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Waging peace on the Internet

I hear some US governors think that Truman was right when he decided to drop atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. There might be some reason about it, but I think it entirely wrong to kill a great number of people no matter what reason there may be," wrote a 16-year-old student from Higashi Otani Senior High School, Osaka, on the Internet for last month's launch of the AST WORLDwrite Internet Competition held in London.

"We all have to face the past to never repeat the misdeeds," and "The number of the experienced persons (of atomic bombs) is rapidly decreasing, so it is the responsibility of us young people to study it and tell it to the next generation" were typical e-mail messages from Japanese teenagers who, following visits to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, had thought deeply about the horrors perpetrated by and upon Japan.

Fifty years after the devastation of the two cities, WORLDwrite is aiming to send 200,000 friendship messages from Britain to Japan to promote a more peaceful future and "to symbolise the number of people who died in the bombings 50 years ago", says WORLDwrite co-ordinator, Kate Margam. The competition, which is sponsored by AST Computer, is part of this initiative.

At the launch, Chris Durbin, from BBC Education, showed students from Maria Fidelis Convent School, north London, how to access information about Japan. They learned the final death toll of the Kobe earthquake and that the Kobe city council is asking Internet users for ideas on how to reconstruct the city.

Sally Tweddle, senior programme officer at the National Council for Educational Technology, extolled the advantages of the Internet for schools, emphasising that project work can be enhanced with images and graphics, and that "for the first time you can bring in facts which are new to your teachers and have a chance to be part of a global community that no previous generation has had".

Once the young self-styled "sex goddesses" had been torn away from the Internet equivalent of the "lonely hearts" columns ("Everyone on the Internet is a geek don't make dates with them," warned launch linkman Dan O'Brien, from the Caught in the Net 2 stage show), they responded to their new friends in Japan, whose preoccupations besides war ranged from movies, music and tea, to the Sarin gas attacks in the Tokyo subway.

The competition requires UK students in two age groups from 11-18 to design for their counterparts in Japan a page of image and text on the theme "No more Hiroshimas?" by July 31. First-prize winners will receive an AST Advantage! Adventure multi-media computer system and a year's free access to the Internet for their schools, plus a trip to AST's production plant in Limerick, Ireland. The 20 best entries will be displayed on the Internet.

Valerie Hall Competition packs and further information: Tony Graham, AST WORLDwrite Internet Competition, WORLDwrite, BM NMH, London WC1N 3XX or e-mail tonyg@easynet.co.uk

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