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Monday, October 31, 2011

Some Guy Threw 4,800 Messages in a Bottle Into the Atlantic Ocean and Got 3,100 Responses from All Over the World

Cool or just a bunch of junk?

Some Guy Threw 4,800 Messages in a Bottle Into the Atlantic Ocean and Got 3,100 Responses from All Over the World

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Interpol confirms Libyan treasure was looted | The Art Newspaper

The Benghazi Trea­s­ure comprises 364 gold coins, 2,433 silver coins, 4,484 bronze coins, 306 pieces of jewellery and 43 other antiquities, including stat­ues.

The Benghazi Treasure is the name given to a collection of the most important antiquities that were excavated in Cyrenaica after the first world war, when Italy occupied Libya following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

Interpol confirms Libyan treasure was looted

The largely forgotten cache of thousands of antiquities was taken by thieves months after the city was seized by rebel forces

By Martin Bailey | From issue 229, November 2011
Published online 31 Oct 11 (News)

Among the missing treasures, clockwise from top: an embossed thin gold plate depicting a battle, golden and wrought silver foils with human heads in profile, and a figure of Nikai

Among the missing treasures, clockwise from top: an embossed thin gold plate depicting a battle, golden and wrought silver foils with human heads in profile, and a figure of Nikai

benghazi. Interpol has alerted police forces to the theft of the so-called “Benghazi Trea­s­ure”, which was stolen from a bank vault in the city on 25 May. The theft of thousands of antiquities went unpublicised at the time, some three months after rebel forces had seized Benghazi from troops loyal to the late Muammar Gaddafi.

The looted treasure, which includes Greek and Roman gold, had been stored in two padlocked second world war military chests and a safe. It has never been displayed in Libya and its existence had been virtually forgotten, except by specialist archaeologists.

Francesco Bandarin, Unesco’s head of culture, working with Libyan archaeologists, is ­det­ermined to hunt down the treasure; Interpol has alerted 188 national police forces. Inform­ation about the loss is scarce, but there is some new evidence, based on research by Italian archaeologist Serenella Ensoli, the Naples-based director of the Italian Arch­aeological Mission to Cyrene.

The antiquities had been deposited for safekeeping in the vaults of the National Com­mercial Bank in Omar al-Mukhtar Street, in the centre of Benghazi. The city was the main base of anti-Gaddafi rebels, who seized power there last February.

On 25 May, the two chests and the safe were apparently moved out of the vault, without proper authorisation, and sent to another bank building near the Hotel Dujal. Only one of the chests arrived, with the other chest and the safe going missing. To make matters worse, Ensoli suspects that the thieves went through the containers, looting the gold and silver and leaving the lesser material in the remaining chest, which went to the new location.

The Benghazi Treasure is the name given to a collection of the most important antiquities that were excavated in Cyrenaica after the first world war, when Italy occupied Libya following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

The finest items were found in 1917 at the Temple of Artemis in Cyrene, the largest Greek site in Africa, which is east of Beng­hazi. Dating from the fifth and sixth centuries BC, the gold included earrings, embossed heads and a plaque depicting a battle.

Other material came from the Hellenistic Palace of Columns in Ptolemais (between Cyrene and Benghazi), which was excavated from 1937. A third element is the Meliu collection of 2,000 coins.

The Benghazi Trea­s­ure comprises 364 gold coins, 2,433 silver coins, 4,484 bronze coins, 306 pieces of jewellery and 43 other antiquities, including stat­ues. The story of its 20th-century history is only now emerging.

In 1942, when Allied forces were approaching Libya, Italian archaeologists in Benghazi packed up the treasure. Early the following year, they sent it to Rome in the military chests. In May 1944, the chests were moved for safekeeping to the northern city of Cremona and later to Val Brenta, in the Dolomites. After the war, the Libyan finds were returned to Rome and were deposited at the Museo Coloniale.

It was not until 1961 that the collection was finally returned to Libya. A typescript inventory was then compiled, unfortunately without photographs. On its return, the treasure was lodged in a bank vault in Benghazi, and remained there after Gaddafi seized power eight years later. In 1980, further archaeological finds were added to the material deposited at the bank.

Earlier this year, after Libyan rebels established the National Transitional Council in Benghazi, Fadel Ali Mohammed was appointed chairman of the archaeology department. On 2 June, he wrote to the attorney-general, reporting the theft of the treasure. Fadel also wrote to the Italian foreign minister, Franco Frattini, asking for assistance in documenting the treasure. The main problem is that there are no surviving photographs of the thousands of objects, a situation Ensoli describes as “absolutely deplorable”. This will make it difficult to identify pieces should they ever appear on the market.



