Category Archives: Pop Culture

Pop Culture

Woman gives birth to 19.2lbs. super baby

An Indonesian woman has given birth to an 8.7 kilogram (19.2 pound) baby boy – the heaviest newborn ever recorded in the country.

The baby, who is still unnamed and is 62 centimetres long, was born by caesarean section Monday (local time) at a public hospital in North Sumatra province, a gynaecologist who took part in the operation said on Wednesday.

“This heavy baby made the surgery really tough, especially the process of taking him out of his mum’s womb,” Binsar Sitanggang said.

“His legs were so big.”

The boy is in a healthy condition despite having to initially be given oxygen to overcome breathing problems, the gynaecologist said.

“He’s got strong appetite, every minute, it’s almost non-stop feeding,” he said.

“This baby boy is extraordinary, the way he’s crying is not like a usual baby. It’s really loud.”

The boy’s massive size was likely the result of his mother, Ani, 41, having diabetes, Mr Sitanggang said.

She had to be rushed to hospital due to complications with the pregnancy, which had reached nine months.

The baby, her fourth, was the only child not delivered by a traditional midwife.

Indonesia’s previous heaviest baby, weighing in at 6.9 kilos, was born in 2007 on the outskirts of the capital Jakarta, according to the Indonesian Museum of Records website.



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Obama Plans Internet Grab: FCC to Embrace ‘Net Neutrality’

Since the Internet took root as a mass communications phenomenon in the mid 1990s, a quiet war has raged in Washington over the extent to which the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) would regulate the new medium.

Until, now the Internet has been largely self-regulated, and the FCC has taken a hands-off approach.

But that could change dramatically soon if the Obama administration has its way.

During the weekend, press reports revealed a stunning development: The Obama administration will announce Monday that the FCC would propose new rules to embrace what it calls “Net Neutrality.”

Obama’s new Federal Communications Commission chairman, Julius Genachowski, will use a speech to the Brookings Institution, a liberal think tank, to announce the FCC proposals, according to those reports.

On the face of it, Net Neutrality appears to be a popular and fair proposal.

Genachowski will “propose new rules that would prohibit Internet service providers from interfering with the free flow of information and certain applications over their networks,” according to the Associated Press.

The FCC rules “would bar Internet service providers such as Verizon Communications Inc., Comcast Corp. or AT&T Inc., from slowing or blocking certain services or content flowing through their vast networks,” according to the AP.

But critics contend that the proposals are nothing more than a backdoor way for the FCC to tighten federal control over the Internet by beginning with the regulation of Internet service providers.

The battle lines over Net Neutrality have formed along partisan and ideological lines, with some exceptions.

During the presidential campaign, Obama said he would embrace Net Neutrality — a cause championed by Google and other Silicon Valley companies that don’t want large Internet service providers denying or controlling their access to Internet users.

But Republicans have largely opposed Net Neutrality, suggesting self regulation has worked well.

The previous FCC chairman, Bush appointee Kevin Martin opposed Net Neutrality. He suggested it was not needed.

Conservatives see Net Neutrality as a power grab that will benefit big Internet players such as Amazon and Google while stifling smaller competitors.

The libertarian CATO Institute, in a 2004 policy analysis concluded: “The regulatory regime envisioned by Net Neutrality mandates would also open the door to a great deal of potential ‘gaming’ of the regulatory system and allow firms to use the regulatory system to hobble competitors. Worse yet, it would encourage more FCC regulation of the Internet and broadband markets in general.”

Democrats in Congress have pushed for such controls in the past without success. In 2006 House Democrats offered an amendment to make Net Neutrality law, but the motion failed.

At the time Republicans warned of efforts to control the Internet.

“I want a vibrant Internet just like they do,” Rep. Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican, said during the 2006 House debate over the issue. “Our disagreement is about how to achieve that. They say let the government dictate it . . . I urge my colleagues to reject government regulation of the Internet.”


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Michael Jackson hoax was ‘experiment,’ broadcaster says

BERLIN, Germany (CNN) — A hoax video purporting to show Michael Jackson hopping out of a coroner’s van alive was produced by a German television station as an experiment, the broadcaster told CNN Monday.

