Irom Sharmila has been protesting against India’s use of Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act in Kashmir and Manipur since 2000
A veteran Indian activist who has not eaten a meal for 12 years in protest against what she says are repressive laws allowing widespread human rights abuses was charged in a court in the capital, Delhi, on Monday with attempted suicide.
Irom Sharmila, 40, is protesting against the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, which is in effect in Indian-ruled Kashmir and parts of the country’s remote north-east. It gives troops the right to shoot to kill suspected rebels without fear of possible prosecution and to arrest suspected militants without a warrant. It also gives police wide-ranging powers of search and seizure.
Sharmila, who is from Manipur, one of the poorest and most violent parts of India with some of the worst social indicators, is dubbed the “Iron Lady” by her supporters and has become a rallying point for those demanding the law’s repeal.
The attempted suicide charges stem from a 2006 protest she attended in New Delhi. Police took her from the protest to hospital and registered a case against her.
Sharmila had her last voluntary meal on 4 November 2000, in Imphal, capital of Manipur, one of several north-eastern states where long-running insurgent movements contest state authority. The immediate cause was a recent shooting, allegedly by the paramilitary Assam Rifles, in which 10 civilians were killed. She was arrested three days later and has been force fed through a tube in her nose ever since. Under law, she has to be released once a year to see if she will start eating. When she refuses, she is taken back into custody and force fed.
Appearing in court with her nose tube in place, she pleaded not guilty.
“I love life. I do not want to take my life, but I want justice and peace,” the Press Trust of India quoted her as saying in court, which she attended after flying in from Manipur over the weekend.
The magistrate set her trial for 22 May. If convicted, she faces one year in prison.
Sharmila remained unbowed as she left the courtroom. “I will continue my fast until the special powers act is withdrawn,” she said.
Sharmila’s supporters demonstrated outside the court to demand the repeal of the act. “The Indian army should leave Manipur state and authorities should withdraw all the cases against her,” said one protester, Sucheta Dey.
Human rights workers have accused Indian troops of using the law to detain, torture and kill rebel suspects, sometimes even staging gun battles as pretexts to kill.
The army opposes any weakening of the act, saying it needs extraordinary powers to deal with insurgents.
Ashwini Kumar, Indian law minister, defended the act, saying it was needed for conflict zones where the onus and burden of proof were not easy to resolve.
“Therefore, the opinion of the defence establishment and intelligence agencies was critical in such matters,” Kumar was quoted as saying by The Hindu newspaper on Monday.
Student activists in Manipur disagree, complaining that the Indian army misuses these extraordinary powers and treats civilians as insurgents.
Kennedy Sanabam, a member of the Manipur Students’ Association, said the military had failed to contain the insurgency despite these powers. “The number of insurgents has gone up,” he said.
Pranshu Prakash, a research scholar in a Delhi university, said the arrest last week of an army officer in Manipur with illegal drugs worth millions of dollars suggested the special powers were being misused to carry out extortion and drug trafficking.
The law has come under fire amid India’s re-evaluation of its sexual violence laws following the gang rape and killing of a student on a bus in New Delhi in December. Women’s rights activists have said the law allows troops to rape women without fear of arrest or punishment.
A panel appointed by the government recommended in January that the law be re-examined and that protections be removed for soldiers accused of sexual violence. The government declined to amend the law when it approved new measures to protect women.
The law prohibits soldiers from being prosecuted for alleged rights violations unless it is expressly allowed by the federal government. According to official documents, the state government in Indian Kashmir has sought permission to try soldiers in 50 cases in the last two decades. The federal government has refused every one.
I like a good dichotomy as much as the next person, which is why I decided to compare the shares of Yahoo with that of Apple over the recent time period.
That’s because in what amounts to a trading-places moment, despite their differences in focus, the pair have had almost polar opposite stock performances of late.
Yahoo, of course, is the famous Internet giant that has been trying to turn itself around for a very long time; Apple is the Silicon Valley phenom that has been wowing the sector for just as much time with endless innovative products.
Typically, that state of affairs has meant that Apple has enjoyed a rocket ship of a ride from Wall Street investors, while Yahoo has suffered. That’s certainly been true on a five-year basis, with Apple up 244 percent and Yahoo down 21 percent.
But in the last six months, it has been another story altogether. In that time, Apple has been sliding to its lowest price since September, down 35 percent. Meanwhile, Yahoo has surged nearly 50 percent in the time frame.
It’s the same story for the past three months, with Apple down 27 percent and Yahoo up 17 percent; and, the last month, with the Cupertino, Calif.-based device maker down 5 percent and the nearby Sunnyvale Internet portal up 11 percent.
It’s a classic story of hope, with investors counting on Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer to turn the tide at the long-suffering company, while they worry about Apple CEO Tim Cook’s ability to keep the hits coming fast and furious.
Perhaps most ironic? That part of Mayer’s appeal is her continued repetition of Yahoo’s mobile aspirations, although the results in that key arena are still negligible and decidedly nascent. Apple, despite the stock fall-off, still handily dominates mobile money-making and on a massive scale, although increasingly competitive Google Android devices continue to gain ground.
