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.”

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

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.

<a href="http://oas.theguardian.com/RealMedia/ads/click_nx.ads/guardianapis.com/world/oas.html/@Bottom" rel="nofollow"> <img src="http://oas.theguardian.com/RealMedia/ads/adstream_nx.ads/guardianapis.com/world/oas.html/@Bottom" alt="Ads by The Guardian" /> </a>

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

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."

<a href="http://oas.theguardian.com/RealMedia/ads/click_nx.ads/guardianapis.com/world/oas.html/@Bottom" rel="nofollow"> <img src="http://oas.theguardian.com/RealMedia/ads/adstream_nx.ads/guardianapis.com/world/oas.html/@Bottom" alt="Ads by The Guardian" /> </a>

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

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.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

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

<a href="http://oas.theguardian.com/RealMedia/ads/click_nx.ads/guardianapis.com/world/oas.html/@Bottom" rel="nofollow"> <img src="http://oas.theguardian.com/RealMedia/ads/adstream_nx.ads/guardianapis.com/world/oas.html/@Bottom" alt="Ads by The Guardian" /> </a>

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

Boot up: Google Glass privacy, Facebook video ads, iOS 7 apps threat, Kazam smartphones and more

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Boot up: Google Glass privacy, Facebook video ads, iOS 7 apps threat, Kazam smartphones and more” was written by Stuart Dredge, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 19th June 2013 06.30 UTC

A quick burst of 10 links for you to chew over, as picked by the Technology team

Privacy authorities issue Google a ‘please explain’ on Glass | ZDNet

Josh Taylor:

In April, Australian Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim requested a briefing with Google on the device, and today he, and nine of his colleagues from Canada, New Zealand, Israel, Mexico, and Switzerland, among others, have written to Page asking for detailed information on Google Glass, stating that their knowledge on it comes "from media reports, which contain a great deal of speculation".

The commissioners state in the letter that Google has not approached them to discuss the associated ethical issues with Google Glass while the product is in early testing stages with developers.

They have asked Google eight questions around the associated privacy issues, including asking Google to explain how Glass complies with data protection laws, what the privacy safeguards are, what information Google collects through Glass, who that information is shared with, and whether Google has undertaken a privacy risk assessment.

The suspicion is that Google itself doesn’t understand all the ethical issues yet: that’s partly what the early tests are for. It’s a reminder that outside the early-adopter bubble, Glass’ privacy implications will be on the agenda for politicians as well as the public.


Facebook’s Video Ads Now Likely Delayed Until Fall >> Advertising Age

Cotton Delo:

As of late last year, Facebook was prepping video ads for their debut in the first half of 2013, but the launch was pushed back to the summer. Now it’s unofficially been pushed back until mid-October, according to a source familiar with the product. The given reason is that there are new features Facebook wants to release concurrently with video ads, and they require more software development.

Facebook needs to tread very carefully with this one to avoid a big user backlash, even if its sales teams are champing at the bit as AdAge suggests. I’m intrigued to see how video ads are handled on mobile, to avoid users hurtling through their data limits.


Radical iOS 7 Design Is Threat To Some Existing Apps >> ReadWrite

Brian S. Hall:

iOS 7 is a truly audacious redesign of Apple’s chief operating system. I have been using the beta version since last week and it’s abundantly clear that Apple is determinedly focused on ensuring that iOS–the software underpinnings of the iPhone and iPad–remains the simplest, purest OS on the planet. It’s also obvious that the new iOS 7 design and enhanced functionality will kill off many non-Apple apps, including some good ones.

Weep for the flashlight-app makers. The claim that "iTunes Radio should choke off all but the very best most-entrenched streaming music competitors" is debatable too – or, at least, there are plenty of other reasons why the not-so-best competitors will fall by the wayside.


Kazam Is Another European Startup Hoping Against Hope To Inch In To The Smartphone Hardware Market >> TechCrunch

Natasha Lomas (hat tip to @modelportfolio2003):

Details of how exactly Kazam plans to assault the Samsung and Apple smartphone duopoly were not forthcoming when I asked. Atkins declined to answer the bulk of my questions — including such specifics as whether Kazam’s planned smartphones will run Android and be skinned with a custom UI or keep the experience familiarly stock. Instead, he trotted out a repeated PR mantra: "Today we are just announcing that the Kazam brand is here, for the rest you will have to wait and see."

Remember the days when the UK had its own smartphone manufacturer, Sendo? That didn’t end so well. Now Kazam, launched by two former HTC executives, is having another crack at the market, with plans to launch devices later this year. But for now, it’s all brand and no (public) hardware.


The Humble Bundle with Android 6

The latest games bundle for Android devices:

Pay what you want for the underwater fantasy action-adventure game Aquaria; the chromatic minimalist puzzler Fractal: Make Blooms Not War; the retro zombie survival game Organ Trail: Director’s Cut; and the nail-biting stealth strategy platformer Stealth Bastard Deluxe. You’ll also receive a bonus game: the rhythmic audio-visual game Pulse: Volume One. If you pay more than the average, you’ll also get the intense tactical combat sim Frozen Synapse and the classic mystery point-and-click adventure Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars – Director’s Cut!

Many games developers criticise Android for its users’ perceived unwillingness to pay for content. Yet with 13 days to go, more than 68k people have stumped up just under 0k for the latest Humble Bundle. There’s life beyond the Google Play store…


Premium Smartphone Market: Why the Apple vs. Samsung Duopoly is Misleading >> Tech-Thoughts

Sameer Singh (hat tip to @HotSoup):

The chart above shows the ratio of premium (0+) smartphone shipments from other vendors to Apple’s and Samsung’s shipments. While the share of "Others" in the premium smartphone market doubled from 7% in May 2012, to 15% in May 2013, the pattern with respect to Apple & Samsung is quite interesting. In May 2012, premium smartphone shipments from "Others" were just 10% of Apple’s shipments and about 35% of Samsung’s shipments. By May 2013, the shipments from "Others" had grown to nearly 40% of Apple’s shipments and remained at 32% of Samsung’s shipments.

A smart look at the data, but do you agree with the conclusion that "the 0+, premium smartphone market may begin to lose its relevance in a year"?


Musical Identity >> The Echo Nest

From the music technology company’s new Musical Identity blog:

Can your music taste predict your taste in other forms of entertainment (books, movies, games, etc)? This post focuses on some (hopefully) amusing, interesting examples of what our Taste Profiling technology can uncover about the relationship between one’s taste in music and one’s taste in movies.

BREAKING: Fans of romantic comedies also like Céline Dion. But there are some interesting insights here, and implications for how the likes of Amazon, Apple and Google may be able to learn from our preferences in one area to recommend things in others.


Rihanna Passes Justin Bieber as Most Viewed Artist on YouTube >> The Hollywood Reporter

William Gruger:

Some time early Tuesday morning, June 18, Rihanna passed Justin Bieber as the most-viewed artist on YouTube. The 77 videos on Rihanna’s official VEVO channel now have a combined 3.784 billion views in total, surpassing the total view counts of the 79 videos on Bieber’s official VEVO channel by roughly two million views.

It’s all about the subscribers, apparently: Rihanna has 8.73m while Justin has 4.9m. Still, Bieber remains Twitter king with 40.6m followers. Perhaps he should start tweeting more YouTube links at them.


One year later, the Nexus 7 has gone from the best to worst tablet I’ve ever owned >> Android and Me

Dustin Earley:

I don’t remember when it first started happening, but most say it was when Android 4.2 began hitting devices. The new features and changes in Jelly Bean, 4.2, were certainly welcome additions, but my Nexus’ new found love of life in the slow-lane was not. I have not spent a full year using the Nexus 7 as a daily driver, only the last six months. So at first, I didn’t notice just how bad things had gotten. I thought maybe it was an illusion from using so many high-end Android phones. Until I started asking around.

Commenters suggest (a) SSD hitting the end of its read-write life (b) Google Currents sucking up resource (c) too little free disk space (d) he’s been mistreating it.


Why can’t Facebook help Emma Watson with her naked photo problem? >> Graham Cluley

So, if I’m seeing these messages, and readers of this blog keep seeing these messages, why isn’t Facebook’s security team seeing these messages?

Or is it that they *are* seeing the messages, but they either:

a) don’t care?

b) aren’t capable of doing anything effective to stop them?

Whatever the explanation, it’s disturbing to continue to see spams and scams spreading so effectively across the world’s most popular social network.

There aren’t any nekkid pics. The app pretending there are will take a lot of liberties, though.


You can follow Guardian Technology’s linkbucket on Pinboard. To suggest a link, either add it below or tag it with @gdntech on the free Delicious service.

<a href="http://oas.theguardian.com/RealMedia/ads/click_nx.ads/guardianapis.com/technology/oas.html/@Bottom" rel="nofollow"> <img src="http://oas.theguardian.com/RealMedia/ads/adstream_nx.ads/guardianapis.com/technology/oas.html/@Bottom" alt="Ads by The Guardian" /> </a>

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

Biden promises to offer gun control recommendations by Tuesday

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Biden promises to offer gun control recommendations by Tuesday” was written by Adam Gabbatt in New York, for guardian.co.uk on Thursday 10th January 2013 19.22 UTC

The US vice-president, Joe Biden, said he expects to report his gun control recommendations to Barack Obama as early as Tuesday, declaring that the public had been reviled by images of children “riddled with bullets”.

Biden, speaking before a meeting with representatives of the National Rifle Association, said he would make his recommendations well before Obama’s stated deadline of the end of January.

Earlier this week, the Biden met gun-safety groups and families of victims of mass shootings. He said suggestions made to his gun control taskforce had included consistent support for “universal background checks” on gun ownership and an agreement on the “need to do something about high-capacity magazines”.

Biden said in a Washington news briefing that he would deliver his findings early because of the “tight window” the government had in which to act.

The vice-president has already pledged that the president “is going to act” on gun control, and he invoked the tragic events of Newtown on Thursday.

“There is nothing that has pricked the consciousness of the American people,” he said. “There is nothing that has gone to the heart of the matter more than the visual image people have of little six-year-old kids riddled – not shot with a stray bullet – riddled, riddled, with bullet holes in their classroom.”

As Biden was speaking, reports emerged of a shooting at Taft High School in Kern County, California. A spokesman for the sheriff’s office told the Associated Press that one student had been shot at the school. The suspect had been taken into custody.

Biden said the suggestions he had heard so far involved more than “just closing the gunshow loophole”. A common theme from the meetings, which have included one-on-ones with families of the Virginia Tech and Aurora shootings, had been “support for total universal background checks, including private sales”, Biden said. Critics of America’s gun laws argue that the current legislation on private sales enables anyone to purchase firearms without the background checks required in gun stores.

Another much-discussed issue was the possibility of regulating high capacity-magazines Biden said. The “need to do something” about the magazines, which can allow a shooter to fire as many as 100 rounds without the need to reload, was something that the vice-president’s taskforce had “heard spontaneously from every group we’ve met so far”, he said.

“The last area is the whole subject of the ability of any federal agency to do research on gun violence,” he added. The NRA has long lobbied against federal funds being spent on research into gun laws and ownership, while Obama’s healthcare legislation includes a provision that prevents the government and health insurers from asking about gun ownership, prohibiting the ability for the government to collect data.

Biden compared the current regulations on the government collecting data on firearms with 1970s restrictions on federal research into the cause of traffic fatalities. He said there was a need to find out “what kind of weapons are used most to kill people” and “what kind of weapons are trafficked weapons”.

On Wednesday Biden had promised that “the president is going to act” on gun control during meetings with victims’ groups and gun-safety organisations. Two survivors of the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, where 32 people died, were present, as well as the stepfather of an Aurora, Colorado, massacre victim.

Biden will meet with representatives from six gun groups on Thursday, including the NRA and the Independent Firearms Owners Association, which are both publicly opposed to stricter gun-control laws. The vice-president will also meet with Walmart, the biggest US gun seller.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

CES 2013: as big as ever, but is it out of date?


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “CES 2013: as big as ever, but is it out of date?” was written by Rory Carroll in Las Vegas, for The Guardian on Wednesday 9th January 2013 08.53 UTC

The world’s biggest consumer technology expo opened on Tuesday to a familiar scene: thousands of gadget buffs streaming down Paradise Road to the cavernous Las Vegas convention centre, eager to glimpse the devices and trends of the future.

For the next four days the Consumer Electronics Show will unveil technological advances and launch 20,000 products and prototypes – a vast bazaar showcasing new phones, new televisions, new tablets, new everything.

“Oh my God, I can’t believe I’m here!” squealed a voice as crowds surged through the doors. Tweets from those visiting the booths of Samsung and the like declared them “awesome” and “amazing”.

The event is as big as ever: around 150,000 industry professionals – entrepreneurs, executives, designers, bloggers – crawling over 1.85m sq ft of exhibition space. The chief executive of mobile chip maker Qualcomm, Paul Jacobs, who delivered the keynote speech on Monday night, said its wares would change the world. “There are almost as many mobile connections as people on earth. Pretty soon mobile connections will outnumber us.”

But there is a problem. Sceptics say that the world has changed faster than CES, that the pre-eminence of the internet and software has marginalised an event still tethered mainly to hardware, and that CES is sliding into limbo as a consequence.

Wired, the technology magazine, declared on the convention’s eve: “As software matters more and more, CES matters less and less. The internet is already the world’s largest trade show. Gadget blogs are the new conventions.

“Sure, big electronics shows offer the opportunity to meet people and forge relationships. But even that transaction is being moved online in the era of real-time social media.”

Hardware has become increasingly meaningless as upgrade cycles accelerate and spread across platforms, it argues, citing the Nokia Lumia 900, a flagship phone hailed as the next big thing at last year’s CES. It was a hardware triumph but disappeared after Microsoft announced Windows Phone 8, rendering the Lumia, which used Windows Phone 7.5, obsolete.

Wired at least sent reporters to Las Vegas. The news site BuzzFeed boycotted and published a story headlined “Why We’re Not at the Biggest Tech Show in the World.”

After years of dwindling relevance CES was no longer the most important place to go to see trends in technology, it said. “Seriously doesn’t the word ‘electronics’ in the conference’s dusty title make your eyes instantly droop a bit?”

One problem raised by the news site BuzzFeed was the event’s focus on hardware at the expense of software and services. The other was that social media had displaced traditional conventions as forums to showcase products and ideas. It noted that none of the four technology companies which “truly matter to people” – Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google – were exhibiting at the expo.

For years Microsoft’s chief executive, Steve Ballmer, had given the keynote speech at the Venetian resort hotel. But the company pulled out this year, handing the job to Jacobs of Qualcomm. In his speech Jacobs exuded optimism and said “Gen M” – generation mobile – would keep the industry humming. He underlined his point by unveiling Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 800 Series processor. Due on the market this summer, it should improve the performance of smartphones and cars and give rival Intel a run for its money. And as if to rebuff accusations of dwindling relevance, Jacobs spiced up his speech with eclectic celebrity guests. Director Guillermo del Toro came on stage to show a clip of his new robot film, Pacific Rim, streaming it from a tablet that uses a new Qualcomm chip.

“Snapdragon ensures the film you see will be viewed exactly as I want it to be seen. When you’re watching a great film, you want a great experience.”

The Nascar driver Brad Keselowski displayed an app which lets fans follow drivers during races. The actor Alice Eve lauded a new app for her new film, Star Trek: Into Darkness. Big Bird from Sesame Street appeared to plug an app which helps children with vocabulary. For the industry audience the biggest and most welcome surprise was Microsoft’s Ballmer, who made a cameo to talk up the tech giant’s new generation tablets and smartphones.

This week’s CES is expected to be dominated by ultra HD TVs, supersized smartphones, acrobatic PCs and sensors which replace the mouse by tracking gestures and eye movements. If any of that catches on CES will claim, as ever, that you saw the future here first.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

The changing face of US education: introducing a three-part series

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “The changing face of US education: introducing a three-part series” was written by Jeevan Vasagar, for guardian.co.uk on Friday 26th October 2012 19.08 UTC

Education is crucial to the future of the US, both as a gateway to the middle class and to secure a competitive edge in the global talent pool. Both Democrats and Republicans are concerned that rising tuition is putting college out of reach for too many people – potentially blighting the country’s future prosperity as higher education expands rapidly around the world. Both parties are concerned by international comparisons that show the academic performance of US high school students is relatively mediocre. But when it comes to solving these problems, there are marked differences between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

In schools, the president has pushed for increased accountability for teachers, by tying teacher evaluations to students’ results in standardized tests. He has promoted charter schools, which are state-funded but independently run, giving parents an alternative to traditional public schools.

Romney supports both these goals, but is also keen to provide federal cash for school vouchers that would educate children in private or religious schools at public expense.

In higher education, the Republicans want to narrow the focus of the Pell Grant programme, which supports the poorest students. Romney also wants to loosen regulations on for-profit colleges, relying on competition to keep tuition costs down.

Obama has raised the maximum Pell Grant award for the next academic year, and campaigned to persuade Congress to keep interest rates down on federal loans. He wants to curb the cost of tuition by using federal money to reward colleges that keep tuition affordable.

In a three-part series, we explore the changing face of schools and universities in the US. The series looks at K12 education in New Orleans, where a a majority of schools are now charters and a voucher scheme allows tax dollars to follow children into private education. It examines school reforms begun in Florida, which have now inspired change across the country. And as states slash spending on higher education, it looks at the threats facing the public university system.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.