Total Pageviews

Monday, April 1, 2013

English Soccer Club Defends Hiring Italian Coach Known for Fascist Salutes

After he led the Roman soccer club Lazio to victory over their local rivals A.C. Roma in 2005, Paolo Di Canio greeted fans with a fascist salute.Alessia Pierdomenico/Reuters After he led the Roman soccer club Lazio to victory over their local rivals A.C. Roma in 2005, Paolo Di Canio greeted fans with a fascist salute.

Just two weeks after a Greek soccer player who celebrated a goal with a fascist salute was banned from representing his country for life, an Italian coach who made the same gesture repeatedly during his playing days has been hired by a club in England’s top division.

The appointment of Paolo Di Canio to manage Sunderland, a club struggling to avoid relegation from the English Premier League, was immediately condemned by at least one board member, the former British foreign minister David Miliband, who resigned in protest over “the new manager’s past political statements.”

The most famous of those statements came in 2005, when Di Canio told an Italian news agency, “I’m a fascist, not a racist,” when he was banned for one game for making what he called “the Roman salute” to Irriducibili, right-wing fans of the club he supported as a boy, Lazio. “I made the Roman salute because it’s a salute from a comrade to his comrades and was meant for my people,” he added. “With this stiff arm I do no want to incite violence or racial hatred.”

Di Canio, who has the Latin word for “leader” tattooed on his arm in tribute to Mussolini, made the fascist salute at least three times in 2005 before being banned. On one occasion he even raised his arm, in in full view of television cameras, at a match in Livorno, where the home team’s fans were known for their left-wing sympathies and the club’s star player, Cristiano Lucarelli, celebrated goals by revealing a Che Guevara T-shirt worn under his jersey.

Following victory in the Rome derby in January 2005, the Lazio player Paolo Di Canio gave fans what he called a Paolo Cocco/Agence France-Presse â€" Getty Images Following victory in the Rome derby in January 2005, the Lazio player Paolo Di Canio gave fans what he called a “Roman salute.”

Several years earlier, Di Canio admitted in his autobiography that he was “fascinated by Mussolini.” In a passage that mixed praise and condemnation for Il Duce, Di Canio told Gabriele Marcotti, the journalist who co-authored his memoir:

I think he was a deeply misunderstood individual. He deceived people. His actions were often vile. But all this was motivated by a higher purpose. He was basically a very principled individual. Yet he turned against his sense of right and wrong. He compromised his ethics.

Despite these apparently frank admissions of his political sympathies in the past, Di Canio’s new employers reacted with indignation when the issue was raised on Monday. “It is disappointing that some people are trying to turn the appointment of a head coach into a political circus,” Sunderland’s chief executive, Margaret Byrne, said in a statement. She went on to blame the media for misrepresenting the coach’s views. “To accuse him now, as some have done, of being a racist or having fascist sympathies,” Ms. Byrne said, “is insulting not only to him but to the integrity of this football club.”

For his part, Di Canio said in a video interview for the club’s Web site that it was “stupid and ridiculous” to accuse him of racism, naming three black players he was friends with during his career. One of those players, however, the Trinidadian-British goalkeeper Shaka Hislop, told the BBC in 2005 that he no longer considered himself friends with Di Canio after the salutes, “because of what those gestures mean and the wider effect of it.” He added, “Paolo was certainly someone I considered a friend who I liked a lot, so I am very disappointed.”

Writing on Twitter on Monday, Di Canio’s co-author argued that even though he does not share the new Sunderland coach’s politics â€" he called the salute “wrong and insensitive” â€" it was incorrect to call him a Nazi or a racist.

He also thanked another journalist for drawing attention to another passage from the memoir, in which Di Canio expressed some sympathy for the difficulties encountered by immigrants to Italy.

In the interview with Sunderland’s Web site on Monday, Di Canio also claimed that the media was unfairly representing his views by quoting just one portion of the long interview that was used for his biography. “I expressed an opinion in an interview many years ago. Some pieces were taken for media convenience. They took my expression in a very, very negative way - but it was a long conversation and a long interview. It was not fair.”

He added: “What offends me more than everything is not because they touch me; they touch what my parents taught to me; the values they gave to me. This is not acceptable. So, what I can say If someone is hurt, I’m sorry, but that didn’t come from me, it came from a big story that people put out in a different way to what it was.”

Robert Mackey also remixes the news on Twitter @robertmackey.

EMC’s Amazon Challenger Comes Out

A well-financed competitor to Amazon Web Services became official Monday.

Pivotal, a company spun out of assets of EMC and VMware, two tech companies each with billions in revenue, became an independent firm, ahead of a formal introduction on April 29.

Paul Maritz, Pivitol’s chief executive, who long held senior positions at Microsoft, left a position as chief executive VMware to organize and run Pivotal. EMC, a big maker of data storage technology, owns a majority stake in VMware, which makes software for the efficient construction of data centers.

Pivotal has drawn talent from both companies, in particular a division of EMC specialized in data analysis and prediction, and another group that works on writing software applications within cloud computing.

