Health report links antibiotics to risk of miscarriage

Canadian study finds taking the drugs raises chances of having a miscarriage by between 60% and 100%

Many common antibiotics may double the risk of miscarriage in early pregnancy, research has shown.

A Canadian study has found that taking the drugs raised the chances of having a miscarriage by between 60% and 100%.

The link was seen with several classes of antibiotic including macrolides, quinolones, tetracyclines, sulphonamides and metronidazole. However, nitrofurantoin, often used to treat urinary tract infections in pregnant women, had no effect on miscarriage risk. Nor did the widely used antibiotic erythromycin.

The researchers looked at data from almost 9,000 cases of miscarriage at an average time of 14 weeks into pregnancy, involving girls and women aged between 15 and 45.

The study leader, Dr Anick Brard, from the University of Montreal in Quebec, said: Infections are prevalent during pregnancy. Although antibiotic use to treat infections has been linked to a decreased risk of prematurity and low birth weight in other studies, our investigation shows that certain types of antibiotics are increasing the risk of spontaneous abortion, with a 60% to two-fold increased risk.

Women who miscarried were more likely to be older, living alone, and to have multiple health issues and infections. But all these factors were accounted for in the analysis, whose findings are published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Dr Brard added: The increased risk was not seen for all antibiotics, which is reassuring for users, prescribers and policymakers.

The researchers identified a total of 182,369 pregnancies from the Quebec pregnancy cohort, a large population group from the province providing data for ongoing studies. Of these, 8,702 (4.7%) ended with an early miscarriage.

Writing in the journal, the team concluded that there was a link between some antibiotics and an increased risk of miscarriage, but added: However, residual confounding by severity of infection cannot be ruled out.

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Robert Pirsig: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance author dies aged 88

Book telling the father-son story of a motorcycle trip across the western United States was published in 1974 and quickly became a best-seller

Robert Pirsig, author of the influential 1970s philosophical novel Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, has died at the age of 88.

Peter Hubbard, executive editor of his publisher William Morrow & Co, said in a statement that Pirsigs wife Wendy had confirmed his death at his home in Maine after a period of failing health.

Published in 1974 after being rejected by more than 100 other publishers, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, was the father-son story of a motorcycle trip across the western United States. Loosely autobiographical, it also contained flashbacks to a period in which the author was diagnosed as schizophrenic.

The book quickly became a best-seller. Pirsig said its protagonist set out to resolve the conflict between classic values that create machinery, such as a motorcycle, and romantic values, such as experiencing the beauty of a country road.

Born in Minneapolis, Pirsig had a high IQ and graduated high school at the age of 15. He earned a degree in philosophy and also worked as a technical writer and instructor of English before being hospitalised for mental illness in the early 1960s.

His philosophical thinking and personal experiences during these years, including a 1968 motorcycle trip across the US West with his eldest son, Christopher, formed the core of the narrative of the novel.

Pirsig worked on the sequel, Lila: An Inquiry into Morals for 17 years before its publication in 1991. The story traced a sailboat journey taken by two fictitious characters along Americas eastern coast.

Pirsig lived the last 30 years in South Berwick, Maine and is survived by his wife Wendy, two children and three grandchildren. His son Chris died in 1979.

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Bahia Shehab: 1,000 ways to say no in Arabic

(CNN)In 2011, when the revolution swept through Egypt, Bahia Shehab stood on the streets of Cairo with a spray-can in her hand determined to deliver one message: No. A thousand times no.

No to military rule. No to violence. No to dictatorship. And no to beating women.
On walls across Cairo she spray painted a series of quotes objecting Egyptian authorities.
    The Egyptian artist, designer and Islamic art historian became interested by how the word “no” is portrayed in Arabic calligraphy in 2010 when she was invited by theKhatt Foundation to participate in an exhibition commemorating 100 years of Arabic art in Europe.
    She created a series of graffiti images that were inspired by 1,000 different ways “no” — which is written as ” in Arabic — had been stylized.
    Since then, her artwork has appeared in galleries and on streets across the world. Now, she’s become the first Arab woman to receive the UNESCO-Sharjah Prize for Arab culture.
    Established in 1998, the prize rewards two laureates each year who have used their work to “disseminate a greater knowledge of Arab art and culture.” The other winner this year is French artist eL Seed.
    Its international jury says Shehab’s street art “plays as a fresh tool for the young to build networks for active change and to voice their objections.”
    Prior to the award ceremony, CNN caught up with Shehab.

