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Impress everyone around the water cooler with these incredible facts, compiled by Markets reporter Mamta Badkar.
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Salt is farmed in huge quantities on remote islands in South Korea. These islands are nicknamed "slave islands" by local media because the salt is often harvested by mostly mentally disabled workers who receive little to no pay. State officials say more than 100 workers have gone without pay and 100 more are unaccounted for.
Produced by Devan Joseph. Video courtesy of Associated Press.
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My family went to Disneyland over the Christmas holidays. The drive from San Francisco took most of a day. The park was packed to the rafters, with wait times of over an hour on many rides. My next credit card bill will probably give me a heart attack.
And you know what? We loved it. We'll almost definitely go back.
The reason? Disneyland feels like one of the few affordable splurges left in America. Despite the crowds and wait times, we never felt ripped off or taken advantage of. I never felt like a walking dollar sign or a second-class citizen.
Think of how rare that feeling is in America today. There aren't many other companies that deliver a consistent first-class experience at a price a normal middle class family can afford.
Apple is one of the few I can think of.
So how does Disney keep packing them in?
Here's what I found:
The prices are exactly right. One-day tickets to the park are just shy of the psychological $100 mark. That's not cheap, but crummy seats at an NFL game or big-name rock concert easily run that much, and a day at Disneyland lasts a lot longer.
This merchandising genius extends to the food and tchotchkes as well — a decent meal costs $9 to $11, about what you pay for lunch at a food truck in San Francisco. A plastic light saber for my son cost $18 — just on the edge of being too expensive, but shy of the psychological $20 mark. They're geniuses at this stuff.
The parks are spotless. Both parks were wall-to-wall packed with people, and yet we didn't see a single unattended mess the entire time we were there. No overflowing garbage cans — attendants were always emptying them. No paper or popcorn on the streets. Spills of ice cream or soda were quickly and quietly scrubbed clean. Coming from San Francisco, where piles of garbage adorn the parks and litter blows down every street, this was absolutely amazing.
The food is actually good. It would be so easy for Disneyland to take advantage of their captive audience and serve nothing but cheap junk food. But they don't! A lot of the restaurants have special meals you can get only there, like gumbo. Lobster rolls with real lobster. A portobello mushroom sandwich that wasn't like an afterthought like most vegetarian meals. A pasta and pizza buffet. Kids' packs with fresh fruit and crackers. Plus plenty of burgers and fries if you want them.
Lots of rides, artfully done. Both parks combined probably have over 100 rides. The big roller-coaster attractions like Space Mountain are usually packed, but there are plenty of smaller rides that are fun as well — one of our favorites was the Bug's Life ride, a short 3D movie that shows you what it's like to be a bug, with special effects like getting sprayed with acid. (It's actually sugar water, and it's more fun than it sounds.)
Plus, they totally changed a lot of the rides up for Christmas — "It's A Small World" ride replaced the usual theme song with "Jingle Bells," and the Haunted Mansion was entirely rejiggered to Tim Burton's "The Nightmare Before Christmas." And all the rides are just beautiful, and cleverly done — the lines are long, but often wind through a couple of set pieces that that build anticipation, rather than simply guiding you through acres of concrete.
Disney owns the rights to all the good kids' entertainment. Speaking of "The Nightmare Before Christmas," I didn't even know it was a Disney movie. So is Pixar. So is Star Wars. For that matter, so is ESPN — one adult relative got sick of the crowds and spent a couple hours in the ESPN Zone restaurant watching football.
They've thought of everything. Need a stroller? Disney will rent you one for $15 (just shy of being too expensive). Want to bring your dog? There's a doggy day care area — all you have to do is come back to walk your pooch every four hours. Drink too much alcohol at the California Adventure side of the park, where they serve wine and beer? A smiling security guard will help you feel better as he escorts you from the park. (We saw this and it could've been an ugly disaster, but was handled perfectly.)
It's just the perfect combination of pricing, marketing, and art-meets-science, all wrapped up with a customer-first bow. Again, a lot like Apple.
Apparently a lot of other people agree.
According to the Themed Entertainment Association (cited by Forbes), Disney's parks drew more than 132 million customers in 2013. That's nearly twice as many as its nearest competitor, Merlin, which operates Legoland.
You can expect that number to go up in 2014. In the year ended September 28, Disney's parks and resorts earned $2.6 billion in operating profit (up 20%) on $15.1 billion in revenue (up 7%). That's a profit margin of about 18% on a nicely growing business. It's not just theme parks — Disney also operates resorts and cruises and other vacation experiences — but the theme parks are the main driver of that business.
Apparently there have been calls for Disney to raise prices on its theme parks to keep crowds down. But every person through the gates is another person who will spend money on food, Disney gear, and other extras. Disney knows exactly what it's doing, and the parks seem to be doing great.
Sort of like how people were calling on Apple to lower prices a year ago to meet the Samsung-Android juggernaut. Apple ignored them, and the iPhone 6 is one of its most profitable products yet, while Samsung is struggling.
WARNING: A goat is slaughtered in this video.
At Madani Halal, a pick-your-own slaughterhouse in Ozone Park, Queens customers can choose their livestock or poultry which is killed on site, butchered and packaged to be brought home all within a twenty minute timeframe.
Imran Uddin is not your typical halal slaughterhouse owner. He used to work in advertising at McCann-Erickson before taking over his father's business in the early 2000s. His decision to do so was captured in the documentary 'A Son's Sacrifice.'
Produced by Alana Kakoyiannis
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BI Answers: How can I fix my sleeping habits?
Establishing good sleeping habits is one of the best ways to transform your life — there's little that affects your day more than how you slept the night before.
But as the 40% of Americans who don't get enough sleep know, getting a good night's rest is easier said than done.
It's worth it though: There are some incredible benefits to getting more sleep.
1. Pick a bedtime. Don't try to go to bed "as early as possible" — that's a vague goal, which makes it almost impossible to achieve. Instead, plan ahead.
