Thursday, May 28, 2009

What men and women have in common when it comes to relationships

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Monday, May 25, 2009

Updates on the New York Terrorist plots

According to this article, the imam of the mosque the FBI informant was dispatched to said that when the FBI informant "came to the mosque and started talking about jihad (holy war) – apparently to identify radical elements for his FBI handlers – several members immediately concluded that he must be a government agent", which isn't a surprise given that most Muslims come from police states and can smell out a pimp government agent from a mile away.
The FBI informant was a former Pakistani hotel owner who agreed to cooperate with the FBI to avoid being deported to back Pakistan on non-terrorism related fraud charges, which in itself tells you the type of scumbag he and his handlers were!
One of the defence lawyers even said that “It is almost as if the FBI cooked up the plot and found four idiots to install as defendants.”, which isn't that far fetched if you consider what the "terrorists" girlfriends and families said of the informant:

From The New York Post:

She said Maqsood promised to get Cromitie jobs and once said he would give him a black Mercedes-Benz. On repeated occasions, he gave Cromitie cameras, cash and even drugs, she said.

"Maqsood gave him a lot of marijuana," she said.

An FBI spokesman did not return a call for comment on the alleged gift giving.

Williams' mother, Elizabeth McWilliams, said her son fell under Maqsood's sway in April with promises to help with medical bills for his sick brother.

From The New York Daily News:

"Maqsood would keep ringing our doorbell, and James would hide behind the sofa," Baynes said.

"I know something wasn't right with Maqsood from the beginning. He would call and say, 'I got lots of money. Anything you need I can give you, sister.'"


"It's all a lie, and the government knows deep down inside that these four men are not terrorists," Baynes said. "We're going to stand together as a family and watch God move mountains."

Now the real icing on the cake comes from the head of New York's FBI office who said :
"We are not entrapping or encouraging anyone to commit a crime," "We merely facilitated their wishes."


Saturday, May 23, 2009

FBI Blows It: Supposed Terror Plot Against NY Synagogues Is Bogus

By Robert Dreyfuss, The Nation
Posted on May 23, 2009, Printed on May 23, 2009

By the now, it's maddeningly familiar. A scary terrorist plot is announced. Then it's revealed that the suspects are a hapless bunch of ne'er-do-wells or run-of-the-mill thugs without the slightest connection to any terrorists at all, never mind to Al Qaeda. Finally, the last piece of the puzzle: the entire plot is revealed to have been cooked up by a scummy government agent-provocateur.

I've seen this movie before.

In this case, the alleged perps -- Onta Williams, James Cromitie, David Williams, and Laguerre Payen -- were losers, ex-cons, drug addicts. Al Qaeda they're not. Without the assistance of the agent who entrapped them, they would never have dreamed of committing political violence, nor would they have had the slightest idea about where to acquire plastic explosives or a Stinger missile. That didn't stop prosecutors from acting as if they'd captured Osama bin Laden himself. Noted the Los Angeles Times:

Prosecutors called it the latest in a string of homegrown terrorism plots hatched after Sept. 11.

"It's hard to envision a more chilling plot," Assistant U.S. Atty. Eric Snyder said in court Thursday. He described all four suspects as "eager to bring death to Jews."

Actually, it's hard to imagine a stupider, less competent, and less important plot. The four losers were ensnared by a creepy FBI agent who hung around the mosque in upstate New York until he found what he was looking for. Here's the New York Times account:

Salahuddin Mustafa Muhammad, the imam at the mosque where the authorities say the confidential informant first encountered the men, said none of the men were active in the mosque. ...

Mr. Cromitie was there last June, and he met a stranger.

He had no way of knowing that the stranger's path to the mosque began in 2002, when he was arrested on federal charges of identity theft. He was sentenced to five years' probation, and became a confidential informant for the F.B.I. He began showing up at the mosque in Newburgh around 2007, Mr. Muhammad said.

The stranger's behavior aroused the imam's suspicions. He invited other worshipers to meals, and spoke of violence and jihad, so the imam said he steered clear of him.

"There was just something fishy about him," Mr. Muhammad said. Members "believed he was a government agent."

Mr. Muhammad said members of his congregation told him the man he believed was the informant offered at least one of them a substantial amount of money to join his "team."

