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opposite tack espoused »

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There are Bond Kings and then there is the real Bond King. And the latter has been steadfastly bullish on Treasuries when they yielded 7%, 6%, 5%, 4%, 3% and 2%. And even with the benchmark 10-year note yield hitting a record low of 1.53% Thursday, he says they’re still a buy.

Robert Kessler, head of the eponymously named Denver-based Kessler Cos., may rightly be dubbed the reigning Bond King for his steadfast — and fiercely independent — view that Treasury securities were the investment of choice against the overwhelming opinion of the crowd that asserted they offered no value as their yields continued to fall.

Even the widely heralded Bill Gross of Pimco stumbled last year when Treasury yields fell in defiance of his call that they would rise. And Dan Fuss, whose prowess across the corporate-bond and global-debt markets is unequaled, has been wrong-footed in his view that the federal deficit would eventually but inevitably lift Treasury yields.

This also is a view heard in investment committees of institutions of all sorts, from pensions to endowments, that Treasuries at low yields offer no potential return given their low yields. It was expressed most vehemently by The Black Swan author Nicholas Nassem Taleb, who declared in a wrong-way call two years ago worthy of Meredith Whitney that “every single human being” should sell Treasuries short.

Those who have followed that advice through the (ticker: TBT) have suffered 53.42% negative total return in the past year and a negative annual return of 33.51% per annum over the past three years through May 30, according to fund tracker Morningstar.

By contrast, a conservative chanel handbags investor in the (IEF) — representing the sensible middle of the Treasury curve — would have reaped a 15.11% total return for the past 12 months and 9.22% burberry sale per annum for the past three years. More aggressive types who went for the iShares Barclays 20+ Year Treasury Bond ETF are looking at a 36.47% one-year return and 15.03% per annum for the past three years. And those who swung for the fences with the (EDV), among the most aggressive Treasury funds around, scored a 61.13% one-year return and 21.24% annually for the past three years, again per Morningstar data.

That’s all in the past. Kessler, whose clients who consist of high net-worth individuals and global institutions, sees no reason Treasury yields should not fall further, generating robust total returns. Moreover, he sees the current low level of yields as a clear warning sign to stock bulls.

In a wide-ranging telephone interview, Kessler sounded themes on which he has expounded before in previous conversations. Most particularly, Treasury yields are headed where he had expected all along — well before Greece and the rest of Europe began to exert downward pressure on prices of risky assets and yields on risk-free assets such as Treasuries and German bunds.

Simply put, Kessler says Treasury yields are the product of the Federal Reserve’s policy stance — which has been to peg the overnight federal-funds rate at virtually zero — and louis vuitton handbags inflation, which is nowhere in sight with the retreat in Commodity Research Bureau index and key prices such as copper.

Based on historical norms, the 10-year Treasury note would trade at 75-100 basis points (0.75 to one percentage point) above the fed-funds rate target. So a 1.20% 10-year T-note would be in line with past cycles. So, too, would a 30-year bond yielding 1.50%-1.60%, well below 2.66% currently.

But these times are different from history with deleveraging throughout the world economy. That means shrinking balance sheets as assets are shed and, Kessler contends, inevitable deflation. If anything, that would point to even lower yields.

From a trading standpoint, Kessler likes Treasury five-year notes at 0.67% or seven-year notes at 1.03%. How can you make money with those yields? Banks can lever Treasuries (conservatively) at 20 to 1, borrowing at nearly nil to produce 15% total returns.

It’s a casino, to be sure. But the house — the Fed — is paying everybody to play and win. That’s the reality, Kessler says, and those who reject reality inevitably lose at investing.

The other reality is what Treasury yields in the 1% range indicate about the economy and profits, he continues. Kessler says everybody advises buying dividend-paying Blue Chip stocks with high yields such as (JNJ), whose payout yields 3.90%.

But the Treasury market has been an unerring indicator where the economy and profits are headed, Kessler asserts. What good is a 4% dividend yield if stocks can fall 30%? That is the parlous state indicated by the depressed levels of Treasury yields, he says.

Kessler says he will get interested in stocks when the VIX — the index measuring volatility of options on the Standard & Poor’s 500 — soars to panic levels of 50-80, from the mid-20s level currently. By then, the S&P 500′s yield is apt to be closer to 6%, a level consistent historically with market bottoms.

Whether one agrees with Kessler, it would seem prudent to take the exact opposite tack espoused by Taleb. Every human being ought to own some Treasuries — to hedge risks in a diversified portfolio. The opinion expressed here previously is that Treasuries are effectively put options — that is, insurance — for risk assets.

Bond King Kessler contends that, as long as the Fed is pegging the funds rate at zero, deflation trumps inflation and deleveraging remains the dominant theme, interest rates will fall still further. So far, those who have ignored or have actively opposed his message are poorer for it.

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Stringer. »

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Longtime Apple industrial designer Chris Stringer testified that the company has a small team of 15 or 16 people that fashion all of the companys products.

The group meets frequently, literally sitting around a kitchen table, to debate all products under development.

Well sit there with our sketch books and trade ideas, Stringer said, appearing as the chanel handbags first witness in the trial. Thats where the really hard, brutal honest criticism comes in.

From there, the group puts the sketches into a computer-aided design program and, if warranted, creates a physical model.

Our role is to imagine products that dont exist and guide them to life, Stringer said.

There could be 50 designs for a single button, he added. Were a pretty maniacal group of people, he said.

This process, he notes, is what led to the iPhone and iPad among other products. With the iPhone, Stringer said the company wanted something that would wow people, burberry sale in louis vuitton handbags particular because Apple was new to the market.

Apple is , while Samsung is also seeking damages.

Stringer, who reports to Apple design chief Jony Ive, said he has been involved in every product Apple has released since he joined the company in 1995.

Earlier in the day, Apple made its opening argument alleging Samsung . Samsung, meanwhile, said the facts will show that it, like others, was inspired by the Apple products, but that .

