Vodka is a crucial component in Russian life. And in Russian death. Alcohol-related accidents and cardiac arrests have already decimated Russian life expectancy by well over a decade during the last decade alone.Vodka is also big business. The brand "Stolichnaya" sells $2 billion a year worldwide. Hence the interminable and inordinately bitter battle between the Russian ministry of agriculture and SPI Spirits. The latter, still partly owned by the state, is the on and off owner of the haloed brand "Stolichnaya", James Bond's favorite.SPI's PR firm, Burson-Marsteller, posits this commercial conflict as a classic case of the violation of the property rights of hapless foreign shareholders by the avaricious and ruthless functionaries of an unreformed evil empire. They question Russia's readiness to accede to the WTO and its respect for the law.SPI's latest press release consists of the detailed history of this harrowing tale. The brand Stolichnaya, as well as 42 others, were privatized in 1992. The firm quotes a document, bearing the official seal of the maligned ministry, which states unambiguously: "VAO Sojuzplodoimport has the right to export Russian vodka to the USA under the following trademarks: Stolichnaya, Stolichnaya Cristall, Pertsovka, Limonnnaya, Privet, Privet Orange (Apelsinovaya), Russian and Okhotnichya."The privatization was completed in 1997 when the old SPI was sold to the new SPI Spirits. The new SPI claims to have assumed $40 million in debt and invested another $20 million to rebuild the company into "one of the world's leading vodka producers". Yet, the Russian government, as heavy handed as ever, clearly is unhappy with SPI.It says the privatization deal was dubious and that SPI paid only $300,000 (or maybe as little as $61,000 claim other sources) for the multi-billion dollar brands, including "Stolichnaya", "Moskovskaya", and "Russkaya". The government values the brands at a far more reasonable $400 million. Other appraisers came up with a figure of $1.4 billion.The government, in a bout of new-found legal rectitude, also insists that the seller of the brands, the defunct (state-owned) SPI, was not their legal owner. It also questions the mysterious shareholders of the new SPI - including a holding company in tax-lenient Delaware. SPI's trademarks portfolio is represented by an Australian law firm, Mallesons Stephen Jaques.Putin himself set up a committee for the repatriation of these and other consumer brands to the state. He craves the beneficial effects the alcohol sector's tax revenues could have on the federal budget - and on its powers of patronage. A central state-owned brand-holding and distribution company was set up less than two years ago. Ever since then, the alcohol sector has been subjected to relentless state interference. SPI is not the most egregious case either."The Observer" mentions that SPI currently runs most of its business from inscrutable Cyprus, a favorite destination for Russian money launderers, tycoon tax evaders, and mobsters. SPI's German distributor, Plodimex, is increasingly less active - as three new off shore distribution entities (in Cyprus, the Dutch Antilles, and Gibraltar) are increasingly more so.The FSB ordered Kaliningrad customs to prohibit bulk exports of Stolichnaya. Cases of the drink are routinely confiscated. Criminal charges were brought against directors and managers in the firm. The Deputy Minister of Agriculture is discrediting SPI in meetings with its distributors and business partners abroad. He is also accused by the firm of obstructing the court-mandated registration of its trademarks.The courts have lately been good to SPI, coming out with a spate of decisions against the government's conduct in this convoluted affair. But on February 1, the firm suffered a setback, when a Moscow court ruled against it and ordered 43 of its brands, the prized Stolichnaya included, returned to the government (i.e., re-nationalized).SPI is doing its best to placate the authorities. It is rumored to have offered last month to use its ample funds to supplement the federal budget. It has indicated last September that it is on the prowl for additional acquisitions in Russia - a bizarre statement for a firm claiming to have been victimized. "The Moscow Times" reported that it is planning to sign a $500,000 sponsorship agreement with the Russian Olympic Committee.Summit Communications, a country image specialist, placed this on its Web site in November 2001:"One example of a savvy Russian company that has managed to do well in the West by finding the right partner is the Soyuzplodimport company (see also p. 14). Soyuzplodimport, or SPI, has the exclusive rights to export Stolichnaya, which vodka lovers in the U.S. fondly refer to as 'Stoli'. Some 50% of the company's export turnover comes from the United States, thanks mostly to its strategic alliance with Allied-Domecq for U.S. distribution.'I'm not sure that all Americans know where Russia is on the map, but most of them know what Stolichnaya is,' muses Andrey Skurikhin, general director of SPI. 