by Emily Ramser
Image via Flickr by Robert Couse-Baker
The PEN American Center has organized a petition calling for the immediate release of the poet Asharf Fayadh and writer Raif Badawi. Fayadh has been sentenced to death, and Badawi has been sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for his writings by the Saudi Arabian government. The petition, which has been signed by more than 60 prominent artists in the literary world, including Neil Gaiman, John Green and Sandra Cisneros, calls for President Obama to press Saudi Arabian’s King Salman to pardon the two writers. The petition was sent to the White House on December 16th.
Early English texts are frequently somewhat illegible due to handwriting, ink splotches, and the aging of the paper. When transcribers tackled these works in their transcriptions, if they could not tell what a letter or portion of the text was, they would replace it with a black dot in the transcription. For example, “love,” would become “lo•e.” In order to clean up these texts, Doug Downey, a professor at Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering, with his students has developed a computer program that works with language modeling that uses algorithms to determine the probabilities of sequences of works to estimate the likelihood of what word is missing. The program has already gone through 363 relatively clean texts and is now moving on to a sample of 359 more heavily flawed transcriptions.
Authors and artists protested the unofficial Indian blockade along the Nepal-India border using their creative works on Dec. 16. Writers such as Bhupendra Sharma Bhattarai, Jeevan Sapkota, Deepak Raj Bhattarai, Deepak Swoti and Bimal Diwas participated. Additionally, a street drama written by Jeevan Sapkota and directed by Khagaraj Sapkota was also performed.
Amit Mahmudar was been named Ohio’s first ever poet laureate Dec. 17 by Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Mahmudar, a radiologist, has published two novels and his poetry has appeared in many publications such as The New Yorker and The Atlantic Monthly. His favorite subjects to write on include identity, religion, and politics. Mahmudar will serve a two-year term beginning January 1. As a part of his position, he must make a least 10 public readings and pursue a cultural project.