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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

5 surprising facts about strippers - The Week

5 surprising facts about strippers

A new study says strippers earn as much as lawyers — and that's just one interesting recent finding about the profession

Strippers make around $74,000 a year, and many of them have undergraduate degrees.
Strippers make around $74,000 a year, and many of them have undergraduate degrees. 
Photo: Corbis
 
Best Opinion: Newsweek, Independent, Foreign Policy...

A new British study into the lives of strippers has come up with some interesting figures, so to speak — concluding, for instance, that about one in four are college graduates. That's just one of several recent research claims about those who take their clothes off for a living. Here's a round-up:

Strippers earn more when they're ovulating
Strippers make an average of $30 per hour more when they are ovulating than when they are menstruating, according to a study by the University of New Mexico. Women on the pill — who generally do not ovulate — made significantly less. Researchers said this was proof men react to female ovulation, a claim that had some critics scoffing. But, then again, maybe "a stripper who feels sexy gives a more tip-worthy lap dance than one who feels uncomfortable during her period," said Sharon Begley at Newsweek.

Some say they make as much as lawyers...
How much money does a stripper typically earn? According to a new study from the University of Leeds in the U.K., it's around $74,000. That's approximately as much as an American attorney, according to salary experts PayScale. "I congratulate the women who make more money than I do out of a job they say they enjoy," says Katy Guest at the Independent. But that doesn't mean I don't "viscerally object to lap dancing."

... and are quite happy with their jobs
According to the same study, strippers reported very high levels of job satisfaction. The researchers found the women were overwhelmingly motivated by "career and economic choices" rather than drug addiction or coercion. "These young women do not buy the line that they are being exploited, because they are the ones making the money out of a three-minute dance and a bit of a chat," says study author Teela Sanders.

Sweden is being shortchanged by strippers
The Swedish government is cracking down on online strippers for failing to reveal their assets. Internet stripteases are legal in Sweden, and the government says that strippers may be dodging up to $5 million in taxes. "The bottom line" here, says Andrew Swift at Foreign Policy, is that "the Swedish tax authority has apparently never heard of the phrase 'not safe for work.'"

Canada has a stripper shortage
So few Canadian girls are willing to strip that Ontario strip-club owners were forced to hire legal consultants in 2008 to find a way for get foreigners to staff their clubs. Until 2004, the Canadian authorities would give foreign women visas allowing them to strip in the country — but a crackdown prompted a widespread stripper shortage that continues to this day. "The government's putting a real squeeze on the industry," said Tim Lambrinos, of the Adult Entertainment Association of Canada. "It really is affecting our ability to find dancers."



5 surprising facts about strippers - The Week

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Friday, August 27, 2010

Brand Brazil is good to go- Tyler Brûlé /FT.com / Columnists


Brand Brazil is good to go

By Tyler Brûlé
Published: August 20 2010 22:16 | Last updated: August 20 2010 22:16
It’s time for a little Fast Lane pre back-to-school, back-to-work quiz to sharpen your faculties for the last third of the year.
1. If you were going to buy a holiday home, would you choose:
a) a spacious beach apartment in Sochi, Russia
b) a Thai-inspired villa on the resort island of Hainan, China
c) a thatched bungalow on a beach in Goa
d) a Marcio Kogan designed bungalow in Trancoso, Brazil?
2. Where would you like to spend your retirement years:
a) Russia?
b) China?
c) India?
d) Brazil?
3.) If you were organising an end of summer cocktail party on your terrace, would you choose:
a) Dacha-style discotheque with a vodka bar?
b) Sweaty Shanghai swing with a dumpling buffet?
c) Kerala trance party with buckets of beer?
d) Breezy bossa nova with a caipirinha bar staffed by Brazilian waiters?
While there’s no scientifically correct answer to any of the questions above, they do form part of my ever-evolving list of metrics for my Bric nation liveability, lifestyle and soft-power index. No matter how I shuffle the deck, Brazil always leads the pack.
After a brief stop in Abu Dhabi and Dubai followed by a 16-hour flight on Emirates I happily touched down in São Paulo last week for a 72-hour visit. The drill in São Paulo is always the same: an early evening arrival at the somewhat tired but perfectly compact Guarulhos airport, a blacked-out (sometimes bullet-proof) Kia sedan into town and a warm welcome at the Fasano Hotel.
I have many favourite hotels around the world, but the Fasano is the one brand that I’d like to see more of while I travel.
On Tuesday evening I pulled up in the driveway and was greeted by a doorman in an elegant suit. While his colleagues attended to my bags I walked into the dimly lit, clubby lobby. In the main lounge area a couple of men in business attire were having a meeting, a lone photographer was sipping a glass of red, a chic young couple (she Italian and he perhaps Swiss) were flipping through the São Paulo dailies and the fireplace was filling the whole space with that wonderful fragrance that can never be captured in a scented candle or room spray.
The cosy-modernist theme is carried through to the Fasano’s guestrooms and I’m often tempted by the low-lighting, warm woods and elegant reading chair to abandon my evening plans and settle in for an early night. The hotel’s rooms are neither too big nor too small and have a purposeful sense of scale that allows you to get on with work for a couple of hours, but never make you feel like you’re trapped.
Much of this has to do with the meticulous planning executed by the hotel’s founder Rogerio Fasano and his architect sparring partner Isay Weinfeld. The former is the man behind one of Brazil’s most respected hospitality powerhouses, and Weinfeld is the man who virtually every Brazilian billionaire wants to commission to build their beach houses and city compounds.
Later this year the Fasano brand will venture beyond Brazil’s borders for the first time when the company opens a resort property outside of Punta del Este in Uruguay. This will signal Brazil launching an international luxury brand to take on the likes of the Four Seasons and Hyatt, and exporting its own style of inn-keeping and design that’s a welcome relief from all of the tired and tested Asian formulas mimicked by many of the big global brands.
The following morning, while enduring the tedious stop-start, stop-start traffic of São Paulo I started doing a mental brand audit of shop fronts. Most of the names around the Fasano are the usual international luxury suspects, and I wondered whether this was a new metric worth adding to my Bric index. How many home-grown, designed and owned brands do I consume in daily life from those four economies? By the time I pulled up at the Cidade Jardim shopping mall a few kilometres away it seemed that Brazil was out in front again. I came up with: Made in Brazil Havaianas flip-flops that are found in my luggage on trips to hot climates, Made in Brazil Embraer aircraft to shuttle me around on short haul journeys, elegant Made in Brazil chairs from Sergio Rodrigues under my bum, and Written, Recorded and Pressed in Brazil tunes by Bebel Gilberto and Barbara Mendes stored on my laptop. I tried very hard to think of Indian, Russian and Chinese brands that I owned or used and I couldn’t think of any – no Russian design brands in my house, no reservations at any Indian hotels and no Lenovo laptop in my bag.
Brazil’s energy companies might be the engine for the country’s economy but it’s the softer elements (music, fashion, hospitality, design) that are going to make brand Brazil that little bit more seductive and sexier than Russia, India and China.
Tyler Brûlé is editor-in-chief of Monocle
More columns at www.ft.com/brule
FT.com / Columnists / Tyler Brûlé - Brand Brazil is good to go

