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    Showing posts with label World. Show all posts

    World's tallest hotel opens in Dubai

    The JW Marriott's Marquis Dubai formally opened Feb. 26 after gaining the title of tallest hotel from Guinness World Records. At 355 meters (1,099 feet), the hotel would tower over skylines in most cities. But in Dubai, it sits in the shadow of its more than twice-as-high neighbor, the Burj Khalif, the world's tallest skyscraper at 828 meters (2,717 feet).

    The exterior side entrance of the JW Marriott's Marquis Dubai. (Photo courtesy of JW Marriott Marquis Hotel Dubai)

    North Korea Threats: Rhetoric Or Reality?

    According to its official statements, North Korea is ready to go to the brink. But how serious are Pyongyang's threats?

    This week, new U.N. sanctions punishing the North's successful December rocket launch have elicited a furious response from Pyongyang: strong hints that a third nuclear test is coming, along with bigger and better long-range missiles; "all-out action" against its "sworn enemy," the United States; and on Friday, a threat of "strong physical countermeasures" against South Korea if Seoul participates in the sanctions.

    "Sanctions mean war," said a statement carried by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency.

    In the face of international condemnation, North Korea can usually be counted on for such flights of rhetorical pique. In recent years it threatened to turn South Korea into a "sea of fire," and to wage a "sacred war" against its enemies.

    If the past is any indication, its threats of war are overblown. But the chances it will conduct another nuclear test are high. And it is gaining ground in its missile program, experts say, though still a long way from seriously threatening the U.S. mainland.

    "It's not the first time they've made a similar threat of war," said Ryoo Kihl-jae, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul. "What's more serious than the probability of an attack on South Korea is that of a nuclear test. I see very slim chances of North Korea following through with its threat of war."

    Although North Korea's leadership is undeniably concerned that it might be attacked or bullied by outside powers, the tough talk is mainly an attempt to bolster its bargaining position in diplomatic negotiations.

    The impoverished North is in need of international aid and is eager to sign a treaty bringing a formal end to the Korean War, which ended nearly 60 years ago in a truce. It uses its weapons program as a wedge in the ever-repeating diplomatic dance with the U.S.-led international community, and there is no reason to believe this time is different.

    Navy's Flammable Uniforms To Be Reviewed For Fire Safety

    The Navy said Friday that it is reviewing whether its camouflage working uniforms are safe for sailors at sea after a test revealed exactly how flammable the material is.

    In October, a test conducted by the Navy Clothing Textile Research Facility in Natick, Mass., showed the 50/50 cotton-nylon blend uniforms worn by most sailors aboard ships will burn and melt until they're completely consumed. In contrast, Army and Marine combat uniforms are designed to be self-extinguishing and are made of a mix including flame-resistant rayon.

    The test results didn't surprise Navy leaders. The Navy removed the requirement for all sailors to wear flame-resistant uniforms at sea in 1996, although sailors in specific jobs such as engine room personnel, fire fighters and those in flight-related duties are still issued flame-resistant clothing.

    But some sailors and their families were still upset about the test results and questioned why everyone isn't issued a flame-resistant uniform aboard a ship, where fires are especially dangerous.

    On Friday, the commanders of U.S. Fleet Forces and U.S. Pacific Fleet sent a message to their commanders saying that a working group would review the issue.

    "We will determine the level of protection our sailors need, given the missions and tasks we expect them to execute in their respective work environments," Adm. Bill Gortney, commander of U.S. Fleet Forces said in a statement.

    It wasn't immediately clear how much replacing the uniforms with flame-resistant ones might cost if the Navy chooses to go that route. Those figures would largely depend on the working group's recommendations of exactly who needs a flame-resistant uniform. In December, the Defense Logistics Agency reported having 401,000 Navy Working Uniform trousers on hand that are valued at $14 million and 272,000 blouses on hand valued at $9.3 million.

    Regardless, the Navy says the primary consideration for the working group is sailor safety.

    "The organizational clothing working group has been tasked with providing fact-based information and determining whether to limit flame resistant organizational clothing to sailors who work in engineering departments, flight decks, and other high risk areas; or to expand fire resistant organizational clothing to all sailors afloat," Gortney said in a statement. "Those findings are necessary before any recommendations can be made about at-sea working uniforms."

    Ancient Bones That Tell a Story of Compassion

    While it is a painful truism that brutality and violence are at least as old as humanity, so, it seems, is caring for the sick and disabled.

    And some archaeologists are suggesting a closer, more systematic look at how prehistoric people — who may have left only their bones — treated illness, injury and incapacitation. Call it the archaeology of health care.

    The case that led Lorna Tilley and Marc Oxenham of Australian National University in Canberra to this idea is that of a profoundly ill young man who lived 4,000 years ago in what is now northern Vietnam and was buried, as were others in his culture, at a site known as Man Bac.

