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China Has Some Wacky Theme Parks Showcasing The World's Most Famous Buildings

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Monumental China

The World Park in Beijing and Window of the World in Shenzhen are two Chinese parks that feature scale model versions of some of the most iconic buildings and landmarks from around the globe.

Artist Ernie Button set out to capture the bizarre assortment of famous structures. Big Ben next to the Arc de Triomphe, the U.S. Capitol Building at the foot of Mount Rushmore, and the mis-titled “Grand Canyon of Colorado” are just a few of wacky instances he came across.

Walking around the sites, Button began to question what a monument truly is, and what makes the experience special:

After having seen the pyramids at World Park, would a person feel it necessary to travel thousands of miles to experience the authentic sight? And what is a 'real' experience? Even though it feels odd to experience the world in this way, is it really any different than going to grab a meal at a Rainforest Café with the expectation of experiencing the rainforest? 

Button's series “Monumental China” takes us on a journey through these Chinese monument theme parks, all the while playing with scale and our perspective.

A 'giant' woman walks the streets of Venice at the Window of the World, with the Eiffel Tower in the background.

Source: Ernie Button



A couple looms in front of the U.S. Capitol Building in Beijing's World Park.

Source: Ernie Button



Spotlights give perspective to the Window of the World's Sphinx with the Pyramids in the background.

Source: Ernie Button



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HOUSE OF THE DAY: This $15.5 Million Newport Beach Pad Is Anyone's Dream Home

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newport beach $15.5 million house

A gorgeous Newport Beach home on the water can be yours for $15.5 million.

The house is 9,400 square feet, and has six bedrooms, six full bathrooms, and two half baths.

It was designed by Brion Jeannette, an energy-conscious custom designer in the area. 

Perks include a terrace, a gym, and bay-front views.

Welcome to Newport Beach.



The home is selling for $1,649 per square foot.



When you enter, you'll immediately notice the double-height ceilings and sweeping staircase.



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Morgan Stanley Explains How Rich New Yorkers And Californians Could Get Really Screwed In A Fiscal Cliff Deal

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Ducks in Central Park

Obama wants the rich to pay more taxes than they are right now.

Boehner is okay with the government collecting more revenue, but is against any hike in rates.

So the hot idea is that a compromise might be worked out by limiting deductions that the wealthy take, a plan that was vaguely floated by Mitt Romney.

In a note, Morgan Stanley economist David Greenlaw explains how this works:

...When preparing their returns, taxpayers may choose the standard deduction or they may itemize and deduct certain expenses (including state and local taxes, mortgage interest, charitable contributions, and some medical expenses) to determine their taxable income. Taxpayers benefit from itemizing when their itemized deductions exceed the amount of the standard deduction. Note that for some types of expenses (such as medical expenses), only the amount that exceeds a given percentage of the taxpayer’s adjusted gross income may be deducted.  So, there is already a limitation imposed on certain types of deductions.  But, with all other deductions, the benefit of itemizing increases with a taxpayer’s marginal tax rate. For instance, $10,000 in deductions reduces tax liability by $1,500 for someone in the 15 percent tax bracket but by $2,800 for someone in the 28 percent tax bracket.

So how does this actually affect individuals?

Reverting to pre-Bush tax rates on incomes above $250,000 – as the President and many Democrats have long advocated – would raise about $1 trillion over the next ten years.  In order to achieve approximately the same amount of deficit reduction, the limitation on deductions would have to be set at 15%.  In other words, taxpayers in marginal tax brackets above 15% would lose some of the benefit of their itemized deductions.  Obviously, such a change would have the greatest impact on taxpayers in high brackets with a lot of deductions.  In particular, the limitation on deductions would hit taxpayers in high tax states – such as NY and California – particularly hard

Because state and local taxes are deductible, limiting deductions really creams rich taxpayers in places with high taxes.

And unfortunately, this probably reduces the odds of a deal, given how much clout people in both of those states.

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The Greatest Rags To Riches Story Of All Time

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andrew carnegie

As the world plunges head first into a New Gilded Age, we're taking a look back at the first Gilded Age.

One of the most impressive figures of this era was an immigrant textile worker who became the richest man in the world.

We're talking about the mighty Andrew Carnegie.

Andrew Carnegie was born in this small house in Dunfermline, Scotland, in 1835.

Source: PBS 



For generations the Carnegies had been master handloom weavers. But as the industrial revolution introduced steam-powered looms, the family business collapsed.

Source: PBS



Carnegie's family became so poor they'd go to sleep early to "forget the misery of hunger." He later wrote "It was burnt into my heart then that my father had to beg (for work). And then and there came the resolve that I would cure that when I got to be a man."

