Sunday, February 20, 2011

Libyan forces once again fire on mourners at funeral.

     (Yahoo) CAIRO – Libyan forces fired machine-guns at thousands of mourners marching in a funeral for anti-government protesters in the eastern city of Benghazi Sunday, a day after commandos and foreign mercenaries loyal to longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi attacked demonstrators with assault rifles and other heavy weapons.

     A doctor at one Benghazi hospital where many of the casualties are being taken said 20 people were killed Sunday. U.S.-based Human Rights Watch said 173 people died — mostly in Benghazi — in three days of unrest from Thursday through Saturday. A Switzerland-based Libyan activist said 11 people were killed in the city of Beyida on Wednesday. The latest numbers brought the toll to at least 204 since Wednesday, although a precise count has been difficult because of Libya's tight restrictions on reporting.

     The crackdown in oil-rich Libya is shaping up to be the most brutal repression of anti-government protests that began with uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. The protests spread quickly around the region to Bahrain in the Gulf, impoverished Yemen in the Arabian Peninsula, the North African neighbors of Tunisia — Libya, Algeria, Morocco — and outside the Middle East to places including the East African nation of Djibouti and even China.

     Gadhafi has been trying to bring his country out of isolation, announcing in 2003 that he was abandoning his program for weapons of mass destruction, renouncing terrorism and compensating victims of the 1986 La Belle disco bombing in Berlin and the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland.
Those decisions opened the door for warmer relations with the West and the lifting of U.N. and U.S. sanctions. But Gadhafi continues to face allegations of human rights violations in his North African nation. Gadhafi has his own vast oil wealth and his response is less constrained by close alliances with the West than Egypt and Bahrain, which are both important U.S. allies.

     Because of the media blackout, information about the uprising has come through telephone interviews, along with videos and messages posted online, and through opposition activists in exile. The blackout has made it difficult to confirm the tolls of dead and wounded.

     Britain has called reports of the use of snipers and heavy weapons against demonstrators in Libya "clearly unacceptable and horrifying," and criticized restrictions on media access.
Libya's rebellion by those frustrated with Gadhafi's more than 40 years of authoritarian rule has spread to more than a half-dozen cities. Benghazi, Libya's second-largest city with some 1 million people, has been at the center of unrest

     Jamal Eddin Mohammed, a 53-year old resident of Benghazi, said thousands marched Sunday toward the city's cemetery to bury at least a dozen protesters. They feared more clashes with the government when they passed by Gadhafi's residential palace and the regime's local security headquarters.

     "Everything is behind that (Gadhafi) compound; hidden behind wall after wall. The doors open and close and soldiers and tanks just come out, always as a surprise, and mostly after dark," he told The Associated Press by telephone.

     A man shot in the leg Sunday said marchers were carrying coffins to a cemetery and were passing by the compound when security forces fired in the air and then opened up on the crowd.
The doctor at one of three Benghazi hospitals who put Sunday's death toll at 20, said his facility is out of supplies and cannot treat more than 70 wounded. He spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal. He said his hospital treats most of the emergency cases in the city.
     The latest violence in Benghazi followed the same pattern as the crackdown on Saturday, when witnesses said forces loyal to Gadhafi attacked mourners at a funeral for anti-government protesters. They were burying 35 marchers who were slain Friday by government forces.
The doctor at a Benghazi hospital said at least one person was killed by gunshots during the funeral march, and 14 were injured, including five in serious condition. He spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal, as did several other witnesses in Libya. He said some of the latest casualties were hit by machine gun fire.
     On Saturday, witnesses told The Associated Press a mix of special commandos, foreign mercenaries and Gadhafi loyalists assaulted demonstrators in Benghazi with knives, assault rifles and other heavy weapons.
On Sunday, defiant mourners chanted: "The people demand the removal of the regime," which became a mantra for protesters in Egypt and Tunisia.

