Iceland is tops in gender equality – did the US make the Top 10? how about the Top 20?

Iceland is the most advanced country in the world in gender equality, the 2013 Global Gender Gap Report said Friday.

The report ranks 136 countries on their abilities to close the gender gap in four key areas — economic participation and opportunity, political empowerment, health and survival, and educational attainment.

Iceland was ranked No. 1 for the fifth year in a row, with Finland, Norway, Sweden and the Philippines coming in second through fifth, respectively, the report said…

Germany was the highest-ranked G20 country at 14th, falling by one place from 2012. Britain stayed the same at 18th, Canada moved up a spot to 20th and the United States fell a spot to 23rd. Russia ranked 61st, China 69th and India 101st. The lowest ranking countries were Chad at 134th, Pakistan at 135th and Yemen at 136th.

You can download the whole report over here.

There were a couple of surprises. You’d think with the emphasis placed on gender-equality awareness by the Obama White House, the US might have progressed a little bit. Sadly, no.

NSA amendment’s narrow defeat encourages privacy advocates

“It’s the beginning…”

The razor-thin defeat of a congressional measure to rein in domestic surveillance galvanized civil libertarians on Thursday for what they expect to be a drawn-out political and legal struggle to clip the wings of the intelligence apparatus in the US.

While a measure by Representative Justin Amash, a Michigan Republican, failed in the House on Wednesday night, the tight vote was the closest that privacy advocates have come since 9/11 to stopping the National Security Agency from collecting Americans’ data in bulk.

Members of Congress, liberties groups and former surveillance officials pointed to a variety of measures, from new legislation in both the Senate and House to court cases, as means to reset the much-contested balance between liberty and security in the US over the coming weeks and months.

“There are many voices concerned in the Senate about this same issue,” said J Kirk Wiebe, a former senior NSA analyst turned whistleblower. “It doesn’t mean it’s the end of it. It’s the beginning…”

A tally of the votes shows that a majority of Democrats voted in favor of the amendment. One of them, Barbara Lee, told the Guardian that the “stage was now set” to curb the NSA. “It was a great beginning – a first step,” she said.

Representative Keith Ellison, co-chairman of the congressional progressive caucus, expressed disappointment that the Amash amendent did not pass. “For the government to just collect people’s data without any sense of that individual warrants or merits and investigation of some kind is a problem. I am pretty disappointed we didn’t pass it, but I am pretty impressed with how well we did. This issue is not over. There will be more voters and there will be more bills. I feel confident we can perhaps prevail…”

In the Senate, a bill introduced late last month by Pat Leahy, the Vermont Democrat who chairs the judiciary committee, would shorten the lifespan of the Patriot Act and compel the government to “show relevance to an authorized investigation and a link to one of three categories of a foreign agent, power, or group,” thereby blocking the bulk surveillance

Exciting times. Like many foolish nations using the patriotism mantra to excuse every kind of limitation on individual rights and freedoms – American citizens are accustomed to asking, “how high, sir” when Uncle Sugar says “Jump – or you’re unpatriotic!” It took years to overcome that crap while building resistance to the VietNam War. We went through it again over Bush’s War on Iraq.

While we keep up the pressure, this might be one of those rare chances at rapidly turning around gross violations of human rights put in place by the same sleazy government that made them legal. And patriotic.

First same-sex couple married in France

Click to enlargeREUTERS/Philippe Laurenson

Vincent Autin (L) and Bruno Boileau (R) kiss on the terrace of the city hall after they were married in Montpellier, May 29, 2013. The two men are the first same-sex couple to marry in France under a reform which has stoked some of the ugliest protests in the country in decades. The law, backed by most French and feted by gay and lesbians as it came into force this month, makes France the 14th country to allow same-sex marriage despite heated street protests by conservatives, Catholics and extreme-right groups.


Apple reinvents the textbook with interactive iBooks 2 for iPad

Suggesting that physical textbooks are no longer the ideal learning tool, Apple on Thursday proposed a new platform and method of digital education: iBooks 2 for iPad.

Speaking to the press at New York’s Guggenheim Museum, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing, Phil Schiller, said current textbooks are not very portable, they’re not durable, and they’re not interactive. He believes the iPad stacks up better, particularly with the new iBooks 2…

Demonstrating iBooks 2 on Thursday, Apple’s Roger Rosner showed off how iBooks 2 allows texbooks to start off with intro movies. He also quickly went across thumbnails for pages, and could skip across chapters.

Touting the new textbooks as “gorgeous,” Rosner argued that “no printed book can compete with this.” He demonstrated the ability to pinch into photos, and showcased 3D models of biological structures that can be rotated and manipulated in real-time — all of this interaction happens within a digital textbook in iBooks 2…

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Prince and the death of the internet. Har!

Which flower is the narcissus?

In a curious, and, if you’ll excuse my cynicism, rather well-publicized statement this week, Prince has announced the death of the internet.

The internet’s completely over,” Prince said, quoted in the British tabloid newspaper The Daily Mirror. “I don’t see why I should give my new music to iTunes or anyone else. They won’t pay me an advance for it, and then they get angry when they can’t get it.”

Meanwhile, Prince has decided to repeat the practice he made in 2007 of releasing his new album, “20TEN,” exclusively as a free giveaway with this Saturday’s edition of the Mirror.

No doubt he is being paid a healthy sum, which brings up the question: Where does the term “free” fit in here?

Buyers of the newspaper are paying for it, albeit at much less than a standard CD retail price…

Prince will benefit from the heightened publicity, both from the readers and from the wider news generated across the media, including the internet. And he will doubtless be making more money from ticket sales to his future concerts.

But well done, Prince. Your outburst has generated massive publicity, and got us talking yet again about the extraordinary changes the internet continues to bring to our lives.

And how little Prince contributes either to our lives – or to music.

Fans line-up in Asia 2 days before the 3G iPhone launch

Seeking to be one of the world’s first to grab the new-generation iPhone, fanatical Apple fans around Asia are queuing up two days before its launch, undiscouraged by rain or freezing temperatures.

The July 11 launch will be the first chance for Asian consumers to own an iPhone, and related websites have been swamped with inquiries and early orders…

“The big appeal (of the iPhone) is that this is an Apple product,” said Hiroyuki Sano, a 24-year-old graduate student who early on Tuesday arrived in rainy Tokyo from Nagoya, 225 miles west of the capital, to be first in line.

“I’ve told my professor I was going to go buy an iPhone, and he gave me permission,” said Sano, wearing a T-shirt with an Apple logo. “He is an Apple-lover too, and he sent me off cheerfully…”

Tee hee. Don’t you just love stories about people who wait in line for anything.