Source: PBS



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The 'Bunga Bunga Era' On Italian TV Is Over

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sara varone

A year after the fall of Silvio Berlusconi, the new head of Italy's state television has launched a crusade against the 'Bunga Bunga era'

Almost a year to the day after the fall of Silvio Berlusconi, a quiet revolution is under way in Italian television. Once notorious for streaming a steady diet of inane game shows featuring barely-clothed showgirls, it is now under pressure to both clean up and cover up.

At the forefront of the campaign is the formidable new head of Italy's state broadcasting body, Anna Maria Tarantola, who has launched what some Italian commentators view as a "crusade" against the excesses of the bunga bunga era.

Mrs Tarantola, 67, whose golden coiffeur and steely resolve have invited comparisons with Mrs Thatcher and the Queen, wants to give more air time to "normal" women rather than the silicone-enhanced showgirls who became a staple of Italian television during the Berlusconi years.

"I don't much like the way women are presented on TV," said Mrs Tarantola, who has been appointed the head of RAI, or Radio Televisione Italiana, by Mario Monti, the sombre technocrat who replaced the flamboyant Mr Berlusconi as prime minister last November.

Mrs Tarantola, who was educated at the LSE and rose to become deputy director general of the Bank of Italy, called for programmes that were less "banal" and with more "values", in an appeal with distinct overtones of the BBC's founder Lord Reith.

Day-time talk show programmes which discussed the merits of plastic surgery for an hour or more were "excessive", she declared. The message, instead, should instead be that "women are beautiful as they are".

It is not just Italian television that is cleaning up its act in the post-Berlusconi era, however. While it may not yet be a case of No-Sex-Please-We're-Italian, commentators claim to detect a distinct shift in attitudes towards women in many areas of public life.

Contestants in this year's Miss Italy contest, for example, were ordered to ditch the skimpy bikinis they normally wear in favour of much more modest one-piece costumes. And girls who had plastic surgery or who sported tattoos and body piercings were prohibited from entering the competition in September.

The new rules were touted an attempt to return to the elegance of the 1950s, when the likes of Sophia Loren posed in demure all-in-one swimsuits, said Patrizia Mirigliani, the pageant's organiser.

The changes to the format were made after "hints" from Elsa Fornero, the new minister for work and equal opportunities in the Monti government.

Mrs Fornero, 64, who is another respected economist, also voiced her disapproval when a well-known showgirl, Belen Rodriguez, appeared in an extremely revealing dress presenting the San Remo music festival, Italy's answer to the Eurovision song contest.

Argentinian-born Belen Rodriguez, who is ubiquitous on Italian television, advertising and in gossip magazines, sashayed down a flight of stairs in a dress which was split so high that she exposed a butterfly tattoo adorning her groin.

Mrs Fornero did not criticise the actress directly but did say the day afterwards that as a woman she sometimes felt "offended" by what she saw on television, adding that she found the best ploy was to "change channel or switch off altogether".

The minister is part of a new female line-up in the Monti government that vividly illustrates the radical break with the Berlusconi era.

Gone are the young, attractive female ministers who crowded Mr Berlusconi's cabinet, including Mara Carfagna, whose steamy poses in men's magazines gained her a huge male following before she was made equal opportunities minister.

They have been replaced by a trio of high-powered, stern women with distinguished backgrounds in economics, public policy and academia – Mrs Fornero, 64, Anna Maria Cancellieri, 68, the interior minister, and Paolo Severino, 64, the justice minister.

As they mark a year in power, two of their predecessors face the ignominy of being called as witnesses in Mr Berlusconi's ongoing sex trial, in which he is accused of paying for sex with an alleged under-age prostitute – charges he denies.

Tomorrow, Miss Carfagna is due to appear at a hearing in Milan along with Maria Stella Gelmini, who was minister of education in the Berlusconi government.

The young woman at the heart of the trial has also undergone a radical change in circumstances since attending Mr Berlusconi's bunga bunga parties.

During the height of the controversy, Karima El Mahroug – better known by her stage name as Ruby the Heart Stealer – appeared in talk shows and nightclub openings in skin-tight, shimmering dresses.

These days she portrays herself as a demure young mother who is photographed, without make-up or sexy clothes, pushing a baby stroller. She gave birth to a girl in December last year and has settled down with her nightclub owner boyfriend.

There are those who argue that none of these changes go more than skin deep, and that, a year after Mr Berlusconi quit as prime minister, Italy has changed little in its attitude to women, television and sex.

The country is ranked a lowly 80th in this year's Global Gender Gap Report by the World Economic Forum– down from 74th in 2011. It ranked worse than Brunei, East Timor, Ukraine and Moldova. It makes its judgements on a wide range of economic and social criteria.

Most other Western European countries appeared in the top 20, with Britain at number 18.

