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Monday, 25 March 2013

TOP 10 TECHNOLOGY THIS WEEK XLVI


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Top 10 Tech This Week (03/23/2013)
By Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai,
Mashable, 25 March 2013.

It was an especially exciting week in tech, with lots of big news coming from all fronts. So who dominated the Top 10 Tech world this week?

Google, a week after announcing the demise of the beloved Google Reader, launched a new note-taking Evernote-like app called Google Keep. The company's most exciting unveiling this week, though, might have been the addition of stunning imagery from the world's tallest mountains.

Amazon took another step in its quest to conquer the tech world, announcing "Send to Kindle" a button that allows readers to save articles to read them later on their Kindle devices.

Meanwhile, to add to the smart watch craze, Samsung confirmed it's working on a smart watch of its own, joining the likes of Apple and LG. Speaking of smart watches, Pebble announced the release of a software developer's kit (SDK) for its immensely popular watch, paving the way for the arrival of countless apps.

And that's not even the half of it. We learned about a teen who created Algae-powered biofuel in her bedroom lab, and an amateur filmmaker who mounted 15 GoPro cameras in an array to slow down reality to Matrix-like bullet time videos.

Take a look at our Top 10 Tech This Week to see what other great stories took the world of technology by storm this week…

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Top image: HP Labs’ 3D hologram-like video display. Image courtesy of YouTube, hptalks.


COOLEST SCIENCE STORIES OF THE WEEK XXIV


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Coolest Science Stories of the Week
By
Live Science, 24 March 2013.

Snakes with shrunken heads, diseases from iced tea and the Kill Bill wasp are just a few of our top picks from Science this week.

10. Shrunken heads of sea snakes explained

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Some sea snakes have heads that look comically small compared with the rest of their body. New research shows these shrunken heads evolved quite rapidly, allowing the snakes to hunt eels hiding in tight spaces.

If you only looked at the genes of the blue-banded sea snake and the slender-necked sea snake, the two species would seem nearly identical. But the close cousins, which are found in waters around Southeast Asia and Australia, have quite different physical looks, researchers say.


9. Medieval monks cultivated wetlands

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A medieval monastery in Belgium went to major effort to drain wetlands on its land, building structures on artificially raised soil, a new study finds.

Archaeologists excavated the Boudelo Abbey, once part of the medieval county of Flanders, in the 1970s. Until now, however, they had no idea that an extensive drained wetland surrounded the site.


8. Too much tea linked to bone disease

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A 47-year-old Michigan woman developed a bone disease rarely seen in the U.S. after she drank a pitcher of tea made from at least 100 tea bags daily, for 17 years, researchers report.

The Detroit woman visited the doctor after experiencing pain in her lower back, arms, legs and hips for five years.


7. Mysterious layer beneath Earth revealed

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A mysterious layer lies beneath Earth's massive tectonic plates.

Sandwiched between two rock layers - the rigid lithosphere and the more pliable asthenosphere - this thin boundary is like the jelly in a peanut butter sandwich. Scientists think it could be very wet rock, or even partially melted rock, but no one knows for sure.


6. Ancient Egyptian sundial found

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A sundial discovered outside a tomb in Egypt's Valley of the Kings may be the world's oldest ancient Egyptian sundials, say scientists.

Dating to the 19th dynasty, or the 13th century B.C., the sundial was found on the floor of a workman's hut, in the Valley of the Kings, the burial place of rulers from Egypt's New Kingdom period (around 1550 B.C. to 1070 B.C.).


5. Graves of twin moon probes spotted

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An eagle-eyed NASA spacecraft has spotted the tiny craters two moon probes created when they crashed intentionally into the lunar surface last year.

NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) snapped a series of photographs of the two 16.5-foot-wide (5 meters) craters, which mark where the space agency's twin Grail probes ended their gravity-mapping mission, and their operational lives, on Dec. 17.


4. Giant squid all one species

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Though they roam the deep sea around the globe, enigmatic giant squid are all part of the same species, new research finds.

The new study reveals that the genetic diversity of giant squid (Architeuthis) is remarkably low - far lower than that of other marine species examined, said study researcher Tom Gilbert of the University of Copenhagen. The findings suggest that the squid intermingle and mate across the globe.


