Thursday, June 28, 2012

Megaupload Bombshell

Megaupload Bombshell: Judge Rules Police Anti-Piracy Raids Illegal

The American government’s bid to extradite copyright infringement king Kim Dotcom to the United States was dealt a body blow Thursday, when a New Zealand High Court judge ruled that the raids on Doctom’s home earlier this year were “illegal.” The decision may doom the entire prosecution of the founder of the file-sharing site Megaupload; New Zealand authorities are appealing.

Justice Helen Winkelmann says that warrants for the raids “fell well short of” describing the offenses they were meant to relate. According to Justice Winkelmann, words such as “breach of copyright” used in the warrants do not provide details of the alleged offense and therefore, the warrants do not comply with New Zealand law.

Further undermining the prosecution’s case, Justice Winkelmann also ruled that the FBI’s act of sending clones of Dotcom’s hard drives to the U.S. was also unlawful.

The images were sent to the United States despite an agreement with Dotcom’s lawyers that it wouldn’t happen before a court hearing on whether or not it was permissible had taken place.

Justice Winkelmann has ordered the FBI to start copying the cloned images in preparation of a potential return to Dotcom. The data on the cloned hard drives amounts to 150 terabytes, and came from 135 computers seized when police conducted an armed dawn raid on his rented home in Coatesville, north of New Zealand’s largest city Auckland.

Labelling the police conduct “an unreasonable search and seizure,” Justice Winkelmann found that the New Zealand law enforcers had exceeded their legal authority by continuing to hold material that they themselves had deemed irrelevant to the case.

New Zeland police wanted the FBI to sort the evidence in the United States but this is “an approach not available to them,” Justice Winkelmann ruled.

She ordered the return from New Zealand police and the FBI of all seized assets not relevant to the case and that no further material to be shipped to America without the court’s consent.

The judgement represents a major victory for Dotcom’s legal team and puts the U.S. case against the Megaupload founder and associates in jeopardy.

According to intellectual property lawyer Rick Shera, Justice Winkelmann’s ruling is a “body blow to the prosecution – not just in New Zealand but in the United States as well.”

A follow-up hearing is due on July 4 that will decide how the Megaupload case will proceed given the illegal searches and warrants. Shera says that a successful hearing for Dotcom could mean the case won’t continue due to the amount of inadmissible evidence.

However, Dotcom’s legal team has its work cut out for them still. An appeal against Justice Winkelmann’s ruling is likely, Shera says, due to the adverse consequences for the prosecution.

New Zealand police issued a curt statement saying it is considering the judgement and are in discussions with Crown Law to determine what further action might be required.

More @

Credit Cards

Should you ditch your credit cards?

(MoneyWatch) Some 50 million U.S. households have credit card debt, according to About two-thirds of Americans own a credit card, and about half of these folks carry a balance.

But consumers' reliance on credit cards appears to be at a turning point. Some reports suggest that more people are steadily paying down their debts or are even deciding to forgo credit cards altogether. Despite the existence new consumer protections for credit-card users, distrust of card issuers and their gimmicks also remains high. Then there's the other reason -- after a confidence-shaking recession, many people are wary of taking on debt.

For those who are determined to avoid using credit cards, the other payment options include using debit cards, checks, and cash. The number of consumers swiping a debit card to pay for purchases increased over the past two years as a result of the sluggish economy. Almost half of consumers surveyed said they believed debit cards helped control their spending.

It's hard to argue with someone who decides to put aside their credit cards. But if you opt to ditch your card, you should also be aware of the benefits you could be giving up and be prepared to deal with the limitations and risks of using other forms of payment.

Transaction protection: When you make a purchase with a credit card, there is a legal firewall between your bank account and the vendor. The bank issuing the card makes the payment to the vendor. You are obligated to pay the bank only after you agree that the charge is legitimate and that the item or service you bought was delivered as agreed. But make a transaction with a debit card and the payment is immediately deducted from YOUR bank account. Federal laws and bank policies include protections from fraudulent or unauthorized transactions due to debit card theft. But before a questionable transaction is sorted out, the money is taken from your bank account. In the meantime, if your account is depleted, any checks you've written could bounce.

Credit history: Responsible use of credit cards is an effective way to build a good credit score. Consumers who don't carry a credit card have a lower average credit score compared with those with at least one card and who always use it responsibly. The fact is, many folks will need a good credit history when it comes time to buy a house or a car. And you can only get that by responsibly using credit. According to experts, debit cards -- which are simply a card substitute for paying by check -- have zero impact on your credit score.

Convenience: It also can be difficult to rent a car without a credit card. Some hotels may not book a reservation on a debit card, and those that do often place a hold of several hundred dollars, which freezes that money in your bank account. That temporarily lower your available bank account balance, which can cause incoming checks to bounce.

Benefits and rewards: Finally, there are the additional befits and rewards programs that come with credit cards, including frequent-flyer miles, gift-card rewards, college savings, and other programs. Some credit cards provide good rates on foreign currency conversions, so these are a good option to use when traveling in a foreign country. Many credit cards also double the length of a manufacturer's warranty when the item is purchased on the card, making credit cards a good payment option when buying and shipping consumer electronics.

Of course, when folks get into credit card debt and can't promptly pay off their balances, the fees and interest they pay will almost always outweigh these rewards and benefits.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Coke and Pepsi contain ALCOHOL

No wonder so many people like it! Coke and Pepsi contain ALCOHOL, reveals French research

Tests reveal more than half of leading colas contain minute traces of alcohol

Coca-Cola and Pepsi contain minute traces of alcohol, scientific research published in France has revealed.

The revelation will cause concern among those who chose the carbonated soft drink for religious, health or safety reasons.

According to tests carried out by the Paris-based National Institute of Consumption (INC) more than half of leading colas contain the traces of alcohol.

These include the brand leaders Coca-Cola and Pepsi Cola, while it is mainly only cheap supermarket versions of the drink which are alcohol-free.

‘60 Million Consumers’, the French magazine, publishes the results of the tests in its latest issue.

They suggest that the alcohol levels are as low as 10mg in every litre, and this works out at around 0.001 per cent alcohol.

But the figures will still be enough to upset the thousands of Muslims who regularly drink Cola because their religion forbids them from drinking alcohol.

Those who are teetotal and drink Coke regularly will also be worried, as will those who choose it as an alternative to alcohol when they are driving.

Of 19 colas tested, the nine which did not contain alcohol were made by brands including Auchan, Cora, Casino, Leader Price and Man U-Cola.

Ten which had traces of alcohol in them included Coca-Cola, Pepsi Cola, Coca-Cola Classic Light and Coke Zero.

Michel Pepin, scientific director for Coca-Cola France, said: ‘It is possible that traces of alcohol come from the process’ of making Coca Cola according to its secret recipe.

He insisted, however, that Coca-Cola drinks were provably ‘soft’ and recognised as such ‘by the government authorities in which they are sold’.

Mr Pepin added: ‘Furthermore, the Paris Mosque has provided us with a certificate stating that our products can be consumed by the Muslim community in line with the religious opinions of the Committee of the Mosque of Paris.’

A spokesman for Pepsi acknowledged that ‘some soft drinks can contain minute traces of alcohol because of the ingredients used,’ although ‘ the Pepsi Cola recipe does not contain alcohol ‘.

Both companies suggested that natural fruit can ferment and produce minute traces of alcohol.

Coca-Cola was invented in 1886 by the American John Pemberton and was originally patented as a medicine which could cure everything from headache to impotence.

It went on to dominate the international soft drinks market and is now a US icon sold in more than 200 countries.

However, caffeine is widely considered to be the main stimulant contained in the drink, along with vast amounts of sugar which have come to associate it with a range of health problems including obesity.

Every can of Coke contains approximately 10 teaspoons of sugar.

Read more:

Kat Graham

Devilishly angelic! The Vampire Diaries actress Kat Graham strips to her bra as she DJs in gold sequin wings

When it comes to showbiz, most stars tend to make a name for themselves just as much off screen as they do when the cameras are rolling through the medium of falling out of clubs.

And Kat Graham certainly stepped up to the mark on her quest to strengthen her notoriety.

