Thursday, January 8, 2009

Badawi demands sanctions on Israel

Malaysia's leader on Thursday called for sanctions on Israel for conducting lethal military strikes on Gaza, saying the international community has a "moral duty" to save the Palestinian people.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said in a speech to Malaysian and foreign diplomats that international sanctions have been applied for various breaches of the code of international conduct, and should be expanded to include violation of moral standards.

"On the issue of morality, Israel has to be sanctioned," Abdullah later told reporters. He denounced as "absolutely immoral" Israel's "excessive deployment of military power" in its air and ground offensive on Gaza since Dec. 27 that has left at least 688 Palestinians dead.

More than 3,000 people have been injured and some 5,000 people have fled the border area in the operation aimed at snuffing out Hamas militants who have been firing rockets at Israel. Ten Israelis have been killed in the Hamas attacks.

Muslim-majority Malaysia is a staunch critic of Israel.

Abdullah did not elaborate on whether the sanctions should be economic or military, saying it is up to the United Nations to decide. Still, the proposal is unlikely to see the light of day s any sanctions must be approved by the UN Security Council where the US, Israel's main ally, has veto power.

The Security Council has so far failed to agree on action to end the escalating crisis in Gaza, but Egypt plans to host separate talks with Israel and Hamas on a cease-fire proposal. Abdulah said any cease-fire effort must include Israel withdrawing from Gaza.

But in a moderate success for Malaysia, Indonesia and other Non-Aligned Movement countries' efforts, the president of the UN General Assembly has agreed to its proposal to hold an emergency special session on the humanitarian situation in Gaza later Thursday. However, any resolution adopted by the 192-member world body would not be legally binding.

But in Jakarta Indonesian legal experts said that the UN General Assembly's emergency session will not be effective in ending the agony of thousands of civilians in war-torn Gaza.

"World leaders will assemble at the UN emergency meeting and issue a resolution condemning Israel and beseech the country to stop its illegal offensive against Gaza. But that is all. It will not be effective," University of Indonesia professor of international law Hikmahanto Juwana said on Wednesday in Jakarta.

Indonesia's well-known human rights activist Todung Mulya Lubis agreed with Juwana, saying there was no guarantee the resolution would settle the escalating Israel-Palestine conflict.
AsThe Jakarta Post, , Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta | Fri, 01/09/2009

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Happy New year...2009


all his friends, age does not feel that the more we grow, year 2008 has been through quickly at the end of this year hopefully we can be the best plan which we hope ... we hope that in the new year 2009 with increasing age also increases in knowledge, provision , and lengthen age ... hopefully god with us forever .. successfully make all his friends ... happy new year.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The return of Elektro, the first celebrity robot

WHEN Jack Weeks first saw the racy comedy in the 1960s, he was taken aback to see his childhood friend in a leading role. More surprising, perhaps, is the fact that his buddy was actually a golden 2.5-metre-tall humanoid robot called Elektro.

Elektro was one of the world's first celebrity robots. Built by electrical manufacturer Westinghouse, and with electrical controls that were remarkably advanced for the time, he drew huge crowds at . During the second world war, the robot was stored in the basement of the Weeks's family home in Ohio, where he became 8-year-old Jack's playmate. After the war, Elektro went back on the road, touring the US to adoring crowds, but his star soon began to wane. Shortly after 1960 and the release of Sex Kittens - in which Elektro starred alongside blonde bombshell Mamie Van Doren and a chimp called Voltaire - the robot's career hit a low. Not long after that, Elektro disappeared entirely.


But Weeks never forgot his golden friend and thanks to a series of lucky breaks, he eventually managed to track down and acquire Elektro's head, torso and limbs. Now in his seventies, Weeks sees the robot as a monument to Westinghouse's pioneering work, and is close to returning his long-lost playmate to full working order. This is their unlikely tale.

Elektro was built in 1937 at Westinghouse's plant in Mansfield, Ohio, as a promotional aid to advertise its household products. By pouring all its electrical know-how into the robot, the company created a machine that could walk, talk, smoke and perform counting tricks. Elektro rapidly became a star, and received a rapturous welcome at the New York World's Fair in 1939.