Do you want to be up by 7:00? Then get in bed at 11:00. The vast majority of people need between seven and nine hours of sleep a night, so shoot for eight to start, and adjust if it eventually feels like too much or too little.
2. Look at your normal schedule and take note of what you do.Before making any changes, think about what you are doing for the two hours before you want to be asleep. Do you normally watch TV right until you want to get into bed? Do you give yourself any time to get ready for sleep before you actually want to be asleep? Do you do eat or drink anything late at night? You can't change habits until you are aware of what you are already doing.
3.Setsome rules for the future. Since you've already taken note of your habits, you can now start re-building your bedtime routine to train yourself to sleep. Set rules that will help you relax.
One big one: never do anything work-related in bed, including checking your email or social media accounts. If you associate your bed with work, it'll be much harder to relax there. That old advice about reserving your bed for sleep and sex is pretty solid — even if 9 out 10 Americans ignore it— but really, just make sure you don't do anything in bed that isn't relaxing.
4. Don't eat or drink alcohol right before bed. Eating too soon before sleeping is associated with heartburn, which can ruin a night. And even though a nightcap is tempting and might help you fall asleep at first, people who drink a lot before bed usually experience disruptions to their sleep in the second half of the night. The more time you can give yourself between partying and feasting and sleeping, the better your rest will be overall.
5. Put your smartphone and laptop away at least 30 minutes before bedtime. This is advice that people love to ignore, but there are very good reasons for it. The blue light from your phone mimics the brightness of the sun, which tells your brain to stop producing melatonin, an essential hormone that regulates your circadian rhythm and tells your body when it's time to wake and when it's time to sleep.
6. Spend the 30 minutes before sleep relaxing. Here are a few recommendations from the National Sleep Foundation and a few other sources:
- Read a book or magazine you enjoy — just make sure it's not work related.
- Write your thoughts down. Experts say journaling at night can help manage stress and anxiety, making it easier for you to drift off. Spending a few minutes writing in a journal is associated with more productive workdays, less stress, fewer symptoms of depression, and more.
- Create a hygiene ritual that sends a psychological signal that you are getting ready for bed. Brush your teeth, wash your face, floss.
- Try meditation. Studies show that mindfulness meditation lowers stress and promotes psychological well-being. If you want something that will send you to sleep, the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center has a selection of free downloadable meditations, including one specifically designed to be done in bed.
7. If in the end you can't sleep after all that, try not to fight it.Get out of bed, make yourself a cup of herbal tea, and go read something relaxing (or boring, even — but again, not work-related). Don't look at the screen of your TV, phone, or computer, and get back in bed when you feel tired.
8. In the a.m., don't hit snooze. Experts say that those 10 minutes will only leave you groggier if you fall into a deeper sleep and it'll take even longer for you to feel fully awake.
9. Get some exercise and in particular, some sun, early on. It'll wake you up and that early morning exposure to sunlight will shut off melatonin production, priming your body to start producing it again the next night, when you are getting ready for bed.
It's not always easy, but taking these steps can help you get a good night's sleep. And when you wake up fully rested, you'll thank yourself.
This post is part of a continuing series that answers all of your questions related to science. Have your own question? Email email@example.com with the subject line "Q&A"; tweet your question to @BI_Science; or post to our Facebook page.
READ MORE: 23 Incredible Benefits Of Getting More Sleep
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On every man's road to dressing better, there are quite a few things he learns about style.
In a recent thread on Reddit's male fashion subreddit, /r/malefashionadvice, men shared the worst misconceptions they had about fashion and style.
Keep reading to make sure you don't make the same mistakes.
1. "Skinny guys should wear boot cut [pants] to make their legs look wider." -macadocious
This could not be further from the truth. Boot cut is the most unflattering of all pant cuts for skinnier dudes. It won't make your legs look any bigger, but the flare in the bottom of the leg will make you look sloppier than a straight or skinny cut pant.
2. "Shirts were supposed to be baggy in the shoulders and chest." -utilitym0nster
Shirts aren't supposed to be baggy. They're supposed to fit! A good rule of thumb is to get a shirt that fits as close to your body as you can while you retain free range of movement in your arms.
3. "I thought that wearing the right clothes would automatically mean that I'd dress better." - Poizar
A common misconception is that dressing up is the equivalent to dressing better. In fact, the two are completely unrelated and a man in sharp casualwear will look better than a man in a sloppy suit every time.
Additionally, you should always be mindful to dress appropriately for the situation at hand.
4. "I thought showing off you have money to buy "high fashion" mall brands meant I was fashionable and looked good." -PSIKevin
Many "prestigious" mall brands are perceived as "quality," while they actually sell completely overpriced poor-quality garments covered with gaudy branding. Labels like Abercrombie and Fitch and Armani Exchange are two of the biggest offenders.
Learning which brands to avoid and which brands are worth their price is a crucial step on the road to dressing better.
5. "Shorts are dumb and should only be worn by boys under the age of 12 or sportsmen." -themanifoldcuriosity
Most men are now aware that shorts are perfectly fine to wear in the warmer months, and even acceptable in some more casual office environments.
Just avoid the dreaded cargo short.
6. "Cargo shorts were cool because of everything you could fit in the pockets." -Adjustify
Again, cargo shorts are generally looked upon today as extremely passé and dated. Avoid these at all costs.
Instead, try a slim chino for a more modern look.
7. "Only construction workers and goths wear boots." -GDDesu
There is a wide variety of boots available, from brouged dress boots to vintage reproduction work books. There's a boot for every kind of man: not just black Dr. Martens and Timberlands.
8. "I thought boat shoes were the most fashionable shoes." -UnbiasedOnionRing
Boat shoes are still a great choice for summer footwear, but they are far from the most fashionable shoe available.
9. "I thought square-toed shoes were cool." -TummyDrums
Square-toed shoes haven't been acceptable for a while now, and men are urged to stay away from them. They are clunky, awkward, and distracting, with a completely unflattering profile.
Stick with your classic wing tips.
