Fats and figures
In honor of the prophet’s birthday, we decided to share with you some of Muhammad’s (PBUH) healthy habits, which happen to be backed scientifically today!
Early Riser: Prophet Muhammad slept early and woke up with the Adhan of Fajr each day. Being an early riser has scientifically been correlated with better productivity, as well as better mental health in general. So, waking up early may be hard but with baby steps, even if it’s just waking up 15 minutes earlier to start with, you can begin improving your quality of life.
Eating Less: The practice of eating less to prevent sickness and disease was emphasized by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), and now backed heavily by science much later. The Islamic concept ‘1/3 for your food, 1/3 for your liquids, and 1/3 for your breath’ matches very closely to the Japanese ‘hara hachi bu’ concept, which means eat until you are only…
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In honor of the prophet’s birthday, we decided to share with you some of Muhammad’s (PBUH) healthy habits, which happen to be backed scientifically today! Early Riser: Prophet Muhammad slept early …
Donald J. Trump declared a $916 million loss on his 1995 income tax returns, a tax deduction so substantial it could have allowed him to legally avoid paying any federal income taxes for up to 18 years, records obtained by The New York Times show.
The 1995 tax records, never before disclosed, reveal the extraordinary tax benefits that Mr. Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, derived from the financial wreckage he left behind in the early 1990s through mismanagement of three Atlantic City casinos, his ill-fated foray into the airline business and his ill-timed purchase of the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan.
Tax experts hired by The Times to analyze Mr. Trump’s 1995 records said that tax rules especially advantageous to wealthy filers would have allowed Mr. Trump to use his $916 million loss to cancel out an equivalent amount of taxable income over an 18-year period.
Although Mr. Trump’s taxable income in subsequent years is as yet unknown, a $916 million loss in 1995 would have been large enough to wipe out more than $50 million a year in taxable income over 18 years.
The $916 million loss certainly could have eliminated any federal income taxes Mr. Trump otherwise would have owed on the $50,000 to $100,000 he was paid for each episode of “The Apprentice,” or the roughly $45 million he was paid between 1995 and 2009 when he was chairman or chief executive of the publicly traded company he created to assume ownership of his troubled Atlantic City casinos. Ordinary investors in the new company, meanwhile, saw the value of their shares plunge to 17 cents from $35.50, while scores of contractors went unpaid for work on Mr. Trump’s casinos and casino bondholders received pennies on the dollar.
“He has a vast benefit from his destruction” in the early 1990s, said one of the experts, Joel Rosenfeld, an assistant professor at New York University’s Schack Institute of Real Estate. Mr. Rosenfeld offered this description of what he would advise a client who came to him with a tax return like Mr. Trump’s: “Do you realize you can create $916 million in income without paying a nickel in taxes?”
Mr. Trump declined to comment on the documents. Instead, the campaign released a statement that neither challenged nor confirmed the $916 million loss.
“Mr. Trump is a highly-skilled businessman who has a fiduciary responsibility to his business, his family and his employees to pay no more tax than legally required,” the statement said. “That being said, Mr. Trump has paid hundreds of millions of dollars in property taxes, sales and excise taxes, real estate taxes, city taxes, state taxes, employee taxes and federal taxes.”
The statement continued, “Mr. Trump knows the tax code far better than anyone who has ever run for President and he is the only one that knows how to fix it.”
Separately, a lawyer for Mr. Trump, Marc E. Kasowitz, emailed a letter to The Times arguing that publication of the records is illegal because Mr. Trump has not authorized the disclosure of any of his tax returns. Mr. Kasowitz threatened “prompt initiation of appropriate legal action.”
Mr. Trump’s refusal to make his tax returns public — breaking with decades of tradition in presidential contests — has emerged as a central issue in the campaign, with a majority of voters saying he should release them. Mr. Trump has declined to do so, and has said he is being audited by the Internal Revenue Service.
At last Monday’s presidential debate, when Hillary Clinton suggested Mr. Trump was refusing to release his tax returns so voters would not know “he’s paid nothing in federal taxes,” and when she also pointed out that Mr. Trump had once revealed to casino regulators that he paid no federal income taxes in the late 1970s, Mr. Trump retorted, “That makes me smart.”
The tax experts consulted by The Times said nothing in the 1995 documents suggested any wrongdoing by Mr. Trump, even if the extraordinary size of the loss he declared would have probably attracted extra scrutiny from I.R.S. examiners. “The I.R.S., when they see a negative $916 million, that has to pop out,” Mr. Rosenfeld said.
The documents examined by The Times represent a small fraction of the voluminous tax returns Mr. Trump would have filed in 1995.
The documents consisted of three pages from what appeared to be Mr. Trump’s 1995 tax returns. The pages were mailed last month to Susanne Craig, a reporter at The Times who has written about Mr. Trump’s finances. The documents were the first page of a New York State resident income tax return, the first page of a New Jersey nonresident tax return and the first page of a Connecticut nonresident tax return. Each page bore the names and Social Security numbers of Mr. Trump and Marla Maples, his wife at the time. Only the New Jersey form had what appeared to be their signatures.
The three documents arrived by mail at The Times with a postmark indicating they had been sent from New York City. The return address claimed the envelope had been sent from Trump Tower.
On Wednesday, The Times presented the tax documents to Jack Mitnick, a lawyer and certified public accountant who handled Mr. Trump’s tax matters for more than 30 years, until 1996. Mr. Mitnick was listed as the preparer on the New Jersey tax form.
Mr. Mitnick, 80, now semiretired and living in Florida, said that while he no longer had access to Mr. Trump’s original returns, the documents appeared to be authentic copies of portions of Mr. Trump’s 1995 tax returns. Mr. Mitnick said the signature on the tax preparer line of the New Jersey tax form was his, and he readily explained an obvious anomaly in the way especially large numbers appeared on the New York tax document.
A flaw in the tax software program he used at the time prevented him from being able to print a nine-figure loss on Mr. Trump’s New York return, he said. So, for example, the loss of “-915,729,293” on Line 18 of the return printed out as “5,729,293.” As a result, Mr. Mitnick recalled, he had to use his typewriter to manually add the “-91,” thus explaining why the first two digits appeared to be in a different font and were slightly misaligned from the following seven digits.
“This is legit,” he said, stabbing a finger into the document.
Because the documents sent to The Times did not include any pages from Mr. Trump’s 1995 federal tax return, it is impossible to determine how much he may have donated to charity that year. The state documents do show, though, that Mr. Trump declined the opportunity to contribute to the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Fund, the New Jersey Wildlife Conservation Fund or the Children’s Trust Fund. He also declined to contribute $1 toward public financing of New Jersey’s elections for governor.
The tax documents also do not shed any light on Mr. Trump’s claimed net worth of about $2 billion at that time. This is because the complex calculations of business deductions that produced a tax loss of $916 million are a separate matter from how Mr. Trump valued his assets, the tax experts said.
Nor does the $916 million loss suggest that Mr. Trump was insolvent or effectively bankrupt in 1995. The cash flow generated by his various businesses that year was more than enough to service his various debts.
But fragmentary as they are, the documents nonetheless provide new insight into Mr. Trump’s finances, a subject of intense scrutiny given Mr. Trump’s emphasis on his business record during the presidential campaign.
The documents show, for example, that while Mr. Trump reported $7.4 million in interest income in 1995, he made only $6,108 in wages, salaries and tips. They also suggest Mr. Trump took full advantage of generous tax loopholes specifically available to commercial real estate developers to claim a $15.8 million loss in 1995 on his real estate holdings and partnerships.
But the most important revelation from the 1995 tax documents is just how much Mr. Trump may have benefited from a tax provision that is particularly prized by America’s dynastic families, which, like the Trumps, hold their wealth inside byzantine networks of partnerships, limited liability companies and S corporations.
The provision, known as net operating loss, or N.O.L., allows a dizzying array of deductions, business expenses, real estate depreciation, losses from the sale of business assets and even operating losses to flow from the balance sheets of those partnerships, limited liability companies and S corporations onto the personal tax returns of men like Mr. Trump. In turn, those losses can be used to cancel out an equivalent amount of taxable income from, say, book royalties or branding deals.
Better still, if the losses are big enough, they can cancel out taxable income earned in other years. Under I.R.S. rules in 1995, net operating losses could be used to wipe out taxable income earned in the three years before and the 15 years after the loss. (The effect of net operating losses on state income taxes varies, depending on each state’s tax regime.)
The tax experts consulted by The Times said the $916 million net operating loss declared by Mr. Trump in 1995 almost certainly included large net operating losses carried forward from the early 1990s, when most of Mr. Trump’s key holdings were hemorrhaging money. Indeed, by 1990, his entire business empire was on the verge of collapse. In a few short years, he had amassed $3.4 billion in debt — personally guaranteeing $832 million of it — to assemble a portfolio that included three casinos and a hotel in Atlantic City, the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan, an airline and a huge yacht.
Reports that year by New Jersey casino regulators gave glimpses of the balance sheet carnage. The Trump Taj Mahal casino reported a $25.5 million net loss during its first six months of 1990; the Trump’s Castle casino lost $43.5 million for the year. His airline, Trump Shuttle, lost $34.5 million during just the first six months of that year.
“Simply put, the organization is in dire financial straits,” the casino regulators concluded.
Reports by New Jersey’s casino regulators strongly suggested that Mr. Trump had claimed large net operating losses on his taxes in the early 1990s. Their reports, for example, revealed that Mr. Trump had carried forward net operating losses in both 1991 and 1993. What’s more, the reports said the losses he claimed were large enough to virtually cancel out any taxes he might owe on the millions of dollars of debt that was being forgiven by his creditors. (The I.R.S. considers forgiven debt to be taxable income.)
But crucially, the casino regulators redacted the precise size of the net operating losses in the public versions of their reports. Two former New Jersey officials, who were privy to the unredacted documents, could not recall the precise size of the numbers, but said they were substantial.
Politico, which previously reported that Mr. Trump most likely paid no income taxes in 1991 and 1993 based on the casino commission’s description of his net operating losses, asked Mr. Trump to comment. “Welcome to the real estate business,” he replied in an email.
Now, thanks to Mr. Trump’s 1995 tax records, the degree to which he spun all those years of red ink into tax write-off gold may finally be apparent.
Mr. Mitnick, the lawyer and accountant, was the person Mr. Trump leaned on most to do the spinning. Mr. Mitnick worked for a small Long Island accounting firm that specialized in handling tax issues for wealthy New York real estate families. He had long handled tax matters for Mr. Trump’s father, Fred C. Trump, and he said he began doing Donald Trump’s taxes after Mr. Trump turned 18.
In an interview on Wednesday, Mr. Mitnick said he could not divulge details of Mr. Trump’s finances without Mr. Trump’s consent. But he did talk about Mr. Trump’s approaches to taxes, and he contrasted Fred Trump’s attention to detail with what he described as Mr. Trump’s brash and undisciplined style. He recalled, for example, that when Donald and Ivana Trump came in each year to sign their tax forms, it was almost always Ivana who asked more questions.
But if Mr. Trump lacked a sophisticated understanding of the tax code, and if he rarely showed any interest in the details behind various tax strategies, Mr. Mitnick said he clearly grasped the critical role taxes would play in helping him build wealth. “He knew we could use the tax code to protect him,” Mr. Mitnick said.
According to Mr. Mitnick, Mr. Trump’s use of net operating losses was no different from that of his other wealthy clients. “This may have had a couple extra digits compared to someone else’s operation, but they all benefited in the same way,” he said, pointing to the $916 million loss on Mr. Trump’s tax returns.
In “The Art of the Deal,” his 1987 best-selling book, Mr. Trump referred to Mr. Mitnick as “my accountant” — although he misspelled his name. Mr. Trump described consulting with Mr. Mitnick on the tax implications of deals he was contemplating and seeking his advice on how new federal tax regulations might affect real estate write-offs.
