What Is It About 20-Somethings?


Keniston’s description of “youth” presages Arnett’s description of “emerging adulthood” a generation later. In the late ’60s, Keniston wrote that there was “a growing minority of post-adolescents [who] have not settled the questions whose answers once defined adulthood: questions of relationship to the existing society, questions of vocation, questions of social role and lifestyle.” Whereas once, such aimlessness was seen only in the “unusually creative or unusually disturbed,” he wrote, it was becoming more common and more ordinary in the baby boomers of 1970. Among the salient characteristics of “youth,” Keniston wrote, were “pervasive ambivalence toward self and society,” “the feeling of absolute freedom, of living in a world of pure possibilities” and “the enormous value placed upon change, transformation and movement” — all characteristics that Arnett now ascribes to “emerging adults.”

“It’s somewhat terrifying,” writes a 25-year-old named Jennifer, “to think about all the things I’m supposed to be doing in order to ‘get somewhere’ successful: ‘Follow your passions, live your dreams, take risks, network with the right people, find mentors, be financially responsible, volunteer, work, think about or go to grad school, fall in love and maintain personal well-being, mental health and nutrition.’ When is there time to just be and enjoy?” Adds a 24-year-old from Virginia: “There is pressure to make decisions that will form the foundation for the rest of your life in your 20s. It’s almost as if having a range of limited options would be easier.”

Fingerman took solace in her findings; she said it showed that parents stay connected to their grown children, and she suspects that both parties get something out of it. The survey questions, after all, referred not only to dispensing money but also to offering advice, comfort and friendship. And another of Fingerman’s studies suggests that parents’ sense of well-being depends largely on how close they are to their grown children and how their children are faring — objective support for the adage that you’re only as happy as your unhappiest child. But the expectation that young men and women won’t quite be able to make ends meet on their own, and that parents should be the ones to help bridge the gap, places a terrible burden on parents who might be worrying about their own job security, trying to care for their aging parents or grieving as their retirement plans become more and more of a pipe dream.

A High-Tech Titan Plagued by Potholes

August 25, 2010


PUNE, India — Call it India’s engineering paradox.

Despite this nation’s rise as a technology titan with some of the world’s best engineering minds, India’s full economic potential is stifled by potholed roadways, collapsing bridges, rickety railroads and a power grid so unreliable that many modern office buildings run their own diesel generators to make sure the lights and computers stay on.

It is not for want of money. The Indian government aims to spend $500 billion on infrastructure by 2012 and twice that amount in the following five years.

The problem is a dearth of engineers — or at least the civil engineers with the skill and expertise to make sure those ambitious projects are done on time and up to specifications.

Civil engineering was once an elite occupation in India, not only during the British colonial era of carving roads and laying train tracks, but also long after independence as part of the civil service. These days, though, India’s best and brightest know there is more money and prestige in writing software for foreign customers than in building roadways for their nation.

And so it is that 26-year-old Vishal Mandvekar, despite his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, now writes software code for a Japanese automaker.

Mr. Mandvekar works in an air-conditioned building with Silicon Valley amenities here in Pune, a boomtown about 100 miles east of Mumbai. But getting to and from work requires him to spend a vexing hour on his motorcycle, navigating the crowded, cratered roads between home and his office a mere nine miles away.

During the monsoon season, the many potholes “are filled with water and you can’t tell how deep they are until you hit one,” he said.

Fixing all that, though, will remain some other engineer’s problem.

Mr. Mandvekar earns a salary of about $765 a month. That is more than three times what he made during his short stint for a commercial contractor, supervising construction of lodging for a Sikh religious group, after he earned his degree in 2006.

“It was fun doing that,” he said of the construction job. “My only dissatisfaction was the pay package.”

Young Indians’ preference for software over steel and concrete poses an economic conundrum for India. Its much-envied information technology industry generates tens of thousands of relatively well-paying jobs every year. But that lure also continues the exodus of people qualified to build the infrastructure it desperately needs to improve living conditions for the rest of its one billion people — and to bolster the sort of industries that require good highways and railroads more than high-speed Internet links to the West.

