Believe it or not, here's the world predictions for 2009 (written by two psychics, Craig & Jane, submitted to Spirit & Destiny magazine for Jan 2009 issue):

1. There will be an assassination attempt on Barack Obama

2. There will be serious tensions within Europe as the Euro free falls with both France and Germany threatening to leave.

3. Gordon Brown will be forced out of office and an early election will be called.

4. A number of C of E bishops and senior ecclesiastical leaders convert to Catholicism simultaneously threatening to undermine the very existence of the church.

5. There is a world wide rekindling of socialist ideals and a major swing back towards communism in Russia.

6. There will be a major terrorist attack in Dubai

7. There will be a serious pollution problem in France – possibly in Paris with the contamination of the River Seine. Also a dam will burst in the Far East – maybe China.

8. Britain sees many of its top companies go bust and in particular holiday firms, aviation companies and the building companies.

9. Victoria Beckham will become pregnant with a long awaited daughter. And Jordan will announce she’s pregnant too.

10. There will be a knife attack on a top celebrity

So, let's see, people, whether those predictions would happen in 2009 :) Or do you have your own predictions for 2009? Let me know.
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New evidence from ice buried deep in Antarctica shows that today’s greenhouse gas levels are higher than anything the Earth has seen in 650,000 years. A team of scientists collected ice cores from a depth of two miles in a remote area of Antarctica, allowing them a glimpse far back in time.

They found that levels of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide – three gases that trap heat in our atmosphere – have been rising, since the industrial age began, to levels unmatched anywhere in the ice record that now goes back 650,000 years.

James White, a geologist and climate change expert at the University of Colorado, told the New York Times that the findings, published in the journal Science, mean we are likely in for significant global warming. “CO2 and climate are like two people handcuffed to each other,” he said. “Where one goes, the other must follow … Our current CO2 levels appear to be far out of balance with climate when viewed through these results, reinforcing the idea that we have significant modern warming to go.”

Looking for something more environmentally friendly than your typical dinner-and-a-movie date? Here are several green ideas:

Pick up your date in something other than a car

Tandem bicycles or Rollerblades are a fun green way to get around. For bikes, check your local rental shop. Rollerblades can often be found at secondhand stores. Be sure to bring a backpack to carry spare shoes!

Skip the store-bought cut flowers

They are covered in pesticides, and won't last more than a week or two. If you really want to give a token of your affection, consider a potted plant, or flowers picked from your own garden. Or bring some fresh, local, organic produce! Nothing says "love" like strawberries.

Consider an outdoors date

* Long walks along the beach (or lake, or river) are romantic, free, and non-polluting.
* Check out what events are being held by your local state parks. Some parks even offer rental equipment (canoes, skis, etc).
* Think about packing a picnic using Pyrex dishes to store the food, and real plates, silverware, and glasses that can be taken home to be washed afterward. Local food and organic winewill definitely set the mood.

Think about staying in

* No transportation needed!
* Turn the lights off for a candlelit dinner.
* Cook with local, in-season ingredients.
* Pretend you're old-school and woo your date with poetry, or perform a little serenade on that dusty guitar.
* Get a little crazy and play board games!
* If the weather permits and if you have a backyard, get cozy in a two-person hammock.

If you watch what you drink, you could probably cut 450 calories a day out of your life. (Yes, nearly a pound of fat loss a week!) That's what a study from the University of North Carolina found.

When confronted with the growing tide of calories from sweetened beverages, the first response is, “Why not just drink diet soda?” Well, for a few reasons:

Just because diet soda is low in calories doesn't mean it can't lead to weight gain.

A research suggests that consuming sugary-tasting beverages--even if they're artificially sweetened--may lead to a high preference for sweetness overall. That means sweeter (and more caloric) cereal, bread, dessert--everything.

Drink diet soda all day long forces out the healthy beverages you need.

One diet soda a day is fine, but if you're downing five or six cans, that means you're limiting your intake of healthful beverages, particularly water and tea.

There remain some concerns over aspartame, the low-calorie chemical used to give diet sodas their flavor.

Aspartame is 180 times sweeter than sugar, and some animal research has linked consumption of high amounts of the sweetener to brain tumors and lymphoma in rodents. The FDA maintains that the sweetener is safe, but reported side effects include dizziness, headaches, diarrhea, memory loss, and mood changes. Bottom line: Diet soda does you no good, and it might just be doing you wrong.

Whoa, still think to drink diet soda?


Israeli fighter jets fired at Gaza from morning to evening, spreading fear and chaos throughout the strip.

The target of the strikes was Hamas infrastructure - security compounds, government buildings and police stations.

Most of the dead were policemen, including the Hamas chief of police, but Gaza is one of the most overcrowded territories in the world. Wherever Hamas operates, civilians live and work close by. The dead in Gaza include women and children.

So why is Israel acting now and with such force?

Election looms
Israel's prime minister says that is his objective: to protect Israeli citizens living close to the Gaza border.

To achieve this, his defence minister, Ehud Barak, said Israel would continue, widen and intensify its Gaza operation.

Israel holds parliamentary elections in just over a month's time.

The Israeli public has a generally low opinion about how their government has handled what they call "Hamastan" - Hamas-controlled Gaza.

Obama factor
It is also possible that Israel has decided to act against Hamas now, during the last days of a friendly Bush administration in the United States.

