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The latest news on The Telegraph from Business Insider

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    confused man

    Psychiatrists have concluded that males take longer to assess facial expressions as their brains have to work twice as hard to work out whether another person looks friendly or intelligent.

    Researchers from Edinburgh University said that it confirmed the "old folk wisdom" about the abilities of both sexes to "empathise, emote and process social stimuli".

    “Our findings suggest that men have developed strategies to cope with their lesser natural empathy by over-activating the parts of the brain that understand social cues,” said Prof Stephen Lawrie, who led the study.

    “As this pattern is also seen in people with autism-linked conditions, it suggests we could devise new tools to help patients learn social rules and enhance their skills for engaging with other people.”

    Researchers used brain scans to study an individual's reaction while several expressive faces were flashed before them.

    Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), participants were split into three groups; women, men, and men with Asperger's syndrome, a disorder that makes understanding others more difficult.

    In the study, published in PLOS One, brains were scanned as they came up with their answers and their responses were timed.

    Prof Lawrie, the university’s head of psychiatry, said it was designed to give the men enough time to come up with the correct answers.

    But, faced with snap decisions in real life, they might start misjudging others’ thoughts.

    "We chose relatively strong expressions so slowish blokes could do it," said Prof Lawrie.

    "If we had been more subtle, some of the men might have started going wrong."

    The MRI scans suggested which areas of the brain were activated when the volunteers were asked to decide whether the faces they were shown looked trustworthy, approachable or intelligent.

    Both groups of men experienced increased blood flow to the part of the brain responsible for social function.

    They concluded that women reacted more quickly than men to the feelings on show, and autistic men had to work hardest to "read" the emotions.

    Prof Lawrie said that for men to achieve the same results as women in social situations, they probably had to think harder.

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    modiglianiAs Christie’s prepares to raise an estimated £100 million in one evening, Alice Vincent visits the auction house to find out how the rich buy art.

    Christie's has all the hallmarks of one of London’s smartest establishments: doormen in tails, a St. James's postcode and a whiff of French polish in the air. It also has an open door policy. “We love children coming here!” enthuses Jay Vincze, the auction house’s International Director of Impressionist and Modern Art.

    On Wednesday, Christie’s expects to make up to £145 million at its bi-annual Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale which includes The Art of the Surreal Evening Sale each February.

    Many of the pieces haven’t been on public display for decades, but during the five days before the auction the artwork is on show to the public for free.

    The star of the sale is Amadeo Modigliani’s 1919 portrait of his wife Jeanne Hébuterne (au chapeau), which is listed for £16-22 million. A pensive painting, Hébuterne’s graceful demeanor belies the trauma in the couple’s relationship: just six months after it was created, Modigliani’s premature death from tuberculosis led Hébuterne to commit suicide the next day. She was pregnant with their second child. Vincze, who is in charge of Wednesday’s sale, explains the painting’s appeal: “It’s very elegant and yet there’s a power to it. There’s often this power in Modigliani’s portraits of Jean which you don’t get from the other portraits he did. You can really sense this passionate relationship they had.”

    While the Modigliani went on sale to its current owner in 2006, it hasn’t been on display in a museum since 1953. It’s not the only one: the majority of work coming from private collections, 60 per cent of the art up for sale on Wednesday has never appeared at auction, and others haven’t gone under the hammer for three generations. Vincze explains that it makes them all the more appealing: “There’s an incredible freshness to the sale - it tends to cause quite a bit of excitement when works come up that are so fresh.”

    Another highlight of the evening sale is a mysterious Wassily Kandinsky painting, Balancement. Created in 1942, it dates from Kandinsky’s post-Bauhaus period when the artist was living in Paris, perfecting his influential Abstraction and struggling to find large enough canvasses in the midst of war. Most from this era hang in New York’s Guggenheim gallery or the Pompidou Centre in Paris, leaving very few in private hands. “It’s a pretty exciting piece, they’re very rare to the auction market”, says Vincze. He won’t let on who the anonymous seller is, but Balancement is valued between £5-8 million.

    Another exciting prospect is a portrait of Picasso’s last great muse, and later wife, Jacqueline Roque, which was completed on Valentines Day 1960. Displayed just once in New York in 1962, the figure ripples with femininity.

    There’s also a Renoir up for grabs. Last auctioned 25 years ago, L’ombrelle is a painting Vincze reckons will be at the centre of a bidding war on Wednesday; it’s estimated to reach between £4-7 million. The 1878 painting is quintessentially Impressionist - Renoir’s rich impasto celebrates a fashionable Parisienne, and the use of color in shadow is one of the earliest examples of the influential technique. L’ombrelle was originally owned by one of the earliest American collectors of Impressionism, Erwin Davis, who donated two Manet pictures to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1889.

    Of course, it’s not by chance that these 76 exclusive works are on sale all at once. “This auction has probably taken 30 years to compile”, Vincze says, “we try and edit the sale. You want to keep the quality high and offer good pieces to buyers.” Christie’s manage it by nurturing good relationships with valued collectors. Sales of this size have a gathering period of six months. But before that begins, some potential sellers have been involved in a process of discussing the best time to sell for many decades.

    Vincze says there’s a sense of stability in the market for Impressionist and modern art. However, the demand for it is increasing. Last year 20 per cent of all buyers at Christie’s were first-time purchasers, and that number doubled to 40 per cent in 2012’s online auctions, which started in 2006, with online-only auctions launching in December 2011. There are over 30 online only auctions planned for 2013. While recent art sale news has focused on Chinese buyers bailing on agreed sales and a struggling market in India, Christie’s seems to be bucking the trend. “Partly it’s accessibility, partly it’s that art and people’s interest in art is really burgeoning”, Vincze explains. “There seems to be growth in the whole art market, the museum side too. The interest and passion for it translates very well into our sales.”

    If you’re one of the few who has a couple of million to spend on art, then the process is surprisingly transparent and simple - regardless of if you’re spending £200 or £22 million. Buyers must register before they bid to show they have the funds, but Christie’s doesn’t take deposits. Once the auction catalogue has been unveiled to people a few weeks before the sale, buyers can bid online or over the phone well in advance. Meanwhile, these valuable works are on a complex shipping schedule to exhibitions in New York, Hong Kong and Tokyo, as well as to prospective buyers who can’t make it to London.

    At 7pm on Wednesday night, 600 aspiring buyers will cram inside Christie’s two main salerooms to bid for works, and an increasingly global audience will participate through commission and telephone bids. “It’s a refreshing sign of the market”, says Vincze, “our buyers aren’t confined to one area of the globe.” He says there’s been a great deal of Russian and Asian collecting over the past few years, which shows “no sign of abating.”

    Over 100 members of Christie’s staff will join auctioneer Jussi Pylkkanen, the Christie’s President EMERI. Once the hammer comes down, the auction house then takes its buyer’s premium, which is charged on top of the amount bid. For lots up to £25,000, this is 25%. But at an auction like this, an additional 20% is charged on the amount over £25,000. For items over £500,000, an additional 12% is charged.

    And then, from Thursday, the auction house will start the process all over again. Christie’s next big sale is in just a week’s time when work by Francis Bacon, David Hockney and Damien Hirst and others are estimated to generate between £50-70 million. Another Impressionist and Modern Art evening sale follows in June. While few people will be able to indulge in a Paula Rego painting the price of a family home, the opportunity to see it on display for the first time ever, and for free, is something art fans can genuinely get excited about.

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    A toddler from Inner Mongolia has become an instant internet sensation after baring all to China’s incoming premier, Li Keqiang, on national television.

    The apparently unscripted moment came on Sunday as Mr Li visited a shantytown in the northern Chinese city of Baotou during a three-day propaganda tour designed to show the government’s determination to help the poor.

    Keen to witness the hardships of slum-life first-hand, Mr Li popped into a cramped shack belonging to Gao Junping, an impoverished 56-year-old farmer.

    But Mr Gao appears not to have been warned of his esteemed visitor’s plans.

    On discovering that one of China’s most important men was at his doorstep – accompanied by a camera crew from state-run CCTV – Mr Gao is thought to have stashed his potentially distracting and semi-naked son inside a cupboard.

    Millions of Chinese television viewers would have been none the wiser but for the child’s decision to abandon the cupboard mid-interview.

    As the cameras rolled and Mr Li plied his startled and tearful host with questions about life in the shantytown, the toddler pushed open the cupboard’s doors and plunged onto the bed on which his father – and the vice-premier – were sat.

    The child’s naked cameo was subsequently broadcast across China, earning him the nickname “guang pigu nanhai” or “the bare-bottomed boy”.

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    eyes, face, concentrating, thinking, focused

    Spectacles that could cure a person’s colour blindness and allow them to see the full spectrum for the first time have been developed by scientists.

    The high tech glasses help those with "red-green deficiency", an inability to see some red and green colours.

    The genetic abnormality is estimated to affect about 10 per cent of all adult men and a small number of women.

    The invention by 2AI Labs, an American research institute, has been produced based on years of research into how human sight has evolved, the Times reported.

    The Labs reportedly developed several different pairs of glasses that could enhance the ability to see "oxygenated blood" in the skin.

    Scientists originally thought the spectacles, which feature special "Oxy-Iso" lenses, could be used for medical purposes such as identifying veins before blood donation or identifying bruising.

    But they found that people with the “red-green” colour-blindness could also use them to fix their condition.

    "If you squeeze your hand in front of you and let go, you'll see these yellow spots where the blood has been squeezed out and reddishpurple spots where the blood is pooling," Mark Changizi, an evolutionary neurobiologist behind the project, told the Times.

    "Those are changes in the concentration of the blood."

    In 2006, the author of Harnessed: How Language and Music Mimicked Nature and Transformed Ape to Man, suggested humans had evolved the ability to observe subtle changes in skin colour.

    "Most mammals — your dog, horse, bunny — have two dimensions of colour,"he told another website.

    "A yellow-blue dimension, and a grayscale (or brightness) dimension. Some of us primates, however, have an extra dimension of colour vision: The red-green dimension."

    Daniel Bor, from the University of Sussex, said the glasses allowed him to pass the so-called “Ishihara Colour Test”, in which patients are shown plates that feature a circle of dots.

    Experts say those who are colour-blind cannot make out numbers within the dots.

    Glasses with Oxy-Iso lenses are already on sale, with a pair costing $279 (£178).

    But while the lenses enhance the ability to see reds and greens, they also downgrade the ability to see yellows and blues.

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    david cameron

    European Union leaders are on the brink of an historic agreement to cut their seven-year budget by £30bn today after marathon all-night talks in Brussels.

    They edged towards agreeing the first-ever reduction in EU spending in what David Cameron would claim as a victory for the calls for budgetary restraint by him and like-minded leaders.

    Fifteen hours after a draft budget for 2014-20 was due to be discussed by the 27 leaders at their Brussels summit, firm figures were finally presented to them at 5am today by Herman Van Rompuy, who chairs the talks as president of the European Council.

    If the deal is agreed, Mr Cameron will hail it as a victory for his tough approach, which saw him demand tens of billions of euros be shaved off plans first proposed last autumn. The cuts could cut EU spending to about €500m a year below that.

