About Me

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When you fail to follow your dreams, you cheat yourself out of being you.
Be proud of who you are and don't back down.
Be a winner at the game of life!

Monday, November 30, 2009

On the road again

Flew back from Costa Rica for the holidays. Thanksgiving was wonderful! I spent time with a friend and his parents. :)

Worked at Big Al's in Peoria over the weekend. Today I start back on the road. There is a possibility that I may work at Mustang Sally's in Pennsylvania again on Tuesday night. Then I'm headed to Washington DC. After spending a night or two in DC, I'm going to Atlanta for the weekend. My favorite cat is going along with me on this roadtrip!

My life is unfolding beautifully. On a side semi-related note, today marks 3 months since I quit smoking weed. It's been longer than that since I've drank. I am happier than I have been in a long time. :-D

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Holidays are a time for....

Today is a day to be grateful. Grateful for what we have, grateful for what we do not have. The more we obsess over the little things, the more little things there will be to obsess over. So don't do that to yourself. The more grateful we are, the more positive we attract into our lives. The easiest way to improve our lives is to be grateful for the life we already have. Life really is that easy! Happy Thanksgiving!

Just because it is holiday time does not mean that everyone has good intent. Without obsessing over the bad possibilities, you should be knowledgeable regarding the common scams so you can take the appropriate precautions.

The 12 web SCAMS of Xmas

Bad greetings card ... fake e-card scam that could steal your personal details

CHRISTMAS may be the time for goodwill and peace to all men and women - but not if you're a cybercriminal.

They prefer receiving to giving and the only presents they're interested in are your personal details and bank account passwords.

The festive season is a boom time for hackers, and over the past two end-of-year holiday periods, cybercriminals have made nearly £5 BILLION according to security experts McAfee.

Senior vice president Jeff Green said: "They use their best schemes during the holidays to steal people's money, credit card information and identity. These thieves follow seasonal trends and create holiday-related websites, scams and other convincing e-mails that can trick even the most cautious users."

The risk of falling prey is small, especially if you follow the few simple tips at the end of this page.

But just remember, when bargain offers seem too good to be true, it's probably because they are. And because an email looks as innocent as little children singing Christmas carols, it doesn't mean it is.

So to help keep you safe ahead of December 25, here's the top 12 scams of Christmas as found by McAfee.

1) Charity Phishing Scams - hackers take advantage of people's generosity by sending e-mails that appear to be from legitimate charitable organisations. In reality, they are linked to fake websites designed to steal donations, credit card information and the identities of donors.

2) Fake Invoices from Delivery Services to steal your money - if you didn't buy it, then you won't receive an alert about it. So be very wary of emails that seem to be receipts or delivery notifications for stuff you've supposed to have bought. Many ask you to quote credit card details or open the forms. Either can allow a virus or Trojan Horse into your computer to steal your personal information.

3) Social Networking - when you suddenly receive an invite from a stranger to be your friend, then you know there's something dodgy going on. They're not just hoping for a kiss under the mistletoe. Cybercriminals send authentic-looking "New Friend Request" e-mails and clicking on the links can install viruses automatically on your desktop or laptop. If in doubt, leave them out.

4) Christmas E-Cards - Last Christmas, McAfee uncovered a virus masked as Hallmark e-cards, McDonald's promotions and a Coca-Cola Christmas offer. Christmas-themed PowerPoint e-mail attachments with funny virals and quizzes are also popular among cybercriminals. Be careful what you click on.

5) "Luxury" Holiday Jewellery - a new holiday campaign leads shoppers to virus-ridden sites offering "discounted" luxury gifts from Cartier, Gucci, and Tag Heuer. It may look cheap, but it will be one of the most expensive mistakes you ever make.

6) Practice Safe Holiday Shopping - if you shop and surf on open hotspots using WiFi, hackers can spy on your activity and copy personal information. McAfee advises shoppers to steer clear of using public computers or via an open WiFi network.

7) Christmas Carol Lyrics Can Be Dangerous - bogus websites are often set up to cash-in on popular searches. So just because you don't know the words to Silent Night or want a Jingle Bells ringtone, it doesn't mean the website offering either via a search engine will be safe. It can lead to adware, spyware and other potentially unwanted programs being installed.

8) Out of Work - with many UK adults victims of the recession and now unemployed, there's an upward trend of emails promising work over the holidays or money to be earned from home. When you submit your details, and pay a "set-up" fee, you could be setting up a whole lot of trouble.

