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 veryhotthread  Author  Topic: Stuff & Nonsense  (Read 44956 times)
WingsofCrystal
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xx Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #990 on: Sep 5th, 2010, 10:39am »

New York Times

September 4, 2010
Loss of Faith in Afghan Leaders May Hurt Push Against Taliban
By DEXTER FILKINS
KABUL, Afghanistan

THE government of President Hamid Karzai may be awash in corruption, venality and graft, but if you walk the tattered halls of the ministries here, it is remarkably easy to find an honest man.

One of them is Fazel Ahmad Faqiryar, who last month took the politically risky course of trying to prosecute senior members of Mr. Karzai’s government. Two weeks ago, Mr. Faqiryar was fired from his job as deputy attorney general — on the order, it appears, of Mr. Karzai himself.

“The law in this country is only for the poor,” Mr. Faqiryar said afterward.

The ouster of Mr. Faqiryar illustrated not just the lawlessness that permeates Mr. Karzai’s government and the rest of the Afghan state. It also raised a fundamental question for the American and European leaders who have bankrolled Mr. Karzai’s government since he took office in 2001:

What if government corruption is more dangerous than the Taliban?

Since 2001, one of the unquestioned premises of American and NATO policy has been that ordinary Afghans don’t view public corruption in quite the same way that Americans and others do in the West. Diplomats, military officers and senior officials flying in from Washington often say privately that while public graft is pernicious, there is no point in trying to abolish it — and that trying to do so could destroy the very government the West has helped to build.

The Central Intelligence Agency has carried that line of argument even further, putting on its payroll some of the most disputable members of Mr. Karzai’s government. The explanation, offered by agency officials, is that Mother Theresa can’t be found in Afghanistan.

“What is acceptable to the Afghans is different than what is acceptable to you or me or our people,” a Western official here said recently, discounting fears of fraud in the coming parliamentary elections. He spoke, as many prominent Western officials here do so often, on the condition of anonymity. “They have their own expectations, and they are slightly different than the ones we try to impose on them.”

Perhaps. But the official’s premise — that the Afghans are more tolerant of corruption than people in the West — has fulfilled itself. Afghanistan is now widely recognized as one of the world’s premier gangster-states. Out of 180 countries, Transparency International ranks it, in terms of corruption, 179th, better only than Somalia.

The examples are too legion to list. Take a drive down the splendorous avenues of Palm Jumeira in the United Arab Emirates, where many Afghan leaders park their money, and you can pick out the waterfront villas where they live. Or look at the travails of Kabul Bank, whose losses threaten the Afghan financial system; officials say the bank’s directors spent lavishly on Mr. Karzai’s re-election campaign and lent tens of millions to Mr. Karzai’s cronies.

Worse, the rationalization offered by the Western official — that Afghans are happy to tolerate a certain level of bribery and theft — seems to have turned out terribly wrong. It now seems clear that public corruption is roundly despised by ordinary Afghans, and that it may constitute the single largest factor driving them into the arms of the Taliban.

You don’t have to look very hard to find an Afghan, whether in the government or out, who is repelled by the illegal doings of his leaders. Ahmed Shah Hakimi, who runs a currency exchange in Kabul, had just finished explaining some of the shadowy dealings of the business and political elite when he stopped in disgust.

“There are 50 of them,” Mr. Hakimi said. “The corrupt ones. All the Afghans know who they are.”

“Why do the Americans support them?” he asked.

Mr. Hakimi, a shrewd businessman, seemed genuinely perplexed.

“What the Americans need to do is take these Afghans and put them on a plane and fly them to America — and then crash the plane into a mountain,” Mr. Hakimi said. “Kill them all.”

You hear that a lot here — that the kleptocrats are few in number; that most Afghans know who they are; and that the country would be better off if this greedy cabal met a violent end. Why not get rid of them?

Sometimes, it seems, American and Afghan leaders exhibit a kind of willful blindness. In June, President Karzai flew to Kandahar to speak to a gathering of about 400 local tribal elders about a pending military operation. He was accompanied by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, then the commander of American and NATO forces.

Mr. Karzai may have been in Afghanistan, but his appearance seemed to have been scripted by the same people who run political campaigns in the United States. The Afghan tribal elders assembled in a large room, most of them sitting on the floor, and Mr. Karzai, after much delay, strode in, gave a quick and rousing speech, and promptly left the room. Neither Mr. Karzai nor any of his aides — nor any of the Americans — seemed especially interested in what these tribal leaders had to say.

As it happened, they had plenty to say. In interviews afterward, one after the other told stories that were both disheartening and remarkably similar. None of the men (they were all men) harbored any love for the Taliban. But they had even less love for their Afghan leaders.

Typical of the Afghans was Hajji Mahmood, a tribal leader from a village west of Kandahar. Earlier this year, Mr. Mahmood explained, he bought a plot of land from the local administration and invested several thousand dollars to build some shops on it.

Then, a few months later, government agents arrived, bulldozed Mr. Mahmood’s shops and reclaimed the land. The local agent Mr. Mahmood had paid, it turned out, had pocketed the money and failed to record the sale.

Retelling the story, Mr. Mahmood shook his head.

“Not many people support the Taliban, because they don’t really have a program,” he said. “But believe me, if they did, many people would.”

It’s not as if the Americans and their NATO partners don’t know who the corrupt Afghans are. American officers and anti-corruption teams have drawn up intricate charts outlining the criminal syndicates that entwine the Afghan business and political elites. They’ve even given the charts a name: “Malign Actor Networks.” A k a MAN.

Looking at some of these charts—with their crisscrossed lines connecting politicians, drug traffickers and insurgents — it’s easy to conclude that this country is ruled neither by the government, nor NATO, nor the Taliban, but by the MAN.

It turns out, of course, that some of the same “malign actors” the diplomats and officers are railing against are on the payroll of the C.I.A. At least until recently, American officials say, one of them was Ahmed Wali Karzai, the president’s brother. Mr. Karzai has long been suspected of facilitating the country’s booming drug trade.

Ahmed Wali Karzai denies taking any money from the C.I.A. or helping any drug traffickers. But consider, for a second, the other brother: President Karzai. When he receives that stern lecture from the American diplomat about ridding his government of corruption — and he receives a lot of them — what must President Karzai be thinking?

One possibility: That the Americans aren’t really serious.

The real difficulty, American commanders say, is that taking down the biggest Afghan politicians could open a vacuum of authority. And that could create instability that the Taliban could take advantage of.

American officers have every right to worry about stability. But the trouble with this argument is that, increasingly, there is less and less stability to keep. And, if Afghans like Mr. Mahmood and Mr. Hakimi are to be believed, it’s the corruption itself that is the instability’s root cause.

As for Mr. Faqiryar, he has become, at age 72, a national icon. A recent editorial in Kabul Weekly, a local newspaper, urged Mr. Faqiryar to carry on his fight against the gangster-state that his country has become. But the editorial struck a tone that was less angry than poignant, as if time were running short.

“We are a nation,” the editors said, “in desperate need of more heroes.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/05/weekinreview/05filkins.html?_r=1&hp

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xx Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #991 on: Sep 5th, 2010, 10:41am »

New York Times

September 5, 2010
Twelve Killed In Suicide Assault on Iraq Army Base
By REUTERS
Filed at 11:17 a.m. ET

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Up to five suicide bombers, some armed with rifles, tried to storm an army base in Baghdad on Sunday, killing 12 people and wounding 36 less than a week after Washington declared U.S. combat operations in Iraq over.

The assault began when a minibus packed with explosives was driven at the back gate of the base, followed by one or two suicide bombers on foot who blew themselves up when they came under fire.

A final pair of gunmen fought an hour-long battle with troops inside a nearby building, security officials said.

Sunday's assault took place in broad daylight, just over two weeks after dozens of Iraqi army recruits and soldiers were killed by another suicide bomber at the same compound and a few days after the August 31 end to U.S. combat operations in Iraq.

Insurgents are targeting Iraqi police and troops as the U.S. military gradually pulls out more than seven years after invading, while the failure of Iraq's leaders six months after an election to agree a new government has also stoked tensions.

"It was an attempt to break into the Rusafa military command," said Baghdad security spokesman Major General Qassim al-Moussawi.

"It was similar to the attack on the central bank but security forces foiled the assault and killed all attackers," Moussawi said, referring to a June 13 siege by up to seven suicide bombers of the Central Bank of Iraq.

Moussawi's office put the final toll at 12 killed and 36 wounded.

The explosions left a deep crater filled with body parts at the entrance to the base while bloodstains and bullet marks in an unused defence ministry building bore witness to a fierce gunfight.

"It was a well organised terrorist attack but our soldiers were alert and managed to stop them," Defence Minister Abdel Qader Jassim said at the scene.

GUNFIRE

Residents in the neighbourhood reported heavy shooting after the explosions and said the gunfire continued for over an hour.

Witnesses said they saw gunmen in one mainly Sunni district nearby. The area became an al Qaeda stronghold at the height in 2006/07 of the sectarian warfare unleashed after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, and remained dangerous until mid-2009.

The base was a defence ministry headquarters under Saddam Hussein and now serves as an army recruitment centre as well as a military command.

At least 57 recruits and soldiers were killed and 123 wounded when a suicide bomber blew himself up there on August 17.

Tensions are simmering in Iraq six months after an inconclusive election that produced no outright winner.

Coalition talks among the country's main Shi'ite-led blocs and a Sunni-backed cross-sectarian alliance that took a narrow lead in the March 7 vote have made little progress.

The end of the U.S. combat mission 7-1/2 years after the invasion to topple Saddam has raised fears of a return to broader bloodshed and of increased attacks by Sunni Islamist insurgents. Iraq's 660,000-strong security forces had to be rebuilt from scratch after being disbanded after the invasion.

U.S. leaders said last week the Iraq war was in its final stages and that Iraqi security forces are capable of countering violence in the country, but many Iraqis do not believe their

army and police are ready for the task.

(Additional reporting by Suadad al-Salhy, Ahmed Rasheed and Reuters Television; Writing by Serena Chaudhry; Editing by Michael Christie)

http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2010/09/05/world/international-uk-iraq-violence.html

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xx Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #992 on: Sep 5th, 2010, 10:48am »

New York Times

September 4, 2010
The Boss Is Robotic, and Rolling Up Behind You
By JOHN MARKOFF

SACRAMENTO — Dr. Alan Shatzel’s pager beeped at 9 on a Saturday morning. A man had suffered a stroke, and someone had to decide, quickly, whether to give him an anticlotting drug that could mean the difference between life and death.


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Dr. Shatzel, a neurologist, hustled not to the emergency room where the patient lay — 260 miles away, in Bakersfield — but to a darkened room at a hospital here. He took a seat in front of the latest tools of his trade: computer monitors, a keyboard and a joystick that control his assistant on the scene — a robot on wheels.

He guided the roughly five-foot-tall machine, which has a large monitor as its “head,” into the patient’s room in Bakersfield. Dr. Shatzel’s face appeared on screen, and his voice issued from a speaker.

Dr. Shatzel acknowledged the nurse and introduced himself to the patient’s grandson, explaining that he would question the patient to determine whether he was a candidate for the drug. The robot’s stereophonic hearing conveyed the answers. Using the hypersensitive camera on the monitor, Dr. Shatzel zoomed in and out and swung the display left and right, much as if he were turning his head to look around the room.

