Venice film fest opens amidst war of words


AFP Photo

Film stars gathered for Wednesday's gala opening of the 63rd Venice International Film Festival amidst a torrent of invective between festival organisers and those from a rival event hosted by the city of Rome.

Venice festival director Marco Mueller, clearly irritated by talk of the southern upstart, drew Rome's ire when he suggested that next month's inaugural festival in the capital would merely be offering the public hand-me-downs rejected by Venice and Cannes.

"It has taken nothing from us," snapped Mueller when asked to comment on Rome's affect on this year's Venice festival in an interview with Italian television.

It merely meant that "some films, which neither Cannes nor ourselves wanted and which we were finished viewing at the end of March, have finally found an Italian destination," said Mueller, directing his third Venice festival.

"That's really pleased us because in that way we have avoided acrimony from people we turned down."

Mueller's comments were immediately blasted by Rome festival organisers Giorgio Gosetti and Mario Sesti as "an incredible offence to cinema and to the extraordinary authors who have decided to bring their work to Rome."

They include Martin Scorsese, whose latest film is set to open the Rome festival of film on October 13, according to Italian media reports.

"Over the last few months we have always referred to the Venice Mostra with respect. And we will continue to do so. We reiterate that Venice mustn't fear Rome but only its own mistakes through arrogance and isolation," said the Rome organisers.

Responding to Mueller's glibe, Rome's left-wing mayor Walter Veltroni pointed out that the Eternal City was able to host next month's event without calling for "one lira from the state."

Despite this, Rome boasts the bigger budget, with 12 million euros (15 million dollars) raised entirely from private funds, while Venice relies on state aid for more than half of its 8.5 million euro annual budget.

"In Italy we always live with a terror of things new. There's an instinct for conservatism which is one of the reasons why our country finds it so difficult to compete abroad," said Veltroni, who has repeatedly praised Venice, the world's oldest film festival which is generally believed to have lost some of its traditional lustre in recent years.

The spat, coming just before Brian De Palma's adaptation of James Ellroy's novel "The Black Dahlia" opens the festival on Wednesday night, has put Culture Minister Francesco Rutelli in an awkward position.

He called for an end to the rivalry between the two festivals, saying they "complemented each other" and would serve to relaunch Italy as a capital of world cinema.

But he was forced to admit what has been obvious to everyone since Rome city hall announced last year that there was room for another film festival in Italy. "The problem is the dates, because the festivals have been organised only one month apart."

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Ten ways to improve carnival

Pete McPhail

Not because they are fascist agents of oppression, maaaaan, but because they always show at least one police officer dancing on the news and it is always utterly excruciating.

Tourists are so annoying as they stand around getting in your way and looking at maps and saying, "Where Ladbroke Grove pleeeese?" when they’re standing in it. I propose the sensible solution of herding them into giant pens, where they can dance and eat ethnic food to their hearts’ content.

Ever seen a pasty person in unpleasant shorts attempting to bogle their way into the heart of a proper dancehall queen? You will at Carnival, and by Christ, you will share the embarrassment.

Don’t you think that Notting Hill is getting a little small for the mass gathering? And it’s even worse now that the god-awful film bearing the name of our area has charmed Americans into coming over en masse to get involved. Our solution: hold it on the M25. The parade will find it a lot easier.

The variable quality of rum punch is one of the banes of any good Carnival-goer. You just don’t know what you’re going to get until you’ve got it, as with drugs, which rum punch effectively is anyway. So we say: appoint three very old Tobagan gentlemen to go to Schweppes and advise them how to make it, and then can it. Good news for the hard alcoholic punter.

At any mass revel such as Carnival, sex will inevitably rear its ugly head, and unpleasant scenes are bound to follow, as is always the way with sex. The most sensible solution is to have separate carnivals - one for the men, and one for the ladies. Then we can all meet up later and swap stories.

What’s the point? It’s a waste of a day! How can children appreciate the finer points of Carnival - rum punch, women in tiny pearly thongs, coma-inducing ganja, unpleasantly deep bass frequencies - at their young age? Carnival should be kiddy-free! Make Holland Park into a giant crèche and dump ’em there.

Not only would the congestion of the streets take up much less time, but crowds would be able to watch the hilarious spectacle of youth club breakdancers attempting to bust a tricky windmill while simultaneously trying not to be thrown off a speeding vehicle. I’d PAY to see that!

Yeaaah! Separate the hardcore party-goers from the lightweights and the dilettantes! Hold it in the most arctic conditions that our land has to offer. This means that a) it will get everyone dancing that much quicker, b) curried goat and rum punch salesmen will make more money and c) Brazilian chicks in thongs will need warming up. I volunteer!

By Pete McPhail, MyVillage 14th August

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Singapore's Methodist bishop overpaid for five years

Deutsche Presse Agentur

Singapore- The bishop of the Methodist Church in Singapore was mistakenly overpaid for five years, the church said Wednesday. An internal review found Bishop Robert Solomon's pay and allowances totaled 946,000 Singapore dollars (606,410 US dollars) since he took office in January 2001.

The church's highest office bearer received nearly 372,000 Singapore dollars (238,000 US) more than what he should have.

The overpayment was an "honest mistake," The Straits Times quoted a church spokesman as saying.

The church is satisfied that no one was lining his "own pockets," he added.

Some members are still upset. An anonymous letter was circulated expressing unhappiness that the full sum has not yet been retrieved and that those responsible for the mistake were not asked to resign.

The bishop, 50, is in the process of repaying the extra money, used to finance such items as home utility bills and car expenses, according to a report by the church's General Conference Executive Council.

The review by more than 100 church leaders concluded that the bishop had been wrongly given a much higher pay package than he was entitled to receive.

A doctor by training, Solomon was re-elected in January 2005 to head the 33,000-member Methodist Church. It runs 16 primary and secondary schools in Singapore and has more than 40 churches.

The church said it was studying internal procedures to prevent such a mistake from recurring.

© 2006 DPA - Deutsche Presse-Agenteur

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Timeline: United States of America - A chronology of key events:

A chronology of key events:

1565 - First permanent European settlement in North America - St Augustine, present-day Florida - founded by the Spanish.

Detail of engraving depicting Battle of Trenton, 1776
Revolution: The Continental Army fought against British rule

1607 - Jamestown, Virginia, founded by English settlers, who begin growing tobacco.

1620 - Plymouth Colony, near Cape Cod, is founded by the Pilgrim Fathers, whose example is followed by other English Puritans in New England.

17th-18th centuries - Hundreds of thousands of Africans brought over and sold into slavery to work on cotton and tobacco plantations.

1763 - Britain gains control of territory up to the Mississippi river following victory over France in Seven Years' War.

War of Independence

1774 - Colonists form First Continental Congress as Britain closes down Boston harbour and deploys troops in Massachusetts.

1775 - American Revolution: George Washington leads colonist Continental Army to fight against British rule.

1776 4 July - Thomas Jefferson's American Declaration of Independence endorsed by Congress; colonies declare independence.

1781 - Rebel states form loose confederation, codified in Articles of Confederation, after defeating the British at the Battle of Yorktown.

Abraham Lincoln - 16th US president
16th president preserved Union, emancipated slaves
Born in Kentucky, 1809
Known as 'Honest Abe' and the 'Great Emancipator'
His Gettysburg Address honoured the Union dead, set out the principles they died for
Assassinated in 1865

1783 - Britain accepts loss of colonies by virtue of Treaty of Paris.

1787 - Founding Fathers draw up new constitution for United States of America. Constitution comes into effect in 1788.

1789 - George Washington elected first president of USA.

1791 - Bill of Rights guarantees individual freedom.

1803 - France sells Louisiana territories to USA.

1808 - Atlantic slave trade abolished.

1812-14 - Dispute over blockade rights during Napoleonic Wars leads to war with Britain.

19th century - Residual resistance by indigenous people crushed as immigration from Europe assumes mass proportions, with settlers moving westwards and claiming "manifest destiny" to control North America; number of states in the union rises from 17 to 45.

1846-48 - US acquires vast tracts of Mexican territory in wake of Mexican War including California and New Mexico.

Civil War

1854 - Opponents of slavery, or abolitionists, set up Republican Party.

1860 - Republican candidate Abraham Lincoln elected president.

1860-61 - Eleven pro-slavery southern states secede from Union and form Confederate States of America under leadership of Jefferson Davis, triggering civil war with abolitionist northern states.

1863 - Lincoln issues Emancipation Proclamation, declaring slaves in Confederate states to be free.

1865 - Confederates defeated; slavery abolished under Thirteenth Amendment. Lincoln is assassinated.

1876 - Sioux Indians defeat US troops at Little Big Horn.

1890 - US troops defeat Sioux Indians at Wounded Knee.

1898 - US gains Puerto Rico, Guam, the Philippines and Cuba following the Spanish-American war. US annexes Hawaii.

World War I and the Great Depression

1917-18 - US intervenes in World War I, rejects membership of League of Nations.

Franklin D Roosevelt, 1941
FDR led the US through the Great Depression and World War II

1920 - Women given the right to vote under the Nineteenth Amendment.

1920 - Sale and manufacture of alcoholic liquors outlawed. The Prohibition era sees a mushrooming of illegal drinking joints, home-produced alcohol and gangsterism.

1924 - Congress gives indigenous people right to citizenship.

1929-33 - 13 million people become unemployed after the Wall Street stock market crash of 1929 triggers what becomes known as the Great Depression. President Herbert Hoover rejects direct federal relief.

1933 - President Franklin D Roosevelt launches "New Deal" recovery programme which includes major public works. Sale of alcohol resumes.

World War II and the Cold War

1941 - Japanese warplanes attack US fleet at Pearl Harbour in Hawaii; US declares war on Japan; Germany declares war on US, which thereafter intervenes on a massive scale in World War II, eventually helping to defeat Germany.

1945 - US drops two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Japan surrenders.

1947 - US enunciates policy of aid for nations it deems threatened by communism in what became known as the Truman Doctrine. Cold War with Soviet Union begins.

1948 - America's programme to revive ailing post-war European economies - the Marshall Plan - comes into force. Some $13bn is disbursed over four years and the plan is regarded as a success.

1950-54 - Senator Joseph McCarthy carries out a crusade against alleged communists in government and public life; the campaign and its methods become known as McCarthyism. In 1954 McCarthy is formally censured by the Senate.

1950-53 - US forces play leading role against North Korean and Chinese troops in Korean War.

Desegregation and the Vietnam war

1954 - Racial segregation in schools becomes unconstitutional; start of campaign of civil disobedience to secure civil rights for Americans of African descent.

John F Kennedy
Killed by an assassin's bullet in Dallas, 1963

1960 - Democratic Party candidate John F Kennedy elected president, narrowly defeating his rival Richard Nixon.

1961 - Bay of Pigs invasion: an unsuccessful attempt to invade Cuba by Cuban exiles, organised and financed by Washington.

1962 - US compels Soviet Union to withdraw nuclear weapons from Cuba in what has become known as the Cuban missile crisis.

1963 - President John F Kennedy assassinated; Lyndon Johnson becomes president.

1964 - US steps up its military intervention in Vietnam. Civil Rights Act signed into law; it aims to halt discrimination on grounds of race, colour, religion, nationality.

1968 - Black civil rights leader Martin Luther King assassinated.

1969 - Republican Party candidate Richard Nixon elected president amid growing public opposition to Vietnam war. US military presence in Vietnam exceeds 500,000 personnel. US astronaut Neil Armstrong becomes the first person to walk on the Moon.

Martin Luther King
Civil rights leader was renowned for his stirring oratory

1972 - Nixon re-elected and makes historic visit to China.

1973 - Vietnam ceasefire agreement signed. The campaign had claimed some 58,000 American lives.

1974 - In a TV address, Nixon announces his resignation in the wake of the Watergate scandal, over a 1972 break-in at the Democratic Party headquarters. Gerald Ford is sworn-in as his successor.

1976 - Democratic Party candidate Jimmy Carter elected president.

1979 - US embassy in Tehran, Iran, seized by radical students. The 444-day hostage crisis - including a failed rescue attempt in 1980 - impacts on Carter's popularity and dominates the 1980 presidential election campaign.