9) Auction Site Fraud - auction websites can be problematic all year round but at Christmas cybercriminals flock to them to lure unsuspecting buyers. Often goods will never reach their new owner or turn out to be something completely different, or even fake.

10) Password Stealing Scams - thieves use low-cost tools to uncover a person's password and send out malware to record keystrokes as they type. It is called keylogging. Once criminals have access to one or more passwords, they gain vast access to consumers' bank and credit card details and clean out accounts within minutes. They also commonly send out spam from a user's account to their contacts to entice more victims.

11) E-Mail Banking Scams - cybercriminals trick consumers into divulging their bank details by sending official-looking e-mails from financial institutions. They ask users to confirm their account information, including a user name and password, with a warning that their account will become invalid if they do not comply. Then they often sell this information through an underground online black market.

12) Your Files for Ransom - hackers gain control of computers through several of these holiday scams. They then act as virtual kidnappers to hijack computer files and encrypt them, making them unreadable and inaccessible. The scammer holds the user's files ransom by demanding payment in exchange for getting them back.

If you've read all that and now feel more scared than Scrooge being visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future, you'd be right to be wary.

But here's some tips that should keep you safe and ensure you have a Merry Christmas this year and next.

- Never click on links in e-mails, go directly to a company or charity's website by typing in the address.

- Ensure security software is up-to-date. It is the easiest way to protect your computer from malware, spyware, viruses and other threats such as phishing.

- Shop and bank on secure networks. WiFi networks used should always be password-protected so hackers cannot gain access to them and spy on online activity. Also shop on sites using secure URLs for their transactions that begin with https://, instead of http://.

- Use different passwords. Never use the same passwords for several online accounts. Diversify passwords and use a complex combination of letters, numbers and symbols.

- Try common sense. If you are ever in doubt that an offer or product is not legitimate, do not click on it.

Source: http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/fun/gizmo/2747575/12-online-scams-to-watch-out-for-while-online-Christmas-shopping.html

Friday, November 20, 2009

Can't find the STRENGTH to get back up?

Nick Vujicic and his attitude serve as a great examples of the celebration of life over limitations.

The human spirit can handle much more than we realize.


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Think you've got it bad?
Need some encouragement?
Fallen down?
Can't find the STRENGTH to get back up?

Watch this video. It will help. Then share it with others.

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"If I fail, I try again, and again, and again..."
If YOU fail, are YOU going to try again?

It matters how you're going to FINISH...
Are you going to finish STRONG?

We are put in situations to build our character... not destroy us.

The tensions in our life are there to strengthen our convictions... not to run over us.

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Nick is thankful for what he HAS.
He's not bitter for what he does NOT have.

I have never met a bitter person who was thankful.
I have never met a thankful person who was bitter.

In life you have a choice: Bitter or BETTER?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Sex addiction?

This is a topic I know a lot about. Generally I am good at keeping my sex-addiction in check and only "acting out" with my partner. I am currently abstinent. No more unhealthy sex.

How much do you know about sex addiction? There is a new show on TV about sex addiction rehab:

About Sex Rehab with Dr. Drew

Addiction is nothing new. Alcohol, drugs, anorexia and bulimia...the list goes on and on. Addiction goes beyond impacting personal lives; it wreaks havoc on health, lands people in jail, and tears careers to shreds. But there's another addiction out there that most people have never even heard of - more insidious, but with the same, devastating consequences. It afflicts roughly 6% of the American population and like drug and food addictions, nobody is immune to it...It's called Sex Addiction.

Now, for the first time, VH1 and the producers behind Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew will shed light on this oft-dismissed compulsion on Sex Addiction With Dr. Drew. Celebrity Rehab 1 and 2 made television history, pulling back the curtain on alcohol and drug detox as stars underwent treatment inside an actual rehab facility. Now, Dr. Drew Pinsky will pull back the bed sheets on Sex Addiction as nine new patients undergo treatment at the Pasadena Recovery Center in California.

Many people scoff when they first hear the term, "Sexual Addiction." How could anything as fun, as beautiful, and as natural as sex be considered an addiction? How could too much sex be unhealthy?

Consider ignoring all other aspects of your life while you pursue new sexual conquests - conquests that never actually satisfy you. Imagine spending nine hours a day trolling internet porn sites, or going bankrupt because of too many visits to strip clubs and prostitutes. For addicts, sex isn't even pleasurable, but rather a way to escape the pain of past loss, childhood trauma, abuse and abandonment. Like many other addictions, their habits can cost them their jobs, their marriages, even their lives.

