Monday, June 2, 2008

U Try Being UTube!

Welder at Work
Chris Arnold, NPR

Web surfers hoping to visit YouTube have expressed frustrations when they wind up at, the Web site for this heavy equipment refurbishing company outside of Toledo, Ohio. Here, a worker welds braces onto a giant 40-foot-long tube and pipe-making machine.

All Things Considered, June 20, 2007 · How does it feel to have the same name as a company that's wildly popular with millions of people? Ask Ralph Girkins of UTube. That's UTube, as in Universal Tube—the heavy equipment refurbishing company outside of Toledo, Ohio. Not the Internet rage YouTube—the Web site millions of people log into every day to watch and post home videos.

Girkins walks through a giant warehouse that houses UTube. Welders work on 40-foot-long pipe-making machines. They look sort of like giant, green tractor engines.

"All the machines—everything we're doing here is machines that make tube and pipe," Girkins says. "This is the original UTube."

Going Down the Wrong Tube

This UTube, a small company with just 15 employees, has had its Web site,, since 1996. But over the past year, as the video site got popular, many Web-surfers trying to go to YouTube typed in the wrong address and wound up on this company's Web site, which started getting a lot more hits.

"It slowly built," Girkins says. "We thought we were doing a great marketing job. But they weren't looking for us."

Before YouTube, Girkins says, there were about 1,000 real customers visiting each month. Today, he says, there are about 150,000 people a day typing "u tube" the wrong way, and winding up on his site.

"We couldn't keep our server up. That's what happened," he says.

The Cost of Unexpected Visitors

You might think that's not such a big deal. This company is rebuilding industrial machinery. It's not exactly an Internet outfit. But Girkins says that 75 percent of his sales come in over the Web site. And with each one of these large tube-making machines costing a few hundred thousand dollars, he just can't have his Web site going down. And then there's the nuisance factor. Some confused people call the phone number on his company's Web site.

Universal Tube has since filed a lawsuit against Google and its YouTube video site, seeking compensation for the time and expense the extra Web traffic is costing the business. For one thing, Girkins says, Universal Tube is now paying upwards of $1,700 a month for server space.

Visitor Hate Mail

As the lawsuit puts it, these unwanted visitors, "often fill out Plaintiff's sales request form, seeking more information in a vulgar and belligerent manner. Exhibit 1 is a message left by one visitor who asks, 'WHERE THE F*** ARE THE VIDEOS??? 1.5 BILLION DOLLARS FOR THIS PIECE OF S*** WEBSITE? GOOGLE GOT TAKEN.'"

According to UTube manager Laura Smirin, a lot of the phone calls and e-mails were very rude. "They were just nasty," Smirin says.

Girkins has hundreds of them on his computer in his office. He sits and scrolls through them: "Idiot, idiot, idiot," he reads. Some of the hate mail is about the lawsuit. Some YouTube enthusiasts seem to be worried that this equipment company might be threatening their favorite alternative video site, even though Google's YouTube is clearly the bigger company.

"We're just the little guy," Girkins says.

Google's Response

A judge has already dismissed some of the claims in the lawsuit. Google says the remaining claims lack merit and that it will vigorously defend itself. Some legal experts say Universal Tube might have a legitimate case. But they say such cases usually settle before trial.

Meanwhile, Girkins is trying to take advantage of the extra visitors to his company's Web site. He has ads selling ring tones and dating services to meet hot singles. Girkins says, so far, the banner ads are covering his legal fees and Web site hosting costs.

Original here

Why we should love logarithms

The tendency of 'uneducated' people to compress the number scale for big numbers is actually an admirable way of measuring the world, says Philip Ball.

maths blackboardDo kids instinctively think logarithmically - and is this the smartest way to look at numbers after all?Punchstock

I'd never have guessed, in the days when I used to paw through my grubby book of logarithms in maths classes, that I'd come to look back with fondness on these tables of cryptic decimals. In those days the most basic of electronic calculators was the size of a laptop and about as expensive in real terms, so books of logarithms were the quickest way to multiply large numbers (see 'What are logarithms'.

Of course, logarithms remain central to any advanced study of mathematics. But as they are no longer a practical arithmetic tool, one can’t now assume general familiarity with them. And so, countless popular science books contain potted guides to using exponential notation and interpreting logarithmic axes on graphs. Why do they need to do this? Because logarithmic scaling is the natural system for magnitudes of quantities in the sciences.

That's why a new claim that logarithmic mapping of numbers is the natural, intuitive scheme for humans rings true. Stanislas Dehaene of the Federative Institute of Research in Gif-sur-Yvette, France, and his co-workers report in Science 1 that both adults and children of an Amazonian tribe called the Mundurucu, who have had almost no exposure to the linear counting scale of the industrialized world, judge magnitudes on a logarithmic basis.

Down the line

The researchers presented their subjects with a computerized task in which they were asked to locate on a line the points that best signified the number of various stimuli (dots, sequences of tones or spoken words) in the ranges from 1 to 10 and from 10 to 100. One end of the line corresponded to 1, say, and the other to 10; where on this line should 6 sit? The results showed that the Amazonians had a clear tendency to apportion the divisions logarithmically, which means that successive numbers get progressively closer together as they get bigger.

The same behaviour has previously been seen in young children from the West2. But adults instead use a linear scaling, in which the distance between each number is the same irrespective of their magnitude. This could be because adults are taught that is how numbers are 'really' distributed, or it could be that some intrinsic aspect of brain development creates a greater predisposition to linear scaling as we mature. To distinguish between these possibilities, Dehaene and his colleagues tested an adult population that was 'uncontaminated' by schooling.

The implication of their finding, they say, is that "the concept of a linear number line seems to be a cultural invention that fails to develop in the absence of formal education". If this study were done in the nineteenth century (and aside from the computerized methodology, it could just as easily have been), we can feel pretty sure that it would have been accompanied by some patronizing comment about how 'primitive' people have failed to acquire the requisite mathematical sophistication.

Today's anthropology is more enlightened, and indeed Dehaene and his team have previously revealed the impressive subtlety of Mundurucu concepts of number and space, despite the culture having no words for numbers greater than five3,4.

Everything in perspective

But in any event, the proper conclusion is surely that it is our own intuitive sense of number that is somehow awry. The notion of a decreasing distance between numbers makes perfect sense once we think about that difference in proportionate terms: 1,001 is clearly more akin to 1,000 than 2 is to 1. We can even quantify those degrees of likeness. If we space numbers along a scale such that the distances between them reflect the proportion by which they increment the previous number, then the distance of a number n from 1 is given by the harmonic series, the sum of 1 + 1/2 + 1/3 + 1/4 and so on up to 1/n. This distance is roughly proportional to the logarithm of n.

This, it is often said, is why life seems to speed up as we get older: each passing year is a smaller proportion of our whole life. In perceptual terms, the clock ticks with an ever faster beat.

But wait, you might say – surely 'real' quantities are linear? A kilometre is a kilometre whether we have travelled 1 or 100 already, and it takes us the same time to traverse at constant speed. Well, yes and no. Many creatures, execute random walks or the curious punctuated random walks called Lévy flights, in which migrations over a fixed increment in distance takes an ever longer time. Besides, we can usually assume that an animal capable of covering 100 kilometres could manage 101, but not necessarily that one capable of 1 kilometre could manage 2 kilometres (try the latter case with a young child).

Yet the logarithmic character of nature goes deeper than that. For scientists, just about all magnitude scales are most meaningful when expressed logarithmically, a fact memorably demonstrated in the vision of the Universe depicted in the celebrated 1977 film Powers of Ten The femtometre (10-15 metres) is the scale of the atomic nucleus, the nanometre (10-9 metres) that of molecular systems, the micrometre (10-6 metres) the scale of the living cell, and so on. Cosmological eras demand logarithmically-fine time divisions as we move closer back towards the Big Bang. The immense variation in the size of earthquakes is tamed by the logarithmic magnitude scale, in which (roughly speaking) an increase of one degree of magnitude corresponds to a tenfold increase in energy. The same is true of the decibel scale for sound intensity, and the pH scale of acidity.

Law of the land

Indeed, the relationship between earthquake magnitude and frequency is one of the best known of the ubiquitous natural power laws, in which some quantity is proportional to the n th power of another. These relationships are best depicted with logarithmic scaling: on logarithmic axes, they look linear. Power laws have been discovered not only for landslides and solar flares but for many aspects of human culture: word-use frequency, say, or size-frequency relationships of wars, towns and website connections.

All these things could be understood much more readily if we could continue to use the logarithmic number scaling with which we are apparently endowed intuitively. So why do we devote so much energy to replacing it with linear scaling?

