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Sunday, April 09, 2006

Out in the Open

Gaddafi gives lesson on democracy

Col Gaddafi said the US political system was a 'failure'Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi has given US academics a lecture on democracy, declaring his country's government freer than any in the West.

"There is no state with a democracy except Libya on the whole planet," he told an audience at New York's Columbia University via live satellite link.

However, he did also use the rare debate to lash out at Middle East countries, declaring them "backward".

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"In the Middle East," Gaddafi explained, appearing as a panellist at a two-day conference on democracy at Columbia University, "the opposition is quite different than the opposition in advanced countries. In our countries, the opposition takes the form of explosions, assassinations, killings."

The event is the latest example of Libya's increasing ties with the West.

Gaddafi has ruled Libya since 1969, when he came to power in a bloodless military coup. He has never faced an election.

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Ideas for web activism sought out

Pledgebank has also brought anti-ID card campaigners togetherA virtual people's parliament and an archive to store freedom of information requests are two ideas competing for the chance to be built on the web in the UK.

The competition is being held by MySociety.org, a charitable project that helps construct civic and community websites.

A £250,000 grant from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister in 2004 has allowed the charitable project to continue.

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Another site, Pledgebank.com, is allowing people to take direct action to improve their community.

The site was given a huge boost yesterday when UK Prime Minister Tony Blair logged on and signed up to the venture.

The site allows people to make a pledge to do something for their community providing a minimum number of people agree to follow their example.

Ideas currently looking for supporters include a pledge to fill a public advertising space with something thought provoking if 350 people will pay £10.

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Not so secret gospels
For BBC Magazine by Stephen Tomkins

The papyrus document containing the Gospel of JudasA series of teachings called gospels form part of the Bible. There are four gospels in the New Testament. However, theologians estimate that in early Christianity twenty known Christian gospels were doing the rounds. The other gospels were rejected as blasphemy, hidden or destroyed, and came to be known as the "secret gospels".

When the antiquities dealer, Frieda Nussberger-Tchacos, bought an ancient papyrus book in April 2000 containing the Secret Gospel of Judas, he could not even find a buyer.

He can have had no idea that by the time a translation was published the most talked about book in the western world would be a conspiracy thriller about suppressed gospels and the secret origins of Christianity.

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The Da Vinci Code has turned this 2nd-Century tract from a talking point at theological conferences to a media event, perhaps even a blockbuster.

So what's the story with the Gospel of Judas? Will it rehabilitate the supposed traitor and arch-villain of the Easter story, not unlike what Da Vinci Code author, Dan Brown, has tried to do with Mary Magdalene, from prostitute to Christ's wife?

National Geographic has had a variety of tests carried out on the remains of the document, from carbon dating to handwriting analysis, which place it in about the 4th Century. So we can be pretty confident that this is the original Gospel of Judas and not a modern forgery.

It evidently portrays Judas sympathetically. Rather than betray Jesus to the religious leaders, he is told by Jesus to hand him over. More than that, he is Jesus's closest friend and the one to whom Jesus chooses to unveil all his most deep and secret teachings.

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Tom Cruise Junior coming out soon
BBC Magazine

Tom and KatieAs Tom Cruise prepares for the birth of his third child, the impending arrival has caused a flurry of activity at the couple's LA home, and even more frenzied speculation by celebrity pundits around the world.

The parents-to-be have revealed the installation of a hospital-spec scanner machine to chart the movements of their unborn, and Cruise's staff have erected large placards around his property bearing the mantra "... but be silent and make all physical movements slow and understandable".

Tabloids have gone further and reported that Katie has even been given an adult-sized dummy to prevent her crying out during the birth, all part, they say, of providing a proper Scientological silent welcome for Cruise Junior.

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Scientology, the L Ron Hubbard-founded church that Tom Cruise credits for giving him the tools to overcome a broken family home, nomadic childhood and even dyslexia, but also the organisation that is said to persuade its, often wealthy and famous, members to indulge in unusual rituals.

Unlike Cruise's former wife Nicole Kidman, Katie Holmes has seemingly been persuaded to join her fiancé in his religion. Her baby shower took place at the church's Celebrity Centre in Hollywood and one of their midwives is reported to be constantly with her; meanwhile, cynics across America have been sporting T-shirts that say "Free Katie".

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Replace your mouse with your eye
By Alfred Hermida, BBC News Online technology staff

Computers of the future could be controlled by eye movements, rather than a mouse or keyboard.

Scientists at Imperial College, London, are working on eye-tracking technology that analyses the way we look at things.

The team is trying to gain an insight into visual knowledge - the way we see objects and translate that information into actions.

"Eye-trackers will one day be so reliable and so simple that they will become yet another input device on your computer, like a much more sophisticated mouse," said Professor Guang-Zhong Yang of the Department of Computing at Imperial College.

All pictures courtesy of BBC News online

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