Saturday, May 10, 2008

Best Scenic Drives in the U.S.

It's hard to resist the lure of the open road when summer rolls around — and with our editors' favorite scenic drives across the United States, you'll know exactly where to point your car this year. We've listed our favorites from west to east — including everything from the obvious Highway 1 in California to the less-obvious — but brilliantly named — Going-to-the-Sun Road in Montana. We've picked routes for their history (U.S. Route 1 in New England and Million Dollar Highway in Colorado); for their natural scenery (Blue Ridge Parkway, Red Rock Scenic Byway, Highway 12); for their romantic appeal (routes through Sonoma and Napa); and for their remote wild beauty (Hana and Seward highways). Best of all, most of these routes make for splendid drives all year long, so you can get out and explore their bounty whenever the mood strikes. So rev your engines ... and hit the road.

Blue Ridge Parkway

Stretching some 469 miles along the Southern Appalachian Mountains and linking two eastern national parks — Virginia's Shenandoah National Park in Virginia and North Carolina's Great Smoky Mountains — the Blue Ridge Parkway has often been referred to as "America's Favorite Drive." It's certainly the country's first rural parkway — parts of it date back to 1930s (when construction began as a make-work project during the Depression) — and the longest, with breathtaking scenery and dozens of recreational opportunities to distract you when you need to stretch your legs.

Though some may argue that autumn is the best season to drive this stretch, as the brilliant fall foliage is in full effect, May is also a superb time to head this way, to witness the profusion of wildflowers in bloom along the elevated mountainsides. Also included in this scenic route is the impressive Skyline Drive, a 105-mile swath of road that cuts through Shenandoah National Park. Of course, no nature drive of this sort would be quite complete without wildlife sightings: Keep an eye out for resident whitetail deer and black bears.

Hana Highway

It's no wonder the aloha 'aina (love of the land) spirit is the bedrock of Hawaiian tradition. A drive on Maui's beloved Hana Highway (also called "the road to Hana") offers such an awe-inspiring display of natural beauty that you'll soon revel in the same sentiment. This serpentine trek starts off in Paia, famous for its surfer-swept shores, and zigzags east along the coast for more than 50 miles, all the while embracing 600 hairpin curves, 54 one-lane bridges, and some of the island's most spectacular sights. Indeed, Keanae Arboretum (an exotic botanical garden), Waikani Falls (a trio of crashing chutes), Ka'eleku Caverns (an ancient cavern system created from a lava flow thousands of years ago), and Waianapanapa State Park (home to a famous black-sand beach and fresh-water caves) are all in close proximity.

Your excursion will land you in the sleepy coastal village of Hana, where you can take up shack and relish the quiet countryside and local culture or, continue a tad further to Haleakala National Park where you can cool your jets in Oheo Gulch (aka the Seven Sacred Pools). Keep your windows down as you go and breathe in the sweet air infused with eucalyptus and ginger. To get the most out of the drive, pick up a "The Hana Road Self-Guided Drive" CD from the Shell gas station on Route 380 in Kahului; it narrates the journey and highlights all of the must-sees.

Highway 1

California's State Route 1 (a.k.a. Highway 1) skirts the Golden State's glorious Pacific coastline from "So Cal," near San Luis Obispo northwest to the forests of Monterey. While the twists and curves, and occasional precariously-perched cliff-top road, may prove challenging at times (one section has been ominously dubbed Devil's Slide, thanks to landslides and erosion that have occasionally made the road impassable), the magnificent vistas of ocean waves breaking on rocky sea-sculpted shores, windswept beaches dotted by frolicking otters or sea lions, and magnificent forests presiding above it all can rouse even the wariest of drivers behind the wheel.

Forays into charming little coastal towns, like Carmel-by-the-Sea and Laguna Beach, as well as into the trilogy of Californian cultural centers at Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco, are met by attractions ranging from historic missions to magnificent mansions (don't miss San Simeon's mountaintop Hearst Castle). There are also endless opportunities for outdoor recreation, particularly around the Big Sur area, where you can hike through redwood forests, comb the beaches for shells and jade, and camp under the stars.

Highway 12

Windswept red-rock canyons, towering sandstone formations, pristine lakes, and pine- studded mountain ranges combine for an altogether over-the-top sensory experience in Southern Utah. The setting for several stunning national parks, this remarkable road connects those at Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef, and offers unique beauty and seemingly limitless recreational opportunities on a stretch of land between the two parks' boundaries.

