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When Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe sacked his vice president in front of 12,000 baying party members in 2014, Emmerson Mnangagwa sat quietly in the crowd, a green baseball cap pulled low over his eyes.

The man who stood to gain most from the dismissal betrayed nothing through his expression and gentle clapping a survival tactic honed during five decades of service to the mercurial Mugabe. His cap, however, spoke volumes.

Emblazoned across its front, next to a portrait of Mugabe, were four words: Empower, Develop, Employ a slogan of the ruling ZANU PF party. That day, he became Mugabe official deputy.

Mnangagwa, whose sacking from the post this month brought Zimbabwe political crisis to a head, is now poised to take over after Mugabe, 93, resigned on Tuesday, ending almost four decades of rule.

Mnangagwa will be sworn in on Wednesday or Thursday, ZANU PF legal secretary Patrick Chinamasa told Reuters. The party chief whip said Mnangagwa would serve the remainder of Mugabe term until the next election due by September 2018.

But there are questions over how Mnangagwa will lead the country led by Mugabe since independence in 1980.

In a statement issued from hiding on Tuesday, Mnangagwa said Zimbabweans from all walks of life had to work together to rebuild a shattered economy and deeply polarised society.

Zimbabweans gather at Unity square opposite the Parliament to protest against Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe in Harare.

(AFP Photo)

desire is to join all Zimbabweans in a new era, where corruption, incompetence, dereliction of duty and laziness, social and cultural decadence is not tolerated, he said.

that new Zimbabwe, it is important for everyone to join hands so that we rebuild this nation to its full glory. This is not a job for ZANU PF alone but for all people of Zimbabwe. 75 year old was one of Mugabe most trusted lieutenants, having been at his side in prison, during wartime and then in government. With his appointment in 2014 as Mugabe official deputy, Mnangagwa had appeared well set as the eventual successor to Africa oldest head of state.

are no arguments around his credentials to provide strong leadership and stability, but there are questions over whether he can also be a democrat, said Eldred Masunungure, a political science lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe.

Speaking at the congress in 2014, Mnangagwa reinforced the message emblazoned on his headgear, announcing revisions to ZANU PF constitution that backed ownership and control of Zimbabwe natural resources.

It was a key insight to the party direction as it contemplated life beyond Mugabe.

will remain forever masters of our own destiny, Mnangagwa said at the time, to cheers from the crowd.

Along the way, Mnangagwa earned the nickname Shona for crocodile, an animal famed in Zimbabwean lore for its stealth and ruthlessness.

He backed Mugabe economic nationalism, especially a drive to force foreign firms to hand majority stakes to local blacks, suggesting he may not be the pro market pragmatist many investors were hoping for.

He has been in every administration since independence, holding posts as varied as minister of state security, defence and finance, as well as speaker of parliament.

In the shadows

Most controversially, he was in charge of internal security in the mid 1980s when Robert Mugabe deployed a crack North Korean trained brigade against rebels loyal to his rival Joshua Nkomo.

Rights groups say 20,000 civilians, mostly from the Ndebele tribe, were killed. Mugabe denies genocide or crimes against humanity but has admitted it was a of madness role remains shrouded in mystery, typical of a political operator trained as a communist guerrilla in China in the 1960s and who always stayed in the shadows behind Mugabe.

Secretive and insular, he prefers to operate under the radar, those in his inner circle say, and when pushed into a corner, resorts to jokes and trivia to avoid serious discussion.

wouldn say he is deceptive but it fair to say his default position is to crack jokes and deflect uncomfortable questions by asking endless questions, one member of parliament close to him said.

Former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe attends a graduation ceremony on the outskirts of Harare.

(AP File Photo)

is very conscious that his public image is that of a hard man but he is a much more complex personality pleasant and an amazing story teller, the politician, also from Mnangagwa Midlands Province, told Reuters.

Mnangagwa appointment as vice president came a day after his predecessor Joice Mujuru was fired for allegedly planning to topple Mugabe.

Asked whether the purge would weaken the party, a smiling Mnangagwa said: revolution has a way of strengthening itself. It goes through cycles, this is another cycle where it rids itself of elements that had now become inconsistent with the correct line. He was captured while in one of the earliest guerrilla units fighting white colonial rule in what was then Rhodesia.
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Kat Kimmel stood on the trail that bisected the woods, created a halfway point between the main road and the lakeside.

Her disquiet had grown exponentially since she left the Redding house. She supposed it was akin to coming out of shock.

She knew they needed to call the local police. Kat figured she’d run it by Cameron’s dad, but it was pretty much a done deal in her own mind. Something was bad wrong.

And why was she in the woods? Was she nuts?

Kat turned. The woods, heavy with cedar trees, sloping down toward the lake. The treeline that concealed both the sight and noise of the main road that led out of their suburb and into the city with surprising effectiveness.

The sun was lowering in the west, but she knew there was at least 4 hours of light left. Feeling an odd combination of fear and exhilaration, Kat headed for the clearing where they’d found the remains of Taylor Waycross’s little schnauzer, Strudel.

The lake, it’s ripe sardine smell undercutting the tang of the cedars, could be glimpsed here and there as she walked. Kat had travelled about a quarter mile, and knew that this point on the trail where it curved in towards the lake also marked where she should look for the disturbed grass that marked the path into the clearing where Strudel’s remains lay, mouldering.

Kat stopped. Her senses felt too sharp, too acute. She whipped around, sure someone was standing on the path behind her.

Nothing. The wind, rarely still by the lake, was nonexistent.

Kat felt like she was trying to figure out a 3 d magic eye puzzle.

She turned again. Now she faced the opposite side of the path, away from the barely discernible trail into little Strudel’s resting place.

She saw the animal lurking in the center of the magic eye’s confusion.

It was a single footprint. Three feet off the trail, perfectly preserved in the red clay mud. The woods here were thicker, as in curving away toward the lake the exercise trail widened the gap between it and the main road.