3. Wasp named for 'Kill Bill' assassin

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A new species of parasitic wasp with a lethal lifestyle is taking its name from assassin Beatrix Kiddo, the heroine played by Uma Thurman in Quentin Tarantino's "Kill Bill" films.

While the winged creature isn't exactly a master of the "Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique" - a technique that involves striking five pressure points, resulting in (you guessed it) an exploding heart - it does shares the yellow-and-black colour of Kiddo's jumpsuit. Even more, the wasp has its own deadly repertoire of assassin-like moves.


2. Penis-snatching panics resurface

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In a recent issue of "Pacific Standard" magazine, Louisa Lombard, an anthropologist at the University of California at Berkeley, described visiting a small town in the Central African Republic where she encountered two men who claimed that their penises had been stolen.

It seems that the day before, a traveller visiting the town had shaken hands with a tea vendor who immediately claimed he felt a shock and sensed that his penis had shrunk. He cried out in alarm, gathering a crowd, and a second man then said it also happened to him.


1. Lost tectonic plate found

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A tectonic plate that disappeared under North America millions of years ago still peeks out in central California and Mexico, new research finds.

The Farallon oceanic plate was once nestled between the Pacific and North American plates, which were converging around 200 million years ago at what would become the San Andreas fault along the Pacific coast. This slow geological movement forced the Farallon plate under North America, a process called subduction.


[Source: Live Science. Edited.]


NILE BOWIE: GE13 - WHAT'S AT STAKE FOR MALAYSIA?


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Nile Bowie’s take on our forthcoming GE 13…

GE13: What’s at stake for Malaysia?
By Nile Bowie,
Nile Bowie Blog, 24 March 2013.

Malaysians of all walks of life will soon go to the polls to take part in an election, the outcome of which will have long-ranging implications that could see significant changes in how the country is governed. The incumbent leader, Najib Razak, is campaigning for his first mandate at the polls, and his government has legitimized itself through its growth-promoting management of the economy and a series of populist measures aimed at lifting the burden on the poor. The opposition coalition, which has vowed to eliminate authoritarianism and elite graft, has released a manifesto that some have lauded, while others have been more sceptical of by questioning how the coalition plans on executing many of their programs. The dissolution of parliament is just around the corner and it cannot be denied that many are dissatisfied with the status quo, and there is a large demographic of young voters who want to challenge the ruling coalition’s infallibility at the polls.

The surfacing of contentious issues close to election-time has created a notable climate of disillusion in Malaysia’s critical blogosphere. Among those are concerns that immigrants in Sabah were given citizenship and voting rights during Dr. Mahathir’s era on the condition that they vote in favour of the ruling party. The recent exposé documenting members of Taib Mahmud’s family openly talking of skirting Malaysian tax law has gone viral, putting enormous pressure on Najib’s administration to take action. Many, especially among the young, feel animosity toward the government for the way in which the Bersih demonstrations were dispersed. These factors do not bode well for the ruling party, but despite the shortcomings that should rightfully be addressed, it should be acknowledged that from a developmental point of view, Malaysia has historically been among the top-tier of well-governed countries in the region and the ruling coalition has been very successful in numerous areas.

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The Naijb government has undeniably had success in delivering high-economic growth to Malaysia. This should not be easily shrugged off by the frustrated voter, especially considering the lacklustre state of the global economy. In recent times, economic turmoil has ensued throughout the European Union as a result of negligent mismanagement and the primacy of finance capital. Cyprus has been in uproar over a bill that would make citizens have their personal savings taxed when their government and affiliated bondholders took careless risks. In the United States, the Obama administration has found itself so indebted, that it was forced to pass the Sequester bill, cutting $85 million from the federal budget, primarily targeting social programs that the downtrodden and the elderly depend on. In both cases, the most vulnerable members of society have been forced to pick up the tab for governments and investors that have recklessly managed their economies and instituted punishing belt-tightening austerity measures.

