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.

July 25, 2016

Rising Voices
One Children's Song, Translated Into Australia's Many Local Languages

Languages and cultures may differ, but the joyful sound of children singing is universal. A song called “Marrin Gamu,” created for primary school children and teachers to promote the diversity and beauty of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages, is proving just that.

The title of the song combines the word for “body” in two of the languages. Marrin is the word for “body” in the Wiradjuri language of New South Wales, and Gamu is the word for “body” in the Kalaw Kawaw Ya language from the Torres Strait.

The song is also the basis of a friendly contest organized by First Languages Australia and ABC Splash. First, communities are invited to teach local children the lyrics in English.

Verse 1. Eyes and ears, (3 times).
Verse 2. Hand and foot, (3 times).
Verse 3. Leg and arm, (3 times).
Verse 4. Head and belly, (3 times).

Then once the children know the song, the community is asked to translate the lyrics into their own native language. Finally, the community and school work together to create a video to be uploaded to the competition website.

The Marrin Gamu website provides an example to help get teachers and students started. Also included in the website is a range of Australian curriculum-linked classroom activities developed around the project. Conversation starter questions are suggested as a way to facilitate discussions with students about their language:

Questions for the class:

  • Are their any similarities between the body words in the languages in the video and your language?
  • Is there any reason the song cannot be directly translated into your language?
  • What might you do to overcome this?

The project will run for the next two years so that all schools have time to develop the necessary relationships to participate in the project. Contest organizers hope to see “Marrin Gamu” sung in many of Australia’s hundreds of first languages.

“Marrin Gamu” fits into a broader strategy to prevent language loss by focusing on schools and students and working with local teachers. Many teachers do not have deep knowledge of these languages, so the website shares cross-curricular programs for use in the classroom. Incorporating an element of digital media and the internet may motivate students when they see their creativity and local language reflected online.

Screenshot from Guarang language video.

Screenshot from Guarang language video.

The first submission is a video created by a school in Queensland in which students sing “Marrin Gamu” in the Guarang language. As more videos of the song are submitted, we'll be sharing them here.

by Eddie Avila at July 25, 2016 10:40 PM

DML Central
Digital Media as Interactive Textbook

Recently, I was a guest on the Meanwhile in the Future podcast on an episode titled “Flash Forward,” speaking about digital media and education. While speaking with Rose Eveleth, the host, I said something that’s sort of stuck with me in terms of thinking about what the roles of media and communications are in digital media. I do not believe that it can ever replace the classroom space and I worry about all the edtech efforts that are so heavily invested in the attempt to do just that. Loss of other senses and effect on critical thinking and reasoning by digital media make me wary of it being an imagined space of a full learning experience.

I think I am ready to completely own the idea of positioning digital media in the classroom as a supplemental interactive textbook, something publishers have attempted to capitalize on by shifting from being learning companies that provide not just the book, but also a platform with information to supplement and enhance the book. These platforms generally require a key that the student can obtain only by purchasing a new copy which, for many students, is financially unfeasible once they reach higher education and are required to buy their own books. Even before then, many K-12 schools are just not able to replace every book every year for every student to ensure they are getting “the most” as dictated by the publisher.

Outside of traditional publishing, the spaces where digital media as bonus knowledge in learning spaces can be seen in MOOCs and Virtual Reality, done in two different ways. MOOCs provide set content. Users can assess the value of MOOCs in advance and, then, choose to immerse themselves in the whole experience or they can drop in when needed.  VR on the other hand allows students to go on guided tours created by whomever designed the tour, and, in some cases, driven then by a single person as is the case with the now available Google Expeditions. With this program, a teacher controls the tour from her or his tablet and the students journey within that selection from their own tablets or VR headsets.

I am still excited about the potential of Virtual Reality even as I am cautious. A few months ago, I took my children to the Museum of Modern Art. They were very excited to see “Starry Night.” However, they are not very tall so they tried to get in front of people to get a closer look. They ended up too close to the rope for the security guard’s comfort and we were told to step back. How amazing would it have been to have a headset next to the art that allowed the viewer to get closer to the art or even within the brush strokes? We often hear too of paintings, when being restored, revealing multiple other paintings or sketches underneath. This too can be explored. This enhancement isn’t limited to art. Learning geography, social science and history about spaces and places that are too far away or no longer reachable can become an enhanced experience through reading, film, and virtual interactive experiences. This is an augmented interactive learning text.

The examples mentioned above are dependent for most learners on other people determining what content would be the most useful. I think the biggest thing connected learning can do is break away from the proscriptive nature of platforms and information curated by those outside of the learning space. Instead of just relying on what is given, think through the things that are missing or that the learning community seems to be pulled toward and find ways to design unique experiences and assignments that are dependent on digital media to bring that knowledge into learning.

Digital media plants the seed of knowledge but it takes connected learning activities that can be structured and are collaborative and social in nature to take the information gained with these new digital media tools into knowledge. We can learn more with digital media than with a standard textbook given the scale and flexibility of the media, but it requires us to put forward creative approaches to making things make sense together and making them make sense for the context of the learners. Digital media in and of itself will not lead everyone to a better ability to think critically and reason, but it can enhance the practices we already have as we move forward to the future of learning.

Banner image credit: Barry Joseph

The post Digital Media as Interactive Textbook appeared first on DML Central.

by mcruz at July 25, 2016 01:05 PM

July 24, 2016

Global Voices
Samia Yusuf Omar Earned Fame as a Runner, But Died as a Refugee. A New Comic Honors Her.
"An Olympic Dream," a new graphic novel about Samia Yusuf Omar, was first released in English in April 2016. Credit: Courtesy of SelfMadeHero

“An Olympic Dream,” a new graphic novel about Samia Yusuf Omar, was first released in English in April 2016. Credit: Courtesy of SelfMadeHero

This article by Daniel Gross originally appeared on PRI.org as part of the Across Women's Lives project on July 19, 2016. It is republished here as part of a content-sharing agreement.

The terrible news reached Teresa Krug by way of a somber YouTube video: Samia Yusuf Omar, a Somali sprinter who competed in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, had drowned while trying to cross the Mediterranean. Omar had made her name as a sprinter. When she died as a refugee, athletes and journalists were stunned.

“It was just this disbelief that an Olympic athlete would be in the position of being a refugee,” said Krug, a freelance journalist who befriended Omar in Somalia. “If this person couldn't make it, what kind of hope is there for other people?”

Omar's life has now been adapted into a nonfiction comic, “An Olympic Dream,” by the German illustrator Reinhard Kleist. Four years after Omar's death, her story is more relevant than ever. The refugee crisis continues, and the summer Olympics are fast approaching. This year, there will even be a team of refugee athletes.

By focusing on Omar's remarkable life, not just her death, “An Olympic Dream” humanizes a crisis that too often seems abstract. Kleist's empathetic and emotional portrait of Omar, which draws heavily on Krug's reporting, makes the case for new types of journalism focused on people, not just politics.

Detail, "An Olympic Dream." Credit: Courtesy of SelfMadeHero

Detail, “An Olympic Dream.” Credit: Courtesy of SelfMadeHero

At the start of “An Olympic Dream,” it's 2008 and the family of Samia Yusuf Omar is looking for a television. They wander around the Somali capital of Mogadishu until they find one. On the flickering screen, they watch Omar line up on a track in Beijing. She looks thin. When the starting gun fires, Omar lags behind. She wins the hearts of the crowd not because she does well in the race, but because her determination shows through anyway.

When Omar returns to Somalia, she keeps training. Kleist's drawings are dynamic and at times dramatic: In one panel, Omar runs through the crowded streets of Mogadishu, dodging religious hardliners from al-Shabab. When she runs on the bombed-out track of Coni Stadium, she gets flashbacks to Beijing. Two children count off her times in lieu of a stopwatch.

Mogadishu is no place for an Olympic athlete, and Omar eventually decides to leave her life and family in pursuit of a dream. She travels to Ethiopia to find a team. “This had become her single mission in life,” Krug remembered. “To find a coach and make it to the Olympics.”

Detail, "An Olympic Dream." Credit: Courtesy of SelfMadeHero

Detail, “An Olympic Dream.” Credit: Courtesy of SelfMadeHero

Kleist made the unusual decision to narrate much of his book through Facebook posts, which are loosely based on interviews with Krug and Omar's sister. “I want to start training again,” reads one post. “I keep thinking about Beijing. Where I stayed, I could see the Olympic flame. It was like seeing the world.”

It's an elegant approach to dramatize a story that was so often filtered through the prism of social media. After Krug helped Omar create a Facebook account, they used the platform to stay in touch. Their last contact was a message Omar wrote to Krug, explaining that she had left Ethiopia for Libya, and was hoping to cross to Italy.

Omar's journey from Ethiopia to Libya now seems unsettling familiar. She pays human traffickers who take her on a dangerous journey through the desert—a route that thousands upon thousands of migrants have taken. Kleist's scenes of the desert are harsh and lonely. A dozen people squeeze into a little car, which speeds through the endless desert trailing a long cloud of dust.

Detail, "An Olympic Dream." Credit: Courtesy of SelfMadeHero

Detail, “An Olympic Dream.” Credit: Courtesy of SelfMadeHero

Scenes like these aim to help readers deeply imagine a crisis that has started to seem impersonal. “We don't even take notice of the number anymore,” writes Kleist in his introduction. Too often, he says, we forget “that abstract numbers represent human lives.”

In 2012, Krug wrote for Al Jazeera about her reactions to Omar's death. She felt “denial that I'd never seen her again, anger that I hadn't done more to help her, or that the media — members of my profession — only cared now that she was gone.”

Krug is skeptical that much has changed since then. In 2015, thousands of African migrants died while trying to cross the Mediterranean. Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled their country and face similar risks.

Detail, "An Olympic Dream." Credit: Courtesy of SelfMadeHero

Detail, “An Olympic Dream.” Credit: Courtesy of SelfMadeHero

Still, Krug is enthusiastic about new approaches to nonfiction storytelling like “An Olympic Dream.”

“I didn't realize the power, maybe, of a book like this,” she said. “Even as journalists, you get fatigued. We need to be pursuing other ways of presenting stories.”

Detail, "An Olympic Dream." Credit: Courtesy of SelfMadeHero

Detail, “An Olympic Dream.” Credit: Courtesy of SelfMadeHero

by Public Radio International at July 24, 2016 10:00 AM

Calls for the International Community to Intervene as Gambia Continues to Imprison Dissidents

 

Gambian President Yahya Jammeh who has been in power since 1994  is widely accused of human rights violations. Public Domain photo by the White House uploaded online by Wikipedia user Alifazal.

Gambian President Yahya Jammeh who has been in power since 1994 is widely accused of human rights violations. Public Domain photo by the White House uploaded online by Wikipedia user Alifazal.

On July 20, 2016, a Gambian High Court sentenced the leader of the main United Democratic Party (UDP) (currently in opposition), Ousainou Darboe, and 18 other opposition activists to three years in prison for — among other charges — participating in a demonstration without a licence. They were arrested on April 19 in the capital, Banjul.

The opposition has denounced the trial, while human rights organisation Amnesty International has noted that these prison sentences for opposition leaders continue the downward spiral for human rights in The Gambia.

Among those convicted is Fanta Darboe Jawara — a naturalised US citizen who, while visiting the country, took part in the protest led by her uncle. The ruling is attracting attention in the United States, where four Maryland congressional members have expressed outrage over her conviction.

In April 2016, the country witnessed a series of unprecendented protests that started with a peaceful demonstration calling for electoral reforms to take place prior to the country's upcoming December 2016 election. The demonstration was led by Ebrima Solo Sandeng, the youth head of the main opposition party, UDP. Many opposition politicians believe that the existing electoral laws favour the incumbent president Yahya Jammeh, and would like to see them changed. As things stand, it is difficult to challenge him — individuals require as much as 500,000 Gambian Dalasi (about US$11,280) to register a political party or run as a presidential candidate in The Gambia.

By the end of the protest, security forces rounded up and detained Sandeng and other UDP supporters. Sandeng and two other UDP members died in police custody within 48 hours of their arrests. This led to new demonstrations, led by Darboe, who demanded the release of the remaining protesters.

The United States, the United Nations and other international organisations have repeatedly called on the government to respect the rights of citizens to peaceful protest. President Jammeh, who has been in power since 1994, is widely criticised for mistreatment of journalists, opposition members and members of the LGBT community.

In its 2014 submission to the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Gambia, Amnesty International noted: “Since Gambia’s first Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in 2010, the human rights situation in the country has deteriorated. The government continues to stifle freedom of expression and commit other human rights violations with impunity.”

Both Gambians and netizens outside of the country have taken to Facebook and Twitter to condemn the conviction.

Calling for international organisations to intervene, the Media Foundation of West Africa shared an infographic showing abuses committed by Jammeh's government over the years:

Niamina Nko also called for the international community to take action:

Oumie Andrews made reference to the fact that the hearing was made before non-Gambian judges:

Jammeh's government has a policy of hiring Nigerian judges and magistrates; Gambians in the United Kingdom made their views known about the practice:

A user using the handle ‘YesWe Can’ lamented:

An online Gambian newspaper seemed to suggest that the judges who presided over the trial were more concerned with money than anything else:

On Facebook, a user using the name ‘Che Guevaara’ complained about the hypocrisy of the Africa Union (AU):

The AU does not condemn a Dictator when he is oppressing his people but it will condemn when the Dictator is overthrown.

Commenters from other African countries also weighed in on the situation. Adomati Robert from Uganda pointed out that in African countries in general — not only in The Gambia — opposition parties are not treated fairly:

I'm a Ugandan but I see no difference in political crisis with that of Gambia and other politically oppressed African nations where opposition parties are seen as a threat to the political security of the ruling government. This is a way of defending selfish interests of the greedy leaders. When the rich robs the poor, it's called ‘defense’ and when the poor fights back it's called ‘offense’.

A commenter from Zambia, Eugine Mwambila, said the same treatment of opposition politicians is happening in his country:

african leaders dont want to be opposed,our african democracy is a sham,Uganda,Egypt,Zimbabwe,Angola and the same is happening in my country Zambila the opposition is being threatened with jail terms,there is need for Amnesty and other international Ngo z (sic) to help this man,

However, Cheikh Bamba came out in defence of President Jammeh, referring to him — with tongue firmly in cheek — as “this dictator”:

This so-called opposition called UDP is a group of disgruntled figures with ties to the former super corrupt regime and hardcore tribalists
This dictator out perform the previous 30 years corrupt government and the colonial system combined
The real farce is the daily fabricated stories regarding the Gambian situation

by Ndesanjo Macha at July 24, 2016 07:19 AM

July 23, 2016

Global Voices
Amidst Soaring Road Fatalities, A Tragic Accident Spawns Strange Jamaican Tales
Flat Bridge, Jamaica. Photo by Jozef.sovcik, own work, used in the public domain.

Flat Bridge, Jamaica. Photo by Jozef.sovcik, own work, used in the public domain.

Jamaican drivers are not generally known for careful or courteous behavior — speeding and a disregard for the rules of the road are unfortunately all too common — resulting in high numbers of fatalities which have climbed steadily since 2012. In the past two weeks, the island has suffered from a series of accidents with multiple casualties, with a grim tally of 22 deaths in the past two weeks. However, one major accident in particular has sparked both serious discussion — and a flurry of outlandish speculation rooted in Jamaican folklore.

The latest tragedy occurred in the early hours of Sunday morning (July 17) at Flat Bridge, which crosses the Rio Cobre in the parish of St. Catherine. An overcrowded, medium-sized SUV, with eight people aboard, apparently overtook a line of vehicles waiting at the traffic lights as they turned from amber to red. The car reportedly skidded and plunged into the river, which is quite deep and slow-moving near the bridge because of a dam further downstream. Six people lost their lives, one nineteen-year-old survived and the driver miraculously escaped, but fled the scene, turning himself into the police the following day.

The Flat Bridge has a special place in Jamaican history and culture. It lies at the end of the picturesque Bog Walk Gorge, with the Rio Cobre on one side of the road and a steep wall of rock on the other. The banks of the Rio Cobre include remarkable limestone rock features. The bridge itself was built with slave labor around 1724, and many slaves’ lives were reportedly lost in its construction.

The accident is certainly not the first in that particular spot. The bridge is a simple flat structure, without a railing or parapet, built close to the surface of the river, which is deep and prone to flooding — but this latest crash has sparked a discussion on whether it should be replaced or fixed in some way. Vice Chair of the National Road Safety Council, Dr. Lucien Jones, came down on the side of restructuring it:

He later suggested:

Since his tweet, another accident in the same parish has claimed four more lives — but many Jamaicans reacted to his suggestion with some annoyance. By all accounts, the driver was reckless and has now been charged with six counts of causing death by dangerous driving and driving without a license.

Radio talk show host Emily Shields echoed the sentiments of many, tweeting:

One Twitter user weighed in on a poll asking whether the bridge should be replaced:

Another tweeted:

Dr. Jones later offered several proposals on his blog, concluding:

Although there is no ‘silver bullet’ that can immediately prevent any further loss of lives on our roads, there are enough projects and proposed initiatives […] which, if successfully implemented, can make a difference. For many, those measures will be far too late. However, for other disasters ‘waiting to happen’, if we as a nation can find the political will to take the hard decisions, and provide the necessary investment, who knows how many lives we can save in the future.

Popular television current affairs show All Angles discussed the issue in detail with the head of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) Traffic Division, who is currently conducting non-stop media interviews. Producer and avid tweeter Giovanni Dennis weighed in:

But a few days after the accident, more fanciful stories have begun to emerge. All the passengers were members of the Mount Maria Zion Truth Fellowship Spiritual Church of God in rural St. Catherine. The car was owned by the church's pastor, Bishop Stephen Rickets, who died in the crash along with his two sons. They were allegedly on a “duppy-catching” expedition (a duppy is a ghost or spirit). Neighbors have had contradictory and sometimes extraordinary stories to tell about the pastor and his church, which is in the Revivalist tradition that developed from myalism, a folk religion focused on the power of African ancestors that typically involves drumming, dancing, spirit possession and animal sacrifice.

Opinions on the church and its leader seem divided, with some finding the family strangely mysterious and others, upstanding.

Besides the alleged activities at the church — reminiscent, to some, of obeah (a folk religion that is still practiced in some parts of the Caribbean) — the bridge itself is the stuff of history and legend. Historian Lance Neita recorded, among other stories:

Flat Bridge also featured during the 1976 State of Emergency when the late Prime Minister Michael Manley warned the House after an announced arms discovery that “it would only take four sticks of dynamite to render Flat Bridge impassable”. “Nonsense”, asserted a friend as I got carried away with the argument. “All it takes to block Flat Bridge is a good shower of rain.”

There is another point of interest on the approach to Spanish Town, where Jamaica's original Golden Table [the story is here] is said to have surfaced repeatedly in a spot in the river between Angels and the river dam.

Clinton Black in his Tales Of Old Jamaica records the story of the 24 steers and six screaming slaves who were dragged under the water at that spot as they tried to harness the legendary table on the instructions of a plantation owner.

So the river road is not without its fair share of superstition. On a certain day at noon, legend has it that the Flat Bridge is a gathering place for the ghosts of the departed slaves who died during its construction.

