in clear violation of the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
to which Bahrain has acceded.
When he was released on bail in
September 2011, a Bahraini colleague
brought to his attention my January
letter. Jahromi himself then took the
initiative to send me an email message explaining what had happened.
He also said how much he appreciated
Communications for publicizing his situation. Following several delays, a trial
was held January 19, 2012. Though
the Bahrain Public Prosecutor recommended the charges be dropped, as
they related to “freedom of speech,”
consistent with the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, Jahromi
was convicted and sentenced to four
months in prison and ordered to pay
a fine of approximately $1,400. As he
had already been imprisoned for five
months, the court simultaneously
suspended the four months. However, Jahromi had also been suspended
from his university positions without
pay from the date of his arrest, and the
university did not reinstate him following the January 19 court ruling.
On February 20, 2012, Jahromi sent
me another email message saying he
had been reinstated in the university
but not to his old positions. On March
20, 2012, he sent yet another email message, and then a clarification April 10,
2012, saying he had at last been reinstated to his old positions by the university. However, the government had not
returned his passport or ID card, which
it took from him April 14, 2011. Hence,
he is not allowed to travel or attend scientific conferences outside Bahrain. He
has since appealed and will continue to
do so until all his rights are restored.
In his last email message, he
thanked those who had supported
him, including the Committee of Concerned Scientists (I am Vice-Chair,
Computer Science), Scholars at Risk,
the Committee on Academic Freedom
in the Middle East and North Africa of
the Middle East Studies Association,
and Islamic Human Rights (London).
Publicity due to Communications
and other organizations may have
played a crucial role, helping pressure
the government of Bahrain to abide
by its commitment to human rights.
Communications has always played an
important role in publishing scientific
results but also by giving worldwide at-
tention when scientific freedom and
human rights of computer profession-
als are violated or at risk. While human
rights remain a problem in Bahrain, it
is uplifting to know that Jahromi has
had at least some of his restored. We
now look forward to the time when all
survival and Computation
Daniel Reed’s blog (Sept. 2, 2011) and
Douglas Robertson’s related letter “
Insight, Not Numbers” (Apr. 2012) speculated on why we compute, suggesting
two noble motivations: “know and
understand” and “insight.” Robertson
also added interesting comments regarding algorithmic information theory. However, both authors seemed to
take a purely philosophical or research
perspective, ignoring the large number
of real-world corporate examples in
which the primary motivation for computing is that many businesses would
otherwise be unable to deliver services
and products to their customers or
manage, organize, store, or access in a
timely fashion the ever-increasing data
needed to run a large enterprise, especially one for which “information” is a
key part of its products.
Reed’s description of “the exhilaration when the idea takes shape in
code, then begins to execute” is something that first attracted me to computing and I have always regarded it as a
“perk” of the profession. However, it
was always the need to solve utilitarian problems to improve the corporate
ability to process data and support customers that justified my paycheck.
In real-world corporate computing,
the idea of information conservation
is not a limiting factor for computation, as one does not deal with a closed
system. Every second of every day new
data pours in from customers and corporate processes alike, accumulating
in large databases. The challenge is to
determine what data is no longer useful and how and when to discard it.
Joel C. ewing, Bentonville, Ar
The string at t in C
Something seemed wrong in the fol-
lowing code portion of the letter by
Paul W. Abrahams “Still Paying for a C
Mistake” (Apr. 2012):
Wilkins is right. I should have said the code
copies the string at t to the string at s. It was
a slip-up, though, fortunately, the intent and
the repair are obvious to anyone who knows C.
Paul W. Abrahams, deerfield, MA
The Post office Deficit and Technology
Though Michael A. Cusumano offered
interesting ideas as to new postal services in his Viewpoint “Can Services
and Platform Thinking Help the U.S.
Postal Service?” (Apr. 2012), he failed
to explore his reference to the “annual
obligations for retiree health benefits”
at the depth it deserves.
The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006 (PAEA) requires
the USPS to pre-fund retiree benefits
for employees who have not been hired
yet—and, with the 75-year pre-fund
mandate, possibly even for those not
even born yet. By requiring this transfer of funds from the USPS to the U.S.
government general fund, the USPS is
required to make the U.S. budget deficit look smaller at the cost of an artificial deficit in its own budget. Consumer advocate Ralph Nader once said that
if not for PAEA, the USPS would have a
surplus of at least $1.5 billion.
Though computer science is naturally drawn to technological solutions,
legal and social pressure is sometimes
a more appropriate place to look for
the source (and solution) of a problem.
John J. Deltuvia, Jr., jackson, nj
1. Jilani, z. A Manufactured ‘Crisis’: Congress Can Let the
Post Office Save Itself without Mass Layoffs or Service
Reductions. thinkProgress, Center for american
Progress action Fund (sept. 28, 2011); http://
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