Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Norway princess 'talks to angels'

Norway princess 'talks to angels'
Princess Martha Louise
The princess describes angels as a resource in people's lives
Norway's Princess Martha Louise says she has psychic powers and can teach people to communicate with angels.

The 35-year-old daughter of King Harald and Queen Sonja made the announcement on a website promoting her plans for a new alternative therapy centre.

She says she realised as a child that she could read people's inner feelings, while her experiences with horses had helped her make contact with angels.

Princess Martha Louise is fourth in line to the Norwegian throne.

The royal palace says it has no official link to the princess' planned alternative therapy centre, the AFP news agency reports.

The princess, who trained as a physical therapist, says on the website for her Astarte Education centre that she has "always been interested in alternative forms of treatment".

Students at her centre, she says, will learn how to "create miracles" in their lives and harness the powers of their angels, which she describes as "forces that surround us and who are a resource and help in all aspects of our lives".

"It was while I was taking care of the horses that I got in contact with the angels," she says.

"I have lately understood the value of this important gift and I wish to share it with other people, maybe with you."

A three-year programme at her centre costs 24,000 Norwegian crowns ($4,150; 3,000 euros; £2,000) per year.

Re-writing the rules of online ID

Re-writing the rules of online ID
Teenagers, BBC/Corbis
Young people have a very different attitude to online identity
Regular columnist Bill Thompson discovers that forgetting a password might be an opportunity for reinventing yourself.

An employee who forgot their password to log in to the corporate network would probably get a withering look from the support staff as they grovelled to have it reset.

By contrast it seems that young people who forget their MySpace logins are just as likely to make a new account as fret over their lost friends or painstakingly constructed homepage decorations.

I've seen this myself with my daughter, who has been through more user accounts, social sites and e-mail addresses than I could even begin to keep track of and seems to see nothing unusual in abandoning a profile because it doesn't feel right any more.

Recent work by US-based social media researcher Danah Boyd, one of the more astute observers of network behaviour, indicates that it is a more general attitude.

Her observations of young net users have led her to believe that "many teens are content (if not happy) to start over with most of their accounts in most places", and she has noted that for young people an online profile is "not seen as something to build an extensive identity around, but something to use to talk to friends in the moment".

She was particularly impressed by the kids who start a new profile simply because they can't remember their login name or password.

Identity parade

It isn't an attitude I share, perhaps because I'm less willing to spend time setting up new accounts but also because I work hard to manage my online presence and to present a unified identity wherever I happen to be logged on.

Bill Thompson
But there are many other areas of life online where the fluidity of non-identity, of the carnival mask and the assumed name, are also vital, and not just for furtive encounters in chat rooms.
Bill Thompson
I even try to use the same login name for every service I sign up for, but perhaps teenagers, experimenting with their identity in relationships, clothing styles and all other aspects of life are simply extending this playfulness to the virtual realm.

Not all young users are casual about their online identity, of course, and Boyd is at pains to point out that many young people invest heavily in aspects of their online activities. However, the willingness to abandon a profile as a work-in-progress and start over is definitely something I've observed in my children and their friends.

Nor is it a new phenomenon. When my daughter was younger she was hooked on Neopets and had five or six accounts going at the same time, partly because she could then trade with herself and game the system but also because she expressed different aspects of her personality in the different accounts.

This approach to online identity has a number of implications for anyone trying to understand the way the internet is growing, and also carries an important lesson for those trying to build services or make money out of them.

One positive aspect is that it will make it harder to pin online activity onto a real person, since accounts that are created and quickly discarded will contain fewer identifying details.

Screengrab of MySpace homepage, MySpace
Many young users abandon social site accounts freely
Given the growing use of online searches to find out more about applicants to college or for jobs, it would wonderfully ironic if the disorganised kids with a dozen MySpace, Bebo, Facebook and DeviantArt profiles end up being the ones who make it to university simply because the admissions tutors can't find enough evidence of their partying.

Number crunching

More importantly, this casualness clearly renders any statistics about the number of signed-up users effectively meaningless, and this could be a big problem for the sites themselves as companies vie for investment and point to sign-ups as an indicator of popularity and future success.

Commentator Clay Shirky has been waging a campaign against the sloppy journalism of those who quote Linden Labs figures for Second Life "residents".

He points out that many happily accept the headline figure of two million users without considering that only 36,000 of those are paid-for accounts while a high but indeterminate proportion of the remainder are inactive, set up for free by people who tried out the service and then moved on.

It is the same with MySpace, Bebo or any of the other social sites, of course, and shows how poor we are at measuring what really goes on online.

