Submitted by: Dalton Smith

You love the summer months lying out in the sun getting an amazing tan all over your body, but inevitably summer has to end and winter arrives yet again. This leaves you to either let your hard work go to waste, or keep going with expensive trips to the salon for tanning bed sessions. All of this time and money spent getting your skin an amazing golden brown is not only stunningly sexy, but it can also be causing your skin unseen damage. With issues like sunspots, wrinkles, age spots and cancer, the sun and tanning bed’s rays are rife with UV rays, which are what turns your skin that beautiful brown. How can you get the best of both worlds without damaging your skin? Unbelievably, the answer is using a self-tan lotion.

Self-tan lotions have come a long way in the last couple of decades, as the technology and knowledge of how self-tan lotions work and should work to maximize your tan have improved. The days of having a self-tan lotion that leaves your skin with unsightly stripes and streaks in a rainbow of orange colors is long gone. You can now enjoy the beauty of a sun kissed tan all over your body at a fraction of the price, and absolute safety from the harmful rays of the sun or tanning beds. There is a plethora of different systems that you can use, all of which offer the highest quality, natural self-tan lotions available. To start, you can opt for a stunning exfoliating cream that will gently and naturally wash away the dead skin cells that are on your skin leaving it ready to accept the stunning beauty of your self-tan lotion. With exceptional moisturization, you can enjoy the ultimate self-tan experience in the comfort of your home. Discover the difference that self-tan lotions will make on your body, as they do not streak or rub off. In addition, you do not have to worry about your self-tan lotion staining your clothes or your bedding.

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With all of these great benefits, Self Tan Lotions are an excellent alternative to sun bathing, or can be used in addition to sun bathing or tanning beds to help alleviate the stress and damage that your skin endures from the UV rays when you tan. You can also opt for a self-tan lotion that will help keep your skin moisturized while darkening it at the same time. These accelerants can make your tan deeper and darker, and work almost immediately. Of course, this leaves the sensitive skin on your face to worry about, but do not. There are also self-tan lotions that are specifically designed to work on your face’s sensitive skin. They not only darken your face with a beautiful tan, but help to reduce the look of fine lines and wrinkles, and reduce the look of your pores as well. Overall, self-tan lotions have come a long way in the last couple of decades, and when you make the decisions to try them again, you will see and feel an incredible difference.

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Alaska senator Ted Stevens indicted in corruption scandal

Tuesday, July 29, 2008 

United States Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska has been indicted by federal grand jury on seven criminal counts for making false statements in his Senate financial disclosure forms. The longest-serving Republican in the Senate, Stevens is the highest-profile politician ensnared in the corruption scandal surrounding VECO Corporation and its executives’ attempts to influence politics.

VECO, a subsidiary of CH2M Hill as of September 2007, is an oil pipeline and services company. It is alleged to have funded renovations to the Stevens home in Girdwood, Alaska in 2000. The renovations include a new garage and first floor, a two story wrap-around deck, as well as new wiring and plumbing. In 2007, VECO chief executive Bill Allen pleaded guilty to charges of extortion, bribery, and conspiracy.

The 28-page indictment alleges that Stevens “knowingly and willfully engaged in a scheme to conceal” gifts from VECO, which totaled “hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of things of value.”

A press release was issued by Stevens’ office in response to the allegations: “I am innocent of these charges and intend to prove that.” And Stevens himself commented, “I have never knowingly submitted a false disclosure form required by law as a U.S. senator.” Senator Daniel Inouye, a close friend of Stevens, commented: “As far as he’s concerned, he’s not guilty. And I believe him.”

Stevens was reportedly caught unawares on Tuesday when the indictment charge was filed. “Apparently, the media knew about it before he did,” Inouye stated, adding that he had just talked to Stevens. Ted Stevens was in a meeting with other Republicans when he found out about the charge.

Stevens is the longest-serving Republican senator in history and is up for reelection this November. Calls to his office in Washington for comment were redirected to a voicemail indicating that his “office is closed.”

The United States Department of Justice says it has already obtained seven convictions in the case: Peter Kott, a former Speaker of the Alaska House of Representatives; Thomas T. Anderson, a former state representative; Victor H. Kohring, another representative; James A. Clark, chief of staff to the former governor of Alaska; William Bobrick, a lobbyist; Bill Allen, VECO chief executive; and Richard L. Smith, VECO vice president of government relations.

