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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Hillary Clinton to accept Obama's offer of secretary of state job

President-elect Barack Obama reaching out to former rivals to build a broad coalition administration

Jonathan Freedland on the pros and cons of Hillary Clinton becoming US secretary of state Link to this video

Hillary Clinton plans to accept the job of secretary of state offered by Barack Obama, who is reaching out to former rivals to build a broad coalition administration, the Guardian has learned.

Obama's advisers have begun looking into Bill Clinton's foundation, which distributes millions of dollars to Africa to help with development, to ensure that there is no conflict of interest. But Democrats do not believe that the vetting is likely to be a problem.

Clinton would be well placed to become the country's dominant voice in foreign affairs, replacing Condoleezza Rice. Since being elected senator for New York, she has specialised in foreign affairs and defence. Although she supported the war in Iraq, she and Obama basically agree on a withdrawal of American troops.

Clinton, who still harbours hopes of a future presidential run, had to weigh up whether she would be better placed by staying in the Senate, which offers a platform for life, or making the more uncertain career move to the secretary of state job.

As part of the coalition-building, Obama today also reached out to his defeated Republican rival, John McCain, to discuss how they could work together to roll back some of the most controversial policies of the Bush years. Putting aside the bitter words thrown about with abandon by both sides during the election campaign, McCain flew to meet Obama at his headquarters in the Kluczynski Federal Building, in downtown Chicago.

Obama, speaking before the meeting, said: "We're going to have a good conversation about how we can do some work together to fix up the country." He said he also wanted to thank McCain for his service to the country.

Asked by a reporter whether he would work with Obama, McCain, who has long favoured a bipartisan approach to politics, replied: "Obviously".

Sources on both sides said Obama did not offer McCain a cabinet job, but focused on how the senator for Arizona could help to guide through Congress legislation that they both strongly favour.

Given Obama's status as president-in-waiting, the two met in a formal setting, a room decked out with a US flag, and were accompanied by senior advisers. Obama appeared the more relaxed of the two, sitting with legs crossed, smiling broadly and waving to reporters, while McCain sat stiffly, with a seemingly fixed grin.

Although the two clashed during the election campaign over tax policy and withdrawal from Iraq, they have more in common than they have differences. They both favour the closure of the Guantánamo Bay detention centre, an increase in US troops to Afghanistan, immigration reform, stem cell research and measures to tackle climate change, and oppose torture and the widespread use of wire-tapping.

Although Democrats made gains in the Senate in the November 4 elections, they fell short of the 60 seats that would have allowed them to override Republican blocking tactics and will need Republican allies to get Obama's plans through. This was highlighted today when the Democratic leadership in Congress announced that a broad economic stimulus package Obama sought was not likely to be passed because of Republican opposition.

Obama confirmed at the weekend that he would offer jobs to some Republicans. One of the names that crops up most often is Chuck Hagel, the former Republican senator who is a specialist in foreign affairs and a critic of the Iraq war.

Pedroia is a mighty mite of an MVP

One of the first text messages Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia received after getting the official call Tuesday afternoon came from Boston Red Sox teammate David Ortiz.

“Congratulations, badass,” Big Papi wrote.

Short, balding and bad-ass. That’s the look of the American League’s Most Valuable Player in 2008, and while that may not be pretty, it captures the essence of the first AL second baseman in 49 years to win the award.

“The last couple of days have been crazy,” Pedroia said from his home in Chandler, Ariz., where he chose to wait with his wife, Kelli, until the call came from Jack O’Connell, secretary-treasurer of the Baseball Writers Association of America, that he had finished well ahead of Minnesota first baseman Justin Morneau and Red Sox teammate Kevin Youkilis in the MVP balloting.

“You know how it is,” Pedroia said. “I’d heard names of four or five guys, and I didn’t know what to think. This is just my second full season, so I’m extremely excited and happy to represent the Red Sox. Who would have ever thought this would happen?

“I put up some numbers, yeah, but I’m more about doing the stuff that helps this team win.”

Pedroia finished first on 16 of the 28 ballots cast by BBWAA members, two in each city. He was named second on six ballots, third on three, and fourth on one. He totaled 317 points on a system that awards 10 points for first, nine for second, eight for third, down to one for a 10th place vote.

Morneau had seven first-place votes. The other first-place votes were split among Youkilis (2), Twins catcher Joe Mauer (2), and Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez (1). Mauer finished fourth in the balloting, Rodriguez sixth.

Pedroia is the first second baseman since Nellie Fox of the go-go Chicago White Sox in 1959 to win the award, and just the third player to win the MVP award a year after being named Rookie of the Year. Ryan Howard of the Phillies and Cal Ripken Jr. of the Orioles are the others. Fred Lynn of the Red Sox (1975) and Ichiro Suzuki of the Mariners (2001) won both awards in the same year.

Pedroia was a worthy choice in a field that lost its front-runner when White Sox outfielder Carlos Quentin, who was leading the AL in home runs at the time, missed the month of September after breaking his hand in a freak accident. Quentin, who finished second in home runs to Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera (37 to 36) and also was second in the league in slugging percentage (.571) and fourth in on-base percentage (.394), finished fifth in the voting.

Rounding out the top 10 after Rodriguez was Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton, New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez, Tampa Bay Rays first baseman Carlos Pena and Cleveland Indians outfielder Grady Sizemore.

Second basemen have gotten little respect on MVP ballots in the American League. No second baseman has finished in the top three in voting since Alfonso Soriano, then of the Yankees, in 2002, and Bret Boone of the Mariners the year before. Roberto Alomar, a 12-time All-Star and a certain Hall of Famer, finished as high as third place just once in his career.

But Pedroia made a strong case by becoming just the fifth second baseman since 1937 to have a season with 200 or more hits, 100 or more runs scored, 80 or more RBIs, and 40 or more doubles.

He started 155 games, had just one month all season in which he hit below .300, hit .307 with runners in scoring position, and had a .298 average with two strikes. He also stole 20 bases in 21 attempts, and and struck out just 52 times in 653 at-bats.

When the Red Sox didn’t have a cleanup hitter in August after Mike Lowell was hurt and Manny Ramirez was traded, Pedroia stepped in for four games and belted 12 hits in 18 at-bats.

“Pedroia said it’s long overdue,” Boston manager Terry Francona said of his new No. 4 hitter, “and Ortiz said he’s retiring.”

