). But a better test of your goodness is if you can overcome feelings of hatred or resentment, and turn them into feelings of love. That’s a true challenge. And it’s a life-long challenge.
“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend.” - Martin Luther King Jr.
10 Tips For Loving Your Enemy
So let’s say you think it’s a worthy goal … how do you actually go about it? I can’t claim to know all the answers. I’ve been working on this myself, and exploring these ideas in my life … but I have not overcome this challenge. I’ve made progress, and I’m proud of that … but I have a long way to go.
However, here are some things I’m working on myself … I hope they can be of some use to you:
- Stop, breathe, detach yourself. When you think about your “enemy”, you most likely have feelings of anger or something along those lines. Instead of letting those feelings overcome you and determine your actions, stop yourself. Be aware of the feelings. Take a deep breath (or ten) and take a step back. Now see if you can detach yourself. Imagine yourself floating out of your body and looking down on the situation as an objective observer. You are no longer you. This person has no longer done anything to you or someone you love … they’ve done it to someone else. Seeing the situation objectively is the first step — it’s too difficult to overcome the feelings if you’re in the middle of the situation.
- Put yourself in their shoes. Now that you’ve removed yourself from the situation, and you’re looking down on it from above … try going down into the other person’s body and head. Imagine yourself becoming that person. What is that person like, from inside? How did they get to be the person they are? What have they gone through? Why would they possibly have done what they did? And how did they feel about it? You’ll have to use your imagination. But try to imagine this person as a real human being, not just someone who is evil or wrong. All human beings try to do good things, but they make mistakes, or they have different perspectives. Seeing the situation from the other person’s perspective is very difficult, but very important.
- Seek to understand. That, of course, is the objective of putting yourself in their shoes. But it’s important to stress it here, because if you can understand what they did and why they did it, you can take the next steps (below). Really try to understand, even if you don’t want to.
- Seek to accept. Instead of fighting what has happened and who this person is, and wanting them to be different or to do things differently … accept them for who they are. Accept what has happened as a part of life. Accept that things can’t be different, because they have already happened. Accept that this person can’t be different, because that’s who they are. This, too, is a very difficult step, but if we cannot accept, we cannot love.
- Forgive, and let the past go. Ah, maybe the most difficult step of all, but I’m sure you saw this coming. Can you truly forgive this person for what they’ve done, in your heart? If you’ve detached yourself, you’ve sought to understand, and you’ve accepted them and what has happened … it should be easier. Try to think about this: what happened is in the past. It cannot be changed. You can either hate what’s happened in the past, and change nothing but be angry … or you can accept it and move on. Let it go. It will do nothing but eat you up. Once you’ve let go of the past … let go of your feelings about what this person has done. Move on. Those feelings can do you no good.
- Find something to love. If you can forgive, and release those bad feelings … you are left with neutrality, most likely. You want to replace that with love. And how do you do this? You find something in that person to love. It could be anything … their smile, their willingness to help someone, their generosity, their stubbornness even. Find something admirable or lovable. There’s something like that in everyone. You might have to get to know that person better, which in itself can be difficult.
- See them as yourself, or a loved one. If the above step proves too difficult, it is probably because you don’t know that person well enough. Instead, project yourself into them. See them as similar to yourself in some ways. Or think of them as similar in some way to a loved one — and use those similarities to find something to love.
- Find common ground. We have things in common with just about everyone, if we look hard enough. That might be common interests, shared or common experiences while growing up or working, people you know or love in common, personality traits in common. This common ground will help you relate to the person better.
- Open your heart. Another very difficult step. Our hearts tend to remain closed to most people, as a defensive mechanism. We are afraid of being vulnerable, of getting rejected or hurt. And yet, this closing off of our hearts is what blocks us from happiness many times, what blocks us from forming relationships, what blocks us from loving and finding love. Even if we’re able to open our hearts to our loved ones but no one else … that’s limiting ourselves. This is a great challenge, and something that really can only happen with practice. Try it here, with your former enemy … even if you can just open your heart a little, that’s the only way you’ll find love for the person.
