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Archive for July 2nd, 2009

City Council Holding Parking Meter Deal Hearings

July 2nd, 2009 admin No comments

Aldermen who rushed to approve Mayor Richard Daley’s controversial lease of the city’s parking meter system today will hold a hearing to examine the deal.


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Obama: Prolonged Detentions Could Happen, But It "Gives Me Huge Pause"

July 2nd, 2009 admin No comments

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama says he’s open to the idea of detaining some Guantanamo Bay terror suspects somewhere else for prolonged periods, but it may turn out that he won’t be comfortable with any proposals to do that.

In an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday, Obama said the idea of indefinite detentions as part of his legacy as president “gives me huge pause.”

But the president says there are some detainees who don’t fall neatly into existing categories for criminal prosecution in the United States or under international law.

Obama says that dealing with these situations is going to be “one of the biggest challenges” of his administration. The president says he’s not comfortable imposing indefinite detentions by executive order. But he didn’t explicitly rule it out.


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Michael Markarian: Saving Chimps and Tax Dollars

July 2nd, 2009 admin No comments

I attended a briefing this morning on Capitol Hill with legislative leaders and animal advocates to make a push for H.R. 1326, the Great Ape Protection Act, a bill seeking to phase out invasive research on chimpanzees and retire government-owned chimps to sanctuaries. HSUS president and CEO Wayne Pacelle led off the event by showing video footage from the nine-month HSUS investigation into the New Iberia Research Center in southwestern Louisiana, one of the world’s largest primate laboratories. 

Chimp in Lab
Approximately 1,000 chimps are languishing  
in laboratories across the United States.

The Hill staffers and others in the packed room were jarred by the scenes showing primates engaging in self-mutilation by tearing gaping wounds into their arms and legs, infant monkeys screaming as they are forcibly removed from their mothers, and a researcher hitting a monkey three times in the teeth with a pipe. Some of the elderly chimpanzees at NIRC have been warehoused in laboratories for decades–including Karen, who was caught in the wild as a baby in 1958 and has been confined in a barren lab since the Eisenhower Administration.

Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.), a scientist who previously worked with chimps and a lead sponsor of the bill, spoke about the inefficiency of using these highly intelligent and social creatures in research, and the innovation and ingenuity of scientists that can get us beyond the status quo. Dr. Theo Capaldo, president of Project R&R, added that chimps have not proven to be useful models for diseases such as AIDS, and that she has seen symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder in chimps who have been in long-term isolation housing in labs.

At a time when our country is acutely aware of an economic crisis, taxpayers are footing the bill for $20-25 million each year just warehousing chimps in barren laboratory cages, many of whom are not even being used in active experiments. There are about 1,000 chimps remaining in U.S. labs–half of them federally owned–and despite the inhumane treatment of animals and the fleecing of taxpayers they are just stuck on a bureaucratic treadmill. It’s less costly to retire these animals to sanctuaries, and it’s a step not only for animal welfare but also for fiscal responsibility. Dr. Linda Brent, director of Chimp Haven, estimates that moving the 500 government-owned chimps to sanctuaries would save taxpayers $173 million over the entire lifespans of the current population of the animals.

She also spoke about how former research chimps thrive in a sanctuary setting: even after decades of laboratory confinement, these long-lived animals can finally have peace and dignity in their remaining years. And there was hardly a dry eye in the house when Gloria Grow, founder and director of the Fauna Foundation, showed a moving video of Tom, a former lab chimp, climbing a tree and enjoying his new sanctuary life.

It’s time for Congress to take action on this legislation, which not only protects chimps but also stops government waste. Please watch this video, and then ask your U.S. Representative to support the Great Ape Protection Act.

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Andy Ostroy: "The Jacksons:" The Ultimate Reality Show

July 2nd, 2009 admin No comments

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I must be losing it. I’m finding myself near-obsessed with the Michael Jackson story and all its bizarro, sordid and sensationalistic details. From Larry King’s nightly hour-long expert-testimony-filled JackoFests to Matt Lauer’s morning Today Show tours through Neverland, I’ve become like a jammie-clad high school girl catatonically-captivated by The Hills. The only thing missing is the incessant texting to my pals to gab about it all.

