You can’t stone a pillar without breaking a few heads

Last week 362 pilgrims were crushed by crowds during a Hajj pilgrimage ritual. Over 2.5 million Moslem pilgrims had crowded into Mina, east of Mecca, Saudi Arabia for the annual Hajj pilgrimage. The stampede occured in a the crowd of almost a million people trying to throw stones at three pillars that symbolize the devil. Apparently it’s important to throw your stones right after afternoon prayers. Maybe the devil keeps limited office hours.
You know, I’d be a bit reluctant to participate in a religious ceremony if there was a good chance I might get killed just for attending. That’s another reason I never got into snake handling.

But experts say the sheer scale of the stoning ritual makes it inherently dangerous. “There’s a huge risk and potential for accidents whenever you have so many people in a tightly confined space,” says Keith Still, an expert on crowd behaviour … “There’s a limit to what can be done.”

I suppose officials should be happy the death toll was not worse. Over 250 people were killed in a stampede two years ago, and in 1990, 1462 pilgrims were crushed at the site. Similar stampedes occured in 1997 and 1998.

God wants you to be rich!

Preaching a Gospel of Wealth

“Remember,” says Rev. Creflo A. Dollar Jr. “if you sow a seed on a good ground, you can expect a harvest.”
Mr. Dollar, [yes, that’s his real name] whose Rolls-Royces, private jets, million-dollar Atlanta home and $2.5 million Manhattan apartment, furnish proof to his followers of the validity of his teachings, is a leading apostle of what is known as the “prosperity gospel.”
The theology taps into the country’s self-help culture, said William C. Martin, a professor emeritus of religion and public policy at Rice University in Houston. “One of the goals of America is for you to become prosperous,” he said. “For the church to put a blessing on that and say, ‘God wants you to be rich,’ is quite appealing.”

Hiding in the noise

This week the Joint Venture Silicon Valley group reported that Silicon Valley Added Jobs in ’05. They cite this as evidence that the valley is finally improving after years of “jobless” recovery. Fine, but look closer. The “job growth” they trumpet amounted to only 2,000 jobs, in a market of 1.15 million employees. That’s an increase of 0.2 percent, an utterly insignificant difference. I’ll bet their employment survey has a much larger margin of error than that.

During the dot-com era, Silicon Valley gained 350,000 new jobs, only to lose 200,000 of them in the early 2000’s. “We’re a region that’s always been tied to boom-bust cycles,” Mr. Hancock said. “We’ve reinvented ourselves five or six times.”

Cell Phone Records for Sale

Online Data Gets Personal: Cell Phone Records for Sale
The Washington Post reports on companies that claim to sell records of calls made on cell phones.

For $110, Locatecell.com will provide you with the outgoing calls from his or her cell phone for the last billing cycle, up to 100 calls. All you need to supply is the name, address and the number for the phone you want to trace. Order online, and get results within hours.

The companies probably obtain the call data by bribing employees of the cell phone providers. Although the major cell phone providers say they actively fight these efforts, security seems to be fairly lax.