- Reach out to them. It’s one thing to feel love for the person … but quite another to express it in some way. There are many ways to express love, of course — some ways you might consider are telling them, saying nice things to them, having an open discussion about what’s happened or your feelings, giving them a hug, doing something nice for them, smiling, making a joke.
What are your thoughts on this? Have you ever overcome this challenge? Share tips and thoughts in the comments.
“Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them?” - Abraham Lincoln
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Опубліковано Jason о 11:24 PM
Every time I read arguments supporting the legalization of marijuana (and drugs in general) they are presented in altruistic manner. You will hear things like "don't treat addicts like criminals, threat them like patients" or "reduce crime and make are streets safer" and even "regulate drugs like alcohol and it will be harder for our kids to access them". And while I agree with all of the above, the argument doesn't seem to be working.
Fact: 41% of americans support legalizing marijuana (zogby).
That's less than half. So, by using my amazing powers of deduction, I can extrapolate that like...more than half of Americans oppose legalizing marijuana. We do still live in a Democracy, more or less, and in order to change law we need to change public perception.
This is a hard task. Especially considering the U.S. drug czar has an annual advertising budget of $60 million, which he uses primarily to run anti-marijuana ad campaigns. [note: $60 million is in FY2009, 44% less than in previous years] So I have decided to present a new argument. Well, it's actually not new, but rather underused. Here we go. Legalizing marijuana is in your interest. Whoever you are, wherever you live, whatever you believe, unless you are the White House drug czar, John Walters.
How would you like to pay less money in taxes? Sound good? Legalizing marijuana would save the american taxpayers an estimated $44 billion every fiscal year.
How would you like free, quality health care? Legalizing marijuana would save the federal government billions of dollars every year, enough money to make serious steps in that direction.
How would you like to see more responsive cops on your streets? A marijuana user is arrested every 38 seconds. Legalizing marijuana would free up significant amounts of resources for law enforcement agencies that could then be focused on, say, violent crime or terrorism.
Want to reduce crime in your neighborhood? Legalizing marijuana would put drug trafficking organizations between a rock and a hard place. No one is going to buy their marijuana from gangster Joe if they can go around the corner and buy it at 7 11.
Would you like to see our country have more money and government resources being spent on things that improve your quality of life? Taxing marijuana like tobacco would produce an estimated $37 billion in tax revenue.
How about improvements to the economy? Isn't that good for everyone? Marijuana is currently America's largest cash crop, producing more money in the United States than other other crop. That is a booming market that, under current regulation, does nothing but line the pockets of criminal organizations. Legalizing the production and sale of marijuana would mean that we could tax and regulate it. We could benefit from it rather than be harmed by it.
These are all things that will benefit YOU if marijuana were to be legalized.
Опубліковано Jason о 11:16 PM
Q would have been proud - 30 years after James Bond disappeared under the waves in a specially adapted Lotus, car designers have done it for real.
Cinema audiences gasped as Roger Moore's 007 took his white Lotus Esprit for a surprise dip to evade the enemy in the film The Spy Who Loved Me.
The famous scene, shot using a model, triggered the imagination of countless gadget-lovers, who wondered if such a car could be made.
These pictures show the €1 million (£750,000) prototype, which can dive to a depth of 10m, in action off the coast of Florida.
It was the brainchild of concept car designer Frank Rinderknecht, 52, who said: "For three decades I have tried to imagine how it might be possible to build a car that can fly under water. Now we have made this dream come true."
He added: "Everybody knows James Bond and the Esprit but it was always just fiction. We thought, 'Let's do something everybody knows but nobody has tried.'"
The team at his firm Rinspeed replaced the petrol engine with three electric motors, one to power the rear wheels and two for the specially designed propellers. They are capable of taking it to 75mph on land, a more sedate 4mph while cruising in "boat" mode and a positively tranquil 2mph while underwater.
The company also claims that the car is extremely "green" as well, as it is a zero-emission vehicle powered by rechargeable lithium-ion batteries.
Unlike the Bond original, which featured an enclosed passenger cabin, the modern version has an open top with the occupants exposed to the elements.
The Swiss car designer explained: "The passenger compartment is three square metres of air - you'd need to add about three metric tonnes of added weight to pull it down under the surface.
"That would give it the land mobility of a turtle."
