Searching for Success

China Arrives – the U S Fades …

Posted on July 21, 2017. Filed under: Chinese Wisdom, Searching for Success, Uncategorized |

From the WSJ …..

Last October, satellite images captured the distinctive outlines of some powerful new weaponry at a Saudi runway used for military strikes in Yemen. Three Wing Loong drones had appeared, Chinese-made replicas of the U.S. Predator with a similar ability to stay aloft for hours carrying missiles and bombs.

The same month, another Chinese military drone, the CH-4 Rainbow, appeared in a photo of an airstrip in Jordan near the Syrian border. Other commercial satellite images have since revealed Chinese strike and surveillance drones at bases used by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.

These images and others now being scrutinized in international defense circles add to growing evidence that military drones exported by China have recently been deployed in conflicts in the Mideast and Africa by several countries, including U.S. allies that the U.S. blocked from buying American models.

For the U.S., that is a strategic and commercial blow.

The U.S. has long refused to sell the most powerful U.S.-made drones to most countries, fearing they might fall into hostile hands, be used to suppress civil unrest or, in the Mideast, erode Israel’s military dominance. The U.K. is the only foreign country that has operated armed Predators and Reapers, the most potent U.S. systems for offensive drone strikes, according to people familiar with U.S. sales.

The Obama administration, while seeking to facilitate exports under close regulation, led efforts to forge a global “drone code” that would curb proliferation and keep the weapons from misuse.

But China is filling the void. State companies are selling aircraft resembling General Atomics’s Predator and Reaper drones at a fraction of the cost to U.S. allies and partners, and to other buyers.

China’s sales have enabled multiple countries—including some with weak legal systems and scant public oversight of the military—to use unmanned aerial vehicles to spy and kill remotely as the U.S. has done on a large scale since 9/11.

Among the Pentagon’s concerns is that advanced drones could be used against American forces. In Syria, U.S. pilots have shot down two Iranian-made armed drones threatening members of the U.S.-led coalition.

U.S. export policy that is driving partners to buy Chinese “hurts U.S. strategic interests in so many ways,” said Paul Scharre, a former Pentagon official at the nonpartisan Center for a New American Security. “It damages the U.S. relationship with a close partner. It increases that partner’s relationship with a competitor nation, China. It hurts U.S. companies trying to compete.”

China’s drone exports are now starting to influence U.S. policy, as American manufacturers and politicians lobby the Trump administration to relax export controls to stop China from expanding market share and undermining U.S. alliances.

The White House National Security Council is reviewing the drone-export process with the goal to “wherever possible” remove obstacles to American companies’ ability to compete, a senior Trump administration official said.“We are attuned to what China is doing,” the official said.

Thomas Bossert, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, emphasized the effort to balance economics and security. The administration seeks to help U.S. industry while advancing strategic objectives, he said, including “a deliberate approach to our technology sales policy and the protections we put in place to avoid imperiling innocent lives.”

China, meanwhile, has its sights on another milestone: building military drones in the Mideast. In March, Chinese and Saudi officials agreed to jointly produce as many as 100 Rainbow drones in Saudi Arabia, including a larger, longer-range version called the CH-5, according to people involved.

Shi Wen, the chief designer of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp.’s Rainbow, said earlier versions of the aircraft had been exported to the Mideast, Africa and Asia and were proved “on the battlefield,” hitting 300 targets in the previous year or so with Chinese laser-guided missiles.

“Our main competitors? The Americans, of course,” Li Yidong, chief designer of the Wing Loong, which is built by Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group, said in November at China’s biggest air and defense show, in the southern city of Zhuhai.

Behind him, a video screen played animated clips depicting a drone strike on a terrorist base, set to a thumping soundtrack. Nearby, miniskirted models posed with laser-guided missiles.

Beijing used to sell mainly low-tech arms to poorer countries; now it is marketing sophisticated items including stealth fighters, and targeting markets once dominated by Russia and the U.S. Sales help Beijing gain leverage in areas where its economic interests are expanding, adding muscle to President Xi Jinping’s drive to establish his country as a global power.

China is now the world’s third-biggest arms seller by value, behind the U.S. at No. 1 and Russia, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, or SIPRI.

Maintaining such a ranking depends in large part on demand for China’s armed drones, which China has sold to countries including Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the U.A.E., the Pentagon said in a report in June.

“China faces little competition for sale of such systems, as most countries that produce them are restricted in selling the technology” by international agreements, it said.

Key among those agreements limiting American sales is the 1987 Missile Technology Control Regime, signed by 35 nations including the U.S., but not China. The MTCR limits exports based on an unmanned system’s range and how much it can carry—putting tight restrictions on the most powerful American drones.

In 2015, the Obama administration issued new export rules that tried to enable drone exports if buyers agreed to use them in line with international human-rights law.

The rules grew in part from the administration’s expansion of drone operations in places such as Afghanistan. The growth spurred concerns about the lawfulness of killings outside combat areas and the ethics of remote-control warfare—including the targeting of Americans, such as al Qaeda’s Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen in 2011.

In an effort to address legal uncertainty and the global precedent it was setting, the Obama administration sought to develop a framework for how governments use such weapons.

In October, after months of U.S. lobbying, 45 countries signed the world’s first joint declaration on the export and use of armed or strike-enabled aerial drones. The declaration said misuse of such drones could “fuel conflict and instability” and urged exporters to be transparent about sales and ensure buyers observed laws of war.

In the Mideast, only Jordan and Iraq endorsed the statement.

China didn’t sign. Its foreign ministry said the issue was “complicated” and related to “cross-border strikes” as well as exports. It noted that other drone producers didn’t sign last year’s declaration and deeper talks were needed.

Some of the declaration’s proponents worry that several states could relax export rules to compete with China. “This would be a drone-against-drone world driven by profits, not protection of civilians,” said Wim Zwijnenburg, a disarmament campaigner for the Dutch group PAX who participated in negotiations on enhancing the declaration. He said China’s sales could fuel regional tensions as states act across borders—which can be done with drones at lower cost and less risk to personnel.

The Pentagon estimates China could produce almost 42,000 aerial drones—sale value more than $10 billion—in the decade up to 2023.

Beijing’s drone program began with old Soviet designs; more recently, U.S. officials say, China used espionage and open-source material to reverse-engineer U.S. drones. Beijing denies that.

U.S. armed drones are still overwhelmingly considered the most capable, in part because the U.S. satellite infrastructure that controls them is superior. Israel has been the top military-drone exporter for years, according to SIPRI. But Israel has largely avoided selling them in its own Mideast neighborhood.

A Wing Loong, meanwhile, costs about $1 million compared with about $5 million for its U.S.-made counterpart, the Predator, and about $15 million for a Reaper, whose Chinese competition is the CH-5.

Buyers welcome the chance to buy relatively cheap weapons that they say come with fewer restrictions than Western equivalents. Promotional materials from China suggest it has sold Rainbows or Wing Loongs to at least 10 countries.

Satellite imagery viewed by The Wall Street Journal shows Chinese strike and surveillance drones have been used by Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. in the Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen.