For years, the military and law enforcement agencies have used specialized robots to disarm bombs and carry out other dangerous missions. This summer, such systems helped seal a BP well a mile below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico. Now, with rapidly falling costs, the next frontiers are the office, the hospital and the home.

Mobile robots are now being used in hundreds of hospitals nationwide as the eyes, ears and voices of doctors who cannot be there in person. They are being rolled out in workplaces, allowing employees in disparate locales to communicate more easily and letting managers supervise employees from afar. And they are being tested as caregivers in assisted-living centers.

“Computers are beginning to grow wheels and roll around in the environment,” said Jeanne Dietsch, a veteran roboticist and co-founder of MobileRobots Inc., a robot maker in Amherst, N.H., and a division of Adept Technologies.

Skeptics say these machines do not represent a great improvement over video teleconferencing. But advocates say the experience is substantially better, shifting control of space and time to the remote user.

“Most of the existing videoconferencing technology is designed for meetings,” said Pamela J. Hinds, co-director at the Center for Work, Technology and Organization at Stanford University. “That is not where most work gets done.”

For now, most of the mobile robots, sometimes called telepresence robots, are little more than ventriloquists’ dummies with long, invisible strings. But some models have artificial intelligence that lets them do some things on their own, and they will inevitably grow smarter and more agile. They will not only represent the human users, they will augment them.

“The beauty of mobile telepresence is it challenges the notion of what it means to be somewhere,” said Colin Angle, chief executive of one of the largest robot manufacturers, iRobot.

The robot is what allowed Dr. Shatzel to “be” in the patient’s room far away. From an earlier telephone conversation with the emergency room doctor, the patient’s condition had not been clear. But in speaking directly with the patient, examining his face and control of his hands and glancing with the camera at the cardiac monitor in the room, Dr. Shatzel could assess the stroke, he said, with the same acuity as if he were there. He instructed the staff to administer the drug.

“We had a good outcome,” he said later.

Dr. John Whapham, a Loyola University neurologist who has helped create several regional networks providing telemedicine with robots made by InTouch Health, says that when he began using the robot during his residency, he would carry his laptop in a backpack so he could perform consultations anytime.

“I’ll pull out the laptop, and when I’m on Michigan Avenue here in Chicago, put it on a garbage can or on the seat of a bus stop,” he said. “You’re live, and you can walk around, examine, image, zoom in and out. I do it all the time.”

Expanding the Workplace

“I’m very thin in this new outfit,” Mike Beltzner says, breaking the ice in a room of Silicon Valley computer programmers. In the flesh, he is 2,200 miles away, at home in Toronto with his cat. But at this meeting his face appears on a 15-inch LCD atop a narrow aluminum machine resembling an upright vacuum cleaner. Indeed, as this robot rolls around the room it looks as if it could just as easily be sweeping.

Mr. Beltzner rolls the robot to a large conference table in the Mountain View headquarters of the Mozilla Corporation, maker of Firefox, a popular Web browser. By swiveling his camera eye back and forth, he can see the entire room and chats comfortably with the assembled team.

An hour earlier, Mr. Beltzner, director of Firefox, was logged into a different robot on the other side of the building to attend the weekly all-hands meeting. With a pink lei on one shoulder and a jaunty cap on the other, the robot was surrounded by more than 100 young software engineers, each sitting with a wirelessly connected laptop.

Aside from the occasional greeting, no one seems to notice the disembodied Mr. Beltzner until he is called upon by Mary Colvig, a Mozilla marketing manager. She wants employees to share the chore of leading tours of the office each week.

“What do you want me to do?” Mr. Beltzner asks, his voice piping from twin speakers in the robot’s chest.

“I would like you to give tours,” she responds from the front of the room. “That would be pretty insane.”

When the meeting ends, “Robo-Beltzner” — as one colleague calls him — mingles in the large room, chatting. Then Mr. Beltzner executes a nifty pirouette and moves the robot, made by Willow Garage of Menlo Park, Calif., to a charging station.

Like many other Silicon Valley companies, Mozilla has employees around the world, and in the month since it began testing the system, as many as 10 employees have logged in to run errands, chat and attend meetings.

Mr. Beltzner has now used the Willow Garage robot for more than a month, usually four to six times a week to attend meetings and chat with his co-workers in Mountain View. He finds it to be a distinctly different experience from a video teleconference or a computer chat system.

“With the robot, I find that I’m getting the same kind of interpersonal connection during the meetings and the same kind of nonverbal contact” that he would get if he were in the room, he said. “It’s a lot easier to have harder conversations when I ‘roll the robot,’ ” he added, referring to reviewing an employee’s performance or discussing technical issues.

There are few drawbacks to the robots, the company’s employees agree, although Erica Jostedt, a Mozilla communications manager, notes that the virtual Mr. Beltzner is ruder than his flesh-and-blood Canadian counterpart.

“I came to a meeting with him, and he didn’t even open the door for me!” she said, laughing.

The robot, of course, has no arms.

That has not stopped other programmers from commuting to Silicon Valley robotically.

Each morning for the past year, Chad Evans’s robot has sat with its back to a freeway in a double aisle of cubicles occupied by software designers at Philips Healthcare in Foster City, Calif.

Mr. Evans, a software designer himself, sits more than 2,000 miles away at home in Atlanta. But “Chadbot,” a four-foot-tall prototype built by RoboDynamics of Santa Monica, Calif., allows him to live where he chooses and work West Coast hours.

When he is sitting at his desk in Atlanta, Mr. Evans is visible in a small monitor at the top of the robot, which is usually plugged into a recharging station. His workmates can see at a glance whether he is available for a quick chat by simply peering down the aisle.

When Mr. Evans needs to go to a meeting in Foster City or visit a colleague, he drives the robot to a desk or a meeting room. If someone is willing to help him by pressing the elevator buttons, he can even visit other floors.

“Using Skype would require me to initiate a phone call,” he said. “This gives me more of a passive ability. I’m just sitting here like I would be at my desk if I was in the office. I see people coming and going, and they see me and they think, ‘Oh yeah, there was something I wanted to ask Chad.’ ”

It took a while for his co-workers to get used to Chad as Chadbot. “The first three weeks were the weirdest experience I’ve ever had,” said Karl McGuinness, a software architect whose desk is adjacent to the robot. “You’d hear his voice, and I’d think, ‘What the heck is going on?’ ”

The Boss, or Big Brother?

Tom Serani’s boss had grown frustrated that while Mr. Serani was on the road, his 20 salespeople working the phones back at company headquarters did not have the same zip as when he was in the office.

“The new guys were not doing quite as well,” said the boss, Neal Creighton, a co-founder of RatePoint, a company based in Needham, Mass., that tracks Internet users’ opinions of products and companies.

When RatePoint was approached by Vgo Communications to test a mobile robot, Mr. Creighton jumped at the chance.

From his hotel room, Mr. Serani can roll a robot up to an office cubicle back at headquarters, listen in on a telephone sales pitch and offer advice.

Mr. Serani was initially skeptical. “I immediately saw the potential,” he said.

more after the jump
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/05/science/05robots.html?ref=science

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xx Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #993 on: Sep 5th, 2010, 10:50am »

Phantoms and Monsters

Saturday, September 04, 2010
Legendary and Modern Cryptid Humanoids of China


A week or so ago, I posted Humanoid / Cryptid Encounter Reports - Japan after I received an email from a reader who wanted to know of any known reports from Japan. The response was quite favorable, so I have decided to periodically post cryptid humanoid encounter reports, historical accounts and lore from various locations worldwide. In this post, I'm focusing on legendary and modern cryptid humanoids of China.

HAIRY BEAST

Location/Date: Hong Kong, China - March 1955 - evening

Doors were barred in Hong Kong as the police searched for a hairy beast, said by terrified residents to be a shaggy animal over 6 ft tall. One man, a village gardener named Law Chiu had fought it and lived. The thing attacked him about 50 yards from the family temple. It was covered with long, shaggy gray hair. It stood upright when it came at him. He punched it in the stomach but the creature fell on him and they grappled for some time. The creature then went away, loping on all fours. Some time after that a woman saw a strange animal galloping past her vegetable garden on four legs, and as proof she exhibited large triangular footprints in the soft earth. They were unlike those made by a man or ape.

Source: The Saucerian Review

**********

FAMILY ABDUCTED

Location/Date: Ping Wu, Szechwan Province, China - March 7 1987 - midnight

A family of three, including a young child was awakened by a loud high-pitched hum coming from outside their small home. All three went outside to investigate and were nearly blinded by a beam of yellowish light coming from a huge reddish orange object shaped like a straw hat that hovered above them, slowly spinning. The hum grew louder and all three had a strange floating sensation then blacked out.

They all woke up and found themselves strapped to three steel tables in a circular room. The woman began screaming then a tiny hatchway opened in the wall and five 3-foot tall humanoid creatures stepped into the room. They were human in shape but with featureless faces with three huge whitish eyes on their foreheads. Their skin appeared transparent and bluish in color. The creatures said nothing as they proceeded to remove blood from the arms of all three abductees. They then inserted long needles into their knees and ankle joints. The husband and the child appeared to have been in a trance-like state during the incident. Electrode like devices were taped to their skulls and the woman was again able to hear the loud high-pitched hum that they initially heard outside their home. One of the beings made an incision on the child's thigh that was immediately healed by a pencil like device that was passed over it. Moments later the room became dark and everything began spinning.

Their next conscious memory was walking on a roadside 7 miles from their home.

Source: Lillian Crowner Desguin

NOTE: Rare but unconfirmed abduction report from communist China...Lon

**********

3 NIGHTS...3 ABDUCTIONS

Location/Date: Peking, China - May 1, 1981 - 9:00pm

The witness was sleeping at a hostel dormitory with many others when a voice woke him up telling him that he was going to be taken onboard an object. A small craft then entered the room apparently passing right through the wall. A beam of light shone on him and he was apparently then reduced in size and lifted up into the object, which left at high speed.

Inside the craft he saw a lighted circular chamber and was able to see stars through an opened porthole. In the center of the room there was a screen showing a constellation and stars. Seated at the screen was a blond young woman. She spoke to him and took him to a large launching area where many objects of different shapes and sizes were parked near a control tower. Later he was returned from where he had been taken from.

more after the jump
http://naturalplane.blogspot.com/

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xx Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #994 on: Sep 5th, 2010, 10:57am »

It's a good day for Star Trek.


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xx Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #995 on: Sep 5th, 2010, 11:42am »

With a decent pair of binoculars or a small telescope, and with the assistance of some free software from Stellarium, you can really enjoy some of our universe's beautiful and mysterious objects.

Fox News

September 5, 2010

Summer Star Watching

As the summer night sky draws near its close, there are still some cosmic objects that may beckon skywatchers equipped with a small telescope, binoculars or their own two eyes. Compiling such a list is, of course, very subjective, but here (with apologies to David Letterman) is my own "Top 10" list of summer sky objects to try and catch before they're gone. They are listed in ascending order of merit from this seasoned stargazer.

To read more and view slide show:


http://www.foxnews.com/slideshow/scitech/2010/09/04/best-late-summer-sky-watching/ - slide=1
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xx Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #996 on: Sep 5th, 2010, 8:07pm »

on Sep 5th, 2010, 11:42am, Swamprat wrote:
With a decent pair of binoculars or a small telescope, and with the assistance of some free software from Stellarium, you can really enjoy some of our universe's beautiful and mysterious objects.

Fox News

September 5, 2010

Summer Star Watching

As the summer night sky draws near its close, there are still some cosmic objects that may beckon skywatchers equipped with a small telescope, binoculars or their own two eyes. Compiling such a list is, of course, very subjective, but here (with apologies to David Letterman) is my own "Top 10" list of summer sky objects to try and catch before they're gone. They are listed in ascending order of merit from this seasoned stargazer.

To read more and view slide show:


http://www.foxnews.com/slideshow/scitech/2010/09/04/best-late-summer-sky-watching/ - slide=1


Thanks Swamprat, beautiful, it really is.
Crystal
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« Reply #997 on: Sep 5th, 2010, 8:35pm »

An amazing book about 9/11 called:
"Tower Stories: An Oral History of 9/11"
http://www.amazon.com/Tower-Stories-Oral-History-11/dp/1595800212

I watched horrified in Mesa, AZ on 9/11 as people jumped from the towers before the networks stopped showing it. I think it is a slap in the face to those that died and their loved ones to put that mosque that close to Ground Zero - and a slap to all Americans. The article below states "Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the man behind the proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero, is traveling through the Middle East at the request of the State Department." so US citizens are paying for this trip?

Crystal

"Tower Stories: An Oral History of 9/11" review from Publishers Weekly "The only widely available oral history of 9/11 from the perspective of New Yorkers, this monumental work (originally released by Revolution in 2004) has been updated for the sixth anniversary of the national tragedy. In the weeks following the World Trade Center attack, DiMarco, in the tradition of Studs Terkel, wandered Manhattan collecting the stories of Gothamites who survived the collapse of the towers, came to help or simply bore witness-whether from elsewhere in the city, across the country or overseas. Two major themes emerge, the first concerning the heroism of common decency: Florence Engoran, five months pregnant on the day of the attack, was helped down 55 flights of stairs by near-strangers, "two men who promised that they were gonna stay with me the whole time down, which they did." In the same vein, Jan Demczur relates how he used his window washing tools to save himself and an elevator full of people, and Dr. Walter Gerasimowicz tells of the men who aided him when he was forced to evacuate without his crutches. The rigors of loss and mourning make a second theme: Patrick Charles Welsh, whose wife perished on Flight 93, says, "I was so devastated by this unheard cry of souls... This moan of humanity going straight up to heaven." Though a good idea, the scholarly essays that close the book, concerning the U.S.-Middle East relations, feel off-puttingly distant compared to the stories that precede them. DiMarco's contribution to the memory of that horrific day is enormous; the testimonies collected here form an amazing, one-of-a-kind account."
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Slate.com
The Imam Speaks
Feisal Abdul Rauf defends his plan for an Islamic center near Ground Zero.
By William Saletan
Posted Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2010, at 8:21 AM ET

Imam Feisal Abdul RaufImam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the man behind the proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero, is traveling through the Middle East at the request of the State Department. As part of this ambassadorial tour, he has given an interview to the National of Abu Dhabi, published yesterday, in which he responds to questions about the U.S. uproar over his project. Are his answers adequate? Let's take a look.

1. Much of the reaction is just politics. "There is no doubt that the election season has had a major impact upon the nature of the discourse," the imam says. This implies that the intensity of the backlash will subside once the November elections are over—and that time is what's needed to cool the resistance. We'll see whether this bet proves wise.

2. The backlash is normal. "The struggles we are going through today are of the same genre as what the previous faith communities had to face," he says. "Jewish immigrants, Catholic immigrants had to face even worse attacks against their communities." But "as the second generation establishes itself and is rooted in the United States they articulate an expression of who we are as Americans and [are] seen decreasingly as alien." This point is similar to the previous one: Time will dissolve much of the resistance. But here, the imam is no longer talking about a single election. He's talking about generations. He's saying that after the election is over, the remaining, underlying distrust of Muslims will ultimately be healed only by the slow process of integration. The upside of this prognosis is that in the long run, history favors healing.

3. This is a local matter. "The local community board recognizes and understands the vision, the politicians in New York understand the vision, and there is broad-based support for these objectives," says the imam. In a separate talk in Bahrain, he told a questioner, "The opposition to us has come from outside the community." He's right, but this is a risky tack. A man who was born outside the United States (he's a naturalized citizen), speaks English with an accent, and preaches a minority religion that was invoked by the 9/11 plotters is claiming insider status against Christian, native-born Americans. This might work in the ethnic mixing bowl of New York. But in the broader United States, it sounds pretty crazy.

4. He probably should have picked a different site. Abdul Rauf never says this. But the National reports, "When asked about whether he would have chosen a different location for the project if he knew in advance about the controversy, Imam Feisal said the Prophet Mohammad instructed Muslims not to dwell on past decisions and wonder about alternative outcomes." Translation: Oops! Similarly, in a CBS News interview that aired Monday, the project's developer, Sharif El-Gamal, has this exchange:

Q: Did it occur to you when you were putting this together that that was two blocks too close to a place that many, many people feel very strongly about?
El-Gamal: Not at all. It did not even cross my mind once.
Q: Why not?
El-Gamal: Because I did not hold myself or my faith accountable for that tragedy.

The takeaway from these interviews seems pretty clear: Neither man appreciated the political risks of the site they chose. If they had, they would have handled things quite differently.

5. The real fight is between moderates and radicals. Abdul Rauf says the struggle now "is not between Muslims and non-Muslims, but between moderates of all the faith traditions and the radicals of all the faith traditions. So what is required is a coalition." He says Muslim radicals and anti-Muslim radicals "feed off each other and need each other to sustain themselves. So we need right now to combat the radical voices." This is the crux of the whole debate, and here, the imam is exactly right. Witness the eerily similar, mutually reinforcing fulminations of Osama Bin Laden and Newt Gingrich. When Abdul Rauf returns to the United States, this is the point he needs to emphasize: In the mosque debate, we should side not with one faith against another, but with moderation against radicalism.

6. The backlash justifies going ahead with the plan. "The fact that there has been this misunderstanding shows the need for the project," says the imam. Well, yes. But does it show the need for building the project at the presently planned site? It's safer to point out simply that the backlash is unjustified and that the project will help ameliorate the underlying distrust.

7. Religious pluralism is Islam. Our basic rights, enumerated in the Declaration of Independence, reflect a "foundational viewpoint of America" that "is exactly what Islam is," says the imam. He asserts that the American principle "that religious liberty is a fundamental protected right" is "a value which lies at the very core of the Quranic value."

Really? Freedom of religion is at the core of Islam? That strikes me as wildly implausible. It certainly isn't true of Judaism or Christianity. These are religions, not neutral referees. They try to run your life. The imam, too, believes that Islam should run the lives of Muslims. Yet he suggests that Islamic law is a perfect fit, if not a synonym, for American pluralism. Gingrich disputes this, and here, Gingrich seems to have the better argument. When the imam returns, he has a lot of explaining to do.

http://www.slate.com/id/2265607/

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« Last Edit: Sep 5th, 2010, 8:58pm by WingsofCrystal » User IP Logged

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« Reply #998 on: Sep 5th, 2010, 8:52pm »





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« Reply #999 on: Sep 6th, 2010, 06:06am »

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« Reply #1000 on: Sep 6th, 2010, 07:14am »

Phil that is a stunning photo! Thank you! And a Good Morning to you cheesy
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« Reply #1001 on: Sep 6th, 2010, 07:15am »

Top UFO Bloggers:

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« Reply #1002 on: Sep 6th, 2010, 07:16am »

Wow!! Philliman, what a magnificent photo.... It was so uplifting to see.

Good morning Crystal grin

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« Reply #1003 on: Sep 6th, 2010, 07:18am »

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« Reply #1004 on: Sep 6th, 2010, 07:35am »

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