Mr. Mitnick, though, said there were times when even he, for all his years helping wealthy New Yorkers navigate the tax code, found it difficult to face the incongruity of his work for Mr. Trump. He felt keenly aware that Mr. Trump was living a life of unimaginable luxury thanks in part to Mr. Mitnick’s ability to relieve him of the burden of paying taxes like everyone else.
“Here the guy was building incredible net worth and not paying tax on it,” he said.
How to Crash Systemd in One Tweet
The following command, when run as any user, will crash systemd:
NOTIFY_SOCKET=/run/systemd/notify systemd-notify ""
After running this command, PID 1 is hung in the
pause system call. You can no longer start and stop daemons. inetd-style services no longer accept connections. You cannot cleanly reboot the system. The system feels generally unstable (e.g. ssh and su hang for 30 seconds since systemd is now integrated with the login system). All of this can be caused by a command that’s short enough to fit in a Tweet.
Edit (2016-09-28 21:34): Some people can only reproduce if they wrap the command in a
while true loop. Yay non-determinism!
The bug is remarkably banal. The above systemd-notify command sends a zero-length message to the world-accessible UNIX domain socket located at
/run/systemd/notify. PID 1 receives the message and fails an assertion that the message length is greater than zero. Despite the banality, the bug is serious, as it allows any local user to trivially perform a denial-of-service attack against a critical system component.
The immediate question raised by this bug is what kind of quality assurance process would allow such a simple bug to exist for over two years (it was introduced in systemd 209). Isn’t the empty string an obvious test case? One would hope that PID 1, the most important userspace process, would have better quality assurance than this. Unfortunately, it seems that crashes of PID 1 are not unusual, as a quick glance through the systemd commit log reveals commit messages such as:
- coredump: turn off coredump collection only when PID 1 crashes, not when journald crashes
- coredump: make sure to handle crashes of PID 1 and journald special
- coredump: turn off coredump collection entirely after journald or PID 1 crashed
Systemd’s problems run far deeper than this one bug. Systemd is defective by design. Writing bug-free software is extremely difficult. Even good programmers would inevitably introduce bugs into a project of the scale and complexity of systemd. However, good programmers recognize the difficulty of writing bug-free software and understand the importance of designing software in a way that minimizes the likelihood of bugs or at least reduces their impact. The systemd developers understand none of this, opting to cram an enormous amount of unnecessary complexity into PID 1, which runs as root and is written in a memory-unsafe language.
Some degree of complexity is to be expected, as systemd provides a number of useful and compelling features (although they did not invent them; they were just the first to aggressively market them). Whether or not systemd has made the right trade-off between features and complexity is a matter of debate. What is not debatable is that systemd’s complexity does not belong in PID 1. As Rich Felker explained, the only job of PID 1 is to execute the real init system and reap zombies. Furthermore, the real init system, even when running as a non-PID 1 process, should be structured in a modular way such that a failure in one of the riskier components does not bring down the more critical components. For instance, a failure in the daemon management code should not prevent the system from being cleanly rebooted.
In particular, any code that accepts messages from untrustworthy sources like systemd-notify should run in a dedicated process as a unprivileged user. The unprivileged process parses and validates messages before passing them along to the privileged process. This is called privilege separation and has been a best practice in security-aware software for over a decade. Systemd, by contrast, does text parsing on messages from untrusted sources, in C, running as root in PID 1. If you think systemd doesn’t need privilege separation because it only parses messages from local users, keep in mind that in the Internet era, local attacks tend to acquire remote vectors. Consider Shellshock, or the presentation at this year’s systemd conference which is titled “Talking to systemd from a Web Browser.”
Systemd’s “we don’t make mistakes” attitude towards security can be seen in other places, such as this code from the
main() function of PID 1:
Setting a umask of 0 means that, by default, any file created by systemd will be world-readable and -writable. Systemd defines a macro called
RUN_WITH_UMASK which is used to temporarily set a more restrictive umask when systemd needs to create a file with different permissions. This is backwards. The default umask should be restrictive, so forgetting to change the umask when creating a file would result in a file that obviously doesn’t work. This is called fail-safe design. Instead systemd is fail-open, so forgetting to change the umask (which has already happened twice) creates a file that works but is a potential security vulnerability.
The Linux ecosystem has fallen behind other operating systems in writing secure and robust software. While Microsoft was hardening Windows and Apple was developing iOS, open source software became complacent. However, I see improvement on the horizon. Heartbleed and Shellshock were wake-up calls that have led to increased scrutiny of open source software. Go and Rust are compelling, safe languages for writing the type of systems software that has traditionally been written in C. Systemd is dangerous not only because it is introducing hundreds of thousands of lines of complex C code without any regard to longstanding security practices like privilege separation or fail-safe design, but because it is setting itself up to be irreplaceable. Systemd is far more than an init system: it is becoming a secondary operating system kernel, providing a log server, a device manager, a container manager, a login manager, a DHCP client, a DNS resolver, and an NTP client. These services are largely interdependent and provide non-standard interfaces for other applications to use. This makes any one component of systemd hard to replace, which will prevent more secure alternatives from gaining adoption in the future.
Consider systemd’s DNS resolver. DNS is a complicated, security-sensitive protocol. In August 2014, Lennart Poettering declared that “systemd-resolved is now a pretty complete caching DNS and LLMNR stub resolver.” In reality, systemd-resolved failed to implement any of the documented best practices to protect against DNS cache poisoning. It was vulnerable to Dan Kaminsky’s cache poisoning attack which was fixed in every other DNS server during a massive coordinated response in 2008 (and which had been fixed in djbdns in 1999). Although systemd doesn’t force you to use systemd-resolved, it exposes a non-standard interface over DBUS which theyencourage applications to use instead of the standard DNS protocol over port 53. If applications follow this recommendation, it will become impossible to replace systemd-resolved with a more secure DNS resolver, unless that DNS resolver opts to emulate systemd’s non-standard DBUS API.
It is not too late to stop this. Although almost every Linux distribution now uses systemd for their init system, init was a soft target for systemd because the systems they replaced were so bad. That’s not true for the other services which systemd is trying to replace such as network management, DNS, and NTP. Systemd offers very few compelling features over existing implementations, but does carry a large amount of risk. If you’re a system administrator, resist the replacement of existing services and hold out for replacements that are more secure. If you’re an application developer, do not use systemd’s non-standard interfaces. There will be better alternatives in the future that are more secure than what we have now. But adopting them will only be possible if systemd has not destroyed the modularity and standards-compliance that make innovation possible.
Computer imaging techniques are commonly used to preserve and share readable manuscripts, but capturing writing locked away in ancient, deteriorated documents poses an entirely different challenge. This software pipeline—referred to as “virtual unwrapping”—allows textual artifacts to be read completely and noninvasively. The systematic digital analysis of the extremely fragile En-Gedi scroll (the oldest Pentateuchal scroll in Hebrew outside of the Dead Sea Scrolls) reveals the writing hidden on its untouchable, disintegrating sheets. Our approach for recovering substantial ink-based text from a damaged object results in readable columns at such high quality that serious critical textual analysis can occur. Hence, this work creates a new pathway for subsequent textual discoveries buried within the confines of damaged materials.
- virtual unwrapping
- digital restoration
- digital flattening
In 1970, archeologists made a dramatic discovery at En-Gedi, the site of a large, ancient Jewish community dating from the late eighth century BCE until its destruction by fire circa 600 CE. Excavations uncovered the synagogue’s Holy Ark, inside of which were multiple charred lumps of what appeared to be animal skin (parchment) scroll fragments (1, 2). The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) faithfully preserved the scroll fragments, although in the 40 years following the discovery, no one produced a means to overcome the irreversible damage they had suffered in situ. Each fragment’s main structure, completely burned and crushed, had turned into chunks of charcoal that continued to disintegrate every time they were touched. Without a viable restoration and conservation protocol, physical intervention was unthinkable. Like many badly damaged materials in archives around the world, the En-Gedi scroll was shelved, leaving its potentially valuable contents hidden and effectively locked away by its own damaged condition (Fig. 1).
The implementation and application of our computational framework allows the identification and scholarly textual analysis of the ink-based writing within such unopened, profoundly damaged objects. Our systematic approach essentially unlocks the En-Gedi scroll and, for the first time, enables a total visual exploration of its interior layers, leading directly to the discovery of its text. By virtually unwrapping the scroll, we have revealed it to be the earliest copy of a Pentateuchal book ever found in a Holy Ark. Furthermore, this work establishes a restoration pathway for damaged textual material by showing that text extraction is possible while avoiding the need for injurious physical handling. The restored En-Gedi scroll represents a significant leap forward in the field of manuscript recovery, conservation, and analysis.
Our generalized computational framework for virtual unwrapping applies to a wide range of damaged, text-based materials. Virtual unwrapping is the composite result of segmentation, flattening, and texturing: a sequence of transformations beginning with the voxels of a three-dimensional (3D) unstructured volumetric scan of a damaged manuscript and ending with a set of 2D images that reveal the writing embedded in the scan (3–6). The required transformations are initially unknown and must be solved by choosing a model and applying a series of constraints about the known and observable structure of the object. Figure 2 shows the final result for the scroll from En-Gedi. This resultant image, which we term the “master view,” is a visualization of the entire surface extracted from within the En-Gedi scroll.
The first stage, segmentation, is the identification of a geometric model of structures of interest within the scan volume. This process digitally recreates the “pages” that hold potential writing. We use a triangulated surface mesh for this model, which can readily support many operations that are algorithmically convenient: ray intersection, shape dynamics, texturing, and rendering. A surface mesh can vary in resolution as needed and forms a piecewise approximation of arbitrary surfaces on which there may be writing. The volumetric scan defines a world coordinate frame for the mesh model; thus, segmentation is the process of aligning a mesh with structures of interest within the volume.
The second stage, texturing, is the formation of intensity values on the geometric model based on its position within the scan volume. This is where we see letters and words for the first time on the recreated page. The triangulated surface mesh offers a direct approach to the texturing problem that is similar to solid texturing (7, 8): Each point on the surface of the mesh is given an intensity value based on its location in the 3D volume. Many approaches exist for assigning intensities from the volume to the triangles of the segmented mesh, some of which help to overcome noise in the volumetric imaging and incorrect localization in segmentation.
The third stage, flattening, is necessary because the geometric model may be difficult to visualize as an image. Specifically, if text is being extracted, it will be challenging to read on a 3D surface shaped like the cylindrical wraps of scrolled material. This stage solves for a transformation that maps the geometric model (and associated intensities from the texturing step) to a plane, which is then directly viewable as a 2D image for the purpose of visualization.
In practice, this framework is best applied in a piecewise fashion to accurately localize a scroll’s highly irregular geometry. Also, the methodology required to map each of these steps from the original volume to flattened images involves a series of algorithmic decisions and approximations. Because textual identification is the primary goal of our virtual unwrapping framework, we tolerate mathematical and geometric error along the way to ensure that we extract the best possible images of text. Hence, the final merging and visualization step is significant not only for composing small sections into a single master view but also for checking the correctness and relative alignments of individual regions. Therefore, it is crucial to preserve the complete transformation pipeline that maps voxels in the scan volume to final pixels in the unwrapped master view so that any claim of extracted text can be independently verified.
The volumetric scan
The unwrapping process begins by acquiring a noninvasive digitization that gives some representation of the internal structure and contents of an object in situ (9–11). There are a number of choices for noninvasive, penetrative, and volumetric scanning, and our framework places no limits on the modality of the scan. As enhancements in volumetric scanning methodology [for example, phase-contrast microtomography (6, 12)] occur, we can take advantage of the ensuing potential for improved images. Whatever the scanning method, it must be appropriate to the scale and to the material and physical properties of the object.
