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See The Parts Of The Vatican That Are Off Limits To Tourists

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room of tears vatican

This week the Vatican's papal conclave began the process of choosing the next spiritual leader of 1.18 billion Catholics worldwide.

The majority of the 108-acre country — including towers, apartments, restoration labs, tombs and secret archives — is off-limits without a Vatican City passport.

For a rare look inside the Holy See, we pulled up exclusive videos by National Geographic and History Channel.

The next pope will prepare to engage the masses in his private office above St. Peter's Square.



Here's the view from the outside.



The cardinals sleep and eat at the Domus Sanctae Marthae, a residence in Vatican City, during the conclave process.



See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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What It's Like To Fly On North Korea's 1-Star Airline

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air koryo

Not many Westerners get to visit North Korea, and it's a good bet most don't realize the secluded country has its own airline.

The airline, Air Koryo, is the only airline in the world deemed bad enough to earn a 1-star rating from leading airline reviewer SkyTrax.

Click here to jump to the photos >>

Why? Customers cited the strange experience on the flights, which include cordial but distant attendants, propaganda newspapers and state-approved music. There's also the food, which looks nearly inedible.

Nonetheless, the airline hasn't had any safety problems in years, and it functions quite well. While it is banned from flying in European Union air space, Air Koryo has regular international flights to Moscow, Vladivostok, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, and even Kuwait, according to the International Business Times.

And for tourists heading into the country to see it with their own eyes, Air Koryo is one of the few airlines that actually goes to Pyongyang. Its fleet of Russian-made planes fly out of Sunan International Airport in Pyongyang.

Mark F., a biomedical engineer from Australia, flew to Pyongyang on the notorious airline in August 2011 and put up some pictures on Flickr. Here's what he, and a few others who decided to whip out their cameras while on other flights into the closed nation, saw on their trips.

Air Koryo has 1-star general ratings almost across the board from Skytrax. The in-flight magazine is halfway decent, apparently.



This is an Air Koryo Ilyushin Il-62 P-885, a version of the Il-62 that was originally designed in the 1960s.



Air Koryo also flies two Ukrainian-Russian An-148s; the first arrived in its fleet last month.

[Source: Interfax-Ukraine]



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Gwyneth Paltrow's Unappetizing Cookbook Is Getting Eviscerated By Critics

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Gwyneth paltrow

Gwyneth Paltrow's new gluten and sugar-free cookbook is called "It's All Good." 

But the critics have other things to say. 

The book begins with Paltrow describing a time that she felt light-headed and feared she was "having a stroke." The episode turned out to be a panic attack and a migraine and inspired her to change her diet. 

"When we mere mortals feel faint and off-kilter and fear we’re having a major health emergency, and really we’ve just gotten too much sun or had too little to eat, we file away our crazy little moment among our embarrassing stories shared only with close friends and family," writes Hailey Eber at the New York Post. "But when Gwyneth Paltrow has such an episode, she writes a cookbook."

Eber also blasted Paltrow's list of restricted foods, which include coffee, eggs, sugar, shellfish, potatoes, tomatoes, bell peppers, eggplant, corn, wheat, and meat. 

"The book reads like the manifesto to some sort of creepy healthy-girl sorority with members who use beet juice rather than permanent marker to circle the 'problem areas' on each other’s bodies," Eber writes. 

Esther Zuckerman at The Atlantic Wire comments on how Paltrow's book takes finicky Hollywood eating habits to the extreme. 

"It's All Good seems to take laughable Hollywood neuroticism about eating to the next level," she writes. 

This isn't the first cookbook that Paltrow has written.

Her last one, "My Father's Daughter," was a critical and commercial success.  

SEE ALSO: 'Healthy Food Revolutionary' Jamie Oliver Called Out Again For Salty Food >

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HOUSE OF THE DAY: Miami's Priciest Condo Sells For $34 Million — And It's Not Complete Yet

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JPN026 Miami Edition view04 bedroom copy

The Miami real estate market has been on a tear lately, and a South Beach condo just broke a new record.

The condo — actually a pair that sold to the same buyer — is in the Miami Beach Edition, and went for $34 million.

At that price, it's the most expensive condo ever sold in South Florida, according to Curbed Miami. And at $3,800 a square foot, it was nearly three times as expensive as typical luxury real estate in Miami.

The building is not even complete yet; it's slated to open in 2014. The Ian Schrager-designed residence and hotel will have 26 apartments and 250 hotel rooms.

These renderings are for a range of residences in the Edition, but they'll give you a good idea of what Miami's new most expensive condo looks like.

Here's a panorama of the living room, which has floor-to-ceiling windows and unbelievable Atlantic Ocean views.



Here's another view of the penthouse living room. It flows right into the kitchen.



The kitchens are stark and modern.



