Saturday, July 31, 2010

Muslim clerics star on TV reality show

(CNN) -- It may look like "American Idol" or "The X Factor", but the contestants aren't vying for money or a record deal.

This is "Imam Muda" or "Young Imam", Malaysia's TV talent show where contestants compete to become a Muslim Cleric.

The slick TV promotion promises: "The show that will change your life, the eternal quest of our very being."

But aside from the overblown claims, the producers are serious about ripping up the rule book of religious programming.

Channel Manager of Astro Oasis TV Izelan Basar says: "Our objective is just to attract the youngsters closer to Islam, that's the main objective. Then it becomes: how are we want to do it? The approach is how are we going to make it interesting for the young. For any religion how to attract the young is a huge challenge."

The winner will get a full-time job at a prestigious mosque, a scholarship to study in Saudi Arabia and an all expenses paid pilgrimage to Mecca.

But their journey to reach those prizes is more like reality TV, than po-faced religious quest. Each episode features the contestants completing different challenges.

So far they've had to counsel married couples going through relationship problems, prepared an HIV positive corpse for burial and deliver a sermon in front of hundreds of worshippers.

Each week, one or sometimes two, hopefuls are voted off by a panel of experts. Tension builds as the presenter reviews the young men's performance and then finally reveals who is being sent home.

There's no Simon Cowell, instead a former Grand Mufti -- equivalent of an Arch Bishop -- is one of those critiquing their every move.

As we filmed two contestants were voted off the show, including a distraught Nuri Ali Arbain.

"So far I am very sad with these results ...I did the best in my exam, my practical, I don't where mistake is actually," he said.

For ten weeks, contestants have been cut off from the outside world. They were unable to watch the football World Cup, instead having to play their own games.

More than a thousand applicants were whittled down to ten finalists, and millions of viewers across Malaysia are expected to tune into the dramatic conclusion this evening.

The producers hope the program will spark debate and inform people about the work of Imams. Its fans say it is a reflection of Malaysia's open, modern and tolerant form of Islam.

The show even has its own Facebook and Twitter accounts, part of a conscious effort to reach out to young viewers and make Islam relevant in the twenty first century.

Whoever wins, a second season seems a certainty. For a religion that is often portrayed as staid and conservative, this is nothing short of revolutionary.

Police filmed dragging women and babies during protest

London, England (CNN) -- A video has emerged showing French police evicting African immigrants with babies and children during a housing protest in a Paris suburb.

Police arrived in the north-east Parisian suburb of La Courneuve last Wednesday and asked a group of about 60 mostly women and children to move, said Michael Hajdenberg, a journalist with the French media organization Mediapart.

The group had been living in the street since being evicted from their council homes on July 8 to make way for a new housing project, he said.

When the group failed to respond to the request, Hajdenberg said police officers forcibly removed them.

Authorities had offered to accommodate them for a short period in hotels, but Hajdenberg said the immigrants wanted more of a long-term guarantee of places to live.

The video shows police dragging away women with babies and young children. In one scene a woman with a baby wrapped to her back is dragged along the pavement while screaming and shouting.

Another scene shows what appears to be a pregnant woman lying on her back on the street. Police can also be seen carrying women away while children and babies are screaming.

Because the experience was so traumatic they have ended up accepting the offer to go into the hotel

currently being examined to see if they can be re-housed depending on different criteria."--Michael Hoare, Right to Housing

Friday, July 30, 2010


Maradona: I was lied to and betrayed

Buenos Aires, Argentina (CNN) -- Argentina's top soccer officials lied to and betrayed coach Diego Maradona in deciding not to renew his contract, he told reporters.

"Grondona lied to me; Bilardo betrayed me," said the 49-year-old former star player for Argentina's national team, referring to Argentine Football Association President Julio Grondona and AFA General Manager Carlos Bilardo.

Argentina's 4-0 loss to Germany in a quarterfinal match put the team out of the World Cup competition.

After the team's elimination, according to Maradona, Grondona told him, "in the presence of witnesses and players, that he was very content with the work done and that he wanted it to continue."

