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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

New wave of detox diets — are they healthier?

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The latest cleanses touted as energizing, slimming and more satisfying
By Rory Evans

Image: Pomegranate
The latest juice-cleanse diets — with their potent blends of fresh vegetables, fruits and spices — promise a renewed vitality and better health.

Some high-profile celebrities are unabashedly hitting the bottle. No, not hitting the bottle as in they need to check into detox — hitting the bottle as in it’s their way of detoxing. They are juice fasting to cleanse their insides, which presumably improves their outsides by helping them lose weight.

The latest juice-cleanse delivery diets — such as those from Blueprint Cleanse and Organic Avenue — with their potent blends of fresh vegetables, fruits, and spices, promise a renewed vitality and better health.

Last winter, when Gwyneth Paltrow was briefly in a New York hospital, she reportedly took delivery of Organic Avenue’s LOVEfast, which is mainly juice with perhaps a side of seaweed salad. Last summer, Oprah Winfrey blogged about her 21-day cleanse, although — as you might expect of a woman who has publicly regretted going on a drastic four-month-long liquid weight-loss diet 20 years ago — her regimen included solid foods.

These new cleanses are a marked improvement on the older detox diets, like the “master cleanse,” which offered minimal nutrition and rapid weight loss (Beyoncé was rumored to have lost more than 20 pounds for “Dreamgirls” by sipping this mixture of lemon juice, purified water, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper).

Surprisingly, most cleanses aren’t touted as weight-loss programs. (Technically, anyhow: Invariably, plenty of women are still signing on in hope of dropping a few stubborn pounds.) They claim to rebalance the body, purify the liver, and regulate the digestive tract’s PH balance. Or, as in the case of John Gray’s 30-Day Mars Venus Wellness Solution, a detox promises to enhance your sex life.

“Detoxing gives you more energy, and more energy gives you more libido,” Gray says.

The regimens vary widely in duration and strictness: Some last just one day, whereas others stretch on for weeks. The most stringent are essentially flavored water; others offer vegetable and fruit juices; and Winfrey’s plan, based on “Quantum Wellness” (Weinstein Books) by Kathy Freston, included real meals dominated by organic produce and whole grains. “As a chef and lover of food, I can’t imagine an all-liquid cleanse,” says Tal Ronnen, founder of the Veg Advantage program and Winfrey’s cook during her three-week detox. “A cleanse is simply about eliminating certain foods that tend to be irritating to the body. Alcohol, sugar, animal products, and caffeine act as stimulants and depressants and exhaust the body. Cleansing gives the body a chance to heal.”

It’s probably no accident that people’s efforts to clean up their acts (and alimentary canals) are coinciding with the focus on cleaning up the environment.

“We’ve all been talking about greening the planet, and now we’ve gotten around to talking about greening our bodies,” says Adina Niemerow, a holistic chef and author of “Super Cleanse” (HarperCollins). For centuries, people have been fasting as part of a spiritual quest. In recent decades, cleansing was embraced by yoga enthusiasts and raw-food devotees and “pretty much anyone with a long, gray braid,” says Zoë Sakoutis, founder of the Blueprint Cleanse. “It was either superhippie or really elitist.”

These days, though, the average Jane is increasingly taking stock of her diet and deciding to turn over a new leaf — by, say, liquefying a bushel of leafy green vegetables. Christine, a fashion stylist in New York City, likes to do a weeklong cleanse a few times a year following “some kind of food-and-drink free-for-all, like a vacation, the winter holidays, an extended birthday celebration… the list goes on,” she says. “For my job, I do a lot of weeknight socializing that includes wine, cheese plates, foods you pop in your mouth without even thinking.”

She’s not the only one unconsciously putting things in her mouth: “People regularly consume unnatural foodstuffs that are riddled with additives, colors, artificial sugars, trans fats, fake fats, and the like. Fasting and detoxing gives the body a chance to recover,” says Yvonne Nienstadt, nutrition director at Rancho La Puerta Spa in Tecate, Mexico, who has fasted pretty much one day a week (sometimes more) for 20 years.

If you end up shedding a few pounds in the process, then all the better — at least according to the many women who are far more motivated to rid their bodies of a few extra pounds than of highly processed carbohydrates.

But “this really isn’t an exercise in starvation,” Niemerow says. “A cleanse pulls you out of your daily routine and is an opportunity to consciously look at what you’re consuming” — and to notice how it feels “when you take away all the foods that cause havoc on your body.”

The juicy details
For women who regularly treat their skin with ingredients like pomegranate or papaya, the way that cleanse enthusiasts describe certain foods might not seem like much of a stretch. Cucumber, for instance, supposedly “helps wash the kidney and bladder of debris,” cayenne pepper is purported to drain congestion, and parsley is said to purify the blood and protect the kidneys, according to the information card that accompanies the daily juices for Blueprint Cleanse.