Aided a team of the nation's foremost experts on sexual addiction, Dr. Drew will guide these patients through one of the most intensive, real-life detox and treatment programs in the world. Living together for 21 days, they'll meet with Dr. Drew in one-on-one and group therapy sessions to get to the bottom of their compulsive behavior, with cameras documenting every moment...every breakdown...and every breakthrough.

Sex Addiction With Dr. Drew isn't a moral condemnation of sex, the adult entertainment industry, or even the most prurient of kinks. Rather, it's an attempt to help nine patients whose sexual habits are spinning dangerously out of control and threatening to ruin their lives. Who will get kicked out for acting out? Who will give up and leave early? And who will find the inner strength to give in to the treatment process, take a long hard look at themselves, and pave the way for a brighter future? Ultimately, what they get out of their time in recovery is up to them, but all nine of them will, without a doubt, experience an emotional journey they never expected.

Source: http://www.vh1.com/shows/sex_rehab_with_dr_drew/series.jhtml

Sex Rehab With Dr. Drew - Peep The Full Cast

The latest Celebrity Rehab spin-off, Sex Rehab with Dr. Drew, will tackle the mostly unexamined world of sex addiction. It debuts Sunday, Nov. 1 at 10/9c. More details are in the press release below, and after that, get a look at the cast of the show on set…

VH1, Dr. Drew and Irwin Entertainment have expanded their documentary series on addiction to examine one of society’s most taboo topics, sex addiction, in the upcoming series Sex Rehab With Dr. Drew. The series is set to premiere on VH1 on Sunday, November 1 at 10pm.

Addictions are nothing new, and most people are aware of those involving alcohol, drugs, and eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia, but few know about and understand sex addiction. It afflicts roughly 3%-6% of the American population, and just like other addictions, its impact on personal lives can be devastating. The affliction can wreak havoc on the mental and physical health of those afflicted as well as destroy marriages, families, careers and even finances.

Dr. Drew and a team of the nation’s foremost experts on sexual addiction will guide eight patients through an intensive state of the art program. Living together for 21 days, they’ll meet with Dr. Drew in daily one-on-one and group therapy sessions in order to get to the root of their compulsive behavior.

Dr. Drew is a highly respected practicing MD, is board certified in addiction medicine and assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at KECK USC School of Medicine, who will once again give viewers an unflinching look at exactly how the rehab process works and what it feels like for participants. Dr. Drew hopes to use his patients to humanize the process and show viewers that treatment is a viable way to break the cycle of addiction.

Beginning Monday, October 26 fans can catch a sneak peek of the season’s first episode on VH1.com – one week before the on-air premiere. Subsequent episodes will be available on VH1.com the morning after they air. Additional video content from Sex Rehab With Dr. Drew including extras from each episode will be available on VH1.com and on VH1 Mobile throughout the season.

Sex Rehab With Dr. Drew is executive produced by John Irwin and Bruce Toms for Irwin Entertainment. Dr. Drew Pinsky and Howard Lapides are also executive producing. Jeff Olde, Jill Holmes, and Noah Pollack are executive producers for VH1.

(FYI, that’s marriage/family therapist Jill Vermeire in the shot above with Dr. Drew.)

The eight Sex Rehab patients (along with some biographical info on them) are below…

Jennifer Ketchum (aka Penny Flame) – Porn actress / Director / Business woman

Jennifer Ketcham, 26 years old (former adult star known as Penny Flame) is now pursuing a writing career and life in production behind the lens. As an adult performer Jennifer climbed to the top winning over 5 awards and directing educational guides for Vivid. Jennifer still owns her adult website PennyFlame.com (NSFW, duh) and directed and produced all the content on there. Her latest venture has been a confessional blog documenting her struggle to move away from her adult film life as Penny towards becoming Jennie. Taking everything she learned from the show she has remained sober and has been enjoying all the beauties sobriety has to offer.

James “Jamie” Lovett – Surfer / Wakeboarder

James Lovett is one of the world’s top rated surfers and wakeboarders. Lovett, who started surfing before the age of 10, was perfecting aerials at the age of ten. At 14 years old Lovett turned professional and has since dominated the sport winning countless competitions and medals. In 2004, at the age of 17 years old, Lovett climbed his way to the top of the wake surfing when he won the Centurion World Wake Surfing Championships.