Kat stepped into the high yellow grass and kneeled down to look at the print. It was a plain soled shoe, like a moccasin or an earth shoe she tried to remember the name of the style she was seeing in her head. It seemed like all the druggie kids wore them; soft suede, taupe, short laces, ankle high. Kangaroos?

The print was large, too a man’s.

Kat headed deeper into the grass towards the treeline,
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following the toe of the print.

If there was an image that symbolized the summer to Cameron Hancock in later years, it was what he saw as he turned into the cul de sac.

One house over, the Barber home, Max Siler standing on the front step. Looking dazed, wild eyed. Covered in blood.

Max wore only his usual khaki pants, always too big for him, the belt on the last loop.

Cameron squealed to a stop, threw the van into park and vaulted out of the driver’s side, running for his friend.

As he ran it seemed time slowed. Like he was mired in molasses, and it was only getting thicker, colder. Sound ceased, save his own breathing and the pounding of his heart.

He reached Max just as the young piano prodigy stumbled into the grass of the Barber’s front lawn.

Max looked up at Cameron and vomited.

As Kat picked her way into the treeline she glanced up to see that she was surrounded by spiderwebs. She knew they were natural, but the sight threw a terrible shiver down her spine anyway. She turned in a circle, counting the webs and their inhabitants. At least 4. All of them the long bodied tiger striped variety. Given enough space these creatures could make epic, perfect webs, and seemed to last all summer when they nested at the corner of the deck in Kat’s back yard.

She took a step forward and found herself face to face with one. This web was the largest, and the spider was exactly even with her eyes, and it hung in the air like a warning.

It was mid summer, and chills travelled up Kat’s spine. She crossed goosefleshed arms over her breasts and picked her way around the web.

There was a little trail here, after all. It was so narrow she suspected it had been made by generations of animals wild and domestic, following whatever they followed to create such pathways scent, or habit. It snaked down a slope now, and Kat tried to recall if she’d ever been here before. She was sure she, Max, and Cameron along with any other of a number of neighborhood kids had explored every square foot of these woods in the years since their parents allowed them to play unsupervised.
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Many Queenslanders live with extreme weather on a daily basis heart wrenching drought, thong melting heat, unrelenting rain and knuckle stinging cold.

Cyclones are at the sharp end of the spectrum, descending on communities and destroying lives and livelihoods. But Australia’s most deadly cyclone hit with little warning and rarely attracts attention today.

CYCLONE MAHINA: 1899Maggie Porter desperately reached out in the dark, searching for her 18 month old daughter Alison who was swept from her arms as water rushed into the cabin of the Crest of The Wave.

Mother and daughter had taken refuge while Maggie’s husband Captain William Porter and his crew were on deck, working to save the stricken schooner as it was belted by Mahina variously described as a hurricane, cyclone or “tropical disturbance”. It is estimated more than 400 died in the storm, including the crews of about 100 vessels in the pearling fleet and about 100 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

“She and I both got sea sick, as the storm grew worse,” Mrs Porter writes in the letter reprinted in The Pearling Disaster, 1899: a memorial.

“And it was almost more than I could do to help her while being ill myself. Things were washing against my feet and nearly carrying me away I don’t know how often. The worst of all for us in the cabins was when the windows were washed in with one sweep, and the cabins filled with water.

The Crest of the Wave weathering the cyclone. Source: Artist Unknown

“Baby was washed away from me, and I groped in the dark until I found her dripping wet and gasping for breath. My heart ached for her. I couldn’t stand with her in my arms and was just falling when my husband rushed in just in time to help us to a seat in the dining cabin where we remained until morning, clinging on to whatever would help us, the seas washing over us all the time.”

The Porters were spared the fate that befell hundreds of souls lost in the “pearling disaster” of 1899. In March of that year, Mahina hit the coast at Bathurst Bay a remote settlement in far north Queensland and left in its wake a destroyed pearling fleet and the “greatest death toll of any natural disaster in Australia’s recorded history”.

Captain William F. [National Library of Australia Digital Collection]

While cyclones Tracy, Larry and Yasi are etched in the country’s memory, Mahina has been largely forgotten or entirely escaped the attention of many Australians. James Cook University Professor Jonathan Nott is one of the exceptions.

Wreck of the Zanoni at Cape Melville. Source: The Pearling Disaster, 1899: a memorial [National Library of Australia Digital Collection]

“[It] shows we can get storms of that intensity in north Queensland,” Professor Nott said when the paper was published.

And if a cyclone as intense as Mahina hit today, it would be “utterly catastrophic” and “beyond any planning or mitigation measures that we’ve considered”.

Zephyr moored at Flinders Island, at the tip of Cape Melville, raised eight weeks after Mahina. Source: The Pearling Disaster, 1899: a memorial. [National Library of Australia Digital Collection]

Extreme weather can be sudden. It can be constant. Fairfax Media has spoken to Queenslanders from the coldest, hottest, driest and wettest parts of the state to find out what it’s like to live in these areas.

Having bragging rights about being Queensland’s coldest town was not enough for Stanthorpe. The Granite Belt town in the Southern Downs region has made an industry of it.

Southern Downs Regional Council mayor Peter Blundell says Stanthorpe’s famous cold weather is vital to its economy.

And the snow fall in 2015 the first in three decades resulted in even more dollars flowing into the Granite Belt.

“If we could organise snow every year, that would be absolutely fantastic,” Cr Blundell says

“It had been 31 years since the last snowfall and the impact on the economy immediately was brilliant, over two weekends.

“The first weekend, they said it was going to snow and it didn’t and the second weekend it did, so we had a lot of people come up to visit.

“You talk to local businesses and they’ll tell you they were flat out and it was fantastic and not only was business good, people were in a jovial and positive mood, so it has huge advantages.”

One of those local businesses was Alure Boutique Villas, run by tourism body Destination Southern Downs vice chairwoman Marian Carrick.
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A joint Queensland government and industry taskforce will begin to plan for the medium and long term response to the disease, which wiped out the Northern Territory’s industry almost two decades ago.