    Last November, the EU leaders were deadlocked over Mr Van Rompuy's plan to commit €973bn to EU programmes between 2014-20. Today's draft agreement would reduce that to €960bn.

    A second figure on actual payments, the so-called "credit card limit," would be set at €908.4bn over the seven years.

    Mr Cameron, who demanded either a real terms budget freeze or cut, will be able to claim he has achieved his objectives. The draft conclusions show that he has seen off moves led by France to reduce the €3.5bn-a-year rebate on Britain's payments to the EU won by Margaret Thatcher. They say: "The existing correction mechanism for the UK will continue to apply."

    Britain's annual contributions are still likely to rise over the seven-year period. But Mr Cameron can blame that on Tony Blair, who agreed to reduce the value of the rebate in 2005 as the EU expanded to admit central and eastern European nations.

    The Prime Minister worked through the night without a break, either in formal round table sessions with all 26 other leaders or in small huddles as painstaking efforts to reach a compromise continued.

    After clashing with Francois Hollande, the French President, who opposed his demand for cuts and failed to turn up for talks with him and Germany's Angela Merkel yesterday, the three leaders finally held 15 minutes of peace talks early today when the full summit took a break.

    The cuts are likely to include the Brussels administration budget, which was targeted by the Prime Minister. A two-year pay freeze for 55,000 EU officials is one option on the table.

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    Augusto Pinochet 1995

    On an August day in 1988, Eugenio García took a call that was to change his life. It was an executive from a rival advertising agency, a slick account man called Francisco Celedón whom García knew by reputation but had never spoken to. He had something he wanted to discuss.

    As everybody in Chile knew, the president, Augusto Pinochet, had announced a referendum to be held on October 5. After 15 years of brutal dictatorship, in which an estimated 3,000 political opponents had been killed, another 3,000 had “disappeared” and about 10 times that number had been tortured, abused and raped by Pinochet’s secret police, Chileans were being asked for their opinion of the regime. The vote was going to be a straight choice: “yes” or “no” to eight more years of the Generalissimo.

    Pinochet thought he had the vote sewn up. The vast majority of the country, he believed, were grateful to him for the firm action he had taken against the “enemies of the state” and supported his free-market economics, which had reversed years of decline. A devoted nation would flock to the polls to give their assent to his rule, handing him a new, improved mandate and silencing his critics, both at home and abroad. The opposition, such as it was, would be too disorganized to pose a serious threat.

    But the president’s overconfidence had given his opponents a glimmer of hope. Proving he could be fair when he wanted to be, Pinochet had promised the “No” campaign (a ragtag group of 16 left and right-wing parties) 15 minutes of free television airtime every day during the campaign to put its case. Scheduled to go out late at night, the general didn’t think the programmes would make much impression on the voters. And, besides, the government controlled every other programme on television and had the rest of the day – as well as its own official 15-minute slot every night – to pump out its propaganda.

    Celedón, a member of the Christian Democratic Party, knew instinctively the dictator had miscalculated. Television may not have played a big part in elections past in Chile, but a lot had changed in the intervening 18 years (since the 1970 election of Allende). The late-night slots were going to have a massive influence. And he wanted García to be the campaign’s creative director. “The fool doesn’t realize what he’s done,” said Celedón. “This is the chance we’ve been waiting for.”

    The story of that campaign and how García and a small group of fellow advertising executives, the Mad Men of Eighties Chile, risked their lives to stand up against Pinochet and, employing all their advertising nous, inspired a nation to overthrow one of the world’s most repressive regimes, has now been dramatized in a new film, No, which opens in UK cinemas this week and is nominated for an Oscar for best foreign language film . For fans of a certain television series about advertising folk in Sixties New York, it’s a reminder that advertising can, sometimes, be used as a force for good rather than a psychological weapon to make people feel bad about themselves and buy things they don’t need. Its hero, played by Gael García Bernal (a composite of García and his colleague, José Manuel Salcedo), is no Don Draper.

    But the success of the “No” campaign was far from a foregone conclusion. When García, then a 36-year-old creative, and harried father-of-five, who had made award-winning commercials for Sony and various Chilean confectionery brands, met Celedón to discuss their strategy for the first time, he was presented with research showing that large numbers of Chileans were too scared to vote “no”; either because they feared retribution from the regime or because they feared a return to the Marxism of Allende and all that entailed: strikes, spiraling inflation, queues for food.

    What’s more, the “No” campaign didn’t have a candidate. It wasn’t like a normal general election, in which voters choose between a range of parties and party leaders; it was either “yes” to Pinochet or “no” to Pinochet.

    “By its very nature, ‘no’ was a negative concept; it was very difficult to sell,” says García, now 60 and still living and working in Santiago. “‘No’ was not a person, not a candidate. It had no personality, no ethics, no aesthetics.” So García’s first job was to create a “product” which would have mass-market appeal. What message, his team asked themselves, would unite Chileans, both young and old? Something that would both reassure and fire up the voters? They tossed ideas around. There was a temptation, of course, to go with a hard-hitting campaign – featuring footage of executions, political arrests and police violence – to remind voters of Pinochet’s many crimes.

    But the ad men knew that wouldn’t “sell”. However deep the hatred, you didn’t fight negativity with negativity. Instead they needed something upbeat and optimistic that would galvanize the nation; something hopeful to contrast with the fear and oppression of the ruling junta.

    What we need to convey, García said, looking up at a deep blue sky, is the feeling you have when black clouds part and the sun finally breaks through. What is that word? And then he answered his own question: “La alegría!” Joy! That was the slogan: “Chile, la alegría ya viene” Chile, joy is coming.

    “In Spanish, alegría is a collective feeling,” says García now. “It’s not just ‘happiness’, it conveys more of a carnival or party atmosphere. That was our philosophy. After years of polarization, we all needed to live together in peace. We bet on the good nature of the ordinary Chilean; that they didn’t like violence, they didn’t like fear.” With the theme in place, García and Salcedo went into overdrive. Fifteen minutes of television every night for 27 nights was a lot of airtime to fill. Scripts had to be written, actors hired, sets designed. They also had to create a logo – a simple rainbow – and print flags, banners, posters and T-shirts.

    Today, in the wake of Barack Obama’s 2008 “hope and change” campaign, García’s strategy may seem an obvious one. But García and his colleagues met stiff resistance from the “No” campaign’s politicians. In the year preceding the plebiscite, the number of reported kidnappings, instances of torture and politically related killings had reached its highest level in seven years. In one particularly ugly case a doctor had been dragged from his car by armed men who tied him to a tree, carved a swastika on his forehead and simulated an execution before ordering him to leave Chile.

    So a campaign about “happiness”, featuring children smiling and dancing in the street, struck many as hopelessly lightweight and deeply disrespectful towards Pinochet’s victims. In the film (which was shot on old U-matic cameras to blend fictional scenes with footage of the original advertisements) a member of the opposition walks out after watching a screening of one of the political broadcasts. “This is a campaign to silence what has really happened,” he tells Bernal’s character.

    García does not deny things got heated. “They expected something else,” he tells me. “They expected us to say that Pinochet was a criminal, and we did talk about his criminal activities, but we knew everything had to be infused with a strong sense of reconciliation. We didn’t want to kill Pinochet; we needed to reconstruct the spirit of the country.”

    The first broadcast went out at 10.45pm on September 5. It began with the image of a painted rainbow and the word “No”, while a catchy song incorporating the campaign’s slogan played in the background. Then the camera focused on Patricio Bañados, who had been one of the country’s favourite news readers until he was blacklisted by the government. “Chile, joy is on its way,” he said. The theme song then struck up again and the screen was filled with images of Chileans showing their support for a “no” vote: a young man strolling down a country lane; a chef turning around to show a “no” emblem on his back; a taxi driver waving his finger back and forth in time with his windscreen wipers.

    It might sound cheesy to us today, but this first broadcast made an explosive impact. Watched by millions, it electrified the nation and caught the Pinochet government completely off-guard. The “Yes” broadcast, in comparison, looked hopelessly old-fashioned, out-of-touch and downbeat. “The ‘Si’ campaign was terrible,” says García. One particularly thick-headed film featured a steamroller driving over a television, then a set of table lamps and then a baby’s pushchair to represent the supposed threat to people’s livelihoods posed by Pinochet’s opponents.

    But if the “No” camp had the brains, the regime still had the brawn. In the month leading up to the referendum, Pinochet’s henchmen waged a frightening campaign of intimidation against the opposition. Farmers who had appeared in one of the “No” programmes were beaten up, a musician who appeared in another programme was fired from her job and Bañados lost the sponsor to one of his radio programmes. In her book about the Pinochet years, Soldiers in a Narrow Land, the South American journalist Mary Helen Spooner says Bañados also received a telephoned death threat. “You son of a bitch, I’m going to kill you,” the caller said. A few weeks later, Bañados was crossing a street when a man in a car tried to run him over.

    “Many of us were intimidated and threatened during the campaign,” says García. “Phone calls, people were followed, cars in front of their houses, but we carried on. Once you’re at the party, you have to d Oscars nominations 2013 in full ance.” No one working on the campaign slept much during that period, partly due to fear, partly adrenalin. But the decision of so many people to stand up publicly and oppose Pinochet, especially the actors in front of the cameras (none of whom would have worked in Chile again had the general won), inspired the nation.

    On the day of the referendum, October 5, millions flocked to the polling stations. Men and women, many dressed in their Sunday “best”, queued patiently to vote, in some cases for several hours. Then they went home and waited for the result to be announced. García was at his ex-wife’s house.

    “Everybody was asleep – my wife, my children. I wanted to be alone. And when the result was announced I cried in silence.” A total of 7.2 million votes had been cast – the highest number in Chilean history – with 3.96 million (54.7 per cent) voting “no” and 3.1 million (43 per cent) voting “yes”. It was a resounding victory for the opposition.

    “The atmosphere in the country was incredible,” says García. “The next day, in La Alameda [the main street in Santiago], people were shaking hands and hugging policemen. There were rainbow T-shirts and flags everywhere. It was a carnival.” Grudgingly, but peacefully, the general handed over power in 1990 to a democratic civilian government, and eight years later, on a visit to Britain for a back operation, he was arrested and threatened with extradition to Spain on charges of multiple murder. To the eternal disappointment of the relatives of his victims, however, he never faced those charges; he died in 2006.

    Two weeks after the referendum, García left advertising and now runs his own consultancy. It seems a strange decision after everything that had just happened. “I felt that chapter of my life had finished,” he says. “When you have achieved what we achieved, what other challenge is left?”

    ‘No’ is released on Friday

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    Findus Beef Lasagna With HorsemeatLyndon Lea, the boss of the private equity firm linked to Findus, is a financier straight out of central casting.

    As a keen polo player, he owns a ranch in Santa Barbara, California and leads the Zacara team.

    Lea has enjoyed success with Zacara, which is named after his children, with the team winning the Veuve Clicquot Gold Cup in 2011 and the US Open Polo Championship in 2012.

    The 44-year-old's polo exploits have also led to Lea gaining a reputation for his party lifestyle.