It was made to show how easy it is to spread rumors online, said Heike Schultz, a spokeswoman for RTL, the leading private broadcaster in Germany.

“We sent out a press release before we did the video to alert everyone that it was fake, but once posted it spread really fast,” she said.

More than 880,000 people have clicked on the most popular version of the video on YouTube, posted by a user using the name “michaeljacksonhoax” under the title “Michael Jackson alive?! Seen coming out of coroner’s van!” Nearly 3,600 people have commented on the video.

“All the moves, his posture, the stepping out of the van, looks like MJ. He steps out very cautious, like a moonwalk. Also the slowly walking is just like Michael did,” one user wrote.

“I really hope he’s still alive….I could never forgive him for scaring me like that, but I could never hate him… :),” another said. Click here to watch the bogus clip

Not everyone was fooled.

“I would forgive Michael for anything because he is so super sexy but seriously guys he has passed,” one user wrote. “MJ has passed so leave him alone this movie is fake. R.I.P. Michael I love and miss u.”

A second version of the video, posted and annotated by “MUZIKfactory2” to show inconsistencies, has been seen more than 329,000 times. Both versions were posted on August 25.

RTL produced the video for its daily magazine “Explosive” to tell people not to take information at face value, the station’s representative said.

“This was so obviously fake, in the case of Michael Jackson, it just was not possible,” Schultz said.

According to Schultz, some viewers have been happy that the magazine showed them how easy it was to fake information online. Others who were Michael Jackson fans have told RTL that this was the wrong topic to do this kind of experiment on.

“It was not a bad thing, since it was so obviously a fake. But it is now in our poison wardrobe and it won’t be revived again,” Schultz said.

RTL said it removed the video from the Internet, but it can still be seen on YouTube.

New of Jackson’s death on June 25 sparked something of a feeding frenzy on the Web, as many news Web sites struggled to cope with the sheer volume of traffic.

With that came rumors that dragged in other celebrities completely unconnected to the “King of Pop’s” death.

One Wikipedia prankster wrote that Jackson had been “savagely murdered” by his brother Tito, who had strangled him “with a microphone cord.” Soon rumors spread online that movie star Jeff Goldblum had fallen from the Kauri Cliffs in New Zealand while filming his latest movie.

On several search engines, “Jeff Goldblum” soon became the only non-Jackson-related term to crop up in the top 10. The rumors forced Goldblum’s publicist to issue a statement to media outlets, saying: “Reports that Jeff Goldblum has passed away are completely untrue. He is fine and in Los Angeles.”

At the same time, Harrison Ford was also rumored to have fallen from a yacht off the south of France.


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As Internet turns 40, barriers threaten its growth

NEW YORK — Goofy videos weren’t on the minds of Len Kleinrock and his team at UCLA when they began tests 40 years ago on what would become the Internet. Neither was social networking, for that matter, nor were most of the other easy-to-use applications that have drawn more than a billion people online.

Instead the researchers sought to create an open network for freely exchanging information, an openness that ultimately spurred the innovation that would later spawn the likes of YouTube, Facebook and the World Wide Web.

There’s still plenty of room for innovation today, yet the openness fostering it may be eroding. While the Internet is more widely available and faster than ever, artificial barriers threaten to constrict its growth.

Call it a mid-life crisis.

A variety of factors are to blame. Spam and hacking attacks force network operators to erect security firewalls. Authoritarian regimes block access to many sites and services within their borders. And commercial considerations spur policies that can thwart rivals, particularly on mobile devices like the iPhone.

“There is more freedom for the typical Internet user to play, to communicate, to shop – more opportunities than ever before,” said Jonathan Zittrain, a law professor and co-founder of Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society. “On the worrisome side, there are some longer-term trends that are making it much more possible (for information) to be controlled.”

Few were paying attention back on Sept. 2, 1969, when about 20 people gathered in Kleinrock’s lab at the University of California, Los Angeles, to watch as two bulky computers passed meaningless test data through a 15-foot gray cable.

That was the beginning of the fledgling Arpanet network. Stanford Research Institute joined a month later, and UC Santa Barbara and the University of Utah did by year’s end.