However instead of floundering around the venue wobbling on her heels, The Vampire Diaries stripped on to her bra during a theatrical DJ set at at PURE nightclub in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Read more:

Feds Arrest 24

Feds Arrest 24 in Global Carding Ring Bust

Two dozen people were arrested around the globe on Tuesday in what authorities are calling a “breathtaking spectrum of cyber schemes and scams” that involved buying and selling bank card details, stolen identities, counterfeit documents, and sophisticated hacking tools on an FBI undercover forum.

Among those arrested is a purported member of the noisy hacking group UGNazi, which has claimed responsibility for various recent hacks — including last week’s outage at Twitter.

The two-year investigation dubbed “Operation Card Shop” began in June 2010 when the FBI set up an online carding forum called Carder Profit.

The FBI monitored and recorded communications on the forum as well as private messages sent through the site between registered users. The FBI also recorded IP addresses of users who accessed the forum.

The operation resulted in arrests of 11 individuals in the U.S. and 13 people abroad as well as the execution of more than 30 search warrants, according to an announcement (.pdf) from the U.S. Attorney’s office for the southern district of New York.

Authorities say they notified credit card providers of more than 411,000 compromised credit and debit cards, and also notified 47 companies, government entities, and educational institutions that their networks had been hacked. Authorities did not, say, however, the amount of losses that were incurred from the activity of the suspects.

Mir Islam, aka “JoshTheGod,” one of the suspects arrested, claimed to be a founder of the online carding forum as well as a member of the hacking group UGNazi. The latter group claimed credit for hacking the cloud services company CloudFlare recently in order to redirect visitors to the 4Chan website to UGNazi’s Twitter page. The group also claimed credit for knocking Twitter offline last week, though Twitter denied the claim, attributing the outage instead to a “cascading bug.”

Islam was “dox’d” last week after someone posted his name, address and other details on Pastebin. Doxing someone occurs when hackers obtain the private details of someone, usually of another hacker or someone they deem an enemy, and post them online.

Islam was arrested Monday evening as he met with an undercover Fed in Manhattan, who was posing as another carder, according to authorities. He was taken into custody after he attempted so to use a fraudulent bank card to withdraw money from an ATM. The FBI said the agency seized the web server for, as well as the domain name of

Another suspect allegedly sold a $50 remote access tool that recorded keystrokes, turned on a computer’s web cam to allow an attacker to spy on the victim and siphoned bank account credentials. A third suspect allegedly hacked databases at a bank, hotel, and various online retailers, and then sold the information to others.

Other suspects are accused of a host of smallish crimes. One allegedly engaged in an Apple call-in scheme, in which he obtained serial numbers of Apple products he didn’t own, then called Apple claiming the product was defective and demanded a replacement product. He then sold some of the devices, including four iPhone 4s, to an undercover FBI agent.

The suspects arrested in the U.S. include:

Christian Cangeopol, aka “404myth,” who was arrested today in Lawrenceville, Georgia;
Mark Caparelli, aka “Cubby,” who was arrested in San Diego, California;
Sean Harper, aka “Kabraxis314,” who was arrested in Albuquerque, New Mexico;
Alex Hatala, aka “kool+kake,” who was arrested in Jacksonville, Florida;
Joshua Hicks, aka “OxideDox,” who was arrested in Bronx, New York;
Michael Hogue, aka “xVisceral,” who was arrested in Tucson, Arizona;
Mir Islam, aka “JoshTheGod,” who was arrested in Manhattan, New York;
Peter Ketchum, aka “IwearaMAGNUM,” who was arrested in Pittsfield, Massachusetts;
Steven Hansen, aka “theboner1,” who was arrested in Wisconsin, where he is currently serving a prison sentence on state charges.

In addition, two minors, whose names were withheld, were arrested in Long Beach and Sacramento, California.

In order to access Carder Profit, which was taken offline last month, was limited to registered members and required a username and password to gain entry. “Various membership requirements were imposed from time to time to restrict site membership to individuals with established knowledge of carding techniques or interest in criminal activity,” according to authorities. “For example, at times, new users were prevented from joining the site unless they were recommended by two existing users who had registered with the site, or unless they paid a registration fee.”

New users were also required to provide a valid e-mail address to register, which was collected by the FBI.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s office insisted that the FBI carding forum was not a sting operation because undercover agents did not initiate the criminal activity.

“All they did was set up a carding forum and then people who allegedly committed this criminal activity came to the forum,” said spokeswoman Ellen Davis.

more @

Apple wins injunction

Apple wins injunction against Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1

Preliminary ban will prevent the Android-powered tablet -- considered by many as the leading challenger to Apple's iPad -- from being sold in the United States.

Apple has been granted a preliminary injunction against U.S. sales of Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1, the tablet deemed by many as the leading challenger to the iPad.

The ruling was handed down today by judge Lucy Koh for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, according to a Reuters report. Her order will take effect once Apple posts a $2.6 million bond to protect Samsung if the injunction is later found to have been unnecessary.

"Although Samsung has a right to compete, it does not have a right to compete unfairly, by flooding the market with infringing products," Koh wrote on Tuesday.

An Apple spokesperson responded to the ruling by reiterating an earlier statement made in the case, saying that "this kind of blatant copying is wrong and, as we've said many times before, we need to protect Apple's intellectual property when companies steal our ideas."

CNET has also contacted Samsung for comment and will update this report when we learn more.

Apple has been trying desperately to secure a U.S. ban on Samsung's Android-powered tablet. Apple scored a win last October when Koh ruled that Samsung's line of Galaxy tablets infringe on Apple's patents. However, she declined to grant a request to ban the device from import last December, concluding that allowing the Galaxy Tab 10.1 to remain on sale would not harm Apple enough to justify the injunction. She also said such an injunction would likely benefit other gadget makers at Samsung's expense.

Apple got another chance at an injunction last month when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit said Koh was incorrect in thinking that an Apple patent related to the iPad may be invalid and that the Cupertino, Calif.-based company was well within its rights to ask for a ban on sales of the device.

Apple is also seeking a ban on the sale of the Samsung Galaxy S III smartphone in the U.S., but that effort was tabled earlier this month by Koh, who decided there were already enough issues to consider at the June 21 hearing.

This long-running legal confrontation began in April 2011 when Apple filed a lawsuit in California accusing Samsung of copying "the look and feel" of its iPad tablet and iPhone smartphone. Samsung, meanwhile, has fired back with its own patent-related claims against Apple. In addition to the U.S., the battle has touched down in Australia; the Netherlands; Germany; parts of Asia, and France and Italy; among other places.

Koh ordered the CEOs of Apple and Samsung to meet face to face to try to pare down the number of claims each plans to make in their intellectual-property lawsuits each other to make it more manageable for a jury. Apple and Samsung each dropped a number of patent complaints as a result of the order.

The case is scheduled to go to trial on July 30.

more @;topStories

Chris Brown, Drake $1 million each to duke it out

Boxing promoter offers Chris Brown, Drake $1 million each to duke it out

(CNN) -- A celebrity boxing promoter is hoping to capitalize on the alleged nightclub brawl between singer Chris Brown and rapper Drake by offering them $1 million each to take their beef to the ring.

The promoter also says he is asking singer Rihanna to be a ring girl at the bout, but acknowledged she'll likely pass.

Damon Feldman says he has the financial backing of businessman Alki David and that he'll donate a million to a charity that helps abused women if the fight takes place.

The fight, he said, would feature three minute-long rounds with the participants donning oversized gloves and protective head gear.

Feldman says he has not received a response from either Drake or Brown.

And while Drake tweeted about his dry cleaning, and Brown about a helpful stewardess, neither made mention of the offer on their Twitter pages.

Meanwhile, police continue their investigation into the bottle-throwing melee allegedly between Drake and Brown and their entourages that took place at the New York City club W.i.P on June 14.

Brown was partying with friends in the VIP section of the South Village club, while the Drake and his friends were nearby, according to statements from reps for both artists.

Brown has said he was a victim in the incident, and Drake's representatives have said he "did not engage in any activity which resulted in injury."

The squabble left Brown with a nasty gash on his chin and fueled Internet rumors that it started because of an argument about Rihanna, the sizzling songstress that both men have dated.

A source close to Brown has since told CNN that the confrontation was not about Rihanna.

San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker was also injured in the scrum.

Parker is suing the nightclub for $20 million over an eye injury he said he suffered that night.