The incredible ingenuity of Elektro's design was topped off by his sleek exterior. There was no remote control. Instead, the robot relied on a combination of motors, photoelectric cells, telephone relays and record players to perform 26 preprogrammed routines, each one initiated by voice commands from a human co-star. These were spoken into a telephone connected to the robot's chest, where circuitry converted each syllable into a pulse of light and transmitted it to a photoelectric cell. A second circuit added up the syllables and triggered relays to operate the corresponding electromechanical functions: a command with three syllables, for example, would start the robot's routine, and four syllables would stop it. As part of these routines, Elektro would raise and lower his arms, turn his head, move his mouth, count on his fingers and even smoke a cigarette and puff out smoke.

The robot could also respond to questions by using relays to switch between a bank of phonographs playing 78 rpm voice recordings that were hidden behind a curtain. This gave Elektro a vocabulary of 700 words and an extensive repertoire of banter: "I am a smart fellow as I have a very fine brain of 48 electrical relays," he would tell the crowd. "It works just like a telephone switchboard. If I get a wrong number I can always blame the operator. And by the way, I see a lot of good numbers out in our audience today."

By 1940, Westinghouse had beefed up its show with an electric dog called Sparko that performed tricks under Elektro's command. However, after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, Westinghouse cleared its factory for war production and Elektro was sent home with John Weeks, one of the engineers who maintained him. In 1942, his son Jack discovered the giant mechanical man in the basement and did what any 8-year-old would do: he dressed the gold robot in hats or feathers and rushed home from school every day to play with him in games like cowboys and Indians. But when the war ended, his friend disappeared. "I came home from school one day and the basement was empty," Weeks recalls. "I never imagined that I would see it again."

For the next decade or so, Elektro was kept busy on promotional tours all over the US in a truck dubbed the Elektromobile. Weeks grew up and, like his father, became an engineer and even worked part-time at the Mansfield plant. But by the late 1950s, Westinghouse and the public had grown tired of Elektro and he was shipped off for display at an amusement park in Oceanside, southern California.

The next time Weeks saw Elektro was in (tag line: "You never saw a student body like this"). Elektro played Thinko, "the greatest electronic brain in the world". In one scene, Thinko shares a bourbon with Voltaire the chimp while watching a succession of strippers, including Brigitte Bardot's sister, Mijanou. Elektro, with jaunty hat and tight sweater, moans repeatedly and flashes his eyes. "The film's a riot," says Weeks.

Elektro eventually returned to Westinghouse, but with the advent of modern computers, the company lost interest in the robot, and its body and legs were packed in their crates and forgotten. Sparko disappeared too, and, sometime in the 1970s, Westinghouse executive Harold Gorsuch, their creator, was given Elektro's head as a retirement present.

This turned out to be a stroke of luck for Weeks. By coincidence, his brother moved into Gorsuch's house a few years later and they found Elektro's head discarded in the basement. Boyhood memories flooded back and Weeks kept Elektro's head on his coffee table for years, always hoping that he might eventually recover the robot's body. He had to wait almost 30 years.

In 1990, Westinghouse closed its Mansfield plant and Weeks lent the company Elektro's head for the farewell party. A photo of the head in a local paper brought a man called John McDivitt to Weeks's workshop. McDivitt claimed that he had bought the Elektromobile at a Westinghouse auction in the mid-1980s and in the back he had found two crates containing limbs and a torso. Weeks was amazed, and rushed to McDivitt's cluttered shed where he delved among the crates. Disappointment soon set in: he didn't recognise the torso - it was in very poor condition and was silver rather than gold. McDivitt wanted a fortune for it, so Jack reluctantly walked away.

That disappointment lived with Weeks for a long time and in 2004, after a local museum asked whether it could borrow the head for an exhibition, he decided to take a second look at the robotic body he had rejected. It turned out that McDivitt had died some years earlier so Weeks tracked down his brother-in-law. By chance he still had the crates, and this time Weeks was able to get another look at the objects. By now the silver paint had worn off revealing a gold finish, as well as some of the other features that had appeared to be missing on first sight. It was Elektro after all.

