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Monday, August 4, 2008

Megayacht Marinas


Where the big boys go to berth

A 400-foot ship enters a harbor...

The beginning of a joke? Not exactly, but it does pose an interesting question for the yachting industry: Then what happens? As the number of megayachts on the seas continues to grow, only a limited number of marinas can accommodate these giants, and competition for slips is fierce.

There are more 2,000 megayachts in the world, and that number is growing. Since 1997, the number of megayachts built has increased 400 percent. While the definition of a megayacht starts with a length of 80 feet, those that stretch more than 200 feet constitute the most rapid sales growth.

See our slideshow of The Biggest Megayacht Marinas.

Megayacht captains struggle to find marinas that not only have adequate dock space, but the facilities—like speedy gas pumps—needed to berth these oversized vessels. Refueling a megayacht isn’t as simple as pulling up to a Mobile. The 414-foot Octopus, owned by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, holds nearly 225,000 gallons of fuel and can take anywhere from eight to 24 hours to refuel, depending on a marina’s pump capacity. Provisioning for these yachts can be another challenge for smaller marinas, which may not be able to provide requested items like grass-fed filet mignon or a particular bottle of white burgundy.

As a result, an entire new sector in the yachting industry is booming. “Marinas on the whole are upgrading their services,” explains Chuck Smith of Island Global Yachting (IGY), a Florida-based company that owns, develops and manages luxury marinas around the world. “The marina industry is in transition because vessels have gotten bigger.”

Island Global Yachting jumped on the opportunity to create marinas tailored especially for megayachts, with the size and facilities to host the actual vessels, as well as an adjacent marina village designed to be a desirable destination for both guests and crew.

See our slideshow of The Biggest Megayacht Marinas.

When IGY opened Yacht Haven Grande on St. Thomas in 2006, it was the first marina of its kind. It featured 48 slips that could accommodate yachts larger than 450-feet, and guests could step off their yachts and stroll through luxury shops like Louis Vuitton and Gucci. The marina quickly became a destination for the most mega of megayachts. In fact, the 453-foot Rising Sun, owned by Oracle founder Larry Ellison, had never pulled into a dock space until she visited Yacht Haven Grande.

To woo the growing megayacht crowd, some marinas are beginning to offer the same kind of services provided by a five-star resort, such as 24-hour concierge assistance and customized food requests. These marinas give guests the opportunity to have or do whatever they want, whenever they want it. “The concierge at Yacht Haven Grande has provided nannies for charter guests,” says Smith. “One time they delivered $10,000 worth of bottled water to a yacht.”

And there is more in store for demanding megayacht owners. By 2010, several marinas will be opening their docks to megayachts and well-designed marina villages to the guests onboard. While the Mediterranean holds the title of most popular destination, marina developers are looking to markets like St. Lucia, Croatia and Greece for more space. In Dubai, developers are literally creating new coastline with hundreds of man-made islands. IGY has been commissioned to build every marina in these new developments, resulting in 40,000 new slips and a marina dedicated exclusively to megayachts.

But even with the development of the largest marinas yet, the growing popularity of these mammoth vessels will keep demand for slips high. Today, the biggest megayacht marinas are booked well in advance. New marinas, with more elbow room and even more luxury services, are also expected to fill up fast. So when that 400-foot yacht enters the harbor, she had better have a reservation.

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Print Email Font Resize Fears cloud marijuana legalization

As a registered nurse and the person pictured in the July 20 article "High emotions: Group backs medical marijuana," I am growing increasingly weary of the insulting attacks found in Kevin Sabet's July 24 guest commentary, "Public faces medical marijuana scam," which brand me as a miscreant and criminal simply because I am part of a team of health-care professionals who make the ancient medicinal herb marijuana available to patients in need.

At the THCF Medical Clinic, we treat patients with life-threatening ailments, such as Parkinson's and cancer, while others have life-disabling ailments such as chronic pain, insomnia, depression and hypertension.

They have all discovered that cannabis not only restores their health, but maintains it as well.

Even though a person would never consider going to a police station to obtain an opinion on the use of a medication, for some reason, pronouncements by professional anti-harm reduction warriors such as Sabet on the efficacy of medicinal marijuana are accepted as fact.

Let's check the facts.

Falsely claiming the 1999 study by the National Institute of Health opposes smoked marijuana, Sabet ignores the report's executive summary which concluded, "We acknowledge that there is no clear alternative for people suffering from chronic conditions that might be relieved by smoking marijuana, such as pain or AIDS wasting."

The Mayo Clinic does caution against smoking marijuana in an August 2006 article, but Sabet fails to report that the same article recognizes that marijuana provides effective relief for nausea, glaucoma, pain and multiple sclerosis.

Although it is true that the American Medical Association supports retaining marijuana in Schedule 1, the AMA recognizes the effectiveness of marijuana by calling for "the development of a smoke-free inhaled delivery system for marijuana."

Sabet's objection, like the Mayo Clinic's and the AMA's, seems to be not so much about marijuana as to smoking as the delivery system.

Marijuana can be applied as a balm and absorbed through the skin as is done by people with arthritis. The marijuana brownie is the classic example of ingestion through the digestive system. Available at every corner drugstore, marijuana tinctures were taken sublingually under the tongue as the preferred method of ingestion by your great-grandmother for insomnia, pain and a host of other ailments until marijuana became illegal in the 1930s.

Most notably, Sabet is silent on the use of a vaporizer delivery system.

Vaporizers heat marijuana to a temperature hot enough to cause marijuana's cannabinoid oils to evaporate, but not hot enough to cause the vegetative matter to ignite and burn, thereby providing a patient with all the therapeutic benefits of marijuana and none of the smoke.

The underlying fear that medical marijuana is the camel's nose under the tent of marijuana legalization permeates every word of Sabet's article. This is graphically demonstrated by his red herring that some people might abuse the medical access of marijuana. There is no demand for the prohibition of prescription pharmaceuticals even though people die from their abuse.

No one has ever died from using marijuana.

Sabet objects to the text of Proposition 215 which allows marijuana to be used for "any illness for which marijuana provides relief." He believes patients should take Vicodin or Percocet for pain with their debilitating side effects of constipation, respiratory distress, arrhythmias and liver toxicity rather than marijuana which has none of these life-threatening consequences. If a medicine works, it should be up to a doctor to decide if a patient should use it and not a government bureaucrat.

Showcasing Sabet's paranoid fear of legalization was his claim that "The Sun was scammed by the pro-legalization movement." Give The Sun some credit for being scam savvy. The real scam is being perpetuated by Sabet's organization, the Inland Valley Drug Free Community Coalition, which is so preoccupied with medical marijuana that it all but ignores the actually serious health threats to the community of methamphetamines, heroin, tobacco, alcohol and prescription drug abuse.

I have lost count of how many times I have respectfully asked the IVDFCC to participate in a public forum on medical marijuana, but they will not even give me the courtesy of a reply. No doubt they recognize our capability of not only revealing the fallacy of their arguments, but exposing them for being nothing more than government-paid shills protecting law enforcement's tax payer-funded, $20 billion-a-year marijuana prohibition full-employment program.

Mr. Sabet needs some educating. I invite him and his compatriots from the Inland Valley Drug Free Community Coalition along with readers of The Sun to attend my free seminar on The Anti-Aging and Health Benefits of Marijuana presented at 8 p.m. Fridays at the THCF Medical Clinic, 647 Main St., Riverside. More information can be obtained at www.thc-foundation.org/clinic or by calling (951) 782-9898.

