The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka Official website of the Sunday Times Newspaper in Sri Lanka Sat, 30 Jun 2012 19:33:49 +0000 en hourly 1 Shenzhou-9: China’s new age of discovery and self-discovery Sat, 30 Jun 2012 16:15:35 +0000 Pubudu Hong Kong (CNN) — With the Shenzhou-9 touching down in China Friday, expect the inevitable wave of propaganda touting its “model” citizens and scientific might.And what a mighty week it has been. China has witnessed the return of a manned spacecraft that successfully docked with the Tiangong 1 space lab — a first for the nation.

Chinese astronauts Jing Haipeng (C), Liu Wang (L) and Liu Yang, China's first female astronaut, salute in front of the re-entry capsule of China's Shenzhou 9 spacecraft in Siziwang Banner, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region June 29, 2012. China's Shenzhou 9 spacecraft returned to Earth on Friday, ending a mission that put the country's first woman in space and completed a manned docking test critical to its goal of building a space station by 2020. REUTERS

Chinese astronauts Jing Haipeng (C), Liu Wang (L) and Liu Yang, China’s first female astronaut, salute in front of the re-entry capsule of China’s Shenzhou 9 spacecraft in Siziwang Banner, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region June 29, 2012. China’s Shenzhou 9 spacecraft returned to Earth on Friday, ending a mission that put the country’s first woman in space and completed a manned docking test critical to its goal of building a space station by 2020. REUTERS


China is also still on a high after the deep-sea diving record set on Sunday by a Chinese manned submersible in the Pacific Ocean’s Mariana Trench.

And while China’s achievements in sea and space are impressive, do they stir more than just national pride? The Shenzhou-9 may be a stellar status symbol for Beijing but is it awakening a real hunger for adventure among the Chinese people?
According to Chinese explorer Wong How Man, the answer is an emphatic yes. “We’re in space… not just making cellphones,” he told CNN.

As the President of the China Exploration and Research Society, Wong has been leading expeditions in China since he founded the group in 1986. In June 2005, he discovered the new source of the mighty Yangtze River.The veteran explorer said China’s landmark journeys in recent years have shored up not only national pride but an individual desire to venture forth.

“On a grassroots level, there’s this huge urge to explore our own vast country,” he said.Yunnan native Mei Zhang has seen that curiosity first-hand as the founder of WildChina, a Beijing-based company that offers off-the-beaten-track travel experiences.
She claimed a spirit of adventure is very much alive, as traditional values that may have limited exploration take a backseat.

Zhang cited one traditional Chinese saying in particular: “Fu mu zai, bu yuan xing,” or — roughly translated — “When your parents are around, don’t travel far away.”

“The first virtue was to be “xiao,” or filial to your parents,” said Zhang. “And that held back a lot of people and they stayed home. But with the internet, young people now see the world and say, ‘Wow… why can’t I do that?’”She pointed to Chinese polar explorer Yuan Xiao as the ultimate “unfilial” son.

Shanghai born and bred, Xiao left a 10-year career in banking to explore the world. He’s one of the first Chinese to have navigated both the North and South Poles — where he went to climb, ski and even scuba dive.And yet, “China’s bravest adventurer” pointed out that he’s not that unique. “Zheng He, Zhang Qian, and the monk in Journey to the West… the Chinese have always been adventurous for different reasons,” he said. “The spirit has always been there.”

And that spirit has been revived again with the return of the Shenzhou-9. China is embarking on a new age of discovery… and self-discovery, as more of its citizens consider an adventure far, far away from home.

Courtesy CNN

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Fun day at Nuga Gama Sat, 30 Jun 2012 10:16:26 +0000 Pubudu Thirty lucky Funday Times club members spent an interesting morning at Nuga Gama Cinnamon Grand on June 23, 2012 at a workshop held in celebration of World Environment Day.

FT Club members celebrate World Environment Day at Nuga Gama


After the tour of Nuga Gama with Uncle Gamini, the kids had an interactive session with Aunty Tharika on how kids can make a difference when it comes to saving our planet. This was followed by some fun competitions such as ‘How long it takes to decompose’ and the ‘Hodiya game.’

After a yummy snack and an ice-cream treat, the winners were given their prizes by special guest Mrs. Sybil Wettasinghe, fondly called Sybil Nanda. This was followed by the prize-giving of the Power of Art Competition.

Sybil Nanda’s latest book ‘The Friendly Banyan Tree’ based on the 250 year old Banyan tree at Nuga Gama, was also launched at this ceremony and all the participants received a copy of this colourful book to take home.

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Ramani Fernando Total Care Battaramulla launched Sat, 30 Jun 2012 13:38:54 +0000 Pubudu The ‘TOTAL CARE’ concept provides almost everything a customer requires in hair, beauty and spa services,  under one roof.
A Ramani Fernando-  Total Care Salon opened its doors at 169, Pannapitiya Road, Battaramulla recently.
The Ramani Fernando team of Hair and Beauty experts, mingled with the guests showing the stylishly laid out salon, in this very accessible area.

‘in a day and age where time is limited and the traffic is maddening, clients are looking at convenience, and we need to go closer to them’ said Marshan who has just returned from an overseas stint, and manages the salon.People come to a place like this not only  to be cared for, and leave looking good, but also for complete relaxation, and to shed away their stress. ‘Total Care’ lends itself wonderfully to this.

“It’s great to have world class services brought to your doorstep’ was the comment of Shanika, a longstanding resident in Jayawardenapura.Battaramulla and the towns around it, have now become the home to a vast cross section of the middle class, and the salon has already started buzzing.

Picture (1) Shows Ramani Fernando lighting the traditional oil lamp at the opening. Also in the picture is the Manager of the Battaramulla branch Marshan Stouter and the rest of the Ramani Fernando Salon Battaramulla team

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Heritance Ahungalla Holiday with luxury at its best Sat, 30 Jun 2012 14:32:42 +0000 Pubudu One of the earliest creations of veteran Architect late Geoffrey Bawa was Triton in Ahungalla. Water is a main feature of his signature designs.

Triton was his first experiment with water, which was the solid base for his star class creations in later days.
Inter connected stretch of water lead the guests into the hotel and guide their eyes to across the ocean to the horizon. The infinity pool makes feel as if you are in the ocean itself when you get in and your eye level is just above the water.
Triton has transformed in to a five star luxury hotel under the re-branding process few years ago with 154 rooms, Bawa’s theme was not changed.

GM Refhan Razeen

All 128 Deluxe rooms, 15 luxury rooms, five suites and four luxury suites at Heritance Ahungalla face the sea with private balconies. Luxury Rooms have corner locations, so they have much larger balconies and seating areas. The bathroom contains a bathtub with overhead rain shower and weighing scales.

Spacious Luxury Suites have separate living rooms with DVD player and home theatre system – perfect for a family night in or entertaining friends.

Polished wood is a big feature, along with stone floors in the bathrooms and locally woven throws and cushions or handmade batik hangings. Sophisticated monochrome colour schemes highlight the clean, elegant feel – this is stylish seaside living at its finest.Each bathroom is tastefully supplied with custom-made Ahungalla toiletries.

The rooms are fully equipped with energy-efficient air conditioning, TVs with satellite and local channels, a comprehensive minibar and a digital safe. ‘With all these facilities and luxury, our main attraction is the personalized service. That counts a lot with our type of clientele’ Refhan Razeen, the General Manager of the Hotel said very correctly. The cuisine experience too at Heritance Ahungalle is a philosophy based on a threefold foundation of taste, presentation and health.

The hotel has three restaurants that can seat a total of 285 people, as well as several outdoor venues, where food is served on special occasions. Jute Restaurant will give the opportunity to try a wide range of Sri Lankan food, as well as the best of international cuisine, with dozens of choices and regular theme nights. For fine dining in a sophisticated ambience, the hotel offers a global à la carte dinner menu in the Upper Room.

