Royal Mail threatens to halt deliveries to home of mail-snatching cat

Couple obtain letter informing them to limit Bella, who has actually been placing mail carriers fingers in danger of injury

A couple have actually been told to limit their pet cat or face having their mail shipments suspended.

Matthew Sampson claimed he was alerted by the

A brief guide to everything thats annoying about Apple

This week, the tech giant reported its first fall in sales for 13 years. Have we finally fallen out of love with its shiny new iPhones? Not quite but there are some small issues …

Is this the beginning of the end for Apple? The tech giants inexorable growth has been a given for most of the 21st century but, on Wednesday, Apple reported its first decline in quarterly sales for 13 years: a 13% fall, down to $50bn (34bn). Thats still enough to reduce the UKs budget deficit by half, but, in Apples reckoning, its a catastrophe. Apples share price fell by 8% yesterday, wiping more than $40bn off its value in a few hours. Is the world falling out of love with the Croesus of Cupertino? Even Siri was sounding like an exhausted spin doctor when we asked it for answers.

Siri, is this the beginning of the end for Apple?

Interesting question.

Siri, whats wrong with Apple?

I cant say.

Do you actually like Apple?

Well, perhaps Im biased, but I prefer all things Apple.

Why?

I dont know. Frankly, Ive wondered that myself.

What are the most common complaints about Apple?

Let me check on that …

Actually, save your circuits, Siri. We can tell you exactly why the world is falling out of love with Apple. Weve been storing up these complaints for years. So, why dont you just shut your British/American/Australian, male/female speech unit and listen?

1 The passwords

Signing into the iTunes store: Apple ID? Password? User password? Password for this Mac? System admin password? Password for password manager? Forgot? Given up? Gone to get a sledgehammer?

2 The product launches

Ramping up every product launch into a TED talk by Cirque du Soleil based on the Sermon on the Mount, even if its just plugging a marginally different phone.

The new iPhone: Its bigger!

The new iPhone: Its smaller!

The new iPhone: Its just the right size!

The new iPhone: Its the size of an ironing board, but so what? Buy it! Its new!

3 The endless hardware upgrades

Thanks to those product launches, we now have cupboards full of obsolete iPhones, iPods, iPads, MacBooks, chargers and cables, plus 30 pairs of white headphones because we always feel like were missing out on something HUGE.

4 The Green Eggs and Ham approach to software updates

Install now? Turn on automatic software updates? Remind me later? Try in an hour? Try tonight? Would you update them in a box? Would you update them with a fox? You do not like software updates, so you say? Try them, try them and you may!

[insert
[insert obligatory on The Edge joke] Photograph: Reuters

5 The U2 album

The only music Apple ever gave away for free was the album absolutely nobody wanted or asked for.

6 The price

The cheapest iPhone is still way beyond the reach of people in poorer parts of the world places whose phone networks are likely to be expensive or unreliable, if they exist at all. Even in the UK, you can buy a basic mobile phone for as little as 10; the cheapest iPhoneis currently 359. Way to bring the world together.

7 Theyre too cool for tills

Instead of a tried-and-trusted checkout wherewe can quietly queue with some decorum, Apple stores force us to seek out that smug, snotty-nosed blueshirt whos lingering somewhere on the shopfloor with an iPad.

Ive
Ive only come in to use the internet. Photograph: Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images

8 The ubiquitous ringtone

The chime of Old Phone now triggers a Pavlovian response, causing everyone within earshot to imagine its a call for them. Even when you could have sworn you switched your phone to silent.

9 iPhone repairs

No matter whats wrong with your iPhone, or how tiny, it costs at least 200 to fix. Dodgy home button? 200. Wont restart? 200. Cracked screen? A bargain at 100.

10 The rip-off accessories

Need a new power adapter because that magnetic bit on the end broke when it got bent back too much? How much, Apple Store? 65! Plain black phone bumper that you could get down the market for a fiver? 25!

11 The constant iTunes revamping

Every upgrade of iTunes becomes a game of hide and seek. How do you make a playlist now? Wheres recently added? No, I dont want to start a sodding three-month free trial of Apple Music.

12 The utopian demos

Our photos and videos never feature people with happy dogs surfing around the world and going hiking with kites on beautiful mountains, like they do in all your take the tour demos. Couldnt you give us a slideshow of babies crying, and piles of washing up?

13 The Apple Watch

It sucks and Apple wont admit it. It wont even release sales figures for it, lumping it in with Apple TV, iPod and accessory sales which were one-tenth of those of iPhones.

