Thursday, September 30, 2010

Antique Russian Body Painting Festival | Body Painting Design

Body Painting Photo, female body painting, Russian Body Painting Festival
Antique Russian Body Painting Festival | Body Painting Design

Full Color Body Painting | TREND 2010 Body Painting Design

Girls Body Painting | TREND 2010 Body Painting Design

Fisher Price Recalls 2010

Fisher Price Recalls 2010.

Yes,  Fisher Price has recalled more than 10 million toys after concerns that the toys were not safe. 10 Million Toys Recalled is quite huge and included in the recall are:

  • trikes with the character "Dora the Explorer" on the frame of the bike.
  • Healthy Care, Easy Clean and Close to Me High Chairs.

The trikes have caused injuries to some children who fell as they ride the bike. There are also reports of children hitting themselves on the peg of the high chairs. Thus Fisher Price recalls their toys to ensure the safety of their consumers.

Leo Apotheker new HP CEO

HP has named a new CEO. However, this is surprising, because HP did not get the man from within HP, but instead got Leo Apotheker as CEO. Leo Apotheker was the former CEO of SAP until February this year when he resigned from SAP because the company did not renew his contract.

Jules Undersea Lodge At Key Largo Florida (PHOTO)

This is so so cool!

Jules' Undersea Lodge at Key Largo Florida is located 30 feet deep on the ocean floor. It is an underwater hotel/lodge, the first of it's kind probably. It has 2 bedrooms and 1 bath retreat. There is only one way to get to Jule's Undesea Lodge of course and that is to go scuba diving.

See picture of Jules Undersea hotel below. Just how cool and relaxing would that be to relax as you watch the underwater world right above and around you. Another way to experience nature at it's most exquisite, don't you think.
Jules Undersea Lodge At Key Largo Florida PHOTO

Diving through the tropical mangrove habitat of the Emerald Lagoon and approaching the world’s only underwater hotel is quite an experience. Even from the outside, Jules’ big 42 inch round windows cast a warm invitation to come in and stay a while, relax and get to know the underwater world that so few of us have even visited.

U Smile Official Video!!

Justin explains of the concept for the video...
He tweeted:
so the U SMILE video is almost here...and here is the concept...
...every interview every show I get asked would i date a fan....well as a SINGLE guy...yes single...the answer is...
...yes...i would date whoever i fell for. and that could be a fan. so the video is that story...
...the video is i meet as she is a fan...and i fall for her. i fall 4 her is the story of me and her..and she represents all of u
so when u watch tonight think that could be us :) when u smile i smile. enjoy. hope u like it. #USMILE

New Dutch government will take 'unprecedented measures to rein in immigration,' Wilders

Leader of the Dutch Christian party CDA Maxime Verhagen (L), leader of the Dutch liberal party VVD Mark Rutte (M) and leader of the Dutch right-wing party PVV Geert Wilders (R) present their new coaltion to the press on September 30, 2010 in The Hague.

Life under Shari'a isn't about race!

Name one country which is governed by Shari'a and people have rights!

Europe has to be protected from this.

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — A new Dutch minority government that could be formed as early as next week is planning to ban face-covering burqas and slash immigration, anti-Islam lawmaker Geert Wilders said Thursday.

The proposed new administration is a coalition between the Liberal VVD party led by future Prime Minister Mark Rutte and the Christian Democratic Alliance. The two parties, which have 52 seats in the 150-seat parliament, will rely for support on the 24 seats held by Wilders and his Freedom Party.

Radio Netherlands:
So what did Mr Wilders get in return for supporting this minority cabinet? These are the main PVV points:

  • There will be a complete ban on burqas, and police and justice employees will not be allowed to wear headscarves;
  • Conditional passports for new immigrants - to be withdrawn if they commit crimes in the first five years;
  • The pension age will only be raised to 66 not 67;
  • An extra 2,500 police officers;
  • Animal police will be introduced. 500 officers will look after the welfare of animals in the Netherlands;
  • The duration of unemployment benefit payments will not be reduced;
  • Maximum speed on the motorway will be increased to 130 kilometres per hour;
  • The current smoking ban will be lifted for small cafés

How will it work? First of all, Geert Wilders' Freedom Party will not be part of the new cabinet, and so will not provide any ministers. The twelve ministers (down from the current 16) will be split evenly between the VVD and the CDA, and VVD leader Mark Rutte says the cabinet should be called Rutte-Verhagen I. The Freedom Party, for its part, will support the government in parliament.

This is a unique construction, with no precedent in Dutch politics. To achieve a stable minority government, the three parties have signed two different governing accords. One encompasses what all three parties have agreed to, and the other details what the VVD and CDA have agreed. Geert Wilders will not sign the second accord. However, he has agreed not to bring the government down over policies laid out in the agreement between the VVD and CDA.

Freedom Party input
What Wilders also gets, in addition to the points above, is stricter immigration and integration measures. Some measures, including the conditional passport for new citizens, may violate existing EU regulations. The agreement explicitly states it will try to find as much leeway as possible within existing treaties governing immigration and integration, and if need be, renegotiate the treaties. At the same time, the new cabinet will lobby to change EU guidelines.

The agreement calls for a significant decline in immigration.

A new Minister of Security will also oversee tougher law and order policies. The new cabinet will thus have a decidedly Freedom Party 'feel' in these areas.

Input from the left
But while the Freedom Party is politically on the right when it comes to immigration, its policies towards health care, care for the elderly and some social services are more at home on the left.

Here, Wilders has managed to minimise cuts in a number of areas. The VVD and CDA have agreed that the retirement age will only be raised to 66 instead of 67. Wilders wanted it to stay at 65. There will be investment in care for the elderly and unemployment benefits will not be further limited.

The Freedom Party also promotes animal rights. For the first time, this country will have a special police force just to protect animals. A number of other policies to combat cruelty to animals are part of the agreement.

There are many other measures the Freedom Party is pleased with. These include lifting the smoking ban for small cafés, building new roads, cutting the development aid budget and scaling back the budget for public broadcasting.

Not done
The cabinet is not a done deal - yet. The Christian Democrat members still have to approve the coalition agreement, which they're expected to do at a tense and crowded congress on Saturday. If the members vote yes, then the three parliamentary caucuses will approve the accord early next week. Finally, Queen Beatrix will ask Mark Rutte to form his new government, after which he will appoint his ministers. And during the week of 11 October, the new cabinet will pose for the traditional photograph with the queen, and finally be able to get to work.

The deal has aroused objections from some Christian Democrat lawmakers who don't want to work with Wilders. A Christian Democrat party convention on Saturday will decide whether to go ahead with the planned four-year alliance.

However, while Wilders has the toughest anti-immigrant views, both the VVD and Christian Democrats pledged before the elections to crack down on new arrivals, and the last Christian Democrat-led government also wanted to ban burqas.

The policy blueprint unveiled Thursday came after months of closed-doors negotiations following inconclusive June 9 national elections.

Rutte's VVD party emerged as the largest party, but Wilders' Freedom Party rose from nine seats to 24, underscoring a further shift from the Netherlands' long-held image as a bastion of tolerance that welcomes newcomers.

Wilders said he hoped that by toughening immigration regulations, the new government would slash the number of asylum seekers getting into the Netherlands by one-quarter and reduce by half what he called "non-Western immigrants."

The government said it plans to make it harder for immigrants already living in the Netherlands to bring other family members here and also would make it tougher for unskilled immigrants with little chance of finding work to move to the country.

"We are taking unprecedented measures to rein in immigration," Wilders said.

Those immigrants who do get in will have to pay for their own integration courses and could be kicked out if they do not complete them.

The policy document was presented just days before Wilders is scheduled to go on trial in Amsterdam on hate speech charges linked to his outspoken criticism of Islam, which he describes as a violent political ideology.

Dutch governments in the past have said they planned to ban full-face veils such as burqas, but have never pushed the policy into law.

In the meantime, France's Parliament has passed legislation banning Islamic veils such as burqas.

While the VVD and Christian Democrats are reliant on Wilders' support in parliament, they are at pains to say they do not share his anti-Islam stance.

"This Cabinet will stand up for our freedoms, including freedom of education and religion," Christian Democrat leader Maxime Verhagen said. "These freedoms are shared by everybody; men or women, young or old ... Christian or Muslim."

Rutte said he also planned to slash government spending by €18 billion ($24.6 billion) in coming years to help the Netherlands emerge from the global fiscal crisis with a stronger economy.


Who Stole IP Rights in a Pencil Eraser? Not Faber-Castell

It has to be one of the oddest comments that I have encountered in quite a while. The setting is the September 18th issue of The Economist. In the Business section, the magazine presented the kind of article for which it is rightfully reknown. Entitled "The Future of the Pencil" the article recounts the multi-generation saga of Faber-Castell, a German company located near Nuremberg that has been making pencils since 1761. They have done so with such success that the company is described as the world's largest branded pencil manufacturer.

This is no small feat. After all, a pencil is not a pen, and the market seems to be predominently school-age youngsters (although Otto von Bismark and Vincent van Gogh are also mentioned). As such, the company has to convince parents to opt for a branded pencil, when presumably unbranded options (perhaps at a lower price) are available. From the IP perspective, this saga of success spanning four centuries should be equal parts of trademarks and know-how. Sadly, however, the trademark issue is totally ignored in the article. I don't for how long the company has used the epopymous name as the mark for its products. But I have to guess that it reaches back to the 19th century. If this is true, there is a great story here about the longevity and continuing flourishing of this venerable brand.

Instead, the article focuses entirely on the innovative activities of the company. Thus, in 1839, the great grandson of the founder came up with the hexagonal pencil, whose principal virtue is that it effectively prevented the pencil from rolling off the table. Later on, they worked on making more firmer leads and identifying the types of woods that are less likely to break when the pencil is dropped. In more modern times, the company has come up with three major innovations: First, it began use of water-based, environmentally friendly paints. Second, it developed an ergonomic triangular shape that has been well-received by children (presumably they also teach the children the meaning of the term). Third, they added so-called rubbery dots to prevent the pencils from slipping out of the sweaty hands of the children.

All of this seems jolly good, so where is the problem? I quote from the article:
"Faber-Castell's second big innovation was stolen. In 1875 America's Supreme Court ruled that Faber was entitled to put rubber erasers onto the back of its pencils, although another inventor had already patented the idea. The court felt that the idea was too obvious to patent."

