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A Private Jet Maker Is Thriving By Making Old Planes New Again


nextant 400XT on Production Floor

Designing a new airplane is an incredibly expensive, complicated, and long process, one that can prove wasteful if not executed properly — as Boeing's troubled Dreamliner jet has proven in recent months.

In 2007, looking to avoid the costs and pitfalls that come with new aircraft, aviation entrepreneur Kenn Ricci created a business that would sell small jets for half of what they usually cost, thanks to a simple change.

Instead of building new jets, Nextant Aerospace would take old jets, refurbish them, and sell them for 50 cents on the dollar.

The result, President Sean McGeough says, gives you "everything a new aircraft gives you." Unless a buyer is dead set on having a 100 percent new plane, he seems right. That's because Nextant retains the hull of the plane, then replaces just about everything else.

So far, Nextant has produced one model, the 400XT, based on the Hawker 400. The huge cost of designing a plane from scratch does not have to be recouped, so the price of the planes stays low.

In refurbishing a jet, the airframe is kept, while the avionics and any life-limited components, along with the interior, are replaced. From start to finish it takes about 6,000 man hours of work, around 16 weeks.

Before re-entering service, the jets go through the same certification process and flight testing as any new plane. The end result, McGeough says, is a "virtually new" airplane.

Nextant 400XT interiorIn fact, he says, the updated planes are often improvements of their original selves, because they are outfitted with systems developed since the planes were first designed. Once a Hawker 400 becomes a Nextant 400 XT, its operating costs drop 30 percent, and its range improves by 50 percent, says McGeough.

McGeough joined Nextant as President after leading Hawker Beechcraft's international operations in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia Pacific. Selling old planes instead of new ones was "very new territory," he says, but he was drawn to Nextant by its value proposition and track record of high deliveries: 25 planes in 13 months.

Matt Doyle is the Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Flight Options, a fractional jet ownership company that has purchased 12 aircraft from Nextant (its chairman is Kenn Ricci, Nextant's founder). Asked if he hesitated before buying refurbished aircraft, Doyle said no.

If Flight Options can offer essentially new planes to its customers for half the cost, and saves everyone money, it's a good deal, Doyle told Business Insider.

Nextant 400XT on ground in front of hangarThat's especially important in a private jet industry that has been lagging in the United States in the wake of the recession. Nextant has sold aircraft to corporate clients, commercial fleet operators, and wealthy individuals.

Its business model has proved popular abroad as well: Despite expectations that its clients would be mostly domestic for the first few years, McGeough now predicts 60 percent of its products over the next three to five years will go to foreign buyers.

So far, Nextant has not gone beyond its first product, the refurbished 400XT. To build on its early success, the company is getting ready to announce its next model, a few months from now.

And while selling old planes may seem questionable, the saga of Boeing's Dreamliner — the commercial passenger jet full of new technology that was designed to change the industry — proves its wisdom.

The Dreamliner debacle is an example of why remanufacturing works, McGeough argues: "You don't go through the teething problems you would on a cleansheet design," and you work only with proven technology.

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

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See New York City's Massive Graffiti Mecca Before It's Torn Down


dali street art

Just off the 7 train in Long Island City, Queens, you'll find a 200,000-square-foot warehouse that's impossible to miss.

It's called 5 Pointz, and it's the center of the New York City street art scene. This isn't your typical tag-your-name-and-run-when-the-cops-come type of place.

5 Pointz is an outdoor exhibit for the absolute best underground art in the city, where artists from around the world show off their incredible work. After gaining permission from the building owner in 2001, the walls have seen continuous change under the curation of Jonathan Cohen, a self-described "graffiti veteran" with the signature tag "Meres One."

But sadly, it seems like it may be coming to an end. The graffiti mecca is scheduled to be demolished in September 2013 and will be replaced with high-rise apartments and a shopping mall.

A look down the long wall and you know this building is special.

The 200,000-square-foot warehouse is home to 5 Pointz, a mecca of graffiti.

The name is supposed to signify the five boroughs of New York City.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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The Philippines Wants To Become The Next Asian Gambling Hub


Solaire_Resort_&_Casino philippinesEvent

On March 16th Bloomberry Resorts' Solaire Manila, the first of four giant casino resorts that are to be opened the next four years, started trading in the capital.


The resort lies at the heart of the Philippine government's ambitious plan to make Manila a major gaming hub in Asia, alongside Singapore and Macau.

The government wants to create a Las Vegas-style strip consisting of four casino resorts, Entertainment City, as a key element of its plans to develop tourism as a major industry. It is hoped that an increase in tourism will create jobs and boost incomes, especially in remote areas far from large cities. The government wants to raise tourist arrivals to 10m a year by 2016, from 4.3m in 2012.

The new casino's opening underscores the pragmatism of the president, Benigno Aquino, who allowed the project to go ahead after a brief review, despite the alleged murky circumstances surrounding the selection of the four investor groups that have been granted exclusive licences to build the casino resorts. The licences were awarded not through competitive tender but rather via negotiation, during the term of Mr Aquino's predecessor, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Speculation was rife at the time that some of the recipients of licences were her close allies.

Despite this, Mr Aquino has allowed the project to proceed. Currently, the government runs most of the country's casinos via the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR, the state-owned gambling company and regulator), while the few private casinos that exist are required to pay a share of their earnings to PAGCOR. Growth in gaming revenue has been slow in the past. The opening of the four mega-casinos is expected to cause gambling revenue to rise faster, from US$1.4bn last year to US$5bn-7bn a year by 2016.

Some industry analysts believe that in the next four years the Philippines will outpace Singapore, where gambling revenue amounted to US$6bn last year. But realising this goal will be tough. Continuing diplomatic spats between the Philippines and China over territorial disputes in the South China Sea may disrupt the expected steady flow of casino visitors from mainland China. Moreover, it is questionable whether the local market will grow fast enough to support four new casino resorts that will open at intervals of just one year.

