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PUTIN YIELDS TO PRESSURE, Calls For Leniency On Pussy Riot

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Pussy Riot

Vladimir Putin has called for a Russian court to show leniency toward feminist punk band Pussy Riot, calling into question the independence of Russia's notoriously politicised court system.

Putin criticised the women's February act in Moscow's Christ the Saviour cathedral, where they performed an anti-Putin "punk prayer" designed to highlight the Orthodox Church's support for the powerful presidency.

"There is nothing good in this," Putin told journalists at the end of a one day trip to London. "I wouldn't really like to comment, but I think if the girls were, let's say, in Israel, and insulted something in Israel … it wouldn't be so easy for them to leave." If they "desecrated some Muslim holy site, we wouldn't even have had time to detain them", he added.

"Nonetheless, I don't think they should be judged too severely for this," Putin said. "But the final decision rests with the courts – I hope the court will deliver a correct, well-founded ruling."

Three members of Pussy Riot – Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Yekaterina Samutsevich – face up to seven years in prison if found guilty on charges of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred. They have argued that they were carrying out a political protest against the church's support of Putin ahead of contentious elections that saw Putin return to the presidency for the third time amid unprecedented protests.

"On the one hand, Putin's statement is without doubt a manoeuvre for the international community, because he is clearly worried and traumatised by the international reaction, as it is out of his control," said Mark Feygin, a lawyer for Pussy Riot. "On the other hand, he is frantically trying to find an exit, so as not to take responsibility.»

Defence lawyers have likened the case against Pussy Riot, which continued to be heard on Friday, to a show trial. "Every day, the level of absurdity grows and grows," said Nikolai Polozov, another lawyer for Pussy Riot.

The prosecution has concluded questioning their witnesses, mainly those who were inside the cathedral during the performance. The judge has yet to rule on whether the defence will be allowed to call witnesses. Among those the defence hopes to call is opposition activist Alexei Navalny, currently facing his own charges of fraud as Russia's crackdown on dissent grows.

Lawyers initially said they expected a verdict early next week, but said Putin's public statements on the trial also called that into question.

This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk

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'Granny' Obama Opposes Family Planning And Feminism—But Has No Doubt Her Step-Grandson Is American

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sarah oyango obama

President Obama's angry granny stared impassively into the distance, as her rabbits relentlessly fucked each other around us. One ventured near her ankle, as if wondering whether to hump it. "Should I hump it?" the rabbit asked, and it dawned on me that sleep deprivation and whatever sickness had begun to take root in my gut were beginning to affect my brain in unexpected and disturbing ways.

This was already very different to the experience of one Greenpeace worker, whose blog post I had read the night before:

"Oyawore, Mama Sarah" was my first attempt to speak Luo, the local dialect of US President Obama's family's village in Nyang'oma Kogelo. This greeting got me a warm smile and a hug from Mama Sarah Obama, the President's grandmother, when I met her under a mango tree in front of her home. At 87 years old, she exudes a strong warm presence. She's definitely a lovable grandmother that you don't want to fool around with.

We had flown out west to Kisumu, a large town built halfway between Nairobi and Kampala on the shores of Lake Victoria, in the Nyanza province. This was a poorer, rural corner of Kenya, which we would spend two brutally-scheduled but rewarding days touring with the CDC. A stereotypically American convoy of five bright white trucks greeted us at the airport and whisked us off to local clinics and homesteads, where we watched bright young health workers perform HIV tests, and demonstrate to village elders the correct way to put condoms on giant wooden phalluses.

The second day ended, inexplicably, with a visit to Sarah Onyango Obama in the nearby village of Nyang'oma Kogelo. Famous only for marrying a president's grandfather, the woman a young Barack called 'Granny' has become embedded in Kenya's national mythology in much the same way that Pippa Middleton has become embedded in the pages of Heat magazine. Described by some as "a new voice of rural women," she was appointed a goodwill ambassador by one NGO, and had solar power installed at her home by volunteers from Greenpeace.

While Greenpeace busied themselves upgrading Mama Obama's power to solar in 2009, her neighbours struggled to get electricity of any kind. The village was only connected to the national grid after Obama became President, and local police were deployed to keep the solar cells out of the hands of Obama's less fortunate neighbours - presumably not at Greenpeace's expense. The new wattage was swiftly followed by a new police station, a museum, and improvements to the nearest international airport. While much of the country struggled with chronically bad roads, new tarmac was bulldozed across Nyanza to connect one old lady to the West. Now aged ninety, and as formidable as ever, it was clear that Obama was a living propaganda coup for the Kenyan government, a way to attract the attention of America's wealthy tourists and donors.

We arrived shortly after lunch on a warm, sunny day, to find a green and pleasant compound, its bustling gardens filled with birdsong and populated by rabbits, turkeys, and assorted humans - mostly staff and police officers. A few short rows of plastic chairs had been set out for the journalists in the shade of a mango tree where our host sat facing us, surveying her land with an expression of grumpy authority. She had become irritated when a member of the group decided to put a video camera in front of her to record the interview without introducing themselves first, and the start of the interview was tetchy and a little fraught as the IRP leader attempted to break the ice with a series of awkward compliments about her "beautiful dress."

Obama only speaks the Lua language, and our questions had to be put through a convenient government translator. This quickly became a problem. A question about whether life was better under British rule was met with the response that, "she doesn't talk about politics," and although Obama herself seemed perfectly willing to answer (in the affirmative), it was clear that political discussion of any sort was frowned upon. It seemed we were expected to ask only soft questions about her charity work, the animals sharing her compound, and her famous step-grandson.

Half an hour passed, and I was becoming dangerously bored. I didn't give a fuck about how often she talked to President Obama, or whether President Obama sent her a card at Christmas, or whether she was proud of President Obama, or any of the other five hundred questions with the words 'President Obama' in them, so I decided to ignore the protestations of the government translator and veer off-message. The Kenyan constitution had been rewritten recently, triggering a huge debate over abortion rights: elective abortion is prohibited in Kenya, fueling an industrial-scale trade in illegal - often dangerous - alternatives. Aha! I thought. What better subject could there be to ask this great supporter of Kenyan women about!

