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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

CAR OF THE FUTURE?


Hiriko: Car of the Future?

Are we going to see the car of the future? It’s very small, economical, folds up like a stroller, and cheap! Cool!

Car of the Future: It’s Cute, Five Feet Long, Gets 75 Miles Per Charge, Folds Up Like a Stroller and Only Costs $16,000
By
The Daily Sheeple, 30 January 2012.


Developed at MIT [Massachusetts Institute of Technology] and manufactured in Europe, the new Hiriko, promises to change how Europeans drive, spend energy and park…
A tiny revolutionary fold-up car designed in Spain’s Basque country as the answer to urban stress and pollution was unveiled Tuesday before hitting European cities in 2013.
The “Hiriko,” the Basque word for “urban,” is an electric two-seater with no doors whose motor is located in the wheels and which folds up like a child’s collapsible buggy, or stroller, for easy parking.
Dreamt up by Boston’s MIT-Media lab, the concept was developed by a consortium of seven small Basque firms under the name Hiriko Driving Mobility, with a prototype unveiled by European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso.
Demonstrating for journalists, Barroso clambered in through the fold-up front windscreen of the 1.5-metre-long car.
Its makers are in talks with a number of European cities to assemble the tiny cars that can run 120 kilometers (75 miles) without a recharge and whose speed is electronically set to respect city limits.
They envision it as a city-owned vehicle, up for hire like the fleets of bicycles available in many European cities, or put up for sale privately at around 12,500 euros.
Source: AFP


TOP 10 TECHNOLOGY THIS WEEK



TOP 10 TECH THIS WEEK
By Charlie White,
Mashable, 29 January 2012.

If you scanned across the tech and gadget world this week, you’d think the future had already arrived. We found so many great products and devices, it was difficult to narrow them down to our Top 10 Tech This Week.

But we persevered, finding conveyances that roll on the ground and fly through the air, a gaming mouse that looks like it might take off at any moment, new software from Google that makes us feel like were flying in space and a bulbous car that was once fiction that’s now reality. We even found a brand new view of a scary, lethal and stealthy weapon for your perusal.

Even everyday objects didn’t escape the futuristic treatment, including a USB cable that shows you which direction its data is flowing, a 55-inch OLED TV that seemed like a fantasy just a couple of weeks ago but now has a more well-defined arrival date, and then there’s the craziest-looking lamp we’ve ever seen - built by a printer, of all things.

So strap yourself in and prepare to be impressed, amused, amazed and perhaps even filled with want - as we bring you the latest edition of our Top 10 Tech This Week.

1. Northrop X-47B Stealth Drone


This stealthy X-47B unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is the size of a fighter jet, and will be taking off and landing from the deck of an aircraft carrier. This is an unusual overhead view of the scary looking plane, which was mistaken for a UFO last month. When will it be ready for battle? Unknown. It's a concept plane so far, but as you can see, it's in the midst of flight testing. [via Gizmodo]

2. Cocoon Lamp, Built by a Printer


Thomas Edison (or Nikola Tesla) wouldn't recognize this organic-looking lamp, created with a polyjet printer. Its nozzles apply a liquid photopolymer, and then the plastic is hardened under ultraviolet light. 

Maybe when the Voxel Studio learns how to mass-produce these gorgeous creature-like luminaires, we'll all be able to own one. For now, it's in the experimental stage. [via Yanko Design]

3. Motorola Droid Razr MAXX


Smartphone aficionados will recognize this Android-packing Motorola Droid Razr, but now the company's taken it to the max. The Motorola Droid Razr MAXX (Verizon, $299 with a new 2-year contract) has a similar form factor to its older brother, but its battery life is much longer, offering "up to 21.5 hours of talk time," according to Motorola.

At 8.89mm thin, it's slightly thicker than the original Droid Razr. I've had the MAXX here for the past few hours and like the absence of that ugly chin that plagued its predecessor - now there's a graceful curve in the back, under which resides a high-capacity 3,300mAh battery, versus the original Droid Razr's 1,780mAh.

Too bad it's running the old Android OS version 2.3.5 (Gingerbread), but that should be updated to the superior Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) soon (Motorola's not saying when just yet, only that it's "upgradeable"). The longer battery life is a welcome sight, given the phone's power-hungry 4.3-inch screen, 4G LTE connectivity and dual-core 1.2GHz processor. 

Smoother profile, longer battery life? Sign me up. I like this Droid Razr version a whole lot more than its predecessor. [Motorola]

4. LG 55-inch OLED HDTVs Are On the Way


When we saw those spectacular 55-inch OLED HDTVs at CES, their arrival date was nonspecific, but now LG says it will start cranking out 48,000 of the devices per month this July. That doesn't mean we'll be watching them in our home theaters that month, but they'll probably be available soon thereafter. 

