Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The world’s smallest digital music player- Apple's iPod shuffle

Apple release the world’s smallest digital music player at just $79, the 1GB iPod shuffle from Apple lets you wear up to 240 songs on your sleeve. Or your lapel. Or your belt. Clip on iPod shuffle and wear it as a badge of musical devotion.

One size fits all

You know what they say about good things and small packages. But when something 1.62 inches long and about half an ounce holds up to 240 songs, “good” and “small” don’t quite cut it. Especially when you can listen to your music for up to 12 continuous hours. In fact, Apple's iPod shuffle just may be the biggest thing in small.

Ready to wear

Clip it to your coin pocket. Clip it to your bag. No matter where you clip your skip-free iPod shuffle, you’ll have instant access to music. And iPod shuffle’s anodized aluminum enclosure goes with absolutely everything. Put it on, turn it up, and turn some heads.

Sync to fit

The first step to wearing 240 songs on your iPod shuffle is downloading Apple's iTunes — free. Then you can download 99¢ songs from the iTunes Store or import music from your CDs. When it’s time to sync, plug the included dock into your Mac or PC’s USB port and transfer your music from iTunes just by docking iPod shuffle.

Remix and match

Got more than 240 songs in your iTunes library? No problem. Let iTunes autofill your iPod shuffle and get a new musical experience every time. Pop follows jazz. Rock follows rap. iPod shuffle loves to improvise. Take the Shuffle switch, for instance. Even if you’ve synced a particular playlist, you can shuffle songs with a flick.

Source: apple.com

Tags: iPod iTunes ipod Shuffle Apple Gadgets Music

Wee Shu Min fellow Rafflesian's appealing not to generalize the issue to RJC

It seems like Wee Shu Min is laughing and mocking and enjoying her exposure and the posts that are devastating her character. Mean while a lot of RJCs are speaking from different forums and blogs and appealing not to generalize Wee Shu Min's mentality to all the students from RJC. Here are some of them as spotted in a blog.

"I was a top student from RJC. just graduated a few years ago. most pple that i know in RJC were just too full of themselves. they thought that since they are from RJC, they are the smartest in Singapore. unfortunately, many of my RJC frens have low EQ and common sense. most only know how to memorise and practise questions, and possess very weak critical thinking skills."

"To follow up on what fellow Rafflesian, Gene, said above, I would like to emphasise that the majority of us from RJC are not like Wee Shu Min. In fact, few of us sympathise with her current “plight” (not that she is taking it badly, she was in fact laughing and mocking at the responses on various websites). What had happened also did not surprise us because she is well known in school to have an inflated sense of superiority and low tolerance of the pedestrian and the uncultured. But please remember that one Wee Shu Min does not make RJC. The rest of us from RJC should not be impeached because of her."

"I'm a classmate of Wee Shu Min in RGS and RJC. Many of us don't know her well because she does move around in her own exclusive circle of the smart and well-connected. And yes, she is conceited, overbearing and thinks that she and her clique own the world. But, I do think some of the comments here are excessive, even unreasonable. You can fault her character and her worldview, but is there a need to descend to vulgarity?"

"As a Rafflesian, I am saddened that our good name has been smeared by the poison pen of one elistist female. The saddest part of this episode is that she reminds me of the remark made by newbie Michael Palmer, "Before I joined the grassroots organisation, I never knew there were poor people in developed countries". Where does the PAP find such freaks? They are no better than the Hitler Youth, and our country can only be the worse because of them"

The most wanted face: photo of Wee Shu Min(She is not beautiful, may be her thoughts too)

Here is a picture of Wee Shu Min. I am so excited to see the face of moment. I have used the search engines for a long time but I never seen crazy searches for a person like they are happening for Wee Shu Min. I was trying.. no no.. I'v to say I was dying to get her picture and post it in my blog since the issue of Wee Shu Min and Derek Wee popped up. At last here is a closeup picture of Wee Shu Min. Just for a note: Wee Shu Min is not beautiful and many would agree if I say that her mind too is not beautiful :)

Sony developing video Walkman

Sony Corp. said on Thursday it is developing a video-capable Walkman, playing catch-up with Apple Computer Inc.'s market-leading iPod. Sony created the market for portable music players with its epoch-making Walkman more than a quarter of a century ago, but in recent years it has trailed far behind Apple, whose iPod holds more than half the global digital media player market. "We are developing a product that handles images, but I cannot make any comment on specific plans," Sony Senior Vice President Hiroshi Yoshioka told a news conference that unveiled upcoming Walkman models.

Apple launched a video-enabled iPod last October.

Yoshioka also said on the sidelines of the news conference that he aims to double Walkman's share in the global portable digital music player market from the current 10 percent, without elaborating. Sony and any other portable music player makers are expected to face a new and potentially formidable rival next month as Microsoft Corp., the world's largest software maker, launches its Zune music player, further stoking competition. Sony also said it will start rolling out five new models of a flash-memory-based Walkman, shaped like a perfume bottle, towards the end of the year at home and abroad. A 4-gigabyte model with a noise-reduction function is expected to sell for around 29,000 yen ($240) in Japan, Sony said.

Tag: Video Sony Technology Gadget

Tomorrow's hot tech gear today

A look at some of the coolest gadgets and technologies coming soon.

Dancing robots, underwater "dolphin" vehicles and a solar panel car that can run in below-freezing temperatures may be technologies for tomorrow, but they're being talked about today. These and other products were just some of the gadgets on display at WIRED NextFest, a showcase of tech gear for the future that opened Friday and runs through Sunday in New York. The show drew visitors ranging from techies to school children. Some of the exhibits were just plain cool - one of the robots featured actually does the Robot dance. And while not all the products are commercially available, from the doctor's office to the airport, several of the technologies have a real-life application today.

5 technologies ready for today

High-tech boarding passes: These passes developed by Symbol Technologies, which was recently bought by Motorola , are designed to make flying safer and more convenient. When you check-in, a scan of your face is taken and stored in an RFID tag embedded on your boarding pass. When you go through security, a gateway scanner reads the tag and makes sure you are who you say you are.

Costs include the tags themselves, which run about 50 cents each, to the gate scanners that read the chips. Now it's up to the airlines to implement the technology, said Timothy Heffernan, director of government relations and public policy at Symbol Tech.

VeinViewer: Giving blood could be a less painful and less time consuming affair in the future. According to the makers of the VeinViewer, it takes about 2.4 attempts and 23 minutes for medical personnel to find a patient's vein today. The VeinViewer, which uses near-infrared light to makes veins visible at the surface, is designed to increase the chances of a "successful stick."

The VeinViewer costs about $25,000. In comparison, a hospital bed alone runs about $12,000.

MindBall: Living in a more connected and tech-focused world can result in added stress, and MindBall's biofeedback system may soon become a regular way to monitor and manage stress levels.

If you're going to win MindBall, a game designed by the Interactive Institute, you've got to be relaxed. Two players sit across from each other at a table wearing headbands that monitor their brain activity. Their brainwaves control a ball on the table, and the most relaxed player wins.

The Hug shirt: With the development of video conferencing and Web cameras, maintaining a long-distance relationship has never been easier. Now there's a way to bring touch into the picture.

The Hug shirt, using Bluetooth technology and embedded sensors, makes it possible to send a hug to another wearer of a Hug shirt over distance. An added bonus: The shirts are machine washable. But the cost of a hug can be pricey - the shirts are expected to retail for around $500 to $700 apiece.

Bionic dolphin: Forget swimming with dolphins, why not be one? The bionic dolphin, an underwater vehicle, can reach up to 40 mph. Doc Rowe, the developer of the vehicle, got most of his ideas watching dolphins and penguins move in the water and designed the vehicle so it "flies" through water.

In addition to a two-seater model, Rowe said his team is working on a vehicle that carries five passengers. Rowe said he's hoping to sell the dolphins to resorts, which means the bionic dolphin could come to a vacation near you.

Space oddity for a good night's sleep

Janjaap Ruijssenaars has always been interested in the concept of gravity. The Dutch architect says it is this that helped him decide to enter the profession. "Gravity is at the center of what pulls architects together," he said. But it was another force of nature -- magnetism -- that helped Ruijssenaars create his 1.2 million euro ($1.5 million) floating bed, attracting international acclaim when it was showcased at this year's Millionaire Fair in Belgium. "I started with gravity and then thought about another power, magnetism, and went from there, beginning with cardboard and small refrigerator magnets." His design has the base of the bed "floating" 40 centimeters above the ground, thanks to a system of magnets in both the floor under the bed and the bed itself.

Magnets have north and south poles, which attract each other and pull together, but if you turn one of the magnets around, so that like ends are facing each other, they will repel and push apart. The bed, which can hold a weight of 900 kilograms, is secured to the ground with four cables to ensure it doesn't float any higher. "It's the opposite of hanging something on the ceiling," he said. Ruijssenaars graduated from architecture school in the Netherlands six years ago. Although he is yet to sell one of the floating beds, he says he has interest from a Detroit-based car company to use the concept to create a floating stage on which the company would display one of its vehicles.

He says a museum in Europe is interested in showcasing the bed.

Tag: Floating bed Gravity technology Gadgets

MySpace 'to block illegal files'

Social networking site MySpace is to block users from uploading copyrighted music to its pages. It will use a file-filtering application to scan old and new content to weed out any unauthorised material. Illegal files, the company said, would be removed and persistent offenders would be banned from the site. Online sites are coming under increasing pressure from the music industry to stop copyright infringment on their pages. Last week Google, new owners of video-sharing site YouTube, vowed the company would not tolerate any copyright violations.

Selling downloads

MySpace, which reportedly has over 90 million users, is to use technology from a company called Gracenote to review and identify copyright files on its site. MySpace CEO and co-founder Chris DeWolfe said: "MySpace is staunchly committed to protecting artists' rights, whether those artists are on major labels or are independent acts. This is another important step we're taking to ensure artists control the content they create."

MySpace will also soon be allowing unsigned musicians to sell music downloads from their pages. It eventually aims to begin selling copyright-protected songs from major record labels.

Tag: MySpace

Witherspoon and Phillippe split

Oscar winner Reese Witherspoon and "Flags of Our Fathers" star Ryan Phillippe are separating after more than seven years of marriage, their representatives said Monday. Witherspoon, whose marriage reportedly had been on the rocks for some time, is the latest best-actress Academy Award winner to suffer marital woes. In January, two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank split from husband Chad Lowe. "We are saddened to announce that Reese and Ryan have decided to formally separate," their publicists said in a joint statement. "They remain committed to their family and we ask that you please respect their privacy and the safety of their children at this time."

Witherspoon, 30, and Phillippe, 32, reportedly met at her 21st birthday party before working together on the 1999 film "Cruel Intentions." They married in June of that year and have two children, 7-year-old daughter Ava and 3-year-old son Deacon. The publicists gave no more details about the split but the celebrity Web site TMZ.com, which broke the story, reported that Witherspoon has contacted the divorce lawyer who represented Jennifer Aniston, Roseanne Barr and Lisa Marie Presley. TMZ quoted one unidentified source as saying the breakup was not triggered by any single event but rather by "cumulative" circumstances.

In the past 10 years, six of the nine Academy Award winners for best actress ended up splitting from the husbands or boyfriends they thanked on Oscar night: Witherspoon, Swank, Halle Berry, Julia Roberts, Gwyneth Paltrow and Helen Hunt. (The exceptions are Charlize Theron, Frances McDormand and Nicole Kidman, who was unattached when she won.)

Witherspoon established herself as a major box-office draw as star of the 2001 comedy "Legally Blonde" and scored a follow-up hit with "Sweet Home Alabama." She went on to win a best-actress Oscar earlier this year for her role as Johnny Cash's country-singing sweetheart June Carter in "Walk the Line." Phillippe is currently starring in Clint Eastwood's latest film "Flags of Our Fathers" as Navy Corpsman John "Doc" Bradley, one of the U.S. servicemen who raised the Stars and Stripes on Iwo Jima's Mount Suribachi during World War Two. ("Flags" review)

Newly disclosed court documents show Witherspoon recently settled a lawsuit she brought in June accusing Star magazine of falsely reporting that she was pregnant with her third child. The court papers did not reveal terms of the settlement. "The true facts are that plaintiff (Witherspoon) is not pregnant, does not have a baby bump and has not otherwise gained weight such that she has had to resort to wearing empire waist dresses," the lawsuit said.

Tag: Reese Witherspoon Ryan Phillippe star split

Wee Shu Min is still not going down

Wee Shu Min's comments on Derek Wee's post which got her the publicity for eternity ( ofcourse she would not have dared to post those comments if she had any slightest idea of this) is still on raise and is topping the famous blog searches and search engines like technorati, google blog search, blogger's search, yahoo etc. All the posts which refer to her say "a student of RJC"... So I just wondered to search for "RJC Singapore" in Google and the first result is www.rjc.edu.sg , which I suppose is the college that Wee Shu Min is studying. When I think of the happenings, I can see certain things which stirred the issue. The major issue being Wee Shu Min's way of expressing her disagreement to Derek Wee. She used the words which will sure make one say "oh...no" or "cooool" or "woohoo". The other reasons being her status in the society. She is a student from a prestigious college(I want to remind a quote from Theodre Roosevelt "..... to educate a person in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society") and more than that she is the daughter of a current MP in Singapore, Wee Siew Kim. It must be a highly embarrassing situation for Mr. Wee Siew Kim. He did make a public statement on this issue.

Her popularity is so much that she got an article in Wikipedia and there is a video too in youtube. I am not sure about this but I read in some blogs that RJC girls and sometimes boys are getting hit by strong words just because Wee Shu Min's famous/notorious post. For me I just feel like whatever is happening is just wrong. I am not saying that we are just invading her privacy, bacause we are not discussing about something which she told in a closed room but she expressed in a publicly available blog. But what I am saying is that the comments "she is wrong" are wrong. She just expressed herself. Ofcourse even you and I are expressing ourselves offending or defending. Defending does not mean that I support her comments. I just support her right to comment, the so called freedom of speech.

Review: Kick it with latest 'Mortal Kombat'

Midway Games' "Mortal Kombat: Armageddon," now available for the Sony PlayStation 2 and Microsoft Xbox, boasts a full roster of playable characters. "Armageddon" is the first in the series to feature every character from the 14-year-old "Mortal Kombat" universe. There are more than 50 3-D fighters in all including Scorpion, Kung Lao, Sub-Zero and Motaro. Like any good fighting game, however, only a handful of characters are available at the start. Part of the fun is unlocking the rest, each of whom has a unique look, fighting style and weapon preference.

And if you don't want to go with a preexisting character, "Armageddon" is the first "Mortal Kombat" game with a "Kreate-a-Fighter" mode. You can select from thousands of physical features and attributes to design a custom fighter, give him or her a name, and then start a game to test their skills against others. The fighting, which is fast-paced, requires mastery in three key areas: hand-to-hand combat, weapons and magic. Learning how to punch, kick, jump and spin -- not to mention linking successive moves into "combos" -- takes some time to get right. Therefore, you won't get very far in this title if you try your luck by random "button mashing." It's also fun to learn how to fight in the air with the many aerial moves offered in this game.

Another "Mortal Kombat" calling card is the notorious "fatality" move, which refers to the way one fighter can kill the other. In "Armageddon," a new Kreate-a-Fatality system gives players the ability to create custom fatalities by stringing together button combinations. Midway has also expanded a few of its game modes. Aside from the single-player game (against the game's artificial intelligence) and a two-player mode (on the same television), "Armageddon" also offers a deeper Konquest game (a story-based adventure) and expanded online play for head-to-head matches over the Internet - with faster response times than found in 2004's "Mortal Kombat: Deception," and the ability to play your custom fighter in cyberspace.

But even with all of these additions, "Mortal Kombat" is still the same old 3-D fighting game: Each player picks a character and fights in a number of different environments. In other words, "Armageddon" just gives the player a lot more of the same stuff. This isn't necessarily a bad thing; but if you are looking for a revolutionary new game, this is not it. Also, while this game's graphics look OK (better on the Xbox than the PlayStation 2), it doesn't compare to fighting games on the Xbox 360 such as Tecmo's "Dead or Alive 4."

"Mortal Kombat" fans can pick up "Armageddon" for $39.95, or they may opt for the Premium Edition ($49.95), which also includes a playable version of the original "Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3," more than 60 minutes of bonus DVD video content, a collectible metal case (with four unique box fronts in total), and an animation cell cover art autographed by franchise co-creator Ed Boon.

Review By Marc Saltzman
Gannett News Service

Tag: Mortal Kombat Armageddon Midway Games Computer Games

'Sperm-stopping' male pill hope

Scientists are developing a male contraceptive drug which stops the development process of sperm. Tests on rats show blocking connections to cells which "nurture" developing sperm makes the animals infertile. The US and Italian researchers say they used relatively low doses of the molecule and found no obvious side effects, and the effect was reversible. But they told Nature Medicine that work was now needed to see if their approach is equally effective and safe in men.

High dosage

When sperm are being made in the body in a process called spermatogenesis they sit next to other cells, called Sertoli cells, which nurse and help them grow. If the connection between these two cell types is broken, infertility can result in men. In the study authors used a recently developed molecule called Adjudin to dislodge the developing sperm from the Sertoli cells.

However Adjudin is also known to be toxic at high doses.

To get round this, the researchers linked it chemically to a hormone, called FSH, which acts in the testicles where sperm are made. The FSH, which the researchers made inactive so it would merely act as a carrier and not cause any effect itself, delivered Adjudin to where it was needed, allowing much lower doses to be given. This made the developing sperm cells "fall off" too early, before they were properly mature, resulting in complete but temporary loss of fertility in the rats. More research is needed to assess if the same approach could work in humans.

But the researchers, led by Dr Dolores Mruk, from the Center For Biomedical Research in New York, said: "We anticipate that this compound could become a male contraceptive for human use."

'Promising' research

Dr Richard Anderson, from the University of Edinburgh, who has been investigating hormonal male contraceptives in the UK, said: "This is very promising. "A non-hormonal approach to male contraception using a drug which specifically targets a process in spermatogenesis has long been a very attractive option, as it leaves hormone production by the testis intact." He said it appeared the drug effects could be fully reversible, although only a single dose was given in the study. "Clearly there are enormous amounts of work needed to translate this to humans. "Adjudin may be ineffective in men, as the biochemistry of the cell junctions it targets may be different, and the precise molecular basis of its mechanism of action is unknown. "However, perhaps the most important aspect of this study is the demonstration that using FSH targeting, drugs that are otherwise too toxic, can be delivered in safe yet effective doses."

Mainframes making a comeback

Cheap little servers handle so much of the Internet's dirty work that giant computers known as mainframes, which debuted 50 years ago and often cost more than $1 million, are supposed to be passe. When Hoplon Infotainment, a startup video game company in Brazil, let it be known that it uses a mainframe to operate its signature online game, "People would actually take a step back and say, 'What? Did I hear correctly?"' said Tarquinio Teles, Hoplon's CEO. Yet mainframes are inspiring new ways of doing things at organizations like Hoplon. The trend is driven by and anxiously watched at IBM Corp., which makes the vast majority of the world's remaining mainframes and continues to be hugely reliant on them.

After dropping nearly 8 percent in 2005, IBM's mainframe revenue is up 10 percent this year. That includes a 25 percent gain in the most recent quarter. Mainframes were IBM's fastest-growing hardware segment after the microchip division, which is enjoying a nice ride making microprocessors for the top three video game consoles. IBM does not release precise figures, but analysts estimate mainframe revenue at roughly $2.3 billion in the first nine months of 2006. While that is a small chunk of IBM's overall sales of $65 billion so far this year, mainframe revenue is especially precious because the machines drive huge software and maintenance deals, making them IBM's most profitable line of hardware.

Of course, the huge third-quarter boost is unlikely to be sustained. IBM is benefiting from having released two new mainframes in the past year, and sales eventually should taper until an upgrade comes, at least a year from now. Such ups and downs are typical: Unisys Corp., a much smaller vendor, has seen mainframe sales drop this year, but spokesman Brian Daly said the numbers strengthened in the third quarter with the release of a new model.

Still, for IBM to be having success with mainframes at all is somewhat surprising. Because if you were to break modern computing history into its simplest terms, it would go something like this: There was the centralized-mainframe era, and then there was the distributed-computing era. And the former ended a while ago. Mainframes emerged in the 1950s as room-sized hubs that did it all. They crunched numbers, administered transactions, ran simulations and stored data. By the 1980s and '90s, however, information technology was flourishing with flexible and smaller pieces of hardware that took on traditional mainframe duties. Cheaper server computers could calculate stuff and serve up Web pages. New communications gear ferried information around networks. Separate storage machines made more efficient use of memory. Millions of desktop computers flowered.

Sun Microsystems Inc., a leading maker of servers, denigrated mainframes as "dinosaurs," prompting IBM to call its next mainframe line the "T-Rex." As mainframes ceased to be the center of gravity, they mainly lived on in government agencies, banks or complex networks like airline travel systems. Many such places needed mainframes' heavy-duty security and processing ability, but others were locked into the specialized programs they had written in mainframes' unique language. "Where the mainframe still has a long-term home is running long-term code," said John Parker, chief information officer for A.G. Edwards & Sons Inc., a financial services firm that recently dropped its French-made mainframe but still runs key functions on a mainframe operated by a third-party hosting service. "Every industry has it, in my experience." Since inertia is not growth, the market for mainframes and servers costing more than $500,000 dropped from $19 billion in 2000 to less than $12 billion last year, according to analysts at IDC.

One huge challenge has been the machines' old-school reputation. Programming mainframes still involves typing code on a green screen, much like early versions of DOS, the operating system that dominated PCs before the visual "windows" approach. To try to encourage younger software developers to write programs for the machines, IBM recently announced a $100 million effort to simplify and modernize mainframe programming. Earlier it began encouraging customers to run Linux, Java and other low-intensity software on mainframes, in hopes of keeping the machines from falling deeper into specialized niches. IBM also is trying to get creative in luring customers. In April it launched a "business-class" mainframe that costs $100,000 and up, targeted at smaller companies that want mainframes' high level of security and reliability.

One key pitch is that mainframes can do so many tasks at once that they are more energy efficient and take up less space than a comparable cluster of smaller servers. "For every application, many times it takes five servers in a distributed environment," said Jim Stallings, who runs IBM's mainframe division. "Many customers are saying, 'I can't deal with the complexity."' The University of Toronto recently bought a business-class mainframe to manage enrollment and other administrative functions. Eugene Siciunas, director of computing services, said the main attraction was flexible pricing. The university saved money upfront by selecting a mainframe that runs at less than top capacity. Then on days when computing loads are heavier, the school can buy a short-term boost of extra processing power. Network managers call IBM, which remotely tunes the mainframe to deliver better performance.

Hoplon, the Brazilian company, is using a mainframe's processing might to build a complex "massively multiplayer" online game. But rather than shelling out precious startup capital to own a mainframe, Hoplon is remotely accessing one stashed in an IBM data center in Brazil. The same machine manages a retirement fund for IBM's Brazilian employees and handles operations for a building-tools manufacturer. Charles King, an analyst with Pund-IT Inc., said IBM has had to adopt such sales methods to "maintain the platform's viability." "The company has done a good job of continuing to gain leverage out of the mainframe," King said. "For a platform that a lot of folks have claimed is essentially moribund or headed into a very dark, bad future, it's got remarkable legs."

Tag : Mainframes Computer IBM

Borat on Saturday Night Live

Here's Borat doing some last minute promo for his new movie. This is the opening skit to SNL, and it's a good one. In case you were wondering, that's NOT wool that Borat is holding. Not even close.

(watch video here)

Tag: Borat

Happy Scary Halloween

I found some cute pictures of Halloween in BBC posted by some people and they are reallyyyy... mmm.... cute... no..no.. they are scary cute:). They are really celebrating Halloween. The place where I belong to does not have any such event or holiday like Halloween. When I first heard about Halloween a few years back I thought it would be awful to dress up like that. But as I observed the Halloween costumes and kids going around to strangers it is sort of cool and funky. I saw a lot of views on this habit of Halloween kids going to strangers. People say that they do not want their kids going to strangers. Well, for the "Halloween hint" or "Halloween fact" take this. There are no strangers in the world...they are just people whom you did not meet yet.

Tag : Halloween

Mexican riot police clash with protesters in Oaxaca

Demonstrators and riot police have again clashed in the Mexican city of Oaxaca, the scene of five months of protests against the state governor, Ulises Ruiz. Several thousand protesters converged on the main square, vowing to retake the city centre after police moved in at the weekend to restore order. Striking teachers and leftist activists are demanding that Governor Ulises Ruiz be sacked for abuse of power. Mexico's lawmakers have urged Mr Ruiz to quit, but he says he will stay on. Senators unanimously approved a resolution calling on him to "consider resigning from office to help restore law and order" in Oaxaca. The Senate's motion came hours after a similar measure was approved by the lower house of the congress.

Calls for Mr Ruiz's resignation have been at the heart of a drawn-out protest by Mexican teachers and left-wing activists, who accuse him of authoritarianism and corruption. Over the weekend, some 4,000 riot police entered Oaxaca, removing demonstrators from the city centre. One man was reported to have died in the operation.

Mexican President Vicente Fox ordered the action on Saturday, a day after unidentified gunmen killed three people, including a US journalist.

Tense stand-off

"Murderers! Murderers!" chanted the demonstrators, as they rallied near the police cordon in the central square of the state capital. "The mood is very tense. We're standing with the protesters in front of police barricades and they have lit bonfire, are tossing fireworks," told Mark Stevenson, an Associated Press reporter.

One policeman was reportedly injured by fireworks and taken to hospital. Police responded with volleys of teargas and used water cannons to extinguish the fires. Despite the growing pressure both from the protesters and the federal lawmakers, Mr Ruiz - who rejects the accusations against him - said he would not step down. "Within the next few hours we expect life will return to normal in the state capital," he told reporters on Monday. The governor also said the Mexican federal parliament had no control over Oaxaca.

Schools shut

The protests began in May, virtually paralysing the city. The teachers initially staged the walk-out to demand higher pay and better working conditions. However, after police attacked one of their demonstrations in June, they extended their demands to include a call for the governor's resignation. The teachers were then joined in their protest by left-wing groups. Thousands of schools have been closed since the strike began, leaving 1.3 million children out of school.

14,000 U.S.-supplied weapons reportedly missing in Iraq

Thousands of weapons the United States has provided Iraqi security forces cannot be accounted for, and spare parts and repair manuals are unavailable for many others, a new report to Congress says. The report, prepared at the request of the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Virginia Republican Sen. John Warner, also found that major challenges remain that put at risk the Defense Department's goal of strengthening Iraqi security forces by transferring all logistics operations to the defense ministry by the end of 2007.

A spokesman for Warner said the senator read the report over the weekend in preparation for a meeting Tuesday with Stuart W. Bowen Jr., the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. Warner, who requested the report in May, "believes it is essential that Congress and the American people continue to be kept informed by the inspector general on the equipping and logistical capabilities of the Iraqi army and security forces, since these represent an important component of overall readiness," said Warner spokesman John Ullyot.

The inspector general's office released its report Sunday in a series of three audits finding that:

* Nearly one of every 25 weapons the military bought for Iraqi security forces is missing. Many others cannot be repaired because parts or technical manuals are lacking.

* "Significant challenges remain that put at risk" the U.S. military's goal of strengthening Iraqi security forces by transferring all logistics operations to the defense ministry by the end of 2007.

* "The unstable security environment in Iraq touches every aspect" of the Provincial Reconstruction Team program, in which U.S. government experts help Iraqis develop regional governmental institutions.

The Pentagon cannot account for 14,030 weapons -- almost 4 percent of the semiautomatic pistols, assault rifles, machine guns, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and other weapons it has been supplying to Iraq since the end of 2003. The missing weapons will not be tracked easily: The Defense Department registered the serial numbers of only about 10,000 of the 370,251 weapons it provided -- less than 3 percent. Missing from the Defense Department's inventory books were 13,180 semiautomatic pistols, 751 assault rifles and 99 machine guns.

The audit on logistics capabilities said there is a "significant risk" that the Iraqi interior ministry "will not be capable of assuming and sustaining logistics support for the Iraqi local and national police forces in the near term." That support includes equipment maintenance, transportation of people and gear and health resources for soldiers and police.

The audit on Provincial Reconstruction Teams said that, because of security issues, they "have varying degrees of ability to carry out their missions." Auditors reviewed nine teams and four satellite offices and found "4 were generally able, 4 were somewhat able, 3 were less able and 2 were generally unable" to accomplish their goals.

Saddam Hussein's lawyer walks out of trial

Saddam Hussein's chief lawyer walked out of the former leader's trial Monday after a dozen defense requests were rejected. The chief judge immediately appointed other attorneys to defend the deposed president. Chief defense attorney Khalil al-Dulaimi had just ended a month-long boycott of the trial, in which Hussein and six other defendants are charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity for a 1987-88 offensive against Iraq's Kurdish population. The charges against Hussein and one other defendant include genocide.

When the session began, al-Dulaimi filed 12 requests, including that the court should allow foreign lawyers to attend the trial without prior court permission. Al-Dulaimi had said Sunday that he was ending his boycott in order to make the requests. Chief judge Mohammed Oreibi al-Khalifa denied the requests, prompting al-Dulaimi to say: "I inform the court that I'm withdrawing." The judge replied: "I allow you to withdraw. Go ahead."

Al-Dulaimi has said that if Hussein is condemned to death in a separate trial, where he is charged with killing nearly 150 people from the town of Dujail, it could provoke civil war in Iraq and unrest throughout the Middle East. The verdict in the Dujail trial is expected November 5. Hussein and seven others are charged with crimes against humanity for the killing of 148 Muslim Shiites after an attempt to assassinate him in Dujail in 1982. Al-Dulaimi said Sunday he had written to U.S. President George W. Bush to warn him of the consequences of a death sentence against Hussein.

"I warned him against the death penalty and against any other decision that would inflame a civil war in Iraq and send fire throughout the region," al-Dulaimi said in a phone interview from Baghdad. He did not say when he sent the letter to Bush. In the Kurdish trial, the defense team had boycotted the proceeding since September 24 after the dismissal of a chief judge who was criticized as being too soft on Hussein. The lawyers said later they also were protesting the court's refusal to give them more time to review about 10,000 documents in the trial. Prosecutors say the military offensive against the Kurds, Operation Anfal, killed 180,000 people.

Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie Applied to Adopt India from Orphanage in India

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, currently in Pune, filming A Mighty Heart, have applied to adopt a baby from an Indian orphanage. There is likely to be another happy addition to the Jolie-Pitt family. The couple hopes to take the newest member home to Los Angeles at the latest by Christmas. Jolie–who gave birth to Shiloh Nouvel, Pitt’s biological daughter in May of this year–adopted Cambodian-born Maddox in 2002 and an Ethiopian-born Zahara in 2005. A source quoted in the Mail has said: "Brad would prefer a boy no older than 18 months to even the sexes, but Angie has told him she cannot guarantee that she won’t fall in love with a little girl." The name of the child, they have decided, would be India, irrespective of whether they adopt a boy or girl. Jolie (31) has declared that she wants children from all over the world. She said: "I want to create a rainbow family. That is, children of different religions and cultures from different countries." "I believe I’m meant to find my children in the world and not necessarily have them genetically," she added.

Jolie is a former fashion model and a Goodwill Ambassador for the UN Refugee Agency. She has received three Golden Globe Awards, two Screen Actors Guild Awards and an Academy Award. For Brad, his new film, Babel, seems to have become an Oscar contender. Could Brad earn an Oscar nomination and win an award next March? According to one Oscar winner, Brad could. "It’s the best performance Brad’s ever given," says Gwyneth Paltrow. "Babel makes you want to take good care of your children."

The most happening couple are in India for the shooting of a film.

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Controversy on Madonna's adoption of African baby

The row over Madonna's adoption of an African baby is refusing to die down. The father of the 13-month-old David Banda has come out in support of the singer. Yohane Banda appeared in a Malawi court room as human rights groups attempted to block the adoption process. Mr Banda said he could not understand why anyone was unhappy about the superstar adopting his child. "If he is brought back it will be bad for me and my family because we can't afford to look after him," he said. The coalition of rights groups says the government broke its own laws which forbid adoption of any Malawian child by a non-resident. Madonna brought the child to her luxury London home and has given a number of television interviews hitting back at her critics.

Mad eyes is covering more news. Here is a photo gallery of pictures sorrounding the whole episode of Madonna adopting the baby boy

Tags: Madonna Adoption

Madonna splurges $10,000 on her adopted son

Pop star Madonna seems to be so in love with 1-year-old David Banda - a Malawian orphan she is going to adopt[Edited: Madonna reached NY on 29th with David: The Picture is taken in the airport], that she is making sure that the little one leads a luxurious life. The 'Material Girl' recently spent a fortune on the tot's winter wardrobe. She called trendy Los Angeles baby store Petit Tresor at the beginning of the week and ordered the best cashmere winter clothes from designers like CV and Larucci. "She wanted very high-end, luxury winter products and items; very subtle European classic designs made of the finest materials and fabrics... It's the luxury of all luxuries," Contactmusic quoted Nina Takesh, Petit Tresor's co-owner, as saying.

But Madonna left the store boss puzzled when she asked for girls clothing too: "She did pull both boy and girls items in that age range." In total, the singer spent almost 10,000 dollars on baby clothes at the high-end store. Madonna and her husband Guy Ritchie have taken charge of the boy at their London home, where they hope to prove they are suitable adoptive parents before officially becoming David's mum and dad in 18 months.

Tags: Madonna Celebrity Adoption David Banda

What is Second Life

Second Life is a 3-D virtual world entirely built and owned by its residents. Since opening to the public in 2003, it has grown explosively and today is inhabited by a total of 1,203,212 people from around the globe.

* From the moment you enter the World you'll discover a vast digital continent, teeming with people, entertainment, experiences and opportunity. Once you've explored a bit, perhaps you'll find a perfect parcel of land to build your house or business.

* You'll also be surrounded by the Creations of your fellow residents. Because residents retain the rights to their digital creations, they can buy, sell and trade with other residents.

* The Marketplace currently supports millions of US dollars in monthly transactions. This commerce is handled with the in-world currency, the Linden dollar, which can be converted to US dollars at several thriving online currency exchanges.

Tag: Second Life

Bursting Bubble Blues: Krugman on the U.S. Housing Bubble

In his column in the N.Y. Times today, Paul Krugman describes the five stages of housing grief. Here is the article.

1. Housing bubble? What housing bubble? “A national severe price distortion [in housing] seems most unlikely in the United States.” (Alan Greenspan, October 2004)

2. “There’s a little froth in this market,” but “we don’t perceive that there is a national bubble.” (Alan Greenspan, May 2005)

3. Housing is slumping, but “despite what you hear from some of the Eeyores in the analytical community, a recession is not
visible on the horizon.” (Richard Fisher, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, August 2006)

4. Well, that was a lousy quarter, but “I feel good about the U.S. economy, I really do.” (Henry Paulson, the Treasury secretary, last Friday)

5. Insert expletive here.

We’ve now reached stage 4. Will we move on to stage 5?

But the housing boom became a bubble, fueled by a surge of irresponsible bank lending, which continues even now. (Yesterday’s Denver Post tells of a runaway prisoner who managed to borrow enough to buy three expensive houses while on the lam, then bought two more while in prison.) The question now is how much pain the bursting bubble will inflict.

But I think the pessimists have a stronger case. There’s a lot of evidence that home prices, although they’ve started to decline, are still way out of line. Spending on home construction remains abnormally high as a percentage of G.D.P., because banks are still lending freely in spite of rapidly rising foreclosure rates.

This means that home sales probably still have a long way to fall. And you don’t want to make too much of the fact that some housing indicators have turned up; those indicators tend to bounce around a lot from month to month.

Moreover, much of the good news in the latest economic report is unsustainable at best, suspect at worst. Almost half of last quarter’s estimated growth was the result of a reported surge in automobile output, which some observers think was a statistical illusion, not something that really happened.

So this is probably just the beginning. How bad can it get? Well, you don’t have to go far to find grim forecasts: Merrill Lynch predicts that the unemployment rate will rise from 4.6 percent now to 5.8 percent by the end of next year.

In case you’re wondering, I don’t blame the Bush administration for the latest bad economic numbers. If anyone is to blame for the current situation, it’s Mr. Greenspan, who pooh-poohed warnings about an emerging bubble and did nothing to crack down on irresponsible lending.

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Virtual affairs souring real relationships

With more and more men and women having cyber affairs, Internet infidelity seems to have arrived in India and for that matter to the whole world. The faithful are trying to catch their techno-savvy unfaithful partners red-handed in cyber space, some by keeping pace with technology, others by reading self-help books. Some others are seeking professional help to cope with their agony. Casual Internet affairs, which usually last up to a few weeks, are increasingly souring real-life relationships. Anoop (name changed) works from home on his PC and promptly logs off around 7 p.m. when it's time for his wife to get back home. "My wife hates to catch me chatting on the Internet. So instead of having a long fight, I just log off," Anoop told on the Messenger. Anoop insists that the women he chats with are just "friends". "Once in a while I may also flirt with them," he said.

Excessive use of Internet is also becoming a reason for break-up of marriages. Adil, 48, (name changed), who lives with his wife and two teenage children in east Delhi, has posted fake profiles on almost all matrimonial sites. He interacts with prospective brides trying to pass off as a 30-something groom and often exchanges phone numbers. "He spends most of his leisure time on the Internet," said his wife, who is seeing a marriage counsellor. "His other 'hobby' is to surf adult sites. The kids use the same computer and often we find indecent pictures of women popping up on the PC," she said. "We called in an engineer and installed filters to stop such pop-ups, but he keeps removing the filters. He doesn't care about the children. It is too early for the kids to be exposed to such adult stuff," she added.

Ariestotle (chat name) is a film production assistant in Mumbai who usually works 15 days a month. "I usually chat with women," admits Ariestotle, who is logged on to the MSN messenger round-the-clock. "The only time I am not logged in is when my brother wants to use the PC or I am not at home. I use my cellphone to interact then," he said.

It's not just the husbands and boyfriends who are cheating - the wives and girlfriends are not very far behind. Anita (name changed), 29, by her own admission is addicted to the '30-something-room' on a popular Indian chat site. "Even when I am at work I have to just log in and be there. I may not be participating actively, but the compulsion to log in is immense," she said. Anita has befriended quite a few friends in cyber world. "I have had a few showdowns with my husband over this. So I am a little careful now. I chat and even call up these friends when he is not around." Anita can discuss everything from books to films to her married life with her cyber friends and most of her discussions are on-camera. "I am very thick with these friends. In fact, they are my best friends. They cheer me up when I sulk and are always around when I need them."

As rebuilding trust after an episode of Internet infidelity may not be easy, plenty of websites are offering tips to deal with it. They ask spouses not to go online unless there is a purpose, and not to sign in if they are bored, lonely or had an argument with their spouse.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Aishwarya turns 33 this week

She rules the hearts of millions and is touted as one of the most beautiful actresses ever to grace Indian cinema. Aishwarya Rai, who turns 33 Wednesday, returns to the marquee after a long hiatus - playing a courtesan in "Umrao Jaan" and an oomph girl in "Dhoom 2". The actress, who is said to be dating Abhishek Bachchan, will reportedly announce her engagement on her birthday. According to insiders, Abhishek's ailing grandmother Teji Bachchan is eager to see him married, and the couple is said to be planning to tie the knot early next year. But Aishwarya, who is apparently attending family dinners and get-togethers at the Bachchan household, is tight-lipped about her relationship. She is currently busy promoting her two films. In Yash Raj Films' upcoming "Dhoom 2", Aishwarya plays a hi-tech thief along with Hrithik Roshan, while in J.P. Dutta's "Umrao Jaan", a screen adaptation of Mirza Mohammed Haadi Ruswa's Urdu novel "Umrao Jaan Ada" and a tragic historical, she plays a courtesan. "When Dutta narrated the script to me, I told him that if you get Aishwarya to play the role of Umrao Jaan only then make the film, else drop it. According to me, the character requires an enigmatic quality to it. This is what I feel Aishwarya's personality symbolises," said well-known lyricist Javed Akhtar on the actress.

"Hers is a personality that is a kind of riddle. Even Dutta felt the same way and now after watching the finished product I feel that no one else could have made it." However, there is a notion among some that she is not a good actress and has hogged the limelight mainly for her looks, and her affairs with co-stars Salman Khan and Viveik Oberoi. "Aishwarya is not known as a bankable actor. People think of her as wooden. She can't emote. Dutta is not only a good director; he is also a good technician. He knows how to extract work from his artist. We are confident that Aishwarya must have played the role convincingly," New Delhi-based distributor Sanjay Mehta told IANS.

"Umrao Jaan" and "Dhoom 2" will put to test her versatility. Critics believe that so far only Sanjay Leela Bhansali has been able to extract the best out of her in his hit "Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam" and "Devdas", India's official entry for the Oscars in 2003. Her being crowned Miss World in 1994 made her entry into films smooth. She was flooded with offers but chose to start her acting career with Mani Ratnam's Tamil film "Iruvar". Her performance was critically appreciated and she soon forayed into Bollywood with Rahul Rawail's "Aur Pyar Ho Gaya" opposite Bobby Deol. The film not only fetched her a Filmfare award for best debut but she had top-notch directors making a beeline for her house. She was soon signed up by one of the most talented filmmakers in the industry, Bhansali, for "Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam". In this love triangle, which also had Ajay Devgan, she was paired for the first time with Salman Khan.

Their onscreen chemistry was electrifying and the film was widely appreciated and fetched her Filmfare's best actress award. She started receiving offers from some of the biggest names in the industry - Subhash Ghai, Yash Chopra and Mansoor Khan. Chopra signed her up with Shah Rukh Khan and Amitabh Bachchan in "Mohabattein". The film didn't do well but the audience liked her pairing with Shah Rukh. Bhansali cast the two in his magnum opus "Devdas" that went on to become a major hit. Post-"Devdas" Aishwarya shifted her focus to Hollywood. Her first international venture was Gurinder Chadha's "Bride & Prejudice". The film was a flop but it didn't stop her from getting new projects.

Some of her prestigious international projects include - "Provoked", "The Last Legion" opposite Colin Firth and Sir Ben Kingsley and "Chaos". While scaling new heights in Bollywood and international films, Aishwarya never crossed the line in terms of skin show on screen. "I am not comfortable about kissing or nudity. I am clear about what I want. I'll work only with good directors who'll offer me two-dimensional roles. The director and the role are most important. "Women in the industry have been exploited very often but there are some actors who believe that the short cut to stardom is through nudity or exposure. Such success is, in fact, very short-lived. I have never done a kissing scene nor do I have intentions to," she is quoted as saying. Since she set foot in filmdom, the India media has been sometimes nasty to her but she hasn't bothered much about what they thought or wrote about her. "Someone asked me why I'm politically correct, even when people hit out so openly at me. But the truth is I've never been brought up to behave any other way. I can't say anything hurtful about anyone. I just don't believe in saying mean things. I won't feel good doing that. This is the way I am.

"I'm amazed how many people feel good hitting out at me. They're welcome to do it. Earlier, they had more leeway to deny their indiscretions in print. But now on television they look pretty ridiculous denying what they say," she has said. Apart from promoting a wide variety of disparate brands, Aishwarya has many firsts to her credit - she has the distinction of being the first Indian actor to be a member of the jury at the Cannes Film Festival and also appeared on Oprah Winfrey's talk show.

About her appearance on Winfrey's show, she told the media: "I never thought I'd actually be meeting her -- and that too, on her show! I was extremely happy to be on her show. I admire her." She also appeared on another prestigious American talk show "60 Minutes". She has graced the covers of international magazines like TIME, which placed her on their list of the "100 Most Influential People in the World Today". Aishwarya has also been termed as one of the most beautiful women by TIME magazine. Aishwarya, whose last Hindi release was "Shabd" that sank without a trace at the box office, is hoping to hit the bull's eye with "Umrao Jaan", "Dhoom 2" and Mani Rathnam's "Guru". While "Umrao Jaan" releases next Friday, "Dhoom 2" is set for a Nov 24 release and "Guru" in December.

Emirates cancels order for Airbus A340

Dubai's Emirates Airline said it is canceling an order for 10 large jetliners from Airbus and will use Boeing models instead, according to a published report Sunday. Emirates President Tim Clark said his airline would not take the Airbus A340-600 jetliners it had ordered and is sending auditors to assess the European plane maker's progress on building its A380 superjumbo. Emirates will instead order 777 models from Boeing Co., Emirates Executive Vice Chairman Maurice Flanagan said, the Journal reported. The switch that follows Clark's complaints last year about the high operating cost of the A340 family of planes, shows how Boeing is benefiting from troubles at Airbus, a unit of Franco-German European Aeronautic Defence & Space Co. Airbus spokeswoman Barbara Kracht said she had no information about cancellations.

Passenger version

Clark also said Emirates is interested in acquiring proposed passenger versions of Boeing's planned 747-8 jetliner, an update of the four-engine model introduced in 1969. Emirates would only do so if Boeing stretches the design a bit to increase seating capacity, Clark said, according to the newspaper. In July, the carrier ordered 10 of the cargo version of the 747-8. The 747 is Boeing's largest aircraft and competes to some extent with the A380, Airbus's jumbo jet in production. Clark also said Emirates will send engineers to check on A380 production plants in France and Germany.

The engineers will examine how Airbus managers are resolving industrial problems that have pushed production of the world's largest passenger plane two years behind schedule and more than one-third over its original $12 billion budget. Emirates is the leading customer for the two-deck jetliner, accounting for 43 of the 159 superjumbos Airbus has on firm order.

Cruise laughs off car incident

Hollywood superstar Tom Cruise is denying rumours that he got so angry during a phone conversation while riding in a limousine that he destroyed a car seat. According to contactmusic.com, a driver for the New York limousine service has been telling passengers about the alleged incident. A passenger said: "He told us he was driving Tom Cruise recently and he was talking animatedly on his cell phone. When the discussion became heated, he punched the seat with a pen he was holding and put a hole in it." The driver claimed that he argued with Cruise about the damage and the actor offered to pay for the repairs. But Cruise's spokesman said the story is not true saying, "I've never even heard of that car company."

What is Happening in Oaxaca, Mexico

A local teachers’ union and other groups have held protests throughout the city of Oaxaca as a result of labor and other disputes with the local government. Demonstrators have occupied or closed government facilities, and have closed several roads throughout the city. Demonstrations have been marked by mounting violence, including at least two reported fatalities. The possibility for violence continues and the situation remains tense. Vandalism, arrests, and injuries continue as a result of the ongoing confrontations. The U.S. Embassy in Mexico City has received reports of robberies and assaults in areas of the city not normally known to pose a high crime risk.

Civil society organizations, human rights centers, community authorities, and citizen participants in the national meeting for follow-up of the recommendations of the United Nations Special Rapportuer for Indigenous Peoples held in Mexico City the 27th and 28th of October, 2006 declare the following with respect to the current situation in Oaxaca, Mexico:

• Acts that took place yesterday in Oaxaca revealed the grave situation for human rights, the suspension of constitutional guarantees and the vulnerability of citizens. At this time there are 4 confirmed deaths as well as a numerous injuries (approximately 30).
• The non-governance in the state of Oaxaca is more evident today than ever. The government response in this case thus far has been repression and systematic violation of human rights under the pretext of enforcement of rule of law, with the use of public force on all three levels, local, state and federal.
• The situation in Oaxaca is a historic problem of accumulated human rights violations against the population. The demands of social organizations, unions, municipalities and non-government organizations have been repressed throughout the last two administrations of state and federal government. The violent and repressive action against the teachers union and the attempted expulsion on June 14th of this year, mobilized the society behind one clear demand: the dismissal from office of Ulises Ruiz Ortiz, the governor of Oaxaca. This situation unleashed unprecedented repression expressed in illegal detentions of leaders, armed attacks against peaceful protests, criminalization of social movements, and ultimately, the presence of the armed forces in Oaxacan territory.

Here is a post giving the day by day watch on the happenings of Oaxaca.

Firefighters Gaining On Deadly Wildfire

Firefighters aided by dying winds appeared to be winning the battle Sunday against a 63-square-mile wildfire that killed four of their own and destroyed more than 30 homes. The 40,450-acre blaze, which authorities say was set by an arsonist, was 70 percent contained four days after blowtorch gusts overran a U.S. Forest Service crew. Four members were killed and a fifth was left clinging to life with burns over most of his body. The blaze was still threatening a wilderness area plagued by drought and filled with dead trees, but fire officials were confident that if they could keep it out of that area they could have it under control by Tuesday night.

"It's the bottom of the ninth, so we want to make sure we hit it out of the park and win this thing," said Mike Wakoski, an incident commander for the Forest Service.

As firefighters were getting the upper hand on that blaze, another broke out Sunday in Warner Springs, about 70 miles northeast of San Diego. That fire began about noon and quickly blackened about 100 acres, forcing the evacuation of several homes, said Capt. David Janssen of the California Department of Forestry.

More than 200 firefighters, five helicopters and an air tanker rushed to the scene to save about 14 homes in the blaze's path, which was moving east toward the Los Coyotes Indian reservation. The cause was under investigation. One firefighter was injured, though his condition was unclear Sunday afternoon.

Church vigils were held across Southern California on Sunday for the families of the four firefighters who were killed and for firefighter Pablo Cerda, who was badly injured. Cerda, 23, was still in critical condition Sunday after surgery Friday to remove damaged skin.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said he attended one of the services before stopping by a fire command center in Beaumont on Sunday afternoon to offer words of encouragement to the more than 2,800 firefighters on the front lines.

"It makes me, as governor, really proud to know that we have the best of the best firefighters and law enforcement people in the world working to put this fire out," he said.

Fire officials were still concerned Sunday with the blaze's eastern flank, which borders a wilderness area that hasn't burned in more than 30 years and has been devastated by a bark beetle infestation that has killed hundreds of trees.

"This is the only place the infrared shows any activity at all. This is also the place with the heaviest fuels we have," said fire analyst Timothy Chavez.

The weather could play a role in their stand there. Unless there is a return of the Santa Ana winds, which quickly whipped the fire out of control on Thursday, firefighters expect to surround the last of the blaze quickly. Investigators believe it was such a gust that engulfed the firefighters Thursday.

In all, the fire has destroyed 54 structures - the 34 homes and 20 other buildings.

The fire was set shortly after 1 a.m. Thursday at the base of a slope in the desert city of Cabazon, about 10 miles northwest of Palm Springs.

Cabazon residents said they saw two young men leaving the fire's ignition point, and authorities quickly declared it an act of arson. They have withheld details of any evidence they have, but have acknowledged receiving hundreds of tips.

"We're keeping a real tight lid on the investigation," said Michael Jarvis, a forestry department spokesman. "We're just asking people to call in with their tips."

While fire crews made progress on the blaze, evacuees began returning to their homes over the weekend, often to find nothing left. They were allowed in only briefly on Saturday and Sunday to retrieve belongings and feed or remove pets.

Carol Hurley stood Saturday at the still-smoldering wreckage of a neighbor's house in Twin Pines but couldn't bear to look at what was left of her dream home.

"I'm not ready to see it," said Hurley, 68. "I just want to remember it like it was."

Three of her children and a grandson dug through piles of concrete searching for jewelry and other valuables but found little more than a blackened fork and knife and remnants of her china.

Wee Shu Min's Father - Wee Siew Kim's Statement

The unwanted exposure that Wee Shu Min got with her response to Derek Wee's post on web compelled her father to make a public statement about the counselling he did to his daughter. In his words - "We are disappointed with Wee Shu Min's comments on Mr Derek Wee's posting on the Web. We have counseled Shu Min and have conveyed to her the importance of sensitivity and empathy, qualities that she should have exercised in her response to Mr Wee. We are confident that she has learn from this experience and will be the wiser for it."

The news went beyond blogs and web. It appeared in all most all the print media too and some news papers have shown it in front pages too. The funny thing is that most people (who does not know about blogs) did not quite get what had happened.

About Halloween

Halloween is one of the more strange holidays celebrated in the United States. Although American parents discourage talking to strangers and worship of the occult, parents allow their children to visit stranger's homes and accept candy and even allow children to dress up as ghosts and ghouls. The holiday and the way of celebrating has changed over the years because of the merging of cultures and celebrations.

History of Halloween

* The Celts believed that souls of the dead visited the earth every October 31.
* All Hallows Eve was the evening before All Saints Day which is celebrated on November 1.
* In Mexico, they celebrate El Dia de los Muertos or the Day of the Dead starting the evening of October 31.
* Halloween also marks the end of harvest season. The end of October marks the time that pastures and fields dry up. The animals were brought in from the pasture to be butchered and the remaining vegetables left in fields and gardens were left to rot. This part of the season often brought about reminisce of loved ones that were lost.
* In 1800's people started to have parties. Part of the celebrations included costumes, fortune telling and games such as bobbing for apples.
* At the turn of the century, cities were overcrowded and Halloween marked the time to let off steam by playing practical jokes such as turning over out houses. By the 1930's things had gotten out of hand and serious damage was being done on Halloween. There was a movement to have children go door to door and ask for candy as an alternative to vandalism.

Traditional Observance of Halloween

* Home owners display decorations on their house such as Jack O'lanterns (a carved, the lit pumpkin), scare crows, fake cemeteries, spider webs and other decorations. Some even play spooky music that can be heard in their yards.
* Trick or Treating
In the evening children dress up in costumes, and they go door to door in their neighborhoods. When the homeowner opens the door, they say "Trick or Treat". The home owner gives the children candy.
* Costume Parties
People attend costume parties and dress to disguise their appearance. Often there are prizes for the best costume.
* Some people do mischievous things on Halloween such as spraying other people with shaving cream, throwing eggs, or TPing (covering with toilet paper) houses and trees. Damaging another's person property or assault is illegal in the United States.

When and on What date Halloween celebrated

Halloween is celebrated every October 31st.

Other Names for Halloween
All Hallows Eve
All Hallowtide
The Feast of the Dead

Common Misspellings
for Halloween:

Climate change fight 'can't wait'

The world cannot afford to wait before tackling climate change, the UK prime minister has warned. A report by economist Sir Nicholas Stern suggests that global warming could shrink the global economy by 20%. But taking action now would cost just 1% of global gross domestic product, the 700-page study says. Tony Blair said the Stern Review showed the scientific evidence of global warming was "overwhelming" and its consequences "disastrous". The report said that rich countries must shoulder most of the responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions. And chancellor Gordon Brown promised the UK would lead the international response to tackle climate change.

'No time to wait'

The report says that without action, up to 200 million people could become refugees as their homes are hit by drought or flood. "Whilst there is much more we need to understand - both in science and economics - we know enough now to be clear about the magnitude of the risks, the timescale for action and how to act effectively," Sir Nicholas said.
"That's why I'm optimistic - having done this review - that we have the time and knowledge to act. But only if we act internationally, strongly and urgently." Mr Blair said the consequences for the planet of inaction were "literally disastrous". "This disaster is not set to happen in some science fiction future many years ahead, but in our lifetime," he said. "Investment now will pay us back many times in the future, not just environmentally but economically as well." "For every £1 invested now we can save £5, or possibly more, by acting now. We can't wait the five years it took to negotiate Kyoto - we simply don't have the time. We accept we have to go further (than Kyoto)."

Large risks

Sir Nicholas, a former chief economist of the World Bank, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Unless it's international, we will not make the reductions on the scale which will be required." He went on: "What we have shown is the magnitude of these risks is very large and has to be taken into account in the kind of investments the world makes today and the consumption patterns it has." The Stern Review forecasts that 1% of global gross domestic product (GDP) must be spent on tackling climate change immediately.

It warns that if no action is taken:

* Floods from rising sea levels could displace up to 100 million people

* Melting glaciers could cause water shortages for 1 in 6 of the world's population

* Wildlife will be harmed; at worst up to 40% of species could become extinct

* Droughts may create tens or even hundreds of millions of "climate refugees"

Clear objectives

The study is the first major contribution to the global warming debate by an economist, rather than a scientist. Mr Brown, who commissioned the report, has also recruited former US Vice President Al Gore as an environment adviser. Environment Secretary David Miliband is considering a range of taxes designed to change people's behaviour to offset global warming. "In the 20th century our national economic ambitions were the twin objectives of achieving stable economic growth and full employment," Mr Brown said. "Now in the 21st century our new objectives are clear, they are threefold: growth, full employment and environmental care." He said the green challenge was also an opportunity "for new markets, for new jobs, new technologies, new exports where companies, universities and social enterprises in Britain can lead the world". "And then there is the greatest opportunity of all, the prize of securing and safeguarding the planet for our generations to come." Mr Brown called for a long-term framework of a worldwide carbon market that would lead to "a low-carbon global economy".
Among his plans are:

* Reducing European-wide emissions by 30% by 2020, and at least 60% by 2050

* By 2010, having 5% of all UK vehicles running on biofuels

* Creating an independent environmental authority to work with the government

* Establishing trade links with Brazil, Papua New Guinea and Costa Rica to ensure sustainable forestry

* Working with China on clean coal technologie

Experts crack cancer 'gene codes'

US scientists have cracked the entire genetic code of breast and colon cancers, offering new treatment hopes. The genetic map shows that nearly 200 mutated genes, most previously unknown, help tumours emerge, grow and spread. The discovery could also lead to better ways to diagnose cancer in its early, most treatable stages, and personalised treatments, Science magazine reports. The Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center says the findings suggest cancer is more complex than experts had believed.

Distinct differences

The mutated genes in breast and colon cancers were almost completely distinct, suggesting very different pathways for the development of each of these cancer types. Each individual tumour appeared to have a different genetic blueprint, which could explain why cancers can behave very differently from person to person, the scientists said. "No two patients are identical," co-author Dr Victor Velculescu explained. Now researchers will study how these mutations occur in breast and colon cancers.

Previous cancer gene discoveries have already led to successful detection and treatment strategies. For example, the breast cancer drug Herceptin targets a breast cancer cell receptor made by the Her2-neu gene. Blood tests for hereditary bowel cancer are based on the APC gene.

Personalised therapies

Dr Anna Barker, of the National Cancer Institute, said: "Maximising the numbers of targets available for drug development in a specific cancer means that patients will ultimately receive more personalised, less toxic therapies." Ed Yong, of Cancer Research UK, commented: "This is potentially a very important piece of research. "Most of the cancer genes identified in this study have not been previously linked to cancer. "These newly identified genes could provide rich hunting grounds for scientists looking for new ways of treating or detecting cancers.

"In the future, scientists hope to be able to tailor plans for preventing or treating cancer to each person's individual genetic profile. Studies like this can help us to accomplish this goal."

Zoo celebrating rare dove birth

A rare Mexican bird that died out in the wild in the 1970s has been successfully bred at London Zoo. The Socorro dove is native to Socorro Island in the Revillagigedo Islands, 600 miles off the west coast of Mexico. The species was last sighted in Socorro in 1972 and there are now thought to be fewer than 100 in captivity. Zoo keepers have named the new dove, Arnie - after Arnold Schwarzenegger. They hope successful captive breeding will increase the birds' numbers.

'Reintroduction program'

John Ellis, the Zoological Society of London's Curator of Birds, said: "This is an enormous success for London Zoo and a real tribute to the hard work and expertise of our keepers. "I would like to think that this captive breeding success marks a change in the fortunes of the Socorro dove, and we are delighted to be playing our part in the reintroduction programme." The species died out after falling prey to a rising number of feral cats. They were hunted by humans for food and overgrazing by sheep also destroyed much of their forest floor habitat. As part of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria breeding programme, it is hoped Arnie's descendants will eventually be reintroduced into the forests of Socorro.

Free speech online 'under threat'

Bloggers are being asked to show their support for freedom of expression by Amnesty International. The human rights group also wants web log writers to highlight the plight of fellow bloggers jailed for what they wrote in their online journals. The organisation said fundamental rights such as free speech faced graver threats than ever before. The campaign coincides with the start of a week-long UN-organised conference that will debate the future of the net.

Watching words

"Freedom of expression online is a right, not a privilege - but it's a right that needs defending," said Steve Ballinger of Amnesty International. "We're asking bloggers worldwide to show their solidarity with web users in countries where they can face jail just for criticising the government." Mr Ballinger said the case of Iranian blogger Kianoosh Sanjari was just one example of the dangers that some online writers can face. Mr Sanjari was arrested in early October following his blogging about conflicts between the Iranian police and the supporters of Shia cleric Ayatollah Boroujerdi.

Amnesty wanted bloggers to publicise cases such as this, said Mr Ballinger, and to declare their backing for the right to free speech online. The human rights group is also taking its campaign to the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) - a group set up by the UN to act as a debating body for national net policies. The first big meeting of the IGF takes place in Athens from 30 October to 2 November. "The Internet Governance Forum needs to know that the online community is concerned about free expression online and willing to stand up for it," said Mr Ballinger. Many governments were using technology to suppress the free flow of information among their citizens, said Mr Ballinger. "People have been locked up just for expressing their views in an email or a website," he said. "Sites and blogs have been shut down and firewalls built to prevent access to information." Hi-tech firms such as Yahoo and Google have been criticised for the help they have given to nations such as China which works hard to monitor online discussion.

In May 2006, Amnesty International started a campaign that aimed to expose the ways that governments use the net to quash dissent. Co-ordinated via the Irrepressible.info website, the campaign asks websites to use an icon displaying text from censored sites. Pledges gathered from those backing this campaign will be presented at the IGF.

World discusses internet future

The future of the net is the ambitious topic under discussion at the first global Internet Governance Forum, being held in Athens over the next five days. It has been set up by the UN to give governments, companies, organisations and individuals space for debate. Nitin Desai, chair of the organising body for IGF, has said the forum needed "dialogue in good faith". He warned that the biggest challenge in making the IGF successful was a "potential culture clash". In a column for the BBC News website, Mr Desai said: "The forum will give voice to the citizens of the global net and help identify emerging issues which need to be tackled in the formal processes." The forum is not a decision-making body but instead is designed to give stakeholders in the internet a chance to form consensus around key areas. More than 1,500 delegates from the around the world will be attending the meeting. The four key agendas for the conference are security, diversity, openness and access.

Emily Taylor, the legal director of Nominet, the UK body in charge of the .uk domain name, said the forum was important to internet users because it would be tackling issues that matter to them.


"Issues around spam, cybersecurity, openness, what are the blocks to freedom of speech? - they speak to all internet users directly." She added: "Everybody has an experience of spam, sadly a lot of people have an experience of phishing attacks. "People have got experience of viruses. They might be aware that internationally there are different approaches to freedom of speech - not just the obvious examples of regimes cracking down on content. "Within Europe there are issues around dealing with content that is perhaps not illegal but distasteful to some countries and not to others.

"These are issues that matter."

The IGF was borne out of the World Summit on the Information Society meetings, the last of which was held in Tunis.


Some felt that the aims of WSIS were overshadowed by debates around the control of the internet and controversy over internationalised domain names - ie giving countries which do not use or understand the Latin alphabet the ability to navigate the internet in their own script. The move towards internationalised domain names is being overseen by Icann, the body appointed by the US Department of Commerce to oversee domain names such as .com and .org. Tina Dam, director of Icann's IDN program, said the body had taken a "huge step forward" in resolving the issue. It has recently started testing internationalised domain names with its engineers. "People have been waiting for us to start testing for some time," she said. Ms Taylor said the forum was there to debate issues that relate to the use and misuse of internet.

'Ordinary users'

"I know, from speaking to ordinary users, that these issues are much more on their minds than discussions about who manages the internet and what is exactly the role of the US government." Mr Desai said the forum was important because it gave people the chance to discuss how the internet was evolving. "The net has outgrown its origins as a network run by and for computer specialists. "The forum is about the future, the net as it will be some years from now and how we can give a voice to all who use it." Ms Taylor said: "The key thing is that anyone who is interested can take part - whether they rock up in Athens or take part via blogs.

"That's a major change of process from the past."

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