Websites, having struggled for years to adapt to the idea of the pageview instead of the server request as the key measure of site activity, are now building interactive pages that occupy user attention and time but don't generate hits or page views - and they don't know how to measure this usage.

Screengrab of Second Life homepage, Linden Lab
Some have questioned Second Life usage stats
Now it seems that the millions of signups on MySpace, Bebo and the other social network sites could be the same set of forgetful teenagers coming back again.

And again.

It may just be that I'm older and therefore more boring, or it may be that I simply have less time for that sort of thing, but there's a part of me that wants a way to match online identity with real-world identity in a solid, straightforward way.

Organisations like the Liberty Alliance offer tools for managing online identity that can limit the information we share with other people and still prove who we are for the situations where assured identity is absolutely vital - like when dealing with a bank, or getting academic credit for an online course.

But there are many other areas of life online where the fluidity of non-identity, of the carnival mask and the assumed name, are also vital, and not just for furtive encounters in chat rooms.

I had always thought that this would involve carefully-chosen pseudonyms and some sort of identity management system, but the answer seems to lie in throwaway accounts and a far more casual approach.

As with so much else about the digital world our kids, having grown up with this stuff all around them, seem to be finding ways to make it work for them that escape those of us who will always be digital immigrants. But at least we can learn from them.

Bill Thompson is a regular commentator on the BBC World Service programme Digital Planet

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Why UK teenagers struggle to cope

Why UK teenagers struggle to cope
By Mark Easton
BBC News home editor

Young person
Disconnected and disengaged...
British teenagers are among the most badly behaved in Europe, a study by think-tank the Institute for Public Policy Research suggests. Why?

In Britain we have come to both demonise and fear our teenagers: the yobs, the hoodies, the street gangs - the Asbo generation which terrorises neighbourhoods.

"Kids hanging around" is now regarded as the greatest social nuisance of our age.

As the new IPPR report puts it: "Commentators fear that British youth is on the verge of mental breakdown, at risk from anti-social behaviour, self-harm, drug and alcohol abuse. These concerns are, to an extent, borne out."

Such gloom is in contrast to evidence that there has never been a better time to be young.

Good times

More British teenagers leave school with good qualifications and go to university than ever before.

Youth unemployment has fallen dramatically in the last 25 years.

Today's parents are richer than ever before and young people have access to an extraordinary range of activities and opportunities undreamt of even a generation ago.

And yet the mental well-being of our adolescents is among the worst in Europe: one in 10 teenage girls has self-harmed. Child obesity is increasing.

Southern European nations with a strong Catholic tradition and a focus on the family do not share the same level of delinquency

Our youngsters are more consumerist in their outlook than the Americans.

Concern about adolescents is not new, but what this research does is put the UK's experience in an international context - and the conclusions are troubling.

The European comparisons, putting our youngsters at or close to the top of every indicator of bad behaviour, suggest the causes are cultural.

Southern European nations with a strong Catholic tradition and a focus on the family do not share the same level of delinquency.

Scandinavian countries with a large welfare state and a strong sense of civic engagement also perform better.

'Hanging out'

But in the UK, where we have seen big changes in family structures - rising rates of divorce and single parenthood - and where the state traditionally resists intervening in domestic life, young people have been left to their own devices.

"Hanging out with mates" is what teenagers do in the UK.

In contrast to their European counterparts, they spend far more time with their peers than with adults where they miss out on the development of what are called "soft skills" - the social and personal development which is increasingly vital in a country built around service industry.

The days of young men leaving school at the first opportunity to go down the pit or into the shipyard have all but disappeared.

Those young men today are struggling to cope in a world which demands high levels of socialisation.

Teenagers play football
Could sport be an answer?

The IPPR report claims that social skills are as important, if not more important, than the academic qualifications our children are urged to achieve.

The key is that youngsters grow up in a warm, nurturing environment with plenty of adult interaction.

It doesn't have to be the traditional nuclear family although statistically children brought up by two married, biological parents do better than those from single-parent families or people cohabiting.

What the report amounts to is a challenge of traditional youth policy.

It points out that youngsters who go to a youth club are 6% more likely to smoke in adulthood, 1% more likely to be a single parent, 1% more likely to be a victim of crime and 5% more likely to have no qualifications than those who don't.

Why do we constantly blame the children?
Caroline, London

By contrast, those that went to structured sports or community centres are 3% less likely to be depressed; 5% less likely to be single, separated or divorced; 3% less likely to be in social housing and 2% less likely to have no qualifications.