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SEE ALSO: These Casinos In Macau Make Las Vegas Look Like A Dump

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Carnival Cancels 12 Cruises For Extended Repairs To Troubled Ships


carnival cruise triumph dock mobile alabama passengers disembark

Carnival has canceled 12 cruises on two ships so it can update the vessels' fire-fighting and power systems, the cruise line announced Tuesday.

The changes will be made on the Triumph, which was stranded for five days in the Gulf of Mexico after an engine room fire knocked out onboard power, and the Sunshine, which is undergoing a previously scheduled full-ship makeover that will be extended.

10 of the sailings canceled were scheduled for the Triumph, which operates four- and five-day cruises in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Triumph will re-enter service on June 3, and the Sunshine, which cruises mostly in the Mediterranean, will begin sailing again on May 5.

Passengers who had bought tickets for a canceled cruise will receive a full refund, reimbursement for non-refundable transportation costs, and a 25 percent discount on a future similar cruise.

The company has suffered a spate of bad news recently. The Triumph fire in February was followed by incidents on two more ships in March: Cruises on the Dream and Legend were cut short by ship malfunctions.

On a conference call last week, Carnival executives said the company had increased its spending on regular maintenance, as its fleet of ships ages.

Planned upgrades include enhanced operating redundancies, the ability to run more services on emergency power, and improvements to fire prevention, detection, and suppression systems.

The Triumph and Sunshine are not the only vessels Carnival will work on: The company's statement described the repairs as "the first implementation phase of its fleetwide comprehensive operational review."

SEE ALSO: A Photo History Of Carnival Cruise Ship Disasters

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HOUSE OF THE DAY: Britain's Most Expensive Home Gets Price-Slashed By $52 Million


heath hall

After more than a year on the market with a price tag of £100 million ($158 million), the London estate called Heath Hall has failed to sell.

Now the owners have chopped £35 million ($52 million) off the price in hope that a wealthy royal or tycoon will bite, according to The Daily Mail.

Built for sugar magnate William Tate Lyle in 1910, the super-exclusive home on The Bishops Avenue had fallen into disrepair in recent years.

It was purchased in 2006 by property tycoon Andreas Panayiotou, whose development company The Ability Group restored the 40,000-square-foot mansion and surrounding gardens to their former glory. He poured some $63 million into the home before putting it on the market, according to The Daily Mail.

The Ability Group shared some photos of the restored estate.

Heath Hall is set on two acres on one of the most exclusive streets in London.

Source: The Ability Group

Built for a sugar magnate, the home has 17 bedrooms and garage space for 10 cars.

Source: The Ability Group

Let's step inside.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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How To Bake Macaron Cookies Like World-Famous Pastry Chef Francois Payard



Francois Payard is undoubtedly one of the best pastry chefs in the world.

The French chef is particularly renowned for his light-as-air, cream-filled macarons, a traditional French sweet that's taken New York City by storm in the last couple of years.

He's also the force behind Macaron Day NYC, which is holding its third annual celebration today, March 20. Bakeries around the city will offer free macaron samples, and a portion of the proceeds will benefit City Harvest.

We recently stopped by the Francois Payard Bakery in Greenwich Village, Manhattan, where the chef took us through a step-by-step guide on how he makes his world famous macarons.

1.) Here are all the ingredients you need: heavy cream, sugar, corn starch, white chocolate, pumpkin, Chinese five-spice, cinnamon, butter, water, almond flour, confectioner's sugar, egg white. To start on the ganache, add the Chinese five-spice and cinnamon to the heavy cream

2.) Mix the spices into the heavy cream and bring the mixture to a boil

3.) Mix the corn starch and the sugar together, 4.) Once the cream mixture is boiling, pour a little bit of the mixture into the corn starch/sugar, 5.) Mix well making sure there are no lumps, 6.) Pour the corn starch/sugar/cream back into the heavy cream mixture and mix well while cooking further

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McLaren Used The Rocky Mountains To Show Off Its New Car's Best Quality


mclaren mp4-12c snow drive video

McLaren is now delivering its new MP4-12C Spider in North America, and it has a new video to show off what makes the car so impressive.

The 12C Spider is fast: It hits 60 mph in 3.1 seconds and has a top speed of 204 mph. It's gorgeous, with scissor doors and a carbon fiber body.

But the video, featuring pro driver Rhys Millen racing snowboarder Chanelle Sladics through the Rocky Mountains, wasn't created to showcase that speed or beauty.

The curving roads of the Loveland Pass (and Millen, a drifting specialist) were chosen to show off just how well the 12C Spider handles.

In a review of the $265,750 car, Colin Comer at Road & Track said it drives brilliantly:

On the road, with suspension and powertrain left in their least aggressive settings, the ride is supple, the shifts positive yet smooth. For lack of a better term, the McLaren just feels like a car.

Simply put, it's a toy buyers with lots of money but minimal driving skills won't immediately crash into a light pole.

And what better way to prove it than putting the MP4-12C through its paces on a snowy mountain road?

 Check it out:

SUPERCAR BATTLE: McLaren's P1 Vs. Ferrari's LaFerrari

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India Tourism Could Take A Hit In The Wake Of Sex Attacks On Women


Taj Mahal Palace in India

India's reputation has taken a beating since December, when a 23-year-old student was fatally gang raped, which led to widespread international outrage.

Just last week another woman was gang raped — only this time, it was a Swiss tourist who was on a cycling trip with her husband.

Yesterday, a British woman jumped out of her hotel room window, reportedly to escape a sexual attack by the hotel's owner.

And though the attackers have been arrested, many people in India — including police and government officials — have blamed the victims, leaving many to question just how safe the country is.

