Phantom Maelstrom Blog is no longer active. The new address is at http://al2meta.astralmeta.com

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Demi Moore Hospitalized!

Demi Moore
This news may be a few days late, but it's worth re-mentioning. There were gossips that the actress who starred in so many Hollywood blockbusters including, Ghost, had been hospitalized, just two months after announcing her split from husband Ashton Kutcher. It appears that divorce can make someone sick. Well, that's no understatement, as a matter of fact, a failed relationship could result to emotional stress that could affect your health.

According to Moore's rep in a statement earlier: "Because of the stresses in her life right now, Demi has chosen to seek professional assistance to treat her exhaustion and improve her overall health."

A flurry of unconfirmed reports suggest her exhaustion is code for substance abuse and malnourishment. An eating disorder, a late-night 911 call, a seizure, a nitrous oxide binge, are some of the whispers you could hear around the web.

Ashton was said to had been involved on another woman, the main reason why Demi decided to file a divorce.

"As a woman, a mother and a wife, there are certain values and vows that I hold sacred, and it is in this spirit that I have chosen to move forward with my life," said Moore in a statement to press on Thursday.

In addition to making it clear that she was the one ending her "six-year marriage to Ashton," she also set the record straight: it's not that she's too old, it's that he's too young.

Her follow-up (on Twitter no less), she said: "Marriage is one of the most difficult things in the world."

Moore was a veteran of high-profile marriages and weathered her divorce from Bruce Willis, the father of her three daughters, better than any other in the business. They're friends, supporters, and have managed to put their family before their romantic drama.

Moore's brief statement on Ashton's cheating scandal proved she's still putting family before "keeping her man." And her address belongs in a hall of fame of strong women who've publicly handled their misbehaving husbands with aplomb.

That's why there's less talk about how the very public breakup of her marriage could be at the heart of her health problems. However, the effects of a broken heart take a physical toll. In a review released this month by University of Arizona, researchers found that divorced adults are at a higher risk of an early death than married adults. The effects of a split can be as harmful to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, being overweight or drinking heavily, according to the report.

One 2006 study found that middle-aged women, in particular, are at a greater risk of cardiovascular disease than married women of the same age. Cancer and mobility issues have also been linked to the after-effects of a long-term romantic separation.

But in the initial days and months after a divorce, the mental health risks are most threatening.

"When you are processing the ending of a marriage, you are overcome with a variety of complex emotions - sorrow, anger, shame, fear," explains Rachel Sussman, a licensed psychotherapist and author of The Breakup Bible. "Sleep and one's ability to eat may be impacted by the sorrow and stress, [which in turn] may effect your overall health and cause you to get very run down."

A painful split is also grounds for a relapse of bad habits. Eating disorders, long-under control, may resurface in times of stress. Most notable, substance abuse is found in higher rates for women during a divorce than men, according to a WHO World Mental Health study.

Moore has touted her clean living lifestyle in the years after her early '80s rehab stint but anyone who has suffered from drug addiction knows the threat of relapse hovers in times of transition.

"Demi Moore is a recovering addict so for someone like her, a divorce may indeed produce a relapse," Sussman tells Shine. "Addicts turn to substances for a variety of reasons including the need to modify pain. It's a poor coping mechanism and will often produce the opposite effect than the one you are looking for."

While the WHO study found more women using substances as band-aids during divorce, men were more likely to become isolated and depressed. Kutcher might not be the shining example of that statistic. While Moore battles her demons, Kutcher's been parading around Brazil's fashion week and sucking on coconuts for his twitter followers.

To be clear, just because there are risk factors to divorce, staying in a troubled marriage isn't the healthy choice either. One University of Iowa study found that couples who weren't happy together had lower immune systems and took longer to heal than happily married spouses.

Sometimes, divorce is the only option. But setting a self-preservation game plan doesn't end with finding an attorney. In searching online for the terms "divorce" and "health risks," you have to plow through alarmist warnings about the health risks for children of divorce before you can find anything about surviving as a parent.

To protect the mind and body during divorce, experts suggests: Exercise to prevent depression and keep your appetite and sleep patterns in check. Commandeer your support system: family, friends, even therapists, and sponsors depending on your needs. "Deal with your grief head on," advises Sussman. "It hurts but better now than later."

I suppose that's the same advise she's (Demi Moore) been receiving by now.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Mysterious Winged Structure from Ancient Rome

A recently discovered mysterious "winged" structure in England, which in the Roman period may have been used as a temple, presents a puzzle for archaeologists, who say the building has no known parallels.

The structure has been said to had been build around 1,800 years ago. The structure was discovered in Norfolk, in eastern England, just to the south of the ancient town of Venta Icenorum.

The structure has two wings radiating out from a rectangular room that in turn leads to a central room.

"Generally speaking, (during) the Roman Empire people built within a fixed repertoire of architectural forms," said Professor William Bowden, a professor at the University of Nottingham, who reported the find in the most recent edition of the Journal of Roman Archaeology. The investigation was carried out in conjunction with the Norfolk Archaeological and Historical Research Group.

The winged shape of the building appears to be unique in the Roman Empire, with no other example known. "It's very unusual to find a building like this where you have no known parallels for it," Bowden told LiveScience. "What they were trying to achieve by using this design is really very difficult to say."

The building appears to have been part of a complex that includes a villa to the north and at least two other structures to the northeast and northwest. An aerial photograph suggests the existence of an oval or polygonal building with an apse located to the east.

The winged building

The foundation of the two wings and the rectangular room was made of a thin layer of rammed clay and chalk. "This suggests that the superstructure of much of the building was quite light, probably timber and clay-lump walls with a thatched roof," writes Bowden. This raises the possibility that the building was not intended to be used long term.

The central room, on the other hand, was made of stronger stuff, with its foundations crafted from lime mortar mixed with clay and small pieces of flint and brick. That section likely had a tiled roof.. "Roman tiles are very large things, they're very heavy," Bowden said.

Sometime after the demise of this wing-shaped structure, another building, this one decorated, was built over it. Archaeologists found post holes from it with painted wall plaster inside.

Bowden said few artifacts were found at the site and none that could be linked to the winged structure with certainty. A plough had ripped through the site at some point, scattering debris. Also, metal detecting is a major problem in the Norfolk area, with people using metal detectors to locate and confiscate materials, something that may have happened at this site.

Still, even when the team found undisturbed layers, there was little in the way of artifacts. "This could suggest that it (the winged building) wasn't used for a very particularly long time," Bowden said.

The land of the Iceni

The researchers were not certain what the building was used for. While its elevated position made it visible from the town of Venta Icenorum, the foundations of the radiating wings are weak. "It's possible that this was a temporary building constructed for a single event or ceremony, which might account for its insubstantial construction," writes Bowden in the journal article.

"Alternatively, the building may represent a shrine or temple on a hilltop close to a Roman road, visible from the road as well as from the town."

Adding another layer to this mystery is the ancient history of Norfolk, where the structure was found.

The local people in the area, who lived here before the Roman conquest, were known as the Iceni. It may have been their descendants who lived at the site and constructed the winged building.

Iceni architecture was quite simple and, as Bowden explained, not as elaborate as this. On the other hand, their religion was intertwined with nature, something which may help explain the wind-blown location of the site. "Iceni gods, pre-Roman gods, tend to be associated with the natural sites: the springs, trees, sacred groves, this kind of thing," said Bowden.

The history between the Iceni and the Romans is a violent one. In A.D. 43 (CE 43), when the Romans, under Emperor Claudius, invaded Britain, they encountered fierce resistance from them. After a failed revolt in A.D. (CE) 47, they became a client kingdom of the empire, with Prasutagus as their leader. When he died, around A.D. (CE) 60, the Romans tried to finish the subjugation, in brutal fashion.

"First, his (Prasutagus') wife Boudicea was scourged, and his daughters outraged. All the chief men of the Iceni, as if Rome had received the whole country as a gift, were stripped of their ancestral possessions, and the king's relatives were made slaves," wrote Tacitus, a Roman writer in The Annals. (From the book, "Complete Works of Tacitus," 1942, edited for the Perseus Digital Library.)

