Monday, June 6, 2011

Video of Bashar al-Assad's forces planting weapons on civilians after massacring them on the way to aiding people in Daraa

Not for the squeamish

People who make peaceful change impossible, make violent change inevitable.” - J.F.K.

Ants create a lifeboat in the Amazon jungle

Nine miles off the coast of County Kerry in the west of Ireland there are two small rocky islands peeking out of the Atlantic Ocean, home to something quite extraordinary – a 1400 year old monastery which only a handful of people get to see each year.

Skellig Michael – Mysterious Monastery in the Atlantic

Nine miles off the coast of County Kerry in the west of Ireland there are two small rocky islands peeking out of the Atlantic Ocean.  The larger of the two, Skellig Michael, is home to something quite extraordinary – a 1400 year old monastery which only a handful of people get to see each year.

As you approach the island there is little, seemingly, to notice.  Yet closer inspection reveals the tell tale criss-cross of manmade paths.   Who could possibly have wanted to live here – and when?

It is thought that the monastery of Skellig Michael was founded at some point in the seventh century and monastic life persisted there for over 600 years.  Why it was abandoned is lost in the sands of time but because of the sheer inaccessibility of the island what the monks left behind remained, through the centuries, remarkably intact.

The name of the island is taken from the Irish language and means Michael’s Rock.  It is some rock, too, rising to 230 meters at its summit.  Atop this the Gaelic Monastery has become well known globally but very few make the journey to visit the site – not many are allowed. This very fact has meant that because its remoteness necessarily discourages tourists that the monastery is, for its age, wonderfully preserved.

It is easy to imagine the early Irish Christian monks leading their extraordinarily spartan day to day existence here – to say that life would have been harsh for them is something of an understatement.  Their huts, in the shape of beehives and called clochans, indicate the bareness of life on the rock.  These monks would have shrugged off all of their earthly possessions before they came to live here. Although it is not by definition a hermitage it must surely have been a lonesome existence for the monks, despite the faith which initiated their decision to move there.

The monastery itself was terraced – a necessity because of the sheer sides of the rick.  Three flights of stairs (perhaps reflecting the Holy Trinity) lead up to Christ’s Valley which is the small depression between the peaks of Skellig Michael at 130 meters.  The visitor is not disappointed when greeted by the sight of six intact clochans.

Neither are they disappointed with the sight of the two oratories, graves and the monolithic cross which are to be discovered there.  There is more recent addition too – a church which was built as late as the thirteenth century.  The construction must have been a labor – the walls are almost two meters thick.

Although Skellig Michael was not intended as such there is a hermitage on the island, distinct from the monastery.   As if a rock in the Atlantic was not isolated enough this extreme form of retreat afforded those monks who wished to contemplate the divine in complete isolation the opportunity to do so.

Daily life and its demands also had to be taken in to account and there is a latrine on the island which is situated over an enormously yawning gap in the rock to ensure that waste matter was thoroughly disposed of.  There are also the remains of a garden which the monks would use to grow essential vegetables.

There is evidence that Skellig Michael suffered several Viking raids, though quite what the visitors from the north would have hoped to pillage is questionable.  However, these raids may have caused the monks to decamp to the mainland in the twelfth century even though the later chapel was built at around the same time. One can only attempt to imagine the dread that the isolated and virtually defenceless monks must have felt at the sight of an approaching Viking longship.

As a result of the deterioration of the monastery due to the tramp of tourists’ feet, the decision was taken to severely restrict the number of visitors to the island.  13 licenses are given to tour operators annually and each may only make a single trip to the rock.

It is thought that there were never more than a dozen or so monks on the island at any one time plus an abbot.  The mystery as to the abandonment of the rock is never likely to be satisfactorily solved but in many ways the monks did the rest of the world a favor.  It is unlikely that what we see now on the island would have remained intact if the island had continued to be populated.  Its very abandonment ensured its survival.


Aesthetically Pleasing: Belly Piercing

Bo Jackson, who could have been the greatest baseball player ever.

Bo Jackson, who won a Heisman Trophy while playing football at Auburn, was a 4th-round selection by the Kansas City Royals in 1986.
"Back before I injured my hip, I thought going to the gym was for wimps."
Bo Jackson

"He hit the ball so hard, I couldn't even turn around in time to see it go over the fence."
Roger Clemens after Bo Jackson hit his 93 MPH fast ball over the right center field fence for his first home run of the 1989 season.

Art Stewart, who became a baseball scout in 1953, still has one of the sharpest minds in the game today.
The former Kansas City Royals scouting chief can easily recite backstories of draft picks of long ago, right down to which scouts were on the trail and to what lengths they went.