What we really want to know now is, how much will these things cost? That's still top-secret, but my guess is around $8,000 to start, with prices coming down as mass production proliferates. [via OLED Display]

5. Dash Smartphone Car Stereo


The Dash looks like the ideal car stereo. Slide an iPhone 4 or iPhone 4S into the system's faceplate, and you'll be able to immediately enjoy all the handset's functions as if they were permanently installed in your car. You'll have the advantages of a built-in car stereo and navigation system without having to buy a new screen, apps, or awkward car kits.

The system comes in two parts: the body that contains all the electronics to power the speakers, and the faceplate that holds your smartphone, which can be swapped out if you get a different one.

Will it be built? It's a Kickstarter project, so maybe, if people pledge a total of $45,000 by March 21. At this writing, there was $4504 pledged, and to pre-order the system, it's $250. [via Kickstarter]

6. Star Wars: The Old Republic Gaming Mouse


Aiming for the release of the new game Star Wars: The Old Republic, Razer offers a mouse, mouse pad, keyboard and headphones to match the game. If you've seen other Razer gaming mice, this one will look familiar with its 12 buttons on the right side and beautifully backlit Star Wars insignia where your palm rests.

You can configure those buttons for whichever functions you like, giving you such quick reactions that it almost seems unfair. The mouse can either be wired or wireless, and in our testing, both worked admirably well, without any lag in wired and wireless mode.

The software driver lets you store your settings for the mouse in the cloud, so you can use the mouse anywhere with any computer, logging into your account and retrieving the exact settings you've programmed. We found the login process to be a bit awkward (there's a crucial check box that's invisible), a lame situation we're hoping Razer will fix soon. [Razer]

7. Self-Balancing Unicycle


If a Segway and a unicycle had a baby, this would be the result. This self-balancing unicycle has sensors, gyros and accelerometers to keep it upright, and a 1000-watt motor to propel it at speeds of up to 10mph for a range of 12 miles. Looks like tons of fun for $1,499. [via Gizmag]

8. Dexim LED USB Cable


Now you can impress (or distract) everybody at the coffee shop with your Dexim LED universal USB charge and sync cable. The three-foot cable has a universal USB connector that lets you hook it up to smartphones and tablets from Blackberry, HTC, Samsung, Nokia and Motorola. 

Plug this $26 cable into your mobile device and computer, and the LEDs show you a graphical representation of where those electrons are flowing. Might go over well in a place where distractions run rampant - say, Las Vegas. [via Digital Trends]

9. Google Earth 6.2


If you like Google Earth as much as I do, you'll love this new Google Earth 6.2 update. Gone are those patchwork quilt-looking maps, replaced by smooth visuals that are simply spectacular.

You'll also like version 6.2's improved search facilities and the ability to share screenshots from within Google Earth, directly to email or your Google+ account. It's available now as a free download

10. CityCar


The aptly-named CityCar is perfect for the cramped confines of the modern metropolis, getting you where you need to go and then folding up into a small package after you've arrived.

A pipe dream until now, the car's developers at MIT are rolling out 20 of these bulbous conveyances in Spain, where they've renamed the car "Hiriko," which means "from the city" in the Basque language.

MIT's plan is to offer residents a membership in a car-sharing program. These electric cars can travel 60 miles on a charge, and eventually will be available to everyone for about $12,500. [via DVICE]

[Source: Mashable.]

EUROPE'S SCARIEST CHART


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THIS IS EUROPE'S SCARIEST CHART
By Tyler Durden,
Zero Hedge, 30 January 2012.

Surging Greek and Portuguese bond yields? Plunging Italian bank stocks? The projected GDP of the Eurozone? In the grand scheme of things, while certainly disturbing, none of these data points actually tell us much about the secular shift within European society, and certainly are nothing that couldn't be fixed if the ECB were to gamble with hyperinflation and print an inordinate amount of fiat units diluting the capital base even further.

No: the one chart that truly captures the latent fear behind the scenes in Europe is that showing youth unemployment in the continent's troubled countries (and frankly everywhere else). Because the last thing Europe needs is a discontented, disenfranchised, and devoid of hope youth roving the streets with nothing to do, easily susceptible to extremist and xenophobic tendencies: after all, it must be "someone's" fault that there are no job opportunities for anyone.

Below we present the youth (16-24) unemployment in three select European countries (and the general Eurozone as a reference point). Some may be surprised to learn that while Greece, and Portugal, are quite bad, at 30.7% and 46.6% respectively, it is Spain where the youth unemployment pain is most acute: at 51.4%, more than half of the youth eligible for work does not have a job! Because the real question is if there is no hope for tomorrow, what is the opportunity cost of doing something stupid and quite irrational today?