Global assertiveness

1980 November - Republican Party's Ronald Reagan elected president. Reagan goes on to adopt a tough anti-communist foreign policy and tax-cutting policies which lead to a large federal budget deficit.

1981 January - Iran frees the 52 US embassy hostages, on the same day as President Reagan's inauguration.

Ronald Reagan in 1992
Former president, said to have restored US self-confidence

1983 - US invades Caribbean nation of Grenada, partly prompted by its concerns over the island's ties with Cuba.

1984 - Ronald Reagan re-elected president, beating Democratic Party candidate Walter Mondale.

1986 January - Space shuttle Challenger explodes shortly after take off from Cape Canaveral. All seven crew members are killed. Manned space flights are suspended until September 1988.

1986 - US warplanes bomb Libyan cities. "Irangate" scandal uncovered, revealing that proceeds from secret US arms sales to Iran were used illegally to fund Contra rebels in Nicaragua.

1988 - Reagan's vice-president, George Bush, elected president.

1989 - US troops invade Panama, oust its government and arrest its leader, one-time Central Intelligence Agency informant General Manuel Noriega, on drug-trafficking charges.

1991 - US forces play dominant role in war against Iraq, which was triggered by Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and ended with the expulsion of Iraqi troops from that country.

The Clinton years

1992 - Democratic Party candidate Bill Clinton elected president.

1992 - Congress passes North American Free Trade Agreement, or Nafta, intended to create free-trade bloc among US, Canada and Mexico.

1994 - Congress defeats Clinton's flagship legislation intended to reform health care system.

Space shuttle Atlantis
Shuttle programme goes on despite losses of two craft

1994 - Investigations into Whitewater scandal, over the Clintons' financial dealings in Arkansas, where he had been governor before becoming president. Sexual harassment charges are filed against Clinton by a former Arkansas employee. Mid-term elections result in Republican majorities in both houses of Congress.

1995 - Oklahoma bomb kills more than 160 people in worst ever incident of its kind in US.

1996 - Clinton re-elected, beating Republican rival Bob Dole.

1998 - Scandal over Clinton's purported sexual impropriety with White House worker Monica Lewinsky dominates domestic political agenda and leads to impeachment proceedings in Congress.

1999 February - Clinton acquitted in Senate impeachment trial.

1999 March-June - US plays leading role in Nato bombardment of Yugoslavia in response to Serb violence against ethnic Albanians in the province of Kosovo.

Democrats lose

2000 November - Vice-president and Democrat candidate Al Gore and the Republican Party's George W Bush contest one of the closest presidential election races ever. Bush is initially declared the winner in the crucial state of Florida, but the margin is so small that there is an automatic recount. The Democrats mount a series of legal challenges which eventually involve the Supreme Court. Bush is finally declared the winner in Florida, which enables him to take the presidency, albeit with a smaller share of the national vote than Gore.

Bill Clinton plays the saxophone
Former Democrat president shows off his musical talent

2001 January - George W Bush sworn in as 43rd president of the US.

2001 April - US reconnaisance plane forced to land in China after mid-air collision with Chinese fighter jet; crew held by Chinese authorities for 11 days. Angry diplomatic exchanges take place between Washington and Beijing.

2001 July - US tests its controversial missile defence shield, or "Son of Star Wars".

11 September attacks

2001 11 September - Four passenger aircraft are hijacked and crashed into the World Trade Center in New York, the US Defence Department - the Pentagon - in Washington DC and into a field in Pennsylvania; 3,025 people are killed in the attacks.

2001 8 October - US leads massive campaign of air strikes against Afghanistan and later sends in special forces to help opposition forces defeat the Taleban regime and find Saudi-born dissident Osama Bin Laden, who is suspected of masterminding the 11 September attacks.

2001 October - USA Patriot Act approved by the Senate, giving the government greater powers to detain suspected terrorists, eavesdrop on communications and counter money-laundering. In November, President Bush signs a directive to try suspected terrorists in military tribunals rather than the courts.

2001 December - Energy giant Enron declared bankrupt after massive false-accounting comes to light.

2002 January - State of the Union address: President George W Bush includes Iraq, Iran and North Korea in what he describes as an "axis of evil".

Site of destroyed World Trade Center towers, New York 2004
Ground Zero: Hijacked planes struck the World Trade Center towers

2002 June/July - Telecoms giant WorldCom's multi-billion dollar accounting fraud is revealed, eclipsing the Enron scandal to become the biggest business failure in US history.

2002 November - President Bush signs into law a bill creating a Department of Homeland Security, the biggest reorganisation of federal government in more than 50 years. The large and powerful department is tasked with protecting the US against terrorist attacks.

2003 February - Space shuttle Columbia's 28th mission ends in tragedy when the craft breaks-up while re-entering the atmosphere. The seven astronauts on board are killed.

Iraq war

2003 20 March - Missile attacks on targets in Baghdad mark the start of a US-led campaign to topple the Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. US forces advance into central Baghdad in early April.

George W Bush addressing crew of USS Abraham Lincoln
2003: President George W Bush on the USS Abraham Lincoln

2003 1 May - Speaking on the deck of the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln, President Bush declares that the main part of the war in Iraq is over.

2003 14 August - Biggest power blackout in North American history hits cities in the north and east, including New York, as well as Canadian cities.

2004 May - Furore over pictures showing the abuse of Iraqi prisoners in US custody. President Bush and Defence Secretary Rumsfeld - who is questioned by Congress about the scandal - apologise for the mistreatment.

2004 June - Former President Ronald Reagan dies, aged 93. He is accorded a state funeral.

2004 July - Senate report says US and allies went to war in Iraq on "flawed" information. Independent report into 11 September 2001 attacks highlights deep institutional failings in intelligence services and government.

Bush second term

2004 2 November - Presidential elections: George W Bush wins a second term. He is inaugurated on 20 January 2005.

2005 July - Space shuttle Discovery completes the first manned Nasa space mission since the Columbia accident in February 2003.

2005 August - Hundreds of people are killed when Hurricane Katrina, the most destructive storm to hit the US in decades, sweeps through gulf coast states. Much of the city of New Orleans is submerged by flood waters.

