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Here's The Gear You Need When Embedding With The US Marines In Afghanistan


Video Stuff

Believe me, I was nervous, and I rarely get nervous.

Once you get out to the combat zone, you better have everything you need with you, or you're screwed. In the same breath, you better not bring too much, or you're equally screwed.

So I compiled a list of everything I brought, and why I brought it.

— At least five pairs of good, cushy, wicking boot socks. You want cushy because you're going to walk everywhere, for miles (and miles). You want wicking because you're definitely going to sweat, and there's nothing worse than walking around in a soggy sock (keep walking in them, and eventually you'll realize they're also soggy because your wet feet have been bleeding into them).

Same goes for underwear, at least five pairs of the higher-end, athletic kinds, that wick away moisture. Nothing like a knot of wet underwear balled up downstairs to make getting shot at a whole lot more uncomfortable.

— Black T-Shirts. I always wanted to wear a T-shirt in combat, and I always hated having long sleeves when I was deployed as an active duty Marine. I wore T-shirts, but you can get long sleeves of varying protection (flame retardant, etc.).

I also brought a shemaug, or an Afghan scarf. It helps with the dust and the cold at night, and believe it or not, will keep you cool during the day.

Camera gear in a pelican case. You're in Afghanistan, you've got thousands of dollars of camera gear, protect it. Also, I rented a $5,000 satellite in order to access internet and a computer and hard drives; all of which need to be protected. In the end though, I didn't use the satellite, since there's internet pretty much on every base and combat outpost.

Make sure you bring two of every charger: there is no Apple Store in Kabul.

Sleeping gear: this consists of a cold weather sleeping bag, thick and likely black or green. Also do not forget your combat pillow — a pillow about a quarter the size of a regular pillow. If you buy one at Bed, Bath and Beyond, it's a travel pillow, but if you buy it from a military website, it's a combat pillow.

Two six-inch blades. Insurance stipulates that I cannot be a combatant, nature stipulates that I can neither be a victim. I can't carry a rifle or a pistol, so I opted for knives. If the Talibs are going to take me and throw me in a terrorist YouTube video, I want to have given at least one of them a reason to get stitches.

— A couple pairs of 511 operator's pants. They're tough, resilient, and they don't trap heat. Covered in pockets for your various tools and trinkets. I highly recommend.

— Two pairs of boots. Emphasis: two, as in, four total boots. If you ruin a set, you'll need another. It should go without saying.

A headlamp. Yes, you read right. In Afghanistan, even in Kabul, electricity is not a guarantee, and when it gets dark, it's really really dark. A headlamp will make sure you don't go falling into a hole.

PPE: Personal Protective Equipment. You wouldn't believe it, but some journalists show up without any. You cannot embed with the U.S. military and have no PPE. It consists of: A Kevlar helmet, a vest, and ceramic plates (certified to stop an AK-47 round).

I opted with a plate carrier and some ballistic plates I ordered from this nice little old lady in Israel.

Loot Bags Stuff EmbedAlso, don't forget ballistics glasses. They look like regular sunglasses, but will stop small bits of shrapnel from ruining one or both of your eyes.

Travel hygiene kit. should include: small toothbrush, shaving kit, soap (small, liquid soaps), fingernail clipper, body powder, shower shoes and headache medicine. I say again, headache medicine: if you get one in the middle of the Afghan mountains, you'll really wish you brought some medicine.

Water proof bag, compression sack and Bivvy sack. You want the waterproof bag for the stuff you can't, or don't want to get wet. The compression sack is for your sleeping gear. Rather than a compression sack, you could also opt for compression straps. Either way, you'll want to reduce the volume of your rolled up sleeping bag.

A bivvy sack is helpful when sleeping in mud or rain. It'll keep you relatively protected from the elements.

A good hiking bag, something you can bear a load with for a while. This is as essential as any piece of gear you bring. I brought what I call an "old-Corps" Alice pack. Small, light, durable, good frame, and it rests along the small of your back.

With that, and a little bit of chutzpah (which can't be bought online), you're pretty much set.