Facebook hired PR firm to discredit Google, reveals leaked correspondence

Thursday, May 12, 2011 

Facebook hired a public relations firm to systematically discredit Google by paying two journalists to plant negative pieces in U.S. newspapers, leaked correspondence discloses. The new revelations are likely to increase tension between the two companies, which are already fierce rivals.

The social network has confirmed the validity of the leaked emails, seen by Wikinews, which suggest executives at the social networking giant hired Burson-Marsteller, a high profile PR and communications firm, to discredit Social Circle, a rival website run by Google. Burson-Marsteller then recruited two journalists—Jim Goldman and John Mercurio—to push editors at The Washington Post and USA Today to publish editorials criticising Social Circle over its privacy settings. The story was exposed after Burson-Marsteller approached a blogger to publish the propaganda, but the blogger posted the correspondence online.

Burson-Marsteller has been forced to apologize for taking on Facebook as a client, admitting the orders to discredit Google violated company policy. “The assignment on those terms should have been declined,” a spokesperson said. The revelations are likely to be incredibly damaging for the firm, who have represented a number of controversial clients in the past. Facebook, however, said the allegations against Google were valid, insisting there were genuine privacy concerns with Social Circle. Google has declined to comment on the issue.

Top-down and bottom-up design

Top-down and bottom-up are both strategies of information processing and knowledge ordering, used in a variety of fields including software, humanistic and scientific theories (see systemics), and management and organization. In practice, they can be seen as a style of thinking and teaching.

A top-down approach (also known as stepwise design and in some cases used as a synonym of decomposition) is essentially the breaking down of a system to gain insight into its compositional sub-systems. In a top-down approach an overview of the system is formulated, specifying but not detailing any first-level subsystems. Each subsystem is then refined in yet greater detail, sometimes in many additional subsystem levels, until the entire specification is reduced to base elements. A top-down model is often specified with the assistance of “black boxes”, these make it easier to manipulate. However, black boxes may fail to elucidate elementary mechanisms or be detailed enough to realistically validate the model. Top down approach starts with the big picture. It breaks down from there into smaller segments.[1]

A bottom-up approach is the piecing together of systems to give rise to more complex systems, thus making the original systems sub-systems of the emergent system. Bottom-up processing is a type of information processing based on incoming data from the environment to form a perception. Information enters the eyes in one direction (input), and is then turned into an image by the brain that can be interpreted and recognized as a perception (output). In a bottom-up approach the individual base elements of the system are first specified in great detail. These elements are then linked together to form larger subsystems, which then in turn are linked, sometimes in many levels, until a complete top-level system is formed. This strategy often resembles a “seed” model, whereby the beginnings are small but eventually grow in complexity and completeness. However, “organic strategies” may result in a tangle of elements and subsystems, developed in isolation and subject to local optimization as opposed to meeting a global purpose.

During the design and development of new products, designers and engineers rely on both a bottom-up and top-down approach. The bottom-up approach is being utilized when off-the-shelf or existing components are selected and integrated into the product. An example would include selecting a particular fastener, such as a bolt, and designing the receiving components such that the fastener will fit properly. In a top-down approach, a custom fastener would be designed such that it would fit properly in the receiving components.[2] For perspective, for a product with more restrictive requirements (such as weight, geometry, safety, environment, etc.), such as a space-suit, a more top-down approach is taken and almost everything is custom designed. However, when it’s more important to minimize cost and increase component availability, such as with manufacturing equipment, a more bottom-up approach would be taken, and as many off-the-shelf components (bolts, gears, bearings, etc.) would be selected as possible. In the latter case, the receiving housings would be designed around the selected components.

In the software development process, the top-down and bottom-up approaches play a key role.

