Berkman Alumni, Friends, and Spinoffs

Keep track of Berkman-related news and conversations by subscribing to this page using your RSS feed reader. This aggregation of blogs relating to the Berkman Center does not necessarily represent the views of the Berkman Center or Harvard University but is provided as a convenient starting point for those who wish to explore the people and projects in Berkman's orbit. As this is a global exercise, times are in UTC.

The list of blogs being aggregated here can be found at the bottom of this page.

December 19, 2014

Global Voices
Washington's $60 Million for Russian Democracy Promotion Is ‘Essentially a Recommendation’
Obama and Putin meet outside Moscow, July 7, 2009. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza.

Obama and Putin meet outside Moscow, July 7, 2009. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza.

The United States enacted a new law yesterday called the “Ukraine Freedom Support Act.” Today, some Russian media outlets have noticed language in the law that seems to set aside $60 million for promoting Russian “democracy and civil society organizations,” including support for “expanding uncensored Internet access.”

Access to $60 million from the US government would undoubtedly be an exciting, albeit perilous, opportunity for Russia’s many activists and journalists working online. That money, however, is unlikely ever to materialize.

The law is only an “authorization of appropriations,” not an actual appropriations bill. In other words, Congress and the president have merely signaled their support for spending this money. Without an associated appropriation, the Ukraine Freedom Support Act doesn’t actually promise so much as an extra cent for democracy promotion in Russia.

A source in Washington’s democracy-promotion community told RuNet Echo, “The authorization language is essentially a recommendation, and we’re not expecting it to result in any new appropriations for Russian media or civil society.”

by Kevin Rothrock at December 19, 2014 07:05 PM

Creative Commons
European Space Agency shares Mars Express images and videos under CC

Hellas Chaos on Mars
Hellas Chaos on Mars / ESA/DLR/FU Berlin / CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

As of yesterday, the European Space Agency is now sharing all of its images and videos from the Mars Express mission under CC BY-SA. ESA is using the IGO port of CC BY-SA 3.0. ESA is one of several intergovernmental organizations to use the IGO port since we introduced it last year.

From ESA’s announcement:

Since January 2004, ESA and its partners at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and the Freie Universität Berlin (FUB) have been jointly publishing colour, stereo pictures of the martian surface from orbit, both still and moving. For example, a “Mars showcase” video, comprised of HRSC images, has been viewed almost 700,000 times since it was published on ESA’s Youtube channel in 2013.

But starting today, something is different with these regular image releases: in a joint undertaking by all three partners, Mars Express HRSC images will be made available under a Creative Commons (CC) licence. The licence we will apply is the same one we recently introduced for Rosetta NAVCAM images: CC BY-SA IGO 3.0.

[…]

While at ESA we have only just begun releasing content under Creative Commons licences, our partners at DLR have been using CC as their standard licencing policy since 2012. Nevertheless, there is still something just a little bit special about the news today: as far as we know, it is the first time that three public organisations in Europe have teamed up in licencing a batch of joint content under Creative Commons.

ESA also posted this amazing video yesterday, making it the first video of Mars the agency has published under BY-SA:

by Elliot Harmon at December 19, 2014 05:12 PM

Global Voices
Is India Ready for the ‘Big Time’ in World Sports?
Fikru Tefera of Atletico De Kolkata somersault is goal to beat Mumbai City Fc defender during the Indian Super League (ISL) tournament at Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Stadium in Salt Lake City, Kolkata, India. Image by Reporter#7585286. Kolkata, India. Copyright (12/10/2014)

Fikru Tefera of Atletico De Kolkata somersault is goal to beat Mumbai City Fc defender during the Indian Super League (ISL) tournament at Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Stadium in Salt Lake City, Kolkata, India. Image by Reporter#7585286. Kolkata, India. Copyright (12/10/2014)

Growing up in India was for the longest time synonymous with hearing “What a beautiful straight drive from Sachin Tendulkar”, but this is quickly changing. Kids today are more familiar with “What a wonderful dipping free kick from Elano” or “What an exquisite volley from Roger Federer”. Something is happening to this cricket-crazy nation, where all sports once seemed to boil down to cricket. Suddenly, the Indian Super League (ISL) is the most-attended football league in Asia and the fifth most attended in the world—a staggering statistic considering that it is the league's first season. Indian tennis is also booming is ways never before seen.

So, what's changed? Is cricket losing its grip on Indian sports? Or are cricket's competitors merely enjoying a temporary spike in popularity?

When it comes to football, India has been considered a “sleeping giant”, ever since placing fourth at the 1956 Olympic games and later winning two Asian Games gold medals. Since those successes, however, football has remained largely dormant in India. This, of course, is what the ISL wants to change. With old stars like Robert Pires, Luis Garcia, David Trezeguet, Nicholas Anelka, David James, and Joan Capdevilla, the league features some former heavyweight players. Internet users have certainly registered their excitement.

This is exactly how the MLS in North America, the J-League in Japan, and the A-League in Australia managed to take off. The idea is simple—get international starts to play with home-grown players and pass on the attitude, skills, and knowledge of the game. This has certainly helped the MLS and company, who year after year perform capably on the international stage and at the World Cup. In fact, the ISL presents Indian players like TP Rehenesh, Arnab Mondal and Subash Singh with the opportunity to show their talents and test themselves against the very best.

As the ISL's attendance rises and its competitiveness improves, it's hard not to be optimistic about the future of Indian football.

Tennis is another sport where India seems to be unlocking some of its potential. This year, massive crowds attended the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) matches. In Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes, India has two all-time best double players with 12 Grand Slam titles between them. For some reason, however, India hasn't produced big time singles players. 

To improve matters, India has introduced a franchise system similar to what's found in other countries. With Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, Ana Ivanovic, Tomas Berdych, the IPTL had the biggest names in tennis playing in India this year in front of sellout audiences.  

Many dismissed the IPTL's games as glorified exhibition matches (including ATP Tour’s executive chairman, Chris Kermode), but the IPTL is all about bringing tennis to countries that are starved for the biggest names in the game.

Traveling through Manila, New Delhi, Singapore, and Dubai, the tournament saw Indian aces win several victories. Perhaps more surprisingly, the competition drew good attendance and scored decent ratings on television. For a tournament designed merely to maintain India's interest in tennis, while the nation retools and restores its tennis infrastructure, the results were an unqualified success.

And it doesn’t stop here: India will be hosting the FIFA Under-17 World Cup in 2017 and the 2014 Hockey Champions Trophy, which just wrapped up in Bhubaneshwar.

As a venue of global sports, India is particularly exciting as a “sleeping giant.” The recent surge in the popularity of sports like football and tennis raise all kinds of hopes and expectations for the Indian athletes of the future.

by Sourabh at December 19, 2014 02:46 PM

A High-Rise Condo Tower Is Photobombing the Philippines’ National Hero
Senator Pia Cayetano poses in front of the Rizal monument to show how the residential tower is ruining the view of the heritage site. Photo from Facebook page of Senator Pia

Senator Pia Cayetano poses in front of the Rizal monument to show how the residential tower in the background is ruining the view of the heritage site. Photo from Facebook page of Senator Pia

Many Filipinos have expressed opposition to a residential building project in Manila which they claim would destroy the view of the monument of the country’s national hero, Jose Rizal.

Rizal was a writer and doctor who was martyred for espousing reforms when the Philippines was still under Spanish rule in the late 1800s. His life and writings have inspired subsequent generations to show more love to the country and pride in being a Filipino. Rizal was declared a national hero and his statue can be found in numerous parks across the country. But his most famous monument is in Luneta Park in Manila.

Rizal’s followers and even ordinary Filipinos are up in arms over the condominium project of DMCI, a major realty corporation, which is located at the back of Luneta Park. According to critics, the 49-storey DMCI Torre de Manila will be a photobombing eyesore for tourists and residents who wanted to take a photograph of Rizal’s monument.

Aside from lobbying with local officials, opponents of the project are also asking the public to support the campaign to stop the construction of the condominium, which they already called Terror de Manila instead of Torre de Manila. Using the Twitter hashtag #‎NoToTerrorDeManila‬, users have posted photographic proof of the tower's unwelcome presence behind Rizal's monument:

The DMCI has claimed that some of the photos have been photoshopped. It released photos to show that the Rizal monument can be photographed without including the condominium in the frame. It advised the public to shoot the monument at a certain angle if they do not want to see the tower in their photos.

Senator Pia Cayetano, who has been opposing the project, accused DMCI of insulting Filipinos:

It now wants all Filipinos, foreign tourists, dignitaries and practically coming generations from here on to adopt its preferred ‘view’ of the Rizal Monument, which until late last year, has stood there, proud and unchallenged for 100 years. How convenient!

Senator Pia released this photo on her Facebook page to prove that the tower destroys the view of the Rizal monument

Senator Pia released this photo on her Facebook page to prove that the tower destroys the view of the Rizal monument

Activist Sarah Katrina Maramag wrote that the Torre de Manila issue highlighted some of the problems caused by unbridled development in the city:

The Torre de Manila is not the first and it will not be the last. We live in a period when tourism is “more fun in the Philippines”. When devastation has become a smokescreen for profitable investments in the name of rehabilitation and reconstruction. When lives and livelihoods are demolished with impunity to give way to giant shopping malls and commercial complexes.

In response to the appeal to stop the construction of the building, DMCI reiterated that it has obtained all the necessary papers and permits from the city government to continue with the project.

In the meantime, more and more Filipinos are taking selfie photos with Rizal before the Torre de Manila becomes a permanent photobomb near the monument.

by Mong Palatino at December 19, 2014 01:36 PM

Murder of LGBTQ Activist Renews Venezuela’s Human Rights Debate

Giniveth Soto y Migdely Miranda en el acto de entrega de firmas a la AN por el matrimonio igualitario. Fotografía tomada del blog Un Pobre Peatón.

 Migdely Miranda and Giniveth Soto (right) turning in signatures to the National Assembly for marriage equality. Photo taken from the blog, Un Pobre Peatón [A Poor Pedestrian].

All links are in Spanish. 

LGBTQ rights defenders are mourning Giniveth Soto, a Venezuelan gender-equality activist murdered earlier this week. According to unofficial sources, a carjacker shot and killed Soto in Caracas, after she refused to surrender her car. 

The right to marriage equality in Venezuela was one of Soto's most important campaign. Despite advancements on this issue in neighboring countries, same-sex couples in Venezuela are not permitted to marry. This didn't stop Soto, who in 2013 married her partner, Migdely Miranda. Venezuela's government, however, refused to recognize the ceremony and contested the parenthood of Soto's son, Salvador, who was conceived using artificial insemination.

Soto's murder has launched at least two major, nationwide public debates: urban violence and threats same-sex couples face in Venezuela.

The Un Pobre Peatón (A Poor Pedestrian) recently addressed both these issues:

En medio del robo del vehículo que usaba para hacer carreras de taxi y mantener a su familia, un delincuente le disparó y acabó con su vida (…) Todo el dolor que significa una pérdida tan trágica como ésta, parece haberse vuelto parte de la cotidianidad de Venezuela. Un país que luego de 13 Ministrxs del Interior y mas de 20 planes de “seguridad” se mantiene en los primeros lugares de muertes violentas en el mundo con decenas de miles de víctimas cada año. Aquí da la sensación de que todxs tenemos un número en la fila y estamos esperando que nos toque el turno.

Venezuela's refusal to recognize gay married couples makes death a political issue, too:

Como si fuese poco el riesgo al que estamos expuestxs todxs lxs venezolanxs de ser víctimas de la violencia y la impunidad, las personas LGBTI de Venezuela y nuestras familias también debemos enfrentarnos a la falta de protección legal. Luego del doloroso asesinato de su madre, el pequeño Salvador de apenas 3 meses de nacido ha quedado en situación de vulnerabilidad. Ni él ni su madre Migdely tienen el derecho de heredar los bienes que Gini deja en Venezuela, ni de recibir pensión de sobreviviente de corresponderle. Migdely no tenía derecho a decidir sobre los restos de su esposa, la persona a la que amaba y con la que soñaba pasar el resto de su vida.

In a similar tone, lawyer and activist Tamara Adrián mused online: 

The Civil Association for Equality in Venezuela has also weighed in, urging citizens to seek justice in this tragedy, which the group calls “a crime that afflicts the foundation of the fight for equality.”

El esclarecimiento del asesinato de nuestra valiente e imparable activista es urgente, no puede quedar impune un crimen y más aún si se trata de un crimen que aflige dolorosamente las bases de la lucha por la reivindicación de derechos de la población sexodiversa venezolana. Es imperante hacer justicia, pero además es neurálgico fortalecer nuestros poderes públicos para garantizar el efectivo ejercicio del derecho a la vida en libertad y equidad, sin discriminación ni estigmas basados en prejuicios atávicos judeo-cristianos, sin violencia psicológica y moral a consecuencia de una cultura heterosexista, machista y sexista…

by Kelley Johnson at December 19, 2014 06:28 AM

December 18, 2014

Doc Searls
We’re all going to need clothes

door knocker, beacon hillIn the physical world we know what privacy is and how it works.

We know it because we have developed privacy technologies and norms for thousands of years. Doors and windows are privacy technologies. So is clothing. So are manners respecting the intentions behind others’ use of those things. Those manners are personal, and social. They are how we clothe, shelter and conduct ourselves — and respect how others do the same.

The Internet is a new virtual world we also inhabit. In the form we know it today, it was born with the first graphical browsers, the first ISPs, email and other handy graces.

In many ways it was a paradise. But, as with Eden, we arrived naked there — and we still are, except for the homes and clothing we get from companies like Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple. Also from governments and other entities that tell us what our names are and limit what we can do.

What those entities give us is as modern as the middle ages. We toil and prosper inside the walls of their castles, and on their company lands. In many ways, this isn’t bad. But it isn’t ours.

To have true privacy in the networked world, we should be in charge of our own lives, our own identities, our own data, our own things, in our own ways.

We should be able to control what we disclose, to whom, and on what terms.

We should be able to keep personal data as secret and secure as we like.

We should be able to share that data with others in faith that only those others can see and use it.

Our digital identities should be sovereign — ours alone — and disclosed to others at our discretion.

(True: administrative identifiers are requirements of civilization, but they are not who we are, and we all know that.

Think of how identity works in the physical world: why governments and credit cards call me David while family members call me Dave and the rest of the world calls me Doc.

In the physical world we are not constantly advertising our identity. Nor is every entity we encounter interested in burdening themselves with knowing our names. It is enough to recognize each other as human beings, and learn people’s names when they tell us. Up to that point we remain for each other literally anonymous: nameless. This is a civic and social grace we hardly cared about until it was stripped from us online.

In the physical world, companies don’t plant tracking beacons on people, or follow them around to see who who are and what they do — unless they’ve been led by big-data-at-all-costs advisors to copy the bad manners of an online world that has the manners of a toddler.

Bad manners by companies spying on us online won’t change as long as we don’t control means of disclosing our selves, including data that is clearly ours. Until we have true privacy — privacy that we define and control for ourselves — all we’ll have are:

  • Crude prophylaxis, such as tracking and advertising blockers
  • Talk about which companies screw us the least
  • Talk about how governments screw us too
  • Calls for laws and regulations that protect yesterday from last Thursday

We won’t get true privacy — the kind we’ve know and understood offline since forever — until we have the online equivalents of the clothing, doors and manners we have long established in the physical world.

If we expect big companies or governments to give it to us, we’re barking up the wrong tree.

I’m hoping we’ll get it from the Barney Pressmans of the online world. Here’s a classic ad for Barney’s (his clothing store) that ran in the 1960s: http://youtu.be/KMIgu9-zd8M. (Just watch the first one, which ends :47 seconds in.) That’s where my headline came from.

 

by Doc Searls at December 18, 2014 11:40 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
Cuba: More Money Means More Technology, With or Without State Reforms
Correos de Cuba, Cuban postal service kiosk. Photo by Victor Manuel via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Correos de Cuba, Cuban postal service kiosk. Photo by Victor Manuel via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Wednesday’s bombshell announcements that the U.S. and Cuban governments have decided to re-establish diplomatic ties after 56 years of estrangement brought tears, joy, awe, and disbelief to Cubans across the globe. (And some anger from Cuban-Americans, too.) While President Obama’s speech was watchable in real time—televised and live streamed on the White House website—those outside of Cuba had to wait patiently for the text of Raul Castro’s speech to be transcribed and uploaded to Cuban state media sites. The brief address delivered by Cuba’s commander-in-chief was not streamed live because Cuba’s rickety Internet infrastructure cannot support it. At least not yet. 

Among thousands of other questions flying around the Internet and the streets of Miami, Havana, and Washington today is the question of technology. What will these changes mean for Internet access and mobile telephony in Cuba? For now, little is certain. But there are a few things we can glean from what both leaders have said—and haven’t said—so far.

More money, more technology

While Western advocates may rush to focus on how this will affect government policy and practice around the Internet, the impact of yesterday’s economic reforms on the tech environment in Cuba may be the most critical change to watch at the moment. With more money, more Cubans will be buy mobile phones and service. This does not mean that they will have Internet access – 3G is scarce at best on the island. But it will accelerate the changes that are already taking in place in Cuba due to peoples’ increasing ability to connect with one another through mobile telephony. More than ever, news and information that once traveled only by word of mouth will now circulate more quickly and in greater volume. And Cubans’ ability to communicate with friends and family abroad will likely increase too. 

We can also anticipate an influx of tech objects and hardware on the island – computers, mobile phones, hard drives, pen drives are all in high demand in Cuba and they are not easy to come across. Yesterday’s changes will without question make it easier for Cubans to obtain tech objects that will in turn enable greater communication and information sharing among Cubans.

And greater access to capital will also enable more Cubans to get online at hotel business centers and Internet cafes, where rates (ranging from USD $4.50 to $12.00 per hour) are out of reach for most of the population. This will not only increase the number of Cubans who use the Internet first hand, but also the quantity and diversity of digital media in circulation on the island. Videos, music, news, and literature regularly circulate second hand via pen drive, mobile phone apps and other lightweight mechanisms for data storage – a person with Internet access downloads a video, puts it on a pen drive, and circulates it hand-to-hand among friends who watch the video, copy it, and distribute it to more friends. The importance of these second-hand networks, what Cuban blogger Orlando Luis Pardo once termed Cuba’s “Internet offline”, must not be overlooked.

Two countries, two legal systems

It is hard to glean much from what the two leaders said about telecommunications policy. After acknowledging that U.S. sanctions on the country have for years “denied Cubans access to technology that has empowered individuals around the globe,” Obama stated:

I’ve authorized increased telecommunications connections between the United States and Cuba. Businesses will be able to sell goods that enable Cubans to communicate with the United States and other countries.

This promising but vague assertion raises a lot of questions—what kinds of businesses is he talking about? What kinds of goods? In recent years, telecommunications companies like Verizon and AT&T have pushed to loosen restrictions on their industries in an effort to enter negotiations with the Cuban government. And they have made progress since Obama came into office. But this is only one of two hurdles. The second is the Cuban government, which like, every country, imposes requirements and restrictions on foreign businesses that wish to establish themselves on their soil. 

With a few exceptions, foreign companies can enter contracts with the Cuban government only if they are willing to transfer 51 percent ownership of their holdings on the island to the Cuban government itself. In effect, this means that all foreign businesses are still majority owned by the Cuban government. It is hard to imagine that the Cuban state policy on this has changed altogether. Obama’s words suggest that this may have been part of their negotiations, but Raul Castro’s only mention of the issue suggested that the ball was still in Obama’s court. The Cuban president didn’t discuss changing Cuban tech policy or infrastructure. He said only that he “called upon the government of the United States to remove obstacles hindering … telecommunications.”

So plenty remains uncertain. Obama cannot unilaterally dismantle all U.S. government policies limiting contact and commerce with Cuba—as both leaders noted, the embargo is codified in legislation that only Congress can change. And although Obama advocated for leaders on both sides to move forward and leave behind their respective legacies of “colonialism and communism” it is not clear how this will play out in practice. Old habits die hard—and trust is no easier to build in the digital era than it was in 1961.

by Ellery Roberts Biddle at December 18, 2014 09:09 PM

Creative Commons
Flickr removes CC-licensed photos from Wall Art program

In October, Flickr announced a new service that allows its members to order printed photos on wood or canvas, choosing either from their own photos, from a set of curated images, or from about 50 million CC BY or CC BY-SA–licensed images. Flickr would share profits with the photographers of the curated images, but not the CC-licensed ones, as those licenses permit Flickr to use the photos commercially.

Today, we learned that Flickr is removing all CC-licensed images from the Wall Art program. I understand why Flickr has made the decision to change the program, and appreciate their commitment to working to strengthen our community.

This has been a controversial topic here at Creative Commons — at all levels of the organization, and in our community. Some feel that a community discussion should have come before launching the program, or that Flickr users should have had a choice of whether to allow Flickr to monetize their CC-licensed photos. Others think that abiding by the terms of CC BY isn’t enough, and that there is a moral obligation to share profits. And still others think that this is exactly what the free culture movement intended — permissive use of any kind by anyone (even large companies), so long as the terms are met.

Flickr has been a big part of the growth of the commons, and the advancement of CC licenses. In our recent State of the Commons report, we identified over 880 million licensed works — 307 million of them are on Flickr. It’s the largest public archive of CC-licensed images. So when I read articles and blog posts recommending that Flickr users remove their works from the commons, I was concerned. Users of any media platform should feel secure in their understanding of how their content will or won’t be used.

A central principle of open licenses is that the rights they grant apply to everyone, from hobbyists to large corporations. I hope this decision does not create confusion for those who would use licensed works. Under CC licenses, everyone plays by the same rules. Entrepreneurs should be able to experiment with monetizing openly licensed content without fear that if they become successful, the licenses will no longer apply to them. Just as licensors should be able to feel confident that the licenses are legally airtight, so should licensees.

Everyone can agree that providing clearer information on how CC licenses work — and what rights they grant — can prevent many misunderstandings. I see this as an important opportunity for Flickr and CC to do more to engage and inform users. We’re a global nonprofit that represents a diverse community of creators, users, businesses, and activists. In order for our work to be meaningful, we must recognize that the people who make up the commons are its most important asset.

Our vision is one where content of all kinds is freely available for use under simple terms, where the permissions are clear to everyone. If that doesn’t happen, creators can feel misled or cheated, and users are left uncertain if they can use the commons as a source of raw material. That’s not just about the terms of the licenses. It’s about how platforms develop and position their products and services, and how users engage in a community.

The Flickr team has asked Creative Commons to work with them to help make their messaging about CC license options clearer, and help ensure their programs are in alignment with the spirit of both communities. We hope that we can use this opportunity to help foster stronger relationships throughout the commons community, license users and media platforms alike. As we do that work in the coming months, I welcome your suggestions and ideas.

by Ryan Merkley at December 18, 2014 08:52 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
The Russian Internet is Not Free. A New Tax Might Make it Even Worse.
Russians could soon find themselves paying a tax to access their favorite online content streams. Images mixed by Tetyana Lokot.

Russians could soon find themselves paying a tax to access their favorite online content streams. Images mixed by Tetyana Lokot.

History tells us that citizens usually don't respond well to new taxes imposed on them against their will (remember the Boston Tea Party?). When the Hungarian government recently tried to foist an Internet tax on its people, thousands of Hungarians rose up and went into the streets, showering the ruling party's headquarters with old computer parts.

You'd think other countries would learn from Hungary's example. But the Russian government is now considering its own variant of an Internet tax, and wants to make all Russian Internet users pay for consuming copyrighted content online.

Whereas the Hungarian authorities wanted to tax Internet traffic per gigabyte, the Russian idea, put forth by the Russian Union of Copyright Holders (RUC), is a blanket solution for ensuring all users are automatically charged for accessing copyrighted content on the web,  regardless of whether or not they're consuming it.

How It Would Work
Under a concept known as “global licensing,” proposed by RUC in October, counts a wide variety of online audio, video and literary content as collective copyrighted property, and suggests that ISPs incorporate the tax into their tariffs. Although the concept has not yet become a draft bill, it already has a snazzy website that lobbies for the idea.

The Russian government is generally in favor of the Internet tax proposal and has appointed several ministries to collaborate on its implementation, but Leonid Levin, head of the parliamentary committee on information policy, has spoken out against the initiative.

RUC's head Sergey Fedotov, told Izvestia the tax would be 25 rubles ($0.35) per month for each web-enabled device.

Стоимость лицензии для одного подключения к интернету, будь то мобильный телефон или проводной интернет, составит 25 рублей в месяц, то есть 300 рублей в год. По имеющимся статистическим данным, это около пяти процентов от средних расходов каждого абонента на интернет.

The cost of a license for each Internet connection, whether it's a mobile phone or broadband Internet, would be 25 rubles per month, or 300 rubles per year. According to our statistics, this amounts to about 5% of what an average Russian Internet user pays for their Internet connection.

Twenty-five rubles (about USD $.40) may seem like a negligible sum, but between Russia's 130 million Internet users, it would add up to a significant sum—and one that would ultimately burden ISPs. Internet users themselves would not be paying the tax directly, but would instead incur the cost by “automatically” accepting a license agreement and a higher price for their Internet connection from their ISP of choice.

What Will Be Taxed
The “global license” is a unique licensing tool that, according to the Russian Ministry of Culture, will encompass “music tracks and recordings, audio-visual content and literary works.” Content produced by media and entertainment companies that is available online for free or is ad-supported would not be at issue here: rather, the tax would cover those kinds of media products that users would usually be expect to pay for, like a movie or a music album. But RUC suggests less common types of content, such as movie fragments shared online, might also be subject to taxation. In this respect, the new tax seems to be aimed at combating online piracy, as well as at generating revenue for right holders, adding to the existing anti-piracy legislation in Russia.

The Ministry of Culture later elaborated on the Internet tax idea, proposing to create a registry of copyrighted creative content online, making it easier to track consumption. The Ministry also suggested that ISPs should be obligated to install deep packet inspection (DPI) equipment in order to identify which content users consume on the RuNet. The DPI technology, Ministry officials say, will assure that the licensing tax revenue (which they estimate to reach $860 million a year) is fairly distributed among the copyright holders who own the rights to specific works.

The DPI technology specifications have already been developed for the Ministry of Culture by a local IT company called Systematic, RBK news agency reports. Systematic claims their technology will be able to recognize up to 90% of unencrypted traffic, but will not be able to analyze encrypted connections (like https) or torrent data transmission.

Given that most users who access pirated content online do so through torrent websites, use https, VPN protocols, or TOR to anonymize their connection, Russian telecommunication experts are skeptical about the effectiveness of the expensive technology suggested by global licensing enthusiasts.

RuNet Reaction
The Internet tax idea has met harsh criticism from Internet industry representatives, telecommunication providers, RuNet users, and even some government officials. Mobile Internet providers MTS, Megafon and Vimpelcom have spoken out against the concept of global licensing, and were joined by critical voices from the Ministry of Economic Development and the Ministry of Communications.

Representatives of several other IT companies, including Mail.Ru Group, Yandex and VKontakte, published an open letter addressed to President Putin on December 1, arguing that the new system would be “harmful for authors, copyright holders, users, the Russian Internet industry and the telecommunications business.” The companies’ representatives also expressed concern at the use of DPI technology to track users online, which they suggested was “a form of surveillance that violated international norms.” Forcing ISPs to install deep packet inspection equipment would only exacerbate existing surveillance and censorship mechanisms in Russia, like the SORM communications interception system and the IP-filtering used to block websites currently on the RuNet blacklist.

The RuNet users demonstrated their dismay at the Internet tax by launching an online petition on the Russian Civic Initiative website to collect signatures against what they called an “automatic anti-piracy fee” for all Internet users. The petition, started on December 6, calls state officials to drop the Internet tax idea and instead consider alternative means for protecting intellectual property, which would not violate citizens’ rights.

Большинству пользователей придётся платить за контент, который они не потребляют. Такие налоговые отчисления будут производиться не в интересах всего населения и даже не в интересах всех российских пользователей интернета, но в интересах ограниченной группы лиц. Кроме этого, не будет никакой гарантии того, что правообладатели действительно станут получать какие-либо отчисления с этого налога.