    Almost all the other skeletons at the site, south of Hanoi and about 15 miles from the coast, lie straight. Burial 9, as both the remains and the once living person are known, was laid to rest curled in the fetal position. When Ms. Tilley, a graduate student in archaeology, and Dr. Oxenham, a professor, excavated and examined the skeleton in 2007 it became clear why. His fused vertebrae, weak bones and other evidence suggested that he lies in death as he did in life, bent and crippled by disease.

    They gathered that he became paralyzed from the waist down before adolescence, the result of a congenital disease known as Klippel-Feil syndrome. He had little, if any, use of his arms and could not have fed himself or kept himself clean. But he lived another 10 years or so.

    They concluded that the people around him who had no metal and lived by fishing, hunting and raising barely domesticated pigs, took the time and care to tend to his every need.

    “There’s an emotional experience in excavating any human being, a feeling of awe,” Ms. Tilley said, and a responsibility “to tell the story with as much accuracy and humanity as we can.”

    This case, and other similar, if less extreme examples of illness and disability, have prompted Ms. Tilley and Dr. Oxenham to ask what the dimensions of such a story are, what care for the sick and injured says about the culture that provided it.

    The archaeologists described the extent of Burial 9’s disability in a paper in Anthropological Science in 2009. Two years later, they returned to the case to address the issue of health care head on. “The provision and receipt of health care may therefore reflect some of the most fundamental aspects of a culture,” the two archaeologists wrote in The International Journal of Paleopathology.

    And earlier this year, in proposing what she calls a “bioarchaeology of care,” Ms. Tilley wrote that this field of study “has the potential to provide important — and possibly unique — insights into the lives of those under study.” In the case of Burial 9, she says, not only does his care indicate tolerance and cooperation in his culture, but suggests that he himself had a sense of his own worth and a strong will to live. Without that, she says, he could not have stayed alive.

    “I’m obviously not the first archaeologist” to notice evidence of people who needed help to survive in stone age or other early cultures, she said. Nor does her method “come out of the blue.” It is based on and extends previous work.

    Among archaeological finds, she said, she knows “about 30 cases in which the disease or pathology was so severe, they must have had care in order to survive.” And she said there are certainly more such cases to be described. “I am totally confident that there are almost any number of case studies where direct support or accommodation was necessary.”

    Such cases include at least one Neanderthal, Shanidar 1, from a site in Iraq, dating to 45,000 years ago, who died around age 50 with one arm amputated, loss of vision in one eye and other injuries. Another is Windover boy from about 7,500 years ago, found in Florida, who had a severe congenital spinal malformation known as spina bifida, and lived to around age 15. D. N. Dickel and G. H. Doran, from Florida State University wrote the original paper on the case in 1989, and they concluded that contrary to popular stereotypes of prehistoric people, “under some conditions life 7,500 years ago included an ability and willingness to help and sustain the chronically ill and handicapped.”

    AU to broker troop withdrawal from Sudan, South Sudan border

    Sudan and South Sudan have asked the African Union to help hammer out details of a proposed withdrawal of troops from their disputed border, defense ministers from both countries said on Monday, as stalled talks continued to delay oil exports.

    Week-long negotiations in Khartoum failed to reach an agreement on how to withdraw their armies, a step both sides had said was necessary to resume oil exports from landlocked South Sudan through Sudan.

    "We will meet in Addis Ababa on the 15th to continue our meeting and dialogue on how to implement the cooperation deals signed by Sudan and South Sudan in Addis Ababa," Sudan's defense minister, Abdel Raheem Mohammed Hussein, told reporters.

    His southern counterpart, John Kong Nyuon, said some "issues" remained unresolved. The talks in the Ethiopian capital will be brokered by AU mediator Thabo Mbeki.

    In September, the former civil war foes agreed to end hostilities and restart oil exports after coming close to war in April, the worst violence since South Sudan seceded from Sudan last year after decades of civil war.

    South Sudan's top negotiator Pagan Amum had raised hopes for the Khartoum talks by saying oil exports could restart this month. But Juba has delayed turning on oil wells, originally scheduled for November 15.

    South Sudan, which inherited three-quarters of oil production when it broke away, shut down its output of 350,000 barrels a day in January after tensions over pipeline fees escalated.

    Lingering disputes have continued to fuel conflict between the neighboring countries.

    Sudan said last week it will not allow South Sudan's oil exports to flow through its territory until Juba cuts ties with anti-Khartoum rebels and expels their leaders, dampening hopes bilateral tensions were over.

    Theatre Macon play recalls family life in bygone times

     While the name of the play may not indicate it’s a holiday tale, Theatre Macon Director Jim Crisp deliberately chose “Meet Me In St. Louis” for the holidays.

    “We have to do something really happy and I love this because of the sweetness of the story. It’s about a family and it is openly and unabashedly nostalgic. It harks back to an era or eras in our past lives when things seemed a little simpler and easier and Christmas was about family and spending those times together,” he said.

    While most people may be familiar with the film, featuring Judy Garland, Crisp is certain that the story translates to the stage wonderfully.

