Building Windmills in Africa

ENVIRONMENT



“Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration!” - Thomas Edison, holds the world record for the most inventions with 1,093 patents.

Essentially all it takes is a little research, some hard work and you can change the world around you.

Disney's first black princess

ENTERTAINMENT/POLITICS - Get in line, black women are apparently kewl in the United States of America. And around the world too, as I will demonstrate.

First there is Princess Tiana, the first black princess in a Disney film, which debuts in "The Princess and the Frog" on November 25th and in wider release on December 11th just in time for the Christmas rush.

The film is already getting lots of attention from children and parents, even though Tiana spends most of the film in frog shape (she kisses the Frog Prince and instead of transforming him back into a human, she tranforms into a frog).

Which begs the question, when will we get our first real Princess? Technically Tiana isn't a real princess. But then again neither was Belle, Cinderella, Mulan or Pocahontas. I suppose Pocahontas was at least a chieftain's daughter... And Belle and Cinderella only marry princes, starting off poor. Whatever, its really a moot issue.

Secondly there is Mattel's new "So In Style" line of black Barbie dolls which have various skin colour tints allowing little girls and collectors to choose between a dark chocolate to a light mocha. (The biggest complaint however is that the hair is too easy to come through.)

The hair issue is nothing new. That complaint has been around for decades.

Mattel first made a black Barbie in 1967. They also made black and Hispanic versions in the 1980s, a Kenyan Barbie in 1994, and so on. In 1992 they made a Teen Talk Barbie which would talk and say "Math class is tough." which sparked outrage.

According to designer Stacey McBride-Irby: "As far as the hair, I wanted to create dolls little girls would play with. They couldn't have as much fun playing with an Afro." A wardrobe of hair extensions might have been useful and more authentic.

There is a lot of politics around African hair and accepting the way it is. (You will note nobody is complaining that Princess Tiana's hair is mostly straight and only a wee bit curly.)

Thirdly there's what I'd call the "Michelle Obama" effect... black women, young and old, jockeying for position on how to best help humanity and other women. For example singer Rihanna says she wants to be a role model:

"I’ve always been a role model for young women so it’s only natural that I continue to set the right example and encourage them and give them insight," says Rihanna. "It doesn’t have to be a specific topic, but whatever it is I want to help young women."

Overseas there is also Senegalese-French novelist Marie NDiaye, who recently became the first black female to win the Prix Goncourt for her best-selling work Trois Femmes Puissantes (Three Powerful Women). She has been openly vocal and critical of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, sparking rumours she might run for the French presidency. MPs loyal to Sarkozy have been trying to muzzle her ever since.

And in Oklahoma Senator Connie Johnson and members of the Legislative Black Caucus are taking the Oklahoma Department of Transportation to federal court over discriminatory practices against both women and minorities.

The list goes on and on. It is as if collectively black women around the world suddenly all stood up and said "Yes, We Can." Maybe they were taking action before too, but the mass media just wasn't paying attention. Regardless, black women are now in vogue.

Kirikou and the Sorceress

ENTERTAINMENT - I came across this wonderful film called "Kirikou and the Sorceress" while browsing and decided to see if I could find a copy of it. Lo and behold, YouTube provided me the whole film.

And thus I am passing it onto friends. I think its an amazingly adorable, funny and witty film. I hope you enjoy it.

Kirikou and the Sorceress is the story about a newborn baby who saves his village from an evil sorceress. Despite his small size he manages to outwit her and save all the villagers. The story is based on a West African folk tale and was so popular in France it was made into a stage musical. I admit there is a lot of singing in the film, but it doesn't distract from my enjoyment of it (I normally hate musicals).

Women Prefer Feminine Men When on The Pill

Those birth control pills taken daily by women around the world might leave husky, masculine types (Daniel Craig) by the wayside, in favor of feminine, boyish types like Zac Efron or Leonardo DiCaprio.

Women who take the birth control pill may be attracted to different types of men than those who do not suggests a new study published in Trends in Ecology and Evolution.

"When you're on the pill you may choose partners who are more feminine or with different features," says Alexandra Alvergne of the Department of Animal and Plant Sciences at the University of Sheffield, one of the study's co-authors.

At different points in their cycle, women are attracted to different types of men Alvergne says. When women ovulate, they prefer masculine men with symmetrical faces who seem most "genetically dissimilar" to them – in other words, men who will father strong, healthy offspring, at least according to women's animal instincts.

During the rest of the month, women look for something different: men for the long haul, who seem caring, more feminine and more similar to them genetically.

"In the long run, you're looking for a parental investment, but for the genetic quality of the child, you're looking for good genes in the man," Alvergne says. "And you can't always have it all."

Upon reviewing seven recent studies, the researchers found that when women take birth control pills, and are not fertile, they are always attracted to the same type of guy – the more feminine one.

Whether this translates into mate choices remains unknown. But when two parents are too genetically similar it can affect the health of the offspring, or be more difficult to reproduce at all, and that may explain women's ovulation-time attraction to masculine characteristics. Also, when a woman meets a man while on the pill and then goes off it, it is possible that she could become less attracted to her partner and realize she craves someone a little more manly.

On the flip side, men also find non-ovulating women less attractive. In a study of lap dancers, the ovulating dancers earned $20 more per hour, on average.

According to the study, ovulation brings about physical changes in women that men pick up on, including changes in facial appearance, odour or voice pitch. As well, women may dress more provocatively or perceive themselves as more attractive when they are ovulating.

"For the same woman, if she takes the pill throughout all her cycles she's going to be less attractive on average than if she was off the pill," Alvergne says.

Increase in Men Going for Clinical Treatments

Age restoration, was once the exclusive realm of women. Now it is a unisex endeavour.

"I haven't slept in 10 years," says Lende, a top agent who specializes in downtown luxury homes.

"It's seven days a week, full speed. The eyes tell the story."

Slowly, the needle's clear liquid contents empty into the Toronto real estate agent's face in a ritual that is becoming increasingly common among men of a certain age anxious to smooth out the wrinkles.

Lende sits part of the male cosmetic procedure demographic: Mid-40s, successful and in an industry where appearance, especially youthfulness is essential to success.

Experts say real estate agents are among the leading group of male Botox-seekers.

"Presentation is part and parcel of the industry," says Lende. "If you're happy with your face it gives you more energy and vitality. It's not always inside out. It's often outside in."

Achieving the new 30 when you're in your 40s comes with options.

There are creams and serums, invasive cosmetic surgery. And then there is clinical, non-surgical treatments that plump, smooth, lift and brighten.

"We're not going to do anything drastic, just make you look like a better version of yourself," says Diana Phillips, the cosmetician at the DLK on Avenue clinic where Lende sought the fountain of youth.

The process included a "soft lift," microdermabrasion and a photo facial – words and phrases not previously part of the male lexicon.

The soft lift is done by injecting a combination of Juvederm, which promises to restore volume in hollowed-out cheeks and smooth out folds around the nose and mouth. And Botox, which is designed to turn back the clock on frown lines and crows feet.

It's not cheap.

The Juvederm treatment costs at $600 and up for a single treatment requiring a touch-up every six to nine months.

Botox treatments cost $350 and up for each session and must be repeated every three or four months,

Lende's youthful restoration also included intense pulse light (IPL) photo facial treatments in which a technician zaps uneven skin tone and broken capillaries (three to six treatments every two to four weeks; $350 and up for each treatment) and diamond microdermabrasion to suck up dead skin, exfoliate and brighten (three to six treatments every two to four weeks; $150 and up each).

