Friday, October 14, 2011

Snacks Against Cancer

Posted On 10:26 PM by AzerWorks | 10 comments

Don’t smoke, wear sunscreen, exercise—you likely know these top habits for reducing your risk for breast cancer and other forms of the disease (and hopefully you’re already practicing them!). But there’s one more step you can take every day to cut your cancer odds that’s not only simple, it’s also enjoyable: Eat well! “Research suggests the phytochemicals in food can fight cancer by doing everything from preventing cellular changes to stopping the flow of blood to a cancerous tumor,” says Sally Scroggs, R.D., of the Cancer Prevention Center at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. As a general rule, aim to eat 2½ cups of fruit and vegetables each day—vary your choices to get a mix of antioxidants and phytochemicals in your diet. For your main protein sources, eat mostly fish, poultry and beans; studies show consuming more than 18 ounces of red meat per week may increase the risk for colon and pancreatic cancer. Keep your grains whole: Fiber helps move poten-tially carcinogenic waste through your system quickly, which may lower the risk for colorectal cancer, Scroggs says. And finally, sip tea, which contains catechins, antioxidants that may lower cancer risk. Want recipes to get you started? These tasty snacks are so delicious, you won’t even notice how good you’re being. Enjoy two every day.
Vegetables With Creamy Onion Dip

In a glass bowl, microwave 1 diced scallion in ½ tsp olive oil until fragrant, 1 minute. Whisk in 3 tbsp nonfat plain Greek yogurt, 1 tbsp light sour cream, 1 tsp mayonnaise, ¼ tsp each salt and onion powder and a pinch each of black pepper and gar-lic powder. Serve with 1 cup chopped broccoli and cauliflower.

How it fights cancer: Cruciferous veggies, a class that includes broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts, appear to prevent breast, lung and colon cancer. “Different types of estrogens have been associated with both increased and decreased cancer risk. Cruciferous vegetables help your body process estrogen in a way that might lower risk,” says Gregory A. Plotnik-off, M.D., senior consultant for health care innovation at Allina Hospitals and Clinics in Minnesota.
Super Savory Popcorn

Pop one 100-calorie bag microwave popcorn. Toss with ½ tsp sweet smoked paprika and a pinch of garlic powder.

How it fights cancer: Whole grains have cancer-fighting antioxidants, according to research from the University of Scran-ton in Pennsylvania. Popcorn has the most antioxidants in the snack group; pastas made with whole wheat tops the grain list.
Edamame With Iced Green Tea

Cook 2/3 cup edamame as directed on package. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Serve with 8 to 12 oz iced green tea mixed with ½ tsp honey.

How it fights cancer: To pump up the disease-fighting potential of green tea’s catechins, add a squeeze of citrus: Lemon juice protects the chemicals so more of them are available to your body, a study from Purdue University in West
Tomato Bruschetta

Spread 1 tbsp part-skim ricotta and 2 tbsp store-bought tomato bruschetta topping on each of 3 slices melba toast or toasted whole-grain baguette.

How it fights cancer: Scientists suspect that the lycopene in tomato works as an antioxidant that protects the body’s cells against certain cancers. Bonus: It also helps reduce your risk for heart disease.
Cheese Plate

Serve 1 oz reduced-fat cheddar with 3/4 cup red grapes and 2 whole-grain crackers.

How it fights cancer: Like vino, the skin of fresh red grapes contains the protective chemical resveratrol, which may reduce your risk for both cancer and heart disease and also sharpen your brain. “And there’s no alcohol, which has been linked to certain cancers,” says Christine Gerbstadt, M.D., spokeswoman in Sarasota, Florida, for the American Dietetic Association.
Honey-Ginger Blueberries With Mascarpone

In a pan, heat 1 cup blueberries with 1 tbsp honey and ¼ tsp ground ginger until berries become jammy, 5 minutes. Top berries with 1 tbsp mascarpone and ½ sheet graham cracker broken into bits.
How it fights cancer: Anthocyanins, the pigments behind blueberries’ hue, may fight cancer while also helping brain cells fire faster, so you stay sharp. And the berries’ vitamin C may block the effects of cancer-causing free radicals, help prevent cancer from spreading and enhance immunity.

Craving more cancer-preventing foods? Surf to for a week-long meal plan of breakfasts, lunches, dinners, snacks and treats featuring anticancer superfoods.

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Debris Comet Armagedon Pass by on Earth

Posted On 10:23 PM by AzerWorks | 5 comments

The moment long feared by conspiracy theorists is nearly upon us: The "doomsday comet" Elenin will make its closest approach to Earth Sunday (Oct. 16). Or what's left of it will, anyway.

Comet Elenin started breaking up in August after being blasted by a huge solar storm, and a close pass by the sun on Sept. 10 apparently finished it off, astronomers say. So what will cruise within 22 million miles (35.4 million kilometers) of our planet Sunday is likely to be a stream of debris rather than a completely intact comet.

And the leftovers of Elenin won't return for 12,000 years, astronomers say.

"Folks are having trouble finding it, so I think it's probably dead and gone," said astronomer Don Yeomans of the Near-Earth Object Program Office at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. [Gallery: Comet Elenin in Pictures]

That means it probably won't present much of a skywatching show Sunday, scientists have said.

The doomsday comet

Elenin's apparent demise may come as a relief to some folks, since apocalyptic rumors circulating on the Internet portrayed the comet as a major threat to Earth.

One theory claimed Elenin would set off havoc on Earth after aligning with other heavenly bodies, spurring massive earthquakes and tsunamis. Another held that Elenin was not a comet at all, but in fact a rogue planet called Nibiru that would bring about the end times on Earth. After all, the comet's name could be taken as a spooky acronym: "Extinction-Level Event: Nibiru Is Nigh."

Those ideas were pure nonsense, Yeomans said.

"Elenin was a second-rate, wimpy little comet that never should have been noted for anything, really," he told "It was not even a bright one."

Elenin's remains will not be the only objects about to make their closest pass of Earth. One day after the Elenin flyby, the small asteroid 2009 TM8 will zip close by. Like Elenin, it poses no risk of striking our home planet.

Asteroid 2009 TM8 is about 21 feet (6.4 meters) wide and the size of a schoolbus. It will come within 212,000 miles of Earth – just inside the orbit of the moon – when it zips by on Monday morning (Oct. 17).

Say goodbye to Elenin

Elenin was named after its discoverer, Russian amateur astronomer Leonid Elenin, who spotted it in December 2010. Before the icy wanderer broke up, its nucleus was likely 2 to 3 miles (3 to 5 km) in diameter, scientists say.

Elenin never posed any threat to life on Earth, Yeomans said. It was far too small to exert any appreciable influence on our planet unless it managed to hit us.

"Just driving to work every day in my subcompact car is going to have far more of a gravitational effect on Earth than this comet ever will," Yeomans said.

Elenin's supposed connection to earthquakes was just a correlation, and a weak one at that, he added. Relatively strong earthquakes occur every day somewhere on Earth, so it's easy — but not statistically valid — to blame some of them on the comet's changing position.

Yeomans views the frenzy over Elenin as a product of the Internet age, which allows loud and often uninformed voices to drown out the rather more prosaic results that scientists publish in peer-reviewed journals.

"It's a snowball effect on the Web," Yeomans said. "You get one or two folks who make an outrageous claim, and a bunch of others pile on. Some folks are actually making a living this way."

Elenin's crumbs will soon leave Earth in the rear-view mirror, speeding out on a long journey to the outer solar system. But Yeomans doesn't think the departure will keep the conspiracy theorists down for long.

"It's time to move on to the next armageddon," he said.
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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Debt-crippled Pa. capital files for bankruptcy

Posted On 11:37 PM by AzerWorks | 8 comments

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) -- Pennsylvania's distressed capital city filed for bankruptcy Wednesday, citing "imminent jeopardy" from lawsuits related to a debt-saddled municipal incinerator and setting up a power struggle between the mayor and City Council.

The federal petition for Chapter 9 bankruptcy, being sought to help Harrisburg get out from under crushing debt, listed about $458 million in creditors and claims and six pending legal actions by creditors.

"The city does not have the ability to pay those money judgments or any significant portion thereof and still provide health and safety services to its citizens and other essential government services," wrote Mark D. Schwartz, an attorney hired by the City Council.

A spokesman for Mayor Linda Thompson, who has resisted calls for bankruptcy because of fears that it would further blemish the city's name, said the council lacks the legal authority to seek it.

"There are procedural matters the solicitor objects to, as far as how the resolution was handled, and the quote-unquote hiring of counsel," said mayoral spokesman Robert Philbin. "The solicitor also says only the mayor, in conjunction with the solicitor, can file for bankruptcy on behalf of the City of Harrisburg."