The suit alleges that the owners and operators of the nightclub were "negligent in permitting Drake's entourage and Brown's entourage to be in the club at the same time despite known tension between the two" and contends the owners failed to provide "sufficient and efficient security."

Feldman said he wants the boxing match to be in either Las Vegas or Los Angeles.

Despite the fact that Brown is on probation until 2014 for pleading guilty to assaulting Rihanna on the eve of the 2009 Grammy Awards, Feldman said he has asked Rihanna to be in the ring carrying a sign that displays the number of the upcoming round.

"I'm 99.9% sure she'll say no. But I can guarantee you, if the fight happens, she will be watching," Feldman said.

Some have already speculated on who would win a rematch.

Rapper 50 Cent told a California radio station he thinks Brown's prowess in dancing would help him beat Drake.

"I would take Chris," 50 told KMEL last week. "I guess it's cause of all the physical things I see him doing with dancing and moving. He be slipping and moving. I don't see Drake doing that. Chris be having his shirt off. He got one of them MMA fighter looks. Like he might have did karate when he was a kid. He's kicking, doing splits and stuff. This could really get interesting."

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


(CNN) -- Facebook appears to have quietly unveiled a new feature designed to let people see which Facebook users are nearby at any given time.

The company calls the feature "Find Friends Nearby," and on Monday it was available through Facebook's mobile apps and website despite the fact that it hasn't been formally announced. The blog ReadWriteWeb already has dubbed the feature a "stalking app" because it could open people up to potentially awkward or threatening interactions with strangers on the social network who know you're nearby.

To test out the feature, go to in a browser, or follow this path in the Facebook's mobile apps: menu > apps > find friends > other tools > Find Friends Nearby.

Surprise! Teens are sneaky online
Cops post red light runners on Facebook
MYB: Can Facebook make money from ads?

It appears that Facebook users must opt in to the feature by going to that site, otherwise their profiles will not appear in a list of people who are nearby.

The blog TechCrunch first reported on the feature Sunday after a non-Facebook developer tipped off the site to the feature's existence. In a comment on that site's post about the new feature, Facebook developer Ryan Patterson, who says he developed Find Friends Nearby, described how he hopes the app will be used:

"For me, the ideal use case for this product is the one where when you're out with a group of people whom you've recently met and want to stay in contact with. Facebook search might be effective, or sharing your vanity addresses or business cards, but this tool provides a really easy way to exchange contact information with multiple people with minimal friction."

A Facebook spokeswoman declined to provide additional information.

"We are constantly testing new features but have nothing more to share at this time," she wrote in an e-mail to CNN.

Reactions to the news were mixed in the tech blogosphere.

The site Gizmodo finds the new feature to be potentially useful -- and dangerous.

"You meet a cute somebody at a concert, you're like, 'Hey, we should be Facebook friends,' and they're like 'OMG, totes!' Then rather than having to spell your names and search around, you've got a much smaller group of people to choose from. I guess that's great, right?" Brent Rose writes on that tech news site.

But Rose adds: "Sure, it'd be great to easily add a contact quicker, but imagine this: some creeper has been molesting you with his/her eyes all night. She opens the app, can kinda recognize your face from your profile picture, and now said creeper knows (your) name and possibly some of your personal info."

That would be the downside.

Others say the app simply isn't ready for prime time.

The blog Engadget calls the app "fairly primitive," and The Next Web says it amounts to "nothing more than a parlor trick at this point" since other location-based friend finders haven't caught on with the general public despite their buzziness in tech circles.

Facebook recently acquired a company called Glancee, which did something similar to the Find Friends Nearby feature. So there's speculation that the company's technology may have contributed to the new Facebook feature. Patterson, however, the Facebook developer, wrote on TechCrunch's post that he created the feature during a hackathon.

Other similar mobile "social discovery" apps include Highlight, Banjo and Sonar. Some of these apps will also show you nearby friends of friends or even strangers who share your interests, based on your social-network profile.

It's unclear exactly how much information the Find Friends Nearby feature gives away. For now at least, users have to log into that site intentionally to see a list of people who are nearby, and that list of people appears to be quite limited for now.

Also to be determined is how large of a radius the feature employs. Does it search for people who are within eyeshot of you? Or within a mile?

If you test the feature, let us know what you think in the comments section. So far, we haven't been able to interact with anyone -- friendly or otherwise -- who's nearby.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Apple Stores

Apple Stores get their turn under NY Times' investigative spotlight

A just-published Times report on pay and conditions at Apple Stores has at least one news outlet wondering if recent Apple activity around salary increases was meant as a kind of preemptive strike.

The extensive New York Times piece, which hit the Internet today bearing the headline "Apple's Retail Army, Long on Loyalty but Short on Pay," looks at what workers at the stores make relative to their commission-earning dopplegangers at carriers such as Verizon. It also speaks of hectic working conditions and shifts with no breaks, and gives a peek at what some might call the lightly cultish atmosphere at employee training sessions. And it considers why the twentysomethings that clamor for jobs at Apple Stores are so enthusiastic about the retail positions (many, the NYT says, are Apple adherents to begin with, and many are won over by the sense of purpose instilled at the training sessions -- which emphasize that Apple's sales corps. isn't selling; they're helping people improve their lives).

The NYT -- which since the beginning of the year has shone a spotlight on various aspects of Apple, from its offshoring of manufacturing to conditions at supplier factories to the company's strategies to reduce its taxes -- says Apple started handing out substantial raises to some employees last week, several months after the paper began asking around about the situation at Apple Stores:

Even Apple, it seems, has recently decided it needs to pay its workers more. Last week, four months after The New York Times first began inquiring about the wages of its store employees, the company started to inform some staff members that they would receive substantial raises. An Apple spokesman confirmed the raises but would not discuss their size, timing or impetus, nor who would earn them.

But Cory Moll, a salesman in the San Francisco flagship store and a vocal labor activist, said that on Tuesday he was given a raise of $2.82 an hour, to $17.31, an increase of 19.5 percent and a big jump compared with the 49-cent raise he was given last year.

"My manager called me into his office and said, 'Apple wants to show that it cares about its workers, and show that it knows how much value you add to the company, by offering a bigger raise than in previous years,' " Mr. Moll recalled.

Blog 9to5 Mac also reported in late May that Apple was tweaking its raise schedule and delivering increases a few months early -- at the end of this month rather than on September 30.

Of course, none of this proves Apple's actions were influenced by knowledge of the New York Times piece. In fact, one of the things the LA Times mentions -- that Apple Store employees can now get $500 off Macs and $250 off iPads -- was something promised by Apple CEO Tim Cook back in January, which would seem to be before the NYT began gathering material for its article.

We contacted Apple for comment on both the New York and LA Times articles and were referred to the company's statement in the NYT piece -- in addition to noting an Apple representative's confirmation of recent raises, the paper wrote the following:


Internal surveys at stores have also found surprising dissatisfaction levels, particularly among technicians, or "geniuses" in Apple's parlance, who work at what is called the Genius Bar. Apple declined requests for interviews for this article. Instead, the company issued a statement:

"Thousands of incredibly talented professionals work behind the Genius Bar and deliver the best customer service in the world. The annual retention rate for Geniuses is almost 90%, which is unheard-of in the retail industry, and shows how passionate they are about their customers and their careers at Apple."

The six pages of the NYT piece are well worth a read for those interested. A few more tidbits:


Last year, the company's 327 global stores took in more money per square foot than any other United States retailer -- wireless or otherwise -- and almost double that of Tiffany, which was No. 2 on the list, according to the research firm RetailSails...

About 30,000 of the 43,000 Apple employees in this country work in Apple Stores, as members of the service economy, and many of them earn about $25,000 a year...

By the standards of retailing, Apple offers above average pay -- well above the minimum wage of $7.25 and better than the Gap, though slightly less than Lululemon, the yoga and athletic apparel chain, where sales staff earn about $12 an hour. The company also offers very good benefits for a retailer, including health care, 401(k) contributions and the chance to buy company stock, as well as Apple products, at a discount.

If there is a secret to Apple's sauce, this is it: the company ennobles employees. It understands that a lot of people will forgo money if they have a sense of higher purpose.... That empowerment is important because aspiring sales employees would clearly be better off working at one of the country's other big sellers of Apple products, AT&T and Verizon Wireless, if they were searching for a hefty paycheck. many people wanted to work at the stores that [Ron] Johnson [former VP of retail at Apple] would compare applicants-to-openings ratios and boast that it was harder to land a job at an Apple Store than to get into Stanford, his alma mater.

