Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Google Play for Education now accepting developer submissions

Google Play for Education now accepting developer submissions

Google's getting serious about education. Its Play for Education portal, announced last month at I/O, is creeping ever closer to a full launch, with a call for application submissions starting today. Developers that want to be considered for Google's curated storefront can mark their applications for consideration now via the Play Developer Console. But unlike the wild, wild west of the Play store at-large, where anything goes, not every education-focused app will get the greenlight. In fact, Google's submission process requires all applications marked as suitable for K-12 to first pass through a network of non-affiliated educators for evaluation before then being measured against the Play for Education store's requirements for classroom use. If selected, developer's applications will be made available to the many pilot programs currently underway across the country, with an eventual full-scale rollout when Play for Education officially launches sometime this fall.

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Source: Android Developers Blog

Source: http://feeds.engadget.com/~r/weblogsinc/engadget/~3/bw0hjFFVx70/

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Snowden believed to be in Moscow

MOSCOW (AP) ? A former National Security Agency contractor wanted by the United States for revealing highly classified surveillance programs was believed to have landed in Russia on Sunday ? possibly as a stopover before traveling elsewhere ? after being allowed to leave Hong Kong.

Edward Snowden was on an Aeroflot flight from Hong Kong that arrived in Moscow shortly after 5 p.m. (1300gmt) Sunday and was booked on a flight to fly to Cuba on Monday, the Russian news agencies ITAR-Tass and Interfax reported, citing unnamed airline officials. The reports said he intended to travel from Cuba to Caracas, Venezuela. There was also speculation that he might try to reach Ecuador.

The WikiLeaks anti-secrecy group said it was working with him and that he was bound for an unnamed "democratic nation via a safe route for the purpose of asylum."

Snowden did not leave Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport with the other passengers and was not seen by a crowd of journalists waiting in the arrivals lounge. Interfax reported that he was spending the night in the transit zone of the airport because he did not have a visa to enter Russia and had rented a room in a capsule hotel.

The car of Ecuador's ambassador to Russia was parked outside the airport, spurring the speculation that Snowden intended to seek asylum in the Latin American country. But in Ecuador, a high-ranking source at the presidency said there was no information about whether Snowden would seek asylum there. The source spoke on condition of anonymity for lack of authorization to speak on the issue.

Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said last week that if Snowden asked for asylum, Ecuador would study the request.

Snowden had been in hiding in Hong Kong for several weeks after he revealed information on the highly classified spy programs. WikiLeaks said it was providing legal help to Snowden at his request and that he was being escorted by diplomats and legal advisers from the group.

WikiLeaks' founder, Julian Assange, who has spent a year inside the Ecuadorean Embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden to face questioning about sex crime allegations, told the Sydney Morning Herald that his organization is in a position to help because it has expertise in international asylum and extradition law.

The White House said President Barack Obama has been briefed on Sunday's developments by his national security advisers.

Snowden's departure came a day after the United States made a formal request for his extradition and gave a pointed warning to Hong Kong against delaying the process of returning him to face trial in the U.S.

The Department of Justice said only that it would "continue to discuss this matter with Hong Kong and pursue relevant law enforcement cooperation with other countries where Mr. Snowden may be attempting to travel."

The Hong Kong government said in a statement that Snowden left "on his own accord for a third country through a lawful and normal channel."

It acknowledged the U.S. extradition request, but said U.S. documentation did not "fully comply with the legal requirements under Hong Kong law." It said additional information was requested from Washington, but since the Hong Kong government "has yet to have sufficient information to process the request for provisional warrant of arrest, there is no legal basis to restrict Mr. Snowden from leaving Hong Kong."

The statement said Hong Kong had informed the U.S. of Snowden's departure. It added that it wanted more information about alleged hacking of computer systems in Hong Kong by U.S. government agencies which Snowden had revealed.

Hong Kong's decision to let Snowden go on a technicality appears to be a pragmatic move aimed at avoiding a drawn out extradition battle. The action swiftly eliminates a geopolitical headache that could have left Hong Kong facing pressure from both Washington and Beijing.

Hong Kong, a former British colony, has a high degree of autonomy and is granted rights and freedoms not seen on mainland China, but under the city's mini constitution Beijing is allowed to intervene in matters involving defense and diplomatic affairs.