     In a Saturday report, the official Libyan news agency said authorities have arrested "dozens of foreign elements trained to strike at Libya's stability and security." It said an investigation already was under way. It also said authorities were not ruling out that those elements were connected to what it called an Israeli plot to destabilize countries in North Africa, including Libya, as well as Lebanon and Iran.
Hatred of Gadhafi's rule has grown in Benghazi in the past two decades. Anger has focused on the shooting deaths of about 1,200 inmates — most of them political prisoners — during prison riots in 1996.
A similar scenario took place in other eastern cities, including Beyda, which once housed Libya's parliament before Gadhafi's 1969 military coup toppled the monarchy.
     Protests spread to the outskirts of the southern city of Zentan and west to Mesrata, Libya's third-largest city.  However, the capital Tripoli, a city of some 2 million people, remained a stronghold of Gadhafi support, with security forces swiftly curbing small protests that erupted in the outskirts. Secret police were heavily deployed on the streets, as residents kept their opinions and emotions secret.
Residents on Saturday reported receiving short messages on their mobile phones warning about taking any action against Gadhafi, national security and the oil industry, which are among "red lines" in Libya that must not be crossed.
     The U.S.-based Arbor Networks reported another Internet service outage in Libya just before midnight Saturday night. The company says online traffic ceased in Libya about 2 a.m. Saturday, was restored at reduced levels several hours later, only to be cut off again that night.
     People in Libya also said they can no longer make international telephone calls on their land lines.
Abdullah said smaller protests were staged Saturday night on the outskirts of the capital Tripoli, a stronghold of support for Gadhafi, but demonstrators were quickly dispersed by security men. Besides Tripoli and Benghazi, the U.S. State Department in a travel warning to American citizens listed five other cities that have seen demonstrations.
     Supporters of the Libyan uprising also demonstrated in Switzerland and in Washington on Saturday, waving flags and burning Gadhafi's photo.  In Egypt, exiled Libyans and members of the country's Press Syndicate have sent urgent medical supplies to Libya. Ayman Shawki, a lawyer in the Egyptian border town of Matrouh, said members of the powerful Awllad Ali tribe whose members live in the border area have volunteered to move the supplies to Libya.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Schools using GPS to track kids that play hookey.

     Skipping class, while frowned upon, is basically a rite of passage for young teens, but thanks to an elaborate system involving GPS being used by some school districts, the truancy numbers have reduced dramatically.

     The Orange County Register reports that the Anaheim Union High School District in California is currently participating in a pilot program which involves using a combination of Global Positioning System technology, automated telephone reminders, and one-on-one coaching to cut down on truancy. It's similar to programs being used in Baltimore and San Antonio.
     Basically any students in the middle school who have four or more unexcused absences throughout the course of a school year can be put into the Anaheim program. They will be assigned a GPS tracking device roughly the size of a cell phone, and they're required to have it on during the school week. One newspaper reported:  Each morning on schooldays, the students get an automated phone call reminding them that they must to get to school on time.  Also, five times a day they are required to enter a code that tracks their locations – as they leave for school, when they arrive at school, at lunchtime, when they leave school and at 8 p.m.  The students are also assigned an adult coach who calls them at least three times a week to see how they are doing and help them find effective ways to make sure they get to class on time.

     It's worth noting that while this anti-truancy program is very elaborate and almost invasive of the students privacy, it is completely optional. Students and their parents are offered the chance to voluntarily participate in the "monitoring as a way to avoid continuation school or prosecution with a potential stay in juvenile hall."

     In addition, parents would also be avoiding the $2,000 fine that can come from turning a blind eye to truancy if a school district chooses to pursue the issue.  Neither students nor parents have to worry about any costs when it comes to participating in the program as the expenses are covered by a state grant.

     The GPS devices cost $300-$400 each. Overall, the six-week program costs about $8 per day for each student, or $18,000.  Because schools lose about $35 per day for each absent student, the program ends up paying for itself and then some if students return to class consistently.  So far the program has been a success.  Where the GPS technology has been implemented, average attendance among the chronically truant jumped from 77 percent up to 95 percent during the six-week program.  Of course, attendance rates dip a bit as soon as students stop participating in the monitoring program.  But according to Miller Sylvan, regional director for AIM Truancy Solutions, the company that makes the truancy system, at least many of the kids "learn new habits that help them."