Training commences with what is known as a "warm welcome." As new employees enter the room, Apple managers and trainers give them a standing ovation. The clapping often bewilders the trainees, at least at first, but when the applause goes on for several lengthy minutes they eventually join in... "My hands would sting from all the clapping," says Michael Dow, who trained Apple employees for years in Providence, R.I.


more @;editorPicks

Postal Workers

10 postal workers launch hunger strike

WASHINGTON (CNNMoney) -- Ten current and former postal workers launched a more than 3-day hunger strike Monday to protest looming cuts and closures at the U.S. Postal Service.

Drastic? Yes. But organizers say desperate times call for desperate measures.

Rallies and marches just aren't working anymore," said Tom Dodge, 58, a postal truck driver from the Baltimore area who has participated in several marches and rallies to save post offices. "It's time to take a stand on this. The post office is a part of our Constitution."

The hunger strikers want the Postal Service to shelve its July plans to start closing or consolidating 48 mail processing plants. By the end of 2014, when the plan to shrink the postal network is completed, 229 plants will be consolidated or closed and 28,000 jobs will be gone.

They also want Congress to eliminate a mandate that has been a major financial drag on the service -- annual $5.5 billion payments to prefund health care benefits for future retirees. The strikers say say eliminating the mandate would solve the Postal Service's financial problems.
Economists give Obama and Congress a 'D'

"That payment is causing great hardship to the Postal Service," said Nannette Corley, a Maryland mail clerk for the past 19 years who is taking unpaid leave to join the hunger strike. "We are the people. What is it that Congress wants us to do? Starve and make everybody homeless?"

The hunger strikers stopped eating Monday and will start eating again Thursday evening. They plan to demonstrate several times in Washington over the next week -- at the Capitol, in front of the Postal Service headquarters, and in front of the offices of the Washington Post.

They're also going to knock on doors in Congress to lobby lawmakers to take up a bill that would repeal the prefunding mandate and avoid deeper cuts at the agency.

The Postal Service continues to face major financial turmoil. It reported a $5.1 billion loss last year, citing the recession, declining mail volume and a the congressional mandate to prefund retirement health care benefits for future retirees.

In addition to the plant closures, which will ultimately slow the delivery of the first-class mail that most Americans use, the Postal Service is trimming staff. It offered buyouts and retirement packages to 21,000 postmasters as well as 45,000 mail handlers who sort and transport mail.

The health care mandate is a major liability for the Postal Service. Officials have said they won't have the cash to make a $5.5 billion payment that's due Aug. 1, or the $5.6 billion payment due Sept. 30.

While hunger strikers and unions say the health care prefunding mandate is causing the bulk of the Postal Service's financial woes, Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said earlier this month that those who say the prefunding mandate is the agency's only problem are "entirely wrong."

Hunger strikers say Donahoe is wrong.

The Postal Service released a statement saying the agency "respects the right of our employees and retirees to engage in lawful public dialogue regarding postal issues."

The statement added that the Postal Service also wants to Congress to help them enact its more "comprehensive," five-year, cost-cutting plan -- which includes getting rid of the prefunding mandate as well as the plant consolidations about to take place.

The hunger strikers, while members of postal unions that are also fighting the closures, are acting independently of the unions -- although the American Postal Workers Union says it understands the frustration leading to the action. Hunger strikers call their group Community and Postal Workers United.

"I'm 63 and diabetic, but this is so important to me," said Jamie Partridge, a Portland, Ore.-based retired letter carrier and one of the organizers of the group. "I'm willing to engage in my health to make an impression on our decision makers."

More @


Apple’s Retail Army, Long on Loyalty but Short on Pay

Last year, during his best three-month stretch, Jordan Golson sold about $750,000 worth of computers and gadgets at the Apple Store in Salem, N.H. It was a performance that might have called for a bottle of Champagne — if that were a luxury Mr. Golson could have afforded.

“I was earning $11.25 an hour,” he said. “Part of me was thinking, ‘This is great. I’m an Apple fan, the store is doing really well.’ But when you look at the amount of money the company is making and then you look at your paycheck, it’s kind of tough.”

America’s love affair with the smartphone has helped create tens of thousands of jobs at places like Best Buy [BBY 18.51 -0.68 (-3.54%) ] and Verizon Wireless [VZ 43.65 -0.30 (-0.68%) ] and will this year pump billions into the economy.

Within this world, the Apple Store is the undisputed king, a retail phenomenon renowned for impeccable design, deft service and spectacular revenues. Last year, the company’s 327 global stores took in more money per square foot than any other United States retailer — wireless or otherwise — and almost double that of Tiffany [TIF 51.32 -0.94 (-1.8%) ], which was No. 2 on the list, according to the research firm RetailSails.

Worldwide, its stores sold $16 billion in merchandise.

But most of Apple’s [AAPL 570.765 -11.335 (-1.95%) ] employees enjoyed little of that wealth. While consumers tend to think of Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., as the company’s heart and soul, a majority of its workers in the United States are not engineers or executives with hefty salaries and bonuses but rather hourly wage earners selling iPhones and MacBooks.

About 30,000 of the 43,000 Apple employees in this country work in Apple Stores, as members of the service economy, and many of them earn about $25,000 a year. They work inside the world’s fastest growing industry, for the most valuable company, run by one of the country’s most richly compensated chief executives, Tim Cook. Last year, he received stock grants, which vest over a 10-year period, that at today’s share price would be worth more than $570 million.

And though Apple is unparalleled as a retailer, when it comes to its lowliest workers, the company is a reflection of the technology industry as a whole.

The Internet and advances in computing have created untold millionaires, but most of the jobs created by technology giants are service sector positions — sales employees and customer service representatives, repairmen and delivery drivers — that offer little of Silicon Valley’s riches or glamour.

Much of the debate about American unemployment has focused on why companies have moved factories overseas, but only 8 percent of the American work force is in manufacturing, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Job growth has for decades been led by service-related work, and any recovery with real legs, labor experts say, will be powered and sustained by this segment of the economy.

more @

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Tainted tuna in sushi

Nearly 400 now sick from tainted tuna in sushi

Nearly 400 people in 27 states and the District of Columbia have now been sickened by an outbreak of two rare strains of salmonella detected in raw tuna products used in sushi and other dishes, health officials said.

Some 390 have become ill and 47 have been hospitalized, up from 316 confirmed infections and 37 hospitalizations in May, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed. No deaths have been reported.

The outbreak includes 14 people sickened by salmonella Nchanga and 376 people sickened by salmonella Bareilly, both rare strains of the foodborne pathogen. The culprit has been identified as raw Nakaochi Scrape tuna product produced by Moon Marine USA Corp. of Cupertino, Calif.

In April, Moon Marine recalled 58,828 pounds of the frozen tuna product. It wasn't for sale to individual customers, but may have been used to make sushi, sashimi, ceviche and similar dishes in restaurants and grocery stores.

The numbers of new cases have declined substantially since the peak of the outbreak in April, CDC officials said. Illnesses may continue, however, because some food establishments may be unaware that they received recalled product and continue to serve the raw yellowfin tuna scraped from the backbone of the fish. It has a long shelf life.

Seattle food safety lawyer Bill Marler has called on the federal Food and Drug Administration to release the names of all restaurants and other outlets where the contaminated product was distributed. FDA officials did not immediately respond to questions about the action.

more @

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Microsoft unveils Surface tablet

Microsoft unveils Surface tablet to rival iPad

LOS ANGELES (CNNMoney) -- Upending one of the world's most successful business strategies over the past three decades, Microsoft has developed a Windows tablet computer of its own design.

The company on Monday unveiled the Surface, a PC tablet that runs a yet-to-be released version of its Windows operating system called Windows 8. The device is the first commercial PC that Microsoft has directly designed and sold.

The tablet features many of the now-standard tablet specs, including a 10.6 inch high-definition touchscreen and front and rear facing cameras, which all fit into a 9.3 millimeter, 1.5-pound frame.

But Surface also brings some new innovations to the tablet space. The device's cover, for instance, flips down to become a full keyboard. It features a rigid case built from magnesium, a pen that clicks into the tablet and a built-in kickstand. (Click here for our hands-on demo of the Surface.)