As a result, it seems that more and more people — especially women — are being dissuaded from traveling to the country.

There are multiple discussion threads on Thorn Tree, Lonely Planet's travel forum, over whether traveling to India is safe or not. And several users said that they are considering canceling their trips for fear of their safety.

"Soon I'm planning to visit India with my boyfriend and I'm a bit concerned about safety there," a user named tiag wrote on a Thorn Tree thread. "It raises some questions, [about] what is the situation about safety in India."

Danish tourist Judith Jensen is currently traveling in India with her 10-year-old daughter and told the International Herald Tribune that she feels a "persistent sense of danger.”

“There is no question that these stories will have an impact on foreign visitors,” she told the Tribune. “Women will prefer to visit other places like Singapore or Bali or Thailand, where safety is not such a big concern.”

Several countries have also issued travel warnings, especially for women. The U.S. Department of state warns that "U.S. citizens, particularly women, are cautioned not to travel alone in India," and the British Common & Foreign Wealth Office also warns women to "use caution when travelling in India." The British Office also reminds women that "Reported cases of sexual assault against women and young girls are increasing; recent sexual attacks against female visitors in tourist areas and cities show that foreign women are also at risk."

In short, these events may wreak havoc on India's tourism industry.

Tourism is an important industry in India. About 6.3 million foreign tourists visited India in 2011, the most recent year for which data is available, according to the country's Ministry of Tourism. And in that same year, tourism generated $121 million of India’s GDP in 2011, making up about 6.4 percent of India's economy, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council.

That means that a decline in tourism could seriously hurt the economy.

Yet, tour operators and travel experts insist that the events have not affected tourism and that the country is still safe.

Praveen Syal, the managing director of Indus Travels, a travel agency specializing in trips to India, said that he does not believe that these events have impacted people's decisions to travel to India.

"We have not seen any decline in bookings to India by either women or couples/families," Syal wrote in an email. "India has always been a challenging destination for Western tourists... We have always taken precaution with our women clients to India."

Syal added that the events are rare and can be avoided with simple precautions.

"We still consider India a very safe destination even for women but like any other foreign destination we advise our clients what is safe to do and what is not. If you stay within safe boundaries in India nothing will happen," Syal added.

Harkripal Singh, a representative of the Travel Agents Association of India, a tourism lobby group, told the Wall Street Journal that he does not believe the events have affected tourism to India. However, he insisted that the organization is now doing more to protect women.

“In every country of the globe, these kinds of incidents happen from time to time,” Singh told the Wall Street Journal.

Admittedly, these events are rare and the majority of tourists travel through India without incident.

However, it's clear that the Indian government must respond to these incidents swiftly and sincerely, and prove to women that it can protect them. They can do this with a few simple actions: for one, they can stop blaming the victims and start enacting laws that will protect them. Basic reforms, like protecting married women from being raped by their husbands (which is still considered legal) and pursuing harsher sentences for rapists, will help reform India's image.

Otherwise, they can kiss their tourism industry goodbye.

SEE ALSO: Swiss Tourist Gang Raped On Bike Trip In India >

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Couple Claims Reality TV Show Producers Trashed Their Hamptons Crib


party dancing club partying

Two homeowners in East Hampton have filed suit against the producers of an internet reality show that was filmed in their home, claiming they trashed the house and made the neighbors think they were running a whorehouse, according to Courthouse News.

The couple, Susan and Stuart Silverman of Brooklyn, allege in a new lawsuit that the producers of "pArty of 5," an internet-reality TV show from Vice Productions, did $20,000 worth of damage, "ruined an expensive couch with sperm stains," and destroyed their reputation with the neighbors.

In the suit, the Silvermans say they were told the home would be used to film a "family barbecue," according to Courthouse News.

Instead, producers of the show allegedly threw raging parties on three nights last June, and then posted photos of half-naked women online, the suit says.

They supposedly found out about the parties from their irate neighbors. According to the New York Daily News:

Alerted by neighbors to the drunken bacchanal, the Silvermans raced east on June 23 to investigate. What they found was hardly the a barbecue for friends and family as Dade had claimed he was going to hold in the permit application.

"They found about 50 cars in the road, security guards checking IDs ... and at least 100 persons all over their yard," the complaint says.

They hired lawyers after seeing photos of their home online along with the description "Hamptons Vice Crib," according to Courthouse News.

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Speed Up Dinner With The 'Instant Marinator'


This is the Instant Marinator from Brookstone.

Why We Love It: It can take hours to marinate meats and vegetables — unless you use this Instant Marinator. It can marinate and season food in five minutes or less.

Put food in the container and cover it in the marinade of your choice, along with any seasoning you prefer. After sealing the lid, pump out the air to create a vacuum which opens the pores of food and lets the marinade seep in.

It's also dishwasher safe and has a two and a half quart capacity.

Instant Marinator


Instant Marinator

Where To Buy: Through Brookstone's website.

Cost: $39.99.

Want to nominate a cool product for Stuff We Love? Send an email to Megan Willett at mwillett@businessinsider.com with "Stuff We Love" in the subject line.

SEE ALSO: Charge Devices Anywhere In The World With This Portable Solar Panel

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25 Colleges Where Students Are Both Hot And Smart


college students in a cafeteria at Pacific Union CollegeBrains and beauty. It's a winning combination that's hard to resist — especially in college students.

Our friends at College Prowler created an exclusive list of American schools where the students are both hot and smart.

College Prowler ranks schools based on input from real students at the schools. To compile this list, they considered schools that students said have the hottest students and the smartest students, and averaged those lists together.

We've included some comments that students posted on College Prowler about the schools.

#25 California Polytechnic State University - San Luis Obispo

Location: San Luis Obispo, Calif.

