Network: Websites

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The Independent Culture

"The best of nature before you nurture!" is the promise of this all-too- convincing site, which offers couples, or singles wishing to be cloned, the chance to order their own customised, genetically healthy child online. Simply pressing your thumb against the screen produces an instant DNA scan, detailing the predispositions of potential offspring to such problems as attention deficit disorder, schizophrenia, hypernasality and even "glottal stop". To prevent kids inheriting these shortcomings, help is at hand - at a price. Embryo upgrades may be ordered on a per-modification basis; apart from the usual eye and hair colour and gender options, a 50 per cent increase in IQ can be factored in for only $10,000, and anxiety repaired for a reasonable $7,987. It's all so slick that a lengthy legal disclaimer is appended, making clear the "artistic satirical and humorous nature" of the site.


Less than three weeks to go before Jon Bon Jovi, David Bowie, Puff Daddy, Sheryl Crow and the rest present the Web's answer to Live Aid on 9 October. Those unable to join the crowds in London, New York and Geneva will, of course, be able to watch the webcast here. Apart from the promised, largest- ever Real Video transmission itself, there is little else here for music fans; this is a serious site stressing the long-term nature of the project as a mission to "to harness the power of the Internet as a medium of social and economic change". The United Nations site, an unprecedented collaboration with the commercial Internet sector, launched earlier this month with visits from Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela and Tony Blair. The scale of the problem to be tackled is evoked in simple but dramatic terms: "Imagine 300 jumbo jets crashing every day with no survivors."

The Hunger Site

By contrast, this page uses a map to display the results of world hunger. Whenever an individual country goes dim, it signifies a death - and the global flicker rate is once every 3.6 seconds. This austere-looking page offers a highly imaginative concept: cost-free charitable giving. For every visitor who clicks the button, a hungry person in the world gets a meal - with the bill paid by a corporate sponsor. One click per person is the monitored daily limit, though return trips 24 hours later are recommended. Some complex tables show the impressive number of donations and tons of food the site has contributed so far to the UN World Food Programme.

Trees of Time and Place

"A culture is no better than its woods," wrote WH Auden, one of a number of arboreally inclined poets here enlisted in the service of a national tree-planting initiative. This is a new site for an ongoing project to encourage collection of seeds from a favourite ash, beech, birch, cherry, crab apple, horse chestnut, oak or rowan tree, so that saplings may be grown for planting out in the next millennium. Hundreds of schools, MPs and local authorities are already involved, but this site is meant to attract more "pledges". Those making a commitment will put themselves on the onsite map, thanks to some clever linking of addresses and Ordnance Survey grid references, and also gain longer-term recognition via a mention in a millennial time capsule. So act now, and harvest the last seeds of the 20th century. "Poems are made by fools like me/but only God can make a tree" (Alfred Joyce Kilmer, 1886-1918.)

There are plenty of recruitment sites on the Web, but this operates in reverse: a resource for those who are about to give up their jobs, or already have. Resignation letters can be shared with other unhappy ex- employees, and consolation is available from a Hall of Fame featuring farewell notes from Lawrence Dallaglio, Ron Davies and Geri Halliwell. The basically serious intent includes links to training resources and jobfinding sites, plus advice on how to make the decision to resign from your job and how to announce it to an employer.

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