Is
Is Apples time over? Photograph: Robert Galbraith/Reuters

14 Apple TV

The future of television? Also known as Another expensive box that does nothing all your other expensive boxes cant do already, but has an Apple logo on it.

15 Mac lag

Our old MacBook takes longer to wake up every morning than we do.

16 It is more controlling than Prince was

We know weve paid for the entire Prince back catalogue at some stage, but iTunes wont let us listen to it without negotiating an assault course of synching protocols, passwords, user settings, menus, helpdesk chatbots and, finally, Googled explainers.

17 Wet fingers

Having to wait for 20 minutes after coming out of the shower before our iPhone fingerprint scanner recognises us. Like the clean you isnt the real you.

18 They have turned into The Man

Apple has marketed itself as the alternative choice ever since Ridley Scotts 1984-themed Super Bowl ad 30 years ago, but, in the meantime, it has basically become Big Brother

19 Their hatred of ports

Apples eradication of USB ports from iPads just rendered all your accessories obsolete (lightning-to-USB adapter: another 15 down the drain). Just like their sealing up of the DVD/CD slot rendered your collections of both obsolete (so you have to buy them again from iTunes). It is now easier to hack the US defence system than get a DVD on to an iPad.

20 The Smart Battery Case

Which converts your elegant, slender, hopelessly underpowered iPhone 6 into an ugly, clunky monstrosity of a phone. Because thats what Smart looks like.

Steve
Steve Jobs in 1994. Photograph: KeystoneUSA-Zuma/Rex Features

21 Their format dictatorship

You take a picture with your iPhone. You import it to iPhotos. Now you try to attach it to an email. Ha! You cant! Instead, you have to find the photo, save a copy on to your desktop, then attach THAT version. The only way to do it easily is through Apples own Mail application, otherwise known as BlackMail.

22 Their wealth

Apple has cash reserves greater than the GDP of most countries, accrued in part by depriving those countries of taxes, and exploitingtheir mineral resources.

23 Their contempt for humanity

Bill Gates uses his fortune to cure malaria, Apple uses its fortune to … make bigger fortunes.

24 Error 53

How many corporations possess and wield the power to criminally damage their products your products after theyve sold them to you? Apples notorious Error 53 punished users for the offence of going to unauthorised repairers by effectively shutting down their iPhone 6 handsets a practice known as bricking. When a class-action lawsuit threatened, Apple got scared and backed down a practice known as bricking it.

25 Theyve taken over the music industry

iTunes paved the way for the low-priced digital music revolution, where artists get a minuscule share of the profits and Apple gets a much larger cut. It wiped out high-street record shops, crippled the music industry, then extracted a ransom from artists to put their music in its virtual shop window. Then it stole Taylor Swift and locked her up in Apple Music, just to rub it in.

Tim
Tim Cook, Apple CEO, in front of a artists impression of its new Cupertino HQ. Photograph: Stephen Lam/Reuters

26 Their business model is The Circle

Dave Eggers dystopian novel details autopian-sounding tech corporation whose ambitions extend to every aspect of peoples lives, anticipating, fulfilling and creating their every desire, to the extent that people never need to step outside the closed loop of control. Then find they cant even if they want to. Apple has done its best to dispel such comparisons by building amassive new headquarters in the shape of a circle.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/apr/27/a-brief-guide-to-everything-thats-annoying-about-apple

HTC 10 review: up there with Samsung’s best

Flagship smartphone finally cuts it at the top end with great camera, good screen, 1.5-day battery life and snappy performance

HTC, once a smartphone champion, has been struggling in recent years at the top end with handsets that have just missed the mark. But celebrating its 10 anniversary of smartphones manufacturing, has Taiwanese company finally cracked it with the HTC 10?

Metal on the back, glass on the front

htc
The back is curved aluminium with chamfered edges that create quite pleasing light reflections. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

The back of the 10 resembles HTCs recent top-end phones, with a curved aluminium body and tapered edges that shrink from 9mm to 3mm, making the device feel thinner than it is. The front is all glass, with a fingerprint sensor at the bottom and a relatively large selfie camera at the top.

Gone are the front-facing speakers and the HTC logo of the One M7, 8 and 9; instead the fingerprint scanner acts as a home button and is flanked by a captive back and multitasking app switcher buttons.

The HTC 10 is 9mm thick at its deepest point and weighs 161g, which is both thick and heavy compared to the competition. The Google Nexus 5X and Samsung Galaxy S7 are both 7.9mm thick and weigh 136g and 152g respectively. It feels solid and well made, but lacks the luxurious feel of the metal used on the One M8.