Top-down approaches emphasize planning and a complete understanding of the system. It is inherent that no coding can begin until a sufficient level of detail has been reached in the design of at least some part of the system. Top-down approaches are implemented by attaching the stubs in place of the module. This, however, delays testing of the ultimate functional units of a system until significant design is complete. Bottom-up emphasizes coding and early testing, which can begin as soon as the first module has been specified. This approach, however, runs the risk that modules may be coded without having a clear idea of how they link to other parts of the system, and that such linking may not be as easy as first thought. Re-usability of code is one of the main benefits of the bottom-up approach.[3]

Top-down design was promoted in the 1970s by IBM researchers Harlan Mills and Niklaus Wirth. Mills developed structured programming concepts for practical use and tested them in a 1969 project to automate the New York Times morgue index. The engineering and management success of this project led to the spread of the top-down approach through IBM and the rest of the computer industry. Among other achievements, Niklaus Wirth, the developer of Pascal programming language, wrote the influential paper Program Development by Stepwise Refinement. Since Niklaus Wirth went on to develop languages such as Modula and Oberon (where one could define a module before knowing about the entire program specification), one can infer that top down programming was not strictly what he promoted. Top-down methods were favored in software engineering until the late 1980s,[3] and object-oriented programming assisted in demonstrating the idea that both aspects of top-down and bottom-up programming could be utilized.

Modern software design approaches usually combine both top-down and bottom-up approaches. Although an understanding of the complete system is usually considered necessary for good design, leading theoretically to a top-down approach, most software projects attempt to make use of existing code to some degree. Pre-existing modules give designs a bottom-up flavor. Some design approaches also use an approach where a partially functional system is designed and coded to completion, and this system is then expanded to fulfill all the requirements for the project

Top-down is a programming style, the mainstay of traditional procedural languages, in which design begins by specifying complex pieces and then dividing them into successively smaller pieces. The technique for writing a program using top–down methods is to write a main procedure that names all the major functions it will need. Later, the programming team looks at the requirements of each of those functions and the process is repeated. These compartmentalized sub-routines eventually will perform actions so simple they can be easily and concisely coded. When all the various sub-routines have been coded the program is ready for testing. By defining how the application comes together at a high level, lower level work can be self-contained. By defining how the lower level abstractions are expected to integrate into higher level ones, interfaces become clearly defined.

In a bottom-up approach, the individual base elements of the system are first specified in great detail. These elements are then linked together to form larger subsystems, which then in turn are linked, sometimes in many levels, until a complete top-level system is formed. This strategy often resembles a “seed” model, whereby the beginnings are small, but eventually grow in complexity and completeness. Object-oriented programming (OOP) is a paradigm that uses “objects” to design applications and computer programs. In mechanical engineering with software programs such as Pro/ENGINEER, Solidworks, and Autodesk Inventor users can design products as pieces not part of the whole and later add those pieces together to form assemblies like building with LEGO. Engineers call this piece part design.

This bottom-up approach has one weakness. Good intuition is necessary to decide the functionality that is to be provided by the module. If a system is to be built from existing system, this approach is more suitable as it starts from some existing modules.

Parsing is the process of analyzing an input sequence (such as that read from a file or a keyboard) in order to determine its grammatical structure. This method is used in the analysis of both natural languages and computer languages, as in a compiler.

Bottom-up parsing is a strategy for analyzing unknown data relationships that attempts to identify the most fundamental units first, and then to infer higher-order structures from them. Top-down parsers, on the other hand, hypothesize general parse tree structures and then consider whether the known fundamental structures are compatible with the hypothesis. See Top-down parsing and Bottom-up parsing.

Top-down and bottom-up are two approaches for the manufacture of products. These terms were first applied to the field of nanotechnology by the Foresight Institute in 1989 in order to distinguish between molecular manufacturing (to mass-produce large atomically precise objects) and conventional manufacturing (which can mass-produce large objects that are not atomically precise). Bottom-up approaches seek to have smaller (usually molecular) components built up into more complex assemblies, while top-down approaches seek to create nanoscale devices by using larger, externally controlled ones to direct their assembly.

The top-down approach often uses the traditional workshop or microfabrication methods where externally controlled tools are used to cut, mill, and shape materials into the desired shape and order. Micropatterning techniques, such as photolithography and inkjet printing belong to this category.

Bottom-up approaches, in contrast, use the chemical properties of single molecules to cause single-molecule components to (a) self-organize or self-assemble into some useful conformation, or (b) rely on positional assembly. These approaches utilize the concepts of molecular self-assembly and/or molecular recognition. See also Supramolecular chemistry. Such bottom-up approaches should, broadly speaking, be able to produce devices in parallel and much cheaper than top-down methods, but could potentially be overwhelmed as the size and complexity of the desired assembly increases.