But once the team returned to Argentina, "Grondona told me that he wanted me to continue as the coach, but that seven people from my coaching squad would have to go," Maradona said Wednesday. "That was impossible for me to agree to do."

He added, "I have different codes and morals than they do; my parents taught me that."

Maradona said that, "while we were in mourning, Bilardo was working in the shadows to throw me out."

After reading from a prepared speech for 12 minutes, he left without taking questions as many of the assembled journalists applauded.

After meeting with officials at AFA headquarters in Buenos Aires, Grondona told reporters that he had not lied to Maradona. Though the two men had talked about change, "it was not my intention to open the exit door for him," he said.

He said he did not understand how Maradona could believe he was betrayed. "We were looking for some change, not to get rid of Maradona," he said.

Bilardo said he would respond next week to Maradona's accusations.

Toy Story 3

Toy Story 3 Hidden Messages

“Toy Story 3” has a few hidden messages and references:
-Sid, the bully from the first movie who wears a skull T-shirt, appears as a garbage man in the new film wearing the same skull T-shirt.
-There’s a postcard on Andy’s dresser addressed from the featured characters from last year’s “Up,” Carl and Ellie Fredrickson.
-Lightning McQueen from “Cars” is referenced a few times throughout the film: A miniature toy car at the daycare center, on a child’s shirt at the center and on a fictional train that shares McQueen’s number, 95. That number refers to 1995, the year the first “Toy Story” was released. -A calendar from Pizza Planet is seen. Pizza Planet has appeared in every Pixar film except “The Incredibles.”
-Pixar has a history of hiding a character to be featured in a later movie somewhere in a current film. Nemo first appeared in “Monsters, Inc.” and “Toy Story 3″ newcomer, Lots-o-Huggins Bear first appeared alongside a bed in “Up.” According to, a poster on Andy’s wall shows a character from next year’s “Cars 2.” It shows Finn McMissile, a British sports car/secret agent who plays a major role in the sequel.
-Buzz Lightyear’s batteries are from “Buy ‘N’ Large,” the giant corporation responsible for ruining the planet in “WALL-E.”
-Much of the film takes place at a daycare center. At the daycare center, Mr. Ray the Scientific Stingray from “Finding Nemo” makes a cameo. Nemo himself appears as a sticker on Andy’s toy box.
-John Ratzenberger keeps his streak alive of appearing in every single Pixar film made to this point. For “Toy Story 3,” he reprises his role as Hamm.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Kodi Augustus

Latest News Update About Kodi Augustus

I haven’t kept tabs on a Real World season since The Miz went toe-to-toe with that uber-abrasive Coral chick back in 2001. The series seems to have lost its punch, and now that I am older than nearly all cast members it’s just plain weird to give a damn about these people’s lives. But while doing some channel surfing last week, I caught the tail end of the latest Real World: New Orleans episiode and learned that next week Mississippi State forward Kodi Augustus becomes part of a love triangle with two current cast members. Apparently Augustus has a history with Jemmye, but just four episodes in to the show the Baton Rouge belle has fallen for Knight, a likable dude from Wisconson recovering from an addiction to painkillers following a shoulder injury.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

anna fermanova

Another glamorous Russian arrested in U.S. spy investigation as she tries to 'smuggle weapons parts onto plane'

A young beautician has been charged with trying to smuggle weapons parts into Russia as U.S. authorities continue to investigate suspected foreign spies.

Anna Fermanova, who lives near Dallas, Texas, was apprehended while trying to take three hi-tech night-vision rifle sights aboard a flight to Mexico.

The 24-year-old was stopped in March by officials at JFK Airport in New York and the items were confiscated.

She was allowed to complete her journey and arrested when she returned to the U.S. earlier this month.

Fermanova is currently under arrest at her parents' home in Plano, Texas, on $50,000 bail.

She is expected to attend court in New York in the next few weeks where she faces a possible ten years in prison.

Under U.S. law, sophisticated military weapons cannot be exported without the approval of the U.S. State Department.

A customs officer claims Fermanova had covered the rifle sight's serial numbers with marker pen.

Fermanova told officials she covered the markings 'so they would be less noticeable' when she tried to take them overseas without a licence, it is alleged.

