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No one could call these the best of times - the direst economic figures for fifty years, the grimmest climatic prospects for ten thousand. Troubles that play upon our fear of the unknown, like the potential flu pandemic, and troubles we know all too well: Iraq, Sudan, Afghanistan, North Korea... We are far away from that blissful era, a mere eighty years ago, when the BBC could announce to a waiting nation and Empire, "the news tonight: there is no news tonight."

Yet, on closer inspection, these are the best of times - or very close to them. Despite the many dangers we see around us, we are, on average, longer lived, better fed, better educated, and safer than we have ever been. Famine, disease, war, natural disasters, industrial accidents, death on the road, rails, or in the air - we have less personally to fear from all of these than at any time in human history. Why, then, are we sleeping so badly?

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Category: From Members
Posted by: The Backroom

submitfile_6_botero.jpg
You may have been reading the torture memos – and if so, you will be feeling pretty sick. It's all there: the old Nixonian presumption that "it's not illegal if the President does it"; the mealy-mouthed cloaking of horror in the blandest of language (such as the "rare instances" where eleven days of sleep deprivation might produce "abnormal reactions"); the combination of legal strictures with weasel words and let-out clauses that allow the interrogators to do what they want, so long as their "intention" is to comply.

The whole episode is shameful – and not just because was crude, brutal and dishonest. It was also stupid: it's as if, blinded by the promise of limitless support and resources from the White House, the CIA's professionals forgot all their trade-craft and signed up instead to the simpler doctrines of the military's SERE program, in which participants are tortured because – of course – that's what other, less sophisticated, countries do. In particular, they set aside the lessons of what some call the inquisitor's Bible: John Tolliver's The Interrogator, a study of the Luftwaffe's Hanns Joachim Scharff.

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Category: From Members
Posted by: The Backroom

The guy who came to install the new septic tank had some advice for the President – who, sadly, wasn't there, so he gave it to me to pass on in case Mr. Obama ever comes to visit. “It's basic,” said the septic-tank guy: “he just needs to ship back the illegals, cancel all bonuses, reserve jobs for Americans, cut taxes, increase defense spending, bomb Iran. Bingo: problem solved.” The words “it's not that simple” were forming on my lips, but it's rarely a good idea to alienate someone on whom depends the whole future of your plumbing, so I steered the conversation around to the job at hand: “say, why’d you mark the site way down the yard like that? Shouldn't you dig it nearer the house?” “It's not that simple,” he retorted: “you look like you got boulder clay at the top of the yard. Site it there, your tank‘s likely to back up in a couple of years. Down the way seems to me more like gravel, so you could get a natural leach field. I could be wrong; I won't know for certain till I get the backhoe in and dig down six or seven feet. Then we'll see where we stand.”

The septic-tank guy was doing what we all do, revealing a basic human quality that appears again and again, in lab experiments and real life alike: the less we know about a subject, the more cocksure we are about our answers. In one study, people who were actually betting against the researchers in real money insisted, at 100-to-1 odds, that more Americans die from homicide than suicide and that the potato originated in Ireland. It seems that the fewer close dealings we have with a topic, the more important it is to have a quick answer, even if that answer is wrong. This isn’t necessarily a sign of stupidity; it’s just another way our thrifty brains save on scarce mental resources. After all, when you’re certain of something, you can stop thinking about it – so, yeah, the capital of Colombia is Caracas. Of course I'm sure. Next!

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Category: From Members
Posted by: The Backroom
A man, whose family was German aristocracy prior to World War II, owned a number of large industries and estates. When asked how many German people were true Nazis, the answer he gave can guide our attitude toward fanaticism. 'Very few people were true Nazis,' he said, 'but many enjoyed the return of German pride, and many more were too busy to care. I was one of those who just thought the Nazis were a bunch of fools. So, the majority just sat back and let it all happen. Then, before we knew it, they owned us, and we had lost control, and the end of the world had come. My family lost everything. I ended up In a concentration camp and the Allies destroyed my factories.'

We are told again and again by 'experts' and 'talking heads' that Islam is the religion of peace, and that the vast majority of Muslims just want to live in peace.Although this unqualified assertion may be true, it is entirely irrelevant. It is meaningless fluff, meant to make us feel better, and meant to somehow diminish the spectre of fanatics rampaging across the globe in the name of Islam.

The fact is that the fanatics rule Islam at this moment in history. It is the fanatics who march. It is the fanatics who wage any one of 50 shooting wars worldwide. It is the fanatics who systematically slaughter Christian or tribal groups throughout Africa and are gradually taking over the entire continent in an Islamic wave. It is the fanatics who bomb, behead, murder, or honor-kill. It is the fanatics who take over mosque after mosque. It is the fanatics who zealously spread the stoning and hanging of rape victims and homosexuals. It is the fanatics who teach their young to kill and to become suicide bombers.

