Monday, December 31, 2012

Kanye West and Kim Kardashian

'NOW YOU HAVING MY BABY!' Kanye West and Kim Kardashian are officially expecting Kanye announces pregnancy news to a crowd of more than 5,000 fans at a concert at the Revel Resort in Atlantic City -- and receives a raucous, standing ovation. Reality star Kim Kardashian is in for a big dose of real life: She’s pregnant. While performing at the Revel Resort in Atlantic City on Sunday night, rapper Kanye West announced that he and his gal pal, of eight months are expecting their first child. West delivered the news to a crowd of 5,000 at the casino hotel’s Ovation Hall in song form: “Now you having my baby.” The crowd roared. The 35-year-old West also told concertgoers to congratulate his “baby mom” and that this was the “most amazing thing.” Representatives for West and Kardashian didn’t immediately respond to emails about the pregnancy.

Web technology

Web technology: 5 things to watch in 2013 Don't expect a resolution to the Web standards fracas next year, but high-res images will happen, and new browsers might carve out a niche The evolution of the Web is a messy process. We do so much with the Web today that it's easy to take it for granted. Banking, social networking, word processing, travel planning, education, shopping -- the Web is reaching to new domains and tightening its grip where it's already used. To match that expansion, the Web is evolving. But the Web is built by countless individuals -- browser engineers who enable new technology, Web developers who bring that technology online, and standards group members who iron out compatibility wrinkles. With so many constituents, it's no wonder there's so much craziness in charting the Web's future. The new year will bring new chaos on the Web, and things will be sorted out in only some areas. Here's a look at what'll settle down in 2013 -- and what won't. Alternabrowsers iOS comes with Safari. Windows Phone comes with Internet Explorer. Android comes with its own browser and, for Android 4.x users, Chrome. It's a very different way of doing things compared to the browser free-for-all in the PC market. In 2013, though, there's a chance people will exercise choice where they can and reject a future where browsers end up being effectively locked to the mobile OS. The forces for lock-in are strong, if for no other reason that it's just simpler to use a smartphone's built-in browser. But don't forget -- there was a day when IE ruled the desktop browser world. In 2012, programmers laid the groundwork for big-name alternabrowsers. Today, the companies that control the mobile operating systems -- Apple and Google -- lead the race for mobile browser usage. Today, the companies that control the mobile operating systems -- Apple and Google -- lead the race for mobile browser usage. (Credit: data from Net Applications; chart by Stephen Shankland/CNET) We saw the arrival of Chrome on iOS and the reboot of Firefox on Android. iOS and Windows Phone place restrictions on third-party browsers, but Android is open, and other browsers there include Dolphin, Opera Mini, Opera Mobile, and UC Browser. The restriction on iOS is that third-party browsers must use an Apple-supplied version of the WebKit browser engine that's more secure but slower than the version Safari uses. Windows Phone and Windows RT have related restrictions. On personal computers, it's completely ordinary to switch to other browsers depending on security, performance, features. In the mobile world, that's not the case. But the alternative browsers -- especially when companies like Google put marketing muscle and brand equity behind them -- could convince people that maybe they should venture farther afield. With Android spreading into more hands than iOS, it's possible the openness of the PC industry could Oh, one more thing -- don't be surprised to see a Mozilla browser on iOS, too. Firefox OS makes a peep Mozilla announced some early progress with Firefox OS in 2012 -- though it failed to deliver it during the year as it had planned. Expect the browser-based operating system, which runs Web apps and is geared for budget smartphones, in early 2013. Firefox is barred from iOS and Windows RT, and it is a rarity on Android. Without a presence in the mobile market, Mozilla can't use its browser as leverage to pursue its goal of an open Internet. Firefox OS, geared for smartphones and running browser-based apps, is Mozilla's answer. With it, Mozilla hopes to break the ecosystem lock that is settling people into the phone-OS-app store-cloud service silos from Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Amazon. The first big Firefox OS partner is Telefonica, which plans to offer phones in Latin America with the operating system as a cheaper smartphones alternative. "Mozilla's prediction is that in 2013, the Web will emerge as a viable mobile platform and a third, alternative option to closed, proprietary walled gardens," said Jay Sullivan, Mozilla's vice president of products. Firefox and Firefox OS obviously are key parts of Mozilla's effort to make that happen Firefox OS won't be an easy sell since inexpensive Android phones are common and iPhones continue to spread. But carriers can't be happy ceding power to Google and Apple. And Mozilla doesn't need to have 40 percent market share to claim victory: as long as its foothold is big enough to keep Web programmers from coding mobile sites only for the big boys. Web standards divisiveness persists Those hoping the end of a rift in Web standards governance most likely will have to keep on waiting. The World Wide Web Consortium long has played a central role in revising the standards out of which the Web is built, but a decade ago it chose to push a standard called XHTML that wasn't compatible with HTML. The browser makers, it turned out, had veto power, and largely ignored XHTML in favor of advancing HTML on their own through a group called WHATWG. This split persists -- and it's not going away. The W3C is enthusiastic about HTML and related Web standards such as CSS for formatting. But even as it's ramped up its efforts, with plans to finish HTML5 standardization in 2014, the WHATWG has moved to a "living document" model that constantly updates HTML. W3C CEO Jeff Jaffe has been trying to speed up Web standardization, with some success, and the W3C has remained relevant when it comes to CSS and some other work. But it has yet to fully regain its status with HTML itself, despite new members, new editors, and new energy. In fact, the cultural gulf in some ways appears to be widening. Even as the W3C's formal committee machinations expand with new members, the WHATWG's HTML editor, Ian Hickson, is moving the other direction. He said in a Google+ post: Consensus (also known as "design by committee") is a terrible way to design a language or platform. Committee design dilutes responsibility and blame (everyone just starts saying things like "yeah, I didn't like it, but we had to do that to get consensus") while letting everyone take credit for everything (since their ok is necessary to get consensus), which makes it an attractive proposition for people who want to further their careers without really doing any work... You end up with a technology that doesn't know what it is and doesn't do anything well. Web standards continue to evolve, but at least regarding HTML itself, it doesn't look like either side will agree the other has the superior process. High-res images on the Web Apple's Retina displays -- the high-resolution screens used in iPhones, iPads, and MacBooks -- enable a new level of crispness and clarity in images and text. Software makers have been gradually updating their programs with new icons, graphic elements, and abilities to take advantage of the displays. It's been work, but not exactly a major re-engineering effort. But Retina on the Web is a very different matter. First of all, nobody likes slow-loading pages, and Retina imagery has four times the pixels as conventional imagery. Worse, more of the Web is moving toward mobile devices that have an even harder time managing big images and whose data usage is pricey, and you especially don't want mobile users downloading multiple versions of the same image when they don't need to. At the same time, mobile devices are often held closer to the eye than PCs but using physically smaller screens with higher pixel densities. That means old assumptions no longer are valid about how many pixels wide a graphic should be. The technology to fix this has the label "responsive images." Standards to the rescue! But uh-oh: Two camps each favor their own approach -- one called the srcset attribute, the other known as the picture element. Resolution probably will come in 2013, though. There have been emotional differences of opinion, but Robin Berjon, one of the five new HTML editors at the W3C, sees discussions as fruitful now. He said in a blog post: We have two proposals for responsive images, the srcset attribute and the picture element. Both have now reached the level of maturity at which they can be most usefully compared, and this discussion is about to go through a new chapter. Browser makers and Web developers are actively moving to high-resolution graphics and videos on Retina-capable devices, so regardless of what happens in standards groups, the responsive images issue will be fixed. After all, high-resolution displays are increasingly common, mobile devices are increasingly important, and nobody likes looking at pixelated, mushy images when they don't have to. Web bloat The good news is the Web is getting steadily more sophisticated, powerful, and useful. The bad news is there's a price to pay for those advantages. Unfortunately for those who have capped data plans or who live in rural areas with subpar broadband, that increase in Web sophistication means Web pages get bigger and take longer to fetch. There's an old adage in the computing industry that the new horsepower that chips deliver is immediately squandered by new software features, so computers don't actually appear to get faster. There's a corollary in the Web world: As broadband spreads and speeds up, as faster LTE supplants 3G, so Web pages sponge up the extra network capacity. The HTTP archive keeps tabs on the state of the Web, and it shows just how things are ballooning in its sample of tens of thousands of Web pages. From December 16, 2010 to December 15, 2012, the average Web page increased in size from 726KB to 1,286KB. The amount of JavaScript increased from 115KB to 211KB. And the images ballooned from 430KB to 793KB. An optimist can find good news here, too. Google has an entire team devoted to making the Web faster, introducing new technology such as SPDY to speed up servers and browsers. Browser makers obsessively best new versions to try to catch any regressions that would slow things down. New standards make it easier for Web developers to time exactly how fast their pages actually load. And don't forget the bloat is there for a reason. Do you really want to dial the Web back to 1997?

