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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Ten things Kate can’t do once she marries Wills

Kate Middleton looks thoughtful while visiting Witton Country Park in Darwen, England (Samir Hussein/

Just one generation ago someone like Kate Middleton would have been tasered for getting too close to the British Royal family.

So when Clarence House relaxed their stun guns and let their future king propose to a 'commoner', Britain awoke in a postmodern-like daze where realities became relative and class boundaries blurred.

The only problem with such superb forward thinking is that the Royal Family is still very much backward and old fashioned when it comes to some matters, namely rules and etiquette.

And as the first normal woman to enter the Windsor fold, Kate will feel the changes to her life on a higher level than many past princesses.

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Here are ten things the bride-to-be will no longer be allowed to do once she walks down the Green Mile – ahem, aisle – in Westminster:

1. Be referred to as 'Kate'

When Kate Middleton joins the House of Windsor this year, her official title will become ‘Her Royal Highness the Princess William of Wales’.

She can be addressed as 'Catherine' or 'Ma'am' (pronounced like 'ham'). But 'Kate' isn't going to cut it anymore by Royal standards.

Clarence House officials will probably wine and dine London's Royal correspondents and then ask them to please refer to Kate as 'Catherine' in the future. But we think they will refuse to do this. Something to do with search engine keywords.

2. Vote

Technically, the Queen and other members of her family are allowed to vote, but they do not do so because in practice it would be considered unconstitutional and not in accordance with the need for neutrality.

This is in keeping with the Royal Family's public role, which is based on identifying with every section of society, including minorities and special interest groups.

3. Run for political office

For the reasons stated above, this is also a no no.

4. Escape the scrutiny

As arguably Britain's most dysfunctional family, the Monarchy provides the British public with a generous source of voyeuristic entertainment, and an opportunity for heartless slander.

Having already been under the media spotlight for the best part of nine years, Kate has copped her fair share of criticism from the media over the most mundane and insignificant of things.

She's a commoner. She's an outrageous social climber. She's not outgoing enough. Her mum is an air hostess who uses the word 'toilet'.

The public watchdog will be onto Kate 24/7, so when she slips on that tiara come 29 April she will damn well have to make sure it’s a pretty one. But not too pretty. That would be exhibitionist.

This scrutiny will grow existentially and extend to all aspects of her life. Did you know the Middleton family can only trace their roots back to the mid 1500s? So what were they up to in 1413 then? They must be hiding something.

5. Play Monopoly

In 2008, Prince Andrew, Duke of York, said that the Royal Family was not allowed to play Monopoly at home "because it gets too vicious". No member of the family has yet revealed what they play in its place during the Christmas holidays.

6. Say or do anything controversial

This includes accepting large amounts of money from 'businessmen' for access to your husband and getting your toes sucked in public by your financial adviser. You know who you are, Fergs.

But it also encompasses Kate's expression of her preferred political position, social position, sexual position – basically anything within the realms of personality.

So far she has succeeded seamlessly in this, not putting a foot wrong in any situation. Granted though, the world has only heard her speak once after her and William's engagement and that was a heavily rehearsed affair.

7. Eat shellfish

British Royals are apparently never served shellfish, because of a fear of food poisoning. So if Kate can't live without crustaceans, she will have to seek them out in her own time.

8. Work

It is well known that Royals and careers don't mix well. As proven when Prince Charles' plan to work part time in a factory failed and Countess Sophie Wessex was forced to abandon her PR firm.

In Kate's case though, the whole unemployment scenario shouldn't be too difficult to handle. At 29 years of age she is the oldest spinster ever to marry a future king, and though she has a History of Art degree and years of life experience, Kate has spurned work wherever possible.

This is unless you count seven months as a casual accessories buyer for clothing chain Jigsaw and a short time working for the family company, Party Pieces.

Pinned by some as the unemployed woman marrying into a welfare family, we're reckoning the guys at Buckingham will keep her busy by sending her to lots of boat launches and pancake flipping gigs.

9. Sign anything unofficial

As a potential future counsellor of state if William becomes king, Kate might at some stage have to sign government papers and brings legislation into force in her husband's place.

People in this position are strictly not supposed to sign anything that could lead to their signature being copied and forged.

Last year Prince Harry was in hot water when he flouted this rule by signing the plaster cast of a girl who had fractured her arm, a media report said.

The 17-year-old from Leicestershire was so excited she said her cast would be "going in a glass box", which the Queen might not have been too happy about.

10 Finish her dinner

If she is a slower eater than her grandmother-in-law, Kate could go hungry. In Britain, when the Queen stops eating, you stop as well, fork in hand.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Gadget That Mops Your Floor

Thanks to robots, there's no excuse for a dirty floor.

This week, I took a break from my normal product testing to run a robot through the paces of washing, scrubbing and squeegeeing my tile and hardwood floors. The Scooba 230 ( is the latest model in iRobot Corp.'s large family of household-helping gadgets, which includes the popular Roomba robotic vacuum, introduced in 2002.

Sold in a $300 package with accessories, the Scooba 230 is the least expensive Scooba from iRobot; the earlier Scooba 350 and Scooba 380 cost $400 and $500, respectively. It's less than half the size and weight of its larger and pricier predecessors, giving it the ability to scoot into tough-to-reach spots, like behind most bathroom toilets, where nobody wants to clean.

I like a lot of things about this robot, especially that it's smart enough to separate clean water from dirty water as it goes—instead of just regurgitating the same water and pushing it across the floor, like a mop. Loading the robot with water and cleaning solution takes just a minute, robbing even the laziest people of an excuse for not cleaning. And its compact size makes it easy to store.

But to keep its price down, iRobot took away this Scooba's ability to vacuum as it scrubs the floors like previous Scooba models, so users will have to sweep or vacuum before they place it down and hit the power button. This defeats the idea of letting the robot do all the work. And unlike Roomba, which automatically returns to its recharging base after vacuuming so it can charge itself, Scooba stays where it finishes the job. An iRobot spokeswoman said this design is deliberate because it forces people to empty Scooba's bladder full of dirty water, rather than forgetting about it.

