Thursday, May 31, 2007

Tech's ackward moment with a mother, her son, and "horse rape porn"

Horse Porn
I had a horrific vision of my future the other day. A future of... parenting. A future wrought with futile efforts of sympathy and understanding. A future of porn.

This woman was always a handful. About a year ago I setup a VNC server (lets her look at the screen of her son's computer from her laptop without him knowing). It's sneaky as shit, but since then she's managed to find out all his friends smoke weed and do meth. I wouldn't really care about the weed, but the kid is thirteen and it sounds like he has access to much worse narcotics, so I had no moral quandary about the arrangement. I also put a content blocker to block porn you can download from the internet, and drug/alcohol pages.

Anyway, I pulled up to her house she ran out and met me, regailing me with teenage horror stories. Apparently every person this kid knows is a) on myspace, b) a drug addict, and c) a total skank. She thinks they are all inter-related, I tend to agree. She asked me to just take a look and make sure that everything was looking ok on his computer. The catch was that she wanted him in the room with us while I was rooting around on his computer looking for porn.

Awkward much?

Why she insisted I be in there, I'm not sure. I guess she wanted me for moral support and to give justification to her actions if it came to that. After all I was the one who set this whole thing up, and even though I was getting paid I sort of felt obligated to help out.

I checked the log of websites he had visited. WWW.BANGBUS.COM struck my eye. I shuddered. She turned and glared at him.

"What's this Matthew? Bang Bus Dot Com huh? You went to this website?"
"Mom, fuck, why do we have to do this?"
"Tell my son why this stuff corrupts his mind and degrades women."

Then I thought of all the horrible, disgusting, mindfucking, degrading, scummy porn I had ever watched in my life, and karma laughed at me long and hard. I ended up giving a half-assed answer and made up some statistic about porn and kids who kill people or something. It was good enough I guess.

I deleted limewire at her command, which cant really be effectively blocked by a content filter on a mac. Then I saw it- the limewire shared folder. Oh, what horrors would lie within? I stealthfully trashed it, but I was caught. I played dumb and opened it up for her to see. Matthew, I saw, was cringing.


I felt ill. Not because of the porn, but because of what I knew was going to happen next. After what seemed like ten minutes but was probably ten seconds, she said, plain as day,
"Son, why do you have horse rape porn on your computer?"

How the fuck are you supposed to respond to that?

"Open it up, I want to see it."

Oh please kill me. Can you imagine watching horse porn in front of a complete stranger who is paying you to be there?


And I'll never look at parenting the same again.

EDIT: Thanks for the moral support, but I'm OK (relatively speaking). I've been through infinitely worse (or awesome?) at this job (in house tech).

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Boy's balloon finds pen-pal: Britain's Queen

ONDON (Reuters) - A 4-year-old British boy who released a balloon with a message hoping to find a pen pal in a foreign land ended up having a correspondence with the Queen.

Tom Stancombe let go of his helium balloon in Hampshire, west of London, but rather than flying across to France or half way around the world, it ended up just 20 miles away, landing inside Windsor Castle, the Daily Mail reported.

The Queen instructed her personal assistant to reply and so the monarch and the boy, helped by his parents, exchanged a series of letters, mostly about the fact that one of the boy's ancestors, an artist, had works in the royal art collection.

"She (the Queen) was delighted to find that your balloon had traveled all the way to the gardens at Windsor Castle," the monarch's assistant wrote.

Asked if he thought his son would be exchanging any more letters with the Queen, Tom's father said: "I don't expect we'll get another one, but I think it's incredible they bothered replying at all."

Friday, May 25, 2007

Holes in the Ground

From the end of 1980s a strange phenomena is happening in some Russian forests. People find strange, deep holes.

They appear in the dense forest, in the places you can’t get on the car or truck to bring any device to drill the ground. There is no any soil that should be taken from such deep holes is found.

On this pictures people go down to one of such holes but it just finishes with nothing. There are no any reasonable ideas on how these holes appear and what they are being used for.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Gas explosion in Russian coalmine kills at least 35

A gas explosion ripped through a Siberian coalmine yesterday, killing at least 35 people in the latest in a grim catalogue of Russian mining disasters.

A spokeswoman for Russia's Emergencies Ministry said 178 miners had been rescued, six of them injured. Three were still missing five hours after the blast.

The methane gas explosion happened during the morning shift at the Yubileynaya mine near the city of Novokuznetsk in west Siberia, while 216 miners were below ground, officials said.

About 40 tearful relatives of the victims stood by the blast site under heavy rainfall.

"He's dead! He's dead! Where's his body?" said one woman. She wiped her tears with a handkerchief while sobbing in the arms of a miner, who told her: "Don't worry, Roma is alive."

The Governor of the Kemerovo region, Aman Tuleyev, arrived at the mine to oversee the rescue operation and declared tomorrow a day of mourning.

The disaster comes just weeks after a gas explosion in Ulyanovskaya, a nearby mine owned by the same company, Yuzhkuzbassugol, killed 110 people in the worst Russian mining accident in decades.

Inspectors denounced the company after the Ulyanovskaya blast for allowing "serious breaches" in safety controls at several mines.

An official for Russia's industrial safety agency, Rostekhnadzor, said the company could now lose its licence.

Yuzhkuzbassugol, which owns 20 mines in the region, is 50 per cent owned by the metals and mining giant Evraz Group, in which the Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich holds a 41 per cent stake.

Who Won The Iraq Spending Showdown?

Much of the this morning's coverage of the Iraq and Afghanistan war spending bill focuses on who won and who lost the showdown. Some reports conclude that Republicans may have won this round even if their victory is not complete and may be short-lived. The AP says "Democrats may have lost their fight with President Bush over a timetable for ending the war in Iraq," but "they won billions of dollars for farm aid, hurricane victims, veterans and health care for poor children." President Bush "vetoed a $124 billion war funding bill containing $21 billion in unrequested funds," but the White House negotiators "signed off on a $120 billion measure containing four-fifths of the additional money." Indeed, although one reason President Bush cited for his veto of the first Iraq war spending bill was the inclusion of "extraneous" funds by congressional Democrats, the compromise he is expected to sign includes billions of dollars of non-Iraq related funding. The Wall Street Journal says the "nearly $120 billion Iraq-war spending bill headed toward the House floor after chemical and airline industries won concessions and Democrats divided up billions of dollars in added funding for domestic programs." The White House "has blessed the overall structure, which promises President Bush $94.7 billion in defense money and a relatively free hand in directing the war through Sept. 30." The Washington Times notes the domestic spending "includes about $9 billion for veterans affairs and defense measures and about $8 billion for Hurricane Katrina recovery, health care for poor children and agricultural programs."

The Christian Science Monitor sees another silver lining for Democratic leaders, who "will have met their own Memorial Day deadline for funding the troops, without requiring their members to take a high-profile vote on the combined war-funding package."