Let’s face it, if you’re into train wrecks, it doesn’t get much better than this. In the age of reality television, this is the ultimate real-life family freak show. Welcome to The Dead King of Bel Air. The life and death of Michael Jackson is a deliciously perfect blend of The Swan, Wife Swap, The Bachelor, American Idol, Celebrity Rehab, Survivor, Cops and The Surreal Life. And I’m fucking hooked.

There’s one helluva ensemble cast in this sideshow. We have Papa Joe Jackson, the verbally and physically abusive patriarch who mourned his son’s death by immediately basking in the limelight of the BET Awards while practically hawking T-shirts from his trunk. There’s sister Layota, who also chose the BET stage to share her pain. There’s brother Jermaine, whose healing process required a little Neverland facetime with Lauer . There’s also Diana Ross, who likely is about as surprised to learn she’s the children’s back-up guardian as I would be if I was in the will. (By the way, if something happens to me I think I’d like Joni Mitchell to raise my young daughter. Joni’s mature, mellow, sings great and probably has a mad-cool house in Laurel Canyon. Nah, that’s a dumb idea. Better stick with the existing plan).

We also have the shameless, attention-starved, sycophantic, blood-sucking media-whore leeches Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, who’ve been about as ubiquitous as Gov. Mark Sanford’s love life this past week. Rumor has it that the Dynamic Duo of Dogma are fighting over who gets to eulogize MJ who, a week after his death, is still not buried. I guess when the family’s too busy attending awards shows and giving Neverland tours that leaves little time for funerals. Apparently, they can’t find the proper place for Michael’s grand send-off. Seems like the Rose Bowl, Staples Center and Dodger Stadium are all booked. May I suggest a quaint little church in the Valley perhaps? One large enough to accommodate family and close fiends? Ya know, the way other people do it? This is supposed to be a funeral, not a fucking Jackson Reunion Tour. How about just putting the man in the ground with some dignity already?

I suspect the Jackson Family Circus is about to get even more
freakish though. We’ve yet to to hear from Debbie Rowe, the surrogate who bore two of MJ’s kids, and whether or not she’s gonna fight to get them back. We’ve yet to hear from the Supreme Diva herself, Ms. Ross, who’s either out at Toys R’ Us stocking up on goodies or huddled with her lawyers and publicists. There’s the 2002 Will and Testament, which may or may not actually be the “Last.” There’s the certain legal battles over Jackson’s bazillions and the greedy landgrab that’ll come from all sides. There’s the much-anticipated toxicology report and official autopsy results, which may or may not paint a sad tale of a drug-riddled overdosed cultural icon. Then there’s the countless nurses, doctors, lawyers, promoters, colleagues, spiritual advisors and friends who are crawling out of the woodwork to share the juicy lurid details of Michael’s life in their insatiable quest for their proverbial 15 minutes. We’re also sure to have more tell-all books, TV shows and bio-pics than we could ever have imagined. And speaking of movies, here’s a little prediction: “The Michael Jackson Story,” starring girlfriend-beating pop star Chris Brown in a career-reviving role. The back-story is tremendous: one tortured soul portraying another.

To be sure, Jackofest is going to be with us for a very, very long time.

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Bradley Burston: Slapping Obama, or Please God, Keep Israel from Making Peace

July 2nd, 2009 admin No comments

Everyone who lives here is a hostage. We know it, even if we are often surprised anew by the specific people who are currently holding us hostage, which is to say, staving off progress toward a future peace, and, in the process, taking a direct slap at Barack Obama.

Some we know all too well, of course. There are those among our captors who are so consistent and tireless in the work against peace that they have become part of the wallpaper, along with the scratches we make, year after year, decade after decade, marking opportunities intentionally wasted and lives needlessly lost.

Oddly enough, for fundamentalists on both sides, the prayer is oddly the same. It amounts to Please God, keep Israel from Making Peace.