Most users would have to pay for content they do not consume. Such tax payments would not be made in the interests of all the citizens, and not in the interests of the RuNet users, but would only serve a limited group of people. Besides, there is no guarantee that the copyright holders would actually receive any royalties from this tax.

As of December 15, the petition had just over 14k of the 100k signatures that it needs to be considered for discussion in the relevant parliamentary committee.

If signed into law, global licensing scheme would leave RuNet users no choice but to pay the Internet tax, as it would be included in their Internet bill. For now, the Ministry of Culture is still discussing RUC's proposal, but hopes to work with other stakeholders to create a draft bill by the end of 2014. An official within the Ministry alleged the discussion could even take a year or two. While this may seem far off, the recent track record of Russian Internet legislation suggests the Internet tax has every chance of becoming a reality.

by Global Voices at December 18, 2014 06:54 PM

DML Central
Ferguson, Social Media and Educational Dialogue
Ferguson, Social Media and Educational Dialogue Blog Image

As St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch stepped to the microphone on the evening of Nov. 24 to announce the grand jury’s decision about the fate of Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot and killed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, on August 9, I found myself glued simultaneously to my laptop and the television set. I watched McCulloch’s statement on CNN while toggling between Twitter and Facebook to express my emotions in real time and gauge the reactions of friends, colleagues, and the rest of the world online. Physically, I was sitting on a couch in my parents’ home in a southern New Jersey suburb on an early Thanksgiving visit. I needed social media to feel connected to my own home in Los Angeles, to experience this with the city.

Very quickly, social media became not only a preoccupation of mine, but apparently one of Prosecutor McCulloch as well. Seconds into his statement, after recounting the basic facts of the case, he said, “within minutes [of the shooting], various accounts of the incident began appearing on social media.” My ears perked up a bit at this mention, but I assumed that the role of the Internet in this case would fade into just another detail in his narrative.

That did not happen. Just a few minutes later, McCulloch returned to the subject, this time making his opinion about the role of social media in the investigation crystal clear:

“The most significant challenge encountered in this investigation has been the 24-hour news cycle and its insatiable appetite for something, for anything, to talk about. Following closely behind were the nonstop rumors on social media.”

Now I was riveted — intrigued that he believed all posts on social media were “rumors” and annoyed by his attempt to shift any of the blame for the shooting to posts on Twitter and elsewhere that played a critical role in drawing national attention to this outrage in the first place.

I turned to Twitter and immediately noticed the post pictured above by @TheTweetofGod. I appreciated the satire and re-tweeted the post. I learned quickly that I was not alone in being struck by McCulloch’s dismissive stance on social media. As of Thanksgiving evening, @TheTweetofGod’s post had been retweeted nearly 9,000 times. The rebuttals to McCulloch began almost immediately — the New York Times offered a useful compilation.

I won’t rehash all of the responses since they have already been offered (and quite eloquently) by many, but I will echo the important idea that people in positions of authority often fear social media because of its democratizing force. It offers a platform for voices that might previously have gone unheard to shout, draw the world’s attention, and demand a response.

And, that is exactly what it did (and continues to do) in the aftermath of the grand jury decision. It documented protests, often offering a counter-narrative to the mainstream media narrative of chaos and destruction. It immediately began analyzing pieces of witness testimony and other documents from the trove released by the prosecutor. And it offered raw emotion as folks from around the world registered their responses to the non-indictment — my raw emotion included.

I used Facebook and Twitter in the minutes and hours and days after the announcement to express my own howl of pain and anger and outrage. Since many of my Facebook friends and Twitter followers/followees share my perspective on social and political issues, I found a great deal of commiseration and support that helped me process my emotions. Another critical use of social media: a way to find a community of like-minded individuals that you can build with. 

Quickly, however, I also discovered that some people I cared about did NOT share my perspective. And, they began sharing theirs on my page. My emotions were so fresh that I flashed with anger — my status updates gathered comments below them that were often several paragraphs long, filled with competing facts and healthy doses of invective. I couldn’t be calm enough to understand. I read tweets so breathtakingly full of hate that I despaired for any hope of progress.

I believe strongly in the necessity of civil dialogue across lines of difference, which is why I had started sharing my opinions in public online spaces in the first place, but I found myself itching to de-friend some folks. I saw that some of my friends already declared that they were clearing their friend lists of people who shared opinions about Ferguson that differed from their own. I wondered: is it even possible to have the kinds of vulnerable, incredibly difficult discussions about race, criminal justice, and the law that we need to have to foster understanding and hope through social media?

I don’t have the answer to this question. I’m still engaging with folks online, and I haven’t de-friended anyone yet. I think that the kind of sustained listening and relational trust needed for these conversations is best fostered offline, but I do think that social media can offer the spark to create educational dialogue. Which is really all you can ask for in 140 characters anyhow, right?

This spark has taken many forms. In the hours after the announcement, Ashley Ford, a Brooklyn writer, tweeted about her intention to donate to the Ferguson Public Library as a response, which in turn encouraged hundreds more to do the same and has provided the library, which serves as an educational haven for youth and teachers in Ferguson when schools are closed, with hundreds of thousands of dollars in assistance for its work.

The #fergusonsyllabus hashtag has generated a list of readings, films, songs, and other multimedia resources that could sustain a lifelong series of classes in the history of race in America and beyond.

The #fergusoninclass hashtag has offered a powerful platform for young people to express their opinions, ideas, hopes, and fears about the Ferguson decision and so much more about the experience of race in America. It also offers teachers a starting point for communicating with fellow educators and devising their own ways of broaching difficult but necessary conversations with their students.

And the #fergusonnext hashtag is pushing all of us to think about how we channel our sorrow and frustration into a sustained movement for change. It has morphed into a website, supported by various media partners, where users can offer concrete suggestions for change on topics ranging from police and education reform to economic empowerment.

While those who live by hierarchical power structures and who prefer to make authoritative decisions behind closed doors may fear social media, I hope that the rest of us, and particularly educators, continue to embrace it in order to find solace, be challenged, and spark change.

Banner image credit: velo_city

by mcruz at December 18, 2014 04:00 PM

Global Voices
Global Voices Contributor Thalia Rahme, ‘a Mix of Everything’
2014-12-06 12.52.32

Thalia Rahme in Berlin. Photo from Thalia Rahme and used with her permission.

I do not have the pleasure of ever having meet Global Voices’ volunteer Thalia Rahme in person. But it just so happens that she considers GV French Lingua editor Claire Ulrich, who is one of my oldest and appreciated friends at GV, as a kind of a foster mother, so I can consider her as a niece then!

And a what a fantastic niece she is. I spoke with Thalia to get to know her a bit more. Take a look at the interview below. 

Juan Arellano (JA): Tell us about yourself.

Thalia Rhame (TR): I am the eldest of 2 girls and a boy :) Aries by horoscope, I live in Beirut – Lebanon, single hahah. I majored in anthropology and I am currently a communication officer on a regional programme in an international NGO. Soon jobless as my contract is ending in December .. hint, hint. A Gver since 2011, I'm someone very eclectic with no particular choice in clothes, food, style in guys (lol) or anything, and that is also extending recently to politics and social issues … I love travelling, airports and train stations :). Maybe that video produced during a workshop on digital storytelling during the DW Global Media Forum could give you an idea of who I am:

IMG-20140511-WA0013

Thalia Rahme in Lebanon. Photo by Thalia Rahme and used with her authorization.

JA: Tell us a bit about the city you live in.

TR: Beirut es como yo, a mix of everything, hyper, with contradictions and oppositions, open. Some people prefer mountains and calm but I am a very urban person, I can't sleep if windows and doors are not open. I need to hear car horns every day, otherwise I would feel something is missing. Beirut has multiple identities in a way like me as well, speaks many languages. A very eclectic city. It has been demolished 7 times due to terremotos [earthquakes] and later on the civil war and yet it is still here as alive as ever :). I think foreigners love Beirut as they feel home … its a very comfortable city, for many its very expensive as well. Very polluted but I don't care much … when you love something you accept, and despite what people say … Beirut is very safe in many ways. And sorry to repeat the damn cliche but you can really find someone in mini-jupe [miniskirt] walking along side with someone in full veil.

JA: You speak a lot of languages, How did you learn them all?

TR: Bueno, as Lebanese I don't think I have much credit in that. Most of us already speak 3 languages (Arabic, French and English). Now as a child, I was born in a not so wealthy family if one can say, and so the only way for me to escape was in the beginning to read, and read as I couldn't afford plane tickets. At school I got the opportunity to study Spanish for my French Baccalaureate … which is relatively easy if you know French. Later on, “Samarcande” by Amine Maalouf, made me fell in love with the poetry of Omar Khayam and I promised myself that one day I will read his “Roba'iyat” in their original language …and since Farsi is close to Arabic that was a bit easy for me (though I am still at the very early stages learning … and due to lack of time, I often have to resume the courses).

I have some notions of Turkish because of the Turkish movies wave that downed the world :) so instead of watching the dubbed versions … I would seek the original with subtitles (no matter how lousy the translation was), besides I fell in love with Turkish songs which melody and rhythm is oriental. And finally I've just started learning German (don't ask me why lol). I do not describe myself as a polyglot rather as someone who can manage Turkish is connected to Arabic and Farsi … German to both French and English, and in a way, so far the languages I command even if a bit, are all related in a way or in another … so in a way I'm not doing much effort. I would have to challenge myself in a language with a completely different alphabet or structure to be able to say I am gifted. I don't know, Chinese maybe, Bangla, or some indigenous language? Quechua? Welsh? I am open to any suggestion.

JA: Now, let´s talk about Global Voices. Our community is evolving and some things are changing. What would you prefer remains the same and what changes do you like?

TR: I am not sure if GV wants to change or if this change is imposed by a number of external as much as internal elements. The community is much larger than before (since the days GV started) but what is sure is that before, GV used to be a precursor or a pioneer in conveying the opinion of bloggers, citizen journalists, netizens … later on, this idea was replicated by all. So in a way or in another, GV has lost its singularity.

We have tried the tendency “Huffington Post” style through the section we innovated “The Bridge“, and I am curious to know the result of such an experiment in GV. For me, what is important is the GV community, the GV family … it doesn't really matter if we are like others or if others are like us. This is the strength of GV… as long as the info we're conveying is accurate, the rest doesn't matter and that is what should be felt in our posts.

It is true that we are transmitting others opinion which is on Twitter, blogs or god knows in the future which medium … the medium or media doesn't matter, it is the opinion in itself that matters. But in addition to these opinions, when I read a post of Claire Ulrich for instance or even a translation, I can really feel the specific style of Claire … When you read a post of any author or contributor, you should with your eyes closed, identify this author or translator.

The new tendency is a much stronger activism but without color. And this is where GV can differentiate itself. Nuestros colores y olores :) Our colors and smells… and through projects like Rising Voices

Thanks, Thalia! You can follow her on Twitter at @Thalloula or read her blog in Arabic.

by Juan Arellano at December 18, 2014 03:25 PM

Hong Kong Police's Arrest of Teen ‘Shopping’ Protesters Sparks Concern
Police officers raised a yellow flag in Mong Kok shopping district before they took arrest action.

Police officers raised a yellow flag in Mong Kok shopping district before they began arresting people. Photo from inmediahk.net

The author of this post is a volunteer editor for news site inmediahk.net, which is quoted throughout this report.

Hong Kong police have cleared all the protest sites of Occupy Central, the months-long sit-in movement demanding citizen nomination of candidates for the city's top leader. But in the shopping district of Mong Kok, protesters haven't given up, even though police say they can no longer stay. Thousands have taken to strolling through the normally congested area in a peaceful “shopping” protest

Police have tried to clamp down on the tactic by arresting participants, something Occupy Central is certainly no stranger to – since the protests began on September 27, 955 protesters and protest supporters have been arrested.

In Mong Kok, however, the arrests have taken a troubling turn. Over the weekend of December 13 and 14, officers arrested 14 minors, accusing them of participating in an illegal assembly and obstructing police in the execution of their duties.

Human rights activists worry that Hong Kong police are targeting young activists, who are more vulnerable to threats and may not be aware of their legal rights.

14-year-old student activist Cheung Chun Ho has been arrested three times since the rehearsal of the Occupy Central protests on July 2, 2014. According to an interview with citizen media platform inmediahk.net, Cheung believes that he was singled out by a police officer on November 25 during the clearance of the Mong Kok protest site. He was arrested and charged with “contempt of court” and “obstructing a police officer in the execution of his duty”:

他憶述被捕時遭近20名警員「捉實」,當中有警員更曾點名高叫:「係你啦,捉住你啦!」…他表示自己當時嗌咪是和執達主任交涉及呼籲群眾離去,後來因現場擠迫,被迫到最前的封鎖線。
在到達警署後,他曾要求致電予家人,但警方只准許他提供電話號碼後代為致電。他指警方「開大冷氣」及不斷對他冷言冷語。及後至26日凌晨4時,有警員對張表示早上會向法庭申請保護令和「把他送到男童院」。

He recalled during the arrest he was pressed down by about 20 police officers and he heard a police officer yell, “You are the right person, now we catch you!” […] He explained that he was holding the microphone and negotiating with the bailiff officer and urging others to leave the scene when he was arrested. He was push to the front line because it was too crowded.

When he arrived at the police station, he demanded to make a phone call to his family, but the police made the call for him instead. He also said the police turned the air conditioner to very low temperature and kept speaking to him with a mocking tone. At around 4 a.m., a police officer told Cheung that he would be moved to the court in the morning for a writ authorizing his being in custody and will then be “sent to a juvenile home”.

While Cheung's court case was still pending, he was arrested again on December 14 when the police sealed off a street in Mong Kok district to crack down on the “shopping” protest. The police arrested him after they checked his identity card:

在警署中,警察除登記他身分證、電話及住址等資料外,更被問及家人電話和就讀學校等個人資料,有警察更曾對他說:「你以後行街小心啲。」

At the police station, the police not only registered his identity card, telephone and address, but also questioned him about his family's contacts, school and other personal background information. A police officer warned him to “be careful when you are in streets in the future.”

Shen Wai Nam, a member from Citizen Right Observe, told inmediahk that children and teenagers might not know how to exercise their right to remain silent or would feel terrorized by the arrest. He further said that the police's actions had violated United Nation's conventions:

沈偉男指出,目前根本沒有法例禁止未成年人在晚上逛街,這行為不應被預設為不正常及違法,警察的做法或已違反《聯合國人權公約》及《兒童權利公約》,侵犯了青年的「和平集會參與權」及當捲進法律衝突時的「受保護權」。

Shen Wai Nam pointed out there is no law prohibiting minors from walking in the streets at night. The behavior should not be considered as abnormal or illegal. [Arresting them] may have violated the United Nation's Convention on Rights of the Child and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as the police deprived the teenagers from the right to participate in peaceful assembly and the right to protection.

Those arrested since the Occupy Central movement kicked off have been accused of having access to a computer with criminal or dishonest intent, illegal assembly, instigating a crime, and obstructing a police officer in the execution of his duty.

Chiang Kang, a writer from inmediahk.net whose father is a police officer, explained why the police are so nervous about the shopping protest:

跟我的警察父親辯論時,我不斷強調示威者是多和平、多平凡的普通人,他卻說:「你地放火燒車點算?你地去佔領機場一鑊熟咁點算?」聽到他的語氣,我語塞。他們,真心地,拒絕相信這個世界上有「和平示威者」的存在。[...]
對於鳩嗚這種無定性、無目的,流動性、可變性高的活動,他們更是莫名地恐懼。於他們看來,鳩嗚比佔領的不穩定性更高。他們對於「不知道接下來會發生甚麼」的恐懼很大,所以每一次都overreact,寧願有殺錯無放過,冒著濫權的指控,務求在生事前驅散或控制,更執意態度強硬,希望殺雞警猴。[...]
警隊,甚至整個香港,過去於人權教育上是可悲地缺乏。而且由於被放到了光譜的最極端處,他們對於集會自由等與日常生活不太切身的權利,不能理解,也看不到必要性;相對地,維穩和秩序是保持社回安定的必要條件。所以他們看到的,就只有一群搞亂香港的廢青,一群犯法的危險群眾。他們不能明白眼前的示威者,不能明白社會急需的變改,以及那變改所需要的手段。
站到前線,他們完全忽視、漠視了示威者的追求和聲音。[...] 說服自己是為了一個Greater Good,然後狠狠地毆下去。他們不曾想過,自己一手一棍扑倒的,可能就是那個Greater Good。

When I debated with my police father, I kept stressing that the protesters were very peaceful and they were just ordinary people. He said, “What if you burn the car? What if you occupy the airport and shut down Hong Kong?” His tone of voice made me speechless. They refuse to believe that “peaceful protesters” really exist in this world.

As for “shopping” — a form of protest that cannot be defined and is mobile, flexible and without any specific aims — they are deeply fearful. For them, “shopping” is more unstable than an occupation. They don't know what will happen next and that fear is huge. That's why they overreact and risk the accusation of abuse of power when they take action against it. They want to disperse the people before anything happens and determine to kill the chicken to scare the monkey [a Chinese proverb meaning to make an example out of someone] […]

Hong Kong, in particular the police force, is lacking in human right education. As the city is situated next to a most extreme region [mainland China], they can't comprehend rights like the right to assembly, which seems to have nothing to do with their daily life. That's why they don't find it necessary to defend it. On the contrary, stability is necessary. In their eyes, the protesters are teenage trash, a dangerous crowd that is likely to break the law. They can't understand the protesters or the changes that society needs, as well as the means that can achieve those changes.

When they stand on the front line, they disregard the dreams and the voices of the protesters.[…] They believe they represent the Greater Good when they beat protesters. What they don't realize is that their batons are actually hitting the Greater Good.

Andy Tsang Wai Hong, the head of the police department, told the press that they will continue to investigate the protests and carry out more arrests. On December 14, a total of 20 protesters were arrested in Mong Kok shopping district, seven of whom were minors. Judging from the crackdown on the “shopping” protest, young activists could be a major arrest target.

Follow our in-depth coverage: Hong Kong's Umbrella Revolution

by Oiwan Lam at December 18, 2014 01:19 AM

Global Voices Advocacy
Freedom of Speech is a Top Target in Erdogan's War on the ‘Parallel State’
Thousands protest in Istanbul against corruption and Erdogan's Govt in Dec. 2013. A banner with Fethullah Gulen and PM Erdogan's pictures reads "one is no better than the other". Fulya Atalay for Demotix.

In December 2013, thousands protested corruption and Erdogan's government in Istanbul. A banner with Fethullah Gulen and PM Erdogan's pictures reads “one is no better than the other.” Fulya Atalay for Demotix, image no. 3553279.

Around this time last year, Turkey woke up to the drama of a criminal investigation linking the family and close associates of then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan with the biggest corruption scandal in the country's history. Rather than resign, Erdogan promised to fight the political opponents he claimed were puppeteering the investigation.

So fight he did, in his own authoritarian way.

Fast forward to final weeks of 2014 and Erdogan is now president, as powerful as ever, celebrating a wave of arrests that has alarmed spectators in and outside the country. The arrests have targeted opposition journalists and supposed political supporters of Muhammed Fethullah Gulen, a former ally turned foe, who now lives in the United States. Gulen — a wealthy philanthropist, educator and former imam who inspired the Hizmet movement, is rarely referred to by international media without being described as reclusive — but has attracted admirers the world over. These admirers include policemen, judges and other government officials in Turkey. 

Since the graft scandal exploded, Erdogan has been firing barbs at Gulen, whom he holds personally responsible for the darkest months of his political career. This period began with the arrests of the children of ministers in his cabinet in December of 2013 and peaked with the appearance online of an audio-recording of two men whose voices resemble Erdogan and his son, Bilal, in February of this year. In the recording, purportedly from the day the ministers were arrested, the two men discuss how to hide large amounts of money (presumed to be illegally obtained) as an investigation by police (presumed to be pro-Gulen) closed in on Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP). 

Given that Erdogan believes the anti-corruption investigation was the handiwork of Gulen loyalists, the Dec. 14 arrests targeting media workers with supposed sympathies to the educator have the feeling of a long-planned revenge

Erdogan appeared to sound an official warning of what was to come Dec. 13, when he said:

We are not just faced with a simple network but one which is pawn of evil forces at home and abroad. Whoever is beside them and behind them we will bring down this network and bring it to account.

On the same day, Fuat Avni, a Twitter user claiming to be a government insider warned that police raids on media outlets were imminent. 

In the event, 31 people — journalists and police officers with presumed affiliation to Gulen — were arrested. Among them is Nedim Dumanli, the editor-in-chief of Zaman newspaper, Hidayet Karaca, head of Samanyolu TV and Ali Kara, the scriptwriter of the popular and controversial television series, One Turkey. All have been charged with directing and founding and belonging to an armed terror organisation.

According to Human Rights Watch, the arrests are part of a pattern wherein terrorism and coup plot charges are leveled against opposition journalists. Emma Sinclair-Webb, the organisation's Senior Turkey Researcher wrote Dec. 15:

Arresting journalists around the corruption anniversary suggests an effort to discredit and intimidate Gülenist media…The arrests fit the familiar pattern of pursuing journalists for alleged membership of illegal organizations in order to silence critical media.

Relations between the two men were reportedly sour throughout 2012 but dive-bombed Nov. 13 when Erdogan began closing down the former's educational institutions in Turkey. Since Gulen's relationship with Erdogan took a dramatic turn for the worse, it has been much easier for Erdogan loyalists to identify the nation's true enemy.

Earlier this summer, ahead of his presidential election win in August, Erdogan sacked hundreds of police officers and prosecutors, effectively taking the momentum out of corruption allegations against AKP. While the charges against Erdogan's friends have all been dropped, it seems more likely that these new charges — against his enemies — will stick. 

On Oct.14, the European Union that Turkey once had hopes of joining, condemned the arrests. Federica Mogherini, the EU Foreign Policy Chief and Enlargement Commissioner, and Johannes Hahn issued a joint statement that read:

The police raids and arrests of a number of journalists and media representatives in Turkey today are incompatible with the freedom of media, which is a core principle of democracy.

But condemnations in the name of democracy are just words that can be brushed aside, while political revenge tastes so sweet.

by Arzu Geybullayeva at December 18, 2014 12:08 AM

December 17, 2014

Global Voices Advocacy
Netizen Report: Kyrgyz News Site Censored in Central Asia for ISIS Coverage

 

Screen capture from video.

Screen capture from video.

Ellery Roberts Biddle, Lisa Ferguson, Arzu Geybullayeva, Grady Johnson, Chris Rickleton, and Sarah Myers West contributed to this report. 

We begin this week's report in Central Asia, where independent media workers have been gripped by controversy over a video that allegedly depicts children from Kazakhstan at an ISIS training camp in Syria. Kloop.kg, an independent news site based and hosted in neighboring Kyrgyzstan, republished the video as part of an article about Kazakh children purportedly living in ISIS training camps in the Middle East. When Kazakh authorities asked that Kloop remove the video, the site’s owners declined to do so. The Kazakh government promptly blocked the video.

Though often considered the most open country in Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan is now mimicking its neighbor. Kloop’s editors once again declined a removal request, this time from the Kyrgyz government. In response, the country’s prosecutor general requested on Dec. 10 that all local ISPs block access to the video. Carrying out that order would be technically complex. 

Just five days later, local webhost ProHost said it planned to kick Kloop off of its servers, at the behest of the State Agency for Communications. For now, Kloop is de facto blocked in Kyrgyzstan. 

Although authorities claim the video constitutes “extremist propaganda,” local experts suspect that officials wanted to make an example of Kloop—the site refused to remove the article on journalistic principle, causing the government embarrassment. 

There are also those who suspect that the Kyrgyz government is simply using the video as an excuse to intimidate Kloop, evidence of a broader trend of media intimidation in the country.

Muck-raking journalist arrested in Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan does not have much of a record of protecting free expression—President Ilham Aliev was recently afforded the dubious honor of winning a corruption watchdog’s “Person of the Year” award. Last week, the arrest of investigative journalist Khadija Ismayil illustrated just how far the Azeri government will go to shield itself from the unflattering reports of investigative journalists. But this was hardly unexpected—Ismayil has faced legal challenges, sexual harassment, and online intimidation for several years in response to her reports on shady financial deals by members of the Aliev family. While the charges against her are unclear due to gag orders placed on her lawyer and accuser, news of her arrest received international attention human rights groups and intergovernmental organizations alike.

In Japan, whistleblowers beware

A controversial state secrecy act became law in Japan on Dec. 10, increasing criminal penalties for individuals who leak information that has been classified as a state secret. The law provides sentences of up to ten 10 years for government workers who leak state secrets and up to five years for anyone that solicits information using “grossly inappropriate means.” The new law, which elicited mass protests in several of Japan’s major cities last spring, is widely expected to have a chilling effect on free speech in the country.

Spain’s Google tax has teeth

Google announced this week that it plans to remove Spanish publishers from its Google News service and will shut down the service entirely in Spain in response to a new law requiring Spanish publishers to tax any aggregator that reposts content from their articles. The law has been criticized for undermining the “right to link”, which the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Jeremy Malcolm called “fundamental to the way the Web works.”

Swedes pounce on Pirate Bay

File-sharing site the Pirate Bay was shut down this week following a raid on its servers by Swedish police, who took down the site over alleged copyright violations. While there were no arrests, one of the Pirate Bay’s operators said they were not yet sure whether they would reboot the site. 

Jailed Vietnamese photojournalist on hunger strike

Photojournalist Minh Man Dang Nguyen began a hunger strike on Nov. 28 to protest ill treatment she has received while in prison. Minh Man, who was sentenced to nine years in jail three years ago after her arrest for taking photographs at a protest, was placed in near-solitary confinement for unknown reasons. Last week, a student law clinic filed a petition to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on her behalf. 

U.S. Congress members make last-ditch effort to reverse IANA function promise

Republicans in the U.S. Congress added a provision to the recently passed budget bill seeking to prevent the Obama administration from giving up its oversight over the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority function, a key component of the U.S. government’s power over the domain name system for the global Internet. However, the measure is likely to be ineffective due to procedural errors. Among other things, the contract that gives the nation’s Commerce Department oversight over IANA will not run out until fiscal year 2016—the appropriations bill only applies to 2015. 

New Research

by Netizen Report Team at December 17, 2014 11:34 PM

Global Voices
Anti-Coup Activist Says Thai Officials Threatened Her with Rape
Image from Khaosod English

Anti-coup activists Kong-udom and Seritiwat (wearing blue tie) hand a letter to Thailand's human rights chief Amara during human rights day. Image from Khaoson English.

A student activist who was detained by police after she and another person interrupted a speech by Thailand's human rights chief has accused two plainclothes officials of harassing and threatening her with rape.

Natchacha Kong-udom, a university student, and Sirawit Seritiwat, a core member of the Thai Student Centre for Democracy (TSCD) managed to show the three-fingered salute, which is outlawed by the junta, in the full presence of media, security personnel and guests who attended the International Human Rights Day event in Bangkok on December 10. The event was organised by Thailand's National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).

The popular “Hunger Games” salute was adopted by anti-coup demonstrators after the removal of Yingluck Shinawatra's caretaker government by the military last May. The military has outlawed protests and public criticism of junta policies.

The students managed to display protest signs such as “Where is the NHRC when the gun comes out?” “Missing person”, “Are you still alive?”, and “Stop paying the NHRC.”

Chairperson Amara Pongsapich, who has been chief of the NHRC since 2009, was caught off guard by the sudden disruption. Kong-udom and Seritiwat were taken from the NHRC premises and brought to the police station for failing to obey the prohibition set by the National Council for Peace and Order. According to the junta’s council, acts of dissent would lead to national security problems.

Two NHRC representatives attended and observed the “attitude adjustment” interrogation between the police and the detained students. The students claimed they were forced to sign a statement saying that they will not participate in future anti-coup demonstrations.

Meanwhile, Kong-udom lodged a police report at the Tung Song Hong Police Station against two men she accused of harassing and threatening her with rape at the NHRC event.

Interviewing the student activist whom plainclothes officials threatened to rape after she staged 3-finger salute protest at NHRC.

She noticed that she was being followed at the NHRC event and stopped to ask the suspicious man, “พี่มาทำอะไรค่ะ ตามหนูมาตลอดเลย,” which means, “What are you doing here brother? You follow me all the time.” The man replied “ก็ตามมาข่มขืนน้องไง,” which means “To try to rape you.” The threat was made in front of many witnesses, including NHRC officers and journalists.