Microsoft is recycling -- or extending -- a brand name it has used before. The first "Microsoft Surface" device, which began shipping in in 2008, was a giant touchscreen computer aimed at retailers and other commercial customers.

Microsoft's Surface tablet will first be available on a version of Windows 8 called Windows RT. That operating system will run on microchips designed by ARM (ARMH), which are inside 95% of the world's smartphones and tablets. Another version of Surface will be designed for the fuller Windows 8 operating system, which will run on Intel chips.

Microsoft didn't give specifics, but the company said the Windows RT version will be available sometime this fall in 32- and 64-gigabyte versions and will be priced "comparably" to other tablets on the market. Apple's most basic version of the iPad retails for $499.

The full Windows 8 version will be available three months later in 64- and 128-GB versions. Microsoft plans to set its price point in the same zone as ultrabooks, which typically run around $1,000.

Microsoft (MSFT, Fortune 500) said it will not be the exclusive manufacturer of Windows tablets.

Still, it's a radical shift for the world's largest software company.
Related story: Microsoft's master plan to beat Apple and Google

Microsoft's licensing of Windows to PC manufacturers has been one of the most profitable businesses in technology history. The software giant's Windows division posted sales of $4.6 billion last quarter, $3 billion of which was pure profit. Microsoft's 33% profit margin was the sixth largest on the latest Fortune 500 list.

It's a strategy that is both lucrative and dominant. Windows is the operating system running on more than 90% of the world's computers and two-thirds of the planet's Internet-connected gadgets.

A move to shake up a model that successful would usually be considered a mistake. But these aren't ordinary times.

Apple's (AAPL, Fortune 500) iPad has been luring away Windows customers for two years. PC sales have flat-lined as consumers look to buy a more elegant, portable and simpler device for their everyday computing needs. Windows sales have fallen in five of the past six quarters.

Though Microsoft's "open" strategy, which lets consumers buy Windows on a wide range of devices, has been a winning tactic for decades, Apple's "we make the whole widget" plan has been far more successful over the past several years.

Apple's iPad revenue has surpassed Microsoft's Windows revenue for the past three quarters. Apple's stock market value eclipsed Microsoft's in May 2010, and the company -- the world's most valuable -- is now worth more than twice as much as its one-time archrival.

As a result, Microsoft is taking a page from Apple's handbook.

"Microsoft founders Bill Gates and Paul Allen made a big bet -- a bet on software -- but it was always clear that we had to push hardware in ways that sometimes manufacturers hadn't envisioned," Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said at Monday's event. "We believe that any intersection between human and machine can be made better when all aspects, hardware and software, are working together."

It's not the only one looking to mirror Apple's strategy. Google (GOOG, Fortune 500) last month completed a blockbuster $12.5 billion purchase of Motorola Mobility, expanding its role as the designer of the Android operating system to also become a smartphone maker.

That's a hard path. Hewlett-Packard's (HPQ, Fortune 500) TouchPad tablet lasted all of a month on the market. Research In Motion's (RIMM) BlackBerry PlayBook tablet also never took off, despite a steep price cut.

Microsoft also has a very mixed track record when it comes to making gadgets.

The software giant has actually been in the hardware business for 30 years, making mostly mice and keyboards. But in 2001, the company expanded into the video game sphere, losing billions on its Xbox console before it just recently took over the top spot on the market. Its Kinect accessory, which makes controllerless gaming possible, has been a great success story.

But the Zune MP3 player never gained much traction, and Microsoft announced earlier this month that it would kill off the brand completely. It retired the Zune hardware last fall. To top of page


Facebook to show you ads based on your Web browsing

(CNN) -- Facebook will soon be using your Web browsing to help decide which advertisements you see.

A new Facebook system will use your activity on other websites to send you what Facebook thinks are ads about your current interests. Advertisers will, in effect, be bidding to get their ads in front of you.

Here's an example: Say a Facebook user visits a travel website and clicks on a page about a vacation package to Las Vegas. If an advertiser has bid on that kind of search, that user could then see ads for discounted trips to Vegas the next time they visit Facebook.

"By bidding on a specific impression rather than a larger group, advertisers are able to show people more relevant ads while also running more efficient and effective campaigns," a Facebook spokeswoman said in a written statement.

The site announced the new system, called Facebook Exchange, to marketers last week. It's expected to begin rolling out in the next couple of weeks.

Real-time bidding is already widely used across the Internet. In a blog post, Mike Stiles of Atlanta-based social marketing company Vitrue compared the feature to Google's Ad Words, which pushes an advertiser's ad in front of users when they search for a keyword that advertiser has chosen.

"The underlying principle is that users want relevant ads, advertisers don't want to waste money on misguided ads, and Google wants both users and advertisers to be real happy so they'll come back again and again," he wrote.

Currently, Facebook ads are targeted based on users' profiles and the companies or other pages they "like." Stiles writes that model will still be available for advertisers, but the new one should be more specific.

Facebook noted that users will be able to opt out of Exchange by going to the site's About Ads page, by clicking on an "X" that appears on the ads themselves or by blocking cookies on their Web browser.

The company statement said Facebook won't share any user data with the advertisers and that no advertising controls that users currently have will go away.

How do you feel about Facebook targeting ads?

Jim Anderson, Vitrue's chief operating officer, said the new system probably won't appear dramatically different to the typical Facebook user.

"It's not going to be discernible to most consumers," he said. "Most people won't notice any difference or, to the degree they can discern a difference, it will be 'Wow ... this is more relevant to me.'' "

And while the "real time" nature of the new system will enhance relevance, it won't be perfect, according to Anderson.

"It's possible you might not be served an ad until after you took that trip to Vegas," he said, referring to the previous example. "But without this kind of targeting, you might be served an ad for a trip to Miami, which you weren't considering anyway."

As Web giants like Facebook and Google get better at harvesting user activity, using Web searches for advertising is becoming increasingly popular. According to research firm International Data Corporation, more than $5 billion in online advertising is expected to go to real-time bidding ads in the United States in 2015. That's 27% of what's predicted to be spent, up from less than 10% last year.

Facebook, of course, is increasingly under pressure to demonstrate a sustainable advertising model since its stock went public last month. Anderson predicts the site will continue to diversify how its ads work in the coming months.

It's sometimes a tricky prospect. It was just revealed that Facebook settled a lawsuit last month by the state of California over its "Sponsored Stories" feature. According to reports, Facebook paid $10 million to charity after five users claimed the site broke California law when it used their posts in the feature without paying them.

Best way to pay down $50K debt?

Good Read.........

Best way to pay down $50K debt?
By Steve Bucci •

Steve BucciDear Debt Adviser,
I have a debt of $50,000 from balance transfers and credit line accounts. If I were to pay just the minimum due every month (which is what I can afford now) how long will it take to clear including 24 percent interest per year? I really want to clear it fast.
-- Alicia

Dear Alicia,
It sounds as though you have been juggling your debts for some time. Balance transfers, teaser interest rates and interest-only payments on lines of credit only serve to put off the day of reckoning. I hope you've been putting some money aside while delaying paying down your debt, because it sounds like you're ready to take on your debt, and the extra savings will soften the blow to your monthly cash flow.

As long as you are paying the minimum amount due on your revolving credit card accounts, you will not get anywhere "fast." Here's why. As you pay down the principal amount each month, the minimum payment decreases as well. The result is that you make less progress each month.

Here's an illustration: You made a minimum payment of $1,500 this month. The principal amount reduces by $500 to $49,500, and your next month's minimum payment decreases to $1,485. So, after making a year's worth of minimum payments only, although your principal amount would be down to $44,319.01, your minimum payment will drop to $1,342.99. By year five, your minimum due would be down to $829.01, and by year 10, the minimum due would be $453.66. If you were to continue to make only the minimum payment, based on the industry formula of the interest due plus one percent of the balance, can you guess how long it would take to completely get out of debt? Surprise ... it would take more than 42 years to pay off your current $50,000 balance, and your total cost would be a whopping $99,336.04. Nasty indeed!

A better idea, and one I think you have already figured out and can afford, is to continue to make the minimum payment you are making now of approximately $1,500 per month every month regardless of any drop in the minimum required until the balance is paid. If you were to do so, you could pay off your debt in less than five years with a total payoff of $83,220.87, a savings of $16,115.17. Sweet indeed!