The United States is arguably the only outside power Israel deeply cares about. President-elect Barack Obama is seen in Israel as being more sympathetic to the Palestinians.
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A snorkeller is believed to have been snatched by a shark as he swam last weekend with his son at a beach south of Perth. Witnesses reported seeing a dorsal fin and thrashing in the water before the sea turned red and the man vanished at the scene on Australia's west coast.

Father-of three Brian Guest, 51, who had campaigned for many years for the protection of sharks, had been looking for crabs on yesterday morning with his 24-year-old son when he was attacked about 30 metres from the shore.

Daniel Guest, who was swimming six metres away at the Port Kennedy beach, heard his father's screams but did not see the attack. He raced to shore when he saw blood in the water. His father's shredded wetsuit was found later, and aerial searches spotted a five-metre great white shark swimming in the area.
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Here are six hot career fields you may not have heard of:

Eco Tourism Director
Ecotourism is growing at three times the rate of traditional vacationing, increasing annually up to 30 percent. If you're just preparing for the field, seek an associate's degree in hospitality, travel, or tourism. If you're already aboard, why not train to manage a hotel, bed and breakfast, spa, or resort with a graduate degree in business or hospitality? Top earners in 2007 averaged $83,240 for the year.

Professional Hacker
To get into the field, you'll need more than the hacking skills you tweaked together in your garage. Begin by earning a bachelor's degree in computer science or information technology. The top 50 percent of computer scientists earned between $97,970 and $123,900 in 2007.

Pet Psychologist
As with human patients, pets can be analyzed and taught to act contrary to destructive impulses. To get into the field, you'll need a master's or doctorate degree in psychology, preferably with additional work in zoology and animal behavior. can be upwards of $90,000 a year.

Conservation Consultant
Combine your thirst for conservation with an engineering degree to prepare for this thriving field. The top 50 percent increased in environmental engineers earned between $70,000 and $106,000.

Fashion Consultant/Personal Shopper
Fashion designers and consultants help those who can afford personal attention to transform their image. You can be the one to consult on hair, makeup, and fashion--and then be the one to take your clients shopping. Top earners took home $121,640 on average.

Mobile Experience Architect
The cool streaming videos and eye-popping CD covers that get delivered to the screens of millions of cell phones and PDAs each hour are designed to make you spend money. You'll need to learn about marketing, strategy, and user testing through a degree program in computer science, Web design, or business. Salaries range into six figures.

yahoo!Hot Jobs
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10. Everybody Knows Who Sarah Silverman Is F***ing
The video was forwarded to death and the followup was predictable but damn if they aren't funny.

9. Yes We Can's "Yes We Can" won the election for Obama, if you believe some of the fluffier journalism during the campaign. Tragically, the success of the video led to CNN imprisoning in a hologram for the sake of posterity (video below "Yes We Can").

8. You Can Vote However You Like
Ron Clark Academy's take on T.I.'s "Whatever You Like" was inspired, though not as bi-partisan as it could have been. "McCain's the best candidate/With Palin as his running mate"? That just sounds sarcastic.

7. Tom Cruise On Tom Cruise: Scientologist
Gawker took a risk by posting this video, which is supposed to be for Scientological eyes only, but it eventually made its way on to YouTube. Worth watching for Cruise's declaring, "We are the authorities on the mind."

6. Andy Samberg, King Of YouTube
Was Andy Samberg responsible for YouTube's $1.5 billion sale? Probably not, but he certainly didn't hurt the site's value with "Lazy Sunday" in 2005. Since then, his videos are generally YouTube stars... depending on how long NBC leaves them on the site.

5. Star Wars According To A Three-Year-Old
Good thing she didn't try to explain any of the newer movies. Three-year-olds always miss the nuanced drama of Galactic Senate procedural votes.

4. Corey Won't Take Off His Sunglasses
The Australian teen who threw a huge party at his parents' house while they were away bucked the cliche by being completely unrepentant, profiting from the debacle, and having a pierced nipple.

3. Drunk History
Technically posted a week before 2008, Drunk History made its way around the web early in the year and spawned three subsequent volumes. Michael Cera is sometimes criticized for only having one character, but anyone who's ever read Gore Vidal's Burr knows that Alexander Hamilton really was that awkward.

2. Indian Baby Toss Ritual
Name says it all.

1. O'Reilly Does It Live
It's no surprise that Bill O'Reilly has a temper, but this leaked video from his days at Inside Edition really shows America's newsman to be on a hair trigger (and a fairly puffy hair trigger at that). As the video gained popularity, Stephen Colbert filmed his inevitable parody of Papa Bear.
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ID theft is the fastest-growing crime in the United States, according to authorities. About 10 million people a year find themselves in trouble involving their identity.

In many cases, thieves who take your personal data have a job where they have access to the information. Other sources include bribing someone who has the access, stealing the data from a computer or even a laptop, stealing mail, wallets or bank records, searching trash and one of the most recent trends: phishing.

One of the main tools of identity thieves is your Social Security number. That nine-digit code can give them access to tax records, allow them to open bank and credit card accounts, buy a car or even give your name in an arrest by authorities.

Here are a few tips on how to protect yourself from becoming a victim.
* Don't carry your Social Security card. Leave it in a safe place.

* Order copies of your credit report. You are entitled to a free report every 12 months.

* Shred documents that have personal data, such as bank account statements and credit card applications.

* Place your outgoing mail in postal collection boxes instead of your home mailbox

Tips: What To Do When Your Identity Is Stolen
The Federal Trade Commission offers four tips on what to do if you believe your identity has been stolen.