2006 March - Congress renews the USA Patriot Act, a centrepiece of the government's fight against terrorism, after months of debate about its impact on civil liberties. The government agrees to some curbs on information gathering.

2006 April-May - Millions of immigrants and their supporters take to the streets to protest against plans to criminalise illegal immigrants.

2006 May - The only man to be charged over the September 11 attacks, self-confessed al-Qaeda conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui, is sentenced to life in jail.

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Rep. Harris: Church-state separation 'a lie'

MIAMI, Florida (AP) -- U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris told a religious journal that separation of church and state is "a lie" and God and the nation's founding fathers did not intend the country be "a nation of secular laws."

The Republican candidate for U.S. Senate also said that if Christians are not elected, politicians will "legislate sin," including abortion and gay marriage.

Harris made the comments -- which she clarified Saturday -- in the Florida Baptist Witness, the weekly journal of the Florida Baptist State Convention, which interviewed political candidates and asked them about religion and their positions on issues.

Separation of church and state is "a lie we have been told," Harris said in the interview, published Thursday, saying separating religion and politics is "wrong because God is the one who chooses our rulers."

Electing non-Christians a 'legislative sin'

"If you're not electing Christians, then in essence you are going to legislate sin," Harris said.

Her comments drew criticism, including some from fellow Republicans who called them offensive and not representative of the party.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Florida, who is Jewish, told the Orlando Sentinel that she was "disgusted" by the comments.

Harris' campaign released a statement Saturday saying she had been "speaking to a Christian audience, addressing a common misperception that people of faith should not be actively involved in government."

The comments reflected "her deep grounding in Judeo-Christian values," the statement said, adding that Harris had previously supported pro-Israel legislation and legislation recognizing the Holocaust.

Harris' opponents in the GOP primary also gave interviews to the Florida Baptist Witness but made more general statements on their faith.

Harris, 49, faced widespread criticism for her role overseeing the 2000 presidential recount as Florida's secretary of state.

State GOP leaders -- including Gov. Jeb Bush -- don't think she can win against Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson in November. Fundraising has lagged, frustrated campaign workers have defected in droves and the issues have been overshadowed by news of her dealings with a corrupt defense contractor who gave her $32,000 in illegal campaign contributions.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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Jordanian Prince Calls for Asian Muslim Troops to Join UN Force in Lebanon

28 August 2006

An influential moderate from the Middle East is calling for Israel to drop its opposition to Asian Muslims being included in the United Nations peacekeeping force headed for Lebanon. Jordan's Prince Hassan made his call in conjunction with a peace dialogue now underway among world religious leaders in Japan.

Jordan's Prince El-Hassan bin Talal
Jordan's Prince El-Hassan bin Talal
Jordan's Prince El-Hassan bin Talal says more is needed than simply increasing the number of United Nations peacekeepers in Lebanon.

Speaking in Tokyo to foreign correspondents Monday, the prince said Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert should change his policy, and accept Asian Muslim soldiers as peacekeepers between Israel and Hezbollah, even if they come from countries that do not recognize Israel diplomatically.

"Despite the fact that Mr. Olmert expresses his dismay at Malaysians and Indonesians being invited, the fact that the United Nations' forces are anyway not on the front line with Israeli forces...the presence of Asian Muslim countries in that context may actually work to reinforce the multi-cultural nature of Lebanon," he said.

The United Nations is planning to deploy as many as 15,000 soldiers in Lebanon, half of them from Europe, as part of a plan to get Israel to withdraw from the Hezbollah-controlled southern part of the country and enable Lebanese troops to move in.

Malaysia, Indonesia and Bangladesh, all with Muslim majorities, have offered troops for the Lebanon deployment, but none recognizes Israel, and the Olmert government has refused to accept the offers.

Hassan, the former Jordanian crown prince and the uncle of the current king, Abdullah, is considered an influential moderate and bridge-builder in the Middle East.

He says it was a mistake to exclude Syria and Iran from last month's Rome Conference on stopping the fighting in Lebanon. The prince explained that the problems plaguing the Middle East cannot be solved unless Damascus and Tehran, which are major sponsors of Hezbollah, are included in the dialogue.

The prince is in Japan as moderator of the World Assembly of Religions for Peace. The four-day conference, being held in the ancient Japanese capital of Kyoto, is calling for leaders from all religions to help end sectarian strife and other violence in the world.

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Fire Badly Damages Trinity Cathedral

Firefighters putting out the last of the blaze at the Trinity Cathedral on Friday.

ST. PETERSBURG -- A fire raged through the 19th-century Trinity Cathedral in St. Petersburg on Friday, bringing down the massive main cupola atop the stately church and sending clerics scurrying to save treasured icons.

The blaze erupted in the early evening and burned through scaffolding outside the soaring blue central dome of the cathedral. The central dome collapsed, and one of four smaller cupolas surrounding it -- painted a striking light blue and in some cases spangled with gold stars -- was also destroyed by the fire, St. Petersburg emergency department spokeswoman Lyudmila Rubasova said.

There were no reports of injuries, she said.

After the main dome collapsed, flames leaped up from the rim where it had stood.

Firefighters battled to save the other three domes as emergency workers and church employees removed icons and other religious articles from the Russian Orthodox cathedral. A helicopter brought in to fight the blaze dumped water on the historic structure.

Before the fire, the domes towered from a solid base marked by classical columns.

The 80-meter-high cathedral was consecrated in 1835 and is considered an architectural monument. Rossia state television said the main dome was the second-largest wooden cupola in Europe, and Channel One said that writer Fyodor Dostoevsky had been married there. It was used as a storehouse during the Soviet era and was returned to the Russian Orthodox Church in 1990.

The cause of the fire was not immediately known, but acting St. Petersburg emergency department chief Leonid Belyayev said it apparently started on the scaffolding on the outside of the church, which was undergoing restoration.

He said the most valuable of the icons and other items from the cathedral had been saved, and that structural damage beneath the roof area was minor.

Dmitry Lovetsky / AP
The Trinity Cathedral, pictured in February 2004, was consecrated in 1835.

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Premier History Museum to Undergo Renovation

The National Museum of American History has not had a significant renovation since it opened in 1964. Museum officials realized major infrastructure work would require the building to be closed for an extended period of time.