Interpol confirms Libyan treasure was looted | The Art Newspaper

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Friday, October 28, 2011

In Piedmont, Seasons of Truffles and Barolo - NYTimes.com

Wine

In Piedmont, Seasons of Truffles and Barolo


Vietti
A view over some of the Vietti vineyards in Castiglione Falletto.
ALBA, ITALY — This city in the Piedmont region of northwestern Italy takes gastronomy very seriously.

Michelin-starred restaurants lurk around every street corner. The Slow Food movement, which champions the use of local produce and time-honored cooking techniques, has its headquarters in the nearby town of Bra. The aroma of toasted hazelnuts and chocolate, from a Ferrero Rocher plant on the edge of Alba, hangs over the region.

The interest in food grows especially intense in the fall, harvest season for the Alba white truffle. For a few weeks in October and November, these pungent-smelling tubers, unearthed from the forests around Alba by wizened hunters with specially trained dogs, are sold in a market in the old city center. There, the truffles are prodded, sniffed and haggled over before changing hands at breathtaking prices.

The fall is also the season of Barolo, the great wine produced in hillside vineyards from a cluster of villages southwest of Alba: La Morra, Castiglione Falletto, Serralunga d’Alba, Monforte d’Alba and Barolo itself. As truffle season arrives, so do the autumn mists that are said to have given the late-harvested Barolo grape variety, nebbiolo, its name. (“Nebbia” means fog in Italian.)

Like food, wine arouses passions here. For more than two decades, the so-called Barolo wars raged, pitting traditional producers of the wine against modernizing winemakers in what each side saw as a struggle for the soul of Barolo. Fortunately, a cease-fire finally seems to be taking hold.

What was there to fight over? Barolo is one of the most complex, aromatic and delicious red wines in the world. At its best, it has the delicate fruit of Burgundy, the age-worthiness of Bordeaux and a broad register of flavors, from cherries to dried flowers to eucalyptus to Darjeeling tea, that is entirely its own.

Yet Barolo is also one of the hardest wines to handle, for winemakers and consumers alike.
Traditionally, Barolos were made in a way that emphasized the tannins, the astringent, mouth-puckering substances that give serious red wines their structure, but that also make them difficult to enjoy before they have spent many years in a cellar. The problem with some old-school Barolos was that by the time the tannins softened, the fruit and the color had faded, robbing the drinker of any pleasure.

“People talk about all these great old Barolos from the 1960s, the 1970s, the 1980s,” said Fabio Fantino, the winemaker at the Conterno Fantino estate, which was founded by his father and a partner. “But in any of those decades there are only two or three vintages that you can still drink. We have only one life to drink wine.”

To try to make their wines more approachable, the so-called modernists imported new methods from France. They shortened the period of maceration, in which the skins from crushed grapes soak in the juice, as well as the fermentation. They encouraged the wines to undergo a second fermentation, which converts harsh malic acid to gentler lactic acid. And they started aging their wines in small oak barrels, known as barriques, bucking the local tradition that favored giant casks.

These and other changes produced wines that are softer, rounder and deeper in flavor and color. But some winemakers overdid things, producing wines that were virtually indistinguishable from other plush, oaky reds, like California cabernet sauvignon. A number of winemakers added grapes like cabernet or merlot to their nebbiolo; under Italian wine regulations, this cost them the right to call the resulting wines Barolo.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Trademark-Happy Couple Try To Cash In On Occupy Wall Street | The Daily Feed | Minyanville.com

GOD bless America!
Trademark-Happy Couple Try to Cash In on Occupy Wall Street
DailyFeed
What may go down as one of the most ironic trademarks in US patent history is currently in the process of review. Sure, we've seen shameless profiteering as recently as Disney's bid (although later withdrawn) to seek the rights to brand the term "SEAL Team 6," after the Navy unit that killed Osama bin Laden, in order to stamp it on its snow globes. But it's a new level of travesty to capitalize on something that is, at its very core, anti-capitalist.  

According to The Smoking Gun, Long Island, New York couple Robert and Diane Maresca havefiled an application with the US Patent and Trademark Office to, essentially, occupy the Occupy Wall Street movement. While vendors have been cashing in on the demonstrations by peddling "Occupy Wall Street" merchandise at all corners of Zuccotti Park, the Marescas are the first to attempt to turn the movement into a "global brand."

If the couple gets its way, sunbathing sympathizers will be carrying Occupy Wall Street™ beach bags on their next trip to the coast and popping open their Occupy Wall Street™ umbrellas if it rains.

An iron worker by trade, 44-year-old Robert Maresca proved he also has a "practical business side" with this potentially lucrative trademark. The $975 application fee could be the best investment he's ever made.