Oh, and I also brought a few books:

-Up in the Old Hotel: Joseph Miller
-The Forever War: Joe Haldeman
-The Great Gatsby: F.Scott Fitzgerald
-Striking Thoughts: Bruce Lee
-The Demolished Man: Alfred Bester
-The Moon is a Harsh Mistress: Heinlein

SEE ALSO: The Week That Changed Everything I Thought I Knew About Afghanistan >

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Here's How Facebook's Epic Cafe Earned Its Name (FB)


Silicon Valley tech companies have always gone the extra mile to make their workers feel special with extraordinary perks like on-site gyms, car share programs, bike rentals, and more.

Meals are no exception. And while Google may gives it employees three free gourmet meals a day, Facebook took the perk one step further. 

The largest social network in the world enlisted design firm Roman & Williams of ACE Hotel fame, to specially craft its headquarters' cafeteria.

Fast Company was recently invited into Facebook's Menlo Park campus to tour "Epic Cafe" and get a first-hand glimpse into the hub. The result is an industrial, warm cafeteria with plenty of places for collaboration with coworkers. To see more photos of Facebook's main campus dining hall head over to Fast Company

facebook hq cafeteria epic cafe

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Here's What Actually Goes On In Our Brains When We Get Gifts


Economies could crash, wars could rage and famine could cripple nations, and still, it's likely people would find some way to give gifts during the holidays.

The reasons why we continue the tradition might go far beyond religion or even family tradition. In a new infographic, Freemonee.com takes a deeper look into what exactly goes on in our brains when we get and give alike –– and the real history behind gifting.  

Check it out below. Then see 50 excellent gift ideas for $50 or less > 

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THE ULTIMATE OFFSITE: This Startup Treats The Entire Office To A Month On The Beach


David Barrett, Expensify

David Barrett, the cofounder and CEO of Expensify, offshored his entire team in October.

That doesn't mean he replaced them with cheap workers.

Instead, he flew 20 colleagues at the online expense-reporting startup to Thailand for an entire month so they could hang out together on the beach.

He's been doing this for years, and he says "there's no better way to gel a team."

"We go for a whole month, to somewhere that has the holy trinity of power, Internet, and beach," Barrett says. "We look for somewhere inexpensive." Last year, it was Vietnam. This year, it was Railay Beach in southern Thailand.

Expensify had six new employees start in September, right before the trip. At most companies, they'd still be ramping up, but at Expensify, they've had a once-in-a-lifetime experience with their new colleagues already.

Far from an all-expenses-paid vacation, this was a working trip for everyone. People kept up on their normal job duties and participated in long-range planning meetings as well.

Expensify covered flights and some meals. it already buys employees lunch in San Francisco, where the company's based 11 months out of the year, so that wasn't an additional expense. Employees covered their own lodging expenses. (Some rented out their homes while they were away to defray the cost.)

All told, Barrett estimates, the trip cost the company $30,000. That's not a big hit on the company budget. Expensify, one of our top 10 startups of 2009, has raised $6.7 million, and Barrett forecasts it hitting profitability without any extra money, though he's thinking about raising a round to accelerate the company's expansion early next year.

The trip is optional, but almost every employee participates, Barrett says. (One new hire was in the middle of moving across the country and couldn't make it this year.) Some only do the middle two weeks of the trip, which is fine.

"We think this is the most productive month of the year," Barrett says. "You take them out of their time zone. They don't speak the language. It's this very inclusive environment. You have time for the conversations you never have otherwise. Our best ideas for the company come out of these trips."

The trip began in Bangkok. From left, lead designer Shawn Borton, software engineer Jason Kruse, and lead software engineer Matt McNamara ride a ferry across the fast-flowing Chao Phraya.

Barrett takes a break from watching a muay thai fight to reboot a server.

For travel, Barrett swears by his aging Sony PictureBook, on which he's installed a Linux operating system.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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Silvio Berlusconi Announces Engagement To A 27-Year-Old


Francesca PascaleSilvio Berlusconi has sought to draw a line under his "bunga bunga" parties when he announced he was engaged to his girlfriend 50 years his junior, who makes him feel "less lonely".

In a wide-ranging interview aired on the talk show 'Domenica Live' on his Canale 5 TV network, the 76-year-old billionaire said he was engaged to Francesca Pascale, his 27-year old girlfriend.

"Finally I feel less lonely," Mr Berlusconi said. "I am engaged to a Neapolitan, it's official.

"She is 27 years old, with very solid values, beautiful on the outside and even more beautiful on the inside.

"She is very close to me, she loves me very much and I feel the same. My daughter Marina appreciates her and loves her very much too."

Mr Berlusconi does not appear to have let his second marriage get in the way of his engagement announcement.

He has five children from two marriages but is yet to reach agreement with Veronica Lario on the terms of their divorce. Recent media reports suggest no agreement has been reached on the settlement. His first wife was Carla Elvira Dall'Oglio, who he was married to from 1965 to 1985. He married Ms Lario in 1990.

Mr Berlusconi plans to launch his fourth bid to be prime minister in elections expected to be held in February next year unless the current technocrat Prime Minister Mario Monti decides to run for office.

The tycoon also used Sunday's interview to lash out at the Milan trial where he is fighting charges that he paid for sex with an under age prostitute, the then 17-year-old exotic dancer, Karima El-Mahroug, better known as "Ruby the Heart Stealer".

Mr Berlusconi and she have denied the charges.

Asked about the so-called 'bunga bunga' parties, he said: "It was a time when I felt very lonely. I had just got divorced, my sister had died.

"Then someone said: 'Why don't we organise some soirées?' I was tricked."

Describing the Ruby trial as an "incredible machination", he added: "It was an excuse to put in place a giant operation for defamation against me and against the Italian government, including on an international level.

"Politicians get used to all kinds of slights after 20 years in politics. But there is one thing that cries out for vengeance before God and before man. I have been sentenced by a panel of judges in Milan!"

There have been rumours about his latest relationship for months and the couple was photographed together recently while watching Mr Berlusconi's football team, AC Milan.

The romance was confirmed by one of the media tycoon's most vocal supporters, Daniela Santanche, an MP in his People of Freedom (PDL) party, and one Italian newspaper recently described her as Italy's new "first lady".

A former shop assistant, Miss Pascale served as a provincial councillor in Mr Berlusconi's centre-Right PDL party until she stepped down in July.

She was one of the founding members of a Berlusconi support group called "Silvio, we miss you".

"Little by little she worked in my political organisation, then close to me," he said. "She is a great friend of Marina's." Marina, 46, is the oldest daughter of Mr Berlusconi.

Mr Berlusconi's fiancée has said that her life revolves around three things – her family, politics, and him – and is said to be jealous of other women in his inner circle, including Mara Carfagna, a glamour model whom he appointed equal opportunities minister in his last government.

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Everything You Need To Know About Buying Movie Tickets In Bulk


Movie theater, fan, film,

With a run-time of just under three hours, Peter Jackson does his best to ensure moviegoers get their money’s worth when they pay to see The Hobbit in theaters this weekend.

Even so, after factoring in kids, concessions and rising ticket prices, heading to the movie theater can be a serious hit to your wallet. But we all know there are some new releases so epically awesome, you simply can’t wait to watch them on Netflix in order to save money.

So whether you’re taking the entire family out for a night at the movies, or planning to hit the theaters solo, knowing where to get the best movie ticket deals can help take some of the financial strain off seeing new releases like The Hobbit. As it turns out, Costco may be the key to realizing the greatest savings.

Buy Movie Tickets at Costco?

The National Association of Theatre Owners recently reported that the average cost of a movie ticket in the third quarter of 2012 was $7.78, down from a record-high $8.12 the previous quarter. I’ll admit, those prices seem like a steal to me, as my local AMC charges $11.50 for regular admission!

Luckily, we can all turn to warehouse club Costco for a break on ticket prices. This discount retailer accomplishes more than supplying households across the nation with 10-years’ worth of yellow mustard and toilet paper — Costco also sells bulk discount movie tickets (typically in four-packs), which allow shoppers to enjoy a couple bucks off the price of each entry.

Exact deals and quantities vary by location, but Costco usually sells packs of discounted movie tickets for AMC, Regal and Cinemark theaters. When I recently checked online, Costco was selling 10-packs of AMC and Regal tickets, as well as four-packs for Cinemark. Comparing these bulk prices to what theaters in my neighborhood charge for individual tickets, I found the total discount per ticket to be a solid $3.20 for AMC and Regal, but just $1.50 for Cinemark.