"Men are slowly starting to realize there are options out there that will not drastically change their looks; rather, just make them look and feel younger," says Dr. Lisa Kellett, the Toronto dermatologist who owns the DLK clinic. "The benefit is that there is no surgery so, therefore, no downtime and more reasonable cost than surgery."

The before and after pictures tell the story. Weeks after his procedures, Lende does appear more rested and even youthful.

"I thought it was a subtle but distinct transformation," he says. "It's not a matter of wiping years off your face. But stress and exhaustion do dissipate. It's kind of like Photoshopping your face."

Vika Goodale, owner of Yorkville's Vikaspa, says there are days now when she sees more men than women.


""Men absolutely love facials and pedicures," she says. "When you have younger and younger and smarter guys coming in looking for your job, grooming is a big way of keeping up.

"It's a cultural change," says Dr. Nicholas Nikolov, a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon who has recorded a 30 per cent increase in male clients over the past three years.

"The perception is that people who are energetic and capable look youthful. Patients want to look younger so that the outside matches their enthusiasm and vigour inside."

Sudanese woman demands the right to wear pants

Lubna Hussein of Sudan has been charged and convicted of wearing pants in public. Originally her sentence was 40 lashes (enough to nearly kill someone), but its since been downgraded to a fine of approx. $200 USD.

Hussein says she won't pay however and is demanding the Sudanese law against women wearing pants should be abolished.

See The Truth about Who Wears the Pants in Sudan for more details.

Lizzie Miller's Belly

In Glamour's September issue you'll find plus-size model Lizzie Miller and her midriff. On page 194, is Miller laughing in her underwear while forgetting to tuck in a charming little paunch.

"The reaction to that one picture has been incredible," Miller said yesterday, speaking over the phone from her fourth-floor apartment in midtown Manhattan.

Miller's career might never be the same. The 20-year-old from San Jose, California – a size 12 or 14 who stands 5-foot-11 and weighs between 175 and 180 pounds, said this month is shaping up to be the busiest of her seven-year career.

And there are those who are hoping the buzz surrounding Miller's belly might spur the fashion business which has long been criticized for its seemingly insatiable lust for pencil-limbed models of dubious dietary habits – to change for the better, too. One Glamour reader wrote in to call Miller's signature shot "the most amazing photograph I've ever seen in any women's magazine." Another urged the editors: "Put her on the cover."

"I think it's a sign of the times that women are looking for a little bit more authenticity, a little less artifice, in every part of their lives," Cindi Leive, editor of Glamour, said in an interview with the Today show. "Will (Miller's photo) change our approach (as a fashion magazine)? I think it will."

Miller said she has received emails and messages on Facebook, including one from a woman who said the picture inspired her to throw away her diet pills and laxatives; and from a man who claimed that only now, after Miller's un-self-conscious image hit newsstands, will his similarly proportioned girlfriend believe him when he tells her she's pretty.

"This whole frenzy has shown that people want to see these kinds of photos – of real women in real situations," she said. "So hopefully (the industry) will take notice and they'll say, `Okay, we should do this, too.'"

It was only a few years ago that Brazilian model Ana Carolina Reston died due to complications from anorexia, her 5-foot-8 frame weighing a mere 88 pounds, an event that spurred at least one runway show to institute minimum height-weight ratios for models. And earlier this month the editor of Self magazine defended the retouching of a cover photograph that made singer Kelly Clarkson look decidedly skinnier.

"(Self magazine is) meant to inspire women to want to be their best," Lucy Danziger, the editor, wrote on the magazine's website.

Miller, for her part, said she understands the inspirational aspect of what she calls fashion's "fantasy world."

"But the problem is, a lot of women are trying, but they can't look like a size-two model, and it's a horrible feeling when you don't see anyone else who looks like you (in magazines)," said Miller. "I've been that self-conscious girl."

Miller will not lie: At first, she didn't love her signature photo. And she hasn't always been the picture of plus-sized confidence. In grade school she says her diet veered between stuffings of McDonald's and Ferrero Rocher chocolates. A post-class bag of Doritos – "A big bag," she says – was a daily ritual.

"At the rate I was gaining weight, I was like, `Wow. I am going to be huge by the time I get to high school.' I was like, `I don't want to be the fat girl,'" said Miller.

It was in Grade 6 that she joined Weight Watchers and dropped 60 pounds. By the time she was 13, she was 5-foot-11 and existing somewhere in the neighbourhood of her current body weight, which she now maintains playing co-ed softball in Central Park and belly dancing. Even then, she said, she didn't begin to feel good about her body until she saw herself in the silhouettes of entertainers Jennifer Lopez and Beyoncé.

"I'm a pear shape. I'm small at the top, but I'm thick on the bottom. I started seeing J-Lo and Beyoncé and saying, `They're curvy. They're sexy. If I get in shape, I could look like them.' If I can be the person that girls are looking at now and saying, `She's beautiful. I can look like her,' then I'll be doing my job. I think it's just something people have really, really wanted to see. Let's hope they'll see more of it."

Canada's First Africentric Public School

Nadia Hohn and her grade 1 students, are part of the historic first class in Canada's only Africentric public school. And for the first day of school, she has chosen a worksheet based on a Jamaican song called "Chi Chi Bud Oh."

Her students will use the worksheet to learn the song, identify Jamaican birds and practice drawing.

As this worksheet is based on a traditional Jamaican folk song, it reflects the background of many of Hohn's students.

"This is why I wanted to work at the Africentric Alternative School – because research shows you engage students, especially those who may feel marginalized, by letting them see themselves in their lessons," Hohn said yesterday during a visit to the school that will open Tuesday with 85 students from junior kindergarten to Grade 5.

Hohn is one of the five teachers hired for Canada's most high-profile new public school, all of them women of colour who said they applied to work here because they believe it will help battle a 40 per cent dropout rate among black students.

Leah Newbold, who will teach gym and French, is fresh out of teachers' college at the University of Toronto.

"Of any school in Toronto, this is absolutely the one I wanted to work at right away," said Newbold. "I really believe kids in our community are brilliant, if only the schools set them up to succeed."

After nearly two years of public debate about whether an Africentric school would divide or enrich Toronto's diversity – some slammed it as segregation, others hailed it as cultural awareness. The alternative school will open in Sheppard Public School on Sheppard Ave. just west of Keele St.

Principal Thando Hyman-Aman led tours of the classrooms, which have banners proclaiming the seven principles of Kwanzaa, a holiday honouring African culture, written in both Swahili and English: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, purpose, creativity, faith and cooperative economics.

Traditional African mud cloth hangs from some tables and doors. The music room has steel pan drums and African shakers. Framed posters of accomplished African-Canadians line the halls.

A long-time supporter of the program, Ryerson professor Grace-Edward Galabuzi watched yesterday's open house with excitement, as did Donna Harrow and Angela Wilson, the two mothers who encouraged trustees to open the school.

"I'm filled with so many emotions, all of them happy," said Wilson.

In Marina Hodge's Grade 2/3 class, Berenstain Bears books are tucked among more culturally representative reads such as Africa is Not a Country and One Smiling Grandma: A Caribbean Counting Book.

