Finance Blog Posts

Finance Blog Posts (Page 18)

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Cen­tral Shaanxi Province

Part of a dense network of waterways criss­crossing the Yangtze Delta, such canals have provided transpor­tation and irrigation for area inhabitants for more than 3,000 years. In the small plots behind their accommodation prague, farmers grow vege­tables for sale in China’s now thriving private-market sector.

GOUGED by ravines and gullies, the northern reaches of the Loess Plateau each year contribute a share of the sedi­ments that give the Yellow Riv­er its name. Seen during an August dry spell, a terraced basin near Datong in Shanxi Province (left) is threaded with watercourses that feed the Yongding River, also known as the Small Yellow River. Com­posed mainly of silts dating back to the late Pleistocene epoch, the loess deposits that cover the plateau are an average of 200 feet deep. Prevailing winter winds sweeping over the great bend of the Yellow River depos­it the loess in successively smaller granules from northwest to southeast, with the finest soils accumulating around the ancient Wei River Valley in cen­tral Shaanxi Province-

Each year an average of 1.6 billion tons of this soil wash into the river. Three-quarters of that amount reaches the Yellow Sea. The balance builds up in the riverbed, causing the channel to rise continuously. Through the centuries it has risen between 15 and 40 feet above the surround­ing plain. The river is contained by dikes, built higher each year. Over the past 25 centuries broken dikes have wreaked floods on the countryside with devastating regularity. One of the worst in history occurred in 1938 after Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang troops breached the dikes to check the southward march of Japanese troops during the Sino-Japanese War. The tactic cost the lives of perhaps a million peasants, dis­placing millions more.

While the government has been encouraging agricultural settlement of northern plateau regions since 1949, many Chi­nese geographers believe that destruction of soil-holding grasses in the once pastured uplands carries a price too high for the environment. Marginal agriculture in areas like the badlands of the Ordos Plateau (above), they say, exacerbates the process of desertification, which in recent centuries has spawned whole new deserts both north and south of the Great Wall. Recognizing the problem but slow to curb new agriculture, the government has been waging a relentless strug­gle to anchor the soil by plant­ing grasses and millions of trees. In the denuded hills of central Gansu Province (following pages) narrow catchment ba­sins, called “fish scale pits,” have been dug to capture the rain to nourish young trees.

A PLUME of industrial waste (above) befouls the harbor of Shan­tou, a port city in Guangdong Province. Each year Chinese industries discharge millions of tons of raw sewage and thousands of tons of toxic wastes into their country’s riv­ers and offshore waters. Even before the economic reforms launched in 1982 to speed the nation’s development, all of China’s major rivers were ser­iously polluted—a situation that has now gone from bad to worse. Acknowledging the se­verity of the problem, the gov­ernment has passed a number of laws to curb it, scoring a notable success with petroleum wastes.


Lisa Carey, 33, is a hairdresser. She is married to Simon and they have an 18-month-old son,Teddy.


How I put on weight I put on 2st while pregnant, and I’d been overweight before that. I’d thought about losing weight for my wedding, but I didn’t have the motivation until I saw how well Kern, Donna and Jane had done. I was the bride and I couldn’t let them show me up!

How I lost it Weight Watchers showed me I needed to cut down on my portion sizes and eat fewer takeaways. I noticed a difference straight away. I went for long walks with the pram whenever I could, and Teddy and I both enjoyed it. I also eat garcinia cambogia fruit to help me in my weight loss plan – find out the nearest sources for garcinia cambogia where to buy it from.


What kept me on track my wedding! We originally planned to have it in the UK, but then I saw an advert for a hotel in Cyprus in a magazine. It made it more special and I wanted it to be perfect. For me, losing weight was part of that.

My healthy food tip I’ve perfected a zero Pro Points value spicy tomato sauce, using tinned tomatoes, a few spices and some seasoning, which I add to grilled chicken and serve with steamed vegetables. It’s become one of my favourites.