Hong Kong has an extradition treaty with the U.S., but the document has some exceptions, including for crimes deemed political.

Russian officials have given no indication that they have any interest in detaining Snowden or any grounds to do so. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said that Russia would be willing to consider granting asylum if Snowden were to make such a request.

Russia and the United States have no extradition treaty that would oblige Russia to hand over a U.S. citizen at Washington's request.

The Cuban government had no comment on Snowden's movements or reports he might use Havana as a transit point.

The Obama administration on Saturday warned Hong Kong against delaying Snowden's extradition, with White House national security adviser Tom Donilon saying in an interview with CBS News, "Hong Kong has been a historically good partner of the United States in law enforcement matters, and we expect them to comply with the treaty in this case."

Michael Ratner, Assange's lawyer, said he didn't know Snowden's final destination, but that his options were not numerous. "You have to have a country that's going to stand up to the United States," Ratner said. "You're not talking about a huge range of countries here."

Ratner added that a country's extradition treaty with the U.S. is "not going to be relevant" because the country he ends up going to will likely be one willing to give him a political exemption.

Snowden's departure came as the South China Morning Post released new allegations from the former NSA contractor that U.S. hacking targets in China included the nation's cellphone companies and two universities hosting extensive Internet traffic hubs.

He told the newspaper that "the NSA does all kinds of things like hack Chinese cellphone companies to steal all of your SMS data." It added that Snowden said he had documents to support the hacking allegations, but the report did not identify the documents. It said he spoke to the newspaper in a June 12 interview.

With a population of more than 1.3 billion, China has massive cellphone companies. China Mobile is the world's largest mobile network carrier with 735 million subscribers, followed by China Unicom with 258 million users and China Telecom with 172 million users.

Snowden said Tsinghua University in Beijing and Chinese University in Hong Kong, home of some of the country's major Internet traffic hubs, were targets of extensive hacking by U.S. spies this year. He said the NSA was focusing on so-called "network backbones" in China, through which enormous amounts of Internet data passes.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said it was aware of the reports of Snowden's departure from Hong Kong to Moscow but did not know the specifics. It said the Chinese central government "always respects" Hong Kong's "handling of affairs in accordance with law." The Foreign Ministry also noted that it is "gravely concerned about the recently disclosed cyberattacks by relevant U.S. government agencies against China."

China's state-run media have used Snowden's allegations to poke back at Washington after the U.S. had spent the past several months pressuring China on its international spying operations.

A commentary published Sunday by the official Xinhua News Agency said Snowden's disclosures of U.S. spying activities in China have "put Washington in a really awkward situation."

"Washington should come clean about its record first. It owes ... an explanation to China and other countries it has allegedly spied on," it said. "It has to share with the world the range, extent and intent of its clandestine hacking programs."


Chan reported from Hong Kong. Sylvia Hui in London, Paul Haven in Havana, Gonzalo Solano in Quito, Ecuador, and Anne Flaherty and Julie Pace in Washington contributed to this report.

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/wanted-us-leaker-snowden-believed-moscow-161850018.html

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Monday, June 24, 2013

Pleasure response from chocolate: You can see it in the eyes

June 24, 2013 ? The brain's pleasure response to tasting food can be measured through the eyes using a common, low-cost ophthalmological tool, according to a study just published in the journal Obesity. If validated, this method could be useful for research and clinical applications in food addiction and obesity prevention.

Dr. Jennifer Nasser, an associate professor in the department of Nutrition Sciences in Drexel University's College of Nursing and Health Professions, led the study testing the use of electroretinography (ERG) to indicate increases in the neurotransmitter dopamine in the retina.

Dopamine is associated with a variety of pleasure-related effects in the brain, including the expectation of reward. In the eye's retina, dopamine is released when the optical nerve activates in response to light exposure.

Nasser and her colleagues found that electrical signals in the retina spiked high in response to a flash of light when a food stimulus (a small piece of chocolate brownie) was placed in participants' mouths. The increase was as great as that seen when participants had received the stimulant drug methylphenidate to induce a strong dopamine response. These responses in the presence of food and drug stimuli were each significantly greater than the response to light when participants ingested a control substance, water.