In 1990, civil engineering programs had the capacity to enroll 13,500 students, while computer science and information technology departments could accept but 12,100. Yet by 2007, after a period of incredible growth in India’s software outsourcing business, computer science and other information technology programs ballooned to 193,500; civil engineering climbed to only 22,700. Often, those admitted to civil engineering programs were applicants passed over for highly competitive computer science tracks.

There are various other reasons that India has struggled to build a modern infrastructure, including poor planning, political meddling and outright corruption. But the shortage of civil engineers is an important factor. In 2008, the World Bank estimated that India would need to train three times as many civil engineers as it does now to meet its infrastructure needs.

The government has “kick-started a massive infrastructure development program without checking on the manpower supply,” said Atul Bhobe, managing director of S. N. Bhobe & Associates, a civil engineering design company. “The government is willing to spend $1 trillion,” he said, “but you don’t have the wherewithal to spend that kind of money.”

Sujay Kalele, an executive with Kolte-Patil, a Pune-based developer of residential and commercial buildings, said the company’s projects could be completed as much as three months faster if it could find enough skilled engineers.

“If we need 10 good-quality civil engineers, we may get four or five,” Mr. Kalele said.

Beyond construction delays and potholes, experts say, the engineering shortfall poses outright dangers. Last year, for example, an elevated span that was part of New Delhi’s much-lauded metro rail system collapsed, killing six people and injuring more than a dozen workers. A government report partly blamed faulty design for the accident; metro officials said they would now require an additional review of all designs by independent engineers.

Acknowledging India’s chronic shortage of civil engineers and other specialists, the national government is building 30 universities and considering letting foreign institutions set up campuses in the country.

“India has embarked on its largest education expansion program since independence,” the prime minister, Manmohan Singh, said in a speech last year in Washington.

But the government may have only so much influence on what students study. And while the Indian government runs or finances some of the country’s most prestigious universities, like the Indian Institutes of Technology, fast-growing private institutions now train more students. About three-quarters of engineering students study at private colleges.

Moreover, many civil engineers who earn degrees in the discipline never work in the profession or — like Mr. Mandvekar — leave it soon after they graduate to take better-paying jobs in information technology, management consulting or financial services.

Industry experts say a big obstacle to attracting more civil engineers is the paltry entry-level pay. The field was considered relatively lucrative until the 1990s, when it was eclipsed by the pay in commercial software engineering.

Ravi Sinha, a civil engineering professor at the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, says professionals in his field with five years of experience make about as much as their counterparts at information technology companies. But those starting can make as little as half the pay of their technology peers.

That is partly because of the lead set by government departments, where salaries for civil engineers are often fixed according to nearly immutable civil service formulas.

And in the private sector, developers and construction companies have often been reluctant to pay more and invest in the training of young engineers, because executives believe that new graduates do not contribute enough to merit more money or that they will leave for other jobs anyway.

“If companies take a holistic view,” Mr. Sinha said, “they have the opportunity to develop the next generation’s leaders.”

In fact, a construction boom in recent years has led to higher salaries in private industry. Kolte-Patil now pays junior engineers $425 a month, nearly twice the level of five years ago.

Larsen & Toubro, a Mumbai-based engineering company that builds airports, power projects and other infrastructure, offers Build India Scholarships for students who want to pursue a master’s degree in construction technology and management. The program produces 50 to 60 graduates a year, who are hired by the company.

“You don’t get the best quality in civil engineers, because today the first choice for students is other branches” of engineering, said K. P. Raghavan, an executive vice president in L.& T.’s construction division. “We are compensating with lots of training.”

Israel Grows Uneasy Over Reliance on Migrant Labor

Published: July 4, 2010

The government insists it wants unskilled jobs to go to unemployed Israelis, especially Arab citizens and ultra-Orthodox Jews. Critics say the policies are hypocritical and racist because they treat foreign workers as undeserving of legal protection.

“We have created a Jewish and democratic nation, and we cannot let it turn into a nation of foreign workers,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at a conference of the Israel Manufacturers Association in January.

