Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Who Is The Man Behind The Ground Zero Mosque?


Developer Of Community Center Has Lengthy Record, With Numerous Arrests Dating Back To 1990

NEW YORK (CBS 2) — As the Ground Zero mosque controversy continues to simmer, questions continue about the background of the man who wants to build the $100 million Islamic cultural and religious center.

Mosque developer Sharif El-Gamal has often been reluctant to answer questions.

After he won the right to tear down the 152-year-old building blocks from the site of the 9/11 attacks, El-Gamal got defensive when asked about the mosque by CBS 2′s Marcia Kramer.

“It’s a community center, if you call it a community center, we would talk,” El-Gamal said.

Kramer reports the developer’s reluctance to talk may have been related to his prior run-ins with the law.

His most recent arrest was in 2005 for assault on a man he met while working as a waiter at Serafina Restaurant, who sublet an apartment from his brother. He reportedly punched the man, breaking his nose and cheekbone and spit on him.

El-Gamal first said he didn’t hit the man, but arrest documents obtained by CBS 2 showed he later conceded “his face could have run into my hand.”

Records showed El-Gamal also had trouble coming up with the $15,000 settlement reached in 2008, and had to pay interest . El-Gamal also has a number of other arrests on his record:

-In 1990, he was arrested in Nassau County and pled guilty to disorderly conduct.

-In 1992, he pled guilty in Nassau to DWI and paid a $350 fine.

-In 1993, he pled guilty in Nassau to attempted petit larceny and paid a $100 fine.

-In 1994, arrested for disorderly conduct in Manhattan.

-In 1998, there was another Manhattan disorderly conduct arrest.

-In 1999, yet another Manhattan disorderly conduct arrest.

A potential problem for the mosque developer is a deposition he gave in the assault case in October 2007. When asked if he was ever convicted or pled guilty to a crime, El-Gamal replied “no.”

Lately, he has been trying to resurrect his image, sitting down for a lengthy 60 Minutes interview with Scott Pelley.

When Pelley asked if it occurred to him that putting a project so close to Ground Zero would heighten tensions, El-Gamal replied “not at all.”

“I did not hold myself or my faith accountable for the tragedy,” El-Gamal said.

El-Gamal also owes over $227,000 in unpaid real estate taxes and a spokesman for the Department of Finance said interest will be added for each and every day its unpaid.

Another question surrounding the debate is whether the Muslim cleric of the mosque — Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf — knew about El-Gamal’s criminal background and unpaid taxes before partnering with him.

El-Gamal refused repeated requests from CBS 2 Monday to comment on the story.

Ron Paul questions whether there's gold at Fort Knox, NY Fed


Grab your merchandise, folks:

Full article:

By Michael O'Brien - 08/30/10 10:21 AM ET

Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) said he plans to introduce legislation next year to force an audit of U.S. holdings of gold.

Paul, a longtime critic of the Federal Reserve and U.S. monetary policy, said he believes it's "a possibility" that there might not actually be any gold in the vaults of Fort Knox or the New York Federal Reserve bank.

The libertarian lawmaker told Kitco News, a website tracking news about precious metals, that an audit was necessary to determine how much the U.S. maintains in gold reserves in case the government were to use gold to back the dollar.

“If there was no question about the gold being there, you think they would be anxious to prove gold is there,” he said.

“Our Federal Reserve admits to nothing, and they should prove all the gold is there. There is a reason to be suspicious and even if you are not suspicious why wouldn’t you have an audit?

“I think it is a possibility," Paul said when asked if there was truth to rumors that there was actually no gold at Ft. Knox or the New York Fed.

Paul had been one of the Republicans to spearhead a broader audit of the Fed as part of the Wall Street reform bill passed through Congress this year. The provision, which was weakened somewhat in the final version, found Paul joining with a number of Democrats to require the Fed to open its books and outline its assets and liabilities.

The gold reserves, which Paul's new bill would audit, are generally seen as a guarantee on a nation's currency, but the U.S. moved the dollar away from being tied to the price of gold in 1972.

Paul stopped short of calling for the reinstitution of the gold standard and instead called for the government to allow the use of hard currency — gold and silver tender — alongside the use of the dollar.

"If people get tired of using the paper standard they can deal in gold or silver,” he said.

Mexico arrests 'drug lord' Edgar Valdez


My question is whether Mexico is perhaps negotiating with another, more powerful competing cartel - how was Mexico able to execute such success so quickly, and to be so certain as to also fire nearly 10% of it's police force just the day before.

Referring to the map of the cartels in Mexico, the cartel associated with the arrest is very small and operates on the border of a territory controlled by of one of the largest and most violent cartels. See map below and new article 'Mexico parades 'The Barbie' drugs suspect'.

Highlights from the article:

"Earlier this month, police found four decapitated bodies hanging from a bridge in the city of Cuernavaca and their heads were discovered nearby with a message warning that anyone supporting Edgar Valdez would risk a similar fate."

"The federal police force in Mexico said on Monday it had sacked almost 10% - some 3,200 - of its officers this year for corruption, incompetence or links to criminals."

Full article:


"...narcotics and security experts warned the blow was likely to have a greater effect on perception than reality.