"Our children will learn the Ontario curriculum," Hyman-Aman said. "But we want to make sure the whole story is told."

HIV Vaccine

After years of searching, researchers report today in the journal Science that they may have finally acquired a vaccine for HIV.

"It's certainly the most exciting news in vaccine research in the last decade," says Dr. Kelly McDonald, director of the University of Toronto's HIV research program.

The virus mutates so rapidly that it has vanquished any effort to create an effective vaccine against it for two decades now.

But in the new paper, researchers say they've found a furtive piece of the organism that remains unchanged through more than 75 per cent of HIV mutations which offers a new and promising target for inoculation.

The segment is located on a part of the virus — a spike — that's key to the virus' infectious prowess. And attacking this site with two potent antibodies revealed in the paper can stop the vast majority of HIV in its tracks, researchers say.

Scientists say they may know within a matter of months how fast and how well this new HIV target can be used in a vaccine strategy.

"I would say it gives those of us in the field of vaccine a reason to believe...that there's still some reason to go after the old antibody approach," McDonald says of the study.

McDonald, who has been front and centre in the global search for AIDS vaccines, did not contribute to the paper. But she says it shows the $100 million spent on HIV antibody research has not been wasted and that it's proven a host of doubters wrong.

"Whoosh. It's fundamentally proved...that this concept works and that this (antibody) avenue and approach is fruitful," McDonald says.

"This principle that we've been struggling and working towards for 15 years has been the right idea, we haven't been wasting our time, thank God."

Wayne Koff, vice president of research at the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative and study co-author, says the paper could herald a "renaissance" in the maligned and much thwarted field of HIV inoculation.

"This should be the tip of the iceberg, there should be a number of other antibodies identified, in fact there are other antibodies," Koff says.

After several, much-publicized vaccine failures, Koff says "the field has basically struggled in vaccine design," using antibody immunity.

But the pair of previously unknown antibodies revealed in the paper – discovered in the blood of an unidentified African AIDS patient and known as PG9 and PG16 – appear to neutralize HIV's ability to infect its immune cell targets in almost 80 per cent of cases.

Antibodies, which are created by immune system soldier cells known as B-lymphocytes, are sent out like Pac-Man gobblers into the blood and attack specific, matching regions of an invading virus.

These viral segments, known as antigens, are protein outcroppings on the surface of the spike like structures that attach the organism to its victim cell and allow it to it break in.

Antibodies neutralize this break and enter capacity by attaching themselves, like a lock over a key, to their corresponding antigens – basically turning the virus off.

"The spikes makes contact with the target cell and that's what triggers the whole entry process," says Dennis Burton, the senior study author.

"Antibodies bind or attach to those spikes and stop the virus from making contact...and it just gets cleared away and the infection is aborted," says Burton, an immunologist at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Ca.

A vaccine mimics the viral region where the antigens sit, and train the immune system to recognize and attack the virus in that vital spot when the real thing enters the blood stream.

Unfortunately with HIV, the antigen regions covering the virus' surface can shift shape with stupefying swiftness – so much so that there may be a million different forms of the virus in any given infected patient.

So, to find infecting spike segments that are relatively permanent — or "conserved" — across all HIV mutations has been the holy grail of AIDS vaccine research.

That, says Burton, is what his study appears to have done.

"To get (antibodies) that cover three quarters or more (of HIV), That's really very, very promising," Burton says.

The next step now is to isolate the area of HIV that these antibodies correspond to, recreate it in a harmless form, and manufacture a vaccine.

"To go from an antibody to a...vaccine candidate that induces that sort of an antibody is not trivial, we're still struggling to do that effectively," Burton says.

"I would say this is a very hopeful sign, but it's still not the vaccine."

Canadian Institutes of Health Research scientist Ralph Pantophlet says there were already four known antibodies, discovered a decade ago, that showed some protective capacity against many variations of HIV.

But, the Simon Fraser University HIV expert says the new antibodies seem to block infections far better than the previous ones in neutralizing the disease.

Still, Pantophlet cautions that the antibodies have only been tested for effectiveness in test tubes and that monkey trials need to be conducted to see if they work to control HIV in live animals.

Any vaccine that may arise from the study would be solely a protective one, Burton says. He says people already infected with the ailment likely have too many variations of the virus for a vaccine to be effective against them all.

Burton would not hazard a guess as to when, if ever, a vaccine might be ready for mass inoculation programs.

Certainly, he says, it will not be within the few months turnaround time it takes to generate vaccines for seasonal flues each year.

But Koff says a few months' study may well produce a clear understanding of the molecular structure of both the antibody and antigens proteins involved in the discovery.

And that, he says, will give vaccine makers a far better idea of when, or if, a viable vaccine could be produced.

Every expert, however, agrees that the pair of antibody sites alone wont be sufficient to produce a completely protective vaccine.

For that, Burton says, several more antibodies will almost certainly be required.

"I don't think one single antibody will cover absolutely every (HIV) virus in the world," he said, adding that three of four similar discoveries would be needed.

But the search method pioneered in the current paper provides a template for such future finds and the best hope yet for acquiring elusive vaccine targets.

That method, dubbed Protocol G, involved a mammoth examination of blood from 1,800 donors, mainly from Africa, looking for the samples that had the best capacity to neutralize HIV.

Once the best donors were found, further blood samples were taken and the number was whittled down to one.

From that donor's blood some 30,000 different B-lymphocytes were cloned and the antibodies they produced were tested against a slew of AIDS viruses.

Indeed, says Koff, the protocol has already produced several new antibodies that may be more potent than the two reported in the study.

Grow Your Own Lashes

For those of you who want long, lushes, lashes, the beauty industry's new motto is: Grow your own.

Earlier this year, the makers of Botox unleashed Latisse on Americans. Health Canada is reviewing Latisse for distribution here. Allergan introduced the drug after the company discovered that a side effect of a glaucoma medication is longer lashes.

Researchers at L'Oréal laboratories in France are rushing to push their new eyelash-extending gel onto a cosmetics counter near you.

While the beauty giant continues to extol the virtues of mascara, their researchers have gone to the heart, or rather, the root of the lash matter. They've discovered that the hairs on our heads grow for years before falling out, while eyelashes hang in there for three months before collapsing on your pillow.

Their goal: to get eyelash hair to behave more like the hair on your head.

According to an article in The Sunday Telegraph, L'Oréal's gel is made from a cocktail of "citric acid, an amino acid known as arginine, and extracts from a Mexican plant known as Centella asiatica."

The treatment is applied to the roots of eyelashes each night for three months, the article continues.

A three-month clinical trial involving 32 women revealed that lashes increased in length and density by about 30 per cent.

Dave Lackie, editor of Cosmetics magazine, is overwhelmed by the recent deluge of advancements in eyelash technology, from motorized, vibrating wands to treatments that combine vitamins and testosterone blockers (testosterone being the arch-enemy of the hair follicle).

Lackie says Canadian women spent $368 million on eye makeup last year, in attempts to get those sultry, Cleopatra by way of Amy Winehouse eyes using mascara, eyeliner and eyeshadow.

Karen Szlamkowicz of L'Oréal is excited about the lash gel, a "pro-keratin complex" to be unveiled in 2010.

She'll reveal little about the "concentrated, lash-boosting serum" – except to say its applicator looks more like a spatula than a mascara wand.