Even so, a small deal is better than no deal at all. Sally Treadwell told us she enjoys the modest discount, and having generic movie tickets on hand for her kids also helps make life a bit simpler. “For instance, one daughter’s history class went to see Lincoln, and since I wouldn’t expect her to pay for that out of her allowance (she usually has to pay for her own tickets — that’s what an allowance is for!), I could just hand a ticket over,” she explains.

Plus, when combined with other deals, the discounted Costco tickets are that much sweeter. Treadwell discovered that her family can buy discounted popcorn and drinks by showing an AARP membership card at some theaters. “We haven’t bought popcorn for ages because the price is so ludicrous, but now we’ve found that there are some compensations for being so damn old.”

However, some may wonder whether a discount of $2-$3 per ticket is really worth the Costco membership fee and notoriously crowded parking lots and lines.

Self-proclaimed Costco enthusiast, Joel Gross, admits that even though the prices on Costco tickets have gone up recently, he still sees them as a deal: “It works out to around $8.50 a movie, that I can go see anytime, even opening day. A normal ticket at the theater costs $11.50, so it’s practically a no-brainer.”

However, the key is to make buying discounted movie tickets part of your regular Costco routine. “I just pick up a package or two while I am doing my normal Costco run,” says Gross. “Saving money is almost always worth it, and definitely worth it in this instance.”

Drawbacks to Costco Discount Movie Tickets

Call me spoiled, but if I splurge on a night at the movies, I prefer to go to my local Arclight where I can watch from an oversized chair, with plenty of legroom and a cocktail, if I so choose. However, only the handful of theaters mentioned above actually provide tickets at Costco. Moviegoers may have to compromise on their theaters of choice in order to enjoy the discount.

Additionally, releases in IMAX or 3D, as well as special showings and premieres, will require an additional surcharge. The same is true for New York residents, according to the Costco website.

Of course, beggars can’t be choosers — if you don’t want to pay full price to watch a movie in theaters, don’t expect the full amenities. And if you’re not a Costco member, or prefer a different theater, remember that buying tickets at Costco is just one of the many ways to save money at the movies.

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The 20 Most Impressive People Of The Year


Felix Baumgartner

What a year it's been.

In 2012, the United States saw Hurricane Sandy ravage the East Coast and a divisive presidential election that kept President Obama in office. London hosted the 2012 Summer Olympics while the rest of Europe has been struggling to preserve the euro. There have been explosive political revolutions around the world, including Russia and the Middle East. Meanwhile, mankind has gotten closer to space than ever before with a mobile science lab on Mars, the rise of commercial space flights, and a record-breaking skydive from space.

In the midst of all this, some incredible people have emerged.

From politics to sports, entertainment, finance, and more, people have done extraordinary things this year. These are the people who impressed us the most.

Felix Baumgartner

Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner set an aviation milestone on Oct. 14, when he jumped from more than 128,000 feet above Earth and became the first man to break the speed of sound in a free-fall.

The 43-year-old thrill-seeker topped out at 833.9 mph, or mach 1.24, before landing safely on the ground in New Mexico.

The mission, sponsored by Austrian energy drink maker Red Bull, was also a breakthrough for science. It delivered valuable information about an astronaut's chances for survival at extreme altitudes, which is important for future space travel.

Click here to read more about Felix Baumgartner's record-breaking plunge >

Chris Christie

Since declining multiple entreaties to run for the Republican Party nomination in 2012, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has continued his rise to national political prominence.

Thanks to his expert handling of Hurricane Sandy aftermath, Christie's approval ratings have soared to unthinkable levels, defying odds in a deep-blue state to become New Jersey’s most popular governor ever.

Christie has already announced his intention to run for re-election in 2013. If his consideration as Mitt Romney’s potential running mate and his keynote speech at the Republican National Convention are any indication, he will likely play a major role in the GOP as 2016 rolls around. 

Click here to read more on Chris Christie's breakout year >

Hillary Clinton

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had a remarkable year.

She traveled to 42 countries in 2012 alone, responding to crises in Syria, Libya, and North Korea, while navigating America's changing role in the Middle East

As she winds down her final year as Secretary of State, Clinton leaves the administration immensely more popular than she was when she started. Her approval ratings are the highest of her career, hovering around 70 percent. She even went viral this year, inspiring the popular Texts From Hillary meme.

While Clinton remains coy about her future political plans, polls shows that she would have a good shot at the White House, should she choose to run again in 2016.