The federal government will also be asked to join the taskforce.

“The banana industry is worth $600 million to the Queensland economy and the Queensland Government wants to do everything that we can do to assist,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

“It’s important we all continue to support the banana industry as it goes through these tough times.

“If you buy Queensland grown bananas on a regular basis, keep doing so, and if you don’t, now’s a great time to start.”

This town, this area, needs the banana industry. The whole industry is pulling together to make sure we get through this.

Adrian Crema, far north Queensland banana farmer

Biosecurity Queensland said it was still not clear whether other properties were infected.

Chief biosecurity officer Jim Thompson hoped containing an outbreak could buy some time for the industry.

“We have to look at a whole range of things of whether we can get bananas that might be disease resistant,
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as to whether there’s other crops that could be planted in those areas where bananas are not able to be planted or other management regimes in terms of bananas that might mean we can still farm in those areas.”

The family that owns the farm at the centre of the Panama tropical race 4 outbreak said they had no idea how the disease entered their farm.

Heidi Quagliata, from the Robsons Banana farm in Tully, said it was a very difficult time for her family.

“Just the nausea, the anxiety attacks that you get,” she said.

“Anyone in our position would be going through the same thing and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.”

Strict new rules to protect cropsThe disease affects the roots of banana plants and stops harvestable fruit from growing.

The fungus lives and is spread through soil and once it is there, there is no way to get rid of it.

‘A nightmare that won’t go away’ For Heidi Quagliata and her family, the spectre of Panama tropical race 4 is a nightmare from which they will never wake up.

Infected land can never be used for cavendish bananas again.

Around the world no region has ever been able to contain the disease but Queensland farmers are hoping Tully will be the first and they are taking extraordinary measures.

Banana farmer Adrian Crema has fenced in his 200 acre Jarra Creek property and all vehicles on the property are being sprayed as they enter and again as they leave.

His property is just three kilometres from the infected area and although worried about his future, he has remained stoic.

“‘Come clean, leave clean’ . that’s the industry’s logo at the moment,
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” he said.

“There’s too much at stake to give up my father started here 50 years ago and now we’re farming and I want it to continue with our family and my son.

“The whole banana industry is focused on beating this.

“This is probably the biggest threat that our industry has faced while I’ve been growing bananas and we have to beat it.”

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Over the years I’ve noticed a series of patterns emerging out of the sea of clowns, mummies, and Steve Irwins that make up Costume Day. These patterns are forged by specific personalities who always seem to gravitate to certain types of costumery each and every Halloween. It’s pretty much guaranteed that whatever party you’re heading off to tonight, you’re for sure going to run into one or more of the following:

The Garbage Man

There’s a particular breed of person who meets the implied challenge of a costume party invite by walking to their closet and just throwing on a “bunch of crazy shit.” A feather boa. A weird sparkly shirt unbuttoned injudiciously low. A necktie tied around the head. People ask The Garbage Man, “What are you supposed to be?” And The Garbage Man just answers with a shrug, and then goes and stands right in front of mind meltingly loud speakers, where it stays, swaying only slightly, for the rest of the night. Bonus: The Garbage Man who adds to the confusion by dousing itself in blood. Triple cherry bonus: The Bloody Garbage Man who gets very, very drunk and then refuses to leave the party, even after the hostess has changed into pajamas and very much would like to go to bed.

The Punster

I’m white and covered in garbage. Get it, I’m white trash! I’m a pregnant beauty pageant contestant, get it, I’m Miss Conception! I’m an tender worm dressed in striped pajamas. Get it, I’m jail bait!

The Usual

This is the type who insists on wearing the exact same costume each and every year, often something inspired by the military, something with period weaponry and leather harnessing, something that requires lots of “accuracy of detail.” Ritual loving sticklers such as these are so pleased with their costumes, they often scrape together alternate reasons to wear them, such as Burning Man or the Renaissance Pleasure Faire.

The Shim

These typically mild mannered sorts are the ones who arrive at the party dressed in drag and then spend the whole night wondering why more people aren’t shocked and titillated by their bent genders.

The Girl Who Dresses Sexy

Whatever she’s wearing this year the Sexy Nurse costume, the Sexy Kitty costume, the Sexy Space Alien costume, the Sexy Auditor costume rest assured you’re going to see a lot of thigh. And tits. Don’t forget the tits. (I can’t believe you almost forgot the tits.)

The Character Study

There are those who go beyond simply dressing up as some famous person or character. They revel in going the extra mile in that person’s shoes; they become the character for the duration of the costume. Like if the guy comes dressed as Michael Jackson, he’ll insist on talking in a high, tight whisper as he makes entendre laden comments about how kids must be this high to ride this ride, or how little pitchers have big . mouths. Usually by the end of the evening, everyone is so creeped out by the relentless authenticity that they stop talking to The Character Study, and he’s left sitting alone on the couch, quietly adjusting his one sparkly glove.

The Nothing but Speedo, Cape, and Vader Helmet

Didn’t I see you crossing Haight Street on Saturday Night? I thought that was you! Nice work.

Tara and Sarah of Television Without Pity have a new book out! It’s called , and it is delightful. I pre ordered my copy months ago, so when it arrived last week, it was like a little surprise party in my mailbox. I just keep fanning this tidy little book open to random pages and marveling at each odd and insightful listing: “Alien Species, Dermatological Problems of”.”Future on TV, Similarity to Present”.”Orphans.” I can do this open up this book and get a quick shot of glee 752 different times. Seven hundred and fifty two! What did I do to deserve this? Something pretty good, I’m thinking.

My friend since high school Kari Kiernan has a piece up at the prestigious Huffington Post, one of the top one hundred blogs of ALL TIME. The thing she wrote is called The Frying Pan and the Fire, and it’s a very funny and endearing peek at the struggle borne from being completely outclassed by your cooking gear. Since my rudimentary cooking skills and I also cower in the shadow of high end cookware (in my case it’s an intimidating All Clad 12 inch fry pan), I sadly can very much relate to the plight. If only Tamalpais High School had offered Home Ec, just think how much better our lives would be! Dumb Tamalpais High School.

