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Archive for July, 2008

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors` Office investigating the distortion of the safety of U.S. beef by MBC’s in-depth investigative program “PD Notebook” has concluded in its interim probe results that the program either stretched the facts or intentionally edited certain contents.

At a briefing Tuesday, prosecutors said, “Reviews on U.S. media reports and related data, and investigations of translators who participated in the program and experts in relevant fields showed that the MBC program’s report on mad cow disease was mostly exaggerated and edited in a way that distorted facts.”

The prosecution has released original material that was used by the program. The material collected by prosecutors includes domestic and overseas videos and references. Based on its conclusion, prosecutors sent a 140-page questionnaire to MBC.

Investigators pointed out that PD Notebook aired video footage of the U.S. Humane Society showing a downer cow being abused as if those downer cows were infected with mad cow disease, though the footage is not directly related to the brain-wasting disease.

The program also showed Aretha Vinson’s funeral and an interview with her mother to make the audience believe that the downer cow contracted mad cow disease and Vinson died due to ingesting meat from the cow, according to the prosecution.

Prosecutor Im Soo-bin said, “Though there are 59 factors for the symptoms of downer cattle and mad cow disease is one of them, the program intentionally modified some part of the translation to give a false impression that the downer cow was infected with mad cow disease.”

On the show host’s remarks that referred to a downer cow as “the aforementioned cow that contracted mad cow disease,” the prosecution said though the host later acknowledged that he made a slip of the tongue, he could have intentionally made the remarks. Thus prosecutors have asked MBC to turn in the whole transcript of the program.

On the cause of Aretha Vinson’s death, in addition to vCJD, the human form of mad cow disease, the U.S. media presented various possibilities including Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD), a side-effect from gastrectomy, renal disorder, and oxygen deficiency in the brain. But PD Notebook purposefully ruled out other possibilities in order to focus on the brain-wasting disease, prosecutors said.

Investigators also pointed out the following as lacking evidence and exaggerating risks: “The Korean people, who have a large number of MM genotypes, are highly susceptible to mad cow disease”; “mad cow disease spreads even through fried noodle soup”; and “those who consume 0.1 grams of specified risky materials (SRMs) contract mad cow disease and die from it.”

However, the prosecution said that after reviewing the program’s original material, it will confirm whether the program distorted the facts and is responsible for libel damages.

One official of the prosecution said, “The indictment of the program’s staff on charges of damaging the reputation of the Agricultural Ministry’s negotiation team depends on the review of the original material.”

Source: http://english.donga.com

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Hungarian linguists prepare for national spelling reform

Linguists of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences are preparing to make changes to the spelling rules of the Hungarian language – a code which has not been amended since 1984, the daily Nepszabadsag reported on Tuesday.

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Following a meeting in June, the Hungarian language committee of the Academy will sit again in the autumn to find solutions to controversial spelling issues such as the usage of lower and upper case, hyphens or certain endings, the paper said.

Most linguists agree that there is a need to simplify spelling rules. “But once we start doing so – by for example removing a hyphen – it will be obvious that it affects the whole system,” Geza Balazs, deputy-head of the committee told Nepszabadsag.

The linguist warned of the increasing impact of internet usage on spelling in recent years and said that its many abbreviations were often in conflict with current official spelling. He added that the number one priority in the reform process was to preserve the unity of the spelling system.

Vilma Eory of the Linguistics Institute of the Academy said that the changes should seek to make the current spelling code more user-friendly. The code “is not a bad one”, however, it is far too grammar-focused and many readers cannot understand its explanations. She added that it should be made less stringent. “We should trust users of the language,” said Eory.

Source: http://www.caboodle.hu

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Those famous brothers have the wrong name

Dostoevsky’s last, longest and possibly greatest novel has been known for nearly 130 years in English as The Brothers Karamazov. Sadly, this is wrong. It should be called The Karamazov Brothers. At least, so argues Ignat Avsey in his translator’s note for the Oxford University Press edition of the book. “Had past translators been expressing themselves freely in natural English, without being hamstrung by the original Russian word order,” he writes, “they would no more have dreamt of saying The Brothers Karamazov than they would The Brothers Warner or The Brothers Marx.”