'I want the quality of Stolichnaya in America to create an image of Russia that is pure, strong and honest, just like the vodka. At SPI, we feel that we are like ambassadors and we will try to do everything to create a more objective and positive image of Russia in the U.S.'" SPI's troubles may prove to be contagious. Allied Domecq, its British distributor in America and Mexico, now faces competition from Kryshtal International, a subsidiary of the troubled Kristal distillery, 51% owned by Rosspirtprom, a government agency. Kryshtal signed distribution contracts for "Stolichnaya" with distilleries backed by the Russian ministry of agriculture.Allied and Miller Brewing have announced a $50 million investment in product launch and marketing campaigns only five years ago. "Stolichnaya" (nicknamed "Stoli" in the States) sells 1 million 12-bottle cases a year in the USA (compared to Absolut's 3 million cases).The trouble started almost immediately with the first foreign investments in SPI. As early as 1991, Vneshposyltorg, a government foreign trade agency, tried to export Stolichnaya in Greece. This led to court action by the Greeks. Vodka wars also erupted between the newly-registered Russian firm "Smirnov" and Grand Metropolitan over the brand "Smirnoff". The vodka wars are sad reminders of the long way ahead of Russia. Its legal system is rickety - different courts upheld government decisions and SPI's position almost simultaneously. Russia's bureaucrats - even when right - are abusive, venal, and obstructive. Russia's "entrepreneurs" are a penumbral lot, more enamored with off-shore tax havens than with proper management. The rule of law and private property rights are still fantasies. The WTO - and the respectability it lends - are as far as ever.
Many Americans feel that Marijuana is helping fund the war on terror, but making a war on drugs and keeping Marijuana illegal has not stopped millions of Americans from smoking pot everyday. So what is the answer?First, why is Marijuana illegal? In the 1930's William Randolph Hearst, who had significant financial interests in the timber industry testified to congress on the evils of marijuana, saying things like it make people insane and commit acts of cannibalism? at this time very few even knew what it was and to stop people from going insane Congress decided to make it illegal.The truth is many paper manufacturers were thinking of changing from using trees to make paper to using hemp because it was cheaper and easier to grow and better for the environment, and Hearst stood to loose millions so he used his influence and testimony to help get marijuana banned in the USA.So now that we know why it was made illegal, we can realize that not only would making it legal in the United States stop terrorist from smuggling it into the USA, but would give us another option to cutting down of millions of trees every year for paper products that can be made better from hemp.Hemp has thousands of uses that we are unable to exploit because of its illegal status.During WWII hemp was used for the rigging on parachutes as well as rope and material for uniforms.Nowadays Marijuana can be used to relieve pain and some of the effect of cancer treatments and old age.It has been proven to slow down the spreading of Alzheimer's, relieve the pressure behind the eyes from glaucoma. It also helps relieve migraine headaches and the side effect of cancer treatment.But until the United States realizes how much money can be made from legalizing it, it will remain illegal.This is much like the situation with online casinos in the USA. America was sending billions of dollars out of the country and the government needed to do something to keep the money here, so they banned Online Casino and just like online casinos and online gambling I believe one day the government will learn to take advantage of these things instead of just banning them.Eventually the USA will realize that the best way to stop the flow of money out of the country is not to ban marijuana or online casinos, but to enter the market and compete.If the USA did what Amsterdam has done the government would make not only billions in Taxes from the sales of Marijuana, but the economy would boom from all the tourism that it would bring in from all over the world.The truth of the matter is that legalization is inevitable. The attitude of people has changed so drastically over the last 30 years, that eventually when the younger generations start to take over marijuana will eventually become legal because they understand the truth, and that is banning something only makes the market for it stronger.