The culinary brigade at Heritance Ahungalla is one of the best in Sri Lanka, having won numerous awards over the years. Most recently, in August 2011, they won awards for the Best Hotel Team and Best Culinary Team at the Culinary Arts Competition organised by the Chefs Guild of Sri Lanka.

The cuisine at Ahungalla is supervised by the world class Chef Dimuthu Kumarasinghe who has won nine gold medals at the Culinary Olympics and the Culinary World Cup.

A river safari on the Madu Ganga, a visit to Kosgoda Turtle hatchery, Singharaja Forest tour, Galle Heritage tour, Fresh water fishing, visit to local Cinnamon and Coir industry, Koth Duwa Temple are some of the popular excursions for visitors from the hotel.  The hotel also offers an excellent conference location with state-of-the-art facilities.

Heritance Ahungalla is just 76km or less than one hours drive from Colombo via E01 Highway.  For more details and reservation call 0915555000/ 0112308408 or log on to

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Three Chinese space heroes return to Earth Sat, 30 Jun 2012 16:16:22 +0000 Pubudu BEIJING, June 30 (AFP) – Three Chinese astronauts returned to Earth as heroes on Friday after carrying out China’s most complex and longest mission in orbit, vital steps in the country’s effort to build a space station by 2020. The 13-day voyage also saw China send a woman into space for the first time, and the nation’s leaders celebrated as soon as the crew members emerged from their cramped return capsule smiling and seemingly in good health.

“This is… another outstanding contribution by the Chinese nation to human exploration and the use of outer space,” Premier Wen Jiabao said, reading a statement representing all the top leaders.

“It has profound significance in enhancing China’s comprehensive power and inspiring the national spirit.”The charred return capsule of the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft, which means Divine Vessel in Chinese, hit the ground in a remote area of northern China and rolled over on Friday morning after an approach slowed by a large parachute.

With the events broadcast across the nation on state-run television, the crew members spent another hour inside the capsule while medical workers checked on their conditions.As the three were finally pulled out still wearing their white space suits, they waved, smiled and gave thumbs up signals, then made patriotic comments for the television audience.

“We have successfully accomplished the first manned docking mission for China and have now returned to home,” said crew leader Jing Haipeng, 45, who has been on three of the country’s four manned space missions.“Thanks to our country, thanks to the care and love from people of all ethnic groups of the country.thanks.”

The history-making female member of the crew, Liu Yang, a 33-year-old air force pilot, was in similarly good spirits, saying she felt “warm and comfortable” throughout the trip.During their mission the crew successfully carried out China’s first manual space docking, an extremely difficult move that is essential in the process of building a space station — which Beijing aims to do by 2020.

The manoeuvre — completed by the Americans and Russians in the 1960s — requires two vessels orbiting Earth at thousands of kilometres (miles) per hour to come together very gently to avoid destroying each other.It was the main goal of the mission and the team rehearsed the procedure more than 1,500 times in simulations.

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India’s tampon revolution Sat, 30 Jun 2012 16:18:11 +0000 Pubudu When Arunachalam Muruganantham spotted his wife gathering dirty rags in their home one day he asked her what they were for. If he was shocked by her reluctant response – that she was using them for her monthly period – he was even more taken back by her reply when he asked why she was not buying sanitary napkins in the shop. “If I buy sanitary napkins,” she had told him. “It means I cannot afford to buy milk for the family.”

Rama Devi shows women in Dungra Jogi the tampons

Rama Devi shows women in Dungra Jogi the tampons

The conversation spurred Mr Muruganantham into a frenzy of invention to try and produce an affordable napkin for women such as his wife. Such was his dedication, bordering on obsession, that he once wore a football bladder of animal blood to trial a prototype. He was forced from his home by villagers who thought his methods had become too perverse after he started collecting used napkins from medical students and storing them in his home. He was even abandoned – albeit temporarily – by his wife and mother, who believed he had gone mad.

But 14 years later, the 49-year-old, who never finished school, has few regrets. His award-winning napkins are being produced on simple machines by groups across rural India and helping to revolutionise women’s health.

And now, the man who has been dubbed the “Tampon King” says he is in discussion with several African countries about replicating his model.

“Rwanda, Nigeria, South Africa – I am talking with these countries,” said Mr Muruganantham, speaking from Coimbatore in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu Kerala. “Nepal, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Pakistan… They want to know about it.”
One workshop in India is operated in a shed in the Pardada Pardadi Inter-College, a forward-thinking girls’ school run by an NGO in the town of Anupshahr, next to the Ganges river in the state of Uttar Pradesh.

Here, Rama Devi, spends the first week of every month with six local women in the top-floor workshop, using simple hand-operated machines and following the five-step system that produces the sanitary napkins sold and distributed under the label Laadli, or “Beloved Daughter”.

The remainder of the month she travels to villages, meeting young women, educating them about basic health issues and selling the products.On a recent morning, The Independent accompanied Ms Devi, a single mother with four daughters, and the family’s sole earner, to the village of Dungra Jogi.

Shaded from the sun beneath a large archway, one of them, 25-year-old Umar Parthak, said of the napkins: “We feel a lot more freedom. It gives us a lot more freedom to go out. Also, the rags that we previously used were not hygienic.” Her cousin, Sapna Sharma, who is studying sociology at a nearby college and who wishes to eventually train as a teacher, said women’s education was improving, slowly. “As a result people are becoming aware of these products,” she added.

In some parts of rural India, as in many places in the developing world, the issue of women’s menstruation is a matter still associated with taboo and discrimination. In some communities, women are still considered “unclean” during menstruation and are forbidden from entering the kitchen.

Professor Ritu Priya Mehrotra, of the social medicine department of Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, said women had traditionally used old cotton for menstrual hygiene. But a shift from cotton to synthetic saris meant many were now using man-made fibre, which was unhealthy and could not be sanitised in the same way. Previously women used sand or even mud.
The development of the napkin had involved huge amounts of trial and error, and one of the biggest challenges was discovering the raw material. Mr Muruganantham had assumed they were based on cotton but an early prototype by his tolerant wife was unsuccessful.

Eventually, having taught himself English, he simply rang up the switchboard of a US-based multinational and asked to know what raw materials he would need. The crucial ingredient was wood pulp.

In 2005, his seven years of effort was recognised when he was handed a National Innovation Foundation award by President Pratibha Patil. He then quickly patented his machine, which costs between £850 and £3,400 and is capable of producing 120 pads an hour. While companies such as Procter & Gamble produce napkins that sell for up to 30 rupees (33p) a packet, his are sold for as little as 10 rupees.

The model is deliberately low-tech and decentralised, providing employment opportunities for women in remote parts of India. “The benefit of the local production model means that women can form co-operatives and generate some income as well. It is circular,” Prof Mehrotra said.

As part of a broader programme to try to educate women about health issues, the Indian authorities announced last year they would start distributing subsidised napkins. The move, which is part of the so-called National Rural Health Mission, emphasised that use of such napkins could reduce reproductive tract infections that posed a grave threat to women. Making them available in schools and colleges, such as the Pardada Pardadi Inter-College, also encourages young girls to keep up their attendance. Ms Devi, who started working in the school kitchen before graduating to the napkin production unit, said: “I am trying to change the way the women think.”

Mr Muruganantham was disappointed the Indian government did not decide to support his low-cost machine as part of its national programme, but is pleased that foreign countries may soon benefit from it. He said: “What I am trying to do is develop a low-cost model across the globe.”


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A cruel and unusual record Sat, 30 Jun 2012 16:20:18 +0000 Pubudu THE United States is abandoning its role as the global champion of human rights. Revelations that top officials are targeting people to be assassinated abroad, including American citizens, are only the most recent, disturbing proof of how far our nation’s violation of human rights has extended. This development began after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and has been sanctioned and escalated by bipartisan executive and legislative actions, without dissent from the general public. As a result, our country can no longer speak with moral authority on these critical issues.

The Guantanamo Bay detention centre: US counter-terror policies violate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The Guantanamo Bay detention centre: US counter-terror policies violate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

While the country has made mistakes in the past, the widespread abuse of human rights over the last decade has been a dramatic change from the past.

With leadership from the United States, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948 as “the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.” This was a bold and clear commitment that power would no longer serve as a cover to oppress or injure people, and it established equal rights of all people to life, liberty, security of person, equal protection of the law and freedom from torture, arbitrary detention or forced exile.

The declaration has been invoked by human rights activists and the international community to replace most of the world’s dictatorships with democracies and to promote the rule of law in domestic and global affairs. It is disturbing that, instead of strengthening these principles, our government’s counterterrorism policies are now clearly violating at least 10 of the declaration’s 30 articles, including the prohibition against “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

Recent legislation has made legal the president’s right to detain a person indefinitely on suspicion of affiliation with terrorist organisations or “associated forces,” a broad, vague power that can be abused without meaningful oversight from the courts or Congress (the law is currently being blocked by a federal judge). This law violates the right to freedom of expression and to be presumed innocent until proved guilty, two other rights enshrined in the declaration.

In addition to American citizens’ being targeted for assassination or indefinite detention, recent laws have canceled the restraints in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 to allow unprecedented violations of our rights to privacy through warrantless wiretapping and government mining of our electronic communications. Popular state laws permit detaining individuals because of their appearance, where they worship or with whom they associate.

Despite an arbitrary rule that any man killed by drones is declared an enemy terrorist, the death of nearby innocent women and children is accepted as inevitable. After more than 30 airstrikes on civilian homes this year in Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai has demanded that such attacks end, but the practice continues in areas of Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen that are not in any war zone. We don’t know how many hundreds of innocent civilians have been killed in these attacks, each one approved by the highest authorities in Washington. This would have been unthinkable in previous times.

These policies clearly affect American foreign policy. Top intelligence and military officials, as well as rights defenders in targeted areas, affirm that the great escalation in drone attacks has turned aggrieved families toward terrorist organisations, aroused civilian populations against us and permitted repressive governments to cite such actions to justify their own despotic behavior.
Meanwhile, the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, now houses 169 prisoners.

About half have been cleared for release, yet have little prospect of ever obtaining their freedom. American authorities have revealed that, in order to obtain confessions, some of the few being tried (only in military courts) have been tortured by waterboarding more than 100 times or intimidated with semiautomatic weapons, power drills or threats to sexually assault their mothers. Astoundingly, these facts cannot be used as a defence by the accused, because the government claims they occurred under the cover of “national security.” Most of the other prisoners have no prospect of ever being charged or tried either.

At a time when popular revolutions are sweeping the globe, the United States should be strengthening, not weakening, basic rules of law and principles of justice enumerated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But instead of making the world safer, America’s violation of international human rights abets our enemies and alienates our friends.

As concerned citizens, we must persuade Washington to reverse course and regain moral leadership according to international human rights norms that we had officially adopted as our own and cherished throughout the years.
Jimmy Carter, the 39th president, is the founder of the Carter Center and the recipient of the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize.

Courtesy New York Times

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The ill wind from the west Sat, 30 Jun 2012 16:21:55 +0000 Pubudu NEW DELHI – At the nadir of the financial crisis four years ago, many Asian governments came to believe that robust growth had led to a near-”decoupling” of their economies from the West and its ongoing problems. But now, as the eurozone teeters and America’s recovery weakens, Asia, too, is showing signs of faltering.

Some Asian politicians will, quite conveniently, blame the West for any softening of growth. But their failure to pursue necessary structural reforms and economic opportunities is equally responsible, if not more so, for the region’s growing travails.
Consider India.

According to the forecaster International Market Assessment, “capital flows that have dried up are not…a reflection of global market conditions,” but of a loss in confidence among investors, arising principally from fiscal mismanagement, which has led to “price instability, falling investments and eventually a decline in…growth.” With the “government in dormancy,” IMA concludes, “India is quickly losing the plot.”

India’s situation is indeed worrisome. Double-digit food-price inflation has been accompanied by debate about the share of Indians living below the poverty line, and, indeed, where the poverty line should be drawn. Official statistics use an average daily income of 32 rupees ($0.57) a day to separate the merely poor from the desperately impoverished.

Instead of addressing the central paradox of contemporary Indian society – poverty amidst plenty – India’s government has buried its head in the sand. It proclaims bold reforms, which it then repudiates before the ink is dry. Even worse, growing official corruption is sapping private-sector dynamism.

But India is not alone in stumbling. China, too, is fearful of a growth slowdown and rising wage inflation. In response, China’s central bank is lowering interest rates to spur domestic investment, and the resulting depreciation of the renminbi’s exchange rate has helped to keep exports afloat. But China’s import figures for the first half of this year have virtually flat-lined, suggesting that Chinese firms are not investing in new equipment – and thus that China’s economy may hit the doldrums soon.
Although their political systems are mirror opposites, there are striking parallels in some of China’s and India’s deepest structural problems. Both countries undertook reforms – China in the 1980s and India in the 1990s – that decentralised decision-making, and both progressed rapidly. India was compelled by its democracy to pursue a politically decentralising route, yet much economic decision-making authority remained embedded in New Delhi’s ossified bureaucracy, retarding growth. By contrast, China achieved economic decentralisation, but preserved centralised political power, transferring economic-management responsibilities largely to provincial officials, which has created its own imbalances.

Thus, even as China is compelled to shift from exports to domestic consumption in order to sustain growth, India continues to rely on inward investment, exports of services and raw materials, and lower fiscal and current-account deficits to maintain its growth course. But its most damaging deficit is to be found in governance, as is true of China, where the Bo Xilai scandal has exposed the pathological underside of China’s vaunted technocratic leadership.

Elsewhere in Asia, structural problems are also mounting. In Vietnam, inflation has hovered near 20% or more, with the government seemingly unwilling to embrace deeper reforms. Thailand’s interminable political imbroglio has left its economy at stall speed; the reformist zeal of Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has petered out in his second term following the departure of Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati; and Japan seems to remain in a state of suspended animation.
Europe’s malaise, and the resulting rise of populist politics, suggests that Asia’s governments can ill afford to sit on their growth laurels. Indeed, they should heed a recent comment by Oxford University’s Pavlos Eleftheriadis about a Greek electorate “livid at being led by those who dishonestly caused the problem.” Indeed, according to Eleftheriadis, tax collectors in Greece today are confronted by bull-whip-wielding citizens. That sounds a lot like India nowadays.

There are bold ideas in circulation in Asia that could sustain and promote growth. The recent decision by the leaders of China, Japan, and South Korea to launch talks on a trilateral free-trade agreement among, respectively, the world’s second, third, and 12th largest economies is certainly audacious, though reaching an agreement between two of Asia’s great democracies and China will likely make the failed Doha Round of global trade talks seem simple.

But India is nowhere to be seen in all of this. Indeed, with Burma’s economy opening to the world, India ought to be taking the lead in seeking to stimulate South Asian growth and economic integration, for only by doing so can it anchor its neighbour within the region. Yet, when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently visited Burma, he had little to offer aside from the usual investment proposals. A bold initiative toward Bangladesh would also yield a strongly positive impact on growth, and yet nothing is happening there, either.

With the major emerging countries, particularly China and India, already in trouble, Asia can expect to be hit hard if the euro sinks. Before that happens, governments must seize the policy initiative, thereby strengthening global financial markets’ confidence in Asia’s ability to withstand the ill wind from the West.

Jaswant Singh, a former Indian finance minister, foreign minister, and defense minister, is the author of Jinnah: India – Partition – Independence.

Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2012. Exclusive to the Sunday Times

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‘The Boy Kings: A Journey into the Heart of the Social Network’ Sat, 30 Jun 2012 16:24:31 +0000 Pubudu It is supposed to be one of the most dynamic companies the world has ever seen.But until recently Facebook was deeply sexist and stuck in a 1950s mentality that was a cross between a frat house and Mad Men, a new book by a former senior staff member claims.
Female workers at the social network were propositioned for threesomes or given crude insults like ‘I want to put my teeth in your ass’, Katherine Losse claims.