José Reveles, an authority on Mexico’s cartels, said: “It’s a high-impact blow, but only in terms of media relations. The reality is that you can capture 10 drug traffickers, and 10 more step up to replace them.”

Moreover, Mr Reveles said Mr Valdez’s capture could even spark more violence in the coming weeks as rival cartels try to fill the resulting power vacuum."

Mexico parades 'The Barbie' drugs suspect


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Indexing emotional responses to video

From http://slashdot.org

robotsrule writes:

"Here's a a demonstration video of EmoRate, a software program that uses the Emotiv 14-electrode EEG headset to record your emotions via your facial expressions. In the video you'll see EmoRate record my emotions while I watch a YouTube video, then index that video by emotion, and then navigate that video by simply by remembering a feeling. The web page for EmoRate explains how I used Emotiv's SDK to build the software program, and how I trained the system by watching emotionally evocative videos on YouTube while wearing the headset."

Elliptical outdoor bicycle


Elliptical outdoor bicycle - $2,199.00



Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Quick sketch of the largest Mexican drug cartel -Sinaloa

Map from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-11080584

Excerpts from wiki on Sinaloa Cartel:

Pedro Avilés Pérez was a pioneer drug lord in the Mexican state of Sinaloa in the late 1960s...Second generation Sinaloan traffickers...By 2005, the Beltrán-Leyva brothers, who were formerly aligned with the Sinaloa Cartel, had come to dominate drug trafficking across the border with Arizona. By 2006, the Sinaloa Cartel had eliminated all competition across the 528 km of Arizona border, and it was suspected they had accomplished this by bribing state government officials.

The Sinaloa Cartel has a presence in 17 (Mexican) states...is primarily involved in the smuggling and distribution of Colombian cocaine, Mexican marijuana, methamphetamine and Mexican and Southeast Asian heroin...across the U.S. border to distribution cells in Arizona, California, Texas, Chicago and New York...Atlanta has been used as a major U.S. distribution center and accounting hub, and has brought ruthless violence to that area.

In January 2008 the cartel allegedly split into a number of warring factions, which is a major cause of the epidemic of drug violence Mexico has seen in the last year.[22] Murders by the cartel often involve beheadings or bodies dissolved in vats of acid.[23]

Thursday, August 19, 2010

NOAA official: Roughly three-quarters of spilled oil still in Gulf


"Roughly three-quarters of the oil that spilled into the Gulf of Mexico from BP’s ruptured well is still in the environment, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration official told a House panel Thursday. 

The estimate contrasts previous pronouncements by administration officials that only about a quarter of the oil remains to be addressed."

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Ground Zero Mosque details


- Referred to as Park51, or the Cordoba House

- Sharif El-Gamal, chief executive of SoHo Properties, the developer of the building, CNN Interview: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KNJm4y4BYiE

- Its leader, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who has held services in a small mosque in TriBeCa since 1983

- $100 million center, which would include a 500-seat auditorium and offer a range of programs modeled on the Y.M.C.A. and the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan

- Details on financing from wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cordoba_House

- "On Sept. 11, the landing gear assembly of one of the planes used in the attack crashed through the roof of what was then a Burlington Coat Factory."



Published: July 13, 2010

The Cordoba House was supposed to be a monument to religious tolerance, an homage to the city in Spain where Muslims, Jews, and Christians lived together centuries ago in the midst of religious foment.

If the Landmarks Preservation Commission, above, grants landmark status at the site, the project would come to a halt.

Its 15 stories, home to a Muslim community center and a mosque, would rise two blocks from the pit of dust and cranes where the twin towers once stood, a symbol of the resilience of the American melting pot, its supporters said.

But instead of inspiring mutual respect, the center has opened deep divisions marked by vitriolic commentary, pitting Muslims against Christians, Tea Partiers against staunch liberals, and Sept. 11 families against one another.

And so what began as a gesture of combined good faith by Muslims and non-Muslims has turned into a familiar game of New York City political football.

The bellicose discourse was on full display on Tuesday in an auditorium at Hunter College in Manhattan as the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission considered whether to grant one of the buildings that would be torn down for the project, at 45-47 Park Place, status as a protected landmark. The entire center would occupy 45-51 Park Place.

In a city where the memorial to those killed on Sept. 11 is only now taking shape, it is perhaps not surprising that the idea of a mosque near the ruins of the World Trade Center would stir such passion.

Sally Regenhard, whose 28-year-old son, Christian, a firefighter, died on Sept. 11, said in an interview that the center would amount to “sacrilege on sacred ground.”

“People are being accused of being anti-Muslim and racist, but this is simply a matter of sensitivity,” said Ms. Regenhard, who lives in Yonkers. “It’s hard enough to go down to that pit of hell and death.”

In recent days, politicians have called for an investigation of the group’s finances and expressed concerns about the views of its leader, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who has held services in a small mosque in TriBeCa since 1983. The Internet has featured fury from all sides, and some bloggers have labeled the proposal a sub-rosa effort to spread extremist Islam.

Many Muslim-Americans have been taken aback by the intensity of the reaction, saying it was a sign that discrimination was alive and well nearly nine years after 9/11. But they said the vigorous opposition underscored the need for the $100 million center, which would include a 500-seat auditorium and offer a range of programs modeled on the Y.M.C.A. and the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan.