    Stories to emerge from the ranch in California include parties with sushi served on half-naked women and a polo soiree attended by Sienna Miller and Tommy Lee Jones.

    Lea himself is keen to play down his "playboy" reputation. In a recent interview, he said: “Because of our focus on high–profile brands there has been a certain scrutiny of my personal life.”

    Now, however, Lea is set to come under the spotlight for an entirely different connection to horses. A beef lasagne made by Findus, which is part owned by Lea's Lion Capital, has been found to contain 100pc horse meat.

    Lea has risen to become one of the world’s leading financiers after being born in Morecambe, Lancashire as the son of an engineer father and hairdresser mother.

    The 44-year-old grew up in South Africa and Canada after leaving Lancashire when he was younger, before studying business at the University of Ontario in Canada.

    After graduating, he joined Goldman Sachs in New York.

    Lea returned to the UK in the 1990s to join Glenisla, part of US private equity house KKR.

    Lion Capital was founded by Lea in 2005. The company has made millions by buying and selling a string of well-known brands, including La Senza and Weetabix. Lion Capital first invested in Findus in 2008.

    However, the private equity group is probably best-known for its success with Jimmy Choo. Lion Capital funded the rise of the luxury shoe-maker, which was founded by Tamara Mellon.

    SEE ALSO: 100% Horse Meat Found In UK Frozen Beef Lasagnas >

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    Knockoffs counterfeit china

    The Chinese are voracious copycats. It's not a new observation. In the late 17th century a Spanish missionary called Domingo Navarrete noted the tendency in his memoirs.

    "The Chinese are very ingenious at imitation," he wrote. "They have imitated to perfection whatsoever they have seen brought out of Europe. In the province of Canton they have counterfeited several things so exactly that they sell them in inland."

    Some things, it seems, never change. Over the past two decades Chinese knock-off merchants have replicated everything from Western clothing brands, to DVDs of Hollywood movies to luxury handbags.

    And ambitions are expanding. Fake Ikea and Apple stores have sprouted across the country. A Chinese man last year managed to put together a Ferrari. The vehicle was a perfect replica except that it had no engine. The Chinese government itself estimates counterfeits constitute between 15 and 20 per cent of all products made in China.

    Imitation might be a form of flattery, but when it comes to business there's nothing pleasant about the experience. If someone rips off your design and makes money from it, that's a direct hit to your own bottom line. The British inventor James Dyson complained recently that he has spent $1.5m (£955,000) battling Chinese rip-offs of his bladeless fan.

    China might be the market that every Western firm wants to be part of, but the copycat tendency is putting some off. Many technology and engineering businesses looking to operate in China fear their intellectual property (IP) will be purloined. And it is holding them back from investing.

    Small and medium-size technology firms that lack the massive legal resources of frequent knock-off targets such as Apple or Disney are especially wary. If you're a Western firm which has, say, a new technology for laying tarmac, you don't want to introduce it to China if there's a possibility a local firm is going to replicate the technique and start using it all over the country.

    But could change be on the way? The Beijing government is waking up to the Western counterfeit concerns. An international technology fair in Shanghai in May jointly organised by three ministries and the Shanghai government – hopes to allay some of those fears. Western technology businesses exhibiting at the fair will be put in touch with Chinese customers. And both parties will be linked with expert legal advisers. There will also be assurances that any intellectual property transferred in the deals will be protected in Chinese courts.

    Will it work? Can Western businesses do deals safe in the knowledge that their intellectual property rights will be protected? It is difficult to say. Doubts remain about whether Beijing can deliver on its promises. When the US made a complaint to the World Trade Organisation in 2007 about copyright breaches, China took it as a national affront and accused America of making a "mistake". A string of bogus "Apple stores" in China were closed down in 2011 not because of the illegal use of the US company's name but because they lacked a proper business licence.

    Chinese officials sometimes claim that piracy happens in second-tier cities in the country's vast interior, rather than the big urban centres. But walk through main shopping areas of Guangzhou or Shanghai and one is confronted with a plethora of fake brands from "Danhoil" (Dunhill) to "Teabucks" (Starbucks). Chinese officials claim that copyright breaches are by people who don't know they are breaking the law. But enforcement remains patchy, despite a new trademark law passed in China in 2011. And the suspicion is that corrupt local government officials and prosecutors often don't want to act on the problem because they have financial links with the counterfeiters.

    Elliot Papageorgiou, an intellectual property lawyer for Rouse in Shanghai, says it's a mistake to think of China as a single jurisdiction when it comes to IP protection and that there's still large regional variation in enforcement.

    "In Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, we had excellent experiences," he says. "In Changsha, the capital of Hunan province, we had a rather poor experience. There is always the risk of local protectionism. The Chinese defendant may know the local courts and judiciary very well. It may be a significant local employer. Even assuming no bias, it would be a little like taking action against Mercedes in Stuttgart."

    Mr Papageorgiou adds, however, that there is a "level playing field" in the major cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou when it comes to enforcing IP rights in the law courts. This is because the authorities there tend to be less beholden to powerful local commercial interests. They also want to attract foreign direct investmen.

    "In China you have to ask: Who are you suing? Where are you suing? And when do you sue? You have to choose your battle and choose your battlefield," says Mr Papageorgiou. He points to the rising number of civil-litigation cases – up from 40,000 in 2010 to 60,000 in 2011 – as a sign China is becoming a more IP-friendly environment. The number of enforcement cases brought by the authorities has also risen in recent years.

    The Chinese government certainly has an economic incentive to strengthen its IP rights regime. Its reformist wing knows China must begin innovating to rebalance its economy, which is dangerously over-reliant on investment and cheap mass production. And innovation requires a respect for IP rights. "Chinese people will not work hard developing their own technologies if they know they will be ripped off by someone," says Fred Chen, director of communications for the Shanghai trade fair. Incentives work both ways. Perhaps it's when the copycat nation finds its own bottom line ravaged by the fakers the IP protection breakthrough will finally happen.

    The China (Shanghai) International Technology Fair takes place 8-10 May

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    great wall of china unrestored sectionThe challenge was a six-week trip around the tourist-free parts of China with two feral children, no guide and not a word of Mandarin. Sara Wheeler was relieved at and surprised by the warm welcome that awaited her family.

    Over the course of six weeks traveling independently in China, I must have bought my sons 20 plastic footballs. Whenever the pair of them started a kickabout next to a rice paddy, two teams quickly assembled. A football pulled like a magnet.

    Once, the boys started fooling around with a ball in a courtyard of the Labrang Monastery on the Tibetan plateau, among the most important Buddhist centres in the world. Within minutes, young monks fluttered out like starlings, hitching up crimson robes and racing for the ball.

    A country that bans Facebook is a dicey choice for a family holiday if you are in possession of a 15-year-old. Besides that, both said teen and his 10-year-old sibling are appallingly badly behaved – almost feral – and their father and I wondered what disciplinarian Chinese parents would make of them (and of us).

    But the boys adapted to China from the first day, and it turned out to be the perfect destination for an outdoorsy family with a flexible approach to lavatorial arrangements.

    We used the services of tour operators both here and in China but never travelled in a group, and we did most of the research ourselves using Lonely Planet and the internet. This was time-consuming, and not for the faint-hearted. I was determined not to race around ticking off sights – indeed I was keen to avoid sights.

    We decided to begin in Hong Kong and end in Beijing, and chose three regions in between, picking out the most interesting rural corner of each. For the most part we travelled by bus, or hired a car and driver, or took a soft sleeper compartment (ruan wo) on a night train, and we stayed in simple guesthouses – some very simple (two had no bathrooms at all). Every couple of weeks we indulged in a spot of luxury. We booked trains, buses and some accommodation via the brilliant Chengdu-based tour operator Yu Ying at Navo Tour. Crucially, the obliging Mr Yu spoke good English; it took a lot of web-trawling to find him.

    To prepare for this article, I asked my crew to choose the highlight of the whole eventful six weeks. Three of us chose Baoshan in the north-west of Yunnan. (Younger son, Reg, dissented. He chose the Wii console in his room at the Hong Kong Mandarin Oriental.)

    The poor province of Yunnan nestles in the dent between Burma, Vietnam and Laos on China’s distant south-west frontier. Perched on a natural citadel overlooking the Yangtze, and edging into the foothills of the Himalayas, Baoshan village has no roads, and we had to walk the last leg. Our guesthouse had a squatter loo, no coffee and a murderously loud rooster that lived in a permanent dawn.

    But for three days I sat high above a bend in the Yangtze, watching the river change from milky coffee to silver at a thousand-year-old trading post on the Tea Horse Road (Chama Dao), where caravans once took tea west to Tibet and India, and brought horses back east to China.

    In the Baoshan shop (there was only one), cash was stored in a washing-up bowl, and behind the counter a poster advertising China Mobile had peeled away to reveal a faded slogan from the Cultural Revolution: 'Zao Fan You Li' – 'To rebel is justified’.

    Our mud-brick homestay guesthouse, Mr Moo’s, abutted the ancient entrance gate where people gathered to smoke Tibetan pipes and play cards. Like everyone in Baoshan, they were Naxi (pronounced 'Nashi’), members of a 250,000-strong tribe of nature-worshippers with the only pictographic script still in use in the world. The older ones had never learnt to speak Mandarin. One, Mrs Lao, a spritely 75-year-old with a face so wrink­led it was smooth, guided us along thin paths down to the Yangtze and through purple Himalayan saxifrage on the mountainsides beyond. The landscape unfurled like a painted Ming scroll. Every 10 minutes, the Katy Perry ringtone on Mrs Lao’s mobile phone went off.

    In Baoshan my boys peered in at open windows where a woman was washing up in a tin basin or weaving on a loom, something that as an adult I could never do on the grounds that it’s nosey. People invited them in, and they returned chattering with news. They learnt a couple of dozen words of both Mandarin and Naxi. Wherever we were in China, people involved them warmly. At a noodle shop in Lige on Lake Lugu in Yunnan, Reg performed with the resident drummer, and when we went for a walk before breakfast in Wenqian two boys leading water buffalo gave Reg and Wilf a ride.

    In Huang San on the outskirts of Lijiang, the ancient Naxi capital, I took a translator to interview a dongba, a Naxi shaman (the religion evolved from Tibetan Bon Buddhism). The 40-year-old He Kai sported a Dalí moustache and oiled hair and wore an elaborate gold waistcoat over scarlet robes. We sat round a fire in his single room while he tugged on a 4ft-long pipe with a cigarette poked in the end. Paintings of Naxi animal spirits danced across the walls. Mr He is a sixth-generation dongba. I asked him what his role involved.

    'I speak to the spirits on behalf of the people,’ he said. 'I give advice on failing harvests, and conduct ceremonies – weddings, funerals, prayers for convalescence, that kind of thing. At festivals I pray for good fortune.’ He had never been to school. 'As a child I used to go around the mountain villages with my grandpa, who was also the medicine man.’

    He had to beg for several years while learning the Naxi script, which only the priestly caste writes and reads. I asked if he would write me something, and he brought out a bundle of the insect-resistant paper that the Naxi have made for generations, and started writing – painting, rather, as he used a brush.