The second reason for having an open cabin is safety: "Even at one metre depth, the water pressure would keep the doors closed so you could not get out in an emergency."
Although one would expect the car to sink like a stone, special compartments have been filled with foam to ensure it floats.
"The car will come to the surface by itself," said Mr Rinderknecht.
"It is basically unsinkable."
Rather than achieving neutral buoyancy with weighting, the propellers drive it downwards so that if it were to stop it would rise up.
Once under water, its occupants breath air coming from an integrated tank of compressed air similar to that used by scuba divers.
While some might quibble that on land the sQuba is not fast enough, he said the main aim was to demonstrate its aquatic potential.
"We could have made it a lot quicker by using a bigger model with more batteries but that wasn't the issue," he said.
"The focus was really on it going underwater."
adly, those taken by the sQuba may never be able to get their hands on it as there are no plans to put it into production.
"It's a tradition that we produce a concept car for the Geneva Motor Show," said the designer, whose firm makes its money making concept cars and parts for the mainstream motor industry, and tuning Porsches.
"We don't plan to build it, even in a limited capacity," he admitted.
"But if someone wants to take up the project that would be great. I'm sure there will be people interested in buying one."
A spokesman for Lotus, which is not involved in the project, said: "We are delighted that they have chosen to use the Elise."
Опубліковано Jason о 11:09 PM
Most cities built before 1900 weren't designed with cars in mind, and traffic jams are often one of the results. As we move towards a future that is looking increasingly urban, we're likely to see more traffic scenes like this one, in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India. We're also likely to see more traffic jams created by war zones, and by climate change. Want to see what those look like? Here's a traffic jam created by checkpoints outside the city of Baghdad.
And here is a great vision of future parking in a climate-changed British city.
Baghdad traffic at checkpoint by Jamesdale10.
Cars underwater in England by dubaddict.
Hyderabad traffic by Alex Graves.
Опубліковано Jason о 10:53 PM
Not the blood-thirsty Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors – we’re talking about the very real plants that feast on insects and invertebrates. Carnivorous plants are usually found in environments with low-nutrient soil, like bogs and swamps, where they thrive on the sunshine and warm temperatures. Contrary to popular belief, carnivorous plants don’t derive their energy from their prey, merely nutrients. Especially nitrogen.
The really cool thing about carnivorous plants (aside from the fact that they hunt and devour prey) is the variety of hunting mechanisms they employ. Some of these traps are more complicated than a spy-movie death apparatus. Here are some of the amazing techniques carnivorous plants use to get their fill. [Image courtesy of Playbill.com.]
Pitcher and Pitfall PlantsHave you have ever had the misfortune of finding an insect flailing around in a glass of your sugary beverage of choice? That’s the basic mechanism employed by a pitcher plant. They entice prey into their rolled leaf cavities with the lure of bright pigments and nectar at the bottom of a deep, inescapable pit. The insects are intoxicated by (and then drown in) this liquid, which contains bacteria and enzymes that will eventually dissolve their carcasses. The inner tubes utilize a slippery, hairy or grooved surface to make sure even sober insects can’t escape. Forget about rainwater filling the cavity and diluting the digestive juices; most pitcher plants use some sort of umbrella-like contraption to keep water out, usually a flared leaf called an operculum. [Image courtesy of PitcherPlant.org.]
Snap TrapsIn this amazing trap, the convex leaves are covered in triggers that slam shut and become concave when they sense an insect has arrived. Once shut, the lobes of the leaves are stimulated by the struggling insect and grow together to form a stomach. The glands then secrete an enzyme that digests the insect in about ten days. The ever-famous Venus Flytrap is the best example of this vicious hunting style, and there are very few other species that use this technique.
The undirected movement of the leaves in response to touch snapping is a process called thigmonasty (which sounds like a great DJ moniker to me). Just how fast is the process? Well, the Venus Flytrap can close its traps within 100 milliseconds. After digestion, the leaves re-open and can capture another victim, though it’s rare for a single trap to catch more than three insects in its lifetime. Each plant has multiple traps, so it never goes hungry. [Image courtesy of MooseysCountryGarden.com.]