    What inspired your project “No, A Thousand Times No”?

    I looked through a very big database (of) material to come up with a thousand nos. I looked through museum archives, buildings, books, materials from different places around the world to be able to collect that data. It took me a year.
    It was actually surprising. I thought it was going to be really difficult to find a 1,000 (nos) in different forms, but then you stop at 1,000 and then you’re surprised that there’s so much more — and this is what was amazing for me.

    Can you remember the first time you spray-painted in the streets of Cairo?

    It was one of the best moments of my life. It’s still vivid now in my head. It felt so liberating. I felt like I was actually screaming.
    I really admire these strong women who would stand in rallies and raise their call and be the first ones to call. I was so jealous because I could never do that and then I had the spray can and I said “Yes! This is my place, this is my medium.”
    (It) was extremely liberating as a form of expression.
    For somebody who doesn’t have a very loud voice, my voice was my spray can.

    How does it feel to win the UNESCO-Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture?

    I didn’t think (“No, A Thousand Times No”) would get me a UNESCO prize, I wasn’t expecting that.
    (The work) was important to me as a cultural bank … and it made me feel very proud of my heritage. (But) I feel like we still have a lot of work to do. I am honored, of course, but what I’m really happy about is that they’re honoring street art and I’m receiving it with a very, very dear friend of mine, eL Seed (which) is an even a greater honor as we both work on the street.
    It’s a form of recognition of street art in the Arab world as an important art form.

    What do you say to people or governments who try to prevent you spray painting?

    We are finding other outlets. If Cairo is not my canvas, then the world is. There are other cities that will welcome my message (and) we have the internet now — the physical space is no longer important.
    When I don’t get a visa, I go on Skype and I give my presentations and the idea gets there. I don’t need to physically be in a place anymore.

    What are you working on?

    I am still painting in different cities. I’m painting poetry and I think this is what’s helping me deal with our current situation. Many activists are either in prison or exile or they’ve committed suicide and this is unfortunately the state of events. So for me to deal with the trauma of our current state I paint words all around the world, of poetry (and) of our dreams.

    What walls have you painted?

    The first wall I painted was in Vancouver and (the text is) all by the same Palestinian poet, Mahmoud Darwish, and says “stand at the corner of the dream and fight” and then I painted in New York, Madison, in Marrakesh, Tokyo, Istanbul and Beirut and each poem has a different message — either related to the city where I’m painting or just about the state of the Arab world, in general.
    For example on Kefalonia — the Greek island — I painted for the refugee crises of the people who are drowning and I painted the poem “Those Who Have No Land Have No Feet.”
    So each poem is also a bit site specific.
    The above interview has been edited for brevity.

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    Tiny, family-run Iowa newspaper wins Pulitzer for taking on agriculture companies

    Art Cullen owns the 3,000-circulation Storm Lake Times with his brother John. His wife and son also work at the paper

    A small-town Iowa newspaper with a staff of 10 people – most of whom are related to each other has won a Pulitzer Prize for taking on powerful agricultural companies over farm pollution.

    Art Cullen, who owns the Storm Lake Times with his brother John, acknowledged it wasnt easy taking on agriculture in a state like Iowa where you see hundreds of miles of farm fields in every direction. The Cullens lost a few friends and a few advertisers, but never doubted they were doing the right thing.

    Were here to challenge peoples assumptions and I think thats what every good newspaper should do, he said.

    Among the other staff members at the Storm Lake Times is John Cullens wife Mary, Arts wife Dolores and their son, Tom. The familys dog, Mabel also hangs out at the newspaper offices most of the time, Poynter reports.

    Kevin Pang (@pang)

    Here’s the masthead of the Storm Lake Times, a 3,300-circ paper that just won the Pulitzer in Editorial Writing

    April 10, 2017

    Cullens writing was lauded by the Pulitzer committee for editorials fuelled by tenacious reporting, impressive expertise and engaging writing that successfully challenged powerful corporate agricultural interests in Iowa.

    As well as hard-hitting news and editorials, the paper also includes local stories. On Monday, a front-page story told of how a second-grader found a four-leaf clover in the field behind her school.

    Cullen told the Washington Post that he knows what readers like. We strive to have a baby, a dog, a fire and a crash on every front page, so, yes, we do pander, he said.

    But it was the papers dogged coverage of farming issues affecting the state that won them the coveted journalism prize.

