Merkel phones pope over Holocaust denier

Bishop Richard Williamson, shown in a recent Swiss interview, says he'll recant
German Chancellor Angela Merkel phoned Pope Benedict XVI Sunday over a Holocaust denier whom the pope welcomed back into the Roman Catholic Church last month.

Neither side seems to have shifted its position over Bishop Richard Williamson, who, shortly before the pope lifted his excommunication, denied the Nazis had systematically murdered six million Jews during World War II. “It was a very constructive conversation,” the German government and Vatican said in a joint statement about the call. Merkel and the pope expressed respect for each others’ opinion, the release said — diplomatic-speak for saying neither side budged. Merkel demanded Tuesday that the pope firmly reject Holocaust denial: “The pope and the Vatican must make absolutely clear that there can be no denial of the Holocaust,” Merkel said. The Vatican has pointed to several statements by Pope Benedict in the past few years condemning the destruction of European Jewry, including his visits to concentration camps. He has also said he did not know of Williamson’s views on the Holocaust when he lifted the excommunication. “I believe that the historical evidence is strongly against — is hugely against — 6 million Jews having been deliberately gassed in gas chambers as a deliberate policy of Adolf Hitler,” Williamson said recently in an interview with a Swedish television station, which also appeared on various Web sites after its broadcast. “I believe there were no gas chambers.” Germany’s Catholic bishops Saturday called for the expulsion of Williamson, a member of an ultra-conservative group expelled from the Church by Pope John Paul II in 1988.

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“Mr. Williamson is impossible and irresponsible,” Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, chairman of the German Bishops’ Conference, said Saturday, according to Spiegel Online. “I now see no room for him in the Catholic church.” In the Saturday article, Spiegel quotes Williamson saying he will not recant and that he would need more evidence to believe the Holocaust really happened. “If I find this proof, then I will correct myself,” he said. “But that will require some time.” On Wednesday, the Vatican had ordered Williamson to “distance himself” from his views “in an absolutely unequivocal and public manner.” The Vatican’s secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, has said Williamson will not be allowed to perform priestly functions if he does not recant. He said the pope was unaware of the comments when he rehabilitated Williamson and three other members of the Society of Saint Pius X. Williamson apologized last week for the “distress” he has caused the pope, but did not retract his comments. Williamson, who now lives in Argentina, and three other bishops who belong to the Society of Saint Pius X were excommunicated 20 years ago. The society was founded by Archbishop Marcel Lefebrve, who rebelled against the Vatican’s modernizing reforms in the 1960s, and who consecrated the men in unsanctioned ceremonies. Williamson’s reinstatement and comments have been fiercely criticized by Israel, American Jewish groups and political leaders. The pope — who was born in Germany and was a child during the Nazi era — rejected Holocaust denial in public statements on January 28. After his 14th birthday in 1941, Benedict — then called Joseph Ratzinger — was forced along with the rest of his class in Bavaria, southern Germany, to join the Hitler Youth. However his biographer John Allen Jr., said Ratzinger’s family was strongly anti-Nazi.

At the end of his weekly audience that day, the pope discussed his trips to the former concentration camp at Auschwitz and the images of “the heinous slaughter of millions of Jews, the innocent victims of a blind racial and religious hatred.” His spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, called Williamson’s remarks to Swedish television “absolutely indefensible.”


Scores killed in Australia’s ‘worst fires’

A policeman and forensics officer look over a house where five people died at Kinglake, north of Melbourne.
At least 108 people have been killed in Australian wildfires that the country’s public broadcaster Sunday called the worst in the nation’s history.