The conclusions are obvious - but far from easy.

We need to repair the disconnect between our adolescents and the adult world.

That is not going to happen in a hurry but as the IPPR report puts it: "Young people who do not have access to the factors that develop their non-cognitive abilities are increasingly vulnerable to failure, while their better socialised peers will increasingly succeed."

So what on earth is respect?

So what on earth is respect?
By Dominic Casciani
BBC News Online community affairs

"Give respect, Get respect" says the government's action plan - but what on earth does it mean? Can we really define respect?

It has been talked of for months, and now Prime Minister Tony Blair has launched his respect agenda for his administration's third term.

In his introduction to the plan, Mr Blair says: "What lies at the heart of [anti-social] behaviour is a lack of respect for values that almost everyone in this country shares - consideration for others, a recognition that we all have responsibilities as well as rights, civility and good manners."

The challenge is that this is often very difficult to define. Nobody likes yobbish behaviour, littering and so on.

But what about fast food? Many older people think it is the height of bad manners to walk down the street chomping on a kebab - and even worse to fill the bus with the smells of saturated fats.

At the same time, younger people have grown up in a culture of fast food so for some scoffing on the street may be second nature. But is that disrespectful, rude, a generational divide or simply a crime against your digestive system?

Children using phones in class
"I'm in the classroom..."
Mobile phones are another example. Tony Blair was reportedly aghast in a session with head teachers when he discovered that pupils had phones in schools. Some heads were not that bothered - particularly those in rural areas where the phones were a useful tool.

This is the dilemma for government, to draw the line in the sand between what it can justifiably champion as decent right-thinking activity and that which it can say is thoroughly beastly and anti-social.

Do unto others

So how does it set about doing this? The cover of the government action plan is not just a neat piece of graphic design, it is also a philosophical statement.

Respect logo
The cycle of respect
The logo of two arrows circling each other very consciously borrows from recycling. What goes around, comes around, do unto others as you would have others do unto you.

Here Jean-Jacques Rousseau and his "social contract" comes in. The 18th century French philosopher argued that people should give up their natural rights to do whatever they jolly well please so that society can function.

That idea (also similarly devised by Plato, Hobbes and other great thinkers) is a key element of the modern state. So when Tony Blair talks about respect, or of "rights and responsibilities", he is talking about our contract with each other - and with government.

But if this balanced contract has indeed gone wrong, what happened?

Children are encouraged to think that they are the equals of their parents, their teachers and people in authority
Roger Scruton

Philosopher Roger Scruton says that the reason why respect has disappeared is because it is no longer taught.

Insolence goes unpunished in the young, and what starts in the playground is translated into adulthood.

However, Richard Sennett, one of Britain's leading sociologists, argues the contrary: We should ask whether institutions treat individuals with respect, particularly those who are not powerful.

Shape up

The prime minister isn't being choosy about his definition as both of these arguments in some shape or form make it into his package, along with a third idea: that government has a responsibility to intervene on behalf of society if it believes individuals are failing in their personal duties.

In other words, if a local family from hell break the social contract, the authorities will enforce it.

Litter in a park
Hardly respectful?
This is usually tricky territory for politicians. John Major's ill-fated Back to Basics drive in 1993 fell down quicker than the trousers of some of his MPs caught by tabloid photographers.

The reason why politicians face a tough time on this wicket is because of an entirely different word: deference.

If government packs people off on parenting classes, is that just helping them get on in life, or a case of: "We know better than you - so just be thankful".

Mr Blair appears confident that he can avoid being accused of demanding deference, saying: "It is not in my gift or anyone in central government to guarantee good behaviour or to impose a set of common values about acceptable behaviour".

He adds that his respect agenda is "not about returning to the days of 'knowing your place'."

Yet, confusingly, he then says that if people who need help will not take it, "we will make them".

Two-fingered salute

Which brings us back to a question left unanswered by the title of the action plan: If Mr Blair is demanding respect, is he also giving it?

There's an idea among some criminologists and sociologists that if respect isn't a two-way street, you create something they call "asymmetric citizenship".

They warn that unless the young are treated decently, they are likely to react in precisely in the ways society most fears.

This isn't just about manners. Studies have found that benefit cheats often believe they have a de facto right to rip off the state because they believe the state has failed them; they have nothing left to lose so decide to stick two fingers up to society.

The irony is that the very same people have also been found to be socially conservative, expressing shock and outrage when they witness the anti-social behaviour of others.