"Can I ask…? There's been a considerable amount of debate in Kenya recently about changes to the Kenyan constitution, particularly around family planning and abortion. Do you have any views on access to abortion services and to family planning in Kenya?"

The twin microphones of my Zoom recorder picked up five long seconds of birdsong, but not the visible distress of the government translator. Eventually, on Mama's prompting, she reluctantly translated the question. It was left to our CDC guide to relay the reply: "So she's against abortion."

"She's against abortion." I echoed, half-expecting to be corrected.

"And she's against family planning."

"She's against family planning."

"And her reason… She says that if God gives you the reproductive ability, just reproduce, because in our circumstances the mortality rate is very high. If you limit, you lower the number that will remain. So the more the better."

... Unless of course your country's population is expanding at the rate of a million people a year, and many of them can't find jobs.

Of course, it's rarely God who decides such matters in the bedroom: more than a tenth of Kenyan women report being raped by their partners, and Kenya's male-dominated parliament blocked legislation protecting women from marital rape in 2006, making it clear they didn't take the issue seriously. BBC reports from the time quote MP Kenneth Marende welcoming the dropping of the marital rape clause, celebrating the fact that: "Kenyans can still have sex with their partners even when they are asleep so long as they are married." Another MP, "told parliament that women usually say 'No' to sex, even if they mean 'Yes', unless they were prostitutes."

I was still digesting this response when Julia Manning, a pleasantly moderate blogger from the Daily Mail – asked Obama about initiatives to stop wife-beating: "There's been a program in the last few years, called 'Real Men Don't Beat Their Wives.' Has she heard of it, and has she had to counsel any men in the area on treating their wives better?"

The response, rather unexpectedly, was raucous laughter. The translation was left again to our CDC guide - by this point the government translator had pointedly asked not to be photographed, and seemed to have decided that if she couldn't stop the more controversial questions, she could at least avoid any involvement with the answers.

"The disobedient wives should be beaten."

"Sorry?" replied Manning, as I fished in my camera bag for some imaginary popcorn.

"The wives that are disobedient, they should be beaten."

"They should be beaten?"

"Yeah, they should be beaten."

"Can you ask her," replied the admirably unruffled blogger, "what about disobedient husbands?"

More laughter. "So as far as our culture is concerned, women should not beat as much. The major reason… we marry the women, we pay dowry, they come to our compounds, you give them land, so that gives some element of superiority over the woman." In the case of President Obama's step-grandmother, the dowry was apparently ten cows – well above the average of four.

The interview came to an end after an hour or so, and I wandered the green, well-tended compound on an increasingly urgent mission to find a toilet. I thought about my own family: we've all been embarrassed at Christmas dinner by relatives with unfortunate views and that's probably why President Obama doesn't visit more often - that and the whole running the country deal - but why on Earth does it matter?

The truth is, it doesn't: there is no reason for any journalist to visit Barack Obama's grandmother, and yet dozens of them are dumped on her lawn every month by the CDC, the IRP, or any of a hundred other organizations drawn to her celebrity like a moth to a television. Her views on abortion, contraception or local politics should be no more relevant than those of anyone else in the village she dominates; and yet her voice is broadcast across continents, drowning out the many neighbours living quietly in her shadow. Still, everyone who matters is happy: the NGOs and aid agencies are pleased to get some coverage, journalists leave with some soft easy copy, and Sarah Obama sits happily under her Mango tree watching the rabbits and turkeys and policemen that occupy her lawn.

If you bother to look behind the myth of Barack Obama's step-grandmother, the reality is a sad reminder of the patriarchal, deeply misogynistic society that progressive Kenyans have fought against for decades. With her large government house, translator, police escort, and the unearned role as a sort of national elder that gains her lavish attention from NGOs and journalists, she is symbolic of the corruption that riddles the country and holds back progress.

It's not really surprising that a ninety-year-old rural Kenyan woman holds these views, but it's troubling that NGOs are happy to gloss over them for the sake of attaching a famous name to their brands. Greenpeace will argue that their high-profile solar energy project here included workshops for local kids and power for a nearby school, but its visible impact was to put a solar panels on the house of a rich lady while dozens of her poorer neighbours went without power of any kind, creating an inordinate amount of hassle for local police in the process. Faced with stunts like these, Kenyans are entitled to question the real motives of other foreign NGOs; and faced with an unelected celebrity spokeswoman attacking women's rights, they are entitled to ask the West to listen to somebody more suitable.

- - - - - - - - - -

We couldn't have left without asking one last question, a question that could have far-reaching consequences for global politics. "In the United States there's a group of people who believe that the President was born in Kenya," Salon's Irin Carmon explained: "Do they ever contact her, or ask her for help?"

Suddenly the rabbits ceased their rampant rogering and ran for the hills, causing chaos to erupt. Police officers scattered in all directions as the furry fuckers darted under nearby vehicles and bushes. Mama Obama stood and took charge, waving her arms and barking instructions at the hapless men making futile efforts to chase after or reason with the erratic little creatures darting back and forth across the lawns. Minutes passed until order was restored, but despite this obviously CIA-orchestrated attempt to disrupt the press conference and prevent Obama from revealing The Truth, Carmon stuck doggedly to her question: "I'm sorry, I didn't get an answer."

"She's saying Barack wasn't born in Kenya, Barack was born in America," came the response.

"But many people, they think that he was born in Kenya because they…" Irin paused, as if searching for the most polite term to use, "…are crazy. I wonder if those crazy people ever bother her?"

"No, they don't bother her anymore."

We could leave satisfied that at least one important issue had been settled. Whatever the Birthers claim, it's clear that Barack Hussein Obama was born in America, not Kenya; and if you can't trust a ninety year old woman who believes in wife-beating and thinks God is the best form of contraception, well then who the hell can you trust?