    'Red Guards destroyed most of our books in the Cultural Revolution,’ he said as sweeping hieroglyphics crept across the paper, 'and either killed dongbas or compelled them to abandon their profession.’ The Naxi had never really recovered from the murderous horrors of the Cultural Revolution.

    'I worry about the future,’ Mr He said. 'There are only 30 dongbas left. In village classrooms, Naxi children have to speak Mandarin.’ The government in Beijing boasts about 'one big family’, but the Goddess of Democracy statue hoisted in Tiananmen Square in 1989 has yet to be made flesh.

    The trouble with a six-week family holiday is the generalised impossibility of getting away from one’s family. I developed a keen eye for the women-only thermal baths in Yunnan – basically a roof over a tiled hot spring.

    In a one-yak village in the north-west, I bathed with women who cleaned one another’s backs with a kitchen scrubbing brush and unravelled topknots to soap long black hair. When they had finished, they washed their knickers in the same water. They were friendly, gesturing the best place to stand to feel the impact of the flowing water, and stared at my DD poitrine, never having seen such enormous appendages. When they felt more confident, and sufficient smiles had been exchanged, they asked if they could touch them. The roof was an arch of dirty glass and the afternoon sun slanted on to cobwebs and cracked plaster, and on to the girls’ spent shampoo sachets floating on the surface of the sudsy water.

    It was not one long idyll. Road travel is hazardous. No Chinese driver would dream of stopping at a pedestrian crossing, and fatalities are epic in scale – on a two-hour journey outside Beijing we passed three accidents, one of which had resulted in a pair of corpses on the tarmac. On the four-hour minibus trip from Lijiang to Baoshan, the driver chain-smoked and talked on his phone, even on the hairpin bends. As for the horn – according to the China-watcher Peter Hessler, it is a neurological extension of a driver’s nervous system. Neither is public transport infallible. On a six-hour bus ride to Lake Lugu, two of us had to sit in the aisle. A plane journey from Hong Kong to Guilin was delayed for nine hours. And so it went on.

    Now we must come to matters lavatorial. Squatters are de rigueur outside metropolitan areas (and often within them – the gleaming new Kunming airport has no sit-downs), and I broke fresh personal ground at a bus station in Guanxi when I entered a two-at-a-time lavatory and crouched next to a stranger.

    More seriously, we went for weeks without meeting a single person who spoke English, which makes independent travel hellishly fraught. Even urban taxi drivers don’t recognise the most basic proper names, and we quickly learnt that we had to have everything written down in Mandarin. If, like me, you have not a single character of Mandarin in your repertoire, you have to plan ahead, collaring English speakers in advance to write out a list of toponyms. The byzantine transport systems were similarly hard to navigate with one’s tongue tied. Catching a bus from Lijiang, for example, involved a baffling search for the numberplate at an apparently random starting point that turned out to be the starting point of hundreds of other buses. We learnt to station ourselves at four different spots, goggling attentively.

    Nor was China solely wondrous to behold. Large-scale, high-rise construction was under way in every province. Entire districts were rising, yet tens of thousands of tower blocks stood empty. Inflation runs at 8-10 per cent in China, whatever official figures say, and nobody knows what will happen when the property bubble bursts and the ideological battle between Maoists and modernisers approaches an endgame. I was glad that my kids could see China now.

    In addition, you don’t get to be the world’s largest energy producer without belching out a lot of crap (not to mention irreversibly poisoning the water table). In Xining, in Xi’an, in Beijing, the traffic was filthy, metaphorically, the pollution filthy, literally. The headlong rush to develop has pushed so far west that it is even approaching our small Yunnan paradise. High up in Mr Moo’s eyrie, as I watched the Yangtze change colour, I contemplated a gash through the Himalayan yew on the mountainside. It was a dirt road, inching nearer.

    Food in China is completely different from the gloopy monosodium-glutamated gunk often served in Britain. Street food was universally tasty, and at guesthouses such as Mr Moo’s we ate vegetables from the garden, eggs laid that morning, and pork from the last pig slaughtered, all freshly wok’d. Again though, much is not for the faint-hearted.

    Before trekking from Yunnan into Sichuan, we accompanied our guide on a shopping expedition. He led us down an alley to a chicken yard where he proceeded to hold up live fowls for us to select. Bunnies hopped all around and he suspended one of those by its ears too, but the boys howled, so we did without roast rabbit.

    After that challenge we returned to Lijiang and indulged at the gorgeous Banyan Tree in 'Over-the-Bridge Black Fish’, a grouper that swims in the meltwater of the sacred Jade Dragon Snow Mountain before turning into an esteemed delicacy served in thin raw slices dropped into broth at the table.

    It was not altogether a relaxing trip, at least for the adults. Although my partner and I had planned as thoroughly as we could before departure, we were still obliged to spend long evenings hunched over the map of China and our soon tattered guidebook, often in the flickering light of a kerosene lantern. When we got stuck, and needed advice on how to establish which bus was ours, we rang Mr Yu, the tour operator at Navo, on our mobiles (coverage off the beaten track is better than it is in Europe).

    I would recommend everything we did, if you have an appetite for adventure. On reflection, it wasn’t really too hard. We were surprised at the Chinese warmth and capacity for friendliness – I think we had been expecting the foreign-devil treatment, and nothing could have been further from reality. As for cost: in rural areas we lived easily for £25 per head per day, including accommodation. The 11-hour train journey from Xi’an to Beijing costs between £30 and £82 one way, depending on class; children under 120cm travel free, and those measuring 120-150cm go half-price. Buses are super-cheap. As for luxury, China does five-star in style. At journey’s end in Beijing the Opposite House in the Sanlitun district dazzled us all: cutting-edge artworks in the cavernous atrium, football-pitch rooms, brushed-steel pool – one felt quite the country cousin.

    The children learnt that it was more rewarding to discover China for themselves than have a tour guide lead them by the nose. However, it was worth throwing money at some things. We had saved the Great Wall as a grand finale, but as Chinese tourists travel in multitudinous herds, the wall is impossible at its nearest points to Beijing.

    On our penultimate day we lashed out on a day trip with an English-speaking guide, a private minibus and a packed lunch, and headed to Jinshanling in Hebei province a couple of hours north-east of the capital to walk a 10.5km section of the wall. Some of the brick cladding had broken away revealing the original tamped earth, a beacon tower had collapsed entirely, and the floor was badly cracked up in places, but for a whole afternoon we had the fabled wall to ourselves, and the watchtowers on distant ridges seemed to be floating towards the Simatai mountains as the wall dipped and looped between its ancient Ming towers.

    'I’m going to miss China,’ Reg said. 'But I’m looking forward to a Domino’s pizza.’

    As the Chinese proverb insists, 'It is better to travel 10,000 miles than to read 10,000 scrolls.’

    The Ultimate Travel Company(020-3603 9350; ) can arrange bespoke journeys across China, both on and off the beaten track. An 18-day adventure, beginning in Hong Kong and ending in Beijing with an indulgent stop en route in Lijiang, costs from £3,850 pp, including BA flights to Hong Kong, returning from Beijing, private transfers, guiding and an exclusive Great Wall walk. Navo Tour:

    SEE ALSO: A Hike On The Part Of The Great Wall Of China Most Tourists Never See

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    skybar lebua at state tower hotel bangkok

    With incredible designer interiors and glamorous settings, these exceptional hotel bars provide some of the world's most stylish and sophisticated drinking addresses.

    Ayana Resort & Spa's Rock Bar, Bali

    Drinking at Ayana Resort & Spa's Rock Bar in Bali is a dramatic experience.

    Guests access the waterfront bar, which is positioned at the bottom of a cliff face, by cable car and can hear the waves crash once settled at their tables.

    Visiting at dusk is recommended as sunsets are often spectacular.

    Ayana Resort

    Beaufort Bar, Savoy Hotel, London

    The Savoy Hotel in London was instrumental in developing the cocktail — you can read about the history of that enduringly popular beverage here — and as a result its long-standing American Bar continues to draw crowds.

    More appealing, however, is the hotel's newer Beaufort Bar. Dramatically decorated in black and burnished gold, the venue specialises in cocktails and rare champagnes, and cabaret and music performances are often held in the intimate space.

    Savoy Hotel

    La Purificadora, Puebla, Mexico

    The bar at La Purificadora hotel in Puebla, Mexico, does its best to cater to as many customer desires as possible.

    It's on the roof; it's open air; there's a nice view of historic buildings; it was designed by Ricardo Legorreta, one of Mexico's most famed architects; and, of course, it flanks a glass-walled swimming pool ideal for guests who fancy a dip between rounds.

    La Purificadora

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    One of the most memorable experiences in my travelling life was to be shown around the Prado Museum in Madrid by a curator of Spanish paintings from the National Gallery.

    “This,” he said, pointing to a streak of light across the canvas of Velázquez’s great painting Las Meninas, “is my favourite white line in the whole of art history.” He went on to describe the extraordinary visual power of that simple stroke of white lead paint and how it illuminated and unified the image.

    For the small group of us clustered in the gallery, he brought the painting to life in a way that no audio tour or museum guide can usually get close to. That’s the difference that a real expert and enthusiast can bring to a guided tour. And I don’t seem to be alone in appreciating this.

    The number of expert-led, small-group tours that focus on art, architecture, history, music, military history and other cultural themes has grown sharply in recent years. Small, specialist tour operators such as Martin Randall, Holts Tours and ACE Cultural Tours have massively expanded the range and variety of their programmes, and they have also begun to introduce more exclusive arrangements.

    Many of the better tours now include admission to houses and collections not usually open to the public, after-hours visits to the more famous ones, or the chance to meet curators. Meanwhile, the bigger operators of escorted tours have been developing their own range of cultural tours – often with bigger groups and a more general approach, but just as appealing for those who prefer a bit more variety and a little less academic focus.

    Whichever approach you prefer, such holidays can be a great opportunity to learn and enjoy the culture and history of a destination, and they can also be great fun. After all, you will be among fellow enthusiasts – often a mixture of couples and singles, and of course you will have plenty of time to chat to the guide while travelling, eating and drinking on the tour.

    Below we have picked out 50 of the best cultural tours for 2013, most of them of the more specialist expert-led variety, but also included is a selection of more general introductory itineraries (selected by Sally Howard). We have focused on overseas trips, though many of the companies listed also offer British-based tours.

    See the bottom of the article for more tips and advice on choosing a cultural tour.


    It’s a big year for art anniversaries, exhibitions and major museums on the Côte d’Azur, in Amsterdam and in Oslo, and three of my selected tours reflect this. There’s also a particularly original tour to China on behalf of the Royal Academy.

    Specialist tours

    1 Art on the Côte d’Azur

    This is a well-structured tour following key artists associated with the region, including Chagall, Picasso, Matisse, Cocteau, Miró and Léger. Gallery visits, a coastal drive, boat trip and walking tours of Nice and Menton combine with lectures by Colin Bailey, an art historian.

