Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Wheelchair 'steered by thought'

A researcher wearing a cap that can read brain signals rides on a wheelchair that can be steered by detecting brain waves at Riken Brain Science Institute in Wako near Tokyo, Japan.

Japan's Toyota Motor said on Monday it had invented a way to allow a person to steer an electric wheelchair through simple thought, using a helmet-like device that measures their brain waves.

The cutting-edge Brain Machine Interface (BMI) technology uses electrodes attached to the scalp to measure localised brain activity when a user concentrates on certain physical movements.

The signals are displayed on a panel in almost real time and translated into instructions to steer the motorised wheelchair, the researchers said.

"Such systems allow elderly and handicapped people to interact with the world through signals from their brains without having to give voice commands," Toyota said in a statement.

"This technology is expected to be useful in the field of rehabilitation, and for physical and psychological support of wheelchair drivers," it added.

The company said the system is 95 per cent accurate and able to adjust itself to the characteristics of individual users.

"Thus the driver is able to get the system to learn his/her commands (forward/right/left) quickly and efficiently," said the statement.

Several Japanese laboratories are working on BMI technology to develop new applications to make life easier for disabled people and the elderly.

Japan's Honda Motor Co in March introduced the latest version of its celebrity robot ASIMO, which could be steered remotely by another person wearing an electrode-studded helmet through BMI technology.

Honda's humanoid could perform four basic movements based on the non-verbal instructions of a person who concentrated on performing the action themselves.

The company said the research aims to create a robot which can eventually help people, particularly the elderly, with house-keeping chores such as watering plants or serving dishes of food.

Ecstasy dealers pushing cartoon character pills

DRUGS shaped like Snoopy, Homer Simpson and Barack Obama's head recently showed up on US streets, adding to a trend that worries police and doctors.

Colorful ecstasy pills started showing up last year shaped as Homer and Bart Simpson, Ninja Turtles and other characters.

As more of the pills that look like vitamins or candy go out locally and nationwide, they put children at great risk, police and experts said.

Last month, Drug Enforcement Administration officials in Nevada sent out warnings that the cartoon pills were in Las Vegas.

Dealers there call ecstasy “thizz” and market it to minors, the DEA warned.

They also said they had found pills shaped like Ninja Turtles, Transformers and other Simpsons characters.

Police in Utah last month busted a drug ring and found 500 Ecstasy pills stamped in the shape of Obama and Snoopy.
These pills are already in Malaysia. It is sold openly in Bukit Bintang, Times Square and even the croupiers in Genting are pushing these pills. So is RPK not right to say IGP Musa Hasan is working hand in hand with the underground syndicate.

Warning on wave of boat people

INDONESIAN authorities are bracing for a huge influx of boat people, anticipating as many as 10,000 asylum-seekers are waiting in Malaysia to transit through the archipelago and on to Australia.

This estimate was backed by a Malaysian group that deals with unauthorised immigrants. An Australian Government source warned of the potential for a similar influx to the thousands who began arriving in Australia from the late 1990s.

About 1500 asylum-seekers have arrived in Indonesia this year and registered for refugee status, almost all travelling by boat from Malaysia. Another 1500 are believed to have arrived and have not registered.

Indonesian police intelligence suggests between 7000 and 10,000 more people are waiting in Malaysia to make the journey once their passage is organised by people-smugglers.

"It could be 10,000," said senior commissioner Eko Danianto, head of the people smuggling unit at the Indonesian National Police.

"They comprise a mix of nationalities, not only Afghans. There are also Sri Lankan, Myanamerese (Burmese), Iraqis."

However an Australian academic, Dr Roslyn Richardson, of Charles Sturt University, has said asylum seekers know little about Australia before their arrival here.

Networks of people-smugglers service the 1 million Indonesian illegal workers who regularly travel to Malaysia by boat. The same networks also help arrange passage to Australia via Indonesia.

On Saturday, Malaysian authorities arrested 36 Afghans and six Pakistanis being smuggled to Australia via Indonesia. On Sunday, a boat carrying 194 asylum-seekers, mostly Sri Lankans, was intercepted near Christmas Island. Immigration sources said it was believed to have come from Malaysia. It was the biggest boatload of asylum-seekers to arrive in eight years.

"When they start getting big numbers through on a boat, they [people smugglers] get credibility and they get money. It becomes a virtuous cycle for them," said one Australian immigration enforcement official.

Australia and Indonesia have improved co-operation on people-smugglers and have disrupted more boats than the 16 that have reached Australia this year. With Australian financial and technical support, Indonesia will announce tomorrow up to 12 police "strike teams" dedicated to combat human trafficking.

But a new wave of asylum-seekers from Malaysia will test that capability, which will take months to get running.

Aegile Fernandez, the co-ordinator of the Malaysian immigration support group Tenaganita, agreed with the assessment that up to 10,000 asylum-seekers were waiting in Malaysia. "There would be 10,000," she said. "I would put the blame on these agencies that have been promising Australia as the destination."

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has 49,000 registered refugees and asylum-seekers in Malaysia and estimated there are 45,000 unregistered illegal immigrants.

The Australian Government declined to comment, except to note the number of asylum-seekers was rising worldwide. However, one source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: "It could be 10,000. It could be 5000 or 20,000. We just don't know."

Dr Richardson said strong deterrent messages from Australia did not cut through.

"People smugglers do not pass on detailed policy information," she said yesterday. The asylum seekers knew little of Australia, let alone its immigration policies.

In her study, the reasons 27 refugees gave for coming to Australia centred on its comparative cheapness and accessibility.

The research contradicts Federal Opposition claims that policy changes last year led to a surge in boats.

A report out today by the Migration Institute of Australia found migration agents were perceived to be poorly trained and shonky by parliamentarians, refugee advocates, official and the courts.
The question would be why the Malaysian Government continue to be greedy? During my short stay in Penang, every evening hundred of immigrates are seen coming ashore in trawlers and being escorted to varies destination through agents waiting there. No where in sight are our immigration officers etc. When I approached a few Rela men whom I met, asking why no action being taken? They said those agents are UMNO men.

Monday, June 29, 2009

In death MJ cannot escape from Dad

Michael Jackson's father, who had an uneasy relationship with the superstar, has angered fans by making a commercial plug at his first appearance since his son's death.

Joe Jackson, the 79-year-old patriarch of the musical clan, made a surprise showing on the red carpet at the Black Entertainment Television (BET) awards, which had transformed into a remembrance for the pioneering King of Pop.

During a live interview on CNN television, Jackson introduced an unidentified man who appeared to be a business partner, saying he wanted to make "a real good statement".

"Marshall and I have -- we own a record company. Talking about Blu-ray technology. That's the next step," Jackson said.

The blogosphere was instantly buzzing with outrage.

Warren Ballentine, an African-American motivational speaker and radio show host, said that he was flooded with angry messages over Jackson's comments.

"Joe Jackson and his lack of sensitivity and respect disgusts me," said one posting on Jezebel, a blog geared toward women.

Another person wrote on Jezebel that Joe Jackson's behaviour was "almost too ghastly to consider: a man seems pursued pretty much to the grave by the demons his father planted in him, and even in death the (expletive) ghoul is still hustling his son's corpse."

Jackson, a steelworker in the industrial city of Gary, Indiana, reared his nine children into musical sensations starting from the Jackson 5 to the phenomenal careers of Michael Jackson and his younger sister Janet Jackson.

Michael Jackson later said that his father would beat him when he missed a note and emotionally humiliate him, contributing to the future star's psychological fragility but also planting in him the will to succeed.

Joe Jackson has acknowledged he would whip his children but denied it was abuse.

Despite the frequent recriminations, the entire family reunited earlier this year in Las Vegas to celebrate Joe and Katherine Jackson's 60th wedding anniversary.

Janet Jackson thanks fans

Janet Jackson has taken the stage at the awards to speak on behalf of her grieving family and thank fans for their love and support.

It was her first public appearance since her brother died.

With a deep sadness on her face, she strolled to the microphone and began to speak.