1. Contact the fraud departments of any one of the three consumer reporting companies to place a fraud alert on your credit report.

2. Close the accounts that you know or believe have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.
3. File a report with your local police or the police in the community where the identity theft took place.
4. File your complaint with the FTC.

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Barbara wants to know how to deal with "you" when it's part of a compound subject or the compound object of a preposition. Should she say, "You and John are invited to the party" or "John and you are invited to the party"?

Barbara should say, "You and John are invited" because all pronouns (except I and me) normally come before the noun in compounds:

Compound subject: She and Bob climbed the steps.
Compound subject: Bob and I climbed the steps.
Compound object: She gave him and John an invitation.
Compound object: She gave John and me an invitation.

Grammar Girl

Here are some things you might have wondered about your penis, but were afraid to ask.

1: Your Penis Does Have a Mind of Its Own
You've probably noticed that your penis often does its own thing. You may remember times when it was completely inappropriate to have an erection; and yet you couldn't wish it away.

It's true that you have less command over your penis than body parts like your arms and legs. That's because the penis answers to a part of the nervous system that's not always under your conscious control. This is called the autonomic nervous system, which also regulates heart rate and blood pressure.

Impulses from the brain during the REM phase of sleep cause erections, whether you're dreaming about sex or about a test you forgot to study for. Heavy lifting or straining to have a bowel movement can also produce an erection.

2: Your Penis May Be a 'Grower' or a 'Show-er'
A penis that doesn't gain much length with an erection has become known as a "show-er," and a penis that gains a lot is said to be a "grower.

3: Your Penis Is Shaped Like a Boomerang
In an MRI picture, the penis looks distinctly boomerang-like.

One method of surgical "penis enlargement" is to cut the ligament that holds the root of the penis up inside the pelvis. This operation may give some men a little extra length if more of the penis protrudes from the body. But with that ligament cut, the erect penis loses its upward angle and it wobbles at the base. The lack of sturdiness can lead to injury.

4: You Can Break Your Penis
Here's how to avoid penile fracture: don't use your penis too roughly. It may happen when a man is thrusting too hard and fast during sex, and slams into his partner's pubic bone. Also, a woman who moves wildly while on top of a man during sex can break a man's penis.

5: Most Penises in the World Are Uncut
A report by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) estimates that worldwide only 30% of males aged 15 and up are circumcised.

Rates vary greatly depending upon religion and nationality. Almost all Jewish and Muslim males in the world have circumcised penises, and together they account for about 70% of all circumcised males globally.

The United States has the highest proportion of males circumcised for non-religious reasons. A whopping 75% of non-Jewish, non-Muslim American men are circumcised. Compare that to Canada, where only 30% are. In the U.K. it's 20%; in Australia it's merely 6%.



Las Vegas
There are so many clubs, hotels, bars and casinos to choose from in Las Vegas, Nevada, that it's almost impossible to not celebrate in style. Outdoors, the Strip is closed to traffic so everyone can watch the grand fireworks displays high above the city's neon lights. If you can wade through the crowds, make your way downtown to the Fremont Street Experience and join the massive block party, complete with confetti, a massive wine toast, concerts by big-name rockers, and a five-block-long illuminated canopy 90 feet overhead, on which state-of-the-art sound and light shows are shown.

Head to the Texan city renowned for its cool nightlife. On New Year's Eve, Austin really pulls out all the stops with its annual First Night Austin event. This family friendly celebration of the arts takes place in the streets and at select indoor venues, offering nearly everything from dance and theater to music and food. Streets are closed down for the Grand Procession and for the plethora of festivities that include the requisite fireworks, along with digital portraits, sculptures, puppet shows, clog dancing, jugglers and drumming.

Niagara Falls
"Party in Niagara" is organized annually by the Niagara Parks Commission, and the Niagara Falls New Year's Eve event planners provide party-goers with an outdoor alcohol-licensed area, food and drink stalls, and spectacular fireworks over the Niagara Falls waterfalls at both 9 p.m. and midnight. Best of all, the event is free. Held annually in Queen Victoria Park, it attracts around 30,000 people each year. Be sure to stop by Clifton Hills, the major tourist promenade in the town of Niagara Falls, where local and international musicians perform.

Spend the night wandering in and out of the many pubs and cafés, but at the stroke of twelve, be sure to head to Old Town Square or Charles Bridge. Climb the hill to the Prague Castle or the "Stalin statue," where the fireworks are launched. Or spend the evening on one of the riverboats where you can wine and dine until the fireworks begin. And if the aerial fireworks are not enough for you, you can pick up hand-held fireworks at Old Town Square and let them off along with the locals.

The City of Light is always spectacular in the evening, but on New Year's Eve, Paris turns into a mass of twinkling gems. The Champs-Elysees is the place to head if you want to be at the center of the party. Starting at around 9 p.m. on New Year's Eve, people start to flock to the famous street, often bringing along bottles of wine and Champagne and plastic flutes. Don't worry; there are lots of places along the Champs-Elysees, all the way down to the Arc de Triomphe, where you can find good views of the Eiffel Tower to watch the midnight fireworks. Also, don't be surprised if you both give and receive kisses (small ones on each cheek) to the throngs around you when the clock strikes midnight and you shout 'Bonne Année!' to one and all.