So a creepy thug buttonholes people at a mosque, foaming at the mouth about violence and jihad? This is law enforcement? Just imagine if someone did this at a local church, or some synagogue. And the imam says the people "believed he was a government agent."

Preying on these losers, none of whom were apparently actual Muslims, the "confidential informant" orchestrated the acquisition of a disabled Stinger missile to shoot down military planes and cooked up a wild scheme about attacking a Jewish center in the Bronx.

It gets even more pathetic:

The only one of the four suspects who appears to have aroused any suspicion was Payen, a Haitian native who attended the Newburgh mosque. Assistant imam Hamid Rashada said his dishevelment and odd behavior disturbed some members, said the assistant imam, Hamid Rashada.

When Payen appeared in court, defense attorney Marilyn Reader described him as "intellectually challenged" and on medication for schizophrenia. The Associated Press said that when he was asked if he understood the proceedings, Payen replied: "Sort of."

Despite the pompous statements from Mayor Bloomberg of New York and other politicians, including Representative Peter King, the whole story is bogus. The four losers may have been inclined to violence, and they may have harbored a virulent strain of anti-Semitism. But it seems that the informant whipped up their violent tendencies and their hatred of Jews, cooked up the plot, incited them, arranged their purchase of weapons, and then had them busted. To ensure that it made headlines, the creepy informant claimed to be representing a Pakistani extremist group, Jaish-e Muhammad, a bona fide terrorist organization. He wasn't, of course.

It is disgusting and outrageous that the FBI is sending provocateurs into mosques.

The headlines reinforce the very fear that Dick Cheney is trying to stir up. The story strengthens the narrative that the "homeland" is under attack. It's not. As I've written repeatedly, since 9/11 not a single American has even been punched in the nose by an angry Muslim, as far as I can tell. Plot after plot -- the destruction of the Brooklyn Bridge! bombing the New York Subways! taking down the Sears Tower! bombing the Prudential building in Newark! -- proved to be utter nonsense.

Robert Dreyfuss is the author of "Devil's Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam" (Henry Holt/Metropolitan Books).
© 2009 The Nation All rights reserved.
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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Traversing between friendship and a romantic relationship


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Understanding Life

Friday, May 15, 2009

US army media team asked to be passive about Iraqi girl's rape

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Why Mideast Christians Are Wary of Pope Benedict's Visit

by Andrew Lee Butters / Beirut

Ever since the year 1204 A.D., when the soldiers of the Fourth Crusade sacked the Christian city of Constantinople instead of "liberating" Jerusalem from Muslim rule, Christians in the Middle East have been understandably wary of emissaries of Rome. Today, as Christians in the Middle East welcome Pope Benedict XVI on his first trip to the Holy Land, many are worried that the unpredictable Pontiff might stir up passions at a time of religious strife and political cold war. "The thing that worries me most is the speech that the Pope will deliver here," said Archbishop Fouad Twal, the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, in an interview with the Israeli newspaper Haaretz on Wednesday. "One word for the Muslims and I'm in trouble; one word for the Jews and I'm in trouble. At the end of the visit the Pope goes back to Rome and I stay here with the consequences."

But another reason to be concerned about the trip is that one of its main purposes — to lend moral support to the diminishing number of Christians in the region — just isn't going to work. (See the five things the Pope must do on his Mideast trip.)

There is certainly reason to be concerned about the exodus from the Middle East of Christians, who once constituted 20% of the population, but whose numbers have fallen to just 2% now. The presence of Christians in the Holy Land is both an important symbol of continuity with the origins of the faith, and a reminder of the multisectarian and tolerant history of Arab and Islamic culture. That culture of tolerance is today under threat from the rise of religious extremism. But clash-of-civilizations pundits and Western leaders like the Pope often ignore how the West helped spark such intolerance, especially through its one-sided support of Israel. (Check out a story on the Pope's relationship with the Jews.)

