Friday 26 June 2009

White House calls Jackson a spectacular performer

U.S. President Barack Obama calls Michael Jackson, a "spectacular performer" and a music icon, according to White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said on Friday (June 26) that U.S. President Barack Obama had talked about Michael Jackson, the 50-year-old "King of Pop" who died suddenly on Thursday.
"He said to me that obviously Michael Jackson was a spectacular performer, a music icon. I think everybody remembers hearing his songs, watching him moonwalk on television during Motown's 25th anniversary," Gibbs said.

The White House spokesman also said Obama believed some aspects of Jackson's life were "sad and tragic" and offered his condolences to the musician's family.


Jerusalem's gay community marches through the holy city amid tight security, protests

Jerusalem's gay community marches through the streets of the holy city, under tight security to prevent Ultra-Orthodox and Orthodox Jewish protesters from stopping parade.

Thousands of members and supporters of Israel's gay community gathered on Thursday (June 25) to march in the city's annual Pride Parade, held amid heavy security and opponents' demonstrations.
Scores of policemen deployed across Jerusalem's city centre to secure the march, as attendants began flocking one of the city's parks, from which the one kilometre (0.62 mile) parade started.

"It's an amazing opportunity to celebrate our rights and to celebrate, other people - to let them know that there is a place and it is okay to feel what they feel," one parade participant told Reuters television.

Despite the fact that organisers of the annual parade, which has touched off anti-gay protests by ultra-Orthodox Jews in the holy city in the past, said they did not expect violence at this year's event, local police said they were deploying some 1,500 officers to secure the march.

"The Israeli police have taken all necessary steps to make sure that today's event takes place without any disturbances, over 1,500 officers, border police, under cover units are on standby and patrolling the area in and around where the event is taking place and we're hoping that the events will pass quietly and peacefully, based on our assessments," Israeli police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld told Reuters during the march, which avoids neighbourhoods where traditionally black-garbed ultra-Orthodox Jews live.

Israeli websites have reported that apart from one incident in which an egg was thrown towards the marchers, the event has ended peacefully.

Many devout Jews, Muslims and Christians view homosexuality as an abomination. In 2005, an ultra-Orthodox Jew stabbed and wounded three participants in the gay march. He is serving a 12-year sentence. But this year they limited their protest to holding street prayers wearing brown sacks in line with a biblical mourning tradition.

"Homosexuals and gays are the destruction of the Western culture. They want to come here to Jerusalem to the Holy Land of the whole world and destroy Jerusalem, destroy the society here and to make us (sick) with their diseases. We came to say Jerusalem isn't for the gays," right-wing activist Baruch Marzel said in one of two protest locations.

The annual march has been held in the Jerusalem since 2001.

Israel also hosts an annual Gay Pride parade in Tel Aviv, which is mostly secular, without controversy. Thousands of people attended one earlier on June, when three gay couple were wedded in a ceremony not recognised by the state of Israel.

Religious tension between ultra orthodox Jews and secular resident of the city are running high in past weeks, due to a plan to open a municipal parking lot on the Jewish resting day of sabbath.

Jewish religious law bans travel on the sabbath, and Jerusalem's ultra-Orthodox community has negotiated with city authorities arrangements that limit or ban traffic in their neighbourhoods on Saturdays.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews held stone-throwing protests three weeks ago when the municipal parking lot was last opened on a Saturday and authorities fear a repeat of the violence this weekend.

17 year old Johnny Strange becomes the youngest person to climb the world's seven summits

17-year-old American Johnny Strange has become the youngest person to climb the tallest summits on each of the seven continents.

For American teenager Johnny Strange, there just ain't no mountain high enough.
The 17-year-old from Malibu, California has just become the youngest person to conquer the tallest summits on each of the seven continents.

Strange says he fell in love with climbing at age 12, when he tackled Mount Vinson in Antarctica with his father. Five years later, he's conquered Kilimanjaro in Africa, Denali in North America, Elbrus in Russia, Aconcagua of South America, Everest in Nepal, and Kosciuszko in Australia.

"It was a life-changing experience. I'm so happy to have done it and be fortunate enough to have succeeded but I loved it," Strange says.

