Followers of the popular Mediterranean diet have known for years that eating fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds and plenty of extra virgin Olive oil is beneficial to health.

olive oil

Recent studies have continued to bolster this eating pattern, with much less emphasis on overcooked meats, hydrogenated fats and fried foods. They may not realize that many of the benefits come from the monounsaturated fats provided by the liberal use of fresh-pressed olive oil.

Reporting in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers from Spain found that the monounsaturated fats found in olive oil work synergistically with essential fatty acids such as the omega-3 fat, DHA to enhance their incorporation into cell membranes. The scientists found an association between greater olive oil intake and a lower risk of dying over an average of 13.4 years of follow-up.

The researchers analyzed data garnered from dietary questionnaires provided from a cohort of 40,622 men and women residing in Spain, aged 29 to 69 years who were recruited from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition. The questions specifically detailed caloric intake and consumption of olive oil in their diet. During the follow-up period, there were 416 deaths from cardiovascular disease, 956 cancer deaths and 417 deaths from other causes.

Olive oil shields against inflammation and prevents blood sugar spikes to thwart chronic disease

Study participants whose olive oil intake ranked in the top quarter had a 26 percent lower risk of dying of any cause and a 44 percent lower risk of dying from heart disease compared to those who did not consume olive oil. The risk of mortality from causes other than cancer or heart disease was reduced by 38 percent for those whose olive oil intake was greatest. The authors noted that there is evidence that olive oil may be protective against specific types of cancer, particularly breast cancer.

The scientists conducting the study determined that protective monounsaturated fats, vitamin E and phenolic compounds in Olive Oil provide a synergistic effect to shield against heart disease.

In prior research, olive oil has been shown to improve systemic inflammation and glycemic control in randomized clinical trials.

The authors concluded, “To our knowledge, this is the first prospective study to show that olive oil consumption reduces the risk of mortality… our findings provide further evidence on the effects that one of the key components of the Mediterranean diet has on mortality and support the need to preserve the habitual use of olive oil within this healthy dietary pattern.” Nutrition experts recommend adding one to two tablespoons of fresh-pressed extra virgin olive oil (post-cooking to prevent degradation of the oil) to your meals each day to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.

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Rick Ross

“God Forgives, I Don’t” (Maybach Music Group/Def Jam)Rappers Wale, left, and Rick Ross perform onstage during the 2012 BET Awards.

Three stars (out of four)

Speaking recently to MTV, Rick Ross revealed the inspiration for “Diced Pineapples,” a track from his new studio album, “God Forgives, I Don’t.” Last year, the portly, bearded Miami rapper suffered two seizures while attempting to fly to Memphis, Tenn., for a concert, and when he was leaving the hospital, Ross recalled, “the doctor told me, ‘You gotta eat some more fruit, drink you some water … and just relax for a little while.

Sound advice for the average Joe, no doubt. But for hip-hop’s most fabulous fabulist — a former Dade County corrections officer who now portrays himself as an untouchable drug lord — the doctor’s orders seem like risky business. Living larger than any of his peers — and rhyming about it with little to no acknowledgment of its basis in fantasy — is precisely what’s enabled Ross to effect his unlikely transformation; he’s succeeded by becoming too big to fail. Austerity measures would only weaken the bravado at the core of his act.

Happily, Ross declines to downsize on “God Forgives, I Don’t,” which arrives following a lengthy delay, presumably attributable to the rapper’s health troubles. The new disc extends an over-the-top hot streak that began with 2009′s “Deeper Than Rap” and includes “Teflon Don,” from 2010; it’s rooted in the same lush production sound and name-checks just as many ultra-high-end luxury brands — even the Lear jet on which the second of his seizures struck.

“Five hundred for the car that I got on the strip / That’s another hundred, what I got on my wrist,” Ross boasts over a shimmering “Miami Vice”-style groove in “Maybach Music IV”; “Presidential,” with a sumptuous beat by Pharrell Williams, describes the pleasure of “walking on Jewish marble.”