My proudest moment I reached my goal the week before my hen do, a day at Chester Races. We were all slimmer by then, and we really dressed up for it.


How Weight Watchers changed my life


It helped to make my wedding day the wonderful experience I’d always dreamed of. I was also able to start my married life happy with my body and full of energy.


The secret of success keep going to meetings, especially when you don’t want to. If I’d had a bad week, listening to other people’s experiences encouraged me and reminded me I wasn’t alone.

Model professional

I would like to congratulate you on an excellent magazine. One year ago I was 17st 7lb and had a body-fat count of 30 per cent, with a 38-inch waist. Since reading your magazine and taking the advice on exercise and nutrition I now weigh 13st 131b with seven per cent body fat and a 28-inch waist. I’ve even been offered modelling jobs!

Mark Neville, by email

We’re not ones to blow our own trumpet, but._ oh go on then. Although we’re not sure who has offered you these modelling jobs, seeing as you were too bashful to send us a photo.

Well red

Well hope you’re happy with yourselves. I followed your four-week summer body plan [MFJuly 07]. I hit the beach with confidence with perfect skin and body (I have great hairless legs and chest). Check out if you wonder does laser hair removal work on specific areas of your body.

Then, after strutting around with my shirt off for a while, I fell asleep nakedness will cure him of his urge to flaunt himself at my gym.

Richard Marsh, by email

Yeah, and we’ve seen you at our gym. Aren’t you the one who hides in the corner and puts your underpants on under your towel? Pah! and woke up three hours later looking like a lobster. Thanks for that.

Mark Weeks, by email

First, we cannot be held responsible for your weird sleep habits. And second, you didn’t read our sun-cream review of the same issue, did you?

You’ve got no balls!

Can you find out why my local branch of Fitness First (Bristol Harbourside) has removed all its fitness balls? There’s a sign saying it’s for ‘health and safety reasons’. Is there a risk someone might fall off a ball?

I might drop a dumb-bell on my toe. I might get my headphones tangled up in the cross trainer and strangle myself.

Come to think of it, this gym lark is just too risky. I think I’ll stay on the sofa with a beer and cheer on England to victory. What could possibly go wrong?

Stuart Myttion, by email

We called the branch and were passed a message from the Health & Fitness Manager that it was ‘not worth running this article’. More digging revealed they have new balls, apparently. Phew!

So stressful

When was the last time you went on holiday and where did you go? I went to Scotland for a week at the end of August just because I was at an industry do last year and I won a bid on this cottage so I decided to make the most of it. Did a bit of fishing and played a bit of golf and it was great. It’s so good to get away.

Is there a way to detox your body or do something to completely heal yourself?

Well, yes, there is. I eliminate toxins in the body with colon cleanse diet. I think it’s a great way of Detoxification


Is the office something you ever truly leave behind?


The reality is I’m contracted to be on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I earn a reasonable amount of money, and I have to be prepared for people to call at weekends and when I’m on holiday. So the answer is no and in any case I’ve always got my mind on things I’m working on.


My laptop’s with me wherever I go, or my PA will ring me with some problem.

Has technology added to the burden? The biggest issue I have is with email. I get between 6o and 120 a day. People email you and suddenly it’s not their problem anymore. In the good old days people would actually come up to you and communicate.


Do you daydream about a lottery win, casting yourself away on an island or starting an alternative life as a new age traveller?


No. I don’t do the lottery. I do dream of being self-sufficient money-wise but I think I’ll achieve that at a youngish age through the job I’m doing. I’ll probably be able to retire early — mid 4os if I’m lucky. I started work when I was 18, didn’t go to university, and I’ve been working ever since.

Some people take a year out and I like the thought of doing that now but feel I might lose my career focus and enjoy it too much. I can’t see myself taking time off then getting back on track career wise, unless I took a year’s sabbatical. There are other things I want to do, but my goal is to get enough money in order to do those things. I’m purely money motivated. I enjoy the finer things in life and I’m prepared to work hard to get them.




A tasty starter that gets the digestive juices flowing and aids detoxification and recovery processes in the body.