It’s been a great week for my favorite star crush, Julia Sweeney: she landed herself a sparkly review (NYT prescription required) for her NYC staging of Letting Go of God, plus she got the plum Terry Gross treatment. All of that, and her self released CD is finally in its final launch countdown (which means there’s still time to get that buying click finger nice and warmed up).

Good old Old Navy is now torturing me with its , which I crave so hard it makes me dizzy, but for some insane reason, it comes in man shapes only. Sad, sad world! Do you think I could get a small and then bring it to a tailor and have the shoulders brought in? Or would that be crazy? Yeah, that might be a little crazy. (Thanks to Anatomy of a Skirt Erin for the woodsy tipoff.)

And oh yes, there’s also another Desperate Housewives recap to contend with. This one weighed in at 12 pages, 6,999 words, 9 solid hours of typing, and one salty tear.

Saturday, Oct. 28, 2006 link

I just went to RNM for mini burgers and pink and white wines and a vodka soda, and also before all that a beer at Noc Noc (yes Noc Noc, which I don’t think I’d been inside since 1992), all in celebration of Heidi Meredith’s birthday! We sang happy birthday TWICE. And we toasted hamburgers! And we made new friends! They were playing Spirited Away on the flatscreen behind Heidi’s head, which was sliightly distracting and also confusing, apparently the little black feet people things were supposed to be the proletariat? Oh and also there was this amazing and arresting photo in the bathroom, a woman by the pool wearing a robe and matching patent leather stripper heels, with four very large dogs, ridgebacks?, all with their frontlegs stretched out before them, like they were bowing before her. Anyway, it doesn’t sound all that great, but it was a very intimate, fraught snapshot. Also I made Marco come in there and admire it, too, and he seemed very impressed.

Oh and don’t let me forget, Marco wanted me to tell you about the white dog we saw at the park last weekend, it was running and running around, it’s owner nowhere in sight, and Marco was all, hey Casper! And the dog, mid stride, turned to us and smiled. That the end of the story. Marco totally guessed the dog’s name. Because the dog was white, like a ghost.

Ooh hey, look at that, the DVR R ed four episodes of Rescue Me!

Edited the next morning to remove drunky typos and to add in a bit more sense, wow.

I’m a little bit of a picker. I can never leave a zit alone, and if I get a sunburn, I delight in peeling off the dead skin. And ever since I’ve been using Technorati (I signed up in September, back when they hired me to write their Press tour), I’ve been reloading my Home page like ten times a day. Maybe fifteen? Just to see if any of my twenty plus favorite diaries have updated. Or to check if anyone has maybe linked to my sleeptest, which now has an insane 5,630 (suddenly the number’s dropped to 1,301, maybe because Technorati only charts links from the last six months?) links almost all of them people who have taken the test and posted their results. And there’s still maybe five, ten new people posting new results each day, which seems so amazing to me.

Anyway now Technorati has knighted me as one of their featured Favorites members, so if you hit reload again and again and again and again and again and again, you might just see my shining face.
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The explosion happened on Bonkle Road, Newmains (Image: Google Maps) ShareOne Bonkle Road resident said: “I was out in the garden and then I heard a huge bang and the ground started to shake. It was scary and then the police were along to tell us to get out.”Police Scotland said enquiries were ongoing.A Police Scotland spokeswoman said: “Around 1335 hours on Thursday 5 October 2017, police were called to a report of an explosion within a building in Bonkle Road, Newmains, Wishaw.”Emergency services are at the scene and two injured parties are being treated by ambulance.”Police enquiries are ongoing and a number of nearby properties are being evacuated at a precaution.”A Scottish Fire and Rescue Services spokesperson said: “We are currently in attendance at an incident at Bonkle Road, Newmains involving a small explosion in a commercial building.”Operations Control immediately mobilised two fire appliances to the scene after the alarm was raised at 1.29pm on Thursday, October 5.”Firefighters are currently tackling a small fire with powerful water jets. Two casualties are being treated by the Scottish Ambulance Service.”Man steals money from bookmakers after threatening staffLike us on FacebookFollow us on TwitterDaily NewsletterCourtsBritain First chief Jayda Fransen shouts ‘No Surrender’ after leaving dock in BelfastFransen made global headlines last month after US President Donald Trump retweeted some of her videos and she is back in the limelight again for allegedly using anti Islamic hate speech.Craig WhyteRangers’ liquidators locked in 2.8m legal battle with firm once linked to Craig WhyteLawyers for Wavetower want a chunk of the 30m that liquidators BDO are believed to have recovered after the Ibrox club’s financial collapse.Knife crimeKnife murderer who killed young dad is left fighting for his own life after prison stabbingViolent thug John Blake, who stabbed young dad of two Sean Stark to death, was attacked in Glenochil prison last weekend.Glasgow’This guy has nothing’ Thousands raised for Glasgow homeless hero who guarded car with 450 insideJohn McMonagle wants to give James John McGeown 5000 to say thanks after he went out of his way to stop the cash being taken.Kyle Falconer’Is that right ya p?’ Scots rocker Kyle Falconer ‘penniless’ after 25k bill for boozy air rageThe View frontman has been fined 1000, with another 24,000 in costs after squaring up to a fellow passenger and hurling a homophobic insult at a cabin crew member in June last year.GreenockCops seek witnesses as man fights for life after being hit by a car in GreenockThe 54 year old is in a critical condition after being struck by a Renault Clio near the entrance to the Tesco car park at around 4pm on Friday.
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DEAR AMY: I have a problem with my 80 year old mother. When she goes out on special occasions, she insists on wearing shoes with 1 inch heels instead of flats.

She says it completes her outfit. The problem is, she’s unstable on these heels. She walks as if she’s on stilts, often requiring assistance.

I believe her judgment is impaired. She won’t take my advice and never listens to me. For instance, decades ago I warned her of the perils of being a Cubs fan. She ignored me. You know the results.