“There is such an ignorance about Islam,” said Sharif El-Gamal, chief executive of SoHo Properties, the developer of the building. “This is the voice of the moderate Muslim.”

Mr. El-Gamal released a fact sheet on Tuesday playing down the center’s religious connections and calling it an “institution for all of us.” There are also plans to give the building a blander name: Park51.

Though those skeptical of the project consider it an offense to the memory of those killed in the attack, others say its proximity is its strength: a symbol of American religious freedom to counter the extremism that came to the fore on that day.

“I want tolerance, I want inclusion, and there is no better embodiment,” said Valerie Lucznikowska, 71, whose nephew, Adam Arias, died in the Sept. 11 attack. “This is a living city. Ground zero is not a static shrine.”

With a November election approaching, politicians have latched onto the issue as a high-profile platform to attack their opponents.

On Tuesday, Rick A. Lazio, a Republican running for governor, urged the landmarks commission to protect the building, constructed in the late 1850s in the Italian Renaissance palazzo style; this would effectively halt the plans for the Muslim center. The commission expects to vote on the issue in August.

“This is about getting questions answered,” Mr. Lazio told reporters. “This is about transparency. This about the safety of the people of New York.”

“Religion has nothing to do with this,” he added.

Representative Peter T. King, a Republican, joined Mr. Lazio in calling for an investigation into the financing of the project. But Andrew M. Cuomo, Mr. Lazio’s Democratic opponent and the state’s attorney general, has rebuffed those requests.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has strongly endorsed the project, arguing that it is not the role of government to meddle in religious and business affairs.

“Government should never — never — be in the business of telling people how they should pray, or where they can pray,” Mr. Bloomberg said on Monday. “We want to make sure that everybody from around the world feels comfortable coming here, living here and praying the way they want to pray.”

In May, the Lower Manhattan community board also voted to support the center.

The building was once part of a textile district surrounding City Hall.

On Sept. 11, the landing gear assembly of one of the planes used in the attack crashed through the roof of what was then a Burlington Coat Factory.

For Muslim-Americans, the controversy surrounding the center has rekindled worries that life in the United States may continue to be clouded with mistrust. In Staten Island and in Brooklyn, proposals for mosques are facing strong opposition from community members.

Yvonne Haddad, a professor at the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University, said Muslims were facing renewed hostility after enjoying some acceptance in the aftermath of Sept. 11.

“It is a palpable difference,” Ms. Haddad said, attributing the antagonism to the war in Afghanistan, the attempted bombing of Times Square, and the shootings at Fort Hood, Tex.

“Americans have always been open toward religion and prayer and people’s faith as a private space,” Ms. Haddad said. “But building mosques makes a statement that ‘we are here and we are here to stay,’ and some people would like to wish them away.”
A version of this article appeared in print on July 14, 2010, on page A22 of the New York edition.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Hamas nod for Ground Zero mosque - Harry Reid: Build mosque elsewhere


Terror group's leader: 'Have to build it'

By S.A. MILLER in Washington and TOM TOPOUSIS in New York

A leader of the Hamas terror group yesterday jumped into the emotional debate on the plan to construct a mosque near Ground Zero -- insisting Muslims "have to build" it there.

"We have to build everywhere," said Mahmoud al-Zahar, a co-founder of Hamas and the organization's chief on the Gaza Strip.

"In every area we have, [as] Muslim[s], we have to pray, and this mosque is the only site of prayer," he said on "Aaron Klein Investigative Radio" on WABC.


"We have to build the mosque, as you are allowed to build the church and Israelis are building their holy places."
'WE HAVE TO PRAY': Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf (inset) got support from Hamas co-founder Mahmoud al-Zahar (above left, with Gaza political leader Ismail Haniyeh), who spoke on WABC Radio yesterday in favor of Rauf's proposal to build an Islamic center in this downtown location two blocks from Ground Zero.
'WE HAVE TO PRAY': Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf (inset) got support from Hamas co-founder Mahmoud al-Zahar (above left, with Gaza political leader Ismail Haniyeh), who spoke on WABC Radio yesterday in favor of Rauf's proposal to build an Islamic center in this downtown location two blocks from Ground Zero.

Hamas, he added, "is representing the vast majority of the Arabic and Islamic world -- especially the Islamic side."

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who so far has not taken a position on the mosque, dismissed the endorsement.

"Hamas is a terrorist organization, and their views don't deserve any weight on anything," his spokesman said.

Zahar said Muslims around the world, including those who live in this country, are united in a common cause.

"First of all, we have to address that we are different as people, as a nation, totally different," he said.

"We already are living under the tradition of Islam.

"Islam is controlling every source of our life as regard to marriage, divorce, our commercial relationships," Zahar said.

"Even the Islamic people or the Muslims in your country, they are living now in the tradition of Islam. They are fasting; they are praying."

Politicians who previously had lots to say on the matter were not nearly as eager to discuss the latest development.

Despite his outspoken opposition to the building of a mosque so close to Ground Zero, Rep. Peter King (R-LI) said only, "I don't respond to Hamas."