There here are those among supporters of the Palestinians who, deep down, would rather see Israel punished than to see a Palestinian state be established. These include the diaspora schemers of Hamas, headed by Khaled Meshal, who said last week “The enemy’s leaders call for a so-called Jewish state is a racist demand that is no different from calls by Italian Fascists and Hitler’s Nazism.”

And there are those among us, Jews obsessed with the West Bank, who would rather see Israel punished than have the settlements harmed in any way …

But there are others who hold us — and peace — hostage, who are more difficult to comprehend. Take Ehud Barak. The nominal leader of Israel’s peace camp. The head of the party which first concluded a peace agreement with the Palestinians. And the Israeli leader who presided over the defense ministry decision last month to, in effect, reward the squatters in Migron, the most heavily populated and highest profile of all illegal outposts, with new housing in an established settlement. A sophisticated but no less direct slap at the American president. A time-bomb of a decision which, inconveniently enough, went off in the High Court Monday just as Barak was leaving for Washington and talks over, what else, a freeze on settlement.

Never mind that the proposed new housing would be in Adam, north of Jerusalem, which is outside the settlement blocs which Washington has foreseen as annexed to Israel in a land-swap as a part of an overall future peace settlement.

Never mind that the plan also appears to be part of a much larger strategy aimed at eventually extending Adam to link to the northern Jerusalem neighborhood of Neve Yaakov, a proposal Palestinians strongly oppose as a direct block to a viable independent Palestine.

Never mind that it acts as a reward for squatting, illegality, and defiance of Israeli government authority.

The worst problem is that neither the Defense Ministry nor its minister, seem to see any of these as a problem at all.

For the full post, and an interactive map of outposts, go to Haaretz.com

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Susan Smalley, Ph.D.: Motherhood: The Ultimate Training Ground For Enlightenment

July 2nd, 2009 admin No comments

I am constantly amazed by the depth of training provided by motherhood for seeking “enlightenment.” By that I mean an expansion of consciousness where you transcend your ’self’ as an independent entity and experience yourself as part of an existent whole. By analogy it would be like suddenly realizing you are a cell in the human body that creates the body but only by the dependent relationship to other cells. Only the ‘body’ symbolizes the vast universe or a unified consciousness or what others have called a ‘Oneness’ or ‘universal unity of being’.

I come back to motherhood as a training ground again and again because I think the ‘created’ experiences to practice letting go of attachments whether they are religious training centers (monasteries, seminaries, nunneries) or reunciate practices (renouncing food, sex, etc.), are never quite as powerful as the experiences that motherhood provides. In the process of letting go, transcendence ultimately arises.

And the practice ground of motherhood never ends.

In our children’s infancy and toddlerhood, we learn to let go physically from the symbiotic union that began before birth.

In their childhood, we learn to let go of the role of sole educator to share that teaching experience with a larger group.

In their teenage years, we learn to let go of the role of sole compatriot as peers take our place.

In their young adulthood, we learn to let go of our role as sole advisors as relationships and careers introduce themselves.

Each step of the way, we let go of an attachment of sorts – to our child and our roles – and in that letting go a greater wisdom arises of the repetitive nature of this process through time and the illusion of independence that catches us so often.

As mothers we learn to separate and survive and so too do our children. They walk, grow, and create more seemingly independent of us but increasing dependent upon the world.

The attachment to a child – that clinging type of love – gradually changes to a more universal love, perhaps never completely severed from the former, as the ties of motherhood are strong. But as a child begins to develop their own attachments, they let go of the string to which a mother is bound and form new ties to their own children.

The renunciate seeks this experience by refusing food, sex or other attachments – they inflict it upon themselves to learn to ‘let go’. Mothers by their very nature receive this experience without seeking it (fathers may do so as well but I can only speak from a mother’s perspective). And compared to the attachment of a mother to a child, all other attachments – food, sex and material possessions – pale in comparison.

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Karl Frisch: Census 2010: The Right’s Super-Secret Plan to End All Plans

July 2nd, 2009 admin No comments

Pssst. Hey, conservatives … I want to let you in on a devious little plan being hatched by your leaders in the media.

It goes something like this: President Obama, the Democratic Congress, and the federal government are evil. They already have too much power and want to take even more control over your life. They’re out to take away your guns, liberty, freedom, paycheck, and perhaps your mother’s apple pie! Worse yet, now they want to count you. Have they no shame?

That’s right. In Obama’s unyielding quest to impose a socialist-fascist-communist-Marxist police state, the president is going to send his minions from ACORN to your door to count you for the decennial census.

And their solution to the president’s pompous power grab? Sitting out the census.

Seriously.

Over the past few months, an increasing number of conservative media figures and news outlets have encouraged their audiences not to complete the 2010 U.S. census or expressed support for those who’ve decided to skip the count. Some have even stated that they wouldn’t complete it, either — even though the law requires respondents to complete it.

They often cite the participation of the community organization ACORN — the right’s bogeyman du jour — in the recruitment of workers who will collect data as a reason to be wary, even frightened of the census.

Never one to skip an opportunity to put his special brand of crazy on full display, Fox News’ Glenn Beck recently said of the census, “[T]here’s a lot of people that are concerned with it because they don’t want to fill it out. They’re not comfortable with ACORN members coming to find out all this information.” One can’t be sure where Beck got such precise numbers — “a lot of people” — but it’s a safe bet the U.S. Census Bureau won’t be following his methodology. Later in the segment, Beck confessed that he’s “considered not filling it out.”

Over on Clear Channel’s The War Room with Quinn & Rose, a caller stated that he, too, wouldn’t fill out the census because of ACORN’s involvement, prompting co-host Rose Tennent to Beck-ingly say, “ACORN being recruited by Obama for a mission — that is so frightening,” adding that “it scares me to think that these thugs are getting this information from us.”

Then there’s syndicated radio host and convicted Watergate felon G. Gordon Liddy — a man who has acknowledged plotting, but not following through on, a few murders, kidnappings, and a bombing. He praised Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota for her refusal to complete the census, saying that “she’s worried about the involvement of ACORN … in next year’s census. … I hope that she refuses, and I hope that they charge her, and then I hope she takes … that thing right up to the Supreme Court of the United States and gets this question resolved.” You see, Liddy is no fan of government “intrusion.” During the 1990s, he reportedly instructed his radio audience on multiple occasions on how to shoot Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms agents.

All this ACORN paranoia from the right is pretty nutty, but it is hardly its only problem with the census.

On his radio show, Neal Boortz told a caller, “I received a census form the other day asking me a whole bunch of questions about my small business. I threw it in the trash. I’m not going to answer it. None of their damn business.” He added that “the federal government and the state government, they have a legitimate reason for knowing how many people live where. … [M]ost of the rest of the information is designed to help the government steal from you in order to pass off your property to the moochers. They’re looters.”

A sentiment apparently shared by former Bush administration speechwriter Meghan Clyne. She recently wrote that the census questions “forc[e] Americans to disclose sensitive information about their finances, health and lifestyles.” While Clyne did let readers know that answering the census is mandatory, she went on to write, “The good news is that I called the help number on my form and a Census representative finally conceded that the government was unlikely to pursue punishment if I didn’t respond, saying it would be ‘a waste of time and money.’ ” Apparently, Clyne doesn’t mind if folks break the law, so long as the law isn’t likely to be enforced.

I suppose this would a good time to let conservatives know why their war against the census is both politically naive and tremendously foolish.

Those detailed questions that seem to be causing conservatives such heartburn? They help determine where federal money is best spent. The U.S. Census Bureau notes, for example, that “long-term care providers and community planners use information about disability to help them decide where to locate services and facilities.” It would be a shame if conservatives actually listened to the right-wing chattering class, skipped the census, and missed out on badly needed public service projects.

Of a more pressing concern to political junkies: The census helps determine population shifts throughout the country that inform the redistricting of congressional seats and truly impacts the balance of power in Washington. So, if conservatives aren’t counted, they could lose seats in Congress — something a high school government student would likely know.

If the right wants a path back to power, it might first consider putting an end to this fool’s errand, lest it cut off its nose to spite its face.

Karl Frisch is a Senior Fellow at Media Matters for America, a progressive media watchdog and research and information center based in Washington, D.C. Frisch also contributes to County Fair, a media blog featuring links to progressive media criticism from around the Web as well as original commentary. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook or sign up to receive his columns by email.

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Eric Holder Getting Emergency Oral Surgery

July 2nd, 2009 admin No comments

WASHINGTON — Attorney General Eric Holder is having emergency oral surgery to remove a tooth he cracked.

Holder spokesman Matthew Miller said the attorney general cracked the tooth Wednesday night and went to a dentist in pain Thursday morning. Miller said the dentist told Holder the tooth needed to be removed right away.

Miller said Holder won’t be able to fly for several days and he canceled an afternoon trip to Colorado. He was scheduled to appear at the Aspen Institute for a discussion with CBS “Face the Nation” host Bob Schieffer.

Miller said he did not know how Holder got hurt or which tooth he cracked.

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Jim Luce: Sundance Film Afghan Star Incredible

July 2nd, 2009 admin No comments

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Thirty years ago in Afghanistan, people could sing and dance. Then the Taliban came, as described in The Kite Runner. Sharia law was introduced which I have had the misfortune to live under — it is horrible.

In 2004 laws were changed that allowed for a new American Idol-like show to be produced in Kabul: Afghan Star; Britain’s Got Talent , in Kabul. Imagine Susan Boyle being attacked for being too sensual.

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Contestant Lima now fears for her life every time she goes home.

Considered sacrilegious by the Mujahideen and outright banned by the Taliban who ruled from 1996-2001, music has come to symbolize freedom for the youth.

“The Taliban fell in 2001 but it took a few years for a new government to be established. Parliament and the new laws didn’t start until 2004,” the director explained to me from London.

The film reveals the hopes and dreams of Afghan youth; their desire for peace, education, and freedom of expression. 60 percent of the Afghan population is under 21, and despite the backdrop of conflict, corruption and repression, they want to move forward.

British director Havana Marks has made a documentary about the lives of four contestants of the 2,000 that applied. The film is in Dari, Pashtun, and English with English subtitles

Winner of the Directing and Audience Awards in Sundance’s 2009 World Documentary competition, Havana’s film is timely and deeply moving.

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British director Havana Marks on location in Afghanistan.

“I had always wanted to go — to explore Afghanistan — all my life,” Havana told the Huffington Post. “My father had been there in the 60’s and the images from that era were just epic.”

“I tried to pitch lots of ideas — just to get there. Luckily, none of them were commissioned. In the process I talked to a British war journalist, Rachel Reid — now the brilliant Human Rights Watch officer there.

“Rachel in fact told me about the new TV series Afghan Star and put me in touch with the local channel owners. I knew instantly that it was a genius idea.

“I have always loved Pop Idol — I always cry! — and knew the show would be the perfect vehicle and way into such a complex and extraordinary place,” Havana told me.

By observing the Afghan people’s relationship to its pop culture, Afghan Star is the perfect window into a country’s tenuous, ongoing struggle for modernity. What I would normally consider frivolous entertainment is downright revolutionary in post-Taliban Afghanistan.

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The film Afghan Star was filmed in the nation’s capital Kabul.

The film is spectacular and wins on almost every level. It presents live in Afghanistan today. It explains popular culture in historical and current perspectives. It is a riveting narrative with life-and-death consequences.

American Idol’s Adam Lambert might be to-die-for, but Afghan Star’s contestants actually confront death threats to perform. The grand prize is $5,000.

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By the show’s finale, one-third of the nation watched Afghan Star.

Afghan Star is open to anyone across the country despite gender, ethnicity, or age. The show notes the many tribes that make up a united Afghanistan.

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Like neighboring Pakistan, Afghanistan has its challenges.

Women have not sung in public in decades, and several of the contestants were women.

Ironically, this pop culture show actually highlights democracy as Afghanis across the nation vote for their favorite contestant by cell phone. The show demonstrated that all Afghanis — of different genders, ethnic groups, age sectors — are equal.