When Pedroia played in his first All-Star Game last July in Yankee Stadium, he noticed that Francona had dropped him from his customary No. 2 spot in the batting order to ninth. Batting second was the hometown favorite, Yankee captain Derek Jeter.

Pedroia stuck his head in Francona’s office. “Hey,” he cracked, “I thought we were trying to win this game.”

That kind of brash confidence has been a critical component of Pedroia’s game, enabling him to win over detractors who questioned his size (he’s listed at 5-9 and 180 pounds) and his big swing. White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen jokingly likened him to a jockey but said that he wished that the Sox had gotten rid of Pedroia instead of Mannny Ramirez.

“How do you not love him,” one scout said Tuesday. “He brings energy to the table, he plays with passion. Every manager in the American League will tell you they’d love to have him. He plays like a giant.”

Gordon Edes is a national baseball writer for Yahoo! Sports. Send Gordon a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.

A Gallon of Gas, or a Share of GM Stock?

NEW YORK ( -- Most financial experts advise avoiding so-called penny stocks, typically shares of small companies with low stock prices that are not actively traded or followed closely by analysts.

First, a little clarification: The term "penny stock" refers to those companies with share prices of less than $5, not less than $1. (So maybe they should be called Lincoln stocks since Honest Abe's visage is featured on both the penny and $5 bill. But I digress.)

Usually, penny stocks are companies you've never heard of...ones that trade in the market netherworld of the Pink Sheets, not on the New York Stock Exchange or Nasdaq. But with the market in full ursine mode, many well-known companies can be dubbed penny stocks.

In fact, 27 of the S&P 500 had stock prices below $5 as of Monday's close. Struggling automaker General Motors (GM, Fortune 500) closed at just $3.18, while a share of rival Ford Motor (F, Fortune 500) hit $1.72 - less than a gallon of gas!

Not surprisingly, several financial stocks also are now Lincoln, err, penny stocks, including CIT Group (CIT, Fortune 500), E*Trade Financial (ETFC), Genworth Financial (GNW, Fortune 500) and the notorious AIG (AIG, Fortune 500). Heck, even two banks in the process of being acquired - Sovereign Bancorp (SOV, Fortune 500) and National City (NCC, Fortune 500) - are still in penny status.

A handful of brand-name techs, telecoms and retailers are also part of this unhappy club: Sprint Nextel (S, Fortune 500), Motorola (MOT, Fortune 500), Advanced Micro Devices (AMD, Fortune 500), Liz Claiborne (LIZ, Fortune 500) and Office Depot (ODP, Fortune 500) all cost less than a Subway foot-long sandwich.

And these companies could have friends if the market continues downward: 61 other S&P 500 firms have stock prices between $5 and $10 a share.

What's this mean for the average investor? It might be difficult to own these companies as part of a mutual fund portfolio since many funds prefer to steer clear of stocks trading below $5. Plus, once a stock crosses below that threshold it is often difficult for the share price to climb back because demand is low.

That's not good news. So it would not surprise me to see a new trend overtaking the markets: the reverse stock split.

Normally, a company splits its high-priced stock to make it more attractive to average retail investors. For example, a company with a $200 stock price may decide to do a 4-for-1 stock split. As a result, an investor who owned 100 shares at $200 each pre-split, would then have 400 shares worth $50 each.

The only thing that changed is the stock price. The value of this investor's stake remains the same: $20,000. Stock splits don't change a company's actual value, they just artificially deflate the stock price to make it seem cheaper.

In a reverse stock split, the opposite occurs. A company reduces the number of outstanding shares to jack up its stock price. So if a company that has a $5 stock price issued a 1-for-4 split, a post-split share would cost $20.

But again, this does not change the company's value. If you owned 1,000 shares trading at $5, and the stock splits 1-for-4, you'd wind up with 250 shares trading at $20. Your investment is still worth $5,000 even though the stock price has gone up.

Reverse stock splits are often warning signs of a company that's desperate to keep existing investors, entice new ones and, in some cases, avoid being delisted by exchanges with minimum-price requirements.

It is generally a bad idea to buy a stock that has done a reverse split, especially because many companies that do wind up becoming penny stocks again.

Sun Microsystems (JAVA, Fortune 500), for example, did a reverse stock split a year ago. At the time, the stock was trading at about $5. After a 1-for-4 split, the price went up to $20. But guess what? Sun now trades for just $3.61 a share.

Two other fairly well-known companies have also tried juicing their stock prices with reverse splits this year...and failed.

Semiconductor company Conexant Systems (CNXT), which was a member of the S&P 500 from January 2000 through June 2002, did a 1-for-10 split in June to lift its stock from 48 cents to $4.80. (How sad is it the stock was still a penny stock after the split?) On Monday, shares were trading for just $1.01.

And then there's cosmetics company Revlon (REV). It tried to pretty itself up for investors with a 1-for-10 split in September. That boosted the stock price from $1.25 to $12.50. But what's that saying about lipstick on a pig? Revlon's lost a third of its value since the split and closed Monday at $8.50.

So far, none of the prominent S&P 500 companies with stock prices below $5 have mentioned anything about using reverse stock splits. But I think it's only a matter of time.

And tomorrow, I'm going to take a closer look at a well-known company in the Nasdaq 100 that many have speculated is in sore need of a reverse stock split: Sirius XM (SIRI). A quarter is barely enough to buy one share of the satellite radio monopoly, which closed Monday at 23 cents a share. To top of page

More Trouble for Auto Bailout

NEW YORK ( -- Auto industry executives were back on Capitol Hill Wednesday morning to ask for a federal bailout but they once again faced an uphill battle in winning the necessary support from Congress.

Before the CEOs of General Motors (GM, Fortune 500), Ford Motor (F, Fortune 500) and Chrysler LLC even started their comments before the House Financial Services Committee, they faced criticism from the committee's ranking Republican, Spencer Bachus of Alabama.

"My constituents do not understand why their tax dollars should go to support what they consider less efficient businesses," said Bachus, adding that most of his constituents earn less money than the autoworkers whose jobs would be saved.

But House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank, D-Mass., said it was wrong to focus on the pay of autoworkers when there was not much discussion of the pay of the average worker at financial firms that got government bailouts in October.

"I think the average AIG employee makes a good deal more than the auto workers," he said.