The 5.2in quad HD LCD screen is crisp and bright, but not quite as vibrant as the OLED display fitted to the Samsung Galaxy S7.

Specifications

  • Screen: 5.2in full quad HD LCD (564ppi)
  • Processor: Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820
  • RAM: 4GB of RAM
  • Storage: 32GB + microSD card
  • Operating system: Android 6.0 with HTC Sense
  • Camera: 12MP UltraPixel 2 with OIS, 5MP front-facing with OIS
  • Connectivity: LTE, Wi-Fiac, NFC, Bluetooth 4.2, USB-C and GPS
  • Dimensions: 145.9 x 71.9 x 9mm
  • Weight: 161g

Power without the heat

htc
The bottom has a USB-C port for charging and syncing and the bass speaker that forms the new BoomSound system with the tweeter at the top of the phone. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

The HTC 10 has Qualcomms latest top-end processor, the Snapdragon 820, which is one of the most powerful available at the moment. It handled graphically intensive games, image manipulation and everything else without skipping a beat. The smartphone also has 4GB of RAM, which aided multitasking and coped with having 15 tabs open in Chrome and a load of other apps running in the background just fine.

The phone got hot while downloading apps, but generally ran a lot cooler than last years smartphones using the Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor. The HTC 10 will be able to handle anything you can throw at it.

Battery life was good, but not great. It would last around 32 hours between charges, using it as my primary device, receiving hundreds of emails, push notifications and messages, browsing and using apps for around three hours, listening to music with Bluetooth headphones for four hours and the occasional spot of gaming or photography.

Quick charge support means a full charge takes just over an hour with the right charger.

Snappy HTC Sense

htc
The theme store has loads to choose from including standard or freestyle layouts. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

HTC modifies Android with what it calls Sense. The 10 comes with HTC Sense 8 based on Android 6.0 Marshmallow. It looks and behaves similarly to any other HTC smartphone, and isnt radically different from the standard Android experience.

The most obvious bits are HTCs Blinkfeed social news aggregator, which is the left-most pane of the homescreen, and the organisation or arrangement of the icons on the homescreen.

Instead of being locked into a set four-by-four grid of icons, users can place their icons in any configuration, increase their size or used stickers instead to invoke apps or actions. Full theme support for the homescreen and the rest of the system including the typeface is also available, with a variety of styles available in HTCs theme store.

Overall, HTC has spent time cutting back. Its removed most of the duplicate apps and concentrated on speed, which is a very good thing. Apps load faster, switching between apps is faster and everything feels very snappy. The HTC 10 is one of the fastest smartphones available, on par with Samsungs best.

Fingerprint scanner

htc
The fingerprint scanner doubles as a home button. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

The HTC 10 has a fingerprint scanner that doubles as a home button, which like the rest of the phone is fast. Ive noticed its slightly more susceptible to dirt on your fingers than the larger sensors on the backs of Googles Nexus smartphones, but with clean fingers it was almost 100% accurate, and right up there with the best of the rest.

Camera

htc
The HTC camera app is one of the best available, putting enough features within tapping distance with manual controls if you need them. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

HTCs cameras have always been interesting but ultimately disappointing. The HTC 10 finally has a camera up to scratch with the competition.

The rear 12-megapixel UltraPixel 2 camera is very good. Its laser autofocus is fast, its low light performance is excellent, and the images it captures are detail rich and colourful. I found it struggled a bit with colour balance in crummy office lighting, but it excelled almost everywhere else.

The f1.8 lens also produces very pleasing shallow depth of field images with lovely bokeh effects, without having to resort to software trickery.

The HTC camera app is excellent, with all the right features within reach and enough manual controls with RAW export for when you want to try something.

The selfie camera has optical image stabilisation – a first for a front-facing camera – which helped avoid blur in low-light shots. While the images were bright and attractive, looking great on first glance, they lacked fine detail when viewed at full size like most other selfie cameras.

htc
The selfie camera has optical image stabilisation, which helps remove camera shake, but still isnt anywhere near as good as the rear camera. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

Observations

  • The phone supports Hi-Res audio and personalised sound profiles, but only through the headphones port, not via Bluetooth
  • The rounded back and bevelled edges have some pleasing reflective properties
  • The BoomSound speakers arent as good as previous iterations. Theyre decent, but only on a par with rivals from Google and others
  • The edges of the phone feel rather hard in the hand.
  • The screen has good viewing angles and is easy to view outdoors, but not if youre wearing polarising sunglasses, which blank out the screen in one orientation or the other

Price

The HTC 10 costs 570 and comes in four colours, shipping in early May.