The filing was signed by Councilwoman Susan Wilson after a 4-3 vote late Tuesday by the council to authorize it.

At a news conference, Thompson said she was hiring a law firm to challenge the bankruptcy filing, which she called a "sneak attack" by council members.

"I'm ashamed of the behavior, the road jams, the road blocks, the dishonest statements that keep coming out of four members' spirits," Thompson said.

The legal move comes the week before the state Senate is expected to take up a bill, already passed by the House, that would authorize Gov. Tom Corbett to assume many of the city's financial functions in response to the stalemate between Thompson and the council majority.

The bill would empower the governor to declare a state of fiscal emergency and install someone to make many of the critical decisions about government spending and operations.

Schwartz called the pending bill "a political grab" and said it was designed to protect bond insurers.

"You got paid your premiums, OK?" he said. "So pay your losses. This was a great lucrative game."

Municipal bankruptcies are rare, with only a few dozen filed in the United States in the past three decades, and some of those were dismissed. Among them are Orange County, Calif., which took the action in 1994, and Vallejo, Calif., three years ago.

More recently, a state receiver filed for bankruptcy for Central Falls, R.I., in August, and the recovery plan includes cost cutting, higher taxes and pension reductions. Jefferson County, Ala., is considering Chapter 9 as a solution to a $3.1 billion sewer debt problem.

The trash incinerator in question in Pennsylvania is owned by the public Harrisburg Authority -- an independent government agency with appointed members that owns the city's water and sewer systems, as well as the incinerator. Schwartz wrote that the principal amount the city has guaranteed is about $242 million, with $65 million past due.

"The magnitude of that debt is sufficiently large that it dwarfs the city's other liabilities," Schwartz wrote.

The incinerator began operating in 1972, generating steam heat for steel mills and office buildings. In the 1980s, it began generating electricity -- and cancerous chemicals. Pressure from federal environmental regulators led to its shutdown in 2003, and it didn't fully go back on line until 2008, after a costly overhaul.

The incinerator still didn't make money, even as residents paid some of the nation's highest trash disposal fees. Last year, Moody's Investors Service gave Harrisburg the lowest credit rating of any municipality that hadn't already defaulted.

That has hurt the city's ability to pay for civic improvements without huge interest rates.

Thompson has said bankruptcy would promise a further hit to the city's reputation and expensive legal fees -- but no guarantee of financial relief. She has been working to come up with a permanent plan to pay off the debt and has pressed for concessions from lenders, taxpayers, labor unions and contractors.

Philadelphia lawyer Jonathan Hugg, an expert in municipal liability, said questions about the council majority's right to file in the first place raise issues about the city's status as a state-created entity.

"Way back in the beginning, the commonwealth of Pennsylvania set up Harrisburg," he said. "I think a savvy creditor is going to argue that, having loosed this thing into the world, the commonwealth is going to be responsible if it doesn't meet its obligations."

He said creditors also may challenge whether the city's bankruptcy is in good faith, considering its ability to raise taxes.

"There's a political problem that's developed with government not being able to increase streams of revenue," Hugg said. "This is the final result."

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American Idol Achievements

Posted On 11:32 PM by AzerWorks | 3 comments

Week Ending Oct. 9, 2011. Albums: Beam Me Up

Scotty McCreery's Clear As Day enters The Billboard 200 at #1. You might expect a debut album by an American Idol winner to open in the top spot, but this is the first one to do so since 2003. Kelly Clarkson, the Season 1 winner, bowed at #1 in April 2003 with Thankful. Ruben Studdard, the Season 2 champ, followed suit that December with Soulful.

The next five Idol winners made the top 10 with their first post-Idol albums, but fell short of the top spot. They were, in order, Fantasia's Free Yourself (#8), Carrie Underwood's Some Hearts (#2), Taylor Hicks' Taylor Hicks (#2), Jordin Sparks' Jordin Sparks (#10) and David Cook's David Cook (#3).

The last two winners before McCreery didn't even make the top 10. Kris Allen's Kris Allen peaked at #11. Lee DeWyze's Live It Up peaked at #19. I haven't written much in the past few years about the declining fortunes of recent Idol winners. It didn't seem to be a reflection of those artists' lack of star power so much as it was a reflection of the franchise's waning power to sell albums. But for McCreery to reverse the trend suggests that the franchise isn't out of gas just yet.