Cyber Criminals Are Targeting Your Smartphone

Cyber Criminals Are Targeting Your Smartphone: McAfee As more people use their mobile devices to access their bank accounts, make payments and store financial and other types of data, cyber attacks are on the upswing, Michelle Dennedy, Chief Privacy Officer for security software firm McAfee, told CNBC's "Squawk on the Street" this week. According to McAfee's 2013 Threat Prediction report, "Cyber criminals and hacktivists will strengthen and evolve the techniques and tools they use to assault our privacy, bank accounts, mobile devices, businesses, organizations and homes." Cyber attacks on mobile devices can take two forms, Dennedy told CNBC. In addition to the traditional hacking and malware threats that plague traditional PCs, cyber criminals are now exploiting a mobile phone's near-field communications, which is how consumers use tap-and-pay mobile wallet services. "Crooks are able to walk through crowds and literally bump into your phone and your steal information," she warned. The McAfee report also predicted a rise in "ransomware" where criminals hijack a users' ability to access data or communicate to extort a payment from victims who hope to have their access restored. While Dennedy said there are things companies are doing to protect consumers who use mobile devices, consumers still need to do more to protect their data and financial information. She recommends maintaining only a small cyber-footprint and frequently changing passwords. (Read More: Cyber Crime: Everyone Is a Target) Beyond the consumer threats, McAfee, which is owned by semiconductor maker Intel, predicts that online hacktivists like the group Anonymous will be less active but will be replaced by more politically-committed groups. "They will be eclipsed a little bit by more and more nation states becoming prepared and aware of cyber warfare and cyber attacks," Dennedy said of Anonymous and other groups. "We will see more probing and testing of exploits to test the enemy's vulnerabilities and even our friends' vulnerabilities." There could also a pick-up in large-scale attacks against key infrastructure. Dennedy said energy infrastructure and food supply are areas "that could shut down our economy or cause disruption," if subject to attack. These "are obvious places we need to be prepared on the information side as well as the physical scale," she said.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Could you spend $500 on food at this bodega?

Could you spend $500 on food at this bodega? A welfare recipient claimed to! Most people run to the corner bodega for a gallon of milk or a loaf of bread, but some welfare recipients are plunking down $500 at a time in suspicious transactions, The Post has found. Welfare users are only allowed to use their Electronic Benefit Transfer cards to buy food, yet they are rung up like fat cats in tiny stores in The Bronx and Brooklyn where the priciest item is usually an $8 pound of ham. Earlier this year, an owner and a cashier at Glenwood Food Corp. in Canarsie, Brooklyn, were arrested for ringing up bogus transactions. A federal sting found the bodega was recording phony purchases on EBT cards, handing customers about 70 percent of the amount in cash — and pocketing the rest. Goods were rarely exchanged in the scam, which defrauded taxpayers out of $985,000 in two years. The Post found dozens of mysterious high-value “purchases” in low-end stores in a state database of 1 million EBT transactions. Sheridan Mini Mart in Morrisania, The Bronx, rang up single sales of $543.40 and $473.50 on June 4, 2012, alone. That’s a lot of bread for a store where the most expensive item is an $11.99 jug of cooking oil. At Tremont’s Palenque Supermarket Corp., ETB where the priciest product is an $18.99 gallon of olive oil, transactions reached as high as $400 last year. Desi Grocery, a tiny East New York store now known as Anchor Grocery, racked up a $585 sale and several $400 sales through June 2012. When the feds replaced paper food stamps, welfare recipients began receiving their benefits electronically on an EBT card, which operates like a debit card, to buy food at stores authorized by the US Department of Agriculture. A single recipient gets $200 a month, and the head of a four-person household gets $668. Eligible individuals must make less than $14,532 annually, and the head of a family of four less than $29,976. They swipe their cards, enter a PIN and the amount of the food purchase is deducted from their allowance and credited to the retailer. Moe Mozit, a co-owner of Sheridan Mini Market, denies his store cooks up counterfeit sales. He said he had no record of the $543 transaction The Post found in state documents obtained through a Freedom of Information request, and was shocked anyone could spend that much at his shop. “This amount is crazy,” Mozit said. “Sometimes you get shoppers that spend $200, but once in a blue moon. This is absolutely a mistake.” The owner of Palenque could not be reached for comment. A counterman said, “No, that doesn’t happen.” Robert Rector of The Heritage Foundation called the USDA’s anti-fraud procedures “a joke.” “There’s virtually no oversight or effort from the USDA to stop this at all,” Rector said. “A store gets disqualified from the program and miraculously it’s back in business in the next two weeks with a new name on the front door.” The USDA works with city and state investigators to weed out fraud by chasing down tips and flagging sizable transactions, a spokeswoman said. The agency penalized 196 city stores in 2012 for phantom sales or selling ineligible items like booze and tobacco — and 137 were permanently disqualified. “Due to increased oversight and improvements to program management . . . the fraud trafficking rate has fallen significantly over the last two decades,” from 4 cents on the dollar to 1 cent, said spokeswoman Regan Hopper.

Friday, December 28, 2012


HAVE YOU SEEN THIS WOMAN? Another innocent victim murdered in the subway; Cops hunt woman who shoved man to his death A heavyset Hispanic woman — seen by five witnesses pacing and mumbling to herself — pushes a helpless man in front of an oncoming Flushing-bound No. 7 train in Queens. She was caught on tape while fleeing the crime scene: police
Police officers stand in the entrance to the 40th St. subway station on Queens Blvd., in Queens, New York, Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012, where a No. 7 subway train struck and killed a person who was pushed in front of it. Robert Mecea for New York Daily News Police officers stand at the entrance to the 40th St. subway station on Queens Blvd. where a No. 7 subway train struck and killed a person who was pushed in front of it. Related Stories A MAN WAITING for an approaching No. 7 train in Queens died a gruesome death Thursday night when a young woman darted up behind the helpless straphanger and pushed him onto the tracks, police said. The unidentified victim was crushed by the first and second cars of the Flushing-bound train about 8 p.m, as his murderer hustled down the stairs of the elevated station at the 40th St./Lowery St. stop in Sunnyside and fled in an unknown direction on Queens Blvd. The suspect, described by police as a heavyset Hispanic woman in her 20s, was still at large as of early Friday. The unfortunate man, who witnesses told police likely never saw his killer as she struck, was the second person this month to be slain by being pushed from a subway platform into the path of an oncoming train. STRAPHANGER KILLED AFTER BEING PUSHED IN FRONT OF MIDTOWN MANHATTAN TRAIN Subway_murder DCPI Cops are searching for a heavyset Hispanic woman in her 20s. She may have killed a man by shoving him in front of an oncoming No. 7 train in Queens. SUBWAY POLICE Robert Mecea for New York Daily News An auxiliary police officer directs a family away from the 40th St.-Lowery St. subway station in Sunnyside after a woman allegedly shoved a man onto the tracks to his death Thursday night. The 7 train horror, due to its apparent random nature, was eerily reminiscent of the 1999 death of 32-year-old journalist Kendra Webdale at the hands of a schizophrenic platform pusher, a notorious case that rattled the city and sparked a debate over treatment of the mentally disabled. Even before the suspect’s fatal action Thursday night, she exhibited signs that seemed to point to a troubled mind. The woman, who is about 5-feet-5 with brown or blond hair, was seen by at least five witnesses pacing on the platform and mumbling to herself, said NYPD spokesman Paul Browne. She eventually took a seat on a wooden bench about 20 yards from the victim, who stood on the platform’s edge and did not appear to have ever noticed her, Browne said. As the train pulled into the station, the woman quickly made her move. SUBWAY HOMICIDE CAUSES PARENTS TO RELIVE DEATH OF KENDRA WEBDALE IN 1999 SHOVE SUSPECT: 'HE ATTACKED ME FIRST.' “She was seated alone and then waited until the train came into the station and approached this individual from behind and pushed him in front of the train,” Browne told reporters at the station Thursday night. There was not enough time for other straphangers on the platform to save the doomed man, Browne said. His body was still underneath the train as of early Friday and police had yet to identify him because his injuries were so severe. There was no video surveillance of the suspect filmed at the station, but investigators were scouring locations on Queens Blvd. to see if her image was filmed. She wore a gray, blue and white ski jacket and gray and red Nike sneakers, witnesses told police. Investigators do not believe the victim knew his attacker. On Dec. 3, Ki-Suk Han, 58, of Elmhurst, Queens, was fatally crushed by a downtown Q train at the 49th St.-Seventh Ave. station after a drifter with a lengthy rap sheet tossed him onto the tracks following an argument. Cops collared Naeem Davis, 30, and charged him with second-degree murder in the deadly altercation. Davis claimed he had merely tried to push Han, a Korean immigrant and father, away after the altercation. Read more:

