Big Apple going trans-fat free

NEW YORK -- Health-conscious travelers will find the latest thing in the city to their taste.

New York today became the first city in the United States to ban trans-fats in restaurant food, a ban that takes place in the midst of debate over numerous studies proclaiming an obesity epidemic, particularly among younger and lower income people.

Trans-fats have been linked to heart disease, and blamed for raising levels of undesireable LDL in cholesterol while lowering the levels of desireable HDL.

Common foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, a common form of trans-fats, include such things as processed foods, baked goods, pizza dough and cracjers.

"It's basically a slow form of poison," David Katz, director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center, told the Associated Press. "I applaud New York City and frankly, I think there should be a nationwide ban."

The ban isn't without its detractors. Many food industry representatives claim the city exceeded its authority in ordering restaurants to abandon an ingredient that is permitted by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration.

"This is a legal product," said E. Charles Hunt, executive vice president of the New York State Restaurant Association. "They're headed down a slippery slope here."

As far as a phase-in is concerned, the city's Board of Health says restaurants will be barred by July 2007 from using most frying oils containing trans-fats, and one more year to eliminate trans-fats from all foods.
• Revealing trans-fats
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STATEN ISLAND, NY -- NASCAR fans who had hoped the stock cars would be coming to the Big Apple can cross that one off their to-visit list.

International Speedway Corp., which had hoped to construct a track here on Staten Island, one of New York's five boroughs, has called off the project.

"While we are disappointed that we could not complete the speedway development on Staten Island, our enthusiasm for the metropolitan New York market is in no way dampened," ISC president Lesa France Kennedy said in a public statement Monday. "We continue to view the region as a prime location for a major motorsports facility."

Kennedy runs ISC, the publicly-traded sister company of NASCAR. The two entities had hoped to create a $150 million complex that would seat at least 80,000 fans on a former oil tank farm. The company had purchased 676 acres to do so.

Strong local opposition, based on fear of traffic tie-ups and environmental concerns, stalled the project and led to the decision to forego it and sell off the land, which real estate experts describe as the largest undeveloped acreage in the five boroughs.
The schedule
The standings
The drivers
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Meanwhile, in downtown Ashgabat …

Update: In late December 2006, the subject of this story -- Turkmenistan President Saparmurat Niyazov -- died. Click here for details.

British comic actor Sasha Baron Cohen has, if nothing else, made most of the English-speaking world aware of the nation of Kazakhstan through his put-on film "Borat." But life sometimes trumps art, as in the case of Turkmenistan, like Kazakhstan a former Soviet satellite nation.

Should you plan to visit either of the Central Asian nations, check out Kazakhstan here and Turkmenistan here.

Or, pay attention to David Remnick's take on Turkmenistan as published in The New Yorker magazine. Here's how it begins. You can get the rest of the story on the magazine’s online archive.

“Of the 15 states of the former Soviet empire, Turkmenistan, just north of Iran, is the one that has turned out to be a cruel blend of Kim Jong Il’s North Korea and L. Frank Baum’s Oz. Not long after the Soviet collapse in 1991, a former Communist Party hack named Saparmurat Niyazov became President-for-life, dubbed himself Turkmenbashi — Leader of All the Turkmen — and commenced building the strangest, most tragicomic cult of personality on the Eurasian landmass.

“Doctors there now take an oath not to Hippocrates but to Turkmenbashi; the month of January is now called Turkmenbashi; and in the capital Ashgabat, there is, atop the Arch of Neutrality, a 250-foot gold statue of Turkmenbashi that, like George Hamilton, automatically rotates to face the sun.

“It is extremely difficult to get a visa. Journalists can visit only rarely. But imagine a society in which the ubiquitous, inescapable leader’s image (on the currency, on billboards, on television screens night and day) is that of a saturnine frump who resembles Ernest Borgnine somewhere between 'Marty' and 'McHale’s Navy'."

“Niyazov is a leader of whims. He has banned opera, ballet, beards, long hair, makeup (for television anchors), and gold-capped teeth. He demands that drivers pass a ‘morality test.’ At his command, the word for ‘April’ became Gurbansoltan eje, the name of his late mother. Evidently, he prizes fruit: there is now a national holiday commemorating local melons. And, as if the shade of Orwell were not sufficiently present in Turkmenistan, Niyazov has established, despite an abysmal human-rights record, a Ministry of Fairness.”

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