Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Marrakech, Morocco
Divided into the historical city and the new city, Morocco is age-old, mysterious and full of sensory experiences. The actual sights provide your first culture shock, as they appear before you like something out of One Thousand and One Arabian Nights. Go to the central square, Djemaa el Fna, to see snake charmers, fortune-tellers, fire-eaters, acrobats, and dancers performing on the dusty terracotta floor. Just off this arena are a network of alleys crammed with market stalls selling every herb and spice you could ever think of; in fact, the hundreds of different smells can be overwhelming for the uninitiated.What’s more, in the West we pay what’s on the price tag, but in Marrakech it’s the norm to haggle. The vendors can be quite pushy and in-your-face too, which is an intimidating experience for those who are used to doing their shopping at Macy’s.While you certainly wouldn’t go out alone at night or allow little ones to wonder free in Marrakech, isn’t that the same of most cities? Incredible and inspiring, Marrakech is worth the unexpected assault to your senses

Bangkok, Thailand
A huge, sweltering city in Thailand, Bangkok shouldn’t just be your stopover on the way to Phuket. If you can stomach the intense heat and the sheer amount of people, it’s worth staying for a couple of days to check out the sights, such as the Grand Palace and the Floating Market.Underneath all the culture, however, is a thriving sex industry and a network of scamming that is shocking to the average Westerner. While the age of consent for sex here is 15, the age is raised to 18 in the case of prostitutes. Many Westerners have gotten into trouble over this, particularly because in most Western countries the age of consent is 16.

Indeed, Bangkok is a minefield when it comes to what you can do and what you can’t and the punishments are harsh for lawbreakers, particularly Western ones. What’s more, while the policy on drugs in the Western world is increasingly lapse, those found with illegal substances on their person better find themselves a good lawyer or face a lifetime in a cockroach-infested Thai slammer. High-class nightclub-goers should also be prepared for the occasional police raid and drug test.

Cape Town, South Africa

Crowned by Tabletop Mountain, Cape Town is the legislative capital of South Africa and is a hub of contemporary hotels, trendy restaurants, funky bars, and white-sand beaches. Little by little, Cape Town is becoming the Miami of the African continent. Despite its sleek facade, however, Westerners must remember that Cape Town is part of Africa, one of the most violent locales on Earth. When you leave Cape Town and explore the townships, you should always be accompanied by a resident; wandering alone will only raise suspicion amongst the locals and cause unnecessary uneasiness. Whenever possible, opt for official township tours. When strolling through the town, also be sure to leave your valuables, such as large amounts of cash, jewelery, passports, and paperwork, at the hotel. Indeed, the biggest culture shock here is a subtle sense of discomfort; the city’s people never know when a bout of violence will come.

Havana, Cuba

Still a socialist state, Havana is known for its open-top classic cars, its potent mojitos and its racy salsa bars. To Westerners, it sounds like the recipe for the perfect getaway, but be prepared to deal with some cultural differences in this 1950s-inspired time warp. As a totalitarian police state, the first shock you’ll come across is that the police are everywhere, which can be intimidating for the first-time visitor. Fear not, Havana is a relatively safe place to explore, probably because of the intense police presence.Other than that, American tourists may be surprised that there aren’t loads of U.S. visitors; while Cuba reopened to tourism in the 1990s, the U.S. government still maintains a near total ban. Nevertheless, if you can fly from somewhere else, such as Canada, Mexico or the Bahamas, the opportunity to experience a taste of Latin America is just 90 miles from the pristine shores of Miami.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

As a romantic city characterized by gorgeous architecture, and crisscrossing canals and trams, what could possibly be shocking about the culture in Amsterdam? Despite its fairytale Heidi-esque image, those who aren’t at a bachelor party may be shocked to discover that anything goes in Amsterdam. The underground is brought up to street-level with coffeeshops (all one word) openly selling marijuana and tourists openly smoking it.It’s not only drugs that’ll rock you either -- sex here is unashamed, in-your-face and right around the corner in Amsterdam’s very own red-light district. While prostitution is limited to a couple of streets, there are peep- and sex-show bars galore to feast your sinful eyes on. And if that’s not shocking enough, the oldest church in Amsterdam, the Oude Kerk, is surrounded by window-prostitution where hookers dance provocatively in the window displays. These facts alone earned Amsterdam a place on our top 10 list of culture-shock cities.

Cairo, Egypt
Sprawled beside the River Nile, Cairo, Egypt’s capital, is a place buzzing with 15 million inhabitants. It’s a contradictory city with the sound of prayer competing with loud Euro-trash music and loud students mocking the political police armed with machine guns. Here, you’ll be able to take in the world-famous pyramids at Giza, the Sphinx, nearby Saqqara, and the Egyptian Museum, as well as a host of other national treasures. Despite its sun-kissed, touristy facade, you’ll have to watch yourself here; any controversial anti-Islamic remarks will have you thrown in the nearest clink before you can beg for forgiveness. Women also have to respect that Cairo is a religious city and dress accordingly, and both genders need to remove their shoes before entering a mosque. The most shocking difference in Cario, however, is that men and women aren’t permitted to touch each other in the public sphere. For loved-up honeymooners, this can be quite the passion-killer

Beijing, China

With seemingly every product made in China, it’s hardly surprising that the capital of Beijing is one of the most populated cities on earth. A blur of people, cars, bicycles, neon lights, shantytowns, and skyscrapers, it can be shockingly disorientating for the Western traveler. Those who aren’t used to Eastern city life may also be shocked by the sheer amount of pollution in the air, with many of the city’s pedestrians wearing surgical face masks as they go about their daily business.The driving is crazy too, and reckless driving is commonplace. Crossing the large streets can prove a terrifying ordeal for the Westerner, so make sure you use zebra crossings and make your way to the other side with a large crowd; drivers here won’t stop for you and often anticipate a green light before it happens. With so many moving sights and deafening sounds, Beijing can be difficult to digest, hence its placement on our culture-shock cities list

Delhi, India
Random, chaotic and aggressive, Delhi is the living and breathing soul of India. From the noisy city streets of Old Delhi, where undisciplined traffic weaves in and out of seemingly invisible lanes, to the wide boulevards and manicured gardens of imperial New Delhi, the country’s capital is a melting pot of overwhelming sights and sounds, landing it at No. 8 on our culture-shock cities list. Roads are often left half-finished with big manholes and ditches to watch out for, while no two neighborhoods look the same.We don’t recommend checking into the nearest Hilton, but travelers certainly shouldn’t come here on a shoestring budget. Comfort doesn’t come cheap in a place like Delhi and a lean life here is a lot leaner than elsewhere in the world. Where possible, travel by foot, train or taxi; most buses aren’t air-conditioned and the sweltering 104-degree climate can make traveling in them almost unbearable.

Food is an experience unto itself here too; the curry is different to the Westernized kind you’ll find back home, brimming with spices that’ll blow your head off. Women who visit can also expect to be harassed, either with lewd remarks or by inappropriate touching; to avoid this, it is recommended they dress conservatively. Alien, but altogether fascinating, Delhi’s unruly nature will steal your heart

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Otherwise known as the Kingdom, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, may as well be on another planet -- like so many of our top 10 culture-shock cities. As Saudi Arabia’s capital city, it’s a sprawling metropolis in the searing desert heat, with cutting-edge skyscrapers placed alongside traditional Arabic architecture. As a conservative Muslim city -- more so than Jeddah or Dhahran -- the biggest culture shock you’ll come across here is the lack of individual freedom, particularly for women, who always wear the abaya to cover themselves.When you walk around the city’s malls and residential areas, you’ll come across the religious police, or muttawa, who patrol the streets to make sure the rules of conduct are followed in regards to behavior, clothing and the like. At night, party animals can forget hitting the clubs Dubai-style; drinking alcohol here is strictly prohibited and the security situation makes it almost impossible to really cut loose and relax. Actually, there aren’t any bars or discos in the entire city. A reflection of times gone by for most Westerners, Riyadh must be seen to be believed

Moscow is the historic heart of Russia, brimming with art and architecture. With towering spires and designer shops galore, it has come a long way since the days of the Iron Curtain. Nevertheless, the red city can seem sterile and cold to the Westerner because of its the lack of tourist-friendly conveniences. While luxury goods exist at every turn, finding something as simple as batteries can be a challenge.The same kind of ambivalence can be found on the streets, where well-heeled businessmen and their young brides step out for an evening at the opera at the Bolshoi Theatre, while a beggar huddles in a corner with an outstretched palm. While the Russians aren’t the xenophobes they’re made out to be, they certainly don’t have a welcoming air; like Russian dolls, the people in this city have many layers. Often corrupt, the police here will stop groups of minorities for the simple reason they are minorities. Don’t expect political correctness to be on the agenda here. While this isn’t Disney World by any stretch of the imagination, Moscow is one of the most beautiful, cultured and historic culture-shock cities on earth


Location: Baghdad, Iraq

Details: The once vibrant city has been brought to its knees by years of Saddam Hussein's dictatorship and damage from the Gulf War. Since the U.S. invasion, lootings, robberies, kidnappings, and assaults have been rife, but it is the daily slaughter of troops, journalists and civilians that terrify people the most. Although a physical curfew has been lifted, a psychological one still remains and the streets have been left largely deserted.
Location: Dhaka, Bangladesh
Details: Despite enduring political instability, military suppression and devastation from war and natural disaster, the capital of Bangladesh faces a new crisis over critically high pollution levels. Rapid industrial development has filled the city with so much smog it is causing environmental damage, particularly with the 9.7 million tons of waste dumped in the river by the city each year. It is only a matter of time before disease takes hold.