According to iRobot's findings on people's use patterns, the Roomba robotic vacuum is used three to five times a week, a stark difference from their normal cleaning patterns of vacuuming once weekly. In my experience, the Roomba study held true for Scooba, as well.

IRobot, which was founded at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology by two students and their professor, has sold more than six million robots in the past nine years. Specialty models include land-mine detectors for the U.S. Army, a robot that monitored the water in the Gulf of Mexico after last year's oil spill and four robots that iRobot sent to Japan for help with recovery efforts at the Fukushima nuclear plant. The company's future plans include AVA, a robot that uses an iPad or Android tablet to run apps created internally and by outside app developers. Though AVA is just a concept for now, it could function autonomously, running apps that offer health-care assistance, games and mobile music. IRobot operates on the philosophy that a robot isn't a robot unless it interacts with its environment.

One of Scooba's competitors, the $200 Mint Automatic Floor Cleaner from Evolution Robotics Inc. (, isn't quite as advanced. It moves around the floor with wet or dry cleaning cloths attached to its underbelly, much like a motorized Swiffer Sweeper. Mint follows a projected signal beamed out from a separate device set in the room, and this is intended to help the device build a navigational map of a space, though it doesn't prevent the device from leaving a specific area.

I tried the Scooba 230 in a large bedroom and a small bathroom, though it didn't fit behind my toilet, which I'd estimate is over 30 years old. In my bathroom, I didn't sweep first, and Scooba just pushed hair and dirt around on the floor as it cleaned. One eight-hour Scooba charge lasts for two 20-minute, small-room cleanings defined as 60 square feet each, or one 45-minute large- room cleaning measuring 150 square feet. When Scooba's battery is dead, a red light on its lid turns on.

Scooba comes with four removable bottom plates, which are plastic pieces that house its squeegee and brushes, and four packets of cleaning solution. This solution costs $12 a bottle when purchased separately, and one bottle lasts for 64 cleanings. Two small, battery-powered devices called Virtual Walls also come with the Scooba. When powered on, these devices project a beam that Scooba won't cross, so they can be placed in front of an opened door or set up to restrict the robot to a certain area in one room.

One task that I gave to Scooba was washing my hardwood floors after I spilled a glass of juice. I soaked up the juice with paper towels, but the floor was still sticky and dirty with a scent of V8 Splash. I filled Scooba with one packet of cleaning solution and warm water. Using its flip-up handle, I carried the robot into a room and placed it in the center of the floor, pressing power, then Clean; holding the Clean button down turns on its shorter cycle, indicated by a different tone. Scooba made a whirring sound as its wheels propelled it across the floor with its underbelly brushes at work. A bumper on its front keeps Scooba from nicking walls.

Sometimes Scooba moved slowly then sped up quickly, or hugged walls, or spiraled out from the center of the room. It's mesmerizing to watch, and as it moves it lays water down on the floor to loosen stuck-on particles. Once in a while, Scooba seemed to get stuck in a corner, humming and grinding for 10 to 15 seconds. It was tempting to want to help it get unstuck, but it used what iRobot calls "escape behavior" to eventually get back to zipping around the floor.

My grimy kitchen floor needs a serious scrub to get clean, which the Scooba alone couldn't do. It could, however, be used to maintain a degree of clean—and pinch hit when juice is spilled. Just be sure to sweep your floors first.

Prevention's Quick Fix: The 5 Best home remedies for snoring

Snoring isn’t just a nighttime annoyance; it can be a serious health issue, disrupting normal sleeping patterns and disturbing partners as they try to sleep through the noise. Snoring affects more than 90 million adults and their partners. One British survey found that if your spouse snores, by your 50th wedding anniversary you'll have lost about 4 years' worth of sleep.

Besides just feeling tired all the time, people who don't get enough sleep can develop memory and mood problems; they're even at a greater risk of car accidents. Moderate snorers include people who snore every night, but perhaps only when on their backs or only for part of the night. Heavy snorers should see a doctor to make sure they don't have a serious sleeping disorder called sleep apnea.

For light or moderate snorers, here are home remedies that can help you—and your partner—sleep better.

Are you robbing yourself of sleep?

1) A Tennis Ball

If you snore mostly when on your back, put a tennis ball in a shirt pocket cut from an old T-shirt and sew it to the mid-back of your tight pajama top. The discomfort forces you to roll over and sleep on your side, without waking you up. Expert: Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, a board-certified internist and medical director of the Fibromyalgia and Fatigue Centers

20 Moves that prevent tossing and turning

2) Extra Pillows

Try propping your head up with an extra pillow to stop snoring. This opens your airway more, which prevents the back of the throat from collapsing and causing snoring. You can also raise the head of your bed by putting a couple of bricks under the legs of your bed, for example. Expert: Philip Westbrook, MD, founder and former director of the Sleep Disorders Center at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, former president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, and former editor of the journalSleep Medicine Reviews

Zen-ify your bedroom for healthier sleep

3) A Humidifier

If a cold or congestion is behind your snoring, one way to unstuff your nose is to run a humidifier in your bedroom at night. This encourages your sinuses to drain, shrinking nasal mucous and improving airflow to reduce snoring. Smearing some Vicks VapoRub on your chest at night will help open your nasal passages too, easing your snoring. Expert: James Herdegen, MD, medical director of the Sleep Science Center at the University of Illinois

Home appliances with unexpected health bonuses

4) Nasal Strips

If you snore but don't have underlying sinus problems or coughing, you can relieve some of the snoring by wearing an OTC nasal strip, such as Breathe Right. These adhesive strips pull open the nasal passages so they're less narrow, giving you better airflow. Expert: James Herdegen, MD, medical director of the Sleep Science Center at the University of Illinois

Natural relief for 9 common ailments

5) Mouth Guard

A mandibular advancement device, also known as an oral appliance, is shaped like a mouth guard for you to wear at night. It helps keep the lower jaw pushed out, widening the airway and reducing snoring. Studies show it is 90% effective at reducing noise from snoring. It costs $500 to $1,000 and lasts for at least 3 years. Your dentist can fit you for one. For a less expensive option, you can buy an OTC device called a snore guard. You boil it and then fit it into your mouth to create an impression of your teeth and dental structure. The goal is the same: to bring your lower jaw forward a bit to make the back of your throat less crowded. Expert: James Herdegen, MD, medical director of the Sleep Science Center at the University of Illinois

Ex-MAFIA BOSS "The Ear" makes history with trial testimony

NEW YORK – A jailed former Mafia boss who once ordered a payback killing in the infamous "Donnie Brasco" case made gangland history Tuesday by becoming the highest-ranking member of the city's five Italian organized crime families to break their sacred vow of silence and testify against one of their own.