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US HIV Infections Underestimated

(ATLANTA) — The number of Americans infected by the AIDS virus each year is much higher than the government has been estimating, U.S. health officials reported Sunday, acknowledging that their numbers have understated the level of the epidemic.

The country had roughly 56,300 new HIV infections in 2006 — a dramatic increase from the 40,000 annual estimate used for the last dozen years. The new figure is due to a better blood test and new statistical methods, and not a worsening of the epidemic, officials said.

But it likely will refocus U.S. attention from the effect of AIDS overseas to what the disease is doing to this country, said public health researchers and officials. "This is the biggest news for public health and HIV/AIDS that we've had in a while," said Julie Scofield, executive director of the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors.

The revised estimate by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the methodology behind it were to be presented Sunday, the opening day of the international AIDS conference in Mexico City.

Since AIDS first surfaced in 1981, health officials have struggled to estimate how many people are infected each year. It can take a decade or more for an infection to cause symptoms and illness.

One expert likened the new estimate to adding a good speedometer to a car. Scientists had a good general idea of where the epidemic was going; this provides a better understanding of how fast it's moving right now. "This puts a key part of the dashboard in place," said the expert, David Holtgrave of Johns Hopkins University.

Based on the new calculations, officials believe annual HIV infections have been hovering around 55,000 for several years.

"This is the most reliable estimate we've had since the beginning of the epidemic," said Dr. Julie Gerberding, the CDC's director. She said other countries may adopt the agency's methodology.

According to current estimates, around 1.1 million Americans are living with the AIDS virus. Officials plan to update that number with the new calculations, but don't think it will change dramatically, a CDC spokeswoman said.

The new infection estimate is based on a blood test that for the first time can tell how recently an HIV infection occurred.

Past tests could only detect the presence of HIV, so determining which year an infection took place was guesswork — guesswork upon which the old 40,000 estimate was based.

The new estimate relies on blood tests from 22 states where health officials have been using a new HIV testing method that can distinguish infections that occurred within the last five months from those that were older.

The improved science will allow more real-time monitoring of HIV infections. Now, CDC officials say, the estimate will likely be updated every year.

Yearly estimates allow better recognition of trends in the U.S. epidemic. For example, the new report found that infections are falling among heterosexuals and injection drug users.

Some experts celebrated that finding, saying it's a tribute to prevention efforts, including nearly 200 syringe exchange programs now operating in 36 states despite a federal ban on funding for such projects.

But they also lamented the CDC's finding that infections continue to increase in gay and bisexual men, who accounted for more than half of HIV infections in 2006. Also, more than a third of those with HIV are younger than 30.

Some advocates say that suggests a need for more prevention efforts, particularly targeting younger gay and bisexual men.

For years, AIDS was considered a terrifying death sentence, and since 1981, more than half a million Americans have died. But medicines that became available in the 1990s turned it into a manageable chronic condition for many Americans, and attention shifted to Africa and other parts of the world.

Last week, President Bush signed a $48 billion global AIDS bill to continue a program that he called "the largest commitment by any nation to combat a single disease in human history."

But some advocates complain that CDC's annual spending on HIV prevention in the United States has been held to roughly $700 million since 2001, while costs have risen. (That's about 3 percent of what the federal government spends on AIDS; much of the rest is on medicines, health care and research.)

The new estimate is "evidence of a failure by government and society to do what it takes to control the epidemic," said Julie Davids, executive director of the Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project.

Whether more funding comes or not, the revised estimate clearly is a "wake-up call to scale things up," said Dr. Kevin Fenton, who oversees CDC's prevention efforts for HIV/AIDS.

Some said more attention needs to focus on prevention among blacks, who account for nearly half of annual HIV infections, according to the new CDC report.

A recent report by the Black AIDS Institute concluded that if black Americans were their own nation, they would rank 16th in the world in the number of people living with HIV. "We have been inadequately funding this epidemic all along. We need to step it up," said former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher, who is now an administrator at Atlanta's Morehouse School of Medicine.

The new estimate has been anticipated for a long time. The CDC began working on the new methods nearly seven years ago.

Late last year, advocates said they had heard the figure was about 55,000 and pressed the CDC to release it. Agency officials declined, saying they were submitting their research for medical journal review.

"These are extremely complicated statistical methods," and CDC officials wanted the work to be thoroughly reviewed by outside experts, Gerberding said. CDC's findings are being published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Until 1992, the number of diagnosed AIDS cases was used to predict how many people were newly infected each year. That method produced an estimate of 40,000 to 80,000. More recently, the CDC focused on infections among men who have sex with men, who account for about half of new HIV diagnoses.

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5 Things You Must Know About Sleep

You're tired. You could put your head down on a desk right now and fall asleep immediately. You went to bed late last night, had trouble falling asleep and woke up too early. And let's not kid ourselves: Tonight will be the same unless ... well, read on.

This is the classic not-so-shut-eye experience of many Americans who think they are sleep-deprived and possibly need pills or other treatment to fix their insomnia, teeth grinding, jet lag, restless or jerky legs, snoring, sleepwalking and so forth.

Reality is quite different.

For instance, insomnia is said to be the most common sleep disorder, but these dissatisfying sleep experiences only get in the way of daily activities for 10 percent of us, according to the National Institutes of Health. And in almost half of those cases, the real underlying problem is illness (often mental) or the effects of a substance, like coffee or medication.

Here are five recent findings that might help you rest easier:

1. We sleep better than we think we do

For most of us, sleep deprivation is a myth. We're not zombies. The non-profit National Sleep Foundation (which takes money from the sleep-aid industry, including drug companies that make sleeping pills) says the average U.S. resident gets 7 hours a night and that's not enough, but a University of Maryland study earlier this year shows we typically get 8 hours and are doing fine. In fact, Americans get just as much sleep nowadays as they did 40 years ago, the study found.

2. We need less sleep as we age

We'll die without sleep. The details are sketchy, but research suggests it's a time when we restore vital biological processes and also sort and cement memories. Last year, the World Health Organization determined that nightshift work, which can lead to sleep troubles, is a probable human carcinogen. On the upside, the latest research suggests we need less of it as we get older.

3. You can sleep like a baby (or Thomas Edison)


Multiple, shorter sleep sessions nightly, rather than one long one, are an option. So-called polyphasic sleep is seen in babies, the elderly and other animals (and Thomas Edison reportedly slept this way). For the rest of us, it is more realistic and healthy to sleep at night as best we can and then take naps as needed. EEGs show that we are biphasic sleepers with two alertness dips — one at night time and one mid-day. So talk to HR about setting up a nap room, like they have for NASA's Phoenix mission team members.

4. Animals exhibit a range of sleep habits

The three-toed sloth sleeps 9.6 hours nightly. But newborn dolphins and killer whales can forgo sleeping for their entire first month. However, the latter extreme is not recommended for humans. We grow irritable and lose our ability to focus and make decisions after even one night of missed sleep, and that can lead to serious accidents driving and using other machinery.

5. Get used to being tired, hit the desk

The bottom line is that a good night's sleep is within the reach of most of us if we follow common-sense guidelines for sleep hygiene:

  • Go to bed at the same time nightly.
  • Set aside enough time to hit that golden 7 hours of sleep.
  • Refrain from caffeine, heavy or spicy foods, and alcohol and other optional medications that might keep you awake, four to six hours before bed-time.
  • Have a pre-sleep routine so you wind down before you hop in.
  • Block out distracting lights and noises.
  • Only engage in sleep and sex in bed (no TV-watching, reading or eating).
  • Exercise regularly but not right before bed.

But you already know all this and you don't do it. So your realistic plan might be to surrender to the mid-day desk nap.