Another well-known myth is that of the River Mumma or River Maid, who sits by the river and waits to pull people in:

It is believed that mermaids, or ‘River Mummas’ as they are called in Jamaica, live in a bottomless hole just below the bridge. Many believe that the mermaids are the reason each attempt to establish railing on the bridge has proven futile.

One regular tweeter scoffed:

Emily Shields continued to put up a staunch defense of the bridge:

Meanwhile, the Flat Bridge keeps its secrets (and its growing number of duppies) to itself, still inspiring a mixture of respect for its history — mingled with a little trepidation — among Jamaicans young and old.

by Emma Lewis at July 23, 2016 02:03 PM

Iraq's Marshlands, Nearly Destroyed Under Saddam, Are Coming Back
A woman in Iraq’s southern marshes gathering reeds. The flexible reeds are used to build arched reed houses in a design unchanged for thousands of years as well as burned for fuel. While men in the marshes fish, women and girls do most of the manual labor including cutting and transporting the reeds. Credit: Jane Arraf

A woman in Iraq’s southern marshes gathering reeds. The flexible reeds are used to build arched reed houses in a design unchanged for thousands of years as well as burned for fuel. While men in the marshes fish, women and girls do most of the manual labor including cutting and transporting the reeds. Credit: Jane Arraf

This article by Jane Arraf originally appeared on PRI.org on July 19, 2016, and is republished here as part of a content-sharing agreement.

It’s easy to believe, when you’re in Iraq’s southern marshes, that civilization really did begin there.

Sunlight sparkles as herons dart from the reeds to spear fish, while women in long wooden boats glide through the water. The wetlands span thousands of square miles in the middle of desert. Some students of ancient history believe the marshes, lined with reeds, teeming with fish and filled with birds, are the site of the biblical Garden of Eden.

Listen to this story on PRI.org »

On June 17, the UN cultural agency, UNESCO, added the marshlands and the ancient Sumerian cities that once flourished among them to its list of World Heritage Sites. The listing recognizes the area’s role in human development and its unique ecosystem. It also includes three Sumerian capitals, including Ur, believed to be the birthplace of the prophet Abraham, revered by Christians, Jews and Muslims.

This region was the heart of ancient Mesopotamia, where the world’s first known cities sprang up near the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Sumerian clay tablets from more than 5,000 years ago portray arched houses built from reeds — the same way they are still built today.

Women gather reeds in Iraq's southern marshlands. Most people have added outboard motors to the traditional boats but there are few other conveniences here. Most are without electricity and there are few schools or clinics. Credit: Jane Arraf

Women gather reeds in Iraq's southern marshlands. Most people have added outboard motors to the traditional boats but there are few other conveniences here. Most are without electricity and there are few schools or clinics. Credit: Jane Arraf

But the marshes that survived for thousands of years have taken a beating in recent decades. Iraqi governments since the 1950s began draining parts of the marshes to expand agriculture and drill for oil. In the 1980s, at war with Iran, Saddam Hussein sped up their destruction so the marshes couldn't serve as a refuge for fighters. A decade later he punished Shiites from the south for a failed uprising by driving them from their homes there.

The marshes today remain one of the poorest areas in Iraq. Residents living on tiny floating islands fish, tend water buffalo and gather reeds. There is almost no health care and few schools.

But since Saddam was toppled in 2003, there have been efforts to restore the suffering marsh ecosystems.

Locations of the Ahwar of Southern Iraq, World Heritage Site Source: UNESCO. Click on the map to see the full interactive map at PRI.org.

Locations of the Ahwar of Southern Iraq, World Heritage Site. Source: UNESCO. Click on the map to see the full interactive map at PRI.org.

Iraqi American environmentalist Azzam Alwash and Nature Iraq, the group he founded, have set up an eco-camp in the heart of the marshes. Visitors can stay in modernized reed houses, go out on boats, and eat breakfasts of water buffalo cream and flatbread baked over reed fires. The marshlands are on a main migratory bird path from Africa. With the water and fish stocks restored, pelicans, flamingoes and marbled teal ducks fill the skies.

The marshes are in one of the safer parts of Iraq, just a few hours from Basra, but there are few foreign visitors.

“We have so much potential for archeological tourism and eco tourism but unfortunately this area of development has been stunted because of the reliance on oil,” says Alwash. “It is our curse as far as I am concerned.”

There are still threats to the marshes — primarily from agricultural runoff as well as drought attributed to climate change. Turkey and Syria also limit water flowing into the marshes with dams upstream.

Inhabitants of the marshes - known as the Ma’dan - share the floating islands where they build reed houses with domesticated water buffalo, usually a household’s most valuable possession. Bufallo milk, a staple of the diet here, is also boiled over reed fires and turned into a thick cream to be sold. Credit: Jane Arraf

Inhabitants of the marshes – known as the Ma’dan – share the floating islands where they build reed houses with domesticated water buffalo, usually a household’s most valuable possession. Bufallo milk, a staple of the diet here, is also boiled over reed fires and turned into a thick cream to be sold. Credit: Jane Arraf

Alwash says he feels vindicated by the UNESCO listing. But he says more important than world recognition is the commitment made by the Iraqi government to protect the area.

“A few years ago, people were looking and laughing at me saying ‘why do you want to restore the marshes? These are backward people’ … and now all of a sudden people are saying ‘fantastic, marvelous.’”

by Public Radio International at July 23, 2016 10:00 AM

The Anti-KFC Protests Spell Trouble for Chinese Authorities Trying to Confine Nationalism to the Internet
Protests outside KFC. The banner said, "Boycott Japanese and American products, I am Chinese and will be a model. Kick KFC and McDonald out of China." Photos from letscop's Twitter.

Protests outside KFC. The banner said, “Boycott Japanese and American products, I am Chinese and will be a model. Kick KFC and McDonald out of China.” Photos from letscorp's Twitter.

For years, authorities under President Xi Jinping have stoked nationalistic sentiments in China as part of a larger campaign to push Chinese Communist Party ideology. Part of that effort includes “civilization” volunteers, who are recruited by the Communist Youth League and tasked with spreading the party's message online.

“Online” being the key word. It seems protesting in the street is a step too far for the Chinese government, which finds itself at the moment in the odd position of denouncing demonstrations against American fast food chain KFC — fueled by the very brand of aggressive nationalism they helped foment.

Since July 16, Chinese people in at least a dozen towns and cities have protested in front of KFC restaurants because they are seen as representing the interests of the United States. Many in China think US meddling helped lead to an embarrassing ruling on July 12, in which an international tribunal shot down Beijing’s extensive claims over the South China Sea.

Videos showing protesters confronting KFC customers have also gone viral on social media, where the rallies were organized.

‘An action to manifest Chinese determination and attitude’

The call to protest can be traced back to Zhu Jidong, the deputy director of the National Cultural Security and Ideology Construction Research Center under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. The center organizes training courses for online commenters and is active in delivering ideological instruction on social media through its official account, @IdeologyTorch (思想火炬).

In reaction to the South China Sea ruling, Zhu suggested in a July 13 post on Weibo two days of boycott against American fast food companies:

#思想微評#[舉國不去肯德基和麥當勞消費:你能做到嗎?]舉國上下在某一天集中做一種舉動,就會形成大的震憾:倡議這個周六、周日(7月16日和7月17日),舉國不去肯德基和麥當勞消費,只須兩天,世界將為之嘩然。這個倡議,兩天時間,不會傷害任何人,但可以表明中國人的決心和態度!

#Mini Comment on Ideology# National boycott against KFC and McDonald's. Can you do this? The whole nation taking the same action on the same day will create a shock. Proposed for this Saturday and Sunday (July 16 and 17), national boycott against KFC and McDonald's. It takes two days to shake the world. This proposal will only take two days and it won't harm anyone. But it is an action to manifest Chinese determination and attitude.

On the same day, Global Times, which is owned by the official newspaper group of the Chinese Communist Party, published commentary saying that the South China Sea ruling spurred a new wave of patriotism.

Meanwhile, the Communist Youth League published a Weibo post citing research that says Chinese media outlets are “controlled by capitalists” which has resulted in homogeneous opinion in the public sphere. As the current ideological battle being waged online in China has “patriots” and “red” culture on one side and “US sympathizers” and “liberals” on another, some interpreted the post as suggesting that people take revolutionary action in response to the South China Sea arbitration against capitalistic liberal forces’ attempts to suppress patriotic sentiments and reactions.

Around the same time, an adapted version of Zhu Jidong's push for boycott quickly went viral on social media such as messaging app WeChat. Many assumed that these calls to action were coming from the Communist Youth League's online civilization volunteers because Zhu Jidong is a member of the League's think tank.

On July 16, as shown in video clips recorded by citizens, some patriotic youths started harassing customers at KFC asking if they had heard of the South China Sea arbitration and telling them to leave. The online call for boycott soon developed into street quarrels, fist fights and then widespread protests.

Some of the slogans used in the protests included:

你们吃的美国肯德基,丢的是老祖宗的脸。
将来打仗的话,每一颗炮弹都是你们赞助的。
如果吃了肯德基,将来都是汉奸。

Those who eat in the American KFC is trashing the face of your ancestor.
If there is war in the future, you are sponsoring their bullets now.
Eating in KFC makes you a Chinese traitor.

The patriotic juggernaut rolls on

The real-life protests crossed a line set by the party and the government. On July 16, the Communist Youth League attempted to cut its ties to the demonstrations, claiming that they were initiated by “fans of the US” on Weibo.

But the KFC rallies continued and by July 18 had spread to more than a dozen cities. Worries swirled that if the mobilization got out of control, it could threaten the country's economic security.

To cool down the patriotic sentiments, propaganda authorities issued censorship instructions to all media outlets (via China Digital Times):

Once again, for the near future, do not hype or spread information related to illegal rallies and demonstrations. Pay close attention and delete inflammatory information.

On the same day, Hu Shijun, chief editor of Global Times, also tried to distance the publication from the protests by calling the participants “SB,” meaning “stupid ass.”

But the censorship instructions and public disavowals didn't stop the movement. On July 19, photos showing a group of primary school kids protesting outside a KFC restaurant in Shandong province went viral on social media.

Later, netizens discovered that the protest was led by a teacher during the students’ social learning program, which is organized by Tsingda Xuexi, an educational institution also affiliated with the Communist Youth League. Moreover, protesters were not only targeting KFC, but now also other US brands like Apple.

The party's opinion channeling machine then kicked into full gear to try to contain the situation. Major news portals published editorials denouncing the protests. The English-language editorial of state-owned newspaper China Daily questioned, “Why target firms for the sins of US and Philippines?

A Chinese version of the piece, written by an author using a pseudonym, labelled the protests as gaojihei (高級黑), meaning “second-level smearing” or patriotism taken too far. China Daily's Weibo account distributed it on July 19 with the title, “Visiting KFC and McDonald's = unpatriotic hypocrisy? We would be part of the second-level smearing!” A brief introduction read:

【吃肯德基麦当劳=虚伪不爱国?我们才不当高级黑!】爱国是不吃肯德基和麦当劳,是打人、砸车、抢东西?当缺乏常识的人,热衷于做别人的老师时,那就是愚昧的开始。少一点冲动,多一点常识。少一点抵制,多一点实干。这便是正确的爱国方式,你的样子,就是中国未来的样子。

Visiting KFC and McDonald's = unpatriotic hypocrisy? We would be part of the second-level smearing! Patriotism is boycotting KFC and McDonald's? Patriotism is to beat up people, smash cars and rob? When people without common sense are eager to become the teacher, this is the beginning of a dark age. Less impulse, more common sense, less boycott, more concrete practice. This is the right way to love the country. Your face is the future face of China.

The article explained why a boycott would not work and how it could harm China's own economy:

在经济全球化的今天,衣食住行涉及的大大小小产品,几乎全是你中有我、我中有你的“混血儿”——国产家用电脑的CPU多是美国产的,而美国波音747的客机里也会有中国生产的零部件。
至于麦当劳和肯德基,我们早就成了他们的股东,抵制他们就是抵制我们自己。
更重要的是,麦当劳和肯德基涉及的上下游行业太多,那么多的中国老百姓在这条产业链上工作,他们没饭吃了你来养?

We are living in a globalized era, everything produced is a co-production — local computer brands have CPUs made in the US and Boeing 747s have parts made in China.
As for KFC and McDonald's, we are already part of their shareholders, boycotting them is boycotting ourselves.

Moreover, KFC and McDonald's have a stake in other industries, how many Chinese are working in the production chain, who will feed them if they lose their jobs?

‘Online patriotism and offline patriotism are different’

The KFC protests reveal that authorities have been playing with fire in their ideological campaign — if people enacted the beliefs that have been pushed on them, such as kicking out all foreign “enemies,” in the real world, China's economy would suffer the consequences.

The party and the government are well aware of the paradox, and that's why the line between online and offline nationalism must remain firm, journalist Song Zhi Biao argued:

线上爱国与线下爱国是根本不同的,这是共青团中央、环球时报、人民日报、胡锡进、诸多五毛大V深知的、而且是非常显著的界线。如果要跨过这条界线,需要许可,绝对不能擅自跨越,否则就是不守规矩,是要负责的。但爱国群众心里无界,不听招呼盲打盲冲。
官媒及传统爱国势力一致否定肯德基爱国事件,否认这些群众是由他们发动的,甚至不顾自个那些赫然在目的煽动性微博,竭力甩锅,乃至于把黑锅推给传说中的公知 […]

Online patriotism and offline patriotism are different. The line is clear to the Communist Youth League, Global Times, China Daily, Hu Shijun and government opinion leaders. The line cannot be crossed without prior approval [from the top] or else someone has to take responsibility. However, the line does not exist among the patriotic masses; they would just do what they think is right.

State mouthpieces and patriotic organizations all spoke out against the KFC protests, denying that they had a role in the protests even though they had distributed so many posts and incited nationalistic sentiments. They even created a conspiracy theory that the liberal public intellectuals were behind the protests. […]

Chen Pokong, a US-based political commentary writer, echoed Song's comments and saw the protests as an inevitable outcome of online nationalism:

既不能打仗,又不能抗议。于是,爱国贼们转谋下策。呼吁抵制外国商品,成为发泄手段之一。近些年来,爱国贼们一直忙不迭地呼吁。因为钓鱼岛,呼吁抵制日货;因为美国巡航南海,呼吁抵制美货;因为南海争端,呼吁抵制菲律宾货、越南货;因为萨德导弹防御系统,呼吁抵制韩国货……于是,摆样子的相片里,抗议的横幅越拉越长:“坚决抵制美日韩菲越货……”
口号喊得震天响,然而,现实生活中,抵制外国货的中国人,寥寥无几。于是,有些爱国贼们跑到肯德基和麦当劳等美式快餐店,高举红旗,高唱国歌,堵住门口,不准顾客进入。

[The reality] is that there is no war, and they are forbidden to have proper protests. Hence the patriotic thieves look for other ways to manifest patriotism, and boycotting foreign brands is one of the most frequently used tactics. In recent years, they have kept advocating — they boycotted Japanese products because of Diaoyu Island disputes, they boycotted US products after the US navy entered the South Sea, they boycotted Philippine and Vietnamese products because of the South Sea disputes, they boycotted Korean products because of the missile defense system… That's why in the photos, you can see the list of boycotted products keeps growing longer and longer: “We are determined to boycott the US, Japanese, Korean, Philippine and Vietnamese products….” The slogans are loud, but in reality very few Chinese people take action in a boycott. That's why some patriotic thieves decided to wave red flags and sing national anthems outside KFC and McDonald's fast food restaurants, blocking the entrances.

While official government sources blamed the protests on “second-level smearing” fueled by fans of the US, and others argued they were a spontaneous movement, some still

While the official patriots said the anti-KFC protests are second level smearing fueled by the U.S fans, others believed that the protests are spontaneously organized, some still believed the Chinese Communist Party and the government orchestrated the entire thing. On Twitter, @SANDY666712 wrote:

Look, China is full of democracy, freedom and human rights! This year, those who lead the protests against KFC are not ordinary people. Many are police, aunties from the party's residential committee and secondary school teachers and students who receive instruction from their seniors. Then the government steps in, releasing press releases and public notices to stop the rallies. They are manipulating from behind the scenes and benefiting from the action. Such tactics were used during the Cultural Revolution [a period of social and political upheaval in the 1960s and 1970s], they caught and released the ghosts who are controlled by the government. The performance is for outsiders.

by Oiwan Lam at July 23, 2016 02:50 AM

July 22, 2016

Global Voices
Colombian Truckers Have Stopped Moving, But Their Nationwide Strike Rolls On
Paro de camioneros en Colombia. Foto de Pixabay.

Trucker strike in Colombia. Photo from Pixabay / Public domain

The truck-driver and cargo-transporter unions in Colombia have been on strike since the first week of June 2016, delivering a significant blow to the national economy. Conservative estimates say the work stoppage has cost Colombia roughly 1.3 billion Colombian pesos (approximately 444 million US dollars*). All this follows a similar strike by truckers just five years ago, in 2011.

The strike is the result of several unresolved issues. Unions are demanding that the government take the following steps:

  • Solve the excess numbers of truckers
  • Review the decline in cargo demand
  • Update the industry's costs
  • Stabilize the bidding war

Although there have already been negotiations between industry executives and government representatives, they've yet to reach a mutually agreeable solution. Meanwhile, cities like Medellin are experiencing shortages of basic products. Negotiations have broken down repeatedly. On July 13, officials and union representatives began their latest effort to resume talks.

Colombia's army has been ordered to guard the transport companies that aren’t on strike:

.@COL_EJERCITO [The Colombian Army] escorted a caravan through La Union-El Carmen [a Colombian city]. Trucker Strike pic.twitter.com/SxncDIvdv8

The protesting truckers, meanwhile, complain about police harassment:

#ParoCamionero ESMAD [the Colombian National Police] is attacking them in various regions. If the persecution doesn’t stop, they won’t be open to a discussion @MinTransporteCo pic.twitter.com/vR1H0rKgfa

Roadblocks throughout the country has been a source of friction, leading to a convergence of traffic and protests.

In Bogota at 4:40 pm #ParoCamionero [TruckerStrike], THE STRIKE IS GROWING. @atccomunicacion @JorgeERojasG @ACCnoti pic.twitter.com/vlp8rpgAJG

There have also been reports that some protesters have lashed out at others not involved in the strike.

#LoMásVistoDeLaSemana [TheMostViewedThisWeek] Acts of vandalism during the Trucker Strike pic.twitter.com/mJMjOg7NGQ

As the situation's complexity grows, drivers have also been forced to discard much of their perishable cargo, facing the impossibility of completing their deliveries.

In La Ceja, they are throwing out food that they can’t ship due to the strike. Images that hurt pic.twitter.com/w62Iqx2KPR

In the midst of the predicament, Twitter user Juan David Escobar reflected on the little responsibility that seems to fall on government officials:

In an opposing country without national unity, a 35-day #ParoCamionero [TruckerStrike] is demolishing politicians. But here all of the corrupt government officials remain silent.