    “This show is so lovely to do on stage. It features a family in St. Louis looking forward to the World’s Fair next summer. Suddenly, the father announces that they will move to New York City and the family is shattered,” Crisp said. “The family is rooted in St. Louis and it was a time when people felt a stronger connection to the places where they lived.”

    The show takes place over the better part of a year, but the highlight is undeniably the Christmas Ball.

    “This year, as they prepare to move to New York, the ball is bittersweet for the Smith family, who believe they are spending their last Christmas in their childhood home. This feeling still resonates strongly with people. We live in a world now where people lose connections to hometowns and the places where their families are from and families struggle with these issues. But the song ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ remains a favorite for a reason,” he said.

    Crisp called the show’s cast “superb. ... Jim Penndorf is our musical director, as always, and is doing a marvelous job getting the cast prepared. We have 27 people in the cast, including an incredibly strong group as the family and romance interests.”

    Mother and father are being played by Matt Astin and Gail Johnson. Esther, the Judy Garland role, is being played by Kailey Rhodes, whose husband, Matt Hlavity, plays Warren Sheffield, the young heir of the Sheffield fortune from New York. The boy next door is being played by Tayler Darnell. Rose is played by Lauren Paris.

    Given that the show is a period piece, special attention has been given to the set and costumes.

    “It’s set in 1904 and it is a beautiful period for costumes for both men and women. Shelley Kuhen is designing a beautiful set of costumes for this show. While the opening number sets up the location very well as being in St. Louis, so much of the play takes place inside the home and on their front porch that it really is about this family’s life in their home,” he said. “The main goal was to create a period look inside the home. I want people to have the sense that they are looking through a window back in time to this wonderful era and into the family’s life. ... This play is really just perfect for the holiday season. Everyone will enjoy it.”

    Dionysian ecstatic cults in early Rome Photo

    A new doctoral thesis from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, shows that, in contrast to traditional scholarly claims, Dionysian cultic activities may very well have occurred in archaic Rome in the decades around 500 BC.

    Maenad playing a tambourine, satyr blowing pipes, and the young god with his panther dance. From the Villa Quintiliana on the Appian Way.Roman, 100 CE A strong scholarly tradition rooted in the 19th century denies the presence of Dionysian ecstatic rites, cults, and satyr plays in Roman society. Although people in nearby societies evidently engaged in such behaviour around the same time in history, the Romans simply did not, according to early scholars. British scholars often stressed how much their people had in common with the Romans, not least as statesmen and colonists.

    'They even claimed that they had the same mentality. This perception is reflected in modern research on the Roman society and religion as well', says the author of the thesis Carina Hakansson.

    Religious research has also been influenced by the Christian tradition. For example Dionysian cults have had problems gaining acceptance as a 'real' religion since the possibility that religion could ever be connected with bawdy behaviour and drunkenness has generally been rejected. This argument alone was enough to make early scholars neglect and reject the thought of Dionysian cult as religion proper.
    Alternative interpretations

    Our modern secularised view of the world offers alternative interpretations, and this is something Hakansson is eager to stress.

    'However, there is no doubt that this secularised perspective will sooner or later be criticised and questioned that's the nature of research', says Hakansson.

    While Dionysos is associated mainly with the Greek region, various forms of wine gods were worshipped across the entire region of Greece-Etruria-Rome. Hakansson therefore uses findings from the Greek and Etruscan areas for comparative purposes.

    Satyrs are strongly linked to the Dionysian cult, and Hakansson shows that satyrs presumably were present in archaic Rome, and furthermore formed a link between ritual and theatre/performance. Hakansson concludes that the Dionysian sphere in Rome may very well constitute the seed of the subsequent Roman dramatic tradition.

    Philippines Tomb Discovery At 1,000-Year-Old Village Show Unexpected Advances

    Archaeologists have unearthed remnants of what they believe is a 1,000-year-old village on a jungle-covered mountaintop in the Philippines with limestone coffins of a type never before found in this Southeast Asian nation, officials said Thursday.

    National Museum official Eusebio Dizon said the village on Mount Kamhantik, near Mulanay town in Quezon province, could be at least 1,000 years old based on U.S. carbon dating tests done on a human tooth found in one of 15 limestone graves he and other archaeologists have dug out since last year.

    The discovery of the rectangular tombs, which were carved into limestone outcrops jutting from the forest ground, is important because it is the first indication that Filipinos at that time practiced a more advanced burial ritual than previously thought and that they used metal tools to carve the coffins.

    Past archaeological discoveries have shown Filipinos of that era used wooden coffins in the country's mountainous north and earthen coffins and jars elsewhere, according to Dizon, who has done extensive archaeological work and studies in the Philippines and 27 other countries over the past 35 years.

    Aside from the tombs, archaeologists have found thousands of shards of earthen jars, metal objects and bone fragments of humans, monkeys, wild pigs and other animals in the tombs. The limestone outcrops had round holes where wooden posts of houses or sheds may have once stood, Dizon told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview.

    The tombs were similar to ancient sarcophagus, which have become popular tourist attractions in Egypt and Europe, although the ones found in Mulanay were simple box-like limestone coffins without mythological or elaborate human images on the tops and sides.

    Archaeologists have only worked on a small portion of a five-hectare (12-acre) forest area, where Mulanay officials said more artifacts and limestone coffins could be buried.

    A preliminary National Museum report said its top archaeologists found "a complex archaeological site with both habitation and burial remains from the period of approximately 10th to the 14th century ... the first of its kind in the Philippines having carved limestone tombs."

    The discovery has been welcomed with excitement in Mulanay, a sleepy coastal town of 50,000 people in an impoverished mountainous region that until recently was best known as a major battleground between army troops and Marxist rebels.

    "Before, if you mention this region, people will say `Oh, that's NPA country,'" Mulanay Mayor Joselito Ojeda said, referring to the New People's Army rebels. "But that era is past and now we can erase that image and this archaeological site will be a big help."

    Mulanay tourism officer Sanny Cortez said that after archaeologists have finished their work in a few years, his town plans to turn Mount Kamhantik's peak into an archaeological and ecotourism park. A museum would also be built nearby.

    Despite the loss of thick tree covers in the 1,300-foot (396-meter) mountain's foothills as villagers clear the jungle for homes and farms, the forested mountain still harbors a rich wildlife, including rare hornbills, wild cats and huge numbers of cave bats, including a white one recently seen by environmental officials. The mountaintop offers a scenic view of Tayabas Bay and the peak of Mayon volcano, famous for its near-perfect cone, Ojeda said.

    Pregnant Soldier Gives Birth In Afghanistan At Camp Bastion

    A British soldier has given birth to a boy while serving in Afghanistan at the same desert camp where Prince Harry is deployed and a Taliban attack last week killed two U.S. Marines.

    The birth in a field hospital is thought to be the first time a serving member of Britain's military has gone into labor in a combat zone.

    The solder, a Fijian national serving as a gunner with the Royal Artillery, delivered the child Tuesday at Camp Bastion. The sprawling British base in southern Afghanistan's Helmand province last week suffered a major attack in which two U.S. marines were killed and six American fighter jets destroyed.

    Britain's defense ministry said Thursday it had not been aware the soldier was pregnant, and stressed that it does not allow female soldiers to deploy on operation if they are pregnant. It declined to say whether the soldier, who has not been named, was aware of her pregnancy.

    "Mother and baby are both in a stable condition in the hospital and are receiving the best possible care," the ministry said in a statement. It said a team of doctors would fly out to Afghanistan in the coming days to help the solider and her son return safely to Britain.

    The woman had deployed to Afghanistan in March, meaning her child was conceived before her tour of duty began. She is one of about 2,000 Fijians who serve in the British military, even though the country became independent from Britain in 1970.

    Camp Bastion, which hosts the U.S. Camp Leatherneck, is home to most of Britain's 9,500 soldiers in Afghanistan, including Prince Harry – who arrived there earlier this month to serve as an attack helicopter gunner.

    "This sort of thing makes life difficult for everyone else, but the important thing is the welfare of the female soldier. This could have gone wrong and we don't know if the attack on Camp Bastion might have forced the birth," said Maj. Charles Heyman, a retired officer and author of "`The British Army Guide."

    Heyman said it may have been "that the excitement of the tour masked the symptoms of the pregnancy."

    Belinda Phipps, chief executive of the National Childbirth Trust, a British parenting charity, also suggested the soldier's demanding duties could explain why she either didn't know she was pregnant or attempted to ignore the signs.

    "It could be that she was so very focused on other things, and because she was in a life-or-death scenario, that she simply didn't recognize that she was pregnant," Phipps said.

    Phipps said the pregnancy may not have been obvious to the soldier's colleagues. "Not everyone has a very big baby bump, some women carry their baby far inside," she said.

    Patrick O'Brien, a consultant obstetrician at University College London Hospital, said cases of unnoticed pregnancies were unusual but he encountered at least one each year.

    Pakistan anti-Islam film protest ends in Islamabad

    The Pakistani authorities had earlier called on the army as police struggled to contain the crowd of thousands with tear gas and live rounds.

    Some protesters had said they would not leave the diplomatic enclave until the US embassy was on fire.

    Protests over the film, Innocence of Muslims, have claimed several lives.

    It was made in the US and is said to insult the Prophet Muhammad.

    Streets leading to the enclave, where most of the embassies are housed, were earlier blocked off by shipping containers in an effort to increase security.
    'Out like a light'

    Television pictures showed chaotic scenes as police tried to gain control of the situation.

    Protesters burned an effigy of US President Barack Obama and threw missiles at the polcie.

    One demonstrator told reporters: "The infidel who produced the movie should be hanged, or hand over him to the Muslims. And we don't want any (US) diplomat or embassy in Pakistan: all relations should be cut off."

    The BBC's Aleem Maqbool in Islamabad, who did not see any evidence of the army at the scene, said the protest was "turned out like a light".

    He said it was amazing, given the strength of feeling at the the protest earlier, that the crowd left as peacefully as it did.