For “3 Kings,” Ross boosts the money talk further, hosting two pals from his rarefied tax bracket: Jay-Z and Dr. Dre, the latter of whom uses the opportunity to rather artlessly plug his line of pricey headphones. Jay-Z is better — or least more characteristically charming — breaking down his negotiating tactics for an upcoming contract renewal with Live Nation.

Yet despite the satisfaction Ross obviously still takes in all this — and despite how singularly good at it he remains, as in “911,” where he beseeches the Lord to let him drive his Porsche to heaven — “God Forgives, I Don’t” reflects deeper stirrings. Ross isn’t showing cracks in the facade he’s built up so assiduously over the last few years; rather, it’s an indication of his confidence in his back story that he’s now looking to what happens next, as though the first several chapters were safely beyond reproach.

In “Ashamed,” Ross grows reflective about his purported drug dealing over a dusty Wilson Pickett sample punched up by the pop-wise production duo Cool & Dre: “Maybe one day I could put this pain away,” he raps, remembering his mother’s struggle to raise a family on minimum wage, “Until then I’m-a be a D-boy, I’m ashamed to say.” He treads similar moral-ethical ground in “Hold Me Back,” a swarming goth-rap number that play-by-plays his introduction to the trade; it presents dealing as the only viable option for someone with an empty refrigerator and children to feed. “Everything went well — I’m eating steak, no more soup,” he reports after his first night on the job. “Then I parked the Capri, I went and got me a coupe.”

There are self-aware moments here too that feel new for a Rick Ross record. In the low-slung “Pirates,” he admits, “Fascination with fortune afford me mansion and Porsches,” alluding slyly to a career that’s become a kind of feedback loop. And in “Sixteen,” he and André 3000 team up for a long meditation on how a rapper’s standard 16-bar verse “ain’t enough” to depict “exactly what life means to you” — proof that Ross’ unsatisfiable appetite is hardly limited to cars or cash.

Or food. If the song “Diced Pineapples” began as a bit of prescribed meal planning, it’s become something else here: a plush encomium (with cooed chorus by Drake) for the latest lady in his life. It’s not sweet, exactly — not with the borderline-gynecological language he uses. But as Ross breathlessly enumerates the amenities she’s in for — “belt buckles” and “door handles” among them — it’s clear that far from chastening him, the rapper’s midair brush with death only intensified his hunger. On this commanding, complicated album, he wants more out of more.


Rapper Nas has produced a thoughtful, heavy-duty album in “Life Is Good.”

Rapper Nas has produced a thoughtful, heavy-duty album in “Life Is Good.”

It’s easy to get a sense of how the rapper Nas has seen himself over the years by noting his choice of album cover portraits. His first, the 1994 classic “Illmatic,” featured a shot of the lyricist as a 7-year-old against a backdrop of New York housing projects. In the photograph taken by his father, the musician Olu Dara, the young Nasir Jones stares into the camera with a cocksure gaze, as though destiny fills his spirit — and that attitude permeates the record.

Since that introduction, Nas‘ image has appeared on each of his following nine solo album covers. He has variously depicted himself as a pharaoh, a sage, a sweat-suited player, a prophet, a man in mourning and a whip-scarred slave.

On his return-to-form 10th solo album, “Life Is Good,” the 38-year-old is seen relaxing on a black leather couch in a sharp white suit, his hand supporting his chin like “The Thinker.” Draped across his lap is a green taffeta dress.

Life is good, indeed, or at least Nas has gotten better at rolling with the punches — and you can hear it in every verse on the 58-minute album. A thoughtful, fierce, honest and — most important — heavy-duty work. The album shows a man not only comfortable in his own skin but tapped into his muse and willing to tackle the many tough matters he’s endured since his previous, untitled album in 2008.