Click here to see photos of Hillary Clinton's incredible year >

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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Columbia Dropout Writes That The School Is A 'Business Enterprise' That Doesn't Care About Students



A Columbia dropout's goodbye essay, published in the Columbia Spectator, is getting a lot of (sometimes angry) attention in the blogosphere and on campus (h/t Ivygate).

Hannah Shaper would've graduated from Columbia in 2015. Instead she dropped out of the school, as she said attending the institution was like having sex with a cactus that looked like Brad Pitt. ("But excuse me: Cactus sex is unrighteous. Get me the hell out of here," she writes.)

Bottom line: Shaper said that Columbia is a business, not a community, and one less student (no matter who they are) isn't going to mean anything to the institution.

From the Spectator:

Society can go fornicate itself for stamping your forehead with the seal of approval if and only if you follow its path. For better or for worse, this mysterious nonentity that we call Columbia University caters to societal approval.

That’s not necessarily bad, but it is limiting. If, like me, you once thought self-validation might come from a GPA or a diploma or a customized Vineyard Vines Columbia lion-print tie, think about what you really want out of this life. Columbia doesn’t give that to you—only you can. If you feel like Columbia doesn’t care about you, that it would be no different if you left, you are right. Anyone who thinks otherwise, please send me a sample of what you are smoking.

What Shaper is trying to say is worth talking about — Are Ivy educations and institutions actually worth it? Does the social clout that comes with attending a Harvard or a Penn actually mean anything or enrich an individual?

More than that, as the commenters below Shaper's essay pointed out, some people can't afford to drop out of school and forget what the man has to say regardless of how happy they are. They simply don't have the resources.

So do you just leave if you're unhappy, or do you play the man's game and stick it out?


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The Shot Flask Is Your New Drinking Accessory


This is The Original Shot Flask.

Why We Love It: Most flasks are made to be hidden, but not the patent-pending Shot Flask. This flask holds up to 8 ounces of liquid and is roughly the same size as any other standard flask — except it comes with its own collapsible shot glass.

The Shot Flask is made with stainless steel and black leather, and uses telescopic technology to collapse the shot glass into a perfect 1/2 inch pendant that pops securely back into the front of your flask when you're through.

Shot Flask

Where To Buy: Available through The Shot Flask website.

Cost: $25.

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: 'To Have And Have Another' Is The Perfect Hemingway-Inspired Cocktail Companion

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Here's The Ingenious $400 Million Plan To Deal With The Wrecked Costa Concordia


costa concordia salvage operation 60 minutes

In January, the cruise ship Costa Concordia struck a rock of the shore of Isola del Giglio, in the Mediterranean.

30 people on board the largest passenger wreck of all time lost their lives; two are still missing. Nearly a year later, the wreck is still sitting off the Italian coast, mostly submerged.

Because the Costa Concordia is in a nationally protected marine park and coral reef, it must be removed from the area before it can be dismantled, posing countless difficulties.

In a report on the efforts to remove the wreck, 60 Minutes' Leslie Stahl visited the site and recounted the remarkable salvage operation, which has a $400 million price tag.

Not only is it the riskiest, most complicated, and most expensive salvage plan ever undertaken, but no one is sure if it will work.

The ship weighs 60,000 tons and is filled with seawater.

It is sitting on two underwater mountain peaks. 65 percent of it is below the surface.

The wreck is an official crime scene.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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The World's Richest Living Artist Has Split With His Longtime Gallery


Damien Hirst Shark

They are two of the wealthiest and most powerful men in the international art world so the rumour mill went into overdrive on Friday after it was revealed that Damien Hirst is to part company with his New York dealer, Larry Gagosian.

After a year in which Hirst had an unprecedented exhibition of his spot paintings at all 11 Gagosian galleries around the world, it was announced that the 17-year working relationship was to come to an abrupt end.

A statement from Hirst and his company Science Ltd said: "Damien Hirst has decided to cease working with Gagosian gallery.

"Damien has had a fantastic and productive working relationship with Gagosian gallery, but after 17 years of representing him Larry Gagosian and Damien have reached an amicable decision to part company.

"White Cube will continue to represent Damien Hirst internationally through their galleries in London, Hong Kong and Sao Paulo."