    He says the area is still shrouded in tear gas.

    A demonstration in the same area on Wednesday saw around 500 protesters gather outside the gates of the enclave.

    The US State Department earlier issued a warning against any non-essential travel to Pakistan.

    It also "strongly urged" US citizens in Pakistan to avoid protests and large gatherings.

    Anti-US sentiment has been growing since people became aware of the amateur film earlier this month.

    The US Ambassador to Libya was killed in an attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, on 11 September.

    Protests in countries around the world then took place.

    Tensions with the West have been further inflamed by the publication by a French magazine of obscene cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad on Wednesday.

    The Pakistani government has called a national holiday on Friday to enable people to demonstrate peacefully.

    'Innocence Of Muslims' Actress Cindy Lee Garcia Sues YouTube, Producer

     An actress who appears in the anti-Muslim film trailer that has sparked riots in the Middle East is suing the filmmaker for fraud and slander, and is asking a judge to order YouTube to take down the clip.

    Cindy Lee Garcia's lawsuit filed Wednesday in Los Angeles claims the actress was duped by Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, the man behind "Innocence of Muslims" who has been forced into hiding since its 14-minute trailer rose to prominence last week. She was unaware of the film's anti-Muslim content and the pages of the script she received had no mention of the prophet Muhammad, religion or sexual content, according to her complaint.

    The lawsuit states Garcia responded to an ad and thought she was appearing in an ancient Egyptian adventure film called "Desert Warriors." Dialogue in the amateurish film was later dubbed to include anti-Islamic messages and to portray Muhammad as a fraud, a womanizer and a child molester, and it was also translated into Arabic.

    "The film is vile and reprehensible," Garcia's attorney, M. Cris Armenta, wrote in the document. Her client has received death threats since the film's trailer began drawing attention, and she is no longer able to care for her grandchildren, the lawsuit states.

    "This lawsuit is not an attack on the First Amendment nor on the right of Americans to say what they think, but does request that the offending content be removed from the Internet," the complaint states. Garcia's attorneys plan to seek an injunction against the film Thursday in a Los Angeles court.

    YouTube has refused Garcia's requests to remove the film, according to the lawsuit. The complaint contends that keeping it online violates her right of publicity, invades her privacy rights and the post-filming dialogue changes cast her in a false light. "(Garcia) had a legally protected interest in her privacy and the right to be free from having hateful words put in her mouth or being depicted as a bigot," the lawsuit states.

    YouTube said it is reviewing the complaint and its lawyers will be in court on Thursday. The site is owned by search giant Google and has blocked users in Saudi Arabia, Libya and Egypt from viewing the "Innocence of Muslims" trailer. It has also blocked the video from being viewed in Indonesia and India because it violates laws in those countries.

    Garcia, who lives in Bakersfield, Calif., claims her association with the film has harmed her reputation and caused "shame, mortification, and hurt feelings" and will impact her ability to get future acting roles, according to the lawsuit.

    A man who answered the phone at the law offices of Steven Seiden, who represents Nakoula on any criminal repercussions he may face, declined comment. He said Seiden does not represent Nakoula, who is on probation for a bank fraud case in which he opened 600 fraudulent credit accounts, in civil matters.

    According to the terms of his probation, Nakoula was allowed to only access websites with the permission of probation officials and for work purposes. It is unclear who uploaded the film to the site.

    The lawsuit also names Sam Bacile, an alias that Nakoula gave to The Associated Press after the trailer was linked to protests that have since killed at least 30 people in seven countries, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya.

    Afghanistan Suicide Attack Kills Skateboarding Children

    On September 8, 2012, a suicide bomb ripped through the diplomatic quarter in Kabul, right outside the headquarters of ISAF in the Afghan capital. No members of the international coalition were harmed in the attack. Instead, six young Afghan children lost their lives.

    Four of the children were members of Skateistan, the skateboarding school in Kabul that made headlines last month when a photo captured an Afghan girl skateboarding in Bamiyan.

    The blast in front of the ISAF compound killed 14-year-old Khorshid, one of Skateistan's rising stars and an instructor for young girls. According to the organization, Khorshid was "a role model for up to 160 girls attending Skateistan each week." Khorshid's 8-year-old sister Parwana, who had just joined Skateistan, also died in the attack.

    Fourteen-year-old Khorshid was an instructor at Skateistan. (Skateistan)

    8-year-old Parwana died in a suicide blast in Kabul on Sept. 8. (Skateistan)

    Seventeen-year-old Nawab, another skater who also lost his life in the attack, had won the 2012 Go Skateboarding Day boys’ competition, while 13-year-old Mohammad Eeza was one of Skateistan's original students.

    According to the New York Times, the four children frequented the area near the ISAF compound every day after school and on public holidays to sell scarves and chewing gum and to beg to help support their families.

    In a statement on its website, Skateistan wrote:

        It is with great pain and heavy hearts that we share our memories of children who were not just victims of senseless violence, but also beautiful human beings who will never be forgotten by their teachers, peers, co-workers, students, friends or family.

