Thursday, January 1, 2009

Scotland by train: Bonnie palace on wheels

By Clare Mann

Interior of the Orient Express in Scotland
George Pullman, who designed the British Pullman carriages in the 1920s, described them as 'palaces on wheels' Photo: GORDON JACK

"These don't look like average holidaymakers, but then this doesn't look like an average holiday," my son Alexander observed at Edinburgh's Waverley Station. We were following, a little self-consciously, a piper in Highland dress, up the platform.

The Royal Scotsman, nine gleaming maroon and gold replica Pullman coaches, complete with crew of 13, awaited our arrival. On the dot of 1.20pm the train departed and we were off on a two-night Highland tour, catapulted into a jolly Edwardian house party, sipping champagne (orange juice for him) in the handsome Observation Car as we trundled past Edinburgh Castle.

Our fellow travellers, 19 in all (the maximum is 36) were a multinational group. Half had just done the three-night Western tour to Mallaig. The party consisted of four English couples, a lone Scotsman from Perth, a mother and daughter from Moscow, an elegant elderly couple from Athens, two American couples, a scholarly American widow and a Belgian. The last, of course, became our Hercule Poirot.

As we approached the Forth Bridge, Quentin, a retired naval officer and our host for the trip, urged us outside to the terrace of the Observation Car. We rattled over the mighty bridge, 490ft above the Firth of Forth, under a cloudless sky.

George Pullman, who designed the British Pullman carriages in the 1920s, described them as "palaces on wheels". Each had its own name, décor and history. Our "state cabin", panelled in mahogany with delicate marquetry, was comfortable, if cosy.

The train proceeded at a sedate pace. We passed through pretty Victorian stations where a lone passenger waited for a train to who knows where. On through Perth, Blair Atholl and into the heart of the Cairngorms. Craggy hills and moor floated by, red kites soared overhead, and we passed tumbling rivers and patchworks of heather dotted with newly shorn sheep.

Afternoon tea was a treat: tiny sandwiches, Scotch pancakes with smoked salmon, miniature scones, clotted cream and carrot cake. Two chefs worked deftly in the kitchen. There was an open window in the passageway, so that guests could pause and watch the preparations.

Lulled by tea, scenery, the murmur of conversation and sunshine streaming through the windows, it was hard to believe we had left a hectic Edinburgh only hours before. My book had fallen into my lap unopened. Alexander was equally engrossed – in his PlayStation.

It was rather an effort to get off at Dalwhinnie for a tour of the distillery in the early evening. The Royal Scotsman's own bus, which had followed us from Edinburgh, drove us the short distance from the station and several drams of peaty malt "the gentlest and most refined malt of all" slipped down easily before we tottered back on board.

At Boat of Garten, the train shunted on to a private line owned by the Strathspey Railway Society. It was here we were to spend a peaceful and stationary night. Ray Owen, a Scottish historian and terrific raconteur, entertained us after dinner dressed in Highland garb and equipped with weapons. He told us of Bonnie Prince Charlie, brave clans, cowardly Red Coats and the Battle of Culloden in 1746. We listened spellbound.

Breakfast was taken in our favourite carriage, Victory. Churchill had used it in his election campaign after the war. We tucked into porridge, smokies (smoked haddock), fried haggis and black pudding, polished off with freshly baked pastries. But there was no time to linger. We were back on the bus and off to spend the morning at Rochiemurchus, a 25,000-acre estate that has been in the Grant family for 500 years.

Here there were a variety of activities on offer: I opted for fly-fishing, Alexander for clay-pigeon shooting; the Texans went in search of osprey. I was in heaven – on a still loch with a gillie on a perfect day. I even caught a trout.

Our trusty bus caught up with the train for lunch at Nairn. I craftily sent Alexander to bag a table for two in Victory – otherwise it was communal dining in the other dining car at a long table. There was time for a siesta before another expedition at Keith to Johnson's cashmere mill and shop. Alas, no afternoon tea on the menu, but I was excited by the call of cashmere.