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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Shrinking Societies: The Other Population Crisis - BusinessWeek

Shrinking Societies: The Other Population Crisis

The earth's population is growing at an alarming rate, but in some countries the lack of growth is the biggest problem

A Japanese woman's role in society is to give birth, and "all we can do is ask them to do their best per head," said Hakuo Yanagisawa, Japan's former health minister. His remark, as reported by Bloomberg in 2007, drew criticism for being sexist, but it touches on one of Japan's most pressing issues: its rapidly aging and shrinking population.
Japan is expected to see its population contract by one-fourth to 95.2 million by 2050, according to the Population Reference Bureau, a Washington-based research group, making it the fastest-shrinking country in the world.Former Eastern Bloc nations Ukraine and Georgia came in second and third, respectively, in a ranking of more than 200 countries by Businessweek.com based on the Population Reference Bureau's 2010 World Population Data Sheet.
These countries defy the global trend—but that doesn't mean they'll be spared problems of their own. The world population is expected to expand by 37 percent to 9.5 billion in 2050, according to the report, but growth will not be evenly distributed. Developing countries will grow the most, with the population in Africa expected to double.
Meanwhile, other regions will shrink as the boomer generation ages, people have fewer children, and workers leave for opportunities abroad. The most widespread decline is projected in Eastern Europe, where birthrates have declined since the breakup of the Soviet Union. The number of people in every country in the region, except the Czech Republic, is forecast to contract. By 2050 the region will have lost 13.6 percent of its population, according to data from the Population Reference Bureau.
"Europe, Korea, and Japan have gone into panic mode," says Carl Haub, a senior demographer at the Population Reference Bureau. A declining population impacts a country's economic growth, labor market, pensions, taxation, health care, and housing, according to the U.N. Globally by 2050, the number of older persons in the world will exceed the number of young for the first time in history, according to the U.N. The imbalance will create havoc in the pension systems and make it difficult to support retired and elderly persons, Haub says.
Despite these economic and social consequences, there have been no easy long-term solutions for countries trying to reverse this trend. "Demographic changes are pretty glacial," says Haub.

Incentivizing Growth

That does not mean governments are not trying. Many countries are on a mission to raise the number of births. Although migration patterns affect many countries—such as Lithuania, where the number of people leaving the country is several times the number entering it—they change quickly and can be difficult to project.
Japan's fertility rate fell from 1.57 children per woman in 1989 to 1.26 in 2005, according to Haub. It has rebounded to 1.4, but remains below the rate needed to replace the population: 2.
To encourage people to have more children, the government started implementing a series of programs called "Angel Plans" in 1994, says Toshiko Kaneda, senior research associate at the Population Reference Bureau. The plan offers counseling to couples, increases child-care services, and provides a monthly stipend of 26,000 yen (approximately $303) per child to ease the burden of raising a family.
In Germany, where the fertility rate is 1.3, the government pledged to increase the number of nursery schools and introduced an allowance that pays 67 percent of a parent's income for the first year after a child is born if he or she stays home.
Even in Iran, where the fertility rate is 1.8, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad recently introduced a policy that pays families for every child born and deposits money into the child's bank account until he or she is 18.
Such policies only have moderate success, says Dimiter Philipov, a research group leader at the Vienna Institute of Demography in the Austrian Academy of Sciences. As subsidies mainly cause people to have children earlier, the number of births typically increases in the first few years after a policy is passed. The allowances are much lower than the amount needed to raise a child, but "this is a success because it brings in more babies and makes population changes smoother," he says.
Also, while declining fertility was once attributed to the falling marriage rate, today the deteriorating job environment also affects people's decisions to have children, according to NLI Research Institute in Japan. Thus, in developed countries, rather than offer financial incentives, Philipov says, it is more effective to relieve pressure on parents through child-care services and ensuring job security for mothers. "Some would say no one has done it better than France," where there is a broad menu of services for women and parents, says Haub.