The Chinese end up in the most desperate straits here partly because they are recruited through a murky network of manpower companies that rights groups say operate like human trafficking rings. Chinese pay up to $31,000 in illegal recruitment fees, the highest fees of all foreign workers, according to Kav LaOved, which says the money ends up in the pockets of go-betweens and government agencies in both countries.

The Chinese must work for an average of two years just to repay the money they borrow to afford those fees. Unaware of their rights and unable to speak Hebrew or English, many fall victim to a minefield of abuse like squalid living conditions, withheld wages and the early termination of work permits, which make them liable for deportation before they have repaid the recruitment fees or saved money for themselves.

Worker advocates say the Chinese Embassy has long been indifferent or even hostile to the workers’ plight. When 170 construction workers went on strike in 2001 seeking back pay, embassy officials warned them that they would be imprisoned upon their return to China for breaching their contracts and breaking Chinese labor law.

Yang Jianchu, the Chinese consul for immigration affairs, says his staff does all it can to help those in trouble. He also dismissed accusations by worker advocates that the Chinese government profits from the exorbitant recruitment fees. “We don’t know where the money goes,” Mr. Yang said. “This is the truth.”

One 40-year-old Chinese worker from Jiangsu Province said he was once forced to sleep in a shipping crate. Fears of being arrested by the immigration police consume him. “When I sleep, they catch me in my dreams,” said the man, surnamed Jiang, who asked that his full name not be printed.

The government has quietly begun to replace Chinese with other non-Israelis, issuing 15,000 construction permits to Palestinians this year. This comes as right-wing politicians have heightened accusations that foreign workers are stealing Israeli jobs and threatening the nation’s Jewish character, an assertion many on the left dismiss.

“Saying foreign workers are diluting the Jewish state is racism,” said Nitzan Horowitz, a member of the Israeli Parliament and a critic of the foreign-worker policy. “On one hand, Israel is bringing them here and making money off their backs, and on other they face all sorts of harassment.”

Even if the law is changed, it will be too late for people like Lin Qingde, a Chinese construction worker who is one of 26 plaintiffs to sue an Israeli-Arab merchant accused of stealing $1.7 million from hundreds of workers, money that he was supposed to wire to their families in China. The police arrested the businessman, but, while waiting to testify at the trial, Mr. Lin’s work visa expired and he was also arrested.

Stuck behind bars for five months and afraid he might be killed in China for failing to repay a $40,000 debt, Mr. Lin was finally called into court in May to give his account. A few days later, he was deported.

Hay Haber, the lawyer for Mr. Lin and the other plaintiffs, said he was ashamed of Israel’s justice system. “These workers, unfortunately, have no place in Israel,” Mr. Haber said, surrounded by stacks of evidence files in his Tel Aviv office. “Here they are nothing but cheap slaves.”

China Fears Consumer Impact on Global Warming

Published: July 4, 2010

The International Energy Agency now projects that China’s emissions of energy-related greenhouse gases will grow more than the rest of the world’s combined increase by 2020. China, with one-fifth of the world’s population, is now on track to represent more than a quarter of humanity’s energy-related greenhouse-gas emissions.

¶Although China has passed the United States in the average efficiency of its coal-fired power plants, demand for electricity is so voracious that China last year built new coal-fired plants with a total capacity greater than all existing power plants in New York State.

¶While China has imposed lighting efficiency standards on new buildings and is drafting similar standards for household appliances, construction of apartment and office buildings proceeds at a frenzied pace. And rural sales of refrigerators, washing machines and other large household appliances more than doubled in the past year in response to government subsidies aimed at helping 700 million peasants afford modern amenities.

¶As the economy becomes more reliant on domestic demand instead of exports, growth is shifting toward energy-hungry steel and cement production and away from light industries like toys and apparel.

¶Chinese cars get 40 percent better gas mileage on average than American cars because they tend to be much smaller and have weaker engines. And China is drafting regulations that would require cars within each size category to improve their mileage by 18 percent over the next five years. But China’s auto market soared 48 percent in 2009, surpassing the American market for the first time, and car sales are rising almost as rapidly again this year.

An older generation of low-wage migrant workers accepted hot dormitories and factories with barely a fan to keep them cool, one of many reasons Chinese emissions per person are still a third of American emissions per person.

