TIME language

You’ll Never Guess the Real Name for a Hashtag

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Computer hashtag Richard Goerg—Getty Images

Nope, it isn’t “pound sign”

The word hashtag has officially been added to the Oxford English Dictionary, the OED announced in a blog post Friday. But that’s not the most exciting thing in its announcement.

The word hashtag denotes the symbol deployed in front of a word or phrase on social media to loop the post into a wider conversation on the topic but it has #already taken on a #life of its own, used in #some #cases as a self-referential #joke or to #make #fun of #people whose social posts are #so2011.

But you, sophisticated TIME reader, already knew all of that. What you may not have known is that there was already a word for hashtag. And it isn’t the “number sign” or the “pound sign,” as it was called back in the #DarkAges before Twitter.

The technical term for a hashtag is “octothorp,” according to the OED; octo, in reference to the eight points in the figure, and Thorpe, OED says cryptically, from “the surname Thorpe.” Whatever that means.

“Hash probably arose as an alteration of ‘hatch’,” OED says in its blog post, “originally in the phrase ‘hatch mark’. By 1961 hash was being used in computing contexts to refer to the octothorp symbol, especially in computing and telecommunications contexts.”

#FarOut, right?

TIME Pictures of the Week

Pictures of the Week: June 6 — June 13

From the start of the 2014 World Cup and violent clashes in Mosul, Iraq, to Pope Francis’ prayer for Peace in the Middle East and Angelina Jolie’s impassioned pleas to end sexual violence in conflict, TIME presents the best pictures of the week.

TIME Jamaica

Jamaica to Decriminalize Weed

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Sam Diephuis—Getty Images

Smoking ganja could be a minor infraction in the ganja-growing nation by the end of the summer

Possession of marijuana is soon to be decriminalized in Jamaica, where the plant has remained banned despite being grown widely across the island.

“Cabinet approved certain changes to the law relating to ganja,” Minister of Justice Mark Golding said in a news conference Thursday. “These relate to possession of small quantities of ganja for personal use, the smoking of ganja in private places and the use of ganja for medical-medicinal purposes.”

Under the amended law, set to be formally changed this summer, possession of pot will be punishable by a small fine. Failure to pay will result in community service.

“Too many of our young people have ended up with criminal convictions after being caught with a ‘spliff,’ something that has affected their ability to do things like get jobs and get visas to travel overseas,” Golding said. Criminal records for people convicted of possessing small amounts of marijuana will be expunged, Reuters reports.

Jamaica joins the list of countries, including, in varying degrees, Uruguay, Portugal, and parts of the United States, where drug laws are being softened as policymakers move away from the harsh punishments of the past that many feel have failed to stem pot use.

[Reuters]

TIME Iraq

Turmoil in Iraq as Extremist Militants Make Gains

In a series of devastating assaults, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an extremist splinter group of al-Qaeda, has seized key Iraqi cities as it advances toward the capital Baghdad. Along the way, the Sunni militants have reportedly looted banks and picked up arms and other military equipment from fleeing Iraqi forces. In the north of the country, forces from the the semi-autonomous Kurdish region have seized the city of Kirkuk.

TIME Military

Bowe Bergdahl Is Back in the U.S.

The former P.O.W. is now receiving treatment at the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Tex.

After five years in Taliban captivity, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the last remaining American P.O.W. in Afghanistan, is back in the United States, the Pentagon confirmed Friday.

“Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl has arrived at the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio,” Pentagon spokesperson Rear Adm. John Kirby said in a statement. “While there, he will continue the next phase of his reintegration process. There is no timeline for this process. Our focus remains on his health and well-being. Secretary Hagel is confident that the Army will continue to ensure that Sgt. Bergdahl receives the care, time and space he needs to complete his recovery and reintegration.”

Bergdahl, a 28-year-old Idaho native, was captured in June 2009 after vanishing from the base where he was stationed in Afghanistan. He was released by the Taliban on May 31 in exchange for five Taliban prisoners released from captivity at the Guantanamo Bay military prison. The Obama administration drew criticism over the deal from some quarters, but insisted it had to act quickly to secure Bergdahl’s release due to his deteriorating health.

A pair of letters purportedly written by Bergdahl to his family while he was held captive and made public Friday may offer some explanation as to why he left his post. In the letters, obtained by The Daily Beast, Bergdahl supposedly asks that his family “tell those involved in the investigation into his disappearance that there are more sides to the cittuation (sic).”