[Source: Zero Hedge. Edited. Top image added.]

JIHAD WATCH AGAIN...THIS TIME ATTACKING MALAYSIA FOR CRITICIZING ANWAR IBRAHIM'S ISRAEL STANCE


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We are already well appraised with what Anwar Ibrahim said with regard to Israel in his interview with Wall Street Journal. No matter how much he denies it, it was as clear as daylight...no "ifs" and "buts".

Now Jihad Watch, the website which denounced Datuk Hassan Ali for his statement at the 28 January HIMPUN rally, has come up with another article slating Malaysia for criticizing Anwar's Israel stance. In fact, the website berates Malaysia in no uncertain terms for its Israel and Palestinian policies.

'MODERATE' MALAYSIA UPDATE: THE ULTIMATE PEJORATIVE IN MALAYSIAN POLITICS
By
Jihad Watch, 30 January 2012.

When Malaysian politicians of all stripes sling mud and hurtle rhetorical slings and arrows at one another, there is one label that is universally considered by all players to be an insult far worse than all the rest. What might that insult be? Being called a racist? Or a bigot? Or a fascist? No, no, and no again. The ultimate insult in Malaysian politics is to be called a Zionist, or to be seen in any way as a supporter of Israel. This support includes supporting the right of Israel to exist in the first place. In Malaysia, it is a given that all measures taken by Israel to defend itself are by definition war crimes, while all actions undertaken by jihadist organizations like Hamas et al are automatically considered as 'noble' or 'heroic' resistance. These truths are never questioned, at least in Malaysia's public and political sphere.

anifah & anwar

In a recent demonstration of this unwavering axiom, Malaysia's foreign minister, a man named Anifah, has accused Malaysia's opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim of daring to support Israel's right to exist. In Malaysia, this is quite an incendiary accusation. Anwar was quick to denounce Anifah, and proclaim to the world that, in not so many words, he's a good pious Jew-hating I mean Zionist-hating Muslim, and how dare someone accuse him of such treachery.

From "Anifah: Malaysia does not support ‘all efforts to protect Israel’", by Shannon Teoh, The Malaysian Insider, 29 January 2012:
KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 29 — Datuk Seri Anifah Aman insisted tonight that despite supporting a “two-state solution,” Malaysia has never supported Israel in its conflict with Palestine.
Well, isn't that a relief!
The foreign minister said this differed from Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, who said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that he “supports all efforts to protect the security of the state of Israel.”
“His statement clearly shows his acceptance and support for actions taken by Israel against Palestinians up to now.
“Actions interpreted as security measures by Israel include military attacks on Gaza causing the death of thousands of innocent Palestinians including women and children,” the Kimanis MP said in a statement sent to The Malaysian Insider.
Anifah stressed that Malaysia has never supported these actions but joined the global community in condemning Israel that clearly breaches international law.
“Malaysia calls for all parties to find a comprehensive solution that is fair and just based on the ‘Roadmap’ and United Nations (UN) Security Council resolutions whereby both nations can live side-by-side in a peaceful and safe manner,” he added.
Anwar came under heavy fire from Umno and its media after his statement was published by the Wall Street Journal on Thursday.
But the international business daily said Anwar stopped short of saying he would open diplomatic ties with the Jewish state, a step the former deputy prime minister said remains contingent on Israel respecting the aspirations of Palestinians.
And we should all well and truly know by now what those 'aspirations' are.
The opposition leader was forced to defend himself last night by stressing that his remarks in the newspaper meant that he supported a two-state solution as mentioned by Anifah when the latter addressed the UN general assembly in September last year.
But Anifah said today Anwar’s interview “clearly shows full support for all actions taken by Israel to protect its security, unless he is accusing the Wall Street Journal of making a mistake.”
Muslim-majority Malaysia is a staunch supporter of Palestine and has no diplomatic ties with Israel.
Muslim politicians have long vied for support from Malays by denouncing what they say are inhumane acts of aggression by Israel towards its neighbour.
Anwar has previously been attacked as a supporter of the Zionist movement due to his interaction with prominent Jewish figures in the West.
So which does Malaysia support...the right of Israel to exist, or the need to wipe Israel from the map, and to expel or kill all Jews from 'Palestine'? The answer to that should already be obvious.

[Source: Jihad Watch]

Monday, January 30, 2012

THE BEST SCIENCE PHOTOS OF THE WEEK III


image of a katydid observed during an expedition in suriname
Credit: © Trond Larsen

THE BEST SCIENCE PHOTOS OF THE WEEK - 28 JANUARY 2012
By Live Science Staff, 28 January 2012.