To generate publicity for the campaign, Twitter users have been using the hashtag #ParoCamioneroSiExiste (TruckerStrikeDoesExist):

Today at 8:30 p.m., HT Trucker Strike Does Exist pic.twitter.com/BsLFpLvkqz

Netizens also took the opportunity to express their opinions on the matter:

Trucker Strike Does Exist. The truckers join in on a year of striking and confrontation with the system and its repressive politics. Long live the trucker strike.

Didn’t they sell national businesses to invest in road infrastructure? Why raise the tolls and taxes then? Trucker Strike Does Exist

Many are beginning to fear, however, that the protest movement is at risk of being hijacked by outsiders.

The Trucker Strike Does Exist isn’t from [Senator Alvaro] Uribe nor the Democratic Center, they’ve tried to make it theirs and steal the show.

Trucker Strike Does Exist pic.twitter.com/XfZ9jIpYWU

@JuanManSantos Since your priority is the Revolutionary Armed Forces Of Colombia Narco-Terrorism South American Peace. HERE'S A MESSAGE TO YOU… Trucker Strike Does Exist. Us, The Good Ones Are More. pic.twitter.com/U3Y2VYwHla

[In the image: “I'd swap a Ford Mod 60 for a gun so that Mr. FARC Santos [Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos] will give me better guarantees.”]

That language at the Trucker Strike implies that an ex-president, today a senator, already has his hands dirty in the corruption. pic.twitter.com/q0ecEvNYef

Due to the lack of an agreement and the likelihood that the protest will radicalize, the government has ordered the militarization of all roadways. Today, the situation remains tense, with a companion strike in the mining industry brewing that will only aggravate the current tensions.

* 1 USD = 2,927.28 Colombian Pesos (exchange rate from July 21, 2016)

by Danelle Hood at July 22, 2016 09:04 PM

Miriam Meckel
Überforderte Welt

WiWo_Titel_30_16_Zetsche_Blog

Die Globalisierung frisst ihre Kinder. Wie will man sonst erklären, was sich in einer einzigen Woche an verschiedenen Orten der Welt, in Nizza, in der Türkei oder auch in einem deutschen Regionalzug bei Würzburg, ereignet hat? Diejenigen, die eigentlich vom Zusammenwachsen der Welt durch Handel, Verkehr und Kommunikation profitieren sollten, wenden sich gegen die verbundene Welt.

Sie fühlen sich von ihr überwältigt, benachteiligt, im Stich gelassen. Und reagieren mit Radikalisierung. Diese Welt soll wieder getrennt werden, sauber geteilt nach Zugehörigkeit zu Religionen, sozialen Gruppen, Nationalitäten oder simpel: in dafür oder dagegen. Um das zu erreichen, wird gnadenlos und brutal gemordet.

Nur ein paar Tage ist es her, dass US-Fondsmanager Bill Gross das „Ende der Globalisierung, wie wir sie kennen“ ausgerufen hat. Gross meinte nicht den Terrorismus. Er kommentierte den Brexit, die Entscheidung einer knappen Mehrheit der Briten, sich aus der Europäischen Union zu verabschieden. Das ist die gewaltfreie Kriegserklärung an die Globalisierung. Die europäische Integration, vor allem der Europäische Binnenmarkt, ist das größte Globalisierungsprojekt unserer Zeit.
Europa stellt sich als Einheit mit seiner Wirtschaftskraft gegen den Weltmarktführer USA und dessen nachwachsende Rivalen China und Indien. Mit dem bevorstehenden Austritt Großbritanniens aus der EU wird die europäische Position in der Welt geschwächt. Steht sie deshalb zur Disposition? Keinesfalls.

Für den Moment schrecklicher sind die gewaltsamen Kriegserklärungen an die Globalisierung. Der Attentäter von Nizza mordete mithilfe eines 20-Tonners. Das ist nicht nur besonders grausam. Es verschärft auch noch einmal um ein Vielfaches das Bedrohungspotenzial des Terrorismus von heute. Allein in Deutschland sind 2,7 Millionen Lkws auf den Straßen unterwegs. Gut 70 Prozent des Güterverkehrs werden über Lkws abgewickelt. Ist jedes dieser Fahrzeuge nun ein Mordwerkzeug? Sicher nicht. Aber die Verunsicherung wächst. Terrorismus ist effizient geworden. Ein einzelner Attentäter kann mit jedwedem Werkzeug maximalen Schaden anrichten.

Eine gewaltsame Kriegserklärung an die Globalisierung ist auch der Putsch in der Türkei. In der eigentlichen Putschnacht sind Hunderte Menschen gestorben, auch gelyncht worden. Das ist furchtbar. Aber der wahre Einschnitt liegt in den Reaktionen darauf. Präsident Recep Tayyip ErdoÄŸan hat sich wenige Stunden nach Niederschlagung des Aufstands an den Umbau der Türkei zu einem autokratischen Staat gemacht, in dem Unglauben gegenüber dem allmächtigen Präsidenten tödlich sein kann. Die „Säuberungen“ der türkischen Gesellschaft resultieren aus der Bedrohung, die ErdoÄŸan in den freiheitlichen europäischen Werten sieht. Diese Werte gilt es jetzt umso konsequenter zu verteidigen. Geht die Türkei den Weg Richtung Beschneidung der Demokratie weiter und führt die Todesstrafe wieder ein, kann sie nicht zu Europa gehören.

Und Würzburg? Der minderjährige Attentäter im Zug? Sein Handeln ist mit nichts zu entschuldigen. Es ist ein Zeichen dafür, wie es dem sogenannten „Islamischen Staat“ gelingt, denen eine mörderische Clubmitgliedschaft tödlicher Sinnstiftung anzutragen, die keine Verträge mit der Welt des Jahres 2016 mehr haben. Die Globalisierung frisst die Kinder, die von ihr überfordert sind.

wiwo.de

by Miriam Meckel at July 22, 2016 06:50 PM

Global Voices
Maldives Opposition Holds Rally Despite Resistance From Government
Maldives Police blocked May Day 2016 march organized by Maldivian civil society. Image from Flickr by Dying Regime. CC BY 2.0

Maldives Police blocked May Day 2016 march organised by the Maldivian civil society. Image from Flickr by Dying Regime. CC BY 2.0

A newly launched opposition platform in Maldives held its first rally on July 21, 2016, in the capital Male, despite the government's refusal to give permission.

Thousands turned out for the meeting of the Maldives United Opposition (MUO), where opposition leaders spoke and some exiled leaders joined via teleconference.

A ban on street protests in the capital Male has been in force since a police crackdown on a three-day protest staged by the opposition party Maldivian Democratic Party last November. The police have since blocked several opposition protests and gone after journalists and newspapers covering the protests.

On June 1, 2016, a number of Maldivian opposition parties and prominent political figures launched the MUO platform, calling for the restoration of functional democracy in the Indian Ocean island nation. Dr. Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, former vice president of the Maldives who is now living in exile in the United Kingdom, is heading the platform; his deputy is Ali Waheed, the chairperson of the Maldivian Democratic Party.

Its advisers include heavyweights like Mohamed Nasheed, the first democratically elected leader of the Maldives who was was also given political asylum in the UK; Sheikh Imran Abdulla, leader of the Adhaalath Party; and Colonel Mohamed Nazim, former defence minister in the present Maldivian government.

The MOU had originally planned to hold its first rally on July 14, but was forced to reschedule July 21 due to bad weather. They had vowed to hold the event despite the housing ministry cancelling their permit at last minute.

The agenda of the MOU is to remove President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom through legal means and try him for money laundering. The platform also seeks to “protect the rights of 1700 individuals currently under prosecution, investigation and arbitrary arrest”.

President Yameen, the half-brother of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, became the president in 2013 after defeating Maldivian Democratic Party leader Nasheed in the 2013 presidential elections. Opposition politicians disputed the results.

Nasheed had resigned as president a year earlier on February 7, 2012 amid protests against his government. Participants included a majority of military and police forces. Nasheed later described the events as a coup and said he was forced to step down at gunpoint, although his characterization has been questioned.

In March 2015, Nasheed was convicted under the Anti-Terrorism Act of Maldives and sentenced to 13 years in prison. Amnesty International called the trial a “travesty of justice“.

The opposition accuses President Yameen's government of gagging media and criminalizing political disagreement. Last year, parliament sacked Yameen's vice president, Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, on accusations of treason after months of disagreements between the two; Jameel Ahmed is now part of MOU.

Yameen has proposed governance reforms that would codify some of this behavior. Maldivian expat blogger Azra Naseem at Dhivehi Sitee called the reforms concerning:

Under the plan for reform, Yameen is making criticism a crime, is removing all opposition through legal and other means, wants to establish a one party system, and will engineer the electoral system or the voting system in such a way that he will remain in power for a long time to come.

Though the MOU rally was eventually held, Member of Parliament Ahmed Mahloof, the spokesperson of MOU, and three others were briefly detained on July 16 while promoting the June 21 rally. Journalist Mohamed Junayd reported:

Mahloof didn't seem to let the arrest damper his spirits:

Editor's Note: #MavesDhaanan means “I will also go”.

The rally was ignored by many government media outlets, but the political parties involved, private news organizations and citizens all posted to social media:

There are images of the rally uploaded to Facebook too. It remains to be seen how this new platform will affect politics in Maldives in the near future.

by Rezwan at July 22, 2016 03:40 PM

Meet the Two Latin American Women Vying for the United Nations’ Top Job
De UNclimatechange from Bonn, Germany - flickr: DSC_1485, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17651754

Christiana Figeres during the Climate Change Conference, Bonn, Germany in 2013. Image taken from Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 2.0).

There are now two Latin American women in the running for the position of secretary general of the United Nations.

Christiana Figueres was nominated by the government of her home country, Costa Rica, in early July. The nomination of Argentinian Susana Malcorra was formalized in May.

As of now, there are 11 candidates to succeed Korean Ban Ki-moon, the current UN secretary general, whose tenure concludes January 1, 2017.

The UN has never had a female secretary general in its 70-year history, and some argue it's time for a woman to be at the helm. Figueres and Malcorra aren't the only women nominated. Croatian politician Vesna Pusic, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova of Bulgaria, former Moldovan Chancellor Natalia Gherman, and former New Zealand Prime Minister and current Administrator of the UN Development Programme Helen Clark are all being considered.

‘Without optimism…we won't be able to start moving forward’

Costa Rican economist and analyst Christiana Figueres is the daughter of José Figueres Ferrer, who served three times as President of Costa Rica.

Currently, Figueres is the executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and participated in the talks for that convention and the Kyoto Protocol. About climate change, Figueres warned in 2015:

[…] que la lucha contra el cambio climático es un proceso y que la necesaria transformación de la economía mundial no se decidirá en una conferencia o en un acuerdo, [sino que es] “probablemente la tarea más difícil a la nos hemos encomendado, que es transformar intencionalmente el modelo de desarrollo económico por primera vez en la historia humana”.

[…] the fight against climate change is a process and the necessary transformation of world economy won't be decided by a conference or an agreement, [but it's] probably the hardest task we've engaged in, which is to intentionally transform the economic development model for the first time in human history.

When asked if she thinks Latin America supports her nomination, she answered:

[…] las candidaturas a la secretaría general de la ONU “no deben ser entendidas como candidaturas subregionales o regionales. Deben entenderse como candidaturas globales”.

[…] nominations to UN Secretary General “should not be understood as sub regional or regional nominations. They should be understood as global nominations.”

On the day of her nomination, Figueres said in her keynote address that she has the tremendous task “of giving hope back to the world.” She noted that her priority is to achieve peaceful resolutions and strengthen the responsiveness of the organization during crises — all with a responsible and patient optimism:

Sin optimismo, sin la firme convicción de que nosotros los humanos sí somos capaces de solventar los problemas, no podemos ni empezar a avanzar.

Without optimism, without the strong conviction that we human beings are capable of resolving problems, we won't be able to start moving forward.

On Twitter, some users endorsed her nomination:

I really hope Christiana Figueres becomes UN secretary. She has previously done a great job at the UNFCCC.

De Elza Fiuza/Agência Brasil - http://agenciabrasil.ebc.com.br/geral/foto/2015-12/entrevista-do-presidente-eleito-da-argentina-mauricio-macri, CC BY 3.0 br, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=45440652

Susana Malcorra. Image taken by Elza Fiuza – Agencia Brasil (CC BY 3.0).

The controversial nomination of ‘Doctor No’

The other Latin American candidate, Susana Malcorra, is an electrical engineer, and has served as executive director of the World Food Program. Between 2008 and 2012, she served as under-secretary-general of the United Nations for Field Support.

Her nomination, however, isn't free of controversy.

When she was serving as under-secretary-general, she was involved in the concealment of reports of sexual abuses against minors by UN Blue Berets and peacekeeping forces during missions in Africa. It was during her tenure that Ban Ki-moon himself dubbed her “Doctor No” because of her constant negative answers.

More recently, as Argentina's minister of foreign affairs, Malcorra has reaffirmed that the government will take in a group of Syrian refugees, and she said that another group of displaced people from Central America could also be accepted:

In Argentina, we are willing to receive refugees with the idea that each country has to find the solution.

Ban Ki-moon's successor may be announced by late November.

by Gabriela García Calderón at July 22, 2016 03:19 PM

The Violent Union Protests Happening in Mexico Don’t Represent All Teachers
Gabriel Páramo y Laura Martín: Maestros que sí trabajan en México. Imagen del autor.

Gabriel Páramo and Laura Martín: Teachers who are working in Mexico. Image from the author.

Teaching others, especially young people, to harness the tools that make knowledge accessible is praiseworthy. In a country like Mexico, where advancements in education are “unstable and mediocre” according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the effort and passion that teachers bring to their classrooms every day can often go unacknowledged.

It doesn't help that teachers in Mexico are finding themselves lumped together with the National Coordinator of Education Workers (CNTE) union, which has mounted violent protests against constitutional education reform that, among other things, asks for teacher performance evaluations.

With this in mind, we decided to talk to teachers without connections to the CNTE about their opinions and perceptions of the conflict to provide a point of view that normally doesn't make headlines in Mexico's big news outlets.

We began with Gabriel Páramo, a professor who has been teaching classes to undergraduate students for 21 years, 16 of those in the Carlos Septién García School of Journalism in Mexico City. We asked him specifically about the issues surrounding the CNTE and the demands they are making of the government.

Global Voices (GV):  As an educator, do you feel bothered by the fact that your colleagues are blocking roads and intersections to make their demands heard? 

Gabriel Páramo (GP): Como docente no me siento agraviado. Creo que cuando las opciones legales se cierran, cuando hay manipulación de la información, cuando el poder se escuda en términos como eficiencia y productividad para castigar al trabajador y reducir sus derechos, es necesario tomar medidas extremas.

No todas las exigencias son legítimas, como la herencia de plazas, aunque, ¿alguien ha escuchado que se herede plazas pobres en la montaña o en comunidades indígenas?

Gabriel Páramo (GP): As an educator, I don't feel offended by it. I think that when legal options are closed, when there is manipulation of information, when those in power hide behind terms like efficiency and productivity in order to punish workers and take away people's rights, extreme measures are necessary.

Not all of the demands are legitimate — like inheriting job posts — although, has anyone ever heard of inheriting a poor post in the mountains or in indigenous communities?

Páramo's answer refers to the “inheritance” of job posts, or the transfer of a teaching post to the teacher's chosen successor after his or her death, a privilege members of the CNTE want to preserve.

GV:  How would you explain what has been happening with the CNTE over the past few months to an international audience? 

GP: Tanto la CNTE como el Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación son uniones laborales que durante años han funcionado como parte del modelo corporativista del Estado mexicano.

La caída del Partido Revolucionario Institucional [en el año 2000] con Vicente Fox y Felipe Calderón [presidentes del país entre 2000 y 2012] debilitó los lazos de dichos sindicatos con el gobierno; a su regreso al poder el Partido Revolucionario Institucional descubrió que ya no los controla totalmente y ahí sobrevino el conflicto.

Además, las bases magisteriales [quienes integran éstos sindicatos] se politizaron y emprendieron reivindicaciones que sobrepasaron a los líderes cupulares.

GP: Both the CNTE and the National Education Workers’ Union (Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación) are unions which have worked as part of the corporatist model of the Mexican state for years.

The fall of the Institutional Revolution Party [in 2000] with Vicente Fox and Felipe Calderón [presidents of Mexico from 2000-2006, 2006-2012] debilitated the ties between the aforementioned unions and the government. When the Institutional Revolutionary Party returned to power they realized that they no longer completely controlled the unions — this is where the conflict arose.

In addition, the rank and file teachers [who make up these unions] became politicized and began making demands that surpassed the top leaders.

It should be mentioned that in the beginning of 2013 one of the aforementioned union groups were hit hard, with the arrest of Elba Esther “La Maestra” (The Teacher) Gordillo, who presided over the National Education Workers’ Union and who today faces charges of money laundering and organized crime.

To get more views on the issue we spoke with Laura Martín (@laumartinm on Twitter). She teaches classes in a variety of degree subjects at a private university.

GV: How long have you been teaching? 

Laura Martín (LM): Desde el año 2003. Lo que me motivó fue la admiración que tenía hacia algunos profesores. Me entusiasmaba la dedicación y el respeto con el que impartían las clases. El ser catedrática me ha llevado también a seguirme preparando continuamente, estudiando una maestría y tomando numerosísimos cursos de formación y actualización docente así como de desarrollo humano.

Laura Martín (LM): Since 2003. I was inspired by the admiration I had for a number of my professors. I felt energized by the dedication and respect they employed as they taught classes. Being a professor has also allowed me to continue studying, to do my master's and to take a large number of continuing education and teaching courses as well as human development.

GV: Do you think that the teaching profession is well respected in Mexico? Does society have a good image of teachers? 

LM: Lamentablemente en la actualidad el magisterio nos deja en vergüenza, la profesión no es respetada, la imagen que tenemos los maestros es pésima ante la sociedad. La gente considera que toda persona que es profesor es burócrata, flojo, conformista, corrupto e inculto, cuando en realidad existimos personas comprometidas con la labor y aclaro que mi formación académica no es la docencia, pero tengo la responsabilidad en formar futuros profesionistas y contribuir a su crecimiento profesional y personal.

LM: Unfortunately, the current educational situation is an embarrassment, the profession isn't respected, society has a terrible image of teachers. People think that all teachers are bureaucratic, lazy, conformist, corrupt and uneducated, when in reality there are so many of us who are dedicated to this profession. I want to clarify that although my academic background is not in education, it is my responsibility to teach future professionals and to contribute to their professional and personal growth.

GV: Your mother was a primary school teacher in public schools. What has she told you about the animosity that the CNTE protests have created in Mexico? 

LM: Está muy triste y preocupada por estos movimientos. Durante casi 40 años ella fue una profesora dedicada a sus alumnos, comenzó a dar clases en escuelas con niños en condiciones de extrema pobreza, en los tiraderos de basura de la hoy gentrificada zona de Santa Fe; jamás faltó a dar clases por ir a marchas y siempre estuvo dispuesta a la evaluación realizando exámenes que la hicieran subir peldaños en la carrera magisterial.