Frank criticized those who argued the automakers should file for bankruptcy in order to shed contracts with the unions and dealerships, saying that was "bankruptcy as a spectator sport." He said it would be unwise to ignore the damage that would be done to the overall economy if one or more automakers went bankrupt.

Bachus asked UAW President Ron Gettelfinger if the union would be willing to reopen the labor contract to grant more concessions. Gettelfinger said the union is always talking with the automakers but added that negotiations cannot be a one-way street.

"The UAW can't be the low hanging fruit. While we're at the table, we're asking that others come in and sacrifice as well," he said.

'When will you run out of money?'

The industry is asking for $25 billion in loans to tie them over through the current downturn and is offering the government an equity stake in the companies if they get the help.

The bailout drew support from Republican and Democratic members of the Michigan congressional delegation, who also testified before the committee.

"I think what's missing is a sense of urgency," said Sander Levin, a Democrat from Michigan. "We're thinking of leaving here and taking the risk of bankruptcy? There's a looming risk."

General Motors announced Nov. 7 that it could run out of the cash needed for operations by the end of this year or early next year without federal assistance.

In testimony before the Senate Banking Committee Tuesday, Chrysler CEO Robert Nardelli said his company is also at risk of running out of the cash it needs to operate in that time frame.

But Paul Kanjorski, D-Pa., said he wasn't sure it was proper to be bailing out the automakers and he didn't like the demand that action be taken in this lame duck session of Congress.

"I am not yet convinced that we must act so rashly," he said. "The American public demands that we get this right."

Kanjorski asked GM CEO Rick Wagoner for the minimum amount of money necessary to keep GM afloat through March 30 in order to give Congress more time to work on a bailout package. "When will you run out of money?" he asked.

But Wagoner wouldn't give more details beyond the company's previous statement that it could be out of cash later this year or early next year.

"I don't believe we have the luxury of a lot of time," he said, and when pressed for an exact deadline, responded, "I can't tell you that for certain."

Nardelli said Chrysler had looked at the option of filing for bankruptcy. But he said even if the company shed costs and contracts under bankruptcy, it would find suppliers demanding cash on delivery of parts, which would cause an even greater cash crunch.

"It would turn us upside down, quicker and deeper than we are today," he said.

Several supporters of a bailout pointed out that China and some governments in Europe are considering bailing out their own automakers.

"It is unacceptable for America not to make its own cars," said Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y. "No other country would let a major industry fail."

But other Democrats seemed to be unhappy with the idea of helping automakers as well.

Rep. Maxine Waters, D-CA, said she thought that the bailout legislation would pass but complained about automakers' arrogance and lack of support for minority-owned dealerships.

"What we basically get here are the big boys, well connected and too big to fail," she said. "In the final analysis, people are going to roll and you'll get what you're asking for."

Gary Ackerman, D-NY, talked about how he couldn't get a new Cadillac in the color he wanted and couldn't get anyone to answer questions about problems with his GPS system. But he pointed out that his wife has had great service with an imported car.

"Maybe you can tell us what you're actually going to do to sell cars people want," he said. "Somebody heard that we're giving out free money in Washington. They're showing up from all over the place. But you don't want to put your last tourniquet on a dead guy." To top of page

Stogie Guys Commentary- Are Aged Cigars Really Better?

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

I’ve raved about the Tatuaje Havana VI Verocu No. 1 and No. 2 and explored the effects of aging cigars. So this is a little update combining the two.

I’ve had a few of these limited edition Tats in my humidor for close to a year. While that’s not a particularly long time for aging, I think, based on those I’ve recently smoked, it has had an impact. Unfortunately, I have to report that, for me at least, even this amount of aging hasn’t been kind to these sticks.

They have not become bad cigars. But the complexity and variety of flavors that set them apart isn’t present at the level it was before. And they just seem to have lost much of the zip that made them so special in the first place.

Now, the truth is I wasn’t “aging” these cigars. They’ve just been sitting there, as do many of my smokes, while I more or less get around to smoking them.

Nonetheless, I think it’s worth noting that although many cigars get better with aging, there is no guarantee. You may find that you liked the cigars better when you bought them.

I think it’s well worth remembering the advice given by cigar aging experts: Smoke one stick from the box periodically to see how they’re doing. I’d suggest every few months. That way you can quickly speed up your smoking schedule as soon you begin to notice the changes becoming negative rather than positive.

-George E

30 Rare & Expensive Gamecube Games

Very interesting find. Gamecube games selling for over $200

The Gamecube had it's share of rare and collectible games during it's six year life span. Below is a list of rarest and most expensive Gamecube games.

The list is ranked by highest sales price over the last three months. All the games are not rare (hard to find with small quantities available), but relative to demand all of these are in short supply.

NCAA College Basketball 2K3

NCAA College Basketball 2K3 Gamecube PricesNew Price: $400 Used Price: $37
The rarest game for the Gamecube. NCAA Basketball 2K3 is a college basketball game on the Gamecube so it wasn't destined to sell very well. Sega helped seal the deal when they cancelled all 2K series games on the Gamecube and stopped this game in the middle of production. This is one of the few sports games to become rare and valuable on any system.
See Current NCAA College Basketball 2K3 Prices

Phantasy Star Online Plus

Phantasy Star Online Plus Gamecube PricesNew Price: $200 Used Price: $58
Phantasy Star Online Plus is a rerelease of the Phantasy Star Online game for Gamecube (also on this list). The Plus version fixed a few bugs in the intial release and added a few extra areas. The game sold poorly because it was an online game released after everyone realized the Gamecube's online was dead on arrival.
See Current Phantasy Star Online Plus Prices

Digimon Rumble Arena 2

Digimon Rumble Arena 2 Gamecube PricesNew Price: $200 Used Price: $30
Digimon Rumble Arena 2 is similar to Super Smash Bros in gameplay but uses the Digimon characters. Its a sequel to the original Digimon Rumble Arena but did not sell as well as the original. The game received a lukewarm reception from critics but is still valued by collectors.
See Current Digimon Rumble Arena 2 Prices

Click here for the entire list of Rare & Expensive Gamecube Games

The Vine Less Traveled: Wine For Beginners

With the advent of such vine-centric movies as Sideways and Bottle Shock, America is buzzing. But not on coffee. Exit the Era of Starbucks, enter the Age of the Vine. Wine, that is. Man has been drinking wine for about 7000 years, but only recently has it come into its own in the ‘New World.’ But the sphere of wine is so extensive, so esoteric, that most of us don’t know where to begin, and walk the vine less traveled under the sneering gaze of wine snobs, embarrassed of our lack of knowledge. But the truth is, ignorance is only a place to begin. You don’t need to be an expert to enjoy wine. But you do need an open mind. Here’s the skinny on selecting and enjoying the full-bodied fruit of the vine.