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Budweiser Has Begun To Question The 'Very Nature' Of Its Beer (BUD)

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budweiser can

Beer giant Anheuser-Busch InBev used to be able to peg its success in the U.S. to its two big brands: Budweiser and Bud Light, but that's not good enough anymore.

"Lately, [ABI's] tests have begun to take on a more philosophical bent," wrote Chris Furnari at BevNET. "Rather than selling more beer, the question has morphed into a series of inquiries on the very nature of the product."

In order to succeed, ABI needs to add other long-term brands to its portfolioBud Light Platinum, which has been a success so far with a big promotional campaign behind it, needs to retain its luster.

That's why we're seeing a flurry of new spin-offs: Budweiser Black Crown, Bud Light Lime-A-Rita, and Beck’s Sapphire are all attempts to put together new big brands.

Why the shift?

The initiative to add lasting brands that keep up with industry trends seems to be coming from the top.

Last October, Bloomberg Businessweek published a big profile by Devin Leonard about "The Plot to Destroy America's Beer." In Leonard's story, it became quickly evident that CEO Carlos Brito was changing the way Anheuser-Busch does business.

Consumer habits and demands have changed, forcing the brewer's hand. The rapid rise in popularity of craft beer has disrupted the industry, for instance. Beer drinkers now demand quality.

And new trends are constantly sprouting up. Beer-wine hybrids? Barrel-aged beer? Ultra-rare brews? The rise of IPA? ABI needs to identify what's going to stick, get on board, and execute correctly.

“The days have to be gone where we sit around the office picking new beers,” Pat McGauley, ABI’s vice president of innovation, told BevNET. “It has to have a story and historically, we haven’t done that so well."

But while it tells its story, beer fans are worried that ABI is changing what made its successful brands what they are today.

In some cases, ABI has nearly destroyed its brands by changing what made the beer popular in the first place,wrote Russ Beck at The Beer Circle.

Last year the company was accused of changing the formula for Budweiser, and a few months later, a lawsuit came up, accusing the company of watering down that same brand. AB InBev has vehemently denied both allegations.

SEE ALSO: 11 Craft Beer Companies That Went From Little To Big Time >

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This Couple Learned The True Cost Of Living Beyond Your Means

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travis pizel

As a successful software engineer living in the suburbs of Minnesota, Travis Pizel never had an income problem.

With his wife, Vonnie, the couple pulled in a cool six figures each year, more than enough to provide for their two children and still take the occasional weekend getaway.

And if they couldn't afford something when they wanted it, Travis knew exactly where to turn.

As tales of debt often do, his began with one credit card that eventually became two credit cards, then three, and so on. A few years into his marriage, Travis had opened 13 lines of credit and was officially hiding the bills from his wife each month. 

"I just stopped talking about how much [debt we were in]," Travis told BI. "Everyone else would go to bed at night and I would be trying to figure out how to move credit balances around, get new credit cards ... whatever it took to keep our finances going."

Within a decade, he amassed $109,000 worth of debt. 

It was the summer of 2009 when Pizel hit rock bottom. Chase announced a higher minimum payment requirement, and he was suddenly staring down the prospect of hundreds of dollars more in payments. It was money they didn't have. His house of cards was on the brink of collapse. 

"Marriage is built on trust and I didn't do a good job on that," Travis said. "[My wife and I] had a frank discussion on how we got there ... and when it was all over, we started looking for solutions."

Determined to avoid filing personal bankruptcy ("We felt really responsible for the debt we racked up," he explained.), the couple hit the Web for alternative options.

They decided to enroll in a debt management company.

When Travis found a debt management company online, he was dubious at best. The entire concept of paying a company to manage debt was foreign.

Debt management companies (DMPs) aren't exactly the golden parachute their name might bring to mind (and if a company portrays itself as one, it could be a scam). They negotiate a low-interest payment plan with lenders on the consumer's behalf. In return, the consumer agrees to pay off their debts within a certain window of time, typically three to five years, and the DMP disperses a monthly payment across all proper channels. Their fees for doing so are typically around $20/month, though the Pizels pay $50 with their service.

After several hours-long conversations with company representatives, the Pizels signed up for 57 monthly payments of $2,489 each.

There was also a catch: Once enrolled in the service, all of their credit accounts were frozen. 

"That was a big commitment to say we weren't going to use credit cards anymore," Travis said. "Even when we enrolled in the program, we had no idea what kind of lifestyle changes we would have to make to make it work." 

It was time to start living within their means. 

Plastic-free life was a gradual adjustment. They made all the usual cuts like cable, landline phones and fancy dinners, but it took a year before they started to hit where it really hurt.

"For the first year, we still had a 500 gallon hot tub sitting in our backyard," Travis said. "You start thinking, 'What are we doing here?'." 

They almost entirely halted their contributions to retirement savings, and the weekend getaways ended. They got used to $1 movie rentals and family nights, and made extra cash from garage sales. Christmas lists were trimmed to three presents per child.

Little by little, they made headway.

Four years into the program, they have paid down $82,000 of their initial $109,000 debt load and have 13 payments left before they're debt free. Travis now chronicles his journey out of debt at Enemyofdebt.com

"It's exciting to see the end of that tunnel ... I just wish I would have figured it out earlier," he said. "It's a lot less stressful to have a partner and not trying to shoulder that all by yourself."

SEE ALSO: Family of four lives well on just $14,000 per year >

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How To Spend The Perfect Day In Rome

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italy trevi fountainsAmerican expat Erica Firpo has lived in Rome long enough — and shown enough people around — to know how to build the perfect day.

1. Wake up with a cappuccino, preferably with a view. Rome has a whole breed of hotels with amazing views. My latest favorite view can be found on the rooftop terrace at St. George Hotel on via Giulia: 360 degrees of Rome's 400+ domes.

2. Walk down via Giulia to via del Pellegrino, 82, to rent a beautiful Collalti bike. The vintage colors and leather saddle bags are my souvenir of choice, but 12 euros for the Saturday-to-Monday rent is even better.

3. Park the bikes at the market at Campo de' Fiori. It’s about the atmosphere, not the prices. Grab freshly squeezed blood orange juice or pomegranate juice and talk market.

4. Pedal across the street and through Piazza Navona in search of Caravaggio paintings. Madonna di Loreto in Church of Sant' Agostino (Piazza di Sant' Agostino) and the St. Matthew series (The Calling of Saint MatthewThe Martyrdom of Saint Matthew, and The Inspiration of Saint Matthew) in the Contarelli Chapel at Church of San Luigi dei Francesi are just north of  Piazza Navona. Now pump those piedi to Piazza del Popolo for (Crucifixion of St. Peter and Conversion on the Way to Damascus) at Church of Santa Maria del Popolo.

5. Walk the bike down Via del Babuino for window-shopping and grab a coffee at Caffè Canova Tadolini. Walk through the bar's "museum" to admire the gigantic Canova casts.

6. It's time for photo ops. Head to Piazza Augusto Imperatore to compare three eras of history: the 1st-century AD mausoleum to Augustus Caesar, the Fascist arcades on the perimeter of the piazza, and Richard Meier's 21st-century museum to the Ara Pacis. Then cut through the side streets to the Pantheon. Go inside and look up. There is nothing like it.

7. Need some energy? Stop behind the 2nd-century monument to Piazza San'Eustachio for a deservedly famous cappuccino at Caffè Sant’Eustachio. If you need something more substantial, pizza al taglio ("by the slice") at Pizza Zazà, an organic pizza shop across the street, will hit the spot.

8. After all the biking you've done, you'll need a massage. Dump the bikes at Collalti (or at a hotel) and walk over to the Jewish ghetto for down time at AcquaMadre, a hamman inspired by ancient Rome. Think: vaulted bricks and underground. I keep it simple: a soak, a scrub, some tea.

9. Relaxed and refreshed. Time for another view: cocktails on the rooftop of Grand Hotel de la Minerve, because only dome that is truly important is the Pantheon.

10. Tipsy? You're just about ready for Al Moro. Savor your walk from the Pantheon and Hadrian's Temple toward Trevi to the restaurant. Are you suddenly craving spaghetti alla carbonara, fried artichokes, and unforgettable zabaglione with melted dark chocolate? (Read my love letter to Al Moro on Fathom.)

11. If you still have energy, a few steps down the street is Trevi Fountain. The evening glow is my favorite nightcap.

This post originally appeared on Fathom. Check their Rome guide more spaghetti, gelato, Vespas, and insider knowledge. You can follow Fathom on Twitter @FathomWayToGo.



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See Where Cardinals Sleep And Eat During The Papal Conclave

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domus sanctae marthae vatican city

The 115 cardinals participating in the Vatican's papal conclave spend their days locked in the Sistine Chapel casting vote after vote until one of them is elected Pope.

But where do they go in the evenings?

For the duration of the enclave, the cardinals stay at the Domus Marthae Sanctae, a hotel-like residence in the Vatican with 131 bedrooms, a dining room and sitting rooms, according to The Catholic Register.

The five-story building normally houses clerical and lay guests; most of the rooms have a sitting room and separate bedroom with a private bathroom, according to The Catholic Register.

Father Tim Finigan, a Catholic priest in the Archdiocese of Southwark, England, stayed in the Domus Marthae Sanctae in 2010 for the International Colloquium of the Confraternities of Catholic Clergy. He was kind enough to share some photos from his experience with us.