Ideal Fertility Rate

Some argue the need to boost the fertility rate might not be so urgent. Tomáš Sobotka, a research scientist at the Vienna Institute of Demography, wrote in February in a column for The Guardian in the U.K. that demographers have been envisioning the demise of Europe since birthrates in the region began declining in the late 19th century, but "it is not population size but affluence and technology that make some countries more powerful than others."
Philipov says a debate has emerged about the ideal fertility rate. Advances in science and technology that boost productivity might compensate for a fertility rate below the replacement level, such as 1.7 to 1.8, he says.
Still, a fertility rate of 1.4 or 1.5, as seen in many countries, is "too low," Philipov says. At that level, the number of entries into the labor force becomes too narrow, making it difficult to support pensioners and children.

Elder Care

As fewer children are born, the fastest-growing age group in the world is people age 80 and older, according to the U.N. In 2000, there were about 4 people over age 85 for every 100 people ages 50 to 64; by 2050, it will rise to 11.
The situation is more dire in places such as Japan, where the Population Reference Bureau predicts there will only be one working-age person for every person over age 65 in 2050. Already, there are long waiting lists at nursing homes in Japan's cities. To meet demand, the government has been recruiting, testing, and training nurses from Indonesia and the Philippines.
Also, new technologies are being introduced in Japan to serve the elderly, although they are no substitute for people. For example, companies have reportedly been designing robot caretakers, devices for remote medical care, and cars that monitor brain activity to assist older drivers.
Over the next 40 years, the age pyramid will be upside down and technological advancements will only provide limited relief. While demographic trends are difficult to change, Haub says, "something will have to happen."
Click here to see the 25 countries with the fastest-shrinking populations.
Wong is a lifestyle and real estate reporter for Bloomberg Businessweek.


Shrinking Societies: The Other Population Crisis - BusinessWeek

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

1933 Delage Wins Best of Show at Pebble Beach - NYTimes.com


1933 Delage Wins Best of Show at Pebble Beach

A 1933 Delage D8S De Villars Roadster from the Patterson Collection in Louisville, Ky, was named Best of Show at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.Kimball Studios/Courtesy of Pebble Beach Concours d’EleganceA 1933 Delage D8S De Villars Roadster from the Patterson Collection in Louisville, Ky, was named Best of Show at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Élégance. More Photos | Readers’ Photos.
MONTEREY, Calif. — A week of intense automobile worship on the Monterey Peninsula concluded with more than $100 million worth of classic cars changing hands at auctions, several new models being introduced by manufacturers and a 1933 Delage winning the coveted title as Best of Show.
The Delage’s distinction came at the prestigious Pebble Beach Concours d’Élégance on Sunday, against a field of more than 200 exquisitely presented classic autos — and it was something of an upset because this vehicle was painted white.
“A white car has never won at Pebble Beach,” said the vehicle’s owner, Jim Patterson, of a streak extending back some six decades at this, the world’s premier automotive beauty contest.
Mr. Patterson, of Louisville, Ky., had acquired the Delage, a D8S Roadster with coachwork by the custom builder De Villars, at a Pebble Beach auction in 2007 for $3.74 million. He had it meticulously restored to its original condition, which was as a Delage debutante at the 1934 Paris motor show.
The auctions at Pebble Beach are, along with the swank concours, among the signature events in a week that includes more than 50. Several auction companies, including Gooding & Company, RM Auctions, Russo & Steele andBonhams & Butterfields, held high-dollar events.
The Gooding auction alone sold more than $64 million worth of classics in two star-studded nights of bidding. (Celebrity sightings included Jay Leno, Bill Murray and Patrick Dempsey.)
The biggest sale of the weekend was $7.26 million paid for a 1959 Ferrari 250 GT long-wheelbase California Spider Competizione at the Gooding auction. However, a bid of $10.7 million for a 1958 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa, at the RM auction, was spurned by its seller. Each of the Ferraris had earned acclaim in their past lives as winning racecars.
Fittingly, the weekend also included a slate of racing events, in actual classics, at the Monterey Historics event at nearby Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The earnestness with which these classics are put through their paces was illustrated by a fearsome crash on Saturday involving a veteran driver, John Morton. Mr. Morton was uninjured, but his one-of-a-kind 1958 Scarab was destroyed in the rollover accident.
Manufacturers also use the concours weekend to unveil special limited-edition models. Jaguar, Aston Martin and Bentley were among those seizing on the opportunity to do so this year. An example was the Jaguar XK175, which is limited to 175 copies. It is also so designated because of its reported top speed of 174 miles per hour. Yes, that’s not the same as 175, but Richard Beattie, executive vice president of Jaguar North America, said the company’s legal department had insisted on the discrepancy for undisclosed reasons.
Finally, the weekend was also a chance for the automobile world’s counterculture to be heard. And at the second annual Concours d’Lemons, haters of some of the worst autos ever produced assembled at a park well outside the city limits to crown a shortened 1958 Volkswagen Microbus, owned by Donna and Frank Atkinson of Atascadero, Calif., as Worst of Show.
Donna and Frank Atkinson, of Atascadero, Calif., were the more-or-less proud owners of a 1958 Volkswagen bus that won Worst of Show honors at the second annual Concours d’Lemons at a park outside the Monterey city limits.Jerry Garrett for The New York TimesDonna and Frank Atkinson, of Atascadero, Calif., were the more-or-less proud owners of a 1958 Volkswagen bus that won “Worst of Show” honors at the second annual Concours d’Lemons at a park outside the Monterey city limits.