These terms are also employed in neuroscience, cognitive neuroscience and cognitive psychology to discuss the flow of information in processing.[4] Typically sensory input is considered “down”, and higher cognitive processes, which have more information from other sources, are considered “up”. A bottom-up process is characterized by an absence of higher level direction in sensory processing, whereas a top-down process is characterized by a high level of direction of sensory processing by more cognition, such as goals or targets (Beiderman, 19).[3]

According to Psychology notes written by Dr. Charles Ramskov, a Psychology professor at De Anza College, Rock, Neiser, and Gregory claim that top-down approach involves perception that is an active and constructive process.[5] Additionally, it is an approach not directly given by stimulus input, but is the result of stimulus, internal hypotheses, and expectation interactions. According to Theoretical Synthesis, “when a stimulus is presented short and clarity is uncertain that gives a vague stimulus, perception becomes a top-down approach.”[6]

Conversely, Psychology defines bottom-up processing as an approach wherein there is a progression from the individual elements to the whole. According to Ramskov, one proponent of bottom-up approach, Gibson, claims that it is a process that includes visual perception that needs information available from proximal stimulus produced by the distal stimulus.[7] Theoretical Synthesis also claims that bottom-up processing occurs “when a stimulus is presented long and clearly enough.”[6]

Cognitively speaking, certain cognitive processes, such as fast reactions or quick visual identification, are considered bottom-up processes because they rely primarily on sensory information, whereas processes such as motor control and directed attention are considered top-down because they are goal directed. Neurologically speaking, some areas of the brain, such as area V1 mostly have bottom-up connections.[6] Other areas, such as the fusiform gyrus have inputs from higher brain areas and are considered to have top-down influence.[8]

The study of visual attention provides an example. If your attention is drawn to a flower in a field, it may be because the color or shape of the flower are visually salient. The information that caused you to attend to the flower came to you in a bottom-up fashion—your attention was not contingent upon knowledge of the flower; the outside stimulus was sufficient on its own. Contrast this situation with one in which you are looking for a flower. You have a representation of what you are looking for. When you see the object you are looking for, it is salient. This is an example of the use of top-down information.

In cognitive terms, two thinking approaches are distinguished. “Top-down” (or “big chunk”) is stereotypically the visionary, or the person who sees the larger picture and overview. Such people focus on the big picture and from that derive the details to support it. “Bottom-up” (or “small chunk”) cognition is akin to focusing on the detail primarily, rather than the landscape. The expression “seeing the wood for the trees” references the two styles of cognition.[9]

In management and organizational arenas, the terms “top-down” and “bottom-up” are used to indicate how decisions are made.

A “top-down” approach is one where an executive, decision maker, or other person or body makes a decision. This approach is disseminated under their authority to lower levels in the hierarchy, who are, to a greater or lesser extent, bound by them. For example, a structure in which decisions either are approved by a manager, or approved by his or her authorized representatives based on the manager’s prior guidelines, is top-down management.

A “bottom-up” approach is one that works from the grassroots—from a large number of people working together, causing a decision to arise from their joint involvement. A decision by a number of activists, students, or victims of some incident to take action is a “bottom-up” decision. Positive aspects of top-down approaches include their efficiency and superb overview of higher levels. Also, external effects can be internalized. On the negative side, if reforms are perceived to be imposed ‘from above’, it can be difficult for lower levels to accept them (e.g. Bresser Pereira, Maravall, and Przeworski 1993). Evidence suggests this to be true regardless of the content of reforms (e.g. Dubois 2002). A bottom-up approach allows for more experimentation and a better feeling for what is needed at the bottom.

Both approaches can be found in the organization of states, this involving political decisions.

In bottom-up organized organizations, e.g. ministries and their subordinate entities, decisions are prepared by experts in their fields, which define, out of their expertise, the policy they deem necessary. If they cannot agree, even on a compromise, they escalate the problem to the next higher hierarchy level, where a decision would be sought. Finally, the highest common principal might have to take the decision. Information is in the debt of the inferior to the superior, which means that the inferior owes information to the superior. In the effect, as soon as inferiors agree, the head of the organization only provides his or her “face? for the decision which their inferiors have agreed upon.