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Category: Current Events
Posted by: The Backroom

Father Albert Cutié and Ruhama
Canellis. Splash News
MIAMI (Reuters) - A former Roman Catholic priest and media celebrity who left the Catholic Church last month after he was photographed cuddling a woman on a Florida beach has married his girlfriend, local media reported on Wednesday.

Alberto Cutie, 40, who joined the Episcopalian Church after the photos scandal stoked debate over the Catholic celibacy requirement for priests, married 35-year-old Ruhama Buni Canellis on Tuesday in a civil ceremony, the Miami Herald reported.

Embattled priest, Father Albert Cutié left the Roman Catholic Archdiose for the Episcopal church and announced that he will marry Ruhama Canellis, the woman at the center of the religious scandal that has rocked the Miami area.

Cutié and Canellis had apparently been having an affair for two years when they were photographed frolicking on the beach and kissing. Those photos, which ran in TV Notas a few weeks ago, led to the Father being forced to leave his congregation and posts in the Archdiocese of Miami. At the time, Cutié said he wasn't sure which direction his life would take, or whether he would continue being a Catholic priest. The whole ordeal had been the cause of much soul searching on his part, especially since the woman at the heart of the matter was not a fling, but rather someone he loved.

Cutié and Canellis participated in a small, private cermony yesterday surrounded by Priests and deacons from the Episcopal church, many of whom were accompanied by their wives. Bishop Leo Frade, head of the Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida, led the ceremony as the couple were officially accepted into the Episcopal church.

"I am continuing the call to spread God's love," Cutié told the Miami Herald, pointing out that he had experienced a "deep spiritual and ideological struggle."

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Category: From Members
Posted by: The Backroom
Winner of the Best Film on Mountain Sport and People’s Choice Award

Watch Trailer
Click on Image to Watch Trailer

Running time: 60 minutes
Director: Jens Hoffmann
Genre: Documentary

"I don't want to die, I want to live. I'm pretty good at running away, and this is my escape." This is how Karina Hollekim describes her dedication to BASE jumping. Documentary filmmaker Jens Hoffman first met the now 30-year-old Norwegian in 2002. He immediately started to film, planning to follow Karina over a long period, trying to understand why a young woman would challenge herself mentally and physically in such an extreme sport. Jens accompanies her through many stages of her BASE-jumping career, until it comes to a sudden stop and changes all aspects of her life.

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Category: From Members
Posted by: FB
Not Gay, nor Straight, nor Bisexual; A New Sexual Identity Emerges.

Asexuality. Is it a real thing? If so, what does it actually mean?
In an article by David Jay in American Sexuality Magazine, he explains what asexuality is, and how a person can have a satisfying relationship while identifying as an asexual individual. Jay should know—he’s speaking from first hand experience.

“One of the quirks of being asexual” Jay says, “is that classifying and prioritizing relationships becomes a mite tricky.” In his article, Jay explains how he sees himself as a bit of an ‘intimacy ho’. Unlike some asexuals who prefer a solitary lifestyle, Jay admits to desiring relationships (sans the sex) from many, many different people.

Upon learning early on that a meaningful relationship had to include sex, Jay rebelled. There had to be a way, he thought, to feel what he wanted to feel without the socially inflicted constraints.
“It wasn’t long before my close friendships started to look and act like dating, and it wasn’t much longer until they broke away from that and started to become something else entirely” he writes. “Relationships, I realized, can be fun, in much the same way that I imagine sex is fun for sexual folk. New types of pleasure started popping up all over, and it seemed like there would never be time to explore them all. They ran the gamut—from the intellectual to the physical, from the deeply empowering to the utterly frivolous.”

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Category: From Members
Posted by: AngieBeck
From the source,

"Start-up Web sites, as of right now, may not be an adequate replacement for local newspaper coverage but they could definitely be a convenient tool for people to get local news more often and more efficiently. The issue, however, is that the coverage may not be as full or legitimate as the coverage in a traditional newspaper. With print newspaper companies facing many problems right now and online news stories being so prevalent, it makes sense that these start-up Web sites would exist. People often go online to find news stories strictly because it is convenient. So, if these start-up Web sites could be legitimized and if it could be guaranteed that the coverage is full and factual, then these sites could be very helpful and popular. If that is the case then maybe some day these sites could actually be an adequate replacement for local newspaper coverage."