Xenophilia (True Strange Stuff)

Blog of the real Xenophilius Lovegood, a slightly mad scientist

Archive for December 23rd, 2010

Qur’an etched in Saddam Hussein’s blood poses dilemma for Iraq leaders

Posted by Anonymous on December 23, 2010

Baghdad Mosque Houses Saddam's Blood KoranIt was etched in the blood of a dictator in a ghoulish bid for piety. Over the course of two painstaking years in the late 1990s, Saddam Hussein had sat regularly with a nurse and an Islamic calligrapher; the former drawing 27 litres of his blood and the latter using it as a macabre ink to transcribe a Qur’an. But since the fall of Baghdad, almost eight years ago, it has stayed largely out of sight – locked away behind three vaulted doors. It is the one part of the ousted tyrant’s legacy that Iraq has simply not known what to do with. …

The vault in the vast mosque in Baghdad has remained locked for the past three years, keeping the 114 chapters of the Muslim holy book out of sight – and mind – while those who run Iraq have painstakingly processed the other cultural remnants of 30 years of Saddam and the Ba’ath party.

“What is in here is priceless, worth absolutely millions of dollars,” said Sheikh Ahmed al-Samarrai, head of Iraq’s Sunni Endowment fund, standing near the towering minarets of the west Baghdad mosque that Saddam named “the Mother of All Battles”. Behind him is the infamous Blood Qur’an, written in Saddam’s own blood. …

“It was wrong to do what he did, to write it in blood,” says Sheikh Samarrai. “It is haraam [forbidden].”

Despite this, Sammarie says he acted as the document’s protector during the mayhem that followed the US-led invasion in 2003, hiding pages in his house and moving others among the homes of his relatives.

“I knew this would be much sought after and we made the decision to protect it. But to see this now is not easy. There are three keys and none of them are held in the one place. I have one, the police chief in the area has another and there is a third in another part of Baghdad. There has to be a decision of a committee to let you in.”

via Qur’an etched in Saddam Hussein’s blood poses dilemma for Iraq leaders | World news | The Guardian.

Posted in Politics, Religion, Strange | Leave a Comment »

Google’s own office blurred out on Street View

Posted by Anonymous on December 23, 2010

Sometimes, even those companies that are supposedly open turn out to operate under a cloud of deep, dark secrecy.

Google, it turns out, has become one of those–at least in Germany, and not of its own volition.

I am indebted to loyal reader Ingo Klein, who directed me to the news that Google’s office at Dienerstrasse 12 in Munich seems to have enjoyed the attentions of the “German Street View Shroud.”

Should you, yourself, have been operating in the clouds lately, you may be unaware of Germany’s slight discomfort with Street View.

Almost 3 percent of German property owners decided that they would prefer their buildings to be objects of mystery rather than desire. So they have requested that their buildings be blurred out on the mapping service.

And so it has passed that Google’s own Munich office, which happens to be in a building that contains other, perhaps more privacy-conscious tenants, is blurred out on Google’s own revolutionary visual recording of the world.

According to CenterNetworks.com, one of the tenants did, indeed, request that the building be blurred.

via Google’s own office blurred out on Street View | Technically Incorrect – CNET News.

Posted in Technology | Leave a Comment »

Samuel Sevian, 9, Becomes Youngest US Chess Master

Posted by Anonymous on December 23, 2010

Shown during a October 2010 match, Samuel Sevian has become the youngest American to earn the title of 'national master' in chess. Sevian, a 9-year-old boy from Santa Clara, California, earned the United States Chess Federation title at a match in San Francisco on Dec. 11, the federation's website says. (Courtesy Armen Sevian)A 9-year-old California boy has become the youngest American to earn the title of “national master” in chess.

Samuel Sevian of Santa Clara earned the United States Chess Federation title at a match in San Francisco on Dec. 11, the federation’s website says. He earned a rating of 2,201, just over the threshold of 2,200 to become a “national master.””It feels good,” Samuel, a fourth-grader at Don Callejon School, told the San Jose Mercury News.

He moved up from chess “expert,” a title he got at age 8, by besting the previous record holder, Nicholas Nip of San Francisco. Samuel beat Nicholas to the record by 11 days.

Samuel, who turns 10 Sunday, has been playing since he was 5. “I like the tactics and the combinations,” he said.

Samuel plays chess with his father, Armen Sevian, 37, also an avid chess player at the “expert” level. The family is from Armenia, where chess players are held in high esteem.

“In Armenia, chess is very big,” Armen Sevian told the Mercury News. “It’s certainly not a geek sport. Chess players are compared to rock stars.”

Each day, Samuel spends at least two hours studying chess moves in books, playing chess with his father and practicing, via Skype, with his coach in Los Angeles. …

via Samuel Sevian, 9, Becomes Youngest US Chess Master.

Posted in Mind, Sports | Leave a Comment »

Ancient humans, dubbed ‘Denisovans’, interbred with us

Posted by Anonymous on December 23, 2010

Denisovan toothDNA from a tooth (pictured) and a finger bone show the Denisovans were a distinct group

Scientists say an entirely separate type of human identified from bones in Siberia co-existed and interbred with our own species.

