Akha people

Post 2.414

Akha people

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia and others.
File:Akha tribe depiction, 1900s.jpg
A Burmese depiction of the Akha in the early 1900s.
Total population
Regions with significant populations
Burma, China, Laos, Thailand
Akha, Lao, Thai
Folk religion (Animism), Christianity, Buddhism
Related ethnic groups
Hani people

The Akha are a hill tribe of subsistence farmers known for their artistry. Most of the remaining Akha people are now distributed in small villages among the mountains of China (where they are considered part of the Hani by the government, though this is a subject of some dispute among the Akha themselves), Laos (where they are considered Lao Sung), the Daen Lao Range in Burma, and northern Thailand, where they are one of the six main hill tribes.

File:Akha village.jpg

The thatched roofs of the Akha hill tribe village, in northern Thailand

The Akha arrived to Thailand, by the demarcation between British India and Thailand in 1905, by the civil war Burma and Laos more have immigrated, with some 80,000 now living in Thailand’s northern provinces of Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai at high altitudes. Many of these villages can be visited by tourists on trekking tours from either of these cities. They speak Akha, a language in the Loloish (Yi) branch of the Tibeto-Burman family.

File:Flag of the Akha People (Thailand).svg

Flag of the Akha people in Thailand, designed by Jaume Ollé.

Akha has a very closely related language with the Lisu and Lahu as they once belonged to the Lolo hunter tribe people that once ruled the Paoshan and Teinchung plains before the invasion of Ming Dynasty (A.D 1644) in Yunan, China.

The practice of their mythology includes ornately carved village gates made of wood where the guardian spirits are said to dwell. They have an extensive recollection of ancestors going back 15 generations and exhibited in chants.

Culture and lifestyle

File:Elderly Akha woman..jpg

Elderly Akha woman, NE Thailand

The Akha generally live in bamboo houses raised on low wooden stilts in hilly areas. These huts are divided by gender – one side is for the women, and the other side, occupied by the men, is used as a more public area. The Akha subsist through an often destructive form of slash and burn agriculture which can result in elimination of old growth forest, native animal species and serious soil runoff problems. They are expert farmers who focus on mountain rice, corn, and soybeans that are planted in seasonal shifts.

The Akha are also very efficient hunters, though their prey sometimes includes endangered species. Some Akha grew opium for income but they are increasingly building up the tourist industry. A village with a large percentage of Akha is Mae Salong (now known as Santikhiri). Akha villages are also found in the area of Ban Therd Thai (formerly known as Ban Hin Taek), a former residence and base of the so-called “Opium King”, Khun Sa. Khun Sa died in Yangon, Burma in October 2007.

File:Akha man with opium pipe.jpg

Akha man smoking a pipe

The Akha put a particularly heavy emphasis on genealogy – they are taught their family history at a very early age, and their culture has a strong focus on honouring ancestors and their parents, though they dispute that this represents a form of ancestor worship. A better description of Akha religion would be animism, as they believe in a world filled with spirits, both good and bad, that have a definite physical impact on the world. They believe in a natural cycle of balance that, if disrupted, can result in illness, hardship, or even death.

 Human rights and other issues

The Akha have faced many controversies related to human rights and justice, particularly in the countries of Thailand and China. Their settled land is built upon hillsides that are valuable for both timber production and farming, and as such has been the target of seizure by government forces from both countries. Akha settlements and agricultural slash and burn sites increasingly encroach on national forests containing native ecosystems, thus creating another basis for controversy. The Akha are one of the largest populations among 20 ethnic groups living in the Nam Ha National Protected Area of Laos.The area is part of an eco-tourism effort to alleviate poverty.The Akha, like the other hill tribes, are viewed negatively by mainstream Thai people, generally referred to as “Egaw,” a derogatory racial slur they find highly offensive. The use of the word is extremely commonplace and it is found on many tour websites and even in academic writings.


Akha tribe new mother Laos by Eric Lafforgue in Akha people

Akha Tribe II Photograph by Steve Harrington – Akha Tribe II Fine Art

All Images from http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=Images+of+Akha+Tribe&view=detail&id&first=0



Military Video Captures Destructive Power of Navy’s Newest Railgun

Post 2.412

Military Video Captures Destructive Power of Navy’s Newest Railgun

The BlazeBy Buck Sexton | The Blaze – 1 hr 56 mins ago

This weapon could one day revolutionize warfare.

