daily archive: 04/29/2005
Israeli firm comes up with Arabic touch-typing
An Israeli company has come up with the first successful Arabic touch-typing programme.
The company, Sight and Sound, says it has successfully tested the course in a pilot programme in Israeli Arab schools and hope to market it soon to the rest of the Arab world. “Learning to touch type in Arabic is more complicated than in English or Hebrew - the touch typing machines and the computer keyboards are totally different and it can cause a lot of confusion. Our Touch Typing Technology (TTT) has adapted the touch typing machines to the computer keyboards so what the students are learning is applicable right away," a company spokesman said.
As a two-three finger mediocre typist, all I can say is "huh." But I'm smiling about the fact that it was an Israeli firm that did this. Israeli firm comes up with Arabic touch-typing
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King Fahd Clinically Dead
Are we taking bets yet on who will succeed him? My money is on Abdullah.
Riyadh, 29 April (AKI) - Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdullah's visit to the United States this week to discuss oil matters with President George W. Bush, took place amid growing speculation back home that the bed-ridden King Fahd's condition has worsened with the monarch slipping out of conciousness. Speculation is rife among Riyadh's ruling elite of Fahd's clinical death - but even if this were true, any official announcement would delayed until a final decision on Fahd's successor has been taken.
Sources close to the Saudi royal family told Adnkronos International about the "suspicious" disappearance of King Fahd from public scene in the last ten days. At the same time, the sources have noted frantic activity involving the Seven Sudaris - the seven sons of King Abdul Aziz's wife, who hailed from Saudi Arabia's Sudari tribe, around whom the succession question revolves - King Fahd and Defence Minister Prince Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz are two of the most powerful Sudari sevens.
Crown Prince Abdullah - who is Fahd's half brother - has long been touted to ascend the throne, but well placed sources maintain that there is resistance from other Sudari sevens members who favour closer ties with the West, something which Abdullah, who is very popular among Saudi religious circles, seems reluctant to cultivate. However, past efforts to promote the more Western-friendly defence minister Prince Sultan as Crown Prince instead of Abdullah failed because of division among the Sudaris.
Abdullah seems likely to remain the main beneficiary of internal Sudari squabbling, and already three years ago, he set up a Royal Council including all the 65 sons of the late King Abdul Aziz to settle all disputes related to the monarchy.
It is believed that Abdullah is more acceptable to the majority of the Royal Council members than any other candidate. Hower, the succession is unlikely to be smooth and a new phase of conflict could start in oil-rich Saudi Arabia, also a strategic hub in the war against terrorism given the Saudi origins of most of the September 11, 2001 hijackers, and Osama bin Laden is thought to have many supporters in the country's military and religious establishments.
SAUDI ARABIA: KING CLINICALLY DEAD, SOURCES SAY
(a thimbleful of cognac to Outsider)
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Ali, at Free Iraqi, has a wonderful post on Arab-Muslim thinking. You should read the whole thing, I just want to emphasize this part because it intrigued me:
I think one of the main problems in Arab-Muslim communities is that the vast majority from the illiterate to even highly educated people do not ask enough questions. On the other hand, I've noticed (mainly through blogging ) that westerns in general and Americans in particular always have so many questions to ask and rarely settle with one point of view and accept it as the truth.Free Iraqi: Asking few questions makes a difference.
But an important question here is, why Arabs and Muslims do not care a lot about searching for answers?
In my mind there are two major reasons; one comes from Islam and one comes from Arab traditions. For Muslims, like most religious people anywhere there's a general belief that all questions have been answered already, and I think that the main difference here between west and east is just the fact that religious people form a higher percentage of the population in the Arab Muslim world than they do in the west.
In Islam the Sunnis have always had all the answers in the Koran and Hadeeth and all you have to do is dig them out, although "some will always remain unrevealed until judgment day". For the She'at, it's the Koran and the heritage of Mohammed and his dynasty down to the twelfth Imam, Al Mehdi.
Every time western scientists announce a scientific discovery, Muslim scholars kill themselves searching for a verse in the Koran that can be twisted to match it and then say, "Hey, we had it all the time and we didn't know!" and we have books and TV shows dedicated for showing how all these great inventions were mentioned in a way in the Koran, but we just didn't care to search harder!
