Hidden Nook

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

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Pakistan Establishing Ties With Israel

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(Posted on Blogger News)

(Adkronos International) Pakistani president Gen. Pervez Musharraf will next month become the first Muslim leader to address the American Jewish Congress (AJC) - an event which is apparently part of a process to bring his country closer to Israel.

News of Musharraf's scheduled speech on 17 September at the AJC's New York headquarters first broke when a Washington-based web journal, the South Asia Tribune cited a AJC internal memo. The document mentioned a visit by an AJC delegation this May during which Musharraf was invited to make the speech.

Although Pakistan officially does not recognize Israel's existence, (as it views them as an illegal occupier of Palestine) they have been meeting in unofficially in secret. Pakistan and Israel have been meeting in an attempt to promote trade between the two nations, as well as encourage strategic alliances between them, as both are the only nuclear powers in the region and could cause serious damage if a war ever broke out in the area.

Saudi Arabia, one of Israel's harshest international critics, has been kept informed of these contacts and has given its tacit approval, [a senior Pakistani government official, speaking on condition of anonymity] said.

One of the first objectives of the Islamabad-Tel Aviv talks is to drop Pakistan's ban on its citizens travelling to Israel. Once that is achieved, both countries will seek to establish diplomatic missions. But strong opposition in Pakistani towards Israel, especially among hardline Muslim leaders, Musharraf will have to tread carefully, the official told AKI.

Although Musharraf is walking a dangerous path, he is very courageous and should be commended for treading down a road deemed by many to be unpopular. Musharraf is considering breaking the ice with Israel by visiting Jerusalem, although he will probably visit the Dome of the Rock in order to pacify criticism back home. A Pakistani-Israeli alliance could go a long way in the region, and may help confront the Iranian threat that Europe is unable to control.

By Darnell Clayton • 11:04 PM • Email Post • •


State Taxes On Internet Sales?

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(Hat Tip: World Mag Blog)

(Yahoo News) Going online to buy the latest bestseller or those photos from summer vacation may be tax free for most people today, but it won't last forever. Come this fall, 13 states will start encouraging — though not demanding — that online businesses collect sales taxes just as Main Street stores are required to do, and more states are considering joining the effort.

Right now, buyers are expected to pay sales taxes on Internet purchases themselves directly to the state when they pay their income taxes. But it's not widely enforced, and states say it costs them upwards of $15 billion a year in lost revenues, collectively.

Editor's Note: Although taxes is something that every God fearing citizens (as well as the non-believing) should pay, this author finds it ridiculous to pay a sales tax for products purchased over an international community. The question of who would pay tax to whom would arise, especially if a person was for an example, a citizen of California buying merchandise from Texas while in Nebraska.

A 1992 U.S. Supreme Court ruling forbids states from forcing a business to collect their sales taxes unless the company has a physical presence in the affected state. The court noted the dizzying array of tax jurisdictions and widely varying definitions of taxable goods, such as fast food versus groceries.

Editor's Note: The Supreme Court seems to have spared yet another tax upon the backs of American citizens, something we should all be grateful for as that means more change in our pockets. It is the opinion of this blogger that the government taxes individuals beyond what is reasonable, and although we are required by federal and spiritual law to pay one's taxes, it isn't fun giving half of one's income to the IRS.

By Darnell Clayton • 10:43 PM • Email Post • •


Google Ads In Print?

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(Hat Tip: Junto Boyz, Posted on Blogger News)

(C|Net News) Google is expanding its lucrative Internet advertising network into the print world in a bold attempt to capture traditional ad dollars...

Google recently began buying ad pages in technology magazines, including PC Magazine and Maximum PC, and reselling those pages--cut into quarters or fifths--to small advertisers that already belong to its online ad network, dubbed AdWords.

This may be the first time that Google is venturing into the "real world" of advertising but this could also be a means of Google diversifying it's profit share as 99% of it is generated from it's Ad Words (or is it Ad Sense?) program. Although this new move has some industry watchers puzzled (with many regarding this as simply an "experiment") Google may be trying to establish itself as the middle man for advertisements, something that will definitely distinguish Google from it's competitors.

AHS Systems, a maker of Web-based content management software, paid $4,000 to $5,000 for its ad to appear in PC Magazine for two months, compared with the $3,000 that a typical ad that size would likely cost in the magazine for one month, said AHS Systems President Jeff Witkowski.

"It's a lot of exposure for cheap," he said, adding that Google is "doing a ton of tracking on this. They're using their own 1-800 numbers on this, and it forwards to our line." The Internet addresses of the online versions of the ads also redirect traffic through Google servers.

Another bonus is that Google is charging only a $1000 for ad placements, which will not only reduce expenses for larger corporations but allow smaller businesses to compete in the market by getting "the word out," informing customers about their product or service. Maximum PC's October 5th edition contains a full page of Google Ads (which can be seen here) that ironically do not display Google's famous icon.

It probably won't be long before competitors copy Google's method, as the search giant has once again demonstrated it's innovation beyond the web (i.e. Google Print).

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


Microsoft Adding VoIP To IM

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(Posted on Blogger News)

(Pocket Lint) Microsoft has bought VoIP specialist Teleo for an undisclosed sum today as it steps into the internet telecommunications world.

The move which will mean it keeps apace with companies such as Google and Skype means that we can expect greater intergration of VoIP services within Microsoft products like Outlook and MSN messenger in the coming months.

Watch out Google! It seems like your desire to please the masses has aroused the sleeping giant of the tech world, enraging Microsoft and forcing them to develop quality products that should have been released in the first place! Microsoft is no doubt trying to make up for lost ground as their rival Google seems to be conquering internet territory where ever they roam. It will be interesting to see this develop, although one wonders if such a feature will be as good as Skype.

A statement on the Teleo site even goes as far as saying: "Microsoft plans to incorporate and expand upon Teleo’s technologies, integrating them into the MSN services infrastructure, with plans to ultimately deliver new VoIP consumer applications in future releases of MSN services, such as MSN Messenger."

Although it is sad that Google didn't explore this opportunity first, this could be a turning point for a company long associated for being "evil." Microsoft has launched several other products, but few of them have excelled beyond anything that Google has released. Microsoft may have discovered the hard way that quality products pay over time, and hopefully they will integrate this philosophy within their corporate environment, and thus "become good."

By Darnell Clayton • 9:42 PM • Email Post • •


Robotic Space Penguins?

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(New Scientist Space) The first lunar colonists may not be a humans but compact robots capable of jumping more than a kilometre in a single bound.

Engineers at US defence contractor Raytheon, in Massachusetts, have developed a robot, dubbed the Lunar Penguin, that could one day bounce across perilous craters and imposing mountains on the Moon's craggy surface using a set of compact rocket boosters.

Despite the name the robots bear little resemblance to the shape of a penguin, as they are a simple four legged lunar machine that's under one meter tall. The bot would aid astronauts as they would scout out useful landing sites, locate mineral resources and detect dangerous locations without exposing astronauts to the extra radiation from the sun.

But [Max] Meerman [a researcher at UK space company Surrey Satellites,] adds that leaping such distances across the surface of the Moon could subject any instruments aboard the robot to severe stress. "Landing on the Moon is notoriously difficult," he says. "Much more so than on Mars, so doing it multiple times will be a big engineering challenge."

Although this gizmo has more bugs to work out (such as configuring the GPS for the moon's surface instead of Earth's) this robot may prove to be quite useful on the moons surface and potentially on other worlds as well. This bot could also serve as a stress reliever for overworked astronauts. After all, who wouldn't want to play leap frog on the lunar surface?

By Darnell Clayton • 9:25 PM • Email Post • •


Poll States UK Citizens Support Euthanasia

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(Posted on Blogger News)

(Angus Reid Global Scan) Many adults in Britain believe certain persons should have the right to decide when they want to die, according to a poll by YouGov published in the Daily Telegraph. 87 per cent of respondents believe people who are terminally ill should be allowed to ask for medical assistance to help them die if they are unable to end their lives.