(You may have read that DeWyze was dropped by his label after just one album. This negates the original premise of American Idol-that the winner was destined for recording stardom-but it serves as a reminder of what a tough business this is for artists.)

McCreery's album sold 197K copies this week. That's the biggest first-week tally for a first post-Idol album by an Idol winner since Cook's eponymous album sold 284K in its first week three years ago. But McCreery was edged out by the most prominent runner-up of recent years. Adam Lambert's For Your Entertainment sold 198K copies in its first week in 2009.

There were signs that McCreery would have a have a big debut. His two EPs, both titled American Idol Season 10, have sold a combined total of 231K copies. His single, "I Love You This Big," has sold 630K copies.

McCreery turned 18 on Oct. 9, the last day of the tracking week. (A #1 album will be a hard birthday present to top.) McCreery is the second teen artist to reach #1 on The Billboard 200 so far this year. He follows Justin Bieber, who was nine days away from turning 17 when he hit #1 in February with Never Say Never: The Remixes.

McCreery's album also debuts at #1 on Top Country Albums. McCreery is the fourth Idol contestant to reach #1 on this chart. He follows Carrie Underwood, who topped the chart with her first three albums; Kellie Pickler, who scored with her first two albums; and Bucky Covington, who hit #1 with his first album. (Pickler and Covington both competed in Season 5. Pickler finished sixth. Covington finished eighth.)

Billboard's Keith Caulfield adds that McCreery is the youngest male artist to enter The Billboard 200 at #1 with a debut album. He takes the title from Omarion, who was 20 when O debuted at #1 in February 2005. And McCreery is the first country artist to debut at #1 with an initial studio album.

Adele's 21 rebounds to #2 in its 33rd week on the chart. The album has sold 3,885,000 copies. It has already sold more copies than any other album has sold in any calendar year in the last five years. The last albums to sell more copies in a calendar year were Mariah Carey's The Emancipation Of Mimi (4,969,000 in 2005) and 50 Cent's The Massacre (4,853,000 in 2005). 21 may well top both of those albums before the year is through. Its sales will likely swell after the Grammy nominations are announced on Nov. 30 and throughout the holiday sales season.

Tony Bennett's Duets II rebounds from #4 to #3 in its third week. This is its third week in the top five, which equals the mark set by Bennett's 2006 album Duets: An American Classic. The last Duets album to spend more than three weeks in the top five was Ray Charles' Genius Loves Company. It spent six weeks in the top five in 2004-2005.

Feist's Metals debuts at #7. It's the first top 10 album for Feist, whose 2007 album The Reminder peaked at #16. (That album has sold 735K copies.) Feist received four Grammy nominations in 2007. Two of them were for the top 10 hit "1234."

Jack's Mannequin was conceived as a side project for Andrew McMahon, the lead singer of the band Something Corporate. But a funny thing has happened. The side project has done better on the charts than the band has. Jack's Mannequin this week lands its second top 10 album. Something Corporate's highest-charting album, North, peaked at #24 in 2003.

Adele's "Someone Like You" and "Moves Like Jagger" by Maroon 5 featuring Christina Aguilera hold at #1 and #2 on Hot Digital Songs. Which will come out on top on the Hot 100? You'll find out later today when we post Chart Watch: Songs.

If you missed my Chart Watch Extra in which I listed every top 10 hit ever written by Burt Bacharach and/or Hal David, you have a second chance to read it. (They have been tapped to receive an award named after another peerless songwriting team, George and Ira Gershwin.) Here's a link.

Here's the low-down on this week's top 10 albums.

1. Scotty McCreery, Clear As Day, 197,000. This new entry sold 36K digital copies, which puts it at #1 on Top Digital Albums. Two songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs. "I Love You This Big" rebounds from #181 to #83. "The Trouble With Girls" re-enters at #137.

2. Adele, 21, 112,000. The former #1 album rebounds from #3 to #2 in its 33rd week. It has been in the top five the entire time. Five songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Someone Like You," which holds at #1 for the third week.

3. Tony Bennett, Duets II, 71,000. The former #1 album rebounds from #4 to #3 in its third week.

4. Lady Antebellum, Own The Night, 58,000. The former #1 album rebounds from #6 to #4 in its fourth week. Two songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs. "Just A Kiss" re-enters at #33. "We Owned The Night" jumps from #62 to #58.