    Buena Vista county, where the 3,000-circulation, twice-weekly newspaper is based in north-west Iowa, was one of three counties sued by Des Moines Water Works for allowing too much nitrogen to be released through farm drainage systems into rivers from which the utility draws its drinking water. The counties fought the federal lawsuit using money provided by undisclosed sources.

    The newspaper worked with the Iowa Freedom of Information Council to force the release of documents showing funding came from the Farm Bureau and other agricultural groups.

    Anyone with eyes and a nose knows in his gut that Iowa has the dirtiest surface water in America, Cullen wrote in a March 2016 editorial.

    Iowa map

    It is choking the waterworks and the Gulf of Mexico. It is causing oxygen deprivation in Northwest Iowa glacial lakes. It has caused us to spend millions upon millions trying to clean up Storm Lake, the victim of more than a century of explosive soil erosion.

    Cullen, 59, says he feels vindicated that the information was released.
    A judge, however, dismissed the water utilitys lawsuit last month, giving the farm groups and counties a clear victory.

    Cullen is proud that the Pulitzer committee recognised his small newspapers efforts alongside those of larger papers. The two other finalists in the editorial writing category were from the Houston Chronicle and The Washington Post.

    Weve always believed that the Storm Lakes Times should be as good at covering Storm Lake as the New York Times is at covering New York, he said. Theres no reason why an editorial written in Iowa shouldnt be as good as an editorial written in Washington.

    Associated Press contributed to this report

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    Vanessa White on life after The Saturdays – BBC News

    Image copyright Vanessa White

    She made her name as the youngest member of girl band The Saturdays – but Vanessa White has ditched the squeaky clean pop of All Fired Up and What About Us for an altogether more intriguing foray into sultry and infectious R&B.

    It’s two o’clock on a crisp November day and Vanessa White saunters up to the gates of Ealing Studios in west London.

    The film studio has played host to Shaun Of The Dead, Bridget Jones and the entire “downstairs” set of Downton Abbey – but she’s not here to film a cameo (“Can you imagine?” she giggles).

    Instead, the 27-year-old climbs the fire escape of a dilapidated high-rise building, enters a propped-open door and navigates the corridors to a small back room that’s been converted into a recording studio.

    Like all such facilities, it’s painted black and littered with empty liquor bottles. The walls are haphazardly decorated with polaroids of previous occupants – including US hitmakers The Chainsmokers – and, in the corner, there’s a tiny figurine of Ariel from The Little Mermaid.

    Inside, Vanessa’s producers are ready and waiting, sorting through various tracks they’re hoping she might choose for her forthcoming EP.

    But first, the singer has a confession: “I’ve got a sore throat and I’m a bit hung over.”

    It doesn’t seem to matter. If anything, the consensus is that a husky voice is better for the material – a sultry and sumptuous serving of downtempo R&B; all heavy breathing and soaring harmonies.

    Image copyright Vanessa White

    Staving off the hangover with a “nourishing” lunch box, Vanessa explains her musical state of mind to the team.

    “Everything I’m doing now is so dark,” she says, cueing up a song on her phone. “Not like I-want-to-kill-myself dark, but it’s quite angry.”

    One of the tracks – tentatively called Trust – is seething with vitriol.

    I won’t stroke your ego,” she spits. “I’m onto you, I’m onto you. Don’t underestimate my intelligence.

    The song was inspired by encounters with “snaky people” in the music industry, she explains.

    Specifically, it tackles a toxic situation in her immediate team that ended up “with the lawyers” last year.

    She can’t discuss the details, but says her solo career was significantly delayed as a result: The EP she’s working on today was originally due last summer.

    “There were certain songs I loved that I couldn’t use any more,” she explains. “So I’ve basically had to start again, which is why it’s taken this long.

    “The silver lining is it’s given me something to write about. I’m in a much better position now, mentally.

    “I used to get so scared of going in the studio with people I didn’t know but now, you could put me anywhere and I’d be fine.”

    Image copyright Vanessa White

    Vanessa certainly takes charge in the studio. Having brought the producers up to speed, she sits cross-legged on a sofa as they scroll through a few skeleton songs, looking for “an uptempo track with a dark heart”.

    One by one, Vanessa dismisses them. “That’s too light,” she says of one. “I’m not instantly drawn to it,” is her verdict on the next.

    After half a dozen tracks are waved off, engineer Day Decosta brings up a simple loop built around a gooey, pulsing bass groove.

