目前日期文章:201212 (50)

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France, the land of wine, is planning heavy taxes on beer, and that is not going down well with brewers _ even in other nations.


President Francois Hollande is pushing through legislation to increase taxes on beer by 160 percent to help fund struggling social programs as France tries to contain a budget deficit hit hard by the economic crisis. The tax would affect local brews and the 30 percent of imported beer the French drink. The change means the price of a beer will increase by about 20 percent in bars and supermarkets, said Jacqueline Lariven, spokeswoman for the French brewer’s federation Brasseurs de France.


The Brewers of Europe trade group called the measure a "kick in the teeth", especially since brewers have seen beer production plummet by 6 percent and consumption by 8 percent in the EU since the region’s economic crisis began in 2008. Outside France, Belgium and Germany would be worst affected once the new legislation kicks in, said Pierre-Olivier Bergeron, head of the Brewers of Europe.


France, like most other European Union nations, is doing all it can to keep its budget on an even keel, and Hollande has been using taxation to raise income. His government said it hopes to raise some(euro)480 million from the increase in beer taxation to boost social benefits such as medical insurance and elderly care. (AP)



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Justin Jedlica may have had 90 surgeries and spent $100,000 to look like Mattel’s Ken doll, but he’s not interested in imitating the plastic toy’s love life.


The US model ended internet speculation over a possible relationship with Barbie lookalike Valeria Lukyanova when he said she was "beautiful" but not authentic enough for him.


In an interview with The Huffington Post, the "human Ken doll" compared Ms Lukyanova to a drag queen because she relied on makeup, fake hair and corsets to look like Barbie.


"A true ’body mod’, such as myself, lives with a conviction to their alternations and doesn’t wash them off," he said.


"I can appreciate that she is a talented artist, but if at the end of the day she is only presenting this ’human Barbie doll’ on days the camera is filming … I’m not sure just how much credibility I would give her in being a real human Barbie."

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Scientists said on Tuesday they had proof that climate change was hitting the Perigord black truffle, a delight of gourmets around the world.


Trufflers have long suspected that global warming is affecting Tuber melanosporum -- dubbed "the black diamond" on account of its colour and extraordinary price -- in its native habitat in southwestern France, Spain and Italy.

松露採集者早就懷疑全球暖化已影響法國西南部、西班牙、義大利等天然產地的黑松露,黑松露因其顏色與昂貴價格,被稱為「黑色鑽石」 。

A century ago, French trufflers notched up a harvest that, according to legend, reached 1,000 tonnes in a year. In the 1960s, truffle yields were still 200-300 tonnes annually. But in recent years, they have been a meagre 25 tonnes or so, prompting retail prices to rocket to as high as 2,000 euros a kilo.


In a letter to the journal Nature Climate Change, Swiss scientists said they now had clear data that drier summers were to blame, as this affected the oak and hazelnut trees on which the prized fungi grows.


The team found that harvests in France’s Perigord and in Spain’s Aragon region fell at roughly the same pace from 1970-2006, and this trend was in line with an overall decline in summer rainfall.

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The shells of some marine snails in the seas around Antarctica are dissolving as the water becomes more acidic, threatening the food chain, a study published in the journal Nature Geoscience said.


Oceans soak up about a quarter of the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere each year and as CO2 levels in the atmosphere increase from burning fossil fuels, so do ocean levels, making seas more acidic.


Ocean acidification is one of the effects of climate change and threatens coral reefs, marine ecosystems and wildlife.


The shell of the pteropod sea snail in the Southern Ocean was severely dissolved by more acidic surface water, the researchers from the British Antarctic Survey, Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and other institutions found.


And although the snails did not necessarily die, it increased their vulnerability to predators and infection which could affect other parts of the food chain.

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Doctors have warned of a "lack of knowledge" about the dangers of mixing some medications with grapefruit. The fruit can cause overdoses of some drugs by stopping the medicines being broken down in the intestines and the liver.


The researchers who first identified the link said the number of drugs that became dangerous with grapefruit was increasing rapidly.


The team at the Lawson Health Research Institute in Canada said the number of drugs which had serious side effects with grapefruit had gone from 17 in 2008 to 43 in 2012. They include some drugs for a range of conditions including blood pressure, cancer and cholesterol-lowering statins and those taken to suppress the immune system after an organ transplant.


Chemicals in grapefruit, furanocoumarins, wipe out an enzyme which breaks the drugs down.



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A man who used to own McDonald’s restaurants in North Dakota is about $10,000 richer after selling a 20-year-old container of McJordan barbecue sauce to a buyer in Chicago.


The sauce was used on McJordan Burgers, named for basketball icon Michael Jordan. The promotional item was sold in limited markets for a short time in the 1990s, when Jordan led the Chicago Bulls to six NBA championships.


Mort Bank, of Bismarck, saved the gallon jug of sauce after selling his McDonald’s restaurants in Bismarck-Mandan and Minot in 1996.


Bank advertised the sauce on eBay, saying: "A once in a lifetime chance to own the rarest of rare Michael Jordan and McDonald’s collectible!" It sold for $9,995 to a buyer from Chicago whom Bank has not identified.


