The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka » Sunday Times 2 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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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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British journalist details horrifying sexual assault in Egypt Sat, 30 Jun 2012 16:28:07 +0000 Pubudu A British journalist was brutally sexually assaulted in Cairo’s Tahrir Square as thousands of Egyptians gathered to celebrate the nation’s presidential election results. Natasha Smith, 21, has detailed how she was violently attacked by a ‘group of animals’ who stripped her naked.

She only escaped by donning men’s clothes and a burka and being whisked away to safety by two other men.
Writing on her blog, she said: ‘All I could see was leering faces, more and more faces sneering and jeering as I was tossed around like fresh meat among starving lions.’

Assaulted: Natasha Smith has written about her horrific ordeal in Tahrir Square on her blog

Assaulted: Natasha Smith has written about her horrific ordeal in Tahrir Square on her blog

The incident occured on Sunday when Egyptians flooded the area celebrating the announcement Mohammed Morsi would be the nation’s first democratically elected leader.Smith, who will graduate with an MA in International Journalism from University College Falmouth in August, was in Tahrir to film the crowd for a documentary on women’s rights. But the initial ‘atmosphere of jubilation, excitement, and happiness’, quickly turned against her.

She said: ‘Just as I realised I had reached the end of the bridge, I noticed the crowd became thicker, and decided immediately to turn around to avoid Tahrir Square.

‘My friends and I tried to leave. I tried to put my camera back in my rucksack. But in a split second, everything changed.

‘Men had been groping me for a while, but suddenly, something shifted. I found myself being dragged from my male friend, groped all over, with increasing force and aggression.

‘I screamed. I could see what was happening and I saw that I was powerless to stop it. I couldn’t believe I had got into this situation.’
The former Weymouth College and University of Nottingham student said she was then stripped naked and assaulted.
She wrote: ‘I began to think, ‘maybe this is just it. Maybe this is how I go, how I die. I’ve had a good life. Whether I live or die, this will all be over soon.’

A friend eventually reached her and managed to guide her to a medical tent. Local women helped protect her as she put on the burka and clothes.

She said: ‘The men outside remained thirsty for blood; their prey had been cruelly snatched from their grasp.
‘They peered in, so I had to duck down and hide. They attempted to attack the tent, and those inside began making a barricade out of chairs. They wanted my blood.’

She then escaped by posing as a stranger’s wife and walking out hand-in-hand with the man.She added: ‘The women told me the attack was motivated by rumours spread by trouble-making thugs that I was a foreign spy.

‘But if that was the cause, it was only really used as a pretext, an excuse, to molest and violate a blonde young Western girl.’
Smith is not the first western woman to be assaulted while working in Egypt. CBS News’ Lara Logan was attacked during the 2011 revolution. She said ‘men in the crowd had raped me with their hands’.

Egyptian journalist Mona Eltahawy was also assaulted by Egyptian security forces in November.
And Smith has vowed that the abuse would not stop her from exposing the wider issue of sexual assault in the country.
She said: ‘I will overcome this and come back stronger and wiser. My documentary will be fuelled by my passion to help make people aware of just how serious this issue is.

‘It’s not just a passing news story that briefly gets people’s attention then is forgotten. This is a consistent trend and it has to stop.
‘Arab women, western women – there are so many sufferers.’

© Daily Mail, London

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U.S. Army develops lightning bolt to destroy enemy vehicles Sat, 30 Jun 2012 16:29:02 +0000 Pubudu The United States Army’s team of scientists is busy at work developing a device that will shoot lightning bolts down laser beams to destroy its target.And they are doing it with gusto – announcing their work with a hearty: ‘Soldiers and science fiction fans, you’re welcome.’

The Laser-Induced Plasma Channel, or LIPC, is designed to take out targets that conduct electricity better than the air or ground that surrounds them.And the research is a lot of work, but as George Fischer, lead scientist on the project, said: ‘We never got tired of the lightning bolts zapping our (simulated) targets.’