One of his favorite memories happened 25 years ago, and Stewart thinks about it every year when the Major League Baseball amateur draft rolls around, as it will tonight in New York City.
And it all began with a phone call from an agent -- two hours before the 1986 draft was to get under way.
"The guy said, 'This is Richard Woods,'" Stewart recalled, "and he said, 'If Bo plays baseball, he wants to sign with the Kansas City Royals.'"
That would be Bo Jackson, who could have been the greatest baseball player ever.
But that's not why Stewart likes to tell this.
To him, it's a scouting story. A tribute, really.
That is, to those who spend more time traveling the back roads than sitting at the family dinner table and size up high school and college players, all in an effort to make their front-office executives well-prepared for draft day.
The Royals, of course, eventually signed the two-sport star to a $1 million contract, but only after drafting Bo in the fourth round.
Most adults over the age of 35 know the rest well: He made his big-league debut three months later, touching off a career in which Bo cracked bats over his massive thighs when he wasn't hitting tape-measure home runs -- or running up outfield walls as if he was Spider-Man -- and was the first athlete to be named an all-star in two major sports, Major League Baseball and the NFL.
If only a hip injury while playing in the NFL playoffs in 1990 hadn't cut short his career ...
But Bo made almost all of those highlights in a Royals uniform, thanks to Stewart believing in one of his scouts and selling the idea to a skeptical boss, general manager John Schuerholz.
"I said, 'I know, John,'" said Stewart, now a senior adviser to the team's latest GM, Dayton Moore. "But I kept telling him, 'Kenny Gonzales has spent seven years getting to know Bo and his mom. They've got to be telling him the truth.'"

The scout

Royals scout Kenny Gonzales was responsible for several southern states, including Alabama.
He was 41 and a father of three who had grown up in East St. Louis, Ill., and then climbed the small-college coaching ladder before becoming a scout in 1979.
"He was the first one who found Bo when he was a freshman in high school," Stewart said.
Naturally, Stewart is proud of this, since he himself got his start as territorial scout in 1953 for the New York Yankees before joining Kansas City in 1969.
"Kenny found out that Bo's mom worked at the Ramada Inn (in Bessemer, Ala.), and he stayed there all the time," Stewart said "He found out when she took her coffee breaks."
Gonzales shared the story with his sons before he died in 1994. He had gotten a tip from Bo's high school coach before Jackson's freshman year.
"He went the extra mile to get to know Bo," said Colin Gonzales, 27, a Royals scout himself. "He was like that. He would leave Kansas City and stop at every barbecue stand in every town and sit down with their baseball coach."
Said Stewart, "He got to know (Bo's mom) well. And he was getting important information -- and the truth."
The truth was that Jackson's mom wanted Bo to become the first of her eight children to go to college and earn a degree, as the Royals came to learn.
The family held firm, despite the Yankees drafting Bo in the second round in 1982 and again in 1985 after the then-California Angels made him a 20th-round selection.
But even in 1986, no scouting department truly knew Bo's intentions and did not want to burn a high draft selection.
Bo had won the Heisman Trophy in the fall semester at Auburn University, only to be drafted by the NFL's lowly Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Besides that, Bo had not played baseball since late March after the NCAA rule him ineligible for accepting an extra benefit, a ride on the private jet of Buccaneers owner Hugh Culverhouse.
"Bo was pretty much untouchable," said Marty Maier, a former Cardinals scout who also covered the South in the 1980s. "Trying to get a word with him or trying to get information" was difficult.

Draft room

Nevertheless, Stewart was uneasy after the phone call, and for several reasons.
For instance:
» Eight of the first 103 selections belonged to the division rival Angels, with the Royals' fourth selection not until No. 105.
» Stewart also learned the Angels had dispatched future Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson to Alabama to make a sales pitch.
» Plus, Bo had been non-committal after Stewart dropped him off at his hotel following a workout weeks earlier in Kansas City.
"Woods said, 'We appreciate everything,'" Stewart said. "But that was it. He didn't even say, 'You'll hear from us.'"
The first three rounds came and went, and Bo remained on the board.
In the fourth round, the Angels selected Paul Sorrento at No. 103 and the Cardinals took left-hander Mark Guthrie at No. 104.
"I finally said to my people," Stewart said, "'You know, if we blow the fourth-round pick, the franchise isn't going to fold.'
"And so I announced that, 'The Royals take Vincent Edward Jackson, otherwise known as Bo Jackson.' You could've heard a pin drop."
Bo was introduced at a news conference on June 21, and the team also flew in Gonzales.
Owner Ewing Kauffman and his wife were there, and so too was co-owner Avron Fogelman.
When Gonzales entered the room ...
"Bo's mom burst out of the line and wrapped her arms around him. Kenny was 6-1, 190 pounds, and she lifted him off the floor and gave him a big hug," Stewart said. "That's when Fogelman leaned over to Kauffman and said, 'That's what scouting's all about, isn't it?'"


June 6 1944: D Day

The Normandy landings, also known as Operation Neptune, were the landing operations of the Allied invasion of Normandy, in Operation Overlord, during World War II. The landings commenced on Tuesday, 6 June 1944 (D-Day), beginning at 6:30 AM. In planning, D-Day was the term used for the day of actual landing, which was dependent on final approval.