Nicole Narain – Model / Playboy Playmate

Soon after becoming Playboy’s Miss January 2002, she appeared in music videos from the likes of Diddy, Mario Wayans and Jermaine Dupri. She’s also appeared on Entourage, Mad TV and American Heiress. She reached a new level of exposure when a sex tape featuring her with Colin Farrel leaked. “That pretty much ruined my life,” she says. Lately, she has been focusing on writing. “I’m ready to purge,” she reports.

Kari Ann Peniche – Beauty queen / Model / Fashion designer

Kari Ann was Miss Oregon Teen USA 2002, competed at Miss Teen USA 2002, won Miss Oregon United States 2003 then went on to win Miss United States Teen 2003. In Nov 2004 she appeared in Playboy. Along with various movie roles, Kari was briefly engaged to Aaron Carter. Her upcoming book, Stripped, Strung Out, and Beautifully Abused, focuses on sexual abuse, domestic violence, power, control, relationships and goals. Her clothing line is Strung Out Girl.

Kendra Jade Rossi – Ex-porn star / Music manager

During her years in the porn industry, Kendra became a well known adult film star. However, she also became tabloid fodder. (Star magazine and Us Weekly accused her of breaking up Kevin Federline and Britney Spears marriage after a trip to Vegas, for example.) She finally left the adult film industry in 2001 on the verge of a complete breakdown. She fell headlong into alcoholism and was also diagnosed as an agoraphobic with severe anxiety and panic disorders, which introduced the world of prescription drug abuse.

In 2007, Kendra was introduced to Lukas Rossi, winner of Rockstar Supernova, by mutual friends, Dave Navarro and Tommy Lee - and the two immediately clicked. They married 4 months after meeting. Kendra will tell anyone who will listen that Lukas saved her life. It was his love and devotion to her that spurred her to face her personal demons and reach out for help and sobriety.

Duncan Roy - Producer / Writer / Director

Duncan directed the acclaimed 2002 film AKA. He has worked as a journalist, and teaches low-budget filmmaking at UCLA extension. See his Wikipedia page for more info.

Amber Smith – Supermodel/Reality TV star/Actress

An internationally recognized supermodel and actress for 20 years, Amber Smith, also acted in films such as L.A. Confidential, American Beauty and The Mirror Has Two Faces. She appeared on the second season of Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew, where she went public with her 16-year addiction to opiate painkillers. On the show, Amber underwent a painful withdrawal from drugs. She also appeared on the Rehab spin-off Sober House.

Phil Varone – Musician

Phil Varone is an accomplished drummer, music producer and songwriter best known for his work with the bands Saigon Kick and Skid Row. In 2004, Phil left Skid Row and the music business to pursue acting and stand up comedy. After moving to Los Angeles, he spent the first two years producing the feature length documentary, Waking Up Dead. Phil also lectures in colleges throughout the United States and is the creator and host of the Sex Stand Up and Rock and Roll Show.

Source: http://blog.vh1.com/2009-10-06/sex-rehab-with-dr-drew-peep-the-full-cast/

Watch episodes here: http://www.vh1.com/shows/sex_rehab_with_dr_drew/series.jhtml

Friday, November 6, 2009

I finished school!! Yeah!!

It has been a very intense month. I didn't do anything in Boston other than school/homework/sleep/yoga. Gorgeous city, wish I had more time here. Now it's time to leave.

* Tomorrow (Saturday) night I am working at Mustang Sally's in Pennsylvania.
* Sunday I drive to Washington DC.
* Monday morning I go to the consulate.

By this time next week I will be in Costa Rica to apply for residency.
All my dreams are coming true! :)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Mastery Of Love

When I used to party, I surrounded myself with other people who also liked to party.
My romantic relationships were unhealthy. I didn't show myself enough love and then expected my [often unhealthy] partner to make up the difference. How ridiculous is that?

Part of being sober is healing myself in every possible way. Over the past month I've been in an intense school program. During my very limited free time (mostly while traveling to and from school), I read The Mastery of Love. It is the second book in a three part series. Last year, I posted about the first book: The Four Agreements.

Here are a few quotes from The Four Agreements:
If someone is not treating you with love and respect, it is a gift if they walk away from you. If that person doesn't walk away, you will surely endure many years of suffering with him or her.

We assume that others think the way we think, feel the way we feel, judge the way we judge, and abuse the way we abuse. This is the biggest assumption that humans make.