"My entire family wanted to be here tonight, but it was just too painful, so they elected me to be here,'' she said.

She noted that the King of Pop was an icon to all in attendance, but that to the Jacksons, "he was family''.

After her brief comments, Ne-Yo and host Jamie Foxx took the stage and sang a poignant I'll Be There by the Jackson 5.

Jackson's mother to seek custody of children: lawyer

Michael Jackson's mother will seek custody of his three young children, a lawyer for the late singer's family has told CNN.

In the first indication of a looming courtroom battle for Prince Michael, 12, Paris, 11, and Prince Michael II, 7, lawyer Londell McMillan on Sunday said Katherine Jackson wanted to be the children's guardian.

"She will seek custody of the children. She loves them dearly," McMillan told CNN on the sidelines of the Black Entertainment Television (BET) awards at Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Shame on you Najib

At the launch of the 1Malaysia logo and aerobic exercise at Dataran Merdeka, Najid said unity and solidarity among the people will spur the country towards realising its vision and aspirations.

So can the PM answer the absence of the Chinese and Indian ministers at the launching or were they told to stay away because it is meant for the MALAYS ONLY.

MJ children Nanny Grace Rwaramba

I was in the bar of a London hotel on Thursday night with a senior television executive when a figure in a jumpsuit ran in screaming: “Daphne, Daphne, Michael is . . . Michael is . . . dead!” My startled guest whispered: “Isn’t that the nanny — the wife?” The distraught woman was Grace Rwaramba, who worked for Michael Jackson for 17 years, starting in his office, then looking after his three children and sharing his ramshackle life after his sexual abuse trial — though never being his wife. Recently, he sacked her.

She was with me in London to talk openly about him for the first time before he began his concerts at the O2. Instead we were hit by the news of his sudden death.

Over the next 24 hours, Grace desperately attempted to contact the children — Paris, Prince and Blanket, who she says regard her as their mother — before flying back to Los Angeles to try to see them.

Caring for her in this distraught state, I had an extraordinary insight into how Jackson’s family and the Nation of Islam — Louis Farrakhan’s black Muslims — were moving swiftly into the vacuum left by his death.

Early on Friday, Jackson’s mother, Katherine, contacted Grace from his house. Shockingly, she wanted to know where his money was. Grace recounted: “Katherine just called me. She said, ‘Grace, the children are crying. They are asking about you. They can’t believe that their father died. Grace, you remember Michael used to hide cash at the house. I am here. Where can it be?’

“I told her to look at the garbage bags and under the carpets. But, Daphne, can you believe this? This woman just lost her son a few hours ago and she is calling me to know where the money is!

“I asked to speak to the children. She said they were sleeping. But she just said they were crying. She never let me speak to them. She said, ‘Grace, where are you? Come. I will pick you up from the airport.’ She sounded so strong. So strong!”

Within a few hours, all her dignity gone, Grace was on the phone again begging a “brother” from the Nation of Islam at the Jackson house to let her talk to Paris, Prince and Blanket. The answer was no.

Grace felt vulnerable. She expected to be contacted by the coroner as soon as she arrived home in LA, because she knows many of the secrets of the star’s desperate final years and had already confided them to me. She had unravelled his bizarre nomadic life running around the world — Bahrain, Ireland, Germany, New Jersey — with the three children but no cash flow.

She confided: “When Paris had her birthday this April, I wanted to buy balloons, things, to make a happy birthday. There was no money in the house. I had to put everything on my personal credit card. I brought people to clean the house. The room of the kids needed to be cleaned. But they weren’t paid.”

Revealed within her account of their love-hate relationship was Jackson’s everyday life as a father and drug addict. Grace told me of pumping out his stomach after he took too many drugs and of how dirty and unkempt he became towards the end. Her stories of his attitude to the children shocked me.

Here, thanks to her, is the real world of Michael Jackson behind the masks, the wigs, the make-up and the surgery.

Grace has long been the mystery woman in Jackson’s life as far as the media are concerned. Rwandan, she went to America as a young woman and studied there. She also married an American from whom she is separated but not divorced. She is now in her forties.

I met her during Jackson’s trial in 2005, when I was filming television specials with his parents and she spoke loyally for him. A few weeks ago, she started to communicate with me from Los Angeles, saying that — not for the first time — he had sacked her. Her telephone conversations, text messages and e-mails sounded unhappy and erratic, perhaps even suicidal, because she could not see the children.

“I took these babies in my arm on the first day of their life,” she insisted. “They are my babies.”

At one point she cried on the phone, saying: “Daphne, I don’t know what to do. He doesn’t let me see my babies. I have written to him. He doesn’t answer. I can’t call him because he changed his phone number. These poor babies . . . I am getting phone calls that they are being neglected. Nobody is cleaning the rooms, because he didn’t pay the housekeeper.

“I just got a phone call that Michael is in such a bad shape. He is not clean. He has not shaved . . . His nails . . . He is not eating well. I used to do all this for him.

“They are trying to lure me to go back. But each time it happened before, he got rid of me. Then he made promises if I would come back. All these promises . . . After few days, it was the same abuse all over again.”

She had moved into a place “next door” to Jackson’s home but was afraid of what would happen if “I bump into my babies”. She talked of getting away to Rwanda and was clearly desperate, so I invited her to stay with me.

And that is how eight days and sleepless nights started, listening to Grace unload about her life with Michael Jackson, her abuse by Michael Jackson, her anger with Michael Jackson, the problems with Michael Jackson’s family.

“I love my babies,” she told me. “I miss my babies. I used to hug them and laugh with them. But when Michael was around, they froze. He didn’t like me hugging them. But they needed love. I was the only mother they knew.”

She described Prince as “very smart” and said that Blanket, the youngest, “makes me laugh so much. One day before I was fired he decided to do a concert for me. He was so cute, singing to me Billie Jean and others of his father’s songs. I was laughing so hard. Prince and Paris were playing around. It was such a happy moment”.

“Then suddenly Michael walked in. He surprised us. Usually, the security would alert me that he was about to come. Blanket immediately stopped. The kids looked frightened. Michael was so angry. I knew I would be fired. Whenever the children got too attached to me, he would send me away.”

Grace said the children disliked the masks they had to wear in public. “It wasn’t my idea. I hated it as well. So whenever I had a chance, I misplaced the masks or forgot to pack them. Michael always got angry and asked, ‘How come we keep losing children’s masks?’ He didn’t notice that we were losing them only when I was around.”

Grace was a witness to Jackson’s abuse of prescription drugs. She said he took a mixture of them — in her words, “he always ate too little and mixed too much”.

“I had to pump his stomach many times . . . He always mixed so much of it. There was one period that it was so bad that I didn’t let the children see him.”

She claims he was furious with her for getting his mother and sister Janet to help. “We tried to do an intervention. It was me, Janet, his mother. I co-ordinated it. He was so angry with me.

“He screamed at me, ‘You betrayed my trust. You called them behind my back.’ I told him, ‘Michael I didn’t betray your trust. I try to help you.’ But he didn’t want to listen. That was one of the times he let me go.”

She fears that the family will now blame her for his drug-taking — just as, she says, he tried to make her the scapegoat for his overspending.

Her account of the money and hospitality he received after his trial from Sheikh Abdullah, the son of the King of Bahrain, reveals a man who had no understanding of of money.

“During the trial Jermaine (his older brother) suddenly connected him to Sheikh Abdullah. I was happy because he was so down. He was scared. Nobody else called. So Michael was spending hours on the phone with Abdullah. He is the one who is sending the money for the lawyers.”

Abdullah, she said, called her one day and asked for her bank account. “I said why? He said he was sending money to Michael through my account. He sent $1m. Then another $35,000.

“Katherine needed money too. So Michael told me to give her my ATM card. She was cashing out of the machine every day. I checked it.”

Last year, Abdullah sued Jackson in the London High Court for £4.7m for reneging on a music contract that would have paid back this and other loans. Grace told me: “When Abdullah sued Michael last year, Michael said in the beginning, ‘Oh, I never got money from him.’ He tried to frame me that I took the money.”