Because of the particularities of the En-Gedi scroll, we used x-ray–based micro–computed tomography (micro-CT). The En-Gedi scroll’s damage creates a scanning challenge: How does one determine the correct scan protocol before knowing how ink will appear or even if the sample contains ink at all? It is the scan and subsequent pipeline that reveal the writing. After several calibration scans, a protocol was selected that produced a visible range of intensity variation on the rolled material. The spatial resolution was adjusted with respect to the sample size to capture enough detail through the thickness of each material layer to reveal ink if present and detectable. The chemical composition of the ink within the En-Gedi scroll remains unknown because there are no exposed areas suitable for analysis. However, the ink response within the micro-CT scan is denser than other materials, implying that it likely contains metal, such as iron or lead.
Any analysis necessitates physical handling of the friable material, and so, even noninvasive methods must be approached with great care. Although low-power x-rays themselves pose no significant danger to inanimate materials, the required transport and handling of the scroll make physical conservation and preservation an ever-present concern. However, once acquired, the volumetric scan data become the basis for all further computations, and the physical object can be returned to the safety of its protective archive.
Segmentation, which is the construction of a geometric model localizing the shape and position of the substrate surface within the scan on which text is presumed to appear, is challenging for several reasons. First, the surface as presented in the scanned volume is not developable, that is, isometric to a plane (13–15). Although an isometry could be useful as a constraint in some cases, the skin forming the layers of the En-Gedi scroll has not simply been folded or rolled. Damage to the scroll has deformed the shape of the skin material, which is apparent in the 3D scanned volume, making such a constraint unworkable. Second, the density response of animal skin in the volume is noisy and difficult to localize with methods such as marching cubes (16). Third, layers of the skin that are close together create ambiguities that are difficult to resolve from purely local, shape-based operators. Figure 3 shows four distinct instances where segmentation proves challenging because of the damage and unpredictable variation in the appearance of the surface material in the scan volume.
Our segmentation algorithm applied to the En-Gedi scroll builds a triangulated surface mesh that localizes a coherent section of the animal skin within a defined subvolume through a novel region-growing technique (Fig. 4). The basis for the algorithm is a local estimate of the differential geometry of the animal skin surface using a second-order symmetric tensor and associated feature saliency measures (17). An initial set of seed points propagates through the volume as a connected chain, directed by the local symmetric tensor and constrained by a set of spring forces. The movement of this particle chain through the volume traces out a surface over time. Figure 5 shows how crucially dependent the final result is on an accurate localization of the skin. When the segmented geometry drifts from the skin surface (Fig. 5A), the surface features disappear. When the skin is accurately localized (Fig. 5B), the surface detail, including cracks and ink evidence, becomes visible.
The user can tune the various parameters of this algorithm locally or globally based on the data set and at any time during the segmentation process. This allows for the continued propagation of the chain without the loss of previously segmented surface information. The segmentation algorithm terminates either at the user’s request or when a specified number of slices have been traversed by all of the particles in the chain.
The global structure of the entire surface is a piecewise composition of many smaller surface sections. Although it is certainly possible to generate a global structure through a single segmentation step, approaching the problem in a piecewise manner allows more accurate localization of individual sections, some of which are very challenging to extract. Although the segmented surface is not constrained to a planar isometry at the segmentation step, the model implicitly favors an approximation of an isometry. Furthermore, the model imposes a point-ordering constraint that prevents sharp discontinuities and self-intersections. The segmented surface, which has been regularized, smoothed, and resampled, becomes the basis for the texturing phase to visualize the surface with the intensities it inherits from its position in the volume.
Once the layers of the scroll have been identified and modeled, the next step is to render readable textures on those layers. Texturing is the assignment of an intensity, “or brightness,” value derived from the volume to each point on a segmented surface. The interpretation of intensity values in the original volumetric scan is maintained through the texturing phase. In the case of micro-CT, intensities are related to density: Brighter values are regions of denser material, and darker values are less dense (18). A coating of ink made from iron gall, for example, would appear bright, indicating a higher density in micro-CT. Our texturing method is similar to the computer graphics approach of “solid texturing,” a procedure that evaluates a function defined over R3 for each point to be textured on the embedded surface (7, 8). In our case, the function over R3 is simply a lookup to reference the value (possibly interpolated) at that precise location in the volume scan.
In an ideal case, where both the scanned volume and localized surface mesh are perfect, a direct mapping of each surface point to its 3D volume position would generate the best possible texture. In practice, however, errors in surface segmentation combined with artifacts in the scan create the need for a filtering approach that can overcome these sources of noise. Therefore, we implement a neighborhood-based directional filtering method, which gives parametric control over the texturing. The texture intensity is calculated from a filter applied to the set of voxels within each surface point’s local neighborhood. The parameters (Fig. 6) include use of the point’s surface normal direction (directional or omnidirectional), the shape and extent of the local texturing neighborhood, and the type of filter applied to the neighborhood. The directional parameter is particularly important when attempting to recover text from dual-sided materials, such as books. In such cases, a single segmented surface can be used to generate both the recto and verso sides of the page. Figure 7 shows how this texturing method improves ink response in the resulting texture when the segmentation does not perfectly intersect the ink position on the substrate in the volumetric scan.
Region-growing in an unstructured volume generates surfaces that are nonplanar. In a scan of rolled-up material, most surface fragments contain high-curvature areas. These surfaces must be flattened to easily view the textures that have been applied to them. The process of flattening is the computation of a 3D to 2D parameterization for a given mesh (6, 19, 20). One straightforward assumption is that a localized surface cannot self-intersect and represents a coherent piece of substrate that was at one time approximately isometric to a plane. If the writing occurred on a planar surface before it was rolled up, and if the rolling itself induced no elastic deformations in the surface, then damage is the only thing that may have interrupted the isometric nature of the rolling.
We approach parameterization through a physics-based material model (4, 21, 22). In this model, the mesh is represented as a mass-spring system, where each vertex of the mesh is given a mass and the connections between vertices are treated as springs with associated stiffness coefficients. The mesh is relaxed to a plane through a balanced selection of appropriate forces and parameters. This process mimics the material properties of isometric deformation, which is analogous to the physical act of unwrapping.
A major advantage of a simulation-based approach is the wide range of configurations that are possible under the framework. Parameters and forces can be applied per vertex or per spring. This precise control allows for modeling of not only the geometric properties of a surface but also the physical properties of that surface. For example, materials with higher physical elasticity can be represented as such within the same simulation.
Although this work relies on computing parameterizations solely through this simulation-based method, a hybrid approach that begins with existing parameterization methods [for example, least-squares conformal mapping (LSCM) (23) and angle-based flattening (ABF) (24)] followed by a physics-based model is also workable. The purely geometric approaches of LSCM and ABF produce excellent parameterizations but have no natural way to capture additional constraints arising from the mesh as a physical object. By tracking the physical state of the mesh during parameterization via LSCM or ABF, a secondary correction step using the simulation method could then be applied to account for the mesh’s physical properties.
Merging and visualization
The piecewise nature of the pipeline requires a final merge step. There can be many individually segmented mesh sections that must be reconciled into a composite master view. The shape, location in the volume, and textured appearance of the sections aid in the merge. We take two approaches to the merging step: texture and mesh merging.
Texture merging is the alignment of texture images from small segmentations to generate a composite master view. This process provides valuable user feedback when performed simultaneously with the segmentation process. Texture merging builds a master view that gives quick feedback on the overall progress and quality of segmentation. However, because each section of geometry is flattened independently, the merge produces distortions that are acceptable as an efficiently computed draft view, but must be improved to become a definitive result for the scholarly study of text.
Mesh merging refers to a more precise recalculation of the merge step by using the piecewise meshes to generate a final, high-quality master view. After all segmentation work is complete, individual mesh segmentations are merged in 3D to create a single surface that represents the complete geometry of the segmented scroll. The mesh from this new merged segmentation is then flattened and textured to produce a final master view image. Because mesh merging is computationally expensive compared to texture merging, it is not ideal for the progressive feedback required during segmentation of a scan volume. However, as the performance of algorithms improves and larger segmented surfaces become practical, it is likely that mesh merging will become viable as a user cue during the segmentation process.
Maintaining a provenance chain is an important component of our pipeline. The full set of transformations used to generate a final master view image can be referenced so that every pixel in a final virtually unwrapped master view can be mapped back to the voxel or set of voxels within the volume that contributed to its intensity value. This is important for both the quantitative analysis of the resulting image and the verification of any extracted text. Figure 8demonstrates the ability to select a region and point of interest in the texture image and invert the transformation chain to recover original 3D positions within the volume.
Using this pipeline, we have restored and revealed the text on five complete wraps of the animal skin of the En-Gedi scroll, an object that likely will never be physically opened for inspection (Fig. 1). The resulting master image (Fig. 2) enables a complete textual critique, and although such analysis is beyond the scope of this paper, the consensus of our interdisciplinary team is that the virtually unwrapped result equals the best photographic images available in the 21st century. From the master view, one can clearly see the remains of two distinct columns of Hebrew writing that contain legible and countable lines, letters, and words (Fig. 9).
These images reveal the En-Gedi scroll to be the book of Leviticus, which makes it the earliest copy of a Pentateuchal book ever found in a Holy Ark and a significant discovery in biblical archeology (Fig. 10). Without our computational pipeline and the textual analysis it enables, the En-Gedi text would be totally lost for scholarship, and its value would be left unknown.
What is clearly preserved in the master image is part of one sheet of a scripture scroll that contains 35 lines, of which 18 have been preserved and another 17 have been reconstructed. The lines contain 33 to 34 letters and spaces between letters; spaces between the words are indicated but are sometimes minimal. The two columns extracted from the scroll also exhibit an intercolumnar blank space, as well as a large blank space before the first column that is larger than the column of text. This large blank space leaves no doubt that what is preserved is the beginning of a scroll, in this case a Pentateuchal text: the book of Leviticus.
Armed with the extraction of this readable text and its historical context discerned from carbon dating and other related archeological evidence (1, 2), scholars can accurately place the En-Gedi writings in the canonical timeline of biblical text. Radiocarbon results date the scroll to the third or fourth century CE (table S1). Alternatively, a first or second century CE date was suggested on the basis of paleographical considerations by Yardeni (25). Dating the En-Gedi scroll to the third or fourth century CE falls near the end of the period of the biblical Dead Sea Scrolls (third century BCE to second century CE) and several centuries before the medieval biblical fragments found in the Cairo Genizah, which date from the ninth century CE onward (Fig. 10). Hence, the En-Gedi scroll provides an important extension to the evidence of the Dead Sea Scrolls and offers a glimpse into the earliest stages of almost 800 years of near silence in the history of the biblical text.
As may be expected from our knowledge of the development of the Hebrew text, the En-Gedi Hebrew text is not vocalized, there are no indications of verses, and the script resembles other documents from the late Dead Sea Scrolls. The text deciphered thus far is completely identical with the consonantal framework of the medieval text of the Hebrew Bible, traditionally named the Masoretic Text, and which is the text presented in most printed editions of the Hebrew Bible. On the other hand, one to two centuries earlier, the so-called proto-Masoretic text, as reflected in the Judean Desert texts from the first centuries of the Common era, still witnesses some textual fluidity. In addition, the En-Gedi scan revealed columns similar in length to those evidenced among the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Besides illuminating the history of the biblical text, our work on the scroll advances the development of textual imaging. Although previous research has successfully identified text within ancient artifacts, the En-Gedi manuscript represents the first severely damaged, ink-based scroll to be unrolled and identified noninvasively. The recent work of Barfod et al. (26) produced text from within a damaged amulet; however, the text was etched into the amulet’s thin metal surface, which served as a morphological base for the contrast of text. Although challenging, morphological structures provide an additional guide for segmentation that is unlikely to be present with ink-based writing. In the case of the En-Gedi scroll, for instance, the ink sits on the substrate and does not create an additional morphology that can aid the segmentation and rendering process. The amulet work also performed segmentation by constraining the surface to be ruled, and thus developable, to simplify the flattening problem. In addition, segmented strips were assembled showing letterforms, but a complete and merged surface segmentation was not computed, a result of using commercial software rather than implementing a custom software framework.