If you're thinking about picking up "We Are The 99%," it's already spoken for by a guy from Brooklyn. Rest assured, Maresca already checked.

As far as seeing an anti-occupy Occupy Wall Street protest materialize, well, let's just say the movement already has its demonstration dance card filled. This trademark issue will have to get in line behind abolishing the death penalty and shutting down Fox News.

(See also: Capitalism Sprouts Around Occupy Wall Street)


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Monday, October 24, 2011

At Waldorf School in Silicon Valley, Technology Can Wait - NYTimes.com

A Silicon Valley School That Doesn’t Compute

October 22, 2011
NY Times
LOS ALTOS, Calif. — The chief technology officer of eBay sends his children to a nine-classroom school here. So do employees of Silicon Valley giants like Google, Apple, Yahoo and Hewlett-Packard.
But the school’s chief teaching tools are anything but high-tech: pens and paper, knitting needles and, occasionally, mud. Not a computer to be found. No screens at all. They are not allowed in the classroom, and the school even frowns on their use at home.
Schools nationwide have rushed to supply their classrooms with computers, and many policy makers say it is foolish to do otherwise. But the contrarian point of view can be found at the epicenter of the tech economy, where some parents and educators have a message: computers and schools don’t mix.
This is the Waldorf School of the Peninsula, one of around 160 Waldorf schools in the country that subscribe to a teaching philosophy focused on physical activity and learning through creative, hands-on tasks. Those who endorse this approach say computers inhibit creative thinking, movement, human interaction and attention spans.
The Waldorf method is nearly a century old, but its foothold here among the digerati puts into sharp relief an intensifying debate about the role of computers in education.
“I fundamentally reject the notion you need technology aids in grammar school,” said Alan Eagle, 50, whose daughter, Andie, is one of the 196 children at the Waldorf elementary school; his son William, 13, is at the nearby middle school. “The idea that an app on an iPad can better teach my kids to read or do arithmetic, that’s ridiculous.”
Mr. Eagle knows a bit about technology. He holds a computer science degree from Dartmouth and works in executive communications at Google, where he has written speeches for the chairman, Eric E. Schmidt. He uses an iPad and a smartphone. But he says his daughter, a fifth grader, “doesn’t know how to use Google,” and his son is just learning. (Starting in eighth grade, the school endorses the limited use of gadgets.)
Three-quarters of the students here have parents with a strong high-tech connection. Mr. Eagle, like other parents, sees no contradiction. Technology, he says, has its time and place: “If I worked at Miramax and made good, artsy, rated R movies, I wouldn’t want my kids to see them until they were 17.”
While other schools in the region brag about their wired classrooms, the Waldorf school embraces a simple, retro look — blackboards with colorful chalk, bookshelves with encyclopedias, wooden desks filled with workbooks and No. 2 pencils.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Why Airline Stewardesses Aren't Hot Anymore

Why Airline Stewardesses Aren't Hot Anymore

pan am
Glen Whitman asks why there are fewer startlingly beautiful flight attendants any more:

For an economist, the most fascinating aspect of Pan Am is the highly attractive flight attendants -- or rather, stewardesses, since the show is set in the early 1960s. If you're young enough, you might think that's just TV. But I'm just old enough to remember flying in the 1970s, and I recall stewardesses who really were, in fact, hot. Okay, I was too young to understand the concept of "hot" -- but I was definitely aware that I was being attended by some very pretty young women.

Not so anymore. Flight attendants aren't necessarily unattractive now, but they're no more fetching than people in any other service profession that doesn't get tips. And what's changed? In a word, deregulation.

Prior to airline deregulation, which was passed in 1978 and completed over the next few years, airfares had been set by the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB). For many routes, those airfares were simply too high. As predicted by a simple supply-and-demand model, airlines were willing to offer more flights at these high prices than customers were willing to buy. Under normal market conditions, that would lead to falling prices. But since the airlines legally could not compete on price, they competed on quality instead. They offered better service, better food, and... wait for it... more attractive stewardesses.

When deregulation came along, however, it became apparent that as much as male customers might have enjoyed the eye candy, they weren't willing to pay for it. Higher quality might seem like a good thing, but it's really only good if the benefits exceeds the cost. More attractive staff can command higher wages. The airlines could have continued to pay them, if the higher quality had attracted more customers. But as it turns out, most people just wanted to get where they were going, fast and cheap. Deregulation fueled a democratization of air travel, making what once was a luxury item available to nearly everyone. The number of people who fly at least once a year has more than doubled since 1978, while the population has grown by about 40%. These new customers have flocked to the airlines with no-frills or low-frills service, a trend that continues to this day (JetBlue, anyone?).