Indeed, one of the demands by workers who went on strike in May at a Honda transmission factory in Foshan was that the air-conditioning thermostats be set lower. Chinese regulations still mandate that the air-conditioning in most places be set no cooler than 79 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer. But upscale shopping malls have long been exempt from the thermostat controls and have maintained much cooler temperatures through the summers. Now, as the consumer economy takes root, those malls are proliferating in cities across China.

Manufacturing makes up three times as much of the Chinese economy as it does the American economy, and it is energy-intensive. If the United States had much more manufacturing, Mr. Fridley said, it would also use considerably more energy per dollar of output.

Factory Jobs Return, but Employers Find Skills Shortage

July 1, 2010


BEDFORD, Ohio — Factory owners have been adding jobs slowly but steadily since the beginning of the year, giving a lift to the fragile economic recovery. And because they laid off so many workers — more than two million since the end of 2007 — manufacturers now have a vast pool of people to choose from.

Yet some of these employers complain that they cannot fill their openings.

Plenty of people are applying for the jobs. The problem, the companies say, is a mismatch between the kind of skilled workers needed and the ranks of the unemployed.

Economists expect that Friday’s government employment report will show that manufacturers continued adding jobs last month, although the overall picture is likely to be bleak. With the government dismissing Census workers, more jobs might have been cut than added in June.

And concerns are growing that the recovery could be teetering, with some fresh signs of softer demand this week. A central index of consumer confidence dropped sharply in June, while auto sales declined from the previous month.

Pending home sales plunged by 30 percent in May from April as tax credits for home buyers expired. Fretting that global growth is slowing, investors have driven stock indexes in the United States down to their levels of last October, for losses as great as 8 percent for 2010.

As unlikely as it would seem against this backdrop, manufacturers who want to expand find that hiring is not always easy. During the recession, domestic manufacturers appear to have accelerated the long-term move toward greater automation, laying off more of their lowest-skilled workers and replacing them with cheaper labor abroad.

Now they are looking to hire people who can operate sophisticated computerized machinery, follow complex blueprints and demonstrate higher math proficiency than was previously required of the typical assembly line worker.

Makers of innovative products like advanced medical devices and wind turbines are among those growing quickly and looking to hire, and they too need higher skills.

“That’s where you’re seeing the pain point,” said Baiju R. Shah, chief executive of BioEnterprise, a nonprofit group in Cleveland trying to turn the region into a center for medical innovation. “The people that are out of work just don’t match the types of jobs that are here, open and growing.”

The increasing emphasis on more advanced skills raises policy questions about how to help low-skilled job seekers who are being turned away at the factory door and increasingly becoming the long-term unemployed. This week, the Senate reconsidered but declined to extend unemployment benefits, after earlier extensions raised the maximum to 99 weeks.

The Obama administration has advocated further stimulus measures, which the Senate rejected, and has allocated more money for training. Still, officials say more robust job creation is the real solution.

But a number of manufacturers say that even if demand surges, they will never bring back many of the lower-skilled jobs, and that training is not yet delivering the skilled employees they need.

Here in this suburb of Cleveland, supervisors at Ben Venue Laboratories, a contract drug maker for pharmaceutical companies, have reviewed 3,600 job applications this year and found only 47 people to hire at $13 to $15 an hour, or about $31,000 a year.

The going rate for entry-level manufacturing workers in the area, according to Cleveland State University, is $10 to $12 an hour, but more skilled workers earn $15 to $20 an hour.

All candidates at Ben Venue must pass a basic skills test showing they can read and understand math at a ninth-grade level. A significant portion of recent applicants failed, and the company has been disappointed by the quality of graduates from local training programs. It is now struggling to fill 100 positions.

“You would think in tough economic times that you would have your pick of people,” said Thomas J. Murphy, chief executive of Ben Venue.

How many more people would be hired if manufacturers could find qualified candidates is hard to say. Since January, they have added 126,000 jobs, or about 6 percent of those slashed during the recession. The number may understate activity somewhat, as many factories have turned to temporary workers.

Christina D. Romer, chairwoman of the Council of Economic Advisers, said the skills shortages reported by employers stem largely from a long-term structural shift in manufacturing, which should not be confused with the recent downturn. “I do think that manufacturing can come back to what it was before the recession,” she said.