Anyhow, I’m writing to you because you’re my only hope. My mom religiously reads your column; she considers you an oracle of truth (see what I mean about impaired judgment?).

I believe that if you print this letter and provide her with common sense advice, such as, “Ditch the heels, woman,” she’ll take your advice, and the problem will be solved. Faithful Reader

DEAR FAITHFUL: Ditch the heels, woman!

And get some new ones!

Your mother’s shoes might not fit properly or the heel might be too narrow for her.

I agree with you about the perils of walking on unstable footwear. No pair of shoes is worth taking a tumble for.

I bet there is a pair of stylish shoes out there that will fit your mother and also look good on her when she goes out dancing.

So it’s time for you to take her shoe shopping.

I also agree with you on the perils of being a Cubs fan.

But baseball is like family. The long suffering among us see our fate as being the price of loyalty.

The best thing about being a Cubs fan is what happens during the off season. Right about now, we bury our better judgment and start looking forward to next year.

DEAR AMY: My fiance and I are trying to keep our wedding guest list from spiralling out of control. I have never wanted kids at my wedding, and I would like to make the event for people 21 and over.

My fiance is very close to his three younger cousins, whereas I am not close with my 20 or so younger cousins. For me, the easiest place to cut my list is these younger cousins who aren’t 21 yet.

That being said, I would feel terrible if my fiance regretted not having his cousins at the wedding (if we made this an “adults only” event). Is there a way to invite his cousins and not mine? I’m sure it’s a social faux pas to invite some younger kids and not the others. Please advise. R

DEAR R: You and your fiance might be able to include his younger cousins (and not yours) in the wedding by giving them official roles as “junior” bridesmaids or groomsmen. Otherwise, I agree it’s not right to include some but not others as guests.

Your guest list should be your choice, and if you don’t want children present, it is your decision to make. But you can expect some pushback from relatives, so be prepared.

DEAR AMY: As a rule, I am not mean to anyone, intentionally or otherwise. I sometimes wonder if this is just weakness?

Sometimes I want to retort and give some attitude back to people, but even if I feel ready with a mean response, I don’t feel like saying it because I think I will hate myself more if I say it than just thinking about it. So, I wonder is “being nice” a weakness? What do you think? Too Nice

DEAR NICE: Being nice is not a weakness. But standing up for yourself is important too. You can stand up for yourself by being clear and assertive, and by responding appropriately and honestly to challenges.

I like to think that we all swallow a mean retort from time to time, choosing not to say something we know we might regret later. And it’s a common condition to come up with a great “comeback” after the fact. This doesn’t make you weak it makes you normal.
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I have a confession to make. It’s been weighing heavily on my conscience, especially as someone who prostrates herself at the altar of Georges Jones and Strait. Someone who asks herself, “What would Tammy Wynette do?” Someone who, in times of trouble, prays to Patsy and cut her teeth on John Prine.I really like five bro country songs.

Whew, OK. You’re probably wondering what the big deal is. But for a classic country devotee, admitting this is a big step. “Bro country is ruining our beloved genre!,” critics cry. And it totally is. Bro country that dominant force in country music featuring songs about babes, beers, and trucks is terrible. At the same time,I grew up in the smallest of small towns, with a population of about 300, and I can’t help but feel nostalgic when I hear bro country songs. They sound like fooling around with my farmboy boyfriend in his F 150 pickup, or like hanging out at an abandoned farmhouse and drinking Smirnoff Ice as a teenager. Really, I was that girl in a country song.

It’s time to be that girl again. My friend Emily (also from Climax, Minnesota) and I shimmy into cutoffs and cowboy boots and slick on some lip gloss. We’re at TCF Bank Stadium last Saturday to explore bro country and the rabid culture surrounding it. Tonight’s headliner is Luke Bryan, the bro country god who began his career with legitimate country albums before Nashville capitalized on his good looks. Now college age women and their moms both get their jollies watching him shake his ass onstage as he sings about spring break, tank tops, and tanlines. Luke Bryan is almost 40. Joining Bryan at TCF are Randy Houser, Thomas Rhett, Dustin Lynch, and bro country heavyweights Florida Georgia Line. It’s like a mini WE Fest, and the streets of the University of Minnesota campus are crawling with country folk who are ready to party.

But first, what exactly is bro country? Well, it swept country radio like a monsoon with the advent of Florida Georgia Line’s “Cruise” in 2012, and it isn’t stopping anytime soon. The songs are perfect for frat parties, the kind of slick music you can enjoy without actually listening to. They sing about girls, mostly girls in short shorts, girls in bikinis, girls with sand on their skin, girls with sunburnt lips, girls sitting shotgun and shaking their sugar shakers on a tailgate. They sing about whiskey and beaches and havin’ a good time. Bro country is barely country at all, but rather twangy pop or rock with elements of hip hop thrown in. A new bro country artist is born every day, and the radio stations like K102 (102.1 FM) are drowning in them. Nashville is divided, with half its artists decryingthe genre and half cashing in.

Back outside of TCF on Saturday, there are sorority girls in white mini dresses and plastic cowboy boots. They’re joined by frat dudes in minty shorts and boat shoes. Cougars in tight, sparkly jeans and embroidered, sequined tank tops with teased up hair are on the prowl. They’re here for girls’ nights, leaving their kids at home. Everyone is here to get wasted, to smoke and drink outside with like minded people. It’s honestly surprising no one is playing Flip Cup.

“There are sooo many bitties here,” says my brother, and his eyes light up. It’s true: Pretty girls love bro country. For every pretty girl in the requisite ensemble, there’s an older man in cargo shorts or a bro with his shirtsleeves cut off. And upon first listen, the bro country emphasis on females can seem sort of sweet. All these guys wanna do is get you drunk and tell you you’re pretty. It seems romantic until you realize what you want is not a man with a brand new Chevy with a lift kit, but a man with a Roth IRA and a plan for the future.