For Strange, conquering the world's seven summits was not only about challenging himself, but to raise awareness of two important causes - namely stopping Genocide and finding a cure for Parkinson's disease. At the top of Mount Everest, the teenager posted two signs 'Stop Genocide' and 'Cure Parkinson's'. The adventurer says he wanted to raise awareness of the two issues and hopefully raise some money.

"Traveling the world kind of really gave me some humility and I'd meet a lot of different people. The Genocide thing - even though it's very far away from here, it's still happening and a horrible situation with the atrocities that are going on. I just wanted to to raise some awareness about it - I'm not saying I know everything about it," Strange told Reuters.

Strange shows a maturity way beyond his 17 years, but the teenager insists he's just a normal kid who wants to inspire other people to chase their dreams.

"I'm no different from any other 17 year old kid who's trying to be best basketball player on the team. If I only inspire one person out of this then I'll be very content, because I just want everybody to go for their dreams and goals no matter who doubts them."

Strange is already planning his next adventure, and laughed off suggestions that perhaps he'd already peaked at age 17.

"This is just the beginning. These past few years have been some great life experience. I'm not that smart, but I got a little bit of wisdom taken from that, and now I'm going to try build off that and try to live life to the fullest and set a goal and try to go accomplish it."

For more information about Johnny and his causes, go to and

Greenpeace protests as Delta announces a second nuclear plant in the Netherlands

Greenpeace protesters take to the streets of Middleburg in the Netherlands to rally against a second nuclear power plant planned for the country by Delta.

Dutch unlisted utility Delta said on Thursday (June 25) it had started an application procedure to build a second nuclear power plant in the Netherlands, which it expects will become operational in 2018.
Delta outlined its plans to build the second power plant near to the Netherlands' only existing plant in Borssele, as protesters waved banners outside its headquarters calling for all nuclear power to be phased out in the country. Greenpeace activists built a wall of nuclear waste barrels in front of the Delta headquarters.

"Greenpeace is here to show that building a second nuclear power plant in the Netherlands is a really bad idea because it would create an enormous amount of nuclear waste and we don't even know what to do with the waste of the first nuclear power plant," Greenpeace campaigner, Meike Baretta, told Reuters.

The utility said it had submitted a draft proposal to the Dutch Ministry of Environment, which will lead an environmental assessment of the project. It then aims to make a formal permit request in 2011.

Bowing to pressure from environmentalists and the wider public, Dutch authorities phased out all nuclear power stations except for one in Borssele, which is owned by Delta and Dutch peer Essent and is due to stay operational until 2033.

"Nuclear power has become a topic that can be discussed again in the Netherlands," Delta chief executive Peter Boerma said at a news conference on Thursday.

The Dutch government has agreed that no new plants would be built during its mandate, which runs until 2011. But Delta expects its request to be handled in the following cabinet period.

'Accelerating Wisdom' Free Web Service 'SQiME' Starts

- Fusion of 'the thought support tool' and 'the community of the wisdom sharing' -

TOKYO, June 26 /PRNewswire/ -- SQiME Inc. (Tokyo) started an "Accelerating Wisdom" Free WEB service "SQiME" (ski:m) as public beta release at the world same time today, on June 26, 2009.

1. Summary of SQiME

SQiME is an "Accelerating Wisdom" Free WEB service which has both "a thought support function" based on an original framework (a thought method) based on a study of the thinking process / idea method for five years and "a community function" born thereby to share wisdom with people all over the world.

2. Features of SQiME

Idea support function

Original framework arose from a lot of idea methods and research of conception methods such as logical and lateral thinking and others. SQiME enables various ideas to be brought together widely, deeply, logically, systematically, and very efficiently only according to the format that makes the framework embodied.

High generality

Business documents such as planning and proposal books, and manuals. Creations of essays, columns, novels, etc. Making and comparative study of program codes. Furthermore, ranging from making policy and business schemes etc. to sorting out of content of your head.

SQiME has very high generality.

Smart collaboration

SQiME not only supports one user's thinking but also responds to the collaboration of a large number of people. Moreover, an unprecedented smart collaboration can be achieved because it is designed to prevent confrontation, flooding, and never-ending cycle of opinions.

