Archives for the month of: August, 2012

Since 1967, Israel has practised a range of policies leading to the internal displacement of about 160,000 Palestinians within the occupied West Bank and Gaza. Of these actions, house demolitions are the most visible.

These are carried out by the Israeli army for a number of reasons, including “administrative” demolitions, where Palestinian homes have been built without Israeli-issued permits, as well as punitive demolitions –  where a family member is accused of being involved in militant activity.

The most devastating demolitions, however, are caused by large-scale military operations, such as those during the war on Gaza in 2008-09.

Jeff Halper of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) argues that, seen in their totality since 1967, these home demolitions amount to an intentional “policy of displacement”.

Last year, ICAHD presented the United Nations with a report, charging that Israel had a deliberate policy of forcing Palestinians out of East Jerusalem, and that this might constitute a war crime.

The mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, dismissed the report.

ICAHD said 2011 was the record year of displacement , with the destruction of some 622 Palestinian structures by Israeli authorities, of which 222 were family homes. This resulted in 1,094 people being displaced – almost double the number for 2010.

This year sees the 50th anniversary of a book that – whether through inspiration, disagreement or unintended hints – has been hugely influential in the history and philosophy of science (HPS). It is Thomas Kuhn‘s Structure of Scientific Revolutions, which was discussed in this great piece by John Naughton in the Guardian last week.

For me, Kuhn’s influence feels somewhere near second or third hand. Responses to him informed the work of my tutors and supervisors, and have long been part of the daily bread of those training in HPS. Considering where we have got to, and how much we have (or haven’t) achieved since Kuhn, is a regular hobby.

Someone who recently did this particularly well, making a convincing case for development in the discipline, is Greg Radick in his inaugural lecture on becoming professor at the Centre for History and Philosophy of Science at Leeds. I therefore wanted to share on this blog some of his ideas about the directions in which our field has moved, or is moving.

Radick is particularly interesting in being able to work between history and philosophy – areas that have become increasingly separated since Kuhn’s time – and with scientists as well as colleagues in the humanities. As he shows in the lecture, some of his and the discipline’s newer approaches take us considerably beyond Kuhn and his immediate legacy, although its significance remains.

The South African Communist Party (SACP) and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) in the Eastern Cape Province held a successful bilateral meeting on the 28 August 2012 in East London. (…)

The bilateral meeting observed a moment of silence for those who lost their lives, their family members, colleagues and their parents in Lonmin Marikana Platinum Mine during strike, the ten school children who lost during a road accident in Kwazulu Natal and Professor Neville Alexander, may their souls rest in peace.

The bilateral welcomed the announcement by President Jacob Zuma on the commission of enquiry that will lead in clarifying the role of various players in the incident and to putting the Marikana issue at rest. However we believe that Lonmin management must take a greater responsibility of those who lost their parents and family members in the Marikana tragedy, having noted that most of them emerge from the Eastern Cape. Our view is that the Lonmin must commit to building homes for these families and taking care of their children`s education.

Both the federation and the party condemn the opportunistic elements that are prepared to literally walk over dead bodies to score political points. This is the desperation lumpen bourgeoisie whom are prepared to bring about the lumpenisation of the under-class for their new accumulation path.(…)

The brutal bourgeoisie mode of production continues to face an unending structural crisis. This mode of production has over a period of time failed to respond to the needs of the people throughout the globe. This crisis has forced the bourgeoisie to plant mercenaries in other countries that are anti-imperialist as an attempt to rescue this structural crisis of this atrocious system.

The bilateral meeting condemns the invasion and the killings of people of Syria, particularly by United States of America. The people of Syria must not be compromised in an attempt to rescue a crumbling capitalist system, this has proven to fail in Libya no matter how many people were killed but capitalism was never rescued.

We draw strength from the international communists who continue to work towards total destruction of the brutal capitalist system. The international left forces must unite and consolidate a program that will bring about an end to the inhumane capitalist mode of production.

The working class throughout the globe has been forced to carry the scars and injuries of this dwindling ruthless system of production. In South Africa the unemployment, poverty and inequality remain structural and deep rooted; in the 18 years of democracy the property relations remain unchanged except the co-option of few black people.(…)

Our ANC alliance led government must strengthen the BRICS as an alternative economic bloc to the brutal so called western super power

We have noted that even though we have seen changes in the leadership and policy directions of our movement post 2007 and also have come out with progressive policies propositions in the ANC NGC but we seem to be trapped in undeclared age of hope as the working class, when it comes to implementation of such policies. We have all agreed that there should be radical policy directions for the benefit of the working class but we have seen less in implementation. We have been celebrating few momenta joys and not the long term solutions for the working class. This has made it easy for the new tendency and the emerging lumpen bourgeoisie to rent the under-class for their self-accumulation as the poor becomes more vulnerable.

