Archive for the ‘Women’ Category

A spicy menage …

August 17, 2012 Leave a comment

A spicy menage a trois: The shocking love triangle between Lord Mountbatten, his wife and the founder of modern India


‘At the stroke of the midnight hour when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom.’

Those powerful words, memorable to everyone who loves India, were uttered by the father of the modern nation, Jawaharlal Nehru, when the country became independent more than 60 years ago.

Behind this famous ‘tryst with destiny’ speech lay a deeply personal fight to escape the domination of the British Raj, a struggle all the more meaningful because of Nehru’s private life.

Special relationship: Lord and Lady Mountbatten with Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru Special relationship: Lord and Lady Mountbatten with Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru

For the handsome widower had formed a more than usually deep bond with, of all people, the beautiful wife of the chief representative of the occupying power, Edwina, Lady Mountbatten.

If you came across their romance in a novel, you would dismiss it instantly as fiction.

But the fact is the couple shared an extraordinary love. Their deep attachment lasted from the moment they met in 1947 in New Delhi until the day Edwina died 13 years later.

It was such a meaningful relationship that even Lord Mountbatten himself found it best to turn a blind eye.

Perhaps he even encouraged it, so that he could benefit from any insight into the Indian mind that his wife could pass him at this pivotal time in their history.

This fascinating personal intrigue was to have been the basis of a new film, Indian Summer, starring Hugh Grant and Cate Blanchett as Lord and Lady Mountbatten.

As for the handsome Nehru, rumour has it he was to be played by Irrfan Khan, star of the hugely successful Slumdog Millionaire.

‘Dickie was devoted to Edwina, but awkward in bed’

But so concerned are the Indian government to protect their favourite statesman’s reputation that, after nine months of costly pre-production in Delhi, filming has been dramatically ordered to cease.

Indian politicians have demanded to see the script to know just how explicitly the relationship will be portrayed.

Hitherto, those who know the truth about the relationship between Nehru and Lady Mountbatten (including Mountbatten’s two daughters) have always insisted the couple never consummated their great love, and that it was more spiritual than physical.

But what is the real story? Certainly, there are aspects of Lady Mountbatten’s early life that will shock India’s ruling elite, who even today do not allow their Bollywood stars to kiss on screen.

The spoiled favourite granddaughter of a Jewish financier close to the royals, Edwina Ashley was the richest and most glamorous deb of her time.

In 1922, she married the handsome, though impoverished, 21-year- old Lord Louis Mountbatten. Known in the family as ‘Dickie’, he is nowadays best remembered as Prince Charles’s great-uncle and mentor, tragically killed by an IRA bomb in 1979.

Ostensibly it was the perfect match, but the sexually inexperienced couple had little in common.

Perfect match? Lord Mountbatten and Edwina Mountbatten were married in 1922 but had little in commonPerfect match? Lord Mountbatten and Edwina Mountbatten were married in 1922 but had little in common

After a fumbling honeymoon, some of it spent in Hollywood, Mountbatten resumed his career as a naval officer.

Meanwhile, the stylish Edwina, described as one of the six best- dressed women in the world, shopped at Chanel, played bridge, and danced the Charleston until 3am, sometimes with Fred Astaire.

At weekends, their country home was full of guests (including the Prince of Wales) arriving in fast cars and even aeroplanes.

Vain, charming and boyish, Dickie was devoted to Edwina, but still awkward in bed. He famously named her breasts Mutt and Jeff – the nicknames that World War I soldiers gave their campaign medals.

To him, sex was unromantic, ‘a mixture of psychology and hydraulics’. There were also mutterings that he preferred men.

Things went downhill after their daughter Patricia was born in 1924.

While Mountbatten doted on the new arrival, the passionate Edwina was pathologically jealous of her own child being the centre of attention.

‘A divine little daughter. Too thrilling, too sweet,’ she trilled to her diary  –  but then packed the baby off to nannies on the South Coast. The highly sexed Edwina then proceeded to look for lovers from all walks of life.