This time Jack bought the parts for $500 and restoration began. Eventually, Weeks moved Elektro to a small museum in Mansfield so that others could share the robot, and some of those who worked on Elektro in the old days, now in their 80s and 90s, came to visit. So far the robot's arms and head can move, but Weeks doesn't have the voice systems, and the drive unit is missing from the legs. In fact, he has almost given up hope of finding these parts. And now, just four years after reuniting Elektro's head and body, Weeks is preparing to part with his treasured companion once and for all: he wants Elektro to go to the in Dearborn, Michigan, where he could be seen by up to 1.5 million people each year. Yet he still holds some hope that Elektro won't travel alone: the robot's trusty friend Sparko may still be crated up in someone's garage, he suggests, and it could suddenly show up, mechanical tail wagging. "Who knows," he sighs, "but wouldn't it be great? It would make me really happy to see them together again."

Noel Sharkey is professor of artificial intelligence and robotics at the University of Sheffield, UK

Communication and Information

Communication Information.jpg

Overall Objective

UNESCO's overall objective through its current programme of work, Major Programme V on Communication and Information (CI) is to promote the free flow of ideas by word and image, while broadening access to this information in order to:
Click here for readmore.......

Ensure the free flow of information conducive to advancement of societies and their democratic functioning
Help ensure equitable access to opportunities for sharing knowledge and promoting the creativity that technologies provide
Assist countries in building up their skills in communication and information; to improve infrastructures - media, libraries, archives, information services and networks - and to promote the training of professionals


In striving to reach the programme goal, Communication and Information (CI) pursues the following strategies:

Promoting meetings for the cooperative development of projects and programmes

Fostering education and sustainable training in information science

Promoting Freedom of the Press - building on the advances in the region

Providing a visionary evaluation device

Forging institutional networks for research, workshops and seminars

Promoting electronic equipment for information service handling

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Madoff Dealings Tarnish a Private Swiss Bank

Now, as the links between and elite private banks like Geneva-based Union Bancaire Privée emerge, this well-polished reputation has been tarnished by the $50 billion that Mr. Madoff has been arrested for and accused of running.

L’Affaire Madoff, as it has become known here and in Geneva, has cast an unwanted spotlight onto the normally shadowy world of private bankers in Switzerland and other cozy hiding places of offshore wealth, like the Cayman Islands and Luxembourg.

And while there are many Swiss victims in terms of total exposure, UBP is the best-known private bank to get hit, with $700 million of its clients’ money invested with Mr. Madoff.

Founded in 1969 by Edgar de Picciotto, UBP quickly became a giant in the conservative world of Swiss banking, where partnerships like Pictet and Lombard Odier stretch back more than 200 years.

With assets of $125 billion and a client base of wealthy individuals, families and institutions that reach from Qatar to Uruguay to Russia and throughout Europe, it is one of Switzerland’s biggest pipelines for channeling client money into hedge funds worldwide.

About six years ago, that business, known as a fund of funds, began to rake in larger fees when it decided to set up a vehicle called M-Invest Ltd to funnel cash to Mr. Madoff’s firm.

Through this relationship, UBP claimed it was able to gain close insight into Mr. Madoff’s investment operations, through copies of trade tickets and an unusual degree of access granted by Mr. Madoff himself to UBP’s representatives, according to a confidential internal letter sent to investors on Dec. 17, obtained by The New York Times.

The memorandum, while seeking to reassure investors, could raise questions about why UBP, unlike others who claimed to have seen red flags, did not use its access to delve more deeply into the unusually consistent annual returns that Mr. Madoff’s funds were reporting.

According to the memo, “We have met with Bernard Madoff and various principals several times at Madoff’s office, twice within the last year, and have had numerous conversations in between.” The letter stated that several of UBP’s senior investment professionals met with Mr. Madoff in 2004 and 2007, and that UBP’s structured risk analysis unit “had a full review in 2006 and recently in 2008 with Madoff himself.”

The UBP letter acknowledges some concerns over how Mr. Madoff’s firm combined investment management and brokerage services. But the Geneva bank said it “found comfort” in the fact that the firm was subject to “routine” audits by the Securities and Exchange Commission and Finra, another securities regulator, as well as “Madoff’s longstanding reputation in building Wall Street’s markets infrastructure.” M-Invest was regulated by the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority, where it was incorporated.

UBP was also closely tied to Fairfield Greenwich Group, the New York investment company that was the single biggest gatherer of money for Mr. Madoff, sending $7.3 billion his way and collecting more than $500 million in fees as a result.

Michael de Picciotto, a nephew of the founder and a top executive of UBP, is a close friend of Andrés Piedrahita, a son-in-law of Walter Noel, the founder of Fairfield Greenwich. Mr. Piedrahita played a key role in raising much of the money from Europe and South America that ended up with Mr. Madoff.

UBP was the also main investment adviser, custodian and leverage provider to Fairfield’s huge fund of funds business and Mr. de Picciotto in turn was a key adviser to Fairfield, according to an internal document prepared by Fairfield last year for a potential buyer of the firm. In addition, UBP is listed as the sixth-largest investor in Fairfield’s funds, for which the bank provided “qualitative and quantitative research and operational due diligence,” according to the letter.

At one point, the letter boasted that Mr. de Picciotto could provide insight into UBP’s investment and asset allocation strategy. Through these connections, UBP became entwined with Mr. Madoff’s investments even as competitors like, which turned up a series of red flags during routine due diligence in 2003 at Mr. Madoff’s New York headquarters, steered clear.

“Ultimately, these people were blind to what was going on,” said Michel Dominicé, a veteran Geneva hedge fund manager with $200 million under management.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

35 Iraq Officials Held in Raids on Key Ministry

BAGHDAD — Up to 35 officials in the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior ranking as high as general have been arrested over the past three days with some of them accused of quietly working to reconstitute Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party, according to senior security officials in Baghdad.

The arrests, confirmed by officials from the Ministries of the Interior and National Security as well as the prime minister’s office, included four generals, one of whom, Gen. Ahmed Abu Raqeef, is the ministry’s director of internal affairs. The officials also said that the arrests had come at the hand of an elite counterterrorism force that reports directly to the office of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.

The involvement of the counterterrorism unit speaks to the seriousness of the accusations, and several officials from the Ministries of the Interior and National Security said that some of those arrested were in the early stages of planning a coup.

None of the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the delicate nature of the subject, provided details about that allegation.

But the arrests reflect a new set of political challenges for Iraq. Mr. Maliki, who has gained popularity as a strong leader but has few reliable political allies, has scrambled to protect himself from domestic rivals as the domineering influence of the United States, his leading backer, begins to fade.

Rumors of coups, conspiracies and new alliances abound in the Iraqi capital a month before provincial elections. Critics of Mr. Maliki say he has been using arrests to consolidate power.

But senior security officials said there was significant evidence tying those arrested to a wide array of political corruption charges, including affiliation with Al Awda, or the Return, a descendant of the Baath Party, which ruled the country as a dictatorship for 35 years, mostly under Mr. Hussein. Tens of thousands of Iraqis died or were persecuted, including Mr. Maliki, a Shiite Muslim, by the Baath Party. It was outlawed after the American invasion in 2003.

While most members of the Baath Party were Sunni Muslims, as Mr. Hussein was, those arrested were a mix of Sunnis and Shiites, several officials said. It was unclear precisely how many Interior Ministry officials were detained.

A high-ranking Interior Ministry official said that those affiliated with Al Awda had paid bribes to other officers to recruit them and that huge amounts of money had been found in raids.

He said there could be more arrests. Some of those under arrest belonged to the now-illegal party under Mr. Hussein’s government. Mr. Maliki’s office declined to comment. But one of his advisers, insisting that he not be named because he was not authorized to speak, said the detainees were involved in “a conspiracy.”

The Ministry of the Interior is dedicated to Iraq’s internal security, and includes the police forces. The ministry has a history of being heavily infiltrated with Shiite militias, though it has improved considerably over the past two years.

A police officer, who knows several of the detainees but spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, said they were innocent, longstanding civil servants and had little in common with one another. Those who once belonged to the Baath Party were lower-level members, he said, insisting that the arrests were politically motivated.

Interior Minister Jawad Kadem al-Bolani, who has not been implicated and is out of the country, has his own political ambitions and has been expanding his secular Iraqi Constitutional Party. Iraq is a nation where leadership has often changed by coup, and as next month’s provincial elections approach, worry about violence is increasing. So are accusations about politically charged detentions.

The counterterrorism unit involved in these arrests is alleged to have conducted a raid this summer on the Diyala provincial governor’s office, during which an employee was killed and a provincial council member, one of the few Sunnis Arabs on the council, was arrested.