10. "I used to color coordinate my shoes with my shirt to make sure they were the same color." -Yeaga
While it can be a strategic style decision to make your shoes and shirt match, it is pretty much completely unnecessary.
In fact for most outfits, this would look pretty ridiculous. It can work well for some street style outfits based around specific kinds of sneakers, however, but maybe wait to try this look until you get your fashion sea legs.
11. "I always thought the belt had to match shoes no matter what you were wearing." -WhoopItIsThere
Matching your belt and shoes is a good rule of thumb for the dressiest of occasions, but that's really the only time. It's not necessary for business suits or any level of dress lower than that.
12. "Black shoes went with everything." -KlausFenrir
Black shoes don't go with everything. For many colors of suits and other outfits, it would be very "fashion forward" to opt for black footwear.
If you want a shoe that goes with everything, buy a nice medium brown brogue.
13. "Pocket squares have to match your tie." -vim_all_day
Contrary to what you see news and sports anchors wearing on TV, pocket squares do not have to match your tie. In fact, they probably shouldn't.
If anything, your pocket square can match the color of your shirt, but even then it's not necessary. Feel free to branch out with your pocket square.
14. "I believed black suits to be the most versatile and best color of suit to buy." -Rerrgon
Actually, the most versatile color of suit is navy or charcoal. These are the first two colors men should buy suits in when they're starting to build their wardrobe.
Black suits are only suitable on occasions like weddings and funerals, and sometimes for the office. Use your black suit sparingly.
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This post is sponsored by NextAdvisor.
After a season of extravagant holiday shopping, it might be time to turn your attention to your credit cards.
Maybe you have a balance you can't fully pay off. Perhaps you're looking to earn some extra rewards or save up for your next vacation. Picking the right credit card could easily save you hundreds or thousands of dollars.
With the economy on the upswing, credit-card issuers are offering amazing bonuses, lengthy 0% intro APRs, and generous reward programs.
NextAdvisor.com is a consumer information site that reviews credit cards from all major issuers; its mission is to help consumers save money. According to the company, these are the best credit cards for 2015.
Best cash-back card: Blue Cash Preferred Card From American Express
Why you should get it: The Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express, the winner of NextAdvisor's cash-back-card analysis, combines excellent cash rewards with a 15-month 0% APR period. This is a good option for anyone who spends a lot on groceries and gas, since it can really rack up cash-back rewards. You don't have to sign up quarterly to get the rewards — they're automatic.
What to know:
- Earn 6% back at supermarkets (on up to $6,000 in purchases annually), 3% at gas stations and select department stores like Sears, JCP, Kohl's, Nordstrom, and Macy's, and 1% cash back on all your other purchases.
- There's a $100 bonus and a free year of Amazon Prime after spending $1,000 in the first three months.
- 0% intro APR for the first 15 months on purchases and balance transfers (there is a 3% balance-transfer fee).
- $75 annual fee, but you should be able to earn this back.
If you want a card with no annual fee, huge cash-back rewards, and a 0% intro APR period, check out its sister card, the Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express, or use NextAdvisor's free Personalized Cash Back Calculator to find out which cash-back card is best for you.
Best balance-transfer card: Chase Slate
Why you should get it: You went overboard on holiday shopping and can't fully pay off your balance. This card will help you transfer your balances instead of accumulating huge interest fees.
What to know:
- 15-month 0% intro APR on balance transfers and purchases.
- No balance-transfer fees and no annual fee.
- Anyone with a credit score above 660 has a chance to be approved.
- $0 balance transfer fee available only for the first 60 days (but people generally get this card to transfer their balances immediately, so that shouldn't be an issue).
- If you're looking for a balance-transfer card and aren't sure which one is best for your situation, take a look at NextAdvisor's free Balance Transfer Calculator to determine which card will save you the most.
Best low APR card: Citi Simplicity
Why you should get it: This card leads the pack with an outstanding 18-month 0% intro APR and no annual fee or late fees. While it's important to pay your card on time and to maintain a healthy credit score, the extended 0% APR period will let you pay down your balance over time without costing you anything in interest fees. Plus there are no late fees or penalty rates — a huge bonus for anyone who might be late with a payment now and then.
What to know:
- 0% intro APR period for 18 months on both purchases and balance transfers.
- No late fees, penalty rates, or annual fee.
- 3% balance-transfer fee.
Best travel card: Barclay Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard
Why you should get it: If you're saving up for a big vacation or travel frequently, you should strongly consider the Barclay Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard. The card took first place in NextAdvisor's 2014 Travel Rewards Credit Card Analysis, with a top reward value of $2.20 for every $100 spent in both the flight and hotel categories.
You can travel wherever you'd like, on any airline, at any hotel, and with any car-rental company (or cruise). To use your earned miles, you just book your travel and then redeem your miles as a statement credit against your travel costs. A perk is that when you travel outside the US, you won't have to pay foreign transaction fees. It's also the only card that offers full chip and PIN technology, making it fully compatible with foreign payment systems.
What to know:
- Start with a 40,000-point bonus — equal to $400 in travel — after you spend $3,000 in the first 90 days.
- Earn two miles for every dollar you spend. That's 2x miles on every purchase, not just in certain categories or on special deals that you have to sign up for quarterly.
- Get a 10% bonus on all miles you redeem for travel, so if you were to spend your 40,000-point intro bonus on travel, you'd get 4,000 bonus miles (roughly $440 in travel).
- The card does have an $89 annual fee, but it's waived the first year, so you'll have a year to figure out if this card is right for you.
Best card for anyone with good (but not great) credit: Chase Freedom
Why should get it: If you don't have terrific credit, the Chase Freedom might be right up your alley. It was developed for those with "good" credit, or a credit score between 660 and 724, so it has the great features you'd expect for those with great credit, but it's still available to those who might have a hit or two on their credit report. (If you don't know your credit score, get it here free.)
What to know:
- Start with a $100 intro bonus after spending $500 in the first three months.
- Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases in categories that rotate quarterly (you'll need to register each quarter to receive the cash back) and 1% back on everything else you buy.