Nehru, like both Mountbattens, had bisexual tendencies

Her first was the aristocratic Lord Molyneux. He was followed by a rich, polo-playing American, Laddie Sandford, and then by Mike Wardell, the good-looking manager of a London evening newspaper. At times, she juggled all three at once.

‘Lord Molyneux is in the morning-room and Mr Sandford in the library, but where should I put the other gentleman?’ asked a desperate flunkey when they happened to visit together.

While her husband was posted to Malta in the early Thirties, she turned to American golf champion Bobby Sweeny.

Next came playboy Larry Gray, before she went on a Mexican cruise and jumped into bed with the elder of two Californian brothers, Ted Phillips, quickly followed by his sibling Bunny.

This serial sexual gallivanting went on until the birth of her second daughter Pamela in 1929.

By now, Mountbatten, too, was seeking other women. In 1931, he was flirting with the 18-year-old future Duchess of Argyll and even kept her photo in his cabin.

‘The only photo of any girl!’ he wrote to her. Later, there was Barbara Cartland and the Frenchwoman Yola Letellier, on whom Colette based her novel Gigi. Edwina was fiercely jealous, but she didn’t think to change her own habits.

Throughout the Thirties, she had dozens of admirers, known in the private slang of the Mountbatten circle as ‘ginks’.

As Mountbatten himself once put it: ‘Edwina and I spent all our married lives getting into other people’s beds.’

She even dallied with conductor Malcolm Sargent, and then embarked on her most adventurous affair to date, with the bisexual West Indian cabaret pianist Leslie Hutchinson.

Forbidden love: Edwina and Nehru in the Moghul Gardens of the Viceroy house during celebrations to mark the 10th anniversary of the Republic of India in 1960Forbidden love: Edwina and Nehru in the Moghul Gardens of the Viceroy house during celebrations to mark the 10th anniversary of the Republic of India in 1960

Although Edwina successfully sued a newspaper for saying she had a black lover, there is not much doubt she conducted an on-off relationship with ‘Hutch’ for 30 years.

She famously gave him a gold bracelet bearing her name, a gold cigarette case and, conclusively perhaps, a jewelled penis sheath from Cartier.

This sexual track record seems like an unlikely apprenticeship for a woman to become the great love of the socialist founder of modern India.

But Edwina, the social butterfly, also had a strong streak of idealism. Never one for empty titles, she seems to have climbed in and out of bed looking for a cause.

With the onset of World War II, her tireless work in the bombed- out East End was followed by a spell in South-East Asia repatriating British refugees from prison camps and hospitals.

Not for nothing did the blood of her great-great-grandfather, the distinguished 19th-century reformer Lord Shaftesbury, run in her veins.

Mountbatten’s war service culminated, of course, in the recapture of Burma from the Japanese.

Beside her bed was a collection of his letters

Indeed, both had such a successful war that in 1947 they were posted by the new Labour Prime Minister Clement Attlee to Delhi, as the last Viceroy and Vicereine of India to facilitate the smooth transition of power to Nehru, the country’s nationalist leader.

While the young Edwina had been playing the field, the patrician Nehru had been working hard for his country.

Born in 1889, son of a leading lawyer, he came from a rich and influential family with distinctly Anglicised tastes in clothes and culture.

The boys were educated in England and the girls had English governesses who gave the children English names. Jawaharlal became ‘Joe’, his sisters ‘Nan’ and ‘Betty’. After Harrow and Cambridge, Jawaharlal was called to the Bar in London, but he soon returned to India.

In 1916, he had married the high-born Kamala, riding to his Maharajah-style wedding in Delhi on a white horse.

But he had already come under the spell of the charismatic Gandhi, at the time a failed lawyer who, having been shabbily treated in British-owned South Africa, returned to his own country fired up against social injustice and determined to free it from foreign domination.

Nehru sympathised with Gandhi’s non-violent philosophy. At home, meanwhile, his frail wife started her own radical crusade to improve women’s rights.

Interestingly, the Nehru marriage somewhat mirrored that of the Mountbattens. In her 30s Kamala developed into an irresistibly attractive woman who was always surrounded by infatuated young men, including Feroze Gandhi (no relation to the Mahatma), the future husband of her daughter, Indira, who would of course later became the country’s fiery leader.

Many people are convinced Kamala and Feroze conducted a long and satisfying affair.

However, Kamala died at a young age of tuberculosis in 1936. And though Nehru had also had affairs, he never remarried. His only love now was his country – until he met Edwina Mountbatten.

It wasn’t Edwina’s first visit to India – she had engineered an invitation to the Viceregal Lodge before her marriage in hot pursuit of Mountbatten, who was also staying there.

Neither was it the first time she had met Nehru. She and Dickie had warmed to the man, whose aquiline features resembled Mountbatten’s own, in Singapore in 1946.

Those close to the couple insisted they never consummated their great love, and that it was more spiritual than physicalDeep attachment: Those close to the couple insisted they never consummated their great love, and that it was more spiritual than physical

Now, with Nehru’s mission to liberate his country at a time when war-weary Britain was desperate to get rid of it, the 47-year-old Edwina finally had a focus for her huge energy and political radicalism. Of course, British withdrawal did not go as smoothly as everyone hoped.

Mass migration and massacres followed as Indians fought for territory with the new Pakistan.

In this sensitive climate, Edwina put herself at great personal risk as she and Nehru tried to stop the looting and mob violence.

Working alongside him in hospitals and refugee camps, she was fearless. At one Muslim refugee camp, she found a gang of Hindus and Sikhs trying to set it on fire and kill the inmates.

Edwina stood in front of the crowd as calmly as though she were at a garden party, threatening to have her guards shoot the agitators. Improbably they backed off in the face of her natural authority.

After independence, the Indophile Mountbattens made many visits to the country, and Edwina spent more and more time with the new prime minister Nehru.

This is the point at which her younger daughter Pamela, the biographer in the family, acknowledges that love blossomed between the lonely Nehru and the Vicereine.

What’s more, says Pamela, her father condoned the friendship, even going so far as to call it a ‘happy threesome’.

‘My mother had already had lovers. My father was inured to it. It broke his heart the first time, but it was somehow different with Nehru,’ she has written.

When parted, they wrote to each other constantly – and Edwina made no attempt to keep the letters secret from her husband 

As Mountbatten himself wrote to her sister Patricia at the time: ‘She and Jawaharlal (Nehru) are so sweet together, they really dote on each other.’

Undignifed as it seems against the backdrop of the huge historic events in which they were caught up, there are those who suspect that Nehru, like both Mountbattens, had bisexual tendencies, and that Dickie, in a last attempt to establish physical intimacy with his unresponsive wife, may have joined them in a physical menage a trois.

Whatever went on in the bedroom, the Mountbattens joined Nehru in a very public romance with India.

This, though, didn’t go down well back in Britain, where disapproval came to a head after Gandhi was assassinated in 1948.

Seeing a newspaper photo of the grieving Viceregal couple squatting on the ground at Gandhi’s cremation, Churchill angrily concluded that they had gone native, disgracing themselves as royal representatives. When they returned home, the old war hero refused to shake Mountbatten’s hand.

The unconventional Lady Mountbatten, however, rose above all this. She visited Nehru every year and he (her soulmate) visited her in England, where his sister became High Commissioner.

When parted, they wrote to each other constantly – and Edwina made no attempt to keep the letters secret from her husband.

As she wrote to Dickie in 1952: ‘Some of them have no “personal” remarks at all. Others are love letters… though you yourself well realise the strange relationship  –  most of it spiritual  –  which exists between us.’

When the correspondence is eventually published in its entirety, perhaps we may know the whole truth.

Meanwhile, one of Nehru’s own last letters, written ten years after their first meeting, sheds a little more light. ‘Suddenly I realised (and perhaps you also did) that there was a deeper attachment between us, that some uncontrollable force, of which I was dimly aware, drew us to one another.

‘I was overwhelmed and at the same time exhilarated by this new discovery. We talked more intimately as if some veil had been removed and we could look into each other’s eyes without fear or embarrassment.’

Intense words, yet Nehru was now 68, his romantic friend ten years younger.

No longer in the first flush of youth, perhaps there was no great urgency to climb into bed.

Little did they realise how little time was left. A year later, in 1960, 58-year- old Edwina, by now leading a selfless life, died alone in her sleep while on a trip to Borneo on behalf of St John Ambulance Brigade. Beside her bed was her collection of Nehru’s letters.

And the love affair was not over yet. As her body was taken by the Royal Navy to its sea burial off Britain’s south coast, Prime Minister Nehru made his last and most public declaration of his devotion, sending his own Indian Navy frigate to cast a wreath into the waters on his behalf.

Such a dramatic farewell would make a stirring finale to any film. But as the director Joe Wright, who was behind the scheduled movie says, it will be a long time before it gets made, thanks to the explosive mixture of politics and forbidden love.

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Australian judiciary allows opening the biggest house of prostitution

July 24, 2012 Leave a comment
In a very weird development, the Australian judiciary allowed opening the biggest house of prostitution in the country, after the project was rejected, yet not for moral concerns, but … 
 Australian judiciary allows opening the biggest house of prostitution(Ahlul Bayt News Agency) – In a very weird development, the Australian judiciary allowed opening the biggest house of prostitution in the country, after the project was rejected, yet not for moral concerns, but out of fear that it can wipe out any form of competition in this domain.The municipal authorities rejected the project last September, considering that the huge size of this house of prostitution could wipe out any form of competition in this sector.

The court judge who ruled in favor of this project claimed that the sex institutions are legitimate and any moral objection is out of place.


Such a step is extremely dangerous, although some might regard it as social liberation… However, prostitution is rejected and forbidden in all the heavenly religions, customs and values, and no human of a healthy mind and body can ever accept it. The act of prostitution degrades and demeans the woman who turns into some sort of a commodity owned by man, and a means for satiating his desires in return of little cheap money, not to mention the other repercussions and problems, including the worldwide spread of white slavery, where poverty in several locations in the world would be exploited to trade with women and force and coerce them into working in prostitution through violence and crime…

All those concerned with such issues ought to reconsider their decisions by spreading awareness on their demerits and repercussions on the human society…

Prostitution, in Islam, is absolutely forbidden, and it is referred to in the Quran as fornication.  In this context and in his interpretation to the following Quranic Ayah: “(As for) the fornicatress and the fornicator, flog each of them, (giving) a hundred stripes,” (24:02), His Eminence, the late Religious Authority, Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlullah (ra), says that the reason for this punishment is that they [the fornicatress and the fornicator] have deviated from the social rule that Allah wanted all the sexual relation to be subjected to, so as to guarantee that the inclinations of the innate nature are controlled and its needs are satisfied.

It also makes the pure innermost sense feel that it is a need to make life head towards a balanced goal and not that it is a value in which all man’s whims and desires accumulate… Allah based the family system on this rule which regards the marriage contract as a condition to insure the legitimacy of the relation between the man and the woman, in what is imposed by the mutuality of the rights and obligations on the bases of amiability and human mercy.

The issue of adultery is no longer an individual situation in which man responds to his personal whims or instinctive desires by which he succumbs to his sexual feelings to be able to consider it a mere incidental mistake that man commits and expects to be pardoned for it. Rather, it is an issue of rebellion against the structure of the social system, which renders any fault resulting from this deviation or the other a fault that endangers social safety. Thus, Allah wanted to give this issue its real size that reaches the level of a crime, so He made the punishment of adultery for both the fornicator and fornicatress a hundred whips, if they were both, or at least one of them, not married…

However, if the adulterer or adulteress were both, or one of them, married, then their punishment is stoning as made clear by the prophetic Sunnah whether by stating or executing the punishment. Then, this judgment was passed and executed by the Islamic ruler without any objection, which means that it was very clear that it became a jurisprudential axiom.

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Teen’s brothel escape triggers Mexico clampdown

July 20, 2012 Leave a comment
By Rafael Romo, CNN –

 They were only 14 years old, cousins from a small town in central Mexico, when a fun trip to the local fair turned into a nightmare of drugs and forced prostitution.

As Maria and Lupe – CNN has changed their names to protect their identities – were waiting by the highway for their early evening bus home,  they say a semi-tractor trailer stopped right in front of them and two men got out.

There were no conversations. It all happened very quickly, the cousins say. “They were two men who were wearing black masks like hoodies. We couldn’t see their faces,” Maria said.

Lupe says she didn’t even have time to react. “I only felt that they put something on my nose and that’s all I remember. The last thing I remember is yelling for help,” Lupe said.

Drugged and drifting in and out of consciousness, they lost track of time. They only know they woke up in a dark room where they were kept for several days. There was no food or water and the cousins were cold. But it was only the start of their ordeal.

Several days later, Maria says, a woman showed up. She let them both know that, from now on, they were going to “work for her,” the cousins said. At that moment they had no idea what the stranger was talking about.

Lupe was taken out of the room and Maria was left alone with the woman. A man then entered the room and started beating her savagely. She says he raped her; and then both the man and the woman threatened her life and told her to cooperate.

That night Maria says she was forced to have sex with 23 men. “When they left, I stayed there, lying on the floor, bleeding. My entire body ached. The woman told me to get up, that it hadn’t been that bad,” Maria said.

It was the beginning of several months the cousins describe as torture. They were sold to a pimp who forced them to have sex with multiple men every night. Their hair was dyed. They were forced to wear skimpy outfits. They would get beaten up if they weren’t “friendly” with clients.

Meanwhile, in their hometown, their families were desperately looking for them. At first, they thought the girls had got lost and searched around the town. Then they started looking in wooded areas around the town, afraid they might have been killed or fallen off a cliff.

Lupe’s father, a laborer, recalls how desperate his family were to find the girls. The family organized search parties. They posted flyers everywhere they could and reached out to hospitals, jails and other places. At one point, someone suggested searching in bars along highways.

Francisco – CNN has changed his name as well – and a brother went to many different bars in Morelos state, neighboring Mexico City.

Francisco says he was disgusted by what he saw: underage girls who should be in school working as prostitutes. “We would see young girls. There are many in the state of Morelos. Some of them were wearing masks. Others had their hair dyed and wore suggestive clothing,” Francisco said.

At one of the bars Maria was taken to, she says she was forced to work from 3 p.m. to 6 a.m. only to get up again at noon to prepare for another 18-hour shift. “I felt so dirty, that every time I took a shower and every time they put makeup on me I felt like an old lady. I felt as if I didn’t have a family,” Maria said.

Forced to use drugs and drink alcohol, Maria says she thought her life would soon end. She was horrified when she saw a very young girl brought into the house where she and others were being kept. She asked the girl how old she was. The answer: eight years old.

Maria says she attempted to escape once. She ran away and asked some police officers on the street for help. What she didn’t know was that the officers were on the payroll of the pimp and took her right back into the brothel where she got another savage beating.

Maria and Lupe were kidnapped on January 27, 2010. Almost three months later, when Maria says she had lost all hope, she finally saw the light – literally.

Maria says she’ll never forget the date: April 14. She woke up to see a ray of light in the room coming from behind an armoire. When she pushed the armoire out of the way, she found an unlocked door.

Maria says she ran as fast as she could. Several hours later, she ran into a young man who appeared genuinely concerned about her. A group of young Christian men fed her, gave her a room to stay the night and bought her a bus ticket home.

After Maria reached home, the girls’ families went to the police who raided the brothel. Ten people were arrested and six underage girls rescued, including Lupe. The eight-year-old was not among them.

Lead prosecutor Victor Carranca, the state attorney in Puebla State, says this case allowed authorities to learn about the underworld of human trafficking and the vast networks that kidnap underage girl for forced prostitution.

“The State’s Attorney’s office focused on targeting sources of financing for these criminal groups. We eventually closed down 600 establishments,” Carranca said. “Many of these places were not only illegal brothels, but meeting points where criminal gangs planned their crimes and illegal activities.”

The cousins are now getting financial, legal and psychological help from Camino a Casa, an anti-trafficking organization that focuses on assisting victims. The foundation was started in 2005 by Rosi Orozco, a Mexican lawmaker who has launched a crusade against human trafficking.

“There are some people that think they can buy another human being,” Orozco says. The Mexican Congressman authored an anti-trafficking bill that was signed into law in June.

The new law makes human trafficking a federal crime, punishable by up to 40 years in prison. And it targets not only those involved in sex trafficking, but also other forms of modern slavery, including forced labor and child pornography.

Orozco is also targeting those who pay to have sex with underage girls. “We all can change if we stop saying ‘johns’ – they’re not johns! The clients are criminals,” Orozco said. She estimates tens of thousands of underage girls are sexually exploited every year in Mexico.

With the help of the Camino a Casa foundation, both Maria and Lupe are learning new skills that will help them have a brighter future. They’re back with their families. Maria says her mother still cries when she thinks about what her daughter went through.

As part of her therapy, she talks to small groups of people about her ordeal. “I want people to know what they did to me. I’m no longer angry or want to get revenge. That’s what I want to say. Vengeance is not good. I have already forgiven those people and I’m happy again,” Maria says.

A long and painful road to recovery is ahead, but finally being home, Maria and Lupe say, allows them to dream again of a better future.


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Sweet success: Building an empire from chocolate

July 20, 2012 Leave a comment

From Becky Anderson, CNN

Katrina Markoff , founder of Vosges Haut-Chocolat, creates "indulgent and sensual" chocolate filled with exotic and unusual flavors.Katrina Markoff , founder of Vosges Haut-Chocolat, creates “indulgent and sensual” chocolate filled with exotic and unusual flavors.
Katrina Markoff
  • Katrina Markoff hopes to promote cross-cultural understanding using chocolate.
  • Her Vosges chocolate includes exotic flavors like wasabi, curry and Hungarian paprika.
  • Launched in 1998, the brand is now sold in 2,000 outlets around the world

(CNN) — Step aside, Willy Wonka. According to its creator, Vosges chocolate is not just chocolate, it’s “an experiential chocolate story-telling vehicle that’s meant to be indulgent and sensual and opening to the mind.”

More than that, 38-year-old company founder Katrina Markoff intends to “break down stereotypes through chocolate.”

Having traveled around the world, Markoff’s goal is to get people to try the exotic flavors she discovered, something that’s more achievable if those flavors are enrobed in chocolate.

Among her best-selling items is a truffle collection that includes sweet Hungarian paprika and Chinese star anise, fennel and pastis confections.

A passion for ‘sensual’ chocolate

While chocolate with once-unusual ingredients like chilli or sea salt is now increasingly commonplace, when Markoff first tried selling her product to department store Nieman Marcus in Chicago in 1998, she recalls “the guy looking at me like I’m crazy when I’m telling him what’s in it.”

But today, Markoff’s product sells through 2,000 outlets worldwide, and in eight dedicated boutiques. Last year, her business made $30 million, up 50% on the previous year.

This year, she has brought the Vosges experience to a mass market, launching a new, less expensive brand that will sell in places like Walmart and Target. Where a box of 16 Vosges truffles costs $40, a 2oz bar of Wild Ophelia, which features flavors such as beef jerky and BBQ potato chips, is $3.99.

Dallas was very much a BBQ town, and people were like “I am not trying that curry thing”
Vosges founder Katrina Markoff

More from Leading Women: The woman hunting the Higgs boson

A Vanderbilt University chemistry and psychology major, Markoff moved to Paris upon graduating, to study cuisine and patisserie. On the advice of renowned chef Ferran Adrià, who ran what was regularly described as the world’s greatest restaurant, El Bulli, in Spain, Markoff toured Southeast Asia and Australia.

In keeping with her international perspective, Markoff plans to devote her next few years to cultivating cacao in Haiti, and opening a lodge in Belize where tourists can learn about chocolate making.

Here, she tells CNN about how she came up with her winning concept.

On her first chocolate epiphany …

I had my first chocolate experience in the Place des Vosges (in Paris). I went to this restaurant called L’Ambroisie and they had taken chocolate ganache (which is like the center of the truffle), they froze it and dipped it in a beignet batter and fried it.

That experience of eating this donut-crusty exterior and, when you bit down, this molten explosion of chocolate … that started piquing my curiosity about chocolate.

On her second chocolate epiphany…

It wasn’t until I got back from my trip and moved to Dallas to get a job with my uncle that I realized there was no innovation going on in chocolate.

He wanted me to find chocolate for his catalog business, and (everything) was just loaded with sugars and artificial flavorings and extracts and wax, and there was no story.

Follow that instinctual space in your solar plexus
Vosges founder Katrina Markoff

I had all these spices from my travels, and this necklace from the Naga tribes in India. (They told me it was made out of shells, turns out it was all tigers’ teeth). There was a lot of struggle over territory and missionaries tried to get them into new religions, and I was just like “we shouldn’t kill culture like that.”

I went into my kitchen that night and made a curry and coconut truffle. I decided to pay homage to the Naga people and call it Naga.

Everything made sense in that moment: there was this illuminated path that said “just use chocolate as a medium to tell stories.”

I ended up working on 20 different flavor profiles that night — saffron with white chocolate and sugar crystals to represent Gaudi’s mosaic work, a Hungarian paprika and chocolate ginger — all based on my travel experiences.

The next day I went into work and brought this collection of chocolates. Dallas in 1997 was still very much a BBQ town, and these people were like “I am not trying that curry thing.”

I got one woman to try it. She took a bite and her face went from disgust and worry to awe and surprise to “Oh my God, this is actually good.” She was like “let me try wasabi.” She was totally open to try whatever, and it was really, really cool to see that.

On how to succeed …

I think it’s really important for women to have confidence in her individuality and not try to conform to being someone she thinks she needs to be, to compete in the legal world or in the corporate world.

It’s so important to find your own voice. People respect it so much. People are very attracted to people who are passionate in their own way, that are respectful, but that are smart and speak their mind.

I don’t rely on consumer research to make new products
Vosges founder Katrina Markoff

You have this guiding light within yourself. Always go to that as your sounding board and your voice of truth. Follow that instinctual space in your solar plexus — you know, that place that says what you need to do is right or wrong. Following that gut instinct is so critical. You have to have your little niche and carve it out and then follow it with all your heart and success will come to you.

On her management style …

I’ve been told I can be a little “big picture” for some people, because I think things can get done very quickly and I want them done very quickly.

I don’t rely on other people’s opinions or consumer research to make new products, which is somewhat unusual … I don’t always follow processes. I skip steps, and I always make last-minute changes — and usually that’s the right thing to do.


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CERN’s Fabiola Gianotti: The woman hunting the Higgs boson

July 20, 2012 Leave a comment

By Rose Hoare, CNN
CERN experimental physicist Fabiola Gianotti in the ATLAS detector, 14 April, 2007.
CERN experimental physicist Fabiola Gianotti in the ATLAS detector, 14 April, 2007.

  • Fabiola Gianotti runs the Large Hadron Collider’s largest detector at CERN laboratories.
  • Gianotti expects to confirm or refute our current explanation for the structure of the universe by the end of the year.
  • Women make up less than a third of scientists in Europe and less than a quarter in the US.

(CNN) — As coordinator for the world’s biggest science experiment, Fabiola Gianotti occupies one of the top jobs in science.

Housed in an underground facility straddling the border between France and Switzerland, CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) is the beating heart of modern physics research. A collaboration of 20 member states, it’s also where the world wide web was invented in 1989.

After 18 years at CERN, Gianotti became spokesperson and coordinator of the lab’s ATLAS experiment, which employs 3000 scientists. Her role — a democratically elected position — is to lead the experiment’s strategic planning and present its findings to international media.

What we know is really very, very little compared to what we still have to know.
Fabiola Gianotti, CERN

ATLAS is the largest detector at CERN, used to record collisions between protons accelerated in the 27km Large Hadron Collider, described as “the planet’s most powerful human-built microscope“.

It’s hoped that, by observing these collisions, which replicate conditions straight after the Big Bang, scientists can address such world-changing questions as the origin of mass, the constitution of dark matter, how fundamental forces unify, and whether there are more than three or four dimensions.

After some initial teething problems, the Large Hadron Collider has this year been cranked up to full power, and has delivered more data in April and June than in the whole of 2011.

The experiment has captured the world’s imagination, with “Higgsteria” observable on Twitter in the lead-up to an announcement about the detector’s preliminary 2012 results.

Speaking from the International Conference for High Energy Physics in Melbourne, Australia, Gianotti revealed that CERN teams have observed a new particle they believe to be the Higgs Boson.

Understanding the ‘God particle’

The particle was found in a mass region where the scientists had expected it to be — leading Gianotti to add, “Thanks, Nature!” — and enough data has been obtained for scientists to reach a threshold of proof known as five sigma, meaning the chance that they have observed a random fluctuation is around one in 3.5 million.

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Heralding “the era of “Higgs” measurements,” Gianotti said, “This is just the beginning. A little more time is needed to finalize these results, and more data and more study will be needed to determine the new particle’s properties.”

The existence of the Higgs boson is expected to confirmcurrently accepted theories about the structure of the universe.

“I couldn’t tell you which (outcome) I would prefer,” Gianotti said, ahead of the announcement. “Building a new particle is very nice but also demonstrating that a mechanism that has been proposed as the solution for many years is not the correct one is a major step forward for fundamental science.”

“Of course, mankind has made giant steps forward,” she says. “However, what we know is really very, very little compared to what we still have to know.”

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“It’s important we try to do things we love,” she adds, but she also advises scientists to be “extremely patient and extremely humble.”

Gianotti’s career is statistically exceptional. Female scientists are in the minority, accounting for around 30% of Europe’s researchers, according to reports by the European Commission and UNESCO.

European Commission report notes that, although “girls’ underachievement in maths has narrowed in all countries and is on the way to disappearing in most of them,” girls tend to lose interest in science in their first three years of secondary school, and believe themselves to be worse than boys at physics, even when their grades are not.

In the United States, a report by the National Science Foundationwhich came to the same conclusion, observed that even girls who are good at maths show less interest in science careers.

I had this curiosity that pushed me towards…the fundamental questions.
Fabiola Gianotti, CERN

This suggests that, for every Gianotti, there are many more who give up. Yet Gianotti has made it to the top of her field, and is involved at the highest levels in historically significant and pioneering work. What went right for her?

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Born in Milan, Gianotti was not drawn to science as a girl. She was educated at a “liceo classico,” a type of Italian secondary school with an emphasis on art history, literature and ancient languages, and “very little mathematics or physics,” she says.

An aerial view of Switzerland near Geneva and Lake Leman with a circle showing the 16-mile circumference of the Large Hadron Collider.
An aerial view of Switzerland near Geneva and Lake Leman with a circle showing the 16-mile circumference of the Large Hadron Collider.

The daughter of a geologist, Gianotti says she grew up with a love of nature and an immense curiosity about the world around her, fueled by “endless” walks in the mountains, when her father would stop to show “a flower or a plant or a little insect.”

As a teenager, Gianotti became interested in philosophy, “a discipline that at least asks the fundamental questions,” but took the unusual step of choosing to study physics at university.

“Physics also tried to address the fundamental questions, and often could give an answer,” she says. “Perhaps not the final answer, perhaps just a little step forward. I liked it immediately,” she says.

Although she moved from artistic fields into science, Gianotti, who also studied piano at Milan Conservatory, says “art and physics are much closer than you would think”.

“Art is based on very clear, mathematical principles like proportion and harmony. At the same time, physicists need to be inventive, to have ideas, to have some fantasy.”

The National Science Foundation’s report suggests that fewer women pursue science careers because women are more likely to prefer work with “a clear social purpose,” and “most people do not view (science and technology) occupations as directly benefiting society.”

But Gianotti says one of the most appealing aspects of her job is the broader applications for the cutting-edge technologies being developed at CERN. For example, 17,000 of the world’s 30,000 accelerators are used for medical applications such as cancer therapy, she says.

Working alongside scientists from 38 countries is another perk. “For me, this job is, of course, a great scientific adventure but it’s also a great human adventure,” she says.


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Categories: General, Science, Women Tags: , ,
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