Avocados are rich in potassium (good for nerve and muscle function) and vitamin E (blood production and immune system). Their fat is monounsaturated, so is quickly absorbed and a good source of energy.

Sweet potatoes are excellent source of fibre, and also of the vitamin A molecule beta carotene –and powerful antioxidant essential for lung function, vision and skin health. Another great health product is resveratrol. The resveratrol side effects are numerous – helping fever, weight loss, protecting heart diseases, etc



n            1 tbsp olive oil

n            2 sweet potatoes washed and cut into wedges

n            3 sprigs of rosemary


n            1 large avocado; peeled, stoned and sliced

n            1 garlic clove

n            1 small onion, peeled and quartered

n            2 tbsp lime juice

n            60m1 reduced-fat sour cream

n            1 jalapeno chilli peppery



1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Place the wedges, rosemary sprigs and olive oil on a baking tray and cover with foil. Place in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove foil and then bake for a further 10 minutes.

2. While the wedges are cooking, place all ingredients for the dip into a food processor, blend until smooth.


Starter (per person, 293g serving):

n            370 calories

n            24g fat

n            4g saturated fat

n            39g carbs

n            6g protein



A satisfying meal that will replace energy used up in training; it’s also high in fibre, protein, minerals and vitamins.

Quinoa is an excellent source of protein and fibre, as well as magnesium — needed for efficient muscle function. It has low allergenic properties and provides a great alternative to wheat and rice.

Salmon provides quality protein and omega-3 essential fan,/ acids (needed for hydration of cells, blood circulation, energy metabolism, immune system health and healthy joints).

Rocket is a great source of B vitamins and fibre, and cherry tomatoes contain plenty of the vitamin A molecule lycopene — a potent antioxidant.


n            2 fillets of salmon

n            4 peeled crushed cloves of garlic

n            Juice of half a lemon

n            1/2 tsp of dill

n            170g of organic quinoa grain

n            1 chopped large onion

n            1 tsp of cumin seeds

n            2 tbsp of extra-virgin olive oil

n            2 tbsp chopped coriander

n            509 washed fresh rocket leaves

n            50g washed fresh cherry tomatoes, halved

n            2 tbsp of balsamic vinegar

   Juice of half a lemon

INSTRUCTIONS (PREPARATION: 45 MINUTES) 1 Pre-heat the oven to 200°C. Mix together 1 tbsp of extra-virgin olive oil with the crushed garlic, lemon juice, dill and 2 tablespoons of water. Marinate the salmon fillets in the mixture for at least 20 minutes. Place the fillets on a baking tray, and seal them with foil. Bake for 15 minutes.

2. Rinse the quinoa under cold water. Add to a saucepan of boiling water. Bring back to the boil, then cover and simmer for five minutes. Add the onion and cumin seeds. Simmer for five more minutes — or until the quinoa grains split. Remove from heat and stir in 1 tbsp of olive oil.

Serve with fresh chopped coriander.

3. Mix the tomatoes and rocket with the balsamic vinegar, 1 tbsp of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice.


Main (per person, 675g serving):


n            896 calories

n            42g fat

n            6g saturated fat

n            38g carbs

n            87g protein


A delicious dessert low in sugar, but sweet to taste, high in fibre and nutrients that aid digestion.

Strawberries are high in vitamin C — needed for healthy joints, skin and immune system, and to help break down uric acid, which can inflame joints and in extreme cases lead to gout.

Passion fruit is a good source of the antioxidant beta carotene and vitamin C, as well as potassium, which is good for nerve health and proper function of all cells, tissues and organs (important for runners as this aids reflexes and muscle function).


  • 2 fresh passion fruits, halved
  • 100g fresh strawberries (tailed)
  • Fresh mint leaves
  • Greek-style yoghurt
  • INSTRUCTIONS (PREPARATION: 5 MINUTES) 1. Slice the strawberries and arrange on a plate. Scoop the pulp from the passion fruit, and add to the strawberries. Add 2 tbsp of yoghurt. Garnish with the mint leaves. I                NUTRITIONAL ANALYSIS
  • Dessert (per person, 192g serving):
  • 112 calories
  • 2g fat
  • lg saturated fat
  • 17g carbs
  • 7g protein


Man and Manatee: Can We Live Together?