What did The Economist mean by "stolen"? I mean, in today's world, the bad guys, at least under one view of things, are the patent trolls, who are accused of seeking to enforce a patent solely for the purposed of extracting "unfair" rents from unsuspecting users of the patented invention. No one would go so far as to say that patent trolls are "stealing" from the third parties who agree to pay the troll a sum to settle. Be that as it may, the pejorative context of the patent troll is exactly the opposite from the Faber situation in the 1870's. All that Faber apparently did was defend itself from an infringement claim by alleging that the patent was invalid. If that is theft, then virtually every defendant in a patent litigation action is candidate to be of a "thief", if it succeeds in invalidating the patent at issue.

I actually looked up the judgment in question, Reckendorfer v. Faber, 92 u.s. 347 (1875). Interestingly, the patentee argued that the court did not have the authority to review a decision by the Patent Commisisoner to accept an invention for patent registration. That argument was rejected, but it seems that if there was any incorporeal larceny going on, it was the attempt by the patentee to prevent the court from reinstating in the public domain an exclusive right that never should have been granted in the first place. If there was any opprobrium to be heaped on the parties in that case, it should have been on the patentee and not on Faber.

I wonder what The Economist intended by its use of the word "stolen". Did it want to intimate that even in the 19th century, corporate America (or corporate Germany) was taking advantage of the legal system to deprive private inventors of their intellectual property rights? If so, how odd. As well, one has to wonder a bit about the nature of the understanding about the patent system that is found in this most august of weekly news magazines.

It's EP divisional crunch time

tytoc collie should not need to be reminding his patent attorney readers about this, but tomorrow 1 October 2010 is the final day in many cases for filing divisional applications at the EPO (see tytoc collie's previous post here for a good starting point), as a result of the EPO Administrative Council decision CA/D 2/09.

Even though applicants and attorneys have had over a year to prepare, there will inevitably be something of a last minute rush to make sure all those divisionals that might be needed are on file by midnight tomorrow.  Will the EPO's fax machines and online system manage to cope with the load?

tytoc collie knows that many hard-working people both at the EPO and within patent attorney firms will be struggling at the moment to cope with the excessive load of applications, and would like to express his sympathy for all those adversely affected.  He would be interested to hear any stories of how things are going (or not, as the case may be).  If you have the time, please chip in using the weblog's comment facility (anonymously, if necessary).

As a final tip, according to the Notice of the President dated 12 July 2007 (Special Edition No. 3, OJ EPO 2007), applications can be filed at the EPO's offices in Munich, The Hague or Berlin, in particular at the following fax numbers:

+49 (0)89 2399-4465
The Hague
+31 (0)70 340-3016
+49 (0)30 25901-840

Other things to do in Munich on 1 October here.

1 October 2010 Update: Thanks to a comment, tytoc collie has been pointed to this notice from the EPO, which states:
"The European Patent Office (EPO) has been informed of an email containing a hoax announcement purporting to be from the EPO in which the public is given the impression that the Office's fax and online filing services will not be available from 30 September 2010 to 6 am on 4 October 2010, due to maintenance and updating of the Office's telecommunication facilities.

The European Patent Office informs all concerned that this notice is completely false and that all electronic filing facilities at the European Patent Office (online and fax) are fully available.

The Office reserves the right to take legal steps against the person(s) who disseminated this false information.
tytoc collie, who has not had sight of this email, is intrigued. Can anyone shed any further light?

Most Germans see Muslims as a burden: Poll

More than half of Germans see Muslim immigrants as a drag on the country, a poll published Thursday has found.

According to the Allensbach poll commissioned by the Financial Times Deutschland, 55 percent judged that the migrant group “has cost significantly more financially and socially than it has yielded economically.”

Only one fifth of respondents believed Muslim immigrants were more a benefit than a burden. The skepticism is particularly strong in the former east of the country, where 74 percent of respondents saw Muslims as a drain on the nation. In the former west, the figure was 50 percent.

Furthermore, more than one third of the population believes Germany is indeed becoming “dumber on average” because of immigration, as former Bundesbank board member Thilo Sarrazin has controversially claimed. Migrants were poorly educated and had more children, many respondents said. In the former east, 37 percent of people believed this to be the case, compared with 33 percent who rejected the proposition.

Sarrazin, who sparked a tumultuous debate about immigration last month – and lost his job in the process – has claimed among other things that many Muslims do not want to integrate with German society and, on the whole, make the country dumber.

Some 60 percent of respondents to the poll believed Sarrazin was generally right, while just 13 percent rejected his theses altogether.

The Local/dw

NZ kebab shop owner guilty of assaulting wife, argues he was performing traditional dance


AFP - A Turkish immigrant who claimed he was performing a traditional dance with violent-looking moves as he beat his wife has been convicted of assault by a New Zealand judge.

Kebab shop owner Allaetin Can was arrested in August after a passer-by reported he was attacking his wife outside their takeaway in the North Island town of Hawera.

He denied the assault charge, arguing he and his wife were celebrating a profitable lunchtime's trade with a traditional dance called kolbasti, which features mock wrestling, hitting and kicking.

After last month ordering police to examine Can's claims, judge Allan Roberts described them as "nonsense" in a decision handed down on Wednesday.

"I reject the explanation as a lie," Roberts said, labelling Can "a manipulative, deceitful man".

Can was convicted of assault and ordered to pay $NZ1,500 ($A1,143.16) to a women's refuge.

Danish editor reprints Prophet Mohammad cartoons ~ on 5th anniversary

Thursday marks the fifth anniversary of the publication of the 12 drawings in Jyllands-Posten which one year later became a major global controversy leading to dozens of deaths.