The first myth we need to dispel is that you need to spend a lot of money to enjoy wine. Wrong! More expensive does not always mean a better wine. The price of wine, like anything on the market, is controlled by demand. If a particular wine is very popular, sellers will feel justified in charging more for it. You may discover some genuinely delicious, unknown wines, which are not as expensive. While it’s best not to get taken in by price tags, a good question to ask yourself is, ‘How much do I want to spend?’ And something that might determine your price range is the occasion. Are you just looking for something nice to drink with a meal, or is this for special anniversary? The price range on wines is vast: anything from $2 or $3 to literally thousands of dollars. There’s nothing wrong with not wanting to spend heaps of cash on wine. In fact, a quick perusal of your local bookstore will probably turn up several guides on ‘great wines for less,’ or something along those lines.

But don’t get too attached to those buyers manuals and points systems. They are a good tool to use in the beginning, but like they say on Pirates of the Caribbean, they’re more like guidelines than strict rules. Trust your instincts! As you become more savvy and experienced, you’ll learn what you want in a wine. Remember, not everyone is going to love the same thing, and that includes the so-called experts. A good example of what I’m talking about, happened at a wine-tasting given by my local shop. I saw a gentleman thoroughly enjoying one of the samples. But when he consulted his guide book, he decided not to buy it.

That isn’t to say a little knowledge can’t help inform what your taste buds are telling you. Think back to when you were small. You could feel the entire range of human emotions, but you didn’t know the right words to express them. With wine too, there will be a bit of confusion until you learn the basics. Let’s start with the wine itself.

Just browsing through a wine shop, right away you’ll notice a big difference: color. Wine is either Red or White. [Rose or Blush, although pink in color and technically made from red grapes, should be treated is as a white wine.] White wine is more Acidic, and tends to be lighter, brighter, and dryer in taste. Also more refreshing, as it is drunk chilled (but not ice cold!). Whereas Red wine usually has a more complicated flavor, mostly because the skins are involved during the fermentation process, giving it a Tannic taste. Tannin is the stuff in the skins (and sometimes the barrels) that give you that drying-out feeling in your mouth when you take a sip of red wine. If you’re having trouble distinguishing between Tannic and Acidic, try paying attention to how your mouth feels after you’ve swallowed the wine. Both Acid and Tannin will leave your mouth dry, but Acid will make your mouth salivate as a response (like when you bite a wedge of lime), whereas Tannin will stay dry.

There are about as many ways to group wine as there are ways to organize your music collection. My favorite belongs to wine guru Heidi Yorkshire:

‘There are three types of wine in the world: 1) I like it, 2) I don’t like it, and 3) I’ll drink it if someone else is paying for it.’

That’s as simple as it gets. But if you want to get a little more technical, here are two basic ways to look at wine: The Grape: the species or blend of grapes; or The Place: where the grapes grow.

Old Country (mostly European) wine is named after the region where the grapes are grown, like Burgundy or Riesling. New Country wine (pretty much everywhere else) is named after the type of grapes used to make it. You may think this is kind of silly, and you’d be right. But stop and think: the place where the grapes grow gives them their unique taste. Some grapes need a specific climate, so you would expect only certain grape varieties to grow in certain places. Wines labeled by the names of the grapes are called Varietal Wines to distinguish them from wines named after geographic region.

Here are some of the major White Wines:

Chardonnay: By far the most popular of the white wines, Chardonnay is typically rich, full-bodied, and dry.

Riesling: A very classy German wine (but also made in the Alsace region of France), Riesling tends to be more light-bodied and refreshing, with high acidity levels and a fruity/flowery flavor.

Sauvignon Blanc: A crisp, controversial wine, Sauvignon Blanc is complex with mineral aromas. Though not to everyone’s taste, this is also grown in France under the names Bordeaux Blanc and Sancerre (Bordeaux and Loire Valley).

Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio: Believed to be a mutation of the Pinot Noir grape, is an important wine throughout Italy, Germany, France, Oregon, and California. This Pinot is low in acidity, often with subtle fruit flavors.

Here are the big Reds:

Cabernet Sauvignon: The King of the Red wines, Cab is grown all over the world, but the two most important regions are Bordeaux and California. Fairly tannic, Cab is a rich, firm, and full-bodied tipple, that is often blended with other grapes.

Merlot: Don’t believe everything you see in the movies; Merlot is a great wine in its own right. Full bodied, but low in tannins, the aromas and flavors of Merlot are plum-like and chocolaty. It is the most-planted grape in Bordeaux, and also important in Washington state and California.

Pinot Noir: Considered the Holy Grail of connoisseurs, Pinot Noir is the difficult, troublesome grape that keeps winemakers up at night. But it can also make a genius wine: complex, mellow, with a range of flavors from fruity to woodsy.

Syrah/Shiraz: This full-bodied wine (my personal favorite!) can be made in a variety of ways all over the world. In the Rhone Valley, Syrah is firm and smoky. In Australia, Shiraz is softer and fruitier. This wine is more reliable than Pinot, but is also a bit of a maverick and may surprise you.

Now, these lists are by no means exhaustive. This is just a place to start. Once you’ve got the bug, you will definitely want to branch out and explore the many other wonderful varietals. The great thing about the world of vines is that it is always changing. Even the experts are constantly revising what they know. The important thing is to be adventurous. Unless you’ve found an absolute gem, don’t get the same wine each time you visit the shop. Find a friendly and knowledgeable wine merchant; usually they are more than willing to help you out and talk shop. Experiment to find out which wines compliment your favorite meals. Have your wine-curious friends over for a tasting and ask them each to bring a bottle. This way you get to compare smell and taste impressions with others. Don’t be embarrassed by the silly wine-tasting ritual you read about in so many books; think of it as a way to broaden the experience of wine. And you’ll be very glad to know that the majority of wines are meant to be drunk young,. ‘Old’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘Better,’ so there’s no need for delayed gratification.

But whatever you do, don’t listen to someone who makes blanket statements like, “Stay away from Italian wines,” or “Don’t buy anything with an animal on the label.” These people are putting their own ignorance on display with such remarks, because the label design is not the wine, and Italy produces some rather fine wines, usually more reasonably priced because they are undervalued.

