Monthly Archives: August 2014

Rain shuts Burning Man opening day

Artists and volunteers work on the Man for Burning Man before heavy rains closed the event for at least one day

Burning Man, the annual counterculture event in the desert of northern Nevada, has been closed on opening day amid rare heavy rains.

Organisers said the gate to the temporary desert city would be closed until at least midday on Tuesday as the Black Rock desert playa turned to mud.

Police were turning people around at the entrance to avoid stuck vehicles.

Many of the would-be attendees began setting up camp at nearby Pyramid Lake, local media reported

Hundreds of people gathered outside a shop on Monday to buy camping permits, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported.

“We’re going to make the best of the situation, Charlie Lucas, of Portland, Oregon, told the newspaper

Last year, a record 68,000 people attended the event, which ends with the burning of a four storey effigy.

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What future for Gaza’s children?

Thousands of homes have been destroyed by the fighting in Gaza, according to the United Nations

For children in Gaza, living through war must seem like an habitual part of life. Is it possible to imagine what the future may hold for them?

A day will come when the area around the seaside hotel we use in Gaza will be flooded with tourists, and they will marvel at the distant horrors of the past.

It has happened on the Mediterranean before – look at Sicily and Tunisia after World War Two – and one day it will happen here. But it will not be any day soon.

Tourists will find Gaza waiting. The half-finished building next door already has signs offering pizza and ice cream, even though there’s no pizza, no ice cream and no-one to buy them anyway.

Nature has certainly done its bit. Nowhere is evening more beautiful. The sun smears the surface of the sea with copper-coloured light as though it had skidded across the waves and come to a halt on the horizon. It is at this time of day that the half-built building teems with life.

Refugees from other parts of Gaza are living there, one family to a room. They probably calculated Israel would not bomb a building next to a hotel full of foreigners.

The adults are quietly impressive. Women scurry between the entrances to different staircases on the hot, flat roof carrying huge kettles of boiling water. At the sound of naval gunfire they barely raise an eyebrow or spill a drop.

The children fizz with energy and curiosity, singing out their names across the gap between the buildings and demanding to know ours.

They quickly learn to wait until we are on air using the balcony’s portable satellite dish, before shouting across. They know that our desperate requests for quiet then have to be mimed, much to their amusement.

I find myself worrying what the future holds for them.

Gaza is cursed by history and geography as surely as it is blessed by nature.

If you are a six-year-old in Gaza, you have already lived through three separate wars – the ugly and brutal confrontations with Israel which flared in 2008, 2012 and again this year. It is as though Gaza is a kind of junction box where the dysfunctional neural wiring of the Middle East fused a long time ago.

British imperial forces seized Gaza from the Turks in 1917 during the closing stages of World War One, one of those victories that made the Holy Land Britain’s prize – and its problem.

Gaza was first bombed from the air 97 years ago in a grim and dangerous overture to a century which is ending as it began.

Israeli tanks first appeared here in 1956 as part of the disaster of the Suez crisis. Although Israel returned the land to Egypt the following year.

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In the Six Day War of 1967 Israel came back and has occupied Gaza – or controlled life inside it – ever since.

Just as Gaza appears to have bent in every hot, historical wind to blow across the deserts here, it now seems that almost every crisis elsewhere in the modern Middle East makes life a little worse.

Gaza is run by the Islamist militant organisation Hamas, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood.

At one point, Hamas appeared to be navigating the treacherous cross-currents of the Arab Spring effortlessly. It seemed able to count, at different points, on the support of Syria, Egypt and Iran – all powerful regional players.

Now, through a combination of misjudgement and misfortune, it can count on none of them.

This is a desperate time for Hamas.

Without allies and especially without a regime in Egypt prepared to turn a blind eye to weapons smuggling the organisation suddenly seems friendless.

It does not have enough money to pay the salaries of government workers in Gaza and will struggle to replace the thousands of rockets it has fired at Israel in recent weeks.

In times of peace it has no diplomatic cards to play against the Israeli government. When violence flares, as it has done this month, it can at least demand concessions in return for agreeing to stop again.

These confrontations are hopelessly asymmetrical. Many of Hamas’s rockets are out of date or home-made, compared with Israel’s powerful and sophisticated weapons.

And yet, decisive victory seems to elude Israel, just as it eludes Hamas. The fighting will probably end in ways which are ambiguous and unsatisfactory, just as it has in the past.

That will be tough on the civilians of southern Israel, who will almost certainly find themselves running for their air-raid shelters again in future

But it will be tougher still for those children on the roof next door. They have no air-raid shelters and very little chance of escaping to the wider world as long as Israel and Egypt maintain strict controls on all movement across Gaza’s borders.

