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Archive for May 28th, 2011

Reader, Interrupted

Posted by Admin on May 28, 2011

http://in.news.yahoo.com/blogs/opinions/reader-interrupted-070551236.html

By Sanjay Sipahimalani | Opinions – Fri, May 27, 2011

One of the aims of the novelist, writes John Gardner in his The Art of Fiction, is to create for the reader “a vivid and continuous dream”. Well, these days, I find that dream to be full of interruptions.

I’m not referring to doorbells, phone calls and mysterious thumps from next door. Rather, it’s the distraction caused by having access to the Internet. The lurking sense that there are e-mails to be checked, tweets to be followed, status updates to be noted, headlines to be scanned or new videos of Rebecca Black to be made fun of.

The ease with which all of this can be accomplished means that it’s a temptation to be constantly wrestled with, and more often than not, I find myself pinned to the ground. And the more often one enters that kinetic, frenetic arena, the more difficult it is to settle down for a period of sustained, single-minded attention.

Nicholas Carr, in his much-discussed The Shallows, maintains that the Web destroys focus, quoting neurological studies to prove that it rewires the brain. “Because it disrupts concentration,” he writes, “such activity weakens comprehension”. Concentration, comprehension: without these qualities, the act of reading is imperiled. Bandwidth comes at the expense of mindwidth.

As with others, there are two states I swing between when reading a novel. The first, of immersion: of being drawn into and inhabiting the author’s world, one that supplants ordinary laws of time and space. The other, of being aware that I am reading: of peripheral vision, of turning the pages and of occasionally checking to see how many more are left. Sadly, it’s the latter state that prevails and more and more nowadays. (The problem resolves itself if it’s a novel I dislike, in which case I simply skim.)

When much younger, this quality of immersion was so much more pronounced. Succumbing to one of his usual fits of nostalgia, Proust has written, “There are perhaps no days of our childhood we lived so fully as those we believe we left without having lived them, those we spent with a favorite book”. He goes on to state that memories of those times even bring alive the surroundings: “If we still happen today to leaf through those books of another time, it is for no other reason than that they are the only calendars we have kept of days that have vanished, and we hope to see reflected on their pages the dwellings and the ponds which no longer exist”. Every such book, then, becomes a diary of the past.

To return to the 21st century, there’s the added complication, as many have pointed out, that Web pages simply aren’t conducive to reading at length. Bite-sized pieces are all we absorb before clicking and moving on, and this habit can persist when we return to the printed page. (Paradoxically, though, it’s the Web that’s being credited with something of a revival of long-form journalism, be it through curation sites such as LongForm.org, save-for-later services such as Instapaper, or Kindle Singles. Content is selected, distractions are eliminated. Dedicated e-book readers, too, have that advantage — which is why I think the Kindle should simply do away with the rudimentary Web access it currently provides.)

Which leads to the speculation that, when it comes to the novel, we’ll return to the time of the Victorians, with authors writing in monthly installments that appear on e-readers and periodicals, subsequently being issued as one large, complete volume. James Buzard, MIT literature professor, makes this sound trendy when he says that such serials “encourage a different social engagement” with books,talking of it as a form of “viral marketing” where readers have the time to exchange views on the work in progress with each other and with the novelist. (“But, Charles, did you really have to let Little Nell die?”)

While we wait for these and other necessities-turned-virtues to materialise, I’m left with an immediate, unresolved problem. There are more than 150 unread pages of a book that I have to review, and if I persist in turning to one of the many screens that surround my life, I’m never going to meet the deadline.

Sanjay Sipahimalani is a writer with an advertising agency in Mumbai. His reviews are collected at Antiblurbs.

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Yemen on brink of civil war as clashes spread

Posted by Admin on May 28, 2011

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110527/wl_nm/us_yemen

By Samia Nakhoul and Mohammed Ghobari Fri May 27, 4:16 pm ET

SANAA (Reuters) – Yemeni tribesmen said they wrested a military compound from elite troops loyal to President Ali Abdullah Saleh outside the capital Sanaa on Friday as fighting spread, threatening to tip the country into civil war.

Yemeni fighter jets broke the sound barrier as they swooped over Sanaa, where battles between Saleh loyalists and the Hashed tribal alliance led by Sadeq al-Ahmar erupted this week after failure of a deal to ease the president out.

Clashes spread northeast of Sanaa on Friday, where tribes said in addition to seizing a military post in the Nahm region, they were also fighting government troops at two other positions south of the capital.

In Sanaa, tens of thousands of people gathered after Friday prayers for what they branded a “Friday of Peaceful Revolution” against Saleh, releasing white doves and carrying the coffins of about 30 people killed in clashes this week.

Tens of thousands turned out for the rally, inspired by the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions, though their numbers had dwindled compared to previous weeks after thousands fled Sanaa and the government closed roads around the city to keep out tribes trying to reinforce the Ahmars.