1933 Delage Wins Best of Show at Pebble Beach - NYTimes.com

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Friday, August 20, 2010

Space tourism jet has trouble during test run - Technology & science - Space - msnbc.com

 

MOJAVE, Calif. — The left main landing gear on Virgin Galactic's space tourism jet collapsed as it landed after a test flight in the Mojave Desert Thursday, federal aviation authorities said. No injuries were reported.
Two Federal Aviation Administration inspectors were on the scene to examine WhiteKnightTwo, a four-engine jet that will serve as the mothership for Virgin's passenger-carrying spaceship.
"The left main landing gear is damaged, but we don't yet know if that's the extent of the damage," FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said.
The problem occurred around 11:15 a.m. PT at the Mojave Air and Space Port.
In a statement, aircraft builder Scaled Composites described the event as a "minor incident." The company said there was a mechanical problem with the left landing gear.
Scaled did not describe the problem in any detail, but said there were no injuries. The rocket-powered spaceship, known as SpaceShipTwo, was not attached to the jet at the time.
WhiteKnightTwo is designed to carry Virgin's spaceship to high altitude and then release the rocket, which will then fire its engine for a brief dash into space.
Virgin has said the test program is expected to run through next year before commercial operations begin. About 300 clients have paid for a $200,000 ticket or placed a deposit.
Seven years ago, SpaceShipOne — the predecessor of the rocket plane currently being developed — suffered a partial landing gear collapse and ran off the runway at Mojave at the end of its first powered test flight . The plane went on to make three successful spaceflights in 2004, winning the $10 million Ansari X Prize in the process.
This report includes information from The Associated Press and msnbc.com.

© 2010 msnbc.com




Space tourism jet has trouble during test run - Technology & science - Space - msnbc.com

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

FT.com / Companies / Food & Beverage - Cargill sounds warning of a slow recovery


Cargill sounds warning of a slow recovery

By Gregory Meyer in New York
Published: August 17 2010 18:49 | Last updated: August 18 2010 01:20
Cargill, the world’s largest agricultural commodities trader, on Tuesday warned that the global recovery had yet to gain traction as it reported a second straight decline in annual profit.
As economists debate the merits of government intervention to avoid a double-dip recession, the company said the economic outlook was uncertain.
“More uncertainty lies ahead, for the world has yet to transition from a policy-stimulated upturn to a structurally sustained recovery,” Cargill said in its annual report. “Europe’s debt crisis and China’s monetary tightening are moving markets. Governments have made promises that their economies cannot fulfil. Regulations are changing in unpredictable ways.”
The US’s largest privately owned company by revenue has a unique vantage on global economic trends, trading commodities from corn to oil to salt with employees in 66 countries.
It has expanded into more value-added business, developing finished products for food companies, hedging strategies for farmers and investment vehicles for pension funds.
Cargill earned $2.6bn in the fiscal year ended May 31, down 22 per cent from the previous year’s $3.3bn. Profit was the lowest since 2007. Results were dragged down by Mosaic, the fertiliser company in which Cargill owns a 64 per cent stake. Excluding Mosaic, whose profit fell 65 per cent in the year, Cargill’s profit rose 14 per cent to $2.1bn.
In a sign that the worst of the financial crisis is over, all five of Cargill business segments earned more in the fourth quarter than the same quarter of 2009. Net quarterly profit more than doubled to $691m from $327m a year before. Excluding the Mosaic investment, earnings rose 87 per cent to $433m.
Minnesota-based Cargill does not detail results of individual business segments, but said three of the five improved performance in the year.
After bottoming out in 2009, many commodity prices have moved sideways due to listless demand in developed economies. Corn futures fell 19 per cent during Cargill’s fiscal year, while crude oil gained 8 per cent. Cargill blamed lower annual profits in its origination and processing segment, which hauls grain across oceans, on “choppy, range-bound markets” that made trading opportunities scarce.
“There was a lot of uncertainty,” David MacLennan, Cargill’s chief financial officer, told the Financial Times. “There was a lot of traditional market participants on the sidelines staying liquid. I think there was a lot of residual fear of risk.” The company said the recession slowed food consumption in western Europe and the US, but emerging economies’ demand “grew at a surprisingly sturdy rate”.
Cargill’s annual revenue fell to $107.9bn from $115.1bn in 2009.

FT.com / Companies / Food & Beverage - Cargill sounds warning of a slow recovery

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High in the Andes, Guardians of an Inca Mystery - NYTimes.com