Here’s a YouTube demonstration:
Bladder and Suction Traps
I don’t particularly like the words bladder or suction, especially when paired with the word trap, but this trap type is incredible. These plants live in the water and use lots of tiny bladders to ensnare dinner. Basically, bladder traps pump ions out from their interiors and use osmosis to create a partial vacuum. If a creature triggers the trap, it is immediately sucked in, along with a bunch of extra water. The plant immediately begins to filter out the water and digest the prey, and it can hunt for more prey as it digests its current catch.
These complicated traps are exclusive to bladderwort plants, which have at least 215 species. Unlike other carnivorous plants, which exclusively eat insects, bladderworts trap water fleas, nematodes, mosquito larvae, small tadpoles and other things you don’t want in your swimming water. Despite their gross-looking traps, bladderworts have beautiful flowers that are similar to orchids and snapdragons, only smaller. [Image courtesy of Carnivorous Plants Online.]
Flypaper TrapsJust as the name indicates, these plants generate super-sticky glue called mucilage to trap insects. Plants cover their attractive leaves with mucilage, which resemble droplets of fresh dew or rain, and then wait for an insect to land, and fall right into their trap.
Sundew plants are a common but fascinating example of these types of plants. Sure, the name sounds warm and pleasant, but it actually refers to the glistening drops of mucilage at the tip of each tentacle that resemble drops of morning dew. Tentacles and mucilage, gross. Once an insect adheres to the plant, the tentacles very slowly move to wrap around and eventually digest the prey.
The butterwort group of carnivorous plants uses broader leaves rather than tentacles to attract prey. The huge, brightly colored leaves are completely covered in mucilage. Once an insect lands on a leaf, the plant creates more mucilage, causing the struggling insect to become encased in the sticky stuff. Other glands on the leaf secrete digestive juices, and the nutrients are absorbed by the plant leaves. [Image courtesy of Wikipedia.]
Think of these plants as the Roach Motels of carnivorous plants: insects check in, but they don’t check out. The traps are easy and intriguing to enter, but very difficult to escape due to inward-pointing bristles and spiraling parts. The genlisea group of plants uses traps that have all their carnivorous parts beneath the soil. The trap is basically a pair of thin tubes joined in an inverted ‘V’ shape, with spiral grooves down their lengths that allow the entrance of soil-dwelling invertebrates. The grooves are lined with inward-pointing hairs that prevent the prey from escaping and instead force them into the apex of the ‘V,’ where they are slowly digested. [Image courtesy of CarnivorousPlants.org.]
Caroline Donnelly is an occasional contributor to mentalfloss.com. Her last story looked at 7 Famous Phrases Famous People Own.
Опубліковано Jason о 10:42 PM
Hollywood is going back to work and there's plenty of work to be done to stand up to this year's Oscar contenders, many of whom just took home BAFTA's. On the other hand, the Grammy's seem to have lost touch with the public's ear. Meanwhile, Guillermo del Toro appears to be gobbling up another Jackson-esque film which has to be more interesting than this week's box office topper "Fool's Gold." And lastly, with the celebration of the strike ending we must keep in perspective that we lost two legends this week.
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SHOW NOTES - Episode 32
Опубліковано Jason о 10:40 PM
obviously, construction technologies are advancing extremely quickly. couple that with multi-billionnaires / deep-pocketed companies trying to outdo each other in the quest for the next standout design and you have a near-future filled with mile-high skyscrapers and buildings that no longer look like buildings.
below are 9 strange and unique structures which have either been approved or are in the final stages of approval. some have already been partially constructed.
welcome to the future landscape.
1. aqua, usa (website)
from a distance this skyscraper, to be completed in 2009 in chicago, will seem quite traditional. it’ll only be when you get close and look up that you can appreciate the ripple/jelly effect created by variously sized balconies from top to bottom.
2. chicago spire, usa (website)
the phenomenal chicago spire, when completed in 2010, will be the world’s tallest residential building and the tallest building of any kind in the western world. seemingly modelled on the image of a giant drill poking through the ground, the 609m structure will dominate the chicago skyline.
3. cctv headquarters, china (website)
at a modest 234m the cctv building isn’t going to stand out from a distance. however the design and shape is a crowdstopper to say the least and will be another incredible addition to beijing’s skyline in time for the 2008 olympics. the shape, described as a ‘z criss-cross’ results in a very high, seemingly unsupported corner at the front. let’s hope there’s a glass floor up there.
4. regatta hotel, jakarta (website)
taking on a nautical theme, the developers say the 10 smaller towers represent sailing boats whilst the larger building is ‘the lighthouse’. it’s the lighthouse that steals the show for me, possibly the most incredible looking structure i’ve seen for a long time. if it ends up looking anything close to these pictures i’ll be impressed.
5. residence antilia, india (architects’ website)
construction has begun on residence antilia despite opposition from those who see it as an ‘excessive’ design in a city where more than 65% of the population live in slums. politics aside and after you recover from the initial shock of seeing a skyscraper that resembles an ikea cd rack, the building actually looks like it may succeed as a stunning, unique, green piece of architecture.
6. russia tower, russia (architects’ website)
topped with an observation deck over the city of moscow, russia tower will become the tallest building in europe when completed in 2012 and twice the height of the eiffel tower. construction has already started on this angular beast which was designed by foster & partners, also responsible for the gherkin and spaceport america, currently in development.
7. penang global city centre, malaysia (website)
following months of speculation and sturdy opposition, this humungous project is in the final stages of approval and apparently construction will start very soon. even so, due to the size of the plan it will take at least 15 years to complete. resembling a sci-fi city, the area will be crowned by 2 x 200m towers and completely transform the small island of penang.
8. gazprom headquarters, russia (architects’ website)
this gigantic, 300m tall glass flame of a building will house the gazprom headquarters in st. petersburg, dwarfing all structures in its vicinity. it will apparently change colour up to 10 times per day depending on the position of the sun. the building has already been nicknamed ‘corn on the cob’ by unhappy locals.
9. burj dubai, dubai (website)
this is the big one. when completed next year it will be the tallest man-made structure in the world and the tallest building by a long shot with a predicted height of 818m. note: currently the tallest building on earth, excluding an antenna, is taipei 101 in taiwan which stands at 509m. the photo below is the building’s current state: the skyscrapers below the burj dubai used to look tall.
Опубліковано Jason о 5:39 AM
This amazing place is built in the middle of the desert, around a small lake. Located in the Ica Province, near the city of Ica, Huacachina is known as the oasis of America, where many tourists come for the huge sand dunes and sandsurfing. The legend says the place was created by a princess caught bathing by a local hunter. The pool of water she left became a lagoon, while her mantle transformed into sand dunes. It is sayd that the princess inhabits the lagoon as a mermaid. Just wanted to share with you these amazing pictures:
Опубліковано Jason о 5:17 AM
If any real city on our planet can claim an active stake in creating the urban landscape of the future, it's probably Dubai. Artificial islands arranged in the shape of the world? Check. The world's only seven-star hotel? Check. And in 2012, it will also become home to the largest, tallest arch bridge ever.
Here's some info on the bridge as envisioned by New York architecture firm Fxfowle:
- It's one mile long and 670 feet tall.
- It will have 12 lanes for traffic.
- It will cost 817 million dollars.
- The design has Sheikh Mohammed's official stamp of approval.
- The bridge will carry more than 2,000 vehicles per hour in each direction.
- A metro line will run across the middle.
- Construction begins in March, with a slated completion date of 2012. Images by Fxfowle
Опубліковано Jason о 4:53 AM
February 13, 2008
In a statement issued about 6 p.m., the state's largest for-profit insurer said, "Today we reached out to our provider partners and California regulators and determined this letter is no longer necessary and, in fact, was creating a misimpression and causing some members and providers undue concern.
The announcement came after blistering rebukes Tuesday by physicians, patients, privacy experts and officials including Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) after The Times disclosed the practice.
The letter had been sharply criticized Monday by the California Medical Assn., and Tuesday night its president, Richard Frankenstein, said: "This letter was part of Blue Cross' pattern of unfairly canceling policies when people need coverage most. We're relieved that Blue Cross is ending this particular tactic but continue to have serious concerns about this company's practices looking forward."