She said she pointed out to his mother that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) might find out. “I said, ‘You, Michael and I — we will all go to jail! You know that we didn’t report to the IRS about that gift.’ I told her I had all the documents. That worked. She immediately called Michael and he stopped denying he knew about the money.” Grace added: “When we lived in Bahrain, we had no money at all. Everything was paid by Abdullah, and Michael owed so much money to people.

“Suddenly — I can’t remember now how it came — he received some money. Instead of buying a small house, so that we won’t go from one hotel to another or stay with friends, he told me, ‘Grace, you have to go immediately to Florence to buy antiques.’ He wanted me to spend £1m.
I flew on my credit card. When I arrived in Florence and saw these antiques, I called him and said, ‘This is not worth anything.’ Michael never listened to me. He said, ‘Buy it. Buy it.’ We didn’t even have a home to live in so we had to put the antiques in some storage.”

She revealed the full story of the Bahrain episode: “From the time we flew to Bahrain, we actually didn’t have a home. At the beginning they put us in the palace. The idea was that Michael would create a charity and a CD with Abdullah.

“But when Michael failed to do it, I felt that the atmosphere changed. After several weeks, we were told that the uncle of Abdullah was coming back and needed to have his house.”

She said they flew to Oman, staying in a hotel at Abdullah’s expense.

“Then he wanted us back. He was still hoping that Michael would come through with his promises.”

Jackson demanded that the sheikh build him a house in a Bahrain and refused to believe there would not be one waiting for him. He was mistaken and they were put in another hotel.

All the time, they had the three children in tow. Grace was getting tired of “running with them from hotel to hotel” so she accepted an invitation to take Jackson and the children to stay with friends of her own near Dun Laoghaire on the outskirts of Dublin in Ireland.

“They own a recording studio. They were so nice to us. They did a favour for me. Michael left them bills, he never paid them back.”

By then it was mid-2007. The entourage’s next stop was in New Jersey, the modest family home of Frank Tyson, a Jackson aide named as one of the five “co-conspirators” during the sex abuse trial.

Grace said: “Frank’s family is not rich. They have a small house. We stayed there for weeks. Michael stayed there downstairs alone.

“The kids slept with me in one room. I didn’t mind because I tried to make it fun for them. But I felt so bad that we were staying such a long time at this family’s small home.

“I tried to develop a friendship with Frank’s mother just to tell them thank you but when Michael saw we were getting friendly he said, ‘Don’t trust her. She is not interested in you. She just talks to you because of me.’

“It was just so exhausting to pack and unpack three kids from one hotel to another friend’s home, back and forth. And we were running out of friends.

“Michael had no idea about money. He got a proposal to make an appearance in Japan for $1m.

“I knew how many people were involved.

“I told him, ‘Michael, by the time everyone takes his cut you will end up with a very small amount.’ He didn’t want to hear. He flew to Japan. By the time everyone took their share, he ended up with $200,000.

“Then he got a second proposal to go to Japan. This time there was only $200,000 on the table. I refused to go.” Jackson went and then decided suddenly to fly to the birthday party of Prince Azim, the son of the Sultan of Brunei. By the time he had paid his huge hotel bill, “all the Japan money was gone”.

Back in California, Jackson rented a house from the Nation of Islam. According to Grace, he was grossly overcharged.

“The Nation of Islam was telling him that the house we had in Los Angeles, after Neverland was sold, cost $100,000 a month. I checked with many real estate agencies.

“To rent this house should not have cost more than $20,000-$25,000. He had no clue.”

Equally, he did not read his O2 contract before signing it and did not realise he had committed himself to 50 concerts. “Fifty performances! I told him, ‘What are you doing?’ He said, ‘I signed only for 10.’ He didn’t know what he was signing. He never does!”

My sense of shock increased when Grace showed me documents proving not only that Michael had not paid her salary and expenses since October 2008, but according to her, that he had not paid her medical insurance since she was with him and the children in Bahrain.

“Michael owes so much money to so many people. And why does he not pay them? Is it because he thinks of those working for him as an owner (would)? He always told me, ‘Grace, nobody cares about you. They only talked to you about me’.”

The point about the medical insurance is that Grace suffers from a life-threatening form of the auto-immune disease lupus. My doctor told me after examining her that it was chronic, adding: “I have never seen somebody with such a badly neglected condition.”

Grace believes the disease is caused by stress, but she said Michael refused to take it seriously. Once when she had been in hospital for chemotherapy he had accused her of abandoning him and the children, she said.

“To Michael, to go to a hospital was never about being ill. It was all about avoiding a court appearance or a performance or some other commitment he didn’t want to respect. You know, during the trial, the only peaceful place we could escape to and sleep was a hospital room. We used to go to the hospital and relax.”

As Grace worked through her phone calls to LA on Friday, desperately trying to ensure that the children were comforted after losing their father, she sobbed and screamed and became more incoherent.

“Yes, this is it . . . because (crying) this is it . . . because he started avoiding everything. We were trying to help him and they fired me because of this (sobs).”

Her next target was a woman from the Nation of Islam whom Jermaine Jackson had brought into the house to look after the children in Michael’s final weeks.

“Yes I am really distraught (sobs). Oh my God, the kids. Who has got the kids? He’s allowed this woman from the Nation of Islam . . . he has this woman . . . but she’s so cold and she is cold and doesn’t know how to hold them or how to hug them.”

Grace said the children had been anxious about their father and had been trying to care for him — “he hasn’t been eating and the kids have been so scared for him”.

Worried by the endless goings on in the Jackson compound Grace turned to me at the end and said: “The youngest one has been saying, ‘God should have taken me not him’.”

Republic Yes No

Reading about Nepal King’s Palace, I came across this paragraph that mentioned. “Everyday, hundreds of Nepalese arrive here to look into the last couple of decades of their country’s troubled history, with its royal intrigue and deeply unpopular monarch who didn’t realise until things were beyond his control that history wasn’t with him anymore.”

Now do we not face the same situation regarding our Malaysian Royalties. The Perak incident and now the long and winding Kelantan Prince episode. None able to be settled in peace unless they admit their mistakes and put aside their egos.

Maybe now is the time to rethink on our future that having the Monarchy is nothing but another burden beside dealing with the already sick and corrupted UMNO Government

Saturday, June 27, 2009

South Korea a model for Asia

Han River with Banpo Bridge and 63 Building on Yeouido are iconic landmarks of the Miracle of The Han River and Seoul.

South Korea has been the worlds’ second fastest growing economy for over 4 decades. In 1957, South Korea’s annual per capital GDP was comparable to that of Ghana, and by 2008 it was 17 times as high as Ghana’s. South Korea’s transformation into a developed country during the later half of the 20th century has been termed the Miracle on the Han River, and South Korea is considered one of the “Four Asian Tigers”.

Today, South Korea has an advanced economy and is a member of the OECD classified as a High-income economy by the world Bank and an Advanced economy by the IMF and CIA and a developed market by the FTSE Group. In 2009, however, it is still considered an emerging market by MSCI due to the lack of full convertibility of the Korean won. Its capital, Seoul, is consistently placed among the world's top ten financial and commercial cities. South Korea has the smallest gap between rich and poor in high-income Asian economies. South Korea is regarded as a strong economy, despite lacking natural resources and having the smallest territory among the G20 major economies. The South Korean economy is the 4th largest in Asia and 13th largest in the world. Like West German and Japan, rapid industrialization since the 1960s has made South Korea one of the world's top ten exporters. It is the 7th largest trading partner of the US. South Korea has the second highest savings rate in the developed world and has the world's sixth biggest foreign exchange reserves.
An extremely competitive education environment and motivated workforce are two key factors driving this knowledge economy. The country files the largest number of patents per GDP and R&D expenditure in the world.