Flemming Rose's book The Tyranny of Silence has fed worries of renewed unrest, similar to when the cartoons were reprinted by many newspapers in 2008 after a death threat to cartoonist Kurt Westergaard.

Danish Foreign Minister Lene Espersen met 17 ambassadors from Muslim countries on Wednesday as part of efforts to prevent any new cartoon crisis.

"The violence was committed by people who made a decision to react to these cartoons in a specific way," said Mr Rose, who has lived for years under police protection because of threats against him and his paper Jyllands-Posten.

"To publish cartoons, religious satire, in a Danish newspaper is not incitation to violence," he said.

Most Muslims consider depictions of the founder of Islam offensive, and one cartoon showing the Prophet with a bomb in his turban was found especially insulting.

Mr Rose said he did not regret initiating publication of the cartoons in 2005 to begin a debate on freedom of expression in Denmark.

But he added: "Of course, I do believe that no cartoon is worth a single human life – unfortunately there are some other people who think otherwise."

The book launch came a day after police said an Iraqi Kurd in Norway admitted to plotting an attack on Jyllands-Posten and two weeks after police said the daily was the probable target of a would-be bomber in Copenhagen.


Briton suspected of plotting Mumbai-style attacks killed by predator drone; Pakistan

A Pakistani intelligence official was quoted by the Associated Press news agency as saying that the man, who is believed to have been acting in concert with another Briton, was killed in a missile strike by a US unmanned aerial drone.

The official named the dead man as Abdul Jabbar who, he said, had come originally from Pakistan's Jhelum district.

He said that the suspects, who also included eight German nationals, had been hiding in the tribal areas of the North Waziristan region.

The Britons are believed to have been tracked by the authorities for some time before the incident, which occured on Sept 8. News of the plot only emerged this week, after the killing of its mastermind Sheikh Fateh al-Masri, a senior al-Qaeda commander, by another US missile on Saturday.

The Foreign Office said it would not comment becuase on what it described as "security matters".

<1--more-->The latest report follows the disclosure earlier this week that intelligence agencies in Europe, the US and Pakistan had intercepted a credible Islamist plot to attack cities in Britain, France and Germany.

Militants were said to be planning commando-style raids similar to the attack on Mumbai in India two years ago.

The discovery of the plot lead to an upsurge in attacks by CIA Predator drones on the tribal areas of northern Pakistan in an attempt to disrupt their preparations.

Robert Wainwright, director of the European police organisation Europol, said the disclosures showed that the terrorist threat remained high.

"There has been a significant decline in the number of terrorist attacks in Europe - certainly committed by Islamist groups - that hides the reality that these groups are still active," he said.

"The threat is still out there - absolutely - as these reports show."


Yemen FM confirms US secret air strikes on Qaeda in May

DUBAI — Yemen's foreign minister acknowledged the United States has launched attacks on Al-Qaeda in his country in an interview published on Thursday, the first confirmation from Sanaa of a US military role.

Abu Bakr al-Kurbi told the Saudi-owned pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat that the US strikes were suspended in December because his government viewed them as having been unsuccessful.

"Fighting Al-Qaeda is the responsibility of security and anti-terrorism forces in Yemen," Kurbi said.

However, the New York Times reported in mid-August that the US military carried out a secret air strike in May against a suspected Al-Qaeda target in Yemen, killing a deputy provincial governor in the process.

According to the paper, the strike was a secret mission by the US military, and was at least the fourth such assault on Al-Qaeda in the mountains and deserts of Yemen since December.

The United States operates a major counter-terrorism base in Djibouti just across the strategic Bab al-Mandab strait from Yemen.

In June, human rights watchdog Amnesty International released images it said were of fragments of a US Tomahawk cruise missile, reportedly taken at the scene of a December 17 strike in Al-Majalah in Abyan province in the south of Yemen, in which it said 55 people, mostly civilians, were killed.

The White House said US President Barack Obama's top counter-terrorism advisor John Brennan visited Yemen on September 20 and discussed cooperation in the fight against Al-Qaeda.

The United States has become increasingly concerned about the threat posed by Islamist militancy in Yemen, the ancestral homeland of Osama bin Laden, particularly the activities of his jihadist network's local franchise, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

In the interview, Kurbi also said that while Yemen had launched a manhunt for US-born jihadist preacher Anwar al-Awlaqi, who is on a US most-wanted list, it would not hand him over if it succeeded in capturing him.

"Awlaqi is in an area where we are conducting operations against Al-Qaeda, and he is among those targeted for arrest in these operations," the Yemeni foreign minister said.

"The US has already requested the extradition of other Yemenis holding US citizenship, but we refused because the Yemeni constitution prohibits the extradition of a Yemeni citizen to a third country. This applies to Awlaqi."

In April, a US official said the Obama administration had authorised the targeted killing of Awlaqi, after intelligence agencies concluded the Muslim cleric was directly involved in anti-US plots.

Born in the southwestern US state of New Mexico, Awlaqi, 39, rose to prominence last year after he was linked a US army major who shot dead 13 people in Fort Hood, Texas, and to a Nigerian student accused of trying to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight on December 25.