Mayor Bloomberg, a strong supporter of the plan, declined comment through a spokesman.

Feisal Abdul Rauf, the imam behind the proposed mosque, and two other leaders of the plan who previously had commented extensively, were silent yesterday.

They did not respond to The Post's phone calls or e-mails about the Hamas endorsement.

Hamas first came up in the mosque debate earlier this summer when Abdul Rauf refused to describe the group as a terrorist organization -- despite the State Department listing that identifies it as such.

Tom Brown, a chief opponent of the mosque, said: "This is what we've been saying . . . Imam Rauf is a radical Muslim who will not call Hamas a terror group."

A retired firefighter who was a first responder on 9/11, Brown lost 100 of his FDNY friends at the Twin Towers.

"How much evidence do we need that this guy is a radical Muslim?" he asked.

"If Rauf really were a bridge builder and an interfaith guy and all the things he professes to be, he wouldn't be doing this to people."

Abdul Rauf raised eyebrows last week when he departed on a State Department-sponsored goodwill mission to the Middle East, despite concerns that the trip may be helping him with the mosque's $100 million fund-raising goal.

The Obama administration insisted the trip, reportedly with stops in Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain and Qatar, was strictly to improve understanding about Muslim communities in the United States.

But a London-based Arabic-language newspaper that interviewed Abdul Rauf reported that he said he would also collect money from Muslim and Arab nations around the world -- raising the possibility that the American government is helping him build contacts in oil-rich states.


WASHINGTON — The Senate's top Democrat says a mosque should not be built near the site of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada on Monday became the highest profile Democrat to break with President Barack Obama, who on Friday backed the right for the developers to build a mosque near ground zero.

In a statement, Reid said the first amendment protects freedom of religion and he respects that, but the mosque should be built somewhere else.

Critics have said the location of the mosque is insensitive because the terrorists who struck were Islamic extremists.

Reid is in a tight campaign for re-election in Nevada. His opponent, Republican Sharron Angle, earlier in the day called for Reid to say whether he agreed with Obama.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Rupert Murdoch 'to launch US digital newspaper'


News Corp to target young people with paid-for service for iPads and mobile phones, according to report

Rupert Murdoch Rupert Murdoch sees the iPad as a 'game-changer'.

Rupert Murdoch is planning to test his belief in the transformative power of the iPad to bring news to the younger generation by launching a new digital newspaper for America.

The new operation, disclosed by the Los Angeles Times, will be geared specifically to younger readers and to digital outlets such as the iPad and mobile phones. It will pool the huge editorial muscle of Murdoch's combined holdings within News Corporation, which include the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post and the financial wire service Dow Jones, as well as his newspapers in the UK and Australia.

But according to the LA Times, it will publish customised content that will be tailored both to the digital medium and the tastes of the target readership. Stories will be short and snappy, the Times's source said.

As a generalist news outlet, the operation, which has yet to find a name, would take on such rivals as USA Today, the newspaper circulated in hotels and airports across the US, and Murdoch's favourite enemy, the New York Times.

The creation of a custom-built digital product helps make sense of Murdoch's strategy as he struggles to drag his enormous newspaper empire into the digital world. It will sit alongside his radical attempt to build a paywall around his newspapers including the Times and Sunday Times in the UK.

Murdoch sees the iPad as a potential lifesaver in terms of its reach among the young and its ability to attract subscriptions. The Wall Street Journal already charges $4 a week for delivery through the iPad.

Earlier this month, Murdoch said of the iPad: "It's a real game-changer in the presentation of news," adding "We'll have young people reading newspapers."

Eric Alterman, the Nation magazine's media columnist, said the idea of pooling resources across News Corporation and recalibrating them for the iPad was for Murdoch a "no-brainer". "This makes perfect sense. He's got all this content that's of interest to people from different localities across America. It will be like a global New York Post without any of the legacy costs."

But Murdoch biographer and co-founder of the website Newser, Michael Wolff, was less confident that the new venture would work. "Murdoch is a man who has tried over and over again over almost 40 years to create a successful, financially viable newspaper in the US, and he's failed every time," he said.

The LA Times source said that the new operation would be based within the New York Post, though it would have its own newsroom and own staff of reporters and editors. It would fall under the control of the Post managing editor, Jesse Angelo.

No launch date has been set, though it is understood Murdoch is keen to have the project up and running by the end of this year.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Narco-blogger beats Mexico drug war news blackout


An anonymous, twentysomething blogger is giving Mexicans what they can't get elsewhere - an inside view of their country's raging drug war.


Associated Press Writer


An anonymous, twentysomething blogger is giving Mexicans what they can't get elsewhere - an inside view of their country's raging drug war.

Operating from behind a thick curtain of computer security, Blog del Narco in less than six months has become Mexico's go-to Internet site at a time when mainstream media are feeling pressure and threats to stay away from the story.

Many postings, including warnings and a beheading, appear to come directly from drug traffickers. Others depict crime scenes accessible only to military or police.

The undifferentiated content suggests that all sides are using the blog - drug gangs to project their power, law enforcement to show that it too can play rough, and the public to learn about incidents that the mainstream media are forced to ignore or play down.

