Monday, February 18, 2013

Bones, Ghosts, and Paul Koudounaris

This interview with "author, photographer, and ossuary expert" Paul Koudounaris is a trove of weird stories about the things people get up to with their local mummies, haunted skulls, and other "miracle-performing" remains:
They’re not all like that. One of the more outlandish stories is about a guy who got to be called “pene grande,” which means “big dick.” He was a mummy famed in life for having a big penis. People would go down to the Palermo Catacombs and treat him as the patron saint of big cocks. Finally a newlywed woman came to see him because she was married to a guy who was not well-endowed. She took a cloth and rubbed it on the mummy’s dick, and then rubbed it on her husband’s dick. The next time she had sex with her husband, his penis seemed larger and fuller and she was about to orgasm except that at that moment she looked up and saw it was actually the ghost on top of her. Everyone thought she was crazy, but then it happened again the next time she had sex. They had to set up an exorcism for this ghost.  

...They had a blacksmith make a tight-fitting sheath made of metal, and once the husband got erect the ghost came out and got caught in the codpiece. They threw holy water at him.  

...That expelled the ghost from the guy’s body. So forever he had a small penis, but he was free of the ghost. As for the ghost, he gained a great following among older ladies, and eventually so many were coming to see him that they had to lock the mummy in a back room, which is where he remains to this day.  

...There is an old and very weird story about a ghost of a guy who had lived in the monastery there — apparently the "devil got into him" and he masturbated and had a heart attack at the moment of ejaculation. That's why, they claim, he has that look on his face. Anyway, people said his ghost would visit boys who masturbated and scare them into stopping. One boy didn't really believe this, though, and dared the ghost to appear while he was masturbating. When the ghost showed up, he apparently grabbed the boy by the cock and squeezed him so hard that the boy passed out, and while he wasn't exactly castrated, he was rendered sterile for life.  

 ...There’s a really bizarre story from the 20th century, about a guy who had severe diarrhea and chronic flatulence. He stole a skull and started saying prayers to St. Roch and St. Sebastian, the patron saints of plague and suffering, and also shitting on the skull daily. He had a theory that by crapping on the skull he could switch intestines with the body the skull had been attached to. The ghost kept warning him, quit shitting on my skull. But he kept at it and he succeeded in transferring his intestinal problems to the ghost. The problem was that the ghost had died of testicular cancer, and in return he gave that to the guy. That’s how he died. One of the dangers of necromancy is you don’t really know who’s on the other side or what they’re going to give you in return.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Anderson Cooper: 'The fact is, I'm gay'

Anderson Cooper has officially come out of the closet. In an email to Andrew Sullivan, published on The Daily Beast: "The fact is, I'm gay, always have been, always will be, and I couldn’t be any more happy, comfortable with myself, and proud."

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Saturday, February 18, 2012

California man arrested for eating cats

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — In a case that has shocked even investigators, a California man is in jail for allegedly cooking and eating cats.

Jason Louis Wilmert is being held in the Kern County Jail on charges alleging animal cruelty and using a pet or domesticated animal for food. Both charges are misdemeanors.

Neighbors called sheriff's deputies when they heard cats wailing and screeching at the 36-year-old's house in the Bakersfield suburb of Oildale.

Sheriff's spokesman Ray Pruitt says he has "never seen anything like this."

Pruitt says investigators found evidence that led them to believe "he had the intent to use a cat for food," but he couldn't comment directly on the evidence. The case has been sent to the district attorney.

Wilmert is scheduled for arraignment on Friday.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christopher Hitchens Dead At 62

Christopher Hitchens died Thursday in Houston. He was 62. The legendary writer was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 2010.

His death was announced by Vanity Fair.

Hitchens was born in Portsmouth, Hampshire, England in 1949. His father, Ernest, a commander in the British Royal Navy, and his mother, Yvonne, a bookkeeper, scrimped and saved so that he could attend the independent Leys School in Cambridge, and later Balliol College, Oxford. They were determined that he would receive a top-notch education and join the upper class, The Guardian reported.

During his time at university, Hitchens studied philosophy, politics and economics, but the more he learned, the angrier he became. Hitchens' disgust with racism and opposition to the Vietnam War led him to the political left. He would eventually join the International Socialists, a faction of the anti-Stalinist left, and participate in political protests against the war.

Attending college in the 1960s introduced Hitchens to a more hedonistic way of life as well. Although he eschewed drugs, Hitchens became both a heavy smoker and hard drinker. He claimed such practices supported his writing efforts. "Writing is what's important to me, and anything that helps me do that -- or enhances and prolongs and deepens and sometimes intensifies argument and conversation -- is worth it to me. So I was knowingly taking a risk," he said.

Writing was also the perfect outlet for him to enrage and enlighten. The British monarchy, Henry Kissinger and the Roman Catholic Church were just a few of his favorite targets in the 1970s. Despite being a bon vivant, Hitchens resolved to spend time at least once a year in "a country less fortunate than [his] own." As such, the early part of his career was dedicated to wandering the globe, reporting on the world's trouble spots and shining a light on those he considered cruel or evil, The New York Times reported.

After immigrating to the U.S. in 1981, Hitchens began writing for The Nation magazine. He would later edit and contribute articles to numerous publications, including Vanity Fair, the Atlantic Monthly, Slate, Harper’s, The Washington Post and The Huffington Post. His surprising advocacy for the war in Iraq, which was prompted by his growing conviction that radical elements in the Islamic world posed a danger to the West, gained Hitchens a wider readership, and in September 2005 he was named one of the "Top 100 Public Intellectuals" by Foreign Policy and Prospect magazines.

According to The Los Angeles Times, Hitchens penned two dozens books -- including "Letters To A Young Contrarian," "God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything" and "Hitch-22: A Memoir" -- and frequently made television and radio appearances. He also taught as a visiting professor at the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Pittsburgh and the New School of Social Research.