Machinegun fire and sporadic blasts rattled the city before fighting eased after mediation efforts. Ahmar’s fighters evacuated government ministry buildings they had grabbed this week in return for a ceasefire and troops quitting their area.

“We are now in mediation and there has been a ceasefire between the two sides,” Ahmar, close to an Islamist opposition party, told protesters in “Change Square.” “But if Ali Abdullah Saleh returns (to fighting) then we are ready. We are steadfast and victorious.”

“We wanted it (revolution) to be peaceful but Saleh, his sons and his clique wanted war. We will not leave them the opportunity to turn it into a civil war,” Ahmar told Reuters.

But in a sign of hostility between the sides, a government source ridiculed Ahmar for his grandiose statements, saying the state had taught him a “small lesson” and urging him and “his gangs” to turn themselves in to face justice.

Battles this week, the worst since protests began in January, killed around 115 people and let Saleh grab back the initiative, overshadowing the protest movement with the threat of civil war. Yet protesters were determined to see him go.

“We are here to renew our resolve for a peaceful revolution. We reject violence or being dragged into civil war,” said Yahya Abdulla at the anti-Saleh protest camp, where armed vehicles were deployed to protect those praying.

A few kilometres (miles) away, government loyalists staged a short rally, waving Yemeni flags and pictures of Saleh, who has ruled the Arabian Peninsula state for nearly 33 years.

Worries are growing that Yemen, already a safe haven for al Qaeda and on the verge of financial ruin, could become a failed state that would erode regional security and pose a serious risk to neighboring Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter.

The United States and Saudi Arabia, both targets of foiled attacks by a wing of al Qaeda based in Yemen, are concerned any spread of anarchy could embolden the militant group.

BATTLE AT MILITARY COMPOUND

In Nahm, 100 km (60 miles) northeast of Sanaa, a tribal leader said fierce fighting over three military posts killed 19 and wounded dozens. He said tribesmen had seized one post and were battling for two more as military planes bombed the area.

“There had been some skirmishes between the tribesmen supporting the youth revolution from time to time, but today it became a big armed confrontation,” Sheikh Hamid Asim said.

He had earlier said anti-Saleh fighters killed the commander of the military post they seized. A separate tribal source said the Yemeni air force dropped bombs to prevent the tribesmen from seizing an arms cache there.

The defense ministry blamed the opposition coalition, comprised of Islamists and leftists, for the fighting in Nahm. State television, citing a military source, denied any posts were seized. “These are lies with no basis in truth,” Yemen TV quoted him as saying.

If confirmed, the Republican Guard’s loss of a military post to tribesmen armed with machineguns and rocket-propelled grenades would be an embarrassing setback for Saleh, whose country has become the poorest in the region.

Mediators have been increasingly exasperated with Saleh, saying he had repeatedly imposed new conditions each time a Gulf-led transition agreement was due for signing, mostly recently demanding a public signing ceremony.

Leaders of the G8 leading industrialized nations called on Saleh to step down during a summit in France, but analysts said global powers have little leverage in Yemen, located on a shipping lane through which 3 million barrels of oil pass daily.

FEAR OF CIVIL WAR

Sanaa residents had been streaming out of the capital by the thousands to escape escalating violence in recent days. Others stocked up on essentials and waited in trepidation.

“There is absolute poverty because of this regime. We want change,” said Abdulrahman al-Fawli, 42, an engineer. “But I’m terrified of civil war. I dread this prospect.”

The recent fighting between tribal fighters and loyalists has ignored a commitment to peaceful demonstrations by protesters, many of whom are sceptical about the vested interests of both sides in the armed conflict.

“Saleh and his forces and the al-Ahmar tribe cannot make the civilian state that the protesters want. They stole the limelight of the revolution and undermined it with their fighting,” said Ali Mohammed Subaihy, a doctor.

In the south, dozens of armed men believed to be from al Qaeda stormed into the city of Zinjibar in the flashpoint province of Abyan, chasing out security forces while seizing several government buildings and setting off blasts in others, residents said.

The army had withdrawn from Zinjibar after a battle with militants in March, but later regained control.

Friday’s violence, which killed at least seven people including a civilian, sent hundreds of families fleeing their neighborhoods as shelling continued and warplanes roared overhead. Smoke billowed from a military building.

Similar clashes broke out in Lawdar, also in the south, a government official said.

Saleh has said his removal would be a boon to al Qaeda, but the opposition, which includes the Islamist party Islah, accuses him of exploiting militancy to keep his foreign backing and argues that it would be better placed to fight al Qaeda.

Washington, which long treated Saleh as an ally against al Qaeda, has said it now wants him to go. Saleh’s attempts to stop protests by force have so far killed around 280 people.

(Additional reporting by Mohamed Sudam and Khaled al-Mahdy in Sanaa, Mohammed Mukhashaf in Aden, Erika Solomon in Dubai and from Barbara Lewis in Geneva; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Louise Ireland)

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Fresh NATO raids target Libyan capital

Posted by Admin on May 28, 2011

http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20110528/ts_afp/libyaconflict_20110528083220

Fresh NATO raids target Libyan capital
 Smoke billows behind the trees following an air raid on the area of Tajura, east of Tripoli on May 24
by Imed Lamloum 51 mins ago

TRIPOLI (AFP) – Fresh NATO-led air strikes on Saturday targeted the district of Tripoli where Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi has his residence, after G8 world powers intensified the pressure on the strongman to step down.