"It is very sad that we have dropped six places but it reflects the painful truth," said Lorella Zanardo, the director of Il Corpo Delle Donne (The Body of Women), a documentary about the image of women on Italian television.

"Berlusconi has gone and the bunga bunga era is definitely over, but the patriarchal, macho mentality remains in Italy. Berlusconi simply took advantage of something that is deep within Italian culture and that won't change in a year.

"But I'm cautiously optimistic – there is a new generation of Italians that travels and lives abroad and they see that things are different overseas."

However, even though Mr Berlsuconi may not be prime minister any more, "il Cavaliere" still controls Italy's commercial television through his Mediaset empire.

"Superficially there is an impression that things have changed dramatically, but I think it's a matter of style more than substance," said Federigo Argentieri, a political scientist at John Cabot University and the director of the Guarini Institute for Public Affairs.

"Berlusconi's macho approach was like something out of the 1950s but it was diffused widely. Italian girls still want to become showgirls and I think that's a reflection of the difficulties in the labour market – it is very hard to achieve that level of success in other ways."

And while the bunga bunga epoch may be over, the Italian showgirl culture lives on, despite the best efforts of Mr Monti's ministers and the new head of the public broadcaster.

When Barack Obama was re-elected president of the United States last week, a lingerie company took out risqué, full-page advertisements in several national newspapers to congratulate him on his win.

"The best is yet to come'" – Congratulations Mr President!" read the ad, which featured a pouting model wearing a pair of pink knickers, black stockings and a Stars and Stripes top.

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You've Never Seen Anything Like This Luxury Hotel In A Tanzanian Crater

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ngorongoro crater lodge

Sometimes called the "eighth wonder of the world," Ngorongoro Crater is a must-see on Tanzania's safari circuit.

On a recent press trip to Tanzania, I had the opportunity to visit the crater  actually a massive caldera, formed nearly three million years ago following a volcanic collapse and stayed at Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, considered to be the most luxurious property inside the conservation area.

Click here to see pictures >

It's truly a unique place. The architecture was like nothing I'd ever seen before; adobe-colored huts and buildings inspired by the mud-and-stick manyatta homes of the Maasai, with opulent interiors and huge arrangements of roses on almost every surface. It's "Maasai meets Versailles," as I heard one person describe it.

And the views are unbeatable. The Lodge, an andBeyond property, is one of just a handful of hotels within the confines of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, and is literally perched on the edge of the crater. I awoke to a panorama of the 100-square-mile abyss, still shrouded in the morning fog.

Even though I spent just one night at the Lodge, I got the sense that the staff was incredibly friendly and focused on the guest experience. The hotel prides itself on creating special "moments"  a candlelit outdoor dinner, a surprise visit from Maasai dancers  for each guest. And days after I left, I found a sweet note from Beaty, the assistant manager, in my suitcase, saying she hoped I'd enjoyed my brief visit.

Stays at the Lodge, which has 30 suites divided into three separate camps, are pricey rates are $1,500 per person, per night in the high season, and about half that in the low season. But that figure includes all meals and drinks, and twice-daily game drives into the crater with one of andBeyond's trained rangers.

 Disclosure: Our trip to Tanzania, including travel and lodging expenses, was sponsored by the Tanzania Tourist Board, Africa Adventure Company, Singita Grumeti Group, Coastal Aviation, Qatar Airways, Tanzania National Parks, Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority and Wildlife Division.

After an afternoon game drive through Ngorongoro Crater, we finally pulled up to the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge at dusk.



Several staff members were awaiting our arrival with champagne and hot towels. It was a welcome sight after a hot and dusty day in the crater, and one of the "moments" andBeyond seeks to create at the lodge.



The architecture of the Lodge is like nothing I had ever seen before. Built in 1997, the structures were inspired by the mud-and-stick manyatta homes of the Maasai, who are native to the area.



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Billionaire Throws Hissy Fit At Nobu And Gets Banned For Life

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Stewart Rahm Donald Trump

It wasn't the happiest of evenings for pharmaceutical billionaire Stewart Rahr at swank New York restaurant Nobu the other night, Brad Hamilton of the New York Post reports.

Rahr apparently showed up at Nobu Fifty Seven and was outraged to find that other diners were sitting at "his" table. He then marched up to the table and offered to pay the people's tab to get them to leave.

The restaurant's manager says he later "called me the C-word and said he would kill me."

Rahr apparently followed up his tirade by sending an outraged email to many "A-listers," including Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Wahlberg, and Alicia Keys.

The Post quotes extensively from the email, which refers to the restaurant's host as "despicable."

Rahr has apparently been banned from the restaurant for life.

Read the details at The Post >

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What It's Like To Live In Qatar, The Wealthiest Country In The World

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Qatar donkey child father

Moving to Qatar means a life of luxury for many expats, but the country is experiencing growing pains, writes guest columnist Victoria Scott.