Linearity betrays an obsession with precision. That might incline us to expect an origin in engineering or surveying, but actually it isn't clear that this is true. The greater the number of units in a structure's dimension, the less that small errors matter: a temple intended to be 100 cubits long could probably accommodate 101 cubits, and in fact often did, because early surveying methods were far from perfect. And in any event, such dimensions were often determined by relative proportions rather than by absolute numbers. It seems more conceivable that a linear mentality stemmed from trade: if you're paying for 100 sheep, you don't want to be given 99, and the seller wants to make sure he doesn't give you 101. And if traders want to balance their books, these exact numbers matter.

Yet logarithmic thinking doesn't go away entirely. Dehaene and his colleagues show that it remains even in Westerners for very large numbers, and it is implicit in the skill of numerical approximation. Counting that uses a base system, such as our base 10, also demands a kind of logarithmic terminology: you need a new word or symbol only for successive powers of ten (as found both in ancient Egypt and China).

All in all, there are good arguments why an ability to think logarithmically is valuable. Does a conventional education perhaps suppress it more than it should?

Original here

How to Get Rich—and Notorious

Bad-boy publishing mogul Felix Dennis shares his secrets with us. Or does he?

Dennis made a splash with a murder confession, which he later retracted Harry Borden

The late afternoon sun hits the lake outside Felix Dennis' Connecticut cottage in a particularly picturesque way, but the 60-year-old serial media entrepreneur and founder of Maxim is oblivious to it. He's swaying back and forth in his living room, eyes closed, fingering an air guitar to a CD that's replaying one of his performances at the Mustique Blues Festival. Loudly.

I'm collapsed in a chair by the fireplace. I think I'm supposed to join in, but I don't. I can't. We've had three and a half bottles of wine since I arrived here for a simple Sunday lunch. Then Dennis moved on to postprandial Scotch. I didn't. I couldn't. Standing upright could get complicated. Judging from the tapes, at this point, simple speech is pretty complicated.

I'd come to interview Dennis—an eccentric tycoon even by the standards of "eccentric tycoons"—about his career in media and the upcoming publication of How to Get Rich, a rather engaging and blunt self-help book. As defined in his text, "rich" starts at a total asset value of $30 million. Dennis puts his own wealth between $400million and $900 million; the London Times pegs it around $1.5 billion. His estimate would be higher were it not for his prodigious spending. In the book, he invents the statistic, Lifetime Spending Total, or, naturally, LST. His own, he says, is "eye-watering"—in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Some background on the squat, bearded Dennis: He was briefly jailed in his native England in 1971 after losing an obscenity trial concerning his counterculture magazine, Oz. He grew up in a house, he writes, in which straitened circumstance sometimes required using torn newspapers as toilet paper. In his fifties, he became a published poet. He openly admits to having spent several years overindulging in crack cocaine. He has written what must be the only self-help business book that contains sentences such as: "If it flies, floats, or fornicates, rent it. It's cheaper." (Dennis is unmarried and proudly non-monogamous.)

And, oh yeah, he recently confessed to murder. In his last major interview, which appeared in The Times of London in early April, he shocked the reporter by saying he had once pushed a man off a cliff. When the journalist asked in a follow-up interview if he had done it, Dennis said, "It's a load of hogwash. I was drunk," and he withdrew the confession "unconditionally." Still, his remarks reverberated, and his sub- sequent statements didn't help. In a lecture delivered to students at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism later that month, which I attended, Dennis said no one had bothered to check the date the Times published its piece—Apr.1, he said, (as in April Fools'). Actually, the story ran on Apr.2, and the interview itself took place in late 2007—a fact that I, and other reporters, noted the next day. In our interview, Dennis now says that the story was published online on Apr.1, although I can't find any evidence that it was. "The story speaks for itself. Mr. Dennis spoke for himself. The reporting provides the full context of his comments," said a Times spokesman.

I am perfectly happy to believe that Dennis concocted his tale for the sake of shock, or outrage, or something. All the same, I made sure that several people knew where I was lunching in Connecticut.

Dennis made his pile in an old-fashioned way, by starting and selling ink-on-paper businesses, generally in corners shunned or overlooked by more established publishing houses. (His first big success piggybacked on the kung fu craze that erupted after the death of movie star Bruce Lee, publishing Kung-Fu Monthly in multiple countries.) He's most famous in the U.S. for the lad magazine Maxim, which he sold last year, along with two other mags, for what was reported to be around $240 million. But more of his money likely has come from computer magazines, which he began publishing in Britain in 1978, and from his share in computer retailer MicroWarehouse.

Dennis still owns more than 50 titles in Britain and Australia, including the interesting electronic-only, downloadable magazine Monkey. The technology offers a much richer experience than digital translations of magazines—photos become videos, that sort of thing. But Monkey plows terrain immediately familiar to Maxim readers. (The man himself gleefully describes it as "an idiot magazine for young idiots to whom I am immensely grateful.") He also owns the news digest The Week, which is published in the U.S. and Britain. An edition for Australia, New Zealand, and Hong Kong comes this fall, and Dennis is mulling Indian and Canadian versions as well. In his New York offices, he brags, are 15 to 20 empty desks to be filled by employees of his next venture, about which he keeps mum as to both topic and time frame.

He's more expansive when not discussing expansion, and especially on the topic of how to amass staggering sums. Among his chief maxims: Prune overhead regularly; team spirit is for losers; pay yourself just enough to eat; and hire others to do the day-to-day. His most crucial point: "ownership isn't the important thing. It's the only thing." Dennis counsels readers to sell early, a guideline he admits he's often failed to follow. (It's widely believed he's passed on bigger offers for his American magazines. Dennis refuses to discuss any offers for those properties.) He's also pretty frank about the collateral costs of getting rich, in time and relationships with the people closest to those who seek serious fortune. His own pursuit, he writes, "led me into a lifestyle of narcotics, drink, and consolatory debauchery."

His is a get-rich-quick book, in fact, that warns off all but those who want monstrous wealth very, very badly, as Dennis did. He makes it amply clear, in the book and in conversation, that the sheer animal instincts and appetites that made him so fearsome a competitor, so smashing a success, extracted a heavy toll. Even at his age, they sometimes still do.

150 Funniest Resume Mistakes, Bloopers and Blunders Ever

People write the strangest things on their resumes, sometimes downright hysterical. Why should only recruiting managers get to laugh at these? The Top 10 are at the bottom. Enjoy!
Insert Brain Here

From Resume Hell:

  1. “Career break in 1999 to renovate my horse”
  2. “1990 - 1997: Stewardess - Royal Air Force”
  3. Hobbies: “enjoy cooking Chinese and Italians”
  4. “Service for old man to check they are still alive or not.”
  5. Cleaning skills: “bleaching, pot washing, window cleaning, mopping, e.t.c”
  6. “Job involved…counselling clientele on accidental insurance policies available”
  7. “2001 summer Voluntary work for taking care of the elderly and vegetable people”
  8. “I’m intrested to here more about that. I’m working today in a furniture factory as a drawer”
  9. “I am about to enrol on a Business and Finance Degree with the Open University. I feel that this qualification will prove detrimental to me for future success.”
  10. “Time is very valuable and it should be always used to achieve optimum results and I believe it should not be played around with”
  11. “I belive that weakness is the first level of strength, given the right attitude and driving force. My school advised me to fix my punctuality…”

From’s 10 Wackiest Resume Blunders:

  1. Candidate included a letter from his mother.
  2. Candidate stated the ability to persuade people sexually using her words.
  3. Candidate wrote résumé as a play - Act 1, Act 2, etc.
  4. Candidate included naked picture of himself.