    March 18-25, £1,895. ACE Cultural Tours (01223 841055; )

    2 Amsterdam; The Rijksmuseum Revealed

    Offering a chance to be among the first to see the restored Rijksmuseum (which opens on April 23), this tour is arranged by Tate Travels (in partnership with the Ultimate Travel Company). It includes two visits to the museum in the company of Robert Uterwijk, an artist and lecturer, who will explain the renovation and show the newly displayed collection of Dutch paintings. The itinerary also includes the newly reopened Van Gogh Museum, and a reception at the privately owned Huis Van Loon.

    May 11-14, £1,368. Tate Travels (020 3582 1283; )

    3 Munch in Oslo

    Celebrating the 150th anniversary of Edvard Munch’s birth, this is built around exhibitions at the Munch Museum and in Norway’s National Gallery. Dr Frank Høifødt, former curator of the Munch Museum, leads the tour, which includes a visit to the artist’s studios, where he died in 1944. These are at Ekely, on the outskirts of Oslo, and access is by special arrangement.

    June 26-29, £1,660. Martin Randall Travel (020 8742 3355; )

    4 China: A Journey Through Chinese Imagery

    This is part of a collection of expert-led tours arranged for the Royal Academy of Arts by the tour operator Cox & Kings, often with access to artworks that aren’t open to the public. The itinerary focuses on the influence of Buddhism, Daoism and Confucianism on China’s art and includes a special visit to the Chonghua Palace in Beijing.

    October 6-19, 2013 and April 27-May 10, 2014, £3,995. Cox & Kings (0845 154 9073; )

    5 New York: The Performance of Style

    Inspired by Tate Liverpool’s Glam! The Performance of Style exhibition, this tour includes an exclusive early morning private visit to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) to view Glam movement artists including Hockney and Allen Jones. Subject to confirmation, there’s also a private visit to Palazzo Chupi, the artist Julian Schnabel’s extraordinary, bright pink residence, built above a former horse stable.

    November 7-12, £2,702. Tate Travels (see above)

    General tours

    6 Emperors and Artists, Italy

    A great option for those new to the cultural treasures of Italy, this tour promises all the show-shopping Italian moments, from gondola rides in Venice to gelati in the Roman sunshine. It also offers a snapshot of Italy’s artistic legacy, including an expert-guided tour of Florence’s Uffizi Gallery; and the many artistic riches housed in the Vatican City at Rome, including that famous paint-job by Michelangelo.

    July 8 and 22, from £4,489 (0845 485 1525; )

    7 Arts and Delights in Vienna, Austria

    Vienna offers something for culture vultures of all stripes, with its plenitude of imperial architecture, classical music, and food and fine-art traditions. This five-day tour introduces you to Austria’s artistic and cultural legacies, from the architecture of Otto Wagner to the shimmering artworks of Gustav Klimt. Digest what you’ve seen in style, over coffee and Sachertorte, at the famous Hotel Sacher.

    September 8 and October 13, from £895 (0845 166 7003; )


    The distinction between art and architecture tours is often blurred, with many covering both aspects of a destination. Those selected below focus primarily on buildings and monuments rather than artworks.

    Specialist tours

    8 Norman Might, Baroque Splendours: Puglia Across the Ages

    The historian Charles Freeman leads this “leisurely” exploration of Puglia, the heel of Italy. It includes visits to a wide range of monuments from medieval and later periods, and time to absorb the magnificent Baroque architecture of Lecce and the much lesser-known Norman cathedrals and castles of the regio.

    September 23-30, £1,995. Ciceroni Travel (01869 811167; )

    9 French Gothic Art & Architecture

    In pursuit of the sublime, this tour explores the development of Gothic style, ranging from the 12th-century Abbey of St Denis , near Paris, to the great cathedral at Reims. The eight-day trip is led by Malcolm Oxley, an art history expert, and includes a full-day excursion to Chartres.

    October 13-20, £1,990 including rail travel. ACE Cultural Tours (01223 841055; )

    10 Painted Palaces of Rajasthan

    Often straying away from the well-worn tourist track, this 12-day tour combines the great Rajput forts and palaces with the lesser-known, colourfully painted merchant homes of Shekhawati. It is led by Dr Giles Tillotson, an expert in the region’s architecture and history, and includes time spent exploring the gardens and shrines of Jodhpur, Nagaur and Mandawa.

    November 4-15, £5,170. Martin Randall Travel (020 8742 3355; )

    11 Florentine Palazzi

    A new itinerary focusing on Renaissance palaces and allowing access to several that are normally closed to the public. These include Palazzi Corsini, Lanfredini, Pandolfini and Capponi all’Annunziata. Special arrangements also allow entry to the Uffizi’s 16th-century Vasari Corridor. The leader is Dr Joachim Strupp, an expert in Italian art.

    November 6-10, £1,920. Martin Randall Travel (see above)

    12 Art Nouveau Brussels

    Be prepared for plenty of walking during this in-depth study of the city’s period façades and interiors. Professor Werner Adriaenssens, curator of the Musée du Cinquantenaire, will give a private introduction to an exhibition celebrating the 150th anniversary of the birth of the architect Henry van de Velde. Colin Bailey will conduct the tour, and accommodation will be at the fin-de-siècle Hotel Metropole.

    November 8-13, £1,375 including train travel. ACE Cultural Tours (see above)

    General tours

    13 Heritage of America, Western & Oriental

    From the luminous palladian façade of the White House in Washington, to the gleaming skin-and-bones skyscrapers of NYC, the architecture of the commercial and political capitals of the US bespeaks the confidence that made America great. Western & Oriental’s Heritage of America Escorted Tour explores the two cities during a 10-day itinerary that also takes in Independence Hall in Philadelphia, where the Declaration of Independence was signed, and a night among the Amish in Lancaster.

    April 12, May 31, June 21, September 6 and 20 and October 11, from £2,029 (020 3504 1714; )

    14 Beautiful Bruges, Belgium

    Behind the politicking and EU directives, there’s another Belgium, with a history as rich as the mayonnaise served with the country’s defining steak-frites. Leger’s four- or five-day break introduces you to the charming canals and cobbled streets of Bruges, the august palaces and Grand Place of Brussels, and the piers and esplanades of Ostend, the “Queen of Belgium’s seaside resorts” where the Belgian royals once spent their leisurely summers.

    Coach and ferry tour, departures May to December from £229 (0844 846 0808, )

    History and battlefields

    The tour to Istanbul with the historian John Julius Norwich, though expensive, stands out this year (see below). While this is a quiet year for battlefield trips, the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the First World World War falls in 2014, and the bicentenary of Waterloo and the 600th anniversary of Agincourt in 2015, so you might want to start planning now for the next couple of years. Holts Tours is the leading battlefields specialist.

    Specialist tours

    15 The Ancient Greeks and Romans of Naples

    Rupert Smith, a classicist and teacher, brings the stories of ancient Greece and Rome to life on this week-long Easter holiday tour aimed at families with children aged 11 and over. Boat rides and a stay on a mozzarella farm combine with trips to Naples, Pompeii, Amalfi and Paestum to provide a good balance of fun and education.

    April 4-11, £1,630 excluding flights. Cazenove and Lloyd (020 7384 2332; )

    16 In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great

    A new tour for 2013 that splits the previous 20-day Alexander tour in half, with part one launched first. It will retrace his footsteps across Turkey from Istanbul to Bodrum. The guide is Peter Sommer, who in 1994 walked 2,000 miles across Anatolia, from Troy to the battlefield of Issus, retracing Alexander the Great’s march in Turkey.

    April 29-May 9, £2,650 excluding flights. Peter Sommer Travels (01600 888 220; )

    17 Dambusters 70th Anniversary

    Led by Major Alan Thompson, both an expert on the Dams raid and a pilot who has flown the attack routes, this five-day tour will include sites in England, Belgium, Holland and Germany associated with the heroics of Barnes Wallace and 617 Squadron.

    May 15-19, £925 including coach travel. Holt Tours (01293 865 000; )

    18 The Normandy Landings

    A four-day trip that includes visits to some of the most evocative of the D-Day sights: Arromanches, where one of the Mulberry harbours was established, Omaha Beach, Pegasus Bridge and the British cemetery at Bayeux. The guide is Rhydian Vaughan, formerly of the Welsh Guards and a member of the Guild of Battlefield Guides.

    September 16-19, £1,095 including ferry travel from Portsmouth. Ultimate Travel Company (020 3582 1283; )

    19 Istanbul with John Julius Norwich

    This tour, led by a historian with a talent for bringing the subject to life, includes special access to city museums and two dinners in private houses. He explores the legacy of the Byzantines, and the itinerary includes visits to the Hagia Sophia basilica and the Topkapi Palace. Note that £1,500 of the tour cost will be donated to EORTC, a European cancer-research charity.

    September 27-October 2, £4,989 excluding flights. Fine Art Travel (020 7437 8553; )

    20 Lost Cities of Caria & Lycia

    With accommodation and travel on a traditional Turkish gulet, this is a relaxed and sociable cruise, though energetic walking is needed to reach some of the ruins. These include visits to many lesser-known sights such as the theatre of Kyaenae; the temple and fish-oracle of Apollo at Sura; Aperlae, with its well-preserved city walls; the pillar tombs at Apollonia; and Oinoanda, as well as Patara and Tlos. It is led by John Penney, Emeritus Fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford.

    September 14-27, £2,900, excluding flights. Westminster Classic Tours (020 8286 7842; )

    General tours

    21 Taste of Turkey Tour

    The Peninsula of Gallipoli, located in the northeast of Turkey, four hours from Istanbul, witnessed some of the fiercest fighting of the Great War. Today it bristles with monuments to the men who fell in Gallipoli’s brutal battles. This eight-day tour takes in the Anzac Cove, where Australian and New Zealand forces landed in 1915, the Gallipoli memorials and museum, and the tunnels used during the war. For light relief, there are two nights in Turkey’s ancient and atmospheric capital, as well as a stop-off at Pamukkale, with its calcium terraces and hot thermal pools.

     February to December, twice-monthly departures, from £759 (0800 088 6002; )

    22 Royal New Zealand tour, New Zealand

    Today considered the founding document of the New Zealand nation, the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi, between Maori chiefs and the British Crown, was one of the most peaceable agreements between expansive 19th-century colonial powers and native peoples. On this 27-day Royal New Zealand itinerary a Maori guide will illuminate the events that led to the signing of the treaty and its controversial implications. The tour, which covers North and South Islands, also takes in the country at its majestic natural best, from scenic vineyards to glinting lakes, greenstones and glaciers.

    Monthly departures from Oct 13 to May 14, 2014, from £5,995pp (0161 236 2444; ).


    As with art and architecture, a fine line separates history and archaeology tours. The leading archaeology specialist is Andante Travels which has a very wide range of group tours, as well as some cheaper, self-guided itineraries all focusing heavily on interpreting sites. Because of the major exhibition Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum which opens at the British Museum on March 28 ( ), several operators are offering trips to both sites during 2013.

    Specialist tours

    23 Pompeii, Herculaneum & Classical Campania

    A chance for special, behind-the-scenes access to some of Pompeii’s private monuments and buildings is why this tour is among Andante Travels’ most popular options. Spring and autumn departures are led by a range of expert lecturers including William Manning, Emeritus Professor of Roman Archaeology at Cardiff University.