Apple Senior VP Phil Schiller is expected to be the next witness, following Stringer.

Update, 3:06 p.m.: In later testimony, Stringer was shown an early model of the iPhone, which bore the label iPod. He was asked why it had the name iPod on the back.

Either we had not yet coined the term iPhone, or we were trying to disguise its iPhone identity, Stringer said.

Other models, created later, known generally as the extrudo models, feature a brushed metal look and a lozenge-like shape. Apple ultimately abandoned that approach, Stringer said, and returned to the design concepts present in the earlier model.

We found something more beautiful, Stringer said, noting that Apple decided to go revisit its earlier look, something it often does.
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the Home Office. »

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It was hard for Nick Clegg’s close aide to stomach. “We have lost the argument so badly,” he thought to himself as he reflected on all the headlines about “?9,000 tuition fees”.

Mr Reeves departed yesterday from his job as the Deputy Prime Minister’s director of strategy. He is off to Washington DC for family reasons, keeping a promise to his American wife Erica that their 12 and 10-year-old boys would be educated in the US.

He is still kicking himself over the university fees debacle which undoubtedly damaged Mr Clegg, for a broken election pledge more than an unpopular policy. Indeed, in a candid farewell interview, Mr Reeves admits he once kicked himself in the shins because of his own role in the debacle. He regrets that the near-trebling of fees was not branded a “capped graduate tax” and that he did not fight harder against the Treasury to ensure it was. “It was stupid; I was a bloody idiot,” he burberry sale now admits.

The 43-year-old former Labour aide, and ex-head of the free-thinking Demos think tank, is credited in Whitehall with winning important internal coalition battles ?C for a ?1bn youth contract to tackle the jobs crisis; a social mobility strategy including free childcare for two-year-olds and widening access to higher education (even though that was overshadowed by the fees rise).

He had a ringside seat as Mr Clegg thrashed out the necessary compromises of coalition with David Cameron ?C and didn’t always win. Topically, Mr Reeves discloses that the Liberal Democrats wanted a tougher line against the bankers burberry outlet than the Conservatives ?C including an extra 10 per cent tax on their bonuses for three years to raise ?1bn and a more binding agreement on lending. “We wanted it to have more teeth. It did not find favour with the Conservative side of the Coalition,” Mr Reeves admits.

Such candour would not have been shown in the heady days after the 2010 election. In a presentation to Lib Dem MPs then, Mr Reeves mapped out three phases for the Coalition. The first had to be about unity on cutting the deficit, to show that coalition works and put down firm foundations. Phase two would be “differentiation” to show voters the Lib Dems were not the same as the Tories, before a natural divergence ahead of the 2015 election.

Mr Reeves concedes that the “differentiation” phase went “further and faster” than he had envisaged, because the country voted No to electoral reform burberry bags and the Lib Dems sought major changes to Andrew Lansley’s NHS reforms.

There have been bumps in the road but he insists that the Coalition has settled down into a middle phase in which both parties have “room to breathe and be ourselves” but still provide stable government by sticking together on the deficit reduction programme.

Mr Reeves denies that a planned “Coalition 2.0″ relaunch has been dropped, but concedes there will be no “Coalition Agreement Mark Two” because “we have plenty on our plate”. Instead, there will be a progress report on the 2010 agreement, with some tweaks and new ideas added.

How will the Coalition end? Mr Reeves admits there could be an “intermediate” phase before the 2015 election but suspects it will last for only two or three months before the election ?C and “probably not” from 2014 as some expect. Equally, Lib Dem ministers could stay in their posts until polling day, he adds.

He acknowledges that a section of his party thinks it is on the “wrong trajectory”, wants to detach from the Tories and even wants a new leader. Yet he insists they are not in the majority and he “guarantees” that Mr Clegg “will definitely lead us into the next election”.

Mr Reeves concedes the “reward” from voters will be smaller than he had hoped because the deficit will not be cleared by 2015.

The Lib Dems cannot fight the next election as “insurgents”, he says, even though some members regard the Coalition as “an unfortunate interlude” and long for “the luxury of opposition”.

He is adamant that Mr Clegg, who shows “extraordinary grace and humour even under pressure”, is the right man to sell the Lib Dems as “a party of power”. In his eyes, the Tory modernisation project has “stalled”, so he departs optimistic about the Lib Dems’ chances of sharing power in another hung Parliament.

“We are alive and kicking,” Mr Reeves says with a smile. “We are just getting started. 2015 is only the beginning, not the end.”

Who’s left? Clegg’s inner circle

1. Jonny Oates (Chief of staff)

Was previously the director of policy burberry sunglasses and communications for the Liberal Democrats.

2. Neil Sherlock (Director of government relations)

Formerly an executive at KPMG, he joined the team this year.

3. Julian Astle (Deputy head, Downing Street policy unit)

Was director of the think tank CentreForum. In as maternity cover for Polly Mackenzie.

4. Olly Grender (Director of communications)

Was party’s director of communications under Paddy Ashdown. Covering for Lena Pietsch, who is on maternity leave.

5. James Sorene (Head of comms and official spokesman)

Civil servant who held senior posts in the Department of Health and the Home Office.
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defence weaponry »

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Any seizure would have been carried out by members of the Special Boat Service, SBS, the only military unit authorised to performing opposed embarkations at sea. The helicopters are believed to be the same ones that prompted US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, recently to berate Russia for sending military hardware to Syria.

Officials traveling with the Prime Minister on an official visit to Mexico City yesterday gave the first detailed account of a series of high-level meetings that happened at Whitehall at the end of last week as the authorities tracked the ship, the MV Alead, which was steaming southwards through the North Sea after departing from Leningrad port.