This led Boudicea (more commonly spelled Boudicca) to form an army and lead a revolt against the Romans. At first she was successful, defeating Roman military units and even sacking Londinium. In the end, the Romans rallied and defeated her at the Battle of Watling Street. With the Roman victory, the rebellion came to an end, and a town named Venta Icenorum was eventually set up on their land.

"The Iceni vanish from history effectively after the Boudicca revolt in (CE) 60-61," said Bowden.

But while they vanished from written history, archaeological clues hint that their spirit remained very much alive. Bowden and David Mattingly, an archaeologist at the University of Leicester, both point out that the area has a low number of villas compared with elsewhere in Britain, suggesting the people continued to resist Roman culture long after Boudicca's failed revolt.

This lack of villas, along with problems attracting people to Roman settlements in the area, "can be read as a transcript of resistant adaption and rejection of Roman norms," writes Mattingly in his book "An Imperial Possession: Britain in the Roman Empire" (Penguin Books, 2007).

There is "still a fairly strong local identity," said Bowden, who cautioned that while local people may have lived at the complex, the winged building is out of character for both Roman and Iceni architectural styles, a fact that leaves his team with a mystery.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Nigeria sect leader threatens Nigerian president in message

Boko Haram sect leader Imam Abubakar Shekau
Lagos, Nigeria - An audio message allegedly posted on the Internet by the leader of a radical Islamist sect in Nigeria, threatens the oil-rich nation's president and denies its members killed Muslim civilians in an attack last week that left at least 185 people dead.

Meanwhile, unrest continued across the north with the kidnapping of a German on Thursday and the killing of 15 traders in a daylight attack by apparent armed robbers.

The video posted to YouTube on Wednesday, shows a still image of Imam Abubakar Shekau sitting on a beige sofa, a Kalashnikov rifle at his back. Speaking at times in Arabic, English and the Hausa language of Nigeria's Muslim north, Shekau said negotiations suggested by President Goodluck Jonathan between the sect and the government will not happen.

"He's lying. He cannot do it," Shekau said. "If Jonathan does not repent as a Muslim, even if I die myself, Jonathan's going to see. He's looking at me like I'm nobody, but he'll see."

In the message, Shekau acknowledged that Boko Haram carried out the Jan. 20 attacks in Kano, Nigeria's second-largest city, that killed at least 185 people. Gunmen from the sect armed with explosives and assault rifles, some wearing army and police uniforms, others suicide car bombers, attacked police stations, immigration offices and the local headquarters of Nigeria's secret police.

But Shekau denied killing civilians in the attack, claiming the sect's gunmen tried to protect the more than 9 million people who live in the important city in Nigeria's north.

"We're killing police officers, we're killing soldiers and other government people who are fighting Allah and Christians who are killing Muslims and talking badly about our Islamic religion," Shekau said. "I am not against anyone, but if Allah asks me to kill someone, I will kill him and I will enjoy killing him like I am killing a chicken."

Boko Haram wants to implement strict Shariah law and avenge the deaths of Muslims in communal violence across Nigeria, a multiethnic nation of more than 160 million people split largely into a Christian south and Muslim north. The group, whose name means "Western education is sacrilege" in the Hausa language of Nigeria's north, has now killed at least 262 people in 2012, more than half of the at least 510 people the sect killed in all of 2011, according to an AP (Associated Press) count.

The attack by Boko Haram comes during continued unrest across Nigeria's north. In Kano, gunmen kidnapped a German citizen who was working for Dantata & Sawoe Construction Company Ltd. on Thursday.

German Foreign Ministry spokesman Andreas Peschke told journalists on Friday that the embassy and a ministry crisis unit were working hard to resolve the case.

"I can't yet report any substantial progress," Peschke said.

Meanwhile, Zamfara state spokesman Ibrahim Muhammad Birnin Magaji said on Friday that gunmen killed 15 Muslim traders on their way to market. Birnin Magaji said the gunmen burned the bodies of their victims in a rural village in Katsina state on Thursday, about 120 miles (200 kilometers) from Kano.

He said authorities suspect an armed robbery attack, but no goods were reported missing.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Dana White calls out Internet hackers!

Dana White
The war is on between the UFC and Internet hackers. On Sunday, UFC.com was re-routed several times to the website UGnazi. The site's organizers, who White called terrorists several times during the "UFC on Fox 2" press conference, said the hacking of UFC.com is a result of the company's support of SOPA and PIPA. The wide-ranging bills are aimed at stopping online piracy, however at the cost of compromising the free Internet. White had lashed out at the hackers.

White dug in deeper during a conversation with The Score's Mauro Ranallo (13:30 mark).

"Keep hacking our site, do it again. Do it tonight," said White. "These guys look like terrorists now and a bill that was about to die, is about to come back."

The hacker taking credit for the UFC hit, @joshthgod, went a different route after the challenge, posting White's personal info, including a Social Security number, a list of residential addresses, a vehicle identification number and a personal phone number.

That followed a tweet that said White is now the target.

"@danawhite We don't want your site anymore. We are going after YOU! Follow me for tonights exciting events! #ufc #sopa #acta #pipa,"

White said the hackers are only hurting their own cause by alerting politicians that there's a serious issue. He's willing to risk his own safety to stop the online pilfering.

"Is SOPA the perfect bill? No, it's not. The only thing that we're focused on is piracy. Piracy is stealing. If you walk into a store and you steal a gold watch, it's the same as stealing a pay-per-view. I don't care what your twisted, demented idea of stealing is," White said. "These kids who grew up on the Internet never had to pay for anything, so they don't think that you should have to."

Dana White closed by saying he's not afraid of the Internet, it's where cowards live.

Corruption scandal shakes Vatican as internal letters leaked

Vatican City - The Vatican was shaken by a corruption scandal on Thursday after an Italian television investigation said a former top official had been transferred against his will after complaining about irregularities in awarding contracts.

The show "The Untouchables" on the respected private television network La 7 on Wednesday night showed what is said were several letters that Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, who was then deputy-governor of Vatican City, sent to superiors, including Pope Benedict, in 2011 about the corruption.

The Vatican issued a statement on Thursday criticizing the "methods" used in the journalist investigation. But it confirmed that the letters were authentic by expressing "sadness over the publication of reserved documents." As deputy governor of the Vatican City for two years from 2009 to 2011, Vigano was the number two official in a department responsible for maintaining the tiny city-state's gardens, buildings, streets, museums and other infrastructure.

Vigano, currently the Vatican's ambassador in Washington, said in the letters that when he took the job in 2009, he discovered a web of corruption, nepotism and cronyism linked to the awarding of contracts to outside companies at inflated prices.

In one letter, Vigano tells the pope of a smear campaign against him (Vigano) by other Vatican officials who wanted him transferred because they were upset that he had taken drastic steps to save the Vatican money by cleaning up its procedures.

"Holy Father, my transfer right now would provoke much disorientation and discouragement in those who have believed it was possible to clean up so many situations of corruption and abuse of power that have been rooted in the management of so many departments," Vigano wrote to the pope on March 27, 2011.

In another letter to the pope on April 4, 2011, Vigano says he discovered the management of some Vatican City investments was entrusted to two funds managed by a committee of Italian bankers "who looked after their own interests more than ours."

$2.5 Million, 550,000 Euro Loss

Vigano says in the same letter that in one single financial transaction in December, 2009, "they made us lose two and a half million dollars."

The program interviewed a man it identified as a member of the bankers' committee who said Vigano had developed a reputation as a "ballbreaker" among companies that had contracts with the Vatican, because of his insistence on transparency and competition.

The man's face was blurred on the transmission and his voice was distorted in order to conceal his identity.

In one of the letters to the pope, Vigano said Vatican-employed maintenance workers were demoralized because "work was always given to the same companies at costs at least double compared to those charged outside the Vatican."

For example, when Vigano discovered that the cost of the Vatican's larger than life nativity scene in St. Peter's Square was 550,000 euros in 2009, he chopped 200,000 euros off the cost for the next Christmas, the program said.

Even though, Vigano's cost-cutting and transparency campaign helped turned Vatican City's budget from deficit to surplus during his tenure, in 2011 unsigned articles criticizing him as inefficient appeared in the Italian newspaper Il Giornale.

On March 22, 2011, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone informed Vigano that he was being removed from his position, even though it was to have lasted until 2014.

