Friday, August 31, 2012

Let us rock - reservations and request topic

Let Us Rock

The National Under 20s Music Contest Is Drawing Nearer And Nearer But Can A Group Of Kids From A Local Run Down School Really Take The Crown?


Game Masters:

This topic is an Out Of Character part of the roleplay, ?Let Us Rock?. Anything posted here will also show up there.

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Forum for completely Out of Character (OOC) discussion, based around whatever is happening In Character (IC). Discuss plans, storylines, and events; Recruit for your roleplaying game, or find a GM for your playergroup.
This is the auto-generated OOC topic for the roleplay "Let us all come togeather in Harmony"

You may reserve characters and requst things here don't try to reserve a taken or reserved FC that's just annoying and stupid really.
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This Week in PLOS Medicine: Urban air quality; MDR-TB outcomes ...

By PLoS Medicine Blog

Image Credit: Bert Kaufmann Wrapping up the month of August, PLOS Medicine publishes three new articles, including our monthly editorial, and a new sponsored collection: The PLOS Medicine Editors discuss the need for transparent urban air quality indicators across the globe and especially in low- and middle-income countries. Dick Menzies and colleagues report findings from a collaborative, individual patient-level meta-analysis of treatment outcomes among patients with multidrug-resistant tuberculosis. Philippe Calain discusses the health and environmental hazards of extractive industries like mining and explores the tensions that arise when medical humanitarian organizations are called to intervene in emergencies involving the extractive sector. To learn more about the Child Mortality Estimation Collection, visit our latest blog post. Remember you can comment on, annotate and rate any PLOS Medicine article and see the views, citations and other indications of impact of an article on that articles metrics tab.

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This Week in PLOS Medicine: Urban air quality; MDR-TB outcomes; Extractive?

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Buzz Contacts 2.0 for iPhone review

Buzz Contacts by savvy apps has received a major update that makes the already awesome contacts app even more awesome. Some of the features include integration with Agenda Calendar, themes, the ability to share contact info, and a new and improved Dialer. Buzz Contacts is essentially a replacement for Apple's built-in Phone app -- and an awesome replacement it is!

One of big changes to Buzz Contacts is to bring the focus back to the Dialer. Now before you roll your eyes and exclaim that dialers are way too "old school" for you, let me assure you that Buzz's Dialer is anything by old school --it's highly functional and efficient. The first difference you notice about Buzz's Dialer versus, say, Apple's keypad is that it emphasizes the letters associated with each button instead of the numbers. That's because you can use the Dialer to type in the name of contacts. Actually, you can type in names, initials, or phone numbers and Buzz will instantly show all types of matches as you type. It's awesome. Seriously.

In addition to the Dialer, Buzz Contacts also lets you create groups of contacts. For each contact, you specifically choose which method of communication you wish to use: voice call, text message, email, or FaceTime. You can view your groups as a list or as 2x2 grids. The groups are awesome for quickly interacting with contacts you frequently communicate with. Between groups and the dialer, Buzz is worth the measly $0.99, but there's more.

There is a somewhat hidden feature of Buzz Contacts called the contact detail view. At any screen that displays contacts in a grid or a list with arrows beside each contact (groups and Dialer), you can double-tap the contact (or tap the arrow) to make a special menu appear. From here you can choose a type of communication to engage with the contact from the bottom toolbar, view contact information, add the contact to a group, or send contact info via email or text or schedule a meeting with Agenda Calendar (also made by savvy apps) or Due. This integration with Agenda and Due is a great convenience if you use either of those apps.

New to Buzz 2.0 are subtle themes that give the app personality. These themes are simply a change to the color of the tool bar. You can change the theme by swiping left or right on the title bar, or you can view all the colors at once in Buzz's settings to choose your favorite. I really like the swiping feature because it allows me to frequently change the theme for variety. My only complaint about the themes is that out of the 14 available colors, none of them are pink!

The good

  • Awesomely efficient Dialer
  • 14 different themes (colors)
  • Schedule in Agenda or Due via the contact detail view
  • Send contact info via message or email via the contact detail view
  • Swipe into and out of Dialer -"Frequent" and "Outgiong" groups
  • Send SMS and MMS messages to groups

The bad

  • No pink theme :P

The conclusion

Buzz Contacts 2.0 is a remarkable phone app for the iPhone. I tossed Calendar aside a long time ago in favor of savvy apps' Agenda Calendar, and now Apple's Phone app has been kicked to curb for Buzz Contacts. My only complaint is that I must still use the built-in Phone app to check voicemail -- a restriction of Apple that is beyond savvy apps' control.

$0.99 - Download Now


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Amazon's Kindle Fire has sold out just in time for the company's next big event

Amazon has just announced that the Kindle Fire has joined the Kindle Touch on the out-of-stock list, presumably forever, a week before the company's mysterious product announcement. Jeff Bezos has teased that the company's got an "exciting roadmap" ahead, which we'd expect to include at least one touchscreen e-reader and a vastly revamped 7-inch tablet, designed to better compete with Google's similarly sized budget offering.

Continue reading Amazon's Kindle Fire has sold out just in time for the company's next big event

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Amazon's Kindle Fire has sold out just in time for the company's next big event originally appeared on Engadget on Thu, 30 Aug 2012 09:17:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Thursday, August 30, 2012


So, this thread is dedicated to defining all of the terms and such things that will arise in the roleplay, everyone is free to come and add their own things here too. This is just to start us off. . . .