    Founded by Australian Oliver Percovich, Skateistan attempts to keep Afghan children off the street and combines skateboarding with education. Rhianon Bader, media officer for the organization, told the BBC that the organization will continue its activities in Kabul despite the tragic incident.

    Pussy Riot Video: Group Torches Putin Portrait

     Russian opposition punk band Pussy Riot have released a new video in which they set fire to a portrait of President Vladimir Putin in a stunt likely to anger the Kremlin.

    Three of the band's members - Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich - were last month given two-year jail sentences each after storming the altar of Moscow's main cathedral and staging a "punk prayer", calling on the Virgin Mary to rid Russia of Putin.

    Their jail sentences - for the crime of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred - drew sharp international criticism with opposition groups saying the case was part of a Kremlin crackdown on dissent.

    In August, the all-female collective said that two other band members who had taken part in the same cathedral protest had fled the country - the whereabouts of the roughly dozen other members who did not take part in the stunt is unknown.

    In the new video, which was released on the Internet and featured three anonymous band members who were performing on behalf of their jailed friends, women donning balaclavas - the band's trademark -
    are shown abseiling down the facade of an abandoned or under construction building.

    A giant white banner depicting a guitar-wielding woman in a red miniskirt with the caption "Pussy Riot" is unfurled on the building's facade and, beneath it, smaller cardboard portraits of Putin and of Alexander Lukashenko, the president of Belarus, are shown hanging.

    "We've been fighting for the right to sing, to think, to criticise. To be musicians and artists, ready to do everything to change our country, no matter the risks. We go on with our musical fight in Russia and our country is dominated by an evil man," female voices, speaking in English, exclaim in turns.

    Tanya Angus Has Hope in Growing Battle Against Gigantism

     For the first time in a decade Tanya Angus, who is fighting a life-and-death battle against gigantism, has stopped growing. At seven feet and 400 pounds, she now has some hope.

    Angus, a 33-year-old from Las Vegas, was diagnosed with acromegaly, a rare pituitary disorder that causes the body to produce too much growth hormone. It affects about 20,000 Americans.

    Since 2010, when ABCNews.com first told her story, Angus has grown an inch taller and gained 30 pounds. Before the disease began its destructive course, she was only 5 feet 8 inches tall and weighed 135 pounds.

    But for the last year, she has been treated with a drug that has kept the levels of growth hormone in her blood in the normal range.

    "This is such good news," Angus told ABC's Las Vegas affiliate KTNV.

    Angus has grown so large that she can barely walk and a swimming pool is the only place where she is without pain because she can float there.

    "It feels so, like, liberating," said Angus, who is being nearly crushed by her weight. She needs constant care from he family and friends.

    Angus has a tumor on her pituitary gland but radiation and three surgeries have done nothing to stop her dangerous growth. One 13-hour operation nearly killed her, and another caused a stroke that took away most of her hearing.

    As her body gets larger, so do her other organs. Her heart, lungs, joints and other parts of her body have also grown under the strain of this rare disease.

    Doctors say it is one of the worst cases of acromegaly that they have ever seen. Her mother, Karen Strutynski, says it is the "worst in the world."

    About 95 percent of the time, the condition is caused by a non-cancerous tumor on the pituitary gland, according to the Pituitary Network Association. Such is the case with Angus, but her tumor is wrapped around her carotid artery, and is inoperable.

    Dr. Laurence Katznelson, professor of medicine and neurosurgery at Stanford University Hospital in California and medical director of its pituitary center, did not treat Angus but serves as medical advisor to the online Acromegaly Community.

    "Everything gets thicker and the facial features become abnormal," he told ABCNews.com last year when Angus was speaking at a national conference.

    Fluid accumulates in the body, causing stress on multiple systems in the body. Patients are more prone to cardiac conditions, hypertension and diabetes.

    "They are in a lot of pain because they get severe headaches and their joints can be swollen and develop premature osteoarthritis," he said. "Their mortality rate is two to four times greater than the general population."

    Man Bites Snake to Death in Revenge

     A Nepali man who was bitten by a cobra snake subsequently bit the snake to death, a local newspaper reported on Thursday (Aug. 23).

    After being bitten by the snake, while he was working in his rice paddy on Tuesday, 55-year-old Mohamed Salmo Miya chased the snake, caught it and bit it until it died, the Annapurna Post reported, according to Reuters.

    "I could have killed it with a stick but bit it with my teeth instead because I was angry," Miya was quoted as saying.

    Miya, who lives in a village some 125 miles (200 kilometers) southeast of the Nepali capital of Kathmandu, was receiving treatment at a village health post at the time of the news report and was not in danger of dying from his snakebite. He will not b
    e charged with killing the snake, a local police official said, because cobras (called "goman" in Nepal) are not listed as endangered in the country.

    The M1 Abrams: The Army tank that could not be stopped

    The M1 Abrams tank has survived the Cold War, two conflicts in Iraq and a decade of war in Afghanistan. No wonder – it weighs as much as nine elephants and is fitted with a cannon capable of turning a building to rubble from two and a half miles away.

