Sunday, October 19, 2008

Jamaica puzzled by theft of beach

By Nick Davis
BBC News, Ocho Rios, Jamaica

People on a beach in Jamaica (file)
A good beach is seen as a valuable asset to hotels in Jamaica

Police in Jamaica are investigating the suspected theft of hundreds of tons of sand from a beach on the island's north coast.

It was discovered in July that 500 truck-loads had been removed outside a planned resort at Coral Spring beach.

Detectives say people in the tourism sector could be suspects, because a good beach is seen as a valuable asset to hotels on the Caribbean island.

But a lack of arrests made since July have led to criticism of the police.

'Complex investigation'

The beach at Coral Springs, in Jamaica's northern parish of Trelawny, was 400 metres (1,300ft) of white sand. The 0.5-hectare strand was to form part a resort complex costing US$108m, but the theft of its most important feature has led to its developers putting their plans on hold.

Illegal sand mining is a problem in Jamaica; the tradition of people building their own homes here means there is a huge demand for the construction material. However, the large volume and the type of sand taken made suspicion point towards the hotel industry.

There is some suspicion that some police were in collusion with the movers of the sand
Mark Shields
Deputy Commissioner of Police

The disappearance was deemed so important that the Prime Minister, Bruce Golding, also took an interest in the theft and ordered a report into how 500 truckloads of sand was stolen, transported and presumably sold.

Three months on, and with no arrests or charges in the case, the main opposition People's National Party have suggested that some people now think there has been a cover up.

But the deputy commissioner for crime at the Jamaica Constabulary Force, Mark Shields, insisted this was not an open-and-shut case.

"It's a very complex investigation because it involves so many aspects," he told the BBC.

"You've got the receivers of the stolen sand, or what we believe to be the sand. The trucks themselves, the organisers and, of course, there is some suspicion that some police were in collusion with the movers of the sand."

Police said they were carrying out forensic tests on beaches along the coast to see if any of it matches the stolen sand.

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Lack of sunlight linked to male infertility

By Tamara McLean

AN Australian infertility study has revealed disturbing levels of vitamin D deficiency among men who are unable to impregnate their partners.

The discovery surprised Sydney researchers investigating the incidence of DNA fragmentation of sperm, a significant factor in male infertility.

Sunlight is the major source of vitamin D, which helps regulate levels of calcium and phosphorous to generate healthy bones.

Fertility specialist Dr Anne Clark screened the blood of almost 800 men with fertility problems, finding almost a third had lower than normal levels of vitamin D.

"In a significant number of these men, there were also elevated levels of homocysteine, an amino acid in the blood associated with cell toxicity, and deficiency in folate, which is essential for healthy new cells," said Dr Clark, medical director of the treatment centre Fertility First.

"Men in the study group who agreed to make lifestyle changes and take dietary supplements had surprisingly good fertility outcomes." Dr Clark said the study's results were unexpected.

"Vitamin D and folate deficiency are known to be associated with infertility in women, but the outcomes of the screening among men in our study group came as a complete surprise."

Dr Clark said concerns about skin cancer could be a contributing factor to vitamin D deficiency among men, along with work and lifestyle choices, avoiding too much direct sunlight exposure.

"If that is the case, one wonders if the outcomes in the study group also raise the possibility of significant vitamin D deficiency in the broader public, and its effect on fertility levels," she said.

Of the 794 men tested, 58 per cent were shown to have high levels of DNA fragmentation, according to results to be presented at a national fertility conference in Brisbane tomorrow.

About 100 of the men agreed to quit smoking, minimise or stop their intake of caffeine and alcohol, reduce weight and take a three-month course of vitamins and antioxidants before commencing fertility treatment.

Most significantly improved their sperm quality and 40 per cent went on to achieve a clinical pregnancy, with 11 occurring naturally.

"The results clearly show that lifestyle changes and dietary supplements can be beneficial for the conception of a healthy on-going pregnancy," Dr Clark said.

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Six Diet Culprits That Deprive Your Body of Nutrients

There are literally hundreds of diets that have been promoted as the latest, greatest, and easiest way to lose weight. Unfortunately for those of us who try them, most of these fad weight-loss plans leave us eliminating foods, entire food groups, and the calories we need to fuel our hearts, brains, and nervous systems—not to mention they leave us feeling cranky, tired, and irritable. Recently I had pizza with a friend, and watched as she picked the cheese off the crust and ate only that, along with the pepperoni melted into it, to avoid those “fattening” carbs.