Founded: 1901

Undergraduate Students: 17,066

"Beautiful People – Cal Poly has a lot of beautiful people. Endless pretty guys and girls to look at and be friends with. The majority of people on campus have an effortless, clean physical attractiveness to them. Many people into staying healthy and fit. In addition, the intelligence, talent, and personalities of the students make them very interesting and beautiful."

"Cal Poly is one of the top public engineering, architecture, business colleges. We're definitely the best school in the CSU system, which is great because you pay CSU tuition and fees to get a much better education."

Visit College Prowler for more on Cal Poly- San Luis Obispo.

#24 University of California - Santa Barbara

Location: Santa Barbara, California

Founded: 1905

Undergraduate Students: 18,318

"I love our school for academics, everyone I know that graduated already has a job and it's only been a month. Many have gotten into grad school or law school as well! You will learn a lot, but also be well rounded."

"Everyone is beautiful and there are hot girls. Guys are definitely in shape."

Visit College Prowler for more on UC Santa Barbara.

#23 Vassar College

Location: Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

Founded: 1861

Undergraduate Students: 2,450

"The academics at Vassar are top-notch. Vassar has the advantage over its small liberal arts school competitors that it is only an hour away from New York City, so it attracts some of the best professors from the city itself. In addition to this, the students' dedication to academics over most other things make the discussions worthwhile."

"Sexy and Smart – I never got tired of looking at Vassar students or talking to them (for the most part!) Perhaps, it's just being college aged, but there are so many stylish beautiful girls on campus who are incredibly intelligent... You hardly notice the 60female/40male ratio when walking around campus."

Visit College Prowler for more on Vassar.

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Here's The High-Performance Version Of Mercedes-Benz's Sleek New Sedan


2014 mercedes benz cla45 amg

The New York Auto Show won't have as many impressive global debuts as Geneva did, but it will host the debut of one of our most anticipated cars of the year: the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG.

Today, the car leaked to the web ahead of its official timing. This is it.

Looking very much like you'd expect, the CLA45 AMG offers a more aggressive, aero-treated take on the standard CLA Class exterior, and a more Alcantara-and-carbon-fibered take on the interior. From every angle, inside and out, the photos, posted by Autoblog's Spanish counterpart, show it's a well-executed look.

Better yet is the potency packed into this pint-sized four-door coupe. As Mercedes-AMG confirmed to us in Geneva, the CLA45 AMG will pack 360 horsepower, hit 60 mph in 4.6 seconds, and cost less than $50,000 to start.

Last week we brought you an inside look (or listen) at the sound of the CLA45 AMG, as compared to the European-market A45 AMG.

We'll have the full official details, live photos, video, and more from the floor of the 2013 New York Auto Show next week, so stay tuned.

SEE ALSO: A New Generation Of Supercars Was Born At The Geneva Motor Show

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Australian Billionaire Gina Rinehart Will Go To Crazy Lengths To Control Her Reputation


Gina Rinehart, chairman of Hancock Prospecting

Australian mining tycoon Gina Rinehart is the richest person in Australia and 36th richest person in the world, with a net worth of $17 billion, according to Forbes.

She's also notoriously press shy (although she's recently become more outspoken about her radical views on tax policy, climate change, and the minimum wage), and obsessed with controlling her perception in the public eye.

The New Yorker's William Finnegan has just come out with a huge profile on Rinehart, delving into her dirty family feuds, her latest mining venture, and her relationship with the media. In short, he makes her sound like a ruthless businesswoman who will go to bizarre lengths to ensure things go her way.

The entire profile is definitely worth a read, and you can find it here.

There's one anecdote in particular that reveals just how far Rinehart will go to preserve her reputation.

As the story goes, in 2011 Rinehart attended a garden party to welcome Queen Elizabeth to Perth, and wore a large, wide-brimmed hat.

Prince Philip asked her why she was on the guest list, and instead of revealing who she was, she humbly responded only that she was a loyal subject, Finnegan writes.

The prince, perhaps at a loss for words, apparently made a comment about her the size or shape of her hat. The two supposedly had a laugh.

Sometime later, a reporter for a magazine owned by the same parent company as the Sydney Morning Herald requested an interview with Rinehart. In addition to a boilerplate rejection, she received the following note, which the reporter believed was written by Rinehart herself, according to Finnegan:

Regarding the recent discussion with HRH at Government House in West Australia, other media who were present reported it was a very happy and relaxed discussion between HRH and Mrs Rinehart. . . . Your publication however chose to make the extraordinary and unbelievable claim that HRH told Mrs Rinehart that her non-pointy hat was pointy and may poke someone’s eye out! Obviously HRH would have seen many hats over the years and would not choose to stop to speak to someone for the purpose of criticising their hat, including a hat worn in honour of his wife, the Queen. This is an insult by the SMH [the Herald] to not only Mrs Rinehart, but importantly HRH.

That's one heck of a rejection letter.

You can read the full profile over at the New Yorker >

SEE ALSO: 12 Reasons Why So Many People Hate Australian Billionaire Gina Rinehart

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Why Stores Want You To Think That Real Fur Is Fake


bebe fur coat

Yesterday, a few retailers settled claims that they were selling real fur labeled as fake fur. 

The Federal Trade Commission accused businesses including Neiman Marcus, Revolve Clothing, and DrJays.com with labeling real fur as faux, according to The New York Times.

The allegations enraged groups like People For The Ethical Treatment Of Animals. Fur found on the items, such as ballet flats and jackets, allegedly ranged from rabbit to Chinese Raccoon Dog.

Fur has been mislabeled for years, but in the past that was usually saying real fur was better quality than it actually was, reports Julie Creswell at the Times. For instance, rabbit might be called mink. 

So why are companies mislabeling real fur, which is generally much more valuable than the faux stuff?

PETA says it's to sell product.