High in the Andes, Keeping an Incan Mystery Alive

August 16, 2010




SAN CRISTÓBAL DE RAPAZ, Peru — The route to this village 13,000 feet above sea level runs from the desert coast up hairpin bends, delivering the mix of exhilaration and terror that Andean roads often provide. Condors soar above mist-shrouded crags. Quechua-speaking herders squint at strangers who arrive gasping in the thin air.
Rapaz’s isolation has allowed it to guard an enduring archaeological mystery: a collection of khipus, the cryptic woven knots that may explain how the Incas — in contrast to contemporaries in the Ottoman Empire and China’s Ming dynasty — ruled a vast, administratively complex empire without a written language.
Archaeologists say the Incas, brought down by the Spanish conquest, used khipus — strands of woolen cords made from the hair of animals like llamas or alpacas — as an alternative to writing. The practice may have allowed them to share information from what is now southern Colombia to northern Chile.
Few of the world’s so-called lost writings have proved as daunting to decipher as khipus, scholars say, with chroniclers from the outset of colonial rule bewildered by their inability to crack the code. Researchers at Harvard have been using databases and mathematical models in recent efforts to understand the khipu (pronounced KEE-poo), which means knot in Quechua, the Inca language still spoken by millions in the Andes.
Only about 600 khipus are thought to survive. Collectors spirited many away from Peru decades ago, including a mother lode of about 300 held atBerlin’s Ethnological Museum. Most were thought to have been destroyed after Spanish officials decreed them to be idolatrous in 1583.
But Rapaz, home to about 500 people who subsist by herding llamas and cattle and farming crops like rye, offers a rare glimpse into the role of khipus during the Inca Empire and long afterward. The village houses one of the last known khipu collections still in ritual use.
“I feel my ancestors talking to me when I look at our khipu,” said Marcelina Gallardo, 48, a herder who lives with her children here in the puna, the Andean region above the tree line where temperatures drop below freezing at night and carnivores like the puma prey on herds.
Outside her stone hut one recent morning, Ms. Gallardo nodded toward the stomach lining and skull of a newly butchered llama drying in the sun. She shared a shred of llama charqui, or jerky. “The khipu is a jewel of our life in this place,” she said.
Even here, no one claims to understand the knowledge encoded in the village’s khipus, which are guarded in a ceremonial house called a Kaha Wayi. The khipus’ intricate braids are decorated with knots and tiny figurines, some of which hold even tinier bags filled with coca leaves.
The ability of Rapacinos, as the villagers are called, to decipher their khipus seems to have faded with elders who died long ago, though scholars say the village’s use of khipus may have continued into the 19th century. Testing tends to show dates for Rapaz’s khipus that are well beyond the vanquishing of the Incas, and experts say they differ greatly from Inca-designed khipus.
Even now, Rapacinos conduct rituals in the Kaha Wayi beside their khipus, as described by Frank Salomon, an anthropologist at the University of Wisconsin who led a recent project to help Rapaz protect its khipus in an earthquake-resistant casing.
One tradition requires the villagers to murmur invocations during the bone-chilling night to the deified mountains surrounding Rapaz, asking for the clouds to let forth rain. Then they peer into burning llama fat and read how its sparks fly, before sacrificing a guinea pig and nestling it in a hole with flowers and coca.
The survival of such rituals, and of Rapaz’s khipus, testifies to the village’s resilience after centuries of hardship. Fading murals on the walls of Rapaz’s colonial church depict devils pulling Indians into the flames of hell for their sins. Feudal landholding families forced the ancestors of many here into coerced labor.
Rapacinos have also faced more recent challenges. A government of leftist military officers in the 1970s created economic havoc with nationalization, sowing chaos exploited by the Maoist guerrillas of the Shining Path who terrorized Rapaz into the 1990s, effectively shutting it off from significant contact with the rest of Peru.
But throughout it all, perhaps because of the village’s high level of cohesion and communal ownership of land and herds, Rapacinos somehow preserved their khipus in their Kaha Wayi.
“They feel that they must protect the khipu collection for the same reason we feel that we have to defend the physical original of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution,” Professor Salomon said. “I’ve heard people say, ‘It’s our Constitution, it’s our Magna Carta.’ ”
Despite Rapaz’s forbidding geography, changes in the rhythm of village life here are emerging that may alter the way Rapacinos relate to their khipus.
About a year ago, villagers say, a loudspeaker replaced the town crier. And a new cellphone tower enables Rapacinos to communicate more easily with the outside world. Those changes are largely welcome. More menacing are the rustlers in pickup trucks who steal llamas, cattle and vicuñas — Andean members of the camel family prized for their wool.
The most immediate threat to the khipus may be from Rapaz’s tilt toward Protestantism, a trend witnessed in communities large and small throughout Latin America. About 20 percent of Rapacino families already belong to new Protestant congregations, which view rituals near the khipus as pagan sacrilege.
Far from Rapaz, the pursuit to decipher khipus faces its own challenges, even as new discoveries suggest that they were used in Andean societies long before the Inca Empire emerged as a power in the 15th century.
Scholars say they lack the equivalent for khipus of a Rosetta Stone, the granite slab whose engravings in Greek were used to decipher ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. Jesuit manuscripts discovered in Naples, Italy, had seemed to achieve something similar for khipus, but are now thought to be forgeries.
In Rapaz, villagers still guard their khipus the way descendants of those in the West might someday protect shreds of the Bible or other documents if today’s civilizations were to crumble.
“They must remain here, because they belong to our people,” said Fidencio Alejo Falcón, 42. “We will never surrender them.”

Andrea Zárate contributed reporting from Lima, Peru.