The evening begins with Mass at Reykjavik's Cathedral. But if you can’t attend, you can join locals in listening to the Mass on the radio before having dinner. Join locals in listening to the Mass on the radio before tucking in to dinner. Then, watch Aramostaskaupi (The New Year's Comedy) on local television, in which performers lampoon local politicians, artists and businesspeople. Then it's time to rug up warm and head out into the streets with your Icelandic neighbors, where you'll stand around a large Brenna (bonfire) before watching the fireworks displays, which are dotted throughout the city. Then head downtown to party the night away.

Head to Goa, India, where the stunning natural scenery is the perfect backdrop for your reveling. All-night beach parties are how Goa rings in the New Year. Put on your bikini and get your groove on with the ongoing rave parties, illuminated with glow sticks. The best-known party is "The Hill Top"—a three-day bash where Indian women sell cups of tea, cakes and food on mats laid out for the people who need to take a break from all that dancing.

Wear a kilt or don't, but be sure to indulge in the Scottish capital's massive New Year's Eve Bash. Hogmanay is a four-day festival that culminates on New Year's Eve. You'll not only get to drink some of the finest whiskey in the world, but indulge in a celebration that offers up everything from parades and concerts to dog races and wild parties, culminating of course, in a fireworks spectacular. Take part in the "first-footing" tradition by giving coal or shortbread to friends and family who are the first to set foot into your house in the New Year.

Be a part of Barcelona's año nuevo celebrations with its never-ending partying and plenty of drinking. Be sure to indulge in a traditional New Year's Eve dinner with family or friends. At each of the twelve strokes of midnight, be sure to eat twelve individual grapes, a symbol of good luck for the coming year. Then do as Spain's locals do: spill out onto the streets of the Gothic Quarter and Las Ramblas and dance the night away in the local clubs. Stay awake 'til dawn and head for the beach for a breakfast of hot chocolate and churros as the sun rises.

New Year's Eve takes place not once, not twice, but three times in Thailand, and its capital—Bangkok—does it in style. Your first New Year's Eve extravaganza takes place alongside the rest of the Western World on Dec. 31. Head to Bangkok's Central World Plaza, where you can dance the night away watching spectacular fireworks, Thai musicians throwing down the beat and raucous street parties. The second New Year's Eve is in mid-January when the Chinese New Year is celebrated in Bangkok's Chinatown, complete with funky colorful dragon parades, lion dancers and more fireworks. Finally, your third New Year's Eve festivities happen in April with the Songkran festival: celebrate the Thai calendar with more parades, costumes and water balloon-throwing festivities.
Here are the top ten weird stories of 2008 from telegraph, UK

1) Tree man 'who grew roots' – the ongoing adventures first reported on the curious case of the 'tree man of Java' in 2007, but public interest in the Indonesian fisherman's condition and treatment ensured that he remained one of the most viewed stories in 2008. Dede has now had most of the bark-like growths covering his hands and feet removed, enabling him to hold a pen and walk unaided for the first time in years. He now hopes to find a wife.

2) World's smallest girl proud of her tiny size
Jyoti Amge is a 15 years old, but is just 1ft 1in tall and weighs only 11lb. The Indian teenager suffers from a rare form of dwarfism called achondroplasia and will grow no further, but is not embarrassed by her condition. She studies at the local school – albeit at a specially made miniature desk – and has the same hobbies as other girls her age. "I eat like you, dream like you. I don't feel any different," she said.

3) OGC unveils new logo to red faces
Stories about Government bungling were ten-a-penny in 2008, but the tale of the £14,000 new logo commissioned for the Office of Government Commerce was the pick of the bunch. The design, based on the agency's initials, looked ever so slightly rude when turned on its side, causing much merriment among staff. A spokesman for the OGC joked that the logo was "not inappropriate to an organisation that’s looking to have a firm grip on Government spend.”

4) Oxford compiles list of top ten irritating phrases
The original list, compiled for a book called Damp Squid, identified "at the end of the day", "fairly unique" and "I personally" as the most loathsome phrases in the language.

5) Leopard savaging a crocodile caught on cameraStunning photo series showing a leopard attacking a crocodile in a South African game reserve went viral as soon as it was published. The images document the first known time that a leopard has taken on and defeated one of the fearsome reptiles. The gladiatorial tussle only came to an end when the big cat was able to sit on top of the reptile and suffocate it.

6) Plastic surgery addict injected cooking oil into her own face
Not one for the faint hearted. A Korean woman addicted to plastic surgery was left unrecognisable after her obsession led her to inject cooking oil into her face – as our pictures graphically illustrated. Her case sparked huge interest after being featured on Korean TV, and viewers sent in enough donations to enable her to have surgery to reduce the size of her face.

7) Flying penguins found by BBC programme"Viewers will see the penguins not only take flight from the Antarctic wastes, but fly thousands of miles to the Amazonian rainforest to find winter sun." Were you taken in? Shame on you.

8) Most complex crop circle ever discovered in British fieldsThe 150ft crop circle cut into a barley field in Wiltshire was described as a "mind-boggling" mathematical puzzle. After plenty of head-scratching researchers concluded that the concentric design was a coded image representing the first 10 digits, 3.141592654, of pi. The story also inspired a popular gallery – the Top 10 British crop circles on Google Earth.

9) Italian model plans to sell virginity for 1 million euros
Raffella Fico, who appeared on the Italian version of Big Brother, sparked headlines across the world when she offered to sell her virginity to the highest bidder. Her family stepped in to defend the 20-year-old model when sceptics suggested she may not be as innocent as she made out. "She's never had a boyfriend. I swear on my mother's grave. She's a devout Catholic and prays to Padre Pio every night," her brother said.

10) Man admits having sex with 1,000 cars
Edward Smith suffers from “mechaphilia”, and he's not shy about discussing his passion. The 57-year-old lives with his current "girlfriend" – a white Volkswagen Beetle named Vanilla – and says that his most intense sexual experience was "making love" to the helicopter from 1980s TV hit Airwolf. He has not had a relationship with a woman for 12 years.
The chip works by sending tiny shocks from implanted electrodes in the brain.

The technology has been used in the United States to treat Parkinson's disease.

But in recent months scientists have been focusing on the area of the brain just behind the eyes known as the orbitofrontal cortex - this is associated with feelings of pleasure derived from eating and sex.

A research survey conducted by Morten Kringelbach, senior fellow at Oxford University's department of psychiatry, found the orbitofrontal cortex could be a "new stimulation target" to help people suffering from anhedonia, an inability to experience pleasure from such activities. His findings are reported in the Nature Reviews Neuroscience journal.

Neurosurgery professor Tipu Aziz, said: "There is evidence that this chip will work. A few years ago a scientist implanted such a device into the brain of a woman with a low sex drive and turned her into a very sexually active woman. She didn't like the sudden change, so the wiring in her head was removed."
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tExtravagant room gadgets, discounts for eco-conscious guests and Smart Cars for shopping are among some of the coolest new ideas at luxury hotels.

Extravagance at your fingertips

Peninsula Hotels is introducing nail-dryers into rooms. The Storrier in Potts Point already has them.

Many hotels have their own scents and candles but Le Bristol in Paris went one step further and employed notable "nose" Jean Michel Duriez, the head perfumer at La Maison Jean Patou Paris, for theirs.

Connections on the house

Sheraton Hotels research shows that 70 per cent of Australians travelling for pleasure feel compelled to check emails while on the move.

To that end, Sheraton has introduced Link@Sheraton, 24-hour, lobby-based communication centres with fixed terminals and wi-fi for laptops. The centres also have widescreen plasma televisions, international newspapers and round-the-clock refreshments, just like in the executive lounges. And it's free. Should be more of it.

But wait, there's more

The guests, will be offered lots of lovely extras to make you feel you got value for money when you paid the bill.
It might be a welcoming bottle of wine and a basket of fruit, the kind of thing usually reserved for VIPs, in your room on arrival. Or even access to the executive lounge and all that entails, like cocktails and free breakfasts.

A warmer welcome

"Modern communication means that registration can be completed anywhere," chief executive and general manager of the Melbourne hotel David Perry says. Such a prominent space is best used as a bar and lounge, he says, which is what the lobby will be when the Windsor makeover is complete in two years.

Problem solved

The Langham Hotel group - with hotels in Melbourne, London, Boston, Pasadena, Auckland and Hong Kong - has introduced what it is calling service stylists into its public areas. In layman's terms, the service stylists are customer-service staff with the people skills and wherewithal to resolve difficulties.

Their brief is twofold: make guests feel welcome and solve any problems they might have. It could be as simple as showing a new chum the way to the spa or telling a family where to buy the best ice-cream in town. Or it might be sorting and then printing out a new flight booking for a harassed business traveller.

Greener with envy

The hotel industry has gone far beyond recycling towels. The next stage will be offering a discount to those who choose to reuse. The Langham Auckland is doing it already.

Le Bristol, long regarded as one of the top-six elite hotels in Paris, introduced a Smart Car for its guests to go shopping.

Westin is now offering healthy foods under the name of SuperFoods, a brand from the US known for its use of grains, fruit and vegetables.

Art for art's sake

Art is no longer mere decoration but a selling point.

A Hotels Group, the creators of The Storrier, are planning a series of hotels using the names and works of some of Australia's most famous artists including Brett Whiteley, David Larwill, Jasper Knight, John Olsen and Jeffrey Smart.

The Le Meridien chain of hotels has appointed a full-time cultural curator in Jerome Sans. And at Le Meridien Ra, 40 minutes outside Barcelona, Moroccan artist Younes Rahmoun has turned the hotel's facade into an art installation with a glass composition of 77 flowers.
Exchanging gifts and sharing lunch with family are common threads for Christmas celebrations around the world but there are a variety of customs that make each celebration unique. For the traveller, that can mean a Christmas tailor-made to suit your special interest.


London's pantos

Treating the children to a traditional pantomime is as much a part of British Christmas tradition as plum pudding. While pantos are performed in every British city, London's shows offer stunning sets, special effects and glittering costumes that add up to a magical experience.

Good-humoured audiences get into the spirit by laughing, cheering and booing the cast. Favourites such as Mother Goose, Cinderella and Peter Pan get a run each year. Theatre companies compete to hire celebrity guest stars.

Newer titles and comical or raunchy pantos for adults have gained popularity in recent times. Many people take advantage of the significantly discounted rooms available in London around Christmas. The half-price ticket booth in Leicester Square has great bargains for last-minute theatre-goers and restaurants in the West End have savings of up to 50 per cent.


Medieval fairs and historic hotels

Traditions such as kissing beneath the mistletoe and singing carols have their origins in medieval times, so those who love history enjoy celebrating the festive season in castles and museums where festivities come complete with knights, jousters, minstrels and maidens.