Cheonggyecheon is a major success in urban nature-friendly renewal

Following the rapid industrialization, air pollution and water pollution, in particular in urban areas, rose rapidly. Government actions taken since the 1990s to improve the environment led to a rapid decrease of sulfur emissions though the continuing growth of traffic has led to increase of other pollutants. Despite its small size, South Korea is the ninth largest consumer of ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons. There are major issues with air and water pollution due to South Korea's high population density. Recently, though, there have been several initiatives (such as the restoration of Cheonggyecheon in central Seoul) to improve the environment in Korea. In mid-2008, the Ministry pf Knowledge Economy said the country intends to spend 194.4 billion won ($193 million) on technologies and projects, including solar, wind and biofuels, in 2008.


Snuppy, the world's first cloned dog

Since the 1980s, the Korean government has actively invested in the development of a domestic biotechnology industry, and the sector is expected to grow to $6.5 billion by 2010. Medical sector accounts for a large part of the production, including production of hepatitis vaccines and antibiotics.

Recently, research and development in genetics and cloning has received increasing attention, with the first successful cloning of a dog, Snuppy, and the cloning of two females of an endangered species of wolves by the Seoul National University in 2007. The rapid growth of the industry has resulted in significant voids in regulation and ethics, however, as was highlighted by the scientific misconduct case involving Hwang Woo-Suk.


EveR-3, an android in traditional Korean dress Hanbok, capable of dancing and singing

Rpobotics has been included in the list of main national R&D projects in Korea since 2003. In 2009, the government announced plans to build robot-themed parks in Incheon and Masan with a mix of public and private funding.

In 2005, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology developed the world's second walking humanoid robot, HUBO. A team in the Korea Institute of Industrial Technology developed the first Korean android, EveR-1 in May 2006. EveR-1 has been succeeded by more complex models with improved movement and vision. Next models are scheduled to be completed by 2010.

Transportation and energy

Incheon International Airport, rated best airport worldwide 2005-2008 by Airports Council International

The Express Bus Terminal station, Seoul Subway Line 9 has become a new landmark of Seoul

South Korea has a technologically advanced transportation network consisting of high-speed railways, highways, bus routes, ferry services, and air routes that criss-cross the country. Korea Expressway Corporation operates the toll highways and service amenities en route.

Korail provides frequent train service to all major South Korean cities. Two rail lines, Gyeongui and Donghae Bukbu Line, to North Korea are now being reconnected. The Korean high-speed rail system, KTX, provides high-speed service along Gyeongbu and Honam Line. Major cities—including Seoul, Busan, Incheon, Daegu, Daejeon and Gwangju—have subway systems. Metropolitan Cities (gwangyeoksi, self-governing cities that are not incorporated into any province) have express bus terminals.
Construction of South Korea's largest airport, Incheon International Airport, was completed in 2001. By 2007, the airport was serving 30 million passengers a year. The airport has been selected as the "Best Airport Worldwide" for four consecutive years since 2005 by Airports International Council. Other international airports include Gimpo, Busan and Jeju. There are also seven domestic airports, and a large number of heliports.

Korean Air, founded in 1962, served 2,164 million passengers, including 1,249 million international passengers in 2008. A second carrier, Asiana Airline, established in 1988, also serves domestic and international traffic. Combined, South Korean airlines currently serve 297 international routes. Smaller airliners, such as Hansung Airlines and Jeju Air, provide domestic service with lower fares.
South Korea is the world's sixth largest nuclear power producer and the second largest in Asia. Nuclear power in South Korea supplies 45% of electricity production and research is very active with investigation into a variety of advanced reactors, including a small modular reactor, a liquid-metal fast/transmutation reactor and a high-temperature hydrogen generation design. Fuel production and waste handling technologies have also been developed locally. It is also a member of the ITER project.

High-tech industries

Cell phones such as Samsung and LG brands are major industry in South Korea.

Samsung Group, the world's 11th largest company and a global consumer electronics brand.

South Korea has a high-tech and futuristic infrastructure, with the world's highest broadband internet access per capital, and is a world leader in innovation.
In 2007, the Economist Intelligence Unit ranked South Korea's IT industry competitiveness third in the world. Korea's e-readiness was ranked 15th, and e-Government readiness 6th in 2008.

In consumer electronics, South Korea is the world's largest LCD, OLED and plasma display maker. Both Samsung and LG are major makers of televisions, and mobile phones.

South Korea is also the world's leading memory chip producer and Samsung and Hynix are the world's second and sixth largest semiconductor companies in the world. Samsung is also the world's largest maker of laser printers. Samsung Techwin is the world's third largest maker of digital cameras.

South Korean shipbuilding industry is one of the most highly developed in the world, headed by chaebols such as the Hyundai Heavy Industries, Samsung Heavy Industry and Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering. South Korea is the world's largest shipbuilding nation, producing over half of the world's ships in 2008.

South Korea also exports radioactive isotope production equipment for medical and industrial use to countries such as Russia, Japan and Turkey.

The government is also investing in the robotics industry, with the stated aim of becoming the "world's number 1 robotics nation" by 2025. There are also plans to develop other sectors, including financial services, biotechnology, aerospace and entertainment industries.


It was reported that Seoul National University to launch courses to help senior citizens get the most out of retirement.

Within a short period, South Korea had progress rapidly. I cannot fathom how our Malaysian government still reject progress and refuse to see how much and how fast the world is changing. We need to have big drastic changes towards the way this country is run. It would be good if we could follow in the footsteps of South Korea.

The only way is not 1 Malaysia but 1 MALAYSIA 1 BANGSA my dear Najib.

Wade Robson speaks out

Michael Jackson's closest Australian confidant, Wade Robson, has broken his silence about the iconic entertainer's death, revealing the impact Jackson had on his life.

"Michael Jackson changed the world and, more personally, my life forever," Robson said.

"He is the reason I dance, the reason I make music, and one of the main reasons I believe in the pure goodness of human kind."

Jackson was touring Australia in 1987 when during his stop in Brisbane he met Robson who was just five years old.

Jackson was so impressed with Robson's dancing talent he invited the youngster to perform at his Brisbane concert and then helped Robson, his mother Joy and sister Chantal move to the US two years later. Jackson signed Robson to his music label.

Robson, now aged 26 and based in Los Angeles, is one of the world's best known dance choreographers, working with the likes of Britney Spears, NSYNC, Usher and Pink.

He is the winner of two Emmy Awards for choreography and had his own show on MTV, The Wade Robson Project.

Robson also appeared in three of Jackson's music videos, Black or White, Jam and Heal the World.

"He has been a close friend of mine for 20 years," Robson said.

"His music, his movement, his personal words of inspiration and encouragement and his unconditional love will live inside of me forever.

"I will miss him immeasurably, but I know that he is now at peace and enchanting the heavens with a melody and a moonwalk.

"I love you Michael."

Robson's close relationship at a young age with Jackson, and the nights he spent at Jackson's Neverland ranch, did draw controversy and resulted in Robson being called to testify at Jackson's 2005 molestation trial in California.

Robson defended Jackson and rejected the allegations against him.

Jackson was eventually acquitted.

The 50-year-old pop icon stopped breathing at his rented Los Angeles mansion on Thursday (Friday AEST).

Paramedics were unable to revive him and doctors at UCLA Medical Centre also were unable to bring him back to life.

An autopsy was held on Friday (AEST Saturday) and the results of toxicology tests should be known within four to six weeks.

Maritime Museum in Abu Dhabi

MARITIME MUSEUM: The planned facility on Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi, designed by Pritzker-winning Japanese architect Tadao Ando, would be joined by several other museums.

The longstanding sibling rivalry between the two biggest members of the United Arab Emirates, always complex, has taken a remarkable turn in recent months.

For years, as its neighbor on the Persian Gulf, Dubai, engaged in a frenzy of construction and deal-making, Abu Dhabi -- the capital of the UAE and owner of its deepest petroleum reserves -- was mostly content to keep its ambition in check. Its caution underscored old stereotypes about its role as the wary, wealthy older brother to an aggressively ambitious emirate next door.