The worst thing you can do is to let yourself be persuaded out of your own opinion. So don’t be so concerned with what you ‘should’ like. Just enjoy what you do like. You’re the one that has to drink it. For years, I’ve been trying to convince my mother not to chill her red wine, but serve it at the recommended ‘room temperature.’ But that’s the way she likes it, so who am I to argue? Ultimately, wine is meant to be enjoyed, not revered or analyzed under a microscope.

The Fastest Desktop PC Yet As Tested By CNET.

FT BK FTL OVI — The Falcon Northwest Mach V (Intel Core i7-965 Extreme Edition), Fastest all-around desktop we've tested to date; first PC to hit 60 frames per second on our high-resolution Crysis test; pristine build quality. too bad it costs roughly the same as a year of undergraduate in-state tuition.

Click here for the whole Review:

Falcon Northwest Mach V (Intel Core i7-965 Extreme Edition)

Africa ivory trade bust is the 'biggest ever'

Tusk haul (AP)
Smuggled ivory finds its way all over the globe

More than one tonne of ivory products has been seized in Africa's largest-ever international crackdown on wildlife crime.

The operation, co-ordinated by Interpol and the Kenya Wildlife Service, led to the arrest of 57 illegal traders across five African nations.

The haul also included animal skins and hippopotamus teeth.

Interpol said that similar trans-national operations will be carried out worldwide to combat wildlife crime.

Planning for the bust, dubbed Operation Baba, started in June in response to a plea to Interpol from African nations dealing with illegal elephant killings.

Over the past weekend, undercover agents intercepted local dealers and brokers at ivory markets, border crossings and airports in the nations of Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Uganda and Zambia.

More than one tonne of ivory products - including powdered ivory and carved items - was recovered, as well as leopard, cheetah and serval cat skins.

"Co-operation among countries in East, West and Southern Africa against wildlife crime has set an inspired example," said Giuliano Zaccardelli, director of Interpol's Oasis programme that supports African law enforcement.

"Similar operations could also be conducted in Asia, the Americas and in any other region where criminal interests, including trafficking in illegal wildlife products, are common," he added.

Asus to Launch World's 'Fastest' Smartphone

Jeff Bertolucci, PC World

Nov 17, 2008 11:29 am

Asus is calling its new P565 smartphone the "fastest business PDA phone in the world."

It's too early to check that claim and the phone's not available yet for testing - but when has that stopped a company from bragging? The Asus P565 does indeed have some impressive specs with an 800MHz Marvell processor. That should give the Windows Mobile OS-based smartphone ample power to multitask a number of Microsoft Mobile Office apps at the same time.

The 2.8-inch 480 x 640 touchscreen is a decent size for navigating the Glide (iPhone-like) touch interface, which runs Windows Mobile 6.1 OS. Given the amount of wasted space on the P565's front, however, I'd like to see a larger display.

Wireless Data Speeds?

The HSDPA 3G connection speed is 3.6Mb/s. That certain isn't the world's fastest, given Europe's rapidly movement toward 7.2Mb/s and higher. Asus says standby time is 250-300 hours, and talk time is 3 hours (both with 3G).

Styling is okay, but the P565 is no head-turner. One nice touch is the black synthetic leather lining the battery lid, which Asus says commands "instant respect and attention." So that's all it takes?

You'll find the complete P565 specs here.

Drug dealers doing roaring trade on craigslist, say city investigators

Drug dealing on craigslist has become so rampant that the city's special narcotics prosecutor has asked the online trading post to curb the ads, the Daily News has learned.

Bridget Brennan's undercover investigators have bought drugs offered on craigslist personals from dealers ranging from a Citigroup banker to an Ivy Leaguer to a violent felon using a halfway house computer. In the past four years, her office has prosecuted dozens of dealers.

"Ski lift tickets are here for sale ... Tina Turner tickets ... best seats around!" Offers like these appear virtually every day on craigslist, and they are thinly veiled ads posted by people hawking cocaine (ski) or crystal meth (cristina or tina).

"Despite devoting considerable resources to prosecuting these cases, drug dealing is still thriving on craigslist," Brennan wrote craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster. Brennan said she was inspired to act by a recent agreement between craigslist and attorneys general from 40 states to curb prostitution ads.

"It's like shooting fish in a barrel," Brennan said of how easy it is to find dealers on craigslist.

One undercover said he just types "ski" in the search field and up pops ad after ad with offers.

"We respond to the ad, but it must lead to a meeting where the drug is exchanged for money, like any regular drug deal," the investigator said.

Ten days ago, craigslist unveiled sweeping new measures, in partnership with law enforcement and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, to stop its ads from being used for prostitution, child exploitation and other illegal activities.

Craigslist will require "erotic services" providers to pay $10 for each listing and pay with a credit card, which the police will be able to subpoena.

Brennan says the idea could be applied to drug ads.

"I would like members of my staff who have an expertise in prosecuting Internet drug sales to meet with you and explore ways to curb drug dealing on your Web site," her letter says.

In an interview, Brennan said the best course is "to work with them to screen out sellers. They would have to focus on commonly used terms and develop screening mechanisms.

"They'll offer ski tickets in July in New York, and Tina Turner tickets when she's not performing in town." Marijuana ads are more, er, blunt. It is usually referred to by name or as "420."

"We see lots of professionals, people with good jobs, doing it," Brennan said. "They are shocked to get caught."

One case involved a Citigroup vice president, Mark Rayner, 33, who was selling Ecstasy.

"Anyone want to go to roxy and get high and enjoy hex hector? E., K, Snow, tina, its all good," he wrote on craigslist.

He did the deal near his midtown office, giving an undercover agent 50 Ecstasy pills and 7 grams of cocaine for $1,200. He pleaded guilty to sale of a controlled substance and got five years' probation.

At the other end of the spectrum is Albert Rivera, aka Ray Rivera, 32, who was on parole for an armed robbery on a G train in 1994. While in a halfway house in Brooklyn, he engaged the undercover through craigslist.

He pleaded guilty and got a sentence of three to six months.

Craigslist did not respond to requests for comment.

Heidi Klum dazzles in diamond underwear at Victoria's Secret Florida fashion show featuring a $5m bra

By Caroline Graham
Last updated at 8:23 AM on 17th November 2008

America and the rest of the world may be facing a recession but it appears that nobody told US underwear label Victoria's Secret.

