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The Independent Culture
Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan

http://www.geocities.com/Wellesley/3340/

This secular and non-aligned group has been campaigning for women's rights in Afghanistan since 1977, while watching the situation get steadily. Detailed, disturbing accounts here, of oppression both random - at the whim of various Mujahedeen groups - and now institutionalised, by the "morbidly mysogynistic and mediaeval" Taliban. The group operates schools and hospitals, and works with women and children in refugee camps in Pakistan, but is appealing for funds in the face of what it calls the "hidden agendas" and fundamentalist complicities of existing relief agencies; its own accounts of the situation are backed by reports from Amnesty and the international press.

Reinventing the Wheel: Morse Code engine

http://www.bbc.co.uk/education/wheel/javamorse/morse.htm

Another of those retro-tech pages, this one re-creating what is (elsewhere) defined as a system of asynchronous data bits composed of binary-encoded circuit opposites for the transmission and reception of alphanumeric information. Here, it is just called Morse Code, faithfully replicated using Java programming. This site for the recent Radio 4 series, a light-hearted "history of mankind's bright ideas" from the comedian Ben Silburn, allows any text to be entered and transformed into Morse, not only as a series of dots and dashes but, with sound card, actual telegraphic bleeps. Just type into the box, and hit the code button. An SOS is the inevitable starting point, but there is enough memory here to cope with several pages of material. With luck, there is a decoder somewhere else on the Web. Meanwhile, it seems that the code, invented 160 years ago, is still finding new applications, for instance in microprocessor controls for use by disabled people.

Hitchiking Vietnam

http://www.pbs.org/hitchhikingvietnam/index.html

Not just a few pages flung together by a backpacker, but a multi-level media assault by intrepid traveller Karin Muller, transforming her extended meanderings by foot, train and bicycle into a US television special and then this sophisticated site - which is in turn partially designed to find a publisher for her book on the same subject. The travel material is perceptive and unpretentious, whether describing the delights of noodle soup at 4.30am, the rescue of leopard kittens from Siagon's animal market, or the graceful art of bargaining South-East Asian style, complete with flow chart. Just as interesting, though, is the wry advice on "tweaking" reality into a coherent film, and guidelines for submitting manuscripts to publishers. One tip is applicable to everybody: "Even if you don't become another Paul Theroux, the act of observing will enhance your trip a thousandfold." The next trip is already planned - the Ancient Inca road from Ecuador to Chile.

Collectionner Les Obliterations

http://www.chez.com/memorial/

This French philatelist is not so much a stamp collector as a postmark collector, specialising in the classic period between 1849 and 1900. They are all here - the grille, the losange and the etoile not only in standard black but also the rarer red and blue variants. Meticulously annotated images of faded 19th-century envelopes, which sometimes tell a story of wider interest - there is one letter (featuring a 20 centimes blue with an etoile chiffre postmark) dispatched from Paris by balloon during the 1871 siege. The collector insists that his hobby is "une mission sans fin".

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