The Gagosian said in a statement: "It has been a great honour to work with Damien over the last 17 years, culminating with the worldwide showing of the Complete Spot Paintings 1986-2011 at all 11 Gagosian galleries earlier this year. His retrospective at Tate Modern in the summer was the most popular solo show in the history of the museum, drawing close to half a million visitors – an extraordinary achievement. We wish him continued success for the future."

Hirst, whose wealth is estimated at £215m, has not always played by artist-dealer rules; in 2008 – before the financial crash – he bypassed Gagosian and White Cube to sell his art for more than £111m at a one-off sale at Sotheby's.

His 2012 retrospective at Tate Modern this summer was the most visited solo exhibition ever held at the gallery, with 463,087 visitors – ahead of Edward Hopper in 2004 and Paul Gauguin in 2010-11. A few thousand more and it could have beaten the most visited exhibition in the Tate Modern's history – the Matisse-Picasso show in 2002, which had 467,166 visitors.

But his exhibition of new paintings at the White Cube gallery – Two Weeks One Summer – was panned, almost as much as his 2009 paintings show at the Wallace Collection. In May the Guardian's Jonathan Jones wrote: "The last time I saw paintings as deluded as Damien Hirst's latest works, the artist's name was Saif al-Islam Gaddafi."

This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk

SEE ALSO: How Damien Hirst Turned Making Money Into An Art Form

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Frequent Fliers Now Have Their Own Security Lines In Nashville


airport security beijing

Travelers enrolled in some airline frequent flier programs will get through security lines at Nashville International Airport (BNA) more quickly, thanks to a newly implemented policy.

Priority lanes at security checkpoints are now available to members of programs run by six airlines: Southwest, Delta, American Airlines, United Airlines, US Airways, and Frontier Airlines.

Rob Wigington, president and CEO of the Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority, said:

We’re pleased to offer this new service to BNA passengers enrolled in airline programs. Frequent fliers, business travelers and airline partners have shared their desire for dedicated priority lanes.

Nashville International Airport and the Transportation Security Administration teams collaborated to launch this new service designed to help speed travelers through the screening process.

The service, likely to irk fliers who are not enrolled in one of the programs, was created with the collaboration of the TSA.

SEE ALSO: The TSA Found Yet Another Sword Hidden In A Cane Last Week

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The World's Oldest Person Dies 13 Days After Inheriting The Title


Dina Manfredini

The world's oldest person, Dina Manfredini, has died at age 115. 

Manfredini inherited the title after Besse Cooper died on Dec. 4, less than two weeks ago, at her nursing home in Georgia

Manfredini, who is also the oldest Italian person to have ever lived, died in her sleep at her retirement home in Georgia, CNN reports.

The world's new oldest person is believed to be a 115-year-old Japanese man, a Guinness Book of World Records spokesman told the AP.

SEE ALSO: IKARIA, GREECE: The Oldest People On Earth Reveal The Secrets To Living Past 100

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A Pro's Guide To Sleeping At The Airport [Infographic]


Layovers — especially during the holidays — can be an unfortunate side effect of traveling. Be it because of delays, technical difficulties, or weather, there are few among us who haven't had to spend a night in an airport or nearby hotel.

UK-based travel deals website Travel Supermarket created this infographic with all the information you need for snoozing in an airport, from tricks to getting comfortable, the best airports for a sleepover, and a few suggested essentials to pack in your carry-on … just in case.

Infographic Sleeping In Airports

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

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WANTED: Stories And Photographs From The Best Trip Of Your Life


shawna sharie travel

Have you taken an awesome trip lately? Maybe you completed a bike tour of Italy's wine country, or hiked the Inca Trail?

We want to hear about it for Business Insider's ongoing series on travel adventures.

We're looking for great photos and intriguing travel tales to share with our readers. For inspiration, check out this hike along a part of the Great Wall of China that tourists rarely see, and an ex-banker's sabbatical trip around Asia.

If you think you have a trip that fits the bill and 15-20 photos to share, shoot us an email at thelife@businessinsider.com. Give us a brief synopsis and attach a photo or two. If you pique our interest, we'll follow up.

SEE ALSO: Banker Takes A Sabbatical And Travels The World

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The Virus That Turned A Cruise Into A 'Plague Ship' Has Hit Another Ship


azura cruise ship norovirus

A second cruise liner hit by the norovirus vomiting illness has arrived back in the UK.