Krazy Katydids, Blue Marble 2.0, and more...

Dolphins that sleep-talk and frogs that resemble cowboys! This week in science offered up plenty of quirky and stunning images, including a spectacular new view of Earth and beautiful aurora. Take a look. 

10. STUNNING SKY LIGHTS!
Active aurora in Iceland on Jan. 22, 2012. Credit: Atli Arnarson, atlapix

The northern lights glow an otherworldly green above southwest Iceland on Jan. 22, boosted by an especially active sun. Auroras, visible mostly at very high and very low latitudes, occur when charged particles from the sun hit atoms in the upper atmosphere, creating curtains of light which often shift and undulate. 

"The show on the 22nd was the largest I've seen in recent years, maybe in the last 20 years," photographer Atli Arnarson told LiveScience. "The pictures don't really do it justice. They were quite active at times, and danced across the sky." [See more amazing aurora images] [See also here and here]

9. JUMPING SPIDER VISION
jumping sider eyes Credit: Science/AAAS

Jumping spiders, which hunt by pouncing on their prey, gauge distances to their unsuspecting meals in a way that appears to be unique in the animal kingdom, researchers reported this week. The superability boils down to seeing green, the researchers found. (Shown here, the spider's two lateral eyes that help it see motion, and its principal eyes, which gauge depth.) [Read full story

8. COWBY FROG DISCOVERED
Nicknamed a cowboy frog, this possible new species (<em>Hypsiboas sp.</em>) sports white fringes along the legs and a spur on its heel. Credit: © Paul Ouboter

A spiny armoured catfish and a cowboy frog are among 46 species that may be new to science discovered in the South American country of Suriname, researchers now reveal. The cowboy frog, shown here, sports white fringes along the legs and a spur on its heel. [Read full story]

7. KRAZY KATYDID
a conehead katydid seen in suriname Credit: © Piotr Naskrecki

Also observed during scientists' Suriname expedition was this spectacular conehead katydid (Loboscelis bacatus), previously known only from Amazonian Peru. Katydids are recognized by scientists as indicators of habitat disturbance for an ecosystem. They tend to stay within small specific habitats and do not disperse widely. They are highly sensitive to changes in their habitat, particularly fragmentation. They are also important herbivores and food source for birds, bats and primates. [See more images of Suriname's stunning species]

6. BLUE MARBLE 2.0
Earth from space, a Credit: NASA/NOAA/GSFC/Suomi NPP/VIIRS/Norman Kuring

This gorgeous image is the most up-to-date "blue marble" photo of our home planet. Released this week, it's the latest in a long line of colour images of Earth that date back to the Apollo space missions. The original "blue marble" shot was taken by the crew of Apollo 17 in 1972. Today, satellites are snapping some of the most spectacular photos of Earth. This new image was taken by Suomi NPP, NASA's most recently launched Earth-observing satellite. It's a composite of many images of the planet's surface taken on Jan. 4, 2012. [See more amazing science images] [See also here]

5. DOLPHINS TALK IN THEIR SLEEP?!

A group of five captive dolphins in France have been recorded making whale-like noises late at night — despite the fact that they have only heard whale sounds as recordings during their daytime dolphin shows.

If the sounds are confirmed to be mimicking whales, it would be the first example of dolphins "saving up" a sound to practice later. And since the whale sounds are only uttered at night, it's possible the whale sounds are a dolphin version of sleep-talking. [Read full story]

4. 'OOZING' PLANET SPOTTED
Credit: NASA

A new look at an alien planet that orbits extremely close to its parent star suggests that the rocky world might not be a scorching hot wasteland, as was thought. In fact, the planet, called 55 Cancri e and shown here with Earth in the foreground, may actually be stranger and wetter than astronomers ever imagined. [Read full story]

3. SUN'S POWER UNLEASHED THIS WEEK
solar flare, aurora solar storm Credit: NASA/SDO and the AIA consortium. Edited by J. Major.

An intense solar flare unleashed the biggest radiation storm since 2005. The solar flare exploded from a busy sunspot on the surface of our nearest star, NASA scientists reported. [Read full story] [See also here and here]

2. SHY SNOW LEOPARDS PHOTOGRAPHED
snow leopards, snow leopard photos, snow leopard camera traps, tajikistan wildlife, earth, stealing snow leopards, endangered species news, big cats Credit: Panthera/FFI.

Snow leopards are one of the most elusive cats on Earth. Not only is the species endangered, but it is notoriously shy, and much about where snow leopards live in the wild remains mysterious.

So researchers got a big surprise when a set of 11 camera traps installed in a lonely corner of Tajikistan revealed at least five snow leopards were living in the region, including a mother with two young cubs. [Read full story]

1. OLDEST DINOSAUR NESTING SITE DISCOVERED
This is an artist's interpretation, showing 190 million year old nests, eggs, hatchlings and adults of the prosauropod dinosaur Massospondylus in Golden Gate Highlands National Park, South Africa. Credit: Artwork by Julius Csotonyi

Tiny prints from baby dinosaurs dot the oldest dino nesting site found to date, a 190-million-year-old nursery in South Africa, researchers said.

Shown here, an artist's impression of the site's nests, eggs, hatchlings and adults of the prosauropod dinosaur Massospondylus in Golden Gate Highlands National Park, South Africa. While the mother dinos likely were 20 feet (6 meters) long, while their eggs were only 2.3 - 2.7 inches (6 to 7 cm) wide. [Read full story]

[Source: Live Science.]

DATUK HASSAN ALI DENOUNCED BY FOREIGN ANTI-MUSLIM WEBSITE


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Jihad Watch’s article criticizing Datuk Hassan Ali

It's not often that we hear foreign media or blogs criticizing PAS leaders (or ex-leaders). But Datuk Hassan Ali's statement during the HIMPUN rally in Kepala Batas on 28 January 2012, caught the attention of Jihad Watch, a rabid anti-Muslim website.

Jihad Watch equates Datuk Hassan's statement with Malaysian Muslims' "crusade" against Christians in this country. It anticipates "more crackdowns" and "more oppression" against the latter.

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Datuk Hassan Ali speaking before HIMPUN rally in Kepala Batas.
Image source: Generasi Pejuang Bangsa.

This is however not the first time Jihad Watch has slated Datuk Hassan.

Here's the full article:

MALAYSIAN MUSLIMS OUT TO STOP 'THE CHALLENGE OF CHRISTIANIZATION'
By Jihad Watch, 29 January 2012.

Infamous Malaysian politician Hasan Ali, who previously spoke out vociferously against solar powered talking Bibles that are allegedly being used to persuade Malaysian Muslims to become Christians, is still 'crusading' (if we can borrow that word) against the rising tide of 'Christianization' in Malaysia.

Wait, I thought Islam is the perfect religion - Muslims never ever tire of saying so - and pious Muslims are unshakeable in their faith. Muslims endlessly hawk that supposed fact also. Except when they aren't, apparently. Muslims, as it turns out, are enormously susceptible to jumping the ship of Islam if given the slightest opportunity. At least that's what Hasan Ali is telling anyone who will listen; Christian 'treachery' knows no limits, apparently. From 'Hasan Ali: Christians going undercover to convert Muslims', The Malaysian Insider, 28 January 2012:
KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 28 — Former Selangor Islamic affairs executive councillor Datuk Hasan Ali claimed today Christian ministers have resorted to handing out electronic gadgets and wearing kopiah (skullcaps) to mosques in their efforts to convert Muslims.
The Gombak Setia assemblyman, who was sacked from PAS and the state government earlier this month, told an anti-apostasy rally in Kepala Batas, Penang that Muslims in the country were vulnerable to these methods due to their lack of faith.
He said that when he was Selangor executive councillor, he received at least 60 reports of apostasy including how Muslims were enticed with money and given gifts of laptop computers, cameras, cars, monthly food provisions and gadgets like solar-powered bibles.
“There were reports of foreign Christian ministers wearing Muslim skullcaps and attending prayers at a certain mosque in Petaling Jaya to establish a communal relationship with Muslims before converting them.
“I was told these international Christian groups have unlimited funds,” he told a crowd of about 2,000, a tenth of Himpunan Sejuta Umat’s (Himpun) targeted 20,000 attendess.
Unlimited funds? How underhanded and dastardly!
The coalition of Muslim NGOs has organised several such gatherings in response to the “challenge of Christianisation”.
Himpun was mooted following last year’s controversial August 3 raid by Selangor Islamic authorities on the Damansara Utama Methodist Church (DUMC) in Petaling Jaya, where it was alleged that Christians were converting Muslims.
Hasan had backed the raid and said there “could be hundreds, maybe even thousands” of cases of Muslims being converted by Christians.
Last November, the former Selangor PAS chief told the Selangor Legislative Assembly that evangelical Christians are using high-tech devices such as solar-powered talking bibles to proselytise Muslims in the state.
You can probably see where this is going. More energetic crackdowns and more oppression against not just Christians, but anything unIslamic, is what Hasan Ali and his cohorts are agitating for. Via hysteria and paranoia, we find that these Believers readily justify tyranny of the Islamic kind indefinitely.