At its show in Miami, 35 supermodels took part in a fabulously opulent extravaganza, with most of them dripping in feathers, lace, sequins and eye-wateringly expensive jewellery.

Heidi Klum wore red underwear joined by a web of diamonds plus sparkling red wings, made to resemble a bow on a present, while Adriana Lima coolly strutted down the catwalk in the Black Diamond Fantasy Miracle Bra - worth $5million.

Heidi Klum, wearing diamonds and a red bow, blows a kiss to the audience at the Victoria's Secret Show

The bra, designed by Martin Katz, is decorated with white and black diamonds and rubies and will be for sale in the Victoria's Secret catalogue.

Mr Katz said: 'You could wear it as an open top because it looks like a finished top.'

Singer Usher kicked off Saturday's show at the newly renovated Fontainebleau Miami Beach which reopened on the same day.

Enlarge victoria

Heidi Klum, right, and other elaborately dressed models work the opulent runway

'The theme of the show is a return to glamour,' said company CEO Sharen Turney. 'Victoria's Secret is about sexy, and the new sexy is glamorous for this season.'

Two silver palm trees adorned the stage on which models wore a total of 68 outfits based on themes including glamorous goddesses and bold colours with geometric designs influenced from the 1920s.

Some models wore gilded bras with Swarovski crystals attached. There was also a gold sculpted feather body piece that curved around the model's body. Metal sculpted laurel leaves were also worn around some of the models' necks.

Adriana Lima, left, wears the $5m Fantasy Miracle Bra while Selita Ebanks, right, flexes her wings

Wing designer Martin Izquierdo made seven pairs of wings for the show. He said he turned to Greek mythology and butterflies for inspiration.

Celebrities spotted on the pink carpet included Paris Hilton, P Diddy, actor John Stamos, Kim Kardashian and Martha Stewart.

Karolina Kurkova, left, and another model show off two more of the show's 68 fabulous creations

10 Great Schoolgirl Appearances in Pop Culture

Japanese Schoolgirls at the Museum

by Gendy Alimurung
November 11, 2008 8:00 AM

They were at the Getty Museum this past week. Masses of them. I was there with my dad and all of a sudden we were surrounded by a crowd of uniformed students. I went to Catholic school as a kid. It brought back, uh, fond memories of mean nuns, pleated red tartan skirts that would never stay properly pleated, sailor blouses, and neckties. As you can see in the picture, the Japanese girls are wearing their school neckties short these days, with white shirts sloppily tucked in. The two girls holding hands probably aren't lesbians. In Asian countries, it's common for girls who are just good friends to hold hands. No, I swear.




The Japanese students also reminded me of some of the great schoolgirl appearances in popular culture. (By which I mean "appearances not in porn.")

1. Gogo Yubari - From Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill. She was O-Ren Ishii's murderous little bodyguard. The actress who plays her, Chiaki Kurayama, also appeared in the film Battle Royale.


2. Girl #11 from Battle Royale. (FYI, Chiaki "Gogo" Kuroyama played Girl #13.) In the film, a class of students are kidnapped and sent to a desert island, given weapons, and forced to kill each other until only one survivor is left. Girl #11, Mitsuko Souma, is the second most dangerous person on the island.


3. Lolita. Everyone who's read the classic novel has a mental image of what Nabokov's jailbait nymphette Lolita looks like. This is how Kubrick imagined her, in 1962, as portrayed by Sue Lyon. When Humbert Humbert meets her for the first time, she's sunning in the yard in a bikini, wearing a look that says "I'm danger."


4. Rory Gilmore of The Gilmore Girls. Lorelai Gilmore named her daughter after herself. Men name their sons after themselves all the time, right? Rory is so precocious you either love her or hate her and want to kill her. I go back and forth on that all the time. Right now, I hate her.


5. Evan Rachel Wood in Pretty Persuasion. Marilyn Manson's girlfriend before she started trying to personality change into Dita Von Teese. In Pretty Persuasion she's a student at a Beverly Hills high school for rich kids. She accuses her teacher of sexual harassment.


6. Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The ultimate schoolgirl with super killing powers. She slays, she sings, she dances, she goes to prom, she dates vampires, she saves the world.


7. Sarah Michelle Gellar and Reese Witherspoon in Cruel Intentions. Hmm...a lot of these girls are doing double time on this list. Do certain types of girls get type-cast as naughty nymphettes? There's that one scene in Cruel Intentions where Sarah Michelle Gellar, playing Kathryn Merteuil, says she relies on god when she's having tough times. Then she takes out her rosary and unscrews the cross, which is actually a cocaine vial.


8. Tracy Flick in Election. Hey, it's Reese again. In this film she plays psychotic Tracy Flick who really, really, really wants to be class president.


9. The D.E.B.S. Assassins. These girls are students in a secret spy paramilitary academy. Amy (Sara Foster) gets it on with criminal mastermind Lucy Diamond (Jordana Brewster, who has never looked better. It's worth seeing this movie just to admire her hair). Lesbian spy schoolgirls. Enough said.



10. Fairuza Balk in The Craft. Even when she isn't playing a teenage witch who becomes Satan's vessel and decides that a hundred porpoises washed up on the beach are the Devil's gift to her, Ms. Balk has a sharp, wicked, dominatrix look that, just between you and me, scares the bejeezus out of me.



Crisp traded to Royals

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff

Coco Crisp Ramon Ramirez

Crisp Ramirez

The Red Sox have traded center fielder Coco Crisp to the Royals for righthanded relief pitcher Ramon Ramirez, a major league baseball source has confirmed to the Globe's Nick Cafardo.

The deal was first reported this morning on Kansas City sports radio station WHB 810 by Brian McRae, a former Royals outfielder who is a part owner of the station. A Red Sox spokesperson told the club had no comment on the report.

Ramirez is an interesting acquisition for the Red Sox -- his arrival would suggest that the ball club is at least considering using Justin Masterson as a starter. Reports say the 27-year-old throws in the low 90s, with an outstanding curveball and a changeup that acts like a splitter.

He's coming off a very good 2008 season, having posted a 2.64 ERA in 71.2 innings this year while striking out 70. Ramirez allowed just two home runs, and held righthanders to a .153 average in 137 at-bats. He was particularly effective in September, allowing just one earned run in four hits in 9.2 innings (0.93 ERA).