In stark contrast, the Najib administration has extended its hand to the poor - be it single mothers, taxi drivers, low-earning families or young entrepreneurs - by introducing a wide range of credit schemes, vouchers, and subsidies that have helped the pace of development. Malaysians often overlook the fact that Malaysia has one of the lowest inflation rates in the world, the Najib government has made it a priority to implement people-friendly policies and programs of social uplift, exactly what the people of Greece, Spain, and Portugal have been asking their bureaucratic leaders for. Najib’s 1Malaysia program, the central backbone of his populist policies, has been criticized for lacking substance. One should note that the current leadership is trying to deemphasize ethnicity, and in a country where complaints of race-politics are commonplace, this should be rightfully seen as a welcoming development. There is no doubt that the current leadership is well aware of the criticisms and the short-comings, hence the emphasis being placed on economic and governmental transformation programs that have the potential to deliver increased stability and bring about an economic climate where more bold reforms are possible in the near-future…



Sunday, 24 March 2013

WASHINGTON'S CREATURE IN MALAYSIA? THE MYSTERIOUS CASE OF THE SULU SULTAN


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Here’s another article by Nile Bowie on the Lahad Datu incursion, taken from the Counterpunch site. Bowie touches on the circumstantial evidence linking Malaysian opposition figures to this incursion - evidence which should not be ignored given that all the sources are non-Malaysian in origin.

Washington's Creature in Malaysia? The Mysterious Case of the Sulu Sultan
By Nile Bowie,
Counterpunch, 17 March 2013.

Malaysia has been in the midst of an on-going security crisis since early February, when a group of 235 rag-tag militiamen from the neighbouring southern Philippines slipped into the eastern state of Sabah and began occupying several villages.

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Images via The Star (left) and Kurakura.my (right)

While engaging police in several fire fights, the insurgents beheaded and mutilated several captured Malaysian security personnel, prompting Malaysian forces to deploy fighter jets in an unprecedented air assault over the area in an operation to flush out the intruders. The gunmen call themselves the “Royal Army of the Sulu Sultanate”, representing the heirs of a long-defunct kingdom which once controlled the territory up until the late nineteenth century. The so-called Sultan of Sulu, Jamalul Kiram III, who is believed to be directing the militant incursion from Manila, insists that Sabah is rightfully part of his kingdom and has vowed not budge on his claims even if his personnel are killed in the standoff.

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Image sources: Wikipedia - Left: Lahad Datu; Right: 2013 Lahad Datu standoff.

Malaysians, who are preparing to vote in a pivotal general election just around the corner, have been fixated on events in Sabah as they unfold. The Philippines are soon expecting congressional elections as well, and given the timing, local analysts are wondering how exactly did this elderly self-proclaimed Sultan obtained the resources needed to establish his own private army. Both the Malaysian and Philippine governments have launched official investigations into allegations that figures within Malaysia’s political opposition had a hand in aiding the Sulu gunmen. Reuters cited an anonymous Filipino military officer who claimed that Sulu rebels were “invited to Sabah by a Malaysian opposition politician”.

The blame has been laid on Malaysia’s de-facto opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, who Malaysian reports say has links to Filipino insurgent networks that have long eyed the resource-rich state of Sabah in northern eastern Borneo. Local journalist Adrian Lai recently unearthed classified diplomatic cables from the US embassy in Manila brought to light by WikiLeaks, which document ties between Nur Misauri, former chairmen of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), and Malaysia’s main opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim. The MNLF is a political movement that pitted itself against predominately Christian Manila by seeking political autonomy for Muslim majority provinces in the islands in the southern Philippines. In 2001, Manila accused Misauri of terrorism when he led an MNLF unit that attacked an outpost of the Philippine army, prompting him to seek refuge in Sabah on the assumption that authorities in Muslim-majority Malaysia would empathize with him and block his extradition. Misauri was detained by Malaysian security forces in Sabah and sent back to the Philippines where he was jailed until 2008.

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Nur Misuari (left) and Jamalul Kiram III. Image via Jiwang.org.