This follows a bill last year in England (called the Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill bill) which proposes nine "safe guards" which includes a 14-day waiting period after the request as well as a second opinion from another doctor. Although this sounds great in theory, there are many cases where patients rights were often abused despite the "safety" measures that were put in place.

On Jun. 30, the members of the British Medical Association decided to withdraw their opposition to euthanasia and assisted suicide at the end of their annual representative meeting. 67 per cent of respondents believe people should be allowed, without fear of prosecution, to assist the suicides of close relatives who are terminally ill.

Apparently UK doctors are forgetting their primary role in society is to save life not end it. England's shift in this direction is a clear indication that they are probably losing their moral clarity, a scary thought to fathom as they are one of the few nations that is considered a political/military power in the world. If this law is allowed to pass within the parliament, England will travel a long, hard road where citizens are only valued by how they contribute towards the state. After all, if a society doesn't regard it's weakest members, how can it regard itself as civil?

By Darnell Clayton • 9:03 PM • Email Post • •


EU To Disallow UK From Expelling Jihadists

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

(Telegraph Expat) Britain is facing a clash with Brussels over EU plans to grant sweeping rights to foreigners ordered to leave - whether failed asylum seekers or Islamic extremists facing deportation.

The Home Office is expected this week to begin proceedings aimed at removing foreign nationals who fall foul of a new list of "unacceptable behaviours" that give backing to terrorists.

Depending upon one's point of view this is either seen as a potential victory or an unnecessary set back. Although expelling Jihadists to other nations is well within England's right (even if such actions show a hint of being "big brotherish"), the European Union really has no authority to dictate how a nation runs it's own security.

England is a sovereign nation and should be treated as such. Britain's government's first responsibility is to ensure the safety of it's citizens and that responsibility trumps international agreements, economical treaties and any global agreements established by the UK. Apparently the EU thinks it can dictate what measures the UK can take to protect it's citizens, as they seem to be rushing to establish a law that will prevent England from carrying out it's national duties.
(Telegraph Expat) At the same time, however, the European Commission is preparing to publish a new directive that will effectively bar EU states from sending people back to countries where they could face persecution or torture.

It will also limit the length of time people can be detained pending their deportation.

Tony Blair seems intent upon defeating this measure, as he is determined to remove all stumbling blocks (including "human rights" issues) that may get in the way while removing these Jihadists. Although it is doubtful that the EU can force policy upon the UK, if "push comes to shove" England should threaten to leave the EU, as that would be a more attractive measure than allowing international agencies to govern it's streets.

By Darnell Clayton • 8:45 PM • Email Post • •


Tuesday, August 30, 2005

South Korea Helping Out Iraq

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(Hat Tip: One Free Korea)

(Al Mendhar) The Korean government has expressed its readiness to supply Iraq with an internet system, of a capacity of 10000 subscribers as a test system, in the field of the mutual cooperation between the two countries.

Although this may seem like a minor incident politically, for Iraqi citizens (especially Iraqi bloggers), many who have been denied the right to express themselves to the world due to the "benevolent rule" of Saddam Hussein. South Korea's involvement beyond simple military assistance goes to show that the Coalition forces have a greater interest in Iraq beyond it's oil supplies.

(Al Mendhar) The ambassador expressed his hope for establishing a group of projects relating to the field of telecommunications, including the development of an ADSL system, in specific. He promised to provide Iraq with an internet system, in addition to training 10 technicians in this field in Korea. The ambassador has promised to bear the responsibility of erecting and operating the Korean exchanges (Samsung brand), which Iraq has been provided with earlier.

Despite all of the negative press that Iraq often receives, projects like these will hopefully enable Iraqi's to explore the world beyond what they receive on television as well as encourage them to give their own reports as to what is really happening in a nation that is largely known for "importing" terrorism from abroad. South Korea's generosity may be ignored and forgotten by the mainstream media but their charity will probably be remembered by Iraqi internet junkies, wherever they surf online.

By Darnell Clayton • 10:54 PM • Email Post • •


New Rocket Designs For NASA

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(Space.com) U.S. astronauts will launch to the moon on sleek, single, shuttle booster rockets and the first new upper-stage rocket this country has developed in more than a decade, NASA and the Pentagon have told the White House.

Lunar landers and other gear needed for extended visits to the moon will be lofted by gargantuan launchers as big as the
Apollo-era Saturn 5, the most powerful rockets ever flown.

It looks as if NASA is transitioning away from the shuttle model, as in the past they have proven to be quite dangerous as Columbia has recently proved. Although these new rockets are probably more expensive, they will be able to go at a much greater range than it's shuttle cousins, as they can not only break free from the atmosphere but reach the moon as well.

"NASA will initiate development of a Crew Launch Vehicle derived from space shuttle solid rocket boosters with a new upper stage for human spaceflight," said the letter, signed by NASA Administrator Mike Griffin and the Pentagon's top space official, ex-astronaut Ron Sega...

"NASA then plans to develop a new 100-metric-ton-class launch vehicle derived from existing capabilities with the space shuttle external tanks and solid rocket boosters for future missions to the moon," the letter said.

NASA is planning on using these new shuttles to replace the current models, with industry forecasters predicting a launch as early as 2014. The new rocket design will differ slightly from it's predecessors, in the fact that the crew and cargo would launch separately from two different rockets each and join up in space later on. Launching this way will hopefully avoid future disasters, giving more support towards NASA revisiting the stars.

By Darnell Clayton • 9:36 PM • Email Post • •


Emergency Blog Alert: Abdolahi Freed

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Brought to you by The Committee To Protect Bloggers

(Committee To Protect Bloggers) We're delighted to announce that Mohamad Reza Nasab Abdolahi has been released from Iranian prison.

According to Reporters Without Borders, "Abdolahi, who was arrested on 23 February 2005 and sentenced to six months in prison and fined a million rials (about 85 euros), was released on 27 August. His arrest was reportedly linked to his occasional contributions to foreign radio stations. He was also apparently facing charges in a separate case involving morals – a charge frequently levelled against political dissidents in Iran."

Although this is great news to hear, Abdolahi still faces additional charges which are probably being issued against this blogger in order to "keep him quiet." Another blogger, Mojtaba Lofti, was also released, although a couple other bloggers are still in prison or awaiting trial.

Mojtaba Saminejad is the last remaining blogger being held in an Iranian prison. He was sentenced to two years in February. Omid Sheikhan is facing a trial on similar "morals" charges in October.

This Emergency Blog Alert is being broadcasted in an effort to raise awareness of bloggers suffering persecution worldwide because of their political views. If anyone is interested in helping out with these broadcasts, click here.

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


Saturn's Mini Moon Is Geologically Active

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(Posted on Blogger News)

(New Scientist Space) Scientists are shocked by this volcanic activity on what should be a small, quiet moon. "It is a stunning surprise," said Dennis Matson, from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, US. But researchers are beginning to develop theories about what is going on.

One of Saturn's minor moons, Enceladus is apparently very active underneath the surface as evidenced by the plume of ice dust hundreds of kilometers from the surface. What makes this world even more strange is the fact that this moon is only 155 miles wide, yet it is displaying itself to be more geologically active than Jupiter's Europa.

(New Scientist Space) But Cassini also detected dust and whole ice grains in the plume, implying that the material is squirted out of Enceladus with some force. That would need a lot of heat – far too much to come from the core.

Many theories have surfaced to the reason for the new phenomenon, ranging from radioactive material within the moon's core to gravitational pulls from Saturn. Either way, these theories do not satisfy why Enceladus is spewing dust and ice at such a violent height. We will probably never discover the real reasons why this minor moon is active until a landing on the surface (whether by machines or colonists) is attempted.