That got me thinking, by choosing these extreme diets in hopes of fitting into a pair of jeans, feeling better about ourselves, or whatever reason, could we actually be hurting our health? Could my friend’s low-carb diet be the real culprit behind her hideous mood swings? Is a low-cal lifestyle directly linked to the fatigue and headaches so many of us deal with? I did a little digging for some nutritional (not marketing-based) facts behind some of the most popular diet styles. What I found isn’t generally surprising (obviously eating only grapefruits isn’t good for you), but the specifics—which diets deprive us of which nutrients—could help anyone out of a rut toward more energy and less health problems.

1. Diet Culprit: Low- or No-Carb
You’re feeling: Sluggish, nauseous, dulled appetite
Add to your diet: 100 grams of complex carbs (at least)

By now we’ve all tried a low-carb diet (how could we not when Jessica Simpson said that was her secret?), but, as we also all now know, it’s not that simple. “When we restrict carbs, the body goes into a new metabolic state called ketosis, and starts burning its own fat for fuel,” says Lindsay Segal, a graduate student training to become a physician’s assistant. Granted, burning fat sounds like a good thing, but this is actually a dangerous state for the body to enter. We usually burn carbs for energy, which then fuels the brain, heart, and all those other necessary systems. But when our body is in this new mode, it produces substances called ketones, which can cause organs to fail and result in kidney stones and even kidney failure. According to the American Dietetic Association, ketones can dull the appetite, cause nausea, and even bad breath. Avoiding carbs—and the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants you’d normally get from whole grains and fruit—means your body is missing out on a slew of cancer fighters. To avoid ketosis, add back at least 100 grams of carbohydrates every day.

2. Diet Culprit: High-Protein
You’re feeling: Tired, unable to concentrate
Add to your diet: Carbs and fat (in place of some of that protein)

Diets focusing on protein, protein, protein go hand-in-hand with the low-carb craze. These plans tell followers to eat between 30 and 50 percent of their calories from protein. The American Heart Association, the National Cholesterol Education Program, and the American Cancer Society, on the other hand, all recommend a diet with a much smaller portion of calories derived from protein. Why? “Eating too much really strains the kidneys, and can make someone prone to kidney disease later in life,” says Jenny Geyser, a certified personal trainer in La Jolla, California. “You don’t need as much protein as you think,” she says. Geyser says an egg or two at the beginning of the day and a serving of lean meat with dinner should provide the average woman with enough. Super high-protein lifestyles—especially when it comes from red meat, cheese, and other high-fat goodies—have been linked to high cholesterol and a heightened risk for heart disease and cancer. As if those aren’t enough reasons to substitute whole wheat bread for that ham and cheese omelet, these diets can be particularly harmful to women since they make it more difficult to absorb calcium. This means a higher risk for brittle bones and osteoporosis.

3. Diet Culprit: Low-Calorie
You’re feeling: Fatigue, constipation, nauseous
Add to your diet: A little fat, a little protein, and complex carbs

“Avoid any diet that calls for less than 1,200 calories per day,” says Lynn Davis, a Colorado-based nutritionist. Though doctors may sometimes recommend a very low calorie diet for obese, at-risk patients, this is only in severe circumstances and with close monitoring. The ADA notes that people severely restricting calories often feel overly tired, constipated, and nauseated due to an extreme deficiency in nutrients and energy. Another common—and more serious—side effect of these plans is gallstones. “For the body to be properly fueled and healthy, we need a variety of food from each food group, which is quite difficult to do when consuming so few calories,” says Davis. “Make sure each meal has some of each.”

4. Diet Culprit: Low- or No-Fat
You’re feeling: Joint pain
Add to your diet: Omega-3s and omega-6s

Just like with carbs and protein, our body also has daily needs for fat—specifically essential fatty acids. “There are dietary requirements for two of these: linolenic acid, an omega-6, and alpha linolenic acid, an omega-3,” says Davis. These support vital systems in our bodies— reproductive, nervous, and cardiovascular. Recent studies have shown that most of us are especially lacking in omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in grass-fed beef, fish, nuts, and oils. In addition to the cholesterol-lowering properties of these foods, a diet lacking in them can lead to joint problems, since the body needs these acids to manufacture and repair cell membranes, maintain optimal nutrition, and expel waste. The recommended intake for fat is 20 to 35 percent of a day’s calories. In a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet, that means about 40 to 80 grams.