- No annual fee.
Best card for students: Discover It For Students
- 6-month 0% intro APR on purchases.
- Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases in categories that rotate quarterly and 1% cash back on all other purchases.
- No annual fee and no foreign transaction fees.
Best card for businesses: Ink Cash Business Card
Why you should get it: This card has great business-oriented features, including generous cash-back rewards, a 0% intro APR, and no annual fee. The 12-month 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers can be helpful to new businesses looking to make big purchases they don't need to pay off for a year, as well as larger businesses that just want to take advantage of paying no interest for a year.
What to know:
- Get a $200 bonus after spending $3,000 in the first three months.
- Earn 5% cash back on purchases at office-supply stores and on land-line, cell-phone, internet, and cable TV services (on up to $25,000 in combined purchases).
- Get 2% cash back on the first $25,000 in combined purchases at restaurants and gas stations and an unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases. The 5% and 2% cash-back rewards are issued annually on your account anniversary, but the 1% cash-back rewards are issued monthly.
Other cards you may want to try:
Best card for average credit:Barclay Rewards Mastercard – Average Credit
Best card for rebuilding credit: Capital One Secured Mastercard
This post is based on an article originally published on NextAdvisor.
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Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg has chosen some pretty ambitious New Year's resolutions in the past, including vowing to learn Mandarin and to eat meat only that he killed himself.
Naím served as Venezuela's minister of trade and industry in the early 1990s, going on to positions as director of Venezuela's central bank and as executive director of the World Bank. He is now a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
"The End of Power" is a study of how the meaning of leadership in business, politics, education, religion, and the family has undergone a dramatic change over the past century.
According to Naím, the distribution of power is shifting; small startups have shown they can conquer large corporations; CEOs have shorter tenures than ever before; and more than half of the world's nations are democracies.
It's an interesting choice for the CEO of a network used by nearly a third of the world's population.
And plenty of people must be following Zuckerberg's example — "The End of Power" is out of stock on Amazon, but you can find it at Barnes & Noble or online as an e-book. Nearly 138,000 people have "liked" the page for the book club.
Tracey Mallett, a fitness and wellness expert, gives tips on how to combat backaches and lower-body pains that develop from working at a desk all day.
Mallett insists that by combining stretching and breathing exercises to lift and extend our bodies, people can even become more confident in the office.
Produced by Alana Kakoyiannis
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In 2011, photographer Juan Aballe’s closest friends began moving from their homes in Madrid, Spain’s capital city, to the nearby countryside. Some left in search of a quieter, simpler life and some because of a lack of opportunities due to the ongoing economic crisis. The move shocked Aballe, who began contemplating whether he too should leave the city and its comforts for a long deserted rural Spain.
It seems Aballe's friends were not alone. After decades of Spaniards abandoning the countryside for better opportunities in the cities, the population flow has reversed. With no jobs in the cities and a cheaper cost of living, the countryside has become attractive. According to Spain’s census, the number of people living in population centers with less than 100 people has increased 13 percent in the last ten years and more people have relocated from cities to towns in the past fifteen years than the other way around.
Aballe began photographing rural areas of the country, sometimes while visiting relocated friends and other times exploring the many alternate communities of young Spaniards that have cropped up. His goal was less to document a historical moment and more to capture the idealized rural lifestyle that his friends wanted to believe in.
Aballe shared some photos from his project, aptly titled "Country Fictions", with us here, but the work is now available in a book, which is available at Fuego Books.
Aballe began the project by visiting his friends for several days at a time. Many of Aballe's friends moved into the Pyrenees, a mountain range in the north of Spain that forms the border with France. It is one of the least populated areas in Spain.
Eventually, he was introduced to a small settlement of about ten people, where he stayed for ten days. To get to the settlement, Aballe had to drive on a country road for thirty minutes before getting onto an unpaved path. The settlement is only accessibly by four-wheel-drive vehicles.
When Aballe arrived, he found a settlement made up of many make-shift living arrangements.
Aballe had a few friends in the settlement and quickly made more. A Swiss man Aballe met named Ur let him photograph inside his cabin. Below, you can see his bedroom.
Because many of the people Aballe's photographed are his friends or people he was introduced to by friends, Aballe sees the project as very personal.
Part of what Aballe was trying to capture was the hard-working, simple life that he believes we all imagine when we think of rural locations.
Part of that vision is an idealization of agriculture and nature triumphing over technology. Here, you can see olive trees and a crushed industrial tank in La Mancha, a traditional agriculture region in central Spain.
This is in Castillejo de Robledo in the northwestern province of Castile and León, another area of rural Spain that is seeing a resurgence.
Even with an increase in population, these areas can still be desolate and sparse. The empty nature of the countryside and its limited options for food or human contact was a main point of concern for Aballe. Here, you can see a lone restaurant in La Mancha.
The tiny town of Collado Hermoso is also in Castile and León and has seen an influx of people from urban areas. There are 154 residents in the town, as well as a few horses like the one below.
This is in the Sierra Norte Nature Park in Andalucia in southern Spain. In the end, Aballe opted not to follow his friends in moving to the country, less because of the physical isolation than the difficulty in being in close quarters with so few people.
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Anyone who's ever been single, broken-up, or in a long-distance relationship, as I am, understands the gut-wrenching craving for physical intimacy. The transition between regular sex and celibacy can be tough.
Let me tell you, giving up sugar for 10 days is harder.
I first heard of the Fed Up Challenge when my mom's best friend posted about it on Facebook. Her statuses bragged about how much energy she had after giving up foods containing sugar. She posted photos of her farmer's market bounty with the hashtag "tastetherainbow."
Extra energy? Repurposed Skittles slogans? Yes please.
A couple weeks later I embarked on the 10-Day Fed Up Challenge, a healthy living campaign helmed by Katie Couric, Laurie David, and Stephanie Soechtig, the trio behind the 2014 documentary "Fed Up."