So these thoughts do not end with some neat aphorism which offers a little hope for the future. You just wonder how long it will be before those children, who have lived through three wars, find themselves living through a fourth.

And you wonder what will become of them

Turkish anger over German spying

Turkey and Germany are key partners in the NATO military alliance

The Turkish foreign ministry has summoned the German ambassador over reports Germany spied on Turkish officials

The German secret service, BND, had eavesdropped on conversations between officials in the US and Turkey, according to Der Spiegel

The report also claims a document from 2009 showed that Germany identified Turkey as a prime surveillance target.

Turkey has demanded a satisfactory explanation from its Nato ally.

I am of the opinion that this needs to be taken seriously said Mehmet Ali Sahin of Turkey’s ruling AK party

Definitely, our government and foreign ministry will carry out the necessary research about the allegations in the magazine

The German foreign ministry said ambassador Eberhard Pohl’s discussion” with the Turkish foreign ministry “took place in a friendly atmosphere to explain to the Turkish authorities what was published in the German media

Germany has also been accused of eavesdropping on US Secretary of State John Kerry and his predecessor Hillary Clinton in 2012.

Only last month, Germany expelled the CIA’s top official in Berlin after a German intelligence official was arrested on suspicion of spying for the US.

Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed outrage last year when fugitive US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden revealed that the US National Security Agency had spied on German citizens and tapped her phone.

Magpies don’t steal shiny objects

Bursa escort


Magpies do not steal trinkets and are positively scared of shiny objects, according to new research.

Dr Toni Shephard on a new study of magpie behaviour

“We suggest that humans notice when magpies occasionally pick up shiny objects because they believe the birds find them attractive, while it goes unnoticed when magpies interact with less eye-catching items. It seems likely that the folklore surrounding them is a result of cultural generalisation and anecdotes rather than evidence.”

The scientists – psychologists from the Centre for Research in Animal Behaviour (CRAB) – undertook the study after an internet search uncovered just two published accounts of magpies actually stealing shiny things: a missing engagement ring found in a nest in 2008, and a magpie in Rochdale stealing keys, coins, and a spanner from an automotive garage a year earlier.

Dr Shephard told BBC News: “Some birds do use eye-catching objects in the nest after mating occurs, like black kites, to warn off potential predators. But we had already looked inside a dozen magpie nests and not seen any shiny objects. So, I was not expecting magpies to use objects for this purpose.”

The test may challenge the Collins English Dictionary definition of the magpie as “a person who hoards small objects”.

It may prompt calls for a belated revision of the libretto of Rossini’s opera La Gazza Ladra (The thieving magpie), which features a servant girl sentenced to death for a series of silver thefts actually committed by a magpie.

It may upset, too, the publishers of The Tintin comic The Castafiore Emerald, in which a prized gem is stolen by a magpie.

But the research is not conclusive – yet. Due to the nature of the test with fixed feeding stations, the scientists could only assess “married” magpies that inhabit a set territory. Single magpies without a steady partner are less predictable in their feeding habits.

So maybe, just maybe, it is bachelor birds wanting to woo potential mates with silver rings that have sullied the birds’ name.

Follow Roger on Twitter: @rharrabin

Lauren Bacall, the last existential heroine

Actress Lauren Bacall, the husky-voiced Hollywood icon known for her sultry sensuality, died Tuesday, August 12. She was 89. Click through to take a look at the iconic actress’ life.

Editor’s note: Neal Gabler is the author of “An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood.” He is currently working on a biography of Edward Kennedy. The opinions in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(BURSA ESCORT)Lauren Bacall, who died Tuesday at the age of 89, always said, not altogether happily, that she would be defined by her relationship with her husband, the great actor Humphrey Bogart.

She was not entirely wrong. It is hard to think of Bacall without thinking of Bogart. When she first arrived on screen in 1944 in “To Have and Have Not,” at the ripe old age of 19, the thing that captivated audiences was not her beauty — there were lots of pretty girls on screen — so much as her preternatural steeliness. Here was a woman who could stand up to Bogart purring line by purring line, menacing look by menacing look, sneer by sneer, which may be why he wound up falling in love with her in real life. She was not a shrinking violet. She was a Venus flytrap.

But if Bacall was unflappable, she was different from her steely predecessors, the so-called tough “broads” of the 1930s like Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. They were victims of the Depression, victims of male dominance, victims of bad breaks, victims of life in general. Those things made them feral, which is not an adjective anyone would ever have used on the self-contained, self-possessed Bacall. They were at war with life, hoping to find some good man with whom they might be able to make a truce. Bacall didn’t seem to be at war with anyone, and she certainly didn’t seem to think she needed a man to fulfill her. In fact, she was pretty much unpossessable. She did things on her terms.

