An Oregon man spent Memorial Day in jail after dialing 911 to complain that a McDonald’s worker was rude and didn’t give him an orange juice he ordered. Raibin Osman was accused of improper use of the emergency telephone number.

The Oregonian newspaper reports that the 20-year-old bailed out of the Washington County Jail on Tuesday and could not be reached for comment.

Sheriff’s Sgt. David Thompson said Osman ignored deputies who told him the emergency number isn’t to be used for straightening out fast-food orders. A McDonald’s employee also called 911 during the incident to complain that Osman and the people with him were blocking the drive-thru lane and knocking on the restaurant windows.


Far-Out Photos

May 31, 2009

5-31-2009 3-01-52 PMA woman checks out a decorated toilet during an art show on Independence Square in Kiev, Ukraine,  May 27. Organizers suggested that pedestrians sit on the toilets and think about the problems produced by the economical crisis. The event marks the 100th anniversary of the lavatory.

5-31-2009 3-09-23 PMA seven-legged Black Angus calf is seen May 21, shortly after its birth at Steamboat Veterinary Hospital in Steamboat Springs, Colo. The calf was delivered by cesarean section, but only lived for about 10 minutes. Hospital officials said the calf also had two spines but just one head.


Despite its inhospitable terrain of mountains and deserts, Afghanistan’s strategic location in the heart of central Asia has guaranteed a steady stream of invaders. During the 19th century, the British and the Russians vied for control of Himalayan mountain passes leading to India. It was during this period that Britain learned – at considerable cost — the Afghans’ reputation as fierce and hardy warriors. One hundred years later, the Soviet Union would learn the same bloody lesson before retreating in defeat.


Afghanistan is an impoverished landlocked Asian country about the size of Texas. Mountains called the Hindu Kush – up to 24,000 feet high — and vast deserts make for sharp physical contrasts and extremes in climate. Many roads are barely passable and rivers are mostly unnavigable. Two decades of warfare, first with the Soviets and then among opposing forces within Afghanistan, have left much of the country an uninhabitable wasteland. Although the geography varies widely, much of the land is dry. Afghanistan borders six countries: China, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan to the north, Pakistan to the south and east, and Iran to the west.


The population of Afghanistan is believed to be around 26 million. About 6 million people are believed to have fled the country because of famine and civil war. According to the most recent data available, grinding poverty has slashed life expectancy to around 45 years for both men and women. The three main ethnic groups are the Pashtuns, also called Pathans, Tajiks and Hazaras. Pashtuns make up 38 percent of the population, Tajiks 25 percent and Hazaras 19 percent. The Pashtuns are mainly in the central, southern and eastern part of the country, and the Tajiks are in the northeast and around Kabul and Herat. The Hazara tribe traces its origin to Mongolia and dominates the central mountain regions. Pashto, Afghan Persian and various Turkic languages — mainly Uzbek and Turkmen — are the country’s principal languages. More than 80 percent of the population is Sunni Muslim, while theremainder is Shiite Muslim.


The geographical area of present-day Afghanistan appears in Western accounts in 328 B.C. following the conquests of Alexander the Great, who seized the land from the Persian Empire. During succeeding centuries the area was occupied by the Scythians, White Huns and Turks. Arab invaders introduced Islam to the area in 642 A.D. Eventually it settled into a collection of independent communities.


Towards the middle of the 19th Century, Imperial Britain and Czarist Russia maneuvered for power among the kingdoms and caliphates of Central Asia. Their actions — a combination of exploration, alliances, and military moves and feints — became known to British players as “The Great Game.” Hoping to thwart Russian incursions into Central Asia — and protect the “jewel of the crown” – India — Britain moved into Kabul in 1839. Two years later a British envoy was killed by a mob and the British garrison retreated toward what is now Pakistan after it was assured of its safety. But ambushes and massacres by Afghan warlords obliterated the garrison of 4,500 soldiers and 12,000 civilians, leaving only one survivor. Britain retaliated and warfare raged until 1842. After a second Anglo-Afghan war, from 1878 to 1880, London put its own candidate, Amir Abdur Rahman, on the Afghan throne. During this time, the British and Russians officially established the boundaries of what would become modern Afghanistan.


King Abdur Rahman remained neutral during World War I, angering many of his subjects who wanted him to join the Axis coalition. After the assassination in 1919 of Habibullah, Rahman’s son and successor, a third son, Amanullah, launched the Third Anglo-Afghan war. Britain, exhausted from World War I, relinquished its control over Afghan foreign affairs by signing the Treaty of Rawalpindi in August 1919.