Katherine Losse

Katherine Losse

Lower ranking employees who were invariably female were treated like ‘second class help’ and banned from a conference unless they worked as coat checkers whilst there.Meanwhile in between toga parties and late night ‘hackathons’ male engineers raced skateboards around desks as if they were in the X Games.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is compared to Napoleon and branded a ‘little emperor’ who created a company where his staff could ‘idol worship’ him.On his 22nd birthday female workers were even asked to wear a T-shirt with his face on it in his honour.

The claims are in ‘The Boy Kings: A Journey into the Heart of the Social Network’ by Losse who worked for Facebook between 2005 and 2010.

She was employee no.51 and worked her way up from customer relations to a senior marketing role before becoming the speechwriter for Zuckerberg. At its core she claims that Facebook is all about creating a ‘popular techno frat that didn’t exist at Stanford or Harvard’ where men can engage in endless competition with each other.

Chosen programmers were treated like ‘prodigal sons’ – whilst women were just along for the ride.She writes: ‘The older men in the office could be unbridled in their wide ranging desires for sex and attention as the youngest ones. During an away trip to Las Vegas a group of Facebook engineers filmed themselves inviting girls up to their table in a club then shouting ‘Leave, you’re not pretty enough!’ when they didn’t like them.

Losse writes: ‘The company’s entire human resources architecture was constructed on the reactionary model of an office from the 1950s in which men with so-called masculine qualities (being technical, breaking things, moving fast) was idealised as brilliant and visionary whilst everyone else (particularly the nontechnical employees on the customer support team who were mostly female and sometime, unlike the white and Asian engineering team, black) were assumed to be duller, incapable of quick and intelligent thought. It was like Mad Men but real and happening the current moment, as if in repudiation of fifty years of social progress…
‘…Facebook it seemed wanted to have it all: to be the new and scrappy kid on the block and have the feel of an old boys’ club that had been around forever’.

It wasn’t until the arrival of chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg in 2009 that things actually changed.
In an interview to promote the book Losse said: ‘I think it had made a lot of strides forward.’Obviously, Sheryl’s arrival really helped with that because when she came in, she said, “I really care about this. I want this to be a great place for women to work.” I think it’s taken some work, but I think it’s getting much better.’

Losse recounts that during her stint at Facebook there were some good times.During a 2005 trip to Lake Tahoe in California she recalls how she and Zuckerberg along with some others got drunk on cheap wine from Trader Joe’s and sang along to Green Day and Sublime hits ‘so loudly we were essentially doing karaoke’.

Mark Zuckerberg

On another occasion she recalls with tenderness how he also completed a rendition of the Oasis hit ‘Wonderwall’ in a similar fashion on a guitar.Then there was the inevitable excess of Sean Parker, the bad boy founder of Napster who was Facebook’s first president.

At the 2007 Coachella music festival, Losse and some other Facebook staff were relaxing at their rented house having watched bands like Daft Punk when Parker showed up at the house with ‘a doctor’s bag full of drugs, which everyone politely declined.’This may seem strange but to Losse there was a logic.

She writes: ‘Standard methods of being bad, like doing drugs, seemed inefficient and superfluous to us.’
Such weirdness was never far away, such as when Facebook bought everyone a matching American Apparel jacket which some programmers wore every day for months.

In 2009 Facebook moved again to a huge ‘campus’ in a building that was once occupied by Hewlett-Packard.
Zuckerberg’s desk was deliberately put right in the building’s dead centre on a lower floor, almost underground. Losse writes: ‘He called the building a bunker’.

In the book, Zuckerberg himself is given the most brutal character assassination since the 2010 drama ‘The Social Network’ about the founding of the company.Losse depicts him as socially awkward and aloof, branding him a ‘little emperor’ and somebody who considered those who were not tech-obsessed as ‘not people’.

In reference to his long term girlfriend Priscilla Chan, who is now his wife, she claims he once said: ‘I dated a model once who was really hot, but my girlfriend is actually smart’.Elsewhere she writes that in the office Zuckerberg ‘walked with his chest puffed out, Napoleon-style, his curly hair jumping forward from his forehead as if to announce him in advance’.
On his 22nd birthday, things took an even more bizarre turn: women were told to wear a T-shirt with Mark’s picture on it and men had to wear Adidas flip flops in tribute to Zuckerberg’s style.

Losse writes: ‘The gender coding was clear: women were to declare allegiance to Mark, and men were to become Mark, or to at least dress like him. I decided that this was more than I could stomach and stayed home to play sick that day. I was the only one.’
Even though he now is deeply into self-improvement, in the early days of Facebook Zuckerberg seemed not so keen to champion his intellect.

Next to the question of his favourite book he wrote on his profile page: ‘I don’t read’.Losse says that Zuckerberg had an ‘imperial voice’ and used to finish meetings by pumping his fist and saying: ‘Domination!’

In one of the most bizarre episodes in the book, when he introduces Sandberg to the team for the first time, Zuckerberg told them: ‘When I met Sheryl the first thing I said was that she had really good skin. And she does. Everyone should have a crush on Sheryl’.
On a press trip to Brazil, any doubt about how important Zuckerberg had become was removed during a conversation Losse had with one of his security guards.

He informed her that Zuckerberg was known as ‘the package’ and everyone else at the company were ‘the straps’.
When she asked him to explain, he said: ‘You are the straps. Mark is the package. ‘He’s number one, he’s the guy we have to protect at all costs. Everyone else is the straps, because you’re the hangers on.

‘You’re only important because he is, but we can’t have you falling into the wrong hands.’Leaving Facebook was seen as a betrayal by Zuckerberg, Losse writes: ‘Mark gave me a long, cold look. The friendly smirk was gone; I was no longer his bro…
‘…as a parting shot, Mark told his assistant to move my desk to another floor, removing me from his exalted engineering department, even though he knew my last day would only be weeks later.

‘This was a symbolic gesture that relayed in no uncertain terms that I no longer belonged as a soldier in this technical empire’.
© Daily Mail, London

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10,000 diamonds from the Queen’s private collection go on display Sat, 30 Jun 2012 16:26:16 +0000 Pubudu LONDON, June 29 (Reuters) – More than 10,000 diamonds go on show at London’s Buckingham Palace this week to mark Queen Elizabeth’s 60th year on the throne, in a dazzling display of gems gathered over the centuries as objects of beauty and symbols of power.

Sparkling: The Diamond Diadem Tiara, worn by The Queen on British and Commonwealth stamps, which also features on some issues of coinage and bank notes

Sparkling: The Diamond Diadem Tiara, worn by The Queen on British and Commonwealth stamps, which also features on some issues of coinage and bank notes

The exhibition, which runs from June 30 to July 8 and then from July 31 to Oct. 7, was designed to coincide with the queen’s diamond jubilee this year, and features jewels she wears regularly at official functions in Britain and abroad.
“The aim of the exhibition is to show how rulers have useddiamonds as visible signs of wealth and power,” said curator Caroline de Guitaut, who described the crowns, tiaras, rings, earrings, swords and snuff box on display as “priceless.” De Guitaut said the 86-year-old monarch was consulted on what would be used for the exhibition, housed in a darkened room inside Buckingham Palace and accessed via gilded, colonnaded corridors lined with royal portraits going back generations.

“We have tried to showcase some of the most important diamonds in royal possession.” The first item on show in a brightly lit glass case is Queen Victoria’s small diamond crown which, despite its size, features more than 1,100 diamonds.

After her husband Prince Albert’s death in 1861, the only other British monarch to have marked a diamond jubilee wore only mourning clothes, meaning that colourless stones such as clear diamonds were an ideal adornment.
Victoria was regularly pictured wearing it, including in her official diamond jubilee portrait.  Perhaps the most impressive display, however, is that containing seven of the nine major stones cut from the Cullinan Diamond, the largest ever found.

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