Samko et al. (27) describe a fully automated approach to segmentation and text extraction of undamaged, scrolled materials. Their results, from known legible manuscripts that can be physically unrolled for visual verification, serve as important test cases to validate their automated segmentation approach. However, the profound damage exhibited in the materials, such as the scroll from En-Gedi, creates its own new challenges—segmentation, texturing, and flattening algorithms—that only our novel framework directly addresses.
The work of Mocella et al. (12) claims that phase-contrast tomography generates contrast at ink boundaries in scans of material from Herculaneum. The hope for phase contrast comes from a progression of volumetric imaging methods (5, 6) and serves as a possible solution to the first step in our pipeline: creating a noninvasive, volumetric scan with some method that shows contrast at ink. Although verifying that ink sits on a page is not enough to allow scholarly study of discovered text, this is an important prelude to subsequent virtual unwrapping. Our complete approach makes such discovery possible.
An overarching concern as this framework becomes widely useful has to do not with technical improvements of the components, which will naturally occur as scientists and engineers innovate over the space of scanning, segmentation, and unwrapping, but rather with the certified provenance of every final texture claim that is produced from a scan volume. An analysis framework must offer the ability for independent researchers to confidently affirm results and verify scholarly claims. Letters, words, and, ultimately, whole texts that are extracted noninvasively from the inaccessible inner windings of an artifact must be subject to independent scrutiny if they are to serve as the basis for the highest level of scholarship. For such scrutiny to occur, accurate and recorded geometry, aligned in the coordinate frame of the original volumetric scan, must be retained for confirmation.
The computational framework we have described provides this ability for a third party to confirm that letterforms in a final output texture are the result of a pipeline of transformations on the original data and not solely an interpretation from an expert who may believe letterforms are visible. Such innate third-party confirmation capability reduces confusion around the resulting textual analyses and engenders confidence in the effectiveness of virtual unwrapping techniques.
The traditional approach of removing a folio from its binding—or unrolling a scroll—and pressing it flat to capture an accurate facsimile obviously will not work on fragile manuscripts that have been burned and crushed into lumps of disintegrating charcoal. The virtual unwrapping that we performed on the En-Gedi scroll proves the effectiveness of our software pipeline as a noninvasive alternative: a technological engine for text discovery in the face of profound damage. The implemented software components, which are necessary stages in the overall process, will continue to improve with every new object and discovery. However, the separable stages themselves, from volumetric scanning to the unwrapping and merging transformations, will become the guiding framework for practitioners seeking to open damaged textual materials. The geometric data passing through the individual stages are amenable to a standard interface through which the software components can interchangeably communicate. Hence, each component is a separable piece that can be individually upgraded as alternative and improved methods are developed. For example, the accurate segmentation of layers within a volume is a crucial part of the pipeline. Segmentation algorithms can be improved by tuning them to the material type (for example, animal skin, papyrus, and bark), the expected layer shape (for example, flat and rolled pages), and the nature of damage (for example, carbonized, burned, and fragmented). The flattening step is another place where improvements will better support user interaction, methods to quantify and visualize errors from flattening, and a comparative analysis between different mapping schemes.
The successful application of our virtual unwrapping pipeline to the En-Gedi scroll represents a confluence of physics, computer science, and the humanities. The technical underpinnings and implemented tools offer a collaborative opportunity between scientists, engineers, and textual scholars, who must remain crucially involved in the process of refining the quality of extracted text. Although more automation in the pipeline is possible, we have now achieved our overarching goal, which is the creation of a new restoration pathway—a way to overcome damage—to reach and retrieve text from the brink of oblivion.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
Master view results
The master view image of the En-Gedi scroll was generated using the specific algorithms and processes outlined below. Because we use the volumetric scan as the coordinate frame for all transformations in our pipeline, the resolution of the master view approximately matches that of the scan. The spatial resolution of the volume (18 μm/voxel, isometric) produces an image resolution of approximately 1410 pixels per inch (25,400 μm/inch), which can be considered archival quality. From this, we estimate the surface area of the unwrapped portion to be approximately 94 cm2 (14.57 in2). The average size of letterforms varies between 1.5 and 2 mm, and the pixels of the master view maintain the original dynamic range of 16 bits.
Two volumetric scans were performed using a Bruker SkyScan 1176 in vivo Micro-CT machine. It uses a PANalytical microfocus tube and a Princeton Instruments camera. With a maximum spatial resolution of 9 μm per voxel, it more than exceeded the resolution requirements for the En-Gedi scroll. A spatial resolution of 18 μm was used for all En-Gedi scans. Additionally, because this is an in vivo machine, the scroll could simply be placed within the scan chamber and did not need to be mounted for scanning. This limited the risk of physical damage to the object.
An initial, single field-of-view scan was done on the scroll to verify the scan parameters and to confirm that the resolution requirements had been met. This scan was performed at 50 kV, 500 μA, and 350-ms exposure time, with added filtration (0.2 Al) to improve image quality by absorbing lower-energy x-rays that tend to produce scattering. The reconstructions showed very clear separation of layers within the scroll, which indicated a good opportunity for segmentation. The scan protocol was then modified to increase contrast, where the team suspected that there may be visible ink. To acquire data from as much of the scroll as possible, the second and final scan was an offset scan using four connected scans. Final exposure parameters of 45 kV, 555 μA, and 230 ms were selected for this scan. The data were reconstructed using Bruker SkyScan’s NRecon engine, and the reconstructed slices were saved as 16-bit TIFF images for further analysis.
The basis for the algorithm is a local estimate of the differential geometry of the animal skin surface using a second-order symmetric tensor and associated feature saliency measures (17). The tensor-based saliency measures are available at each point in the volume. The 3D structure tensor for point p is calculated as(1)where ∇u(p) is the 3D gradient at point p, gσ is a 3D Gaussian kernel, and denotes convolution. The eigenvalues and eigenvectors of this tensor provide an estimate of the surface normal at p(2)
The algorithm begins with an ordered chain of seed points localized to a single slice by a user. From the starting point, each particle in the chain undergoes a force calculation that propagates the chain forward through the volume. This region-growing algorithm estimates a new positional offset for each particle in the chain based on the contribution of three forces: gravity (a bias in the direction of the long axis of the scroll), neighbor separation, and the saliency measure of the structure tensor. First, n(p) is biased along the long axis of the scroll by finding the vector rejection of an axis-aligned unit vector Z onto n(p)(3)
To keep particles moving together, an additional restoring spring force S is computed using a spring stiffness coefficient k and the elongation factors Xl and Xr between the particle and both its left and right neighbors in the chain(4)
In the final formulation, a scaling factor α is applied to G, and the final positional offset for the particle is the normalized summation of all terms(5)
The intuition behind this framework is the following: The structure tensor estimates a surface normal, which gives a hint at how a layer is moving locally through points (Eqs. 1 and 2). The layer should extend in a direction that is approximated locally by its tangent plane: the surface normal. The gravity vector nudges points along the major axis around which the surface is rolled, which is a big hint about the general direction to pursue to extend a surface. Moving outward, away from the major axis and across layers, generally defeats the goal of following the same layer. The spring forces help to maintain a constant spacing between points, restraining them from moving independently. These forces must all be balanced relative to one another, which is done by trial and error.
We applied the computed offset iteratively to each particle, resulting in a surface mesh sampled at a specific resolution relative to the time step of the particle system. The user can tune the various parameters of this algorithm based on the data set and at any time during the segmentation process. We also provided a feedback interface whereby a human user can reliably identify a failed segmentation and correct for mistakes in the segmentation process.
For each small segmentation, we used spring force constants of 0.5 and an α scaling factor of 0.3. Segmentation chain points had an initial separation of 1 voxel. This generally produced about six triangles per 100 μm in the segmented surface models. When particles crossed surface boundaries because the structure tensor did not provide a valid estimate of the local surface normal, the chain was manually corrected by the user.
Two shapes were tested for the shape of the texturing neighborhood: a spheroid and a line. The line shape includes only those voxels that directly intersect along the surface normal. When the surface normal is accurate and smoothly varying, the line neighborhood allows parametric control for the texture calculation to incorporate voxels that are near but not on (or within) the surface. The line neighborhood leads to faster processing times and less blurring on the surface, although the spheroid neighborhood supports more generalized experimentation—the line neighborhood is a degenerate spheroid. We settled on bidirectional neighborhoods (voxels in both the positive and negative direction) using a line neighborhood with a primary axis length of 7 voxels. We filtered the neighborhood using a Max filter because the average ink response (density) in the volume was much brighter than the ink response of the animal skin.
Our flattening implementation makes use of Bullet Physics Library’s soft body simulation, which uses position-based dynamics to solve the soft body system. Points along one of the long edges of the segmentation were pinned in place while a gravity force along the x axis was applied to the rest of the body. This roughly “unfurled” the wrapping and aligned the mesh with the xz plane. A gravity force along the y axis was then applied to the entire body, which pushed the mesh against a collision plane parallel to the xz plane. This action flattened the curvature of the mesh against the plane. A final expansion and relaxation step was applied to smooth out wrinkles in the internal mesh.
In total, around 140 small segmentations were generated during the segmentation process. These segmentations were then mesh-merged to produce seven larger segmentations, a little over one for each wrap of the scroll. Each large segmentation was then flattened and textured individually. The final set of seven texture images was then texture-merged to produce the final master view imagery for this paper. All merging steps for this work were performed by hand. Texture merges were performed in Adobe Photoshop, and mesh merging was performed in MeshLab. An enhancement curve was uniformly applied to the merged master view image to enhance visual contrast between the text and substrate.
Supplementary material for this article is available athttp://advances.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/2/9/e1601247/DC1
table S1. Radiocarbon dating results of the En-Gedi scroll (25).
This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.
- Copyright © 2016, The Authors
Autodesk Just Gave Every Fab Lab Access to $25,000 in Design Software
BATTIR, West Bank — In this scenic Palestinian village in the West Bank hills near Bethlehem, just south of Jerusalem, a week is said to last eight days, not seven. That is because Battir’s eight extended families take daily turns watering their crops from the natural springs that feed their ancient agricultural terraces, a practice they say has worked for centuries.
The water flows through a Roman-era irrigation system down into a deep valley where a railway track — a section of the Jaffa-Jerusalem railway built in Ottoman times — roughly marks the 1949 armistice line between the West Bank and Israel. The area is dotted with tombs and ruins upon ruins of bygone civilizations.
When the World Heritage Committee of Unesco — the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization — meets in St. Petersburg, Russia, over the next two weeks, this pastoral area will be thrust into the spotlight at least momentarily as the villagers and conservation experts fight to save what they say is a unique living cultural and historical landscape.
The experts say the Battir terraces are under imminent threat because Israel plans to build a section of its West Bank security barrier right through the valley, parallel to the railway track. They are seeking to have Battir nominated as a World Heritage site on an emergency basis, a move that might persuade Israel to change its plans for the construction.
“The people here constructed their village while always preserving the terraces,” said Hassan Muamer, 27, a civil engineer working for the Battir Landscape Eco-Museum. “It was part of the mentality,” he added. “It is living history.”
But the effort to secure a nomination for Battir has been bogged down by internal Palestinian disagreements, designs and interests. The formal submission of the case was blocked at the last minute on the grounds that it had come too late. Instead, the Palestinian delegation to Unesco is pushing a higher-profile, more political effort to have Bethlehem’s venerated Church of the Nativity and pilgrimage route inscribed on the list of World Heritage sites on an emergency basis.
A panel of experts has already determined that although the church needs renovation and conservation, it does not appear to be in imminent danger and therefore does not qualify for emergency status. Leaders of the three churches that share control of the Church of the Nativity, always leery of prospective changes to the delicate status quo, also expressed some early reservations.
When Unesco granted Palestinians full membership in the organization last October, Israel and the United States viewed the development as part of a contentious, wider Palestinian campaign for international recognition of statehood in the absence of an agreement with Israel. The step cost Unesco one-quarter of its yearly budget — 22 percent, or about $70 million, contributed by the United States, and 3 percent contributed by Israel.