Yemen, the poorest country in the Arab world, faces a growing threat from Al-Qaeda, a sporadic Zaidi Shiite rebellion in the north and a separatist movement in the south. AFP

Yemen: Senior officials narrowly escape 'Al-Qaeda' attack

Sanaa, 29 Sept. (AKI) - Yemeni deputy army chief of staff Slim Qaten and the governor of the southern Shabwa province Hasan al-Ahmad survived an attack by Al-Qaeda insurgents, according to Yemeni newspaper Mareb Press.

The attack was carried out Wednesday by armed militants who ambushed the officials' convoy around 50 kilometres south of Yemeni capital Sanaa wounding five soldiers, according to the report.

Update: Killing one

The convoy was returning from an area where the military had been locked in a six-day battle with militants, the newspaper said.

Yemen faces two insurgencies. Since 2005 separatist rebels in the north known as the Al-Houthis have been fighting government forces, while Al-Qaeda and tribal militants have launched a series of attacks in the south.

Afghanistan's opium farmers earn £63m-a-year to fund Taliban war: Infestation destroys half

Killing fields: Some £63 million is earned by insurgents per year through the opium trade - it helps fund the Taliban's war efforts

New York, 30 Sept. (AKI) - Afghanistan's opium harvest was almost halved as a widespread plant infestation took its toll on the war-torn country's largest source of revenue, according to a United Nations report.

The total 2010 production yield was estimated at 3,600 metric tonnes, down 48 percent from 6,900 mt in 2009, according to report released on Thursday.

"This is good news but there is no room for false optimism; the market may again become lucrative for poppy-crop growers so we have to monitor the situation closely," said Yury Fedotov, executive director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.

The drop in production was primarily due to a plant infestation in the southern Helmand and Kandahar provinces, according to the UN.

Afghanistan produces 92 of the world's opium.


Afghanistan's opium farmers earn £63m-a-year to fund Taliban war despite crackdown

Big score: Afghanistan produces 90 per cent of the world's opium, which, in turn, produces heroin

Disease cut the amount of opium produced in Afghanistan in 2010 by almost half from a year earlier, but there was no fall in the number of poppy fields under cultivation, the United Nations said today.

A huge leap in opium prices also meant farmers earned far more for their crops, despite the smaller harvest, than they had in 2009, according to an annual report on drug production.

The survey findings suggested little reduction in incentives to grow poppy - a blow to officials trying to curb Afghan drug production, which they say helps fuel a raging insurgency by funding fighters and encouraging rampant corruption.

Stash: Though some opium is seized, these latest figures offer are not expected to deter other farmers from cultivating

'The sharp decline (in production) was due to the spread of a disease that affected opium fields in the major growing provinces.' the Afghanistan Opium Survey 2010 said.

'It is worrying that the current high sale price of opium in combination with a lower wheat price may encourage farmers to go back to opium cultivation,' the report added.

Afghanistan has long been the producer of about 90 per cent of the world's opium, a thick paste harvested from poppies that is processed to make heroin.

Last year wheat prices rose and poppy prices fell, giving farmers reason to reconsider their planting plans for fields harvested in 2009. This year the reverse was true, with farm-gate opium prices more than doubling from $64 (£40) per kilogramme of dry opium at harvest time in 2009 to $169 (£107) in 2010.

Come down: While opium production has decreased, the price has increased so much that farmers are earning more now than they were last year with less stock
The number of households involved in farming poppy also rose slightly, while fields hit by eradication efforts fell by half.

Higher production was warded off largely by the unidentified disease that decimated crops in areas that grows most opium.

Plants in the west and south also produced smaller, and fewer opium capsules. So potential output was estimated at around 3,900 tonnes, compared with 6,900 tonnes last year, despite a steady 123,000 hectares under cultivation.

This was the lowest output since 2003, the report said.

Even so, opium production provided five per cent of gross domestic product in 2010, up from 4 percent in 2009.

Foreign enforcement agencies estimate insurgents earn as much as $100 million (£63 million) from the opium trade annually, which is funnelled into fighting the nearly 150,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan.

This has been the bloodiest year since the Taliban were ousted in 2001, and rising violence is a deep concern in Washington, where President Barack Obama is due to conduct a strategy review of the increasingly unpopular war in December.

There were some bright spots. The 20 provinces that were poppy-free in 2009, largely spread across the centre, north and east, remained poppy-free this year.

Most poppy cultivation is concentrated in southern and western Afghanistan, where the insurgency is at its strongest, making it hard to enforce anti-narcotics laws or even support farmers who are willing to grow other crops.

'Ninety eight per cent of the total cultivation took place in nine provinces in the Southern and Western regions, including the most insecure provinces in the country,' the report said.

But Helmand province, which grows more than half of Afghanistan's opium, recorded a slight reduction in the acreage devoted to growing poppy despite the strength of the insurgency.

Governor Gulab Mangal's Food Zone programme, which provides farmers with aid to grow other crops while stepping up enforcement efforts, was given much of the credit.

'We congratulate the Governor of Helmand on this result which we believe reflects his progressive and comprehensive approach to countering narcotics,' said Lindy Cameron, head of the UK-led Provincial Reconstruction Team in Helmand.

'Reducing poppy cultivation denies the insurgency an important source of funding.'

Daily Mail

Al Jazeera airs images of hostages kidnapped in Niger

AP - A tape released Thursday on a jihadist forum shows the first images of a group of hostages including five French citizens since they were seized two weeks ago in Niger by an al-Qaida offshoot and taken into the desert.

