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Check-in at the Doubletree in Houston is extra special on NBA All-Star weekend. First there is the loud parade of women, fresh from their flights into George H. W. Bush airport, some wearing supersize Velcro rollers in their hair, many in the Official Groupie Travel Outfit (hot pink sweat suit, silver high heels, knockoff Louis Vuitton bag). There are the fights at the front desk—”no, we ain’t payin’ no $400 a night; no, that ain’t what you said on the telephone!”—between large pissed-off women and the cowering staff bearing nametags, chocolate-chip cookies, and a list of special additions to the in-room dining menu (buffalo wings and jalapeño poppers). On All-Star weekend, guests of the Doubletree are asked to sign a “no-party policy” form (“If we learn that a party is in progress…we will reserve the right…to IMMEDIATELY evict the occupants”). At the lobby bar, an enormous sign has been erected: welcome nba all-star fans. A few feet beside it, a plaque: firearms are prohibited on these premises.
It will be here, in the lovely Doubletree Hotel, that the working girls will set up camp for the next three days. By working girls, we don’t mean hookers, though these will infiltrate the Doubletree as well. (It gets a little tricky, because the working girls and the “working girls” tend to dress alike. The standard outfit this weekend: a Band-Aid—sized denim miniskirt studded with rhinestones slung low enough to flash ass-cleavage, knee-high shiny white boots, a silver belt that appears to be made of hubcaps, a midriff-baring top that shows off belly tattoos, and enough fake bling and chains to tow a Hummer.) We mean working girls—the hundreds, thousands, who in their real lives have actual jobs, dreary thankless jobs, but in their fantasy lives get to be NBA groupies. All-Star weekend is their mecca. They save all year for this. They put in for their vacation time early. They spring for hair extensions and new boots.
And with a little bit of luck, they might even get to blow a basketball player.
They tumble out in carloads, talkin’ shit and demanding respect. One particular group—four ladies from New York—stands out instantly. Because they are already having a blast. They have no time for fights with desk clerks; they gotta get their case of Goose up to their room. “I can’t believe we’re actually here!” says the ringleader, a New York City cop named Renee. “I’m pinching myself.” Though, with any luck, she’ll get someone else to do that for her.
Largely unseen by the world, two dangerous germs homed in on their targets in the spring and early summer of 2009. One was made by man to infect computers. The other was made by nature, and could infect man.
The man-made virus could invade a computer running Windows, replicate itself, wreck an industrial process, hide from human operators, and evade anti-virus programs. The natural pathogen could invade human cells, hijack them to replicate billions of copies of itself, and evade the body’s immune system.
The man-made weapon was Stuxnet, a mysterious piece of computer malware that first appeared in 2009 and was identified more than a year later by Ralph Langner, a Hamburg-based computer security expert, as a worm designed to sabotage Iran’s nuclear-enrichment facilities. The natural pathogen was the swine flu virus, which first appeared in Mexico City in March 2009 and touched off a global pandemic.
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The Molotov Cocktail
A Molotov cocktail is a makeshift bomb made of a breakable container, often a glass bottle, that is filled with flammable liquid and given a simple fuse, which is lit just before it is hurled at a target. It was named for Vyacheslav Molotov, a Soviet statesman who negotiated the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, a nonaggression pact with Nazi Germany. A communist from 1906, he changed his name from Skriabin to Molotov—which means “hammer”—to escape imperial police. Why was the weapon named for him? More…
This is a picture of Lotta Crabtree. She lived between 1847 and 1924. She was one of the most popular actresses of the 1800′s. Her career spanned from about age six to the end of the 1800′s. She lived the remainder of her life in seclusion. She was never married, and preferred focussed on her work instead of sorted affairs with men. She required payment in gold for her acting, and carried her gold with her. When the gold became too heavy, she would buy property. She amassed a sizable fortune over her career.
How humanity survived for 8000 years on the most extreme islands on EarthImagine a life of almost complete isolation, spent on a barren island constantly hit by a mix of volcanoes, tsunamis, and long, brutal winters. For thousands of years, that’s what people have endured on the Kuril Islands, an archipelago stretching from Russia to Japan that just might be the most extreme place humans have ever lived.