Durante todos los años de su servicio, le tocó ver muchas cosas indignantes del comportamiento de sus compañeros, desde la maestra que tejía en clases y utilizaba la frase hacen como que me pagan, entonces hago como que trabajo”, el que bebía alcohol detrás del estante, la sobrina de una inspectora que estaba en nómina pero sólo hacia acto de presencia cada quincena a recoger su cheque y la que con faltas de ortografía ponía a los alumnos a escribir 100 veces alguna frase.

Este es el perfil de algunos de los maestros que están protestando en las manifestaciones.

LM: She is very sad and worried by these movements. For 40 years she was a dedicated teacher who started out teaching classes to children living in extreme poverty in the garbage dump that is now the gentrified Santa Fe area. She never missed classes to go to protests and she was always willing to take exams which allowed her to climb up the professional education ladder.

During her years as a teacher she witnessed a lot of outrageous behavior from her colleagues: the teacher who knit during class and said, “They act like they pay me so I act like I'm teaching”; the teacher who drank alcohol behind the shelves; the education inspector's niece who was on the payroll but only showed up every two weeks to get her paycheck and who forced students to write — with spelling mistakes — some phrase 100 times.

These types of people represent some of the teachers who are protesting.

Martin also took the opportunity to ponder the constant protests:

LM: ¿Qué hay detrás de los intereses de los líderes sindicales, que van más allá de las inconformidades a la reforma educativa? ¿por qué a este movimiento se están uniendo grupos que no pertenecen al magisterio?

Los más afectados son sin duda los alumnos que llevan meses sin tomar clases, lo que ocasiona una recesión en la educación, ¿qué pasará con estos niños que supuestamente son el futuro de México?

LM: What is behind the interests of the union leaders? Is there something more to their disagreements with education reform? Why are non-education related groups joining the movement?

Without a doubt, the most affected are the students who have gone months without classes. This is causing an educational recession. What is going to happen to these children who are supposedly the future of Mexico?

There are also campaigns popping up on social media showing support for those teachers who are still working and accept evaluation. On Twitter the hashtag #CreoEnLosMaestros (#IBelieveInTeachers) particularly stands out :

“To all the good teachers: Good Luck on your exam!” #IBelieveInTeachers

Excellent #Teacher attendance at the #PerformanceEvaluation in the #Tlaxcala Expo Center #IBelieveInTeachers

Beyond the current circumstances is the dedication that many Mexican teachers bring to the work they do for their students. It is a dedication that will hopefully bear fruit in the near future.

by Andrea Chong Bras at July 22, 2016 09:02 AM

It's Personal for a Singapore Property Entrepreneur Who's Taking a Stand Against Racial Discrimination
Take the pledge. 'Regardless of Race' campaign. Photo from 99.co

Take the pledge. ‘Regardless of Race’ campaign. Photo from 99.co

An Internet entrepreneur has launched a campaign to fight “rental racial discrimination” in Singapore after being rejected by some property owners just because his wife is Indian.

Darius Cheung, founder of property listing website 99.co, wrote about how his search for an apartment made him realize the prevalence of racism in Singapore. He narrated how some property agents and landlords lost interest in dealing with him after learning that his pregnant wife is originally from India.

He is married to Indian-Singaporean Roshni Mahtani, an entrepreneur who founded the parenting website theAsianparent.

At first, Darius was surprised that some agents were not responding to his inquiries. One agent gave a vague reply: “Profile doesn’t match”. After asking the agent to elaborate, he got this answer:

Sorry your wife is Indian, landlord won’t rent to you. Next time please indicate earlier, so we both don’t waste time.

Darius said the experience confirmed the existence of racism in Singapore:

I understand the idea of discrimination intellectually and recognise that it exists, but it was not until this moment that I caught a glimpse of what it actually means to be discriminated against.

Singapore has an ethnically diverse population and boasts of having a government that promotes racial harmony. However, racial tension has intensified in recent years, which some ultranationalist groups are blaming on the arrival of foreign workers.

Worried about the future of his child, Darius has vowed to fight racial discrimination. His company unveiled a new feature on its website called “All-races-welcome” which provides agents or landlords with incentives if they indicate that their rental listings are open to all “regardless of race”:

Agents and landlords can now positively indicate that their rental listings can be listed to be open for all, regardless of their ethnicity, background or nationality. These listings will then be prominently featured on the 99.co homepage to prospective renters. The idea is to give renters peace of mind during their home search journey – reducing instances of rude comments and unpleasant experiences while enquiring about listings.

Darius is hoping his campaign will inspire more people to take a pledge against racism.

He also reminded property owners that practicing racial discrimination is “economically unviable”:

Our hope is that as more and more agents put up ‘All-races-welcome’ listings, it will build momentum to create a more inclusive rental market and landlords will start to realise that it is not just socially unacceptable to discriminate, but also economically unviable.

Writer, activist and Global Voices contributor Kirsten Han welcomed the initiative of Darius’ company. She also reminded policymakers about the need to enact a general anti-discrimination legislation:

by Mong Palatino at July 22, 2016 08:34 AM

Mauritanian Authorities Once Again Go After Anti-Slavery Activists
Capture d'écran d'un entretien avec Biram Dah Abeid Président de l'Ira- Mauritanie sur Dakar actualités

Screenshot of an interview with Biram Dah Abeid, president of IRA-Mauritanie, on “Dakar Actualités.”

Following June 29 clashes between angry residents and security forces during an operation to expel the inhabitants of a Ksar district slum, west of Mauritania's capital Nouakchott, several anti-slavery activists were arrested and their homes searched homes reportedly without a warrant.

The activists, who belong to the organization IRA-Mauritanie (the Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolition Movement in Mauritania) had been at the evictions protesting against slavery and in support of reform allowing everyone to own land.

Mauritania was one of the last countries to officially abolish slavery, doing so in 1981, but the law isn't enforced. An estimated 10% to 20% of the country's 3.4 million people are enslaved. Mauritania is an Islamic republic, and distorted local interpretations of the religion are used to justify the continued existence of the practice — although the Mauritanian government denies that slavery exists and often blames the Western world or enemies of Islam when faced with allegations.

The country is located in Western Northern Africa and is right at the border between the Maghreb region and Sub-Saharan Africa. There is a long and complicated history between Mauritania's ethnic groups; slaves mostly come from the black community.

The evictions took place ahead of the 27th Arab League Summit, which the northwest African country is hosting. A post on the “Mauritanie de Facebook” page provided the details:

Selon la version officielle, un terrain appartement à un homme d’affaires a été squatté par des centaines de familles de la communauté harratine, il y a de cela plusieurs décennies. Ce terrain était destiné à un complexe hôtelier. Le projet n’a jamais eu lieu, et le propriétaire a finalement morcelé ce vaste espace situé en face de l’hôpital Bouamatou qu’il aurait vendu en lopins de terres.

Soucieux de présenter une image moins reluisante de la Mauritanie à quelques encablures d’un Sommet arabe extraordinaire, les autorités auraient décidé de faire déguerpir les familles installées. Un deal aurait ainsi été conclu aux termes duquel les habitants seront déplacés vers une zone périphérique de Nouakchott en contrepartie de lopins de terre qui leur seront attribués plus une compensation financière symbolique.

Un montant de six millions d’ouguiiyas aurait été remis à des représentants des familles. Seulement, il semble qu’une partie d’entre elles n’étaient pas au courant au deal et n’a reçu ni compensation ni lopin de terre. Une autre version soutient que toutes les familles recensées dans le squat ont bénéficié des mêmes égards.

According to the official version, decades ago, a plot of land belonging to a businessman was occupied by hundreds families from the Harratin community. This land was intended for a hotel resort. The project never took off, and in the end the owner broke up the vast holding across from the Bouamatou hospital into smaller plots which he sold off.

Not willing to present such a dreadful picture of Mauritania before a major Arab summit, authorities decided to clear out the resident families. An agreement would have been reached whereby the residents were to be moved to a neighboring area of Nouakchott in return for plots of land and a symbolic financial compensation.

Six million ouguiyas (about 16,700 US dollars) would have been handed over to representatives of the families. Only it seems that some of them were not aware of the deal and received no financial compensation or land. Another version states that all registered families received the same treatment.

When authorities moved in to evict the families, they encountered resistance. Posting on news site kassataya.com, K.Salif described what unfolded:

Considérée comme une provocation injuste, les occupants n’ont pas voulu se laisser faire, et l’affrontement avec les flics a été très rude. À l’image de plusieurs manifestants « résistants » très affectés, on se demandait comment et pourquoi dans un pays dit musulman, en plein mois de ramadan censé être « Paix ,Piété et Solidarité« , des pareils accrochages se passent entre l’ordre étatique et certains milieux sociaux modestes.

Au lendemain de ces événements qui n’honorent personne finalement, la figure incarnant l’État en premier Ould Abdel Aziz, hier on apprenait l’arrestation illégale de monsieur Diop Amadou Tijane l’un des vice-présidents d’IRA-Mauritanie et d’autres militants .

Considered to be an unjust provocation, residents refused to comply. The following confrontation with the cops was very tense. With respect to the sight of several severely bruised protesters, one wonders how and why in a so-called Muslim country, during the month of Ramadan focused on “Peace, Mercy and Solidarity,” such clashes happen between the state and certain poorer communities.  These events in the end benefited no one, in the least the primary person of the state, [President] Ould Abdel Aziz. Yesterday, we learned of the illegal arrest of Mr. Diop Amadou Tijane, one of IRA-Mauritanie's vice presidents, and other activists.

Police claimed that the activists were arrested at the scene of the clashes, but IRA-Mauritanie issued a press release stating their workers were picked up at home after the fact:

Tôt le matin du 30 juin 2016, des éléments de la police ont procédé à l’arrestation de 5 militants d’IRA-Mauritanie chez eux, dans leurs domiciles, contrairement à la thèse du gouvernement qui prétend les avoir arrêté sur les lieux de la manifestation, le vice-président Amadou Tidjane Diop, Abdellahi Matalla Saleck responsable de la section IRA de Sebkha (quartier périphérique de Nouakchott) ainsi que les militants Moussa Biram, Jemal Beylil, Khattri Rahel qui a été arrêté ce matin et Samba Fall. Tous ont été conduits á des destinations inconnues.

En plus des militants de IRA, d’autres personnes connues pour le soutien qu’elles apportent aux victimes de ce genre d’affaires ont été arrêtés, dont activiste Mohamed Razgua, sympathisant d'IRA-Mauritanie. Mais il est important de souligner que les différents commissariats de police de Nouakchott, ont été transformés en centre de détention de dizaines de personnes ….internées depuis plusieurs jours et sans aucun contact avec leurs familles ou des avocats.

Le Premier Juillet, tôt le matin, la police procède à l’arrestation de Balla Touré, secrétaire aux relations extérieures d'IRA-Mauritanie, la police l'a arrêté chez lui aussi. Son domicile, comme celui de Amadou Tidjane Diop, a été perquisitionné, ainsi que le bureau de l’association POP-DEV, ses ordinateurs ont été emportés ; et tous ces actes de la police ont été exécutés sans aucun mandant déclinés aux personnes arrêtées.

Early in the morning of June 30, 2016, police agents arrested five IRA-Mauritanie activists at the home in their residences, contrary to the government's theory which has them arrested at the scene of the event: Vice President Amadou Tidjane Diop; Abdellahi Matalla Saleck, head of IRA-Mauritanie in Sebkha (a suburb of Nouakchott); other activists Moussa Biram, Jemal Beylil, Khattri Rahel, who were arrested this morning, and Samba Fall, who was arrested later.  All six activists were taken to unknown destinations.

In addition to the IRA-Mauritanie activists, others known for their support of the victims of this kind of event were arrested, including the activist Mohamed Razgua, a IRA-Mauritanie supporter. But it is important to note that the different police stations in Nouakchott have been transformed into a detention centers for dozens of people… detained for several days without any contact with their families or lawyers.

Early in the morning of July 1, police arrested Balla Touré, IRA-Mauritanie secretary for external relations; the police arrested him at home also. His home, like Amadou Tidjane Diop's, was raided, as well as the office of the NGO POP-DEV (Partners in Population and Development), and computers were taken away; and all these police actions were executed without any warrants delivered to the people arrested.

The “Page Mauritanie,” a Mauritanian community Facebook page dedicated to culture and politics and moderated by a group of activists, confirmed the organization's account, denouncing the administration's abuse of power:

Hamady a également relevé la contradiction flagrante contenue dans la déclaration télévisée du Wali de Nouakchott-Ouest qui a attesté que les personnes arrêtées l’ont été sur les lieux, alors que tout le monde sait qu’ils ont été cueillis un par un dans leur domicile. «Pourquoi la police n’a pas arrêté les gens qui étaient à l’origine des violences sur les lieux où elles se sont produites ? »

Beaucoup au sein du mouvement trouvent que le jeu des autorités est si grotesque qu’elles ont dévoilé leur intention en accusant directement IRA avant même que la moindre enquête ait été diligentée pour situer les responsabilités.

Hamady, a Mauritanian blogger, also noted the flagrant contradiction in the Nouakchott-Ouest Wali's [governor of the Western region of Nouakchott] televised statement which attested that the persons arrested were at the scene, as everyone knows they were gathered one by one from their homes. “Why didn't the police arrest the people who were behind the violence in the place where it occurred?” Many in the movement find that the authorities’ gambit is so grotesque that they unveiled their intention by directly accusing IRA even before any investigation was being conducted to determine responsibility.

‘Many work without rest, without wages for their master's benefit’

On the Mauritanian website rapideinfo.net, a writer called “Diko diko” published a post titled “Alert: IRA-Mauritania is again targeted by authorities” (Alerte : IRA-Mauritanie est encore ciblée par les autorités):

Nous attirons l'attention de tous les amis et partenaires sur l”état de santé de Diop Amadou Tidjane qui souffre de troubles cardiaques…

We're calling all friends and partners to heed Diop Amadou Tidjane's health status as he suffers from heart problems…

As “Diko diko” noted, it's not the first time authorities have targeted IRA-Mauritania. Biram Dah Abeid, president of the organization and winner of several international awards, was released in May after 18 months of detention. For details read this Global Voices post, Activists Persecuted for Opposing Land-Grab-Driven Slavery in Mauritania.

In a recent interview with seneweb.com, Biram Dah Abeid revealed the sad reality of living in Mauritania with slavery still in practice:

Au moins 50% des mauritaniens subissent, toute leur vie durant, les effets psychologiques et symboliques de l’infériorité raciale, car il s’agit aussi de cela, de cette propriété exercée sur un être humain par son vis-à-vis, il résulte que la majorité relative des mauritaniens naissent esclaves, ils sont attachés à la famille de leurs maîtres qui ont sur eux, le droit de vie et de mort. Nombreux travaillent sans repos, sans salaires au profit de leur maître. Ils n’ont pas le droit à l'éducation, de se déplacer, de voyager ou de se marier, sauf avec l’assentiment de leur propriétaire.

Le maître aussi a le droit de cuissage sur toutes les filles ou femmes esclaves. Par exemple, un maître qui a 100 femmes esclaves filles, peut en abuser sexuellement, sans restriction de nombre ni d’échéance. Il en a le droit, entre guillemets, c’est-à-dire le Droit Mauritanien, le Droit édicté par le code d’esclavage de la communauté dominante mauritanienne, les arabo berbère. Ils l’appellent le livre islamique, mais nous, nous l’appelons le livre esclavagiste, le livre anti islamique. C’est cette littérature de la honte que moi, personnellement, j’ai incendié, en public, dès le mois d’avril 2012.

At least 50% of Mauritanians suffer throughout their lives from psychological and symbolic effects of racial inferiority, which is what is at play here, as this relationship of ownership of one human over another results in a relative majority of Mauritanians being born slaves, they are attached to their masters’ family who have powers of life and death over them. Many work without rest, without wages for their master's benefit. They do not have the right to education, to freedom of movement, to travel or marry, without their owner's consent.

The master also has the droit du seigneur over all girl or women slaves. For example, a master who has 100 female slave girls can abuse them sexually, without restriction in number or age. He has the right, quote-unquote, that is to say, the Mauritanian law, the law enacted by the slavery code of the dominant Mauritanian community, the Arab-Berber. They call it the Islamic book, but we call it the slavery book, the anti-Islamic book. This is the literature of shame that I, personally, burned in public, in April 2012.

He continued:

Qu’ils soient gagés, cédés ou loués, il a été créé, au service de cette infamie, un prétendu «droit musulman», que nos écoles et université islamiques enseignent encore. Les auteurs autorisent aussi la castration des esclaves. Quand un Hratin se distingue par sa beauté ou tout autre attrait physique, le maître arabo berbère pouvait le castrer pour éviter un mélange de sang, afin que les femmes ou les filles du maître ne soient tentées par des aventures sexuelles constitutives de mésalliance, voire source de dégradation de la généalogie.

Whether they be pledged, transferred or leased, an alleged “Islamic law” was conceived in service to this infamy, law which is still taught in our Islamic schools and universities till this day. The authors also authorize the castration of slaves. When a Hratin [person of an ethnicity historically enslaved in Mauritania] stood out with his beauty or other physical attractiveness, the Arab-Berber master could castrate him to avoid a mixture of blood, so as the master's wives or daughters would not be tempted by sexual adventures that would lead to misalliance, or worse still source genealogical degradation.

In a publication dated July 4, 2016, Amnesty International called on Mauritanian authorities to disclose the place of detention as well as lawfully file charges against the activists or release them. At the time a total of nine activists had been arrested. Agence France Press later reported the number of people arrested and charged with assault against the police rose to 23.

While at home anti-slavery activists continue to be harassed, in the United States it's a different story. The US recognized IRA-Mauritanie President Biram Dah Abeid and Vice President Brahim Bilal Ramdhane as “2016 Trafficking in Persons Report” heroes on June 30, 2016. The award was recently established to encourage people fighting against slavery and human trafficking in their countries.

by Nadine Mondestin at July 22, 2016 07:53 AM

Cliffhanger Election Ends in a Close Shave for Australia's Ruling Government
Malcolm Turnbull caricature

Malcolm Turnbull caricature. Image by Flickr user DonkeyHotey (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

It took over a week for the Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to claim victory in the general elections held on 2 July 2016. His Liberal National Coalition government won at least 76 of the 150 seats, giving it a one seat majority in the House of Representatives.

Even after their slim win, however, there was still one last seat up for grabs. The counting of votes for Herbert, the last House of Representatives electorate to be decided, was not completed until 18 July. In the end, the opposition candidate triumphed despite the prime minister's characteristic optimism:

News reports quoted Turnbull:

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said he was confident the Coalition would secure the Queensland seat giving it a slim majority — two seats clear of a hung parliament.

Incredibly, the winning margin was eight votes (0.0091%) in a seat with a voter enrolment of 104,841.

Herbert electorate result 2016

Herbert electorate result 2016 – Screenshot from aec.gov.au

Australia has compulsory voting yet 9.57% did not vote in Herbert. A mini-bus load of those who thought their vote wouldn't matter might have changed the Herbert result.

In addition, there were 6,444 informal votes where electors did not fill in the ballot paper correctly.

However, it is not over yet, as the Australian Electoral Commission is conducting a recount that may take several more days or possibly weeks.