Ramirez broke into the majors in 2006 with the Colorado Rockies, posting a 3.46 ERA in 67.2 innings over 61 appearances.

Crisp, 29, batted .283 with seven homers, 41 RBIs and 20 stolen bases in 361 at-bats last season, his third in Boston. An excellent fielder, started 98 games in center field while sharing the job with rookie Jacoby Ellsbury. He batted .315 in the second half.

Trading Crisp clears a chunk of payroll for the Red Sox -- he will earn $5.7 million in 2009, with a club option for 2010 for $8 million or a $500,000 buyout.

During an on-air interview with WHB 810 earlier this morning, Royals senior adviser Mike Arbuckle would not confirm that the deal was complete, but said he liked Crisp as a player.

"I would say Coco is a good player and we're always interested in getting good players," said Arbuckle, who recently joined the Royals after working in the front office of the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies.

New Star Trek Trailer in HD watch! — It's finally here!!

click here for the trailer: New Star Trek Trailer in HD

Legalize It

With a recession in sight, the case for legalizing marijuana and taxing it for government revenue seems more practical than ever.


Photo by The Equinist.

Any American, given about a minute, can tick off a list naming examples of disgrace in our 21st century society. You pick your hobbyhorse, I’ll pick mine, and let the free-for-all begin. It’s mind-boggling, at least in this corner, that there’s still actually a debate among politicians and citizens over the issue of medicinal marijuana use. In 1982, as a young man not yet 30, my mother was slowly dying of brain cancer, and one day she asked if I could purchase a small quantity of pot to relieve the pain of chemotherapy.

I hadn’t used the illegal substance for several years, but it wasn’t hard to find, and so on a visit to our house she was given a small bag of Mexican grass, and for the first time in her life she toked up. It wasn’t to her liking and so that experiment ended, but, after years of worrying about this sort of drug use among her five sons—my parents swallowed all the scare tactics from the government and media in the 1960s—she’d come to realize that in the scheme of things, smoking marijuana wasn’t, in the vast majority of cases, likely to derail a person’s life. As for her fellow cancer patients, Mom said, “Look, we’re dying, it’s not as if puffing on a joint [I’d never heard her say that word and was slightly taken aback] will be the ‘gateway’ to heroin.” None of my friends and acquaintances who are physicians disagree with that simple statement.

It’s my opinion that not only should marijuana be freely available to those suffering from ravaging diseases—as if the plant is any more harmful than the other drugs dispensed several times a day—but it ought to be legalized and sold at pharmacies and maybe even convenience stores. I understand this is an issue that no politician will touch—in the early 1990s Baltimore mayor Kurt Schmoke, once considered a rising star in national Democratic circles did himself no favors by advocating decriminalization—but if you suspend immediate judgment and think about it, who would it harm?

Consider this: In 2007, according to the FBI’s “Uniform Crime Report," cited by The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), a record number of 872,721 people were arrested for marijuana violations, and 89 percent of those Americans were nabbed for “personal use.” Violent crime ebbs and flows, often depending on locale, but someone please explain to me why people who favor smoking pot, which is arguably much less dangerous than excessive consumption of alcohol, are the prey of police officers across the country? Maybe it’s a matter of low-hanging fruit, but the waste of time in arresting offenders, court appearances and in many instances, incarceration, is a crime in and of itself. Does it make any sense at all to jail a 23-year-old, throwing him into a prison population that will likely result not in “rehabilitation,” but a needlessly disrupted life?

One significant fact that would grab the attention of federal and local office-holders (at least in private), charged with juggling budgets, is the vast stream of revenue each of the country’s 50 states would realize as a result of selling marijuana, like cigarettes, on the open market, with every pack or pouch of pot fetching several dollars in “sin taxes.” The government could regulate the potency and purity of the marijuana, and sell it for a reasonable, if high, price, nearly obliterating the black market, thus further making a significant dent in the ranks of those who profit from manufacturing and selling large amounts of the drug. Like alcohol and tobacco, vendors would be prohibited from selling marijuana to those under 21, and the requisite health warnings would be prominently placed on each unit sold.

It’s an unfortunate reality that the political bureaucracy, even if there was an eventual consensus on legalizing marijuana, would take years to implement such a dramatic change—one can only imagine the ballot propositions, constitutional amendments and the like that would have to be traversed, not to mention the harrumphing of cultural conservatives who’d like to lord over the private lives of citizens—and so any economic windfall is in the future. Which is a shame, since given today’s perilous financial climate, a new infusion of cash, every single day, would help shorten a recession. Then again, if legislators acted now the benefits could be realized in time for the next, and inevitable, economic downturn.

As for the “morality” of legalizing marijuana, I just don’t want to hear it. Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity can stuff it. No one would force people to start smoking the stuff, just as no one forces people to take a drink, indulge in a tobacco habit or pop anti-depressants.

As Barack Obama prepares to occupy the Oval Office in January, this modest (in my opinion) proposal is worthy of his consideration, especially if he does intend to follow FDR’s example and set forth a very ambitious agenda for the first year of his presidency, before he begins his 2012 campaign. I’m not naïve and don’t expect Obama will even give a moment’s thought to the subject—hell, if he lifts the embargo on Cuba next year, that’ll be amazing, and long overdue, enough.

Nevertheless, the legalization of marijuana is an initiative that shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand: correcting the travesty of arresting harmless and non-violent citizens, plus the monetary gain is extraordinarily compelling. All that’s needed is a group of politicians with vision and guts to bring the issue to the forefront of debate in the United States.

Daredevil kayakers take the plunge down Britain's tallest dam in death-defying white-knuckle ride

By Chris Johnson

Thrill seekers would probably agree that this fast-flowing spillway is much more fun - and terrifying - than your average theme park log flume.

At 300ft tall and almost 1,150ft long, the Llyn Brianne Dam near Llandovery, Midwales, is the tallest dam in the UK.

These breathtaking shots show a group of brave kayakers taking their lives in their hands as they launch themselves down the spillway, being propelled to speeds of around 40mph.

LLyn Brianne Dam near Llandovery (Midwales)

At 300ft tall and almost 1,150ft long, the Llyn Brianne Dam near Llandovery, Midwales, is the tallest dam in the UK.

The man-made dam, situated in the headwaters of Wales's River Tywi, was constructed in the late 1960s and early 1970s to regulate the flow into the river.