WikiLeaks cables claim that Misauri detested the Malaysian government for turning him over to Philippine authorities and that he was “a strong advocate for the recovery of Sabah”. The cables claim that Misauri boasted that his militias could invade Sabah in the span of two hours. WikiLeaks has also confirmed that Misauri maintained close connections to Anwar Ibrahim, and that the two had met on several occasions. A separate report issued by AFP cited US diplomatic cables that implicate a Saudi Arabian ambassador to the Philippines of funding Muslim groups seeking autonomy in the southern islands. Misauri recently criticized Philippine President Benigno Aquino for siding with Malaysia in his firm stance against the Sulu militants, warning the Aquino government of chaos if Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III is apprehended.

Anwar Ibrahim, who has vehemently denied all accusations, has long been considered a darling of the West. Mr. Ibrahim is a slippery character of sorts; he was once Malaysia’s deputy prime minister prior to being sacked for getting too close to the IMF, among other things. Anwar also has friends in high places, from billionaire financier George Soros to senior neo-cons from the Bush administration. In recent times, Ibrahim has appealed to Carl Gershman, president of the US-Government funded foundation, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), requesting that he send a US observer team to Malaysia to monitor the upcoming elections. Ibrahim enraged many when he stated he would support policy to protect the security of Israel, and while his political party has long received training and backing from the International Republican Institute (IRI) chaired by Republican Senator John McCain, there is little doubt that Anwar - a creature of Washington’s taxpayer funded “Democracy Promotion” overseas - would be the trusted ally that the White House is looking for as it refocuses its military muscle and political influence to the Asia-Pacific region.

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Philippine President Benigno Aquino III. Image via New Straits Times.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino has recently conceded that events in Sabah showed signs of a conspiracy. A recent statement issued by Malaysian political-scientist Dr. Chandra Muzaffar alludes to reports of Malaysian opposition figures promising land, titles and other sinecures to the Sulu Sultanate if they emerged victorious in the upcoming elections. Muzaffar argues that a security crisis in Sabah, regarded as a political stronghold for the Barisan Nasional (BN) government, could weaken the ruling parties hold over the state, leading to a hung parliament or a narrow victory for the BN, prompting in his words, “massive street agitation which could pave the way for a regime change, which is the goal of not only the Opposition but also its foreign backers.” When Chandra talks of “foreign backers”, he is referring to the US political establishment.

The MNLF, under its current chairmen Muslimin Sema, has issued statements declaring that it disagreed with the incursion into Sabah, but acknowledged that MNLF forces aligned to Misauri were present there. Reports issued by Reuters also cited Malaysian officials who claimed that the Sulu terrorists had links to factions that were unhappy with the Philippines’ recent peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), an Islamist MNLF offshoot. The Malaysian government facilitated these peace talks, and Misauri made no secret that he publically opposed them. The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported that some ten thousand MNLF fighters from the southern Philippines planned to join the insurgency in Sabah in solidarity with the Royal Sulu Army.

Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III has told media in the Philippines that he wants the United Nations, the United States and the United Kingdom to intervene in his claim over Sabah. The Sultan claims that the US must intercede, as agreed upon in a 1915 agreement signed with Washington’s then-colonial government in the Philippines that mandated the US provide “full protection” to the Sulu Sultan in exchange for exercising sovereignty over the kingdom as the colonial administration. Let’s not forget, the strategically located state of Sabah is abundant in natural gas reserves, and its oil reserves are the third highest in the Asia-Pacific region after China and India. Sabah’s fifteen oil wells produce as many as 192,000 barrels a day, while the country has holds over 4 billion barrels of proven oil reserves. In 2010, Malaysia was the world’s third largest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG) after Qatar and Indonesia. The Malaysian government had paid a modest annual cession payment to the Sultanate (which the Sultan argues is a “rent”) since gaining independence from Britain, and one of the motivations for the Sultan’s push to reclaim the territory is definitely profit-driven. While the Pentagon refocuses over 60% of its naval presence to the Asia Pacific region, conflicts of this nature - which deal with obstructions to the flow of abundant energy resources to US companies - are exactly the sort that could coax the eventual involvement of US personnel if Sabah were to deteriorate into a hotbed of Sulu-terror.

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Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad with the Malaysian General Operations Force in Felda
Sahabat, Lahad Datu. Image via mStar.