'True Muslims' believe that Mohammed knew *everything*, and I've argued with many friends of mine many times about this point. I asked if they thought Mohammed knew how to manufacture a computer or to build space shuttle for example, and the answer was "absolutely". But he could not reveal all his knowledge to the people at that time because they wouldn't have understood it.
This makes one wonders why he was given such a useless knowledge in the first place! Most Muslims don't bother to answer this question and just think that Mohammed is perfect (which by the way is NOT mentioned anywhere in the Koran) and therefore he must know everything.
I asked if Mohammed knew the future and again I got the same answer. But what then makes God superior to Mohammed? The answer was a faked Hadeeth that does not address the question but it does state that Mohammed had this ability. And questioning that Hadeeth would be unacceptable for most Muslims because the Hadeeth is a basic corner of today's' belief for most Muslims and they simply can't imagine themselves abandoning it.
So all questions were answered already including the ones that have not been asked yet, so what's the point of seeking knowledge from another source! They don't know 1/million of what Mohammed and his descendants had and these not here to ask them. But they did left us what can give us some answers.
That's why those who study Islam are called scientists, and in some sects like Wahabism they're considered the only scientists. You hear the word scholars describing these people but the literal AND the actual translation (from Muslims point of view) would be "scientists".
This is why most Muslims' search in other fields of knowledge like medicine was always a 'blind' one in my mind. Because it did not improve or alter these researchers general understanding of life as a whole. I know many fellow Iraqi physicians, and very good ones in fact, who their knowledge did not make them any less superstitious or any more rational in their lives than illiterate people.
As for Arabs, they have too much pride in themselves and their traditions that makes it difficult for them to ask for others' help.
(a thimbleful of cognac to ördög)
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Meet Brian Chontosh.
I received this in an email today.
Meet Brian Chontosh.
Churchville-Chili Central School class of 1991. Proud graduate of the Rochester Institute of Technology. Husband and about-to-be father. First lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps.
And a genuine hero.
The secretary of the Navy said so yesterday.
At 29 Palms in California Brian Chontosh was presented with the Navy Cross, the second highest award for combat bravery the United States can bestow.
That's a big deal.
But you won't see it on the network news tonight, and all you read in Brian's hometown newspaper was two paragraphs of nothing. Instead, it was more blather about some mental defective MPs who acted like animals.
The odd fact about the American media in this war is that it's not covering the American military. The most plugged-in nation in the world is receiving virtually no true information about what its warriors are doing.
Oh, sure, there's a body count. We know how many Americans have fallen. And we see those same casket pictures day in and day out. And we're almost on a first-name basis with the pukes who abused the Iraqi prisoners. And we know all about improvised explosive devices and how we lost Fallujah and what Arab public-opinion polls say about us and how the world hates us.
We get a non-stop feed of gloom and doom.
But we don't hear about the heroes.
The incredibly brave GIs who honorably do their duty. The ones our grandparents would have carried on their shoulders down Fifth Avenue.
The ones we completely ignore.
Like Brian Chontosh.
It was a year ago on the march into Baghdad. Brian Chontosh was a platoon leader rolling up Highway 1 in a humvee.
When all hell broke loose.
The young Marines were being cut to ribbons. Mortars, machine guns, rocket propelled grenades. And the kid out of Churchville was in charge. It was do or die and it was up to him.
So he moved to the side of his column, looking for a way to lead his men to safety. As he tried to poke a hole through the Iraqi line his humvee came under direct enemy machine gun fire.
It was fish in a barrel and the Marines were the fish.
And Brian Chontosh gave the order to attack. He told his driver to floor the humvee directly at the machine gun emplacement that was firing at them. And he had the guy on top with the .50 cal unload on them.
Within moments there were Iraqis slumped across the machine gun and Chontosh was still advancing, ordering his driver now to take the humvee directly into the Iraqi trench that was attacking his Marines. Over into the battlement the humvee went and out the door Brian Chontosh bailed, carrying an M16 and a Beretta and 228 years of Marine Corps pride.
And he ran down the trench.
With its mortars and riflemen, machineguns and grenadiers.
