Child healer miraculous sensation in Central Java

A THIRD grader from a village in Jombang, Central Java, Muhammad Ponari, became famous overnight as word spread he could heal numerous diseases using a purpoted miracle stone.
Thousands opf people from remote areas have come to see him in hopes he can cure their illnesses just by drinking water into which he dips the stone. Some have waited several days and nights just to meet the boy.
As the news spread, so many people rushed to see him that Ponari's house was mobbed; four people died after being caught up in the crush of the crowd.
After the tragic incident, police closed down Poaris's practice, but many people continue to seek him ou to be healed.
Ponari said he had found a stone in his yard abaout the size of a chicken egg. Three times he threw it away, but he said, it kept returning so he decided to keep it

First-Time voters can maka a bit difference

Do you care abaout your country?
WE can all learn something from the recent historic presidential election in the United States. The first African-American candidate to be elected president, Barack Obama used web-savvy and message-savvy strategies to get fisst-time voters to polling stations in record-breaking numbers. Eleven percent of the votes cast were from voting virgins. Thanks to his grasssroots organizing efforts, young students and recent American citizens found that Obama's campaign messages resonated with their own beliefs.
For all you first-time voters, here are some reasons why you should, no question, vote this time around!
This direct democracy thing is still new for us. When we voted for President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono four years ago, it was the first time we had voted directly for a presidential candidate. In past elections, the president was elected by our People's Consultative Assembly: we only voted indirectly. We can appreciate what it means to have the right to vote for the person we belive should lead this great country.
By voting, you are exercising your obligation as a citizen of a country. This is an exciting time because you are considered a fully fledged citizen because your of age. Your vote will influence the way the indonesian government decides important things which in turn affect our everyday lives. How does that sound to you?
Making decisions is an important life skill that you must learn to master if you want to go places. And voting is a great way to practice. First you must listen to what the candidates are offering. If their campaign messages resonate with your own beliefs or values, that might be the reason to choose them. If you hear a candidate give a speech you like and she or he offers a good plan of action, perhaps they are your choice.

France's Golden Girl

FLood swamp several cities across the country

A RAINY February brought on the same old, same old, as Jakarta and neighboring lowland areas flooded from the heavy downpours. In Jakarta, flooding affected almost every area of the city with East Jakarta getting the worst of hit: 13.000 residents there were forced to evacuate their homes.
The Coordination Boards for Disaster Mitigation (Satkorlak) reported 42.000 city residents in all fled theirs homes to find dry shelter because their houses were inundated. Elsewhere, heavy rains lasting for days in several regencies brought on flooding anl landslides which killed at least six people and damaged paddies and rice crops.
In Surakarta, Central Java, Bengawan Solo Rivers burst its banks and flooded homes with waters as high as 1.5 meters. The swelling of the river was likely caused by flash flooding in the Bengawan Solo's uppers tributaries. The floods also disrupted transportation system.
Airport in Semarang, Central Java, and Kupang in East Nusa Tenggara closed down when their runways were submerged, delaying some flights. Trains on Java had to interrupt their service as rail lines connecting western and eastern parts of the island were also flooded.


Indonesia held its held its first legislative elections in 1955, when it elected representatives to the People's Representative Council. Five major parties participated, including the Indonesian Comunist Party, which was latter banned.
This year we are getting ready for our 10th round of legislative elections. On April 9, 2009, we will elect 132 people to reprensent us in the Regional Representatives Council (Dewan Perwakilan Daerah), and 560 people to represent us in the People's Representatives Council (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat). A major difference since 1955 is the number of parties participating. Forty -four parties are putting up candidates for these seats.Once new members are elected to these two national councils, they togethers form the People's Consultative Assembly (Majelis Permusyawaratan Rakyat), which is the highest legislative body of Indonesia.The General Elections Commission which oversees the whole election show, keeps records of all registered voters. They have reported 171,558,775 people are eligible to cast ballots, including 1,502,892 voters who live and work outside of Indonesia.Presidential elections determine who will lead the executive branch. Only two months after the general elections, Indonesians will again be asked to go the polls, on July 8 to be exact, to choose a president and a vice president for the 2009-2014 term of office.After President Suharto's resignation in May 1998, the number of people who have stepped up to be presidential candidates soared. Fifteen diffrent candidates will compete this year for the presidency, including the incumbent President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Vice President Jusuf Kalla abd former President Megawati Soekarnoputri. But you do not have to be a national leader to run. The actress, playwright and activist Ratna Sarumpaet is also running for the highest office in the land.

Australia's wildfires kill more than 200, destroy hundreds of homes

OVER 400 fires raged across Australia's state Victoria on February 7, scorching more than 1.500 square miles of farms, forests and towns. More than 200 people were killed and over 1.800 homes were destroyed in the deadliest round of seasonal wildfires recorded in Australia's history.
Some died in their cars as they were trying to escape the blaze and others never made it out of their houses. Wildfires are common during the Australian summer, when high temperatures cause dry forest land tinder to smolder and blustering winds serve to fan the embers. Despite the wheather conditions, Australian's police suspected at least two of the fires were deliberately set and have charged one man with arson for causing death and provoking a wildfire.

