GUARDIAN

Investigation reveals catalogue of abuses, including being confined to vessels unless given permission by their skippers to go on land, and being paid less than half the Irish minimum wage that would apply if they were legally employed.

Families are atomised, the home is a honeycomb of cells not a collective space, and kids lost in their own electronic world shut themselves off from their heritage. What to do?

This week's launch of Alan Moore's Electricomics offers the first glimpse of a new beginning for digital comics. Fans have been reading comics on electronic devices in increasing numbers over recent years, but until now publishers have been content to replicate the experience of the printed page.

Richard Branson is as bullish as ever about electric car sales, but carmakers have learned to be more cautious as their predictions have proved wildly optimistic. Still, many believe a turning point could soon be reached.  

Star Wars fan Izzy Cornthwaite wanted a Darth Vader costume and light sabre for her eighth birthday. But, upon exploring the UK Disney Store's website with her mum, Rebecca, she was sad to see that the outfit was listed as a "boys' costume". "Her face fell," says Rebecca. "Her eyes filled with tears and she said 'I can't have it, it says they're only for boys.'" But Izzy decided not to take it lying down and, following a quick chat with her mother about gender stereotypes, she wrote to Disney to explain her dismay at the labelling. A week later, she received a reply: "The description for this costume has now been amended as we understand that all our little Jedis enjoy Star Wars."

The Swedish filmmaker's latest movie, Force Majeure, about a father who abandons his family to an avalanche, raises unsettling questions about society's expectations.

Development of more sophisticated software could soon herald machines that can use common sense, talk naturally and even flirt with their owners.

Zuhur Yasin has never been to the United States, but she holds a bachelor's degree from an American university. Part of Yasin's studies in Somaliland, a self-declared independent country in Somalia, were spent in a classroom, lined with computers equipped with webcams and microphones. The 29-year-old watched videos and took part in live virtual classes at Indiana University as part of her journalism programme at the University of Hargeisa. The African Virtual University (AVU), an intergovernmental organisation, connected Yasin with Indiana University. The AVU says it has used virtual learning to train 43,000 students since its creation in 1997. Last year, it announced 29 new distance-learning centres like the one Yasmin used to take part in seminars 13,000km away

A study has shown that in contemporary hunter-gatherer tribes, men and women tend to have equal influence on where their groups lives and who they live with.

Traditional slot machines used to pay out on 3 per cent of spins, but those manufactured today return at a rate of 45 per cent, according to an article by Andrew Thompson on American technology news website The Verge.

Activists and corporations are increasingly using public information laws to intimidate researchers into disclosing data that should be confidential.