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Customer claims Sprint worker said his fingers 'too fat' for iPhone

Customer claims Sprint worker said his fingers 'too fat' for iPhone A customer claims he went to a Sprint store to replace his damaged phone and the Sprint salesperson told him his digits were too porky for an iPhone 4. It's possible you might put on a few pounds during this holiday season. Might I suggest you perform additional exercises with your fingers? You know, so that they don't get too large. This would seem to be extremely sane advice if you want to buy an iPhone from Sprint. At least that's what one Sprint customer would have you believe. This customer says he billowed his way into his local Sprint store in order to get a replacement for his damaged phone. As told to Tom's Hardware, when he discovered he could get a free replacement iPhone 4, the customer thought this seemed like a sound value proposition. The Sprint salesperson allegedly countered by telling the customer that the iPhone is "really a piece of s***." I am all for creative salesmanship. This, however, seemed to go down as well as a restoration of the Mona Lisa involving acrylics and a hairbrush. As many salespeople are, this one was apparently undeterred. He allegedly went on to list all the many, colorful reasons why the iPhone is really, really "a piece of s***." These included battery life, fragility, and size -- the last of which supposedly led to "your fingers are too fat for such a phone. You should get the Galaxy S3." I would be stunned into emitting lava from my mouth had I not myself, with a slim-fingered witness at my side, enjoyed a somewhat similar experience at a Verizon store, where the salesperson did everything possible to unsell me an iPhone. No, he didn't use the phrase "really a piece of s***." But he did offer that other phones were 10 times faster than the iPhone and that only Apple wants to push iPhones, Verizon doesn't. I am sure that in neither case could the salesperson's iPooh-poohing be at all related to the amount of money the store makes (or doesn't) from the iPhone. I have contacted Sprint to see whether the company has any comment about the digital size of customers who are eligible to buy an iPhone. In this particular case, the transaction doesn't seem to have gone in Sprint's favor. For the customer concluded:


Instagram hit with proposed class-action lawsuit Suit claims that Instagram is not only making a "grab for customer property rights" with proposed tweaks to its terms of service, but is also covering its tail by prohibiting users from seeking legal relief. Instagram's attempt to change its terms of service has inspired not only a user backlash but also-- now -- a class-action lawsuit. The proposed terms of service were introduced last week, though Instagram has since backpedaled. The lawsuit -- filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco on Friday and first reported by Reuters -- argues that the proposed changes would "transfer valuable property rights to Instagram while simultaneously relieving Instagram from any liability for commercially exploiting customers' photographs and artistic content, while shielding Instagram from legal liability." Instagram is making a "grab for customer property rights," the suit claims, and is attempting to cover its tail by prohibiting users from seeking legal injunction against the service, or indeed -- through a no-class-action arbitration clause -- any legal action aside from small-claims remedies. The proposed terms would also "artificially limit the statute of limitations for all claims against Instagram to 1 year," the suit says. Related stories The suit says the plaintiff -- Lucy Funes of San Diego -- "is acting to preserve valuable and important property, statutory, and legal rights" before legal action is "forever barred by adoption of Instagram's New Terms." Instagram had said that the new terms of service would go into effect January 16 and that users could not opt out but could delete their accounts before the deadline. The lawsuit takes issue with that last point, saying customers could cancel, but that in doing so would forfeit the right to their photos. "In short," the suit says, "Instagram declares that 'possession is nine-tenths of the law and if you don't like it, you can't stop us.'" Instagram parent Facebook told Reuters the "complaint is without merit and we will fight it vigorously."