Among several countries, the German political system provides one of the purest forms of a bottom-up approach. The German Federal Act on the Public Service provides that any inferior has to consult and support any superiors, that he or she – only – has to follow “general guidelines” of the superiors, and that he or she would have to be fully responsible for any own act in office, and would have to follow a specific, formal complaint procedure if in doubt of the legality of an order.[10] Frequently, German politicians had to leave office on the allegation that they took wrong decisions because of their resistance to inferior experts’ opinions (this commonly being called to be “beratungsresistent”, or resistant to consultation, in German). The historical foundation of this approach lies with the fact that, in the 19th century, many politicians used to be noblemen without appropriate education, who more and more became forced to rely on consultation of educated experts, which (in particular after the Prussian reforms of Stein and Hardenberg) enjoyed the status of financially and personally independent, indismissable, and neutral experts as Beamte (public servants under public law).[11]

The experience of two dictatorships in the country and, after the end of such regimes, emerging calls for the legal responsibility of the “aidees of the aidees” (Helfershelfer) of such regimes also furnished calls for the principle of personal responsibility of any expert for any decision made, this leading to a strengthening of the bottom-up approach, which requires maximum responsibility of the superiors. A similar approach can be found in British police laws, where entitlements of police constables are vested in the constable in person and not in the police as an administrative agency, this leading to the single constable being fully responsible for his or her own acts in office, in particular their legality.

In the opposite, the French administration is based on a top-down approach, where regular public servants enjoy no other task than simply to execute decisions made by their superiors. As those superiors also require consultation, this consultation is provided by members of a cabinet, which is distinctive from the regular ministry staff in terms of staff and organization. Those members who are not members of the cabinet are not entitled to make any suggestions or to take any decisions of political dimension.

The advantage of the bottom-up approach is the level of expertise provided, combined with the motivating experience of any member of the administration to be responsible and finally the independent “engine” of progress in that field of personal responsibility. A disadvantage is the lack of democratic control and transparency, this leading, from a democratic viewpoint, to the deferment of actual power of policy-making to faceless, if even unknown, public servants. Even the fact that certain politicians might “provide their face” to the actual decisions of their inferiors might not mitigate this effect, but rather strong parliamentary rights of control and influence in legislative procedures (as they do exist in the example of Germany).

The advantage of the top-down principle is that political and administrative responsibilities are clearly distinguished from each other, and that responsibility for political failures can be clearly identified with the relevant office holder. Disadvantages are that the system triggers demotivation of inferiors, who know that their ideas to innovative approaches might not be welcome just because of their position, and that the decision-makers cannot make use of the full range of expertise which their inferiors will have collected.

Administrations in dictatorships traditionally work according to a strict top-down approach. As civil servants below the level of the political leadership are discouraged from making suggestions, they use to suffer from the lack of expertise which could be provided by the inferiors, which regularly leads to a breakdown of the system after an few decades. Modern communist states, which the People’s Republic of China forms an example of, therefore prefer to define a framework of permissible, or even encouraged, criticism and self-determination by inferiors, which would not affect the major state doctrine, but allows the use of professional and expertise-driven knowledge and the use of it for the decision-making persons in office.

Both top-down and bottom-up approaches exist in public health. There are many examples of top-down programs, often run by governments or large inter-governmental organizations (IGOs); many of these are disease-specific or issue-specific, such as HIV control or Smallpox Eradication. Examples of bottom-up programs include many small NGOs set up to improve local access to healthcare. However, a lot of programs seek to combine both approaches; for instance, guinea worm eradication, a single-disease international program currently run by the Carter Center has involved the training of many local volunteers, boosting bottom-up capacity, as have international programs for hygiene, sanitation, and access to primary health-care.

Often, the École des Beaux-Arts school of design is said to have primarily promoted top-down design because it taught that an architectural design should begin with a parti, a basic plan drawing of the overall project.

By contrast, the Bauhaus focused on bottom-up design. This method manifested itself in the study of translating small-scale organizational systems to a larger, more architectural scale (as with the woodpanel carving and furniture design).

In ecology, top-down control refers to when a top predator controls the structure or population dynamics of the ecosystem. The classic example is of kelp forest ecosystems. In such ecosystems, sea otters are a keystone predator. They prey on urchins which in turn eat kelp. When otters are removed, urchin populations grow and reduce the kelp forest creating urchin barrens. In other words, such ecosystems are not controlled by productivity of the kelp but rather a top predator.

Bottom up control in ecosystems refers to ecosystems in which the nutrient supply and productivity and type of primary producers (plants and phytoplankton) control the ecosystem structure. An example would be how plankton populations are controlled by the availability of nutrients. Plankton populations tend to be higher and more complex in areas where upwelling brings nutrients to the surface.

There are many different examples of these concepts. It is common for populations to be influenced by both types of control.

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Chip Ganassi makes American motor sports history

Tuesday, July 27, 2010 

NASCAR and Indy team owners Chip Ganassi and Felix Sabates became the first team owners in history to sweep the three top races in American motor sports. In February, NASCAR driver Jamie McMurray took the checkered flag at the Daytona 500 followed by Scottish driver Dario Franchitti’s win in the Indy open wheel series at the Indianapolis 500 in May. Jamie McMurray helped make it a clean sweep when over the weekend he again took the top spot (and his second win of the season) by winning the Brickyard 400, also held at the Indianapolis Motor speedway.

Pole sitter Juan Pablo Montoya led the majority of Sunday’s race, but in a late pit stop, he and his crew chief Brian Pattie conservatively changed four tires while teammate and rival McMurray changed only two. As a result, the Colombian born driver fell back in the field, and eventually crashed out of the race. This marks the second time Montoya has dominated this race only to fall short at the end.

NASCAR Sprint Cup points leader Kevin Harvick finished in second place, followed by Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer and Tony Stewart.

Ganassi, a former open wheel driver, formed Target Chip Ganassi Racing in 1990. This team entered cars in North America’s two leading open wheel series, CART and the Indy Racing League (IRL). Meanwhile in 1989, Sabates formed SABCO Racing to compete in the NASCAR Cup, the leading stock car class in the United States. Ganassi’s operation merged with SABCO in 2001, forming an organization with teams that compete not only in NASCAR and IRL, but also in sports car endurance racing. Ganassi drivers won seven open wheel championships between 1996 and 2009. Missouri NASCAR driver Jamie McMurray re-joined Ganassi’s team for the 2010 season, after a five year spell with Roush-Fenway Racing.

Also in North American motorsport on Sunday, Spanish rider Jorge Lorenzo took the checkered flag in the United States Grand Prix at California’s Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Lorenzo’s victory on a Fiat Yamaha bike, over Casey Stoner (second) and Valentino Rossi (third), strengthened his points lead in the MotoGP championship.

The next race in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will be held on Sunday at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pennsylvania, where Denny Hamlin is the defending race champion.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010 

The Metropolitan Police Service has confirmed that a police officer and a police community support officer were stabbed in the west of London, England. The officers were stabbed at a bus stop in the Ealing Broadway region of the city about 1505 UTC while examining bus tickets. The man stabbed the two in an attempt to evade arrest.

The pair were subsequently transported to hospital by ambulance. The police community support officer was seriously injured, having been stabbed in the arms. However, he was not thought to have suffered life-threatening injuries. The police officer was stabbed in the neck. His injuries were considered life-threatening.

The alleged attacker, a 30-year-old male, was arrested at the scene of the attack. According to reports, he was wanted by the police for recall to prison. When it became clear that he was going to be arrested, he drew a knife and stabbed the two.

Koon Midam, a witness to this incident, commented: “The man was asked to show a valid ticket and went into a violent rage. Very quickly the problem escalated as he drew his knife and made a few quick slashes. It was more of a shock for the first few moments and then there were the cries, the Pc dropping to the floor and the man lashing out again.”

Another male witness described the events. “I could see two policemen sprinting to the back of a police car to retrieve a green first aid kit,” he said. “They rushed back to assist a policeman who had blood on him. I then noticed another policeman who was walking slowly and then collapsed on the pavement. His arm fell to his side. As I drove away I also noticed a number of policemen pinning a man to the ground. He was shouting. What disturbed me most of all was the amount of blood on the pavement, it was clear that someone was very seriously injured.”

Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, has uploaded a message to the social networking website Twitter regarding this incident. In the tweet, Johnson states: “Shocked by the stabbing of a police officer & a PCSO in Ealing. No place for this on the streets of London”.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010 

The Metropolitan Police Service has confirmed that a police officer and a police community support officer were stabbed in the west of London, England. The officers were stabbed at a bus stop in the Ealing Broadway region of the city about 1505 UTC while examining bus tickets. The man stabbed the two in an attempt to evade arrest.

The pair were subsequently transported to hospital by ambulance. The police community support officer was seriously injured, having been stabbed in the arms. However, he was not thought to have suffered life-threatening injuries. The police officer was stabbed in the neck. His injuries were considered life-threatening.

The alleged attacker, a 30-year-old male, was arrested at the scene of the attack. According to reports, he was wanted by the police for recall to prison. When it became clear that he was going to be arrested, he drew a knife and stabbed the two.

Koon Midam, a witness to this incident, commented: “The man was asked to show a valid ticket and went into a violent rage. Very quickly the problem escalated as he drew his knife and made a few quick slashes. It was more of a shock for the first few moments and then there were the cries, the Pc dropping to the floor and the man lashing out again.”

Another male witness described the events. “I could see two policemen sprinting to the back of a police car to retrieve a green first aid kit,” he said. “They rushed back to assist a policeman who had blood on him. I then noticed another policeman who was walking slowly and then collapsed on the pavement. His arm fell to his side. As I drove away I also noticed a number of policemen pinning a man to the ground. He was shouting. What disturbed me most of all was the amount of blood on the pavement, it was clear that someone was very seriously injured.”

Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, has uploaded a message to the social networking website Twitter regarding this incident. In the tweet, Johnson states: “Shocked by the stabbing of a police officer & a PCSO in Ealing. No place for this on the streets of London”.

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Report urges Kenya to ban plastic bags

Wednesday, March 9, 2005 

They are cheap, useful, and very plentiful, and that is exactly the problem, according to researchers. A report issued on Feb. 23 by a cadre of environment and economics researchers suggested that Kenya should ban the common plastic bag that one gets at the checkout counter of grocery stores, and place a levy on other plastic bags, all to combat the country’s environmental problems stemming from the bags’ popularity.

The new report was a result of work by Kenyan government, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and the Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis. It evaluated the state of waste management in the country with particular attention to plastic bag pollution, and recommended that bags less than 30 microns in thickness be banned, a levy be placed on suppliers of thicker bags, and a number of programs be developed to encourage people in the country to not litter, but to recycle and use alternative or reusable bags for their shopping needs instead.

On one hand, the bags are often better than the alternatives, and are getting better. The Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI) in the United States quotes the University of Arizona Garbage Project’s report that plastics are getting more compact and take up less space in landfills. Plastic bags compare favorably with paper bags which require more energy to produce, generate more waste and burn less cleanly, according to the SPI.

But on the other hand, the bags have gotten so thin as to be barely reusable and recyclable: grocers will frequently double-bag heavy produce, and the bag weighs so little that a great number of bags have to be collected to create an effectively recycled mass of plastic. The light-weight bags are easily picked up by wind, and end up escaping open trash bins and refuse heaps. By littering the landscape, plastic bags become a choking hazard for cattle; in the sea they hurt marine mammals. In Bangladesh, plastic bags were banned after they were blamed for blocking storm drains and causing flooding. Even if they do enter the landfill successfully, the bags take up to 1000 years to bio-degrade.

Plastic bags in Kenya are an especially acute problem. According to the report, waste management in the country isn’t very effective, due partially to a lack of municipal trash pickup in squatter settlements and satellite towns outside the cities’ boundaries. Less than 25% of the solid waste generated daily gets processed by a combination of public and private efforts.

Sometimes plastic bag litter can have even further consequences. According to 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Kenyan Professor Wangari Mathaai, discarded bags fill up with rainwater and become perfect breeding grounds for malaria-bearing mosquitoes. Malaria is Africa’s most deadly infectious disease in children, and over 50% of all hospital visits in some areas are malaria-related. Social costs of plastic litter add up as well: countries lacking comprehensive waste management often sprout underground economies of ragpickers — typically children who wander refuse heaps and collect potentially recyclable materials for sale to shady businessmen operating from official dump sites. The ragpickers in developing countries struggle with plastic bags, preferring thicker materials that require fewer items to be picked up for the same weight.