The Following of the Great Mother

The dominate church within Portum Animas. Founded around the belief that the destruction of Viridis Mater was the doing of humanity, and the notion that the planet itself saved all the lives that came to be upon Manus Luna, the Following was once a benevolent sect of people who believed in what they preached. Over the years, and after the founding of Portum Animas, the church served as a guiding influence in the development and building of the city. Due to their deep-rooted influence within the city, the general populace of Portum Animas still finds themselves feeling a connection to the Following. As such, it?s common and easy for the church to sway the opinions and beliefs of people nowadays.

However, in the recent years, no one has quite come to realize just how very different the church has become since its initial founding. Matters regarding the Gifted and such are a very cut and dry topic as far as the Following is concerned; they strictly view the Gifted as being influenced and as people who?ve been corrupted by Discordic; the being they view as their devil.

In line with their supposed will to do good for people, the Following offers up healing services for people who have been injured or who suffer from physical problems by means of the Passively Gifted that work for them.

The Gifted

A sect of the population within Portum Animas whose natural powers have taken a turn for the drastic. Unlike those who are normal, these people have developed their powers to inhuman levels. These are people who are considered to be dangerous and are called out by the Following, and are considered to be evil, and are named as such. In order for the Following to maintain control over the populace, and to keep panic from inciting, they give out a false explanation for why the Gifted are born, and why it is that their powers are so different from everyone else?s.

The Gifted are not treated as human by any means if they are discovered as such. The Following has twisted the minds of so many people in Portum Animas, that even families will turn against their own if they are found out as a Gifted. They have no rights to speak of, none at all. More often than not, if a Gifted is discovered out and reported to the proper authorities, they are detained, and taken in for ?cleansing.? Because it is believed by so many that the Gifted have had their senses warped and distorted by Discordic, and that they have been twisted to want to cause misfortune and chaos with their powers, the Gifted are feared. Greatly feared by many.

Once a Gifted has been detained by the church and government, that is often the last time they are seen by their families and friends. Despite the fact that they are suppose to taken in to undergo a process called a ?cleansing,? it is a known fact that most who have to go through this process do not survive, as it is explained by the church that cleansing one of Discordic is a dangerous and near fatal process. . . . Those Gifted who have been successfully cleansed, and survive often wind up going into service of the Following, as their powers will have taken a turn from destructive, and with their souls freed of Discordic?s evil and corruption, they would?ve seen the ?light,? and come to serve the Following in order to absolve themselves of their sins. Those Gifted who?ve survived their cleansings are noted as ?Passive Gifted? due to the change their powers undergo.


A process employed by the Following in order to purge the evils of Discordic from the souls of those he has corrupted; otherwise known as the Gifted. The exact details and steps of this . . . process are unknown but to a select few individuals within the church who have been trained specifically to carry it out. It is said to be a very hard, very thing to both undergo and to carry out on a person, as it pits the employer?s soul against the corrupted soul of the Gifted. The Following explains a cleansing to be so harsh due to what must happen in order for Discordic?s grasp upon the afflicted?s soul to be relinquished. It is said that during this process, the soul of the one carrying it out and undergoing it must be called from their body, and because an average person has not had the training to undergo a separation of their soul from their body, when Discordic?s hold has been terminated upon them . . . the soul slips away.

It loses touch with its body and ascends to the afterlife, leaving the Gifted as good as dead. There are a few select people though who?ve been strong enough to remain alive through this, and have their souls cleaned of evil?s touch. These are the Passively Gifted; often after they?ve undergone their cleansing, they come to aid the Following with their changed powers. They will have gone from possessing powers of destruction, to being capable of ?constructive? things, such as being able to heal others. It is believed by many that those individuals who?ve been trained to carry out the cleansing process are themselves some of the few individuals who managed to survive it, and become a Passively Gifted.

Passively Gifted

These are the Gifted who?ve undergone the cleansing process and managed to survive it intact. With their souls eliminated of evil, they are more or less always found working for the Following, using their purified powers to go good. Unlike their selves prior, they possess no destructive powers or abilities that could be used to harm anyone, instead, their powers are useful for doing only things such as healing wounds and such. Healing services are offered by the church because of the powers of these people.


The Great Mother whom is worshipped by the Following, she is the central figure in their stories and religion. Believed to be the being which embodies the will of the planet itself, she is seen as a benevolent mother figure in every story, and the Following believes she saved humanity from itself long ago, and still loves them dearly. She is the patron Goddess for the Following, and the majority of Portum Animas honors her.


The being whom is believed to have been spawned of humanity?s own evils a millennium ago. A destructive and chaotic force, he is viewed as a demonic presence who very nearly destroyed all of humankind before, and is thought to be the reason that the world below Manus Luna vanished into a sea of toxic clouds. Despite being defeated at the hands of Harmonia, Discordic is still viewed as an active threat in the world; so long as humanity exists, so will Discordic?s evil. Because it is explained and believed that Discordic is the reason that the Gifted exist, the Gifted are regarded with terrible treatment and are viewed as an incarnation of Discordic himself.

The Sanctified

These are the people who carry out the process of Cleansing within the Following. They are sparse and few, and have been rigidly trained in order to carry out their jobs without a problem. These people are rumored and are believed to be some of the few Gifted who managed to survive a Cleansing themselves, and are truly thought to be Passively Gifted individuals.