Now, as Dubai struggles to recover from the dramatic collapse of its real-estate market, Abu Dhabi is taking advantage of the downturn to savor a moment in the spotlight. The emirate is actively promoting its 2030 Plan, a wide-ranging blueprint for growth unveiled in 2007. It is also moving forward on a number of big-ticket urban initiatives that it has the luxury of financing to a significant degree from its own coffers.

Two in particular, both in the early stages of construction and both located on the edges of Abu Dhabi proper, are drawing interest from around the globe. The first is Masdar City, a $22-billion development that was designed by Norman Foster's huge London firm and aims to be the world's first zero-waste city. The other is Saadiyat Island, a $27-billion collection of housing, office space and cultural facilities that will include a Guggenheim Museum by Frank Gehry, a branch of the Louvre by French architect Jean Nouvel and a maritime museum by Japan's Tadao Ando.

These projects are far more ambitious culturally than any initiative Dubai has launched -- and therefore full of potential pitfalls for Abu Dhabi's ruling family. They aim to make this closed, religious, autocratic society a new center for the arts and for green-tech research, and as such raise a series of tricky, potentially intractable questions: Does it still make sense to hire celebrity architects from the West to put a non-Western culture on the global cultural map? Will Abu Dhabi allow the Saadiyat museums to show politically or sexually charged artwork -- and if so, will that openness lead to cracks in the emirate's air-tight political structure? And finally, is it possible for a government to save the planet from ecological damage while neglecting human rights, or even energy-efficiency, at home?

Glimpses of the future

Early one rainy morning, looking to explore those questions on the ground, I left Dubai, my home base on a recent reporting trip to the UAE, and traveled southwest by taxi along the shores of the Persian Gulf to spend the day in Abu Dhabi. My first stop was the muddy future site of Masdar City, on the eastern flank of the emirate, where its ruling sheiks, with assistance from scientific and engineering experts from around the world, are hoping to build a community that will operate both as a perfectly sustainable civic organism and as a laboratory for new green strategies that can be exported to other nations. In theory it will be a kind of self-contained Silicon Valley for eco-research, housing several thousand green-tech companies and 50,000 or so residents. Students are expected to begin enrolling at the Masdar Institute, a science and engineering academy operated in part by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, this fall.

After arriving at the Masdar building site, I hopped into a Land Rover with John Shenton, a British architect who is Masdar's senior development manager. As we drove, he quickly and candidly made the project sound like a comedy of errors. The soil, Shenton said, was terrible: waterlogged and high in saline content. On top of that, dust kept collecting atop the solar-panel arrays, among the first parts of Masdar already in operation. That led to a conundrum: Wash the panels regularly, therefore using more water than planned, or allow them to operate far below peak efficiency.

Shenton's list of complaints was not done. Masdar's remote site, once home to a municipal nursery that grew palm trees to line Abu Dhabi's grand boulevards, was hardly ideal. And there was not enough wind, he said: "All these lovely concepts in the beginning showed a city with wind towers everywhere, and we were going to have giant turbines to help generate electricity. It's all died a death because we have no wind."

After a few minutes, I realized that his pessimism was in part an act, or least a tic that seemed deeply British, and that he believed firmly in Masdar's larger goals. And yet his comments did make clear some of the project's fundamental oddities, starting with the fact that if you wanted to create a zero-carbon city and give it a reasonable chance of success, you'd likely put it not in the United Arab Emirates, which suffers from severe heat and humidity, among other climate extremes, but somewhere like Northern California.

Later, in a phone interview, Gerard Evenden, the senior partner who is overseeing Masdar for Foster and Partners, told me that such extremes actually make the site an ideal testing ground for sustainable technologies. If green-tech systems are battle-tested here and succeed, he said, they'll be ready for export around the world.

He added that the striking form of the city -- its buildings and streets huddled together in the center of the sprawling Masdar site, as if for protection, leaving the bulk of the acreage open -- was the key to its sustainability. It is certainly the heart of its graphic and architectural appeal, a kind of anti-sprawl throwback to the shaded, dense corridors of ancient Middle Eastern cities.

Still, it remains striking if not paradoxical that the capital of the UAE, a country that consumes more energy per capita than any other and exports more oil than all but two nations, is now pursuing a zero-carbon project of Masdar City's scale. It's as if Abu Dhabi, having run up a remarkable record of environmental profligacy, were bent on turning guilt into green technology. In a Muslim country, I realized, there is something Catholic about Masdar.

Still reeling from the strangeness of the Masdar tour, I found myself by midafternoon on a speedboat bumping over turquoise waters and headed for Saadiyat Island. I soon arrived at a group of makeshift offices and climbed into an SUV for a trip, chauffeured by a pair of Saadiyat representatives, around the project site, which will include not just cultural facilities but offices, golf courses and retail districts, along with housing for as many as 160,000 residents.

Cranes moved mounds of sand on the horizon. In a few places, palm trees had been planted in neat rows. But for the most part the enormous site had a moonscape emptiness about it. Every once in a while a group of construction workers filed past, wearing fluorescent safety vests over purple jumpsuits. Eventually we made our way to the northwestern tip of the site, where the star architectural attractions of Saadiyat Island will be welcoming visitors as early as 2012. If there is a focal point for Abu Dhabi's efforts to recalibrate its global image, it is located here. Gehry's Guggenheim, covering more than 300,000 square feet, will occupy the end of a peninsula. Nouvel's dome-covered Louvre will jut out into the water just a few hundred yards away.

Purely from an architectural perspective, I am eager to see both museums built. Each is a bold yet thoughtful design, and as a pair they will play off one another with remarkable vitality -- Nouvel's protective dome, sending filtered light into open-air lobbies, a unified contrast to the jumbled energy of Gehry's collection of gallery blocks and soaring entry cones. It appears their construction remains on track -- as does that of the Sheikh Zayed Museum by Foster and Partners -- even as doubts remain about the viability of a performing arts center by Zaha Hadid and Ando's maritime museum.

But as cultural institutions they are fraught with unanswered questions about the range of exhibitions they will be allowed to organize or put on view. Representatives of the Guggenheim and the Louvre have maintained that they will be free to show the same artworks they display back home. But that would mark a significant departure from existing UAE practices.

In recent weeks, these questions have been complicated by a pair of news items from Abu Dhabi that suggest a troubling underside to the emirate's generally placid surface. About six weeks ago, a videotape from 2004 was leaked to the worldwide press showing a member of the emirate's ruling family, Sheik Issa bin Zayed al Nahyan, appearing to torture an Afghan merchant, beating him with whips and nail-studded boards, stuffing his mouth with sand and driving over his ravaged body with an SUV. The tape has thrown a wrench into negotiations in Washington over a pending nuclear-arms agreement between the U.S. and the UAE.

Around the same time, Human Rights Watch issued a stark report, building on earlier research, condemning working conditions on Saadiyat Island. The report singled out the Louvre and Guggenheim projects, urging the museums to take stronger steps to make sure that laborers on the island were not being mistreated.

Difficulties ahead

At a time when so many other mega-developments around the world have come to a sudden halt, Abu Dhabi has risen to a new level of global prominence simply by plunging shovels into the sand at Masdar and Saadiyat Island. And yet each project suggests that the character of the emirate's newfound ambition may lead it into a thicket of problems. Unlike Dubai's recent troubles, these are unlikely to be financial. Instead, they may begin to upset the careful balance Abu Dhabi has long maintained between growth and prudence.

It is one thing to try, as Dubai has, simply to expand at whatever headlong pace new investment will allow. It is quite another to link new initiatives with claims about cultural freedom and environmental justice. In essence, Abu Dhabi is attempting to carve out "free zones" for the arts and green development in the same way that Dubai has done for media companies and high-tech entrepreneurs.

This promises to be a hugely complicated task: At least from a Western perspective, cultural openness can be expected, eventually, to create hunger for the political variety. But this is the world we now occupy: Many of the globe's most ambitious states -- economically, politically, culturally, even architecturally -- are also the most closed and autocratic ones. China has been a leading example of the shift, as has Dubai. Now it is emerging -- with a high-design, eco-friendly twist -- in Abu Dhabi as well.