Now some Palestinian and Western officials say that by pushing the case of the Church of the Nativity, the traditional birthplace of Jesus, the Palestinian leadership is putting prestige above professional and technical considerations.
In response to the criticism, the Palestinian ambassador to Unesco, Elias Sanbar, wrote a letter condemning what he called “a persistent campaign of rumors aimed at discrediting Bethlehem’s candidacy” by “those who do not want to see Palestine exercise its legitimate rights.” He attached a statement from two of the three church leaders expressing their thanks to the Palestinian leadership for its efforts to safeguard and advance the Christian congregations’ freedom and cause.
Still, experts in the Palestinian territories say Battir is in more urgent need of protection.
“If Battir is submitted only next year, it may be too late,” said Giovanni Fontana Antonelli, the cultural heritage program specialist at the Unesco office in Ramallah, in the West Bank. “If the wall goes through the valley, it will totally destroy the integrity of the site,” he added.
Noting that the terraces are supported by dry stone walls made up of many millions of stones, Mr. Fontana characterized the valley as “not monumental but historical, an example of outstanding engineering.”
“The work of human beings there needs to be valued,” he said. “It is the work of centuries.”
Israel says its barrier, a system of fences and walls, razor wire and patrol roads, is essential to prevent Palestinian suicide bombers from reaching Israeli cities.
The villagers have petitioned the Supreme Court in Israel to have the barrier rerouted here to prevent the destruction of the striking beauty of the area and its ancient system of cultivation. A court decision is pending. The conservationists hope that a recommendation from the World Heritage Committee may help persuade the court not to reject the villagers’ petition.
Local Palestinians like Raed Samara, a planning and development expert who has been active in promoting the case of Battir, say construction of a barrier would destroy the tranquillity that has prevailed here for decades.
The steep slopes across from Battir are in Israel, making this shared landscape a transboundary site in the Unesco lexicon.
“Nobody thinks that Israel’s security concerns are not legitimate or important,” said Gidon Bromberg, the Israeli director of Friends of the Earth Middle East, an organization that works to promote cooperation on environmental issues in Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian territories. But, he added, “there are alternative ways to bring about security without destroying 4,000 years of cultural heritage for the Israelis, the Palestinians and all of humanity.”
On a recent evening, Mohannad Abu Hassan, a schoolteacher, was working a small triangular plot in the valley with his son Muhammad, 12. Water poured in from one corner as they turned the rich soil planted with green beans, zucchini, eggplant and chard. As soon as they were finished watering, a sprightly elderly woman, a distant relative, skipped down to a nearby plot across the railway track and turned her water on. In the old core of the village, children bathed in the cool waters of the central spring.
Until the late 1940s, Battir was the last stop before Jerusalem on the Jaffa-Jerusalem railway. The train platform used to turn into a bustling market, and the villagers maintained strong connections with the city. The train does not stop here anymore, and most of the produce is now for home use or for local sale. But the villagers are keeping up with the times, swapping news about the Unesco effort through a Facebook group of 2,000 residents and supporters.
Akram Bader, the mayor of Battir, recently traveled to Unesco headquarters in Paris to push his case and plans to go to St. Petersburg. “For three months I couldn’t sleep,” Mr. Bader said. “I cannot imagine my village divided. If we have lived in peace these last 60 years, we can live the same way forever.”
Rob Matheson | MIT News Office
May 12, 2016
A team of MIT and Harvard University students who invented a smartphone-connected sensor that detects lung cancer from a single breath took home the grand prize from Wednesday night’s $100K Entrepreneurship Competition.
Astraeus Technologies won the $100,000 Robert P. Goldberg Grand prize at the 27th annual competition, beating out seven other finalist teams that pitched business ideas to a panel of expert judges and a lively capacity crowd in Kresge Auditorium. Five other teams innovating in big data, creative arts, and food service took home separate category prizes totaling $40,000.
Astraeus has developed a postage-stamp-sized device, called the L CARD, that detects certain gases indicative of lung cancer. When someone blows onto the device, a connected mobile app turns a smartphone screen red if those gases are present and green if they aren’t.
Inventor Joseph Azzarelli, an MIT PhD student in chemistry, demonstrated the device on stage by spraying a syringe filled with the lung-cancer-signaling gases onto the device, causing the smartphone screen to flash red. “The L CARD reacts and sends instantaneous information to the physician that further attention is required,” Azzarelli said while a ripple of excitement spread through the crowd.
“We love that demo as much as you guys do,” added team member Jay Kumar, a student at Harvard Medical School.
After the competition, Azzarelli told MIT News the prize money will go toward product development and first-round clinical trials in research hospitals in the area.
Cheaper, safer screening
Lung cancer is the deadliest type of cancer in the United States, causing more deaths than breast, colon, and prostate cancers combined, according to the World Health Organization. “Part of the reason lung cancer is so deadly is that the current gold standard screening test — the low-dose CT scan — is wholly inadequate in a variety of ways,” said team member Graham Lieberman, an MBA student at the Harvard Business School.
Kumar delved into more detail, explaining that CT scans cost about $800 for each scan, have a high false-positive rate, and expose patients to radiation that can increase their cancer risk.
Due to the risks and costs of CT scans, Lieberman added, only about 1.6 million of the 94 million Americans at risk for lung cancer — as estimated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — are scanned each year. “A cheaper, safer screening device can be applied to a much larger percentage of that population,” he said.
The L CARD (which stands for Chemically Actuated Resonate Device) is essentially a modified near-field communication tag. Certain volatile organic compounds unique to the breath of lung cancer patients modify the tag’s radio frequency identification signal. A smartphone then pings the device and determines, from the modified signal, if those volatile compounds are present.
Kumar said the devices are an order of magnitude (about 10 times) more accurate than CT scans and can be made for less than $1. Astraeus will sell L CARDS directly to hospitals and clinics for use during routine annual checkups, he said. “We’re going after lung cancer,” Kumar said. “The root cause is bad screening: We’ve developed a better screening test, and it’s cost effective.”
Last night’s win was the second for Astraeus in the $100K Entrepreneurship Competition, which consists of three independent contests: Pitch, Accelerate, and the Launch grand finale. Astraeus, which formed last November, also won the $10,000 Danny Lewin Grand Prize and the $3,000 Founders.org Audience Choice Prize at the Accelerate competition on Feb. 10.
Going through the competition helped the team focus on all the steps it takes to establish and expand a business, Azzarelli told MIT News. “Going into the $100K — the Launch competition in particular, which is taken so seriously by so many — really forces you to think, ‘If we’re really going to do this, at the level we really want to do it at, how are we going to move forward,’” Azzarelli said.
Several additional awards were granted last night to finalist and semifinalist teams: Finalist team Spyce, which developed a tumbler-type machine stocked with raw ingredients that autonomously cooks and serves meals in bowls to customers, won the $5,000 Audience Choice award.
A $10,000 data prize from Booz Allen Hamilton went to semifinalist team ReviveMed, which developed a platform that can be used to repurpose safe but shelved drugs at pharmaceutical firms, for other uses. Two teams split a $10,000 Thomson Reuters Data Prize: finalist teamHive Maritime, which is developing analytics and optimization algorithms for shipping routes and vessel speeds, based on predicted queues at ports and canals; and semifinalist teamSwift Calcs, which is creating a cloud-based computational platform for engineers to collaborate on calculations.
Taking home the $15,000 Creative Arts Prize was Tekuma, which developed a service that matches people who want to rent property with artists who create and curate art, and ships the art to the rented space.
Five other finalist teams pitched ideas: AquaFresco developed a water-recycling technology that lets people use one batch of soapy water to clean their laundry for several months;DoneGood is an app that lets people rate businesses based on practices such as being green, supporting diversity, buying locally, and adequately supporting workers, among other causes; Lux Labs created a nanoscale film that selectively filters light to reduce energy consumption on mobile devices and improve efficiency of solar cells; Solugen invented a green, safe, scalable process for producing hydrogen peroxide, which is used for things like semiconductor fabrication, plastic production, and water purification; and ABA Power is making aluminum-based batteries that have 30 times the energy density of traditional lithium batteries and are manufactured with zero emissions.
Since its debut in 1990, the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition has helped launch 160 companies worldwide that have raised an additional $1.3 billion in funding, have a combined market value of $16 billion, and have employed more than 4,600 people.
This year, 160 teams applied to the entrepreneurship competition. That number was winnowed to 50 semifinalist teams for the Launch contest. Judges then chose eight finalists to compete in Wednesday’s grand finale event. Semifinalist teams receive mentoring, prototyping funds, media exposure, and discounted services.
Decades before the sexual assault of women during the 2002 Gujarat and 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots, Hindutva propounder Veer Savarkar justified rape as a legitimate political tool. This he did by reconfiguring the idea of “Hindu virtue” in his book Six Glorious Epochs of Indian History, which he wrote in Marathi a few years before his death in 1966.
Six Glorious Epochs provides an account of Hindu resistance to invasions of India from the earliest times. It is based on historical records (many of them dubious), exaggerated accounts of foreign travellers, and the writings of colonial historians. Savarkar’s own febrile and frightening imagination reworks these diverse sources into a tome remarkable for its anger and hatred.
Savarkar’s account of Hindu resistance is also a history of virtues. He identified the virtues that proved detrimental to India and led to its conquest. He expounded his philosophy of morality in Chapter VIII,Perverted Conception of Virtues, in which he rejected the idea of absolute or unqualified virtue.
“In fact virtues and vices are only relative terms,” he said.
Virtues or vice?
Savarkar added that the test of determining what is virtue or vice is to examine whether it serves the interests of society, specifically Hindu society. This is because circumstances change, societies are always in a flux. What was deemed virtuous in the past could become a vice in the present if it is detrimental to mankind, he said.
For instance, said Savarkar, the caste system with its elaborate rules of purity and pollution helped stabilise Hindu society. But some of these rules became dysfunctional, degenerating into “seven fetters” of Hindu society.
These shackles, according to Savarkar, were untouchability, bans on drinking water from members of other castes, inter-caste dining, inter-caste marriage, sea-voyage, the ban on taking back into the Hindu fold those who were forcibly converted to Islam or Christianity, and ostracism of those who defied these prohibitions.
These “seven fetters” proved advantageous to the Muslim conquerors, wrote Savarkar, because they exploited caste rules to increase their population.
The conquerors forcibly converted Hindus who had been defeated, provided them with food and water, abducted women who were either kept as concubines or wives, certain that the ban on taking them back into the Hindu fold left them with no option but to live as Muslim, the Hindutva propounder wrote. This meant the “transformation of a man into a demon, the metamorphosis of a God into a Satan”.
Rape as a political tool
It is in this paradigm of ethics that Savarkar mooted the idea of rape as a political tool. He articulated it as a wish, through a question: What if Hindu kings, who occasionally defeated their Muslim counterparts, had also raped their women?
He expressed this wish after declaring, “It was a religious duty of every Muslim to kidnap and force into their religion, non-Muslim women.” He added that this fanaticism was not “Muslim madness”, for it had a distinct design – to increase the “Muslim population with special regard to unavoidable laws of nature.” It is the same law, which the animal world instinctively obeys.
“If in the cattle-herds the number of oxen grows in excess of the cows, the herds do not grow numerically in a rapid number. But on the other hand, the number of animals in the herds, with the excess of cows over the oxen, grows in mathematical progression.”
He cites examples from the human world too. For instance, he wrote, the African “wild tribes” kill only their male enemies, but not their women, who are distributed among the victors. This is because these tribes consider it their duty to increase their numbers through the progeny of abducted women. Similarly, he wrote that a Naga tribe in India kills women of rival tribes whom they can’t capture because they believe, rightly so, that paucity of women would enhance the possibility of their enemies dwindling in number.
Savarkar said that the Muslim conquerors of Africa too followed this tradition. Immediately thereafter, he spoke of the well-wishers of Ravana who advised him to return to Rama his wife, Sita, whom he had abducted. They said it was highly irreligious to have kidnapped Sita. Savarkar quotes Ravana saying, “What? To abduct and rape the womenfolk of the enemy, do you call it irreligious? It is Parodharmah, the greatest duty!”
It is with the “shameless religious fanaticism” of Ravana that the Muslims, from the Sultan to the soldier, abducted Hindu women, even the married ladies of Hindu royal families and notables, wrote Savarkar, adding that this was to increase the population of Muslims, to demographically conquer India, so to speak.
Savarkar is venomously critical of Muslim women who, “whether Begum or beggar”, never protested against the “atrocities committed by their male compatriots; on the contrary they encouraged them to do so and honoured them for it”.
Savarkar, even by his own standards, takes a huge leap by claiming that Muslim women living even in Hindu kingdoms enticed Hindu girls, “locked them up in their own houses, and conveyed them to Muslims centres in Masjids and Mosques”.
Muslim women were emboldened to perpetrate such atrocities because they did not fear retribution from Hindu men who, argued Savarkar, “had a perverted idea of women-chivalry”. Even when they vanquished their Muslim rivals, they punished the men among them, not their women, he said.
“Only Muslim men alone, if at all, suffered the consequential indignities but the Muslim women – never!” wrote Savarkar.
When Shivaji was wrong
This regret prompts him not to spare those who commend Shivaji for sending back the daughter-in-law of the Muslim governor of Kalyan, whom he defeated, as well as Peshwa Chimaji Appa (1707-1740), who did the same with the Portuguese wife of the governor of Bassein.
“But is it not strange that, when they did so, neither Shivaji Maharaj nor Chimaji Appa should ever remember, the atrocities and the rapes and the molestation, perpetrated by Mahmud of Ghazni, Muhammad Ghori, Allauddin Khalji and others, on thousands of Hindu ladies and girls…”
Savarkar’s febrile imagination now flies on the wings of rhetoric. He writes:
“The souls of those millions of aggrieved women might have perhaps said ‘Do not forget, O Your Majesty Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and O! Your Excellency Chimaji Appa, the unutterable atrocities and oppression and outrage committed on us by the sultans and Muslim noblemen and thousands of others, big and small.
“Let these sultans and their peers take a pledge that in the event of a Hindu victory our molestation and detestable lot shall be avenged on the Muslim women. Once they are haunted with this dreadful apprehension that the Muslim women too, stand in the same predicament in case the Hindus win, the future Muslim conquerors will never dare to think of such molestation of Hindu women [emphasis added].”
Their chivalry was perverted, said Savarkar, because it proved highly detrimental to Hindu society. This chivalry was “suicidal” because it “saved the Muslim women (simply because they were women) from the heavy punishment of committing indescribable serious crimes against Hindu women”, Savarkar laments.
Even worse, he said, was the foolish notion among the Hindus that to have “any sort of relations with a Muslim woman meant their own conversion to Islam”. This belief became an impediment to Hindu men inflicting punishment on the “Muslim feminine class [fair (?) sex]” for their atrocities [words in parenthesis Savarkar’s].
Savarkar’s readers cannot but see that he has overturned the code of ethics and freed the Hindus from the shackles that prevent them from descending into barbarism. But Savarkar doesn’t seem convinced of his persuasive powers.
So under a subsection titled, But If, he seeks to hammer in his point. He asks readers:
“Suppose if from the earliest Muslim invasions of India, the Hindus also, whenever they were victors on the battlefields, had decided to pay the Muslim fair sex in the same coin or punished them in some other ways, i.e., by conversion even with force, and then absorbed them in their fold, then? Then with this horrible apprehension at their heart they would have desisted from their evil designs against any Hindu lady.”
“If they had taken such a fright in the first two or three centuries, millions and millions of luckless Hindu ladies would have been saved all their indignities, loss of their own religion, rapes, ravages and other unimaginable persecutions.”
Thus, the use of rape as a political tool stands justified.
But why should Savarkar’s idea of rape as a political tool apply today, given that Six Glorious Epochs deal with India’s past?
This is because Savarkar very explicitly stated that a change of religion implies a change of nationality. It was Savarkar, not Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who first categorised Hindus and Muslims as two nations. From the Hindutva perspective, the two nations – Hindu and Muslim – have been locked in a continuous conflict for supremacy since the 11th century.
In the Savarkarite worldview, only those ethical codes should be adhered to which enable the Hindus to establish their supremacy over the Muslims. Thus, he reasoned, it is justified to rape Muslim women in riots because it is revenge for the barbarity of Muslims in the medieval times, whether proven or otherwise. After all, today’s riots are a manifestation of the historical conflict.
This is why BJP leaders clamour to celebrate the heroes of what they call Hindu resistance. The most recent example of this trend is Union Minister VK Singh, who wants Delhi’s Akbar Road to be renamed after Maharana Pratap. It is from Savarkar they have got their cue.
Later in Six Glorious Epochs, Savarkar adopted a distinct Nietzschean tone to cry out: “O thou Hindu society! Of all the sins and weaknesses, which have brought about thy fall, the greatest and most potent are thy virtues themselves.”
These virtues were cast aside in Gujarat in 2002 and Muzaffarnagar in 2013. That is something to remember as some people come out to pay homage to Savarkar who was born on this day 133 years ago.
This is the second article in a two-part series on VD Savarkar. The first part can her read here.
Read Six Glorious Epochs of Indian History here.
Ajaz Ashraf is a journalist in Delhi. His novel, The Hour Before Dawn, has as its backdrop the demolition of the Babri Masjid. It is available in bookstores.
We welcome your comments at email@example.com.
On May 28, India will commemorate the 133rd birth anniversary of Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, who was born on this day in 1883. Bharatiya Janata Party leaders will recall his valour, because of which he has been given the honorific, Veer.
But, really how veer, or brave, was Veer Savarkar?
Savarkar died in 1966. During his 83 years, he was involved in the political murder of three British officials. From the nationalist perspective, these murders have been cited as examples of Savarkar’s revolutionary zeal to violently uproot British rule, unmindful of the consequences.
Savarkar was also chargesheeted in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi but was subsequently exonerated, largely because no corroborative evidence of his involvement was furnished. It has helped perpetuate the myth of Savarkar the brave.
But this myth has been shattered because of the new evidence gathered over the years. He manipulated his followers to assassinate British officials, yet took care to conceal his links to the crimes he conceived. He did not hesitate to betray his acolytes, as he did Nathuram Godse, the man who assassinated Gandhi.
His famed fortitude was rarely on display during his years of imprisonment in the Andamans. He tendered craven apologies to the British, willing to bargain for his own freedom, not the country’s.
Political Murder No. 1
On July 1, 1909, Madanlal Dhingra shot dead Sir William Curzon Wyllie, political aide-de-camp at the India Office, London. Earlier, Dhingra had planned to assassinate former Viceroy Lord Curzon and former governor of Bengal, Bramfield Fuller, at a function they were to attend. But Dhingra was woefully late for the meeting, by which time Curzon and Fuller had left the venue.
Dhingra was arrested, tried and hanged for killing Wyllie. The British suspected Savarkar’s involvement, but had no concrete evidence against him. The evidence surfaced months after Savarkar died in 1966, courtesy Savarkar’s biographer.
Following Savarkar’s death, Dhananjay Keer reissued his 1950 publication,Savarkar and His Times, as Veer Savarkar. Keer wrote that the new edition contained a “plethora of new material”, which was made available to him by Savarkar himself.
In the 1966 edition, Keer said that Savarkar gave Dhingra a nickel-plated revolver on the morning of Wyllie’s assassination and told him, “Don’t show me your face if you fail this time.” Keer also confided in Robert Payne, author of Life and Death of Mahatma Gandhi, that Savarkar had trained Dhingra for months, and often mocked him for having missed the opportunity to assassinate Lord Curzon and Fuller.
These new details in Keer’s 1966 edition prompted the lawyer and historian AG Noorani to note wryly in his seminal work, Savarkar and Hindutva: The Godse Connection:
“One wonders whether Savarkar also stipulated that they [the new contentions] should be published only after his death. The interval of sixteen years between the two editions is inexplicable on any other assumption.”
Political Murder No. 2
Before leaving for England to study law, Savarkar had been a member of a secret society, Mitra Mela, which was subsequently renamed Abhinav Bharat. Its goal was to overthrow the British through violent methods.
Savarkar’s older brother, Ganesh, alias Babarao, was an Abhinav Bharat member too. The police nabbed Ganesh Savarkar and stumbled upon a stockpile of bombs. Ganesh Savarkar was sentenced to transportation for life on June 8, 1909.
His comrades decided to retaliate. On December 29, 1909, Anant Kanhere shot dead AMT Jackson, district magistrate of Nasik, as he was watching a Marathi play, Sharada, in a theatre. Jackson had committed Ganesh Savarkar to trial, but was not the judge who had banished him to the Andamans.
From Kanhere’s accomplices, whom the police arrested, were discovered Savarkar’s letters. The Browning pistol used in the assassination was linked to Savarkar, who was accused of sending 20 such weapons to India from England. A telegraphic warrant of arrest was sent to London, and Savarkar surrendered to the police on March 13, 1910. He was brought to India.
For his role in the assassination of Jackson and for waging war against the King, Savarkar was sentenced to transportation – for two terms of 50 years each – to the Andamans. He arrived in Port Blair on July 4, 1911.
The condition in the Cellular Jail in Andaman Islands was undoubtedly horrific. For instance, Savarkar was yoked to the oil mill. Quite understandably, his revolutionary fervour fizzled out. It must, however, be pointed out that he wasn’t the only person singled out for barbaric punishment.
In 1911 itself, Savarkar petitioned the authorities for clemency. The text of the 1911 petition hasn’t been found. But Savarkar referred to it in his petition to the British on November 14, 1913, seeking mercy and requesting a transfer to a jail in India. He wrote:
“The Mighty alone can afford to be merciful and therefore where else can the prodigal son return but to the parental doors of the Government?”
In return, Savarkar offered to serve the “government in any capacity” as it thought fit. He declared he no longer believed in violence, justifying his conversion to constitutionalism because of the reforms the British government had introduced.
Savarkar said his conversion to the constitutional line would bring back “all those misled young men in India and abroad who were once looking up to me as their guide [emphasis added]”. In one stroke, the Indian revolutionary movement was disowned.
The British government was not convinced, but his cringing petition did help alleviate his plight. He was made a foreman. Noorani points out, “Few revolutionaries would have accepted this ‘honour’ from their captives who were also rulers of their captive land.”
Savarkar’s trait of encouraging others to take the precipitous course without joining them was evident in the Andamans as well. Historian RC Majumdar quotes Trailokya Nath Chakravarti, an inmate of the Cellular Jail, saying that Savarkar encouraged him and others to go on hunger strike but neither he nor his brother joined it. Even inmates older than Savarkar participated in the strike.
Savarkar justified his decision saying he would have been put back in solitary confinement and denied the right to send an annual letter to India. Savarkar does seem a leader who endorsed revolutionary action as long as he wasn’t required to pay the price.
Return to the mainland
In May 1921, Savarkar was transferred from the Andamans to the Indian mainland. Three years later, the government put forth conditions to Savarkar for his release from the Yerwada Jail in Pune.
These conditions were: Savarkar was to reside in Ratnagiri district; he could not go beyond the district’s limits without the government’s approval; he was not to engage in political activities publicly or privately; these restrictions were for five years, subject to renewal at the expiry of this period.
Savarkar accepted these terms, shattering the myth spun around his much-serenaded bravery. But there was also a humiliating coda to these conditions, not known until Frontline magazine published, in 1995, an additional undertaking Savarkar agreed to give the government.
Savarkar declared he had a fair trial and just punishment. He also wrote: “I heartily abhor methods of violence resorted to in days gone by, and I feel myself duty bound to uphold Law and the constitution…”
For sure, Savarkar was no Nelson Mandela.