The letters, here quoted with the author’s spelling and grammar, describe “Unexceptable conditions fror the men working and risking life every moment outside the wire” and lament that “clear minded understanding from leadership was lacking, if not non-exictent.”

“Please tell d.C. to wiat for all evadince to come in,” the letter says.

Handwriting in the two documents, written in 2012 and 2013, does not match and they are riddled with spelling errors. According to the Beast, Bergdahl’s family told officials they believe the letters to be genuine.

“Following Sgt. Bergdahl’s reintegration, the Army will continue its comprehensive review into the circumstances of his disappearance and captivity,” the Army said in a statement Friday.

After his release, Bergdahl was transported to a military facility in Germany, where officials determined that he is emotionally unstable after reportedly suffering harsh treatment at the hands of the Taliban. He reportedly refused to speak with his family after his release.

TIME Photos

Feel Good Friday: 12 Fun Photos to Start Your Weekend

From World Cup craziness to prenatal yoga, here's a handful of photos to get your weekend started right

TIME Thailand

Coup? What Coup? The Thai Junta Is Denying Everything

Thai army chief and junta head General Prayuth Chan-ocha smiles as he leave after the meeting of the 2015 national budget at the Army Club in Bangkok, June 13, 2014.
Thai army chief and junta head General Prayuth Chan-ocha smiles as he leave after the meeting of the 2015 national budget at the Army Club in Bangkok, June 13, 2014. Narong Sangnak—EPA

And it’s just as confused about vote-buying too

Thailand’s ruling junta — yes, the same military regime that seized power by force of arms on May 22, ousting a civilian government and detaining senior politicians — is now saying that no coup took place.

“Don’t call it a coup. The military action this time is totally different from the previous successful coups since the 1932 takeover,” junta spokesman Col Werachon Sukondhapatipak told baffled reporters at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand, according to the Bangkok Post.

Since seizing power, Thailand’s military has crushed all forms of dissent, imposed a nightly curfew and imposed severe curbs on civil liberties, and taken over all government departments.

That’s pretty coup-like. So are the junta’s ham-fisted attempts at buying off the masses. The military has launched a series of tawdry events designed to “Return Happiness to the People,” issued some fairly dreadful music, and unleashed a wave of populist policies. Among these are the screening on free TV of all World Cup matches, the wheel-clamping of hundreds of cars to unclog Bangkok’s chronically snarled streets, and the cancelation of free flights for executives for national carrier Thai Airways.

The regime has been trying its hand at serious policy decisions, too, scrapping a $24 billion high-speed rail scheme, championed by former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, that would have been a boon to her ardent supporters in the rural northeast even though it was vehemently derided by her opponents. But the axing is not about saving money, it would seem, for on Friday the junta announced that it was increasing the nation’s remaining $37 billion infrastructure improvement budget to $92 billion.

Alright, nobody’s going to cast a ballot for these guys. But still — vote-buying, much?

Supporters of the coup long objected to the Shinawatra government for populist policies they considered tantamount to vote-buying (high-speed rail was one, a disastrous rice-pledging scheme was another). Curiously, though, the military’s new ramped up infrastructure plans include a seaport, the expansion of the capital’s two airports and dual-track railways along six routes. And that’s just to start with. Presumably the junta will have another term for this than “vote-buying,” just as it shrinks from the word “coup.” But with apologies, gentlemen, the c-word really does suit you.

TIME Asia

With 4 Hangings in 2 Weeks, India’s Women Are Living in Fear

Demonstrators from All India Democratic Women's Association hold placards and shout slogans during protest against recent killings of two teenage girls, in New Delhi
Demonstrators from All India Democratic Women's Association hold placards and shout slogans during a protest against the recent rape and hanging of two teenage girls, in New Delhi, May 31, 2014. Adnan Abidi—Reuters

Recent cases are only the tip of an 'endemic' problem that runs deep in the region's societies, says senior Amnesty researcher Divya Iyer

The body of a woman was discovered hanging by her scarf from a tree in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh on Thursday morning, becoming the state’s fourth such female victim in only two weeks.

Relatives of the dead 19-year-old have filed a report claiming she was raped and murdered, but a district police information officer told the New York Times that a preliminary postmortem examination had found no evidence to suggest rape.