A case of "do as I say, don't do as I do" - another circular philosophy many associate with politicians.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Donor boom after TV kidney hoax

Donor boom after TV kidney hoax
The Donor Show
The "contestants" were all in on the Donor Show hoax
Some 12,000 more people have registered as organ donors in the Netherlands since a Dutch TV hoax that featured a "competition" for a kidney.

The Big Donor Show was revealed to be a hoax as the fake donor was apparently about to reveal her choice of patient.

But Dutch media say the number of people registering as organ donors has jumped since the hoax. The usual monthly figure is just 3-4,000.

The three real patients vying for a kidney knew the show was a hoax.

The show, broadcast on 1 June, featured a terminally-ill woman selecting one of three patients to receive one of her kidneys.

Before the broadcast political parties called for it to be scrapped, but broadcaster BNN said the show would highlight the country's shortage of organ donors.

The programme was made by Big Brother creators Endemol.

The 37-year-old "donor" - an actress playing the part of a terminally-ill woman - had to make a choice based on conversations with the family and friends of the contestants, as well as personal history and profile.

The Dutch donor authority condemned the show before it was revealed to be a hoax.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Girl could give birth to sibling

Girl could give birth to sibling
By Michelle Roberts
BBC News, Health reporter in Lyon

Melanie Boivin
Melanie Boivin's daughter has a genetic condition
A Canadian mother has frozen her eggs for use by her seven-year-old daughter, who is likely to become infertile.

Should the girl opt to use the eggs and gain regulatory approval, she would effectively have a baby that was her half-brother or sister.

Critics said the work, presented at a fertility conference in Lyon, was deeply concerning.

But the doctors from the McGill Reproductive Center, Montreal, called the donation an act of motherly love.

Would I look at the child as my grandchild or as my own?
Melanie Boivin

Also, the girl and any future partner would have a choice as to whether to use the eggs or not, they said.

The girl, Flavie Boivin, cannot have children naturally because of a chromosomal condition called Turner's syndrome.

Desperate to help, mum Melanie, who is 35 and a lawyer, investigated whether she could donate her own eggs.

After much research, she came across Professor Seang Lin Tan's team at McGill who run an egg freezing programme for cancer patients and those who want to delay childbearing.

Melanie said she discussed the decision with her partner and Flavie's father, Martin Cote, also 35 and a financial analyst.

Emotional impact

"We were concerned about the ethical questions - would I look at the child as my grandchild or as my own? We were also concerned about the financial impact, the physical impact on me and the emotional impact on the family."

After a year they decided to go ahead.

Could it possibly get more bewildering than this?
Josephine Quintavalle
Comment on Reproductive Ethics

"What made us sure was the fact that I was there to help my daughter. If I could do anything in my power to help her I had to do it and because of my age I had to do it now.

"I told myself if she had needed another organ like a kidney I would volunteer without any hesitation and it is the same kind of thought process for this."

Melanie said her daughter would be the real mother as she would be caring for the child.

"I do not want to oblige her to use the eggs; I want to give her the option."

Professor Tan said they had asked for the advice of an independent ethics committee.

"The ethic committee agreed to it because the mother giving to a daughter is out of love and it is up to the daughter and partner in future years to decide whether to use the eggs or not.

"And ethical considerations change with time. Who knows what the ethics will be in 20 years from now."

Identity problems

Professor Tan said this was the first case of mother-to-daughter egg donation. There have been cases of donation from sister to sister.

A genetic condition that causes impaired growth and learning difficulties
Destroys eggs, leading to an unusually early menopause

Dr Richard Kennedy, of the British Fertility Society, said: "This altruistic behaviour is not dissimilar to the scenario where a parent donates a kidney to a child.

"In this case, instead of using eggs from an unknown donor, she will get the opportunity to know the source.

"Although this means the resulting offspring will be similar in genetics, an unrelated sperm will be used - and this means that the offspring will not be a true sister."

Josephine Quintavalle, of Comment on Reproductive Ethics, expressed sympathy with the family, but could not support storing the mother's eggs.

She said: "The psychological welfare of the baby itself has to be the principal concern.

"Such a baby would be a sibling of the birth mother at the same time as the direct genetic offspring of the grandmother donor.

"In psychiatry we are hearing more and more of children suffering from identity problems, and specifically a condition called 'genealogical bewilderment'. Could it possibly get more bewildering than this?

"We have to stop thinking of women only in terms of their reproductive potential.

"The daughter could live a full and happy life without having children of her own."