In a letter to employees, Mr. Marit talked about Pivotal’s goal “to enable customers to build a new class of applications, leveraging big and fast data, and do all of this with the power of cloud independence.” Those applications would be running on privately run clouds rich in EMC and VMware products.

That potentially profitable aim is joined by a very real fear of the growing power of Amazon Web Services. By running the world’s largest public cloud, Amazon has lowered the demand for products at both EMC and VMware. People can rent the computing they need at the time on Amazon Web Services, or A.W.S., rather than buying and maintaining large amounts of equipment.

A.W.S. has also built up an increasingly large and varied selection of software applications, lowering the need for companies to own lots of computing assets.

Mr. Maritz’s last great act at VMware was spending $1.26 billion on a networking software company that needs a lot of private clouds to succeed. Pivotal, if it can supply lots of cloud applications and services faster than Amazon can make them, could be a way of ensuring that future.

The real trick, still unseen, will be showing what Pivotal can offer that is faster, more inspiring, and cheaper than A.W.S.

With Pakistani Schools Under Fire, Renewed Outrage and Action

CNN coverage of school teacher’s killing and family interviews

A recent attack on a female teacher at a girls’ school in Pakistan has renewed calls for better security for educators and students in the country.

On March 26, the teacher, Shahnaz Nazli, 41, was shot dead while she was on her way to the school where she worked in Shahkas, the volatile tribal belt on the Afghan border, a local government official, Asmatullah Wazir, told Agence France Presse.

The shooting death was compared to the Taliban’s attack last October on a Pakistani schoolgirl, Malala Yousafzai. The teenager received medical care in Britain and recently resumed her studies there.

The United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, condemned the killing of Ms. Nazli as well as previous violence targeting other teachers and institutions.

But after the attack on Ms. Nazli, at least two more incidents were reported at Pakistani schools over the weekend. On Saturday, a principal, Abdul Rasheed, was killed in a grenade attack on his school in Karachi, according to the Pakistani newspaper Dawn. Parents pulled their sons and daughters from the school, Dawn said in a separate report.

A girls’ school was blown up on Sunday in Bannu, on the edge of the tribal belt, a report by Pakistan’s Express Tribune said on Monday. The newspaper did not report any injuries.

In an echo of the reaction to the attack on Ms. Yousafzai, the death of Ms. Nazli spawned an online response on Twitter. News of the attack circulated via the hashtags #Courage2Teach and #girlseducation, and an online petition was created to demand that more be done to protect students and education officials.

Gordon Brown, the former British prime minister who was named the United Nations’ special envoy for Global Education, called on the Pakistani government in a statement last week to provide further protections.

The petition started by his office after the shooting of Ms. Nazli said: “Mourning the death of Shahnaz Nazli, a courageous teacher shot for wanting to ensure girls have the right to go to school, we call on the president and government of Pakistan to end the killings and violence that prevent girls’ education and to ensure all girls can go to school. We call for all girls and all teachers to be protected and given security to enable them to enjoy their basic right to be educated.”

Mr. Brown wrote on his Web site:

The petition is timely and necessary. This week’s shooting is unfortunately not an isolated incident but a sharp reminder of how a basic right, for girls to go to school, is still being resisted violently by extremist militants. For as I have traveled the world visiting not just Asia but Africa too, I have learned how girls â€" and teachers whose only crime is helping young girls reach their potential through the right to education â€" have been threatened, intimidated and, in some cases, kidnapped, imprisoned, bombed and maimed.

Mr. Brown told the BBC Asian Network in an audio interview last week that not having an education was a “silent emergency” because the damage it did to children was not immediately visible.

CNN coverage of the attack on Mrs. Nazli showed her family in mourning and an interview with her young son, who was with his mother when she was attacked.

Human rights and other organizations said the government needed to do more to protect schools. Human Rights Watch has said there were 96 documented attacks on schools in 2012, most of them in the tribal areas.

Follow Christine Hauser on Twitter @christineNYT.

Indies Grab the Controls at a Game Conference

Indies Grab the Controls at a Game Conference

SAN FRANCISCO â€" The Game Developers Conference is the kind of place where controllers for the PlayStation 4, Sony’s forthcoming console, sit under glass like the Hope Diamond, and where designers and other industry professionals line up for hours to try the Oculus Rift virtual-reality headset, which has begun shipping as prototypes to those who paid $300 for a development kit.

From left, Johnnemann Nordhagen, Kate Craig and Steve Gaynor of the indie Fullbright Company, a new group at the Independent Games Festival pavilion in San Francisco.

But futuristic gadgets weren’t the only innovations on display at the Moscone Center here, where independent designers who make text adventures and other lo-fi games can seem like bigger stars than the ones who make blockbusters. All told more than 20,000 people attended the conference last week.

When I dropped by the “ ‘AAA-level design in a day’ boot camp” on Tuesday â€" AAA being industry jargon for big, mainstream titles with multimillion-dollar budgets â€" the room was a quarter-full at best. A few hours later a near-capacity crowd of about 1,000 started queuing up more than 30 minutes in advance for a series of five-minute talks known as the “indie soapbox.” Ushers held up fingers and guided people to the few remaining seats.