But Democrats, who can cite the historical precedent of Vietnam to suggest their strategy to force an exit of US troops from Iraq will gradually gain strength in the future, face a liberal base angered at the opening round loss. Yesterday, they were struggling to explain their strategy to their allies in the anti-war movement and to liberal lawmakers who are expected to vote against the bill raising the specter of a fracture in the Democratic coalition. The New York Times reports "the idea that many Democrats would be left on the losing side in a consequential vote has exposed a sharp divide within the party, drawn scorn from antiwar groups, confused the public and frustrated the party rank and file." The Chicago Tribune says Rep. Maxine Waters, "a leader of the Democratic anti-war effort, warned that Democrats who vote in favor of the measure are sure to face political peril." The Washington Times says the bill "represents a painful defeat for Democratic leaders, who took control of Congress while promising to end the unpopular war in Iraq." The Politico notes "anti-war activists vowed they will have long memories about the deal Democratic leaders struck with the Bush administration this week on Iraq war funding, warning that they will exact retribution from lawmakers in both parties in 2008." The Washington Post, in fact, reports "rallied its 3.2 million members in an e-mail alert yesterday morning that declared that 'every single Democrat must oppose this bill.'" Roll Call notes Rep. Jim McGovern criticized the spending agreement and said, "Maybe we can pull off a miracle and defeat the goddamn thing."

Democratic lawmakers yesterday took to the airwaves to make the case for the compromise bill. Rep. Rahm Emanuel said on MSNBC's Hardball, "The President said no to timelines and we said no to a blank check. ... It doesn't have the timeline, something we wanted. But it has benchmarks, something he didn't want." Sen. Joseph Biden said on MSNBC's Hardball, "We need 17 Republicans to change their mind [to have a veto-proof majority in the Senate]." Rep. Jim Moran, on MSNBC's Tucker, said, "This is a Pyrrhic victory for the Republican Party and the President. They want to make it clear to the world that they own this war, and if that's what they want, they've achieved it."

John Edwards, on the other hand, assailed the legislation. He said on CNN's The Situation Room that what congressional Democrats "should do is continue to submit funding bills supporting the troops to the President with a timetable for withdrawal. And if the President...continues to veto those bills, it's the President who's deciding he's not going to fund the troops."

Critics Deride Bush's Bin Laden Speech

In a commencement address at the US Coast Guard Academy, President Bush on Wednesday used declassified intelligence detailing the threat posed by al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden to justify ongoing US involvement in Iraq. The Connecticut Post reports that as "anti-war protesters rallied outside the gates of the US Coast Guard Academy," the President "told the 228 graduates that America is really fighting Osama bin Laden and his terror network, and that defeat in Iraq would shift that battle to America." The Hartford Courant notes Bush "spoke at length about al-Qaeda and said 'We must defeat al-Qaeda in Iraq.'" In the speech, says USA Today, Bush recounted how al-Qaeda "still wants to use" Iraq "as a base to overthrow other governments and 'launch new attacks on America and other nations.'"

However, critics were not swayed by the dangers Mr. Bush extolled, and instead viewed the speech as part an ongoing pattern by the Administration to selectively leak classified information. The Chicago Tribune, for example, says Bush has "repeatedly...declassified select snippets of US intelligence to justify the war in Iraq." ABC World News says the President's language "was stunning, painting the threat to American soil by Iraq based terror groups as dire and immediate." NBC Nightly News said "the President's message and his evidence are now under attack as well." The President's message was "dire," and "the disclosure of this intelligence now appeared designed to bolster the President's argument that terrorists in Iraq will follow US troops home." But the "political reality is that Iraq has undermined the President's credibility on terrorism. Some Democrats who want to end the war argue there is no war on terror at all."

The Washington Post says Bush's speech "was part of a White House effort in recent weeks to portray the violence in Iraq as primarily a function of al-Qaeda, deemphasizing the internal divisions within Iraq in the apparent hope of regaining political support for an endeavor that has become deeply unpopular with the US public." The New York Times notes Bush's comments "brought immediate criticism from Democrats and some counterterrorism experts," and the Los Angeles Times says critics "allege that the White House tends to declassify documents whenever it is politically advantageous." Likewise, the Financial Times says Democrats "pounced on the speech," while the AP reports, "Much of the intelligence information Bush cited in his speech described terrorism plots already revealed." The Washington Times reports Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid "cited a statement by Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell, who in February told the Senate Armed Services Committee that an al Qaeda attack 'most likely would be planned and come out of the leadership in Pakistan.'" Bloomberg, meanwhile, reports Brookings Institution scholar Thomas Mann said in an email that Bush's "record of selective declassification of documents to bolster administration positions has understandably made the public deeply skeptical of such pronouncements."

Bush Brings Up Vietnam The Providence Journal notes Bush said in his speech, "Many critics compare the battle in Iraq to the situation we faced in Vietnam. ... There are many differences between the two conflicts but one stands out above all: The enemy in Vietnam had neither the intent nor the capability to strike our homeland. The enemy in Iraq does." The New York Times reports that "even in trying to contrast the two wars, invoking the Vietnam analogy was unusual for Mr. Bush. It is a comparison he typically addresses only in response to questions."

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One More Headache For Gonzales

Monica Goodling, a former top aide to embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, testified before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday, under "a grant of immunity from prosecution because she had invoked her 5th Amendment right not to incriminate herself," as the Los Angeles Times reports. ABC World News says Goodling "suggested" Gonzales "may have misled Congress regarding the controversial firing of eight US Attorneys." Goodling told the committee that "Gonzales discussed with her his role in the dismissals. Mr. Gonzales testified under oath that he had not talked to any potential witnesses." USA Today notes Goodling said she and Gonzales "had an 'uncomfortable' conversation her last week at work in which he gave his account of dismissing eight US attorneys. 'He laid out for me his general recollection...of some of the process regarding the replacement of the US attorneys,' said Monica Goodling, the department's former White House liaison." Gonzales "asked for her reaction, but Goodling said she didn't respond because she realized they could be called to testify before Congress. 'It made me a little uncomfortable,'" she told the panel.

The AP says "Goodling's dramatic story...brought questions from panel members about whether he had tried to align her story with his and whether he was truthful in his own congressional testimony." But as McClatchy reports, in a statement late Wednesday, the Justice Department "said Gonzales 'has never attempted to influence or shape the testimony or public statements of any witness in this matter, including Ms. Goodling.'"

NBC Nightly News reported Goodling also said Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty "knew more than he admitted to Congress about the extent of White House involvement in all of this. McNulty denied that today, saying Goodling's testimony was wrong. And it was not supported by the records of document and testimony already given." In fact, the Washington Times notes Goodling "began her testimony by defending herself against a charge, reportedly made by Mr. McNulty to a Democratic senator, that she did not fully inform" McNulty "about White House involvement in the firings." Goodling said, "The allegation is false. I did not withhold information from the deputy."

The New York Times reports Goodling also said that "she regretted favoring applicants with Republican credentials for lower level prosecutor jobs or prestigious postings at Justice headquarters," which "could violate federal employment laws." However, she said that "even though she was the Justice Department's liaison to the White House, she did not play a significant role in the dismissals." The Minneapolis Star-Tribune says Goodling "acknowledged that, in some instances, she 'crossed the line' by allowing political considerations to play a role in filling civil service positions."

In the aftermath of the testimony, it was unclear how much damage it had done to Gonzales or to the White House. As the Financial Times notes this morning, "Goodling's testimony comes in advance of an expected Senate vote of no confidence in Mr Gonzales this week," and the Washington Post says her words raised "serious new accusations" against the Attorney General. And the Boston Globe reports critics said Goodling's "admission that she considered party affiliation when vetting candidates for civil service assistant prosecutor jobs added to a growing picture of politicization of the nation's law enforcement system under Gonzales." Judiciary Committee Democrat Rep. Artur Davis said on PBS' NewsHour, "I think we continue to have reasons to believe that these U.S. attorneys were fired because of, in some instances, political pressure from outside the department, and that the Department of Justice didn't give us the straight story."