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More than 56,000 in U.S. infected with AIDS each year

By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - New estimates show that least 56,000 people become infected with the AIDS virus every year in the United States -- 40 percent more than previous calculations, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Saturday.

The CDC stressed that actual infection rates have not risen but said better methods of measuring newly diagnosed infections and extrapolating these to the general population led to the higher estimates.

"CDC's first estimates from this system reveal that the HIV epidemic is -- and has been -- worse than previously known. Results indicate that approximately 56,300 new HIV infections occurred in the United States in 2006," the CDC said in a statement.

"This figure is roughly 40 percent higher than CDC's former estimate of 40,000 infections per year, which was based on limited data and less precise methods."

The CDC said the epidemic has been stable since the late 1990s, "though the number of new HIV infections remains unacceptably high."

"The analysis shows that new infections peaked in the mid-1980s at approximately 130,000 infections per year and reached a low of about 50,000 in the early 1990s," it said.

Dr. Kevin Fenton, who heads the CDC's AIDS branch, said 15,000 to 18,000 Americans die every year of AIDS.

"The data really confirm that there is a severe impact of this epidemic among gay and bisexual men in the United States ... as well as black men and women," Fenton said in a telephone interview.

The numbers, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, confirm that black Americans are seven times more likely to be infected than whites.

DOING TOO LITTLE

AIDS activist groups said the numbers showed the United States is doing too little to control the epidemic.

"We need to develop programs that specifically target those most at risk, such as African Americans, Hispanics, and men who have sex with men," Kevin Robert Frost, chief executive officer of the American Foundation for AIDS Research, said in a statement.

"The reality is that it is a wake-up call for all of us," Fenton agreed. "There are things that you and I can do to stop the disease -- encourage others to use condoms consistently and correctly, abstain from sex."

Fears of being stigmatized have discouraged people from being tested -- 25 percent of those infected do not know it and can pass along the virus.

AIDS groups have been clamoring for the CDC to release its numbers, but Fenton said the CDC's numbers have been undergoing peer review -- a months-long process during which both the statistical methods and the numbers themselves have been scrutinized by experts recruited by the journal's editors.

"This improved estimate means little if it does not serve as the spark to inflame our collective anger about the deadly neglect of an acute emergency," Mark McLaurin of the Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project said in a statement.

"This week, President Bush signed a new global AIDS bill, but persistent underfunding and restrictions here at home tie our hands in combating the epidemic in our own backyard."

The president's Emergency Plan for HIV/AIDS Relief or PEPFAR program signed into law this week is a $48 billion, five-year package to help treat and prevent AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria around the world.

Globally, 33 million people are infected with the human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS and 2 million die of it each year.

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Stomach bug treatment for cancer


Helicobacter pylori
H. pylori is commonly known as the main cause of stomach ulcers

Eradicating a common bug in people with stomach cancer can prevent the disease from recurring, research suggests.

Helicobacter pylori, proved to be the cause of most stomach ulcers, has also been linked with stomach cancer.

In a study of 550 people who had stomach cancer surgery, antibiotics which killed the bug cut the risk of a second cancer developing by two-thirds.

There will now be a trial of 56,000 British people to see if killing the bacterium stops the cancer developing.

H. pylori lives in the stomach, and accounts for up to 90% of duodenal ulcers and up to 80% of gastric ulcers.

Preventing gastric cancer by eradicating H. pylori in high-risk regions should be a priority
Dr Nicholas Talley

It was famously linked with stomach ulcers by two Australian researchers - one of whom deliberately infected himself to prove the theory - who were awarded the Nobel prize for their discovery in 2005.

The World Health Organisation also classes the bacterium as a leading cause of stomach cancer.

Prevention

Previous trials on eradicating H. pylori as a method of preventing further stomach cancers in patients who have undergone surgery have been conflicting.

But the latest study, done in Japan, found that the strategy could be very useful.

Patients with early stomach cancer underwent a procedure to remove the cancerous cells and surrounding tissue.

Half of them were then treated with a course of drugs designed to eradicate H. pylori - lansoprazole, amoxicillin and clarithromycin - and half received dummy pills and were then examined at six, 12, 24 and 36 months to see if the cancer had reappeared in a different site.

After three years, a second stomach cancer had developed in nine patients in the eradication group compared with 24 in the control group.

Overall, the risk of developing cancer was reduced by 65% with H. pylori treatment.

Study leader Dr Mototsugu Kato, from Hokkaido University Graduate School of Medicine said: "We believe that our data add to those from previous studies showing a causal relationship between H. pylori infection and gastric cancer, and also support the use of H. pylori eradication to prevent the development of gastric cancer."

Writing in the same issue of The Lancet, Dr Nicholas Talley, of Mayo Clinic Jacksonville, Florida, US said: "Preventing gastric cancer by eradicating H. pylori in high-risk regions should be a priority."

Henry Scowcroft, science information manager at Cancer Research UK, said: "This result adds to our understanding of the relationship between H pylori and stomach cancer, and to the debate on how we should treat people with this infection.

He added the charity was helping to fund a study to assess whether elimination of the bacteria could prevent cancer developing.

"The trial aims to recruit 56,000 people across the UK, treat any who show signs of H pylori infection, and follow them over 15 to 20 years to see if this treatment is effective."

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How to Eat to Lose Weight


The secret to turning your body into a fat-burning machine.

Do you live to eat or eat to live?

The program outlined below is not a diet. It is a way of life that will support you in weight loss and maintenance, and in building a foundation for living the life of your dreams. The beauty and the blessing of this way of eating, moving and living is that it grows and gives way to a life of peace and unlimited possibility. You will see that being on purpose with your self-love and self-care encourages success in every area of your life: career, health, family, romance and spirituality.

Restoring Your Fat-Burning Chemistry

This guide will help you learn to recalibrate your body’s natural chemistry and hormonal balance to make it an optimal fat-burning machine through:

  • Frequent meals
  • Appropriate portion sizes
  • Balanced meals with the right combination of complex, low glycemic carbohydrates, lean protein and essential fats

Five Meal Ideal

To optimize metabolism, energy, and mental and emotional positivity, set a goal to eat five small meals per day — do NOT skip meals. Sometimes you will feel like you don’t have the time or the energy to put anything together, but this is critical to your success. Your body and your metabolism are designed to look for cues telling them when to burn and when to conserve. If you miss a meal your body does what it is programmed to do — stop burning. Ideally, the five meals include breakfast, mid-morning snack, lunch, mid-afternoon snack and dinner. On occasion, you may also enjoy a healthy and delicious fat-burning dessert after dinner. This five meal ideal will keep your metabolism burning brightly, and your brain will enjoy a steady source of fuel, keeping you mentally sharp and safe from those challenging blood sugar drops that spur cravings for sub-par food choices.

Right-Size Portions

So how much should you eat at each meal? Begin by keeping in mind that there is no one definition of a serving size. With both the Food Pyramid and Nutrition Facts labels, the serving size is simply a unit of measure and may not represent the amount you are really eating. For example, an English muffin represents two Food Pyramid servings of bread, despite the fact that the Nutrition Facts label on the package defines a serving as one muffin.