Through Aberdeen, Montrose and Aberdour we sped towards our grand finale, a black tie (and dress kilts) dinner. Here, it has to be said, the canapés were disappointing: they should have been better at the price. Dinner, though, was excellent: potted shrimp and crayfish, fillet of beef and rhubarb cheesecake.

Dundee was not the most scenic resting spot for our second night, but finding a berth for a nine-carriage train is no easy matter. I opened the curtains the next morning to find two small girls peering in. They giggled at my dishevelled state. "Not cool," murmured my son from his bunk.

We ate our last breakfast going over the Tay Bridge and Firth of Tay looking out to sea. "I wouldn't mind staying on for the Western tour," said Alexander through a mouthful of kipper. I agreed wholeheartedly.


Orient-Express Hotels, Trains and Cruises (0845 077 2222; offers several itineraries on the Royal Scotsman, starting next April, with weekly departures from Edinburgh. The four-night Classic tour costs £3,190 per person, all inclusive, based on two people sharing a twin compartment. The Tigerlily hotel in the centre of Edinburgh (0131 225 5005; has doubles from £195.

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Long Beach Harbor Patrol Says Photography "Not Allowed" From Public Sidewalk

Long Beach Harbor Patrol Say No Photography From a Public Sidewalk

I just got back from shooting for a week in Los Angeles and have to say that the highlight of my trip was shooting industrial stuff down in Long Beach Harbor with Photographer David Sommars. David is an amazing photographer who regularly shoots industrial stuff around L.A. and he shared with me some of the most fantastic vantage points to shoot this sort of photography in Long Beach. David also maintains a photography related blog here.

Unfortunately our photowalk around the Port of Long Beach was not without incident. Three times we were blinted while photographing. I've been stopped plenty of times while legally shooting in the past. Most of the times I've been able to be respectful but insistent on my legal rights to shoot wherever I'm shooting. Every so often though an incident turns into a more serious altercation.

The first two times Sommars and I were stopped we were stopped by private security agents working for Securitas on behalf of BP's Carson Refinery. They asked us not to shoot the refinery and suggested that it was a "double standard" that we'd insist on our constitutional rights to shoot in public while not honoring BP's request that we not shoot their facility from a public sidewalk. I couldn't quite get my arms around the "double standard" argument coming from BP. Ironically one of the shots that I took of their refinery was probably the largest United States flag I've ever shot. Let's hear it for Patriotism.

The hassle from BP's agents though didn't really bother me all that much. We were insistent on our rights to shoot the facility and they seemed to understand that in the end there was nothing that they could do about it. Their security guard snapped photos of both of us with his camera phone (and I returned the favor of course) and then they followed us when we left in my car in order to get my license plate, but they seemed to pretty clearly understand that while they were free to ask us not to shoot the plant, it was clearly within our rights to do so.

The more disturbing incident came later when we were atop a bridge, again on a public sidewalk, shooting another plant and long exposure bridge shots. Here we were stopped by real cops this time, rather than security guards. The cops in question were from the Long Beach Harbor Patrol. Their officer explained to us that it was his job to monitor the side of the bridge that we were on while L.A.P.D. had jurisdiction over the other side of the bridge.

Basically the conversation went something like this.

Long Beach Harbor Patrol Officer: "I'm going to have to ask you guys to leave."

Us: "But, why, were simply taking art photographs."

Long Beach Harbor Patrol Officer: "You're not allowed to photograph these plants."

Us: "But we're on a public sidewalk. What law doesn't allow us to photograph here?"

Long Beach Harbor Patrol Officer: "You'll need to come back tomorrow and get a permit if you want to shoot in the Harbor."

Me: "I'm only down in Long Beach for tonight and won't be able to do that."