By Darnell Clayton • 8:59 PM • Email Post • •


Terra Forming Mars

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(Red Colony) If space exploration can be said to have a purpose beyond that of reconnaissance and understanding of the universe, it is expressed by many involved in the space business as space settlement: the founding of new branches of civilisation remote from the Earth (e.g. National Commission on Space, 1986)...

To achieve growth and permanency, space-based civilisations must harness local resources in autonomous and stable bioregenerative life-support systems, energised by the sun.

Terra Forming Mars will probably pose one of the most difficult challenges out of any of the potential colony sites within our solar system. Unlike the moon which is known to have some resources on it's surface, Mars has very little to offer to any future colony as the only useful resource discovered on the red planet has been water.

However, enclosed colonies on planetary surfaces are, in essence, little different from grounded spacecraft in that they must still resist, rather than incorporate, the surrounding environment. This strategy discounts the habitable potential of a planet such as Mars which, due to its gravity well, is inherently capable of hosting a global, uncontained, biosphere similar to that of the Earth (Fogg, 1993a, 1995a).

Although the potential of terra forming is obvious, it would probably take several centuries before a world like Mars would be suitable for life from Earth (using today's technology that is). Although Mars lacks many of the necessary resources that would make it attractive towards future colonies, it's closeness towards the asteroid belt would make it a valuable location as it would be easier to transport goods from Mars to the belt than Earth.

Making Mars habitable will definitely be a challenge, but it may be one worth undertaking. If humanity can terra form Mars then taking on more hostile environments (i.e. Titan) would become less difficult, thereby allowing mankind to finally leave his cradle behind.

By Darnell Clayton • 8:23 PM • Email Post • •


Monday, August 29, 2005

Sharon Giving Up More Settlements?

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(Reuters) Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said on Monday Israel would need to scrap further West Bank settlements under any final peace deal with Palestinians but would never cede its biggest enclaves in the occupied territory...

Sharon stressed any such decision would only be part of a permanent peace accord, a position that enables him to balance world demands for a viable Palestinian state against a domestic political need to boost his support in the rightist Likud Party.

Ariel Sharon appears to have started a dangerous precedent of "eminent domain" whereby the Israeli government is handing out territory towards an entity who not only seeks Israel's destruction but also indoctrinates their children within this culture of hate as well. This is very unusual as his autobiography generally displays Ariel Sharon as a cunning warrior who is one step ahead of the enemy rather than a politician influenced by world opinion.

(Reuters) Sharon did not say how many more settlements might be abandoned. Dov Weisglass, a senior aide to Sharon, has said Israel expected 180,000 of some 245,000 Jewish settlers could remain as part of a final peace deal, with U.S. approval...

But Sharon repeated in his remarks on Channel 10 television Israel would never give up West Bank settlement blocs where the majority of settlers live among 2.4 million Palestinians. "These settlements will remain in our hands and will be linked territorially to Israel. These blocs have first rate strategic importance for Israel," he said.

Whatever Sharon's plans may be, he is playing a very dangerous game within Israel's political system. Although very unpopular within his own party, Sharon's popularity amongst the general population is still amazingly strong, with even a challenge by Benjamin Netanyahu not enough to dethrone the Prime Minister.

Although Ariel Sharon's "Land for Terror," constitutes towards what appears to be national suicide, Sharon may have, by default secured the completion of the wall as many in Congress are nervous about taking any further actions against the Holy Land. Ariel Sharon's goal seems to be that of securing all of Israel, even if it means that a "few settlements" are dismantled along the way.

Whether this is a wise maneuver or not, only time will reveal, but if establishing a wall in their place brings an end to the terror, would not a few dismantled settlements be worth it?

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


North Korea Delays Nuke Talks

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(MSNBC) North Korea said Monday it would delay by two weeks its return to nuclear talks, blaming the decision on U.S. military exercises and Washington’s appointment of a special envoy on human rights.

If it were not already apparent to the world leaders holding these conferences, North Korea is not displaying much interest towards these talks and backs away from them whenever an excuse to do so becomes available. It is a mystery that these talks have lasted this long, as it should be clear to most observers that North Korea has no intention on disarming itself nuclear-wise and the United States has no interest in a nuclear Korea (along with Japan, Russia, South Korea and possibly China).

The ministry spokesman said while the countries in the talks--China, Japan, Russia, the United States and the two Koreas--had agreed not to make comments or take actions that would hinder resuming the talks when they went into recess, but the moves by Washington obliged it to act.

Why these talks continue on is anyone's guess, but perhaps the main reason is because it represents some form of progress in a region that has seen little since the Clinton days. The only way for change to come peacefully would be for a revolution from within dismantling the current power structure of Kim Jong-il. Since this is probably unlikely to happen within our generation, a war with North Korea, although distant, may be the only logical solution left to resolve a problem that has stayed on history's text books for too long.

By Darnell Clayton • 10:33 PM • Email Post • •


NASA's Birthday Treat

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(Editor's Note: Belated by 72 hours.)

(New Scientist Space) NASA is celebrating the Spitzer Space Telescope's second birthday with an image of a one-armed spiral galaxy glowing with the light of newborn stars.

Galaxy NGC 4725 lies about 41 million light years away in the constellation Coma Berenices. Unlike most spiral galaxies, it sports just a single arm that wraps around it in a flourish.

This galaxy, although small is breath-taking in the false color photo which highlights the dust clouds that permeate the edge of this galaxy. This photo is definitely better than Red Nova's or NASA's, although the latter is also a worthy view as well. Galaxy photo below.

NGC 4725 is peculiar for having just one spiral arm - most spiral galaxies, including the Milky Way, have two or more. In this false-colour image, red represents warm dust clouds illuminated by newborn stars, while blue indicates older, cooler stellar populations (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Kennicutt/SINGS)

Technorati Cosmos: Galaxy NGC 4725

By Darnell Clayton • 10:12 PM • Email Post • •


A Statement Of Scientific Purity?

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(Hat Tip: ID The Future)

(Des Moines Register) Who says Iowa isn't on the cutting edge? As a national controversy rages over what's science and what's religion, a prominent proponent of Intelligent Design on the Iowa State University faculty is bringing the issue to a boil there.

One-hundred-nineteen faculty members, worried that a public institution specializing in science and technology will allow what amounts to religious belief to be taught as science, have signed a statement rejecting any efforts "to represent Intelligent Design as a scientific endeavor." It will be delivered Friday to university administrators.

ISU has good reason to worry, as a faculty member from their own ranks, Guillermo Gonzalez, is aggressively pushing for Intelligent Design on campus as he is attempting to find a student to pursue ID as a field of study. Gonzalez is not only an astronomy Professor at ISU but also a national leader within the movement itself. What is perplexing is that while many evolutionists claim that ID is not based upon science (meanwhile declaring that theirs is) they refuse to debate the issue in scientific terms with "the opposition?" Why is that?

(The Arizona Republic) But scientific method begins with a theory, which may be supported by evidence, and other scientists can repeat the evidence. [Tom] Teepen [(referring back to an earlier article he posted)] does not explain how the theory of evolution can be sustained by being able to repeat the evidence.

In effect, both intelligent design and evolutionary theory are based on faith, but are not mutually exclusive. (Source*)

If evolution is based on concrete facts then where are those facts? One thing heard by IDists/creationists/deists from atheists is that evolution is based upon the principles of science and is therefore indisputable. Instead of hearing out what "the opposition" has to say, they merely put up walls silence, refusing even to engage in the debate. If evolutionists refuse to examine the counter arguments of those who believe in a "higher intelligence," then they may find themselves in for a rude awakening when the public's questions about evolution go unanswered.

If evolution holds the truth then they should easily decimate the "ID Club" as they only represent a good 68% of America. So why not engage in a debate? What are evolutionists afraid of?