He is doubtless right, but I still kind of like the very wrongness of the earlier title. The Karamazov Brothers sounds like a firm of surly plasterers; the Brothers Karamazov sound like a madcap trapeze act – which, as I (mis)read Dostoevsky, is what Ivan, Dmitri and Alexei were.

Avsey, though, makes a worrying point: if translators can’t get the title right, can we trust them on the rest of Dostoevsky’s 1,054 pages? On this, it’s worth thinking about what the great American philosopher Willard van Orman Quine wrote of the indeterminacy of translation: this doesn’t mean there is no such thing as a good or a bad translation, but that fidelity to the spirit of the original may mean betraying it at a literal level. CK Scott-Moncrieff may have been thinking along these lines when he gave his English translation of A la recherche du temps perdu a title the author hated, namely Remembrance of Things Past (which riffs on a line from Shakespeare), though why he left out Proust’s rudery is less clear. Only 70 years later, in 1992, did Chatto put out an edition with the more literal title In Search of Lost Time and favour English readers with the smut.

As anyone trying to flog new foreign fiction to English readers knows, the choice of title is sometimes the handmaiden of marketing. Eyebrows were raised when Michel Houellebecq’s first novel, L’Extension du domaine de la lutte, was published here in 1998 as Whatever. But the elegant French title sounds dreadful when transliterated as The Extension of the Domain of the Struggle. What’s more, the English title at a stroke got Houellebecq down with a pseudo-cool nihilist demographic on this side of the Channel – something Dostoevsky’s publishers have not yet tried to do.

Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk

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The Executive body of Armenia has made a decision to start a state order on establishing information system development, legal terminology and “Official Statements” web site, reported the press service of the Government.
In 2008 the expenses have been distributed as following: legal terminology: 13000.0 thousands drams, development of information system: 23000.0 thousands drams and establishment of “Official Statements” web site: 35000.0 thousands drams.

The mission of creating a web site on official announcements is to assure one single source of official information to be spread and to collect all the official stuff in a single distributing source via internet.

Source: http://www.panorama.am

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Greece is locking hundreds of migrants in an overcrowded centre on the Mediterranean island of Lesbos without proper sanitation and medical care in what French charity Medicins Sans Frontiers branded a “humanitarian crisis”.

The migrants, most of them from war-torn Afghanistan, are kept in rooms clogged with stagnant water and only allowed outside for half an hour every couple of days, said Yiorgos Karayiannis, head of MSF Greece’s migrant assistance programme.

With some migrants suffering from tuberculosis and skin diseases, there is a risk of contagion and only one doctor was working at the camp, without a translator, MSF said, adding its staff was not being permitted regular access to provide healthcare.

“The situation is horrible from a medical point of view,” Karayiannis told Reuters on Monday. “This is an urgent humanitarian crisis.”

The Greek government was not immediately available to comment.

The number of the people at the camp has risen from 150 in early June to around 800 at present, Karayiannis said, as calm seas encouraged a deluge of would-be migrants to set off in boats from the nearby coast of Turkey or North Africa.

Greece is on the frontline of the European Union’s fight against illegal migration. Its 14,900-kilometres (9,258 miles) of poorly patrolled Mediterranean coastline offers a tempting target for migrants from Iraq and Palestine, Somalia, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Despite the rising numbers at Lesbos, Greece’s conservative New Democracy government has not improved facilities, aid workers say.

MSF has been working at the Lesbos camp for two months, providing some medical attention and constructing toilets and shower facilities. Most of the migrants are young men but there are also some women and children, Karayiannis said.

An estimated 800,000 Albanians have also emigrated to Greece in search of better-paid work. Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis has called for more EU cooperation in fighting immigration.

Migrants are held at the Lesbos centre — one of six such sites in Greece — for up to three months before being given one month to leave the country.

Some drift to Athens, but most use Greece as a springboard to reach richer European countries like Italy, Karayiannis said.

A French plan to boost immigration patrols and expel more migrants from the 27-nation bloc, while promoting legal migration and a common asylum policy, is expected to be approved by mid-October.

“European policy is mainly to guarantee high standards of preventing immigration, but people arriving need to have better facilities available to them and a better future,” he said.

