Saudi Arabia court jails Facebook cyber-activists


Press TV file photo

A court in Saudi Arabia has sentenced seven cyber activists to between five to 10 years in prison for inciting protests, mainly by using Facebook…The men were arrested in September last year, according to Human Rights Watch and their trial began in April.

They were charged with posting online messages to encourage protests, although they were not accused of directly taking part in demonstrations.

It is seen as the country’s latest move against online political dissent…

The longest sentence of 10 years was reportedly given to an activist who set up two Facebook groups allegedly explaining the best protest techniques.

The rights group said the men had all admitted contributing to Facebook pages supporting the leading Shia cleric Tawfiq al-Amer, who was held in February 2011 after calling for a constitutional monarchy.

His arrest provoked anti-government rallies inspired by a wave of popular revolt in the country’s Eastern Region, where much of its crude oil is sourced.

The seven men were sentenced on 24 June for “allegedly inciting protests and harming public order, largely by using Facebook“…

Several of the defendants said they had been tortured into signing confessions, according to HRW.

The case contained two elements that the Saudi authorities are particularly sensitive about, the BBC World Service’s Middle East editor Sebastian Usher reports – political criticism expressed online and protests staged by the Shia minority in the east of the country.

Life in a world full of peace. How peace is achieved – or is it controlled – is another matter. From here, it looks like the peaceable kingdom is working harder than ever to shut down dissent.

Teen sisters made video of dancing in the rain – murdered by relatives for staining “the family honour”

Two teenage sisters have been murdered in Pakistan after they were accused of tarnishing their family’s name by making a video of themselves dancing in the rain.

The girls, aged 15 and 16, are seen running around in traditional dress with two other younger children outside their bungalow in the town of Chilas, in the northern region of Gilgit.

The sisters, named as Noor Basra and Noor Sheza, appear to break into dance and one even flashes a smile at the camera…

Police are investigating whether the attack was arranged by the girls’ step-brother, named as Khutore, who allegedly wanted to ‘restore the family’s honour’…

The sisters’ other brother has filed a case against Khutore and the four other alleged accomplices who are now believed to be on the run.

The girls were shot alongside their mother in their home by five gunmen in the town of Chilas…

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said at least 943 women and girls were murdered in 2011 for allegedly defaming their family’s honour.

Gotta love religious fundamentalism. Yes, they vary according to degree – and point in history. Anyone with a conscience knows that most American lynchings were perpetrated by “Good Christians” – according to their peers.

Meanwhile, I don’t see a whole boatload of reasons for continuing the taxpayer dollars poured into the rathole that is Pakistan’s military and political sewer. Benefits to America’s questionable foreign policy is nil. The fraction that filters through the corrupt bureaucracy is negligible.

Disabled duck getting a 3D-printed foot

Buttercup the duck was born with a strange birth defect. One of the little duckling’s legs faced the wrong direction. To remedy the situation, 3D printing technology has been used to create a prosthetic leg that should allow Buttercup to live a somewhat normal, albeit much more famous, life.

Before resorting to the somewhat drastic option of surgery and a 3D printed prosthesis, Buttercup’s owner tried traditional physical therapy, but this only managed to get his foot to turn partially in the right direction. Because of this, walking was a difficult task.

When therapy failed, Buttercup was sent to Feathered Angels Waterfowl Sanctuary in Arlington, TN, USA. Once there, his new owner Mike Garey realized that something had to be done, or the duck would have a miserable life. For one, walking on the side of its foot could lead to infections, which can have serious repercussions.

The deformed foot was removed back in February, and Garey, who is a software engineer, began looking for options for a prosthetic. Sure, the duck could have a peg leg, but he decided he would rather give Buttercup a more natural new foot.

In the end, 3D printing company NovaCopy signed on to give Buttercup a new foot using silicone instead of the rigid plastic typically found in 3D printed objects. After all, a duck foot needs to be able to flex in order to be functional.

The final design is quite interesting. It uses a stretchy silicone sock to hold the new foot in place, without being uncomfortable. It took the team a few iterations and failed designs, but it looks like Buttercup, who is currently moving around on his stump, will receive his new foot very soon.

My kind of useful geek tale.

Questions of agriculture and climate change meet at Cornell

For farmers, a warming climate challenges fundamental decisions they have always made based on the certainty of the weather – such as when to plant various crops, which varieties to choose or what investments in cooling or irrigation infrastructure would make the most economic sense. They will soon have a resource to help them navigate the changes: the Cornell Institute for Climate Change and Agriculture. Allison Morrill Chatrchyan becomes its first director Sept. 1.

“The institute grew out of a very real need to help farmers adapt to the marked changes in our climate that are already underway,” said Mike Hoffmann, director of the Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station. “Many current agricultural practices are based on long-standing assumptions about temperature and the length of the growing season that are no longer true.”

The institute will act as a clearinghouse for research, climate monitoring, decision‐support tools and applications at the intersection of climate and agriculture. An early step will be developing a website for disseminating and gathering information on farm-level impacts and trends, losses and gains resulting from warming and extreme weather…

Two key functions of the institute will be to foster development of decision-making tools to help farmers know when to invest in changes based on science and sound economics, and to establish collaborations to address issues related to climate change and agriculture…

“Cornell has depth and breadth across a multitude of disciplines involved in climate change and agriculture, including crop and soil science, pest management, earth and atmospheric sciences, plant breeding and genetics, and the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future,” said Kathryn Boor…Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “Strategic decisions backed by sound science will pay off in the long term for New York farmers.”

Or they could rely on Know-Nothings in Congress for a bailout at taxpayers’ expense after years of ignoring science and putting their trust in 19th Century nutballs.

Given the choice, I’d rather see farmers working with scientists, agronomists and economists who are truly on their side – and offering science-based support.