ONE of my favourite tweets of recent times was from a Qatari on holiday in the USA. “Why does every petrol station I’m passing seem to be closed?” he asked. You see, we don’t get out of the car to fill up our tanks in Qatar. A pump attendant does it for us, even during the summer, when it can get up to 50C outside. And that petrol – well, it’s cheaper than bottled water. A four litre 4x4 costs around £10 to fill out here. When we go home to the UK for holidays, we avert our eyes when we pay for our fuel.

We also never pack our own shopping bags, wash our own cars, and many also have housemaids who take care of the cleaning, laundry, and in a lot of cases, the children, too. Eating out is a national pastime; Friday brunches pack enough food in to last you a week, and if you sit outside a fast-food restaurant in your car and beep your horn, someone will come to take your order – and bring it to you when it’s ready.

I asked my followers on Twitter what living in Qatar – the world’s richest country by GDP per capita – means to them. One said that shelling out for an iPhone no longer takes any deliberation. Another said that when going on holiday, anything less than five star feels wrong. After all, this is Qatar, home of a forest of luxury hotels, and, of course, “the world’s five-star airline”, Qatar Airways.

So far, so luxurious. But anyone coming to Qatar expecting the streets to be paved with gold will be disappointed. In my area of town, they’re more likely to be covered in dust, surrounded by piles of rocks, and frequently dug up for mains drainage, new electricity cables or roadworks.

One of my friends once told me that the main difference between Doha and Dubai is that Dubai is finished. Qatar is still a country in transition. Its “2030 vision” pledges a world-class infrastructure, a large part of which is an extensive metro network, which only had its ground-breaking ceremony this month. As the country works towards hosting the 2022 World Cup, its residents have a great deal of disruption, demolition and diversion to look forward to.

Qatar’s population is booming. In September there were 1.84 million people in Qatar, up 143,000 on the previous year. UN figures estimate that 500 new immigrants arrive in the country every day. School places are rare as hen’s teeth, with many expats having no choice but to educate their children at home. Doha’s roads are buckling under the strain – friends report commutes which have doubled in duration since this time last year. Qatar has become a country of bumper-gazers.

My adopted home is also a place where the need for so many foreign workers mingles uncomfortably with cultural traditions, and what some see as a fading national identity. A recent “decency” campaign designed by Qatari women and aimed at expats appealed for “modest” dress, covering shoulders, midriffs and knees. These are unwritten rules which have been in place for decades, but the fact that this campaign was felt to be needed, and that it caused such widespread upset, suggests a country with much yet to discuss.

It’s also a country of uncomfortable differences. The vast gap between the very rich and the very poor is not easily ignored. Qatar’s rapid growth is being driven by a continuous influx of labourers, mostly from South Asia. Many arrive already in debt, having paid large amounts to “agents” for visas. Human Rights Watch, in a recent report, said that these men are at risk of “serious exploitation and abuse.”

Despite the fact that Western expats are blessed in comparison, moaning amongst many of them is almost a sport. Get them going on the traffic, the schooling, the bureaucracy or employment rights, and they’ll have you booking your flight home within minutes – primarily to avoid listening to them anymore. “Surround yourself with positive people” is still my favourite piece of expat advice.

You see, it may not be perfect, but Qatar has become my home. Although its day-to-day frustrations are undeniable, I do truly believe it’s a country with a grand plan and an important role to play.

I think about what Khalifa Haroon, a well-known Qatari businessman, said recently on Twitter. People were discussing the familiar refrain, “If you don’t like it, leave.” Haroon put it perfectly. He said: “It’s simple. Just say: I prefer to stay here and make it better.”

Read the rest of our expat guest columns at www.telegraph.co.uk/guests

SEE ALSO: Qatar Airways' Premium Terminal In Doha Is Incredibly Cushy

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Here's The Difference Between Selling Mansions And Ordinary Homes

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Indian Creek Miami mansion

Working in the luxury real estate market means high risk, but the potential for huge rewards.

We're reading "Selling Luxury Homes," by Jack Cotton, who founded Cape Cod's Cotton Real Estate (now part of Sotheby’s International Realty). He broke down how being an agent in the high-end market is different than in the regular market.

From his book:

"If you specialize in high-end versus low-end real estate, your fees are higher but most likely the number of transactions you complete is smaller. Plus if you list and sell dozens of less-priced homes, it's not as painful when one transaction fails.

On the other hand, if a $5 million sale falls apart, may months of hard work can be lost. To make matters worse, you might not have a significant number of other transactions in the pipeline to make up for the shortfall.

...

What benefit do most agents expect to gain by selling luxury real estate? Obviously, it's earning higher fees than for non-luxury homes.