The four-minute tape shows still images of the hostages sitting cross-legged in the sand with a gently sloping dune behind them. French officials believe the seven hostages are now in the bordering West African nation of Mali.

The hostages were grabbed in the middle of the night on Sept. 16 from their guarded villas in the uranium mining town of Arlit in Niger where they were working for French nuclear giant Areva.

The French Foreign Ministry said the tape was encouraging because its images show the hostages alive.

“Even if we don’t know what date it was taken it constitutes an encouraging sign in the sense that it shows all the hostages alive,” a ministry statement said, adding that France “is doing everything to obtain their liberation.”

The tape’s release comes as top officials from Areva planned a visit to Niger on Thursday, where they were to meet with the government and travel to the town where the employees were abducted.

The tape was an audio recording accompanied by still images. Standing behind the hostages are men brandishing automatic weapons who are wearing the face-covering turbans typical of the Tuaregs, a nomadic people who live in the Sahara desert and who are believed to be working with al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb.

During the recording, the hostages are questioned about their names, ages and marital status, according to the translation provided to reporters by U.S.-based SITE Intelligence Group.

Five of the hostages are French citizens; the other two are from Togo and Madagascar. They are also asked if they know who their kidnappers are, and acknowledge the kidnappers are al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM.

The terror group has its roots in an extremist Islamic group in Algeria that brokered an alliance with al-Qaida in 2006.

Since then, AQIM has kidnapped more than a dozen Europeans including tourists and aid workers. The group is believed to be using the ransom payments to bankroll their operations and with each kidnapping their tactics have become more bold.

The attack on the Areva compound in Niger is their most daring to date. The heavily armed gunmen were able to get past the town’s security cordon which includes 350 of Niger’s troops as well as 150 security guards hired by Areva.

In the tape produced by AQIM’s media arm, al-Andalus Media Foundation, they explain that the kidnapping came in the “context of retaliation.” It is a reference to a joint French-Mauritanian raid on an AQIM base in Mali earlier this summer that killed at least six members of the terror cell.

Soon after the raid in July, AQIM announced they had assassinated French hostage Michel Germaneau, a 78-year-old aid worker who had been seized in Niger in April. The tape warns that the French -- who have sent a regiment of soldiers to Niger -- should not attempt another rescue mission as they had done for Germaneau.

The French defense minister had said that France was willing and interested in talking to the terror group.

The al-Qaida-linked group has invaded large swaths of the desert region spanning portions of Mauritania, Mali, Niger and Algeria. Famous tourists spots like Timbuktu are now on the no-go list of numerous foreign embassies, including the U.S. and France.

Experts say the group has made inroads by creating strategic alliances with disenfranchised groups that inhabit these remote desert areas -- like the Tuareg who have taken up arms against the governments of Mali and Niger over claims they were not receiving an equal share of the countries’ resources including profits from uranium mining in Niger.

Netherlands to ban the burqa: anti-Islam MP says

AFP - The Netherlands will ban the burqa, anti-Islam MP Geert Wilders said Thursday following the announcement of a pact to form a minority coalition government backed by his party.

"There will also be a burqa ban," Wilders told journalists in The Hague, announcing measures agreed on by three parties negotiating to form a new government.

The measures, which seek to cut government spending by 18 billion euros by 2015, should also halve the number of immigrants who enter the Netherlands, the politician said.

"A new wind will blow in the Netherlands," Wilders said, standing alongside presumed prime minister in waiting Mark Rutte, who leads the pro-business VVD party, and Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) leader Maxime Verhagen -- the two parties set to be in government.

Wilders' PVV will remain outside, providing the minority cabinet the majority it needs to pass decisions through parliament in return for a voice in policy formation.



I never thought that day would come…My birthday is October 25th but I begin to be covered on October 1st. All of this time I have lived the agony that millions of Americans face each day…to be without health insurance and face a catastrophic illness.

And yet, The Republicans are saying that Medicare and Social Security are not sustainable, that they are costing too much and are a drain on the nation’s budget. Of course they don’t say that two stupid, unnecessary wars that cost our country lives and treasure are a drain 100 times larger…no, they will not admit to that nor will they admit that they lied to America to get us into those wars.

If Republicans had their way…and listening to them will give you a clue; they will SHUT DOWN the government if they win a majority in Congress…and they will push to PRIVATIZE SOCIAL SECURITY. No, thank you, leave those alone…we all saw how our pensions and 401Ks were decimated in this last economic free for all…I had both of them lost and now I depend on SOCIAL SECURITY only to survive. This, from a person who worked hard all of his life, didn’t squander a penny, saved to secure my retirement and some Wall Street asshole now has that money…because the money was there.

If they succeed in ending Medicare we are going to see a lot of seniors dropping off like flies. Ailments that could be controlled will take lives and those that could be prevented or treated will kill millions…even such simple sickness as a common cold or an ingrown toe nail. That is the prevailing ideology of Republicans…leave everything to the free enterprise system and it will take care of itself…of course, they also insist in running a welfare program for the very rich.

Yes, the Republicans begrudge a few billion dollars our country spends on safety nets like Social Security, Medicare and Unemployment Benefits while they squander our young men and women's lives and our treasure in unnecessary wars and those cost trillions.

I am afraid that the CLASS WARFARE has been going on for quite some time now and the top richest segment of our country has defeated the other 98% of Americans. TRICKLE DOWN ECONOMICS didn’t work then and it will not work now.