But paying down your debt should not be your only goal. I want you to avoid accumulating a large debt load like this in the future. How? It's easy. Save some money you don't have. Here's how that works. Every raise, promotion, tax refund or windfall must be split 50/50 between you and your savings account. This is money you don't yet have, so you won't miss it. I want you to fund an emergency savings account while you are paying down your debt with a goal of stashing at least six months' worth of living expenses. I know that sounds like a lot, but once you get going, it will take on a life of its own. Pay yourself first. That may mean you will have to skip a few meals out or make other small sacrifices during the month to get going. But the sooner you do, the better you'll feel.

Read more:

Monday, June 18, 2012

Bovada Sucks

They take 2 months to send you your cash out, customer service sucks with generic email messages, don't use them. go with 5dimes <== don't bother using them <--- use them

You have been warned.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Credit card fraud

Bad guys are getting better at credit card fraud

By Herb Weisbaum, The ConsumerMan

First the bad news: It's getting harder for banks to prevent scammers to access your bank and credit card accounts. Now, the good news: Banks are getting better at detecting it when your account is compromised.

In other words, the chances that you will be a victim is up, but at least the bank will discover it quicker. That’s the conclusion of the just-released Annual Card Issuers’ Safety Scorecard from Javelin Strategy & Research.
Advertise | AdChoices

This is the third year in a row that fraud prevention has declined.

Javelin says credit card fraud is up 87 percent since 2010, resulting in a total loss of $6 billion.

“The good news is that a combination of work that banks are doing and work that consumers are doing is causing people to detect these frauds quicker, so we’re not seeing an increase in dollar loss,” says Jim Van Dyke, Javelin’s president and founder.

Van Dyke sees a positive trend: Credit cardholders are more likely to want to get involved in their own protection. He believes this is an important way to equalize the technology race between you and the bad guys.

“With all these mobile devices and the online access to your bank account, there’s a lot of opportunity out there to stop criminals in their tracks,” Van Dyke says.

Javelin analyzed and ranked the top 23 card issuers in the U.S. for fraud prevention, detection and resolution. Bank of America was ranked best overall for 2012. B of A was also best in prevention.

“They’re doing a great job with the authentication and the electronic alerts,” Van Dyke tells me.

Capital One was named best in detection. There’s a four-way tie for best for resolving fraud problems: American Express, Bank of America, BB&T and Discover.

I spoke at length with Jim Van Dyke about the new Javelin research. Here are the highlights of that conversation.

Q: Is card fraud up because the bad guys are doing a better job or consumers are being more careless or the banks aren’t doing a good enough job of protecting us?

A: Banks are working pretty hard. The criminals just change their methods so fast that it’s hard for the average consumer to keep up.

Credit card issuers are always looking for ways to protect the consumer. And again it’s a race between the bad people and the good people. Fraud is going up because of criminal sophistication and a lot of consumers simply don’t protect themselves. They don’t put anti-malware software on their computers. They don’t protect their mobile devices. They don’t have a password on their mobile device which is essentially a full-fledged computer walking around.

We find that there is a lot of new technology that people can take advantage of, especially related to mobile. You can monitor what’s going on in your accounts all the time. And in one out of two fraud cases, you the consumer can be the first to detect the fraud.

Q: Your conclusion in the report is “credit card issuers should prioritize preventing fraud.” What kind of things should they be doing to protect me?

“The specific capabilities they use are really all about harnessing the latest technology to stay ahead of the bad guys. One method is authentication: using technology and interaction with the customer to prove that it’s really you, because with identity crimes the problem is mistaken identity.

They can do that by ‘fingerprinting’ your device to see if that’s the same computer logging in from the same place. And if not, throw a couple of security questions your way.

Also, they need to get people to sign up for these electronic alerts. Turn off the paper statements because they are really just a way of sending private data around.
Advertise | AdChoices

Q: A lot of financial institutions ask security challenge questions, but they’re the real obvious stuff that would be on a social media site: your high school, your mother’s maiden name, the name of your pet. I ran across a financial site recently that let me create my own challenge questions. That seems so much better. Why isn’t that industry practice?

“You make a great point. They need to stay away from things that we post online or somebody could even get from a genealogy site, that sort of thing. What’s best is to allow the individual to come up with their own information.

Then along with the secret questions and password, they should filter out what looks like obvious choices. If you’re the bank, send people a notice that says, ‘Don’t use 1,2,3,4 for your password,’ or ‘Don’t use a piece of information, such as your dog’s name. It’s too obvious.’ ”

We have a website called ID Safety where you can find out how to protect yourself.

more @

Woman molested by Jehovah's Witnesses member

Woman molested by Jehovah's Witnesses member at age NINE wins $28milion in America's BIGGEST religious sex abuse payout

In a landmark ruling, a California jury has awarded record $28million in damages to a woman who had accused the Jehovah’s Witnesses of allowing one of its adult members to molest her as a child.

Alameda County jurors awarded $7million in compensatory damages last Wednesday and another $21million in punitive damages the following day to 26-year-old Candace Conti, her attorney, Rick Simons, said.

'This is the largest jury verdict for a single victim in a religious child abuse case in the country,’ Simons added.

In her lawsuit, Conti said that between 1995 and 1996, when she was nine and ten years old, and a member of the North Fremont Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, she was repeatedly molested by a fellow congregant, Jonathan Kendrick.

Both her parents were Jehovah’s Witnesses at the time of the abuse, Conti said.

‘I was trying to be the best Jehovah’s Witness I could be at that time,’ she told

While it is unusual for victims of sexual abuse to be identified in the press, Conti has decided to go public with her allegations to encourage other victims of sexual abuse to come forward, Simons said.

A Facebook page dedicated to Conti has been created where nearly 500 supporters have expressed their gratitude to the 26-year-old for coming forward.

‘Nothing can bring back my childhood,’ Conti told the Oakland Tribune. ‘But through this (verdict) and through, hopefully, a change in their policy, we can make something good come out of it.’

Conti also claimed in her suit that the religion’s national leaders formed a policy in 1989 that instructed the religion’s elders to keep child sex abuse accusations within the group secret to avoid lawsuits.

Fremont elders followed that policy when they chose to conceal the fact that Kendrick had been convicted in 1994 of misdemeanor child molestation in Alameda County from the congregation, according to Simons.

Kendrick was never criminally charged in the case involving Conti, but besides the 1994 conviction, he was convicted in 2004 of lewd or lascivious acts with a child younger than 14 years and sexual battery involving a restrained person, records show.

Kendrick, aged 58, has been registered as a sex offender in California. He currently resides in Oakley.

Kendrick was ordered to pay 60 per cent of the judgment, but Simons said there would be no attempt to collect any money from him, in part, because he would not be able to pay the judgment.

The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York — the organization overseeing the Jehovah’s Witnesses —would be responsible for 40 per cent, according to Conti’s lawyer.

‘The ultimate goal of the lawsuit was to have a change in policy, to be able to ID these people, child molesters, to the congregation to protect children,’ Conti told

‘Secondarily, to have silent ones come forward and tell their stories and to bring to light that overall issue of violence and the hush-hush policy.’

Jim McCabe, an attorney for the congregation, said he was ‘stunned’ by the verdict and planned to appeal it. He denied Jehovah’s Witnesses has a secrecy policy concerning child sex abuse and accused Conti’s lawyer of twisting the facts of the case.

‘The Jehovah’s Witnesses hate child abuse and believe it’s a plague on humanity,’ McCabe told the Tribune. ‘Jonathan Kendrick was not a leader or a pastor, he was just a rank-and-file member. This is a tragic case where a member of a religious group has brought liability on the group for actions he alone may have taken.’

Jehovah's Witnesses is a Christian denomination noted for its non-traditional interpretation of the Bible. Members are best known for preaching door-to-door, and distributing religious literature such as The Watchtower and Awake! magazines.

Simons said his client sued the church in 2011 after trying and failing to get Jehovah’s Witnesses in Southern California and in Fremont to change the secrecy policy.

‘The money is the only way left for her to force Jehovah’s Witnesses to stop keep hiding known sex offenders within their congregation,’ Simons said.

Read more:


Cairo (CNN) -- As Egyptians cast ballots Sunday in the second and final day of a runoff that will decide the country's first popularly elected leader, questions swirled about whether the military would actually relinquish power.

The runoff was taking place against a backdrop of political confusion: Egypt has no constitution and no parliament, following a court ruling just days before the runoff that invalidated an Islamist-dominated legislative body and then saw the military swiftly move to dissolve it ahead of the election.

Even the choice of candidates in the runoff appeared to reflect the political polarization spurred by the chaos: Mohamed Morsi, backed by the once-banned Muslim Brotherhood, and Ahmed Shafik, who served as the last prime minister in the waning days of Hosni Mubarak's regime.

The two-day runoff that began Saturday followed a May election that failed to produce a winner with a clear mandate.

Polls opened again at 8 a.m. (2 a.m. ET) Sunday. They were scheduled to be open until 10 p.m. after election officials extended voting for two hours. Votes must be counted by Monday, with finals results to be announced Thursday.

A wild election weekend for Egypt, France and Greece

Turnout appeared sluggish Sunday at some polling stations in Cairo. Some voters may have stayed home because of sweltering heat, officials told the state-run Al-Ahram newspaper.

As of 4 p.m. Sunday, 40% of Egypt's 50 million eligible voters had cast ballots nationwide, said Farouk Sultan, head of Egypt's Presidential Election Committee. In the first round of voting last month, 46% of voters participated.

Officials have reported few voting irregularities in the second round of elections, Sultan said.

The streets in Cairo were mostly quiet during balloting despite what many Egyptians viewed as a move by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which has ruled the country since Mubarak was forced out in February 2011, to hold on to power.

Outside the city, in Giza, Mohammed Gamea cast his ballot for Morsi even as he questioned whether the election was fairly handled.

"I don't believe the Egyptian presidential elections are fair to begin with," he said Sunday morning. "The military council, assisted by the elections committee, tried everything to stall and influence the process, from disqualifying previous candidates before the first round -- not to mention the negative campaigns against Morsi -- while keeping quiet about Shafik."

"But despite all, I don't believe that there has been any electoral fraud. The ballots will determine what is next for Egypt."

The ballots in Egypt feature not only the names candidates but their pictures as well.

To protect the balloting process, authorities have gone so far as to camp outside polling stations overnight during the runoff. At one station designated for women in Cairo, guards slept on the doorstep.

The Supreme Presidential Electoral Commission approved licenses for 53 organizations to observe the elections, including at least three international groups -- the U.S.-based Carter Center, the South Africa-based Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa and the Arab Network for Monitoring of Elections.

Meanwhile, the April 6 youth movement, which was behind many of the protests in Cairo's Tahrir Square last year, said 36 members were arrested during protests Saturday, but most were released by that night.

Some disgruntled voters launched a campaign to invalidate ballots, said Mohamed Ghoneim, the founder of a group that marked "X" on the names of both Morsi and Shafik, thereby nullifying their vote.

Among the boycotters was Mohamed Khamees, who handed out leaflets.

Khamees said he lost sight in his left eye from a police beating in Tahrir Square during the early 2011 protests.

"If I give this country for the Brotherhood hands, there is not going to be any more Egypt, it will be destroyed," he told CNN. "And if I give it to someone from the old system, it looks like we did nothing."

There are a number of questions about what happens after the election.

Following the move to dissolve parliament, the military council said it will announce a 100-person assembly to draw up a new constitution.

In the meantime, though, the military council also said it is drawing up an interim constitution that will lay out the powers of the new president -- a move not expected until after the elections.

That's a result that sits uncomfortable with many of Egypt's voters.

The Muslim Brotherhood called for a referendum, saying the dissolution of parliament a dangerous step taken by the military.

"We are calling for a referendum again on the dissolving of parliament and see it as the logical thing to do especially after 30 million people went to the polls the first time and the country spent over 3 billion Egyptian pounds in a transparent electoral process," said Mahmoud Ghozlan, spokesman for the Brotherhood.

Which game console should you buy?

Which game console should you buy?

This is an interesting read i guess i will buy an Ebox360

A lot has changed since the Xbox 360 debuted in November 2005. After what has seemed like dozens of upgrades, improvements, omissions, price drops, motion controllers, and bundles, the dust has settled (once again) and we're left with three competitively priced consoles.

Editors' note: This console buying guide was updated on November 23, 2011, for the holiday season.

Such an evenly matched trio of hardware brings up the ultimate question for prospective video game console buyers: which home console should you buy?

This question doesn't necessarily have a definitive answer. Quite frankly, the answer could be any of the three depending on what you're looking for. In other words, there is no default "best console." It's about finding the one that's right for you--and what will be the deciding factor in your case will ultimately depend on what you plan to use the console for. That said, in lieu of detailing every last bit of functionality that each console offers, let's discuss the type of person we think would benefit most from each console.

Nintendo Wii

• Nintendo Wii Hardware Bundle ($170-200)
• Nintendo Wii Mario Kart Bundle ($150)

Last year Nintendo introduced a new bundle for the Wii that included Wii Sports, Wii Sports Resort, and a Wii Remote with MotionPlus built in. This year, the company has chopped $50 off the price and now offers a $150 Wii with just Mario Kart Wii bundled inside. Though the Wii isn't regarded as a "hard-core" gamer's console, the system has served up some pretty compelling titles over the past few years, with more-recent titles like Super Mario Galaxy 2 and Metroid Other M giving Wii owners something to cheer about. A growing trend with the Wii seems to be that of rebooted franchises from the company's past, like Donkey Kong Country Returns and Kirby's Epic Yarn. Not much has been seen in terms of pure innovation, but Nintendo seems content with rewarding its loyal fan base. However, we must admit that Nintendo seems to have left the Wii hanging with little to play since the announcement of the console's Wii U successor at E3 2011.

This notion was reinforced with the release of what's probably the Wii's last major title, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. We absolutely love the game, and think it's a fine way for the Wii to go out. That said, at this point in the game it's tough to recommend a new purchase simply because software support is on its last breath. While the Wii does have a respectable library, just know you'll only playing games from its past and the occasional WiiWare standout.

All things considered, the Wii has become best known for its addictive party games, the occasional fitness game, kid-friendly fun, and shooting titles that emulate light-gun arcade games. The number of first-party Nintendo titles is small, and a large number of third-party games are mostly written off as gimmicky cannon fodder.

The Wii's online multiplayer experience isn't anything to write home about, but we definitely recommend playing Mario Kart Wii online. Unfortunately, the Wii's 16-digit friend code system did not catch on with most gamers. The well-established Virtual Console offers an impressive number of classic games from various older gaming systems, and WiiWare provides a platform for inexpensive titles from independent developers.

Aside from games, the Wii doesn't offer much in terms of additional functionality. Only last year did the Wii obtain Netflix streaming, and it can't play DVDs or CDs. Besides Netflix, its only streaming-media compatibility comes from PlayOn's third-party PC software. A cheaper Wii that can't play GameCube titles was recently introduced in Europe, but Nintendo says it has no plans of releasing this system in North America.

Accessories for the Nintendo Wii can add up. The console supports up to four Wii remotes and Nunchuks (the system comes with one of each). Thankfully, Wii MotionPlus is now bundled in most new controllers, so purchasing a separate attachment is no longer needed. However, there are still plenty of accessories to purchase, and all this plus extra chargers and batteries can become quite pricey, creating a lot of hidden costs.

The Nintendo Wii is best for: Parents with children who are just beginning to enter the world of gaming; family gaming; an environment with a lot of people (dorm room or apartment with numerous roommates); loyal fans of classic Nintendo franchises.

The Wii is not the best choice for: Those who are looking for a game console that doubles as an all-purpose entertainment hub, want state-of-the-art HD graphics, enjoy a robust online community, and/or those who prefer a wide selection of adult-targeted titles.

Key Wii exclusives: All Zelda, Mario, Metroid, and first-party Nintendo games.

Microsoft Xbox 360

• Xbox 360 (4GB) ($200)
• Xbox 360 (4GB) with Kinect Bundle ($300)
• Xbox 360 (250GB) ($300)
• Xbox 360 (250GB) with Kinect Bundle ($400)\

The Xbox 360 still remains the better-selling of the two powerhouse consoles of this generation, but by a much smaller margin worldwide. This is partly because the system went on sale an entire year before the PlayStation 3 and because the console had a much stronger lineup of exclusives early on in its life cycle. Also, at launch, Xbox 360 was considerably more affordable than the expensive PlayStation 3. But a lot has changed since then.