Chlorophyll, the pigment that allows plants to convert sunlight to energy, can inspire juice fasters to wax evangelical. Doug Green, owner of New York City’s fresh-juice bar Liquiteria, believes it “can ward off inflammation, bloating, gas, and even bad breath.” (Scientists, for their part, are investigating preliminary evidence that it has anti-cancer properties.) In any case, Green points out, in general, the government recommends several servings of fruits and vegetables per day, “and it’s because certain compounds in them should be ingested.”

Time is also on juice fasters’ side: Chugging a pint of romaine, parsley and kale juice requires just a few minutes; preparing and consuming the equivalent seven or eight pounds of vegetables could take considerably longer. Robin, a producer in New York, likes the convenience of juice cleansing, which she does for six days at a stretch. “I can get annoyed at having to find time to eat three meals a day [and] figure out what to eat,” she says. “I love that the juice fast extracts all the nutrients from fruits and vegetables, and I don’t have to deal with anything else.”

Which is not to suggest that cleansing is as easy as cracking open a can of V8 or as mirthful as a garden party. The side effects of ridding your diet of processed solid foods — as well as sugar, salt, caffeine, and alcohol — include headaches, moodiness, exhaustion, insomnia, and (contrary to the ablutionary connotation of the word “cleanse”) constipation.

Oh, and hunger! “We sometimes get calls from clients after the first day, and occasionally after the very first juice, telling us they cannot do this,” says Erica Huss Jones, co-owner and president of Blueprint Cleanse. “But if they stick it out, by day two, people most often feel completely different.” (Side effects can be minimized, she adds, by tapering off caffeine, alcohol, and sugar a few days before the cleanse.)

Detoxing becomes even more challenging when you try to keep up a social life that revolves around meeting friends for drinks and dinner — and when grabbing even a few mangy celery sticks from the crudité plate at a party is strictly verboten. Niemerow suggests thinking of a cleanse as a retreat, in which you clear your calendar and spend time on your own. Another option is to make it a group event — for instance, Blueprint Cleanse offers discounts for friends, family, and co-workers — so you have fewer temptations and built-in moral support.

Be warned, however, that there’s no competing with your man if he’s cleansing, too: Even though detoxes aren’t officially diets, men usually lose weight quickly when they cleanse. “They’re used to consuming more” — and probably consuming more crap — “so when they cut back, the results are more significant,” Sakoutis says.

Not so fast
It bears mentioning that the zeal of cleanse fans should be taken with a grain of salt — preferably of the unprocessed Himalayan Pink variety. For example, chlorophyll “is not a nutrient, and a role in disease prevention or otherwise in humans is still speculative,” points out Mario Ferruzzi, an associate professor of food science and food and nutrition at Purdue University.

More to the point, to lose weight or to improve your health, you can simply modify your diet: “Instead of fasting, why not look at the way you’re eating and try to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your meals?” asks Jonathan Waitman, an internist specializing in nutrition at New York Presybterian Hospital/Weill-Cornell Medical Center in New York City. “You don’t need to fast and [clear] your bowels to get a clean slate,” he says. Moreover, “fruits and vegetables are a great source of vitamins and minerals. But fiber in and of itself has significant health benefits” — such as regulating blood-sugar levels — “and juicing can leave out the fiber. My main problem with detox diets, though, is that there is no real lifestyle change to feel better and live healthier when you do something for a limited time period.”

Still, devotees like Nienstadt say that detoxing periodically for one to three days keeps them on track. But she cautions, “Fasting for more than a few days depresses the metabolism,” so that in terms of weight loss, “you just gain everything back and more.” And Waitman notes that depriving the body of energy from calories, nutrients, and electrolytes could result in exhaustion and light-headedness.

Detox high
How to account, then, for all the rave reviews and anecdotal evidence? “My skin glows when I’m cleansing,” says Robin. “And my stomach is almost always bloated, but it gets flat during the cleanse. My guess is that not having carbs or white foods in there makes it go down.”

She experiences a lift, however, in her mood and energy levels. Indeed, “energized” seems to be the operative adjective for lots of cleanse dieters. “The first few days I have mild headaches and feel a little tired, but by midweek, I am an energy ball,” Christine says. “My apartment always gets an amazing cleanse, too, due to my energized state.” Lexy, a journalist in New York City, attests that by the end of a three-day or five-day juice fast, she sleeps better, wakes up earlier, and has more vigor at work.

A placebo effect may inspire some of these sensations, as may the sheer pride of sticking it out, but many women report another benefit: a reckoning about their usual eating. When food is off-limits — when the most fleeting fancy for a handful of Cheez-Its or steak frites cannot be fulfilled — it forces you to think about why you want what you want, and about all the habits you have that involve food but really don’t need to. “Judicious fasting,” Nienstadt says, “helps us become more sensitive to what our bodies need and don’t need.” After all, when you can go about your day — with giddyap to spare — on, for instance, Blueprint Cleanse’s most spartan menu option of 1,100 calories, it calls into question why you’d ever need a three-course meal. Or an 800-calorie tub of movie popcorn before the film even starts.