Measure your food for a day to gain perspective on your portion sizes. For packaged foods such as cereal, use the label to identify a serving size. For other foods, such as vegetables and meats, use the Rule of “Thumb” (using everyday objects to help you gauge portion sizes without measuring) below:

One serving of = Is about the size of:
low-fat cheese = your thumb
milk or yogurt = tuna can
bread, cereal, rice or pasta = tuna can
whole or chopped vegetables = tuna can
leafy vegetables = your fist
whole or chopped fruit = tennis ball
lean meat, poultry or fish = deck of cards
dry beans, nuts, eggs = one egg

Seeing what a defined serving looks like will help you gauge how much you are eating. A true-size serving of whole-grain pasta tossed with a touch of olive oil, fresh tomatoes and steamed broccoli, then sprinkled with a dash of low-fat cheese is likely smaller than you are used to, but will be equally as satisfying as a larger portion. As you continue to eat right-size portions, your appetite will rebalance and your hormones will reharmonize, resulting in effective and lasting weight loss.

Counting Calories

Research suggests that calorie restriction can not only increase life span, but also substantially lower blood pressure and reduce your risk of cancer and other diseases. But what does “calorie restriction” mean to you? If you are portion-conscious, you should not need to count calories. However, you should be aware of what’s going into your mouth and realize that some food choices come with higher calorie price tags. If you aim for my recommended balance of 25 to 40 percent lean protein, 40 to 50 percent complex, low-glycemic carbohydrate, and 20 to 30 percent essential fat, make nutritional food choices using common sense, and watch portion sizes, then the appropriate amount of calories should follow.

Creating Hormonal Balance

Have you ever blamed your weight loss challenges on your hormones? If you are not eating with balance, you may be right. Hormones play a role in every physiological process in our bodies. They are always working to maintain balance and harmony in the body. Knowing how to use food and putting it together in balance can be the difference between reaching your goals or remaining stuck in frustration, firing up your metabolism or keeping it sluggish.

As mentioned throughout this guide, you need to eat a balance of low-glycemic complex carbohydrates, lean protein and beneficial fats to create and sustain consistent high levels of energy and metabolism. When properly balanced, these macronutrients support optimal blood sugar levels, optimal fat burning, improved mental fitness and focus, and improved overall health and well being.

Macronutrient #1:

Complex, Low-Glycemic Carbohydrates — 40 to 50 percent of each meal

Carbohydrates provide our bodies with fuel in the form of sugar for energy-burning brain and muscle activity. They also encourage the healthy release of a brain chemical called serotonin, which supports positive mood and sleep patterns. As carbs break down in the body, they release blood sugar into the bloodstream. Insulin is then released to counter the blood sugar. How quickly insulin is released depends on the type of carbohydrate you eat.

When you eat simple carbohydrates, they break down quickly so insulin is released quickly, causing your body to stifle fat-burning systems, depress the release of muscle-building hormones, challenge the immune system and raise cholesterol. You feel the effects of this process as a sugar high followed by an energy slump. But when you eat complex carbohydrates, they break down slowly so insulin is released slowly and manageably, providing sustained, long-term energy — you don’t feel the blood sugar spike and dip that triggers cravings and eventual weight gain.

The Glycemic Index

Another way to keep off the blood sugar roller coaster is to choose carbohydrates that are not only complex, but also low on the glycemic index. The glycemic index (GI) is a numerical ranking of foods based on the immediate effect that they have on blood sugar levels. The higher the glycemic index, the quicker the lift and the faster the fall. Conversely, the lower the glycemic index, the longer the energy boost and the more satisfied you’ll feel. In short, complex, low-GI carbs will help you experience fewer cravings, feel fuller longer, lose weight easier, improve your body’s sensitivity to insulin, and lower your cholesterol.

Choosing the Right Carbohydrates

The goal of this program is not to feed your possible fear of carbohydrates, but instead to support you in eating the right kinds that will, in turn, support your metabolism, your mood and your overall health and well being. When you choose nourishing carbohydrates from complex, low glycemic varieties — such as legumes, most fruits and vegetables, and many whole grains — you will be getting the very best chemistry support to meet your goals. And whenever possible, you should replace highly processed foods with minimally processed foods.

The chart below is a small sample of carbohydrates and their glycemic indices.

High GI
(above 70)
Moderate GI
(56 to 69)
Low GI
(less than 55)
White bread Sourdough bread Pumpernickel bread
Wheat bread Whole wheat pita bread Psyllium-based cereal
French bread Cantaloupe Milk
White potatoes Dates Apple
Cornflakes Barley bread Orange
Rice Krispies® Rye bread Peach
Cheerios® Cream of Wheat® cereal Lentils
Raisins Muesli Soybeans
Watermelon Banana Baked beans
White or brown rice Pineapple Cherries
Jelly beans Yam or sweet potatoes Most vegetables
Skittles® Beans Plums
Life Savers® Full-fat ice cream Nuts

Carrots

Basmati rice Yogurt
Beets Cottage cheese
Apricots Grapefruit
Prunes
Pear

Macronutrient #2:

Lean Protein — 25 to 40 percent of each meal

Protein is an essential element for creating body balance. The main function of protein is to act as the building block for muscle tissue. Protein is also vital for proper hormone and enzyme synthesis and immune function in our bodies. Protein helps balance blood sugar by serving as a catalyst for the release of glucagon, which plays an opposite role to insulin. Excess insulin can force our bodies to store fat, whereas glucagon from protein helps the body to mobilize fat for burning as a fuel source. When you choose lean proteins, versus higher fat versions, you will support your metabolism and health by optimizing digestion and assimilation.

Choosing the Right Proteins

High quality proteins come from many sources including animal (lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, yogurt) and vegetable sources (tofu, soy protein powders, tempeh). It is important to know that other vegetable-based proteins, such as beans and other legumes, are great protein sources but also contain significant levels of carbohydrates, which could offset the balance of carbohydrate and proteins. You should also try to limit the amount of protein that you get from sources that are higher in saturated fats. The bottom line is that it’s important to pay attention to what comes along with the protein in your food choices. If you are partial to beef, stick with the leanest cuts to lower fat levels. If beans are what you’re after, know that carbs come along with it and compensate with fewer starchy accompaniments.

You may want to experiment with soy-based proteins, as they deliver many health positives. Studies show that soy may decrease your risk for heart disease, support hormonal regulation, support bone building and decrease risk for certain cancers. If tofu seems too far-out, consider its cultural cousin, tempeh. Or start with soy protein powder and soy milk.

How Much Protein?

Minimal protein requirements for an average healthy man or woman is about 0.8 gram of high quality protein per kilogram of body weight per day (a kilogram equals about 2.2 pounds). For example, a 140-pound woman would require approximately 50 grams of protein daily; a 175-pound man requires about 63 grams of protein daily. There are some exceptions to this rule:

Infants: about 2 grams per kilogram of body weight per day
Children: about 1.2 grams per kilogram of body weight per day
Pregnant women: at least an extra 10 grams of protein per day
Nursing women: an extra 15 grams during the first 6 months of nursing, and 12 additional grams during the second 6 months
Athletes: about 1.3 grams per kilogram of body weight per day

Macronutrient #3:

Beneficial/Essential Fats — 20 to 30 percent of each meal

Are you surprised to learn that fat doesn’t necessarily make you fat? Isn’t that a relief? Truth be told, fats are necessary for proper body function. Subcutaneous fat provides an insulating layer that inhibits heat loss. Fat supports and protects certain organs, provides a concentrated reserve of food, provides essential fatty acids necessary for normal growth and development, and is a vehicle for natural fat-soluble vitamins found in foods. Fats are an important constituent of cell structure, forming an integral part of the cell membrane. And in conjunction with carbohydrates, fats help conserve protein.

But fats are not equal in their effects on the body. Countless research has been published on the health benefits of the good fats recommended in this program. Essential fats — including linolenic acid (LA), alpha-linolenic acid (LNA), and omega-3 fatty acids — have a favorable effect on both beneficial and non-beneficial cholesterol levels and play a significant role in protecting you from many diseases and immune challenges.