The Azura docked in Southampton yesterday morning and was leaving later for a 12-night Christmas cruise to the Canaries.

P&O Cruises said: "There has been an incidence of a mild gastrointestinal illness among the passengers on Azura.

"This illness is suspected to be norovirus, which is highly contagious and typically transmitted from person to person. Norovirus is common throughout the UK, Europe and North America and has affected a number of schools, hospitals, nursing homes and children's day care centres."

The ship had been on an 11-night Iberia cruise. There were 3,059 passengers on board, of whom ten are known to be suffering symptoms.

Another P&O liner, the Oriana, was dubbed "a plague ship" after it was struck by the virus.

The ship, which carries 1,843 passengers, returned to Southampton yesterday from a 10-day Baltic cruise and left last night for a 23-night cruise in the eastern Mediterranean.

Scores of passengers were laid low by the virus.

During the cruise, passenger Paul Gilman, 62, told the Daily Mail: "People were falling like flies, yet the crew were trying to insist everything was fine.

"Everyone is saying, 'this is a plague ship'. It's a living nightmare."

Birmingham City Hospital yesterday told visitors to stay away after it was forced to close three wards due to the norovirus infection.

Other hospitals have also taken to Twitter to caution visitors and potential patients.

Doncaster and Bassetlaw Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust tweeted: "Please don't visit hospital until at least 2 days after last symptoms of £vomiting £diarrhoea £norovirus Stay home, rest & take fluids."

Recent figures from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) show that more than 750,000 people could be affected by the outbreak of norovirus that has swept the UK.

There have been 2,630 confirmed reports of norovirus so far this season, but for every reported case there are likely to be a further 288 unreported sufferers, the HPA said.

It means 757,440 people could be affected by the stomach bug - representing a 72% increase on the same period last year.

The infection has led to the closure of dozens of hospital wards.

Norovirus is highly contagious and can be transmitted through contact with an infected person or contaminated surfaces and objects. It is known to spread rapidly in closed environments such as hospitals, schools and nursing homes.

Symptoms include sudden vomiting, diarrhoea or both, a temperature, headache and stomach cramps.

The bug usually goes away within a few days.

Although people can suffer from norovirus at any time of the year, activity increases in the winter months, with most cases seen between October and April.

SEE ALSO: Here's The Ingenious $400 Million Plan To Deal With The Wrecked Costa Concordia

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9 Things Collectors Will Go Nuts For In 2013



As Americans work their way to the other side of the Great Recession, their nostalgia for simpler times will be the driving force behind new trends in collectibles. 

Appraisal guru Lark Mason, founder of iGavel Auctions and a former staple on the hit PBS series "Antiques Roadshow," says the key will be quality over quantity in the new year.

"Only those pieces in tip-top shape and the best quality will be in demand," he says.  "Even the slowest markets have bright areas and in those, buyers will always be more interested in pieces that are the best over those that are not."

Mason was kind enough to share his predictions for the hottest collectibles trends for 2013.

Swanky timepieces

Among older men, checking the time on smartphones and tablet computers won't do. In the new year, they'll be clamoring for classic timepieces –– especially if the art scene isn't their thing. 

"Watches make sense to guys," says Mason. "The engineering, appearance, materials all have value and communicate something to the other members of their particular tribe and they are practical."

Fine wines

Given the fact that we're on our way to a possible wine shortage, you can bet connoisseurs and amateur winos alike will be stocking up in 2013.

"Like watches, [wine] can be collected in quantity because of the size," Mason says.

"Both wine and watches are not limited to a particular age group. We all need to tell time and we all like good food and drink ... this market is going to continue to keep ticking." 

Contemporary and modern art

Collectors around the globe who are flush enough to justify the soaring costs of modern art will flock to galleries this year, Mason projects.

"This market is international," he says. "The one tenth of the one percenters want the best and will pay to get it to fill all those empty walls of all those houses.  This market will remain vibrant regardless of downturns in Greece or elsewhere." 

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Famed French Vineyard Will Not Produce A Vintage For The First Time In 2 Decades


chateau d yquem

Chateau d'Yquem will not be producing a 2012 vintage after harvest rain prevented the grapes from reaching the levels of concentration required to make the world's most famous sweet wine.