Bank told the Chicago Tribune that the buyer was not Jordan himself. "I’m sure he’s a Bulls or Michael Jordan fan, and hopefully he’s not going to put it on his ribs or his burger," Bank told KXMB-TV of the buyer. "But it’s up to him; he can do whatever he wants with it."

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Sri Lanka on Tuesday began interviews for the post of hangman a year after two positions fell vacant, with at least 480 convicts on death row.


But it was not quite clear how the two successful candidates would fill their days - the death penalty has not been used in Sri Lanka, a predominantly Buddhist country, since 1976.


"About 176 applicants are there and interviews are going on today and tomorrow," Gamini Kulatunga, commissioner operations at the Prisons Department, told the reporters. "Only males will be eligible for the post."


The two posts fell vacant after one hangman was promoted and the other retired.


At least 480 people convicted of murder and drugs offences could potentially be executed, Kulatunga said.

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Why learn French when you could learn Klingon?


The language created more than 30 years ago for the "Star Trek" race of long-haired warriors has moved boldly into pop culture where few other alien tongues have gone before.


With a new book about the classic Klingon starship, Bird-of-Prey, and a Klingon spoof of the "Gangnam Style" music video racking up millions of views on YouTube, Klingons are showing a fun side that outstrips their Trekkies fan base.


Marc Okrand, a Washington, DC-based linguist, first created the guttural language for the 1984 film "Star Trek III:The Search for Spock." He also created the Vulcan and Romulan dialogue for the 2009 feature film "Star Trek." But he says neither language has caught the imagination of fans or the wider public the way Klingon has.


"Vulcan didn’t catch on, probably because Vulcans aren’t as much fun as Klingons. They are much more serious. The Klingons let loose and the Vulcans don’t," said Okrand.

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British woman Rebecca Blake, 29, and Irish man Conor McRedmond, 28, were sentenced to three months in jail by a Dubai court. They were said to have stripped naked and indulged in sexual intercourse in the back of a taxi after a 10 hour drinking session.


The pair were arrested on May 4 after meeting just hours earlier in a hotel bar. They had been knocking back glasses of white wine and vodka at a drink-all-you-like £35-a-head brunch in the hotel.


The sentence is the latest case of Westerners running afoul of the social codes in the United Arab Emirates, which maintains strict laws on sex-related issues although it often turns a blind eye.


The pair denied the charges and claimed they were just hugging. They accused the taxi driver of fabricating the story after a fare dispute.



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Smoking "rots" the brain by damaging memory, learning and reasoning, according to researchers at King’s College London.


A study of 8,800 people over 50 showed high blood pressure and being overweight also seemed to affect the brain, but to a lesser extent. Scientists involved said people needed to be aware that lifestyles could damage the mind as well as the body.


Researchers at King’s were investigating links between the likelihood of a heart attack or stroke and the state of the brain. The results showed that the overall risk of a heart attack or stroke was "significantly associated with cognitive decline" with those at the highest risk showing the greatest decline.


It also said there was a "consistent association" between smoking and lower scores in the tests.


Dr Simon Ridley, from Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: "Research has repeatedly linked smoking and high blood pressure to a greater risk of cognitive decline and dementia, and this study adds further weight to that evidence."

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Cigarette butts are widely reviled as an urban nuisance but birds in Mexico City see them as a boon, apparently using them to deter parasites from their nests, scientists say.


Local sparrows and finches incorporate smoked cigarette butts in their nests to provide cosy cellulose lining for their chicks and nicotine to ward off mites, they believe.


A team led by Constantino Macias Garcia at the National Autonomous University monitored 57 nests and found that the tally of bugs declined as the number of smoked butts in each nest increased.


Sparrow nests had between none and 38 used butts, with an average of eight per nest, and finch nests between none and 48, with an average of 10.


The behaviour is an example of how birds adapt to an urban environment, according to the study, which appears on Wednesday in the journal Biology Letters, published by Britain’s Royal Society.

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Chimpanzees and orangutans may experience a "mid-life crisis" like humans, a study suggests.


An international team of researchers assessed the well-being and happiness of the great apes. They found well-being was high in youth, fell to a low in midlife and rose again in old age, similar to the "U-shape curve" of happiness in humans.


The sample subjects included 508 chimpanzees and orangutans of varying ages, from zoos, sanctuaries and research centres. They were assessed by zoo keepers, volunteers, researchers and caretakers who had worked with the primate subject for at least two years and knew its behaviour.


The animals were numerically scored for well-being and happiness on a short questionnaire, which was based on a human well-being model but modified for use in non-human primates.



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Good fortune and having children just seem to go together for Norwegian mother Hege Jeanette Oksnes.


Each time the 29-year-old petrol station attendant from tiny Austevoll island off Norway’s west coast gives birth, someone in her family wins the national lottery.


"This is completely insane... we don’t even play the lottery that often," Oksnes said only days after the family collected 12.2 million crowns ($2.12 million) with their third lottery win in six years.