While some beauty experts are mourning the end of an era, others are convinced mascara will hold onto its place in most beauty regimens. Even women with naturally long lashes will continue to enlist the power of mascara, says Szlamkowicz.

"Mascara is the little black dress of makeup. It drives cosmetics growth in Canada," she says.

More poetically she adds, "Your eyes are the window to your soul. Mascara enhances your personal reveal to the world and that includes your inner beauty."

Women Eat Less Calories Around Men

A new study suggests that women are more likely to consume less calories at mealtime if they're in the company of men.

At McMaster University in Hamilton, Researchers observed 469 people sitting down at tables either alone or with others during lunch and supper times for four weekdays during the course of one week at three large cafeterias.

Observers used a technique called scan sampling, looking around the room and gathering all the data that happens to be there in the moment. Researchers recorded the gender of individuals and all the food items in front of each person. Food items such as fries, fruit, hamburgers, pasta, pizza, and salad. Beverages were excluded.

Based on information they obtained from the management of each cafeteria, the food items were converted into caloric equivalents.

When women ate with other women they averaged about 670 calories. However, when eating with a male, the average dipped to 550 calories.

Lead author Meredith Young said the effect grows with group size. In mixed-gender groups, women averaged about 450 calories, far fewer than the average of 700 to 750 calories in the company of an all-female group.

"When women eat with women, there's little difference between how much they eat and how much men eat," she said Wednesday from Montreal.

"However, if there's a gentleman present at all in the group – so whether they're eating with a partner who's a male or whether there's a male in a larger social eating group – they start to reduce the caloric value of the food they're choosing to eat.""

Young said the study findings weren't surprising, and that there's research
demonstrating that women are seen as more attractive when eating smaller meals.

Researchers wrote that women who were observed "adjusted food selection not so as to match men, but perhaps in accordance with beliefs about what men find attractive."

"If you see the same woman eating a meatball sandwich and the same woman eating a salad, that same woman when she's eating a salad is not only seen as more attractive, but she's given more positive personality characteristics," Young said.

Young said intuitions of how women behave seem to fit with a proposed hypothesis in the study – that food is a way to signal to a potential mate.

"These are undergraduate students (and) ... very few of them are in long-term relationships, so it's possible that food is acting as a cue or a signal of attractiveness to other potential mates, which might be why we see this decrease in caloric intake with the increasing number of men around.

Gwen Chapman, associate professor in food, nutrition and health at the University of British Columbia said, Women can feel they're being judged by what they eat and don't want to be viewed as someone who eats too much – particularly in relation to men."

"I think there are a lot of messages that are still promoted in society about what women should look like, and that there's a very strong relationship that's perceived between what people eat and what they look like," she said from Vancouver.

"What their body looks like, particularly for women, is really crucial in terms of finding a mate potentially and the way that you're judged by potential partners, potential friends."

Chapman has conducted some research regarding gender and food and said people in Canada are somewhat resistant to the idea there are gender differences or societal expectations about how women might eat versus men.

"If you ask people directly they might say, 'No, it doesn't make a difference,' but what this study shows is that there are differences, whether people are aware of them or not.

Researchers did not record whether the food observed was consumed. And Young said there are other possible variables such as whether individuals finished their dishes, snacked from someone else's plate or even ate before they arrived, potentially curbing their appetite.

"Those other factors might be coming into play, but I don't think those other factors could fully explain the kinds of results that we found."

Disney to Buy Marvel

LOS ANGELES – The Walt Disney Co. said Monday it is buying Marvel Entertainment Inc. for US$4 billion in cash and stock, bringing characters like Iron Man and Spider-Man into the family of Mickey Mouse and WALL-E.

Under the deal, Disney will acquire ownership of 5,000 Marvel characters. Including the Fantastic Four and the X-Men, which were co-created by the comic book legend Stan Lee.

The acquisition, according to Analyst David Joyce of Miller Tabak&Co., will help Disney appeal to young men who have flocked to theatres to see Marvel's superheroes in recent years. That contrasts with Disney's recent successes among young women with such fare as "Hannah Montana" and the Jonas Brothers.

"It helps Disney add exposure to a young male demographic it had sort of lost some balance with," Joyce said, noting the $4 billion offer was at "full price."

Disney said Marvel shareholders will receive $30 per share in cash, plus 0.745 Disney shares for every Marvel share they own. That values each Marvel share at $50 based on Friday's closing stock prices.

Marvel shares jumped $10.17, or 26 per cent, to $48.82 shortly after the market opened. Disney shares fell 47 cents, or 1.8 per cent, to $26.37.

Disney said the boards of both companies have approved the transaction, but it will require an antitrust review and the approval of Marvel shareholders.

Disney CEO Robert Iger said the acquisition combines Marvel's ``strong global brand and world-renowned library of characters" with Disney's "unparalleled global portfolio of entertainment properties" and ability to maximize value across multiple platforms and territories.

High-Tech Gyms=Better Workout?

Not even the gym’s multiple television screens could distract Arianne Thompson from the drudgery of her cardio workout.

Bored, the 35-year-old would trudge along until the cooking shows and courtroom dramas grew unbearable, then call it a day.

“The channels they show, and the time of day that I work out, made for a really boring workout,” Thompson, a member of Gold’s Gym, wrote in an email.

A gym renovation last year gave her a much-needed jolt of motivation.

The new addition, dubbed the “cardio theatre,” has a cinema-size screen and rows of elliptical trainers, stationary bikes, and treadmills. In the darkened room, members watch movies while they sweat.

“When the movie is good or even tolerable, I get into it and become so absorbed that I don't notice I'm exercising,” wrote Thompson, who lives near Salt Lake City, Utah. “I can work out twice as long with half the pain and boredom when I work out to a movie than I can to the TV or music.”

About two-thirds of Canadians say lack of motivation is a reason for not exercising, according to 2007 data from the nonprofit Canadian Fitness and Lifestyle Research Institute.

As Nintendo’s Wii Fit got video game fans to move by turning exercise into play, more and more gyms are hoping gadgets and gizmos will lure less-than-enthusiastic exercisers.

In the U.S., where “exertainment” is firmly entrenched, gyms are racing to install the latest tech toys, which experts say it won’t be long before Canada follows suit.

“Customers want something that helps the time go by, that helps the mind escape the drudgery of exercise,” says fitness consultant Gregory Florez, head of FitAdvisor Health Coaching Services in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Nowadays, gyms “have to be in the tech game,” Florez says. “There’s this expectation from customers to have newer and cooler things.”

Cardio theatres, like the one Thompson uses, are multiplying. This spring, a new Gold’s Gym in London, Ont., opened one of the few cardio theatres this side of the border. The chain introduced similar facilities in the U.S. more than two years ago.

Meanwhile, the Ohio chain Fitworks launched Game On!, an arcade stocked with active video games that make kids break a sweat.

It takes from six to 18 months for American trends to move north, says Rod Macdonald, vice-president of Can-Fit-Pro, Canada’s largest certification body for fitness professionals. The latest technologies will be showcased in Toronto this month, at the International Fitness and Club Business Conference and Trade Show.

But while everyone loves a “shiny new toy,” gym owners and members shouldn’t expect miracles from technology, Macdonald warns.

“Typically, technology doesn’t attract people into clubs,” he says, because customers only see it once they’re already inside. And anything too complicated could turn people off, he adds, noting that many ignore the programmed functions on cardio machines.