For every winner, there has to be a loser. Smartphone sales have defied gravity in recent years, but there’s no defying simple math.
Several major Asia-based smartphone manufacturers are talking up their growth plans. South Korea’s LG Electronics says its smartphone shipments will jump 50% in year-on-year in 2013. China’s expects to post a 50% increase in shipments too. Huawei Technologies says it will ship 60 million smartphones this year, up 88% from 32 million in 2012.
The global market is certainly expanding quickly, but not that fast. Between 2010 and 2011, total global shipments increased 64%, according to research firm Strategy Analytics. In 2012, the pace of shipment growth slowed to 43% year-on-year. In 2013, growth is expected to slow down further to 36%, Strategy Analytics says.
With the overall market growing at a slower pace than what individual manufacturers are forecasting, something’s got to give.
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For many people, Doctor Who is a fantastic sci-fi show that has formed a firm grip on the young adults of the world. The truth of how this decades-old show came to be a global phenomenon and the ability to see what it has gained and lost along the way are missed by much of the current audience. If you’re interested in a peek into what Doctor Who has meant to the world since its inception and you’re looking for a fun way to learn more about this beloved show, the Doctor Who FAQ is a great place to start.
Much in the same way that it’s impossible to contain all there is to know about Star Trek in a single book, the vast wealth of knowledge surrounding Doctor Who is nearly immeasurable. Doctor Who existed before the age of television, and continued during a time where it was so difficult to record a broadcasted show that several episodes were lost forever. There’s not been another entertainment experience quite like Doctor Who, and the unique experience created by following the clever time traveler known only as The Doctor is something that could theoretically go one forever. Doctor Who FAQ: All That’s Left to Know About the Most Famous Time Lord in the Universe does a great job offering a view at the show as it has existed from the beginning, as well as the struggles both on and off screen that have shaped something so many people tune in every week to watch.
As the author of a book about Doctor Who, whose goal is to offer insights that would encourage a fan of the show to savor every word, Dave Thompson is not afraid to express a fair bit of opinion in his presentation of interesting facts about the show. Thompson spends some time in the beginning of the Doctor Who FAQ explaining why the show is missing some early episodes, and why it took so long to catch on in the US. If you’ve ever wondered why it is most of the American audience is only really familiar with Tom Baker in the old series or has only ever seen the new series, the beginning of this book is a great read.
From there, Thompson takes you on a Doctor-by-Doctor ride though the series, thoroughly describing the strengths and weaknesses of both the actors that played The Doctor and the rotating carousel of cast members that have played the role of Companion throughout the years.
If you’re a big fan of the current series, specifically the recent work of writer/producer Steve Moffat, be prepared for some thoroughly explained distaste for the show as it exists now. Thompson goes into great detail to explain how the show has grown less cerebral over the years, going from something rich in semi-factual representations of historical events to a straight up sci-fi fantasy that involves World War II Spitfires attacking an alien craft in the cold vacuum of space. Thompson laments the intentional weakening of enemies throughout the show, like the Cybermen who were recently defeated by the emotions of a father trying to save his son. While Thompson is critical of Moffat in many places, the book also spends a considerable amount of time appreciating it for what it has become, even if storytelling has occasionally suffered.
The Doctor Who FAQ is a 400 page highly opinionated view of a show that has quite literally traveled through time, bringing entire generations of people together to enjoy the tales of a character that has managed to appear ever younger while aging by hundreds of years throughout the history of the show. If you’re a fan of any part of the series, this book is a great addition to your shelf.
Ask any writer, and there’s a good chance he or she will tell you how great it feels to physically write words on a piece of paper. While typing is much faster, and a lot more efficient, something just feels so good when putting pen to paper. In the case of tablets — which tend to have keyboards too wide for dual thumbs, yet too small to type on like a full-sized keyboard — handwriting recognition can be the most efficient way to jot down some words, somewhat satiating that pen-to-paper desire. Unfortunately, handwriting recognition isn’t exactly the peak of refined technology at the moment, and it generally isn’t precise enough to pick up everyone’s wildly different handwriting styles with any real accuracy. Scientists at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) might have found a different solution — a band that detects the motions and gestures of the wrist, and can translate that into writing.
Old and busted
Rather than relying on a fickle screen, KIT’s wristband — or glove, depending on how you view fashion — allows a user to write words in the air, which the system can detect with the help of gyroscopes and accelerometers. The gestures are then sent to a computer over a wireless connection, then the computer makes sure the user was actually writing, rather than, for example, flailing wildly for no reason. So if you are waiving hello or vigorously scratching something, your computer won’t suddenly have a bunch of gibberish written on-screen.
Rather than standard gesture recognition, the airwriting glove employs pattern recognition as well. A statistical model has been created for the characteristics of each letter of the alphabet, taking different writing styles into consideration. For instance, the airwriting system can recognize the difference between writing in all caps (of which some of us are guilty). In total, the recognition system has a bank of 8,000 words, with a general error rate of only 11%. A large chunk of that error rate comes from individual writing styles, and when the system is calibrated for someone’s specific style, the error rate drops to just 3%.
Aside from expanding the system’s wordlist, the KIT team aims to make the device smaller, and thus more comfortable to wear. Further than that, the team would like to integrate the system directly into a smartphone, which would mean you could simply wave your phone around in the air and generate words on its screen.
For their research, the team received a Google Research Award of $81,000 to aid in the development of the system.
One of the biggest worries for small-business owners is dealing with fluctuations in cash flow. Nathan Perry’s five-year-old New York City catering business has had to operate with up to $30,000 in unpaid customer invoices at any given time, for instance.
Such gaps in cash flow — or so-called “lumpy money” — can make it difficult for business owners to focus on expansion rather than, say, managing payrolls or paying other bills.
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Soldier reads 35-page personal statement revealing how he came to leak information to WikiLeaks after failing elsewhere
Bradley Manning has revealed to his court-martial at Fort Meade, Maryland, that he tried to leak US state secrets to the Washington Post, New York Times and Politico before he turned in frustration to the new anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks.
Manning, the US solider accused of the biggest leak of state secrets in US history, read out a 35-page statement to the court that contained new detail on how he came to download and then transmit a massive trove of secrets to WikiLeaks. It contains the bombshell disclosure that he wanted to go to mainstream American media but found them impenetrable.
While he was on leave from Iraq and staying in the Washington area in January 2010 he contacted the Washington Post and asked would it be interested in receiving information that he said would be “enormously important to the American people”. He spoke to a woman who said she was a reporter but “she didn’t seem to take me seriously”.
The woman said, according to Manning’s account, that the paper would only be interested subject to vetting by senior editors.
Despairing of that route, Manning turned to the New York Times. He called the public editor of the paper but only got voicemail.
He then tried other numbers on the paper but also got put through to voicemail, and though he left a message with his Skype contact details, nobody called him back. Manning added he had also contemplated going to the website Politico, but harsh weather prevented him.
In Manning’s statement, he provides a wealth of information about how he systematically downloaded and transmitted confidential information to WikiLeaks. That included the video of an Apache helicopter attack in Iraq – the so-called collateral murder video – as well as war logs and hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables.
Manning insisted that he believed that the cables would not harm US interests, though he suspected it would embarrass the US government by revealing behind the scenes deal-making.
He also gave insight into the ethical reasons that he had for making such an enormous breach of military orders. Referring to the war logs form Iraq and Afghanistan, he said he felt they would reveal the “true costs of war”.
“I felt we were risking so much for people who seemed to be unwilling to cooperate with us leading to frustration and hostility on both sides. I began to get depressed about he situation we were mired in year after year.
“We were obsessed with capturing and killing human targets on lists and ignoring goals and missions. I believed if the public, particularly the American public, could see this it could spark a debate on the military and our foreign policy in general as it applied to Iraq and Afghanistan. It might cause society to reconsider the need to engage in counter terrorism while ignoring the human situation of the people we engaged with every day.”
Manning also revealed that he had lengthy and prolonged discussions with a senior member of WikiLeaks codenamed Ox, whom he went on to name after an author of a book he had read in 2009: Nathaniel Frank. He said he assumed that “Nathaniel” was Julian Assange – whom Manning pronounced as Ass-angy.
Economists say slight growth in final months of last year is encouraging as US prepares for $89bn in government cuts
Growth in the US economy inched up in the final months of 2012, wiping away an earlier estimate that the recovery had gone into reverse, the Commerce Department said on Thursday.
Gross domestic product, a measure of all goods and services produced in the economy, increased at a 0.1% annual rate between October and December. The figure was revised up from an initially estimated 0.1% downturn as trade figures proved stronger than first reported. The figure had been widely expected to rise but was lower than the 0.5% economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires had forecast.
Paul Ashworth, chief US economist at Capital Economics said: “Headline is weak but the details are encouraging.” He said that home building was clearly on the mend and private domestic sales – “stuff that went off the shelves” – were strong. Massive defence cuts, the largest since after the Vietnam war, had held back growth along with a fall in inventories, goods produced but not sold.
Last quarter’s GDP positive figure means the economy has now grown for 14 consecutive quarters. GDP advanced 2.2% over 2012. The latest figure was equal to the weakest quarterly report since the recovery began in the second half of 2009.
Growth in business investment drove the GDP figures up, increasing by 11.2% in the fourth quarter, better than the already strong initial estimate of 9.7%. Consumer spending rose 2.1%, down from an initial estimate of 2.2%. Residential investment grew at a 17.5%, another signal of recovery in the housing market.
The latest GDP figures come as the US prepares for $89bn in government cuts known as a sequester that are set to start Friday. The cuts will hit government across the board. So far they have not spooked US investors. The Dow Jones Industrial Average hit a 52-week high yesterday and was rising in early trading Thursday.
Polina Vlasenko, a research fellow at the American Institute For Economic Research, said: “The slowdown in GDP growth in the fourth quarter resulted from a decrease in government spending, as well as disruptions related to hurricane Sandy. While the effects of Sandy are transitory, a decline in government spending will continue to hold back the GDP growth, especially if the spending cuts scheduled to begin tomorrow go into effect. But it is not likely to be large enough to pull economy into a recession.”