Everyone I meet at various tailgate parties is from the suburbs. Some have come as far as St. Cloud, like friends Brad Huyck and Troy Laurent, who are both wearing tight jeans and big white hats. They’re here to see Luke and Florida Georgia Line. “I think I would call it ‘pop country’ instead of bro country,” Huyck says.”It’s not true country like we were raised on, that’s for sure,” adds Laurent, who grew up listening to Alabama and Montgomery Gentry.

I meet Mike Keller of Shakopee, who won backstage passes to meet Luke Bryan at BUZN 102.9’s “Shake your DadBod” contest. He’s wearing a Bud Light cowboy hat and has “Not So Magic Mike” painted on his stomach, which he proudly displays to me in front of the stadium. He and his wife like country music in part because it’s “clean, and we’ve got kids.”

“I like country music because it tells stories it used to, anyway. Now it’s all about girls and trucks,” says Allison Shoaff of Apple Valley. She’s here to see Luke Bryan with her mother Susan.

I’m starting to sense a pattern here.

“We’re here to see Luke Bryan!” says every single female I approach, and there are many of them. When questioned as to why, they all reply with some variation of: “He’s so hot! And he shakes his ass!”

George Strait doesn’t shake his ass. George Strait would never.

Then again, George Strait wouldn’t change into a sliced up tank top and throw on a backwards baseball cap and sunglasses to rap onstage, either. But here we are at the end of Florida Georgia Line’s set. I swear I can hear George Jones doing laps in his grave right now.

“I would rather watch you lick that pretzel cheese for 45 minutes than watch these guys,” Emily says. With their tattoos, gelled hair, and piercings, Florida Georgia Line are reminiscent of the dads on Teen Mom. Their set is undeniably terrible. It sounds like Limp Bizkit. It becomes clear why they call this “hick hop.” Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley, the bros comprising Florida Georgia Line, occasionally strum a guitar half hardheartedly, but they mostly pose and posture down the runway . er, stage. When we spoke with Kelley ahead of the show, he predicted, “I bet there will be a lot of Minnesota country girls sitting on dudes’ shoulders having a good time. That’s my favorite thing to see.” A young guy wearing a frat classic Vineyard Vines T shirt sings every word; he’s having a great time.

Luke Bryan takes the stage as soon as the sun sets. He’s wearing a jacket, baseball cap, shiny black shoes (no cowboy boots?!), and tight ass jeans. He starts off his set with his new single “Kick the Dust Up,” which may actually be the worst song ever. He rhymes “up” with “up” through the entire thing. The crowd doesn’t care. They’re going nuts. They go even crazier when he rips off the jacket during 2007’s pre bro gem “All my Friends Say.” Luke Bryan is just not my type, I guess.

But it’s fun, I’ll admit it. Emily and I are eventually dancing along with the rest of the crowd. Revisiting the moment in my head, though, I can’t help but be disappointed. Does shaking your ass and looking hot onstage make you a country idol? I can’t abide by this. It feels so shallow, so sad. Luke Bryan doesn’t even pick up an instrument for the first half hour. The touring musicians do all the heavy lifting, he does all the strutting.

These bro country artists were clearly inspired by Garth Brooks’ incredible showmanship and spectacular stadium concerts. But they all lack true charisma and talent, the genuine care for music and fans that Garth has in spades. It’s not as though they’re untalented; Luke and his openers are super charming when they gather to cover Maroon 5’s “Sugar.” It just feels a little too slick, like you can hear the money already being stacked. Bro country is a never ending party, but eventually someone’s gonna call the cops and bust it up,
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Paulette Hacker couldn’t stop screaming. Lying on her side on a gurney, wearing only a bra and panties, she felt as if she were being stabbed again and again. In a way, she was. Through incisions in her upper back, a stainless steel tube called a cannula was suctioning out her excess fat.

“Please stop! You’re hurting me!” she cried to her doctor. Because although Hacker’s body was limp and her mind bleary from an unknown combination of drugs she’d been given through pills and a gas mask, the 38 year old was awake partway through the second day of liposuction on her back, underarms, abdomen, hips and neck. That was the whole point: She was undergoing the new and aggressively marketed Awake cosmetic surgery, which is performed under local anesthesia.

“You can’t scream, Paulette,” a gruff voice answered her. Hacker hazily realized that the voice did not belong to her doctor; the man performing her operation was a stranger whom Hacker would later discover was a physician’s assistant. (Through his attorney, Dr. Bittner strongly denies all of Hacker’s allegations.)

“Move her into the TV room she’s making too much noise,” a confused and terrified Hacker heard another voice say. Her gurney was rolled down the hall and into a second room, where she could see the assistant jab her while he watched a basketball game playing in the background on a wall mounted television. The volume was cranked up loud enough to drown out her cries.

After the five hour operation, Hacker says the assistant and an office clerk yanked her to her feet and squeezed her into compression garments. Dazed and sobbing, she struggled into her clothes and found herself face to face with a beaming Dr. Bittner. The doctor gently asked why she was crying, she says. Then he maneuvered her beside him and told her to smile for a photo.

Marketed as cheaper, more medically advanced

Hacker had been excited to fly down two days earlier from Sacramento, California. The stay at home mom weighed 233 pounds and was trying to slim down; she’d lost 22 pounds on her own through diet and exercise mostly jogging and now felt she could use some help. But she’d never had elective surgery before and feared having general anesthesia.

Surfing the Web, Hacker had discovered the Awake procedure, which was advertised as a cheaper and more medically advanced alternative to lipo and, for those inclined, to abdominoplasty and breast enhancement, too. The price was right: Awake lipo with Dr. Bittner would cost only about $700 for each body part, versus about $3,000 if she had regular plastic surgery. She found it comforting that the lipo would be performed in a doctor’s cozy office, not in an intimidating outpatient surgical center or hospital. Best of all to Hacker, Awake ads promised that patients would remain lucid throughout the operation and even be able to interact with their doctor. “I liked the idea that I’d be awake and in control,” Hacker remembers. “The surgery really looked like it was for me.”