5. Diet Culprit: Meat-Free
You’re feeling: Headaches, fatigue
Add to your diet: Iron

Alexandra James, twenty-four, gave up meat when she was fourteen. “I didn’t like how meat tasted and I thought I’d be healthier and happier if I avoided animal products.” Her new lifestyle had her replacing protein with high-fat and high-starch alternatives, like pizza. “A year later I was constantly fighting headaches and later found out that I was anemic,” she says. Anemia is often caused by a lack of iron, a nutrient primarily found in meat. Anemic people are often tired, light-headed, and suffer from weakness and headaches. If you’re dedicated to being meat-free, meet your iron needs with a daily supplement. We should all be aiming for about 18 milligrams.

6. Diet Culprit: One-Food-Only Diet (Soups, Shakes, etc.)
You’re feeling: Any of the above symptoms
Add to your diet: A balanced intake of every food group

Whether it’s cabbage soup, a shake for breakfast and lunch, or a boatload of grapefruits, these diets leave us consuming far below (for most food groups) and above (for whatever it is we are eating) what’s recommenced by health authorities, like the American Heart and Dietetic Associations. Not only are these quick-fix fads a temporary solution (Hello? Who’s going to eat cabbage soup every day for the rest of her life?), but they leave our bodies lacking major nutrients—and often entire groups of food. “When any diet suggests eating only one kind of food or food group, or eliminating an entire group, that’s a sign that it’s unhealthy and not a realistic way to maintain a healthy weight,” says Lauri Thomas, a Colorado weight-loss group leader. Diets like the grapefruit or cabbage soup plans rely on eating the same low-cal item day in and day out. “Of course you’re going to lose weight by depriving your body of what it needs, but you’re also going to slow your metabolism and possibly cause some serious health problems,” she says. Make sure you’re consuming a variety of foods from every group.

Sure, fad diets are tempting. (What’s not tempting about quick results?) But, chances are, partaking in any one of these plans will not only leave you gaining back whatever weight you lose, but also leave you feeling the side effects of food deprivation. All these diets lack major nutrients, whether it’s fiber and carbohydrates, healthy fats, or particular vitamins and disease-fighting antioxidants. “Being healthy is an important and worthy goal,” says Davis. “And there’s no secret to achieving that. All you have to do is strive for balance and moderation.” Here’s to enjoying food and feeling better.

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Ann Summers pulls chocolate sex toy spread

Ian Sample, science correspondent

Ann Summers, the sex shop chain, has pulled thousands of novelty chocolate products from its shelves and website after tests revealed they were contaminated with the industrial chemical melamine.

The Food Standards Agency issued an alert over chocolate willy spread, a related nipple spread and a novelty pen set, which contains a chocolate-flavoured body pen, all of which were imported from a Chinese manufacturer called Le Bang.

Food safety experts detected levels of melamine were up to 100 times greater than limits set by the European commission.

Milk products contaminated with melamine have been at the centre of a health scare in China, after a number of children died from baby formula laced with the chemical. European food safety officials have imposed strict checks on food products arriving from China that contain milk products. Any found to have more than 2.5 milligrams a kilo must be destroyed. Tests on the Ann Summers products found levels up to 259 milligrams a kilo.

The FSA said the withdrawal was precautionary and the risk was low. "This is a first. We've never had to put out an alert before on willy spread, chocolate-flavoured or otherwise," it added.

Ann Summers said: "As a responsible retailer we have tested all of our chocolates and even before the FSA alert was issued had taken all relevant steps to remove the chocolate willy spread product that could be affected by this issue."

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The Car that Runs on Air and Magnets

magnetic air car

Image: Magnetic Air Cars, Inc.

With fuel prices rising and supplies dwindling, more and more inventors are turning their creativity towards cars that work without the need for barrels of gasoline. True, there have been a number of vehicles released that run on electricity but now designers are turning to another precious resource – air.