Sunai Phasuk, senior researcher on Thailand in Human Rights Watch's Asia division, tweeted about this incident on December 12:

Kong-udom told Prachatai, an independent news website, that other activists were also being followed by suspicious individuals:

I know that I and other student activists have been followed for a while and of course I’m afraid. This is an abuse of rights. After all, where is my safety?

This photo of Kong-udom, which was widely shared on social media, shows her making the "Hunger Games" salute as a sign of protest against the Junta government in Thailand

This photo of Kong-udom, which was widely shared on social media, shows her making the “Hunger Games” salute as a sign of protest against the Junta government in Thailand

Kong-udom, who is transgender, was first arrested in front of a cinema in Bangkok on November 20 for flashing the Hunger Games salute.

As of this writing, the NHRC has not yet released a statement about the threat.

The incident is a recent example of the intensifying intimidation suffered by acivists in Thailand ever since martial law was declared by the military last May.

Activists are risking their safety by organizing peaceful flash mobs and anti-coup activities to call for the restoration of civilian rule through democratic elections yet they have received no assistance or even a statement of support from the country's major political parties.

The harassment of activists is one proof of the worsening human rights situation in Thailand. Fortunately, this case was reported because of the perseverance of Thais who are unwilling to submit to repression.

by Moui at December 17, 2014 10:23 PM

Southeast Asia's Public Transport Woes in Photos
Despite Thai laws requiring mandatory wearing of crash helmets, both rider and passenger appears to flout the law. Photo by Matthew Richards, Copyright @Demotix (10/6/2012)

Despite Thai laws requiring mandatory wearing of crash helmets, both rider and passenger appears to flout the law. Photo by Matthew Richards, Copyright @Demotix (10/6/2012)

Earlier this month, Global Voices featured a viral photo of a Vietnamese woman riding a scooter without a helmet while carrying a child. One of the comments about the photo said that it reflected the real situation in the streets of Vietnam. Indeed, it is common to see motorbike riders without a helmet not just in Hanoi, but in other Vietnamese cities.

But this spectacle is not limited to Vietnam. If we travel to other cities in Southeast Asia, we can find similar examples of road safety violations.

The photo above this article shows another motorbike rider without a helmet, but this time it’s in Thailand.

Strict implementation of traffic laws is necessary to protect the public's safety. But we often see people, including children, riding vehicles that pose a great risk to their lives. They are concrete reminders about the inadequate and inefficient transport systems in many Southeast Asian nations. Check out the photos below:

Thai schoolchildren pictured as they ride home on the roof of a crowded truck. Photo by Matthew Richards, Copyright @Demotix (7/18/2013)

Thai schoolchildren pictured as they ride home on the roof of a crowded truck. Photo by Matthew Richards, Copyright @Demotix (7/18/2013)

Travelling in Cambodia can be really difficult, especially in the northeast:

Photo from @billherod

Photo from @billherod

Indonesia's trains can get very overcrowded during rush hours:

Train passengers in Jakarta sit on the roof carriage, side windows and between carriages. Photo by wisnu agung prasetyo, Copyright @Demotix, (9/29/2010)

Train passengers in Jakarta sit on the roof carriage, side windows and between carriages. Photo by wisnu agung prasetyo, Copyright @Demotix, (9/29/2010)

Jeepneys transport people and goods in the Philippines, even if they are often overloaded:

In Myanmar, writer Jason Szep probes the country’s antiquated transport system:

Most vehicles, for instance, are right-hand drive, a throwback to British colonialism. Yet the roads are right-hand traffic, similar to the American system, reducing visibility and keeping drivers on perpetual alert.

As Southeast Asian nations gear up for the 2015 integration of their economies, they must also overhaul their transport services to boost local growth, productivity, and most importantly, protect the safety of their citizens.

UPDATE: Jakarta has installed concrete balls on trains in 2012 to deter rooftop riders

by Mong Palatino at December 17, 2014 05:07 PM

Small Fries, Big Problems for Japan's McDonald's
McDonalds sponsors sumo

McDonald's sponsors sumo. Image: Gwydion M. Williams, Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

McDonald's in Japan is only selling small servings of French fries to deal with a potato shortage caused by a port strike. The move is causing consternation and surprise among the chain's dwindling consumer base, and the potato shortage is just another example of the fast food chain's steady decline in Japan.

A port strike on the West Coast of the United States that is showing no signs of ending is the reason why McDonald's has resorted to rationing French fries.

Starting from today you can only buy a small French fries at McDonalds #McD's #McDonald's #small fries 

All set meals will for the time being only be served with the smaller size of French fries, with a small discount thrown in to make up for the smaller size.

Japanese reactions to the restriction on French fry consumption can be followed using the #ポテトS (#small Fries) hashtag:

Starting today you can only buy a small fries at McDonald's. This is actually awesome because the regular-size fries McDonald's normally sells is too large, and now we get a 50-yen (US$0.50) discount with every meal!

Others were left uninspired by the change to the menu:

I have not eaten at #McDonald's recently, and the sheer uninspiring dullness of their small fries is not going to bring me back.

The Japan French fry debacle is a continuation of the McDonald's restaurant chain's troubles in Japan, which date back just over a year to August 2013, when Sarah Casanova was appointed president of McDonald’s Holdings Japan, the company that operates 3,280 outlets across the country.

Originally from Canada, Casanova is a 22-year McDonald's veteran, who once served as executive director of McDonald’s Japan and marketing head from 2004 to 2009. She replaced Eikoh Harada, himself a former Apple executive who worked to aggressively build up McDonald's in Japan for nearly a decade, winning accolades as a business guru in the process.

However, in the year before his departure, McDonald's sales in Japan slumped thanks to a combination of strong competition from convenience stores and an ageing population. 

Casanova's year at the helm of McDonald's in Japan has seen a steady stream of missteps, including a tainted-food crisis that severely dented consumer confidence in the company, notably because, from a Japanese sensibility, Casanova failed to properly apologize to customers. McDonald's Japan has also been criticized for overcharging customers.

Since the food scandal, customers have not returned to McDonald's, a contributing factor to the company's first-ever operating loss in Japan. According to a statement made at the end of October 2014, McDonald's Japan's operating loss is expected to reach 9.4 billion yen (US$85.5 million) in the year through December 2014, reversing an 11.5 billion yen ($US100 million) operating profit of the previous year, when Harada was running the company.

Franchise owners are upset, not only because of the sudden reversal in profits, but also because McDonald's, under Casanova's leadership, has implemented confusing and unmanageable business processes with franchises that have led to the losses in the first place.

McDonald's has tried to placate franchisees by temporarily reducing royalty payments. But with operating losses still forecast for 2015, for franchisees there is no end in sight to slumping sales and the expectation they will still have to pay their franchise royalties no matter what the market conditions.

A quote from a franchisee, as reported in the Nikkei Shimbun, has gone viral:

「フランチャイズオーナーの私たちには売り上げ目標を出させておきながら、会社が赤字の業績予想を出すのはどういうことか」 

How can you be asking us franchisees to pay you royalties when McDonald's is forecasting to be in the red in 2015?

A Japanese business blogger observed:

しかし、フランチャイズオーナーらは、
「いずれは支払わなければならない」、
「実際はただ借金を負っただけ」と言う…

…「客足を回復する起爆剤にはならない…」と
見るFCオーナーの存在も。全店舗の7割近くをFC店が占め、
販売の中心は完全にFC店に移っている現状では、
消費者のみならず、FCのオーナーたちの信頼も
取り戻す必要があるのではないでしょうか。

The thing is, franchise owners are being asked to agree to future royalty payments while accepting all of the liability…

…Franchisees can see there is no way to instantly recover all of the customers that have departed over the past few years. Franchises account for 70% of McDonald's stores in Japan, McDonald's sales in Japan depend on franchise owners. The people who head McDonald's in Japan not only have to win over consumers, they also have to win over the franchisees as well.

The Nikkei article points out that for franchisees, the disappointment is caused by more than just falling profits and the threat of onerous royalty payments:

今回、FCオーナーを取材する中で感じたのは、オーナーたちが日本マクドナルドに対して強い愛着を持ち、誇りを持って働いているという点だ。

なぜか。実はオーナーの中には元社員から独立した人が多く、日本マクドナルドの創業者である藤田田・元社長の「現場主義」に共感し、「マクドナルドに育てられた」という思いを強く抱いている。そのため、ここ数年の現場の実情と乖離した本社の施策が出てくるたびに、疑問を抱きながらも従わざるを得ないという苦渋を噛みしめていたようだ。

When researching this story and speaking with franchisees, one feeling was very apparent: franchise owners feel a strong bond of affection for McDonald's Japan, and take pride in their work with the company.

One reason for this is that many McDonald's franchisees started out as McDonald's employees themselves, and went on to own and operate their own restaurants. They wholeheartedly embraced McDonald's Japan's original core philosophy of “management from the bottom up,” believing that McDonald's made them who they are as entrepreneurs. 

However with every incident in recent years that points out how much the folks at head office in McDonald's Japan have become estranged from the day-to-day realities of running a McDonald's restaurant, franchisees have had to uncomplainingly swallow their bitterness.

Thanks to an aging population, more savvy competitors and plain mismanagement, McDonald's, once a beacon of American culture in Japan, faces an uncertain future in that country.

McDonald's Chuo Rinkan store is set to close on April 1, 2014 after 30 years at the same location.

by Nevin Thompson at December 17, 2014 05:00 PM

The ‘Perfect Human’ Doesn't Live in Puerto Rico (or Any Other Country)
Drum workshop on Calle Loiza, Santurce, Puerto Rico. Photo by Flickr user Angel Xavier Viera-Vargas. CC BY-ND 2.0

Drum workshop on Calle Loiza, Santurce, Puerto Rico. Photo by Flickr user Angel Xavier Viera-Vargas. CC BY-ND 2.0

Is there such a thing as a “perfect human being”? Many in Puerto Rico seem to think so. And those who do, believe the closest thing to one is, precisely, a Puerto Rican.

At least, that is what can be gleaned from the social media buzz generated by a blog post by Lior Pachter titled “The perfect human is Puerto Rican,” published on December 2 on his blog Bits of DNA, written in reaction to the news that James Watson, co-discoverer of DNA's molecular structure, would be auctioning off his Nobel Prize.

Watson was shunned by the scientific community after he made incendiary remarks about how research allegedly pointed to the conclusion that black people are less intelligent than white people. This was only the latest in a long string of racist and sexist comments made by Watson throughout his career.

Pachter, who is a computational biologist, was being more than a little ironic when he chose the title for his post. The idea was to conduct an informal thought experiment to underscore how absurd Watson's obsession with genetically “improving” human beings really is. Essential to Pachter's thought experiment was the data on Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms, better known as SNPs (or “snips”) collected on SNPedia, an open database of 59,593 SNPs and their associations. The particular data Pachter used was collected by researchers at the Caribbean Genome Center at the University of Puerto Rico in Mayagüez. 

Taras Oleksyk, one of the researchers involved in collecting the data, explained Pachter's thought experiment in a nutshell in a post published on the Caribbean Genome Center's blog a few days after Pachter's post went viral:

Using this genetic resource, Patcher [sic] looked at all the mutations in the database and notes the ones with a phenotypic effect. If the effect is positive, the mutation is beneficial. So the person with the most of the beneficial alleles and the least of the disadvantageous alleles must be the “perfect human”. It just happened that the sample that clusters the closest to this made up point was a woman we collected a sample from three years ago in Puerto Rico. She was therefore designated as the “perfect woman”.

Thus, the part of Pachter's post that gave it its title and that attracted the most attention:

The nearest neighbor to the “perfect human” is [...] a female who is… Puerto Rican. One might imagine that such a person already existed, maybe Yuiza, the only female Taino Cacique (chief) in Puerto Rico’s history.

Leaving aside the historical error (Yuisa was not the only female taíno chief that we know of, nor can she be considered Puerto Rican), Pachter, to his credit, immediately admits that to try to define a perfect human is very misleading, at best.

Oleksyk, who is also a biology professor at the University of Puerto Rico in Mayagüez, felt obliged to offer some clarification in the post cited above, since it was the data that he helped collect that was used in Lior Pachter's exercise, even though he never imagined that it would help to cause such a firestorm on social media:

If the readers only read to the article’s conclusion, where they would notice that author is a fan of the “Puerto Rico All-Star Basketball Unicycle Team” they should ask themselves: How does this Berkeley professor know so much about Puerto Rico, while I live here all my life and I have never heard about such a thing?”

This is because the example is used to show that the author is sarcastic about this comparison. In fact, he is very happy that Puerto Ricans win the comparison, because he feared that the perfect human would be a white male of British descent such as Watson. For him, the exotic remoteness of the “winning” population is a great thing. As long as it were not Anglo-Americans, it could have been elves. Sadly, the audience did not see the subtle message, the resounding “Hurrah! We have won the race of the human race!” has made everyone unable to make a critical judgment.

This is no understatement. Spanish-language news agency Agencia EFE produced an article that treated Pachter's blogpost as a serious scientific study. That same article was later republished acritically in numerous news sites, including one of the most widely read Puerto Rican daily papers, Primera Hora, which, despite having the benefit of an interview with Lior Pachter himself, only helped to spread disinformation, leading many to believe that there really existed such a thing as a genetically “perfect” human and that the closest thing to one right now is a Puerto Rican.

Puerto Rican researcher Rafael A. Irizarry, a professor of biostatistics at the Harvard School of Public Health, who is also one of the most highly cited researchers in mathematics and computer science, wrote a Spanish-language post on his blog Simply Stats out of concern for the mistaken and downright worrying interpretation of Lior Pachter's post in mainstream media. After explaining what exactly the human genome is, how genetic variation works, and concepts like “race” in simple language, he finishes his post with the following thoughts:

A pesar de nuestros problemas sociales y económicos actuales, Puerto Rico tiene mucho de lo cual estar orgulloso. En particular, producimos buenísimos ingenieros, atletas y músicos. Atribuir su éxito a “genes buenos” de nuestra “raza” no sólo es un disparate científico, sino una falta de respeto a estos individuos que a través del trabajo duro, la disciplina y el esmero han logrado lo que han logrado. Si quieren saber si Puerto Rico tuvo algo que ver con el éxito de estos individuos, pregúntenle a un historiador, un antropólogo o un sociólogo y no a un genético. Ahora, si quieren aprender del potencial de estudiar genomas para mejorar tratamientos médicos y la importancia de estudiar una diversidad de individuos, un genético tendrá mucho que compartir.

In spite of our current social and economic problems, Puerto Rico has a lot to be proud about. In particular, we produce great engineers, athletes, and musicians. To credit their success to the “good genes” of our “race” is not only scientifically absurd, but also disrespectful to these individuals who through hard work, discipline, and dedication have achieved what they have achieved. If you want to know if Puerto Rico had anything to do with the success of these individuals, ask a historian, an anthropologist or a sociologist, but not a geneticist. Now, if you want to learn about the potential that studying genomes has to improve medical treatments and the importance of studying a variety of individuals, a geneticist will have a lot to share.

by Ángel Carrión at December 17, 2014 03:52 PM

OjoVoz App Helps Underrepresented Communities Go Digital With Their Storytelling

Demonstrating the use of the OjoVoz app. Photo provided by Eugenio Tisselli and used with permission.

Demonstrating the use of the OjoVoz app. Photo provided by Eugenio Tisselli and used with permission.

It is true that there are many mobile apps on the market that allow users to take photographs, record audio, or both, but the Android app OjoVoz (EyeVoice) is specifically designed with underrepresented and marginalized communities in mind. These communities may not be as familiar with technology, so the simple-to-use interface contains four buttons providing the user ability to take a photograph, record their voice, add a keyword, and then upload to the internet.

Beginning in 2011, programmer Eugenio Tiselli started to work on the mobile app after working nearly eight years working with the project Megafone, another project that provides digital storytelling tools aimed at diverse communities. With his current project, he has been able to provide the tools and support for groups eager to share their stories, culture, and knowledge with each other and with a wider audience.

In an email interview with Rising Voices, Tiselli stressed that OjoVoz is not simply the technology, “but rather the collaborative processes in the creation of knowledge. Even though they are mediated by technological elements, the most important is the co-existence and the face-to-face meetings that are generated as part of the dynamics of the projects.”

Over the past few years, the OjoVoz app has played a role in community projects in diverse places such as Tanzania, Colombia, and Mexico. These are a couple of examples of how communities are mobilizing to tell their stories using their mobile devices.

Sauti Ya Wakulima
(The Voice of the Farmers) is a collaborative project where farmers from the Chambezi region of the Bagamoyo District in Tanaznia have been capturing images and voice recording to document farming practices as a way build to preserve the existing knowledge.

Click on image to visit the content.

tanz3

Ms. Mariam is one of the cassava growers and she is giving us some explanations on this crop. She is saying that, as compare to the previous time, now they are cultivating in an improved way, they have improved seeds and the know how to plant in rows and weed their crops, she is thankful to the government for sending agriculture officers to the villages as well as investors as now they can process cassava flour, they can have enough harvest and sell to other people so this is a good development. They are selling cassava flour to business people in Dar es Salaam. In the past years they use to get very little harvest as compare to now, she is expecting if things remain the same in the next five years she will build a house out of farming activities.

Los Ojos de la Milpa (The Eyes of the Milpa) is another collaborate project that aims to preserve stories told by elders in communities in the mountains of the Sierra Norte of Oaxaca, Mexico about how the milpa, a crop-growing system used across Mexico and parts of Central America, which has been taking place for generations without the help of fertilizers or other types of technology. The project provides content in Spanish, English and Ayuujk (Mixe language).

Click on image to visit the content.

milpa2

Yïte’n ëëts mïku’uk ïxaa nyïkwä’ätsy yë tsapajkx jïts yë ujts yïktäjjë’kkixy jïts jïtïn wä’äts yyo’nt, jïts yë pyijyu’nk yë’ tpëkt xaa të yïkkukeepy jïts yä’ät wyä’ätst jatïkoojk.

This is how we weed the peach groves, it is necessary to remove all the weeds so that nothing will stop them from growing well. Some branches were pruned so that the trees may flower, they will grow again.

The free and open-source approach to the app plays a fundamental role in the app's development. Tiselli noted that already a group of Colombian programmers have built upon the app to add the functionality of recording videos in addition to existing options of recording sound and capturing images.

OjoVoz takes an active role in “incubating” projects by offering technical assistance and providing a temporary space on the site's server to upload images. To download and configure the app, visit the OjoVoz website for more instructions, and there is a short video tutorial in Spanish on how to use the app.

by Eduardo Avila at December 17, 2014 12:12 PM

In Between Images of the Peshawar Attack, a Thought About Pakistan’s Army Public Schools
Screengrab from the Facebook page of Mubeen Shah, killed in the attack at the Army Public School in Peshawar.

Screengrab from the Facebook page of Mubeen Shah. He was murdered during the attack at the Army Public School in Peshawar.

My two-year old daughter looks at me and says, “What happened, Mama?” I can’t get the images of the blood-stained green-and-yellow striped neckties and white uniforms out my mind. I hope she doesn’t see them in my eyes.

Minutes later my husband messages, “Just like us at that age. In line at morning assembly. Never can you imagine something like this happening.”

Six gunmen dressed in paramilitary uniforms entered the Army Public School in Peshawar, with only murder on their minds. More than a hundred and thirty innocent, beautiful, and hopeful children had their lives snatched from them in the most terrifying way possible. Hundreds of other students and families have been left with open wounds on their bodies and minds.

We are supposed to protect our children from imaginary monsters under the bed, these children faced heinous real monsters in the classroom.

An hour after the gunmen entered the school, and 30 minutes after Pakistani special forces cordoned off the the sprawling Peshawar campus, a spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban told Reuters the attack was in “revenge for the army offensive in Waziristan.”

Some of the children attacked might even have a parent actively deployed in ZarbeAzb, a military offensive against the Taliban launched in June.

There are tens of thousands of students at Army Public School (APS) campuses across Pakistan, a progressive school system that educates children of servicemen and hard-working Pakistanis.

Mubeen Shah in his uniform. His profile image uploaded on December 3, has been shared by close to a thousand people.

Mubeen Shah in his APS uniform. His Facebook profile image uploaded on December 3, has been shared by hundreds.

Many Pakistanis may be shocked that I call the APS system “progressive”. I don’t use this word lightly. It's the only conclusion I can reach after poring over their website the last few hours, recalling stories I’ve heard about the schools and comparing their values, training processes, curriculum, and organization to other schools in Pakistan.

There are more than 146 Army Public Schools across the country. Some of them are in the most remote parts of the country, where there are no other schools. While there are other school systems at the scale of APS —for example, Beaconhouse, City School and Roots—they are all private schools with high tuition fees.

Years ago, my husband and his brothers went to APS schools, often when their father was posted in a place where only APS schools existed. Today, they jokingly blame their typos on their APS education, but their other tales about the holistic, close-knit, community-driven education they received have always sounded so unique and special to someone like me, educated at a private Catholic school in New York, and a semi-government all-girls school and a private school in Islamabad.

The education system in Pakistan has many flaws, but the APS system tries to offer affordable education, prioritizes holistic development, rigorous teacher training, incredibly well-developed handbooks, and agile curriculum development. I got all this information from their website, which they present as a “resource for teaching and learning as well as a forum for parents to become a part of the learning triangle. “ 

Here's a snippet from one of their FAQ's for “pre-school” teacher training: ”Formal teaching in school becomes meaningful to students if it is linked to everyday life. When students realize that that the skills taught/developed in the class are applicable to real life, they find the education meaningful and develop more interest.”

Like most schools in Pakistan or other former British colonies, the student body is divided into “houses” that compete in debates, sports and other activities. At APS, the houses are “Unity”, “Faith”, “Discipline”, and “Tolerance”. Those are the values that are ingrained in APS students.

1465118_10153075150314305_7294204234555695461_n

Candlelight vigil in Karachi for the victims of Peshawar's attack. Image by @aliachughtai.

In 2013, APS’ central organizing body launched the “Smiles-Raising Emotionally Healthy Children” project on their website for parents to send queries to a clinical psychologist with 14 years’ experience working with children and young people. I didn't test the service, but apparently an expert will respond to a query via email. 

They also run a “Values Education Programme” which focuses on “global citizenship emotional well being and developing better human beings who can contribute in creating a conflict free world based on peace & harmony.” Their 2013-2014 handbook for this program, titled the “Year of Peace and Harmony,” talks about conflict resolution, bullying, cyberbullying, recycling, and so much more.

Here’s an excerpt from their section on understanding and managing conflict in classrooms: “As human beings, it is inevitable that we come into conflict with others as we all have different priorities, values, beliefs, needs and wants. Conflict , therefore, is a normal and natural part of our lives. Conflict is not necessarily destructive. How we respond to conflict determines whether it is constructive or destructive.”

I don’t know how much of this material or training is trickling down to their dozens of branches across the country, but at least they have a solid roadmap. A roadmap for the children whose parents are fighting one of Pakistan’s most scary and heart-wrenching problems—ideology-bred Taliban militancy.

Many of Pakistan’s other schools—both private and government—could learn so much from APS’ handbooks and teacher training guides.

In the end, this war will not be won by bombs and bullets, but by giving vulnerable children, who might fall prey to a brutal ideology, the tools to recognise the merciless monster for what it is.

Sahar Habib Ghazi is Global Voices’ managing editor. She didn’t intend for this to read like a press release for APS, and is very sorry if it did, but she believes APS’ story is one of the many important and untold stories in Pakistan. She tweets at @SaharHGhazi. 

by Sahar Habib Ghazi at December 17, 2014 01:22 AM

December 16, 2014

Miriam Meckel
Schade drum

WiWo_Titel_51_14_Altersvorsorge_FIN3

Rückschau und kein Fortschritt: die Rede Angela Merkels beim Parteitag als Bankrotterklärung gegenüber der politischen Ambition.
Das war eine großartige Rede – ein wirtschaftspolitischer Befreiungsschlag. Auf dem Bundesparteitag der CDU hat Angela Merkel ihre Ideen für die Zukunft Deutschlands vorgestellt: ein vereinfachtes Steuersystem, die Reform der Krankenversicherung, die Rente mit 67. Die Rede hat nur einen Fehler: Sie wurde 2003 auf dem Parteitag der CDU in Leipzig gehalten und nicht 2014 in Köln. Danach war alles anders.

Auf diesem Bundesparteitag in Köln präsentierte sich eine Parteivorsitzende und Regierungschefin, die Risiko- und Konfliktvermeidung zum politischen Führungsprinzip gemacht hat. Das kann sie, weil viele Deutsche alles andere als veränderungswillig sind. In der Ruhe der Deutschen liegt die Kraft der Angela Merkel.

Über 70 Minuten lieferte die Parteivorsitzende eine ermüdende Bestandsaufnahme des Erreichten, eine Rede, in der alles angesprochen, aber nichts gesagt wird. Ein bisschen Digitalisierung, ein bisschen Energiewirtschaft, eine Prise Mütterrente, Investitionen in Straßen und junge Menschen, und, ja, der demografische Wandel ist eine Herausforderung. So windet sich diese Rede durch die Furchen der zurückliegenden Regierungsjahre. Eine Bankrotterklärung gegenüber der politischen Ambition und entlarvend zugleich: Angela Merkel hat nur ein Ziel, und das heißt Machterhalt.

Im Video: Chefredakteurin Miriam Meckel stellt die Ausgabe 51/2014 vor.

So ist das in der Logik des politischen Systems: Wer den Wählern weh tut, muss selbst bluten. Das hat die SPD mit Gerhard Schröder am Beispiel der Sozialreformen der Agenda 2010 leidvoll erfahren und sich bis heute nicht recht davon erholt. Auch Angela Merkel hat ihre Lektion gelernt. Nach ihrer Reformrede auf dem Leipziger Parteitag 2003 wurde die CDU bei der Bundestagswahl 2005 abgestraft. Es reichte nicht für die absolute Mehrheit, ja nicht einmal für Schwarz-Gelb, sondern nur für eine große Koalition.

In der fühlte sich Angela Merkel bislang ganz wohl. Wo es immer ums große Ganze geht, mahlen die politischen Mühlen langsam. Das stabilisiert die eigene Macht und hält selten böse Überraschungen bereit. Außer einer: Am Ende zahlt Deutschland die Rechnung für Jahre der Bestandspflege und Trägheit. Eine große Koalition heißt immer auch geschwächte Opposition. Die Folgen können wir täglich beobachten: Selbst über strittige Themen wie die Energiewende, mangelnde Investitionen und Deutschlands Rückstand in der digitalen Wirtschaft wird nur lau lamentiert.

Angela Merkel wird wohl zur Bundestagswahl 2017 wieder antreten. Sie lobt die FDP wieder als Traumpartner, weil man über Leblose ja nichts Schlechtes mehr sagt. Sie wird mit den Grünen vielleicht neu versuchen, was die im ersten Anlauf vergeigt haben („schade drum“). In jedem Fall kann sie sich auf ihre CDU als Kanzlerwahlverein verlassen. In ihrem Umfeld hat sie inzwischen alle weggebissen, die ihr für den eigenen Machtanspruch gefährlich werden könnten.

Aus der Unternehmenswelt wissen wir: Manager bleiben lange an der Spitze, wenn sie starke Mitstreiter um sich scharen, Widerspruch dulden und frühzeitig potenzielle Nachfolger fördern. Das ist gut für Person und Organisation. In der Politik herrscht eine andere Logik. Deshalb sollten zwei Amtsperioden reichen. Wer die nicht nutzt, um Schub zu geben, wird es in der dritten auch nicht tun.

„Innovationsökonomen sagen uns, dass wir in Deutschland eine relativ stabile Phase hatten, geprägt von einer starken und sich immer weiterentwickelnden Industrie“, sagte Angela Merkel in Köln. „In solchen Phasen muss der, der einmal die Weltspitze erobert hat, schon sehr viele Fehler machen, damit er davon verdrängt wird.“

Das ist ein Irrtum. Gerade Innovationsökonomen wissen: Es reicht ein einziger Fehler, um von der Spitze verdrängt zu werden. Wirtschaftspolitik ist nicht Mikado. Hier gilt: Wer sich nicht bewegt, verliert.

wiwo.de

by Miriam Meckel at December 16, 2014 10:53 PM

Creative Commons
Brin Wojcicki Foundation doubles gifts to CC

We just received a wonderful gift for our 12th anniversary: the Brin Wojcicki Foundation is giving to CC to match all of your donations from now until the end of the year!