Loading Rail Gun

It’s a new version of the railgun, and it packs an earth-shattering, hypersonic punch.

In the past, railguns have been high-tech but massive beasts that looked like only the largest naval ships could handle one. With continued testing and experimentation, that’s starting to change.

As you can see from the screenshot above depicting the loading of a prototype rail gun built by defense contractor BAE, these amazing weapons are getting smaller, and inching closer to combat readiness.

Gizmodo lays out just how incredible this new weapon is, stating that “it fires a 40-pound metal slug up to 5,600 miles per hour… slamming into its target with 32 times the force of a 1-ton car being thrust at 100 mph.”

Below you can see the oddly shaped projectile ripping through heavy barriers like butter.

Rail Gun Projectile 1

Gizmodo contacted the Navy, and they agreed that the technology is becoming more compact and therefore more usable. “It finally looks like a gun,” the Navy said.

Rail guns are designed to destroy basically anything, anywhere, on the land, sea, or in the air. The Navy may one day destroy the biggest, most expensive ships with nothing but a hunk of metal traveling really, really fast.

The military even hopes to use rail guns one day to shoot down incoming missiles.

Rail Gun Projectile 2

It’s a true marvel of science, as all of this is accomplished with nothing more than kinetic energy. The projectiles do not contain any explosives. In fact, the Navy has been using non-aerodynamic rounds on purpose in tests so that a round doesn’t go off-range and smash through a neighboring town or interstate.

One day, however, the Navy will be using conical projectiles for maximum penetration.

Rail GunProjectile Penetrating

The Navy plans to continue testing rail guns over the next five years, eventually pushing the energy used to 32 megajoules- – over even more.

It hasn’t happened yet, but one day, the railgun may change the way wars are fought.

Watch the incredible clip of the newest railgun model in action here, courtesy of BAE systems:



What IS the dog-headed pig monster? Mystery of weird animal terrorising African villages

Post 2.411

What IS the dog-headed pig monster? Mystery of weird animal terrorising African villages

  • Beast has been chasing and attacking goats and dogs
  • Animal said to have the head of a dog and the body of a swine
  • Villagers believe its existence is black magic at work

Last updated at 11:02 AM on 28th February 2012

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2107563/Villagers-terrorised-bizarre-dog-pig-hybrid-creature-near-Kalahari-desert.html#ixzz1nk72i7vP

A bizarre ‘dog-headed pig’ creature has been terrorising villagers in northern Namibia, chasing and attacking goats, dogs and other domestic animals.

In what appears to be a strange hybrid of a dog and a pig, the beast is said to be mostly white in appearance with a canine-like head and an almost hairless, broad and round body of a giant swine.

Villagers and tribesman in the arid region near the Kalahari desert have resorted to arming themselves and travelling in groups in case they encounter the aggressive animal, it has been reported.

Terrorised: The strange animal has been spotted by villagers and tribesman in northern NamibiaTerrorised: The strange animal has been spotted by villagers and tribesman in northern Namibia

Some have claimed the animal is a sign of black magic at work in the area.

According to the MSNBC website, Namibian official Andreas Mundjindi told the Informante newspaper: ‘This is an alien animal that the people have not seen before.

‘We don’t have a forest here, only bushes. So, this must be black magic at play.’

There are now concerns this could lead to a witch hunt, after some locals claimed the animal was the pet of an old man rumoured to be a warlock.

Predator: The beast has been seen chasing and attacking other domestic animals in the arid region not far from the Kalahari desert (pictured)Predator: The beast has been seen chasing and attacking other domestic animals in the arid region not far from the Kalahari desert (pictured)

While far-fetched, claims that the beast is linked with black magic are unsurprising.

A survey two years ago by Gallup revealed that many throughout sub-Saharan Africa believed in magic, witchcraft and sorcery.

Several other ‘monsters’ have been reported in rural areas of Namibia in recent years, including in 2009 when locals believed mysterious creatures were sucking the blood out of livestock, leaving dog-like footprints at the scene.


