Monday, February 27, 2012

Danica Patrick

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.—The Daytona 500 finally got under way Monday night and was immediately halted by a big wreck that collected Danica Patrick and five-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson.

On the second lap of the race, Johnson got hit from behind by Elliott Sadler, sending Johnson’s car slamming into the frontstretch wall. Johnson was then hit in the drivers-side door by David Ragan.

Patrick’s car was hit in the right rear by Johnson, and then spun into the Turn 1 grass, where she barely avoided the wrecked cars of Ragan and 2011 Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne.

Kurt Busch also was involved in the crash.

Johnson’s car was destroyed while Patrick, Busch, Ragan and Bayne also took their cars to the garage. Patrick’s crew was frantically making repairs, trying to get her back into the race.

Sadler, a Nationwide Series driver competing in the 500 in a one-race deal for Richard Childress Racing, radioed an apology to Johnson for causing the crash.

“We were all trying to make our lane work and there was a lot of energy in that lane,” Johnson said. “I could feel some help from behind and it turned me around.”

“That’s a shame for somebody to cause a wreck that early in the biggest race of the race,” Ragan said. “I can’t wait to see who was the bonehead.”

Kyle Busch said over his team radio: “Seriously, are we all kidding ourselves. We just sat around for 36 hours and we wreck on lap 1.”

The race was originally scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, but was washed out and rescheduled for noon on Monday. When the rain continued throughout the night and Monday morning, it was rescheduled again for 7 p.m ET Monday night.

NASCAR officials worked all afternoon Monday to keep the track dry through intermittent showers.

Finally, with the skies clear and the forecast improving, engines fired at 7:02 p.m. and the cars rolled off pit road at 7:05. The 43-car field took the green flag at 7:14.

Despite the delays, a large crowd returned for the first night-time start of the Daytona 500. The frontstretch grandstands were practically full with only a few empty sections on the backstretch.

The race went back to green on lap 8, but it didn’t last long as Ryan Newman spun in Turn 2 on lap 13. While Newman was on pit road for repairs, AJ Allmendinger hit him in the rear, also damaging his car.

Read more: http://aol.sportingnews.com/nascar/story/2012-02-27/wreck-on-lap-2-takes-out-johnson-patrick-three-others?icid=maing-grid7%7Cmain5%7Cdl2%7Csec1_lnk2%26pLid%3D138976#ixzz1ndTiJOQR

BARCELONA

Get more from your mobile with the Asus Padfone


BARCELONA, Spain--Asus struck a high note when it introduced the one-of-a-kind Transformer Prime last year, but that device was only the beginning.

Today at Mobile World Congress, Asus finally released its long-awaited Padfone. Though the device first made an appearance last May in a promotional video, sightings of the actual device have been rare. And after skipping an official unveiling at CES last month, speculation mounted that Asus would use Barcelona as the stage instead.

At its most basic level, the Padfone is a candy bar Android smartphone with high-end, though hardly revolutionary, specs. You'll find a 4.3-inch AMOLED display, a Qualcomm dual-core processor, messaging and e-mail, Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0), Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, GPS, an 8-megapixl camera, a second VGA shooter around front, and a media player.


The Padfone's story, however, isn't about what the phone can do, but about what you can do with the phone. Building where Motorola's laptop dock left off, the Padfone can slide into the Asus Padstation to become a 10.1-inch tablet. Everything that you can do on the phone, from browsing the Web, to playing media, to using apps, you now can do in tablet form. You can even make calls using the integrated speakerphone or a Bluetooth headset (you'd look pretty silly carrying a tablet next to your ear).

But the Padfone doesn't stop there. You can also turn the tablet into a small notebook by attaching the Asus Station Dock keyboard. Like with the Transfomer Prime, the keyboard will snap onto the bottom of the tablet for your typing needs.

For a closer look (I don't blame you if you're scratching your head at this point), check out CNET Asia's hands-on photos. Our sister site in Singapore got an exclusive look at the Padfone a few days before traveling to Barcelona so be sure to check out Aloysius Low's First Take of the device.

We'll bring you more pricing and availability details when we have them.


more @ http://reviews.cnet.com/8301-13970_7-57385002-78/get-more-from-your-mobile-with-the-asus-padfone/?tag=mncol;topStories


Asus

Get more from your mobile with the Asus Padfone


BARCELONA, Spain--Asus struck a high note when it introduced the one-of-a-kind Transformer Prime last year, but that device was only the beginning.

Today at Mobile World Congress, Asus finally released its long-awaited Padfone. Though the device first made an appearance last May in a promotional video, sightings of the actual device have been rare. And after skipping an official unveiling at CES last month, speculation mounted that Asus would use Barcelona as the stage instead.

At its most basic level, the Padfone is a candy bar Android smartphone with high-end, though hardly revolutionary, specs. You'll find a 4.3-inch AMOLED display, a Qualcomm dual-core processor, messaging and e-mail, Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0), Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, GPS, an 8-megapixl camera, a second VGA shooter around front, and a media player.


The Padfone's story, however, isn't about what the phone can do, but about what you can do with the phone. Building where Motorola's laptop dock left off, the Padfone can slide into the Asus Padstation to become a 10.1-inch tablet. Everything that you can do on the phone, from browsing the Web, to playing media, to using apps, you now can do in tablet form. You can even make calls using the integrated speakerphone or a Bluetooth headset (you'd look pretty silly carrying a tablet next to your ear).

But the Padfone doesn't stop there. You can also turn the tablet into a small notebook by attaching the Asus Station Dock keyboard. Like with the Transfomer Prime, the keyboard will snap onto the bottom of the tablet for your typing needs.

For a closer look (I don't blame you if you're scratching your head at this point), check out CNET Asia's hands-on photos. Our sister site in Singapore got an exclusive look at the Padfone a few days before traveling to Barcelona so be sure to check out Aloysius Low's First Take of the device.

We'll bring you more pricing and availability details when we have them.


more @ http://reviews.cnet.com/8301-13970_7-57385002-78/get-more-from-your-mobile-with-the-asus-padfone/?tag=mncol;topStories


Jobs

$100K manufacturing jobs

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- What's uncool about a $100,000 factory job? These days not much. In fact, factory jobs -- once considered back-breaking and low-paying -- have become high-tech and high-salaried.

Still young people don't get it, say factory owners, who can't find enough skilled workers.

"When I was an apprentice in the late '70s, kids were dying to get into manufacturing. There were plenty of factory jobs," said Joe Sedlak, a machinist who owns the Chesapeake Machine Company in Baltimore. "There are jobs for the taking today. But kids don't want them."

Stereotypes about factory jobs still persist. And the media isn't helping, factory owners complain.

"On TV, kids don't see many positive images of manufacturing," said Bill Mach, president of Mach Mold, a manufacturer of plastics molds in Benton Harbor, Mich. A show will have a scene with "an old dark building with a bird flying out of it, and something bad happens."

Scott Paul, executive director of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, agreed. "Pop culture has a big impact on young people," he said, adding that the only recent positive pop culture depiction of manufacturing that he can think of has been in Iron Man.
Desperately seeking factory workers

The industry needs an image boost, and young people need to get educated about high-skilled factory jobs, experts said.

An aspiring machinist -- a popular factory job -- can start training at 18 and then do a one- or two-year manufacturing apprenticeship. In five years, he or she could be making more than $50,000. In 10 years, that could double to $100,000.

Not a bad salary for a 28-year-old.

"If you're really good at your work, you could remain employed for a very long time, because there are so few of us," said Sedlak.

Sedlak's top worker makes $30 an hour. And annual pay at his company ranges between $70,000 and $80,000 with overtime. In 31 years, only three workers have retired from his factory.

Still, with almost 13 million unemployed Americans, including many high school graduates, he is struggling to fill positions.

A recent Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte report underscores that. Manufacturers currently have 600,000 vacancies nationwide, it said.

"When we pushed manufacturing out of the country, we pushed job opportunities out," said Sedlak.

The downward spiral that followed was swift. With jobs gone, schools ended vocational classes. Kids lost interest in manufacturing. Many states stopped sponsoring apprentice programs in factories.

Last week, Justin Lavanway, 17, and two of his high school buddies, toured Mach Mold to learn more about manufacturing and its jobs.
States to manufacturers: We want you!

His grandfather was a career machinist with Whirlpool. "I saw that it was a pretty stable career for him," said Lavanway. "That's why I'm keeping my options open."

But his friends, Joseph Johnson, 18, who is thinking about a job in medical services, and Charlie Leaf, 18, who wants pursue a career in psychiatry, are not interested in manufacturing.

"The public school system tells students that we have to go to college to be successful," said Johnson. "Ever since you're young, you hear that's what you have to do to achieve the American dream."

Johnson and Leaf also don't think manufacturing offers stable careers.

Mach hears this often from young people, even through manufacturing is a deep-rooted profession through generations of families in Southwest Michigan.

And it's just not true, he said. "I have 40 people in my plant. Half have been there for 15 to 25 years."

"There's no easy answer to how we can change manufacturing's image problem," said Paul. Companies themselves have to be up to that challenge, he said.

One idea is to turn to pop culture, said Paul.

"Maybe we need someone cool like Clint Eastwood to say, 'Go work in factories' as a follow up to his Super Bowl Chrysler ad." To top of page

more @ http://money.cnn.com/2012/02/27/smallbusiness/youth_manufacturing_jobs/index.htm?iid=Lead

Oil

(Financial Times) -- Oil prices surged on Friday as the UN's nuclear watchdog said Iran had significantly increased its production of higher-grade uranium over the past six months and had failed to dispel concerns that it was pursuing atomic weapons.

Amid growing fears that Iran's nuclear programme could prompt a military attack by Israel later this year, the International Atomic Energy Agency produced a detailed report into the state of Tehran's nuclear programme which suggested it has ramped up the production of uranium close to weapons grade.

Oil prices rose sharply, with Brent crude, the global benchmark, hitting a fresh nine-month high of $125 a barrel. Prices have risen 15 per cent in the past month against the backdrop of growing tensions with Iran and supply disruptions in other, smaller producers such as Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

According to the IAEA, Iran had produced 73.7kg of uranium enriched to a concentration of 20 per cent -- a level close to that needed for a nuclear weapon -- in the 18 months leading up to last September. In the five months since then, it had produced an additional 35kg of uranium at its two enrichment plants at Natanz and Fordow.

"The agency continues to have serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear programme," the Vienna-based UN body said in the latest quarterly report about Iran's atomic activities.
'Sanctions not impacting nuke activity'
Nuclear site Iran wants to keep hidden

The White House said the IAEA report demonstrated Iran was continuing to violate UN Security Council resolutions on its nuclear programme.