Five days later he wrote to Bertone complaining that he was left "dumbfounded" by the ouster and because Bertone's motives for his removal were identical to those published in an anonymous article published against him in Il Giornale that month.

In early April, Vigano went over Bertone's head again and wrote directly to the pope, telling him that he had worked hard to "eliminate corruption, private interests and dysfunction that are widespread in various departments."

He also tells the pope in the same letter that "no one should be surprised about the press campaign against me" because he tried to root out corruption and had made enemies.

Despite his appeals to the pope that a transfer, even if it meant a promotion, "would be a defeat difficult for me to accept," Vigano was named ambassador to Washington in October of last year after the sudden death of the previous envoy of the United States.

In its statement, the Vatican said the journalistic investigation had treated complicated subjects in a "partial and banal way" and could take steps to defend the "honor of morally upright people" who loyally serve the Church.

The statement said that today's administration was a continuation of the "correct and transparent management that inspired Monsignor Vigano."

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Anonymous threatens Facebook again!

Anonymous, the hacker collective hacktivist group, is once again planning to target Facebook in an attack scheduled on Jan. 28 - at least, that's what a video uploaded to Youtube on Monday was claiming in the name of the hacker network.

"An online war has begun between Anonymous, the people and the government of the United States," the video begins. "While SOPA and PIPA may be postponed from Congress, this doesn't guarantee that our Internet rights will be upheld."

Following the U.S. government shutdown of file-sharing site Megaupload on Friday, Anonymous attacked the U.S. Department of Justice's website, among others.

Monday's Youtube video calls on the American people to participate in the hack by downloading Low Orbit Ion Cannon (LOIC), the tool that was successfully used to target the U.S.' Department of Justice. LOIC crashes websites by sending thousands of information packets to their servers.

The video gives instructions for downloading and running the program, as well as a time - 12 a.m. on Jan. 28 - to launch the attack. No time zone, however, is distinguished.

"Would you like to become part of the greatest Internet protests and first official cyber war?" the video asks. "Operation Global Blackout is ongoing and everyone can be a part of it."

Facebook is one of the world's largest websites, operating through thousands of servers located across the world. In the video, Anonymous acknowledges the difficulties of attacking such a large site.

"While it is true that Facebook has at least 60,000 servers, it is still possible to bring it down," says the Anonymous voice. "Anonymous needs the help of the people."

YouTube commenters have raised an important question, "Why would Anonymous want to crash Facebook, after the site came out against SOPA and PIPA?"

The video essentially equates the privately-owned company with the U.S. government, with no explanation for the linkage. CNET postulates that Zuckerberg took too long to voice his opposition, landing his social network a spot on the potential targets list.

The global network of hacktivists had made this threat before, and promised to shut down the site on Nov. 5, 2011, over user privacy concerns. Ultimately, no attack was executed. And although there was a spam attack, it came out on a later date and was immediately neutralized by Facebook. The loosely-connected hacker network called the threat the work of peripheral members.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Shalani Soledad and Congressman Roman Romulo Wedding

Shalani Soledad, President Aquino's ex-girlfriend was wedded to Congressman Roman Romulo yesterday (January 22).

The wedding was held in Westgrove, Sta. Rosa Laguna.

Shalani Soledad is a Councilor and a co-host in Willie Revillame's Willing Willie show.

In the wedding, the groom, Congressman Romulo, told his bride, "I waited 44 years before God gave me this favor..."

And with some 500 guests as witnesses, Shalani Soledad was officially pronounced wife of Congressman Romulo at around 6:45 p.m. says sources.

One of the highlights of the ceremony, which began a little past 5:30 p.m., was the homily of His Eminence Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales.

Cardinal Rosales stressed that it was love that brought the couple together, and not "economic welfare" or "political status."

He also advised the couple to be "kind", "patient", "understanding", not to be jealous, and "do what God calls you to do".

The wedding was the first time Shalani saw her father, Adolfo Aguirre, and her mother Evelyn Soledad-Yumol, together.

But the bride walked down the aisle alone.

The background music, "If It's Love", "Fields of Gold", and "Just The Way You Are", was sang by Gail Blanco.

Celebrities in attendance were Senator Bong Revilla and wife Lani Mercado, Richard Gomez and wife Lucy Torres, Mariel Rodriguez, Migz Zubiri and wife Audrey, Valerie Concepcion, Marco Alcaraz and girlfriend Lara Quigaman.

Reception was held at the Evoliving Center Dockside in Nuvali, Sta. Rosa, Laguna.

Aquino's message

An online news report earlier said President Aquino would not attend the wedding but would send a gift "bought by his staff." He had wished the couple a happy life together.

"What is the message?" the President said recently. "The emphasis has always been to strengthen the family. We believe that a lot of the situations to the problems of the country will be best addressed by a family that is strong, united and caring to the children that they bring."

Actress-TV host Kris Aquino, who was not at the ceremony either, wished the couple "good health ... and all of God's blessings in the years to come."

She also said: "I'll echo what P-Noy (Pres. Aquino) said, may both of them continue to be instruments of true public service."

"We thought Roman would not be able to find that person he can be with all his life," said actress Dawn Zulueta. "He finally did and I think Shalani is perfect for him."

Only Atheists should hold Public Office?

There's a commentary in Yahoo that I found interesting, it was written by Andrew Riggio, a Yahoo contributor. Of course, it represents his own point of view, but I thought it was worth sharing after noting various religious interference on political issues that not only happen in the US, but also in the Philippines, and in the rest of the world. I should begin this article with a saying - Religion is politics!

Here's the link to the commentary:

Only Atheist should hold public office (Yahoo! Contributor)

I also would like to add on this one... most Christians are actually non-violent simply because they are not the type who strictly complies with the Bible standards particularly in the "Old Testament", noting that most of them, particularly among the bigger denominations, never cares to read the bible, while those who read adjusted themselves by ignoring some Bible standards in order to comply with "real existing laws".

A Personal Opinion

Riggio has a point on this one, religion serves as guide to religious people. However, religion-driven people think of it as more than just a belief system - which is subjective to a group. They thought of it as if it's God's command. And this kind of primitive mentality (brought about by an evolutionary process), is more likely to cause disaster. People has to adapt to an ever changing society and sometimes, dogmas prevent it from happening. But who goes to say that religion does not bring anything good (progress for that matter)? It does, it's just that it wouldn't be right if we let it control everything, I mean, who are the pastors, the clergy, or the Imams/Rabbis who decide for the group anyway? Aren't they men also? Surely they are not gods and they are also prone to errors, along with their scriptures, which was written by primitive men a long time ago.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Iran plays down U.S. naval moves

Tehran, Iran - Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps said on Saturday that it considered the likely return of the U.S. warships to the Gulf part of routine activity, backing away from previous warnings to Washington not to re-enter the area.

The statement may be seen as an effort to reduce tensions after Washington said it would respond if Iran made good on a threat to block the Strait of Hormuz - the vital shipping lane for oil exports from the Gulf.

"U.S. warships and military forces have been in the Persian Gulf and the Middle East region for many years and their decision in relation to the dispatch of a new warship is not a new issue and it should be interpreted as part of their permanent presence," Revolutionary Guard Deputy Commander Hossein Salami told the official IRNA news agency.

The apparently conciliatory comments may be a response to the European Union and Washington's rejection of Iran's declaration it was close to resuming negotiations with world powers and with the Pentagon saying it did not expect any challenge to its warships.

Crude prices have spiked several times this year on fears that diplomatic tensions could escalate to military clashes as well as uncertainty about the effect of sanctions on the oil market.

Along with the EU, which is set to agree an embargo on Iranian oil next week, Washington hopes the sanctions will force Iran to suspend the nuclear activities it believes are aimed at making an atom bomb, which a charge Tehran denies.

There has been no U.S. aircraft carrier in the Gulf since the USS John C. Stennis left at the end of December at a time when the Revolutionary Guard was conducting naval maneuvers.

On January 3, after U.S. President Barack Obama signed new sanctions aimed at stopping Iran's oil exports, Tehran told the Stennis not to return - an order interpreted by some observers in Iran and Washington as a blanket threat to any U.S. carriers.

"I recommend and emphasize to the American carrier not to return to the Persian Gulf," Iran's army chief, Major General Ataollah Salehi, said at the time. "We are not in the habit of warning more than once."

