пятница, 20 июня 2008 г.

How to Read a Subway Map

It's springtime, and Major League Baseball fans can again cheer for their favorite teams. It's an extra-special year for fans in New York City. Both the Yankees and the Mets are playing their final season in their old stadiums.

Many fans will be heading out for a last look at these historic ballparks. Getting there will not be a problem for the environmentally conscious. Both ballparks are reachable by subway.

Can you read a subway map? First, find the train line that has a stop at the ballpark you want to visit. Then check to see if you must take a local train or if all trains (local and express) stop at that ballpark.

The map shows local stops with a black dot. Express stops are marked with a white circle.

Study the map key, then see if you can find your way to the game!


LOVE THE BEAR, HATE THE MERCHANDISE Behind every big star, there's a star-maker who propelled their rise to fame. So was the Berlin Zoo's financial director Gerald Uhlich to Knut, the world's most famous polar bear. It was Uhlich who positioned the orphaned cub as mascot for the global movement against climate change. Knut T-shirts, toys, pop songs, and a bestselling children's book all followed -- the cub even posed opposite Leonardo DiCaprio on the May cover of Vanity Fair. In fact, 2007 was the most profitable year in the Berlin Zoo's 163-year history. But some suggest the cult of Knut has gone too far. "We have 14,000 animals," says zoo co-director Bernhard Blaszkiewitz. "It has become a bit of a theatre." The zoo recently decided not to renew Uhlich's contract. "I have nothing to be ashamed of," Uhlich says, calling the split "amicable." Knut, meanwhile, recently celebrated his first birthday amid yet more ballyhoo. It remains to be seen whether the bear will retain his fame -- or plummet to the D-list. HASSAN ASKARI

THE HANUKKAH HERO When two young New Yorkers, Walter Adler and Maria Parsheva, both 23, returned a "Merry Christmas" greeting recently with "Happy Hanukkah" on a Brooklyn subway train, the group of 10 revellers turned on the Jewish couple. "You dirty Jews, you killed Jesus on Hanukkah. You should all die," they yelled. The slurs were accompanied by a torrent of fists. What happened next was nothing short of a Hanukkah miracle. As other passengers put on blinders to the skirmish, a lone rider, 20-year-old Bangladeshi Muslim Hassan Askari, came to the couple's defence -- receiving two black eyes for his help. Askari's intervention allowed Adler to pull the emergency brake, and the assailants were apprehended at the next stop. The culprits, some of whom have previous charges of assaulting minorities, could face serious jail time. As for Askari, a college student, he shrugged off the Muslim-rescuing-Jews-in-peril headlines that his courageous action provoked. "My religion teaches me to help my fellow man," Askari says. "Everyone's the same to me." LUCY KIBAKI

A SLAP IN THE FACE OF GOOD GOVERNMENT Celebrating Kenya's independence day should have been a good photo op for President Mwai Kibaki, trailing in polls for his country's national election. Instead it turned into a nightmare when his notoriously haughty wife Lucy publicly slapped an official after he introduced her as "Lucy Wambui," a reference to Mary Wambui, widely believed to be Mwai Kibaki's secret second wife. Then the media were outraged when security forces deleted images of the attack. Lucy Kibaki's outburst has refocused attention away from Mwai's achievements of economic growth and free primary education, and toward how the rich 76-year-old politician has failed to tackle the corruption, graft and misuse of power endemic in Kenya, even though he won the 2002 election by promising to cut out the rot. With 68 per cent of businesses reporting they were victims of corruption and other economic crimes, voters may give Kibaki a slap in elections next week. TRE MERRITT

LIKE A CHIP OFF THE OLD CROCKETT Legend has it that 19th-century American folk hero Davy Crockett killed a bear when he was just three years old. The King of the Wild Frontier has a modern-day heir apparent. On Dec. 9, five-year-old Tre Merritt -- who claims ancestry from the great frontiersman -- killed a black bear weighing 200 kg. Armed with a youth rifle, the Arkansas boy was hunting with his grandfather when the bear crossed their path. "When [the bear] got in the open, I whistled at him and he stopped and I said, 'Shoot, Tre,' " recalls Mike Merritt, Tre's grandfather. It wasn't the boy's first kill -- he's been shooting since he was 2?, and felled three deer last year, Tre's family says. His grandfather suspects he may even have surpassed Crockett's legendary feat. "Tre is five and really killed a bear," he boasts. "I really doubt if Davy killed one when he was three." GEORGINA CHAPMAN