Pierre Lurton, who runs the celebrated estate behind the Sauternes wine for its main shareholder LVMH, said the decision, which will cost the luxury goods group tens of millions of euros (dollars), had been taken to maintain Yquem's reputation for excellence.

"We tried our best but unfortunately the weather was not with us this year," Lurton told AFP.

"A brand like Yquem has to be prepared to not make a vintage. For the image of one of the world's great white wines and for Yquem's place in history, it was a reasonable decision not to make a wine this year."

Similar decisions were taken in 1952, 1972 and 1992. "It is as if there was a curse on us every 20 years," Lurton added with a smile.

Despite advances in technology, the production of sweet wine in the Sauternes area of southwestern France remains hugely vulnerable to the vagaries of weather.

The sweetness of the wine comes from grapes that have been left on the vines long enough to be affected by noble rot, which bolsters sugar levels and imparts the complex notes of fruit, honey and nuts that make Sauternes the benchmark for dessert wines around the world.

For the rot to develop, producers rely on a combination of autumnal morning mists and mid-day sunshine that occur most but not all years.

"We were cropping some good stuff at the beginning (of the harvest) this year but then we had a lot of rain," Lurton said.

"The quantity was not good and the concentration was not there."

With an average production of 100,000 bottles per year, the decision to cancel output means foregoing around 25 million euros ($33 million) of sales, but Lurton said it had been cleared by LVMH boss Bernard Arnault.

"He takes a view on the excellence and the durability of great brands," Lurton said.

"We don't reason in terms of turnover, we take a long-term view. We may have lost sales this year but we have maintained Yquem's reputation for excellence.

"There will many more great vintages in the future that will allow us to make up for this one."

The 2012 Yquem has been the most high-profile victim of adverse weather conditions that played havoc with wine production across much of France this year.

A combination of spring frosts and hail and harvest rain slashed yields in most areas.

Early tasting reports indicate that quality has been maintained in Burgundy, Champagne and the Rhone but 2012 is tipped to be one of the most disappointing red Bordeaux vintages of recent years.

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HOUSE OF THE DAY: Snapple King Lists His Upper West Side Home For $7 Million


Snapple President UWS Townhouse

Here's a Snapple Fact for you: the president of the beverage company is leaving his Upper West Side brownstone and has listed the house for just under $7 million with Douglas Elliman Real Estate, Curbed NY reports.

Jack Belsito and his wife bought the four-story townhouse for $2.475 million back in 2002. The couple even invited The New York Times into their townhouse in 2003 for a profile on their new family home.

The 5,000-square-foot property comes with its own backyard, and has four bedrooms and four baths in total. It was originally built in 1890, but has been completely renovated with a chef's kitchen, modern amenities such as a steam room, as well as a full basement with laundry room.

Here's a street view of the pre-war townhouse, courtesy of Google Maps. Check out that whimsical staircase!

The French posters are courtesy of Belsito's wife: "She's a romantic. The African masks are her doing too."

Source: The New York Times

The renovated kitchen includes a full breakfast bar.

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Business Insider Employees Model What You Should (And Shouldn't) Wear To Work In The Winter


Adam Taylor

Just because the weather's getting colder doesn't give you an excuse to neglect your fashion sense. 

Although the workplace has become more casual, your ensemble still plays a role in the way you're perceived, says Tiffiny Dixon, the founder of MEO, a fashion consultancy. 

"You want to wear something empowering," she says. "When you look empowered, you feel empowered, and you'll perform better in your job."

"During the winter, you should avoid the urge to be overly casual as you're layering up."

There are some basic rules to follow, no matter if you work on Wall Street or at a startup.

To convey Dixon's tips, we've asked some of our colleagues at Business Insider to model for us.

Clusterstock Editor Linette Lopez models her winter dress coat, which is something everyone should invest in, says Tiffiny Dixon, founder of fashion consultancy MEO. "Wearing a suit with a ski parka is not going to work."

To protect long pants, go for a nice pair of boots, like what Clusterstock Reporter Julia La Roche is wearing here. "You don't want a damp, soggy hem," Dixon says.

Money Game Editor Sam Ro is wearing a nice pair of leather shoes. Dixon says this is a great investment, because the leather will protect your shoes from snow and rain.

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