Meanwhile, exercisers engrossed in technology could tune out important physical cues, such as breathing and heart rate – the best measures of exercise intensity.

Thompson is quick to point out the pitfalls of cardio theatres.

“When you jog in the dark, staring to the side rather than straight ahead, you can lose your footing,” she says.

And gym-goers should prepare to endure uninspiring movies, she says, or worse – scary ones.

But Thompson isn’t deterred.

“Mostly I just deal with the issues, because the cardio theatre is so much more to my liking than any other cardio workout.”

Of course if you want the best results then the obvious solution is to hire a personal trainer.

Facebook & Privacy Changes

OTTAWA - Facebook has agreed to change some of its privacy policies over how much personal information it was keeping on file and sharing with third-party application developers. Changes, such as altering language in its privacy policy, will take place within the next month or so. More complicated technical changes will take up to a year.

"We are satisfied that with these changes Facebook is on the way to meeting the requirements of Canada's privacy law," federal privacy commissioner Jennifer Stoddart said this morning after revealing the popular social networking site has agreed to change the way it collects, stores and shares personal data within a year. "The privacy of people using the site, not only in Canada but around the world, will be far better protected.

"This is hugely significant," Stoddart continued. "Facebook has 12 million users in Canada alone - that is about a third of our population - and well more than 200 million users of Facebook worldwide. All those users will have a far clearer view of how they perceive information is being shared once Facebook implements our recommendations. They will also have far more control over what they are sharing and with whom."

Richard Allan, director of European privacy and policy at Facebook, noted Stoddart had praised the company for its cooperation.

"They shared with us as a common goal making the Internet more privacy-friendly for users around the world," Allan said in a conference call from London.

Stoddart released a scathing report last month that said Facebook violated Canadian privacy legislation by keeping the personal information of its millions of users around the world on file indefinitely even after they deactivate their accounts.

The in-depth investigation began when students at the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic at the University of Ottawa filed a complaint to the privacy commissioner identifying potential problems with Facebook's privacy policies and practices.

Stoddart had also criticized Facebook for sharing user information with third-party software developers - almost a million around the world - who create the popular applications like quizzes and games.

Facebook has agreed to retrofit its application platform so that developers cannot obtain any personal information without express consent from users for each of the categories it wants to access.

The company will also make it clear to users wishing to close their accounts that they have the choice between deactivation - which will allow Facebook to keep information on file - and deletion, which will erase all personal information from its database.

It will also update its privacy policy so that users can provide "meaningful consent" to letting Facebook keep their profile pages up after they die so that friends can post comments and pay tribute.

Information about the privacy of non-users will also be included.

Stoddart added that users must remember they are responsible for protecting their own privacy and urged them to read policies before signing up.

"Users must constantly bear in mind that once something is online, it's there for eternity," she said.

Exercise Goal: Mrs Obama's Arms

HEALTH - U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama 's toned biceps, triceps and shoulders – often displayed in sleeveless dresses and shirts – have become the summer's hottest accessory. But is there any exercises you can do to get arms like that? Apparently weightlifting is the answer.

1. Stand tall, with your abs tight and your feet shoulder-width apart. Take a dumbbell in each hand, enough weight that you get tired after 15 repetitions.

2. Hold the weights at shoulder height, elbows bent and palms forward.

3. Press your arms up above your head, turning so your palms face each other. Make sure you don’t arch your back.

4. Lower the weights to your shoulders. Do 15 in total; that’s one set.

Do three sets.

Move over Oprah, here comes Hugo Chavez

POLITICS - Want to promote your book? Forget Oprah. Call Hugo Chavez.

Back in September 2006, Chavez flourished a copy of Noam Chomsky's Hegemony or Survival during an anti-American speech to the United Nations, transporting the trenchant analysis of United States foreign policy to Amazon's No. 2 position and sparking a 25,000-copy reprint from the publisher.

And just recently, thanks to the flamboyant Venezuelan president, Uruguayan political writer Eduardo Galeano's 1971 'The Open Veins of Latin America' also shot to No. 2 on Amazon's bestseller list 24 hours after Chavez gave a copy to President Barack Obama. The same Chavez who once compared George W. Bush to the devil, added a tender note: "To Obama, with affection."

Galeano's book "analyzes the history of Latin America as a whole, from the time period of the European discovery of the New World to contemporary Latin America, arguing against European and later U.S. economic exploitation and political dominance over the region."

The gift – and the unexpected friendliness between the two leaders – sent Galeano's book to the top of Amazon's "movers and shakers" category for books that make the biggest 24-hour gains.

Sorry Oprah, you've got competition.

Obama's Family Values

FEMINISM/POLITICS - Thanks to Michelle Obama, balancing your career and work has suddenly become sexy and cool.

Traditionally some people have frowned on people who try to balance (dare we say juggle) work and kids, but the statuesque United States First Lady – with her global presence, Ivy-league education, law career and two young daughters – seems to do it with ease.

I disagree however. I think women who manage to find time for both work and family should be admired, not disliked. After all, what is a gal supposed to do with all that free time while the kids are at school?

Its not like we need women as dishwashers/etc any more. These days technology has replaced the role of the homemaker. We have robotic vacuum cleaners, automated dishwashers, frozen TV dinners, pizza delivery (yes, the White House has been ordering pizza since the 1970s) and if you're wealthy enough, in a position of prestige, meals prepared for you by servants.

Of course most of us don't have servants, but the point is still made. In modern America eating out or ordering in has become relatively normal, and there is now a lot more women can do than cooking and cleaning while the kids/husband are away at school/work, so why not have a career?

Well, lets look at what Michelle Obama has been doing. She has her beautifully sculpted arms, the Portuguese water dogs (including new pet Charlie-Bo), has become a fashion icon, and yet still manages to carve out lots of family time.

For women in the USA and around the world Michelle Obama is a role model, and no less a busy one. As a U.S. First Lady, Obama gets a staff, an office and is expected to champion a cause... in the past First Ladies have championed issues like literacy, health care and education.

Right now Michelle Obama seems to be championing family values.

The Obama family hardly live the life of the mainstream masses, walking the dog on the sprawling White House lawns and surrounded by a cast of thousands. She talks about "date nights" with her husband, the hassles of making healthy school lunches and why her daughters should make their own beds, Michelle Obama touches on the stuff of everyday life for ordinary families.

She is also growing a vegetable garden. She has spoken about how managing two careers and children put a strain on her marriage and how her mother has helped out with childcare (we've all done that, if anything the granparents enjoy it).

Its been a long time since there's been young children in the White House, let alone a First Lady who has young kids and a career, and Michelle Obama sends a powerful message that balance is important and also achievable.

It will likely be translated into domestic policy, too. Mrs Obama is pushing for more family-friendly leave policies from U.S. employers and incentives for community service. This is alongside her husband's priorities of investing in childcare, working families and education.

While Canada is far ahead of the United States on policies like health care, child care programs, maternity and parental leave, and flex-time, many countries will feel the effects if family issues move up the U.S. public agenda.

It comes at a time when lack of affordable childcare in the USA is stressing families, the post-Bush recession is pressuring workers, and boomers grapple with caring for aging parents.

For both working mothers and homemakers, Mrs Obama's role to play is to show that the "one-size-fits-all" approach for supporting parents and children doesn't work for everyone. Parents need more flexibility to work out their own needs and determine what is best for their kids.