"Being polite isn't the only virtue for a girl. If you can't break out of a fort or two, no man'll want to marry you." - Yurisica, from Ar tonelico Qoga: Knell of Ar Ciel


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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Doug Gotterba: John Travolta is a Gentle, Passionate, Sexual Being

John Travolta’s alleged former gay lover Doug Gotterba is opening up in detail about the passionate six-year-relationship he claims they had. Buckle your seat belts.

Gotterba, 62, claims the Hollywood icon's sexual appetite is "insatiable," that he wanted to make a sex tape, and he cavorted with multiple lovers at once.

Dudes, of course.

Doug Gotterba tells the National Enquirer that he met Travolta in February 1981 when the actor interviewed him for a pilot job and they soon became lovers.

Travolta Photo

“We flew into Monterey, Calif., and went up to the Highlands resort in Carmel," he says. “We had a wonderful dinner with a fantastic bottle of merlot."

"I got the sense I was being courted. As we walked from the restaurant back to the room, John suddenly said, ‘Hey, would you like a massage?’

“I’d already prepared myself for something like that, so I said, ‘Sure, why not? I went back to his room, showered and came out wearing only a towel."

"John said, ‘Okay, like down here on the bed.’ He gave me a massage – and it turned into something else! John was gentle, but very passionate."

"The next day, he told me with a big smile, ‘I really enjoyed last night.’ And I told him, ‘So did I!” From that moment, Doug says, they were a couple.

Many more liaisons followed, but they drifted apart, and last time Gotterba saw Travolta was in 1992. By then he was married to Kelly Preston.

“They’d just gotten back from the Church of Scientology’s Celebrity Center in Hollywood when I arrived and John asked me to go with him for a walk,” Gotterba says.

“We were making small talk when suddenly, I blurted out, ‘So, John, tell me. Now that you’re married, do you still prefer men – or women?’"

"He looked me straight in the eye and said, ‘Well, Doug, I still prefer men!' I said, ‘okay.’ And that’s the last time we saw each other.”

Good to know, Doug Gotterba. Good to know.

Robert Randolph also alleges he was in a relationship with Travolta, while two masseurs and one cruise ship employee have accused him of sexual assault.

None of this proves John Travolta is gay, and it obviously doesn't make him any less great as an actor or person if he is, but it certainly makes you wonder.



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SFA Blog: Stir the Pot Nashville, Sept 16-17


On Sunday, September 16, and Monday, September 17, Nashville, Tennessee-based chefs Tyler Brown and Tandy Wilson will host a two-night Stir the Pot benefit for the Southern Foodways Alliance. Brown is the executive chef of the Capitol Grille at Nashville's Hermitage Hotel, where he stocks his pantry with the goods he and his team of farmers grow at Glen Leven Farm just a few miles from the hotel. At City House, opened in 2007, Wilson interprets the flavors of Italy, turning out dishes like pork-belly pizzas, with frequent nods to his own Southern heritage. Chefs Brown and Wilson host guest chefs Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo of Animal and Son of a Gun in Los Angeles, California.

Shook and Dotolo, both natives of Florida, have been cooking together since they met at culinary school in 1999. Based in Los Angeles for the past decade, they ran a catering company and published the cookbook Two Dudes, One Pan before opening Animal in 2008. They were named together on Food & Wine magazine's list of the ten best new chefs of 2009. Animal has developed a following for its imaginative, envelope-pushing meat dishes, which range from chicken-fried sweetbreads to lamb tongue ravioli. In 2011, Shook and Dotolo opened the seafood-centric Son of a Gun, which references their Florida roots with dishes such as alligator schnitzel.

These four gentlemen?or dudes, if you prefer?will knock your Vans off with the menus they've prepared for Stir the Pot.

Dinner at Capitol Grille on Sunday, September 16
A five-course dinner with wine pairings ($150/ticket)
Wine courtesy of Horizon Wine & Spirits

Potluck at Corsair Taproom on Monday, September 17
Host chefs Tyler Brown and Tandy Wilson will supply a main course. Guests are asked to bring a side dish or dessert to share. Corsair Taproom is the hop-infused arm of Corsair Artisan, a Nashville micro-distillery that produces small batches of spirits ranging from gin to absinthe. ($35 ticket includes food and a couple of drinks)

The Stir the Pot fundraising series, featuring events in both Raleigh, North Carolina, and Nashville, supports the documentary projects of the Southern Foodways Alliance, an institute of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi.

Capitol Grille
The Hermitage Hotel
231 6th Avenue North
Nashville, TN

Corsair Taproom
1200 Clinton Street
Nashville, TN

Sunday, September 16 from 7?10 pm
Monday, September 17 from 6?9 pm

Tickets for the dinner are priced at $150 per person, and includes food, drink, and a one year gift membership to the SFA. They are ON SALE NOW and are available by advance purchase online only.

Tickets for the potluck are priced at $35 per person, and includes a main course and drinks (beer and cocktails)?but guests are asked to please bring a side dish or dessert to share. They are ON SALE NOW and are available by advance purchase online only.?


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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Obama, DNC spending exceeded donations in July

WASHINGTON (AP) ? Facing strong fundraising from his Republican challenger, President Barack Obama and Democrats have spent more than they brought in last month as the president expanded his campaign operations and purchased millions of dollars in television advertising to compete with rival Mitt Romney.

New campaign finance reports out Monday show Obama's campaign spent about $59 million in July, much of it on advertising and paid staff. That's compared with about $49.2 million in total receipts during the same period, Federal Election Commission data show.