The Moguls did it. So did the Vikings. A mouth of a perfectly happy man is filled with beer. After coining that phrase, you dont think this anonymous Egyptian from 2200 BC kept it to himself. I can see him raise his drinking vessel to his Nile-side neighbors while repeating the words.Every country in the world has some sort of traditional drinking toast, often dozens. Usually one or two words, common toasts are not in the same league with toasts to the bride (which can drone on for hours), or to the retiree whos been with us for 30 years but would rather get to his food while its hot. All of these really should be briefer, especially if a meal is being served. The everyday, no black tie, corner pub toasts exist in every culture and the vast majority simply mean I wish you good health. Not surprisingly it is the English who have strayed from the norm. Cheers, Down the Hatch, Bottoms up and many more. I always assumed the latter referred to the bottom of the glass, however the Hawaiians have taken this literally. Okole Maluna means buttocks up. I am including a list of multi-national toasts to impress your friends and use as a sign of respect when in the company of people from different cultures.Heres a bit of etiquette to go with your cosmopolitan language skills. It is customary to toast the first round, and let the host go first. There is some controversy over the clinking of glasses. It is said that the tradition started as a sly way to test the authenticity of the hosts crystal. Whether the Vikings clinked wooden goblets or not, it is considered more civilized to touch glasses rather than bash together in a resounding crash. And while youre about it, serve on the left and remove from the right!Toasts From Many LandsThis is just a sampling of simple drinking toasts from around the world. Some are impossible to find in language dictionaries as they are colloquial phrases, slang or in dialect. I apologize in advance for spelling mistakes: Im no linguist. Meanings have been included when I could find them. Fill in the blanks if you can. Some are just a general cheers. If you were making a bet on possible translation, you wouldnt lose money by suggesting that every one of these toasts is wishing the recipient continued health and general well being. My spell check is about to go wild!za vashe zdorovye (Russian)slainte duine a ol (Irish) to your healthgenatzt (Armenian)a sua saude (Portuguese) good healtha votre sante (French) to your healthbanzai (long life) (Japanese)orkanpai (dry glass!) (Japanese)bud mo (Ukranian)cin cin (chin chin) (cheers) (Italian) oralla salute (in good health) (Italian)proost (Dutch) cheersvivat (Polish) revival, survivaltervist (Estonian) general greetingskal (Danish) cheersheres looking at you (kid, optional) (American/Bogart)kia ora (Maori) all purpose greetingegeszsegedre (Hungarian) to your healthIechyd da (Welsh) good healthI sveikas (Lithuanian) your healthkippis (Finnish) cheerslechaim (Jewish) to lifena zdravi (Czech) to your healthnoroc (Romanian)prosit (German) heres to you (and your health of course)wen lie (Chinese)salud (Spanish)bahkt tu kel (Romany/Gypsy) good luck and health be on youHere it is folks oogy wawa (Zulu)(wawa means fell, oogy wasnt listed, any ideas?)We should all feel well cheered and healthy after all that!
While it would be ideal to make all of our own snacks and meals from scratch everyday, the plain and simple truth is that most of us simply dont have that kind of time. This is where we turn to convenience foods to meet our dietary and weight loss needs. However, the right convenience foods in the right amounts can easily be integrated into almost any diet. Shop Smart - Never shop on an empty stomach. This will only make it harder for you to make choices that are in your best interests. Always be prepared with a thorough shopping list and do not divert from it. If an aisle is full of tempting goodies but has nothing on your list, simply walk right by it, instead of down it. If you see something healthy that you would like, but its not on your list, jot it down and add it to the list next time. This will provide you with something to look forward to. Reach for the smaller bags and boxes of what you need when possible. The less food you have leftover in your kitchen translates into less temptation. Read Labels - All convenience foods are not the same. Depending on your chosen diet, some will fit much better into your routine than others. This is why its important to become an informed consumer and never place anything in your grocery basket unless youve read the label and determined its in your best interests to buy it. Many snack foods come in different versionslow fat, reduced fat, low calorie, low carbohydrate, low salt, etc. Choose the variety that best fits your dieting needs. Remember that different labels can mean entirely different things. The following list may help you discern between them: No calorie: Less than 5 calories per serving Low calorie: Less than 40 calories per serving (or less than 120 calories per meal) Reduced calorie: 25% less calories than the same amount of a similar food No fat: Less than 0.5g fat per serving Low fat: Less than 3g fat per serving (less than 30% of calories from fat per meal) Low saturated fat: Less than 1g fat per serving Reduced fat: 25% less fat than the same amount of a similar food No cholesterol: Less than 2mg cholesterol per serving Low cholesterol: Less than 20mg cholesterol per serving Reduced cholesterol: 25% less cholesterol than the same amount of a similar food No salt: Less than 5mg sodium per serving Low salt: Less than 140mg sodium per serving Reduced salt: 25% less sodium than the same amount of a similar food No sugar: Less than 0.5g sugar per serving Low sugar: No requirementsmake sure to read the label Reduced sugar: 25% less sugar than the same amount of a similar food As you can see, eating six servings of a no-fat food can actually total as much as 3g of fat. For someone who is severely restricting their fat intake, this can greatly hinder their progress. Its best to be informed and make wise shopping