In 1925, there was a Hindu-Muslim riot over Rangeela Rasool, a scurrilous booklet on Prophet Mohammad. The communal conflagration soon spread to parts of Punjab. Savarkar wrote an inflammatory article in the English newspaper, Mahratta, in March 1925.
The government communicated to Savarkar that any such writing in the future could lead to a reconsideration of his release. The warning had Savarkar foreswear that he would have no truck with the idea of Swaraj.
Political Murder No. 3
During the period of conditional freedom, Savarkar is said to have inspired yet another assassination attempt. On July 22, 1931, VB Gogate fired two shots at acting Governor of Bombay Sir Ernest Hotson during his visit to Ferguson College, Pune. But Hotson survived miraculously.
Nobody suspected Savarkar’s role. However, Keer in the 1966 edition ofVeer Savarkar disclosed that Gogate had been a staunch Savarkarite and had met him days before the assassination. Was Keer suggesting that Savarkar had inspired the failed assassination attempt on Hotson?
Savarkar’s role in Gandhi’s assassination
When Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated on January 30, 1948, Savarkar was taken into police custody on February 5. Seventeen days later, he wrote a letter to Bombay’s Commissioner of Police:
“I shall refrain from taking part in any communal or political activity for any period the government may require in case I am released on that condition.”
It was this gratuitous offer, which had the government suspect him of having a central role in the assassination of Gandhi. But his role could not be proved in court. It subsequently came to light because of the depositions his aides made, years later, after Savarkar’s death.
There were two attempts made on Gandhi in January 1948. The first was made on January 20 – it was a botched up affair for which a Punjabi refugee, Madanlal Pahwa, was arrested. The second attempt was successful – Nathuram Godse shot Gandhi dead on January 30, 1948.
There were eight accused in the Gandhi assassination case – Nathuram Godse and Gopal Godse, his brother, Narayan D Apte, Vishnu Karkare, Madanlal Pahwa, Shankar Kistayya, VD Savarkar, and Dattaraya Parchure. The ninth member of the group – Digambar R Badge – turned approver. It was his testimony to the court that linked Savarkar to Gandhi’s assassination.
Badge gave a detailed account of the two visits he, Godse and Apte made to Bombay’s Savarkar Sadan, on the second floor of which their mentor resided. The first visit was made on January 14, which was the day on which Badge had handed over to Godse and Apte two gun-cotton slabs, five hand-grenades and detonators.
Badge, however, did not enter the Sadan. Apte later confided in Badge that he and Godse had met Savarkar, who told them that Gandhi and Nehru should be “finished” and had “entrusted that work to them.”
On the second meeting of January 17, Badge entered the Sadan. Godse and Apte went to the second floor. After 10 minutes or so, they came down the flight of stairs, followed by Savarkar. Badge testified that he heard Savarkar tell Godse and Apte, in Marathi, “Be successful and return.” However, Badge did not see Savarkar.
The trial court judge, Justice Atma Charan thought Badge was a “truthful witness”, but exonerated Savarkar only because there was no corroborative evidence in support of the approver’s deposition.
This was also because Godse and others did their best to ensure their mentor wasn’t implicated in the assassination case. For instance, Godse made out that his relationship with Savarkar wasn’t beyond what a leader has with followers.
Godse said that he and others decided in 1947 to “bid goodbye to Veer Savarkar’s lead and cease to consult him in our future policy and programme… I re-assert that it is not true that Veer Savarkar had any knowledge of my activities which ultimately led me to fire shots at Gandhiji.”
The prosecution had harped on Godse and Apte’s devotion to Savarkar. Savarkar, as was his habit, disowned them:
“Many criminals cherish high respect to the Gurus and guides of their religious sects… But could ever the complicity of the Guru or guide in the crimes of those of his followers be inferred and held proved only on the ground of the professions of loyalty and respect to their Gurus of those criminals?”
Savarkar’s deposition deeply hurt Godse, a fact testified to by lawyer PL Inamdar, who had defended Gopal Godse. In his account of the trial, Inamdar wrote:
“How Nathuram yearned for a touch of Tatyarao’s [Savarkar’s] hand, a word of sympathy, or at least a look of compassion in the secluded confines of the cells. Nathuram referred to his hurt feelings in this regard even during my last meeting with him…”
The new evidence
On the release of Gopal Godse from prison in October 1964, a felicitation ceremony was organised for him on November 11, 1964. On that occasion former editor GV Ketkar claimed that Nathuram would often discuss with him the advantages of killing Gandhi.
It created a furore in Parliament, prompting the setting up of a commission of inquiry under Justice JL Kapur in March 1965. The commission was to ascertain whether there had existed prior information to assassinate Gandhi and whether or not it was communicated to the government.
Months later, in February 1966, Savarkar voluntarily courted death, by stopping all consumption of food and water. He said it was better for a person to die willingly at the end of his life mission. But did Savarkar take this decision because he wanted to evade the prospect of the commission inflicting ignominy on him late in life?
That question cannot be answered. But it did perhaps free Savarkar’s bodyguard, Appa Ramachandra Kasar, and his secretary, Vishnu Damle, to depose before the commission. They testified to the close relationship Savarkar had with Godse and Apte, even travelling together for Hindu Mahasabha meetings. They also said, quite damningly, that Vishnu Karkare had brought a Punjabi refugee boy (Pahwa) in the first week of January to Savarkar for an interview that lasted 30-45 minutes.
In 1967, Gopal Godse published Gandhi Hatya, Ani Mee (Gandhi’s murder and I), in which he said Nathuram Godse came to know Savarkar way back in 1929 in Ratnagiri and had daily personal contact with Savarkar.
The new depositions prompted Justice Kapur to summarise: “All these facts taken together were destructive of any theory other than the conspiracy to murder by Savarkar and his group.”
Is it possible that despite their deep relationship with Savarkar, Godse and Apte might not have confided in their mentor their plan to kill Gandhi? Perhaps the answer to it lies in History & the Making of a Modern Hindu Self, published in 2011.
Its author, Aparna Devare, cites personal communication she had with her great-uncle, Dr Achyut Phadke, whom Narayan Apte had taught physics in high school. Phadke told Devare that Apte would openly talk of his and Godse’s plan to assassinate Gandhi. It does seem incredible that Apte wouldn’t confide in Savarkar about what he openly spoke to schoolchildren.
BJP’s love for Savarkar
Savarkar is the progenitor of the political philosophy of Hindutva, which the Sangh Parivar adheres to. It is this that has made them perpetuate the myth of Savarkar’s bravery, and ignore his betrayal of his diehard followers and his entreaties to the British government.
But what really symbolises a breakdown in consensus over the ethical norms in the country is that we dedicate public buildings to the Father of the Nation as we do to Savarkar, who mentored the killers of Gandhi if not directly guided them.
Worryingly, the cult of Savarkar persists. Lt Col Shrikant Purohit formed Abhinav Bharat, which has been accused of bombing Malegaon, the Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad and the Samjhauta Express. The underground outfit to which Savarkar belonged was also called Abhinav Bharat. It does suggest a more than 100 years of continuity of a violent ideology.
This is the first article in a two-part series on VD Savarkar. You can read the second part here.
Ajaz Ashraf is a journalist in Delhi. His novel, The Hour Before Dawn, has as its backdrop the demolition of the Babri Masjid. It is available in bookstores.
Idea of Bharat Mata is European import: Irfan Habib
Courtesy : http://lifestyle9.org/learn-how-to-unblock-blocked-websites/
Blocking the user access to various social media websites and other internet services have become one of the most common tactics that is followed widely in organizations and educational institutions like schools and colleges.These usually involve websites like Facebook, bebo, MySpace and so on. When it comes to the question how to unblock blocked websites, you must have already heard about different techniques. When all those tactics fail to bypass the internet filters, just give a try to the following tricks. It works!
Trick No: 1
Access the restricted websites using unblock website proxy servers
Do you have any idea on how web proxies work? No? Let me explain now. It acts like a middle man or an inter-mediator between your system and the internet. It downloads your requested pages directly from its server and in turn it transfers the pages to the users. When you use proxy servers, your requests bypass all the internet filters and even those annoying firewalls.
youhide.com is one such website proxy server (for unblocking) which also helps in protecting your online identity. Apart from doing the job of unblocking websites and bypassing the internet filters, it even helps you handle your sensitive data in a much secured way. If the website you want to access has no SSL certificate, you don’t need to worry about it. Because, when you access the websites through web proxies like youhide.com, it will automatically add SSL security on the fly. This way you can make your data go hidden from the malicious programs and potential hackers as well. Isn’t that great now?
Hidemyass.com is one of the most popular and reliable proxy servers which was available at free of cost until quite recently before. Now it comes with the price tag though.You can make use of the following free proxy servers to achieve the premium like service anyway.
Some Free web proxies that help you unblock the blocked websites
Note: These days many school boards and organizations block proxy servers too. Sadly, if this is the case then trick no 1 will not work but don’t be disappointed because we do have many other options too. You can give a try with other techniques explained here.
Trick No: 2
Internet Archive (Wayback Machine)
It’s a non profit organization. To be more technical, we can call it as Way back machine. It stores the data of any website in an archive format. You cannot expect it to have up-to-date copy for all the time though. It will show you the website in such a way like how it was looked on some particular dates. So when you enter the name of the website in the Wayback Machine, hopefully you can get its recent cached copy. Apart from using this to access the blocked websites, you can make use of this amazing feature to visit websites which are down or suspended now. It is a very useful site for webmasters too.
Trick No 3
I can hear your question. How to unblock websites using the Translation Services? Think a bit! Follow the below instructions so you can unblock websites in not more than a minute. You can use the translation services like Yahoo! Babel Fish or Google Translate. But to do this, your filters should allow access to search engines. Eager to know how to unblock a website? Follow the below steps
Step 1: Type the URL of the website you want to access in the translation field.
Step 2: Choose the language in the “Translation from” and “Translation To” Field. In “Translate From” field select the language that is different from your current web page language. For example, if your current language is “English” then select any other language like ” French, Spanish, German etc” in “Translate From” field. In ” Translate To” field choose “English”. This method is one of the most effective ways to unblock the blocked website. So I hope you are now clear with how to unblock websites. However, the article doesn’t end here. There are some more tricks too. Read on.
Trick No : 4
HTTP into HTTPS
Even if you are searching all over the internet on how to get around blocked websites, i bet you can’t find any simpler method than this one.
All you need to do is to just replace http with https in your URL. Obviously this will cause a confusion to the software program restricting the access.
On the flip side, we can’t expect this hand trick to work every time.
Trick No : 5
Unblock Websites Through IP Addresses
how to unblock blocked websites websites using IP Address? If this is something that you are literally looking for then just read on. When all the above tricks to unblock websites fail, you can try this method.
- Find out the IP Address that is been allocated to the website you wish to open. Getting the IP address is pretty simple.
- Open the command prompt & type [ping yourdomain.com](type without brackets). Hit enter .
- For Example ping youtube.com. This command will return the IP address of your desired website.Isn’t that cool? Now instead of the real URL, enter the IP address in the browser’s address bar . This trick has higher probability to open up any restricted website.
Trick No : 6
Convert IP Address into Decimal URL
You can unblock a blocked website using IP address. But some website sites have their IP address blocked too.
If this is the case, try converting the IP address into its decimal values.
For example, instead of using http:// 22.214.171.124/ (IP address of Google), you can use the decimal format of the IP address HTTP://1249766560.
How will you convert the IP address into Decimal value? Go to the website http://www.ipaddressguide.com/ip, type the blocked website’s IP address that you want to convert.
Trick No : 7
Use TOR- Effective And Risky Way
Have you ever heard about TOR ( The Onion Router)? Well, it is one of the best free software for those who are looking for how to unblock blocked websites.