Wounded British journalist smuggled from Syria

Post 2.410

Wounded British journalist smuggled from Syria

Associated Press By BEN HUBBARD | Associated Press – 3 hrs ago

On this Thursday, Feb. 22, 2012 file image from amateur video made available by Shaam News Network purports to show Paul Conroy of the Sunday Times, laying wounded, in a makeshift clinic in Homs, Syri

On this Thursday, Feb. 22, 2012 file image from amateur video made available by Shaam News Network purports to show Paul Conroy of the Sunday Times, laying wounded, in a makeshift clinic in Homs, Syria. Two activist groups said on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012, that Conroy has been smuggled to neighboring Lebanon. The Syrian opposition group Local Coordination Committees and global group Avaaz said that Paul Conroy was the only foreign journalist to escape to Lebanon. American Marie Colvin and Frenchman Remi Ochlik were killed in the same attack and their bodies are still in Syria. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network via Associated Press Television News) THE ASSOCIATED PRESS CANNOT INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE CONTENT, DATE, LOCATION OR AUTHENTICITY OF THIS MATERIAL

BEIRUT (AP) — A wounded British photographer who had been trapped in the besieged Syrian city of Homs was spirited safely into Lebanon on Tuesday in a risky journey that killed 13 rebels who helped him escape the relentless shelling and gunfire.

A Syrian diplomat stormed out of an emergency U.N. meeting amid renewed calls for a cease-fire to deliver humanitarian aid. A top human rights official said a U.N. panel’s report concluded that members of the Damascus regime were responsible for “crimes against humanity.”

The United Nations said the death toll in the 11-month uprising against authoritarian President Bashar Assad was well over 7,500, and activists reported more than 250 dead in the past two days alone — mostly from government shelling in Homs and Hama province.

People carry the body of Mohammed al-Mnawi who was allegedly killed by the Syrian security forces on Saturday as they shout anti-government slogans during his funeral in Kfar Suseh area, Damascus, Syr

People carry the body of Mohammed al-Mnawi who was allegedly killed by the Syrian security forces on Saturday as they shout anti-government slogans during his funeral in Kfar Suseh area, Damascus, Syria, Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012. (AP Photo)

Tunisia’s president — the first since the country’s own Arab Spring uprising toppled his predecessor — offered the Syrian leader asylum as part of a negotiated peace, an offer Assad will almost surely refuse.

The harrowing ordeal of British photographer Paul Conroy, who was wounded with a French colleague last week by government rockets that killed two others, has drawn focus to the siege of Homs, which has emerged as the center of the anti-Assad uprising.

Hundreds have been killed in the city, parts of which the army has surrounded and shelled daily for more than three weeks. Many have died while venturing outside to forage for food, and activists have posted videos online of homes reduced to rubble and alleyways rendered no-go zones by snipers.

Conroy’s escape was the first sign of relief for a group of Western journalists who sneaked into Syria illegally and reached the embattled Homs neighborhood of Baba Amr only to find themselves trapped. Government rockets bombarded the makeshift media center they shared with activists last week, killing two of them and injuring Conroy and French reporter Edith Bouvier. Conroy and Bouvier later appeared in activist videos lying on makeshift hospital beds, pleading for help.

Conroy crossed the border into neighboring Lebanon after leaving Homs on Sunday evening, according to the global activist group Avaaz, which said it organized the evacuation with local activists.

The group said 35 Syrians volunteered to help get the journalists out and 13 were killed in the operation.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy retracted an earlier statement that Bouvier had also made it to Lebanon. He said he had been “imprecise” due to the complexities of the situation.

“It is not confirmed that Madame Bouvier is today safe in Lebanon,” he said.

The journalists believed to still be in the neighborhood are Frenchman William Daniels and Spaniard Javier Espinosa. In addition, the bodies of American Marie Colvin and French photographer Remi Ochlik, who were killed last week, are thought to be still in the neighborhood.

Syria’s conflict started in March 2011, when protesters inspired by the uprisings that ousted dictators in Tunisia and Egypt took to the street in impoverished hinterlands to call for Assad’s downfall. As his troops have used increasing force to try to stop the unrest, the protests have spread, and some demonstrators have taken up arms to protect themselves or attack the regime.