By Darnell Clayton • 9:28 PM • Email Post • •


Sunday, August 28, 2005

Gmail Doubling Number Of Invites

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Editor's Note: Gmail, an email service by Google, seems to be hungry for more users as several of it's users (including this editor) have noticed a dramatic increase in the number of invitations (currently standing at 100) that a normal user can generally send out. Previously the invite number hovered around 50, a number that many Gmail users found hard to deplete (especially when the number of invites would replenish back to 50 the very next day).

One reason Google is comfortable in doubling the invite size may have something to do with the launch of it's IM client Google Talk, which has been praised by fans and scorned by rivals. Google is probably trying to overtake it's competitors within the chat arena, although in order to do so it needs to expand it's Gmail User base since it is intricately tied into Google Talk.

Although one wonders how Google can afford to house all those addresses (especially since the Gmail accounts continually increase their size daily) the answer may be more obvious than one realizes. Google's bread and butter, Ad Sense has generated billions of dollars for the company and one can only imagine that a sizable chunk of those billions is from Gmail alone.

By Darnell Clayton • 5:53 PM • Email Post • •


Saturday, August 27, 2005

North Korea World's Worst Persecutor

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(Hat Tip: Cao's Blog)

(World Net Daily) Communist North Korea is the world's worst persecutor of Christians, according to an annual ranking by the evangelical mission group Open Doors International...

North Korea, where "Christianity is observed as one of the greatest threats to the regime's power," topped the list for the third straight year.

North Korea seems to be doing an excellent job of demonstrating socialistic tolerance by exterminating all forms of religious expression. It is not too surprising to see Communism leading the way in regards to persecution although North Korea was quickly followed by Saudi Arabia in 2nd place, Vietnam in 3rd, Iran taking the 5th spot, with China and (surprisingly) Afghanistan taking 9th and 10th place respectively.

Open Doors USA President Carl Moeller said the regime, led by dictator Kim Jong Il, tends to arrest not only a suspected dissident but also three generations of his family to root out the "bad" influence.

Despite the persecution it appears that the North Korean Church is growing, although such information is hard to verify given the regimes totalitarian control over the political, economic and philosophical sectors in both the public and private arena's of it's citizen's lives.

Many Christians are already demanding action from President Bush who seems more focused on bringing a unified message towards North Korea via "table talks" (over it's nuclear program) than in addressing the humanitarian issues within the regime. Although a nuclear North Korea is definitely something of concern, her citizens treatment by their own government should take some sort of priority within the talks, even if that means addressing China's own record.

By Darnell Clayton • 12:20 AM • Email Post • •


When Galaxies Collide

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(Universe Today) In the constellation of Pisces, 100 million light-years from Earth, two galaxies are smashing together in a dramatic demonstration of our far future: when the Milky Way collides with the Andromeda Galaxy. This image of NGC 520 was taken with the Gemini North Telescope on the evening of July 13-14, 2005. It's possible to see dark dust lanes and a long trail of stars thrown out by the cosmic collision.

The image (seen below) reveals the future of two other well known galaxies--the Milkyway and it's larger neighbor Andromeda. Although the closest estimate is approximately five billion years before such a collision will occur, scientists are grateful to be able to "view from afar" an event such as this in their lifetime.

Prof. Robson [Director of the UK Astronomy Technology Centre] added, "Hints of new star formation taking place can be seen in the faint red glowing areas above and beneath the middle of the image. Perhaps even now the galaxies have totally combined to form a whole new galaxy with a brand new set of stars and associated planets - and maybe new life on one of those planets!"

Although we may never discover the latter part of Professor Robson's statement, one thing is certain though--the universe is a gorgeous frontier waiting to be explored.

(Editor's Note: NASA, hurry up!)

By Darnell Clayton • 12:05 AM • Email Post • •


Friday, August 26, 2005

Japan Testing Supersonic Airliner

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(New Scientists Space) Japan plans to test a supersonic aircraft prototype in the Australian desert as early as September.

During the test, located at the Woomera test range, the uncrewed aircraft will ride atop a solid-fuel booster rocket and will approach Mach 2 (twice the speed of sound), a spokesman for the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) told the Associated Press.

One of the aims of the Japanese is to shorten travel time between continents which would provide a real bonus for travelers as it would reduce the feeling of "jet lag" once in country. JAXA is planning on introducing these jets within the market as early as 2015 and if successfully launched will enable a flight from Tokyo to New York to transpire in six hours.

On 14 June 2005, Japan and France signed an agreement to develop jointly a new supersonic commercial jet. The three-year research plan includes developing lightweight composite materials.

On a side note the Japanese are not only interested in reducing the weight of this new airliner (not to mention wing drag) but also make this jet environmentally friendly as well. They plan on doing this by reducing the emissions from flights and reducing the noise pollution as these jets are known mostly for the noise they make.

Hopefully the Americans will come up with something similar because if they are unable to match their Asian/Euro competitors, then the airline industry may simply find itself out of business.

By Darnell Clayton • 11:40 PM • Email Post • •


Editor's Note: Go Daddy!

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Editor's Note: So after receiving several confusing emails about whether this author was a resident of Nauru, (mainly due to the subdomain from Free Domain.co.nr) it was high time to change this domain from hiddennook.co.nr to hiddennook.net in order to end all of the questioning.

Could this mean that this blogger is going pro? Possibly, although thus far this is only a forwarded domain which costs $9.20/year (via Go Daddy) but it may be a consideration as blogging has become something more than a "serious hobby" of this author's.

For now "keeping it simple" will be letting Blogger run all of the hosting features, at least for the next couple of months. Until then I'll be picking up blogging tips from Pro Blogger and will probably launch as soon as time allows and finances justify such a launch (yes, I am very froogle).

Until then, Shalom and Saalom! (Peace in Hebrew and Arabic)

By Darnell Clayton • 11:26 PM • Email Post • •


Thursday, August 25, 2005

Iran Tightening Internet Browsing

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(Hat Tip: Regime Change Iran)

(The Morning Call) The Iranian government has tightened its control over the Internet, increasingly blocking content in its national language of Farsi and restricting what citizens can publish through Web journals, Western researchers say.

Iran shows a sophistication in filtering seen only in China and a few other countries, adapting its techniques as use of the Internet evolves, said John Palfrey, a Harvard University researcher who studied censorship in Iran for the OpenNet Initiative.

As the world debates whether or not Iran should retain it's nuclear technology, many forget the citizens who live underneath this regime whose voices are quickly becoming silenced. Ever since the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president, Iran has been cracking down on public dissent, especially amongst the Kurdish minority who seem to share no love for their new ruler.

Many Iranians display their displeasure through online journals known as blogs which allow them to publish their thoughts in region known for suppressing any form of political dissent. Ironically it is not what many Iranians are hearing from the outside world that seems to frighten the regime, but rather what they do within it's own borders.
(The Morning Call) "If you're looking to stem...the mobilization of political groups, it's not what the BBC or Amnesty International is saying that you're concerned with. It's what some Iranian dissident is saying in Farsi language to compatriots."

As blogging begins to develop into a powerful medium it seems more and more governments are displaying their hostility towards weblogs in general. Knowledge is power as the saying goes and if one thing is clear about the Iranian regime, it intends to maintain power over the thoughts of it's people, and crush any opposing viewpoints both physically and virtually.

Iran is one of the few brutal regimes around the world whose citizens have access to the internet as well as other forms of communication, and if nothing is done to help liberate these people (or at least enable them to get around the governmental filters) it all may be quiet on the Persian front.

By Darnell Clayton • 1:09 AM • Email Post • •


Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Google's Other Red Headed Step Child

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(Posted on Blogger News)

(From Hello.com) Hello is a new program that lets you connect directly with your friends to share your digital pictures. If you've used an instant messenger program before, you'’ve already got the idea--Hello is special because it lets you share your pictures along with your messages.