With well over 20 million members worldwide, Xbox Live is the most complete online console experience available today. The caveat is that the "Gold" Membership tier--required for online gaming and access to the best perks--requires an annual fee of $50. (By comparison, the standard Sony and Nintendo online networks are free, though Sony does now offer a premium PSN experience called PlayStation Plus for the same yearly price.) That said, there are plenty of opportunities to save money on an XBL subscription, so make sure to keep an eye on the Xbox Dashboard for special deals.

Like Sony's PlayStation Network (PSN), Xbox Live offers downloadable games (both casual "Arcade" titles and full games), game add-ons (downloadable content, or "DLC"), and the capability to buy and rent TV shows and movies, many of which are in high-definition video. Some of the purchased videos can also be transferred to Microsoft's Zune portable media player. (Note that you'll need a hard drive to fully enjoy most of these features; the current "Slim" console includes a 250GB model, but it's a separate purchase for the 4GB model). A dashboard update also gave Xbox 360 owners the ability to use USB sticks as a means of storing media and game saves.

Back at E3 2010, Microsoft debuted a completely redesigned Xbox 360 console. Dubbed as the "Slim" or "S" console, the newer unit is 17 percent smaller than its predecessor, has built-in Wi-Fi, runs much quieter, and has a dedicated port for the Microsoft Kinect. This console is now the standard Xbox 360 system, while a $200 4GB unit has accompanied it on store shelves.

In terms of additional functionality, the Xbox 360 offers streaming Netflix, Facebook, and Twitter applications, in addition to and ESPN content. You can stream digital media from a networked Windows PC through DLNA, and the 360 can double as a full-on Windows Media Extender for those running Windows Media Center on their PCs; third-party products such as PlayOn and TwonkyVision can also expand the 360's default streaming capabilities. Xbox 360 will also recognize most music players and hard drives, so you can manually plug these types of devices into an open USB port and play music, photos, and videos right on the console. However, unlike the Blu-ray-capable PS3, the Xbox 360 can only play standard DVD movies.

On December 6, 2011, the Xbox 360 will be getting a major dashboard update that will overhaul the system's look, which falls in line with Microsoft's new Metro UI. It will also introduce Bing content search and cloud storage for game saves and Xbox Live user profiles.

Beyond all of its impressive media capabilities, the Xbox 360 is also an excellent game machine. Most triple-A titles are available on the 360, save for a few PlayStation 3-only games, and the games generally look as good as or better than their PS3 counterparts. The console also has its fair share of exclusives, including the Gears of War, Halo, Forza, and Fable series. Also--especially for the past two summers--Microsoft has impressed us with some major exclusive Xbox Live Arcade titles like Bastion, Fruit Ninja Kinect, and Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet.

There are plenty of Xbox 360 accessories that can extend the overall cost of owning the system. Additional controllers and rechargeable batteries represent the core add-ons, but you can also spend money on wireless headsets, charging docks, and messaging keypads.

Note that the older Xbox 360 consoles have a notorious (and deserved) reputation for bad reliability, thanks to the "red ring of death" problem that afflicted far too many early models. However, the slim Xbox 360 has proved to be a much more reliable piece of hardware.

In an effort to compete with PlayStation Move and the Wii's motion control, Microsoft debuted the $150 Kinect accessory add-on (previously referred to as Project Natal). We like Kinect for its unique take on motion control, and the fact that it's nearly impossible to cheat or fool, unlike the Wii. Though it does have a large launch library, there are only a few titles really worth checking out. Also, Kinect requires much more space to play than any other motion system, so this should be the primary factor when deciding on a purchase. Almost a year after its initial launch, the Kinect gaming selection is still a bit scarce. We really like innovative titles like Fruit Ninja Kinect and Child of Eden, but Kinect's showing at E3 2011 left us a bit concerned for its immediate future. Still, games like the Dance Central and updates that allow Kinect to bring voice control to Xbox 360 apps keep it relevant.

The Xbox 360 is best for: People who want an easy-to-use interface; gamers who take online gameplay seriously; gamers who already have friends on Xbox Live; hard-core and casual gamers; anyone who wants a good all-in-one gaming and entertainment system; fans of full-body motion control; workout fiends.

The Xbox 360 is not the best choice for: Those who want the PS3's added value of built-in Blu-ray; do-it-yourselfers who want more media-viewing options.

Key Xbox 360 exclusives: The Halo, Fable, Forza, and Gears of War series; some Xbox Live Arcade titles like Bastion and Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet; small number of DLC for multiplatform games like Fallout: New Vegas.

Sony PlayStation 3

• PlayStation 3 (160GB) ($250)
• PlayStation 3 (320GB) ($300)
• PlayStation 3 (320GB) Move Bundle ($350)

There's no doubt about it, the PlayStation 3 did not get off to a great start when it was released in November 2006. Fast-forward five years, and the console has definitely righted the ship. The PlayStation 3 now offers a solid library of games (including the Uncharted, Killzone, InFamous, LittleBigPlanet, and Resistance series) and access to the PlayStation Store, and is one of the best Blu-ray players on the market. (It also plays DVD movies and CDs, of course.) Now with an entry-level price of just $250, it might be the best time to consider buying a PS3. Sony has strategically positioned the console with a competitive price and promising list of future titles.

Though the base plan is totally free, the PlayStation Network doesn't necessarily provide you with the best online gaming experience around, but if you don't consider such a thing important, it is more than sufficient. At E3 2010, Sony announced PlayStation Plus, a fee service that promises to enhance the overall PSN experience. We've had some time with PlayStation Plus and have to report that its benefits simply don't justify a $50 per year subscription.

Like Xbox Live, the PlayStation Store is host to tons of movies, TV shows, demos, and downloadable games. PlayStation 3 also offers Home, a Second Life sort of experience where you can set up shop in a virtual world. Sony had been hyping the feature for years, but PlayStation Home is now generally regarded as a dud despite the company's numerous attempts to revitalize it.

Just like the Xbox 360, there are plenty of ways to get digital media streamed over the console via a home network or a third-party product like PlayOn. You can also hook up a device via USB and play media that way as well. The PS3 offers Netflix, Hulu Plus, Vudu, NHL, MLB, NFL Sunday Ticket, and HBO content support.

Though the Xbox 360 and Wii have various accessories available, you probably will need to purchase only a few for the PS3. Aside from additional controllers, there is not much you'll need. (The biggest annoyance: you'll need an infrared-to-Bluetooth adapter if you choose to use the PS3 with a universal remote.) The console uses Bluetooth technology so you can use almost any headset for chatting purposes.

Sony has marketed the PS3 as an exceptional deal because of its built-in Blu-ray player. While getting a built-in Blu-ray player is one of the console's major selling points, its benefits to the gaming experience remain mixed. It offers game developers much more space to work with than a standard DVD, but that hasn't translated into a quantum leap in graphics quality--the PS3's graphics are essentially on par with those of the 360. Also, the Blu-ray drive's fixed speed is problematic: it requires many PS3 games to do a preliminary hard-drive installation when playing a game for the first time. To this day, some titles--including major ones like Gran Turismo 5--suffer from long load times.

Sony's answer to controller-based motion control is PlayStation Move, which it released September 19, 2010. Though Move feels a lot like the Nintendo Wii experience, it offers better precision control and adds HD graphics. Like Kinect, the Move's initial library of games is lacking, but motion junkies should find safe haven in first-party titles like Sports Champions and light-gun games like The Shoot. A year after its release, Move support has been implemented into a handful of existing PS3 titles. Its functionality is being incorporated into new games, but only a few upcoming titles have Move-only mechanics.

The PS3 also now supports 3D movies as well as a growing list of 3D games. Of course, you'll need a new 3D HDTV to enjoy this content, but it is the only console pushing the initiative.

The PS3 is best for: Hard-core and casual gamers who aren't concerned with the ultimate online experience; early adopters and fans of 3D; do-it-yourselfers; videophiles who need the latest and greatest in Blu-ray; content-conscious media consumers.

The PS3 is not the best choice for: Those who don't care about HD graphics or video.

Key PS3 exclusives: The Uncharted, InFamous, Killzone, LittleBigPlanet, Gran Turismo, and Resistance series.

more @


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.