    But now the machine finds itself a target in an unusual battle between the Defense Department and lawmakers who are the beneficiaries of large donations by its manufacturer.

    The Pentagon, facing smaller budgets and looking towards a new global strategy, has decided it wants to save as much as $3 billion by freezing refurbishment of the M1 from 2014 to 2017, so it can redesign the hulking, clanking vehicle from top to bottom.

    Its proposal would idle a large factory in Lima, Ohio, as well as halt work at dozens of subcontractors in Pennsylvania, Michigan and other states.

    Opposing the Pentagon’s plans is Abrams manufacturer General Dynamics, a nationwide employer that has pumped millions of dollars into congressional elections over the last decade. The tank’s supporters on Capitol Hill say they are desperate to save jobs in their districts and concerned about undermining America’s military capability.

    So far, the contractor is winning the battle, after a well-organized campaign of lobbying and political donations involving the lawmakers on four key committees that will decide the tanks’ fate, according to an analysis of spending and lobbying records by the Center for Public Integrity.

    Sharp spikes in the company’s donations – including a two-week period in 2011 when its employees and political action committee sent the lawmakers checks for their campaigns totaling nearly $50,000 – roughly coincided with five legislative milestones for the Abrams, including committee hearings and votes and the defense bill’s final passage last year.

    After putting the tank money back in the budget then, both the House and Senate Armed Services Committees have again authorized it this year — $181 million in the House and $91 million in the Senate. If the company and its supporters prevail, the Army will refurbish what Army Chief of Staff Ray Odierno described in a February hearing as “280 tanks that we simply do not need.”

    It already has more than 2,300 M1’s deployed with U.S. forces around the world and roughly 3,000 more sitting idle in long rows outdoors at a remote military base in California’s Sierra mountains.

    The $3 billion at stake in this fight is not a large sum in Pentagon terms – it’s roughly what the building spends every 82 minutes. But the fight over the Abrams’ future, still unfolding, illuminates the major pressures that drive the current defense spending debate.

    These include a Pentagon looking to free itself from legacy projects and modernize some of its combat strategy, a Congress looking to defend pet projects and a well-financed and politically savvy defense industry with deep ties to both, fighting tooth-and-nail to fend off even small reductions in the budget now devoted to the military – a total figure that presently composes about half of all discretionary spending.

    Wildfire tears through Spain, 4 dead

    Hundreds of firefighters, backed by water-bombing planes, battled a wind-fuelled wildfire in northeast Spain Monday that left four French nationals dead and trapped thousands of people indoors.

    The blaze claimed its fourth life Monday when a 64-year-old Frenchman who suffered 80 percent burns after his car was engulfed in flames died at a Barcelona hospital, the Catalan regional government said.

    Another 23 people were injured, including eight who remain in hospital, it added.

    The wildfire broke out on Sunday near the town of La Junquera and spread rapidly across the Alt Emporda region near the French border, whipped up by winds of up to 90 kilometres (55 miles) an hour.

    Smoke from the blaze, which has so far ravaged up to 13,000 hectares (32,000 acres) of land, reached Barcelona, Spain's second-biggest city located some 150 kilometres (90 miles) south of the border.

    The fire remained "out of control", the interior minister of Catalonia, Felip Puig, told reporters.

    It was likely caused by a cigarette butt or small explosive device that caught fire due to "recklessness or negligence", he added.

    Over 1,500 people were battling the blaze, including over 500 firefighters and 150 volunteers who worked alongside police, soldiers and forest guards, a spokeswoman for Catalan firefighters said.

    They were backed by 22 French and Spanish water-bombing planes. Officials were not able to deploy aircraft against the flames on Sunday due to the strong winds.

    "It started yesterday at one o'clock in the afternoon, at Perthus, near La Jonquera. The wind was very strong, a strong north wind, we immediately saw clouds of smoke rising," said Miguel Arche, 54, from the town of Terrade.

    "It was impressive. And then, around 6:00 pm, the fire had reached Llers, it was very strong, on a very wide front."

    Firefighters managed to bring the front of the fire burning near the town of Portbou just across the border with France under control on Sunday night.

    A Frenchman and his 15-year-old daughter died Sunday after they abandoned their car and threw themselves off a cliff into the sea to escape the approaching flames near the town.

    Tomorrowland TV 2012: Festival Announces Partnership With YouTube For At Home Partying

    Tomorrowland, the biggest music festival in the world, is coming to you. Tomorrowland TV, a new partnership between concert organizers and YouTube, will feature eight hours of live streaming per day.

    The channel will showcase the work of 173 staff members, working from an on-site studio and select spots throughout the 65-acre grounds in Belgium. Last year's festival drew over 180,000 dance music revelers, and this year looks to be even bigger, with 400 DJs and three full days of raving (festival dates: July 27-29). Organizers say over 2 million people digitally lined up to purchase a ticket, an encouraging sign for the streaming TV channel.