Utah Highway 12, also known as Highway 12 Scenic Byway, is one of only 27 nationally designated All-American Roads — the highest honor a road can get for attractive scenery. This spectacular route travels away from Bryce Canyon, through the Grand Staircase- Escalante National Monument, and over the forested Boulder Mountain and the Dixie National Forest, before winding down near the entrance to Capitol Reef. The scenery is unforgettable along the entire length of the road — especially during the brilliant red-rock sunsets that provide a glorious grand finale to a day's driving adventure here.

Going-to-the-Sun Road

This spectacular 52-mile drive is the best way to see the dramatic remnants and rugged path left by gargantuan glaciers in Montana's striking Glacier National Park. Only open from early-June to mid-October (or until first snowfall), the Going-to-the-Sun Road, aptly named for its ever-escalating sky-high stretch with switchbacks up and over the magnificent Continental Divide, traverses Glacier National Park from West Glacier to St. Mary and covers untapped wilderness, rugged mountains, glistening lakes, deep river gorges, glacial canyons, and the long Garden Wall. This sharp ridge forms the Continental Divide, the only place in the country where water flows to the Pacific, Gulf of Mexico, and Hudson Bay.

The road offers multiple lookout points, among them the 6646-foot-high Logan Pass, which ranks as one of the Divide's most impressive vantage points, and Jackson Glacier Overlook, 2 miles beyond Siyeh Bend, where remnants of the mammoth ice formations that carved the park's harsh terrain and contoured its valleys can still be seen. Indeed, the many jaw-dropping views and hiking opportunities along the way will have you making frequent stops to get out and explore; a few backcountry lodges, chalets, and campgrounds are available too, should you decide to prolong your trip by spending the night.

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World's Most Controversial Destinations

Picture this: You excitedly tell your friends you're heading to China for the Olympics, and they start lecturing you about Darfur, human rights, and the Dalai Lama. "But what about Shanghai, and the terra cotta warriors, and all those cool new stadiums?" Stony silence. There goes your summer vacation. To some people, boycotting the Games—and China as a whole—is a way of protesting its government's policies. But does that mean those who visit condone repression—and even help underwrite it? Must travelers body-swerve countries with flagrant human-rights abuses altogether? "The question isn't really whether to go, but what kind of tourism is responsible," says Thant Myint-U, a Burmese historian who believes travel, particularly by citizens of democratic countries, is crucial to the development of civil societies. Other observers disagree, quite adamantly. Here's our list of some of the world's most scenic and fascinating countries—that also happen to be among the most repressive. We weigh the pros and cons, but only you can decide whether to buy the ticket.
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Boy, 2, suffers from Children’s Alzheimer’s

A rare genetic disorder has left a two-year-old with a form of dementia, a disease more normally associated with the elderly.

Taylor with parents Dave Smith and Stephanie O'Hara

Taylor Smith, from Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria, has been diagnosed with Niemann-Pick Type C, also known as Children’s Alzheimer’s.

The disease means that the toddler is likely to develop signs of dementia before he becomes a teenager, although the symptoms can appear at any time.

Stephanie O’Hara, 22, Taylor’s mother, described the disease as like “living with a timebomb”.

She said: “We know what’s going to happen and we have to sit back and wait for the symptoms to show. I have to watch out for Taylor becoming clumsy or unsteady on his feet, as these will be the first warning signs.

“It’s heartbreaking to see Taylor learning all these new skills but knowing they will be taken away from him as the disease sets in.

“But we are just taking each day as it comes and trying to make Taylor’s life the best it can be.”

Shortly after he was born Taylor’s parents were told he had an enlarged spleen and liver, other common symptoms of the disease.

But it was not until he was 14 months old that Stephanie and her partner, David Smith, 23, discovered that he had inherited the rare condition.

Around 600,000 people in the UK have been diagnosed with dementia, of which Alzheimer’s is the most common form of the disease.

The main symptoms of Niemann-Pick Type C are similar to those associated with Alzheimer’s, including neurological deterioration, often combined with difficulties with co-ordination and balance.

Speech can become slow and slurred and patients can develop troubling swallowing.

Niemann-Pick is caused when both parents pass on a faulty gene to their baby.