Location: Yakutsk, Russia
Details Officially the coldest place on earth, with temperatures often dropping to a hypothermia-inducing -58°F, and if it drops below this (which it often does), children get the day off school. Visibility in this city of ice and snow isn't good either; a thick fog often reduces visibility to no more than 10 meters in front of you. Another hellish aspect of Yakutsk is its sheer isolation; a whole six time zones away from Moscow, there's definitely no chance of anyone hearing you scream in this hell on earth.

Location: Mogadishu, East Africa

Details Rebel forces took the city in 1990 and since then there has been a power struggle between Mohammed Ali Mahdi and Mohammed Farah Aidid. In 1992, a rebel war destroyed much of the city with thousands of casualties, and a badly timed drought induced nationwide famine. Despite the city practically closing down, confusion over the head of state continues today and Mogadishu is largely lawless, with no structure of real peacekeeping present.

Location: Chernobyl, Ukraine

Details: Famed for a nuclear explosion that tore through the city in 1986 and contaminated most of its living organisms, Chernobyl is certainly not the kind of place you'd like to vacation in. In fact, most people here would do pretty much anything to escape the toxicity that oozes from its every pore. Having experienced the worst nuclear accident in history, the city has never recovered and probably never will. Everything is still largely abandoned and remains as it was 20 years ago, with hundreds of miles of uninhabitable space, deserted buildings and poisoned lakes and rivers.

Location: Pyongyang, North Korea

Details: Still in the throes of communism, the city is so oppressed you just might scream. While its modern-day facade may look like any other Western city, underneath it's entirely autocratic. Radios and TVs have only one channel, which broadcasts special programs controlled by the government; premarital sex is unheard of; bicycles are banned as part of a political regime to restrict movement and interaction amongst people; and reports suggest (although the government denies) that individuals need permission to travel outside of the city.

Location: Bujumbura, Republic of Burundi

Details: With the lowest GDP per capita in the world, Burundi is the poorest country on the planet and is scarred by a history of genocide, mass killing and assassinated political leaders. Not only that, but a pool of 178 countries found that Burundi's people had the poorest satisfaction of life in the world. Curfews are enforced in its capital, Bujumbura, and let's just say that fighting between rebel forces and the government doesn't just play out in parliament.

Location: Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea

Details: This is the "worst place to live in the world," according to a 2004 vote by the Economist's Intelligence Unit. Over 115 new HIV and AIDS cases are diagnosed every month at Port Moresby General Hospital. With the population expanding at an uncontrollable rate, income levels have plummeted, and cases of rape, robbery and murder have reached new heights (the murder rate is 23 times that of London). Don't worry if you don't have time to pick up some souvenirs -- you'll almost certainly have picked up a disease or two to take home with you.

Location: Linfen, China
Details: Once voted by Time Magazine as the most polluted city ever, Linfen, is very sooty and dark. Located in a 12-mile industrial belt, and affected by the 50 million tons of coal mined each year in the nearby hills of Shanxi, Linfen doesn't stand much of a chance. While the air is filled with burning coal, the streets are choking with emissions from jam-packed traffic -- there's no escape from the smog. In fact, you may as well light up and begin a 40-a-day habit -- even a surgical mask won't save you in this hell on earth.

Thursday, January 22, 2009



Judge Halts Drilling Leases in Utah
Injunction preserves 110,000 acres of wildlands
January 19, 2009
Washington, D.C. -- Today, U.S. District Court Judge Ricardo M. Urbina ruled in favor of conservation groups on a temporary injunction they filed against the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) over the leasing of more than 110,000 acres of Utah wilderness.
Earthjustice sought the injunction December 22 on behalf of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, and the Wilderness Society, and Earthjustice. The groups filed a lawsuit December 17 to stop the leasing.
The groups argued that the leases did not meet legal requirements regarding air quality analysis, the impacts of climate change, and the presence of archaeological sites. One of the contested areas, Nine Mile Canyon, is world-renowned for its remarkable rock art panels and other cultural features.
"In their rush to get these leases out the door, the Bush administration cut corners," said Robin Cooley, attorney at Earthjustice. "We are hopeful that the Obama administration will reconsider BLM's decision to sacrifice these magnificent lands to development."
"This ruling makes clear that allowing oil and gas companies to lease and drill on Utah's public lands would cause permanent and irreparable damage to some of our nation's most pristine wilderness," said Sharon Buccino, Senior Attorney for NRDC. "The case will now be heard in court, and we will do all we can to permanently protect Utah's wilderness."
The merits of the case will be heard later in 2009. Until that time, BLM is prohibited from cashing the checks issued for the contested acres of Utah wilderness.
"We're thrilled with this decision," said Stephen Bloch, Conservation Director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. "BLM's attempt to sell these leases just before the Bush administration left office has been showcases for what it really is -- a parting gift to the oil and gas industry. Judge Urbina's decision firmly puts the brakes on these plans."
The contested areas near Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, Dinosaur National Monument, and Nine Mile Canyon include lands that contain the nation's greatest density of ancient rock art and other cultural resources. These lands were recently made available to industry through hastily approved resource management plans that have serious ramifications for 3 million acres of public lands.
Robin Cooley, Earthjustice, (393) 996-9611