The Conversation's Adrian Beaumont explained as part of its Making Sense of the Polls series :

If Labor holds on in Herbert, the Coalition will have a bare majority of 76 of 150 House seats, with Labor on 69 and 5 crossbenchers. After appointing the Speaker, the Coalition would have 75 of 149 votes on the floor, and Turnbull could be exposed to possible defections from the hard right.

Australia has a very complex electoral electoral system with voters required to number a preference for each candidate on the House of Representatives ballot paper. Budding students of electoral processes (psephologists) can grapple with its complexity here and here.

Some statistics on gender balance in the new parliament may also have to be revised when the Herbert result is finalised:

Meanwhile Oz still waits for its Senate results. The Victorian ballot paper gives a clue to its complexity. It was impossible to lay the paper flat in the voting booth. There were 116 candidates. New South Wales topped the list of states with 151 candidates.

Senate ballot paper for Victoria

Senate ballot paper for Victoria. Image by Flickr user David Jackmanson (CC BY 2.0)

Final Senate results may not be known until August.

One thing is certain. Malcolm Turnbull's gamble of calling an election for all Senators looks to have failed badly. He had hoped that it would make it easier to pass legislation:

Adrian Beaumont's prediction foreshadows a difficult task for the government:

On current Senate results, the Coalition can expect to win 32 of 76 seats at most, which would be a one seat loss from the pre-election Senate. Although 32 Coalition seats are possible, the most likely outcome is 30 Coalition, 27 Labor, 9 Greens and 10 Others. The Coalition would then need 9 of the 10 Others to pass legislation opposed by Labor and the Greens (a tied vote in the Senate is lost).

One Twitter user was amused by the prospect of legislative chaos:

For more detail about the 2016 Australian elections please visit Australia Waits on Close Count as Election Backfires on ‘Fizza’ Prime Minister

by Kevin Rennie at July 22, 2016 02:33 AM

July 21, 2016

Creative Commons
CC is Awesome!

‘Awesome’ by Sam Howzit, CC BY 2.0 on Flickr One of the greatest strengths of the Creative Commons organization is the dedicated volunteers worldwide who help build openly licensed projects and educate the public about CC in their local communities and internationally. A few months ago, we provided mini grants to these communities through The … Read More "CC is Awesome!"

The post CC is Awesome! appeared first on Creative Commons.

by Gwen Franck at July 21, 2016 10:55 PM

MIT Center for Civic Media
Forbidden Research liveblog: Disobedience: breaking the rules for social good

Many ideas and norms once considered unthinkable, like test tube babies and gay marriage, have now become everyday norms. It’s impossible to imagine life without them. For society to evolve, however, we must always be challenging our norms as well as the rules and laws that reflect them. Our institutions must lead in a way that harnesses this questioning into a driver for positive change. This session looks at how institutions can become “disobedience robust” — cultivating the ability to question themselves and accept questioning from others.

Moderated by Joi Ito, Director, MIT Media Lab with panelists
Liz George, MIT Alum Class of 2008
bunnie huang, Author, Hacking the Xbox: An Introduction to Reverse Engineering
Karrie Karahalios, Assistant Professor, Siebel Center for Computer Science, University of Illinois

All panelists are former MIT students (although Joi says he come in the backdoor:). Before this event, Joi interviewed lots of administrators at MIT including John DiFava. And everyone said that they had never met a student who was a bad person. And DiFava spent his career chasing bad guys with the MA State Police before coming to MIT.

Karrie remembers coming to MIT for rush week her first year. She took an "orange tour" and loved it, and it seemed like it was sanctioned by the university. Her House Master encouraged the students to win the East Campus lockpicking contest. And students were constantly hacking things in the dorms like phones and washing machines.

A discipline committee was set up around 2003. The police stopped arresting people at all, but started picking up more people and sending them to this discipline committee. So people who would have been let off altogether were getting in trouble.

The trouble now is that students have this fear of getting caught.
Should they not?
Then it's hard to abide by that last point of the hacker ethic: avoid getting caught, but if you are, cooperate fully.
I find in some places if everything is legal, it's not nearly as interesting. Is that a big part of it or not?
Sure it is. [but that doesn't mean "risk of imprisonment"]
"Just so you know, statue of limitations is 7 years."

There's a thing, 'if you see something broken, report it to Physical Plant', we would note these things if we were up on the roof and tell them. That almost helped build as sene of community across the groups. I did get caught at the ML, I was picking a lock here, I wanted access to one of the tool rooms? They described me as "tall kid, dark hair, asian" in an email to ML. I could have avoided fessing up, but I did tell someone in my lab. They got reasonably mad at me, saying just ask for permission, it's not hard, and showing me how. That was a scolding, not disciplinary action. I'm a little cynical about MIT's stance - Liz said MIT likes to own successes and disavow failures [JI - that's broadly true you know, in the world] But a university is a good place to catch people when they stumble. Especially when they just did something unfortunate [not hurting others]

Hacking the xbox led me to discover the problems with the DMCA which led me down this whole long path to where I am today [w today's announcement]. My advisor Tom Knight introduced me to the general counsel, I was all excited; they met me with a sealed envelope on the table; they said I just want you to know we don't want to touch this or have anything to do with it; you did this on your own time with your own funding, good luck.
I wanted to know, why is the institute disavowing me? I didn't even disclose what was going on, I just wanted their help to do disclosure responsibly. They wouldn't even hep with that. Fortunately Hal A and Tom K helped me find an amicable solution (via the EFF).

Joi: Ethan mentioned TidBit, where we had a student working on a project. It's funny b/c MIT's counsel represents MIT. There's some things they can and can't do. We ended up setting up a law clinic - I'll give credit to the GC's office and Provost for this fully-funded and pro-bono clinic at BU. So any problems a student has can go to a BU clinic; in your case they could have directed you to that. This is recent, within the last several months. One of the problems has been the liability concern that something happens and the inst. gets sued by the parents, and lawyers are lawyers. We've been trying to set up ways for people to talk to the admins. Legal support is key. Hoping that will help in the future.

There are certain things the institute should sanction, but there are certain things we can't. On the research side, there are things that affect the whole institute. Some kids don't know what the repercussions are. I went to a lot of cases I heard about to hear their side of the story. If some of these things came out, it would hurt privacy of the student. It can be better. But the trust gets developed when you have communication. Need informal communication because formal puts you at risk in other ways. Secret backchannel. So the hackers will often tell the police so they're not caught off guard. No formal acknowledgement. People based and don't persist over time. 4 year turnover. Met about what could be done. The policy in the handbook was drafted, students said "given all the things that have happened, you can't ignore it." You can't say "look how amazing this place is" and then not support people when they get in trouble. People had to meet with a lot of people about what could be said legally. What was acceptable to write in there? The trust went up a lot after that.

What are the principals we put into a disobedience prize? Principles, playfulness, creativity, social benefit. Large scale collaboration. Swipe all cards in all doors as a way to add noise into a database. CSAIL and Media Lab run our own networks. Here we retain as little information as possible. No cameras here because it creeps us out, can be taken over. We have a lot of theft here, we know we wouldn't catch the professionals anyway. Research in how we increase security without sacrificing privacy.
What aren't you allowed to do? Purposefully destruct something for the sake of being destructive (if you've evaluated that it's necessary, go for it).

Relationship between an institution and those performing civil disobedience is difficult. People who get attacked by people on the other side of the argument. Building an institution where disobedience doesn't have grave consequences. It doesn't have to be completely safe, but reasonably safe. Tenure, if you piss off the people in your department you don't get it. How do you do things which speak truth to power while still being on people's good side.
Tenure was put in place to allow people to be disobedient during McCarthyism. But maybe you're past that phase in your life by then, you're like 45. High school Japanese kids working in a lab, being picked on by grad students. Academia shouldn't be about that, it should be the new people encouraged to question authority. "Does scientific research advance one funeral at a time?" - Max Planck Spoiler: yes [according to a recent MIT paper (PDF) which you should read].

These people learn most of their things on the internet; but without access to journals, they have a hard time applying it. We can go to first principles and questioning these things. That's what I want to start with: questioning these things [publishing, bad laws]

Q+A

Q: do you think the administration today is too strict? A: when I was a student, yes. students aren't doing this for the thrill of the illegal; but curiosity, exploring the inaccessible, doing a great piece of engaging engineering.

Maria Zuber: We now have a list of amazing, disobedient folk... a list we have to protect.
How is our Head of Research about this? I'm so glad we're great at being self-reflexive. I think it went well. You're listening to all this and some of it is shocking or discomforting, but the MIT administration talks about this stuff all the time. There's a whole range of opinions. The administration gets a full spectrum of points of view. The ones we heard here [today] are not in the center of the bell curve on where the campus falls in a lot of matters. If there's a question of how far we can push something, we can always have a conversation about it at least. Try to find the right balance. Try to explain why when we can't do something.
One thing we are talking about is: is it OK to take an action that affects a broad population? IRB violations could shut down research across the institution. When things come to me, I have to think about the balance of people wanting to do something that moves their work in a positive direction (for them) but may affect others.
Can I ask a Q about that? ITAR rules for instance prvent you from bringing IR sensors into certain countries. Shoud an institution like MIT be pushing back against these rules with the govt? Saying these are rules that are iportant? MIT as an institution has a lot of clout.
A: on that particular issue, I have in fact been pushing back, personally. I'm a space scientist, so I care a lot also about thse cameras. We do that. but in the meantime we [may?] have to also obey the rules so people can continue to do their work.

Joi friend at Twitter and now White House. Would go to police events and just hand out his business card. So instead of busting things, we'd just have people calling him to fix it first. [This is so reminiscent of disaster response I can't even]. When it happens in public there are egos on the line, too.
(Cory) The opposite of disobedience isn't obedience, it's compliance. it's if you don't immediately comply with an order, you risk summary execution.
Need to challenge laws in order to progress the nation.

(Sam) There are simple laws and painful laws. How do we make sure the institute isn't standing in for excessive response, even when it happens outside that bubble?
(Joi) There are laws which are supported by commercial interests (DRM, CFAA, SoPA, PIPA). The Media Lab has made statements against those, and we have a lot of money from Hollywood (none of which went away). Courage to stand up to those that are backing you. We're in a privildeged position to do that. Then there are laws that limit academic and scientific progress. There's a way to try to talk to the authorities. There are broad thinkers there.
(Liz) those of us with power need to take those risks, support our folk when they cause problems.

(Kendra) Institutional trust and these back channels, I feel that insitutional trust is not something everyone has. What is MIT doing to help students know they have support? If you are a young black man, being arrested has different connotations.
(Joi) I'm thinking about this a lot lately, and it's not just for us. I just try to talk with and connect with as many folk as possible
(Karrie) That you have this clinic is a huge signal that you want to support your students. I'd love a phone number for those students. I'd love to be able to promote this sort of structure at my university. We don't have access to this sort of clinic.
(Joi) if we can figure it out, I hope others will also follow.

() This has been fantastic and it's appreciated. What about research that would piss off your liberal collegues? It's close to an ideological monoculture. Many of these entrenched things are not useful. Can we have another Forbidden Research conference which pokes holes in liberal assumptions?
(Joi) DARPA study on race and bias etc. The Uni had to be sued to release the study.

Steward Brand, claiming the final question
What's most interest to me is the elegant hack, minmax, lazy hack. So fiendishly clever, subtle and undetectable. And yet has a great big effect. Do you have any examples of that?
(liz): The insription in Lobby 7 says what the institute was founded for: 'for the furthering of science and technology and agriculture and commerce' 20yrs ago some hackers made an incredible reproduction, but replaced the last two words with 'entertainment and hacking'. Anyone passing by thought it was the original; and it was there for a really long time until a tour guide noticed it, and said "Here are the famous founding principals of MIT, and read it outloud."
Joi: there's a piece of artwork, metal and black, in front of the Green building. it's a bunch of pieces of metal. some kids would leave pieces of metal, and people would think it was broken and weld it back on... it's a good story, don't know if it's true.

[Willow - I feel like it's fine for institutions to move slowly. I feel like this whole thing is about an over extention and crimilization of otherwise inconsequential acts.]

by willowbl00 at July 21, 2016 09:46 PM

Forbidden Research liveblog: "why we can't do that"

Liveblog by Alexis Hope, Sam Klein, Willow Brugh and myself

Karrie has been a pioneering researcher on how technology shapes our lives. She is also an expert on algorithmic auditing, looking into ways that these technologies are shaping our social lives.

As we think about the work Karrie has been doing to address the legal barriers to producing research — and the legal barriers to consuming research — we will also talk about how we think about our roles and responsibilites adjusting the systems.Three weeks ago, Karrie teamed with other researchers on a lawsuit to challenge the barriers to doing algorithmic auditing because the data is tied up by Terms of Service.

This work started for Karrie around 2012, when she helped start the Center for People and Infrastructures. We looked at cases like public transit, where machine learning might be trained on a camera operator that always stop the film when a person is black.
We worried for instance that people being black would be constantly observed. In reality, we found that black people weren't being observed at all. The camera tracked one researcher perfectly; it did a perfect job. But a black researcher wasn't tracked at all; leading to the quip that HP's cameras were racist.

Karrie describes some similar issues:
The StreetBump project for tracking potholes by leveraging crowdsourced data. In 2014 it was revealed that some poor parts of Boston weren't surfaced by this, and only worked in wealthy suburbs. The problem was later reported to be solved.

Amazon Prime: Roxbury is the only central boston neighborhood that wasn't getting same-day delivery. When this was revealed (publicly), it was fixed the same day. But the information has to get out for this to happen.

Predictive Policing: we need to know which regions are being observed and tracked. Is it only poor areas? Is it leading to bias?

Pokemon Go: Why are there fewer stops in poor neighborhoods? There are many reasons for this... crowdsourcing plays a role.

Self-driving cars: What decision does a car make when the owner dies, if the car has to choose what object or person to hit while braking?

Fair housing: are minorities less likely to find housing via algorithmic matching systems?

AirBnB: A black person renting on AirBnB was found to get less for their unit than someone who was white (via the automated algorithm).

We've addressed some of these things with the Civil Rights Act (1964), Fair Housing Act (1968), Housing and Community Development Act (1987). It took 20 years to add disability status.
At that time, HUD further supported special projects, including prototypes to respod to new or sophisticated forms of discrimination.

Auditing:
Traditional audit - match pairs on family and economic features, varying race; successively visit realtors. They found that minorities (blacks, hispanics, asians) were told about fewer units than whites.

Digital audits -
We wanted to explore what happens with the new proliferation of algorithmic realtors — she and collaborators wrote a paper auditing algorithms. It's hard to get this data and code from companies. Although, researchers were willing to give their code. Ex: finding naked people (original code from a 1996 research paper). There are explicit lines added to find black people (more specifically, special-casing different ranges of skin hue)

Ex: algorithmic awareness. It took 18 months to get a probability sample, which was too long. Collecting data manually is also not ideal. Some people won't provide it, and it's not reliable when provided. Latanya Sweeney searched for names online; for white people, you got automated ads saying "NAME found!". For black people, you got automated ads saying "NAME arrested?" linking to similar white-pages or online search tools.

You can also scrape everything. This is a violation of the CFAA but many rsearchers are doing this all the time. You also see this at hackathons and published in major conferences around data mining like KDD, WWW, etc.

CFAA and Terms of Service are a problem. We had the FeedVis project, which was successful, that we could have continued by scraping FB, but we shut it down intentionally because of their Terms of Service.

Sockpuppets was another project in which you could create bot accounts with different demographic qualities and see how they were treated by different algorithms online like real estate or price discrimination.Wilson et al - price discrimination - buying things in mobile phone costs more than on desktop, the more times you go to a site the more expensive it is - used 300 real people and a lot of additional sock puppets to get enough data.

Collective audit - Finally, you could do a collective audit where lots of people provide common information that offers the data to do the kind of auditing we are describing.

We were excited when our work was recently cited by a White House report on Big Data and Algorithms. The report considered: transparent algorithms, spot testing, the right to appeal if the algorithm is not fair.

Block: CFAA, the Computer fraud and abuse act of 1986.
1986 was a different environment then than today. A lot of people didnt have broadband or access to email.
With the ACLU and colleagues, we have sued the US Government, a few weeks ago. We are waiting to get a response from the governemtn to see what happense. The CFAA prohibits unauthorized access to proected computers - it also includes any website accessible on the internet. The thng that is most confusing is that you "exceed uathroized access" - the specific point targetted in the lawsuit.
Violating this: 1 1 year ax prison sent and fine. 2nd volation is prison sentence of up to ten years and a fine - but your intentions dont play a role. Even if you dont intend to do harm.

Many people are violating this every day without even realizing it.

In some cases, companies ban manual collection of data. One might interpret this as sitting by a computer with a pen and paper and writing things down - this might be a violation. Other things you can't do include reverse engineering. It is frustrating because terms of service are not static. Just by going to the website you agree to the terms of service. Just by going to pokemon go site you are waiving your right to participate in class action suit.

Why is this so important? Researchers, journalists, everybody is affected by this. As a professor, Karrie cares about protecting her students. it can even lead to inability to publish work! IRB may not approve of work, finding employment (ie. at facebook), might not be possible because of a study that you did.

Reputation of students & faculty are at stake.

Norms are crucial here because lots of computers ceintists scrape and use bots and do so for social good. last fall we had event here called Freedom to Innovate. And I was frustrated by the ACM around this issue. But now thanks to Amy Bruckman and others there is now an ACM SIGCHI Ethics Committee that will be looking into this and other issues. Recently, on Amy's blog she talked about how documenting your intent might actually be bad for your research until this problem of breaking ToS and CFAA is resolved.

What the community does matters. What the community cares about matters. Hopefully we can reach some kind of policy change together that will benefit not just researcher but everyone.

Nathan: I'm fascinated by the different approaches you have taken. You both face environments where researchers are constantly scraping site without following their terms. Karrie, you're taking part in these legal cases to change the rules; Alexandra, you are trying to build on the breadth of other efforts to share research, and build a system that is effective and widespread. How do you see the established institutions and your relationship to them?

Karrie: One issue for researchers: should Institutional Review Boards consider legal as well as ethical issues? I ended up on an IRB board because this topic came up. It was nice to see topics get approved within a day, rather than 6 months or more (due to legal uncertainty) as it was before.

Moving to dealing with bigger corps, I've had great interactions with FB's data scientists. But their plan to share data didn't come to pass. That involved the organization as a whole, and their lawyers, not just their data science, which I don't really understand.

Q: Alexandra, when people talk about scihub they often want to rehash Open Access debates and what their instutitons should do for sharing openly. But your project started for outsiders, outside those instuitutions. Do you see your work helping change the publishing industry, or just sharing your [system/resource]?

A: I think that Sci Hub if it continues to exist then the publishing industry will have to adjust because they will not be able to reap the big profits they currently enjoy from subscriptions.
If you ask my personal opinion about open access, I am for it; trying to promote it.