There is no shortage of research that shows omega-3, found in abundance in fish and nuts, is also crucial to good health. Research has shown that it helps prevent hardening of the arteries, which can lead to hypertension, heart attack and stroke. It also lowers the risk for coronary heart disease. A lack of omega-3 in your diet will show up in a variety of sobering ways: a decrease in energy and metabolism, emotional challenges including depression, dry skin and hair; and premature aging of your skin, nails and hair.

Fats To Avoid

Saturated fats are linked to many diseases, including obesity, cardiovascular disease and cancer. The saturated fats that are found in animal-based foods are especially problematic when consumed in excess and have been the subject of much debate with diets that encourage a high-protein eating regimen.

Trans fats, hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated fats should be totally removed from your eating and healthy lifestyle plan. These fats serve no positive purpose and are linked to many health challenges and disease markers. Consuming these fats has been associated with increased risk for heart disease by raising LDL cholesterol while lowering beneficial and heart-protective HDL cholesterol.

Stay away from these fat sources when possible.

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The real thing. Or is it?


Cans of Coca-Cola. Photograph: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

On a kitchen table two young women have assembled a variety of items. There are brown bottles, bags of white powder, a pestle and mortar, a collection of funnels, a roll of silver gaffer tape. There is a drill. There is a whisk.

Are they making bombs? Are they making drugs? No. They are doing something far more likely to change the world we live in. They're making their own version of Coca-Cola.

Codenamed "Merchandise 7X", the list of ingredients that go into Coke - 922 million litres of which were drunk in the UK last year - has been kept carefully shrouded in mystery since the drink's inventor, a medicinal chemist called John Pemberton, first wrote it down in 1886. These days it is supposedly kept under 24-hour guard in a vault in Atlanta, Georgia, which is odd considering that author Mark Pendergrast published it in his exposé of the cola industry For God, Country & Coca-Cola (Basic Books) in 1993. The company maintains that this recipe is not the same as the one it uses.

Kate Rich and Kayle Brandon are bar managers at the Cube Microplex, an "alternative" cinema in central Bristol. Opposed in principle to the business and environmental practices of the Coca-Cola corporation, the Cube bar has never served Coke. That doesn't mean there isn't a demand for it. "We'd tried Pepsi and Virgin Cola and various others too," says Brandon, "but they weren't really a positive alternative. They were acceptable, but they weren't Coke. And people really want Coke."

After conducting various taste tests, they felt the preference had less to do with flavour than the power of the brand. Any alternative they were going to offer had not only to taste almost identical but overcome the incredible pull of Coca-Cola's marketing. "Given that most of the Cube's customers come because they like the place's DIY attitude," Brandon explains, "one way of doing that was to make the cola ourselves."

Cola is basically a mix of caramel, caffeine, sugar, fizzy water, citric or phosphoric acid, and eight essential oils. It's the precise blend of these oils that lies at the heart of the 7X secret formula. A trawl of the web soon uncovered several 7X-type recipes, the most promising of which was adapted from the one in Pendergrast's book.

But turning the recipe into a palatable drink turned out to be more difficult than it looked. "The oils we had to import from the US," says Rich. "The caramel had to be sourced direct from DD Williamson, a large operation based in Manchester which actually provides the caramel for all the Coca-Cola manufactured in the UK. And the caffeine we found at MyProtein.co.uk, a body-building website."

When they had assembled most of the kit, they invited friends along to an "open lab" to help them make the drink. "Unfortunately none of us had any scientific knowledge whatsoever, and it's quite a scientific process," says Rich. "We spent half our time running out to get ingredients that we didn't have, and we kept having to go round to the local post office to weigh things on their parcel scales."

Though they came up with something like cola by the end of that first day, they couldn't replicate their success. The problem was getting the oils to mix with the other ingredients, a process called emulsification, or binding together.

The emulsifier used in most soft drinks is dried acacia sap, better known as gum arabic. But Rich and Brandon couldn't get this to work. "We managed to destroy a whole series of kitchen mixers, completely trashed them. The gum arabic scoured the sides, the blades snapped ... it was really violent and very distressing."

After the fourth mixer went west they realised it was time to seek help. A mass email to the Cube's mailing list uncovered Dr Peter Barham, adviser to the Fat Duck restaurant and expert in food emulsification. He pointed out that they were using the wrong kind of gum arabic. "We'd bought ours from the local Indian food shop, but it wasn't particularly homogenous, so each time it was giving us different results."

Barham also pointed out that making an emulsion was all about force. Rich and Brandon had scaled up their quantities, but not their mixing power. They were looking forlornly at the constituents of their cola lab when they noticed the tubular metal handle on one of their hand whisks was about the same thickness as a large drill bit. Bingo! Whisking the mixture with a hammer drill produced the desired effect.

All they needed to do now was to add caffeine, caramel, sugar, citric acid and sparkling water - and suddenly, from a single cup of emulsion, they had enough cola for a month.

So how does it taste? First, we try the real Coca-Cola. A restrained sweetness, low cool notes of caramel, dry on the tongue, quite flat on the palette. Very refreshing, but with little depth.

Now for Rich and Brandon's home-made product. The initial surprise is that it really does taste like Coke. Very slightly sweeter than "the real thing" but less acidic. A satisfying, complex flavour, subtly different from the brand leader, but easily as good.

Having found their liquid gold, Brandon and Rich plan to sell concentrate kits to other small bars and businesses. They maintain that they are not out to challenge the Coca-Cola hegemony, but they "do hope that along the way we'll help produce a small reality-shift. It's social change through science and baking. Sort of DIY aesthetic meets the WI."

The mega corporation remains unfazed. "As the saying goes, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery," says a Coca-Cola spokesman. "But our product is unique. Anyone with a selection of ingredients could make a type of cola, but there can only be one Coke."

Thanks to Rich and Brandon, we have a much better idea of what that really means.

Brew it yourself

NB. 1 batch of 7x formula will produce three batches cola syrup, or approximately 54 litres of cola.

Step 1: 7x formula:

Using food-grade essential oils, assemble 3.75ml orange oil; 3ml lime oil; 1ml lemon oil; 1 ml cassia oil (nb. reduce cassia content for next production); 0.75ml nutmeg oil; 0.25ml coriander oil (6 drops); 0.25ml lavender oil (6 drops); 0.25ml neroli oil (optional/removed due to high cost).

Using a measuring syringe, measure out the oils into a glass or ceramic container. Keep covered to avoid volatile oil fumes escaping. Then dissolve 10g instant gum arabic (equivalent to 22ml) in 20ml water (low calcium/low magnesium, Volvic is good) with one drop vodka - Cube uses Zubrowka. (Be aware that total quantity of vodka will be 0.0007ml per litre of Cube-cola).

Place the gum/water/vodka mix in a high-sided beaker - stainless steel or glass are best. Using a high-power hammer drill with kitchen whisk attachment, whisk the gum mixture at high speed while your assistant droppers the oils. Mix in steadily with the measuring syringe. Continue to whisk at high speed for 5-7 minutes, or until the oils and water emulsify.

The resulting mixture will be cloudy. Test for emulsification by adding a few drops of the mixture to one glass of water. No oils should be visible on the surface. You now have a successful flavour emulsion, which should hold for several months.

Step 2:The mixers

This makes two allied concentrates, Composition A and Composition B, which can be stored separately before being mixed into cold syrup with the addition of sugar and water.

Composition A

Mix 30 ml double strength caramel colouring (DD Williamson Caramel 050) with 10 ml water. While stirring, add 10ml 7x flavour emulsion (oils/gum/water mix).

Composition B

Mix 3 tsp (10ml) citric acid with 5-10ml water, then sieve in 0.75 tsp (2.75ml) caffeine. Mix thoroughly using a pestle and mortar until caffeine granules are no longer evident. The mixture may behave erratically, turning either white or clear for no apparent reason. If it goes white, add more water. Pass through muslin or jelly bag to remove any anomalies.

At this point, A+B can be packaged separately and later reconstituted into cola syrup.

Step 3: The cola syrup

2 litres water; 2kg sugar

Compositions A & B

Make a sugar syrup (mix in a cooking pot on low heat to dissolve quickly) using 1.5 litres of the water and all the sugar. Filter if unsure. Mix Composition A into the remaining 500ml water. Add Composition B, then the sugar syrup. You now have 3 litres Cube-Cola syrup or approx 18 litres cola.

Step 4: The cola

As required, make up your cola as a 5:1 mix, five parts fizzy water to one part cola syrup. Cube uses 350ml syrup in a 2l bottle of Tesco Ashford Mountain Spring. This cola recipe is released under the GNU general public licence.

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Swap this! 11 satisfying foods to flatten you faster

INTRODUCTION
Tetra Images / Getty Images stock

Want to drop a pound a week? You’ll need to cut about 500 calories a day. Don’t despair! Even if you’re addicted to snacking, all it takes is a few simple food swaps and you can enjoy a flatter belly — without a growling tummy.

If you make these substitutions, you’ll not only look slimmer, you’ll be healthier, too. Many of the alternatives that are listed also contain monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) — such as olive oil or nuts — and whole grains. Studies show that both are powerful belly flatteners, as well as being more satiating than saturated fats and refined grains. In other words, you’ll feel fuller with smaller portions.

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The World's Cleanest Cars?

Earlier this month, as oil prices rose and car buyers ignored big trucks and SUVs in favor of small cars, Texas billionaire T. Boone Pickens called on the U.S. government to chip away at the country's dependence on foreign oil, in part, by having America's cars run on compressed natural gas (CNG).

While Pickens is heavily invested in natural gas, and stands to gain from such a switch, it isn't just about money for him or for consumers. Although it's a lot cheaper to fill up the tank of a CNG vehicle, auto analysts say, CNG cars are much more environmentally friendly than gas-powered cars, as they can reduce carbon emissions by 10% to 20% (or more).

But is refueling your car at home by tapping into your house's existing natural gas line a mere pipe dream?

Not for some motorists in New York and California, the only two states where the CNG-powered Honda Civic GX is sold. The car costs about $5,000 more than the gas-powered Civic but gets roughly the same mileage (28 mpg) on a fuel that costs significantly less than regular gas. That's on top of several thousand dollars in tax rebates granted buyers of the car (these are similar to the rebates provided to owners of fuel-efficient hybrids).

A GX driver who stops at a CNG-equipped gas station will pay roughly $1 less per gallon of fuel. But the GX also comes with Phill, a home-refueling appliance that mounts on a garage wall and taps into the existing home gas supply line for significantly cheaper, overnight fill-ups. The GX can go about 200 to 225 miles before it needs refueling, according to Honda.


In a sense, the GX's appeal may signal a bit of history repeating. U.S. automakers, including General Motors (nyse: GM - news - people ) and Ford Motor (nyse: F - news - people ), actively produced CNG-powered cars for consumers--as well as buses, taxis and fleet vehicles--until the 1990s, when all but Honda pulled out of the market as oil prices plummeted. Even as prices rose above $2 per gallon in early 2005, few stopped to think that there was an alternative to regular gas.

Honda only made the GX available to consumers two years ago, and even though the car is in high demand now (Honda can't build them fast enough), it's hard to say for certain that CNG cars could become common on American roads.

"We have become too comfortable driving on gasoline," says Ron Cogan, publisher of Green Car Journal Online, which focuses on cars' environmental performance. "We need new answers because we are past the tipping point," he says, pointing to Ford's recent announcement that it is moving away from manufacturing large cars and bringing smaller models over from Europe. "Ford's accelerated program to make more small cars is not just about market share, it is a survival measure."

Europe: Ahead Of The Pace
Natural-gas vehicles (NGVs), while struggling to make headway in the U.S. market beyond California and New York, are popular in Europe, primarily in Italy and Germany, where car buyers have several models to choose from, such as the Ford Focus and Opel Zafiria.

Ford of Europe builds a bi-fuel Ford Focus--available in Italy, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and Sweden--that uses gasoline or diesel in one tank and CNG or liquefied petroleum gas in the other tank. (The LPG version is sold in the United Kingdom, Germany and Italy). There is a control on the instrument panel that allows drivers to switch between gasoline and natural gas. This car costs $2,500 to $3,000 more than the gas-powered Focus, but it has a driving range of 186.4 miles in CNG and 435 miles in gasoline.

Similarly, Mercedes-Benz makes a bi-fuel B170 Blue Efficiency sedan that it says reduces fuel cost per one kilometer (.62 miles) by 50%. It gets 186 miles on the NGV tank and a total of 621 miles when used in combination with the regular gas tank.

The key benefit from natural gas is that it burns cleaner and reduces oil dependency.

"But it is a niche solution," says Adrian Schmitz, a Ford of Europe spokesman based in Germany. "It is one part of a broad portfolio of solutions." Schmitz says 50% of vehicles sold in Europe are diesels, which offer the same environmental benefits as CNG.

Conversion kits, which can be bought for making a car a bi-fuel like the Focus or the Blue Efficiency, are available in Europe and other countries like Asia, but not in the U.S.--Honda's Civic GX is the only game in town.

Unfairly Ignored?
Despite the relative success of bi-fuel cars in Europe, it's tough to say that NGVs could break through in the U.S. There are plenty of skeptics.

"In the beauty pageant of alternative fuel, natural gas vehicles may have gotten Miss Congeniality in all of this. It just wasn't sexy and it might have been overlooked," says Bill Reinert, national manager of advanced technology vehicles for Toyota Motor Sales. Reinert, along with other skeptics of CNG, says a lot has to happen before automakers will begin to invest money and resources to develop new NGVs.

Among the biggest challenges is infrastructure. There are 800 to 1,000 natural-gas stations in the U.S., compared with 175,000 regular gas stations, points out Cogan. This makes it inconvenient--perhaps impossible--to refuel a CNG-powered car on a long trip. Also, a CNG tank and components require a larger area of a vehicle. Motorists will sacrifice trunk and interior seating space to accommodate the system.

Do you think natural gas is the future of American cars? Why or why not? Add your thoughts in the Reader Comments section below.

"Americans have not shown a willingness to give up anything for fuel economy," says Philip Gott, director of automotive consulting at market research company Global Insight. He points out that NGVs require a change in lifestyle, such as taking time to make sure the car is refueling overnight and giving up trunk space to get even better fuel economy--things that American drivers might not want to do.

Because of these factors, and despite the benefits, CNG-powered cars represent a mere ripple in global automotive sales. For 2008, Gott is forecasting 300,000 worldwide sales of CNG-powered passenger cars and light trucks, compared with 72 million regular vehicles. And the vast majority of those 300,000 NGVs use some combination of gasoline or diesel and CNG--only a handful of cars operate on pure CNG like the Civic GX.

While the future of NGVs, in particular, is uncertain for now, the search for better ways to power cars will undoubtedly continue.

"It's natural to look at natural gas as a viable alternative," says Cogan, but "we have not found that one solution, so we have to look at all options."

