Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Found: Jesus... with wife and son.

Buddha had a wife and child before finding enlightenment. Maybe Jesus did too:

From the BBC:

Jesus tomb found, says film-maker
Ossuary found in Jerusalem
A documentary claims this is the ossuary of Jesus Christ
Jesus had a son named Judah and was buried alongside Mary Magdalene, according to a new documentary by Hollywood film director James Cameron.

Local residents told the BBC News website they were pleased with the attention the tomb has drawn.

"It will mean our house prices will go up because Christians will want to live here," one woman said.

Look Deep Within.


Saturday, February 24, 2007

Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Last night, watching the ever provocative Bill Maher, I heard Ayaan Hirsi Ali, one of his panelists-- whose new book, Infidel, is bringing her increased recognition--speak about the Islamic religion. Naturally, I agree with Maher, all religions are absurd and often preposterous. But her indictment of Islam as practised today in much of the world was as sharp as the knives her grandmother used to cut her genitals when she was five. This woman, recently a member of the Dutch Parliament, star of murdered Van Gogh's film, Submission, deserves our ear , if not our heart. Here are some details:

Photo from her WIKI Entry

[Main Page]

Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Ali, born in Somalia and raised in Kenya became a Dutch citizen and was a Dutch member of parliment from 30 January 2003 until 16 May 2006.
She is under threat from Islamists for her public rejection of the Muslim faith and its cultural practices which subjugate women.
In a BBC World Service radio interview [1] the week of June 19, 2005 Ali talks about the steps which led up to her rejection of Islam ...

I came to the conclusion [that] I do not believe in the existence of a god or in the hereafter.

She co-produced (with Theo van Gogh) the short film Submission, Part I on the lack of rights for women under Islam. Van Gogh was later murdered by an Islamic extremist in reaction to the film.

And from the current issue of Newsweek:

Ayaan Hirsi Ali on Fighting Muslim Extremists

Threats and armed guards have followed provocateur Ayaan Hirsi Ali to America. But that suits her just fine.
By Eve Conant

Feb. 26, 2007 issue - Ayaan Hirsi Ali moved to the United States last September when she was invited to join the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C. Last week her controversial memoir, "Infidel," was published here. With armed guards just outside her office, she sat down with NEWSWEEK's Eve Conant to discuss the Muslim extremists who have threatened to kill her, life in America and whether she's a "colonial feminist":

CONANT: Do you know how many fatwas are out against you right now?
HIRSI ALI: No. There is no official state fatwa, like the one Salman Rushdie had. Thereare simply individuals who think that by killing me they will go right to heaven. I can't live my life looking over my shoulder all the time and thinking, "Oh, my God, am I going to be killed now?"

Do you have to take extreme measures for protection?
The bodyguards [outside] are armed, yes, but I'm not allowed to go into too much detail. The Dutch government is responsible for the armed guards—they pay for them. The Americans provide intelligence gathering. I'm so, so sorry I can't tell you more; you can try talking to the two guys outside, but they won't tell you anything.

Have you felt threatened here in America?
Not threatened, but I've been recognized by some Muslim individuals who let me know they are not pleased with what I'm doing. That also happened in Europe, just people walking up to you and telling you, "Oh, you're that woman, I can't stand you." I just say, "OK, look, I'm eating now, please leave me alone."

You're at a conservative think tank. Does that reflect your position on American politics?
I consider myself a liberal, a classic liberal. The state should provide opportunity but not coddle you. I'm an atheist, but I'm not proselytizing atheism. I'm for equal opportunity for women and for gays. Some of my colleagues here don't agree with me on all issues, but that's good because you can sharpen your own thoughts that way. We agree to disagree.

You've been accused recently of being a colonial feminist.
Yes I have, but I also don't really know what that means. Look—what am I saying about Muslim women? Allow a Muslim girl to finish school, let a Muslim woman be financially independent and let her control her own body. Is that colonial feminism? Then fine, I'm a colonial feminist.

Some accuse you of being critical of Islam because of your rough childhood. What was the moment that transformed you into the person we see now—a woman more likely to wear Prada than a veil?
Let me tell you, I'm not wearing Prada today [laughs]. There are some 150 million women [of different religious backgrounds] who have undergone genital mutilation. When I was living in Africa I was not aware that this was a bad thing, because it happened to all the girls around me. And my arranged marriage: I wanted out of it, but I didn't blame it on Islam. What I tried to do in my book is explain the context in which these things took place. At that time Islam was absolutely not relevant as a source of pain to me. The real moment, for me, was after the 11th of September. I started to download bin Laden's propaganda and compare it to what was written in the Qur'an, just to check if it was really there. It was, and I was really disappointed and deeply disturbed.

Do you want to stay in the United States?
Yes, I'm happy here. The only thing that bothers me is when you go to a restaurant they put ice in your water.

Google her (news): every hit is fascinating...


Monday, February 19, 2007

Tennessee Totality

From Lookout Mountain to Fall Creek Falls, we waltzed across Tennessee, eating Egyptian food at Starr's party, hiking the snowy trails to the highest waterfall (and icycles) east of the Mississippi, and enjoying the company of friends and family. Have a look:

Tennessee Totality

Happy Trails...


