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Exposed: Sadr’s Ramblings, Anxieties December 31, 2006

Posted by tkcollier in Geopolitics, News, Religion.
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IraqSlogger: Exposed: Sadr’s Ramblings, Anxieties
Background: The young cleric who rose to power from anonymity following the American overthrow of Saddam has basked in the glory of his father’s name. Muhamad Sadiq al Sadr was one of Iraq’s most important clerics who was assassinated in 1999 and was called the Second Martyr. Sadr represented the poor and oppressed Shia underclass that had remained in Iraq, and he built around him a vast following and a militia, the Mahdi Army, which now dominates the Iraqi Police and much of the Iraqi Army as well as various ministries and Shia neighborhoods.

But evidence on the ground suggests Muqtada al Sadr is merely a figurehead for an army with no real leadership or hierarchy, which acts locally. Sadr has also clashed with many deputies, firing close allies.

In a video of an internal debate among his men that was released without his approval, a different Sadr is seen, and it is clear how little control he has over his men and how jealously he guards his tenuous power.

Speaking in poor Arabic, all slang, Sadr reveals his jealousy and insecurity as well, criticizing a deputy for praising Abdul Aziz al Hakim, the leader of the rival Shia Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq.

Say Yes to Mess December 31, 2006

Posted by tkcollier in Business, Life.
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Say Yes to Mess « Librarian’s place
An anti-anticlutter movement is afoot, one that says yes to mess and urges you to embrace your disorder. Studies are piling up that show that messy desks are the vivid signatures of people with creative, limber minds (who reap higher salaries than those with neat “office landscapes”) and that messy closet owners are probably better parents and nicer and cooler than their tidier counterparts. It’s a movement that confirms what you have known, deep down, all along: really neat people are not avatars of the good life; they are humorless and inflexible prigs, and have way too much time on their hands.

To a professional organizer brandishing colored files and stackable trays, cluttered horizontal surfaces are a horror; to cognitive psychologists like Jay Brand, who works in the Ideation Group of Haworth Inc., the huge office furniture company, their peaks and valleys glow with intellectual intent and showcase a mind whirring away: sorting, linking, producing. (By extension, a clean desk can be seen as a dormant area, an indication that no thought or work is being undertaken.)

His studies and others, like a survey conducted last year by Ajilon Professional Staffing, in Saddle Brook, N.J., which linked messy desks to higher salaries (and neat ones to salaries under $35,000), answer Einstein’s oft-quoted remark, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk?”

He’s Only Fifth Worst President December 30, 2006

Posted by tkcollier in Politics.
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He’s Only Fifth Worst – washingtonpost.com
It’s unfair to claim that George W. Bush is the worst president of all time. He’s merely the fifth worst. In the White House Hall of Shame, Bush comes behind four other Oval Officers whose policies were even more disastrous: James Buchanan (in picture), Andrew Johnson, Richard M. Nixon and James Madison.

What makes a president horribly, immortally bad? Poor luck is not enough. Some of the greatest presidents, such as Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt, have inherited crises and risen to the occasion. The damage must be largely self-inflicted. And there’s another test: The damage to the nation must be substantial. Minor blunders and petty crimes do not land a president in the rogues’ gallery.

OpenTable Restaurants and Restaurant Reservations December 30, 2006

Posted by tkcollier in Business, Cool Sites, Food, Life.
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OpenTable Restaurants and Restaurant Reservations
Make Restaurant Reservations Online
Free – Instant – Confirmed
6,000 Restaurants with 30 Million Diners Seated

We were able to see what was the 1st day when we could get a table at prime time (around 7) at a popular local eatery, even while the place was closed.

Flight Explorer Snapshot December 29, 2006

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Flight Explorer Snapshot
Air Traffic Snapshots – See a bird’s eyeview of flights over US airports

See cool snapshots of commerical flights in air or over the busiest airports. Browse through our snapshots for information on each snapshot or click on the picture on the left.

PSL detectives resign over Monk-e-mail December 28, 2006

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PSL detectives resign over racist remarks
PORT ST. LUCIE — The special investigations unit that busted 65 marijuana grow houses earlier this year was all but gone today after three detectives resigned and two were suspended for playing racist and vulgar phrases through their department computers.

Using an online program that repeats words aloud, three of the five Port St. Lucie police detectives typed in racial slurs such as “tar baby,” “yard ape” and “spearchucker.”

The internal affairs report says the five men spent nearly their entire work days Dec. 6 and 7 on a Web site called Monk-e-mail, which is part of CareerBuilder.com. The site has an option called “text to speech” which lets users type in messages that a monkey repeats aloud.

Astronomy Picture of the Year December 28, 2006

Posted by tkcollier in Cool photos, Science & Technology, Technology.
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Explanation: In the shadow of Saturn, unexpected wonders appear. The robotic Cassini spacecraft now orbiting Saturn recently drifted in giant planet’s shadow for about 12 hours and looked back toward the eclipsed Sun. Cassini saw a view unlike any other. First, the night side of Saturn is seen to be partly lit by light reflected from its own majestic ring system. Next, the rings themselves appear dark when silhouetted against Saturn, but quite bright when viewed away from Saturn and slightly scattering sunlight, in the above exaggerated color image. Saturn’s rings light up so much that new rings were discovered, although they are hard to see in the above image. Visible in spectacular detail, however, is Saturn’s E ring, the ring created by the newly discovered ice-fountains of the moon Enceladus, and the outermost ring visible above. Far in the distance, visible on the image left just above the bright main rings, is the almost ignorable pale blue dot of Earth.  Click on image to enlarge

Hoax Photo Gallery December 28, 2006

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Hoax Photo Gallery
When Daguerre’s discovery of the art of photography was announced to the world in 1839, many scientists, such as Dr. Bird of Philadelphia, found the concept so extraordinary that they insisted the announcement had to be a hoax. Photography was, of course, quite real, but it has proven to be a favorite tool of hoaxers since its invention. What follows are some notorious photographic fakes arranged in chronological order from the Civil War to the present.

Exotic Dancers Spray on Latex Coverings December 28, 2006

Posted by tkcollier in Business, Humor, Life.
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Exotic Dancers Spray on Latex Coverings – Forbes.com
Under Alabama’s strict law regulating exotic dancers, any skin that would normally be covered by a modest bikini must be swathed in an opaque covering. But the law doesn’t specify what kind of material must be used, so, in the legal sense, a nylon swimsuit and spray-on latex are virtually the same.

“You can get it that matches your skin color,” said Patterson. “The only thing I hear from the girls is that it can be kind of irritating.

Obama Shapes an Agenda Beyond Iraq War December 27, 2006

Posted by tkcollier in Geopolitics, News, Politics.
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Obama Shapes an Agenda Beyond Iraq War
Senator Obama’s early opposition to the war in Iraq is the best known of his views, but voters taking his measure as a potential president will discover that he is a leader in securing stray weapons from the former Soviet Union, a key backer of American aid to the Congo, and that he would tend to support a missile strike on Iran if other methods fail to get Tehran to abandon its nuclear program.

Key advisers in Mr. Obama’s foreign policy orbit include Ms. Rice; a Pulitzer Prize-winning anti-genocide activist, Samantha Power; a national security adviser to Mr. Clinton, Anthony Lake, and Senator Obama’s foreign policy staffer, Mark Lippert. (more…)

1 Missing Climber’s Body Found in China December 27, 2006

Posted by tkcollier in Life, News, Sports.
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1 Missing Climber’s Body Found in China | World Latest | Guardian Unlimited

A follow up on the top female climber reported missing in an earlier post.
The body was found at the 17,390-foot level on Genie Mountain, also known as Genyen Peak, not far from the Sichuan border with Tibet. The mountain is 20,354 feet high.

Unlike the case of the missing climbers on Mount Hood in Oregon, the search had been complicated because the two did not leave detailed plans and rescuers initially did not even know which province in southwestern China to search.

But a clue to their whereabouts emerged several days ago, when rescue workers found a driver who had dropped the pair off near the mountain on Nov. 11.

Boskoff and Fowler told him they would climb the mountain and that he could meet them on Nov. 24 so they could pick up their bags, but they did not show up.

Boskoff ascended six of the world’s peaks over 26,000 feet, including Mount Everest. She owned Mountain Madness, a Seattle adventure travel company.

Chess Player Banned 10 Years For Cheating With Bluetooth, Computer December 27, 2006

Posted by tkcollier in Humor, Life, Sports.
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Chess Player Banned 10 Years For Cheating With Bluetooth, Computer – News by InformationWeek
An Indian chess player was banned Tuesday from competition for 10 years after he was caught using a Bluetooth headset sewn into a cap earlier this month to get help from a computer.

The All India Chess Federation slapped the 10-year sanction on Umakant Sharma, who had been using a Bluetooth device stitched into a cap he typically pulled down over his ears. According to the federation, Sharma’s accomplices relayed moves made by a computer chess program to him via the Bluetooth headset. Bharat Singh Chauhan, the AICF treasurer, showed the cap and Bluetooth device at a meeting convened Tuesday that decided Sharma’s punishment.

Sharma was found out during a random check at a New Delhi tournament Dec. 4; he had been seeded second in the tournament.

Too Many Technicalities to Pray December 26, 2006

Posted by tkcollier in Life, Religion.
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Too Many Technicalities « Metamorphosis

Blog of a Muslim Biologist, who became an atheist. Here he describes the minute technicalities that must be performed before prayer 5 times a day.
Growing up Muslim, I was taught the mechanics of everyday Muslim prayer and life. By mechanics, I mean, exactly how many times to wash your right hand before your left hand, etc. And if you screwed it up, God wouldn’t acknowledge your prayer!

I had molvies (Imams, Priests, etc.) drill this into my head. If it had been one molvie, I would’ve dismissed it as a freak instance; but it was every teacher, Pakistani and non Pakistani. How many times to pray, exactly when to pray, and what direction to pray. You have to face Mecca, or your prayer will not be accepted. Oh, it’s 2 minutes past Asr prayer…it’s too late. (more…)

Photos:The things we miss along the way December 26, 2006

Posted by tkcollier in Cool photos, Life, Music.
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the things we miss along the way

Photography has taught me a lot. It has helped me to notice life. To realize that there is beauty in the mundane. That art is everywhere waiting for someone to notice. That the marrow of life lies in the alleys and forgotten corners of our own homes as we rush by everyday on our way to work and bed.

DVD players finally outnumber VCRs December 26, 2006

Posted by tkcollier in Business, Technology, Video.
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DVD players finally outnumber VCRs
Although DVD players dropped below the magic $100 barrier some time ago, they have only just caught up with the VCR, according to Nielsen. The media tracking firm says that DVD player ownership has finally surpassed VCR ownership for the first time.

During the third quarter of 2006, 81.2 percent of all US households reported owning at least one DVD player compared to 79.2 percent for VCRs. That figure marks a 6 percent increase in DVD player ownership from the same period in 2005, while VCRs ownership fell. It’s a far cry from 1999, when Nielsen first began tracking DVD ownership. At the end of the 90s, only 6.7 percent of households owned a DVD player, compared with 88.6 percent owning VCRs.

Pakistan gets Nuked, after US… December 25, 2006

Posted by tkcollier in Geopolitics, Politics.
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Scripps Howard News Service

Some unthinkable possibilitiesQuick! Name the country we turn into a parking lot the next time al-Qaida’s network pulls off a 9/11. If your knee jerks toward Pakistan instead of Iran, your instincts are sound because conditions are falling into place for that scary scenario to unfold.

No, we won’t be toppling a regime – much less nation building – anytime soon in a country of 170 million Muslims (eight times the size of Iraq). But the United States could readily find itself unleashing the “gravest possible consequences” (remember that spooky Cold War phrase?) inside Pakistan’s borders – specifically the federally administered tribal areas that border Afghanistan. (more…)

Saudi Lawyer Takes On Religious Court System December 25, 2006

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Saudi Lawyer Takes On Religious Court System – washingtonpost.com
Over the past three years, Lahem has taken on the country’s most controversial and sensitive cases and turned them into high-profile indictments of the justice system. He has been thrown in jail several times and banned from traveling abroad. But he continues to fight what he considers an antiquated judiciary, out of step with basic human rights.

Saudi Arabia’s legal system is based primarily on the principles of sharia, laws derived from Islam’s holy book, the Koran, and on the Sunna, examples from the life of its prophet, Muhammad. Saudi judges follow the official Wahhabi doctrine, the most puritanical and conservative interpretation of Islam, and have wide discretion in handing down sentences.

Lahem’s latest client is a 19-year-old woman who was in a car with a male friend when she was kidnapped and gang-raped by seven men. In November, four of the men received prison sentences ranging from one to five years and 80 to 1,000 lashes, and three are awaiting sentencing. The rape victim was sentenced to 90 lashes for having been with a male friend, which is illegal in this strictly segregated country. (more…)

Overcoming Allergies Possible December 25, 2006

Posted by tkcollier in Food, Life, News.
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Study: Overcoming Allergies Possible – Forbes.com
Allergies to pollen and other environmental triggers often are treated with shots called immunotherapy. A series of injections containing small amounts of the allergen builds up patients’ tolerance, reducing or even eliminating symptoms in many people.

Shots proved too dangerous for food allergy. So Burks and colleagues at Duke and the University of Arkansas developed an oral immunotherapy.

Here’s how it worked: First, youngsters spent a day at the Duke hospital swallowing minuscule but increasing doses of either an egg powder egg or a defatted peanut flour, depending on their allergy. They started at 1/3,000th of a peanut or about 1/1,000th of an egg, increasing the amount until the child broke out in hives or had some other reaction. (more…)

Iran’s oil exports may disappear December 25, 2006

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Report: Iran’s oil exports may disappear
Iran is suffering a staggering decline in revenue from its oil exports, and if the trend continues income could virtually disappear by 2015, according to an analysis released Monday by the National Academy of Sciences.

Iran’s economic woes could make the country unstable and vulnerable, with its oil industry crippled, Roger Stern, an economic geographer at Johns Hopkins University, said in the report and in an interview.

Iran earns about $50 billion a year in oil exports. The decline is estimated at 10 to 12 percent annually. In less than five years exports could be halved and then disappear by 2015, Stern predicted. Photo of shop in Esfahan, Iran. (more…)

‘Santa Claus does not exist’ school tells stunned kids December 21, 2006

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‘Santa Claus does not exist’ school tells stunned kids | News | This is London
A primary school has been accused of spoiling Christmas for pupils after a lesson telling them that Santa Claus does not exist.Children as young as nine were told that only ‘small children believe in Father Christmas’.

The blunder came after the Year 5 pupils were given seasonal worksheets containing various festive classroom exercises. One began by informing the children that ‘many small children believe in Father Christmas’. It then went on to explain that thousands of letters sent by these children to Santa every year are actually answered by the Post Office.

Police killer suspect fled Britain in a veil December 21, 2006

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Police killer suspect fled Britain in a veil – Britain – Times Online
A man who was being hunted for the murder of a policewoman is understood to have escaped from Britain by disguising himself as a veiled Muslim woman.

Mustaf Jama, a prime suspect in the fatal shooting of PC Sharon Beshenivsky, assumed his sister’s identity — wearing the niqab and using her passport — to evade supposedly stringent checks at Heathrow, according to police sources.

The use of the niqab, which leaves only a narrow slit for the eyes, highlights flaws in British airport security. At the time, Jama was Britain’s most wanted man, while Heathrow was on a heightened state of alert after the 7/7 terrorist atrocities in London five months previously.

Iraqi soldiers eat frogs, rabbit at handover ceremony December 21, 2006

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Iraqi soldiers eat frogs, rabbit at handover ceremony | International News | Reuters.com

Click on picture to enlarge
NAJAF, Iraq (Reuters) – Iraqi soldiers bit the heads off frogs and ate the heart of a rabbit as signs of courage on Wednesday at a ceremony to transfer Najaf province, home to one of Shi’ite Islam’s holiest shrines, from U.S. to Iraqi control.

Politicians, tribal and religious leaders and soldiers watched displays of military prowess and one demonstration, hailed as a display of courage, in which five soldiers stopped before the grandstand to bite the heads off frogs.A sixth holding a live rabbit slit open its stomach and ate its heart before tossing the carcass to his comrades to chew on.

Aurora Over Iowa December 20, 2006

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APOD: 2006 December 18 – Aurora Over Iowa
Last Thursday evening, stars were not the only lights in Iowa skies. Spectacular northern lights also shone from the heavens, extending across the midwestern USA and other locations not often graced with auroral displays. The wide-ranging auroral activity was triggered as a large solar flare – an energetic cloud of particles blasted outward from the Sun a few days earlier – collided with planet Earth’s magnetosphere. Alerted to conditions ripe for aurora, photographer Stan Richard recorded this apparition over Saylorville Lake, near Des Moines, Iowa, USA. While the colorful rays seem to end just above the water, they are actually at altitudes of 100 kilometers or more.

Clck Image to see full-size

There are only three options in Iraq. December 19, 2006

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There are only three options in Iraq. – By Christopher Hitchens – Slate Magazine
In 1991, which is also the year when the present crisis in Iraq actually began, it was Saudi influence that helped convince President George H.W. Bush and Secretary of State James Baker to leave Saddam Hussein in power and to permit him to crush the Shiite intifada that broke out as his regime reeled from defeat in Kuwait.

Many people write as if the sectarian warfare in Iraq was caused by coalition intervention. But it is surely obvious that the struggle for mastery has been going on for some time and was only masked by the apparently iron unity imposed under Baathist rule. That rule was itself the dictatorship of a tribal Tikriti minority of the Sunni minority andconstituted a veneer over the divisions beneath, as well as an incitement to their perpetuation


Top Woman Climber Missing December 19, 2006

Posted by tkcollier in News, Sports, Streamingvideo, Video.
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Welcome to TODAY’S TMJ4 – The NBC Affiliate in Milwaukee, WI – News, Weather, Sports
Christine Boskoff is not just any climber; she’s considered the top woman climber in the world.

She recently traveled to China to climb unscaled mountains. She was supposed to fly back to America two weeks ago, but no one has heard from her. Two teams of 25 searchers are combing an uncharted mountain in China.

Boskoff’s family in Appleton is very worried, especially her mother.

“She always calls me every time she comes, does any trip or mountain,” said Joyce Feld, mother. “She always calls me always and tells me that she’s safe, but she didn’t call… so…”

Christine Boskoff has climbed six of the world’s highest peaks, including Mount Everest. She and her climbing partner, Charlie Fowler, are experienced, but her family knows anything can happen during a climb.

“I have such faith in her because she knows what she’s doing,” Feld said. “She’s an excellent climber, and she didn’t call me this time.” Thanks to Maria Collier for this one.

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