There are those who despair of Obama's evolution from tough Harvard lawyer to a role Michelle Obama once described as "Mom-in-chief." Obama has put her career on hold while her husband takes over the running of a nation and tries to fix the mistakes of the past 8 years. Its a big role to fill actually, and frankly she will be far too busy doing political work anyway on behalf of America.

That's not something people should be slamming her for. Its something to be praised. True, its kind of sexist she had to put her career on hold because of her husband's career... but the Presidency isn't a normal career.

After all... its not what your country can do for you, its what you can do for your country.

And I believe Michelle Obama is going to give America her best.

Susan Boyle


Susan Boyle, an unemployed church worker from Scotland's West Lothian district has captured hearts after a single audition on Britain's Got Talent got another boost with an appearance via satellite on CBS's The Early Show.Talking about her journey so far, she told the morning show that she reacted to the titters in the audience during her audition by focusing on the performance.

"You have to take yourself seriously, so what I did was concentrate on the song."

The hosts asked her about people making fun of her as a child and she graciously answered:

"Well, the ones who made fun of me, they're now nice to me, so I may now have won them 'round."

She also sang a few lines from "I Dreamed a Dream" a capella and chatted a bit with Patti LuPone, whose original rendition of the Les Misérables song is considered to be the gold standard. LuPone told her she had "pluck" and admired her courage.

As a way of explanation for why she went on the show, Boyle said: "I wanted to make this a tribute to my mother, so it was something I wanted to do, so I had to get on with it. That's where the courage came from, my mother."

While Boyle is now considered the favourite to win Britain's Got Talent, her journey has only just begun. She's only appeared on an early, regional qualifying portion of the show. A spokesperson for the show said her next official appearance will not be until the end of May.

She lives alone with her cat, Pebbles, and previously cared for her ill mother, who died a couple of years ago.

This week, she has been inundated with media requests and, talking to the Associated Press, she admitted the instant fame has been an incredible experience.
"It has been surreal for me," Boyle said.

"I'm going to be on The Oprah Winfrey Show, CBS and other American networks. I didn't realize this would be the reaction, I just went onstage and got on with it."

Boyle's celebrity continues to grow as YouTube clips from her audition have already been watched more than 18 million times.

She also has a few Facebook fan pages and the most popular have already logged 93,000 fans. A Wikipedia page has even been dedicated to her and a fan page at Susan-Boyle.com has signed up more than 6,000 members.

Her newfound fame has also had a dramatic effect on the village of Blackburn, population about 4,800, 20 kilometres west of Edinburgh on the road to Glasgow.

Agnes Boyle, who lives around the corner from Susan Boyle(no relation), said she's been getting phone calls from people trying to find the Susan Boyle.

"This is the 10th phone call today I've had," Agnes Boyle said, adding she wishes Susan well. "I'm happy for her ... life's not been good to her actually."

Jackie Russell, manager at the Happy Valley Hotel on the village's main street, Bathgate Rd., where Boyle has sung karaoke on a regular basis, said she's "a very quiet person, very unassuming ... just a normal down-to-earth girl."

"People in the village – it's just a village, there's only 5,000 people in it – but everybody knew that Susan could sing," said Russell. "It just took a while for the world to hear her sing," she added.

Russell also expressed confidence that Boyle will win the Britain's Got Talent competition.

"I don't think she (Boyle) will need a job now. I think she'll just continue to do what her heart wants her to do and that's sing."

A Peek inside Zimbabwe's Prisons

POLITICS - What you are looking at is not starving people in Ethiopia.

Its not a country that is in the midst of a drought. Its images from Zimbabwe's prisons, a country with plenty of food to go around, but ruled by dictator Robert Mugabe.

And what is the crime of these prisoners? Its not stealing or murder. Its petty things like... speaking out against Robert Mugabe, helping foreigners, speaking to foreign reporters, helping Robert Mugabe's political rivals... or just voting against Mugabe.

The unlucky ones go to prison and die slowly. The more fortunate ones get killed and their bodies dumped in an unmarked grave. Difficult to say which is better.

The newly released images provide a rare look inside a Zimbabwean prison show emaciated inmates too weak to stand and eating as if they can barely bring food to their mouths.

Human rights activists and former prisoners have spoken of horrifying conditions in the country's jails and prisons but there has been little firsthand evidence available... because most of the prisoners die of starvation or organ failure.

Godknows Nare spent four months on the behind-the-walls documentary, training insiders to capture the footage. His documentary "Hell Hole" aired Tuesday on SABC, the South African state broadcaster, and is now being syndicated internationally by Associated Press Television News today. Nare says he hopes the footage will persuade foreigners and Robert Mugabe's new coalition government to step in to help.

But what is chances of Robert Mugabe helping people that disapprove of his government? Its a snowball's chance in hell.

In one scene from "Hell Hole" emaciated prisoners, wasting away because of vitamin deficiencies, are shown on mats in cells furnished with only blankets and the thin mattresses. The prison menus have been reduced to tiny bowls of corn porridge (one per day, and the inmates barely have the energy to bring the food to their mouths. The inmates are also given salt water to drink, to make them thirsty all the time.

Annah Y. Moyo, a Zimbabwean lawyer who works with the Southern African Centre for Survivors of Torture, said conditions in Zimbabwean prisons were "a form of torture." Moyo now lives in exile out of fear of being tossed in "Zimbabwe's Prisons of Death".

Moyo, who was not involved in making the documentary, says Zimbabwe's soaring inflation, supply shortages and rampant corruption have played a role, with prison officials taking food that should go to prisoners and selling it on the black market.

Knowledge of the bad prison conditions is actually common. Security officials make sure political activists know of the prison conditions as a bullying tactic.

"Everyone knows that if you're sent to prison, your chances of coming out alive are slim," says Moyo.

Lack of medical care in jails and prisons also has been an issue, with concern that cholera, at epidemic levels among free Zimbabweans, would take an even higher toll in crowded cells.

Many doctors in Zimbabwe have fled the country and now live in exile. Indeed anyone with wealth or education has pretty much left, becoming refugees in neighbouring countries. The few that remain are trying to fight against Mugabe's reign of terror.

Last year, the Zimbabwean civic group 'Women of Zimbabwe Arise' dedicated a report on the collapse of the country's health system to one of its political leaders, Thembelani Lunga, who died in prison after only four days.

Earlier this month, Roy Bennett, an opposition politician was released from prison after he was granted bail (he was essentially ransomed) and is now speaking out against the harsh prison conditions. Bennett was noticeably a lot thinner after his jailing and says five people died during his incarceration and it took prison authorities 24 to 48 hours to collect the bodies.

Starving political rivals, mass unemployment, a cruel dictator who cares only about wealth and power... its not just the prisons that are a hell hole.

Note: There are plenty of videos on this topic on YouTube. Some of them are pretty graphic.

See Also:
2024 people die of cholera in Zimbabwe
Ten Worst Places to Live
Tutu wants Mugabe out

New In Town

A funny thing happened to the movie New in Town on the way to your local multiplex: Angela Bassett morphed into Gabrielle Union, who then became Renée Zellweger.

This is not entirely shocking. "Colorblind" casting has been around for a while. Remember that the drill sergeant in An Officer and a Gentleman was slated to go to a white actor, until Louis Gossett Jr. (who won an Academy Award for best supporting actor) read for the part. Sylvester Stallone was supposed to play the not-by-the-book fuzz in Beverly Hills Cop, a role that went to Eddie Murphy, and the rest, as they say, is history.