Source: http://africa.reuters.com

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his month, July, the 25th anniversary of July 83, has quite appropriately seen significant commentary in the press over the interrelated themes of the war, its character or its perceived character, and contending interpretations of Sri Lankan identity. In 2001, in an essay entitled “The Sources of Intractability”, published in Ethnic Studies Report, the journal of the International Centre for Ethnic Studies (ICES) I wrote of the Sri Lankan conflict that “It is not an ethnic conflict and it is. It is an ethnic conflict and it is not…It is not an ethnic conflict in the sense that it is no longer primarily one.

Nineteen fifty eight was an ethnic conflict … But it is no longer 1958 and that is not the main thing that is happening. What it is, is war.” The un-dialectical mind would be unable to grasp that formulation. Identities are formed by statics and dynamics: who we are is constituted by where we are, where we are coming from and what we have done over time.

We live on an island, on the doorstep of a large landmass. The Southern two thirds of the island are populated by those who speak one language, the northern third by those who speak another. The preponderant language of the South is not spoken by any collectivity anywhere else, not in the adjacent landmass, not anywhere on the planet. It is unique to this island. However, the language of the Northern part has many million speakers elsewhere, across the narrow straits, in the adjacent landmass, and elsewhere on the planet. The island has yet another distinguishing feature.

Most in the South adhere to a religion which originated in the adjacent landmass but was displaced from it to find a home in the island to the South and lands to the east. Within this too, that denomination of the religion that has spread the widest, to the Far East, is different from the more orthodox version practiced on the island.

Religion therefore reinforces language as a marker of distinctive identity. Islands, like only children, seem to cherish that which distinguishes them from the surrounding or adjacent mass. Thus it is with England in relation to Europe, Ireland in relation to England, and Cuba in relation to the USA.

Those are the structural facts which have constituted our identities, but there is a dynamic as well. Collective identities are constituted also by dialectics, a clash, a struggle, battles, in short, wars. Collective identities in Sri Lanka are no different.

It would be dishonest, not least to one self, not to admit that a pattern, perhaps the dominant motif, exists in this country’s long history– that of military contestation between the North and the South. Sometimes this has been a struggle with the near North — that is the North of the island. At other times it has been a struggle against incursions from the far North, namely the South of the Indian subcontinent. This struggle has often had either as overlay or underlay a battle between two collectivities: Sinhala and Tamil. Now one may debate whether those were nations, nationalities, or tribes, but the truth is that nations evolve by stages and not ex nihilo, out of nothing. These battles were between embryonic nations. Whatever they were, our identities have been formed by that history.

The island’s written history, or rather, the history of the island written from the perspective of the Sinhalese, is a meta-narrative of a bi-polar existential conflict and the Sinhala identity is constituted in greater or lesser degree, by that meta-narrative, itself a Romance, a love story of a language, a religion and an island.

The lad Dutugemunu’s bedtime lament is a brilliant summation of the existential and geo-strategic situation of the Sinhalese: hemmed in between a hostile power centre in the North and the sea at their back, lacking defense in depth and therefore unable to co-exist with a rival power centre on this small island.

The Eelam war in all its stages is in part, a reactivation of this long conflict. It is not a permanent conflict but it is a recurrent one, arguably cyclical, and when it recurs, it constitutes a challenge before the generations alive at the time. It is the challenge of resistance and re-unification. Not every generation has the misfortune to face that challenge, but when it happens it is but a burden that has been carried before by one’s ancestors. It is the fate of being Sinhalese. It comes literally with the territory.

Anyone who doubts this has only to read the propaganda that comes out of any and all pro-Tiger, pro-separatist media, from newspapers in Kilinochchi to Pongu Thamil leaflets in Europe and any website run by the Diaspora. It’s all about Thamil and the Sinhalese. A case in point is the Pongu Thamil leaflet for the Berne, Switzerland demonstration on June 5, 2008 – Black Tiger day disguised as Pongu Tamil—says “let the Sinhalese kneel before the rising Tamils”.