Automakers, for example, have been ramping up and mainly filling slots with people laid off a year or two ago.

Manufacturers who profess to being shorthanded say they have retooled the way they make products, calling for higher-skilled employees. “It’s not just what is being made,” said David Autor, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, “but to the degree that you make it at all, you make it differently.”

In a survey last year of 779 industrial companies by the National Association of Manufacturers, the Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte, the accounting and consulting firm, 32 percent of companies reported “moderate to serious” skills shortages. Sixty-three percent of life science companies, and 45 percent of energy firms cited such shortages.

In the Cleveland area, historically a center of metalworking and rubber production, more than 40,000 manufacturing workers lost their jobs in the recession, a 21 percent decline, according to an analysis of employment data by Cleveland State University. Since the beginning of the year, the region has added 4,500 positions.

Employers say they are looking for aptitude as much as specific skills. “We are trying to find people with the right mindset and intelligence,” said Mr. Murphy.

Ben Venue has recruited about half its new factory hires from outside the pool of former manufacturing workers. Zachary Flyer, a 32-year-old Army veteran, had been laid off from a law firm filing room when he applied at the drug maker last summer.

He spent four months this year learning how to operate a 400-square-foot freeze dryer that helps preserve vials of medicine. Monitoring vacuum pressure and temperatures on a color-coded computer screen with flashing numbers, Mr. Flyer said last month that he preferred his new work to the law firm, where he had spent seven years.

“I like jobs that are more hands-on, as opposed to watching paperwork all day,” he said.

Local leaders worry that the skills shortage now will be exacerbated once baby boomers start retiring. In Ohio, officials project that about 30 percent of the state’s manufacturing workers will be eligible for retirement by 2016.

“The new worker of tomorrow is in about sixth grade,” said John Gajewski, executive director of the advanced manufacturing, engineering and apprenticeship program at Cuyahoga Community College in downtown Cleveland. “And they need training to move into manufacturing.”

At Astro Manufacturing and Design, a maker of parts and devices for the aerospace, medical and military industries, Rich Peterson, vice president for business development, recently gave a tour to a group of eighth graders.

He showed off surgical simulators and torpedo parts, saying he wanted them to see the “cool” things the company makes. By the end of the tour, more than a third of the students said they might consider working at a place like Astro, which is based in Eastlake and has five plants in the Cleveland area.

For now, the company urgently needs six machinists to run what are known as computer numerical control — or CNC — machines. An outside recruiter has reviewed 50 résumés in the last month and come up empty.

The jobs, which would pay $18 to $23 an hour, require considerable technical skill. On an afternoon last month, Christopher Debruycker, 34, was running such a machine, the size and shape of a camper van parked on the factory floor.

Mr. Debruycker, who has been an operator for 15 years, had programmed the machine to carve an intricate part for a flight simulator out of a block of aluminum, and he monitored its progress on a control pad with an array of buttons.

“We need 10 more people like him,” Mr. Peterson said.

David Maxwell contributed reporting.

Kenyan MPs vote to give themselves £2,000 monthly pay rise

Xan Rice in Nairobi
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 1 July 2010 19.38 BST

Kenyan politicians were accused today of plundering state coffers after awarding themselves a monthly pay rise of nearly 25%, making them some of the best-paid legislators in the world.

After resisting calls to pay income tax for years, MPs finally agreed yesterday night to pay the tax, but only after giving themselves a sweetener of 240,000 shillings (£1,960) taking their monthly pay to 1,091,000 shillings (£8,920).

The news was greeted with anger in Kenya, where the minimum wage was last month raised to £50 a month for employees in cities and £25 for farm workers. Since 2003, when President Mwai Kibaki came to power, politicians have become notorious for regularly increasing their salaries. British MPs earn £5,478 a month, while a member of France's national assembly have a monthly salary of £4,260.

"Yet another drastic pay hike for MPs … is the most outrageous, insensitive, immoral and intolerant abuse and impunity by Kenya's officialdom the country has ever witnessed," said the Kenya Alliance of Resident Associations.