(This part is adapted and expanded from a piece first recorded for The Pod Delusion)

Part I: The Missing Millions of Kibera
Part II: Kidnapped at birth
(Part IV – "The child who hadn't seen a zebra" – coming Monday)

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Declaration of interest: This trip was organized by the International Reporting Project, an independent journalism organization based in Washington DC. It was funded by the Gates Foundation, who have had no editorial influence over this article. An article which was written entirely on Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 - the operating system all the cool writers with the biggest willies use.

Follow me on Twitter: @mjrobbins

This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk

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The Plaza Hotel Sells To An India Buyer For $570 Million

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The Plaza

The Plaza Hotel has finally sold to Sahara India Pariwar of Lucknow for $570 million, according to The New York TimesThe hotel was originally asking $600 million.

The Plaza started converting into condominiums, and it took nearly seven years to finish all the units. The buyers spent around $50 million on units, and once they moved in complained about the quality of renovations.

The hotel will continue to be managed by Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, but the Sahara Group will take the controlling stake in the property. Talks with the Sahara Group were reported as early as April.

It's also rumored the Sahara Group will add another Manhattan property to its portfolio, and acquire The Dream Downtown Hotel.

The Plaza Hotel first opened its doors in 1907. Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, heir to the Vanderbilt industrial empire, was the first guest to ever stay in the luxurious hotel. Marilyn Monroe and The Beatles are also among some of the famous guests who stayed at the hotel.

DON'T MISS: The $33.5 Million Plaza Penthouse That A Russian Billionaire Once Complained Was 'Attic-Like' Has Been Sold >

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The 10 Cities With The Most Young Adults Living With Their Parents

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watching tv

More young adults than ever are living with their parents—and this trend could just be getting started.

The share of adults aged 20-34 living at home rose to 24 percent during the recession, up from 17 percent in 1980, according to a study by Ohio State's Zhenchao Qian.

Too many young people are unemployed or terrified of losing their jobs, not to mention scared of the long-dismal housing market.

Qian also noted secular trends that are keeping kids at home like the declining marriage rate. He also found that men and non-white groups are more likely to live at home.

We've picked out the ten cities with the most young adults living at home. This list includes several notable centers of inequality like Bridgeport, NYC and LA. These may be places where home prices remain too high for millennials.

As several commenters pointed out below, this may not be a bad trend.

#10 Riverside, Calif.

26 percent of young adults live with their parents.

Median income for young adults is $18,000. Nine percent of them are unemployed, and 55 percent of them are unmarried.

 

Data includes young adults aged 25-29 from 2007-2009. Source: US2010.



#9 Scranton, PA

27 percent of young adults live with their parents.

Median income for young adults is $21,000. Six percent of them are unemployed, and 64 percent of them are unmarried.

 

Data includes young adults aged 25-29 from 2007-2009. Source: US2010.



#8 El Paso, TX

28 percent of young adults live with their parents.

Median income for young adults is $14,000. Seven percent of them are unemployed, and 52 percent of them are unmarried.

 

Data includes young adults aged 25-29 from 2007-2009. Source: US2010.



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30 AND UNDER: 9 Young Founders Who Are Running Billion-Dollar Companies

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Box.net CEO Aaron Levie at the company's recent BoxWorks conference.

There's arguably nothing more impressive than founding a company and turning it into a billion-dollar business before you turn 30.

In the tech world, more and more wunderkinds are emerging.

Here are the youngest people running today's most valuable companies.

Ben Silbermann left Google to start a company. After a few false starts, he landed on Pinterest, a photo collection company that is now valued at $1.5 billion.

Age: 29

What he's done: Silbermann left Google to found a company. After a few false starts, he and his cofounders began to gain some traction with a picture collection site, Pinterest. Pinterest has quickly grown to nearly 20 million monthly unique visitors and it's a top social media traffic driver.

Pinterest has raised $138 million at a $1.5 billion valuation. Silbermann's cofounder, Evan Sharp, is also 29.



2 years after founding Instagram, Kevin Systrom's app now has 80 million users. He sold it to Facebook in April for $1 billion.

Age: 27

What he's done: In 2010, Systrom cofounded Instagram with his 25-year-old cofounder Mike Krieger. Instagram quickly became the most popular mobile photo app and now has 80 million users.

It was acquired for $1 billion by Facebook in April.



Drew Houston launched Dropbox at Y Combinator Demo Day. Now the file sharing and storing company is worth $4 billion.

Age: 29

What he's done: In 2007, Drew Houston cofounded Dropbox. Since then Apple offered to acquire it, but Houston opted to keep building his business. Last year it generated $240 million in revenue.

Dropbox has raised $257 million at a $4 billion valuation.



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Larry Ellison Will Have To Share His Hawaiian Island With Former Owner, David Murdock

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Larry Ellison wine glass

Larry Ellison bought his own Hawaiian island, but the previous owner isn't quite done with it yet.

The AP reports billionaire David Murdock, who sold the island to Ellison, will be holding on to three key pieces of property.

He'll have his seven-bedroom, seven-bathroom, 44,921-square-foot mansion worth over $6 million.

He'll keep his grocery store, which is one of just three grocery stores on the island.

And, most controversially, he'll keep the rights to a wind farm project that people of Lanai hate.

Some other fun stuff he negotiated for himself:

  • a lot across the street from the home
  • assorted apartments
  • two massive wood sculptures that reside in a resort lobby
  • two carved elephant tusks
  • a woodworking shop that makes furniture
  • and 1,000 rare orchid plants.

This info was revealed through documents filed to the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission. What isn't known is how much Ellison paid for 98 percent of the island’s 141 square miles. The Maui News reported that Murdock had wanted to sell for sometime and was looking fo  $500 million to $600 million.

But if Ellison doesn't get to keep those 1,000 rare orchids, well, who knows how much he was willing to pay.