Obama's re-election effort has so far been losing the money race to Romney and the Republicans, who have out-raised the president in May, June and July. Romney and the GOP reported a combined $101 million in fundraising last month, while Obama and the Democrats together said they raised $75 million.

Early reports showed the Democratic National Committee spent about $14 million in coordinated advertising with Obama. That's as the DNC raised roughly $10 million in July while also spending $32 million, leaving the party with about $15.4 million in the bank by month's end.

The fundraising disparity has been so significant that Obama campaign officials have publicly stated they expect to be outraised by Romney. The former Massachusetts governor has enjoyed not only significant contributions to his campaign and party, but also millions of dollars in cash to outside "super" political groups running ads on his behalf.

In turn, Obama's campaign spent about $40 million in July on advertising buys, about $8.8 million of which was reserved for online advertising. Obama's campaign has prided itself on being a tech-savvy operation and relies mostly on small-dollar donors via the Internet, where such targeted ads run.

By contrast, Romney's campaign reported $40.3 million in July revenues and spending $32.7 million. Just like for Obama, a bulk of those expenses went to advertising purchases, although only about $15.5 million by comparison. The new data show Romney had fewer than half the number of paid staffers as Obama, or about 320.

"At some point, with all of the money spent on the air on the GOP side, advertising will hit a saturation point," Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said. "And that's why the unparalleled ground organization we're building ? which can't be replicated in the time remaining ? could provide us with the decisive edge."

Obama's campaign has also swelled to more than 800 paid staffers across the country, the reports showed, not counting volunteers. More than 350 of those payroll checks went to addresses in Chicago, the campaign's base of operations.

Super PACs working on behalf of both Romney and Obama reported modest fundraising hauls in July. The pro-Romney Restore Our Future, which just announced $10 million in new ad buys, raised $7.5 million last month, and Obama-supportive Priorities USA Action said it brought in $4.8 million during the same period.


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Monday, August 20, 2012

Business Trademark: Do you need one for your Home-Based ...

One of the most challenging aspects of starting a home-based business is choosing a name for your new organization. For freelancers this might not be necessary of course, but for anyone who has ambitions to see their business grow, the company?s ?brand? has to be chosen very carefully. It?s not just that you need to think of something catchy and memorable, you also need to make sure it?s original ? its no good choosing a moniker that?s already being used by someone else, especially if that someone else happens to be in the same line of business.

So how can you ensure your business name is original? More to the point, is it even legal to use the name you have in mind?


Before we go answering those questions, let?s look at some basics ? trademarking basics to be precise. If you?re serious about getting into business, then you?re probably going to need a trademark, which is essentially a word or words, or even a symbol (or a combination of these) that indicates your company as the source of the products and services it sells, distinguishing it from other companies.

For the home-based business owner, there are two main considerations; choosing a name that?s available (one that hasn?t already been trademarked by anyone else), and then registering that name to prevent others from using it.

Name Availability

Before you press ahead with that website launch and start printing out those business cards, you need to make sure you can legally use the name you have your heart set on. The last thing you want as a start-up is to find yourself involved in a costly legal dispute because you accidently used someone else?s name. There are two places where you should check:

  • Trademark search ? you can carry out a free trademark search here. This will ensure that it?s legal for you to use your chosen name nationwide.
  • Your state?s database of company names ? this should be done before you register your business within your state.

The reason you need to carry out both checks is that some companies may register with one but not the other. For example, a firm might only be registered with their state, and not the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Even though the trademark isn?t officially registered, it could still cause problems later on if your business starts trading in the same state as the company that already uses your chosen name.

Registering your Name

Once you?ve identified a suitable name, the next step is to incorporate your company as a sole proprietorship or an LLC, something that automatically registers your new business with your state. As part of this application process, the state will check that the name you have chosen is unique ? confirming what you know already (don?t be tempted to just leave the state to check for you of course, because this will only delay the launch of your business if it turns out your name is already being used).

Once approval has been granted, that means your chosen business name is yours and yours alone ? but only within your state.

For those who don?t envisage their business expanding beyond the state?s borders (for example, if your business is a hair salon), then state-level protection might well be enough. However, if you plan on selling products or providing services out of state, then you should also consider getting a trademark on your name.

Registering a trademark

There?s no legal requirement to register a trademark for your business, as you are automatically entitled to common law rights as an owner when you start trading under your name. However, there are a number of advantages to registering with the USPTO.

The biggest advantage is that a trademark offers much more protection than ?common law? does. This makes it far easier to protect yourself against other companies that begin trading under your name or a close variation of it, or if someone takes your company name on websites like Twitter or Facebook.
In addition, a trademark can attain significant value over time as your business goes from strength to strength. Eventually, you could even decide to sell your trademark to a third party. Of course, this cannot be done if you haven?t registered it.

Registering with the USPTO is fairly complex however, and it isn?t exactly cheap either. You can file an application online through the USPTO?s website. Application fees cost around $325 per class, and so you will need to read through the site?s FAQ to determine the most suitable trademark class for your business. The process will take from 6 months up to 12 months, so it?s vital that you check your trademark is not already in use ? if it is used by someone else, your application will be rejected, you?ll lose the application fees, and you?ll have to start the whole process again from scratch.

Bear in mind that while registering a trademark is expensive and time consuming, obtaining one will ensure that your company?s rights are protected by both state and federal governments. You may decide it?s not necessary to register a trademark, but doing so is by far and away the best method of protecting your company?s brand and image.