2nd Long Beach Harbor Patrol Officer (shrugging her shoulders): Oh, well, you're just going to have to leave. Photography is not allowed here without a permit."

During this altercation both David and I were asked to present identification to the police. They used our IDs to run background checks on both of us.

Now personally I have no problem with the cops stopping to talk to us and check out what we were doing. I also had no problem with Securitas photographing me earlier or following me to get my license plate number. But I think that it went too far when the Long Beach Harbor Patrol ran background checks on us and I think it also went too far when they required us to leave our shoot location. As far as I'm aware there is no law which requires permits in order to shoot the Long Beach Harbor from a public sidewalk. And to kick us off of the bridge that we were legally on was not justified and violated our constitutional rights.

We repeatedly tried to argue for our right to shoot at this location for about a half an hour. The entire time the cops were insistent that we were not allowed to shoot there without a permit. David showed the cops in question photos of his on his iPhone in order to share the type of photography that we were after, but none of this seemed to matter. We were on their turf and they weren't going to stand for that. He just kept repeatedly bringing up 911 over and over telling us that we were going to need to leave.

What bothers me even more is that this is not the first time that David (who shoots in Long Beach Harbor more regularly than I do) has been harassed by the cops there. David has had lots of previous run ins there. David told me that he's been stopped about 10 times in the last six months while shooting in Long Beach Harbor. About half of those stops involved actual police in addition to security guards. On one occasion the cops actually handcuffed him and in another incident 4 police cars and a black SUV converged on him. He's also had FBI agents call on him over his photography. Personally I think it's wrong to handcuff peaceful photographers for the "crime" of photography while questioning and detaining.

And You Might See Me Tonight With an Illegal Smile

I've contacted the media relations department at Long Beach Harbor regarding this incident but have yet to hear back from them. I'll post more from them once/if I do hear back.

What I am tired of though is the harassment that photographers face on a regular basis while out documenting our world. Photography is not a crime. 911 didn't suddenly magically turn photographers into criminals. And as long as photography is not a crime, I think that cops, security guards and other authority figures should be required to live within the legal system as it now stands. Maybe some day they will pass a law that shooting Long Beach Harbor is in fact a crime. Or maybe they'll actually pass a law that permits *are* actually required to shoot there. But until that day happens (and I'd be one vocally opposing any such rule like that) this sort of harassment ought not take place. And it's unfortunate when it does.

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Key Gene Linked to High Blood Pressure Identified

By Will Dunham

blood pressure and genes
Researchers say they have identified a gene that may be key in determining high blood pressure risk in some people.
(ABCNews Photo Illustration)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A gene that affects how the kidneys process salt may help determine a person's risk of high blood pressure, a discovery that could lead to better ways to treat the condition, researchers said on Monday.

People with a common variant of the gene STK39 tend to have higher blood pressure levels and are more likely to develop full-blown high blood pressure, also called hypertension, University of Maryland School of Medicine researchers found.

They identified the gene's role in high blood pressure susceptibility by analyzing the genes of 542 people in the insular Old Order Amish community in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

The researchers confirmed the findings by looking at the genes of another group of Amish people as well as four other groups of white people in the United States and Europe.

About 20 percent of the people studied had either one or two copies of this particular variant, the researchers said.

The gene produces a protein involved in regulating the way the kidneys process salt in the body -- a key factor in determining blood pressure, the researchers said.

Yen-Pei Christy Chang, who led the study appearing in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, said the findings could lead to the development of new high blood pressure drugs targeting the activity of STK39.

"What we hope is that by understanding STK39 we can use that information for personalized medicine, so we can actually predict which hypertensive patients should be on what class of medication and know that they will respond well and have minimal risk for side effects," Chang said in a telephone interview.

People with high blood pressure are more likely to develop heart attacks, heart failure, strokes and kidney disease.

While STK39 may play a pivotal role in some people, Chang said numerous other genes also may be involved. Many factors are involved in high blood pressure such as being overweight, lack of exercise, smoking and too much salt in the diet.