For comparison, the Samsung Galaxy S7 costs 569, the Google Nexus 5X costs 299 and the Huawei P9 449.

Verdict

The HTC 10 is an excellent top-end smartphone. It feels snappy, bloat free and optimised. The cameras are great, the battery life is above average and the screen is good.

It isnt an exciting phone. Compared to the likes of the curved edged Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge the HTC 10 looks a little plain. But thats the point. Its a no-frills, top-end smartphone that gets everything more or less right. HTC has finally nailed a good all-rounder.

Pros: good battery life, excellent camera, good screen, microSD card support, USB-C, snappy

Cons: no removable battery, design a bit plain compared to high-end rivals, no front-facing speakers

Other reviews

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/apr/27/htc-10-review-up-there-with-samsungs-best

Sikhs On ‘The Daily Show’ Have Perfect Response For People Who Assume They’re Muslim

Sikhism is a monotheistic religion that traces its roots back to the Indian state of Punjab. The faith has been part of America’s religious landscape for over 125 years. Despite this long history, Sikhs have often experienced discrimination in America.

The rising tide of Islamophobia has added another layer of complexity to this issue. In the years since September 11, Sikh Americans have been subjected to hate crimes, harassment, and racial profiling. Some people mistakenly assume that Sikhs are Muslims because of the turbans that some Sikh men and women wear.

In a sketch for “The Daily Show,” comedian Hasan Minhaj assembled a panel of experts to try to figure out how to combat this prejudice. Minhaj, a Muslim, jokingly suggested that Sikhs should try harder to distance themselves from Muslims.

“Come on, I mean even Barack Obama was like, ‘Hey, I’m not a Muslim,'” Minhaj said in the clip. “If I were you, I would throw me under the bus so fast.”

Designer and actor Waris Ahluwalia, who claimed he was kicked off a flight in February because of his turban, told Minhaj that this wasn’t an option.

“That’s not the way I was raised,” Ahluwalia said in the clip. “That’s why I wear this turban, as a reminder to myself to treat humanity with care and kindness. I’m not here to point fingers…Hasan, you need to lead with love.”

The turban, or dastaar, is actually a symbol of equality for many Sikhs. There was a time in ancient Punjab, where the faith was founded, when the turban was only worn by kings and royalty as a sign of class status. But the founders of the Sikh religion believed deeply in the equality and royalty of all people, regardless of their socioeconomic background.

Studies have shown that some Americans are still ignorant about the significance of the turban within Sikhism. In a survey commissioned by the National Sikh Campaign (NSC) in 2014, only 11 percent of respondents associated an image of a turbaned man with Sikhism. On the other hand, about 20 percent said that the man was Muslim and 28 percent said that he was of Middle Eastern descent — even though the majority of Sikhs are of Indian descent.

The statistics suggest that attacks against Sikhs are often thinly-veiled racism against all brown folk. In fact, the federal government has investigated over 800 incidents since September 11, 2001 involving violence, threats, vandalism and arson against “Arab-Americans, Muslims, Sikhs, South-Asian Americans and other individuals perceived to be of Middle Eastern origin.”

In the end, the Sikhs on Minhaj’s panel believed that instead of trying to distance themselves from their Muslim neighbors, it was better to stand in solidarity with them.

Simran Jeet Singh, an Assistant Professor at Trinity University who was featured in the clip, called the segment a “historic” piece for the Sikh community and hopes it will create awareness about his faith.

“In addition to learning about what it’s like to be a Sikh in modern America, people will also learn about our ethics and our values, including why we are committed to standing against anti-Muslim sentiment, even if it makes our own lives more difficult,” Singh told The Huffington Post.

Watch the segment on Sikhism above.

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2016/04/26/the-daily-show-sikhs_n_9781756.html

Shame hacking: attack on dating site for ‘beautiful people’ is actually pretty scary

BeautifulPeople.com boasts online dating for beautiful people only, and at first theres a joy to watching the mighty fall. But it could happen to any of us

Theres a schadenfreude to the news today that the dating site BeautifulPeople.com was hacked.

Its a site that only lets in the genetically blessed based on some mysterious beauty metric and today the personal data of 1.1 million BeautifulPeople.com members is for sale on the black market. Its only a slice of data from 2015, and the company says the leaks been patched up, but data once stolen can never be controlled: and so 1.1 million names of self-declared Beautiful People will now begin circulating.