As a cultural pundit, Hitchens loved picking fights. He offered unsparing insight on a wide range of subjects, from politics to religion to his own his mortality, but was perhaps best known for his criticism of Mother Teresa, both in his 1994 documentary "Hell's Angel," and in Vanity Fair.

"[Mother Teresa] was not a friend of the poor," Hitchens said. "She was a friend of poverty. She said that suffering was a gift from God. She spent her life opposing the only known cure for poverty, which is the empowerment of women and the emancipation of them from a livestock version of compulsory reproduction."

His negative portrayal of a woman many considered to be a saint prompted hundreds of readers to cancel their magazine subscriptions. And yet, after word of his death was reported, India's Missionaries of Charity order said it would pray for Hitchens' soul, despite his aggressive campaign against its Nobel prize-winning founder, AFP reported.

In 2008, amidst a nationwide discussion of "enhanced interrogation techniques, Hitchens decided to subject himself to a waterboarding treatment to see if it was truly a form of torture. He lasted for 16 seconds.

"It's annoying to me now to read every time it's discussed in the press -- or in Congress -- that it simulates the feeling of drowning," he said. "It doesn't simulate the feeling of drowning. You are being drowned, slowly."

Ever the contrarian, Hitchens adopted the U.S., warts and all, and took an oath of citizenship in 2007 on his 58th birthday. The ceremony was conducted by former President George W. Bush's homeland security chief, Michael Chertoff.

An outspoken atheist -- or as he preferred to be called, an antitheist -- Hitchens rallied many to a belief in rational thinking by describing organized religion as the main source of hatred and tyranny in the world, Reuters reported. In the final years of his life, he debated both religious and political figures about the nature of faith and the existence of God.

"Faith is the surrender of the mind; it's the surrender of reason, it's the surrender of the only thing that makes us different from other mammals," Hitchens said. "It's our need to believe, and to surrender our skepticism and our reason, our yearning to discard that and put all our trust or faith in someone or something, that is the sinister thing to me. Of all the supposed virtues, faith must be the most overrated."

Even after being diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus in 2010, Hitchens refused to turn to a deity or organized religion for comfort. He made it clear that if anyone ever claimed he had converted at the end of his life, it would be either a lie propagated by the religious community or an effect of the cancer and treatment that made him no longer himself.

"The entity making such a remark might be a raving, terrified person whose cancer has spread to the brain. I can't guarantee that such an entity wouldn't make such a ridiculous remark, but no one recognizable as myself would ever make such a remark," he said.

"There will never be another like Christopher. A man of ferocious intellect, who was as vibrant on the page as he was at the bar," said Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter. "Those who read him felt they knew him, and those who knew him were profoundly fortunate souls."

Hitchens is survived by his wife, the writer Carol Blue, and three children.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A stroke turned a butch British rugby player gay, the Daily Mail claims.

Chris Birch, 26, a Welsh bank clerk, broke his neck while attempting a back flip and then suffered a stroke, the Daily Mail reported Tuesday.
When he woke up, he told his family he had changed. "It sounds strange, but when I came round, I immediately felt different," Birch told the paper. "I wasn't interested in women any more. I was definitely gay. I had never been attracted to a man before - I'd never even had any gay friends."
He quit his job, dropped his old friends, and began studying hairdressing, the Daily Mail reported.
Birch lost 110 pounds, cut his hair and started dating men.
The London Mirror, which first carried the story in September, said Birch’s accident took place in 2005 after Birch broke up with his fiance.
Birch spent months in recovery.
“I had to learn to walk, eat, even speak again and all my family were supporting me, hoping they would see the old Chris come back soon enough,” he told the Mirror.

“My old friends would come round and visit me but the conversation would dry up straightaway. I wasn’t interested in the rugby scores, going down the pub to watch football or anything else I used to do.
“Suddenly, I hated everything about my old life. I didn't get on with my friends, I hated sport and found my job boring.
“Everyone said I was more sarcastic, behaved differently and that even my mannerisms had changed, but to me the way I felt was natural. So I started avoiding seeing my old friends who wanted me to be someone I wasn’t,” he said.
Instead he began going to local dance clubs and made new friends, including one special man.
“I continued seeing this man and then one night we slept together. I knew then that I wasn’t interested in women any more. I was definitely gay,” he told the Mirror.
For the last 18 months he has been living with a 19-year-old lover above the hair salon he works in, the Mirror and Daily Mail said.
Neither paper interviewed any of Birch’s family members or friends, or any of his doctors or neurologists.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Feds To Take Over Your TV, Radio On Wednesday

Uncle Sam will be taking over your television or radio on Wednesday. Don’t worry, it’s not some sort of Big Brother conspiracy, instead it’s just a test.

Federal emergency managers will test the nationwide Emergency Alert System (EAS) at 2 p.m. The test will last 30 seconds and interrupt programming on all television, radio, cable and satellite shows.

“This test will provide important conformational data on the capabilities of the system should it ever need to be activated for an actual emergency,” said Florida’s director of emergency management Bryan Koon in a statement.

Under the FCC’s rules, radio and television broadcasters, cable operators, satellite digital audio radio service providers and direct broadcast satellite service providers are required to receive and transmit presidential EAS messages to the public.

A national test will help federal emergency managers and EAS participants determine the reliability of the system, as well as its effectiveness in notifying the public of emergencies and potential dangers both nationally and regionally.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Spanish government has granted citizenship to singer Ricky Martin

MADRID -- The Spanish government says it has granted citizenship to singer Ricky Martin and boyfriend Carlos Gonzalez.

Spokesman Jose Blanco said Friday that Martin and Gonzalez were recognized for their artistic talents and that the government was happy they wished to have Spanish nationality.

Both Martin and Gonzalez are from Puerto Rico and have U.S. citizenship.

Spain normally obliges people to renounce any other nationality they have before granting them a Spanish passport, but it makes exceptions for citizens from Latin American countries and some other places including Puerto Rico.

It was not immediately clear why the two celebrities sought Spanish citizenship.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Tributes abound as Lucille Ball’s centennial arrives

Lucille Ball would have turned 100 on Saturday, and it would seem that Americans have loved her for nearly that long. But in fact, it took years for audiences to love Lucy.

