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India's New $35 PC - Blessing or Curse?

— Filed under: Breaking News, Science & Technology
"America is a very powerful country,"...

Image by since1968 via Flickr

In a tremendous feat of modern engineering, India has developed a handheld tablet computer that costs just $35 and comes packed with features including a word processor, web browser, and solar power. PC World says that "in many ways the $35 tablet also makes the $500 iPad seem significantly over-priced."

The price is already a fraction of the $100 price proposed (but not yet achieved) by the One Laptop Per Child organization, yet India's government is planning to bring the cost of their new PC down to an unfathomably low $10 per unit.

This new tablet holds the promise of being a technological boon to millions of poorer households around the world, enabling many people to access the Web for the first time, provided they can find an Internet connection.… Continues …

"Biggest Leak Ever" Suggests Pakistan is Aiding the Taliban

— Filed under: Breaking News, Politics & Government

Image by Getty Images via @daylife

As the longest war in American history plods along in its ninth year, whistleblowing site Wikileaks has released thousands of pages of classified documents relating to the conflict in Afghanistan, which have subsequently been summarized and published by the New York Times and other online newspapers. The Guardian is calling it "the biggest leak in intelligence history."… Continues …

A Desperate Chavez Tells Colombia It's Over

— Filed under: Breaking News, Politics & Government
El Comandante Hugo Chavez en el Salón Ayacucho

Image by ¡Que comunismo! via Flickr

Known for his aggressive stances and incendiary speech over the past several years towards his country's neighbors, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez took the final step on Thursday of severing all ties with Colombia. The two countries have had a history of tensions which ratcheted up this month. Apparently the last straw came at a meeting of the Organization of American States, when Colombia presented evidence showing that guerrillas were hiding within Venezuela's borders, including members of FARC. In retaliation, Chavez announced that he was closing the embassy in Bogota while at the same time admitting that Colombia was their "brother nation".… Continues …

Summer of Racism in the United States

— Filed under: Breaking News, Politics & Government, People & Culture

Image by maHidoodi via Flickr

A glut of racially-tinged stories seems to be flooding the United States this summer - so many that it has some people wondering what the heck is going on.

The madness was prefaced in March of this year by racial epithets hurled at black members of Congress by people who were protesting the passage of the health care reform bill.

Then Arizona really stirred up the pot. The state passed their now-infamous and highly controversial immigration law, which contains a provision for law enforcement officials to demand immigration documents whenever they have "reasonable suspicion" that a person might be an illegal alien. Opponents of the law claim that it encourages racial profiling.… Continues …

New Report Details US Intelligence Bloat

— Filed under: Breaking News, Politics & Government
Top secret area

Image by Marcin Wichary via Flickr

The Washington Post today released a much-anticipated report entitled Top Secret America which highlights the increasing complexity and general unwieldiness of the US intelligence infrastructure. The bloat detailed in the two-year project is neatly summarized by the BBC:

"It says nearly 2,000 private companies and 1,270 government agencies are involved in counter-terror work at 10,000 locations across the country."

The report was heavily discussed and debated even before it was released. Apparently it caused a lot of fear and consternation in the intelligence community, which released statements and sent out preparatory emails to those likely to be affected.… Continues …

Burqas should be banned in all public areas

— Filed under: Politics & Government, People & Culture

Syria Issues Ban on Face Veils at Universities

— Filed under: Breaking News, Politics & Government, People & Culture

Three women with white niqab

Image by superblinkymac via Flickr

Syria has issued a directive forbidding its female students at public universities from wearing face-covering veils. The reason for this ban is to guard against Islamic fundamentalism. A source who wanted to remain anonymous said that the Minister of Higher Education in Syria told his assistants that "We will not leave our daughters a prey for extremist thoughts." Apparently the minister's edict has been well-received by most Syrians.

With all the uproar in Western Europe about countries banning or attempting to ban the burqa in public schools and elsewhere (in France last week, and currently being debated by Spain's parliament), it's a little surprising to see a Muslim country do it. It's also interesting to hear Syria take such a strong stand against extremist forms of Islam.… Continues …

Unnatural Selection: Genetically-Modified, Malaria-Proof Mosquitoes

— Filed under: Breaking News, Science & Technology
None - This image is in the public domain and ...

Image via Wikipedia

Scientists have at long last succeeded in creating a mosquito which is immune to the malaria parasite. Via genetic modification they have shortened the insect's lifespan by 20%, which deprives the parasite of sufficient time to mature in the mosquito's gut. The LA Times states that the researchers "don't yet understand how the genetic change makes the mosquitoes malaria-proof." That doesn't diminish the tremendous potential it represents for tropical regions around the world, where malaria remains a major scourge and kills nearly 1 million people each year.

According to the BBC, "[the researchers'] ultimate goal is to introduce malaria-resistant mosquitoes into the environment." Professor Michael Riehle, working on the project, elaborates:

"Before we do this, we have to somehow give the mosquitoes a competitive advantage over the disease-carrying insects."

Ladies First: Exploring the Origins of Chivalry

— Filed under: People & Culture
Let the boy earn his spurs!

Image by One lucky guy via Flickr

It has many meanings, but when we speak of chivalry we are usually talking about respect and courtesy toward women. The concept has its origin in the Middle Ages, when knights were trained and expected to defend the honor of all ladies. This evolved to gentlemen throwing their coat over a patch of mud to allow a lady to pass over it safely, and eventually to holding the door at the entrance of a building and letting ladies go first, among other niceties.

While this respect and kindness toward women was (and is) admirable, it certainly doesn't correspond directly to women's rights per se. These same ladies who were given coats to walk on were not given the right to vote, own property, or in many cases even make their own decisions. And when a man today holds the door open to an office building, it doesn't imply any more respect than is immediately apparent. That same man might very well hold sexist attitudes or make inappropriate comments later in the day.… Continues …

Is Stealing Always Wrong?

— Filed under: People & Culture
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