Don't miss: 10 Reasons You Wish You Were Larry Ellison

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Michael Phelps Just Lost $440,000 On His Baltimore Condo

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michael phelps house

Michael Phelps, arguably the best Olympian of all time, may be winning in London, but back home in the states, he's not having the best luck.

According to TMZ, Phelps sold his condo in Baltimore last week at a $440,000 loss.

Phelps bought the place back in 2007 for $1.699 million, put it on the market in March for $1.42 million, and just sold it for a rumored $1.25 million.

It's right on the water



Wide open space



The stairway



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2 Things Determine Whether You'll Hole Up With Mom And Dad

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new study by Ohio State's Zhenchao Quian reveals why more young adults than ever are living with their parents.

There are the obvious factors like unemployment and the lousy housing market, then there are others like gender and race.

Quian found men were more likely to live at home than women, in part because they were waiting longer to get married and "sons have fewer domestic responsibilities—such as cleaning and cooking—when they live at home with parents." We'll spare the feminist commentary for now, but Quian seems to feel the more guys are let off the hook for these "women's chores," the less of a problem they'll have mooching off their parents. 

Check out the chart below for proof:

Chart millennials at home

In terms of race, Quian found that African Americans, Latinos and Asian millennials are more likely to live at home than their white counterparts. Conventional wisdom says "extended family living" arrangements are ingrained in these race's culture, however, there are two other factors at play: marriage and location. 

Asian Americans, who saw the sharpest increase in people living with parents between 1980 and 2007-2009, marry later compared with other racial groups. They also tend to live in high-rent cities like New York City and Los Angeles.

For both of these reasons, "doubling-up" makes sense. It cuts the rent (or eliminates it entirely) and offsets the pain of having to shack up with strangers on Craigslist

The chart below shows how this trend has evolved since the early 1980s: 

Chart millenials at home

DON'T MISS: The pros and cons of living on your own in NYC > 

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Long Island Country Club Allegedly Partied With Strippers On The Green And Hookers In The Clubhouse

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tam o'shanter

A Long Island country club hired strippers and prostitutes to entertain clients on the premises, according to a complaint by a disgrunted former employee. 

Bartender Justin Williams, 33, was fired in May after two years with the $15,500-a-year Tam O'Shanter.

The lurid details:

  • On special occasions, the country club reserved private rooms and hired prostitutes for clients, according to the complaint.
  • Up to 150 people attended an August "Men's Only" day. “The members would play a round of golf, and while they were out there, they would have strippers on the course, and drinks,” Williams told the New York Post.
  • The strippers returned to the club for cocktail hour, but then they left and "the actual prostitutes would come in," he told the Post. "At that point, whoever wanted to solicit would just walk up to the hooker, and things were negotiated during cocktails.”
  • When the club hired prostitutes, employees weren't allowed to have their cell phones to communicate with the outside world, according to the complaint.
  • The bartender was told to lie to wives inquiring about the husband's behavior at the club, according to the complaint.
  • Williams was made to pour cheap liquor into expensive bottles and charge clients premium prices, according to the complaint.

Tam O'Shanter has not responded to inquiries from Business Insider and New York Post.

The bartender filed a complaint for sexual discrimination and wrongful termination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. 

DON'T MISS: Telemundo Star Accuses Victoria's Secret Model Of Breaking Her Nose In A Catfight >

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9 Decadent Alternatives To Wedding Cakes

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feeding wedding cake bride groom

Multi-layered, beautifully tiered cakes are focal points of wedding receptions across America. 

For decades, brides and grooms-to-be have laboriously tested and tasted endless varieties of dark chocolate ganache and vanilla bean buttercream to find the perfect moist and cakey combination with which to ring in their “I-dos.”

But while wedding cakes remain non-negotiable staples for some couples, others are taking less traditional (but equally sweet) routes.  

Here are 9 alternatives that don't necessarily involve mounds of froofy white frosting, but will surely satisfy the sweet tooth of each and every wedding guest.

An Ice Cream Sundae Bar

Ice cream lovers rejoice because now this cold, creamy treat is cropping up more and more frequently at wedding celebrations across the country.  

A lighter alternative to dense, butter-packed cakes and pastries, ice cream is a refreshing treat at sweltering summer weddings or after an intense spell on the dance floor.

Consider a sundae bar where guests can re-live their childhood years by loading up on their favorite flavors and toppings, or go simple and decadent with dishes of Italian gelato, frozen yogurt, or sorbets.



Pies

Who says pie is just for holidays? With so many seasonal options and tasty varieties, weddings are the perfect occasion to whip out those pie pans and get baking.  

For cold-month receptions, experiment with nutty, chocolately, and spiced varieties like rich dark chocolate, sweet pecan, or pumpkin, while fruits like lemon and strawberry can make their appearances at spring and summer parties.

Top each dessert with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a dollop of cream to give guests an extra special treat they will surely remember.



Make Your Own Crepes

You don't have to claim French heritage to appreciate this light, elegant dessert.  

Made from three simple ingredients (milk, flour, and eggs) and paired with your favorite fruits, syrups, and whipped cream, this elegant and inexpensive-to-make sweet treat is guaranteed to please even the pickiest of pallets.      

Crepes can be artfully stacked on platters or made fresh and served table-side to guests.  Provide a toppings bar and watch party-goers get creative with yummy and irresistibly sweet combinations like honey and lemon or chocolate and banana. 



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The 5 Best Outdoor Eating Spots In London

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La Poule Au Pot, London

With its notoriously fickle weather, London may not be known for its outdoor dining, but when the weather is nice, Londoners flea to the outdoors to soak up the sun. 

And the best places to truly enjoy the (fleeting) fine weather is in an outdoor cafe or restaurant.

The editors at Zagat found the five best outdoor dining spots in London. They range from elegant rooftop terraces where you can dine on fine French food to charming leafy gardens where you can enjoy rustic Italian fare.

Just bring an umbrella in case the weather turns!

#5 The Ledbury

127 Ledbury Rd., W11

This modern Notting Hill restaurant is a mix between a cozy neighborhood joint and a high-end eatery. It has great service, an exciting new French menu by Brett Graham, an elegant dining room and a charming outdoor eating space.