In each pregnancy there is a 25 per cent chance that the gene, which causes harmful amounts of fatty substances, known as lipids, to build up in the liver, spleen, bone marrow and the brain, will be transferred.

The condition is extremely rare and there are thought to be only around 70 sufferers in the UK.

A spokesman for the Neimann Pick Disease Group said that the disease was progressive and often meant an extremely limited lifespan for the sufferer.

There is no known cure.

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Patent on Mexican yellow beans is reversed

Yellow beans have been freed from patent control.Yellow beans have been freed from patent control.CIAT 2008

The US Patent and Trademark office last week overturned a controversial patent on a breed of yellow beans. Opponents of the patent say the bean has been eaten in Latin America for more than a century, raising issues of biopiracy.

The patent was granted in 1999 to Larry Proctor of Delta, Colorado. According to the patent application, Proctor bought yellow beans in Mexico and bred them for two years to grow plants that gave a better harvest and produce beans with a distinctive yellow colour.

Proctor then began charging licensing fees on imports of yellow beans from Mexico, prompting the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, based in Cali, Colombia, to challenge the patent in 2001.

But the battle may continue. Proctor has the option of contesting the decision in federal court, and says he is consulting his lawyer. “Everybody may not be happy with what we're fixing to do now,” he said, and declined to comment further.

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World to End in 2012 (Check Back for Updates)

Benjamin Radford is a writer, investigator, and managing editor for Skeptical Inquirer science magazine.

Three children were recently removed from a remote church compound called Strong City in New Mexico. There had been allegations that children at the cult may have been sexually abused, though the matter remains under investigation and charges have yet to be filed.

The leader of the group, Wayne Bent, claims to be the son of God.

In early 2007, Bent said that the world would end on Halloween of that year. That apparently fell through, however Bent was undeterred and has updated his prophecy to say that the Apocalypse will happen at any moment: "The seven last plagues are all falling now and the end of all things is at hand," Bent wrote on his church's Web site.

Failed doomsday predictions are nothing new, of course. There have been thousands of people predicting the imminent end of the world, dating back to at least 2800 B.C. They have all been wrong for thousands of years (or however how long since they spoke), but that doesn't keep people from trying.

End-times claims are often rooted in Bible passages, but also based on everything from schizophrenia to misunderstood astronomy. Most doomsday promoters are quite sincere, genuinely believing that they have discovered a (literally) Earth-shaking secret that must be shared with others.

Doomsday deferred

It seems quaint now, but as the last century came to a close, there was fear of the "Y2K bug," the computer programming glitch that supposedly was going to bring the world to its knees as the millennium turned. The news media ran alarmist stories of possible consequences, ranging from the timing on your coffeemaker being off to a global nuclear war started by mistakenly-launched missiles.

While most people were only mildly concerned, many stocked up on survival gear, and some even headed to remote areas to wait out the impending holocaust.

And it wasn't just the Y2K bug; there were dozens of predictions that the world would end in 2000 (just as there had been a century earlier — some things never change). For example, author Richard Noone decided that the planets would align catastrophically almost exactly eight years ago, on May 5, 2000. The result would be the end of civilization through the melting and shifting of the polar icecaps.

Noone was so concerned about it he wrote a book titled "5/5/2000: Ice, The Ultimate Disaster." (About 18 months before doomsday, I interviewed Mr. Noone about his book and prophecy; when we concluded, I asked if we could arrange a follow-up interview on May 6, 2000, just in case the world didn't end. He declined. Noone's book is currently for sale on for 1 cent.)

Now what?

So how do true believers react when it's clear that the world didn't end? In many cases, followers have sold or given away all their possessions, assuming that they would have no need of them after the apocalypse. There must be some red faces as the hour of judgment comes ... and goes.

You might also think that followers would decide they'd been fooled and rebel. More often, however, the failed prophecy actually makes their belief stronger. In the case of cults, members have invested their money, time, lives, and sometimes even children in the cult leader. It's very difficult to suddenly reject all that, since their very identity is often linked to the beliefs.

Believers may rationalize away the failure in one or more of the following ways: They may decide that the end is in fact near, but that the time or date was simply misinterpreted and move the true end-times date forward (as Wayne Bent did); they may decide that their faith and prayer actually saved the world and averted disaster; or they may believe that the end of the world did in fact occur, but nobody else noticed it because it was a mystical or spiritual apocalypse, not a physical one. For more on the psychology of failed apocalyptic predictions, see Leon Festinger's classic book "When Prophecy Fails."