Q: I'm curious about the dynamic in both these situations, where we have lots of people already doing the thing (disobeying) and Alexandra and Karrie have become more visible because they are trying to address the problem in a large scale way?
How has this been - Alexandra, to start out - did you expect this attention, has it changed how you work?
A: Well, I have to say from the beginning of sci-hub's existene there was a lot of attention paid, but it was largely covered by local (Russian) media more than international media. [so: not much!]
Q: And you have also faced legal actions from US publishers. How does that affect you and Sci-Hub?
A: For obvious reasons, there are many challenges: domain registration (and updating), one domain was closed, and legal actions taken. For other resources it's not even necessary to take a legal action. I'm not going to the united states or europe, trying to be cautious.
Q: Part of your strategy, Karrie, is to reach out to other researchers in this space and ask them to come forward? Can you talk about what that means for them?
A: It's similar to Amy Bruckman's blog post. When I talk to the media, they ask me to find more people. There are many (not my job to out them!) doing similar work. Many have gotten Cease & Desist papers and stopped doing the work, but they don't want that to be public, for fear there might be something negative for their work that results.
6 out of my 8 phd students are not US citizens. Many of my colleagues are international as well.
For any of you whose visa gets revoked (or know people from your country whose visas are revoked) for unexplained reasons, it's very hard to admit to something like this.

Q: I'm curious what changes you think can be made to the commercial interest of providers, so they aren't so strict about enforcing draconian Terms of Service [which most set up presumably to protect their business, not to prevent spot checking or researching algorithms for bias]. Can we add incentives for companies to have research-friendly ToS?
A: Many have a cut-and-paste ToS, it doesn't seem very custom.
I have not asked a company to change their ToS. I have talked to lawyers who have said that they can't be touched; they have to be there. My talks with data scientists end up talking to lawyers and they end there. [so maybe I should talk to lawyers next]

Q: Thanks Alexandra for the great work you've done for the community. Do you get any support from academia for your website, particularly from top institutions like MIT who do have their own access? do you feel any are supporting your actions; anticipating the answer is no, do you think there's anything that they should do? that applies to other panelists as well. Can universities leverage their power to help in these cases and promote auses we care about?
A: I'll try to take pauses while answering :) I think that MIT has poor access to publications at least that was a frequent user complaint. Second, as far as support is concerned, there is support from users who offer donations. But there is no official support because of obvious legal reasons.

by ngyenes at July 21, 2016 09:28 PM

Forbidden Research liveblog: Hacking Culture at MIT

liveblog by Willow Brugh, Natalie Gyenes, and me

Speaker: Liz George, MIT Alum Class of 2008 and MIT Hacker

Liz starts by defining hacking as any good scientific endeavor begins.

Hacking, (noun)

  1. A project without a constructive end
  2. An unusual and original solution to a problem
  3. An activity that tests the limits of skill, imagination, and wits.

If you can build a model of the system, you can push it to its limit or test a system in a way you'd never otherwise be able to do.

Hacking, (verb)

  1. Investigating a subject for its own sake
  2. Engaging in non-destructive mischief
  3. Doing something out of the ordinary or clandestine
  4. Exploring the inaccessible

You'd want these things to also be qualities of academic research. When these things are first thought of, do they have a constructive end? Transitors as an example. You'd also hope that researchers are testing the boundaries of their skill and wit.

MIT Hackers also have a code of ethics, which are written in large print in an inaccessible part of campus. It's a rite of passage as a hacker to be shown this by a veteran hacker. Some of these are specific to MIT hacks and some are general. Some are very relevant to academic research too. Safety is the #1 priority. And it's important to share knowledge that you learn with others and ask experienced people if you don't know how to do something.

Beyond the ethics is MIT policy, which is in tension with MIT tradition. Liabilities are at stake. The tradition at MIT follows the same kind of promotion of playful mischief in the definition cited above. But MIT Policy reads, "Labeling something as a hack does not change unlawful behavior into lawful behavior, nor is it an excuse or justification for violations of MIT policy. Notwithstanding that they may occur in connection with a hack, violations of MIT policies may still result in disciplinary action."

On to the most visible part of hacking culture at MIT: the creation of hacks (or how it is known to the outside world: 'pranks'). Prominent examples include hacking the great dome, like putting up a scale model of a Wright Brothers flyer on the 100th anniversary ofthe flight, a 48 unit weight cracking the great dome during finals week, and the famous MIT campus police car.

A hack should tap into MIT culture, inspire the community, and be a feat of engineering.

Liz walks us through a hack she participated in during 2006: putting a Firetruck on the Great Dome. Components:

  1. MIT culture connection: drinking from a fire hose welcomes students in September
  2. Inspire community as a good memorial for firefighters on 9/11
  3. Feat of engineering: bigger than the police car

It starts with the Safety Office at MIT, which is responsible for evaluating all MIT hacks and then removing them. Students who want to hack the great dome look first at the State Board Building Regulations and Standards. This includes it must be able to withstand 90 mph winds. This requires knowledge of Mech E 101 statics. So, step one is meetings, evaluating its safety.

The firetruck hack had a budget of ~$757. Planning time was 3 months, and ~40 people were involved.

Hack planners need to motivate undergrads to work on the project. You have to find ways to make it easy to work on it. The easiest way is to offer dinner, which they have to eat anyway.

How did it work? The team followed the same process for the police car: building a wooden frame and putting the exterior of the car on it. They got the track body from a scrap yard owned by a friend of a friend and built and painted it all themselves.

Before putting on the dome requires a practice assembly to ensure it can go up quickly, silently, and in the dark. This hack took four practices to get under 30 minutes, assembling the 57 big parts, the heaviest being 150 pounds and the largest was 12 feet long. In the interest of mystery and awe, Liz won't tell us how they got the thing up 150 feet high, but the CMC Rescue catalog was very important.

The hack went off successfully on September 11, 2006. It was so successful that the Firetruck Hack was left up for two days, which is a record for Great Dome hacks. The Safety Office cited that it was so well executed and documented that they could justify leaving it up.

Police and firemen came from around Boston to see the hack. And it was covered in the Boston Globe as a fitting tribute to those involved in 9/11. This was well-received by the administration because it worked. Administrators are happy to take credit for things that go well.

The Good:
MIT students gain engineering skills, ingenuity, persistence, motivating teams, project management, creative solutions, failure analysis. This is probably the biggest project an MIT student has ever worked on to-date.

The Bad: 
Sometimes people get caught. Administrators don't want to deal with it when things go wrong. Liz received an email from a hacker once after being caught: "I am, in a word, terrified. I was arrested for hacking this past weekend. The three of us are now looking at felonies for participating in an activity for which MIT has built a physical museum." The student had their charges eventually dropped but they suffered mental trauma, extreme anxiety.

MIT tradition celebrates hacking, but the policy punishes students when it goes wrong. In the Hacking Ethics, it says if you are caught to go willingly and cooperate fully. This requires trust on the part of the students that the Institution will treat them fairly. You degrade the trust between students and the institution when tradition is abandoned in the safety of executing policy.

by erhardt at July 21, 2016 09:23 PM

Forbidden Research Liveblog: Rites and Rights

Rites and Rights

Saeed A. Khan, Professor of Islamic and Middle Eastern History, Politics, and Culture, Wayne State University
Alaa Murabit, Founder of The Voice of Libyan Women, UN SDG Global Advocate & High-Level Commissioner

With a US presidential candidate proposing a ban on Muslims entering the US, Islam has become a popular "foreign" target for demagogues and fearmongers. At the same time, the recent passing of prominent Muslim athlete Muhammad Ali has revealed ways in which Islam had become a popular, domestic target of the same groups—later turned into an engine promoting civil and political rights at home.

These two phenomena have prompted moderate thinkers to reevaluate the past and possibilities for the compatibility of Islamic and Western values. Of the anti-Islam agitators, one area of concern involves the role of women in Islamic law. Less discussed is the intersection of Islam with civil and political rights. And even less heard within this debate are the voices of Islamic law scholars, historians, and practitioners who read the Qurʾān as offering strong protections for women’s rights and for civil and political rights. Groups such as The Voice of Libyan Women and efforts such as its Noor Campaign make compelling arguments for women’s rights from within Islam, not in opposition to Islam, challenge the narrative that Islam is anti-women and anti-west.

Do we misunderstand Islam and its place in the West and in the world? If so, is it because of American misunderstanding of Islam, or tensions between modern and traditional cultural values in some Muslim-majority nations?

liveblog by Sam Klein, Willow Brugh, and myself.

Here, we're exploring research as forbidden because of cultural issues. Can Islam be compatible and coincide with human rights and women's rights? It is important to note that scientific and technical topics are not the only areas where research finds itself off-limits. How can we get past political agendas and media to separate rhetoric from reality? Furthermore, the agency of Muslim women is being ignored. How do we ensure that Muslim women are not just part of the conversation, but are leading it? Thus far in this conference, we've been having a conversation about technology and forbidden research. They are connected. In this context, a lot of the stagnation and challenges are rooted in the perception of religion or the political manipulation of religion. Regardless of how much we research, putting this into practice and policy becomes difficult, because we have to deal with one another as humans.

  1. Perception of Islam and Muslim women in the US and globally (global north)
  2. why the political and security climate are different than the reality on the ground
  3. policies to counteract violent extremism
  4. what are the key next steps in this dialogue - is it research? is it policy? what needs to be done to change the situation for the 1.7 b Muslims and for everyone else?

It is important to consider the perceptions of Islam that exist in the United States. According to a 2015 Brookings study, things are slightly improving regarding the perception of Muslims, though not Islam per se: “Americans differentiate between the “Muslim people” and the “Muslim religion,” and they view Islam more unfavorably than they do Muslims”. Especially in recent months, there is an intensified civic and political engagement of Muslims both in the US and globally. Further, in the US, we are living through a paradigm shift when it comes to national demographics. This is especially true as we move towards 2043 when the US will become a majority minority country. Next we must ask: what is the relationship with Islamophobia and the changes happening to the US? In 2010, for the first time in American history, the number of white births is outpaced by non-white births. In 2013, the Pew Religion and Public Life Study determined that the demographics are no longer majority Protestant. The white Anglo-Saxons essentialism of American identity is decreasing - especially in numbers. It is important to try to situate Islamophobia within this context.

Playing devil's advocate - regardless of Islamophoia, there seems to be a perception that Islam does not co-exist with women's rights - the two are mutually exclusive. This is apparent in just about any academic conversation. There is a moral obligation for the US to promote women's rights, which by default is not congruent with Islam. This ties into sexual violence in conflict as well, where women's bodies are seen as the borders of a nation. In talking about EU, women are seen as the honor of the community (ref. political outrage after attacks in Germany).

There's an assumption that women are objectified and oppressed, that they don't have agency and capacity.

If that, then:
- Why are we asking Muslim women to counter religious extremism?
- Why are we positioning them as a part of global security? Wars have been started on assumed morality to protect Muslim women. Why are they key in this fight?
-- Because the world is beginning to engage in a sociological understanding of women's visibility in the public sphere. Also the centrality of Muslim women in the nuclear family. It is necessary, then, to usurp the narrative.

In the case of EU, 10 years ago, when it came to the hijab ban, Pres. Sarcozy (France) spoke on behalf of the liberation of Muslim women. Sarcozy saw himself as a guardian or custodian, focusing on the sociology of Islam of a tribal society (patriarchal, tribal, and custodial). As our social contract changes, Sarcozy was a throwback to a prior time. He wanted to be a tribal chieftain even though they didn't ask him to do so. How do we respect their autonomy while still sitting down at a table with those countries which oppress their autonomy the most?

We have to deconstruct the fallacy of morality as primary driver of foreign policy. How narratives form in liminal spaces.

Focusing on women’s rights and advocating on behalf of Muslim women, here is an example from the EU - It's perfectly ok to feel you're championing Muslim women from the burkka unless you have a profit to make from it (like fashion is doing). Spending 20 Euro is unacceptable. Someone spending 200k Euros on a designer one is welcome. Politicization of religion and commodification of religion.

Now, let us reference religious texts - can we use scripture to change the conversation? Religion has been used to legitimize some violence. Rather, the manipulation of religion is what is used to excuse violence. However, Islam was initially more of a liberating religion for women. What happened? Exportation of ideals, especially a specific part of Islam from Saudi Arabia. This was able to reach other regions as a result of globalization. Especially in North Africa, people were able to watch Saudi Arabia scholars speak about the right way women should dress, appear & act to keep the integrity of the family unit.

In discussing a transitional justice meeting that I (Alaa Murabit) was a part of – we had quite a few young men from the local transitional justice teams (Libya). The UN mission asked us "where are the Libyan women in the room?" and we asked the same of the UN team. We cite women's rights as a reason to be involved (Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran), but we don't hold countries accountable. For example, given this newly rejuvenated relationship with Iran, how will accountability change, especially with women’s rights?

In Saudi Arabia - there is a distraction about an anthropological anomaly - Saudi women are not allowed to drive. But – it is importat to keep in mind that we're looking at a pop of 35 mil people. At the same time, not only do we correspond and interact with this country at the highest level, but we sell them 35 bil dollars worth of weapons, that largely end up in the hands of terrorists/extremists, against whom we fight against 20 years later.

But there’s a silver lining: the future of Islamic faith is inarguably and fearlessly female.
In the past 10-15 years, we have seen a revolution in.thought regarding the interpretation of Islam. A lot of developing and post-conflict countries say that this can no longer be a blueprint from our society and culture. It is necessary now to separate culture (which has the more archaic features) from the religion of Islam. For the past 1600 years, the interpretation has largely been by males - elite males - who have the ability to be authoritative and create power. You'd be amazed at how hard God is to debate with. For women in particular, it has been an uphill battle, because the second you enter the debate , your integrity and humanity and honor come into question, even from well-intentioned people who practice the faith.

Regarding our work in Libya, the involvement of women is the biggest gamechanger. The Noor campaign has been cited by the UN Security Council for Women Peace & Security. How are we going to marry the political and the economic considerations with the moral and with the religions and social. AND the cultural - which will take much, much longer. Categorizations of women as model examples or deviants affects the entire sex, not just Muslim women. That's an issue for the whole world. And I think unless women take a stronger role in politics, governance, and security in particular, this isn't going to change.

[Change has to come from each region, and they are different]: People within a country/region need to consider interpretations of faith, who they are benefiting, and how they could be altered to benefit the global community.

It is important to understand that legal codes such as Sharia Law come with their own economic and cultural backgrounds. A lot of what we find now is walking back to find a system-restore point when things were pristine; but going back 1300 years with a society that has already moved beyond and is moving faster, makes that a herculean challenge.

There are certain schools within Islam with a central figure. For example, there is a 'Catholic' side to Islam: the Aga Khan (for the Ismaili community), Some of the most ardent advocates seeking a single voice for the Muslim world are themselves protestant Christians; I've never understood that. That doesn't take into account the cultural nuances. Looking at jurisprudence among Sunnis: at least 2 of the 4 schools that developed were for geographic considerations. [one is decentralized, deferring to local leaders]

But there is implicit religious authority granted to leaders. See for instance Erdogan in Turkey today.

Q: Challenges and dangers of 'securitizing' women? How do we approach engaging women in discussions about security?
A: Women as borders into a country has been a long-standing element of conquest. They are the bringers of nationality, religion, & so they hold significant power in their ability to propagate a group. This was considered even a long-term peace option: taking & raping women, and having a new generation through them. Women are now engaged more actively: The problem with current efforts to counter violent extremism, is that degradation of women's rights is an early indicator of extreme violence. Women are the first people who know about it; they note that they can't leave home, can't drive, are instructed of what to wear - 2-3 yrs before major violence breaks out. So they are talked to now. The problem is in the security of those women; they are often talked o by people showing up in a bullet-proof car; revealing their position as activist and increasing their likelihood of attack or death.

We also need to look at how this plays out in the West. Britain's 'ban the burka' campaign has been associated with whether those women are dangerous as suicide bombers; no longer as carriers of dangerous cultural memes.

Q: Some people (like Rushdie) are still under fatwa that keep them from appearing publicly. How does one approach Islamic jurists about this? [[what about: related Q re: encouraged violence over Mohammed cartoons?]]
Related: ShariaSource, looking at the wide variety of interpretation, and seeing this as a strength of Islamic jurisprudence.
A: There is a lot of discussion about this already among the expert scholars. What is new is the armchair scholars...So for instance a lot of those casual scholars feel they are bound by every fatwa; whereas that's not the case [and expert scholars would not think it].

Q: I was struck by your analysis that since the 70s the Saudi vision of Islam has been increasingly widespread, through a PR and education campaign. Are there alternatives to this, or things that groups with other interpretations could pursue?
A: It's harder now; much more diverse media and more voices. Speed & efficacy may be harder; credibility for non-Saudi communities is harder [they contain the holiest places in the world] So many scholars have been looking at these interpretations more closely [7000 scholars released a statement last month, opposing extremism and supporting peace and security]. That's the first time that Saudi has had to be accountable to their role and how their interpretation may support violent acts. So it's progress that they are thinking about their role; and civil society is more engaged now than it has been in the past.Saudi has for a long time been a Jenga game. As new pieces are removed, this changes. We used to say "Saudi Arabia is in Arabia, is Islam". As you alter those pieces, the whole concept changes.

by ngyenes at July 21, 2016 09:05 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
Netizen Report: What do Zimbabwe, Kashmir, and Turkey Have in Common? Internet Censorship.
New York City in a blackout following Hurricane Sandy. Photo by Alex Perkins via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

New York City in a blackout following Hurricane Sandy. Photo by Alex Perkins via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Global Voices Advocacy's Netizen Report offers an international snapshot of challenges, victories, and emerging trends in Internet rights around the world.

Reports of Web censorship — ranging from blocking specific websites and entire social media platforms as well as overall Internet blackouts — have been so widespread over the last two weeks that we’ve decided to dedicate this Netizen Report to the trend.

Zimbabwe: #ShutdownZim protests spark WhatsApp shutdown

Protests across Zimbabwe over an escalating economic crisis have brought on a new wave of censorship in the country: Zimbabweans have reported not being able to access WhatsApp, which was used to organize and circulate images of the protests, and the telecom regulatory authority issued a public notice warning users they were being closely monitored and could be “easily identified,” according to the Washington Post. The Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation and radio station STAR FM also received a warning from the CEO of the Broadcasting Authority not to “broadcast programs that incite, encourage, or glamorise violence or brutality” and to avoid “broadcasting obscene and undesirable comments from participants, callers and audiences”. The government is rumored to be working on licensing an Internet gateway for the country, a mechanism that would force all traffic to pass through a single portal that would be operated by the government and allow authorities broad access to Internet traffic and user data.

Kashmiris report total suspension of Internet and mobile amid unrest

Amid unrest over the July 8 killing of Kashmiri rebel leader Burhan Wani, Internet and mobile services were shut down for at least six days. Thousands of Indian soldiers. Thousands of Indian soldiers are patrolling the streets, and have used tear gas and pellets on protesters. Several Kashmiris have also reported having their social media accounts suspended in what free expression advocates Baba Umar and Nighat Dad suspect might be a campaign by trolls to flag their accounts.

Turkey’s coup attempt sees a 50% drop in Internet traffic

Meanwhile, during the attempted coup in Turkey, Internet users reported having trouble accessing a range of websites and services including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. CloudFlare reported an approximately 50% drop in Turkey’s total Internet traffic during the unrest. Yet what at first appeared to be at least a partial blackout typical of past periods of unrest in Turkey soon turned on its head, as President Erdogan turned to Twitter — which he described in 2013 as a “menace to society” — and Apple’s FaceTime in order to address the country. Websites continue to be blocked in the aftermath of the attempted coup, with the Turkish site Engelli Web (Disabled Web) reporting that a judge approved the censorship of 20 websites. And following Wikileaks’ release of nearly 300K emails sent to and from officials of the AKP, Erdogan’s party, Wikileaks was blocked too.