Israel is a major stop on Pope Benedict's journey and a focal point of Western involvement in the Middle East. And while support for the modern revival of the ancient biblical nation runs deep among many Christians in America and Europe, the creation of Israel has been a disaster for Christians in the Middle East. Many of the Palestinian refugees who fled or were forced from their homes in 1948 — never to be allowed back — were Christians. The flood of Palestinian refugees into Lebanon helped spark a civil war between Muslims and Christians there. And the ongoing occupation of the West Bank is strangling the life out of those Christian communities that are left. A U.N. report released a week ago said that the Palestinian West Bank town of Bethlehem — Christ's birthplace and a major stop on the Pope's visit — is now almost totally controlled by Israel. (Read a story about the Pope's attitude toward Islam.)

The ongoing Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories has also helped fuel the rise of Islamic extremism, especially in countries that have unpopular peace agreements with Israel. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood, the main opposition to the American-backed Mubarak dictatorship, waged a small-scale terror campaign against both the government and the country's Coptic Christians during the 1990s. Since then, in an effort to derail the Islamist movement, the secular Mubarak regime has embraced some of its opponents' religiosity, and perhaps some of their anti-Coptic prejudice. Last month, in a supposed measure to prevent the spread of the H1N1 swine-flu virus, the government ordered the slaughter of every single pig in the country, even though there were no documented cases of the disease in Egypt and humans don't contact it from pigs. Pork-eating Copts worried that they were being set up as scapegoats.

Ironically, some of the best friends to Christians in the Middle East have been at odds with America and the West. The secular societies that formed in the 1950s and '60s in opposition to Israel — especially the Baathist regimes in Iraq and Syria, and Egypt under Nasser — were pretty good protectors of religious pluralism. About 5% or 6% of Iraq's population in the 1970s were Christian, and some of Saddam Hussein's most prominent officials, including Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, were Christians. But since the American invasion of Iraq, Christians have fled in droves, and constitute less than 1% of the population. Syria — which survived attempts by the Bush Administration to isolate the Assad regime — is still like a living museum of otherwise forgotten Christian sects and shrines.

Middle Eastern societies have also done much on their own to implode and create fertile grounds for extremism to flourish. But that doesn't mean that a speech from a foreign religious leader is going to heal mistrust and stop the cycle of violence that started 60 years ago with the creation of Israel. In fact, Western concern for the region's dwindling Christian societies reminds Muslims of the European colonial era, when British and French rulers elevated the region's Christian groups to positions of authority in order to manage their mostly Muslim empires.

Even Middle Eastern Christians have given up looking to the likes of the Pope for help. In Lebanon, the Middle Eastern nation with the largest concentration of Christians, roughly half of the country's Christians have broken away from their traditionally pro-Western leadership, forming a political alliance with Hizballah, the Shi'a Muslim anti-Israeli militant group. The leader of these breakaway Christians, a populist former general named Michel Aoun, is betting that the only way to secure a Christian future in Lebanon is to look east toward the rising power of Shi'a Islam. It may seem far-fetched now, but there may come a day when Christians hit the Arab streets to welcome not a Pope from Rome, but an ayatullah from Iran.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Saberi wasn't spying !

This is just a place holder; but if you're already here you may as well read it :)).

"Saberi 'had classified document' "

A lawyer for US-Iranian journalist Roxana Saberi says she was convicted of spying for the US partly because she had obtained a classified document.

Her lawyer said she had access to a confidential Iranian report on the US war in Iraq - but had not used it.The lawyer, Saleh Nikbakht, said the report had been prepared by a research centre of the Iranian presidency.Ms Saberi was freed on appeal on Monday, after four months in prison in the Iranian capital, Tehran.She was originally sentenced to eight years but her term was cut on appeal to two years suspended. She denies the spying charge.

'No bad intentions'

Mr Nikbakht did not say how had gained access to the document, prepared by Iran's Centre for Strategic Research. "Because she did not have bad intentions and did not use it, she was sentenced to a two-year suspended jail term," he told Reuters news agency. Ms Saberi, whose parents live in the US, is now able to leave Iran. She has been banned by the Iranians from working as a journalist there for five years. On Tuesday, in her first public comments since being released, and she thanked people around the world who had supported her. Her case had attracted international attention. The White House in Washington said Iran's decision to free her was a "humanitarian gesture". She originally faced a less serious accusation of buying alcohol, and later of working as a reporter without a valid press card. The spying charge was introduced later, and she was tried and sentenced behind closed doors. Ms Saberi worked as a freelance journalist for news organisations, including and the US-based National Public Radio.

