Swept along by the tide
NEWTWORKAndrew North hooks a crew selling dolphin sightseeing on the Web
Monday 17 June 1996
Horoscope Site: As you read this through Monday-morning eyes, you are probably wondering what you have in store this week. Where better to find out than from Angela Morris's Internet Horoscope pages (http://22.214.171.124/tis/horoscop/). Click on your star sign to find out whether Angela foresees vast riches or an emotional crisis. Regular "astrological updates" ensure there should be a new horoscope on the site by tomorrow.
The Bomb Site: One of the oldest criticisms of the Internet is that it is a global terrorists' training camp, full of advice on such anti- social habits as building your own nuclear bomb.
This is one of the more detailed bomb sites and it does indeed claim to be a "how to do it" guide (http://www.student.nada.kth.se/nv91-asa/atomic.html). It provides a history of the bomb and lots of very complicated-looking diagrams. But quite apart from the fact that you can get such material in paper form with a little bit of effort, do these critics really believe that terrorists are taking notes from this site? Chances are that if they can get hold of the necessary lumps of plutonium, they can also procure a nuclear physicist who knows how to use it. If it is so harmless, you may ask, why put such stuff on the Web? You would have to ask Outlaw Labs, who are responsible for this site, but annoying politicians is undoubtedly one reason.
But just in case someone is tempted to try, they caution: "Should a layperson attempt to build a device such as this, chances are s/he would probably kill his/herself not by a nuclear detonation, but rather through radiation exposure. Outlaw Labs will bear no responsibility for any use otherwise."
Flag Site: Do you need to know what the flag of Burkina Faso looks like? The Flag pages (http: //www.wave.net/upg/immigration/flags.html) provide on-line images of this and most other national colours (their spelling of some countries' names does not inspire confidence). In fact, these flag pages are a gimmick, run by a firm specialising in advice on how to get a US Green Card.
It is a form of indirect marketing, like a spider putting a juicy morsel in its web to draw in a nice fat fly. The company offers advice on US immigration law and provides online US Immigration and Naturalisation Service application forms.
Human Rights Site: Victims of human rights abuses around the world are unlikely to see much change in their circumstances as a result of this giant umbrella site (http://www.derechos.org /human-rights/links.html). Somehow, I don't think Chinese Web surfers will get access to these pages, particularly as there is a Tibet section. But if you are a human rights campaigner with an uncensored Net connection, it could be a useful means of co-ordinating plans and finding new information.
There are links to various Amnesty International offices, the UN High Commission for Refugees, Human Rights Watch and many other related organisations. There is a news service and a collection of human rights law documents. You can do an on-line search for particular regions or subjects.
Prayer Site: As far as I know, God has yet to set up His (Her?) own Web site. But some Christian worshippers are obviously convinced the Almighty is already listening to the babblings of cyberspace. The Prayer Room (http://hpserv.keh. utulsa.edu/rlr/PrayerRoom.html) is an interactive site where you can convey prayers to Him via the Web.
If you have a problem you want people to pray for, simply submit a request and it will be published on-line. You are encouraged to read through the hundreds of requests - most of them from the US - and "pray for each of them". In many cases, they provide an e-mail link so you can tell them you have, indeed, implored God to do something. Most requests concern relatives with some dreadful ailment, often written with dreadful spelling, but some are more presumptuous. James from Chicago simply asks: "Please pray for my family and freinds (sic)!" You must be joking.
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