"What makes this so exciting is that the eye's dopamine system was considered separate from the rest of the brain's dopamine system," Nasser said. "So most people- and indeed many retinography experts told me this- would say that tasting a food that stimulates the brain's dopamine system wouldn't have an effect on the eye's dopamine system."

This study was a small-scale demonstration of the concept, with only nine participants. Most participants were overweight but none had eating disorders. All fasted for four hours before testing with the food stimulus.

If this technique is validated through additional and larger studies, Nasser said she and other researchers can use ERG for studies of food addiction and food science.

"My research takes a pharmacology approach to the brain's response to food," Nasser said. "Food is both a nutrient delivery system and a pleasure delivery system, and a 'side effect' is excess calories. I want to maximize the pleasure and nutritional value of food but minimize the side effects. We need more user-friendly tools to do that."

The low cost and ease of performing electroretinography make it an appealing method, according to Nasser. The Medicare reimbursement cost for clinical use of ERG is about $150 per session, and each session generates 200 scans in just two minutes. Procedures to measure dopamine responses directly from the brain are more expensive and invasive. For example, PET scanning costs about $2,000 per session and takes more than an hour to generate a scan.

Source: http://feeds.sciencedaily.com/~r/sciencedaily/health_medicine/nutrition/~3/sP3xYVux-9w/130624111014.htm

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Exactly How the NSA Is Getting Away With Spying on US Citizens

Exactly How the NSA Is Getting Away With Spying on US Citizens

The Guardian published a new batch of secret leaked FISA court and NSA documents yesterday, which detail the particulars of how government has been accessing Americans? emails without a warrant, in violation of the Constitution. The documents lay bare fundamental problems with the ineffectual attempts to place meaningful limitations on the NSA?s massive surveillance program.



Source: http://feeds.gawker.com/~r/gizmodo/full/~3/LbIgMyBuzNo/exactly-how-the-nsa-is-getting-away-with-spying-on-us-c-540606531

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German minister seeks answers from UK over spying 'catastrophe'

By Michael Nienaber

BERLIN (Reuters) - Britain's European partners will seek urgent clarification from London about whether a British spy agency has tapped international telephone and Internet traffic on a massive scale, Germany's justice minister said on Saturday.

Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said a report in Britain's Guardian newspaper read like the plot of a horror film and, if confirmed as true, would be a "catastrophe".

In its latest article based on information from Edward Snowden, a former contractor for the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), the Guardian reported a project codenamed "Tempora" under which Britain's eavesdropping agency can tap into and store huge volumes of data from fiber-optic cables.

Tempora has been running for about 18 months and allows the Government Communications Headquarters agency (GCHQ) to access the data and keep it for 30 days, the paper said, adding that much information was shared with the NSA.

"If these accusations are correct, this would be a catastrophe," Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said in a statement emailed to Reuters.

"The accusations against Great Britain sound like a Hollywood nightmare. The European institutions should seek straight away to clarify the situation."

With a few months to go before federal elections, the minister's comments are likely to please Germans who are highly sensitive to government monitoring, having lived through the Stasi secret police in communist East Germany and with lingering memories of the Gestapo under the Nazis.

"The accusations make it sound as if George Orwell's surveillance society has become reality in Great Britain," the parliamentary floor leader of the opposition Social Democrats, Thomas Oppermann, was quoted as saying in a newspaper.

Orwell's novel "1984" envisioned a futuristic security state where "Big Brother" spied on the intimate details of people's lives.

"This is unbearable," Oppermann told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung. "The government must clarify these accusations and act against a total surveillance of German citizens."

Earlier this month, in response to questions about the secret U.S. data-monitoring program Prism, also exposed by Snowden, British Foreign Secretary William Hague told parliament that GCHQ always adhered to British law when processing data gained from eavesdropping.

He would not confirm or deny any details of UK-U.S. intelligence sharing, saying that to do so could help Britain's enemies.

News of Prism outraged Germans, with one politician likening U.S. tactics to those of the Stasi, and the issue overshadowed a visit by U.S. President Barack Obama to Berlin last week.

(Writing by Sarah Marsh; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/german-minister-seeks-answers-uk-over-spying-catastrophe-152419146.html

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Twinkies To Return To Shelves July 15, Hostess Says

NEW YORK ? Hostess is betting on a sweet comeback for Twinkies when they return to shelves next month.