U.N. political chief B. Lynn Pascoe said “well over” 7,500 people have died in Syria’s violence and that there are credible reports that more than 100 civilians are dying daily. Activist groups said Monday the death toll for 11 months of unrest has surpassed 8,000.

The new U.N. death toll adds nearly 2,000 dead to last month’s toll of 5,400, suggesting an acceleration in the killing.

At a meeting in Geneva, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said the situation in Syria had deteriorated rapidly in recent weeks and called for an immediate humanitarian cease-fire.

She said her office has received reports that Syrian security forces “have launched massive campaigns of arrest.”

Pillay cited a U.N. expert panel’s report that concluded Syrian government officials were responsible for “crimes against humanity” committed by security forces against opposition members. The crimes included shelling civilians, executing deserters and torturing detainees. Some opposition groups, too, had committed gross abuses, the report said.

The panel has compiled a confidential list of top-level Syrian officials who could face prosecution over the atrocities.

Pillay reiterated her call for Syria to be referred to the International Criminal Court “in the face of the unspeakable violations that take place every moment.”

“More than at any other time, those committing atrocities in Syria have to understand that the international community will not stand by and watch this carnage and that their decisions and the actions they take today ultimately will not go unpunished,” she said.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, testifying in the Senate on Tuesday, said Assad fits the definition of a war criminal, but she stopped short of saying the international community should make that designation and level charges, pointing out that such a step is often a disincentive for leaders to step down.

Syria’s U.N. ambassador in Geneva, Fayssal al-Hamwi accused members of the U.N. Human Rights Council of promoting terrorism and prolonging the crisis by organizing the debate on the situation in his country.

Al-Hamwi denounced a planned resolution on Syria as “malicious and prejudiced,” and then said his delegation would withdraw from what he called “this sterile discussion.” He then stormed out of the room.

Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe, the U.S. representative to the 47-nation council, called al-Hamwi’s comments “delusional.”

“Anybody who heard the Syrian ambassador should be aware that his comments were borderline out of touch with reality,” she told reporters.

The U.N. said former Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the new U.N. special envoy to Syria, will meet in New York on Wednesday with current U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon.

Tunisia’s first post-revolution president, Moncef Marzouki, said he would offer Assad asylum as part of a negotiated end to the conflict. But Assad, who blames the uprising on Islamist extremists and armed gangs, is unlikely to accept the offer.

Conroy’s surprise arrival in Lebanon was celebrated by his family and British officials, who said they were trying to repatriate him.

“I have spoken to Paul this morning and he sounded in good spirits,” Conroy’s wife Kate Conroy said in a statement. “The family are overjoyed and relieved that he is safe and look forward to getting him home.”

She told The Associated Press by phone that she wouldn’t comment further for fear of jeopardizing the safety of those still attempting to leave.

Conroy, 47, and a father of three, is “in good shape and good spirits,” said his employer, The Sunday Times.

Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague said Conroy was “safely in Lebanon, where he is receiving full consular assistance.”

Britain’s ambassador to Lebanon, Tom Fletcher, said in a message on his Twitter account that Conroy’s experience was “a chilling testimony to what families in Homs (are) experiencing.”

The French reporter Daniels was last seen in an amateur video posted by activists last week, standing next to Bouvier, who was lying on a couch. He appeared uninjured. Bouvier works for Le Figaro.

Espinosa, who works for El Mundo, last sent a tweet Sunday that linked to a photo he said was from the Baba Amr neighborhood, showing blood pooled in a gutter.

Spain’s Foreign Ministry said it is trying to help to evacuate Espinosa. The newspaper said it does not know if he is injured and last spoke to him Monday.


Associated Press writers Elaine Ganley in Paris, Frank Jordans in Geneva, Bouazza Ben Bouazza in Tunis, Tunisia, Donna Cassata in Washington, and Anita Snow at the United Nations contributed to this report.