With Hello, you just pick what pictures you want to show off, and click "Send." That's it. Hello takes care of all the hard work. And you and your friends can download full resolution, print-quality pictures from each other, while you're doing more important things, like talking about your pictures.

With Google Talk's release making headlines around the net, many people seemed to have forgotten about Google's other chat program, Hello which Google acquired after purchasing Picasa. Although Hello is more of a picture sharing program (unlike today's chat programs which feature audio and video), what made it quite useful was it's ability to post photos seamlessly towards a user's Blogspot account as well as create a free photo hosting service by default.

One aspect of Picasa's chat program that set it apart from other programs was the ability to take snapshots of certain web pages and share those with your friends. This made surfing the net much more enjoyable as not only would you be able to view and visit what your friend saw (without the broken links) but also allowed some webmasters to see what errors users were encountering when viewing a web page.

This IM client like all other "Google Cults," started to gather a following online, producing fan sites such as Spread Hello, a site this author is a part of and the now deceased (as of this post) Google Hello. What remains to be seen of Hello is a mystery to it's 250,000 plus users (note: pdf link) but the coming months should reveal whether Google will decide to keep the photo chat as a sidekick to Picasa or send the "red headed step child" away.

By Darnell Clayton • 11:17 PM • Email Post • •


United Kingdom Deporting Terrorist Supporters

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(Hat Tip: Dhimmi Watch, Jihad Watch)

The British government will deport and ban people who "foment, justify or glorify terrorist violence," the country's top law enforcement official announced Wednesday...

"Individuals who seek to create fear, distrust and division in order to stir up terrorist activity will not be tolerated by the government or by our communities," [Home Secretary Charles] Clarke said. His statement detailed measures directly resulting from last month's transit system bombings in London, which killed 56 people, including four presumed bombers, and injured 700.

Although the reasoning behind this measure is to protect British citizens, this new policy has far reaching consequences on freedoms of speech. It basically states that if anyone incites their "fellow countrymen" towards terror whether it is distributed by print, sermon or internet they are summarily exported out of England. Despite the clear erosion of civil liberties, many Englanders are welcoming the expanding powers of the state.

But public opinion polls have shown overwhelming support for tightening laws against religious extremism, even if that leads to limits on free speech and other civil liberties in a nation with a long tradition of tolerance.

"We recognize the sensitivities around the use of these powers and intend to use them in a measured and targeted way," Clarke said. "These powers are not intended to stifle free speech or legitimate debate about religions or other issues. Britain is rightly proud of its openness and diversity and we must not allow those driven by extremism of any sort to destroy that tradition."

Although these expanded powers are in the "best interests" of Great Britain, what many fail to realize is that once governments expand their powers they usually are very reluctant to relinquish them. Tyrannical governments, whether ran by religious elites or atheistic communists usually all begin with the best interests in mind, but inevitably end up censoring the public of whom they were trying to protect.

Terroristic ideals should be confronted and exposed for what they are--misguided ideals lacking sound reasoning. If England seeks to reign in the war on words regarding terror, they should not banish it from their island (unless they are foreigners who have not naturalized as their rights differ from citizens) but allow the public to condemn or condone which behavior is appropriate for their society.

By Darnell Clayton • 10:18 PM • Email Post • •


Of God And Science

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(Hat Tip: World Mag Blog, The Immoral Minority)

(SBC Baptist Press) The debate over whether students should be taught about the controversy surrounding evolution, which may include a discussion of the emerging Intelligent Design theory, was spurred on recently by President Bush's endorsement of such teaching and by the Kansas State Board of Education'’s decision to allow instructors to "teach the controversy."

The discussion of Intelligent Desing seems to be increasing throughout the blogosphere with opinions being expressed for and against this theory being taught in our public schools. Proponents of the idea desire nothing more than an arena to debate in, and what better way than in a scientific classroom?

If ID/Creationism is equivalent to the flying spaghetti monster theory, then science should have adequate evidence displaying that allowing the public to move on. But it seems that organizations are not interested in hearing a public debate.
(KOB TV) The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico opposes a policy allowing alternative theories to evolution to be discussed in Rio Rancho public school science classes.

The group’s director, Peter Simonson, said Tuesday the ACLU will go to court if the policy leads to the teaching of "intelligent design."

Simonson says the Rio Rancho school board, in adopting the policy on Monday, gave a nod and a wink to the teaching of intelligent design.

It looks as if the ACLU is in a long battle with the courts as it appears that 69% of Americans not only believe in a God, but also in a literal heaven and hell as well. Although they may deny it, atheism is just as much of a faith as Christianity, Judaism and Islam (and may even take more faith to believe in than the previous beliefs).

If there is to be public reconciliation as to which is fact and which is fiction, then a scientific debate must ensue with the victor taking the spoils and the loser sitting on the shelf of history. After all, it's only the truth that we are after, right?

By Darnell Clayton • 9:22 PM • Email Post • •


Google Chat Launches

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Google Talk is a simple and free way to talk with and send instant messages to your friends. Like Gmail, Google Talk uses Google's innovative technologies to help people communicate more effectively and efficiently. Think of it as Google's approach to communications.

Google Talk is easy and intuitive to use. All you need to make free calls is an Internet connection, a microphone, and a speaker. After you download Google Talk, sign in with your Gmail username and password. Invite your friends to download Google Talk, and once they do, you'll be able to talk or IM with them instantly.

Editor's Note: After waiting hours for it's release, it seems that Google's new chat program, which goes by the name of Google Talk has finally been launched. The layout is very simplistic and noticeably ad free which seems to be mimicking the philosophy of Trillian.

One noticeable aspect about Google Talk is the ability to make "calls" through the chat program. Another great feature about the program is the ability to import gmail users from your contact list (since they are automatically usernames). A picture preview is below.

The only sad thing about the launching of Google Talk is the death of Hello, Google's other IM client it inherited when it bought out Picasa. Although Hello may be around for a while, it's photo sharing capabilities will probably be assimilated within the Google Talk, enhancing the latest addition to Google's arsenal even further.

By Darnell Clayton • 12:04 AM • Email Post • •


Monday, August 22, 2005

United Nations Confirms Iranian Claims

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(Hat Tip: Trey Jackson, Posted on Blogger News)

(USA Today) U.N. nuclear agency tests have concluded that traces of highly enriched uranium on centrifuge parts were from imported equipment — rather than from any enrichment activities by Iran, a senior Western diplomat said Saturday...

"The source of contamination was not related to Iran," said Iran Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi. "We are sure the source is not internal."

Although this may clear up Iran's "good name," regarding whether or not they were producing the highly enriched uranium, (a component necessary for making a nuclear bomb) this comes as a troubling sign as it indicates that these were imported from a nuclear power elsewhere.

Iran's supreme ruler, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has insisted on the right of Iran to develop enriched uranium in order to become independent of other nation's supplying nuclear fuel, although one wonder's why a country would need nuclear fuel since it harbors 10% of the world's oil reserves.

Although the UN seems to be buying Iran's line of "peaceful nuclear technology," Europe apparently is not accepting a nuclear Iran as acceptable and is fighting back economically against Tehran to the complaint of it's President.
(EU Observer) We are importing goods worth billions of US dollars from some certain countries but they are not buying our oil or other products. Such countries should be thankful to us but they behaved like we owe them", president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told the Iranian parliament on Sunday (21 August), the European press reports. (Source)

Iran's Presisdent is insisting that they have a right to develop nuclear technology according to the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, but not too surprisingly no one desires Iran to be nuclear active, especially a country that claims to have 40,000 suicide bombers.

Europe (along with the US) may refer Iran to the UN Security Council which would probably recommend sanctions against Tehran, although with allies such as Russia and oil-dependent China such measures may find an early death within the UN body. While Europe plays "good cop," America and Israel have not ruled out military strikes against Iran, as the war rhetoric between the three governments quickly is heating up.