Like the Ashley Madison hack which left 39 million people on a dating site for married people exposed and their names suddenly searchable theres a joy in shaming people who would sign up for such a thing. Online dating for beautiful people only, the website announces.

BeautifulPeople.com is the largest internet dating community exclusively for the beautiful, it reads. Members rate new applicants over a 48 hour period based on whether or not they find the applicant beautiful.

The gall they have! The hubris!

But at the risk of sounding like a school marm: watch yourself.

First, BeautifulPeople.com is a genius idea because its just honest. Its what nightclubs already do quite effectively, and its what we all try our best to do on Tinder. Where online dating service The League explicitly bases entry on wealth and education BeautifulPeople is just hot folks looking for hot love. If clear skin and a tight waist is a religion (which, at least in America, it is), this is their JDate, and I am not here to judge.

But more importantly, hacking to shame is a scary pattern. Most active, casual, relatively sloppy young internet users (like myself) are having their data bought and sold all day long, bartered legally or illegally.

And, most active, casual, relatively sloppy humans (like myself) have a sex life thats lived, at least in part, online.

As the author W Somerset Maugham wrote: My own belief is that there is hardly anyone whose sexual life, if it were broadcast, would not fill the world at large with surprise and horror.

Symmetrical faces couldnt save the beautiful people. And its funny to see the mighty fall. But the spotlight can fall on any of us. And it will.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/apr/25/shame-hack-beautiful-people-ashley-madison-online-dating

Why are we so bored?

We live in a world of constant entertainment but is too much stimulation boring?

It amazes me when people proclaim that they are bored. Actually, it amazes me that I am ever bored, or that any of us are. With so much to occupy us these days, boredom should be a relic of a bygone age an age devoid of the internet, social media, multi-channel TV, 24-hour shopping, multiplex cinemas, game consoles, texting and whatever other myriad possibilities are available these days to entertain us.

Yet despite the plethora of high-intensity entertainment constantly at our disposal, we are still bored. Up to half of us are often bored at home or at school, while more than two- thirds of us are chronically bored at work. We are bored by paperwork, by the commute and by dull meetings. TV is boring, as is Facebook and other social media. We spend our weekends at dull parties, watching tedious films or listening to our spouses drone on about their day. Our kids are bored of school, of homework and even of school holidays.

There are a number of explanations for our ennui. This, in fact, is part of the problem we are overstimulated. The more entertained we are the more entertainment we need in order to feel satisfied . The more we fill our world with fast-moving, high-intensity, ever-changing stimulation, the more we get used to that and the less tolerant we become of lower levels.

Thus slower-paced activities, such as reading reports, sitting in meetings, attending lectures or studying for exams, bore us because we are accustomed to faster-paced amusements.

Our attention spans are now thought to be less than that of a goldfish (eight seconds). We are hard-wired to seek novelty, which produces a hit of dopamine, that feel-good chemical, in our brains. As soon as a new stimulus is noticed, however, it is no longer new, and after a while it bores us. To get that same pleasurable dopamine hit we seek fresh sources of distraction.

Our increasing reliance on screentime is also to blame. Although we seem to live in a varied and exciting world with a wealth of entertainment at our fingertips, this is actually the problem. Many of these amusements are obtained in remarkably similar ways via our fingers. We spend much of our work life now tapping away at our keyboard. We then look for stimulation (watching movies, reading books, catching the news, interacting with friends) via the internet or our phone, which means more tapping. On average we spend six to seven hours in front of our phone, tablet, computer and TV screens every day.

All this is simply becoming boring. Instead of performing varied activities that engage different neural systems (sport, knitting, painting, cooking, etc) to relieve our tedium, we fall back on the same screen-tapping schema for much of our day. The irony is that while our mobile devices should allow us to fill every moment, our means of obtaining that entertainment has become so repetitive and routine that its a source of boredom in itself.

Does any of this matter? Research suggests that chronic boredom is responsible for a profusion of negative outcomes such as overeating, gambling, truancy, antisocial behaviour, drug use, accidents, risk taking and much more. We need less, not more, stimulation and novelty.

It seems paradoxical, but feeling bored in the short term will make us less bored in the long term.

The Upside of Downtime: Why Boredom is Good by Dr Sandi Mann is published by Robinson, 13.99. To buy a copy for 11.19, go to bookshop.theguardian.com

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/apr/24/why-are-we-so-bored

Palestinians create seed bank to save their farming heritage in the Holy Lands hills

In the birthplace of agriculture, traditional crops are dying out. But one woman has a plan to preserve them

In the rocky hills of the Palestinian West Bank, farmers learned long ago how to adapt to extremes of climate that make spring the shortest season. In a part of the world where agriculture was first practised, they found crops that could survive even if watered only by the occasional rain storm.