If you live in a past dream, you don't enjoy what is happening right now because you will always wish it to be different than it is.

When you don't do your best you are denying yourself the right to be you.

The Mastery of Love is amazing. Here are some quotes from the first half which I feel compelled to share:
The need to be "right" is the result of trying to protect the image we want to project to the outside. We have to impose our way of thinking, not just onto other humans, but even upon ourselves.

In our mind we create that part of us that is always judging. ... There is always something the Judge can never accept or forgive. ... That is why we never deserve to be happy; that is why we are always searching for someone who abuses us, someone who will punish us. We have a very high level of self-abuse because of that image of perfection. ... You are no longer a child, and if you have an abusive relationship, it is because you accept that abuse, because you believe you really deserve it.

You cannot change other people. You love them or you don't. You accept them the way they are or you don't. To try to change them to fit what you want them to be is like trying to change a dog for a cat, or a cat for a horse.

The one who loves you, loves you just the way you are. Because if someone wants to change you, it means you are not what that person wants.

If you cannot love your partner the way she is, someone else can love her just as she is. Don't waste your time, and don't waste your partner's time. This is respect.

Heal your half, and you are going to be happy. If you can heal that part of you, then you are going to be ready for a relationship without fear, without need. But remember, you can only heal your half.

If you can learn to control your own reactions, then you can change your routines, and you can change your life.

... You have to stalk your own reactions; you have to work with yourself every moment. It takes a lot of time and courage, because it is easier to take things personally and react the way you always react. And that leads you to a lot of mistakes, to a lot of suffering and pain, because your reactions only generate more emotional poison and increase the drama.

While you can just jump into the second book, reading the first book FIRST really does set up a solid foundation. The third book in the set is The Voice of Knowledge.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Shon Meckfessel's letter to the President of Iran

A Letter to Ahmadinejad

H.E. Mr. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
President of the Islamic Republic of Iran
Tehran, Iran

November 2, 2009

Dear Mr. President,

I am writing to appeal to you to intercede with the appropriate authorities for the immediate release of my friends Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Josh Fattal from detention in Iran.

I traveled from Damascus to Iraqi Kurdistan on vacation with Shane, Sarah and Josh in July. Several of our friends in Damascus had previously visited northern Iraq and recommended that we too make the trip to a region they told us was beautiful, peaceful and safe. We set out the day after celebrating the wedding of local friends at Shane and Sarah's apartment and had planned to be away for one week. That was three months ago.

Had I not had a cold and remained behind at our hotel when my friends hiked to the Ahmed Awa waterfall near your country's border, I would undoubtedly be in detention with them now. I was, in fact, en route to meet them when I received Shane's call that they had been taken into custody.

On August 6, I published a statement about our trip to northern Iraq which I attach to this letter. I had hoped the statement might clarify why we were in the area and help the authorities understand that Shane, Sarah and Josh had no intention of entering Iran. As I said in that statement, if they did so, it was because of a simple and very regrettable mistake.

Since then, I have maintained silence in deference to the investigation. As much as my friends' absence has been acutely painful, I understood that investigators would want to clarify the circumstances of their trip. I had hoped that the misunderstanding would be resolved quickly. Three months have now passed, and I cannot imagine what more the Iranian authorities might have to learn about my friends or what they were doing in the area. To help put to rest any such questions, I would like to offer to submit a notarized statement to your country's mission to the United Nations vouching for my friends and detailing the circumstances of our trip. If this is not sufficient, I would be willing to come to Tehran to attest to their characters in person.

Mr. President, by continuing to deprive Shane, Sarah and Josh of their liberty, Iran is working against some of the very causes it supports. Each of these three has a long and public record of contesting injustice in the world and addressing some of the inequities between rich and poor which you have spoken about through their humanitarian work in their own country and overseas.

I first met Shane in October 2005, after we had corresponded about our common interest in the Balkans, where I had lived for a time and where Shane had worked for one year in "Balkan Sunflowers," an independent organization helping Albanian and Roma youth in post-war Kosovo. Back in the United States, Shane continued his work with the underprivileged, as illustrated by his excellent "Hotel Poverty" photographic essay for the San Francisco Chronicle, and his article "Divorcing the US," from a trip we took to the poorest county in our country.