Vishal P. Rao has been doing business online since 2003 and runs a popular forum for those who work at home. When he is not working, he spends time doing meditation and yoga.

Tags: business start up, Home Business


nfl draft 2012 whitney mercilus Praises Merriam Webster?s Addition of ?Life Coach? to the Dictionary praises Merriam Webster for adding the term ?life coach? to its Collegiate Dictionary. The addition was official as of Aug. 14, 2012.

Burnaby, British Columbia (PRWEB) August 19, 2012

It?s official. As of Aug. 14, 2012, ?life coach? is officially in the Merriam Webster Collegiate dictionary. The dictionary identifies a life coach as ?an advisor who helps people make decisions, set and reach goals or deal with problems.? Although definition of coaching is a bit different than Merriam Webster?s, the site?s public relations manager Anda Tudor says the dictionary?s addition of the term has been a long time coming.

?According to Merriam Webster, the first known use of the term came back in 1986, although there are indications that it may go back even further than that,? Tudor says. ?That?s a long time for a word to be in use regularly without having an official definition in the dictionary. We applaud Merriam Webster for making this important addition to its mainstream dictionary.? is a new site that?s aimed at bringing freelance coaches together with clients. It operates like many similar freelance sites on the Internet right now, except the focus is entirely on coaches. The site defines coaching as ?an alliance between your coach and you, with you in the driver?s seat.?

They aren?t the only coaching-based business that?s at odds with Merriam Webster?s definition. It has also sparked some debate started by members of the International Coach Federation (ICF). The organization is considered by many life coaches to be one of the leaders in advancement of the coaching profession. The ICF?s definition of coaching is ?partnership with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.?

On Merriam Webster?s site, several coaches aligned with the ICF agree that the term ?partner? is more fitting than ?advisor.? Currently there is no word from the publishers of the dictionary on whether there are any plans to adjust the official dictionary definition of life coach.

Whatever definition you want to use for the term ?life coach,? Tudor says finding the right coach for you is essential because all coaches have different coaching styles.

?Effective coaching is all about finding the right match between client and coach,? Tudor says. ?Finding success in working with any type of coach means identifying what you most need to work on, creating a coaching plan and locating the right coach for you.? identifies several different types of coaches, all with different functions. The categories listed on the site include:

  • ????Sales coaches
  • ????Relationship coaches
  • ????Wellness coaches
  • ????Business coaches
  • ????Career Coaches
  • ????Executive coaches
  • ????And more

About Freelance is a worldwide marketplace for online coaching services. The company?s mission is to provide the best coaching services to as many people as possible who want to improve their life to be happier, healthier and more successful individuals. The company?s goal is to become the number one coaching services site on the Internet by bringing coaches and clients together.


Anda Tudor, Public Relations Manager


For the original version on PRWeb visit:

Stay on top of analysts' coverage with American Banking & Market News' daily email newsletter that provides a concise list of analysts' upgrades, analysts' downgrades and analysts' price target changes for each day.Click here to register.


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Sunday, August 19, 2012

Church leaders: We forgive Pussy Riot trio - but it was right to prosecute them

By Will Stewart


Two of the most senior clerics in the Russian Orthodox Church have said they forgive members of the punk band Pussy Riot jailed for a cathedral protest against Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The three performers were sentenced to two years in a labour camp on Friday after being convicted of hooliganism driven by racial hatred, for performing a 50-second ?punk prayer? in Christ the Saviour Cathedral, Moscow, in February.

But Tikhon Shevkunov, head of the Moscow Sretensky Monastery and widely believed to be the Russian president?s spiritual counsellor, told state television the church forgave band members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, Maria Alyokhina, 24, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30.

Pussy Riot

Senior Russian Orthodox Church clerics have said authorities were right to prosecute members of feminist punk band Pussy Riot after they recited a 'punk prayer' in Christ the Saviour Cathedral, Moscow

?The church has been accused of not forgiving them,? the cleric said. ?We did forgive them from the very start. But such actions should be cut short by society and authorities.?

His view was shared by Archpriest Maxim Kozlov: ?We are praying and hoping these young women and all the people shouting in front of the court building realise their acts are awful. And despite this the church is asking for mercy within the limits of law.?

Both clerics supported the court?s decision to prosecute Pussy Riot, despite an international outcry. Governments, including those in Britain, the US and Germany, denounced the sentences as disproportionate.

Former chess world champion Garry Kasparov, 49, was among the prominent figures outside the? Moscow courtroom as the verdict was announced.

He now faces up to five years in jail after being accused of ?biting? a policeman who he said had assaulted him during his arrest as he was giving a TV interview.


Mr Kasparov was later released and attended a clinic so his own injuries could be recorded by a doctor.

?I can?t listen to this nonsense that I bit him,? he said. ?I tried to protect myself but my teeth were tight shut. Maybe a police dog bit him? Let?s ask experts to give their opinion.?

The Pussy Riot case underlines the vast influence of the Russian Orthodox Church. Although church and state are formally separate, the church identifies itself as the heart of Russian national identity and? critics say its strength makes it a quasi-state entity.

Some Orthodox groups and many believers had urged strong punishment for an action they consider blasphemous.

Police officers detained former world chess champion Garry Kasparov, a leading opposition activist, outside the court

Opposition leader and former world chess champion Garry Kasparov was among the arrests in Moscow as three members of Pussy Riot were sentenced to two years in a labour camp apiece on Friday

Russian policemen detain a supporter of all-girl punk band Pussy Riot

Supporters of the feminist punk band were arrested by Russian police as the verdict was delivered

Head of the church, Patriarch Kirill, has made no secret of his strong support for Putin, praising his leadership as ?God?s miracle?, and describing Pussy Riot?s? performance as part of an assault by ?enemy forces? on the church.