After the Obama administration rebuffed a request from the U.A.E. for shoot-to-kill drones, the Emiratis bought Chinese surveillance drones and equipped them with South African laser targeting systems, according to Danny Sebright, a former Pentagon official and president of the U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council. The U.A.E. has used them to guide missiles from planes for strikes in Yemen, he said.

In Libya, the U.A.E. is using Chinese drones to help support a general who opposes the United Nations-backed government in Tripoli, satellite images indicate. They also show that Egypt’s military is deploying Chinese drones in the Sinai Peninsula in its campaign against Islamist militants.

A North Korean drone that crashed in South Korea in 2014 was Chinese-made, according to a U.N. report. Iraq last year published video of its missile attacks on Islamic State from a Chinese drone, and Nigeria issued footage of a strike by a Chinese drone on the Boko Haram insurgency. An official with Iraq’s Joint Operations Command said Iraq has used the Chinese-made CH-4 Rainbow. A Nigerian Air Force spokesman said Nigeria was using CH-3 Rainbows procured from China.

U.S. manufacturers, and their political backers, argue that Washington can no longer prevent drone proliferation.

Weapons makers have been buoyed by President Donald Trump’s statements of support for U.S. manufacturing and for a $110 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia that includes some items that were blocked by the Obama administration. The administration in June approved the sale to India of 22 Guardian drones, an unarmed maritime version of the Reaper.

Bart Roper, executive vice president of General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., said the U.S. is ceding the drone market to Chinese and others “due to obsolete and arbitrary restrictions.”

He expressed hope the Trump administration would revise policy to better promote U.S. industry.

In April, 22 members of Congress—led by Rep. Duncan Hunter, who represents the San Diego district not far from where General Atomics is based—asked the administration to approve Reaper exports to Jordan and the U.A.E. They argued that the Arab allies in the fight against Islamic State are buying Chinese drones instead, and that export approval would save U.S. jobs.

In recent months, China has unveiled larger, longer-range drones and tested radar-evading stealth models, according to state media. It has also expanded its marketing, displaying its drones for the first time in Mexico in April and in France in June.

At the Chinese air show in November, two uniformed Saudi officers inspected a CH-5 Rainbow—the model most similar to the Reaper—displayed publicly for the first time. “It’s amazing,” said one. “This thing can stay up for more than 24 hours.”

The CH-5 can in fact operate for up to 40 hours, its manufacturer says—about 50% longer than its American competition.

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China’s government and drone manufacturers declined to reveal who bought the aircraft. The foreign ministry said Beijing requires strict user agreements—offering no details—and ensures that its arms sales do no harm to regional peace and stability.
“China is paying high attention to the question of the use and export of armed drones,” it said. Authorities from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the U.A.E. and Jordan declined to comment.
China began exporting strike-enabled drones around 2014-2015, heralding a new phase in its arms industry as a global competitor that can influence conflicts and alliances world-wide.

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Dokala in the 1990s …

Posted on July 20, 2017. Filed under: From a Services Career, Searching for Success, Uncategorized |

Brig Jasbir Singh Bawa when Company Commander at Dokala Beg in early 1990s

There was a time when hostilities had not marred the pristine beauty of the landscape. With the recent month-long India-China impasse, the areas of Doklam plateau, Dokala, trijunction in east Sikkim and the Chicken’s neck-Siliguri corridor have been in the news for all the wrong reasons.

Once upon a time there were in this area friendly Chinese patrols once every quarter or so. There was tension free peace that let you enjoy the sheer beauty of Dokala. It was the abode of an exceptionally happy family on the eastern-most tip of east Sikkim that descended sharply to the Jaldhaka wildlife sanctuary thence to the Siliguri corridor.

Dokala, the most beautiful area in all of east Sikkim, is a lush green meadow in sharp contrast to the surrounding countryside that is characterised by jagged, rocky ridge lines without a blade of grass for miles together.

Significantly lower in altitude than the Batang la/Nathula ridge line, Dokala is approximately a two-km-long pass with a width varying from 150 to about 400 m.

We were deployed at its north-western base. The meadow is green except during the four winter months. Almost through the year, the green turf of the meadow is interspersed with clumps of wild flowers – wild blue poppy, small rhododendrons and numerous tubulars add to the kaleidoscope of daisies in white, yellow, shades of red and blue.

I have enjoyed many a walk with my trusted buddy and radio operator on the soft surface of Dokala, on our way up and down the formidable Gamochin Peak which dominates the pass from the South.

Gamochin, a huge rocky feature, towers over the neighbouring heights and Dokala. The climb to Gamochin is a sheer wall and can only be negotiated by fixed rope — a challenge even for seasoned climbers. Troops deployed on the feature would welcome us with hot pakoras to be downed with a drink of warm jam water and glucose. As you regain your breath after the gruelling climb, the reality of scaling an impossible-looking massif sinks in.

The view from its top is mesmerising. On a clear day you could catch the Kanchenjunga in all its glory – with just a speck of cloud covering the summit. Come winter and the ascent on snow and ice walls gets tougher. Coming down is sheer ecstasy thanks to the innovative snow sledges that the boys would make.

The Company Commander’s hut at Dokala is designed to host senior visiting officers – should they get stuck due to the weather. It has huge perplex glass windows on three sides, with a breathtaking view of the mother of all Himalayan peaks – the Kanchenjunga.

At day break on clear winter mornings would be the crimson glow that drapes the eastern slope of this Mountain – a sight transports you to another world. The colours gradually change from a riveting deep crimson to orange to golden yellow, seamlessly meshing into each other as dawn gives way to a fresh bright day.

The full moon nights at Dokala were also special. The Kanchenjunga would look more glorious while the snowy shine of the majestic Gamochin would be complemented by a seemingly endless silver sheen on Dokala.

Many such sights were enjoyed around a bonfire – memories of which refuse to fade. We would send a routine patrol to the trijunction then down to the Jaldhaka, circuit the base of our deployment, eventually emerging at the northern entrance of Dokala.

This meant climbing about 1,000 feet from the post, going down a steep descent of about 4,000 feet and again climbing up to 11,500 ft or so and getting back to Dokala. The distance covered approx 15 kilometre. The bulk of the area fell within the Jaldhaka wildlife sanctuary.

In keeping with a compulsive tribal trait, a large number of animal traps were set up by us in this area before it was declared a sanctuary. There would always be a rush of volunteers for this tri-weekly patrol and understandably so — the boys would reap the fruits of their labour returning with plenty of small game caught in the traps.

These patrols would generally get back in the late afternoon to a hero’s welcome, particularly so on Saturdays for that meant a big bonfire, generous drinking and endless kahanis, singing and a guitar and makeshift degchi drums. All followed by a feast.

Of course all the while we were driven on training, keeping watch, patrolling and negotiating tough climbs to fetch stores and rations throughout the week.

Those were the days.

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Children and Parents …

Posted on July 17, 2017. Filed under: Indian Thought, Mars & Venus, Searching for Success |

Kahlil Gibran – “Your children are from you, but they are not yours.”