Yet the grisly discovery adds to increasing concerns for women’s rights throughout the region. Most recently, the rape and hanging of two teenage sisters in the same state caused nationwide outrage and global headlines.

“This is not something that is particular for Uttar Pradesh,” Amnesty International India’s senior researcher Divya Iyer tells TIME. “These sporadic news of rapes bring the issue to the fore, but it is important to see it as a continuum. For every case of rape, there are many more that are not reported, because of the stigma attached and the fear of reprisals.”

Iyer points out that the region’s women labor under patriarchal concepts of honor, with caste issues also causing great vulnerabilities.

“The gender-caste intersection plays into power dynamics that not only make it difficult for victims and relatives but also for whole communities to bring cases to the police,” she says.

India has toughened its laws on rape in the past year, but Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia Director of Human Rights Watch, says that the fact that perpetrators still deliberately commit rapes “reflects a serious breakdown in rule of law.”

“India needs urgent and systemic institutional reforms to end barriers to justice, including proper police training and accountability,” she tells TIME.

A recent study found that around 30% of poor women risked violent sex assaults because they lacked access to safe toilets. Activists are urging Prime Minister Narendra Modi to go through with the sanitation program he has pledged — to build “toilets, not temples.”

Other government officials have made statements that have drawn straight out ire. The head of Uttar Pradesh’s governing party told an election rally in April that “boys will be boys” in response to a proposal for gang rapists to be executed.

“It is important to hold politicians accountable for their statements in order to send the right signals to the community,” says Iyer.

TIME Iraq

U.S. Contractors Are Evacuating Iraq Amid Growing Turmoil

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A jacket belonging to an Iraqi Army uniform lies on the ground in front of the remains of a burnt out Iraqi army vehicle close to the Kukjali Iraqi Army checkpoint, some 10km east of the northern city of Mosul, Iraq on June 11, 2014. Safin Hamed—AFP/Getty Images

Embassy officials are staying put for the time being. Meanwhile Washington is "considering requests" from the beleaguered Iraqi government, which has asked for U.S. airstrikes.

U.S. citizens working for military contractors in Iraq are being evacuated from the country as the security situation worsens with Islamist militants descending on Baghdad.

“We can confirm that U.S. citizens, under contract to the Government of Iraq, in support of the U.S. Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program in Iraq, are being temporarily relocated by their companies due to security concerns in the area,” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement Thursday.

Lockheed Martin confirmed to TIME its employees are evacuating the country.

“For their safety and security, a small cadre of LM employees is evacuating Balad [Airbase] as part of the overall U.S. evacuation efforts. We are fully aware of the unfolding situation in Iraq and are working closely with the U.S. government to ensure the safety and protection of all of our employees,” a spokesperson said. “All Lockheed Martin employees are safe and secure at this time.”

Diplomatic officials will remain in the country for the moment. “The status of the staffing at the U.S. Embassy and Consulates has not changed,” Psaki said.

The security situation in Iraq has been deteriorating rapidly, with Islamist Sunni militants waging a successful campaign for control of key cities, including the second-largest city and the largest oil refinery in the country. The Iraqi government has asked the Obama administration to provide military aid in the form of airstrikes — something Obama says he has not taken off the table.

“We are actively considering requests from the Iraqi government and looking very closely at other efforts we can undertake to assist Iraq in this very serious situation,” White House spokesperson Jay Carney told reporters Thursday. He added: “We are not contemplating ground troops. I want to be clear about that.”

Psaki did not offer further details on the number of contractors or embassy officials in the country. According to a Pentagon report, in January 2014 there were 820 American contractors (out of 3,234 in total) working with the Department of Defense in Iraq.

TIME Poland

Polish City Erects Statue of Peeing Lenin

Nowa Huta’s new sculpture of the famed Communist icon is a little different from the famous one it once hosted

The Polish town of Nowa Huta, near Krakow, has erected a statue of the Vladimir Lenin to take the place of the iconic monument to the Communist revolutionary that once stood in the town, but the new version is a bit different from the old.

Unlike the old Lenin statue, which was removed from the town’s main street in 1989, Nowa Huta’s new Lenin is bright green and features Lenin relieving himself, complete with a strategically placed fountain to round out the effect. The figure is even called Fountain of the Future.

One of the statue’s creators said the sculpture will show visitors that Nowa Huta is not merely a “grey and gloomy” town, The Telegraph reports.

[The Telegraph]

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