Simon Cowell Talks Paula, Cheryl, “The Voice,” His “Super Final” Idea…and Jedward

Post 2.409

Simon Cowell Talks Paula, Cheryl, “The Voice,” His “Super Final” Idea…and Jedward

By Lyndsey Parker | Reality RocksFri, Feb 24, 2012 11:03 PM EST

photo: Fox

“The X Factor” Season 2 open auditions are underway at www.thexfactorusa.com, but right now the general public is more interested in what went down right after Season 1–like the shocking firing of judges Paula Abdul, Nicole Scherzinger, and, long before that, Cheryl Cole, along with the somewhat less shocking firing of host Steve Jones. And looking to the next season, which debuts this fall, viewers are curious about who will replace all these ousted cast members–and if the retooled show will be able to compete with “American Idol” and, perhaps more importantly, “The Voice.”

In a new interview with Reality Rocks, “X Factor” honcho Simon Cowell addresses these tough issues. How did Paula take the news of her pink-slipping? Does he still feel bad about what went down with Cheryl? Is he at all threatened by “Idol” and “The Voice”–and was he really serious about that “super final” idea? Is he surprised (or annoyed) that “Idol” survived, even thrived, without him? He answers all this and more.

Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul (Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

And, even more excitingly, he addresses my entirely serious suggestion that “X Factor U.K.” stars Jedward be hired to host the American version of the show next season. Remember, you read about that idea here first!

REALITY ROCKS: So I know you are recasting “The X Factor,” and word is you’re going to have two hosts, not one, next season. Can I make a suggestion for who you should hire?

SIMON COWELL: Sure, go ahead.


SIMON: [Laughs] Brilliant! You know what, Lyndsey? Stranger things have happened. That is a very, very funny suggestion. I am thinking about it…they are hilarious, those two. What started off as a joke…I mean, my God, the joke’s on us now! These guys are now multimillionaires. That is a very funny suggestion; I will genuinely put that in the pool. And if it happens, I will give you credit.

REALITY ROCKS: Deal! Okay, in all seriousness now, you’re not just replacing the “X Factor” host, but two of the show’s judges. Was there a specific moment during “The X Factor” Season 1 when you thought, “This isn’t working out”? When you realized you’d have to wipe the slate clean?

SIMON: No, I was happy with the show last year. I was kind of thinking this year, as we all were, what the marketplace was going to be like in a year’s time. And what we anticipated was a big competition between us and “American Idol,” plus the chance that “The Voice” may compete with us in the fall. Plus the change in the music scene, which is we predicted that pop music was going to make a big comeback–you’re definitely going see that starting with One Direction, who ironically were on the U.K. “X Factor,” a boy band who could debut at number one on the album charts in a couple weeks’ time. This is just the beginning, so the show was really gearing up to take all of that into account. And the thing with Paula in particular was that the network felt was that it was still too similar to what we had done on “Idol,” and they wanted to separate the shows further. So it’s sad that we’re losing them, but you hope that the changes will overall make the show do better this year, because that’s all we were thinking about.

REALITY ROCKS: You say that the concern with having Paula Abdul on “The X Factor” was it made the show too similar to “Idol.” But wasn’t that the whole idea–that having you two together again on television would play into the nostalgia of fans who missed your old “Idol” era?

SIMON: Well, that was the idea. And I loved being back with Paula again. We had a fantastic time, and I had to speak to her on the night [the firings were] announced. But she was very, very gracious and cool and very grown-up about it. But the network felt quite strongly; they wanted to say that those days of me being associated with “Idol” are over and it’s time to see something brand-new.

REALITY ROCKS: The original plan with “The X Factor USA” was to have two hosts, with Nicole Scherzinger hosting alongside Steve Jones, before Nicole became a judge to replace another old associate of yours, Cheryl Cole, who was let go early on. Do you ever wonder how the show would have panned out if you’d just kept Cheryl as a judge and Nicole as a host?

Nicole Scherzinger

Picture of Cheryl Cole


SIMON: You know what, I’ve got absolutely no idea. I can’t even speculate on what it would have been like, how it would have been different. I mean, it’s still sad now that it ended up the way it did with Cheryl. But I’ve produced shows for long enough that you’ve just got to have broad shoulders when you make decisions like that. And if you made the wrong decision, you take the blame for it. I don’t know if it was the right decision or the wrong decision [to fire Cheryl], but I was part of that decision and I was sad for her. But you know what? Cheryl is a tough cookie, and she looks back on the time she spent within the U.K. show as an important time in her life. She’s now moved on, she’s still a star and always will be, and we’re all going to move on.