This is a highly radical idea in a country still essentially based on a male-dominated tribal elder system.

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The Taliban did not like Afghan Star and threatened to disrupt cell service.

The Taliban become so annoyed they threatened to wipe out the country’s cellular infrastructure.

“The Taliban rose during a brutal and pointless civil war, after the U.S. / Russia conflict there,” Havana explained.

“They are the absolute result of violence and poverty and will always gain strength when the main government is weak.

“The people of Afghanistan do not necessarily want to support them, but often have no choice or alternative,” Havana told me.

I am a big Oprah fan, and when she called the film “fantastic,” I took notice.

The documentary interviews people on the streets and in cafes who provide a fascinating insight into the lives and minds of today’s Afghanistan.

“Our people are war-torn, tired of fighting. I want to be happy,” says one man. The show’s director echoes that: “We want that dark thinking made brighter.”

The songs the contestants sing reflect the diversity of the country. One finalist sang, “My love is Hindu, but I am a Muslim.”

The film shows police in the capital dealing with the throngs who try to see the show’s performance. U.N. troops are seen throughout the city maintaining order in general.

The highlight for me was when one woman became so caught up in her performance she let her head scarf slip — and actually danced a little — a dance of pure joy. This marked her for death.

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The women who appeared on Afghan Star literally risked their lives.

Setara is a 21-year old female singer from Herat. Wearing modern fashion and Bollywood makeup, she is adored by the young girls, hated by the older generations.

“She will pay a big price,” says one man on the street. “Her life is in danger,” adds another.

Soon she comes under attack from all sectors. Ismail Khan, Afghani cabinet minister and former-warlord, is filmed saying, “This is and insult and degradation.”

On the street, “She has brought shame upon us,” from one. “No one can go that far — she danced!” from another. “She deserves to be killed!” from a third.

The Islamic Council issued an edict about the show that said, “If this continues, our society will collapse.” They found it to be against Sharia law.

“I am no expert on Sharia other than it wasn’t the traditional system of Afghanistan. It was imposed on the people there,” the producer said.

“However, one must never fall into the trap of thinking that all Islam is based on Sharia or its ideals — its not,” Havana very correctly pointed out.

My adopted son Mathew watched the film with me. He has lived for years in Muslim-dominated Indonesia. “That woman on the show had such guts to show her face,” he said in awe.

But she was unafraid: “I feared death under the Taliban. I will continue until the end.” She returned to her family in conservative Herat, but is now recording her first album back in Kabul where she remains under protection.

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Setara could no longer remain in Herat after dancing on the show.

Her mother admitted in the film that graffiti had been written on the family’s door calling her daughter a whore.

In the 1980’s life was normal — “Western” — in Kabul. In the words of one interviewee, “good and beautiful.” It was liberal, with “girls and boys together.”

Havana does not focus her lens on the foreign military presence in Afghanistan. I asked her how she felt about U.S. involvement there.

“That is a big question and not really my role to comment on the rights and wrongs of the invasion. I do know, however, that once you start something you have to behave responsibly and see Afghanistan right. If forces left now the place collapse within weeks. Military might is equally important as development and considered strategy.

“The tragedy is that neo-cons were not interested in the latter; they turned all attention to Iraq and everything achieved went to ruin. The surge now is practically starting again,” Havana told me.

U.S. President Barack Obama has recently ordered 21,000 extra American troops to Afghanistan, adding to the around 60,000 foreign soldiers already in the country. There are an estimated 40,000 Taliban fighters in the country.

Despite the fighting, the show went on. By the show’s finale, 11 million people — one-third of the nation — watched Afghan Star. Pop culture, at least here, moves the world forward and serves to better humanity.

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Charlie Chan: Meet The Hairdresser Responsible For Anna Wintour’s Bob

July 2nd, 2009 admin No comments

HIS are the hands that created the power bob for one of the most influential women in fashion, one of the most famous faces in the front row of fashion shows of Milan, London, New York and Paris.

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