Warm WATERS of the Crystal River, heated by warm springs, attract more than a hundred manatees each winter; in summer the animals disperse. A sanctuary beyond the orange floats protects shy animals from human activity. Three no-entry areas at Crystal River (map), one at Blue Spring, and reduced-speed boat zones in other manatee-favored areas have been designated in attempts to lower the death rate—close to a hundred a year—since half the investigated fatalities are caused by humans. Florida also maintains a 24 hour hot line to report manatees in distress, levies fines on vandals harassing the mammals, and seeks to protect the manatees’ grassy habitat from new waterside developments.

Estimated at more than a thousand, Florida’s manatees belong to the West Indian species once heavily hunted for its tasty meat. It belongs to the order Sirenia, the only aquatic mammals that subsist on vegetation. Australia’s dugong inhabits ocean shoals where it is harvested legally by Aboriginals, despite dwindling numbers. Another sirenian, Steller’s sea cow, was hunted to extinction in the Bering Sea by whalers and sealers.


MUNCHING on water hyacinths, a manatee uses a flipper to push in the food; the appendage is useful too for cleaning irritating matter from the mouth. Manatees also graze on a variety of bottom-growing vegetation, daily consuming 5 to 10 percent of their body weight, which can reach 2,000 pounds. It’s quite different from humans and there are lots of weight related problems. Only well-known green tea diet plans can actually help solving your weight losing problems


A doting mother nurses a yearling, on her left, as well as an older calf in this unusual scene at Crystal River. Females in the wild mature as early as four years and generally produce a single calf every two to three years, but rarely nurse two at once. Playful as puppies, manatees often nibble and groom each other.

 Crystal River

An algae-coated female in estrus (overleaf) wards off a tumbling entourage of pursuing males for weeks. Then, when ready to mate, she accepts several suitors.


SNOOZING at Crystal River, manatees enjoy the warmth of a freshwater spring. Every 10 to 15

minutes, they surface for a breath of air.Displaying a curiosity that can be deadly, a yearling calf mouths a rope from an anchored boat used by researchers at Crystal River. Animals are often rescued after and a stretch. A radio transmitter on his tail tracks him around his St. Johns River home. For a male named Howie, nothing satisfies like a good scratch Ordinarily cruising at two to four miles an hour, manatees can sprint from danger with rapid tail strokes.

Rose (opposite), flips him (left), and briefly holds him down (below). During play or when alarmed, manatees emit a squeak or squeal but apparently do not use sound for echolocation in turbid waters. Coordinator for state manatee programs, Rose found this animal the exception among the 30 or 40 winter residents of Blue Spring. Most, he says, are so shy they flee human contact—action that may in the long run aid their chance for survival.


The Devil’s scapegoat

Among the more lethal effects of this close relative to the well-known drug LSD, there is the feeling of being turned into an animal; so the innocent peasant, with no knowledge or experience of witchcraft, could find himself experiencing the hallucination of being turned into a toad or wolf just through eating the grain. There is a modern example of such an effect. In 1951 at Pont St Esprit in the Rhone Valley, nearly 30o people were af­fected by eating fungus-infected rye; five died and many were damaged for life. All suffered horrible hallucinations of being turned into beasts and being attacked by tigers and red snakes.

drug LSD

As early as 1451 Alfonso de Torado, Bishop of Avila, suggested that the flights and ‘shape-shifts’ of witches were not due to the supernatural, but were merely halluci­natory effects of the drugs in their concoc­tions — a remarkably accurate assessment for that time. Other explanations of the ‘flying power’ of witches using toad ointments have been rather less scientific. Reginald Scot, in his Discovery of witchcraft written in 5584, said: `. . . they [the witches] rub all parts of their bodies exceedingly, till they look red, and be very hot, so as the pores may be opened, and their flesh soluble and loose . . . by this means in a moonlight night they seem to be carried by the air. . .