Several different types of medications are used to treat high blood pressure, including diuretics, beta blockers, ACE inhibitors, calcium channel blockers and others. Their effectiveness varies depending on the person, and doctors have a hard time knowing which is best for a particular patient.

Chang said the researchers want to determine how people with different versions of this gene respond to the various drugs and to lifestyle interventions such as cutting the amount of salt in the diet.

The Lancaster Amish are seen as ideal for genetic research because they are a genetically homogenous people whose ancestry can be traced to a small group who arrived from Europe in the 1700s. In addition to genetic similarity, they also maintain similar lifestyles in their close-knit rural communities.

(Editing by Maggie Fox and Vicki Allen)

Copyright 2009 Reuters News Service.

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Pictured: The disabled man 'left to die by paramedics because he wasn't worth saving'

By Daily Mail Reporter

Barry Baker

Barry Baker: Paramedics are accused of not bothering to revive him

Two ambulancemen have been arrested for allegedly ignoring a dying man.

They were detained after police were given a tape recording of them in the patient's house in which they were said to have discussed not bothering to try to revive him.

The ambulance crew had been sent to Barry Baker's home after he dialled 999 saying he thought he was having a heart attack.

Ambulance controllers kept Mr Baker talking on the phone as they ordered the paramedic and ambulance technician to use their blue lights to get to him as quickly as possible.

But 59-year-old Mr Baker, who was disabled and lived alone, collapsed unconscious while talking on the phone, leaving the line open to the control centre as he lay on the floor.

Minutes later astonished dispatch centre staff heard their crew enter the house, apparently making disparaging comments about the state of the home.

A police source, who asked not to be named, said the ambulancemen were then heard over the phone discussing Mr Baker and allegedly saying 'words to the effect that he was not worth saving'.

A police spokesman confirmed the arrests and added: 'The men, aged 35 and 44 and from the Brighton area, have been arrested and questioned following the death of a man in Brighton. They were detained on suspicion of wilfully neglecting to perform a duty in public office, contrary to Common Law. They have been released on police bail pending further inquiries.'

Mr Baker, who used sticks to walk after having hip replacement operations, made a 999 call in the early hours of November 29.

The crew from Brighton Ambulance station (pictured) were sent to Barry Baker's home after he called 999 saying he thought he was having a heart attack

The crew from Brighton Ambulance station (pictured) were sent to Barry Baker's home after he called 999 saying he thought he was having a heart attack

He told the controller he had severe chest pains and the ambulance crew from Brighton was immediately sent to his home.

The police source said that despite Mr Baker collapsing, the controller was able to hear everything because the phone line remained open.

'What they heard after their ambulance crew arrived frankly astonished them,' said the source. 'They are apparently heard to comment on seeing Mr Baker and saying-that it was not worth bothering to try to carry out resuscitation to try to save him.

'They then are heard discussing what to tell ambulance control and allegedly decide to say that he was already dead when they arrived.

'The controllers were so shocked by what seemed to be their colleagues' lack of care for their patient that they immediately contacted senior managers and the police were called in.'

Barry Baker lived alone in this detached house

Barry Baker lived alone in this detached house

Police were called to Mr Baker's home and made arrangements for his body to be removed.

South East Coast Ambulance NHS Trust said both men had been suspended from duty.

A spokesman said: 'We are giving the police our full co- operation and are not in a position to comment further.'

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A noted restaurateur's recipe for disaster


Nancy Silverton, seen here last year at Osteria Mozza, says she lost her nest egg, including money for her children’s education.
Los Angeles restaurant owner Nancy Silverton of La Brea Bakery fame put her savings in a fund entrusted to Bernard Madoff.
By Claudia Eller

It's a good thing Nancy Silverton still has her day job.