New Maneuvers

Washington says it will return to the Gulf and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said any move to block Hormuz - through which around a third of the world's sea-borne traded oil passes - would be seen as a "red line," requiring a response.

Citing operational security, the Pentagon will not say when the next carrier will return to the Gulf but officials say it is only a matter of time and they do not expect any problems.

In the coming days or weeks, the Revolutionary Guard will begin new naval exercises in the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf. Salami told IRNA these would go ahead as planned in the Iranian month of Bahman which runs from January 21 to February 19.

Iran has said it is ready to return to talks with world powers that stalled one year ago, but the West, concerned about Tehran's move of the most sensitive atomic work to a bomb-proof bunker, says it must first see a willingness from Tehran to address the nuclear issue.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Friday "time is running out" for a diplomatic solution and urged Russia and China to drop their opposition to sanctions on Iranian oil.

Iran is OPEC's (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) second biggest exporter and blocking its crude exports through the EU embargo or U.S. moves to punish banks that trade with Iran could have a devastating impact on its economy but there are no signs so far that such pressure would force it to stop what it calls its peaceful nuclear rights.

Indonesian atheist faces jail after Facebook post

Indonesia - An Indonesian civil servant who declared himself an atheist on Facebook was arrested and is now facing jail for blasphemy after being attacked by an angry mob, police said on Friday.

Alexander An, 30-years-old, who wrote "God doesn't exist" on his Facebook page, was beaten by a mob of dozens on Wednesday in his hometown in Pulau Punjung, West Sumatra province.

"He is suspected of having blasphemed against Islam," local police chief Chairul Aziz told AFP.

"The man told police investigators that if God really exists and has absolute power, why didn't he prevent bad things from happening in this world."

An said on his Facebook page that he was brought up as a Muslim, like the vast majority in Indonesia, where blasphemy is a punishable crime carrying a maximum five-year prison term.

Dozens of locals stormed into his office after a heated debate with them on Facebook over religion, police said.

An was also an administrator of a Facebook group promoting atheism with 1,243 followers. His postings no longer appeared online following his arrest.

Indonesia is a third-world country that's also notorious of persecuting anti-Islamic beliefs. It was quite remarkable that after beaten by a mob, An was the one who ended up behind bars, an example of backward mentality existing in a highly-religious Islam-dominated country. But, that's Indonesia where opinions not aligned with the religious belief of the majority is a crime.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Are Religious People better adjusted Psychologically?

Psychological research has found that religious people feel great about themselves, with a tendency toward higher social self-esteem and better psychological adjustment than non-believers. But a new study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, finds that this is only true in countries that put a high value on religion.

The researchers got their data from eDarling, a European dating site that is affiliated with eHarmony. Similar to eHarmony, eDarling uses a long questionnaire to match clients with potential dates. It includes a question about how important your personal religious beliefs are and questions that get at social self-esteem and how psychologically well-adjusted people are. Jochen Gebauer of the Humboldt-Universitat zu Berlin, Constantine Sedikides of the University of Southampton, and Wiebke Neberich of Affinitas GmbH in Berlin, the company behind eDarling, used 187,957 people's answers to do their analyses.

As in other studies, the researchers found that more religious people had higher social self-esteem and where psychologically better adjusted. But they suspected that the reason for this was that religious people are better in living up to their societal values in religious societies, which in turn should lead to higher social self-esteem and better psychological adjustment. The people in the study lived in 11 different European countries, ranging from Sweden, the least religious country on the planet, to devoutly Catholic Poland. They used people's answers to figure out how religious the different countries were and then compared the countries.

On average, believers only got the psychological benefits of being religious if they lived in a country that values religiosity. In countries where most people aren't religious, religious people didn't have higher self-esteem.

"We think you only pat yourself on the back for being religious if you live in a social system that values religiosity," Gebauer says. So a very religious person might have high social self-esteem in religious Poland, but not in non-religious Sweden.

In this study, the researchers made comparisons between different countries, but another study found a similar effect within one country, between students at religious and non-religious universities. "The same might be true when you compare different states in the U.S. or different cities," Gebauer says. "Probably you could mimic the same result in Germany, if you compare Bavaria where many people are religious and Berlin where very few people are religious."


Source aps

Golshifteh Farahani Nude Video


Golshifteh Farahani
The nude photo of Golshifteh Farahani has been published by Madame Le Figaro magazine. The photo only shows a partially nude farahani who covers her two breasts with her hands, however, in the video, there is an actual part where she unveils, and exposes her breasts.

The publication has actually attracted a wave of visitors to her Facebook page, along with people from Iran and the Middle East.

The Paris-based actress left Iran last year in protest against restrictive Islamic codes that the Iranian cinema industry has to follow under Ahmadinejad's conservative cultural policies.

Now she said the government has sent a communication telling her not to travel back to her homeland.

Farahani appeared along Leonardo DiCarpio in the Hollywood film Body of Lies as a nurse who helps an injured American secret agent to recover to carry out his mission in a Muslim country.

Atheist society president forced to resign when Muslim students protested over cartoon of Muhammad having a drink with Jesus

university college london
University College London
UK - A row has erupted over an atheist society at a top London University after posting a cartoon sketch featuring the prophet Muhammad having a drink with Jesus on its Facebook page.

A student Muslim group is demanding the offensive image of Jesus and Mo having a drink at the bar, taken from an online satirical sketch (http://www.jesusandmo.net/), be removed from the social networking site.

The president of the Atheist, Secularist and Humanist society at the prestigious University College (UCL), Robbie Yellon, has stepped down over the controversy.

But the Society still refuses to take down the image, claiming its right to defend "freedom of expression."

Secretary for the National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies, Michael Paynter said: "Robbie stepped aside because he signed up as president to organize events and run a student society."

"He did not appreciate the stress he would be under when dealing with a controversy like this, so he wanted to make way for someone else," he added.

CARTOON SPARKS AN ONLINE DEBATE

Elias Skourletos: 'Jesus and Mohammed are just historic figures such as Churchill and Hitler and we have every right to express our opinions on them.' (Comment on Atheist Society's Facebook page).

Martin Foreman: 'The right to offend is essential in a free society and must be defended.' (Comment on Atheist Society's Facebook page).

Richard of York: 'The thought that saying nothing won't cause offense, offends me.' (Comment on Richard Dawkins website).

Richard Dawkins: 'This sums up the gentle inoffensiveness of Jesus & Mo. Inoffensive, that is, to all who aren't out there eagerly scouting for offense opportunities.' (Comment on Richard Dawkins website).

Rational Conclusion: 'You cannot put regulations on things that offend because offense is subjective. A person can be offended by damn near anything. If we went about putting a halt to things that people find offensive we'd have almost nothing left.' (Comment on Richard Dawkins webstie).

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association's protest against the photo has been backed by UCL's Union.

A UCL Union statement said: "The atheist society has agreed they will take more consideration when drawing up publicity for future events."

"The society was asked to remove the image because UCLU aims to foster good relations between different groups of students and create a safe environment where all students can benefit from societies regardless of their religious or other beliefs," UCLU added.

The image that started the controversy was taken from an online twice-weekly satirical comic strip called Jesus and Mo, and has been running since 2005.

The Association aims to continue its protest until the image is taken down, claiming it is offensive and has wider implications.

The association's national spokesperson, Adam Walker, said the two student groups had worked well together in the past and said the offense was unnecessary.

He said: "The principle is more important than who is being attacked - this time it is Muslims and Christians but in the future it could be atheists themselves."

"There is no need to print these things other than to cause offense and history has told us that these things cause offense."

"I wouldn't say we're specifically pursuing UCL atheist society, its more about the broader principle," he added.

The row has prompted debate on the internet with prominent academic and author Richard Dawkins backing the atheist society.

A spokesman for UCL said: "A situation has arisen surrounding publications by the UCLU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society on its Facebook page of a cartoon entitled Jesus and Mo, representing Jesus and Muhammad sitting in a pub."

"A number of complaints about the cartoon have been received by UCLU from UCL students."

"UCL believes that managing the conduct of student societies is primarily a matter for the UCL Union and not the university centrally."

"We understand that the Union has asked the Society to take the cartoon down, and this request has been refused."