    Vanessa instantly sits up, alert. “Oh, I like this.”

    She starts ad-libbing vocal riffs over the top, trading ideas with co-writer Celetia Martin, a former vocalist for Groove Armada whose credits include Skepta, Conor Maynard and, yes, The Saturdays.

    Within minutes, she heads to the vocal booth. “I don’t really know what I’m doing right now,” she laughs. “I’m just going to sing loads of random nonsense.”

    Image copyright Vanessa White

    Slowly, painstakingly, the song takes shape. Some of the improvisations stick and are pieced together into a coherent melody. Every so often, Vanessa emerges from the booth to kneel on the floor with Celetia, and the pair go back and forth over lyrics and harmonies.

    When inspiration dries up, they scroll through Instagram, gossip about TV box sets, and goof off doing the Mannequin Challenge for Vanessa’s Instagram page.

    Conversation eventually turns to the singer’s upcoming holiday, a “juice retreat” in Portugal, where solid food is forbidden for an entire week.

    It sounds awful (although photos from the journey suggest otherwise) – but it’s apparently the standard sort of torture female pop stars endure before the promotional round of video and photo shoots begin.

    “It sounds worse than what it was,” laughs the singer when we catch up four months later.

    “Honestly, if you were hungry it wasn’t like they starved you. They added more to the smoothies or they’d give you a piece of fruit. It was actually fine.

    “I feel like I need another one now, that’s the problem!”

    Image copyright Salute The Sun Records

    In any case, the 27-year-old counts dressing up and being photographed as a perk of her job… although it wasn’t always that way.

    “When I was in The Sats, it actually got a bit boring having to be made up every single day,” she says. “I stopped appreciating it.

    “Now I can come to the studio looking like this and it’s fine. Dressing up has become more of a treat again.”

    Back at Ealing Studios, work continues late into the night – long after the BBC has left the building, having contributed precisely zero to the writing process.

    The song is ultimately destined for the scrapheap, but Trust (completely overhauled and re-titled Trust Me) makes it onto Vanessa’s Chapter Two EP, which was released last Friday.

    As she predicted, it set the tone for a collection of brooding neo-soul that’s surprisingly candid about anger, lust and sexuality. Fans of The Saturdays’ chirrupy chart fodder are in for quite a surprise.

    “I guess people are going to question it,” she admits of her new direction. “But I feel pop is not very me at the moment.

    “It took a bit of time to find a sound that was completely right for me. Now I feel like I’ve really nailed it, and it’s obvious it’s coming from me. Once people believe that, you’re half-way there.”

    Image caption Born in 1989, the star was just 17 when The Saturdays formed

    Certainly, the sophisticated harmonies and complex ad-libs reflect the US singers she grew up idolising – Janet, Alliyah, Brandy and Mariah – without sounding like a cheap, plastic counterfeit.

    “We’ve had a problem with that in the UK in the past,” she acknowledges. “I don’t know why we haven’t really got the sounds right before – but this is what I listened to for years and years, so I guess that’s where it’s come from.”

    The EP has been well-reviewed on the sort of music sites that would have given The Saturdays a wide berth. But it’s hard to see where the music fits in the current charts, crammed full of Ed Sheeran’s acoustic pop and The Chainsmokers’ emo EDM.

    “To be honest with you, I’m not even thinking about that,” says the singer. “With everything that’s happened this year, including the label stuff, I’ve ended up doing this on my own – and at this point I’m preferring it, to be honest.

    “I feel like I have to run with this. I’m not going to be hard on myself and expect it to be [huge] at this point.

    “Whatever happens will happen.”

    Image copyright Vanessa White
    Image copyright Vanessa White
    Image copyright Vanessa White

    Vanessa White’s Chapter Two EP is out now on Salute The Sun Records.

    Follow us on Facebook, on Twitter @BBCNewsEnts, or on Instagram at bbcnewsents. If you have a story suggestion email

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    Billionaire bunkers: How the 1% are preparing for the apocalypse

    (CNN)Say “doomsday bunker” and most people would imagine a concrete room filled with cots and canned goods.

    The threat of global annihilation may feel as present as it did during the Cold War, but today’s high-security shelters could not be more different from their 20th-century counterparts.
    A number of companies around the world are meeting a growing demand for structures that protect from any risk, whether it’s a global pandemic, an asteroid, or World War III — while also delivering luxurious amenities.
      “Your father or grandfather’s bunker was not very comfortable,” says Robert Vicino, a real estate entrepreneur and CEO of Vivos, a company he founded that builds and manages high-end shelters around the world.
      “They were gray. They were metal, like a ship or something military. And the truth is mankind cannot survive long-term in such a Spartan, bleak environment.”