From Amy Joyce on Resume Bloopers:

  1. “Skills: Strong Work Ethic, Attention to Detail, Team Player, Self Motivated, Attention to Detail”
  2. Woman who sent her résumé and cover letter without deleting someone else’s editing, including such comments as “I don’t think you want to say this about yourself here”

From Ask Annie’s article about resume blunders:

  1. “an applicant ghosted a headshot as the background to her resume”
  2. Other Interests: “Playing with my two dogs (They actually belong to my wife but I love the dogs more than my wife)”.
  3. “One applicant used colored paper and drew glitter designs around the border”
  4. Hobbies: “getting drunk everynight down by the water, playing my guitar and smoking pot”
  5. Why Interested in Position: “to keep my parole officer from putting back me in jail”
  6. A woman had attached a picture of herself in a mini mouse costume
  7. Hobbies: “Drugs and girls”.
  8. Under “job related skills” - for a web designer - “can function without additional oxygen at 24,000 feet”.
  9. My sister-in-law misspelled the word “proofreading” in her skill set.
  10. The objective on one recent resume I received stated that the applicant wished to pursue a challenging account executive position with our rival firm.
  11. Objective: “career on the Information Supper Highway”
  12. Experience: “Stalking, shipping & receiving”
  13. “I am great with the pubic.”
  14. A candidate listed her e-mail address as pornstardelight@*****.com
  15. The applicant listed her name as Alice in the resume but wrote Alyce on the onsite application.
  16. One candidate’s electronic resume included links to her homepage, where the pictures were of her in the nude.
  17. “…sent out my resume on the back side of a draft of a cover letter to another firm…”
  18. “My duties included cleaning the restrooms and seating the customers.”
  19. One applicant for a nursing position noted that she didn’t like dealing with blood or needles.
  20. Achievements: “Nominated for prom queen”
  21. I once received a resume with a head and shoulders picture in the top left of the first page. The picture was of a lion’s head, wearing a coat, shirt, and tie.
  22. a resume… was printed on the back of the person’s current employer’s letterhead.
  23. One resume that came across my desk stated how the individual had won a contest for building toothpick bridges in middle school.
  24. A resume… had several grease stains and a smudge of chocolate on it
  25. Hobbies: “Having a good time”

From’s Top 12 Wackiest Resume Blunders:

  1. Candidate explained a gap in employment by saying it was because he was getting over the death of his cat for three months.
  2. Candidate’s hobbies included sitting on the levee at night watching alligators.
  3. Candidate explained an arrest by stating, “We stole a pig, but it was a really small pig.”
  4. Candidate included family medical history.

From’s Avoid These Resume Bloopers:

  1. “nine-page cover letter accompanied by a four-page résumé”
  2. “One applicant tried to make an impression by using four different fonts, three ink colors and a variety of highlighting options on her résumé”

From’s Ten Classic Resume Bloopers:

  1. “Revolved customer problems and inquiries.”
  2. “Consistently tanked as top sales producer for new accounts.”
  3. “Planned new corporate facility at $3 million over budget.”
  4. “Seeking a party-time position with potential for advancement.”

From HotJobs’ Real-life Resume Blunders to Avoid:

  1. “I often use a laptap.”
  2. “Able to say the ABCs backward in under five seconds.”
  3. “I am a wedge with a sponge taped to it. My purpose is to wedge myself into someone’s door to absorb as much as possible.”

From Fortune Magazine via

  1. “Finished eighth in my class of ten.”
  2. “Received a plague for Salesperson of the Year.”
  3. “Reason for leaving last job: maturity leave.”
  4. “Failed bar exam with relatively high grades.”
  5. “Am a perfectionist and rarely if if ever forget details.”
  6. “It’s best for employers that I not work with people.”
  7. “Let’s meet, so you can ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ over my experience.”
  8. “I have an excellent track record, although I am not a horse.”
  9. “You will want me to be Head Honcho in no time.”
  10. “I have become completely paranoid, trusting completely no one and absolutely nothing.”
  11. “Personal interests: donating blood. Fourteen gallons so far.”
  12. “Marital status: often. Children: various.”
  13. “I am loyal to my employer at all costs..Please feel free to respond to my resume on my office voice mail.”
  14. “Instrumental in ruining entire operation for a Midwest chain store.”

From Resumania’s Archive:

  1. Job Duties: “Answer phones, file papers, respond to customer e-mails, take odors.”
  2. Interests: “Gossiping.”
  3. Favorite Activities: “Playing trivia games. I am a repository of worthless knowledge.”
  4. Skills: “I can type without looking at thekeyboard.”
  5. Employer: ” Myself; received pay raise for high sales.”
  6. Objective: “I want to play a major part in watching a company advance.”
  7. Experience: “Chapter president, 1887-1992.”
  8. Experience: “Demonstrated ability in multi-tasting.”
  9. Experience: “I’m a hard worker, etc.”
  10. Languages: “Speak English and Spinach.”
  11. Reason for leaving: “I thought the world was coming to an end.”
  12. Additional skills: “I am a Notary Republic.”
  13. Objective: “So one of the main things for me is, as the movie ‘Jerry McGuire’ puts it, ‘Show me the money!’”
  14. Skills: “I have integrity so I will not steal office supplies and take them home.”
  15. Objective: “To hopefully associate with a millionaire one day.”
  16. Skills: “I have technical skills that will take your breath away.”
  17. Qualifications: “I have guts, drive, ambition and heart, which is probably more than a lot of the drones that you have working for you.”
  18. Objective: “I need money because I have bills to pay and I would like to have a life, go out partying, please my young wife with gifts, and have a menu entrée consisting of more than soup.”
  19. Qualifications: “Twin sister has accounting degree.”
  20. Experience: “Have not yet been abducted by aliens.”
  21. Skills: “Written communication = 3 years; verbal communication = 5 years.”
  22. Objective: “I would like to work for a company that is very lax when it comes to tardiness.”
  23. Education: “I possess a moderate educatin but willing to learn more.”
  24. Education: “Have repeated courses repeatedly.”
  25. Salary requirements: “The higher the better.”
  26. Salary desired: “Starting over due to recent bankruptcies. Need large bonus when starting job.”
  27. Bad traits: “I am very bad about time and don’t mind admitting it. Having to arrive at a certain hour doesn’t make sense to me. What does make sense is that I do the job. Any company that insists upon rigid time schedules will find me a nightmare.”
  28. References: “Bill, Tom, Eric. But I don’t know their phone numbers.”
  29. Work experience: “Two years as a blackjack and baccarat dealer. Strong emphasis on customer relations - a constant challenge considering how much money people lose and how angry they can get.”
  30. Personal: “I limit important relationships to people who want to do what I want them to do.”
  31. Objective: “Student today. Vice president tomarrow.”
  32. Accomplishments: “Brought in a balloon artist to entertain the team.”
  33. Application: Why should an employer hire you? “I bring doughnuts on Friday.”
  34. Achievements: “First runner-up for Miss Fort Worth, 1982.”
  35. Reason for leaving: “Pushed aside so the vice president’s girlfriend could steal my job.”
  36. Special skills: “I’ve got a Ph.D. in human feelings.”
  37. Reason for leaving last job: “Bounty hunting was outlawed in my state.”
  38. Experience: “Any interruption in employment is due to being unemployed.”
  39. Objective: “To become Overlord of the Galaxy!”
  40. Objective: “What I’m looking for in a job: #1) Money #2) Money #3) Money.”
  41. Hobbies: “Mushroom hunting.”
  42. Experience: “Child care provider: Organized activities; prepared lunches and snakes.”
  43. Objective: “My dream job would be as a professional baseball player, but since I can’t do that, I’ll settle on being an accountant.”
  44. Awards: “National record for eating 45 eggs in two minutes.”
  45. Heading on stationery: “I’d Break Mom’s Heart to Work For You!”
  46. “I am a ‘neat nut’ with a reputation for being hardnosed. I have no patience for sloppywork, carelessmistakes and theft of companytime.”
  47. Experience: “Provide Custer Service.”
  48. Experience: “I was brought in as a turnaround consultant to help turn the company around.”
  49. Strengths: “Ability to meet deadlines while maintaining composer.”
  50. Work experience: “Responsibilities included checking customers out.”
  51. Work experience: “Maintained files and reports, did data processing, cashed employees’ paychecks.”
  52. Educational background: “Highschool was a incredible experience.”
  53. Resume: “A great management team that has patents with its workers.”
  54. Cover letter: “Experienced in all faucets of accounting.”
  55. Objective: “I am anxious to use my exiting skills.”
  56. Personal: “I am loyal and know when to keep my big mouth shut.”
  57. Job duties: “Filing, billing, printing and coping.”
  58. Application: “Q: In what local areas do you prefer to work? A: Smoking.”
  59. Reason for leaving: “Terminated after saying, ‘It would be a blessing to be fired.’”
  60. Personal: “My family is willing to relocate. However not to New England (too cold) and not to Southern California (earthquakes). Indianapolis or Chicago would be fine. My youngest prefers Orlando’s proximity to Disney World.”
  61. Resume: “I have a lifetime’s worth of technical expertise (I wasn’t born - my mother simply chose ‘eject child’ from the special menu.”
  62. Resume: “Spent several years in the United States Navel Reserve.”
  63. Qualifications: “I have extensive experience with foreign accents.”
  64. “I am fully aware of the king of attention this position requires.”
  65. References: “Please do not contact my immediate supervisor at the company. My colleagues will give me a better reference.”
  66. “Worked in a consulting office where I carried out my own accountant.”
  67. Accomplishments: “My contributions on product launches were based on dreams that I had.”
  68. Career: “I have worked with restraints for the past two years.”
  69. Experience: “My father is a computer programmer, so I have 15 years of computer experience.”
  70. Education: “I have a bachelorette degree in computers.”