Apparently, this is not the first time a comic strip has caused large-scale controversy.

In 2005, cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad published by Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten sparked world-wide controversy.

The newspaper claimed the publication was an attempt to contribute to the debate regarding criticism of Islam and self-censorship.

But Danish Muslim organizations that objected to the depictions, describing them as Islamophobic or racist, responded by holding public protests attempting to raise awareness of Jyllands-Posten's publication.

Further examples of the cartoons were soon reprinted in newspapers in more than 50 other countries, further deepening the controversy.

This led to Islamic protests across the Muslim world, some of which escalated into violence, including the bombings of the Danish embassy in Pakistan and setting fire to the Danish Embassies in Syria, Lebanon and Iran, storming European buildings, and burning the Danish, Dutch, Norwegian, French and German flags in Gaza city.


Friday, January 20, 2012

Iranian actress banned from her home country after posing nude

Golshifteh Farahani as she appeared in Madame Le Figaro. The subsequent posting on her
Facebook page drew both criticism and praise from around the world.

An Iranian actress who has starred with Leonardo DiCarpio and Russell Crowe has been banished from her home country of Iran because she posed nude in a French news magazine.

The actress was none other than Golshifteh Farahani, a beautiful Iranian actress. She says she has been contacted by the Iranian government, telling her that she is no longer welcome in the country and advising her not to return home.

The offending photo was a black-and-white art shot featuring the 28-year-old Farahani posing against a black backdrop with her hands strategically placed over her breasts. It was first published in Madame Le Figaro.

Farahani became the first Iranian to star in a Hollywood film with her role as
Aisha in Body of Lies, with Leonardo DiCarpio.

The image was then posted on her Facebook page, drawing visitors from around the world, including from Iran and the Middle East.

While many criticized her "indecency", others praised her for "the courage to remove a taboo among the women in Muslim countries."

Iran's anger at the image is not just because of Farahani's nudity, but also because she has made it known that her decision to pose is in protest against restrictive Islamic codes.

Golshifteh Farahani
That was also the reason why the now-Paris-based actress left Iran last year.

She told the Daily Telegraph that she was told by a ministry of culture and Islamic guide official that Iran does not need any actors or artists. "You may offer your artistic services somewhere else."

Farahani has had a mercurial relationship with her home country.

She began acting in a theater at the age of six and her first film, The Pear Tree (1998), earned the then 14-year-old Farahani the Best Actress award at Iran's annual Fair Film Festival.

She immediately became a leading actress in her home country, yet her performance in the 2007 film Santouri has never been seen in Iran and is still banned.

She starred in M for Mother (2006), which after a huge success in Iran, was chosen to represent Iran for the Best Foreign Film at the Academy Awards in 2008.

Farahani's role as a nurse in Ridley Scott's Body of Lies (2008), which also starred Hollywood big-hitters DiCarpio and Crowe, made her the first Iranian to act in a major Hollywood film.

As a result she was banned from leaving Iran, and now that she has left the country and is living in Paris, she was banned from returning.

Nevertheless, at least, she was brave to cross the line of traditional Islamic conservatism that only few would dare. To Iran, she may have been a disgrace, but to the modern day world, she was a heroine. Farahani only fought for herself - fighting for the right of being herself, and no fundamentalism could stop her.

Additional Photos








Understanding Backward Mentality (Philosophy)

What is backward mentality? From the word itself, it is a reverse thought process wherein the thinker thinks the other way around.

This mentality has been applied on numerous arguments made by the unwary speaker. Not only that, such mentality has also been applied on our daily lives, but sometimes we even failed to notice it until we think deeply enough to analyze such erroneous ways.

Why is it erroneous? Well, I am going to give the following arguments and analyze each, presenting a rationale on each argument to prove my point.

For example, "I am a Christian therefore I believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God, and I follow the teachings of the bible." This kind of statement puts the speaker in a compromising, restrictive position. Why? That's because by putting the title before the things you believe in (or not believe in) along with the practice (or do not practice), you are in a position where you look for things to believe in (or not believe in) and practice (or do not practice) to support the title. Your tendency here is that to associate yourself with the title, you "have to" follow every belief and practice stated. Now, you are being "force" to meet those prerequisites because you are a Christian. This deprives you of freedom and could prevent you from actually appreciating your being a "Christian." Unless, of course, you like to be a slave to your title.

Now, observe the difference once I switch the statement to the proper proposition.

"I believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God, and I follow the teachings of the bible therefore I am a Christian." By stating the belief and the practice before the title, you are now clearly describing yourself; without the restriction... and above all, this statement shows your willingness, and being deserving of the title.

Backward mentality applied in daily life

An example of this is in the case of parents forcing their children to acquire their title, desires, or even their religion. For example, parents decide whom their children should marry, what career their children should take, or what their children should believe. This kind of mentality is usually common among the conservatives. This affects the new generation in a negative way, although it can usually be justified saying that parents only wants what they think is best for their children because they love them very much. Still, the very fact remains - no one wants to be forced into a position they don't want. This is actually depriving children their basic rights to choose of who they wanted to be or what they wanted to become.

Perhaps, one of the negative effects to children is that they loss the sense of independence, they are more likely to rely on their parents and on their parents decision. Another is obsession - the more a person is being force to avoid, the more it craves for it. And perhaps, it may also result to unresolved stages of a child.

Of course, there are other examples, if you are keen enough to spot them, backward mentality happens every day.

Effects of backward mentality

The number one negative effect of backward mentality is slow to no progression. A society prone to backward mentality is likely to remain the same no matter what era they are in.

Backward mentality also often creates confirmation bias, ignorance, and could make one less reasonable. People with backward mentality are often narrow-minded, traditional, ignorant, and they are more likely bound by their title rather than who they really are.

How to avoid backward mentality?

There are quite many ways, but for a few examples:
  • Do not let titles dictate your beliefs, principles, or practice. Optimally, remove all labels and titles from yourself. Be what you are.
  • Be open-minded, but do not just believe anything, be resourceful enough to determine what is true and what is not.
  • Don't let any belief system blind you.
  • Do not assume to know everything. Be humble enough to be able to learn new things.
  • Never stop educating yourself.
  • Do not force your beliefs or opinions on others.
  • Respect other people's beliefs or opinions.
  • Always follow the evidence to where it leads you, but don't let your hopes too high.
  • Do not assume to know what's best for others. Learn to respect their decisions.
And the long list goes on...

Iran nuclear scientist assassinated!

Iran blamed the U.S. and Israel for the assassination of a university professor and scientist who played a key role in the country's controversial nuclear weapons program.

Two hitmen on a motorcycle were said to have attached a magnetic bomb to the car of Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan killing him and a passenger instantly as they sat in the Iranian-assembled Peugeot 405 in the northern district of the capital Tehran.

A 32-year-old chemistry expert and director of the Natanz uranium enrichment facility in central Iran, Roshan was said to have been involved in the development of Tehran's atomic program.

The assassination had strong similarities to other executions in recent years of scientists linked to the program and underlined the belief that a major covert operation is underway against it.

Iran has accused Israel's Mossad, the CIA and Britain's spy agencies of engaging in an underground "terrorism" campaign against nuclear-related targets, including at least three killings since early 2010 and the release of a malicious computer virus that temporarily disrupted controls of some centrifuges - a key component in nuclear fuel production.

All three countries have denied the Iranian accusations.

Last week, Tehran pointed the finger at the U.S. and Israel as being behind the latest terrorist attack but promised it would not be a setback to the expanding nuclear program.

Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan, the target who
was killed in Tehran when two motorcyclists
attached a magnetic bomb to his car.
"The bomb was a magnetic one and the same as the ones previously used for the assassination of the scientists, and the work of the Zionists (Israelis)," Deputy Tehran Governor Safarali Baratloo was quoted as saying.

First Vice President Mohammad Reza Rashimi added that Israeli agents were behind the attack, but cannot "prevent progress" in what Iran claims are peaceful nuclear efforts.

Israeli officials have hinted about covert campaigns against Iran without directly admitting involvement.

Previously, Israeli military chief Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz told a parliamentary panel that 2012 would be a "critical year" for Iran - in part because of "things that happen to it unnaturally."

Roshan, a graduate of the prestigious Sharif University of Technology in Tehran, was deputy director of commercial affairs for the Natanz uranium enrichment plant and in charge of purchasing and supplying equipment for the facility.

Natanz is Iran's main enrichment site.




The U.S. and its allies are pressuring Iran to halt uranium enrichment, a key element of the nuclear program that the West suspects is aimed at producing atomic weapons.

Uranium enriched to low levels can be used as nuclear fuel but at higher levels, it can be used as material for a nuclear warhead.

Iran denies it is trying to make nuclear weapons, saying its program is for peaceful purposes only.

Since December, Iran has held or announced a series of war games that included threats to close the Gulf's vital Strait of Hormuz - the passageway for about one-sixth of the world's oil - in retaliation for stronger U.S.-led sanctions.

"Assassinations, military threats and political pressures ... The enemy insists on the tactic of creating fear to stop Iran's peaceful nuclear activities," lawmaker Javad Jahangirzadeh said after the blast.

"Instead of actually fighting a conventional war, Western powers and their allies appear to be relying on covert war tactics to try to delay and degrade Iran's nuclear advancement," said Theodore Karasik, a security expert at the Dubai-based institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis.

He said the use of magnetic bombs bears the hallmarks of covert operations.

Additional Photos

Type 45 Destroyer HMS Daring was sent to the Strait of Hormuz by the
British Navy after Iran threatened to block it because of attacks on its
nuclear program.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Iran mocks US with Toy Drone

The Iranian government, which captured a U.S. stealth drone in December, has agreed to give the top-secret spy craft back, but instead of the original RQ-170 Sentinel drone, the Islamic Republic said Tuesday that it will send President Obama a tiny toy replica of the plane.

Iranian state radio said that the toy model will be 1/80th the size of the real thing. Iranian citizens can also buy their own toy copies of the drone, which will be available in stores for the equivalent of $4.

The White House formally requested return of the drone after the Iranians displayed it on state television. The U.S. says that the craft was operating over Eastern Afghanistan.

The Iranians claim they detected the drone well inside Iran's border and then took control of the craft electronically and brought it down safely. The U.S. has denied that the craft came down for any reason other than technical malfunction.

On Dec. 11, after President Obama said he had requested the return of the drone, an Iranian general said that it was not going to happen. The general also warned on Iranian's television of a bigger response to the hostile act of crossing into Iranian airspace.

"No one returns the symbol of aggression to the party that sought secret and vital intelligence related to the national security of a country," Iranian Islamic Revolution Guards Corps [IRGC] Lt. Commander Gen. Hossein Salami said, according to Iran's Fars News Agency.

U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said that "given Iran's behavior to date, we do not expect them to comply" with Obama's request. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta also said he didn't expect Iran to hand over the drone, but told reporters, "I think it's important to make that request."

Manny Pacquiao VS Floyd Mayweather Jr.: Mayweather Jr. promotes himself?

Floyd Mayweather Jr.
The son of Mayweather Sr., Floyd Mayweather Jr., who refuse to fight Pacquiao and resorted to alibis in the past, had finally grown some balls.

Apparently, he's using a tactic that's reminiscent of the Ali vs. Frazier pre-fight campaign, wherein Ali ridiculed Frazier in an act of promoting the fight.

Last week, Mayweather demanded Pacquiao to "give the world what they want to see" and agree to a bout on the 5th of May.

And while Pacquiao said he wanted the fight, he said he favors a date in late May and suggested Mayweather could not guarantee his side of the purse.

"This is the fight the world wants," said Philippine boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao.

"[But] Mayweather wants a guaranteed purse so what he has to do is get a promoter who can give him the guarantee," Pacquiao said.

"I don't have problems getting a guarantee because I have a promoter who will give me my guaranteed purse," Pacquiao continued. "If he gets a guarantee, then we are going to share the revenue on a 50-50 basis."

Pacquiao's promoter Bob Arum added: "There is no problem on our part - the problem is on Mayweather's.

"Mayweather needs somebody on his side that's going to guarantee his purse. Mayweather has nobody on his side and GBP (Oscar de la Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions) is not going to guarantee his purse."

Arum and Pacquiao's financial advisor, Michael Koncz, wants a bout in late May to coincide with the completion of a 45,000-seater arena in Las Vegas.

The MGM Grand, where Mayweather is booked to fight on May 5, has a capacity of only 17,000 and Koncz claims an additional $30 million could be raised if the bout took place in the new venue.

"Why would I tell Manny to fight on 5 May and throw away a percentage of $30m? That's crazy," Koncz said.

Last last week, five-weight world champion Mayweather had a 90-day jail term deferred so that he could fulfill a prearranged date at the MGM Grand. He will now begin his sentence on the 1st of June.

The WBC welterweight champion subsequently used his Twitter account to challenge Pacquiao.

"Step up Punk," said the undefeated American boxer. "Manny Pacquiao I'm calling you out let's fight May 5 and give the world what they want to see (sic)."

A year ago, talks failed when Pacquiao, 33, pulled out after Mayweather demanded random drugs tests before the bout.

At the time, Arum called Mayweather "a psychological coward who doesn't want to fight anybody who has a chance of beating him", and predicted the bout would never take place.

But if the purse on offer matches the £25m-per-fighter deal that was rumored to be on offer last year, the biggest payday in boxing history may prove persuasive.

Arum insisted that if there was to be no fight in late May against the American then he would move forward with a Pacquiao clash on June 9 against someone else.

He listed a rematch against Mexico's Juan Manuel Marquez or Puerto Rican Miguel Cotto, as well as American's Tim Bradley and Lamont Peterson, as potential alternatives.

May 5th is Pacquiao ass whooping day

Just recently, the boxer who likes to fight with words, Floyd Mayweather Jr. is back at it again, twitting messages and calling out Manny Pacquiao.

"January 16th was Dr. Martin Luther king's birthday. Jaunary 17th is Muhammad Ali's birthday," said Mayweather via Twitter. "May 5th is Pacquiao ass whooping day. I am ready to fight Pacquiao 5/5/12. Bob Arum know the date can't change. I have my guarantee. Call Schaefer& Al and stop lying to the public."

Manny Pacquiao stated on more than one occasion that he really wants to fight Floyd Mayweather. Freddie Roach recently stated that he wants to get Manny ready for a fight with Mayweather more than anything else in the world. Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum himself recently stated that there are no more issues left to set up much talked about mega showdown, and all we can do is wait. It seems Floyd Mayweather Jr. is desperate for a fight or maybe, it's just another one of those self-promotions he usually does.

"First they say I am ducking the fight," continued Mayweather, 34. "But now it seems like I am begging for a fight. What is going on?"

Floyd Mayweather Jr. also used twitter to quote Dr. Marin Luther King: "Let no man pull you low enough to hate him."

Arum told RingTV.com on Tuesday that Mayweather is still among the five choices for Pacquiao, including WBA junior middleweight beltholders Miguel Cotto, RING lightweight champ Juan Manuel Marquez, WBO junior welterweight titleholder Tim Bradley and IBF/WBA junior welterweight titleholder Lamont Peterson.

"Floyd Mayweather is the Plan A. And one of those other four guys is the Plan B. Our first priority is to see if a Mayweather fight can be made," said Arum. "If that fight can be made, then everything will fall into place. If that can't be made, then everything else will still fall into place."

Mayweather has targeted May 5 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas for his next bout, but Arum and Pacquiao's advisor, Michael Koncz, have all but dismissed that date for Mayweather-Pacquiao, citing their camp's desire to have built a 40,000-seat, temporary outdoor venue on the Las Vegas strip in late May or early June to maximize revenue.

"I've always said that we could get an outdoor stadium up by the end of May," said Arum, noting that Mayweather is slated to begin a 90-day jail sentence starting on June 1.

"We're talking with the builders tomorrow [Wednesday]. Obviously, if this thing plays out any longer, then that won't be an option anymore."

Oscar de la Hoya chimes in

Oscar de la Hoya, president of Golden Boy Promotions, followed up on Mayweather's tweets.

"Mayweather told bob to contact Richard Schaffer [Schaefer] to make the fight!! Let's do this," later adding, "Way to step up to the plate Mayweather. Let's do it Bob. Now call Richard Schaefer, his phone on."

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Perry was called an idiot by Turkish columnist for Monday debate comments

Gov. Rick Perry
Turkey's envoy to the US expressed disappointment and concern over comments made by Texas governor Rick Perry in Monday's GOP (Grand Old Party) debate in which he described Turkey's moderate Islamic leadership as Islamic terrorists. Meanwhile, a leading Turkey lobbying association in Washington called on the candidate to apologize for his "appalling" and "uneducated" comments, which have been greeted with disbelief, ridicule and anger by Turkey's press.

Turkey is "a country that is being ruled by what many would perceive to be Islamic terrorists," Perry said, in response to a question about whether Turkey, a top American ally,  should remain a member of the NATO alliance.

The NATO ally had moved "far away from the country in which he'd served as a U.S. Air Force pilot in the 1970s," Perry said.

"Rick Perry: what an idiot," was the reaction from top Turkish Hurriyet Daily News columnist Mustafa Akyol on Twitter, according to CNN's Ivan Watson and Tesim Comert.

Turkey's main state broadcaster TRT added, "The debate that the Republican candidate Rick Perry attended on American Fox TV turned into a scandal that contained very ugly statements about Turkey," also according to CNN.

"I am disappointed and concerned that Turkey and its time-tested ties of alliance, partnership and friendship with the United States became the object of misplaced and ill-advised criticism during last night's Republican candidates' debate," Turkey's ambassador to the United States Namik Tan said in a statement which was sent to Yahoo news on Tuesday. "Needless to say, the Turkey described in the debate simply does not exist."

"Turkey is a secular democracy that has for decades been an essential and trusted partner of the U.S.," Ambassador Tan continued. "Whether in the fight against terrorism or violent extremism, in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria or against the proliferation of WMD (Weapon's of Mass Destruction), we stand side by side to tackle the many common threats and challenges of our times."

"While it was unfortunate, we do hope this episode in last night's debate leads to a better informed foreign policy discussion among the Republican Party candidates," Tan added.

The Turkish Coalition of America, a Washington pro-Turkey lobbying group, condemned Perry's comments as appalling, uneducated and uninformed on Tuesday, and called on the candidate to apologize for the offense he caused to the U.S. NATO ally.

"This level of ignorance shown by the governor of such an important state as Texas is appalling," Turkish Coalition of America president G. Lincoln Murdy said in a statement. "How can we expect to have friends in the international world if our leaders show this level of ignorance and narrow mindedness in trying to score political points? Gov. Perry's state and country are all poorly served by his comments."

His group "is happy to help educate Gov. Perry about the true value of U.S.-Turkey relations... but respectfully requests that Gov. Perry apologize for his divisive and uneducated remarks," McCurdy continued.

"Turkey is one of the largest contributors of support to U.S. efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq, including providing the second-largest NATO army on the ground, leading the NATO troops in Afghanistan three times, and providing over 70 percent of the international logistics support to U.S. troops in Iraq," he said.

In addition, McCurdy noted, Perry's own state Texas has increased its exports to Turkey by over 215 percent in the last four years, while "Texas is home to a thriving Turkish American community."

Gov. Perry's foreign policy adviser Victoria Coates acknowledged after the South Carolina debate Monday that Turkey is a "hinge point between east and west," ABC News' Arlette Saenz reported.

But Coates defended Perry's controversial description, explaining that Turkey under its Justice and Peace Party leadership has in recent years moved to express sympathy for Hamas-controlled Gaza and cooled its once warm relationship with Israel. She also noted the 2009 Gaza aid flotilla that departed from a Turkish port that got into a clash with Israeli commandos in which eight Turks and one Turkish-American were killed.

Echoing the moderator's question from Monday night's debate, the adviser also described Turkey as tolerating violence against women - without citing any evidence to back up the highly controversial contention, given Turkey's long thriving secular scene.

"The governor was responding to the questioner's references to violence against women and to association with Hamas, I think both of which are things that many people do associate as he said with Islamic terrorists," Coates said in the post-debate spin room, according to reporter Saenz. "He was referring to those things, and while he would welcome the opportunity to work with Turkey on regional issues like Syria or Iraq, this kind of behavior on the part of that country is disturbing and I think we should be concerned about it."

"What he said was that many people associate that kind of behavior with that of Islamic terrorists," Coates said. "I think also their support for the flotilla against Israel this fall. It's deeply concerning, and I think it's something any future American president needs to be aware of."


Source Yahoo News

UK scientists find Darwin's lost fossils

According to AP, British scientists have found scores of fossils the great evolutionary theorist Charles Darwin and his peers collected but that had been lost for more than 150 years.

Dr. Howard Falcon-Lang, a paleontologist at Royal Holloway, University of London, said on Tuesday that he stumbled upon the glass slides containing the fossils in an old wooden cabinet that had been shoved in a "gloomy corner" of the massive, drafty British Geological Survey.

Using a flashlight to peer into the drawers and hold up a slide, Falcon-Lang saw one of the first specimens he had picked up was labeled 'C. Darwin Esq."

"It took me a while just to convince myself that it was Darwin's signature on the slide," the paleontologist said, adding that he soon realized it was a "quite important and overlooked" specimen.

He described the feeling of seeing that famous signature as "a heart in your mouth situation," saying he wondering "Goodness, what have I discovered!"

Falcon-Lang's find was a collection of 314 slides of specimens collected by Darwin and other members of his inner circle, including John Hooker who was a botanist and dear friend of Darwin, and Rev. John Henslow, Darwin's mentor at Cambridge, whose daughter later married Hooker.

The first slide pulled out of the dusty corner at the British Geological Survey turned out to be one of the specimens collected by Darwin during his famous expedition on the HMS Beagle, which changed the young Cambridge graduate's career and laid the foundation for his subsequent work on evolution.

Falcon-Lang said the unearthed fossils which was lost for 165 years, show there is more to learn from a period of history scientists thought they knew well.

"To find a treasure trove of lost Darwin specimens from the Beagle voyage is just extraordinary," Falcon-Lang added. "We can see there's more to learn. There are a lot of very, very significant fossils in there that we didn't know existed."

He said one of the most "bizarre" slides came from Hooker's collection — a specimen of prototaxites, a 400 million-year-old tree-sized fungi.

Hooker had assembled the collection of slides while briefly working for the British Geological Survey in 1846, according to Royal Holloway, University of London.

The slides are "stunning works of art," according to Falcon Lang. It contains bits of fossil wood and plants ground into thin sheets and affixed to glass in order to be studied under microscopes. Some of the slides are half a foot long (15 centimeters), "great big chunks of glass," Falcon-Lang said.

"How these things got overlooked for so long is a bit of a mystery itself," he mused, speculating that perhaps it was because Darwin was not widely known in 1846 so the collection might not have been given "the proper curatorial care."

Royal Holloway, University of London said the fossils were 'lost' because Hooker failed to number them in the formal "specimen register" before setting out on an expedition to the Himalayas. In 1851, the "unregistered" fossils were moved to the Museum of Practical Geology in Piccadilly before being transferred to the South Kensington's Geological Museum in 1935 and then to the British Geological Survey's headquarters near Nottingham 50 years later, the university said.

The discovery was made in April, but it has taken "a long time" to figure out the provenance of the slides and photograph all of them, Falcon-Lang said. The slides have now been photographed and will be made available to the public through a new online museum exhibit opening on Tuesday.

Falcon-Lang expects great scientific papers to emerge from the discovery.

"There are some real gems in this collection that are going to contribute to ongoing science."

Dr. John Ludden, executive director of the Geological Survey, called the find a "remarkable" discovery.

"It really makes one wonder what else might be hiding in our collections," he said.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Wikipedia to be blacked out over anti-piracy bill

The foundation behind Wikipedia has announced on Monday night that it will black out the English language version of its website on Wednesday to protest against anti-piracy legislation under consideration in Congress.

The website will go dark for 24 hours in an unprecedented move that brings added muscle to a growing base of critics of the legislation. Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia, and is considered as one of the Internet's most popular websites, with millions of visitors daily.

"If passed, this legislation will harm the free and open Internet and bring about new tools for censorship of international websites inside the United States," the Wikimedia foundation said.

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Protect Intellectual Property Act under consideration in the Senate are designed to crack down on sales of pirated U.S. products overseas.

Supporters include the film and music industry, which often sees its products sold illegally. They say the legislation is needed to protect intellectual property and jobs.

Critics say the legislation could hurt the technology industry and infringe on free-speech rights. Among their concerns are provisions that would weaken cyber-security for companies and hinder domain access rights.

The most controversial provisions is in the House bill, which would have enabled federal authorities to "blacklist" sites that are alleged to distribute pirated content. That would essentially cut off portions of the Internet to all U.S. users. But congressional leaders appear to be backing off this provision.

Tech companies such as Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Twitter, eBay, AOL and others have spoken out against the legislation and said it threatens the industry's livelihood. Several online communities such as Reddit, Boing Boing and others have announced plans to go dark in protest as well.

The Obama administration also raised concerns about the legislation over the weekend and said it will work with Congress on legislation to help battle piracy and counterfeiting while defending free expression, privacy, security and innovation in the Internet.

Wikipedia's decision to go dark brings the issue into a much brighter spotlight. A group of Wikipedia users have discussed for more than a month whether it should react to the legislation.

Over the past few days, a group of more than 1,800 volunteers who work on the site and other users considered several forms of online protest, including banner ads and a global blackout of the site, the foundation said. Ultimately, the group supported the decision to black out the English version of the site.

Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia who first announced the move on his Twitter account on Monday, said the bills are a threat to the free, open, and secure web.

"The whole thing is just a poorly designed mess," Wales said in an email to the Associated Press.

Wikipedia is also requesting that readers contact members of Congress about the bill during the blackout.

"I am personally asking everyone who cares about freedom and openness on the Internet to contact their Senators and Representatives," Wales said. "One of the things we have learned recently during the Arab spring events is that the Internet is a powerfully effective tool for the public to organize and have their voices heard."

Wikipedia will shut down access from midnight Eastern Standard Time on Tuesday night until midnight Wednesday.

This is the first time Wikipedia's English version has gone dark. Its Italian site came down once briefly in protest to an Internet censorship bill put forward by the Berlusconi government; the bill did not advance.

"Wikipedia is about being open," said Jay Walsh, spokesman for the Wikipedia foundation. "We are not about shutting down and protesting. It's not a muscle that is normally flexed."

Senate opens Renato Corona's impeachment trial

Manila, Philippines — The Senate formally began the impeachment trial against Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona on Monday (January 16).

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, who sits as presiding officer, banged the gavel past 2:00 p.m. to signal the start of the proceedings.

Senator Edgardo Angara opened the 2:11 p.m. proceedings with a prayer asking the heavens to grant him and his colleagues good judgment.

The impeachment complaint against Corona was initiated and signed by 188 members of the House of Representatives last Dec. 12, 2011 and filed in the Senate the following day.

On Dec. 14, 2011, the Senate convened itself as an impeachment court to try the case of Renato Corona.

The 11-man prosecution team was then immediately formed by the House. Iloilo Representative Niel Tupas Jr. will be the lead prosecutor while Cavite Representative Joseph Emilio Abaya will manage the prosecution team.

The other members of the Prosecution team are Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo C. FariƱas, Akbayan Rep. Arlene J. Bag-ao, CIBAC Rep. Sherwin N. Tugna, Cavite Rep. Elpidio F. Barzaga Jr., Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo V. Umali, Northern Samar Rep. Raul Daza, Pangasinan Rep. Marlyn L. Primicias-Agabas, Bayan Muna Rep. Neri J. Colmenares and Isabela Rep. Giorgidi B. Aggabao.

Corona's defense team on the other hand is composed of former Supreme Court Justice Serafin Cuevas, Ramon Esguerra, Jacinto Jimenez and Tranquil Salvador of Romulo Mabanta Buenaventura Sayoc and De Los Angeles law offices, German Lichauco III, Dennis Manalo and Noel Lazaro of Siguion Reyna Montecillo and Ongsiako law offices, Jose Roy III, former dean of Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila [University of Manila]'s Law School, Joel Bodegon, managing partner of Bodegon Estorninos Guerzon Borje & Gozos law offices, Rico Paolo Quicho, partner in Quicho and Angeles law offices, and Karen Jimeno, a cum laude graduate from the UP College of Law.


Source Inquirer

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Iran sentence a former U.S. Marine to death

Amir Hekmati in Colombia in 2010. Courtesy of Amir's
Family.
The State Department said on Monday that it was working to confirm Iranian state media reports that an Iran revolutionary court had sentenced an American citizen and former U.S. Marine Amir Mirzaei Hekmati to death on charges of spying for the CIA.

"If true, we strongly condemn this verdict," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a press statement on Monday. "Allegations that Hekmati either worked for, or was sent to Iran by the CIA, are simply untrue."

Hekmati "has 20 days to appeal the court's decision," the Washington Post's Thomas Erdbrink reported from Tehran, Iran.

Hekmati, 28, a former U.S. Marine Arabic language translator in Iraq, was born in Flagstaff, Arizona of Iranian descent and raised in Michigan. His family in Michigan, former colleagues and American officials say Hekmati never served in the CIA and was in Iran to visit his grandmother.

Hekmati's parents said they "are shocked and terrified" by the news. His mother Behnaz Hekmati wrote at the website the family set up to advocate for Amir's release, FreeAmir. "We believe that this verdict is the result of a process that was neither transparent nor fair."

"Amir did not engage in any acts of spying, or fighting against God, as the convicting Judge has claimed in his sentence," his mother's press statement continues. "A grave error has been committed, and we have authorized our legal representatives to make direct contact with the Iranian authorities to find a solution to this misunderstanding."

Hekmati had the permission of the Iranian interests—the U.S.-based diplomatic outpost for the Islamic republic—in Washington D.C. to travel to Iran in August to visit his elderly grandmother, his family has told Yahoo News. After his arrest on August 29 last year, Iranian officials initially urged the family to keep quiet in order to facilitate his release.

But in December, Iranian state media aired video of Hekmati allegedly confessing to having worked as a CIA agent—charges his family and friends vehemently deny and which they said appear to have been given under duress.

Hekmati joined the Marines in 2001 after graduating from high school. He was posted to Iraq after attending language school in Monterey, California. He left the Marines in 2005, and later worked for various companies, including those based in Kansas for the government contractor BAE Systems from March until September 2010.

Former U.S. Marine Jared Bystrom told Yahoo News on Tuesday that Hekmati called him last year to propose launching a business together. Bystrom and Hekmati had been posted by the Marines to the defense language school in Monterey, California in 2001, where Hekmati studied Arabic.

Another friend and former colleague of Hekmati's, Chase Winter, told Yahoo News last month that Hekmati had told him he was thinking of going back to school to get a business degree. Hekmati visited Winter in South America last September 2010 for a week's vacation, Winter said.

Hekmati's Facebook page until shortly after his Iran TV video confession last month featured photos of himself in various locales he had traveled and worked—hardly demonstrating the behavior of someone trying to conceal his activities, his associates note.

American officials again called on Monday for the Iran government to give Swiss diplomats consular access to Hekmati, to allow him to meet with a lawyer, and to release him without delay.

"Securing the freedom and safety of this young man is the top concern of the U.S. government in this case," a U.S. official who requested anonymity said on Monday. "Unfortunately, the Iranian government is not doing the right thing here. They have a track record of falsely accusing individuals of espionage for leverage."

International human rights groups also called on Iran to reverse the sentence, and raised concerns about the apparent lack of due process Hekmati was granted. Hekmati is the first American to be sentenced to death in Iran since the 1979 Iranian revolution, Amnesty International said.

"Like many other detainees in Iran, Amir Hekmati did not receive a fair trial and we question the timing and political circumstances of this decision," said Ann Harrison, Amnesty International's interim director for the Middle East and North Africa. "We know from past experience that the Iranian authorities sometimes rush forward with executions of political prisoners — including dual nationals — at politically sensitive times and we fear that this execution could happen within days or weeks."

"We are seriously concerned regarding the death sentence, secrecy, and continued lack of transparency surrounding the prosecution of Iranian-American citizen Amir Hekmati," the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran's Hadi Ghaemi said in a press release on Monday. "We ask the Iranian judiciary to adhere to international standards of due process and allow independent observers in the courtroom at his appeals trial."


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