But Roll Call says Goodling "failed to yield new clues as to why nine federal prosecutors were ousted in 2006," and the Chicago Tribune also states that "like other top Justice officials who testified previously, Goodling offered only a murky picture on how eight U.S attorneys were marked for dismissal last year." Indeed, the Dallas Morning News says Republicans trying "to show support for the beleaguered Mr. Gonzales...embraced Ms. Goodling as a sympathetic witness." Judiciary Committee Republican Rep. Dan Lungren said on PBS' NewsHour, "The Democrats expected to have some big bang coming out of this hearing today. ... It ended with a thud. The fact of the matter is, there is no illegality that has been presented with one iota of evidence with respect to the hiring or firing of these US attorneys."

First Trim For Immigration Deal

The Senate's 74-24 vote to significantly cut the size of the guest-worker program that would be created by the compromise immigration bill received no broadcast network coverage Wednesday evening, but the story is covered by most major daily newspapers. The Washington Post says the Senate "slashed the size" of the proposed program from as many as 600,000 laborers to just one-third that number, "dealing the first real blow to a fragile overhaul of the nation's immigration laws since it reached the Senate floor this week." Though the White House "had strongly opposed the amendment," offered by Sen. Jeff Bingaman, 27 Republicans supported it. The Los Angeles Times says the vote "was the first of several as Republicans try to stiffen the bill's provisions for legal and illegal immigrants and Democrats target a key Republican element of the bill that limits family-based immigration." Both the AP and McClatchy say in headlines that the Senate opted to "slash" the program. McClatchy also says Sen. Lindsey Graham, "one of the bill's sponsors, won easy passage of an amendment that would impose mandatory jail sentences for those who crossed the border illegally after being deported," while the Senate also approved an amendment by Sen. Dianne Feinstein "to improve the treatment of more than 7,000 unaccompanied immigrant children who are taken into federal custody each year."

In contrast to the harsher headlines of some other newspapers, the Chicago Tribune titles its report "Senate OKs Tweaks To Immigration Bill." However, its lead is a bit sharper, saying the "fragile immigration bill weathered a series of legislative hits Wednesday." The Wall Street Journal says in its headline that the bill's business backers were "dealt a blow" by the passage of the Bingaman amendment. The US Chamber of Commerce and other groups had urged senators to reject the amendment.

The Los Angeles Times examines the point system for "quantitative factors" that the bill would create for immigrants seeking legal permanent residence in the US. The system would consider factors "including education, employment, English fluency and extended family. ... But as details emerge, the same businesses and legislators the formula was designed to reconcile have started picking it apart -- determined to either rewrite the formula to suit their needs or scrap it altogether." In a related item, the Christian Science Monitor writes that "one of the most contentious issues" in the debate over the bill is the point system's emphasis on "education, earnings level, or job skills" over family ties. The New York Times runs a feature on how immigrant families are reacting to the possible shift in priorities.

Lott Goes To Bat For Bill The other big immigration debate news is the emergence of Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott as a key Republican defender of the immigration agreement. The New York Times says the "No. 2 Republican in the Senate" made an "all-out pitch for support" of the immigration bill. Lott, who was not one of the 12 senators who hammered out the agreement, said, "Is this bill better than the current law? Without a doubt, yes. Are we going to have another opportunity to do this better next year or the next year? The answer is no. We've got to do it." Roll Call says Lott "jumped feet first into the immigration debate" with his remarks, "throwing his substantial support" behind the reform deal. The Washington Times says Lott "said he has told President Bush to be prepared to save their party from a bad immigration bill through his veto pen." Lott said, "He's got to be prepared to say to [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi, 'If you come up with something that really makes a bad situation worse, I will veto it.' That is the ultimate weapon, and it has to be held in abeyance to keep the pressure on us to do this right."

Other lawmakers also weighed in on the legislation. North Dakota Democratic Sen. Byron Dorgan said on CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, "This so-called grand compromise, bipartisan, with the President -- it reminds me again that bad judgment and bad legislation are close relatives. This is a horrible piece of legislation." Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions said on CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, "I think any good immigration program has to have some guest worker part of it." However, "I don't believe we should give people who come into our country illegally every single benefit we give to people who come legally. And, ultimately, this bill would do that, so I oppose it on that fundamental principle." The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports Georgia Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson, both Republicans, said opposition to the immigration bill in their state "is beginning to lessen as Georgians learn more about the measure and misconceptions are dispelled." California Republican Rep. Ed Royce said on MSNBC's Tucker, "The calls are running 1,000 to one against this bill. ... I would not be surprised if House Republicans didn't rally and defeat this bill with the help of a few Democrats who I expect will cross over because of the pressure from their districts and vote with the House Republicans." And in a USA Today op-ed, House Immigration Reform Caucus Chairman Brian Bilbray, also a California Republican, writes, "My office has been inundated with phone calls from constituents asking, 'What part of "illegal" don't senators understand?' You would think that Congress would learn from the failures of the past."

Richardson Now Opposes Bill Under the front-page headline "Hispanic Hopeful For '08 Confronts Immigration," the New York Times says that "of all the candidates running for president, none have weathered more crosscurrents of the immigration battle than Gov. Bill Richardson," whose mother is Mexican and who leads "a border state with the highest percentage of Hispanics in the country." Richardson "initially said he would support the immigration compromise," but yesterday said that "after reading it in detail, he had decided to oppose it, saying the measure placed too great a burden on immigrants."

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Clinton Hit By Iowa Gaffe

Sen. Hillary Clinton's relatively error-free presidential campaign yesterday suffered one of its first real gaffes. The Des Moines Register reports Clinton "was urged by a top campaign staffer this week to bypass the leadoff Iowa caucuses and focus her effort on other early nominating states." In a memo, deputy Clinton campaign manager Mike Henry said, "I believe we need a new approach to winning the Democratic nomination. This approach involves shifting the focus away from Iowa and running a campaign that is more focused on other early primary states and winning this new national primary." The Register adds the memo, "in which Henry advocates aiming for the powerful lineup of states scheduled to vote on Feb. 5, came out today just as Clinton's campaign was releasing its schedule for Clinton's planned visit to north central and northwest Iowa this weekend."

The AP reports that with aides fearing "backlash" from local Democrats, Clinton "denounced the memo hours after it leaked from her headquarters and played down an internal debate over campaign strategy." Clinton said, "I am unalterably committed to competing in Iowa." The Washington Post reports Clinton aides "scrambled late yesterday to control the fallout from" the leaked memo. Skipping Iowa "would be a stunning move for the presumed front-runner; it is usually lesser-known and poorly financed candidates who are forced to pick and choose their primary battles. Clinton campaign officials quickly dismissed any suggestion that she would pull out of the state, characterizing the memo as 'one person's opinion.'" Regardless of "the contents, part of the news was that the memo leaked at all: The Clinton campaign prides itself on being airtight, and any lapse is viewed as evidence of an internal power struggle."