Although Christine’s intent was “to feel better and get back on track” nutritionally, she says she lost nearly five pounds in one week, “which was a bonus” — and kept the weight off. For Ronnen, whose detox diet never eliminates real food and regular meals, the primary purpose of a cleanse is “to disrupt old patterns of eating that aren’t healthy,” he says. “It takes about three weeks for the body to reset cravings, but once you’ve done it, the payoff is huge. You find that you actually start craving foods that are good for you.”

For Lexy, cleansing led to a personal ban on high-fructose corn syrup and reaffirmed her commitment to buying organic. “Doing the detox every once in a while is just a booster,” Lexy says. “It’s part of a whole journey of trying to be healthy and purifying my life.”

© 2008

Airliner had near miss with UFO


Some of the reported UFO encounters in the military documents

A passenger jet bound for Heathrow Airport had a near miss with a UFO, Ministry of Defence files reveal.

The captain of the Alitalia airliner shouted "Look out" to his co-pilot at the sight of a brown missile-shaped object shooting past them overhead.

Civil Aviation Authority and military investigations could not explain the 1991 incident near Lydd in Kent.

The unsolved close encounter features in UFO-related military documents made available by the National Archives.

After ruling out the object flying past the Alitalia jet being a missile, weather balloon or space rocket, the MoD closed the inquiry.

Nineteen files covering sightings between 1986 and 1992 are being made available online.

Now you can look at the actual primary material - the stuff coming into the MoD every day - and make your own mind up
Dr David Clarke, UFO expert

Almost 200 such files will be made available by the MoD over the next four years.

The current batch also includes a US Air Force pilot's account of being ordered to shoot down a UFO that appeared on his radar while he flew over East Anglia.

There is also an MoD request that army and navy helicopters not take photographs of crop circles, because of concerns about undermining the official line that the military did not investigate unexplained phenomena.

And the files also contain a letter from a woman claiming to be from the Sirius system who said her spacecraft - also containing two "Spectrans" with "Mr Spock ears" - crashed in Britain during World War II.

The chances of there being nothing else in billions of cubic light years is too slim to consider
Myles Harcourt

UFO expert and journalism lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University, Dr David Clarke, said the documents would shed new light on relatively little-known sightings.

He said some conspiracy theorists would already have decided that the release of the papers was a "whitewash".

He added: "Because the subject is bedevilled by charlatans and lunatics, it is career suicide to have your name associated with UFOs, which is a real pity.

"The National Archives are doing a fantastic job here. Everyone brings their own interpretation.

"Now you can look at the actual primary material - the stuff coming into the MoD every day - and make your own mind up."

Arm Wrestling's Bastard Stepchild Is Brutal

My XARM Style is Better Than Your Crane

This has to be the looniest sport that exists today.

Sort of reminds me of....

You Son of a Bitch

Veency Offers Remote Control of Your Jailbroken iPhone

On its face, a tool that gives you remote control over your jailbroken iPhone or iPod touch seems kind of pointless. If you're sitting at a computer already, why would you need to use your tiny touch screen computer? But take a moment to think of the things you could save time typing out—like built-up text messages and frustratingly non-syncing notes—as well as the ability to charge or play music while still using the software. Now it's a safer bet that some curious hackers will want to tunnel into their gadgets. Let's take a look at how to set up Veency, along with a few good uses for it.

Setting up Veency

First off, Veency is only available for unlocked (i.e. jailbroken) iPhones and iPod touch models running the 2.0 software. We've detailed the jailbreaking process using Pwnage Tool on a Mac and QuickPwn on Windows, along with a few apps you can only get with jailbreaking worth checking out. Once your device is unlocked, open the Cydia installer, hit the "Search" button in the lower-left corner, and type until you see "Veency" available. Install the app, and hit "Reset Springboard" when finished. You won't see any new icons, but your iPhone or iPod touch can now accept VNC connections.

Head to the home screen and then to the Settings tool. Click Wi-Fi, then the arrow to the right of your home connection, and note the IP address listed there. If you're going to use Veency, you should probably click the Static preference at the top-right and choose an IP address you can remember. You might also want to set your Auto-Lock timer (under the General tab in Settings) to a higher number, or "Never" if you're going to be connected for a lengthy session.

Now you'll need a VNC client to connect to your device. Windows users should check out UltraVNC or TightVNC, while Mac OS X users have the excellent Chicken of the VNC. Most Linux distros have a VNC client pre-installed; if not, TightVNC or most any option offered in your repositories should do the trick. Open your client, enter the iPhone or iPod touch's IP address as the host, then pick up your device.