She had been kicking around Hollywood for nearly two decades before her performance in the seminal CBS sitcom I Love Lucy, which celebrates its 60th anniversary this year. Her portrayal of the sweetly daffy redhead Lucy Ricardo, whose slapstick antics and schemes exasperated her Cuban bandleader husband, Ricky (real-life hubby Desi Arnaz), turned her into a comic superstar.

Ball, who died in 1989, was a platinum blond when she began as a sexy Goldwyn Girl chorine in the early 1930s in musical comedies such as 1933’s Roman Scandals. Then she moved off to RKO, working her way from bit parts in such Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers musical comedies as 1935’s Roberta.

Ball was occasionally in “A” films at the studio such as 1937’s Stage Door with Katharine Hepburn and Rogers, but she quickly became labeled as the “Queen of the B’s” at RKO.

“She was probably one of the hardest-working actresses in Hollywood,” said Kathleen Brady, author of Lucille: The Life of Lucille Ball. “At one point, she was making 10 films at once. But somehow she never crossed over” to become a star.

Ball never gave up. She had “extraordinary perseverance, whether it was about getting pregnant or becoming a major star,” Brady said. “Somehow it took a long time to come together for her.”

Ball’s daughter, Lucie Arnaz, is thrilled that everyone is taking her mother’s centennial so seriously.

“It’s a nice thing to do to look back and remember when somebody really changed the way we think about things, whether it be Thomas Edison or Lucille Ball,” Arnaz said. “I think she would, of course, be extremely honored and proud.”

Because I Love Lucy is on DVD and still airs on TV in reruns, Arnaz is constantly approached by fans of her mother. “I hear the same kind of stories from the same age people decade after decade as if it were the film Groundhog Day. It is bizarre to be me.”

CBS Video jumped on the birthday bandwagon in June with the release of 14 classic episodes of I Love Lucy, including Lucy Does a TV Commercial and Lucy’s Italian Movie.

The Hollywood Museum has opened a Lucille Ball at 100 & ‘I Love Lucy’ at 60 exhibition that features costumes, scripts and even Arnaz’s original recordings and sheet music. It continues through Nov. 30.

Before Lucy, Ball did dramas like 1942’s The Big Street, musicals such as 1943’s Best Foot Forward, in which she unveiled her new look as a redhead, and even film noirs like The Dark Corner with Clifton Webb.

The seeds of Lucy Ricardo began to bloom in the late 1940s, when she began doing feature comedies such as 1949’s Sorrowful Jones, 1950’s Fancy Pants with Bob Hope and 1949’s Miss Grant Takes Richmond.

She also starred in her first radio show, My Favorite Husband, from 1948-51, in which she played Liz Cooper, a happily married middle-class housewife. Ball worked on the radio series with writers Bob Carroll Jr., Madelyn Pugh and Jess Oppenheimer, who went on to write countless Lucy episodes.

Arnaz said that once her mother understood she had the power to make people laugh, “she realized, ‘This is what I am supposed to be doing.’ When she hit gold, there was no turning back. She didn’t want to prove herself as a dramatic actress. She said, ‘I found the Lucy character’ and said, ‘This is what I am.’ 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

TMZ Claims To Have New Photos Of Casey Anthony.

Casey Anthony, the infamous tot mom accused of killing her two year old daughter, Caley Anthony, in Florida could be in Ohio.

According to TMZ, a website for celebrities, it said that the photos were taken Sunday afternoon while Anthony was walking around Columbus, Ohio.

According to some sources, Ms. Anthony has family in Ohio. Since her release the whereabouts of Ms. Anthony have been unknown.

Rumors of where she might be living have placed her all over the world. Last Wednesday, Judge Stan Strickland ordered Anthony back to Orange County to serve one year probation for a check fraud conviction from January 2010.

The attorneys for Ms. Anthony headed by Jose Baez have challenged this conviction and have requested emergency hearings on legal grounds and citing safety concerns for Ms. Anthony.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Plaxico Burress agrees to contract terms with New York Jets

Plaxico Burress has agreed to contract terms with the New York Jets, according to multiple media reports.

ESPN first reported Burress has agreed to a one-year deal for just over $3 million, fully guaranteed. Because of the NFL post-lockout rules, Burress can't practice with the team until Thursday.

Burress was in Los Angeles on his way to a meeting with the San Francisco 49ers, ESPN reported, but canceled that trip when the Jets contacted him.

Signing with the Jets makes sense for Burress for several reasons. He can resume his career while staying in the New York area, and the Jets have a need at wide receiver, after deciding not to re-sign Braylon Edwards, and losing Brad Smith to the Bills in free agency.

Burress has been out of the NFL for two seasons after serving 20 months in prison on an unlicensed gun charge. The biggest question will be if Burress, who turns 34 years old on Aug. 12, can return to being an elite wide receiver after such an extended absence. He drew plenty of interest once free agency began, and visited with the Giants and Steelers before deciding to sign with the Jets.

Burress should be highly motivated to prove he can still play, and that he can stay out of trouble. And the Jets hope to be the beneficiaries.

Now, Burress will likely join the recently re-signed Santonio Holmes as Mark Sanchez's top receivers.

Burress wrote on his Twitter page: "East Coast here I come!" Sanchez retweeted his new receiver and added: "Paperwork in hand??? Haha welcome to the squad."

Burress has 505 catches for 7,845 yards and 55 touchdowns in his NFL career with the Steelers and Giants.

