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Monday, March 4, 2013

Israelis Divided Over Separate Bus Lines for Arabs and Jews in Occupied West Bank

After passing through an Israeli military checkpoint in the West Bank on Monday, Palestinians boarded buses to take them to jobs in Israel.Uriel Sinai/Getty Images After passing through an Israeli military checkpoint in the West Bank on Monday, Palestinians boarded buses to take them to jobs in Israel.

Israel’s transportation ministry introduced Monday what it billed as improved service for nearly 30,000 Palestinians who live under Israeli military occupation in the West Bank and commute to work each day in Israel: two new bus lines “designated” for their use. Israeli rights groups, however, denounced the move as the de facto segregation of public transportation in response to pressue from Israeli settlers who live in the West Bank but are unhappy about sharing buses with their Palestinian neighbors.

“Creating separate bus lines for Israeli Jews and Palestinians is a revolting plan,” the director of the Israeli rights group B’Tselem, Jessica Montell, told Israel’s Army Radio. While settler leaders endorsed the plan to provide separate buses for Palestinians as necessary to prevent crowding and assuage fears of suicide bombers, Ms. Montell said, “This is simply racism. Such a plan cannot be justified with claims of security needs or overcrowding.”

Under the headline, “Separate But Equal Bus Lines” the Tel Aviv daily Yedioth Ahronoth noted that Israeli activists from the group Peace Now heard echoes of the segregated public services for Africa! n-Americans in the 1950s in the plan. “The decision to separate bus lines in the territories is shocking and turns racism into the norm,” the activists said. “A Palestinian Rosa Parks is needed to insist upon sitting on Jewish bus lines.”

The newspaper also reported that Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz denied that the new bus lines mandated segregation since “Palestinians entering Israel will be able to ride on all public transportation lines, including all those already existing in the West Bank.”

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported in November that the ministry might add new lines for Palestinians after a spate of reports that even residents of the occupied territories who had cleared rigorous security checks to obtain permits to enter Israel were being denied boarding by Israeli drivers or removed from buses by police officers in response to complaints from settlers.

Last October, one Israeli bus driver was caught on video refusing to allow a Palestinian man with a permit to work in Israel to board a bus from Tel Aviv to the West Bank used by Israeli settlers.

Video shot by the Israeli filmmaker Eran Vered for the Tel Aviv workers’ rights group Kav LaOved showed an Israeli bus driver refusing to accept a Palestinian passenger in O! ctober.

Despite assurances from Israeli officials that Palestinians would not be barred from buses used by settlers, rights groups said that such orders were already being issued on a routine basis. On Thursday, Haaretz published an account of one recent incident, recorded in the notes of an Israeli rights monitor at a West Bank checkpoint who wrote:

Police officer Advanced Staff Sergeant Major Shai Zecharia stops the bus at the bus stop. Soldiers order all the Palestinians off the bus. The first thing they do is collect all their identity cards as they get off. One by one, the Palestinians are told to go away from the bus stop and walk to the Azzun Atma checkpoint, which is about 2.5 kilometers [1.5 miles] away from the Shaar Shomron interchange. All of them responded with restraint and sadness, at most asking why. Here and there the received answers such as, ‘You’re not allowed on Highway 5,’ and ‘You’re not allowed on public transportation.’

Reuters reported on Monday that a police spokesman, Micky Rosenfeld, “said all Palestinians returning to the West Bank would be searched for stolen property, describing this as a routine Israeli precaution.”

The dispute over the new lines also illustrated the fact that Palestinians with work permits are allowed to travel freely inside Israel, but are prohibited from entering Israeli settlements near their homes in the West Bank, where they endure a range of restrictions on their movement imposed by the Israeli military, which still administers the occupied territories.

Commenting on the uproar over the separate bus lines, Yousef Munayyer, the director of The Palestine Center in Washington, suggested that it was strange that the issue had att! racted so! much attention, given that Palestinians have lived under Israeli military rule for almost five decades.

Another Washington observer, Jeffrey Goldberg, who i a staunch defender of Israel but a critic of the enduring military occupation, wrote that the issue illustrated that “Settlements are incompatible with democracy.”

Bus lines are just a symptom: Ultimate issue is political disenfranchisement. Palestinians should have a state, or the vote in Israel.