5. J. Cole, Cole World: The Sideline Story, 54,000. The former #1 album drops from #1 to #5 in its second week. Two songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs. "Workout" jumps from #66 to #50. "Can't Get Enough" (featuring Trey Songz) drops from #70 to #155.

6. Lil Wayne, Tha Carter IV, 53,000. The former #1 album rebounds from #7 to #6 in its sixth week. Five songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "How To Love," which drops from #19 to #22.

7. Feist, Metals, 38,000. This new entry is Feist's first top 10 album. Her breakthrough album, The Reminder, reached #16 in 2007.

8. Rodney Atkins, Take A Back Road, 35,000. This new entry is Atkins' second top 10 album. If You're Going Through Hell hit #3 in 2006. "Take A Back Road" jumps from #32 to #17 on Hot Digital Songs.

9. Jack's Mannequin, People And Things, 31,000. This new entry is the act's second top 10 album. The Glass Passenger hit #8 in 2008.

10. Blink-182, Neighborhoods, 31,000. The album drops from #2 to #10 in its second week. "After Midnight" drops from #52 to #187 on Hot Digital Songs.

Four albums drop out of the top 10 this week. Wilco's The Whole Love drops from #5 to #11, Switchfoot's Vice Verses drops from #8 to #28, Chickenfoot's Chickenfoot III drops from #9 to #29, and Mastodon's The Hunter dives from #10 to #44.

Two rock bands from Florida debut in the top 40. Mayday Parade's Mayday Parade debuts at #12. New Found Glory's Radiosurgery bows at #26. This is Mayday Parade's highest-charting album to date.

Adele's 2008 album 19 jumps from #25 to #19. It returns to #1 on Top Catalog Albums, displacing Pink Floyd's The Dark Side Of The Moon. This is its 23rd week on top. It's far and away the #1 catalog album of the year. Among all albums, it's #27 for the year.

Mutemath's Odd Soul bows at #24. It's the rock band's second top 30 album. Armistice hit #18 in 2009.

Indigo Girls' Beauty Queen Sister debuts at #36. The folk-pop duo first charted in April 1989 with Indigo Girls. They were nominated for a Grammy as Best New Artist, but lost to Milli Vanilli (whose award was later revoked following a lip-syncing scandal). The Recording Academy opted not to give the award to the artist with the second highest number of votes. Their "winners book" simply skips over 1989. Based on longevity (an important factor in this category), Indigo Girls deserved the award. They are still charting 22 years later. How about the other nominees? Tone Loc and Neneh Cherry never returned to The Billboard 200 after their hit debut albums. (At least Milli Vanilli got back on the chart with a 1990 remix album.) Soul II Soul charted with two more albums, through 1992. I'm sure academy officials wish Indigo Girls had won the award in the first place. The award to Milli Vanilli was an embarrasing episode for the academy.

The Lost Notebooks Of Hank Williams debuts at #42. The album consists of a dozen songs that the country legend had left unfinished when he died in 1953. They were recorded by such artists as Alan Jackson, Bob Dylan, Norah Jones and Williams' granddaughter, Holly Williams. Williams and his backing group, the Drifting Cowboys, first hit the country chart in August 1947 with "Move It On Over." They first topped the country chart in May 1949 with "Lovesick Blues."

The Drive soundtrack drops from #46 to #89 in its fourth week. It's the top-ranking soundtrack for the second straight week; the top-ranking soundtrack to a theatrically-released movie for the third time in four weeks.

Paul McCartney's Paul McCartney's Ocean's Kingdom debuts at #143. McCartney is joined by John Wilson and the London Classical Orchestra on the album, which consists of four movements. This is the highest-charting of McCartney's three classical albums. Paul McCartney's Liverpool Oratorio reached #177 in 1991. Paul McCartney's Standing Stone hit #194 in 1997. The new album vaults from #58 to #3 on Top Classical Albums, behind Jackie Evancho's Dream With Me and Tori Amos' Night Of Hunters.

Real Steel was #1 at the box-office over the weekend. The soundtrack features Bad Meets Evil, Beastie Boys, Foo Fighters, 50 Cent and the Crystal Method. It sold about 1K copies, too few to make The Billboard 200.

Jackie Evancho's Dream With Me In Concert returns to #1 on Top Music Videos. It has been #1 in two of its four weeks.

