US in Iraq for the long haul; Wearable tech’s future looks bright; Where are India’s MPs?

1 US in Iraq for the long haul (Martin Chulov, Mark Townsend & Jon Swaine in The Guardian) Barack Obama has committed the US to long-term involvement in Iraq, warning that the rapidly evolving crisis in the north would not be solved quickly. Conceding that the advance of the Islamic State (formerly Isis) forces had been swifter than anticipated the president accepted there was no quick fix.

His warning came as the archbishop of Irbil’s Chaldean Catholics told the Observer fewer than 40 Christians remained in north-western Iraq after a jihadist rampage that has forced thousands to flee from Mosul and the Nineveh plains into Irbil in the Kurdish north.

Archbishop Bashar Warda said: “We did not expect that one day Mosul would be without Christians and that the Nineveh plains would be emptied of minorities,” referring to the stretch of land surrounding Mosul that had been hailed throughout the ages as a cradle of civilisation. “Trust is broken between the communities. Especially with the Arabs. For 2,000 years, all these minorities had lived together.”

US aircraft targeted armoured vehicles and militant positions in a second day of strikes against Islamic State forces. After taking in up to 1.2 million refugees since mid-June, the Kurds of northern Iraq are urging Obama not to let up in air strikes against Isis, which on Friday was only 50km from Irbil and advancing east towards the Kurdish capital.

2 Wearable tech’s future looks bright (Carolyne Zinko in San Francisco Chronicle) Listening to fashion technology entrepreneur Sabine Seymour talk about clothing of the future is enough to make your head spin, because she’s going way beyond shirts and pants with LED lights that twinkle, or dresses that shoot smoke when bystanders get too close.

In her (startling) vision, she thinks new technology will allow our garments to become a “second skin” that could act like human skin, changing color or even pattern when sunlight hits it (like the epidermis does when we tan). Clothing is already being made that creates music when you wear it, like the orchestra scarf by Bless that makes up to five different sounds by tugging and pulling on different parts of the scarf.

Fashion designers and tailors of today may be obsolete in the world of tomorrow’s tech fashion, she indicated, because the fashions of tomorrow are built with computer software modeling, not pins and needles and bolts of fabric. Designs for clothing with embedded circuitry in special, 3D-printable fabrics are being made with programs like Autodesk’s Maya, which is 3D computer graphics software.

Seymour’s work takes aim not only at how to make new clothing, but how to make futuristic clothing that people will be comfortable wearing from a psychological standpoint, from how they feel about wearing tech on their bodies and aesthetics to security implications. There are also practical matters to take into consideration, too — like dry cleaning and repairs by digital cobblers. Taking a gadget to get it fixed is one thing, she said, “But if I have digitally enhanced pants on, I can’t just take them off in the street and get them fixed.”

3 Where are India’s MPs? (Neeta Lal in Khaleej Times) Indian cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar, a Rajya Sabha (upper house) member of Parliament, evoked passions of a different kind recently. Rather than public adulation that he’s used to, the master blaster, who retired last year after an illustrious quarter-century international cricketing career, encountered a nasty googly from critics in the form of complaints about his poor attendance in the hallowed office.

According to Parliamentary records, Tendulkar had only three per cent attendance in Rajya Sabha last year. This year, the 40-year-old has smashed a new record — he’s not shown up for even a single Rajya Sabha session. Another high-profile MP — film actor Rekha — fares no better. Poet-lyricist Javed Akhtar — another MP and otherwise a vocal judge on megabuck reality shows — has been charged with remaining a ‘mute spectator’ at House proceedings.

Article 80 of the Indian Constitution allows the President to nominate 12 members to the upper house. These nominated members from diverse field have a fixed six-year tenure. The idea is that the chosen lot leverage their expertise to raise issues that benefit their professions and society at large. However, the Citizens’ Report on Governance and Development has repeatedly underscored these MPs’ lack of interest in Parliamentary proceedings.

According to sociologist Shiv Visvanathan, the big vacuum of ideology and identity in Indian politics has triggered the celebrity culture. But times have changed and so have people’s expectations. The Parliament stands for championing democracy, not making a mockery of it. Absenteeism of MPs eats into the core of the House’s work. And this laziness is something the world’s largest democracy — hosting one seventh of humanity — can ill afford.


About joesnewspicks

This blog captures interesting news items from around the world for those strained by information overload and yet need to stay updated on global events of significance. The news items displayed are not in order of merit. (The blog takes a weekly off — normally on Sundays — and does not appear when I am on vacation or busy.) I am a journalist for nearly three decades.
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