Joseph Massino took the witness stand at the Brooklyn trial of Vincent "Vinny Gorgeous" Basciano, who served as one of his captains in the Bonanno crime family. Prosecutors say that Massino secretly recorded Basciano admitting he ordered a hit on an associate who ran afoul of the secretive Bonannos.

"You will hear the defendant did not tolerate being disrespected or disobeyed and that the penalty for both was death," Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicole Argentieri said in opening statements.

Moments after being sworn in, Massino pointed across the courtroom and identified Basciano — "the guy sitting in the gray suit" — as the crime family's former acting boss. The defendant stared back at the government's star witness, steadily chewing on a piece of gum.

In clipped tones, Massino gave the anonymous jury a colorful tutorial on the Mafia.

By cooperating, he explained, he was violating a sacred oath he took during a 1977 induction ceremony to protect the secret society. It was understood, he said, that "once a bullet leaves that gun, you never talk about it."

He testified that when he took control of the family he gave strict orders to never utter his name — a precaution against FBI surveillance. Instead, his soldiers touched their ears to refer to him, earning him the nickname "The Ear."

Asked about his duties as boss, he replied, "Murder. ... Making captains. Breaking captains" — lingo for promoting and demoting capos. He said he also had to assess talent.

"It takes all kinds of meat to make a good sauce," said Massino, the one-time proprietor of a Queens restaurant called CasaBlanca. "Some people, they kill. Some people, they earn, they can't kill."

Massino, 68, broke ranks and began talking with investigators after his 2004 conviction for orchestrating a quarter-century's worth of murder, racketeering and other crimes as he rose through the ranks of the Bonannos. The bloodshed included the shotgun slayings of three rival captains and the execution of a mobster who vouched for FBI undercover Brasco in the 1980s. Brasco's story became a movie starring Johnny Depp and Al Pacino.

While imprisoned together in 2005, the former Bonanno boss agreed to wear a wire and betray Basciano.

The understudy "told me that he killed him," Massino said in recounting a conversation about the 2004 slaying charged in the current case. "He said (the victim) was a scumbag, a rat, a troublemaker, a bad kid."

In his opening statement, defense attorney George Goltzer told jurors that Basciano took credit for the coldblooded murder to protect the real killer — a friend in the Bonannos who acted without proper permission — "from the wrath of Joseph Massino." The lawyer described Massino and other turncoats slated to testify for the government as deceitful opportunists.

"The United States government needs to make deals with the devil. ... You don't have to accept what they say," Goltzer said.

Prosecutors say Basciano, the one-time owner of the Hello Gorgeous beauty salon, rose to his leadership role after a series of Bonanno defections and successful prosecutions in the 2000s decimated its leadership.

The 50-year-old defendant, known for his explosive temper, could face the death penalty if convicted of racketeering, murder and other charges. He already is serving a life term for a conviction in a separate case in 2007.

Massino is serving two consecutive life terms for eight murders. He testified his cooperation spared his wife from prosecution, allowed her to keep their home and gave him a shot at a reduced sentence.

He said he hoped "one day maybe I'll see a little light at the end of the tunnel."

And what about Donnie Brasco?

Massino said he had never met the real-life undercover. Asked whether the movie was accurate, he started to move his hand in a dismissive way before the judge cut him off.

"Jurors, disregard this," the judge instructed while making the same motion.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Little-Known Man-Made Wonders of the World

Not all of the world's wonders get the attention they deserve. We searched the globe to find nine marvels that are so awe-inspiring, you'll find it hard to believe that they were crafted by human hands—and so far off the beaten path, chances are you've never heard of them

Of course you've heard of Machu Picchu and Angkor Wat, but have you heard about an Incan city that seems truly lost to today's travelers, or the complex of 52 pre-Angkorian temples so deep in the Cambodian jungle that it takes a local to guide you there? These destinations are jaw-dropping, but they don’t pull in the massive western crowds for a reason: Some of them are remote. That's where we come in with suggested tour operators to make the experience easier and well worth it.

Sichuan, China

A Buddha so large it took 90 years to build

It took almost the entire 8th century to carve the 233-foot-tall Leshan Giant Buddha out of a mountainside in central China—about 1,400 miles west of Shanghai (and far out of sight and mind for most travelers)—but the result still stands as one of the world's largest Buddhas. Its ears alone are more than 23 feet in length (that’s the height of a two-story building), and even its smallest toe is large enough to sit on comfortably. But it’s not only the Buddha’s giant scale that’s impressive. On its head are 1,021 intricate, twisted hair buns hiding a complex drainage system that helps preserve the statue. The Mount Emei area itself has enormous religious significance; Buddhism was first introduced to China here. Thrill seekers can get up close to witness the Buddha’s sheer size by navigating down a steep, 250-step zigzag path along its side; those looking to take in the statue from a distance (and see additional figures carved into the cliff) can opt for a boat ride—the statue sits at the confluence of where three rivers meet.