If you think of Davis and Crawford as curs, Bacall was a cat. She arose at a time when World War II was ending and film noir was beginning, and she was the perfect noir woman. Noir was a style of film, dark and edgy, but it was also an attitude of post-war ennui and cynicism.

Her memorable quotes

In noir, you trusted people at your peril. Bacall embodied that attitude perfectly in films like “The Big Sleep,” “Dark Passage” and “Key Largo,” all of which co-starred Bogart. There was something slippery and unknowable about her, some sort of concealment, which fit the whole noir ambiance. And it wasn’t coincidental that the perfect noir woman was also the perfect complement and foil for the great existential hero of the movies, Bogart. She was the great existential romantic partner.

That attitude of hers seemed to arise from a personal grievance that Bacall developed growing up in New York as Betty Joan Perske, a Jew who was remade into a cinematic gentile by the anti-Semitic director Howard Hawks. As Bacall tells it in her first memoir, “By Myself,” Hawks was a Pygmalion who discovered her and then taught her how to move, how to talk (that deep, sultry husk of a voice) and how to act.

But the umbrage she felt toward Hawks in making her deny herself may have been the razor’s edge she brought to her performances. She was always forced to be in camouflage  a hidden Jew. She even raised her children as Episcopalians, Bogart’s religion, because she feared what might happen to them as Jews. For noir, the edge certainly worked.

Hollywood recalls screen legend Lauren Bacall

But the persona outlasted its time. Well before Bogart died of cancer in 1957, Bacall’s career had begun to slide, in part because noir had begun to slide, relegated to B movies. She was able to reinvent herself in romantic comedies like How to Marry a Millionaire, where she turned her sultriness into a kind of brisk efficiency, a no-nonsense woman for the 1950s, that contrasted with co-star Marilyn Monroe’s flouncy availability, but the glory days were pretty much over. In retrospect, she hadn’t been so much a star as she was a flare.

Her late great triumphs were on stage — in Applause, a musical adaptation of All About Eve, and “Woman of the Year, a musical adaptation of the 1942 film of the same name, both of which earned her Tonys. Still, the fact that she was reprising roles originally played by Bette Davis and Katharine Hepburn respectively was a sign that Bacall’s own feline charm had not endured. In the end, she was a glamorous figure from another, darker era. and the wife of Humphrey Bogart.

Tear gas fills Ferguson’s streets, as residents protest

Have you documented the protests in Ferguson? Share your photos, videos and opinions with CNN iReport.

Ferguson, Missouri ( — A new witness in the police shooting of unarmed teen Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, told CNN that Brown and the police officer tussled at the police car window, then the officer shot the teen multiple times, as Brown backed away.

What I saw was when Michael and the cop were wrestling through the window, Tiffany Mitchell told CNN’s Don Lemon. A shot was fired while Brown was out the window. He got free, and the officer got out of the vehicle, followed Brown and shot him, she said.

He raised his hands, and the officer kept firing, she said.

Police fired tear gas at a crowd of protesters late Wednesday for another night, as the group gathered to protest Brown’s deadly shooting.

Officers in riot gear then marched toward the protesters near a burned out gas station, which has become the gathering point for demonstrations.

Police announced that they no longer considered the protest peaceful, before they fired the canisters, CNN producer Yon Pomrenze said. People fled in all directions, as the stinging clouds wafted by them.

A separate small group of over a dozen people gathered outside Ferguson’s police station holding up signs and chanting protests for a fifth day.

Officer not named

Police have said Brown died in a dangerous struggle after trying to grab the officer’s weapon, but witnesses say it seemed a brazen act of aggression by the officer on Saturday, and that Brown was unarmed and not threatening.

On Wednesday, Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson told CNN that the officer had been hit and suffered swelling on the side of his face. He was taken to a hospital and released the same day, Jackson said.

Five days have passed since Brown’s killing, and the public still does not know the name of the person who pulled the trigger.

There have beencries of a cover-up.

That doesn’t give the community confidence. That doesn’t make it transparent, attorney Benjamin Crump told reporters. “And remember, we’ve got a long way to go before this community starts to believe that the police are going to give them all the answers and not try to sweep it under the rug.

Crump was one of the attorneys who represented the family of Trayvon Martin, the teenager who was killed in a 2012 altercation with Florida man George Zimmerman.

But Mayor James W. Knowles said police have received death threats against the officer and his family. They want to prevent further violence, he said.

Hackers have gone after his personal information and worked people up against members of government and the police, he said.

A town in turmoil 5 things about Ferguson, Missouri

Trouble at night

Police have asked protesters to restrict their gatherings to daylight hours, after violence has broken out repeatedly after nightfall. Protests during the day have been peaceful.

Protests on Sunday and Monday ended with clashes with police and looting . Police have made 47 arrests after Brown’s shooting, KMOV reported.

We understand the anger we understand that people want answers. We understand that we’ve got a problem, but we’re just asking people to be peaceful, Jackson said.

The Ferguson-Florissant School District announced that it was pushing back the start of classes this year. School had been scheduled to resume Thursday.

Civil rights

Federal civil rights investigators and the FBI carry out their own inquiry into the controversial case. In the town of 21,000, there’s a history of distrust between the predominantly black community and the largely white police force.

Race relations is a top priority right now and, as I said, I’m working with the Department of Justice to improve that, Jackson told reporters Wednesday.

Only three of the city’s 53 officers are African-American, and Jackson said he is working to change that.

Dorian Johnson, who said he saw the shooting, told CNN on Tuesday that the officer who opened fire is white.

Brown wanted to pursue an education and was keen on staying out of trouble, his mother said. He was to start classes at a local technical college this semester.

Teen was two days away from starting college

What we know about Michael Brown’s shooting

Trayvon Martin case fast facts

Opinion: How many unarmed people have to die?

The weird world of in flight retail

SkyMall — a retail catalog available on most U.S. domestic flights — is famous for its quirky retail offerings. Director of merchandizing Darin Geiger says quirky items and sports paraphernalia are both big sellers. This tree face — donning a football cap — caters to both needs.

Each month, Business Traveller gets inside the world of the road warrior, exploring the issues, trends and lifestyle of the traveling executive.

(Bursa — In many ways, airplanes are a retailer’s dream come true. They serve a captive — often bored — audience who have proven their income is disposable enough to afford air travel.

It’s no wonder that in the last few years, airlines have adapted an increasingly sophisticated approach to parting customers from their money.

By nature, airlines are mass transit operators, and they didn’t necessarily have any retail savviness when they first started to unbundle it was very much low-hanging fruits, like chocolate bars and Pringles up and down the aisle, says Dan Thompson, senior vice president of global strategy at GuestLogix, a provider of in flight retail solutions.

Now, there’s a new sense of maturity in retail strategies with airlines, he adds.

Lately, carriers have replaced mass market beers with craft brews, standard chips with locally sourced gourmet goodies, and added ticketed events to the retail roster. In 2011, AirBaltic even experimented with selling cars on board their flights, becoming the first carrier to do so.

We think of flight as a travel megastore; we expect to make money for the products that we offer says Jannis Vanags, AirBaltic’s vice president for communications.

In many ways, the Latvian carrier has been a trailblazer when it comes to its retail offerings. Vanags claims it was the first airline to introduce bicycle rentals, and the first to accept Bitcoin as a form of payment. It was also one of the first airlines to allow non-passengers to make surprise purchases (think roses and champagne) for their friends in the air. Currently, customers can also buy AirBaltic-branded shoes on the flight.

Some things have been batted around in terms of thinking outside the box, in terms of ‘how wacky can we get?’ and in a sense, the sky is the limit  excuse the pun  for what you can sell on board,” says Thompson. Mainly, though, he notes that it’s the tried-and-true that entice customers the most.

Read: The supersonic plane without windows

Really, passengers will spend on something that enhances their trip, and means something to them because of the experience they’re in at the moment. It’s hard to imagine them going on board and buying a sofa that will be delivered back to their apartment

The odd factor

For many years, airlines left the quirkier retail offering to SkyMall, the quarterly in-flight catalog available on almost all domestic flights in the United States. An old business model (the company is nearing its 25th anniversary), SkyMall has recently had to contend with the more aggressive retail strategies employed by many airlines, as well as distracting new technology; iPhones in the air mean travelers are less dependent on the catalog for entertainment.

The company, which has made a name for itself by proffering off-kilter items (the garden yeti and remote-control R2D2 robot are long-standing best-sellers), has recently started to adapt its business model, putting even more focus on quirky products. SkyMall is also in the process of launching a mobile app.

One of the larger shifts in the last several years is we’ve become extremely product-centric, says Darin Geiger, SkyMall’s director of merchandizing.

We want to be proactive in finding what’s new and unique. To that end, we’ve been going to a lot more trade shows, searching the globe for those new products.

Some of its biggest sellers, notes Geiger, are sports paraphernalia and pet products. Though he says SkyMall’s customer base appreciates functionality, it’s some of the stranger and more original products that capture the imagination.

“First, we look at products that are new to market, or solve problems. Then, we look for those social-media type products that our marketing team can have a lot of fun with,” he adds.

Read: The future of airline seats: Lighter, thinner, weirder?

Read: What airline fees would you pay for?