Given that the average sugar intake in the US is 22 teaspoons per day, when the The World Health Organization recommends no more than six teaspoons — and considering my proximity to the office candy jar — I knew this would be a doozy. I didn't know it'd be near impossible.
The Fed Up Challenge demands you give up all foods that have added sugars. No exceptions, so don't ask. And be warned, foods that have added sugar are pretty much everywhere.
Your diet should be chock full of fresh, whole foods that are free of honey, molasses, agave, artificial sweeteners, and any one of the 56 hidden names for sugar, such as glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, and maltose. Say goodbye to liquid sugars, such as sodas, bottled teas, fruit juices, and sports drinks, too.
Why go cold turkey? Sugar has the same addictive properties as tobacco and alcohol, meaning the more you eat, the more you need to be satisfied. "The best way to cut your sugar cravings are to cut out all sugar at once," the Fed Up website says. "Otherwise you keep triggering the addiction center in the brain."
Day 0: A Last Hurrah
I wanted to give my friend sugar a proper send-off. So at an outdoor movie screening the night before the Challenge, I ordered an ice cream sandwich made with two Snickerdoodle cookies and a generous scoop of Lucky Charms-infused ice cream. It. Was. Awesome.
That is, until I passed out 45 minutes into the "Heathers" screening with a stomach ache, a textbook sugar coma. I won't miss these.
Day 1: Getting Started and Accepting Defeat
All day, I craved my usual afternoon Fig Bar (10 grams), a handful of banana chips (30g), and honey in my hot lemon tea (17g). The lowest blow, however, was the loss of yogurt. I typically scoop a half cup or so into a blender for my green smoothie in the morning and was shocked to discover that even plain Greek yogurt is forbidden in the Garden of Eden.
When I think of "going sugar-free," visions of cake, soft serve ice cream, and candies dance in my head. But I quickly learned that sugar is everywhere, not just in the sticky-sweet items that line the checkout lane. I'm talking bagels, skim milk, ketchup, bread, peanut butter, energy bars, and millions more unexpected places.
I came home from work famished and made pasta with lean ground turkey and canned crushed tomatoes on a bed of spaghetti squash. And what do you know? That can of crushed tomatoes had 2g of sugar. Day 1 and I had fallen off the wagon. I felt angry, especially after actively resisting temptation in the office for nine hours.
But something good came out of it. I realized I needed to set myself up for success.
Day 2: Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind
With the support of my team, the office candy jar was emptied and remained empty through the remainder of The Challenge.
I went grocery shopping after work and stocked up on "safe foods": bushels of spinach and kale, fresh zucchini, more spaghetti squash, a carton of egg whites, cheeses, soy milk, fresh fruits, and lots of proteins, like ground turkey and chicken breasts.
The cravings persisted through most of the day, but surrounding myself with alternative snacks distracted me long enough to get through the urges.
Day 3: Getting Into The Swing Of Things
By Day 3, I got into a groove with breakfast. I dropped the green smoothie routine and started getting up earlier to make scrambled egg whites with cheese, spinach, and baby portabello mushrooms. And man, did those fill me up.
For lunch I brought an enormous kale salad with chopped chicken breast, avocado, and fresh peppers, which was not unusual for me. But I figured if I have to eat one more veggie medley for dinner, I might die of boredom.
After scrounging around, I found a Weight Watchers brand oatmeal bread that has less than 1g of sugar per slice. I sandwiched a lean ground turkey patty, made with chopped mushrooms, spinach, and garlic powder and topped with shredded part-skim mozzarella, between two slices of the bread. It was a compromise, but the protein left me satisfied for longer.
Day 4: Hey, It's Kinda Working
By now, I can already start to feel the increased energy. I feel ... purged somehow. Getting up in the morning seems easier, and I'm hitting the snooze button less.
It's cool when you go into something with an expectation — I will have more energy — and that expectation is realized. This doesn't feel like the placebo effect.
Day 5: Whiskey, Whiskey, Whiskey
I'm 23 and I don't live under a rock. I enjoy happy hours or a beer with dinner. My go-to hard cider and seasonal summer wheat ales were loaded with sugars, which was, to say the least, depressing.
But a quick Google search revealed to me that plain, hard liquor is most often in the clear. So I began ordering whiskey on the rocks, which was easier on my wallet because it took fewer drinks to get buzzed.
I counted this swap as a win.
Day 6: "Do You Think The Candy Jar Is Lonely?"
I started to feel as if I could run a marathon. A triathlon. A decathlon!
I'm not kidding. Boundless energy. I woke up with vigor (granted, I had been getting seven hours of sleep most nights), needed only one cup of coffee in the morning to stay focused, and made it through most of the day without yawning.
Unfortunately, for those of you keeping score, I still craved a handful of M&Ms from the office candy jar like Charlie craved heroin in Season 1 of "Lost."
Day 7: I've Fallen Off The Wagon And I Can't Get Up
I experienced my first major cheat. And I didn't just dip my toe in to see how the water was. I strapped on my swim cap and dived headfirst into Willy Wonka's chocolate river.
Our intern brought in end-of-summer cookies from Momofuku Milk Bar. A press gift from ManCrates delivered maple-cured bacon jerky. When I got home, my self-control completely unraveled and I cut a slice from the chocolate-chip zucchini bread buried in the freezer.
Something remarkable happened. It tasted ... disgustingly sugary.
This is my mom's chocolate-chip zucchini bread recipe. I've been eating it for 23 years, and now that I can replicate it in my kitchen, it's one of my greatest vices. But when I bit into the bread, it made my teeth itch. It tasted too sweet to finish. I couldn't believe that in seven days, my palate had changed, when it took two decades for me to eat a mushroom without gagging.
Day 9: My Oprah Ah-Ha Moment
A cold came on, and I became more concerned about contracting Ebola than sticking to the Challenge. I drank a lot of hot toddies with my canned chicken noodle soup.
Sometimes you get sick. Sometimes a tsunami of stress hits. Sometimes your willpower slips, and I decided, that's OK.