Karelia, Russia

An open-air museum of elaborate wooden churches

It requires a flight or overnight train ride from Moscow or St. Petersburg and then a ferry ride to reach Kizhi Island, part of the 1,650-island chain on northern Russia’s remote Lake Onega. Your reward is becoming one of the choice few to explore the one-of-a-kind State Kizhi Museum, made up of nearly 90 wooden structures, including chapels, windmills, and granaries. Its most remarkable portion, set on a narrow strip of land on the island’s southern tip, is Kizhi Pogost, a walled enclosure that houses an octagonal bell tower and two 18th- century wooden churches. Twenty-two cascading bulbous cupolas fashioned from aspen shingles top the 121-foot Church of the Transfiguration of Our Savior. Amazingly enough, this masterpiece was built without a single nail. Legend has it that a sole axe was used to carve the shingles and the interlocking corner joinery that hold the majestic structure up, and after its completion, was tossed into the water so a similar marvel couldn’t be built.

Lalibela, Ethiopia

Medieval churches made out of volcanic red rock

Unless you're from Ethiopia, chances are you don't know about these 11 medieval churches in the small mountain village of Lalibela. The destination is first and foremost a place of worship, which explains why the Ethiopians haven't done more to market it to tourists. You don't have to be devout, however, to marvel at the churches' unusual design. Legend has it that a visit to Jerusalem after its fall to a Muslim general in the 13th century inspired King Lalibela to rebuild the holy city in Ethiopia. He commissioned workers to dig these churches out of the area's red volcanic rock. One remarkable group of four—the House of Emmanuel, House of Mercurios, House of Gabriel, and House of Abba Libanos—was created from the same massive piece and connected by underground passageways. Light filters into the cruciform structures through cross-shaped windows. Another church, the Beta Medhane Alem (House of the Saviour of the World), rests some 35 feet below the surface of the desert.

Kampong Thom Province, Cambodia

Cambodia's oldest temple complex

Built during the 7th century, the 52 standing temples of Sambor Prei Kuk are part of the remains of the former capital of Chenla, an ancient kingdom that once ruled much of present-day Cambodia. Spread across three square miles of jungle in Cambodia's Kampong Thom province, the complex predates even the oldest temples of Angkor by some 600 years. Amazingly, it's also far beneath the radar of most travelers—a meager 5,000 annual international visitors make it out to this destination, compared to the million-plus tourists who visit Angkor Wat (that may have something to do with the fact that getting to Sambor Prei Kuk entails a three-hour drive from either Siem Reap or Phnom Penh along the bumpy, stray-dog-ridden National Route No. 6). If you do want to visit, the new Isanborei community tourism project provides local English-speaking guides who will take you around the temples on a tuk tuk. If you’re looking for a truly authentic experience, opt for one of their homestays—you can live with a family, learn how to cook traditional dishes, and even help harvest rice.

Malta and Gozo

World's oldest freestanding monuments

The stone temples on these small Mediterranean islands wedged between Sicily and Tunisia don't get much attention these days; you won't see them in a big-screen thriller or from a mega cruise ship. But as far back as 5000 B.C., millennia before work began on the Great Pyramid of Giza, they were drawing hordes of worshippers. Hagar Qim, the grandest temple complex, commands attention from its hilltop location on Malta’s southern coast. It was constructed from enormous limestone slabs raised to form doorways with lintels (similar to those at Stonehenge) and semicircle formations; one slab stands a commanding 20 feet high and, weighing nearly 20 tons, is believed to be among the largest of any temple. Hagar Qim’s best statues—three “fat lady” figurines and a slimmer Venus of Malta—were excavated in the mid-20th century and are now housed in the National Museum of Archaeology in the Maltese capital city of Valletta. But if you look closely while at Hagar Qim, you’ll find carvings of spirals, animals, and goddesses—all the more impressive given the builders' limited tools: flints and obsidian blades.

Choquequirao, Peru

The truly lost Incan city

These 15th-century ruins, which consist of a central plaza and dozens of slope terraces built some 6,000 feet above the glacier-fed Apurímac River, received fewer than 7,000 visitors in 2006. That’s just a little more than 1 percent of those that made the trek to its far more famous sister site, Machu Picchu, whose nickname “The Lost City of the Incas” seems misleading given its typical tourist crowds. But at its height, Choquequirao was no less significant: It was roughly the same size as Machu Picchu and believed to be the last main religious center of the Incan Empire before its fall. From the tiny town of Cachora (about 100 miles away from Cuzco), getting to Choquequirao is an arduous 20-mile trek. You’ll pass arid country full of cacti and agave before the vegetation turns lush. Take a breather to spot the occasional condor, and exhale with the jagged, snow-capped Vilcabamba Range in the distance.

Isfahan, Iran

An unexpected royal city

When Shah Abbas chose to relocate the capital of the Persian Empire to Isfahan around 1600, he was determined to make a big impression. So surely he'd be disappointed to know that centuries later his masterpiece remains hidden in plain sight—at least for Americans, who are largely restricted from and cautioned against visiting Iran. The Shah's massive building centered on grand Naqsh-e Jahan Square, which he surrounded with four monumental structures: the gleaming, mosaic-tiled Royal Mosque to the south, the Portico of Qaysariyyeh to the north, the Mosque of Sheykh Lotfollah to the east, and the magnificent entrance to Ali Qapu palace and the royal gardens to the west. Ali Qapu's grand covered balcony was where the shah and his guests would watch polo matches, horse races—even public executions. Inside, spiral staircases connect each floor, and the walls are adorned with intricate bird-patterned murals. Even more impressive is its sixth floor Music Room, covered with ornately decorated stucco niches and cutouts in the shapes of pots and vessels that once reverberated the sounds of the ensembles who performed there.

El Mirador, Guatemala

A Mayan complex that's still unearthing marvels

The little-known Mirador Basin, hidden among 2,000 years of jungle growth in northern Guatemala, is called the Cradle of Maya Civilization—and for good reason. Its five Preclassic Maya cities—El Mirador, Nakbe, Xulnal, Tintal, and Wakna—are each larger and older than the nearby (and far more famous) Tikal by at least 1,000 years. Among their astounding innovations are super-size temples and pyramids, including La Danta, the largest -known pyramid in the world measured by volume, and the remains of the world's first highway system. And there may be more to uncover: Just two years ago, archaeologists discovered a massive limestone frieze that dates back to 200 B.C. But illegal logging and tree clearing to make way for cash crops like corn are threatening the forests (an alarming 70 percent has been destroyed in just a decade). In an effort to preserve the region, an international effort led by the Global Heritage Fund with help from the Guatemalan and U.S. governments is underway to establish an 810,000-acre national park in the region.

