Friday, July 29, 2005

In the News: Kosovo Confronts Its Future

Another cross-post, and a bit long, but worth the read.


Jackson Allers - 7/29/2005
KOSOVO. It is a regular sight in the Ferizai/Urosevac municipality of Kosovo - some 50 kilometers north of the Macedonian capital of Skopje - to see U.S. servicemen parking their Humvees in front of small cafes during their regular “security” details. M-16’s strapped across their torsos, the troops snack on kebabs, washing them down with Coca-Cola, and ogle the local Albanian girls.

These GIs are part of an occupying NATO force, known as KFOR, Kosovo Protection Forces, and they are expected to be present in Kosovo for a long time to come.

The so-called Contact Group countries – United States, United Kingdom France, Italy, Russia and Germany * most involved in deciding the future of this southern province of Serbia, tout 2005 as the “year of decision” for the status of Kosovo. Six years after the United Nations Security Council resolution 1244 designated Kosovo a U.N. protectorate the beleaguered U.N. Mission administering the province is looking to exit as quickly as possible despite the fact that the U.N.-appointed envoy to the region, Norwegian Ambassador Kai Eide, says the security and freedom of non-Albanian communities is at risk.

At the forefront of this push to resolve Kosovo’s status are representatives of two U.S. presidential administrations.

During a July trip to Kosovo as the head of the Washington D.C.-based (and CIA funded) National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI), former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright commented, “I know Kosovans have a dream and people are entitled to have their dreams fulfilled.”

This sentiment is backed by Venhar Nushi, a spokesperson for the Pristina-based political think-tank, Kosovo Action for Civic Initiatives, KACI, who said, “We all know what the United States actually did for Kosovo. From my point of view, I think the U.S. came here for a task, and that’s to make Kosovo independent. Definitely.”


But, any claim by the U.S. to "resolve" the situation in Kosovo is hobbled by the legacy of former President Bill Clinton’s decision to lead NATO in a 78-day bombing campaign of Serbia in violation of the U.N. charter. Diplomats and analysts point out that the bombing was illegal by international standards and its repercussions have been felt widely, including its invocation by the Bush administration to justify its own illegal invasion and occupation against Iraq.

What is clear, however, is that the United States has no plans of abandoning Camp Bondsteel, the 955-acre military installation described on the Camp's official homepage as being “located on rolling hills and farmland” in south-eastern Kosovo. The Pentagon has paid Halliburton subsidiary KBR more than $2 billion to construct the camp – an amount, according to the U.S. General Accounting Office, that was one-sixth of the money spent by the Pentagon on Balkan operations from 1995 to 2000.

During a visit to Kosovo in June, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, Nicholas Burns said, “The U.S. is going to remain centrally involved in Kosovo, leading the diplomatic process [to resolve status],” adding, “we will certainly maintain a military presence here, with KFOR, as a symbol of our commitment for a secure and peaceful Kosovo.”

Few ethnic Albanians question the presence of the U.S. military. The U.S. support of the Kosovo Liberation Army, the same group branded by the U.S. State Department in 1998 as a "terrorist organization," showed clearly to all ethnic groups in the disputed region that the U.S. favors the Albanians.

Political commentator, Dukagjin Gorani, Senior Editor of the Kosovo daily paper, the Express, admits, “Kosovars are not very prompt to understand the geopolitics of conspiracies. To Kosovars the existence of Bondsteel, which is now the biggest U.S. military base in Europe, is and will probably remain a sign of political stability for Albanians. In fact to most of us it is a sign that Kosovo will never again go back under the umbrella of Serbia and Montenegro.”

Gorani also suggests that the average Kosovo Albanian sees "allowing" the U.S. military presence on Kosovo soil as their contribution to the U.S. “war on terror.’

Screenshots of Windows Vista, the next version of Windows

I found this on Tablet PC today and thought I would pass it on.  Longhorn, which was the code name for “Windows Vista” has been around the geek media for a long time.  Microsoft just released the beta and these are some of the first screenshots that I’ve seen of it.  Why am I posting it here? Well, I just think it’s interesting.  I’m looking forward to seeing if it meets expectations (both of those who expect it to fail AND those who expect it to rock).


Since there has been all this Buzz around Windows Vista lately, I thought I would post a few screenshots here that have been publicly released to the press, and also to online community leaders via a new Microsoft web-site called the Hive. The Hive is a site that Microsoft has launched to help solicit more interaction between community leaders and Microsoft. TabletPCBuzz is one of the featured community sponsors of this site, so hopefully you'll hear more cool stuff coming out of that in the future. Anyway, back to the Vista screenshots...^

This first one is a shot of one of the new methods of browsing files in Windows Vista. You will note here that no longer is the word "My" going before the pictures and videos folder names, and you will also notice that the path to this folder mentions "Virtual Folders". This is a good example of how directory structure is no longer the only way to organize your files. With Vista I found it quite easy to sort and browse files the way I wanted to.

Here is another shot that shows off virtual folders. The icons in Vista don't have to be this big, you've actually got a slider style interface element that lets you change the size and display to what you want. When the folders are this big though, you can see another really cool effect. The folder icons now show "snapshots" of the files that are within them. So, if you drag a new file into a folder, the icon will refresh showing that file's thumbnail too. It even works if you create a shortcut to a folder or file, something which shows a bit of the attention to detail that is going on here.

Here is a shot of using Vista to browse documents. The major thing to point out here is the search feature, which works in a similar fashion to Windows Media Player 10 searching. It filters as you type each letter. It can also do more advanced searching, and they finally include support in Vista for searching by keywords and file properties!

One more picture here, this one of the new start menu. You will notice it also has a similar search feature, which actually filters through all the programs in your start menu. Again, you can also see the lack of the word "My" in front of Pictures, Music, Video, etc. (finally!)

Anyway, hopefully that shows a little bit of Windows Vista to folks out there who will not have access to the beta. I don't have any pictures of Tablet PC related stuff, which really isn't in beta 1 anyway. Whenever tablet stuff is available for it though, I'll try and get some approved screenshots for you (although that is likely easier said than done).

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Test of Ecto

I'm testing Ecto.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Prayer update for 07-25-05

Melissa, the family and I took some much needed vacation this last week. We headed down to Thessaloniki, Greece, about a five hour drive. Each time we go there I’m struck by both how modern the city is, and how ancient it is. I’ve lost track of how many times we’ve driven by the modern highway sign denoting “The Ignatian Way,” that ancient Roman road that the Apostle Paul walked down. We go by the tomb of ancient Macedonian kings on the way to Carrefoure, a European version of Target. All I can say is that it’s a weird life I live! Of course, the girls could care less whether we’re walking in the steps of Paul or buying toilet paper. They just love having different stuff to play on.

When we returned yesterday (Sunday) I found my email inbox brimming with 136 messages. Some of those brought unwelcome news…and another first for Kosovo. I got this email from Pastor Femi about a young, 14-year-old martyr named Herolindi.

Today, this morning, Herolindi Krasniqi passed from this life and went to live forever with the Lord. Herolindi passed from this life as a consequence of a [traffic] accident three days ago. In fact, he has become the first person in the history of the church in Kosova that died while serving the Kingdom of Heaven.

Herolindi was taking part in an evangelism project sponsored by Campus Crusade for Christ. The project, called PUSHK, is aimed at showing the Jesus Film in every village within a municipality. He died in a car accident as part of that project, and several others were badly injured, including two from BUM, the mother church in Prishtina. Interestingly, his name means, “born hero.” I pray that his name would fan the flames of evangelism throughout Kosova in the years to come. Please pray for his family during this time. Please pray that they would find hope and meaning in the death of their son

This morning I went by the Center to touch base with Naim. While we were on vacation he also took a week of vacation to work on the house he’s building. Before we left, God seemed to be telling me to leave Naim a sum of money. It seemed a waste, the Lord seemed to say, if Naim took a week of vacation but didn’t have any money with which to buy materials. So, on our way out of town we stopped by his house. Naim wasn’t there, so we left the funds with his wife. Today he told me that the week before he had been earnestly praying to the Lord for funds. He knew his week of vacation was coming, but didn’t have any money left to buy materials. The funds we left paid for what was needed for the week almost down to the last euro. He praised God with me for the Lord’s foresight! I want to tell you about it, but you blessed Naim through us. Those are YOUR “work special” monies at work, blessing the people of Kosova. Please pray that God would protect Naim from the attacks of the enemy. When I see this man of God, I see someone with a big target on his back. I’m sure the enemy would love to take him down however he can.

Later today we also had the privilege of picking up Mark & Pattie Brinkman from the airport in Prishtina. They are returning for their second term in Kosova with their four children, Erin, Hallie, Luke & Joshua. They’ll be serving with BUM in Prishtina. Please pray for them as they transition back here again. Please pray that they would find a suitable home and get settled back into life and ministry in a suitable time.

Okay, that’s it. We appreciate your love and support!

Saturday, July 16, 2005

In the news: Picture of the Day - Great Britain We Are With You - People of Kosova

I took a picture of this sign in Prishtina a few days ago, but this one is SO much better.  These are similar to the billboards that go up every September, remembering the events of 9/11.  I think I saw a half dozen in various places around the capital.  

Picture of the Day - Kosovo
Originally uploaded by kosovareport.

A boy walks in front of a billboard in the Kosovo capital Pristina expressing support for Britain after last week's bomb attacks on London, July 14, 2005. The British capital led the tributes on Thursday as millions of people across Europe joined a two-minute silence to mark the July 7 London bombings that claimed at least 52 victims. REUTERS/Hazir Reka.

Baptisms in Kosovo

Baptisms in Kosovo are done right in the middle of public places, not unlike the way the early believers did it.  It really doesn’t get any better than this! This is the third baptism service I’ve attended in three years.  But it is the first where I had the opportunity to participate!  I had the privilege of baptising two of our young believers from Gjilan.

At this baptism/picnic people started asking questions as we put on these traditional gowns (they are as much a convenience as anything else).  It is a fantastic opportunity for talking to people about what Christianity really means.  Christianity is about life, and hope and renewal!  Great stuff.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Astroligist: "NASA deformed my horoscope" - sues for millions

Can you believe this?  In a break from the traditional, “I spilled coffee in my lap and I’m suing MacDonalds” school self-promotion we have the all new, “An enormously wealthy government agency has spilled bad karma on my navel and I’m going to counter that by becoming enormously wealthy” school of thought.  This is one to watch.

Tempel_cometYou know that amazing scientific mission to a comet that NASA just succeeded in pulling off? It was called Deep Impact, and the space agency not only got a small spacecraft (about the size of a kitchen table) to slam smack into a comet without a standard orbit, it even got a second spacecraft (about the size of a VW Beetle) to simultaneously do a coordinated wingman-style fly-by, with live video of the event transmitted from both spacecraft throughout the whole process [impact video|fly-by video]. And all of it was available live for every one to see in real-time on the Internet.

Well, get this - It turns out NASA is being sued for the damage they have apparently caused with this mission. From Yahoo! News:

"Marina Bai has sued the U.S. space agency, claiming the Deep Impact probe that punched a crater into the comet Tempel 1 late Sunday 'ruins the natural balance of forces in the universe,' the newspaper Izvestia reported Tuesday...

"...Bai is seeking damages totaling $300 million — the approximate equivalent of the mission's cost — for her 'moral sufferings,' Izvestia said, citing her lawyer Alexander Molokhov. She earlier told the paper that the experiment would 'deform her horoscope.'"

Wow... You go lady. For my part, I hope it ruins more than just your horoscope...

[via Jake at] weblog - copyright 2005 - licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Former Albanian rebel commanders killed in Kosovo, Macedonia

Former Albanian rebel commanders killed in Kosovo, Macedonia

The repercussions from the war are ongoing here.  I spent most of yesterday at a Board meeting of AIM, the Association of International Missions in Prishtina.  AIM attempts to facilitate and support missionary activity in Kosovo.  Meanwhile, back home in Gjilan, Muhamed Xhemaili lost his life, killed by persons unknown.  I don't know Xhemaili, his history or his politics.  I just know another Kosovar has lost his life not knowing the difference Jesus Christ can make in their life.


Pristina/Skopje - Two former ethnic Albanian rebel commanders have been murdered in Kosovo and western Macedonia in the past 24 hours, police in Pristina and Skopje confirmed Wednesday.

Muhamed Xhemaili, also known by his nom-de-guerre "Rebeli" (The Rebel), was killed in eastern Kosovos town of Gnjilane from a moving vehicle. No other details were immediately available.

Xhemaili, a hard-line commander of Liberation Army of Presevo, Bujanovac and Medvedja (UCPMB) units during the 1999-2001 insurgency in southern Serbia, was famous among his compatriots for his uncompromising stance against any kind of dialogue with Serbs.

In western Macedonian town of Struga, another former UCPMB leader Nuri Mazari, or "Commander Struga" was shot dead during a bar fight.

Mazari, who joined Macedonian government junior coalition partner Democratic Integrative Union (BDI) in 2002, was previously involved in Albanian uprisings in Kosovo, southern Serbia and Macedonia.

Dozens of former UCK commanders have been killed in past several years because of personal disputes, blood feuds, political differences and a brutal struggle for dominance between local crime gangs.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

In the News: Blasts Rock Pristhina

My sister sent me this link this morning about a triple bombing in Prishtina the capital.  It appears as though the UN compound, the OSCE building and the local government building were targeted. So far, there were no reports of injuries.  Thankfully, the attack came Saturday night when it’s likely nobody would have been working.  She asked if we were okay here, and we are.  These things happen from time to time, but usually in the capital of Prishtina.  Our city, Gjilan, is about an hour away and is usually calm and peaceful.

I am always disturbed about these types of bombings, however.  They don’t make me afraid to be here, of course, they make me afraid for the future of our adopted home.  In tomorrows papers there will be the usual accusations between the ethnic groups.  The Albanians will say that the Serbs did it to discredit the local government and derail the final status talks this summer.  The Serbs will accuse the Albanians and say it’s just proof that the local people cannot govern themselves.  

The average guy on the street, however, just wants to find a job (any job), give his children a future and live in an self-governed country.  May their dreams come true.




In the News: New Religion Law

Jan Bear writes a pretty decent article on the new Draft Law on Religion for Kosovo.  It relies a little heavily on an article written by an anonymous catholic KFO chaplain, but otherwise it’s pretty good an illustrates what’s happening on the legislative side of religious freedom here.

News Reporter Assassinated Near Gjilan

At first I didn’t quite believe this report as it was originally reported by B92, a Serbian news organ that is not always real positive on happenings here in Kosovo.  The story is that a local reporter for a national newspaper was killed near Gjilan.  Yesterday while visiting with the landlord of the Community Center I asked him if he had heard the report.  He had.  In fact, the dead man was a friend or acquaintance of his.

It seems that he reporter, Bardhyl Ajeti, had repeatedly written negative things about certain parliament members and other important people.  Most recently, the targets of his articles had been men who had claimed to have fought in the most recent war.  Evidently his paper had twice been fined by the OCSE department responsible for media oversight.  They had been fined for making allegations against public officials that hadn’t been properly researched.  At any rate, Bardhyl Ajeti won’t be writing any more articles about anyone…he’s dead.

When is the last time you can remember and American journalist killed while working in the US?  Or a European working in Europe.  I mean seriously, all bets are off if you report from Iraq, Columbia or Afghanistan.  But western journalists are fairly safe while working in the West.  They’re almost a protected species.  And I’m glad.

I have always been a quiet, vocal critic of the mainstream media, but now I live in a country where the MSM is in danger of losing its voice because of fear of reprisal.  What happens when reporters are too afraid to report the news (which may or may not be the truth)?  I don’t know who killed Bardhyl.  I never knew him…I’m not sure if I have ever read his articles, but I’m sad for his loss.  I think our founding fathers where geniuses when they framed the bill of rights.  Usually we think of “freedom of the press” as freedom from government interference.  We’re right to think of it that way.  But the freedom of the western press is also (largely) a freedom from fear of assassination for pursuing the story…whether the story is about the small or great, rich or poor.  A country where the press is not free cannot be a free country.  My landlord, a reporter for a local television station, agreed whole-heartedly.

House of Worship Goes Wireless

Check this out. Here’s a church with a wi-fi hotspot in the church. To tell you the truth, I installed a AP in the last church that I worked for. Of course, the intent wasn’t that people would “check their mail or surf the web during the sermon. I’m all for connectivity, but I really think that we need to carefully guard the quiet places in our lives. There is so little silence in our world these days. Blackberrys, hotspots, cell phones have all intruded so far into our lives, that we simply cannot imagine the quiet.

Last night I watched the old Gregory Peck version of “Hortatio Hornblower.” I was struck, as they spent seven months without seeing land, just how much quiet and “down-time” there must have been for a ship’s captain in those days. I watched as Hornblower paced the deck and wondered, would any one dare suggest that the man isn’t working? Spending time in one’s cabin thinking, writing or reading must have been pretty significant in the formation of both their personal and professional character.

I’ve contemplated going on a “connectivity fast” in recent month. I might just try a week or a month without internet, email, cell phone, etc. Apart from probably getting fired, I wonder what kind of space that level of de-connectivity might create in my life. Anyone want to try it with me? | Comments

I love this story…

churchIf you ever find yourself in Cardiff, Wales and feel the need to cleanse your soul without having to ditch your mobile device, the St. John’s Church has established a hotspot not too far away from the collection plate. Worshippers can check their e-mail or even surf the Web while Reverend Keith Kimber delivers his sermon.

When I was a kid, I used to read the Sunday comics in church to keep from getting bored. Imagine if I had a smartphone back then!


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I will never fly United Airlines again--rant warning

I will never fly United Airlines again and they deserve to stay in bankruptcy.  My wife and daughter flew from Kosovo to the US for a conference.  On the way into the US, one of the flights was delayed and the connection to the destination was missed.  All well and good.  But they made my wife and daughter spend the night in the airport because they “all the hotels” were full.  Right, all the hotels in the Denver Metroplex were full…every one.  Okay, that can happen.  So arrives into Colorado Springs the day the conference starts.  My daughter goes off with Grandma and Grandpa for a few days and all is good.


But then in order to leave the Springs she has to deal with United again.  One again the Springs-Denver flight is late…this time a mechanical problem.  This means that she will arrive too late to make the Washington Dulles-Vienna-Prishtina flight.  There is a direct flight from Denver to Frankfurt, but we can’t put you on that flight…sorry.  So Melissa and Madison fly into Washington Dulles late in the evening.  There they wait four hours in a line to get a hotel voucher.  Now, my daughter Madison is a real trooper, but she’s only six years old and by this time she was hungry, thirsty, tired and had to go to the bathroom.  But what can you do when you’re standing in a long line?  The United personnel certainly didn’t help.  When she gets to the front of the line the “service professional” tells her that she cannot give her a voucher because it’s not their fault.  Melissa counters tells her that it is was a mechanical problem and that they are “legally responsible to protect her” which is true, according to the travel agent.  Finally those magic words rang the lady’s bell and she said, “Okay, let me call my supervisor because we’re not supposed to give vouchers.”  Forty-five minutes later the supervisor comes and gives her a hotel voucher.  They get checked into the hotel about midnight and are told they are booked on a flight the next day, at 5:40.