Indies also dominated the Game Developers Choice Awards, which were handed out Wednesday night. Journey, a downloadable game made by the independent studio thatgamecompany for the PlayStation 3, became the first independent title to win the game of the year award. Past winners were blockbusters like Gears of War, Grand Theft Auto III and the Sims.

By the end of that night Journey â€" which is, to be fair, decidedly high tech, gorgeous and the climax of a three-game contract between Sony and thatgamecompany â€" had won 6 of the 11 awards. FTL: Faster Than Light, an independent game financed by a Kickstarter campaign â€" asking for $10,000 and receiving more than $200,000 â€" won the award for best debut.

Just two prizes went to games developed by mainstream studios. The award for best technology went to Far Cry 3, an open-world, first-person shooter published by Ubisoft. The audience award went to Dishonored, from Arkane Studios.

“The system we’re fighting kind of likes us now,” said Andy Schatz, an indie game designer who hosted the Independent Games Festival Awards, which preceded the Game Developers Choice Awards. “Like it or not, we’re not the Clash anymore. We’re Green Day.”

Eric Zimmerman, a game designer and an instructor at the New York University Game Center, gave a similar explanation for why he is canceling the Game Design Challenge that he has held at the conference for the past 10 years. This year’s was the last, he said. “The idea of doing strange, bizarre, experimental games is no longer strange, bizarre or experimental,” Mr. Zimmerman said.

Naturally an independent designer, Jason Rohrer, won the 2013 challenge. The theme was “Humanity’s Final Game,” and Mr. Rohrer designed a game within a game. He first constructed a board game made of titanium and buried it â€" along with playing instructions, encased in glass â€" in the Nevada desert. He then provided the audience with envelopes that, in aggregate, contained more than a million GPS locations where the game might be found. Mr. Rohrer estimated that it would take one person more than 2,000 years to locate his game, as yet unplayed.

Big companies like Sony and Nintendo were at the conference, but they used much of their time to emphasize their desire to work with independent developers rather than to show off their own wares. Sony ran a “PlayStation Indie Arcade” to promote new and current titles. The arcade culminated in a tournament of Johann Sebastian Joust, a screenless game during which selections from Bach’s “Brandenburg” Concertos play while competitors try to jostle the motion-sensitive controllers in their opponents’ hands while holding still the controllers in their own.

“There’s always been cool, experimental stuff going on in the indie space, but it’s broadened its reach,” said Steve Gaynor, a co-founder of the Fullbright Company, a studio that consists of four people in a house in Portland, Ore. “It’s become a lot more viable, business-wise, to be an indie.” (The Fullbright Company’s forthcoming game Gone Home was nominated for excellence in narrative at the independent awards.)

Because of digital distribution, game designers no longer need to have contracts with publishers â€" which might once have secured them vital shelf space at Walmart â€" to succeed financially, Mr. Gaynor said. Beyond money to pay for licensed music and some voice acting, Gone Home’s budget basically pays for food and rent and living expenses for four people. “Our burn rate is really low,” he said.

Leigh Alexander, the editor at large for Gamasutra â€" a trade Web site owned by the same company that runs the Game Developers Conference â€" was heartened by the indie invasion. She tweeted her one-sentence take-away: “The good guys are finally winning.”

Yet she was also on a conference panel that confronted the industry for not doing enough to make women feel accepted â€" as designers, as players, as conferencegoers. The indie crowd is still, like the studio system, largely a men’s club. (Of the 10 indie soapbox speakers 9 were men.)

“You’re either doing it, or you’re not,” said Robin Hunicke, a designer who has worked on games like Journey and the Sims 2 and who recently was co-founder of an independent studio. “You’re actively working to broaden participation in our industry, or you’re in the way.”

Every designer starts out as a player, noted Kim McAuliffe, a designer at Microsoft Studios who most recently worked on the children’s game Kinect Nat Geo TV. The limited number of playable female characters â€" Ms. McAuliffe could remember only Chun-Li from Street Fighter II and the princess in Super Mario Bros. 2 from her childhood â€" necessarily limits the audience for female players, she said, and thus reduces the number of female game designers.

Ms. McAuliffe also said she was uncomfortable with the large number of games that involve shooting human characters. “I worked on Socom 4,” a military shooter, “but it made me uncomfortable every time I played my own levels,” she said.

The number of women in the industry is growing, said Brenda Romero, the game designer in residence at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and the creator of acclaimed board games, like Train, about the Holocaust. After all, she said, “2006 was the first year there was a line at the women’s bathroom at G.D.C.” But, she added, industry traditions like the “booth babes” at the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo, known as E3, need to end before women will feel fully welcome.

Ms. Romero’s 12-year-old daughter told her that her dream was to make a video game with her. For now, though, Ms. Romero is unwilling to take her daughter into what she called E3’s “sexually charged environment,” one that she compared to a leering crowd at a construction site.

Appealing directly to the organizers of E3 Ms. Romero concluded the panel by saying, “Please change this, so I can bring her there.”

A version of this article appeared in print on April 1, 2013, on page C1 of the New York edition with the headline: Indies Grab the Controls At a Game Conference.