Lucknow, India

A gravity-defying palace

Few people have heard of Lucknow, capital of the eastern region of Uttar Pradesh in India, and even fewer know of the maze-like palace complex—a blend of European and Arabic architecture—that is located there. It was the brainchild of 18th-century ruler Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula, who put nearly 22,000 city residents to work during a severe famine (struggling noblemen were rumored to have come in at night to avoid being identified among the crew). Bara Imambara's magnificent central arched hall—which stretches 50 meters long (roughly half the length of a soccer field) and about three stories high—is held up, amazingly, without any pillars, girders or beams. Instead, the hall was constructed solely with interlocking brickwork. Another one of its mysteries is the Bhulbhulaiya, a dense labyrinth of more than 1,000 narrow stairway passages meant to thwart any possible intruders—some stairways lead to abrupt drops, others have dead ends. It’s possible to roam around the secret maze, preferably with an approved guide, and to explore the adjacent mosque and manicured gardens.

20 Secret Signs of Addiction

Knowing whether someone you love has a problem with alcohol or drugs isn't as straightforward as it sounds. Despite the stereotypes of the staggering drunk or the emaciated addict, most people who overuse alcohol and drugs become adept at disguising their behavior. Shame, embarrassment, and fear of consequences are powerful motivators. And in many cases, the person who's drinking too much or using drugs doesn't want to recognize or admit that he's not in control of the situation.

14 Things Your Eyes Say About Your Health

Sadly, many times we don't find out until a tragedy, such as a drunk driving accident or an overdose, has occurred. And then we're left wondering why we didn't spot the signs of addiction earlier. Knowing these 20 secret signs of addiction can help you prevent that from happening.

1. Quantity control

Over time, a higher tolerance to alcohol or drugs leads people with addiction problems to increase the quantity and frequency of their substance of choice without showing signs of being out of control. You might notice that someone refills his or her glass more often than anyone else or is always the one to suggest opening another bottle of wine. Prescription drug users will start going through a prescription faster, complaining that they "ran out" or that "the doctor forgot to renew my prescription."

To spot drug dependence, notice if the person you're concerned about frequently seems to need an early refill, always with a different reason, says physician Gregory A. Smith, medical director of the Comprehensive Pain Relief Group in Redondo Beach, California. Excuses Smith says he's heard a thousand times: "The pills spilled into the sink and went down the drain." "My car got broken into, and they took my bag that had all my pills." "My brother's friend who has a drug problem stole my pills." "The pharmacy shorted me on my pills . . . there were supposed to be 120, but there were only 95 pills in the bottle when I got home and counted them."

2. Hide-and-seek around the house

Quick, check under the bathroom sink -- is there a bottle hiding behind the Ajax? How about in the laundry room behind the detergent, or in the garage? Finding a bottle or a six-pack tucked where it shouldn't be is one of the most common tip-offs that someone's drinking is getting out of hand. Similarly, pills and powders may turn up in glove compartments, the inside pockets of purses, jewelry boxes, or the toolbox.

Over time, alcoholics and addicts develop a network of hiding places to stash their drugs. You may notice that the person is oddly protective of certain rooms or areas of the house or garage, insisting that they be kept private, says physician John Massella, regional program director of Gateway Rehabilitation Center in Pittsburgh. There may even be a sense that the family member is "guarding" the alcohol, Massella says. Outbursts of temper may ensue if someone disturbs the private territory.

3. The disappearing act

When it comes to drug addiction, items don't so much appear around the house as disappear, says Jacqueline E. Barnes, author of The Whirlpool -- Surviving a Loved One's Addiction. "You notice that checks are missing from your checkbook, sometimes taken from the middle of the checkbook rather than from the back of it," Barnes says. The need for money and the desperation of addiction make anything fair game. "Items like cameras and jewelry begin to disappear from your house; family heirlooms are taken to a pawn shop," Barnes says. "Sadly, addicts lose touch with guilt and remorse. They'll sell anything belonging to family and friends to get money to buy drugs."

4. A head start

"Priming the pump" or drinking alone before going out with friends is a big red flag, experts say. "Alcoholics will often drink wine, beer, or liquor before meeting with friends so that it appears that they're drinking the same amount as everyone else -- when, in fact, they're way ahead," says Joseph Garbely, chief medical officer at Friends Hospital in Philadelphia. Why? Alcoholics want to appear to be just like their friends in public, but their tolerance is much higher, so they have to drink a lot more.

5. Tricks and manipulations

Hiding an addiction leads to constant subterfuge. Alcoholics will often drink before and/or after a social event, then drink very little while other people are imbibing. Teenagers and young adults who are starting to use drugs may throw parents and teachers off the track by admitting to use of a lesser drug, like pot, when harder drugs are the real problem.

And all alcoholics and addicts make great use of the "divide and conquer" strategy, manipulating family members by telling one thing to one person, something else to another. This typically takes the form of half-confessions. "They may be honest with one family member about one thing and honest about another thing to someone else, but no one family member will know everything," says John Massella of Gateway. If it feels like your family's getting tangled up in lies and half-truths, it's time to pay attention.

6. The money magnet

Drugs are expensive, and so is stopping at the bar four times a week. Impaired judgment also leads many people to get in financial hot water simply by not minding the store.

Just about any unusual money behavior can tip families off to drug or alcohol abuse, experts say. Bills may pile up unopened, or someone might suddenly start selling possessions on eBay when he or she has never done so before. The manic periods of elation from coke and speed can send people on buying sprees; alcohol can fuel gambling binges. Other tip-offs: Asking friends for loans or using a family member's credit card without asking.

7. The clear choice

Vodka is a drink of choice for alcoholics for one reason only: It's clear and looks just like water when poured in a tumbler. Vodka can also be added to soft drinks and juice without changing the color or giving off a noticeable smell.