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Jack Nicholson Hocks Hydrogen Cars in the '70s

Written by Hank Green


For those of you who think that the BMW Hydrogen 7 is a new idea, someone has dredged up a video of a similar car from 1978 being showed off by Jack Nicholson.

The "news" report seems laughable now, but it's a good lesson for a world that see,s to think "breakthroughs" happen every day. Feeding hydrogen into an internal combustion engine is and old idea and, it turned out, a bad idea. And while almost all car companies (aside from BMW) are focusing on much more efficient hydrogen fuel cell cars, decades of development still haven't brought us a mass-market car.

We're closer than ever, of course, with the Honda FXC Clarity and the Hydrogen Chevy Equinox both on the road in California. But Hydrogen cars might need decades of development before they can operate coast to coast. And, by that time, I hope we've come up with another, better solution.

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Some Nut Puts Working Desktop, 17-inch CRT and Printer in Convertible

Reader Henry found this "mobile office" in New York last night, which is probably one of the strangest things I've ever seen. It consists of a desk, a keyboard, a desktop, a CRT, a lamp, a printer and flowers, all mounted on the passenger side of a convertible. Wha?

Apparently it's some sort of New York staple, as someone else spotted the same car two years ago with the exact same equipment. You can see the old photo here. What the hell is it? A moving art piece? It sure as hell can't be real, since all that equipment would probably have been stolen a while ago. We're stumped. Do any of you readers know more about this mysterious car office, the blonde and his pre-Windows applications he's working on? [Thanks Henry!]

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Russian Gulag writer Solzhenitsyn dies aged 89

Alexander Solzhenitsyn died of heart failure
©AFP/File

MOSCOW (AFP) - Nobel prize-winning Russian writer and dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who shone a light on the brutal Soviet Gulag camps, has died at the age of 89, bringing tributes from around the world on Monday.

Recognizable in later life by his flowing beard and ascetic dress, he had been frail for several years and died of heart failure late Sunday, his son Stepan said on Vesti-24 state television.

"He worked yesterday just like any other day. Then in the evening, death came quickly.... I am in mourning but I also express gratitude to everyone who will remember this moment, remember Solzhenitsyn," he said.

The Soviet Union's last leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, said Solzhenitsyn had helped undermine Stalinism by changing the views of millions through his writing and had fought until the end for the cause of democracy in Russia.

Solzhenitsyn won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1970 after depicting in harrowing detail the Soviet labour camps, where he spent eight years from 1945.

He toiled obsessively to unearth the darkest secrets of Stalinist rule and his work ultimately dealt a crippling blow to the Soviet Union's authority.

He was eventually expelled in 1974 for his anti-Soviet views.

Solzhenitsyn helped change the views of millions through his writing
©AFP/File - Alexander Nemenov

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev sent the family his condolences.

His widow, Natalya, who is publishing his complete works, told Echo of Moscow radio that the writer lived "a difficult but happy life".

Gorbachev said Solzhenitsyn's name will go down in Russian history.

"Until the end of his days he fought for Russia not only to move away from its totalitarian past but also to have a worthy future, to become a truly free and democratic country. We owe him a lot," Gorbachev told Interfax news agency.

"Like millions of citizens, Solzhenitsyn lived through tough times. He was one of the first to talk about the inhumane Stalinist regime and about the people who experienced it but were not broken," Gorbachev said.

Solzhenitsyn played a key role in undermining Joseph Stalin's totalitarian regime, Gorbachev said. His works "changed the consciousness of millions of people, forcing them to think more about the past and the present".

Vladimir Putin hands the State Award to Alexander Solzhenitsyn
©AFP/ITAR-TASS/File - Mikhail Klimentiev

In a telegram expressing his condolences to Solzhenitsyn's family, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said the death was a "heavy loss for Russia".

"We will remember him as a strong, brave person with enormous dignity."

French President Nicolas Sarkozy honoured Solzhenitsyn as "one of the greatest consciences of 20th century Russia".

"His intransigence, his ideals and his long, eventful life make of Solzhenitsyn a hero from a novel, an heir to Dostoyevsky. He belongs to the pantheon of world history," Sarkozy said.

Born in 1918 in Kislovodsk in the Caucasus amid the bloody aftermath of the Russian Revolution, Solzhenitsyn was initially a loyal communist.

But he was sentenced to eight years in the camps in 1945 for criticising Stalin in a letter to a friend.

The Solovetsky Islands, described as the "mother of the Gulag"
©AFP/File - Dmitry Kostyukov

He was released in February 1953, a few weeks before Stalin's death. He then spent three more years in internal exile in the Soviet republic of Kazakhstan before moving back to Russia as a schoolteacher.

He earned fame in 1962 with "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich."

Published with official approval during the thaw under Stalin's successor, Nikita Khrushchev, it description of forced labour camps made a huge impact.

But a crackdown under Leonid Brezhnev, banned his writings and meant Russians could only read clandestine editions of his work.

He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1970 but refused to travel to receive it for fear of not being allowed to return home.

By then, Solzhenitsyn was working on his massive labour camp portrait, "The Gulag Archipelago," covertly collecting information from 227 former prisoners.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn returned from exile in 1994
©AFP/File - Joel Robine

The authorities discovered manuscripts of the book and in 1974 Solzhenitsyn was ordered expelled by KGB chief Yury Andropov.

After a spell in Switzerland he moved to a remote village in Vermont, the United States, where he devoted himself to his "Red Wheel" cycle, a fictionalised history of the run-up to the Revolution.

The world now discovered a Solzhenitsyn who was highly critical of Western ways and called for moral renewal based on Christian values.

His spectacular return to his homeland in 1994 proved something of an anti-climax. The new Russia was as alien to Solzhenitsyn as the United States had been, a finding he shared with audiences in gloomy televised harangues.

In June last year, Putin awarded Solzhenitsyn the State Prize, Russia's highest honour, praising his devotion to the "fatherland" in a lavish Kremlin ceremony.

Solzhenitsyn had an ambiguous relationship with the Kremlin, praising Putin for reviving Russia's greatness but also criticising the authorities for clamping down on democratic freedoms.

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Should you recycle an ex? After all, he's already on the curb

You recycle clothes and plastic bottles, but would you ever recycle a date?

I've never attended a used-date party, where women bring an ex-boyfriend to swap. At these parties, reassurance is the name of the game: The men are all eligible, and each is vouched for by at least one woman in attendance. Essentially, one woman's trash is another woman's treasure.

It's not a new phenomenon, though it appears to be gaining traction in popular culture. Used-date parties were featured in a "Sex and the City" episode in 2000 and a 2002 episode of "Girlfriends," but it's unclear when these shindigs became vogue.

Part of the idea is that your ex knows your quirks and your likes and dislikes, so he or she can effectively help you meet a new mate. But exes are exes for a reason. It didn't work out in one relationship, so why would you let him or her influence another potential love interest?

Maybe I'm in the minority in opposing used-date parties. About 200 people attended one of the parties, also known as a BYOB (bring your old boyfriend), in mid-July at Lumen, a club on the near West Side.

The party, where dates with six singles were auctioned off with the help of their exes, was held to help promote Bravo's new reality show "Date My Ex: Jo & Slade."

On the show, Jo De La Rosa, former star of "The Real Housewives of Orange County," relies on ex-fiance Slade Smiley to help fix her up with a new man. De La Rosa goes on a series of dates, which Smiley secretly monitors on a laptop. And, oh yeah--the potential suitors live in Smiley's Los Angeles home.

As with many dating trends, another TV show, "Sex and the City," helped pioneer the increasingly popular idea.

Charlotte (the one who pined for marriage) hosted a used-date party in Season 3. She even found a potential match, only to lose him to the jealous ex who brought him to the party.

Jealousy is only one concern of these used-date parties. My biggest worry would be: Which ex do you bring?

Do you bring the casual date whom you just didn't click with because he droned on about investment banking or--even worse--waxed optimistic on Notre Dame's football team? Or do you bring your former long-term flame, the one with whom you shared a bed, a Halloween costume and a dream of the future?

On one hand, taking the ex who broke your heart to a BYOB gives you the opportunity to show him you're over him, writes Joanne Kimes in "Dating Sucks: What To Do When Your Love Life Makes You Miserable."

On the other, you could see your ex talk to another girl, get jealous, pull him away from her, throw a fit and ruin your chance to meet a new guy.

Get the scoop

Whichever ex you settle on, Kimes advises that if you attend a used-date party, make sure to quiz the woman who brought the man you're interested in.

What do you ask? How about: Why did you break up? Does he have commitment issues? Is he selfish in bed?

But would the ex be honest in answering your questions? Maybe she would try to sabotage your potential new relationship.

I fear I'd likely be a saboteur if I ever found myself at a used-date party. I'm selfish when it comes to my ex-beaus. I would like (most of) them to be happy, but preferably not in front of me.

Also, there's the possibility that a friend of mine could be interested in my ex. That can be a major no-no. It may be OK for a friend to start a love connection with a casual ex, but there is no way I would accept a friend dating a formerly serious flame. There would be jealousy, the obvious comparisons between the old and the new beau, and too much awkwardness.

Luckily, there are plenty of strangers at these parties. But that may not quell all the awkward feelings. In promos for the show, Smiley admits it's difficult watching De La Rosa flirt with other men. He acknowledges to her that he has unresolved feelings.

Issue hits home

Meaghan Guilfoyle, a Chicago makeup artist, knows all about unresolved feelings. She attended the Lumen used-date party and was (sort-of) auctioned off by her ex, whom she had dated for three years.

Actually, Guilfoyle's ex didn't attend the event, opting instead to rate her on the auction's Web site. He gave her high marks for attractiveness and sense of humor.

"He backed out at the last minute," Guilfoyle, 21, said. "He still loves me. We're just at different places in our lives."

The winning bid was $500, from a guy who's taking her on a date sponsored by Bravo. In all, six exes were auctioned off at the Lumen party, with the money benefiting the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Relationship coach Kira Sabin recently hosted a similar party in Madison, Wis., after watching the "Sex and the City" episode in reruns.

Sabin throws singles events through her company, Get Out There Madison. Thirty-five people attended the used-date party, Sabin said, adding that her roommate found a connection with one of her male friends (not an ex).

"It creates this kind of stamp of approval," Sabin said. "It was a lot easier to get the conversations going because everyone had a story of how they know each other."

I'll pass, thanks. It's hard enough navigating the dating pool, let alone with the influence of a former partner who may or may not have my best interests at heart. I'll leave the former flame fix-up to "Date My Ex" producers. For me, recycling an ex is just a waste of energy.

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Iowa judge rules nude dancing is an art

DES MOINES, Iowa - Nude dancing remains an art in Iowa.

A judge Friday ruled in favor of a nude dancing club owner charged with violating Iowa's indecent exposure law.

Fremont County Judge Timothy O'Grady said prosecutors failed to prove the club wasn't a theater. Iowa law allows nudity at theaters, museums and other venues devoted to the arts or theatrical performances.

The county's attorney, Margaret Johnson, charged club owner Clarence Judy after a 17-year-old girl climbed on stage at Shotgun Geniez in the tiny town of Hamburg and stripped off her clothing.

"I think it's a little scary," said Johnson, who emphasized that the girl was still a minor.

The club was sold Monday to Terry Rutledge. He expressed confidence that nude dancing would remain legal, referring to a 1998 case in Davenport that found it an art.

"In all actuality, you don't have to be a theater hall, concert hall or anything. You can be a strip club that has nude dance," Rutledge said.

The state attorney general's office will decide whether to appeal the case.

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5 Graffiti Artists You Should Know

Andréa Fernandes
by Andréa Fernandes

British graffiti artist Banksy, who’s been in the news quite a bit lately, is probably the most well-known graffiti artist of all time. He’s also the only graffitist most people know by name. But there is a plethora of graffitists, both talented and not-so-talented, and some of them warrant just as much attention, if not more so, than Banksy. A few that top the list…

1. Lady Pink: Sandra Fabara

LadyPink.jpg The Ecuador-born Sandra Fabara was raised in Queens, NY, and started creating graffiti in 1979, during her years at the High School of Art and Design. She quickly became the only female able to compete with the boys in the graffiti world. At the same time, she was already exhibiting paintings in art galleries. Her starring role in the movie Wild Style in 1982 made a national name for her and earned her a cult following. Since then, her works have been added to the collections of major museums. She now runs a legitimate mural company with her husband Smith, an artist.


2. Xenz: Graeme Brusby

Xenz.jpg Apparently, Graeme Brusby is “widely considered to be the UK’s most important graffiti artist after Banksy.” He’s definitely one of the most Internet-friendly graffiti artists, with a web site, blog, Flickr photostream, MySpace, and fan forum. Brusby got into graffiti as a teen in the ‘80s, then studied at Edinburgh College of Art. Today, he’s a member of “one of the UK’s most admired graffiti art collectives,” the TCF crew, and is frequently included in collaborations and exhibitions.

3. SABER

Saber.jpg The graffiti artist SABER is the creator of a giant work on the sloping cement bank of the Los Angeles River, supposedly the largest graffiti piece ever created. The 1997 piece required 97 gallons of paint, took 35 nights to complete, and is nearly the length of a football field—so large it can be viewed in satellite images. SABER has held a solo exhibition and released a monograph, and he’s put his skills to use working for Harley-Davidson, Levi’s, Hyundai, and Scion, among others.
(Photo from anarchosyn’s Flickr stream.)

4. Tox: Daniel Halpin

Tox.jpg Daniel Halpin has gotten a reputation as London’s “most prolific bomber” since his tag appears EVERYWHERE in the London rail system. His tag, consisting of “TOX” and then the last two digits of the year, is the most well-known tag in London. Apparently, 2003 was the apex of his tagging, with virtually every inch of the Metropolitan line covered in “Tox03.” Then, in 2004, he was arrested. His graffiti, arrest, and trial were discussed in a Discovery Channel piece that same year. Despite the arrest, his tags have been spotted at least as recently as 2007.

5. Borf: John Tsombikos

Borf.jpg With the help of some friends, John Tsombikos, an art student, left his mark all over D.C., including a five-foot-high face and a 15-foot “BORF,” in 2005. Much of his graffiti involved mysterious phrases like, “Borf writes letters to your children.” There was also a recurring face, which is said to be the face of one of Tsombikos’ friends, who went by the nickname Borf and had committed suicide. In D.C., Borf graffiti was ubiquitous, on walls and pillars and bridges and overpasses. Tsombikos remarked he felt powerful, “like Batman or something,” when he heard people talking about his work. But, in July 2005, Borf came to an end when Tsombikos and two friends were arrested for defacing property.
(Photo from niznoz’s Flickr stream.)

BONUS: For more graffiti fun, check out the Graffiti Project on Kelburn Castle, for which Brazilian artists were brought to Scotland to paint Kelburn Castle. The site has photos, videos, and more.

Know of any other talented, prolific, or otherwise interesting graffiti artists? Tell us about ‘em!

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