The company that went bankrupt after an acrimonious fight with its unionized workers last year is back up and running under new owners and a leaner structure. It says it plans to have Twinkies and other snack cakes back on shelves starting July 15.

Based on the outpouring of nostalgia sparked by its demise, Hostess is expecting a blockbuster return next month for Twinkies and other sugary treats, such as CupCakes and Donettes. The company says the cakes will taste the same but that the boxes will now bare the tag line "The Sweetest Comeback In The History Of Ever."

"A lot of impostor products have come to the market while Hostess has been off the shelves," says Daren Metropoulos, a principal of the investment firm Metropoulos & Co., which teamed up with Apollo Global Management to buy a variety of Hostess snacks.

Hostess Brands Inc. was struggling for years before it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization in early 2012. Workers blamed the troubles on years of mismanagement, as well as a failure of executives to invest in brands to keep up with changing tastes. The company said it was weighed down by higher pension and medical costs than its competitors, whose employees weren't unionized.

To steer it through its bankruptcy reorganization, Hostess hired restructuring expert Greg Rayburn as its CEO. But Rayburn ultimately failed to reach a contract agreement with its second largest union. In November, he blamed striking workers for crippling the company's ability to maintain normal production and announced that Hostess would liquidate.

The shuttering triggered a rush on Hostess snack cakes, with stores selling out of the most popular brands within hours.

About 15,000 unionized workers lost their jobs in the aftermath.

In unwinding its business, Hostess sold off its brands in chunks to different buyers. Its major bread brands including Wonder were sold to Flowers Foods, which makes Tastykakes. McKee Foods, which makes Little Debbie snack cakes, snapped up Drake's Cake, which includes Devil Dogs and Yodels.

Metropoulos & Co. and Apollo bought Twinkies and other Hostess cakes for $410 million.

Apollo Global Management, founded by Leon Black, is known for buying troubled brands then selling them for a profit; its investments include fast-food chains Carl's Jr. and Hardee's. Metropoulos & Co., which has revamped then sold off brands including Chef Boyardee and Bumble Bee, also owns Pabst Brewing Co.

That could mean some cross-promotional marketing is in store.

"There is certainly a natural association with the two," Metropoulos said. "There could be some opportunities for them to seen together."

The trimmed-down Hostess Brands LLC has a far less costly operating structure than the predecessor company. Some of the previous workers were hired back, but they're no longer unionized.

Hostess will also now deliver to warehouses that supply retailers, rather than delivering directly to stores, said Rich Seban, the president of Hostess who previously served as chief operating officer. That will greatly expand its reach, letting it deliver to dollar stores and nearly all convenience stores in the U.S.

Previously, he said Hostess was only able to reach about a third of the country's 150,000 convenience stores.

Production was also consolidated, from 11 bakery plants to four ? one each in Georgia, Kansas, Illinois and Indiana. The headquarters were moved from Texas to Kansas City, Mo., where Hostess was previously based and still had some accounting offices.

In the months since they vanished from shelves, the cakes have been getting a few touchups as well. For the CupCakes, the company is now using dark cocoa instead of milk chocolate to give them a richer, darker appearance.

Seban stressed that the changes were to improve the cakes, not to cut costs. Prices for the cakes will remain the same; a box of 10 Twinkies will cost $3.99.

Looking ahead, Seban sees Hostess expanding its product lineup. He noted that Hostess cakes are known for three basic textures: the spongy cake, the creamy filling and the thicker icing. But he said different textures ? such as crunchy ? could be introduced, as well as different flavors.

"We can have some fun with that mixture," he said.

He also said there are many trendy health attributes the company could tap into, such as gluten-free, added fiber, low sugar and low sodium.

During bankruptcy proceedings, Hostess had said that its overall sales had been declining, although the company didn't give a breakout on the performance of individual brands. But Seban is confident Twinkies will have staying power beyond its re-launch.

As for the literal shelf-life, Seban is quick to refute the snack cake's fabled indestructibility.

"Forty-five days ? that's it," he said. "They don't last forever."