The restaurant, which opened in 2005, was ranked number 14 in the World's 50 Best Restaurants. It also has two Michelin stars and numerous other accolades.



#4 La Poule au Pot

231 Ebury St., SW1W

La Poule au Pot, a quaint French cafe, will transport you to Paris with its fine French food, its romantic candle-lit dining room and its charming outdoor patio.



#3 La Famiglia

7 Langton St., SW10

The name of this traditional Italian restaurant, meaning "the family," is apt as you'll be welcomed by the friendly staff as a member of the family.

Enjoy the rustic Tuscan food in the cozy dining room or in the charming covered garden out back..



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HOUSE OF THE DAY: The Anheuser-Busch Estate In Fort Lauderdale Is On Sale For $15 Million

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anheuser busch estate fort lauderdale"Manga Reva," widely known as the former Anheuser-Busch Estate in Fort Lauderdale, has hit the market for $15 million.

The home was built on the Fort Lauderdale inlet in 1938 for the Busch beer family. The home was designed by Addison Mizner’s protégé, architect Francis Abreu.

The house has six bedrooms, seven full bathrooms and four half-baths, spanning 12,533 square feet.

A few scenes from George Wells' 1960s film Where The Boys Are, which tells the story of four Midwestern college students who come to Fort Lauderdale for spring break, were filmed in the home.

Welcome to Riviera Drive.



The living room features a projector screen.



The home features double-glazed hurricane impact windows.



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Now Rich People In The Hamptons Really Don't Have To Do Any Work At All

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southampton social club

If the point of going to the Hamptons is to relax, why would you want to do anything as taxing as making a dinner reservation or planning your own barbecue?

Exactly. There's no reason for it.

Enter Quintessentially, the global concierge service that does all those things for you and more (if you're a member, of course).

They're taking on the Hamptons — they've always wanted to — and have partnered with restaurant Southampton Social Club to plan a range of events from polo game after parties (there's one this Saturday) to sunset reggae jams.

All of this so that you don't have to. You're too busy relaxing, obviously.

The company was founded in 2000 by Londoners Aaron Simpson and Ben Elliot (a nightlife vet and nephew of Camilla Parker Bowles, no less). Quintessentially told Business Insider that the two were always doing favors for their friends from around the world when they came to London. Eventually, those favors became a business. Now they have 63 offices around the world.

Now you can head out for your weekend with absolutely no worries. Isn't that a relief?

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YACHT OF THE WEEK: Buy A Speedy Yacht That Sleeps 10 For $21.9 Million

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zoom zoom zoom $21.9 million

Zoom Zoom Zoom is as fast as its namesake, cruising the high seas at 25 knots.

The 161-foot yacht is on sale for $21.9 million.

It was built in 2005 and re-fit in 2009. It sleeps 10 people in five staterooms.

The ship comes with three outside dining areas, a treadmill, snorkel gear, and other water toys.

Boatmaker Trinity built the yacht.



The ship's average cruising speed is 20 knots.



The ship fits 10 crew members.



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5 London Clubs Where You're Guaranteed To Find Olympic Athletes

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the cuckoo club london bar club

For the last four years, the superhuman athletes that will be competing this summer have been abstaining from any and all tempting behaviors in their quest for gold.

And if past headlines of prevalent sex, cheating, and drug use (so what if they are performance enhancers) in the Olympic Village are any indication, there’s a lot of steam waiting to blow.

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With this summer’s Games taking place in one of the party capitals of the world, you can bet they’ll be hitting the town to celebrate their victories—or drown away their defeats. But before you start fantasizing over bumping into Maria Sharapova at the local pub and wooing her with your obscure tennis knowledge, remember that you will be in the original land of nobility.

These athletes, with their bodies sculpted like Greek gods and goddesses, will be getting the ultimate royal treatment—far from the prying eyes of the peasantry. Which is why we here at Party Earth are here to help. Because if you want your chance at showing Kevin Durant a few tips on throwing down shots, or seeing Aussie swimming star Stephanie Rice in something sexier than her one-piece speedo (hard to imagine), you better know where to go—and be ready to look the part.

So brush off that snazzy sports coat or make a shopping stop at Regent Street, because here are five exclusive clubs in London where you’ll need to look good in order to have the best chance of finding your favorite Olympic athletes.

This story was originally published by Party Earth.

McQueen

Named after the king of cool himself, McQueen is an ultra-sleek nightclub and lounge in the Shoreditch neighborhood of London. Purple and blue hues pervade under the dim gold lighting, and deep black leather banquettes and sofas balance the rooms.

Three separate areas provide the power players and swank fashionistas with a place to eat, drink, and dance, but the masculine coolness of the venue is topped off with the basement: its Thursday night burlesque shows and late-night DJs are famous for inspiring the sort of antics that would have made the legend himself proud. McQueen, with its crafted cocktails, risqué environment, and trendy clientele, will be a likely place to spot an athlete dressed to impress. Hopefully the rest of the crowds are distracted by the cabaret.



The Cuckoo Club

Deserving of its own Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous episode, The Cuckoo Club is where the city’s finest throw on their Louboutins and little black dresses for a night of glamour. Competing with Los Angeles clubs for its constant celebrity sightings, the Cuckoo Club will be a prime suspect for spotting Olympians looking to hit the dance floor. Make a reservation and arrive early to this lavish spot because the lines are guaranteed to be stiff. When you spot soccer star Alex Morgan inside and attempt to show off your moves, just make sure not to come on too strong—a penalty kick to the groin with her six-inch heels will hurt even more than with her cleats.



Shoreditch House

You might not look twice at this featureless four-story building, but within its upper three floors is an exquisite members-only club known for its celebrities, athletes, and affluent corporate-types that relax and socialize in its tranquil environment.