I won't mention specific fees, but I assure you that, as a rule, selling fees for high-end homes tend to be larger — much larger — than most. Although many agents make $500,000 a year selling real estate, few have made $500,000 on one transaction. Holding that half-million-dollar commission check is exciting, I can assure you —if for no other reason than the well-earned extreme sense of accomplishment that far exceeds the dollar amount."

Cotton also writes about how it takes much longer to show a luxury home, purely because of its square footage, therefore limiting how many properties you can show in a day.

DON'T MISS: Some Real Estate Agents Will Go To Crazy Extremes To Sell A House

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Don't Expect Colleges In Washington And Colorado To Change Their Campus Weed Policies

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weed, smoking a joint, marijuana

Social media is abuzz with future college students dreaming of doing bong hits openly on the greens of universities in Colorado and Washington state. But those dreams may go up in smoke.

"If someone thinks they are going to walk around campus smoking a joint, it's not going to happen," University of Washington spokesman Norman Arkans says.

Although voters in Colorado and Washington approved the legalization of marijuana, officials aren't expecting cannabis-welcoming changes in campus policy.

The federal government still considers marijuana illegal, and universities don't want to risk their federal funding for research or student financial aid.

"We don't see that it will change our policies very much," Arkans says. "We get caught in the vice between the state law and our obligations under the federal government. While it may be legal two blocks off campus, it will be illegal under federal law, so it will be illegal on campus."

Even the University of Colorado-Boulder, which tops Princeton Review's list of "Reefer Madness" schools, doesn't expect a change in policy anytime soon.

"We have a lot of sorting out to do," says University of Colorado-Boulder spokesman Bronson Hilliard. The Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act puts the university at risk for all of its federal funding if they knowingly and willingly allow illegal substance use on campus.

"Now the question is, 'Is that a federal definition or a state definition of illegal?'" Hilliard says. "We are already sorting through it now, but it's complex and it's going to take time."

Other universities, including the University of Denver and The Evergreen State College, are waiting to hear from lawyers and the government on how the ruling will affect them. University of Denver spokeswoman Kim DeVigil says it's too soon to know how the school will handle the passage of the amendment.

Under the Colorado and Washington laws, personal possession of up to an ounce of marijuana would be legal for anyone 21 and older. Cannabis would be sold and taxed at state-licensed stores. In Colorado, a person could have up to six marijuana plants, but "grow-your-own" pot would still be banned in Washington. Both states prohibit public use.

"You won't see a big influx of people who just want to go to school in these states just because they want to party. They already can go party," court qualified cannabis expert Chris Conrad says. "The age limit is 21, so until they are 21 it will not make a huge difference no matter what campus they are on."

Craig Hirokawa, a University of Denver senior, voted against legalizing marijuana in Colorado. "What sort of message are we sending if we're using pot money to fund education?" the political science major says.

Hirokawa, 22, of Parker, Colo., says he doesn't think the new law will lead to an influx of drug users enrolling in the school. "They would have to wait three years to be able to smoke," he says, referring to the fact that people must be 21 to possess pot.

His opposition may be in the minority on campus. At a university election-watch party Hirokawa attended Tuesday, most students seemed happy with the results, he says.

"I find it difficult to believe that universities are all of the sudden going to cannabis-friendly coffee shops on campus," says Chris Simunek, editor-in-chief of High Times magazine, which advocates the legalization of marijuana. "I think for universities it is going to be best for them to look the other way, like they have been doing for years."

SEE ALSO: What Marijuana Does To Your Body And Mind

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A Japanese Maitre D' Is Officially The Best Waiter In The World

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shin miyazaki best waiter

From setting the perfect table to flambeing a pineapple, an international group of contestants battled it out in Tokyo last week for the title of top maitre d' as the profession looks to boost its profile.

Hailing from 14 countries, the two dozen hopefuls were grilled by a panel of judges who expected nothing less than top-shelf service and a display of impressive culinary knowledge, with little patience for the unprepared.

"Which part of France does the cognac come from? Is it a liqueur, how is it distilled?" they demanded.

Slovenian Aljaz Toplak was among the under-pressure head waiters and waitresses who fielded rapid-fire questions as he prepared a champagne cocktail topped with a cherry delicately balanced on the edge of the glass.

"Technically, they are all very good. The difference is that extra bit of dexterity, language skill and the ability to relate to the judges," said Franck Languille, president of the Georges Baptiste Cup.

The Cup was established in France in 1961 in honour of the chef and butler of the same name and later expanded to include entrants from other European countries three decades later.

In 2000 it went global when it was held in Canada with subsequent editions in France, Mexico and Vietnam.

The latest edition, held at a Tokyo hotel, saw contestants put through nine events including preparing salad dressing, floral decoration and table setting as well as making Irish coffee and salmon tartare.

Shin Miyazaki, 35, who works at Chateau Restaurant Joel Robuchon in Tokyo, was this year's winner, outdoing rivals at cooking lamb and identifying which wine works well with certain flavours -- all in elegantly spoken French.

"I practised every day for years, I'm hooked, and now I get this award," an emotional Miyazaki said after receiving the top honour on Friday.

"But this is only the beginning, tomorrow I go back to work to do my best."

Earlier, jurors posing as a party of four scolded Estonian contestant Tiiu Parm for politely asking if they would like wine with their meal during perhaps the most nerve-wracking segment.

"Of course we'll have wine -- this is for a birthday!" responded juror Frederic Kaiser, a previous winner of the Cup's European trophy.

Parm's question about which wines the group preferred was met with an equally curt: "What do you think, you're the professional, right?"

All the events were timed, with Marc Moris from Luxembourg unlucky enough to face criticism from the prickly judges over the slow pace of his pineapple flambe preparation.

Whether it is culinary knowledge or social skills, maitre d's must constantly strive to exceed expectations.

"Clients always want to know more about the products," said Regis Marcon, a three Michelin-starred chef from France.

"The future of this business is good product knowledge, but friendliness and the quality of customer service are, of course, indispensable," he added.

In France, customers tend to remember food first with service and ambiance second, a situation that is reversed in English-speaking countries and Asia, said Patrick Henriroux, a two Michelin-starred chef, also from France.

"People come to restaurants for a range of emotions. We try to provide an overall experience."

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If A Starbucks Opens In A New Neighborhood, It's Time To Buy A Home There

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Starbucks Coffee Logo"Wake up and smell the coffee," writes Michael Corbett, real estate expert and host of NBC's "Extra's Mansions & Millionaires!" in his book Before you Buy! The Homebuyer's Handbook for Today's Market.

He's talking about big chains such as Starbucks and Whole Foods. If you see them opening in a new neighborhood, it's a sign that the neighborhood is up-and-coming, and therefore a smart real estate bet.

In his book he writes:

One of the best ways to stretch your buying dollar is to find a neighborhood that is in transition. Called fringe or transitional neighborhoods, they are typically close to major metropolitan areas and were once neglected and less desirable. Is there a trendy restaurant where a tattoo parlor used to be? These neighborhoods are now beginning to enjoy a new life and your goal is the find them.

...

Has a Starbucks just opened on the corner or maybe a Whole Foods Market? These are all good signs that a neighborhood is on the upswing. You can bet that big chains like Starbucks spend a lot of money and time analyzing neighborhood potential before they open up a new store. So go ahead, tap into their market research and be their neighbor.

DON'T MISS: The Most Iconic American Houses On The Market

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Lamborghini's New $380,000 Aventador Is Topless And Hugely Powerful

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Lamborghini Aventador Roadster

In the summer of 2011, Lamborghini introduced the Aventador LP 700-4. Having delivered 1,300 so far, the Italian supercar maker is now offering the LP 700-4 as a roadster.

Without a roof in the way, drivers of the new Aventador can enjoy the noise of the 6.5-liter V12 engine that produces a huge 700 horsepower.

The Roadster LP 700-4 comes with a €300,000 ($381,420) price tag, before taxes.

It features Lamborghini's trademark scissor doors.



The roof is made of carbon fiber and weighs only 6kg (about 13 lbs).



It is removed by hand and stored in the front luggage compartment.



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A Qatari Sheikh Is Auctioning The World's Most Expensive Watch To Repay Debts

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Most Expensive Watch

A member of the House of Thani, the ruling family of Qatar, has reportedly pledged the world's most expensive watch to Sotheby's to cover debts owed to the auction house, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.

The pocket watch is known as the Henry Graves Supercomplication, which was bought by an anonymous bidder for a record $11 million in a Sotheby's auction in 1999.

The watch was a part of the legendary Henry Graves collection, and a result of the race between magnates Graves and James Ward Packard to own the most complicated watch. The result was the Supercomplication, which has 24 mechanical functions or "complications," and took watchmaker Patek Philippe three years to design and five years to build. The watch has two faces, a chart of the nighttime sky at Graves' home in New York, and is made of solid gold.

The royal, Sheikh Saud Bin Mohammed Bin Ali-Al-Thani, second cousin of the Emir of Qatar, is also giving away diamond jewelry, tribal art, and four other vintage watches made by Patek Philippe, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. In total, the collection would retail for almost $83 million. The debt owed to Sotheby's is a reported $42 million.

Al-Thani been hit with two lawsuits since the end of September, including one for allegedly failing to pay $19.8 million for ancient Greek coins that he had previously bid on in January, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.

Al-Thani has reportedly left at least 11 auction houses and dealers unpaid in the last 18 months. He has previously been named one of the world's top 10 art collectors in 2011 by Artnews for spending more money on art than any other collector that year.

SEE ALSO: The Most Expensive Watches Ever Sold

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The 25 Coolest New Buildings Of The Year

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The Shard, London, Tower, architecture

It has been a phenomenal year in the world of architecture, with architects and engineers pushing the boundaries of innovation and design.

Click here to go straight to the buildings >

Moscow's Mercury Tower recently usurped the title of the tallest building in Europe from London's Shard and New York City's Freedom Tower is on its way to becoming the tallest building in America. In Singapore, the Cooled Conservatories at Gardens by the Bay are becoming a model green space for cities all over the world, while Miami's Marlins Park is re-imagining the role of a sports stadium.

We have examined buildings—from towers to arenas to airports and more—from all over the world that have undergone construction in the past year and have come up with a list of the coolest new buildings this year. We took into account innovation, creativity, structure, sustainability and buzz and we asked architects, engineers, designers, critics, and academics to weigh in.

Our choices include a building with a dynamic facade that opens and closes in response to the movement of the sun, a pair of curvaceous towers that have been nicknamed "Marilyn Monroe," the world's largest greenhouse conservatory, and the world's very first commercial spaceport. We've also included the most talked-about and controversial additions to city skylines—from London's Shard to Brooklyn's Barclays Center.

Unsurprisingly, sustainability showed up in nearly every design, with architects finding creative ways to weave environmentally-friendly measures into the designs, from a building that collects and filters rainwater to plenty of solar-paneling. 

They're listed here in alphabetical order.

Absolute World Towers

Location: Mississauga, Canada

Architect: MAD

Located in a Toronto Suburb, the Absolute Towers are nicknamed "Marilyn Monroe" for their sexy, curvaceous figures. The residential towers were named the best tall buildings in America by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH).

"The Absolute World towers develop a simple, yet seductive strategy to bring figuration to a tower, what is conventionally the result of mass production." —Nader Tehrani, Professor and Head of the Department of Architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Absolute Towers, Canada

 



Al Bahar Towers

Location: Abu Dhabi, UAE

Architect: Aedas Architects Ltd.

The Al Bahar Towers were named the most innovative tall building in the world by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH).The 29-story office building has a dynamic facade which opens and closes in response to the movement of the sun. The façade design also works with the local culture, evoking a wooden lattice screen traditionally found in Islamic architecture.

"The dynamic façade on Al Bahar, computer-controlled to respond to optimal solar and light conditions, has never been achieved on this scale before," architect Chris Wilkinson said in a CTBUH statement. "In addition, the expression of this outer skin seems to firmly root the building in its cultural context.”

Al Bahar Office Towers



Al Hamra Tower

Location: Kuwait City, Kuwait

Architect: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

At 412-meters (1,352-feet) high, Al Hamra Tower is the tallest building in Kuwait, offering great views of the Arabian Gulf from the top. The building is used for retail and office spaces.

Al Hamra Tower, Kuwait



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Thieves Paid Entrance Fee Before Allegedly Stealing $3 Million Worth Of Art From A South African Museum

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pretoria art museumThieves entered a South African art gallery as paying visitors before holding staff up at gunpoint and producing a "shopping list" of paintings they wanted totalling R27m (£2 million) in value.

The heist saw the three men make off with five paintings by local masters Irma Stern, Gerard Sekoto, JH Pierneef, Maggie Laubser and Hugo Naude, worth R15m, from the Pretoria Art Museum.

They left a sixth painting that had been on their list, Irma Stern's "Two Malay Musicians", valued at R12 million, on the pavement outside the gallery, apparently because they couldn't fit it in their getaway car, a silver Toyota Avanza.

The thieves are said by police to have all paid the R20 (£1.44) entrance fee to enter the capital's art gallery and waited until other visitors had left before launching their raid.

Daywood Khans, a member of staff at the gallery, told local radio station Eye Witness News (EWN) that the men pointed a gun at him and produced a "shopping list" of artworks.

"They pulled out a list and said they were looking for so-and-so painting which is among our old masterpieces," he said.

"They left one of the paintings behind when it did not fit into their getaway car." Stephen Welz, an art expert, told the Pretoria News newspaper that he was puzzled by the theft, as such famous works of art were so well documented that it was nearly impossible to sell them, locally or abroad.

SEE ALSO: Watch A Guy With No Talent Make $1 Million Selling Contemporary Art

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Tourists Get Out Their Bathing Suits As Record Flooding Hits Venice

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Flooding in Venice, tourists swimming

It's true that canal-lined Venice is known for its regular flooding, but usually that means residents and tourists shuffle through ankle-deep water. This week, however, nearly three quarters of the city faced floods nearing the five-foot mark after an onslaught of rain and bad weather hit northern Italy, according to Reuters.