"A definite sign of abuse is when people put vodka in their thermos and mix it with their morning coffee," says Neil Capretto, medical director of Gateway Rehabilitation Center in Pittsburgh. If someone you love switches from a previous drink of choice to vodka, it's cause for alarm. Ditto if sipping from their cup of coffee or coke reveals that it's spiked. Pay attention to grocery receipts, too -- is vodka on the list?

8. Missing in action

That birthday party that Dad didn't show up for, the high school graduation your sister swanned into halfway through -- these are the kinds of things people remember when they look back and wonder why they didn't recognize a loved one's addiction sooner. Becoming unreliable and secretive is a trademark of the alcoholic or addict. They start to forget appointments, miss important events, roll in late to work or school.

Maintaining and hiding an addiction takes time; you have to make your connection, pop by the bar on the way home, stop for coffee to sober up. Sneaking around the house is another tip-off, including slipping into the house to reach the bathroom (and the toothpaste and Visine) before talking to anyone. If every time you turn around, your loved one seems to be somewhere else, trust your instincts and start checking up.

9. A narrower world

As addiction takes hold, it tends to block out other interests and activities that used to be important sources of pleasure and fulfillment. Loss of interest in friends, sports, social activities, and anything else that used to define someone can be a clue that something's not right.

Sometimes the signs of addiction can be as subtle as a sense that the person isn't himself anymore. "You might notice someone finding an excuse not to go to family functions because they know they'll be under tremendous scrutiny from 'the village that raised them' -- the extended family," says Joseph Garbely of Friends Hospital in Philadelphia.

Another sign of isolation is changing their daily routine without a good reason; they may be redirecting their steps as they try to avoid friends, coworkers, and family.

10. Magic bottles

Checking the state of the liquor cabinet is a time-honored ritual for those who live with heavy drinkers. Harder to spot but even more telltale is the "magic bottle" -- the bottle that never seems to get empty. If the liquid levels in liquor bottles seem to rise and fall mysteriously, your only recourse is to taste. Watered-down liquor is a sure sign that the person you're worried about wishes to hide his liquor intake from you.

You might also suspect that bottles are being hidden. "Many people with alcohol abuse and alcoholism hide beer cans, wine bottles, etc., at the bottom of their recycling bins so their neighbors don't get suspicious about their problem," says Neil Capretto of Pittsburgh's Gateway Rehabilitation Center. If you hear the clink of bottles being moved around in the recycling bin or carried out to the car late at night, your secret addict may be doing a midnight drop-off.

11. Can I try the diet you're on?

Crystal meth, cocaine, and other "uppers" stimulate energy to the point that people feel like they can go and go and go without eating. Many have no appetite at all. A natural side effect of this behavior pattern is, of course, rapid weight loss.

While this seems like an obvious sign of abuse, it's actually frequently missed because it's not considered something to worry about, experts say. "Weight loss is usually seen as a positive thing in our society, so it's often overlooked as a symptom of drug abuse," says Joseph Garbely of Friends Hospital in Philadelphia.

12. Squeaky clean

Sure we all want to be hygienic. But overuse of certain products signals that someone's trying to hide something. Constant use of gum or breath mints? Someone might be trying to mask the smell of alcohol. The same goes for excessive use of mouthwash or hand gel (and constantly smelling like these products). Antistatic dryer sheets treated with a fragrance can be used to disguise the smell of smoke on clothes.

A bottle of eyedrops in the purse can be a tip-off that someone's trying to hide reddened eyes, especially if he or she seems to go through bottles remarkably quickly. And eyedrops first thing in the morning? Enough said.

13. The bathroom game

Where do you find prescription drugs? In the bathroom. And if your own bathroom cabinets are empty of supplies, the obvious next choice is other people's bathroom cabinets. Someone who's abusing prescription drugs won't be able to resist the temptation to scrounge them in other people's houses, usually by making pretenses to visit the bathroom.

What you'll notice, if you pay attention, is overly frequent trips and taking a long time during bathroom visits. Hint: Listen for the sound of water running for an extended time to disguise the noise of cabinets and drawers opening and closing. Another telltale oddity: When visiting a home with more than one bathroom, a drug user will find excuses to use a different bathroom each time. "People abusing prescription drugs may even attend real estate open houses just so they can look in unsuspecting homeowners' medicine cabinets," says physician John Massella of Gateway.

14. Mood management

Many family members describe the emotional experience of living with an alcoholic or addict as being like a roller-coaster ride. "Hallmarks of any kind of addiction are unstable mood and unpredictable emotions and actions," says addiction specialist Clare Kavin, director of the Waismann Method of dependency treatment. Moods can go from numb and calm to extremely aggressive within minutes, often with no apparent explanation.

Someone smoking a lot of pot will be in "slow-down mode, with no ambition or energy," says Liliane Desjardins, an addiction specialist and co-founder of Pavillion International, a recovery treatment center in Texas. "They're playing it mellow, but what's really happening is that thinking and feeling are impaired, as is the ability to make rational choices or to follow up on decisions."

15. Sleeping sickness

"Mommy's asleep on the couch and won't wake up," is how a young child of an alcoholic or addict typically describes the behavior she witnesses, and it's a pretty apt description. Alcohol and many common drugs are sedatives, or "downers," which means they make you feel more relaxed but also make you sleep, and sleep heavily. If you notice that someone you're concerned about falls asleep at inappropriate times or has a hard time waking up, pay attention.

Excessive sleepiness can also signal crashing out after a drug binge, experts warn. "After cocaine or meth binges, users become listless and very low on energy and will sleep for days," says Harold Urschel, author of Healing the Addicted Brain and medical director of Enterhealth, a recovery center in Dallas. One clue that this isn't just the flu or a need to "sleep in" is that, just as suddenly, the person wakes up with a ravenous appetite.

16. Pain that never ends

Prescription drug addiction is one of the most common types of addiction today, and abusers learn a closetful of tricks to get hold of medications. Back pain is one of the most common symptoms used to get pain meds, doctors say, because it's nondescript and hard to prove, even with testing. It's also relatively easy to fake. If a young, healthy person claims to be suffering from chronic back pain and asks for narcotic pain medication, look closely.