Specifically, Nas has been through a divorce from pop singer Kelis in 2009 that separated him from their 2-year-old son, a topic he addresses head on in the album’s closer, “Bye Baby.” He’s also tangled with the IRS over millions in unpaid taxes and struggled with watching his daughter from another relationship become a teenager. Although such challenges could drag a man down, Nas has committed to addressing the ins and outs of his life as though that leather couch on the album cover sits in the office of Tony Soprano‘s shrink.

Not that he’s lost his swagger. It’s just that, as he raps in the album’s first track, “No Introduction,” “I’m pushing 40, she only 21/Don’t applaud me, I’m exhausted, G.” (It bears noting that the woman who has sapped his energy is only four years older than his daughter.)

“No Introduction,” in fact, is the perfect re-introduction to Nas, and doubters who either gave up on him after a string of hit-and-miss efforts over the past decade, sided with Jay-Zin the competitors’ major round of beefs or never bought into his self-involvement would do well to listen closely as he traces the path of his life through a first-person benediction. “The tales you hear is the truth on me/Who wasn’t the most faithful husband/Reveal my life, you’ll forgive me/You will love me, hate me, judge me, relate to me.”

He follows through on his promise and opens up on not only his personal struggles but also mortality and aging, about shifting priorities and battling reflexes. He looks back as much as he looks forward, and along the way comes to terms with not only the unfaithful husband within himself, but also the confusion that comes with watching his daughtergrow into a young woman. On “Daughters,” he raps of feeling protective of her while predatory players — much like himself — close in.

The song captures the essence of the father-daughter relationship: “One day she’s your little princess/Next day she’s talking boy business, what is this?/They say the coolest players and the foulest heartbreakers in the world/God gets us back, he makes us have little girls,” he raps. Later, on “Reach Out,” he climbs another branch on his tree: “When I was young they called me Olu’s son/Now he’s Nas’ father/I was the good seed/He was the wise gardener.”

Musically, Nas and his collaborators have gone vertical, drawing in sounds from throughout hip-hop’s evolution: For as many thrilling modern-day rhythmic loop-the-loops — the solid dub-filled “The Don,” the killer Rick Ross collaboration “Accident Murderer” — there are old-school accents that pepper the record with context and history. This is a record where the scratching on “Reach Out” appears high in the mix, employed as a sonic device to suggest past innocence while singerMary J. Bligenails the hook.

These aren’t the once “futuristic” beats of producers Scott Storch and Stargate that hobbled Nas in the mid-’00s, but work that harnesses his boom-bip bass drum-snare combo in the service of busier but no less infectious rhythms. His main collaborator on “Life Is Good” is the consistently dynamic Chicago producer No I.D., who has moved from central producer on Kanye West‘s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” to providing varied beats on five tracks.

Nas also leans on Saleem Remi, whose history with the pop and hip-hop charts stretches back to his work on the Fugees’ “Fu-Gee-La,” Nas’ 2002 “Made You Look” and Amy Winehouse‘s “Tears Dry on Their Own.” Winehouse, in fact, provides a beyond-the-grave hook for Nas’ new track “Cherry Wine.”

This is turning out to be one of the most vibrant and exciting years for hip-hop music in at least a decade, a place where hot young tykes such as Kendrick Lamar, ASAP Rocky and Earl Sweatshirt are competing for the same piece of the pie as veterans like Jay-Z, West, Nas and Killer Mike. In the past, many vets were placed on waivers by major labels who valued youth and hype over style and experience, never to be heard from again. In the 2012 world of mixtapes and universal access, the crowd defines who’s tired and who’s still got it.

Nas not only still has it, but has vast quantities of it. Luckily for us, he’s still inspired by the need to share — even the moments when life isn’t all that great.

Review was by Randall Roberts, Los Angeles Times

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Apple has unveiled a slimline, retina display-equipped MacBook Pro laptop that will augment, rather than update, its existing family of MacBook Pro devices.