"When combined with its continued stonewalling of international inspectors, Iran's actions demonstrate why Iran has failed to convince the international community that its nuclear programme is peaceful," said Tommy Vietor, a spokesman for the National Security Council.

Paul Brannan, senior analyst at the Institute for Science and International Security, the Washington-based group that is an authority on nuclear proliferation, said the ramp-up in production shortened "the potential breakout time" for Iran to produce an actual nuclear weapon.

"This shows that they [Iran] are really following through on the decision to do enrichment at up to 20 per cent at Fordow. It is the stockpiling of greater and greater amounts of this uranium there that is really concerning," he said.

Ehud Barak, Israel's defence minister, has warned that Tehran's nuclear research could soon pass into what he called a "zone of immunity", protected from outside disruption.

The expansion in the number of centrifuges, used to enrich uranium, at Natanz from around 6,000 to around 9,000 was significant, Mr Brannan said. However he added that this activity was at Natanz, which is much more vulnerable to attack than the site at Fordow. "By doing this at Natanz, they knew that the IAEA was going to see that. They are not doing this in secret," he said.

The report also included some signs that Iran's programme was having difficulties. Information that the Iranians were installing a range of different cascades of centrifuges at Natanz showed they were having technical problems, Mr Brannan said.

Ed Morse, head of commodities research at Citigroup and a former US energy official, said the IAEA report had contributed to "an expectation of a supply dislocation that has led to the bidding up of oil prices".

While crude prices remain below their 2008 record in dollar terms, when measured in euros and sterling the price of oil marked fresh records this week, raising concerns of an oil shock for already fragile European economies.

The International Monetary Fund warned of the threat to the global economy and Tim Geithner, US Treasury secretary, did not rule out releasing strategic oil reserves.

"A new risk on the horizon, or maybe not on the horizon, maybe right in front of us, is high oil prices," David Lipton, the IMF's first deputy managing director, told reporters in Mexico City, where leaders of the G20 meet this weekend.

Saudi Arabia has already increased its production to the highest in 30 years, as oil consumers seek to reduce their reliance on Iran.

"Saudi Arabia is boosting its production in response to heightened demand for its crude from several European customers and a few in Asia," an industry source familiar with Saudi Arabian policy thinking said.

The US and its European allies are likely to argue in the next few days that the IAEA report is a cause of alarm. "Iran's growing capacity to produce ever higher enrichment is something that seriously concerns the proliferation experts," said a senior IAEA figure.

But while the US and Europe meant to press ahead with sanctions, Vladimir Putin, Russian prime minister, sounded a contrary note, saying he believed some nations were using fears that Iran could acquire nuclear weapons as a pretext to seek to "change the regime".

"Under the appearance of a struggle to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons through the addition of another potential member of the nuclear club, Iran, attempts of a different kind are being made ... to change the regime," Mr Putin said.

$100K

$100K manufacturing jobs

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- What's uncool about a $100,000 factory job? These days not much. In fact, factory jobs -- once considered back-breaking and low-paying -- have become high-tech and high-salaried.

Still young people don't get it, say factory owners, who can't find enough skilled workers.

"When I was an apprentice in the late '70s, kids were dying to get into manufacturing. There were plenty of factory jobs," said Joe Sedlak, a machinist who owns the Chesapeake Machine Company in Baltimore. "There are jobs for the taking today. But kids don't want them."

Stereotypes about factory jobs still persist. And the media isn't helping, factory owners complain.

"On TV, kids don't see many positive images of manufacturing," said Bill Mach, president of Mach Mold, a manufacturer of plastics molds in Benton Harbor, Mich. A show will have a scene with "an old dark building with a bird flying out of it, and something bad happens."

Scott Paul, executive director of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, agreed. "Pop culture has a big impact on young people," he said, adding that the only recent positive pop culture depiction of manufacturing that he can think of has been in Iron Man.
Desperately seeking factory workers

The industry needs an image boost, and young people need to get educated about high-skilled factory jobs, experts said.

An aspiring machinist -- a popular factory job -- can start training at 18 and then do a one- or two-year manufacturing apprenticeship. In five years, he or she could be making more than $50,000. In 10 years, that could double to $100,000.

Not a bad salary for a 28-year-old.

"If you're really good at your work, you could remain employed for a very long time, because there are so few of us," said Sedlak.

Sedlak's top worker makes $30 an hour. And annual pay at his company ranges between $70,000 and $80,000 with overtime. In 31 years, only three workers have retired from his factory.

Still, with almost 13 million unemployed Americans, including many high school graduates, he is struggling to fill positions.

A recent Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte report underscores that. Manufacturers currently have 600,000 vacancies nationwide, it said.

"When we pushed manufacturing out of the country, we pushed job opportunities out," said Sedlak.

The downward spiral that followed was swift. With jobs gone, schools ended vocational classes. Kids lost interest in manufacturing. Many states stopped sponsoring apprentice programs in factories.

Last week, Justin Lavanway, 17, and two of his high school buddies, toured Mach Mold to learn more about manufacturing and its jobs.
States to manufacturers: We want you!

His grandfather was a career machinist with Whirlpool. "I saw that it was a pretty stable career for him," said Lavanway. "That's why I'm keeping my options open."

But his friends, Joseph Johnson, 18, who is thinking about a job in medical services, and Charlie Leaf, 18, who wants pursue a career in psychiatry, are not interested in manufacturing.

"The public school system tells students that we have to go to college to be successful," said Johnson. "Ever since you're young, you hear that's what you have to do to achieve the American dream."

Johnson and Leaf also don't think manufacturing offers stable careers.

Mach hears this often from young people, even through manufacturing is a deep-rooted profession through generations of families in Southwest Michigan.

And it's just not true, he said. "I have 40 people in my plant. Half have been there for 15 to 25 years."

"There's no easy answer to how we can change manufacturing's image problem," said Paul. Companies themselves have to be up to that challenge, he said.

One idea is to turn to pop culture, said Paul.

"Maybe we need someone cool like Clint Eastwood to say, 'Go work in factories' as a follow up to his Super Bowl Chrysler ad." To top of page

more @ http://money.cnn.com/2012/02/27/smallbusiness/youth_manufacturing_jobs/index.htm?iid=Lead

06

100 things that you did not know about Africa


1. The human race is of African origin. The oldest known skeletal remains of anatomically modern humans (or homo sapiens) were excavated at sites in East Africa. Human remains were discovered at Omo in Ethiopia that were dated at 195,000 years old, the oldest known in the world.

2. Skeletons of pre-humans have been found in Africa that date back between 4 and 5 million years. The oldest known ancestral type of humanity is thought to have been the australopithecus ramidus, who lived at least 4.4 million years ago.

3. Africans were the first to organise fishing expeditions 90,000 years ago. At Katanda, a region in northeastern Zaïre (now Congo), was recovered a finely wrought series of harpoon points, all elaborately polished and barbed. Also uncovered was a tool, equally well crafted, believed to be a dagger. The discoveries suggested the existence of an early aquatic or fishing based culture.

4. Africans were the first to engage in mining 43,000 years ago. In 1964 a hematite mine was found in Swaziland at Bomvu Ridge in the Ngwenya mountain range. Ultimately 300,000 artefacts were recovered including thousands of stone-made mining tools. Adrian Boshier, one of the archaeologists on the site, dated the mine to a staggering 43,200 years old.

5. Africans pioneered basic arithmetic 25,000 years ago. The Ishango bone is a tool handle with notches carved into it found in the Ishango region of Zaïre (now called Congo) near Lake Edward. The bone tool was originally thought to have been over 8,000 years old, but a more sensitive recent dating has given dates of 25,000 years old. On the tool are 3 rows of notches. Row 1 shows three notches carved next to six, four carved next to eight, ten carved next to two fives and finally a seven. The 3 and 6, 4 and 8, and 10 and 5, represent the process of doubling. Row 2 shows eleven notches carved next to twenty-one notches, and nineteen notches carved next to nine notches. This represents 10 + 1, 20 + 1, 20 - 1 and 10 - 1. Finally, Row 3 shows eleven notches, thirteen notches, seventeen notches and nineteen notches. 11, 13, 17 and 19 are the prime numbers between 10 and 20.

6. Africans cultivated crops 12,000 years ago, the first known advances in agriculture. Professor Fred Wendorf discovered that people in Egypt’s Western Desert cultivated crops of barley, capers, chick-peas, dates, legumes, lentils and wheat. Their ancient tools were also recovered. There were grindstones, milling stones, cutting blades, hide scrapers, engraving burins, and mortars and pestles.

7. Africans mummified their dead 9,000 years ago. A mummified infant was found under the Uan Muhuggiag rock shelter in south western Libya. The infant was buried in the foetal position and was mummified using a very sophisticated technique that must have taken hundreds of years to evolve. The technique predates the earliest mummies known in Ancient Egypt by at least 1,000 years. Carbon dating is controversial but the mummy may date from 7438 (±220) BC.

8. Africans carved the world’s first colossal sculpture 7,000 or more years ago. The Great Sphinx of Giza was fashioned with the head of a man combined with the body of a lion. A key and important question raised by this monument was: How old is it? In October 1991 Professor Robert Schoch, a geologist from Boston University, demonstrated that the Sphinx was sculpted between 5000 BC and 7000 BC, dates that he considered conservative.

9. On the 1 March 1979, the New York Times carried an article on its front page also page sixteen that was entitled Nubian Monarchy called Oldest. In this article we were assured that: “Evidence of the oldest recognizable monarchy in human history, preceding the rise of the earliest Egyptian kings by several generations, has been discovered in artifacts from ancient Nubia” (i.e. the territory of the northern Sudan and the southern portion of modern Egypt.)

10. The ancient Egyptians had the same type of tropically adapted skeletal proportions as modern Black Africans. A 2003 paper appeared in American Journal of Physical Anthropology by Dr Sonia Zakrzewski entitled Variation in Ancient Egyptian Stature and Body Proportions where she states that: “The raw values in Table 6 suggest that Egyptians had the ‘super-Negroid’ body plan described by Robins (1983). The values for the brachial and crural indices show that the distal segments of each limb are longer relative to the proximal segments than in many ‘African’ populations.”

11. The ancient Egyptians had Afro combs. One writer tells us that the Egyptians “manufactured a very striking range of combs in ivory: the shape of these is distinctly African and is like the combs used even today by Africans and those of African descent.”

12. The Funerary Complex in the ancient Egyptian city of Saqqara is the oldest building that tourists regularly visit today. An outer wall, now mostly in ruins, surrounded the whole structure. Through the entrance are a series of columns, the first stone-built columns known to historians. The North House also has ornamental columns built into the walls that have papyrus-like capitals. Also inside the complex is the Ceremonial Court, made of limestone blocks that have been quarried and then shaped. In the centre of the complex is the Step Pyramid, the first of 90 Egyptian pyramids.