decisions. Take charge and be responsible. Trim the Fat - Just because a macaroni and cheese frozen dinner is oozing extra cheese doesnt mean you have to eat it. A common sense approach to preparing and consuming convenience foods can go a long way to making them healthier. When you take a frozen meal out halfway to stir it, remove or blot away any excess oils and fats. Transfer to a real plate when finished, so you can discard the excess sauces. If rice or pasta calls for a heaping tablespoon of butter, opt instead for a conservative teaspoon of soy margarine or olive oil. Ultimately your rice will taste the same and you wont have all those extra calories to contend with. Milk and cookies is a long-time favorite, but try for milk and crackers next time. Experiment with jellies and spreads instead of the usual mayonnaise and butter for toppings. Portion Control - Its easy to lose track of how much youve eaten when you drink or eat straight from the container. Stay on track by carefully measuring out serving sizes before you begin eating. When you do buy items like chips or pretzels, locate the appropriate serving size on the nutrition label. As soon as you arrive home, divide the larger bag into individual servings in small plastic baggies. In this same spirit, when snacking on any food, separate a single servings worth and put it aside in a plate or bowl. Then immediately put the food away, before you begin eating, to avoid temptation. Try not to make the original packages easily accessible. Purchasing a bag re-sealer is more effective than using chip clips, because you are less likely to cut open a bag than to simply unclip it. Heavy-duty tape and hard-to-open containers can also do the trick. Fast Food - Ideally, fast food should be avoided. However, the ever-expanding menus at many of the top fast-food chains are now offering many options that can fit into a variety of diet plans. Look for grilled meals instead of fried. Opt for alternate sides instead of French fries if possible. Many chains offer salad and yogurt options as well. Ask for substitutions if a menu item is not quite ideal. For example, you can request a hamburger without a bun, or you can request a bun without a hamburger. If you cannot get the substitution, make modifications yourself before eating, i.e. throw the hamburger bun in a nearby garbage bin or discard half your French fries. Make Your Own - Theres no rule that says only store-bought, pre-packaged foods are convenient. Take time on the weekend or on days off to do some conscientious grocery shopping and cook one or two large meals of something healthy that you enjoy. Separate into serving sizes and refrigerate (or freeze) as necessary. Buy fruits, vegetables, deli meats, and cheeses to snack on, and prepare them ahead of time by slicing into bite-sized pieces. Separate into serving sizes and store to use as snacks during the week; since they now require no preparation, youll be more likely to reach for the carrot sticks and less likely to reach for more processed convenience foods. Your own frozen vegetables make a delicious side dish in a snap. Voila! Now you have your own frozen dinners (or lunches, or snacks) with much healthier contents.
They say the first step to beating an addiction is to admit that you have a problem. Dealing with someone who has a gambling addiction can be painful. They have a tendency to withdraw from family and loved ones, so what are you supposed to do when someone you care about has developed a "gambling addiction" .There are several things you will need to do and some of them are very hard to do. The first thing you have to do is to hide all your valuables, and if this person lives with you, then you need to keep them behind locked doors and if that is not possible then take them to a bank and lock them in a safety deposit box.If this person is you child or your spouse then you need to limit there access to your money. In many circumstances people have spent their family's savings and kid's college funds. So if at all possible try to get that persons name of the accounts if it is not already too late, and cancel all their credit cards.At some point you will have to confront them. When you do confront them it is important to not yell and do not get angry just tell them how what they are doing affects you. Make sure that all the persons close friends are there to help with this.It is important that everyone take turns and tell the person how his gambling has affected their relationships, but in a non angry, caring manner. This will help the person realize that the people that care about him see something that maybe he does not and hopefully will take an honest look at his gambling.Remember the goal of confronting someone is not to make them stop gambling, it is to help them recognize they have a gambling problem and to encourage them to seek professional help.Some people recommend that you try to get your friend to go to a gamblers anonymous meeting, but I do not recommend this. Gamblers Anonymous is a great organization that truly helps those with gambling problems stay away from gambling, but before you are ready for this most people need one on one sessions with a psychologist or a counselor trained to deal with gambling addiction.After all is said and done, you must be prepared because most of the time the gambler continues to gamble, maybe they will make a brief attempt to stop before starting again in secret.With most addictions the person with the problem needs to hit what they call a "bottom". This is when the gambler has lost everything that really meant anything to them, such as family and friends, and it is only at this point many will see the problem and seek help.If you know someone who is unwilling to admit their gambling problem I recommend that after you have tried your best to get this person to seek help if they do not, you may have to be prepared to leave them, remember at some point you have to abandon a sinking ship before you go down as well.To find more information on gambling addiction search gamblers Anonymous and Codependence websites.