At a later protest against the arrest, several other Sunni politicians were detained. A number of politicians who follow the Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr, and who have set themselves up as political rivals to the prime minister, have also been arrested over the past months and charged with terrorist activities.

Anxieties about the government’s treatment of political enemies were also raised this week as the American military, as part of the recently approved security agreement, turned over to Iraqi custody on Monday 39 senior officials from the Hussein government. Some have been convicted already and others are scheduled to stand trial, the United States military said in a statement.

Saleh al-Mutlaq, a Sunni lawmaker, charged that the safety of the prisoners was in jeopardy. “I think these people are not going to be treated well and that is the American responsibility,” he said.

Badeei Araf, a lawyer who said he represented 11 of those being turned over, said at least two appeared on the “most wanted” deck of cards that the United States publicized early in the invasion in 2003. But, he said, neither Ali Hassan al-Majid, known as Chemical Ali and awaiting execution, nor Tariq Aziz, the public face of the Hussein government, were among those transferred.

On Wednesday morning, a bomb planted in a minibus exploded near a parking lot belonging to an Iraqi traffic police station in the Nadha neighborhood of Baghdad, killing up to 18 people and injuring scores, police officials said. Some Iraqi officials put the death toll at eight.

A small blast in a market of barbershops and butchers drew people out of their homes before the minibus exploded. The attack appeared to be directed at the police station; at least three of those killed were police officers.

Also on Wednesday morning, Gordon Brown, the prime minister of Britain, made a surprise appearance at a news conference in Baghdad with Mr. Maliki, where he confirmed that British forces would end their operations in Iraq by the end of May and would withdraw from the country by the end of June. (NY time)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Alcohol in the holiday season

As the holiday season nears, Bali's tourism businesses are asking the government to provide some leeway on alcohol imports following the recent shortages.

As of December, certain products, particularly European ones such as whiskey, vodka and tequila, are still hard to find, even after all the complaints lodged by businesses from the alcohol scarcity of over three months ago.

Reasons behind the sudden shortage remain unclear. Customs officials said there had been no increase in duties on imported alcohol. Some experts blamed tightened bureaucracy.

Several businessmen went so far as to call the shortage part of an effort to weed out European brands to make way for Chinese brands.

Whatever the theory, tourism businessmen said Bali could only end up with the short end of the stick should the alcohol shortage last any longer.

Ngurah Wijaya, head of the Bali Tourism Board, said a prolonged alcohol shortage would pose a "major problem" for the island's tourism industry.

"The government must remember that alcohol products bring in up to 80 percent of Bali's tourism revenue.

"This means the industry is going to experience a major income loss due to this shortage, especially with the ongoing global financial crisis," he said.

He urged the government to provide some leeway, such as making trade deals to allow unrestricted traffic of imported alcohol from certain countries to the island.

"Europe, the United States and Australia remain our most trusted exporters for alcohol, we should be making trade deals with them soon for alcohol," he said.

I Gde Wiratha, chairman of the Bali Chamber of Commerce and Industry who is also the owner of a number of high-class night clubs, said the prolonged shortage showed a lack of government commitment and support of Bali's tourism industry.

"How can the government allow Black Label (a local alcoholic beverage) to sell for up to Rp 1.2 million? How are we supposed to make money? Who will want to spend that much money?" he said.

He criticized the government for allowing this to last through the holidays, calling it a snub to Bali's tourism industry.

"Just imagine, Singaporeans pay three times less than we do here for alcohol. How is that supporting the industry?"

Meanwhile, most restaurants, hotels and bars continue to struggle to supply guests with alcoholic drinks.

Aulianty Fellina, marketing communications manager from the Hard Rock Hotel in Bali, said the hotel was facing a 100 percent price increase in alcoholic drinks due to shortage.

"Right now we don't have a shortage because we have a good stock of alcohol, but I can't say that we won't be affected and we may end up raising prices, although we're still holding to the current prices," she said.

Jeanie Grace, a spokesperson for Sector Bar, said her establishment had also been struggling to find certain beverages, but was encouraged by the opportunity to introduce local drinks.

"Right now we're just looking at the bright side, it's still going to be Christmas, we have a lot of events planned and it's going to be a good time to promote some locally made drinks," she said.