The five-story Domus Sanctae Marthae was built in 1996. The building, which normally houses guests at the Holy See, has 106 suites and 22 single rooms.



Before the residence was built, the cardinals slept on cots in small rooms next to the Sistine Chapel. The building has a main chapel and four smaller chapels.

Source: The Catholic Register



There is a small organ in the chapel.



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Park Avenue Apartment Hits The Market For The First Time In 70 Years With A $22.5 Million Price Tag

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778 park ave

A full-floor apartment at the Rosario Candela-designed 778 Park Avenue has hit the market for the first time in 70 years with an asking price of $22.5 million, according to listings website Streeteasy.com.

The 10-room apartment, on the 17th floor, has three bedrooms and three bathrooms; other features include five terraces, a library with a wood-burning fireplace, a breakfast room and a double staff room.

Voting records indicate that the apartment belongs to the estate of noted philanthropist Celeste Bartos, who passed away in January.

The building is located at East 73rd Street and neighbors 720 Park Avenue and 784 Park Avenue on a stretch that is dubbed “Candela Alley.” Sotheby’s International Realty’s Roger Erickson had the listing. “It’s one of the all-time greatest apartments on Park Avenue,” Erickson said.

In 2011, legendary socialite Brooke Astor’s 14-room duplex at the building, once listed for $46 million, sold for about $21 million, after the famously stodgy co-op board rejected an earlier $19.9 million offer from a Swiss investment banker.

Other current and former residents of the white-glove building include fashion magnate Estée Lauder, the late legendary broadcaster Roone Arledge and the late Peter Sharp, former owner of the Carlyle Hotel.

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Switzerland Is Reinventing Itself To Accommodate Wealthy Chinese Tourists

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chinese tourists

China’s recent economic boom has inevitably seen a sharp rise in the number of wealthy people choosing to spend their newfound wealth traveling abroad.

The sight of large groups of Chinese tourists wearing color-coordinated hats, gathering around a megaphone- and flag-toting tour guide, has become all too familiar in many countries in Europe and beyond.

However, not all Chinese tourists are following the typical trend of quick-stop tours to snap a few photos and pick up a souvenir or two before being whisked off to the next destination.

Switzerland has always proven a popular destination for Chinese tourists, as it is often associated with quality goods, whether they be chocolate, luxury watches, or knives.

This concept of Swiss quality has resonated with many wealthy Chinese, who are now looking at long-term investments in many aspects of the country, ranging from boarding schools to banks, creating in the process a brand new elite market — and one that has captured the attention of several cutting-edge businesspeople.

Xu Junhua is one of four founding members of Swissna, a company established in April 2012 that caters to the various needs of wealthy Chinese interested in investing in, rather than simply traveling to, Switzerland. As Xu told Jing Daily, “We offer services ranging from private banking and real estate to immigration advice, luxury tourism and even anti-aging programs.”

Switzerland is well-known in China as a world leader in anti-aging and beauty treatments, all of which are in high demand from China’s wealthy elite. (Who have spent millions in countries like South Korea in recent years on so-called “Meditel” packages.) Xu mentioned that Swissna offers something totally unique, in the sense that tourists are able to fully customize their visits to Switzerland and enjoy a truly niche experience. “We organise trips to many cities across the country, where tourists can indulge in typical high-end leisure activities,” Xu said. “There’s skiing, power shopping, trips to hot springs and golf.”

Given many wealthy Chinese’s obsession with luxury and quality living, Xu believes it is no surprise that Switzerland offers a large market.

Beyond leisure and health activities, Xu also indicated that Switzerland’s most famous industries are enticing many rich Chinese to pull out their checkbooks. Added Xu, “There are people who are looking at building ski resorts, with one guy even wanting to get involved with the manufacturing of a certain Swiss chocolate brand and eventually export the product back to China.”

Commenting on the acclimatization of Chinese businessmen in the Swiss market — one very different from China — Xu emphasized that it was one of the many services that Swissna offers its clients. “We have partnerships on all sides which ensure not only tourists, but also businessmen, are given smooth operations here,” Xu noted, adding, “Three of the four partners of Swissna are in fact financial advisors and know the business workings of the country better than anyone.”

Given the growing presence of Chinese tourists and businesspeople in international environments, many industries have had to adapt in order to cater to the new market, and Switzerland is no different. Xu told us, “There are certain hotels, restaurants and luxury goods shops that have around 80-90 percent Chinese speaking staff, so in many ways these Chinese tourists are being made to feel as comfortable and at home as possible. Switzerland has had to reinvent itself to accommodate for China.”

