Where once I sowed hate…

Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Ten years ago, I was sent from Britain by a global Islamist group to recruit in Pakistan. Stepping off the plane in Lahore, I slowly breathed in the scene around me. With minarets and azans almost like background props and mood music, the Muslims I saw in every direction whetted my appetite for revolution. We were going to radicalise the country and foment a military coup against the democratically elected “client” ruler, Nawaz Sharif. I was 21 years old. I was part of a vanguard to set up a Pakistani branch of Hizb ut Tahrir (HT), so that their future caliphate could go nuclear. Nothing was going to get in my way. Nothing did.

Ten years on (during which I spent five years as a prisoner of conscience in Egypt), I recently returned. I had left HT and recanted Islamism. I was back, determined to reverse some of the Islamist fever I had helped instil…I was older, wiser and smarter. This time, the revolution would be against Islamist hegemony.

I was on a four-week, nationwide university tour to speak against Islamism and to urge students towards pluralistic, democratic values. Contrary to western mythology, Islamist radicals are found among the educated, the elite and the socially mobile. Yes, a minority of Pakistani madrasas provide an ample supply of jihadists, but the ideologues are smart and modern…The poor are simply used as jihadist cannon fodder.

Thus it was that we began in Karachi and worked our way around the country. We ventured deep into the deserts of interior Sindh and then across into the turbulent outback of Quetta, Balochistan, where the Taliban and al-Qaida fighters are said to be headquartered. From there, we crossed into the Punjab, ascended into Kashmir and then finally up to Islamabad. In our flak jackets, with a security detail in tow, we addressed thousands of students…

Pakistan and its problems are not monolithic and are not all related to Islamism. Corruption, ethnic and economic factors and a lack of leadership all play out differently in each province. I found the people of Sindh to be hugely sympathetic to our message. Conversely, the people of Mirpur, in “free” Kashmir, from where more than 90% of British Pakistanis come, and where sterling is a currency of choice, were hostile to the west. It was in Punjab where I found most of the denial culture. The west was to blame for everything, including sending me as an agent to set up HT in Pakistan and then as an agent trying to push back HT. You see, the trouble with conspiracy theories is that they were invented by the infidel west to stop Muslims thinking.

Interesting article. Like any turncoat making a living from his liberation I have to question the function of opportunism within his original convictions. I have to question the life and breadth of his conversion.

But aside from that, this is a useful and interesting article. The sort of first-person piece still part of the British Journalism. It happens in American TV documentaries – often truthful when coming from the likes of NPR, PBS and Discovery. More opportunist from the networks and cable giants.

Read it. It will increase your knowledge of this land in turmoil.

Google gobbles up 1 million phone numbers for Google Voice

Google last month reserved 1 million phone numbers with Level 3, signaling that it may finally be ready to roll out its long-anticipated Google Voice service.

The free service, announced in March, lets users unify their phone numbers, allowing them to have a single number through Google Voice that rings a call through to all their phones.

Sources could not say when the 1 million numbers may be assigned. Level 3 has been supplying Google with phone numbers since the introduction of Google Voice, so the 1 million numbers are an indication Google is close to adding a significant amount of users.

A Google spokesperson would only say “as a matter of policy, we typically do not comment on contracts with third-party technology suppliers…”

Google Voice has a number of unique features including call transfer between a user’s devices, multi-party conferencing, conversion of voice calls to text messages, cut-rate international calling, and call transcription…

But the gem is the fact that a user can have one phone number people can dial to reach them regardless of where they are located, either home or mobile. Google Voice uses VoIP to link collections of phone numbers.

Yeah, I just checked. Google Voice ain’t available, yet.

Leave ’em your email address and they say they’ll drop you a note as soon as they hit the cyberstreets.

Reporter kidnapped by Taliban in Afghanistan – escapes in Pakistan

David Rohde, a New York Times reporter who was kidnapped by the Taliban, escaped Friday night and made his way to freedom after more than seven months of captivity in the mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Mr. Rohde, along with a local reporter, Tahir Ludin, and their driver, Asadullah Mangal, was abducted outside Kabul, Afghanistan, on Nov. 10 while he was researching a book. Mr. Rohde was part of The Times’s reporting team that won a Pulitzer Prize this spring for coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan last year.

Mr. Rohde told his wife, Kristen Mulvihill, that Mr. Ludin joined him in climbing over the wall of a compound where they were being held in the North Waziristan region of Pakistan. They found a Pakistani Army scout, who led them to a nearby army base, and on Saturday they were flown to the American military base in Bagram, Afghanistan…

Until now, the kidnapping has been kept quiet by The Times and other media organizations out of concern for the men’s safety…

Both Mr. Keller and Mr. Rohde’s family declined to discuss details of the efforts to free the captives, except to say that no ransom money was paid and no Taliban or other prisoners were released.

Kidnapping, tragically, is a flourishing industry in much of the world,” Mr. Keller said. “As other victims have told us, discussing your strategy just offers guidance for future kidnappers.”

RTFA. Long, detailed account – not only of this adventure; but, of David Rohde’s dedication to good, traditional journalism. He’s had no shortage of despots and murderers to cover whether it be in Bosnia or Afghanistan.

Kidnapped in Afghanistan – escaped in Pakistan? What does that tell you about our new administrations decision to tie the conflicts in each nation? Aside from an appreciation of realism standing apart from faith-based ideologues?

Fortunately, there remain a few media outlets in the world ready and willing to employ the services of those who gather news and information about what’s really happening in the world. People like David Rohde. All the rest is entertainment.

RIAA, Disproportionate Punishment, and the American Way of Life

Some legal experts question the constitutionality of a $1.92 million fine given to a woman accused of pirating 24 songs. A Minnesota jury ordered Jammie Thomas-Rasset to pay that yesterday, saying she “willfully” violated music copyrights and should cough up $80,000 per illegally downloaded track.

The verdict brings a new twist to a seemingly endless legal battle brought about by the Recording Industry of America (RIAA)….

The size of the fine was guided by U.S. copyright law, which provides for a penalty of anywhere from $750 to $150,000 per violation. It was up to the jury, however, to decide where to land within that spectrum. The problem, von Lohmann says, is that there are no meaningful guidelines on how that decision should be reached….

Here’s where things start to get dicey: The Supreme Court has previously indicated that “grossly excessive” punitive damage awards are a violation of the U.S. Constitution. An award can be considered “grossly excessive” if there’s too big of a gap between the actual harm done and the amount of money being named.

This story isn’t so much about the RIAA as it is about how our legal system works. The better your lawyer, the lower the fine. If you’re poor, you’re screwed. Besides, many jurors are sheep, and are  incapable of judging the law as well as the facts, or even knowing the difference.

Who thinks that this is an equitable punishment? No one of merit is my guess.

Prius still inspires a waiting list

Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Throughout Toyota’s global operations, managers are scrambling to cut costs in the wake of record losses.

But at Toyota’s Tsutsumi plant, managers have the opposite problem: meeting demand for the third generation of the Prius, which has become an instant hit in Japan and is rolling into American showrooms now.

The Prius plant has brought back overtime — a rarity these days, given Japan’s weak economy — and recruited workers from Toyota factories across the country…

To be sure, no one at Toyota expects the profit earned on the Prius alone to revive the company’s fortunes, but the buzz of the car’s initial success is at least diverting attention from the auto giant’s stumbles.

In Japan, Toyota received 80,000 orders for the car before it went on sale, a fifth of the company’s sales goal of 400,000 worldwide for the year, about half of that in the United States.

The company sold 110,000 Priuses in Japan in May — and there is a waiting list of several months — helped by government incentives that encouraged sales of fuel-efficient cars.

You know. The sort of practice encouraging thrifty transport so hated and feared by the Party of No.

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Steve Jobs on track to be back – from a liver transplant

Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

Steve Jobs, who has been on medical leave from Apple Inc. since January to treat an undisclosed medical condition, received a liver transplant in Tennessee about two months ago. The chief executive has been recovering well and is expected to return to work on schedule later this month, though he may work part-time initially.

“Steve continues to look forward to returning at the end of June, and there’s nothing further to say,” said Apple spokeswoman Katie Cotton.

When he does return, Mr. Jobs may be encouraged by his physicians to initially “work part-time for a month or two,” a person familiar with the thinking at Apple said. That may lead Tim Cook, Apple’s chief operating officer, to take “a more encompassing role,” this person said. The person added that Mr. Cook may be appointed to Apple’s board in the not-too-distant future…

At least some Apple directors were aware of the CEO’s surgery. As part of an agreement with Mr. Jobs in place before he went on leave, some board members have been briefed weekly on the CEO’s condition by his physician…

The specifics of Mr. Jobs’s surgery couldn’t be established, but according to the United Network for Organ Sharing, which manages the transplant network in the U.S., there are no residency requirements for transplants. Having the procedure done in Tennessee makes sense because its list of patients waiting for transplants is shorter than in many other states. According to data provided by UNOS, in 2006, the median number of days from joining the liver waiting list to transplant was 306 nationally. In Tennessee, it was 48 days…

During his leave, Mr. Jobs has remained involved in key aspects of the company and reviewed products and product plans from home. He has also been seen at Apple’s headquarters, according to people who have seen him there.

Get well and get back to work, Steve. I’d rather our nation had tech heroes to believe in – instead of politicians who think health care is only for the wealthy or media mouths who traffic in fear. You’ve lived up to the standards of American accomplishment better than most professional patriots.

Art and nature in a dialectical collision

Even the remotest hermit knows that the effects of climate change are the greatest threat faced by mankind. So where does that leave artists? Can they contribute anything to debates about the environment? Might the imperatives of environmentalism constrain their freedom to make interesting work? And what do we actually mean when we talk about nature, anyway? Is it polluted oceans or something that occurs closer to home?

These are some of the questions answered by Radical Nature, a show with a refreshingly can-do attitude that opens at the Barbican today. Subtitled “art and architecture for a changing planet”, it includes land art, installation, video and sculpture ranging from 1969 to the present day…

These projects directly address the upshot of what the show’s curator, Francesco Manacorda, identifies as a dangerous dualism concerning how we think about nature and culture: while all that is manmade is connected to the natural world, he argues, treating that world as a separate entity allows for shameless despoliation and pollution. But while many artists here lament the rift or attempt to close the gap, only a few explore its potential.

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Dutch thugs caught by Google street view camera car

Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Dutch twin brothers who mugged a teenager in the northern town of Groningen were arrested after being caught on camera by a car gathering images for Google’s online photo map service, police said.

The pair stole the 14-year-old boy’s mobile phone and 165 euros in cash last September.

The picture was taken just a moment before the crime,” a police spokesman said.

In March, the victim recognized himself and the two robbers while surfing Google Maps, which has a “Street View” feature allowing users to see images of buildings. The images are usually taken by a camera mounted on a car.

After an investigation by the police, one of the 24-year-old twins confessed to robbing the boy.