Every dollar you donate will now be doubled by funds from the Brin Wojcicki Foundation.

Please consider making a donation today.

Support Creative Commons

 

by Elliot Harmon at December 16, 2014 10:02 PM

Global Voices
Murdered Teen’s Father Rallies Support for ‘Tijana’s Law’ on Serbian Social Media
One of the images widely circulated on the Internet in the impromptu social media campaign for Tijana's Law. Drawing by unknown artist.

One of the images widely circulated on the Internet in the impromptu social media campaign for Tijana's Law, with the question that everyone is asking: “Why hasn't Tijana's Law been adopted yet?”. Drawing by unknown artist.

The gruesome murder of 15-year-old Tijana Jurić in early August 2014 shook Serbian society so deeply that some people called for the death penalty to be reinstated. The young victim's father Igor Jurić, however, found what many think is a better solution, with the help of legal experts from the University of Novi Sad. Within weeks after his daughter's tragic death, Jurić presented the government of Serbia with a proposal for new legislature that may have saved his daughter's life.

The proposal for the new law has been dubbed “Tijana's Law” and was presented in late August 2014, but has not yet been passed by the Serbian government, nor has it been discussed in Parliament. Almost four months later, social networks have been flooded with the hashtag, #podrži (#SupportIt) and user-generated images on social networks asking the same question: “Why hasn't Tijana's Law been passed yet?”

How many more children need to die for you to adopt Tijana's Law? Or is whose child the right question? #podrzi pic.twitter.com/ccpTJp2TuY

The new suggested law proposes simply that police searches for minors should begin as soon as a minor is reported missing by parents or guardians and that Serbia's high-tech crime unit should be involved in the search immediately. The latter would enable police to locate the mobile phones of the missing minors as well as activity of mobile phones in the vicinity that may be related to these cases.

In the case of Tijana Jurić, her abductor and alleged murderer, who confessed to the heinous crime in court, was eventually located due to police tracing his mobile phone, but days after her death. Tijana had her mobile phone with her on the evening she was abducted and it is feasible that the phone could have been located in the time-span between her abduction and murder. Theoretically at least, had there been a law in place that allowed police to react immediately and the high-tech crime police unit to locate her telephone in time, Tijana's life might have been saved. This sort of immediate reaction from authorities is exactly what Tijana's Law proposes.

Igor Jurić has publicly asked people to help him push the law to be considered by Serbia's Parliament, stating that he deems this his life's mission after his daughter's death.

Igor Jurić, Tijana's father, holds a sign saying, "Help me get TIJANA'S LAW adopted." This was one of the first images  of the online campaign supporting the proposed law and has been widely circulated on social networks.

Igor Jurić, Tijana's father, holds a sign saying, “Help me get TIJANA'S LAW adopted.” This was one of the first images of the online campaign supporting the proposed law and has been widely circulated on social networks.

While some say that Serbia has adequate existing laws for such cases, many seem unsatisfied with the existing laws or their implementation. The #podrži campaign is abundantly present on both Twitter and Facebook. A Facebook page was created on December 14 to collect the images and support the online campaign for Tijana's Law and, within just one day, already garnered close to 5,000 fans. The page has also collected images from dozens of users supporting the proposed law and new images continue to pour in hourly.

by Danica Radisic at December 16, 2014 08:53 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
“Spain is a Corruptocracy”: Netizens Slam Google News Tax
Adiós a la edición española de Google News. Imagen del Blog de Enrique Dans con licencia CC BY 3.0

Farewell to the Spanish edition of Google News. Image from Enrique Dans's blog with CC BY 3.0 license.

Within fifteen days of Spain's new Intellectual Property Law coming into force, Google News has announced that it will suspend the activity of its Spanish subsidiary as of today, December 16, 2014. The new law, which will take effect on January 1, 2015, requires that aggregators like Google News, Menéame, or Reddit pay a fee for reproducing even small fragments of news published in online newspapers. 

The law was promoted heavily by the Spanish Newspaper Publishers’ Association (AEDE), an organization of which major Spanish newspapers such as El País, El Mundo, and ABC are members. These large traditional media outlets have seen their circulation figures plummet for several years and intend to offset this loss of readers with the tax. The new law considers the Google tax an “unalienable right” that should be applied to all newspapers in Spain, whether or not they agree with the measure.  

In a statement published on his blog [es], the global head of Google News, Richard Gingras, explains the decision to shut down the service:  

Dado que Google Noticias es un servicio que no genera ingresos (no mostramos publicidad en el sitio web), este nuevo enfoque resulta sencillamente insostenible.

Por ello, lamentablemente, el 16 de diciembre (…) procederemos a retirar a los editores españoles de Google Noticias y a cerrar Google Noticias en España.

Given that Google News is a service that does not generate revenue (we do not post ads on the website), this new approach is simply unsustainable. 

Therefore, regrettably, on December 16 (…) we will proceed to remove the Spanish Google News publishers and shut down Google News in Spain. 

This news, although not surprising to anyone, has created a stir on the Internet, not only in Spain, but also among online media in other countries, which were unanimous in criticizing the new law. Tim Worstall calls the law “an example of purblind incompetence” in Forbes Magazine, while the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Jeremy Malcolm says that the law forms “part of a broader trend of derogation from the right to link.” He adds: 

Once it becomes illegal for aggregators to freely link news summaries to publicly-available websites, it becomes that much easier for those who want to prohibit other sorts of links, such as links to political YouTube videos, to make their case.

On his blog, Professor Enrique Dans dissects the political changes that led to the development of the law – which he labels “absurd” and “nonsense” – and concludes: 

Enhorabuena, gobierno de España. Siguiendo las directrices de AEDE, una de las asociaciones más caducas y cavernícolas del mundo, habéis conseguido evidenciar que España es una corruptocracia en la que cualquier grupo de presión puede escribir leyes a su antojo (aunque sean abierta y claramente tan demenciales como ésta), en la que los periódicos condicionan su línea editorial a la financiación gubernamental, y en la que el gobierno no tiene la más maldita idea de cómo funciona internet.

Congratulations, Spanish government. Following the guidelines of the AEDE, one of the most outdated and caveman-like organizations in the world, you have managed to show that Spain is a corruptocracy in which any lobbyist can write laws at will (even if they are as openly and clearly insane as this one), where newspapers limit their publishing according to governmental funding and the government does not have a damn clue about how the Internet works. 

Arsenio Escolar, editor of online paper 20 Minutos [es], takes to his blog [es] to explain that the law only pleases the most powerful members of the AEDE, while the Spanish Association of Publishers of Periodicals (AEEPP), more numerous and representative of the Spanish press, is totally against the IPL:  

Todo es una expresión genuina, una vez más, de nuestra Marca España: conchabeos entre el poder y la prensa, y nada de libre mercado o libre competencia, nada que fomente la pluralidad y la libertad de prensa. (…)

El cierre de Google News (…) lo vamos a pagar todos los medios, los tradicionales y los nuevos. Nuestra visibilidad en la red se reducirá, nuestro tráfico también, nuestros ingresos probablemente también… Veremos lo que tardan algunos editores tradicionales -autovíctimas de su propia iniciativa- en pedirle a Google que reabra su Google News.

Everything is a genuine expression, once again, of our Marca España: illicit pacts between power and the press, nothing of free market or free competition, nothing that promotes pluralism and freedom of the press. (…) 

The shutdown of Google News (…) all of us, both in traditional and new media, will pay for. Our network visibility will be reduced, as well as our traffic, our revenues probably too… We will see how long it takes some traditional publishers — victims of their own initiative — to ask Google to reopen Google News. 

Since the news broke, the debate has grown on Twitter where “AEDE” and “Google News” remain among the most searched words. 

This is to say that google news has given us a “boom! In your face losers!” Well deserved!

#AEDE #Jiwert, imagine that El Corte Ingles's suppliers asked them for money for displaying their products in the windows. You have to be stupid…!

Following Google's announcement, it seems that the AEDE media have realized the tremendous damage brought on by being removed from a service as popular as Google News, and have surprised everyone with a statement [es] in which they admit that “Google (…) is the true gateway to the Internet” and require “the intervention of Spanish and EU authorities, as well as those of competition, to effectively protect the rights of citizens and businesses.” As such, AEDE's unexpected change in tone was celebrated on Twitter: 

The AEDE intends to prohibit a foreign company from closing? And how is it going to do that? With tanks? Hahahahahaha

It is going to be difficult for the AEDE media to overcome the ridiculousness they are creating. But we won't underestimate them, they can do it.

Minister Wert, responsible for the IPL, was quick to downplay [es] the whole thing, claiming that Google has rushed to shut down, since they could have negotiated the amount of the media tax, ignoring the fact that Google refuses on principle to pay for what they consider to be a basic right on the Internet: the link. 

As blogger Faircry states on Probably Fair,

 …vamos a ver cómo se desarrolla todo esto y si los viejunos peninsulares al poder consiguen regular “el internete” ese invento del demonio, o no.
Pero el futuro de la prensa escrita pasa por internet, y morder la mano que te da de comer se llame Google o Bing o Baidu o Menéame o Reddit no puede tener muy buen resultado.

… Let's see how this develops and if the old Peninsular Spaniards in power manage to regulate “the Internet”, this satanic invention, or not. But the future of the written press passes through the internet, and biting the hand that feeds you, be it Google or Bing or Baidu or Menéame or Reddit, cannot bring about good results.

by Marianna Breytman at December 16, 2014 06:23 PM

Global Voices
#IndiaWithPakistan: Indians Show Solidarity With Their Grieving Neighbors After Peshawar Attack
Victims of militants attacked an army public school situated on Warsak Road, being shifted for treatment at local hospital in Peshawar. Image by ppiimages. Copyright Demotix (16/12/2014)

Victims of militants, who attacked an army public school situated on Warsak Road, are moved for treatment at a local hospital in Peshawar. Image by ppiimages. Copyright Demotix (16/12/2014)

People from all over the world have offered their support and sympathy on social media for Pakistan as the country reels from a horrific attack on a school in Peshawar that has left 141 people dead, most of whom were children.

But one particular hashtag is worth noting — Indians are putting aside their ardent rivalry with Pakistan and expressing solidarity with their neighbors at this difficult time under #IndiawithPakistan on Twitter. 

At around 11 a.m. Pakistan time on December 16, six Taliban militants entered the Army-run school in the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and took around 500 students and teachers hostage. The attackers were dressed as soldiers and opened fire at random, also detonating an unknown number of suicide bombs. A teacher was reportedly burned alive in front of pupils and children were shot in the head. One hundred and forty-one people were killed, most of whom were children, and hundreds injured in the siege. According to police, all the militants were killed.

The Taliban, in a statement to Reuters, said that they targeted the school because the army targets their families in an ongoing military offensive against Taliban strongholds near Peshawar. “We want them to feel our pain,” the statement said. 

Dr. Asif Sohrab described on Facebook the horror in Peshawar:

2,3 funerals in every Street of Peshawar. In my street there are 3! Peshawar bleeds, Pakistan cries.

On such a sad day, #IndiawithPakistan generated a lot of good vibes:

In response to the attack, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced three days of mourning and has called an all party parliamentary meeting at the Governor House in Peshawar on Wednesday.

Men carry the casket of a victim of the Taliban shoot-out in a military-run school in Peshawar, Pakistan. Image by ppiimages. Copyright Demotix (16/12/2014)

Men carry the casket of a victim of the Taliban shoot-out in a military-run school in Peshawar, Pakistan. Image by ppiimages. Copyright Demotix (16/12/2014)

Pakistani Twitter users have also taken to Twitter to express their anger and grief:

Mehr Tarar, a former op-ed editor for Pakistan's Daily Times, captured the heartbreak of many Pakistanis in a column for Indian news portal NDTV:

Today, I feel as if I have been punched in my stomach. In my heart. And in my soul. With an iron rod. As I hear of children who were killed in an Army school in Peshawar, I feel my heart stopping.

Children were shot in the face. Children were shot in the head. Children were dragged out from under the chairs, under the tables, and shot. At point blank. Methodically. Coldly. Clinically. They – who go by the name of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan – say it is to avenge the Army operation against them in the FATA. To avenge the deaths of militants who were wreaking havoc on innocent Pakistanis in myriad acts of terror. It's retribution, they say.

I have nothing to say here. You call yourself a Muslim, you call your fight a jihad, you call your way that of Allah. And yet you do what Allah forbids you to do: to perpetrate a war in His name where you kill children. Where you kill people who have never harmed you. You are not just Pakistan's enemy but you are also your own worst enemy.

Writing in independent Canadian news website Ricochet, journalist Jahanjeb Hussain offered his view on what good, if any, could come of the attack:

The best hope is that this attack would finally convince the country’s leadership that meaningful, concentrated, and long-term action needs to be taken across the board.

Anushe Noor Faheem contributed to this post. 

by Rezwan at December 16, 2014 06:08 PM

Creative Commons
Happy birthday, Creative Commons

Help build the next era of sharing online.
Make a donation to Creative Commons.

12 years ago today, we launched the first Creative Commons license suite.

The internet was changing the way people share, and changing what it meant to be a creator. But copyright law hadn’t caught up. The Net was making sharing easy; the law was making it hard.

We made a bet that many creators would stand between the extremes. That they would be inspired by the idea of “some rights reserved” and dedicate some of their rights to the commons.

One billion licensed works later, I think we were right.

Back then, it was a leap of faith. We just didn’t know. I certainly didn’t know that CC licenses would catalyze a global community in almost 80 countries, or that governments and foundations would take our values and embed them in official policies, dedicating funds to create freely available works. But that’s what CC has been helping to facilitate.

Today, Creative Commons is making another leap. We’re betting that if we can make it more seamless to share CC-licensed content between different web platforms, we can multiply CC’s impact exponentially. So this is what our tech team is building.

We’re also betting that by investing in a new generation of advocates for open, we can accelerate our policy wins to a worldwide tipping point.

CC licenses are having a real impact on people’s lives. They are helping reveal information used to treat diseases, to make governments more transparent and accountable, and to make education accessible for everyone, everywhere. That’s an incredible impact for a set of simple, free licenses.

That’s why I hope you will consider making a donation today.

I’ve been inspired by many idealists. And I’ve had my heart broken more than a few times as I’ve rallied people together for change. But CC has proved that big change can happen, when it is supported by many, and often.

So please take a moment to think about the role that Creative Commons licenses play in your life and in our communities. CC licenses have transformed how the internet works, but we’re just getting started.

Please consider making a gift to Creative Commons.

Sincerely,
Lessig

Support Creative Commons

 

by Lawrence Lessig at December 16, 2014 06:05 PM

Global Voices
Have the Japanese Become ‘Numb’ to Earthquakes?
画像:FlickrユーザーのNATSUKO KADOYAMAにより2011年3月14日に撮影されたもの。CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Image by Flickr user NATSUKO KADOYAMA from March 14, 2011. CC BY NC-ND 2.0

A 6.8-magnitude earthquake rattled Japan's Nagano Prefecture in November 2014. Forty-one people were injured and 54 buildings collapsed, making for sensational coverage in the media.

Aftershocks: The earthquake in northern Nagano has left furniture strewn in cracked streets. Shinkansen bullet train services were suspended.

However, there was not as much media coverage of the recent Nagano quake compared to the past. One reason may be that no one died in the recent Nagano earthquake. While the media was quick to report on the Nagano quake, in-depth reporting afterwards quickly trickled off.

Even though a relatively strong 6.8-magnitude earthquake had occurred, the approach to coverage had changed. People took notice of the reduced coverage and voiced their opinions online.

Although the earthquake scale was large, the fact that television coverage quickly switched back to prime time programming is pretty scary.

On the other hand, countless tweets about the earthquake were produced in a steady stream. Some Twitter users were wondering about the dearth of media coverage about the quake, while others were wondering why it was so easy to brush off such a big quake.

With all of the Twitter chatter expressing fears of another quake, it's easy to understand that Japan has become a country that has become used to earthquakes.

‘It's crazy that we've become used to this’

Japanese attitudes toward earthquakes certainly seem to have changed by the experience of the “3.11 Tohoku Triple Disaster“, referring to the deadly March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami that triggered a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

As the earthquake that occurred Nagano in November 2014 illustrates, people living in Japan have become used to earthquakes (indeed, there is actually a new expression in the Japanese language that describes this phenomenon, 震慣れ (jishin-nare) or “used to earthquakes.”)

On Twitter, relatively large earthquakes like the one that occurred in Nagano this past November would have at one time would have been taken quite serious. Nowadays there isn't as much of a sense of fear and anxiety being expressed there or on other social media networks.

In the past, people thought even small tremors were scary. People thought they were going to die even if it was a mild Shindo 3 earthquake. After experiencing 3.11 and following the incessant aftershocks in years since, that anxiety has disappeared. Earthquakes are scary, but we're used to them. So when I'm still calmly watching television even in the middle of a Shindo 4 quake, well, that's a little strange and unsettling.

Other Twitter users think the attitude of society itself towards earthquakes has changed since 3.11:

Is it because the 3.11 Tohoku Triple Disaster was so terrible that we've come to expect that the Nagano quake will also result in terrible damage? It's almost like we as a society are in a state of paralysis. It's not like with the Tohoku triple disaster, when there was a constant background hum of discussion about what was happening. In the case of the Nagano earthquake this past November, people just resumed their daily lives. It's quite chilling to think about.

The sense of passivity in the face of crisis was already apparent to some observers just one year after the 3.11 Tohoku disaster.

Thanks to frequently occurring aftershocks even in regions far away from the most severely affected regions of Tohoku, regular, relatively frightening quakes which would have once upon a time been considered abnormal were now just regular life for many people.

A M4 earthquake just off the coast of Iwate (about 300 km north of Tokyo). Normally this would have been considered a big deal but there's hardly any coverage. It's crazy that we've become used to this. As a society we have become numb.

As the word word 慣れ (nare, to become accustomed to) spread to become a meme in the months of aftershocks following the 3.11 Tohoku Triple Disaster, many expressed their unease at what this word was actually coming to represent.

In other countries, it's pretty common for even a relatively minor Shindo 3 earthquake to collapse buildings. When an earthquake happens don't say you're “used to earthquakes.” Instead, seek safety. You're not “used to earthquakes”, you have simply become numb to them.

Note: Instead of the measuring by magnitude, Japan classifies earthquakes according to a “seismic intensity scale,” or shindo (literally “degree of shaking”). Although the shindo system doesn't measure the depth of an earthquake (which helps determine seismic intensity), it's possible to measure the effect of the same earthquake across different regions. A Shindo 7 earthquake like the one that struck off the coast of Tohoku generating massive tsunami waves is the most powerful earthquake.

Survivors’ noble stoicism

The perception of earthquakes in Japan is also connected to how people who themselves have been affected by earthquakes perceive what has happened to them.

In the weeks and months that followed the 3.11 calamity, aftershock after aftershock rocked eastern Japan, including the Tokyo region. The two words that have become most associated with the aftermath of the 3.11 triple disaster that completely wiped away so very many small towns off the face of the map were “reconstruct!” and kizuna, or “the bonds that tie us together as a community.”

However, as time went on, both the idea of reconstruction and kizuna have faded away, so much so that by 2013 that the journalist Ishijima Teruyo remarked that “the problem with the aftermath of the disaster is that only the word kizuna, or bond, itself remains, obscuring all that needs to be done to help the region recover.”

Ishijima reported listening to a university lecturer say, “The stoicism of the people of Tohoku is often presented as a moving and impressive tale, and that's the only story that is being told about the people living in the regions affected by the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster. And just a year after the disaster people were not able to hold out for much longer.” 

Obscuring the very real suffering under a veneer of noble stoicism, the heartwarming story of the pluck and bravery of the 3.11 survivors has created an illusion. The themes of “strength” and “beauty” have obscured the real, ongoing plight of the people of Tohoku.

Just five days after the 3.11 earthquake and tsunami, the drive to understand what had happened was already being eclipsed by “concern” about the effects of the earthquake. As one Twitter user observed:

The way people are talking about 3.11 is changing subtlety. “Feeling for the victims of the disaster” is becoming more important than actually understanding what happened. Shindo 5 and 6 earthquakes are not small at all. We shouldn't be saying “only one person died in such-and-such place because of the earthquake.” One person dying in this day and age because of an earthquake is a big deal. Becoming accustomed like this to earthquakes is a very scary thing.

Political props

Following the 3.11 disaster, there were also many examples of earthquake victims being used as political props. In the lead-up to elections, politicians, in an effort to demonstrate they emphasized with people in the disaster zone, would criticize the attitudes and actions of other politicians towards earthquake survivors.

Other times, when the government itself was being criticized, such as at anti-nuclear demonstrations, politicians would position themselves as the foremost advocates of the 3.11 survivors.

Twitter users have been quick to notice:

The opposition parties continue with their impotent criticisms of the [Prime Minister Shinzo] Abe government while ignoring the tens of thousands of people in the disaster zone still waiting for temporary housing. The politicians should leave the people living in the disaster zone out of politics

Yamamoto Taro, a television personality-turned politician who gained notoriety after ignoring protocol by passing on a letter to the emperor, has also been criticized for making political hay out of the plight of Tohoku residents.

If we're going to criticize Taro Yamamoto for “politicizing the emperor” after passing on a single letter, we sure as hell had better criticize Shinzo Abe too for using the emperor as a tool for everything from North Korean abductions to the Fukushima nuclear accident and so on.

Others have noted that those who once claimed to champion the interests of those affected by the 3.11 disaster have now moved on.

For the anti-nuclear movement, what seems to be more important than the plight of the 3.11 earthquake and tsunami survivors is criticizing nuclear power and the government.

Global Voices posts related to the 3.11 Tohuku Triple Disaster:

Strong Earthquake in Japan's Nagano Injures Dozens, Topples Homes
1,000 Days Since 2011′s Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami
20 Bitter Voices Rise From Fukushima After Japan's 2011 Nuclear Disaster
Mapping Earthquake Reconstruction in Tohoku, Japan
Fukushima: No Place Like Home
Earthquake Hits Awaji Island in Japan
Evacuate the Children of Fukushima
Fukushima's Children Are Getting Sick
Earthquake Debris Disposal Divides Japan
After Japan Earthquake, a New Local Newspaper by Citizens
Japan: Citizens Respond to New Nuclear Power Policies

by Nevin Thompson at December 16, 2014 04:39 PM

What the Global Climate Movement Can Learn From Latin America
The Amazon. Photo credit: Mariusz Kluzniak (Flickr)

The Amazon. Photo credit: Mariusz Kluzniak (Flickr)

This article was written by Hoda Baraka for 350.organ organization building a global climate movement, and is republished on Global Voices as part of a content-sharing agreement.

Latin America has a long history of popular movements, whether it be in the environmental, political or economic context. Today, these movements have established themselves as a major social and political force largely shaping regional realities.

Below are highlights from conversations with climate activists in Latin America shedding light on the uniqueness of the climate movement in the region and what the global movement might be able to learn from this inspiring example.

1. Adapting to changing times

Similar to other regions in the Global South, Latin America continues to undergo a process of urbanisation as populations shift from rural to urban areas in search of economic opportunities. Although urbanisation brings forth many environmental problems and rural cultures are seen to be largely replaced by urban cultures, in the case of Latin America the rural and the urban activist groups have joined forces to confront the climate crisis.

So rather than succumbing to the changing times dictated by urbanisation, they are adapting and joining forces with the emerging youth activist groups based in urban areas.

As Peruvian climate activist Majandra Rodriguez Acha, who is one of the founders of the activist group known as TierrActiva Peru, explains:

I think the climate movement in Latin America is new but also quite old. Groups that are directly affected by climate change such as indigenous groups, women’s groups and rural groups have been mobilising around climate change related issues for a long time; but I also think that as a more urban and maybe a more youth led movement this is quite new to some extent. It’s a diverse and growing movement and more and more people are finding out what climate change is and how it’s affecting them and affecting others in different contexts.

Listen to the below podcast where Majandra also talks about the realities of climate change in Latin America, affected communities, the risks of being an environmental activist in the region, and more.

2. United by the struggle for sustainable livelihoods

What observers refer to as Latin America’s climate movement is in fact a coming together of numerous movements. Not only does this add power to the climate struggle, but it is also an accurate reflection of the cross-cutting impact of climate change since it affects, livelihoods, jobs, health and beyond.

The coming together of these forces takes the climate conversation to another level and represents a whole new level of pressure on governments (who are lagging behind on climate action) while adding real power to the multiple voices united in their call for climate action.

Climate activist Nicky Scordellis, who joined the Bolivian climate movement years ago and is part of activist group TierrActiva Bolivia, explains:

Latin America has this huge movement which often doesn’t call itself the climate movement, but what they are doing is completely a part of the struggles against climate change. Two key elements at play: one is resistance and in Latin America there are huge resistance movements against the mega projects, fossil fuel extraction, mining, all of that which is often related more to territory issues and indigenous rights, but actually they are all connected to climate change and that’s incredibly strong right now in Latin America. And the other side of that is people building alternatives; across Latin America there are incredible experiences of building transition projects of people building communities, working with local organic agriculture building  eco houses and urban gardening, these are happening all over Latin America. I think these are incredibly powerful in terms of how we face climate change and I think its really important for movements across the world to see what’s happening across Latin America and learn from those experiences.

Listen to the below podcast where Nicky also talks about climate activists in Bolivia and how they are working to connect with other climate activist groups from across the region.

3. Driven by a powerful connection to their land

Across Latin America many indigenous spiritual traditions express ethics of respect for nonhuman life, for particular places and landscape features, and for the Earth itself. Consequently, this reverence towards nature is reflected in an understanding for the need to live in balance with the environment, respecting and protecting the eco-systems which make life on this planet possible.

In a world economy driven by capitalist pursuits, many view nature as a simple resource which should be exploited for economic gain. To confront this greed, and the destruction that ensues, many indigenous communities have stood in defence of nature, tragically too often costing them their lives.

Across Latin America, building on their indigenous roots, many are incorporating these concepts and spiritual traditions into a larger developmental approach. The premise of this approach is doing things in a community-centric, ecologically-balanced and culturally-sensitive manner. One such well-known approach is called the Buen Vivir/Well Living movement, which originated in Ecuador rooted in the worldview of the Quechua peoples of the Andes.

Other social movements across South America have been inspired by this and have expanded the movement, also linking to other indigenous belief systems, such as those of the Aymara peoples of Bolivia, the Quichua of Ecuador and the Mapuche of Chile and Argentina.

Read more on the “Buen Vivir” movement in The Guardian: “Buen Vivir: the social philosophy inspiring movements in South America

by 350.org at December 16, 2014 04:26 PM

El Salvador Imprisons 17 Women Who Lost Their Newborns as Murderers
Image used with permission

Image used with permission

This article, written by Jocelyn Viterna, was originally published on the NACLA (North American Congress on Latin America) website. Jocelyn Viterna is an associate professor of sociology at Harvard University and the author of “Women in War: The Micro-processes of Mobilization in El Salvador (Oxford University Press, 2013)”.

One night in November 2011, María Teresa awoke in San Salvador with stomach cramping. She had felt fine all day, working at her factory job, and spending the evening laughing, talking, sharing dinner with her family, and helping her six-year-old son with his homework. When she later stumbled to the latrine outside her small, one-room home clutching her abdomen, she was horrified to feel a “little ball” drop from her body.

She cried for help and passed out, hemorrhaging severely. Her mother-in-law, Ana, called an ambulance. When hospital doctors realized she had just given birth, they asked what had happened to her baby. Stunned, María replied, “What baby?” The police were contacted, and they soon found the dead fetus in the latrine.

Originally charged with “abortion,” María Teresa’s charges were upgraded to “aggravated homicide” and she was sentenced to 40 years in prison.