He caught 35 passes for 698 yards and five touchdowns in his final year with Pittsburgh in 2004 as the Steelers slowly broke in Ben Roethlisberger, a rookie at the time. Burress moved on to New York, where he thrived catching balls from Eli Manning, but often ran into trouble with Coughlin.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Friday, July 29, 2011

"The Dirty.Com" $11 Million Dollar Lawsuit

A gossip web site for non celebrities, and that means regular folks like you and me,, has been hit with an $11 million judgment for libel and slander after posting false accusations about a Northern Kentucky teacher who sidelines as a Cincinnati Bengals cheerleader. The judgment against Dirty World Entertainment Recordings, which runs the site, came Thursday after the site declined to answer a lawsuit brought by Sarah Jones, a high school teacher whose picture was posted on the site along with an accusation she had been exposed to two venereal diseases. U.S. District Judge William O. Bertelsman added an annual interest rate of 0.25 percent to the $1 million in compensatory damages and $10 million in punitive damages. An e-mail message sent to the operator of the Arizona-based web site, Hooman Karamian, who uses the online name “Nik Ritchie,” was not immediately returned Thursday morning.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Amy Winehouse Dies: Mom Janis Says She Seemed 'Out Of It' A Day Before Passing, Ecstasy Suspected

Though it wasn't entirely unexpected, given the recent disaster concerts and trip back to rehab, Amy Winehouse's Saturday death came as a shock to a public not entirely in the loop about her most recent struggles (as thorough as tabloids like to be). To those who knew her best, the passing -- from reasons still officially unexplained -- seemed a foregone conclusion.

Winehouse's mom, Janis, saw her daughter just a day before her death, and told the Daily Mirror that her dying "seemed only a matter of time."

“She seemed out of it. But her passing so suddenly still hasn’t hit me,” she told the paper, saying that Amy told her that she loved her, and that she'd treasure those words forever.

The Mirror also takes accounts from unnamed friends who reveal that Winehouse was in the midst of a weeks-long drinking binge, and that, according to an MTV producer and others, she died of a bad ecstasy pill.

Meanwhile, according to the Daily Mail, British tabloid The People reports that Winehouse was seen buying cocaine, heroin, ecstasy and ketamine the night before her death; any tabloid report, of course, must be taken with a grain of salt.

Officially, as noted, police are treating the death as unexplained, and an autopsy will be performed on Sunday or Monday, according to conflicting reports.

Winehouse appeared wobbly in taking the stage on Wednesday, where she made a surprise performance at the iTunes Music Festival to support goddaughter Dionne Bromfield. She danced on stage, but did not sing, only whispering into the microphone the few times it was passed to her.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Amy Winehouse Dead

Troubled, Grammy-winning singer Amy Winehouse has been found dead in her North London home, Sky News is reporting. The Daily Mail reports that police have confirmed the passing.

In a statement, the London Metropolitan Police said, "Police were called by London Ambulance Service to an address in Camden Square NW1 shortly before 16.05hrs today, Saturday 23 July, following reports of a woman found deceased. On arrival officers found the body of a 27-year-old female who was pronounced dead at the scene. Enquiries continue into the circumstances of the death. At this early stage it is being treated as unexplained."

A suspected drug overdose took the life of the singer, Nick Buckley of the Sunday Mirror tweeted.

She's battled drug addiction for years, having most recently checked back into rehabilitation in May.

Winehouse entered treatment in late 2007 for drug problems, including admitted heroin use.

Earlier in the day, Tim Gatt of Sky News tweeted a statement from her manager saying that she was canceling upcoming performances, writing, "Amy Winehouse is withdrawing from all scheduled performances. Everyone involved wishes to do everything they can to help her return to her best and she will be given as long as it takes for this to happen."

She performed in a surprise appearance at the iTunes Festival on July 20th.

Winehouse has had previous near-death experiences, including one her ex-husband, Blake Fielder-Civil, described in detail back in 2009.

"I knelt over her as she kept on fitting. But then suddenly she just passed out and stopped breathing," he told The Sun (via NME). It was the most frightening thing I had ever seen. I felt sure I was watching her die right in front of me. I didn't know what to do or how to save her. I held her to me - and I thought she was dying in my arms. But somehow I managed to open her mouth and breathe air down her throat."

In January, 2010, she pled guilty to assaulting a theater stage manager.

In 2008, after some confusion, a spokesperson for Winehouse confirmed that she had "early signs of what could lead to emphysema."

UPDATE: Sky News Home Affairs Correspondent Mark White reports that sources confirmed that Winehouse died of a drug overdose.

UPDATE II: In a statement to Just Jared, Monte and Avery Lipman, heads of Universal Republic Records, said: “We are deeply saddened at the sudden loss of such a gifted musician, artist and performer. Our prayers go out to Amy’s family, friends and fans at this difficult time.”

UPDATE III: Scotland Yard told that an autopsy on Winehouse will be performed on Sunday.

"The postmortem has not been scheduled yet but it is unlikely to take place before tomorrow. In the case of a murder it can be done within hours but this is not the case so tomorrow or even Monday is more likely in these circumstances."

UPDATE IV: Winehouse is one of a curiously high number of prominent artists to pass away at age 27. Here's a list of a number of those stars, including Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin.

UPDATE V: Winehouse's spokesman, Chris Goodman, said in a statement (via Buckley): "Everyone who was involved with Amy is shocked and devastated."

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Death of Osama bin Laden

The Most Wanted Face of Terrorism

Osama bin Laden, who was killed in Pakistan on Monday, was a son of the Saudi elite whose radical, violent campaign to recreate a seventh-century Muslim empire redefined the threat of terrorism for the 21st century.

With the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, Bin Laden was elevated to the realm of evil in the American imagination once reserved for dictators like Hitler and Stalin. He was a new national enemy, his face on wanted posters. He gloated on videotapes, taunting the United States and Western civilization.

“Do you want Bin Laden dead?” a reporter asked President George W. Bush six days after the Sept. 11 attacks.

“I want him — I want justice,” the president answered. “And there’s an old poster out West, as I recall, that said, ‘Wanted: Dead or Alive.’ ”

It took nearly a decade before that quest finally ended in Pakistan with the death of Bin Laden in a firefight with American forces who attacked a compound where officials said he had been hiding. He was generally believed to be 54.