Her arrest comes just weeks after glamorous spy Anna Chapman was deported to Russia.

Like Chapman, Fermanova has a Facebook page that includes provocative photos of herself. Chapman lived in New York; there is no evidence to suggest the two knew each other.

But Fermanova's lawyer Scott Palmer said his client is not a spy.

He said Fermanova bought the rifle sights online for a friend of her husband, who lives in Moscow, and that they were to be used for hunting.

'There's no terrorism, no spying, nothing that remotely touches these recent concerns,' he said. 'She's one woman who bought something on the Internet, put it in her luggage and this apparently violates federal law.'

Mr Palmer said Fermanova is a U.S. citizen who was born in Latvia and raised in the Dallas area. She splits her time between Dallas and Russia, where her husband has a job in the country's financial industry, he said.

The federal affidavit states that Immigration and Customs Enforcement personnel are investigating Fermanova and others for attempting to export U.S. military commodities to Russia without the proper licenses.

Mr Palmer said Fermanova has been studying to become a cosmetologist. She has a Texas cosmetologist's license that expires next year, according to the state's Department of Licensing and Regulation.

Jack Roush Plane Crash

NASCAR's Roush injured in Wisconsin plane crash
MILWAUKEE – NASCAR team owner Jack Roush was in serious but stable condition after walking away from a plane crash in Wisconsin on Tuesday night.

"There are injuries. Possible surgery," Roush Fenway Racing president Geoff Smith said in a text message to The Associated Press. "But he walked out of the plane."

Smith confirmed that the plane belonged to Roush, and he was flying it. Smith said Roush's injuries include facial lacerations.

Roush, an aviation buff, was attending the Experimental Aircraft Association's annual AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wis., this week.

In a statement on the EAA Web site, officials said a Beechcraft Premier business jet registered to Roush Fenway Racing, LLC was involved in a landing accident at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh.

The accident occurred at approximately 6:15 p.m. CDT, the statement said.

According to the EAA, the National Transportation Safety Board and Winnebago County Sheriff's Department confirmed that two occupants on board were Roush and Brenda Strickland of Plymouth, Mich. Strickland is a friend of Roush's.

"Each exited the aircraft following the accident," the statement said. "Both were transported to local hospitals, with Roush in serious but stable condition and Strickland with non-life threatening injuries. The NTSB is leading the investigation into the accident."

According to a statement from the team, Roush was landing his plane when the accident occurred.

"Dr. Kevin Wasco, the attending physician, says that Roush is in serious but stable condition," the team's statement said. "His injuries are not life threatening."

It is the second close call for Roush, who crashed a plane into a pond in Alabama in 2002 and nearly drowned before being rescued by an ex-Marine who lived nearby. Despite sustaining serious injuries, Roush continued flying.

Roush owns several aircraft, including a World War II-vintage P-51 Mustang.

After having success in dragsters and sports car racing, Roush — a former Ford engineer and college physics teacher — founded his NASCAR team in 1988. Known for his trademark Panama-style hat, academic speaking style and love for tinkering with anything mechanical, he won championships in NASCAR's top series with Matt Kenseth in 2003 and Kurt Busch in 2004.

Since 2007, Roush has partnered with the Fenway Sports Group, the sports marketing arm of the Boston Red Sox's parent company.

The team currently fields cars in the Cup series for Kenseth, Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle and David Ragan.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Fancy a dream job?

LONDON: Fancy US$80,000 (RM288,160) a year on a stress-free job with flexible working hours and no need to wear a suit? Well, grab your black pointy hat, take out that rusty black drape and refresh your memory on how to turn your grumpy neighbour into a mouse.

Somerset tourist attraction Wookey Hole caves is advertising for a "witch" and has already received 100 applicants since the beginning of last week.

Legend has it that the caves, near Wells, were home to the Wookey Witch who was turned to stone by the medieval Abbott of Glastonbury to rid villagers of her curse.

The vacancy has arisen because the previous incumbent has retired. The successful candidate, who will be living in a "spacious" cave, has to cackle, not be allergic to cats and will be asked to perform "a range of tasks" including magic at an open audition scheduled for July 28.