And he killed them all.
He fought with the M16 until it was out of ammo. Then he fought with the Beretta until it was out of ammo. Then he picked up a dead man's AK47 and fought with that until it was out of ammo. Then he picked up another dead man's AK47 and fought with that until it was out of ammo.
At one point he even fired a discarded Iraqi RPG into an enemy cluster, sending attackers flying with its grenade explosion.
When he was done Brian Chontosh had cleared 200 yards of entrenched Iraqis from his platoon's flank. He had killed more than 20 and wounded at least as many more.
But that's probably not how he would tell it.
He would probably merely say that his Marines were in trouble, and he got them out of trouble. Hoo-ah, and drive on.
"By his outstanding display of decisive leadership, unlimited courage in the face of heavy enemy fire, and utmost devotion to duty, 1st Lt. Chontosh reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service."
That's what the citation says.
And that's what nobody will hear.
That's what doesn't seem to be making the evening news. Accounts of American valor are dismissed by the press as propaganda, yet accounts of American difficulties are heralded as objectivity. It makes you wonder if the role of the media is to inform, or to depress ? to report or to deride. To tell the truth, or to feed us lies.
But I guess it doesn't matter.
We're going to turn out all right.
As long as men like Brian Chontosh wear our uniform.
Corroboration can be found at Marines.com
(a thimbleful of cognac to jim russell)
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April Showers...May Flowers
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WMD Already Found in Iraq
The new leader of Iraq has sent a letter to Tony Blair thanking him and the British people for freeing his country from Saddam Hussein. Saddam most deadly WMD
President Jalal Talabani said people should no longer question why no weapons of mass destruction were found.
He added: “Saddam himself was, in the view of those who opposed him, Iraq’s most dangerous WMD."
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I bring this to your attention as a final resort. I've talked to all my friends about it and I've gathered no sympathy, they say I'm overreacting. Perhaps I didn't explain it right to them and okay, I'm willing to admit I may be a little bit wrong here. But I don't care if I'm wrong! I'm fed up!
So I went to the grocery store. I bet going to the grocery store is not a very personal experience for most of you, is it? Well, it is for me. Because every single fucking time I have to tell someone where I'm from.
All they ask is "paper or plastic". All I say is "plastic" or "paper". But then it comes - The Question:
"Where are you from?"
It was okay the first twenty million times I got asked but I'm running out of patience here. I have cursed my accent and I've tried very hard to sound American, any kind of American: Texas, Ohio, I don't care. Anything that doesn't involve having to answer The Question. But this stupid accent is not going anywhere. And neither is the cashier who stands there smiling at me until I answer.
Why is it important to this person where I'm from? Is he trying to be friends? No, of course not. The conversation never gets past the "Oh." So what does he want with me? To satisfy his curiosity about my accent, of course. They don't tell me "oh, I've been to Greece" or "oh, what part of Greece" or "what are you doing here" or "how do you like the States." They just stop at the "Oh" and get back to their cashiering and bagging and talking amongst themselves. Which is fine by me because I never wanted them to talk to me anyway - I just want my stuff and I want to leave without being asked questions other than what my bagging preferences are.
I've tried intimidation. Immediately after the "where are you from" I bark out "Minnesota". That stuns them for a moment, enough for me to complete my ATM transaction. But they don't drop it, do they?
"No, really, where are you from?"
"I told you, Minnesota."
"You don't sound like you're from Minnesota."
"How do you know, have you been to Minnesota?"
"Here are your groceries, ma'am."
So yeah, that works but it's only a temporary measure because I know that one of these days I'm bound to run into a cashier that has actually been to Minnesota and what if he asks me a question? I know nothing about Minnesota, I just know that it's somewhere near North Dakota.
It's worse when I get a coffee too because then I have to place my order.
"I would like a cappuccino, please."
"Where are you from?"
"WHAT GODDAMN DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE TO YOU WHERE I'M FROM, DAMMIT! MAKE MY DAMN COFFEE AND SHUT THE FUCK UP! YOU DIDN'T ASK THE BALD GUY WHERE HE WAS FROM, DID YOU?! YOU DIDN'T ASK THE OLD LADY WITH THE FUNNY HAT WHERE SHE WAS FROM! WHY THE FUCK ARE YOU ASKING ME?!" "Greece."
"Can I pay here?"
"No, you have to pay at the register."
I could have avoided The Question at the cashier's if I hadn't bought croissants. But I did. And this cashier didn't understand my accent.
"Ma'am, did you notice what the price was on these?"
"Where are you from?"
"Did you say Hungary?"
So you see, they don't care. I thought it was because I was Greek but even when they think I'm Hungarian, it won't go beyond the "Oh".
So I dunno. I wonder how other people with accents feel about The Question. I've done it myself to other immigrants, don't think I'm an angel or anything. Late one night in San Francisco I wanted a bottle of cognac so I walked into this little shop. Arabic music was playing and the salesclerk had an accent so I asked him "where are you from?" I felt a little twinge of guilt at the thought that he must get asked The Question by practically every customer that walks in. But he didn't answer me. So I asked him again. He ignored my question again. I said "the reason I ask is because I'm Greek" feeling very stupid as I realised how lame that sounded. He smiled, I smiled, I paid for my cognac and left.
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Belgium's FBI disarmed
In Belgium, a depressed, alcoholic state security agent shot his gun in the direction of his colleague's head in October or November. So what does the chief executive do? Disarm every single last one of them! So now, Belgium's toothless poodles are too terrified to go outside and engage in risky missions. Can you believe these clowns?
The battered reputation of Belgium's security forces took a new hit yesterday with the revelation that its internal spy service has disarmed almost all its field agents after one drunkenly tried to shoot a colleague in the head.Spies lose licence to kill after drunken agent opens fire
The civilian agents of the Sûreté de l'Etat, the equivalent of Britain's MI5, are already among the most powerless intelligence operatives in the Western world, with no right even to tap telephones.
Now, they have had their handguns confiscated on the orders of their general administrator, Koen Dassen, a Belgian newspaper reported. A working group has been established to work out who is armed and why, after Mr Dassen realised that controls were "worse than approximate".
Saar Vanderplaetsen, the chief spokesman for Laurette Onkelinx, the justice minister, confirmed that Sûreté agents had had to hand in their weapons, pending new rules and regulations.
She was unable to confirm reports that officers had gone on a virtual work-to-rule since being disarmed, including avoidance of risky missions. The exact numbers and missions of Sûreté agents are kept confidential.
Miss Vanderplaetsen said: "For the moment, everybody has had to hand in their guns because we had this incident, in October or November last year, during which an agent shot at another."
Mrs Onkelinx was reportedly distressed that she only learnt of the incident, in which no one was hurt, from the press four months after it took place in Brussels.
The agent suspected of firing his gun in the general direction of his colleague's head was said by the media to be an alcoholic with a dependency on anti-depressants.
Belgium's internal security arrangements have proved a source of frustration for their Western counterparts.
Lax passport security helped Tunisian militants based in Brussels to supply fake Belgian passports to the men who killed Ahmed Shah Massoud, the Afghan commander and enemy of the Taliban, in 2001.
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A Resistance member who was deported to a concentration camp by a collaborating French police officer and Gestapo member has blown the lid off a long-controversial French murder case.
AFTER a campaign of pressure lasting several decades, a notorious French murder case from the 1920s is to be re-opened thanks to new evidence provided by a victim of the wartime Gestapo.
On Monday, a committee of legal experts agreed to submit the so-called “Seznec" affair to the Court of Revision – opening the chance of a posthumous acquittal for a man who served 20 years in the Devil’s Island penal colony for a killing he said he never committed.
It was a major victory for the family of Guillaume Seznec and especially for his grandson Denis Le Her-Seznec, who has dedicated his adult life to clearing his grandfather’s name.
“This is a historic day not just for the Seznec family, but for the justice system as well," Le Her-Seznec said at the Palais de Justice in Paris. “For the first time justice has stopped living in the illusion of its own infallibility."
Among his supporters at the hearing were a descendant of Captain Alfred Dreyfus – the most famous victim of French injustice who also served time in the prison in Guiana – and a group of Breton nationalists .
Gestapo victim forces France to re-open 1923 murder mystery
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