The Orthodox Church said in a statement after the verdict that the band?s stunt was a ?sacrilege? and a ?reflection of rude animosity toward millions of people and their feelings?. It also asked the authorities to ?show clemency toward the convicted in the hope that they will refrain from new sacrilegious actions?.

The husband of Nadezhda Tolokonnikova claimed the verdict indicates Russia will become a totalitarian state unless a revolution prevents it.

Pyotr Verzilov, 25, said: ?A revolution will save my daughter, my wife and everyone else. Only it can do this. I think a picture of Russia was rather terrible for the world anyway, but now this clear signal has been sent that the country is moving not even in the direction of China, but in the direction of North Korea. This would never happen in any Western country, it?s just not possible.? Mr Verzilov ? questioned but released after the cathedral performance ? and his wife have a daughter, Gera, four, who, it is believed, has not seen her mother since February.

They did not get the chance to say goodbye before his handcuffed wife was dragged away: ?After the girls heard the verdict, we had a couple of glances, for five seconds, and that was it. She was led away by guards.?

Pussy Riot will appeal the verdict and could have their sentence reduced, but judges may not dare to lessen punishments many believe were ordained in the Kremlin.

Earlier in the trial Pussy Riot glass cage

The band listened to the case against them from a glass cage throughout their trial in a Moscow court

Defence lawyer Nikolay Polozov said: ?There is no hope we will achieve justice. It is obvious Putin, who ordered this case, will make it impossible to restore justice.??

Putin?s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said: ?The verdict is a court decision. Putin has articulated his attitude but he cannot impose it to the court.?

One Moscow newspaper, Komsomolskaya Pravda, claimed the punishment would be reduced: ?There is a feeling Moscow city court, after the lawyers? appeal, will cut the sentence to one year.?

Putin could pardon the band but only if they plead with him to do so, which supporters say they will not do.



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Friday, August 17, 2012

Flames of Syria's conflict singe rest of region


Refugees fleeing the violence in Syria gather at an emergency camp for Syrians in Zaatari village, east of Mafraq Governorate, Jordan, on July 31, 2012.

By Ayman Mohyeldin, NBC News

News analysis

ISTANBUL, Turkey -- Earlier this year, a young Syrian man who along with his family found refuge in the safety of the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli, described his conflict-torn home country as being like a "stopper on a drain."

The stopper, he told me, had been removed and now the region was slowly being sucked down the drain.

His words may have been prescient. As the conflict in Syria drags on, the war is affecting neighboring countries and shaping politics in a way that threatens the stability of the region.

Opposition troops, led by the Free Syrian Army, have been battling President Bashar Assad?s forces for more than a year in an attempt to topple the regime.

Activists say that around 20,000 people have been killed since the start of the uprising -- that?has since evolved into a full-fledged civil war --?in March last year.

Three fronts
The external impact of Syria?s internal fighting on neighboring countries can be summed up on three fronts: refugees and resources, sectarian tensions, and regional geopolitics.

The United Nations estimates that close to 200,000 refugees have escaped Syria into neighboring countries, including Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq.

Turkish officials say they have registered close to 65,000 refugees in their camps. Hundreds of Syrians there are being treated outside the official health care system in makeshift care centers in private buildings.

Recently, Jordan?s King Abdullah warned that the international community needs to do more to help countries cope with the refugees.

Jordan, directly south of Syria, is a country familiar with absorbing refugees. It currently shares borders with Israel, the West Bank, Iraq and Syria, among others, and over the decades has wrestled with how to handle refugee crises involving Palestinians, Lebanese, Iraqis and Syrians.

30 dead in Syrian air strike; strife spills into Lebanon

Jordan already has a struggling economy, and its infrastructure has been further strained by refugees in need of medical care, education and basic services.


A Syrian refugee complains Thursday over the management of the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan during a visit by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.

Lebanon has been slow to acknowledge a Syrian refugee problem in its territory. Because Syrians can move freely across the border, many of those escaping the fighting are staying with friends and relatives and not actually registering as refugees within the country. In turn, this also adds stress on local resources for a country with its own domestic economic woes.

Sectarian strains
Beyond the refugee and humanitarian crisis triggered by the Syrian conflict on neighboring countries, increased sectarian tensions in some of these countries are rapidly reflecting the divide within Syria itself.

UN investigators: War crimes perpetrated in Syria

On more than one occasion, deadly clashes have erupted inside Lebanon between supporters of Assad?s regime and the opposition trying to topple it. This fighting has mirrored the sectarian fault lines of Syria.

NBC News

People resisting the army of President Bashar Assad in northern Syria cope with loss and prepare for fighting.

The regime and its supporters are mainly drawn from Syria?s Alawite community, which is an offshoot sect of Shiite Islam. The rebel forces and the opposition are largely driven by Sunnis Muslims.

In recent days, Syrian rebels have seized dozens of men they claimed where Iranian and Lebanese Shiites sent to help the Assad regime.

One of the most senior figures to defect from President Bashar Assad's government called the regime "an enemy of God". Former Prime Minister Riad Hijab said the government is losing its grip on the country and is collapsing. ITV's John Ray reports.