It’s not a new concept, as early as the 1920s, car designers were dabbling with the idea of cars that could run off air alone – one involved cycling air through a propeller at the front of the car – but few came to fruition. Now, designers are again looking at how air can be used to power a car.


Image: Magnetic Air Cars, Inc.

Magnetic Air Cars, Inc, a company based in San Jose, California, recently revealed their sleek new design for the world’s first fuel-less car at the eco convention, West Coast Green. As the name suggests, the ‘Magnetic Air Car’ will be powered through magnetic technology and compressed air. When air is channeled through the engine, the resultant airflow is converted to torque, which in turn powers the axis and propels the car. This process is powered by a silicon energy storage battery, which can be charged in an hour and has a 10-year lifespan and is 95% recyclable, making this new-age creation possibly one of the most sustainable cars on the planet.

Executives from the company have announced they’re planning to build a working prototype soon and could have it ready for full production as early as 2010. Bring it on!

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7 incredible places to see fall colors close to home

Wendy Worrall Redal by Wendy Worrall Redal

“In the great silence of my favorite month, October (the red of maples, the bronze of oaks, a clear-yellow leaf here and there on birches), I celebrated the standstill of time.”

– Czeslaw Milosz

Ahhh, October. I think of this month, the height of autumn, as an interlude where nature gifts us with a last, dazzling blast of color before winter’s monochrome prevails.

It’s also a perfect time to enjoy the bounty of nature’s gifts close to home — so you can enjoy an incredible, eco-friendly fall-break trip that saves gas, money and carbon emissions.

In some regions, like northern New England or the Rocky Mountain high country, autumn’s palette peaks by late September. But elsewhere there is still plenty of foliage on brilliant display even into November. The key is to go lower in altitude and latitude as the season progresses. While New England is renowned, other regions also offer an immersion in fall’s finery.

Here are seven scenic byways around the country that promise an exuberant burst of color into the latter half of October or beyond. Pack a picnic basket, camera and your hiking boots, for full enjoyment of these lesser-known leaf routes.

1. Arizona: Sedona-Oak Creek Canyon Scenic Road

Autumn reflections near Sedona. Photo courtesy of

Autumn reflections near Sedona. Photo courtesy of

Arizona’s Grand Canyon is more famous, but Oak Creek Canyon offers an intimate encounter with nature within its narrow walls. A red and pink sandstone gorge running between Sedona and Flagstaff, the canyon in fall is aflame with russet oaks set against dark-green pinon and juniper. Hwy. 89A winds 28 miles between the two towns, with a trailhead for the most beautiful hike in the canyon, the West Fork of Oak Creek, about 10 miles north of Sedona. This easy 3-mile walk inside the Red Rock-Secret Mountain Wilderness takes hikers into a secluded landscape of eroded rock formations, cliffs and sheer overhangs. The rim high above is cool and verdant, with plentiful wildlife, including elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer, javelina, coyote, rabbit, mountain lion and black bear. Afterward, replenish your strength and well-being with a visit to Sedona’s energy vortexes, part of the town’s appeal to the many spiritual seekers and healing practitioners who are drawn here.

2. Alabama: Appalachian Highlands Scenic Byway

View from Pulpit Rock, Cheaha State Park

View from Pulpit Rock, Cheaha State Park

Northeast Alabama’s dramatic landscape of sheer rock cliffs, waterfalls and dense, deciduous forest is at its most impressive in late autumn, when summer’s variegated green gives way to a vibrant mix of yellow poplars, scarlet dogwoods, orange maples, rusty oaks and golden hickories. One of the best fall color trails follows the Appalachian Highlands Scenic Byway, a circuit that encompasses Lookout Mountain Parkway, DeSoto State Park, Little River Canyon — the deepest east of the Mississippi, Talladega Scenic Drive, and Alabama’s highest point, 2,407-foot Cheaha Mountain. Stop along the way for hikes, including 100-foot-high DeSoto Falls, and vistas from Bald Rock and Pulpit Rock within Cheaha State Park. Get driving details here.

3. Indiana: Ohio River Scenic Byway

An autumn walk along the Ohio River. © 1999 Jim Keith, courtesy of National Scenic Byways Program

An autumn walk along the Ohio River. Photo © 1999 Jim Keith, courtesy of National Scenic Byways Program.