â€" Jeffrey Goldberg (@JeffreyGoldberg) 3 Mar 13

Several critics of the new bus lines in Israel said they evoked not just the segregation of the American South but the apartheid regime of South Africa. Mr. Goldberg, who has long argued that the unchecked growth of Israeli settlements is undermining the possibility of a two-state solution, reminded readers in a 2008 Op-Ed that no less an Israeli patriot than former Prime Minister Ehud Barak once warned, “every attempt to keep hold of this area as one political entity leads, necessarily, to either a nondemocratic stateor a non-Jewish state. Because if the Palestinians vote, then it is a binational state, and if they don’t vote it is an apartheid state.”

Honoring a Force of Nature, in Computers and Networks

As a brilliant Israeli-born math student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology during the 1960s, Danny Cohen was known as a force of nature. And when he learned that Ivan Sutherland, the inventor of the seminal Sketchpad computer interface system, was teaching a small graduate seminar on computer graphics at Harvard, he was determined to take the course.

“At that time the way you got into courses like that was that Harvard had a quaint little phrase, ‘admission by consent of the instructor,’” recalled Robert F. Sproull, a computer scientist who was a Harvard student at the time. “Danny had shown up and we all figured that Ivan had consented, but later we learned, according to Ivan, it was more like relented.”

The Israeli math prodigy would go on to become a graduate student with Dr. Sutherland, with whom he designed the first computerized flight simulation system, pioneering the software technique for hiding visual surfaces from view.

After earning his doctorate hejoined the Harvard computer science faculty and then moved to the University of Southern California, where he spent 20 years at the Information Sciences Institute. While at the institute he made fundamental contributions that included developing techniques for sending voice and other “real time” information over the Arpanet, the predecessor to the modern Internet; to helping create the Metal Oxide Semiconductor Implementation Service, the first computer chip “foundry,” which helped train a generation of students in the art of Very Large Scale Integrated circuit design, as well as inventing a ultra-high speed networking system, which made possible the first commodity computing clusters â€" forerunners of today’s cloud computing systems â€" practical.

Along the way he achieved a legendary status inside the elite computing fraternity who pioneered today’s computers and networks.

On Saturday, to celebrate his recent retirement as a distinguished engineer from the former Sun Mic! rosystems Laboratories, which in 2009 became part of Oracle, a small group of computing pioneers gathered at Google to hold a “Festschrift” â€" which traditionally refers to a book written to honor a respected academic colleague.

Among the more than 40 attendees who came to the afternoon seminar and told stories about Dr. Cohen’s academic accomplishments and adventures were Vint Cerf and Robert Kahn, who designed the original Internet protocols; Larry Roberts, an early ARPA manager who would become the first president of Telnet and later other networking firms; Leonard Kleinrock, a UCLA computer scientist who did early design work in computer networking; Charles Seitz, a California Institute of Technology computer scientist who designed some of the first supercomputers based on cheap microprocessors; Neil Gershenfeld, director of the Center for Bits and Atoms at MIT; Ivan and William Robert Sutherland, known as Bert, brothers who pioneered a range of computing technologies at Xerox, Sun and esewhere; and Deborah L. Estrin, a member of a well known family of computer scientists who recently became the first professor hired by CornellNYC Tech.

Long known for both a sly sense of humor and also being a bit of a practical joker, Dr. Cohen over the years took to publishing with a mysterious co-author, the imaginary “Professor James Finnegan” (who is cited twice in Dr. Cohen’s Wikipedia entry). A scientist playing Dr. Finnegan, outfitted in a tiger-stripe sport coat, made a presentation on Saturday â€" an academic treatise on the invention of something called a “daser.” Just as the laser amplified light, the daser, he noted, would amplify darkness.

Ron Ho, a microprocessor architect at Oracle, described arriving at Sun Labs in 2003 and on his second day Dr. Cohen, introducing himself as “Danny,” charged into his office and handed him a paper written by Professor Finnegan and told him he must read it.

As he read the paper Dr. Ho became more and more enraged. â€! œIt wasnâ! €™t until I got to the very end where it said, ‘the more processors, the better the paper,’ that I realized it was a joke,” he recalled.

Photos of Oberlin College Students Rallying Against Hate Incidents

As my colleague Richard Pérez-Peña reports, Oberlin College in Ohio canceled classes Monday for a “day of solidarity” after a person wearing what appeared to be a Ku Klux Klan-style white hood and robe was spotted on campus early Monday near the college’s Afrikan Heritage House.

It was the latest in a series racist and antigay incidents, documented in the student newspaper, The Oberlin Revew, that began on Feb. 9 when Black History Month posters and “Year of the Queer” posters were vandalized in the Science Center.