Thursday, February 17, 2011

CEO of Apple rumored to have less than 2 months to live.

     CEO and founder of Apple Inc. Steve Jobs announced to his company in mid 2004 that he had a fairly passive form of pancreatic cancer named islet cell neuroendocrine tumor.  There's been quite a bit of buzz that recently his condition has taken a turn for the worse, with many sources claiming he won't make it more than 2 months.  While nothing is necessarily concrete, looking at photos of him from 2008 compared to photos from 2010 show distinct weight loss and a clearly weakened physical state.

Baghdad wants the U.S. to pay 1 BILLION dollars for city damages.

     Iraq's capital wants the United States to apologize and pay $1 billion for the damage done to the city not by bombs, but by blast walls and Humvees since the invasion by the U.S. that eliminated Saddam Hussein's reign over the region.

     The city's government issued its demands in a statement on Wednesday that said Baghdad's infrastructure and aesthetics have been seriously damaged by the American military.

     "The U.S. forces changed this beautiful city to a camp in an ugly and destructive way, which reflected deliberate ignorance and carelessness about the simplest forms of public taste," the statement said.

     "Due to the huge damage, leading to a loss the Baghdad municipality cannot afford...we demand the American side apologize to Baghdad's people and pay back these expenses."

     The statement made no mention of damage caused by bombing.

     Baghdad's neighborhoods have been sealed off by miles of concrete blast walls, transforming the city into a haphazard maze that contributes to massive traffic jams. Despite a sharp reduction in overall violence in recent years only 5 percent of the walls have been removed, officials said.

     The heavy blast walls have damaged sewer and water systems, pavement and parks, said Hakeem Abdul Zahra, the city spokesman.

     U.S. military Humvees, driven recklessly on street medians and through gardens, have also caused major damage, he claimed.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Global tension subsides.

     PYONGYANG, North Korea, Dec. 21 (UPI) -- North Korea has retracted its threat to forcefully retaliate in response to a South Korean war drill that used live ammunition on an island shelled by North Korean artillery last month.

     Ahead of the exercise, the North Korean official news agency KCNA reported the "intensity and scope" of its retaliation would be much worse if Seoul went ahead with its one-day live-fire drills on Yeonpyeong Island. The threat heightened malaise across the Korean Peninsula and may have put even more pressure on China to rein in its client state. But once the drill took place, North Korea climbed down from its threat, saying South Korea's drill were "not worth" a response.
     "The revolutionary armed forces of the [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] did not feel any need to retaliate against every despicable military provocation," the agency said, quoting a communique from the North's Korean People's Army Supreme Command that referred to the drills as "childish play with fire."

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Miley Cyrus, the next Britney?

     After being caught taking hits from a bong to celebrate her 18th birthday, Miley Cyrus is reportedly telling her friends that it’s no big deal.

     Posing for a video camera and getting a case of the giggles, Miley was filmed by friends at what appeared to be a "high school" party smoking salvia, a psychedelic drug more intense than marijuana.  Initially her camp tried to bury the video, offering a new MacBook Pro to a student who had a copy of the now infamous video clip.

     However, after a blasting from her father, Billy Ray Cyrus on twitter and a visit from her mother on set in New Orleans, friends of the singer insist, “Miley doesn’t care.  She’s filming her movie and getting on with her life".

     Anna Oliver, the girl who posted Miley's video online hopes to do the same, she had to delete her Twitter account after receiving threats when her identity was revealed.

     While I get that teenagers are going to experiment a little, I don’t understand why Miley insists on proving to the world that she really ‘Can’t Be Tamed’ on film.

     The video was promptly removed from Youtube but can still be found on forums and other media outlets.

Assange granted bail.

     The WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, was given bail today after the high court in London rejected an appeal against it by British prosecutors acting on behalf of Sweden. He is wanted in Sweden for questioning over rape allegations.