Oksnes, who serves hot dogs at a petrol station, gave birth to her first child in 2006 just one day after her father Leif won 4.2 million crowns on the national lottery.


Three years later, Oksnes herself won, claiming 8.2 million crowns one day before giving birth to her second child.

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Divorce rates are far higher among "modern" couples who share the housework than in those where the woman does the lion’s share of the chores, a Norwegian study has found.


In what appears to be a slap in the face for gender equality, the report found the divorce rate among couples who shared housework equally was around 50 per cent higher than among those where the woman did most of the work.


"What we’ve seen is that sharing equal responsibility for work in the home doesn’t necessarily contribute to contentment," said Thomas Hansen, co-author of the study entitled "Equality in the Home".


The lack of correlation between equality at home and quality of life was surprising, the researcher said.


"One would think that break-ups would occur more often in families with less equality at home, but our statistics show the opposite," he said.

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Speaking at the inaugural Reading Agency Lecture at the British Library, award-winning author Jeanette Winterson suggested the cost could be met by Google, Amazon and Starbucks.


The three companies were recently grilled about tax avoidance before a committee of MPs. The firms have paid little UK corporation tax although they argue that they operate within tax rules.


Winterson said:"Either we stop arguing and agree that libraries are doing their best to reinvent themselves, and that with a bit of help, financial and ideological - they belong to the future, or we let them run down until they disappear."


"Libraries cost about £1bn to run right now. Make it £2bn and charge Google, Amazon and Starbucks all that back tax on their profits here."


Winterson also offered the companies in question another option - "do an Andrew Carnegie and build us new kinds of libraries".

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◎ 管淑平

The sharply divided US Congress has been able to agree on one thing at least - that the word "lunatic" should be banned.


The House of Representatives voted 398-1 on Wednesday to strike the term from all federal legislation, after the Senate did the same in May.


The measure is designed to remove language that has become outdated or demeaning from the US code.


Senator Kent Conrad, one of the sponsors of the measure, said:"Federal law should reflect the 21st Century understanding of mental illness and disease, and that the continued use of this pejorative term has no place in the US code."


The only "no" vote came from Texas congressman Louie Gohmert, who said it was madness for lawmakers to waste time on such a measure when more high-profile issues loomed, such as the federal debt.

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The governor of the US state of New Jersey, leading Republican politician Chris Christie, says it’s "ridiculous" to think that his being fat would make him a poor president.


Christie is increasingly talked about as a possible candidate to replace President Barack Obama, a Democrat whose final term expires in 2016.


In an interview with ABC television late Wednesday, Christie did not say he would run, but continued to stir expectations. The former prosecutor rose to national prominence during last month’s Hurricane Sandy, which struck New Jersey hard.


Christie, in his trademark blue fleece, was a constant presence on television and caused upset in his own party’s ranks when he effusively praised Obama’s handling of the disaster response just before his reelection.


Christie’s weight and possible related health issues, however, would likely be an immediate issue if he sought the White House in four years.

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Carbon dioxide emissions from industry rose an estimated 2.6 percent in a weak global economy this year, a study showed, powered by rapid emissions growth in China and India.


The study by the Global Carbon Project also says emissions grew 3.1 percent in 2011, placing the world on a near-certain path towards dangerous climate change, such as more heat waves, droughts and storms.


Total emissions for 2012 are estimated to be 35.6 billion tonnes, researchers said in the study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change.


Current emissions growth is placing the world on a path to warm between 4C and 6C, says the study, with global emissions jumping 58 percent between 1990 and this year. The study focuses on emissions from burning fossil fuels and cement production.


A few big developing nations are fuelling the emissions growth, the study says, even though the global financial crisis spawned long-term green stimulus plans by China, India, the United States and others to attempt to curtail CO2 output.

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A mother’s high blood pressure during pregnancy may affect her child’s brain power throughout its life, the American Academy of Neurology journal suggests.


About 400 men had their cognitive ability tested at the age of 20 and then again at the average age of 69. Those whose mothers had hypertension when pregnant scored lower marks.


Hypertension may alter conditions in the womb which impairs foetal growth.


Risks to children born to mother’s with hypertension have previously been reported, but this study is the first to show possible long lasting affects on cognitive ability.



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Uganda’s parliamentary speaker said she wanted to pass as a "Christmas gift" for Ugandans an anti-gay law, which rights groups have criticized for its draconian penalties against homosexuals.


The bill had initially proposed the death penalty for gays in the conservative east African country but still presents an array of jail terms for convicted homosexuals, including life imprisonment in certain circumstances.


Denounced as "odious" by U.S. President Barack Obama, the bill has left veteran President Yoweri Museveni struggling to balance the demands of the evangelical church on one side and aid donors on the other.


Some international donors have threatened to cut aid if the legislation, which is now before a parliamentary committee and was first introduced in parliament in 2009, becomes law.


"Ugandans want that law as a Christmas gift. They have asked for it and we’ll give them that gift," parliament speaker Rebecca Kadaga said. (Reuters)

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