Coming Attractions: Evanescence's Evanescence, the group's first album in five years, is expected to vie with Adele's album for the #1 spot next week. Five Finger Death Punch's American Capitalist will probably open at #3. Three other albums are looking at top 10 debuts: Lauren Alaina's Wildflower, Ryan Adams' Ashes & Fire and Martina McBride's Eleven. Also due: Joe Jonas' Fastlife, Johnny Gill's Still Winning, Bjork's Biophilia, A.N.T. Farm soundtrack featuring China Anne McClain and Taylor Swift's music video Journey To Fearless.

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Sunday, June 12, 2011

Guinness names Filipino as world's shortest man

Posted On 7:44 PM by AzerWorks | 7 comments

SINDANGAN, Philippines (AP) — A poor Filipino blacksmith's son who stands less than 2 feet (60 centimeters) tall was declared the world's shortest man by Guinness World Records on his 18th birthday Sunday, sparking a celebration in his hometown.

The title was bestowed on Junrey Balawing in Sindangan in the southern Philippines, with his parents, villagers and officials showering the coastal town's newly famous resident with a feast of roasted pigs and seafood, cake, balloons and cash gifts.

Balawing measured 23.5 inches (60 centimeters) during the ceremony attended by about 100 villagers and journalists at the town hall. Guinness World Records representative Craig Glenday presented Balawing with official recognition of his status as the shortest adult man in the world, with the framed certificate nearly reaching the ears of the standing recipient.

Balawing, who wore a white shirt emblazoned with the Guinness seal, took over the title from Khagendra Thapa Magar of Nepal, who is 26.4 inches (67 centimeters) tall, Glenday said.

Dozens of journalists descended on Sindangan, a fishing and farming town of 90,000 located about 450 miles (730 kilometers) south of Manila, to cover the event.

"Thank you," Balawing told the crowd in a local dialect which was translated by his father, Reynaldo. Balawing tried repeatedly before managing to blow out the candles on the cake and clapped heartily each time the crowd applauded. He was later heard saying "Kapoy," or "I'm tired."

Balawing — who is about the size of a toddler and has a child's demeanor — needs to hold onto something to stand because of weak knees. He was photographed propping himself up with empty Coca-Cola bottles, which were taller than his waistline.

Balawing's mother grew teary-eyed during the ceremony, saying she was happy with her son's instant fame.

Glenday said he was struck by Balawing's lively personality and constant smile.

"Although he's short, he takes that in stride," Glenday told The Associated Press. "He has this cheeky smile."

Aside from the Guinness certificate, the crown does not come with any cash award. Glenday said he hopes the international fame will bring in gifts and donations, particularly medical supplies to ensure Balawing's health.

Nobody could explain why Balawing stopped growing two months after his birth, his father said, adding that he first walked with help from his parents when he was 5 years old.

Sindangan Vice Mayor Bess Jagonio, a doctor, speculated that he may have had an endocrine or a birth-related defect.

Balawing's brother and two sisters are all average size.

His family said they tried to send Balawing to school but withdrew him after he distracted other children's attention.

Local officials got the idea of informing the Guinness records committee about Balawing from journalists who learned about his size.

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Coasta Rica 2011 Tourist Spot

Posted On 7:44 PM by AzerWorks | 5 comments

Costa Rica, with its beautiful beaches, vibrant culture and stunning wildlife, has long been a peaceful haven in Latin America for US tourists -- but now, it seems that the rest of the world is getting in on the action.

Recent figures have shown that the number of US tourists is declining in favor of visitors from other regions, predominantly Central and South Americans, keen to experience the Costa Rican promise of 'Pura Vida' (pure life).

With the launch of a new route from Air Berlin this November, that could soon include European tourists, although visitors would do well to visit before the rush really begins -- in the first three months of this year, the country has already seen a spike of 7.8 percent in arrivals.

Already lauded this year by the International Business Times and TripAdvisor, Costa Rica is a rich and thought-provoking destination -- here's a look at some of the best things to do in a country that prides itself on having 'no artificial ingredients':

See the wildlife. Costa Rica is one of the planet's most biodiverse nations, offering everything from bird watching to whale-spotting thanks to terrain which is uniquely varied. The best way to do this, however, is to…

Take a canopy tour. Invented in Costa Rica in the 1990s, the idea of whizzing above the treetops on a zip line has gained popularity across the continent, but the country's incredible forestry remains one of the best places to do it.

Raft. Costa Rica offers some of the world's best white-water rafting, even if it is terrifying. Still, the risks are easy to forget as you bounce down the Río Reventazón, hanging on by a thread and trying desperately not to miss the incredible jungle wildlife.

See Liberia. Costa Rica's capital San José isn't for everybody, but Liberia offers a far more charming base from which to explore the country and an increasing number of international flights to get there.

See the Pacific and the Atlantic - from a volcano. Thirty kilometers outside of San José, the Irazu volcano is the most active of Costa Rica's volcanoes, but for now it makes a great day out. From the 3,432-meter high tip -- accessible by car through the national park -- it's possible to see both oceans on a clear day.

Get muddy. Don't miss a chance to splash around in the volcanic mud pits of parks like Parque Nacional Rincón de la Vieja, which sits 25 km to the north of Liberia. There are several independent spas in the region.

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U.S not coming to aid Ph againts China

Posted On 7:43 PM by AzerWorks | 3 comments

Manila (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - The United States has said it will not side with any party in the Spratlys conflict, which is to say that the Philippines' most powerful ally will not be coming to its aid should its spat with China escalate into a shooting war.

The US Embassy made this clear in reaction to a Malacanang (the presidential palace) statement expressing confidence that Washington would honour its commitment under the two countries' Mutual Defence Treaty (MDT) to come to the aid of a beleaguered ally.

"The US does not take sides in regional territorial disputes," the US press attache Rebecca Thompson said in an e-mailed statement when contacted for comment to deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte's invoking of the 60-year-old MDT.

Thompson said the US was "troubled by incidents in the South China Sea in recent days that have raised tensions in the region" and that Washington opposes "the use or threat of force" by any of the countries with rival claims to the Spratly islands.

The brief statement said the US "shares a number of national interests with the international community in the South China Sea" but did not mention the Philippines or the two countries' over-a-hundred-year-old ties and mutual defence pact.

In an interview on state-run dzRB radio earlier on Saturday, Valte figured the Philippines could count on its superpower ally should the situation with China deteriorate because of the MDT.

"I haven't seen the terms of the MDT quite recently but I know that as an ally, the United States will help if ever it reaches that point because of the Mutual Defence Treaty," she said.

"Hopefully, it doesn't get to that point because, again, we are committed to the resolution of the issue in the most diplomatic and the most peaceful way possible," she added.

Armed Forces Chief General Eduardo Oban was also earlier quoted as saying that the military remained "hopeful that the Americans will not stand aside should the conflict erupt and that they can invoke the MDT with the US".

The MDT was signed on Aug 13, 1951, in Washington, DC with both parties declaring "publicly and formally their sense of unity and their common determination to defend themselves against external armed attack".

Under the eight articles of the treaty, both parties agree to aid and support each other in settling any international disputes by peaceful means, among others.

Sentor Francis Escudero said the Department of Foreign Affairs should be designated as the lead agency to talk about the Spratlys issue in public.

Avoid any mistakes

He said Malacanang should not do so through its spokespersons "in order to avoid any faux pas on our part".

Escudero said the government should also review the MDT to ascertain if US forces would indeed come to the rescue if the Philippines is attacked because of the Spratlys dispute.

He said Palace officials should carefully review the MDT, read through its fine print and get confirmations from the US government "if indeed this situation is covered".

But he remained optimistic that US military support would be given in case of an armed conflict as "a gesture of longstanding friendship".

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said the House would leave it to the Department of Foreign Affairs assert the country's sovereignty claim over the West Philippine Sea.

"The DFA is articulating our position and we're supporting it," he said.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Commodore Miguel Rodriguez said the AFP leaves it to the DFA to make an official comment on the developments in the Spratlys issue.

Not joining Viet Nam

"We submit our reports to the DFA and the DFA crafts the country's position on KIG [Kalayaan Island Group] affairs," he said, referring to the portion of the Spratlys claimed by the Philippines.

He also said the military was not joining Viet Nam, another Spratlys claimant, in the deepening rift with China over the issue.

"We are not looking at partnering with one country against another country," he said.

At a Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry Independence Day dinner Saturday night, President Aquino came face to face with Chinese Ambassador Liu Jiangchao who only a few days ago had warned claimant states to stop exploring for oil in the Spratlys.

"Like all neighbours, I know we may have our disagreements sometimes," Aquino said in his speech, acknowledging Liu's presence.