Fortunately, they get a good night sleep.  They show up at the airport again and since their luggage has been checked through, they are in the same clothes for two days.  Again there is a long line at check in.  Melissa and Madison have been given priority tickets, the ticket agents are ignoring her.  Finally when talk to her they say, “Oh, you were a priority ticket…you should have had a flight on this seat, but now it’s full.  We’ll see what we can do tomorrow.  So now, at this moment, Melissa and Madison are back in the hotel room, waiting for another flight which this time goes to Munich-Budapest-Prishtina and which will hopefully arrive Sunday afternoon.


Now, all of my two readers know that Melissa also suffers from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.  Can you imagine how she’s feeling right now.  She tried to explain that to the agents at United, but there was nothing they could would do.


I can’t explain how utterly shocked I am but the customer disservice that Melissa has been getting.  This is from the United Website:

United employees around the world are committed to ensuring you and your loved ones enjoy safe, seamless travel and superior customer service every time you fly with us.

What a joke.  I’ve always been a regular customer of United’s, as has my Platinum-card-holding father-in-law.  One of my favorite uncles is a retired United pilot.  But I don’t think I’ll ever fly them again.  This wasn’t just one mistake from one ill-tempered ticket agent.  This was an near systematic, multi-airport, multi-agent royal screw-up.  I’ll post again when Melissa finally gets back. 


The power of positive conversations at home & work

I know I’m doing a lot of cross-posting, but I’m still wrestling with finding my own voice on my blog.  I’ve written a half-dozen posts in the last week, then thrown them away because they sound stupid.  But speaking of negative talk, this post from “Leadership Now” is fantastic.  It articulates so clearly what we all believe through empirical evidence.


What’s great is that the study points to a simple truth.  Relationships only have a given capacity to absorb and process negativity from their surroundings.  Relationships also have a fairly finely tuned sense of when others are blowing sunshine up their pant legs.  Two much “positivity” is dismissed as unauthentic which lowers the quality of the relationship.


The post is a little long, but worth reading.

Crabbing, whining, belly-aching and other forms of negative communication are not only annoying, but potentially counterproductive. The ratio of positive-to-negative interactions can have significant implications: like predicting—with accuracy that would put your favorite weather forecaster to shame—workplace performance, the quality of relationships, and even the likelihood of starry-eyed newlyweds splitting up and going their separate ways.

Paving the way for scientific foundation for the intuitive truth: the work of sychologist John Gottman. He and his colleagues studied positive-to-negative ratios in marriages and used the data to predict whether 700 newlywed couples would either stay together or end their relationship in divorce.

In predicting Cupid’s course, did they use hidden cameras and microphones for 24/7 monitoring for months on end? Nope. Here’s what they did. They watched one 15-minute conversation between each of the newly hitched love birds. A decade later, a tally of marriages that endured showed that the researchers had predicted the longevity of the relationships with 94% accuracy.

The secret: Marriages that endured had a ratio of positive to negative communication of 5 to 1. That means couples in the relationships that lasted exchanged five times as many positive comments to negative ones in their communication.

What about positive and negative communication patterns at work? Tom Rath of the Gallup Organization and coauthor of How Full Is Your Bucket? — a book about increasing positive emotions in your work and life, points to some relevant organizational research.

He notes a study by psychologist Barbara Fredrickson and mathematician Marcel Losada. They found that work teams with a ratio of positive to negative communication greater than 3 to 1 were significantly more productive than workgroups that did not reach this ratio.

BUT you can get too much of an otherwise good thing. Fredrickson and Losada also found an upper limit for positive-to-negative ratios of 13:1. When workgroups exceed that level of happy chat, performance actually worsened. Blind pollyanish optimism can be not only annoying but counterproductive.

The risk of too much positivism is probably not of great concern in most work environments.

What is the ratio of your positive to negative communication—at home? At work?