Earlier in the day, Shannon Troughton, a spokeswoman for Blue Cross parent WellPoint Inc., said the company had been sending as many as 1,000 letters a month for years and had received no complaints.
Blue Cross sent physicians copies of insurance applications filled out by new patients, along with the letter advising them the company had a right to drop members who failed to disclose "material medical history." That could include "preexisting pregnancies."
The letter asked physicians to "immediately" report any discrepancies between their patients' medical condition and the information in the applications.
Other major insurers in California said Tuesday that they had not asked physicians to do anything like what Blue Cross was seeking.
Schwarzenegger sharply criticized the practice, which he described as akin to telling physicians to "rat out the patients and to give the patients' medical history to the insurance company so they have a reason to cancel the policy."
The governor said the practice should be banned.
"That is outrageous," he said, and "one more reason why it is so important to have comprehensive healthcare reform."
Democratic presidential contender Clinton said the Blue Cross effort was another "example of how insurance companies spend tens of billions of dollars a year figuring out how to avoid covering people with health insurance."
California insurers, including Blue Cross, are under fire for issuing individual policies without checking applications and then canceling them after patients get sick. The practice, known in the industry as rescission, is under scrutiny by state regulators, lawmakers and the courts.
In scores of lawsuits, patients contend that the insurers dropped them over honest mistakes and minor inconsistencies on applications that they allege are purposely confusing. People ailing with cancer or other diseases often are unable to get new coverage once their insurance has been rescinded, and they may go without treatment. Swamped with medical debt, people have lost homes and businesses.
Insurers say the cancellations are an important weapon against fraud and occur rarely.
Several physicians and medical groups said they were troubled by the letters. Robert Margolis, a physician and the chief executive of one of the state's largest medical groups, described the letters as "an obnoxious intrusion" on the relationship between physicians and patients.
"Asking us to be the application police is inappropriate," said Margolis, who heads HealthCare Partners Medical Group in Los Angeles.
Troughton said the company believed the letters complied with state and federal privacy and health practice laws. She said Blue Cross "highly values the trust of its members and understands the personal relationship members have with their physicians."
But, she said, "it is our responsibility to assure that all members' records are accurate and up to date both for the benefit of our members and the providers in our HMO network."
Sending applications to physicians for review is an important tool, Troughton said, to "ensure that it mirrors what is reflected in the physician's notes for that member."
But privacy experts said that may violate privacy laws.
They don't have a right to contact someone that you hired and you employed to take care of your health and to release data about you without your permission," said Deborah Peel, a Texas physician who founded Patient Privacy Rights, a nonprofit advocacy organization. "What's the point of paying for insurance if they are going to look for every reason to deny what you think you paid for, which is access to services to help you?"
Jamie Court, president of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, said information exchange also might violate state laws aimed at ensuring that physicians do not allow financial considerations to interfere with medical judgments.
"The real issue here is the doctor acting as a double agent," Court said.
Other large health insurers, including UnitedHealth Group Inc. -- which operates PacifiCare in California -- Blue Shield of California and Health Net Inc., said Tuesday that they did ask doctors to look for or alert them to possible preexisting medical conditions.
Margita Thompson, a spokeswoman for Health Net, said the company asks physicians for medical records when it suspects patients may have omitted preexisting conditions on applications.
"But the doctor is not asked to review the records at all," she said. "And we do not send the doctor a copy of the application for his review."
Girion reported from Los Angeles and Rau from Sacramento. Times staff writer Marc Lifsher in Sacramento contributed to this report.
Опубліковано Jason о 4:51 AM
Two bartenders were convicted of grievous bodily harm by a Berlin state court on Monday for their role in serving at least 44 shots of tequila to a 16-year-old German boy who died after the drinking binge.
The court sentenced the two men, aged 21 and 18, to 10 months of social training.
A third bartender was acquitted while the trial for a fourth bartender, who is facing more serious charges of bodily harm with fatal consequences, has not yet started.
The 16-year-old boy got into a drinking contest against a bartender. But the four tricked the boy. While the bartender was drinking water, the 16-year-old was drinking schnapps. After 25 rounds he fell into a coma.
The boy was in the coma in a Berlin hospital for five weeks before he died of circulation problems last March.