By far, the highlight of the Shoreditch House is its rooftop. Perched on the roof are a restaurant/bar, a crystal blue pool, and even a Lazy Lawn—a garden area with lounge chairs and beds perfect for a sunny day tan while sipping on world-class cocktails. But if you aren’t a member, how do you get in? Well, tough luck Chuck. Just kidding, there is actually an adjacent hotel next door, and guests are welcome to use the club. So book that room or be prepared to dish out a pretty penny if you want to talk strategy with D-Wade or share a Manhattan with Lolo Jones.



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6 Of The World's Greatest Historic Bars

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ye olde cheshire cheese tavern london

Sure, there’s an appeal to a new swanky restaurant, bar, or club opening.

It’s fun to be a part of something new and exciting, but there’s no way to tell if this new hot spot is a flash in the pan or an icon in the making.

There’s just nothing like the cozy feeling you get from dining or drinking in a historic establishment.

Anyone can set up shop and serve a beer, cocktail or glass of wine, but these six bars on the East Coast and across the pond give off a venerated atmosphere with their long-standing ties and the generations-old stories that live within the walls.

This story was originally published by Party Earth.

McSorley's Old Ale House

Starting off in New York’s East Village, McSorley’s Old Ale House has been serving libations since 1854 and proudly wears its history with sawdust strewn floors, old photos, and historical documents on display. This pub’s stories range from John Lennon ordering cold ones, Woody Guthrie inspiring the union movement, and Teddy Roosevelt dropping in for a pint. Even Honest Abraham Lincoln stepped in to wet his whistle whilst on his way to becoming one of the most influential American presidents. Turns out these great minds did so for good reason; McSorley’s has been one of the most popular beer bars in NYC for over 150 years.



The Union Oyster House

Moving northeast, you’ll find two senior Boston bars that are only getting better with age. Standing since 1826, The Union Oyster House is the oldest continually operating restaurant in the United States. The Kennedy family patronized the Oyster House for years and to this day people come from all over to pose at the monument to JFK’s favorite booth. Homage is also paid to one of the original purposes of the building with clippings from American’s first newspaper—the Massachusetts Spy, published in the 1770s—prominently displayed throughout the bar.



Bell in Hand Tavern

Nearby sits the Bell in Hand Tavern—named after Boston’s last town crier, Jimmy Walker—which
claims to be America’s oldest tavern with beginnings dating back to 1795. Walker served as the town
crier for 50 years and delivered news of everything from the Boston Tea Party to the birth of the nation
before hanging up his bell in favor of the bar. The tavern eventually became famous for something other
than its owner when word got out about its two glass beer pours—one glass for the ale and one for the
froth.



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HOUSE OF THE DAY: A Seven-Bedroom Ski Home In Park City Is On Sale For $20.5 million

Why Bronte Capital Is Shorting A Luxury Company And Terrified About China

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richemontAt my hedge fund we usually short frauds. Stuff with dodgy accounts and dodgy prospects promoted by people who would be car salesmen if stock promotion were less lucrative. But sometimes, just sometimes we find ourselves aching to short a real company with fine management where business prospects are going south very fast.

Richemont - the mega-luxury good maker with a focus on watches and jewellery is the latest example. We are waiting for a highly valued high quality company producing spectacular goods to have a similarly spectacular earnings miss.

The company describes its brands as "Maisons" (French for houses) harking back to some long established tradition in a Swiss-French mountain chalet surrounded by snow where they produce fine (if somewhat pretentious) luxury goods. Still these brands have taken over the world - and now if you walk through Venice or Hong Kong or Shanghai or around the areas frequented by Asian tourists in Hawaii or Sydney you find the global standard set of luxury goods. The fact that they could make their product both ubiquitous and exclusive somewhat amazes me - but they have achieved that. These are amazing companies.

With amazing profits too. The Jewellery Maisons [CartierVan Cleef & Arpels] in the (March ended) 2012 financial year produced €4.59 billion in sales with €1.51 in operating profit. The growth rate has been almost Apple-like. In 2007 sales were €2.68 billion, profits €742 million. In 2004 the Jewellery Maisons had only €367 million in profit. This stuff did unbelievably well out of the rising of a new plutocracy - but particularly out of a new kleptocratic Asian plutocracy.

Watches did similarly well. I find watches strangely redundant (a smart phone is both more accurate and more useful and you probably carry one anyway). However they have become the only really acceptable piece of male jewellery by which the elite can show their status. In these days of business casual (and the studied casual of Ralph Lauren) an Italian tailored suit does not do it.

An iPhone or a Galaxy IIIs shows status amongst the middle and upper middle income. A ten thousand dollar or five hundred thousand dollar watch will do a (far) worse job of telling the time - but screams in only the way stupid-money can. I am not (at all) interested in watches so I had to look up the Maisons. These are houses like Vacheron Constantin of Geneve and A. Lange and Söhne from Glashütte (Saxony, Germany). Sort of glad I don't fancy their products because looking around Vacheron Constantin sell relatively plain gold watches at fifty thousand a pop:

image

A. Lange and Söhne sells similarly plain watches at prices marginally lower - but also sell less plain watches at prices closer to half a million dollars:

image

Remember both these products are inferior for purpose to the smart phone already in your pocket. But they do say "look at me" the latter in a particularly Rococo fashion.

It is the Rococo stuff that is winning. The Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry publish export data from Switzerland (not sales to end consumers). June data shows a 4.1 percent reduction in volume, a 21.7 increase in value. The average price of a watch is going up sharply. This has been the case for years. The Federation published this graph which shows that (relatively accurate) electronic watches have been flat in value for years - but that mechanical movements (inaccurate but reassuringly expensive) have gone skyward:

chart

Moreover a disproportionate amount of the volume - and an even more disproportionate amount of the value has gone to Hong Kong. Hong Kong is the destination for a quarter of Swiss watches by value and an even higher proportion of the most expensive stuff.