You'll see a prompt to accept or reject the connection from your computer's IP address. Hit "Accept," and you'll notice a small VNC icon in the upper-right, near the battery indicator. Those show that your iPhone has accepted a remote connection, and now you're on your way.

What can I use it for?

Using your mouse and keyboard, you can do pretty much anything you're normally able to do on your Apple device. Left-clicking is the equivalent of tapping, and holding the button while moving is like swiping. Right-clicking effectively presses the bottom "Home" button, and a middle click activates the top-left locking/power button.

Having said that, here's a few good reasons to consider VNC-ing into your iPhone or iPod touch:

  • Turbo-type text messages: Need to get back to a whole bunch of folks you dodged while out? Got a longer text you don't feel like touch-typing? Just log in, head to your text messages, and smack them out. Use the extra time to write a nice one.
  • Use your phone while charging it: These gadgets aren't known for super-long battery life. Whether you want to text, pump music to your speakers, or play with new apps, you can do it across the room from your docked unit.
  • Write notes for later: Whether it's grocery lists or an address, the Notes app still doesn't sync to any desktop app or files (why, Apple, why?). VNC into your device, copy-paste your grocery list or vital data, and you're set, online or off.
  • Edit contacts, update calendars, finish a long email: Because none of these things can't be done faster with a real mouse and keyboard.

Got another VNC/iPhone trick, serious or silly? Share it in the comments.

Korean Baseball Fight

From what I understand this is called a "chicken fight" and is a sort of non-violent battle to see who falls down first. I like it better in America where they just run out and start throwing punches.

Neck-grab video grounds Salem cop

Officer on desk duty after You Tube clip shows him pushing man down

Warning: This video contains explicit language.

By Tom Dalton
Staff Writer

SALEM — The Salem Police Department is investigating one of its own officers after a video posted on the Web site YouTube shows the patrolman grabbing a young man by the throat and shoving him to the ground.

The 39-second video is headlined "Bad Salem Cop."

The Police Department identified the officer in the video as Patrolman Larry Puleo.

"The matter is under investigation," police Chief Robert St. Pierre said. "We're doing an internal investigation. (Puleo) is being reassigned to inside duties pending the outcome ..."

The incident happened Friday morning as police were trying to disperse a large crowd that had exited from downtown bars around 1 a.m. In all, four young men were arrested in the latest in a series of problems following Thursday-night bar closings.

Moments before the video was shot, Puleo had been punched in the face and kicked while placing a bar patron under arrest, according to a police report. In that incident, Puleo injured his wrist. He has been out of work since then, police said.

In the video, Puleo can be seen putting a man into a cruiser. He then appears to recognize someone on the sidewalk and walks rapidly toward that man, saying: "Get out of here! Get the (expletive) out of here!" The man appears to be walking away when Puleo grabs him around the neck.

The young man in the video is Travis Markarian, 21, of Swampscott, police said. He was arrested on charges of failing to disperse and disorderly conduct, according to court records.

Before being arrested, Markarian can been seen talking to a Salem police sergeant. He was asking her why his friend had been arrested, according to Ayanda Williams of Lynn, a witness.

All of the incidents happened near Townhouse Square, which is at the corner of Washington and Essex streets.

The Salem News was not able to reach Puleo nor Markarian.

Willing to pay for more police

Meanwhile, the owners of several of the downtown bars have offered to pay for extra police officers at closing time on Thursday nights, when the bars are allowed to stay open until 1 a.m. The police would work outside in the street and not inside the bars. The department has a policy prohibiting details inside bars.

Those same bars and restaurants also have agreed to post no-trespass orders for any individuals who are arrested, placed into protective custody or involved in disturbances inside or outside of the bars. The orders effectively would ban the troublemakers from all the participating establishments for six months, police said.

"It's kind of drastic, but it's needed to take control up there," the chief said. "We need to restore order, and we need the cooperation of the license holders. ... What I think is significant is the license holders are actually working with us. They're the key to this."

Those agreements were reached yesterday in a meeting organized by the Salem Chamber of Commerce and attended by representatives from the bars, Chief St. Pierre and a top aide to Mayor Kim Driscoll.

"I already have five (bars) who said they will participate, and I'll get more," said Rinus Oosthoek, executive director of the Salem Chamber. "We have to show there is a zero-tolerance (policy). ... Everybody wants this to stop ... because everybody wants Salem to be the fun city everybody knows it is."

The five restaurants that have agreed to take part are O'Neill's, Rockafella's, Fresh Taste of Asia, The Lobster Shanty and Edgewater Cafe.

Some of the same bars met with police earlier this month to discuss ways to get the crowds under control.

St. Pierre said the problem seems to be isolated to Thursday nights, when large crowds of young people pack the bars.