JobMob Top 10

  1. Application: How large was the department you worked in with your last company? “A: 3 stories.” (Resumania)
  2. A resume listed a skill as “being bi-lingual in three languages” (Ask Annie’s)
  3. Background: “28 dog years of experience in sales (four human).” (Resumania)
  4. In the section that read “Emergency Contact Number” she wrote “911.” (Ask Annie’s)
  5. Candidate drew a picture of a car on the outside of the envelope and said it was the hiring manager’s gift. (
  6. Languages: “Fluent in English. Also I have been heard muttering Gibberish in my sleep.” (Resumania)
  7. “Directed $25 million anal shipping and receiving operations.” (
  8. On one of our applications, a girl wrote ” I’m 16, I’m pregnant and I can do anything.” At the same time she turned in her application, her boyfriend handed in his. On his: “Felony for breaking and entering.” (Ask Annie’s)
  9. “One candidate included clipart on their resume of two cartoons shaking hands.” (Ask Annie’s)
  10. Application: “On the line that asked what “sex” he was, he wrote “occassionally”.” (Ask Annie’s)

This article is part of Litemind’s Lists Group Writing Project.

Still giggling? Subscribe to JobMob via RSS or email for more laughing matters in your job search.

--Jacob Share

Original here

Introducing the world's strongest currency: The shekel

Even the powerful euro has had a hard time competing with what has become probably the strongest currency in the world since the beginning of 2008: the Israeli shekel.

Since the beginning of 2008 the shekel has made some serious gains against nearly all the major world currencies. The shekel has gained 15% against the dollar, slightly more against the British pound and the Canadian dollar, as well as 8% versus the Swedish kroner and 24% against the South African rand.

Even the solid euro has had a hard time competing with the shekel, and has fallen from NIS 5.74 at the beginning of April by 12% to NIS 5.00 - its lowest rate in five years. Since the start of the year, the shekel has strengthened against the euro by 9%.

A week ago the president of the European Central Bank, Jean-Claude Triche, praised the euro to the Wall Street Journal, saying the European currency would provide price stability in the medium-term.

Even compared to the currencies of countries rich in natural resources and raw materials, such as Australia and Canada, it has done well.

One opinion is that the shekel will continue to gain in the next few months against the dollar and euro, at least until the November elections.

The real question is, which elections - those in America or maybe those here in Israel?

Original here

Australia Ends Iraq Combat Operations

Australia, a staunch U.S. ally and one of the first countries to commit troops to the war in Iraq five years ago, ended combat operations there Sunday.

An Iraqi man shouts slogans during a protest in Kufa, 160 kilometers (100 miles) south of Baghdad,... Expand

Soldiers lowered the Australian flag that had flown over Camp Terendak in the southern Iraqi city of Talil. The combat troops were expected to return to Australia over the next few weeks, with the first of them arriving home Sunday.

The move fulfills a campaign promise by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who was swept into office in November largely on the promise that he would bring home the country's 550 combat troops by the middle of 2008. Rudd has said the Iraq deployment made Australia more of a target for terrorism.

Rudd's predecessor, former Prime Minister John Howard, said he was "baffled" by the decision to withdraw the troops.

"If I had been returned at the last election we would not have been bringing (troops) home, we would have been looking at transitioning them from their soon-to-be terminated role to a training role," Howard told the Sydney Morning Herald in an interview published Monday.

Howard, who led the country for 11 years and celebrated his friendship with President Bush, told the newspaper that the decision to send Australian troops to Iraq in 2003 was "very, very, very hard." But he stood by his choice, which he said helped further deepen Australia's alliance with the United States.

Australian troops helped train 33,000 Iraqi army soldiers following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. They helped train the Iraqis in logistics management, combat service support and counterinsurgency operations.

Defense Minister Joel Fitzgibbon declared the mission a success, saying it had allowed Iraq's own security forces to successfully take control.

"Our soldiers have worked tirelessly to ensure that local people in southern Iraq have the best possible chance to move on from their suffering under Saddam's regime and, as a government we are extremely proud of their service," Fitzgibbon said in a statement Sunday.

"The Australian contribution to the Iraqi army's Counter Insurgency Academy is one of the lasting legacies of our commitment," he said.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter, left, reacts with Australia Prime Minister Kevin Rudd during the opening ceremony for the 58th FIFA congress in Sydney, Australia, Thursday, May 29, 2008. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)

About 300 troops will remain inside Iraq for logistical and air surveillance duties, as well as guarding Australian diplomats and others in Baghdad.

A further 500 soldiers will remain in the region, including 200 sailors aboard the frigate HMAS Stuart in the Persian Gulf. Australia also will leave behind two maritime surveillance aircraft.

Opposition leader Brendan Nelson, of the Liberal party, backed the withdrawal of troops but said he would prefer that some trainers stay behind, to continuing helping "the Iraqis to look after their own security."

But another Liberal party politician said the job is not yet done in Iraq.

"I mean, you have a war that is essentially being won and we're being seen to move out of there," Dennis Jensen told reporters. "We really should have stayed the entire course."

The soldiers, as well as 65 army trainers, were stationed at Talil, about 185 miles south of Baghdad, and were responsible for providing security training for Iraqi forces, as well as reconstruction and aid work.

They have been on standby to offer backup to Iraqi forces in the south for the past two years. They were never officially called out to act in that role but maintained a policy of active patrolling.

Six Australian soldiers were wounded in Iraq.

In February, the head of Australia's defense force, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, told a Senate inquiry that the troops were no longer needed in Iraq because the region had stabilized.

Rudd remains committed to keeping Australia's 1,000 troops in Afghanistan.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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How bin Laden got away

ATTACK FROM ABOVE: Anti-Taliban fighters sit on a ridge as smoke billows from an area near Tora Bora, Afghanistan, Dec. 15.

A day-by-day account of how Osama bin Laden eluded the world's most powerful military machine.
| Special to The Christian Science Monitor
- All 1,000 of the regional tribal leaders rose to their feet and shouted " Zindibad, Osama!" ("Long Live Osama!").

The Al Qaeda chief placed his right hand over his heart, the ethnic Pashtun sign for being honored, while 15 of his elite guards flanked him.

In the last public speech given at the Jalalabad Islamic studies center on Nov. 10, Osama bin Laden painted the battle lines black and white. "The Americans had a plan to invade, but if we are united and believe in Allah, we'll teach them a lesson, the same one we taught the Russians," he said, according to two tribal leaders who attended the speech.

Mr. bin Laden, with that speech, was laying his plans to stay a step ahead of the US campaign. He would travel to his favored fortified redoubt in Tora Bora, as the US expected him to, but he would also pave a way out. After his rousing speech, he bestowed cash gifts on key people who could later help him escape.

The US-led war in Afghanistan was going exceedingly well up to that point. The Taliban regime had been pushed from the northern half of the country; the capital of Kabul and much of the rest of Afghanistan would fall within the next few days.

It was a war like no other. In an evolutionary leap powered by Information Age technology, US ground soldiers were mainly employed as observers, liaisons, and spotters for air power - not as direct combatants sent to occupy a foreign land. The success of the US was dazzling, save for the fight for Tora Bora, which may have been this unconventional war's most crucial battle. For the US, Tora Bora wasn't about capturing caverns or destroying fortifications - it was about taking the world's most wanted terrorist "dead or alive."

In retrospect, it becomes clear that the battle's underlying story is of how scant intelligence, poorly chosen allies, and dubious military tactics fumbled a golden opportunity to capture bin Laden as well as many senior Al Qaeda commanders.

Moreover, as the US military conducts new strikes with its Afghan allies in nearby Paktia Province, sends special forces into Southeast and Central Asia - and prepares for a possible military plunge into Iraq - planners will need to learn the lessons of Tora Bora: Know which local leaders to trust. Know when to work with allied forces on the ground. And know when to go it alone. "Maybe the only lesson that is applicable is: whenever you use local forces, they have local agendas," says one senior Western diplomat, now looking at options for invading Iraq. "You had better know what those are so that if it is not a reasonable match - at least it is not a contradiction."

Bin Laden rallies followers

It was just two days before the fall of Kabul on Nov. 12, that bin Laden rallied his forces five hours east by road in the city of Jalalabad - a long-time base of his operations. It was mid-afternoon, bombs were falling all over the city, and tribal leaders had just finished a sumptuous meal of lamb kebabs and rice.

After a rousing introduction by an Arab speaker with wavy black locks, bin Laden entered the Saudi-funded institute for Islamic studies, which had been hastily converted into a Taliban and Al Qaeda intelligence center only days after the World Trade Center bombing.