The bar workers expressed regrets in court for their actions.
The case triggered a national debate over teenage alcohol abuse and the danger of "flat-rate" binge-drinking parties where customers pay a one-off entry fee and are served unlimited strong spirits all night.
Опубліковано Jason о 4:49 AM
Not getting any? You're not alone: Women today have less time for sex than their 1950s counterparts. And it's estimated that 40 million Americans have what experts call a sexless marriage (having sex less than 10 times a year).
Bringing too many distractions to bed can put a crimp in your sex life.
A regular sex life is good for your health. It can satisfy all sorts of emotional- and physical-intimacy needs and help partners stay close, says Anita H. Clayton, M.D., a professor of psychiatry at the University of Virginia and author of "Satisfaction: Women, Sex, and the Quest for Intimacy." So why the dry spell? You can chalk it up to a sheer lack of time, but there are a slew of other reasons, too -- from weight gain and perimenopause to technology overload (stop texting now) in the bedroom. Here's how to beat these sex busters.
Your bed isn't sexy anymore.
We hear it over and over again: The bed should be used for sex and sleep only. So why do so many of us insist on bringing third parties -- laptops, PDAs, "Law & Order" -- into the boudoir? All that technology and distraction can cause insomnia and put a damper on your sex life. After all, it's harder to initiate sex if your spouse is hiding behind a newspaper or glued to the TV or if your hands are busy exploring the Web rather than his body. Health.com: 10 dreamy bedrooms
Sex Rx: At a minimum, make the bedroom a no-technology zone, Clayton suggests. Then take a hard look at your life (from romance and work to entertainment and family), and give sex the priority it deserves. If you have to schedule sex as you would a meeting, do it!
Your meds are stealing your sex drive.
Oh, the irony. You start taking oral contraceptives (OCs) so you can have worry-free sex. Then the magic little pills start sapping your sex drive. Why? OCs contain estrogen, which increases the production of a protein called sex-hormone binding globulin (SHBG), says Michael Krychman, M.D., medical director of sexual medicine at Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach, California, and executive director of the Southern California Center for Sexual Health and Survivorship Medicine. SHBG can trap testosterone, affecting your sex drive. There are even new data suggesting that this negative impact might be long-term. Other potential sex-drive-stalling meds to be on the lookout for: those that reduce blood pressure, anxiety, and acid reflux, and antidepressants, too.
Sex Rx: Ask your doc about the sexual side effects of all of your drugs. You may also want to try a contraceptive method that doesn't use hormones, such as condoms, a diaphragm, or an IUD.
Your crazy-busy life.
You spend your days working, cooking, working out, taking care of the family. And, still, at 11:30 p.m., "you're expected to wave this magic goddess wand," Krychman says. It's enough to make even Pamela Anderson curl up in bed and cry, "headache." Besides totally tuckering you out, the chronic stresses of modern life can also trigger a cascade of hormonal changes that mess with your body's sexual-response cycle. And here's another modern sex buster that adds to all the craziness: today's always-connected technology. Health.com: The plus side of going without sex
Sex Rx: With spontaneous sex almost out of the question, you need some serious "life management" to work it in, experts say. Put a lock on the master bedroom door and set a technology time limit. Shift gears from the harried pace of everyday life with a soothing bath, suggests Health contributor and Los Angeles--based sex therapist Linda De Villers, Ph.D. Plunging into warm water takes you away from the laptops and cell phones that clog up your day. Add a few drops of ylang-ylang essential oil; the aroma is thought to heighten sexual feelings.
You don't like your body.
Many women find themselves withdrawing or not willing to experiment sexually if they're overweight or have a change in shape due to pregnancy, Clayton says. "Emotionally, we've bought into the media's idealization of what is really sexy. The message is, you have to look a certain way in order to have really good sex." Health.com: Look 10 years thinner
Sex Rx: "Women have a talent for disliking the very things about themselves that other people find very attractive," De Villers says. Feel free to ask him what he likes about your body; his compliments can help you feel more positive. But don't underestimate the mental boost of shedding some pounds. In a recent Health.com survey, 37 percent of respondents said losing weight makes them feel sexy. In fact, even a five-pound weight loss has been shown to jump-start sex drive.