13. The first Great Pyramid of Giza, the most extraordinary building in history, was a staggering 481 feet tall - the equivalent of a 40-storey building. It was made of 2.3 million blocks of limestone and granite, some weighing 100 tons.

14. The ancient Egyptian city of Kahun was the world’s first planned city. Rectangular and walled, the city was divided into two parts. One part housed the wealthier inhabitants – the scribes, officials and foremen. The other part housed the ordinary people. The streets of the western section in particular, were straight, laid out on a grid, and crossed each other at right angles. A stone gutter, over half a metre wide, ran down the centre of every street.

15. Egyptian mansions were discovered in Kahun - each boasting 70 rooms, divided into four sections or quarters. There was a master’s quarter, quarters for women and servants, quarters for offices and finally, quarters for granaries, each facing a central courtyard. The master’s quarters had an open court with a stone water tank for bathing. Surrounding this was a colonnade.

16 The Labyrinth in the Egyptian city of Hawara with its massive layout, multiple courtyards, chambers and halls, was the very largest building in antiquity. Boasting three thousand rooms, 1,500 of them were above ground and the other 1,500 were underground.

17. Toilets and sewerage systems existed in ancient Egypt. One of the pharaohs built a city now known as Amarna. An American urban planner noted that: “Great importance was attached to cleanliness in Amarna as in other Egyptian cities. Toilets and sewers were in use to dispose waste. Soap was made for washing the body. Perfumes and essences were popular against body odour. A solution of natron was used to keep insects from houses . . . Amarna may have been the first planned ‘garden city’.”

18. Sudan has more pyramids than any other country on earth - even more than Egypt. There are at least 223 pyramids in the Sudanese cities of Al Kurru, Nuri, Gebel Barkal and Meroë. They are generally 20 to 30 metres high and steep sided.

19. The Sudanese city of Meroë is rich in surviving monuments. Becoming the capital of the Kushite Empire between 590 BC until AD 350, there are 84 pyramids in this city alone, many built with their own miniature temple. In addition, there are ruins of a bath house sharing affinities with those of the Romans. Its central feature is a large pool approached by a flight of steps with waterspouts decorated with lion heads.

20. Bling culture has a long and interesting history. Gold was used to decorate ancient Sudanese temples. One writer reported that: “Recent excavations at Meroe and Mussawwarat es-Sufra revealed temples with walls and statues covered with gold leaf”.

21. In around 300 BC, the Sudanese invented a writing script that had twenty-three letters of which four were vowels and there was also a word divider. Hundreds of ancient texts have survived that were in this script. Some are on display in the British Museum.

22. In central Nigeria, West Africa’s oldest civilisation flourished between 1000 BC and 300 BC. Discovered in 1928, the ancient culture was called the Nok Civilisation, named after the village in which the early artefacts were discovered. Two modern scholars, declare that “[a]fter calibration, the period of Nok art spans from 1000 BC until 300 BC”. The site itself is much older going back as early as 4580 or 4290 BC.

23. West Africans built in stone by 1100 BC. In the Tichitt-Walata region of Mauritania, archaeologists have found “large stone masonry villages” that date back to 1100 BC. The villages consisted of roughly circular compounds connected by “well-defined streets”.

24. By 250 BC, the foundations of West Africa’s oldest cities were established such as Old Djenné in Mali.

25. Kumbi Saleh, the capital of Ancient Ghana, flourished from 300 to 1240 AD. Located in modern day Mauritania, archaeological excavations have revealed houses, almost habitable today, for want of renovation and several storeys high. They had underground rooms, staircases and connecting halls. Some had nine rooms. One part of the city alone is estimated to have housed 30,000 people.
26. West Africa had walled towns and cities in the pre-colonial period. Winwood Reade, an English historian visited West Africa in the nineteenth century and commented that: “There are . . . thousands of large walled cities resembling those of Europe in the Middle Ages, or of ancient Greece.”

27. Lord Lugard, an English official, estimated in 1904 that there were 170 walled towns still in existence in the whole of just the Kano province of northern Nigeria.

28. Cheques are not quite as new an invention as we were led to believe. In the tenth century, an Arab geographer, Ibn Haukal, visited a fringe region of Ancient Ghana. Writing in 951 AD, he told of a cheque for 42,000 golden dinars written to a merchant in the city of Audoghast by his partner in Sidjilmessa.

29. Ibn Haukal, writing in 951 AD, informs us that the King of Ghana was “the richest king on the face of the earth” whose pre-eminence was due to the quantity of gold nuggets that had been amassed by the himself and by his predecessors.

30. The Nigerian city of Ile-Ife was paved in 1000 AD on the orders of a female ruler with decorations that originated in Ancient America. Naturally, no-one wants to explain how this took place approximately 500 years before the time of Christopher Columbus!

31. West Africa had bling culture in 1067 AD. One source mentions that when the Emperor of Ghana gives audience to his people: “he sits in a pavilion around which stand his horses caparisoned in cloth of gold: behind him stand ten pages holding shields and gold-mounted swords: and on his right hand are the sons of the princes of his empire, splendidly clad and with gold plaited into their hair . . . The gate of the chamber is guarded by dogs of an excellent breed . . . they wear collars of gold and silver.”

32. Glass windows existed at that time. The residence of the Ghanaian Emperor in 1116 AD was: “A well-built castle, thoroughly fortified, decorated inside with sculptures and pictures, and having glass windows.”

33. The Grand Mosque in the Malian city of Djenné, described as “the largest adobe [clay] building in the world”, was first raised in 1204 AD. It was built on a square plan where each side is 56 metres in length. It has three large towers on one side, each with projecting wooden buttresses.

34. One of the great achievements of the Yoruba was their urban culture. “By the year A.D. 1300,” says a modern scholar, “the Yoruba people built numerous walled cities surrounded by farms”. The cities were Owu, Oyo, Ijebu, Ijesa, Ketu, Popo, Egba, Sabe, Dassa, Egbado, Igbomina, the sixteen Ekiti principalities, Owo and Ondo.

35. Yoruba metal art of the mediaeval period was of world class. One scholar wrote that Yoruba art “would stand comparison with anything which Ancient Egypt, Classical Greece and Rome, or Renaissance Europe had to offer.”

36. In the Malian city of Gao stands the Mausoleum of Askia the Great, a weird sixteenth century edifice that resembles a step pyramid.

37. Thousands of mediaeval tumuli have been found across West Africa. Nearly 7,000 were discovered in north-west Senegal alone spread over nearly 1,500 sites. They were probably built between 1000 and 1300 AD.

38. Excavations at the Malian city of Gao carried out by Cambridge University revealed glass windows. One of the finds was entitled: “Fragments of alabaster window surrounds and a piece of pink window glass, Gao 10th – 14th century.”

39. In 1999 the BBC produced a television series entitled Millennium. The programme devoted to the fourteenth century opens with the following disclosure: “In the fourteenth century, the century of the scythe, natural disasters threatened civilisations with extinction. The Black Death kills more people in Europe, Asia and North Africa than any catastrophe has before. Civilisations which avoid the plague thrive. In West Africa the Empire of Mali becomes the richest in the world.”

40. Malian sailors got to America in 1311 AD, 181 years before Columbus. An Egyptian scholar, Ibn Fadl Al-Umari, published on this sometime around 1342. In the tenth chapter of his book, there is an account of two large maritime voyages ordered by the predecessor of Mansa Musa, a king who inherited the Malian throne in 1312. This mariner king is not named by Al-Umari, but modern writers identify him as Mansa Abubakari II.

41. On a pilgrimage to Mecca in 1324 AD, a Malian ruler, Mansa Musa, brought so much money with him that his visit resulted in the collapse of gold prices in Egypt and Arabia. It took twelve years for the economies of the region to normalise.

42. West African gold mining took place on a vast scale. One modern writer said that: “It is estimated that the total amount of gold mined in West Africa up to 1500 was 3,500 tons, worth more than $****30 billion in today’s market.”

43. The old Malian capital of Niani had a 14th century building called the Hall of Audience. It was an surmounted by a dome, adorned with arabesques of striking colours. The windows of an upper floor were plated with wood and framed in silver; those of a lower floor were plated with wood, framed in gold.

44. Mali in the 14th century was highly urbanised. Sergio Domian, an Italian art and architecture scholar, wrote the following about this period: “Thus was laid the foundation of an urban civilisation. At the height of its power, Mali had at least 400 cities, and the interior of the Niger Delta was very densely populated”.

45. The Malian city of Timbuktu had a 14th century population of 115,000 - 5 times larger than mediaeval London. Mansa Musa, built the Djinguerebere Mosque in the fourteenth century. There was the University Mosque in which 25,000 students studied and the Oratory of Sidi Yayia. There were over 150 Koran schools in which 20,000 children were instructed. London, by contrast, had a total 14th century population of 20,000 people.

46. National Geographic recently described Timbuktu as the Paris of the mediaeval world, on account of its intellectual culture. According to Professor Henry Louis Gates, 25,000 university students studied there.

47. Many old West African families have private library collections that go back hundreds of years. The Mauritanian cities of Chinguetti and Oudane have a total of 3,450 hand written mediaeval books. There may be another 6,000 books still surviving in the other city of Walata. Some date back to the 8th century AD. There are 11,000 books in private collections in Niger. Finally, in Timbuktu, Mali, there are about 700,000 surviving books.

48. A collection of one thousand six hundred books was considered a small library for a West African scholar of the 16th century. Professor Ahmed Baba of Timbuktu is recorded as saying that he had the smallest library of any of his friends - he had only 1600 volumes.

49. Concerning these old manuscripts, Michael Palin, in his TV series Sahara, said the imam of Timbuktu “has a collection of scientific texts that clearly show the planets circling the sun. They date back hundreds of years . . . Its convincing evidence that the scholars of Timbuktu knew a lot more than their counterparts in Europe. In the fifteenth century in Timbuktu the mathematicians knew about the rotation of the planets, knew about the details of the eclipse, they knew things which we had to wait for 150 almost 200 years to know in Europe when Galileo and Copernicus came up with these same calculations and were given a very hard time for it.”

50. The Songhai Empire of 16th century West Africa had a government position called Minister for Etiquette and Protocol.
51. The mediaeval Nigerian city of Benin was built to “a scale comparable with the Great Wall of China”. There was a vast system of defensive walling totalling 10,000 miles in all. Even before the full extent of the city walling had become apparent the Guinness Book of Records carried an entry in the 1974 edition that described the city as: “The largest earthworks in the world carried out prior to the mechanical era.”