The meeting much-admired COSATU for having successful and most united provincial congress, with the challenges facing the alliance components the unity shown by both the national congress of the SACP and the provincial congress of COSATU cannot be taken for granted. The meeting further wished both COSATU and the ANC successful and united national congresses, which should be seen as platforms to deepen and defend our shared program; the National Democratic Revolution (NDR).

The alliance is facing a strategic threat from the neo-liberal some from the former members and leaders of the movement, some from the neo-liberal social movements and the DA led opposition. Our alliance continues to be undermined through courts and now the new string of the so-called artist whom in the name of art have deemed it fit to cartoon our leadership. Our alliance is also undermined and attacked by the neo-liberals as portraying our leadership as the most corrupt and most immoral, when the reality is that this neo-liberal offense is meant to weaken the alliance and consolidate political power for the DA consortium led opposition and the new emerging lumped bourgeoisie.

The unity of the ANC, SACP and COSATU alliance is of all paramount importance if we are to change the plight of the poor of our province. It is important for the alliance to be viewed as the political center and therefore programmatic relations must be enforced, if we are to attain the objectives of the NDR.

There is strong need of the alliance components to develop a program in relation to resolving challenges facing the movement throughout the province. Our alliance must never cease to be the beacon of hope to the striving masses of this land; it must be a beacon of hope because of its programs that responds to the need and aspirations of the workers and the poor.

The unity of SACP & COSATU in the province and the country at large is of paramount importance. The ANC cannot be able to assert itself without the alliance; it will not be able to lead this NDR without this alliance. It is therefore important to take greater responsibility of the NDR as our shared program and most importantly for the SACP and COSATU the struggle of building a socialist South Africa for and with the workers and the poor.

On the Provincial Government:

The bilateral raised its concern on the poor administration displayed by the some departments in the province, in particular the Department of Health: wherein we have witnessed the lack of security of the nurses, non-payment of workers, loss of medicines, etc. We strongly believe that drastic actions must be taken within the department to remedy the situation and those found responsible must face the full might of the law. This has to be resolved as a matter of urgency as this has a potential of compromising the lives of the poor and can also compromise a solid ground for the National Health Insurance (NHI).

The bilateral applauded the significant progress made in the Department of Education following the misunderstanding when it comes to an issue of section 100b between the Provincial Government and the National Government. We of the firm view that more involvement of all in the society to assist in the department is imperative as education is the societal matter.

We are calling upon our Provincial Government to rollout a massive infrastructure projects as promised in the State of The Province Address by our Premier Ms. Noxolo Kiviet and a comprehensive industrial strategy to curb unemployment. There is a dire need of inclusive Rural and agrarian reform strategy as the means for massive food production and combating unemployment.

The meeting also noted with great apprehension the deteriorating situation of most of the municipalities in the province. In Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality there has been no Chief Financial Officer (CFO) for more than three years and there has also been consistent infighting within the municipality. In the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Municipality there has been no City Manager and vacant Executive Directors` posts for more than three years. In Mnquma Local Municipality there has been no progress owing to the divisions and infighting within the municipality.

If the issues that are raised above are not resolved as a matter of urgency with high velocity service delivery and emancipation of people will be highly compromised as they severely impact on the service delivery.

We reasserted to wage a relentless war against corruption in and out of government; corruption continues to deny people of our province and the country at large their right to services. The government tenders have for over a period of time proven to be most role-players in the scourge of corruption. It is our belief that those who are working or deployed politically in the state must not do business with the state, to declare that you do business with the state is not enough, people must choose between being business people and genuine public servants.

COSATU and the SACP recommit these two working class formations to working together, shoulder to shoulder in rooting out corruption. We will have campaigns to this end, in making sure that we root out corruption in favour of free basic services for all.

 

Toward these and other ends, Congress has authorized putting up to 30,000 drones in U.S. skies within the next eight years. That is to say, Congress passed the bill. Lobbyists from the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International openly took credit for having written it.

Domestic drones have civil liberties groups in an uproar. But the potential for the strongest resistance probably lies in forming partnerships with peace groups already outraged that drones are being used to murder large numbers of people abroad.