Radio Iowa reported on its website that Clinton's Iowa campaign manager, said, "Senator Clinton and our campaign are unequivocally committed to competing here." Sen. Clinton is slated to "campaign in Iowa this weekend and plans return trips on the two following weekends."

Giuliani Targets Edwards On Terror

John Edwards yesterday denounced the term "global war on terror," sparking a sharp counterstroke from Rudy Giuliani, who has been working in recent weeks to firm up his image as a committed anti-terror warrior. The AP reports that Edwards yesterday "repudiated the notion that there is a 'global war on terror,' calling it an ideological doctrine advanced by the Bush administration that has strained American military resources and emboldened terrorists." In a "defense policy speech to the Council on Foreign Relations, Edwards called the war on terror a 'bumper sticker' slogan Bush had used to justify everything from abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison to the invasion of Iraq."

Long Island Newsday reports that Giuliani yesterday "accused" Edwards "of being dangerously in denial about the dangers of global extremism, ripping the former senator after Edwards said the president's war on terror was little more than a 'bumper sticker.' 'If you think there's a global war on terror as a slogan for George Bush, you are not facing reality,' Giuliani said of Edwards," adding, "It kind of makes the point that I've been making over and over again, that the Democrats, or at least some of them, are in denial." Newsday notes, "Edward's speech, in Giuliani's hometown no less, allowed Giuliani to return to a favorite theme in recent weeks, that only the Republicans, and he in particular, understand the true nature of the terror threat, while the Democrats would return the country to being 'on defense' against terrorism. 'I guess this Democratic senator doesn't remember it -- bin Laden declared war on us,' Giuliani said. In contrast, Giuliani said of terrorists, 'I don't get fuzzy and romantic about it. I understand there are people in this world who want to come here and kill us.'" In a blog posting on the website of the New York Times, Marc Santora writes that Giuliani "found a useful foil in Ron Paul during the recent Republican debate, and now he's taking" on Edwards "to make his points on the national security front during an New Hampshire."

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Clinton, Rudy On Top In New Poll

A new poll out this morning from Zogby International shows Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton both expanding their leads in their respective primaries. Clinton leads the Democrats with 39%, followed by Barack Obama, 24%; and John Edwards, 11%; the remainder of the field is at 2% or less. The survey did not offer Al Gore as an option. In Zogby's late February survey, Clinton led Obama 33%-25%. On the GOP side, Giuliani leads with 26%, followed by John McCain, 13%; Mitt Romney, 10%; Fred Thompson, 10%; and Mike Huckabee, 4%, with the rest of the field at 3% or less. In the February survey, Giuliani led McCain 29%-20%. The poll was conducted nationally May 17-20.

In general election trial heats, Obama is by far the strongest Democratic contender, topping all major Republicans. Obama leads Giuliani, 48%-42%, McCain, 46%-43%, and Romney, 52%-35%. Clinton does less well Giuliani leads her 48%-43%, as does McCain, 47%-43%, although she tops Romney 48%-40%.

Advisor Says Edwards "Uncomfortable" Around Gays

The Washington Post reports Robert Shrum, "the veteran Democratic strategist who worked on John Edwards's 1998 Senate campaign in North Carolina," writes in his new memoir "No Excuses: Confessions of a Serial Campaigner" that Edwards once expressed discomfort with gays. Shrum "recalls asking Edwards at the outset of that campaign, 'What is your position, Mr. Edwards, on gay rights?'" Shrum says Edwards replied, "I'm not comfortable around those people," and the "candidate's wife, Elizabeth, told him: 'John, you know that's wrong.'" The Post adds Edwards spokesman Eric Schultz "says Shrum 'has a very casual relationship with the truth. Bob is obviously more interested in selling books than reporting honestly and accurately about what happened.'"

UN 'troubled' by Hamas legislators arrests

UN 'troubled' by Hamas legislators arrests

Special envoy to the Middle East expresses concern over Hamas leaders' arrests in West Bank. IDF sources: We have not seen the last of these arrests

Hanan Greenberg

Published: 05.24.07, 17:45 / Israel News

The UN's newly appointed special envoy to the Middle East, Michael Williams, said Thursday he was "troubled" by Israel's arrest of the Palestinian education minister and other Hamas legislators.

"I'm troubled when I see Israeli soldiers arresting Palestinian legislators. I'm troubled that the education minister was arrested," said Williams.

Arrest Operation

Israel arrests Palestinian minister of education / Ali Waked

Palestinians report IDF forces raid Nablus overnight in arrest operation, taking 33 Hamas leaders into custody, including PA minister of education, mayors of Nablus, Qalqiliya
Full story

"Of course legislators cannot be immune from the law. But what worries me is that in most cases, as I understand it, there haven't been any charges...Let alone trials," added Williams, referring to Israel's arrest of Hamas lawmakers last year.

Israeli troops in the West Bank arrested more than 30 senior Hamas members early Thursday, in a wide-scale operation. The roundup came hours after Israeli planes struck what the military said were money-changing offices and other businesses in Gaza used to channel funds to Hamas.

"We have information about many other Hamas officials engaged in terror," said IDF sources Thursday. "We have not seen the last of these arrests."

IDF forces entered several West Bank cities Wednesday night, arresting dozens of Hamas leaders, including the Palestinian Minister of Education, Nasser al-Deen Shaer.

Shaer was arrested in the past with connection to the kidnapping of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, but was later released. Others arrested included Hamed al-Bitawi, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and Adly Yaish, the Hamas mayor of Nablus.

"Most of those arrested will be questioned in regards to their affiliation with the 'Change and Reform' faction which we consider as Hamas," said IDF sources.

"They facilitated terrorist organizations in various ways," added the source, "and we intend to indict them."

Previous arrests operations resulted in 60 Hamas members being held for questioning, 38 of whom were indicted for membership in Hamas.

IAEA: Iran 3-8 years from atomic weapons

The head of the U.N. nuclear agency said Thursday he agreed with CIA estimates that Iran was three to eight years from being able to make nuclear weapons and he urged the U.S. and other powers to pursue talks with the Islamic country.

The best way to keep Iran from acquiring nuclear arms is "through a comprehensive dialogue," International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei told a news conference in Luxembourg. "One way to do that, rather than to continue the rhetoric, is to ... sit down together."

On Wednesday, the IAEA reported that Iran's uranium enrichment program was expanding in defiance of U.N. demands that it be suspended, findings that could lead to new sanctions against the country.

The report also warned that the IAEA's knowledge of those activities was shrinking.

"We are moving toward Iran building (nuclear) capacity and knowledge, without (the IAEA) in a position to verify the nature or scope of that program," ElBaradei said.

ElBaradei would not offer his own view of when Iran would be able to produce nuclear weapons. But he added, "I tend to agree with (CIA estimates) that even if Iran wanted to go to nuclear weapons it would not be before the end of this decade or sometime in the middle of the next" — three to eight years.

Iran insists it has no intention of pursuing nuclear weapons — as the U.S. and its allies fear — saying its program is only for producing an alternative source of energy.

Pushed by the United States, France and Britain, the U.N. Security Council has imposed sanctions twice against Iran for its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment, which can produce both fuel for a reactor and the material for a nuclear warhead.

ElBaradei said the United States should take "inspiration" from negotiations that have recently defused the crisis over North Korea's nuclear activities — even though the North has yet to fulfill its pledge to scrap its weapons program.