Easy like a blog

Contrary to the highness of the functionality, the usage of SQiME is "easy like a blog." Everyone can use it at once without special training.

Sharing of wisdom

SQiME has the community function where wisdom can be shared with people all over the world based on the above-mentioned idea support function and the collaboration function. The wisdom is accelerated more and more, and is polished and raised to the higher dimension by sharing with people all over the world.

Responding to several languages

SQiME responds to the contribution in the principal languages of the world extending to 100 at present. The user can use it by switching to his mother tongue or learned language always arbitrarily from among those languages.

Democratic control

SQiME is controlled democratically with the hands of not only operators but all users by its impartial, fair, real-time vote function and warning function. A sound discussion from a sound place. SQiME accelerates the formation of wisdom more by truly democratic control.

3. View in the future

The formation of wisdom is accelerated more by adding various new features and "applications that cooperate with SQiME", etc. at any time in the future, and SQiME contributes to society by so doing.


Yuri Nishimura

Executive Secretary

SQiME Inc.

Phone: +81-42-697-3374

Fax: +81-42-697-3374

E-mail: [email protected]


SQiME Inc.

Hundreds rally on Capitol Hill for health care reform

Former "Sopranos" actress Edie Falco and hundreds of people from around the U.S., join lawmakers on Capitol Hill to demand health care reform.

Actress Edie Falco and several lawmakers joined hundreds of labor workers and activists on Capitol Hill on Thursday (June 25) to rally for health care reform.

The rally's timing is strategic as President Barack Obama encounters resistance from lawmakers regarding his health care plan Activists waved placards calling for health care reform, chanting that

Actress Edie Falco of "Sopranos" fame also participated in the event, explaining her own experience with the health care system had convinced her of the need for reform.

"We can do better. We must do better. We are here today because we can longer wait for a Health Care system, that every individual, business, family in this country can afford," Falco said.

She was joined by lawmakers including Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y) who echoed similar sentiments

"We're not going to wait another hundred years, we're not going to wait another fifty years, we're not even going to wait another year. We're going to do it now," Schumer told the crowd gathered at Russell Park.

The event, which was organized by Health Care for America Now, a group that has been staunch in its support of the president's plan, took place a day after the president stepped press on congress to pass his healthcare reform this year.

Obama staged a day-long media blitz that ended with a televised town hall-style meeting at the White House to rally public support.

The president's campaign-style push for reform, including an e-mail plea to supporters in recent days, comes amid signs of strain in the diverse coalition, from doctors to insurance companies, that have so far united behind his push for change.

Insurers and doctors have expressed concern about Obama's call for a public insurance option to compete with private insurers, while others have objected to the cost of the trillion-dollar program and a proposal to pay for it in part by raising taxes on some employer-paid insurance benefits.

Some 47 million Americans are uninsured and have little access to the healthcare system. Insurance costs have doubled in under a decade, prompting businesses that provide much of the coverage to complain it threatens U.S. global competitiveness.

Thursday 25 June 2009

Innovating the White House

Center for Social Innovation Hosts Silicon Valley Roundtable for White House Office of Social Innovation

White House Office of Social Innovation officials gathered Tuesday with Silicon Valley philanthropy, business, and nonprofit leaders in a roundtable convened by the Center for Social Innovation at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. White House officials immersed themselves in the culture of entrepreneurship, risk-taking, and philanthropy that makes the Silicon Valley a laboratory of innovation. They included Sonal Shah, head of the White House Domestic Policy Council's Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation (SICP); Michele Jolin, senior advisor for Social Innovation; and Carlos Monje, senior policy advisor.

"In case you are unsure about your influence, Michele's article about social innovation led to the creation of the White House Office," Shah said, referring to the article SSIR published in spring of 2008.

read entire press release
read Jolin's article "Innovating the White House"

Argentine Lopez accused of racism at Libertadores match

Argentine striker Maxi Lopez of Brazilian club Gremio is accused of racism by Cruzeiro's midfielder Elicarlos during a Libertadores Cup semi-final.

Argentine striker Maxi Lopez of Gremio was accused of racism by midfielder Elicarlos of Cruzeiro after the team's Libertadores Cup semi-final first leg on Wednesday (June 24).
Elicarlos, who is black, and former River Plate and Barcelona striker Lopez had a heated argument on the pitch during the first half of the match at the Mineirao stadium with other angry Cruzeiro players also getting involved.

"He (striker Maxi Lopez) came to me and called me a macaco (monkey)," Elicarlos told reporters after Cruzeiro's 3-1 victory in Belo Horizonte, adding that he would report the incident to the police.

Lopez denied Elicarlos' accusations.

"Relax, relax. He's playing for his team and I'm playing for mine. He's speaking nonsense," he told reporters as he left the field.

The referee had his eye on play which had moved downfield.

Lopez, Gremio coach Paulo Autuori and other Gremio players left the team bus, which was surrounded by police, to make a statement at a police station inside the stadium.

Police Chief Daniel Barcelos said Lopez told him it was a normal game argument.

"Player Maxi Lopez told me it was a regular game discussion," he told reporters.

Gremio coach Paulo Autuori tried to play down the incident.

"Racism? Everyday we see racism from important people who have responsibilities. We have to put an end to this hypocrisy," he said, shortly after testifying.

In 2005, Argentine defender Leandro Desabato spent 40 hours in police custody in Brazil after an alleged racist insult during a Libertadores Cup match.

Urinating Monkey Pees On Zambias President

The President of Zambia had an unusual interuption during a news conference. A monkey in a tree above him decided to relieve himself, spattering the President's jacket with urine.

The World Sucks: Help it Suck Less

In which John helps Hank help YouTube announce a startlingly awesome new program called Video Volunteers.

Pressured by sex workers, Taiwan OKs prostitution

After being banned for eleven years, Taiwan aims to legalize prostitution in six months, in hopes of ending the misery of sex workers.

Forty-seven-year-old Miko lights up a cigarette in an alley hidden away from Taipei's traffic in what was an old red light district in Taiwan's capital.
Brothels were made illegal 11 years ago in Taiwan, but that has not changed her job as a prostitute.

Miko began working in the sex industry after her divorce when she was 20-years-old and nine months pregnant.

Desperate to earn a living, she saw newspaper ads featuring millions of dollars of monthly income and stepped into the brothels.

In the past 27 years, she has worked in four different countries with counterfeit passports.

She was able to earn a handsome income that supports her daughter to study overseas, but with education only to the level of junior high school, Miko lacks the means to change her profession.

Water may have cleansed her body in the rough washing room behind the brothel, but it does not clear away her feeling of humiliation when encountered by police.

"The sex workers I know, my sisters, are living under tension everyday. After all, this is not something to be proud of. Police arrests you without any reason, and they make a fool out of you with sarcastic comments," said Miko, who has been at various protests to advocate the working rights of sex workers.

Taiwan began a process of legalising prostitution on Wednesday (June 24) making the island the latest place in the world to decriminalise the world's oldest profession.

In six months, authorities will stop punishing Taiwan sex workers after prostitutes successfully campaigned to be given the same protection as their clients, a government spokesman said.

"We are handling the decriminalization of sex workers and will request that the Ministry of the Interior come up with suggested regulations in six months. In the process, we will hear opinions from all people, including those of sex workers," said Jiang Yi-huah, Minister of the government's Research, Development and Evaluation Commission.

The current regulation penalizes the prostitutes but not the clients.

Taiwan outlawed prostitution 11 years ago, but older sections of the capital Taipei still teem with underground sex workers in bars and night clubs.

The Collective of Sex Workers and Supporters, a Taipei-based advocacy group, estimates that 600,000 people are involved in sex-related jobs.

The Collective said the legalization is something the public has wanted for 12 years.

"Developed countries are all doing this, with designated areas and not letting it over spread. It must be controlled," said an unnamed resident.

"Even if not legalizing it, the negative problems still exist and I think the problem is more severe when it's underground," said 40-year-old Julia Yang.

Local women's rights groups, however, have opposed the move.

"We believe the core of sex work is a form of sexual exploitation and legalization will make Taiwan's problem more severe," the Garden of Hope Foundation said in a recently released statement.

South Carolina Governor admits to extramarital affair

South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford admitted on Wednesday (June 24) he had been unfaithful to his wife, likely ending any chance he might be a Republican contender for the U.S. presidency in 2012.
Sanford resigned as chairman of the Republican Governors' Association and was replaced by Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, another possible 2012 candidate.