But a form of farming that informed both Palestinian culture and identity seeping into the language, songs and sayings has increasingly come under threat from a combination of factors, including manmade climate change, the incursion onto Palestinian land by Israeli settlement, and agricultural companies marketing of hybrid varieties to farmers.

Now, however, an initiative is being launched to save Palestines agricultural plant heritage, with the first seed bank dedicated to preserving traditional varieties used by farmers for generations before they vanish for ever.

The Palestine Heirloom Seed Library to be formally launched in June is part of an effort both to educate Palestinians about traditional forms of agriculture in the Holy Land, which are in danger of being forgotten, and about the culture associated with them.

The seed library will preserve heirloom varieties particularly adapted to the West Bank. Supported by the Qattan Foundation, the project is the brainchild of Vivien Sansour, who studied and worked abroad before returning to the West Bank city of Beit Jala.

She was inspired to launch the library after her experiences in Mexico and after working with farmers in the West Bank city of Jenin. I was away from Palestine for a long time, said Sansour. While I was away, what I remembered were the smells and tastes. When I came back, I realised that what I remembered was under threat and disappearing.

That threat came from several things. From agri-companies pushing certain varieties and farming methods and from climate change. Places, too, where people would forage for edible plants like the akub thistle have come under threat because of issues like the spread of Israeli settlements.

I realised that what was also under threat was something deeper the connection to a sense of cultural identity. The songs women would sing in the fields. Phrases, even the words we use. So it is about preserving the local biodiversity, but it is also about the importance to Palestinian culture of traditional agricultural methods.

Typical for many Palestinian villagers were allotment-syle garden plots, known in Arabic as pieces of paradise, and the traditional multi-crop planting season known as baal.

They are vegetables and herbs you plant at the end of the spring rains and usually before St Georges Day. The varieties were ones that became adapted over the years to work well in the West Banks climate and soil, said Sansour.

The project, she hopes, will preserve strains including cucumber, marrow and watermelon, once famous throughout the region, that are in danger of dying out. There is a kind of huge watermelon, known as jadui, that was grown in the northern West Bank. Before 1948, it was exported around the region. It was famous in places like Syria. It has almost disappeared. One of the most exciting discoveries so far is that we found some seeds for it. They are seven years old, so we need to see if they are viable.

Part of the project which Sansour hopes will eventually be housed in a new science centre, the Qattan Foundation, in Ramallah has seen teachers being trained in a pilot project to reintroduce students to old agricultural practices. One of these is Inam Owianah, who teaches 12to15-year-olds. I am a science teacher, she said. Part of the curriculum is the growing cycle. I was invited to a workshop of the seed library.

I wasnt even sure what an heirloom variety was. And then I understood! It wasnt just about the seeds, but about an intimate connection to our heritage. And the students started to understand that civilisation is not just about buildings but about a way of life. It was why my grandmother would save the best aubergines and courgettes for seeds for the next year, said Owianah.

I started asking my students to ask their grandparents and parents about the stories and sayings associated with the plants.

On Sansours patch on the outskirts of the village of Battir, next to the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv railway line where she will plant her own baal varieties in the coming days, fennel, mallow, chard and mint are growing wild. On the stone walls she points out edible herbs.

Other plots around have already been cleared for the growing season with a glyphosate-based weedkiller. You can see the difference, she says, disapprovingly picking a handful of wild fennel from her own untreated plot to eat. You can see how wild and lush it is, even before it is cleared for planting.

There is an old Palestinian phrase, she adds: He who does not eat from his own adze cannot think with his own mind.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/apr/23/palestinian-seed-bank-farming-heritage

PayPal to hold all-male panel on gender equality in the workplace

Event organizers said discussion intended for male allies at online payment company to participate with women on gender issues in the workplace

PayPal will host a panel on gender equality next Wednesday to discuss gender equality and inclusion in the workplace. The panel will be all male.

Please join us for a discussion with our senior male leaders about how men and women can partner to achieve a better workplace, reads a flyer shared online and first highlighted by NBC News.

EqualRightsAdvocates (@EqualRightsAdv) April 21, 2016

.@PayPal will host a discussion on gender equality in the workplace with — you guessed it — an all-male panel. pic.twitter.com/crSLWiWgEY

The event is being organized by Unity, Women@PayPal, and immediately ran into criticism on Twitter and Facebook. In response the groups president, Nolwenn Godard, issued a statement on her Facebook page pointing out that the event is focused on male allies.