This 300-mile drive traverses the autumn patchwork of rolling hills and farmland along Indiana’s southern boundary where the Ohio River divides it from Kentucky. Views of the river and bluffs, bursts of red and yellow foliage, and encounters with the past abound at every turn along this route where the histories of Native Americans, explorers and westward-bound settlers converge. Stop at Falls of the Ohio State Park at Clarksville, where the 400-million-year-old Devonian fossil beds comprise the only natural obstruction of the Ohio River. Here, Meriwether Lewis met up with William Clark on October 26, 1803, with a group of men from Kentucky and Indiana Territory that would become the nucleus of the Corps of Discovery, which set out down the Ohio River to eventually reach the Pacific. The Lewis and Clark Festival happens in Clarksville Oct. 26-28, with a reenactment of the meeting, recruitment, enlistments, and the departure of the expedition, including 1803 period demonstrations and food.

4. New Mexico: High Road to Taos Byway

Picuris Pueblo. Photo courtesy New Mexico Tourism Department.

Picuris Pueblo. Photo courtesy New Mexico Tourism Department.

The High Road winds 67 miles from Espanola, just north of Santa Fe, to historic Taos. It travels past small farms, mountain villages and traditional adobe chapels for a unique scenic and cultural encounter with vestiges of colonial New Mexico. Brilliant gold aspen and cottonwood flare into color among the pinon and juniper, and the crisp autumn air is often tinged with the scent of roasting chilies. At Chimayo, a village famed for its weavers, visit the famous Sanctuario, a legendary church believed to have miraculous healing powers. The route continues through the artist community of Cordova and on to Truchas, a Spanish colonial outpost with glorious views of the Rio Grande Valley. Next, visit Picuris Pueblo, where you can purchase beadwork and pottery crafted by local Native American artists. At Ranchos de Taos, where the road ends, don’t miss the impactful adobe church of San Francisco de Asis, an inspiration for many of Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings.

5. Oregon: Historic Columbia River Highway

Multnomah Falls. © 2004 P. van der Storm. Courtesy National Scenic Byways Program.

Multnomah Falls. © 2004 P. van der Storm. Courtesy National Scenic Byways Program.

Constructed from 1913 to 1922 east of Portland, the oldest scenic highway in the U.S. hugs sheer cliffs and dips through lush old-growth forest as it penetrates the dramatic Columbia River Gorge.

Don’t miss the sweeping vista from Crown Point, high above the river. During the fall rains, the size and volume of the many waterfalls in the gorge increase impressively.

Most famous is Multnomah Falls, well worth a side-trip hike. The woods are dense with broadleaf and vine maples that turn fiery shades of yellow, orange and crimson among the evergreens.

If you continue east across the crest of the Cascades, the landscape becomes drier and grassier, the autumn palette warmer, as the oaks between Hood River and The Dalles turn red and brown.

A loop-trip option is to cross the river and return on the Washington side.

6. Pennsylvania: Laurel Highlands Scenic Byway

Youghiogheny River Gorge. Photo courtesy Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau.

Youghiogheny River Gorge. Photo courtesy Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau.

The forests, rivers and rocky outcrops of southwestern Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands offer fabulous outdoor adventures, and never more enticingly than during the brilliance of the fall foliage season. Ohiopyle State Park and the Youghiogheny River, natural treasures on this route, are renowned for hiking, mountain biking and whitewater rafting. A classic autumn ramble is the 2.1-mile Beech Trail, which passes through a grove of towering yellow American beech trees and connects to the Great Gorge Trail. You’ll also find a manmade wonder on Route 381, Frank Lloyd Wright’s dramatic “Fallingwater.” Entrusted to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy in 1963, Fallingwater is the only remaining Wright house with its original furnishings and artwork intact. Its heavily wooded setting is breathtaking at the peak of autumn color. Reservations are required to visit, and guided tours are available.