      Doomsday demand

      Many of the world’s elite, including hedge fund managers, sports stars and tech executives (Bill Gates is rumored to have bunkers at all his properties) have chosen to design their own secret shelters to house their families and staff.
      Gary Lynch, general manager of Texas-based Rising S Company, says 2016 sales for their custom high-end underground bunkers grew 700% compared to 2015, while overall sales have grown 300% since the November US presidential election alone.
      The company’s plate steel bunkers, which are designed to last for generations, can hold a minimum of one year’s worth of food per resident and withstand earthquakes.
      But while some want to bunker down alone, others prefer to ride out the apocalypse in a community setting that offers an experience a bit closer to the real world.

        Stunning mural appears in secret forest


      The fortified structures are designed to withstand a nuclear strike and come equipped with power systems, water purification systems, blast valves, and Nuclear-Biological-Chemical (NBC) air filtration.
      Most include food supplies for a year or more, and many have hydroponic gardens to supplement the rations. The developers also work to create well-rounded communities with a range of skills necessary for long-term survival, from doctors to teachers.
      Vicino says Vivos received a flurry of interest in its shelters around the 2016 election from both liberals and conservatives, and completely sold out of spaces in its community shelters in the past few weeks.

      Designer ark

      One of those shelters, Vivos xPoint, is near the Black Hills of South Dakota, and consists of 575 military bunkers that served as an Army Munitions Depot until 1967.
      Presently being converted into a facility that will accommodate about 5,000 people, the interiors of each bunker are outfitted by the owners at a cost of between $25,000 to $200,000 each. The price depends on whether they want a minimalist space or a home with high-end finishes.
      The compound itself will be equipped with all the comforts of a small town, including a community theater, classrooms, hydroponic gardens, a medical clinic, a spa and a gym.
      For clients looking for something further afield and more luxurious, the company also offers Vivos Europa One, billed as a “modern day Noah’s Ark” in a former Cold War-era munitions storage facility in Germany.
      The structure, which was carved out of solid bedrock, offers 34 private residences, each starting at 2,500 square feet, with the option to add a second story for a total of 5,000 square feet.

        Shhh! Take a look at the world’s most exquisite libraries


      The units will be delivered empty and each owner will have the space renovated to suit their own tastes and needs, choosing from options that include screening rooms, private pools and gyms.
      Vicino compares the individual spaces to underground yachts, and even recommends that owners commission the same builders and designers that worked on their actual vessels.
      “Most of these people have high-end yachts, so they already have the relationship and they know the taste, fit, and finish that they want,” he explains.
      The vast complex includes a tram system to transport residents throughout the shelter, where they can visit its restaurants, theater, coffee shops, pool and game areas.
      “We have all the comforts of home, but also the comforts that you expect when you leave your home,” Vicino adds.

      Nuclear hardened homes

      Developer Larry Hall’s Survival Condo in Kansas utilizes two abandoned Atlas missile silos built by the US Army Corps of Engineers to house warheads during the early 1960s.

        Super-rich building luxury doomsday bunkers


      “Our clients are sold on the unique advantage of having a luxury second home that also happens to be a nuclear hardened bunker,” says Hall, who is already starting work on a second Survival Condo in another silo on site.
      “This aspect allows our clients to invest in an appreciating asset as opposed to an expense.”
      The Survival Condo has several different layouts, from a 900-square-foot half-floor residence to a two-level, 3,600-square-foot penthouse that starts at $4.5 million.
      Owners have access to their homes and the facilities at anytime, whether a disaster is imminent or they just want to get away from it all, and the complex features a pool, general store, theater, bar and library.
      The condo association sets the rules for the community, and during an emergency, owners would be required to work four hours a day.

      Long-term luxury

      If you prefer to spend the end of days solo, or at least with hand-selected family and friends, you may prefer to consider The Oppidum in the Czech Republic, which is being billed as “the largest billionaire bunker in the world.”
      The top-secret facility, once a joint project between the former Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic and Slovakia), was built over 10 years beginning in 1984.
      The site now includes both an above-ground estate and a 77,000-square-foot underground component. While the final product will be built out to the owner’s specifications, the initial renderings include an underground garden, swimming pool, spa, cinema and wine vault.
      While many might see the luxury amenities at these facilities as unnecessary, the developers argue that these features are critical to survival.
      “These shelters are long-term, a year or more,” Vicino says. “It had better be comfortable.”