Blackberry Playbook: A Video At Last!

The Blackberry Playbook will be set for release next year 2011.  That's just a few more months from now. This new tablet is equipped with a special 7″ hi-resolution display. It is so thin about less than half an inch and weighs under a pound. It also has advanced dual HD cameras, supports 1080p HD recording and USB.  And what's more cool about this new tablet, it’s completely Flash-friendly (Source: digitalbuzzblog. com).  As for the price, let us just hope it's not too expensive like the iPad! So yes, welcome Blackberry Playbook! I hope to get you someday!

Mariah Carey Slipped On Stage Formula 1 Singtel Singapore Grand Prix (VIDEO)

 Mariah Carey slipped on the stage during her performance at the Formula 1 Singtel Singapore Grand Prix Sunday, September 26, 2010.  Mariah was so full of life singing when all of the sudden the unexpected accident happened, perhaps due to her high heels. Thanks to her back up dancers who immediately rushed to her rescue and helped her get up. Mariah then asked her stylish "Blair" to remove her shoes, while she was singing. Mariah Carey continued with the performance and even commented later on that she did that on purpose, which I highly doubt though.

Anyways, some critiques disliked how Mariah commanded/requested her stylist to remove her shoes on stage. To some it was just not nice for Mariah to do, when she can do it herself or perhaps later on at the back stage. Anyhow, watch Mariah Carey Slipped on Stage Video below.


This is the latest news right now that the famous Justin Bieber will be guesting on Glee. If the plans push through, Justin Bieber might have a duet with Charice Pempengco of the Philippines. Charice Pempengco stunned the audience watching the premiere as she sing the song of Beyonce Knowles. Charice Pempengco and Justin Bieber will be very good to be together on Glee. But that is still news and lets just wait that it will happen.

West Sumatra earthquake one year on.

The main hotel that collapsed. It was a six story building compressed into one and a bit stories. Photo: Bob McKerrow

Virtually to the minute one year ago, on 30 September 2009, two major earthquakes struck West Sumatra in Indonesia, killing more than 1,400 people and damaging 250,000 homes. More than 4,000 people were displaced from their homes and the Red Cross provided emergency relief to over 345,000 people until December 2009. Working closely with the Indonesian Red Cross and other Red Cross partners, the IFRC has been actively engaged in reconstruction efforts and 12,745 transitional shelters have currently been completed across four of the worst-affected districts. A beneficiary communication programme supported the overall recovery effort. Regular programmes produced by the Indonesian Red Cross and broadcast on community radio and local TV helped communities to have a much clearer understanding of the programme and gave them the opportunity to be heard.

The haunting memories I have are the hundreds of people crushed to death in a six-storied hotel that collapsed to only one floor, Ramlan who cut of his leg to free himself, Colin Tuck the New Zealand helicopter pilot who helped us with the major survey, and countless Red Cross volunteers who rescued people, disposed of dead bodies with dignity, and counselled traumatised children. Here are a few photos and words:

Amid falling debris and trembling constructions as well as screams for help of thousands outside, a young man inside a building groaned with pain as the teeth of a saw sliced inch by inch his leg.

While dying of being trapped, Ramlan (18) was forced to saw off his own leg stuck under a piece of six-ton concrete rubble. He risked sawing his own leg to escape the greater peril of a 7.9 magnitude earthquake that devastated Padang city in Sumatra.
Losing his right leg from knee down had never crossed Ramlan`s mind when he left West Java`s Purwakarta a month earlier to eke out a living by working as a construction laborer in West Sumatra.
In his mind, jobs are hard to find nowadays. Working in a construction renovation project in Padang city, provincial capital of West Sumatra, was an inevitable choice for him to make both end meet. But fate tells him a different story. There, a quake `robbed` him of his right leg.

He was still lucky indeed for over 800 were killed by the earthquake. Unofficial estimates put the death toll at thousands as many could not be lifted out of the remains of collapsed buildings.

When the earthquake struck at 5.16 pm on September 30, 2009, Ramlan was working on the sixth floor of a Telkom building which was undergoing a renovation, in Jalan Khatib Sulaeman, Padang city.

Ramlan and his co-workers had no unusual feelings at all at that time. They were busy working in the renovation project. As the sun was slowly approaching the horizon while their tired faces had begun tenderly feeling a puff of evening zephyr, the earth trembled all of a sudden, palm trees gyrated, electric poles danced, buildings rocked and collapsed.

In the first trembler, people on the first floor of the Telkom building panicked and rushed out of the building. Within seconds, another strong tremor rocked the earth that was felt in all parts of the city. Cars in the parking lot swayed back and forth.

Ramlan and friends were in an unlucky storey on the sixth floor. A collapsed piece of concrete rubble almost buried Ramlan alive, but still, the piece, weighing about six tons and measuring 4x4 sq m, squeezed his right leg. He was stuck there, while his friends succeeded in running down the stairs.

"As I felt the second tremor, I tried to pull out but I can`t as my right leg was stuck under the rubble," Ramlan told RCTI television station on his bed in a hospital on Sunday.
What he had in mind was how to escape from the building and to survive the second tremor. But how, his leg was squeezed under the rubble. He looked around where he found a sand scoop and a hoe. The heroic young laborer reached them and decided to cut his leg off with the scoop.