The latest fad in end-times predictions is for the year 2012, which (depending on which "expert" you listen to) will supposedly bring about either a new age of global spiritual awakening, or the end of the world. Or maybe something in between.

There are several Web sites dedicated to cataloging hundreds of past doomsdays. One of the best is A Brief History of the Apocalypse. Check the site in 2013 to see what it says.

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The pictures that horrified America

(CNN) -- World War II was over, but as the 1940s gave way to the 1950s, a new evil lurked in the land.

Ten-Cent Plague

The cover of David Hajdu's "Ten-Cent Plague," shown here, was drawn by Charles Burns.

It attracted a youthful audience -- boys, mostly -- who fell victim to its colorful images, dripping in red, and gave money to its purveyors.

Authorities took notice. The United States had a new menace, they said, one whose name started with "c" and whose first syllable rhymed with "bomb."

Comic books.

"The country was fixated on this," said David Hajdu, author of the recently released "The Ten-Cent Plague" (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), a history of the era.

These weren't just any comic books, the ones filled with the derring-do of superheroes. These had names such as "Tales from the Crypt," "Shock SuspenStories" and "Justice Traps the Guilty," and they told stories of crime and horror. Their cover images included alluring women (often in low-cut outfits), decaying corpses and spooky, murky swamps.

Hajdu, who wrote "Positively Fourth Street" about the early-'60s folk music scene, observes that when we think of postwar pop-cultural rebellion, what comes to mind is rock 'n' roll and Marlon Brando. But comic books, he notes, came first. Hundreds of millions sold every month, at 10 cents a throw.

"Everybody read comic books. They were the most popular form of entertainment in America," he said.

The fact that such entertainment was primarily aimed at children and teens raised the ire of authorities, including social scientists, newspaper columnists and political leaders. These works, they believed, were causing crime and degeneracy. They had to be stopped.

Towns hosted bonfires to rid themselves of comics; congressional hearings about the issue helped burnish the image of Tennessee's Estes Kefauver, who had led hearings against organized crime.

Comic books had been attracting concern since they were introduced in the 1930s -- and superheroes weren't immune. Figures such as children's author Sterling North and a Catholic bishop, John Francis Noll, protested the medium as glorifying crime and corrupting youngsters. The fervor dulled during World War II but came back with a vengeance afterwards as news focused on an alleged increase in juvenile delinquency.

The anti-comics movement really caught fire with the work of psychiatrist Frederic Wertham, who wrote a book, "Seduction of the Innocent," linking comics with delinquency. Sidebar: Were comics that violent?

In recent decades, Wertham has become a figure of mockery for his theories (he called the relationship between Batman and Robin "like a wish-dream of two homosexuals living together"), but Hajdu says he wasn't a cardboard villain. He was committed to working with minorities -- he ran a free clinic in Harlem -- and he genuinely cared about young people.

"He was misguided and used utterly fallacious methods, but what he was getting at was understandable," Hajdu said, though adding that "he did much more harm than good."

Among Wertham's adversaries was William M. Gaines, son of comics pioneer Max Gaines and the owner of EC Comics. Thanks to a staff of innovative writers and artists -- including Al Feldstein, Harvey Kurtzman, Wally Wood, Will Elder and Jack Davis -- and a deep investment in the crime and horror genres, Gaines revived a moribund EC, making it one of the business's most successful companies. Its titles, including "Crypt" and "SuspenStories," were both graphic and groundbreaking. See some of the covers that turned heads »

"EC Comics out-bloodied them all but also used social commentary and had a lighter quality of gruesome art," said Bill Svitavsky, a history professor at Florida's Rollins College who teaches a course on American graphic publishing with his colleague Julian Chambliss.

"EC had statements about racism and conformity to small-town values," Chambliss said. Many of EC's staffers, he observes, were World War II veterans who'd seen their share of violence, and their art -- if graphic -- gave their stories the ring of truth. (Author Grant Geissman put together a collection of EC's work, "Foul Play!" (HarperDesign), in 2005.)

However, the keepers of the boundaries pushed back, Svitavsky says. In those Red Scare times, "Adults were fearful [of works that questioned the establishment.] ... Comic books were believed to be an underestimated, unpatriotic tool to get at kids."