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      Author who wrote heartbreaking ‘dating profile’ for her husband dies

      (CNN)Amy Krouse Rosenthal, the prolific children’s book author who wrote a devastating “Modern Love” column about her soon-to-be-widower husband, died in her home in Chicago on Monday from ovarian cancer. She was 51.

      “Everything Amy did was life and love affirming,” Amy Rennert, her longtime literary agent and friend, said in a statement to CNN. “She was such a bright light with a great sense of wonder.”
      Rosenthal was best known for her many children’s books, including “Duck! Rabbit!” “I Wish You More,” and “Uni the Unicorn,” among others. She also wrote two memoirs for adults, the highly-praised “Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life” and its follow-up “Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal.”
        But one of her most powerful works was a column she wrote for The New York Times’ recurring “Modern Love” feature in early March, titled “You May Want to Marry My Husband.”
        In the article, Rosenthal wrote that she had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and had little time left to live. Knowing these were her last days, she praised the loving virtues of her husband, making the column into a kind of a “dating profile” to help him find a new love after her death.
        “He is an easy man to fall in love with. I did it in one day,” she wrote. “I have never been on Tinder, Bumble or eHarmony, but I’m going to create a general profile for Jason right here, based on my experience of coexisting in the same house with him for, like, 9,490 days.”
        Her husband Jason is a lawyer, a good cook, a painter, and, most importantly, a thoughtful and dedicated partner, she wrote.
        “I want more time with Jason. I want more time with my children. I want more time sipping martinis at the Green Mill Jazz Club on Thursday nights,” she wrote. “But that is not going to happen. I probably have only a few days left being a person on this planet.”
        Her reason for writing the column? “I am wrapping this up on Valentine’s Day, and the most genuine, non-vase-oriented gift I can hope for is that the right person reads this, finds Jason, and another love story begins,” she wrote.
        Readers reacted to the selfless love story with an outpouring of emotion and plenty of tears.
        Rennert, Rosenthal’s agent, said the essay was the “ultimate gift” to us all.
        “Amy’s final essay, written under the most difficult of circumstances, a love letter to her husband Jason, was the ultimate gift to him and also to the rest of us,” she said.
        John Green, the bestselling author of “The Fault in Our Stars,” praised Krouse Rosenthal in a series of tweets as a “brilliant writer” and “what I wanted to be when I grew up.”
        HarperCollins said in a statement the company was “privileged and honored” to have published 11 of Rosenthal’s books.
        “She was one of our most brilliant, creative, passionate authors who had an amazing way of turning ideas upside down in wonderful ways, and a gift for taking a handful of words and putting them together in a creative, unexpected way,” the publisher said.

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        23 literary journeys with the world’s great writers

        (CNN)Writers sometimes travel far from home to find inspiration, or even the freedom to express themselves.

        Others are so closely associated with a place that it’s hard to know whether the city left its mark on an author, or if it was the other way around.
        Here are 23 writers whose words helped define a particular place.
        Some places have returned the love with museums and monuments. Others simply allow readers to walk in a writer’s footsteps and experience sites of great inspirations.

          Mark Twain’s Mississippi River (Missouri)

          Reading through “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” or “Huckleberry Finn” today, the landscape around the Mississippi River feels almost unrecognizable.
          When he wrote in the 1800s, the river was frontier land, not the powerful transport network that links half the United States, lined with farms and dotted with major cities.
          However, his hometown of Hannibal, Missouri has preserved some of the sights that the boy Samuel Clemson explored before he become famous — including the caves that became the scene of Tom and Huck’s escapades.
          A riverboat called the Mark Twain plies the river and takes visitors to Jackson’s Island, where Huck and the escaped slave Jim first realized a manhunt was after them.

          Amy Tan’s San Francisco (California)

          San Francisco’s Chinatown is the setting, and arguably a character, in many of Amy Tan’s novels.
          In her breakthrough “The Joy Luck Club,” which was also made into a successful film, the main character Waverly Place Jong was named after the street that her family lived on.
          Parts of the traditional Chinatown are now more Vietnamese, or even Russian. But Waverly Place is still home to the oldest Chinese temple in the United States, Tin How Temple.
          Waverly is known as the “street of the painted balconies,” because of the brightly painted shops and restaurants.