Follow Candice Choi at www.twitter.com/candicehoi

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Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/23/twinkies-july-return-to-shelves_n_3486930.html

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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Hatred between Sunnis, Shiites abounds in Mideast

In this Friday, June 7, 2013 photo, Iraqi worshippers attend a joint Sunni-Shiite Friday prayer in Baghdad, Iraq. Hatreds between Shiites and Sunnis are now more virulent than ever in the Arab world because of Syria's brutal civil war. Hard-line clerics and politicians on both sides have added fuel, depicting the fight as essentially a war of survival for their sect. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

In this Friday, June 7, 2013 photo, Iraqi worshippers attend a joint Sunni-Shiite Friday prayer in Baghdad, Iraq. Hatreds between Shiites and Sunnis are now more virulent than ever in the Arab world because of Syria's brutal civil war. Hard-line clerics and politicians on both sides have added fuel, depicting the fight as essentially a war of survival for their sect. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

FILE - This April 22, 2009 file photo, shows Iraqi women at the al-Sayda Zeinab shrine in southern Damascus, Syria. Hatreds between Shiites and Sunnis are now more virulent than ever in the Arab world because of Syria's brutal civil war. Hard-line clerics and politicians on both sides have added fuel, depicting the fight as essentially a war of survival for their sect. (AP Photo/Ola Rifai, File)

FILE - This June 14, 2012, file photo shows Syrian security forces at the site where a car bomb exploded near the shrine of Sayyida Zeinab, visible in the background, in a suburb of Damascus, Syria. Hatreds between Shiites and Sunnis are now more virulent than ever in the Arab world because of Syria's brutal civil war. Hard-line clerics and politicians on both sides have added fuel, depicting the fight as essentially a war of survival for their sect. (AP Photo/Bassem Tellawi, File)

FILE - In this Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2011 file photo, Muslim pilgrims visit the Hiraa cave, at the top of Noor Mountain on the outskirts of Mecca, Saudi Arabia. As Muslims from all over the world congregate for the annual hajj pilgrimage, some are defying the edicts of Saudi Arabia?s strict Wahhabi school of Islam by climbing al-Nour mountain in the hope of attaining spiritual favor. Hatreds between Shiites and Sunnis are now more virulent than ever in the Arab world because of Syria's brutal civil war. Hard-line clerics and politicians on both sides have added fuel, depicting the fight as essentially a war of survival for their sect. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar, File)

In this Tuesday, June 4, 2013 photo, Shiite women pray at the Imam Moussa al-Kadhim shrine at Kazimiyah district of Baghdad, Iraq. Hatreds between Shiites and Sunnis are now more virulent than ever in the Arab world because of Syria's brutal civil war. Hard-line clerics and politicians on both sides have added fuel, depicting the fight as essentially a war of survival for their sect. (AP Photo/ Karim Kadim)

(AP) ? It's not hard to find stereotypes, caricatures and outright bigotry when talk in the Middle East turns to the tensions between Islam's two main sects.

Shiites are described as devious, power-hungry corruptors of Islam. Sunnis are called extremist, intolerant oppressors.

Hatreds between the two are now more virulent than ever in the Arab world because of Syria's civil war. On Sunday, officials said four Shiites in a village west of Cairo were beaten to death by Sunnis in a sectarian clash unusual for Egypt.

Hard-line clerics and politicians on both sides in the region have added fuel, depicting the fight as essentially a war of survival for their sect.

But among the public, views are complex. Some sincerely see the other side as wrong ? whether on matters of faith or politics. Others see the divisions as purely political, created for cynical aims. Even some who view the other sect negatively fear sectarian flames are burning dangerously out of control. There are those who wish for a return to the days, only a decade or two ago, when the differences did not seem so important and the sects got along better, even intermarried.

And some are simply frustrated that there is so much turmoil over a dispute that dates back to the death of the Prophet Muhammad in the 7th century.

"Fourteen centuries after the death of the prophet, in a region full of destruction, killing, occupation, ignorance and disease, you are telling me about Sunnis and Shiites?" scoffs Ismail al-Hamami, a 67-year-old Sunni Palestinian refugee in Gaza. "We are all Muslims. ... You can't ignore the fact that (Shiites) are Muslims."

Associated Press correspondents spoke to Shiites and Sunnis across the region. Amid the variety of viewpoints, they found a public struggling with anger that is increasingly curdling into hatred.



The Sunni-Shiite split is rooted in the question of who should succeed Muhammad in leading Muslims after his death in 632. Shiites say the prophet's cousin and son-in-law Ali was his rightful successor but was cheated when authority went to those the Sunnis call the four "Rightfully Guided Caliphs" ? Abu Bakr, Omar and Othman and, finally, Ali.

Sunnis are the majority across the Islamic world. In the Middle East, Shiites have strong majorities in Iran, Iraq and Bahrain, with significant communities in Lebanon, Yemen, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and other parts of the Gulf.

Both consider the Quran the word of God. But there are distinctions in theology and religious practice between the two sects.

Some are minor: Shiites pray with their hands by their sides, Sunnis with their hands crossed at their chest or stomach.

Others are significant. Shiites, for example, believe Ali and a string of his descendants, the Imams, had not only rightful political authority after Muhammad but also held a special religious wisdom. Most Shiites believe there were 12 Imams ? many of them "martyred" by Sunnis ? and the 12th vanished, to one day return and restore justice. Sunnis accuse the Shiites of elevating Ali to the level of Muhammad himself ? incorrectly, since Shiites agree that Muhammad was the last of the prophets, a central tenet of Islam.

The bitter disputes of early Islam still resonate. Even secular-minded Shiite parents would never name their child after the resented Abu Bakr, Omar or Othman ? or Aisha, a wife of Muhammad, who helped raise a revolt against Ali during his Caliphate. When outgoing Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Egypt earlier this year, the sheik of Al-Azhar, the bastion of Sunni theology, told him sharply that if the sects are to get along, Shiites must stop "insulting" the "companions of the prophet."

But only the most hard-core would say those differences are reason enough to hate each other. For that, politics is needed.



If Syria's war has raised the region's sectarian hatreds, the war in Iraq played a big role in unleashing them. After the U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003, the long-oppressed Shiite majority there saw a chance to take power. Sunnis feared the repression would flip onto them. The result was vicious sectarian fighting that lasted until 2008: Sunni extremists pulled Shiite pilgrims from buses and gunned them down; Shiite militiamen kidnapped Sunnis, dumping their tortured bodies later.

ABDUL-SATTAR ABDUL-JABAR, 56, is a Sunni cleric who occasionally preaches at the prominent Abu Hanifa mosque in the Sunni-dominated Azamiyah neighborhood of Baghdad. Two of his sons were killed by Shiite militiamen. He blames the United States and Iran for Iraq's strife.

"Right from the beginning, the Americans were trying to create sectarian rifts," he said. "Iran is a country of regional ambitions. It isn't a Shiite country. It's a country with specific schemes and agendas."

Now he fears the strife is returning, and he blames the Shiite-dominated government.

"We feel the government does not consider us part of the Iraqi nation," he said. "There is no magical solution for this. If the Shiites are convinced to change their politicians, that would be a big help."

AHMED SALEH AHMED, 40, a Sunni, runs a construction company in Baghdad mainly employing Shiites. He is married to a Shiite woman. They live in the Azamiyah neighborhood and raise their two daughters and son as Sunnis.

Still, his wife prays with the small clay stone that Shiites ? but not Sunnis ? set in front of their prayer rugs. She often visits a Shiite shrine in another Baghdad district. Ahmed sometimes helps his wife's family prepare food for Shiite pilgrims during religious ceremonies. But he admits that there sometimes is tension between the families.

"We were able to contain it and solve it in a civilized way," Ahmed said.

Iraqis like to talk politics, he said, and "when things get heated, we tend to change the subject."

When their children ask about sectarian differences, "we do our best to make these ideas as clear as we can for them so they don't get confused," he said. "We try to avoid discussing sectarian issues in front of the children."

Ahmed believes sectarian tensions have been strained because people have abused the democratic ideas emerging from the Arab Spring.

Democracy "needs open-mindedness, forgiveness and an ability to understand the other," he said. "No human being is born believing in democracy. It's like going to school ? you have to study first. Democracy should be for people who want to do good things, not for those who are out for revenge."

HUSSEIN AL-RUBAIE, 46, a Shiite, was jailed for two years under Saddam. His Shiite-majority Sadriya district in Baghdad saw considerable bloodshed during the worst of the strife, and he fears it's returning.

"The whole region is in flames and we are all about to be burnt," he said. "We have a lot of people who are ignorant and easily driven by sectarian feelings."