The early-Friday-morning incidents have put a strain on the department, he said.

Last week, police were not able to respond to a 911 call and to an accident because officers were occupied with the bar incidents. The Fire Department and an ambulance handled the 911 call and police had to delay responding to the accident, which was not serious, the chief said.

Staff writer Bruno Matarazzo Jr. contributed to this report.

Gorillas and humans use similar body language to communicate

By Cher Thornhill

We already know that we are closely related to gorillas, but researchers now reveal that we even use body language in a similar way.

The study, by researchers at the University of Sussex, showed that gorilla’s use facial expressions and mouth movements were controlled by the left side of the brain – just like it is in humans.

The team thinks the insights could provide exciting clues as to how human language developed, and lead to new teaching techniques for people with communication problems, such as children with autism.


Body language: Apes, like humans, communicate through facial expressions and tactile signals, like grooming and huddling

Psychologist Dr Gillian Sebestyen said: ‘We shared 23 million years of evolution with great apes and then diverged approximately six million years ago.

‘Gorillas have highly complex forms of non-verbal communication. I think we are looking back at what sort of communications skills we may have once had.’

The researchers studied a family of gorillas at Port Lympne Wild Animal Park in Kent, including a 13-year-old adult female, Fou fou, her infant son and their social network.

They captured Fou fou’s every movement on camera and broke down her behaviour into eye movements, facial expressions and physical actions.

Head and mouth movements had a right-handed bias. The right side of the body was controlled by the left side of the brain, which is also involved in language development, Dr Sebestyen reports.

She told Science Daily: ‘Apes, like humans, use a range of non-verbal communicative social skills such as facial expression, eye gaze and manual gestures, and tactile signals, such as grooming and huddling, which are used for social cohesion.’

Dr Sebestyen is now beginning a study on children aged 2-4 years with language impairments and hopes the findings will help us to understand the non-verbal communication that is critical for normal language.

She said: ‘I hope it will lead to better diagnoses of conditions such as autism and the creation of new health and education programmes to help these children at an early stage.’

Brady updates fans about his knee

Posted by's Tim Graham

Tom Brady has been doing his best D.B. Cooper impersonation since suffering a season-ending knee injury.

But the New England Patriots quarterback has posted an open letter to his fans on Here's the message in full:

I would like to thank everyone for the well wishes and support you have given me throughout my career. It has been particularly helpful during these past six weeks. It is great to know you are all behind me, not only during the good times, but also during the challenging times. On October 6, I had surgery to repair my knee from the injury that took place four weeks earlier in our season opener.

The surgery went well and my doctor described my knee as "rock solid." Unfortunately, in the week following the surgery, I developed an infection. The infection is very treatable and, through a course of antibiotics, it will be knocked out of my system. We were proactive with the infection and the doctors went in for a second procedure this past Wednesday to clean and to test the wound. The results of the tests have all been positive and we are very thankful. I am excited to begin rehabbing my knee and will continue preparing for 2009. I'm looking forward to supporting my teammates throughout the rest of this season, as we strive to achieve the goals we set as a team months ago. Thanks again for your letters and well wishes. The support has meant so much to me during these past few weeks.

I encourage all of my young fans to keep your bodies and minds as fit as possible and to deal with whatever challenges you may face. We never know what life is going to throw us. The best offense is to be prepared whether for the next school test, the next game, or for an unexpected challenge.

Thanks again -TB

Tom Brady

50 Stunning Underwater Photos — Below we present over 50 beautiful examples of underwater photos — created by artists and professional photographers. All works featured below are linked — the links lead to artist’s and photographer’s portfolios or web-sites. At the bottom of this post you’ll fine some links to Flickr groups where you can find more similar and exiciting photos.

Victor Amor




Scott (lundysd)


Click here for all the photos

Miss Universe...Ladies of the World

All the ladies of the world
I wanna get next to you
Show you some gratitude
By makin love to you
Its the least I could do

If every soldier in the world
Put down his weapon
And picked up a woman
What a peaceful world this world would be

Girl with Down syndrome voted Homecoming Queen

A crown made of friendship

Girl with Down syndrome wins homecoming honor —and peers' respect. See more photos: A magical homecoming

Queen's court

Anne Jennings celebrates with a member of her court after she was named Libertyville High School 's homecoming Queen. (Family photo / October 18, 2008)

Now that she's royalty, Anne Jennings dances down the hallways, bursts into excited giggles and hugs her BFFs, or "best friends forever," without warning. Of course, she did pretty much all those things before being named homecoming queen at Libertyville High School, but somehow, life has become more magical.

As a 17-year-old with Down syndrome, the senior "has been walking on air" since being crowned this month.

"Before, I was just plain me," said Jennings, selected by student vote out of 17 nominated girls. "When I was queen, it changed. It's amazing. Everyone loves me. I love me."