 “In this global marketplace, there are fur farms in China that raise dogs for clothing that is labeled as fake fur here in the U.S. because that’s what the market best responds to,” Dan Mathews, a senior vice president at PETA, told the Times. 

The CEO of DrJays.com claimed that the errors were made in the copy writing process, according to the Times. His website sells more than 50,000 products.

Melodie Warner at the Wall Street Journal reports that people in the business are skeptical that such mix-ups would occur by accident.  

"Faux fur has become more authentic, but travels through a separate supply chain, requires different equipment when making garments, and would be hard to confuse with the original during the manufacturing process," Warner reported. 

Neiman Marcus told the Journal it was committed to providing accurate information to customers. Revolve Clothing declined to comment. 

SEE ALSO: Stunning Photos Of Martha Stewart As A Young Model >

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Architecture Fans Say These Are The Coolest Buildings In The World


Architizer Awards 2013

Online architecture database Architizer has just announced the winners of its first annual "A+" awards, meant to "break architecture out of the echo chamber" and into the public eye.

There were 52 categories in total, ranging from Best Memorial to Best High Rise Office Building.

Buildings could win in one of two ways: 1) Jury Award - chosen by an international panel of over 200 architects, cultural leaders and people who hire architects, or 2) Popular Award - a public vote with people from over 100 countries.

The winners are unique designs from every corner of the planet. We're highlighting some of our favorites here; click over to Architizer to see the full collection of winners.

BEST SINGLE FAMILY HOME (Jury): The Daeyang Gallery and House in Seoul, South Korea, Steven Holl Architects.

BEST SINGLE FAMILY HOME (Popular): The House In Travessa Do Patrocínio in Lisbon, Portugal, Luís Rebelo de Andrade, Tiago Rebelo de Andrade, and Manuel Cachão Tojal.

BEST RESIDENTIAL LOW RISE (Popular): The Dolomitenblick in Sesto, Italy, Plasma Studio.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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Diamonds Are A Sham And It's Time We Stop Getting Engaged With Them


engagement ring“Yeah, they say three years’ salary.” -- Michael Scott, The Office

American males enter adulthood through a peculiar rite of passage - they spend most of their savings on a shiny piece of rock.

They could invest the money in assets that will compound over time and someday provide a nest egg.

Instead, they trade that money for a diamond ring, which isn’t much of an asset at all. As soon as you leave the jeweler with a diamond, it loses over 50% of its value. 

Americans exchange diamond rings as part of the engagement process, because in 1938 De Beers decided that they would like us to. Prior to a stunningly successful marketing campaign 1938, Americans occasionally exchanged engagement rings, but wasn’t a pervasive occurrence. 

Not only is the demand for diamonds a marketing invention, but diamonds aren’t actually that rare. Only by carefully restricting the supply has De Beers kept the price of a diamond high.

Countless American dudes will attest that the societal obligation to furnish a diamond engagement ring is both stressful and expensive. But here’s the thing - this obligation only exists because the company that stands to profit from it willed it into existence.  

So here is a modest proposal: Let’s agree that diamonds are bullshit and reject their role in the marriage process. Let’s admit that as a society we got tricked for about century into coveting sparkling pieces of carbon, but it’s time to end the nonsense.

The Concept of Intrinsic Value

In finance, there is concept called intrinsic value. An asset’s value is essentially driven by the (discounted) value of the future cash that asset will generate. For example, when Hertz buys a car, its value is the profit they get from renting it out and selling the car at the end of its life (the “terminal value”). For Hertz, a car is an investment. When you buy a car, unless you make money from it somehow, its value corresponds to its resale value. Since a car is a depreciating asset, the amount of value that the car loses over its lifetime is a very real expense you pay.

A diamond is a depreciating asset masquerading as an investment. There is a common misconception that jewelry and precious metals are assets that can store value, appreciate, and hedge against inflation. That’s not wholly untrue.

Gold and silver are commodities that can be purchased on financial markets. They can appreciate and hold value in times of inflation. You can even hoard gold under your bed and buy gold coins and bullion (albeit at a ~10% premium to market rates). If you want to hoard gold jewelry however, there is  typically a 100-400% retail markup so that’s probably not a wise investment. 

But with that caveat in mind, the market for gold is fairly liquid and gold is fungible - you can trade one large piece of gold for ten smalls ones like you can a ten dollar bill for a ten one dollar bills. These characteristics make it a feasible potential investment.

Diamonds, however, are not an investment. The market for them is neither liquid nor are they fungible.

The first test of a liquid market is whether you can resell a diamond. In a famous piece published by The Atlantic in 1982, Edward Epstein explains why you can’t sell used diamonds for anything but a pittance:

Retail jewelers, especially the prestigious Fifth Avenue stores, prefer not to buy back diamonds from customers, because the offer they would make would most likely be considered ridiculously low. The “keystone,” or markup, on a diamond and its setting may range from 100 to 200 percent, depending on the policy of the store; if it bought diamonds back from customers, it would have to buy them back at wholesale prices. 

Most jewelers would prefer not to make a customer an offer that might be deemed insulting and also might undercut the widely held notion that diamonds go up in value. Moreover, since retailers generally receive their diamonds from wholesalers on consignment, and need not pay for them until they are sold, they would not readily risk their own cash to buy diamonds from customers.

When you buy a diamond, you buy it at retail, which is a 100% to 200% markup. If you want to resell it, you have to pay less than wholesale to incent a diamond buyer to risk their own capital on the purchase. Given the large markup, this will mean a substantial loss on your part. The same article puts some numbers around the dilemma:

Because of the steep markup on diamonds, individuals who buy retail and in effect sell wholesale often suffer enormous losses. For example, Brod estimates that a half-carat diamond ring, which might cost $2,000 at a retail jewelry store, could be sold for only $600 at Empire.

Some diamonds are perhaps investment grade, but you probably don’t own one, even if you spent a lot.