When asked whether China’s economic slowdown gives him restless nights regarding the future of his industry, Xu remains upbeat. “Every year we see new rich people emerge from China, so the demand will never run out,” Xu says. But does he believe Beijing’s recent clampdowns on lavish government expenditure, and its attempted revival of traditional non-materialistic ethics, could provide a headache for such businesses in the future? Xu doesn’t think so. “I believe that future generations of these rich folks will also strive for the same luxuries their parents and grandparents had,” Xu holds. “If a child was educated abroad in a top-quality boarding school, they’re sure to want their kids to have the same.”

Amid a seemingly countless array of holiday companies that arrange smooth passage for Chinese tourists during their stays in European countries like Switzerland, it seems that Swissna has taken the initiative by also seeking out the market of wealthy Chinese looking to make solid future investments in the country. Whether it be buying property, looking at immigration or simply wanting to plan a unique high-end holiday experience, Swissna’s services perhaps reflect what we can expect more of from China’s wealthy elite in the near future.

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Here's What All Those Fancy Descriptions On Tasting Menus Really Mean

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noma copenhagen denmark dinner

Not every tasting menu is alike — Eleven Madison Park's is arranged in a grid-like list, Brooklyn Fare keeps it simple with a short rundown of the dishes, and Per Se lays out in exquisite detail the ingredients of each course.

But unless you're a seasoned tasting menu veteran, you're bound to get tripped up by some of the lofty language. An emulsion to start? A deconstructed main dish? Mignardises for dessert? How can you decide what to order when the options are impossible to understand?

We put together a list of the 11 most commonly misunderstood tasting menu words. From starters to desserts, these are the dishes you were trying to look up on your phone throughout the entire meal.

Truffled

What It Is: Using "truffle" as an adjective implies the dish has been cooked, garnished, or stuffed with truffles (subterranean mushrooms) in some way. Truffle oil is the most common ingredient used to "truffle" a dish.

Example Dish: Truffled arancini (risotto balls) at Murano in NYC.



Emulsion

What It Is: A mixture of two liquids that would normally not be mixed together. These can either be temporary emulsions, such as a vinaigrette (oil and vinegar), or a permanent emulsion, such as Mayonnaise (egg yolks and oil).

Example Dish:NYC's Poco's crudo with celery citrus emulsion.



Tartare

What It Is: A preparation of finely chopped raw meat with (optional) seasonings and sauces. There are many variations on the tartare, including steak, chicken, salmon, and eel. The most common is tuna tartare.

Example Dish: Steak tartare at Cafe Claude in San Francisco.



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South Korea Is More Worried About Short Skirts Than Pyongyang

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north korea badminton short skirts

There's plenty of trouble on the Korean peninsula, but the latest battle isn't over borders, or contested islands — it's over skirts.

On Mar. 11, a decree was passed at a South Korean cabinet meeting that would fine anyone who engaged in "excessive" public exposure. The meeting was presided over by President Park Geun-hye, as Korea Times reports:

People were outraged by the 50,000 won fine, as it brought back memories of similar restrictions on skirt lengths in the 1970s under the rule of President Park Chung-hee.

The fine, which amounts to about $45, is set to take effect on Mar. 22.

The news out of the south is quite interesting, considering that the standards seem to be relaxing in Pyongyang. Last year, The New York Times noted that skirts in Pyongyang appeared to be getting shorter, perhaps even with official approval:

Then, Mr. Kim himself was shown on state TV giving a thumbs up to a girl band featuring leggy string players performing for him and his generals, and the debate over deeper meaning began in earnest.

The South Korean government indicated that the fine will be levied if someone exposes their naked body, or exposes any part of their body which should otherwise be concealed, reports The Korea Times.

It's not clear what "excessive" means when it comes to the new rule, as they did not elaborate further on exact standards.

SEE ALSO: There Is A Trend Toward Short Skirts And Gelled Hair In North Korea >

SEE ALSO: Rare Images Show A Side Of North Korea Outsiders Rarely Get To See >

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Swiss Financial Adviser Accidentally Mails The US A List Of Clients Who Were Avoiding Taxes

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swiss flag

Whoops. 

A Swiss financial adviser accidentally mailed a list of clients he was helping to skirt U.S. taxes, a missive that subsequently found its way to the hands of the U.S. government, according to Bloomberg.

Beda Singenberger was said to have visited his clients in the U.S., delivering cash from their undeclared accounts or taking cash back to deposit in Switzerland.

Authorities have since rounded up an 83-year-old exile from Nazi Germany and a retired U.S. Army surgeon.

Over an 11-year period, Singenberger allegedly helped 60 people in the U.S. hide $184 million in secret offshore accounts with...interesting...names like Real Cool Investments Ltd. and Wanderlust Foundation, Bloomberg said.

U.S. authorities have been blitzing Swiss tax shelterees since 2009, when they launched a major suit against UBS.