Perhaps the best dialogues between a Parent and a grown up Child is in the Sidney Poitier movie, ‘Guess who is coming for Dinner’ It covers both sides of the aisle.

Parents who forge strong, close bonds with their children but ‘LET GO’ when they have grown up are to be admired. As in everything every where, Change is the only Constant.

Parent-child relationship is not permanent and control gradually gives way to need for support.We must not let the child feel deprived or lacking in filial support when they were young. Neither should we let them feel stifled when are growing up.

The role of parents is a journey of love and wisdom! Not only in one’s role as parents, but also in life there are many moments that we need to learn to stand firm or to give way.

Very often some wonder why have children at all? Is it to carry on the family’s name, or is it insurance for old age? Actually it is a wonder and a joy one can not exchange for anything in the World!

Never seek perfection nor accept the unacceptable. As in everything a fine balance is needed. We should only ask for the chance to walk with the journey of life in this beautiful world!

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China – India; Eye Ball to Eye Ball …

Posted on July 16, 2017. Filed under: Chinese Wisdom, From a Services Career, Searching for Success |

Maj Gen Ashok Mehta in the Wire.

The month-long standoff between the Indian army and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in the Doklam sector of Bhutan, though pretty civilised so far, has become the longest ever.

Briefly, the stand-off story so far is this: The PLA has clandestinely been encroaching on Bhutanese territory since the mid-1960s with a long view to build a Class-40 road which can carry medium tanks and artillery through the strategic Chumbi valley which abuts India and Bhutan to a tri-junction point which is the very tip of the Chumbi dagger which is dangerously close to a bottleneck encompassing Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan.

This time around, the PLA road construction party was initially cautioned by a Bhutanese Army patrol. Later when they failed to stop them, the Indian soldiers in the vicinity arrived to help the Bhutanese to deter the PLA from bulldozing its road construction through territory claimed both by China and Bhutan. This is the first time India has confronted the PLA on third country soil in Bhutan. India has a long-standing commitment to Bhutan’s defence and security even if there in no formal military alliance.

Two issues arise from this illegal and unauthorised activity – the intended road would transgress Bhutanese territory at Doklam and its destination, the tri-junction, is also disputed. According to bilateral agreements between India and China in 2012, and between Bhutan and China in 1988 and 1999, the disputes are to be resolved through the existing dialogue processes.

While India and China have had 19 rounds of Special Representative talks, China and Bhutan have engaged in 28 rounds of border talks though Thimpu has no trade or diplomatic relations with Beijing. In their conversations with Bhutan, China, in 1999, offered a package deal to swap territory in the north with land in the west comprising the eastern shoulder of the Chumbi valley, significantly including the Doklam plateau.

For New Delhi, Indian troops have gone to the aid of a neighbour, Bhutan, because the intended construction of a strategic road from Lhasa-Shigaste to Yadong in the Chumbi valley towards the disputed tri-junction would confer profound strategic military advantage on the PLA. The Chumbi valley dagger would pose a threat not just to Bhutan but also to the critically narrow Siliguri corridor, linking mainland India with its north-east. Moreover, it would send the wrong signal to India’s neighbours that it does not stand by its friends and allies and treaty obligations. Being locked in the valley also poses risks for the PLA.

This is not the first time the PLA has attempted its ‘creep’ strategy to first commandeer territory and then offer to negotiate after having violated standstill agreements. Grabbing Aksai Chin in the late 1950s and more recently its unilateral and illegitimate activity in the South China sea are examples. The sequence of events played out now at Doklam has an uncanny resemblance to intrusive activity in the same area in 1966-67. The history of the incident is encapsulated in an article by sinologist Claude Arpi in The Pioneer. More interestingly, the Chinese then, as now, were trying to unhinge Bhutan from its defence relationship with India. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had to remind the Chinese that India would stand by Bhutan, come what may.

The Chinese propaganda machine has launched a relentless psy war campaign which is unprecedented in recent times. It has turned obfuscation to a fine art, deftly combining history and legacy while cherry-picking portions of agreements (1890 Anglo-Chinese Convention) that are laced with coercion. On a daily basis, the foreign ministry, the PLA, Global Times, Xinhua and think tanks are issuing statements and threats, warning India about a repeat of 1962 and teaching it another lesson. They accuse India of reneging on Panchsheel and are repeatedly demanding Indian soldiers retract from the confrontation at Doklam by withdrawing first if any dialogue is to follow. Beijing has put itself in a corner leaving it no wriggle room or a face-saving option. As events have shown, India will not budge as the stakes are too high for it to blink first.

The most celebrated incident of the Indian Army challenging the PLA incursions was in 1986 at a tiny grazing ground in Wangdung near Sumdorong Chu where they established a post west of Tawang. Like at Doklam, the PLA was in the valley dominated by high ridgelines occupied by the Indian army. The dispute was over the alignment of the watershed with India claiming it was north of the grazing ground and China contending it was south of it. India’s strong stand dragged the confrontation for ten months culminating in the landmark visit of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi to Beijing in December 1986. Both sides agreed to withdraw simultaneously from positions they had occupied before the intrusion. During this near eyeball confrontation for ten months, not a shot was fired.

Given the evidence of the recent face-offs, it is unlikely the current stand-off will escalate into a shooting match at Doklam where the PLA is hemmed in by two ridge lines of the Chumbi valley occupied by Indian and Bhutanese troops. Doklam is 40 km from Yadong which is the PLA logistic base. In any short and sharp skirmish in this area, the PLA will not win the argument. On the other hand, it will suffer much greater losses than the Indian troops as it did in the Nathula clash of 1967. Doklam could go the Sumdorong Chu way leading to a meeting of high officials to defuse the crisis.

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s brief meeting with Prime Minister Modi and his remarks at the BRICS meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit this Friday advocating ‘political and peaceful settlement of regional conflicts and disputes’ indicates the face-off will cool down. At the recent Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit, Modi told Xi the two nations must not turn differences into dispute. China’s conditionality that Indian troops must withdraw first for any dialogue to start can be softened by employing the principle of simultaneity. As has happenened in the past, both sides can withdraw together from Doklam and prevent the dispute escalating into a bigger conflict.

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Esprit de Corps …

Posted on July 15, 2017. Filed under: From a Services Career, Regimental, Searching for Success |

By Gem KM Bhimaya

Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta was a 22-year-old Rifle Team leader, deployed in Korengal Valley, Afghanistan. He was the only living recipient (according to the U.S. Army tradition, a gallant soldier only receives, never wins, an award) of the Congressional Medal of Honor, since the Vietnam war.

In October 2007, he saved one of his buddies, and retrieved another wounded rifleman who had been captured by the insurgents during an ambush. He belonged to the famous 173rd Airborne Brigade of the U.S. Army (7700 decorations, including over 6000 purple hearts.

During my intelligence course in Okinawa (1964), I had an opportunity to observe this formation at close quarters as they were billeted by our B.O. Qs (Bachelor Officers’ Quarters). They were smart, and impeccable in their dress and deportment. They usually hung out with their buddies.

Salvatore Giunta separated from the Army in 2011 to pursue higher college studies (part of G.I. bill). In 2017, Ex- Staff Sergeant did something unique: He returned the coveted medal of honor to his parent Unit: 2nd Battalion, 503rd Airborne Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team,

While returning the award, he honored his promise implicit in his brief speech at the White House star-studded investiture ceremony, a few years ago.

“If I’m a hero, every man that stands around me, every woman, in the military, everyone who goes into the unknown is a hero; so, if you think that that’s a hero — as long as you include everyone with me,” Giunta said at a Pentagon briefing in September 2010.”

When he returned the highest gallantry award to his Unit, Salvatore Giunta was, at his best, proud esprit-de-corps in action.

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Social Media in Kashmir …

Posted on July 8, 2017. Filed under: Indian Thought, Searching for Success |

“The Hearts and Minds of the People and the Will of his Leaders are far more important Targets for me than toe bodies of his Troops” – Mao ze Dong.

From HT

A few days after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani on July 8 last year, a video surfaced on social media showing Wani and an accomplice tapping their rifles and humming a Kashmiri folk song playing in the background. The lyrics of the song in the video went: “You will miss me, o mother, when I will be buried under the earth…”

That video touched a chord with many in Kashmir where militants enjoy wide public support. “Any Kashmiri will cry, the video touches you,” a 40-year-old woman from old Srinagar said.

Viral videos that capture militants at play and leisure, shocking videos of alleged rights excesses committed by security forces on Kashmiri civilians, the alleged use of instant messaging platforms to mobilise stone pelters and recruit foot soldiers for militants and the frequent gags on internet are bringing a paradigm shift in the narrative of the Valley’s conflict.

The government seems to be losing the online war, with the militants and separatists seemingly always a step ahead. The week-long protest calendar by separatists to mark Wani’s first death anniversary calls for a ‘Kashmir Awareness’ campaign on social media.

“The PDP-BJP government is the most unpopular government Kashmir has seen in the last decade. So even if the government tries to reach out to people through social media, it won’t make much of a difference for its public relations because I think it will face similar kind of criticism on social media to the one it faces on ground,” says Irfan Mehraj, an activist with the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) and editor of e-magazine Wande.

Militants are no longer faceless. They wear military fatigues, strap ammunition across their chests and smile at you from forests. Given how successfully Wani struck a chord with people through social media and attracted youngsters, newer militants are trying out the same.

Police sources say although they check and analyse all latest militant videos, they are not dependant on them for gathering information on insurgents who are already profiled by police intelligence. But Kashmir watchers, like senior journalist and former Kashmir bureau chief of Reuters Sheikh Mushtaq, point out that militant videos play a “huge role” in humanising the insurgents to the common population and putting forward their viewpoint. “You see them and get to know them through these videos. They penetrate your computers and mobile phones. This is quite different from the militancy of the 1990s, when there were no such technologies.”

Stone-pelting protesters now shoot videos of clashes and upload them onto social media almost in real time. Many such videos were shared widely after a clash near an encounter site in Kulgam in February. With commentary on how forces were allegedly shooting at protesters and “killing Kashmiris”, the videos captured disturbing visuals from the clashes.

Videos capturing atrocities and human rights violations of Kashmiris have dominated the narrative this year and proved to be a major headache for the administration.

In April, a video emerged of a group of Kashmiri youth heckling CRPF jawans returning from duty on the day of Srinagar by polls on April 9 and resulted in a national outrage. What followed, however, was a torrent of videos showing security forces committing atrocities and human rights excesses on civilians, including using a “human shield” by the army and the targeted shooting of a teenage stone pelter on the day of the by poll.

Army Major Leetul Gogoi tied Kashmiri shawl weaver, Farooq Dar, to the bonnet of a jeep as a ‘human shield’ and drove him around for five hours across 17 villages over 28km on April 9. A video of the act, which surfaced a few days later and was shared by many- including former chief minister Omar Abdullah – had put the spotlight on the now infamous act.

Soon after these videos went viral, the administration on April 17 snapped high-speed mobile internet services and on April 26, banned 22 social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp, for a month.

The security establishment tries to keep pace through its cyber cells but the government’s main response is to snap mobile internet services, like it did after Wani was killed. Post-paid mobile internet services were restored in mid-November, while pre-paid services were restored on January 30 this year — making the blackout period the longest in Kashmir till now.

The blackout did not stop youth from mobilising in large number and organising stone pelting protests. The unrest that began after Wani’s death left over 90 people dead last year. The idea that without internet there would be no street protests was also debunked when both broadband and mobile internet services were snapped across Kashmir for the bye polls in Srinagar constituency — eight civilian protesters were gunned down by forces that day.

Senior police officers argue that with the internet, the scale of violence would have been higher.

The suspension of 3G and 4G services in April was to curb the uploading of multimedia content that could provoke violence, while letting users access the basic minimum internet on their phones.

Similarly, the April 26 order by state home secretary RK Goyal to ban 22 sites said the step was taken because the government felt that “continued misuse of social networking sites and instant messaging services is likely to be detrimental to the interests of peace and tranquility in the state”. The social media ban turned out to be a colossal failure.

Most Kashmiri users switched on to Virtual Private Network (VPN) apps to overcome the ban and what came as a real surprise was that the Who’s Who of Kashmir were all leading a busy social media life throughout the ban.

This year, internet services were completely or partially snapped at least seven times in Kashmir. But activists say the administration is clueless about how to control the space, which is being increasingly used for dissent, and hence gags it.

“Kashmiris chose dissent online, because the offline real world democracy wasn’t working. Even then they were pushed to the wall. The ban on social media was the peaking of an authoritarian state that can’t tolerate dissent. The state has lost both the battles offline and online. Now it’s just brutalisation that works in reality and virtually,” says Srinagar-based blogger Muhammad Faysal, who has over 15,000 followers on Twitter.

According to data since 2012 provided by internet shutdowns.in, a project by the Software Freedom Law Centre (SFLC), Jammu and Kashmir has recorded 35 instances of complete or partial internet shutdowns, the highest among states.
‘Govt talks only of developmental work’

CM Mehbooba Mufti has a verified Twitter account with around 21,000 followers, but is yet to write her first tweet. On the other hand, the leader of opposition, former CM Omar Abdullah, is a Twitter star with 1.88 million followers and a tweet on almost every topic relevant to Kashmiris.

The PDP’s official Twitter handle is mostly focused on promoting the developmental work of the government. Mehbooba’s verified Facebook page is a collection of videos of her public appearances and short press statements.
“The ruling dispensation’s engagement on social media is mostly related to sharing news about development work and success stories. That’s their mandate. They do not go beyond that. If they express anguish over civilian killings or injuries, they will face tough questions by social media users,” said Moazum Mohammad, a journalist with English daily Kashmir Reader.

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Falling in Love …

Posted on June 12, 2017. Filed under: Guide Posts, Mars & Venus, Searching for Success |

During a seminar, a woman asks, “How do I know if I married the right person?” There was this guy sitting next to her, so the guy asks, “Is that your husband?” Taken aback she asks, “How did you guess?” He goes onto explain.

’Every relationship has a cycle. In the beginning, you fell in love with your spouse. You anticipated their call, wanted their touch, and liked their idiosyncrasies.

Falling in love with your spouse wasn’t hard. In fact, it was a completely natural and spontaneous experience. You didn’t have to DO anything. That’s why it’s called “falling” in love. Because it’s happening TO YOU.

People in love sometimes say, “I was swept off my feet.” Think about the imagery of that expression. It implies that you were just standing there; doing nothing, and then something came along and happened TO YOU.

Falling in love is easy. It’s a passive and spontaneous experience.

But after a few years of marriage, the euphoria of love fades. It’s the natural cycle of EVERY relationship. Slowly but surely, phone calls become a bother (if they come at all), touch is not always welcome (when it happens) and your spouse’s idiosyncrasies, instead of being cute, drive you nuts.

The symptoms of this stage vary with every relationship but if you think about your marriage you will notice a dramatic difference between the initial stage when you were in love and a much duller or even angrier subsequent stage. At this point, you or your spouse might start asking, “Did I marry the right person?”

As you and your spouse reflect on the euphoria of the love you once had, you may begin to desire that experience with someone else. This is when marriages breakdown.

People blame their spouse for their unhappiness and look outside their marriage for fulfillment. Extramarital fulfillment comes in all shapes and sizes. Infidelity is the most obvious. But sometimes people turn to work, a hobby, a friendship, excessive TV or abusive substances.

But the answer to this dilemma does NOT lie outside your marriage. It lies within it. I’m not saying that you couldn’t fall in love with someone else. You could. And TEMPORARILY you’d feel better.

But you’d be in the same situation a few years later. Because, THE KEY TO SUCCEEDING IN MARRIAGE IS NOT FINDING THE RIGHT PERSON IT’S LEARNING TO LOVE THE PERSON YOU FOUND.

SUSTAINING love is not a passive or spontaneous experience. It’ll NEVER just happen to you. You can’t “find” LASTING love. You have to “make” it day in and day out.

That’s why we have the expression “the labor of love.” Because it takes time, effort, and energy. And most importantly, it takes WISDOM.

You have to know WHAT TO DO to make your marriage work. Make no mistake about it. Love is NOT a mystery. There are specific things you can do (with or without your spouse) to succeed with your marriage.

Just as there are physical laws of the universe (such as gravity), there are also laws for relationships. Just as the right diet and exercise program makes you physically stronger, certain habits in your relationship WILL make your marriage stronger. It’s  direct cause and effect.

If you know and apply the laws, the results are predictable. You can “make” love. Love in marriage is indeed a “decision”. Not just a feeling. “No one falls in love by choice, it is by CHANCE. No one stays in love by chance, it is by CHOICE.’

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‘Afterwards’ by Capt Cyril Morton Horne …

Posted on June 3, 2017. Filed under: From a Services Career, Great Writing, Searching for Success |

Beautiful lines by an Irish Officer from ‘Songs of the Shrapnel Shell.’

In the Afterwards, when I am dead,
I want no flowers over my head.
But if Fate and the Gods are kind to me
They’ll send me a Sikh half Company
 .
To sweeten my sleep, when I am dead.
To fire three volleys over my head
 And these are the words they will write for me –
“Here endeth a Fool’s Philosophy!”
 .
 Some shall sneer, some shall sigh,
Yet I shall not hear them as there I lie,
 For this is the Law of Lover and Friend –
That all joy must finish – all feelings end.
 .
 Many will laugh but Some will weep,
I shall not know as I lie asleep;
A worn-out body, a dried-up crust;
Ashes to ashes and Dust to Dust!
 .
 And they’ll drink a toast up there in the Mess,
“Here’s to a friend who is no more!”
 Music and talk, for a while, shall cease
As my Brothers drink to their Brother’s Peace.
 .
 And the Sikhs, once my own, shall say
“Who rode with us now rides alone!”
And leaning over the grave they’ll sigh –
“Sahib Margaye … Ki jai, Ki Jai!”
 .
And I, who so loved them one and all
Shall stir no more at the Bugle call,
But another Sahib shall ride instead
At the head of my Sikhs, when I am dead.
 .
And this thought which hurts me so,
Shall cease to trouble me when I go.
 .
My chestnut charger, Mam’selle,
She was fleet of foot and I loved her well!
Shall nibble the grass above my head
Unknowing that the one she loved is dead.
 .
 Someone – my Horse or my Company
Shall fail to smile at the comedy;
But strive to reason yet fail to guess
That Life is little and Death is less!
.
And they shall sorrow over my space
Till somebody comes to fill my place;
But all their sorrow, grief and pain,
Shall be expended upon me in vain!
 .
And you – if you read this my epitaph –
Harden your heart and I pray you, laugh!
But if you would deal with me tenderly
Place one dew-kissed violet over me;
 .
I claim not this and I ask no more,
Yet – this was the flower that Someone wore
in the dead yesterdays that have gone before.
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Viet Nam War – A Viet Namese tells McNamara where he went Wrong …

Posted on May 28, 2017. Filed under: American Thinkers, From a Services Career, Personalities, Searching for Success |

This is Mr Xuân Thuỷ, Foreign Minister of North Vietnam (1963 to 1965), during a 1995 meeting with former US Secretary of Defense, serving from 1961 to 1968, Robert S. McNamara.

“Mr. McNamara, You must never have read a history book. If you’d had, you’d know we weren’t pawns of the Chinese or the Russians.

McNamara, didn’t you know that? Don’t you understand that we have been fighting the Chinese for 1000 years? We were fighting for our independence.

And we would fight to the last man. And we were determined to do so. And no amount of bombing, no amount of U.S. pressure would ever have stopped us.” 

From – The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara:

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Twenty Techies Shaping the Future …

Posted on May 17, 2017. Filed under: Searching for Success |

20 TECH VISIONARIES WHO ARE CREATING THE FUTURE by WIRED staff 04.25.17

MICROSOFT WILL BUILD computers even more sleek and beautiful than Apple’s. Robots will 3-D-print cool shoes that are personalized just for you. (And you’ll get them in just a few short days.) Neural networks will take over medical diagnostics, and Snapchat will try to take over the entire world. The women and men in these pages are the technical, creative, idealistic visionaries who are bringing the future to your doorstep. You might not recognize their names—they’re too busy working to court the spotlight—but you’ll soon hear about them a lot. They represent the best of what’s next.

 

Put Humans First, Code Second –Parisa Tabriz –

As head of security for Google Chrome, Parisa Tabriz has spent four years focusing on a vulnerability so widespread, most engineers act as if it doesn’t exist: humanity. She has pushed her 52-person team to grapple with problems once written off as “user errors.” They’ve made key changes in how the browser communicates with people, rewriting Chrome’s warnings about insecure network connections at a sixth-grade reading level. Rather than depending on users to spot phishing schemes, the team is exploring machine-­learning tools to automatically detect them. And they’re starting to mark sites as “not secure” if they don’t use HTTPS encryption, pressuring the web to secure itself. “We’ve been accused of being paternalistic, but we’re in a position to protect people,” she says. “The goal isn’t to solve math problems. It’s to keep humans safe.” Tabriz, whose father is Iranian, has also made a point of hiring engineers from other countries—like Iran—where state internet surveillance is an oppressive, everyday concern. “You can’t keep people safe if you don’t understand those human challenges around the world.” —Andy Greenberg

 

Wall Street Can Run on Collaboration, Not Competition Richard Craib Founder | Numerai

Wall Street is capitalism at its fiercest. But Richard Craib believes it can also be a place for friendly collaborations. His hedge fund, San Francisco–based ­Numerai, relies on artificially intelligent algorithms to handle all trades. But the 29-year-old South African mathematician doesn’t build these algorithms himself. Instead, his fund crowdsources them from thousands of anonymous data scientists who vie for bitcoin rewards by building the most successful trading models. And that isn’t even the strangest part.

Ultimately, Craib doesn’t want these data scientists to get overly competitive. If only the best modelers win, they have little incentive to recruit fresh talent, which could dilute their rewards. Competitors’ self-­interest winds up at odds with getting the best minds, no matter who they are, working to improve the fund. To encourage cooperation, Craib developed Numer­aire, a kind of digital currency that rewards everyone when the fund does well. Data scientists bet Numer­aire on algorithms they think will succeed. When the models work, Numer­aire’s value goes up for everyone. “I don’t want to build a company or a startup or even a hedge fund,” Craib says. “I want to build a country—a place where everyone is working openly toward the same end.” —­Cade Metz

 

Microsoft Will Outdesign Apple Kait Schoeck Industrial Designer | Microsoft

Kait Schoeck wasn’t really supposed to end up at Micro­soft. She had enrolled at the Rhode Island School of Design in 2009 with plans to be a painter, or maybe an illustrator. “I didn’t know industrial design actually existed,” she says. That changed in school, where she switched majors and even­tually caught Microsoft’s attention. The company liked her unusual portfolio—there wasn’t much in it about computers. Now she’s one of the designers working on Microsoft’s Surface products, helping the com­pany achieve what for decades has seemed impossible: outdesigning Apple. Because Schoeck and her team aren’t bogged down by decades of PC-­design baggage, they freely break with convention. And because their desks are a few feet from a machine shop, they can build whatever they dream up. “Being able to hold the products we make—that’s when you really know what works,” Schoeck says. Early in her time at Microsoft, she co­invented the rolling hinge that makes the detachable Surface Book possible; her team has also found ways to make touchscreen laptops feel natural, to build tablets that really can replace your laptop, and to turn the old-school desktop PC into something more like a drawing table. Thanks to designers like Schoeck, Micro­soft’s machines aren’t just brainy anymore—they’re beautiful too. —David Pierce

 

Frugal Science Will Curb Disease Manu Prakash Founder | Foldscope Instruments

While visiting rabies clinics in India and Thailand, Manu Prakash made a damning realization: In remote villages, traditional microscopes are useless. Cumbersome to carry and expensive to maintain, the finely tuned machines are often relegated to a dusty lab corner while medical providers diagnose and treat patients in the field. So the Stanford bio­engineer set out to build what he calls “the pencil of micro­scopy”—a high-­performing tool that’s lightweight, ­durable, and cheap. In 2014 his lab unveiled the Foldscope, an origami-like paper microscope that magnifies objects up to 2,000 times but costs less than $1 to produce. “We quickly realized that writing scientific papers about it wasn’t good enough,” Prakash says. He turned his lab into a mini Foldscope factory, giving away microscopes to anyone who asked. Within a year, the lab had shipped 50,000 of them to users in 135 countries, from Mongolia to rural Montana; this year it aims to donate 1 million. An eager army of DIY scientists has used the tool to identify fake drugs, detect diseased crops, spot counter­feit currency, and more. Earlier this year, Prakash’s lab introduced the Paperfuge, a 20-cent centri­fuge inspired by an ancient spinning toy, which can be used to diagnose diseases like malaria. Prakash’s cheap, cleverly designed devices prove that when it comes to public health problems, the high tech (high-cost) solution isn’t always the best fix. Consider his lab’s latest achievement, a method of identifying mosquito species by recording their wing beats. The apparatus required? A flip phone. —Lauren Murrow

 

TV Ad Dollars Will Get Snapped Up Jeff Lucas VP and Global Head of Sales | Snap

In March, Snap’s public stock offering became the third-largest tech IPO of all time, raising $3.4 billion. Now it just needs to make money. As of January 2017, the six-year-old multi­media app had lost $1.2 billion, nearly half of that in 2016 alone. Its growth rate is slowing too: After averaging more than 15 million new daily users in each of the first three quarters of 2016, it added just 5 million in the fourth quarter. So last summer, the company poached media industry veteran Jeff Lucas, former head of sales at Viacom. In the wake of Snap’s IPO, he’s been tasked with backing up the brand’s billion-dollar hype with measurable profits. To do that, he’ll need to ward off copycat competitors like Insta­gram’s Stories and WhatsApp’s Status—direct descendants of Snapchat Stories, a series of snaps strung together chrono­logically—and lure ad spending away from Facebook and TV networks. He’s reportedly in talks with marketing agencies like Publicis Groupe, WPP, and Omnicom Group to land deals of $100 million to $200 million. In a crowded industry competing for advertising dollars, Lucas will be instrumental in getting those gatekeepers to open their coffers for Snap. —Davey Alba

SOURCE: EMARKETER

 

Encryption Alone Is Not Enough John Brooks Programmer | Ricochet

Thanks to messaging services like WhatsApp, Signal, and Apple’s iMessage, end-to-end encryption isn’t just for spies and cypherpunks anymore; it’s become nearly as standard as emoji. But sometimes an unbroken channel of encryption between sender and receiver isn’t enough. Sure, it hides the content of messages, but it doesn’t conceal the identities of who’s writing to whom—metadata that can reveal, say, the membership of an organization or a journalist’s web of sources. John Brooks, a 25-year-old middle school dropout, has created an app that may represent the next generation of secret-sharing tools: ones that promise to hide not just your words but also the social graph of your connections.

His chat app, called Ricochet, builds on a feature of the anonymity software Tor that’s rendered sites on the dark web untraceable and anonymous for years. But instead of cloaking web destinations, Ricochet applies those stealth features to your PC: It turns your computer into a piece of the darknet. And unlike almost all other messaging apps, Ricochet allows conversations to travel from the sender’s computer to the recipient’s without ever passing through a central server that can track the data or metadata of users’ communications. “There’s no record in the cloud somewhere that you ever used it,” Brooks says. “It’s all mixed in with everything else happening in Tor. You’re invisible among the crowd.” And when invisibility is an option, plain old encryption starts to feel awfully revealing. —­Andy Greenberg

 

Silicon Valley Can Spread the Wealth Leslie Miley President, West Coast | ­Venture for America

Silicon Valley generates astronomical levels of wealth. But you’d be hard-pressed to find the spoils of the tech industry extending far beyond the Bay Area, much less to ­Middle America. Leslie Miley wants to change that. Early this year he left his job as a director of engineering at Slack to launch an executive-­in-residence program at Venture for America. The project is designed to foster the building of tech businesses in emerging markets like Detroit and Baltimore. Starting this September, the residency will place Silicon Valley execs in yearlong stints in several of the program’s 18 innovation hubs, where they’ll advise area startups. The idea is that having well-connected leaders in such places may give local talent ties to Silicon Valley and inspire startups to set up shop in those cities. According to Miley, the program was fueled by industry-­wide anxiety following the 2016 election. “Tech enabled people to stay in their echo chambers,” Miley says. “We’re partially responsible.” Not just by building non-­inclusive platforms, he says, but by overlooking large swaths of the country in the hunt for talent. Davey Alba

 

Our Robots Are Powered by Poets and Musicians Beth Holmes, Farah Houston, Michelle Riggen-­Ransom

HOLMES Knowledge Manager | Alexa Information team HOUSTON Senior Manager | Alexa Personality team RIGGEN-­RANSOM Managing Editor | Alexa Personality team

Behind your high tech digital assistant is a band of liberal arts majors. A trio of women shape the personality of Amazon’s Alexa, the AI-powered device used by tens of millions of consumers worldwide: Michelle Riggen-­Ransom, who has an MFA in creative writing, composes the bot’s raw responses; Farah Houston, a psychology grad specializing in personality science, ensures that those responses dovetail with customers’ expectations; and Beth Holmes, a mathematician with expertise in natural language processing, decides which current events are woven into Alexa’s vocabulary, from the Super Bowl to the Oscars. “The commonality is that most of us have been writers and have had to express humor in writing,” Houston says. Riggen-­Ransom oversees a group of playwrights, poets, fiction authors, and musicians who complete weekly writing exercises that are incorporated into Alexa’s persona. (The bot’s disposition is broadly defined in a “personality document,” which informs the group’s responses.) The content is then workshopped among the team; much of it ends up on the cutting room floor. Alexa’s temperament can swing from practical and direct to whimsical and jokey. The art is in striking the right balance, especially when it comes to addressing sensitive topics. “Our overall approach when talking to people about politics, sex, or religion has been to divert with humor,” Houston says. But thanks in part to her female-led team, the bot won’t stand for insults. “We work hard to always portray Alexa as confident and empowered,” Houston says. It takes a village to raise a fake lady. —­Davey Alba

 

Hard Data Can Improve Diversity Laura I. Gómez Founder | Atipica

Three years ago, Laura Gómez was participating in yet another diversity-in-tech panel, alongside representatives from Facebook and ­Google, when she snapped. “This is not a meritocracy, and we all know it,” the Latina entrepreneur announced. “This is cronyism. A Googler gets hired by Twitter, who gets hired by Facebook. Everyone is appointing their friends to positions of authority.” (As someone who has worked at Twitter, YouTube, and ­Google, she should know.) The breakthrough inspired Gómez to found Atipica, a recruiting software company that sorts job applicants solely by their skill set. That policy may seem obvious, but recruiters are prone to pattern-­matching in accordance with previous hires—giving preference to, say, Stanford-schooled ­Google engineers. Atipica isn’t designed to shame tech CEOs about their uber-white open offices; rather, it presents hard data, judgment-free. The company’s software—which draws on information from public, industry, and internal sources—reveals the type of person most likely to apply for a job, analyzes hiring patterns, and quantifies the likelihood that certain kinds of candidates will accept job offers. It also resurfaces diverse candidates for new job postings they’re qualified for, a strategy that has led thousands of applicants to be recontacted. Last fall, Atipica raised $2 million from True Ventures, Kapor Capital, Precursor Ventures, and others. For Gómez, a Mexican immigrant who was undocumented until the age of 18, the work is personal. “My mother was a nanny and a housekeeper for people in Silicon Valley,” she says. “My voice is the voice of immigrants.” Her company’s success shows that the struggle to diversify tech will be won not by indignant tweetstorms but by data. —Lauren Murrow

 

Music Will Leave the Studio Behind Steve Lacy Musician

Most musicians work in studios, with engineers and producers and dozens of contributors. Steve Lacy works in hotel rooms. Or in his car. One time at a barbershop. Anywhere inspiration strikes, really. And with every unconventional session, Lacy’s proving to the industry that good music doesn’t have to be sparkling and hyperproduced. He dropped his first official solo material in February, a series of songs (he won’t call it an album) made entirely in GarageBand. Lacy plugs his guitar into his iPhone’s Lightning port and sings right into the mic. The whole thing’s a bit shticky, sure, but the point is to show people that the tools you have don’t really matter. He’s no musical lightweight, though. Just 18, he’s already a sought-after producer, making beats with the likes of J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar. Lacy’s own style is a little bit pop, a little bit soul, and a little bit R&B. He calls it Plaid, because it’s a lot of funky patterns you can’t quite imagine together—but somehow it all works. Even he doesn’t always understand why, but he knows it does. Kendrick Lamar told him so. —David Pierce

SOURCE: RIAA

 

Microbiology Gets a Little Intelligent Design Christina Agapakis

Creative Director | Ginkgo Bioworks

For a biologist, Christina Agapakis has an unusual role. At Ginkgo Bioworks, a Boston biotech firm that tweaks yeast and bacteria to create custom organisms for everything from fermentation to cosmetics, Agapakis is a bridge between the technical and creative sides of the business. She works with clients like food conglomerates to figure out how they can use engineered microbes to make their products better, cheaper, and more sustainable. Recently, French perfumer Robertet enlisted Ginkgo’s organism designers to create a custom yeast that could replicate the smell of rose oil. To do that, the designers inserted the scent-­producing genes from roses into yeast, which produced floral-­smelling compounds—no expensive rose petals necessary. Agapakis then worked with the company’s perfumers to develop new fragrances using this novel substance. “A lot of what I do is think about what this new technology can enable creatively,” she says. Biotech companies are learning that success requires more than good science—it takes imaginative thinking too. —Liz Stinson

 

Tech Workers, Not CEOs, Will Drive Real, Positive Change Maciej Ceglowski

Founder | Pinboard

A tweet by @Pinboard reads, “Silicon Valley lemon­ade stand: 30 employees, $45 million in funding, sells $9 glasses of lemonade while illegally blocking sidewalk.” The account belongs to a bookmarking site founded by Polish-born web developer Maciej Ceglowski. Though he established the handle in 2009 intending to offer product support, Ceglowski now uses the account to gleefully skewer Silicon Valley to 38,700 Twitter followers. Since the presidential election, the developer’s criticism of his own industry has taken a more trenchant tone, energizing a new wave of tech activists. (On Facebook’s refusal to cut ties with Trump supporter Peter Thiel, he tweeted: “Facebook has a board member who heard credible accusations of sexual assault and threw $1.25M at the perpetrator. That requires comment.”) In December, thousands of tech employees signed an @Pinboard-championed pledge at Neveragain.tech, refusing to utilize their companies’ user data to build a Muslim registry. Last year, Ceglowski founded Tech Solidarity, a national group that meets to devise methods of organizing. The effort has become high-profile enough that even C-suite execs, like Facebook’s chief security officer, Alex Stamos, now attend. For all his trademark snark, Ceglowski maintains that his goal is to foster a more conscientious tech indus­try. He hopes that Tech Solidarity can develop an industry-wide code of ethics in the coming months—“move fast and break things” needs an update, he says—and eventually lead employees to unionize. He believes the best way to exert influence over powerful tech companies is from the inside out: by empowering their workers. —Davey Alba