Netflix outage

Netflix outage mars Christmas Eve The company's video streaming service went down for an undetermined number of people across the Americas yesterday. The outage continued into Christmas morning for some customers. Netflix's video streaming service suffered a Christmas Eve outage on "many but not all devices" across the Americas, according to the company. The outage continued into Christmas morning for some customers. The company tweeted on its Netflix US account at 8:45 a.m. PT today that the service was "back to normal streaming levels." Netflix first started responding to tweets about disrupted service before 1 p.m. PT yesterday. About three hours later, Netflix offered an apology on its main Twitter account. "We're sorry for the Christmas Eve outage. Terrible timing! Engineers are working on it now," Netflix said in a tweet in the late afternoon yesterday. Netflix pinned the issue on Amazon Web Services servers and said it was working with Amazon engineers on a fix. By evening, Netflix noted that the problem was not yet resolved and promised to tweet as soon as it was back up. Netflix spokesman Joris Evers e-mailed a statement to CNET today about the outage, noting that "streaming was available again for the majority of our members late on Christmas Eve Pacific Time." Netflix tagged the outage as starting around 12:30 p.m. PT. The number of devices affected by the outage was "initially limited but grew in scope" over the afternoon, Evers said. "We...apologize for any inconvenience caused last night," today's statement said. "We are investigating the cause and will do what we can to prevent reccurrence." Not surprisingly, many angry customers poured out their wrath via social networking. However, Joel Braverman, developer program coordinator at Roku, looked at the bright side. "Thanks to @netflix outage we can likely expect a moderate population explosion in nine months," he tweeted today.

TSA agents 'laugh at travelers’ naked scanner images

Revealed: How TSA agents 'laugh at travelers’ naked scanner images in backrooms while flirting with each other and smoking e-cigarettes' A former Transpiration Security Administration (TSA) agent-turned-anonymous blogger recently revealed that his co-workers routinely make fun of passengers' nude body images while reviewing them in backrooms. The unnamed ex-TSA officer, who writes for the blog Taking Sense Away, received a note from a reader which said: 'Tell us, please, what really happens in that private room and why the TSA does not want it seen in public or recorded.' In response, the blogger wrote that while he has not experienced or heard of anything outright illegal or illicit going on in the private screening rooms, officers manning the image operator (IO) rooms where passengers' nude X-ray images are reviewed often behave in a highly inappropriate manner.
'I witnessed light sexual play among officers, a lot of e-cigarette vaping, and a whole lot of officers laughing and clowning in regard to some of your nude images, dear passengers,' the former agent wrote. 'Bad' behavior: The whistleblower said that poorly trained TSA screeners fresh out of high school have been tasked with looking at nude pictures in sealed image operator rooms 'Bad' behavior: The whistleblower said that poorly trained TSA screeners fresh out of high school have been tasked with looking at nude pictures in sealed image operator rooms The blogger partially attributed this childish behavior to lack of education and training, saying that this is what happens when people 'fresh out of high school or a GED program' are put in charge of analyzing nude images of people in a hermetically sealed room. The writer explained that according to TSA rules, no one is allowed to enter or leave the image analysts room without warning in an effort to ensure that the agents on duty never see the passengers whose nude image they had just viewed. The blogger added, however, that he had personally witnessed some officers sneaking a peek at the people whom they had seen on the scanner. The former airport security agent went on to argue that there should be no backrooms at all, and that the agency should have never put the full-body X-ray machines in place, calling them 'useless.' 'TSA officers should never have been viewing nude, radiation-rendered images of passengers in those private rooms, period,' the blogger wrote. 'The entire thing was, as usual, a hare-brained, tax payer money-wasting, disaster of an idea.' The whistleblower said that is the reason why there are several federal lawsuits pending against the agency, which is 'trying to backpedal and sweep the radiation scanners under the rung from oversight committees and the public at large.' The anonymous writer confessed that his former colleagues would go so far as to arbitrarily punish disgruntled passengers by subjecting them to unjustified and pointless luggage searches. The Daily Mail has reached out to the TSA about the allegations, but no one was immediately available for comment on Christmas Day. Read more:

Monday, December 24, 2012

Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Cyber Fighters

Wells Fargo Web site troubles persist, US OCC issues cyber alert Dec 21 (Reuters) - Wells Fargo & Co customers on Friday had trouble accessing the bank's Web site for a fourth day, as a federal regulator reiterated the need for banks to have systems in place to ward off cyber attacks. A spokeswoman for the No. 4 U.S. bank by assets said some customers may have intermittent access to their online banking, although the high volume of traffic that has flooded the site has declined. "Our technical teams have been working around the clock to ensure our Web site is accessible to our customers," bank spokeswoman Bridget Braxton said. The bank has been posting apologies on its Twitter account. Since September, a hacker activist group called the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Cyber Fighters has said it was targeting major banks with so-called denial of service cyber attacks. These attacks can disrupt service by deluging Web sites with high traffic. On Tuesday, the group said in an Internet posting that it would target the "5 major US banks." In a similar posting last week, it forecast attacks against banks that included PNC Financial Services Group Inc and U.S. Bancorp, which reported some disruptions. A PNC spokesman on Friday said the bank's systems were operating normally. Spokespersons for Bank of America Corp , JPMorgan Chase & Co and U.S. Bancorp declined to comment. Citigroup Inc could not be immediately reached. In its alert on Friday, the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which regulates national banks and thrifts, said groups launching denial of service attacks had varying motives, from gaining public attention to diverting the attention of banks while launching simultaneous attacks to commit fraud or steal proprietary information. "Banks need to have a heightened sense of awareness regarding these attacks and employ appropriate resources to identify and mitigate the associated risks," the alert said. Banks should have sufficient staffing during attacks, work with third-party providers and share information with other banks, the OCC said. Of five major banks, Wells Fargo on Friday had spurred the most complaints from users about access problems, according to the Web site, which tracks customer reports. It listed 576 "downtime reports" in the past 24 hours. Wells Fargo says it has 21 million active online banking customers.