But samples of the museum's exclusive collection of U.S. historical and cultural memorabilia will remain in public view. The museum's staff has assembled more than 150 pieces for a special exhibit called "Treasures of American History."

Brent Glass
Brent Glass
Museum director Brent Glass says the exhibit is designed to represent a cross section of the facility's collection. "I am very, very pleased to have the opportunity to put these collections on display. I think it's fair to say that we have never attempted to bring together the most outstanding objects from all our different collections in one exhibit until this time."

Glass says the museum selected items designed to represent four core themes from American history -- biography, identification, national challenges, and creation and innovation.

'Star Wars' character 3PO will continue on display at the the National Air and Space Museum
The 'Star Wars' character C-3PO will continue on display at the the National Air and Space Museum
It includes a wide range of items, such as a Bible owned by President Thomas Jefferson, an original score by composer Duke Ellington, and the robots from the popular "Star Wars" movie series.

A trumpet used by Louis Armstrong
A trumpet used by Louis Armstrong
Glass says the sample reflects the institution's mission to represent the diversity of America's past. "The National Museum of American History has the mandate of telling the full sweep of American history. And that includes popular culture and entertainment. It includes our political history, religious history, economic history, social history, and military history. So we try to tell all the stories of American history."

The museum closes after September 5th. Staff will continue working on exhibits throughout the renovation, which is expected to be completed in 2008.

The special "Treasures of American History" exhibit will open November 17th at the National Air and Space Museum on Washington's National Mall.


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Female circumcision

Female circumcision usually involves the cutting or removal of the clitoris. This area of the genitals is very sensitive because it contains the most nerve endings.

Genital cutting is a painful practice that is often poorly carried out, and endangers the health and lives of millions of girls, particularly in Africa.

In some communities the controversial practice is a female rite of passage and remains an important religious and cultural tradition. In regions where a new religion has become dominant, the tradition of genital cutting does not necessarily die out.

In the Middle East, female circumcision is practised in the Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Jordan and Syria. Even in the United States, 10,000 girls are believed to be at risk from illegal operations within their own communities. It has also been reported that young women in Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK have also undergone similar operations.

UK statistics
In June 2005, new figures showed that up to 76,000 women living in the UK may have undergone illegal operations. An estimated 7,000 girls are still thought to be at risk. No one has yet been prosecuted, although health professionals claim that girls living in Britain have been circumcised in operations overseas organised by family members.

In 2004, the UK government closed a loophole to prevent young women from being taken abroad for circumcision. The then home secretary, David Blunkett, condemned genital cutting as "very harmful" and warned that parents would face imprisonment if they broke the law.

Genital cutting is widespread within some African cultures and ethnic groups. It is seen as the climax of initiation, something that both boys and girls have to take part in before they are accepted as adults in the community.

Young people leave home to be trained in the ways of adult life. For girls this means learning practical skills before returning to their homes as women.

According to supporters, the process of female genital cutting has practical merits in a physically harsh society. It is proof that the woman is mentally strong and able to deal with the difficult responsibilities of adult life.

It also has religious and social significance. The shedding of blood is seen symbolically as a stream connecting the woman to the rest of her close-knit community. In a small community oneness is very important.

The ritual is also seen as an essential preparation for marriage. After the initiation rituals women begin looking for a husband and hope to start a family.

Painful procedure
Those opposed to genital cutting prefer to use the term female genital mutilation. They argue that it is a barbaric and needless practice inflicted on innocent young women. It is certainly a painful process. It is sometimes carried out by a midwife with anaesthetics, but more often than not there is nothing to ease the pain.

The operation involved varies widely from culture to culture. In its most extreme form (infibulation) it can involve the removal of all external genitalia and the stitching up of the labia leaving only a very small opening for sex, urination, menstruation and giving birth. This often makes a later operation necessary to create a larger opening.

Many objections to the practice of genital cutting are concerned with the particular circumstances in which it is done. Amnesty International, a human rights organisation, reports that the operation is often carried out using blunt tools (penknives, fragments of glass or tin cans).

A particularly brutal operation can leave a woman with haemorrhaging, infections, abscesses and sometimes a lifelong loss of sensation during sex. The Pan-African Committee on Traditional Practices estimates that two million girls in Africa each year undergo some kind of genital cutting which endangers both their health and their lives.

Another objection concerns the inability of some young women to make a choice. Cutting takes place when a girl is young (aged between three and ten), vulnerable and unable to make an informed decision. In a small village community pressure to take part is enormous.

A human rights violation
Female genital cutting is currently practised among ethnic groups in 28 countries in central Africa. Representatives from many of these countries meet each year to discuss ways to end the practice.

"Female genital mutilation and cutting is a violation of the basic rights of women and girls," said Carol Bellamy, executive director of the UN's Children's Agency (UNICEF), on February 7 2005, the International Day of Zero Tolerance of FGM. "It is a dangerous and irreversible procedure that negatively impacts the general health, child bearing capabilities and educational opportunities of girls and women."

The Kenyan Government, for example, estimates that 32 per cent of women aged between 15 and 49 have undergone the procedure in more than half of the country's districts. In 1998, the Ministry of Health conducted a demographic survey which revealed that genital cutting was more widespread amongst certain ethnic groups. These included Kisii (97 per cent); Maasai (89 per cent); Kalenjin (62 per cent); Taita/Taveta (58 per cent); Meru/Embu (54 per cent); Kikuyu (43 per cent); Kamba (33 per cent); Miji Kenda/Swahili (12 per cent).

In north eastern Kenya, an area not covered in the survey, the UN office for the co-ordination of humanitarian affairs estimates that at least 98 per cent of girls are subjected to infibulation.

Case for a worldwide ban
Banning female genital cutting is not a simple solution. Countries have to be wary about forcing the practice underground. This may result in high mortality rates, as in the case of abortion.

They will also have to consider the effect on women who have already had the operation. Such women will have taken part in this rite for religious and cultural reasons. Imposing a ban may appear, on the surface, to be the best way forward. But it is unlikely to be observed in communities where the practice is already deeply ingrained.

Nevertheless, opponents still insist that failure to act is not an option. They argue that female circumcision is not a cultural issue and that women and children should not be coerced into painful operations against their will.