In at least one case Blog del Narco may have led to a major arrest - of a prison warden after a video posting detailed her alleged system of setting inmates free at night to carry out killings for a drug cartel.

The mysterious blogger hides his identity behind an elaborate cyber-screen. The Associated Press wrote to the blog's e-mail address, and the blogger called back from a disguised phone number. He said he is a student in northern Mexico majoring in computer security, that he launched the blog in March as a "hobby," but it now has grown to hundreds of postings a day and 3 million hits a week.

"People now demand information and if you don't publish it, they complain," he said.

Indeed, President Felipe Calderon has heard complaints that his government is not putting out enough information to allow people to function and stay safe.

"You authorities have placed Mexicans in the middle of a shootout where it's not clear where the bullets are coming from," journalist Hector Aguilar Camin said at a recent forum evaluating the government's strategy for fighting organized crime. "When it comes to information, the Mexican public safety agencies don't even shoot in self-defense."

The violence has killed more then 28,000 people and made Mexico one of the world's most dangerous countries for journalists, which explains why Blog del Narco cloaks itself so heavily in anonymity.

"For the scanty details that they (mass media) put on television, they get grenades thrown at them and their reporters kidnapped," the blogger said. "We publish everything. Imagine what they could do to us."

Among his postings:

- A video of a man being decapitated. While media only reported police finding a beheaded body, the video shows the man confessing to working for drug lord Edgar "La Barbie" Valdez Villareal, who is locked in a fight with both the Beltran Leyva and Sinaloa cartels;

- The prison warden affair, which unfolded in a video of masked members of the Zetas drug gang interrogating a police officer, who reveals that inmates allied with the Sinaloa cartel are given guns and cars and sent off to commit murders. At the end of the video the officer is shot to death;

- Links to Facebook pages of alleged traffickers and their children, weapons, cars and lavish parties;

- Photos of Mexican pop music stars at a birthday party for an alleged drug dealer's teenage daughter in the border state of Coahuila, across from Texas.

"The girl wrote to me and told me, in a threatening way, to take down her photos," the blogger said. "But as long as I don't hear from her father, I won't take them down."

While there are numerous blogs on Mexico's drug war, Blog del Narco seems to be the first used by the traffickers themselves. The blogger said he provides an uncensored platform, posting photographs and videos he receives regardless of content or cartel affiliation.

It can be extremely gory, but his neutrality has helped build his credibility.

"We don't insult them, we don't say one specific group is the bad one," he said. "We don't want problems with them."

Critics say it's free public relations for the cartels.

"Media outlets have social responsibilities and have to serve the public," said Carlos Lauria, of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. "This is being produced by someone who is not doing it from a journalistic perspective. He is doing it without any ethical considerations."

Blog del Narco's first posting concerned a small-town shootout in the border state of Tamaulipas that police wouldn't even confirm happened. The blog aired a resident's YouTube video of the crashed cars and corpses along the highway.

Soon Blog Del Narco was dominating Mexico's drug-war blogosphere.

The blogger maintains a Facebook page and Twitter account that includes CNN en Espanol, all major Mexican media, the FBI and the Mexican Defense Department among its more than 7,300 followers. Rusty Payne, spokesman for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, said "we're very aware of these kinds of things" but wouldn't say whether the DEA uses the information in its investigations.

Blog del Narco has also become a meeting point for people anxious to get information the mainstream media doesn't deliver, such as what streets to avoid during shootouts.

In Nuevo Laredo, where journalists have been attacked, 26-year-old storeowner Claudia Perez says she reads Blog del Narco to know when streets close, but can do without the gore.

"There are times when they do publish useful things, like such or such street is blocked," she said, "but they also put a lot of information about narcos and the ugly things they do."

Blog del Narco is registered with a U.S. company and all its blog-related payments are made with bank deposits, not a credit card, he said.

The blogger said he spends about four hours a day working on the blog and has recruited a friend to help after becoming overwhelmed with submissions.

Many of his videos are sent to him by readers, who know he will get them a much wider airing in Mexico, or are taken from YouTube. He regularly lifts news reports from other media sites without credit. He says mainstream media did the same with his content - until the national Milenio Television network aired the prison warden video and credited Blog del Narco.

Its daily hits went up 30 percent.

Obama stands up for Ground Zero mosque - Harry Reid: Build Mosque Elsewhere


President Barack Obama on Friday endorsed a controversial plan to build a mosque and Islamic center just blocks from Ground Zero in Manhattan, despite the strong objections of conservatives, civic groups and those who lost loved ones in the September 11 attacks.

“Ground Zero is, indeed, hallowed ground,” Obama said at a White House dinner celebrating the Muslim holiday of Ramadan. “But let me be clear: as a citizen, and as president, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country. That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances.”


WASHINGTON — The Senate's top Democrat says a mosque should not be built near the site of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada on Monday became the highest profile Democrat to break with President Barack Obama, who on Friday backed the right for the developers to build a mosque near ground zero.

In a statement, Reid said the first amendment protects freedom of religion and he respects that, but the mosque should be built somewhere else.

Critics have said the location of the mosque is insensitive because the terrorists who struck were Islamic extremists.