As political activist and Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin documents in her new book, Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control, the United States has avoided detaining people, only to murder them with a drone days later. The president has even authorized using drones to kill Americans in Yemen, including a drone strike on Anwar al-Awlaki, and a later strike that killed his teenage son.

And using drones for warfare isn’t always as expedient as billed either. In February 2002 a drone pilot thought he’d killed Osama bin Laden, but the victim turned out to be an innocent man. Expert observers, including Shahzad Akbar, a Pakistani lawyer representing drone victims, believe the vast majority of drone victims are not the individuals who were targeted—which is not to suggest any moral or legal case for killing those who are targeted. Often victims are not counted as “civilians” because they were carrying guns, but in some areas all men carry guns. Noor Behram, who photographs drone victims, says, “For every ten to fifteen people, maybe they get one militant.”

Gayatri Buragohain, an electronics engineer by education, and expert on information and communication technologies for non-profit organizations, has made it her life’s mission to increase women’s participation in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). Early in her engineering career, she searched for connections between her two passions — feminism and technology — but her efforts proved fruitless.

Not only did India not have organizations focused on female empowerment within technology, but women’s rights organizations, activists, and advocates did not recognize the need for them. Buragohain looked for statistics on women studying or working in STEM. All she found was a single, outdated report on the industry as a whole. “Statistics on women in different layers of STEM scared me,” said Buragohain.

She quit her job and started Feminist Approach to Technology (FAT) in New Delhi, India, a non-profit organization –  intentionally named to confront more than one taboo about women.

Buragohain says that women receive a number of signals from a very early age that discourage them from entering STEM fields. For many, it comes down to the absence of role models and mentors she argues. “You can’t be what you can’t see,” said Buragohain. However, negative perceptions and stereotypes of STEM as a path for the geeky and unattractive also have an impact. Frequent portrayals in the media only serve to reinforce these views, making girls self-conscious about their chosen paths and undermining their confidence.

Buragohain set out to reverse this trend. With a computer purchased through a Systers Pass-It-On cash award from the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology (and several others borrowed from friends), she started a free technology workshop in her own house for girls who otherwise would not have access to a computer. Many workshop participants — a large percentage of whom are domestic workers — had previoulsy never seen a computer, did not speak English, and dropped out of school.

(…)

The lack of a strong female presence in STEM fields means women have little say in decisions that could make the world a better place, even when they rise to the top of other fields. “A healthy society is one in which men and women work in partnership. It’s not just women who need to have more women in technology—society needs it,” Buragohain said.

It has taken a huge battle to get women out of domestic caretaker roles, help them gain equal say, and get them to recognize the value of their contributions. However, the drastic under-representation of women in technology — an industry that shapes the way we live, work, and learn — could undermine this progress if it is not addressed now.

To increase the numbers in STEM fields, we need to start with young girls. As those girls get married and have children, we need to acknowledge that women tend to assume most of the responsibility for their families. In STEM, that has meant that around half the women who start in the workforce drop out within the first five years. Even worse, only three percent ever reach the top. Buragohain said that those statistics can — and should — change through efforts that balance the modern family and reduce women’s domestic responsibilities. In turn, this can free both women and men from traditional gender roles and create change for a better future.

Ultimately, Buragohain’s feminist approach to technology is about social equality for everyone, and bringing more people into the conversation about technological developments. Buragohain said,Under-representation in STEM is not just a problem for women; it is a problem for larger society. So if you want to bring change, don’t do it for the women — do it for yourself.”

On 30 August 2012, 220 computer servers from CERN, Switzerland, will start a journey to be delivered to theKwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), in Ghana, Africa. This will provide a new computing center for KNUST and boost African physics onto the international stage, helping African students.(…)

This center is a dynamic organism. When parts break down or become old, they need to be replaced. The computing center has around 10,000 servers. These servers, like all technology, have a limited life cycle. After a few years, some servers become redundant. In this case, they are replaced and sent to storage in the CERN recuperation service. But they are still fit for lots of other interesting uses.

“If no one at CERN wants the equipment they are donated. This is where I’m involved. I’m responsible for the organization of transferring 220 servers over to KNUST in Ghana,” said Costa.

In total, 220 servers and 30 routers, which will help increase network performance, will be shipped. Costa said, “They will make up a new computing center dedicated to physics research. The 200 servers will serve the computing center and 20 servers will help run INVENIO there.” According to Costa, the increased computing power will improve research collaboration with KNUST.