The Four Stages of a typical Twitter User

I was just reading this article on twitter as a social phenonmena and thought that it was worth sharing given how it's gaining so much tract on the blogosphere ;) :

Sanity Check : The Four Stages of a typical Twitter User

There’s a strange phenomenon that happens almost every time someone joins Twitter. They hate it. At least at first.

But many of the people who once hated Twitter — or at least, didn’t quite get it in the beginning — are now many of its most active users and raving fans. So what’s going on here?

There seems to be four natural stages that the average Twitter user goes through from the point of first trying it until the point of fully embracing it and making it a part of daily life. Obviously, not everyone sticks with it and becomes a Twitter devotee, but there’s definitely a growing cadre of people who believe that there’s some magic happening in the Twittosphere.

Because I think Twitter can be used as a valuable business tool, it’s worth talking about the four Twitter stages in order to help recognize users in these stages when you’re choosing who to follow and to keep new Twitter users from getting discouraged and missing the opportunities available on Twitter. So here they are:

1. Confusion and indignation

When a person first signs up for Twitter, the first challenge is figuring out who to follow. Twitter now has its “Suggested Users” feature to help people get started. I’ve put together a list of technology personalities worth following on Twitter to help new techies when they sign up for Twitter.

However, even when they find some people to follow, new Twitterers usually look at their Twitter stream and start wondering, “Why would I care what my colleagues are eating for lunch?” or “What’s interesting about a software engineer posting that she’s walking her dog?”

That experience usually leads people to shake their heads and not come back to Twitter for a few days, or even weeks or months.

2. The first “Aha!” moment

Eventually, the user comes back periodically to check Twitter out of pure curiosity. During those casual forays, the person often has a first “Aha!” moment, where they find something really interesting or timely on Twitter that wasn’t available from news, RSS feeds, or word of mouth from their friends.

This could be a piece of news that someone reported on Twitter before it actually hit the wires, it could be a rumor about something that a company like Apple is doing, or even something like NFL teams announcing their picks for the draft on Twitter before they even went up to the podium to make the official selection.

3. Remembering to tweet

After the first “Aha” moment, the user typically starts checking Twitter more often, but still tends to post very infrequently. The next stage of Twitter initiation comes when the user reads something useful online or makes a mental observation about something and then thinks, “I should post that Twitter!”

At this point, the user is still relying mostly on the homepage to access Twitter but is starting to go there at least a couple times a day to check on the latest buzz, and has typically found a good mix of friends, news feeds, industry celebrities, and thought leaders to follow.

4. Thinking in 140 characters

Once the person becomes a daily Twitter user, it’s over. The person is almost always hooked, and is now on the path to becoming a power user. This is when most (though not all) users switch from using to using a desktop Twitter client like Tweetdeck or Seesmic.

Meanwhile, the user also often has a mobile Twitter client like UberTwitter (for BlackBerry) or Tweetie (for iPhone) in order to stay connected to the Twitter stream on the go. Those that don’t have smartphone often use Twitter via SMS text messages.

At this point, the person is a Twitter power user who regularly adds new people and brands to follow and also regularly unfollows people who post too many inane messages about their meals or just doesn’t post enough useful stuff.

The power user also tends to regularly think about and look for things to post on Twitter throughout the day, to the point of self-editing thoughts for brevity in order to fit into Twitter’s 140 character limit.

Final word

The beauty of Twitter is in its simplicity of use and the direct connection it provides to people whose activities and opinions you care about.

Apple recently wrote a case study about Twitter because Twitter uses a lot of Apple products. In the article, Apple wrote, “Twitter’s meteoric rise to ubiquity is proof positive that the world, in all its complexity, is eager to embrace simplicity.”

As I’ve written before, I think Twitter can be an very useful tool for business and technology professionals.

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Monday, May 11, 2009

Prison Break or not !

Sunday, May 10, 2009

We're All African After All

African tribe populated rest of the world

By Richard Gray, Science Correspondent

Research by geneticists and archaeologists has allowed them to trace the origins of modern homo sapiens back to a single group of people who managed to cross from the Horn of Africa and into Arabia. From there they went on to colonise the rest of the world.

Genetic analysis of modern day human populations in Europe, Asia, Australia, North America and South America have revealed that they are all descended from these common ancestors.

The findings are to be revealed in a new BBC Two documentary series, The Incredible Human Journey, that traces the prehistoric origins of the human species.

Dr Peter Forster, a senior lecturer in archaeogenetics at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge who carried out some of the genetic work, said: "The founder populations cannot have been very big. We are talking about just a few hundred individuals."

Homo sapiens, known casually as "modern humans", are thought to have first evolved around 195,000 years ago in east Africa – the earliest remains from that time were uncovered near the Omo River in Ethiopia.

It is thought that by 150,000 years ago these early modern humans had managed to spread to other parts of Africa and fossilised remains have been found on the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa.

The earliest homo sapien remains found outside of Africa were discovered in Israel and are thought to be around 100,000 years old. They are remains of a group that left Africa through what is now the Sahara desert during a brief period when the climate grew wetter, turning the desert green with vegetation. This excursion, however, failed and the population died out when the climate started to dry out again.

While there are 14 ancestral populations in Africa itself, just one seems to have survived outside of the continent.

The latest genetic research has shown that it was not until around 70,000 years ago that humans were able to take advantage of falling sea levels to cross into Arabia at the mouth of the Red Sea, which is now known as the Gate of Grief.

At the time the 18 mile gap between the continents would have dropped to just 8 miles. It is not clear how they might have made such a journey but once a cross, the humans were able to spread along the Arabian coast where fresh water springs helped support them.

It has long been assumed that humans success in spreading around the world was due to their adaptability and hunting skills. The latest research, however, suggests that the very early human pioneers who ventured out of Africa owe far more of their success to luck and favourable changes in climate change than had previously been realised.

Dr Stephen Oppenheimer, a geneticist at the school of anthropology at Oxford University who has also led research on the genetic origins of humans outside Africa, said: "What you can see from the DNA of all non Africans is that they all belong to one tiny African branch that came across the Red Sea.

"If it was easy to get out of Africa we would have seen multiple African lineages in the DNA of non-Africans but that there was only one successful exit suggests it must have been very tough to get out. It was much drier and colder then."

Within around 5,000 years some of these early human pioneers had managed to spread along the edge of the Indian Ocean and down through south east Asia and arriving in Australia around 65,000 years ago.

Others made their way north through the Middle East and Pakistan to reach central Asia.

Around 50,000 years ago they also began spreading into Europe via the Bosporus at the Istanbul Strait. Again low sea levels allowed them to almost walk into Europe.

Once there they will have encountered Neanderthals, who, with bigger bodies were more adapted to the cold weather at the time, had been living in Europe for nearly a quarter of a million years but are thought to have died out due to changes in the climate.

By 25,000 years ago humans had spread into northern Europe and Siberia and then walked across the Bering land bridge into Alaska around 20,000 years ago.

The peak of the last ice age, which was reached around 19,000 years ago, saw human populations pushed south by the extreme cold and it was about 15,000 years ago that South America became the last continent on the planet to be colonised.

Britain and northern Scandinavia is thought to have been recolonised by modern humans after the last ice age between 10,000 and 8,000 years ago.

Dr Alice Roberts, an anatomist at Bristol University who presents The Incredible Human Journey, said: "There seems to have been a huge amount of luck involved as they were totally at the whim of the climate. The climate changed at just the right time to allow them to expand out of Africa and they were allowed to expand geographically as a result, but when the climate changed they shrank back again."

The idea that all non-African humans are descended from a single group of individuals contradicts previous theories that the different modern races evolved seperately from an earlier human ancestor known as Homo erectus in different parts of the world.

Archaeologists in China, for example, believe they have strong evidence that the Chinese evolved directly from a lineage of Homo erectus that arrived in China 2 million years ago and not from African Homo sapiens.

But recent genetic work at Fudan University in Shanghai tested the Y chromosomes of more than 12,000 men currently living in different parts of China and found that they all descended from the original African humans.

Professor Li Jin, a geneticist at Fudan University in Shanghai whose laboratory carried out the research, said: “We did not find a single individual that could be considered the decendants of homo erectus in China.

“I think we should all be happy with that, as afterall, it means that people from all over the world are not all that different from each other.”