On Wednesday, MPs voted to adopt the report of former appeal court judge Akilano Akiwumi, who led a review of politicians' salaries in the wake of public dissatisfaction. MPs' exemption from tax on all but a fraction of their total pay – their effective tax rate is 5% – was a source of particular resentment.

One recommendation was that politicians should pay tax on most of their salary and allowances, although about a third of remuneration will remain tax-free.

But instead of seeing their take-home pay reduced, ordinary MPs will be £100 richer each month, even after tax, thanks to the salary boost. The monthly salaries of the 40 cabinet ministers will jump to £9,700, with pay rising by 5% a year.

"When I heard this on the radio I prayed to God and said 'What is happening in Kenya?'" said Isaiah Khamala, 38, who supports his wife and four children with the £82 a month he earns as a gardener at an expensive Nairobi restaurant. "There are people who still do not have homes after the [2007] election violence, yet MPs are just favouring themselves. This is money for tycoons."

Parliament also approved an end-of-term bonus of £29,500 for MPs, more than double the current bonus, which caused an outcry when it was signed off in 2007.

MPs postponed their recess, which was scheduled for today , to pass a bill next week that will enshrine the report's recommendations into law. The urgency is tied to the referendum on a new constitution on 4 August, which, if passed, will prevent MPs from setting their own salaries.

"Many Kenyans thought that the tribunal would lead to politicians' salaries being rationalised," said Mwalimu Mati, who runs Mars Group, an anti-corruption organisation in Nairobi. "But MPs have pulled a fast one on us again. Yes, they will be paying some tax, but it is the ordinary taxpayer that is bearing the cost."

Politicians appear oblivious to public anger, which began in 2003 when, having supposedly closed a chapter on the rapacious era of Daniel arap Moi, parliament's first act was to drastically increase their salaries. They then increased their fuel allowances and trebled Kibaki's salary to the equivalent of £280,000 a year.

In 2008, just months after the election chaos that nearly destroyed the economy, it was announced that the wives of the prime minister, Raila Odinga, and the vice-president, Kalonzo Musyoka, would join Kibaki's wife, Lucy, on the state payroll, receiving a £3,300 salary for promoting the "nation's family values". On Wednesday, Odinga and Musyoka's monthly salaries were increased to £26,500 and £20,500.

MPs often complain that they spend much of their pay in their constituencies, where they are expected to help out with school fees and funeral costs.

"An MP uses this money to serve his expectant people," Aden Duale, an assistant minister who will be paid £9,250, told the Star newspaper. "Let us reward people for the good work they do."

It is true that many politicians are nearly broke at the end of the month, though luxury cars and houses are often to blame. The Akiwumi report noted that after deduction of loans nearly half of all MPs took home less than £820 a month, with one in 10 having net pay under £80. The former judge recommended that MPs should be prevented from committing more than two-thirds of their salaries to loans. This, however was rejected, with the politicians saying it implied they could not manage their finances properly.

What they get


MPs are paid £65,738 a year (£5,478 a month).


Members of the National Assembly get a monthly allowance, less social security deductions, of €5,261 (£4,260).


Riksdag members have a basic pay of 55,000 kronor a month (£4,675).


Members of the Chamber of Deputies receive €5,486 a month (£4,443).


Congressmen are paid $174,000 (£115,456) a year (£9,621 a month).


An MP's base salary is A$131,040 (£74,459) a year (£6,205 a month).

'People say I'm a killer. I just have to live with it'

Philip Nitschke was the first doctor in the world to legally administer a lethal injection. So why are British euthanasia supporters calling him 'scary', 'irresponsible' and 'dangerous'?

* Cole Moreton
* guardian.co.uk, Friday 8 May 2009 23.53 BST

Doctor Death is remembering the first time he killed a man. "He and his wife invited me over for lunch," he says. "They gave me a sandwich but I couldn't eat it, my mouth was so dry with anxiety. I knew that when I left the room, he would be dead." Philip Nitschke earned his grim nickname that afternoon as the first doctor in the world to give a lethal injection, legally, to a patient who wanted to die. This week the 61-year-old Australian flew into Britain to tell people in this country how to end life for themselves.