Another tactic is going to more than one doctor and getting prescriptions for similar drugs or claiming that certain drugs don't work. "If someone tells their physician that they're allergic to NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as Motrin, and they say that only narcotics work for pain, that's a red flag," says Joseph Garbely of Friends Hospital in Philadelphia. The reason? When a patient says this, a doctor is automatically limited and can only prescribe narcotic painkillers, Garbely says.

17. Sickness without cause

When people are abusing alcohol or drugs, they just don't feel good much of the time, so frequent, vague illnesses can be a sign that something's up. Sickness can also be an excuse to duck out of work. Typically, you'll hear a lot of different explanations, all of them vague and hard to prove or disprove, says Gregory Smith of California's Comprehensive Pain Relief Group. Seafood poisoning, headache, diarrhea, constipation, and "my back went out" are all common -- and sometimes real, sometimes not.

In addition, low energy, fatigue, and depression that seem to come on suddenly without reason may not be caused by the drug itself but by withdrawal, says Smith. All of these symptoms are likely to be accompanied by irritability and even flashes of anger, especially if you question their authenticity or seriousness.

18. Paranoia and panic attacks

Attacks of paranoia are a well-known occurrence to anyone who's smoked pot, but they're also a common side effect of many other drugs and alcohol. Panic attacks, too, can be caused by many drugs, particularly stimulants.

Sometimes these symptoms are temporary, but over time drug addicts' personalities can completely change. "Cocaine alters the brain and can cause a variety of psychological symptoms, including thoughts that 'everyone is out to get me' or 'the walls are closing in around me,'" says Harold Urschel of Dallas.

Those abusing alcohol and drugs may develop social anxiety, feeling nervous and anxious in public situations and avoiding them whenever possible.

19. The storyteller

Would it surprise you to know that someone who proclaims dramatically that he hasn't had a drink in two weeks is probably an alcoholic? It shouldn't; telling stories to yourself and others is a natural reaction for someone who can't admit he has a drinking problem.

Even more frustrating, he may not even know they're stories. Drugs and alcohol cause memory lapses and blackouts; he may honestly not remember what happened. It's hard to admit that, of course, so rather than confess to a blackout, he makes up a story about it.

The lies don't just involve family members -- they can extend to bosses, doctors, cops, anyone in the person's life. Prescription drug addicts often take a family member such as a child or an aging parent to the doctor and try to get a prescription that they really intend for themselves. "The person will say: 'Listen, my mother won't tell you, but she's in terrible pain and really needs painkillers," says Joseph Garbely of Friends Hospital in Philadelphia.

20. The blame game

The craziness that overtakes families when a family member is abusing drugs and alcohol can feel like a contagious disease. The reason? The need to deny the addiction leads to an epidemic of blame.

"Addicts and alcoholics are known for blaming, guilt-tripping, and making others responsible for their misery," says Liliane Desjardins of the Pavillion International treatment center in Texas. Endless excuses for bad behavior become the norm, but no matter what happens, somehow it's always someone else's fault. That dented bumper? Well, why did you leave the car in the driveway where he didn't expect it to be?

The blame game ups the conflict level; a formerly peaceful family can begin to feel like a war zone. But the conflicts are always the fault of someone other than the alcoholic or addict.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Five industries fighting extinction

If you read the print edition of a newspaper, still make calls over a landline or plan to rent a tuxedo for an upcoming wedding, you are doing what many of your friends and neighbors gave up long ago.

Analysts at IBISWorld, a market research firm, recently compiled a list of 10 industries that may be on the "verge of extinction in the United States." Within its database of close to 700 industries, about 200 are in decline, with the ones selected having seen large and steady drops in revenue and number of establishments. From the beginning of 2011 to the end of 2016, these industries are likely to deteriorate further.

"People might think that we are coming out of recession and these industries have hit bottom, so therefore everyone should be going up," IBISWorld Senior Analyst Toon van Beeck says. "But that is definitely not the case. A lot of these revenues peaked in about 2000 and since then they have declined year over year."

He explains that while economic cycles, the ups and downs of bull and bear markets, often swing every eight to 10 years, "industry life cycles can be three to 50 years where they go from maturity into decline." The industries singled out by the firm "are really at the end of their decline phase or they are in rapid decline."

Most of the industries share common reasons for their bleak prospects, including damage from advances in technology, industry stagnation and external competition, he says.

Because labor costs and regulations are high domestically, many manufacturers send their production to foreign countries. Downward price pressure from domestic wholesalers, retailers and consumers forces U.S. producers to cut costs to offer a competitive price. Many firms that cannot outsource have a difficult time competing.

Advances in technology are another drag on companies whose failures drag down their industry. The rapid pace of technological developments may create industries and business opportunities. But traditional companies not forward-thinking or nimble enough to adapt will court failure.

Adding to the vicious circle, struggling companies are often forced to cut prices and reduce production costs. Doing so hammers away at budgets for R&D, as well as capital and technology investments. The resulting stagnation drags down these businesses, and their overall industry, even more.

Wired Telecommunication Carriers

In singling out wired telecommunication carriers as among the 10 barely breathing industries, IBISWorld points that revenues have dropped nearly 55% since $341.8 billion in the year 2000. An additional decline of 37.1% is projected over the next six years.

Big players such as AT&T (NYSE: T - News) and Verizon (NYSE: VZ - News) still dominate the industry despite losing a steady stream of customers, he says, because of their prominence in the wireless space for which many former customers are jumping ship.

Record Stores

Record stores, van Beeck says, are a "sad story" hard hit by changes in how their customers now find, buy and listen to music. There may still be a strong, core following for traditional vinyl, but many shops haven't found a way to expand beyond that niche.

The industry saw revenue plummet 76.3% since 2000, to about $2 billion. IBISWorld expects the bad news to get worse as they lose nearly another 40% by 2016.

Van Beeck says record stores are a case study in not adapting nimbly enough to changing times.