Read the full story on Bloomberg >

SEE ALSO: How Traders Traded Before Michael Bloomberg Invented His Terminal >

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China's 'Snake Village' Breeds More Than 3 Million Snakes A Year

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china snake village

Residents of Zisiqao village in the Zhejiang Province of China are known for their snakes.

According to Reuters, the 160 farming families that live there collectively breed over three million snakes annually for food and medicinal purposes.

Cobras, vipers, and pythons are not only a common sight in the small village, but a way of life: Serpents outnumber the residents 3,000 to one.

It has become quite lucrative for the residents to raise and sell the snakes, with some even earning tens of thousands of dollars for their efforts, according to the BBC.

It was Yang Hongchang, a 60-year-old farmer, who first introduced snake breeding to the village in 1985. When the wild snakes Hongchang used to catch and sell became scarce, he researched how to raise snakes at home instead. After three years of successful breeding — and a healthy profit — the other villagers began to emulate his methods.

The result is an industry unlike any other in the world, with millions of snakes being raised for food or traditional Chinese medicine that is not only sold in China, but exported to the United States, Germany, Japan, and South Korea as well.

Zisiqiao village is in the Zhejiang Province on China's southeastern coast.



It's primarily known for its Hangzhou Mountains, and for harvesting tea, cotton, and jute (a type of fiber).

Source: China.org.cn



Now let's enter Zisiqiao, the Chinese village that produces 3 million snakes annually.

Source: Reuters



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Phoenix Might Actually Be Serious About Building 'The Pin'

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the pin phoenix

Last week, the City of Phoenix issued a broad request for proposals soliciting “Entertainment and Tourism Attractions” for the downtown area.

After months of unofficial support for a massive honey-dipper shaped observation tower that’s been floated by developer Novawest and BIG, the international design firm headed by Danish architect Bjarke Ingles, Phoenix is signaling its willingness to take this idea seriously.

Known for its audacious designs and for what they call “hedonistic sustainability”—like the waste-to-energy plant that doubles as a ski slope that recently broke ground in Copenhagen—BIG has put forth what it’s pitching as a reboot of the iconic twentieth-century urban observation tower. They’re affectionately calling it “The Pin.”

North American cities have not bothered to put this sort of architectural typology up for decades. Viewed as things of the past and overshadowed by development models closer to street level, people just stopped imagining them as viable. “The Pin” just may change all this.

Novawest, the developer who brought the concept to the city, solicited designs from five international firms. They ultimately selected BIG. “Bjarke’s enthusiasm and BIG’s response really won us over,” says Jay Thorn, principal at Novawest.

The tower would rise on a tube of reinforced concrete, culminating in a vertigo-inducing open-air sphere containing flexible spaces for observation, recreation, retail, and exhibition functions within its spiraling structure. The lower hemisphere is slated for restaurants.

At 430 feet (roughly 39 stories), it would be the second-tallest structure in Phoenix. It could have gone higher were it not for airspace restrictions due to flight paths in and out of Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International Airport.

Still, the question remains: Why on earth would Phoenix, a city more often associated with sprawl and average high temperatures in the summer over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, want an open-air observation tower?

“Architecturally, there was really nothing in Phoenix that says, ‘Wow that’s Phoenix!’ so we felt like there was space for something really unique,” says Thorn. “We’ve had a number of meetings with the director of Phoenix’s Department of Community and Economic Development, the mayor, the city manager, and the city council and there has been widespread enthusiasm. It took six months to align all the interests.“

ThePin2“The idea for a tower was 50 percent inspiration and 50 percent accident or luck,” he says. While working on a project in Seattle, they had the chance to get to know the people who run the Space Needle.  “The Space Needle development model is a fifty-year success story,” says Mr. Thorne. ”When we looked at the demographics and economic potential of Phoenix compared to Seattle we realized the Space Needle concept could work and that it could potentially be even better.”

Phoenix seems to agree with this assessment. Mayor Greg Stanton says he’s excited about the possibility of a new point of interest in the city. “It would be privately funded, and the more we can have private projects that advance our community's interest the better,” he adds.

“Over the past few months, I’d say the possibility of this thing getting built has gone from 10 percent to 50 percent,” says Dave Roderique, CEO of the Downtown Phoenix Partnership. “Though initially we were very skeptical about this unusual proposal, as a model of economic development it makes sense for Phoenix.”

Novawest wants those odds to get to 100 percent as soon as possible: “We’d like to have it up for the 2015 Superbowl,” says Thorne.

One factor that increased The Pin’s chances was the proposed site within the courtyard of the Arizona Science Center. “There was some really good synergy with them from the beginning,” Thorne says of the Science Center Board of Directors. “They were saying how people have a hard time finding them. Well, that wouldn’t be a problem anymore.”