The manhunt was punctuated in December 2001 by a battle at an Afghan mountain redoubt called Tora Bora, near the border with Pakistan, where Bin Laden and his allies were hiding. Despite days of pounding by American bombers, Bin Laden escaped. For more than nine years afterward, he remained an elusive, shadowy figure frustratingly beyond the grasp of his pursuers and thought to be holed up somewhere in Pakistan and plotting new attacks.

Long before, he had become a hero in much of the Islamic world, as much a myth as a man — what a longtime C.I.A. officer called “the North Star” of global terrorism. He had united disparate militant groups, from Egypt to the Philippines, under the banner of Al Qaeda and his ideal of a borderless brotherhood of radical Islam.

Terrorism before Bin Laden was often state-sponsored, but he was a terrorist who had sponsored a state. From 1996 to 2001 he bought the protection of the Taliban, then the rulers of Afghanistan, and used the time and freedom to make Al Qaeda — which means “the base” in Arabic — into a multinational enterprise for the export of terrorism.

After the Sept. 11 attacks, the names Al Qaeda and Bin Laden spread to every corner of the globe. Groups calling themselves Al Qaeda, or acting in the name of its cause, attacked American troops in Iraq, bombed tourist spots in Bali and blew up passenger trains in Spain.

To this day, the precise reach of his power remains unknown: how many members Al Qaeda could truly count on, how many countries its cells had penetrated — and whether, as Bin Laden had boasted, he was seeking chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

He waged holy war with modern methods. He sent fatwas — religious decrees — by fax and declared war on Americans in an e-mail beamed by satellite around the world. Qaeda members kept bomb-making manuals on CDs and communicated through encrypted memos on laptops, leading one American official to declare that Bin Laden possessed better communications technology than the United States. He railed against globalization, even as his agents in Europe and North America took advantage of a globalized world to carry out their attacks, insinuating themselves into the very Western culture he despised.

He styled himself a Muslim ascetic, a billionaire’s son who gave up a life of privilege for the cause. But he was media savvy and acutely image-conscious. Before a CNN crew that interviewed him in 1997 was allowed to leave, his media advisers insisted on editing out unflattering shots. He summoned reporters to a cave in Afghanistan when he needed to get his message out, but like the most controlling of C.E.O.’s he insisted on receiving written questions in advance.

His reedy voice seemed to belie the warrior image he cultivated, a man whose constant companion was a Kalashnikov rifle that he boasted he had taken from a Russian soldier he had killed. The world’s most threatening terrorist, he was also known to submit to dressings down by his mother. While he built his reputation on his combat experience against Soviet troops in Afghanistan in the 1980s, even some of his supporters questioned whether he had actually fought.

And though he claimed to follow the purest form of Islam, many scholars insisted that he was glossing over the faith’s edicts against killing innocents and civilians. Islam draws boundaries on where and why holy war can be waged; Bin Laden declared the entire world as fair territory.

Yet it was the United States, Bin Laden insisted, that was guilty of a double standard.

“It wants to occupy our countries, steal our resources, impose agents on us to rule us and then wants us to agree to all this,” he told CNN in the 1997 interview. “If we refuse to do so, it says we are terrorists. When Palestinian children throw stones against the Israeli occupation, the U.S. says they are terrorists. Whereas when Israel bombed the United Nations building in Lebanon while it was full of children and women, the U.S. stopped any plan to condemn Israel. At the same time that they condemn any Muslim who calls for his rights, they receive the top official of the Irish Republican Army at the White House as a political leader. Wherever we look, we find the U.S. as the leader of terrorism and crime in the world.”

The Turning Point

For Bin Laden, as for the United States, the turning point came in 1989, with the defeat of the Soviets in Afghanistan.

To the United States, which had supported the Afghan resistance with billions of dollars in arms and ammunition, the Soviet retreat was the beginning of the end of the cold war and the birth of a new world order; to Bin Laden, who had supported the resistance with money, construction equipment and housing, it was an affirmation of Muslim power and an opportunity to recreate Islamic political power and topple infidel governments through jihad, or holy war.

He declared to an interviewer in 1998, “I am confident that Muslims will be able to end the legend of the so-called superpower that is America.”

In its place he built his own legend, modeling himself after the Prophet Muhammad, who in the seventh century led the Muslim people to rout the infidels, or nonbelievers, from North Africa and the Middle East. Just as Muhammad saw the Koran revealed to him amid intense persecution, Bin Laden regarded his expulsions from Saudi Arabia and then Sudan in the 1990s as signs that he was a chosen one.

In his vision, he would be the “emir,” or prince, in a restoration of the khalifa, a political empire extending from Afghanistan across the globe. “These countries belong to Islam,” he told the same interviewer, “not the rulers.”

Al Qaeda became the infrastructure for his dream. Under it, he created a web of businesses — some legitimate, some less so — to obtain and move the weapons, chemicals and money he needed. He created training camps for his foot soldiers, a media office to spread his word and even “shuras,” or councils, to approve his military plans and his fatwas.

Through the 1990s, Al Qaeda evolved into a far-flung and loosely connected network of symbiotic relationships: Bin Laden gave affiliated terrorist groups money, training and expertise; they gave him operational cover and furthered his cause. Perhaps the most important alliance was with the Taliban, who rose to power in Afghanistan largely on the strength of Bin Laden’s aid, and in turn provided him refuge and a base for holy war.

Long before Sept. 11, though the evidence was often thin, Bin Laden was considered in part responsible for the killing of American soldiers in Somalia and Saudi Arabia; the first attack on the World Trade Center, in 1993; the bombing of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia; and a foiled plot to hijack a dozen jets, crash a plane into the C.I.A. headquarters and kill President Bill Clinton.

In 1996, American officials described Bin Laden as “one of the most significant financial sponsors of Islamic extremism in the world,” but he was not thought of as someone capable of orchestrating international terrorist plots. When the United States put out a list of the most wanted terrorists in 1997, neither Bin Laden nor Al Qaeda was on it.

Bin Laden, however, demanded to be noticed. In February 1998, he declared it the duty of every Muslim to “kill Americans wherever they are found.” After the bombings of two American embassies in East Africa in August 1998, President Clinton declared Bin Laden “Public Enemy No. 1.”

The C.I.A. spent much of the next three years hunting him. The goal was to capture Bin Laden using recruited Afghan agents or to kill him with a precision-guided missile, according to the 2004 report of the 9/11 Commission and the memoirs of George J. Tenet, the director of central intelligence from July 1997 to July 2004.

The intelligence was never good enough to pull the trigger. By the summer of 2001, the C.I.A. was convinced that Al Qaeda was on the verge of a spectacular attack. But no one knew where or when it would come.

The Early Life

Osama bin Muhammad bin Awad bin Laden was born in 1957, the seventh son and 17th child, among 50 or more, of his father, people close to the family say. Many experts believe he was born in March of that year, though Steve Coll, in his book “The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Family in the American Century,” reported that Bin Laden himself said he was born in January 1958.

His father, Muhammad bin Awad bin Laden, had immigrated to what would soon become Saudi Arabia in 1931 from the family’s ancestral village in a conservative province of southern Yemen. He found work in Jidda as a porter to the pilgrims on their way to the holy city of Mecca; years later, when he owned the largest construction company in Saudi Arabia, he displayed his porter’s bag in the main reception room of his palace as a reminder of his humble origins.

The elder Bin Laden began his family’s rise by skillfully navigating the competing interests within and around the House of Saud in the 1950s. He first built palaces for the royal family and was then chosen to renovate holy sites, including those at Medina and Mecca. In 1958, when several Arab countries set about to renovate the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, on one of the holiest sites in Islam, he won the bid for the Saudis by offering to do the job at a loss. In interviews years later, Osama bin Laden would recall proudly that his father had sometimes prayed in all three holy places in one day.

By the 1960s, King Faisal decreed that all construction projects be awarded to the Bin Laden group.

All of the Bin Laden children were required to work for the family company, meaning that Osama spent summers working on road projects. Muhammad bin Laden died in a plane crash in 1967, when Osama was 10. The siblings each inherited millions — the precise amount was a matter of some debate — and led a life of near-royalty. Osama — the name means “young lion” — grew up playing with Saudi princes and had his own stable of horses by age 15.

But some people close to the family paint a portrait of Bin Laden as a misfit. His mother, the last of his father’s four wives, was from Syria, and was the only one not from Saudi Arabia. The elder Bin Laden had met her on a vacation, and Osama was their only child. Within the family, she was said to be known as “the slave” and Osama “the slave child.”

Within the Saudi elite, it was rare to have both parents born outside the kingdom. In a profile of Osama bin Laden in The New Yorker, Mary Anne Weaver quoted a family friend who suggested that he had felt alienated in a culture so obsessed with lineage. “It must have been difficult for him,” the family friend said. “Osama was almost a double outsider. His paternal roots are in Yemen, and within the family his mother was a double outsider as well — she was neither Saudi nor Yemeni but Syrian.”

According to one of his brothers, Osama was the only Bin Laden child who never traveled abroad to study. A biography of Bin Laden provided to the PBS television program “Frontline” by an unidentified family friend asserted that Bin Laden had never traveled outside the Middle East.

That lack of exposure to Western culture would prove a crucial distinction; the other siblings went on to lead lives that would not be unfamiliar to most Americans. They took over the family business, estimated to be worth billions, distributing Snapple drinks, Volkswagens and Disney products across the Middle East. On Sept. 11, 2001, several Bin Laden siblings were living in the United States.

Bin Laden had been educated — and, indeed, steeped, as many Saudi children are — in Wahhabism, a puritanical, ardently anti-Western strain of Islam. Even years later, he so despised the Saudi ruling family’s coziness with Western nations that he refused to refer to Saudi Arabia by its modern name, instead calling it “the Country of the Two Holy Places.”

Newspapers have quoted anonymous sources — particularly an unidentified Lebanese barber — about a wild period of drinking and womanizing in Bin Laden’s life. But by most accounts he was devout and quiet, marrying a relative, the first of his four wives, at age 17.

Soon afterward, he began earning a degree at King Abdulaziz University in Jidda. It was there that he shaped his militancy. He became involved with the Muslim Brotherhood, a group of Islamic radicals who believed that much of the Muslim world, including the leaders of Saudi Arabia, lived as infidels, in violation of the true meaning of the Koran.

And he fell under the influence of two Islamic scholars: Muhammad Quttub and Abdullah Azzam, whose ideas would underpin Al Qaeda. Mr. Azzam became a mentor to the young Bin Laden. Jihad was the responsibility of all Muslims, he taught, until the lands once held by Islam were reclaimed. His motto was, “Jihad and the rifle alone: no negotiations, no conferences and no dialogue.”

The Middle East was becoming unsettled in 1979, when Bin Laden was at the university. In Iran, Shiite Muslims mounted an Islamic revolution that overthrew the shah and made the United States a target. Egypt and Israel signed a peace treaty. And as the year ended, Soviet troops occupied Afghanistan.

Bin Laden arrived in Pakistan-Afghanistan border within two weeks of the occupation. He said later that he had been asked to go by Saudi officials, who were eager to support the resistance movement. In his book “Taliban,” the Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid said that the Saudis had originally hoped that a member of the royal family might serve as an inspirational leader in Afghanistan, but that they settled on Bin Laden as the next closest thing when no princes volunteered.

He traveled more like a visiting diplomat than a soldier, meeting with leaders and observing refugees coming into Peshawar, Pakistan. As the family friend said, it “was an exploratory rather than an action trip.” He returned twice a year for the next few years, in between finishing his degree and lobbying family members to support the Afghan mujahedeen.

Bin Laden began traveling beyond the border into Afghanistan in 1982, bringing with him construction machinery and recruits. In 1984, he and Mr. Azzam began setting up guesthouses in Peshawar, which was the first stop for holy warriors on their way to Afghanistan. With the money they had raised in Saudi Arabia, they established the Office of Services, which branched out across the world to recruit young jihadists.