As a fluent speaker of Arabic, Shane has focused on injustices in the Arab world, in Iraq and Palestine in particular. The Christian Science Monitor published Shane's January 7 interview with Musa Abu Marzook, the only English-language interview with a Hamas leader during Israel's attack on Gaza. Two of his articles on the American occupation of Iraq were published as cover stories of major magazines just this summer.

Sarah and I met, by coincidence, the month after Shane and I met, when we found ourselves in the same car from San Francisco to New Orleans to help poor people begin to rebuild their homes after Hurricane Katrina. We both appear in a documentary entitled "Solidarity Not Charity" made about our group of volunteers. In Oakland, Sarah worked for one year in "Just Cause," which helped poor people fight evictions from their homes in the US.

I met Josh a week before we left on our trip, and was immediately drawn in by his warmth and humor. In the time we spent together, I was struck by his passion for justice, environmental sustainability, and intercultural understanding, as attested by his work with the Aprovecho community in Oregon, and as a teaching fellow on a study abroad program for university students.

I would like to mention one more friend who may be relevant. Earlier in July, Shane and I traveled to an Israeli hospital to spend time with Tristan Anderson, an American peace activist with whom Shane, Sarah and I have been close friends for many years. Tristan was shot in the head and critically wounded by an Israeli soldier after attending a non-violent protest against Israel's separation wall. He continues to fight for recovery. Shane and Sarah also visited Tristan in late March with Sarah's mother Nora, a nurse who counseled Tristan's family. There's a very simple explanation for these trips: We wanted to show solidarity with a dear friend whose support for Palestinian rights has been acknowledged in the Iranian media, throughout the Middle East and beyond.

I hope that this letter will help the Iranian authorities understand the true character of my friends. They have now been in custody for almost 100 days, which I hope you agree is more than sufficient punishment for their mistake. Please do everything you can to ensure that they are immediately released into the arms of their loving friends and families, who miss them more than my words can express.

Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.


Shon Meckfessel

Source: http://www.thenation.com/doc/20091116/meckfessel


Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Josh Fattal have been detained in Iran since July 31, 2009, when news reports say they accidentally crossed an unmarked border while hiking in the mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan near the Ahmed Awa waterfall, a local beauty spot. They were in a peaceful region of northern Iraq that is increasingly popular with Western tourists attracted by its natural beauty, traditional culture and long history. The three hikers, all graduates of UC Berkeley, entered northern Iraq with visas from Turkey on July 28 and had planned to spend five days visiting the area. A fourth friend, Shon Meckfessel had stayed behind in Sulaimaniya when Shane, Josh and Sarah set out on their hike because he was feeling unwell.

Shane Bauer, 27, has been living in Damascus, Syria with Sarah Shourd since late 2008 and is a student of Arabic, which he speaks fluently. He is a freelance journalist whose writing and award-winning photographs have been published in the US, UK, Middle East, and Canada. Shane, who has two younger sisters, grew up in Onamia, Minnesota and graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in Peace and Conflict Studies in 2007. Shane has reported from Syria, Iraq, Darfur in Sudan, Yemen and Ethiopia but has never reported from Iran, nor expressed any interest in doing so. He had hoped to offer photographs and a story on the aftermath of recent elections in Kurdistan to the online news network New America Media, but was not on a formal news assignment.

Sarah Shourd, 31, has been living with Shane in Damascus, where she teaches English and is learning Arabic. She previously taught as part of the Iraqi Student Project, a program which gives Iraqi students living in Damascus the skills to continue their education in US schools. She was on a break from her teaching responsibilities for a week, and she and Shane decided to take a hiking trip with their friends Josh and Shon. Sarah has written articles on travel and social issues reflecting her time in Syria, Ethiopia, Yemen and Mexico. Sarah, who has an older brother and sister, was born in Chicago, Illinois, grew up in Los Angeles, California and recently moved to the San Francisco
Bay Area.

Josh Fattal, 27, is an environmentalist who worked for three years at the Aprovecho Research Center in Cottage Grove, Oregon, which teaches sustainable living skills. From January to June 2009, Josh was a Teaching Fellow with the International Honors Program (IHP) Health and Community study abroad program in Switzerland, India, China, and South Africa. Josh and his elder brother grew up in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania. He spent his junior year of college on an IHP study abroad program in the UK, India, the Philippines, New Zealand, and Mexico and graduated from UC Berkeley in 2004 with a degree in environmental economics and policy from the College of Natural Resources. Josh was visiting Sarah and Shane in Damascus when they went on their trip.

For more information about the hikers and how you can help secure their release, please visit: