American survivor of female genital mutilation calls on US to take action

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “American survivor of female genital mutilation calls on US to take action” was written by Alexandra Topping in New York, for The Guardian on Monday 12th May 2014 13.10 UTC

A 24-year-old American survivor of female genital mutilation called on the US government on Monday to help bring an end to FGM in the United States by gathering vital information about the practice in an effort to protect girls across the nation.

Jaha Dukureh, a mother of three from Atlanta, is urging President Barack Obama to order the department of health and human services to carry out a new study on FGM in the US that would establish how many American women and girls are at risk of the practice – the first step in tackling a crime that experts say stubbornly persists despite legislative efforts.

NGOs and survivors from affected communities have told the Guardian that American girls are being taken overseas to be cut, while others are cut by hired women on US soil. When legislation outlawing FGM in the US was passed in 1996, the Department of Health and Human Services put the number of women and girls affected or at risk at 168,000. But as affected communities have grown, the number is believed to have grown by 35% to at least 228,000 by 2000, according to research from the African women’s health center of Brigham and Women’s hospital in Boston, Massachusetts.

United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon has endorsed Dukureh’s campaign, which is being highlighted by the Guardian, calling FGM “a terrible threat to girls and women, including those in the United States”. Supporters can sign her petition on the Change.org website.

“There is no way you should be born in America and still be worried about female genital mutilation,” said Dukureh. “America is the land of the free. In this country girls are protected. But FGM is not something that is happening in a far away place, it is happening here to American girls. They may come from immigrant communities, that doesn’t make it acceptable.”

Ban Ki-moon said FGM had to be tackled as a human rights issue. “I am proud to lend my voice to this important campaign. Governments around the world must work to protect girls from the barbaric practice of FGM,” he said.

He added that he had been inspired by meeting Fahma Mohammed, the young British activist who spearheaded a campaign in the UK, which resulted in the British government writing to all schools warning teachers about the dangers of the practice.

“Her courage and conviction show that one person can make an enormous difference. Now we are seeing Jaha Dukureh taking up the challenge in the United States, where I hope she will have equal success,” he said. “FGM is a terrible threat to girls and women, including those in the United States and other countries where the practice is not well-known. We have to break all taboos about speaking out against this practice so that we can end it.”

He added his voice to the call for better data collection and more government and public commitment to tackle the practice. “We need more information on how many girls are sent from the United States for FGM, we need more discussion about the issue – and above all, we need action,” he said.

FGM on a minor has been illegal in the United States under federal law since 1996 and 22 states have passed their own FGM laws. Last year, through the Girls Protection Act, Congress closed a loophole which meant girls could still be taken back to home countries in the summer – a practice known as “vacation cutting”. Only six states have outlawed vacation cutting.

Joe Crowley, the Democratic congressman for New York’s 14th district – who alongside Republican Mary Bono Mack spearheaded the passing of the Girls Protection Act in 2013 – said: “People have the idea that this is happening elsewhere and not right here in their backyard. The reality is FGM is taking place here and is happening to US citizens.”

He called for greater awareness among professionals who might come into contact with victims. “We have the laws we need in place,” he said. “What we now need is a campaign of education, of understanding and compassion by law enforcement, by educators and by the medical community We need to bring all forces that can be brought to bear to eradicate FGM in this country. “

Without a prosecution under federal law and little awareness of the highly secretive ritual, experts warn that the practice is still being carried out when girls are taken to meet extended families, or is happening by hired “cutters” on American soil.

Mariama Diallo, African Community Specialist at Sanctuary for Families, a non-profit that works with affected communities, said she regularly came across cases of high school students who had been taken “home” to be cut. “We also hear from community members that families pay for flights for cutters to come to the US and do it, but this is more likely to affect babies so no one will find out.”

Shelby Quast, senior policy advisor at Equality Now, said: “We think that with the growing immigration there is quite a big problem with women at risk in the US as well women who have been subjected to FGM. We need to do a great deal more in educating people, making it known what FGM is, and making sure that there are places that girls who are at risk can report and those that hear them have some place that they can go.”

More than 140 million women and girls worldwide have suffered FGM, with up to 98% of girls mutilated in certain African, Middle Eastern and Asian countries. The practice – typically carried out on girls between the ages of four and 12, though victims can be as young as just a few weeks old – involves the removal of part or all of a female’s outer sexual organs. In some instances part or all of the clitoris is removed while in the most extreme cases, girls are sewn up with only a small hole left to pass urine and menstruate.

Related complications – both physical and psychological – can be lifelong and catastrophic. The Guardian spoke to Naima Abdullahi, who went through FGM in Kenya when she was nine years old. She still suffers from trauma and hip problems related to struggling when she was being pinned down by two women in order to be cut. “This is something I live with every day. It is something I carry and every woman like me has learnt to carry,” she said. Other related issues include recurrent infections, reduced fertility, complications during childbirth and severe pain during sex.

Among other survivors interviewed by the Guardian, some like Leyla were cut on a family holiday, during their first visit to their parent’s home country. “There was no anaesthetic, no gloves, no pain medication after – no nurse to take care of you,” she said. “It was the most painful thing I have ever experienced.”

Deeply rooted in some cultures where it has been practised for thousands of years, FGM – sometimes referred to a female genital cutting – is traditionally seen as a way of maintaining a girl’s virginity before marriage, but condemned by campaigners as a means of controlling women’s fertility and sexual desire.

Despite the passing of laws the US government and public at large have been reluctant to tackle FGM head on because of cultural sensitivities, said long-term campaigner Taima Bien Aime, now executive director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women. “FGM is a taboo that is yet to be broken in the States,” she said. “People, both in the community and outside it, just do not want to talk about it. And that makes it very difficult for women to stand up and say ‘this happened to me.’”

But it is time for survivors to speak out and for government action, said Dukureh, who has set up a grassroots organisation – Safe Hands for Girls – to raise awareness about FGM. “Someone has to talk about this, someone has to say what is going on,” she said. “Most of the time, what we hear from government officials is –this is their culture. But I’m a woman from this culture and I’m saying, this is not to my benefit. This is abuse and it is time we did something to stop it.”

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LA Clippers owner Sterling appeals for forgiveness but critics say he must sell

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “LA Clippers owner Sterling appeals for forgiveness but critics say he must sell” was written by Rory Carroll in Los Angeles, for theguardian.com on Monday 12th May 2014 21.32 UTC

Political and sporting figures have insisted that Donald Sterling must sell the Los Angeles Clippers despite his apology for racist remarks, with some warning of a player boycott if he tried to remain as owner of the NBA team.

The swift and uncompromising response to the billionaire’s appeal for forgiveness in an interview on CNN on Monday increased the likelihood of a costly legal battle between Sterling and the NBA, which wishes to expel him from the sport.

Magic Johnson, the basketball legend turned investor, said players might shun the team if the 80-year-old Sterling stayed on as owner. “They’ll probably boycott,” he told ESPN.

LeBron James of the Miami Heat said players also opposed Sterling’s wife, Shelly, remaining as an owner. “As players, we want what’s right, and we feel like no one in his family should be able to own the team.” The NBA has also said that Shelly Sterling should not remain as owner.

A spokesman for LA’s mayor, Eric Garcetti, said in a statement that Sterling had to go, notwithstanding his mea culpa. “We still believe a change of ownership is in the best interests of the fans and our city.”

The real estate tycoon broke his silence to CNN’s Anderson Cooper two weeks after the NBA banned him for life over a leaked tape in which he told a female friend, V Stiviano, to not associate with black people.

“I’m not a racist and I’ve never been a racist,” he said in one of the segments released on Sunday in advance of the full interview. “When I listen to that tape I don’t even know how I can say words like that.”

Sterling said he had been “foolish” and “baited” into making the comments by a woman 51 years his junior. “I don’t know why the girl had me say those things … I mean, that’s not the way I talk. I don’t talk about people for one thing, ever. I talk about ideas and other things. I don’t talk about people."