The La Brea Bakery founder and queen of L.A.'s restaurant scene is among the legions of investors who've lost their fortunes in the alleged $50-billion fraud attributed to New York financier Bernard L. Madoff.
The financial pain is bad enough, Silverton says, but what makes it worse is that she ignored the advice of her father and others who warned her to diversify her investments.

Instead, after walking away with a profit of more than $5 million from the sale of La Brea Bakery in 2001, Silverton put all of her money in a fund affiliated with a Beverly Hills advisor, who in turn entrusted the funds to Madoff.

"I was silly and I learned a lot," said Silverton, 54, who is an owner of Pizzeria Mozza and its neighboring Osteria Mozza in Hollywood. "I will never not diversify."

Silverton said she learned the bad news from her father when she called him at his office as she was driving up to Napa Valley about two weeks ago.

"He said, 'I want to tell you something. Everything's gone. We lost everything.' "

She was devastated. Silverton said she lost her entire nest egg, including her retirement fund and money she had set aside for her children and their educations.

"I need to reinvent my life," said Silverton, who co-founded the landmark Campanile restaurant and La Brea Bakery with her ex-husband, Mark Peel, and another partner. "To think you have a chunk of money is very comforting. Now, I'm just like 99% of the world. If I had to retire tomorrow, I could not."

She also needs to "build something" again for her three children, ages 15, 23 and 26. "They don't have any of that savings."

Silverton invested with Beverly Hills money manager Stanley Chais through a fund called CMG Ltd. Silverton's father, a former lawyer and real estate investor, and other members of their family also lost money through another Chais-related fund called "Caroline," she said.

Chais, 82, was named last week in a lawsuit filed in federal court in Los Angeles, alleging that he and his firm were involved in "false, misleading, unlawful, unfair and fraudulent acts and practices."

Chais could not be reached for comment.

Silverton concedes she is "a lot better off than a lot of people." But she noted that her income from the restaurants hinges on how well those eateries do. With the country in recession, she has to worry about "what happens next year."

Silverton works five nights a week behind the mozzarella bar at Osteria Mozza, the pricey Italian restaurant on the corner of Highland and Melrose avenues that she owns with star restaurateurs Mario Batali, Joe Bastianich and other investors.

She also keeps an eye on what goes on next door at her pizzeria -- also a popular entertainment industry haunt frequented by such power players as Jeffrey Katzenberg and his DreamWorks co-founding partner Steven Spielberg. Katzenberg and a charity funded by Spielberg also lost money in the alleged Madoff scheme.

Although Silverton is no longer an owner of La Brea Bakery, she said she still moonlights for the now-global company, developing new recipes and products.

She said she had passed up a number of other business offers, such as launching a line of cookware or doing a reality TV show. But with her financial setback, "I might be a little more open" to those opportunities in the future, said Silverton, who is currently writing her eighth cookbook.

Silverton grew up in Sherman Oaks and Encino and said she first realized her calling when she was a student at Sonoma State University cooking vegetarian dishes like "lentil loaf" for her dorm mates. She dropped out of college in her senior year to devote her full attention to cooking and baking.

After working at a Marin County restaurant, she signed up for a six-month course at Cordon Bleu in Paris to hone her skills. In the late 1970s, she landed her first major job as an assistant pastry chef at the tony Santa Monica restaurant Michael's, where she met Peel.

The two went on to Wolfgang Puck's popular Spago, then worked at New York's Maxwell's Plum for a brief stint before returning to L.A. and eventually opening Campanile and La Brea Bakery.

So, how could someone known as an obsessive personality and perfectionist, who struggled through 75 recipes before settling on the sourdough bread for which La Brea became famous, not have paid scrupulous attention to her investments and diversified?

"The returns I saw on paper were so lucrative, I thought, 'I'll take care of it someday. . . . I'll do it next month,' " Silverton said.

Silverton certainly isn't the only smart businessperson to ever get snookered.