Tuesday, July 03, 2007




危兆盖 整理

  编者按: 最近十几年来,历史题材的影视剧充斥荧屏,或称演义,























Monday, July 02, 2007



  從陳家林導演手上接到《太平天國》的劇本時,黃河興奮不已,很有點夢想成真的感覺,因為,陳玉成是他從小就特別喜愛和欽佩的歷史人物。他還記得很小的 時候看過一本連環畫,名字就叫《陳玉成》,主人公勇冠三軍、智計過人、忠誠坦蕩的形象讓他一直無法忘懷。沒想到多年之后,他自己搖身一變,成了熒屏上的陳 玉成了。

   黃河算得上是演藝世家出身,他的父親是中央戲劇學院的科班生,對黃河的人生方向影響頗大。黃河17歲那年考入沈陽藝朮學院,當年就接戲,出演中國第一部 反映中學生生活的電視劇《中學生》,接下來一發不可收拾,《離開廣島的日子》、《岳飛》、《遠東陰謀》、《賀蘭雪》等30多部電視劇里都有他的身影。他比 較得意的是在25集電視劇《風雨梅家樓》中的表演,他扮演一個留法歸來的年輕人,外表文雅卻內心狠毒,性格頗具張力,演起來很是過癮。

   在采訪時,記者剛說到陳玉成在劇中算不上是個主要人物,黃河就出言表示反對。他認為,陳玉成的成長史就是太平天國從起事、壯大到潰敗的歷史,他是太平天 國后期極為重要的將領,其戲分在電視劇中也很重。他不光有軍事戲,也有感情戲,對青梅竹馬的曾晚妹他非常執著,對愛慕他的儀美公主十分坦誠,對藥店老板的 女兒則是一種深深的感恩,這種丰富的情感線索讓陳玉成的形象比較丰滿。在黃河的眼里,陳玉成是一個近似完美的人,他不光是個文武全才,更重要的是他內心坦 蕩,為人倜儻但不風流,對太平天國的事業無限忠誠,沒有個人野心。翼王石達開殺了陳玉成的叔叔之后,陳玉成與翼王有一場戲,他承受著內心悲痛卻顧全大局的 精神實在令人欽佩。



New recruit joins Terracotta Army

New recruit joins Terracotta Army
The terracotta soldiers were created for an imperial Chinese tomb 2,200 years ago

A German art student briefly fooled police by posing as one of China's terracotta warriors at the heritage site in the ancient capital, Xian.

Pablo Wendel, made up like an ancient warrior, jumped into a pit showcasing the 2,200-year-old pottery soldiers and stood motionless for several minutes.

The 26-year-old was eventually spotted by police and removed from the scene.

Unearthed in 1974, the statues are said to be one of the 20th Century's greatest archaeological finds.

The ancient clay soldiers were created to protect the nearby tomb of the legendary Emperor Qinshihuang who united China over 2,200 years ago.

German art student Pablo Wendel posing as a Terracotta Warrior
Police confiscated Mr Wendel's costume and sent him home

Mr Wendel is reported to have entered the museum on Saturday where he changed into his outfit, jumped over a barrier and took up a position on a pedestal he had taken along.

"I got to the area where he was supposed to be, looked around and didn't see him - he looked too much like a terracotta warrior," Hong Kong newspapers quoted a security guard as saying.

As Mr Wendel's "performance art" did not harm any of the ancient relics, he was not arrested or charged but given "serious criticism", the reports said.

Mr Wendel had his costume confiscated and was sent back to the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou, where he is studying.

China finds secret tomb chamber

China finds secret tomb chamber
The Terracotta Army
The chamber is close to the tomb's terracotta warriors
A mysterious underground chamber has been found inside the Chinese imperial tomb guarded by the famous Terracotta Army, Chinese archaeologists say.

Historical records describing the tomb of Qin Shihuang, the first emperor of China's Qin dynasty, do not mention the room which is 30 metres (98 feet) deep.

The unopened chamber was found at the site near the old imperial capital of Xian using remote sensing technology.

One expert says it may have been built for the soul of the emperor.

More than 2,000 years old, the chamber is buried inside a pyramidal earth mound 51m (170 feet) high on top of Qin's tomb.

It is situated near the life-size terracotta warriors and has four stair-like walls, says Duan Qingbo, a researcher with the Shaanxi Institute of Archaeology.

The Chinese authorities have not given permission to excavate the site.

It is believed that they wish to perfect archaeological techniques before probing any further, and archaeologists have had to use the sensing technology at the site since 2002.

Despite his brutal methods, Emperor Qin is remembered as a hero in China for forging a unified state.