Given all this, anyone who thinks that the motivation of a largely peasant army waging a war to territorially reunify a land, a country, a motherland, can be devoid of ethno nationalism, or ethno religious/ethno linguistic nationalism, is being naively utopian. In the aftermath of a phase of appeasement and humiliation (Ranil’s CFA, CBK’s PTOMS), in an era of the collapse of secular identities and “the return of history”, it is unrealistic to expect the predominance of Enlightenment ideology.

The long continuity of this conflict is not a construct of Sinhala chauvinists. It has been identified by Samuel P Huntington, who in his The Clash of Civilizations places it in his category of “fault line wars”, wars at the fault lines of civilizations.

The two World Wars were in a sense, a continuation of the power struggle (certainly between Russia and Germany) that had troubled Europe for decades, and the Sino-Soviet split was sourced at least in part in centuries old contradictions. Yet the main aspect of the Second World War was the new phenomenon, that of fascism. Both the Arab – Israeli conflict and the “global war on terror” are not devoid of echoes of the ancient and the medieval pasts respectively, and yet they are, in the main, modern and contemporary conflicts.

Similarly, long continuity is only one aspect of this Eelam war. The other aspect is its modernity, it contemporaneity, which resides in the fascist and terrorist character of Prabhakaran, who is no just king as Elara was.

One must be tough-minded enough to recognize this. Where then does the problem arise? Where does this realistic recognition of the enduring power of ethno-nationalism and “the clash of peoples” (to use the phraseology of Prof Jerry Z Muller of the Catholic University of America) become narrow chauvinism? As in every other case, when it is taken to excess.

Excess is manifested in exclusivity, narrowness, discrimination, hegemonism and racism. For a Sinhalese or Tamil, their respective identity is their core or foundational identity, but if it becomes their sole and complete identity, then they lapse into narrow nationalism. We are Sinhala or Tamil but we are also much else and much more: Sri Lankans – which must not be a synonym for Sinhalese – South Asians, Asians, and perhaps most importantly, human beings. Ethnicity must not diminish or supersede our humanity.

Our cultural being must not be exclusively Sinhala, Tamil or Muslim. That identity is our foundation but our dwelling cannot comprise only of a foundation. It must be constructed of the best in all cultures and civilizations, East and West, ancient and modern. While we can and must be proud of our achievements, culture and history, it is counter-productively self-limiting to consider our ethnicity or culture as intrinsically, axiomatically superior to all others. To do so is also racist. Such a sense of superiority is unshared, unsubstantiated and unprovable, leaving us sounding faintly ridiculous.

Abandoning English, a world language and the preponderant one, displacing it with Sinhala only, rather than supplementing it with Sinhala and Tamil, has eroded the quality of our human resources and competitiveness in all fields globally as well as regionally. Neither literary classics nor new knowledge is readily translated into a language spoken by fewer than twenty million people on one small island, and the numbers of qualified translators, who by definition must at least be bilingual, is declining. India and China never made that mistake. Algeria and Vietnam which threw out French colonialism by armed force, retained French as a language. A forensic scientist who fought in the Algerian resistance and rose to be head of the WHO explained to me last week that his comrades Ben Bella, Boumedienne, Bouteflika and the other leaders of the national liberation struggle regarded the French language as something they would determinedly retain as “the booty of victory in the war against French colonialism”. We Sri Lankans who did not kick British colonialism out by liberation struggle, went on to kick the English language out instead – a case of throwing the baby out with, or in place of, the bathwater.

It is damaging to cling to some static or pure notion of Sinhala-ness or Tamil-ness. Notions of purity are known to be a quintessential element of fascism. Who after all, can decide on what is authentically Sinhala or Tamil? Cultures change, evolve over time, and at any time, consist of diverse elements. An ideology which holds that only Sinhala Buddhists are authentically Sinhalese, or that Sinhala Buddhists are more Sinhala than others, is exclusivist. Where does it stop anyway? What of notions of caste hierarchy? Are so-called lower castes somehow lesser in their Sinhalaness? Are “upcountry” Sinhalese purer Sinhalese than “low country” ones? Are rural or provincial Sinhalese more Sinhala than urban or coastal ones? The last great rebellion of the Sinhalese against Western imperialism, 160 years ago this month, was led by Puran Appu, a Sinhalese from the “maritime provinces” and a non-dominant caste.