"I don't think all suicide is bad," he insists. "There are many suicides which are good." His workshops, held in rented rooms under close police scrutiny, detail the best – by which he means most "reliable and peaceful" – ways of dying at your own hand.

When Nitschke arrived at Heathrow last Saturday he was detained for nine hours and threatened with deportation. "They said they had reason to believe I might break the laws of the country." So much for thoughts of moving to Britain, to escape increasing restrictions on his activities in Australia. "I suspect it's not going to be easy to come back." Church leaders, politicians, pro-lifers and other doctors have all been upset by the tour, which ends today in Glasgow, but a bigger surprise has been the fierce opposition of his presumed allies: fellow campaigners for voluntary euthanasia. "We want these workshops banned," said Dignity in Dying, while others called the doctor "scary", "irresponsible" and "dangerous".

Nitschke is irritated, believing they're casting him as "a cowboy" to advance their own case for legal change, but shrugs it off. "I think, 'OK, go to hell.'" He is used to taking the fight from place to place, hauling his laptop, books and new barbiturate testing kit in a hard, bright yellow flight case. Maybe that's why he seems permanently ready to attack, verbally, even when drinking organic ale in a pub in Brighton after a meeting. His tie is tight, the top button of his candy-striped shirt still done up. His smile, when it appears, asks what the hell you know about anything.

Silver stubble makes him look a leaner cousin of Sir Alan Sugar but he is even more willing to speak his mind – this time about those euthanasia groups. "Most of their members haven't got time to wait around for the politicians to change the law." They could catch a plane to Mexico and buy enough over-the-counter barbiturates to kill them, he says, but why should they? Nitschke insists his meetings only describe the options available and don't "encourage" suicide. That would be against the law.

"We're giving technical knowledge which enables you to understand what's involved." That's disingenuous, at the very least. "Yeah," he says with that fleeting smile. "At the very least. Look, it's very hard. If you went around giving out plastic bags you would be, I think, over the edge of the law. We do obviously take things quite close to the edge, or people don't see any benefit. They want to know how, if they do decide to end their life, they can do it." That's why 40 people have just sat through a meeting in a stuffy church room, curtains drawn against the sun. The only relief was a video entitled: "Do it yourself with Betty." To jaunty music, an elderly nurse demonstrates how to turn ordinary household objects into instruments of death. "If you want to look nice," she says breezily, "you might want to get your hair done."

Detailed workshops are open only to those over 50 or seriously ill. To attend, you have to join Exit International, the organisation Nitschke founded in 1997, and sign a disclaimer promising not to use the information to end your life or anyone else's. But why else would you want to know exactly where to buy poison? "Ludicrous," agrees Nitschke, adding: "We were given legal advice."
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Cyberwar Iranians and Others Outwit Net Censors

May 1, 2009

The Iranian government, more than almost any other, censors what citizens can read online, using elaborate technology to block millions of Web sites offering news, commentary, videos, music and, until recently, Facebook and YouTube. Search for “women” in Persian and you’re told, “Dear Subscriber, access to this site is not possible.”

Last July, on popular sites that offer free downloads of various software, an escape hatch appeared. The computer program allowed Iranian Internet users to evade government censorship.

College students discovered the key first, then spread it through e-mail messages and file-sharing. By late autumn more than 400,000 Iranians were surfing the uncensored Web.

The software was created not by Iranians, but by Chinese computer experts volunteering for the Falun Gong, a spiritual movement that has beem suppressed by the Chinese government since 1999. They maintain a series of computers in data centers around the world to route Web users’ requests around censors’ firewalls.

The Internet is no longer just an essential channel for commerce, entertainment and information. It has also become a stage for state control — and rebellion against it. Computers are becoming more crucial in global conflicts, not only in spying and military action, but also in determining what information reaches people around the globe.

More than 20 countries now use increasingly sophisticated blocking and filtering systems for Internet content, according to Reporters Without Borders, a Paris-based group that encourages freedom of the press.

Although the most aggressive filtering systems have been erected by authoritarian governments like those in Iran, China, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Syria, some Western democracies are also beginning to filter some content, including child pornography and other sexually oriented material.