Swastikas and graffiti were scrawled on the posters. Since then, “Whites Only” was written above a water fountain. On Feb. 17, the paper reported, a student “was approached by an individual who made a derogatory remark about his perceived ethnicity and then physically knocked him to the ground.”

A highly regarded liberal arts college about 30 miles southwest of Cleveland, Oberlin is known for its openness and commitment to diversity. As word spread on Twitter and Facebook about gatherings on campus, nearly a thousand students showed up for an afternoon rally, carrying signs and chanting: “Tell me what community looks like. THIS i! s what community looks like.”

After the sighting of the person in the white robe around 1:30 a.m., the administration sent out a message early Monday, saying that the police were investigating and that classes would be suspendd Monday for a “series of discussions of the challenging issues that have faced our community in recent weeks.”

Early this morning, there was a report of a person wearing a hood and robe resembling a KKK outfit between South and the Edmonia Lewis Center and in the vicinity of Afrikan Heritage House. This report is being investigated by both Safety and Security and the Oberlin Police Department. This event, in addition to the series of other hate-related incidents on campus, has precipitated our decision to suspend formal classes and all non-essential activities for today, Monday, March 4, 2013, and gather for a series of discussions of the challenging issues that have faced our community in recent weeks.

We hope today will allow the entire community â€" students, faculty, and staff â€" to make a strong statement about the values that we cherish here at Oberlin: inclusion, respect for others, and a strong and abiding faith in the worth of every individual. Indeed, the stren! gth of Ob! erlin comes from our belief that diversity and openness enriches us all, and enhances the educational mission at its core.

We ask that all students, faculty and staff participate in the events planned for today:

12PM | Lord Lounge, Afrikan Heritage House
Teach-in led by Africana Studies Department

2PM | Wilder Bowl
Demonstration of solidarity

3:30PM | Finney Chapel
Community convocation: “We Stand Together” (previously scheduled for Wednesday 3/6 at 12PM)

When faced with difficult situations, Oberlin has consistently met the challenges and affirmed its commitment to the highest quality of education and the noblest aspirations of its community members. We believe that today’s events â€" and our ongoing work and discussions â€" will strengthen Oberlin and will strengthen us all.

Samsung’s New Smartphone Will Track Eyes to Scroll Pages

Samsung’s next big smartphone, to be introduced next month, will have a strong focus on software. A person who has tried the phone, called the Galaxy S IV, described one feature as particularly new and exciting: Eye scrolling.

The phone will track a user’s eyes to determine where to scroll, said a Samsung employee who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the news media. For example, when users read articles and their eyes reach the bottom of the page, the software will automatically scroll down to reveal the next paragraphs of text.

The source would not explain what technology was being used to track eye movements, nor did he say whether the feature would be demonstrated at the Galaxy S IV press conference, which will be held in New York on March 14. The Samsung employee said that over all, the software features of the new phone outweighed the importance of the hardware.

Indeed, Samsung in January filed for a trademark in Europe for the name “Eye Scroll” (mark no. 011510674). It filed for the “Samsung Eye Scroll” trademark in the United States in February, where it described the service as “Computer application software having a feature of sensing eye movements and scrolling displays of mobile devices, namely, mobile phones, smartphones and tablet computers according to eye movements; digital cameras; mobile telephones; smartphones; tablet computers.”

Samsung has also filed for the trademark “Eye Pause,” without describing what the feature does.

In an interview, Kevin Packingham, Samsung’s chief product officer, declined to share details about Samsung’s next phone. But he said he disagreed that the new hardware would be insignificant compared with the so! ftware, and over all, “It’s an amazing phone.”

Eye tracking systems have been in development for a while. Samsung’s current flagship phone, the Galaxy S III, already has a feature that watches you. The feature, Smart Stay, uses its front-facing camera to know to keep the screen lit up when a person is looking at it instead of dimming it automatically.

Tobii, a technology company that received $21 million in funding from Intel last year, has been working on a technique that uses infrared sensors to track precise eye movements.

Samsung’s Galaxy S III has been the company’s best-selling phone, so the release of its next flagship phone has been highly anticipated.

Video of Cardinals Arriving to Choose Benedict’s Successor

A video report posted on the Vatican’s official YouTube channel showed cardinals arriving in Rome on Monday to set a date for the conclave to choose a new pope.

More than 100 cardinals from throughout the world arrived at Paul VI Hall in Rome on Monday to prepare for the conclave, the process used to select the successor to Pope Benedict XVI, who stepped down last week. Not all of the cardinals have yet arrived in Rome, officials said, so the date for the start of the conclave is not expected to immediately be set.