For this panel our intent is to bring together our male allies to work with us on inclusion. The title of the panel is Gender Equality and Inclusion in the Workplace: a Conversation with our Male Allies, she wrote. Unfortunately the full title and the intention of the panel did not make it on to the initial posters that have been subject of commentary.

Gloria Bell (@gloriabell) April 21, 2016

Just saw this @PayPal Unity – Gender Equality & Inclusion talk on 4/27 – All male senior execs on the panel?? pic.twitter.com/LhlkehsK6B

Godard has since been asked to moderate the all-men panel, according to LaFawn Bailey, global head of culture and inclusion at PayPal. She also pointed out that women in the community are to be full participants in the discussion.

Gender equality is not just a womens issue. It will take all of us to create an inclusive workplace environment where involvement, respect, collaboration and connections are cultivated, Bailey wrote in a blogpost addressing the criticism.

As a leader in culture and inclusion, I recognize that for men to be a catalyst for change, we have to create an environment for honest dialog to occur. Our hope is that this event, which is open to all PayPal employees, will provide a different perspective and spur advocacy around gender balance.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/apr/22/paypal-gender-equality-panel-all-men

Ashley Madison plaintiffs can’t sue anonymously over hack, judge says

Plaintiffs suing site for failing to adequately secure data, marketing full delete removal service that didnt work, and using fake accounts to lure customers

Plaintiffs leading a lawsuit against online dating website Ashley Madison over a security breach that exposed the personal data of customers must publicly identify themselves to proceed with the case, a US judge has ruled.

Forty-two plaintiffs, seeking to represent users of the website who had their information compromised, had proceeded anonymously against Ashley Madisons Toronto-based parent company Avid Life Media, the ruling released on 6 April showed.

The plaintiffs are suing Ashley Madison, a website that facilitates extramarital affairs, for failing to adequately secure their information, marketing a full delete removal service that did not work, and using fake female accounts to lure male customers, according to the ruling.

Their action comes after hackers who claimed to be unhappy with Avid Lifes business practices publicly released Ashley Madison customer data last August.

Reuters has not independently verified the authenticity of the data, emails or documents.

Judge John A Ross, of a district court in Missouri, wrote in his ruling that being publicly named as an Ashley Madison user amounts to more than common embarrassment but noted the 42 plaintiffs have special roles in the case that require identification.

The plaintiffs are class representatives and may need to testify or offer evidence, unlike class members, those in the lawsuit who do not need to participate as actively, Ross wrote.

He ruled that the plaintiffs must either identify themselves or proceed as class members, who can remain anonymous.

The class for the collective lawsuit has not yet been certified, the ruling noted. There are at least 10 plaintiffs who are publicly named.

Avid Media did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/apr/21/ashley-madison-hack-plaintiffs-cant-sue-anonymously

Meet the woman who makes fake fingers for Japan’s reformed gangsters

Yukako Fukushima crafts lifelike pinkies to help yakuza criminals who severed fingers as a mark of contrition begin a new life

When Yukako Fukushima holds the finger to the light, there is a brief moment when it is indistinguishable from her own, real, digits. Nothing about it screams fake. To the untrained eye, it is flawless.

Soon it will be ready for collection by its new owner, one of hundreds of hardened gangsters who have sliced off their pinkies in a ritual show of contrition, and who owe their exit from the underworld and return to mainstream society to Fukushimas prosthetics.

They are members of the yakuza Japans vast network of organised gangs who are desperate to leave behind their lives of crime.

But for those who have transgressed by mishandling money, failing to repay a debt, or simply offending their boss there is a striking physical obstacle to re-entering mainstream society: the painful, and glaringly obvious, self-amputation of their little finger.

That is where Fukushima comes in. For the past two decades, the 44-year-old has hand crafted hundreds of pinkie fingers for former gangsters a minor cosmetic accoutrement that has helped them find jobs and marriage partners, and a semblance of normal life.

Amid recent police warnings that Japans most powerful crime syndicate, the Yamaguchi-gumi, is in a state of all-out war with a breakaway rival, the coming months could be her busiest yet.

This wasnt something I planned to do long-term, and I was about to look for another job when someone told me that I was the only person in Japan doing this kind of work, said Fukushima, who works at the Arte workshop in downtown Osaka, run by the prosthetic and welfare firm Kawamura Gishi.