The recruits were known as the Afghan Arabs, though they came from all over the world, and their numbers were estimated as high as 20,000. By 1986, Bin Laden had begun setting up training camps for them as well, and he was paying roughly $25,000 a month to subsidize them.

To young would-be recruits across the Arab world, Bin Laden’s was an attractive story: the rich young man who had become a warrior. His own descriptions of the battles he had seen, how he had lost the fear of death and slept in the face of artillery fire, were brushstrokes of an almost divine figure.

But intelligence sources insist that Bin Laden actually saw combat only once, in a weeklong barrage by the Soviets at Jaji, where the Arab Afghans had dug themselves into caves using Bin Laden’s construction equipment.

“Afghanistan, the jihad, was one terrific photo op for a lot of people,” Milton Bearden, the C.I.A. officer who described Bin Laden as “the North Star,” said in an interview on “Frontline,” adding, “There’s a lot of fiction in there.”

Still, Jaji became a kind of touchstone in the Bin Laden myth. Stories sent back from the battle to Arab newspaper readers, and photographs of Bin Laden in combat gear, burnished his image.

The flood of young men following him to Afghanistan prompted the founding of Al Qaeda. The genesis was essentially bureaucratic; Bin Laden wanted a way to track the men so he could tell their families what had happened to them. The documentation that Al Qaeda provided became a primitive database of young jihadists.

Afghanistan also brought Bin Laden into contact with leaders of other militant Islamic groups, including Ayman al-Zawahri, the bespectacled doctor who would later appear at Bin Laden’s side in televised messages from the caves of Afghanistan. Ultimately Dr. Zawahri’s group, Egyptian Jihad, and others would merge with Al Qaeda, making it an umbrella for terrorist groups.

The Movement

Through the looking glass of Sept. 11, it seemed ironic that the Americans and Osama bin Laden had fought on the same side against the Soviets in Afghanistan — as if the Americans had somehow created the Bin Laden monster by providing arms and cash to the Arabs. The complex at Tora Bora where Qaeda members hid had been created with the help of the C.I.A. as a base for the Afghans fighting the Soviets.

Bin Laden himself described the fight in Afghanistan this way: “There I received volunteers who came from the Saudi kingdom and from all over the Arab and Muslim countries. I set up my first camp where these volunteers were trained by Pakistani and American officers. The weapons were supplied by the Americans, the money by the Saudis.”

In truth, the Americans did not deal directly with Bin Laden; they worked through the middlemen of the Pakistani intelligence service.

In the revisionism of the Bin Laden myth, his defenders would say that he had not worked with the Americans but that he had only tolerated them as a means to his end. As proof, they insisted he had made anti-American statements as early as 1980.

Bin Laden would say in retrospect that he was always aware who his enemies were.

“For us, the idea was not to get involved more than necessary in the fight against the Russians, which was the business of the Americans, but rather to show our solidarity with our Islamist brothers,” he told a French journalist in 1995. “I discovered that it was not enough to fight in Afghanistan, but that we had to fight on all fronts against Communism or Western oppression. The urgent thing was Communism, but the next target was America.”

Afghanistan had infused the movement with confidence.

“Most of what we benefited from was that the myth of the superpower was destroyed not only in my mind but also in the minds of all Muslims,” Bin Laden told an interviewer. “Slumber and fatigue vanished, and so was the terror which the U.S. would use in its media by attributing itself superpower status, or which the Soviet Union used by attributing itself as a superpower.”

He returned to Saudi Arabia, welcomed as a hero, and took up the family business. But Saudi royals grew increasingly wary of him as he became more outspoken against the government.

The breaking point — for Bin Laden and for the Saudis — came when Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990. Bin Laden volunteered to the Saudis that the men and equipment he had used in Afghanistan could defend the kingdom. He was “shocked,” a family friend said, to learn that the Americans — the enemy, in his mind — would defend it instead. To him, it was the height of American arrogance.

The United States, he told an interviewer later, “has started to look at itself as a master of this world and established what it calls the new world order.”

The Saudi government restricted him to Jidda, fearing that his outspokenness would offend the Americans. Bin Laden fled to Sudan, which was offering itself as a sort of haven for terrorists, and there he began setting up legitimate businesses that would help finance Al Qaeda. He also built his reserves, in 1992, paying for about 500 mujahedeen who had been expelled from Pakistan to come work for him.

The Terrorism

It was during that time that it is believed he honed his resolve against the United States.

Within Al Qaeda, he argued that the organization should put aside its differences with Shiite terrorist groups like Hezbollah in Lebanon, the better to concentrate on the common enemy: the United States. He called for attacks against American forces in the Saudi peninsula and in the Horn of Africa.

On Dec. 29, 1992, a bomb exploded in a hotel in Aden, Yemen, where American troops had been staying while on their way to Somalia. The troops had already left, and the bomb killed two Austrian tourists. American intelligence officials came to believe that it was Bin Laden’s first attack.

On Feb. 26, 1993, a bomb exploded in a truck driven into the underground garage at the World Trade Center, killing six people. Bin Laden later praised Ramzi Yousef, who was convicted of the bombing. In October of that year, in Somalia, 18 American service members were killed — some of their bodies dragged through the streets — while on a peacekeeping mission; Bin Laden was almost giddy about the deaths.

After leaving Afghanistan, the Muslim fighters headed for Somalia and prepared for a long battle, thinking that the Americans were “like the Russians,” he told an interviewer.

“The youth were surprised at the low morale of the American soldiers and realized more than before that the American soldier was a paper tiger and after a few blows ran in defeat,” he said. “And America forgot all the hoopla and media propaganda about being the world leader and the leader of the new world order, and after a few blows, they forgot about this title and left, dragging their corpses and their shameful defeat.”

By 1994, Bin Laden had established new training camps in Sudan, but he became a man without a country. The Saudi government froze his assets and revoked his citizenship. His family, which had become rich on its relations with the royal family, denounced him publicly after he was caught smuggling weapons from Yemen.