 

China Will Lead the Tech Industry Connie Chan

Partner | Andreessen Horowitz

Connie Chan has a master’s degree in engineering from Stanford, where her classmates were Facebook’s future first employees. She thought that she knew what tech’s leading edge looked like. Then she went to China and discovered she had no idea. On massively popular messaging apps like WeChat, people did way more than just talk. They got marriage licenses and birth certificates, paid utilities and traffic tickets, even had drugs delivered—all in-app. Tech companies in the US, she realized, could no longer take it for granted that they led while the world followed; the stereo­type that China’s tech companies are just copycats is obsolete. “If you study Chinese products, you can get inspiration,” Chan says. As a partner at Andreessen Horowitz, she now specializes in helping American startups understand just how much they have to learn as China’s tech industry races ahead of the US in everything from messaging to livestreaming (now a $5 billion market). No matter the protectionist rhetoric coming from the Trump administration, US tech firms see billions of dollars to be made in China, and vice versa. As these two financial giants play overseas footsie, Chan acts as a facilitator. “I spend so much time teaching people what they can’t see,” she says. It won’t stay invisible for long. —Marcus Wohlsen

SOURCES: RHODIUM GROUP; 2016 U.S. DATA: XINHUA NEWS AGENCY

 

Need Help Choosing a Wine? There’s a DNA-Based App for That.

James Lu Senior VP of Applied Genomics | Helix

Advances in genetic sequencing mean that labs can now—quickly and cheaply—read millions of letters of DNA in a single gob of spit. Genomics researcher James Lu and his team at Helix (buoyed by $100 million in funding led by Illumina, the largest maker of DNA sequencers) are harnessing that information so you’ll be able to learn a lot more about yourself. How? There’s an app for that. First Helix will sequence and store your entire exome—every letter of the 22,000 genes that code for proteins in your body. (The technology uncovers much more data than genotyping, the process used by companies like 23andMe, which searches only for specific markers.) Then Helix partners will create apps that analyze everything from your cancer risk to, they say, your wine preferences, ranging from a few dollars to a few hundred dollars a pop. “Where one person may be interested in inherited diseases, someone else cares about fitness or nutrition,” Lu says. “We work with developers to provide better products and context for your genetic information.” Helix’s first partners include medical groups like the Mayo Clinic and New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital, which are developing genetic-education and health-­related apps, and National Geographic, which offers an app that uncovers your ancestors’ locations and migration patterns going back 200,000 years. Lu imagines future collaborations with, say, a travel service that plans your vacation itinerary based on your genealogy or a food delivery service that tailors menus to your metabolic profile. The project opens new markets for genetic research—and entirely new avenues of self-absorption for the selfie generation. —Lauren Murrow

SOURCE: NATIONAL HUMAN GENOME RESEARCH INSTITUTE

 

Techies Should Serve Their Country Matt Cutts

Acting Administrator | United States Digital Service

Matt Cutts could easily have left his job at the US Digital Service after Inauguration Day—as many other Obama staffers did. His wife wasn’t in Washington, and neither was his main gig as Google’s chief spam fighter. But when the time came, he couldn’t walk away. “My heart says USDS,” he wrote to his wife, who eventually joined him in DC.

As a member of the govern­ment’s tech task force, Cutts oversaw a team that worked on an online portal for veterans. Had he quit in January, he wouldn’t have seen two USDS initiatives—services for the Pentagon and the Army—through to completion. “The organization deserves to have someone who can help preserve its mission,” Cutts says. It also needs someone who can convince Silicon Valley types that managing the president’s Twitter feed isn’t the only tech job in government. Cutts, who avoids talking politics, has begun recruiting friends in the industry, telling them that no matter whom they voted for, “once you see the sorts of issues you can tackle here, it tends to be pretty addictive.” And you really can change the world (slowly). —Issie Lapowsky

 

Robots Will Make Fast Fashion Even Faster

Gerd Manz VP of Future Team | Adidas

Cookie-cutter kicks aren’t good enough for Gen Z sneaker­heads. They want custom­ization, and they want it fast. “They get annoyed if it takes three seconds to download an app,” says industrial engineer Gerd Manz, who oversees technology innovation at Adidas. So he is heading up the company’s ambitious new manufacturing facilities—pointedly dubbed Speedfactories—staffed not by humans but by robots. The sportswear giant will start production in two Speedfactories this year, one in Ansbach, Germany, and another in Atlanta, each eventually capable of churning out 500,000 pairs of shoes a year, including one-of-a-kind designs. Thanks to tech like automated 3-D printing, robotic cutting, and computerized knitting, a shoe that today might spend 18 months in the development and manufacturing pipeline will soon be made from scratch in a matter of hours. And though the Speedfactories will initially be tasked with limited-edition runs, Manz, a sort of sneaker Willy Wonka, predicts that the complexes will ulti­mately produce fully customizable shoes. (You’ll even be able to watch a video of your own pair being made.) “It doesn’t matter to the Speedfactory manufacturing line if we make one or 1,000 of a product,” Manz says. The robot factories of the future will fulfill consumers’ desires: It’s hyper-­personalization at a breakneck pace. —Lauren Murrow

 

Artificial Intelligence Will Help Doctors Do Their Jobs Better

Lily Peng Product Manager | Google Brain

In 2012, Google built an artificial intelligence system that could recognize cats in YouTube videos. The experiment may have seemed frivolous, but now Lily Peng is applying some of the same techniques to address a far more serious problem. She and her colleagues are using neural networks—complex mathematical systems for identifying patterns in data—to recognize diabetic retino­pathy, a leading cause of blindness among US adults.

Inside Google Brain, the company’s central AI lab, Peng is feeding thousands of retinal scans into neural networks and teaching them to “see” tiny hemorrhages and other lesions that are early warning signs of retinopathy. “This lets us identify the ­people who are at the highest risk and get them treatment soon rather than later,” says Peng, an MD herself who also has a PhD in bio­engineering.

She’s not out to replace doctors—the hope is that the system will eventually help overworked physicians in poorer parts of the world examine far more patients, far more quickly.

At hospitals in India, Peng is already running clinical trials in which her AI analyzes patients’ eye scans. In the future, doctors could work with AI to examine x-rays and MRIs to detect all sorts of ailments. “We want to increase access to care everywhere,” she says. By sharing the workload, machines can help make that possible. —Cade Metz

SOURCE: INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION OF ROBOTICS

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