"The bottom line is this, I have been unfaithful to my wife. I developed a relationship with what started as a dear, dear friend from Argentina. It began very innocently as I suspect many of these things do. Just a casual email back and forth in advice on one's life there and advice here. But here recently over this last year it developed into something much more than that," Sanford said.

His confession at a tumultuous news conference ended days of speculation over his whereabouts. After he disappeared last week, his staff first said he was hiking on the Appalachian Trail. It later emerged he had traveled to Argentina to be with his lover, leaving his family over Father's Day weekend.

Shedding tears, Sanford apologized to his wife Jenny, his family, friends and staff when he made the shock announcement after returning on Wednesday from Buenos Aires.

Sanford's wife Jenny said she and her husband had been undergoing a trial separation and she regretted his actions and the damage it had done to their children.

But she added in a statement: "I remain willing to forgive Mark completely his indiscretions and to welcome him back."

Sanford explained how he had "developed a relationship" with a "dear friend" from Argentina. "It began very innocently ... in just a casual e-mail back and forth," he said.

With his admission and groveling apologies, Sanford became the latest member of a fast-growing club of U.S. politicians who have confessed their sexual indiscretions before a public audience.

Sanford was one of several Republican governors seen as possible 2012 presidential candidates. Others include Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, Minnesota's Tim Pawlenty, and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal.

As chairman of the governors' association Sanford has been one of the party's most visible spokesmen when its fortunes are at a low ebb.

When U.S. media reported Sanford's whereabouts were unknown since last Thursday, and that even his wife did not know where he was, his aides had said he was hiking on the Appalachian Trail in the eastern United States.

They said he needed a break after a tough state legislative session. During his absence, some South Carolina politicians accused him of abdicating responsibility in state affairs.

Sanford flew back from Argentina to Atlanta early on Wednesday. He initially told a reporter he had changed earlier plans and decided at the last minute to go to Argentina and drive along its coastline.

Sanford gained prominence this year by opposing Democratic President Barack Obama's economic stimulus bill and rejecting $700 million of South Carolina's portion of the funds on grounds it would undermine the state's fiscal stability.

The state's Supreme Court ruled this month that the federal cash must be accepted.


Blogging in Iran

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China says Google spreading illegal content and sanctions should not affect North Korea trade

China says, during its bi-weekly Foreign Ministry briefing, Google is spreading illegal vulgar content. It also stresses that the expanded U.N. sanctions imposed on North Korea should not affect normal trade or humanitarian aid.

China's Foreign Ministry on Thursday (June 25) accused Google's English language search engine of spreading vulgar content that violated the nation's law.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang did not directly answer a question about whether government action was responsible for recent disruptions in access to Google sites from within China.

Qin said various measures taken against Google were in keeping with the law, but did not detail what the measures were or directly comment on Wednesday evening disruptions to Google services in China.

But he made plain the government's anger at the U.S. company.

"I would like to stress that Google China is an internet company providing service in China. Google China should earnestly abide by Chinese laws. The various punitive measures that the relevant government department had applied is strictly in accordance to law," he told journalists at a regular foreign ministry news briefing in Beijing.

Qin also expressed China's wish to see reconciliation on the Korean peninsula, on the fifty-ninth anniversary of North Korea's invasion of the South in 1950.

North Korea has raised tensions in the region in the past months by test-firing missiles, restarting a plant to produce arms-grade plutonium and holding a nuclear test on May 25, which put it closer to having a working nuclear bomb.

North Korea's second nuclear test triggered the U.N. Security Council to adopt tough sanctions to cut off the North's arms trade and the financing for it.

U.S. President Barack Obama renewed sanctions against the reclusive state on Wednesday, declaring that its nuclear program posed a national security risk to the United States.

But the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman stressed that the expanded U.N. sanctions imposed on the DPRK should not affect normal trade or humanitarian aid.

"The move United Nations had adopted should not affect the North Korean livelihood and development, North Korea's economic and trade activities, and humanitarian aids to North Korea. All relevant parties had voted for such U.N. resolution. Relevant parties have common ground on the issue. China, as a responsible nation, will strictly carry this out," Qin said.