    Seven departures March to May and September to October, £1,365. Andante Travels (01722 713800; )

    24 Art and Archaeology of Sri Lanka

    A 13-night tour taking in important Unesco sights, notably the colonial city of Galle, first-century BC rock temples at Dambulla and the frescoes at Sigiriya Fortress, dominated by the 660ft-high Lion Rock. The trip, led by Hilary Smith, a cultural historian, offers a chance to get to know the island’s Buddhist temples, royal capitals and beautiful botanical gardens.

    September 8-20, £2,715. The Traveller (01285 880931; )

    25 Crete: Island of King Minos

    Less-visited western sites, alongside the famous Minoan palaces of Malia and Knossos, are included in this particularly thorough, 10-day itinerary. Led by Dr Christina Hatzimichael Whitley, the tour spends three days in Chania taking in the Archaeological Museum, the site of Aptera and an excursion to the Samaria Gorge.

    September 18-27, £2,100. Andante Travels (see above)

    26 Jordan: The Land of T E Lawrence

    Jordan is an excellent touring destination and many companies offer fairly standard “highlights” itineraries of the Roman and Biblical sights, Petra and T E Lawrence’s desert camp at Wadi Rum. This tour covers similar ground but is led by a highly knowledgeable guide, Dr Neil Faulkner, who has overseen excavations for the Channel 4 series Time Team and is best known for his long-running archaeological project at Sedgeford in Norfolk.

    October 28-November 5, £1,979. Kirker Holidays (020 7593 1899; )

    27 Nile cruise with Kate Adie

    Explore the best temples, ruins and tombs in the company of the veteran BBC correspondent, who will host the tour alongside a local Egyptologist. You sail from Luxor to Aswan on the Nile Lily, a replica of a 19th-century dahabiya, combining period furnishings with modern bathrooms and air conditioning.

    November 26-December 3, £2,490. ACE Cultural Tours (01223 841055; )

    General tours

    28 Taste of Peru

    Arising from the Highlands of Peru at some point during the 13th century, the Inca Empire, at its height, commanded much of the west of the land mass that’s now South America. Some of the world’s best-preserved archaeology stands testament to the Inca’s might. Explore the highlights of the extant Inca ruins on this eight-day tour from Kuoni, from the terraced town of Ollantaytambo at Sacred Valley, to the magnificent Inca fortress of Sacsayhuamán at Cuzco and the legendary citadel of Machu Picchu, perched on a mountaintop and one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

    April 13, June 8, July 6, September 14, October 12, from £2,285 (0844 488 0326; )

    29 Man Fears Time, Time Fears the Pyramids, Greece to Egypt

    In the millennia since humans first put down root in the lands that border the Aegean and Mediterranean seas, many civilisations have risen and fallen on these fertile and sun-blessed soils. This 19-day ocean cruise, from mid-market leader Titan, covers 5,000 years of human travail and triumph. You’ll see the imprint of the Greek and Roman Empires on Turkey, the Holy Land in Israel and the rose-red city at Petra in Jordan. The tour concludes in Egypt, with the pyramids at Giza and the spare beauty of the Valley of the Kings.

    October 26, from £2,500 (0800 988 5823; )


    Martin Randall and – more recently – Kirker have been the most inventive specialists in arranging a wide choice of tours – including the major international festivals, private recitals, and visits to the principal opera and ballet houses. This year – the bicentenary of both Verdi and Wagner – there will be the first of a small programme of tours organised on behalf of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.

    Specialist tours

    30 San Francisco and Santa Fe Opera

    One of the first tours organised for the Royal Opera House (but open to all) begins in London with a performance of Simon Boccanegra, and includes four more operas, notably Figaro at the Santa Fe summer festival, with backstage tours and talks by leading figures at all three opera houses. On the trip will be Marie-Thérèse Hill, a pianist and experienced opera guide.

    July 3-14, £5,808, Royal Opera House Tours (020 3582 1283; )

    31 Savonlinna Opera

    Celebrate the anniversaries of both Verdi and Wagner with these performances at Olavinlinna Castle, Savonlinna, Finland. The programme includes first-rate productions of La Traviata, Macbeth and Lohengrin, and the guide and lecturer is Simon Rees, a former dramaturge of Welsh National Opera.

    July 16-20, £2,420, Martin Randall Travel (020 8742 3355; )

    32 Salzburg Festival

    This visit to one of Europe’s greatest classical music festivals includes six concerts over five days, including four by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (one a performance of Verdi’s Don Carlo conducted by Antonio Pappano) and one by the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional Infantil de Venezuela, conducted by Sir Simon Rattle. The guide is Professor Jan Smaczny, of Queen’s University Belfast.

    August 10-16, £4,380, Martin Randall Travel (see above)

    33 Bohemian Heartland:

    Art & Music in Prague

    This is not a purely musical tour, but it’s included because Prague’s musical life is so rich, and the trip includes the chance to book opera, ballet and concert performances. Led by Tom Duncan, an archaeologist and art historian, it includes private visits to important palaces and art collections.

    October 22-27, £1,795. Ciceroni Travel (01869 811167; )

    34 Verdi at La Scala, Milan

    Kirker is offering several trips to La Scala; given that this is Verdi’s year, the one that includes two of his greatest works in three days looks like the one to pick. The productions of Aida and Don Carlo are conducted by Fabio Luisi, and the trip is accompanied by Sandy Burnett, the musician and former Radio 3 presenter. October 28-31, £1,290. Kirker Holidays (020 7593 1899; )

    General tours

    35 Music in Seville, Spain

    From tapas to bullfighting, many inventions synonymous with Spain hail from Seville. Perhaps chief among its gifts to the Iberian Peninsula is its music: from the stirring strains of flamenco, to the 30 operas and symphonies composed in the balmy Andalusian capital. Noble Caledonia’s tour illuminates the musical and cultural heritage of Seville, Cordoba and Jerez, from the scenes that inspired Bizet’s Carmen, to the bullring where Don Jose committed the murder of his beloved. En route, the London Festival Opera performs works associated with your location, including Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Rossini’s The Barber of Seville and a performance of Carmen at Casa Bailen, a private 17th-century palace.

    April 30 to May 7, from £2,395 (020 7752 0000; )

    36 Elvis and the Southern Sounds, Tennessee

    It’s almost 60 years since an impromptu recording session at Sun Studios in Memphis saw a young Elvis Presley jamming with Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash. In the decades since this “Million Dollar Quartet” convened, the impact of the American South on popular music has been profound. Several escorted tours explore the Deep South’s pop musical legacy. For Memphis soul and New Orlean’s jazz try Travelsphere’s Deep South USA. For the “king” undiluted, opt for Archers Direct’s Elvis and the Southern Sounds, a nine-day tour that takes in the big man’s humble birthplace at Tupelo, the Grand Ole Opry at Nashville and the home that’s as famous as the man: Graceland.

    Departures twice-monthly, from March to October, from £1,389; flights from airports across Britain (0800 668 1361; )


    The news this year is the start of a programme of tours organised on behalf of the Royal Horticultural Society and run by Collette Worldwide Holidays and Wendy Wu. RHS horticulturalists, garden curators and other senior staff will be among the guides. Sue Biggs, director-general of the RHS, used to be chief executive of Kuoni, so standards promise to be high.

    Specialist tours

    37 Grenada Gardens Tour

    An unusual one this, but appealing because it is escorted by the gardener Suzanne Gaywood, who knows the Caribbean island well. She is co-ordinator of the Grenada at Chelsea exhibits. Guests will visit national parks and rainforests and both public and private gardens in Grenada, at a time when the orchids, anthuriums, heliconias and many more tropical plants, as well as spices, will be at their best and in full display.

    Nov 21-28 and Nov 28-Dec 5, £1,799. Individual Holidays (01753 892111; )

    38The Beauty of Japan

    This intensive 13-day tour, accompanied by an RHS expert, takes in Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden and Jindai Botanical Garden in Tokyo. Also included are the rock garden at Ryoan-ji in Kyoto and the great gardens of Kenroku-en (in Kanazawa) and Koraku-en (in Okayama).

     June 2-14, £5,249. RHS Garden Holidays (0800 804 8710; )

    39 Brittany – Megaliths to Monet

    Half the tour is based in Quimper, with excursions to three contrasting gardens, including the Parc de Boutiguéry to see its rhododendrons on the banks of the River Odet. You also spend two nights on Belle-Île exploring its prehistoric stones, walking the dramatic northern coast and visiting the Jardin la Boulaye. The tour leader is Caroline Holmes, a garden historian.

    June 6-12, £1,960. Martin Randall Travel (020 8742 3355; )

    40 Gardens of China

    This is one of four special itineraries in China offered by the RHS in partnership with Wendy Wu Tours to celebrate the centenary of the Chelsea Flower Show. An expert guide will lead visits to gardens in Beijing, Xian, Guilin and Suzhou.  Sept 1-15, £3,890. RHS Garden Holidays (0844 288 2751; )

    41 Eastern Sicily

    Private visits to gardens in the company of Robin Lane Fox, reader in ancient history at Oxford University, gardener and occasional contributor to Telegraph Travel. The itinerary includes palaces in Catania and Syracuse, the amphitheatre at Taormina, the Baroque town of Noto and a trip to see the Riace bronzes.

    Sept 13-19, £2,985 excluding flights. Fine Art Travel (020 7437 8553; )

    General tours

    42 Colourful Costa Rica

    With its “eternal spring” climate and many unique and discrete ecosystems, Costa Rica is one of the most biodiverse countries on earth. CTS Horizons’ Colourful Costa Rica tour carves through photogenic countryside, from rainforest jungles to cloudforests and lush nature reserves, during a leisurely 11-day itinerary.

    March 3, March 31, Nov 4, from £2,195. CTS Horizons (020 7868 5590; )

    43 Glimpses of India

    The wonders of the Moguls still have the power to captivate, as this nine-day tour of the highlights of northern India proves. On the classic Golden Triangle route, the tour stops off at the Taj Mahal and Fatehpur Sikri, the red sandstone city built by Emperor Akbar, as well as the restored Mogul Gardens at Rashtrapati Bhavan in Delhi.

    Departures monthly, excepting June, from £1,595 (0844 879 3960, )

    Food and wine

    France and Italy are, unsurprisingly, the most popular destinations, though really good specialist companies using expert guides are fairly thin on the ground. Arblaster & Clarke lead the way with by far the best selection of wine tours, but there are some interesting itineraries from other operators.

    Specialist tours

    44 Classic Alsace & Baden

    Alsace wines are under-appreciated in Britain. This tour, led by the wine writer Andrew Jefford, is a chance to get to know them and compare them with German wines on the other side of the Rhine valley. It includes tastings at Hugel and Paul Blanck, and a meal at a three-star Michelin restaurant.