The children, Hajdu says, illustrated the tension of the times. Some had tried to hide their collections; others had energetically taken part in comic-book burnings. He interviewed many of them, now grown-ups in their 60s or 70s. "It was harrowing to listen to them," he said.

The issues came to a head at the subcommittee hearings on juvenile delinquency, which began in late 1953. Among the witnesses were Gaines and Wertham, who "looked as if he had come straight from doing scientific work," Hajdu writes. The comics' fate was sealed when Gaines, in televised testimony, attempted to defend a "Crime SuspenStories" cover, depicting the hand of a killer clutching a woman's severed head, as "good taste." Audiences were shocked; opinion leaders raged.

A comics publishers' association put together the Comics Code Authority, which banned the words "horror" and "terror" from comic books. Sales plunged, dozens of artists lost their jobs, and comic books didn't make a comeback for years.

"Everybody was cautious in the '60s," noted Ron Goulart, author of "Good Girl Art," a history of female images in comic books. He credits the horror-crime scare with "probably help[ing] resurrect superheroes," particularly the new breed created by Marvel Comics in the '60s.

The horror and crime books were also reflective of a changing world. Film historians have observed that the heyday of film noir was in the late '40s, and it wasn't long before Brando, James Dean, Elvis Presley and many others were busting boundaries in other genres.

Gaines was a part of that, Hajdu observes. There was one comic, a humor book, he had protected. He made it a magazine to save it from the Comics Code Authority and refused to accept advertising.

In time, the magazine became one of the most influential publications of the 20th century, inspiring generations to question authority and mocking the pieties of politics, religion and popular culture.

It was called Mad.
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Charlie Higson's top 10 Bond villains

Bond Villains Collage

To mark the 100th anniversary of Ian Fleming's birth later this month, Charlie Higson, the author of the bestselling Young Bond series, has chosen his favourite Bond villains.

The latest Young Bond, Hurricane Gold, is out in paperback on May 29. The next Young Bond, By Royal Command, is published in September 2008
Buy Hurricane Gold from the Guardian bookshop

1. Blofeld
Blofeld in the Fleming books has a weird chameleon-like quality, one moment (in Thunderball) he's huge and fat and has no interest in sex, the next moment (in On Her Majesty's Secret Service) he's quite ordinary, has lost his earlobes and has a syphilitic nose, finally (in You Only Live Twice) he's very tall and thin and dressed in medieval samurai armour. He's the only recurring villain in the books, and does more psychological harm to Bond than anyone else, right down to killing his wife. In the films he is of course the most used baddie. Donald Pleasance in YOLT defined exactly what a Bond villain should be - the bald head, the scar, the coldness, the sarcasm, the funny foreign accent, the Mao suit, the white cat, the lair, the men in colour coded jumpsuits. Perfect.
Buy Thunderball from the Guardian bookshop
Buy On Her Majesty's Secret Service from the Guardian bookshop
Buy You Only Live Twice from the Guardian bookshop

2. Goldfinger
The best name and the best one-liner - in the movies, at least: "Do you expect me to talk?" "No, mister Bond, I expect you to die!" - he's the most vivid of the villains in the books, and what a lucky coincidence that his name matches his obsession. If he'd been born Ernst Stavro Stamptongue maybe he'd have been obsessed with stamps and we would have been deprived of a great plot to rob Fort Knox.
Buy Goldfinger from the Guardian bookshop

3. Mr Wynt & 4. Mr Kidd
Should these two be down as one entry? I don't know. They are a double act, inseparable and very sinister. They embody a prime requisite for a Bond villain - campness. (Fleming wanted his friend Noel Coward to play Dr No - he politely declined - shame.) In the book of Diamonds Are Forever Wynt and Kidd make up for the lack of a memorable main baddie (the central villains, the Spang Brothers, are very weak.) These two killers relish their job and relish each other. For the film the casting was particularly good, Putter Smith (Kidd) and Bruce Glover (Wynt) getting the weird thing to a tee.
Buy Diamonds Are Forever from the Guardian bookshop

5. Rosa Klebb
Her description in From Russia With Love, scampering through the soviet secret police headquarters to watch enemy spies being tortured is delirious, and when she tarts herself up to try and seduce Tatiana Romanova the effect is quite startling. Also of course she had the best gadget weapon - knives in her shoes.
Buy From Russia With Love from the Guardian bookshop

6. Odd Job
Ok - technically more of a sidekick than a villain, but anyone with a lethal bowler hat has to make the list.
Buy Goldfinger from the Guardian bookshop

7. Red Grant
Possibly the first psycho killer in British fiction. The book of From Russia With Love opens with a description of Grant being massaged that lodges in the mind and shows what a vividly descriptive writer Fleming was. This guy is dangerous. The brutal fight on the train in the film version still stands up today.
Buy From Russia With Love from the Guardian bookshop

8. Xenia Onatopp
From Goldeneye. One of the few truly memorable villains who don't appear in the original books (Jaws being another. He would have made the list if he hadn't turned goodie in Moonraker and become a comedy figure) A pretty good name and a pretty good method of killing - crushing men to death between her shapely thighs.

9. Doctor No
The first Bond movie villain, played very nicely by Joseph Wiseman. In the book he's scarier and stranger (he has claws instead of hands and is about ten feet tall.) When Fleming invented him he was really seeing how much he could get away with. Quite a lot, as it turned out.

10. Irma Bunt
Blofeld's lover and side-kick. The model for all those horrible scary women who stick by their deranged lovers and worship them no matter what - psychologically very astute of Fleming. Irma Bunt has something of Myra Hindley and Rose West about her.

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Women Who Love Porn: An Asylum Investigation

When you think of the women who attend adult movie conventions, you probably picture porn stars. But there are plenty of non-professional ladies who appreciate a "four-legged flesh session" captured on camera.

In an effort to continue the work of Alfred Kinsey, Asylum traveled to the Adult Entertainment Expo to track down this rare breed and ask the tough, important questions all men want the answers to:

What got you interested in porn? What kind of porn do you watch? Do you have any suggestions on how a guy could get his girlfriend into watching porn?

The guy could be anyone, not necessarily an Asylum editor.

Here are some excerpts from our interviews, plus pictures of the fans with their favorite porn stars.
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Plan for Britain's biggest sculpture

Ebbsfleet Landmark
Horse and art ... Mark Wallinger's shortlisted proposal for the Ebbsfleet Landmark

A monumental, lifelike white horse is the early favourite to become the largest piece of public sculpture Britain has ever produced. At cost of £2m, it will be more than twice as expensive as Antony Gormley's celebrated Angel of the North. And, at 50 metres, it will be well over double the angel's height.

Five proposals for the sculpture have been unveiled. The artists are Mark Wallinger, who came up with the giant horse; Rachel Whiteread, who proposes a cast house atop a mountain of recycled rubble; Richard Deacon; Christopher Le Brun, who proposes a wing and disc; and Daniel Buren. The sculpture will sit next to the A2 in Kent near Ebbsfleet, which over the next 25 years is planned to become the site of more than 10,000 new homes. The landmark will be visible to travellers as they pull out of Ebbsfleet International train station bound for the continent, and to motorists as they drive to and from Dover.

Wallinger, who won the Turner prize last year, has long been interested in racehorses. He said that he was thinking of "Wapping Street [the A2], along which horses had travelled into Britain for centuries; about the white horses carved into chalk hills; about Hengist and Horsa in the sixth century, who landed as Saxon invaders near Ebbsfleet. The source of our word "horse" is Horsa. And then, in a convoluted way, I came to discover that the white horse was in fact the symbol of Kent."

His horse, should it be selected, would probably be constructed in steel "like the hull of a ship" and then painted. He said his proposal would be a "hopeful and deeply rooted symbol". He has been scouring the stud books to find the perfect thoroughbred grey that he could use as his model.

Whiteread intends to reprise her famous, contentious cast of a house for the Ebbsfleet project, while Le Brun proposes to cast a vast wing and disc from concrete for the site. "It would be a very simple form," he said, "that would produce a lot of complicated effects" as light and shadow ran over the work.

Richard Deacon proposes a "nest" of steel polyhedrons, almost like a collapsed pylon (a mass of pylons surrounds the site). He has also compared his structure to a cairn.

The only non-British artist on the shortlist, Buren, who is French, proposes a stacked tower of cubes intersected by a laser beam. The proposals go on display at Bluewater shopping centre, Kent, from May 27. The winner will be announced in the autumn, and completion is expected in 2010.

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