52. Benin art of the Middle Ages was of the highest quality. An official of the Berlin Museum für Völkerkunde once stated that: “These works from Benin are equal to the very finest examples of European casting technique. Benvenuto Cellini could not have cast them better, nor could anyone else before or after him . . . Technically, these bronzes represent the very highest possible achievement.”

53. Winwood Reade described his visit to the Ashanti Royal Palace of Kumasi in 1874: “We went to the king’s palace, which consists of many courtyards, each surrounded with alcoves and verandahs, and having two gates or doors, so that each yard was a thoroughfare . . . But the part of the palace fronting the street was a stone house, Moorish in its style . . . with a flat roof and a parapet, and suites of apartments on the first floor. It was built by Fanti masons many years ago. The rooms upstairs remind me of Wardour Street. Each was a perfect Old Curiosity Shop. Books in many languages, Bohemian glass, clocks, silver plate, old furniture, Persian rugs, Kidderminster carpets, pictures and engravings, numberless chests and coffers. A sword bearing the inscription From Queen Victoria to the King of Ashantee. A copy of the Times, 17 October 1843. With these were many specimens of Moorish and Ashanti handicraft.”

54. In the mid-nineteenth century, William Clarke, an English visitor to Nigeria, remarked that: “As good an article of cloth can be woven by the Yoruba weavers as by any people . . . in durability, their cloths far excel the prints and home-spuns of Manchester.”

55. The recently discovered 9th century Nigerian city of Eredo was found to be surrounded by a wall that was 100 miles long and seventy feet high in places. The internal area was a staggering 400 square miles.

56. On the subject of cloth, Kongolese textiles were also distinguished. Various European writers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries wrote of the delicate crafts of the peoples living in eastern Kongo and adjacent regions who manufactured damasks, sarcenets, satins, taffeta, cloth of tissue and velvet. Professor DeGraft-Johnson made the curious observation that: “Their brocades, both high and low, were far more valuable than the Italian.”

57. On Kongolese metallurgy of the Middle Ages, one modern scholar wrote that: “There is no doubting . . . the existence of an expert metallurgical art in the ancient Kongo . . . The Bakongo were aware of the toxicity of lead vapours. They devised preventative and curative methods, both pharmacological (massive doses of pawpaw and palm oil) and mechanical (exerting of pressure to free the digestive tract), for combating lead poisoning.”

58. In Nigeria, the royal palace in the city of Kano dates back to the fifteenth century. Begun by Muhammad Rumfa (ruled 1463-99) it has gradually evolved over generations into a very imposing complex. A colonial report of the city from 1902, described it as “a network of buildings covering an area of 33 acres and surrounded by a wall 20 to 30 feet high outside and 15 feet inside . . . in itself no mean citadel”.

59. A sixteenth century traveller visited the central African civilisation of Kanem-Borno and commented that the emperor’s cavalry had golden “stirrups, spurs, bits and buckles.” Even the ruler’s dogs had “chains of the finest gold”.

60. One of the government positions in mediaeval Kanem-Borno was Astronomer Royal.

61. Ngazargamu, the capital city of Kanem-Borno, became one of the largest cities in the seventeenth century world. By 1658 AD, the metropolis, according to an architectural scholar housed “about quarter of a million people”. It had 660 streets. Many were wide and unbending, reflective of town planning.

62. The Nigerian city of Surame flourished in the sixteenth century. Even in ruin it was an impressive sight, built on a horizontal vertical grid. A modern scholar describes it thus: “The walls of Surame are about 10 miles in circumference and include many large bastions or walled suburbs running out at right angles to the main wall. The large compound at Kanta is still visible in the centre, with ruins of many buildings, one of which is said to have been two-storied. The striking feature of the walls and whole ruins is the extensive use of stone and tsokuwa (laterite gravel) or very hard red building mud, evidently brought from a distance. There is a big mound of this near the north gate about 8 feet in height. The walls show regular courses of masonry to a height of 20 feet and more in several places. The best preserved portion is that known as sirati (the bridge) a little north of the eastern gate . . . The main city walls here appear to have provided a very strongly guarded entrance about 30 feet wide.”

63. The Nigerian city of Kano in 1851 produced an estimated 10 million pairs of sandals and 5 million hides each year for export.

64. In 1246 AD Dunama II of Kanem-Borno exchanged embassies with Al-Mustansir, the king of Tunis. He sent the North African court a costly present, which apparently included a giraffe. An old chronicle noted that the rare animal “created a sensation in Tunis”.

65. By the third century BC the city of Carthage on the coast of Tunisia was opulent and impressive. It had a population of 700,000 and may even have approached a million. Lining both sides of three streets were rows of tall houses six storeys high.

66. The Ethiopian city of Axum has a series of 7 giant obelisks that date from perhaps 300 BC to 300 AD. They have details carved into them that represent windows and doorways of several storeys. The largest obelisk, now fallen, is in fact “the largest monolith ever made anywhere in the world”. It is 108 feet long, weighs a staggering 500 tons, and represents a thirteen-storey building.

67. Ethiopia minted its own coins over 1,500 years ago. One scholar wrote that: “Almost no other contemporary state anywhere in the world could issue in gold, a statement of sovereignty achieved only by Rome, Persia, and the Kushan kingdom in northern India at the time.”

68. The Ethiopian script of the 4th century AD influenced the writing script of Armenia. A Russian historian noted that: “Soon after its creation, the Ethiopic vocalised script began to influence the scripts of Armenia and Georgia. D. A. Olderogge suggested that Mesrop Mashtotz used the vocalised Ethiopic script when he invented the Armenian alphabet.”

69. “In the first half of the first millennium CE,” says a modern scholar, Ethiopia “was ranked as one of the world’s greatest empires”. A Persian cleric of the third century AD identified it as the third most important state in the world after Persia and Rome.

70. Ethiopia has 11 underground mediaeval churches built by being carved out of the ground. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries AD, Roha became the new capital of the Ethiopians. Conceived as a New Jerusalem by its founder, Emperor Lalibela (c.1150-1230), it contains 11 churches, all carved out of the rock of the mountains by hammer and chisel. All of the temples were carved to a depth of 11 metres or so below ground level. The largest is the House of the Redeemer, a staggering 33.7 metres long, 23.7 metres wide and 11.5 metres deep.

71. Lalibela is not the only place in Ethiopia to have such wonders. A cotemporary archaeologist reports research that was conducted in the region in the early 1970’s when: “startling numbers of churches built in caves or partially or completely cut from the living rock were revealed not only in Tigre and Lalibela but as far south as Addis Ababa. Soon at least 1,500 were known. At least as many more probably await revelation.”

72. In 1209 AD Emperor Lalibela of Ethiopia sent an embassy to Cairo bringing the sultan unusual gifts including an elephant, a hyena, a zebra, and a giraffe.

73. In Southern Africa, there are at least 600 stone built ruins in the regions of Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa. These ruins are called Mazimbabwe in Shona, the Bantu language of the builders, and means great revered house and “signifies court”.

74. The Great Zimbabwe was the largest of these ruins. It consists of 12 clusters of buildings, spread over 3 square miles. Its outer walls were made from 100,000 tons of granite bricks. In the fourteenth century, the city housed 18,000 people, comparable in size to that of London of the same period.

75. Bling culture existed in this region. At the time of our last visit, the Horniman Museum in London had exhibits of headrests with the caption: “Headrests have been used in Africa since the time of the Egyptian pharaohs. Remains of some headrests, once covered in gold foil, have been found in the ruins of Great Zimbabwe and burial sites like Mapungubwe dating to the twelfth century after Christ.”

76. Dr Albert Churchward, author of Signs and Symbols of Primordial Man, pointed out that writing was found in one of the stone built ruins: “Lt.-Col. E. L. de Cordes . . . who was in South Africa for three years, informed the writer that in one of the ‘Ruins’ there is a ‘stone-chamber,’ with a vast quantity of Papyri, covered with old Egyptian hieroglyphics. A Boer hunter discovered this, and a large quantity was used to light a fire with, and yet still a larger quantity remained there now.”

77. On bling culture, one seventeenth century visitor to southern African empire of Monomotapa, that ruled over this vast region, wrote that: “The people dress in various ways: at court of the Kings their grandees wear cloths of rich silk, damask, satin, gold and silk cloth; these are three widths of satin, each width four covados [2.64m], each sewn to the next, sometimes with gold lace in between, trimmed on two sides, like a carpet, with a gold and silk fringe, sewn in place with a two fingers’ wide ribbon, woven with gold roses on silk.”

78. Southern Africans mined gold on an epic scale. One modern writer tells us that: “The estimated amount of gold ore mined from the entire region by the ancients was staggering, exceeding 43 million tons. The ore yielded nearly 700 tons of pure gold which today would be valued at over $******7.5 billion.”

79. Apparently the Monomotapan royal palace at Mount Fura had chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. An eighteenth century geography book provided the following data: “The inside consists of a great variety of sumptuous apartments, spacious and lofty halls, all adorned with a magnificent cotton tapestry, the manufacture of the country. The floors, cielings [sic], beams and rafters are all either gilt or plated with gold curiously wrought, as are also the chairs of state, tables, benches &c. The candle-sticks and branches are made of ivory inlaid with gold, and hang from the cieling by chains of the same metal, or of silver gilt.”

80. Monomotapa had a social welfare system. Antonio Bocarro, a Portuguese contemporary, informs us that the Emperor: “shows great charity to the blind and maimed, for these are called the king’s poor, and have land and revenues for their subsistence, and when they wish to pass through the kingdoms, wherever they come food and drinks are given to them at the public cost as long as they remain there, and when they leave that place to go to another they are provided with what is necessary for their journey, and a guide, and some one to carry their wallet to the next village. In every place where they come there is the same obligation.”

81. Many southern Africans have indigenous and pre-colonial words for ‘gun’. Scholars have generally been reluctant to investigate or explain this fact.

82. Evidence discovered in 1978 showed that East Africans were making steel for more than 1,500 years: “Assistant Professor of Anthropology Peter Schmidt and Professor of Engineering Donald H. Avery have found as long as 2,000 years ago Africans living on the western shores of Lake Victoria had produced carbon steel in preheated forced draft furnaces, a method that was technologically more sophisticated than any developed in Europe until the mid-nineteenth century.”

83. Ruins of a 300 BC astronomical observatory was found at Namoratunga in Kenya. Africans were mapping the movements of stars such as Triangulum, Aldebaran, Bellatrix, Central Orion, etcetera, as well as the moon, in order to create a lunar calendar of 354 days.

84. Autopsies and caesarean operations were routinely and effectively carried out by surgeons in pre-colonial Uganda. The surgeons routinely used antiseptics, anaesthetics and cautery iron. Commenting on a Ugandan caesarean operation that appeared in the Edinburgh Medical Journal in 1884, one author wrote: “The whole conduct of the operation . . . suggests a skilled long-practiced surgical team at work conducting a well-tried and familiar operation with smooth efficiency.”

85. Sudan in the mediaeval period had churches, cathedrals, monasteries and castles. Their ruins still exist today.

86. The mediaeval Nubian Kingdoms kept archives. From the site of Qasr Ibrim legal texts, documents and correspondence were discovered. An archaeologist informs us that: “On the site are preserved thousands of documents in Meroitic, Latin, Greek, Coptic, Old Nubian, Arabic and Turkish.”

87. Glass windows existed in mediaeval Sudan. Archaeologists found evidence of window glass at the Sudanese cities of Old Dongola and Hambukol.

88. Bling culture existed in the mediaeval Sudan. Archaeologists found an individual buried at the Monastery of the Holy Trinity in the city of Old Dongola. He was clad in an extremely elaborate garb consisting of costly textiles of various fabrics including gold thread. At the city of Soba East, there were individuals buried in fine clothing, including items with golden thread.

89. Style and fashion existed in mediaeval Sudan. A dignitary at Jebel Adda in the late thirteenth century AD was interned with a long coat of red and yellow patterned damask folded over his body. Underneath, he wore plain cotton trousers of long and baggy cut. A pair of red leather slippers with turned up toes lay at the foot of the coffin. The body was wrapped in enormous pieces of gold brocaded striped silk.

90. Sudan in the ninth century AD had housing complexes with bath rooms and piped water. An archaeologist wrote that Old Dongola, the capital of Makuria, had: “a[n] . . . eighth to . . . ninth century housing complex. The houses discovered here differ in their hitherto unencountered spatial layout as well as their functional programme (water supply installation, bathroom with heating system) and interiors decorated with murals.”

91. In 619 AD, the Nubians sent a gift of a giraffe to the Persians.

92. The East Coast, from Somalia to Mozambique, has ruins of well over 50 towns and cities. They flourished from the ninth to the sixteenth centuries AD.

93. Chinese records of the fifteenth century AD note that Mogadishu had houses of “four or five storeys high”.

94. Gedi, near the coast of Kenya, is one of the East African ghost towns. Its ruins, dating from the fourteenth or fifteenth centuries, include the city walls, the palace, private houses, the Great Mosque, seven smaller mosques, and three pillar tombs.

95. The ruined mosque in the Kenyan city of Gedi had a water purifier made of limestone for recycling water.

96. The palace in the Kenyan city of Gedi contains evidence of piped water controlled by taps. In addition it had bathrooms and indoor toilets.

97. A visitor in 1331 AD considered the Tanzanian city of Kilwa to be of world class. He wrote that it was the “principal city on the coast the greater part of whose inhabitants are Zanj of very black complexion.” Later on he says that: “Kilwa is one of the most beautiful and well-constructed cities in the world. The whole of it is elegantly built.”

98. Bling culture existed in early Tanzania. A Portuguese chronicler of the sixteenth century wrote that: “[T]hey are finely clad in many rich garments of gold and silk and cotton, and the women as well; also with much gold and silver chains and bracelets, which they wear on their legs and arms, and many jewelled earrings in their ears”.

99. In 1961 a British archaeologist, found the ruins of Husuni Kubwa, the royal palace of the Tanzanian city of Kilwa. It had over a hundred rooms, including a reception hall, galleries, courtyards, terraces and an octagonal swimming pool.

100. In 1414 the Kenyan city of Malindi sent ambassadors to China carrying a gift that created a sensation at the Imperial Court. It was, of course, a giraffe.

Costa Allegra

More than a thousand people are awaiting rescue on the Costa Allegra cruise ship after a fire broke out on board causing the luxury liner to lose power.

The ship is adrift in the Indian Ocean more than 200 miles from the Seychelles island nation off mainland Africa, an area that is infested by pirates.

This is the second emergency situation this year for Costa Cruises which is owned by Carnival Cruises. In January, 32 people were killed when the Costa Concordia capsized after hitting rocks off the Italian island of Giglio. Seven people are still missing and presumed dead.

The Italian cruise line released a statement saying no one was injured, and the blaze that broke out in the engine room in the ship's aft was quickly extinguished. A spokesman for the Italian coast guard said the Seychelles Navy is sending rescue vessels-- including tug boats-- and a plane that has spotted the Allegra's location.

"The passengers and crew are in safe condition," said Commander Cosimo Nicastro of the Italian coast guard. "They are not necessarily comfortable because the ship only has emergency power on board, but they are safe."

"The winds right now are blowing at about 25 knots but we are not worried because it is a big ship, so the weather is not a concern," Nicastro said.

He said the Italian coast guard used satellite systems to spot nearby vessels that have agreed to assist in the emergency. A French fishing boat should reach the Allegra tonight. Another fishing boat should arrive by 5 a.m., and three merchant ships are also on the way.

Eight U.S. citizens are aboard the ship that left Madagascar on Saturday and was supposed to reach the Seychelles tomorrow. The Allegra is carrying 636 passengers and 413 crew members on a nearly month long cruise with numerous stops at island nations off the east coast of Africa along the way to Savona, Italy.

Costa Cruises says crews are inspecting the engine room hoping to restart the equipment necessary for the ship to become operational. The company's website says a live webcam transmission from the Allegra was interrupted at 9:15 GMT, about 25 minutes before the company says the fire was first reported.

more @ http://news.yahoo.com/cruise-ship-adrift-pirate-infested-indian-ocean-174117815--abc-news.html

Tonya Parker

Texas Judge Tonya Parker is sparking controversy with her refusal to marry straight couples until the LGBT community has equal rights under the law, reports the NY Daily News.

Parker explained her decision at a monthly meeting for the Stonewall Democrats of Dallas:

“I do not perform them because it is not an equal application of the law. Period,” she said.

According the Daily News, Parker, the first openly lesbian African-American elected official in the history of the state according to NBC News, is honest with the couples that she turns away, refusing to let them leave unclear about her decision:

“I use it as my opportunity to give them a lesson about marriage equality in the state because I feel like I have to tell them why I’m turning them away,” said Parker. “So I usually will offer them something along the lines of, ‘I’m sorry. I don’t perform marriage ceremonies because we are in a state that does not have marriage equality, and until it does, I am not going to partially apply the law to one group of people that doesn’t apply to another group of people.”

Though the Dallas Voice reports that there have been critics who claim that Parker is willfully neglecting her judicial duties by not marrying hetero couples, her response makes it clear that they do not have a clear understanding of the law:

I faithfully and fully perform all of my duties as the Presiding Judge of the 116th Civil District Court, where it is my honor to serve the citizens of Dallas County and the parties who have matters before the Court.

“Performing marriage ceremonies is not a duty that I have as the Presiding Judge of a civil district court. It is a right and privilege invested in me under the Family Code. I choose not to exercise it, as many other Judges do not exercise it. Because it is not part of our duties, some Judges even charge a fee to perform the ceremonies.

According to GayMarriage.ProCon.com, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, Washington, and the District of Columbia have all legalized same-sex marriage. Governor Martin O’Malley (D-Maryland), signed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage in his state on February 24, reports ABC News. Thirty states have constitutional amendments banning gay marriage — Texas is one of them.

That brand of legal revisionism and inequality lives at the root of Parker’s refusal to join heterosexual couples in matrimony:

“…It’s kind of oxymoronic for me to perform ceremonies that can’t be performed for me, so I’m not going to do it,” she said.

Marine hits $2.9 million jackpot

Jalalabad

KABUL, Afghanistan — A suicide car bomber struck early Monday at the gates of Jalalabad airport in eastern Afghanistan, officials said, killing nine people in an attack insurgents said was revenge for U.S. troops burning Qurans.

The explosion comes after six days of deadly protests in Afghanistan over the disposal of Qurans and other Islamic texts in a burn pit last week at a U.S. military base north of the capital.

American officials have called the incident a mistake and issued a series of apologies. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has urged calm, saying that Afghans should not let the insurgents capitalize on their indignation to spark violence.

Monday's attack appeared to be a sign that the Taliban are seizing the opportunity to do just that.

The bomber drove up to the gates of the airport – which serves both civilian and international military aircraft – shortly after dawn and detonated his explosives in a "very strong" blast, said Nangarhar provincial police spokesman Hazrad Mohammad.

Among the dead were six civilians, two airport guards and one soldier, Mohammad said. Another six people were wounded, he said.

An AP photographer saw at least four destroyed cars at the gates of the airport.

NATO forces spokesman Capt. Justin Brockhoff said that no international forces were killed in the early morning attack and that the installation was not breached by the blast.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, saying a suicide car bomber had driven up to the airport gate and detonated his explosives as international forces were changing from night to morning guard duty.

"This attack is revenge against those soldiers who burned our Quran," Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said in an email.

More than 30 people have been killed in protests and related attacks since the incident came to light this past Tuesday, including four U.S. soldiers.

On Sunday, demonstrators hurled grenades at a small U.S. base in northern Afghanistan and the ensuing gun battle left two Afghans dead and seven NATO troops injured.

Still, the top U.S. diplomat in Afghanistan said Sunday that the violence would not change Washington's course.

"Tensions are running very high here, and I think we need to let things calm down, return to a more normal atmosphere, and then get on with business," Ambassador Ryan Crocker told CNN.

In the most high-profile attack, two military advisers were found dead in their office at the Interior Ministry in the heart of the capital with shots to the back of their heads. The slayings inside one of the city's most heavily guarded buildings raised doubts about safety as coalition troops continue their withdrawal.

The incident prompted NATO, Britain and France to recall hundreds of international advisers from all Afghan ministries in the capital. The advisers are key to helping improve governance and preparing the country's security forces to take on more responsibility.

A manhunt was under way for the main suspect in the shooting – an Afghan man who worked as a driver for an office on the same floor as the advisers who were killed, Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqi said. He did not provide further details about the suspect or his possible motive.

The Taliban claimed that the shooter was one of their sympathizers and that an accomplice had helped him get into the compound to kill the Americans in retaliation for the Quran burnings.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Marie Colvin

(CNN) -- Marie Colvin, a veteran correspondent who was killed in Syria last week, died trying to get her shoes so she could escape a shelling attack, her paper reported Sunday.

Colvin, a New York native, worked for London's The Sunday Times.

As is the custom in Syria, she took off her shoes upon entering a building that was serving as a makeshift press center. She was on the ground floor when rockets hit the upper floors, The Sunday Times reported.

Thinking then that the building was a target, Colvin rushed to retrieve her shoes in the hall. A rocket landed just a few yards away, the paper said.

Colvin, 56, was the only British newspaper journalist inside the Homs neighborhood of Baba Amr, was killed alongside French journalist Remi Ochlik in the attack Wednesday.

Her mother, Rosemarie Colvin, said aid workers have been trying for days to remove her daughter's body from the war-ravaged country.

She added that she believes her daughter was deliberately targeted by Syrian government forces.
Remembering Marie Colvin
Colvin's death amid Syria's growing war

"They were first in another house, and the top floors there were blown off," she said. "First (the Syrian forces) rocketed the front of the building," she said, fueling suspicion that the attack against a makeshift media center where Colvin and Ochlik were holed up was no accident.

The Syrian government was not immediately available for comment.

The day before she was killed, Colvin had given media interviews to networks like ITN and CNN about the ongoing clashes in Homs, and about a child who was killed in the city.

"The baby's death was just heartbreaking," she told CNN's Anderson Cooper. "We just watched this little boy, his little tummy, heaving and heaving as he tried to breathe. It was horrific. My heart broke."

Colvin reported Tuesday that there was "constant shelling in the city" and that the child's death was "just one of many stories" in violence-wracked Homs. "It's chaos here."

Journalists and activists have been sneaking into Syria in an effort to report on the protests and clashes that have persistently challenged the authority of President Bashar al-Assad.

Colvin said graphic images like that of the dying child, who was reportedly struck in the chest by a piece of shrapnel, needed to be shown.

"Something like that I think is actually stronger for an audience, for someone who's not here, for an audience for which the conflict, any conflict, is very far away. But that's the reality," she said.

The siege of Baba Amr, where 28,000 civilians are "hiding, being shelled, defenseless," Colvin reported, has become a flashpoint of the country's bloody year of violence.

"That baby probably will move more people to think, 'What is going on and why is no one stopping this murder in Homs that is happening everyday?'"

"There are no military targets here," Colvin reported, refuting Syria claims that its forces are only hunting terrorists.

"It's a complete and utter lie," she said of the government's response. "The Syrian Army is basically shelling a city of cold, starving civilians."

A day later, Colvin and Ochlik were killed.

Colvin, a Yale graduate renown for reporting on war's more human consequences, had for years worked in conflict zones and high risk areas, despite losing an eye in 2001 during a grenade attack in Sri Lanka.

Since her death, her family has started a fund in her honor.

"We felt we had to do something so there was a place that people could donate," said family member Michael Colvin.

The Marie Colvin fund is intended to direct resources to charities that her family says she would have supported.

Akari Hoshino









Smartphone apps

How internet firms are reading your texts and emails and even looking at your pictures by spying through downloaded smartphone apps

The small print included with many mobile phone apps is giving their developers the right to rifle through users' phone books, text messages and emails.

By agreeing to little-read terms and conditions documents, phone users are giving developers the right to inspect their personal information and even find out who they are talking to.

In many shocking cases, users are even giving apps the right to collect whatever images the camera happens to be seeing, as well as the phone's location

Facebook, Yahoo!, Flickr and Badoo all admitted to reading users' text messages through their Android smartphone apps, the Sunday Times reported.

And many other apps from less well-known developers, many of them available for free, are also including the rights to access your personal data in their terms and conditions.


Academics are now warning the many apps are little more than 'fronts' to allow companies to hoover up personal data and pass them on to advertisers for a fee.

But the revelations also make clear that the wealth of data collected by the new generation of smartphones could pose a serious risk to users' privacy.


Daniel Rosenfield, director of Sun Products, a successful app business whose products are downloaded at a rate of 5,000 a day, said the information was requested by advertisers.

'You can sell your app but the revenue you get from selling your apps doesn't touch the revenue you get from giving your apps away for free and just loading them with advertisements,' he told the Sunday Times.

Unlike Android apps, Apple iPhone apps are covered by a general terms and conditions policy, which runs to astonishing 17,000 words.

However, the company also faced embarrassment earlier this month when it emerged some companies with iPhone apps were harvesting contact lists from customers mobile phone address books without telling them.

Twitter admitted that it copied lists of email addresses and phone numbers from those who used its smartphone application and stored them on its servers without asking users' permission.

Steve Jobs, Apple's late founder and the mastermind behind the iPhone, himself spoke of the dangers of instrusive apps in 2007, warning that many 'want to take a lot of your personal data and suck it up.'

Chris Brauer, co-director of the centre for Creative and Social Technology at Goldsmiths, University of London, echoed the concerns.

He warned that the ubiquitous smartphones have become 'a source for incredibly rich information about people's lives.

'A lot of apps are fronts for various companies who are now capturing this data.'

Nick Pickles, director of privacy and civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch, said: 'This research highlights the shockingly poor regulation around how our personal information can be captured through our phones.

'Consumers are downloading seemingly innocuous apps without realising their phone calls, location and text messages are all potentially being monitored as a result. Buried in legalese and privacy policies are incredibly broad permissions to capture our personal information and profit from it.

'Google’s name lends credibility to the Android market place, when in reality it is an unregulated wild west with hugely intrusive applications being touted as innocent games

'The platforms where people download apps from should be taking a far tougher stance on protecting users’ privacy and are currently failing to protect consumers from rogue developers.

'The total lack of any effective regulation in this area is allowing our personal information to be harvested without our knowledge, or informed consent.

'There is no reason a simple sports game needs to be able to intercept our calls, or for Facebook to read our text messages. It is being done to maximise profits with a total disregard for privacy.

'With Google’s new privacy policy just days away, the fact so many people are granting hugely intrusive access to their phones begs the question whether people really understand what they are signing away.'

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2106627/Internet-firms-access-texts-emails-pictures-spying-smartphone-apps.html#ixzz1nWDVmTEc

Carnival Cruise

Cruise line: 22 passengers robbed in Mexican seaside resort

(CNN) -- Twenty-two Carnival Cruise Lines passengers were robbed of valuables and their passports during a shore excursion in the Mexico seaside resort of Puerto Vallarta, cruise officials said late Saturday.

The passengers were robbed Thursday during a guided trail excursion, according to a statement released by the cruise line.

The cruise line did not provide details of the robbery, saying only that there were no injuries and the tour was suspended on future sailings under further notice.

"Carnival is working with guests to reimburse them for lost valuables and assist with lost passports or other forms of identification," the statement said.

The robbery comes two weeks after the U.S. State Department issued a travel warning to Americans to avoid all but essential travel to all or parts of 14 Mexican states, including the state of Jalisco. Puerto Vallarta is the sixth-largest city in Jalisco.

The State Department also warned travelers to use caution in visiting part of Baja California, Colima and Morelos.

The 3,000-plus passenger Carnival Splendor set sail February 19 from Long Beach, California, for a seven-day Mexican Riviera cruise that included stops in Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta, according to the ship's online itinerary.

The travel warnings and reports of increasing violence in Mexico have caused many cruise lines to curb their itineraries, either eliminating and shortening stops.

A number of cruise lines dropped Mazatlan from itineraries last year following a spike in violence.

Puerto Vallarta has remained a tourism hotspot, drawing college students during Spring vacations as well as cruise passengers.

The travel warnings follow reports that more than 47,500 people were killed in drug-related violence in Mexico between December 2006 and September 2011, according to the State Department. While most of those murdered were involved in criminal activity, innocent people were also caught in the crossfire, the State Department said.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon declared a crackdown on cartels in late 2006.

Puerto Vallarta

(CNN) -- Twenty-two Carnival Cruise Lines passengers were robbed of valuables and their passports during a shore excursion in the Mexico seaside resort of Puerto Vallarta, cruise officials said late Saturday.

The passengers were robbed Thursday during a guided trail excursion, according to a statement released by the cruise line.

The cruise line did not provide details of the robbery, saying only that there were no injuries and the tour was suspended on future sailings under further notice.

"Carnival is working with guests to reimburse them for lost valuables and assist with lost passports or other forms of identification," the statement said.

The robbery comes two weeks after the U.S. State Department issued a travel warning to Americans to avoid all but essential travel to all or parts of 14 Mexican states, including the state of Jalisco. Puerto Vallarta is the sixth-largest city in Jalisco.

The State Department also warned travelers to use caution in visiting part of Baja California, Colima and Morelos.

The 3,000-plus passenger Carnival Splendor set sail February 19 from Long Beach, California, for a seven-day Mexican Riviera cruise that included stops in Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta, according to the ship's online itinerary.

The travel warnings and reports of increasing violence in Mexico have caused many cruise lines to curb their itineraries, either eliminating and shortening stops.

A number of cruise lines dropped Mazatlan from itineraries last year following a spike in violence.

Puerto Vallarta has remained a tourism hotspot, drawing college students during Spring vacations as well as cruise passengers.

The travel warnings follow reports that more than 47,500 people were killed in drug-related violence in Mexico between December 2006 and September 2011, according to the State Department. While most of those murdered were involved in criminal activity, innocent people were also caught in the crossfire, the State Department said.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon declared a crackdown on cartels in late 2006.

Mussels

Can you believe that Americans once considered mussels to be trash? It's hard to believe, especially since these bivalves are considered a delicacy now. Their sweet taste makes them one of the most appealing shellfish around -- and the best part is they're much less expensive than many other seafoods, like crab, lobster or even clams.

If you haven't already cooked with mussels at home, we highly recommend doing so. There are many ways to enjoy them -- just see the list of recipes below the videos for ideas. The flavors can be varied to your individual tastes or enjoy them au naturale, simply steamed in their own juices. Whichever way you choose to cook them, you can't go wrong.

Here's a guide to familiarize yourself with preparing mussels.

Buying Mussels
There are many varieties of mussels throughout the world, but the two main varieties are blue and green-lipped. Blue mussels are found in the United States and green-lipped mussels in the South Pacific. But typically you will only see blue mussels Stateside. But if you do find a different variety of mussels, know that either kind can be interchanged in recipes.

In the supermarket or fish market you'll find mussels sold either loose or in net bags, which contain about 2 to 3 pounds of mussels. Look for mussels that are glossy with shells that are tightly closed. Buy mussels the same day you intend to cook them.

Storing Mussels
When you get your mussels home, transfer them to a bowl and cover loosely with a wet towel or wet newspaper -- you want to keep the mussels moist while also giving them some air. Store the mussels in the coolest part of your refrigerator, but cook them the same day. Don't clean them until you're ready to cook with them.

Cleaning and Debearding Mussels
Most mussels are cultivated (i.e. farmed) and are less likely to have sand and grit in them, compared to wild mussels. In the rare case that you do buy wild mussels, you need to get the grit out -- they need to be soaked in a bowl of cold water for about 20 minutes, and then drained. For cultivated mussels, you can skip the soaking process, but if your picky go ahead and soak them anyway. For both types, scrub the mussels under cold, running water and remove the beards (the bristly material sticking out from one side) by pulling down toward the hinge of the shell and outward. Use a towel for leverage -- mussels hold onto their beards pretty tightly so you might find yourself wrestling with them.

If the mussel shell is slightly open, tap it with a knife to see if it closes. If it does not close, chuck it -- the mussel is dead. If a mussel feels really heavy for its size, more than likely it's filled with mud -- chuck it. If a mussel has a hole or a cracked shell -- chuck it.

Cooking Methods for Mussels
The classic method for cooking mussels is steaming them. Mussels contain a small amount of liquid/moisture, so steaming doesn't require the addition of any extra liquid. But typically a small amount of liquid (water, stock, wine, beer) can be added to a hot pan before adding your mussels. Cover tightly with a lid and check back in 5 minutes. The mussels should open between 5 and 7 minutes. Once open, they're cooked and ready to eat. Mussels that don't open should be chucked -- they're dead.

Eating Mussels
Enjoy your mussels as an appetizer or main course. If you're enjoying them as a main course, count on 1 pound of mussels per person (typically, mussels are sold in 2- to 3-pound bags, so make sure you buy the amount you'll need). You can enjoy mussels as they are with a chunk of bread or tossed with pasta. Or eat mussels like the Belgians do, with fries. Chilled, cooked mussels can be served on the half-shell, topped with a sauce, as an appetizer.

To eat, use a small cocktail fork to pick the meat from the shell of each mussel or follow the instructions in video #3 below to eat mussels using a unique method where you pluck the meat using an empty shell as a tweezer.


more @

Jan Brewer

WASHINGTON -- Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R), in town for the National Governors Association conference, will skip a White House dinner Sunday honoring the nation's governors, telling staff she does not want to participate in a "social" event.

The dinner, an annual event hosted by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, is one of the conference's highlights. Brewer's decision comes a month after she dramatically confronted the president at a Phoenix area airport over his response to her portrayal of him in her book.

"I'm not," Brewer told The Huffington Post when asked whether she would attend the dinner.

The Huffington Post overheard Brewer telling gubernatorial staffers prior to Saturday's opening NGA session that she would skip the dinner because it was a "social" function, but that she would attend Monday's White House meeting between governors and Obama because it was a "policy" event.

When asked about her plans for Sunday night and her reasons for skipping the dinner, Brewer was ushered away by an aide. Her spokesman, Matthew Benson, stepped in to answer questions on her behalf.

"We have other plans now," Benson said, without elaborating on what Brewer would be doing Sunday night.

Benson did confirm that Brewer would attend the Monday White House meeting.

Brewer and Obama have had a turbulent relationship since they both took office in 2009, exacerbated by Obama's decision to sue Arizona over the state's controversial immigration law and Brewer's heated rhetoric toward the Obama administration. During their confrontation at the airport last month, Brewer waved her finger at Obama.

Earlier this week, Brewer declined an invitation by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to testify before the Senate regarding the immigration law, which is pending before the Supreme Court. Brewer, a former Arizona secretary of state, did veto a "birther" bill in Arizona last year, which would have required Obama and future presidential candidates to prove their natural-born citizenship.

While four Republican governors -- Rick Scott of Florida, Rick Perry of Texas, Butch Otter of Idaho and John Kasich of Ohio -- do not belong to the NGA, at least one will be coming to Washington for the dinner and not the conference. Scott indicated Friday that he and his wife, Ann, will have dinner at the White House Sunday.

Brewer is expected to attend all other events that make up this weekend's NGA conference, which is dedicated to economic issues.

CAIRO

CAIRO - An Egyptian court adjourned the trial of dozens of democracy activists including 16 Americans on Sunday at the opening session of a case that has threatened ties between Cairo and Washington and $1.3 billion in annual U.S. military aid.

Forty-three foreign and Egyptian non-profit workers - including the son of the U.S. transportation secretary - are accused of receiving illegal funds from abroad and carrying out political activities unrelated to their civil society work.

Judge Mahmud Mohamed Shukry adjourned the trial until April 26 at the end of the session in the rowdy chamber, where television reporters crowded around him and an interior ministry official threatened to expel journalists.

His decision could give more time for a diplomatic solution to the case, lawyers said.

"The time set allows for the NGO law to be amended and this could leave room for lawyers to argue that the defendants are not guilty. A fine may be demanded however," said Khaled Suleiman, a lawyer acting against the defendants.

In the crowded courtroom on the outskirts of Cairo, lawyers who said they were volunteering in the case against the activists, demanded the defendants be imprisoned and accused them of "espionage".

"These organisations are accused of espionage and going against the law. Most of them are in contact with the CIA. These organisations gathered information and reports on Egypt and sent them to the U.S. State Department," the lawyer Suleiman said.

Judge Shukry said the defendants were free to leave the court and would not be held in detention until the next hearing.

Those accused in the case were banned from leaving Egypt pending the trial and some of the U.S. citizens targeted in the probe have taken refuge at the American embassy.

Thirteen defendants stood behind the courtroom's bars on Sunday, all Egyptians. They appeared to be relaxed during recesses, using their mobile phones and talking to one another.

Several of the accused foreigners were already abroad when the travel ban was enacted. Many of the activists had not been formally summoned to appear before the court.


DISCUSSIONS

A senior U.S. official said on Saturday Washington and Cairo were holding what he described as "intense discussions" to resolve the crisis within days.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who arrived in the Moroccan capital after visits to Algeria and Tunisia, has met Egypt's Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr twice in the last three days, the official said on condition of anonymity.

The U.S. pro-democracy groups whose staff have been charged deny they have done anything illegal.

Egypt says the case is a judicial matter and all groups must heed Egyptian law. In the text of the charges the prosecution would present, the groups are accused of establishing without permission branches for their organisations and offering unauthorised political training and workshops to parties.

One of the judges leading the probe has said the non-governmental organisations had violated Egyptian tax laws by not declaring their income from abroad or paying taxes on their workers' pay and had carried out political activities unrelated to their civil society work.

Negad al-Borai, a lawyer representing the accused in Cairo, said the charges referred only to a short period in the groups' activities and could therefore be argued against.

"The charges made involve only the period from March 2011 to December 2011," he told Reuters. "These groups have applied for permits before that period."

Some Egyptian officials have linked the funding of civil society initiatives to a U.S. plot to undermine Egypt's sovereignty - accusations the United States and the civil society workers deny.

Among those accused is Sam LaHood, Egypt director of the International Republican Institute (IRI) and the son of the U.S. transportation secretary.

The crisis escalated on Dec. 29 when Egyptian authority swooped the offices of IRI and the National Democratic Institute, confiscating documents and computers and cash on the premises.

The government and the ruling military council say the case was initiated by the judiciary and is out of their hands. (Additional reporting by Arshad Mohammed in Rabat, Writing by Dina Zayed; Editing by Rosalind Russell)

£800,000

Gypsies who pocketed £800,000 in benefits ordered to pay back £17.65

Two members of a Roma gypsy family who flew in and out of Britain to pocket more than £800,000 in benefits have been ordered to pay back just £17.65.



Ramona and Dorina Dumitru were part of a gang that cheated taxpayers out of hundreds of thousands of pounds in what was described by a judge as a 'flagrant' attack on the benefits system.

The fraudsters used forged home office documents and job references to illegally obtain national insurance numbers, which they used to claim a range of state handouts.

Gang members claimed benefits under two different aliases at the same time, and boosted the payouts they received by inventing children, producing what they said were photographs of the non-existent youngsters.

Some of the claimants did not live in the UK at all while making benefits claims, with one woman making regular flights into the country from Romania to collect their payments.

Today (FRI) at Southwark Crown Court Ramona Dumitru, 34, who claimed she had six children, aged between two and 13 years old, was ordered to pay back just £16.65p of the £81,106.33p she netted.

Dorina Dumitru, 39, who used both her name and an alias was told she would only have to repay £1 despite having pocketed £101,333.27 after the court heard she had no realisable assets.

The two women were jailed in May 2011 alongside seven other gang members for a total of more than 13 years.

Ringleader Telus Dumitru, 37, received a sentence of four years and eight months, while his wife Ramona, was sentenced to two years in prison.

Her sister Claudia Radu, 36, who was arrested at Stansted airport after flying in to the UK to pick-up her latest set of handouts, was jailed for six months.

Their father Ion Stoica, 57, was also jailed for six months while Claudia's brother-in-law Adrian Radu, 34, who had made repeated benefits claims while living in Romania, was jailed for 12 months.

Dorina Dumitru, was jailed for one year and eight months, Marian Gheorghe, 35, for two years and four months, and Ion Lincan, 35, for four weeks.

Crooked construction boss Abdel Lemsatef, 67, was jailed for nine months after he admitted supplying Dumitru with the forged job references the gang needed to get their hands on national insurance numbers.

Judge Michael Gledhill made the confiscation orders against the pair without comment.

When he had jailed the family, Judge Gregory Stone said: 'This fraud was a large scale fraud which deliberately targeted the UK benefit system.'

The judge said most of the defendants were related, and that they were connected to the town of Tandarei in Romania, adding that large sums of money had been traced through bank accounts in that country.

Telus Dumitru, of (18) Alma Street, Nottingham, admitted conspiracy to defraud, while Ramona Dumitru, of the same address; Lincan, of (34) Finnemore Road, Birmingham; Dorina Dumitru, of (23) Myrtle Ave, Nottingham; Gheorghe, of (60) Willow Crescent, Birmingham and Claudia and Adrian Radu and Ion Stoica, who all gave addresses in Romania, admitted various individual counts of theft, fraud and money laundering.

Lemsatef, of (78) Kensington, Liverpool, admitted two counts of supplying articles for use in fraud

The charges dated from between March 2003 and December 2009.

A further confiscation hearing for Telus Dumitru, Marian Gheorghe, Claudia Radu and Ion Sotica will begin on April 26, and is expected to last for two days.


more @ http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/9104128/Gypsies-who-pocketed-800000-in-benefits-ordered-to-pay-back-17.65.html

Costa Concordia

The blonde tour rep who was accused of causing the sinking of the Costa Concordia by romantically distracting the captain has given her first full newspaper interview ‘to set the record straight’.

Domnica Cemortan had been dining and flirting with Captain Francisco Schettino before the disaster and was with him on the bridge when the ship struck rocks on January 13. It is possible, as was widely reported, that 52-year-old Schettino – now known universally as Captain Coward – may have been trying to impress the 25-year-old Moldovan when his ship sailed off course.

For the past six weeks Domnica has been at the centre of worldwide attempts to uncover precisely what happened on the night that up to 32 people lost their lives off the Italian coastline. Rumours about the nature of her relationship with the flamboyant captain have led to her being called a siren, a woman of loose morals, and everything in between.

Through it all she has repeatedly denied any romance between her and the married captain. Even after her luggage and bikinis were discovered in the captain’s submerged cabin, she insisted it was ‘all lies’.
But last week, after The Mail on Sunday tracked her down in her homeland, where she lives with her mother and two-year-old daughter, Domnica finally revealed her true feelings for the discredited Italian seaman.

Schettino is currently under house arrest on suspicion of multiple manslaughter, abandoning ship and causing shipwreck. If convicted, he faces 15 years in jail.

Domnica admits that not only had she been alone with Schettino in his cabin earlier during the evening of the tragedy, but that they had shared a passionate kiss, which she suspects was a prelude to them becoming lovers.

She had previously worked on the ship for three weeks translating for Russian passengers and it was then that she got to know Schettino. When her contract ended the month before the tragedy, she returned as a paying passenger on the ill-fated cruise.

She says that although she had a serious ‘crush’ on the Italian captain, she was never ‘in love’ with him and their affair never really got started.

Domnica admits that her luggage had been left in the captain’s cabin, but says it was only a temporary arrangement while she waited for a cabin to become available.

Most crucially, she has given her own eyewitness account of what happened on the bridge of the vessel in the minutes before it ran aground with more than 4,000 people on board.

Meeting the slim blonde in the lobby of an international hotel, it is easy to see why she attracted the attention of a showman like Francisco Schettino. Several male heads turn with interest as Domnica glides into the marbled lobby, with the elegant grace of the contemporary dancer she trained to become.


Swathed in black fur against the biting cold and with her face devoid of make-up, she appears even more youthful than she actually is. But for all her look of wide-eyed innocence, this is a steely young woman with a strong sense of who she is and how she wants people to view her part in the tragedy – even if her various accounts seem somewhat contrived.

She says: ‘So much rubbish has been written about me that I think I must now defend my reputation. They are acting as if I’m some sort of femme fatale, but I don’t sleep around.

‘Yes, I was very attracted to Captain Schettino and he was clearly interested in me. I admit that I had a big crush on him because he was very good-looking and very charming.’

Domnica adds: ‘He once told me that I had both beauty and brains. What woman would not want to hear such words – especially when there were many women much more beautiful than me on board the ship? I knew he liked me and I was very flattered by his attention.

‘When I worked on the ship he had made it clear that he thought me special. I’m a woman and I know these things. I could tell by the way he laughed at my jokes and how he looked at me; there was always a twinkle in his eyes when we spoke.

‘I admit that I was attracted to him, but honestly, we did not have sex.

‘He was always respectful when I was a member of his staff, but once I was a passenger then it was different. I think we probably would have ended up in bed, eventually, but I never found out because of the crash.

‘Of course,’ says Domnica, ‘I’m very sorry that so many people died or were hurt that night. It was a tragic accident and people are looking to find someone to blame. Maybe there was human error, maybe the captain was in some way responsible; I don’t know. For me, it was more a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.’

This is the second time that an ocean tragedy has wrecked Domnica’s life. She was only eight when her father drowned while swimming in the Black Sea during a family holiday in Ukraine. A relative has suggested that Schettino’s resemblance to her late father may have been part of his attraction.

Domnica grew up with her older brother and their mother Vera, a doctor, in Chisinau, the capital of Moldova. She trained as a dancer, winning scholarships to study first in Romania and then France, where she lived from 2006 to 2009. She stopped performing because of injuries.

Domnica’s daughter, the result of a long-term relationship with a fellow Moldovan, was born in Paris in January 2010.

By the end of the year, mother and child were living back in her home country. ‘I was a single mother and I decided it was best to get back out to work,’ she says. ‘A friend who worked for the cruise company saw a vacancy and told me about it.

‘I speak four languages, so I applied and got the job as an international hostess for Russian passengers on the Costa Magica cruise ship, sailing around the Mediterranean.’

Domnica’s initial contract was for October to December 2011. Then on December 6 she was asked to cover for a colleague on the Concordia, the Magica’s sister ship. Although she says the Concordia’s dashing captain barely noticed her at first, it is clear from a photograph taken of them in a restaurant on the Cote d’Azur on December 13 – which was printed in Italian magazine Chi – that she was already smitten.

She says: ‘Once or twice he bought me a drink in the ship’s bar, but it was always in a group situation. It was the same when we went for a seafood dinner at Villefranche-sur-Mer on the Cote d’Azur in December. There was a big party of us and I was not the only one who had a photo taken with him.’


She has admitted that by her second week on the ship, colleagues were teasing her about the ‘spark’ they noticed between her and the captain but Domnica denies that they ever ‘crossed the line’.

She says: ‘He offered me a drink one night when I was in one of the lounges with a friend and on at least another occasion. But the only time we were alone on that trip was once in his office, when I went to give him a report. He told me that I was not only beautiful, but smart as well. It was a nice feeling, but neither of us did anything wrong.’

It is difficult to believe that a man of the world such as Schettino, who some former colleagues claim has an eye for the ladies, would not have acted on his attraction. It’s also hard to believe Domnica’s claim that he knew nothing about her decision to buy a ticket for a cruise on the ship, after her three weeks’ work ended.

She was given a 50 per cent discount, even though she had not officially been with the company long enough to qualify for the staff’s cheap rates, and boarded the ship at 5pm on the day of the tragedy in the Italian port of Civitavecchia.

Domnica says: ‘I don’t think he knew I was coming back because I didn’t tell anyone except the entertainment director, who was my immediate boss. Because of the discount I was able to find out which cabin I had only once we had set sail. So the first thing I did was call my boss, who said that he was in the captain’s office and I should come up.

‘When I arrived, the captain looked surprised to see me. My boss said I still had to wait for a cabin and the captain said that I could leave my luggage in his cabin. I then went to see my friends on board. When I called my boss later, he suggested I should go to the restaurant at 9pm to get a cabin key.’

During the interview she produced the card key for the cabin she had been allocated.
Domnica initially denies a passenger’s account that she was dining with Schettino in the last hours before the crash.

‘How does this person know it was me? They have some grainy picture of a woman, but it could have been anyone,’ she says. Then she offers a sanitised version of being with the captain in his cabin before dinner.

‘After saying hello to my friends on the ship I returned to change for dinner at about 8pm – that was the practice when I was a part of the crew. The captain was there but he politely left me to change.

‘He came back in as I was leaving and said that I looked stunning. He took my hand and kissed it.’

When pressed, however, she asks me to stop recording the interview. Then, with a knowing smile, she coyly admits that he had grasped her in a passionate embrace and, to her surprise, kissed her hard on the mouth. But she insists the intimacy stopped there. ‘I didn’t want people to know this because they might get the wrong idea,’ she explains, then refuses to say any more about the incident.

As for dining with the captain, Domnica says she joined Schettino and her (male) boss only for dessert and coffee.

Then she says: ‘Afterwards, the captain invited me to the bridge, to “see a beautiful panorama of the island” and we left the restaurant at about 9.30pm.’ The island was Giglio, off the Tuscan coast, and tragedy was about to unfold.

Without wanting to prejudge the Italian investigation into the sinking, it is clear that Schettino was enthralled by the vivacious young woman and she was equally smitten. Did the excitement affect his judgment? Domnica says it did not. She watched the drama from a corner of the bridge.

‘I was there for about ten minutes. I could see the lights of the island; I thought it was normal to go so close. The captain issued orders to about a dozen officers on the glass-fronted deck. They were speaking in Italian and marine terms, so I didn’t really understand.

‘The crash happened about 15 seconds afterwards. It was all very sudden. There was no bang.


We didn’t feel the collision because we were at the front and it happened at the back. But the sirens came on and warning lights were flashing on the console and alarms blaring.’

Everyone on the bridge went into full alert. ‘It seemed as if they were in control, but there was a bit of rushing about and shouting,’ she recalls. ‘Other hostesses arrived on the bridge to make announcements in the different languages. It was a full-scale emergency, but we had all been well trained in preparation for such a disaster.’

No one could have expected the huge vessel to sink, in relatively shallow waters, off the island within hours of leaving port.

To compound matters, the captain delayed ordering an evacuation of the 4,200 passengers and crew for about an hour. The death toll stands at 25, with seven people still unaccounted for.

Domnica has defended the captain from the outset and continues to do so. She argues that it would have taken time to ascertain the damage, which is why she didn’t make a dash for the lifeboats.
‘The ship very quickly turned 60 degrees on its side and the sirens indicated that it was leaking, so I knew that I needed warm clothes,’ she says.
Once or twice he bought me a drink in the ship’s bar, but it was always in a group situation. It was the same when we went for a seafood dinner at Villefranche-sur-Mer on the Cote d’Azur in December.

She went into the captain’s cabin to change back into trousers, a jumper and jacket, grabbing her handbag along the way. ‘When I returned to the bridge I saw the captain looking very much in control. I watched as the boat listed to one side. He asked me to stay because I speak four languages, while colleagues were told to get to their muster stations.

‘At the end I saw the captain there with just two officers. He was co-ordinating the evacuation. Then he saw me and said I should go to deck three where people were getting into lifeboats. He said, “Save yourself.” I thought he looked very calm so it made me feel confident that it would be OK. I checked my watch and it was about 11.50pm when I left him on the bridge.

‘People say he’s a coward and that he didn’t act to save people, but it’s not true. He steered the ship into shallow water and made it easier for people to either swim or be rescued. I think he saved a lot of lives that night and was very courageous.’

Domnica made her way gingerly down five decks on the listing vessel, in virtual darkness. ‘If I didn’t know the ship I might never have made it.

‘It was cold and I could hear things falling and people shouting. It was terrible. I think that some passengers got confused and maybe forgot where to go in an emergency.’

She waited about 15 minutes for a place in a lifeboat.

The next time she saw Schettino was about 5am, on land. ‘He looked absolutely shattered,’ she says.

‘Of course I felt sorry for him. He was always kind to me and I think he’s a good person.’

The pair have not been in contact since the accident, though their names are now intrinsically entwined in a naval disaster that may have been the result of their attraction for each other, but Domnica still seems to harbour deep affection for the captain.

‘I would dearly love to speak with him again,’ she says with a wistful smile. ‘I want to know what went wrong and how he’s coping.

‘It’s not that I miss him, but he was a nice man and I think they are making him into a kind of monster.

‘Everyone is blaming him for what happened, but I don’t think he did anything wrong. It was just a terrible accident.’


Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2106516/Yes-I-kissed-Costa-Concordia-captain-I-think-wed-ended-bed--ship-crashed-Moldovan-blonde-gives-interview.html#ixzz1nUfrIF8a