The fact that individuals in the highest levels of the Malaysian and Philippine governments are suspicious of a conspiracy does much to lend credence to the possibility. Former Malaysian PM Dr. Mahathir Mohammad, an ardent critic of Israel and US imperialism, warned months prior to the standoff in Sabah that the opposition’s Western backers sought to bring Anwar Ibrahim to power through Arab Spring-style street riots and even the use of fire power, citing recent examples in Egypt and Syria where NATO states backed political opposition figures and supported al-Qaeda-linked rebels to act on their behalf in overthrowing governments they were tired of. Reports of Saudi Arabia financially supporting Philippine terrorists should also not be taken lightly, as Gulf States have moved in-step with the US and NATO as the main financiers of Salafist terrorist networks active in west Asia, north Africa and elsewhere.

Without resorting to elaborate conspiracies in the absence of hard facts, it would be entirely negligent to ignore circumstantial evidence linking Malaysian figures to this insurgency, especially considering all sources of this nature are non-Malaysian in origin. There is no doubt that the Sultan has no legitimate legal claims over Sabah since the International Court of Justice has long recognized Malaysia’s rights and sovereignty over the territory, and the highly unusual timing of the Sulu operation being so close to elections in both countries will naturally be perceived as suspect. Militancy and terrorism undermines the Sultan’s claims entirely and lends much credibility to suspicion that the Sultan has not acted alone. Even if the US isn’t involved, the fact that a figure who received blatant US support has been implicated is significant. There is much at stake in Sabah, and in the words of the Sultan, “The only thing that could end the conflict is an intervention.

Nile Bowie is an independent political analyst and photographer based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He can be reached at nilebowie@gmail.com

Top image via The Mole

[Source: Counterpunch. Edited. Images added.]

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10 BIKE-FRIENDLY CITIES AROUND THE GLOBE



10 bike-friendly cities around the globe
By
Mother Nature Network, 21 March 2013.

Where bicycles rule

People who want to enjoy an Earth-friendly vacation often seek out public transportation when they visit a city. Trains and buses can significantly lower a traveller's carbon footprint - and so can walking. But what about bicycles? Most urban areas have some sort of bike scene, but dangerous roads and lots of car traffic (not to mention aggressive drivers) can make it hazardous to undertake a pedal-powered sightseeing tour.

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Photo: Peter Clark/Shutterstock

But cycling in a few select metropolises is safe and easy because of infrastructure that include bike lanes, dedicated cycle paths, and drivers who are generally more willing to share the road with two-wheelers. If you want a bicycle to be a part of your next vacation, these pedal-friendly cities should be near the top of your list. (Text: Josh Lew)


1. Portland, Oregon, USA

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Portland's bicycle scene has gotten plenty of positive press. The city has earned the top ranking in several “best cities for cycling” lists. Nearly 6 percent of all locals commute using a bicycle, though a pedal tour through the city may lead visitors to believe that the percentage is actually much higher.

With proper rain gear, it is possible to bike year-round in Portland. The city's bike friendliness is mainly due to a cutting-edge infrastructure that includes bike lanes and “bicycle boulevards” (side streets with low speed limits that have been optimized for bicycle traffic). Dedicated bike paths like the Springwater Corridor mean that visiting cyclers can ride for miles without ever seeing a car. Portland's bike culture is thriving and easily accessible, so if you are a social cycler - someone who likes to meet and ride with other enthusiasts - this is the city for you.


2. Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

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Minneapolis is not necessarily the first place that people think of when it comes to biking. Cold, snowy winters are less than ideal for pedal-themed vacations. Nonetheless, Minneapolis was recently ranked the best city in the U.S. for bicycling by Bicycle Magazine.

Numerous streets boast bike lanes, and there is a city-wide network of paths and trails that makes it possible to travel without having to ever ride on the street. Main paths are even ploughed in the wintertime, sometimes even before side streets are cleared after a snowstorm.

Snow and wind chills are only part of the cycling equation from late November through mid-to-late March. For the rest of the year, biking is an easier undertaking, with many people seduced by the trails that circle the urban lakes and riversides of Minneapolis and connect the city's most interesting neighbourhoods.