King Amanullah (1919-29) introduced several reforms such as the abolition of the traditional Muslim veil for women and the opening of a number of coeducational schools. The move alienated many tribal and religious leaders. Amanullah was abducted in January 1929 after Kabul was captured by a rival political group of ethnic Tajiks. The throne passed through several hands before Zaher Shah assumed power in 1933. He served as the king of Kabul for four decades.


King Zaher Shah and his prime minister, Shah Mahmud, promoted elections and a free press, and increased Afghanistan’s involvement in foreign relations. However, Lt. Gen. Mohammad Daud Khan seized power in 1953. Daud Khan turned to the Soviet Union for economic and military assistance, while somehow maintaining a position of neutrality during the Cold War. During his 1953-63 tenure, Daud Khan also introduced several far-reaching educational and social reforms, such as the practice of secluding women in private places. Disagreements over the Afghani-Pakistan border in 1961 led to Daud’s resignation in 1963.


After signing a bilateral treaty with Moscow in December 1978, Soviet money and military assistance poured into Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the People’s Democratic Party introduced decrees on land reform, the abolition of usury and changes in marriage customs. The new laws alienated the Kabul-based government from the Islamic traditions of the countryside. To combat insurgency, the People’s Democratic Party imprisoned members of the religious establishment as well as the Kabul intelligentsia. The crisis triggered armed revolt in the countryside, where ethnic leaders and conservative Islamic mullahs led protests. As dissatisfaction with the government grew, the People’s Democratic Party found itself increasingly reliant on Soviet aid.


After a palace shootout, Hafizullah Amin, a former prime minister and representative of a competing leftist faction, seized power from Taraki in September 1979. Meanwhile, revolts in the countryside continued unabated. A month after the coup, Amin refused to accept Soviet advice on consolidating his power in rural areas.

On Dec. 24, 1979, Soviet airborne troops landed in Kabul under the pretext of conducting field exercises. Two days later, the invading forces killed Amin and recognized Babrak Karmal as the prime minister. A massive Soviet ground invasion from the north followed on Dec. 27.


Although backed by 120,000 Soviet troops, the Karmal regime failed to establish authority outside Kabul. The presence of non-Islamic troops in Afghanistan galvanized resistance as men from throughout the Muslim world flocked to battle Moscow’s forces. The resistance fighters, known as the Mujahedeen, received substantial support in the form of weapons and training from the United States, along with Britain, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.


Unceasing Afghan resistance brought the Soviet Union to the bargaining table. The Geneva Accords, signed in 1988, created a timetable guaranteeing full Soviet withdrawal by Feb. 15, 1989. About 14,500 Soviets and an estimated 1 million Afghans lost their lives between 1979 and the Soviet withdrawal in 1989. Because the mujahedeen were not involved in negotiations, the pullout left a power vacuum in Afghanistan.


After the Soviets pulled out, the united front against Moscow collapsed. Various mujahedeen factions fought among themselves to take over Kabul, which led to the rise of the fundamentalist Islamic Taliban movement. The Taliban finally gained control over Kabul in 1996 and controlled as much as 90 percent of Afghanistan until the United States unleashed a military assault on Oct. 7, 2001, targeting alleged terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden, whom the Taliban had protected. After the fall of the Taliban, the U.S.-led coalition forces and the Northern Alliance defeated Taliban fighters and Hamid Karzai became interim president.


Under a U.N.-backed agreement, an interim administration under the leadership of Hamid Karzai took over Afghanistan in December 2001. Three years later, after two ‘loya jirga’ or grand council meetings of Afghan elders and an election on Oct. 9, 2004, Karzai was sworn in as the country’s first popularly elected president for a five-year term.

*Note from my own perspective: The Taliban is still very much in control of Afghanistan, fiercly moving to different regions using violence. Presently, Pakistan has been under turmoil from the Taliban trying to control parts of that region, forcing millions out of their homes.

Dancing in the dark

May 30, 2009

Power cuts, a shortage of kit and war damage haven’t stopped Kosovars from creating a club scene that’s gaining fans worldwide. Conor Creighton reports.


There is an electronic musician in Prishtina called Toton. He has written a track called Coca Cola, which petitions the owner of the world’s most popular beverage to buy Kosovo, paint it red, plaster the Coke logo on to everything, do whatever the company wants to the place – just, please, sort out the electricity problem. Kosovo’s entire energy supply, such as it is, comes from only two thermal power stations. “We’re probably the only electronic musicians in the world producing music without electricity,” says Toton, “Our ministers need to tighten standards so that things start working.”

Kosovo has the youngest population in Europe – 60% of Kosovars are under 25 – and also one of the continent’s most unexpectedly progressive and dynamic electronic music scenes, thanks to a small, cosmopolitan group of music producers and promoters. Spray Club, the focal point of techno in Prishtina, was included in DJ magazine’s top 100 clubs in the world, and records made by Kosovar producers get played by internationally known DJs such as Richie Hawtin. The scene is so close-knit that if you meet one DJ on a Friday night, by Sunday you’ll have clinked bottles with all of them. Promoters call each other at all hours of the night to borrow leads, cables, lights – whatever has just blown and needs immediate replacement. Small bars in the city play dubstep and techno, and bootleg white labels that haven’t reached the rest of Europe.

It all started with one song. In 1995, Josh Wink’s Higher State of Consciousness turned a generation of Kosovar punk kids on to techno. There was no money to buy equipment to replicate the song’s rush, so people improvised and assembled their own drums, amps and speakers, while putting money aside to buy proper mixing decks. They held parties in squats and abandoned buildings – parties at which drugs were rife, given the country’s position astride the supply routes between Africa, Asia and Europe. The stories go that one in four people in Prishtina dropped acid during the 90s.

Prishtina is a gloomy city except in summer. The seemingly constant rain carries ash and mineral particles, which coat all they touch, leaving everything feeling muddy. After dark, it feels as if you’re trespassing in an abandoned city. Those who were dropping acid and dancing had one way to escape the gloom, but when the fighting with Slobodan Miloševic´’s Yugoslav forces intensified in 1998, the party scene in Kosovo went on hiatus. “There was no real partying during the war,” says Toton. “It would have been a bit pointless seeing as our friends were targeted for execution or imprisoned.”

The majority of Kosovar people are ethnic Albanians; during the war, more than a million of them fled, mostly to Germany, Switzerland, the US and UK. Young people who left kept in touch by listening to Kosovo’s only independent radio station, radiourbanFM. The station began after the Nato bombings of Yugoslav targets in 1999 and acted as a soapbox for the new electronic music being created in Kosovo. Toton left his job to dedicate himself to the station, where, like many of the station’s producers and DJs, he worked for little or no money. In turn, the listeners were patient enough to not switch channels during the frequent blackouts.

In contrast to the mainstream news stations, with their reports of economic and political problems, radiourbanFM offered information about local gigs and events, and helped talk up the scene. It would eventually encourage a lot of those listening around the world to move back to Kosovo. Berna, whose friends call her Bass Face, was involved with the station from the beginning, hosting her own new music show. “It’s the only station in Kosovo where you are free to say whatever you want and can listen to underground tracks,” she says.

Berna owns a bar called Llocks, one of the few venues in Prishtina with a proper sound system; in a city where the roads need surfacing, the hospitals need beds and a tap in your home is no guarantee of running water, sound systems come a long way down the list of priorities. But Kosovars are shrewd improvisers. If a DJ wants to play, they’ll make it happen, even if that means transforming a bare bar into a venue.

Equipment gets passed around depending on who needs it, and Toton learned to mix on a set of decks he shared with half the street. “It’s what’s made the scene happen,” he explains. “Not everyone can afford to get a decent mixer or turntables.” Though he has DJed across Europe and in the US, Toton still doesn’t have a record player of his own at home.

“We make the best of whatever there is or try to provide what’s needed,” says Likatek, another Kosovar DJ who has managed to make the transition from local to international star and now runs a regular international night called Episodes. “There’s some charm to it, though, and carrying equipment everywhere helps to keep the DJs’ weight down.”

Despite the practical difficulties, Kosovo clubbers demand good music. Until a couple of years ago, many of them were going out in London, New York and Berlin, and now that they’re back home, they won’t accept a compromise on quality. Besa, who was working at the New Yorker a year ago, now runs her own publication in Prishtina. She sees the boom in DIY creativity in Kosovo as a reaction to the 90s, when the Miloševic´ government in Belgrade stamped out freedom of expression. “We had to find alternative ways to express ourselves,” she says.

These days, survival for a Kosovar electronic musician doesn’t mean fleeing repression, but getting out of the country frequently to play bigger venues and earn decent money – and that’s not easy. The visa regime requires that anyone leaving Kosovo must prove they intend to return, Officials find it hard to believe that young DJs with no savings, family obligations or regular employment will want to come back, so most Kosovar artists fall victim to a visa rejection at some stage. One day, Kosovo will probably join the EU – France, Germany and the UK all back its inclusion – and travel will become easier. But the waiting, especially when artists are forced to turn down festivals and gigs that they have worked hard to secure, is maddening.

“The combination of disappointment and frustration is severe,” says Likatek. “Most of the time, the promoters abroad have no idea of the requirements in place, and frankly I don’t blame them as their freedom of movement was never limited in this way.”

Funnily enough, one place DJs can travel to is Serbia; to Serbs, it’s all still the same country. Toton was one of the first Kosovar DJs to play in Serbia after the war. He was booked to play the dungeon of a castle. All night long, he had a beautiful, toned blonde woman by his side. To make matters clear, she told him immediately, “I’m not here to fuck you; I’m here to protect you.” She was a black belt in half a dozen martial arts.

It would be wrong to suggest that the newly installed Kosovar government isn’t weighing in with financial support for music in the country, but a lot of the time the trade ministry chooses dubious recipients for its funds. For example, it spent half a million euros on a concert for young Kosovars that featured Elvis and Abba impersonators, and a headlining slot for Samantha Fox.

Of course, there aren’t many electronic music scenes anywhere that get government support. The musicians in Kosovo know this, and they’re not looking for a handout; they’ve kept the scene alive by themselves so far. But they say they would appreciate it if the people in charge could do something about the irregular power supply.

Toton says there’s something in the soil that radiates a positive energy and keeps the young people feeling good. If Europe is looking for proof that religious tolerance, cooperation and optimism can thrive in the face of material shortage, it could do a lot worse than to check out the electronic music scene in Kosovo.

Fresh in Prishtina: Kosovo’s techno DJs

Traditional Kosovar music is made with a 7/8 time signature – not the easiest to dance to – but, like every other electronic scene in Europe, Prishtina is influenced first and foremost by the music coming out of London and Berlin. Minimal techno, dubstep and house are the sounds you hear in the bars and clubs. Kosovar house and techno producers add darker, grungier, more industrial beats to standard electronic music templates to give a distinctive flavour.

Prishtina’s most famous club, Spray, is home to the city’s best-known DJs – Likatek, Toton, Legoff, Goya and Naka, who is considered by many to be the best techno DJ in the country, play there regularly. And when international DJs come to Kosovo, Spray is where you’ll find them. Seven years ago, Likatek started a regular techno and house night at Spray called Episodes. It brought together DJs, producers and designers to create a complete Kosovar clubbing experience. Episodes now has residencies in the Netherlands and Albania.

Apart from techno and house, there’s a vibrant trance scene in Prishtina where parties are put on in the woods around the capital. Word about these raves is usually circulated in the bars around Prishtina, but the Bass Face show on radiourbanFM is the primary supporter of local musicians in the capital. Right now they’re playing a lot of a new Kosovar electronic music collective, founded by Toton, called Pischmen.



Ethnic Albanians wave U.S. and Kosovo flags as they prepare to welcome US Vice President Joseph Biden in Prishtina on May 21, 2009. Biden travelled to Kosovo, receiving a hero’s welcome as the most senior US official to visit the Balkan territory since Washington backed its split from Serbia last year. Coming after trips to Bosnia and Serbia, Biden’s visit to Kosovo is his final stop on a tour to demonstrate fresh US engagement in Europe and the volatile Balkan region. AFP PHOTO/Robert ATANASOVSKI (Photo credit should read ROBERT ATANASOVSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

CALCUTTA, India – Hundreds of thousands of people flooded out of their homes by deadly Cyclone Aila crowded government shelters in eastern India and Bangladesh on Friday, and officials said the risk of disease outbreaks was growing.

The death toll from Monday’s cyclone rose to 264 people in the two countries.

In India, the cyclone left 500,000 homeless, said B.C. Patra, a senior official in worst-affected West Bengal state’s Emergency Relief Department. More than 130,000 are crowded in government-run camps, and relief officials are using aircraft and boats to deliver food, water and medicine to others sheltering in schools, office buildings or friends’ homes, he said.

Bangladesh’s Food and Disaster Management Ministry has stopped announcing the number of displaced people, but on Friday said several thousand people were still in shelters.

The ministry put the death toll at 147 in Bangladesh, though media reports said at least 178 people have died. Most drowned or were washed away when storm surges hit coastal areas.

The official death toll in India stood at 117, Patra said.

Medical teams fear an outbreak of waterborne diseases such as diarrhea and typhoid from a lack of clean drinking water.

Many village wells have been submerged by salty water, making them unfit for drinking, officials said.

The storm also caused devastation in the Sundarbans, a tangle of mangrove forests that is home to one of the world’s largest tiger populations.

Conservationists have expressed concern over the tigers’ fate, though the extent of damage to their habitat remains unclear.

It is believed that about 250 tigers live on the Indian side of the Sundarbans and another 250 live on the Bangladeshi side.