REALITY ROCKS: You’ve been accused of, or portrayed as, being some sort of backstabber, for firing “loyal friends” like Paula and Cheryl. How do you respond to that?

SIMON: There are people who are going to feel that way. I would counter that by saying that [Paula and Cheryl] worked with us on shows for a long time, I’ve supported them, and everyone’s made a lot of money out of it! [Chuckles] So look at it in the real world: That is show business. I don’t make these decisions on my own. Of course, you can fight for people, but you don’t always win the battle. I had to really, really push to get Paula on the show on the first year and I’m glad she did it, as I think it’s been good for her. She’s going to go on now to other things, so it’s slightly unfair for people to say that about me. Because on the back of what we’ve done for these people, they have massive opportunities ahead of them.

REALITY ROCKS: There are a lot of rumored judge replacements out there. What qualities are you looking for in the new judges you eventually hire?

SIMON: Well, initially it has to be someone who wants to be on the show and isn’t doing it just for a paycheck, because that doesn’t work. They really, really have to be committed to actually finding a star, and when they find one, committed to working with them on a weekly basis, because that’s what were paying [the judges] for. And they have to know that the public are going be interested in seeing a different side of them that they’ve never seen before–which I find the most interesting thing, when you put a pop star on a panel, and you’ve really only seen them in interviews before and it’s been slightly one-dimensional. I try to make the decisions based on who the public is interested in hearing from, and then, can they do their job? And like I said, people who aren’t just doing it to get paid a lot of money.

REALITY ROCKS: One issue I have with the judges on “The X Factor” is their favoritism–their unwillingness to vote off one of their own team members for the good of the show, even if their team member was clearly not as good in a sing-off. I think you need a tough judge who has the guts to do that.

SIMON: One-hundred percent! I’ve done that, and I would do it again. But you know, it’s like what you were talking to me about before, about people saying I’m disloyal: God, when you do that on the show, you get it in the neck! Big time! But I would say that to all the judges, and I would definitely do it. If I didn’t think someone should be there and someone else is better, 100 percent, I would kick off my own act.

REALITY ROCKS: That makes sense–it’s your show, and your record label, so obviously you want the best person to win.

SIMON: Well, yeah, that’s the whole idea about making the show, you know. The right person should win.

REALITY ROCKS: Much ado has been made about the fact that “Idol’s” ratings are in decline this year. Do you think that bodes well for “The X Factor”–as in, maybe people are tiring of “Idol” and want to move on to a new show–or does it bode badly, because it might mean people are coming down with singing-competition fatigue in general?

SIMON: I think with any of these shows, it’s been going on for a long time. If you had said to me 11 years ago that “Idol” would still be number one most weeks, I’d go, “Yeah, right.” Most shows don’t last that long, so I still think they’ve done fine. In terms of “The X Factor,” we replaced “Idol” in the U.K., and every year the U.K. show went on, it got better and it just got bigger and bigger and bigger. And I do believe–otherwise I wouldn’t bother doing it–that that’s what is going to happen with the U.S. show over the years. You make better shows, you get more interesting contestants. So I’m feeling more confident this year than I was last year, because last year we were going into the unknown, and I didn’t know if anyone would accept a new singing contest. But the people who watched it really liked the show, and with the shows I think we’re going to make, you’ll definitely see a better show. There are some changes which our competitors don’t know about yet, which is going to make us look different to them as well.

REALITY ROCKS: Be honest, did you think “Idol” would crumble without you? And that all of “Idol’s” viewers would migrate over to “The X Factor” once you left? There was a time when I totally predicted that myself…

SIMON: No, because I had a long relationship with Fox and we really got on well, and I spoke to them about this because they wanted me to stay. And I said, “I can look you in the eye and say I genuinely think ‘Idol’ is going do fine without me; it’ll be a different show, but the advantage is the show will still do well and now you’ll have a brand-new show in the fall, where you didn’t have one at all before. So this is win-win for you guys.” Looking at the history of what happened in the U.K., I did believe, and I still do believe, that over time, “The X Factor” will do better than “American Idol”–otherwise I wouldn’t have left it. There’s no way I would’ve left “American Idol” if I thought we were always going to be second to everyone else. It’s just not in my nature. I work tirelessly until I get to that point, and then work even harder when I do. You have to have that belief, in other words.