Ethiopia: #OromoProtests trigger broad social media censorship

Ethiopian telecommunication company EthioTelecom blocked social media platforms including Twitter, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger for at least two months in December 2015 and January 2016 in Oromia, where students are protesting government plans to expand the capital city Addis Ababa into neighboring farm lands in the state. The telco also reportedly plans to enforce a new price scheme for VoIP data usage in order to more heavily regulate data plans and what kinds of apps users can operate on their devices. And it intends to track, identify, and ban any mobile devices not purchased from the Ethiopian market, making it easier for the company to track data sent to and from subscribers on the network. The protests in Oromia, which began in November 2015, have become a series of the largest and bloodiest demonstrations against the Ethiopian government in a decade, with at least 400 people killed, more injured and thousands jailed. Facebook and Twitter have been critical for spreading information about the protests.

Brazil: WhatsApp is down, briefly

WhatsApp was also briefly blocked in Brazil for the third time in less than a year following a court order from a judge after failing to surrender user data to police. The Supreme Court accepted an appeal that brought the service back online four hours later, calling the lower court’s decision “not very reasonable and not very proportional.”

Iranian leaders are not so sure about Pokemon, but might stop blocking Twitter

A group of Iranian hardliners have demanded the government stop blocking Twitter, in an unexpected change of tune from a group who typically stand at the forefront of policies curtailing freedom of expression. The group wants to use Twitter to counter Saudi Arabian propaganda, which they argue is part of a “psychological operation” against Iran. Propaganda concerns have increased since the recent attacks in Nice, France.

Iranian officials also have responded to Pokemon Go, pledging to censor the game if the developers do not agree to cooperate with Iran’s National Foundation for Computer Games, which has censored multiple games in the past. They say they will seek to keep the game's data servers inside of Iran, along with cooperation with the government to prohibit the game from targeting locations that could be of national security concerns. The request to keep servers inside the country might be seen as an extension of the Supreme Council of Cyberspace’s demand that all foreign messaging companies, within one year, move the data they hold about Iranians onto servers inside the country or face censorship.

In other news, Iran has put Apple on notice, stating the company has just a “few days” to register or “all iPhones will be collected from the market,” according to a report by Tasnim News. Due to sanctions against Iran, Apple had previously not officially entered the Iranian market. Smugglers, however, have brought iPhones to Iran. A 2015 report suggested there were about 6 million iPhones in circulation in the country at that time. This new ban would not affect existing iPhone owners, but would ban further sales of the phone on the market.

Nicaragua might get rid of its ‘Internet tax’

The Nicaraguan government is considering a repeal of its Internet tax in order to improve national connectivity. Currently the government charges a 20% tax on mobile terminals, resulting in high costs for Internet users. The announcement followed meetings between government officials and  entrepreneurs in the telecommunications sector to explore ways to improve infrastructure.

US and EU shake up international data privacy agreements

The US government is considering a new agreement to allow other countries to directly serve demands for user data and wiretaps on US technology companies, rather than having to participate in the often slow mutual legal assistance treaty (MLAT) process, wherein the US judiciary must be involved in issuing approval for data requests.

The European Commission adopted the EU-US Privacy Shield, a new framework intended to replace the now-defunct Safe Harbor agreement under which Europeans’ personal data can be transferred to the US and vice versa. Though technology companies seem generally happy with the deal, which allows them to continue their trans-Atlantic business, privacy groups have expressed reservations, saying the safeguards fail to sufficiently protect users’ data and can be easily undermined.

New Research

 

Mahsa Alimardani, Ellery Roberts Biddle, Weiping Li, Laura Vidal and Sarah Myers West contributed to this report.

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by Netizen Report Team at July 21, 2016 08:36 PM

MIT Center for Civic Media
Forbidden Research liveblog: Sexual deviance: can technology protect our children?

liveblog by Alexis, Sam Klein, Natalie, and myself

Ethan Zuckerman, Director, MIT Center for Civic Media moderates.

Conducting research on adults who have sex with children is virtually impossible due to ethical and legal restrictions. The advancement of technologies like robots and virtual reality has opened the door to exploring questions that were previously not possible. But while a U.S. court case has held that virtual child pornography is legal, the law in this area is controversial and emotionally charged. Legal uncertainties and vast stigma make actual research difficult. At the same time, a better understanding of this deviant behavior has the potential to significantly change lives.

Lead to paraphilia. We're not showing explicit imagery. It may be triggering. Going to try to deal with this very difficult topic. Lots of real world ramification. 1300 people are serving time for sex crimes just in MA. X are in indefinite civil confinement - finished sentence, but not released into the general public because of fear of recidivism. Research on the statistics. 10% to 50% which suggests that there isn't a ton of research. We know very little indeed. Most people who are afflicted with pedophilia are actively trying to fight these urges. When talking with therapists, they're trying very hard not to act on these urges they're suffering from. There are some existing efforts to develop support programs. Whether there are ways of treating with VR, intimate robotics, etc.. It's a challenging topic with a lovely set of folk willing to take it on.

Kate Darling, MIT Media Lab, IP Theory, Policy, and Robot Ethics, Fellow at Harvard Berkman Center is looking at the NOW of robot-human interaction. Leads us off. Human robot interaction, how we behave around robots. People treat them as though they're alive. We know they're just machines, but subconsciously when we interact, we treat them as if they're alive. Not just about people getting used to a new technology but instead something which is biological. Our brains might project intent and life on moving things which seem autonomous. How strongly we respond to the cues these machines give us. Gives us a chance to study human psychology. People who have low empathic concern for others treat robots differently than those who have high empathetic concern —this is part of a research study Kate has been conducting with Palash Nandy, a researcher at the Media Lab in the Personal Robotics group. Those who treat robots like a living thing makes them a potentially great tool for

When child-size robots come to market, will they be used to address desires and protect children, or to normalize it and put more children at risk? There's no way for us to know. These urges are not a moral failing, they are a psychological issue. Nearly impossible to self-report as you'll get booked. If we really care about children, we might need to be preemptive about this.

Courts don't know what to do with these robots, since no child has been harmed in making them.
While high quality sex robots are not coming as quickly as some might think (or like), but they are coming at a pace that's faster than society is willing to talk about.

Child porn doesn't exist for at least two reasons: because we think it's not ok, but also because a child was harmed in its creation. 3D modeling etc would shift that. Do any international courts handle this differently? Need intent as well as harm to have broken a criminal law in the US. In the US in '96 we had an act forbidding pornographic CGI depicting children. In '02 the supreme court decided there was a free speech issue that overruled, and struck down parts of that act. Since then, a new act "Protect" has been passed, which prohibits "obscene" cartoons. They've shifted the child piece towards obscenity, which is not well defined and depends on community standards. Ex: some media showing young girls performing fellatio was targeted b/c it was aimed at an audience of young girls to teach them improper behavior, not because it included images of young girls.

Back to the question of legal status, but what is exploitative and what is put into legal frameworks because it is uncomfortable?

Ron Arkin, Roboethicist and Professor, School of Interactive Computing, Georgia Tech. Robots and robot ethics. Sex, laws, and violence. Robot deception, killer robots, but today we're talking about sex.

There's plenty of money to be made in lethal autonomous weapon systems. The USG doesn't do? that, but some people do. And I do work in robot deception (how and when robots lie?) but that's not what we're discussing today. Outbranch from Genevive Bell. Intimate Robotics. Most concerned with lethal autonomous systems, but also concerned about something else that is happening now. I work with Sony, and the Aibo. we know how to make people fall in love with these things. What if we start crossing from teh social space into the sexual space? the questions we ask are around if human-robot intimacy is acceptable? Do you become a deviant if you have sex with a robot? [What about one indistinguishable from a human?]

Can [sex with a robot] it serve sort of like methadone for [sexual] deviants? These are research questions which need to be explored. Any time past offenders are released back into society, there will be more victims. [as there are already today] We need to be prepared for that.

Thank you for this forum for sharing this discussion with the audience and the public.
Uncanny valley has to do with behavior, temperature, texture, etc. Roxxxy, VR robot. How will the prostetution industry do in light of these dolls etc? Some see it as a way to free prostitutes to do other things (this is a rather paternalistic view). [Examples from non-sex robots, and sex robots, the former already well-funded by governments.]

Article from the Atlantic recently: "Can Child Dolls Keep Pedophiles from Offending?"
VICE: "Canada's Child Sex Doll Trial Raises Uncomfortable Questions About Pedophilia and the Law" A man ordered one in Canada and gets arrested. Methadone is perscription, maybe we need to do the same here.

Protest: there's a group called Campaign Against Sex Robots, viewed by the founder as "part of a cultural pattern to legitimate pedophilia more widely". [This reminds me so much of some of the arguments against prostitutions, not seeing how sex is a basic human need ].

Study from Stanford University — touching a robot's 'intimate parts' makes people uncomfortable. Published in an obscure journal, couldn't find funding source listed. Study on body comfort zones: differences between Japanese and American adults re: where they normally touched close friends or sexual partners, and where they touched their parents, when they met. Dramatic differences in all cases; which one would take into consideration with any robot designs.

Wanting to establish a research agenda. Will sex robots increase or decrease urges? We have an ethical obligation to do this research.

Christina Couch, Journalist
Written on the question of computer imagery. How our feelings, thoughts, desires shape our our technology is designed.

Working on an article - therapeutic uses of VR : Treating PTSD, depression, phobias, addictions. Patrice Reneaud studying pedophiles right at the point of arousal. Having someone at that point requires a stimuli, which for pedophiles have super valid concerns attached to them.

Dr. Patrice Renaud - "assessing deviant preferences in sexual offenders" using virtual immersion.

Mostly audio, having a hard time getting data. His team published a paper that even when they KNOW a subject is a known pedophile, they couldn't evoke a response just using audio files. When VR started working, they started building scenarios with [fewer] concerns. The differences are in motor and eye movement. The data we have on recidivism is nebulous because it's really hard to study this group. Interested that VR is what opened up these possible studies.

Also a shift in how we view pedophiles. Virtuous Pedophiles is a support group of people trying to prevent acting on their impulses. Another group like them is called the Dukelfeld Project. Confidential treatment focused on preventing them from acting out. Accessibility to a population which has been traditionally hard to research PLUS new research tools usually means a huge amount of research coming out, but not so much for this case. Dukelfeld was able to get on their feet because there aren't reporting issues, it might be covered by insurance.

In the US, Lupron (what people use to chemically castrate themselves) can be gotten under perscription as well. We'd first need a better idea of this as a psychological problem rather than a moral problem. How is the legal system changing? We used to think homosexuality was a moral failing, and then a disease, and is now accepted. How does that transition happen? Popular culture led. TV shows etc. The law came afterwards. Untouchable was a documentary on this. If you throw the word "pedophilia" into any legal debate, all the politicians jump in to vote for it. There's no nuance. The topic (understandably) raises so many emotions for folk that it's difficult to have a rational conversation about it. The YouTube videos for NYT articles are saying they need to be slaughtered for saying it might be an illness rather than a moral feeling. European culture just thinks about porn files as any other file. It allows them to approach all of this in different ways.

Q+A

So: you're a robot ethicist. What's stopping you from studying this? A: Funding. It can come most easily from foundations, but only a limited amount does. Most governments don't support it [though as noted elsewhere: in Germany treatment for pedophilia is covered by insurance].

Can people get help with their urges? What are their motivations for doing this work? Is there a trend in what's going on?
I don't know that the landscape of research today is big enough to generalize. I know of only 2 researcher using VR for this. Maybe there's more than that, but it is small.

Q: What are the key research questions in this space (intimate robotics)? As an experimentalist, are there things you're thinking about studying that will help answer these Q's?
A: (Kate):- how do our interactions with robots affect our interactions with humans? I think about harm: if our interactions with robots lead to harmful interactions with other humans, than that is a bad thing. But we don't know if our interactions with robots will lead to any of these negative outcomes, so we have to do the research.
We currently know how to observe and measure behavior with robots, but we don't know if this changes your behavior with people. That's hard to study in any arena, and especially with intimate robots, I'm worried we won't do it at all. If a big name in social robotics can't get support for such work, how can anyone do that?

Q: In defense of continental Europe and its culture - I have experience with Quaker work in this field; they are some of the frist to visit prisoners, and they work with sex offenders. All these technologies seem to further sequester and isolate offenders from society. That seems to be something they're trying hard to get over; they want to integrate with society. Do you think it is possible in the US to propose a system where groups voluntarily engage w/ pedophiles, on the basis that they are humans, and shouldn't be treated even worse than violent criminals?
A: (Christina) A story just came out about a [NJ?] task force that is dedicated to that. I don't have any way to answer, but people are starting to consider it.
A: (Ron) I don't think this is a panacea for reintegration; but it should be considered as a possible positive force.
A: (Kate) People being visited are the small percentage who have been convicted of a crime. Most people affected have a hard time coming forward at all. I love that groups are forming to help (convicts), but we need legal changes and maybe tech changes as well if those can help people.

Q: (Willow) You're talking about a lack of data and other things. This is the most academic panel we've had so far. I wonder if by opening up science to more citizen science approaches like other panels have, we might catch more data and discover more things. Are there possibilities to try citizen science approaches to sex studies?
A: (Ron) Yes, and I support anyone who wants to contribute to this, but: this does need strictly controlled science evaluation, with IRB and other controls, to get reliable data. We couldn't even get accurate recidivism rates, and how hard could that be? Numbers were all over the place, because of the dearth of data. And we need to understand the tech coming down the pike. That might be easier to distribute, rather than the study of sexual deviance.
A: (Christina) VR is also bing used to study and treat victims of sexual trauma. This (type of tech) isn't a one-way street. When we talk about amplifying research methods, it's not just for offenders.

Q: You all seem to say that lack of funding and stigma are barriers. What would this look like if those didn't exist? Get to Ethan's initial questions: how does culture change, this medium change, over the long term? How does this change the future of dealing with taboo paraphilias?
A: (Ron) Human research interaction work has at present gone almost too far in requiring huge amounts of data. I think we can develop research with small focused sets of data. Then a series of progressive experiments could gather a larger body of data over time.

Q: There are studies that suggest porn has changed standards of sex. If these child robots are rolled out, who gets to decide if you can have such robots as therapy, or as entertainment?
A: (Kate) A lot of research here has been very [basic]. Many studies have questioned if violent/sexual games change behavior. Methods used in those cases can be applied to robotics. The increased realism may have more of an effect, but similar approaches may apply.
A: (Ron) To my mind, courts or physicians would say it is appropriate. But there would have to be quasi-controlled environments for this to work.

Q: (Victoria) I'm interested in areas where sex is considered? inappropriate such as w/disability. Looking at sexual deviance - how much correlation or research has been done to see whether pedophilia is different from other deviances? (anything considered unnatural by any society: bdsm, homosexuality, &c) If we're talking about changing human behavior, can we cross-examine sth like violence, and the relevant effects of VR? [To inform these questions in a less taboo realm.]
A: (Christina) I don't know if any correlation like this has been done. In 20y of VR research, we find that yes it can influence RL behavior. PTSD can be reduced more quickly... unconscious racial bias can be reduced (in at least one study), though that's incredibly difficult to break even temporarily. It's not crazy to think this could influence behavior in pedophiles.
A: (Ron) Changing human behavior happens routinely, with or without robots - a change wrt. views on marriage, bestiality

Willow question: why can't people consent to sexual research?
Question: how do advanced robots consent to sexual research?
Willow question: why are we talking about fully autonomous systems? Does the debate in self-driving cars and mixed-control systems apply here?

by willowbl00 at July 21, 2016 08:35 PM

Forbidden Research liveblog: Messing with Nature: Genetics and Climate

Live blog by Sam Klein, Natalie, and myself.

Genetics

How do you innovate in a field of massive potential and risk? When it comes to genetically engineering living things, most of the technology being developed happens behind closed doors. How do we change the perception of science and genetic engineering with an emphasis on openness for the sake of safety, ethics, and cautionary vigilance but continue to move forward? Who should be responsible for making “god-like” decisions that will ultimately affect our entire future as a society? Megan Palmer, Senior Research Scholar, Center for International Security and Cooperation, Stanford University was our moderator.

Developing the field of synthetic biology. Policy and practices around the safety, security, ethics, governance around engineering biology. Does getting better at doing this actually increase our health, prosperity, etc? Microscopic organisms are already trying to kill us all the time. Are unintentional ramifications or malicious use open us up to unacceptable risks? Can we make this information open to the wide public? We're both destroying and saving the world all at the same time.

There's a First Robotics competition. We have genetically engineered machine competition. What will undergrads make? Don't compete them against each other, but instead "what is the most useful thing we can do with this tech?" Give incentives and rewards to be thinking about these questions the whole way. Learn the US had a destructive biological warfare program. Since the 70s we don't do that, that they have to uphold that. Limit between what is constructive and destructive. Dual use research concerns, like work on pathogens. When we develop the data about balancing things, the jury is still out. Who decides in these cases of uncertainty?

Community consent, the dangers and benefits of bioengineering

Kevin Esvelt, Director of the Sculpting Evolution Research Group, MIT Media Lab
When we engineer life, what does that say to other people? What are the repercussions to the living systems we depend upon? We tamper with them at our peril. When we alter one organism, we tamper with something nature has optimized to thrive in the wild. So we end those threads when we mess with individual organisms (or we upset the rest of the ecosystem). Gene Drive Inheritance makes dominant genes (so spread through the wild). Block out all mosquitoes that carry malaria. Make crops that are not tasty to invasive species ending blights. What if someone makes a mistake? Public backlash and harm to the planet, to the population, to the field, to research. Working to make all work in the open. If we have the possibility of messing everything up, everyone should be able to see what we're doing. We're not always careful, there are laboratory accidents. Right now it's hard to find other pieces of the puzzle, hard to know if your efforts are wasted if someone else is already doing it. By working in the open we are more effective AND more ethical.

Preventing mice at Martha's Vineyard from getting infected with Lyme disease, which means no ticks would have it, which means kids don't have it. Working with the potential community before we even start the research. We want independent monitoring set up by you to be sure everything goes well. End points for the project unless you say it's ok to proceed. [and of the 100 people who came to this meeting, every one supported moving forward]. So there is a way of moving forward in cases like this, but trust is not a given. It must be earned each and every time.

Bringing back from extinction, or revitalizing endangered species?

Ryan Phelan, Executive Director and Co-founder, Revive & Restore, The Long Now Foundation

No one believed we could completely wipe out a species. But now it's ingrained that extinction is forever. Is there recoverable DNA? Would that change the game? Woolly Mammoth in a healthy ecosystem someday. It's a long project. But it's super taboo for academics and funders. But they're happy about the other side (helping endangered species come back). Secure gov sponsorships, fish and wildlife, etc.