Reid is in a tight campaign for re-election in Nevada. His opponent, Republican Sharron Angle, earlier in the day called for Reid to say whether he agreed with Obama.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Scientists find sea sponges share human genes


Mankind may be descended from apes but Australian scientists have found proof of links much closer to the sea floor, with a study revealing that sea sponges share almost 70 percent of human genes.

Genetic sequencing of sea sponges from the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef showed the ancient marine animal shared many of its genes with humans, including a large number typically associated with disease and cancer.

Lead researcher Bernard Degnan, of the University of Queensland, said the findings "would shed light on a whole range of different things," and could lay the foundation for breakthroughs in cancer and stem cell research.

"Sponges have what's (considered) the 'Holy Grail' of stem cells," Degnan told AFP.

Exploring the genetic function of sponge stem cells could provide "deep and important connections" to the genes that influenced human stem cell biology, he said.

"(It) might actually inform the way we think about our own stem cells and how we might be able to use them in future medical applications," he said.

The study -- published in the journal "Nature" this week -- is the result of more than five years of research by an international team of scientists.

It required the extraction of "really pure DNA" from sponge embryos and a complex sequencing exercise, Degnan said.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Regeneration in mammals


Two New Paths to the Dream: Regeneration
Published: August 5, 2010

Animals like newts and zebra fish can regenerate limbs, fins, even part of the heart. If only people could do the same, amputees might grow new limbs and stricken hearts be coaxed to repair themselves.

But humans have very little regenerative capacity, probably because of an evolutionary trade-off: suppressing cell growth reduced the risk of cancer, enabling humans to live longer. A person can renew his liver to some extent, and regrow a fingertip while very young, but not much more.

In the first of the two new approaches, a research group at Stanford University led by Helen M. Blau, Jason H. Pomerantz and Kostandin V. Pajcini has taken a possible first step toward unlocking the human ability to regenerate. By inactivating two genes that work to suppress tumors, they got mouse muscle cells to revert to a younger state, start dividing and help repair tissue.

What is true of mice is often true of humans, and although scientists are a long way from being able to cause limbs to regenerate, the research is attracting attention. Jeremy Brockes, a leading expert on regeneration at University College London, said the report was “an excellent paper.” Though there is a lot still to learn about the process, “it is hard to imagine that it will not be informative for regenerative medicine in the future,” he said.

In recent years, most research in the field of regenerative medicine has focused on the hope that stem cells, immature cells that give rise to any specific type of cell needed in the body, can somehow be trained to behave as normal adult cells do. Nature’s method of regeneration is quite different in that it starts with the adult cells at the site of a wound and converts the cells to a stemlike state in which they can grow and divide.

The Stanford team has taken a step toward mimicking the natural process. “What I like is that it’s built on what’s happening in nature,” Dr. Blau said. “We mammals lost this regenerative capacity in order to have better tumor suppression, but if we reawaken it in a careful way we could make use of it in a clinical setting.”

Dr. Pomerantz, a clinician, hopes the technique can be applied to people, though many more animal experiments need to be done first. “We have shown we can recapitulate in mammalian cells behavior of lower vertebrate cells that is required for regeneration,” he said. “We would propose using it in amputations of a limb or part of a limb or in cardiac muscle.” After a heart attack, the muscle cells do not regenerate, so any method of making them do so would be a possible treatment.

Interfering with tumor suppressor genes is a dangerous game, but Dr. Pomerantz said the genes could be inhibited for just a short period by applying the right dose of drug. When the drug has dissipated, the antitumor function of the gene would be restored.

Finding the right combination of genes to suppress was a critical step in the new research. One of the two tumor suppressor genes is an ancient gene, known as Rb, which is naturally inactivated in newts and fish when they start regenerating tissue. Mammals possess both the Rb gene and a backup, called the Arf gene, which will close down a cancer-prone cell if Rb fails to do so.

The Stanford team found that newts did not have the Arf backup gene, which mammals must have acquired after their lineage diverged from that of amphibians. This suggests that the backup system “evolved at the expense of regeneration,” the Stanford researchers say in Friday’s issue of Cell Stem Cell.

The Stanford team shut off both Rb and Arf with a chemical called silencing-RNA and found the mouse muscle cells started dividing. When injected into a mouse’s leg, the cells fused into the existing muscle fibers, just as they are meant to.

The Stanford researchers have learned how to block two genes thought to inhibit the natural regenerative capacity of cells, but it is somewhat surprising that the regenerative mechanism should still exist at all if mammals have been unable to use it for 200 million years. “One school of thought is that regeneration is a default mechanism and doesn’t require its own program,” Dr. Pomerantz said.

Dr. Brockes believes that this is true in part. Regeneration “depends on a largely conserved cellular machinery,” he said, meaning that it is present in all animals. The machinery comes into play in wound healing and tissue maintenance. But specific instances of regeneration, like regrowing a whole limb, are invoked by genes specific to various species. He has found a protein specific to salamanders that coordinates regrowth of a salamander limb.

If the regeneration of a whole limb is a special ability that salamanders have evolved, then humans would not have any inherent ability to do the same. “I would beware of suggesting that this sort of manipulation is capable of unlocking ‘the newt within,’ ” Dr. Brockes said.