Her mother's videotape of the Oct. 3 school assembly when her daughter was crowned says it all. After Jennings learned that she was among the top five members of the court, the video images began shaking. By the time the crown was placed on Jennings' head, the background noise boomed with the sounds of students cheering wildly.

By then, Ellen Jennings said, she had dissolved into tears, explaining why the video images bounce from floor to walls and back to her screaming, happy daughter.

"Amazing. Unbelievable," she said later. "You teach kids to do the right thing and treat people all like individuals, and look what happens."

She credits the warmth shown by classmates to the years that Jennings spent in regular education classrooms, where she was taught through 8th grade. Since entering high school, Jennings has spent more time in separate special-education classes, but she has maintained friendships from early childhood.

Megan Collins, 16, a junior, is among those who voted for Jennings.

"Once she was nominated, she was so happy and excited," Collins said. "I heard her say, 'I don't want people to vote for me out of pity' because of her challenges. I knew she would appreciate it more than the other girls."

Lauren Vogg, 14, a freshman, attended Adler Park Elementary School with Jennings. Today, Vogg and her friends volunteer for a program called Best Buddies that teams them with students with disabilities. She voted for Jennings.

"I think over the years, we have recognized her more as a high school student and not just a person with special needs," Vogg said.

Other Libertyville students started a Facebook group, "Annie Jennings for Homecoming Queen," that accumulated more than 300 members—something Ellen Jennings didn't discover until after her daughter was crowned.

"I was just blown away," she said.

One person wrote on Facebook: "Annie has already won in my book! She is beautiful outside AND more importantly INSIDE."

At school, Jennings is still glowing, said security worker Mike Dolan.

Every day at 10:45 a.m., she returns from an off-campus work program, hops off a bus, enters the school and greets Dolan with a fist bump, which she calls "knuckles."

"She has been walking on air," Dolan said.

Jennings shares lunch, gym and keyboarding classes with the "normies," as she refers, with affection, to her mainstream peers. After graduating from Libertyville High next spring, she plans to enter Hawley Transition School in Mundelein, where she will learn independent-living skills such as how to manage money, use public transportation and keep a job.

She hopes to attend college after that, and marry her boyfriend, who took her to the homecoming dance, she said. She relives that weekend every time she looks at the pictures, with her smiling in a black dress and shawl.

"The paparazzi took a lot of pictures," said Jennings, a Special Olympics athlete and fan of the Jonas Brothers. "We ate out at Lino's. I had to give a speech."

For years Jennings has struggled with questions about what makes her different from others.

"She would ask, 'Why did God make me have Down syndrome?' " Ellen Jennings said, sitting near her daughter in the family's living room.

Anne Jennings, exasperation in her voice, piped up: "And she has no answers to give me."

Her mother paused, then replied.

"Your job is to figure out what your gifts are and what you have to contribute to the world," she said.

In some ways, being named homecoming queen has changed the way Jennings thinks about Down syndrome, "that it's not the worst thing in the world that could happen to someone," Ellen Jennings said.

Her daughter agreed, saying that at first, high school was scary and sometimes boring.

"Now I know why," she said. "This was going to happen."

How to Improve Your iTunes Experience (Part 1) [Mac Only]

I love my music and everything else that goes along with it. I love the fact that in my iTunes, every song is properly labelled, is nicely arranged alphabetically by artist and have their particular album artwork attached in high resolution. It is so much easier to search for the songs you want when almost all the fields (i.e. genre, artist, album, year) are completed. Every little bit of information helps Genius to find the songs which match the ones you are listening to, creating a playlist which suits your current musical mood.

I grimace when I browse though some of my friends’ playlists and most of the songs are labelled “Track 1, Track 2…. Untitled Artist”. They must have some kind of ESP or monumental memorizing ability to remember what track is by which artist.

Listening to music on iTunes can be more than simply “listening”. It can turn into a pretty interactive hobby which for me, has become an obsession. A fairly rewarding one, at least. Here’s how you can convert from mere music-listening to actively interacting and expanding your music experience. In this part 1, I’ll show you how to enjoy your current music collection.

How To Organize Your iTunes Library

This is the very first step to improving your iTunes experience. How can you truly enjoy your music if you’re not sure who you’re listening to? Label your music properly, fill in their genre (if you’re not sure of what genre your artist/album fall under, check the iTunes store by clicking the arrow link next to the album title. It might not always be 100% accurate as some might argue but it’s a start), rate the songs you like, enter the year it was released - you get the drift.

I spend quite a lot of time doing this, especially after I get my hands on a couple of new albums. My friends think that I’m crazy for wasting so much time but in the end, it’s very rewarding.