Read: The supersonic plane without windows

When murderers were hanged quickly

Peter Allen and Gwynne Evans, the last to be hanged

Fifty years ago the last murderers were hanged in the UK. It brought to an end an era of extraordinarily swift capital punishment.

At 08:00 on Thursday 13 August 1964, two keys turned in the locks of two prison cell doors – one in Manchester, the other in Liverpool. Moments later, two men were dead, hanged for the crime of capital murder.

Gwynne Evans and Peter Allen, two petty criminals who killed a man in a bungled burglary, were the last two people to be executed for murder in the UK.

Justice came swiftly. The trial of 24-year-old Evans and Allen, who was 21, began on 23 June at Manchester Assizes. On 7 July the men were found guilty and sentenced under the 1957 Homicide Act to suffer death “in the manner prescribed by law”.

Their appeal was heard just two weeks later – and dismissed the next day. A final appeal for clemency was rejected by the Home Secretary on 11 August. Less than five weeks elapsed between conviction and execution.

The speed of the process, even with two lives at stake, was not unusual. A delay covering three Sundays between sentencing and execution was all the law stipulated.

“The three Sundays rule dated back to the Victorian era,” explains Steve Fielding, a criminologist and author of more than 20 books on executions.

“It was felt to allow enough time for any new evidence to come to light, the convict to make his peace with his or her God and also to not prolong the inevitable wait to die.”

An appeal might hold things up for slightly longer – but not by much.

“In 1908 the appeal system was introduced, but the vast majority of appeals were rejected. It normally shifted the execution date back by approximately two weeks.” says Fielding.

The contrast with the speed of judicial execution today is marked. Only two major industrialised democracies – the US and Japan – still use the death penalty. In both countries the process is notorious for its slowness.

One convicted murderer in Japan, Iwao Hakamada, spent more than 45 years in solitary confinement awaiting death. Japan’s policy of not telling the condemned when they would be hanged until the day itself meant he had no way of knowing which day might be his last. But none was. Hakamada was freed on appeal in March this year. His case was extreme, but the average wait on death row in Japan is still seven years. In the US the average is longer still, at around 13 years.

Another contrast is the speed of the process itself. In the UK, an executioner and his assistant were expected to carry out their grisly duties in moments.

“On the stroke of 8am they would enter the condemned cell, strap the prisoner’s arms behind his back and lead him to the gallows. The whole procedure often took less than 10 seconds from the hangmen entering the cell to the prisoner dropping to his death,” says Fielding.

Compare that with the recent execution in the US of Joseph Wood. An investigation is under way into why it took Wood nearly two hours to die by lethal injection.

The last hangings in the UK appeared to have drawn little national attention.

Sentencing merited only two paragraphs in the Times the following day – on page 15. Rejection of the appeal got the same amount.

“I think the Daily Mirror’s coverage of the executions read something like ‘Preston Dairymen hanged yesterday…’ – two or three lines only, buried away on inner pages,” says Fielding.

The victim, John Alan West, a 53-year-old van driver, had been found stabbed and bludgeoned over the head at his home in Seaton in Cumberland. The two murderers blamed one another in an attempt to escape the gallows.

The notoriety of being the last two murderers to hang came only later. In October 1964 Harold Wilson ended 13 years of Conservative rule. Within weeks the Labour backbencher Sydney Silverman had introduced a bill to end capital punishment. By 1965, hanging for murder had been consigned to history.

But even before its abolition, the death penalty was being steadily undermined. The number of executions had declined since the introduction of the Homicide Act – which made the death penalty mandatory for only certain types of murder, at least in part to try to prevent perceived miscarriages of justice.

Only three murderers were hanged in 1963. Evans and Allen were the only ones to die in 1964. Around half of those sentenced to death after 1957 were reprieved and the act was criticised for a lack of clarity – why spare one murderer but execute another? Abolition did not come as a surprise. But the debate about hanging did not end with its abolition. Silverman’s bill merely suspended the death penalty for five years. MPs were expected to vote again on hanging.

And so they did, making it permanent in 1969. But that did not end the debate. In every parliament, there was a vote.

It was always a “free vote”, meaning MPs were not expected to vote along party lines. That convention was maintained, with each attempt to reintroduce hanging defeated, until the election of Tony Blair’s Labour government in 1997.

Within a year parliament had voted in favour of a new Human Rights Act. A backbench amendment signed-up the UK to Protocol Six of the European Convention of Human Rights. Protocol Six outlaws the death penalty in all cases apart from war and imminent threat of war.

In January 1999 the then Home Secretary Jack Straw signed it. The debate on the death penalty was over.

Source: Amnesty International

At least it seemed that way.