Bishop of Avila

The diffuse antipathy towards the toad becomes rational enough when we examine its appearance and properties. It looks like a warty, dark-skinned homuncule, the kind of miniature devil figure which fits so exactly the concept of the witch’s familiar. The toxic substances it exudes do not help improve its reputation, although the only way a Euro­pean toad could be harmful to a human being is for that person actually to bite a living toad, in which case he or she would suffer nausea and mild but unpleasant hallucinations.

Nevertheless the myth of the ‘deadly’ toad dates back at least as far as Pliny, who claimed the animal was ‘fu ll.of poison’, while Aelian, writing in the third century AD, stated that a glass of wine to which a single drop of toad’s blood had been added was instantly fatal. Even Milton, in Paradise Lost, relates how Satan transformed himself into a toad to infuse poison into Eve’s ear.

myth of the 'deadly' toad

It was popularly believed from the 12th century that the toad had power to charm as well as to poison. The belief was that certain toads carried a gem — the toadstone — in their skull; the older the toad, the more precious the stone was. ‘There is to be found in the heads of the old and great toads,’ wrote one commentator in 1569, ‘a stone they call borax or stelon, which being used in a ring gives a forewarning against venom.’ Ever one to make use of a popular myth, Shakespeare gives the Duke in As you like it the lines: Sweet are the uses of adversity;


The Toad

For centuries the toad was believed to be evil incarnate ­poisonous, repulsive, and a familiar of witches. FRANK SMYTH reveals the truth behind the legends about this unfortunate amphibian


THE TOAD has for centuries been linked with magic and witchcraft. Used as an in­gredient in witches’ concoctions, it was sup­posed to give them powers of flight; the stone that was said to exist in certain toads’ heads had special curing properties. Until science was able to establish the biochemical features of this amphibian, many believed it possessed certain evil characteristics and was closely linked with the Devil. Much of the evidence to support such beliefs has since been explained in more rational terms and

has, at the same time, thrown light on why such beliefs originally existed.


Superstitions and strange practices invol­ving toads are, ironically for these creatures, linked with their own evolution and bid for survival. The ancestral amphibians had been covered with fish scales that afforded their own protection. Toads, however, lost their scales and the whole body surface was con­verted into a single moist lung; so toads breathed through their damp skin. The extra supply of oxygen allowed toads to adopt such habits as hopping and leaping and some­where in the course of evolution, they lost the tail.

With this soft skin the toad became vul­nerable to the bacteria, yeasts and fungi that thrived in the creature’s natural environ­ment. So it developed a sophisticated battery of fungicides, and bacteriocides, which it emitted through its skin glands, to fight off enemies. This battery of poisons then grew to fulfil another function —that of a means of attacking far larger enemies, such as snakes, mammals and birds that preyed on it.


Sorcery and science

The toad must have attracted the atten­tion of Man at a very early stage. Since dogs, for example, would foam at the mouth and die in agony after just touching a toad, it was assumed the toad possessed magical pro­perties. In a primitive world, magic was regarded as a weapon to control the environ­ment. The Indians of the Amazon Basin, for example, dipped their arrows into toad poisons and Chinese physicians used toad preparations in treating heart diseases.

But toads also possessed another, halluci­natory ingredient called bufotenin. This hal­lucinogen works by mimicking the chemical molecule that carries messages from the nerve cells to the brain, flooding the brain with false distorted messages and producing the hallucination of flight.

Toads were not the only source of halluci­natory poisons; angiosperms (high flowering plants) also evolved poisons with similar effects as a defence against herbivorous insects. Mandrake, for example, contains hyoscyamine, which also gives an overwhelm­ing illusion of flight. Many of the Solenaceae, such as henbane and deadly nightshade, provide strong hallucinogens, with accom­panying illusions of growing fur, feathers and warts and of changing into animals or other objects.