This seemed to make him only more zealous. He sent an open letter to King Fahd outlining the sins of the Saudi government and calling for a campaign of guerrilla attacks to drive Americans from Saudi Arabia. Three months later, in November 1995, a truck bomb exploded at a Saudi National Guard training center operated by the United States in Riyadh, killing seven people. That year, Belgian investigators found a kind of how-to manual for terrorists on a CD. The preface dedicated it to Bin Laden, the hero of the holy war.

The next May, when the men accused of the Riyadh bombing were beheaded in Riyadh’s main square, they were forced to read a confession in which they acknowledged the connection to Bin Laden. The next month, June 1996, a truck bomb destroyed Khobar Towers, an American military residence in Dhahran. It killed 19 soldiers.

Bin Laden fled to Afghanistan that summer after Sudan expelled him under pressure from the Americans and Saudis, and he forged an alliance with Mullah Muhammad Omar, the leader of the Taliban. In August 1996, from the Afghan mountain stronghold of Tora Bora, Bin Laden issued his “Declaration of War Against the Americans Who Occupy the Land of the Two Holy Mosques.”

“Muslims burn with anger at America,” it read. The presence of American forces in the Persian Gulf states “will provoke the people of the country and induces aggression on their religion, feelings, and prides and pushes them to take up armed struggle against the invaders occupying the land.”

The imbalance of power between American forces and Muslim forces demanded a new kind of fighting, he wrote, “in other words, to initiate a guerrilla war, where sons of the nation, not the military forces, take part in it.”

That same month in New York City, a federal grand jury began meeting to consider charges against Bin Laden. Disputes arose among prosecutors and American law enforcement and intelligence officers about which attacks against American interests could truly be attributed to Bin Laden — whether in fact he had, as an indictment eventually charged, trained and paid the men who killed the Americans in Somalia.

His foot soldiers, in testimony, offered different pictures of Bin Laden’s actual involvement. In some cases he could be as aloof as any boss with thousands of employees. Yet one of the men convicted of the bombings of the embassies said that Bin Laden had been so involved that he was the one who had pointed at surveillance photographs to direct where the truck bomb should be driven.

Bin Laden was becoming more emboldened, summoning Western reporters to his hide-outs in Afghanistan to relay his message: He would wage war against the United States and its allies if Washington did not remove its troops from the gulf region.

“So we tell the Americans as a people,” he told ABC News, “and we tell the mothers of soldiers and American mothers in general that if they value their lives and the lives of their children, to find a nationalistic government that will look after their interests and not the interests of the Jews. The continuation of tyranny will bring the fight to America, as Ramzi Yousef and others did. This is my message to the American people: to look for a serious government that looks out for their interests and does not attack others, their lands or their honor.”

In February 1998, he issued the edict calling for attacks on Americans anywhere in the world, declaring it an “individual duty” for all Muslims.

In June, the grand jury that had been convened two years earlier issued its indictment, charging Bin Laden with conspiracy to attack the United States abroad, for heading Al Qaeda and for financing terrorist activities around the world.

On Aug. 7, 1998, the eighth anniversary of the United States order sending troops into the gulf region, two bombs exploded simultaneously at the American Embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The Nairobi bomb killed 213 people and wounded 4,500; the bomb in Dar es Salaam killed 11 and wounded 85.

The United States retaliated two weeks later with strikes against what were thought to be terrorist training camps in Afghanistan and a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan, which officials contended — erroneously, it turned out — was producing chemical weapons for Al Qaeda.

Bin Laden had trapped the United States in a spiral of tension, where any defensive or retaliatory actions would affirm the evils that he said had provoked the attacks in the first place. In an interview with Time magazine that December, he brushed aside President Clinton’s threats against him, and referred to himself in the third person, as if recognizing or encouraging the notion that he had become larger than life.

“To call us Enemy No. 1 or Enemy No. 2 does not hurt us,” he said. “Osama bin Laden is confident that the Islamic nation will carry out its duty.”

In January 1999, the United States government issued a superseding indictment that affirmed the power Bin Laden had sought all along, declaring Al Qaeda an international terrorist organization in a conspiracy to kill American citizens.

The Aftermath

After the attacks of Sept. 11, Bin Laden did what had become routine: He took to Arab television. He appeared, in his statement to the world, to be at the top of his powers. President Bush had declared that the nations of the world were either with the Americans or against them on terrorism; Bin Laden held up a mirror image, declaring the world divided between infidels and believers.

Bin Laden had never before claimed or accepted responsibility for terrorist attacks. But in a videotape found in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar weeks after the attacks, he did precisely that, reveling in the horror of Sept. 11.

“We calculated in advance the number of casualties from the enemy, who would be killed based on the position of the tower,” he said. “We calculated that the floors that would be hit would be three or four floors. I was the most optimistic of them all.”

In the videotape, showing him talking to followers nearly two months after the attacks, Bin Laden smiles, hungers to hear more approval and notes proudly that the attacks let loose a surge of interest in Islam around the world.

He explained that the hijackers on the planes — “the brothers who conducted the operation” — did not know what the mission would be until just before they boarded the planes. They knew only that they were going to the United States on a mission of martyrdom.

Bin Laden’s voice continued to be heard, off and on, for almost the next 10 years as he issued threats, warnings and pronouncements on video and audiotape from wherever he was hiding. As recently as October he appealed for aid for flood victims in Pakistan and blamed the West for causing climate change.

Bin Laden long eluded the allied forces in pursuit of him, moving, it was said, under cover of night with his wives and children, at first between mountain caves. Yet he was determined that if he had to die, he too would die a martyr’s death.

His greatest hope, he told supporters, was that if he died at the hands of the Americans, the Muslim world would rise up and defeat the nation that had killed him.

Michael T. Kaufman, a foreign correspondent, reporter and columnist for The Times, died in 2010; Tim Weiner contributed reporting.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: May 2, 2011

An earlier version of this article misstated the timing of the restorations of the Al Aksa mosque in Jerusalem and mosques at Medina and Mecca by Bin Laden's father.