Each year, the Tower of London's Medieval Palace is transformed into a 13th-century carnival with jesters and musicians who entertain visitors at the court of King Edward I.

The medieval market fair at Caerphilly Castle in Wales, built by Gilbert de Clare, Lord of Glamorgan, during the reign of Henry III, brings the castle alive with a festive atmosphere.

In Shropshire, Ludlow Medieval Christmas Fayre's minstrels' tent is where the Yarnsmith of Norwich entertains with tales from ancient times. The 900-year-old Norwich Cathedral hosts a medieval fair with entertainers, a craft market, a hog roast and plenty of mulled wine.

Although the traditional British Christmas lunch is frequently prepared at home, some historic hotels are enticing revellers with accommodation packages where the family can sit back and be served, soak in the ambience and enjoy mulled wine and mince pies in front of an open fireplace. Some hotels also arrange Christmas Day visits from Santa.


Europe's markets

From Brussels to Bucharest, cities have at least one market. Fairy lights, decorations and backdrops of old cobblestone town centres seem to be straight out of a story book.

Markets are packed with shoppers hunting for unique gifts: clog-clad elves in Copenhagen; dainty music boxes in Vienna; or hand-knitted socks in Tallinn.

Budapest's market in Vorosmarty Square is the spot for handmade dolls, crafts and pottery. The warren of cobbled streets in Germany's Regensburg bustles with boutiques specialising in expertly crafted decorations such as reindeer carousels and Santa dolls.

Bavaria's second largest city, Nuremberg, has one of Germany's largest markets, the Hauptmarkt, and is famous for gingerbread, toys such as the Nutcracker soldier and angel-figures.

Around Munich, more than 70 markets satisfy the most demanding shoppers.

In Prague, the largest market is in the picturesque Old Town Square, where shoppers hunt for Babushka dolls (they do come in a Santa version), Bohemian crystal and puppets.


Germany's table

The aromas of roasted almonds, chestnuts, gingerbread, smoked sausages and gluhwein waft through the crisp winter air. With a tradition of baking that stretches back centuries, some of the most mouth-watering traditions originate from this part of the world.

On top of the list is gingerbread that is baked in varieties including printen, a unique recipe made in Aachen, and lebkuchen, a spicy gingerbread invented by medieval monks. Stollen is a fruitcake with raisins and marzipan made to resemble the baby Jesus swaddled in cloth. The annual Dresden Stollen Festival is held each December; a 3 1/2 tonne stollen is auctioned each year for charity.

The traditional Christmas Day dish is goose served with potato dumplings, red cabbage and a wine-flavoured sauce.


Bethlehem and Rome

Thousands of people from around the world gather in Bethlehem's Manger Square, the biblical birthplace of Jesus. In 2000, Bethlehem was a war zone. Today, pilgrims are gradually returning to the city.

Manger Square has a German-style market selling handicrafts and festive decorations. And on December 24, local and international musicians belt out traditional Palestinian folk songs, Christmas music and popular European music. But for many, just being in the Holy Land is a meaningful experience. As is attending midnight mass at the Vatican where people hear the Pope's traditional blessings in St Peter's Basilica.

SKIERS Canada's resorts

Sleigh rides through a snowy wonderland, chestnuts roasting on an open fire and Santa sloshing through the snow. With picture-book backdrops of glaciers and alpine lakes, there's white magic in the air in Canada's world-class ski resorts.

From beginner skiers to black diamond demons, droves of Canadians head to the country's snow-covered peaks for a holiday. It's such a popular way to celebrate Christmas that many families book as far as one year ahead to secure accommodation. The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge in Alberta has in-room Christmas trees, a reception with Santa, a Snow Ball dance party, traditional carolling and bonfires.

At Banff and Whistler, snow-covered villages come alive with carols and twinkling lights.


US theme parks

Theme parks across the US are abuzz with festivities. From small amusement parks to the juggernauts of California and Florida, Santa and the elves deliver adrenalin-packed roller coasters and rides. Some Christmas-themed parks are so popular they operate all year. These include Santa's Workshop in Colorado (offering Santa's slide and a Christmas tree ride), Santa's Land in Vermont and Santa's Workshop in New York State's appropriately named North Pole.

Board the Merry Christmas Ferris Wheel or ride around Santa's Village in New Hampshire on the mini monorail.

From the immense Christmas tree to thousands of fairy lights, California's Disneyland is a dream destination for children. Events include the Christmas fantasy parade and Santa's reindeer round-up where the kids meet Santa and his team.

Disney's California Adventure park also jives with the Christmas spirit at Santa's Beach Blast where Kris Kringle goes into California party mode with surf music, sunglasses and limbo contests.
The Human Development Report 2007/2008 rated the countries in terms of their "human development index": a statistical analysis of factors that influence a person's quality of life, such as per capita gross domestic product and life expectancy.

Discovering the best places to live provides inspiration for travel so that we can get a glimpse of highly ranked quality of life. Here’s the top nine:
1. Iceland
2. Norway
3. Australia
4. Canada
5. Ireland
6. Switzerland
7. Japan
8. The Netherlands
9. France

The United States fell to 12th on the list.

The worst place in the world to live? Sierra Leone.
Training for the Body
1. Exercise can calm the mind and relieve stress.
2. The cardio, strengthening, and conditioning help boost the immune system.
3. Quit smoking

Pay Attention to Your Mouth
Use an antiseptic mouthwash to help improve your dental health and may help fend off other illnesses.

An Apple a Day Really Works
A natural antioxidant called quercetin, found in red apples as well as broccoli and green tea, may give an immunity boost to individuals under stress.

Don't Worry, Conquer Stress
Stop worrying about getting sick. The fear and expectation of having something adverse happen actually lowers immunity. Constant worrying causes cortisol and epinephrine levels to rise - and these stress hormones can weaken the body's overall immunity.

Up Your Vitamin Intake
Citrus fruits are a good source of vitamin C. Having an appropriate amount of vitamin C from fruits and vegetables can boost immunity.

Mind Over Body
Every thought is accompanied by a chain of biochemical reactions in your body. So a positive attitude can increase levels of nitric oxide, which help to balance neurotransmitters, improve immunity, and increase circulation.

Just Say Om
Meditation practice helps to calm your nervous system and allows the immune system to function with less interference. A calmer mind means a calmer body.

Increase Your Social Ties
Individuals who belong to multiple social groups are less likely to develop colds when exposed to a virus.

Accentuate the Positive
People who have a positive emotional style -- described as happy, enthusiastic, and calm -- are less likely to catch colds.

Wash Your Hands - Over and Over
During cold and flu season, wash your hands with soap many times during the day because you're in contact with all kinds of pathogens -- door knobs, stair railings, other people. You really want to have clean hands. According to the CDC, proper hand washing for 20 seconds is the most effective way to avoid the 1 billion colds that Americans catch each year, not to mention other infectious diseases.

Get Your ZZZs
A good night's sleep will restore the immune system because when you get a good night's sleep, melatonin levels rise and that improves immunity.
When do you feel like your sexiest self? When you're all dolled up, rocking your little black dress and heels and the perfect lipstick? When you've kicked butt at work? When you slip into something silky and slinky? We know how good those all feel, but here's the truth: Getting primped and perfumed — or even showing a little leg — has nothing to do with what makes your guy really want you. Yes, at first a man may be drawn in by come-hither cues — a flash of lace, a glimpse of cleavage. But once his heart is yours for keeps, he has a totally different idea of what makes you alluring.

"When a man is in love, what he finds really attractive is the feeling that he's seeing you for who you truly are," explains REDBOOK Love Network expert Scott Haltzman, M.D., author of The Secrets of Happily Married Women. "To a guy, the makeup, the sexy outfit, it's all a mask. He wants the woman behind the mask. Openness, vulnerability, an air of contentment — those things are what really turns him on."
10. Inca Skull Surgeons Were "Highly Skilled"
Dangerous skull surgery was commonly and successfully performed among the Inca, likely as a treatment for head injuries suffered during combat, a May study found.

9. Ancient "Lost City" Discovered in Peru?
Stone ruins discovered in Peru this past January could be the ancient "lost city" of Paititi, according to claims that sparked serious but cautious responses from experts.

8. New Pyramid Found in Egypt: 4,300-Year-Old Queen's Tomb
Long buried by deep sands, the once five-story-tall pyramid is a testament to a pharaoh's reverence for his mother, experts said in November.

7. Alexander the Great's "Crown," Shield Discovered?
An ancient Greek tomb once thought to have been that of Alexander's father is more recent than thought and may contain treasures belonging to Alexander himself, experts said in April.

6. Mystery Pyramid Built by Newfound Ancient Culture?
The Huapalcalco pyramid in central Mexico may be the work of a previously unknown culture of ancient people, the Huajomulco, archaeologists said in December.

5. Rare Egyptian "Warrior" Tomb Found
Feathered arrows lying near a well-preserved coffin suggest that the mummy inside, when alive, may have been a mercenary for an Egyptian king, experts said in February.

4. Stonehenge Was Cemetery First and Foremost
From the start 5,000 years ago, the site was a burial ground—perhaps for prehistoric rulers—and it remained so for centuries, a May study said. ALSO SEE: related photos and maps.

3. Maya May Have Caused Civilization-Ending Climate Change
A satellite program designed to improve environmental policies in Central America found evidence of ancient, self-induced climate change—offering lessons on how to combat today's warming.

2. Great Pyramid Mystery to Be Solved by Hidden Room?
A sealed space in Egypt's Great Pyramid may help solve a centuries-old mystery: How did the ancient Egyptians move two million 2.5-ton blocks to build the ancient wonder?

1. Portal to Maya Underworld Found in Mexico?
An underground labyrinth filled with stone temples and pyramids, found in August, likely relates to Maya myths of the afterlife, archaeologists said.
Nat Geo

Oymyakon/Ojmjakon/Oimyakon, in Siberia, is the coldest permanently inhabited place on earth. The lowest recorded temperature here is -71.2 degrees Celsius. According to Wikipedia this is the lowest officially recorded temperature in the northern hemisphere.
The village has a population of around 800 and is located 690 meters above sea level and lies in a valley between two mountain ranges (the reason for the low temperatures). The name Oymyakon means "non-freezing water" because of the natural hot spring close to the village.

What is there to eat so far north?
All people eat is reindeer and horsemeat. Medics say the reason they don't suffer from malnutrition is that there must be lots of micronutrients in their animals' milk.
There is a short summer season during which people can grow things. But for the most part people don't eat fruit or vegetables.

How do people keep warm?
Fur. Fur is considered a luxury in the West but it is the only thing that keeps you warm.