“The servers will help develop scientific collaboration,” said John Ellis, a physics professor at King’s College London, who is also a guest professor in CERN’s theory division. For some years, researchers, such as John Ellis, have developed cooperative initiatives with KNUST, to train and inspire students, such as the African School of Physics, which took place this summer.

“The timing of the school provided a good opportunity to set a deadline for the server transfer agreement. KNUST students will now be able to participate in simulations of LHC data, initially purely theoretically. We also hope subsequently for participation by a team from KNUST in the ATLAS experimental collaboration,” Ellis said.

At the official handing-over ceremony at CERN Peter Yirenkyi, a lecturer at KNUST, and vice chancellor of KNUST William Ellis, and Isaac Dontwi of the National Institute for Mathematical Sciences, Ghana, will meet and greet CERN’s director general, Rolf Heuer and IT department head Frédéric Hemmer.

But, this is not the first computing handshake CERN has made with African institutions. On 8 March 2012, 161 servers were donated to universities in Casablanca, Morocco to build a new Tier 2 grid node of the Worldwide LHC Computing Grid.

And there’s still more computing capacity waiting for a second lease on life. Costa said, “Even after these servers are given to Ghana, there will still be over 1,000 servers left in storage. Some other institutes may like to contact us about them.”

Tracks from Eastbound Drive on Curiosity’s Sol 22
On Aug. 28, 2012, during the 22nd Martian day, or sol, after landing on Mars, NASA’s Curiosity rover drove about 52 feet (16 meters) eastward, the longest drive of the mission so far. The drive imprinted the wheel tracks visible in this image. The rover’s rear Hazard Avoidance Camera (Hazcam) took the image after the drive. Curiosity’s front and rear Hazcams have fisheye lenses for enabling the rover to see a wide swath of terrain. This image has been processed to straighten the horizon.

This paper aims to provide metro, state, and national policy makers with a better sense of the specific problems facing metropolitan labor markets. First, the analysis examines trends in the demand for educated labor and how a gap between education supply and demand is related to unemployment. Next, it attempts to distinguish between cyclical and structural effects before turning to an explanation of how an education gap might affect both by limiting job creation. It concludes with a discussion of the implications of these findings for public policy.

In the past two years, Mexican nanotechnology researchers have been subject to a spate of bombings and bomb threats. In the worst of the attacks, two researchers were injured. Police say that if the explosive had gone off properly, a whole building could have collapsed.

Meanwhile, Italian, Swiss and German authorities this summer arrested members of related groups whom they think were responsible for trying to bomb IBM’s European flagship nanotechnology lab, and for shooting in the kneecap a nuclear engineer at a firm engaged in nanotechnology and biotechnology research. France has also seen angry protests and attempts to shut down public debates on nanotechnology.

Some policy-makers in Europe and elsewhere have long feared that research on nanotechnology could spark a public backlash — similar to those seen against genetically modified (GM) crops and animal experimentation. Has it arrived — and in a violent fashion?

As the Feature on page 576 highlights, public awareness of nanotechnology remains low and fears of widespread opposition are premature. But how it may pan out is hard to predict. Sympathy for animal-rights violence was always thin on the ground even though opposition to vivisection was quite broad: conversely, few members of the public have ever participated in anti-GM vandalism, yet there is a de facto European moratorium that has all but frozen the industry on the continent.

The more outlandish claims made for nanotechnology stir fear among the public. Opponents know this, so whereas scientists and officials want to talk about environmental and exposure risks, consumer awareness and product regulation, the extremists and some mainstream non-governmental organizations focus on nanometre-scale sensors, cyborgs and swarms of self-replicating robots.

Nanotechnology advocates have an important role here, and one that could help to determine how public awareness of nanotechnology develops. They should continue to work to make public debate informed and accurate, and do more to monitor and test the possible toxicity of novel products. And they should avoid hype. If they paint a true picture of the state of the science, then the distorted version drawn by the extremists will have a greater chance of being recognized as such.

Ageing satellite dishes, once the backbone of Africa’s telecommunications system, are being given a new lease of life as radio telescopes.

The thrifty project aims to boost the skills of the continent’s scientists as Africa prepares to host the US$2.1 billion Square Kilometre Array (SKA), set to be the world’s most powerful radio telescope when it is completed in the mid-2020s. In May, the SKA project leaders decided that Africa, with South Africa at the helm, would split the array with Australia and New Zealand . The SKA will detect radiation from the early Universe, giving clues to how the first stars and galaxies formed.

This antenna in Kuntunse, Ghana, is in line for an upgrade.
MICHAEL GAYLARD