The appraisers at Empire Diamonds examine thousands of diamonds a month but rarely turn up a diamond of extraordinary quality. Almost all the diamonds they find are slightly flawed, off-color, commercial-grade diamonds. The chief appraiser says, “When most of these diamonds were purchased, American women were concerned with the size of the diamond, not its intrinsic quality.” He points out that the setting frequently conceals flaws, and adds, “The sort of flawless, investment-grade diamond one reads about is almost never found in jewelry.”

As with televisions and mattresses, the diamond classification scheme is extremely complicated. Diamonds are not fungible and can’t be easily exchanged with each other. Diamond professionals use the 4 C’s when classifying and pricing diamonds: carats, color, cut, and clarity. Due to the complexity of these 4 dimensions, it’s hard to make apples to apples comparisons between diamonds.

But even when looking at the value of one stone, professionals seem like they’re just making up diamond prices:

In 1977, for example, Jewelers’ Circular Keystone polled a large number of retail dealers and found a difference of over 100 percent in offers for the same quality of investment-grade diamonds.

So let’s be very clear, a diamond is not an investment. You might want one because it looks pretty or its status symbol to have a “massive rock”, but not because it will store value or appreciate in value.

But among all the pretty, shiny things out there - gold and silver, rubies and emeralds - why do Americans covet diamond engagement rings in the first place?

A Diamond is Forever a Measure of your Manhood

“The reason you haven’t felt it is because it doesn’t exist. What you call love was invented by guys like me, to sell nylons.” -- Don Draper, Madmen

We like diamonds because Gerold M. Lauck told us to. Until the mid 20th century, diamond engagement rings were a small and dying industry in America. Nor had the concept really taken hold in Europe. Moreover, with Europe on the verge of war, it didn’t seem like a promising place to invest. 

Not surprisingly, the American market for diamond engagement rings began to shrink during the Great Depression. Sales volume declined and the buyers that remained purchased increasingly smaller stones. But the US market for engagement rings was still 75% of De Beers’ sales. If De Beers was going to grow, it had to reverse the trend.

And so, in 1938, De Beers turned to Madison Avenue for help. They hired Gerold Lauck and the N. W. Ayer advertising agency, who commissioned a study with some astute observations. Men were the key to the market:

Since “young men buy over 90% of all engagement rings” it would be crucial to inculcate in them the idea that diamonds were a gift of love: the larger and finer the diamond, the greater the expression of love. Similarly, young women had to be encouraged to view diamonds as an integral part of any romantic courtship.

However, there was a dilemma. Many smart and prosperous women didn’t want diamond engagement rings. They wanted to be different.

The millions of brides and brides-to-be are subjected to at least two important pressures that work against the diamond engagement ring. Among the more prosperous, there is the sophisticated urge to be different as a means of being smart…. the lower-income groups would like to show more for the money than they can find in the diamond they can afford…

Lauck needed to sell a product that people either did not want or could not afford. His solution would haunt men for generations. He advised that De Beers market diamonds as a status symbol:

"The substantial diamond gift can be made a more widely sought symbol of personal and family success — an expression of socio-economic achievement.”

“Promote the diamond as one material object which can reflect, in a very personal way, a man’s … success in life.”

The next time you look at a diamond, consider this. Nearly every American marriage begins with a diamond because a bunch of rich white men in the 1940s convinced everyone that its size determines your self worth. They created this convention - that unless a man purchases (an intrinsically useless) diamond, his life is a failure - while sitting in a room, racking their brains on how to sell diamonds that no one wanted. 

With this insight, they began marketing diamonds as a symbol of status and love:Movie idols, the paragons of romance for the mass audience, would be given diamonds to use as their symbols of indestructible love. In addition, the agency suggested offering stories and society photographs to selected magazines and newspapers which would reinforce the link between diamonds and romance. Stories would stress the size of diamonds that celebrities presented to their loved ones, and photographs would conspicuously show the glittering stone on the hand of a well-known woman. 

Fashion designers would talk on radio programs about the “trend towards diamonds” that Ayer planned to start. The Ayer plan also envisioned using the British royal family to help foster the romantic allure of diamonds. 

Even the royal family was in on the hoax! The campaign paid immediate dividends. Within 3 years, despite the Great Depression, diamond sales in the US increased 55%! Twenty years later, an entire generation believed that an expensive diamond ring was a necessary step in the marriage process. 

The De Beers marketing machine continued to churn out the hits. They circulated marketing materials suggesting, apropos of nothing, that a man should spend one month’s salary on a diamond ring. It worked so well that De Beers arbitrarily decided to increase the suggestion to two months salary. That’s why you think that you need to spend two month’s salary on a ring - because the suppliers of the product said so.

Today, over 80% of women in the US receive diamond rings when they get engaged. The domination is complete.

A History of Market Manipulation

What, you might ask, could top institutionalizing demand for a useless product out of thin air? Monopolizing the supply of diamonds for over a century to make that useless product extremely expensive. You see, diamonds aren’t really even that rare.

Before 1870, diamonds were very rare. They typically ended up in a Maharaja’s crown or a royal necklace. In 1870, enormous deposits of diamonds were discovered in Kimberley, South Africa. As diamonds flooded the market, the financiers of the mines realized they were making their own investments worthless. As they mined more and more diamonds, they became less scarce and their price dropped.

The diamond market may have bottomed out were it not for an enterprising individual by the name of Cecil Rhodes. He began buying up mines in order to control the output and keep the price of diamonds high. By 1888, Rhodes controlled the entire South African diamond supply, and in turn, essentially the entire world supply. One of the companies he acquired was eponymously named after its founders, the De Beers brothers.