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The Kiss

Has an attractive stranger ever approached you from across a crowded room and asked you if you'd like to...osculate? Well, perhaps not. But if such a thing ever were to happen, you shouldn't be alarmed; in fact, you would be living out one of the most romantic scenarios in all of the Western cultural traditions.

Osculating, you see, is nothing more than kissing. And kissing is one of the most prevalent and complex interpersonal behaviors human cultures have to offer. It is a sign of affection, romance, love, eroticism, and even -- as the picture at right goes to show -- of sheer, unadulterated innocence. What follows is a brief examination of kissing: where it came from and what it has come to signify in modern U.S. culture.

The origins of osculation

Where did the idea of the "kiss" originate? One theory popular among anthropologists suggests that kissing is a derivative of a much older practice called "premastication"; premastication is when an adult, frequently a mother, chews food and then transfers the soft, premasticated food into the mouth of an infant or young child (Wickler 237). While most industrialized cultures have soft, enriched baby foods readily available, premastication was probably common in nearly all cultures through the ages (Wickler 241). It is easy to imagine how premastication could lead to what we know today as the maternal kiss between a mother and child.

Premastication also may have had a hand, in some cultures, in the development of the "romantic kiss." In the Ziller Valley of Central Europe, for example, the exchange of premasticated tobacco between a male and a female continues to be a popular romantic gesture.

The young man would let a tip of the piece of [tobacco] show between his closed teeth and invite the girl to grasp it with her teeth -- which of course obliged her to press her mouth firmly on that of the young man -- and pull it out. If a girl accepted the wad of premasticated tobacco, it meant she returned the boy's love. (Wickler 242)
While this specific practice cannot predate the introduction of tobacco in the 17th century, variations (using spruce resin or pitch) might have existed long before that time (Wickler 242).

Another popular theory about the origins of osculation is that kissing arose from various gestures symbolizing the fusion or union of souls. Nicholas Perella, author of The Kiss: Sacred and Profane, cites examples dating from as early as 2000 BCE, ranging geographically from India to Europe to Africa, wherein individuals would bring their faces together in gestures of spiritual union. For example, Indians believed that the exhaled breath was part of the soul; therefore, bringing one's mouth close to that of a fellow represented the intermingling of the souls. This is a clear antecedent of the "nose kiss," popularly attributed to the Eskimos. By bringing their faces together, two individuals exchange their breaths in a sort of spiritual union (Perella 4). A parallel to this concept in Christian dogma can be found in the "biblical narration (Gen 2:7) of the creation of man by a God who infused the spirit of life into his creature by breathing into him" (Perella 5).

Cultural meanings of the kiss

People who share a common culture also share a common lexicon by which they can interpret social behaviors. While different cultures ascribe different meanings to the same type of behavior (as you can attest to if, like most people in U.S. culture, the tobacco example above made you screw up your face in disgust), those from similar cultural backgrounds can expect to share similar notions of what certain behaviors mean.

For example, there are certain types of kissing in U.S. culture that most would agree upon and understand:

  • Parent/child kissing: This is among the most common forms of kissing -- light, fast, and with pursed lips. This gesture is easily recognized as an act of love and affection. In U.S. culture, and in many other cultures, the symbolism changes dramatically if a parent/child kiss is too long or intense.
  • Friends/family kissing (the social kiss): Miss Manners says that the social kiss is something "no two people perform alike" (Darling 110); Marjabelle Stewart points out that there is a huge variation in the amount of kissing which goes on between adult family members, from a whole lot to not very much at all (265). However, a quick kiss on the cheek or lips between family members is an easily recognized and interpretable cultural sign which conveys affection and love.
  • The ceremonial kiss: It is particularly common in European countries (France, for example) for heads of state or other dignitaries to offer a ceremonial kiss upon meeting. This type of kiss, usually applied quickly to each side of the face, goes beyond social symbolism to a politcal symbolism -- it signifies goodwill on the part of both parties.
  • The erotic kiss: The Romans were among the first to adopt and document this particular behavior (Pike 228), but doubtless its history goes back further still. The romantic/erotic kiss today is among the most widely practiced forms of intimate behavior in U.S. culture. More than 92 percent of U.S. teenagers have, like the lovers pictured to the right, engaged in romantic/erotic kissing (Coles 50).

Paying some final lip service to the kiss

What is important here is that kissing -- like many learned behaviors -- is an important aspect of culture because of the significant meanings which are attached to it. It can be the most intimate gesture of love, as in the case of lovers, or the most culturally odious of crimes, as in the case of parent/child incest. It can be innocent or erotic, relaxing or intense. In any event, the many variations of kissing are behaviors which people from a common culture can easily interpret in similar ways.

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Sex, Love, and Healing

Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman N.D., M.S.W., DHANP

Are you aware that there is a direct relationship between your intimate relationships and your health? Often the disease symptoms you may be experiencing are the red flags that your body-mind is using to let you know that some aspect of your relationship isn't working. The symptoms may not always seem obviously linked to a problem in your sex life or your relationship, but with a little exploration you may be surprised to discover the connection. Unless you look as deeply as possible into the causes of your symptoms or illness, we have found over and over again, that they're likely to persist, to return after a temporary healing, or to disappear only to be replaced by others which are more serious and life-disrupting. We are struck continually by how often people's physical, mental, or emotional complaints are caused by problems in their relationships which they have either given up on or chosen to ignore.

If there is anger, resentment, fear, jealousy or grief between lovers or feelings of sexual inadequacy, the genitals, uterus, ovaries, prostate gland, or testes may be directly affected. P.M.S., vaginitis, urethritis, urinary tract infections, breast prob- lems, painful sex, cervical dysplaisia, prostatitis, impotence, premature ejaculation and cancer of the reproductive organs, which prevent or limit sexual intercourse and intimacy, can be very strong statements about your relationship. Getting sexually transmitted diseases like venereal warts, herpes, or AIDS can sometimes be reflective of deeper feelings about the relationship that need to be dealt with, or feelings about your own sexuality, confidence, or self-love. Although no one would choose to get any of these illnesses consciously, the subconscious mind may have perfectly good and protective reasons for acquiring a painful, contagious or dysfunctional condition in order to limit sexual contact with your lover or make a statement about unspoken feelings. This is not to say that you are " to blame" for the disease, but rather that you might have subconsciously invited it into your life to teach you valuable lessons. In many cases it is absolutely necessary to heal the relationship issues before the physical illness can resolve and not return.

