It was etched in the blood of a dictator in a ghoulish bid for piety. Over the course of two painstaking years in the late 1990s, Saddam Hussein had sat regularly with a nurse and an Islamic calligrapher; the former drawing 27 litres of his blood and the latter using it as a macabre ink to transcribe a Qur'an. But since the fall of Baghdad, almost eight years ago, it has stayed largely out of sight - locked away behind three vaulted doors. It is the one part of the ousted tyrant's legacy that Iraq has simply not known what to do with.
The vault in the vast mosque in Baghdad has remained locked for the past three years, keeping the 114 chapters of the Muslim holy book out of sight - and mind - while those who run Iraq have painstakingly processed the other cultural remnants of 30 years of Saddam and the Ba'ath party.
"What is in here is priceless, worth absolutely millions of dollars," said Sheikh Ahmed al-Samarrai, head of Iraq's Sunni Endowment fund, standing near the towering minarets of the west Baghdad mosque that Saddam named "the Mother of All Battles". Behind him is the infamous Blood Qur'an, written in Saddam's own blood.
Even to get to this point - the last step before entering the forbidden vault - has been a tortuous process.
On one flank had been the government, doing all it could to prevent access. The Shia-led regime is highly sensitive to the re-emergence of any symbols that might lionise the remnants of the Ba'athist rank and file, which still orchestrates bombings and assassinations every few days.
And then there are the Sunnis themselves, who are fearful of government retribution if they open the doors and of divine disapproval if they treat this particularly gruesome volume of the Qur'an with the reverence of a holy book.
"It was wrong to do what he did, to write it in blood," says Sheikh Samarrai. "It is haraam [forbidden]."
Despite this, Sammarie says he acted as the document's protector during the mayhem that followed the US-led invasion in 2003, hiding pages in his house and moving others among the homes of his relatives.
"I knew this would be much sought after and we made the decision to protect it. But to see this now is not easy. There are three keys and none of them are held in the one place. I have one, the police chief in the area has another and there is a third in another part of Baghdad. There has to be a decision of a committee to let you in."
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
This sounds like a Sam Raimi movie in the making. From the Guardian, sent in by Coozer-Phile Duff.
Hope the guy is okay, but who else thinks Kraven is sabotaging this thing? From CNN:
A performer was injured in a fall during a performance of the stage musical "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" in New York on Monday night, a representative of the show said.
Christopher Tierney, 31, fell 20 to 30 feet and is listed in serious condition, said Bellevue Hospital spokesman Steven Bohlen.
Jonathan Dealwis, a tourist from New Zealand who was in the audience, told CNN the person portraying Spider-Man in the scene fell "about six meters," or about 20 feet.
Reeve Carney is the actor who normally plays Spider-Man, but nine people perform Spider-Man's stunts when the character is masked, show spokesman Jaron Caldwell said. He did not confirm who the injured performer is.
Dealwis said the accident happened near the end of the show.
"Spider-Man was on a bridge, and Mary Jane was dangling from it," Dealwis said. "She drops down, as is meant to happen. Spider-Man went to the end of the bridge there. I think he was meant to sort of swoop over there, but he just fell off. ... The harness, you could see it just flick off his back and fly backward."
Afterward, Dealwis said, "it just went black, and the producer came on and said we're going to pause for a moment. You could hear Mary Jane weeping."
A producer then came by and said the show was over, Dealwis said. Some people "clapped awkwardly," and one girl "laughed mockingly," drawing "disapproving glances" from others.
Dealwis said the performer was wheeled away in a neck brace and was alert when he was taken to Bellevue hospital.
Rick Miramontez, another spokesman for the show, issued a statement confirming that the performer fell from a platform and the show was stopped.
"All signs were good as he was taken to the hospital for observation," Miramontez said.
The show, with music and lyrics by U2's Bono and The Edge, is the most expensive in Broadway history by a significant margin, but production has been beset by cast injuries and technical problems.
Monday night's performance was a preview -- the show is not officially open yet. Opening has been delayed repeatedly.
Caldwell declined to say whether the next scheduled performance will take place as planned.
Monday, December 20, 2010
From AOL News:
As many as 1.5 billion people worldwide will be able to watch when the Earth's shadow creeps across the moon's surface early Tuesday morning, the first time in hundreds of years that a lunar eclipse will fall on the winter solstice.
With the full moon high in the winter sky, the lunar eclipse will be visible from four continents, with the best views from North America and Central America if weather permits, scientists say.
"It's a really democratic event," Andrew Fraknoi, the chairman of astronomy at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, told the San Francisco Chronicle, "because you don't need an expensive telescope or any other sophisticated equipment to enjoy the spectacle -- just your eyes or, if you like, a pair of binoculars."
Unlike a solar eclipse, eclipses of the moon can usually be observed anywhere in the hemisphere where the moon is above the horizon.
This particular lunar eclipse also may be seen in totality from northern and western Europe, some of northeast Asia, Hawaii and New Zealand, according to Space.com. In total, some 1.5 billion people may have a chance to see the full eclipse, the website reported.
Total lunar eclipses during winter in the northern hemisphere are fairly common, NASA says. However, a lunar eclipse falling precisely on the date of the solstice is quite rare.
Geoff Chester of the U.S. Naval Observatory inspected a list of eclipses going back 2000 years for NASA.
"Since Year 1, I can only find one previous instance of an eclipse matching the same calendar date as the solstice, and that is 1638 DEC 21," Chester said, according to NASA. "Fortunately we won't have to wait 372 years for the next one ... that will be on 2094 DEC 21."