He was dressed in loose gray clothing and wearing his signature camouflage jacket. His commandos were garbed in green fatigues, and their shiny, new Kalashnikovs were specially rigged with grenade launchers. As bin Laden held forth, several Arabs shouted from the middle and back. "God is Great! Down with America! Down with Israel."

Blending his theological and martial message, bin Laden made one final appeal. "God is with us, and we will win the war. Your Arab brothers will lead the way. We have the weapons and the technology. What we need most is your moral support. And may God grant me the opportunity to see you and meet you again on the front lines."

With that, bin Laden stepped away from the podium. The 15 guards closed ranks and shuffled out the door behind him.

Malik Habib Gul, who sat in the second row in the basement of the Taliban's intelligence headquarters that night, did not soon forget the evening; a lavish one by Pashtun standards. Like the other tribal elders in attendance, the chief received a white envelope full of Pakistani rupees, the thickness proportional to the 30 extended families under his jurisdiction in Upper Pachir, which lies against the Pakistani border. His "spending money," he says now, did not run out until last week. Mr. Gul says he received about the equivalent of $300; other leaders of larger clans received up to $10,000.

Flight to Tora Bora

By the next day, US aerial bombing became much heavier, and the mood was dismal in the streets of Jalalabad. The ancient trading center, situated on the old Silk Road, has long been a meeting place for Pashtun tribesmen who come from hours away - and from across the border in Pakistan - to barter weapons, purchase mules, and negotiate political loyalties.

"We saw Osama while standing here in front of our guesthouse at 9 p.m. on that Tuesday," says Babrak Khan, a Jalalabad resident who once worked as a guard at a nearby base for Islamic militants. Mr. Babrak says he's sure of the time, because he listened to part of the BBC Pashto language news broadcast that begins at 9:30 p.m. in Afghanistan.

As Babrak and three other city residents describe it, bin Laden rapidly exited the sixth or seventh car, a custom-designed white Toyota Corolla with an elongated, hatchback, in a convoy of several hundred cars. Bin Laden cradled a Kalakov machinegun, a shortened version of a Kalashnikov, as he barked orders to his man.

A little later, he stood beside a mosque under a tree, surrounded by about 60 armed guards, but quite visibly nervous. Maulvi Abdul Kabir, the Taliban governor of Jalalabad, was holding his hand, as is customary for Muslim men who are spiritually close. The two men were speaking briskly with the son of Younus Khalis, the city's aging patriarch with links to both bin Laden and the Taliban.

Not long after this rare sighting of bin Laden, the convoy, mostly four-wheel drive trucks but followed up with six armored vehicles in the rear, hastily left town. The fleeing Al Qaeda and Taliban members snaked their way down a bumpy dirt road that runs through ancient battlefields and tattered villages and into the Al Qaeda base.

In the foothills of Tora Bora, about 30 miles southeast of Jalalabad, the convoy split up. One group went to the village of Mileva and the other group to the village of Garikhil as they prepared to take up their positions in the nearby cave complex.

"They were scornful and in a hurry, and sat there on a stoop, dividing up the fighters and assigning them to different caves," says Malik Osman Khan, chief the village of Garikhil. "Our people were terrified, because we thought the planes would hit the Arabs as they stopped in our village. We sent the women and children into another village for their own safety."

The bombing heats up

On Nov. 16, three days after Al Qaeda and Taliban forces headed into their trenches, caves, and dugouts, US bombing of the base, which had been ongoing since October, intensified.

In fact, this was when reports of civilian casualties in the region began circulating. Wahid Ullah, the 16-year-old son of Mr. Khan, the tribal chief of Garikhil, was one of more than 100 civilians killed. He had been playing stickball on Nov. 16 or 17, when a cruise missile shattered the earth around his feet. "At first, we thought that the US military was trying to frighten the Arabs out, since they were only bombing from one side," Khan says.

US draws up its battle plan

As the US intensified its airstrikes on Tora Bora, US and Afghan helicopters started to arrive with supplies for the Afghans. Also - as was its pattern elsewhere in Afghanistan - the US began enlisting local warlords. Two - Hazret Ali and Haji Zaman Ghamsharik - would become notorious in the battle for Tora Bora.

Both Mr. Ali and Mr. Ghamsharik say they were first approached by plain-clothed US officers in the middle of November and asked to take part in an attack on the Tora Bora base.

"We looked at the entire spectrum of options that we had available to us and decided that the use of small liaison elements were the most appropriate," says Army Col. Rick Thomas in a phone interview from US Central Command Headquarters in Tampa, Fla.

"We chose to fight using the Afghans who were fighting to regain their own country," Colonel Thomas says. "Our aims of eliminating Al Qaeda were similar."

Ali is a short, cocky fighter who won control over most of Jalalabad when the Taliban vacated on Nov. 13. He then became security chief for the Eastern Shura, the self-proclaimed government here. With only a fourth-grade education, he can sign documents, but he has trouble reading them. As an anti-Taliban fighter allied to former Northern Alliance commander Ahmed Shah Masood, who was assassinated just before Sept. 11, Ali and his band of hillbilly fighters fought against the Taliban in the north for six years. Local Pashtuns in Jalalabad complain that Ali's men went on a looting spree during their first days in town.

As a counterbalance to Ali, the US chose another powerful regional warlord, Ghamsharik, whom they had lured back from exile in Dijon, France, in late September. Known to many as a ruthless player in the regional smuggling business, Ghamsharik was given a rousing party on his return, including a 1,000-gun salute. He became the Jalalabad commander of the Eastern Shura. But he still didn't have the support of his own Afghan tribesmen (Khugani). Many of them, in fact, were proud to admit that they worked for Al Qaeda inside the Tora Bora base as well as in several nearby bases.

From the start, Ghamsharik was clearly uncomfortable with the power-sharing arrangement. Ali's men were Pashay - no relation to Ghamsharik's own Pashtun followers. He called his rival Ali "a peasant," and said he could not be trusted.

The rift between the two men would seriously hinder US efforts to capture Al Qaeda's leadership. Although backed by the United States, the Jalalabad warlords would have to determine by themselves - while sometimes arguing fiercely - how best to go after Tora Bora's defenders.

Moreover, in the early stages of the Eastern Shura discussions about Tora Bora, these leaders talked about "asking the Arabs to leave," not about attacking them outright. A key powerbroker, Maulvi Younus Khalis, a Jalalabad patriarch who supported bin Laden, had stacked the Shura with his own sympathizers. "The Americans can bomb all they want, they'll never catch Osama," he quipped to the Monitor on Nov. 25.

While ceding some power to the two competing warlords - Ali and Ghamsharik - Khalis, who had been temporarily handed the key to Jalalabad when the Taliban vacated, made sure that his personal military commander, Awol Gul, retained the heavy fighting equipment. Mr. Gul and another Khalis man, Mohammed Amin, traveled into Tora Bora on several occasions beginning Nov. 13, according to Ghamsharik.

The Afghan warlords estimated that Tora Bora held between 1,500 and 1,600 of the best Arab and Chechen fighters in bin Laden's terror network.

Ghamsharik said on Nov. 18 that the fight would be a tough one: "[Al Qaeda fighters] told us through our envoys that 'We will fight until we are martyred.' "

They also suspected that bin Laden himself would be directing the battle. After all, it was the place from which he had most successfully fought the Soviets in the 1980s.

And on Nov 29, Vice President Dick Cheney told ABC's "Primetime Live" that, according to the reports that were coming in, bin Laden was in Tora Bora."I think he was equipped to go to ground there," Mr. Cheney said. "He's got what he believes to be a fairly secure facility. He's got caves underground; it's an area he's familiar with."

An exodus begins

Meanwhile, in the weeks following bin Laden's arrival at the Tora Bora caves, morale slipped under the constant air assault. One group of Yemeni fighters, squirreled away in a cave they had been assigned to by the Al Qaeda chief, had not seen bin Laden since entering on Nov. 13.

But they say bin Laden joined them on Nov. 26, the 11th day of Ramadan, a warm glass of green tea in his hand. Instead of inspiring the elite fighters, he was now reduced, they say, to repeating the same "holy war" diatribe.

Around him that day sat three of his most loyal fighters, including Abu Baker, a square-faced man with a rough-hewn scruff on his chin."[Bin Laden] said, 'hold your positions firm and be ready for martyrdom,' " Baker told Afghan intelligence officers when he was captured in mid-December. "He said, 'I'll be visiting you again, very soon.' " Then, as quickly as he had come, Baker says, bin Laden vanished into the pine forests.