According to The National Catholic Reporter, most of the cardinals remained silent as they walked into their first meeting, which began with several prayers, including the “Veni Sanctus Spiritus.” The cardinals took an oath on the Bible “to keep the contents of the meetings secret at pain of excommunication.”

The Reporter said that “three cardinals â€" Giovanni Battista Re, Crescenzio Sepe and Franc Rode â€" were chosen by lot to help assist in the general functioning of the church in the tim! e before the election of the new pope.”

As Benedict, 85, retires to a life of prayer and study as the pope emeritus, the decision on the next leader of the Roman Catholic Church is being made amid scandals and intrigue in the Vatican and criticism that he did not do enough during his eight-year papacy to address the cover-ups of sexual abuse cases involving Catholic clerics and children.

Vatican officials acknowledged last week that wiretaps had been placed on the phones of some officials.

On Sunday, as our colleague, John Burns reports, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, head of the church of Scotland, acknowledged that he had been guilty of sexual misconduct a week after he announced that he was resigning and would not be attending the conclave to choose the next ppe. His statement came after three current and one former priest reported that he had made inappropriate sexual moves toward them 30 years ago.

In the full text of the statement, he said:

In recent days certain allegations which have been made against me have become public. Initially, their anonymous and non-specific nature led me to contest them.

However, I wish to take this opportunity to admit that there have been times that my sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me as a priest, archbishop and cardinal.

To those I have offended, I apologize and ask forgiveness.

To the Catholic Church and people of Scotland, I also apologize.

I will now spend the rest of my life in retirement. I will play no further part in the public life of the Catholic Church in Scotland.

The Reporter explained that the term! “concl! ave” comes from “two Latin words meaning “with a key,” referring to the fact that once the cardinals process into the Sistine Chapel and the phrase extra omnes has been intoned by the master of ceremonies, meaning “everybody out,” the doors are locked and the voting begins.”

Big Data Done Cheap

Some new product impress for what they says about the future. Win or lose, they show where the world is going with near certainty.

In this case, the product is Big Data computing at near consumer prices.

Violin Memory is an eight year-old company that makes large-scale data storage systems for computer centers. Its boxes fetch information uncommonly fast. Now, the company is going downmarket, with data storage for individual computer servers. These data cards create powerful machines that can do sophisticated work, at less than one-tenth the current costs of storage.

If the product works, ordinary servers costing a few thousand dollars might be deployed for sophisticated data analysis, genetic research, logistics management, or other activities that are currently done on multimillion-dollar racks of computers. It could make possible much cheaper real-time computing projects at companies and schools, bringing in more customers and experimentation.

“Radical economics is the only wa to break the way things are done,” said Don Basile, the chief executive of Violin Memory. “This is like having array storage, the stuff in data centers, in the palm of your hand.”

Besides being cheaper and more capacious than any comparable storage inside a server, he said, the cards can supposedly and can fetch and store data 25,000 times faster than conventional disc drive storage.

A typical server has eight gigabytes of memory for reaching data quickly, plus more stored in a 500 gigabyte hard drive. The Violin Memory data cards, produced in conjunction with Toshiba, offer 1.4 terabytes in “flash” memory, which can be accessed quickly. Cards for higher-end servers hold up to 11 terabytes.

This so-called in-memory computing matters, because otherwise machines take too much time fetching data back and forth. In-memory, however, is now mostly on expensive machines; an Oracle’s Exadata product can cost over $1 million for storage and computing, plus monthly service charge! s running tens of thousands of dollars.

The low-end Violin Memory card has a list price of $4,000, and is meant for a server costing even less than that. The bigger card, for the kind of server that costs $5000 or more, lists for about $60,000. In the real world, both cards are likely to be heavily discounted. There are a couple of other models in between the two cards.

The secret to doing this new style of server memory is a clever use of commercial-grade flash memory, the kind of stuff that stores the pictures in digital cameras.

Violin Memory uses a board full of these consumer chips, coordinated by its own specially-built silicon. The company’s odd name is a reference to that orchestration.

“The explosion of data analytics gives us an opportunity in this market,” said Mr. Basile. “Over the next several years, every server will have in-memory computing.”

Toshiba, which is also an investor in Violin Memory, may sell the product to other server makers as well as puttng it in its own brand of servers. Violin Memory has its own sales force, albeit a small one.

Even without this particular innovation, flash memory has become better and cheaper thanks not just to cameras and big commercial systems, but the explosion of smartphones and tablets, which also use the stuff.