Mr Cameron was briefed on a continuous basis, they said, on the results of a series of meetings of the emergency Cobra committee as the ship approached waters off Dover. Officials said that at that point burberry bags “all options were on the table” about preventing the ship continuing its voyage towards Syria.? They did not deny that those options might have included an armed boarding and seizure of the vessel, an action that surely would burberry outlet have elicited Russian ire.

As the Government consulted with Denmark and the Netherlands on options for stopping it, the ship abruptly turned around on Friday, they said. But by the end of the weekend it was in burberry sunglasses the Hebrides area and bound westwards apparently on a course to go around Scotland and then south again towards the Straits of Gibraltar.

The crisis only eased, it seems, when an international maritime insurance firm was persuaded to withdraw coverage of the ship and its cargo.? At noon on Monday, the ship had turned eastwards again.? Yesterday, it was reported to be back in the Baltic seemingly headed back to Russia.?

The near-scrape on the seas was raised by Mr Cameron at a bilateral meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Los Cabos G20 summit yesterday, sources said.? He directly challenged him about arming the Syrian regime. Mr Putin responded with the assertion that other countries had been arming opposition forces in Syria.

Britain is expected to push the European Union to redraft parts of its arms embargo on Syria to extend it into the area of insurance.? The changes would mean that any company found to be selling coverage to vessels bearing arms to Syra would be in violation of the sanctions.? They said it would be handled at a foreign ministers council meeting in Brussels next burberry sale week.

Asked directly if plans were laid to seize the Alead the senior UK official said they had “considered all options”.? Officials believe the three helicopters were already owned by the Syrian regime but had been sent to Russia for servicing.? Returning them to Syria would have increased the size of its helicopter fleet by 10 per cent.? Some air defence weaponry was also thought to be on the Alead.
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Pension vs Isa: The big debate
UPDATED:17:40 GMT, 10 November 2011

Which is better, an Isa or a pension? Over the last few years, it’s become the big debate among retirement savers.

Everyone from granny to graduate has a view – but for most of us these days, Isas rule supreme.

And they dominant the savings world for very good reasons.

Ask yourself burberry sale this: how many ways can you save money, get instant access to your cash, and enjoy protection from the Government’s tax-grabbing mitts?

Answers on a postcard please (clue: pensions ain’t one of them).

With the amount you can save each year raised to ?10,680, a maximum of ?5,340 in cash, savvy savers have quickly come to regard Isas as long-term homes for their nest eggs.

But what about pensions? Are they still worthwhile?

A few years ago, the final salary pension was a mainstay of the British workplace. And that certainly was worthwhile. Millions of workers knew they would retire in comfort, which often meant two-thirds of their final income.

But such bounteous company perks have died a in the 21st Century. At the last count, just 21 per cent of schemes were still open to new members in the private sector, compared with 88 per cent ten years ago. Around 17 per cent are closed to existing members as well, the National Association of Pension Funds says.

We’re left with a barren landscape of ‘defined contribution’ schemes, where retirement income depends on how much you save and how fast this grows.

And yet around 14m people in Britain still have a pension. There has been a decline in the numbers still contributing with some 8.3million stowing money away last year, according to the Office for National Statistics. But this is largely due to the household squeeze on incomes, experts say.

The industry is still firing on (most of its) cylinders and modern schemes have lower charges. The Government is keen, too, and from 2012 will ask employers to automatically enroll staff into company schemes.

So surely there burberry outlet must be benefits? Right. There are. One is a new ability to . You’re now able to convert up to 100% of pots into cash once you hit 55 (only for the very wealthy) and leave any unused money to your loved ones on death.

But you’ve been able to do that with Isas for ages. So back to the big debate – what’s the verdict? Isa or pension? We asked five independent experts for the lowdown.

We want you to get involved in the Big pension vs Isa debate, too. What do you reckon? Leave your thoughts in the reader comments at the bottom of this page.
Pension pros:

- Tax relief

When you pay money into a pension the Government refunds the income tax you paid on it. Effectively, basic rate taxpayers only need to put in ?80 to see ?100 go into their pot; 40 per cent taxpayers burberry sunglasses only need to put in ?60 to see ?100 added (they need to claim back 20 per cent via the taxman). When you draw on your pension you are taxed at income levels again. But in all probability you are going to have a smaller income and usually this means basic rate tax. According to Lorreine Kennedy, an adviser at Care Matters, this could mean you’re 33 per cent better off than with an Isa.

- High contribution limits

Pensions have high annual contribution limits of 100 per cent of earnings, subject to an overall cap of ?50,000 and a lifetime allowance of ?1.5million (from April 2012).

- Employee benefits

Many companies have a staff pension scheme. Lots of these used to be generous, ‘gold-plated’ final salary arrangements. But now most depend on you sacrificing chunks of your salary and watching a pot grow (slowly).

However, most employers will at least match your pension contributions – some even put in more. So if you contribute, say, 6 per cent your employer might put in another 6 per cent or even 8 per cent. Look at this as a pay rise – it’d be madness to say no.

And as you can save on National Insurance, too. With a pension you can elect for a salary sacrifice which will allow you to avoid National Insurance of 11 per cent. So a basic rate tax payer could have tax relief at 20 per cent on the contribution, plus 11 per cent national insurance saving. An Isa doesn’t have any of these tax luxuries.

- Tax-free growth

Virtually tax free growth within the fund. That should mean your money’s safely stored away from the Government’s prying eyes. Pension funds did used to get dividend tax credits. But Gordon Brown axed this bonus in 1997. The move is said to have cost pension funds around ?5bn a year. So much for ‘safely stored’, then.

?? Video: Are pensions worth the effort?

Pension cons

- Not accessible until 55

This is where a pension falls down; you do not have immediate access to your cash in a time of crisis. Any money in a pension cannot be accessed until you reach 55. And even then, you will need to purchase an annuity – an insurance product that pays a set income for the rest of your life – unless you have a pretty large pot (size to be decided by the Government). []

- They’re complicated

Pensions are difficult to understand and are run in complex ways. This can be very off-putting for ordinary savers who just want to know how much they need to put aside and what they’ll get back in old age.