Company converts onion juice to electricity

LOS ANGELES: Onions make you cry, add flavour to food and are touted for their medicinal benefits. Now the vegetable has another use – powering up green energy.

A new system is up and running at Gills Onions, the largest fresh onion processor in the United States, converting onion juice into electricity.

The Oxnard, California-based company expects its new onion-fuelled power to reduce its electric bill by US$700,000 (RM2.5 million) a year and cut its annual greenhouse gas emissions by up to 30,000 tonnes.

The happy ending to this green energy tale, however, started with another question: how to get rid of onion

“When we peel an onion, 35 to 40 per cent of the onion comes off before we have a usable onion. That’s the top, tail and skin around the onion before you get to the meat,” said Steven Gill, co-owner of the 25-year-old company.

They used to haul the waste to the fields for composting, but that became a problem. Ten years ago, Gill started looking at technology for a solution, including microturbines.

“We ended up shredding the skins as they come out of the plant and extracting all the juice, which is very high in sugars, and bacteria love that stuff,” Gill said.

In the new system, bacteria produce methane gas from the juice. The gas then goes to two 300 kilowatt fuel cells, creating enough power for 460 houses. The company expects to get 35 to 40 per cent of its electricity
from the on-site generator.

The company invested US$9.5 million in the project and will receive US$2.7 million from Southern California Gas Co, a regulated subsidiary of Sempra Energy, as part of a State programme to encourage self-contained generation by businesses. In addition to cutting its electric bill, the company will save US$400,000 in hauling costs and expects payback in six years.

The onion grower now has new goal: to be a zero-waste facility by 2011.

“We want to follow it all the way through and make the full circle,” Gill said.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Rick Warren hospitalized after eyes burned

Megachurch pastor Rick Warren is home recovering after his eyes were burned as he pruned a firestick plant in his yard, his spokesman told CNN Thursday.

Warren was hospitalized Monday after the incident and released Tuesday, said his spokesman, A. Larry Ross. Warren is expected to make a full recovery, Ross said.

"My eyes were severely burned by a toxic poison," Warren wrote in a Twitter message Thursday morning. "Hospitalized Mon. Excruciating pain. Now home. Pray my sight loss is restored."

Though the pain was initially so intense that Warren could not open his eyes on Monday, he was seeing well enough Thursday to send the Tweet himself, Ross said. "The pain was excruciating - 12 on a scale of 1 through 10," Ross said. "It's now down to an 8."

Warren was pruning shrubs in the yard of his Southern California home when he wiped his eyes after picking up leaves from a firestick plant, Ross said.

The sap of the firestick is toxic and can cause skin irritation and temporary blindness if it comes in contact with the skin or eyes, according to the website The firestick is a succulent with spiky orange branches.

Warren is currently on leave from his church, called Saddleback, to write a book, so the injury is not expected to affect his public schedule, Ross said.

"A doctor put protective contacts on my corneas as bandages during the healing," Warren said in another Tweet on Thursday. "I am NOT blind."

The firestick is found around the world, Ross said, and grows well in Southern California.

"Pastor Rick, an avid gardener, purchased it locally himself," Ross said.

Wyclef Jean considering running for president of Haiti

Wyclef Jean for president?

There are reports that the musician is mulling a run for the top office in Haiti. Reached by phone, Jean told CNN that talk of a campaign is a bit premature as he is still mulling it over.

“I can’t sing forever,” Jean said.

The Canadian publication Le Droit reported over the weekend that Jean would be throwing his hat into the political ring in his native homeland. But Jean told CNN that such reports reflect him being "drafted" but he hasn't decided for sure yet.

He added that he has filled out the necessary paperwork in case he does decide to move forward with a candidacy. Jean has been an outspoken proponent of Haiti through his Yele Haiti Foundation and was one of the first celebrities to offer aid after the devastating earthquake.

"Wyclef's commitment to his homeland and its youth is boundless, and he will remain its greatest supporter regardless of whether he is part of the government moving forward," said a statement released by his foundation. "At this time, Wyclef Jean has not announced his intent to run for Haitian president. If and when a decision is made, media will be alerted immediately. Please let us know if we can help with anything else."
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