Roger, a single man in his twenties, had a lot of fear about sexuality and performance in his relationship with his girlfriend. He came to us because of a persistent, deep pain and tension in his groin, which became worse whenever he made love with his partner. There was no obvious physical problem, but the pain was very real. He began to avoid sex with his partner, which made her feel unwant- ed and unloved. His pain eventually caused him to leave the relationship in order to see if it would happen with other partners. He found that it was necessary to deal with his own feelings about sex and fears of inadequacy beforehe could have sex with anyone. Through treatment with a homeopathic remedy, emotional release work, movement therapy and hypnosis, Roger was able to get rid of the pain com- pletely, change the way he felt about himself as a man and love himself. He was able to make love with other partners, and considered returning to his primary relation- ship with renewed hope that he would be able to make love with the woman he desired to be with the most.

Claire, a busy lawyer, and her husband, John, were unhappy in their marriage of 3 years. When they had first been together they had made love all the time, some- imes several times a day and really enjoyed it. She had come to expect that level of attention and felt unloved if she didn't get it. John, an equally busy executive, just couldn't find the time or the energy to have sex that much anymore. He loved Claire, but he couldn't handle her moods, especially before her period, when she could fly into violent rages if she felt slighted or he didn't want to have sex. Over time, as Claire became more demanding, John became more reluctant, and even- tually began having trouble getting an erection. Between the P.M.S. and the impotence, their love life became both a battleground and a disaster. They began avoiding sex more and more, and eventually were hardly speaking to each other. Through couples counseling, homeopathic treatment and individual therapy, it became clear that the main problem was miscommunication and misunderstanding. Neither Claire nor John knew how to help the other feel loved and special. They needed to learn to speak each other's love language. When they had had a lot of sex, it was easier for each of them to feel loved, but as their life demands intervened, and sex became less frequent, the amount of loving that they gave each other markedly decreased. They had to realize, in the process of healing their relationship, that there was much more to loving than just being sexual with each other. When they each learned a number of other ways to express their love and caring so that their partner would really get the message, Claire's PMS became very mild, and John's impotence evaporated. The sex which they did have, although less frequent than during their honeymoon, stopped being a battleground, and became a source of real fulfillment and love in their relationship again.

Harriet was 48 when she first came to see us two years ago. She had just separated from her husband of 25 years and had mixed feelings of relief, excitement, and moments of insecurity verging on panic. Her husband was a compulsive gambler. She had gone along with all of his decisions, stuffed her anger and rarely argued or cried. She became silent and withdrawn. Yet she blamed herself for the failure of the marriage. "If only I had been smarter, worked harder, been a better wife, etc, etc." She made love out of duty alone. She had many recurrent bladder infections,, gas and constipation, and chronic allergies which drove her crazy. By the time she came in, she was afraid of "just about anything" and had no trust in her own ability to make good decisions in her relationships and her life. Now, after two years of homeopathic treatment, counseling and hypnosis (during which time she remem- bered a childhood experience of sexual abuse), and a sincere determination to change her patterns, she is a new person. She has learned to trust and express her feelings more, is more assertive about what she wants, has a new career which she loves, and a new relationship with a man who nurtures and "adores" her.

If you are having persistent health problems, sexual or otherwise,which haven't responded to orthodox medicine, consider looking further and deeper. When your sex organs are crying out for attention, look at the parts of your relationship that are just as sensitive, vulnerable, and in need of attention. Pelvic pain, abnormal Pap smear, problems with intercouse, or other symptoms, may be urging you to evaluate how you feel about your lover, your sex life, and your life together. Do you feel happy, loved, creative, and nurtured? Are your reproductive organs or other parts of you trying to get you to make a change and to heal your relationship in ways you might have been ignoring?

Drs. Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman and Robert Ullman are naturopathic and homeopathic physicians and cofounders of the Northwest Center for Homeopathic Medicine in Edmonds, WA. They are coauthors of The Patient's Guide to Homeopathic Medicine and Beyond Ritalin: Homeopathic Treatment of ADD and Other Behavioral and Learning Problems. They can be reached at (206) 774-5599.

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SEX & SPIRIT - A Conversation with Swami Nostradamus Virato on his Comic Love Events.

Barbara Williams
Although he has the long hair and full beard beard, and looks like a guru from central casting, Swami Nostradamus Virato's smooth sensuous voice, and his mannerisms remind me more of a New York radio announcer. In fact, he was just that back when he lived in New York City and Philadelphia.
Virato, as he is popularly called, has experienced a unique, and panoramic life. Born in Brooklyn, New York, he spent his first career in the world of electronics with major Fortune 500 companies, was married with a family, two-car garage and all that goes with an upscale suburban life.
After his divorce in 1972, Virato, who was then known as Joe Banks, began to immerse himself in metaphysics and alternative lifestyles. He even ran a club in New Jersey called The Love Center, that explored the leading edge of sexuality, more along the lines of Dr. Wilhelm Reich, MD,and the famed Esalen Institute. In 1976, while walking along New York's Broadway, Virato was struck with what he says were "two flashes of light" from "above." He claims it changed his life. He says he moved into a different dimension of awareness . . . . .

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The Healing Powers of Sex

Dr. Reed Moskowitz, director of New York University Medical Center, author of "Your Healing Mind", says studies show that sex can bolster the immune system, relieve pain, ease some types of migraine headaches and have important psychological benefits. In sex, the body releases its powerful endorphins, natural pain relievers which create a healing, relaxing situation for the whole body.
Dr. David Sobel and Robert Ornstein in their book "Healthy Pleasures" document studies showing the connection between sex and good health. "Love, Sex and Your Heart" shows sex can reduce heart disease.
Dr. Dudley Chapman, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Ohio University did a study showing those with intimacy in their lives had better levels of T cells- the while blood cells that effect the immune system.Other studies show sex on a regular basis reduces stress, helps alleviate PMS in some women, and that Orgasm is a natural analgesic. Researchers debate the mechanisms of sexual first-aid. One theory is that the endorphins activated by orgasm travel to receptor sites throughout the body and produce a morphine-like effect.Sex is extremely important for good mental health shows a long term study of 37,500 adults at the Institute forAdvanced Human Sexuality. People with fulfilling sex lives were found to be in . . . . . .