Why Hong Kong? Because the sales tax rate is lower than China. If you are buying a thousand dollar watch you can buy it in Shanghai. But if you want a half-million dollar watch (no, not kidding) then the sales tax differential makes it worthwhile to fly to Hong Kong, get a nice hotel room and go shopping. That is why the value is in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong market is it - it is the biggest pile of value and the biggest place for the super-pretentious stuff - the stuff with fat margins. This stuff is really Rococo - and Rococo is a style beloved only by rappers and kleptocrats.

The Chinese kleptocracy has been very good to Richemont. Indeed they famously love their watches. And it is not only watches. Van Cleef & Arpels is Rococo too. Try this ring:

image

Or this hair clip:

image

As I said - this is the stuff of rappers and kleptocrats. And there are far more kleptocrats in China than rich rappers anywhere.

Data sources

There are several data sources I watch to keep tabs on spending by Chinese elite. The Swiss Watch data is obvious.

Exports to Hong Kong in June were up 21.2 percent. It was about the same in May (but the monthly data has disappeared from the web). It was about the same every other month this year. They keep upping the exports to Hong Kong.

But Hong Kong also has sales tax data which comes from the sales tax receipts. There is in the data a series for "Jewellery, watches, clocks and valuable gifts" by both value and volume. The value series - relatively flattering, has monthly sales (versus previous corresponding period) for the last six months as:



  1. +18.3%
  2. +14.1%
  3. +18.4%
  4. +15.1%
  5. +2.9%
  6. +3.1%
Sales growth stopped. However exports to Hong Kong kept up (note that 21.2 percent figure above). 
 
The volume growth actually went negative - being negative 3.4 and 3.1 percent for the last two months.
 
What do you do with an inventory glut of hundred thousand dollar watches. You can't really discount them - so they just sit there, looking a little stale and slowly devaluing your brand.
 
And that is why I am short the stock. It is a trading short really - this company is likely to miss earnings and it will miss it in an unfortunate way - they are going to be swamped with inventory.
 
It is not just watches either. Anecdotally a Van Cleef and Arpels show that was huge last year was distinctly quieter this year. 

The company has given a hint of this. Bernard Fornas - the chief executive of Cartier - gave an interview to the Wall Street Journal. To quote:

"After a phenomenal year last year, there's been a bit of a slowdown in mainland China," he explained. 

"Mainland China is still holding for us. One month is worse, one month is better. The curve is not yet clearly defined.” 

Fornas added that while Cartier’s watch sales are still increasing, it is not at the same rate as 2011. He declined to reveal figures or percentages, however.

But that quote is misleading. He says it is one month worse, one month better. But it is one month worse and the next month bad too. 

My guess: this company is not being entirely straight with market about how much tougher things are getting. The company will guide down and the stock will be singled out for "special treatment". I am short - just waiting for the bullet.

So why did the slowdown happen so sharply? 

The slowdown in Hong Kong (super) luxury goods is a faster decline than other Chinese data. Why so fast?

I have a theory given to me by a China watcher. The theory - it turned bad sharply with the ouster of Bo Xilai and now the murder charge on his wife Gu Kailai. Gu Kailai is going to have a hard time avoiding a mobile execution unit. This changes the stakes and it is structural. A half million dollar watch no longer says "look at me". It says "look at me, I am a kleptocrat". Thoughts of that beautiful Van Cleef and Arpels hair clip become the last thing that runs through your brain before the bullet.

The optimists - and there are many - think the super luxury good market in China will return when the political situation stabilizes. To quote Bernard Fornas in that WSJ article:

"When you talk to the people over there, they are all waiting for a new president to come in. That will fuel the economy with fresh money and lower interest rates."

But who said the new kleptocracy will love Rococo just as much as the old kleptocracy? Maybe party self-preservation will require less ostentatious displays of wealth. After all ostentatiously showing off wealth to an oppressed billion people does not seem like a way to preserve your power.

We know what a completely collapsed luxury good market looks like. Brazilians like a bit of bling. But in the late 1980s and into the 1990s the kidnapping rate in Brazil went skyward. (There is an horrific documentary about that called Manda Bala which translates "send a bullet".) After kidnapping became a major industry (particularly in São Paulo) carrying a $3000 handbag no longer said "look at me", it said "kidnap me".

A collapsed luxury good market in China may - if the Gu Kailai case is a guide - look different. Bling will mark you as an enemy of the people. This is a company about imagery - it sells a dream. Here is the nightmare:

image

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20 Scientific Insights About Sex And Attraction

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biting lip croatia sexyBlogger Eric Barker pulls out useful tips from the latest psychological research.

Here we've gathered some of his most fascinating insights about sex and attraction, including what attracts people and what you can tell about someone just by looking at them.

Girls really do go crazy for dogs

Nicolas Guégen...conducted four studies (with Serge Ciccotti) to investigate whether the presence of a dog might increase the likelihood of people obliging one of several requests...a man's likelihood of obtaining a woman's phone number increases three-fold when accompanied by a dog.

Source: Psychology Today

 

From Eric Barker's Barking Up The Wrong Tree. Follow him on Twitter.





Guys are more attracted to girls wearing red

In Experiment 1, men who viewed an ostensible conversation partner in a red versus a green shirt chose to ask her more intimate questions. In Experiment 2, men who viewed an ostensible interaction partner in a red versus a blue shirt chose to sit closer to her.

Source: "Red and romantic behavior in men viewing women" in the European Journal of Social Psychology

 

From Eric Barker's Barking Up The Wrong Tree. Follow him on Twitter.



Girls are attracted to rich men, while guys couldn't care less about a woman's wealth

The present study experimentally manipulated status by seating the same target model (male and female matched for attractiveness) expressing identical facial expressions and posture in either a 'high status' (Silver Bentley Continental GT) or a 'neutral status' (Red Ford Fiesta ST) motor-car.

Results showed that the male target model was rated as significantly more attractive on a rating scale of 1-10 when presented to female participants in the high compared to the neutral status context. Males were not influenced by status manipulation, as there was no significant difference between attractiveness ratings for the female seated in the high compared to the neutral condition.