Would any Muslim apologists or spokespersons care to show how Hasan Ali has got the Noble Religion of Peace, Moderation, etc. etc. all wrong? Anyone?

[Source: Jihad Watch. Images added.] 

Anyone who has visited Jihad Watch would have noticed its extreme anti-Islam and anti-Muslim fervour. It has coined a new term for Islam - "Islamonausea", a religion that makes people nauseous or sick. It doesn't seem to realize that its hatred of anything Islamic is equally nauseating to other people, especially peaceful and moderate Muslims.


TAMAN NEGARA: THE OLDEST RAINFOREST ON EARTH


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Our own Taman Negara is said to be the oldest rainforest in the world. Older than either the Amazon or the Congo, it has remained undisturbed for 130 million years. It is more ancient than the dry surface of Colorado (US), which used to be under the ocean at that time. It is a grandmother to the rest of the world’s rainforests. During the Ice Ages, when immense glaciers covered much of the Earth, Malaysia was blessed with a location far enough away from the ice that its forest started to develop 130 million years ago - far earlier than forests of Africa and Latin America.

The Taman Negara’s age explains why it is considered to be one of the richest natural environments on earth with 10,000 species of plants, 350 species of birds, 100 types of snakes, 1,000 varieties of butterflies, perhaps 150,000 kinds of insects and 140 types of animals - including bears, elephants, leopards, tapirs, tigers, deer, wild cattle, pigs, rhinoceros, and numerous species of lizards.

This brings to mind the lost continent of Sundaland, the drowned large land mass which was our ancient home and which Dr. Stephen Oppenheimer, in his book Eden in the East: The Drowned Continent of Southeast Asia, suggested was the world's first civilization.

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Two images of Sundaland

But that’s another story and maybe a separate posting. What can be said at this juncture is, because of its very old age, our undiscovered deep ancient history perhaps lies in the jungles of Taman Negara.

Taman Negara is well described in our travel guides and brochures, but here’s a nice write-up from a foreign website.

MALAYSIA'S TAMAN NEGARA: THE OLDEST RAINFOREST ON EARTH
By Environmental Graffiti.

In the middle of the Malaysian peninsula lies a rainforest so old it makes the entire Amazon jungle seem like new growth. Taman Negara, literally ‘national park’ in Malay, has lain virtually undisturbed for 130 million years. Located as it is in the centre of the equator, even ice ages left barely a dent in this ancient jungle.

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Tembeling River. Photo: Rob_Wood

In the middle of the Malaysian peninsula lies a rainforest so old it makes the entire Amazon jungle seem like new growth. Taman Negara, literally ‘national park’ in Malay, has lain virtually undisturbed for 130 million years. Located as it is in the centre of the equator, even ice ages left barely a dent in this ancient jungle.

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Taman Negara river winds through thick jungle, much of it undisturbed by man. Photo: taylorandayumi

Not surprisingly, the flora and fauna of Taman Negara are unrivalled; 14,000 species of plants, 200 mammals and 240 types of trees can be found in a mere hectare of this lush rainforest. And with travel within the park limited to jungle tracks and riverboats, much more may still be waiting to be found.

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One of the colourful fungi that sprouts on decaying trees. Photo: taylorandayumi.

Prior to the Jurassic period, the entire Malay peninsula was submerged underwater. As a result, sedimentary rock and limestone make up the fertile base of Taman Negara and its interesting cave system. Most of Malaysia’s fossils have also been discovered within the limestone of this national park.

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Kuala Tahan. Perahu (boat) brings visitors to their jungle accommodation. Photo: dms_303A

Winding through Taman Negara and serving as its main highway is the Tembeling River and its tributaries the Tahan, Trenggan and Kenyam. Wooden river boats known as perahu ply the waters, transporting people and supplies as they have done for hundreds of years. Human habitation along the river can be dated back nearly 2,000 years, bronze artefacts having been found along the river.

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A close-up look at the perahu. Photo: Honza Soukup.

Living within the rainforest are Malaysia’s earliest inhabitants, or Orang Asli, meaning original or native people. The Orang Asli of Taman Negara are of the Negrito group, who have burial sites in Malaysia dating back 10,000 years.

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An Orang Asli village, which can be quickly dismantled when they are ready to move on. Photo: Honza Soukup.

The Orang Asli live in settlements of about ten to thirty people. In the rainforest, they still live in hunter gatherer societies, in harmony with nature. When they have almost depleted the section of rainforest they live in, the Orang Asli move on and give the jungle time to rejuvenate.

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Orange Asli women and children come down to the river to bathe and fish. Photo: dms_303.

The Orang Asli believe that only animals living above ground are best for consumption, so they hunt birds, squirrels and monkeys. Hunting was originally done with bows and arrows but nowadays the Orang Asli find blowpipes more effective. The darts of the blowpipes are tipped with the poisonous sap of the Ipoh tree (Antaris toxicaria). They supplement their diet with fish and jungle fruits.

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A pet bearcat relaxes in an Orang Asli village. Photo: Bart Van den Bosch.

Far outnumbering the human inhabitants are the flora and fauna of Taman Negara. Within the park boundaries there are tigers, Malayan tapirs, elephants, wild boar, various species of deer, leopards, sun bears, civets and wild ox, to name just a few.

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The strikingly coloured Malayan Tapir, one of the animals found in Taman Negara. Photo: Trisha Shears.

Add to this between 200-300 species of birds and thousands of insects making their lives on the jungle floor. Taman Negara has one of the richest ecologies on earth, protected both by its impenetrability and Malaysian law.

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A Streaked Spiderhunter, a species of bird common in the Malaysian rainforest. Photo: Lip Kee.

These days, increasing numbers of tourists visit the national park although, perhaps fortunately, numbers are still regulated by transport restrictions. Although many hope to catch a glimpse of the larger mammals, most of these remain well hidden in the jungle depths.

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A Barking Deer, so named for its strange calls. Photo: superwebdeveloper.

Visitors can, however, still experience the wonder of being in an ancient rainforest and take walks along jungle paths either on the ground or from hanging bridges in the trees.

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Taman Negara view from a hill. Photo: taylorandayumi.

Taman Negara is a unique environment and hopefully one that will remain relatively untouched for many, many years to come.



Sunday, January 29, 2012

BEYOND SOPA: THE PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE OF INTERNET CENSORSHIP


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The controversy over the internet censorship issue is not over. After the decision on the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA) was shelved indefinitely by the US Congress last week, there emerged another threat to the internet - the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement or ACTA - a global treaty that could allow corporations to censor the Internet.

However, as the following video (with transcript) shows, this only highlight the latest in a series of measures that are seeking to create a legal framework for government-administered Internet censorship. This means that these measures were already either proposed or enforced well before SOPA and PIPA. Wither internet freedom?


TRANSCRIPT
By James Corbett,
The Corbett Report, 29 January, 2012.


In recent weeks the general public has mobilized to face US legislative threats to Internet freedoms. Far from a conclusive victory, however, the death of SOPA and PIPA only highlight the latest in a series of measures that are seeking to create a legal framework for government-administered Internet censorship. Find out more about this contentious topic in this week's GRTV Backgrounder on Global Research TV.

When legislators in the US abandoned their support of SOPA and PIPA in the wake of mass popular protest earlier this month, many of those who had been mobilized by the legislation - which would have granted the US government almost total power to block access to foreign websites accused of so much as linking to copyrighted material - did not have long to enjoy their “victory.” The very next day the New Zealand police swooped in to the million-dollar estate of MegaUpload.com founder Kim Dotcom, arresting him and three others at the US government’s request for alleged racketeering, copyright infringement and money laundering. The Department of Justice is now seeking the MegaUpload CEO’s extradition to the US.

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Left: Megaupload, the file-sharing website. Right: Kim Dotcom, founder of Megaupload.

Some amongst those who had been campaigning against SOPA and PIPA did not know that the US government already had the authority to shut down entire websites and in fact has exercised that authority on numerous occasions. What many are now learning is that, far from some potential future threat, internet censorship already exists in a variety of legislation that is already on the books in the United States and in nations around the world.

Although most commonly associated with China, which has implemented strict internet filters that prevent its citizens from finding politically sensitive material, various internet censorship programs have already been implemented by countries around the globe.

In 2010, Japan passed amendments to its copyright law making it illegal to download copyrighted material. The move has yet to curtail file-sharing in the country, so the Japanese government recently announced that they are going to begin putting fake copies of popular TV dramas on file-sharing websites that, when opened, remind users that it is illegal to download such material.

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In July of 2010, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement seized the domains of 8 websites that it accused of hosting illegal copies of copyrighted material as part of an investigation dubbed Operation In Our Sites. The seizures came before any trial took place, and six of the websites did not actually host any of the copyrighted material in question, only linking to it. That November, ICE acted once again, this time seizing 82 domains. In December of 2011, over one year later, the agency returned one of the domains, Dajaz1.com, to its owner, after admitting that it had not in fact breached any laws.

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In May of last year, the US Justice Department began seeking the extradition of one of the website’s operators, Richard O’Dwyer, from the UK. O’Dwyer is a British citizen who established TVShack.net in December of 2007. The DOJ is hoping to bring O’Dwyer to the US under the Extradition Act of 2003 to face charges of copyright infringement in the Southern District of New York.

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Richard O’Dwyer (right), founder of TVShack.

Late last year, a number of nations signed a new global copyright agreement known as the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement or ACTA. Signatories include the United States, Canada, Japan, Australia, South Korea, and, as of this past week, 22 member states of the European Union.

Purported to be a treaty against counterfeit goods, generic drugs and copyright, it threatens to fundamentally alter the internet as it has so far existed.

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When the Polish government announced its intention to sign earlier this month, protests sprang up around the country.

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Polish protest against ACTA

While the public is only beginning to understand the implications of ACTA, which has already been signed by a number of countries, others are pointing to these types of agreements as only the thin edge of the wedge for the implementation of outright totalitarian control over the internet as a whole. Indeed, perhaps even more worrying than the existing legislation and agreements for internet censorship are the numerous proposals for even more restrictive measures that have been made time and again by political leaders in a variety of contexts.

In October of 2008, the Labor government in Australia proposed a mandatory filter for the entire Australian internet. The proposal, dubbed “Clean Feed” would ostensibly block any content deemed to break Australia’s media regulations. When a list of the websites supposed to be banned under the scheme was released in early 2009, it included the websites of numerous innocuous Australian businesses, as well as overtly political websites that had no illegal or offending material. The current government has said they would not vote for any such legislation, and the proposal would be unlikely to reach parliament until 2013.

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Australia's Clean Feed proposal. Source: Docstoc.

In 2010 the UK passed the Digital Economy Act, which theoretically allows for the UK government to ban copyright violators from the Internet. In August of 2011, parts of the legislation proposing the blocking of sites believed to be linking to copyrighted material was declared to be unenforceable and were dropped from the legislation.

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In March of 2009, Senator Jay Rockefeller opined during a subcommittee hearing that the internet is proving to be such a threat to America’s national security that it would have been better if it had never existed.

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Senator Jay Rockefeller: Internet should have never existed.

In June of 2010, Senator Joe Lieberman stated that he believed the US needed the same ability to shut down the internet as China currently has.

While these proposals are sometimes couched in business-friendly rhetoric about protecting intellectual property, sometimes as a national security question about defending cyber infrastructure from foreign enemies and sometimes as attempts to protect children or stop the spread of child pornography, the proponents of internet censorship are becoming increasingly honest about their real worry: the free spread of ideas amongst a public that is allowed to choose for themselves what information to believe and what to discard.

Last year, Bill Clinton advocated the idea that the US government create an agency for “fact-checking” websites on the internet.

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Bill Clinton: Creating an Internet agency 'would be a legitimate thing to do'. AP Photo.

Earlier this month, Evgeny Morozov of Stanford, who previously served as a Fellow of George Soros’ Open Society Institute, wrote an article calling on Google and other search engines to use banners to warn users about websites that are deemed to be pseudoscientific or conspiratorial. Perhaps realizing that the proposal sounds drastic, Morozov concludes:
“…such a move might trigger conspiracy theories of its own -e.g. is Google shilling for Big Pharma or for Al Gore? - but this is a risk worth taking as long as it can help thwart the growth of fringe movements.”
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Evgeny Morozov

Here we see the real danger of the internet for those who seek to control the spread of information. The internet, like every other medium that has come before it, changes not just the way in which people create, distribute and receive information, but the information itself. Just as the printing press led to the widespread publication of the Bible in the vernacular and ultimately to the Reformation which forever transformed the power structure in European society, so too has the internet allowed the public to receive, correlate and distribute information that challenges official government narratives in a way that threatens to transform the power structure of our society. And as the traditional media has begun to bleed away the remains of its increasingly dissatisfied customer base, self-immolated on the fantastic failure to challenge the status quo on issues like Saddam’s WMD or the growing apparatus of the police state or the never-ending bailouts of the too-big-to-fails, a new, independent media has arisen to take its place, empowered by technologies that allow for the instantaneous and nearly costless transmission of ideas to the farthest corners of the globe.

When situated in this context, the recent struggle over the SOPA and PIPA bills are seen for what they are: one battle in a much larger war for internet freedom, and ultimately, the cognitive liberty of the American public. But it is possible to win the battle and yet lose the war, as the millions of MegaUpload users who just had all of their files seized by the FBI found out the hard way. The only hope is that the movement that has arisen to face this, the greatest threat to the rise of this new era of mental independence, does not wane in the wake of the SOPA and PIPA “victory,” but instead rises to meet the even greater internet clampdown that awaits. After all, all the authorities are waiting for is for the public to fall back asleep.

[Source and Transcript: The Corbett Report. Images added.]