If you lose a finger in a car accident, people are sympathetic, said Fukushima, who has won two government awards for her work helping yakuza rehabilitate and reintegrate back into society. But thats not the case with the yakuza. Most people cant get past their tattoos or missing fingers.

Yukako
Yukako Fukushima, who makes prosthetic small fingers for reformed Japanese gangsters, at her workshop in Osaka, Japan. Photograph: Justin McCurry for the Guardian

Her decision to continue producing artificial pinkies for reformed mobsters resulted in the breakup of a relationship and criticism from her family for enabling gangsters.

But it also coincided with a dramatic rise in demand for her services. The 1992 anti-organised crime law brought Japans underworld under unprecedented police scrutiny. Combined with the bursting of Japans economic bubble a cash cow for gangsters involved in real estate the legal challenge to decades of official and public tolerance sent large numbers of mobsters to Fukushimas door in search of a fresh start.

World of mouth spreads incredibly quickly among the yakuza, particularly when they are in prison, she said.

Fukushima will only agree to make a pinkie, which can cost more than 1,500, under certain conditions. A group set up by the Osaka prefectural police to help rehabilitate former yakuza introduces her to potential clients after confirming that they have decided to go straight.

I need proof that they have definitely left their gang, and I wont accept extra cash from people who want to jump the queue, said Fukushima, a native of Osaka whose strong dialect isnt far removed from that spoken by many of her clients. Ive had complaints from gangsters who didnt like the look of their new finger, but I wont listen to their threats, even if they come here and start throwing the furniture around. Fortunately, it doesnt happen often, and the police look out for me.

Yubitsume literally finger shortening is thought to have originated among the bakuto feudal-era gamblers who are considered the predecessors of the yakuza. Men who were unable to pay their debts were forced to cut the top portion of their left pinkie, leaving them with a disability that made them less effective as swordsmen.

Typically, yakuza transgressors use a razor-sharp knife to remove a section of finger above the top knuckle, before wrapping the severed part in cloth and offering it to their boss. Contrary to popular belief, the ritual of self-amputation is rarely performed as a voluntary sacrifice. If the misdemeanours continue, more amputations follow, beginning with the second joint in the left pinkie and, in extreme cases, continuing on to the right hand.

Fukushimas artificial finger tips, like the other body parts she makes for people who have been in accidents or suffered serious illness, are the products of incredible attention to detail.

Drawing on around 20 colours, she can create more than 1,000 skin tones to ensure that the fake digit looks exactly the same as its owners other fingers. Every last detail, down to fingerprints, curvature, nails and veins, is expertly reproduced in silicone. The fake tip, which lasts five to 10 years, slides on to the existing stub much like a lid on to a pen.

In Kobe, a short train journey west of Fukushimas office, the Yamaguchi-gumi is in the midst of its biggest crisis since it was founded a century ago and one that is creating a new generation of men who no longer wish to live by the sword.

Yakuza
Yakuza Syndicate Yamaguchi-Gumi Head Shinobu Tsukasa. Photograph: The Asahi Shimbun/Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images

Police have been warning of a potentially violent power struggle since last summer, when more than a dozen gangs with connections to the Yamaguchi-gumi decided to form a breakaway group in protest at the leadership of Shinobu Tsukasa, the Yamaguchi-gumis septuagenarian boss.

In March, police said the organisation and its rival gang, known as Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi, were in a state of all-out war following almost 50 incidents since the split, including the use of firearms and Molotov cocktails.

The conflict has already hit membership of the Yamaguchi-gumi, and could send more repentant mobsters to Fukushimas office.

Nationwide, tougher anti-gang laws and years of economic stagnation have seen the number of active gang members drop to around 53,000, from 80,000 in 2009, according to the national police agency.

Fukushima was reluctant to comment on the turf wars or to speculate how they might affect her business, but said: I just hope the vendettas end soon, but with all this talk of war, right now isnt the time for people to leave. After all, a lot of yakuza behaviour is still dictated by the ideas of duty and obligation.

While a new pinkie is no guarantee that a gangster will change his ways, Fukushima receives enough letters of thanks to convince her that her digits make a difference. I hear from men who have got married and had children or found a job. Others tell me they have straightened themselves out and apologised to their parents for the years of misery they put them through, she said.

Some tell me theyre simply glad to be alive, even though there were times when theyd wished they were dead. When I hear stories like that it motivates me to carry on. Im not doing this as a service for the yakuza. Im doing it for men who want a second chance and to be good role models for their children.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/apr/18/woman-makes-fake-fingers-yakuza-japan-reformed-gangsters