In response, a disparate alliance of political and religious activists, civil libertarians, Internet entrepreneurs, diplomats and even military officers and intelligence agents are now challenging growing Internet censorship.

The creators of the software seized upon by Iranians are members of the Global Internet Freedom Consortium, based largely in the United States and closely affiliated with Falun Gong. The consortium is one of many small groups developing systems to make it possible for anyone to reach the open Internet. It is the modern equivalent of efforts by organizations like the Voice of America to reach the citizens of closed countries.

Separately, the Tor Project, a nonprofit group of anticensorship activists, freely offers software that can be used to send messages secretly or to reach blocked Web sites. Its software, first developed at the United States Naval Research Laboratories, is now used by more than 300,000 people globally, from the police to criminals, as well as diplomats and spies.

Political scientists at the University of Toronto have built yet another system, called Psiphon, that allows anyone to evade national Internet firewalls using only a Web browser. Sensing a business opportunity, they have created a company to profit by making it possible for media companies to deliver digital content to Web users behind national firewalls.

The danger in this quiet electronic war is driven home by a stark warning on the group’s Web site: “Bypassing censorship may violate law. Serious thought should be given to the risks involved and potential consequences.”
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Saudi Arabia: Divorce for Girl, 8

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Published: April 30, 2009

An 8-year-old Saudi girl has divorced her middle-aged husband after her father forced her to marry him last year in exchange for about $13,000, her lawyer said. Saudi Arabia has come under increasing criticism at home and abroad for permitting child marriages. The United States, an ally of the kingdom, has called child marriage a “clear and unacceptable” violation of human rights. The girl was allowed to divorce the 50-year-old man after an out-of-court settlement was reached, said her lawyer, Abdulla al-Jeteli.

Culling Pigs in Flu Fight, Egypt Angers Herders and Dismays U.N.

May 1, 2009

CAIRO — Egypt has begun forcibly slaughtering the country’s pig herds as a precaution against swine flu, a move that the United Nations described as “a real mistake” and one that is prompting anger among the country’s pig farmers.

The decision, announced Wednesday, is already adding new strains to the tense relations between Egypt’s majority Muslims and its Coptic Christians. Most of Egypt’s pig farmers are Christians, and some accuse the government of using swine flu fears to punish them economically.

According to World Health Organization officials, the decision to kill pigs has no scientific basis. “We don’t see any evidence that anyone is getting infected from pigs,” said Dr. Keiji Fukuda, the World Health Organization’s assistant director general. “This appears to be a virus which is moving from person to person.”

The outbreak has been dubbed swine flu — now officially called influenza A(H1N1) — because scientists believe it started in pigs, but they do not know if that was recently or years ago. The name change was designed to allay fears about pigs and eating pork.

Egypt has not reported any cases of the new virus that has hit 11 other nations, but the country has been hard hit by avian flu.

The great majority of Egyptians are Muslim and do not eat pork because of religious restrictions, but about 10 percent of the population is Coptic Christian. As a result, Egyptian pig farmers are overwhelmingly Christian. And although some of the country’s Christians are middle class or wealthy, the Christian farmers are generally poor.

On Thursday, several urban pig farmers in Cairo said they see the government’s decision as just another expression of Egyptian Muslims’ resentment against Christians. Last year, there were several violent incidents that some believed were aimed at Christians, including the kidnapping and beating of monks. The Egyptian government denied the incidents had sectarian overtones, saying they were each part of other disputes, including a fight over land.

Barsoum Girgis, a 26-year-old pig farmer, lives in a poor neighborhood, Manshiet Nasser, built along the Mukatam cliffs on the eastern end of the city where most of the ramshackle, red-brick buildings were built illegally.

Mr. Girgis makes his living through a combination of raising pigs and collecting garbage — two professions that are often tied together in a city where garbage collection can be an informal affair and where poor farmers rely on food scraps to feed their livestock.

He wakes up every morning around 4 a.m. to collect garbage around the city. When he gets back to Manshiet Nasser, at around 9 a.m., he sorts the trash, putting aside what can be sold at the city’s booming scrap markets and what he can use as pig feed.
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