The assault was conducted in two phases: an airborne assault landing of 24,000 British, American, Canadian and Free French airborne troops shortly after midnight, and an amphibious landing of Allied infantry and armored divisions on the coast of France commencing at 6:30 AM. There were also decoy operations mounted under the codenames Operation Glimmer and Operation Taxable to distract the German forces from the real landing areas.

The operation was the largest amphibious invasion in world history, with over 160,000 troops landing on 6 June 1944. 195,700 Allied naval and merchant navy personnel in over 5,000 ships were involved. The invasion required the transport of soldiers and material from the United Kingdom by troop-laden aircraft and ships, the assault landings, air support, naval interdiction of the English Channel and naval fire-support. The landings took place along a 50-mile stretch of the Normandy coast divided into five sectors: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword

The National D Day Memorial

Photos From The Front

Bahraini doctors and nurses charged with "plotting to overthrow the monarchy" for treating protestors; protests & violence continue.

Bahraini doctors and nurses charged

Medical staff who treated protesters accused of plotting to overthrow kingdom's monarchy amid reports of more violence.

Scores of Bahraini doctors and nurses who treated injured anti-government protesters have been charged with attempting to topple the kingdom's monarchy.

The 23 doctors and 24 nurses were formally charged on Monday during a closed door hearing in a special security court.

The 47 accused have been in detention since March, when the country declared martial law in order to clamp down on a wave of demonstrations that swept the tiny kingdom earlier this year.

Though the emergency law was lifted last week, Bahraini authorities have warned opposition activists of "consequences" in case of any further challenges to the government.

'Firing on marchers'

On Sunday, Bahraini police clashed with Shia marchers at religious processions in villages across the country, the country's opposition al-Wefaq movement and residents said.

Police used tear gas, rubber bullets, sound grenades and birdshot to break up the marches, which were taking place in several Shia villages around Manama, the country's capital, residents and members of al-Wefaq said.

Residents said that some gatherings were purely religious, while at others marchers shouted slogans against the ruling al-Khalifa family, including "The people want the fall of the regime", a chant that has become the symbol of similar protests in Tunisia and Egypt which dethroned long-time rulers.

In Sitra, residents said that several people were injured and that a house was set on fire.

"We condemn this attack, this kind of attack will make the situation even worse," said Sayyed Hady of al-Wefaq. "This event is so, so normal in Bahrain, we've been doing it for centuries ... the authorities said they won't attack religious events, but this is what they did."

On Sunday, a government official denied that widespread clashes had taken place.

"There are no clashes really, there were some outlaws who caused some problems but these were small incidents that were quickly stopped. The situation is stable and back to normal," he told Reuters.

Journalists have been unable to verify the reports, as police have set up checkpoints sealing many Shia-majority areas. From outside those areas, the Reuters news agency reported that its reporters heard shouting and smelled tear gas.

The Shia villagers, some beating their chests and chanting religious verses, were marching to commemorate the festival of one of their 12 Imams.

Months of unrest

The fresh unrest comes just two days after the country's Formula One Grand Prix was reinstated. The race had been postponed from its original March date due to widespread protests at the time.

As that decision was announced, security forces were engaged in a fresh crackdown, firing tear gas and rubber bullets at activists gathered in Manama for the funeral of a protester they said had been killed by tear gas inhalation.

In March, Bahrain's Sunni rulers asked for military support from its Gulf Arab neighbours to suppress the protests, which have in particular called for democratic reforms and more rights for the country's Shia-majority citizens.

Bahrain is home to the US Navy's Fifth fleet, and as such is a key ally for that country in the region. Saudi and Emirati forces appear to be set to remain the country indefinitely in order to ensure that the protesters do not achieve their goals.

Bahraini doctors and nurses charged - Middle East - Al Jazeera English

What a protest in Egypt looked like one year ago

What a protest in Egypt looked like one year ago
This is a picture of a protest a year ago in front of the ministry of interior building in Cairo. The protest was against the killing of blogger Khaled Said. The Facebook page "We are all Khaled Said" would eventually help start the 25th of January revolution.

One Year Later....

Aesthetically Pleasing: Belly Shirt

The Glory Hole

The Glory Hole, Swain Arkansas

The Glory Hole in the Boston Mountains of the Ozark National Forest in Swain Arkansas.
Dismal Creek flows down a steep slope over boulders and smooth-face stone, then suddenly disappears into a perfectly round hole perhaps three feet wide and down through 12 feet of stone, finally emerging from the top of the bluff shelter below.

The total drop is just over 30 feet. The creek exits from the cave and after a short distance merges with another stream cascading down a steep hillside, creating smaller waterfalls and deep pools on down the valley. Moss covers nearly every rock and tree trunk, and ferns accent the places between stones, creating a natural garden of verdant beauty.

The Patriotic Millionaires are back. They're demanding that President Obama and Congress raise taxes on incomes over a million dollars because there are things we want to do as a country--and they are not free.


Photo of Charlie Chaplin and Helen Keller Together

Photo of people protesting against the government in Greece