The problem with bags is that they are victims of their own success: they are so very cheap to manufacture that, at a cost of US$0.01 per bag, retailers often absorb the price of bags into the price of merchandise they sell. This makes the bag appear free to the consumers, who in turn do not value it, and toss the bag away with little reuse. In a vicious circle, the low cost of the bags drives down the amount of material used to manufacture them, creating bags that are flimsy and not easy to reuse.

The report places an emphasis on learning from the successes and failures of other countries’ approaches to regulating the plastics industry. Several European countries introduced legislation that deals with plastic bags. In Ireland, a surcharge on plastic bags decreased their use by 90%. A similar move in Denmark saw the bag use drop by 66%. Australia and New Zealand have also considered or implemented some plastics regulation legislation. South Africa’s plastic bag problem reached a climax in 2003 — plastic bags littered the street to such an extent that they earned the nickname “national flower”. The country introduced regulations similar to those proposed in Kenya, and within less than a year a reduction in plastic litter was already apparent, according to the report.

The report also recognizes that policies require tradeoffs, and incorporates this into their recommendations. For example, the suggested policy of banning thin bags in favor of thicker ones seems counterintuitive: after all, the thicker ones contain more material that is the cause of the pollution. Furthermore, a ban on thin bags will decimate the industry producing those bags, likely resulting in job losses for Kenyans, as was the case in South Africa when that country introduced similar legislation. However the report notes that this will be offset by increases in production of alternative bags, or in the recycling industry.

The manufacture of plastic bags is a sizable industry. In the United States alone the film, sheet, and bag portion of the plastics industry produces more than $26 billion in sales in one year. The sheer number of plastic bags used are staggering, too: in Hong Kong more than a quarter of a billion bags get used every year, in San Francisco over 50 million, and almost 300 million in Kenya. The SPI — the parent organization of the Film and Bag Federation — claims that more than 80% of consumers reuse plastic bags as trash can liners or for similar purposes, but that’s misleading even when restricted to the United States, as the number of bags used is still very high on a per-capita basis. According to the Worldwatch Institute, an independent environmental organization, Americans throw away 100 billion plastic bags every year, with only 0.6% of the bags being recycled.

The bag manufacturer association in the United States — the Film and Bag Federation — appears aware of environmental issues surrounding their products. The Federation’s web site explores some environmental concerns, mainly recycling and reuse. But the issue of plastic bag overuse or excessive littering in developing countries is not addressed directly on their site.

Donna Dempsey, the Executive Director of the Film and Bag Federation, said in an email to a Wikinews reporter that “there are better ways in Kenya and other places to reduce the amount of bags used, such as re-educating the grocery bag checker not to double bag products and on the amount of groceries one bag is made to carry”. She said that members of the association — companies in the United States and Canada — are investing millions of dollars into “bag to bag” recycling programs, which use material from recycled plastic bags to create new plastic bags, as well as programs that buy back recycled bags and turn them into plastic decking.

The government of Kenya has signaled that they support solutions to problems caused by plastic waste. At the opening speech of the UNEP Governing Council/Ministerial Environment Forum on Feb. 21, 2005, Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki said: “In our major cities, plastic bags are used in large quantities at the household level. However, these bags are not disposed of in ways that ensure a clean environment. My country welcomes initiatives to address this problem.”

Prof. Wangari Maathai, who is the country’s deputy environment minister, supports the effort from her official position. She promotes the 4-Rs — Reduce, Recycle, Re-use, Repair — and encourages the use of locally-made cotton or sisal bags. Yet as the authors of the report write policy action must be fairly swift to be effective, so should the government commit to the report authors’ recommendations it will have to quickly match political action with their words of support.

Plastic bag pollution has been a contentious issue with the people of Kenya for a number of years. Six years ago, the Wildlife Clubs of Kenya organized a campaign march to urge the government to regulate the bag producers. But not everyone is optimistic about the plans to regulate plastic bags. Dave Jones from Nairobi believes that the way to control pollution is to have clear policies on land ownership: “No single land owner would allow his property to be polluted by others” he writes in a letter to Kenya’s daily newspaper, the Daily Nation. In South Africa after the bag regulations were implemented negative reactions included concerns that the poor already re-used the flimsy bags as source materials in producing home-made items such as hats or purses — occupations made impossible by the ban.