3. Copenhagen, Denmark

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Copenhagen is one of the world's most cycle-friendly metropolises. More than 30 percent of the population commutes by bike. The government is taking steps to increase that impressive statistic even further by building a series of “bikeways” to connect the city with outlying suburban areas. Bike lanes already exist on each side of many of Copenhagen's streets, making it simple to get anywhere in the city on two wheels.

While the cycle lanes can sometimes be crowded (bike traffic is as much of a problem as vehicle traffic in this Scandinavian city) and bike parking is sometimes lacking in core areas, the overall infrastructure means that this is arguably one of the best cities in the world for getting around on a bike.


4. Amsterdam, The Netherlands

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More than half of all the trips taken in central Amsterdam are on bicycles. With more than 250 miles of urban bicycle paths, many tourists are tempted to join the locals and see the city's sights from a bike saddle, even if they don't usually ride when at home.

Why do bikes rule in this city? Cycle paths often offer the quickest route between two attractions. Car parking fees are expensive in downtown Amsterdam and many streets are one way or completely off-limits to motorized traffic, so cycling is not only green, it’s the most convenient option for getting around.

Since so many tourists opt for bike-powered sightseeing excursions, a high number of shops in Amsterdam rent bikes specifically to visitors and are ready to provide route information and a crash course in the city's cycling rules.


5. Curitiba, Brazil

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Curitiba, a mid-sized city in Southern Brazil, is known as one of the nicest places to live in South America. Large public green-spaces and an efficient public transportation system make it a pleasant place to visit as well. With an expansive network of bike paths, many separated from the car traffic by barriers, this is certainly one of the most cycle-friendly cities on the continent.

There are ambitious plans by the municipal government to add more than 150 additional miles of bike specific trails to the cycle infrastructure. Many neighbourhoods are connected with one another by paths, so it is possible to get a taste of the city and visit its best attractions by simply hopping on a bicycle. Curitiba also has a lively bike culture, with many people actively using and promoting the bicycle as a means of transportation rather than merely a tool for exercise and recreation.


6. Perth, Australia

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Perth sits in Western Australia, the opposite side of the continent from Sydney and the Gold Coast. This metropolis is one of the best places in the country for cyclists. Many main roads have bike lanes, while bike paths run parallel to major inner-city highways and train lines. This infrastructure makes it possible to go almost anywhere in Perth on a bike that you could get to on a car or train.

Hot summer temperatures can sometimes be an issue for visitors, but those who are prepared (with lots of water and sunscreen) can easily get to the major sights and attractions of Perth by bike. Programs like Perth's Bike to Work Challenge champion the use of bikes by local commuters and create a strong grassroots cycling movement in the city.


7. Kyoto, Japan

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Photo: Isado/flickr

Urban Japan is certainly not the first place that comes to mind when people think of cycling. There is little room for bikes on Tokyo's or Osaka's crowded streets. Kyoto, one of Japan's most famous historic destinations and a big city in its own right, is another story, however.  Tourists can get around quite easily on bicycle here. In fact, many locals choose two-wheelers as a convenient means of transportation that allows them to avoid traffic jams and the sometimes-crowded public transit system.

Central Kyoto, where places like the historic Nanzen-ji Temple are located, is relatively flat, so anyone with a decent map can explore the area by bicycle without worrying about working up a sweat. Sites like the bilingual Cycle Kyoto offer information for tourists who want to sight see or who simply want to experience the historic ambiance from a bike saddle.


8. Kaohsiung, Taiwan

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Photo: Dicky/flickr

Taiwan’s second city has a blossoming bicycle scene. Since it is flat and the streets are grid-like, getting around by pedal power is easy. The city government has made a concerted effort to promote cycling, creating bike paths throughout the city and also offering rentals outside of transit stations as part of the City-Bike (C-bike) program. With a membership card, people can rent a bike from an automated C-bike kiosk (pictured), ride it and then return it to any other kiosk in the city.

Many of Kaohsiung's paths are only for bicycles, so riders don’t have to contend with car traffic or even with many pedestrians. Kaohsiung even has a bike-specific bridge. With its infrastructure and ambitious plans to expand it even further, this city is certainly one of the best places for urban bicycle touring in East Asia.