Facebook: Taking a cue from Twitter in sharing?

The popular online hangout Facebook is revamping its home page and plans other changes so its millions of users can more easily choose the types of information they see.

Perhaps taking a cue from Twitter, the rising service for letting people express themselves in 140 characters or less and keep up with what celebrities have to say, Facebook said Wednesday it will let users follow public figures like President Barack Obama and swimmer Michael Phelps, bands like U2 and even institutions like The New York Times.

Facebook's fan pages currently work as static destination sites for anything from bacon to Coca-Cola to Jane Austen. The social-networking site will eventually make them work more like profiles, which individuals can now continuously update by posting photos, links and other tidbits.

"As more and more information flows through Facebook, the need for people to easily discover the most recent and relevant content has grown," Founder and Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said in a blog post.

Beginning next Wednesday, Facebook will also launch a redesigned home page that lets users receive continuous updates from their friends instead of every 10 or 15 minutes.

It is also adding filters so people can choose which of their friends to keep up with and which to silence, limiting news from tiresome or annoying acquaintances you don't necessarily want to "de-friend." Currently, people can choose to receive less information about certain friends but can't silence them completely. With the changes, users will even be able to filter updates so they only see photos or videos, for example.

Facebook will also tweak its central feature, the status update, which now invites people to broadcast to their friends a response to "What are you doing right now?" Responses can now range from mundane to poetic to uncomfortably personal.

Facebook's new question, "What's on your mind?," may encourage people to dig deeper into their subconscious and post more entertaining updates than "Kevin is updating Facebook."

In hopes of avoiding complaints that followed past redesigns, the company posted a preview of the changes Wednesday and invited feedback.

In a conference call with reporters, Facebook executives did not spend a lot of time on the business side of the changes, though Zuckerberg noted that the site is moving in a direction where brands can interact with people.

Debra Aho Williamson, a senior analyst with eMarketer, said Facebook has been "very aggressive in trying to rethink what advertisers can do, and more importantly, how they can interact with consumers."

"In many ways Facebook is the poster child of the future of communications," she said. While there is a lot of hope and excitement about the marketing opportunities on Facebook, Williamson said growth has been slower than "anyone has expected."

As millions of people embrace these online hangouts, consumer brands and the social-networking sites have been looking for ways to capitalize on this captive audience.

But so far, ad dollars have been elusive.

Williamson noted that this is uncharted territory, much as Google was in its early days before discovering the cash cow that is search advertising.

Companies have been getting their feet wet with varying degrees of success.

As of Wednesday afternoon, for example, a search for Skittles on Google brought up a link to the candy's Facebook page, where fans declare their love for the rainbow-colored snacks - typos, exclamation marks and all.

It's part of a larger marketing campaign for Skittles, which earlier this week redirected its home page to Twitter's search page, such that every short post that included the word "skittles" got automatically displayed. That experiment turned sour when some tweeters posted vulgar comments. Soon, the candy's page moved from Twitter to Facebook.

North Sumatera council spekaer dies in democracy ruckus

North Sumatera council speaker Abdul Aziz ANgkat died of a heart attack hours after protesters, demanding the provincial council approver the establishment of a new province, beet him outside the council building.
The crowd of a about 2.000 protesters turned violent, forcing their way into the building where the council had just postponed a plenary meeting about setting up the new province of Tapanuli becaise the council had no quorum.
The protesters then dragged the 51-year-old speaker outside while police officers posted on security duty only looked on.
The Police afterward named and detained 66 suspects who are allegedly involved in the riod, charging them with violating live articles of the Criminal Code, including inciting violence and premeditated murder.

Can website offer homeless man hope?

In this file photo, Tim Edwards smokes a hand rolled cigarette sitting outside a Waffle House restaurant in February in Houston. AP/Pat Sullivan