The dam is a crushed and larger rock clay filled dam with all the material used being obtained in the area itself.

Enlarge Dam

Brave: A kayaker, pictured on the crest of the dam, can reach speeds of up to 40mph as they launch themselves down the spillway

The spillway of the dam is a notable tourist attraction when the reservoir is spilling.

In 1996 the reservoir spillway was increased by one metre in height and a hydro electric generating station was added at the base of the dam, which has a gradient of 1:3:6.

Enlarge Dam

A kayaker reaches the bottom of the man-made dam, which was built in the late 1960s and early 1970s

The 100 Greatest Movie Lines

Killer insults, clever quips, and touching truisms, Premiere celebrates 100 of Hollywood's most-quotable lines.

100 Best Lines
Click here for the gallery

The lines that people love most come not necessarily from the most revered films in the canon (though Casablanca and Citizen Kane are represented), but from down-to-earth comedies or action films (Ahem, "I'll be baaack!") that grabbed the audience on a visceral level. Whatever the genre of the film, these small bits of dialogue are important: they're cultural shorthand, part of the language everyone shares.

100 Best Lines

Apple's New Stealth Laptop for the Enterprise

Mon, November 17, 2008Computerworld Many observers consider the iPhone to be Apple's Trojan horse for the enterprise market. And with good reason. Figures just out show that Apple sold more than 10 million iPhones during its first 15 months. With or without IT approval, a whole lot of Apple smart phones are being used in business.

That's why I paid close attention to the MacBook and MacBook Pro models released by Apple last month. I was surprised by the new MacBook's specs. My surprise turned to admiration a couple of days later when new MacBook arrived on my desk.

The previous-generation MacBook was thick and heavy. Its chief claim to fame was that it was Apple's least-expensive notebook and biggest seller. The sweet spot of the lineup was the $1,299 model, which had a 2.4-GHz processor, 800-MHz front-side bus, 2GB of RAM and a 160GB hard drive.

The new $1,299 MacBook has a durable aluminum unibody case, a bright LED-backlit display, the new glass touch-interface trackpad, a 1,066-MHz front-side bus, 2GB of RAM, and integrated 256MB Nvidia video. It's also smaller than its predecessors at under an inch thick, and lighter at 4.5 lb. The processor speed for this model is back to 2 GHz. The new top-of-the-line MacBook, which sells for $1,599, has a 2.4-GHz Core 2 Duo processor, a 250GB hard drive, 2GB of RAM and an illuminated keyboard. Apple's price for an upgrade to 4GB of RAM is a reasonable $150.

The specs don't really tell the story, though. Consumerization is now a powerful driver in corporate adoption of end-user technology. I'm not predicting wholesale adoption of Macs by enterprises anytime soon, but the new MacBook will make more significant inroads into that market than any Apple product, probably ever. It comes down to price/performance, price point, design focus, durability, suitability to task and market timing.

To explore some of these aspects, I asked my company's senior manager of technology services, Kevin Ford, to do the math. He did a formal price comparison of the Lenovo X200 -- a model that employees of Computerworld and parent company IDG are often supplied with -- and the new 2.4-GHz MacBook. Both prices were quoted to Ford with enterprise discounts by a well-known third-party online vendor. The specs are comparable except for display size and overall weight (the X200 has a smaller screen and weighs 1.2 lb. less). The price difference was just $30, in favor of the MacBook at $1,566.70.

Your enterprise's mileage may vary. Perhaps your company prefers Dell, HP or Toshiba. I know you can find notebooks that cost considerably less. But there's a reason enterprise notebooks tend to cost around $1,500: It's the amount that gets them over the minimum for capital expenditure depreciation at many companies.

Like the old MacBook, the new one seems to be aimed primarily at the education and home markets. (When I asked to speak to an Apple exec about the market strategy for the new MacBook, the company declined to grant an interview for several weeks.) But unlike the old MacBook, the new one looks and feels like a business machine. And its most important advantage may be its blend of power and portability -- a careful balance of the primary needs of the average business user.

In September 2007, I wrote an article about why Apple's Macs didn't fully meet the needs of business, saying, "To build the small and light notebook that many corporate users crave, Apple should start with the MacBook Pro case and trim it for a 13.3-in. display. It doesn't have to be aluminum, but it does have to look upscale."

The new MacBook fully addresses my year-old criticisms. Apple finally has the right hardware and software for mainstream business users.

But will Apple ever figure out how to sell to enterprises? It's going to be interesting to find out.

-By Scot Finnie

5 Great Holiday Gifts for Techies

Look, No Hands!

If hands-free legislation has crimped your cell phone usage, Funkwerk Americas' Ego Flash—a Bluetooth-enabled, hands-free car kit—is the solution. Its OLED display allows you to view phone contacts (it stores up to 10,000), call logs and caller ID; make phone calls via voice recognition; and it can even read aloud incoming text messages. The console also integrates with your car's stereo system and can play MP3 music downloaded to your mobile phone or any other Bluetooth-enabled player. $240

Hunt and Peck With Style

Spice up your workspace with this hand-crafted, retro-inspired keyboard, The Aviator. This custom-made keyboard is constructed with a brushed aluminum frame, a black, felt faceplate and jewel-style LEDs similar to those on an airplane's instrument panel. $1,200-$1,500

Watch While You Work

Late nights at the office don't mean you need to miss The Office. Sling Media's Slingbox PRO-HD streams HD content from a home television source, such as a cable box or satellite dish, to a laptop, desktop or smartphone. System requirements include a high-speed network connection with upload speeds of 1.5 megabits per second and an HD-compatible laptop or desktop computer. $300

No Outlet? No Problem!

A BlackBerry or iPod battery that is dying—especially when there's no outlet or charger in sight—is the ultimate inconvenience. But Solio has developed what it boasts is "the world's most advanced hybrid charger," the Magnesium Edition. Solar panels collect and store power—one hour of sun will power your iPod for an hour—and its adapter tips plug in to a variety of mobile devices, limiting the need to lug multiple chargers around. $170

Can You Hear Me Now?

Crying baby on your six-hour flight? Get some shut-eye with Sennheiser's PXC 450 NoiseGard travel headphones, which reduce ambient noise by up to 90 percent. They also include a talk-through function to help distinguish between sounds such as those of a plane's engines versus the voice of person—enabling you to communicate while wearing them. The headphones collapse for easy transport and come with adapters for in-flight entertainment systems. $400