If your New Year's resolution is to live healthy, you might want to move. A new study shows Salt Lake City is the healthiest city for women, while Madison, Wis., is the best place for men.

Men's Health and Women's Health magazines looked at 100 of the largest U.S. cities and ranked the best and worst for men and women by looking at 38 different factors, including cancer rates, air quality and the number of gym memberships.

According to the study the worst place to live for women is Bakersfield, Calif., and Charleston, W.Va., is the unhealthiest place for men.

Seven cities are in the top 10 for both men and women -- Aurora, Colo.; Madison, Wis.; Minneapolis; San Francisco and San Jose, Calif.; Salt Lake City and Seattle.

In the bottom 10 spots Bakersfield, Calif.; Birmingham, Ala.; Charleston, W.Va.; Detroit; Memphis, Tennessee; St. Louis and St. Petersburg, Fla., make an appearance on both lists.

The magazine said the study focused on cities, not their suburbs, and used data from sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Census Bureau, the FBI and the U.S. Department of Labor.

The complete lists of the healthy and unhealthiest cities for men and women can be seen at and


  • 100 years ago: The first virus was found in both plants and animals.
  • 90 years ago: The Grand Canyon became a national monument & Cellophane is invented.
  • 80 years ago: The food mixer and the domestic refrigerator were invented.
  • 70 years ago: The teletype and PVC (polyvinyl-chloride) were invented.
  • 60 years ago: Otto Hahn discovered nuclear fission by splitting uranium, Teflon was invented.
  • 50 years ago: Velcro was invented.
  • 40 years ago: An all-female population of lizards was discovered in Armenia.
  • 30 years ago: The computer mouse was invented.
  • 20 years ago: First test-tube baby born in England, Pluto’s moon, Charon, discovered.
  • 10 years ago: First patent for a genetically-engineered mouse was issued to Harvard Medical School.
  • 5 years ago: The first successful cloning of human embryo
Retailers have long been accused of secularizing Christmas by using "Xmas" in signs and advertisements; therefore, I suspect many of you will be surprised to learn that "Xmas" has a religious origin.

In Greek, the letter "chi" is written as an X, and chi is the first letter of the Greek word for "Christ." Greeks sometimes abbreviated "Christ" as "X." For example, they abbreviated "Christ savior" as "XP." ("P" is the symbol for the Greek letter "rho," which is the first letter of the word "savior" in Greek.) The Oxford English Dictionary shows the first known English use of "Xmas" in 1551.

As for appropriateness, "Xmas" may have a religious origin and fit better on signs, but many people -- both those who use "Xmas" and those who complain about its use -- are unaware of the religious origin. If you choose you use "Xmas," you should know that some people will be infuriated.

source: Grammar Girl

According to Rita DeMaria, author of "The 7 Stages of Marriage, " there are phases that all marriages go through.

The book provides “marriage education” for dealing with the difficulties and joys of marriage. "Marriage education is like a vaccine” to keep a relationship healthy, she said.

The stages discussed by DeMaria go in an evolutionary pattern:

  • Passion (before marriage and up to 2 years after) -- The romantic honeymoon period in which mates are the only thing that matter to each other.
  • Realization (1 to 3 years) -- The passion fades and couples begin to discover each others' true selves.
  • Rebellion (2 to 5 years) -- The most volatile period, when each person yearns for a return to freedom and asserts his or her own self-interest.
  • Cooperation (3 to 15 years) -- The longest period, when children and increased domestic responsibilities transform lovers into business partners.
  • Reunion (12 to 20 years) -- The "empty nest" period after the busy years.
  • Explosion (any time) – When illness, job loss and family crises happen, altering a marriage for months, even years.
  • Completion (25 years or more) -- A thoroughly joyful culmination of a life together.

Dr. Paul Grabb, a pediatric brain surgeon, said he was surprised when he discovered a small foot growing inside the brain of 3-day-old Sam Esquibel.

When Grabb performed the life-saving surgery at Memorial Hospital for Children in Colorado Springs, he was in for another surprise: he also found what appeared to be parts of an intestine in the folds of the infant's tiny brain, in addition to another developing foot, hand and thigh.

The reason for the strange growth was not clear at first. It was thought to be a teratoma -- a congenital brain tumor composed of foreign tissue such as muscle, hair or teeth -- or a fetus in fetu, which is a developmental abnormality in which a fetal twin begins to form within the other.

"You show those pictures to the most experienced pediatric neurosurgeons in the world, and they've never seen anything like it," Grabb said. "This is completely abnormal."

This Barbie is for The Birds! Actually, this Barbie from The Birds is for you! Celebrating Alfred Hitchcock's classic film, this incredible collector's doll features our heroine being attacked by a trio of fine feathered foes, just like in the movie. Will these plastic birds damage her delightful handbag or her carefully styled hair? We certainly hope not! Be sure to let Barbie into your home and pray that the birds don't come in with her! Stands about 11 1/2-inches tall.

Alfred Hitchcock The Birds Barbie Doll Description:
  • Based on the classic movie!
  • Includes real fake birds!
  • High-quality head looks scared and has awesome hair!

Scientists have discovered an average of two new species a week in Southeast Asia's Greater Mekong River region. Unusual animals found in this incredibly rich and diverse habitat include Desmoxytes purpurosea, a pink millipede that spews cyanide to defend itself, and Heteropoda maxima, a spider that may be the world's largest with a 12 inch legspan.

Funny cartoon of the day

Funny cartoon of the day