As a libertarianish economics blogger, I would love if this story were true. But I'm skeptical. Stewardesses used to be subject to all sorts of extremely strict rules: they couldn't be married, couldn't gain weight, couldn't get pregnant, couldn't be much over 30. If you fire everyone who violates those rules, then yes, you will select for a much "hotter" group of women than the current crop.

You could probably still get a large group of young, hot women to take a job that involves free flights all around the world. But those jobs are no longer open, because airlines stopped firing all the old, fat parents. Thanks to a combination of feminist shaming, union demands, and anti-discrimination laws. Moreover, once they no longer fired people over a certain age, union seniority rules immediately started selecting for older workers, in two ways: layoffs are usually last hired first fired, and older people have a lot of sunk costs in terms of pension accrual and seniority, so they're less likely to leave. If you fly a major airline, you'll notice very few stewardesses in their twenties.

In the 1970s, these trends would have been playing out; most stewardesses were still young. Now they're lifers. Any new airline can create a better looking workforce by hiring good-looking workers. But it can't guarantee that they'll stay hot. When the workforce is unionized and in it for the . . . pardon the pun . . . long haul, eventually you end up with what we've got: a workforce composed mostly of older and not particularly attractive people. Mirroring the larger American workforce.

You can argue that deregulation hastened this by making price discrimination fiercer, so that there were more layoffs, and airlines were less able to offer a wage premium that would attract better looking workers. But I suspect this played a minor role--less important than other trends, like the mass movement of women into the workforce. Fewer women were looking for a job that would let them travel for a few years before they got married, and there were better alternatives for a long-term career. Moreover, the changing workplace meant there were more female business travelers on expensive tickets--and they usually don't care whether the stewardess has a nice rack.

If you look at the national airlines in countries where anti-discrimination rules and/or unions are less powerful, like Qatar or Asia, you'll notice that they spend a lot of time here advertising . . . their hot stewardesses. (Also their lay-flat seats. But don't forget the super-hot stewardesses). That's not because they're in an oligopoly. It's because the domestic labor market lets them get away with it, and ours doesn't.

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Why Airline Stewardesses Aren't Hot Anymore

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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Here Comes Falafel : Israelis introduce falafel to the Chinese

Israelis introduce falafel to the Chinese

Here Comes Falafel

GoChengdoo: Chengdu & Sichuan living, business, travel

http://gochengdoo.com/en/blog/item/2441/here_comes_falafel
October 16, 2011
*
Israelis Ariel Wakstein, 29, and Gal Finezilber didn't have any extraordinary plans when they were presented with the opportunity to start a business venture in China. Wakstein had been studying Chinese medicine in Chengdu for the past four years; Finezilber was working as a sous chef in Israel. After Wakstein's in-law, a restaurant manager, visited Chengdu, he proposed the pair open the city's first falafel stand. Two months later, they're feeding between 150 and 200 customers per day. And now? They're planning to turn Chengdu into a falafel feeding frenzy. And then, the world. Just as soon as they open their second stand.
Why did you choose falafel instead of something else?
Gal: Falafel is Israeli's traditional food.
Ariel: Israeli's national food. Because Israel is not an old country, so we look at it as a regional food. Falafel exists for at least 2,000 years that we know, but to put it in the pita, with the salad and everything as sort of a sandwich, is more of an Israeli thing. And that's what we wanted to bring it here. And also the local people like things that are deep-fried. It's not strange or a turn-off for them. It's very popular in Israel so it's an easy connection for us. The falafel stands in Israel are exactly this style.
Gal: Actually this is a bit fancy. In Israel you just have the falafel, and you don't have a menu; it will just say "Falafel," and that's it. But the original way to do it is stand outside the falafel stand, eating the falafel, and the tahini should run down your chin.
Ariel: When it's a good falafel stand, you see people standing around it eating falafels, eating salad, adding tahini to their pita, and it's not so much of a restaurant—at most there could be three or four tables just for comfort.
Gal: It's takeaway food. But it has to be eaten fresh. Chinese sometimes buy it and take it home.
Ariel: It's new for them, so they want to take it and give it to their husband or their wife or their child to try it.
*
So what do the locals think of your falafels?
Ariel: I think it's still new and early to judge how the locals will accept it.
Gal: We did make it spicier for the Sichuan taste. For me it was hard in the beginning. Coming from Eastern Europe, we can't eat spicy food—it's a known thing. So when I first tasted the falafel it was really spicy for me. But I got used to it. So we try to measure the taste to the Sichuan taste. Some of them really like it. Some of them throw it away after a few bites. But when I saw people throw it away after a few bites they just ate the top of the pita—they didn't even get to the falafel.
Ariel: How many people did you see throw it away?
Gal: I saw one.
Ariel: He saw one!
Gal: You know, it really bothers me.
Ariel: We have very warm responses from the Western crowd because I think they're more used to this flavor, and it's easier for us to believe them also. When Chinese tell us they like it I always wonder whether they're just being polite or what. But I had some very good responses from Chinese who are not from Chengdu—people from Taiwan, and Xi'an and Beijing, Hong Kong. I think the locals are curious [when they see two foreigners in the stand]. They see us, they come, they look, they don't really know what it is. They stare at the menu. The common response is "Falafel shi sazi dongxi?" Or "Falafel shi shenme?" "What is falafel?" We hear it all the time.
What's your goal?
Gal: We're hoping to open a chain of restaurants.
Ariel: We're going to be the biggest falafel in the world! Which is not so difficult since if we make it in Chengdu already we'll be bigger than any falafel in Israel, size-wise. We're hoping at first three to five shops and we'll see how it goes. I think Chengdu is not such an easy market to break into. They love their local food.
*
Are you worried about imitators?
Gal: They won't be as good as ours.
Ariel: The falafel recipe is a secret. Also in Israel—the owner knows how to make the falafel, and he makes it at home.
What if it doesn't succeed?
Ariel: My long-term plan is still Chinese medicine. I just hope the falafel will provide some stable income on the side.
Gal: I came here because of the opportunity. I didn't know much about China before I came, I didn't know Chengdu. I knew Shanghai and Beijing. And Hong Kong. That's it. I thought Chengdu was gonna be like a village, a huge village, with dirt everywhere and stuff. So I was amazed when I came here.
Ariel: [sarcastically] You were so right! I think it's an adventure also—we have a chance to make money here, but it's not only that. There's something very exciting in it, and even if it doesn't work out it's still an amazing experience for us.
Gal: And to make people food they don't really know it's really challenging, it's really fun. It's like you're creating something new for them.
Ariel: And it really feels great to see Chinese people enjoying falafel in a pita. I enjoy so much their culture and their food and their Chinese medicine, and their philosophy, so in a way it's paying them back a little bit—even though they're paying me for the falafel.
Falafel Laila Kehua Bei Lu location
Falafel Laila's new second location at Liansheng Xiang/联升巷 (Chunxi Lu) also sells kebab in addition to their regular menu items.
This article was first published in CHENGDOO citylife Magazine, issue 47 ("how to V").
Here Comes Falafel - GoChengdoo: Chengdu & Sichuan living, business, travel

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Manhattan Rents Jump as New Yorkers Stay Put - Bloomberg

Manhattan Rents Jump as New Yorkers Stay Put

Q

Manhattan apartment rents climbed 4.9 percent in the third quarter from a year earlier as tenants opted to renew leases in a tightening market, leaving home- seekers to compete for fewer vacancies.

The median effective rent, or what tenants pay after landlord-sponsored incentives, increased to $2,970 a month from $2,831 a year earlier, according to a report by appraiser Miller Samuel Inc.and broker Prudential Douglas Elliman Real Estate. New leases declined 6.9 percent to 7,998, and the number of listings on the market dropped 1.9 percent to 4,605.

Stricter mortgage-lending standards and weak consumer confidenceare limiting demand for home purchases, leading to increased competition for rentals, according to Jonathan Miller, president of New York-based Miller Samuel. Tenants are staying put as rents rise and a limited supply of three- and four- bedroom apartments prevents them from trading up, he said.

"Their options have become more limited," Miller said in telephone interview. "You find more tightness as you move up in size, both in terms of what's available and the jump in cost."

Three-bedroom apartments commanded a median $6,295 a month before concessions, a 20 percent increase, and new rentals of units that size declined 35 percent to 327, the report showed.

Read the rest of the story here: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-10-13/manhattan-apartment-rents-jump-as-more-new-yorkers-stay-put.html

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Where would you rather be?

Where would you rather be?

Tyler Brule FT.com

A couple of days in Rio or São Paulo can work wonders for anyone feeling they're about to lose their groove

f you reside in the northern hemisphere and feel you're about to come down with a terrible case of the autumn blues mixed with an attack of the economic shakes then there's a very simple, effective prescription – book a ticket to Brazil. Sunny personalities, fine hospitality and booming economyaside, a couple of days in Rio or São Paulo can work wonders for anyone feeling they're about to lose their groove.

If you live in Perm or Chennai or Chengdu and are about to start rattling out an e-mail in defence of your motherland, save your energy. First, you'll be waging an argument with a fierce Brazil fan and not a big booster of Russia, India, or China. Second, you'll have to ask yourself – who is the strongest soft superpower? Third, you'll have to be very honest with yourself and recognise that you may be embarking on a futile debate.

Without even trying I can list at least 20 brands, personalities, establishments and forces I love about Brazil. From the ground up I like the Made in Brazil pride of Havaianas flip-flops (they've now done Japanese-style socks so you can wear them like a good German or Kyotoite), neighbourhood street-markets on a Sunday, the kiosks along Ipanema, the simplicity of the sunga (the Brazilian version of a pair of Speedos), the functional style of the VW Brasilia, the architecture of modern talents Isay Weinfeld and Marcio Kogan, the restaurants and hotels of Rogerio Fasano, Livraria la Vila bookstores, Piaui magazine, the cool sounds of Barbara Mendes, Bebel Gilberto, Taryn Szpilman, Marcela Mangabeira, Marcelo Rezende and Liz Menezes, the D Dock News magazine store in São Paulo, the furniture of Sergio Rodrigues, Rio's jolly mayor Eduardo Paes and the aircraft of Embraer.

With Russia, India and China combined I'm struggling to come up with three. I like Air India's iconic maharajah mascot but I don't want to fly the airline. I like Russian pickles but I have a suspicion that they probably all come from Georgia.

As for China? It's tough, in part because I still haven't been. While I keep trying to get there for business reasons, it's yet to happen. Part of the problem is that I'm always alarmed by meetings (these take place in Hong Kong) and conference calls that suggest I'll need to do things the "Chinese way". When I ask what exactly a potential client means by the "Chinese way" I'm lectured about having to be sensitive to Chinese culture and that any work I might undertake in China has to have a serious appreciation of Chinese history and tradition. As these discussions frequently involve issues about design and architecture I'm often left wondering why I've even been contacted in the first place when the people sitting in Dalian know I'm in London, that Brûlé isn't a name from Sichuan province and I'm not big on red lacquer, jade or snorting dragons.

Several months ago I decided it was time to make amends and open a Monocle shop in Beijing. I was quite excited about the concept until I was informed that we wouldn't be able to sell our magazine in Beijing as it required a special licence. We still opened the shop, but visitors are only allowed to buy our other merchandise and are only permitted to browse through the magazine. Need I say more?

While I was in São Paulo last week, our magazine was selling briskly – for £22 ($35) a copy and no one was asking us to pay for a licence. When I asked a kiosk owner if we shouldn't work on lowering the price he said Brazilian consumers didn't really care about the price. "If they like it, they buy it. People are hungry to find out about opportunities around the world," he explained. "That's why we sell out of the FT, Monocle and The Economist. We're on a shopping spree."

While much is made of the Chinese shopping boom and high spending Russians, it's the Brazilians that get hotel managers and managers of airline revenue excited. "I don't really know where the rich Chinese stay as they don't stay with us," a hotel general manager in Milan recently told me. "The Brazilians are a whole other story. They check-in, they spend and they're fun. They're now the highest spenders per night across our entire group."

While Brazilians are on a spending spree abroad, they'd be wise to invest a little more at home. Social issues and the associated security problems need to be tackled, creaking infrastructures in São Paulo and Rio need to be addressed urgently and then there are the logistical challenges that come with airports and public transport networks that are well past their sell-by dates. As Beijing breaks ground on a nine-runway airport, the federal and state governments in Brazil are still dithering about how to tackle the country's growing aviation sector and what shape it should take.

Security and transport issues aside, if I was going to pack up and head for greener pastures it would most definitely involve a boarding pass with the airport designation GRU or GIG printed in bold.

Tyler Brûlé is editor-in-chief of Monocle magazine

tyler.brule@ft.com



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Happy countries, good business

Tyler Brule's take on the enjoyable places to do business.
Happy countries, good business - FT.com

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Pioneering Tiger Dies in South African Reserve

This is a great project. It is an unfortunate loss, but as the comment notes, it is a testament to the project's success in rewilding the South China Tiger.


Pioneering Tiger Dies in South African Reserve
TigerLi Blog
Sept 26, Laohu Valley Reserve, Free State, South Africa

Save China’s Tigers is deeply saddened to announce the death of a South China Tiger under its care in the evening of September 17.

An adult male tiger broke through a gate of adjoining tiger camps to attack another adult male but was subsequently killed by the second male.

Both tigers were part of a decade-long conservation project to rewild and breed critically endangered South China tigers before returning them to protected nature reserves in China.

While feeding some tigers, staff heard loud roaring and growls from another tiger camp. Rushing to inspect, staff found one large male tiger had another male pinned down to the ground and was holding him by the throat. They immediately started shouting and blowing vehicle horns to no avail. They then entered the camp in a truck and drove off the other tiger, separating him into another camp.

The pinned tiger, named ‘327’ was found dead and closer inspection noted throat injuries. The entire skirmish lasted only about five minutes. An assessment of the circumstances reveals that 327 had charged right through electrified gate separating the tigers to attack the other male. Subsequent testing of fencing voltages revealed the fencing was still operating at recommended performance, however, the tiger had broken through the gate area which does not have the added electrified tripwire security. All gates on the reserve had been upgraded with added steel mesh protection after a similar fence-breaking incidence a couple of months earlier, but this was one of the four remaining gates that had not yet been upgraded.

Inspection of the second male showed no obvious injuries except a few scratches. 327 was the only first generation tiger at Laohu who was not put into our rewilding program due to his age when he came to South Africa. It is evident that he was no match for the second male who has gone through rewilding training for six years and acquired superb hunting skills, and who killed 327 easily despite being smaller than him .

An autopsy has been performed by an experienced veterinarian who confirmed 327’s cause of death.

Born in captivity, 327 was four and a half years old when he was flown from China’s Suzhou Zoo in April 2007 as part of the Save China’s Tigers project’s innovative rewilding and breeding program in collaboration with the Chinese government. 327 was named after his stud-book registration number. Hand-reared by human parents, he was extremely habituated to humans. Declining to mate with the two tigresses, he was banished to a natural environment for about a year feeding entirely on natural prey. He thrived and ended up fathering three litters of four healthy cubs (and potentially more to come by another female in October).

Save China’s Tigers Founding Director, Ms. Li Quan said that she and her team are devastated by the loss of the tiger – “With so few South China tigers left, the loss of just one breeding male is profound. I am however glad that he lived half of his life like a wild tiger, instead of perishing in a zoo cage. He died a heroic death, tiger-style.”

Reserve Manager Hein Funck said: “Although I only knew him for a short time, he made a big impression. I’ll miss his cheeky strut and his loving rumble.”

Tigers have complex behaviors and while adult siblings often share a prey in the wild, males will have to fight for territory in order to survive and to mate with females. Laohu Valley Reserve is currently home to eleven tigers where they have been undergoing rewild training and participating in a breeding program that counts 8 healthy second generation tigers born in SA – three of them sired by 327. The IUCN Red Listed South China tiger as critically endangered due to pest elimination campaign in the 60’s and seventies as well as habitat encroachment and loss of prey due to development.

“Despite our best efforts, we were unable to prevent this unfortunate loss. We have learned another lesson - we are now dealing with rewilded and highly intelligent big cats that can hunt and kill efficiently. We will need to improve our safety standards and protocols accordingly. As one scientist noted, in a perverse way this accident shows that the rewilding project has proven to be a success. 327 was a majestic tiger and will be missed by all of us who are fond of him. In spite of these sometimes heart-breaking challenges, we at Save China’s Tigers remain committed to our work of saving the South China tiger from extinction and restoring its ecosystem for generations to come.” said Ms. Quan.

Memorial donations are accepted in honor of 327 at: http://english.savechinastigers.org/donatenow

Or email: info@savechinastigers.org

Detailed report will be available upon request.
Posted by TigerLi at Monday, September 26, 2011

TigerLi Blog: Pioneering Tiger Dies in South African Reserve

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Check it out on The MasterTech Blog

Venezuela’s Caribbean paradise: “expropriate it” says Chávez | beyondbrics | News and views on emerging markets from the Financial Times – FT.com

The last gem that Venezuela had is about to be ruined by the touch of Hugo Chavez ....  Let's hope it comes to nothing like everything else he tries to do....

In his latests  bullish expropriation, Hugo Chávez, Venezuela's president, has announced his intention to seize properties on the white, unspoiled beaches of Los Roques, a Venezuelan archipelago in the Caribbean popular with high-end tourists from Latin America and the world – who often bring their own yachts.

Chávez would like to seize those yachts and use them to ferry visitors between the paradise islands – after having taken over property on them for state tourism.

"I've always said we should nationalise Los Roques," Chávez said in a phone call to state television. "There are some houses that were illegally built. We're going to take them over!" he said, before attacking the "high bourgeoisie" and "international set".

Just north of Venezuela's coast, Los Roques are the crème de la crème of Caribbean beach resorts. Crystal clear waters attract snorkellers and divers while the white sands of deserted beaches are one of the few luxuries on Venezuela's Caribbean coastline, much of which is littered with empty beer cans while a mix of pop and reggae blares out of cars parked on the sand.

However, Venezuela has done very little to attract foreign visitors – despite having, for example, the world's highest waterfall and vast amounts of untouched jungle – perhaps because the economy has long been fuelled by oil, leaving little need for tourists' cash. Rampant crime, strict foreign exchange controls and a lack of travel infrastructure make Venezuela a destination for only the most hardened backpacker.