ElBaradei attended a conference of about 60 nuclear arms technology experts from a dozen nations, including the United States, Russia, Japan, Canada and Sweden.

In an opening address, ElBaradei said the U.N. needs a far more "agile and systematic approach for responding to cases of (nuclear) proliferation."

He said the acquisition of nuclear arms technology by India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea showed the current shortcomings.

Monitoring compliance with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty must be "drastically reformed," he said, adding that he will propose a set of changes in the next few weeks.

One idea is the creation of an international nuclear "fuel bank," which would eliminate any reason for countries seeking a peaceful nuclear program to enrich uranium themselves.

The emphasis on containing enrichment has gained prominence because of the concern about Iran's nuclear ambitions. The IAEA started investigating Iran's program after revelations that the country for nearly two decades had been clandestinely developing enrichment and other nuclear activities that could be used to make weapons.

McNulty Rebuts Testimony That He Lied To Senate Panel

Former Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, countering the testimony of another senior Justice Department official, said yesterday he told the truth when he testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about the firing of U.S. attorneys.

"I testified truthfully at the Feb. 6, 2007, hearing based on what I knew at that time," McNulty said in a statement hours after former DOJ White House liaison Monica Goodling told the House Judiciary Committee that McNulty had not been "fully candid" in telling the Senate panel what he knew about the firings.

"Ms. Goodling's characterization of my testimony is wrong and not supported by the extensive record of documents and testimony already provided to Congress," McNulty said.

The statement was part of an aggressive DOJ assault on Goodling's testimony. She testified under immunity from prosecution, which was granted after she initially balked at testifying to avoid incriminating herself.

A Justice official denied Goodling's suggestion that McNulty was less than truthful about his knowledge of White House involvement. McNulty said during his February appearance that the White House had minimal involvement. Evidence that emerged subsequently showed greater involvement than McNulty appeared to suggest.

The Justice source said Goodling's testimony was based on an assumption that another Justice official provided McNulty with information about White House involvement. This, he indicated, was not the case.

Goodling also testified she believed McNulty had more information than he shared with the Senate about White House involvement in appointing Tim Griffin, an aide to White House political adviser Karl Rove, to be a U.S. attorney in Arkansas. The Justice official said that while McNulty was "kept informed" about Griffin, he was not told "exactly how he came to be nominated."

Meanwhile, Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., vowed to move aggressively in his probe of the firings.

Leahy released a statement saying Goodling's claim that she had limited involvement in the firings -- and similar assertions by others in the agency -- reinforced suspicions that the White House was behind the process.

"It is deeply troubling that the crisis of leadership at the department allowed the White House to wield undue political influence over key law enforcement decisions and policies," Leahy said.

Friday, May 18, 2007

10 Steps to Living the Green Life

Please join our efforts for the earth by saving energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions in your own life. Follow these tips and start living the green life today.

Tip # 1
Get on Your Bike!

  • For every mile you ride your bike instead of driving a car, you avoid the production of about one pound of carbon dioxide.

Tip # 2
Save Water with Powder Detergents

  • Switch from liquid detergents to powders. Laundry liquids are mostly water (approx. 80%). It costs energy and packaging to bring this water to the consumer.

Tip # 3
Save a Tree, or Two or Three

  • Get tough on tissues. If every household in the U.S. replaced one box of 85 sheet virgin fiber facial tissues with 100% recycled ones, we could save: 87,700 trees, 226,500 cubic feet of landfill space ( equal to 330 full garbage trucks), 31 million gallons of water (Annual supply for 240 families of four), and avoid 5,300 pounds of pollution! Buy only recycled paper products for your office, bathroom and kitchen.

Tip # 4
Check Your Water Heater

  • Keep your water heater thermostat no higher than 120°F. Save 550 lbs. of carbon dioxide and $30 per year. Talk to your building or condo manager to upgrade the efficiency of the boiler in your building to magnify the savings.

Tip # 5
Change Your Light Bulbs

  • Replace 3 frequently used light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs. This will save approximately 300 lbs. of carbon dioxide and $60 per year.

Tip #6
Muscle Mow Your Lawn

  • Mowing for an hour with a gasoline- powered lawn mower can produce as much air pollution as a 350-mile drive in a car. Consider this alternative which emits nothing other than clippings and burns calories too: push a lightweight reel mower.

Tip #7
Change Your Thermostat

  • Conserve fuel by turning down the heat at night and while you are away from your home — or install a programmable thermostat. Setting the airconditioning thermostat in your building to 76 degrees in the summer will dramatically reduce your electricity bill and you'll do your bit to save energy and the environment.

Tip # 8
Reduce Garbage

  • Buy products with less packaging and recycle paper, plastic and glass. You can save around 1,000 lbs. of carbon dioxide per year by reducing, reusing and recycling.

Tip # 9
Use Recycled Paper

  • According to the EPA, from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day, household waste increases by more than 25 percent due to holiday gift-giving. When wrapping gifts, remember to recycle and reuse. Also whenever possible use 100% post-consumer recycled paper when printing and save approximately 5 lbs. of carbon dioxide per ream of paper.

Tip # 10
Fill Your Dishwasher

  • Run your dishwasher only with a full load. Save approximately 100 lbs. of carbon dioxide and $40 per year. Why not set it to eco-mode to save even more energy and water?

Monday, May 14, 2007

Bill Clinton's Last Days

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As you can see, psychology has never been our 'strongest' point…

Apparently Lily Allen wants to become a 'bit' smaller. Well, we've already worked it out…

…all you have to do is just watch yourself on Youtube (such as a video of you singing, say, 'Cheryl Tweedy'), because that makes you look nice and small.

Of course you will never be able to look in a mirror after that for fears of what that might do to you.

Maybe not our best idea then. Oh well.

Eurovision 2007

Now that I cannot deny that my Eurovision addiction any longer I feel obliged to write my yearly few words on the event.

serbia_eurovision.jpgLike every year there was talk of bloc voting and neighbouring country favouritisms, but despite all this like every year the winner was unpredicted. The winners Serbia (download mp3)not only didn't have an interesting stage, appealing song or sexy singer, but their song was performed by what the Czech friend described as a "lesbian boy".

This year my votes went for Slovenia, Finland and Ukraine, in that order. Both Finish and Slovenian acts had a similar dark gothic touch, which explains why I liked them, but I guess that wasn't generally appreciated trait by the public this year. Ukraine (download mp3)with their fun and funny drag act managed the second place but the other two didn't even manage to make the top 10 to automatically qualify for next year.

My biggest disappointment wasn't even the fact that the dot didn't qualify for the finals but that my compatriots, with whom I categorically disassociate myself from, gave maximum points to the UK. The UK's song was the only song I couldn't stand watching and actually left my seat to prepare a drink in the kitchen. With the abysmal quality of the recent British songs I think they should be banned from entering the competition let alone automatically qualifying despite the result.

Ireland finished last receiving only 5 points from Albania. This is ironically exactly what happened last year to the dot with the difference that we received 1 point instead of 5. The UK should have been reserved this treatment this year. Having said this, I might add that the dot only got 15 points in the semi-final only managing the 25th place in the semis (position 39 out of 42).

More Eurovision Songs

Spent some time last night checking out the songs from the contest and finding more and more cool songs! Here are few more that caught my eyes.