There are 17 women like María Teresa languishing in El Salvador’s prisons, and women’s activists throughout the country are working hard to bring international attention to these cases. On April 1, a caravan of approximately 200 activists led by the Citizens’ Coalition for the Decriminalization of Abortion travelled from the Ilapongo’s Rehabilitation Center for Women, where many of the 17 women are being held, to the national Legislative Assembly, where they submitted requests to pardon these women, who are all imprisoned for the “homicide” or “attempted homicide” of their newborns. But as the Citizens’ Coalition argues, these women actually suffered a range of obstacles beyond their control, from stillbirths to complications resulting from self-birthing that led to the infant’s death. They have each been sentenced for 12 to 40 years, despite the absence of direct evidence of wrongdoing.

In court, María Teresa testified that she never knew she was pregnant, that her stomach never grew, and that she had been bleeding regularly, as if menstruating, for months prior to the stillbirth—all intimate details she has encouraged through written correspondence that I publish so her case be well known and accurately reported. Her mother-in-law, Ana, reports that María Teresa had regularly visited the doctor prior to the surprise birth, but that even the doctors had failed to recognize that she was pregnant. “She went a lot for back pain,” Ana said. “They even told her, because she’s really big breasted, that maybe the pain was caused by her chest.”

Medical experts at María Teresa’s trial determined that the fetus was “full term,” but the evidence for this conclusion was sparse and contradictory. There were no marks on the tiny body to suspect foul play; the umbilical cord was torn and not cut, substantiating María Teresa’s claims that the baby fell directly into the latrine; and the autopsy found no evidence of feces in either the lungs or the stomach of the fetus, suggesting that it likely never took a breath. Nevertheless, the judge concluded that María Teresa must have known she was pregnant, and had the specific intention of killing her newborn.

María Teresa’s family and neighbors were astounded to learn she had given birth. Ana explained, “I lived in the same house, and I never saw that pregnancy. The whole world, the neighbors…we were all shocked.” While unusual, María Teresa’s lack of knowledge of her own pregnancy is actually common for a statistically significant percentage of women. A 2002 German study in the British Medical Journal concluded that one out of 475 pregnancies go unrecognized by the pregnant woman herself until late in the gestation.

Women most at risk for not knowing they are pregnant are often overweight and continue to have vaginal bleeding through gestation, like María Teresa. According to Dr. Christine Curry, a Boston-based obstetrician, María Teresa’s presentation of intermittent, painless bleeding could have been caused by what she calls “cervical incompetence,” a condition in which a woman’s cervix “dilates with few, if any, painful contractions.” For Dr. Curry, it’s not uncommon for women with this condition to “deliver into toilets due to their feeling of extreme pressure without pain.”

Outside of these 17 cases, the large majority of Salvadoran women who experience a stillbirth or newborn death are not accused of murder, as those deaths often occur in a medical facility under the watchful eye of staff. However, under current legislation, Salvadoran women who enter the hospital post-partum, having already lost the fetus, are at high risk of being accused of homicide, especially if they have no witnesses to support their account.

All 17 women seeking the pardons in El Salvador’s courts gave birth outside a medical facility, and typically without any support. Like María Teresa, most were transported to the hospital with heavy bleeding and retained placentas, often losing consciousness. Some, like María Marina, testified in court documents that their babies were born dead, and medical reports provided no evidence to the contrary.

A legal review of the court documents suggests that judges’ decisions in nearly every case are based on a presumption of the mother’s guilt. In many cases, exculpatory evidence is dismissed, and judgments center on whether women may have hidden their pregnancies, cheated on their male partners, or acted inappropriately according to presumed natural laws of motherhood.

Over the last several decades, abortion laws in Latin America have undergone striking changes. Previous laws for the most part outlawed abortion except when the life of mother is at risk, the pregnancy is a result of rape, or the fetus is severely deformed. A few places, like Uruguay and Mexico City, have recently followed the example of Cuba and liberalized women’s access to abortion. Others, such as El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Chile, and the Dominican Republic, criminalized all forms of abortion, while also amending their constitutions to define “life” as beginning at conception. Abortion laws have also recently been the subject of intense debate in a host of other Latin American countries, including Brazil, Colombia, Bolivia, and Costa Rica.

In El Salvador, a powerful pro-life movement led by the organization Yes to Life began campaigning for the total criminalization of abortion during a planned revision of the penal code in 1994. The right-wing National Republican Alliance (ARENA) political party allied with the pro-life movement, and in 1997, voted into law a new criminal code. The new code eliminated the previous law’s allowance of abortion in cases of rape or grave fetal deformation, or when it would save the health of the mother. The left-wing Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) initially challenged ARENA, arguing that pregnant women should maintain limited options for safe abortions, particularly when pregnancy put their lives at risk. But the FMLN had too few votes to stop the passage of the total abortion ban.

In 1999, ARENA brought a constitutional amendment defining life as beginning at conception to the legislature for its final vote, and the left party again did not have enough votes to stop the amendment from passing. The major media outlets in the nation, long affiliated with the political right, had strongly criticized the FMLN’s stance in favor of limited abortion rights, and the party was divided and losing public support. The FMLN leadership decided to let party members “vote their conscience” instead of proposing a party line. The overwhelming majority of FMLN deputies voted in favor of the constitutional reform. Although the FMLN has supported several other initiatives to improve women’s rights since winning executive power in 2009, they have remained silent on the issue of abortion since 1999.

Amnesty International, the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, and the Inter-American Court on Human Rights have all criticized the Salvadoran law, arguing that requiring a woman to sacrifice her life for a fetus, or requiring a woman to carry an unviable fetus to term constitutes torture, discrimination, and a fundamental violation of human rights. Despite the right’s powerful control over the Salvadoran media, the Salvadoran feminist movement has made slow but significant gains in educating the public about the consequences of the total abortion ban. Nearly 97% of Salvadorans supported some form of anti-abortion legislation in a 2012 nationally-representative survey, but only 40% opposed abortion in situations where the pregnant woman’s life is at risk. The Citizen’s Coalition believes this number has decreased even further since the publicity surrounding the case of Beatriz, a woman whose life was recently endangered when Salvadoran law prohibited the abortion of her non-viable pregnancy.

While abortion rights movements around the world have reported on the Salvadoran legislation extensively, what is perhaps most compelling about the current cases is that the imprisoned women appear to have not purposefully ended a pregnancy, but rather to have suffered from a combination of obstetrical complications and poverty. When they sought medical attention in public health centers, they were reported to the police for suspected abortion, often by the very medical staff that treated them. Given that the anti-abortion law in El Salvador provides a two- to five-year sentence for abortion accomplices and those who fail to report a possible abortion, as outlined in the Salvadoran Criminal Code, such actions by medical personnel are understandable. As Morena Herrera of the Citizens’ Coalition explained to me, “With the 1997 change in the legislation, the Attorney General’s office became more interested in prosecuting the act of abortion. What happened was that prosecution shifted its focus to the public hospitals.”

The cases of these 17 Salvadoran women are complicated by the failure of the Salvadoran criminal code to provide any legal definition of abortion, while the newly amended constitution explicitly defines life as beginning at conception. This blurs the legal line between abortion and homicide.

Dennis Munoz Estanley, a lawyer for the Citizens’ Coalition, explained to me in July how this blurring denies women the presumption of innocence: “At first, these women are accused in the public hospitals of abortion, but this is done without determining if there has been an induction of any sort. Then, as the investigation evolves, the medical experts say that the case doesn’t actually deal with abortion, as the uterine contractions that these women had were spontaneous. But if this was the case, then there was simply no reason for the abortion accusation in the first place.”

In the three months since the Citizen’s Coalition formally requested pardons on behalf of the 17 women, the Coalition reported to me in July that six more women have been charged with murder in El Salvador for what appear to be obstetrical emergencies. Several, like 19-year-old Kenia, have already received 30-year sentences.

In Kenia’s case, she called the authorities for help when she went into labor, but help never came—probably due to the high level of gang violence in her community, as the Coalition alleges. After she gave birth alone, her baby died. Kenia left the baby in her family’s storehouse, and went, bleeding, with the placenta and the umbilical cord still attached to her uterus, into the street to look for the police. She had lost almost two liters of blood. The police took her to the hospital, and like in the other cases, she was charged with homicide and sentenced to 30 years.

Image used with permission

Image used with permission

María Teresa’s son Oscar’s eyes filled with tears as he spoke with me in July. The now nine-year-old boy hasn’t seen his mother in almost two years because his grandmother says he becomes seriously depressed after visiting her in prison, and because the trip requires many hours and financial resources that she cannot spare. Ana regularly struggles to make ends meet with the little store she runs out of their home, buying food in bulk and selling it piecemeal. If she earns two dollars a day, she reports, she feels very lucky. Oscar’s schoolwork has suffered, even though neighbors help him because his grandmother is illiterate. And he has begun showing other signs of psychological stress as well.

When his grandmother announced that she could no longer continue to pay his tuition, his face fell. Ana desperately wants to avoid transferring him to the public school, where she says teachers have too many students and where violent gangs recruit their youngest members. But the funds are simply not there.

“Without María Teresa, I’ve felt very bad, in every way. She was like a daughter to me,” recounted Ana. “Now it’s a fight to figure out how to get by. She was the one who worked for all of us. Oscar misses her so much. She had paid for him to go to the mission school since he was in kindergarten, because she knew that the child would do well there, because education was always really important for her. She was everything to her child.”

In a country overwhelmed by poverty and violence, Oscar once seemed to be a child with a chance at social mobility. But when the judicial system imprisoned his mother for four decades, they also sentenced Oscar to limited educational opportunities, extreme psychological distress, and little escape from street violence. In its efforts to protect the life of the unborn, the Salvadoran legal system may be systematically destroying the lives of children like Oscar who are already here.

by NACLA at December 16, 2014 04:14 PM

Lawrence Lessig
NHRebellion Walk v2

In less than a month, the second #NHRebellion walk across New Hampshire begins. This time, there…

(Original post on Tumblr)

by Lessig at December 16, 2014 02:22 PM

Global Voices
Does the Caribbean Have a Rape Culture?
No more rape; image by chrisjtse, used under a CC BY-ND 2.0 license.

No more rape. Image by chrisjtse, used under a CC BY-ND 2.0 license.

Are societal attitudes and laws against rape in the Caribbean doing women a disservice? Trinidad and Tobago's attorney general set himself up for criticism last week in a speech to Parliament, where he warned women to be especially responsible during the Christmas and Carnival seasons because the use of date-rape drugs rises.

Presumably he intended to encourage women to be vigilant, but the public announcement meant that sexual predators were reminded about the availability of such drugs. Putting the onus of responsibility on the potential victims, rather than the perpetrators, also struck a sour note with many citizens.

Meanwhile, in Barbados, the Men’s Education Support Association (MESA) actively lobbied for legislation in which fines would be imposed on women for making false accusations of sexual assault. According to the head of the organisation, schoolgirls regularly “tear off their clothes” and blame men for what—apparently inevitably—happens next.

The blog “Code Red,” which regularly examines regional feminist issues, was not impressed with this reasoning, saying of the situation in Trinidad and Tobago:

Girls are either raping themselves, lying about rape, dressing immorally or failing to parang [folk music originating in Trinidad and Tobago that is popular around Christmas time] responsibly.

The [attorney general] conveniently did not mention what, if anything, the government planned to do to address rape, since by his own analysis it is a fact of life.

The blog also challenged MESA's reasoning:

In the Caribbean, a girl who is raped at age 12 can expect to see her case come to court when she is 20, that is, if the social stigma, family and community pressure have not already forced her and her family to discontinue the case. [...]

To argue that legislation should deter women and girls from reporting crimes against them is not in men’s interest. It is in the interest of rapists.

We are left with empty advice. Rapists’ interests confused as men’s interests. A relentless culture of misogyny that is literally costing us our lives.

Unfortunately, the misogyny cited above is pervasive throughout the Caribbean. Just last month, a Jamaican parliamentarian was criticised on social media for a flippant quip about rape during a debate about a proposed flexi-work bill. When a female senator made the point that women leaving work after dark could be at higher risk for sexual assault, Minister AJ Nicholson saw it fit to make a joke.

The laws are also skewed against women when it comes to sexual assault. Some groups are trying to do what they can to push back. Earlier in the year, this Guyana-based human rights NGO promoted an online petition to get the marital rape laws changed:

A few months later, another Twitter user drew attention to the rape of children in state institutions and the response of one politician who said that “girls are no angels”—a typical “blame the victim” reaction:

Code Red blog cites research in the United Kingdom that indicates as many as two-thirds of rape allegations are dismissed without going to trail, thanks to a host of common “criteria,” such as claims of disability, mental illness, being in a relationship with the attacker, consuming drugs or alcohol before the attack, and so on. The head researcher in the UK, Betsy Stanko, concluded that “rather that seeing these women and girls as unreliable witnesses, police investigators need to take a person’s vulnerability as evidence that they are more likely to be raped and investigate whether that vulnerability was exploited by the suspect.”

Trends in the Caribbean are no better. Code Red says the region's “rates of investigation, trial and conviction in cases of rape and sexual assault are extremely low.” In Guyana, where there are on average 140 reported cases of rape, “in the years 2012 and 2013, only 22 cases had enough evidence to go to court and none resulted in a conviction, even with the Sexual Offenses Act in 2012.” That works out to an average conviction rate of 1.4 percent:

This year it was reported that Guyana did not have enough rape kits. In other cases rape did not even get investigated until women took to the streets in protest.

Popular perceptions could be changing, however. Judging from this letter to the editor, some Guyanese women are no longer prepared to accept the status quo:

We are tired of paper rights. We are tired of being abused, violated and not being able to get justice. [...] We are tired of being ignored as our lives and the lives of our families grow more and more dangerous from all forms of violence including sexual violence. We are most of all tired of the hypocrisy, deception, lies, corruption, ignorance and ‘eye pass’. We are sick and tired of the wasteful and empty consultations and empty promises. We know the truth, and the truth is: in this dear land of Guyana, women and children pass for grass.

Well no more! We are not prepared to accept that there is no money for comprehensively addressing the scourge of sexual violence.

Guyanese activists are demanding urgent action to address the threats to women, including the dismissal of the attorney general and chief justice, for their alleged poor judgement in matters relating to sexual offenses. Activists are also calling for the establishment of properly funded institutions within the justice system “armed with progressive human rights based policies to support and secure justice for victims of sexual violence.”

by Flora Thomas at December 16, 2014 01:14 PM

Doc Searls
Listening to Serial? Remember the West Memphis Three.

On Saturday I invited Serial listeners to recall the Edgar Smith case. Smith got away, literally, with murder. He did it by convincing the media and the public (and to a lesser degree the courts) that he was innocent man, falsely convicted of brutally killing a teenage girl. After he was released he attempted another murder, confessed to the original one and went back to prison.

Now I invite Serial listeners to recall a counter example: the West Memphis Three, who were convicted as teenagers in 1994 for the murders of three boys in West Memphis, Arkansas in 1993. One was sentenced to death and the other two were given life sentences. It was alleged, on debatable evidence gained by poor police work, that the victims were killed in a Satanic ritual.

All three are now free, having given Alford pleas. These are “guilty” pleas in which innocence is still maintained. (It’s complicated. Look it up.) To make a long story too short, it is now clear that they got bum raps and that other persons are the more likely perps. The miscarriage of justice in the case is so extreme that the dad of one of the victims has taken up the Three’s cause.

I met two of the Three, plus the dad, in 2012 after a screening of the documentary West of Memphis at the Santa Barbara Film Festival. I’m sure they are innocent.

The Memphis Three’s case, like Edgar Smith’s, is irrelevant to Adnan Syed’s. (He’s serving time for murder in the case Serial explores). The jury is still in for that one, and Adnan is still officially guilty. But maybe keeping these other cases in mind will help us all keep our minds open.

Meanwhile, HuffPo has a nice set of takes by prosecutors and defense attorneys.

by Doc Searls at December 16, 2014 12:45 AM

December 15, 2014

Global Voices
As the Sydney Siege Comes to an End, Hundreds of Thousands of Tweets Show Solidarity with Muslims

Hostages taken at Lindt Chocolat cafe in Martin Place – Sydney. Photo by Demotix/Richard Milnes

The 16-hour hostage situation at Lindt Café in Martin Place at Sydney's busy Financial District came to an end with commandos storming the cafe killing the lone gunman Man Haron Monis, but coverage of the siege continues to bring the best and worst of mainstream and social media in Australia.

In between thousands of tweets, hours of live broadcast and hundreds of web pages, some facts have proven to be inaccurate and misleading, and some angles had dangerous Islamophobic overtones.

Early on the gunman made the hostages hold up a black flag with Arabic writing at the cafe window. Many reports that followed had angles which alarmed some Sydney social media users who joined a hashtag campaign #IllRideWithYou. The campaign is meant to show solidarity with Sydney's Muslims who might feel uncomfortable taking public transport following the cafe siege. The hashtag has been used hundreds thousands of times and gone viral all over the world. 

Sloppy Reporting

The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper reports “Monday's siege in the CBD has seen a number of myths circulating on social media and in the press.”

Keith Fitzgerald, a crisis negotiator expert, after seeing the front page of a special edition newspaper, asked journalists in Australia to condemn the Daily Telegraph: 

2GB radio presenter Ray Hadley also created several rumours live and on air during his daily show. According to The Sydney Morning Herald, the disinformation in this article could create race-based discrimination. The ironic Twitter user ‘The Daily Rupert‘ tweets:

And some headlines could raise unnecessary panic like this one published on Twitter by an ABC News reporter:

#IllRideWithYou

Chris Graham, the founder of the New Matilda blog wrote ten predictions of what is going to happen in the aftermath of the siege. The first is the “possible raise of violence directed against Muslims, in particular Muslim women”. 

On Twitter, 33-year-old blogger Tessa Kum created the hashtag ‪#illridewithyou‪ in solidarity with Muslims who might feel uncomfortable riding public transport in Australia after the Sydney siege was reported with racial undertones. 

This solidarity movement started after a journalist tweeted a screen grab from a Facebook update by a Sydney-based teacher and dancer named Rachel, regarding her experience on a Sydney train posted as soon as the siege started:

She said ”a Muslim Woman sitting besides her silently removed her hijab because she didn´t want to show signs of her religion for fear of misplaced retaliation from commuters in relations to the siege situation that was occurring in Martin Place, Sydney.”

SirTessa RTed Michael James tweet and tweeted:

The hashtag took over within an hour.

As the campaign took off the teacher and dancer whose Facebook post gave the impetus for the hashtag tweeted:

Siege Selfies

The police evacuated the area and created safe distance zones for the media, but these safe areas were also full of people that wanted to stay close to the action, as if they were watching a movie. Though it was a very real and dangerous situation some even took selfies and posted them on Twitter:

Aisha Dow from the newspaper The Age, writes “Cheerful onlookers have been snapping mobile phone “selfies” at the perimeters of the Sydney siege as a still unknown number of hostages remain prisoners of a gunman.”

During the afternoon five hostages managed to flee from Lindt Café, it is not clear if the gunman freed them or they managed to run away.

17 hostages were caught up in the siege, four were injured. Besides the gunman, two hostages were killed after getting caught in the crossfire. 

The Lone Gunman

The 50-year old hostage taker was an Iranian asylum seeker, who had been living in Australia since 1996.  Authorities believe he acted alone in the siege. He was well-known to the police and was in court recently. He had faced dozens of charges on indecency and sexual assault. In 2013, he pleaded guilty to sending hate letters to the families of deceased Australian soldiers. He was also implicated as an accessory in the murder of his ex- wife. 

Within Sydney's Muslim community he is believed to be an outsider. Reports suggest he had been sidelined by Shia leaders, who had urged federal police to investigate  him over his claims to be an “ayatollah”, or leading cleric. Reports from his blog, which has now been taken down, suggest he converted to Sunni Islam last week. He also reportedly claimed on his blog to be an expert in astrology, numerology, meditation and black magic.

by Manuel Ribeiro at December 15, 2014 10:34 PM

Harvard Law Library Innovation Lab
Global Voices
The Incredible Courage of Women Human Rights Defenders in the Middle East
Caption identifying who is in the photo

Zainab Al-Khawaja & her daughter Jude / Razan Zaitouneh

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) is an independent, non-profit and non-governmental organisation that works to provide support and protection to human rights defenders (including independent journalists, bloggers, lawyers, etc.) in the Gulf region and its neighbouring countries by promoting freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly. This post was originally published on December 10, 2014, and an edited version is republished on Global Voices with permission.

On International Human Rights Day, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) paid tribute to the courage of women human rights defenders across the Gulf region and its neighbouring countries. The region is not hospitable to human rights defenders in general and women are even more at risk in some of the most dangerous countries in the world to speak your mind, such as Iraq, where a critical comment can get you killed; or Syria, where being a human rights defender means risking your life and liberty; or Bahrain, where tearing a photo of the king could land you in jail for seven years; or Saudi Arabia, where women have been arrested for trying to drive; or Iran, where protesting about acid attacks on women will incur punishment.

The crisis in Iraq and Syria has made the wider Gulf region more unstable and the situation of women human rights defenders even more dangerous, particularly with the rise of the Islamic state group known as ISIS. As ISIS has spread across Iraq and Syria, women have been murdered or even enslaved.

Caption identifying who or what is in the photo.

One example of the widespread damage that ISIS inflicted on ancient Mosul

On 22 September 2014, Iraqi lawyer and women’s human rights defender Samira Saleh Al-Naimi was murdered by a group of masked armed men belonging to ISIS, who opened fire and killed her in a public square in the very heart of Mosul. GCHR reported that she was kidnapped by ISIS from her home the week before after she described the widespread damage that ISIS inflicted on ancient Mosul as “barbaric”.

Caption identifying who or what is in the photo.

Razan, Wa'el, Samira and Nazim

The capacity of human rights defenders to carry out their work within conflict zones and elsewhere in Syria has been severely restricted. Women’s human rights defenders have been jailed or kidnapped, like Razan Ghazzawi or Razan Zaitouneh, and driven into exile or hiding in Syria since the conflict began.

This week also marks one year since Zaitouneh and her three colleagues from the human rights monitoring group that she heads, the Violations Documentation Center (VDC), were abducted in Duma, a city near Damascus under the control of armed opposition groups. Zaitouneh, a lawyer, has defended political prisoners in Syria since 2001 and since the beginning of the crisis in 2011 has played a key role documenting violations. GCHR joined over 50 other NGOs calling for the release of Zaitouneh, Wa’el Hamada, who is also her husband, Samira Khalil and Nazem Hamadi. 

Civil society activists, humanitarian aid workers, writers, journalists, lawyers and those who document human rights violations are deliberately targeted by all parties to the conflict. Tens of thousands have been detained in dire conditions, many dying in prison. Reports of unlawful killings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention and systematic torture, including rape, and other ill-treatment at the hands of both government security forces and armed opposition groups were received by GCHR since the conflict began in 2011.

The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) has also documented violence, including sexual assault, against women in Syria at the hands of government forces, ISIS, Kurdish fighters and other armed opposition groups. In a recent report, they note that Syrian women hold an important role as human rights defenders — documenting violations, organising protests and offering humanitarian aid — in many cases also becoming the sole providers for their families.

Bahrain 

It is not only in countries with open civil war where women are suffering. In Bahrain, women’s equality is fairly advanced, particularly compared to Saudi Arabia. Women have the right to drive, be elected to Parliament, hold high-level professional jobs and even become ministers — but women also can be fired from their jobs, jailed and even tortured alongside men.

A week before elections were held on 22 November, over a dozen young women were arrested in Bahrain, some during highly traumatising night raids, including two pregnant women and one woman with a baby. According to the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), they were charged with “establishing and organising a public referendum” for organising polls before the elections, yet some of them were reportedly tortured and severely mistreated.

In addition, the Bahraini Ministry of Interior continues to detain Zahra Al-Shaikh and her baby, who was born prematurely and has health issues. She is reportedly mentally distressed and suffering greatly. She was arrested on 27 October 2014 as she visited her husband in jail, and charged with illegal gathering. She has been arrested several other times in violation to her right to freedom of assembly.

Caption identifying who or what is in the photo.

Maryam Al-Khawaja & Zainab Al-Khawaja

Zainab Al-Khawaja, a leading Bahraini human rights campaigner, gave birth last month barely a week after being freed from jail. She was sentenced to three years in prison on 4 December for ripping a photo of the king during one of her many hearings on 14 October, and then sentenced in other cases on 9 December to 16 months in prison effective immediately on charges of insulting a public servant and destroying public property. She had been freed on 19 November following international advocacy on her behalf by GCHR, BCHR and many other NGOs and members of European Parliament. She also has three hearings on 9 December and faces five other charges which, according to her lawyer, clearly violate her right to free expression.

Her sister Maryam Al-Khawaja, co-director of the GCHR, was also jailed for 19 days upon arrival in Bahrain on 30 August and falsely charged with assaulting two policewomen. She was given a one-year prison sentence on 1 December, in a trial which she boycotted. In reality, Al-Khawaja herself was assaulted and her shoulder muscle torn, yet nobody has been called to account for this assault. She had made the trip to try to see her father, whose life was at risk following a hunger strike in prison. 

Caption identifying who or what is in the photo.

Ghada Jamsheer

Also in Bahrain, women’s human rights defender Ghada Jamsheer was jailed on 15 September 2014 on charges of defamation via Twitter after she tweeted about corruption at King Hamad University Hospital, which is headed by a member of the ruling family. She was released this week but re-arrested within hours on sham charges, to the great distress of her mother and daughter. Jamsheer is the president of the Women's Petition Committee (WPC), a network of Bahraini women human rights defenders who campaign for the codification of Bahrain’s family laws and their reform. 

Caption identifying who or what is in the photo.

Souad Al-Shammari

Saudi Arabia

In neighbouring Saudi Arabia, women’s rights are severely restricted, and it is risky to advocate for women’s rights in any way. According to the Monitor of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia women’s rights defender Souad Al-Shammari was arrested on 28 October 2014 in Jeddah. She was interrogated for tweets she published on her Twitter account and faces alleged charges of “calling upon society to disobey by describing society as masculine” as well as “using sarcasm while mentioning religious texts and religious scholars.”

Caption identifying who or what is in the photo.

Dr. Hala Al-Doseri

Women who advocate for the right to drive have been arrested, interrogated, defamed, had their cars confiscated, and faced serious family conflicts due to the authority's insistence on involving their guardians in their activities, reported Dr. Hala Aldosari, a women’s rights defender who worked on the Saudi Women’s Driving Campaign. She spoke at a UN side event in September 2014, organised with GCHR, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), CIVICUS, and the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA).

Caption identifying who or what is in the photo.

Samar Badawi and her husband Waleed Abu Al-Khair

Saudi human rights defender Samar Badawi also travelled to Geneva for the 27th Regular Session of the UN Human Rights Council in September to raise awareness of women’s rights as well as the many human rights defenders who are currently imprisoned in Saudi Arabia, including her husband and brother.

“We ask for the right of women to be elected, to drive vehicles,” she said.

She told the UN Council that it “bears the responsibility” for human rights violations in Saudi Arabia “because Saudi Arabia is a member of the Council.” She has previously been jailed in Saudi Arabia for her women’s rights activism, and was banned from travel on 2 December while preparing to fly to Belgium for the 16th European Union (EU) NGOs Forum on Human Rights.

Caption identifying who or what is in the photo.

Nasrin Sotoudeh

Iran

Moving to Iran, women human rights defenders are routinely jailed, interrogated, threatened and harassed for their work. Following protests against acid attacks on women that were held in Tehran and Isfahan on 22 October, a number of women’s rights activists were detained including prominent human rights defender and lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh. Both protests ended in the violent beating and arrest of several activists as well as the use of tear gas to disperse the crowds that had gathered.

Mahdieh Golrou, a student, human rights and women’s activist as well as a member of the Council for Defense of Educational Rights, was arrested after a raid on her house following her rigorous participation in the acid attacks protests. She had stated on one of her Facebook posts after the protests: “I am a woman. I am an Iranian woman who is afraid and is always worried. […] I am a woman, and these days, my womanhood scares me.”