Three different times – the earliest in 6000 BCE and the most recent in 1200 CE – colonists arrived on the islands and tried to forge an existence on some of the most inhospitable places imaginable. University of Washington anthropologist Ben Fitzhugh is leading a diverse team of anthropologists, archaeologists, geologists, and Earth and atmospheric scientists to try to figure out just how these settlers made life on the Kuril Islands work. He explains:
“We want to identify the limits of adaptability, or how much resilience people have. We’re looking at the islands as a yardstick of humans’ capacity to colonize and sustain themselves.”
Is the human body sacred? Or is it a commodity ready to be chopped up and exposed to the forces of supply and demand? The answer is a matter of perspective. Our own body is a temple. But when we need a spare part, suddenly we’re surprisingly open to a transaction. To a person looking for a kidney, a scientist trying to learn anatomy, a beauty parlor customer looking for the perfect ‘do, there’s no substitute for a piece of someone else.
The problem is, demand for replacement flesh grossly outstrips supply. In the US and like-minded countries, it’s illegal to sell body parts—they can be taken only from those who filled out a donor card before they died or who are willing to give up an organ out of sheer benevolence. This means there isn’t enough tissue to go around. So, as with any outlawed or heavily regulated resource, a bustling underground trade has formed.
Sometimes the market in body parts is exploitive: Desperate people are paid tiny sums for huge donations. Other times it is ghoulish: Pieces are stolen from the recently dead. And every so often, the resource grab is lethal—people are simply killed for their organs. Welcome to the red market.
A difference between an addict and a recovering addict is that one hides his behavior, while the other can’t stop talking about it. Self-revelation is an important part of recovery, but it can lead to awkward moments when you meet a person who identifies as a sex addict.
For instance, within a half-hour of my first meeting Neil Melinkovich, a 59-year-old life coach, sometime writer and former model who has been in Sex Addicts Anonymous for more than 20 years, he told me about the time in 1987 that he made a quick detour from picking up his girlfriend at the Los Angeles airport so he could purchase a service from a prostitute. Afterward, he noticed what he thought was red lipstick on himself. It turned out to be blood from the woman’s mouth. He washed in a gas-station bathroom, met his girlfriend at the airport and then, in the grip of his insatiability, had unprotected sex with her as soon as they got home — in the same bed he said he had used to entertain three other women in the days before.
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Where Words Come From
The English language has developed from an Anglo-Saxon base of common words: household words, parts of the body, common animals, natural elements, most pronouns, prepositions, conjunctions and auxiliary verbs. Other modern words in English have developed from five sources. These are discussed below
On August 22, 1998, Mullah Omar, the emir of Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, made a cold call to the State Department. The United States had just lobbed cruise missiles at Al Qaeda camps in his nation. Omar got a mid-level diplomat on the line and spoke calmly. He suggested that Congress force President Bill Clinton to resign. He said that American military strikes “would be counter-productive,” and would “spark more, not less, terrorist attacks,” according to a declassified record of the call. “Omar emphasized that this was his best advice,” the record adds.
That was the first and last time that Omar spoke to an American government official, as far as is known. Before September 11th, some of his deputies had occasionally spoken with U.S. diplomats, but afterward the United States rejected direct talks with Taliban leaders, on the ground that they were as much to blame for terrorism as Al Qaeda was. Last year, however, as the U.S.-led Afghan ground war passed its ninth anniversary, and Mullah Omar remained in hiding, presumably in Pakistan, a small number of officials in the Obama Administration—among them the late Richard Holbrooke, the special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan—argued that it was time to try talking to the Taliban again.
Holbrooke’s final diplomatic achievement, it turns out, was to see this advice accepted. The Obama Administration has entered into direct, secret talks with senior Afghan Taliban leaders, several people briefed about the talks told me last week. The discussions are continuing; they are of an exploratory nature and do not yet amount to a peace negotiation. That may take some time: the first secret talks between the United States and representatives of North Vietnam took place in 1968; the Paris Peace Accords, intended to end direct U.S. military involvement in the war, were not agreed on until 1973.
Originally posted 2011-02-25 10:31:06. Republished by Blog Post Promoter