In response, the relatives of the Lebanese men kidnapped in Syria carried out their own wave of kidnappings by taking as many as 23 Syrians who were inside Lebanon.

Syria diversion: Passengers asked for fuel money

The reprisal abductions suggest that the conflict is becoming a regional, rather than a purely Syrian, one.

As the fighting continues, more deadly clashes, kidnappings and the exchange of bitter accusations among the external proxy supporters and opponents inside Lebanon appear likely.

Collision course
The Syrian conflict has turned into a quagmire that goes beyond its borders, locking countries into a collision course over their stances on the Syrian divide.

Syrian warplanes rained terror on the rebel held town of Azaz. Bombs left more than thirty people dead. NBC's Ayman Mohyeldin reports.

Wealthy Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are behind the Syrian opposition. So, too, is Turkey, which shelters the Free Syrian Army.

Syrian regime near collapse, ex-PM says

But the internationalization of Syria?s conflict has spread far beyond the immediate region.

The United States has announced its plan to equip the rebels with communications equipment and other valuable intelligence.

Washington has accused Iran of providing material and financial support to the embattled regime.

Russia has provided the Syrian regime with arms and military hardware since the conflict began. Moscow, which has had a de facto alliance with Syria for decades, has also blocked several U.N. Security Council efforts to sanction the Assad regime.

Libyan fighters join Syrian revolt, Irish-born militant says

With action stymied in the Security Council, action against Assad shifted to the General Assembly, where members voted earlier this month on an Arab-backed resolution harshly condemning Syrian regime. The vote -- 133-12 in favor of the resolution, with 33 countries abstaining -- underscored the relative isolation of the Assad regime.

Central piece?
Depending on whom you ask -- supporters or opponents of the Assad regime -- Syria can be seen as a central piece to a larger conflict in the Middle East.

The Morning Joe panel discusses the the latest in Syria.

Dislodging Assad?s regime would mean a significant blow to the regional alliance between Syria, Iran and the Hezbollah Shiite militia group, which constitutes a powerful anti-U.S., anti-Israel power bloc.

Others argue that removing Assad would be one more victory for budding democracies in the wake of the Arab revolutions across the region.

Complete World news coverage from

In addition, the Syrian military has shot down a Turkish fighter jet, shelled the Lebanese border and has had almost daily running gunfights with the Jordanian army. Its border with Iraq was shut down, and crossing terminals with Turkey have fallen into the hands of the rebels.

Some have warned that as the conflict in Syria drags on, its problems will spill over into neighboring countries and the region. But when one takes a step back and looks at the big picture, it is easy to see why young Syrians and many others say it has already done so.

More world stories from NBC News:

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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

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Saturday, August 11, 2012

Video: MANU: Good Team, Good Investment?

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US officials: al-Qaida gaining foothold in Syria

WASHINGTON (AP) ? Al-Qaida has advanced beyond isolated pockets of activity in Syria and now is building a network of well-organized cells, according to U.S. intelligence officials, who fear the terrorists could be on the verge of establishing an Iraq-like foothold that would be hard to defeat if rebels eventually oust President Bashar Assad.

At least a couple of hundred al-Qaida-linked militants are already operating in Syria, and their ranks are growing as foreign fighters stream into the Arab country daily, current and former U.S. intelligence officials say. The units are spreading from city to city, with veterans of the Iraq insurgency employing their expertise in bomb-building to carry out more than two dozen attacks so far. Others are using their experience in coordinating small units of fighters in Afghanistan to win new followers.

In Syria on Friday, rebel commanders appealed anew for new and better weapons from abroad, complaining that Assad's forces have them badly outgunned from the air and on the ground. In fact, rebel leaders say that with so little aid coming to them from the U.S. and other nations, they are slowly losing the battle for influence against hardline militants. They say their fighters are sometimes siding with extremists who are better funded and armed so they can fight the far stronger Syrian army.

It all could point to a widening danger posed by extremists who have joined rebels fighting the Assad government. Although the extremists are ostensibly on the same side as Washington by opposing Assad, U.S. officials fear their presence could fundamentally reshape what began as a protest movement for reform composed of largely moderate or secular Syrians. The opposition expanded into a civil war pitting Assad's four-decade dictatorship against a movement promising a new, democratic future for the country.

The intelligence also offers some explanation for the Obama administration's reluctance to offer military aid to the anti-Assad insurgency, which Washington says it is still trying to better understand. U.S. officials have repeatedly rejected providing any lethal assistance to the conflict that has killed at least 19,000 people over the past 17 months. With the U.S. weighing its options, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will discuss the situation with top Turkish officials and Syrian opposition activists in Istanbul on Saturday.

Officials described the intelligence on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss confidential internal talks among intelligence and administration officials

Underscoring the administration's desire to step up efforts against the Assad government without providing weapons, the U.S. set largely symbolic sanctions Friday on Syria's state-run oil company and Iranian-backed Hezbollah. It accused Iran and the Lebanese Shiite militant group of helping prop up Assad.

Neither action will mean much immediately. Americans have been banned from doing business with Hezbollah since the U.S. declared it a foreign terrorist organization in the 1990s. Decades of U.S. sanctions against Syria have hampered energy trade between the two countries, and President Barack Obama blacklisted any new imports a year ago.

Meanwhile, Syrian rebels were running low on ammunition and guns Friday and appealed for international help as government forces tried to consolidate their control over Aleppo, the country's largest city and a deadly battleground in recent weeks.