You've hit perimenopause.
Before menopause, hormonal shifts -- specifically decreasing estrogen -- lead to physiological changes that can make sex seem about as appealing as running a marathon with a pebble in your sock. Sensitive vaginal tissues become less lubricated, the ensuing dryness leads to pain, and painful sex quickly turns into no sex, Krychman says. Hot flashes don't help matters, either. A landmark study published last year in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology shows women whose sexual desire drops during menopause are more apt to report night sweats, disturbed sleep, and depression.
Sex Rx: Talk to your physician about the pros and cons of hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which may lessen menopausal symptoms. New research shows an estrogen cream or suppository may ease dryness without the risks of HRT. Lubricants such as Replens or his-and-hers lubes from K-Y can also help, especially if pain during intercourse is a problem. Pine bark extract is also getting a lot of buzz: A study in the Scandinavian Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that it may alleviate hot flashes, depression, panic attacks, elevated cholesterol, and other symptoms linked with perimenopause. Talk to your doctor before trying anything new.
Your man's just not that into it.
You may actually be raring to go, but your partner's engine seems stalled. Perhaps he's emotionally withdrawing, says Bob Berkowitz, Ph.D., co-author of "He's Just Not Up for It Anymore: Why Men Stop Having Sex, and What You Can Do About It." "The usual problems between husbands and wives can play out in the bedroom," he says, especially if your partner has a hard time expressing his feelings properly. Or, he may want you to be more sexually adventurous. You needn't hang from chandeliers; it could be as simple as being a more enthusiastic lover. Health.com: 12 secrets to better orgasms
Sex Rx: Talk it out in a blame-free way. "It's understandable that a woman would feel rejected," Berkowitz says. But don't confront him with 'What the hell is going on? Are you cheating on me?' or he'll shut down. If a man's sex life is not working out, he may feel he's failed as a man, because men invest so much of themselves in their sexuality," Berkowitz adds. So try to broach the subject in a loving way.
When you're feeling down in the dumps, desire can take a big hit, particularly if you're female. Women tend to isolate themselves, Clayton says, and that can strain even the strongest of romantic relationships. Antidepressants may lift the dark cloud, but some affect your ability to have an orgasm.
Sex Rx: If you notice your sex drive takes a nosedive after you start a new medication, tell your doctor; she may be able to prescribe an alternative, such as Wellbutrin (bupropion), which doesn't affect orgasm. Consider different avenues of treatment, too. "Psychotherapy doesn't cause sexual dysfunction and is effective, especially in mild-to-moderate depression," Clayton says. Exercise also helps; it enhances mood and energy, and it boosts blood flow to the genitals.
Your man is Viagra-ized.
The "Viagra-ization" of men, as Krychman calls it, isn't just happening to seniors. Younger men are taking the erectile-dysfunction drug, too, sometimes just to enhance sexual performance. The result can be a physical and emotional disconnect in bed. "The man takes the medication and is ready to go, but the woman needs more time to get aroused, to get connected." The sexes tend to deal with anxiety in opposite ways, too, Clayton says. Men head to the bedroom to relieve stress, while women often need to be relaxed to even have sex.
Sex Rx: Clayton suggests finding time for some nonthreatening and nonjudgmental sex talk (not in bed), during which a woman can discuss what she needs in bed to even the playing field.
You're sick and tired.
About 10 to 15 percent of the women Krychman treats for low libido end up having an endocrine problem, such as undiagnosed thyroid disease, which can affect menstrual functioning and lead to exhaustion, depression, low sexual desire, and fertility problems. Women who have chronic illnesses --such as fibromyalgia, anemia, diabetes, or rheumatoid arthritis --may not be in the mood, either, thanks to fatigue or body pain. And women who have diabetes may also experience poor lubrication, low arousal, and a propensity for yeast infections. Health.com: Boost your energy
Sex Rx: Once a thyroid condition or anemia is detected and corrected, any associated symptoms should dissipate. If you're battling a chronic disease, you should take the focus off of the intercourse and explore other ways to achieve sexual and sensual pleasure, Clayton says. E-mail to a friend
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Опубліковано Jason о 4:28 AM