The RFP opens the door to alternative proposals from other developer-architect teams, who now have just a little under 30 days to respond. For now, it looks like “The Pin” has the advantage.

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One Of The World's Most Perfect Diamonds Could Sell For $20 Million

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big flawless diamond

One of the world's most perfect diamonds is going on sale at Christie's this spring, and could go for around $20 million, according to Bloomberg.

The pear-shaped, colorless gem weighs 101.73 carats, and will be up for auction through Christie's International at the Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues, Geneva on May 15.

It's the first time the "flawless" diamond is being offered for sale, which means whoever buys the gem will also be able to name it.

The stone was cut from a rough diamond found in the Jwaneng mine in Botswana, which is co-owned by De Beers and the government of Botswana. It originally weighed 236 carats, and took 21 months to cut and polish, according to Christie's.

The $20 million price could easily be reached given that the famous Archduke Joseph Dimaond — a similarly colorless 76.02-carat stone — was sold for $21.4 million at Christie's, Geneva back in November 2012.

The most expensive gem ever sold at auction was a 24.78 carat "Fancy Intense Pink" emerald-cut at Sotheby's, Geneva that went for $45.6 million in November 2010.

SEE ALSO: Tour An Eerie African Diamond Mining Town That's Slowly Filling With Sand

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Security Is Extreme At The World's Most Expensive Apartment Building

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one hyde park

One Hyde Park  the London residence that's also the world's most expensive apartment building  is shrouded in secrecy.

Of the dozens of apartments that have sold there, only a handful are registered in the names of actual people. The rest are held in the names of corporations.

And most of the apartments, which belong to Arab sheikhs, Russian oligarchs, and other secretive billionaires, are not even considered primary residences. The place has been called a "ghost town" and is pitch black at night.

Vanity Fair's Nicholas Shaxson recently wrote a great feature about the building and its shadowy residents. While he had a hard time finding out about many of the owners, and could not even get inside the building, Shaxson reported some crazy tidbits about One Hyde Park.

Even for the world's most expensive apartment building, the security is extreme. Shaxson writes:

In fact, the emphasis everywhere is on secrecy and security, provided by advanced-technology panic rooms, bulletproof glass, and bowler-hatted guards trained by British Special Forces. Inhabitants’ mail is X-rayed before being delivered.

There are also slanted vertical slats on all the windows to prevent people from peering in.

For a place where barely anyone lives full-time, that's a lot of security.

SEE ALSO: The Incredible Success Story Of The World's Most Expensive Apartment Building

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The Cardinals' Meals At The Papal Conclave Sound Pretty Awful

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Bowl of spaghetti noodles

The papal conclave is taking place in Vatican City, in the heart of Rome, so you might think the 115 participating cardinals are enjoying pizza, pasta, and other Italian specialties.

But it turns out the food they're served is pretty awful.

The cardinals eat meals cooked by the Sistine Chapel's nuns during conclave.

But AFP reports that according to the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, the nuns prepare "meals of soup, spaghetti, small meat kebabs and boiled vegetables" that are "similar to that served in hospitals."

The paper concluded that perhaps the poor quality of food would help speed up the election.

The idea that boring meals could help move along the process of choosing the next Pope might seem ridiculous, but it's actually very similar to what happened during a 13th Century enclave.

According to the Telegraph:

In 1268, a conclave began that lasted nearly three years — 33 months, to be exact.

Pope Gregory X was elected pope, but not before residents of Viterbo, north of Rome, tore the roof off the building where the cardinals were staying and restricted their meals to bread and water to make them hurry up.

Hoping to avoid a repeat, Gregory decreed in 1274 that cardinals would only get one meal a day if the conclave stretched beyond three days, and served bread, water and wine if it went beyond eight.

Thankfully for the current cardinals, his decree was abolished soon after. Otherwise if they still didn't have a Pope by the end of tomorrow, they would be down to only one meal a day.

SEE ALSO: See Where Cardinals Sleep And Eat During The Papal Conclave

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7 Costly Mistakes Every Rookie Traveler Makes At Least Once

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Tired travelers on a train, exhausted

“When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money.” –– Susan Heller

It’s ridiculous.

You work hard, track expenses, monitor budgets and count the days until you’ve earned enough.

And when you do…You blow all your hard-earned money on a two-week vacation, making countless and costly mistakes along the way.

Unfortunately, those were probably mistakes that could have been easily be avoided. Fortunately, the buck does NOT stop here.

Below are seven costly mistakes travelers make and how you can avoid them…

Being unfamiliar with money internationally.

If you’re traveling to a country that uses a foreign currency, you need to be prepared.

Avoid changing large amounts of money at airports or hotels. They charge high transaction rates because of their convenient location. Instead, change money at a local bank to get a better rate.

Use an international credit card for the majority of your purchases as credit card companies can secure better rates than individuals.

