Adonis Diaries

Archive for January 10th, 2017

The Shortest-Known Paper Published in a Serious Math Journal:

Two Succinct Sentences

Euler’s conjecture, a theory proposed by Leonhard Euler in 1769, hung in there for 200 years.

Then L.J. Lander and T.R. Parkin came along in 1966, and debunked the conjecture in two swift sentences.

Their article — which is now open access and can be downloaded here — appeared in the Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society.

If you’re wondering what the conjecture and its refutation are all about, you might want to ask Cliff Pickover, the author of 45 books on math and science. He brought this curious document to the web last week.

shortest math paper

WHY NBC had to Alters Account of Correspondent’s Kidnapping in Syria?

NBC News on Wednesday revised its account of the 2012 kidnapping of its chief foreign correspondent, Richard Engel, saying it was likely that Mr. Engel and his reporting team had been abducted by a Sunni militant group, not forces affiliated with the government of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria.

In a statement posted on the NBC News website Wednesday evening, Mr. Engel said that a review of the episode — prompted by reporting from The New York Times — had led him to conclude that “the group that kidnapped us was Sunni, not Shia.” He also wrote that the abductors had “put on an elaborate ruse to convince us they were Shiite shabiha militiamen.”

Mr. Engel and his team were kidnapped in December 2012 while reporting in Syria. They were held for five days. Just hours after emerging, they appeared on the “Today” show.

“This was a group known as the shabiha, this was the government militia, these are people who are loyal to President Bashar al-Assad,” Mr. Engel said on “Today,” citing information he had gathered from the group.

In that and other appearances on NBC, and in a Vanity Fair magazine article, he said that he had been rescued by Sunni rebels. At least two people died during the course of the captivity, he said in some versions of the account.

Interviews by The Times with several dozen people — including many of those involved in the search for NBC’s team, rebel fighters and activists in Syria and current and former NBC News employees — suggested that Mr. Engel’s team was almost certainly taken by a Sunni criminal element affiliated with the Free Syrian Army, the loose alliance of rebels opposed to Mr. Assad.

The group, known as the North Idlib Falcons Brigade, was led by two men, Azzo Qassab and Shukri Ajouj, who had a history of smuggling and other crimes.

The kidnapping ended, the people involved in the search said, when the team was freed by another rebel group, Ahrar al-Sham, which had a relationship with Mr. Qassab and Mr. Ajouj.

Mr. Engel and his team underwent a harrowing ordeal, and it is a common tactic for kidnappers in war zones to intentionally mislead hostages as to their identity.

NBC executives were informed of Mr. Ajouj and Mr. Qassab’s possible involvement during and after Mr. Engels’s captivity, according to current and former NBC employees and others who helped search for Mr. Engel, including political activists and security professionals. Still, the network moved quickly to put Mr. Engel on the air with an account blaming Shiite captors and did not present the other possible version of events.

An NBC News spokesman said the network would have no comment beyond the statement posted on its site. Vanity Fair said it had no immediate comment.

Just two months ago, NBC News suspended Brian Williams, its nightly news anchor, after he exaggerated an account of a helicopter episode in Iraq in 2003. The furor that surrounded Mr. Williams’s suspension led to a management shake-up in the news division, and the installation of Andrew Lack, a former NBC News president, as head of the operation.

NBC’s own assessment during the kidnapping had focused on Mr. Qassab and Mr. Ajouj, according to a half-dozen people involved in the recovery effort. NBC had received GPS data from the team’s emergency beacon that showed it had been held early in the abduction at a chicken farm widely known by local residents and other rebels to be controlled by the Sunni criminal group.

NBC had sent an Arab envoy into Syria to drive past the farm, according to three people involved in the efforts to locate Mr. Engel, and engaged in outreach to local commanders for help in obtaining the team’s release. These three people declined to be identified, citing safety considerations.

Ali Bakran, a rebel commander who assisted in the search, said in an interview that when he confronted Mr. Qassab and Mr. Ajouj with the GPS map, “Azzo and Shukri both acknowledged having the NBC reporters.”

Several rebels and others with detailed knowledge of the episode said that the safe release of NBC’s team was staged after consultation with rebel leaders when it became clear that holding them might imperil the rebel efforts to court Western support.

Abu Hassan, a local medic who is close to the rebel movement, and who was involved in seeking the team’s release, said that when the kidnappers realized that all the other rebels in the area were working to get the captives out, they decided to create a ruse to free them and blame the kidnapping on the Assad regime. “It was there that the play was completed,” he said, speaking of the section of road Mr. Engel and the team were freed on.

Thaer al-Sheib, another local man connected with the rebel movement who sought the NBC team, said that on the day of the release “we heard some random shots for less than a minute coming from the direction of the farm.” He said that Abu Ayman, the rebel commander credited with freeing the team, is related by marriage to Mr. Ajouj, and that he staged the rescue.

Mr. Engel, in his statement, said he did not have a “definitive account of what happened that night.” He acknowledged the group that freed him had ties to his captors, but said he had received conflicting information.

“We managed to reach a man, who, according to both Syrian and U.S. intelligence sources, was one of Abu Ayman’s main fund-raisers,” he wrote. “He insists that Abu Ayman’s men shot and killed two of our kidnappers.”

Mr. Engel said the kidnapping “became a sensitive issue” for Mr. Ayman. “Abu Ayman and his superiors were hoping to persuade the U.S. to provide arms to them,” he wrote. “Having American journalists taken on what was known to be his turf could block that possibility.”

In his Vanity Fair article, Mr. Engel described one of his captors lying dead. In his statement Wednesday, he acknowledged that he did not see bodies during the rescue.

He said that one of his producers, Aziz Akyavas, climbed out of the van through the driver-side door, stepping over a body. “I climbed out of the passenger-side door,” he wrote.

“A bearded gunman approached and said that we were safe now. That was our introduction to Abu Ayman. He said that he and his men had killed the two kidnappers. Under the circumstances, and especially since Aziz said that he had seen and stepped over a body, I didn’t doubt it and later reported it as fact.”

Witness to La Reina massacre in Istambul: Nidal Bsherawi

We heard gun fire outside. All the 10 guards outside and the 20 tall heavy guards inside had vacated the place. Even the waiters.

There were many more terrorists inside. They also used hand grenades and fire more than 3 shots at each victims for 15 minutes.

Most probably, the casualties are far more than vented out and the victims were almost all foreigners.

هكذا بدأ الهجوم

ويسرد نضال بشراوي  ما حدث ليلة رأس السنة بقلب مثقل بالحزن: “اخترنا أفخم أماكن السهر في تركيا لنودّع السنة وهو معروف بأمنه ودقة التفتيش الذي يخضع له الساهرون فيه. كنت أجلس وأصدقائي على الطاولة الثانية قرب الباب في قسم الـ VIP. أما الطاولة الاولى في هذا القسم فكانت تلك التي تجلس عليها بشرى الدويهي وأصدقاؤها وبينهم ايلي وارديني”.

ويتابع: “ما يدعو للاستغراب هو اختفاء عناصر الأمن المولجة حماية الملهى، كانوا أكثر من 25 عنصراً، اختفوا فجأة كما واختفى جميع النُدل لحظة بدء اطلاق النار”.

وعن تفاصيل الحادث وعدد القاتلين، يشدد بشراوي على أن إطلاق النار بدأ من خارج الملهى، كاشفاً أنه “سمعنا صوت إطلاق النار من الخارج وفجأة دخل المسلح الى الملهى وبدأ يطلق النار علينا بطريقة أفقية، ولم يكن القاتل وحده كانوا أكثر”.

جثة فوقي ودماء في كل مكان

ويضيف: “من دخل الى الملهى من الخارج كان مسلح واحد لكن في الداخل كان يوجد آخرون. أما “بابا نويل” الذي انتشرت صوره عبر وسائل الإعلام ليس الشخص نفسه الذي التقطنا معه الصور داخل الملهى فالأخير كان يرتدي قناعاً وهناك أكثر من واحد”.

“كان القاتلون يتوقفون لمدة 10 دقائق ليتأكدوا ان كان هناك من يزال على قيد الحياة للقضاء عليه، وكانوا يتحدثون مع بعضهم بصوت مرتفع لكننا لم نفهم لغتهم. أحد المعتدين كان يدوس على الأشخاص المرميين على الأرض، منهم قتلى ومنهم أحياء، ليعرف ما إذا كانوا على قيد الحياة أم لا، وكنّا نحاول قدر الإمكان ألاّ نتحرّك كي لا يطلق النار علينا ثانية. وظلت عيناي متفتحتين لترقب وصول القاتل نحوي لذا رأيت المجزرة المأساوية التي حصلت خصوصا بقربي، اذ فرّغ أحد القاتلين الكلاشينكوف برأس شخص تونسي كان يجلس على الطاولة بقربي”.

وأكد بشراوي أن “عدد الضحايا أكبر بكثير من الذي صرح عنه” وأستغرب كيف أن “الضحايا كانوا من جنسيات عربية وأجنبية فقط ونحن في تركيا”.

مشاهد غريبة ومرعبة لا يمكن وصفها، يسرد بشراوي بغصة تفاصيل اللحظات البشعة التي عاشها، ويقول: “تمنيت في لحظة من اللحظات أن يفجر القاتل نفسه لأننا كنا سنموت من النزيف بسبب الإصابات أو بسبب القنابل التي رموها. تخيلوا أن جثة كانت فوقي مباشرة وكانت دماؤها تسيل علي وكان يفصلني عن الموت أقل من ثوان”.

وتمنى بشراوي أن “لا يضطر أن يعيش أي انسان ما عشناه لأنه أبشع من فيلم رعب”، داعيا لأخذ العبر مما حصل و”عيش كل يوم بيومه، بسلام مع الجميع لأن لا شيء يحرز في الحياة”، بحسب تعبيره.

Back to school for Real Seniors in Lebanon: Sort of continuing education

 If you know anyone aged 50 and above in Lebanon who would like to go to AUB to take part in VERY interesting courses and programs and events, at extremely low prices (and scholarships are even available!)

Especially catered to them, in a FUN atmosphere, send them the below link to the new Fall/Spring programs of the University for Seniors.

I used to help organize these, and used to be lucky enough to attend many of the courses and programs, and trust me, they are AWESOME.

You do NOT have to be an AUB graduate, or any kind of a graduate to attend!

Some activities in English, others in arabic

The vision: Where older adults remain intellectually and socially engaged, energized to learn new things, and active contributors to their communities.

Fees are 150$ for a full term- regardless how many classes or lectures you attend!

Registration is next week! I recommend you go early so you get your first choice for classes to attend! They fill up FAST! Registration starts on Monday September 15th.

Term runs from 29 September to 12 December. For info, Phone: +9611350000 Ext 2563 or 3632

Don’t be intimidated, I promise it is EASY and FUN and WORTH IT!

ps. the team in charge (Maya Abi Chahine and Amani Zaidan) are SUPER friendly and will make registration a piece of cake for you, even if you are a first timer!

Yalla everyone join! or get your parents or grandparents to join! i promise they will have a

— with Maya Abi Chahine, Ayman Jalloul, Maurice Rustom, Amani Zaidan and Nadim Frenn.

Note: Someone was willing to pay my fees a couple years ago, but I had no steady ride to go to Beirut. Now that I may get a ride, I might have to pay the fees.




January 2017

Blog Stats

  • 1,521,869 hits

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by

Join 769 other subscribers
%d bloggers like this: