Hidden Nook

"Because in Cyberspace, no one can hear you scream."

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Blogger Status (or Vacation...Kinda)

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So I will probably be on/off blogging. Work is getting busier by the day and I have some things to catch up upon. I'll still be blogging though, randomly here and more over at my audio blog site (you can check out the latest post here).

I'll be back though...probably randomly making some changes to my blog (where did the Nav Bar go?) here and there. It's weird...the LORD (yes, I'm a believer) has taught me so much about blogging...to think I've improved so much. I think I am writing better too as one can examine by comparing my current posts to my very first one.

It seems that KOTP has gone fishing too (aka blog vacationing). Well, if you want any updates, visit the The Black Kettle (my Canadian friend) as he has a lot of great posts for every reader. That's it for now...Chow!

Update: Will be randomly blogging here and there. Some of you may have noticed some changes on the site, as the "blog vacation" has given me time to add some features to my site, such as the Hello Chat screen name box and removing Bloglet as it was causing subscription errors (replaced it with the Google Groups below). Sigh...back to studying...will hopefully post some more later on today...hopefully.

By Darnell Clayton • 3:41 PM • Email Post • •


Monday, June 27, 2005

U.S. Freezing "Corporate Mullah" Assets

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(Hat Tip: Blog Iran)

Reportedly, the US Bush administration prepares to implement new measurements against Iran, Syria, and North Korea that have been accused of having weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

The Washington Post reports that the Bush administration has decided to freeze the assets of all companies, individuals and banks in the US if they are found to be assisting any of these countries with their nuclear programs.

It looks like the Bush Administration is finally getting tough with the Iranian Mullah's, especially after Iranians elected another hard liner to the helm for another four years (although all of the candidates were from a "select list" thanks to the Guardian Council). Although this may go a long way towards easing the suffering of the Iranian people, (politically and religiously) unless there is a "corporate boycott" the Mullah's in power may be little motivated towards granting freedoms towards their own people.

By Darnell Clayton • 11:51 PM • Email Post • •


In The News

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Here are some stories that caught this blogger's attention.

By Darnell Clayton • 11:37 PM • Email Post • •


Answering An Atheist

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(Hat Tip: ID The Future)

So if there is a God, who created Him? It seems that many Creationists (or those who believe that the universe was created instead of being evolved) hold to the belief that God has always existed, something the Bible affirms in Genesis. Yet, for the atheist, simply saying that "God has always existed" is not enough as the atheist can declare that so has the universe. Origins can never be ultimately proven (as there is no possible way to travel back in time) but they can be verified.

The best way to convince an atheist is to simply talk their language, the primary one being science. If God exists, then there should be some evidence displaying His "finger prints" all over creation. If God does not exists, then at "worst" anomalies should pop up, but nothing that science will not eventually explain.

Unless of coarse science argues against atheistic evolution, in which case would prove to be fatal ground since science is the foundation of evolution (or so they claim). Two scientific laws that conflict with evolution are the first and second of thermodynamics, of which the first loosely states that "energy can not be created or destroyed." This would present a problem because the Universe can not create itself and even if life emerged from the big bang, all that energy would have to originally have come from somewhere thus the need of "something greater" to create it.

Although one could argue that the universe has always existed, the second law seems to drive the "nail in the coffin" of that belief since it loosely states that "everything goes from order to chaos" or basically decays. One only has to look outside to see this happening around them (or even at the stars which have a finite energy supply).

But of coarse, if one is still obstinate about their atheistic faith in evolution, (and in need of some quick cash) their is a $250,000 reward for anybody who can bring scientific evidence proving evolution is legit (although it may be recommend that someone read this before taking on the $250,000 challenge). After all, it was science that convinced this blogger that "the Divine" had to exist in the first place...any takers?

By Darnell Clayton • 10:58 PM • Email Post • •


Blog Spin

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Here is a glimpse of what is happening around the blogosphere from some very prominent bloggers (and highly recommended reads).

By Darnell Clayton • 10:28 PM • Email Post • •


Growing Tulips On The Moon

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(Cross Posted on Blogger News)

Bernard Foing, Project Scientist for the lunar satellite SMART-1, discusses the steps we need to take to develop bases on the Moon. Growing flowers is one step towards making the lunar desert an oasis for human life...

In this essay, Bernard Foing ponders what steps will need to be taken to establish future human bases on the Moon. The Moon has one-sixth of Earth's gravity and no atmosphere, but the difficulties of living there could be eased by something as beautiful and delicate as a flower.

Although the moon is definitely too hostile for terra forming it's surface (not to mention the fact that it lacks an atmosphere) the soil seems to be rich in minerals, with about 45% of the lunar "dirt" containing oxygen (perhaps the reason why NASA is offering money for this idea).

Foing is currently working on finding not simply flowers that look pretty, but flowers that are very resistant towards their environment as well as ones that can survive the trip towards space. Tulips are a great example of this, as one can freeze the bulbs and sterilize them, later on "bring them back to life" upon the lunar surface.

Although there are challenges as far as cultivating these plants on the Moons surface (as a flower would need a host of other organisms in order to survive) Foing believes that by the time man revisits the moon (around 2015) they will not only be growing flowers but food as well. In it's initial phases this may range from simple algae to "lunar salad," but for now growing a flower on the lunar surface would symbolize the beginnings of an oasis on a world that has only known the harsh realities of the sun's rays.

By Darnell Clayton • 9:57 PM • Email Post • •


Back In The Blogosphere

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At least for a season (tonight that is). Here is a cool picture from Engadget.

It is good to be blogging...at least for a season...

So basically my night is free after all (yeah). Will be posting some stories around the blogosphere...this is definitely becoming more than a "hobby" to me. ;)

By Darnell Clayton • 9:51 PM • Email Post • •


Blogger Hiatus

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So it seems that I will be taking a vacation from Blogging in order to concentrate on some upcoming state and federal exams (yes, they don't end after college after all). I will be back however after a week or so...maybe sooner though.

I am excited about these exams because unlike school these will allow me to generate more income (which will allow me to support more charities and help out with other projects that my friends run).

I should be back after a week (at most) but only time will tell. Yeah...blogging is a hobby of mine so I will be back in full strength...but for now it's time that I refocus my energies.

I love Google, especially blogger, and for those of you who didn't know Google is coming out with a new video player in order to take on Microsoft (which is a good thing). I'll still be over at my audio blog so stay tuned...

Just a random thought about what Google could become.

By Darnell Clayton • 2:31 PM • Email Post • •


Thursday, June 23, 2005

Japanese Robot Security Guards

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(MSNBC) In an idea straight out of science fiction, robots could soon begin patrolling Japanese offices, shopping malls and banks to keep them safe from intruders. Equipped with a camera and sensors, the "Guardrobo D1", developed by Japanese security firm Sohgo Security Services Co., is designed to patrol along pre-programmed paths and keep an eye out for signs of trouble.

Although the idea brings back memories of Robo Cop (if not 'The Matrix' and 'The Terminator') having robots guard shops may prove to be effective as long as they can distinguish friend from foe (perhaps an ID system like Verichip may have to be implemented along with this). The current "Guardrobo D1" model is not equipped with any weapons (probably a good thing) but will alert it's human masters if it senses any trouble.

"In the near future, it is certain that securing young and capable manpower will become even more difficult ... and the security industry will feel the full brunt of the impact," [Sohgo Security Services Co.] said in a statement.

Although it is doubtful that machines will take on the full weight of security (as hackers would have fun causing chaos via an attack droid) the robots would over the long run probably reduce expenses for security systems, as they could operate for longer periods of time than their human counterparts.

Photo from MSNBC, Credits: Issei Kato / Reuters

The public would probably reject using robots as a major influence of security as Hollywood seems to be fascinated with machines taking over human society as 'I, Robot' can reveal. Japan seems to be generally more accepting of robot security than the United States, although the Pentagon would probably consider using "machine soldiers" as an addition to the human ones dispersed throughout the globe. As long as "robot distopia" does not develop from this result, this may become more common place in the near future.

By Darnell Clayton • 1:20 PM • Email Post • •


Future Space Shuttles Without Parachutes?

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At least three space tourism startups are building spacecraft that forgo the wing-and-parachute landing systems used by space shuttles and space capsules in favor of retrorockets. These rockets will slow down the new spacecraft enough to land gently on their feet, UFO-style...

"From a simplicity standpoint, there are less systems on there. There are no additional systems to land that you didn't already need to fly up," said John Carmack, founder of space tourism upstart Armadillo Aerospace, of his company's vehicle. "You basically just land it and fill it back up."

These soft landings are nothing new, as both the Russians and Americans used them when landing robots upon the lunar surface as well as Mars. NASA as well as other governmental agencies have preferred using parachutes and wings to slow down the space craft via Earth's atmosphere, although utilizing such methods often meant building more complex systems.

Although using the "soft method" for landing is less complex than the "chutes and wings," version, soft landing would require more fuel making the craft heavier. NASA is considering implementing retro-rockets instead of parachutes, although it seems that they are approaching the idea with caution.
[Neil] Cheatwood, [an aerospace engineer at NASA's Langley Research Center] conceded the soft landing option is not as popular as wings or parachutes for the CEV, but noted that it had not yet been ruled out.

"The ultimate landing system is still being considered," he said. "All those (options) are in the mix right now."

Although retro-rockets may sound like a more simplistic practical approach, it may be wise to apply both methods (the parachutes and the rockets) to the new space craft as one could act as a fail safe for the other. NASA was wise to use the parachute option because it would simply rely on the Earth's atmosphere to slow it down, requiring no extra mechanical guidance once deployed.

Installing retro-rockets seems to be a smart move for the upcoming private sector, although they should reconsider simply having this system alone. By having both methods on the new space craft it would ensure not only the passengers safety, but would reduce the chances of the craft slamming into the Earth's crust because the retro rockets failed to activate (something that would hinder the space tourism industry).

By Darnell Clayton • 12:30 PM • Email Post • •


Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Blogger Status

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Back in the blogosphere. Had to go on a business trip...you can check out my adventures in Atlanta here over at my audio blog. Will be blogging randomly as federal and state exams are coming up. Selah!

Update: Well, updating the blog a little bit as well as using a new reader for my feeds. I originally used RSS Reader but found out it couldn't view all feeds equally. I switched to Feed Reader as it displayed all feeds (with or without errors).

Realizing that I would be traveling I decided switching to Pluck would be better since it is web based, although it has problems viewing certain feeds. Sigh.

By Darnell Clayton • 1:07 PM • Email Post • •


Monday, June 13, 2005

Iranian Women Protest Gender Discrimination

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(Hat Tip: Instapundit, Publius Pundit)

TEHRAN, June 12 - Hundreds of women staged an unauthorized demonstration in Tehran today, protesting sex discrimination under Iran's Islamic leadership just days before the June 17 presidential elections.

The protest was the first public display of dissent by women since the 1979 revolution, when the new regime enforced obligatory veiling. "We are women, we are the children of this land, but we have no rights," they chanted. More than 250 marched outside Tehran University, and about 200 others demonstrated two blocks away after hundreds of riot police swarmed in and barred them from joining the main protest.

It seems that the women in Iran are becoming sick of being denied the rights that their Iranian brethren enjoy to the fullest degree. Although Iranian women can vote, they are barred from participating in the public arena as 89 female candidates were rejected by the Guardian Council based upon their gender alone.

Zahra Eshraghi, the granddaughter of the Islamic revolution's leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomenei, said in an interview this week that working on women's issues has been very difficult because women did not feel safe to criticize the laws. "There are certain things that are considered as crimes although the situation is gradually changing," she said. "For example it would have been very dangerous to talk about changing the constitution, or women's right to choose their dress. There can be no progress if women don't feel they are safe to express their demands."

Iran's constitution is based upon Shariah law, which stipulates that women receive half of the rights that men enjoy, whether it be in court, inheritance or even worse, employment. In the last arena, women, despite many of them holding high levels of education, only make up 14% of the governmental employees. Some of them have been jailed as in the case of Mahboobeh Abbasgholizadeh (an Iranian Feminist) who declared that, "Women's rights will be fulfilled only when the constitution changes."

Although their have been some positive moves towards woman's suffrage in Iran, much of that may have to do with the elections coming up in Iran. The Persian nation has for the first time (in a long time) opened up it's "democratic process" for the world to examine and judge for itself whether or not the next administration is legitimate. Although many politicians are courting the female vote by having women campaign on their behalf, unless they carry out their promises of true reform many expect little improvement for women's suffrage in Iran.

By Darnell Clayton • 10:48 PM • Email Post • •


Blogger Delights

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Today's Blogger Delights features the nation of Liechtenstein which is a tiny nation that borders Switzerland and Austria. Regarded as some as merely an extension of Switzerland (with the only difference between the two being the stamps), Liechtenstein is ruled by a monarch as well as a parliament.

As far as blogs go, Camellia seems to be not too thrilled about her father (is this an explanation?) while Manolaii is speaking a language that this blogger doesn't understand (although this picture does look pretty interesting).

Boobsie has a nice photo blog (cute kid by the way) while Iply seems excited that it's her dad's birthday. Although her other blog is a little bit...confusing. Now onto some Blogger Birthdays!

Blogger Birthdays

Kirsten turns sweet 16 today and seems to be in love with a guy named Johnny. Did John remember?

Bewitching Star from Malaysia turns 19 today and seems to be bored at both of her team blog sites. Perhaps she could spice them up with Blog Skins.

Ryan has just turned 24 and has a really nice web page, although his blog site may need a little more work done towards it.

Blogger Delights brings highlights from various nations as well as celebrating birthdays throughout the blogosphere. If one is interested in visiting some of these blogs, simply click here.

By Darnell Clayton • 10:07 PM • Email Post • •


Nepal Cracking Down On Journalists

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(Hat Tip: Gateway Pundit)

KATMANDU, Nepal - Nearly 100 journalists were arrested Monday after scuffling with police during a protest to demand King Gyanendra immediately lift media restrictions in Nepal imposed four months ago...

Protesters from the Federation of Nepalese Journalists were arrested as they marched into a restricted area near the royal palace, chanting: "Free the press! Withdraw censorship!"

Police bundled them into buses, and the detainees shattered some bus windows as they were driven away. Some protesters were injured in the scuffles.

Nepal, once a former democracy has been placed under the iron grip of King Gyanendra who claims that these measures are necessary in order to fight against the communistic rebels that have been fiercely fighting against the nation's military. Although their have been calls by the international community for a restoration of public freedoms (with some cutting off military ties), little external pressure has been placed on the royal family to ease media censorship.

Journalists have staged several protests since Gyanendra seized power. Criticism of the king, the government and security forces has been banned, along with any independent reporting on the country's communist insurgency. Journalists must get all of their information on security issues from the army or police.

The journalists demand a restoration of press freedom and an end to harassment and arrests. They also oppose a proposed law they say will further tighten media control.

Some of these journalists have gone underground, fleeing to the blogosphere where their voice can be heard unfiltered and uncensored. Nepal, once a peaceful democracy under the threat of a communistic takeover, is now being oppressed by the very government that was suppose to ensure it's liberty.

By Darnell Clayton • 9:44 PM • Email Post • •


Blog Spin

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Here are some blogs of note that caught this blogger's eye and are worth a reader's glance.

By Darnell Clayton • 9:26 PM • Email Post • •


Microsoft Censoring Chinese Bloggers

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(Cross Posted on Blogger News)

Microsoft Corp. is cooperating with China's government to censor the company's newly launched Chinese-language Web portal, a spokesman for the tech giant said...

On Monday, Agence France-Presse, the French news agency, said bloggers were not allowed to post terms to MSN Spaces such as "democracy," "human rights" and "Taiwan independence." Attempts to enter those words were said to generate a message saying the language was prohibited.

It looks the world's leading software developer (not to mention internet browser) is submitting to the demands of the Communistic regime of China. Chinese citizens already face heavy censorship in the media, and many sites that are able to find ways around the censorship (i.e. forums, some blogs) are forced to censor themselves or face penalties. Microsoft does present an appeal as to why they are cooperating with the Chinese government regarding their filters.

"Even with the filters, we're helping millions of people communicate, share stories, share photographs and build relationships. For us, that is the key point here," [Adam Sohn, global sales and marketing director at MSN] said.

If Microsoft is trying to reach out to the net citizens who are ever loathing it in ever greater numbers, this perhaps is one of the worst ways to demonstrate that they care. China is already forcing many bloggers to register with the government or face penalties, and many weblog services such as Blogger are already blocked by the government from their own citizens to use (although many have gotten around this by using the Google Web Accelerator or Google's chat program Hello).

Microsoft might have just dug it's grave as far as blogging is concerned, as both Yahoo and Google's Blogger will generally only filter out blogs because of indecent content or linkage spam. Microsoft has just "thumbed it's nose" towards the Chinese blogosphere, one they will probably not forget if freedom ever returns to that nation.

By Darnell Clayton • 8:46 PM • Email Post • •


In The News

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Here are some article's that this blogger noticed while surfing Google News or subscrbing to them via Feed Reader.

By Darnell Clayton • 8:24 PM • Email Post • •


To Pluto And Beyond

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"We are extremely proud to have the NASA's New Horizons mission make Goddard the first stop in its journey to the last planet," said Dr. Ed Weiler, GSFC Center Director. "The New Horizons mission to Pluto is an historic journey of exploration to unlock secrets from a mysterious planet so distant that the Sun is just a bright star in the sky."

Despite being within range of the Hubble telescope, little is known about Pluto other than the fact that it has an elliptical orbit. Although too far away to be noticeably affected by the Sun's rays, the Pluto system is one of the few that would be considered a "highlight" for colonists as it's surface contains some methane and it's lunar neighbor Charon is suspected as having water ice upon it's surface.

By Darnell Clayton • 8:10 PM • Email Post • •


Another Breakthrough In Adult Stem Cells

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(Cross Posted on Blogger News)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Scientists working in mice said they had found a way to identify master cells in the brain and grow them in large batches -- a potential way of helping patients grow their own brain tissue transplants.

The scientists said they had found a process to make the cells multiply, which would be crucial in fighting degenerative brain diseases like Parkinson's and Huntington's.

It seems that scientists have discovered another way in which to regenerate cells without using fetal tissue. Embryonic stem cells, although easier to manipulate, have the potential to become cancerous and carry the potential of being rejected by the donee's body. Not only are adult stem cells inexpensive to produce, but they may be more significant to those who suffer from Parkinson's disease or even cancer.

"We've isolated for the first time what appears to be the true candidate stem cell," said Dennis Steindler of the University of Florida, who worked on the study.

"There have been other candidates but in this case we used a special microscope that allows us to watch living cells over long periods of time through a method called live-cell microscopy, so we've actually witnessed the stem cell give rise to new neurons. Possibly a different method may come up to identify the mother of all stem cells, but we're confident this is it."

As science reveals more positive traits about adult stem cells, the weaker the argument for embryonic stem cells becomes. Embryonic stem cells have fueled heated debate between pro-lifers and abortion activists as both sides see themselves as "defending the helpless" with the former siding with the fetus and the latter the suffering patient. By using adult stem cells, patients can receive the treatment they need without stepping on any "political toes," potentially satisfying the desires of both sides of the political spectrum.

By Darnell Clayton • 7:49 PM • Email Post • •


Kuwait Appoints First Woman Cabinent Minister

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KUWAIT (Reuters) - Kuwait named its first woman cabinet minister on Sunday, less than a month after giving women the vote, a key plank in its democratic reforms...

"Naming a Kuwaiti woman as a minister ... is a special step we had longed to achieve," Sheikh Sabah said.

Kuwait it seems is one of the few Islamic nations establishing political rights for woman within it's borders. According to Reuters, earlier this month two women were appointed to it's municipal council. Although women in Kuwait have won the right to vote in May, they will be unable to exercise that right until 2007.

Women have been fighting for political rights for more than 40 years in Kuwait, the first Gulf state to have an elected parliament. Members of the ruling Sabah family hold key cabinet posts such as the foreign, defense, interior and energy portfolios.

Long-time women's rights activist Lulwa al-Mulla said Mubarak's appointment meant democracy was taking off in Kuwait. "It was a fast decision toward democracy and empowerment of women," she said. "We will be on the proper way to build our country on democratic principles."

As political freedom slowly marches it's way throughout the middle east, hopefully more conservative nations such as Saudi Arabia will take note as the thought of women driving has sparked a backlash in that region. As other middle eastern nations become more inclusive politically towards women in general, more businesses (i.e. tourism) will probably be attracted towards those regions, helping to bring about prosperity to a region mainly known for violence.

By Darnell Clayton • 7:09 PM • Email Post • •


Earth's Bigger Brother

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(Cross Posted on Blogger News)

The most Earth-like of all 155 so-called extrasolar planets found orbiting stars besides our sun, the newly unveiled planet is probably rocky like Earth, rather than big and gassy like Jupiter and most other extrasolar planets discovered in the past decade, the scientists said at a briefing...

"It's like Earth's bigger cousin," Paul Butler of the Carnegie Institution of Washington said in a statement accompanying the announcement. Butler is a member of the team that found the planet.

This is great news for astronomers as it shows that they are honing their skills and creating the technology to find earth like worlds. Unfortunately this world is much too hot for any future life form to land on, being only 2 million miles away from it's sun and orbiting the star once every two days.

Photo from Reuters

This planet according to scientists may resemble Venus or simply be just as barren as Mercury. As more of these earth-like worlds are discovered, mankinds imagination of "what is out there" will continue to expand and grow. If one is interested in finding out how many known solar systems exist outside of our own, one simply can visit Planet Quest which has an interactive feature revealing information on not only the worlds out there, but the stars they orbit as well.

By Darnell Clayton • 6:52 PM • Email Post • •


Friday, June 10, 2005

Blogger Delights

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Today's Blogger Delights features the itty bitty "rock in the ocean" habitat on water known as Christmas Island (also referred to as Kiritimati Island). Christmas Island is home to over one hundred lakes and many varieties of birds. Most of the island (about 65%) is designated as a National Park in order to preserve it's pristine rain forest. One would be surprised to find bloggers living there (as there are only four major towns on the island!).

But alas, blogger's do inhabit this paradise as Reinaldo gives the world an insight as to what is on his mind (although you may need to find a translator to understand what really is on his mind).

Ian on the other hand is blogging in English, and is quite a poet as his latest post Retrospection reveals. Hocking on the other hand doesn't seem to be much into writing as his blog (or could it be a her) reveals.

Jessica seems bored and ends up talking to herself about herself on her blog. Well, at least she likes Switchfoot although she may want to check out Audio Blogger and speak her mind instead of typing it out. The same probably goes for Rachael as well. (note: You may need to use Skype in order to do this as Audio Blogger is free).

Seien gives an update on blogger but claims he/she worries too much. Don't worry too much Seien, the streets are less erie if you carry a big stick with you as you walk home. (this blogger knows from experience). Now onto some blogger birthdays!

Blogger Birthdays

Jessica turns 24 today and seems to be a little bit tired from staying up too late. Is it the parties? Either way, check out her photo blog (scroll down) as she uses Flickr to showcase what her life is all about.

Prodly turns 25 and it appears that Prodly is a Friend of Israel. Prodly gives his latest rant about the Israeli-Palestinian cease fire and seems a little "ticked off" about what the MSM (mainstream media) had to say.

Miramaze has turned another big one and apparently is in France as of the time of this posting (enjoy!). She also has a second blog and seems to enjoy wild cats. Well, at least pictures of wild cats.

Brenna turns 27 today and seems to have invented a new slang (it will never catch on). Moving on, Brenna gives her reviews of "Never Been Kissed," the movie and apparently is starting a novel. If Brenna's novel is pretty good she may want to enter it in the blog novel contest coming up this November. (note: you can check out last year's participants here).

Azraeel from Brazil turns 23 today and blogs at Lugar de Espaco (a team blog) and thanks to the Universal Translator Azraeel's latest post in English can be viewed over here (although it may not make grammatical sense).

Sheryl has turned a mysterious age today and seems to blog about whatever inspires her. Her latest post, or rather poem talks about losing it.

Matt from Canada has hidden his age, but blogs about abstinence in Africa and how the media gets it wrong again. He also has posted lyrics to a song by Walt Whitman entilted "Song of the Open Road" (must be Canadian).

Justin from the Philippines turns 16 today and like the other bloggers before him seems to be in the poetic mood as of late.

Pes from Italy turns 25 and has joined a team blog called Veta (or life) and thanks to the Universal Translator we now know that according to Pes, it is always Fiesta!

Blogger Delights brings highlights from various nations as well as celebrating birthdays throughout the blogosphere. If one is interested in visiting some of these blogs, simply click here.