Between two and four days later, somewhere between Nov. 28 to Nov. 30 - according to detailed interviews with Arabs and Afghans in eastern Afghanistan afterward - the world's most-wanted man escaped the world's most-powerful military machine, walking - with four of his loyalists - in the direction of Pakistan.

On Dec. 11, in the village of Upper Pachir - located a few miles northeast of the main complex of caves where Al Qaeda fighters were holed up - a Saudi financier and Al Qaeda operative, Abu Jaffar, was interviewed by the Monitor. Fleeing the Tora Bora redoubt, Mr. Jaffar said that bin Laden had left the cave complexes roughly 10 days earlier, heading for the Parachinar area of Pakistan.

Jaffar, whose foot was blown off by a cluster bomb, was traveling with his Egyptian wife. He stayed in Upper Pachir one night, before fleeing north, then east toward the famed Khyber Pass.

Bin Laden phones home

Bin Laden, according to several fighters and the Saudi financier, later phoned back to the enclave, urging his followers to keep fighting. He also reportedly told them he was sending his own son, Salah Uddin, to replace him. Bin Laden's talk with his followers in Tora Bora just a few days after his departure may explain why US intelligence officials said that they thought they heard his voice on Dec. 10, probably on a short-wave transmission.

The escape accelerates

The slow but growing exodus from Tora Bora now became a mad rush. Mohammed Akram, who had occasionally cooked for bin Laden, says he was fixing dinner in a cave at the end of November, when a huge bomb exploded at the base and blew him some 30 feet back into the mouth of the grotto. Two of his colleagues were killed, and he, along with another Saudi and a Kurdish fighter, decided to flee.

His flight, he stated in February, began about the same day at end of November as bin Laden escaped. "We received a lot of Iranian currency, and the commanders distributed it to the soldiers," he said, adding that he had received 700,000 ($1,400) rials for his own personal use. "Our own Chechens were killing people who tried to leave so we left at night and traveled into Paktia [the province to the south] near to Gardez and onto Zarmat."

As panic overtook the fighters inside the enclave, local villagers who had been regularly paid off by bin Laden's men were available to help.

Malik Habib Gul, who had attended bin Laden's Nov. 10 speech in Jalalabad, says he was happy to arrange mule trains. He says the Al Qaeda fighters paid between 5,000 and 50,000 Pakistani rupees for mules and Afghan guides, which moved stealthily along the base of the White Mountains, over a major highway, and into the remote tribal areas of Pakistan.

"This was a golden opportunity for our village," he said in Jalalabad last week. "The only problem for the Arabs was the first 5 to 10 kilometers northeast from Tora Bora to our village of Upper Pachir. The bombing was very heavy. But after arriving in our village, there were no problems. You could ride a mule or drive a car into Pakistan."

He and other villagers say that from about Nov. 28 to Dec. 12, they probably escorted some 600 people out, including entire families. "Our main responsibility was getting people across the Kabul River at Lalpur. To do this, we had to cross the main road, but there was no one guarding it. To the south [in the direction of Parachinar, Pakistan], only walkers, mostly young fight- ers crossed. The snow was deep and the climb was difficult."

Intelligence lapses or flawed strategy?

Pir Baksh Bardiwal, the intelligence chief for the Eastern Shura, which controls eastern Afghanistan, says he was astounded that Pentagon planners didn't consider the most obvious exit routes and put down light US infantry to block them.

"The border with Pakistan was the key, but no one paid any attention to it," he said, leaning back in his swivel chair with a short list of the Al Qaeda fighters who were later taken prisoner. "And there were plenty of landing areas for helicopters, had the Americans acted decisively. Al Qaeda escaped right out from under their feet."

The intelligence chief contends that several thousand Pakistani troops who had been placed along the border about Dec. 10 never did their job, nor could they have been expected to, given that the exit routes were not being blocked inside Afghanistan.

The proxy war is launched

Meanwhile, back in Jalalabad, the Afghan warlords enlisted by the US to attack Tora Bora were also cutting deals to help the Al Qaeda fighters escape.

In the shoddy lobby of the Spin Ghar Hotel in downtown Jalalabad on Dec. 3, Haji Hayat Ullah - a member of the Eastern Shura who, according to both Afghan and Pakistani sources had long ties to bin Laden - asked for the "safe passage" for three of his Arab friends.

After a 20-minute discussion with Commander Ali, which was overheard by the Monitor in the empty hotel lobby, a deal was struck for the safe passage of the three Al Qaeda members.

About the same day as the 10-day offensive was launched - on Dec. 5 - nearly three-dozen US special forces, their faces wrapped in black and white bandanas, watched the fighting unfold from behind boulders on mountainsides, their trusted laser target designators in hand. They were "painting" the mouths of caves and bunkers inside the complex. The US bombing became markedly more accurate - almost overnight, according to Afghan civilians and local commanders.

The battle was joined, but anything approaching a "siege" of Tora Bora never materialized. Ghamsharik says today that he offered the US military the use his forces in a "siege of Tora Bora," but that the US opted in favor of his rival, Hazret Ali.

Indeed, Mr. Ali paid a lieutenant named Ilyas Khel to block the main escape routes into Pakistan. Mr. Khel had come to him three weeks earlier from the ranks of Taliban commander Awol Gul.

"I paid him 300,000 Pakistani rupees [$5,000] and gave him a satellite phone to keep us informed," says Mohammed Musa, an Ali deputy, who says Ali had firmly "trusted" Khel.

"Our problem was that the Arabs had paid him more, and so Ilyas Khel just showed the Arabs the way out of the country into Pakistan," Mr. Musa adds.

Afghan fighters from villages on the border confirmed in interviews last week in Jalalabad that they had later been engaged in firefights with Khel's fighters, who they said were "firing cover for escaping Al Qaeda."

As a Russian-made tank commandeered by US-backed Afghans blasted the valleys dividing snow-capped peaks, American B-52s rained down bombs from above, sending giant mushroom clouds that hovered over the pine forests.

The remaining Arab fighters - now reduced to a few hundred from the original 1,500 to 2,000 - continued to hold out, and could be overheard speaking on their radio handsets on Dec. 6. "OK. You can come out shooting," said one Al Qaeda fighter, speaking to another. "The US planes have flown out of the area again."

"The Sheikh [bin Laden] says keep your children in the caves and fight for Allah. Give guns to your wives as necessary to fight against the infidel aggressors."

But talk of surrender came quickly and unexpectedly on Dec. 11, amid heavy gunbattles in the bombed-out pine forests here. Arab fighters used an Afghan translator earlier in the day to convey their wishes: "Our guest brothers want to find safe passage out of your province."

Ghamsharik responded: "Our blood is your blood, your wives our sisters, and your children our children. But under the circumstances, I am compelled to tell you that you must either leave or surrender."

When Ali, whose men had paid Khel to guard the rear nearly two weeks earlier, complained that no deals should be cut, Ghamsharik shot back: "If you want to hold this ridge, send your own men up here. You are down there with the press and the pretty ladies, and I'm stuck up here." Both men chuckled.

On Dec. 13, Al Qaeda-backer Younus Khalis sent his own man into the fray - this time on the US side of the battle.

Awol Gul was calm and relaxed as B-52s pummeled a mountain behind him and Al Qaeda sniper fire rang out in the distance. "They've been under quite a bit of pressure inside there," he said. "It is likely that they have made a tactical withdrawal farther south. They have good roads, safe passage, and Mr. bin Laden has plenty of friends.

"We are not interested in killing the Arabs," Mr. Gul went on to say. "They are our Muslim brothers."

By Dec. 11, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld sounded unsure about how effective Pakistan's military could be in blocking the border. He said: "It's a long border. It's a very complicated area to try to seal, and there's just simply no way you can put a perfect cork in the bottle."

On Dec. 16, Afghan warlords announced they had advanced into the last of the Tora Bora caves. One young commander fighting with 600 of his own troops alongside Ali and Ghamsharik, Haji Zahir, could not have been less pleased with the final prize. There were only 21 bedraggled Al Qaeda fighters who were taken prisoners. "No one told us to surround Tora Bora," Mr. Zahir complained. "The only ones left inside for us were the stupid ones, the foolish and the weak."


While the hunt for Osama bin Laden and his top lieutenants has become increasingly invisible, it continues nonetheless. The ongoing fighting in Paktia Province, as well as the deployment of US troops to nations as far-flung as Georgia, Yemen, and the Philippines ensures that US pressure will stay on Al Qaeda's many cells - and that eyes around the world will remain open for "the Sheikh" and the $25 million bounty the US has attached to his head.

And while the US has taken justifiable pride in its ousting of the Taliban and supporting Afghanistan's fledgling interim government, President Bush's aim of catching the world's most wanted terrorist "dead or alive" has not been accomplished.

"There appears to be a real disconnect between what the US military was engaged in trying to do during the battle for Tora Bora - which was to destroy Al Qaeda and the Taliban - and the earlier rhetoric of President Bush, which had focused on getting bin Laden," says Charles Heyman, editor of Jane's World Armies. "There are citizens all over the Middle East now saying that the US military couldn't do it - couldn't catch Osama - while ignoring the fact that the US military campaign, apart from not capturing Mr. bin Laden was, up the that point, staggeringly effective."

Who's who at Tora Bora

MAULVI Younus Khalis: A patriarchal leader of the Jalalabad area and senior member of the Eastern Shura, the self-proclaimed government in the region. In the 1980s, he was a key ally to the US - and was even invited to the Reagan White House - during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Khalis later cultivated ties with Osama bin Laden, hosting the Al Qaeda leader when he returned to Afghanistan from Sudan in May 1996.

Hazret Ali: One of the two most powerful warlords under Khalis, and one of the two US point men in the fight against Tora Bora. Ali, with his strong ties to the Karzai government in Kabul, became the Eastern Shura's security chief after the fall of Jalalabad.

Haji Zaman Ghamsharik: The other key US pointman in the battle for Tora Bora. He returned from exile in France to become the Eastern Shura's Jalalabad commander. Ghamsharik's Khugani tribesmen (a Pashtun subsect) live in and near the White Mountains. The Pashtun, whom he represented, have divided loyalties among Khalis, Ali, and Ghamsharik.

Awol Gul: Military commander for the Al Qaeda-linked patriarch of Jalalabad, Younus Khalis.

Ilyas Khel: He worked under commander Gul during the Taliban era. When Ali took control of Jalalabad, he began to work for him. He knew Ali from Soviet-occupation days.

Haji Hayat Ullah: A member of the Eastern Shura with Al Qaeda ties. A personal friend of Osama bin Laden, Ullah ran orphanages in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Haji Zahir: Afghan commander, and the nephew of slain anti-Taliban fighter Abdul Haq. He is also the son of the new governor of Jalalabad, Haji Qadeer.

Malik Habib Gul: An Afghan tribal chief who attended bin Laden's last public speech on Nov. 10 and later helped hundreds of the Al Qaeda fighters escape.


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Pictured: The day it rained money as £6,000 thrown from plane to Indonesia's poorest

Money fell from the sky in Indonesia today... and into the waiting arms of the country's poorest residents.

The mad dash for the cash -which was thrown from a plane in a marketing stunt -left many cut, battered and bruised.

A girl of 13 collapsed and had to be taken to hospital.

Scroll down for more

Raining money: Indonesians grab cash thrown from an aeroplane as a marketing stunt

The 100million rupiah, or nearly £6,000, up for grabs amounts to a fortune in the South-East Asian country.

Those who managed to snatch a few notes took home more than they could earn in a month.

The money was dropped by author Tung Desem Waringin as a stunt to promote his book on business motivation.

With the cash bundled in bills of 1,000 and 5,000 rupiah (between 5p and 25p), he set off in the light aircraft to fly over a football stadium in Serang, 40 miles from the capital Jakarta.

Rumours of the stunt had been circulating for at least a day and the stadium was filled with the city's poor.

On the first and second runs, the notes fell 500 yards from the stadium, so the crowds dashed from the ground to scoop up what they could.

On the third run the money fluttered down into the stadium so they all had to scamper back into the arena.'

Here it comes: The money rains down

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he World's Hardest-Working Countries


If you thought you worked long hours, consider 39-year-old Lee from South Korea. A civil servant at the ministry of agriculture and fisheries, Lee gets up at 5:30 a.m. every day, gets dressed and makes a two-hour commute into Seoul to start work at 8:30 a.m. After sitting at a computer for most of the day, Lee typically gets out the door at 9 p.m., or even later.

By the time he gets home, it's just a matter of jumping in the shower and collapsing into bed, before starting the whole routine all over again, about four hours later. This happens six days a week, and throughout almost all of the year, as Lee gets just three days of vacation.

That's right. Three days.

In Pictures: The World's Hardest-Working Countries

And did we mention Lee has a wife and three teenage kids? "I get to see them for 10 or 15 minutes a week, and then just on the weekend," he says of his children before adding that, on weekends, he usually gets interrupted to go to the office.

Lee, who sometimes has to sleep at the ministry of agriculture and fisheries by lying on top of his desk, might seem like a workaholic that needs to get his priorities straight. But his schedule is completely normal in South Korea, where the average employee works 2,357 hours per year--that’s six-and-a-half hours for every single day of their life. According to a 2008 ranking by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, South Koreans work the longest hours per year, on average, out of every other OECD member.

"It’s the culture," says Lee. "We always watch what the senior boss thinks of our behavior. So it’s very difficult to finish at a fixed time." Leaving at the official time of 6 p.m. could mean not getting a promotion or raise. What would happen if Lee took a month's vacation? "My desk would surely be gone when I got back."

South Korea's hard-working citizenry is not alone. Greece comes second in the OECD's rankings with 2,052 hours worked on average each year, and just behind is a trio of Eastern European nations: Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland. The U.S. is also above the OECD average of 32 nations, coming at No. 9, with 1,797 hours worked on average each year.

One nation that is famed for a short working week is France, whose 35-hour week is currently in a state of flux. But even the French aren't the OECD's most leisurely workers: Bottom of the list are the tall and amiable Dutch, who work an average 1,391 hours per year, preceded by Norway and Germany.

Culture, as Lee says, is a big factor in the different working hours of nations, but types of employment and legal vacation time are also important. In some countries like the United Kingdom, which comes in at No. 20 on the list, the length of the working week is relatively long, says Pascal Marianna, an OECD expert in employment analysis and policy. But vacations are legally longer in the U.K., at 20 days, than in, say, the U.S., where employees get 10 days of vacation each year. The French get five weeks of vacation a year.

Greece and Italy are also near the top, at No.s 2 and 8, respectively, because of their large number of self-employed citizens. Mexico comes in at No. 7 for the same reason, along with the number of people who work in what Marianna calls "informal employment." According to the International Labor Organization, less than half of the world's employed people enjoy the security that comes with a regular salary.

Another reason for the difference is government policies and, in particular, taxation. The OECD found that an increase in marginal tax rates, or the tax owed on every extra dollar or euro earned, can negatively affect the average of hours worked. That effect is felt most typically by women, who are often the second earners in households.

And what of the diversion between Europe and the U.S., which once provoked the head of the OECD's Economic Department, Jorgen Elmeskov to ask if Europeans were "lazy" or Americans "crazy." It seems to be a changing picture.

Europeans used to work longer than their American counterparts in the 1970s, and it was only in the mid-1980s that the U.S. started to exceed them. Though working hours in both regions have eased back since the 1960s, they've fallen much more dramatically in Europe, by 23%, to 1,625 hours, today, compared with the 3% slide in American hours over the same time period. Some of the sharpest falls in working hours have been in Ireland, Portugal, Luxembourg and France, according to the OECD.

As for the opposite extreme, South Korea, things are slowly moving toward the OECD norm after the Korean government introduced a five-day working week in 2004 for schools and companies with over 1,000 employees. But with the culture of hard work so deeply ingrained, change is slow. "A Korean's identity comes from his title at work," says Michael Breen, author of The Koreans, explaining that employees often refer to each other by titles such as "office manager Kim" or "accountant Park," even outside the workplace.

"This is an authoritarian corporate culture," he adds. "It's very bad form to leave the office before the boss does, so people will hang around doing nothing, and then when the boss leaves, they feel free to leave. ... Because of all of that, people don't have much of a life."

Yet amid the current economic downturn, personal spending in developing nations, and rapidly industrializing Asia in particular, is seeing industrious citizens loosen up a bit. The OECD confirmed that South Korea is gradually converging toward its standard practices. "I am personally trying to reduce my working time and I try to reduce my stress," says Lee. "Korea has this kind of bad culture where we always think about the boss’ opinion. But we are changing."

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Low water pressure hampers fight against Universal Studios fire

Studio Fire
Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times
Fire engulfs the Universal Studios back lot.

Low water pressure and an overwhelmed sprinkler system hampered the fight against a fast-moving fire that tore through two city blocks at the Universal Studios Hollywood back lot Sunday, destroying the "King Kong" tour and burning the sets for such blockbuster movies as "Back to the Future" and "Bruce Almighty."

The fire raged and smoldered for much of the day, sending up a huge cloud of smoke visible for miles. Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and county Fire Chief P. Michael Freeman ordered an inquiry into whether the lack of water pressure in Universal's fire protection system allowed the blaze to get out of control at the world-famous studio and theme park.