Kendra Jackson, leading senior constable of Australia’s Victoria state police, told CNN the latest death toll Sunday. The number of dead is now far higher than the toll of 75 in the Ash Wednesday fires of 1983. Close to 200,000 hectares (500,000 acres) of land have burned. Thousands of weary firefighters spent Sunday fighting a losing battle to contain the flames. “It’s an absolute feeling of helplessness,” said Michelle Achison, who lives in a suburb of Victoria, the state most affected. “There are communities that are completely flattened. There’s nothing at all. And each and every one of us knows somebody who will lose everything.” The death toll seemed to rise every hour Sunday as rescue workers discovered more bodies. Some victims perished inside cars while trying to flee the flames. Others had stayed put inside houses that were burned to their shells. Watch as deadly fires rage » “I’ve heard of sad stories of flames going over cars and maybe one person surviving,” Dr. John Coleridge of Victoria’s Alfred Hospital told reporters Sunday. “I suspect today they will find lots of cars with people who haven’t survived.” ‘Thank God we were spared’ Hospital officials treating burn victims said the wounds were the worst they have seen since the terrorist bombings in the Indonesian island of Bali in 2002. “Hell and all its fury has visited the good people of Victoria in the last 24 hours,” Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd told reporters while touring the fire-ravaged areas. Watch as officials react to wildfires » Rudd announced the creation of a AU$10 million ($6.7 million) relief fund to immediately assist the more than 600 families that have lost homes to the blaze. He also promised troops would be deployed to help fight the flames. All day Sunday, winds fanned flames into local towns, where the blazes spread with frightening speed, devouring homes. Residents — with handkerchiefs covering their faces — pointed garden hoses at the flames or tried to stamp out hotspots with towels and clothes, but to no avail. Photos: Bushfires leave path of destruction » “All I got left is what I stand in and a bag,” a woman told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, before breaking down. “My house. My house of 25 years is gone. I worked so hard for that house.” No one in the area was unaffected. John Brumby, the premier of Victoria, said the fire stopped just outside his parents’ house in the western part of the state. “There was a intense few hours for me,” he told ABC. “I was too far away to get there, four hours away. Dad’s in his early 80s, mom a bit younger. But we couldn’t get them on the mobile (phone), we couldn’t get them at home. No one knew where they were.” So many people have brought donations to relief centers in Victoria that the police have asked them to stop. “Police appreciate that people want to help the victims of the fire,” senior constable Wayne Wilson said in a statement, but added: “The number of people bringing items to the centers is causing difficulties in the operation of these centers.” As darkness descended, the flames continued to lick the night sky. Aerial views showed rivers of orange trickling in all directions amid the dense vegetation. “You look up at the sky and there’s this orange glow. It’s eerie,” said Ethan Alexander, a Melbourne photographer who visited some of the affected areas. More than 640 houses had been destroyed, said Sharon Merritt of the country’s Fire Protection Association. Victoria police are investigating the possibility that at least two of the fires were set deliberately, said Superintendent Ross McNeill, adding that no arrests had been made. Kieran Walshe, the deputy police commissioner for the state, said: “When you look at the way fires started, you can clearly see it’s not possible for a natural ignition to occur.” A man was charged with lighting fires in the neighboring state of New South Wales, police there said. The 31-year-old Killarney Vale man was due in court Monday after being arrested on Saturday, they said.

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The largest blaze was centered in the Kinglake area, about 80 km (50 miles) northeast of Melbourne, the Australia’s second most populated city and the capital of Victoria. One silver lining amid the devastation: the fires have not posed a significant threat to more populous areas, including Melbourne, as they sweep across rural outskirts of southeastern Australia, Walshe said. Still, said Achison, the Victoria resident, the state is so dry from lack of rain that there are no safe areas. “Last night, there was a grassfire on flat dry grass on one of the properties. And within minutes, six homes in a row were burned to the ground,” she said. “These weren’t people who were preparing to evacuate because they were told they weren’t in any danger.” Wildfires are an annual event in Australia. But this year, a combination of factors has made them especially intense: a drought, dry bush and one of the most powerful heat waves in memory. Temperatures in parts of Melbourne reached 48 degrees Celsius (118 degrees Fahrenheit) in the last few weeks. Dozens of heat-related deaths have been reported.

By Sunday, the temperatures had dropped to the mid-20s in the area. Officials were hoping for some help from milder weather moving in. Droplets of rain had started to fall in some areas. Northern Australia, on the other hand, is grappling with a different problem. Sixty percent of the state of Queensland was flooded, officials reported, and residents were warned to be on the lookout for crocodiles in urban areas.


NEW YORK DOLLS Putting Finishing Touches On New Album Recordings

NEW YORK DOLLS Putting Finishing Touches On New Album Recordings
NEW YORK DOLLS are reportedly putting the finishing touches on the recordings for their new album with legendary producer Todd Rundgren and are scheduled to begin mixing next week. The CD, which is being tracked at Rundgren’s studio on the island of Kauai, marks the first time the two have collaborated in 36 years since Rundgren originally produced the NEW YORK DOLLS‘ eponymous debut album, “New York Dolls”. Rundgren was reunited with DOLLS founding members David Johansen (vocals) and Sylvain Sylvain (guitar, vocals).

“We’re really excited to be working with Todd again,” David Johansen previously said. “We’re hoping to recapture the same magic on the forthcoming album.”

The album, which is yet untitled, will be released on the Atco label through Warner Brothers. The Atco label has been specially re-launched. The NEW YORK DOLLS are one of the first signings to the label. The DOLLS will follow the release of the new album with a world tour later in the year.
NEW YORK DOLLS Putting Finishing Touches On New Album Recordings


New Advanced API and Implementations with Popular Mapping Platforms Introduces New Advanced API and Implementations with Popular Mapping Platforms, today announced the full release of HopStop FreeAPI, a free service for developers. The Company also released code samples of HopStop’s mass-transit routing integration with Google, Yahoo and MapQuest maps. Using HopStop’s proprietary routing and mapping platform, web developers can now seamlessly integrate mass-transit routing, walking or Taxi information and maps into any web, voice or mobile application.

New York, NY, January 30, 2009 –(– New API Offering Provides Developers Ability to Easily Integrate Mass-transit, Walking and Taxi Fare Information Into Any Website or Mobile application, today announced the full release of HopStop FreeAPI, a free service for developers. The Company also released code samples of HopStop’s mass-transit routing integration with Google, Yahoo and MapQuest maps. Using HopStop’s proprietary routing and mapping platform, web developers can now seamlessly integrate mass-transit routing, walking or Taxi information and maps into any web, voice or mobile application.

“HopStop is currently the most used site for mass-transit directions in the United States and receives nearly 2 million visits each month. We have a proven product and our announcement today indicates our desire to make it easier for developers to build new experiences or applications on HopStop’s XML Web Service architecture.”, said Chinedu Echeruo, CEO and Founder of HopStop.

View sample implementations with Google, Yahoo and MapQuest map APIs and download the software code:
Google maps and code sample:
MapQuest maps and code sample:
Yahoo maps and code sample:

1. Enrich the user experience on your website by providing customized subway, bus, taxi and walking directions to any location in New York City, New Jersey, Long Island, Boston, Chicago, Washington D.C and San Francisco.
2. Improve the “stickiness” of your website by adding value and interactivity.
3. Leverage the power of HopStop technology while you retain your website’s look-and-feel and control over the user’s experience.

The service can be accessed through one of the three ports implemented: SOAP, HTTP POST, or HTTP GET. Sample scripts written in Perl, PHP, Classic ASP, ASP.NET or VB are also available for developers.

Developers who want to use the API to create new location-based service or to mashup with existing websites or applications can sign up for a free license key here:

About HopStop
HopStop provides door-to-door directions to city residents and tourists via public transportation systems. The company is building the first national network to facilitate inter-city and intra-city travel using mass transit systems. The Company’s services are currently available in New York City, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco and Washington D.C.

All trademarks used are properties of their respective owners.


Google search inoperable, reporting unfounded errors

Google search inoperable, reporting unfounded errors
Chicago (IL) – TG Daily observed significant problems with Google’s servers today. Whereas Google News was affected yesterday, today it is the main Google search engine at Users searching for anything will find that all returned pages include a warning that the site may harm their computer. This effectively blocks the URL link from being a click operation, and now requires manual intervention to visit the site.

Today I was going to update the Windows 7 beta UAC completely vulnerable to malware article to include a link to Microsoft’s Software Developer Network (MSDN) on the SendKeys function used to exploit Windows 7 beta (and ultimately Windows 7 when it’s released).

When I searched for “msdn sendkeys” it returned this:

Every website it returned has the warning “This site may harm your computer”. Clicking on the link to go to, results in Google warning about the dangers of Microsoft’s site. And, irony aside, there is no danger in going to Microsoft’s MSDN site.

Additionally, clicking on the help screen, called Safe Browsing Diagnostics Page, results in a server error being reported.

I quickly realized that it wasn’t just an error with this one site. Repeating any search returned every link with the same warning – indicating Google is having internal server issues right now.

The Google warning page above stops you from going to the site. A user must manually go up to the URL address bar and remove the portion of the address which redirects to This may not be a task most users are aware they can do (or even how to do it), effectively rendering Google’s search pages blocked or useless during this time without such manual cut-and-paste operations.

Browsers affected

Some web browsers which provide an enhanced user interface by allowing part of a web-page URL to be typed in, for example, were also affected as that functionality would simply result in the Google main page coming up rather than the intended destination.


It’s amazing how much of our online life is attached to Google searches. This is something to seriously consider because if Google was ever taken down? … what kind of immediate impact would it have on our online lives?

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Google flags entire Web as ‘malware’

A major hiccup at Google this morning caused the entire Internet to be flagged as malware.

The problem appears to be centered around the Google Safe Browsing API — even that returned a “This site may harm your computer” warning (see screenshot below) — the security diagnostics service that powers Firefox’s malware blocking service.

There has been no official word from Google yet but the blogosphere and Twittersphere is abuzz with screenshots and complaints from unhappy Web surfers. (See Techmeme discussion).

For a short period during the hiccup, Firefox was blocking access to Web sites with the standard “This is an attack site!” warning.

With all the damaged reputations from this episode, how soon before we see a high-level warning about the dangers of the Google monoculture?

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Google taking security a little too seriously?

Google taking security a little too seriously?

It looks like Google is marking all of its search results with the warning “This site may harm your computer.”

If you click on a Google result link in spite of the warning, you get an interstitial page with an additional warning: “Warning – visiting this web site may harm your computer!”

Clicking the warning itself will take you to this page, which explains that “This warning message appears with search results we’ve identified as sites that may install malicious software on your computer.”

The server(s) that hosts that page seems to be getting hammered right now. No surprise. So is, a site Google refers its users to for more information.

And so is the Google server that provides more detailed diagnostics for sites allegedly failing Google’s safety tests, such as this report for the presumably clean Wikipedia site.

Coincidentally, I was reviewing the diagnostics page just yesterday for a site that had been infected by malware. The diagnostics page identified the origin of the malware that Google spotted on the server it was warning about. I wonder what, if anything, Google is saying about all these allegedly infected sites this morning… especially since Google is warning about its own site as well, if your search encompasses one of Google’s own pages.

Something, I think, is amiss in Mountain View…

UPDATE: Todd Gardner suggests this problem was caused by an outage at If so, Google needs to rethink its failsafe strategy for this data source.

UPDATE 2: Google seems to be working normally again.

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Google Malware Warnings in Every Result?

Google Malware Warnings in Every Result?
There seems to be a problem with Google (News – Alert) today. I started my Saturday morning browsing the Web and couldn’t open any pages from Google’s search as a “Warning – visiting this web site may harm your computer!” message continually came up.

After moving over to Yahoo! to see what I can find, I saw many blog posters on the Google System Blog writing about the issue and saying even sites like CNN, BBC and Government sites are all showing this warning message as well.

I, like several other frustrated posters, have been forced to move our searching over to Yahoo! and other sites to see results that actually work.

Some were questioning whether Google has been hacked or if this is just badware protection gone wrong?

However, it seems from several reports now being released, this may just be Google working on its latest anti-malware feature and testing it out today.

Wesley Roberts of Tech Fragments reported that with this latest feature scans URLs for sites listed in the search results. “If a site is found to contain malware, a link would be presented under the search results for that site indicating so.”

Whatever glitch this was, it didn’t last long – things are back to normal in Google Search land… Back to my Saturday morning Web browsing!

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Philadelphia Auto Show

The Philadelphia International Auto Show is excited to welcome a variety of new components to its 2009 event including a special display from DUB Magazine, a classic race car museum and an expanded vintage vehicle display. Tons of the hottest modified celebrity vehicles will be featured at the display, including cars owned by boxing champ Bernard Hopkins and pro-surfer Matt Keenan. DUB Live! will also feature Rockstar Games’ newest racing blockbuster Midnight Club: Los Angeles inside its onsite gaming arena as well as real-life versions of the in-game cars such as the DUB-customized Saleen Mustang and Kawasaki ZX14. Other vehicles that will be on display include: the Lamborghini Murciélago LP 640, Ferrari 430, 20 custom bikes from Killer Kreations and much more. Auto Show attendees will also be able to listen to the sounds of some of the hottest local DJ talent on the DUB Live! Stage. The 2009 Philadelphia Auto Show is set for January 31 – February 8, 2009 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.
Preparations are well underway for the 2009 Philadelphia International Auto Show. Even with today’s economy, attendance is expected to be high at one of the city’s most anticipated events; one where the cars are the stars

While workers were busy checking the engines, testing the lights above the exotic cars, and polishing the smudges, Mayor Michael Nutter was making his entrance in a more practical ride, a Chevy Silverado Hybrid pickup.

Accompanied by some of Philadelphia’s most notable citizens, including Ben Franklin, Betsy Ross, and Ronald McDonald, the mayor spoke of harsh realities, but hope for the future.

“We know we have some tough economic times, but things will get better, and this might be a great opportunity to go out and get that vehicle,” Mayor Nutter said.
“All 40 manufacturers are coming back to this show and we’re very proud of that” Joe McGarity, the Philadelphia Auto Show Chairman, said.

700 vehicles from around the world will be featured in this year’s show/

“It’s been around for 108 years; it’s part of the fabric of the community, so whether you’re in the market or going to be in the market, or you’re just smelling the new car smell, or kicking the tires, it’s a great place to be,” Kevin Mazzucola, the Executive Director of the Auto Dealers Association, said.

On the top floor you’ll find the ultimate in a window shopping experience with cars like the Rolls Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe.

The price tag for the Rolls Phantom is just under a half a million dollars. It’s a gas guzzler with about 18 miles per gallon on the highway, however, it does come with it’s very own pop-out umbrella holder.

Most of the cars downstairs will be delivered in Thursday morning, but a 2007, “pimped out” Chrysler 300 was ready today for this year’s special DUB Live exhibit. The car comes complete with a hemi, air ride suspension, and 14 TVs.

The Auto Show will open this Saturday, January 31st 9:00 am to 10:00 p.m.


Portfolio Diet is Compatible with Recession

Portfolio Diet is Compatible with Recession
A series of University of Toronto research studies have shown that sticking to something called the “portfolio diet” (no, it’s not a Vanguard thing) can lower cholesterol, potentially keeping people off cholesterol-lowering perscription drugs. It’s also very recession-friendly.

Is it a coincidence that a diet that keeps people off meat and perscription drugs also happens to coincide with tough financial times? Research-wise, it probably is. But if you look at the contents of the diet, you can see that its budget-friendliness is probably helping its PR efforts.

Marjorie Geiser of EMax Health covers the diet:

A study about a new diet plan known as the portfolio diet shows that various foods, such as nuts, soy protein, oat bran, and plant sterols all can have a cholesterol-lowering effect.

Studies have previously shown that various foods, such as nuts, soy protein, oat bran, and plant sterols all can have a cholesterol-lowering effect. But what if you combined all these foods together? (New) research shows that combining all these foods together is as effective as taking a statin drug. The results showed a 30.9% decrease in LDL cholesterol from the statin and a decrease of 28.2% from the portfolio combination of all these foods.

The concept is to add all of these foods, in a type of portfolio plan, like investments, to cover all possibilities for better heart health. This is not a weight loss diet, however, although the concepts for weight loss and lowered cholesterol could certainly be combined, with proper education and guidance by a qualified nutrition expert.

What is the Portfolio Diet?

Just follow these guidelines:

1. Substitute soy foods for meat. Drink soy milk instead of milk and substitute soy protein foods for other meats.

2. Eat as much ‘sticky’ fiber as possible. People in the study took three daily servings of natural psyllium supplements. Oats and barley replace other grains and preferred vegetables include eggplant and okra.

3. Include plant sterol-enriched margarines, such as benecol and Take Control. Plant sterols are also available in capsule form as dietary supplements.

4. A handful of nuts every day. In the study, almonds were eaten and the Almond Board of California offers portfolio diet recipes on its website (look at recipes on, but any tree nut will reduce cholesterol.

Here are some examples of a typical day:

Breakfast – Include soy milk in your portfolio diet, oat bran cereal with chopped fruit and almonds, oatmeal bread with sterol-enriched margarine, and some jam.

Lunch – Soy lunchmeats, oat bran bread, bean soup, fruit.

Dinner – Stir fry with vegetables, tofu, fruit and almonds.

Snacks – Include nuts, yogurt, and soy milk thickened with a psyllium supplement such as Metamucil.

The portfolio diet is meager fare compared Atkins diet, where expensive steaks are a regular staple. And if it gets you off prescription drugs, it’s even better for your pocketbook. I doubt that the timing is deliberate, but it is interesting to see something like this being marketed during a serious economic crisis.

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