"The warplanes and helicopters are killing us, they're up there in the sky 15 hours a day," said Mohammad al-Hassan, an activist in Aleppo's main rebel stronghold of Salaheddine. "I don't know how long this situation can be sustained."

As for a possible diplomatic solution, former Algerian foreign affairs minister and longtime U.N. official Lakhdar Brahimi emerged as a candidate to replace Kofi Annan as peace envoy to Syria. Annan announced his resignation last week, ending a six-month effort that failed to achieve even a temporary cease-fire as the country descended into civil war.

A fresh wave of civilians was streaming across the border into neighboring Turkey. Officials there said more than 1,500 Syrians had arrived over the previous 24 hours, increasing the number of refugees in Turkey to about 51,500.

In Syria, Assad, a member of the country's Alawite minority, has blamed the uprising against him on Sunni terrorists and the West. American officials say the claims are only an excuse for brutal tactics of repression as part of a desperate attempt to hold onto power. But they concede that the extremist presence in Syria is growing.

U.S. officials say the number of al-Qaida operatives remains small in the context of the larger anti-government insurgency, with perhaps only 200 or so who are active. But ranks are growing, the officials said.

Once operating as disparate, disconnected units, the al-Qaida cells are now communicating and sometimes cooperating on missions, with a command-and-control structure evolving to match more sophisticated operations in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. officials said. The coordination is sometimes as good as that of Syria's mainstream rebels.

"There is a larger group of foreign fighters ... who are either in or headed to Syria," the State Department's counterterrorism coordinator, Daniel Benjamin, told reporters recently. He said Syrian opposition groups "assured us that they are being vigilant and want nothing to do with al-Qaida or with violent extremists."

Still, the administration clearly has reservations. Speaking earlier this week, Clinton stressed a need for Syrians to avoid sectarian warfare when the Assad government falls, as the U.S. insists will happen.

"Those who are attempting to exploit the misery of the Syrian people, either by sending in proxies or sending in terrorist fighters, must recognize that that will not be tolerated, first and foremost by the Syrian people," she said.

But the Brookings Institute's Bruce Riedel said such U.S. pronouncements are having limited effect.

"Clinton is going to tell them 'clean up your act or we can't help you,'" said Riedel, a former adviser to the Obama White House. "The rebels are saying, 'You aren't helping us anyway.'"

The administration says it is providing $25 million in nonlethal aid, primarily communications, to the Syrian opposition. The rebels have gotten their weapons through army defectors, looted government depots, the black market and the assistance of Sunni governments such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The U.S. fears weapons ending up in extremists' hands.

But Syrian rebel commanders complain that their fighters are attracted to join up with better-armed extremists.

The extremists "come with weapons and money," said Murhaf Jouejati, a professor at the National Defense University and a member of the opposition Syrian National Council. Their weapons include mortars, anti-tank weapons and rocket propelled grenades, many left over from old Iraqi army stockpiles, he said. They have cash thanks to donations from hardline sympathizers throughout the region who see Assad's crackdown as an attack on Syria's Sunni majority.

The extremist influence in Syria is debated, however, within the U.S. government. Some deem it minimal or ad hoc, and one official insisted there is no sign al-Qaida is "influencing command-level decisions" by rebel forces.

Rand analyst Seth Jones said the presence of extremists was small but growing. He said the U.S. should consider using its forces or getting the rebels or a regional proxy to attack the al-Qaida units.

"There has been talk that some operatives in Pakistan are saying, 'Why don't we see if we can make it to Syria,'" he said. "That's where the fight is."

If they win local loyalty by fighting alongside Syrian rebels, they will be hard to eliminate no matter how Syria's future pans out, said former CIA analyst Riedel.

"Look at Iraq, where we decimated them time and again," Riedel said. "They're still there."


Associated Press writer Matthew Lee contributed to this report from Accra, Ghana.

Dozier can be reached on Twitter (at)kimberlydozier, and Klapper (at)bklapperAP.


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Curiosity: A Mars robot for our times

IT MAY be the first time that a crowd has gathered in front of the big screens in Times Square to cheer on a robot - in this case, NASA's Mars rover, Curiosity, which successfully touched down earlier this week (see "Where next? Curiosity's scientific priorities on Mars"). The New York crowd's jubilation was repeated around the world, both in the flesh and online.

The combination of tweets purportedly sent by the rover, pictures posted from Mars and live video of the very human reactions at mission control, provoked such enthusiasm as to cast doubt on the argument made by advocates of human spaceflight that robotic explorers can never be as engaging as astronauts.

It may be a long time before we put humans on the Red Planet. But for a generation raised online, interacting with robots this sophisticated, the wait may prove surprisingly easy to endure.

If you would like to reuse any content from New Scientist, either in print or online, please contact the syndication department first for permission. New Scientist does not own rights to photos, but there are a variety of licensing options available for use of articles and graphics we own the copyright to.

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HBT: Berkman's other knee is sore now, also

Lance Berkman is on the disabled list after aggravating his surgically repaired right knee, but Jenifer Langosch of reports that the Cardinals first baseman ?is now also experiencing discomfort in his left knee.?

According to Langosch tests ruled out any structural damage, but Berkman did have surgery on his left knee in 2010 and this represents another hurdle in his attempt to get back in the lineup and re-establish himself as a regular contributor for the Cardinals down the stretch.

Berkman is eligible to return from the DL on August 18, but general manager John Mozeliak speculated that he?s ?still a couple of weeks away.?


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