7. Wisconsin: Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive

Autumn color on Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive

Autumn color on Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive

This fascinating drive is an immersion into a geological relic: the landscape left behind when glaciers receded after the last Ice Age over 10,000 years ago. The route follows a ridge in southern Wisconsin where two massive glaciers intersected and then melted, leaving behind a moraine filled with large holes in the bedrock, called “kettles,” and odd-shaped hills and sand and gravel deposits. The 115-mile drive from Whitewater to Elkhart Lake travels through extensive hardwood forest, ablaze with color in late October. The varied terrain includes ridges, hills, lakes and wetlands, dotted with farms and bucolic vistas. Along the way, stop at the Henry S. Reuss Ice Age Visitor Center, watch wildlife from the boardwalk trail at Spruce Lake Bog State Natural Area north of Dundee, and get a close-up view of glacial geology on the 3-mile Butler Lake Loop hike, which shares a portion of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail.

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The Truth Behind the 12 Hottest Sex Myths

sex_myths.jpg 1. Men Reach Their Sexual Peak at 18, and Women Reach Theirs at 28
TRUE: With regard to their supply of sexual hormones, at least. Testosterone peaks at age 18 in men; women's estrogen hits its high point in their mid-20s. "But peak hormones don't mean peak sexual performance," says Marc Goldstein, M.D., a professor of reproductive medicine and urology at Cornell University's Weill Medical College. So feel free to try for a personal best—at any age.

2. Semen is Low-Carb
FALSE: "Semen is mostly fruit sugar [fructose] and enzymes—not low-carb," says Dr. Goldstein. Which finally explains why there's no Oral Sex Diet.

3. Masturbation Yields the Strongest Orgasm
TRUE: But it's not a hard-and-fast rule, as it were. "It depends on the individual," says Jon L. Pryor, M.D., a professor of urologic surgery at the University of Minnesota. "For some it does, but for others, there's nothing that beats good ol' intercourse."

4. The Average Erection Measures 8 Inches
FALSE: Relax, Shorty. It's closer to 6.

5. No Penis is Too Large or Too Small for Any Vagina
TRUE: But perception still wins the game in the end. "I was once at a dinner meeting with seven other sex doctors—six men and one woman," says Dr. Pryor. "The men all agreed that size doesn't matter. The woman looked at us and said, 'Think what you want. Size matters.' We all left dejected."

6. Oysters Make You Horny
FALSE: You make you horny. "There is no scientific evidence that oysters increase libido," says Dr. Pryor. "But there may be a placebo effect, so if it works, great!"

7. Green M&Ms Make You Horny
FALSE: Unless they do. Then it's true. Isn't the mind wonderful?

8. Men Think About Sex Every 7 Seconds
FALSE: That number is tossed around a lot, but the truth is that only 23 percent of men claim to fantasize frequently. But maybe the rest are just too distracted to check the clock.

9. Cutting Out Broccoli Will Make Your Semen Taste Better
TRUE: Semen is naturally bitter, and eating broccoli and drinking coffee can make it worse. A ray of hope for the Oral Sex Diet!

10. Having Sex Before an Important Event—the Big Game, the Critical Presentation—Can Ruin Your Performance in the Event
FALSE: Swiss researchers performed stress tests on people 2 and 10 hours after the subjects had had sex, and found that by 10 hours, the participants were fully recovered. There was only a small dip in performance 2 hours after sex.

11. Having Sex in Water (Swimming Pool, Hot Tub, Shower) Will Kill Sperm
TRUE: Some of your swimmers may die, but it isn't an effective method of birth control, according to Dr. Pryor. Though a hot tub can overheat your testicles and kill sperm, there should be plenty left for the egg hunt.

12. You Can Become Addicted to Web Porn
TRUE: But the risk is low. Only 1 percent of all people who check out Internet porn will become addicted. If you're sporting a ring, be careful: 38 percent of addicts are married.

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People put stock in whisky

DRIVE YOU TO DRINK: While investors flee traditional markets such as stocks and commodities on growing recession fears, trade in rare bottles of whisky is flourishing, according to the World Whisky Index.

While investors flee traditional markets such as stocks and commodities on growing recession fears, trade in rare bottles of whisky is flourishing.

Roughly 11 months after the launch of a Dutch online trade platform for exclusive single malt whiskies, mostly from Scotland, the World Whisky Index has seen an average return of 26.2 per cent, compared to a more than 40 per cent decline in the MSCI World stock index.

"There's big demand for rare whiskies and people are willing to offer a lot of money for certain bottles", said a spokesman for The Whisky Talker, a Dutch firm that initiated the index website which aims to bring buyers and sellers together.

Since its launch last November, the index has seen investment inflows of around 2 ($NZ4.5) million euros, and consists of 4498 bottles at present, the spokesman said.