Avoid using Travelers Cheques. Most banks charge a fee to issue and process travelers checks so you’ll be paying for the checks upfront and to cash in the foreign country.

Use ATM cards and kiosks that don’t charge an international fee or surcharge fee.

Call the credit card and ATM card companies to verify they do not charge international fees. While you’re at it, inform them of your travel plans to avoid having the cards put on hold.

Travel tip: email yourself your credit and ATM card account numbers and emergency telephone numbers in case your card is put on hold, lost or stolen. If you use Travelers Cheques, email yourself those numbers as well.

Traveling during peak season.

People choose to travel during peak seasons for ideal weather, holidays or school breaks.

However, if you travel during the shoulder season – a couple weeks before or after peak season – you can save big on flights and hotels without compromising on quality.

Being inflexible with travel dates.

Have you ever made travel plans before checking the price of flights? Big mistake! Before you submit your vacation request, be sure you research the lowest priced flight.

Airline sites such as Hotwire.com, Orbitz.com, Travelocity.com, and Cheapflightsfinder.com offer a “Flexible Date” search to help you find the lowest fare.

Airfarewatchdog.com sends travel fares to your inbox for city-to-city alerts or anything that’s cheap from your local airport.

Also, weigh the cost of flying non-stop versus multiple stops. For single travelers, saving a hundred bucks might be worth an additional layover.

However, for parents traveling with children a direct flight might be worth the extra money. One excellent site that measures savings versus agony is HipMunk.com.

Paying full price for hotels.

Some hotels such as Choice Hotels and Hotel Indigo offer up to twenty percent off your hotel if you book an advance purchase rate, which means you pay for the hotel in advance, not at check in.

Bookings need to be made in advance and are non-cancellable, non-changeable and non-refundable.

You can score great hotel deals at Hotwire.com which helps hotels book their unsold rooms. The only catch is you won’t know the exact hotel until a couple days before your trip.

An alternative is to name your own hotel price at Priceline.com.

Forgetting about ground transportation.

If you don’t plan your ground transportation, the cost of your trip can add up fast!

By planning your transportation options in advance, you’ll save big bucks. Here’s how:

  • Check if your hotel offers a free airport shuttle.
  • Take the subway (or metro) instead of a taxi.
  • Ride share with people on Craigslist (under the Community section) or Facebook. It’s kosher to pay the driver a little gas money.
  • Avoid airport rental cars which usually charge an “airport fee.” Other rental car companies can pick you up from the airport for free.
  • Skip a city bus tour by taking the local bus instead.

Not negotiating.

My momma always said, “It never hurts to ask” and the same goes for negotiating.

If you’re at one of the many world markets – from the 9,000 booths at the Chatuchak Weekend Market in Bangkok to a local farmer’s market – most prices are negotiable.

Negotiating might feel a little uncomfortable at first, but after a few tries you’ll feel like a pro.

Just remember to be nice when haggling and try to secure a win-win outcome for both parties.

Taking paid group tours.

Most city tours and group tours are overpriced. Instead, head over to the visitor center and ask about local walking tours and maps.

Couchsurfing.org is a great way to meet locals who are happy to play tour guide to visitors.

So instead of taking “twice the money” like Susan Heller suggested, now you can take half the money and put the other half towards your next trip.

SEE ALSO: Here's the best time to buy everything >

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Take A Walk Around Singapore's Hot New Hipster Neighborhood

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Drips cafe in Tiong Bahru Singapore

Unlike the rest of Singapore, which primarily consists of carefully planned high-rises, the neighborhood of Tiong Bahru is a historic community that still retains some of its ramshackle charm.

With its Art Deco-style architecture and its small quiet, lanes, Tiong Bahru feels like a quiet respite from the dizzying skyscrapers and frenetic pace of city life.

It was built in the 1930s as the first housing estate in Singapore, but recently it has become the hottest neighborhood in the city.

Today, yuppies, designers, expats, and creative types linger over cappuccinos at hip cafes or peruse boutiques for one-of-a-kind jewelry, clothing, or furnishings.

Meanwhile, vestiges of the old neighborhood persist. There are a few traditional coffee shops where older people gather over kopi (coffee in Malay). And on Sunday mornings, the Tiong Bahru wet market is the place to be. 

It's a study in contrasts, and a combination that adds up to one of the most dynamic and vibrant neighborhoods in the city.

Disclosure: Our trip to Singapore, including travel and lodging expenses, was sponsored by the Singapore Tourism Board.

Tiong Bahru is defined by its curved Art Deco-style architecture. Most buildings here date back to the 1930s.



Over the last few years, there's been an explosion in hip Western-style cafes, like Drips.



The cafes aren't cheap. At Drips, a cup of coffee costs S$5 (about US$4).



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