San Crist�bal De Rapaz Journal - High in the Andes, Guardians of an Inca Mystery - NYTimes.com

-- The MasterFeeds

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

NYTimes: Exclusive Golf Course Is Organic, So Weeds Get In

From The New York Times:

Exclusive Golf Course Is Organic, So Weeds Get In

The Vineyard Golf Club, where President Obama may soon play, is thought to be the U.S.'s only organic course.

http://nyti.ms/bCjFqF


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Monday, August 16, 2010

Environment and Business Clash in Saint-Tropez - NYTimes.com

August 15, 2010

Environment and Business Clash in Saint-Tropez



PARIS — Of all the places to part with fistfuls of money in St.-Tropez, few have more cachet than Le Club 55.
Perched on the white stretches of Pampelonne, one of the Côte d’Azur’s most stunning beaches, Le Club offers a private patch of sand where habitués can pay around $255 a day to rent a couple of lounge chairs with an umbrella and enjoy a light lunch — not including wine.
But that traditional St.-Tropez luxury is in danger of being upended there, and at 27 other clubs and restaurants that have catered for decades to famous Côte d’Azur visitors from Brigitte Bardot to Paris Hilton.
The mayor’s office says the establishments pose a threat to the environment. Officials have proposed dismantling existing beach amenities and shrinking the area allotted for private beaches to protect delicate flora and what officials say are dunes worn down by the crush of manicured feet. As a result, despite the August atmosphere of hedonism, an unusual air of rebellion is stirring in St.-Tropez, with businesses contemplating their first ever “strike.”
“It’s completely stupid — everybody thinks so,” said Patrice de Colmont, the owner of Le Club 55 and a leader of the local fight against the government’s plans.
“If we said buildings in Paris couldn’t be above a certain height you wouldn’t cut off the top of the Eiffel Tower,” Mr. de Colmont said. “Well, this is the Eiffel Tower of the French Riviera.”
The mayor is seeking a compromise, but has not backed down. The town hall at Ramatuelle, where Pampelonne is situated, is planning to open its doors, starting Monday, to receive comments from the public.
“We all want to be here for the long term,” said Guy Martin, the chief of staff for Mayor Roland Bruno. “That’s why we need to make sure there’s a sustainable equilibrium between the environment and the community.”
Like much in France, though, the dispute is not so simple. Opponents of the move claim that it is really an effort to clear the way for big, well-connected companies to move in on the local businesses’ turf. Officials respond that the ruckus being raised by Mr. de Colmont and his colleagues is mostly in defense of their own form of crass commercialism.
French law prohibits private development on public beaches. But decades ago, residents built on Pampelonne by obtaining renewable one-year permits that allowed them to offer “public services,” like Jet Ski rentals and lifeguards, if the construction was dismantled when the contract expired.
If applying annually for permits was a nuisance, it at least protected small business owners, since no large company was willing to put up with the risk of losing a substantial investment, said Carole Balligand, the chairwoman of Save Pampelonne, a group that represents the local businesses that are in danger.
From the government’s perspective, however, all the activity stemming from the permits has hastened the erosion of an important dune on Pampelonne filled with rare native plant species. In 1986, the French Parliament passed a law to restore the area. Four years ago it ordered those in the area to strike a better balance between the environment and commercial activity.
Under the government’s plan, the commercial operators would be allowed on 20 percent of the beach rather than 30 percent, meaning their plots would be reduced to 23 from 28. As for the dune, it would be cordoned off to let nature do its work.
Local people are upset at another proposal, to require commercial beach activities to end on Sept. 1 every year — still the high season — rather than sometime in October, and to allow new businesses that build behind the restored dune 10-year operating permits. That, they suspect, is less about protecting the environment than attracting mass vacation companies with deep pockets, like Club Med.
What is more, Mrs. Balligand’s group, after digging up photos from the Allied landing on Pampelonne beach in August 1944, contends that no large dune ever existed. She accuses the government of using environmental arguments as an excuse to bring in bigger businesses.
In summer, about 20,000 people frolic on Pampelonne beach every day. While Paris and Nicky Hilton, Tina Turner, Bono and a constellation of other stars frequent its playground, so have a number of international artists, intellectuals and politicians. Many mix with the coterie of low-key, wealthy local residents whose families were here well before Ms. Bardot put Pampelonne on the map in the 1956 French film “And God Created Woman.”
Before Ms. Bardot, St.-Tropez was more like the Saint-Germain des Prés quarter of 1920s Paris. It was an eclectic beach town that drew few rich people. These days, “the gulf of St.-Tropez is covered with yachts, pretty much all of which are registered in tax havens,” Mr. Martin said.
The prospect of losing those clients and their free-flowing cash has Mr. de Colmont alarmed. His private beach plot is small, but it has been the stuff of legend ever since Ms. Bardot and the director Roger Vadim came during filming to seek food at what was then an outdoor dining table set up by Mr. de Colmont’s father for his family.
Last Thursday, Mr. de Colmont called off his planned one-day strike, he said, after the mayor’s office gathered him and other residents to discuss the matter “more reasonably.” But he is not ruling out a shutdown if the government digs in.
As he presses his fight, Mr. de Colmont will have at least one heavy hitter at his side. “Joan Collins left me a message the other day to ask what she could do to support me,” he said. “She has proposed to come give her point of view” to the mayor.
Such celebrities, of course, attract plenty of gawkers. Mr. de Colmont wants to be sure that the riffraff doesn’t get out of control, scaring the big spenders away. On a recent day, he said, 300 clients paid to use the amenities on Le Club 55’s plot, while only 100 people sat on the larger public beach next to his. “I would prefer,” he said, “not to have Club Med people crowding out those who are already here.”

Environment and Business Clash in Saint-Tropez - NYTimes.com

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Japan, Checking on Its Oldest, Finds Many Gone - NYTimes.com

“Living until 150 years old is impossible in the natural world,” said Akira Nemoto, director of the elderly services section of the Adachi ward office. “But it is not impossible in the world of Japanese public administration.”

Seems like the Japanese like a little pension fraud as well....