"(But) no one can deny the benefits our relationship has brought to both our countries throughout the years," he added.

Liu adverted to "incidents" that have arisen between the two countries since Aquino came to power.

"But facts have manifested we are stronger than these tests," he said.

Liu said the August 23 botched hostage crisis involving Hong Kong tourists had been settled with a "loving and understanding heart".

"The last thing the Chinese government and people want to see is that the [Spratlys] dispute stands in the way of the progress of our wonderful relations and the friendship and brotherhood of our two peoples," Liu said, who hinted at a visit to China from Aquino later this year.

In the past two weeks, the Philippines has accused China of making at least six incursions into Philippine territory in the past four months, a charge that Beijing has dismissed as rumors.

Recently, the Aquino government has made a point of referring to the South China Sea as the West Philippine Sea to bolster its claim to certain parts of the Spratlys. With reports from Christian V. Esguerra, DJ Yap and Cynthia D. Balana

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Thursday, June 2, 2011

Selena Gomez meets Bieber family

Posted On 5:40 AM by AzerWorks | 5 comments

Justin Bieber has taken Selena Gomez to visit his hometown.
The singing sensation was accompanied to his sister’s belated birthday gathering in Canada by his 18-year-old girlfriend, who met his extended family.
The trip comes after the pair enjoyed a romantic break to Hawaii together after sharing a public kiss at the Billboard Music Awards. Prior to visiting Canada, the couple also spent time at Selena’s home in Texas.
The talented twosome were spotted enjoying lunch at the Swiss Chalet in Toronto on Wednesday. A source has revealed that they were joined by his cousins, aunt and uncle at the restaurant, and were relaxed whilst they tucked into a variety of hearty meals.
"They were really sweet and make an adorable couple. Justin comes here whenever he's in town. For lunch he had the Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad and Selena had a cheese burger with fries,” a source told Hollywood Life.
Justin, 17, and Selena were also seen spending time with his father Jeremy and half-siblings, Jazmyn and Jaxon, at a local park. The pretty brunette was apparently a hit with her beau’s family who instantly warmed to her down-to-earth nature.
"They looked like one big happy family. The little kids took to Selena straight away and they were all laughing and joking around. They couldn't have been happier,” a source revealed to Us Magazine.
The American stars are rumoured to have been romancing for several months, but only went public with their relationship at February’s Vanity Fair Oscar party. Selena has received several death threats from a number of Justin’s devoted fans since they stepped out together.
"Selena Gomez is dangerously close to a long, slow painful death,” one fan wrote on Twitter.
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London Olympic Park completed

Posted On 5:35 AM by AzerWorks | 7 comments

London 2012 officials say construction on public transportation to the Olympic Park site has been completed, more than a year ahead of the Summer Games.
The Olympic Delivery Authority says the work was completed at Stratford Station, which is the main transportation hub for visitors to the Olympic Park in east London.
About $10.6 million is being spent on Britain's transportation for the Olympics. Ten rail routes including the high-speed Javelin, Eurostar and Docklands Light Railway will serve Stratford.
London Mayor Boris Johnson says "thanks to the Games and the massive settlement we've secured from central government, London is seeing a neo-Victorian age of investment in its transport infrastructure."
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Rats on Board

Posted On 5:18 AM by AzerWorks | 8 comments

A flight crew checking the cabin of a Qantas plane before takeoff found rats in a compartment holding medical equipment, grounding the plane for more than a day, a spokeswoman said Thursday.
Crews did a visual check of the plane Tuesday afternoon and found no more rats or any damage. The rodents had been in a cabinet holding a defibrillator. The plane returned to service Thursday morning.
Passengers had not yet boarded the Sydney-to-Brisbane flight and were instead put on another plane.
A Qantas spokeswoman called the incident "very unusual." She declined to be named, citing policy.
But Scott Connolly of the Transportation Workers Union told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio on Thursday that members have had concerns about hygiene and sanitation on Qantas flights.
The spokeswoman denied that was the case. "This is a very irregular occurrence," she said.
Qantas, Australia's national carrier, has experienced a series of troubles in recent months, including an engine explosion and forced landings.
Earlier this week, a Qantas flight from Dallas, Texas, to Australia made an unscheduled stop on a Pacific island after pilots feared they might run out of fuel because of strong headwinds. The Qantas spokeswoman said the airline was committed to the route — which is new and one of the world's longest for Boeing 747 jets.
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