REALITY ROCKS: One thing I think sets “The X Factor” apart from “Idol” is it is less whitewashed. In recent seasons, R&B and African-American contestants have been shockingly under-represented on “Idol”; this year, there are only three black contestants, who sing R&B, in the entire top 24. But R&B and hip-hop were well-represented on “The X Factor” last year.

SIMON: Well, to be honest, we never really go into it going, “We’re going to end up with this percentage.” We base it purely on talent. And Astro, for instance, was there because we just thought he was super-talented. No other show had put something like him on, but thought we could make him look great on the show, which we did. But I go into it this year with a completely open mind. I mean, I was always accused by some of the people at “Idol” that I hate country music. I don’t listen to it, but when Carrie Underwood came onto the show, I was the first person to say, from the get-go, that this girl was going to sell more records than any of the previous contestants. Because I do know stars. I could care less if she was singing country or pop; she was a star. So I’m open to all genres of music, but it will always be based on, can you sell records? That’s the only criteria, and you never know what mix you are going to end up with. I like to think we’re about as open-minded as you can possibly get.

REALITY ROCKS: Speaking of being open-minded, I was surprised that you tweeted that you’d be open to doing a “super final” between the winners of “The X Factor,” “The Voice,” and “American Idol.” It seemed to fly in the face of your opinion about “World Idol” years ago, which you said you didn’t like because it turned winners into losers.

SIMON: Well, first of all, the “World Idol” show was terrible. I mean, it was just a horrible show, it just looked awful. Secondly, none of the contestants had really signed up for that, and I don’t think everyone was particularly happy to be put in that situation. And of course, it was the same brand; it was all “Idol.” What I thought was interesting [with the “super final” idea] was that since everyone was already really competitive, “Idol” and “The Voice” and of course “X Factor,” I thought it would be a really interesting challenge to see if they would be up to backing their talent against our talent. And I think the audience would love it. I was thinking that it’s just another level of competition, which could actually help all the shows, because there’s more exposure. But it was probably the most negative reaction to an idea that I’ve ever had! But interestingly, not from the networks. The networks, I think, are probably more pro my idea. And then you have to talk to the guys who actually own the formats, which I haven’t yet, to see if they’d be interested or not. And then, you might see a change of heart.

REALITY ROCKS: So if the current champs–Melanie Amaro, Scotty McCreery, and Javier Colon–competed against each other, who do you think would win?

SIMON: I would put my money on either Melanie or Scotty. I mean, they’re both brilliant. But like I said, because they didn’t sign up for that, I don’t think that would be fair. I think it would be more fun this year because we don’t know who the winner is of “Idol” or “The Voice” or “X Factor.” If all the contestants bought into it now and they liked the idea, then it would be exciting. But all I was trying to do was add another element to what was going on there, make things a bit more exciting and competitive. Because interestingly, I love the fact that “The Voice” has come out and done well.


SIMON: Yeah, I really do! Because I think it’s made us more excited about the fact that we’ve got to work even harder than before. And that you can’t be complacent. So I have a lot of respect for what “The Voice” has done, and I know the producer of that show–he’s a really, really nice guy–and we take everything in good spirit.

Investigators may have discovered earliest evidence of Christian iconography in Jerusalem

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Investigators may have discovered earliest evidence of Christian iconography in Jerusalem

By Eric Pfeiffer http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/sideshow/investigators-may-discovered-earliest-evidence-christian-iconography-jerusalem-231736336.html

The newly discovered ossuary which appears to contain a reference to the biblical prophet Jonah (James Tabor/U …


Investigators using a robotic arm equipped with a remote-controlled camera have discovered what is being called the earliest evidence of Christian iconography in Jerusalem.