The war left about two million soldiers and civilians dead or injured in South Korea and more than three million in North Korea.

Ten million people were separated from their Korean family members.

The two Koreas are still technically at war since the war ended in a truce without a peace treaty.

"At present, thick ice has frozen on the Korean peninsula issue, the situation of which resembles the Cold War. Only the heat created by sincerity, mutual trust, and cooperation can melt the ice," he said.

Pyongyang has threatened to fire an intercontinental ballistic missile if the U.N. Security Council did not apologise for punishing it for an April rocket launch, which was widely seen as a disguised missile test.

Experts say the North's defiant moves are aimed at building internal support for reportedly ailing leader Kim Jong-il, who appears to be laying the foundation for his youngest son, Jong-un, to take over.

Monkey urinates on Zambian president

Monkey urinates on Zambian president as he addresses diplomats and journalists in state house lawns.

A monkey urinated on Zambian President Rupiah Banda as he spoke to journalists at a news conference on Wednesday (June 24).
As Banda was about to make a comment about the opposition he looked up and said: "And the leaders of the opposition . . .aah, the monkey has urinated on me" before chuckling at the scene.

As the president paused to look above him, he saw the animal playing in a tree just above his chair.

He continued his address amid laughter from the audience of journalists and diplomats at the State House presidential offices.

Several monkeys play around the grounds of Banda's residence and his office. There are also many species of antelope and birds in the State House grounds.

Online Think Tank Empowers Citizens to Solve Real Problems via Web, Cellphones

BONITA, Calif., June 24 /PRNewswire/ -- The last week's events in Iran have underlined a new global reality: like it or not, common web and mobile technologies are changing all aspects of the world.

Over the last five years or so, new Web 2.0 tools have hit society like one wave after another: MySpace, Skype, Facebook, YouTube, all the various iPhone and Blackberry applications, and now Twitter.

But to a large degree, these enormously capable technologies have been used for rather trivial purposes: entertainment, gossip, playing video games, publicizing bad garage bands, and re-sending the same cat-falling-off-the-couch video hundreds of times.

Now comes an organization which wants to help people use these tools for grander purposes. Why not, says the World Mind Network, use our vastly expanded powers of electronic networking to improve education, do research, brainstorm solutions to long-standing social problems, build community across political divides, and utilize collaborative online mind-mapping to address common issues.

Starting June 24, membership is free and available to all.

Joining the World Mind Network is like having a Facebook or Twitter account, but it assumes that one is interested in improving the world somehow. Participants can join a forum devoted to improving science education co-moderated by a Nobel Laureate (Peter Doherty), build a community around a disappearing art form, start a psychological research project, or contribute to an interactive blog on the world economic crisis co-hosted by another Nobelist (Edmund Phelps).

The idea is that web and mobile communications have turned the globe into something like a huge brain, with vast processing power and ability to address major challenges. Yet as a species, mankind has for the most part failed to take advantage of this, since Web 2.0 tools are not traditionally marketed that way. But the notion that an average person can have an enormous effect on the world through free tools that are used every day for business and pleasure is becoming more and more evident.

According to the World Mind Network, in the last 15 years or so Humanity has traversed the anthropological scale from Homo Sapiens (Thinking Man) to Homo Connnectivus (Connected Man) to the current Homo Endunamonus (Empowered Man).

The possibilities are endless. See

SOURCE The World Mind Network

Wednesday 24 June 2009

Iran Election Recount..

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Poor nations want greater role for U.N. in world economy

U.N. General Assembly President Miguel D'Escoto says that rich and poor countries are closer in finalizing the agenda that will be discussed at the U.N. financial summit to reform the global financial system, despite skepticism from Western nations.

Rich and poor nations are closer to striking a deal on proposals for reforming the global financial system, Miguel D'Escoto, president of the U.N. General Assembly, said on Tuesday (June 23).

"The only thing that remains, but that can only take place once the conference has begun, is the approval of the document by the General Committee," said D'Escoto on the eve of the global summit.

A three-day U.N. General Assembly meeting on the financial crisis and its impacts on the developing world, originally scheduled for earlier this month, was postponed to June 24-26 when it became clear negotiators had no agreement on draft proposals.