Obama Stops Bush's Last-Minute Regulations
Rules must be reviewed by new agency heads
January 21, 2009
Seattle, WA -- White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel Tuesday sent a memo to the heads of all executive departments and agencies, ordering a stop to all pending regulations until a legal and policy review can be conducted by the Obama administration.
A rule that would eliminate Endangered Species Act protections for wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains except for those in Wyoming was scheduled to be published on January 27. Now it will fall under review with the new administration.
Among others, the Bush administration recently finalized rules that significantly weaken the Endangered Species Act, allow for mining deposits to be dumped within 100 feet of flowing streams and exempts large-scale factory farms from notifying government officials when they release unsafe levels of toxic emissions into the community. Earthjustice, a public interest law firm, filed suit against all of these rules.
The following statement is from Patti Goldman, Vice President of Program for Earthjustice:
"While we are pleased that the new administration has put a stop to these hasty actions, there are some rules we continue to monitor.
"Under the Emanuel memo, the wolf delisting rule will be withdrawn. This rule was extremely controversial and was rushed through even though a federal district court had declared the wolf delisting illegal in July. It defied the law which prohibits a state by state listing when the wolves do not respect state boundaries.
"For the vast majority of the midnight regulations, the Bush administration got them published in time to evade the Emanuel memo's freeze. Earthjustice has brought dozens of legal challenges to Bush rollbacks, which provides the ultimate pathway to reining in the excesses of the Bush administration."
John McManus, Earthjustice, (510) 550-6707


Monday, January 19, 2009


We, the United States of America, your top quality supplier of the ideals of liberty and democracy, would like to apologize for our 2001-2008 interruption in service.

The technical fault that led to this eight-year service outage has been located, and the software responsible was replaced November 4.

Early tests of the newly installed program indicate that we are now operatingcorrectly, and we expect it to be fully functional on January 20.
We apologize for any inconvenience caused by the outage.

We look forward to resuming full service and hope to improve in years to come.

We thank you for your patience and understanding.

Friday, January 9, 2009


This terrible raw video, show the aftermath of an explosion of a bomb while stupid men parade around with live ammunition.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


Clear Quartz - A catalyst for all positive forces. This crystal acts to increase the properties of the stones placed near it. It is the miracle maker. Clear Quartz empowers, energizes and stimulates all that is good to deliver all you have earned and all that you desire.

Aventurine - For the undeniable attraction of money and the key to unlock the success you have long awaited. This stone is the true talisman of proven power to ensure money, abundance and happiness.

Tiger eye - Perfect for the enhancement of your protection and safety. This precious stone wards off the negative vibrations that can enter a home. It encourages an overwhelming sense of security as it provides you with a place of refuge.

Hematite - The precious stone known in more than eighty countries for amplifying good luck. The stone has swiftly and surely reversed the fortunes of many families facing the fear of financial difficulty. Hematite rescues, revives and restores the funds necessary to thrive... and then keeps providing money as well as constant and ever expanding riches.

Rose Quartz - A crystal that creates the perfect conditions for love, peace and harmony. Rose Quartz helps the holder prepare emotionally for the acceptance of love. This talisman brings kindness, affection and encourages a life of utter harmony.

Red Jasper - This is the guarantor of health and well-being. The precious stone sends out the perfectly balanced vibrations that enable people to live longer, enjoy life and swim in a river of happiness that comes from a sound body and rock-solid constitution.

Sodalite - Ideal for building enduring friendships and stimulating robust communication. This stone has deservedly earned a reputation as the "good marriage" engine and the ultimate bringer of warm comrades and strong companions.

Agate - The highly regarded gemstone adds wonderful and rewarding years to your life. Longevity - and health - will enable you to be surrounded by loving generations of devoted family members.

Amethyst - This beautiful stone adds a dimension of protection. It serves to forms a shield that is armor-like and impenetrable.

Jade - The bringer of wisdom. This precious stone directs you to the smart choices and savvy decisions that must be made - and the benefits to be reaped. To be wise is to rise above the troubles of the world, to see what is hidden to know what is obscured.

Carnelian - The ultimate stone for unending success. This gem touches the infinite, that place where riches without limit await, ready to be scooped up and enjoyed. This final precious stone completes the full collection that is assembled - just for