The newly discovered ossuary carries a Greek inscription calling on God to “raise up” someone, which  is being interpreted as an early reference to the biblical resurrection  of Jesus.

A second limestone box appears to show the carved image of a fish,  which may be a reference to the biblical prophet Jonah. This would be a  historical first, as references to the resurrection had not previously  been discovered before the 2nd century.

“If anyone had claimed to find either a statement about resurrection or a Jonah image in a Jewish tomb of this period I would have said impossible — until now,” University of North Carolina scholar James Tabor said in a statement. “Our team was in a kind of ecstatic disbelief, but the evidence was clearly before our eyes, can

using us to revise our prior assumptions.”

The newly discovered ossuary (James Tabor/UNCC)

As significant as this discovery is, it may itself be buried under renewed discussion over the potential discovery of a tomb inscribed with the names of the biblical Jesus and his family. The investigators, lead by University of North Carolina scholar Tabor, are the same team who five years ago claimed to have made “The Jesus Discovery.”

“This does reopen the whole question about the ‘Jesus Tomb,” Tabor told MSNBC. Yahoo News contacted Tabor, but is still waiting for a response.

In addition to his efforts on the “The Jesus Discovery,” Tabor is also working on a new translation of the Bible, known as the Original Bible Project. He contributed to a controversial TV documentary called, “The Lost Tomb of Jesus,” which received significant attention at the time of its release, since it was produced in partnership with Academy Award winning director James Cameron.

The new discovery is actually part of an earlier finding made by Tabor and his team. However, the Israeli government shut down the initial investigation due to protests from local religious groups. A house was built on top of the excavation site, which is now referred to as the “Patio Tomb,” because a patio literally rests on top of the site. Tabor and his team were finally able to receive cooperation from the Israeli government by using the robotic technology to explore underneath the site.

“This inscription has something to do with resurrection of the dead, either of the deceased in the ossuary, or perhaps, given the Jonah image nearby, an expression of faith in Jesus’ resurrection,” Tabor said in the statement, referring to the “raise up” inscription on the ossuary.

“We now have the new archaeological evidence, literally written in stone, that can guide us in properly understanding what Jesus’ earliest followers meant by their faith in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead — with his earthly remains, and those of his family, peacefully interred just yards away,” Tabor and Jacobovici wrote.

However, skeptics say that Tabor is attempting to connect circumstantial evidence to his larger theory of the so-called Jesus Tomb.

“The attempt to connect [the Patio Tomb] to the other tombs is sheer conjecture, unless the tombs were connected,” Ben Witherington, a New Testament scholar at Asbury Theological Seminary, told MSNBC.

Woman battles for 3 hours to save her stuck horse from rising tide

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Woman battles for 3 hours to save her stuck horse from rising tide


Newspix via Rex USA

Nicole Graham holds her horse Astro’s head above the rising tide after he got stuck in the mud.

This is a truly amazing tale that involves a woman, a horse, and a group of dedicated rescuers on a beach in Australia.

A woman was out for an afternoon ride with her daughter when her horse suddenly sunk neck deep into the thick mud of Avalon Beach in Geelong, Victoria. What followed, reports Newspix, was a grueling three-hour rescue caught in photos. As Nicole Graham held the head of 18-year-old Astro from drowning in the rising tide, members of the fire department, emergency services, and a vet attempted to free the 1,100-pound horse. First they tried using fire hoses, then a winch. Making little progress, the vet, Stacey Sullivan, sedated him so that he could be pulled out with a tractor.

Throughout it all, Graham stayed waist high in the mud, calming the horse through every attempt and holding his nose above the water. Luckily they were able to pull him clear before the tide came in.

See the incredible rescue unfold in these photos.

Newspix via Rex USA

Members of the fire department and the emergency services try to free the 1,100 pound horse with fire hoses, then a winch. Making little progress, vet Stacey Sullivan decides to sedate him and pull him clear with a tractor.

Newspix via Rex USA

Astro tries to pull himself out of the mud after his front legs are clear.

Newspix via Rex USA

Headed home! Graham and the rescuers lead Astro away from the beach after he was finally freed of the mud.

— This was posted by TODAY.com producer Lisa Granshaw. She loves seeing animal stories with happy endings!