But David Cameron went into the 2010 election with a manifesto commitment to repeal the 1998 Human Rights Act. A lack of an overall majority prevented him from doing so. But Home Secretary Theresa May reiterated the promise to scrap the act at the party conference last year.

So could MPs in the next Parliament vote again on whether to restore the death penalty?

Barrister Julian Knowles QC, of Matrix Chambers, says that’s not going to happen – regardless of whether the Human Rights Act is repealed. “The Human Rights Act doesn’t stop Parliament from reintroducing the death penalty. Parliament is supreme and can do anything it wants to do. The main reason it will never do so is that there just isn’t the appetite for it anymore.”

The international consequences would be severe, explains Knowles. “The UK would be expelled from the Council of Europe, if it didn’t leave, and it would have to leave the EU as well, because it’s a condition of membership for both organisations that member states don’t have the death penalty.”

None of the Commons votes before 1998 came close to a majority in favour of restoration – and the majority against increased through the 1980s.

There’s also evidence to suggest that public support for hanging is no longer as clear cut as it once was.

A survey conducted by YouGov last year found a majority of those questioned only favoured the death penalty for one type of murder – that of a child for “a sexual or sadistic motive” – and then only with 56% in favour. An e-petition to the government, organised by the political blogger Paul Staines to try to force a debate on hanging, received only 26,351 backers. Petitions need 100,000 to be considered for debate in the House of Commons.

There is evidence both that support for hanging and interest in it as an issue have declined over time, says Anthony Wells, associate director of the political team at YouGov. “In the past it was the example of public and political opinion being out of step. Twenty or thirty years ago it was indisputable that a majority of people supported the death penalty.

“These days you can’t really say that a majority of people are still in favour. People have grown up in a country where it’s something that is not done. It isn’t part of a political debate so doesn’t come up as an issue.”

Fifty years after the last hangings in the UK, no murderer is likely to ever follow Evans and Allen to the gallows.

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Sarah McLachlan on having it all

Editor’s note: Kelly Wallace is CNN’s digital correspondent and editor-at-large covering family, career and life. She is a mom of two girls. Read her other columns and follow her reports at CNN Parents and on Twitter.

(ESCORT16.COM) — Sarah McLachlan, the Grammy Award winning singer and songwriter whose ballads helped so many of us through heartache, breakups and loss, was barely out of her teenage years when her first album was released back in 1988.

Now, she’s a 46-year-old divorced mom of two girls touring the country to promote her seventh full length solo album, called “Shine On.

I’m a whole hell of a lot older, she joked, when I asked her, during a casual conversation at CNN’s studios earlier this week, how much her life has changed.

McLachlan credits her success in the ’90s, fueled by memorable hits such as “I Will Remember You” and “Angel,” with allowing her to take time off, have children and be a full-time parent. Her girls, now ages 7 and 12, have traveled on tour with her since they were babies.

“They’re the great leveler because they couldn’t care less what it is that I do for a living,” she said with a laugh.

The three-time Grammy Award winner and Canadian-born singer didn’t quite set out on her career to empower women, but that’s what she’s done. She spearheaded the Lilith Fair, a concert tour comprised of only female artists and female-led bands in the late 1990s and again in 2010, which raised millions for charities.

During our mom-to-mom chat, we talked about her biggest worries as a parent, what she admires about the singer Lorde and why her sex life is thriving. The video above and this transcript of our conversation have been edited for length and clarity:

Kelly: What do you worry about most as a parent?

Sarah: Well, social media. I think Facebook is a really dangerous tool in the hands of kids. I really don’t think they should be allowed on it until they’re 18 or 20 years old because it’s a weapon, basically. It’s also a great tool but if you’re not psychologically evolved enough and aware and empathetic to other people’s issues. That concerns me a lot, which is part and parcel why (my daughters) are on computers because they have them at school but I really limit the time they’re on them and I say, “Let’s go live in the real world. Let’s go play. If you want to talk to your friends, bring them over to the house or go over to their houses and actually play.” I hear these kids hang out at each other’s houses and they just …

Kelly: They’re all sitting on their phones …

Sarah: I am the biggest jerk on the planet because (my older daughter is)one of the only kids that doesn’t have the iTouch or whatever. I say, “You know what honey, when you are out there in the world and I don’t know where you are and we have to stay in contact then you can have one. Right now, I’m a car service. I drive you everywhere and I pick you up from wherever you go.”

Kelly: You have commented about performers such as Lorde who posted unretouched photos of herself, basically saying here I am, flaws are OK. How important do you think that is for our girls?