Montenegro: Stevan Faddy - Ajde Kroci (Is it just me or does this sound like JPop?)

Moldova: Natalie Barbu - Fight (Female violinist/singer: HOT!)

From Poland: The Jet Set - Party Time (the token booty song! hahaha!)

Prev: Eurovision Song Contest 2007

Eurovision finals: Serb your enthusiasm

We Yanks like to think that the success of reality-competition shows like American Idol reveals something very special (good or bad, take your pick) about our national soul. I won't argue with that. As so often happens, though, Europe got there first. Not only is our own Idol a knockoff of the U.K.'s original Pop Idol, but both of those shows are mere upstarts compared to the venerable Eurovision Song Contest. Every year since 1956, artists from across the continent have come together to vie for voters' hearts. Each country fields a single band or singer to represent it; only one can win.

Hundreds of millions of Europeans watch every year, and they take this stuff pretty seriously. In this year's contest, which wrapped up last weekend in Helsinki, 22-year-old Marija Serifovic took home the gold for Serbia with a solid if boring ballad. The night's sore losers, thankfully, were far more entertaining. The U.K. and France shared a stinging tie for next-to-last place; the notoriously intemperate British press immediately fell to heaping abuse upon their national representatives, the campy (and fairly lame) disco act known as Scooch. Germany, meanwhile, beat the Brits by three places, but they felt like complaining, too — and how. "It is obvious that eastern European countries engage in dirty trade with points every year," hissed one German singer; another newspaper suggested that "western Europeans are losing their enthusiasm for the Eurovision Song Contest because the East has become triumphant." Yikes!

Variety reported yesterday that a team including longtime Sacha Baron Cohen associate Dan Mazer is planning to film a comedy about Eurovision, though the story was tanatalizingly vague as to whether this would be a documentary or a fictional feature. Given Mazer's previous oeuvre, I'm hoping it's closer to the former. If results like this year's have shown us anything, it's that you hardly need to add a thing to get pure comedy gold. I personally think Ukraine's second-place entry (see below) was robbed — and just tell me you wouldn't want to see Verka Serduchka's trippy transvestite dance-off joined by one Borat Sagdiyev.

So what do you think, PopWatchers? Any brilliant performances I missed on YouTube? Would you pay to see Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Contest of Eurovision in theaters?

ZF Mon, May 14, 2007 at 07:36 PM EST

Rob's Week of Fun Redux

OK. So the essays are finished and handed in. In the end, they were both good, I think. The self-reflexivity one, once I got through the necessary cinematic theory at the start, actually proved to be involving and interesting, which helps when you're writing essays. I put forward a clear argument about what self-reflexivity is, how it is manifested in Vivre sa Vie, and why. It ran a bit short, but not catastrophically so. Bit worried that I used very little secondary literature, which might prove a problem, but I really didn't feel the need to do so - most of the knowledge, apart from the theory, I gained through the lectures. Isn't that the point?

The bisexuality essay was harder work. Problems started when I couldn't find one of the films I wanted anywhere. Really. NOWHERE to be found. (It's Sunday Bloody Sunday if you're interested. So I went with Querelle, Hamam, Le Fate Ignoranti and Les Nuits Fauves, trying to demonstrate the depiction of bisexuals as broadly negative - as either liars, deceivers and cheats, or as violent people on the verge of psychopathy. It was certainly interesting to work on - Querelle is one of the most fascinating films I've ever seen, but that's Fassbinder for you - but towards the end it was beginning to feel like a bit of a chore.

On top of that, the Russian Film exam took place today. This I feel a little more optimistic about, as the questions, although complex, were within what I had studied, and moreover what I felt confident writing about. So I wrote about the religious theme of Возвращение, and misogyny in Soviet and post-Soviet cinema. Both topics I know about, the first in particular, and stayed within my time plan for the ssay, finishing at about the right time. As a start to my final exams, it's not been a bad one.

Aside from university work, not that there's much else at the moment, I worked at the Alumni Association Reunion on Saturday. The afternoon was taking people on tours of the campus, which backfired somewhat as there were the same number of tour guides as tour-takers, for the entire afternoon. Which meant that we had a very intimate and cosy tour, which was actually quite nice, as I've taken groups of twenty round before and it's hard to make sure everyone's interested.

The evening was spent with us talking to guests at a drinks reception, giving them a current student's perspective on the University of Bath in 2007. Yes. And, of course, free champagne - which gave rise to the best sentence of the week, from our boss, "Do have a glass of champagne, but for goodness' sake don't get trolleyed." Sound advice, that.

I went to see an old mate from home in her university town of Cardiff last Saturday, which was pretty excellent, apart from having to take a replacement bus from Temple Meads to Parkway, which added forty minutes in each direction. But we looked around the city, the parks and the bayside, had the best icecream in the world from our mates Cadwalladers, and caught up on six month's worth of gossip about people we went to school with.

There have also been developments in my plans for next year. St Petersburg is out - I've decided I'd like some time off from Russian. However, there is a vacancy at the Université de Strasbourg for an English lector, so I'll apply for that. It'll be broadly the same as my work in Québec, but with marking and assessment involved. I really hope I get it, it'd really work on my French, and as a sizeable chunk of the European Union's institutions are located there, it'd be useful for any sort of future plans.

Dad had his birthday on Saturday. I bought him a dartboard (with Mum). He loves it, and has pinned up David Cameron.

And wasn't Eurovision good on Saturday? We were *this* close from a "nul points", which would have made me laugh hysterically.

That's me up to date, apart from my window leaking and a massive gas bill arriving this morning. British Gas are known for their timing. Never let it be said that my life is uneventful. It's only when I sit down to write a proper entry that I realise just how much of a hyperactive freak I seem. It's really not like that. Ask Liene (actually don't). Or Sonam (erm, another bad choice).

My paid account is about to expire as well, and I can't spare the cash for renewal. So I'll make a voicepost before it does, but it's no great loss as I never use it. This last week of frenzy has been brought to you by good-quality coffee, drum and bass and deep house music, as well as an unhealthy amount of Radio 4.

I think I'll go to bed now. Sod's Law dictates that I'll now be unable to sleep.

Oh, and good luck tomorrow theodor. Knock 'em dead, kid.

- Rob

Today in History (Musician)

WOI-TV - Rock singer-musician Nancy Wilson (Heart) is 53. Golfer Hollis Stacy is 53. Actress Isabelle Huppert is 52. Rapper Flavor Flav (Public Enemy) is 48. Rock musician Jimmy DeGrasso is 44. Folk singer Patty Griffin is 43. Actress Lauren Graham is 40
Boston Globe - With her musician buddies, zydeco accordionist Chubby Carrier and Cajun musician Tab Benoit , Shaw tours the bayous, gets close to baby alligators, and learns that habitat loss can be reversed. Over to your generation, Amanda. The film is ostensibly
BBC Entertainment - Former Darkness frontman Justin Hawkins is the favourite to become the UK's Eurovision Song Contest entrant. The musician, who will perform a duet with Beverlei Brown, is tipped ahead of Big Brovaz, ex-East 17 star Brian Harvey and newcomer Cyndi
Baltimore Sun - Musician Billy Cowsill, Feb. 18 Billy Cowsill, former lead singer of the Cowsills, the pop family band that scored several top 10 hits in the 1960s and inspired "The Partridge Family" television series, died on Feb. 18. He was 58. Cowsill, pictured
Guardian Unlimited - Your obituary of the vastly underrated Irish musician John Beckett (March 5) brought back memories of myself aged eight in the early 1950s, and not greatly endowed with skill, being taught the piano at home in Dublin by a charming, unpractical
CMT - Calling this musician "multi-talented" is an understatement. Profficient in fiddle, guitar, mandolin and singing, he was playing with Ralph Stanley by age 7 and legends like Johnny Cash and Dolly Parton as an adult. Don't miss this bluegrass virtuoso
MetroMix - Schnider denied a motion by Larry Birkhead, Smith's onetime boyfriend, that Stern be compelled to immediately join the case. - Jazz musician Wynton Marsalis, actor Chris Klein and BET co-founder Sheila Johnson pressed Congress on Tuesday to restore


Verka Serduchka

is eurovision turning into a drag show? who cares its great!

Trek Tribute?

is it just me or is Tim Kring a trekkie?
techie...? (what do tey call us now?)

i refer of course to the number plate on Hiro's dad's car.

also, i was trying to remember the name of the Scottish lesbian comedian that Marija (with a 'j') reminded me of. You remember her, she won Eurovision last saturday. so i googled 'scottish lesbian comedian', and the first two results i got were... Rhona Cameron! so i got my answer.

now, i'm not saying that Marija (with a 'j') is a lesbian, let's face it some of you have done that already (and anyway, i really couldn't care less; she's cute'n'all and... well, i wouldn't say no...), i just thought they may make a cute couple.
jus' sayin'...

i've just watched "Who Wants to be a Superhero". i was expecting another lame-ass reality show full of a bunch of lame-ass wannabes... and i was only half right.
(the second half, btw)
it turned out to be one of the funniest things i've seen... well... since Eurovision, really.
the funniest thing in tonights WWTBASH was the test in which they had to change from their street clothes into their hero outfits in public (without being seen) and run across a park way and to the finish line. as they ran in turn there was a little girl crying for her mommy, "i've lost my mommy!" she cried and only four of them, FOUR! spotted this and stopped to help. three of them were women and the other was Major Victory who seemed to be so in character that even as he stopped to help the child he was totally in superhero mode, being heroic as he picked her up (much to her surprise!) and carried her to the nearby security office. total ham., but hilarious with it.


Eurovision 2007

Not that any of you will even know what Eurovison is, but Serbia won it this year!!!

We used to watch this every year! Now next year it will be held back home in Belgrade, and I gotta be there for that! There will be so many people on the streets partying, it will be amazing experience!!!! And when I say many people, I mean tons, like hundred thousends!!!

Who wants to go? Lol!!!!!!!!!

We are going to party like it is my birthday! That is some scary song that exsist that Tim kariokied it for me last night! We did party like it is my birthday, because it was my birthday yesterday! My "daddy" came to party with us, oh, I have not written in so long, I will have to explain that to you some other time. We watched the whole 2 hour Eurovision contest again. Tim recorded it for us by placing the handycam in front of his computer screen, he he, duix (12) points to Timi from me, he, he... Then we danced like crazy, and did karioki, I am sure it was painful for our nightbours' ears, but we were partying like it was my brithday...he, he..... Hm.... I have been having these outbursts of crazy happyness, whcih includes sudden high pitch screaming, random "ballet dancer on drugs" kind of dancing, shirt lifting, cath me if you can move, neck grabbing, piggy back riding.. there are too many to list!! Just be glad that you do not never had to see any of this, lol!!!!!!!!!!

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n absolutely true mockumentary about the world's greatest sport and the Wally Owens who defined it...found in a box at a yardsale dated year 2000?

Japanese women bust out

TOKYO–All over Japan, retailers are scrambling to keep up with a new look known as "bon-kyu-bon." It means "big-small-big" and it signals a change in the way Japanese women look: they're getting curvier.

Japanese stores that used to keep just two or three sizes of clothing on hand are rushing to stock larger sizes. Juicy Couture, known for its figure-hugging terrycloth tracksuits, opened one of its biggest stores in Tokyo last year. And Tokyo's high-end Isetan department store, which used to relegate its bigger sizes to one corner, now prominently features larger items from designers such as Ralph Lauren, Diane von Furstenberg and DKNY.

Wacoal Corp., Japan's largest lingerie company, was once known for its super-padded brassieres. Now the company has a new best-seller: the "Love Bra," a cleavage-boosting creation with less padding, aimed at curvier women in their 20s.

Today, the average Japanese woman's hips, at 35 inches, are around an inch wider than those of women a generation older. Women in their 20s wear a bra at least two sizes larger than that of their mothers, according to Wacoal. Waist size, meanwhile, has gotten slightly smaller, accentuating many young women's curves.

The average 20-year-old is also nearly three inches taller than she was in 1950, according to government statistics, and the average foot has grown by nearly a quarter of an inch.

The physical changes are largely the result of an increasingly Westernized diet, say nutritionists. Meals that used to consist of mostly fish, vegetables and tofu now lean heavily toward an American-style menu of red meat, dairy and indulgences such as Krispy Kreme doughnuts and Cold Stone Creamery ice cream.

All this extra protein and calcium has led to longer, stronger and fuller bodies. Shinichi Tashiro, an endocrinology professor at Showa Pharmaceutical University, says the intake of extra fat tends to go to either breasts or hips in adolescent girls.

Marketers say they first started noticing more women with hourglass figures a few years ago. One of the first people to act on the change was apparel wholesaler Kazuya Kito.

In 2001, Kito founded Egoist, a trendy purveyor of slinky clothing designed to highlight the busty look, figuring that the curvier bodies would make women want to wear less-modest outfits. His fashion industry friends scoffed at the idea. Back then, micro-mini skirts were in style but women, for the most part, kept their chests covered. Yet Egoist, whose wares include see-through sweaters made to show off decorative bras or skinny tube tops, became a huge hit and a catalyst for other skimpy-clothing brands.

Nami Sakamoto, an advertising-agency employee, embodies the new look. The 26-year-old is tall – by Japanese standards – at 5 feet 5 inches. She's also voluptuous, with a 35-inch bust and 35-inch hips.

"I had a hard time finding button-down shirts that would close," says Sakamoto, especially when she was in high school and there were fewer foreign retailers in Japan that actually sold bigger sizes.

"Sometimes the buttons would burst off." Now she buys clothes at Western retailers that carry larger sizes.

Other young women are buying special items to flaunt their new physique. "It's just more fun to show some skin," says Ayami Arii, a 19-year-old vocational school student, who recently sported a tiny denim mini skirt and an iridescent push-up bra that peeks out from below her low-cut blouse. Her bra, a big seller at boutiques in Tokyo's Shibuya 109 department store, is called a "Showy Bra." Similar to a string bikini top, the $60 bras, made to be peeking out of a low-cut blouse, started appearing last year and come in a variety of colours, from red patent leather to leopard print and orange sequins.

The cleavage craze took off in 2003, when a young pop star named Kumi Koda appeared in ads around Tokyo wearing a barely-there metallic bra and not much else. In one image, she wore coconut shells over her chest. Then, two years later, she performed at the televised Japan Record Awards wearing thin tape-like gold satin straps over her breasts that revealed nearly everything when she danced. The 24-year-old star has become the champion of a new "If you've got it, flaunt it" attitude among young Japanese women.