          James Joyce’s Dublin (Ireland)


          One of the great writers of 20th-century China, Lu Xun occupies a peculiar place in the country.
          A leftist who never joined the Communist Party, his blistering critiques of tyranny still shape political thought today.
          Because the party embraced him, his presence in Shanghai has been enshrined. There’s a Lu Xun Memorial Hall (200 Tian’ai Rd, LuXun GongYuan, Hongkou Qu, Shanghai; +86 21 6540 2288), a Lu Xun Park (2288 Sichuan N Rd, LuXun GongYuan, Hongkou Qu, Shanghai; +86 21 6540 1561), and the Lu Xun Memorial Tomb.
          The selections of his works on display are, needless to say, carefully selected to avoid any possible critique of the current government.
          While the park is beautiful, it’s more interesting to wander through what used to be foreign concessions where he set up his League of Leftist Writers. The league’s building is on Duolun Road, now a popular tourist and shopping area.

          Stieg Larsson’s Stockholm (Sweden)

          The global publishing success of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy — not to mention the films made from them — has given Stockholm a new appeal for fans of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.”
          The Stockholm City Museum runs a walking tour that takes fans into the world of Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander, or at least into their trendy neighborhood of Sodermalm.
          It’s a chance to see where Larsson placed the fictional sites in his books, from journalist Blomkvist’s favorite caf to Salander’s favorite tattoo parlor.

          JRR Tolkien’s Birmingham (England)

          The film versions of “The Lord of the Rings” made New Zealand synonymous with the novels, a role the country has eagerly embraced. (The national airline featured the characters in a safety video).
          But the actual inspiration for the books more likely draws from Tolkien’s life in England. Born in South Africa, his family moved outside of Birmingham when he was four years old.
          His childhood centered on the bucolic hamlet of Sarehole, where the pastures, streams and woods are widely considered as the inspiration for the Shire and Hobbiton.
          Nearby, the towers of Perrott’s Folly (44 Waterworks Rd, Birmingham) echo “The Two Towers.”
          When Tolkien was a boy, the clanking engine and steam from the Edgbaston Waterworks would have sounded like Mordor’s Barad-dr, the Dark Tower.
          The city of Birmingham maintains a Tolkien Trail to help visitors find the sites.

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          ‘Biggest Loser’ host Bob Harper ‘feeling better’ after heart attack

          (CNN)Bob Harper, personal trainer and host of the NBC show “The Biggest Loser,” shared on Instagram that he had a heart attack two weeks ago.

          “I am feeling better. Just taking it easy,” the 51-year old celebrity trainer posted with a photo of himself in bed, wearing a hospital gown. “I want to thank everyone for the outpouring of messages and support. It feels good to be cared about. I’ve been home for 8 days now.”

          Well I guess you all heard what happened. Two weeks ago yesterday I had a heart attack. I am feeling better. Just taking it easy. KARL has been a great nurse. I want to thank everyone for the outpouring of messages and support. It feels good to be cared about. I've been home for 8 days now. Again, THANK YOU SO MUCH!! I'm lucky to have such good friends and family to take care of me right now.

          A post shared by Bob Harper (@trainerbob) on

          Harper has said in the past that his family has a history of heart problems. Regular exercise can reduce your risk of heart problems and help you live longer, but family history also plays a key role in heart health. Your genes can elevate your risk for high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Although the risk is low, exercise itself can also increase your risk of a heart attack. Most of that risk, though, is in the hours following a workout.

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            The experienced fitness trainer and TV star has appeared on 17 seasons of the NBC show “The Biggest Loser” show since 2004. He has helped a number of contestants lose weight by working out and eating healthier. Harper has also written three best-selling books on the topic.
            Harper has more than 20 years of experience helping people get fit and lose weight.

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            City Book Review Shows You Why You Should Get Your Book Reviewed (cool video)

            The folks at City Book Review have been doing book reviews since 2008, more than 20,000 reviews over the years. If you’re an author and need a review, give them a try.

            Now that your wrote and published your book, next up is how to get your book reviewed by a professional organization. Many bookstores won’t carry a book that hasn’t been reviewed by someone, and there are fewer and fewer local newspapers that review books any more. So your chances to get reviewed are harder each year. Luckily places like San Francisco Book Review and their sister publications have stepped up to help authors with book reviews, marketing, cover design and SEO.