That makes the construction sites for Masdar City and Saadiyat Island more than mere test beds for green-tech and high-art ambition. It also makes them a proving ground for an experiment in forging a new, hybrid civic culture -- a kind of Enlightenment Authoritarianism. And if you believe in the power of culture -- or more grandly of knowledge -- to spawn political change, these initiatives arguably constitute a bolder, riskier strategy than anything Dubai has yet tried.

Rosmah to launch mega sale and carnival

It is people like her who do not understand what recession meant to most of us. Daily in the press are reports of people being thrown out of their homes and losing their jobs.

As the Prime Minister’s wife, follow the example of Queen Rania for goodness sake.

First Altantuya, next,the kidnapping of Balasubramaniam and family, then her brother had to leave this country and the problems created to break up her own daughter’s marriage. What a bitch?

Dumb Ass

Information, Communication and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim yesterday suggested that all media return to using the terminology swine flu instead of Influenza A (H1N1). It is easier for radio and TV announcers to say selsema babi (swine flu) than H1N1 in Bahasa Malaysia.

Najid threaten

Najid’s comment over the rejection of the unity government idea. “Most Muslims have similar views on this matter because unity and efforts to protect interests of the community are something that must go on. It is something that is deemed as compulsory by religion. Politics should not go beyond what was demanded by religion.”

The fate of Michael Jackson's children

THE death of Michael Jackson is likely to spark a massive legal battle over how much of his fortune - what is left of it - goes to his three children.

The singer was pronounced dead aged 50 at a hospital in Los Angeles last night. He was taken there in a coma following his collapse at home.

Jackson is survived by Prince Michael, 12, and Paris, 11, and seven-year-old Prince Michael II, known as Blanket.

His ex-wife Debbie Rowe is expected to receive initial custody while long term arrangements are sorted. But Blanket will probably be taken separately as he is not the child of Debbie.


Academicians and scholars condemned the malicious videos (Rosmah Perempuan Puaka).

Are you sure or not? Or is it the think tank of Najib spinning another round. Since I am not in the mood to become embroiled in a protracted discussion with these simple ignoramus, let the chicken speak for itself.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Jackson lived like a king but died in debt

Michael Jackson the singer was also Michael Jackson the billion-dollar business.

Yet after selling more than 61 million albums in the United States and having a decade-long attraction open at Disney theme parks, the 1980s "King of Pop" died reportedly awash in about $US400 million ($A497.51 million) in debt, on the cusp of a final comeback after well over a decade of scandal.

The moonwalking pop star drove the growth of music videos, vaulting cable channel MTV into the popular mainstream after its launch in 1981. His 1982 hit Thriller, still the second best-selling US album of all time, spawned a John Landis-directed music video that MTV played every hour on the hour.

"The ratings were three or four times what they were normally every time the video came on," said Judy McGrath, the chairman and CEO of Viacom Inc.'s MTV Networks.

"He was inextricably tied to the so-called MTV generation."

Five years later, Bad sold 22 million copies. In 1991, he signed a $US65 million ($A80.85 million) recording deal with Sony.

One of Jackson's shrewdest deals at the height of his fame in 1985 was the $US47.5 million ($A59.08 million) acquisition of ATV Music, which owned the copyright to songs written by the Beatles' John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

The catalogue provided Jackson a steady stream of income and the ability to afford a lavish lifestyle.

He bought the sprawling Neverland ranch in 1988 for $US14.6 million ($A18.16 million), a fantasy-like 1,000-hectare property nestled in the hills of Santa Barbara County's wine country.

But the bombshell hit in 1993 when he was accused of molesting 13-year-old Jordan Chandler.

"That kind of represents the beginning of the walk down a tragic path, financially, emotionally, spiritually, psychologically, legally," said Michael Levine, his publicist at the time.

He settled with the boy's family, but other accounts of his alleged paedophilia began to emerge.

When he ran into further financial problems, he agreed to a deal with Sony in 1995 to merge ATV with Sony's library of songs and sold Sony music publishing rights for $US95 million ($A118.16 million).

Then in 2001, he used his half of the ATV assets as collateral to secure $US200 million ($A248.76 million) in loans from Bank of America.

As his financial problems continued, Jackson began to borrow large sums of money, according to a 2002 lawsuit by Union Finance & Investment Corp. that sought $US12 million ($A14.93 million) in unpaid fees and expenses.

In 2003, Jackson was arrested on charges that he molested another 13-year-old boy. The 2005 trial, which ultimately ended in an acquittal, brought to light more details of Jackson's strained finances.

One forensic accountant testified that the singer had an "ongoing cash crisis" and was spending $US20 million ($A24.88 million) to $US30 million ($A37.31 million) more per year than he earned.

In March of last year, the singer faced foreclosure on Neverland. He also repeatedly failed to make mortgage payments on a house in Los Angeles that had been used for years by his family.

In addition, Jackson was forced to defend himself against a slew of lawsuits in recent years, including a $US7 million ($A8.71 million) claim from Sheik Abdulla bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the second son of the king of Bahrain.

Al Khalifa, 33, took Jackson under his wing after his acquittal, moving him to the small Gulf estate and showering him with money.

In his lawsuit, Al Khalifa claimed he gave Jackson millions of dollars to help shore up his finances, cut an album, write an autobiography and subsidise his lifestyle - including more than $US300,000 ($A373,000) for a "motivational guru".

The lawsuit was settled last year for an undisclosed amount. Neither the album nor book was ever produced.

Memorabilia auctions were frequently announced but became the subject of legal wrangling and were often cancelled.

Another wealthy benefactor came to Jackson's aid last year as he faced the prospect of losing Neverland in a public auction.

Billionaire Thomas Barrack, chairman and CEO of Los Angeles-based real estate investment firm Colony Capital LLC, agreed to bail out the singer and set up a joint venture with Jackson that took ownership of the vast estate.

Burqa Ban in France

Michael Jackson Death

How smart r u?

Coal from Biomass

Youngest smoker in the world

A TWO-YEAR-OLD boy from the city of Tianjin, China, is the world's youngest smoker. Well, at least the youngest to admit it - and he goes through a pack a day.
Except he didn't admit it, his dad did, after proudly teaching Tong Liangliang how to spark up between tantrums and milky vomits.

Liangliang's dad said his son was born with a hernia, and being too young for an operation, has taken up smoking to help him deal with the pain.

Now he's a pack-a-day man. Pack-a-day toddler. And he won't give up, screaming and throwing himself on the floor if he's refused a durry.

"The father wasn't aware how serious the toddler's habit had become until the child began to increase the number of cigarettes he smoked per day," news agency CRI said.

The Guinness Book of World Records is unlikely to accept the feat, as it has refused such requests before on the grounds that it "promoted a harmful habit".
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Michelle Braun d Madam arrested

HOLLYWOOD gossip mags are honing in on a court case against a Florida woman said to watch over a list of clients and "A-list" call girls that will "shock" onlookers.

Michelle Braun has been alleged to have presided over a 70-strong stable of “the most expensive call girls in the world” commanding up to $60,000 a night out of her base in Boca Raton, Florida.

The case echoes that of infamous Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss, who in the ’90s named A-list stars such as Charlie Sheen among clientele that paid up to $14,000 a night for access to her girls.

Braun was caught by the FBI after flying a girl from Los Angeles to New York to meet an undercover agent.

She is believed to have banked more than $10 million since filling the void left by Fleiss’s arrest in 1997.

She charged clients $2000 to sign up for online memberships to her company, Global Travel Network, to which her call girls would charge up to $10,000 a day for “travel expenses”.

Braun’s phone records and computers have been seized and details from them are likely to be aired at her court hearing set down for October.

Braun has already entered a plea deal which should see her avoid jail, but her arrest has sent a “wave of panic” thorugh Hollywood, according to reports.

“Let's just say you'd be shocked,” her lawyer Marc Nurik told the Daily Mail when asked who was among her clientele.