The 1970s brought e-mail and the TCP/IP communications protocols, which allowed multiple networks to connect – and formed the Internet. The ’80s gave birth to an addressing system with suffixes like “.com” and “.org” in widespread use today.

The Internet didn’t become a household word until the ’90s, though, after a British physicist, Tim Berners-Lee, invented the Web, a subset of the Internet that makes it easier to link resources across disparate locations. Meanwhile, service providers like America Online connected millions of people for the first time.

That early obscurity helped the Internet blossom, free from regulatory and commercial constraints that might discourage or even prohibit experimentation.

“For most of the Internet’s history, no one had heard of it,” Zittrain said. “That gave it time to prove itself functionally and to kind of take root.”

Even the U.S. government, which funded much of the Internet’s early development as a military project, largely left it alone, allowing its engineers to promote their ideal of an open network.

When Berners-Lee, working at a European physics lab, invented the Web in 1990, he could release it to the world without having to seek permission or contend with security firewalls that today treat unknown types of Internet traffic as suspect.

Even the free flow of pornography led to innovations in Internet credit card payments, online video and other technologies used in the mainstream today.

“Allow that open access, and a thousand flowers bloom,” said Kleinrock, a UCLA professor since 1963. “One thing about the Internet you can predict is you will be surprised by applications you did not expect.”

That idealism is eroding.

An ongoing dispute between Google Inc. and Apple Inc. underscores one such barrier.

Like some other mobile devices that connect to the Internet, the iPhone restricts the software that can run on it. Only applications Apple has vetted are allowed.

Apple recently blocked the Google Voice communications application, saying it overrides the iPhone’s built-in interface. Skeptics, however, suggest the move thwarts Google’s potentially competing phone services.

On desktop computers, some Internet access providers have erected barriers to curb bandwidth-gobbling file-sharing services used by their subscribers. Comcast Corp. got rebuked by Federal Communications Commission last year for blocking or delaying some forms of file-sharing; Comcast ultimately agreed to stop that.

The episode galvanized calls for the government to require “net neutrality,” which essentially means that a service provider could not favor certain forms of data traffic over others. But that wouldn’t be a new rule as much as a return to the principles that drove the network Kleinrock and his colleagues began building 40 years ago.

Even if service providers don’t actively interfere with traffic, they can discourage consumers’ unfettered use of the Internet with caps on monthly data usage. Some access providers are testing drastically lower limits that could mean extra charges for watching just a few DVD-quality movies online.

“You are less likely to try things out,” said Vint Cerf, Google’s chief Internet evangelist and one of the Internet’s founding fathers. “No one wants a surprise bill at the end of the month.”

Dave Farber, a former chief technologist at the Federal Communications Commission, said systems are far more powerful when software developers and consumers alike can simply try things out.

Farber has unlocked an older iPhone using a warrantee-voiding technique known as jail-breaking, allowing the phone to run software that Apple hasn’t approved. By doing that, he could watch video before Apple supported it in the most recent version of the iPhone, and he changed the screen display when the phone is idle to give him a summary of appointments and e-mails.

While Apple insists its reviews are necessary to protect children and consumer privacy and to avoid degrading phone performance, other phone developers are trying to preserve the type of openness found on desktop computers. Google’s Android system, for instance, allows anyone to write and distribute software without permission.

Yet even on the desktop, other barriers get in the way.

Steve Crocker, an Internet pioneer who now heads the startup Shinkuro Inc., said his company has had a tough time building technology that helps people in different companies collaborate because of security firewalls that are ubiquitous on the Internet. Simply put, firewalls are designed to block incoming connections, making direct interactions between users challenging, if not impossible.

No one’s suggesting the removal of all barriers, of course. Security firewalls and spam filters became crucial as the Internet grew and attracted malicious behavior, much as traffic lights eventually had to be erected as cars flooded the roads. Removing those barriers could create larger problems.

And many barriers throughout history eventually fell away – often under pressure. Early on, AOL was notorious for discouraging users from venturing from its gated community onto the broader Web. The company gradually opened the doors as its subscribers complained or fled. Today, the company is rebuilding its business around that open Internet.

What the Internet’s leading engineers are trying to avoid are barriers that are so burdensome that they squash emerging ideas before they can take hold.

Already, there is evidence of controls at workplaces and service providers slowing the uptake of file-sharing and collaboration tools. Video could be next if consumers shun higher-quality and longer clips for fear of incurring extra bandwidth fees. Likewise, startups may never get a chance to reach users if mobile gatekeepers won’t allow them.

If such barriers keep innovations from the hands of consumers, we may never know what else we may be missing along the way.


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Facebook changes privacy policy

Facebook has agreed to make worldwide changes to its privacy policy as a result of negotiations with Canada’s privacy commissioner.

Last month the social network was found to breach Canadian law by holding on to users’ personal data indefinitely.

Facebook has now agreed to make changes to the way it handles this information and be more transparent about what data it collects and why.

It will also make it clear that users can deactivate or delete their account.

“These changes mean that the privacy of 200 million Facebook users in Canada and around the world will be far better protected,” said Canadian privacy commissioner Jennifer Stoddart.

“We’re very pleased Facebook has been responsive to our recommendations.”

The decision could also have implications for other social networking websites, she said.

Elliot Schrage, vice president of global communications and public policy at Facebook, said he believed the new policies set “a new standard for the industry”.

‘Unrestricted access’

As well as updating the privacy policy, Facebook has said it will make changes that will give users more control over the data they provide to third-party developers of applications, such as games and quizzes.

There are around 950,000 developers in 180 countries who provide applications for the site.

Specifically, the changes will require applications to state which information they wish to access and obtain consent from the user before it is used or shared.

“Application developers have had virtually unrestricted access to Facebook users’ personal information,” said Ms Stoddart.

“The changes Facebook plans to introduce will allow users to control the types of personal information that applications can access.”

The site will also encourage users to review their privacy settings and make it clear to users that they can delete or deactivate an account, and what the difference is between the two.

Facebook’s Michael Richter said if a user chose to deactivate their account, the site would still store their information “even if it is for 10 years”.

“We’re committing to that user,” he said. “We want them to know that if they change their mind they can always come back.”

The social network has said work on the changes will begin immediately but they would take around 12 months to implement.

The regulator first started its investigation as a result of complaints by the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC) at the University of Ottawa.

The country is the first to complete a full investigation of Facebook’s privacy practices.

Canada has around 12 million Facebook users, more than one in three of the population.


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How a Mud-Filled Festival Created Woodstock Nation

download.gifWhat Was So Great About Woodstock’s Three Days of Rain and Mud?

Generation X and Y may think Woodstock was just about the sex, drugs and rock and roll, but to our parents’ generation, it was far more.

Reflecting on the music event that shaped a generation, and generations to come. For them, Woodstock was a chance to let their freak flags fly, their hair grow long, and perhaps most important of all, define themselves as a generation that didn’t want anything to do with the values of their uptight, middle-class elders.

Today, this self-described Woodstock nation has morphed into the very beings they rebelled against during that August weekend in 1969: Straight-shooting, buttoned-down, stressed-out parents.

But on the eve of the 40th anniversary of Woodstock, it doesn’t seem to matter what they’ve become in the four decades since they stormed upstate New York for a three-day music festival that stunned the nation.

“People were delightfully shocked if they were related to Woodstock, and absolutely horrified by it if they were anti-hippie,” said Pete Fornatale, the author of “Back to the Garden: The Story of Woodstock,” and a long-time disc jockey who began his career in the music business three weeks before Woodstock.

“These kids who went to Woodstock in 1969 didn’t know how different they were from everyone else and how like-minded they were with each other until that weekend,” Fornatale told “They came for the music, but found something much larger than the music in those three days.”

“And that was their own power in their own numbers, and they turned it into a celebration — a celebration with minimum violence, even in the harshest of conditions,” said Fornatale.

The idea for Woodstock was born six months prior to the festival by friends Michael Lang and Artie Kornfeld, who had dreams of building a recording studio in upstate New York to cater to musicians who were growing tired of city life in Manhattan.

Max Yasgur’s Farm

Lang and Kornfeld joined forces with John Roberts and Joel Rosenman, two budding entrepreneurs, and together the four men — all in their 20s — decided to put on a music festival to raise money that would fund the construction of the recording studio.

“And the rest, as they say, was history,” said Joel Makower, author of “Woodstock: The Oral History.”
When the original Wallkill, N.Y., location set for the festival fell through just a month before the concert was set to begin because of problems with local zoning laws, the concert promoters secured an alternate venue, Max Yasgur’s farm in nearby Bethel, N.Y.

The four planners realized that relocating the event would turn out to be the least of their problems. The profit-making scheme, dubbed “Woodstock Ventures,” quickly turned into a free concert when the number of attendees grew by hundreds of thousands, far more than the planners had anticipated and enough to turn the New York Thruway into a parking lot.

Nearly half a million people showed up to see 32 bands — including the Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and The Who — perform from Aug. 15 to Aug 17, 1969.

“Word spread quickly and you had all these people coming and causing traffic jams that paralyzed miles of highway which meant nobody was able to bring in extra food or medicine or supplies,” said Makower. “People were crowded, it was hot and humid and then it rained and rained and rained.”

The rain quickly turned the dairy-farm-turned-concert-arena into a muddy, slippery swamp, putting at risk the electrical equipment and the attendants camping on the crowds.

“Everyone was sitting on the ground where the lighting and sound cables were running underneath them while it was raining and nobody was sure if the canvas over the stage covering hundreds of thousands of dollars of electrical equipment that was filling with water was going to hold,” said Makower.

And, of course, there were the drugs, mainly marijuana, LCD and mushrooms, said Makower, mixed with plenty of alcohol.

Woodstock’s Lasting Legacy

“Woodstock created a can-do spirit among the generation,” said Makower. “People came together under the unpleasant circumstances and helped everyone else and survived what everyone outside the festival grounds dubbed as a ‘disaster.'”

With the Vietnam War still raging overseas and anti-war protests raging at home, Woodstock became a place where those people likely to be affected by the draft could converge.

“Nobody was really aware of how big this sort of counter culture was and how deeply their ideals had penetrated,” said Anthony DeCurtis, a contributing editor at Rolling Stone magazine. “The thing about Woodstock is that it really came out of the blue. Nobody really anticipated what it was going to become.”

“There was this element of presenting this alternative view of reality through Woodstock,” said DeCurtis. “In 1969 there were probably half a million soldiers in Vietnam and here we are at Woodstock with half a million people there.”

“Woodstock became this symbolic event of ‘this is how we want to do things,'” said DeCurtis. “It was non-violent. There was music, sex and drugs.”

“It showed it was possible to live a more sensual and peaceful life, and with Vietnam going on, that was very much a counter image,” said DeCurtis.

Woodstock garnered much media attention during the three days, and opened the public’s eyes to an entirely new consumer base that they’d never before thought of marketing toward.

“In a way, we came to Woodstock as half a million individuals and we left as a market,” said Makower. “A generation that had its own tastes and sensibilities and power in the marketplace.”

“I don’t know if the world was different on Aug. 18 than it was on Aug. 13,” said Makower. “I think what happened at Woodstock reflected the changes that were already in place and made it more visible.”

Before Woodstock, most adults looked at the hippies with long hair who took drugs and listened to rock music as “misfits,” not as a “political force or a market force or as a social force,” according to Makower.

Was Woodstock the Beginning or End of Something?

Fornatale says that those who remember Woodstock often argue about whether the event was a beginning or an end to something. He says it was both.

“It was the beginning of this awareness of this generation as a consumer group to be exploited by corporate America,” he said. “And it was also the end. Woodstock had never happened before and it has not happened since and it will never happen again.”

Makower agrees and says that one of the reasons Woodstock’s anniversary creates such a sense of nostalgia for those has-been hippies is because they, too, know that another event like it is unlikely to happen.

“In order to have another Woodstock, you have to have another 1969,” he said.

“You could create something called Woodstock just as you could bring together four guys, three guitars and a drummer and call them the Beatles. It wouldn’t be the same, or even close.”


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