Quick fire! A guided lightning bolt travels horizontally, then hits a car when it finds the lower resistance path to ground

The idea is for a laser beam to be sent in the direction of the target.When it approaches, the target, such as an enemy vehicle, will be a better conductor than the ground it sits on, leading to a massive current rocketing through it.
Fischer said: ‘Light travels more slowly in gases and solids than it does in a vacuum.

‘We typically think of the speed of light in each material as constant. There is, however, a very small additional intensity-dependent factor to its speed.’In air, this factor is positive, so light slows down by a tiny fraction when the light is more intense.

‘If a laser puts out a pulse with modest energy, but the time is incredibly tiny, the power can be huge – during the duration of the laser pulse, it can be putting out more power than a large city needs, but the pulse only lasts for two-trillionths of a second.

‘We use an ultra-short-pulse laser of modest energy to make a laser beam so intense that it focuses on itself in air and stays focused in a filament.’

To put the energy output in perspective, a big filament light bulb uses 100 watts. The laser output is 50 billion watts of optical power.’If a laser beam is intense enough, its electro-magnetic field is strong enough to rip electrons off of air molecules, creating plasma.

‘This plasma is located along the path of the laser beam, so we can direct it wherever we want by moving a mirror.’
Tom Shadis, project officer on the programme said: ‘Definitely our last week of testing in January 2012 was a highlight.
‘We had a well thought-out test plan and our ARDEC and contractor team worked together tirelessly and efficiently over long hours to work through the entire plan.

‘The excellent results certainly added to the excitement and camaraderie.’

© Daily Mail, London

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Samsung to fight block on US sales of Galaxy Nexus tablet Sat, 30 Jun 2012 16:31:39 +0000 Pubudu SEOUL, June 30 (AFP) South Korea’s Samsung vowed Saturday to “take all available measures” to fight a US court’s decision to block American sales of its Galaxy Nexus smartphones made in collaboration with Google.

US District Court Judge Lucy Koh on Friday granted Apple’s request for an injunction blocking US sales of the smartphone, a model that aims to challenge the iPhone.

Hugo Barra, director of product management of Google, unveils Nexus 7 tablet during Google in San Fransisco (REUTERS)

“Samsung is disappointed, as the court’s ruling will restrict American consumer choice in the smartphone market,” said the world’s largest smartphone maker in a statement.

The company said it was working closely with Google to resolve the matter.“Samsung will continue to take all available measures, including legal action, to ensure the Galaxy Nexus remains available to consumers,” it added.

Friday’s ruling was the second victory for California-based Apple this week in a fierce and complex patent war with the South Korean consumer electronics giant.On Tuesday, the same judge barred the sale of Samsung’s new Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet computer, saying that Apple had presented “a strong case” for the injunction.

Both Galaxy devices are powered by Android operating software that Google makes available for free to gadget makers, and Nexus is the Mountain View, California-based technology company’s own branded line.

The injunction won’t go into effect until Apple posts a $95.6 million bond with the court, which would secure payment of damages to Samsung if it were to win the case.

Galaxy Nexus launched in the United States in April and Google gave the smartphones to developers at its annual conference in San Francisco this week as part of a “tool kit” to create applications for the Android mobile platform.

Blackberry maker RIM to cut 5,000 jobs and delay new phone 

Poor show: BlackBerry revealed worse than expected quarter results

Struggling BlackBerry maker Research In Motion Ltd. revealed Thursday that its business is crumbling faster than expected.
The Canadian company posted worse results for its latest quarter than analysts had expected.

It’s cutting 5,000 jobs and delaying the launch of its new phone operating system, BlackBerry 10, until after the holiday shopping season.

After several delays, the first phone with BlackBerry 10 was expected later this year. It will be delayed even longer, to the first quarter of next year, RIM CEO Thorsten Heins said.

The delay comes as North Americans are abandoning BlackBerrys for iPhones and Android phones.

© Daily Mail, London

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