Building a diamond monopoly isn’t easy work. It requires a balance of ruthlessly punishing and cooperating with competitors, as well as a very long term view. For example, in 1902, prospectors discovered a massive mine in South Africa that contained as many diamonds as all of De Beers’ mines combined. The owners initially refused to join the De Beers cartel, joining three years later after new owner Ernest Oppenheimer recognized that a competitive market for diamonds would be disastrous for the industry:

Common sense tells us that the only way to increase the value of diamonds is to make them scarce, that is to reduce production.

Here’s how De Beers has controlled the diamond supply chain for most of the last century. De Beers owns most of the diamond mines. For mines that they don’t own, they have historically bought out all the diamonds, intimidating or co-opting any that think of resisting their monopoly. They then transfer all the diamonds over to the Central Selling Organization (CSO), which they own. 

The CSO sorts through the diamonds, puts them in boxes and presents them to the 250 partners that they sell to. The price of the diamonds and quantity of diamonds are non-negotiable - it’s take it or leave it. Refuse your boxes and you’re out of the diamond industry.

For most of the 20th century, this system has controlled 90% of the diamond trade and been solely responsible for the inflated price of diamonds. However, as Oppenheimer took over leadership at De Beers, he keenly assessed the primary operational risk that the company faced:

Our only risk is the sudden discovery of new mines, which human nature will work recklessly to the detriment of us all.

Because diamonds are “valuable”, there will always be the risk of entrepreneurs finding new sources of diamonds. Although controlling the discoverers of new mines often actually meant working with communists. In 1957, the Soviet Union discovered a massive deposit of diamonds in Siberia. Though the diamonds were a bit on the smallish side, De Beers still had to swoop in and buy all of them from the Soviets, lest they risk the supply being unleashed on the world market.

Later, in Australia, a large supply of colored diamonds was discovered. When the mine refused to join the syndicate, De Beers retaliated by unloading massive amounts of colored diamonds that were similar to the Australian ones to drive down their price. Similarly, in the 1970s, some Israeli members of the CSO started stockpiling the diamonds they were allocated rather than reselling them. This made it difficult for De Beers to control the market price and would eventually cause a deflation in diamond prices when the hoarders released their stockpile. Eventually, these offending members were banned from the CSO, essentially shutting them out from the diamond business.

In 2000, De Beers announced that they were relinquishing their monopoly on the diamond business. They even settled a US Antitrust lawsuit related to price fixing industrial diamonds to the tune of $10 million (How generous! What is that, the price of one investment banker’s engagement ring?). 

Today, De Beers hold on the industry supply chain is less strong. And yet, price continue to rise as new deposits haven’t been found recently and demand for diamonds is increasing in India and China. For now, it’s less necessary that the company monopolize the supply chain because its lie that a diamond is a proxy for a man’s worth in life has infected the rest of the world.


“I didn’t get a bathroom door that looks like a wall by being bad at business” -- Jack Donaghy,30 Rock

We covet diamonds in America for a simple reason: the company that stands to profit from diamond sales decided that we should. De Beers’ marketing campaign single handedly made diamond rings the measure of one’s success in America. Despite its complete lack of inherent value, the company manufactured an image of diamonds as a status symbol. And to keep the price of diamonds high, despite the abundance of new diamond finds, De Beers executed the most effective monopoly of the 20th century. Okay, we get it De Beers, you guys are really good at business! 

The purpose of this post was to point out that diamond engagement rings are a lie - they’re an invention of Madison Avenue and De Beers. This post has completely glossed over the sheer amount of human suffering that we’ve caused by believing this lie: conflict diamonds funding wars, supporting apartheid for decades with our money, and pillaging the earth to find shiny carbon. And while we’re on the subject, why is it that women need to be asked and presented with a ring in order to get married? Why can’t they ask and do the presenting?

Diamonds are not actually scarce, make a terrible investment, and are purely valuable as a status symbol.

Diamonds, to put it delicately, are bullshit.

This post was written by Rohin Dhar. He has a very patient wife. Follow him on Twitter here or Google.

SEE ALSO: 13 Surprising Facts You Should Know Before Buying A Ring And Proposing

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Russian Dancer Calls World-Renowned Ballet Company A 'Giant Brothel'


Anastasia Volochkova Bolshoi

Russia's world-renowned Bolshoi Ballet has been thrown into the depths of scandal in recent months with stories of brutal acid attacks and death threats against dancers.

The controversy isn't over yet.

In a fresh twist, a former dancer has told the press that dancers in the Bolshoi were forced to sleep with wealthy patrons, and said that the current General Manager of the company turned it into a "giant brothel."

According to the BBC, Anastasia Volochkova first made the accusations against the Bolshoi's current General Manager, Anatoly Iksanov, on Sunday.

“Girls are invited each in turn by the administrator, who explains that they are going to a party, with dinner and a follow-up, in bed and going all the way,” Volochkova said during a show on state-owned NTV’s March 17 program, Bloomberg reports. When asked with whom they were forced to sleep with, Volochkova said, “With certain oligarchs, some of them are members of the board of trustees (of the Bolshoi) or just the person organizing the party.”

Volochkova later repeated the accusations in a radio interview.

Iksanov has responded to Volochkova's accusations, dismissing them as “nonsense and dirt.”

The former ballerina may well have an axe to grind. Volochkova was fired from the theatre in 2003, reportedly for being "too fat." She won a legal case against the theatre, and became a prominent TV personality in Russia.

However, the accusations help bolster the reputation of the 237-year-old company as a place of bloody backstabbing and poisoned intrigue; a reputation brought to the forefront in January, when current artistic director Sergei Filin had acid thrown on his face in an attack apparently orchestrated by a dancer.

Last year, Gennady Yanin, a deputy director at the Bolshoi, was forced to quit after images of him engaging in sexual acts with other men were anonymously leaked to the Internet.