But with this romantic comedy, which opens today and stars Zellweger and Harry Connick Jr., the lead was supposed to be a black actress and the writer had someone in mind from the very beginning. "I initially wanted Angela Bassett," says Kenneth Rance, the screenwriter. "I’m a big fan of her work. And Gabrielle Union was initially cast."

Rance, 38, who graduated from Howard University with a degree in film, based the story on a woman he met in his native Minneapolis over 16 years ago. "I was at the Riverview Supper Club where I see this fine woman — I mean this girl is fine — dancing like there’s no tomorrow. I bought her a drink— I knew she wasn’t from there."

"She was a quality control engineer at Kraft. We talked, exchanged numbers, and she would come to the city. It started off kinda platonic. She was dating a guy she thought she would marry, then she got the opportunity to be promoted to New Ulm and took the position in haste."

I thought, "That’s a movie." I wanted to do a movie on loneliness. I didn’t quite know what the story was, but I was like, "That’s a movie." I was at CBS in 1995 and the whole time I was thinking about the idea of being 32 and single. I was thinking, "Can a sister have it all?" I also wanted to examine if a sister could date a blue-collar guy and how that would work out. Monica Tate was her name and she would not give a brother the time of day. Stripped of pretension, she falls in love with a highway patrolman with two kids — he was a widower.

Though his agent initially didn’t think anyone would buy it, the script was snapped up by Universal five years ago. The studio then promptly excused Rance and brought in another writer. Rance was later recalled by Gold Circle Films and Lionsgate to be his own script doctor. (The other writer, C. Jay Cox, also gets billing credit.)

But by then, the black woman from North Carolina was a white woman from Miami, and voila, Fargo meets Baby Boom. Rance admits some disappointment at the turn of events, but he's a practical man. "When you start looking at who can open a film, the marketing, worldwide distribution etc., it makes sense," he says. "That’s not how I felt personally about it, but it shouldn’t be called show business but ‘business show.’"

It has been repeatedly noted that outside of Will Smith and maybe Murphy, no black actor—no, not even Denzel or the ubiquitous Samuel L. Jackson, and certainly no female black actress, even the exquisite Halle Berry—can open a film with the big box office bang that Hollywood now demands, and none can be counted on for the huge sales overseas that are now critical to a movie's success. Sure, it happens in buddy films (see: Chris Tucker with Jackie Chan). But by their lonesome? Not a chance.

"It wasn’t until Halle won the Oscar for ‘Monster’s Ball’," says Rance, "that I thought people were ready for a black female lead." Obviously, they are not. Even as actresses such as Taraji P. Henson (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) and Viola Davis (Doubt) prove their mettle with Oscar nominations, albeit for supporting roles, the movie terrain remains uneven for black talent, particularly black female talent. At least during the Blaxploitation heyday, Tamara Dobson and Pam Grier got top billing.

Still counting goose bumps in the wake of the film’s well-received premiere in his hometown, Rance is hopeful that other black filmmakers would get more opportunities, whether they were culturally specific or not. "It does give me hope that the industry is becoming more open-minded," he says. But on the other hand, in the age of Obama, "the world is browning. Yet the images that we see are more conservative."

Racial Profiling alive and well in Toronto

CANADA - In 2007 Nimo Gulleid had an argument about Islam with a woman while waiting at a TTC bus stop, both women boarded the bus and minutes later the bus was pulled over by police.

The police then approached Nimo Gulleid and demanded to see her gun. When Nimo explained she didn't have a gun, the police dragged the 37-year-old Canadian off the back entrance of the bus.

In front of dozens of witnesses they pushed her to the ground, searched her, physically assaulted her and dumped her purse contents on the grass. No gun was found.

The woman Gulleid had argued with earlier had told the TTC driver Gulleid was carrying a gun, who had radioed police and they had arrived in record time.

Even after determining she was not a threat, police handcuffed and arrested Gulleid and took her to St. Joseph's hospital for psychiatric evaluation. Hospital reports found Gulleid suffered "soft tissue injuries to her arms, neck and back" and she suffered from anxiety and stress.

The police then threatened Gulleid and warned her not to file a complaint against them. As a struggling mature student she didn't have the money to pursue a civil suit.

The police officers involved never even bothered to listen to her side of the story. Last month on February 19th, the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board awarded Gulleid $4,000 for pain and suffering.

"It was not about the money. I had so much anger about how I was treated unfairly, that I had to do something," says Gulleid. "The most painful component was it was by the people who were in a position of authority."

The board's decision found that "even when no gun was found on the Applicant the use of excessive force persisted." It also found that Gulleid was a "victim of a crime of assault." The board based its decision on Gulleid's testimony and hospital records from the March 2007 incident.

The 5 police officers involved in the incident had refused to share information, and are now claiming they never received a request for the info.

If Gulleid had been a white woman, would they still have searched and assaulted her? Probably not. The police thought she was a Muslim terrorist...

WHY DID THIS HAPPEN?

As she waited for the bus, Gulleid got into a conversation with the other woman about the religion of Islam. The conversation became heated, and the other woman made a comment saying all Muslims were terrorists and carried guns.

Disliking this idea of racial profiling, Gulleid had asked the woman, "So you think I carry a gun?"

After the two boarded the bus, the woman told the driver Gulleid had a gun and was going to shoot everyone. The bus driver, following protocol, called police.

The woman who made the false claim should have been arrested for mischief.

See Also:
Top Five Police Brutality Videos
The Death Spasms of American Racism
Cop Killer in Ontario
The Future of Black Nationalism in America
Stepher Harper's RCMP resorts to Gestapo Tactics
Gun Control in Canada
Handguns in Canada
Harper moves to revive Anti-Terrorism Act
Negligent RCMP won't face charges in Taser death

Police Brutality Vs Technology

TECHNOLOGY - For years social activists and people who had been on the receiving end of police brutality have been pushing for an end to unprovoked police attacks.

But these days civilians are increasingly being given the tools to put a stop to these attacks.

And they come in the form of video recorders on cellphones.

Lets take for example the Polish immigrant Robert Dziekański who was tasered to death by RCMP in an airport in Vancouver, Canada. The RCMP tasered him FIVE times (only once is necessary) while subduing him. Since then critics have said the police were "trigger-happy" and that they should be charged with manslaughter in the death of the immigrant, who though confused, was not resisting arrest.

And this is just one example of many. Increasingly cellphones are being used to not only catch police brutality in action, but convicting corrupt police officers of attacking harmless civilians.

Two others things:

Its not just cellphones either. Security cameras and even police video cameras are also catching police in the act.

Plus its not just police getting caught on video. Its regular scumbag criminals that are getting caught on video. A shooting on a subway? In a crowded bar? In the club district? Chances are likely somebody already has their cellphone video camera already running, or at the very least handy.

Lastly, and this is perhaps the biggest thing, we also have websites like YouTube that allow people to share these videos with the rest of the world.

In the 1990s people still had handheld video cameras, but they lacked the means to share those videos with the world. With YouTube and other video sharing sites now they can the video with everyone.

And the police? Maybe now they will practice what they preach.

Alex Grey paints Obama

ART HISTORY - American artist Alex Grey, who creates Visionary Art, has made a portrait of Barack Obama. Check out his other work below.