WEDDING BY DESIGN It's a wrap for waif-like British fashion designer Georgina Chapman and movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. After a two-year courtship, the pair wed at Weinstein's opulent Westport, Conn., estate on the weekend. The hot-headed Weinstein, who produced such titles as Shakespeare in Love, Kill Bill and Pulp Fiction, married the former model in a ceremony overlooking the water on a snowy Saturday evening. The guests included actresses Cameron Diaz and Jennifer Lopez, film director Quentin Tarantino, American Vogue editor Anna Wintour and media tycoon Rupert Murdoch. Others, who couldn't make it through the snow, gave video tributes: they included Bill and Hillary Clinton, Gwyneth Paltrow and George Clooney. Weinstein, 55, proposed a month ago to the 31-year-old Chapman, who was unknown before last year's award season when she designed gowns for Renee Zellweger, Cate Blanchett and Scarlett Johansson among others, all of whom coincidentally have recently worked under Weinstein. Seems her designs combined nice form with a function. OSCAR NIEMEYER

THE MASTER OF THE CURVE TURNS 100 While working on a new cultural centre for the Spanish city of Avila, Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer paused last weekend for a matter he considered of little importance: observing his 100th birthday. Although he avers that sketching building designs is getting more difficult, he has no interest in stopping -- he recently completed a theatre across the bay from Rio de Janeiro. Niemeyer began his illustrious career in the 1930s, assigned by Brazil's president Getulio Vargas to assist Swiss architect Le Corbusier, who flew in on a zeppelin to create a government building. Niemeyer developed an architecture of shapely curves partly inspired, he says, by Brazilian women (his office is located in a busty Rio structure nicknamed the Mae West building). The man who in the late 1950s designed Brazil's ersatz capital, Brasilia, is also responsible for the design (with Le Corbusier) of the United Nations headquarters in New York City. He's now working on a new city for Algeria. His seven-decade career has made him almost mystical. "Age is not important," he says. "Time is not important." EDOARDO CONTINI

UNCOVERING A MOBSTER AND HIS UNDERWEAR Italian mobsters take note: the next time an urge for pizza strikes, resist. For months, Camorra clan boss Edoardo Contini holed up in a small Naples apartment to evade authorities, communicating only with visiting Mafia associates via handwritten notes known as pizzini. The accused godfather didn't use the Internet or make phone calls, and hadn't seen his wife in a year. But in the end, it was his stomach that gave him away. A police bugging operation stumbled on a conversation in which the mobster gave away his location when he discussed food with an elderly woman in the building. When police stormed the apartment, though, they discovered more than just a hungry mobster. After a laundry trail led authorities to Sicilian Mafia boss Bernardo Provenzano last year, Contini had a constant supply of new underwear delivered rather than sending laundry out; in addition to his famed designer outfits, police found a pile of used underwear inside the apartment. Police scored another coup this month when they killed Mafia boss Daniele Emmanuello, who was fleeing in his pyjamas -- and eating his pizzini. MARINA NEMAT

A BRAVE WOMAN'S 'STRENGTH OF MIND' Her nightmare began at age 16, when she complained to her teacher in post-revolutionary Tehran because math classes were being replaced with Islamic studies. What followed would have broken most people. Marina Nemat's teacher informed on her and authorities in the government of Ayatollah Khomeini sentenced her to face a firing squad. She only escaped death when a revolutionary guard rescued her -- but at a price. He demanded a forced wedding. He was killed by rivals and Nemat finally married a childhood sweetheart and escaped to Canada. Nemat, who this year recounted her trials in an internationally bestselling memoir, last week received the first-ever Human Dignity prize, awarded by the European Parliament. In naming the 42-year-old Toronto-area resident the prize's first honouree, the parliament heralded her "strength of mind despite her experiences." An understatement if ever there was one.

Subway ridership up nearly 4 percent

-New York City's subway registered the fifth highest jump in ridership among U.S. subway and heavy rail systems in the first half of the year, according to a national report released Thursday.

Subway ridership was up 3.9 percent during the first six months of 2007 compared to the same period last year, with almost a billion total rides taken, according to the report by the American Public Transportation Association.

"To have another almost 4 percent on top of an already large number of trips taken on the New York subway system is significant," said Virginia Miller, the association's spokeswoman.

The Port Authority's PATH service ranked second, with a more than 7 percent boost in ridership. The MTA's Staten Island Railway ranked third with a more than 6 percent jump.

Bus ridership in New York City dropped slightly by half a percent.

New York City Transit has been reporting increased ridership all year. The agency attributes the boost partially to MetroCard discounts.

"Each day, New Yorkers vote with their MetroCards to the tune of 7.2 million rides," spokesman Paul Fleuranges said. "We are carrying more customers today than we have in 35 years."

Nationally, more than 5 billion trips were taken in the first half of this year, with 78 million more trips than last year.

Earth, After the Rapture

If everyone vanished from Earth overnight, how long would it take to Obliterate all traces of mankind? Alan Weisman asks and answers that morbidly intriguing question in The World Without Us (Reviews, p. 43).

What philosophical or environmental tipping point led to your book's premise?

It wasn't any one thing. I've been covering environmental issues since 1991. Rainforest destruction, melting glaciers, unusual bird migrations-something was happening. And I couldn't forget what the scientists I spoke to were saying: if we wait until we can be 100% certain of a trend, it'll be too late. This book asks the question, is it?

According to your research, New York's subways will flood within days without us, but it might take microbes hundreds of thousands of years to devour plastic. Were you surprised by either time line?

It's no shock that it rains in Manhattan. Before the island was settled, streams carried away rainfall. Today, Manhattan is an enormous feat of civil engineering, with 800 pumps constantly at work. So when the power goes off, flooding is inevitable. Plastic bags came into use just 50 years ago, and now billions are clogging landfills and polluting oceans. I'm heartened that something will eventually come along to metabolize the stuff.

The Mayan culture, you write, self-destructed after centuries of maintaining a delicate ecological balance. Is that what We're doing to ourselves?

What happened to them is symbolic of what we're doing on a planetary scale. We're out of balance with our surroundings. There's an enormous environmental price to pay for having blueberries year-round, an enormous cost in defending energy resources halfway around the world--we see that now in Iraq.

Bridges rust, skyscrapers topple, but broadcast signals will rocket into the universe forever, representing a world long dead. What program do you want defining you?

I haven't watched TV since I was 11, after reading Robert Heinlein's description of the "boob tube." But in 1972, a three-hour Minnesota radio show by a guy named Garrison Keillor--a mix of music and whimsy, before the Prairie Home Companion phenomenon--kept me warm on cold winter mornings. I'd like that show to represent me somewhere out there.

You say that "our world would start over" after we're gone. But in a coda, you suggest extreme restrictions on birth rates to ensure our continued presence. Was that your survival instinct kicking in?

The book's thesis is a kind of fun fantasy. It posits a world without us as a way of disarming readers' fear of a scary, depressing environmental future. But lurking within is the thought that if the world could flourish beautifully without us, wouldn't it be nice to stick around?

Is the Worst Over for Wall Street?


I'm Alex Chadwick. Coming up, the great-granddaughter of the greatest oil baron ever says Exxon needs to go more green, and we will talk with her.

BRAND: Exxon reported big profits yesterday, but Wall Street wanted even more, and so Exxon's stock slipped a little. In general though, stocks are climbing. Yesterday the Dow closed above 13,000, the first time it has done so since January. You might think this is a little strange considering that the over-all economy is not doing so well. Well, here to explain this seeming contradiction is William Knapp. He's an investment strategist for a division of New York Life. And Mr. Knapp, the stock market is up more than 10 percent, what's driving this increase?

Mr. WILLIAM KNAPP (Investment Strategist, New York Life): Well, it's optimism with respect to the future. And being a predictive animal, the stock market will look forward to the recovery from the current period of economic stagnation. It may actually still see some negative headlines with respect to things like employment, production, inflation. But in the meantime, the stock market is trying to predict where profitability of the companies that make it up is going, as we head towards recovery later this year and early in 2009.

BRAND: So, is it too soon to tell or can you tell right now if this is a permanent turnaround, a permanent increase or...

Mr. KNAPP: Well, I like to be optimistic and I think that it is. And I think recently we've had a pretty big change in sentiment with respect to investors in not only the equity market, but in fixed-income markets and commodity markets as well.

BRAND: General Motors announced this week that it lost more than three billion dollars in the first quarter. Lots of other big companies have announced similar big losses, Citibank included. Why haven't these really bad earnings reports dragged down Wall Street?

Mr. KNAPP: Well, again, it's optimism with respect to the future principally, really other than the financial sector, companies in general are doing OK even though the economy has slowed.

BRAND: How accurate is Wall Street's health as a barometer of the overall economy? You're saying it's predictive.

Mr. KNAPP: In general, I think it has been pretty accurate, and I think it's very accurate right now. Again, I'm not in a camp that thinks that we have been or going into a recession. And that I think that perhaps there has been a little mongering with respect to the level of economic stagnation that - if you look into the statistics, and if this is actually declared a recession, it'll be the weakest recession that the U.S. has ever had, if it's ever made official.

BRAND: You're kind of in the minority of...

Mr. KNAPP: I am. I am, but I think I've got the evidence on my side. And we saw that for instance today in the payroll survey number while it was weak, and 20,000 fewer jobs in the economy, it's certainly not reflective of a severe slowdown. In a severe slowdown, you would expect that number to be minus about 100,000 or minus 200,000. So, while, you know, regrettable for the folks who lost their job, it's not nearly as weak a picture as maybe some other forecasters would portray.

BRAND: I guess that might be small comfort to people who go to the grocery store and say, oh, I can't afford to buy as many groceries as I could before. I can't afford to fill up my car anymore or I'm about to lose my house.

Mr. KNAPP: I still think that those prices will come down as supplies pick up in agricultural commodities, as we hopefully will have a pretty decent growing season. And that some of the speculation will be removed from the energy-related commodities as people become more interested in the stock market. That's always been the case after every recession. There is that period of recovery, and I think that the worst is over with respect to the credit crisis, and with respect to this economic slowdown, and then we can start looking forward to a more optimistic future.

BRAND: Well, thank you very much.

Mr. KNAPP: Well, Madeleine, thank you.

BRAND: My pleasure. That's William Knapp. He's an investment strategist for a division of New York Life.

83% households save up for emergencies, study reveals

NEW DELHI -- Saving for contingencies is forcing over 81 percent of Indian households to keep their earnings at home, right from labourers to large landowners and salaried individuals. This was revealed in the survey -- 'How India Earns, Spends and Saves'.

The survey, conducted in 2005 by NCAER-Max New York Life, released on Wednesday, was aimed at gaining deeper insights into the motives for financial savings, the degree of financial security of Indian households and the degree of sophistication that households bring to bear in their savings and investment decision.

But why do Indians save? While different households had different reasons for keeping away some money as savings -- ranging from emergencies to marriages and social events, children's education and gifts -- saving for old age was not the most important factor for setting aside some cash, though India does not have a social security system.

Interestingly, 83 percent of the households surveyed saved for emergency, while children's education (81 percent) was the other key priority. Only 69 percent households saved for old-age financial security, while 63 percent household said they kept aside money to meet future expenses like marriage, births and other social ceremonies.

Nearly 47 percent households saved to buy or build a house and a similar percentage saved to improve or enlarge their business. Only 22 percent households saved to buy consumer durable and 18 percent for meeting expenses towards gifts, donation and pilgrimage.

What this pointed to was good business opportunity for banks to meet the growing demand for houses and durables.

However, despite strong savings tendency, Indian households are still vulnerable to any mis-happenings to their bread-winner or major source of income. According to the survey, 96 percent of households feel that they cannot survive for more than a year on their current savings in case they lose their major source of household income.

Mysterious death of a punk queen

A personal assistant has been arrested for the murder of iconic New Yorker Linda Stein, writes Marion McKeone.

It's a very New York murder; a plot that could have come straight from an episode of Law & Order. And given that Law & Order doesn't so much imitate New York life and crime as reconstruct it verbatim, it's a safe bet that its producers are already auditioning for the role of Linda Stein, the legendary punk queen turned real estate broker to the stars who was found battered to death 10 days ago in her Fifth Avenue apartment.

Stein's bloodied corpse - her face, skull and neck bludgeoned almost beyond recognition - was discovered in her penthouse apartment by her daughter Mandy. Yesterday, police arrested Natavia Lowery, Stein's 26-year-old personal assistant. Criminal charges from the Manhattan district attorney's office are pending. Lowery was being held at the Seventh Precinct on the Lower East Side.

According to an unnamed law enforcement official, Lowery's, tempestuous relationship with Stein had built from animosity to violence. "It was that Linda just kept yelling at her, over everything" the official said. "They fought. It was like a continuous thing, like a buildup."

NYPD detectives were as shocked by the location of the attack as its ferocity. This wasn't one of the after-hours flea pits the 62-year-old grandmother still loved to carouse in; the sort that offers all kinds of diversions after midnight - and none of them good. This was 965 Fifth Avenue, an elitist Wasp enclave hermetically sealed to keep out undesirables - including, for decades, brash Jews from Brooklyn. It was, all in all, an incongruous place for Stein to find herself murdered. As a friend observed at one of the many memorial services that have been held since her death on October 30th, "Linda would have laughed out loud at this."

A diminutive figure, who barely nudged past the five foot mark, Linda Stein was a bona fide New York icon, a force of nature in her eight-inch leather skirts and her five-inch stiletto heels. As co-manager of the seminal punk band The Ramones, she was a familiar figure at CBGB's and other Lower East Side music hangouts, snorting lines with Iggy Pop and the New York Dolls, downing shots with Debbie Harry.

When punk waned she embraced the excesses of the 1980s; she held court at Studio 54 with Andy Warhol and introduced Madonna to her former husband, music mogul Seymour Stein. When he signed the aspiring megastar to his Sire Records label, Madonna asked Linda to help her find a new apartment. In doing so, Stein found a new outlet for her formidable energy.

She muscled her way into New York's real estate market during the 1980s boom but quickly discovered that, compared to real estate brokers, punk rockers were pussy cats. Manhattan real estate is a brutal, cut-throat world and the world of celebrity real estate even more so. Clients are spoilt, demanding and unrealistic in their demands - and rivals are notoriously treacherous in their dealings.

Using her formidable music industry contacts, she became the conduit through which the stars swapped pieces of Manhattan. Richard Gere bought Debra Winger's apartment after an introduction by Stein. Sting, Elton John, Calvin Klein, Joan Rivers, Sylvester Stallone, Steven Spielberg and Angelina Jolie were players on her Celebrity Monopoly board.

NO ONE WHO knew Stein expected her to go out with a whimper. She was a fighter. Literally. She had fought many battles during her tempestuous life; with rock stars, celebrity clients, fellow brokers, her ex-husband, music industry suits, even alcoholism and breast cancer, which she beat. Twice. As fellow punk manager and life-long friend Danny Fields told mourners at her Riverside Memorial Chapel memorial, she wasn't averse to throwing the occasional punch when she deemed it necessary.

Linda Stein never shrank from a confrontation - her fall outs and feuds were legendary. "She lived for the battle. If fighting with Linda puts you on the 'suspect' list, there isn't a list long enough to hold all the names," a friend of Stein's told New York's Daily News. People seldom stayed angry with Stein and she was, it seemed, incapable of holding a grudge against anyone.

Initially the NYPD net was cast wide enough to haul in ex-boyfriends, former colleagues, family members including her ex-husband, even workmen on the roof of her apartment building, for questioning. But each was eliminated.

THAT LINDA STEIN knew her killer seems to be a given. There was no sign of forced entry. But the doormen insist they didn't announce any visitors in the 24 hours preceding her death. Detectives investigating the case have concluded whoever murdered her most likely had a key. But that, as her daughters told police, includes just about everyone. Big-hearted to a fault, Stein handed out keys to friends and acquaintances who were looking for a sofa for the night and to strays from the old days who were down on their luck.

The dozen security cameras inside and outside her apartment eliminated other ex-boyfriends, one of whom may have had motive, but not, it seems, means. As days ticked by and Stein's family sat the last day of shiva, the focus shifted to her personal assistant, whom police believe was the last person to speak to Stein before her murder.

Lowery came to the NYPD's attention when it emerged she had been charged with identity theft in December 2006, after she attempted to set up fraudulent accounts at Target, a low-end department store, and an account with the T-Mobile wireless phone network.

Investigators returned to the apartment to examine the door frame and collect fibre samples from the carpet, while detectives interviewed Lowery repeatedly. Parts of Stein's doors and fixtures have been bagged and tagged, as have pieces of art, punk memorabilia, personal mementos and detritus of a life lived large.