This is only a small sample of the threats that women human rights defenders face across the region, one of the most restrictive areas on earth to be a woman, let alone a woman who dares to speak out against human rights violations. The GCHR is campaigning for an end to judicial harassment of women human rights defenders, including their jailing and sentencing on trumped up charges, as well as for an end to all attacks on women human rights defenders in the Gulf region.

by Gulf Center for Human Rights at December 15, 2014 07:25 PM

A First Glimpse of Christmas in Trinidad and Tobago
Christmas in Trinidad & Tobago; photo by Edmund Gall, used under a CC BY-SA 2.0 license.

Christmas in Trinidad & Tobago; photo by Edmund Gall, used under a CC BY-SA 2.0 license.

It's the Christmas season, which means celebrations and lots of food and music in countries around the world. Anticipating the tastes and sounds ahead, food blog Trini Gourmet has published a series of stories about the music and dishes that accompany Christmas in Trinidad and Tobago. GV's Caribbean team will be profiling some of the best stories and recipes from the series in an effort to share a Caribbean Christmas with you, dear readers!

Parang
Parang music, a folk-hybrid with roots in Venezuela and Trinidad and Tobago, mixes Latin and African beats with Spanish-language lyrics to pay homage to the birth of Christ. Parang bands, or “paranderos,” typically act as carollers, going from house to house to serenade people (and hopefully be invited in for food and drink). This tradition is dying, but it can still be seen in more rural communities, like Paramin and Lopinot. More popular today are parang festivals and competitions, where enthusiasts pay to attend.

Parang singers in Trinidad & Tobago; photo by Edmund Gall, used under a CC BY-SA 2.0 license.

Parang singers in Trinidad & Tobago; photo by Edmund Gall, used under a CC BY-SA 2.0 license.

Trini Gourmet calls parang Trinidad and Tobago's “soundtrack to Christmas,” highlighting parang greats like Daisy Voisin and The Lara Brothers. These parang pioneers may have died long ago, but there is a new crop of performers who are putting a more modern spin on the genre, incorporating elements like soca and chutney music for an entirely new take on tradition, mostly with English lyrics. As Trini Gourmet puts it:

In the past 2 decades the lines between carnival soca and parang soca have become increasingly blurred. The parang soca of Sharlene Flores’ day seems downright languid compared to the faster rhythms of today’s fete joints, first by melding calypso rhythms to become parang soca, and most recently by incorporating classical Indian rhythms and tonalties to form ‘chutney parang soca’. Much like our cuisine, the possibilities for musical fusion seem endless!

Sorrel
All that singing makes you thirsty, and sorrel—a rich, red fruit drink—is the perfect solution. Trini Gourmet's description is enough to make anyone want a cup:

Sorrel bud; photo by Janine Mendes-Franco, used with permission.

Sorrel bud; photo by Janine Mendes-Franco, used with permission.

Sorrel, made from the sepals of the sorrel flower is fruity and fragrant. I have fond memories of sitting at my aunt’s feet as a child, helping her to handpick the flowers. The seed of the sorrel is covered with fine prickly hairs that eventually find their way into the pads of your fingers. They are not painful but definitely annoying! A friend once told me that the petals are quite delicious raw with some salt. At first I thought she was insane but once I tried it I was hooked.

Similar in taste to hibiscus tea, sorrel becomes even more heavenly with the addition of rum. Made properly your sorrel should be thick and syrupy. Fear not, just dilute it with some cold water or club soda when serving.

Black Cake
Trinbagonians will find a way to consume alcohol even when eating. Black cake, also called fruit cake, is perhaps the proof of the pudding. Trini Gourmet calls it a “Christmas institution“ in Trinidad:

Made predominantly of alcohol drenched prunes, currants and raisins, variations abound (and I love taste testing when we make the visiting rounds). Still, the best black cake is always the recipe that one grew up with. [...]

You’ll notice the insane amount of liquour that goes into this dessert. Not only does that make the final cake unbelievably moist it also renders it virtually ageless. My aunt makes a batch of these at xmas time, keeps them in ‘old time cake tins’ and even in July and August we are still eating the remnants!

Black cake and ice cream; photo by Steve Loya, used under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license.

Black cake and ice cream; photo by Steve Loya, used under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license.

Because of its long shelf-life, this dessert is also the traditional choice for wedding cakes in Trinidad and Tobago, and frozen leftovers are traditionally consumed on a couple's first wedding anniversary. The newlywed couple takes a slice of cake saved from their big day and digs in to celebrate their first year of marriage.

by Janine Mendes-Franco at December 15, 2014 07:19 PM

DML Central
Tinkering and Thinking with Maker Kylie Peppler
Tinkering and Thinking with Maker Kylie Peppler Blog Image

Some enthusiasts of digital media in learning and inclusion of making/tinkering as a learning activity — including myself — believe that talking about tinkering while doing it, in person and online, can enhance social contexts for peer learning and for learning thinking skills.

Although the contemporary availability of resources such as YouTube and Arduino seems particularly suited to an emphasis on social learning and tinkering-thinking, the pedagogy goes back (at least) to the early 20th century Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky. A few key Vygotsky ideas about learning seem particularly applicable to connected learning, whether or not digital media are involved: talking with peers about knowledge and problem-solving is essential — social learning is a uniquely human power; learning is not just about accumulating knowledge or even understanding, but also about developing a set of thinking skills; working from what is already known to new knowledge by manipulating concrete objects is a powerful route to deep learning that includes acquiring knowledge, understanding, and new ways to think.

Vygotsky’s century-old theories, and contemporary constructivists who build on them, are worth looking at. If you want to see these learning principles in practice, I recommend looking at the work of Kylie Peppler, assistant professor of learning sciences and director of the Creativity Labs at Indiana University in Bloomington: “An artist by training, I engage in research that focuses on the intersection of arts, new media, computation, and informal learning. My current work examines the media arts practices of urban, rural and (dis)abled youth in order to support literacy, learning, and the arts in the 21st century.”  

E-textiles, puppets combined with digital and electronic learning simulations, electronic music-making, the Scratch programming language and media arts, are a few of the ways Peppler and The Creativity Lab explore the intersections of tinkering, art-making, technology, peer learning, and thinking skills.

Peppler and her colleagues are also practitioners of the Vygotskyian idea of “scaffolding” by supporting teachers and students with a range of materials to contextualize, explain and build up to the use of learning tools like the ones used by The Creativity Lab. The Lab’s website explains the projects, the results, and the ideas behind them, and Peppler and a raft of other educators have collaborated with Sparkfun, a purveyor of electronic hardware and learning, to publish a series of books for MIT Press: a book about games and systems thinking, another about digital storytelling in a visual programming environment, one about “e-Puppets” in a DIY environment,  and another about “e-Fashion.” In our 8-minute video, Peppler and I talk about — and Peppler shows us — how all the elements of “tinkering to think” work together.

Banner image credit: Chattanooga Public Library

by mcruz at December 15, 2014 05:48 PM

Global Voices
Behind Prison Walls, Violence Against Women Is Often Ignored in Argentina
Photo by Flickr user Rock & Rejas: Sonidos de la Cárcel (Gira 2003). CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Photo by Flickr user Rock & Rejas: Sonidos de la Cárcel (Gira 2003). CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The rights of women in Argentinian prisons, where gender inequality, violence and exclusion can flourish, are systematically violated. Gender violence behind bars can often result in attacks on a woman's body.

A study done by Procuración Penitenciaria de la Nacion in Argentina found institutional violence is an increasing problem in jail, given that the number of woman in jail has increased. Several studies examining the situation in which they live have shown that not much is being done to protect women's rights there. 

Comunicar igualdad is an Argentine civil organization which focuses on expanding gender issues in the media as an strategy to obtain an equitable society. In a post titled “Woman in Jail“, it analyzed different cases of violence against woman deprived on freedom: 

La violencia es simbólicamente mayor cuando es ejercida por las instituciones. ¿Por qué no pensar entonces que la invisibilización hacia las mujeres es muchísimo más potente cuando hablamos de aquellas que se encuentran privadas de su libertad? El enfoque de género aplicado al sistema carcelario podría ser una herramienta eficaz que amplíe y diversifique la concepción vigente de derechos humanos y proponga un ámbito no tan recorrido por donde transitar hacia un estado cada vez más democrático.

Violence is symbolically greater when exercised by the institutions. Why not think then that the invisibility towards women is much more powerful when it comes to those who are deprived of their liberty? The gender approach applied to the prison system could be an effective tool to expand and diversify the current conception of human rights and propose a less traveled area through which transition to an increasingly democratic state.

According to the blog Women and prison, prison affects women in a different way than men – since the number of woman in prison is much lower than men, prison facilities for them lack amenities such as sports and leisure activities. Women also endure the lack of contact with their families, the abandonment of their partners, and poor health care.

At the same time, if they are foreign they face irregularities such as peculium payment due to the fact of taxing situation

The lack of interpreters is another problem facing foreign women imprisoned in Argentina. Reyna Maraz, a Bolivian citizen living in the country who doesn't speak Spanish, only Quechua, was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of her husband, after three years in jail without being allowed to appear before a judge or having access to an interpreter.

The UN Committee Against Torture is the body of 10 independent experts that monitors implementation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment throughout the world. A recent book debuted at the National University of La Plata City, Argentina, ”Kick the gate. Gender, confinement and access to justice: women imprisoned with their children in the province of Buenos Aires” presented the Committee's report

Entre las conclusiones a las que arribó el equipo, subrayan que los jueces legitiman la violencia de género, que solo consideran a las mujeres en tanto madres, y que legitiman la presencia de niños y niñas encarcelados.

Among the conclusions of the team, they stress that judges legitimize gender violence, who only consider women as mothers, and legitimize the presence of children imprisoned.

The blog Atrapamuros described the actual situation of women deprived of freedom

La violencia de género es posible dentro de lo que conocemos como sistema patriarcal. Entender políticamente al sistema patriarcal nos permite examinar con mayor profundidad el rol que ha venido jugando el Estado ante los casos de violencia de género que terminan en actos ilegales perpetuados por las mujeres. Siempre ausente en las políticas de prevención y detención de la violencia de género, el Estado hace su entrada en la vida de las mujeres cuando puede juzgarlas y castigarlas. 

Gender violence is possible within what is known as patriarchal system. Understanding the patriarchal political system allows us to further examine the role that the state has been playing to cases of gender violence ending in illegal acts perpetrated by women. Always absent in prevention policies and stopping the violence, the state makes its entrance into the lives of women when they can judge and punish them.

The Procurator's Office of the Nation, an institution that aims to protect the fundamental rights of persons deprived of liberty in Argentina, wrote in its annual report of 2012, about violent practices carried out during the humiliating searches: 

varias detenidas se vieron obligadas a “sacarse su ropa interior, voltearse y abrirse las nalgas con ambas manos para que el personal penitenciario las observe”. Ello sucedió momentos previos a que las detenidas concurriesen a una actividad académica en la Universidad de Buenos Aires. Varias detenidas desistieron de la salida para evitar este tipo de medidas ultrajantes, incluso una de ellas fue sancionada por negarse a ser revisada en el modo anteriormente mencionado.

several detainees were forced to “take off their underwear, turn around and open the buttocks with both hands for prison staff to observe.” This happened before the detainees were going to meet at an academic activity at the University of Buenos Aires. Several detainees withdrew their departure to avoid this kind of outrageous measures; one was punished for refusing to be reviewed in the aforementioned manner.

In its investigation into women in prison, the Center for Legal and Social Studies (CELS) analyzes not only the conditions that female prisoners endure in Argentina, but also the constant violent violations of their rights, as told by the convicts. It is up to the state to assume the political and ethical responsibility of the consequences:  

La investigación describe minuciosamente todas las violencias, abusos y vulneración de derechos que sufren las presas, así como las gravísimas consecuencias que su encierro provoca en cuanto al desmembramiento de sus hogares y al desamparo de sus hijos. Ello, con el objetivo de abrir un debate que involucre tanto al poder legislativo como al judicial y al ejecutivo, en el marco del cual se evalúen alternativas menos nocivas que el encierro carcelario. Si pese a todo deciden no revertir la situación, ya no podrán alegar desconocimiento de la situación para no asumir la responsabilidad política y ética de sus consecuencias.

The research thoroughly describes all the violence, abuse and violation of rights suffered by prisoners and the dramatic consequences that this confinement causes in relation to the dismemberment of their homes and the helplessness of their children. This, with the aim of opening a debate involving both the legislature and the judiciary and the executive, within the framework of evaluating less harmful alternatives to imprisonment. If they nevertheless choose not to reverse the situation, they can no longer claim ignorance of the situation not to assume political and ethical responsibility for its consequences.

See Global Voices’ special coverage: 16 Days to End Violence at Home and Around the World

by Laura Schneider at December 15, 2014 03:18 PM

Is Argentina Really ‘Infected With Foreign Criminals'? Or Just Xenophobic Politicians?
Sergio Berni. Image from Security Ministery Flickr account under  CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Argentina's Security Secretary Sergio Berni. Image from Security Ministery Flickr account under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

A politician is facing accusations of xenophobia over his comments on crime committed by foreigners in Argentina, where insecurity is increasingly a concern.

Debates about insecurity are becoming more frequent among residents, media and officials, although Argentina has a low rate of violent deaths (5.5 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants) compared with its regional neighbors, according to a report from United Nations Developoment Program (UNDP). However, the real dimension of the problem is difficult to measure since Argentina stopped publishing official crime statistics in 2009.

A common theme among many of the discussions has been the idea that a large portion of the crimes are committed by foreigners, which has turned the debate into a question of expelling immigrants or not. 

Argentine Security Secretary Sergio Berni weighed in on the issue rather controversially when he said in October 2014, as relayed by news website Infobae:

Estamos infectados de delincuentes extranjeros

We are infected with foreign criminals

His remark was met with accusations of xenophobia. Sites like the blog Seminario de Teoría Constitucional y Filosofía Política (Seminar on Constitutional Theory and Political Philosophy) focused on what needs to be done legally, while the blog from Lucas Raffa reviewed the underlying issues behind crime:

El tema tiene unos puntos claves de los que no se habla:

  • Si el tema es que no los atrapás, el problema [eres tú] policía, no los extranjeros.
  • Si el tema es que los atrapás pero no van presos, el problema es tu ley y proceso, no los extranjeros.
  • Si el tema es que son ilegales, el problema es la protección de tu frontera.
  • Si el tema es que son reincidentes y siguen entrando al país a robar, el problema es que no cumplís con la ley migratoria.

The topic has some unspoken issues:

  • If the issue is that you don't catch them, the problem (is you) police, not the foreigners.
  • If the issue is that you catch them but don't send them to prison, the problem is your law and process, not the foreigners.
  • If the issue is that they are undocumented, the problem is how you protect the country's borders
  • If the issue is that they are repeat offenders and keep coming back to the country to steal, the problem is that you aren't complying with immigration law.

And therefore concluded:

El problema es el Estado, no los extranjeros. Y este país, para el que no tenga memoria, al igual que Estados Unidos, se formó con extranjeros.

The problem is the state, not the foreigners. And this country, for whoever doesn't remember, like the United States was formed by foreigners.

The blog Peruanos en Argentina (Peruvians in Argentina) argued that it isn't new for the Argentine government to put the blame on other people for not taking care of its own responsibilities. Paraguay Ñane Retá, a newspaper for the Paraguayan community in Argentina, published crimes statistics to shed some facts on the debate:

El año pasado, la Corte Suprema de Justicia presentó un relevamiento sobre homicidios dolosos en Capital Federal y en los departamentos judiciales de San Martín y La Plata, con datos referidos a 2010 y 2011. En cuanto a los victimarios, ese informe indicó que en Buenos Aires el 15% de los imputados es extranjero (paraguayos, 7% y peruanos, 3%). En La Plata, el 10%; en San Martín, el 4%.

Last year, the Supreme Court presented a survey on voluntary manslaughter in Argentina's capital city and the judicial departments of San Martin and La Plata, with data referring to 2010 and 2011. As for the perpetrators, the report indicated that in Buenos Aires 15% of the accused were foreigners (Paraguayans 7%, Peruvians 3%). In La Plata, 10%; San Martín, 4%.

Meanwhile, the Argentine National Institute Against Discrimination, Xenophobia and Racism (INADI) called for public officials to be choose their words carefully when they characterize insecurity in the country:

Hay que ser cuidadosos al expresar públicamente desde el Estado hechos y situaciones tan complejas como son las que giran alrededor de la seguridad, porque mas allá de la intencionalidad con la que se manifiestan esos dichos, lo que termina sucediendo es que se legitiman discursos y prácticas racistas y xenófobas de sectores que, no casualmente, son los mismos que critican los avances en materia de Derechos Humanos desde 2003 hasta esta parte.

We in government must be careful when speaking about facts and situations that are so complex, such as those that involve security, because beyond the intention behind these statements, what ends up happening is they legitimize racist and xenophobic discussions and practices within sectors that by no accident are the same ones that have criticized human rights progress from 2003 until now.

According to news agency TelamBerni defended himself from those who criticized his position as xenophobic, saying he was not drawing conclusions, but simply doing his job of “telling society” what is happening.

by Laura Schneider at December 15, 2014 02:58 PM

Thousands Flood Lima's Streets in Largest-Ever Latin American Climate March
Indigenous communities at the forefront of the climate crisis led the march in Lima. Photo credit: Hoda Baraka

Indigenous communities at the forefront of the climate crisis led the march in Lima. Photo credit: Hoda Baraka

This article was written by Hoda Baraka for 350.organ organization building a global climate movement, and is republished on Global Voices as part of a content-sharing agreement.

Last week, over 15,000 people from across the region marched in the streets of Lima, making this the largest climate march in the history of Latin America.

Regionally, climate change is seen as an environmental, developmental and human rights issue; thus, it was no coincidence that the march was planned for December 10, which marks International Human Rights Day. Calling for a ‘System Change, Not Climate Change’, the march brought together numerous constituencies from across the spectrum demanding real and concrete actions to address the climate crisis.

Groups marching included: indigenous communities, farmers, workers, miners, youth groups as well as faith groups. This People’s Climate March in Lima comes on the heels of the recent massive People’s Climate March in New York and reinforces the growing momentum for the global climate movement. 

Below a series of photos reflecting the power, vibrancy and diversity of the march.

"Let's Save Lake Titicaca" reads a banner held by a woman traveling from the Andes region (border between Peru and Bolivia) calling for action to safeguard the largest lake in Latin America. Photo credit: Hoda Baraka

“Let's Save Lake Titicaca” reads a banner held by a woman traveling from an Andean region in the border between Peru and Bolivia calling for action to safeguard the largest lake in Latin America. Photo credit: Hoda Baraka

Thousands of workers from various labor unions also joined the march. Photo credit: Hoda Baraka

Thousands of workers from various labor unions also joined the march. Photo credit: Hoda Baraka

Youth showcasing the colourful artwork produced for the march at the art space run by Peruvian climate activist group TierrActiva Peru. Photo credit: Hoda Baraka

Youth showcasing the colourful artwork produced for the march at the art space run by Peruvian climate activist group TierrActiva Peru. Photo credit: Hoda Baraka

Women peasants from Central Latin America travelled from afar for the chance to put a spotlight on the environmental plights in their region. Photo credit: Hoda Baraka

Women from rural Central Latin America travelled from afar for the chance to put a spotlight on the environmental plights in their region. Photo credit: Hoda Baraka

"Desde El Yasuni Para El Mundo." Indigenous environmental activists from Yasuni, Ecuador relay a message to the world for the urgent protection of the Yasuni Amazon region from oil drilling. Photo credit: Hoda Baraka

“Desde El Yasuni Para El Mundo.” Indigenous environmental activists from Yasuni, Ecuador, relay a message to the world for the urgent protection of the Yasuni Amazon region from oil drilling. Photo credit: Hoda Baraka

by 350.org at December 15, 2014 11:44 AM

December 14, 2014

Lokman Tsui
my latest piece in the guardian

My latest op-ed in the Guardian, on why the occupy protests are far from over. [local backup].

by Lokman Tsui at December 14, 2014 11:14 PM

Hong Kong’s Occupy protests are far from over. Let’s raise our umbrellas

Small paper umbrellas -- symbols of the

‘The umbrella movement is no failure. The protesters went the distance with the government for 75 days straight.’ Photograph: Alex Ogle/AFP/Getty Images

Is this the end? The police cleared the Occupy sites and protesters on Thursday, arresting 247 people. The continuing occupation was beginning to lose support from the public, and there are still no concrete or clear steps towards electoral reform. But the umbrella movement is no failure.

The protesters went the distance with the government for 75 days straight. They did so peacefully, from the very beginning to the bitter end. There was no looting, no rioting and, most importantly, not a single casualty.

What’s even more impressive is that, through their own hard work and smarts, the students built a community from the ground up. They created many works of art, with the Lennon Wall – a concrete staircase covered in thousands of sticky notes of support – as perhaps its most famous example. The students did homework in a makeshift study hall they constructed, fully equipped with Wi-Fi stations and exercise bikes for generating electricity. As if that wasn’t enough, students in my university classes continued to hand in their assignments on time throughout the protests.

Students also showed that they are not naive. In an unprecedented live debate lasting over two hours, student leaders went toe to toe with high-ranking government officials discussing electoral reform. After the debate, and up to this moment, the government has not given a legitimate answer to a simple question from the students: why can Hong Kong not have open elections?

The students are worried that having the right political connections is becoming a basic necessity for any kind of success. Political success under the proposed election framework is achievable only if you have the approval of Beijing. The students also understand that the right connections to government are a precondition for business success.

There’s no other place in the world where it is more profitable to be a business person with the right political connections than Hong Kong, according to the Economist. It’s also disconcerting that Hong Kong has slipped to its lowest ranking on the corruption index since the handover, in 1997. On top of all this, our chief executive unashamedly warned that poor people would dominate if elections were truly representative, and that young people should consider moving away if they cannot find a job here in Hong Kong.

The students – the next generation of Hong Kong – only want a fair shot at a decent future. They know that open elections are an important step towards making sure the game won’t become completely rigged. They have learned that Hong Kong has always prided itself as a fair and free market where anyone can succeed through hard work and intelligence, and that this is how we became a world leader in manufacturing in the 1960s and 1970s (before everything was “Made in China”, consumer goods tended to be “Made in Hong Kong”.)

And they have learned that this is how we transformed ourselves into a leading economy for services, when our manufacturing industry migrated north into mainland China. A free and fair Hong Kong where anyone can make it by working hard enough: that’s the Hong Kong we know and love, and that’s what we need to continue to fight for.

by Lokman Tsui at December 14, 2014 11:12 PM

Global Voices
Massive Oil Spill Threatens Bangladesh's Sundarbans
Spotted deers forage at the Kokilmoni forest in the Sundarbans, a UNESCO world heritage site. Bagerhat, Bangladesh. Image by Muhammad Mostafigur Rahman. Copyright Demotix (5/11/2014)

Spotted deers forage at the Kokilmoni forest in the Sundarbans, a UNESCO world heritage site. Bagerhat, Bangladesh. Image by Muhammad Mostafigur Rahman. Copyright Demotix (5/11/2014)

An oil tanker carrying 358,000 liters (almost 100,000 gallons) of furnace oil sank in the Shela river on December 7, spilling oil over more than 60 kilometers (about 37 miles) of the Sundarbans. Located on in southwest Bangladesh, the Sundarbans is the largest single block of tidal mangrove forest in the world, covering approximately 10,000 square kilometers (3,900 square miles), of which 60 percent is in Bangladesh. The Sundarbans, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is also one of the largest reserves for the Bengal tiger, and provides sanctuary to many other species.

According to reports, the new oil spill threatens the Mrigmari-Nondabala-Andharmanik dolphin sanctuary. Mangrove trees are also highly susceptible to oil pollution—indeed, they are expected to start dying after the area's aquatic life, which is typically first to perish. Fahim Hassan has put together an infographic on Flickr explaining the details of the devastation.

According to images Mowgliz Elisabeth Rubaiyat posted on Facebook, the disaster is already killing some animals. Local authorities appear to be outside their depth, never before having confronted so large an oil spill, and lacking the necessary infrastructure to respond properly. Al Jazeera reports several local fishermen have resorted to cleaning up the spill using sponges and sacks.

Many on Twitter have questioned the authorities’ response:

To help in the relief effort, the government dispatched a ship to the area carrying oil dispersants. If such chemicals are released incorrectly, however, it can harm the local ecology still further. Four days later, the state's efforts seem to have had little effect, exacerbating fears of a lasting ecological disaster.

Bangladesh's Water Transport Minister says locals were able to stop the oil from entering the forrest, using nets, and they're also working to remove the oil from the water, to keep the situation from becoming worse. The national Forest Department is leading the operation with 100 boats and 200 fishermen.

The Forest Department has filed a lawsuit for 1 billion Bangladeshi taka (about $13 million) against the owners of the two cargo ships responsible for the spill.

Just a month ago, before the spill, the Sunderbans mangrove forest looked like this:

Blogger Ahmed Sharif criticizes the government's ill-planned disaster-management strategy, saying it misunderstands the issue:

দুর্যোগ ব্যবস্থাপনা বলতে কি শুধু বন্যা-জলোচ্ছ্বাস বোঝায়? গত দুই দশকে অর্থনৈতিক দিক থেকে দ্রুত অগ্রগতির সাথে সাথে যেসব ঝুঁকির সৃষ্টি হয়েছে, সেগুলির জন্যে আমরা নিজেদের তৈরি করতে পারিনি। নদীতে জাহাজের সংখ্যা আগের চেয়ে বহুগুণ বেড়ে গেছে, কিন্তু তার সাথে পাল্লা দিয়ে তৈরি হয়নি মনিটরিং এজেন্সিগুলি। জাহাজ তৈরি হচ্ছে যথেচ্ছভাবে, যাত্রী নেওয়া হচ্ছে অতিরিক্ত, ফিটনেসবিহীন জাহাজ চলছে, নদীর পানি দূষণ করছে জাহাজের বর্জ্য, নদীর মাঝে পার্ক করে রাখা হচ্ছে জাহাজ, সঠিক যন্ত্রপাতি ছাড়াই চলছে জাহাজ, চলাচলের সময় ঠিক করে দেয়ার পরেও কেউ মানছেনা – কেউ দেখার নেই। কাজেই দুর্ঘটনার সম্ভাবনা প্রতিদিন বেড়েই চলেছে। আর দুর্ঘটনার সম্ভাবনা বাড়লেও সেটার জন্যে প্রস্তুতি নেই আমাদের।

Is disaster-management confined to floods and cyclones? In past decades, the country has seen accelerated economic development and increased risks. But we could not keep pace to prepare ourselves for those added risks. The commercial ships in our waterways have multiplied, but our monitoring agencies couldn't keep up. Many ships are being built outside the proper guidelines, carrying passengers over their capacity. Many ships are unfit to operate, they dispose of waste improperly, they block waterways indiscriminately, they break schedules—nobody is monitors any of this. So there is an increased risk of accidents, and we are not prepared for these accidents and disasters.

YouTube user A. K. M. Wahiduzzaman uploaded a video capturing the devastation of the oil spill:

The body of the first dolphin, a rare Irrawadi dolphin, to die in this incident was discovered last Friday. According to reports, the Padma Oil Company has managed to remove about 10,000 liters (about 2,600 gallons) of oil in its cleanup efforts, so far. The company is offering to pay volunteer cleanup-workers 30 Bangladeshi taka (about 40 cents) for every liter (about 34 ounces) of oil recovered.

Singer and blogger Mac Haque comments on Facebook:

What is perplexing is the rudimentary cleaning operation. With offer of Taka 30/= per litre for furnace oil recovered, thousands have jumped in, not to save the Sundarbans but to eke an existence. Obviously for the poorest of the poor this is a windfall. However, have not heard anyone talk about the risk to human health from dangerous toxins in the furnace oil. Anywhere else in the world the Government would have faced public litigation suit for endangering citizens health. I see thousands of poor and ignorant people dying in the days ahead thanks to Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation's myopic decision. Our focus should not only be for hunt of dead dolphins – but contaminated humans!

There have been protests demanding that the authorities ban merchant ships and cargo vessels from using the rivers and channels of the Sundarbans. Absent effective government measures, Bangladesh will have to keep relying on civil society and volunteers in this environmental crisis.

by Rezwan at December 14, 2014 10:54 PM

They Don't Speak Spanish in the Philippines?
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Panorama of Manila. Photo by joiz on Flickr, used under the Creative Commons license Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0).

The Philippines, a Southeast Asian archipelago of more than 7,000 islands, is like Latin American countries a former colony in the Spanish Empire. The Philippines was under Spanish rule for three centuries, in fact, belonging specifically to the Kingdom of New Spain. During this time, the dominant language of the colonial government in the islands was Spanish, only to be replaced by English, after the Spanish-American War, when Spain ceded control of the islands to the United States for $20 million.

Throughout the 20th century, the use of Spanish declined, particularly after the destruction of the Spanish stronghold in the Battle of Manila. The country's subsequent modernization and World War II left English the nation's most common language.

In 1946, the Philippines gained independence from the United States, but it retained English as one of its two official languages, Filipino being the other. Currently, Filipinos have English or one of the local languages as their mother tongue. It is estimated that less than 1% of the current Filipino population speaks Spanish. 

In 2008, Gaspar Canela wrote in the Reino de Siam blog that the state of the Spanish language in the Philippines was actually much worse because, in his opinion, the Spanish never succeeded in replacing local languages: 

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Intramuros. Image by shankar s. on Flickr, used under the Creative Commons license Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0).

Muchos filipinos, los menos estudiados, hasta desconocen que estuvieron sometidos a un reino ibérico durante más de tres siglos. Los estadounidenses, tras expulsar a los españoles, trajeron a Filipinas barcos repletos de profesores de inglés. Tuvieron más éxito que los españoles en extender el uso de su idioma, pero tampoco todos en las islas dominan hoy día la lengua de Shakespeare.

Many Filipinos do not even acknowledge that they were subjects of an Iberian kingdom for more than three centuries. The Americans, after expelling the Spaniards, brought ships full of English-language professors to the Philippines. They had more success than the Spaniards in extending the use of their language, but still not everywhere on the islands does the language of Shakespeare reign. 

Nonetheless, Spanish did not disappear from everything. Traces of the Spanish language are present in the surnames of many Filipinos, in the names of cities and historic sites, as well as on the country's streets and plazas. Moreover, classic Philippine literature was written entirely in Spanish, even during much of the twentieth century. Among the many works of classic Spanish Philippine literature is Noli me tangere, by writer José Rizal, who, scholar say, played a significant role in the consolidation of Filipino nationalism

Rizal, now considered a national Filipino hero, was executed on December 30, 1896, on charges of sedition by the Spanish authorities. The night prior to his execution, he wrote a poem titled “My Last Farewell”, which describes his love for the Philippines. YouTube user Hispanic Filipino uploaded a video where he recites the poem: 

But is Spanish a dead language in the Philippines? Hardly. Spanish remains strongly rooted in the islands, even though it's difficult to notice at first. Guillermo Gomez Rivera, director of the Manila weekly Nueva Era, is optimistic about the future of the language in the Philippines and shares his opinion on web blog, Filipinas Única where he states that Spanish is very easy for any Filipino who speaks Tagalog, Visayan, and Ilokano:

El español es bien fácil para cualquier filipino que hable tagalo, bisaya, bicolano e ilocano porque en estas lenguas indígenas están incrustadas miles de hispanismos. En estos idiomas indígenas todas las prendas que se llevan en el cuerpo se llaman en español: sombrero, camiseta, cinturón [...] Todos los muebles y enseres que se encuentran dentro del hogar se llaman en español: cocina, cuarto, sala [...] Todo lo que es infraestructura de urbanización se llama en español: [...] esquinita, avenida, plaza…

Spanish is very easy for any Filipino who speaks Tagalog, Visayan, and Ilokano because thousands of hispanisms are embedded in these indigenous languages. In these indigenous languages, all articles of clothing are referred to in Spanish: sombrero (hat), camiseta (shirt), cinturón (belt) [...] All furniture and appliances that are found in the home are referred to in Spanish: cocina (kitchen), cuarto (room), sala (living room) [...] All urbanization infrastructure is called in Spanish: [...] esquinita (corner), avenida (avenue), plaza (square)… 

Internet user Neptuno Azul demonstrates this principle with Eloidoro Ballesteros's poetry, written in Chavacano, a creole language derived from Spanish and various local languages: 

Recently, there are signs that interest in Spanish might be rising, thanks to efforts by the Cervantes Institute and other Spanish and Philippine institutions, as well as people who want to rescue the legacy of the Philippine language. These groups even got some official support from the former government of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who started the partial reinstatement of Spanish in secondary education in 2009. Outside schools, the business community's interest in Spanish is also rebounding.

One useful demonstration of Spanish as a living language in the Philippines is this YouTube video, titled ”Teaching Spanish in the Philippines”, where several Filipino students show what they've learned in school.

Post originally published in Globalizado blog.

by Marianna Breytman at December 14, 2014 09:02 AM

December 13, 2014

Doc Searls
Listening to Serial? Remember the Edgar Smith case.

I’m now four episodes into Serial, the hugely popular reality podcast from WBEZ and This American Life. In it reporter Sarah Koenig episodically tugs together many loose ends around the murder of Hae Min Lee, a Baltimore teenager, in 1999. The perp, said the cops and the proscecutor at the time, was former boyfriend Adnan Syed, who was convicted by a jury of first degree murder. They deliberated about as long as it takes for an afternoon nap. He’s been in prison ever since.

My provisional conclusion is that the court was right to find Adnan guilty. My case for that conviction (or vice versa) is an ad hominem one: the whole thing is eerily eminiscent (for me) of Edgar Smithedgar-smith, (that’s his mug photo on the right) who served a record length of time on death row before successfully arguing for a retrial, which resulted in a lesser conviction and his release — after which he kidnapped and tried to kill someone else, confessing as well to the original crime. He’s an old man now, serving time for the second crime.

While still in jail for the first crime, Smith earned a high degree of media attention and celebrity with his book Brief Against Death, which was a bestseller at the time. I read it and believed him. So did William F. Buckley Jr., who befriended Smith, and was instrumental in getting Smith’s case reconsidered, by both the courts and the public. Buckley even wrote the introduction to Smith’s book.

Think of the media-intensive Smith case as the Serial of its time.

Back then a good friend of mine was studying at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, and interviewed Smith. “He’s guilty,” my friend said. “The guy is brilliant, but he’s also a liar.” Later Bill Buckley said the same thing.

It haunts me that I was snookered by Smith, and comforts me none to know I wasn’t alone.

This of course makes no case at all against Adnan Syed. He might be innocent as a lamb. And I’d like to say he’s innocent until proven guilty. But his guilt has already been decided by a court of law, so now it’s the other way around: he needs to prove his innocence. Or at least raise the shadow of doubt to a height under which he can be sprung.

I worry about what will happen if all the current interest in this case results in Adnan’s release. What if he really did kill Hae — meaning he’s as remorseless and manipulative as Edgar Smith?

With the case headed to an appeals court, this now appears possible.

I’ll keep my mind open as I listen through the rest of Series. It’s outstanding radio. And I also invite the @Serial team to look at the Smith case as well — if they haven’t already.* It may not be relevant, but it is similar.

Bonus case: Jack Henry Abbott.

* (14 December) Have they? I’ve now listened through Episode 7 and so far they haven’t mentioned it.

by Doc Searls at December 13, 2014 08:57 PM

Global Voices
Australian Prime Minister's About-Face on Sexism, Two Years Late
Australian PM Julia Gillard at Antipodes Greek Festival - Melbourne  2012

A tense moment between Prime Minister Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott (25 February 2012)
Copyright © Demotix. Photo by Angus Mordant

In October 2012, Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s misogyny speech in the Australian parliament was viewed by millions worldwide. Her target was the then-opposition leader Tony Abbott, who is now PM.

However, his claims on 11 December 2014 of sexism towards his Chief of Staff Peta Credlin have raised the issue again: “Do you really think my chief of staff would be under this kind of criticism if her name was Peter as opposed to Peta?”

Peta Credlin has been criticised for her rivalry with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, as veteran journalist and blogger at The Conversation Michele Grattan reports:

Now the two are in a test of strength. It’s not as electric as has been portrayed this week when they were described as “like two Siamese fighting fish stuck in the same tank” (the expert advice, incidentally, says you need large tanks for those fish).

According to Grattan, the attacks go much deeper:

The objections to the Abbott office are about Credlin’s centralisation and control.

…Credlin was the one closest to him in the trenches of opposition. But her degree of power, her management style, her omnipresence and her high visibility are eroding his authority.

Unsurprisingly, the PM's remarks have met with disbelief and ridicule by many online. This tweet came from a political opponent:

Alex McKinnon at news and pop culture website Junkee has not been the only one to use the ‘I’ word, in his satirical piece: Tony Abbott Claims Criticisms Of His Chief Of Staff Are “Sexist”; World Implodes From Irony.

Today will be remembered from now until the world is swallowed by a vastly-expanded sun, for today is the day Tony Abbott discovered sexism exists, and that it is a Bad Thing.

Accusations of hypocrisy have been common. This comment by Juanita Phillips, TV news presenter at the Australian Broadcasting Commission, has been a very popular retweet:

Finger puppets - Gillard & Abbott

Finger puppets – Gillard & Abbott
Courtesy Flickr user Hil (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Others are more pointed in their comparisons:

It has bemused many people that Tony Abbott has members of his own Liberal Party in his sights, including members of his government:

Some have wondered if this new approach might bring some positive action:

There are doubts that the prime minister will be able to put the gender card back in the pack:

Marie Ryan seems to capture the general feeling:

by Kevin Rennie at December 13, 2014 11:05 AM

Doc Searls
Is perfectly personalized advertising perfectly creepy?

The uncanny valley is where you find likenesses of live humans that are just real enough to be creepy. On a graph it looks like this:
461px-Mori_Uncanny_Valley.svg

So I was thinking about how this looks for advertising that wants to get perfectly personal. You know: advertising that comes from systems that know you better than you know yourself, so they can give you messages that are perfectly personalized, all the time. I think it might look like this:

Screen Shot 2014-12-12 at 11.40.56 PM

Traditional brand advertising — the kind we see in print, hear on radio and watch on TV — is fully familiar, but not at all human. It comes from companies, by way of media that also aren’t human. A little less familiar, but slightly more human, is old fashioned direct response advertising, such as junk mail. The messages might be addressed to us personally, and human in that respect, but still lacking in human likeness. Avertising that gets highly personal with us, because it’s based on surveillance-fed big data and super-smart algorithms, is  much less familiar than the first two types, yet much more human-like. Yet it’s not really human, and we know that. Mostly it’s just creepy, because it’s clearly based on knowing more about us than we feel comfortable having it know. And it’s only one kind of human: a salesperson who thinks we’re ready to buy something, all the time — or can at least be influenced in some way.

I’m just thinking and drawing out loud here, and don’t offer this as a final analysis. Mostly I’m metabolizing what I’m learning from Don Marti‘s thinking out loud about these very different kinds of advertising, and how well they actually work, or don’t — for advertisers, for the media they support, and for the human targets themselves. (Like Don I also dig Bob Hoffman’s Ad Contrarian.)

So there ya go. I welcome your thoughts.

[Later...] I was just reminded of T.Rob‘s excellent Escaping Advertising’s Uncanny Valley and Sara Watson’s pieces cited below (she’s a Berkman Center colleague):

What we see here is a groundswell of agreement about what’s going on. But do we see a reversal in the marketplace? Maybe we will if @rwang0 is right when he tweets “2015 is not the year of the crowd, it’s the year when the crowd realizes they are the product and they don’t like it.”

by Doc Searls at December 13, 2014 05:14 AM

December 12, 2014

Andrew McAfee
The Second Machine Age and the Velvet Underground

Today we got the happy Screenshot 2014-12-12 13.45.22news that The Second Machine Age was named one of the best books of the year by Bloomberg. Their methodology for putting together their list was interesting: they just asked a lot of heavy hitters in finance, industry, and public affairs what their favorite books were.

I’m flattered to see what our book was among the most cited. Mohamed El-Erian, Dominic Barton, Jeff Sachs, Tim Adams, and and Pippa Malmgren all gave it a shout-out, which is a great feeling.

The Second Machine Age hit the bestseller lists, but it hasn’t been a runaway commercial hit. We’re very pleased with the sales, but there haven’t been millions of them (at least not yet, he wrote hopefully…).

If you can’t have millions of readers you’d at least like to have highly influential ones, and as the Bloomberg list indicates we do, I think. I’ve already dropped enough names for one post, so let me just say that I’ve been floored by the number of very senior and/or very smart people who have had good things to say about 2MA.

It’s said about the Velvet Underground that only a few thousand people bought their albums, but every one of them went out and started a band. If we and 2MA can have that same kind of influence — if we can inspire people to change how they’re running their companies, thinking about policy, educating their students, and so on — the book will have succeeded beyond my wildest dreams.

by Andrew McAfee at December 12, 2014 06:59 PM

Global Voices
Latin America Tweets to End Violence Against Women
Image tweeted by Mexican legislator Alejandro Montano Twitter user @lejandromontano.

Image tweeted by Mexican legislator Alejandro Montano Twitter user @lejandromontano.

The International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women has its origin in Dominican Republic and Colombia, and Twitter users around Latin America expressed their support for the campaign with a series of hashtags. 

In 1960, on November 25, Rafael Leónidas Trujillo‘s regime ordered the assassination of three political activists –  the Mirabal sisters. This act marked the beginning of the end of dictatorship in Dominican Republic and became a symbolic date for gender equality. 

With the support of 80 countries, November 25 was declared the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women at the first Feminist Encuentro for Latin America and the Caribbean held in Bogota, Colombia, July 18-21, 1981.  

Using the hashtags #HeForShe#DiaNoViolenciaContraLaMujer (#NoViolenceAgainstWomenDay), #PorLasMujeres (#ForTheWomen), and #NiConElPetaloDeUnaRosa (#NotEvenWithThePetalOfARose), Twitter users joined the campaign. Colombian actors and couple Mónica Fonseca (@FonsecaMonica) and Juan Pablo Raba (@juanpabloraba) shared the following picture of him showing support by wearing red lipstick: 

#NotEvenWithThePetalOfARose #HeForShe Work for and with the youth as advocates of change

While TV host and model Laura Pinzón (@AzulaNipron) said:

#ForTheWomenThe best campaign is not to admit the impunity for violence against women #NotEvenWithThePetalOfARose

Dominican Betty Sanz (@dafen5) recalled our commitment with this issue:

Everyone has a responsibility to prevent and end violence against women and girls.#NoViolenceAgainstWomenDay

Mexican legislator Alejandro Montano (@lejandromontano) said a society is better when women are not mistreated:

 A better society is the one which does not mishandle, hurt or injure a woman #NoViolenceAgainstWomenDay

While Alessandra Scaniglia (@leiesensuale) expreses that sometimes violence against women came also from other women and in her tweet reflects the complex debates about femininity and feminism.

Macho violence? One of the worst violences I ever saw is woman against woman. Especially from a feminazi against a feminine woman.

And Nachita Arrobo (@nachita_arrobo) staged that the commitment around the topic of gender must be everyone's:

Daughters sisters aunts mothers grandmothers friends cousins all together.#NoViolenceAgainstWomenDay

Other efforts continued the conversation inside and outside Colombia. “He for She”, the global campaign for the prevention of violence against women led by the United Nations used the Twitter account: @HeforShe. Also, the issue of violence against women is frequently addressed in the journal Humanum.

These are just some of the actions that have taken place to promote gender equality and to fight violence against women. Global Voices follows many of these topics in Women and Gender, paying special attention to dialogues in citizen media. 

Also see Global Voices’ special coverage of the campaign16 days to end up gender-based violence.

by Mary Aviles at December 12, 2014 06:30 PM

Brazil Plans to Help Other Countries Fight Amazon Deforestation
Ministra do Meio Ambiente Izabella Teixeira (centro)

Brazilian minister for the Environment Izabella Teixeira (center) presents at COP 20 a help plan to the other countries of the Amazon. Photo by Gustavo Faleiros.

Gustavo Faleiros, editor-in-chief at InfoAmazônia, a partner of Global Voices, is in Lima covering the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 20).

Brazil's more than 30 years experience in fighting deforestation will be replicated in the other Amazon countries. In Lima, Peru, during the 20th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 20), the Brazilian government and the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES) presented a plan to implement monitoring systems in partnership with the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization (OCTA).

According to OTCA's secretary-general, Surinamese Robby Dewnarain Ramlakhan, an investment of US$8 million is already ongoing through the Amazon Fund, a reserve of US$800 million managed by BNDES to support projects in Brazil and other countries throughout the Amazon.

Those resources are not reimbursable, that is to say, they are not loans. Announced in an event attended by the Brazilian and Peruvian delegations, the project plans to create observation rooms of satellite data, train 150 technicians and purchase surveillance equipment for the other seven member countries of OTCA.

Additionally, the initiative intends to draw a historic map of the Amazon forest in all of its extension covering the period between 2000 and 2010. Unlike Brazil, which has been monitoring deforestation since 1988, the other countries are still building up their historic database on the forest. OTCA will replicate the methodology already used by the Brazilian National Institute for Space Research, responsible for calculating the official deforestation rate in the Brazilian Amazon.

“Each country has its particularities. Peru has 90 percent of its deforestation in areas with less than one hectare, which are hard to monitor,” said Gustavo Suarez, coordinator of Peru's National Forest Program. In Brazil, most deforestation occurs in large areas (see the deforestation map below).

Forests in recovery

Also on Wednesday, the Brazilian Minister for the Environment Izabella Teixeira made a speech in the conference's plenary and again praised Brazil's actions to reduce deforestation. She mentioned the last numbers announced by the government — a decrease of 18 percent in 2014 — as evidence of Brazil's commitment with reduction of greenhouse gases emissions.

Land use change (forest fires, deforestation) are still the main source of greenhouse gases emissions in Brazil. The constant reduction in deforestation puts the country in a comfortable position with the climate negotiations — the UN is currently trying to draft a new agreement to mitigate causes and effects of global warming. Next year, in Paris (COP 21), the signing of another treaty with new targets, to go into effect in 2020, is expected.

“Not only have the deforestation rates been reduced by 82% in the last 10 years, but we are also observing a substantial process of forest regeneration,” the minister said. She referred to information released a few weeks back by the TerraClass system from INPE, which reveled that 23 percent of the lands deforested in the Amazon have woods in recovery. “This shows that Brazil has ceased to emit 650 million tons of carbon per year”. 

Interactive map of deforestation in the Amazon — data by INPE (Prodes system) and Terra-i system

by Taisa Sganzerla at December 12, 2014 06:16 PM

Argentinan Slums’ Identity Crisis
Residents of slums set up a protest tent near Obelisk, Buenos Aires, 22 April 2014 by Claudio Santisteban, Demotix.

Residents of slums set up a protest tent near Obelisk, 22 April 2014 by Claudio Santisteban, Demotix.

All links without [es] are in English. 

Argentina's shantytowns—the villas miserias—are in an identity crisis. Shantytown identity is a culture all its own, but it doesn't enjoy the visibility many other cultures do. Greater recognition would allow these disadvantaged communities to stop living in the shadows and grab hold of some genuine pride. Besides being about socioeconomic status, “slum identity” also has its own unique music, language, and comedy.

Argentina's shantytowns could soon be getting some help to establish their identity, now that the government has preliminarily approved a plan to make October 7 “Slum Identity Day“ [es] [Día de la Identitidad Villera]. The date was chosen to honor ‘slum’ priestFather Carlos Mugica [es].

The product of Argentina's socioeconomic issues, slum identity also has a strong presence in local music, where it's known as cumbia villera [shantytown cumbia], name given by its creator, Pablo Lescano [es], whose blog traces the genre's roots. His music group, Damas Gratis, celebrates this history [es]. 

Corría el año 1999 y Pablo tiene un accidente en moto por lo que es operado de las 2 piernas y queda postrado en camilla. Es ahi donde empiesa (sic) a formarse la idea de tener un grupo que toque colombianos y haga mover a la gente en el baile. Estando en camilla crea las letras del primer disco de Damas Gratis “Para Los Pibes” , claro que faltaba un cantante. Al ver que no se conseguia cantante para el nuevo proyecto decide darle èl (sic) la voz a la banda. Es asi que nace “Damas Gratis”. 

Argentinan slum identity also has its own dialect, better known as Lunfardo Villero [es].  

Voy a contarles un poco sobre la jerga villera, el lenguaje con el que se identifican quienes habitan las villas miseria y en el que cristaliza la realidad social, cultural y económica de una clase que suele ser estigmatizada por la pobreza, la delincuencia y las drogas. La música, especialmente la ‘cumbia villera’, es esgrimida como marca identitaria y expresión de esa realidad.

Here are some slum terms found on the blog, Español (con Virgulilla) [es] [Spanish (with a Tilde)]: 

mechero: persona que roba ropa en las tiendas(del Pequeño Diccionario tumbero)
chamullar: charlar, conversar, generalmente con el fin de lograr algo. Chamullo/Chamuyo es una palabra que el lunfardo tomó del caló (dialecto de los gitanos de España). En “La reina del tango”, Enrique Cadícamo escribió: El gotán se te fue al corazón como un dulce chamullo de amor.
tranza: vendedor de droga
chorro: ladrón
gil (palabra del lunfardo que también deriva del caló): tonto. En su Diccionario del lunfardo, Gobello menciona los aumentativos gilón y gilún, este último con influencia del genovés, así como los despectivos gilastro y gilastrún. También es usual la inversión “logi”
fierro: revólver

A year ago, Argentina witnessed the first Slum Stand-up [es]—a type of street comedy or monologue about life in the shantytowns. YouTube user Cosecha Roja [es] shared a video about this genre of stand-up: 

While the government has approved the plan to celebrate Slum Identity Day, the country's political opposition questions the wisdom of “paying homage to poverty.” The blog, El no soy lo que debería [es] [I'm not who I should be] asks if celebrating the shantytown's “way of life” is rational: 

Lo que tiene que hacer el Estado es tener el Norte de que no haya mas (sic) villas. No reivindicar el orgullo villero. Nadie que elija quiere vivir en un lugar con olor a mierda, durmiendo tres generaciones en una pieza, y teniendo escuelas de cuarta y pasando miseria. Nadie quiere elegir la villa.

Villa 31 Retiro Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos de usuario de flickr Ever Daniel Barreto Rojas bajo atribución (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Slum 31 Refuge Buenos Aires from flickr user Ever Daniel Barreto Rojas released under (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Panamá Revista [es] [Panama Magazine] analyzed the work of slum priests, which defends their work and why poverty is wrong [es]. 

Volvamos a decirlo con libertad: la pobreza está mal. Nuestro Estado laico y moderno no puede pensar como los curas villeros, aunque todos valoremos en ellos una expresión cristiana mucho más notable que el puro moralismo de Héctor Aguer. Estos curas hablan de “integración urbana”. Hablan “desde adentro”, porque viven en las parroquias dentro de las villas, y articulan un discurso místico y político contra las intromisiones del Estado y la política. Es posible pensar que en nombre de esa reivindicación que subraya tanto el adentro y el afuera se acentúa un obstáculo para contar con una visión integradora: el reconocimiento prioritario de los derechos que faltan. No sea cosa que la reivindicación cultural de la villa asumida como insolencia contra las culturas elitistas que la estigmatizan, encubra una política conservadora.

by Kelley Johnson at December 12, 2014 07:08 AM

Booted From Occupy Central, Hong Kong's Pro-Democracy Protesters Take on New Battlefields
There were more than 100 "We'll be back" banners hanging at the Admiralty protest site before then police clearance on December 11, blogger Au Ka Lun observes.

There were more than 100 “We'll be back” banners hanging at the Admiralty protest site before then police clearance on December 11, blogger Au Ka Lun observes. Photo taken by Au Ka Lun, non-commercial use.

As the Hong Kong police removed the last scrap of tarp from the site of the 75-day massive sit-in protest at Admiralty, protesters vowed, “We'll be back!”

More than 200 protesters were arrested on December 11, 2014, after they refused to move from the last of the site. Among the arrested were students, pro-democracy lawmakers, university professors and pop stars.

Since September 28, protesters have been camping out in Hong Kong's financial district Admiralty, demanding that Beijing withdraw the framework it has imposed on the election of Hong Kong's top leader the chief executive. 

Beijing had promised Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China, a direct vote for the first time in the 2017. But then suddenly introduced this framework, which defeats the purpose, because it requires potential candidates to get majority support from a nominating committee stacked with pro-Beijing (and pro-Chinese Communist Party) members.

More than 200 pro-democracy protesters were arrested during the police clearance at Admiralty on December 11. Photo from inmediahk.net
More than 200 pro-democracy protesters were arrested during the police clearance at Admiralty on December 11. Photo from inmediahk.net

At Occupy Central, protesters faced violent attacks from thugs and aggressive police fearlessly, and they started to see that they had to leave the streets and develop other battlefields to push for genuine democratic reform in Hong Kong.

So where's the new battlefield? In these five new strategies: 

1. Symbolic resistance

The most spontaneous reaction to the police clearance has been the Shopping Revolution, a move to peacefully reclaim the protest site and to tell the ruling elites that the political problem is yet to be resolved by window shopping at Mong Kok district.

Similar symbolic resistances can be seen in the yellow banners demanding democracy hanging in school campuses, yellow ribbons worn by pro-democracy citizens’ as part of their daily accessories and yellow umbrellas stretching open at all sort of occasions where government officials are invited.

2. Civic disobedience 

HKD 6.89 check payable to Hong Kong SAR government. Photo from facebook page "break down tax bill".

HKD 6.89 check payable to Hong Kong SAR government. Photo from facebook page “break down tax bill”.

Pro-democracy citizens are using Facebook to coordinate a long term civic disobedience movement. At least two Facebook pages are devoted to tax disobedience. “10 dollar less tax” urges tax payers to pay 10 dollar less tax money as a gesture of their discontent and “Break down tax bill into 689” urges tax payers to break their tax bill into multiple checks of HKD 6.89 or HKD 68.9 or HKD 689 to increase the workload of tax department. The number 689 represents the current chief executive, Leung Chun Ying, who only managed to obtain 689 votes out of the 1200-member election committee.

3. Grassroots elections

The street occupation created traffic jams and affected ordinary people's daily life, which the pro-Beijing groups used, through their signature campaigns, to successfully generated public resentment towards pro-democracy protesters. Since mid- October, a number of civic groups and student activist groups have started disseminating pamphlets to grassroots communities to win back their supports.

In addition, some netizens have started planning to run for 2015 grassroots election in districts where the pro-establishment candidates have no competitors.

“Two spoons of sugar in tea” opened a discussion thread in Golden Forum, the most popular online forum in Hong Kong, in early November and the message went viral on social media:

現時有76個區議會席位係自動當選。

高登仔如果全面去自動當選地區參選,縱然贏唔到,都可以極大牽制保皇黨係其他地區既部署。

係選舉既過程中又可以深入自市民解釋香港政制既問題。

甚至一個唔覺意當選,都係一份OK 既工。。。 

滿21歲,有10個選民提名就可以參加,按金$3000, 有多過5% 票就可以拎番按金。每個區既人數只係5000-8000 左右,以投票率四成計,最多160票就可以拎番按金,一個區怕有百幾個高登巴絲卦。

Currently there are 70 districts where candidates have the seats without competition.
If Golden netizens participated in those districts, even if we could not win the seat, we could disrupted the pro-establishment groups’ election campaign.
We can make use of the election process to help people understand what's wrong with our political system.
If by accident, you win the election, that would be an OK job…
Anyone who reaches 21-year old, all you need is 10 legitimate voters to nominate you and the election deposit is just HK$ 3,000 dollars [equivalent to US$ 400 dollars]. If you manage to get 5% of the total votes, you can get back the deposit. There are about 5000 to 8000 voters in one district, usually the voting rate is 40%, which means all you need is 160 votes and you can get back the deposit. I think we have enough forum friends in each district [to get the 5% vote].

4. Monitoring police violence

There have been many reports about the police's use of excessive forces against protesters. In addition to the preexisting human rights organizations, a number of new civic organizations and citizen initiated projects have been launched to monitor police violence and abusive behavior.

Hong Kong Shield, an organization of university professors and artists, including pop stars, was established in October to monitor police use of force and call for an independent inspection body to investigate reports against police. It was stationed at the Admiralty protest site and had issued several strong statements condemning police violence in the past two months.

