New website lists smokers' cafes across the Netherlands

Amsterdam - Dutch smokers, who want to smoke in a restaurant or cafe, can now click onto a new smokers restaurant database, according to the online publisher Tressis.

Smoking was recently banned in all Dutch restaurants, cafes and bars, except in places that have separate smokers' rooms or corners with ventilation facilities.

However, the places where smoking is allowed are in the minority and are hard to find.

By registering one's restaurant on the website www. hiermaghetwel. nl, cafes and restaurants can help smokers find them easily and quickly.

The database covers all of the Netherlands and an estimated 200 restaurants, cafes and bars have already registered.

Real Men know how to seduce a woman in three easy steps

Amsterdam - Seducing a woman is an art that can be taught, and today's world and new gender roles require vigorous training. That is, at least, what David Kipping, press spokesman for the Real Man Conference, feels.

On September 20 and 21, some 500 men are due to convene in Amsterdam's RAI convention centre for a two-day-training in the art of seduction.

The so-called "Real Men Conference" is the largest and first international convention dedicated exclusively to the art of picking up women.

Among those to help the participants improve their dating skills are a total of 14 dating coaches, such as Dutch coach Tijn van Ewijk but also the internationally renowned Zan Perrion and Johnny Soporno.

Surfing in Cuba: riding waves and misunderstanding

Surfing in Cuba: riding waves and misunderstandingHavana - While most Cubans breathed a sigh of relief following the exit of the latest tropical storm to hit the island, a small group of youths was anxiously waiting the arrival of the next such phenomenon.

There are not many surfers in Cuba yet, but they strive to promote a sport that remains underdeveloped in a country where physical exercise is generally highly valued.

New vases are pretty with or without flowers

Frankfurt - Vases are essentially vessels for flowers, small branches trimmed off trees or bushes or tufts of grass, but they are currently the centre of attention for designers.

Many of the new models, both large and small, are decorative pieces of art that function without flowers. The designs range between two extremes. One takes shapes from nature or day-to-day life, reproduces them or enlarges them. They are sometimes richly adorned, sometimes inventively designed.

In the other extreme, their style is diminished, said Nadine Philipp of Frankfurt's convention centre, which organizes an interior design show. Both styles require a high level of skill to create.

Aroma of food and external factors can influence taste

Bad Mergentheim, Germany - Whether a dish tastes good depends not only on its ingredients and preparation, but also on other external factors.

"If the dish is too warm for the person eating it or if it has an aroma that he can't stand, it tastes different," said Juergen Dollase of Germany's culinary academy in Bad Mergentheim near Wuerzburg.

Whether the food tastes good also depends on its aroma, consistency and how it looks.

"If its appearance isn't pleasing or the food smells badly, it's difficult," said Dollase. The taste of the various ingredients of a dish intermingle in the mouth. "We perceive as pleasant things that are similar in texture and aroma," Dollase said.

Colourful memorials mark scenes of bloodshed in US cities

Washington - It was an especially bloody July weekend in Washington DC, the US capital.

Alfonso Robinson sat with his mother outside his grandparents' home in one of the city's troubled neighbourhoods when he was killed instantly in a drive-by shooting. The 
13-year-old was not the only victim that night. Six other people were either killed or injured in gun battles.

The ensuing sadness after such tragedies is felt across the city, near the place where the victim fell, often a memorial crops up. At a street sign near the spot where Robinson died, colourful teddy bears, plush stuffed hearts and toys soon marked the spot after his demise. All the items were gently attached to the metal pole.

Higher heels the trend in women's footwear this autumn and winter

Higher heels the trend in women's footwear this autumn and winterOffenbach, Germany - High fashion is the watchword for women's footwear this autumn and winter. Literally. The heels of boots, half boots, ankle boots, and pumps are generally a few centimetres higher than in previous seasons.

But apart from higher heels, personal style rules supreme. The models on shoe shop shelves fit every occasion and taste, from overknees to ballerinas, from clean looks to folklore style, and from felt to patent leather.

Sydney no gay and lesbian nirvana

Sydney - Bashings, verbal abuse, taunts and mockery - such is the harsh reality for gays and lesbians in Sydney, Australia's gay capital and the venue for the world's biggest gay pride street parade.

The travails of homosexuals have changed little in the past decade, according to a study of homophobia released by the New South Wales Attorney-General.

A spokesman, Steven Drew, said over half the 600 homosexuals interviewed for the study reported some form of abuse.

In response to complaints about personal safety, city councillors plan to create what they call "homophobia-free zones" they believe will accord more protection.

Aspiration segregates the sexes in Australia

Sydney - Surprise, surprise: rather than a giddy rush of gals, an avalanche of outrage greeted Mount Isa Mayor John Malony's declaration that even "beauty-disadvantaged" women could find a bloke in his dusty Queensland mining town because of its five-to-one ratio of males to females.

"I've been cooked and roasted and carved up," a chastened Malony said, adding, "I don't have a hair left on my body."

As Malony himself might now admit, male chauvinism is perhaps among the reasons young women with a yearning to get on in life leave Outback towns like Mount Isa for Australia's big cities.

Hi-tech, eco or both? New fashion collections grapple with zeitgeist

Berlin - The new autumn and winter fashion collections highlight the tension between technology and the environment, luxury and ecology, consumption and conservation.

In the designers' view, these large and at first glance irreconcilable contradictions constitute the spirit of our times. Their fashions this season test the harmonious combination of contrasts.