The top gainer on the index is a 30-year old Bowmore Scotch whisky in a ceramic bottle, which has gained about 137 per cent in the past eleven months and is now worth about 450 euros.

A 15-year old Convalmore is the top loser, slipping 27 per cent in the same period to 80 euros.

But even if the 80-proof alcoholic drink turns out not to be recession-proof, there is still a reassuring side to this type of investment.

"While shares and obligations can become completely worthless, if bottles turn out to be not very valuable, you always still have the bottle to drink", the spokesman said.

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BioBeer Fights Cancer and Gets You Drunk, Not Necessarily In That Order

By Ed Grabianowski

A team of students from Houston's Rice University are a virtual lock for a Nobel Prize with their latest research. They've bioengineered a beer that has anticancer properties. Each sip of their new brew contains resveratrol, the chemical found in wine and believed to be responsible for reduced cancer rates in lab tests. How long before you can find Resveratrol IPA on store shelves?

The BioBeer project will be entered into the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition to be held next month. Each team uses BioBricks, which are basically DNA toolkits, to create new lifeforms that do interesting things. Although the definition of "interesting" seems rather loose - past entrants included bacteria that smell different depending on whether they're growing or not.

The Rice team, several members of which are not old enough to drink, has genetically engineered a yeast so it will produce resveratrol in a two-step process (one gene produces some stuff, another gene makes the stuff into resveratrol). They haven't actually brewed any yet, and there are a whole lot of steps in between now and the day you can toss back a frosty mug of Cancer Destroyer Porter, but at least the team isn't creating something that could wipe out humanity. According the Rice press release:

Their entry last year, a bacterial virus that fought antibiotic resistance, was well-received but finished out of the prize running.

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The “E”: Mini’s New Electric Car

Unveiled: The car with a gadget that guarantees every traffic light will be green when you get there

By Miles Goslett

They're the bane of city drivers everywhere: those traffic lights that invariably turn to red just as you approach, making even the shortest journey a stop-start affair.

But now a German car-maker has come to the rescue – with a device that ensures you can always arrive at a light when it is green.

The in-car gadget tells drivers how fast to go in order to sail through a junction by ‘speaking’ to special transmitters fitted inside a traffic signal that can be up to 300 yards away.

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How the device will beat the red light queues

It arrives at the calculation after plotting the car’s position and approach route, then displays the optimum speed on a screen.

Audi, which has developed the device called Travolution, claims extensive trials have been so successful that in one phase of testing, cars nearly always hit a light on green.

The car-maker also says the system will benefit the environment by cutting exhaust emissions because fewer cars will be stationary at lights – and it will improve fuel economy by ending stop-start inefficiency.

But it admits the technology will not benefit the driver if the roads are particularly clogged.

Travolution works on Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) technology and can be fitted to any car make.

The AA said the device – which is not yet in mass production – could be vital in meeting new European Union emissions standards. The motoring organisation added: ‘This could be an extremely useful tool for reducing CO2 and saving motorists money. However, it will need to be tested thoroughly in many real and different types of traffic conditions to ensure there are no problems with other drivers.’

During two years of tests in Audi’s home town of Ingolstadt, Bavaria, 46 ‘intelligent’ sets of traffic lights were programmed to connect wirelessly with an Audi A5 coupé and A6 Avant estate carrying Travolution.

One test involving three busy junctions found that drivers were hardly ever made to stop on red, according to the car-maker.

Travolution was initially developed by the Technical University of Munich in conjunction with traffic technology firm GEVAS.

Professor Fritz Busch, of the university, said: ‘The new approaches to network-wide control of traffic lights, together with communication between traffic lights and intelligent cars, exploits a potential for improving traffic flows that has previously gone untapped.’

Kate Dixon of Audi UK said that if a minimum of ten per cent of cars in any given town were fitted with the technology, all road users would notice an improvement in traffic levels.

Ms Dixon added: ‘Obviously, if the traffic is solid then Travolution won’t assist you. But if the traffic is moving slowly then it will advise you what speed to maintain in order to avoid stopping.’

Audi said it was too early to say how much the device would cost if it is put into mass production. Further tests are expected next year.

Will this encourage drivers to speed up? Tell us your view below.

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