Today on the net: US federal websites shut down as the government enters budgetary deadlock; two Canadians held in Egypt describe their prison conditions; and a search engine that help plant trees in the Amazon.
USA: federal websites shut down with the government
The Department of Agriculture, the "E-verify" Employment Eligibility program, and also the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General… These federal services’ websites have shut down as 800,000 federal government workers were sent home on unpaid leave this Tuesday after Republicans and Democrats in the US congress failed to reach an agreement on a spending bill.
The US administration’s partial shutdown has impacted numerous websites, some of which are now hardly functioning at all. A message on the U.S. Department of Defense’s welcome page for example explains that updates will be limited due to the federal “shutdown”.
The budgetary deadlock has rendered unavailable several popular online services in the US. NASA’s online television channel for example, and also the webcam live streaming from the giant panda’s enclosure at Washington’s National Zoological Park.
The healthcare system’s website remains intact however; Obamacare has just come into effect, and is the main source of disagreement between Republicans and Democrats in Congress. Americans can visit the site to compare the different healthcare packages and select the one best adapted to their needs.
Canadians detained in Egypt prison describe conditions
Canadian nationals Tarek Loubani and John Greyson were arrested in Cairo mid-August after they failed to respect the nighttime curfew in force in the Egyptian capital. They embarked on a hunger strike on Monday September 16, in protest of their detention conditions. They have described these conditions in a letter to their friends and family which was posted online this weekend to this site set up in support of the two men.
Loubani and Greyson comment on the harsh conditions they are enduring in the prison facility in Tora, southern Cairo. They say they are holed up in a tiny cell with six other prisoners, sleeping on a cockroach infested concrete floor. They say it’s unacceptable and hope the international community will take action to obtain their immediate release.
Campaigning began online weeks ago, and countless web users have tried to exert pressure on the Egyptian authorities, demanding the two Canadians be released at the earliest possible opportunity. This online petition for example has garnered over 145,000 signatures.
The support movement for Loubani and Greyson is not about to die down anytime soon: on Monday, the Egyptian Justice Department informed them they would remain in detention for a further 45 days, despite the fact no official charges have been brought against them.
Ecosia, the search engine that plants trees
Ecosia is a search engine that donates 80% of its advertising revenue to American Conservation organization “The Nature Conservancy” to help fund a tree planting project in the Amazon. Created in Germany in 2011 the portal, which is now also available in French, is responsible for over 48,000 new trees planted in Brazil.
Now trending on social networks
Keen to keep tourists and ex-pats happy, the foreign affairs office in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen has launched a campaign asking residents for help with its “Chinglish”, so improving the English translation of its public signage by reporting any poor translations via social networks. There has been a rise in these signs, clumsily translated by software that rewrites the Chinese phrases literally, turning a fire extinguisher into a grenade for example, and they’ve provided much amusement to English speaking web users over the past few years.
Video of the day
A box that defies the laws of gravity… this ingenious invention is the work of American DIY enthusiast Frederick Clark, who along with two friends, built a rotating furnished room, a spinning set. A great idea that meant they could film astonishing scenes at very low cost, creating brilliant special effects without having to resort to the computer software used by film studios…