The ancient humans have been dubbed Denisovans after the caves in Siberia where their remains were found.

There is also evidence that this group was widespread in Eurasia.

A study in Nature journal shows that Denisovans co-existed with Neanderthals and interbred with our species – perhaps around 50,000 years ago.Infographic

An international group of researchers sequenced a complete genome from one of the ancient hominins (human-like creatures), based on nuclear DNA extracted from a finger bone. …

According to the researchers, this provides confirmation there were at least four distinct types of human in existence when anatomically modern humans (Homo sapiens sapiens) first left their African homeland. …

No one knows when or how these humans disappeared but, according to Professor Paabo, it is very likely something to do with modern people because all the “archaic” humans, like Denisovans and Neanderthals disappeared sometime after Homo sapiens sapiens appeared on the scene. …

via BBC News – Ancient humans, dubbed ‘Denisovans’, interbred with us.

We probably ate them too… just like we ate those Neandersteaks.

Posted in Archaeology | 1 Comment »

The man who repeatedly beats the weather scientists

Posted by Anonymous on December 23, 2010

Piers Corbyn not only predicted the current weather, but he believes things are going to get much worse …

Piers Corbyn works in an undistinguished office in Borough High Street. He has no telescope or supercomputer. Armed only with a laptop, huge quantities of publicly available data and a first-class degree in astrophysics, he gets it right again and again.

Back in November, when the Met Office was still doing its “mild winter” schtick, Corbyn said it would be the coldest for 100 years. Indeed, it was back in May that he first predicted a snowy December, and he put his own money on a white Christmas about a month before the Met Office made any such forecast. He said that the Met Office would be wrong about last year’s mythical “barbecue summer”, and he was vindicated. He was closer to the truth about last winter, too.

He seems to get it right about 85 per cent of the time and serious business people – notably in farming – are starting to invest in his forecasts. In the eyes of many punters, he puts the taxpayer-funded Met Office to shame. How on earth does he do it? He studies the Sun.

He looks at the flow of particles from the Sun, and how they interact with the upper atmosphere, especially air currents such as the jet stream, and he looks at how the Moon and other factors influence those streaming particles.

He takes a snapshot of what the Sun is doing at any given moment, and then he looks back at the record to see when it last did something similar. Then he checks what the weather was like on Earth at the time – and he makes a prophecy.  … Of course he may be just a fluke-artist. It may be just luck that he has apparently predicted recent weather patterns more accurately than government-sponsored scientists. Nothing he says, to my mind, disproves the view of the overwhelming majority of scientists, that our species is putting so much extra CO2 into the atmosphere that we must expect global warming. The question is whether anthropogenic global warming is the exclusive or dominant fact that determines our climate, or whether Corbyn is also right to insist on the role of the Sun. Is it possible that everything we do is dwarfed by the moods of the star that gives life to the world? …

via The man who repeatedly beats the Met Office at its own game – Telegraph.

Posted in Earth | Leave a Comment »

Nanotechnology Christmas card created by university

Posted by Anonymous on December 23, 2010

Nanotechnology Christmas card created by universityNanotechnology experts have unveiled a Christmas card so small that more than 8000 of them could fit on a first-class stamp.

The card produced by the University of Glasgow, said to be the smallest in the world, is invisible to the naked eye.

The university’s school of engineering drew up the design to highlight its “world-leading” nanotechnology expertise.

Professor David Cumming and Dr Qin Chen etched the Christmas tree image on to a minute piece of glass.

Professor Cumming said: “Our nanotechnology is among the best in the world but sometimes explaining to the public what the technology is capable of can be a bit tricky.

“We decided that producing this Christmas card was a simple way to show just how accurate our technology is.

“The process to manufacture the card only took 30 minutes. It was very straightforward to produce as the process is highly repeatable – the design of the card took far longer than the production.

“The card is 200 micro-metres wide by 290 micro-metres tall. To put that into some sort of perspective, a micro-metre is a millionth of a metre; the width of a human hair is about 100 micro-metres.

“You could fit over half a million of them on to a standard A5 Christmas card …

via Nanotechnology Christmas card created by university | Scotland | STV News.

Posted in Technology | Leave a Comment »

12 new fresh-water fish species discovered in Vietnam

Posted by Anonymous on December 23, 2010

The Wildlife at Risk (WAR) has announced the discovery of 12 species of fresh-water fish in Vietnam.

These new species were discovered in surveys in Phu Quoc Island conducted since late 2008.

“The discovery reveals that perhaps many species of fresh-water fish have not been discovered yet. The discovery also helps research the change of the fish community to have appropriate preservation strategies,” said WAR’s official Bui Huu Manh.

The latest report of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) shows that fresh-water fish species play very significant role in balancing the ecological system and being the sources of food and means of support for millions of people in the world.

However, in many countries in the world, the quantity of many species of fresh-water fish of low economic values is reducing due to pollution of their living environment.

via 12 new fresh-water fish species discovered in Vietnam.

Posted in Biology | Leave a Comment »

iPhone Fix: “Cannot Get Mail – The connection to the server failed” with Exchange Activesync

Posted by Anonymous on December 23, 2010

It seems AT&T has to have your iPhone on the Microsoft Push (aka Enterprise Data) plan.

If you purchased an Unlimited data plan and your iPhone stops working, check that they didn’t slyly switch you to a different smaller data plan. You should be grandfathered in… at the same price. I may have to still argue with them about that. I think mine was $30 for unlimited, a few years ago.

Your Exchange Server may be set up correctly and others may be having now problems. You may be able to set up your account, and that works. After entering your Exchange server information on your iPhone, you see “Configuring Sync” and no error, but  still … you get the “Cannot Get Mail – The connection to the server failed” message.

  • - Call AT&T at 611 from your phone and make sure you have the Enterprise Data plan.  This gives you unlimited email and web data access. Without it, you won’t be able to sync your mail and calendar with Exchange server.
  • - Turn off WiFi.
  • - Delete the Exchange account on your iPhone.
  • - Make sure your cellular network is working, that your browser can connect to http://www.att.com/ttr  while WiFi is turned off.
  • - Re-add your exchange server account. Be sure your username and password are  correct. You should see Configuring Sync, and no errors.
  • - Reset your network settings under Settings | General | Reset | Reset Network Settings. Your phone will reboot.

You should now get email and your calendar items from your Exchange server. I have not seen this fix on the net, but this is what worked for me today.

Here are some links for your Exchange Server Admin if everyone is having problems:

Hints for Exchange server admins: Check the logs to see if your mobile users are getting in: (Default is C:\WINDOWS\system32\LogFiles\W3SVC1). In my case, my iPhone was showing up in the Exchange Server logs as making requests, and Exchange server was set up correctly, but I still could not get email due to my AT&T data plan!

I hope this saves someone hours, days, or even weeks of frustration and work.

Posted in Technology | 9 Comments »

Fox Slammed by L.A. Times — ‘Shouldn’t Call Itself a News Organization’

Posted by Anonymous on December 23, 2010

On Friday, the Los Angeles Times broke a taboo of sorts among mainstream news organizations by urging Fox News to “crack down on… partisanship in its news ranks” or ”stop pretending to be an objective news source.”

The editorial was prompted by the leak of an internal Fox News memo ordering its “reporters” to “refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question.” The memo was sent by Bill Sammon, Fox News’ Washington managing editor, in 2009 and released by Media Matters last week.

The Times noted that “such data aren’t in serious dispute among climate scientists.”

The way the data are interpreted can vary; it’s legitimate for climate skeptics to reach conclusions that contradict mainstream theories. But only a crank would deny the underlying temperature data that show the Earth getting warmer — records compiled by independent stations around the world, combined with satellite measurements and confirmed by observations of rising sea levels, vanishing glaciers and other inputs — because to do so is to deny material and measurable facts.Instructing reporters to treat such facts as controversial is like telling them to question the laws of gravity when discussing plane crashes. The only reason for doing it is to further a partisan agenda, in this case an attempt to cast doubt on climate science in order to fend off government efforts to limit greenhouse gases. …

via Fox Slammed by L.A. Times — ‘Shouldn’t Call Itself a News Organization’ | Media | AlterNet.

Cool.  High time.

Posted in Earth, Politics | 3 Comments »

Bank of America Accused: Breaking Into Homes, Stealing Ashes?

Posted by Anonymous on December 23, 2010

When Mimi Ash arrived at her mountain chalet here for a weekend ski trip, she discovered that someone had broken into the home and changed the locks.

When she finally got into the house, it was empty. All of her possessions were gone: furniture, her son’s ski medals, winter clothes and family photos. Also missing was a wooden box, its top inscribed with the words “Together Forever,” that contained the ashes of her late husband, Robert.

The culprit, Ms. Ash soon learned, was not a burglar but her bank. According to a federal lawsuit filed in October by Ms. Ash, Bank of America had wrongfully foreclosed on her house and thrown out her belongings, without alerting Ms. Ash beforehand.

In an era when millions of homes have received foreclosure notices nationwide, lawsuits detailing bank break-ins like the one at Ms. Ash’s house keep surfacing. And in the wake of the scandal involving shoddy, sometimes illegal paperwork that has buffeted the nation’s biggest banks in recent months, critics say these situations reinforce their claims that the foreclosure process is fundamentally flawed. …

Banks and their contractors insist that the number of mistakes is minuscule given the hundreds of thousands of new foreclosure cases filed each month. Bank of America, for instance, says it works with third-party contractors to inspect and maintain more than one million properties each month and has enhanced its controls in the last year to prevent mistakes. …

via Banks Accused of Illegally Breaking Into Homes – NYTimes.com.

Mimi’s husband was stabbed to death in a road rage incident a few years earlier.  I hope things start to get better for her.

Posted in Crime | Leave a Comment »


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