By Darnell Clayton • 10:36 PM • Email Post • •


Space Elevator Competition Underway

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(Hat Tip: The Space Elevator)

(Elevator 2010) Elevator:2010 is designed to address the "social engineering" of the Space Elevator. Taking our cue from the X-prize, solar car races, and various other competitive ventures, we use engineering competitions as a tool to capture mindshare in academia, space enthusiast community, and the general public.

Several teams have taken on the Space Ward's challenge by entering in the Space Elevator Games which consists of teams attempting to build either a light weight super-strong tether or (the more popular) climbing/power mechanism enabling scientists, corporations, and governments to transport materials into space without the need of a rocket.

(Elevator 2010) Our goal is to infect the engineering and science community with our passion for building the Space Elevator, thus making them embassadors to our cause. As the fruits of their efforts take to the air every year, we will have demonstrated the feasibility and sheer simplicity of the Space Elevator concept, and will have brought it closer to reality.

Approximately eight teams have assembled to compete for this September with 20 more signed up for next year. Many of the participants range from prestigious organizations to universities who are not only competing for fame and glory but for $50,000 as well. It will be interesting to see what develops out of these events as building a space elevator could significantly drop the price of space tourism and save companies the hassle of launching satellites into space.

By Darnell Clayton • 9:53 PM • Email Post • •


Milky Way Galaxy Reclassified

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(Astrobiology Magazine) With the help of NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, astronomers have conducted the most comprehensive structural analysis of our galaxy and have found tantalizing new evidence that the Milky Way is much different from your ordinary spiral galaxy.

Using an orbiting infrared telescope scientists were able to validate that our Milky Way, long thought to be a simply spiral galaxy is in fact a bar galaxy. Although this doesn't change the fate of our homeworld Earth (let alone the solar system) this is an important event none-the-less as scientists know very little about how bar galaxies operate, although theories abound about how this type of galaxy can exist.

(Centre Daily) While some other galaxies have bars at the center, many do not. Bars are believed to be caused by the collective gravitational effect of stars that are in odd orbits, tugging on each other, said Michael Skrutskie, a professor of astronomy at the University of Virginia.

"We are fairly ignorant about the structure of our galaxy," he said. "We are starting to learn a lot about it. (The new paper) is the latest installment." (Source)

One theory that scientists seem fairly confident on is that the bar is composed of ancient suns red stars, spanning about 27,000 light years in length. Although there is little current information about bar galaxies in general, being inside one allows scientists to observe how they operate and may lead to some unanswered questions.

By Darnell Clayton • 9:29 PM • Email Post • •


Hubble Scanning For Moon Base Locations

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(New Scientist Space) Planetary scientists are using the Hubble Space Telescope to scout out sites for potential human bases on the Moon...

"We're trying to ascertain the potential of ultraviolet spectra for indicating lunar resources," says Bruce Hapke, a planetary scientist at the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, US. He is one of a team of six researchers led by NASA's chief scientist, Jim Garvin, using Hubble to view the Moon.

Scientists are scanning the lunar surface in order to find an iron titanium oxide called ilmenite which may be useful in constructing moon bases. Finding an abundant supply of ilmenite would tremendously help reduce the cost of establishing colonies on the moon and perhaps encourage tourism towards the lunar body as well.

(New Scientist Space) Ilmenite was found in different concentrations in the several areas visited by the Apollo astronauts more than three decades ago. Hubble observed two of these sites - where Apollo 15 and Apollo 17 astronauts touched down in 1971 and 1972, respectively - as part of an observing run that finished on Sunday.

A third spot was also sited in the Aristarchus crater which is over 40 km wide and is located near the moons equator. Aristarchus may become more valuable in the future as craters often reveal what "lies beneath" and could hold large amounts of ilmenite within the ejecta (debris from impact).

President Bush's vision for mankind revisiting space is quickly becoming a reality thanks largely in part to the Space Tourism private sector. The moon is proving to be an ideal spot for colonies (with other worlds such as Mars being harsher and farther away) to thrive upon and it may not be long until Earthlings view cities upon their lunar neighbor.

By Darnell Clayton • 8:54 PM • Email Post • •


Is Your Blog Site Pleasing To The Eye?

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Editor's Note: Although 95% of what makes a blog interesting depends upon the content itself, the other 5% mainly has to do with overall appearance of your site.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then nothing speaks volumes as a blog site that is aesthetically pleasing to the eyes. Depending upon which blog host you are using, their may be an assortment of tools available for users to customize their own weblog.

But for many users who lack the vast html skills to produce a quality looking site, (a major challenge when this editor started blogging) one may simply "stand on the shoulders of others" who offer professional looking templates for free.

But before rushing off to apply the latest template style, one may want to take note on the design layout of the template in order to insure that minor details do not become eye soars for various users visiting your site. When selecting or building a template, here are some words of wisdom that were passed down to this blogger back in the "blog-newbie" days from fellow readers.

Scroll Bars: When a user scrolls through a site, the last thing they desire is to have a scroll bar for every window/side bar on your site. Try formatting your blog so that only one scroll bar is needed to view the entire site. Menu bars are also recommended, but too many can become overloading to a reader. Try sticking with no more than two.

Blog Ads: Pop-up ads are some of the largest deterrents to internet users. Using them within a blog site is one sure way to drive away readers. Picture ads as well as text ads displayed either on the sidebar or within posts are recommended, but avoid putting up too many advertisement sections as your blog may turn up looking like an "infomercial."

Image Buttons: One great way to compliment sites you enjoy is by linking back to them via a picture button, but avoid too many image links as that may slow down your site (see Web Optimization for more details). If available, choose smaller buttons over larger ones, and if that option isn't available, try creating them yourself.

Link Colors: Keeping all of the colors the same regardless whether a user has clicked on a link or not ensures that a site looks professional instead of awkward (especially if the color chosen is "shouting" in the opposite direction). Also make sure that the links can be view properly on the site whether they are on the side bar or within your blog posts.

Although these may be considered minor details, a blog appearance can speak volumes about the author and is usually an indicator as to how serious the author is about blogging in general. Appearance can also distinguish a blog site from "the crowd," as people generally are visual creatures who often associate words with images.

By Darnell Clayton • 12:18 AM • Email Post • •


Saturday, August 20, 2005

Emergency Blog Alert: Chinese Firewall

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Brought to you by the Committee To Protect Bloggers

(Hat Tip: RConversation, Alpha Patriot)

According to Global Voices, China has blocked several more blog hosts. "Anti-blog and all blogs on blog-city.com has been blocked by the Great Firewall. Readers from China may access it via mirror site available at MSN: [click here]. Meanwhile, anti2 is coming soon."

With "political dissent" becoming an escalating problem it seems that China is clamping down on all expressions of free thought. China has already banned citizens from directly petitioning the government (due to riots over land seizers) and seems to have come to the conclusion that silencing cyber dissent will somehow resolve the internal pressures that boil within.

Some more famous bloggers have now shifted to other hosts that are not yet blocked, like MSN Spaces. While in the beginning of China's blocking history mainly western media were on that list, now almost all can be seen while the attention is moving to the blogs. In my practise it was pretty easy to circumvent those IP-blocks by using proxies, but for the new generation internet users it might be useful to explain how that works. (Source: China Herald)

According to RConversation, these domains have been totally blocked by China's firewall: Ego Weblog, Blog Spirit, Blog Easy, Blogzor, MazMe.com, Yes Blogger, Tblog.

Although this "blanket banning" may sound discouraging to many bloggers (especially those whose sites are hosted on the above mentioned domains) such actions by China reflect an attitude of desperation rather than concrete action. The government of China seems to be frustrated that it is unable to completely silence the messenger as the author is able to simply change their subdomain name and republish at a different "location." In order to get around the blanket ban, some bloggers have switched domain hosts entirely, although others are joining the "Adopt A Blogger" campaign, circumventing China's firewall entirely.

By Darnell Clayton • 12:42 AM • Email Post • •


Friday, August 19, 2005

Blogger Fighting Comment Spam

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(Blogger Buzz) We've just introduced the option to require word verification for comments. This option (off by default) gives bloggers a tool to prevent the automatic creation of comments by nefarious ne'er-do-wells (e.g. spammers).

This feature for Blogger.com has been long overdue as comment spam has been one of the greatest problems throughout the blogosphere. Previously criticized by The Blog Herald for creating features that would make it easier for spam blogs (also known as splogs) to fill the blogosphere with annoying ad links, Blogger seems to be declaring war on blog spamming by making it harder for splogs to operate by installing captcha features within the comment section.

What this does is to prevent automated systems from adding comments to your blog, since it takes a human being to read the word and pass this step. If you've ever received a comment that looked like an advertisement or a random link to an unrelated site, then you've encountered comment spam. (Source)

Features like these will enable blogspot users who have previously closed off comments to outsiders (or shut them down entirely) due to spamming to "re-open" them to the public once again. Although blogs have a long way to go in the war against comment spam, Blogger.com seems to be leading the way by introducing another feature which will enable users to "flag blogger" whenever they encounter an objectionable blogsite (another great way to reduce the splogosphere).

By Darnell Clayton • 11:43 PM • Email Post • •


Scientists Predicting Space Weather

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(Universe Today) When astronauts will be spending more time in space, it'll be helpful to know when there'll be clear "space weather", to minimize their exposure to dangerous amounts of radiation. NASA scientists have developed a better understanding of the underlying causes of solar flares, and think they can now predict times for "clear skies".

One of the greatest hurdles against traveling in space may have just about been "leapt." Solar flares have been a huge obstacle for future astronauts traveling beyond Earth's orbit. Unlike the space station, (as well as future lunar colonists) astronauts traveling enroute towards another solar body would be unable to find protection aboard their star craft if a solar flare occurred. But it seems as if NASA has enabled a possible way for mankind to leave it's "earthen cradle."

Insight into the causes of the largest solar flares came in two steps. "First, we discovered characteristic patterns of magnetic field evolution associated with strong electrical currents in the solar atmosphere," said ATC's Dr. Marc DeRosa, co-author of the paper. "It is these strong electrical currents that drive solar flares."

Subsequently, the authors discovered the regions most likely to flare had new magnetic fields merge into them that were clearly out of alignment with the existing field. This emerging field from the solar interior appears to induce even more current as it interacts with the existing field.

If NASA is able to forecast space weather patterns, then they may not only be able to warn astronauts in space of the "sun's wrath," but also residents on Earth. Solar flares can cause damage to satellites, interrupt short wave radios and interfere with navigation systems. Although not yet perfected, solar flare forecasting will not only save millions of dollars in repairs for satellites as well as many lives, but also allow mankind to finally colonize the solar system and perhaps the universe as well.

By Darnell Clayton • 10:59 PM • Email Post • •


Japan Embracing Space Tourism

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(Space.com) Space Adventures of Arlington, Virginia has sealed the deal on an exclusive marketing partnership with the Tokyo-based travel agency, JTB Corporation. The agreement announced today opens wide the door for the Japanese to buy commercial treks into space and related experiences from Space Adventures.

This is a wise move by Space Adventures as it not only broadens their market within Asia but also guarantees that the playing field between the "space powers" (i.e. US, Russia, Europe, etc.) will become more level. Space Adventures has also launched a Japanese mirror site enabling Japanese citizens to explore the stars for themselves.

JTB will market a wide array of programs available from Space Adventures, including the recently announced Deep Space Expeditions (DSE-Alpha) mission to the Moon -- the first in a series of lunar missions being offered. That mission could liftoff as early as 2008, according to a Space Adventures press statement.

Although this offer makes the lunar surface "within reach," this opportunity is still affordable only to the wealthy. Ticket prices are no less than $100 million per seat, with a maximum of two seats available per lift off. Although the price tag is daunting, the Japanese may be more determined than their American counterparts to commercialize the final frontier.

By Darnell Clayton • 10:41 PM • Email Post • •


Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Could Venezuela Increase US Gas Prices?

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(Cross Posted on Blogger News)

(Watching America) Hugo Chavez, the president of the Republic, has assured people that the American market is not essential to Venezuela, and he declared that if the aggression against his government continued to increase, diplomatic ties between the two countries would be at risk...The chief executive said that if he stopped sending petroleum to United States, the Americans must know that the price of a gallon of gasoline would rise to $10.

Chavez apparently is upset that the United States has arrested five Cubans on charges of espionage who were allegedly apart of one of the largest Cuban spy rings operating within the US. While the accused spies await their new trial, (first one was declared to be unfair so a retrial is being held) Chavez seems to be using the situation as a way to not only bolster his image as an important figure internationally but denounce his apparent adversary, President Bush.

Chavez asserted that there has never been an empire more brutal, more cruel, more cynical, more savage, more hypocritical, and more dangerous than the one led by his counterpart, George Bush. He said that "Mr. Danger," like all other U.S. presidents, is not a person but an imperial system of hegemony that personifies within himself all other names and figures.

Chavez it seems is attempting to use Venezuela's "oil influence" to curb Bush's foreign policies as the President's agenda is a threat to the current regime's ideals about how to properly administer a government. Venezuela is apart of OPEC and although thousands of miles away from the middle east region, it's views about the United States are not that far from Iran (especially with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad "running the show").

Although Chavez enjoys taunting President Bush from afar, he probably would be unwise to threaten America regarding oil prices. If Venezuela were to ever act upon those threats, the US would have a noticeable spike at the gas pump which would promt consumers to buy either hydro-cars or simply switch to agri-fuel (as the need would prompt companies to add this alternative to the pump). In the end Venezuela would lose a valuable customer and Chavez would have to bear the embarrassment until the end of his term or via a coup d'etat.

By Darnell Clayton • 11:57 PM • Email Post • •


Google Buys Out Android.com

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(Hat Tip: Engadget, Cross Posted on Blogger News)

(Business Week) In what could be a key move in its nascent wireless strategy, Google has quietly acquired startup Android Inc., BusinessWeek Online has learned. The 22-month-old startup, based in Palo Alto, Calif., brings to Google a wealth of talent, including co-founder Andy Rubin, who previously started mobile-device maker Danger Inc.

Little is known about this new start up company, other than the fact that they have something to do with creating software for mobile phones. In a previous interview with Business Week, Andy Rubin talked about the need for a mobile phone that was more aware of it's owners location and preferences. This could profit Google tremendously, as this acquisition would compliment its previous purchase, Dodge Ball, a service alerting users when their friends (or friend of friends) are nearby via their cell phone.

Rubin declined to comment on Android or its sale to Google. A spokesperson for the search giant would not elaborate on the deal, only stating: "We acquired Android because of the talented engineers and great technology. We're thrilled to have them here."

This latest addition will no doubt add to Google's collection of start up companies as well as begin the first stages to what appears to be a launch into the wireless arena. One thing is certain though; Google is quickly expanding beyond the traditional net and exploring other territories to conquer. Although this new move may surprise users, this new addition fits well within Google's overall goal--"[T]o organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful." And this is something Google intends upon doing.

By Darnell Clayton • 11:32 PM • Email Post • •


EU Businesses Getting Tough With China

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(Cross Posted on Blogger News

(EU Observer) European companies are turning to legal action as piles of Chinese textiles build up outside the EU, banned from entering the bloc due to a quota system. The German fashion house, Gelco, has brought a complaint to the country's constitutional court.

"We are taking legal action on behalf of the whole industry", said the head of Gelco, Jurgen Richter, according to German daily Die Welt.

Ironically what the European government was afraid of doing is being carried out by the very businesses that employ it's citizens. China has flooded the continent with text tile imports that are hurting the fashion industry as they can not compete with the lower priced Chinese goods. Peter Mandelson, the EU's trade commissioner seems to be clueless on how much damage the trade is doing towards the EU text tile industry, and instead of countering the threat he ends up condemning the businesses who are upset about the trade situation.

However, the trade commissioner angered industry last week when he suggested that the build-up of millions of articles of clothing in harbours and warehouse around the EU was due to businesses rushing to get orders in before a 11 July deadline, when the quota restrictions came into force.

Several businesses have taken it upon themselves to stop the influx of Chinese goods, including Gelco, (the German fashion house) who may be followed by Hennes and Mauritz (a fashion chain in Swedish). Unfortunately this dilemma is a result of the expiration of the WTO textiles agreement which is allowing China to "flood the gates" with it's goodies potentially choking out any national competitor in the market.

For some odd reason the Commission is refusing to take the necessary steps to protect it's own industries, citing the excuse of the need for more "information from all of the member states." (Editor's Note: This information is already late as it should have been delivered on August the 15th) If this is a display of European bureaucracy then it is a poor one at best as it clearly outlines the EU's self image is a greater priority over the needs of it's own citizens.

By Darnell Clayton • 11:00 PM • Email Post • •


Christians Protest Injustice In Pakistan

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(Hat Tip: Dhimmi Watch)

(Daily Times) LAHORE: A large gathering of Christians on Tuesday protested against Baghbanpura’s assistant superintendent of police (ASP)-Investigation for allegedly supporting a kidnapper. The protestors chanted slogans against police and appealed to higher authorities for justice. They said that Muhammad Abbas, a resident of Gohawa village, had kidnapped 14-year-old Christian girl Asma.

When the family tried contacting Abbas's uncle Bashir, he had promised them the return of their daughter safely within a few days. Bashir then seized the opportunity to produce fake marriage certificates declaring that Asma and Abbas were now lawfully wedded.

[But when] Asma's brother Nadeem Masih had tried to contact higher authorities...Bashir and Abbas shot him and fled, said the protestors. staff report

News like this often displays the reality of how "tolerant" many Muslim nations are of other faiths. With the exception of Iraq, Afghanistan (and all other democratic republics) Christians, as well as any other faith face immense persecution underneath Islamic governments which is only exceeded by Communism itself. Unlike many of it's neighbors though, Pakistan seems very sensitive to world opinion and hopefully if enough pressure is put on the government, incidents like these will be able to receive justice instead of a "blind eye."

By Darnell Clayton • 10:13 PM • Email Post • •


Is Google Being Evil? What About Yahoo?

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(The Blog Herald) The players in this affair: Google software engineer Matt Cutts, whose role with in Google is described by Search Engine Watch as being "on the front lines of Google indexing and quality control issues", of which I can only presume he’d be dealing with attempts by people to manipulate Google’s search results.

Throw in self-admitted content thief, blog spammer and all round "black-hat" SEO David Naylor, somebody who basically makes a living out of manipulating Google and using tactics that the vast majority of people would find highly immoral and in the case of content theft, illegal as well. It turns out, according to a post at Naylor’s blog, that the two are mates.

This is disturbing news if it is indeed found to be accurate as that would imply that Google is "turning a blind eye" towards blog spamming when it comes to certain individuals. Comment spam (via linkage) is becoming a major problem within the blogosphere, and is probably one of the major reasons many publishers have turned off comments on their blog as well as the ability to leave a track back too. This new information contradicts Google's policy when it comes to fighting blog spam, but upon visiting Dave Naylor's website the story gets a little bit clearer.

Dave Naylor (the alleged blog spammer) was able to attend a tour of the Googleplex along with a host of other people. Dave was fortunate enough to not only receive a private tour of the complex but also meet the founders of Google, Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Apparently Dave Naylor seems to know many people not only within the Google Community but also within their rival as well.
(Dave Naylor) And finally thanks to Tim Mayer, my good friend from Yahoo. I got to go to the Yahoo Campus with 18 or so other SEO’s to discuss the new 19.2 Billion page index...(wow!) Yahoo looks to have a few issues with websites landing pages will write more on this later...We got a Yahoo tour and helped with recent index size increase and relocations of website’s internal pages (incorrectly located, but they are working on it at the moment), and then on to the all American theme park which was a great way to end another great day.

Although this event seems like nothing more than a lucky guy receiving tour perks around the Googleplex, if Dave Naylor is involved in the "blog spam business," then his arrival on both Google's and Yahoo's campuses raises serious eye brows. Upon visiting Dave's site a user will notice at the top a simple phrase ("Where nothing beats a good rank") which may indicate either a very omnious past or something to do with his SEO occupation. Either way his visit is starting to generate contraversy, something neither Google or Yahoo need, especially after favorable reviews within the cyber community.

By Darnell Clayton • 9:16 PM • Email Post • •


Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Michael Schiavo At Euthanasia Conference

[Expand Full Post] [Media Source*]

(LifeNews.com) As Terri's estranged husband, Michael Schiavo didn't make many public comments during the long legal battle he fought with Terri's family over whether or not to starve her to death. Now that Terri has died, Michael is significantly raising his public profile and will soon address a euthanasia conference in Minnesota.

Michael Schiavo will be addessing the pro-euthanasia conference at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minnesota which is being hosted by Ron Cranford. Cranford's theme of the event ("...Stories of Heroes and Courage") will probably enrage not only the many bloggers who attempted to keep Terri alive via their keyboards but probably also disability activists as well.

Cranford is infamous for his position in favor of assisted suicide and made headlines when he testified in court that Terri was in a persistent vegetative state, despite the view of doctors and neurologists who said otherwise.

Cranford is a member of the board of directors of the Euthanasia Society of America and has ties to the organization formerly known as the Hemlock Society, another pro-euthanasia group.

Apparently Cranford views Terri's case as a "landmark" for the rights of euthanasia activists everywhere. Although it was a bitter victory for those who favor assisted suicide, bringing up Terri's scenario as a trophy event is only going to cause more bitterness to be exchanged between the pro-life and pro-euthanasia groups, dividing America once again. Michael's attendance of this conference displays his "loving affection" towards his former wife, and will probably add fuel to the fire in an already bitter culture war that is raging across the North American continent.

By Darnell Clayton • 11:24 PM • Email Post • •


Editor's Note: Israeli Settlement Evacuations

[Expand Full Post] [Media Source*]

(Washington Post) The first Israeli military convoy left a huge staging area at dawn Wednesday, heading toward Gaza to forcibly evacuate Jewish settlers who defied the deadline to leave.

On Tuesday, as the deadline passed, thousands of settlers and their supporter pelted Israeli troops with eggs and stones and danced around the Torah in celebration of their resistance to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's historic plan to disengage from the Palestinians.

Editor's Note: Although every journalist, blogger and free thinking person has their opinion about the Settlement Evacuation, I have for the most part abstained from giving a clear opinion regarding the matter. Forcing people to leave from their homes is regrettable, but Sharon (who ironically pioneered the settlements in the first place) seems to have a reason beyond "Washington told me so" as the main motivation for relocating people from their homes, some of which go back to generations.

My feeling is that Sharon is looking towards the future. No, I do not mean Palestine, but Iran. From where I am sitting, Iran is Israel's biggest threat right now, and by Sharon pulling back troops as well as settlements (and putting a wall in it's place) he is not only redefining the border before the UN can but also satisfying US demands in order to win Bush's favor. Although I have no proof of this (thus the reason for this "editor's note") I believe that their is some hidden agreement between Israel and the US that they will both strike Iran if Israel is attacked (something Israel wasn't allowed to do to Iraq during both gulf wars).

As I stated before this is only a hunch, and since I have no way to prove this with links or mysterious sources, I will simply leave it at that--a simple reference note in which history will have to verify whether this blogger was right or not. Shalom.

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


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