Skyscraper Creates All Its Own Energy

Skyscraper Creates All Its Own Energy


This skyscraper, to be built in Dubai, is called the Burj al-Taqa ('Energy Tower'), and it will produce 100% of its own power. The tower will have a huge (197 foot diameter) wind turbine on its roof, and arrays of solar cells that will total 161,459 square feet in size. Additional energy is provided by an island of solar panels, which drifts in the sea within viewing distance of the tower.


Burj al-Taqa's cylindrical shape is designed to expose as little surface area to the sun as possible. A protective solar shield reaches from the ground to the roof, covering 60 degrees of the giant circular building. It protects the side most affected from the sun's glaring rays, making sure that none of the rooms are exposed to direct sunlight. The diffuse light on the other sides of the building is tempered by a mineral coating on the windows.


The tower's façade is to be built from a new generation of vacuum glazing that will only come on the market in 2008. The new top-quality windows are meant to largely shield the interior of the tower from outside heat -- indispensable in a region where outside temperatures can reach 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit) in the summer. This is made possible by a new breakthrough in the quality of the materials used: The new vacuum glazing windows transmit as much as two thirds less heat compared to today's products.

The architects chose an ancient Persian architectural feature as their model. Hundreds of years ago, wealthy merchants erected wind towers on the roofs of their houses, an idea which was eventually exported to the Arab world. The buildings, which have now become tourist attractions, have a natural air conditioning system. Lateral openings in the towers suck in cool air like a chimney. The heavier cool air sinks down and displaces the lighter hot air, creating a comfortable temperature inside the living space despite the scorching sun.

Gerbers's design is designed to function in a similar way: The negative pressure created by winds breaking along the tower will suck the spent air from the rooms out of the building via air slits in the façade. The plan is for fresh air to be pumped into the interior of the building by means of a duct system at the same time.

Seawater will be used to pre-cool the air. Three large cooling units in the giant building's cellar will eventually lower the temperature to a comfortable 18 degrees Celsius (64.4 degrees Fahrenheit). Transparent ducts will channel the fresh air into spacious atriums and from there into the corridors and offices. The building's designers want to use high-quality steel ropes to suspend hanging gardens
inside the air ducts, transforming a feature which is often regarded as an architectural blemish and hidden behind sheet metal in other buildings.

At the same time, the underground cooling center also cools the water in the pipelines running through the underside of each floor's ceiling. The system of tubes is designed to be a modern air-conditioning system which cools gently without unpleasant air currents.

The Burj al-Taqa seems like the most recent example of a trend that has been observable for some time. In large cities such as Chicago, New York or Paris, environmentally friendly skyscrapers are being built that win ecological awards and apparently herald a new green wave in the construction of tall buildings.

Via Spielgel Online

Deforestation: The hidden cause of global warming

In the next 24 hours, deforestation will release as much CO2 into the atmosphere as 8 million people flying from London to New York. Stopping the loggers is the fastest and cheapest solution to climate change. So why are global leaders turning a blind eye to this crisis?

The accelerating destruction of the rainforests that form a precious cooling band around the Earth's equator, is now being recognised as one of the main causes of climate change. Carbon emissions from deforestation far outstrip damage caused by planes and automobiles and factories.

The rampant slashing and burning of tropical forests is second only to the energy sector as a source of greenhouses gases according to report published today by the Oxford-based Global Canopy Programme, an alliance of leading rainforest scientists.

Figures from the GCP, summarising the latest findings from the United Nations, and building on estimates contained in the Stern Report, show deforestation accounts for up to 25 per cent of global emissions of heat-trapping gases, while transport and industry account for 14 per cent each; and aviation makes up only 3 per cent of the total.

"Tropical forests are the elephant in the living room of climate change," said Andrew Mitchell, the head of the GCP.

Scientists say one days' deforestation is equivalent to the carbon footprint of eight million people flying to New York. Reducing those catastrophic emissions can be achieved most quickly and most cheaply by halting the destruction in Brazil, Indonesia, the Congo and elsewhere.

No new technology is needed, says the GCP, just the political will and a system of enforcement and incentives that makes the trees worth more to governments and individuals standing than felled. "The focus on technological fixes for the emissions of rich nations while giving no incentive to poorer nations to stop burning the standing forest means we are putting the cart before the horse," said Mr Mitchell.

Most people think of forests only in terms of the CO2 they absorb. The rainforests of the Amazon, the Congo basin and Indonesia are thought of as the lungs of the planet. But the destruction of those forests will in the next four years alone, in the words of Sir Nicholas Stern, pump more CO2 into the atmosphere than every flight in the history of aviation to at least 2025.

Indonesia became the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world last week. Following close behind is Brazil. Neither nation has heavy industry on a comparable scale with the EU, India or Russia and yet they comfortably outstrip all other countries, except the United States and China.

What both countries do have in common is tropical forest that is being cut and burned with staggering swiftness. Smoke stacks visible from space climb into the sky above both countries, while satellite images capture similar destruction from the Congo basin, across the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic and the Republic of Congo.

According to the latest audited figures from 2003, two billion tons of CO2 enters the atmosphere every year from deforestation. That destruction amounts to 50 million acres - or an area the size of England, Wales and Scotland felled annually.

The remaining standing forest is calculated to contain 1,000 billion tons of carbon, or double what is already in the atmosphere.

As the GCP's report concludes: "If we lose forests, we lose the fight against climate change."

Standing forest was not included in the original Kyoto protocols and stands outside the carbon markets that the report from the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) pointed to this month as the best hope for halting catastrophic warming.

The landmark Stern Report last year, and the influential McKinsey Report in January agreed that forests offer the "single largest opportunity for cost-effective and immediate reductions of carbon emissions".

International demand has driven intensive agriculture, logging and ranching that has proved an inexorable force for deforestation; conservation has been no match for commerce. The leading rainforest scientists are now calling for the immediate inclusion of standing forests in internationally regulated carbon markets that could provide cash incentives to halt this disastrous process.

Forestry experts and policy makers have been meeting in Bonn, Germany, this week to try to put deforestation on top of the agenda for the UN climate summit in Bali, Indonesia, this year. Papua New Guinea, among the world's poorest nations, last year declared it would have no choice but to continue deforestation unless it was given financial incentives to do otherwise.

Richer nations already recognise the value of uncultivated land. The EU offers €200 (£135) per hectare subsidies for "environmental services" to its farmers to leave their land unused.

And yet there is no agreement on placing a value on the vastly more valuable land in developing countries. More than 50 per cent of the life on Earth is in tropical forests, which cover less than 7 per cent of the planet's surface.

They generate the bulk of rainfall worldwide and act as a thermostat for the Earth. Forests are also home to 1.6 billion of the world's poorest people who rely on them for subsistence. However, forest experts say governments continue to pursue science fiction solutions to the coming climate catastrophe, preferring bio-fuel subsidies, carbon capture schemes and next-generation power stations.

Putting a price on the carbon these vital forests contain is the only way to slow their destruction. Hylton Philipson, a trustee of Rainforest Concern, explained: "In a world where we are witnessing a mounting clash between food security, energy security and environmental security - while there's money to be made from food and energy and no income to be derived from the standing forest, it's obvious that the forest will take the hit."