9. Berlin, Germany

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Anyone who has been to Berlin knows that one of its main characteristics is its incredibly wide streets. This feature makes cycling in the city a breeze. Riders actually have space here; they are not confined to narrow bike lanes that double as a place for parking cars. Dedicated bike paths are off-limits even to pedestrians.

The sheer amount of room to pedal makes Berlin arguably one of the safest cities for cyclists in the world. There are even laws (and fines for breaking them) that are meant to increase safety and responsible among cyclists. Berlin is also quite flat, so tourists can cruise around the 400 miles of bike paths and get to all the city's best sights and attractions without breaking a sweat.


10. Montreal, Canada

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Like Minneapolis, Montreal is a northern destination with a lively bike culture. With 300 miles of trails throughout the city, including paths that pass through tourist centres likes Old Montreal and the downtown area, there is certainly an infrastructure here to make bicycle-powered sightseeing possible.

Montreal boasts a number of dedicated bike paths, some with lane lines similar to those seen on roads. The bike scene does not slow down in winter, with the city removing snow from paths, sometimes even faster than it is ploughed from the streets.


[Source: Mother Nature Network. Edited.]


BEST EARTH IMAGES OF THE WEEK XLVI


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Best Earth Images of the Week - March 22, 2013
By
Our Amazing Planet, 23 March 2013.

1. The road less travelled

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A camera trap has captured photos of two healthy tigers using a protected corridor in the Kerala province of southwest India this year, evidence that the pathway could help populations of the endangered animals.

The first photo shows an adult male tiger in very good health that has just preyed upon a gaur, also known as an Indian bison, according to a release from the World Land Trust, which funded the creation of the protected area. The camera trap spotted another adult tiger, also in good health, earlier in the year.


2. Big Hop for amphibian conservation

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Several teeny-tiny frogs, one big hop for amphibian conservation.

Scientists have successfully bred a certain type of endangered Panamanian amphibian - the limosa harlequin frog - for the first time. The development is key because populations of the itty-bitty frog, which is smaller than a quarter as a baby, are declining in its native country.


3. Images of home

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NASA's latest Earth-observation satellite has snapped its first photos, continuing a four-decade effort by numerous spacecraft to track environmental change and resource use across the planet.

The Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM), which launched Feb. 11, captured a series of images of the United States' Great Plains and Rocky Mountain region on Monday (March 18) using both of its on-board instruments.


4. New finds

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Two new colourful species of lizards have been discovered in the Peruvian rain forest, in a little-explored section of the Andes Mountains in the northeast of the country.

Both species of lizards sport colourful splotches of green and brown that allow them to blend into the mountain rain forests they call home.


5. Earth as art

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It's that time of year again: the first day of spring.

On this special date, the length of the day and night are about the same for most of the planet. The amount of solar energy delivered to the Northern and Southern Hemisphere is also equal.


6. Happy blowout day

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On this day in 2008, molten lava blasted through the summit of Kilauea volcano at 2:58 a.m. Hawaii time.

The blowout built a lava lake in Halema'uma'u crater, itself the remnant of a past explosion. After five years of close study, scientists think the lake is like no other place on Earth. The lava is as light as water. The lake level rises and falls by the minute, the hour, the month. Watchers who study the pit's "breathing" can forecast coming eruptions, because the gaping hole is a direct conduit into Kilauea's magma reserves.


7. New views

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Those unwilling to face the altitude sickness, crevasses and avalanches of Mount Everest can still explore the world's highest mountain from home.

Google Maps has unveiled stunning, panoramic imagery from some of the highest, most remote places on Earth, including the 18,192-foot-high (5,545 meters) Mount Everest base camp. (Everest's peak is at an altitude of 29,035 feet, or 8,850 meters)


8. Underwater grave boasts new life

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For the first time ever, scientists say they have discovered a whale skeleton on the ocean floor near Antarctica. Resting nearly a mile below the surface, the boneyard is teeming with strange life, including at least nine new species of tiny of deep-sea creatures, according to a new study.

Though whales naturally sink to the ocean floor when they die, it's extremely rare for scientists to come across these final resting places, known as "whale falls." Discovering one typically requires a remote-controlled undersea vehicle and some luck.


[Source: Our Amazing Planet. Edited.]