A second, quite different approach to regenerating a tissue is reported in Friday’s issue of Cell by Deepak Srivastava and colleagues at the University of California, San Francisco. Working also in the mouse, they have developed a way of reprogramming the ordinary tissue cells of the heart into heart muscle cells, the type that is irretrievably lost in a heart attack.

The Japanese scientist Shinya Yamanaka showed three years ago that skin cells could be converted to embryonic stem cells simply by adding four proteins known to regulate genes. Inspired by Dr. Yamanaka’s method, Dr. Srivastava and his colleagues selected 14 such proteins and eventually found that with only three of them they could convert heart fibroblast cells into heart muscle cells.

To make clinical use of the discovery, Dr. Srivastava said he would need first to duplicate the process with human cells, and then develop three drugs that could substitute for the three proteins used in the conversion process. The drugs could be loaded into a stent, a small tube used in coronary bypass operations. With the stent inserted into a heart artery, the drugs would convert some of the heart’s tissue cells into heart muscle cells.

Some researchers hope that with Dr. Yamanaka’s method of turning skin cells into embryonic stem cells, those stem cells can be converted into usable heart muscle cells. One problem with this approach is that any unconverted embryonic stem cells may form tumors. Dr. Srivastava’s method sidesteps this problem by avoiding the stem cell stage.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Images of Insects & Spiders under an Electron Microscope


Medical Marijuana Sold at Discount Rate to DC's Poor


In DC, No Such Thing as Too Poor For Medical Pot

Updated: Thursday, 05 Aug 2010, 5:47 AM EDT
Published : Thursday, 05 Aug 2010, 5:47 AM EDT

WASHINGTON - There should be no such thing as too poor to buy pot if you live in D.C., at least if the marijuana is for a medical condition.

That's part of the conclusion of a new law enacted in the nation's capital earlier this year. The medical marijuana law allows people to legally obtain the drug for medical reasons. But the law also includes a provision different from the 14 other states with medical marijuana laws, requiring the drug to be provided at a discount to poor residents. Who will get the reduced-price marijuana and how much it will cost, however, is still being worked out.

City officials say they plan to publish their first draft of regulations implementing the law on Friday. Patients aren't expected to be able to purchase medical marijuana in the city until 2011.

Amazing Lego ‘CubeDudes’ by PIXAR Animator Angus MacLane




Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Bradley Cooper looks a lot like Zeppo Marx


So, I guess it's Hannibal, Murdoch, B.A., and Zeppo after my revelation at the dollar theater.

Zeppo Marx:





Bradley Cooper:



Mind-Controlled Artificial Arm Begins the First Human Testing


by Drew Halley

The MPL will be hard-wired directly into the brain.

The world’s first human testing of a mind-controlled artificial limb is ready to begin. A joint project between the Pentagon and Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), the Modular Prosthetic Limb will be fully controlled by sensors implanted in the brain, and will even restore the sense of touch by sending electrical impulses from the limb back to the sensory cortex. Last month APL announced it was awarded a $34.5 million contract with DARPA, which will allow researchers to test the neural prosthesis in five individuals over the next two years.

We’ve been reporting on major advances in artificial limbs for a while now, but this is the holy grail of prosthetic technology. Phase III testing – human subjects testing – will be used to tweak the system, both improving neural control over the limb and optimizing the algorithms which generate sensory feedback. The Modular Prosthetic Limb (MPL) is the product of years of prototype design – it includes 22 degrees of motion, allows independent control of all five fingers, and weighs the same as a natural human arm (about nine pounds). Patients will control the MPL with a surgically implanted microarray which records action potentials directly from the motor cortex.

Researchers plan to install the first system into a quadriplegic patient; while amputees can be outfitted with traditional prostheses, the MPL will be the first artificial limb that can sidestep spinal cord injury by plugging directly into the brain. This isn’t the first brain-controlled interface to be used in humans – we’ve previously reported on Braingate, a system that uses brain impulses to control computer cursors and restore communication to locked-in patients. But the MPL will offer the first hard-wired neural control of bionic body parts, whether lost to injury or neurodegenerative disease.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is the one of more conceptually adventurous R&D agencies run through the Department of Defense. The brain-interface MPL is the most cutting-edge project – in fact, the original purpose – of their larger Revolutionizing Prosthetics program, which aims to improve prosthetic technology to treat veterans who have lost limbs in combat. DARPA often collaborates with (i.e. funds) university research teams and companies whose expertise can speed research along.

Such was the case with the Deka Luke Arm, a competing prosthesis technology which we covered last year. Deka, which is owned and run by Segway inventor Dean Kamen, was awarded $18 million by DARPA as part of the Revolutionizing Prosthetics program. The result is the Luke Arm, a prosthesis with 18 degrees of freedom that can be controlled in several ways. Generally, the prosthesis is hooked up to both pads under the feet (kind of like a remote joystick) as well as shoulder sensors. The Luke Arm has also been wired into patients’ remaining chest nerves, using a technique called targeted muscle reinnervation. This technique allows something comparable to the MPL (users’ thoughts control their own nerves, wired to the prosthesis). The Smart Hand (which we covered last year) was developed by EU researchers and uses a similar prosthesis-to-nerve connection.