If Chávez does expropriate Los Roques, it will follow hundreds of similar moves, often against foreign companies. ExxonMobil is currently in battle with the Venezuelan government as it fights for $7 billion it claims it is owed after its assets were seized in 2007. The company has been offered just $1 billion by Venezuelan authorities. More than 400 companies have been expropriated this year alone.

Chávez has returned to his bullish and upbeat self, having completed four rounds of chemotherapy over recent months. Rumours of an urgent hospital visit last week were quickly quashed by the maverick leader as he invited reporters to watch him play baseball outside his Miraflores presidential palace. As campaigning for next October's presidential elections begins in earnest, expect more brash expropriations and PR stunts from the Venezuelan strongman.


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Monday, October 10, 2011

In Peru, A Hunt For Chocolate Like You've Never Tasted It

Farmers dry cacao beans in Uchiza, Peru, a file photo from 2008. Researchers are exploring the wild cacao bounty of Peru's Amazon Basin, part of an effort to jump-start the country's premium cacao industry.
Martin Mejia/AP

Farmers dry cacao beans in Uchiza, Peru, a file photo from 2008. Researchers are exploring the wild cacao bounty of Peru's Amazon Basin, part of an effort to jump-start the country's premium cacao industry.

Christopher Columbus first encountered the cacao bean on his final voyage to the New World some 500 years ago. It took a while for Europeans to embrace the taste — one 16th-century Spanish missionary called the chocolate that indigenous people drank "loathsome."

But by the 17th century, chocolate met sugar, and it became a hit the world over — it's now a $93 billion a year global industry, according to market research firm Mintel.

Centuries and countless foil-wrapped bars later, it turns out we've barely begun to sample the many flavors that nature has to offer to satisfy our chocolate cravings. Scientists from the USDA's Agricultural Research Service recently reported discovering three previously unknown varieties of wild cacao in the Amazon rainforest of Peru.

"It's pretty amazing that this crop that we've been growing [for hundreds of years] — we still know so little about it," Lyndel Meinhardt, who led the ARS research team, tells The Salt.

A line drawing depicts indigenous Americans making an offering of cacao beans and other foods before an altar while a conquistador looks on. Both the Mayans and Aztecs cultivated cacao.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

A line drawing depicts indigenous Americans making an offering of cacao beans and other foods before an altar while a conquistador looks on. Both the Mayans and Aztecs cultivated cacao.

Cacao trees originated in the Amazon. Mesoamericans cultivated cacao for thousands of years, and chocolate was important to both Mayan and Aztec culture. The Spanish introduced the treat from the Americas to the Old World — and added the sugar. Eventually, other European powers wanted in on the action, so they exported cacao trees to their colonies — which is how Africa ended up providing much of the cacao we eat in chocolate today.

But apparently, "some of the fine flavor material wasn't moved in the beginning," says Meinhardt. So the bulk beans grown in Africa represent just a small sampling of the many flavors of cacao. Or as connoisseurs might argue, it's not the really good stuff.

The world's germplasm banks — collections of genetic material that the chocolate industry relies on to preserve cultivars — aren't much help, either. Meinhardt says, "There's not a lot of diversity in the collections."

Meinhardt and his colleagues from ARS aim to change that. So they teamed up with Peru's Instituto de Cultivos Tropicales to document the genetic bounty of wild cacao in the country's Amazon Basin. The haul from expeditions in 2008 and 2009 included 342 wild cacao specimens from 12 watersheds.

Like wine, cacao flavor is influenced by the region where it's grown. The researchers want to catalog Peru's "cacao varietals," analyze their DNA and identify the so-called flavor beans that premium chocolate makers covet. It's all part of an effort to help jump-start Peru's premium chocolate industry (and lure former coca farmers to cacao.)

The big question, of course, is what these chocolate discoveries taste like. Sadly for chocoholics, it will be several years before we get to find out. Cacao is a slow-growing tree; it takes at least five years for a tree to bear pods. So it will be a long while yet before the saplings now growing at a central collection spot in Tarapoto, Peru, yield enough beans to turn into chocolate.

It's possible the taste won't amount to more than a hill of cocoa beans. Then again, several years ago, the Amazon yielded up a wild cacao strain in Bolivia that Swiss chocolate maker Felchlin released in a limited edition bar called Cru Sauvage — or Wild Vintage — for about $60 a pound. Its flavor was apparently so arresting, it inspired one writer to journey into the heart of the Amazon in search of the man who helped bring it to market.


In Peru, A Hunt For Chocolate Like You've Never Tasted It : The Salt : NPR

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