Japan, Checking on Its Oldest, Finds Many Gone




TOKYO — Japan has long boasted of having many of the world’s oldest people — testament, many here say, to a society with a superior diet and a commitment to its elderly that is unrivaled in the West.
That was before the police found the body of a man thought to be one of Japan’s oldest, at 111 years, mummified in his bed, dead for more than three decades. His daughter, now 81, hid his death to continue collecting his monthly pension payments, the police said.
Alarmed, local governments began sending teams to check on other elderly residents. What they found so far has been anything but encouraging.
A woman thought to be Tokyo’s oldest, who would be 113, was last seen in the 1980s. Another woman, who would be the oldest in the world at 125, is also missing, and probably has been for a long time. When city officials tried to visit her at her registered address, they discovered that the site had been turned into a city park, in 1981.
To date, the authorities have been unable to find more than 281 Japanese who had been listed in records as 100 years old or older. Facing a growing public outcry, the country’s health minister, Akira Nagatsuma, said officials would meet with every person listed as 110 or older to verify that they are alive; Tokyo officials made the same promise for the 3,000 or so residents listed as 100 and up.
The national hand-wringing over the revelations has reached such proportions that the rising toll of people missing has merited daily, and mournful, media coverage. “Is this the reality of a longevity nation?” lamented an editorial last week in The Mainichi newspaper, one of Japan’s biggest dailies.
Among those who officials have confirmed is alive: a 113-year-old woman in the southern prefecture of Saga believed to be the country’s oldest person, at least for now.
The soul-searching over the missing old people has hit this rapidly graying country — and tested its sense of self — when it is already grappling with overburdened care facilities for the elderly, criminal schemes that prey on them and the nearly daily discovery of old people who have died alone in their homes.
For the moment, there are no clear answers about what happened to most of the missing centenarians. Is the country witnessing the results of pension fraud on a large scale, or, as most officials maintain, was most of the problem a result of sloppy record keeping? Or was the whole sordid affair, as the gloomiest commentators here are saying, a reflection of disintegrating family ties, as an indifferent younger generation lets its elders drift away into obscurity?
“This is a type of abandonment, through disinterest,” said Hiroshi Takahashi, a professor at the International University of Health and Welfare in Tokyo. “Now we see the reality of aging in a more urbanized society where communal bonds are deteriorating.”
Officials here tend to play down the psychosocial explanations. While some older people may have simply moved into care facilities, they say, there is a growing suspicion that, as in the case of the mummified corpse, many may already have died.
Officials in the Adachi ward of Tokyo, where the body was found, said they grew suspicious after trying to pay a visit to the man, Sogen Kato. (They were visiting him because the man previously thought to be Tokyo’s oldest had died and they wished to congratulate Mr. Kato on his new status.)
They said his daughter gave conflicting excuses, saying at first that he did not want to meet them, and then that he was elsewhere in Japan giving Buddhist sermons. The police moved in after a granddaughter, who also shared the house, admitted that Mr. Kato had not emerged from his bedroom since about 1978.
In a more typical case that took place just blocks from the Mr. Kato’s house, relatives of a man listed as 103 years old said he had left home 38 years ago and never returned. The man’s son, now 73, told officials that he continued to collect his father’s pension “in case he returned one day.”
“No one really suspects foul play in these cases,” said Manabu Hajikano, director of Adachi’s resident registration section. “But it is still a crime if you fail to report a disappearance or death in order to collect pension money.”
Some health experts say these cases reflect strains in a society that expects children to care for their parents, instead of placing them in care facilities. They point out that longer life spans mean that children are called upon to take care of their elderly parents at a time when the children are reaching their 70s and are possibly in need of care themselves.
In at least some of the cases, local officials have said, an aged parent disappeared after leaving home under murky circumstances. Experts say that the parents appeared to have suffered from dementia or some other condition that made their care too demanding, and the overburdened family members simply gave up, failing to chase after the elderly people or report their disappearance to the police.
While the authorities have turned up a large number of missing centenarians, demographic experts say they doubt that discoveries of the living or the dead would have much impact on Japan’s vaunted life expectancy figures; the country has the world’s highest life expectancy — nearly 83 years — according to the World Bank. But officials admit that Japan may have far fewer centenarians than it thought.
“Living until 150 years old is impossible in the natural world,” said Akira Nemoto, director of the elderly services section of the Adachi ward office. “But it is not impossible in the world of Japanese public administration.”


Japan, Checking on Its Oldest, Finds Many Gone - NYTimes.com

-- The MasterFeeds

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Tyler Brûlé - Behold brilliant Beirut