Two hundred people were forced to evacuate from their homes in Tuscany, and shops, homes and palaces were inundated with water in Venice. Water levels reached 149 cm (5ft)—the sixth highest level since records began in 1872.

While residents desperately tried to save their homes and possessions, tourists seemed to revel in the flooding, sitting at cafe tables in their bathing suits, playing in the waist-deep water, and swimming through St. Mark's square.

Authorities said that 70% of Venice was flooded, including the city's iconic St. Mark's square, where people played in the flooded water in their bathing suits.

Source: Reuters



The high tide reached a peak of 127 centimeters (50 inches) on Saturday, flooding Venice. Good-humored tourists donned their swimsuits and swam in St. Mark's Square.

Source: AP photo



While children played in the giant swimming pool.



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'Keeping Up With The Joneses' Could Lead To Suicide

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joneses

Researchers have long been fascinated by the idea that people who spend too much time "keeping up with the Joneses" are only increasing their likelihood of suicide.

For the first time, there's concrete evidence to back up the theory.

Researchers from the San Francisco Federal Reserve found people who earn 10 percent less than their neighbors are 4.5 percent more likely to commit suicide. 

While the effect was seen among high-earning individuals, the most vulnerable to this phenomenon are low-income people living amongst the wealthy. 

Here are some of the financial factors that contribute to suicide: 

Location, location, location. Poverty has been shown to increase suicide risk, but location plays a big role as well. Low-income individuals who lay down roots in wealthier communities are essentially setting themselves up for disaster. Not only do they have less cash to afford a higher cost of living –– health care, housing, and other expenses are typically higher in high-income areas –– but they're basically living inside of the wealth gap. That all leads to an increased risk for suicide.

$34,000 is the misery line.  If earning $75,000 annually is the benchmark for financial happiness –– earnings over that amount haven't been shown to increase happiness in the long-term –– then consider $34,000 the new tipping point for financial misery. People who earned less than $34,000 were 50 percent more likely to commit suicide, researchers found. People who earned between $34,000 and $102,000 increased their risk for suicide by only 10 percent. 

Unemployment. The secret to happiness may simply be having a 9-to-5. "We find that being unemployed or out of the labor force, for any reason, raises suicide risk relative to being employed," the researchers write. Unemployed people, in fact, are 72 percent more likely to commit suicide than people who are working. Retirees and people on leave from work also had higher suicide rates.

The study, "Relative Status and Well Being: Evidence from U.S. Suicide Deaths," was based on data from the National Longitudinal Mortality Study and the National Center for Health Statistics’ Multiple Cause of Death Files, along with 1990 census data.

See Also: 21 ways rich people think differently >

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The Biggest Trends In Luxury Ski Houses Being Built Today

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Chalet Zermatt Peak SwitzerlandAfter a long day on the slopes, most luxury ski chalet owners want to relax in their own personal in-home spas.

In-home spas are among the biggest trends in newly constructed luxury ski chalets, according to Chris Pollack, president of high-end home design company Pollack + Partners.

The overall style and design of ski homes is changing as well, Pollack told Business Insider. The log cabin-style homes that once dotted ski towns are fading and glass homes are emerging.

"These are not the typical ski houses that have been built in years past," Pollack said of today's designs. "They are more modern and unique, and really are becoming more architectural than you would envision for a ski house."

Pollack ran down some other current trends for us.

  • Security: Owners want protection from storms, terrorism, and other catastrophic events, he said. So the type of materials being used in construction is reflecting that.

  • Technology: Before iPhones and iPads dominated the market, homes would use a Crestron system with big in-wall panels to control the lights and temperature in the home. Now, those panels are going away completely and everything is controlled from hand-held devices.

  • Geothermal heating: Keeping these big ski homes warm can cost a fortune. While building, owners are requesting geothermal heating systems, glass windows that trap heat, and other environmental and budget-friendly options. "The price of a luxury home doesn't stop after construction," Pollack said. 

DON'T MISS: Presenting The 10 Most Outrageous Ski Homes Currently On The Market

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The Astronaut's Powered Recliner

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This is the Astronaut's Powered Recliner from Hammacher Schlemmer.

Why We Love It: This is the ultimate recliner. Not only is this Hammacher Schlemmer chair visually appealing with black leather and hand-carved parawood base, but it also elevates your feet above your heart, a seating posture developed by NASA to reduce stress and increase oxygen and blood flow throughout astronauts' bodies during take-off.

The fully reclined position also alleviates pressure and encourages proper spinal alignment and posture. The chair reclines at the touch of a lever and slides effortlessly from upright to fully reclined in less than 15 seconds.

Astronaut Powered Recliner

Where To Buy: Available through Hammacher Schlemmer.

Cost: $2,500.

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: Whole Story Photo Album by Debra Folz For Helmut Lang

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