Woman fired for being to sexy

Dental Assistant Fired For Being 'Irresistible' Is 'Devastated' After working as a dental assistant for ten years, Melissa Nelson was fired for being too "irresistible" and a "threat" to her employer's marriage. "I think it is completely wrong," Nelson said. "I think it is sending a message that men can do whatever they want in the work force." On Friday, the all-male Iowa State Supreme Court ruled that James Knight, Nelson's boss, was within his legal rights when he fired her, affirming the decision of a lower court. "We do think the Iowa Supreme Court got it completely right," said Stuart Cochrane, an attorney for James Knight. "Our position has always been Mrs. Nelson was never terminated because of her gender, she was terminated because of concerns her behavior was not appropriate in the workplace. She's an attractive lady. Dr. Knight found her behavior and dress to be inappropriate." For Nelson, a 32-year-old married mother of two, the news of her firing and the rationale behind it came as a shock. "I was very surprised after working so many years side by side I didn't have any idea that that would have crossed his mind," she said. The two never had a sexual relationship or sought one, according to court documents, however in the final year and a half of Nelson's employment, Knight began to make comments about her clothing being too tight or distracting. "Dr. Knight acknowledges he once told Nelson that if she saw his pants bulging, she would know her clothing was too revealing," the justices wrote. Six months before Nelson was fired, she and her boss began exchanging text messages about work and personal matters, such as updates about each of their children's activities, the justices wrote. The messages were mostly mundane, but Nelson recalled one text she received from her boss asking "how often she experienced an orgasm." Nelson did not respond to the text and never indicated that she was uncomfortable with Knight's question, according to court documents. Soon after, Knight's wife, Jeanne, who also works at the practice, found out about the text messaging and ordered her husband to fire Nelson. The couple consulted with a senior pastor at their church and he agreed that Nelson should be terminated in order to protect their marriage, Cochrane said. On Jan. 4, 2010, Nelson was summoned to a meeting with Knight while a pastor was present. Knight then read from a prepared statement telling Nelson she was fired. "Dr. Knight felt like for the best interest of his marriage and the best interest of hers to end their employment relationship," Cochrane said. Knight acknowledged in court documents that Nelson was good at her job and she, in turn, said she was generally treated with respect. "I'm devastated. I really am," Nelson said. When Nelson's husband tried to reason with Knight, the dentist told him he "feared he would have an affair with her down the road if he did not fire her." Paige Fiedler, Nelson's attorney, said in a statement to ABC News affiliate KCRG that she was "appalled" by the ruling. "We are appalled by the Court's ruling and its failure to understand the nature of gender bias.," she wrote. "Although people act for a variety of reasons, it is very common for women to be targeted for discrimination because of their sexual attractiveness or supposed lack of sexual attractiveness. That is discrimination based on sex," Fiedler wrote. "Nearly every woman in Iowa understands this because we have experienced it for ourselves."

Rihanna donates $1.75m to barbados hospital

Pop star Rihanna has donated $1.75m (£1.08m) to a hospital in Barbados in memory of her grandmother. The 24-year-old said the gift, which will pay for three pieces of medical equipment, was her way "giving back to Barbados". "I believe that this will have a huge impact on the people of Barbados. This was all done to save lives or at least extend them." The singer's grandmother, Clara "Dolly" Braithwaite, died in June. She had fought a long battle with cancer. The hospital's radiotherapy unit has been renamed the Clara Braithwaite Center for Oncology and Nuclear Medicine. Rihanna, whose real name is Robyn Fenty, made the announcement at a visit to the hospital over the weekend, where she was accompanied by her mother, Monica, and grandfather, Lionel Braithwaite.Rihanna posted a photo of her grandmother on Twitter She was particularly close to her grandmother, and took a last-minute break from her European festival tour in June to spend some time with her in hospital. When she died on 30 June, the pop startook to Twitter *and posted several photographs of the two together, writing, "my heart smiled and cried all at once". Born and raised in Barbados, Rihanna is one of the most successful female musicians in the world. Since her debut in 2005, she has released an album a year, with the exception of 2008. Her most recent, Unapologetic, became her first US number one, and gave her a global hit with the lead single, Diamonds. Forbes magazine last week named her the third-highest-earning woman in the music industry, after she made $53m in 2012.