  • It is easier to search for the song you want to listen to
  • Rated songs automatically gets added into “My Top Rated” playlist for quick access
  • Smart playlists get updated instantly when new song from a particular artist/genre is added to library
  • Instantly create playlists by year (eg. 90’s or Oldies) if you fill in the year it was released
  • Properly labelled songs make it easier to check for duplicates
  • It helps Genius find out which songs you’re listening to and find the songs which are similar by retrieving information from iTunes according to the artist, genre etc.
  • As your music collection gets larger, you’ll find more reasons to organize your music. If you have somehow labelled your songs but haven’t capitalized the first letter of each word and you couldn’t be bothered to redo them again, TuneInstructor can do it for you. It has a lot of other functions but I mainly use it to recapitalize some of the letters which escaped me.

    Add Album Cover Artwork To Your iTunes Songs

    itunes covert artThis is just eye-candy but it subconsciously improves your music experience. In addition to only using your sense of hearing, you’re now adding a visual sense. Wine connoisseurs use this theory - that when more senses are involved, the better the experience. That’s why they look at the wine (vision), swirl it (hearing), smell it (smell) and finally drink it (taste).

    The most reliable way to add cover art to your music is to do it individually by album. It takes a little bit of time and effort if you’re starting from scratch but it prevents mistakes from occurring. To do this, I use Amazon Album Art Widget. I find it very usable and almost always finds the cover art I’m looking for. Other applications you may try are Corripio and GimmeSomeTune (which I covered in a previous article).

    If most of your music have their artwork attached and you’re trying to find those little buggers which eluded you, there’s a very useful script from Doug’s Applescripts called Tracks Without Artwork To Playlist which will find the songs without any artwork and automatically add them into a separate playlist.

    Don’t Settle For Low Quality

    organize your itnues libraryStatic, buzzes and noise in my music really ticks me off. That’s why I always go for a lossless file format if possible. Right now, I’m settled on Apple Lossless but FLAC is still the most popular lossless format. Music, especially classical or jazz are better appreciated in higher quality because of their sophistication. In the long run, keeping your music in a higher quality, either lossless, 320kbps MP3 or 256 AAC will spare you from re-ripping your songs in the future once your taste for music quality has been acquired. For starters, don’t settle for anything lower than 192kbps MP3.

    If you need an explanation about audio files formats, a good introduction would be to check out the article I wrote about audio convertors for Mac.

    As I said earlier, FLAC is the most popular lossless audio format but unfortunately, iTunes doesn’t support FLAC. Previously, I had to convert FLAC files into another format which iTunes recognizes. Every time a music file is converted from one format to another, it loses quality. That’s something that makes me cringe. Granted, that loss in quality might not be audible but it’s a loss nonetheless. Then I found Fluke. Fluke is an utility that allows me to play FLAC files directly in iTunes without any conversion and hence, without any loss in quality.

    Sing Your Songs (Add Lyrics to iTunes )

    How many times have you listened to a song you’d really like to sing along then had to open your browser, search for the song’s lyrics and add them into iTunes? TunesTEXT is a very reliable widget which retrieves the lyrics of the song which you are currently listening to and adds them into iTunes - you don’t even have to lift a finger! Use this together with DesktopLyrics and you will always have your lyrics right on your desktop. No rogue lyric windows to deal with. Whenever you want to view the lyrics, use the Show Desktop Exposé hotkey and boom - sing-along time!

    That’s all for Part 1. In Part 2, I will focus on helping you to expand your music library and few other tips to really enhance your iTunes experience.

    Would You Like to Live Here?

    Malé, population 104,403 (2006), is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Maldives. The island is heavily urbanized, with the city taking up essentially its entire landmass.

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    Lions and tigers found in garden of Mexico drugs house

    A private zoo complete with lions, tigers and panthers has been found in the garden of a Mexican mansion where a Colombian-led gang was arrested on drugs charges, police have said.

    Two panthers which were found at a house in Mexico City where people suspected of working for a drug trafficking gang were arrested
    Two panthers which were found at a house in Mexico City where people suspected of working for a drug trafficking gang were arrested Photo: AP

    Officers found two adult African lions, two white tigers and two black panthers in cages in the grounds of the plush, wood-paneled house where the drug suspects were holding a party.

    The house also boasted a suit of armor and a pond with what appeared to be a live hippopotamus, according to a video shot by Reforma newspaper.

    "The animals are endangered species," said a spokesman for Mexico's federal police. Police raided the house in misty hills on the edge of Mexico City on Saturday.

    The big cats appeared to be in good physical condition.

    The 11 Colombians, lead by kingpin Teodoro Mauricio "The Dove" Fino, are accused of shipping cocaine to Mexico for powerful drug lords the Beltran Leyva brothers to sell in the United States. Two Mexicans, an American, and a Uruguayan were also arrested.

    Drug violence over smuggling routes is spiralling in Mexico, with some 3,700 people killed this year.