"The environment may be attracting a lot of attention, but technology is indispensable today," remarked Elke Giese, who is on the staff of the Berlin-based German Fashion Institute. For many people, the dichotomy between environmental protection and technological progress poses lifestyle questions.

Redecorating your home at little cost and effort

Berlin - Redecorating your home at little cost and effortA few new cushions on the sofa, a wall covered with floral wallpaper and a redecorated dining table... it does not take much effort or expense to transform your home.

"You can do a lot with colours and fabrics in particular," said Sam Bohr, a member of Die Wohnberater, a Berlin-based interior decorating consultancy.

"Anything that's fresh is trendy now ... such as in green and blue."

Amid Berlin's bustle, Protestant cloister an oasis of calm

Berlin - The Segen (Benediction) cloister lies amid the bustle of Berlin like an oasis in the desert. Schoenhauser Allee, a four-lane street, is right outside, but traffic noise stops at the cloister's doors. Behind its thick walls, quiet reigns.

"This is a place for people to recharge their batteries," remarked Georg Schubert, director of the Swiss religious fraternity Don Camillo. The group purchased the run-down Segenskirche (Benediction Church), situated in the eastern Berlin district of Prenzlauer Berg, in 2007 and established the city's first and only Protestant cloister there last August.

Downshifters will now be able to train themselves to achieve inner peace in Germany's capital and largest city.

Male driving habits die hard

Male driving habits die hardSydney - Watch the pick-up points at Australian airports and women are behind the steering wheel when they arrive but usually relegated to the passenger seat when they leave.

Driving is still considered a man's job - if a man's available to do it.

"Australian men don't like to be a passenger when their partner is driving, and most don't believe women are good drivers," motoring journalist Stephen Corby said.

Social networking is best mind training

Hamburg - Intense social networking with family and friends helps improve your intelligence and memory more than any other method, according to German researcher Siegfried Lehrl of the University of Erlangen.

Quoted in the latest edition of the magazine Vital, Lehrl said that while mind games and puzzles such as Sudoku improve memory, social interaction activates the brain on several levels with the positive effects becoming especially visible during the course of a lifetime.

Several studies found that people who meet regularly with other people had much better cognitive abilities or brain-based skills needed for the simplest to the most complex task compared to a group with less social interaction, the report said.

Flash cats get the cream of fish

Even pedigree dogs are happy to wolf down meat left over at the abattoir. But cats are often fed the fishmonger's best.

"Our pets seem to be eating better than their owners," said Giovanni Turchini, a researcher at Melbourne's Deakin University.

"These gourmet pet foods contain a significant amount of fish that may be suitable for direct human consumption. We don't have enough fish to feed the world."

Turchini would like to see pampered felines weaned off restaurant-quality grub and introduced to the by-products of the fish filleting industry.

Dogs thrive on leftover meat and it follows that cats could get used to offal.

Tango dancers with Down's Syndrome overcome Argentine prejudice

Tango dancers with Down's Syndrome overcome Argentine prejudiceBuenos Aires - Four couples move around the small dance floor to the tune of a tango coming from a CD player.

Students, who cannot yet dance well, wait their turn and sit on colourful plastic chairs lined up against the wall and watching their friends in the meantime.

One of these onlookers is Martina. She loves to tango, and she proudly shows off her new black leather, high-heeled shoes or real

tango shoes.

"I was a plastic bottle" - outdoor wear industry discovers recycling

Friedrichshafen, Germany - Shoe soles made of old tyres, breathable jackets which used to be plastic bottles and T-shirts derived from old rags.

The world of outdoor and sporting fashion has discovered that recycled products are not only kinder to the planet - they sell well too.

The latest advertising blurbs from many outdoor wear companies

boast that products such as garments, shoes and accessories are made exclusively or partly from reusable materials. Recycling and sustainability were also among the key themes at a recent outdoor clothing trade show in the southern German town of Friedrichshafen.

"Nature" is now hip, say marketing experts

Kelkheim, Germany - Hippies and bird watchers traditionally nurture a love of nature, but according to a new study, "nature" is now hip in society as a whole.

"Nature is no longer seen as an abstract concept but is becoming an increasingly integral part of our style of living," said trend scouts Anja Kirig and Ingrid Schick of the Institute for Future in Kelkeim in Hesse state.

The experts have coined the term "Neo-Nature" to describe a movement which they believe is permeating the worlds of fashion, interior design and garden landscaping.

Wurst-case scenario for dachshunds as German enthusiasm fades

Hamburg - Dog breeders are calling it a "wurst-case scenario" for dachshunds as Germans are apparently losing interest in owning the stubborn "sausage dog" that has long been equated with Germany.

Dachshunds used to be as common on the streets of Germany as beer bellies and lederhosen and VW Beetles. But, like the Beetle, the dachshund has gone out of style.

Tata AIG general inks distribution pact with Cleartrip

Tata AIG general inks distribution pact with Cleartrip Cleartrip, one of the leading domestic travel portals, has teamed up with Tata AIG General Insurance Company Limited to offer domestic travel insurance solutions 'TravInsure' to its customers.

The latest launched policy will cover Cleartrip travelers against the flight delays, medical expenses incurred while traveling, lost baggage, flight cancellations due to sickness, injury or death.

The policy can be purchased online for just Rs 129 per round trip, which will cover damages ranging from Rs 1500 to Rs 7,50,000.

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