Jang Ja-Yeon commits suicide over "agent sex favours"

Japanese police on Wednesday arrested the former agent of a South Korean TV actress who committed suicide after suggesting she had been forced to provide sexual favours, reports said.

Police arrested Kim Jong-Seoung for violating the immigration law and quoted the South Korean businessman as saying that he "committed a crime and overstayed in Japan to avoid being arrested," Kyodo News reported.

Kim is expected to return to South Korea, Jiji Press said.

Japanese police could not be immediately reached.

South Korean police had formally requested that Japan's justice ministry return Kim.

Kim is suspected of having forced actress Jang Ja-Yeon to have sex with influential figures in the entertainment and media industry to promote her career.

Jang, 26, hanged herself at her home in early March, leaving a note reading: "I am a powerless young actress who can't fix what is so evidently wrong".

She starred in Boys Over Flowers, South Korea's most avidly watched soap opera.

Spaceship' boosts anti-whaling force against Japan's might

JAPAN has asked Australia to prevent the Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin leaving port to harass its whalers in the Antarctic next summer, but the plea may have little effect.

The anti-whaling activists plan to upgrade their fleet from an ageing, former North Atlantic fisheries patrol boat to include another ship - something out of the future. The global speedboat Earthrace would head south under Sea Shepherd colours next summer, the group's leader Paul Watson said.

"It looks like a spaceship. It can do 40 knots and dive under waves completely. We'll be using it to intercept and block harpoons."

In 61 days last year Earthrace circled the globe fuelled by biodiesel. The New Zealand owner/skipper, Pete Bethune, said he decided to become involved because "this is happening in my backyard and it really pisses me off. I'm going to make a stand."

He said he was adding half a tonne of Kevlar to the vessel to toughen it against the ice. It had the endurance to go half way round the world on a tank of fuel.

"They won't get away from me," he said.

Earthrace's role was unveiled as the International Whaling Commission heard that Sea Shepherd's protests endangered the lives of whalers in the Southern Ocean last summer when the Steve Irwin was involved in two collisions.

"These are highly dangerous, and it can only be described as a miracle that there has been no death or large-scale accident to date," said a Japanese delegation member, Jun Yamashita.

"We cannot tolerate such audacity," Mr Yamashita told the commission. "We ask for

all appropriate measures, including a ban on the ship from leaving port, so that we can prevent these acts from being repeated."

Mr Watson, who is not permitted inside the meeting, said the Steve Irwin was soon to leave Brisbane for Hobart after a $500,000 refit. Its buckled hull plates had been repaired, and it was fitted with a powerful water cannon on the bow to match the whalers'.

He dubbed next summer's campaign Operation Waltzing Matilda and has adopted a symbol with a kangaroo wearing a pirate's eye patch.

An official from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, David Dutton, told the 71-nation meeting in Madeira that the Rudd Government was deeply concerned about clashes in the Southern Ocean.

Australian Federal Police were conducting an official investigation, so no further comment could be made because it was possible the case would come before a court, he said.

Mr Watson said the federal police had returned videotapes taken from the ship in a raid in Hobart in February but still held the ship's log book. He said he had not been contacted recently by the federal police or Dutch authorities, under whose flag Steve Irwin sails.

The Dutch Government said it had warned the group about being involved in dangerous activities.

"The Government of the Netherlands is now preparing measures that will be announced in the short term," said Dutch IWC commissioner, Marie-Josee Jenniskens.

New Zealand's commissioner, Sir Geoffrey Palmer, told the meeting: "I think it needs to be said that whaling in the Antarctic will continue to be a magnet for protest that will not go away."

Farrah Fawcett dead at 62

Actress Farrah Fawcett, best known for her role in television series "Charlie's Angels," has died, US media reports said Thursday. She was 62.

Fawcett died in hospital in Los Angeles surrounded by friends and family shortly before 9:30 am (1630 GMT) following a three-year battle with anal cancer, reports said.

Speculation that Fawcett's death was close at hand had mounted earlier Thursday after veteran ABC television interviewer Barbara Walters said the actress had been given her last rites.

Walters made the disclosure in comments to the "Good Morning America" breakfast television show.

"I'm not sure if she's going to make it through the day," Walters said. "She's had her last rites."

Walters said close family and friends including long-time companion Ryan O'Neal were gathering at Fawcett's hospital bedside in Los Angeles.

"This is all he wants to do is be with her," Walters said of O'Neal.

Earlier this week it was revealed that O'Neal planned to marry Fawcett, who has been battling cancer for three years.

"I've asked her to marry me, again, and she's agreed," an emotional O'Neal told Walters.

O'Neal, 68, and Fawcett had been romantically involved off-and-on since 1982. The couple had a son together but never married.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Dedicated to Zambry The Thief

The return of blood diamonds

Illegal diamond trades are flourishing in Ivory Coast, Guinea, Venezuela and Lebanon

The leading architect of the international system to stop the trade in blood diamonds has warned that the safety net is close to collapse with governments and the industry failing to act against gross violations.

Ian Smillie, the "grandfather" of the landmark Kimberley Process, that was agreed in response to appalling civil wars in Africa fuelled by illegal gems, said he had "stomped out" on his scheme as it was no longer working.

"It isn't regulating the rough diamond trade," the Canadian expert said yesterday. "It is in danger of becoming irrelevant and it's letting all manner of crooks off the hook."

The Kimberley safeguards came into effect in 2003 and helped restore consumer confidence in precious stones. Today they regulate 99.98 per cent of the rough diamond trade, but if the process loses credibility, experts say criminals will re-enter the trade with conflict diamonds quickly reappearing in shops in London, Paris and New York.

Mr Smillie was one of the authors of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS), the UN-backed agreement credited with breaking the link between the diamond trade and vicious conflicts, mainly in southern and western Africa. His comments came as the 49 members of the Kimberley Process – made up of governments, industry and civil society – met in Namibia with a growing list of concerns.

Top of those is Zimbabwe, where hundreds of diamond miners were massacred by the army as the government effectively militarised a key mining area late last year. Some in the industry have questioned whether Zimbabwe's gems match the definition of conflict diamonds as they are helping to fund a government, not a rebel army, but Mr Smillie rejected this: "They are blood diamonds, they have blood all over them."

Zimbabwe is not alone and a host of other cracks have emerged in the system of safeguards meant to "ensure that diamond purchases were not funding violence". Monitors have pointed to the illegal trade flourishing in Ivory Coast, Guinea, Venezuela and Lebanon.

One-hundred percent of Venezuela's diamonds are being smuggled, according to the UK-based Global Witness; Guinea has reported an unfeasible 500 per cent increase in diamond production year on year; and Lebanon is exporting more rough diamonds than it imports despite having no local deposits. None of those countries have been suspended from the process and while inspection teams have been dispatched and reports commissioned, no action has been taken.

"The Kimberley Process is always the last to wake up and smell the coffee," Mr Smillie complained. It was claimed that he had "retired" from his role as one of the group's chief monitors earlier this year but the Canadian dismissed this report, saying he had "stomped out". "If it was working I would be there in Windhoek arguing with them or celebrating with them... but governments want to pretend that it is working." He said the mantra of KPCS has become "let's not do anything now" and accused them of "fiddling while Rome burns".

The KPCS is under strong pressure to act against Zimbabwe. "Hundreds of miners have been killed by their own government," said Annie Dunnebacke, lead campaigner from Global Witness. "How can that country still be part of the Kimberley Process? What's the point of having a stick if the stick is never used? Zimbabwe should be suspended."

The Namibia meeting which ends today has agreed to send an inspection team to the troubled southern African nation next week but it's unlikely they will be given serious access to the Marange area where the killings occurred. Inspectors have privately admitted that people they want to interview have been arrested or intimidated already.

Global Witness and Mr Smillie's Partnership Canada-Africa NGO were among the pressure groups who put blood diamonds on the agenda of the UN Security Council in 2000. At that stage rough gems were helping to pay for vicious civil wars in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Angola that cost hundreds of thousands of lives.