    Six soldiers were killed in the northern city of Monterrey over the weekend, Mexican media said on Monday, in a spurt in violence following police raids in the city last week.

    Police in Mexico find private zoo at drug cartel's party house

    Mexico's Federal Police escort people suspected of working for a drug trafficking gang, as they are shown to the media in Mexico City

    Mexican authorities have arrested more than a dozen members of an alleged drug-trafficking ring, seizing weapons, vehicles - and a private zoo

    Picture: AP

    Google Docs Guide: How to do Stuff with Google Docs

    Google DocsWritten by Amit Agarwal

    A Practical guide to Google Docs: Learn how to do anything and everything with your online Google Office.

    Q: How do I upload all my Microsoft Office documents from the desktop on to Google Docs?

    A: List Uploader is a Windows utility that enables you to bulk upload files to Google Docs via drag-n-drop or through the right click menu.

    Mac OS X users can upload documents through GDocsUploader - simply drag-n-drop the document onto the uploader icon. Another option is GDocsBar – just drag your files in the Firefox sidebar and they’ll automatically get uploaded to Google Docs.

    Q: How do I associate the common Office file extensions like doc/xls/ppt with Google Docs so that desktop documents open directly in the web browser?

    A: Get the Google Toolbar for Firefox and select the ‘Google Docs’ checkbox from Toolbar options. This will let you open Office documents directly in the browser bypassing Microsoft Office.

    Q: I am worried that someone may hack into my Google Account and delete the important files. To play safe, I want to download all documents from Google Docs locally and burn them on to a CD. Is it possible?

    A: To download a copy of all your Google Docs documents on to the hard drive, get this Grease Monkey script. It will create a list of all your online documents that you can download in one step using the DownloadThemAll add-on.

    Q: How can I add watermarks (like PRIVATE, CONFIDENTIAL, etc.) to my Google Documents?

    A: You simply need to edit the CSS of your document – add an image with non-repeating background.

    Q: Can I open Word 2007 (docx) documents in Google Docs?

    A: Unlike Zoho Office, Google Docs do not support the new Office 2007 format but you may convert these docx files to the older doc format using Zamzar and them upload them to Google Docs.

    Q: I was checking mails on a mobile phone and a client sent me this PowerPoint presentation as an email attachment. My phone has no Office viewer so san I still view this presentation?

    A: Sure. Just forward this email (with the attachment) to your Google Docs address. You’ll soon get an email back containing the link of your uploaded presentation that can be viewed in the mobile phone browser without requiring any Office viewer.

    Q: I wrote a long document in Google Docs in English but my client is insisting for a French version. Can we translate Google Docs documents online?

    A: Publish your Google Docs document as a public web page (read steps) and then use the online Google Translate tool to translate this page into any other language. You may copy-paste the translated text in a new document and then turn off public sharing for the original document.

    Q: I am sending a Google Docs document to a large mailing list. Is is possible to track who read the document and when?

    A: Go to your Google Docs Settings page (link) and turn on the option that says "Track visits to my documents using Google Analytics".

    Q: Forget the mailing list, I am just sending a document to my immediate boss so how do I if he really opened my document?

    A: Just embed a secret 1×1 tracking image in the document to know when people open your Google Documents.

    Q: I want to create new documents in Google Docs in one click without having to go to File –> New Document.

    A: Simple, either add a bookmarklet to your browser or install desktop shortcuts – see instructions.

    Q: I want to turn Google Docs into a distraction free writing tool just like Writeroom.

    A: Go to Edit –> Document Styles and turn the background color to either black. Then change the font foreground color to white or green and press Ctrl+Shift+F to enter Full Screen mode. See a similar hack for Word.

    Q: OK, I know you can write documents or create spreadsheets in Google Docs but what else? Tell me some more creative uses of Google Docs.

    A: Well, you may use Google Docs for live blogging, writing books, make a simple RSS Reader, compare text files, monitor web pages, run web polls, plan weddings and so much more.

    Q: Tell me about some desktop applications that work with Google Docs.

    • GMDesk – AIR app that makes Google Docs behave like a desktop program. Thanks Ryan.
    • GDocsBar – The perfect Google Docs extension for Firefox.
    • Send to Google Docs – Upload web documents (including PDF) directly to Google Docs.
    • OO Add-on – Export or import documents from or StarOffice to Google Docs.

    Q: Like other Google tools, can I access my Google Docs library from the Firefox Sidebar?

    A: Create a bookmark for and set this to open in Firefox sidebar. You can browse all documents though the sidebar but can’t create new stuff.

    Q. Can I use Google Docs like Microsoft OneNote for taking notes and saving web clippings?

    A: Open a new Google Document in a separate browser tab and drag the clipping from another browser tab / window into this document. That’s it. Not sure if this works with Google Chrome.