Until a few weeks ago, Tim Edwards was just another one of the men begging for change at a busy Houston underpass, ignored by most drivers who sped on past without a glance.Now, thanks to an Internet marketing campaign and unlikely allies, Edwards has become the human face of homelessness to thousands of online viewers drawn to his website by its deliberately controversial name - Pimp This Bum.During regular Webcasts, dozens of visitors to ask questions about Edwards' life and his slow fall from office manager with a home, a car, and a future to an outcast short of hope and with little prospect of help.The website also is a venue where visitors can donate money, services and goods to help Edwards yank himself out of homelessness.Some homeless advocates say it makes Edwards a victim of exploitation, but the organizers say that edgy tone is what makes the project succeed."We wanted to insult people's sensitivities so that they would go to the site and see Tim, and people seem to have fallen in love with him. He's funny and doesn't blame the world for his situation," said Kevin Dolan, 55, a marketing specialist from the Houston suburb of Katy who started the website with his 24-year-old son, Sean.If the site had been called "Help the Homeless," many Web surfers might just have clicked on past, says Sean.The Dolans had initially set out to test an advertising campaign and generate publicity for their new Internet marketing business. They planned to promote a mom-and-pop business, until Sean suggested using the Web site to do some good.Now visitors to the Web site are getting to know Edwards beyond the stereotype of an anonymous group labeled "The Homeless.""I'm the world's first online bum," jokes Edwards, a lanky, bearded 37-year-old who talks about life on the streets with a mix of dark humor and unvarnished honesty. "The whole idea of this project is to get people off the street. I'm the pioneer, but I've got friends behind me. If I don't get this right, it ain't gonna work for them."The site features videos of Edwards and a photograph showing him with a hand-drawn, cardboard sign.There's a "Donate" button where viewers can charge donations to their credit card. And some people have dropped by Edwards' regular panhandling spot to drop off food and fast-food gift cards - or just to shout hello.This coming week, Edwards is scheduled to enter an alcohol detox program at the Seattle-based Sunray Treatment and Recovery, which is providing the $13,800, 35-day program free of charge. There are plans to air Webcasts as Edwards goes through the program.Some homeless advocates say the Web site does little to address the underlying issues of homelessness. Even the name makes Anthony Love bristle."He is a person. His name is Tim. And to pimp anyone is not something I would endorse," said Love, president of the Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County.The site also stirred up an Internet debate over the merits of the Dolans' approach. One blogger named KatDish commented: "Your impassioned pleas for helping Tim get off the street don't hold much weight when you ask him to hold up a sign that says "Pimp this Bum" and let people know he needs a Sharpie and a cheeseburger."But Edwards says he roared with laughter when Sean Dolan nervously approached him with the idea of the website and the proposed name. It was a night in early February when he and several other homeless men were gathered beneath an underpass, "getting drunk like we always do."At first, he wasn't sure if the Dolans were a threat or just do-gooders bringing food. Now he considers them an answer to a prayer."I asked God to make it rain and here come these guys. And I thought this is just crazy enough to work," he said.Edwards had been mired in homelessness since Aug. 19, 2004 (he remembers the exact date), unable to shake severe alcoholism.He has become skilled in the art of survival on the street: Keep to your own territory. Beg enough for the bare necessities - food, cigarettes, drink - then get off the corner. Learn who to trust and who to stay away from.He has seen close friends die from years of addiction, from infections and from simple, intractable hopelessness. And he had come to the edge many times himself, once yearning to lay down and die.Edwards says he has tried programs aimed at getting the homeless off the streets, but none have worked for him."Those programs work for some people, but for some, they don't. We're not 'The Homeless.' Not some monolithic group of people," said Edwards, as he nursed a cigarette and a beer swathed in a brown paper bag. "But this has brought me and my friends a lot of hope. I can't express in words how much hope it's brought us."Edwards, who says his descent into homelessness began when he "turned his back on God" after the deaths of his mother and grandmother, says he is finally ready to begin detox and find the road back to normalcy. Not just for himself, but for others living on the street.On Monday, in preparation for his trip to Seattle and his entry into rehab at Sunray, Edwards plans to shave his beard and trim his hair - a symbolic nod to the start of a new life.It will be broadcast live on the website.

Google Earth allows exploration of oceans, Mars

Google Inc. on Monday launched a new version of Google Earth that allows users to explore the oceans, view images of the planet Mars and watch regions of the Earth change over time.
The new features mark a significant upgrade to Google Earth, a popular software program that provides access to the world's geographical information through digital maps, satellite imagery and the company's search tools.
Google Earth 5.0 was unveiled at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, where former Vice President Al Gore, singer Jimmy Buffet and others spoke about its capacity to educate the public about global warming, ocean acidification and other threats to the planet.
"This is an extremely powerful educational tool," said Gore, who won a Nobel Peace Prize for his work raising awareness about global warming. "One of my fondest hopes is that people around the world will use Google Earth to see for themselves the reality of what's happening because of the climate crisis."
Google Earth has been downloaded more than 500 million times since it was launched in 2005. The software is available for free on Google's Web site. Researchers and organizations can purchase a more powerful version for $400.
John Hanke, director of Google Earth and Maps, said the idea of adding oceans came three years ago when a scientist pointed out that the software was missing the water that covers almost three-quarters of the Earth's surface.
Google Earth users can now plunge beneath the ocean's surface, explore three-dimensional images of the underwater terrain and view articles and videos about marine science contributed by scientists and organizations such as the National Geographic Society.
The Historical Imagery feature lets users see archive satellite images of individual locations to see how the region has evolved over time as a result of climate change and other forces. For example, viewers can observe how the largest glacier in Glacier National Park has melted over the past decade.
With Google Mars 3D, users can view three-dimensional, satellite imagery of the Red Planet taken during NASA space expeditions.
The new version also allows users to create narrated tours of places using the software's content and images.
"It's not just a fun demo," said Google CEO Eric Schmidt. "What it really is a platform for science and research and literally understanding the future of the world."
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