By Darnell Clayton • 6:05 PM • Email Post • •


Chinese Spies In Australia

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(Earth Times) Two top-ranking Chinese officials have defected to Australia and are seeking political asylum in that country. Chen Yonglin, a first secretary in the Chinese consulate-general at Sydney and Hao Fengjin, an officer with China's internal security agency have also alleged that China has around 1,000 secret agents operating on Australian soil.

Although this may sound alarming, most nations have spy networks in virtually all of their friends back yards (if not their enemies as well). It would be in China's interest to find out what is going on with Australia, especially regarding the possession of Taiwan. Australia is one of China's larger trading partners (along with the U.S., Philippines and Japan) and if a war broke out in the Asian hemisphere, China would want to know whether or not Australia was willing to fight a war half way around the world.

Attorney-General Philip Ruddock more or less confirmed that the that Australian authorities are investigating allegations of a Chinese spy-ring operating in Australia, "The difficulty for me in relation to these matters is I can not talk about ongoing activities in which our security agencies are involved. It compromises them. Traditionally we do not speak about them. But it would be naive to believe that matters that are reported on are not matters that the organizations that work in this area would not be aware of and wouldn't act on," Mr. Ruddock said.

China of coarse is denying the legitimacy of these accusations (but would any nation acknowledge them?) although it seems Australia is remaining cautious. If China were infiltrating Australia, the Aussie's would probably have figured that out by now and this "public revelation" would be nothing more than confirmation of what they already know.

By Darnell Clayton • 3:17 AM • Email Post • •


Blog Spin

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Here are some blogs of note that caught this blogger's eye and are worth a reader's glance.

By Darnell Clayton • 2:57 AM • Email Post • •


Personality Determined By DNA?

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Researchers have traced social behavior traits, such as monogamy, to differences in the length of seemingly non-functional DNA, sometimes referred to as junk DNA. In the study, researchers at the Yerkes Primate Research Center and the Center for Behavioral Neuroscience examined whether the junk DNA associated with the vasopressin receptor gene affected social behavior in male prairie voles, a rodent species. Previous studies have shown the vasopressin receptor gene regulates social behaviors in many species.

This seems to be nothing more than a rehash of the nurture verses nature debate, although this study seems to have been conducted on a lower species and not human beings. Depending on which scientist a person references, either nature or nurture has dominance over the other, but it seems the only way to "test" this theory is by studying twins.

...many twin studies have made use of identical twins (who have the same genetic makeup) who were raised in differing environments in order to control for genetic effects: that is, any variation between twins is clearly attributable to the environment, allowing the researcher to quantify the effects of the environment by measuring variance of a trait between twins. Identical twins raised separately may have experienced quite different environments; yet many studies have often been found that they live similar lives, have similar personalities and similar levels of intelligence. On the other hand, even identical twins who are raised together often differ in significant ways.

This debate will probably never end although it would be fair to say that both nature (your genetics) and nurture (your environment) have shared influence upon the personality of an individual in equal portions. People's genes obviously affect their personality (sight, vision, pain tolerance) as well as their environment (whether in a thriving community or starving). Any claim that either of these "factors" is predominate over the other (i.e. nurture shapes you, not nature) will have to present some serious evidence in order to convince this blogger.

By Darnell Clayton • 2:40 AM • Email Post • •


European Scientists Find Aurora's on Mars

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Mars Express was flying 270 kilometers (168 miles) above the planet when SPICAM's field of view was positioned just above the limb, or edge, of the planet during the Aug. 11, 2004 orbit. SPICAM, a spectrograph, detected a 30-kilometer wide (19-mile wide) auroral emission, which comes mainly from excited carbon monoxide molecules, 140 kilometers (87 miles) above the planet.

Although this may not seem like a "huge event," discovering aurora's on the Martian planet is a big deal. This is because where aurora's are on a planet, so is the magnetic field which is helpful when one considers the dangers of ultraviolet radiation from the sun.

"Mars has no internally generated, planetary-scale magnetic field. It has what are called 'crustal magnetic anomalies' scattered around the Martian surface, remnants of what presumably was Mars' planetary-scale magnetic field that was active when the planet was younger. These crustal pieces are the leftovers of that earlier field." [University of Arizona scientist Bill Sandel, a co-investigator on SPICAM]

If these magnetic fields can be "mapped," then future colonists will not have to worry about building an artificial magnetic shield in order to not only survive on the surface of the planet, but grow crops and raise animals as well. Although the Martian planet is far from hospitable, being able to take ultraviolet radiation off the list will go a long way's towards colonizing the planet.

By Darnell Clayton • 2:16 AM • Email Post • •


In The News

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Here are some article's that this blogger noticed when surfing the net (actually subscribing to it via Feed Reader).

By Darnell Clayton • 1:58 AM • Email Post • •


Microsoft Improves Internet Explorer

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Microsoft has finally made tabs available for Internet Explorer 6 through its MSN toolbar. The long-awaited browsing feature will simplify the experience of browsing the Web via Internet Explorer. In fact, tab browsing has already proved popular in IE competitors such as Opera, Safari and Firefox, which introduced the feature long ago.

The upgrade will allow users to open multiple web pages within a single window. Each page will be selectable by a small tab at the top of the window, making switching between web pages easier.

It seems that Microsoft is up to it's old tricks of imitation instead of innovation, something Google, Yahoo and even AOL are known for throughout the internet world. Although launching this feature will help bring back IE's popularity as a browser (although having about 90% market share would be considered popular), it will be the security issues along with blocking those annoying pop ups (note: subscription required, use Bug Me Not) that will push it over the edge and into favor with web surfers everywhere.

Bowing to popular demand, Microsoft has also created a corporate version of the toolbar. The business version will cater to large-scale IT environments, enable administrators to deploy the toolbar across multiple machines at one time, connect to an intranet or internal drive, add in different sorts of file sorting or searching, and hide or turn off MSN services to keep employees away from potential distractions.

Although these new features will probably not completely solidify the market for Microsoft, they will however make internet explorer the "talk of the town" around blogs and media, as one can see here. The tool bar can be downloaded at MSN Tool Bar website, and although it looks like a copy cat of Firefox, it may yet prove itself to be more useful than it's "Netscape friend." Only time will tell.