Tawana Brawley

25 years after her rape claims sparked a firestorm, Tawana Brawley avoids the spotlight Her silence is deafening. Twenty-five years after the spotlight first glared on Tawana Brawley — a black woman who as a teen claimed she was raped by a gang of white men, smeared with feces and stuffed in a garbage bag — she’s desperately struggling to stay hidden from public view. “I don’t want to talk to anyone about that,” Brawley, 40, said recently after The Post found her in Hopewell, Va., where she lives in a neatly kept brick apartment complex with signs warning of video surveillance cameras. By all appearances, her life — so chaotic a quarter-century ago — now seems normal. STARTING OVER: Tawana Brawley goes to work as a nurse in Virginia. J.C. Rice STARTING OVER: Tawana Brawley goes to work as a nurse in Virginia. UPROAR: Brawley joins Al Sharpton at an Atlanta rally in June 1988 — four months before her rape claim was exposed as a lie. AP UPROAR: Brawley joins Al Sharpton at an Atlanta rally in June 1988 — four months before her rape claim was exposed as a lie. Tawana Brawley as a teen in Dutchess County. Tawana Brawley as a teen in Dutchess County. Brawley, using aliases such as Thompson and Gutierrez, now has a young daughter, a neighbor says, and works as a licensed practical nurse at The Laurels of Bon Air in Richmond, where co-workers were clueless about her past. “Are you serious? We don’t know her by that name. Isn’t that a trip?” squealed one staffer, who called Brawley, known to staff as Tawana Gutierrez, “a good worker.” On a recent Friday, Brawley, noticeably heavier and dressed in pink scrubs, emerged from her apartment at about 6:30 a.m. with a small child and a man wearing red hospital scrubs. The two left in separate cars — Brawley in a Chrysler Sebring and the man and child in a Ford Taurus. She arrived at work in Richmond about 30 minutes later, and the man pulled in minutes afterward. Hopewell — where Brawley has lived for at least a year, according to a neighbor — has the highest rate of violent crime per capita of any city or town in Virginia, local cops say. Plagued by drugs and guns, it had five murders in the last three weeks. Jittery residents call police at even the slightest suspicion. “You break wind here and they call us,” one veteran officer said. State records show “Tawana V. Gutierrez” and “Tawana V. Thompson” have held the same nursing license since 2006. The Virginia Board of Nursing confirmed issuing it to a “Tawana Vacenia Thompson Gutierrez.” Brawley maintains a PO box in Claremont, Va., under the name Gutierrez, according to sources. That town is a 45-minute drive from Hopewell and is the residence of her stepdad, Ralph King, who spent seven years in prison in the 1970s for killing his first wife. Locals in the rural mill town described King, who lives in a ramshackle house near the end of a dead-end street where dogs run wild, as a nasty man and said they hadn’t seen Tawana in years. “He’s real mean,” one man said. King declined to be interviewed. A quarter-century ago, Brawley, then just 15, told a story incredible for its sheer brutality.


McElroy pounded by Chargers while Tebow stands idly by Just when you thought the Jets’ quarterback situation could not become any messier ... Their new starting quarterback is picking MetLife Stadium out of his teeth this morning, and the third-stringer refuses to play the role he was brought to the team to play. Oh yeah, and the Jets lost 27-17 to the Chargers yesterday. Greg McElroy proved ineffective in his first start, largely because he was sacked 11 times, one shy of the NFL record. Tim Tebow conspicuously did not play a snap, despite being active. After coach Rex Ryan dodged questions about it in his postgame news conference, news leaked of the reason why. According to multiple sources, when Ryan informed Tebow last Tuesday that McElroy was starting and he would be the No. 3 quarterback, an angry Tebow told Ryan he no longer wanted to be used as a Wildcat quarterback. Just another week in “As the Jets Turn.” While Tebow will get most of the attention, the bigger issue is another bad loss for Gang Green. The home finale defeat drops them to 6-9, ensuring their first losing season since 2007 and first under Ryan. McElroy’s first start at quarterback was tough to evaluate because he spent most of the day staring at the sky. He turned the ball over twice in the second half and was hit 16 times by the Chargers. “Offensively, you ain’t beating anybody if you play like that,” Ryan said. “It’s as simple as that.” With Tebow and Mark Sanchez watching from the sideline, McElroy was under siege from every direction. The second-year player deserves some of the blame for holding on to the ball too long at times but he barely had a chance. “This is an incredibly disappointing loss,” McElroy said. “Everyone’s very disappointed. The locker room, everyone’s pretty down.” As they should be. The Chargers had as little to play for as the Jets in this one, with both teams having been eliminated from playoff contention before the game. Still, the Chargers showed more fight than the Jets on defense and were able to take advantage of a few second-half mistakes on offense. “We got our [butt] kicked,” Jets safety LaRon Landry said. For Ryan, this is his first losing season as Jets coach and it signals another step in the decline of the team under his watch. The Jets have seen a decrease in their win total in each of the last two years from 11 wins in 2010 to 8 last year and now the Jets can finish with no more than 7. “It’s been a bad season, no question about that,” Ryan said. “I’m going to keep competing. I came here to win. I want to win a championship. That’s why I came here.” Ryan’s bold move to bench Sanchez this week and go to McElroy did not pay off. Still, Ryan said he will stick with McElroy for the team’s final game next week at Buffalo. McElroy finished 14-of-24 for 185 yards and had one interception and one fumble. If anything, he showed he can take a beating as he was hit 16 times. Defensive end Kendall Reyes had 3 1/2 sacks for the Chargers, abusing Jets right tackle Austin Howard. Linebacker Shaun Phillips had 2 1/2. “When he wasn’t on his back, I thought [McElroy] did some good things,” Ryan said. “I thought he was poised beyond belief.” The Jets went three and out on their first series and Michael Spurlock returned the Jets’ punt 63 yards for a touchdown to give San Diego a 7-0 lead two minutes into the game. The Jets responded with a seven-play drive capped by a Shonn Greene 1-yard touchdown to tie the game. The Jets had no running game to speak of, averaging just 3.0 yards per carry and finishing with 59 yards on the ground. Both teams struggled on third down all day. The Jets went 2-for-11 (18 percent) and the Chargers were 2-for-12 (17 percent). Greene made it 14-7 Jets with another 1-yard touchdown, this drive assisted by a pass interference call on Chargers cornerback Quentin Jammer in the end zone. The Jets went into halftime with a 14-10 lead, their first halftime lead in five games. It would not last long. The Chargers took the lead on their first second-half possession when quarterback Philip Rivers found Danario Alexander for a 37-yard touchdown over Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie. They extended the lead to 24-14 when tight end Antonio Gates beat Jets safety Eric Smith for a 34-yard touchdown later in the third quarter. Now, the Jets must regroup and find some motivation to play the Bills next week. “It’s hard,” wide receiver Braylon Edwards said. “At the end of the day, we’re human. You know we’re sitting at 6-9. We know we’re not going to the playoffs. Guys are probably thinking about a million and one things as well as the last game. “This is where true professionals step up to the forefront and they can block out distractions for that last game and they can say, ‘Hey, we’ve got a game left to be all that I can be on the football field and what they expect me to be.’ ”The true professionals will come to the forefront and there will be some guys that aren’t in that category