He sees it among his friends, who include Sunnis. "My friends only whisper about sectarian things because they think it is a shame to talk about such matters," al-Rubaie said, "but I am afraid that the day might come when this soft talking would turn to fighting in the street."



Among some of Lebanon's Shiites, it's fashionable to wear a necklace with a medallion in the shape of the fabled double-bladed sword of Ali. It's a mark of community pride at a time when the Shiite group Hezbollah says the sect is endangered by Sunni extremists in the Syrian uprising.

During Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war, the main fight was between Christians and Muslims. But in the past decade, the most dangerous divide has been between Shiites and Sunnis.

For much of Lebanon's existence, Shiites, who make up about a third of the population, were an impoverished underclass beneath the Christians and Sunnis, each roughly a third also. The Shiite resentment helped the rise of the guerrilla force Hezbollah, on whose might the community won greater power. Now, many Sunnis resent Hezbollah's political domination of the government. The 2005 assassination of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, a Sunni, increased Sunni anger after Hezbollah members were blamed. Since then, both sides have clashed in the streets.

Syria's civil war has fueled those tensions. Lebanon's Sunnis largely back the mainly Sunni rebellion, while Shiites support President Bashar Assad's regime, which is dominated by his Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiism. Hezbollah sent fighters to help Assad fight the rebels, enraging Sunnis region-wide.

RANIA, 51, is a Shiite Lebanese banking executive, married to a Sunni and living in Ras Beirut, one of the capital's few mixed neighborhoods.

When she married, at age 22, "I didn't even know what the difference between Sunnis and Shiites is."

Now she's inclined to support Hezbollah. While not a fan of the hard-line group, she believes that Hezbollah and Syria are targeted because of their stances against Israel. She said her husband is anti-Hezbollah and supports Syria's rebels.

Rania, who gave only her first name because she doesn't want to be stigmatized about her social, religious or marital status, said she doesn't talk politics with her husband to avoid arguments.

"I support one (political) side and he supports the other, but we've found a way to live with it," added Rania, who has a 22-year-old daughter.

She said education plays a big role. "I find that the people who make comments about it are the people who are just ignorant, and ignorance feeds hatred and stereotyping," she added.

KHALED CHALLAH is a 28-year-old Syrian Sunni businessman who has lived for years in Lebanon. He comes from a conservative, religious family but only occasionally goes to mosque. He said the only way he would be able to tell the difference between a Sunni mosque and a Shiite one would be if the cleric talked about Syria in the sermon.

"A Shiite imam would speak against the rebels, and call to resist them, and a Sunni sheik would talk against the government in Syria," he said.

He said he still doesn't understand the Shiites' emotional fervor over the battle of Karbala, in which Ali's son, Hussein, was killed by the armies of the Sunni Ummayad dynasty in the 7th century. Hussein's martyrdom is a defining trauma of their faith, deepening their feeling of oppression. Every year, Shiites around the world mark the battle with processions that turn into festivals of mourning, with men lashing or cutting themselves.

"It means much more to Shiites, this battle's memory, than to Sunnis," Challah said.

He said Sunnis "behave sometimes like they are the only Muslims."

Challah called this "very silly. Sunnis and Shiites come from the same root, they worship the same God."



The Shiite powerhouse of the Middle East is home to a government led by Shiite clerics with oil wealth and a powerful Revolutionary Guard. Tehran has extended its influence in the Arab world, mainly through its alliance with Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Palestinian territories. Iran has presented that alliance not as sectarian but as the center of "resistance" against Israel.

Sunni Saudi Arabia and other Gulf allies have been trying to stem Iran's influence, in part by warning of the spread of Shiism. Saudi Arabia's hard-line Wahhabi interpretation of Sunni Islam views Shiism as heresy.

REZA TAJABADI, a Shiite cleric in Tehran, blames the Wahhabis ? and the related ultra-conservative Salafi movement in Sunni Islam ? for stoking sectarian hatred.

"If Wahabis withdrew from creating differences, then Shiites and Sunnis will be able to put aside their minor differences, which are not considerable."

ABOLFATAH DAVATI, another Shiite cleric, points to the historical difference between the two sects. Since Sunnis have been dominant through history, Sunni clerics became subordinate to the rulers. The Shiite clergy, he said, has been independent of power.

"Sunni clerics backed rulers and justified their policies, like the killing of Imam Hussein. Even now, they put their rulers' decision at the top of their agenda," he said.

"In contrast, Shiites have not depended on government, so Sunnis cannot tolerate this and issue religious edicts against them. This increases rifts."



In a country where the Muslim population is overwhelmingly Sunni, many Egyptians know little about Shiites. The Shiite population is tiny and largely hidden ? so secretive that its numbers are not really known. But ultraconservative Salafis, many of whom view Shiites as infidels, have become more politically powerful and more vocal since the 2011 fall of autocrat Hosni Mubarak. They often preach against Shiism, warning it will spread to Egypt.

MONA MOHAMMED FOUAD is a rarity in Egypt: Her mother is an Iranian Shiite, her father an Egyptian Sunni. She considers herself Sunni.

"People are always surprised and shocked" when they find out her mother is Shiite, said Fouad, 23, who works for a digital marketing company. "But usually as soon as they know, they are very interested and they ask me many questions."

Fouad said her sister has heard work colleagues criticizing Shiites. In her fiance's office they distributed leaflets "telling people to beware of Shiite indoctrination," she added.

"People should read about Shiism. We make fun of foreigners who believe all Muslims are terrorists and we say they are ignorant, but we do the same thing to ourselves," Fouad said. "There is a difference in interpretation, a difference in opinion, but at the end of the day, we believe in the same things."

She told her Sunni fiance from the start that her mother is Shiite. "I told him to tell his family, so if they have any problem with that, we end it immediately."

ANAS AQEEL, a 23-year-old Salafi, spent the first 18 years of his life in Saudi Arabia, where he would sometimes encounter Shiites. "We didn't ever argue over faith. But they alienated me," he said.

"I once saw a Shiite in Saudi Arabia speaking ill of one of the companions of the prophet near his tomb. That one I had to clash with and expel him from the place," Aqeel said.

He worries about Shiites spreading their faith. While he said not all Shiites are alike, he added that "some of them deviate in the Quran and speak badly of the prophet's companions. If someone is wrong and ... he insists on his wrong concept, then we cannot call him a Muslim."



Palestinian Muslims are also almost all Sunnis. Their main connection to the Shiite world has Hamas' alliance with Iran. But those ties were strained when Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, broke its connections with Syria because of the civil war.

AHMED MESLEH, a 28-year-old blogger from the West Bank town of Ramallah, says he met Shiites on a trip to Lebanon and encounters them via Facebook. But some have de-friended him because of his online comments.

"If we take Shiites from a religious point of view, then we can describe Shiites as a sect that has gone astray from the true doctrine of Islam. I consider them a bigger threat to Muslims and Islam than Jews and Israel," Mesleh said.

He cited the Shiites' processions mourning Hussein's death, saying: "The way they whip themselves, it's irrational."

The Middle East conflict "is in its core a religious conflict. The Shiites want to destroy Islam. In Lebanon, they are the ones controlling the situation, and the ones who are causing the sectarian conflict."

ISMAIL AL-HAMAMI, a 67-year-old Palestinian refugee in Gaza's Shati camp, said politics not religion is driving sectarian tensions.

"In Gaza, Iran used to support the resistance with weapons. Now they support Assad. ... In Iraq, they (Shiites) executed Saddam Hussein, who was a Sunni, and they took over the country with the help of the Americans. Now they are working against America in Iran and Syria."

"So is that related to religion? It's all about politics."

The beneficiaries of sectarianism, he said, are "those who want to sell arms to both sides ... those who want to keep Arab and Muslim countries living in the dark. The beneficiaries are the occupation (Israel) and the people who sell us religious slogans."

"God knows who is right or wrong."


AP correspondents Adam Schreck and Qassim Abdul-Zahra in Baghdad, Barbara Surk and Zeina Karam in Beirut, Dalia Nammari in Ramallah and Ibrahim Barzak in Gaza City, Tony G. Gabriel and Mariam Rizk in Cairo and Nasser Karimi in Tehran contributed to this report.

Associated Press

Source: http://hosted2.ap.org/APDEFAULT/cae69a7523db45408eeb2b3a98c0c9c5/Article_2013-06-23-Mideast-Sunni-Shiite%20Voices/id-2335b2489bd942adb418ec55d636147d

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