He said he was a good member of the NBA and requested forgiveness. "Am I entitled to one mistake? Am I? After 35 years? I mean, I love my league, I love my partners. Am I entitled to one mistake? It’s a terrible mistake, and I’ll never do it again."

The interview backfired to some extent, however, by making fresh swipes at Johnson, who is part of a consortium which wants to buy the Clippers. Sterling said the former Lakers star was “great” but had not done everything he could to help minorities. “I don’t think he’s a good example for the children of Los Angeles.”

In the original leaked conversation, which the celebrity news site TMZ posted last month, Sterling complained to Stiviano that she had posed for photographs with Johnson, and asked her to not bring black people to Clippers games.

Commentators and social media expressed indignation and bafflement at the renewed dig at an African American sporting hero. “At least that shows a bit of his true self,” tweeted the Los Angeles Times sports columnist BillPlaschke.

Sterling has faced previous accusations of racism related to the Clippers and his property empire.

The CNN interview came after the Clippers made a thrilling comeback on Sunday to beat Oklahoma City Thunder and tie their play-off series 2-2, with some calling it the biggest victory in the team’s history. The teams meet again on Tuesday.

The Clippers’ murky fate continued to overshadow the season’s climax, however, with Sterling hinting of a protracted legal battle with the NBA. “If they fight with me, and they spend millions, and I spend millions, let’s say I win or they win – I just don’t know if that’s important.”

TMZ reported that at least eight big law firms in LA and San Francisco had rebuffed Sterling because they considered him a “toxic” figure who would alienate their other clients.

His estranged wife Shelly has vowed to fight the NBA’s effort to also push her out of the team, setting the scene for a possible three-way fight.

In a statement released on Sunday night, the NBA said it would not be possible for Shelley Sterling to retain ownership of the team if her husband was forced to relinquish control. It said: "Under the NBA Constitution, if a controlling owner’s interest is terminated by a three-quarter vote, all other team owners’ interests are automatically terminated as well. It doesn’t matter whether the owners are related as is the case here. These are the rules to which all NBA owners agreed to as a condition of owning their team."

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US special forces told not to fly to Benghazi in wake of attack – diplomat

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “US special forces told not to fly to Benghazi in wake of attack – diplomat” was written by Dan Roberts, for theguardian.com on Monday 6th May 2013 22.22 UTC

Republican critics of Hilary Clinton have released selected testimony from a forthcoming hearing on the Benghazi embassy attack which appears to show that special forces and fast jets could have arrived in time to protect US diplomats.

As the political fallout from the September 2012 incident continues to dog Clinton, the former secretary of state, a witness due to speak before the House oversight committee on Wednesday alleges that military commanders blocked deployment of troops or planes for fear of offending the new Libyan government.

Gregory Hicks, the former deputy chief of mission in Libya, told a congressional interview in pre-prepared testimony that he believed the arrival of special forces or jets could have saved lives or even prevented the attack, which led to the death of ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others.

The White House declined to comment, stressing that it was an interview it had not yet been able to view. It was also not possible to verify whether the selected testimony from Hicks released on Monday was a partial version designed to emphasise critical aspects.

It does, however, shed important new light on attempts to dispatch troops to Bengazi:

Hicks: So, Lieutenant Colonel Gibson, who is the Socafrica commander, his team – you know – they were on their way to the vehicles to go to the airport to get on the C-130 when he got a phone call from Socafrica, which said: you can’t go now, you don’t have authority to go now. And so they missed the flight. And, of course, this meant that one of the …

Questioner: They didn’t miss the flight. They were told not to board the flight.

Hicks: They were told not to board the flight, so they missed it. So, anyway, and yeah. I still remember Colonel Gibson – he said: "I have never been so embarrassed in my life that a State Department officer has bigger balls than somebody in the military." A nice compliment.

The testimony also raises questions about whether US officials in Washington and Libya were too cautious in responding to the attack, which is thought to have been carried out by fighters close to al-Qaida.

White House spokesman Jay Carney acknowledged that there had been mistakes made before the attack, but insisted these had been dealt with in subsequent investigations.

"There was an accountability review board chaired by two of the most distinguished experts in our national security establishment, nonpartisan experts – Admiral Mullen and Ambassador Pickering – who oversaw this review," said Carney.

"And it was unsparing. It was critical. And it held people accountable. And it made a series of recommendations for action that could be taken to improve security to reduce the potential for these kinds of events from happening in the future. And every single one of those recommendations has been or is being implemented by the State Department."

Nonetheless, Wednesday’s hearing looks set to re-open the issue both for the White House and for Clinton, who is still widely tipped to be planning a presidential run at the next election.

Pressure is likely to focus on what steps the US took once it was aware the embassy was under attack, an issue the selected Hicks testimony suggests was badly handled:

Questioner: But do you think, you know, if an F-15, if the military had allowed a jet to go fly over, that it might have prevented [the second attack]?

Hicks: Yeah, and if we had gotten clearance from the Libyan military for an American plane to fly over Libyan airspace. The Libyans that I talked to and the Libyans and other Americans who were involved in the war have told me also that Libyan revolutionaries were very cognizant of the impact that American and NATO airpower had with respect to their victory. They are under no illusions that American and NATO airpower won that war for them. And so, in my personal opinion, a fast-mover flying over Benghazi at some point, you know, as soon as possible might very well have prevented some of the bad things that happened that night.

Questioner: The theory being, the folks on the ground that are doing these – committing these terrorist attacks look up, see a heavy duty airplane above, and decide to hightail it?

Hicks: I believe that if – I believe if we had been able to scramble a fighter or aircraft or two over Benghazi as quickly as possible after the attack commenced, I believe there would not have been a mortar attack on the annex in the morning because I believe the Libyans would have split. They would have been scared to death that we would have gotten a laser on them and killed them.

The hearing will also include testimony from Mark Thompson, acting deputy assistant secretary for counterterrorism, and Eric Nordstrom, a diplomatic security officer and former regional security officer in Libya.

In October 2012, the Oversight committee held the first hearing on the Benghazi attacks, which it says exposed denials of security requests and forced the administration to acknowledge that the attacks were not sparked by a protest of a YouTube video, contrary to claims made by Obama administration officials.

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Tim Geithner would have backed a Barclays bid for Lehman Brothers

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Tim Geithner would have backed a Barclays bid for Lehman Brothers” was written by Jill Treanor, for theguardian.com on Monday 12th May 2014 17.33 UTC

It will never been known what might have happened if Lehman Brothers had not collapsed in 2008, unleashing a wave of panic on the financial markets that led to the bailout of banks around the world.

But Tim Geithner, president of the New York Federal Reserve bank at the time of Lehman’s difficulties, admits that he would have backed a deal allowing Barclays to buy the Wall Street firm, potentially staving off its collapse. According to his book, Stress Test, Geithner would have supported the use of US public money to finance a loan helping Barclays secure a deal.

“In the end I’m confident the Fed would have helped finance a deal with a willing buyer,” Geithner writes. But he also makes the point that this still would not have surmounted another stumbling block: that Barclays was required to put its takeover to a shareholder vote and that a loan “would not have eliminated the risk to Barclays”.

In the end, the barriers to Barclays taking over Lehman Brothers were too high. But then, just days after Lehman’s collapse in September 2008, Barclays was picking off the Wall Street operations of the business and embarking on a rapid expansion of its investment banking arm.

Five years on, Barclays has announced it will be closing large parts of the investment banking arm again, axing almost one in three jobs. A comment piece in the German newspaper Handelsblatt has urged Deutsche Bank to become a European investment bank capable of competing with Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, now that Barclays is retrenching. Cue a mass arrival of CVs from Barclays’ bankers.

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Nigerian Boko Haram rebels parade ‘liberated’ girls in propaganda video

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Boko Haram rebels parade ‘liberated’ Nigerian girls in propaganda video” was written by Sam Jones, for The Guardian on Tuesday 13th May 2014 07.59 UTC

The dozens of young women corralled into a clearing to recite the first chapter of the Qur’an, their palms turned upwards in prayer but their collective gaze fixed mainly on the forest floor on which they sit, have, in their captors’ words, been "liberated".

Few, though, seem to be relishing their four weeks of freedom. Some shut their eyes tight in concentration or perhaps fear; others fidget, glance about and let the phrase "In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful" emerge through nearly motionless lips.

On Monday, almost a month after they were kidnapped, some of the 276 Nigerian girls snatched from their school under cover of darkness appeared to re-emerge in a propaganda video shot by Boko Haram, the Islamist group that has in recent days acquired the notoriety it has sought for years.

The 27-minute film, stamped with the logo of a pair of crossed Kalashnikovs, a black flag and an open Qur’an, shows around 130 girls wearing grey and black veils. Two of them speak of their conversion from Christianity to Islam.

Against a backdrop of such nervous stillness, Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, is even more animated than usual; no mean feat for a man once described as Boko Haram’s "craziest" commander.

In the video, Shekau appears nothing short of exultant as he reflects on the kidnapping and the global fury it has stirred.

"These girls; these girls you occupy yourselves with … we have indeed liberated them," he tells the camera with a grin. "These girls have become Muslims. They’re Muslims."

Dressed in combat fatigues with a camouflage scarf wrapped around his head and an assault rifle propped against his left shoulder, its long magazine curling across his chest, Shekau berates the Nigerian government for its treatment of the Boko Haram fighters it has captured.

But he also suggests to president Goodluck Jonathan a way out of the deepening crisis. "It’s now four or five years since you arrested our brethren and they’re still in your prisons and you’re doing many things to them," he says – a reference to allegations that the Nigerian military has routinely and brutally violated the human rights of those it suspects of belonging to the group.

"And now you’re talking about these girls. We’ll never release them until after you release our brothers."

Until that time, Shekau adds, the girls will be treated well – "in the way the Prophet would treat well any infidel he seized".

Asked whether the government intended to reject Shekau’s suggested deal, the Nigerian interior minister, Abba Moro, told AFP: "Of course", adding: "The issue in question is not about Boko Haram … giving conditions."

The video of the captive women – which came a week after Shekau threatened to sell them into marriage "in the market" – was swiftly condemned.

The former British prime minister Gordon Brown, now the UN special envoy for global education, accused Boko Haram of "cruelly and barbarically using 200 kidnapped girls to bargain for the release of prisoners and exploiting innocent young girls for political purposes".

He added: "It is urgent that all religious leaders in every part of the world speak out against their perverted and twisted version of Islam which involves forced conversions and the sale of girls as sex slaves."

After a fortnight in which it was criticised for failing to respond sufficiently quickly or effectively to the mass abduction, Nigeria has begun to accept international help as its forces scour the remote north-eastern reaches of the country for the girls and the men who took them.

The UK, the US and France have already dispatched specialist teams to Nigeria to share their expertise, while China has volunteered to share "any useful information acquired by its satellites and intelligence services". On Sunday, a spokesman for Jonathan said the president was pleased to have Israel’s "globally acknowledged anti-terrorism expertise deployed to support its ongoing operations".

The prospect of a more multilateral approach to the threat of Boko Haram was raised still further when the French president, François Hollande, said he had invited US and British officials to a summit in Paris this weekend to discuss how to deal with the Islamist group.

"I asked the Americans and British to send a delegation to Paris on Saturday so we can act together and in an efficient way," Hollande told journalists during a visit to the Armenian capital, Yerevan.

According to AFP, the leaders of Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Benin could also attend the event.

At the end of last week, the Nigerian army denied allegations from Amnesty International that it had had four hours’ warning that an armed convoy of Boko Haram militants was approaching the town of Chibok, from where the girls were kidnapped shortly before dawn on 15 April. A spokesman dismissed Amnesty’s report as a "rumours and allegations", adding: "They just want to give a dog a bad name in order to hang it. Their allegations are unfounded as usual."

The kidnapping of the schoolgirls – and the abduction last week of eight more girls in an overnight raid on another village in Boko Haram’s stronghold in north-eastern Borno state – has given rise to a global campaign and led figures including the Pope, the archbishop of Canterbury, David Cameron and Barack and Michelle Obama to call for their release.

On Saturday, the US first lady used her husband’s weekly video address to her anger over the abductions.

"Like millions of people across the globe, my husband and I are outraged and heartbroken over the kidnapping of more than 200 Nigerian girls from their school dormitory in the middle of the night," she said.

"This unconscionable act was committed by a terrorist group determined to keep these girls from getting an education – grown men attempting to snuff out the aspirations of young girls."

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Women who fear being forced to marry abroad told to hide spoon in underwear

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Women who fear being forced to marry abroad told to hide spoon in underwear” was written by Helen Nugent, for The Guardian on Thursday 15th August 2013 18.00 UTC

A number of women and girls at risk of forced marriage have avoided going abroad by concealing spoons in their underwear at airport security, according to a campaign group.

Karma Nirvana, a Derby-based charity that supports victims of forced marriage, advises people who ring its helpline to hide a spoon in order to set off metal detectors at British airports. The group says that its recommendation has prevented some women from being spirited overseas.

Last week ministers warned that young people were at the highest risk of being taken abroad for a forced marriage during the school holidays. The government’s forced marriage unit received 400 reports between June and August last year, out of an annual total of 1,500.

No one knows for sure how many Britons are forced into marriage each year. Estimates range from 1,500 to 5,000. More than a third of those affected are thought to be aged under 16.

Speaking to the AFP news agency, Natasha Rattu, Karma Nirvana’s operations manager, said that when worried youngsters ring the charity’s helpline, “if they don’t know exactly when it may happen or if it’s going to happen, we advise them to put a spoon in their underwear.

“When they go through security, it will highlight this object in a private area and, if 16 or over, they will be taken to a safe space where they have that one last opportunity to disclose they’re being forced to marry.”

The government wants teachers, doctors and airport staff to be conscious of the issue of forced marriages over the summer break.

Aneeta Prem, founder and president of Freedom Charity, an organisation that deals with the prevention of forced marriage through education and training, believes that summer is a crucial time for children and young adults.

“Children go out of people’s consciousness over summer because they are away for such a long time,” she told the Guardian. “The victim may think they are going away to a family wedding, not knowing it is actually their wedding. And when they go they are often gone for a long time and don’t come back until they are pregnant.”

Campaigners fear official statistics on the number of forced marriages of UK citizens are just the tip of the iceberg, partly because children do not want to report their parents to the authorities or have little idea where to go for help.

Prem said: “Nobody knows what the true figure is because so many young victims are terrified of coming forward. But it is definitely much, much higher than what is reported.”

Freedom Charity has produced an app for potential victims of forced marriage or other abuse. It is also aimed at friends of those women who may be at risk and professionals such as teachers. Since the app was launched in March, more than 1,000 people have contacted Freedom Charity using the technology. The charity also has a 24-hour helpline.

The Karma Nirvana charity usually fields 6,500 calls a year from around Britain. This year, it has already reached that number.

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What kind of laptop should students buy?

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “What kind of laptop should students buy?” was written by Harry Slater, for theguardian.com on Thursday 15th August 2013 09.09 UTC

Topping the list of university essentials is a lightweight, well-equipped and robust laptop.

It should be portable enough to be easily carried from halls to lecture theatres to the library. It needs to boast the hardware and software for essay writing, note-taking and every form of procrastination in between. And ideally, it will last the length of your course.

The space-saving, lightweight champion is the netbook. An affordable choice, they’re ideal for lecture to library use. A good looking model with adequate Ram and hard drive space (4GB and 400GB respectively should cut it) can be picked up for £300-£350.

However, the netbook’s flagship portability costs it ease of use. Most only stretch to an 11″ screen, meaning long periods of use can be uncomfortable. If you have large, or even normal-sized hands, the small keyboard becomes a cramped and frustrating nuisance.

A larger screen would solve the problem, but this would undermine weight and portability – and that’s not advisable. Consider buying a netbook for when you’re on campus and a laptop for when you’re in halls – if you can afford it.

The more versatile option is to stick with the netbook and pair it with an external monitor, such as a £130 TV. Connect the two with an HDMI cable (don’t pay more than a fiver) and pick up a full-sized keyboard and mouse for under £15. The eye strain and cramp issues are no more, you have a decent telly, and the netbook’s portability can be reclaimed by unplugging a single cable.

If you’re studying design or any degree that involves more than typing and table filling, equip your kit with a beefy sound or graphics card. Additional Ram is a good idea but if you know you’re going to be putting your gear through heavy use, a speedier processor should be your first point of call.

Whatever you buy, register it with Immobilise. Logging your kit with the free service provides you with a way of proving ownership should your possessions be stolen and subsequently recovered. The local police service are often on campus during Freshers’ Week offering the opportunity to sign up, as well as offering general theft prevention advice.

Protect your laptop with anti-virus and internet security software, too. It’s very common, obvious advice – and viruses seem a thing of the past, but nothing makes you feel helpless like an infection.

Big name broadband providers offer this kind of software free when you sign up. Before you leave for university, find out if you can get this protection through the account holder for your home address. If not, it’s roughly £40 for total protection.

Be sure to get anti-virus and internet security software – they are often packaged separately, but can be bought as an all-in-one product. Make regular back-ups as well.

Finally, you’ll be needing some software to work on. The student edition of Microsoft Office includes everything most students need (Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote), and will set you back £109.99. iWork from Apple has much the same functionality but for a fraction of the price (£42 for Pages, Keynote and Numbers – its documents are compatible with Windows, too).

If you require specialist software, such as a voice recognition programme, look into the Disabled Students’ Allowances as you may be able to get a financial contribute to the cost.

• This article was amended on 15 August 2013. It previously stated that iWork is available on Windows.

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Do-it-yourself retirement v the plan that guarantees your income for years

 

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Obama condemns Egyptian violence and cancels joint military drills

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Obama condemns Egyptian violence and cancels joint military drills” was written by Dan Roberts in Washington, for The Guardian on Thursday 15th August 2013 18.30 UTC

Barack Obama has cancelled US military exercises with Egypt in a carefully-calibrated rebuke to its interim government that stopped short of a more significant suspension of aid.

Reacting to the killing of more than 500 anti-government protesters, the US president interrupted his family vacation on Martha’s Vineyard to condemn the bloodshed, but stressed that any move toward peaceful democracy was a difficult process that could take decades.

"We appreciate the complexity of the situation," he said. "We recognise that change takes time. There are going to be false starts and difficult days. We know that democratic transitions are measured not in months or even years, but sometimes in generations."

Obama also issued a reminder of why the US had initially chosen to support the ousting of Egypt’s first elected president following the overthrow of dictator Hosni Mubarak.

"While Mohamed Morsi was elected president in a democratic election, his government was not inclusive and did not respect the views of all Egyptians. We know that many Egyptians, millions of Egyptians, perhaps even a majority of Egyptians, were calling for a change in course."

Nevertheless, the White House statement was designed to reinforce a recent hardening of US criticism of the violence, which began on Wednesday with condemnation from secretary of state John Kerry and tough language from spokesman Josh Earnest.

Obama criticised the "arbitrary arrests" and persecution of Morsi supporters as well as the violence on Wednesday.

After Morsi was removed there remained an "opportunity to pursue a democratic path," Obama said. "Instead we’ve seen a more dangerous path taken."

His statement will disappoint some who hoped for a suspension, or even cancellation of .3bn in annual US military aid to Egypt, but Washington is anxious to retain this link for future leverage over the generals.

The Bright Star military exercise cancelled by the president was due to take place in September, but may have been in jeopardy regardless of US disapproval, since the fragile security situation in Egypt makes it hard to imagine the Pentagon sanctioning the deployment of hundreds of US troops into a hostile environment for mere training purposes.

Obama said he had notified the interim government that he is cancelling the bi-annual exercises and was asking advisers to "assess implications" of interim government’s actions and consider "further steps."

"The Egyptian people deserve better than what we’ve seen over the last several days … The cycle of violence and escalation needs to stop," he added.

Obama ended by saying: "America cannot determine the future of Egypt. That’s a task for the Egyptian people. We don’t take sides with any particular party or political figure."

Obama ignored questions from reporters outside his rented vacation home about whether the US would cut off aid. His audio statement was not initially televised, but video was released later.

Jen Psaki, the State Department spokeswoman, conceded that the cancellation of the joint training scheme would have only a limited, if any, impact on events in Egypt. "I don’t think anyone in the government thinks that simply the cancellation of BrightStar is going to change actions on the ground," she said.

Asked at a press briefing why the US had not curtailed its aid to Egypt in light of the mass killing, Psaki replied: "Given the depths of a partnership with Egypt, our national security interests in this part of the world, our belief, also, that engagement can support a transition back to a democratically elected civilian government, we have sustained that commitment.

"But of course we evaluate and review on a regular if not daily basis."

She added: "This is a rocky road back to democracy. We continue to work at it."

The US criticism of the violence in Egypt was echoed in other western countries, but opposition parties called for a firmer response.

British foreign secretary William Hague is being urged by the Labour opposition to convene an emergency meeting of European Union foreign ministers that could halt EU aid to Egypt.

The UK shadow foreign secretary, Douglas Alexander, also asked the foreign secretary to urge the US to suspend military assistance, saying the west should use "any lever" available to show that such crackdowns could not be tolerated.

In November, following the election of Mohamed Morsi, the European Union pledged nearly €5bn in loans and grants for 2012-13, plus potential loans through the European Investment Bank of up to €1bn a year.

Additional reporting by Rajeev Syal in London

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Why Tina Fey’s Mean Girls is a movie classic

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Why Tina Fey’s Mean Girls is a movie classic” was written by Priya Elan, for The Guardian on Tuesday 29th January 2013 11.28 UTC

Tina Fey may be planning a timely return to her 2004 film Mean Girls with a musical adaptation. “I’m trying to develop it with my husband, who does all the music for 30 Rock. And I think Paramount’s on board,” she said at the Screen Actors Guild awards on Sunday. Timely because nine years after its release the film remains a by-word for pop-culture savviness. In recent months it has been referenced by everyone from Jennifer Lawrence to Barack Obama (his official Tumblr features a gif from the film in which Lindsay Lohan mentions “October 3rd”, to notify followers of the date for a presidential debate). So what accounts for its longevity?

The plot is simple. Previously home-schooled 16-year-old Cady Heron (Lohan) attends high school for the first time. She falls in with a Heathers-like gang, called the Plastics, who tutor her in the bitchy mores of the teen clique. But Cady has a plan of her own …

For the high-school genre, Fey’s hilarious script was unusually astute and provocative. Replicating teen doublespeak with brilliant authenticity, the dialogue was full of zingers, accounting for its continued life online. Not only has it spawned a huge number of memes and gifs, phrases like “fetch” and “word vomit” have fallen into common parlance. Its cyber-life has afforded the film a special cachet. Which is why when Mariah Carey asked Nicki Minaj to name all the film’s characters on American Idol a few weeks ago, Carey was subtly questioning Minaj’s own authenticity. It was a pointed exchange that would have made the film’s own queen bee, Regina George, proud. Only last week Amanda Seyfried, in the news for Les Mis, said that Mean Girls was her “best work”.

Fey gave us some real moments of societal commentary in the film too. Subjects such as the early sexualisation of children (Regina’s little sister grinding along to Kelis’ Milkshake on the TV) and body dysmorphia (the ritualistic cries of “man shoulders” as the girls examine themselves in the mirror) were tackled with wit. One key plot device, the Burn Book – a scrapbook that features a photo of a person you hate with a single-line diss (“Grotsky little byotch” and “made out with a hotdog”) – today looks like the precursor of internet trolling and cyberbullying.

The main theme, though, was girl-on-girl crime, from passive-aggressive takedowns to real physical violence. This battle for “social acceptance by any means necessary” is something that continues to be played out in real life, and duplicated in shows like Gossip Girl and The Real Housewives in the US.

Mean Girls continues to be relevant and, to misquote the film, is more grool than ever.

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