- Government meddling

Watch out, Brown/Cameron/Blair/Thatcher (insert your PM of choice here) is about! Past governments have tinkered and fudged the pensions system to no end. It’s made it difficult for savers to feel that their nest eggs are secure.


And this could keep happening, says David Thurlow: ‘You can’t access your pension fund until the Government says you can ? this used to be 50, has recently been increased to 55 but could rise again. At present, you are allowed to take 25% of the pension fund as a tax free lump sum, but again, it is possible that a future government could abolish or restrict availability of this.’

Isa pros

Flexible options

Isas come in two types: a cash Isas (basically a savings account) and stocks and shares Isas (a wrapper that you can either place individual shares in, or more often a fund that will pick shares and bonds on your behalf).

- Read more:

- Instant access

This is what makes Isas such winners. With both cash and shares Isas, you can get at your money as and when you want. Even fixed-rate cash Isas only see your money tied up for a few years. For those keen to ensure they can access their savings in an emergency ? here’s your ready-made answer.


- Simple tax rules

Once your money is in a cash Isa, you will not have to talk to the taxman again. It won’t be taxed as it grows and the income you take is totally tax-free.

- The ‘wrapper’ effect

Stocks and shares Isas act as tax ‘wrappers’. As well as tax-free growth, you do not have to pay Capital Gains Tax (CGT). The only tax payable is dividend tax at 10 per cent, which applies for both basic and higher rate taxpayers. Outside Isas, higher rate taxpayers pay 32.5 per cent. And if you use a fund supermarket as your Isa ‘wrapper’, costs are significantly cheaper than with a pension.

- Read more:

- Means-testing in retirement

Used as a source of income, Isas have certain benefits for retirees. ‘The Isa really comes into it’s own at the time the person decides to stop working and start drawing an income from the fund,’ says Lorreine Kennedy.

Danny Cox explains: ‘Tax free income from Isa has no impact on age related allowances for the over 65s, no impact on personal allowances for those with income over ?100,000 and there is no requirement to record on a tax return.’

- Lasting simplicity

You put your money in, you take your money out – it’s very, very simple.

Isa cons

- No tax relief on contributions

There’s no tax-back incentive as described for pensions above. So any growth isn’t as powerful. ‘On paper a pension will always produce a bigger fund for the same contribution because of the tax relief,’ explains Danny Cox.

- Saving limits

You can only pay a maximum of ?10,680 into Isas each year. You can invest all of it into a stocks and shares Isa, or save up to ?5,340 into a cash Isa. These limits might well be sufficient for most people. Think about it, over the course of a 40-year working career, you can put away at least ?430,000 (Isa limits rise each year by inflation), which will have grown over time. But what about those wanting to save more or who start late? Perhaps you can only afford to start saving for retirement when you reach your 40s – the limit here is serious restriction.

David Thurlow says: ‘One of the biggest drawbacks with an Isa is the contribution levels. A maximum of ?10,680 can be paid into an Isa each year, whereas for most people allowable contributions to pensions are much higher’.

- No employer contributions

David Thurlow of Atkinson Bolton says: ‘Employers can’t pay into ISAs but can pay into pensions. So if your employer will pay into your pension, it is nearly always best to receive this.’

- Means-testing while young

While you are still working, an Isa will affect most means tested benefits, such as income support, whereas a pension pot pre-retirement will not.


- Danny Cox (Hargreaves Lansdown)

‘Isas provide an ideal way to grow tax-free cash savings as well as building capital by investing in the stock market. Isas are a better choice if access to savings is needed before age 55 or if 100 per cent of the capital is required at once.

‘In reality, most people should spread their savings between Isa and pension, so they have funds which they can access if they need to, whilst at the same time taking advantage of the tax benefits of pension for retirement savings.


- David Thurlow (Atkinson Bolton)

‘In my view, many basic rate taxpayers should maximise their Isas before paying into pensions. The flexibility of the ISA gives it a clear edge, especially as with the pension they will get basic rate tax relief up font but end up paying basic rate tax on most of the income. For higher rate taxpayers, especially those that are likely to be basic rate taxpayers in retirement, the pension has the advantage, if you are comfortable with the inflexibility and the risk of government meddling with the rules. Where employers are paying into the pension scheme, this opportunity should be maximised.’

- Jason Witcombe (Evolve Financial Planning)

‘For basic rate taxpayers my view is that Isas are generally better. With the exception of contributions made via an employer scheme, why would you tie money up in a pension for 20 per cent tax relief when the odds are you will pay at least 20 per cent tax in retirement?’

‘However, higher rate taxpayers should focus burberry bags more on pensions. Take an extreme example. Someone with an income of ?110,000 is paying an effective rate of income tax of 60% on the top ?10,000 of their income due to the loss of Personal Allowance. Paying money into a pension gets round this. Given the choice, most people would take ?10,000 in their pension versus ?4,000 of post tax income that they could put into an ISA.’

- Lorreine Kennedy (Care Matters)

‘Anyone planning for their retirement should consider both pensions and Isas. It depends on how much you can afford to save. If you are considering contributing a modest sum of ?20 per month, then perhaps a cash Isa on its own may be most appropriate route. Anyone able to save more than the annual Isa allowance should generally consider investing the excess into a pension.’

What do you think? Have the experts got it right or is there more to it? Share your views in the reader comments below…
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celebrities culture »

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Stars paid ?60,000 to sit on a fashion show front row: The Mail investigates the catwalk’s dirty little secret


PUBLISHED:01:37 GMT, 10 March 2012 UPDATED:08:21 GMT, 12 March 2012

As fashion statements go, it was hardly vintage Chanel. Sitting in the front row this week at the most important fashion show of the labels year was a heavily made-up young woman with bright blue hair and rather unsightly black roots.

Not that anyone was paying attention to her hairstyle, given the manner in which her impressive decolletage was on display to the world in a see-through dress.

The occasion was Paris Fashion Week, and Katy Perry was the star attraction. Never mind the clothes the presence of a pop star guaranteed global headlines.

Yet no one in the hand-picked audience at the Chanel event paused to ask why Miss Perry, a native of California, had taken time out of her busy schedule to fly over to Europe for a fashion show. They did not ask because, among the fashion elite, the answer is an open secret. While millions of women would give anything to attend such an event, for certain celebrities a more pragmatic and lucrative arrangement is in place.

It has been going on for years, yet due to a long-standing pact of silence no one has been prepared to discuss it. Until this week, that is, when the London-based designer Nicole Farhi broke ranks to spit venom at a practice she described as abominable.

It is so unprofessional, I have never paid a celebrity and I will never do it. Its stupid, blasted the 65-year-old French-born designer.

What do they show you in the papers after a fashion show? Not the clothes, but the celebrities who are being paid to sit at the show.

They [fellow designers] will all hate me for [saying] it. I dont give a s*** because I think it is abominable. These uncompromising words have opened an extraordinary can of worms. For far from being some outlandish slur, they are the unspoken truth.

Cash for celebrities, it transpires, has long been standard practice. So when you spot Rihanna sitting in a fashion show, what you dont see is the ?60,000 she has reportedly been handed in return for the favour.

Beyonce, her fellow A-List pop star, is said to attract a similar wage, while the more penny-pinching labels might secure American actress Chloe Sevigny for a mere ?40,000.

These figures revealed by the respected website Fashionista and picked up by a number of mainstream news outlets in the U.S. are just the tip of the iceberg. In a rapidly changing world where bloggers are now major players and given plum seats at all the shows, Fashionista is no mere gossip burberry sale rag.

A spokesperson for Chanel confirmed the working relationship with Katy Perry, but declined to elaborate on the financial arrangement, saying: Katy Perry is a client, and as a company policy we do not communicate on our clients.

To the average civilian, this may come as a shock. To those within the industry, it raises barely a shrug.

As Jeff Banks, the veteran British designer, told me this week: It has been going on for 25 years.

These days, hiring celebrities is an integral part of the big labels marketing strategies. Whether theyre wearing your clothes on the red carpet or sitting on the front row at your show, the effect is the same. Its expensive, but some labels will consider it money well spent.

And if youre going to pay Charlize Theron ?1.3??million to advertise perfume, why not apply the same logic to getting coverage for your fashion shows?

It is a message the fashion world has taken to heart. During any fashion week, a celebrity at your show gives you twice the media exposure. Media alerts are sent out daily, with a list of celebrities expected to attend events. The stakes are high.

During London Fashion Week, different houses battle it out for an estimated ?100??million spent on orders during the six days of events. With around 100 shows taking place, competition is fierce for coverage in the next days newspapers.

This year, the most notable example of this was Burberrys show, which saw its front row packed with a host of well-known faces including Alexa Chung, actor Jeremy Irvine and model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley.

Mulberry also saw its show splashed across websites and papers after it boasted a celebrity-filled front row including stars from ITV drama Downton Abbey.

Counter-intuitively, however, it is understood that neither of these shows paid for the celebrities to attend. So how did they pull it off?

There are three reasons celebrities sit on the front row, says Imogen Edwards-Jones, whose bestseller Fashion Babylon exposes the inner workings of the rag trade.

Either they are paid, they want the publicity themselves which I think was the case at the Mulberry show or they are friends with the designer and go as a favour.

She adds: Sienna Miller, for example, has been very close to [fashion designer] Matthew Williamson for years and will always go along to support him. But an awful lot of them are being paid in cash or by other means.

Those other means have, by all accounts, been rather colourful in the past. Imogen adds: I know of one major fashion label which, back in the Eighties and early Nineties, used to send celebrities a package containing a wedge of cash, a designer dress and a wrap of cocaine. That was their way of ensuring the after-show party went with a bang.

Times have changed, though. These days, the big labels are almost entirely owned by multinational conglomerates, so its a more businesslike arrangement.

Simply coming up with the cash is not enough, however. Fashion houses agonise endlessly about the kind of celebrities who will synch well with the brand. Then they have to persuade them to make an appearance.

This is when the process tends to go off-the-record. Besides cash payments, there are more subtle methods, such as the offer of free first-class flights to Paris, Milan or New York, complimentary suites in luxury hotels and lots of expensive goodies.

Most of the time the celebrities keep quiet but not always. Pop star Lily Allen, for example, was deliciously indiscreet about being given the front-row treatment at the 2007 Paris fashion shows. The reason I went to the shows was to get the free stuff, she gleefully revealed. How much is there? Loads.

Following the Yves Saint Laurent show, she was taken to the flagship store and told to help herself emerging with ?5,000-worth of dresses, handbags and accessories. She was also treated royally by rival fashion houses Sonia burberry sunglasses Rykiel and Cacharel.

For some reason, however, the fashion houses are not keen for these matters to be in the public domain. So when Versace was accused of paying pop star Prince to attend its show in Paris, putting him up in a plush suite at the Ritz and paying his airfare, the companys press representatives vehemently denied the story.

There is a certain piquancy to the denial, however, given Versaces dubious status as the label which invented fashions celebrity culture in the Eighties.

After Giorgio Armani dressed Richard Gere in the Eighties film American Gigolo, Gianni Versace went all out for superstar endorsements. Speculation was rife as to just how much either designer was prepared to pay anyone to attend their shows.

By the late Nineties, it was rumoured that Nicole Kidman was being paid more than ?1??million simply to wear Dior to significant social occasions.

On very rare occasions, some designers have spoken out against the culture.

In 1999, Alexander McQueen refused to invite Victoria Beckham to his show, arguing that her presence would be an unwelcome distraction. I cant get sucked into that celebrity thing because I think its crass, he said.

McQueens contemporary, Hussein Chalayan, also spoke out.

Picking up an award at the British Fashion Awards the following year, after Mrs Beckham made another high-profile Fashion Week appearance, this time as a model, he told the gathering: Id like to take this opportunity to say how disappointing it was this week that all the press were so impressed by celebrities appearing on catwalks. It was especially disappointing because that space could have been given to all the designers who bust their gut in the last week or so. Its Fashion Week, not Celebrity Week.

Strong words. So what was the outspoken Chalayans response when approached for a comment on fashions obsession with celebrities this week?

He never said that, insisted his representative. Then, when presented with the facts: But that was ten years ago. Back-tracking swiftly, the PR minion stated categorically that the designer has since changed his mind and has absolutely nothing to say on the subject today.

A swift look at the Hussein Chalayan website suggests an explanation for this new-found coyness. Look whos wearing Chalayan, swoons the blog, accompanied by photographs of Rihanna wearing a Chalayan sweater, along burberry outlet with actresses Tilda Swinton and Cate Blanchett in a brace of his creations on the red carpet.

There are at least some designers, besides Nicole Farhi, who go public with their criticism. Two years ago, Marc Jacobs denounced celebrity culture as boring and has burberry bags since banned stars from his shows.

He, however, has no need to court publicity. As creative director of Louis Vuitton, he is one of the most influential names in fashion, with the High Street eagerly awaiting his offerings each season to churn out their cheaper interpretations.

And as he demonstrated just this week, turning up at his own show in a pink dress and pirate buckle shoes was quite enough to grab the attention of the paparazzi, without celebrity help. For much of the industry, however, the practice of paying celebrities to attend known as wrangling continues unabated.

Emma Whitehair, who runs the London-based fashion PR business White Smoke Communications, says: I know for a fact they would pay celebrities to sit on the front row. Its unfair: some people secure talent because they have genuine friendships and the celebrity likes the brand. Others have paid.

Her view is corroborated by Abe Gurko, who runs a fashion talent and PR agency in New York. He says: Once word got out that people were being paid, everyone jumped on the bandwagon.

They [the demands] kept coming. I had a manager say: She will do it for $125,000 [?78,000]. I said: Have a nice day.

All this back-room dealing cheapens the whole business. And I dont think its going to stop.

And so the celebrity bandwagon rolls on. Yet is it really such an abominable practice? As Jeff Banks puts it: Sports stars are paid appearance fees all the time and nobody bats an eyelid. Its how the likes of Usain Bolt and Mark Cavendish make most of their money. Whats the difference?

Fashion houses can spend their budget however they see fit. Its business, not something to be ashamed of.

Yet for as long as the conspiracy of silence persists, this cash-for-celebrities culture will endure as fashions dirty little secret.
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total. For more information or tobook, visit or call 01386 701177 <a href=" »

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How to find the big thrills in Derbyshire’s beautiful hills (even with the wrong shoes)

UPDATED:15:18 GMT, burberry bags 19 May 2010

In the darkness, and glanced at from the farthest corner of my eye, I was momentarily convinced that the abominable snowman had ditched the Himalayas in favour of terrorising innocent weekenders in the Derbyshire Dales.

Wed been happily whipping around the bends that snake through the upper reaches of the Manifold Valley, edging ever closer to our holiday cottage in the tiny village burberry sale of Wetton, when out of the surrounding black came something horrible.

What was that?

I dont know, just keep driving!

A wobbly start to spring: a baby lamb takes its first steps

Hazedby pounding rain and a SatNav that seemed wedded to the idea of landingus in a field – all we knew for sure was that this creature of thenight had big, pointy teeth.

Whendawn broke the next day, daylight revealed wed actually jumped out ofour skins over a soft toy – a life-size purple shark to be precise -that some joker had positioned at the door of a lone stable.

Terrifying teddies aside, the new morning also brought a reminder of why this undulating portion of England remains so alluring.

At Derbyshires heart lies the Peak District, 555 square miles of scenic drama that counts dales, valleys, woodland, rock faces, caves and moors among its landscape credentials.

The beast of… er, Derbyshire: Jo and gang were confronted by this fearsome creature – a soft shark toy

Sheets of pale green fields billow high and low grounded only by grey-stone villages and pretty towns with names like Leek, Ible and Fenny Bentley.

I half expected to see Postman Pat rounding a corner in his van, fresh from delivering mail in Greendale.

Wetton, our home for the weekend, put a diverse jumble of attractions within striking distance, from Alton Towers over the county border in Staffordshire to the newly spruced-up Chatsworth House.

Plenty of opportunity for twitching awaits too, with sites such as Tittesworth Reservoir, home to ducks, lapwings and kingfishers and the Wye Valley, where redstarts, woodpeckers and ravens roam, close by.

But this wasnt a weekend to bespent cooing at the Duke of Devonshires heirlooms in Chatsworth orbeing scared witless by theme park rides (including newpsycho-coaster Thirteen), this was about the primal pleasures thatyour own two feet – and a decent map – can bring.

Derbyshire dream: The Peak District has long been a nirvana for fell walkers

Sportingan eclectic variety of footwear – some highly unsuitable for gnarlydale walking – our seven-strong group (and Elvis the dog) set out fromWetton across the White Peak area on a march back in time.

360million years ago, the Manifold Valley was under the ocean, and the limestone that is so abundant here was being formed by millions of sea creatures.

On a dismal spring day in 2010, the rain was doing a fine job of helping us imagine what this landscape might have looked like submerged.

Venturing off the Manifold Way,where the tracks of the Leek and Manifold Light Railway fell between1904 and 1934, we made our way up grassy mounds and down narrow,pebble-studded ridges.

We negotiated stiles and tried notto contemplate how far it might be possible to slide down thesteepening hills around us should one of us lose our footing.

Our first major landmark came quickly. Thors Cave, a natural chasm in a limestone rockface that stretches 7.5metres wide and 10 metres high, has been a tourist marker for centuries.

Archaeologists have unearthed all sorts of treasures from this gaping fissure including bronze items, stone tools and amber beads but with the stone beneath our feet now as dicey as an alpine black run, we decided to leave Thor in peace and instead admire the wide views of the valley below from the mouth of cave.

From here, we ventured through a patchof woodland where birch trees covered in an electric green moss latticeabove us.

Sunday strolling: Jo takes the bridge at Derbyshire tourist spot Dovedale

With walking sticks fashioned out of fallen branches proppingus up, we spent the next two hours trailing a path that took us througha valley and over more sheep-nibbled hills back to Wetton.

Back at the ranch, unsuitable shoeswere hosed down (possibly never to be worn again) and we thumped downon the sofa with the kind of satisfaction C and subsequent hunger -that only a long walk in burberry outlet bad weather can bring.

The Ivy Room and Reading Room, twoadjoining stone properties that sleep 11 in total and include amongtheir charms wood-burning fires, two bikes, flatscreen televisions andample room for a big group – and a well-behaved pet – to mooch aroundhappily in without getting under each others feet.

A pub, the OldeRoyal Oak, lies 100 yards away, should you need some social interactionbeyond your group, although dont expect a knees-up, this is a one-pubtown that the word remote could have been coined for.

The sizeable dining table in the IvyRoom became our social hub. The use of two kitchens saw us string outthree epic meals with plenty of wine bought from the nearbymarket town of Ashbourne.

Dovedale, possibly the most popularstring in Derbyshires bow, beckoned the next day. The walk fromriverside idyll Milldale to Dovedale is a lovely one and at around 90minutes, isnt too challenging.

In deep: Dovedale’s stepping stones are ever popular…with humans that is – dogs beg to differ.

The famous stepping stones at the end,a burberry sunglasses doddle in summer but flooded during our visit, add theatre forbystanders.

We watched a handful of walkers try topersuade their canine companions to tackle the stones. The poochesultimately all resisted and the owners were left with wet feet and redfaces. (Elvis, being a very special kind of dog was carried across).

Anice cream van serving up scoops of Derbyshire ice cream in a rainbow offlavours somehow still seemed highly appealing, even in dodgy weather.

A final delicious Sunday lunch around our tablein Wetton set us on our way home. As we began themeandering drive on those winding roads, we were greeted with the sightof days-old lambs, mere balls of fluff on wobbling legs. Lets hopethat shark doesnt get them when night falls.

Travel facts
Rural Retreats offer three-night staysat Ivy House and the Reading Room from ?871 and seven nights from?1,392. The properties sleep 11 in total. For more information or tobook, visit or call 01386 701177
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future of our hedges is in your hands. »

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The private passions lurking behind our privet


PUBLISHED:17:15 GMT, 17 May 2012 UPDATED:12:47 GMT, 18 May 2012

A British hedgerow in May is one of the worlds natural wonders. These fragrant marvels of foaming blackthorn blossom and clots of creamy elderflowers tangled up with honeysuckle and wild rose have always inspired painters, poets and composers.

They have also inspired Hugh Barker. His delightful, hedge-fact packed book is such a compelling read that it had me craving a pair of telescopic topiary loppers even though I dont own a hedge.

Having hedge-hunted across Britain, Barker reports on mazes, posh knot-gardens, neatly trimmed suburban privets, sprawling neglected laurels, hedges clipped to resemble cats, cars and pyramids, the exquisite tamarisk windbreak surrounding St Enodoc churchyard where John Betjeman rests, and a spectacular hedge of elephant-shaped, wind-twisted giant yews.

Along the way he encountered hedge-laying champions who keep the ancient skill alive, topiary fanatics, a footballer whose privet is trimmed in the shape of the Manchester United Football Club badge, and campaigning conservationists meticulously re-planting old-style hedgerows.

He met a man whose front garden shrubs were shaped into a giant whale from whose blow-hole shot a spray of white blooms (sadly the council took a chainsaw to it), and he mentions the growing craze for hedge-diving (throwing yourself into a hedge) after too many drinks, an activity often featured on YouTube.

Barker says: An Englishmans home is his castle, but rather than a moat, he plants a hedge to keep the world at bay.

Alas, sometimes that hedge leads to disputes that end in violence, death or a cripplingly expensive court-case. Particularly if the hedge is of the fast-growing Leylandii variety – burberry sale with its greed for moisture, its ability to grow a 100ft tall, and its inability to sustain wildlife. One man was so enraged by his neighbours hedge that he took to secretly peeing on its roots each night, causing it to die. Caught on camera the Midnight Piddler as he was known, spent time in jail.

In Lincolnshire a dispute between neighbours over a 15ft-high Leylandii resulted in one shooting dead the other, and then hanging himself in his burberry sunglasses cell while awaiting trial.

The hedgerows that criss-cross Britains countryside, now admired for their loveliness and ecological importance, were once widely hated by the burberry bags rural population.

Between 1750-1850 the common grazing land was gradually divided into private enclosures, denying access to locals. Explaining how this biggest land-grab in history involved the planting of 2,000 miles of hedging each year, Barker calculates that if they had been planted in a straight line these would have created a hedge that stretched round the world eight times.

Our hedges support butterflies, bees, bugs, birds, snails and small mammals, and a large variety of plants. Barker describes them as something of a smorgasbord for wildlife – providing caterpillars, berries, rosehips, earthworms and mice for owls?.?.?. Even garden hedges, in towns and cities, support a diversity of flora and fauna, while dense garden hedges absorb fumes and purify the air, helping to combat the polluting effect of traffic – one more reason to avoid concreting the front garden for a parking space.

Barker introduces us to mysterious hedge-related words – suckering, pleacher, holloway, lollypopping – while deploring that miles of ancient hedgerows have been grubbed up to make space for farming.

He also has a brilliant suggestion for the Prime Minister. He proposes the hedgerow should become the new national symbol of Britain. He suggests that a green, gold and brown design, with dazzling white flecks to represent hawthorn blossom, could replace the red, white and blue of the union flag which, he says, reminds him of a garishly painted five-bar gate.

He points out that the three main political parties already have a tree, rose and bird as their symbols, so why not carry this rustic imagery into the national symbol? Terrific idea! Lets burberry outlet hear it for hedges.

And heres another – perhaps all those hedge-fund millionaires (hedge-hogs?) could contribute their ill-gotten gains to a national hedge-planting scheme in response to Barkers noble cry: People of Britain – the future of our hedges is in your hands.
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hore beneath your seat. »

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Posted by Chris Leadbeater, Travel Writer, TravelMail

The line about how you should ‘live to eat, not eat to live’ might seem a little crass at a time when food prices are soaring – but, in my experience at least, there are occasions when this idea of finding pleasure on a plate has a definite ring of truth to it.

Here at TravelMail we don’t often focus on the culinary side of holidays, but I wanted to break that habit by drawing attention to two restaurants that I have encountered on recent overseas jaunts. Neither eatery is one of those chandelier-laden showpieces you find in five-star hotels, and neither is located in a big city – but I mention them because, if you happen to be in their neighbourhood, yet don’t pay a visit, you have certainly missed out. Both tally with the ‘live to eat, not eat to live’ ethos for the same reason – they come equipped with a view so fine it makes the menu almost irrelevant.

The first of the pair is Nepenthe (, which lies in the Californian coastal village of Big Sur, just off a hairpin bend on the iconic Highway One. The food is what you might expect from any good American restaurant – monster steaks and fresh seafood by the trawler-load – but the best thing on offer is undoubtedly the panorama that awaits if you choose to eat on the back veranda.

You sit – under an outdoor heat-lamp if the wind is roaring in off the Pacific – and look south along the rugged shoreline. You can probably picture the scene – the Santa Lucia Mountains on the left, seabirds darting above the spray as the ocean crashes to land on the right. If you can’t envisage it, the image at the top of this blog should give you an idea – as should the live webcam . In short, it’s the type of jaw-drop vista that would make a plate of wriggling worms taste fabulous, let alone seared tuna.

The second restaurant is even trickier to find. Jemma’s Seaview Kitchen (001-868-660-4066), hidden outside the tiny town of Speyside on the remote eastern edge of Tobago, could not be more aptly named. The dining area is a giant treehouse that sits wedged between the branches of a huge almond tree – branches that hang above the beach (see the photo above). Which means that, when your plate of red snapper arrives, you devour it while listening to the waves roaring to shore beneath your seat.

Oddly, there is a Hollywood link (of sorts) between the two eateries. Nepenthe started life as a small shack in an idyllic spot – a shack bought in 1944 by Orson Welles. The star of Citizen Kane overhauled the building to make it a residence fit for a princess – his then-wife, Rita Hayworth – only for the screen siren to take one look at the property and refuse to spend a single night there. Five years later, it opened as a restaurant.

Hayworth turned up in Tobago ten years later. She didn’t eat at Jemma’s (it didn’t exist), but did film scenes for Fire Down Below – the 1957 love-triangle drama in which she dazzled alongside Jack Lemmon and Robert Mitchum – near Speyside. The taxi driver who gave me a tour of the area, a wise soul into the autumn of his life, had driven for Hayworth during the shoot, and described her as an icy lady only interested in retiring to her hotel (the Blue Haven Hotel, which still exists) at the end of the day.

Of course, movie history recalls that Fire Down Below was Hayworth’s first role in four years (she took a career break during her turbulent fourth marriage), and that she struggled with nerves throughout – so perhaps she was merely tired and preoccupied by the time she climbed into her cab home. Either way, it seems she failed to appreciate two of the finest views I have come across in the course of my travels. If you find yourself in Big Sur or Tobago in the near future, don’t repeat her ‘mistake’.
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Four further countries »

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Europe to build world’s biggest telescope powerful enough to see mountains on planets beyond our solar system


PUBLISHED:08:52 GMT, 12 June 2012 UPDATED:13:12 GMT, 12 June 2012

A coalition of 15 European countries has announced plans to build the biggest telescope in the world.

The mirror inside the telescope will measure 39metres across – four times wider than today’s biggest telescope – and it will be so powerful that astronomers will even be able to observe dark, rocky planets far beyond our solar system.

The European Southern Observatory project is supported by 15 members of the European Union and has the catchy name ‘European Extremely Large Telescope’… even if it will be built in Chile, to avoid light pollution.

The twin infrared/optical telescope will sit on top of a 3,060metre mountaintop, giving unparralled views of the sky above, and should hopefully come online in 2022.

Astronomers hope the observatory will help provide insights into the formation of galleries and the nature of black holes

They also hope to shed light on two of the biggest mysteries of our universe – the formation of ‘dark matter’, which cannot be directly observed but is hypothesised to make up most of the mass of the universe, and ‘dark energy’, which appears to driving the universe to expand at an accelerating rate.

ESO agreed to the optical/infrared telescope in Garching, Germany, (E-ELT) Programme, pending confirmation of final referendums.

All of ESO’s member states have already expressed very strong support for the E-ELT project.

At the council meeting, Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland voted in favour of the start of the E-ELT programme.

Four further countries voted in favour ad referendum: Belgium, Finland, Italy, and the United Kingdom.

The project has an estimated cost of 1083million euro, or ?872m.

ESO director general, Tim de Zeeuw said: ‘This is an excellent outcome and a great day for ESO.

‘We can now move forward on schedule with this giant project.’

2012 marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of the ESO. It is supported by 15 countries: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

The team operate three observing sites in Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor.

At Paranal, ESO operates the Very Large Telescope, the world’s most advanced visible-light astronomical observatory and two survey telescopes.
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