    Sept 3-7, £1,675. Arblaster & Clarke (01730 263111; )

    45 Gastronomic Piedmont

    Piedmont, centre of the Slow Food movement, arguably takes its food and wine more seriously than anywhere else in Italy. This tour includes visits to Alba, the world’s white-truffle capital, and to several Barolo wineries, plus meals at simple trattorias and Michelin-starred restaurants. It also leaves time to explore the region’s art and architecture – which are also of the highest order. The lecturer is Marc Millon, co-author of Frommer’s Food Lover’s Companion to Italy.

    Oct 5-11, £2,660. Martin Randall Travel (020 8742 3355; )

    46 Gastronomic tour of Sicily

    Peter Sommer is best known for his cultural cruises in Turkish gulets, but he also offers themed trips to other European destinations. This itinerary in Sicily takes in both gastronomical and historical highlights and is led by Marcello Baglioni, a cultural specialist, and Dr Michael Metcalfe, an archaeologist. It includes cooking classes, visits to local producers of cheese, olives, honey and wines, and numerous tastings, including one of traditional modicano chocolate.

    Oct 5-12, £2,495 excluding flights. Peter Sommer (01600 888220; )

    47 South Africa’s Winelands

    This nine-day itinerary led by Nancy Gilchrist, a Master of Wine, includes visits to some of the Cape’s best and most innovative wineries, and discussions with the winemakers. You will also have time at the Cap Classique & Champagne Festival in Franschhoek and a jazz evening.

    Dates and prices to be confirmed, but the trip will depart in November 2013 and cost about £3,000. Original Travel (020 7978 7333; )

    48 Bordeaux First Growths

    The headline price looks expensive, but this tour might offer one of the cheapest ways to taste first-growth clarets, which have rocketed in price in recent years. It is led by the wine writer and broadcaster Charles Metcalfe, and will include visits to châteaux including Lafite-Rothschild, Latour, Margaux, Haut-Brion and d’Yquem. You stay for three of the four nights as private guests at the excellent Château Pichon Longueville. The maximum party size is 10.

    November 25-29, £3,899. Arblaster & Clarke (see above)

    General tours

    49 Great Capitals and Vintages of the Danube

    Immortalised in literature and art, and in Strauss’s famous waltz, the Danube is one of the world’s most romantic waterways, wending eastward from Germany to eastern Europe, through Austria’s verdant Wachau Valley. This river cruise introduces you to another side of the Wachau Valley: as the region that produces some of northern Europe’s finest (and newly fashionable) white wines. You’ll visit the picturesque Spitz-Grotisch vineyard; and Dürnstein, where terraced vineyards frame the ornate baroque tower of the Stiftskirche (collegiate church). You’ll cruise on to the city of music, Vienna, before docking at Budapest.

    Nov 10, 13 and 15 departures, from £2,295. Noble Caledonia (020 7752 0000; )

    50 Caribbean Gourmet Chocolate Cruise

    Perilous for the waistline, yet fabulous for the soul, Mundy Cruising’s 11-night Caribbean gourmet chocolate cruise offers an insight into the history and provenance of the world’s favourite treat food. The tour is lead by British chocolatier Chantal Coady. It charts the azure waters from the Dutch Caribbean Islands of Curaçao, Aruba and Bonaire, to Venezuela’s Margarita Island and cocoa-bean-rich Grenada, with on‑board talks and chocolate-making lessons en route.

    Nov 5, from £3,395. Mundy Cruising (020 7399 7670, )

    Choosing a tour: What questions to ask

    Look at the itinerary in detail – does the place look right for you? How much is squeezed into the time available?

    Is the “expert” named in the brochure or website? You should be given some biographical details and evidence of expertise in the subject of the tour.

    What is the maximum size of the group? More than 15 to 20 and the atmosphere ceases to be intimate.

    Be wary of information on tour operators’ websites. I found several to be badly out of date. All the companies listed will welcome telephone inquiries.

    Ask about the hotels. Often they aren’t named in the tour description, but a good operator will tell you which they are, and whether they are in the centre.

    If you are having to pay a single supplement, get the name of the hotel so that you can check, by looking at the rates published online, that the supplement is a reasonable one.

    Which meals are included?

     Will you have to pay extra for flights, travel, entrance fees or tips?

    Compare offerings from rival companies: the price or timing might be better, or the expert more appealing.

    A note on tours and prices

    Prices given are the lowest rate per person based on sharing a twin or double room and include return flight from Britain unless otherwise stated. Supplements are nearly always charged for single occupancy (see tips below). Tours usually include most meals, and nearly always admission charges at sights and museums, but check exact board and pricing details before booking. Please note that small-group tours can sell out quickly, but often a similar itinerary is available at a later date. Similarly, tours that don’t attract bookings may be cancelled.

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    Clues about whether a new romance will grow into a long-term relationship can be found hidden in the way our brains respond when we think about a new partner, scientists have found.

    Researchers have found that they can spot the signs of a true romance in people embarking on a new relationship by looking at how much their brains light up when they think about their new partner.

    The scientists detected distinctive patterns of electrical activity in the brains of volunteers who believed they had recently fallen in love, and found that they could use the scans to predict whether a couple would stay together.

    The findings could end the uncertainty of courting by revealing whether a couple are likely to have a long relationship or whether their feelings will fizzle out.

    The scans showed that even if someone believed they had fallen in love, the activity of their neurons could suggest whether their feelings were strong enough for them to be with the other person three years later.

    Prof Arthur Aron, a ­social psychologist at Stony Brook University in Long Island, New York, said: “All of those involved in the study felt very intensely in love with their partner and this was reflected in their scans, but there were some subtle indicators that showed how stable those feeling were.

    “If that strong feeling was combined with signs that they could regulate emotions, to see the partner positively and deal with conflict, then it seems to be really productive in staying with the person.” The psychologists, whose research was published in the journal Neuroscience Letters, found a number of key parts of the brain were involved.

    Using magnetic resonance imaging, the scientists scanned 12 volunteers, seven of whom were women, who had fallen passionately in love and had been with their partner for about a year.

    As they were scanned, each was shown a picture of their partner and asked to think of memories of them.

    The participants were also asked to think about and look at pictures of an acquaintance with whom they had no romantic attachment.

    Three years later, the researchers compared the scans with the outcome of each relationship. Half the relationships had lasted.

    The scientists found that the scans of those who were still in relationships had heightened levels of activity, when thinking of their partner, in an area of the brain that produces emotional responses to visual beauty, known as the caudate tail.

    These people also had lower levels of activity in the pleasure centres of the brain that relate to addiction and seeking rewards. The scientists say deactivation in this area has been linked to satiety and satisfaction.

    Another part of the brain, known as the medial orbitofrontal cortex, was also less active, which the scientists say made those people less critical and judgmental about their partners.

    Aron said the research could have a practical application in helping people having relationship problems.

    He said: “The brain is so complex that we are still quite a way from being able to very precisely pick out these qualities, but it does allow us to get at what is really going on inside someone aside from what they tell us.

    “We may eventually get to a point where we can recognise things that the person doesn’t recognise themselves and we can say that they are not as intensely attached to a person as they think they are.”

    Prof Aron added: “This probably facilitates handling the conflicts that inevitably arise when you spend a lot of time with someone. It plays a big part in keeping people together and staying satisfied.”

    A fourth area known to modulate mood and self-­esteem was less active in those who stayed together, something the scientists think may be linked to people forming stable and intimate bonds.

    The psychologists also found they could spot signs of how happy a couple who stayed together would be in the scans taken three years earlier.

    Xiaomeng Xu, the lead author of the study at Brown University in Rhode Island, said: “Factors present early in the early stages of romantic love seem to play a major role in the development and longevity of the relationship.

    “Our data provides preliminary evidence that neural responses in the early stages of romantic love can predict relationship stability and quality up to 40 months later.

    “The brain regions involved suggest that reward functions may be predictive for relationship stability.”

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    aq khan

    There is nothing much unusual about armed guards outside the houses in my quiet, neat neighbourhood of Islamabad. These are the homes of retired generals, well-connected politicians and international aid workers, all of whom might be targets for Pakistani extremists. But one house stands out. Instead of frail, elderly guards armed with shotguns, one house is ringed by uniformed police officers with AK-47s. Roadblocks control traffic, floodlights illuminate an area of scrub that has been cleared of trees and machine gun positions have been dug in all around.

    This is the home of AQ Khan, the metallurgist who did more than anyone to build Pakistan’s atomic bomb and who then went on what can only be described as a proliferation spree, selling nuclear secrets to any rogue state that came calling.

    The technology behind today’s test in North Korea can be traced back to the man in the heavily guarded villa. As many as two planes a month arrived in Pakistan from Pyongyang during the late 1990s, bringing the missile technology in exchange for AQ Khan’s secrets, such as how to use centrifuges to enrich enough uranium for a weapon.

    Today he is largely a free man. He received a pardon from President Pervez Musharraf in 2004 apparently in return for a televised confession in which he admitted selling the technology but insisted that he acted alone. All very convenient.

    So the security outside his house is not so much to keep AQ Khan locked away like a criminal. In fact he can occasionally be spotted at coffee shops and regularly gives interviews to the local media. He has even set up a party to contest elections due this year and has said he is willing to serve as prime minister. His Tehreek-e-Tahafuzz Pakistan party tried to register the image of a missile as its symbol– suggesting a wicked sense of humour.

    Nor is the security really to stop the terrorists. As the father of the Islamic bomb he is a source of national pride, revered as a hero and an inspiration to those who want to take on nuclear-armed superpowers on their own terms.

    No. The security was tightened in 2011, soon after the American raid to kill Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad. I noticed it on one of my regular strolls to buy ice cream as I passed Dr Khan’s house. The watchman’s hut opposite his home – usually deserted – was buzzing with activity. Fresh razor wire had been laid in the wasteland where baboons and wild boar roamed.

    If Navy Seals could fly in undetected to kill the world’s most wanted man barely 30 miles from Islamabad, perhaps they could reach the capital to kidnap a man who has never explained exactly what he sold to whom.

    The US still considers him a proliferation risk and would dearly like to question him. How else can we know just what technology North Korea is using and how close Iran might be to a bomb? But for now the man with those secrets remains living in comfort in his fortress home and we can’t be sure how many Pakistani generals and prime ministers knew exactly what he was up to.

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    facebook moneyAzimo today said it had become the first player to allow users to "swiftly, securely and cheaply send money around the world" using social media.

    Facebook users can transfer money via the social network for the first time from today.

    Azimo said it had become the first player to allow users to "swiftly, securely and cheaply send money around the world" using social media.

    azimIts app will allow the transfer of funds between bank accounts and allow transfers between more than 125 countries.

    The development chould help increase competition and reduce costs for overseas transfers, which can be costly if made through a high street bank.

    “Unlike other areas of financial services, social media is very applicable to remittances,” said Michael Kent, founder of Azimo. “With more than a billion people around the world using Facebook to keep in touch with friends and family, it seems only natural it should become a channel for sending money."

    “We surveyed our UK remittance customers and found nearly three quarters regularly use Facebook – and of those, over 60% were in touch with the person they wanted to send money to.

    Azimo, which launched last August offering an online payments platform, said it would focus on international money transfers and the "remittance payments market" - migrant workers who send money back to their families.