The Luke Arm is an impressive leap forward for prosthetic technology, offering precise movement as well as pressure control – plus it’s already in clinical trials. But if the MPL can deliver on its promise of a cleanly-controlled prosthesis that is wired directly to the brain, it will most likely become the gold standard of artificial limbs. What remains to be seen is how well the brain sensors can translate a patient’s intentions into smooth, functional movements of the arm (and whether they can do better than muscle reinnervation). The agency is working to improve the precision of neural recordings, as well as boost the maximum number of impulses that can be recorded per second. Improving these spatial and temporal recordings will help to match the MPL’s movements to the patient’s intentions.

The biggest problem with neural interfaces is their short lifespan. Over time, silicon chips embedded in wet tissue begin to break down within the body, and need to be replaced within about two years. Earlier this year, DARPA announced a program called Histology for Interface Stability Over Time; the goal is to pinpoint how and why neural implants fail, and ultimately to boost their lifespan to 70 years. Without more permanent neural arrays, patients would need to undergo replacement surgery multiple times over their lifespan.

While the research is primarily a joint venture between Johns Hopkins and DARPA, the project will tap multiple institutions for varying forms of expertise. The University of Pittsburgh (who have already implanted monkeys with sensors to control robot arms) and CalTech will help with brain-computer interface design. The University of Chicago will aid the project with restoring sensory input, which will be an integral part of the MPL. The University of Utah will provide experience with the actual brain sensors to be implanted, and HDT Engineered Technologies will bring their skill in prosthetic technology to the project.

The program has some serious hurdles to overcome, and undoubtedly more technical obstacles will present themselves as trials begin. That being said, this is the most exciting project in prosthetic science to date. A fully integrated artificial limb would mark a new milestone in bionic technology: wiring external devices safely and directly into the nervous system. No more remotely controlled sensors, no more muscular myosensors… instead, a direct line from thought to action, and sensory experience restored to the brain.

We’ll be keeping a close eye on the MPL as new information emerges on Phase III trials. And until we can show you its neural integration, check out the MPL working remotely:

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Attempt to block 'Ground Zero mosque' fails


Site of proposed cultural centre and mosque The site is a disused coat factory.

An attempt to stop a plan for a mosque near New York's Ground Zero has failed after the site was denied landmark status.

The scheme for a 13-storey Islamic cultural centre and mosque several hundred feet away from the site of the Twin Towers has drawn criticism.

Opponents had hoped the Landmarks Preservation Commission would protect the building.

Some relatives of 9/11 victims are against the building of a mosque.

Sarah Palin and other prominent Republicans have attacked the mosque plan, but New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said Muslim religious freedom must be respected.
Continue reading the main story
“Start Quote

To build a mosque at Ground Zero is a stab in the heart of the families of the innocent victims of those horrific attacks”

End Quote Sarah Palin

* Battle over mosque site

The commission's vote was on the architectural merits of the disused coat factory that is to be redeveloped.

But it was always thought unlikely that it would be declared a landmark.

The backers of the Cordoba House cultural centre believe it will become a symbol of good inter-faith relations.

But the opponents say it is tasteless to have a mosque so near to a site where Islamist extremists killed thousands.

Former US House of Representatives speaker Newt Gingrich dubbed it an "act of triumphalism".

Former Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin wrote that "to build a mosque at Ground Zero is a stab in the heart of the families of the innocent victims of those horrific attacks".

The building is already being used as an impromptu mosque.

Mexican Drug Cartel Allegedly Puts a Price on Arizona Sheriff's Head


$1M offered for Arpaio, $1K to join cartel

PHOENIX - He's been at the center of the discussions and controversies surrounding illegal immigration enforcement in Arizona for quite a while.

On the day parts of Arizona's immigration law, SB 1070, went into effect, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is in the news for another reason: there's a price on his head - allegedly offered by a Mexican drug cartel.

The audio message in Spanish is a bit garbled, but the text is clear.

It's offering $1 million for Sheriff Joe Arpaio's head and $10,000 for anyone who wants to join the Mexican cartel.

A man who wants to remain anonymous says his wife received the text message Tuesday evening. It also included an international phone number and instructions to pass the message along.

"She showed it to me..I was kind of disgusted..I reported it to the Sheriff's department yesterday..they said they were going to direct the threat squad on it."

Lisa Allen of the Sheriff's office says they believe the message originated in Mexico.

Although the Sheriff has received numerous death threats in the past, they believe this threat is credible because of its timing.

"Arpaio gets threats pretty routinely, but obviously with this heightened awareness of his role in the immigration issue we've got to take this one a little bit more seriously with a million dollar contract out on him," said Allen.

But she says what really concerns investigators is how quickly the message may have been spread. "It's going so many different places that our folks are looking at it and thinking well at any given point in time it could land in front of some crazy person who thinks I can do that."

As for Arpaio's reaction to the threat, "It's a little bit like water off a duck's back for him, but you never know if it's that sense of false bravado with him..you just can't read it, I'm sure he's concerned, I'm sure he's concerned for his family more than anything else," said Allen.

The Sheriff's office says investigators are trying to trace exactly where the text message came from, but because it did originate from an international number, that will be difficult too.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

70 Gigapixel Panorama of Budapest