But for this sugar-free lifestyle to work, I would have to be more proactive about stopping the cycle. If the intern brings in s'mores-flavored cookies, I don't have to throw in the towel and declare it a "cheat day." It can be a "cheat moment."
In the future, I will try to forgive myself and consider every slip the beginning of a clean slate.
Day 10: A Reflection
Over the course of the Fed Up challenge, I reduced my daily sugar intake from 45g on average to about only 2g a day. I significantly increased my consumption of complex carbohydrates and cheese, which are far from immune to the magnetic pull of my hips. Still, I lost four pounds in 10 days.
Pros: I shed some weight. Since consuming sugar may stall the hormone that lets your body know "I'm full," I felt less hungry during the day and felt satiated sooner. More importantly, I gained massive amounts of energy I didn't know my body could tap into.
Cons: I experienced noticeably more indigestion, most likely from eating more complex carbohydrates, cheese, and massive amounts of fruits and veggies. (I'm really sorry, desk mates.) This seems manageable with a Beano regiment and drinking more water to flush out the system.
Very infrequently did I feel as if I was "missing out" in a social situation because I was sugar-free. If you looked hard enough, every temptation had an alternative option. At the club? Order plain hard liquor. At the office, grab a handful of unsweetened almonds instead of granola clusters.
Since completing the Fed Up Challenge, I've reunited with sugar-free chocolate pudding (because artificial sugars were banned, too); but I've tried my best to maintain the rules otherwise. Candy cravings persist, but they pass quicker than before. Still, I've gotten lazy about reading nutritional labels and instead rely on my judgment. The scale at the gym tells me that my judgment is, more often than not, wrong.
Regardless, I'm glad I did the Fed Up Challenge for the sheer satisfaction that comes with completing it.
Ever wanted to live like royalty?
Well, turns out you can — for a price.
Our friends at property search site Estately.com, rounded up some of the best castle-like homes in the US.
Complete with secret wine cellars, custom indoor lap pools, rose gardens, multi-floor libraries, and stone walls, these 19 castle homes are available for purchase right now.
This 240-room castle in Connecticut comes with 75 acres of land and a moat.
Built by Christopher Mark, the great-grandson of Chicago steel tycoon Clayton Mark Senior, this impressive gothic structure took seven years to complete.
Known as Chrismark Castle, the home has eight bedrooms, a moat, and once housed exotic animals including a zebra, emus, and camels.
Address: 450 Brickyard RD, Woodstock, CT
A 28,000-square-foot castle in Virginia has an indoor lap pool.
This castle in McLean, VA looks more like a university library than it does a private home.
The 28,000-square-foot estate has eight bedrooms and 12 baths. The home also has an indoor lap pool, a sophisticated library complete with spiral staircase, and is filled with exquisite chandeliers.
Address:7201 Dulany Drive, McLean, VA
This stunning French Chateau in Napa Valley has its own conservatory.
This elegant French Chateau sits on over 46 acres of picturesque land in the Napa Valley.
The Chateau has an incredible mosaic tile floored foyer, an elevator which takes you up to the conservatory, a state-of-the-art entrainment pavilion, and an outdoor kitchen with a pizza oven.
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English writer G.K. Chesterton said that the traveler sees what he sees, while a tourist only sees what he came to see.
And sometimes, those tourist attractions aren’t worth seeing at all.
Inspired by this Reddit list of overrated tourist destinations, we wanted to round up some of the biggest tourist letdowns in the world, and suggest some alternative places to go instead.
We're not saying you should never visit the Great Pyramids in Cairo or view the art in the Louvre Museum. We're just saying that you should also get off the beaten path — it may lead you to something even better.
Instead of seeing New York City from the top of the Empire State Building, go to Top of the Rock.
Waiting to get to the top of the Empire State Building is a pain. It’s expensive, there are long lines, and the views of New York City are only so-so.
A better option is to go to Top of the Rock in Midtown. Sure it’s just as expensive, but your view will include the iconic Empire State Building (which you miss by going to the Empire State Building itself) as well as views of Central Park.
Instead of touring the ruins of Pompeii, visit the lesser-known ancient Roman city Herculaneum.
Because Pompeii has become so massively well known, it's always crowded with tourists and many of its frescoes have been removed to be housed in museums around the world.
Herculaneum was also buried in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79, but unlike Pompeii, Herculaneum retained many of its wooded objects like building beams, beds, doors, and even food. It was also a wealthier town than Pompeii, so there are more lavish homes and frescoes to view.
Instead of seeing the stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, spot the real celebs where they actually hang out.
The Hollywood Walk of Fame is a rude awakening for tourists — the street is dirty, littered, and not at all glamorous.
A better option (if you can afford it) is to go to the real locations where celebrities hang out. Beacher’s Madhouse, the restaurant Nobu, and the Staples Center are all good options.
If you’re on a budget, go hiking at Runyan Canyon, where many celebs go to walk their pets and burn off some calories.
Instead of taking a tourist shot of the Great Pyramids, drive to the Pyramid Fields of Dahshur.
The Great Pyramids of Giza may be the most well-known pyramids in the world, but that doesn't mean they're the best. In fact, they can be so overrun with tourists and the views from them are so marred by modern Cairo that many travelers say they're not even worth visiting.
If you love history but hate the crowds, head to the Pyramid Fields at Dahshur. It's not a far drive from Cairo, but far enough that not many tourists venture out. Plus, the pyramids there are just as awe-inspiring as those in Giza — perhaps more so.
Instead of braving the heat in Athens, take a trip to one of Greece’s gorgeous islands.
After you visit the Acropolis in Athens, give yourself a palate cleanser from the heat and scaffolding by exploring the beautiful and exotic Greek islands.
We especially recommend Rhodes, which has gorgeous beaches as well as its medieval Old Town, the Temple of Apollo, the Acropolis of Lindos, the Governor’s Palace, and more. For history buffs, it's unmissable.
Instead of walking around Stonehenge with all the tourists, go out of your way to see the Callanish Standing Stones.
Stonehenge has long been described as a tourist must-see, but the endless crowds and designated walkway can make it seem less than extraordinary.