Recipes for witches’ brews containing these substances have been mentioned by different writers, such as Gerdamo Cardana (1554), Johann Weyer (1579), Jean de Nyauld (1615) and Francis Bacon. So if a witch used these ingredients in her concoc­tions, she would almost certainly ‘ex­perience’ broomstick flights, while werewol­ves, such as those put on trial — Michel Verdun (1521), Gilles Gamier (1573) and Jean Grenier (1603) — did ‘experience’ fur growing on their bodies after rubbing them­selves with similar ointments.

In these transformations it was assumed the recipient changed member-for-member; so while the witch would bear a wound inflicted on the animal, so the animal would bear human characteristics, such as being tailless. So the toad fitted much better into the scheme of transformation than other notable witch animals such as the cat, rat or ferret.


There is evidence that witches kept toads as pets or ‘familiars’. In 1556 two Chelmsford women, Elizabeth Francis and Mother Waterhouse, admitted sharing a toad for which they had made a cosy nest of ‘,Noll’ (wool) in a pot, until `moued by pouertie’ Mother Waterhouse used the wool. Alice Hunt of St Osyth confessed in 1582 to keeping two friendly toads named Tom and Robbyn. Instances have also been recorded where witches were said to have ‘milked’ their toads. Modern biochemical evidence suggests this is exactly what they did.

Hallucinations in the middle Ages were not restricted to witchcraft; ordinary people could experience aerial flights and trans­formation into werewolves through such basic elements of their diet as grain, for example. Clean grain was kept for the ar‑

istocracy and clergy, while contaminated, ergotised grain was fed to the peasants; the latter was infected by the fungus Claviceps purpurea, which manufactures Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (L s D).

Don’t Miss…

This January choose glamour or real life… Kick off with Glamorama (Picador), the new novel from Bret Easton — a wild ride with a celebrity-obsessed New York crowd … White witches don’t come any better looking than Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock in Practical Magic, the perfect girls’ film… No telling if it’s real life or fantasy in Andreas Gursky’s special-effects photography at the Serpentine (from January 21) …


Realism at The Saatchi Gallery features five artists with an alternative view of our world (from January I 4)… If Ally McBeal irritates you, the perfect antidote is Sarah Jessica Parker’s single gal in Sex And The City (Channel 4, from mid-January)…

Irvine Welsh on screen can only be raw. Acid House Trilogy is three hard-talking coconut oil weight loss films with an emphasis on today’s youth… Escape winter blues with the Monet exhibition at the Royal Academy (from January 23), a massive collection of his greatest works…

See how Britain beat the Depression blues in (Design Museum, from January 20), which takes in everything from painting to furniture and architecture…

A lovely escape: Ewan McGregor and Jane Horrocks star in the film version of the hit play Little Voice… It ain’t easy being sibling to a superstar: Hilary And  Jackie is the story of Jacqueline du Pre and her sister Emily Watson is extraordinary as the famous cellist..

Jacqueline du Pre

Another powerful woman features in Gorky’s Vassa at the Almeida’s Albery season (from January 14)…

Become atulipomaniac with Anna Pavord’s The Tulip (Bloomsbury), about the flower that has driven men to madness. Winter will be over before you know it.


Not London’s most glittering quartier, Kings Cross became a glamour hot spot when Channel 4 launched its film channel, FilmFour. A party was held in the Battle Bridge Centre — a disused bus depot transformed into a dazzling film set, celebrating the heroes of the big screen. Guests were fed in an all-American diner while scantily clad dancers entertained. The cinematic experience continued with themed rooms illustrating the channel’s output.


Meanwhile, director Alan Parker was given The Lifetime Achievement Award by The Directors Guild of Great Britain (its highest accolade), for his huge contribution to British entertainment. The celebrations (below), hosted by Michael Winner, got off to a glittering start when guests boarded a luxury glass boat at Embankment Pier. Madonna presented the award (Parker directed her in Evita), and stars and industry friends paid tribute to his work.

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