Crying in pain under the rubble alone --as every body outside the building and everywhere in the city was also busy safeguarding him or herself--, Ramlan was trying to slice his leg with the scoop. It was too blunt. It did not work. Fresh blood continued to ooze out of his injured and crushed tiny leg. He took the hoe and chopped it up. He felt he was being stabbed with pain from head to toe. Still, he failed.

After half-an hour in the struggle, he found his cellular phone. "With the hoe I still can`t cut my leg. Then I found my cellular phone, I called my co-workers for help," he said.

His friends came up a moment later to help. They tried to lift the rubble. The heavy concrete slab even could not be shaken, let alone be removed. Amid their confusion, Ramlan asked for a saw and told them to saw his leg. But none of his friends was able to perform the job.

"I have no choice so that I did it myself. I felt some how a regret in my heart to cut my leg, but I have no other choice," he told online portal over the weekend.

While groaning in pain, Ramlan continued to saw his leg. The teeth of the saw sliced it inch by inch until he almost fell unconscious. Fresh blood rolled down on the floor. The ill-fated construction worker was unable to continue. Herman, one of his friends, forced himself to take over the job.

"I was surprised and sad to see him bathe in blood," Herman told He decided to accomplish the job as he could not stand to see Ramlan scream in pain. Ramlan`s request for Herman to cut off his leg forced him to act speedily.

"If we stay longer not to act, I am afraid Ramlan would lose his blood too much which could threaten his life," Herman said. After cutting off his leg, Herman carried poor Ramlan on his back and rushed him to the Selasih Hospital about 500 meters away from the Telkom building.

At the hospital, Ramlan did not immediately received medical treatment because the hospital was also heavily damaged by the earthquake, which also smashed hundred thousands of other buildings, including Ambacang hotel where hundreds of people were buried alive.

In the emergency condition, a doctor of the hospital gave Ramlan a first help. The wound on the tip of his cut-off leg was bandaged to avoid infection. He was admitted to the Dr M Djamil hospital before he was finally sent to the Yos Sudarso hospital for a proper medical treatment.

Now, Ramlan`s condition is gradually improving. But he was still traumatized with the nightmare when he remembered he sawed his own leg. Although he is now permanently invalid, he did not regret the event. He is resigned to his fate.

"What I want now is an artificial leg and to return home to met my mother immediately," he said.

The damage in Chinatown, Padang.

A Swiss rescue worker at the airport with his dog awaiting deployment.

A whole village wiped out by a mudslide, triggered by the earthquake.

Many house in the mountainous area collapsed totally.

Bob McKerrow left, and Colin Tuck ( from Fox Gkacier NZ)our daring Kiwi helicopter pilot. Thanks to Tucky working closeby, we were able to start on aerial assessment within 15 hours, identify people dying because of crush injurues, and fly in doctors.

The closer you get to the earthquake's epicentre the worse the damage gets.

First the road becomes blocked to vehicles. Then even motorbikes cannot get through, and soon you can only walk and clamber over the landslides to reach the communities perhaps hardest hit by this disaster.

Homes were just swallowed up here as the quake shook the land from the hillsides, tearing down everything, destroying houses and crushing hundreds of people below tonnes of earth.

The size of the landslides are astonishing - massive tears in the jungle where soil and trees have been ripped from the slopes and dumped into the valleys.

Dawianis Ardo is digging. Others are helping him - smashing concrete beams with the back of an axe, pulling at debris with wire cable and shifting bucket-loads of soil from the hole.

The patch of earth, trees and concrete is what is left of three homes. One was empty, but the two crushed into each other and buried with earth from the mountain which slipped off into the valley were not.

Inside were nine adults and seven children - some of them playing marbles just outside the house when the earthquake struck.

"We found two bodies yesterday - they had been crushed to death - we expect to find the other 14 bodies today," he said.

They were his cousins.

"If we don't find them today I will dig for another five days - that will be a week - and then I will leave them to God."

Crushed to death

A path has been trodden across the face of the landslide where the road used to be and people were carefully making their way across.

I just sat here and prayed

Earthquake survivor

The situation just worsened further along the track - more houses flattened, more landslides scarring the hillside and wider cracks in the road.

Zaimar sat outside her collapsed home as the men dug at the crushed wooden beams to big out their food supplies and possessions.

She described what it was like when the quake hit, kneeling down and showing us how she sat to stop herself falling as the shockwave threw everything and everybody around.

She began to cry - to sob - as she remembered those terrifying moments when she was convinced the world was going to end.

"I just sat here and prayed," she said, still crying uncontrollably.

Her family were all unhurt, but the shock has affected her deeply and her neighbours lost relatives in the rubble.

Waiting for help

At another landslide an ornately tiled porch stands now like a platform overlooking the valley below.

The home which was behind it is crushed and buried, along with it a family of 10 people.

Further along, the route is blocked by a house teetering on the edge of another gaping scar - the only way forward to the villages and communities ahead is through someone's front room.

One village is packed with people - all asking when the aid will come. A police helicopter circled overhead suggesting they have not been forgotten about.

But they feel abandoned and alone. They have rice and basic supplies, but with no electricity and a road it will take many weeks to repair, they are afraid of their new-found isolation, hoping help will come to them soon.

Three-thousand dead is what the government has estimated.

Here amid the destroyed homes, with so many stories of relatives being buried alive, it seems as though it could be even more.

Coordinations meetings. Our first coordination meeting.