For a dramatic alternative, Scotland’s Isle of Lewis has its own standing stones that are just as breathtaking, but less heavily trafficked. Plus, you can get a lot closer to the Callanish Standing Stones than Stonehenge.
Instead of battling crowds ogling the Mona Lisa at the Louvre in Paris, see the impressionist works at the Musée d’Orsay.
The Louvre is spectacular yet overwhelming, and the same can be said for Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. The famous but tiny work of art is constantly surrounded by tourists trying to snap a picture.
Instead, head to the train-station-turned-museum Musée d’Orsay. It has gorgeous impressionist works and is one of the most beautiful buildings in Paris. Fans of Paul Cezanne and Vincent van Gogh will love this museum.
Instead of making a wish at the Trevi Fountain in Rome, meander over to the Piazza Navona.
While the Trevi Fountain may be beautiful, it’s overrun with people, which makes it nearly impossible to appreciate its grandeur.
When you’re sick of trying to take a picture there, go to the Piazza Navona, which is not only less crowded, but also has a pretty fountain with sculptures by famed Italian sculptor Bernini.
Instead of downing a pint at the Guinness Factory in Dublin, spend an evening in a genuine Dublin pub.
The Guinness Factory tour may sound like a good idea, but for all your trouble you’re rewarded with a single pint of Guinness and a subpar view of Dublin.
Skip the tour and get directly to the Guinness at a nearby Dublin pub. A historic option like The Brazen Head (Dublin’s oldest pub) will not only give you a more genuine Irish experience, it’ll also get you buzzed a lot faster.
Instead of wandering through Times Square, head uptown to Museum Mile.
While most tourists come to New York City and head directly for Times Square, it’s incredibly disappointing. Times Square is dirty, crowded, expensive, and overwhelming — walk through it once and you’ll never want to go back.
A much lovelier walk can be had on New York’s Museum Mile on Fifth Avenue. It stretches from 82nd to 104th Street, with well-known museums like the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim. You'll also get gorgeous views of Central Park.
Instead of staying at the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas like everyone else, check out a resort in the Exumas.
Everyone stays at Atlantis Resort, but hardly anyone seems to actually enjoy it. The rooms need updating, the food is expensive, and the attractions are only so-so.
Honestly, anywhere else in the Bahamas is better. Try a resort on a smaller island in the low-key Exumas, which boast pristine coastlines and cool attractions like the "domesticated" swimming pigs that live on Big Major's Spot.
Instead of staring up at Mount Rushmore from a tiny viewing platform, take a drive through South Dakota's Badlands National Park.
Mount Rushmore is an American cultural icon, but standing on a viewing platform and looking up at the real thing may make the presidents' heads look rather tiny — and disappointing.
Instead, go to South Dakota's Badlands National Park. With nearly 243,000 acres of protected land, visitors can view incredible rock formations and wildlife they won't see anywhere else in the world, including mountain goats, rabbits, bobcats, antelope, and even bison.
Instead of seeing the Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen, walk over to the nearby Gefion Fountain.
The Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen is a major tourist attraction on the Langelinie waterfront, despite its diminutive size.
There's a more interesting attraction nearby, however — the Gefion Fountain. Sculptor Anders Bungdaard designed the fountain showing Norse Goddess Gefion, who was offered as much land in Sweden as she could plow. According to the legend, she turned her sons into oxen and plowed enough land to create Zealand, the island where Copenhagen is located. Gefion was pretty badass and her fountain is, too.
Instead of going to a wax museum, go literally anywhere else.
The world is a huge place with plenty to see and experience. Why would you waste your time looking at wax replicas of famous people?
If you don’t believe me, go once and you’ll never want to go again.
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The old way of selling tobacco will soon become a thing of the past.
Now, most burley is sold under contracts between farmers and tobacco companies. Contracting sprung up a decade ago after the demise of a federal program of price supports and production quotas that guaranteed minimum prices for most of the 20th century. The new system cuts out warehouse operators as middle men.
Produced by Devan Joseph. Video courtesy of Associated Press.
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The best part about reading a mystery book is not being able to put it down.
Amazon released its best edge-of-your-seat mysteries and thrillers of 2014.
Even though the year has already wrapped up, these books will keep you completely engrossed.
Keep reading to find your next nail-biting novel.
1. "Revival: A Novel" by Stephen King: Set over half a century ago, the story focuses on the bond between a boy and the new town minister. The tale spans five decades and follows the relationship of these two characters who are plagued by demons and deep-seated grief. "Revival" culminates in the most terrifying conclusion Stephen King has ever written.
2. "Personal: A Jack Reacher Novel" by Lee Child: Former military cop Jack Reacher is called back into duty when an American gunman tries to shoot the president of France. Very few people in the world would have been able to make the long range shot from such a long range, but Reacher knows someone who can, and now has to catch him.
3. "The Secret Place (Dublin Murder Squad)" by Tana French: In the newest addition to the Dublin Murder Squad series, the murder investigation of teen heartthrob Chris Harper is reignited when a photo of him emerges with the caption "I KNOW WHO KILLED HIM." Detectives Stephen Moran and Antoinette Conway work to uncover the truth and are shocked by the danger and mystery of the private world of teenagers.
4. "Wolf in White Van: A Novel" by John Darnielle: After a disfiguring accident, Sean Phillips lives within the confines of his home. He creates a text-based, role-playing game that takes its players on an adventure through an imaginary world. Sean must face reality when two players take his game into the real world and disaster ensues. The story ultimately leads back to the horrific accident that has shaped Sean's isolated existence.
5. "The Laughing Monsters: A Novel" by Denis Johnson: "The Laughing Monsters" tests the loyalty between long-time friends. After a decade away, Roland Nair returns to Sierra Leone to reunite with his friend and former business partner Michael Adriko and Adriko's fiance. On the journey to meet Adriko's clan in Uganda it becomes very clear that the three have their own motives and secrets that threaten their relationships with each other.