Sarah: I think it’s imperative because when I grew up, I don’t think I even knew “Vogue” magazine or any of that stuff. I didn’t have any issues with my body. I wasn’t overweight, I wasn’t skinny. I have a fast metabolism but I just eat and I wear the clothes I wear and I never really even gave it much of a thought. There’s just so much pressure on these girls these days. They’re looking at all the different teen stars who are wearing hardly anything.

Kelly: How important do you think female role models are?

Sarah: I think they’re imperative. … Someone like Malala Yousafzai speaking out for girls’ education, getting shot and then not dying but rising up and becoming an international superstar and an international heroine. Those kinds of examples of strength, and strength of beliefs and just standing up for what you believe in and not backing down, I think are so imperative.

Kelly: Where do you think we are when it comes to the state of women in our world, in our society?

Sarah: There’s still a glass ceiling. I think we’ve come a long way. There are way more women in powerful positions (as) CEOs. There’s still a huge discrepancy between how many women are in power in companies and how many men, and inequality in pay … but we’re making strides, absolutely. But now there’s this whole thing of having it all. There’s no such thing as having it all. There’s no such thing as balancing it all. It’s a tricky, slippery slope. It’s a tightrope that we walk every day and some days we do it really well, and other days we fail miserably at it.

Kelly: So let’s talk about sex, shall we. (Sarah revealed in a recent interview that she’s had more sex this year in her new relationship than she’s had in her life, so I had to ask her about that!)

Sarah. Oh OK.

Kelly: I know we just met but you mentioned in an interview that that part of your life seems to be thriving in your relationship with former NHL player Geoff Courtnall.

Sarah: I mean, yeah, there was a long dry spell of a number of years where I didn’t date, didn’t have a partner, so I was just on my own, with my girls, and yeah I met Geoff.

Kelly: Many women in the latter half of their 40s are not necessarily enjoying that same kind of experience.

Sarah: No, and it was sort of like a resurgence for me, for sure, because I didn’t have sex for years and then all of a sudden, you sort of think, everybody says, what is it, you don’t use it you lose it, right, and I thought, oh no, it came back, really quickly. (She laughs.)

Kelly: Better than ever.

Sarah: Better than ever.

Kelly: I have to stop because I am being obnoxious and embarrassing. You have experienced so many things — obviously your divorce, you left your original management company, a new relationship, raising your children …

Sarah: Lost my dad.

Kelly: “Shine On” is about all of that, right?

Sarah: It’s about going through your 40s and all the changes. We don’t get to that point in our lives unscathed. We’re losing our family members. I lost my brother last November to bowel cancer so there are so many big changes that happen in our 40s, and it’s sort of that tipping point of I’m in the second half of my life. To a certain degree I get to choose what this is going to look like. How do I want it to look? And it’s sort of a reassessing of everything and I thought I’m so lucky, I’m so blessed. I have so many amazing things that have happened to me. I have my health, I have my kids’ health, I have great friends and family. I just want to suck the marrow out of every day that I have left because you just don’t know. You don’t know when your time is and I want every day to count.

Kelly: Absolutely and also important to you, The Sarah McLachlan School of Music for at risk and underserved kids in your community. How important is it to give back?

Sarah: To give of yourself, it’s like a drug. And when I did Lilith, I made a lot of money and I thought, what am I going to do? I don’t live a crazy lifestyle. I have all this extra money. I want to do something important with it. … We gave over $7 million to charity through Lilith over the three years and so I started the music school because I looked around in Vancouver and thought what do we need? What do kids need? What did I need? I needed music and there are a lot of kids that don’t have music in schools anymore. I guess it’s the first thing that gets cut from funding. And so we started a small project. It was about 200 kids and now we have over 700 this year. We’re going to have over 1,000 kids in the program starting next year 13 years in.

Kelly: A tour, a new album, how do you top this, Sarah McLachlan? And what is next?

Sarah: I have no idea. Like my kids, I live in the moment. I can’t help it. I have a very hard time looking forward, and thinking about what’s coming next. I’m just enjoying every moment.

Share your thoughts about Sarah McLachlan, her music and her parenting style, in the comments or tell Kelly Wallace on Twitter or CNN Living on Facebook.

intriguing hotel traditions

Polynesian dancing is part of the evening tradition at Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort, Golf Club & Spa in Florida.

(Bursa escort) — Lots of hotels have traditions. Nightly happy hours or free check-in snacks aren’t that unusual.

But the rituals at the U.S. lodgings we’ve listed here stand out above the crowd in our book, for either their quirkiness or sheer longevity. We think you’ll want to join in on the fun.

Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort, Golf Club & Spa
Marco Island, Florida

The passing from day to night is also a cause for celebration at this southwest Florida beachfront retreat. Each day at sunset, crowds gather by the beach to watch a spectacle that includes the ritual banging of the gong (with one lucky guest chosen to do the honors), the traditional blowing of the conch shell and then a 15-minute performance by a group of Polynesian fire dancers. What better way to start to wind down after a day of fun in the sun?