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Sex and spirituality: the new predicament

Andrew Cohen

What a predicament - sex and spirituality! This is a tough nut to crack, and I wonder if anybody has really cracked it satisfactorily, even after thousands of years. Of course, if we want to be free, it's not sex itself that is the problem, but our relationship to it.

The perennial question is: If we have sincere spiritual aspirations, then what is the best position to take in relationship to one of our most basic instincts? Well, and this is the fun part, it all depends who you ask! But the truth is, for most of us on the spiritual path, esoteric questions like these, as intriguing as they are, are really superfluous.

Why? Because the greatest challenge for most of us, in relationship to sexuality at least, is just not to make a mess of it, or as they say in the East, create more karma. But that sounds like a tall order if even most of the big gurus can't walk the straight and narrow. And if they are apparently confused about the right relationship to sexuality, what are the rest of us mere mortals supposed to do? Forget about the whole thing?

Impossible. Face it directly and try to come to terms with it? Sounds good, but who has the courage and heroic spirit necessary to really look into the eye of the tiger of sexual desire without their whole world falling apart? You see, so many of us open-minded, free-thinking characters really are squares when it comes to this particular mega life issue. What does that mean? It means that we don't want to look at the whole question too closely or too personally because for most of us, sex is more important than God.

The sexual/romantic experience is one of the most confusing areas of human life and seems to be the hardest to get clear about. It is not a free ride, unfortunately. And, therefore, unless we get our priorities clear, it's almost inevitable that that attachment will quickly become more important to us than our own potential liberation in this life.
I hear so many people say, "We want to pursue freedom together,'' but what that almost always means is that holding on to the intensely personal experience of sentimental attachment is their first priority, not the experience of profound inner freedom.

The question is: If enlightened freedom is freedom from attachment, then what are we all going to do about the relentless nature of sexual attraction?

There have been widely differing answers to this perennial question that have been offered to men and women throughout the ages. On one extreme, we have been encouraged to use the sexual experience itself as a vehicle for self-transcendence and, on the other, we have been told that if we want to be liberated men and women, we have to renounce the sexual experience altogether. I believe that if we want to be free, we must think very deeply about these matters for ourselves.

In the end, if you want to be free, then all you need to know is that 'free' means free from attachment. That simple fact transcends the relative matter of whether you're engaging in a sexual relationship or not engaging in a sexual relationship. If you face that spiritual truth unflinchingly, then you will be looking into the heart of the matter for yourself. And that takes a lot more courage than blindly accepting someone else's conclusions.

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Let's Talk About Sex The Brazillian Way

Matthew Polly

Despite some fierce competition, Brazil in general and Rio in particular rank supreme in the world's libidinous subconscious. Whisper the country's name and, after soccer, sex is the next association. If you don't believe me, just tell your girlfriend that you are traveling to Rio for an assignment and then try to explain why it's best that you go alone.
And yet one has to wonder why Brazil holds this special place in humanity's fantasies.

Certainly, one must consider Rio's Carnaval, a festival that puts the baby-got-back back into Bacchanalia. And then there is the beach culture, especially the gatas ("attractive women") wearing tangas ("string bikinis"—thus, the Brazilian wax), who are the unofficial symbol of Rio. Their girl-from-Ipanema backsides are prominently displayed in ads across the city. Even the men get into the action with sungas ("Speedo-type swimsuits"), which are worn regardless of physique.
But physical beauty is the ideal, honed on the beaches and bronzed under the equatorial sun. And wealthy Brazilians are not shy about improving upon what God has given them. Rio is probably the only city on Earth where a plastic surgeon owns the finest mansion in town—a prominent stop on my city tour. Another stop is his charity hospital, which I assume is a combination of noblesse oblige and a desire to keep the poor masses from storming his gates.
Still, there is something more to it than this.
If you were a Martian anthropologist visiting Earth for the first time and landed at, say, Buckingham Palace, you might conclude that humans reproduce asexually. But even a Martian couldn't make that mistake in Brazil. The country is Bob Jones University's worst nightmare: miscegenation gone wild. Every imaginable combination of European, African, and Amerindian reproduction is in evidence. When government poll-takers asked Brazilians to describe their skin color in 1976, they received back 134 different terms.
It is the unspoken understanding that the difference between North and South America is that, unlike the Anglo-Saxons who set up shop at Plymouth Rock, the Iberian gentlemen who migrated to the New World had few qualms about "nighttime integration." In his delightfully digressive book A Death in Brazil, Peter Robb argues that the Portuguese crown must have encouraged its colonialists to cross-pollinate because the country's 16th-century population of 4 million was too small to conquer a country the size of Brazil, but based on my observation of a couple of Portuguese buddies, I doubt the colonialists needed much

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Traditional Family = Longevity and a Better Life

Vox Populi

At ninety if the ancestors invite you into heaven, ask them to wait until you are one hundred… and then you might consider it” -anonymous
What allows some people to live to an old age, and others to die earlier? All things being equal (which they aren’t), we all would love to live a long and fruitful life. Barring bad genetics, how does someone maximize his or her chances of living and becoming a centenarian? Recent studies as detailed in November issue of National Geographic and other sources like the Okinawa Centenarian Study, try to lend some light to the darkness.
First though you have to go where there are a lot of centenarians. In most industrialized countries only about 10 people per 100,000 live to be 100 or more. However, in Okinawa, the number is closer to 34 per 100,000. That’s 340% more people living to that age. Take note that they also have the highest fertility rate in Japan with a positive population growth. This means two things. The Okinawa centenarians are living long healthier better quality lives, and unlike their western counterparts they are also having enough children to increase the population. The rest of the industrialized world has had plummeting birth rates.
Okinawa has the oldest life expectancy in the world. The men live to an average age of 78 and women to 86. Not only that, but just like in America, the Okinawa women live longer than their male partners. Not only are the centenarians doing better, but also the . . . . .

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