Monday, February 12, 2007

Everlasting Boner

Whether they are 'Romeo and Juliet'
Or 'Two Gentlemen of Verona,'

Death could not part these two eternal lovers.

For Five Thousand years they have hugged within kilometers of Verona, where Romeo and Juliet embraced. Archaelogists have promised not to break them apart.

They prove that...

Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of Doom.

Shakespeare, Sonnet CXVI

Their Story:

Scientists to save 5,000-year-old embrace

By Phil StewartMon Feb 12, 9:53 AM ET

Italy won't split up its Stone Age "lovers."

In a Valentine's Day gift to the country, scientists said they are determined to remove and preserve together the remains of a couple buried 5,000 to 6,000 years ago, their arms still wrapped around each other in an enduring embrace.

Instead of removing the bones one-by-one for reassembly later, archaeologists plan to scoop up the entire section of earth where the couple was buried, they told Reuters.

The plot will then be transported for study before being put on display in an Italian museum, thereby preserving the world's longest known hug for posterity.

"We want to keep can them just as they have been all this time -- together," archaeologist Elena Menotti, who announced the discovery a week ago, told Reuters.

Their removal will be a relief for archaeologists who had to hire extra security to guard the rural site outside the northern city of Mantova after the discovery made world headlines.


More importantly, it will give scientists a chance to figure out what was has become one of Italian archaeology's greatest mysteries: the first known Neolithic couple to be buried together, hugging.

Was it a sudden death? A ritual sacrifice? Or maybe they were prehistoric, star-crossed lovers who took their own lives.

That is a crowd-pleasing theory in these parts, since Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet was set in nearby Verona.

But scientists acknowledge they still know precious little about the now-famous Stone Age couple, whose embrace has become a subject of world newspaper headlines and chat shows.

Italians dubbed them the "Lovers of Valdaro" after the Mantova suburb of farmland and factories. But even their gender is a open question until scientists confirm the theory that they were a man and a woman.

Archaeologists seem certain the couple died young, since their teeth are intact and that they died during the Stone Age because of an arrowhead and tools found with the remains.

But new evidence indicates the couple were not alone and that the remains may have left been near a Stone Age settlement.


Archaeologists on site showed Reuters photographs of another skeleton found nearby, suggesting the couple were in some sort of prehistoric burial ground.

While the single body was buried East-West, possibly following the daily path of the sun across the sky, the Stone Age couple were buried "the wrong way."

"They were buried North-South, and we don't know why," said archaeologist Daniela Castagna, standing over the grave site.

John Robb, lecturer at Cambridge University and an expert in Neolithic Italian remains, says the trouble with the Stone Age couple is the singularity of the find -- which makes it difficult to explain using known historic data.

He said Neolithic burials are almost always single burials.

"There are a couple of mass burials. There are couple of examples of heads being found under houses. And then, about one burial in every 20 or 30 sites is completely unique," he said.

"And these are probably things that have strange ritual circumstances of one kind or another."

But until scientists get a closer look at the bones, all anyone has are loose theories.

The discovery generated Internet conspiracy theories with some taking a darker interpretation of the hugging skeletons.

One reader on AOL, said it was absurd to assume "this couple is in eternal bliss."

"Maybe it is eternal hatred that had them locked together in a death grip," wrote another reader.

Other people have called for the couple to be left alone -- something that Italian archaeologists say would leave the remains vulnerable to looters, vandals and even bad weather.

There is also a practical reason, the owner of the land hopes to soon build warehouses on it.

"We say rest in peace -- unless you're dead long enough to be interesting," wrote another reader, Jim Noonan.

Happy Valentines


Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Good Training

Eurotram has won the hearts and minds of the people of Strasbourg - "it has given us back our city".

Is it too much of a fantasy to imagine light rail in Atlanta with a nice streamlined bullet train aimed for Savannah? Here is my letter to the AJC:

From The AJC:


For the Journal-Constitution
Published on: 02/08/07


Responses to Jim Wooten's column "Rail reversal may point us to better ideas," @issue, Feb. 6

Atlanta area needs 21st-century plan

Anyone who has traveled the world, including the finest cities in the United States, knows that rail is one of the essential components of success. Imagine Paris without the Metro, London without the Underground, Strasbourg without light rail. Imagine San Francisco without trolleys, cable cars and electric buses, not to mention its rapid transit system.

Rail is hardly the 19th-century relic Jim Wooten imagines. It is ever-wider roadways, jammed with traffic, that have become the 21st-century nightmare of which we need to rid ourselves.

Forget the 20-lane roads, and the tunnels choked with gas fumes. We need Georgia leaders who have the vision and courage to bring 21st-century rail to our state.

Wooten is right that such rail needs to go somewhere: Macon, Savannah, and ultimately Florida, the Northeast and the West. With a Japanese-style bullet train, we could get to Savannah in the time it takes to have lunch in the club car. That's what I call a future we can look forward to.


Tunnels won't fix traffic problems

Jim Wooten's column makes it clear why he and the rest of the "nothing-but-roads" crowd is so opposed to commuter rail. Instead of investing a few million dollars upgrading existing railroad tracks for passenger service, they want to spent more than $25 billion blasting huge tunnels directly beneath the city of Atlanta, primarily for the benefit out-of-town truckers.

I'd suggest that if Wooten likes blasting tunnels so much, we should start by blasting one directly beneath his house.


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