Bookstores, which bear conceptual similarities to record stores, are themselves in rough shape these days -- with the once giant Borders (NYSE: BGP - News) now in bankruptcy. Their declines weren't substantial enough to make the cut of his ranking, van Beeck says. In fact, they may offer some hindsight into what record stores could have done -- creating a more customer-friendly environment with cafes and a more diverse inventory.


The photofinishing industry has also lost its focus and vibrancy.

"While Eastman Kodak (NYSE: EK- News), Fuji Film and Ritz Camera were once major and prominent companies, they are just a splash of what they were in their heyday," van Beeck says.

With about $1.6 billion in revenue last year, they have faced a decline of nearly 70% during the past decade. Revenue could drop another 40% by 2016, IBISWorld estimates.

Once again, technology is the issue. Digital cameras continue to offer improving quality and falling prices. Color printing can be done at home and cheap digital storage, on hard drives and flash sticks and through online services, has reduced the need to produce a hard copy of every shot as a keepsake. Overall, the total number of prints in the United States has fallen at an annualized rate of 3.5% over the past five years, he says.

Video Postproduction

Video postproduction is another industry done in by the do-it-yourself opportunities presented by new technology. Once requiring specialized expertise, many of these tasks can be done on even an average home computer.

Companies such as Technicolor have suffered as a result. Industrywide, revenues have fallen 25% in the past decade to just north of $4 billion, with another 11% decrease predicted by 2016.


The Internet's role as a creator/destroyer is also behind the constant talk of the demise of newspapers. Newspaper publishing, a $41 billion industry last year, fell 36% since 2000, with a 20% decline likely by 2016.

Failing to see the writing on the wall, and how the online world would snare eyeballs and advertisers, is once again a major part of the problem these companies face. It's been years and years since the "information superhighway" was a hot concept, and yet such companies as The New York Times {NYSE: NYT - News) are just now getting serious (though not yet successful) about such concepts as "paywalls" for their content.

British spy files shed light on Nazi saboteurs

An undated image released by Britain's National Archives Friday April 1, 2011 shows sabotage equipment smuggled into the United States in 1942 by Germ AP – An undated image released by Britain's National Archives Friday April 1, 2011 shows sabotage equipment …

LONDON – The four men wading ashore on a Florida beach wearing nothing but bathing trunks and German army hats looked like an unlikely invading force.

Declassified British intelligence files describe how the men were part of Nazi sabotage teams sent to the U.S. in June 1942 to undermine the American war effort.

They were trained in bomb-making, supplied with explosives and instructed in how to make timers from "easily obtainable commodities such as dried peas, lumps of sugar and razor blades."

Fortunately for the U.S., they were also spectacularly unsuccessful.

"It was not brilliantly planned," said Edward Hampshire, a historian at Britain's National Archives, which released the wartime intelligence documents Monday. "The Germans picked the leader for this very, very poorly. He immediately wanted to give himself up."

A detailed new account of the mission — code-named Pastorius after an early German settler in the U.S. — is provided in a report written in 1943 by MI5 intelligence officer Victor Rothschild. It is one of a trove of previously secret documents which shed light on the Nazis' desire to use sabotage, subterfuge and even poisoned sausages to fight the war.

Pastorius was a mixture of elaborate planning, bad luck and human error.

Eight Germans who had lived in the U.S. were dropped along the Eastern seaboard — four on Long Island, the rest south of Jacksonville, Florida. They were to go ashore, blend in, then begin a campaign of sabotage against factories, railways and canals, as well as launching "small acts of terrorism" including suitcase bombs aimed at Jewish-owned shops.

But the plan started to go wrong almost as soon as the men left their "sabotage camp" in Germany.

They went to Paris, where one of the team got drunk at the hotel bar and "told everyone that he was a secret agent" — something, the MI5 report notes, that may "have contributed to the failure of the undertaking."

The submarine dropping half the group on Long Island ran aground, and MI5 noted that "it was only owing to the laziness or stupidity of the American coast guards that this submarine was not attacked by U.S. forces."

The Germans were stopped by a coast guard, who — to the evident astonishment of the British — did not detain them. He told his superiors, who were slow to contact the FBI.

The others in Florida also made it ashore, despite their attention-grabbing attire of "bathing trunks and army forage caps."

Unfortunately for the team, their leader, George John Dasch, had decided to surrender. The report describes Dasch "ringing up the FBI in Washington from the Mayfair Hotel and saying that he was a saboteur and wished to tell his story to Mr. Hoover" — FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover. The FBI was initially skeptical, but Dasch was soon giving a full confession, and the whole gang was rounded up.

Within months, the saboteurs had been tried and sentenced to death. All were executed except Dasch and another who had also backed out. They were deported to Germany after the war.

For the U.S. it was a lucky escape. In World War I, German saboteurs blew up an arms dump in New York harbor, killing several people and injuring hundreds.

The newly declassified files give a glimpse of the Nazis' desperate determination to fight a covert campaign against the Allies, even as they knew the war was lost.

One captured French Nazi intelligence agent told his interrogators he had attended a conference in the final weeks of the war to plan a violent campaign that would sow chaos across Western Europe and "eventually lead to a state of civil war in which Fourth Reich would re-emerge."

The campaign was to involve sabotage, assassinations and even chemical weapons.

One file chronicles German attempts to use poison as a postwar weapon. Intelligence from captured Nazi agents indicated there were plans to contaminate alcoholic drinks with methanol, inject sausages with poison and prepare "poisoned Nescafe, sugar, German cigarettes and German chocolate."

Another elaborate plan involved supplying agents with special headache-inducing cigarettes, which could be given to an assassination target. When the person complained of a headache, they would be offered an aspirin — which had been laced with poison.

The files suggest British agents were unsure how much credence to give some of the more fanciful claims, though a memo was drawn up advising that Allied soldiers should not eat German food or smoke German cigarettes "under pain of severe penalties."

"Nowadays, it's easy to regard such schemes as impossibly far-fetched," said Christopher Andrew, the official historian of MI5. "But at the time it was reasonable to believe that after the Allied victory there would remain a dangerous postwar Nazi underground which would continue a secret war."