For the fourth successive night, powerful blasts rocked Bab Al-Aziziya near the city centre, an AFP correspondent said as Libyan state media reported air raids on the Al-Qariet region south of the capital.

The strikes came after US President Barack Obama told a summit of G8 world powers that the United States and France were committed to finishing the job in Libya, as Russia finally joined explicit calls for Kadhafi to go.

Russia’s dramatic shift — and an offer to mediate — came as British Prime Minister David Cameron said the NATO mission against Kadhafi was entering a new phase with the deployment of helicopter gunships to the conflict.

“We are joined in our resolve to finish the job,” Obama said after talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy at the G8 summit of industrialised democracies in the French resort of Deauville.

But the US leader warned the “UN mandate of civilian protection cannot be accomplished when Kadhafi remains in Libya directing his forces in acts of aggression against the Libyan people.”

G8 leaders from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the US called in their final statement for Kadhafi to step down after more than 40 years, in the face of pro-democracy protests turned full-fledged armed revolt.

“Kadhafi and the Libyan government have failed to fulfil their responsibility to protect the Libyan population and have lost all legitimacy. He has no future in a free, democratic Libya. He must go,” it said.

But the Libyan regime rejected the call and said any initiative to resolve the crisis would have to go through the African Union.

“The G8 is an economic summit. We are not concerned by its decisions,” said Libya’s deputy foreign minister, Khaled Kaaim.

Tripoli also rejected Russian mediation and will “not accept any mediation which marginalises the peace plan of the African Union,” he said. “We are an African country. Any initiative outside the AU framework will be rejected.”

Kaaim said it had no confirmation of a change in Moscow’s position after President Dmitry Medvedev toughened Russia’s stance at the G8 meeting by declaring: “The world community does not see him as the Libyan leader.”

African leaders at a summit in Addis Ababa on Thursday called for an end to NATO air strikes on Libya to pave the way for a political solution to the conflict.

The pan-African bloc also sought a stronger say in resolving the conflict.

Kaaim meanwhile confirmed the visit on Monday of South African President Jacob Zuma, without indicating whether the exit of Kadhafi from power would be discussed as the South Africans have claimed.

On Thursday, the Libyan regime said Tripoli wanted a monitored ceasefire.

But NATO insisted it would keep up its air raids in Libya until Kadhafi’s forces stop attacking civilians and until the regime’s proposed ceasefire is matched by its actions on the ground.

Meanwhile Kadhafi’s wife Sofia on Friday slammed strikes against the Libyan leader and his family, and accused NATO forces of “committing war crimes” with its action against the regime.

Arab League chief Amr Mussa said there was a yawning gap between Tripoli and the rebel National Transitional Council on Kadhafi’s fate, with the rebels demanding he go immediately and the regime saving his exit for “later.”

“I was not there. But I wished that I was so I may die with him,” she told CNN in a telephone interview, describing the reported death of her son Seif al-Arab from a NATO air strike.

“My son never missed an evening prayer. We had strikes every day, and the strikes would start at evening prayer. Four rockets on one house!” she said in the rare interview.

International forces, which have been attacking Kadhafi forces under the terms of a UN resolution to protect civilians, “are looking for excuses to target Moamer. What has he done to deserve this?” asked Sofia.

NATO, she said, is “committing war crimes” in the North Africa country.

“They killed my son and the Libyan people. They are defaming our reputation, she said.

“Forty countries are against us. Life has no value anymore,” she lamented, in the wake of her son’s death.

Doubts have been raised in recent days of the veracity of reports on Seif al-Arab, Kadhafi’s youngest son, being dead.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi pointed out Wednesday that the international coalition had no information on his demise, and said the report from a Libyan government spokesman was “propaganda.”

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Indians in Yemen asked to leave the country

Posted by Admin on May 28, 2011

http://in.news.yahoo.com/indians-yemen-asked-leave-country-092650143.html

New Delhi, May 27 (ANI): The Ministry of External Affairs has advised Indian nationals living in Yemen to exit the country through whatever commercial means available keeping in view the evolving situation and the increase in violent incidents.

The Indian nationals have also been advised not to venture out except under absolutely unavoidable circumstances till the time they are able to exit from Yemen.

“The Embassy of India and our Ambassador in Yemen will continue to function in Sanaa and can be contacted for any assistance by Indian nationals till such time they are able to exit the country,” the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) release said.

In the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, gun battles raged on Monday between government forces and fighters loyal to powerful tribal leader Sadiq al-Ahmar, who has sided with the growing opposition movement that has demanded an end to President Ali Abdullah Saleh‘s 32-year-long rule. (ANI)

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