Michelle Obama's Fashion Frenzy

FASHION - Fashion designers from all over the world are clambering to establish themselves as Michelle-Obama-esque.

Michelle Obama doesn't attend fashion shows, but she is all over the runways in New York, Paris, London and Madrid. Some of the most established and renowned names in American fashion – Oscar de la Renta, Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren – are all out to woo Michelle.

The Obama influence is enormous. Unlike Hollywood celebrities, Michelle Obama cannot be bought. She selects, purchases and wears what she likes. Every garment she wears is scrutinized, carefully copied and sets off a new fashion trend.

And its not just the fashion designers. Runways are now booking Michelle Obama look-a-likes as models.

Despite being the designer of past White House administrations, Oscar de la Renta has so far not found favour with Mrs. Obama. In his Fall 2009 collection he hired more black models than usual and, with the soulful Marvin Gaye on the soundtrack, seems to be making a direct appeal to Michelle Obama and her fans.

Francisco Costa, a designer at Calvin Klein, is doing something similar. In his new Fall collection he focused on modernity and clarity, hallmarks of the new Washington gang. Likewise the soundtrack at Tommy Hilfiger's show was lyrics from the Soul II Soul song – Back to life, back to reality, back to the here and now – summed up the designer's take on the American recession.

In the United States Ralph Lauren, the designer of quintessential Americana, stuck to his upper-crust look with patchwork tweeds, rich velvets, sumptuous Mongolian lamb coats, a hint of equestrian with soft jodhpur pants and lots of antique cream colours. Lauren evidently has ignored the recession and is sticking to the tried and true.

Fashion designers are survivors. They know that tough times will weed out the competition and the wise ones will be the ones left standing.

Even Tyra Banks has jumped on the Michelle Obama fashion bandwagon, seen right.

Obama invites Michaëlle Jean to USA

POLITICS - During his recent trip to Canada, Obama discussed Haiti with Canada's governor general Michaëlle Jean (who was born in Haiti) and even invited her to visit Washington DC in the United States.

American aides to the president who briefed the travelling White House reporters en route back to Washington Thursday said Obama and the Governor General exchanged "views about how we could be helpful to the government there in dealing with economic and social issues."

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was NOT invited to visit Washington, perhaps suggesting Obama's trip to Canada did not go as well as he hoped.

Harper gave Obama a chilly response during the president's visit to Ottawa, refusing to agree to cut back on greenhouse gases but agreeing only to a dialogue on the subject. Years ago Stephen Harper claimed in a Conservative Party newsletter that global warming is a scam and that climate change is a hoax. Stephen Harper has since flip flopped repeatedly on the issue and refused to set caps on greenhouse gases because most of his political party's funding comes from the Alberta oil industry.

Caesar and Cleopatra

ENTERTAINMENT - There's a new movie about "Caesar and Cleopatra" starring Christopher Plummer and Nikki M. James in the lead roles.

Its actually a Stratford play that has been adapted as a film for the theatres, but its getting rave reviews from many sources ranging from Four to Five stars out of Five.

In addition to being an interracial love story it is also an examination of power structures in a cross-generational romance between teenage sex kitten Cleopatra and the aging lion Caesar.

Christopher Plummer, like Sean Connery, just seems to get better with age and his co-star Nikki M. James is spectacular in the role of Cleopatra.

Unhealthy To Stress Over Ideal Weight

HEALTH - What you think can make you healthy. Or not.

When it comes to what you think about your body it turns out that the more weight you want to lose, (even if you're not overweight in the first place), the more mentally and physically unhealthy days you have every month.

BMI, or actual weight, doesn't have that much to do with it, researchers at Columbia University found, but the desire to lose weight does affect how healthy you are.

It's likely that distorted ideas about what an ideal weight is lead to stress, and that stress precipitates bad-health days.

And distorted ideas are common, especially in women. Only 41 per cent of normal-weight people say they are happy with their weight (only 20 per cent of overweight and 5 per cent of obese people do).

If you want an objective view of your body, don't rely on only your eyes. Instead, focus on how you feel. Use your eating habits, exercise patterns and other lifestyle choices to help you feel strong and energized.

Not working? Try strength training. In one study, women felt more confident after a 12-week weight-training program even if they gained weight during it.

Speaking of brain power: There's a new bonus to good blood sugar control: better recall. It turns out that dysfunctional insulin, a problem that allows blood sugar to get out of control, not only is bad for your organs and arteries, but might also keep you from remembering the name of your prom date, what month it is or who's the latest American Idol winner. One piece of evidence: Men who had low insulin levels at age 50 had a greater risk of Alzheimer's and other types of dementia later in life. It's not clear yet how impaired insulin response bumps up Alzheimer's risk. But it is clear that the less insulin in the brain, the more it develops the hallmarks of that disease. In fact, researchers at Brown University refer to this low brain insulin problem, and the brain changes it's associated with, as "type 3 diabetes."

While researchers haven't yet shown how to prevent type 3 diabetes, it's smart to do what you can to control your blood sugar. Brand-new research found that a low-carb diet (less than 20 g of carbs per day) is better at controlling blood sugar than a low glycemic index (GI) diet.

Boost your blood sugar (Safely): This is one wrinkle you want in your morning oatmeal: dried plums. Adding them to your hot cereal may have huge advantages for your heart. A good source of fibre, what makes them such a great addition to your morning meal is that they're also chock full of polyphenols. These are the compounds that have a reputation for stopping plaque ruptures that could lead to a heart attack or stroke and their sugars appear to be safe for blood-sugar watchers.

From the heart: You don't have to eat raw fish or hard-to-find vegetables to keep your heart healthy. Simply stock up on these common, and delicious, foods:

Red Delicious apples: These are particularly rich in compounds called phenolics that make those blood fats more stable, so they're less likely to oxidize, stick to the walls of your arteries, and cause a dangerous blockage.

Sesame seeds: Women who took a little more than 3 tablespoons of sesame seed powder daily for five days reduced their total and bad (LDL) cholesterol.

They also had higher levels of heart-protective vitamin E and lower blood levels of substances linked to cell damage.

Walnuts: Studies have found that an ounce of these nuts a day decreases the incidence of heart disease a whopping 60 per cent. Walnuts are highest in omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce triglycerides, stabilize your heartbeat, make platelets less sticky and may knock down blood pressure.

Salmon, catfish, flounder: Fatty fish like these are high in heart-protecting omega-3 fatty acids (and low in mercury and PCBs).

Beans: Fibre-rich beans may help reduce levels of C-reactive protein, an indicator of heart disease risk. Black beans, with 7 grams of fibre per half cup, are an easy way to fill your fibre quota (25 grams a day).

Fight Fat: Sometimes turning a scrumptious meal into a health- and weight-friendly superstar is just a matter of making a few changes:

Concentrate sauces. Let the excess water boil off. This enhances the flavour without additives like fat, salt or sugar.

Choose applesauce, prunes and bananas instead of butter and shortening in your favourite baking recipes. This improves heart health, since it takes away fat (but leaves in moisture).

Use the right tools: A blender can purée vegetables so you use less or no cream in soups and sauces.

Non-stick pans and grills allow you to cook with less oil.

Parchment paper is a terrific alternative to greasing a pan.

Freeze your herbs. Buy fresh and freeze the rest if you can't buy small quantities. Another solution: Grow your own.

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