From $189 per night.

The Peabody
Memphis, Tennessee

Perhaps the most famous hotel tradition of them all is the twice-daily duck parade that waddles through the lobby of this historic downtown Memphis property, as it has for the past 80 years. At 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. each day, five North American mallards depart their palatial rooftop enclosure, hitch a ride on the elevator (under the guidance of the official duck master) and then strut their stuff across a red carpet and into a large marble fountain in the middle of the lobby, where they swim and splash for a bit until it’s time to head back to their lofty penthouse. The Peabody’s ducks are so famous, they’ve appeared in everything from an episode of “Jeopardy!” to one of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issues.

From $219 per night.

The Algonquin
New York

This landmark Manhattan lodging also has a resident species its guests have come to know and love: a fetching feline named Matilda. A cat has been a fixture at the Algonquin since a stray wandered into the hotel looking for food and shelter in the 1930s. There have been 10 cats in all, the females all named Matilda and the males all called Hamlet (a moniker that reportedly came from famed actor John Barrymore, who was playing the Shakespearean prince at the time). The current kitty, who was rescued from a local shelter in 2010, is a fluffy, blue-eyed ragdoll who, despite having pretty much the run of the place, often opts to hang out by the front desk, chilling in the lobby’s plush chairs and greeting people as they check in.

From $269 per night.

St. Regis Atlanta

The nightly tradition at this upscale Atlanta accommodation certainly has a lot of pop. That’s because every day at approximately 6 p.m., either the hotel’s wine butler or the general manager holds court outside the Wine Room and ceremoniously sabers a bottle of champagne to help celebrate evening’s arrival. The practice of opening a bottle of bubbly with a military-style sword dates to the days of Napoleon and became a ritual here from the moment the doors opened in 2009. Wine master Jennifer Sollinger can even offer tips on how to saber your own bottle using an ordinary chef’s knife.

From $650 per night.

Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort and Spa
Lost Pines, Texas

Encompassing a 405-acre swath along the banks of the Colorado River just outside Austin, this resort makes full use of the gorgeous Central Texas landscape, presenting guests with the opportunity to participate in everything from kayaking and horseback riding to archery and trap shooting. One of the most popular on-site activities, however, is the weekly meet and greet with the resort’s bovine mascots, a pair of longhorn steers named T-Bone and Ribeye. On Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon, guests who wander over to the Riversong Lawn hitching post can saddle up atop the beasts for a unique photo op that makes the perfect Lone Star State souvenir.

From $199 per night.

Le Pavillon
New Orleans

The Big Easy may be known for menu items like beignets and jambalaya, but peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are what visitors look forward to at this historic property known affectionately as the Belle of New Orleans. Ever since 1988, when a hungry guest got a late-night hankering for the nostalgic nosh, the hotel has put out a complimentary spread of PB&J sandwiches along with ice-cold milk and toasty hot chocolate. The snacking begins each evening at 10 p.m.

From $159 per night.

Griswold Inn
Essex, Connecticut

Speaking of free food, this 238-year-old hotel, which is one of the oldest continuously operated inns in the country, is home to a longstanding but little-known tradition that rewards anyone arriving on horseback or via horse and carriage a gratis lunch at one of its three dining venues. One local resident even has his own time-honored tradition of showing up with horse and buggy for his comp meal every two years after hitting the voting booth on Election Day.

From $115 a night.

Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa
Lahaina, Hawaii

Centuries ago, Hawaiian royalty called this area of Maui home, including Chief Kahekili, who ruled over the land from 1749 to 1794. He was known for mastering the ancient sport of Lele Kawa, which involved jumping feet-first into the ocean from rocky perches up to 400 feet high. In honor of the man known as the King of the Spirit Leap, the Sheraton Maui presents a nightly retelling of his story, which begins with a loincloth-clad warrior lighting torches set at the edge of a lofty promontory and proceeding with a lei offering to the ocean below before taking a daring plunge — this time headfirst — into the surf.

From $359 per night.

Westin St. Francis
San Francisco

As a one-of-a-kind amenity for its guests, this luxury property on popular Union Square washes every single coin that makes its way into its coffers. The custom began in 1938, when the general manager decided that all silver coins should be cleaned so as to keep the female guests’ white gloves from getting soiled. Arnold Batliner, who was the official coin washer until he retired in the late 1980s, is said to have laundered an estimated $17 million in change throughout his tenure. Today, the job belongs to Rob Holsen, who spends an hour or so each week running the coins through a silver-burnishing machine in a small room behind the registration desk.

From $199 a night.