    It said this was a global market worth $534bn but was dominated by international players such as Western Union and MoneyGram which levied "double-digit charges for a service that amounts to little more than a few clicks of a computer mouse".

    Azimo charges a flat fee of £5 to transfer up to £500 and 1 per cent commission, up to £15, for any larger sums. It said it plans to give 10 per cent of its profits to charity.

    Mr Kent added: “In 2011 alone, using Azimo would have saved people in the UK a collective £200m.”

    Other cheap ways to send money abroad
    By Rosie Murrary-West

    Charges on the high street are sky-high. HSBC, which calls itself "the world's local bank", charges customers up to £30 to send money from their own HSBC account to someone else's in another country. Similarly, Spanish-owned Santander does not discount rates for customers who send money to its own overseas branches.

    The vast majority of people use bank transfers when sending money to an account abroad. However, it is nearly always cheaper to use a currency broker or other specialist service.

    Overseas transfers have become more popular as owners of second homes rent out holiday property abroad directly via the internet, and families living elsewhere in the world send money worldwide.

    A recent report showed that the average transfer fee was £17. More than a third of people regularly pay £20 or more, while one in 20 pays more than £40. The research, carried out for Travelex, the foreign exchange firm, found that £150m was spent every year on fees and charges for sending money abroad. Britons with second homes were among the worst affected.

    Specialist are generally cheaper than offers on the high street. The Post Office offers a service that will allow you to transfer cash in 19 currencies, and the money will arrive in one to three days. This is fee-free and the exchange rate is generally competitive. The Post Office's international payments service is run by broker HiFX, which is fully authorised by the Financial Services Authority (FSA). However, the minimum you can transfer is £250.

    Smaller amounts can be sent instantly using PayPal. It charges a 2.5pc fee, while the recipient pays a "cross border transaction fee". The recipient will pay up to 4.9pc plus 20p.

    A system called TransferWise may be another way of sending money more cheaply. This allows you to deposit cash in a UK bank account via internet banking, and within two days the company will convert and send the currency to the recipient.

    A calculator on compares prices against other ways of transferring money. Currencies include euros, US dollars and Norwegian, Danish and Swedish kroner. The exchange rate may not be as good as at some other brokers, but for small amounts of currency it is good value because of the low fees – just £1 on transfers of up to £300 and around 0.5pc above that.

    TransferWise, which is FSA authorised, works cheaply because it is a peer-to-peer service. Cash put in a UK account never actually leaves the country. Instead, the money is paid from reserves in the country you are sending the money to – meaning you get a better rate.

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    Barclays Chief Executive Antony Jenkins says the firm is to cut 3,700 jobs across the business, claiming the strategic review is focused on its long-term prosperity.

    Follow our live blog on the Barclays job cuts

    Barclays has announced 3,700 job losses and £1.7bn cost cuts as part of Project Transform, a radical bid to restore the bank's tattered reputation.

    In a Strategic Review, the bank says the changes will be an attempt to make a clean break with the past. The review says: "The behaviours which made headlines during the year stemmed from a period of 20 years in banking in which the sector became too aggressive, too focused on the short-term, and too disconnected from the needs of customers and clients, and wider society."

    It adds: "Barclays is changing."

    Barclays Chief Executive Antony Jenkins said that "Barclays had got things wrong in the past" and that the changes were "to create shareholder value."

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    Eva Mendes

    Hollywood actress Eva Mendes is turning her hand to fashion design for a new multi-year partnership with US brand New York & Co.

    Not only will Mendes act as ambassador to New York & Co, featuring in campaigns and making appearances for the brand, but a sub-brand featuring her name, Eva by Eva Mendes, will be launched.

    READ: Eva Mendes: She Wears It Well

    “When we asked our customers to name the celebrity they aspired to be, [Eva’s] name came up again and again,” Greg Scott, CEO of New York & Co, told WWD . “Based on that, we went out and pursued her. It was a very long courtship.”

    The actress, who will produce four collections per year, is known for her style both on and off the red carpet, favoring designers such as Prada, Dolce & Gabbana and Jonathan Saunders.

    She is also currently a brand ambassador for Thierry Mugler’s fragrance Angel, and has previously featured in campaigns for Calvin Klein underwear, Revlon and Pantene.

    IN PICTURES: Celebrities with fashion ranges

    Mendes, who is dating universal heartthrob Ryan Gosling, has hinted as to what her new line will include. “I love anything that winks to yesteryear,” she said. “You have to find what works for you. Quite a few times I’ve worn turban like accessories.

    "In this day and age where everybody has a stylist, I appreciate the kind of woman who steps out of the box. I love feeling like an individual. I want to share all these little tips with women.”

    Here's hoping she'll also share her tips on how to snare the Gosling.

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    rosie huntington-whiteley and jason statham

    A height difference which bucks the trend is no obstacle to love in celebrity circles.

    We take a look at the famous men who date taller women.

    Mick Jagger has a history of dating Amazonian beauties, from ex-partner Jerry Hall, to current sweetheart, fashion designer L'Wren Scott.

    Towering model-turned-chef, Sophie Dahl, found true love with minuscule musician Jamie Cullum.

    Rod Stewart always had a penchant for leggy blondes and current wife, Penny Lancaster's go on all the way up to Rod's waist.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Christopher DornerCalifornia law enforcement officials said that deputies did not intentionally burn down a California mountain cabin where fugitive ex-police officer Christopher Dorner is believed to have died.

    San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon said that his deputies shot pyrotechnic tear gas into the cabin and it erupted in flames.

    He said the tactic was only intended to drive Dorner out, but it was not their intention to set the cabin on fire .

    Sheriff McMahon did not say directly that the tear gas started the blaze and the cause of the fire remained unclear.

    A body believed to be Dorner was discovered in the ashes of the cabin, but Sheriff McMahon said authorities have not positively identified the remains.

    The six day man hunt ended on Tuesday when a man believed to be Dorner appeared from hiding, stole two cars, barricaded himself in a vacant cabin and mounted a last stand in a furious shootout in which he killed one sheriff's deputy and wounded another before the building erupted in flames.

    He never emerged from the ruins and hours later a charred body was found in the basement of the burned cabin along with a wallet and personal items, including a California driver's license with the name Christopher Dorner, an official said.

    "Our department is grieving from this event, it's just a terrible ordeal for all of us," said Sheriff McMahon.

    Police said Dorner began his murderous run on February 6 after they connected the murder of a former police captain's daughter and her fiance three days earlier with his angry manifesto.

    Within hours of being named as a suspect in the double murder, Dorner is accused of ambushing Riverside police officer Michael Crain and another officer. The officers were in their patrol car on February 7.

    Dorner blamed Los Angeles Police Department Captain Randal Quan for providing poor representation before the police disciplinary board that fired him for filing a false report.

    Dorner, who is black, claimed in his online rant that he was the subject of racism by the department and was targeted for doing the right thing.

    Source: APTN

    SEE ALSO: Police Appeared To Shout 'Burn This Mother' Down Before Fire Engulfed Rogue Ex-Cop's Cabin

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    Barack Obama state of the union

    Are we witnessing a strange kind of symmetry?

    In his first presidential election Barack Obama constantly talked about taking measures to combating global warming all the time – as, indeed, did his Republican opponent, John McCain.

    But, once in office, he did little or nothing about it.

    In his second campaign he hardly mentioned climate change at all. Does that, equally paradoxically, mean that he will now take action.

    If what he has said since being re-elected is anything to go by, he will. It began with his acceptance speech on election night when he broke his long silence with a single sentence on the subject, to enthusiastic applause.

    He then made it a centrepiece of his inauguration address last month. And this week he devoted a sizeable chunk of his State of the Union address to promising he will “act soon to protect future generations”.

    As mentioned here before, the US President privately regards the lack of effective action on climate change to be his biggest first-term failure and, prodded by his daughters, has thought “long and hard about the issue” since winning his new one.

    “He understands that this is the central problem his administration has to deal with in the second term” John Podesta,- a former Clinton White House Chief of Staff, who led Obama's transition team four years ago – told Rolling Stone magazine. “He knows the judgment of history is riding on this.”

    But he has a substantial problem – the Republican controlled House of Representatives, which is less inclined to cooperate over climate change than on any other issue, partly because an uncompromising rejection of global warming helps attract funding from oil-rich tycoons.

    So it was particularly interesting that he radically switched strategy in this week's address. Whereas in the first year he waited for Congress to take the initiative he is now warning that he will act if it fails to do so.

    He gave notice that in his address that he would effectively bypass Capitol Hill, directing his cabinet “to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy”.

    One such could be to bear down on the 2.4 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal burning power plants. A recent proposal from the National Resources Defense Council says that these could be cut by 26 per cent by 2020, with benefits that exceeded the cost of the reduction fifteen fold.

    Similar measures could reduce leaks of methane – which is 72 times more potent in causing global warming in the relatively short term than carbon dioxide – from oil and gas wells and phasing out the even more powerful hydrofluorocarbons, used in refrigeration and aerosol propellants among other applications.

    But again there is a snag. All these measures would have to be taken by the Environmental Protection Agency, and it would need a tough leader to overcome guerrilla resistance from Republicans. Obama had one of those, Lisa Jackson, who ran it in his first term. But she has now stood down and the President will find it hard to get anyone like her through the Congressional confirmation process.

    He has, however, already had a committed advocate of action on climate change confirmed, in the person of his new Secretary of State, John Kerry – and this could transform prospects for international agreement on combating climate change.

    It would not necessarily take a completion of an international treaty, a tortuous process, to make a big difference; much could be achieved through a bilateral agreement between the USA and China, which together account for some 42 per cent of world carbon dioxide emissions.

    Of course none of this may happen. But for the time being at least – and unexpectedly – Barack Obama has put climate change back on the national and international agendas.

    Read more Geoffrey Lean on Telegraph Blogs

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    marc jacobs diet coke

    Fashion designer Marc Jacobs has created three can designs for Diet Coke, one to celebrate each decade since the drink was launched 30 years ago.

    Following the unveiling of Marc Jacobs as Diet Coke’s new creative director - and the hilarious video to promote the fact - the fizzy drinks company has now unveiled the three limited edition cans created by the designer.

    READ: Marc Jacobs joins forces with Diet Coke

    To mark the pop’s 30th anniversary, Jacobs has created one design for each decade, the Eighties, Nineties and Noughties.

    ‘I Heart ‘80s’ embodies the rise of the empowered woman in all her glory, while ‘I Heart ‘90s’ when extravagant attitude of the era where fashion, music and art collided in a glamorous exploration of strong femininity and daring attitude, and ‘I Heart ‘00s’ is a playful and lighthearted illustration of the sporty-cool decade, embodying humour, sexiness and energy.

    “I feel very privileged to be the new creative director of Diet Coke and put my stamp on the 30th Anniversary campaign,” says Jacobs, “Diet Coke is an icon… and I love an icon.”

    WATCH: Marc Jacobs plays the Diet Coke hunk

    All three designs will be available on cans and counter bottles nationwide from February 25, and all will feature an exclusive code for the chance to win a Marc Jacobs tote.

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