Any notion that Sinhalese must have more rights because they are Sinhalese (and the majority), any notion that Tamils are entitled to fewer rights, or are less entitled to rights because they are a minority, is a deviation from the universal principle of equal rights and merit, and is discriminatory.

There is no homogenous, monolithic sense of identity, not even of ethnic identity. Tamil ethnic identity today, has to take into account resurgent or newly assertive local identities (the East). Different strata, different generations, have different sense of identity and everything evolves over time, with some elements evolving slower than others.

Identity is formed of objective, material conditions, but it is a profoundly subjective, emotional phenomenon, deeply rooted in the psyche. However, not everything in the world is subjective, and ones own subjectivity often encounters the reality of others subjectivities. So it with identity. Any Tamil who thinks that a separate state is possible on this small island or that a minority compact of pro-Western neocolonial elements can durably dominate the country, has to come up against the material fact that the Sinhalese are an overwhelming majority and that the Sri Lankan armed forces have a population base which is infinitely greater than their foe. Any Sinhalese who thinks that they can ride roughshod over the Tamils without sharing this common island home, providing adequately autonomous political and cultural space for all, will have to reckon with the material facts of the Tamil vote in Sri Lanka’s highly competitive democratic politics, the existence of 50 million Tamils in Tamil Nadu with the importance that confers on them within the regional superpower India, the influence of the Tamil Diaspora in the West, and above all the global consensus and consciousness which expects universal standards of equality, fair-play and justice for all communities in Sri Lanka.

Source: http://www.asiantribune.com

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Sólo hablo español

‘I’m sorry’, sólo hablo español

Casi el 50% de los españoles no conoce idiomas extranjeros.- Manchegos, andaluces y cántabros, los que menos saben

El español es el único idioma que conoce la mitad (49,7 %) de los españoles. Un estudio de la Fundación de las Cajas de Ahorros (FUNCAS) así lo desvela. También apunta que no conocen ningún idioma extranjero el 67 % de los castellano-manchegos, el 64,4% de los andaluces y el 63,7 % de los cántabros. Los datos de los catalanes y los baleares son, en cambio, más bajos (23,7% los primeros y el 24,6% los segundos).

El desconocimiento total de idiomas afecta también al 42,3 % de los madrileños y al 47,4 % de los gallegos. El informe destaca que la tasa de Castilla-La Mancha casi triplica la de Cataluña. Los resultados se basan en las respuestas de 2.489 personas mayores de 18 años, una encuesta que ha sido publicada en el último número de Cuadernos de Información Económica.

Por encima de la media están los valencianos (51,1%), los navarros (51,4%), los canarios (54,2%), los vascos (55,6%) y los aragoneses (55,7%). A este grupo se suman los castellano-leoneses (56,3%), los murcianos (57,7%), los riojanos (57,9%) y los extremeños (60,6%). A la cabeza, con un 61,2%, los asturianos.

Saber idiomas, una necesidad

La renta per cápita y la coexistencia de dos lenguas oficiales en la comunidad influyen en la desigualdad del conocimiento de idiomas, según destaca el estudio. Así, Castilla-La Mancha, Andalucía y Extremadura, con menor renta per cápita, tienen los mayores y también parecidos porcentajes de individuos que no conocen idiomas extranjeros. El informe señala además que “el sistema educativo no ha corregido, ni a tiempo ni con eficacia, las barreras de la enseñanza insuficiente y poco eficaz

con relación a los idiomas extranjeros”, lo que dificulta afrontar la desaparición de fronteras europeas y la globalización.

En cuanto a los tramos de edad sobre el conocimiento de idiomas, el 42% de todos los entrevistados de entre 18 y 34 años (el grupo más joven) manifiesta tener conocimientos suficientes de inglés. Sólo el 5 % de los mayores de 25 años reconoce tener un nivel avanzado. Los mayores de 54 años (el 55%) dicen no tener interés por aprender idiomas. Entre los 55 y 64 años, el 5 % de los entrevistados conoce el inglés y el 7%, el francés.

A pesar de los datos saber idiomas es muy importante para la mayoría de los españoles. Así lo refleja el informe. El 94% de los españoles piensan que es una necesidad en un mundo globalizado.

Fuente: http://www.elpais.com

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