    The lineup will include Skrillex, Swedish House Mafia (who are supposedly breaking up and will hopefully perform a set that doesn't include any stabbings), Steve Aoki, Afrojack, David Guetta and Avicii. Live performances will be a part of the coverage, but Tomorrowland is well-known for its extensive theatrics, wild stage designs and even more adventurous festival grounds (there's a Church of Love, where attendees are afforded time to ... consumate their love).

    On its end, YouTube will host the content and rake in revenue from banner ads and pre-roll. Tomorrowland will reportedly receive a share of those earnings as well.

    Miami's 2012 Ultra Music Festival also had a live-streaming channel. UMFTV broadcast from each day of the event, but focused primarily on live-sets.

    As dance music continues to explode in the United States, many have looked toward festivals in Europe for adventures currently unavailable in America. Though Las Vegas' Electric Daisy Carnival comes close in production value and Ultra draws massive crowds, Tomorrowland remains in a slightly different class. (New York-area festivals are almost always limited by early curfews, so they can't really be compared to Europe's all-night affairs.)

    Kabul Hotel Siege: Taliban Attack At Spozhmai Hotel Ends, Afghan Police Say

    Thirteen people were killed before a long siege was ended at a popular hotel outside the Afghan capital, during which Taliban gunmen took scores of hostages, another bold attack that showed a potent insurgency remains after more than a decade of war.

    Five militants armed with rocket-propelled grenades, suicide bomb vests a nd machine guns attacked the exclusive, lakeside hotel around midnight on Thursday, bursting into a party and shooting dead hotel guards.

    Kabul police chief Ayoub Salangi said on Friday four civilians, three hotel guards and a policeman were killed in the 12-hour gunbattle at the Spozhmai hotel, overlooking Qargha Lake. All five attackers were also killed.

    The attack, quickly claimed by the Afghan Taliban, again showed the ability of insurgents to stage high-profile raids even as NATO nations prepare to withdraw most of their combat troops by the end of 2014 and leave Afghans to lead the fight.

    Many terrified guests jumped into the lake in the darkness to escape the carnage, Afghan officials and residents said. Up to 300 people had been inside the hotel when the attack began.

    "Insurgent Taliban were using civilians as human shields to protect themselves, and even this morning around 50 locals were still held as hostages," Sediq Sediqqi, a spokesman for the Afghan Interior Ministry, told reporters.

    Earlier, elite Afghan quick-response police backed by NATO troops freed at least 35 hostages in an operation that only began in earnest after sunrise to help security forces avoid civilian deaths in night-time confusion.

     NATO attack helicopters could be seen over the single-storey hotel building and a balcony popular with guests for its sunset views, while a pall of smoke rose into air.

    The Taliban complained wealthy Afghans and foreigners used the hotel, about 10 km (6 miles) from the centre of Kabul, for "prostitution" and "wild parties" ahead of the Friday religious day holiday.

    Launching their annual offensive this spring, the Taliban threatened to attack more government officials and rich Afghans, but the hotel assault was one of few in which multiple hostages were taken since the start of the war, now in its 11th year.

    "This is a crime against humanity because they targeted children, women and civilians picnicking at the lake. There wasn't even a single soldier around there," said General Mohammad Zahir, head of the Kabul police investigation unit.

    Television pictures showed several people wading out of the lake onto a balcony and clambering over a wall to safety.

    Drones over America: Are they spying on you?

    Most Americans have gotten used to regular news reports about military and CIA drones attacking terrorist suspects – including US citizens – in Pakistan, Yemen, and elsewhere abroad.

    But picture thousands of drone aircraft buzzing around the United States – peering from the sky at breaches in border security, wildfires about to become major conflagrations, patches of marijuana grown illegally deep within national forests, or environmental scofflaws polluting the land, air, and water.

    By some government estimates, as many as 30,000 drones could be part of intelligence gathering and law enforcement here in the United States within the next ten years. Operated by agencies down to the local level, this would be in addition to the 110 current and planned drone activity sites run by the military services in 39 states, reported this week by the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), a non-government research project.

    The presence of drones in the US was brought home Wednesday night when some people thought they saw a UFO along the Capitol Beltway in Washington. In fact, it was a disc-shaped X-47B UCAV (Unmanned Combat Air System) being hauled from Edwards Air Force Base in California to Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland for testing.

    'Beltway UFO' sparks saucer frenzy in D.C.

    Civil libertarians warn that “unmanned aircraft carrying cameras raise the prospect of a significant new avenue for the sur­veillance of American life,” as the American Civil Liberties Union put it in a report last December.

    “The technology is quickly becoming cheaper and more powerful, interest in deploying drones among police departments is increasing, and our privacy laws are not strong enough to ensure that the new technology will be used responsibly and consistently with democratic values,” reported the ACLU. “In short, all the pieces appear to be lining up for the eventual introduction of routine aerial sur­veillance in American life – a development that would profoundly change the character of public life in the United States.”

    Steven Aftergood, who directs the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, highlights one potentially controversial part of US Air Force policy regarding military drones flown over the United States.

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