6. "I Am Pilgrim" by Terry Hayes: When four brutal and seemingly unrelated murders turn out to actually be connected, only one man, a retired and reclusive CIA operative named Pilgrim, can discover the missing links.
7. "The Heist: A Novel" by Daniel Silva: Gabriel Allon has many identities: art restorer, spy, assassin. This thriller novel follows Gabriel as he searches the globe for renowned artist Caravaggio's stolen masterpiece.
8. "The Long Way Home" by Louise Penny: Former chief inspector of homicide Armand Gamache has found peace and quiet in retirement until his neighbor Clara enlists him to find her missing, estranged artist husband.
9. "Natchez Burning: A Novel" by Greg Iles: Set in Mississippi, lawyer Penn Cage has always looked up to his father Tom, a doctor and pillar in the community. When Tom is accused of murdering a nurse he worked with in the '60s, Penn tries to clear his father's name, and ends up following a trail that dates back 40 years and uncovers his town's racist and bloody past.
10. "The Son: A Novel" by Jo Nesbo: Sonny, a heroin addict, has been in jail for 12 years for crimes he didn't commit, but he doesn't question his sentence as long as he has a steady supply of dope. But when he learns a secret about his deceased corrupt cop father, Sonny escapes jail and his addiction only to find himself at the center of a whole infrastructure of corruption.
11. "Those Who Wish Me Dead" by Michael Koryta: When teenaged Jace Wilson is the only witness of a grisly murder, police put Jace into witness protection at a wilderness camp while they search for the murderous Blackwell Brothers. Jace can only hope the police find the Blackwell Brothers before they find him.
12."An Officer and a Spy: A Novel" by Robert Harris: The novel follows French Jewish officer Alfred Dreyfus, who is convicted of treason for sharing secrets with the Germans. Georges Picquart, head of the counterespionage agency that imprisoned Dreyfus, starts to question if there is a larger conspiracy using Dreyfus as the scapegoat.
13. "The Farm" by Tom Rob Smith: Daniel is caught between his parents. His father is claiming that his mother is mentally ill and suffering a psychotic break; Daniel's mother calls Daniel frantically, saying everything his father is saying about her is a lie, and tells him a story of secrets, deceit, crime, and a terrible conspiracy.
14. "Windigo Island: A Novel" by William Kent Krueger: A young girl from the Ojibwe tribe washes up on the shores of Bad Bluff reservation. The girl had gone missing a year ago with her friend Mariah, who is still missing. While the Ojibwe tribe thinks the girls' disappearance is attributed to the mythical creature Windigo, private detective Cork O'Connor finds evidence that the girls were sold into a dangerous sex-trafficking ring.
15. "Cop Town: A Novel" by Karin Slaughter: It's 1974 and there is a cop killer loose in Atlanta, Georgia. Kate Murphy and Maggie Lawson are two rookie cops looking to prove their worth to the APD. When they are pushed out of the manhunt for the cop killer, the two women take the investigation into their own hands.
16. "The Fever: A Novel" by Megan Abbott: The story focuses on the close-knit Nash family when their community is shaken with hysteria after a lethal contagion breaks out.
17. "The Cairo Affair" by Olen Steinhauer: Sophie watches her husband, an American diplomat in Hungary, get killed minutes after confessing that she had an affair in Cairo. Sophie enlists the help of Stan Bertolli, a Cairo-based CIA agent and Sophie's former lover, to find out who wanted her husband dead. The story follows Sophie, Stan, and two other characters as they pursue different roads to solve the same case.
18. "The Kept: A Novel" by James Scott: It's 1897 in rural New York, and after a day at work Elspeth Howell comes home to find her husband and four of her children brutally murdered. She finds her son Caleb alive and hiding in the pantry. Mother and son set out to find the men responsible for shattering their family.
19. "Secrecy" by Rupert Thomson: The Grand Duke has asked Sicilian sculptor Zummo to create a life-sized wax sculpture of the woman who broke his heart. Meanwhile, Zummo finds love of his own but must conceal his feelings to remain a part of the Medici court. The novel shows the repression, hypocrisy, and piety that plagued seventeenth century Florence.
20. "Chance: A Novel" by Kem Nunn: Neuropsychiatrist Dr. Eldon Chance is primed for ruin when he falls into bed with Jaclyn, one of his patients who suffers from dissociative identity disorder. Jaclyn is also the wife of an abusive and dangerous homicide detective. Chance's relationships both with Jaclyn, and a young man named D, threaten to unravel his life.
SEE ALSO: The Best Fiction Books Of 2014
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"Venus," a 256-foot yacht designed for the late Steve Jobs, was spotted in the British Virgin Islands over the weekend.
Though the yacht has been photographed in the wild, these shots are the best we've seen.
Jobs reportedly approached French designer Philippe Starck for help bringing his dream yacht to life. Jobs had spent several summer vacations sailing on friend Larry Ellison's yacht, and he wanted one for himself.
Work on "Venus" wasn't complete until 2012, a year after Jobs' death.
The final product is made of aluminium and steel, with simple, sleek lines reminiscent of an Apple product.
The Irish-American tavern is a well-kept secret of businessfolk working in the Financial District, although it draws a regular crowd of Irish tourists.
Owners Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarry emigrated from Belfast, Northern Ireland, four years ago with dreams of opening a pub that reminded them of home. You won't find a neon Guinness sign in the window, nor are there shamrock lanyards around bartenders' necks.
The Dead Rabbit serves 145 varieties of Irish whiskey and 100% authenticity.
Buried in the sea of skyscrapers that makes up New York's Financial District, a four-floor brick building on Water Street is home to the best bar in America: The Dead Rabbit.
It's an Irish tavern like few others. In New York, "a sports bar with a Guinness sign in the window calls itself Irish," one bubbly bartender tells me.
Dead Rabbit, which opened its doors just after Hurricane Sandy struck, tells the story of how the Irish integrated into New York in the 1800s. Its no-BS vibe radiates authenticity, from the sawdust on the floor to the stiff Irish-whiskey punch ...
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