Revealed: NSA targeting domestic computer systems in secret test The National Security Agency's Perfect Citizen program hunts for vulnerabilities in "large-scale" utilities, including power grid and gas pipeline controllers, new documents from EPIC show. CNET News Internet & Media Revealed: NSA targeting domestic computer systems in secret ... Revealed: NSA targeting domestic computer systems in secret test The National Security Agency's Perfect Citizen program hunts for vulnerabilities in "large-scale" utilities, including power grid and gas pipeline controllers, new documents from EPIC show. Declan McCullagh by Declan McCullagh December 23, 2012 10:39 AM PST (Credit: TVA) Newly released files show a secret National Security Agency program is targeting the computerized systems that control utilities to discover security vulnerabilities, which can be used to defend the United States or disrupt the infrastructure of other nations. The NSA's so-called Perfect Citizen program conducts "vulnerability exploration and research" against the computerized controllers that control "large-scale" utilities including power grids and natural gas pipelines, the documents show. The program is scheduled to continue through at least September 2014. The Perfect Citizen files obtained by the Electronic Privacy Information Center and provided to CNET shed more light on how the agency aims to defend -- and attack -- embedded controllers. The NSA is reported to have developed Stuxnet, which President Obama secretly ordered to be used against Iran's nuclear program, with the help of Israel. U.S. officials have warned for years, privately and publicly, about the vulnerability of the electrical grid to cyberattacks. Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a congressional committee in February: "I know what we [the U.S.] can do and therefore I am extraordinarily concerned about the cyber capabilities of other nations." If a nation gave such software to a fringe group, Dempsey said, "the next thing you know could be into our electrical grid." (Credit: NSA) Discussions about offensive weapons in the U.S. government's electronic arsenal have gradually become more public. One NSA employment posting for a Control System Network Vulnerability Analyst says the job involves "building proof-of concept exploits," and an Air Force announcement in August called for papers discussing "Cyberspace Warfare Attack" capabilities. The Washington Post reported last month that Obama secretly signed a directive in October outlining the rules for offensive "cyber-operations." "Sabotage or disruption of these industries can have wide-ranging negative effects including loss of life, economic damage, property destruction, or environmental pollution," the NSA concluded in a public report (PDF) discussing industrial control systems and their vulnerabilities. The 190 pages of the NSA's Perfect Citizen files, which EPIC obtained through the Freedom of Information Act last week, are heavily redacted. At least 98 pages were completely deleted for a number of reasons, including that portions are "classified top secret," and could "cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security" if released, according to an accompanying letter from Pamela Phillips, chief of the NSA's FOIA office. But the portions that were released show that Raytheon received a contract worth up to $91 million to establish Perfect Citizen, which "enables the government to protect the systems," especially "large-scale distributed utilities," operated by the private sector. The focus is "sensitive control systems," or SCS, which "provide automation of infrastructure processes." Raytheon is allowed to hire up to 28 hardware and software engineers who are supposed to "investigate and document the results of vulnerability exploration and research against specific SCS and devices." One job description, for a senior penetration tester, says the position will "identify and demonstrate vulnerabilities," and requires experience using security-related utilities such as Nmap, Tenable's Nessus, Libnet, and Netcat. Raytheon is required not to disclose that this work is being done for the NSA. The Wall Street Journal disclosed the existence of Perfect Citizen in a 2010 article, which reported the NSA's "surveillance" of such systems relies "on a set of sensors deployed in computer networks for critical infrastructure that would be triggered by unusual activity suggesting an impending cyber attack." An NSA spokeswoman responded to CNET at the time by saying that Perfect Citizen is "purely a vulnerabilities assessment and capabilities development contract" that "does not involve the monitoring of communications or the placement of sensors on utility company systems." Marc Rotenberg, EPIC's executive director, said that the newly declassified documents "may help disprove" the NSA's argument that Perfect Citizen doesn't involve monitoring private networks. The FOIA'd documents say that because the U.S. government relies on commercial utilities for electricity, telecommunications, and other infrastructure requirements, "understanding the technologies utilized in the infrastructure nodes to interoperate on the commercial backbone enables the government to protect the systems." Neither the NSA nor Raytheon immediately responded to requests to comment from CNET this morning. We'll update this story if we receive a response.

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.

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100 things that you did not know about Africa

 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.

 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

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.

 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

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

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.

 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.

 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.

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

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.

 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.

 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.

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.

 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.

 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.”

 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.

 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.”

 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

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.”

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

 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.

 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.

 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.”

 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.

 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.

 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.

 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

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

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.

 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

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.

 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.”

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

 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”.

 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.”

 “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.”

 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

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.”

 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.”

 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

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

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.

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.

 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

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.

 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.

 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

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

 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”.

 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.

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

 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

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.

 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.