Behold brilliant Beirut

By Tyler Brûlé
Published: August 14 2010 00:47 | Last updated: August 14 2010 00:47
The last week has been something of a hot, hazy blur. When I landed in Beirut on Wednesday, the air over the city was so thick and heavy that it felt as if I were being pushed downwards through the soft, mushy pavement. Still, a super-humid evening didn’t stop us (me, Mom, Mats, my magazine colleagues Todd, Bruce and new friend Moritz) from co-hosting a party at Papercup in Mar Mikhael, commandeering a wonderful new Armenian restaurant a few streets away and then enjoying the crowd, fire-show, sounds, sparklers and impossibly large bottles of vodka at Skybar above Beirut’s harbour.
While the quick stop in Lebanon was mostly work, it also marked the official handover of the flat I fell for back in May. If you caught the dispatch from my trip in early June, you’ll recall that I found two flats in the Ashrafieh district but hadn’t managed to secure the one I wanted before I departed.
Fortunately, I now have the keys to the better of the two and have set to work scouring the city’s market, galleries, antique dealers and rubbish heaps for choice pieces to populate the terrace, reception rooms and hotel-size kitchen. My friend Kamal bundled me into his car before I left to select the essentials for the kitchen, and assured me that anything I couldn’t find in the country could be easily made. “Whatever you want,” he said. “Furniture for the terrace, deep sofas for lounging, bed-linen, lamps, storage units. We still know how to make things here.”
Aside from Lebanon’s winning sense of hospitality and an anything-goes lifestyle (elements that should be at the cornerstone of its tourism campaign), it’s the rich culture of craft that makes it a potentially interesting case-study for a country at the cross-roads of Europe and Asia.
A lack of investment in basic infrastructure over the past three decades has turned into a bonus for everyone from book publishers to furniture designers. A young woman who has a stationery business is able to print and hone her craft in the suburbs of Beirut on machines that were long ago replaced by digital equipment in more developed economies. The final product is luxurious and wonderfully tactile – and also incredibly rare.
Across town in Hamra, a furniture gallery that deals in pieces from Jean Royère has started adapting the designs of the respected French furniture designer from the 1950s and launched a local production facility. Boomerang-style tables that have been altered for 21st-century living are covered in plastic laminates that would have been consigned to the bin decades ago but are still found in warehouses around the country. Indeed, small-scale Lebanese furniture manufacturers are now winning jobs that might have otherwise gone to factories in China.
If Turkey is focused on going for volume when it comes to manufacturing clothes, furniture and houseware, then “Made in Lebanon” could become a mark of quality for ceramics, tailored garments, printing, food, even footwear. Lina Audi’s Liwan brand, L’Artisan du Liban, Orient 499, the couture of Rabih Kayrouz, the rustic leather goods of Johnny Farah, Rouba Mourtada’s stationery and Karim Bekdaches’ storage systems are all examples of businesses that combine Lebanese design talent with homegrown manufacturing.
The country has plenty to fix, but a focus on encouraging a culture of craft, which not only bolsters the small and medium-sized business sector but also maintains a sustainable base that allows for a differentiated tourism experience, is a good place to start building. It also puts Beirut in a unique position across the whole region (save for Syria perhaps) by offering up products and experiences that are wholly original.
As more restaurants pop up and hotels start to emerge from the ruins of derelict buildings, Lebanon will need to decide what type of tourists it wants to attract and how it will get them there. For the moment, and not through engineering, it’s a premium destination that’s avoided the hen-party and stag-weekend set or package tours in search of cheap buffets.
Two weeks ago, the government announced an expansion plan that will see the airport almost double in size. As there seemed to be some excitement about building an infrastructure to support big A380s, the government and Lebanon Inc would be wise also to ensure that they support their home-grown carrier MEA (Middle East Airlines) – something of a national treasure. One of my most memorable flights was the first time I flew with them in 1991 from Heathrow to Beirut where the service included a Sunday roast trolley – complete with huge carving utensils and chic flight attendants who smoked in the galley. On my MEA flight to Abu Dhabi last Sunday, I was greeted by an elegant woman with a French twist, deep tan and smoky voice who looked like a poster lady for the “golden age of flying” – and she was. All that was missing was the cigarette.
Tyler Brûlé is editor-in-chief of Monocle
More columns at www.ft.com/brule

FT.com / Columnists / Tyler Brûlé - Behold brilliant Beirut

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Shackleton Scotch Freed From Antarctic Ice - Science News - redOrbit


Shackleton Scotch Freed From Antarctic Ice




A crate of Scotch that once belonged to famous explorer Ernest Shackleton was opened Friday, several months after having been rescued from a 100-plus old prison of Antarctic ice.


The crate, which contained 11 bottles of 'Mackinlay's Rare Old Highland Malt Whisky', was discovered along with four others in Shackleton's hut at Cape Royds on Ross Island in 2006. The famed traveler brought the liquor with him during his 1907 Nimrod expedition, according to the AP, and the cases were ultimately discovered encased in ice under the floor boards of the hut.


The liquor inside, however, had not frozen, despite temperatures of -22 Fahrenheit.
The Scotch, which was defrosted at the Canterbury Museum in Christchurch on New Zealand's South Island, will eventually be returned to Shackleton's hut and preserved "for its historic significance," according to the AP. However, samples will be sent to Whyte and Mackay, the distiller who took over Mackinlay's operations, so that they can attempt to duplicate the brew.


"The original recipe for the Scotch no longer exists," notes the Associated Press (AP).
The whiskey was first discovered, along with a couple of crates of brandy, back in 2006 by a team that included Al Fastier of the New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust. However, it could not be extracted until January of this year because it was too deeply encased in ice.
"To our amazement we found five crates, three labeled as containing whiskey and two labeled as containing brandy," Fastier told French news agency AFP earlier this year. Also included along with the Mackinlay's Scotch were crates of brandy labeled Chas McKinlay & Co and The Hunter Valley Distillery Limited Allandale.


Whyte and Mackay master blender Richard Paterson previously called it "a gift from the heavens for whisky lovers… If the contents can be confirmed, safely extracted and analyzed, the original blend may be able to be replicated. Given the original recipe no longer exists, this may open a door into history."


Ten of the bottles were reportedly perfectly intact, save for the labels, according to an August 13 press release from the New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust.


"It's been a delicate and slow process but we are delighted to be able to confirm that the crate contains intact bottles of whisky," Lizzie Meek, the Antarctic Heritage Trust Artifacts Manager at the Heritage Trust, said in the press release.
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Image Caption: Crates of Mackinlay’s whisky. Credit: nzaht.org
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