"The water came out of hoses anemically," Yaroslavsky said. "The water-pressure issue is going to be the postmortem issue of this fire."

Some firefighters on the scene could get only a 10-foot spray from park hydrants and were unable to reach the vaulting flames.

The fire, fueled by highly combustible facades and lumber, rendered a sprinkler system on outdoor sets nearly useless, Freeman said.

Firefighters resorted to pumping water from two man-made studio ponds, including one that is home to the animatronic "Jaws" attraction. They also snaked hundreds of yards of hoses to street hydrants outside the park.

Nine firefighters and a sheriff's deputy were injured in the blaze, which was punctuated with 100-foot flames, early-morning explosions and then a second afternoon explosion as it consumed a cavernous video warehouse.

The cause of the fire was under investigation, Freeman said. Universal representatives declined to comment about the cause and the water-pressure issues.

The blaze erupted at 4:45 a.m. on New York Street -- a location that has played host to scenes for such films as "Batman and Robin" and "Austin Powers."

The flames churned through the open-air wood and plastic construction and to the adjacent sets, incinerating the 30-foot animatronic King Kong and damaging Courthouse Square, which played a prominent role in "Back to the Future," "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "Inherit the Wind."

Calm winds and a light marine layer kept the fire from spreading into the brush-covered hills nearby.

Yet the blaze engulfed the videotape warehouse, containing archives of television shows and movies dating to the 1920s. NBC Universal Chief Executive Ron Meyer said the tapes were copies and could be replaced.

By dawn, the towering cloud of black smoke made it look as if Hollywood was producing a film about its own doomsday.

The first 30 firefighters responding to the blaze showered the sets from three ladder trucks, said Daryl Jacobs, a county Fire Department spokesman. At that time, the water pressure was fine, he said.

By 6:30 a.m., as the fire turned into a conflagration, about 350 to 400 firefighters, with more than 20 ladder trucks and 40 engines, surrounded the area, spraying water-mixed foam retardant. As more firefighters sucked up more water, the water pressure began to drop precipitously.

County Fire Inspector James Barnes got word that some ladder trucks -- designed to jet up to 1,000 gallons a minute into burning buildings -- did not have enough force to reach the core of the flames.

"We all know there were challenges with water," Barnes said. "Whether the fire got bigger as a result, I could not tell you."

Commanders called in two water tanker trucks -- carrying 6,000 and 2,000 gallons -- and two helicopters, which dropped water for about an hour.

Barnes said that with so much equipment trying to converge on the area, many engines had trouble squeezing into the narrow streets. "Back there it's really tight, tight quarters," he said.

The fire burned in the video warehouse until late in the afternoon. A firefighter and a sheriff's deputy suffered minor injuries when they were knocked off their feet by a large explosion in the warehouse about 2:45 p.m., officials said.

As the fire threat receded, officials turned their attention to the problematic lack of water pressure.

Though the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power supplies Universal with water, the park is in unincorporated county territory and maintains its own system of mains, pumps and hydrants.

DWP spokesman Joe Ramallo said the agency tried to boost water pressure from its end, but the effort "had a negligible effect."

The DWP has upgraded its own system to ensure firefighters have sufficient pressure in Griffith Park and parts of the Hollywood Hills.

After a fire in 1990 roared through four acres of the back lot in 1990, Universal Studios installed a large sprinkler system designed to deluge flames, but it didn't seem to work Sunday.

"It appears the fire this morning overwhelmed fire-protection features," Freeman said. He said his department would look into the system.

"We're going to readily and quickly reevaluate that and see if that had any impact on the water pressure."

Sam Atwood, a spokesman for the South Coast Air Quality Management District, said the agency had taken air samples at the scene to test for hazards. He said the tests turned up no initial signs of danger, but that complete results would take several days.

He also said that any treated lumber that burned could produce harmful emissions, because it often contains arsenic.

Richard Drury, an Alameda, Calif., environmental attorney, said cheap plastics used at most industrial locations were also a worry. But Drury said it was important not to overstate the risks, noting that short-term exposure to carcinogens, for instance, might not pose a threat: "One-time exposure is probably not that significant."

More than 500 would-be visitors braved the noxious air all morning, based on announcements that the park would open after noon. But at 2:30 p.m., park officials said it would remain closed until 10 a.m. today.

"I'm frustrated," said Rob Polonsky, 23, a freelance video editor from Los Angeles, who called and checked the Internet before heading to the park Sunday morning. "They should have said from the start that they weren't going to open."

Jan Van Angelen, 25, a student from the University of Oklahoma, and his friend Hans Pul, 24, wanted to spend their last day in California at Universal Studios on Sunday.

The two had spent their weekend doing many of the tourist activities popular with Southland visitors.

Their last stop was at the park. They wanted to see the "Shrek 4D" ride.

"I thought it was a joke," Pul said when he saw the television images of smoke and fire.

By afternoon, shuttles were filled with visitors headed back to their parking structure.

"We've been through so many fires, we're used to it," said Doug Spinuzza, 41, an actor who went to the park with his 8-year-old son.

Fire is nothing new to the studio. Seven significant blazes have hit the lot along the Cahuenga Pass in the Hollywood Hills since 1932.

New York Street, in particular, burned to the ground in 1957 and 1990.

Filmed in the area were the TV shows "Crossing Jordan," "Monk," "Seinfeld," "NYPD Blue," "Kojak" and the movies "Dragnet," "Bruce Almighty," "The Sting" and the "The Blues Brothers."

The only television production affected by Sunday's fire was CBS' "Ghost Whisperer," but a CBS Paramount spokeswoman said the damage to exterior sets would not delay the fourth season's premiere.

Yaroslavsky said the latest inferno is a lesson that all the movie studios need to assess their vulnerability.

"It's enough of a wake-up call that we need to take another look," he said.

He added that the fire could have been a lot worse in different weather.

"All we know is that for an hour or more, the water pressure was inadequate," he said. "It's likely having optimal water pressure would have some impact on slowing the progress of the fire."

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Bush mulls making Pearl Harbor a national monument

President Bush waves to the crowd as he is introduced at Furman University before delivering the commencement address in Greenville, S.C., Saturday, May 31, 2008. (AP Photo/Patrick Collard)
AP Photo: President Bush waves to the crowd as he is introduced at Furman University before delivering...

HONOLULU - President Bush has asked his defense and interior secretaries to look into designating Pearl Harbor and other historic World War II sites in the Pacific a national monument.

A May 29 presidential memo to Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne said such status could offer the sites additional protection.

"These objects of historical and scientific interest may tell the broader story of the war, the sacrifices made by America and its allies, and the heroism and determination that laid the groundwork for victory in the Pacific and triumph in World War II," Bush said.

The letter, posted on the White House Web site, doesn't say what specific places Bush has in mind aside from Pearl Harbor.

Parts of the naval base are already under some form of protection or have historic designation.

The USS Arizona, an underwater grave for over 1,100 sailors and Marines unable to escape the ship before it sank during the Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese attack, is currently part of the USS Arizona Memorial run by the National Park Service.

Ford Island, where several of the Navy's battleships were moored during the attack, is a National Historic Landmark.

The island, located at the center of Pearl Harbor, is home to historic airplane hangers that survived the aerial assault. A red and white striped airplane control tower on Ford Island delivered the first radio broadcast of the attack.

Next door to Pearl Harbor, the top Air Force commander in the Pacific today has his headquarters in a building that served as barracks for Army airmen in 1941. Bullet holes left by Japanese machine guns are still visible on the outside of the structure's concrete walls.

Outside Hawaii, crucial battles were fought at Midway, Wake and Guam islands. All are still U.S. territory.

Today, Midway is mainly a wildlife bird refuge and key node in the island chain making up the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument that Bush established in 2006. The former naval base, where the U.S. defeated Japan in June 1942 to turn the tide of World War II in the Pacific, was named a National Historic Landmark in 1986.

Many areas — particularly Pearl Harbor, Hickam Air Force Base, and Guam — that would likely be eligible for inclusion in the monument are still actively used today by the U.S. military.

Making them part of a monument could complicate daily operations for the services. But Bush's memo told Gates and Kempthorne that national monument classification shouldn't interfere with the military's business.

"Please consider in your assessment that any proposed actions should not limit the Department of Defense from carrying out the mission of the various branches of the military," Bush said.

The Antiquities Act of 1906 gives the president the authority to make national monuments of "historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest." The president doesn't need Congressional approval to do designate monuments.

Other national monuments include the Statue of Liberty, designated by Calvin Coolidge in 1924, and the Grand Canyon, made a national monument by Herbert Hoover in 1932.

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