A number of organizations, including the Professional Commons, inmediahk.net, Cultural Sector Action Group for Violence Monitoring, Civil Human Rights Front and Civic Rights Observe launched a joint project “Police Violence Victim Data Collection” to prepare a “Database of Victims of Police Violence” (DVPV) and a “State Violence Database” (SVD). As the groups point out, “such objective evidence is of utmost importance to stop police abuse and to prevent Hong Kong from sliding into an autocratic society.”

5. By-elections

As the Hong Kong government continues its second round of consultation on election reform under the Beijing framework, the political debate will carry on in the Legislative Council. Student activist groups are lobbying for pro-democracy lawmakers to collectively resign and make use of the by-election as a referendum mechanism for the public to vote on the political reform package.

Until the promise of genuine democracy is fulfilled, pro-democracy advocates say they won't back down.

Follow our in-depth coverage: Hong Kong's Umbrella Revolution

by Oiwan Lam at December 12, 2014 04:41 AM

December 11, 2014

Global Voices Advocacy
Fear of ISIS Threatens Media Freedom in Kyrgyzstan
Screen capture from video, widely shared on YouTube.

Screen capture from video, widely shared on YouTube.

Weeks after it was published, a news article featuring a video of children training in ISIS camps in the Middle East has been blocked in Kyrgystan. After many days of uncertainty, the country's State Agency of Communications demanded that local Internet service providers (ISPs) block the article from Kloop.kg, a well-regarded independent news outlet. The move is a blow for press freedom in the transitioning democracy and provides further evidence of the pressures journalists living in insecure states face in covering violent extremist groups.

Neighboring Kazakhstan long ago blocked access to the article under a local law enabling censorship of “extremist propaganda”. Now Kyrgyzstan, generally viewed as less autocratic, has followed suit. Entitled “Video of the Islamic State: Children from Kazakhstan Threaten to Kill the Unfaithful,” the article contains “elements of extremism propaganda,” the State Agency of Communications told Kloop.kg on Dec. 10 when justifying the block.

While some ISPs have blocked only the article itself, others, such as Kyrgyztelecom, have blocked the whole website. 

kloop-logo-jpeg-2Difficulties for Kloop.kg began Nov. 24, when the website's editorial team decided to repost a video that had appeared Nov. 22 on the website of the British tabloid The Daily Mail. The footage itself, of Kazakh minors talking of jihad and toting kalashnikovs, had already been widely shared online, after being distributed by ISIS’ media arm Al-Hayat. 

A brotherly block?

Kazakhstan's state prosecutor wrote to Kloop the same day asking the outlet to remove the article, citing Kazakh domestic legislation and U.N. Security Council resolution 1373, which compels all states to “take necessary measures to prevent the commission of terrorist acts, including provision of early warning to other States with the help of information exchange.”

When Kloop's editors declined the request, Kazakhstan appealed to Kyrgyzstan's Ministry of the Interior and state prosecutor and asked them to open an investigation. On Dec. 10, Kloop editors received a note from the Kyrgyz State Agency of Communications explaining that local Internet providers had been given until Dec. 12 to block the access to the article, and would otherwise be fined.

Public officials routinely cite security concerns when ordering the blocks, but in this case, it is not clear what threat the article — an informative but innocuous description of a video that was already all over the Internet — actually posed to Kyrgyzstan. On Nov. 28, Ministry of the Interior authorities claimed there were also Kyrgyz citizens in the footage, but offered no proof of this allegation. 

Kloop.kg editor-in-chief Eldiyar Arykbaev, who wrote the article, told Global Voices that he and his colleagues could not understand which elements of the reportage promoted extremism:

Мы поговорили с аппаратом Омбудсмена и нам объяснили, что наша статья не имеет элементов пропаганды терроризма на территории Кыргызской Республики, в ней нет мнения автора и там просто говорится о самом факте. И в случае возбуждения уголовного дела, аппарат Омбудсмена будет представлять наши интересы в суде. 

We have talked to the Ombudsmen Institute. Their lawyers told us that there are no elements [of the article] propagandising terrorism on the territory of the Kyrgyz Republic, nor is their any opinion on the part of the journalist; the article just presents facts. If a criminal case is initiated, a lawyer from the Ombudsmen Institute will represent Kloop. 

How should journalists cover ISIS?

The debate in journalism over how to cover ISIS without inadvertently strengthening the organization's slick propaganda drive has grown more pertinent as the self-styled “Islamic” State — a designation that no state and few Muslims recognize — continues to pump out videos via its Al-Hayat media arm. Central Asian governments, which tend to crack down on the faintest hint of terrorism (or use terrorism as a pretext to crack down on citizens) have received reports of their citizens being killed fighting for radical factions in Syria with understandable unease.

At a Bishkek press event hosted on Dec. 4 by Search for Common Ground, a group dedicated to media coverage of religious issues, an independent Kyrgyz expert in religious affairs, Kadyr Malikov, said he believes that videos such as the one re-posted by Kloop.kg should be accompanied by comments from the state-adjoined Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Kyrgyzstan [Muftiyat]:

Если подобные ролики попадают в руки журналистов, необходимо хотя бы звонить специалисту, Муфтияту, экспертам, чтобы ролик обязательно сопровождался комментарием осуждения. Обычное вывешивание ролика подразумевает достижение цели террористов. В данном видео, они хотели показать, что у них есть следующее поколение, дети, которые придут вслед за убитыми. 

When such videos fall into the hands of journalists, they should call specialists, the Muftiyat, experts, to ask for a comment to condemn it. Just publishing the video means that terrorists achieve their goal to intimidate the public through mass media. In this particular video, the terrorists wanted to show the public that they have a next generation, children, who will follow after them once they have been murdered. 

In a telephone coversation with Global Voices, Kloop's Editor-in-Chief Arykbaev disagreed with this view:

Согласовывать с ними публикацию, мы считаем неправильно, так как нарушает нашу редакторскую политику. Мы представили факт… Мы, наоборот, призываем МВД обращать внимание на такие проблемы.

To coordinate together with religious experts is in violation of our editorial policy. We simply presented facts… We call on the Ministry of Interior to pay more attention to such problems [children joining ISIS]. 

At the same event, Bakyt Dubanaev, an officer from Kyrgyzstan's Ministry of Interior and a representative of the Anti-Terrorist Center of the Commonwealth of Independent States, said Kloop's video could help the ISIS recruitment drive:

Такие ролики направлены на поиск жертв. Ими становятся, обычно, две категории лиц. Первое, это люди с ненормальной психикой, которые увидев зверства, творимые террористами, заинтересовываются. И это простые люди, у которых появляется страх беззащитности и паника. Такие ролики направлены на то, чтобы подорвать авторитет правовых органов и показать, что государство не может справиться с ростом экстремизма. И в этом смысле, СМИ – инструмент в руках террористов.

Such videos look to create victims. Usually, these victims are one of two types of people. Firstly, they can be people with a moral disorder who find terrorist atrocities interesting. Secondly, it could be ordinary people who are struck down by fear and panic. These video materials aim to denigrate the reputation of law enforcement bodies and show that a given state is not able to deal with issues like extremism and terrorism. And, in this context, mass media are tools for terrorists.

He also compared distributing extremist videos to distributing rape videos:

Многие из вас могут подумать, мол, что тут такого показать видеоролик? Я разговаривал со своим казахской коллегой вчера и обсуждали этот вопрос. Он мне говорит, вот представь, берет насильник насилует свою жертву, девушку. А потом, чтобы ее опозорить, выставляет ее в Интернет. И журналисты, чтобы показать как мы [Министерство] боремся с изнасилованием, берут и полностью показывают в Интернете как насильник изнасиловал свою жертву. То есть насильник добивается своей цели: насилует и позорит жертву. А журналисты помогают этому насильнику позорить эту девушку. То же самое здесь.

Many of you might think, well, what is the problem in showing a video? I talked with my Kazakh colleague yesterday and we discussed this issue. He said to me, imagine a rapist rapes his victim — a girl. And then, in order to shame her, he puts the video on the Internet. Journalists, willing to show how [police] are failing to fight sexual abuse, cover this video. At this point, the rapist achieves his goal: he rapes and shames his victim. And journalists assist this rapist to disseminate information. It is the same thing here.

In their 2013 Freedom on the Net report, US-based NGO Freedom House notes several attempts by Kyrgyz government bodies to block politically sensitive content or even entire news websites, such as Ferghana.ru in 2011. In 2012, the Prosecutor General’s Office ordered Internet service providers to block access to the controversial “Innocence of Muslims” film trailer on YouTube, and to restrict access to a film festival entry titled “I am Gay and Muslim.”

Kyrgyzstan has long been considered the most open country in Central Asia, a region renowned for unrelenting authoritarianism. The blocking of a reputable and trusted news resource undermines this status and regrettably complements other evidence that the country is falling in line with its neighbours.

by Global Voices at December 11, 2014 11:22 PM

Jailed Female Photo Journalist on Hunger Strike in Vietnam

Minh Man Dang Nguyen was arrested over three years ago for taking photographs at a protest and sentenced to nine years in prison on subversion charges. On 28 November, in protest of ill-treatment she has received while in detention, she began a hunger strike.

Minh Man’s case epitomises the current state of affairs in Vietnam, where authorities are systematically restricting freedom of expression by arbitrarily detaining journalists, bloggers and human rights activists.

Man Minh

Minh Man

On 9 January 2013, the People’s Court of Nghe An Province convicted Minh Man alongside 13 other bloggers and human rights activists of plotting to “overthrow” the Vietnamese government, in what experts say was the “largest subversion case to be brought in [recent] years.

Although trained as a beautician, the 26-year-old is a passionate advocate for social justice and human rights, which she exercised through her work as a freelance photojournalist. Rather than attempting to work within Vietnam's rigid state-run media environment, Minh Man published her photographs online. She would often travel to places where there was civil unrest and public protest in order to take photographs and garner publicity for the events. One such event was the anti-China protests held in Ho Chi Minh City on 5 June 2011

Minh Man was arrested on 31 July 2011 alongside her mother and brother. Their family home was searched by police who confiscated Minh Man’s camera, which has not been returned to her since.

Trial of Minh Man

Family on trial

The trial took place at the People’s Court of Nghe An Province, which has a long history of imbalanced decision-making and lack of due process. Despite the fact that a large number of defendants were standing trial, the trial itself only lasted two days. Defendants were given only five minutes to address the judge, and could only respond to questions with a “yes” or “no” answer. Several independent journalists and international observers were denied access to the proceedings. The court handed down a sentence of nine years imprisonment and three months house arrest for Minh Man. Her mother was given a three-year prison sentence, which is now complete. Her brother endured a suspended sentence of three years.

The harsh sentences of the People’s Court have not only had an effect on Minh Man, her mother and her brother. Minh Man’s father on several occasions has been subjected to coercion, undue pressure and surveillance by the Vietnamese authorities following the arrest of his family. A local police officer even went so far as to dissuade him from seeking legal support or representation for Minh Man, and was ordered to say that his wife and daughter had gone to work in Saigon if asked about the arrest.

Man Minh

Photojournalistic work by Minh Man

Minh Man was sentenced under Article 79(1) of the Criminal Code as an “active participant” in committing “criminal activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration” and therefore received a much higher penalty than many of her co-defendants. She currently continues to serve her nine year prison sentence in Camp No. 5, Yen Dinh, in Thanh Hoa Province. Conditions there are severe, and she is made to perform arduous physical labour. On 16 November, Minh Man and three other prisoners of conscience were placed in near-solitary confinement for unknown reasons. On 28 November 2014, Minh Man went on hunger strike in protest of this unfair treatment; she is being held in a cell with triple concrete walls together with one other prisoner.

Law students petition UN on photographer's behalf

Minh Man's hunger strike and precarious health situation have increased the urgency of her situation and drawn the attention of international advocates. Last week, a student law clinic in Zagreb, Croatia filed a petition to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD) on behalf of jailed photo journalist.

Trained in international human rights doctrine by leading professors from Oxford and Zagreb Universities, the students researched, drafted and filed petitions on behalf of a number of clients. Apart from Minh Man, petitions were also being drafted on behalf of Vietnamese political blogger Dieu Cay, who was released on 21 October 2014, and Myanmar editor Tin San. The Media Legal Defence Initiative (MLDI), together with Garden Court Chambers and Zagreb University, provided clinical legal supervision to the students at every step of the process.

Despite the fact that Vietnam recognises freedom of expression as a constitutional right, it has consistently received negative press freedom ratings. Reporters Without Borders, for example, has placed only six countries below Vietnam in terms of press freedom. Unfortunately Minh Man’s case is yet another example of the Vietnamese authorities suppressing free speech and dissent by way of vaguely defined or fabricated offences. By filing a petition with the UNWGAD, the law clinic in Zagreb hopes to raise awareness of Minh Man’s position and hopefully achieve the positive outcome that has already been seen this year in the Dieu Cay case. 

Nani Jansen is the Legal Director of the Media Legal Defence Initiative (MLDI), a global legal support organization that helps journalists, bloggers, and independent media outlets defend their rights by offering both financial assistance and substantive litigation support.

Jonathan McCully studied law at Trinity College, Dublin (LL.B), and is a recent graduate of the London School of Economics and Political Science (LL.M). He is a frequent contributor to Inforrm’s Blog, and is currently volunteering at the MLDI.

by Nani Jansen at December 11, 2014 09:55 PM

Creative Commons
Are you on #teamopen?

Stay up-to-date with CC by subscribing to our newsletter and following us on Twitter.

Are you on #teamopen?

We’re proud to present Series Two of Team Open, our ongoing project to tell the stories of people who use Creative Commons. In Series Two, you’ll meet a musician who used Creative Commons licensing to score a sponsorship deal with Toyota, a filmmaker who convinced his funders to give his film away, a professor who saved students a million dollars, and one of the minds behind the best-selling game on Amazon.

When you use a CC-licensed photo in a presentation or share your latest song under CC, you’re a part of the story of CC’s impact in the world. We’re proud to share in this amazing journey with you.

Redacted
Redacted / opensource.com
CC BY-SA (cropped)

We’ve learned disturbing details of of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an agreement that could extend copyright terms 20 years. Join us in demanding that the agreement be made public.

State of the Commons
 
 

Nearly 900 million CC-licensed works, and most of them under licenses that allow commercial use and adaptations. Check out our brand new State of the Commons report.

Creative Commons Thing of the Day
Casey Fyfe / CC0
 

Your daily awesome from the internet. Start your morning with the Creative Commons Thing of the Day.

CC 4.0
 
 

Remember that time when CC Version 4.0 broke the internet?

by Elliot Harmon at December 11, 2014 09:45 PM

Global Voices
Happy 10th Birthday, Global Voices!

Members of the community at the Global Voices Citizen Media Summit 2010 in Santiago, Chile. Photo by Georgia Popplewell (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

On October 26, the anniversary of our first ever blog post, we recounted the story of the event that gave birth to the idea of Global Voices. It was on this day 10 years ago that that event occurred, making December 11 our official birthday. 

As anyone who's ever met a “tween” will know, 10 years old is a critical age. And if that 10-year-old saw it fit to set aside the dystopian novel or whatever it is that occupies tweens’ attention these days, and engage you for a few moments, you'd know it's an age group that regards the world and the future with some curiosity, a bit of apprehension, but also a great deal of hope. 

As we said on October 26, it's been an amazing ten years, both for us and for this planet. In addition to having evolved into a vibrant, volunteer-driven community and newsroom that produces content into over 30 languages, and a leader in the fields of digital rights and online media development, we've built a remarkable record of the extraordinary lives of so-called ordinary human beings—at a point in history where rapid change seems to be one of the few constants. 

On Monday we kicked off a fresh wave of celebrations with a special edition of GV Face featuring our co-founders Rebecca and Ethan, but Global Voices community members all over the world have been hosting GV birthday events for the past few weeks, and there'll be several more in the days to come—and even more at our sixth Summit, which takes place in Cebu City, Philippines on January 24-25 (join us!).

Birthday presents are welcome too, so if you'd like to support our work, please consider a donation, or purchase some of the NSA-themed Christmas cards (!) designed by our friends at Paper Chase Press (100% of the proceeds go to us).

Happy birthday, Global Voices! Here's to many more decades.

by Georgia Popplewell at December 11, 2014 07:25 PM

Creative Commons
Team Open: Stories of how we use Creative Commons

A few weeks ago, we published a report showing that there are nearly a billion Creative Commons–licensed works. That’s an impressive number, but it only hints at how powerful and widespread CC licenses have become.

The real story of Creative Commons is the story of the people who use CC licenses. It’s the story of people who use CC licenses to make information, education, and data more public and accessible. Creators who have built real careers on free and open content. Policymakers working to make open the rule, not the exception. If you’re reading this, the story of CC is your story.

Today, we’re proud to present Series Two of Team Open, our ongoing project to tell the stories of people who use Creative Commons. In Series Two, you’ll meet a musician who used Creative Commons licensing to score a sponsorship deal with Toyota, a filmmaker who convinced his funders to give his film away, a professor who saved students a million dollars, and one of the minds behind the best-selling game on Amazon.

When you use a CC-licensed photo in a presentation or share your latest song under CC, you’re a part of the story of CC’s impact in the world. We’re proud to share in this amazing journey with you.

If you’re proud to be on Team Open, please consider making a donation to help carry Creative Commons into 2015.

by Elliot Harmon at December 11, 2014 06:36 PM

48 Civil Society Groups Demand Public Release of TPP Agreement Text

Today Creative Commons and 47 civil society organizations and academics released a letter (PDF) calling on negotiators of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to publish the draft text of the agreement. Up until now the text of the TPP has been developed mostly in secret by the 12 negotiating countries. Wikileaks published a draft text of the chapter on intellectual property in October, revealing several provisions that would threaten access to and re-use of creative works, including an arrangement to allow countries to extend copyright terms by another 20 years. CC and other groups wrote a letter calling for that proposal to be rescinded.

Today’s call for increased accountability into the process and substance of the TPP agreement follows on the heels of the European Commission’s announcement for transparency into the negotiations over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a trade agreement being negotiated between the United States and the European Union.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) organized the letter from civil society organizations and experts. They said, “As TPP seems to arrive at its final stage, this is a prime moment for trade ministers to stop the secrecy and re-commit themselves to democratic principles of transparency and public participation in rule making.”

We couldn’t agree more.

The text of the letter (PDF) is below.

——————

Dear TPP Ministers and Heads of Delegation,

Ever since talks over the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP) began over five years ago, there have been broad public calls on leaders to make negotiations more transparent and open to the public. In statements, in letters, and in face-to-face meetings with trade representatives, we have urged the adoption of concrete practices that would better enable the kind of open debate and oversight that would help demystify these ongoing negotiations by making better, more accurate information available to the public.

The European Commission has recently taken leadership on this issue in the parallel context of negotiations over a Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), recommending on 25 November 2014 that the EU’s TTIP text proposals henceforth be released to the public, and that other information related to TTIP be shared more broadly with all Members of the European Parliament, beyond the currently limited membership of the International Trade Committee.

The end of TPP negotiations now seems to be coming into focus. They have come down to high-level political decisions by negotiating countries, and the text is largely completed except for some resolutions on remaining landing zones. At this point, we know that there is a draft of the TPP that is mostly agreed upon by those negotiating the deal.

Today, we strongly urge you to release the unbracketed text and to release the negotiating positions for text that is bracketed, now and going forwards as any future proposals are made. The public has a legitimate interest in knowing what has already been decided on its behalf, and what is now at stake with our various countries’ positions on these controversial regulatory issues.

We call on you to consider the recent announcement from the European Commission as a welcome precedent to follow, thereby re-affirming your commitment to fundamental principles of transparency and public participation in rule making. The negotiations in Washington DC this week would provide the perfect opportunity for such a ground-breaking accord to be announced.

Sincerely,

International:
Article 19
Creative Commons
Consumers International
Oxfam International
SumOfUs

Australia:
Australian Digital Alliance
Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network (AFTINET)
Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA)
Australian Libraries Copyright Committee (ALCC)
Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA)
Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA)

Canada:
Council of Canadians
Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network (Réseau juridique canadien VIH/sida)
OpenMedia International

Chile:
ONG Derechos Digitales
Organización de Consumidores y Usuarios de Chile (ODECU)

Japan:
Movements of the Internet Active Users (MIAU)
Creative Commons Japan
thinkC

New Zealand:
Consumer NZ
Its Our Future NZ

Malaysia:
Blindspot
EcoKnights
Malaysian AIDS Council
Positive Malaysian Treatment Access & Advocacy Group (MTAAG+)

Mexico, Chile, Peru:
International Treatment Preparedness Coalition (ITPC-LATCA) (Regional Office for
Latin American and Carribean Networks)
Alianza LAC – Global por el Acceso a Medicamentos

Peru:
Hiperderecho
Peruvian Association of Consumers and Users (ASPEC)
Acción Internacional para la Salud (AIS)

USA:
Action on Smoking and Health
American Library Association
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Fight For the Future
Food & Water Watch
Government Accountability Project
Health GAP
Just Foreign Policy
Knowledge Ecology International
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Academics:
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Susan Sell, George Washington University
Sean Flynn, American University
David Levine, Princeton University

by Timothy Vollmer at December 11, 2014 05:30 PM

MIT Center for Civic Media
Using Randomized Trials in Policy: Oliver Hauser on the UK Behavioural Insights Team

How can policymakers conduct randomized trials and incorporate them into their policymaking? Over the summer, Oliver Hauser, a PhD student at Harvard, worked at the Behavioural Insights Team in London (@B_I_Tweets), sometimes called the "nudge unit." Yesterday at the Cooperation Working Group that I co-facilitate with Brian Keegan, Oliver shared with us the work that the nudge unit has done before opening up the conversation for discussion.

At Harvard, Oliver works with the Harvard Business School and at the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics at Harvard. He is also author of a recent Nature article: "Cooperating With the Future." Oliver's research focuses on cooperation and pro-sociality, and he often works with organizations using randomized experiments and using the term "Behavioural insight," when he uses research from behavioral sciences applies it in the world.

What are Behavioral Insights?

Over the last ten years, books have been coming out all over the place, all about behavior change, and how we can use insights on them for management and government insights. A few years ago, the to-be-elected prime minister of the UK government, David Cameron, read Thaler and Sunstein's book "Nudge" and subsequently created the Nudge team when he was elected.

"What are the typical things that these books will tell you about?" Oliver asks. He shows us a photo and asks "Was Mahatma Gandhi older or younger than 100 years old when he died? How old do you think he was?" He then asks the same question for Einstein, asking if he was older or younger than 50. It turns out that if you ask lots of people this question, they tend to use the earlier number as a reference point. In the case of Gandhi, most people down-adjust from 100. In the case of Einstein, they up-adjust from 50. Oliver is interested in charitable giving and in this context, a question worth asking might be "what is the last number someone saw before deciding how much to donate?" It may potentially have a big influence.

Oliver next asks us two questions: "You want to buy a toaster that costs $100. You are told that the same toaster is being sold for $50, but it is a 20 minute drive away. Would you travel to get the discounted toaster?"

"You want to buy a television that costs $3000. You are told that the same television is being sold for $2,950, but it is a 20 minute drive away. Would you travel to get the discounted TV?"

People often the first question yes and answer no to the second question, even though the savings is the same. This example shows that we are not perfectly “rational” (in the economic sense) but often take context and other cues in the environment into account when making decisions. This should not be forgotten when designing systems or institutions that people interact with. “Behavioural insights” is a catch-all term for much that has been published in the behavioral sciences that should inform the way we build these systems and institutions.

Who are the Behavioural Insights Team?

The BIT, Oliver notes, was set up to ask if similar things might be the case in people's interactions with government. It originated in No. 10 Downing Street and the Cabinet Office, where they had access to government. Recently, they were slightly spun out. 1/3 is owned by government, 1/3 is owned by NESTA, and 1/3 is owned by the employees. Uniquely, BIT’s team comprises of both policymakers and researchers.

When the Behavioural Insights Team first came out, the public was skeptical. Three to four years later, the media loves them -- they've saved the government money while helping the people make better decisions for themselves.

Oliver spent his time as a Research Fellow in the British Government, helping with research on pro-sociality, charitable giving, and behavioural economics questions. While there, he was able to apply research that he was reading, testing those results in a real-world context at a national scale. It's not always possible to do research, because the team’s primary mission is to do good, but it is also possible to publish in peer reviewed journals.

EAST Principles

The Behavioural Insights Team has created a fairly simple but intuitive model to help people think about the kinds of interventions they build and how they work: Interventions should be Easy, Attractive, Social, and Timely (the “EAST” framework). To illustrate these, Oliver shows us a trial they ran on the "Tax Return Initiative" with HM Revenue and Customs. Famously, they tried to prime people to be more honest on tax payment. They ran an RCT including a link directly to the tax form rather than a link to the website. In a randomized trial of approximately 2,000 people in each group, click-through rates were 23.4% compared to 19.2%. In more recent study of tax forms in Guatemala, they have carried out several million observations.

Next Oliver talks about the idea of randomized controlled trials in government. The goal of these trials is to get at the difference between people who receive a treatment and people who don't. One way is to compare to previous years, but a more successful way, without the confounds and endogeneities, would be to create a control group and a treatment group, randomly splitting a study population into sub-groups. After a period of time, you look at how many people have been affected by the treatment, giving you the ability to make causal claims -- the only difference between these groups is the change made in the treatment relative to control.

Examples of Behavioral Insights in the world

In a study, the goal was to get London investment bankers to donate one day of their salary to charity. Many of them are hyper rational people, and although they might be altruistic, the question can they be nudged. In one investment bank, they had a history of getting about 5% of bankers to donate to each other. In the banking world, many traders are locked off from each other, which made it possible to send different interventions to different parts of the company:

  • one group received the typical email from the CEO (5% donated)
  • another group also had a celebrity DJ walk around the floor (7% donated)
  • one group of bankers received sweets (11% donated) (Oliver is interested in this because he thinks the unconditional sharing of the chocolates before requesting a donation tap into people's sense of reciprocity)
  • another group received a personal email that mentioned the person’s name from their line manager (12%)
  • sweets + personal email (17%)

This randomized trial raised £500,000 in one day for charity.

Question: what is the theory involved in this? Maybe it wasn't reciprocity but instead social image, or some other motivation?

Oliver: normally, I combine lab research with field research, which allows to get at these fine-grained questions. In time, it may be possible to start doing that kind of work also in field experiments. Oliver is now talking to some large charity fundraisers to find out if it might be possible to get at some of these deeper answers. Think of the results from these projects as testing “principles” (i.e. does a tested lab manipulation derived from theory also apply in the real world?) rather than theories -- perhaps/hopefully we'll get there eventually.

To illustrate the idea of "Social" in the EAST principles, Oliver tells us about another example, showing how presenting information about social norms can be influential. When taxpayers were told that "9 out of 10 people who have a debt like yours in your local area pay their taxes," a greater number of them paid taxes than received no social information.

Question: "did you lie to them?" Oliver: I come from the econ view, so I don't use deception, and government definitely can't use deception. That makes it challenging to roll out these programs, especially in areas where tax payment is low, and alternative interventions may have to applied.

Implementing RCTs in Government

Oliver describes to us how these things come together in government: often the team will pick an existing policy that the government is planning to implement. When possible, they then work with government to create a sequential roll-out over multiple years into an RCT. By delaying the roll-out of a program, it becomes possible to create control groups in places that haven't yet received the program. 

In policy contexts, Oliver tells us, transparency is important, and the BIT publishes trial protocols before they run an experiment, on online databases such as the American Economic Association’s RCT Registry. This encourages transparency and is one defense against "p-value hacking" and fishing for results in lots of co-variates: the researchers need to explain clearly how their methods answer the specific policy questions set out in the study.

In the cooperation working group, we often invite people to share their in-progress work. The rest of the conversation, sadly, can't be reported because it concerned (very interesting!) research that has not yet been published.

by natematias at December 11, 2014 01:45 PM

Lawrence Lessig
The great Rep. Deutch testifying against the "sneak attack" on corruption limits

Congress’ spending bill has an extraordinary amendment to the McCain-Feingold Bipartisan…

(Original post on Tumblr)

by Lessig at December 11, 2014 11:38 AM

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