Unfortunately, the procedure may not have been designed to meet her needs, but rather the doctors’. “The reason for the ‘awake’ portion of it has nothing to do with improving patient comfort,” says Joseph M. “It has to do with doctors not needing to involve an anesthesiologist.” General anesthesia is expensive, and the specialists who provide it prefer to work in hospitals or clinics that have met high safety standards. Awake surgery has become a way for doctors who lack hospital privileges but who want to cash in on the plastic surgery market to exploit a loophole by performing the operations in the privacy of their offices. “This is just a gimmick by people who can’t operate their way out of a wet paper bag,” Dr. Gryskiewicz argues.

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Hacker had chosen Dr. Bittner’s medi spa after studying his website, which showcased his Johns Hopkins education, testimonials and pictures of smiling patients beside the tall, tan doctor. Hacker checked to make sure Dr. Bittner was qualified, and there it was: “board certified.” She didn’t realize that he was a board certified radiologist. A non plastic surgery background is the norm for Awake practitioners, who tend to be family physicians, OBs, ophthalmologists, pathologists any doctor willing to shell out up to $7,000 for two day training courses held around 30 times a year by a group of recently formed professional associations.

It’s all emblematic of a growing problem of amateurism in the plastic surgery field, warns Michael F. In Southern California, 40 percent of liposuction practitioners had no training in the procedure before entering practice, according to a 2010 study in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery by surgeons at Loma Linda University Medical Center in California. The study found that the most numerous providers of lipo after plastic surgeons were otolaryngologists ear, nose and throat doctors. And a 2008 review of liposuction related fatalities in Germany concluded that in cases in which patients died, “lack of surgical experience was a notorious contributing factor,” especially when it came to doctors’ failing to identify complications.

Breast augmentation takes that risk to an even higher level, Dr. McGuire says, because of the host of emergencies that could arise, including blocked airways, blood pressure changes or collapsed lungs. And full tummy tucks are the most invasive of all, risking pulmonary embolism and abdominal perforation; Dr. McGuire calls it “inconceivable that anyone would do such a major procedure under anything less than a light general anesthesia.” He cites Awake surgery as part of a disturbing trend of non plastic surgeons attempting procedures that have not been thoroughly tested such as the not yet FDA approved “stem cell face lift,” and Macrolane injectable breast enhancement and unabashedly touting them to the public as the Next Big Thing. “Awake surgery is a carnival sideshow event,” Dr. McGuire says. “Your life could be at stake with some of these kooks.”

Patients alert and have input, but also agony

An Awake breast implant surgery in the Plano, Texas, office of Jeffrey C. “If they take too much sedative, they’re going to have trouble picking out a size,” says Dr. Caruth, a board certified ob/gyn who has performed more than 200 Awake breast jobs since his training course in May 2008 (as well as 1,000 Awake liposuctions, charging up to $5,000 per surgery). Using a thin needle, Dr. Caruth injects each breast with a small amount of the anesthetic fluid lidocaine. When the area numbs, he makes his first incision. There’s no anesthesiologist and, unlike with IV administered “twilight sedation,” no drip that can be adjusted to render a patient unconscious if she’s in pain.

“They’re totally alert,” Dr. Caruth says. “It’s actually a lot of fun; we play music and talk.” He says his patients feel nothing as he uses a cannula to infiltrate both breasts with tumescent fluid a solution of saline, lidocaine and epinephrine and makes more incisions. Next, they feel pressure and pulling as he stretches the skin and muscle to create a pocket under the muscle large enough for the implants. Then comes the climactic moment: The patient’s gurney is ratcheted upright so she can face a mirror and see her chest inflated with temporary sizers. The doctor ushers in her partner, family or friends to help her decide if she’s happy with her new silhouette before proceeding with the implants.

This is the driving reason women choose Awake breast surgery, according to Dr. Caruth. “They want to have input. When you go shopping, you don’t take something off the rack, throw it in the sack and go home. You try it on first,” he points out. “Women are picky. It’s like shopping for a new dress or a pair of shoes.” He consults with patients before surgery about what’s feasible, but the ultimate decision comes while they’re under the knife.

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A patient’s autonomy her ability to exert control over her own body is a huge selling point, emphasized again and again on the websites of Awake practitioners. “A woman lying there is not in any position to be giving advice to the surgeon,” she exclaims. Louis who has researched the safety and design of breast implants. Dr. Lund watched a video of an Awake breast surgery at an ASAPS conference and says the roomful of doctors was aghast. “The patient looked as if she’d had about 10 stiff margaritas” as she contemplated her reflection and at her doctor’s urging agreed to go up a size, he recounts.

Dr. Caruth says his patients are completely lucid because of his insistence upon minimal sedation about half of his patients take no

Valium at all and that he’s had only two patients who wanted do overs, both to go bigger. “I know people who say they do Awake breast augmentation and then slam the patient with narcotics,” he says. “That’s not the case here.” But even among patients who aren’t sedated, the time to make reasoned decisions is before surgery, Dr. Lund argues. The operating room is not a shopping mall, after all; if you regret your impulse purchase, you can’t easily go back and return it. “In the consultation room, the C cup might have made more sense for your body and your life, but in the operating room, you might say, ‘Give me the D!'” Dr. Lund says, adding, “Later, if you’re not happy, the doctor can say, ‘Well, I gave you what you wanted.'”

Another Awake premise is that patients are smart to avoid general anesthesia, which causes one death per 200,000 to 300,000 anesthetics given, the Institute of Medicine estimated in 2000. But the large volume of lidocaine used during an Awake surgery poses its own risks. “The amount of local anesthesia needed to anesthetize both breasts comes close to the toxic level,” says Dr. McGuire, who is also immediate past president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS). Lidocaine has not been extensively studied for breast augmentation, but plastic surgeons say a limit of 35 mg to 50 mg per kilo is wise. Dr. Caruth says he uses about half this amount. But in reviewing more than a dozen cases of Awake surgery gone wrong, Dr. McGuire says patients got more than the limit and warns that a lidocaine overdose can kill. The idea is that a high dose is safe in Awake surgery because it’s injected into fat, which, having fewer blood vessels than muscle does, is slower to absorb anesthetic. On the other hand, “that slow absorption could mean you’re just delaying peak toxicity,” says Keith J. “So theoretically, you could have someone on her way home from surgery, and complications like seizures and heart arrhythmias could arise.”

Without an anesthesiologist present, patients can also end up in agony. Dr. Caruth says he’s able to resolve discomfort with an extra squirt of tumescent fluid. But “you don’t want people with a low threshold for pain,” he adds. If a patient remains uncomfortable after a doctor has already maxed her out on lidocaine, an Awake practitioner is left with only two options: Halt the surgery, or grimace and carry on. Responsible doctors would do the former; Dr. Caruth says he’s only once had to cut a surgery short. But not all surgeons act responsibly, Dr. McGuire says, and if patients were to writhe in pain at the wrong time, it could spell disaster. “The stories are just hair raising,” he says. “As a surgeon, I don’t want to be operating on screaming people.”

Awake doctors aren’t trained in plastic surgery

After her painful procedures, Hacker returned home bandaged, swollen and sore. “I hurt so much, I couldn’t function,” she says. Her entire body swelled out of control despite her wearing a pressurized garment for eight weeks, and she had neck and back pain so wrenching that she couldn’t lift her young daughter for the next year and a half.

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The more facts Hacker learned about her physician, the more disturbed she became. Three other patients had come forward, alleging their Awake liposuction was performed not by Dr. Bittner but by his office manager a woman with no medical license who was also his girlfriend and that they emerged injured and disfigured. Those suits were settled or withdrawn. But Dr. Bittner still faces a felony charge for aiding and abetting the practice of medicine without certification, as well as a civil suit brought by Hacker. His lawyer, Benjamin Gluck of Los Angeles, notes that his client has “hundreds and hundreds of satisfied patients” versus “a few unhappy patients who have retracted their more colorful accusations under oath.” Given this, Gluck says he strongly believes the criminal case will resolve in the doctor’s favor.

Hacker also discovered that no doctor should have given her lipo in the first place. It is inappropriate for obese patients because of their higher risk for complications and because surgeons can safely remove only about 5 pounds of fat, Dr. McGuire says. Worse, experts say, doing multiple sessions of lipo on many body parts over sequential days common among Awake surgeons is far outside the norm and vastly increases the dangers. When she shared post op reports from Dr. Bittner’s office with another physician, Hacker learned her blood pressure went so high during the procedure she could have had a stroke. “This was all about greed, not about taking care of patients,” she says.
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Why parents kill their children: Experts reveal what drives mothers to murder their infants and how kids can be used as ‘pawns’There is no single factor that makes women more likely to murder their children but relationships and domestic violence play a part15:36, 18 OCT 2017Updated19:40, 18 OCT 2017Keith Young killed his four sons (from left) Callum, five, Joshua, seven, Daniel, three and Thomas, six (Image: Press Association)

Some of them meet their deaths alongside their parents. These killers are known as ‘family annihilators’, people who want to die and take everyone with them in episodes which cause mass devastation fires, shootings and drownings.

Others are killed in horrific acts of ferocity, often as a result of domestic violence, mental illness or the moment a parent suddenly and unexpectedly snaps.

Some die after agonising neglect, slowly starved or beaten to death by parents whose lives have often been caught up in a toxic web of drug addiction or alcohol abuse .

Researchers have found that children are more at risk if domestic violence has been present in the parental relationship.

At the root of many murders of children by their mums and dads is desperation an isolated parent feeling they have no way out but to take the youngsters away from the problems.

Child killer Kathryn Smith has jail term for stamping toddler daughter to death cut by appeal court

For some parents this isolation, can present itself as a need to get revenge on a departed partner in the worst way possible by killing their children.

“When it gets to the point of violence they are certainly not being seen as children, they are being seen as pawns in many instances,
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” said Kieran O’Hagan, who has studied filicide, where parents kill their offspring, and familicide when numerous relatives are murdered frequently the entire family.

Around three children are killed by their parents every month in the UK.

According to researchers, relationships marred by domestic violence are among the triggers for both men and women to target their children.

“A problem today is understanding the issues,” added Kieran. “The number of separations and breakdowns in relationships is so colossal that we almost take it for granted. Very often the attitude is that ‘it is no big deal’, we actually lose sight of what has happened to a particular individual and how absolutely catastrophic this is for someone.

“The consequences of losing a partner they trusted, depended on and looked forward to a future with is ignored. It’s very easy to lose sight of the catastrophic impact of a breakdown of a relationship. We just expect people to ‘get over it’ because everyone is getting over it.”

For mothers, the toxic combination of being abandoned by the fathers and being unable to get support can leave them feeling that there’s no way out. Abandoned and alone, life for some becomes unbearable.

Many reach out for help. Sometimes that help is unreliable. Often, they begin to research suicide.

For some, the thought of their children living without them is inconceivable and they decide the only answer is to take the children’s lives too.

(Image: PA)

Kieran added: “Mothers with very young children are infinitely more vulnerable when a partner deserts them and walks out on them. This can lead to them developing mental illness and within that condition they reason there isn’t any way out for them. They come to the conclusion that they have had enough and they want to take their own life and it’s inconceivable to them that they take their own life and leave their children.

“Many will see both actions as one killing themselves and killing their children. It’s often the case that they regard themselves and the children as one. It is inconceivable to them that they could inflict death on their children and at the same time not inflict the same on themselves.”

Relationships can cause mental breakdowns, which can lead to violence towards children, and also in some parents a need for revenge. Researchers said this can manifest itself almost as an addiction, where hurting a former partner becomes paramount.

An element of revenge has been noted by researchers in murders carried out by both sexes, and is a result of a relationship gone sour and often with some form of domestic violence be this physical or mental abuse. This means children are not safe,
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even years after a split.