Source: "Effect of manipulated prestige-car ownership on both sex attractiveness ratings", from Br J Psychol. 2010 Feb;101(Pt 1):69-80. Epub 2009 Mar 19


From Eric Barker's Barking Up The Wrong Tree. Follow him on Twitter.



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British Explorer Closes In On Legendary 'Treasure Of Lima'

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cocos island

It eluded Franklin Roosevelt, Sir Malcolm Campbell and Errol Flynn, but now an explorer from Melton Mowbray could be on the trail of a multi-million-pound hoard of gold, silver and jewellery stolen by pirates and buried on a treasure island.

Shaun Whitehead is leading an archaeological expedition to Cocos Island, the supposed hiding place of the “Treasure of Lima” – one of the world’s most fabled missing treasures.

The haul – said to be worth £160 million – was stolen by a British trader, Captain William Thompson, in 1820 after he was entrusted to transport it from Peru to Mexico.

He is said to have been stashed his plunder on the Pacific island, from where it has never been recovered.

An original inventory showed 113 gold religious statues, one a life-size Virgin Mary, 200 chests of jewels, 273 swords with jewelled hilts, 1,000 diamonds, solid gold crowns, 150 chalices and hundreds of gold and silver bars.

The site, credited by some as the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, is uninhabited and around 350 miles off the coast of Costa Rica, of which it is a part.

It has also been designated a Unesco World Heritage Site for its unspoilt environment and variety of wildlife and it has taken around 18 months of negotiations with the authorities to secure permission to go there on an exploratory mission.

Although there have been no official expeditions to the island for more than a quarter of a century, Mr Whitehead will join an impressive a line of notable adventurers and explorers who been attracted by the lure of the “Lima loot”.

They include Roosevelt, the American president from 1933 to 1945, who travelled there with friends in 1910, Campbell, the racing driver, who went there in the 1920s, and Flynn in the 1940s.

Another explorer, August Gissler, a German, spent 19 years living on the island hunting the treasure but returned with just six gold coins.

However, Mr Whitehead’s team is equipped with technology that has never before been used on the island. He has also established the most likely spots around the island on which to focus his efforts.

Mr Whitehead, who has previously led a project to explore uncharted shafts inside the Great Pyramid of Giza, said: “Given the amount of treasure, it would have been too heavy to carry far from sea level and stories suggest the use of caves. We can also rule out where others have looked, dug up and detected – like on the beaches.

“If it is there, it will be in a natural cave which was hidden by one of the many landslides that occur on the island.

"It is not a case of following a map and “X” marking the spot. It is about using a bit of logic to establish the likelihood of some areas where it could be.”

The team’s research will concentrate on the areas around three of the island’s four bays, which have been most used by visitors.

The team plan to use a small, unmanned helicopter, fitted with specialist cameras, to fly above the nine mile square island, which will enable them to make a computer-generated 3D map of the landscape.

They will then use a snakelike robot that can be dragged across the parts of island and, using ground penetrating radar, detect voids and cavities up to a depth of around 60ft. This data will be added to the 3D map to identify any likely concealed caves.

After this, a team will use a specialist “keyhole” drill, which can reach more than 100ft, to dig down into the cave. A probe camera can be sent down through the 1in diameter.

The 10-day expedition will also involve extensive archaeological, geological and ecological research and Mr Whitehead is at pains to stress they are not simply going there on a treasure hunt.

The team, of around 15, involves researchers from the University of Costa Rica and the Senckenberg Insitute – a natural history research organisation based in Germany.

“This is a scientific survey, including archaeological, geological and biodiversity aspects,” Mr Whitehead said.

“Unlike previous trips we are not going to dig vast holes or do anything destructive at all. The real treasure of the island is its natural beauty. Anything else we find there is simply a bonus.”

The island, which is said to have been the inspiration for Jurassic Park, the book and film about an island on which dinosaurs are recreated, is home to hundreds of unusual species.

Dr Ina Knobloch, a German biologist who has visited the island on three previous occasions, is part of the team taking part, said: “We have a very good relationship with the authorities and they trust us that this is not a simple treasure hunt.”

Mr Whitehead, based in Melton Mowbray, Leics, is an engineer who has set up a company which supplies specialist electronic exploration equipment.

The group are funding the expedition themselves, although they are hoping a television company may help to cover costs. They plan to travel after the end of the current rainy season, which finishes in November.

The treasure could be worth at least £160 million. If any of it is found, the team plans to pass it on to the Costa Rican authorities, which would be expected to pay a fee for its salvage.

The treasure had been amassed by the Spanish authorities in Lima, in what is now Peru, but facing a revolt, the city’s viceroy, José de la Serna, entrusted the riches to Captain Thompson for transport to Mexico, also a Spanish colony, and it was transferred to his ship, the Mary Dear.

After leaving the port of Callao, near Lima, Thompson and his crew killed the Viceroy’s six men and sailed to Cocos, where they buried the treasure.

Shortly afterwards, they were apprehended by a Spanish warship. All of the crew – bar Thompson and his first mate – were executed for piracy.

The two said they would show the Spaniards where they had hidden the treasure in return for their lives, but after landing on Cocos, they escaped into the forest.

They are said to have been picked up by a passing ship a year later, but without the treasure.

Several early expeditions were mounted on the basis of claims by a man named John Keating, who was supposed to have befriended Thompson.

On one trip, Keating was said to have retrieved some gold and jewels from the treasure and also to have killed a fellow treasure hunter and left his body with the hoard.

The Costa Rican authorities want to discourage treasure hunting on the island. They have permitted the latest expedition because of the scientific survey work involved.

The document granting permission states that if any treasure is found, the team must immediately halt and notify the authorities.

The Treasure of Lima is not the only haul said to be hidden on the island.

A further 350 tons of gold raided from Spanish ships by nineteenth century British sailor, Captain Bennett Graham, is also said to be there, while a Portuguese pirate, Benito “Bloody Sword” Bonito, also operating in the nineteenth century, is said to have hidden gains there too.

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