By Darnell Clayton • 1:35 AM • Email Post • •


India Drops U.N. Seat Bid

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UNITED NATIONS: Brazil, Germany, India and Japan dropped their demand that new permanent members in an expanded UN Security Council be given veto power.

The so-called Group of Four has been campaigning vigorously to become members of the UN’s most powerful body, but were forced to back down in the face of opposition from a number of countries, including some of the current permanent members who have veto power.

This comes as a surprise as India was probably the only nation that held "the right" of claiming permanent status. Brazil, although a heavy weight on Google's Orkut, is not a global player in the world economy and had little to offer as why it deserved permanent status. Germany is not needed because Europe is already represented through France and Britain, while Japan's addition would have created unnecessary hostilities between it and China.

Like China, India's population is approximately one billion, and having it represented along side the United States, China, etc. on the permanent council would give the U.N. a "new face" not to mention broader appeal amongst third world nations. It seems though that India (along with Germany, Brazil and Japan) are holding out their demands in order to make way for other possible avenues of reform.
Opponents of the Group of Four under the umbrella Uniting for Consensus _ also favour expanding the council from 15 to 25 members, but oppose creating any new permanent members. They want 20 non-permanent members to face periodic election by the General Assembly, which they argue is more transparent and democratic.

Although this is a good idea, one way for the United Nations to become truely democratic is to not only expand the number of seats in the security council but eliminate the permanent membership of "the five." Although such measures would create resistance amongst those in power (as all those in power resist losing it) such procedure would truely reflect the will and intent of the United Nations.

But before any reforms can be made, changing the make up of the council must be proven to be better than the current status, otherwise altering the security council could prove to be fatal.

By Darnell Clayton • 1:06 AM • Email Post • •


Using Moth's To Destroy Cocaine Plants

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BOGOTA,Colombia--The plan envisions breeding thousands of beige-colored Eloria Noyesi moths in laboratories, packing them into boxes and releasing them into steamy coca-growing regions of Colombia, the world's main supplier of the drug. The moths, about twice the size of a fly, are native only to the Andean region of South America.

Colombian Environment Minister Sandra Suarez told The Associated Press that the government considers the proposal an "interesting alternative" to existing eradication methods.

Although this plan would probably wipe out the drug industry "as we know it," the moths would probably threaten other species of native to the Columbia region, setting off an ecological disaster. Bringing in foreign moths may prove to be disastrous as bamboo and fire ants are awful reminders why importing different organism's is not always wise or effective (not to mention economical).

In 2000, the Colombian government rejected a proposal by the United States to introduce a fungus called Fusarium oxysporum to coca plants as a means of eradication. Colombia said it was concerned about possible mutations and adverse affects on people and the environment in the delicate Amazon basin, where most of Colombia's coca is grown.

Currently pesticides (probably not helpful either) are the major deterrent against the coco plants. What the government should consider is having American scientists develop a virus/fungus that only attacks the cocaine plants (and their roots) but will not pose any danger towards the rest of the environment (probably feasible with today's technology). Although stopping the spread of Cocaine is a high priority, mankind shouldn't risk his habitat to eradicate a few weeds.

By Darnell Clayton • 12:39 AM • Email Post • •


Thursday, June 09, 2005

Blogger Delights

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After battling to keep "DSL alive" this blogger is back into the blogosphere (note: why is it that complex problems have simple solutions?).

Today's Blogger Delights features the nation of Rwanda which after many years of war, strife and genocide seems to have returned back to the "swing of things" (although caution is still advised when traveling there). Rwanda is home to many friendly gorilla's as well as a diverse population of birds and trees as a traveler will see if they visit the Nyungwe Rain Forest.

It seems that Lisa has stopped blogging a while ago, but one can see pictures from a "burial site" (from the genocide) as well as some more beautiful aspects from the country side.

Joao seems to apart of the largest team blog that this blogger has ever seen and they even have a very interesting picture which looks like a cross between a hand and some pig feet.

Marv has just started blogging this year but seems a little shy so encouragement is needed here (note: Marv, check out Blog Skins and spice up your site a little). Unfortunately there does not seem to be many active Rwandian bloggers out there, but if one is interested in hunting for them they can be found here.

Blogger Birthdays

Geoffrey turns 40 today and seems to enjoy the word "Shazam" for some strange reason. Geoffrey is a family minister (they exist?) and misses preaching to the masses. (note: he should probably join Blogs 4 God then)

Samael has just turned 25 today and enjoy's playing the guitar. He also seems intent on grown out his finger nails (which might hinder him playing) something not recommended for upcoming artists (if you play guitar that is). He sports a very nice website that is worth a peak at and has somehow incorporated his blog into it (how did he do that?).

Censored has turned "another big one" today and gives the blogosphere an update about a comedian she saw while pilot taping (check her blog for details) in New York.

Stig from Norway turns 25 today and unfortunately the Universal Translator doesn't carry Norwegian (the back up failed as well) so nothing more of him will be mentioned although his hair cut looks "nice."

Blogger Delights brings highlights from various nations as well as celebrating birthdays throughout the blogosphere. If one is interested in visiting some of these blogs, simply click here.

By Darnell Clayton • 2:55 PM • Email Post • •


Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Iranian Blogger Facing Death

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(Cross Posted on Blogger News)

He’s already been sentenced to two years in prison by a Tehran revolutionary court for "insulting the Supreme Guide" and on June 22 is to be tried for "insulting the prophets," which carries the death penalty...

Apparently another Iranian blogger is facing not only imprisonment, but also death due to theocratic laws that were allegedly broken by Mojtaba Saminejad. Reporters without Borders is encouraging all bloggers to spread awareness about Mojtaba as an international outcry could help spare his life.

"All blogosphere messages of solidarity are welcome," the organisation said. "We know that these message reach the prisoners and help put pressure on the Iranian authorities, especially in the run-up to the presidential election. It is vital for people to talk about Mojtaba."

Mojtaba has already been sentenced to two years imprisonment and is awaiting a court case against him later on this month. Friends and sympathizers of Mojtaba have launched a blog site in support of his release (english version can be seen over here) and the Committee to Protect Bloggers has sponsored an online petition in support of Mojtaba's freedom.

By Darnell Clayton • 9:19 PM • Email Post • •


Blog Spin

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Here are some blogs of note that caught this blogger's eye and are worth a reader's glance.

By Darnell Clayton • 8:24 PM • Email Post • •


Can NASA Afford To Save Hubble?

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(Cross Posted on Blogger News)

When the U.S. space agency reorganized its mission enterprises last year, it combined all of its astronomy programs into a single program dubbed the Universe. Today, the Universe has more than a dozen space astronomy missions on orbit and at least that many in development.

Between paying for the space shuttle program and funding new forward-looking space exploration projects like the Crew Exploration Vehicle, NASA's budget for the Universe is not getting any bigger. In fact, NASA's 2006 budget calls for spending slightly less on the Universe than in 2005, even as the Universe is seeing significant cost growth on some of its highest priority projects.

Although Hubble has brought about many beautiful pictures throughout it's tenure, rescuing this telescope at the risk of other programs seems illogical at best. Although Hubble is one of the very popular programs that NASA is known for, it's presence threatens to funnel funds away from other projects like the Space Interferometry Mission (SIM) which is responsible for finding new extrasolar planets (a higher priority for mankind than simply "gazing at the stars").

Simply scrapping Hubble would provide funds for not only SIM, but also other "minor" projects such as Kepler as well (not to mention helping fund the James Webb Space Telescope).
And with NASA leaning toward sending a space shuttle crew to repair and upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope, the space agency's strapped Universe budget is going to have to bear at least part of the cost of the estimated $750 million undertaking.

It seems that Hubble is probably going to receive "first rights" as far as financing goes, leaving the other programs functioning but crippled. Although NASA is partially at fault for the budgeting shortage (due to the Columbia tragedy) but they should not be sacrificing essential programs that are needed for the exploration and colonization of our solar system.

Earth has plenty of telescopes on it's surface, and it may be better to contract a company to build, launch and set a satellite telescope into space instead of preserving a "dying machine" that is long past its warranty. Hubble has contributed a lot towards astronomy in the past, but it should not simply continue in order for mankind to sacrifice the future of space exploration.

By Darnell Clayton • 7:43 PM • Email Post • •


In The News

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Here are some articles of notice that this blog journalist has come across via Google News or one of the news services subscribed via Feed Reader.

By Darnell Clayton • 7:19 PM • Email Post • •


Two Stars About To Merge

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(Cross Posted on Blogger News)

(Space.com) MINNEAPOLIS, MN – Two dense stars whipping around each other at breakneck speed may be the strongest known source of Einstein's space-trembling gravity waves...

The implied separation is just 50,000 miles – a mere one-fifth the distance between the Earth and the Moon, making this the closest stellar pair ever observed. The tangled duo should be booming out gravity waves – undulations in the fabric of space and time predicted by Einstein's theory of general relativity.

These stars apparently are only white dwarfs which allows them to orbit so closely. These white dwarfs have about half of the mass of our Sun, and appear to be like dancers with one "smiling X-rays towards it's partner" while the other star simply reflects "that smile."

Questions remain as to what mechanism is causing the observed X-rays to go on and off. One possibility is that a hot X-ray spot on one of the dwarfs comes in and out of our view as the dwarfs rotate around each other.

Evidence for this hypothesis comes from the fact that the pair blinks in visible light as well. The timing of the visible flashes are opposite that of the X-ray flashes: just as the X-rays turn on/off, the visible turns off/on.

The stars are expected to merge in the next half million to a million years. If one is interested in seeing what this merger of stars might look like, they can simply click here for a preview.

By Darnell Clayton • 6:53 PM • Email Post • •


China Ordering Bloggers To Register

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Commercial publishers and advertisers can face fines of up to 1 million yuan ($120,000) for failing to register, according to documents posted on the Web site of the Ministry of Information Industry...

"The Internet has profited many people but it also has brought many problems, such as sex, violence and feudal superstitions and other harmful information that has seriously poisoned people's spirits," the MII Web site said in explaining the rules, which were quietly introduced in March.

Ironic that a regime that controls nearly 100% of the media seeks "big brother" status amongst what is published in the blogosphere as well? China currently has almost 90 million internet users (second only to the United States) of which many would be unable to even publish a blog site if it were not for such tools like Hello (for Blogger) and other software applications. The fact that China is seeking "moral grounds" to implement control (although human rights abuses are not exactly moral) is probably an indicator that it seeks to crack down on dissenters before the 2008 Olympics begin.

"Those who continue to publish under their real names on sites hosted in China will either have to avoid political subjects or just relay the Communist Party's propaganda," the rights group said. "This decision will enable those in power to control online news and information much more effectively."

It appears that China is also requiring those who desire to use internet cafe's to register under their own name using ID cards which will make it easier for the government to track what their citizens are reading online. In a land of a billion people, freedom is being outlawed, and only the outlaws will be free. Sad.

By Darnell Clayton • 6:29 PM • Email Post • •


A New Way To Work At The Office?

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(Cross Posted on Blogger News)

(Red Nova) ROCHESTER, Minn. -- Sitting at their desks is about the last thing workers would do in Dr. James Levine's office of the future. Instead of being sedentary in front of their computers, they'd stand. But instead of standing still, they'd walk on a treadmill. And instead of meeting around a conference table, they'd talk business while walking laps on a track...

"I hate going to the gym, which may be partly why I'm so interested in this," [Levine] said, keeping up a 1 mph pace on his treadmill while checking e-mail and fielding questions from a reporter.

This seems to be an ingenious idea, although it probably will not work if one is winded by walking half a mile. According to the reporter, by Levine "walking while he works" he burns up to 100 calories an hour (or 1000 a day if in a 10 hour shift). They are able to do all of this for half the price of setting up an office cubicle (a corporate domain many employee's loathe).

"It's great fun and it creates a whole positivity," he said during an interview while touring the walking track. "Partly because it's so new, but partly because it's nice to be moving."

The makeover was relatively cheap. Levine says the 10 workstations cost about $1,000 each - about half the cost of a cubicle - and remodeling the space cost about $5.50 per square foot.

Although peer pressure is required to move the "lazies" to start burning off their "extra fuel storage units," the principle behind this idea is encourage people to stay physically fit which overall will mean healthier lives. Although not every industry can afford to implement something like this (i.e., McDonald's, Banks, etc.) many corporations that use cubicles as "offices" may find this as a practical way of not only keeping people awake but also working harder as they are less likely to fidget and become distracted .

By Darnell Clayton • 6:12 PM • Email Post • •


Blogging Light

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Due to a storm, blogging will be light as DSL was knocked out (experiencing the pain of dial up). Will focus on other "daily activities" until connection is restored. :(

Update: DSL is back up! The world is fast again!

Oh yeah...45 kbps and counting. Double :( Make that double :)

By Darnell Clayton • 10:23 AM • Email Post • •


Saturday, June 04, 2005

Saudi's Outraged About Women Drivers

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(Hat Tip: Dhimmi Watch, Cross Posted on Blogger News)

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia - He just wanted his colleagues in the government's legislative arm to discuss the possibility of conducting a study into the feasibility of reversing the ban on women drivers, the only prohibition of its kind in the world.

But Consultative Council member Mohammad al-Zulfa's proposal has unleashed a storm in this conservative country where the subject of women drivers remains taboo.

Unfortunately it seems that al-Zulfa enraged the Saudi "religious right" and received many cell phone rings from citizens accusing him of encouraging the mixing of the sexes as well as women discarding their dark veils. While many are calling on Allah to "freeze his blood" via text messages, in the chat rooms people are claiming that Zulfa is "driven by carnal instincts with 454 horsepower."

Despite the Koran never mentioning "women drivers" (probably because they never had cars back then) they are forbidden to drive any vehicle regardless of the circumstance and must usually depend upon a male relative to take them anywhere in the country.
Conservatives, who believe women should be shielded from strange men, say driving will allow a woman to leave home whenever she pleases and go wherever she wishes. Some say it will present her with opportunities to violate Islamic law, such as exposing her eyes while driving or interacting with strange men, like police officers or mechanics.

"Driving by women leads to evil," Munir al-Shahrani wrote in a letter to the editor of the Al-Watan daily. "Can you imagine what it will be like if her car broke down? She would have to seek help from men."

Because of this factor many women have to depend upon "hired help" in order to get around sometimes.
The driving prohibition has forced families to hire live-in drivers, who, strangely, are allowed to be alone with women. Al-Zulfa said clerics have deemed this a lesser evil than driving.

Although Zulfa attached some restrictions with this new proposal (having only women over 35 or 40 drive) many women took his suggestion with much delight. Some women though lashed out against him for attempting to be a "reformer" by representing them (something they saw as evil). In either case this could be the beginning step of woman'ssuffragee in Saudi Arabia, but that may all depend upon whether or not democracy takes root in this region.

By Darnell Clayton • 3:15 AM • Email Post • •


Blog Spin

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The views and skews of blogs from around the world wide web (and beyond). Here is a snippet of what some bloggers have on display on their sites.

In The Spotlight: Google Blog
Using the Site Search feature, you can narrow searches to a specific website [admissions site:www.mit.edu]. But what many people don't know is you can also use Site Search to narrow searches to a top level domain, which I found handy during tax season: [1099 site:gov].

Other Blogs of note:

By Darnell Clayton • 2:52 AM • Email Post • •


Denmark May Reject EU Constitution

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(EU Observer) According to a fresh opinion poll from Greens Analyseinstitut, published in Danish business daily Børsen on Friday (3 June), 39.5 per cent of Danes would reject the Constitution...

Only one in three Danes (30.8 per cent) would now approve the Constitution, while 29.7 per cent were undecided.

Although both France and the Netherlands have soundly rejected the E.U. Constitution (with the former citing Anglo-Saxon fears and the latter nationalsovereigntyy) the Danes are still in favor of holding a referendum on the issue, despite the fact that previous rejections have killed the document altogether. Approximately two thirds of Danes (or 65.3%) desire to add their opinion about the document as well, regardless of it's current vitality or lack thereof.

But even if Denmark gives it's approval of the measure, Norway could potentially put "another nail in the coffin" against the E.U. Constitution.
According to a new opinion poll conducted on behalf of Norway's largest newspaper Verdens Gang, one third (35.5 per cent) of Norwegians are in favour of joining the EU, while 44.9 per cent said they were opposed to the idea of membership.

With two nations already rejecting the document "as is," another nation voting against it may discourage other countries from voting in a referendum, as nations like Britain have not looked favorably upon the document. As the constitution continues to disintegrate in the political realm, Europe's leaders will need to pause and reflect on how to satisfy all of Europe's needs before making another attempt to unify again.

By Darnell Clayton • 2:25 AM • Email Post • •


South Korea Expels Journalist

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(Hat Tip: North Korea Zone, Cross posted on Blogger News)

Dr. Norbert Vollertsen, the man who told the world about the horrors inside North Korea, reports that he has been expelled from South Korea. Vollertsen, who admits allowing his South Korean visa to expire, had been in South Korea on a series of tourist visas...Vollertsen reports that South Korean officials have told him that he would not be granted further tourist visas because of his political activities.

It seems that South Korea is quickly becoming more hostile towards journalists who disagree with their "Sun-shine approach" as this is not the first time South Korea has displayed hostility towards reporters (whether foreign or domestic). Dr. Vollertsen fears of being expelled from South Korea seemed to have materialized as he has dedicated his life towards helping out the North Korean people by bringing international awareness towards their suffering.

"I realised there are two different worlds in North Korea," he told the programme. "One is for the elite - who enjoy a fashionable lifestyle, casinos, nightclubs, nice hotels."

"The other is for ordinary people in the countryside. They are starving. And I saw the conditions in the hospitals. There is no medicine, no food, no heating system, no running water, no soap, no blankets, nothing."

After witnessing the true realities of "the hermit kingdom," Dr. Vollertsen decided to keep a collection of evidence of what was really going on throughout North Korea and handed that to a U.S. Congressman. For that he was expelled from the country.

Vollertsen later on roamed the internet cafe's and tea rooms of South Korea, doing what he could to "shed light" on the situation developing in the north. He was even beaten by South Korea Officers as he was attempting to release balloons carrying small transistor radios across the border.

Although Vollertsen can no longer reside in South Korea, he will still continue what he is doing except he will be operating from Japan instead of the Korean peninsula. Vollertsen has contributed much towards the awareness of what is happening inside of North Korea, and has given a voice to the thousands who are suffering underneath a brutal dictatorship.

By Darnell Clayton • 1:41 AM • Email Post • •


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