Tor is an internet browser that is specially designed to encrypt the confidential military communications. UNRL (The US Naval Research Lab) has designed this browser. Tor channels data via multiple nodes to prevent the scrambling of original data. To use Tor, you need to download this piece of software from torproject.org. Then you can start to browse your unblocked website through the Tor. Even though browsing through this site is little bit slow, it is considered as one of the effective methods to access the blocked sites.
Warning: Keep in mind that the Tor is so famous with the cyber criminals; the users of the Tor may be flagged as the immoral intent, so use this browser with caution. If you like to use Tor with ambiguity, it is recommended to create a different new identity on each time you use the web. It helps you to guarantee that you’ll never be attached to the identical server twice. The new identity can also helps to browse faster, because each time you change the identity you will be switched to another browser.
Trick No : 8
Unblock Websites via VPN
Another worth noting trick on how to get around blocked sites is none other than using VPN (Virtual Private Network). It will create a protected tunnel between VPN server and your System. Once you are connected with a VPN Server, your entire communication will start to travel via a secured tunnel, hence 3rd parties can’t able to track it. In this technique, your IP address that is your online identity will be anonymized, hence you are free to access your restricted websites. In addition, VPN also provides higher range of security than the available proxy servers do. There are many VPN software available to provide you this service, the following are best of them:
- HotspotShield VPN
- Hola unblocker
- TunnelBear VPN
- ProXPN VPN
Hola unblocker is the free VPN Proxy service that permits you to access the censored or blocked websites in your school, college or country. This simple and very effective software never affects the speed of your Browsing. This browser extension is available in all famous browsers.
- Install the Hola extension
- Go to the blocked website
- Click the icon of the Hola extension (you can see it at the browser’s top right spot)
- Choose the country you like to bypass the site and enjoy accessing of the blocked site
How To Get Hotspot Shield VPN
Go to the official website of Hotspot shield (www.hortspotshield.com) in your browser and download the free version.
- Install it on your PC
- Open your browser Firefox, Opera, Mozilla, Safari or whatever it is. You can see the Hotspot Shield placed at the top.
Trick No : 9
Use blocked sites with Google Cache
Google maintains cache for each and every file published on the internet on every single day. To access the cached version of any website type the following in Google search box “cache:websitename.com”. Anyway to use this trick, your network should allow access to Google anyway.
This will give you the sites from the old Google Cache. Before using this trick just ensure that the browser caching is enabled in the browser. Keep in mind that this technique wouldn’t provide the current version, but still it can help you to get the piece of information you wish to read.
Trick No : 10
Use URL Shortners
Wondering how to unblock websites using URL shortner? It’s one of the best possible ways around. Generally, to short the lengthy website url, we use this service.It shortens the url length. By using these sites, you can sidestep the access and security of the website, as they redirect the URL of the blocked website to the unblocked one.
Try using the following url shortners.
- Google’s goo.gl
Trick No : 11
Try Opera Mini Simulator
Opera mini is a web-based version of Opera. This demo version is designed to access the blocked websites that offer their mobile version. But it does not mean, you can’t access the websites that doesn’t offer a mobile version. You can. Only drawback is, quality will be much lower.
- Just install opera mini 5 beta into your mobile device
- Open the simulator, type the URL of the restricted site you like to open.Press Enter
- Now you can gain access to the unblocked website.
Trick No : 12
Get The Help Of Web2Mail
As you are looking to find a way to unblock websites, i suggest you to try Web2Mail.With this site, you can enjoy the access of the blocked websites. Send a message to the email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line that refers to your “intended site url”. Web2mail take this mail as a request for the website or webpage and return you a mail. That mail contains the website that you requested. For getting daily email for the selective webpage, you need to subscribe. You can sign up an account in the web2mail to receive websites by mail.
Trick No 13 :Internet Options – Restricted Websites
If switching between http and https does not work, check out the error message if you get any.
If it says that the page couldn’t be opened because of the “restrictions imposed on this account”, it may be due to the family safety software. In such cases, your choices to bypass the internet filters are limited. You can use trick no 11.
What if the error message doesn’t have anything to do with your account? In this is the case, the chances are, site you were trying you to access may be blocked by the internet options.
You can unblock blocked websites with the following simple procedure
1. Open control panel.
2. Click on the internet options. Under the security tab, click the restricted websites.
3. Hit on the button labeled “sites”. Check out whether the site you are trying to access is on the list. If it’s there, simply removing it from that list would give you access to that particular site.
This option is one of the simplest and least useful ways to get around the blocked websites because organizations and big concerns would not simply block the sites through this basic blocking method. They prefer network level restrictions which are often hard to overcome.
The Bottom Line
When the network administrator notices people bypassing the internet filters using one way or the other chances they will catch up the rule breakers soon. So keep your eyes wide open folks. Be little careful while applying these tricks. Going against your school rules or organization policies may make you land in some serious troubles. So use these kinds of access violations with more caution at your own risk.
Learning how to unblock blocked websites is not a bad thing. But to enjoy a trouble free life, make sure you play it safe.
ഫലസ്തീന് പെണ്കുട്ടിയെ വെടിവെച്ചുവീഴ്ത്തിയ ഇസ്രയേല് സൈന്യം വീല്ചെയറിലെത്തിയ യുവാവിനെ ചവിട്ടിവീഴ്ത്തുന്ന ദൃശ്യങ്ങള് വൈറലാകുന്നു
Up to 11% of the world’s electricity could come from concentrated solar by 2050
The world’s largest solar power plant, now live in Morocco, will eventually provide 1.1 million people with power and cut carbon emissions by 760,000 tons a year.
The $9 billion Noor Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) plant could eventually start exporting energy to the European market.
The Noor Concentrated Solar Power (CSP), paid for with funds approved by The World Bank, is located in the Souss-Massa-Drâa area in Morocco, about 6 miles from Ouarzazate town. It began operation on Thursday. While the World Bank and other development partners provided financial support, the Noor solar plant is a wholly Moroccan project.
“With this bold step toward a clean energy future, Morocco is pioneering a greener development and developing a cutting edge solar technology,” Marie Francoise Marie-Nelly, World Bank Country Director for the Maghreb, said in a statement. “The returns on this investment will be significant for the country and its people, by enhancing energy security, creating a cleaner environment, and encouraging new industries and job creation.”
The plant will be able to store solar energy in the form of heated molten salt, which allows for the production of electricity even at night.Overall, the new Noor CSP plant will increase Morocco’s energy independence, create 1,600 jobs during construction and 200 jobs during the power plant’s operation, and increase the installed capacity of solar power stations from 22MW in 2013 to 522MW in 2018, according to The World Bank.
Unlike concentrated photovoltaic solar power, CSP plants do not create electrical current through the photovoltaic effect, where particles of light (photons) break electrons free from atoms, generating a flow of electricity. Instead CSP uses either lenses or parabolic mirrors to concentrate the sun’s light onto a small point where water or another substance is heated.
The heat is used to create steam, which runs a turbine that produces electricity. In the Noor CSP, concave mirrors focus on molten salt, heating it anywhere from 300 degrees to 660 degrees Fahrenheit.
Currently, the Noor CSP can generate 160 megawatts (MW). But as additional phases are completed, in two years it’s expected to generate more than 500MW — enough power to meet the needs of 1.1 million Moroccans.
Phase 2 (Noor 2 and 3 plants) are due to open in 2017 and 2018 and will store power for up to eight hours. In all, the Noor CSP plant will cover an area of 6,178 acres.
At full power, the new solar power plant will reduce carbon emissions by 760,000 tons per year, which would equate to 17.5 million tons of carbon emissions over 25 years, according to Climate Investment Funds.
The International Energy Agency estimates that up to 11% of the world’s electricity generation in 2050 could come from CSP.
Morocco’s goal is to have 42% of its energy come from renewable resources by 2020.
The fencing team events rotate in and out of the Olympics; there was no team event for women’s saber in 2012, a disappointment to the Americans, who had won the bronze medal in the event at the world championships in 2011 with Muhammad on the team. Olympic rules permitted a maximum of two Americans in the individual event, leaving Muhammad out.
The Americans have continued to shine in women’s saber in the years since and have now won five consecutive team medals at the world championships, including a gold in 2014. Muhammad was a part of all five teams, giving her a great chance at an Olympic medal in Rio.
The team is led by Mariel Zagunis, the most accomplished fencer in American history, winner of individual Olympic gold medals in 2004 and 2008 and still one of the best in the world. Russia and Ukraine are the main opposition.
Muhammad’s accomplishments led her to be invited when Mr. Obama made his first visit as president to an American mosque last week in Baltimore. Muhammad was among the prominent American Muslims invited to a round-table discussion with the president before his speech.
The subject was “the varying concerns that people have within the Muslim community, like Islamophobia, mass incarceration, anti-Muslim rhetoric,” Muhammad said. “I talked about my experiences as a minority member of Team U.S.A.”
Muhammad is glad her mother noticed the fencers in the cafeteria that day.
“On a Saturday, you’ll see 200 kids here learning to fence” under the auspices of the Peter Westbrook Foundation, she said at the Fencers Club in Midtown Manhattan. “Sports gives girls a sense of confidence that’s very hard to find in this society.”
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Herbal therapy gives cancer patient hope
Alternative medicine is proving the answer for one Taranaki cancer patient who claims his immune system was wrecked by chemotherapy.
Hari Nath, a chemical engineer from New Plymouth, was 20 kilograms underweight and in a wheelchair when he travelled to India to find a solution to the painful recurring throat ulcers he developed after being treated with intravenous chemotherapy for non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
He said he tried everything modern medicine had to offer, including controversial drug thalidomide, at hospitals in Bangalore and Kerala, but nothing worked apart from high doses of the steroid prednisone, which worsened his diabetes, and left him prone to infection and in an emotional tailspin.
Every time he tried to reduce his dosage of the steroid his ulcers would return – making it so painful to eat even liquidised food that he had to numb his throat with an anaesthetic before he could get anything down.
“Even to watch him eat was a torture,” his wife Geetha Nath said.
Mr Nath turned to alternative medicine, but with equally little success.
He tried several traditional Indian Ayurvedic remedies, but abandoned them when he found no improvement.
“After a year of unsuccessful struggle and a life with pain killers and antidepressants, the feeling of hopelessness crept in and I googled to search for a naturally occurring steroid equivalent and stumbled across a herb called ashwagandha (witheria somnifera) used in Indian Ayurvedic medicine over thousands of years for improving immune system,” he said.
He did some more research and found on the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre’s website that studies had been done where the herb had killed cancerous cells in mice.
“I decided to make myself the mouse,” he said.
Mr Nath consulted both an Ayurvedic doctor and his oncologist before beginning treatment with ashwagandha, and got the go-ahead from both of them. They were out of other ideas.
Being a chemical engineer, Mr Nath had a keen scientific interest in his health.
“I took the results of all my blood tests since I was diagnosed in 2002 and plotted them on a graph.”
Shortly after starting to take the herb, Mr Nath began to feel better.
Within a week he was able to halve his steroid dose without the ulcers coming back, and a month later his blood tests began to show a remarkable improvement.
“A blood test showed a sharp jump in total white cell counts with my lymphocytes increased from previous level of 600-700 to a whopping 2500-2800. Interestingly my ESR [indication of inflammation/infection] also had a sharp dip from 80 to below 20, ” he said.
Three months later he was able to stop taking the steroids altogether and got back to a healthy weight and state of mind.
Mr Nath said that if a year before someone had suggested he take a herb to treat his problem he would’ve dismissed it out of hand.
“It got to the point where I had no choice, I had to do something.”
Since then he’s discovered that clinical trials using ashwagandha to treat cancer patients were in progress in the United States and India, and patents pending in the US and Japan.
“I had contacted the concerned head of clinical trials and was told that they had several positive feedbacks from cancer patients on ashwagandha,” he said.
In November last year he was finally able to return home to New Plymouth and has been ulcer and cancer-free since.
“Now I am hoping for a long remission and possibly a complete cure,” he said.