A UN resolution in December 2000 launched the Kimberley Process, and it was signed three years later. On its own website the organisation trumpets its success: "Diamond experts estimate that conflict diamonds now represent a fraction of one per cent of the international trade in diamonds, compared to estimates of up to 15 per cent in the 1990s. That has been the Kimberley Process's most remarkable contribution to a peaceful world."

The key to that success was ensuring that it reached all countries involved in the trade. Its future depends on ensuring there are no grey areas for blood diamonds to exploit. "Diamonds travel quickly," explained Mr Smillie.

The consequences of a collapse of the Kimberley Process would be twofold, he warned. "The diamond trade would go back to its criminal past and rebel armies would have no problem finding buyers for their blood diamonds. The potential for diamonds fuelling conflict would be back," he said.

Obama your next move please

Angleina Jolie set sights on running for president of the USA

ANGELINA Jolie reportedly wants to run for president of the US, since she's getting bored with Hollywood. She admires President Barack Obama and thinks she could make a big difference too. Her humanitarian work had proven she is capable and passionate.

The 34-year-old star - who raises six children, Maddox, seven, Pax, five, Zahara, four, Shiloh, three, and 11-month-old twins Vivienne and Knox with partner Brad Pitt - has now set her sights on becoming the first woman in the White House.

Genital piercings: tattooists avoid jail for sexually assaulting girls

Two Melbourne tattooists who sexually assaulted girls while performing genital piercings have avoided immediate jail time.

Dandenong tattooist Mark Andrew Ford, 50, told two girls aged 13 and 15 that his brother Gregory Alan Ford, 53, could carry out the genital piercings they wanted, the Victorian County Court was told.

In order to perform the piercings, Gregory Ford was required to stimulate the genital area for several minutes, the court heard.

Neither of the men asked the girls how old they were.

Both men pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual penetration of a child under 16.

Sentencing the pair, Judge Wendy Wilmoth, said the sexual penetration of a child was a very serious offence.

"In this unusual case, the penetration of each child was carried out at the child's request, and in pursuit of something which might be called a fashion or a fad," Judge Wilmoth said.

"A child under 16 years is, of course, incapable in law of consenting to such a procedure."

Judge Wilmoth noted the offences happened in 2001 and 2007 respectively and the Fords' business Tattoo City no longer performed intimate piercings, regardless of the age of the customer.

She sentenced the men to two years and six months in prison, wholly suspended for three years.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Rosmah: How many more?

The man who gave away his kidney to a total stranger

Dr Paul Van Den Bosch worked on a renal ward as junior doctor - an experience that never left him

There can be few more potent symbols of the new caring age in which we are supposed to be living, post-credit crunch, than that of the man who voluntarily gave up one of his organs so that a perfect stranger might live.

Paul Vandenbosch, a father of four aged 54, donated a kidney to a woman whom he did not know and has never met to save her from kidney failure, spare her the ordeal of dialysis and help to restore her to health and a normal life.

As an act of generosity, it would be difficult to beat. Donating blood is a generous act, but this is of a different order. It involves a significant amount of pain and a lot of disruption – preparing for the operation and recovering from it. Nor is it without risk, though this is probably lower than most people think. It is altruism of the purest kind.

Yet altruistic kidney donation – to a person with whom the donor has no connection – has leapt 50 per cent in the past year, according to latest figures from the Human Tissue Authority, published yesterday.

The numbers are still small – 10 in 2007-8 rising to 15 last year – but the practice was only approved in 2007, and the upward trend is unmistakeable. This is good news for the 8,000 people currently on the waiting list for a transplant, fewer than half of whom will receive a replacement organ this year because of the shortage of donors.

It was his first-hand awareness of the devastating impact of kidney disease that started Dr Vandenbosch, a GP in Surrey, thinking about becoming a living donor. As a junior doctor in the 1970s, his first job was on a renal ward – an experience that has never left him – and he has cared for many kidney patients in his practice since. "The turning point came when I asked a man my own age about the impact a transplant had made. 'It's like winning the lottery' he said, before adding, 'No, it's better than that because no amount of money could have made me feel well again.' "

Once he started to think about, the feeling that he should go ahead grew. "It is difficult to say why the feeling became so strong. When you try to do beneficial actions you think about your own situation. I am fit and healthy, prosperous, with a supportive family. I am very conscious of my own good fortune. That is probably part of the motivation."

Although he is a church-goer, he describes himself as a "not very active member" and says it was not so much his religious belief as secular considerations about the good that he could do that led him to his decision. "There are lots of questions surrounding charitable donations, even about giving money to charities such as Oxfam, which I do, over how the money is used. People argue that it may not be very effective. But it is very difficult to argue that giving your kidney is not beneficial. Someone can potentially get an enormous benefit from your donation, against a small risk."

His medical training helped him judge the risks. "As well as being more aware of the impact of kidney disease I was also in a good position to assess how hazardous it was. Or particularly how hazardous it wasn't. I looked into this with some care and found the chances of coming to grief over a year from any other cause were considerably greater than from the operation. I think people have an exaggerated idea of the risk. If people were able to assess it and to anticipate how much pain and disruption was involved they might be more willing to donate."

His wife and family backed his decision without being particularly enthusiastic. "They were supportive, they felt it was in character. No one said I was mad," he said.

He admits the pain was significant – "I was quite sore" – but he recovered quickly, was out of hospital in three days and back at work in a couple of weeks. Four months after the operation – in April last year – he went on a cycling holiday with no other sign or symptom of the operation than the scar.

The most difficult part was the time required to go through the necessary assessments – physical and psychiatric. "Going up to the hospital, being checked over – that was the bit that bugged me most. Especially the psychiatric assessment. Someone may have a bizarre disorder like body dysmorphism [excessive concern with a physical defect] which means they should be shunted away but I felt it was a bit intrusive. My brother-in-law recently started riding a large motorbike and he didn't have to undergo a psychiatric assessment, though his wife might have thought it appropriate."

Most organs for transplants are taken from people who have died but every year more and more people agree to donate organs while they are alive. The number of living kidney donors rose to 927 last year and they now account for more than one in three of all kidney transplants. The vast majority involve donations from relatives and, to a lesser extent, from friends. There are also "paired donations" where a couple who are unable to donate to each other, because of a poor tissue match, effectively swap organs with another couple in the same position.

Dr Vandenbosch has never met the woman who now carries his kidney, and has no particular desire to do so. "I am glad to have heard from her that she got it and that she is doing well. She sent me a card and she is fine. But I don't need her gratitude to make me feel what I have done is worthwhile. I don't need her to give me a hug. It is an internal action, that I have done something altruistic.

"One of the questions you are asked in the assessment is to prepare for the possibility that it may not work. Your kidney may be rejected and end up in the incinerator."

The shortage of donors is a constant theme in transplant surgery. More than 1,000 patients are expected to die this year before an organ becomes available. Yesterday, leaders of the main religious faiths appealed to their followers to support a campaign to increase the numbers on the organ-donor register.

The aim of the campaign is to clarify what each religion teaches about organ donation and remove uncertainty. The campaign is supported by the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches and leaders of the Jewish, Muslim, Sikh and Hindu communities.

Altruistic living donation is still in its infancy, but it could have a significant impact. Vicki Chapman, policy director at the Human Tissue Authority, said: "It is remarkable to see an increase in the number of people who want to donate a kidney to someone they do not know. We expected to see a small number of cases when we first started approving this type opf transplant but we did not expect to see the number rise so significantly after just one year."

The HTA has to approve all transplants involving living people, following an independent assessment, to ensure both donor and recipient understand what is involved and that the risks have been properly explained. It also has to satisfy itself that no money has changed hands – in some countries there is an active trade in organs for transplant.

Dr Vandenbosch said: "I very much hope I can encourage others to think about altruistic donation. Kidney patients are the single largest group awaiting transplants and there are enough potential living donors around. It doesn't have to be a great many to make a big difference."

"My feeling is that if people were able to assess the risks and how much pain and disruption was involved they would be more willing to donate. It is not such a big deal."

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