"Some of the most brilliant financial minds in the world have consistently failed in their attempts to 'beat the market,' " said Neta Gagen, a certified financial planner with Inspired Financial in Huntington Beach. No matter how smart private investors may be, "they often get confused by the obtuse nature of the investment world."

And, if the returns look too good to be true, they probably are.

Silverton has learned her lesson. "The last $25 to my name," she said, "is very secure under my mattress."

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South Bay Man Really Doesn't Want His Windows Cleaned

Police: Angry Driver Kills Homeless Man for Trying to Wash Windows

A transient who was washing car windows outside a gas station in
Salinas died after on Friday being knocked down by a man buying gas,
according to police.

Santa Clara resident Orion Moore, 29, and a female companion
stopped at the Pilot Truck Stop, located at 951 Work St., to buy gas.

When Moore exited the car, a transient, who was about 60 years
old, said he wanted to wash Moore's windshield for money. Moore declined the
offer, according to police.

The transient loitered around the car and a while later began
washing the window. The female passenger exited the car to tell the transient
to leave.

Moore allegedly ran out of the Pilot and knocked the transient to
the ground. The man struck his head on the pavement and was transported to a
nearby hospital, where he died, according to police.

Officers arrested Moore at the gas station.

Copyright Bay City News

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India moustaches 'face the chop'

Lalan Singh, 40, a doorman for the Legend of India restaurant, poses with his stylised moustache
Many young urban people see facial hairs as "so last century"

The famous beards and moustaches of India - seen as representing a huge tradition to the outside world - are under threat, a new book says.

It says that the country's famous facial hairs are disappearing as India enters the clean-shaven digital age.

The book says that the traditional belief that facial hair is a sign of virility appears to be facing the chop.

It says that young people in particular do not want an itchy moustache or beard which they think makes them look old.

Designer stubble

"Hair India - A Guide to the Bizarre Beards and Magnificent Moustaches of Hindustan" says that India's extravagant beards and moustaches - proudly sported by generations of Indian men - are being trimmed as the country becomes more clean-shaven and urban.

Author Richard McCallum says that clean chins are becoming more commonplace among younger people who no longer have role models sporting beards or moustaches.

He points out that most well-known Indian cricket players no longer have facial hair, while many in Bollywood have opted instead for token designer stubble.

Victor Joynath De
The handlebar moustache has been part of Indian culture

Mr McCallum spent several months travelling the length and breadth of the country to find the bushiest beards and most magisterial moustaches before they disappeared forever.

"It was an idea that started out as a bit of fun but turned into a labour of love," Mr McCallum, a British travel business operator, told the AFP news agency.

"Beards and moustaches tell the story of modern India - how it is becoming a more Westernised, homogenised place, but also how the great traditions and the love of display still exist.

"Male grooming is important to Indians, and facial hair proved a topic that took us to places and into conversations with people we would never have met otherwise."

The book categorises beards according to bristle-design. There is the "the chin strap", "the soup strainer", "the wing commander" and "the walrus".

'Out of favour'

What is claimed to be the world's longest beard, measuring 1.6 metres (five ft) and the world's longest moustache also feature in the book.

But the emphasis is on ordinary stall-owners and rickshaw drivers displaying moustaches and beards that are cut, dyed, waxed and preened in various shapes and sizes.

"Some people were confused when we first told them why we wanted to take their picture, but they soon became very keen," said photographer Chris Stowers.

While facial hair will always be proudly displayed by Sikhs, for whom "kesh" (uncut hair) is a religious principle, it seems that among sectors of society it is inexorably falling out of favour.

One of the few professions where it remains a mandatory requirement is among doormen of five-star hotels.

"Young people don't want an itchy moustache or beard which they think makes them look old," Lalan Singh, 40, a restaurant doorman in Delhi's Connaught Place told AFP.

He is the proud owner of a handlebar moustache that took three years to grow. He could be one of the last of his kind.

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