Although the meeting has been billed as a summit, no Western leaders are expected to attend, and only 14 presidents and prime ministers will show up. The other 112 countries taking part will send lower-level delegations.

The expected top speakers are the Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and the Bolivian President Evo Morales, both well known leftists, and outspoken critics of U.S. policies.

The run-up to the conference has highlighted differences between developing nations who want to give the 192 - nation General Assembly much more say in tackling the financial crisis, while major powers such as the Group of 20, want to keep control in their own hands.

"I am satisfied with the way it's going," said D'Escoto, a Roman Catholic priest and former Nicaraguan foreign minister.

He rejected criticism of the summit and the way it had been organized. "What is important is what will be agreed, what is the content of the agreement," he said.

British MPs choose new Speaker

British lawmakers picked a 46-year-old moderate Conservative to drive reform as speaker of parliament's lower house on Monday (June 22), but analysts say fixing the damage after an expenses scandal will take more than a new face.
Moderniser John Bercow, who has served as a member of parliament since 1997, takes over from Michael Martin after he was forced to step down because of dissatisfaction with his handling of the far-reaching expenses affair.

Politicians from all the big parties have pledged to clean up and reform parliament after media disclosures about their taxpayer-funded allowance claims, which have ranged from moat cleaning to pornography and already-paid mortgages.

Opinion polls show the scandal has most affected the ruling Labour party, which is tipped to lose the next election due by mid-2010, but the main opposition Conservatives made only limited gains in this month's European elections.

Bercow, seen by many MPs as a more progressive alternative to a raft of older frontrunners, saw off nine other candidates including former Labour foreign minister Margaret Beckett and 67-year-old Conservative baronet George Young.

Bercow beat Young in a final ballot, taking 322 of 593 votes cast.

Bercow will now have to help drive changes to the way parliament operates, push to make the government more accountable to the House of Commons and reconnect the public with the political system.

The speaker, who wears a black gown and shouts "order, order" to rein in the parliamentary debates he or she chairs, is chosen from among MPs to be the highest authority of the House of Commons and represents the house to the Queen.

In a packed, cheering lower house, Bercow feigned reluctance as he was traditionally "dragged" to the speaker's chair. The speaker must resign from his or her political party to ensure impartiality.

Bercow's predecessor Martin, a former sheet metal worker, was the first speaker to be ousted in more than 300 years after MPs blamed him for not reacting quickly enough to the expenses scandal which resulted in several resignations.

Martin's departure was relatively peaceful for an ousted speaker, however. Some speakers of old have been executed.

The new speaker will no longer be in charge of the Commons allowances system, which the government plans to hand over to an independent body as part of a broader shake-up of the way parliament is run.

First veiled MP swears in in Brussels amidst controversy

The first veiled woman to take her seat in the Brussels parliament was sworn in amidst a growing controversy over the wearing of the Islamic dress. But she says the debate diverts attention from the real issues.

Brussels swore in its first veiled Member of Parliament on Tuesday (June 23), the same day the French next door were setting up a parliamentary mission in the Parliamentary Assembly, to decide whether or not to outlaw the full veil, burqa or niqab.
The 26-year-old Mahinur Ozdemir, a Christian Democrat (CdH) of Turkish origin, is the first veiled woman to take a seat in the regional parliament of Belgian capital Brussels.

Ozdemir says the debate that raged in the Belgian media and parliament over her veil overshadowed the main political issue: her political programme for Brussels.

Several members from the right and the liberal parties want all "religious or philosophically distinctive signs" to be banned from the realm's Assemblies.

Some schools in Flanders have already banned the veil but the decision remains in the hands of directors as it is not enshrined in the law.

The swearing in comes a day after French President Nicolas Sarkozy said the burqa was "not welcome" in France.

The National Assembly in Paris has six months to write a report which could lead to the banning of the full veil.

Sarkozy also said he believed it was a symbol of subservience, not faith.

The debate has cut France through the middle. One French deputy, Corinne Lepage, describes the full veil as a "mobile prison'. Human Rights Watch in Paris says a burqa ban would violate human rights because it is a religious choice.

In Brussels, socialist deputy Caroline Desir says Ozdemir is far from being submissive. Her wearing of the head scarf was a personal choice she made when she was 14.

"It is a personal choice and so, can we talk of submission or something that is imposed on women or an aggression for us, in this context here it is very hard to think of such a thing," Desir said.

After the swearing in, Ozdemir said she was sad of the attention the media gave to the veil and invited the press to meet her in six months time to look at her achievements instead.

"Unfortunately I was reduced to nothing more than this veil and frankly it is hard to remove yourself from it and in the end it has got to be very heavy because underneath this veil there is a personality, there is someone who is engaged, who wants things to change, who wants to move forward, who wants to carry out loads of projects for the people of Brussels and who was rather keen to talk about those projects. Now it is not the case and I hope that after this I will be judged on my work. And I give you rendez vous in six months, not even one year," Ozdemir said.

Her mother, Malak Guler, also said the veil pressure had been hard to bear sometimes.

"It is impossible to explain this moment" (Q: And is the pressure beginning to lift?) (she giggles) "yes now it's ok." (Q: Hamdulillah?) "Hamdulillah. We are breathing a little, we are breathing, because it has been two months that we are in front of the media, and the pressure about her scarf, that I won't forget it, but now, we are going to forget this case and now we need to talk about her projects and nothing else." (Q: Are you going to breathe now?) "I am going to breathe. Inshallah," Guler says.

But with the French having brought the issue to the heart of politics and government the debate is unlikely to abate and Ozdemir is most likely to be back at the front line of the Western nations' veil-and-burqa debate for at least the next six months.

Tuesday 23 June 2009


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Political commentator Mo Rocca strikes a pose beside a life-size mannequin of Benjamin Franklin while visiting the blockbuster exhibition Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World at the National Constitution Center. (PRNewsFoto/Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation)

Kimsooja, A Needle Woman

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Kimsooja, A Needle Woman, 2005, Courtesy of Kimsooja Studio, (c) Kimsooja. (PRNewsFoto/LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art)

Example of a happy Intel telecommuter

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Example of a happy Intel telecommuter. (PRNewsFoto/Qorvis Communications, Intel)

Sunday 21 June 2009

Indian student attacked in Australia

Australian police deny any racial motivation in latest attack on Indian student.

A 25 year-old Indian student was attacked in Australia's southern city of Melbourne Monday night (June 22).
He was walking home in Melbourne's eastern suburbs when he was approached by two teenagers who punched him in the face.

"They give very bad, very bad punch on my face," said the Indian student, who has asked to go un-named.

He was left lying on the street until a passer-by raised the alarm.

This is the latest in a string of attacks that has left many foreign students in Australia fearful for their safety.

"Not only me, every student having a fear in the heart. Like, we are not feeling secure in this country," said the Indian student.

Two youths have been arrested but Australian police said the incident was not racially motivated.

"Walking alone, where they were at the wrong place at the wrong time," said Detective Senior Constable, Matthew Gill Tuesday (June 23).

Around 93,000 of the 430,000 foreign students in Australia are Indians, up from around 30,000 just a few years ago.

National Security and Web 2.0

As part of the Google D.C. Talks series, Jim Young of Google moderated a discussion on "National Security and Web 2.0." Panelists Lt. Col. Patrick Michaelis of the U.S. Army and Dr. Calvin Andrus and Sean Dennehy of the CIA explained how their organizations are using Web 2.0 tools to share knowledge quickly and make intelligence assessments. The panel also discussed the technical and cultural challenges to bringing Internet tools to the national security realm. This event took place on June 12, 2009 at Google's offices in Washington, D.C.

24th Annual Hunger Walk

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More than 5,000 walkers are expected to turn out for the 24th Annual Hunger Walk on June 20. (PRNewsFoto/Greater Chicago Food Depository)

Theocracy and its Discontents

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The June 29 issue of Newsweek (on newsstands June 22), "Theocracy and its Discontents," features Fareed Zakaria on the shape of a new Iran. Plus, Christopher Dickey on Khamenei, Sharon Begley on the "rape gene," Reagan was wrong, our sinking welfare state, a death row case that tests whether swift justice can be certain, and a Q&A with Trent Reznor. (PRNewsFoto/NEWSWEEK)