The company announced the new 15-inch MacBook Pro on Monday, during a keynote address at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco.

“Featuring a precision engineered aluminium unibody design and an all flash storage architecture, the all new MacBook Pro is the lightest MacBook Pro ever and nearly as thin as a MacBook Air,” Apple said in a statement.

The MacBook Air is 17mm at its thickest, whereas the new MacBook Pro is just over 18mm. It weighs 2.02kg.

In addition to the 2,880×1,800 pixel 15-inch retina display, the key specs of the new range-topping device include a Intel Core i7 quad-core (Ivy Bridge) processor configurable up to 2.7GHz, solid-state drives (SSDs) in capacities from 256GB up to 768GB, and 8GB of RAM, configurable up to 16GB.

The new MacBook Pro also comes with discrete NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M graphics, Facetime HD camera, two USB 3.0 ports and two Thunderbolt ports. Unusually for Apple, it has a standard HDMI port as an additional option for connecting to an external display.

Pricing for the device starts at £1,800, and it is available immediately. The company said that although the device will ship with the OS X Lion operating system, customers who buy one will get an update to Mountain Lion when it is released in July.

Maxing out the processor, storage and RAM specs takes the total price to £3,050. The company said core OS X apps such as iPhoto, iMovie, iTunes, Aperture and Final Cut Pro X take advantage of the new retina display.

Apple also used the WWDC event to discontinue the 17-inch MacBook Pro and to announce minor updates to the existing 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pros. It also made small upgrades to the MacBook Air.

Key improvements to the laptops include an update to Ivy Bridge, rather than Sandy Bridge Intel processors, increased maximum RAM configurations and the inclusion of USB 3.0 ports.

Additionally, the 15-inch Pro model has a graphics chip update and now comes with the Nvidia GeForce GT650M.

All the new MacBook models are available immediately, Apple said.

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Twitter really didn’t have any answers for its failure today.TwitterDown

July 26th has not been a good day for the Internet. First, Google Talk went down, and now Twitter has crashed.

Reports started coming in at about 11:45 that Twitter, the popular short-message social network had fallen like a house of cards. A quick check at Down for Everyone or Just Me the Website checking site showed that Twitter was indeed down.

Then, since there was no immediate news from Twitter about the failure on its main site or Twitter’s Blogger site, there was some question as to whether if there was connection between the Google Talk failure and Twitter’s problems because of London Olympic Internet traffic, broad Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack or some other Internet-wide trouble.

That’s not the case. Arbor Networks ATLAS Global Internet threat  index is showing a normal number of attacks and threats. In turn, the Internet Traffic Report shows that while Internet performance isn’t great, it’s not awful either. Asia, Europe, and North America are all in the yellow range, which isn’t unusual. While Asia’s Internet traffic jam is growing worse, the rest of the world’s Internet traffic appears to be steady.

Esther Schindler, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Twitter Marketing  is really bothered by Twitter’s latest mishap. “There’s some part of me that looks at Twitter downtime as, “Oh good, I can get work done now without distraction.” And then I realize… I can’t get as much work done. I depend on Twitter for what I do. It’s the source of information — general news, tech news, baseball trades (well okay maybe that’s not work-related) — and an important way I keep in touch with people. For some of my contacts I have ONLY their Twitter IDs.”

So what is going on? The problem seems to be with Twitter itself. Around noon, Twitter got online long enough to report “Users may be experiencing issues accessing Twitter. Our engineers are currently working to resolve the issue.”

There are no details at this time about what has happened. In June 2012 Twitter went down because of a “cascaded bug in one of our infrastructure components.” Twitter did it to themselves that time because of a software update gone terribly wrong. With the Olympics almost upon us it seems unlikely that Twitter would try a major update today.

This time? Well, at this point your guess is as good as mine.  This go-around, with more than a hour already gone by , Twitter’s problem seems to be more significant. The site does, however, seems to be coming up for some people. Let’s hope it’s up for everyone soon.


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