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Axe Body Spray Sent A High School Freshman To The Hospital



Axe, the body spray that's perennially popular among teenage guys, is being banned from a Pennsylvania high school after a freshman had a severe allergic reaction to it and wound up in the hospital.

Michael LaPorta, the principal of The Freedom High School in Bethlehem, Pa., said the student was taken to the hospital by ambulance after suffering an "extreme" reaction, Dan Stamm at NBC10.com reports.

Principal LaPorta later posted a message on the school's website asking students to think twice about their fragrance choices:

The purpose of this posting is to make all parents, staff and students aware of a medical issue involving a Freedom High School student having an extreme allergy to Axe Body Spray.  This allergy is potentially life threatening for this student.  Most recently this student has been transported to the hospital by ambulance for emergency medical treatment due to this student being exposed to Axe Body Spray while attending school.

My request to all Freedom Family members is that we take into consideration this student’s allergy to Axe Body Spray and refrain from using it as your cologne or fragrance of choice while attending Freedom High School.

Unilever, which owns Axe, told NBC10.com that it was aware of the situation and that it was looking into the matter.

SEE ALSO: 51 Companies That Are Changing The Way We Shop >

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4 Wild Las Vegas Pools That Are About To Reopen For Spring


Las Vegas is wild year round, but it reaches its highest peak of crazy when the outdoor pools reopen for the spring and summertime crowds.

Known for their ever-flowing liquor, bikini bodies, and raucous behavior, Vegas pool parties are some of the most popular places to let it all hang out (literally and figuratively).

Some pools, such as the ones at the Cosmopolitan, the Luxor, and the Monte Carlo, have already opened but good things come to those who wait: The most popular pools are opening in the next few weeks.

Here are four awesome Las Vegas pool parties reopening soon.

1. Rehab Sundays at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino 

Reopening Date: April 21st

Sunday Rehab Pool Party at the Hard Rock Hotel Casino1

When people think of Las Vegas pool parties, the Hard Rock’s infamous Sunday Rehab often comes to mind. These parties show Vegas at its finest — or most terrifying, depending on your view. But even people who arrive terrified often feel just finnnnne a few cocktails in.

Reopening in April for its ninth season, Rehab features tons of booze, live DJs, and scantily-clad partiers you probably saw at Vanity last night who are taking the whole “hair of the dog” saying very seriously. Gents have to hand over $50 at the door (although we”d advise buying tickets in advance) while the ladies get in for just $30. But most claim that it’s worth the price; you may just find that special someone. For those who want to ensure they’ll have to spot to wind down if they need a reprieve from the partying, pricey daybeds and cabanas are available for rent.

2. Bare at The Mirage

Reopening Date: March 14th

Bare at The Mirage

Bare may not have the party scene that Rehab boasts, but it still has a spot on the wild side as a topless-optional pool. This small, adults-only pool reopens tomorrow and will be back to its usual antics with a live DJ and poolside drink service. During the week, guys get in for $20 whereas they have to fork over an extra $20 on Fridays and Saturdays. Ladies, on the other hand, pay $10 every day of the week.

3.Wet Republic at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino

Reopening Date: March 22nd

Wet Republic Pool at the MGM Grand Hotel Casino

Someone’s excited that Wet Republic is reopening! The adults-only space at the MGM features numerous pools, including two salt water pools, a massive sundeck, VIP bungalows, daily contests, and an impressive lineup of DJs and performers (LMFAO performed while we were there). The big parties take place over the weekend, and prices vary depending on the events but, per usual in Vegas, ladies always pay less than the guys.

4. Liquid at Aria Resort & Casino Las Vegas

Reopening Date: March 14th

Liquid at the Aria Resort Casino Las Vegas

One of the newest hotels on the Strip (after the brand-new Cosmopolitan, of course), Aria keeps things hot (and cool) with Liquid, the adult-only pool that opens tomorrow. It has more of an upscale vibe than other raucous Vegas pools; the requisite DJ spins tracks while partiers drink cocktails, but the scene is more serene.

A restaurant serving tasty snacks and sandwiches sits adjacent to the two pools, which are surrounded by comfy loungers and daybeds. Or, guests can opt to rent one of the eight spacious cabanas, complete with high-tech amenities and top-notch service.

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Svedka Is Giving Its Sexy Robot The Axe


Svedka robot

Svedka's sexually confusing robot "spokeswoman" — famous for ridiculous tag lines like "make your next trophy wife 100% titanium"— is losing her starring role as the vodka company's marketing mascot.

Although Ad Age reports she'll still be seen in the occasional social media campaign and marketing event, that sounds like the beginning of the phase-out process.

svedka vodka adDiana Pawlik, Svedka VP of marketing, told Ad Age that even though she "worked very hard for us, and she's played a very key role ... right now the focus is about the character of the flavor and the character of the experience from enjoying and indulging in the new flavors."

The new ads will highlight orange cream pop and strawberry colada flavors with images of colorful humans — no titanium in sight! — in bikinis and sunglasses.


The Svedka robot, named one of Business Insider's 10 sexiest brand icons ever, was first introduced in 2005 by New York agency Amalgamated.

svedka vodka

She was created by Stan Winston, the special effects supervisor and makeup artist behind "Terminator," "Jurassic Park," Iron Man," and "Avatar."

In spite a reprimand for violating the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States' restriction on "graphic or gratuitous nudity," degrading women, or "sexually lewd" language, the company was still bought by Constellation Brands for $384 million in 2007 and experienced an uptick of sales following the robot's introduction.

2007 was also the year it pulled an ad with the tagline, "Gay men still prefer Svedka over sex with women."

In spite of inciting complaints, the robot has been the focal point of Svedka's marketing strategy for almost a decade. We'll see if the new campaign lasts.

SEE ALSO: Pepsi's Most Successful Viral Video Ever Is Completely Fake

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