It will take away from teh concept that "Extinction is Forever" as a rallying cry which has helped us be motivated as citizens. But if we're pioneering this, like from the Passenger Pigeon we could recreate that ecosystem. Taking money away from conservation (if it's a 0-sum game). We want to bring more money in. We may release a problem for future generations. We've made it look easy so people will take money off of protection. Frozen Zoo! Was considered rouge for taking in and saving endangered species DNA. But we're now taking cells out to increase genetic variation. Now the Frozen Zoo is prescient.

The context of genetic engineering

George Church, Professor of Genetics, Harvard Medical School
It may be forbidden to do some research on others, but it seems moral to experiment on yourself, your own body. I know a number of people, now, doing gene therapy on themselves, way in advance of animal trials.

There are a number of trials currently underway. This ability to self modify is quite prominent. It's not all about genes. Many things which are heritable. We have four generations of phones in my family. We talk about genes as irreversible. the other things we inherit are hard to reverse like our culture and our technology. What we're worried about is that something we do could be very attractive in the short term which has repercussion in the longer term. We worry about changing our environments in unintended ways. We have twice what we thought was the carrying capacity of the globe, and half of what we will end up with.
This has been a core part of our work in our lab: Making open

  1. How people are involved in medical research so they have access to their own data.
  2. Rise of synthetic biology - we're on an exponential curve. I Argued for [open] surveillance of the uses of synthetic biology, since things are changing so rapidly, so we're aware of what is happening

We don't just need a reaction to things we think are yucky (germline is more acceptable than abortion to some folk). We need to think a bit out of the box rather than immediate rejection. Altering our minds, electrodes implanted in our brains for epilepsy and depression. Will become more and more biological. This can happen much faster than the germline. This is going to be a much faster revolution.

Genetic question and Answer

how do you reconcile? advisors?
* openness to being advised. listening carefully as well as teaching. hear what folk are up to, worried about. Make a special effort to make our information public (ignoring possible competitors)
* what if Martha's Vineyard hadn't been 100%? Would have been up to the community to decide percentage for consensus? He wanted at least one skeptic, as those are the folk who actively check you for the things that will destroy the project or allow it to cause lots of issues.
* have you decided to move forward outside of consensus? Revive and Restore adapted to public response asking for shorter term gains. We don't need consensus to do science, but we do need public input.
Not all of our community takes these precautions. How do you resolve your differences with them?
* We decided to tell everyone BEFORE we did the thing, which is just not done in science. You usually prove it before you tell people. The history of science is that of closed doors. We can get away with being open, but what about our students? Us pushing them to being open means our students might get scooped, and that ruins their career.
We publish about the study and then ask for public comments. Sometimes we don't get any, and somtimes they're not good.
* You can't just publish a lab notebook and expect others to know what to do with that. We write stories around it.
* Fruitflies - a group was going to do self-inserting CRISPR, going to publish it as a method for others to use. not thinking about ramifications across everything else. We can't think about all the ramifications on our own.
We claim to be democratizing things, but are we actually distributing everything?
* sequencing that is hand-held. Wearable sequencing. Surveillance of micro-organisms. DIY Bio should be the ultimate in citizen science. Outreach through films and congress and etc.
Informed consent can't be given for algorithmic decision making. What are the folk in Martha's Vineyard consenting to? [side note from Willow to check out the Framework for Consent Policies]
* Ask people to take an exam about if they understand what they're consenting to.
* People are consenting to trying it out right now, not anything else.
As we talk about ideal genetics, who gets to decide about the ideal human? What we currently call disability, what gets expressed and not expressed? What happens to the forms that are or aren't expressed?
* More discussion around how ti INCREASE (not decrease) diversity. There's no ideal put forth. The lesson we learn time and again is that diversity is an extremely good thing. Culture, color, neural, bio. We're selecting for female when we select. We're selecting away from painful diseases.
Is any attention being given to LACK of habitat for these revitalized organisms?
* Yes. We've helped shape de-extinction guidelines. one main one is where they would flourish. Others include that the purpose is encouraging the flourishing the species in its natural habitat, not as a zoo specimen. And that the original cause of the extinction (hunting, pollution, etc) has been removed. increasingly we have new challenges like diseases, invasive species taking down bottleneck.
A CRISPR product has been introduced (a mushroom). There was no policy or regulation around it.
* Let's not demonize a specific tech, but know what we do and don't want from it.

Genetic closing

What's the one rule you love to break, or what is one forbidden thing you're thinking about?
* We break the rule of being silent scientists. Some colleagues say it's not their responsibility to point things out (esp related to their funding). I don't feel edgy stating that we're not like that.
* Do we have a chance to think beyond what we're doing right now?
* people in our field think that we "shouldn't tell the muggles." I think we should. Evolution is amoral, nature is amoral. Evolution hasn't optimized for flourishing and wellbeing, should we be doing that? Is that moral?

Climate

Moderated by Stewart Brand, Editor, Whole Earth Catalog and Founder, Long Now Foundation; with panelists David Keith (Professor of Applied Physics, Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and Professor of Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School) and Gernot Wagner (Research Associate at Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Co-author, Climate Shock).
Geoengineering, or using technological interventions to address climate change, is much on the minds of scientists, policy makers and citizen groups. As our ability to “mess” with nature evolves from science fiction to reality, we are faced with serious questions about whether the possibility of success is worth the massive potential risks. Technologies for reflecting solar radiation back into space are being researched, but what will happen if we deploy them? Who should decide? Who will?

If anything could go wrong with something new, don't do it. Moral hazard is "lack of incentive to guard against risk when one is protected against its consequences." Treating the symptoms of climate change, giving people the ability to ignore the causes. "A junkie figuring out new ways to steal from their children." The Whole Earth Discipline.
Solar geoengineering rests on the simple idea that it's possible to make the whole earth a little more reflective. Reduces the risks of carbon. It's relatively easy and it's relatively cheap. It could also diminish the problems we care about most. We could bring temperatures back to pre industrial. That's not doubted. But does it deal with extreme events like big storms, heatwaves, rising sea levels? We have no real research programs as we don't want to think about it. But now it's been modeled etc. On a region by region basis if used appropriately reduce all these risks, increase productivity of crops worldwide. How do we control and learn more?

Why don't we just stop emitting carbon dioxide? no cars, planes, powerlines. Would it get warmer or colder? Warmer, because we have a delayed feedback loop. Might be up to a century. Solar geoengineering is different. We still have to get emissions to zero. It partially, imperfectly deals with the CO2 we've emitted in history. Lots of questions about tying ourselves to the mast, about messing with history, etc. We're already messing with nature, it's going to keep being messed with. We might be doing less than if we don't do solar geoengineering.

If a person comes in who needs Lipator, they also need to diet and exercise. As an economist, you would reduce your 30 minutes of exercise by 30 seconds. But people actually do 90 and keep doing 90. Those who do none might say "holy shit I need a pill to keep me alive? Maybe I should also take the stairs more often." Because people aren't rational. So if we're talking about acting on solar geoengineering as a response to climate change, are people more or likely to vote for things that reduce emissions?

We have next to no support in doing this. This research has been suggested since 1982. Field experiments might make sense as a study 2 years ago. People don't argue back, but somehow we just can't. There are now formal Chinese programs, EU programs. US programs are done by diverting funds or philanthropic. And this is a sort of political cowardice. Almost all climate models. Some small experiments to understand the key processes to understand the risks and efficacy. All modeling or social sciences (there might be more here and governance than science). We talk more about whether or not its ok to talk about than talking about it.

Want to deliver how to do this in a technical sense, what failure modes would look like, how to monitor for failure, governance structures. Those are our goals within the decade. Sulfuric acid because we know volcanoes do it. Limestone might slightly restore the ozone layer. We know what nature does, how long it lasts, what sort of cooling it does. Sulfate damages the ozone layer. All of this is talk until we get to experiment. Looking at key chemistry interactions which we don't know yet. Release small amounts of various materials we think would work, see how it affects things around it. We're not saying it should be done, we're saying we need to develop the knowledge of how to do it so we can make informed discussions.

We can do better than sulfates for solar geoeng: Calcium carbonate; diamond dust [factory production (vapor deposition) is cheap]. System engineering when we don't fully understand it, is that responsible? We're committed to it. We're already doing it. How do we couple human governance with planetary management? How intelligently are we doing to do this? We're already altering the environment and our planet.

The people most affected by climate change are those in tropical countries who feel the heat the most. The moral pressure to protect those most affected is huge.

Challenge with cutting CO2 emissions: You don't feel the effects of your own actions - CO2 emissions. The reason we aren't cutting emissions, unlike progress with pollution cutting, is because the generation of people who will be cutting CO2 emissions aren't the ones who will benefit from decrease. Simple thing is just to keep putting CO2 in the air. Mitigation takes a long time to get it to happen, slow response time. You're talking about a quick intervention. Solar geoengineering happens within a political cycle.

Urge us not to assume that the natural answer is that the possbility of solar geoengineering. We need to do the best we can to tip the balance of the planet into our survivability. We're up to 8 or 10 professors, getting funders to pay attention to us. Prominent environmental donors are coming up, hoping to tap in there. Harvard and China.

For solar geoeng, it's so cheap that any country could just do it.... [or some individuals]
Some companies, new startups, are working on capturing CO2 in the air. That's less controversial: make low-carbon fuels for power. There is a competitor in Switzerland called Climeworks AG.

CO2 removal is complicated. Solar power is getting cheaper. Can use that to produce hydrogen, combine with sequestered Carbon, make fuel. Carbon in and out of the biosphere, it's like having a pile of flamable stuff in Central Valley California. The cycle is hours (foreset fire) to decades (ecosystem life cycle). To put carbon in the ocean doesn't work.

Recent research showing some hurricanes are being suppressed due to aerosol. Ice sheets are deeper, different.
Clearing up pollution in China -- is that going to warm things up? Should we stop cleaning up the air? No! Europe in the 70s started cleaning up because acid rain etc. For Europe, decreasing tropospheric aerosol pollution has likely incrased temps in the Artic by half a degree celcius. Should we stop killing people? But then stratospheric injection. 50*26 for sulpher we put in the lower atmosphere, [THERE ARE NUMBERS I DON'T KNOW WHAT'S GOING ON -- willow]

We're talking about doing some things on islands to control for impact. What about consent when it's the whole globe?
Sulfur doesn't have sex. if you do a tiny experiment in the stratosphere, and you quit doing it, you're back where you started. There's some small risk bio would run amok. Except for a moral hazard.
But how we make a global decision like this is unprecedented. How do you handle global consensus? There is no global government. For oceans, there's teh World Ocean Commission. 15 or so wise men or women, they don't have any power, it's a talking shop but it's a place to give guidance. Step one is to take the decision away from teh scientists. They can provde the technology but it's literally everyone else who needs to be there for when to turn the knob. We're not tryking to deploy this, we're trying to research it. Are the benefits and costs balanced? Vaccinations were 1000 to 1.

Will we end up with citizen science/disobedience of people doing small versions of this?

by willowbl00 at July 21, 2016 07:31 PM

Forbidden Research liveblog: Against the law: countering lawful abuses of digital surveillance

With bunnie huang, Author, Hacking the Xbox: An Introduction to Reverse Engineering and Edward Snowden. Liveblog by Sam Klein, Erhardt Graeff, and myself.

Introduction and overview from Snowden

This is my first time giving an academic talk, and I think it's the first time a US exile is presenting research at a US academic institution. One of the great things about Cory's talk is that we don't talk enough about how laws are a weak guarentee of outcome. theft, murder, etc still happen.

I'm Edward Snowden, I'm director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation. Some years ago I told the truth about a matter of public importance. Some years ago a warrant was issued for my arrest. I'm no longer allowed to travel freely. I'd like to thank MIT for organizing ths conference and the opportunity to speak to everyone in the room today. For journalists in the audience, that's not a small thing; they deserve credit for living up to that commitment to knowledge. No one is perfect, everyone makes mistakes, but that is quite a risk. This may be the first time an American exile has been able to present research at an American university. That's [already] enough reason to have this talk at a forbidden research conference.

The guiding theme of many of the talks today is that law is no substitute for conscience. Our investigation covers lawful abuse. What is that? It seems it might be a contradiction in terms. When I talked to someone on Twitter, immediately they said 'lawful abuse - it's not a contradiction!' But if you think about it for a moment it might seem more clear. The legality of a think is after all quite distinct from the morality of it. I claim no special expertise for any of this, but having worked for both the NSA he CIA I know about about lawful abuses. After all, mass surveillance was thought to be constitutional... yet it was later found by the courts to be different, after more than a decade. A lawful abuse, I would define as "an immoral or unethical activity protected under a shell of law".

What about things that are more recent? Mass surveillance is closest to my own experience, but let's set that aside. What about torture? the Bush administration decided that this could be indefinitely [legalized]. What about internment? Extra judicial killing, far from any war zone, often by drones? The [targets] may be criminals, or armed combatants -- in many cases, but not all. The fact that these things are changing, often in secret, without anyone's consent, should be concerning.

Such abuses aren't limited strictly to national security. We don't want to this to be about politics between doves and hawks.
Segregation.
Slavery.
Genocide.
These have all been perpetuated under frameworks that said they were lawful as long as you abide by regulations.

Lawful abuse surveillance might be more difficult to spot:

  • A restriction on who and how you can love someone,
  • An intentional tax loophole, or
  • Discrimination.

Lawful abuse: so we've defined the term. [Willow is thinking about an anarchist zine about D&D called "Lawful Ain't Good" and how there are only 8 (not 9) alignments.!]

Combined with legal frameworks, our daily activities produce an endless wealth of records which can and are being used to harm individuals, including those who have themselves done no wrong. If you have a phone in your pocket that's turned on, a long-lived record of your movements has been created. As a result of how the network functions, your devices are constantly shouting into the air, via radio signals, a unique identity that validates you to the phone company. This is not only saved by the phone company, but can be observed as it travels, by independent, even more dangerous third parties.

Due to proliferation of an ancient 3d-party-doctrine style interpretation of law, even the most predatory and unethical data collection regimes are [usually] entirely legal. So if you have a device, you have a dossier. They may not be reading or using it, but it's out there.

Why should we care? Even if there are these comprehensive records of your private activities: where you are, who you went with, how long you were there, who you meet with, what you purchased - any electronic activity records...?
I can think of 1,070 reasons why it matters. According to figures of the committee to protect journalists, more than 1070 journalists or media workers have been killed or gone missing since January 2005. This might not be as intuitive as you expect... we've had a number of wars going on, those could be combat deaths. But: murder is a more common cause of death, and politics was a more common newsbeat [to be targeted] than war correspondence.

Why is this? Because one good journalist in the right place and time can change history. They can move the needle in the context of an election. They can influence the outcome of a war. This makes journalists a target, and increasingly the tools of their trade are being used against them: technology is beginning to betray us not just as individuals but as classes of workers, including those putting a lot on the line in the public interest – especially those who rely on communication as part of their daily work.

And journalists are being targeted specifically based on those communications. A single mistake can have a lot of impact; it can result in detention. For example, David Miranda (related to reporting on Snowden) had his materials seized by the British government, after they intercepted his communications about plans to travel.

It can also result in far worse than that. In Syria, Assad began surveillance the city of Homs, to the extent that all foreign journalists were forced to flee. The government stopped accrediting journalists, and they were being beaten, harassed, disappeared. Only a few remained, including a few who specifically headed there to document abuses being visited upon the population.

Typically in such circumstances , a journalist wouldn't file reports until after they had left the conflict area, to avoid reprisals. But what happens when you can't wait? When there are things a government is sort of arguing aren't happening, but are happening? At the time they denied they were targeting civilians; they were claimed to be enemy combatants. These lawful abuses of activities happen in many places. You say surely this isn't lawful! By international law you are right; by any interpretation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it's not lawful. But domestic laws are a hell of a thing... China, Russia, North Korea, Syria have courts. They have lawyers and general counsels, who create policy and frameworks to justify whatever it is the institutions of power want to do.

In Homs, the Syrian government was lying in a way that affected international relations: they justified the offensive, but there was a reporter there [Marie Colvin] infiltrating the city. She crawled in through a tunnel in the dark, climbing stone walls, not speaking to avoid being fired upon. She said this [the government's claim] was not the case. She filed live report despite the fact they worried about reprisal. She spoke four times to government agencies on a single day. [quote from Colvin's report - "there are only civilian houses here"], the building she was in was later precisely targeted, and she was killed.

This might sound like just another war story. But the next day, the makeshift media center she was working out of, was repeatedly and precisely shelled. She died, as did a French journalist. The photographer she worked with was wounded. It wasn't until a while after that we found, based on intelligence collection, that the Syrian Army had given the order to target journalists. How did they discover her? Know where to aim? According to reporting this week: her family has filed a suit against the Syrian government, claiming the audio frequencies of her communications were intercepted by the army (using direction-finding capabilities). Then they walked artillery fire towards the makeshift media center. They had a spotter somewhere in the city helping. By the time the second shell hit, they know they were in trouble... She was caught by a shell and killed.

There's a question here among policy officials: was this legal, how do we remediate these threats when they happen, when do policies fail? This is an argument that the Syrian government says the event was misunderstood—these were terrorist attacks, or they were lawful.

But does it matter, if it was lawful or not [by national law]? [Perhaps we should ask:] Was it moral? Can we put safeguards in place for future journalists? What about journalists who have to meet with a source in a denied area? They don't want their phone to be shouting indications of their movements.

This is the area of our research.

We also wanted to investigate: Can we use devices, that are so frequently used against us, as a canary to detect these new efforts to monitor us? (ex: malware attacks, to compromise the phone)

For example, there was an Argentine prosecutor [Alberto Nisman] who was killed. They discovered malware on his phone. It did not match the OS, so it was not responsible in that case, but it was clearly an attempt has been made to compromise devices and use them against him. This same attack was used on other lawyers and journalists in Latin America.

If we can start using our devices as a canary to know when phones have been compromised, and can get that to a targeted class of individuals—journalists or human rights workers—so they know they are acting in unexpected ways. We can affect the risk calculation of the offending actors. The NSA is very nervous about getting caught red-handed. They don't want to be known to target these groups, journalists and lawyers. They have only done this rarely; it's not their meat and potatoes [but it has happened].

But if we can find out when it happens, we can start to change the risk calculation. If we can create a clear record of activites. In the cases so far, impunity was the most frequent outcome. Perhaps, we can start affecting the cost of carrying out lawful abuse of digital surveillance.

Let's go to the technical side and talk about what we've done. [to bunnie]

bunnie tells us about the technical parts

There are a lot of smart people working to turn phones into cyber fortresses. But smartphones are a large, complicated attack surface. Can you trust the gatekeeper and UI? If you read things about airplane mode after ios8, it doesn't turn off GPS. It's constantly on without any indicator on the phone. So you can turn on bluetooth or wifi mode... but The little icon makes you still think you're not sending or receiving signals. Can we have a CCTV on our own phone? Technical goal is to be sure the cellular model, WiFi, GPS, etc. Trying to secure this against a state-level adversary is difficult. Turn over the phone and look on the back, and you have a surface that's simpler, with only two notable features: antennae. A choke point for things going in or out. If you want to ensure your phone isn't sending signals, you can turn on airplane mode.

Technique: "Direct introspection"
Principles:

  1. OS and inspectable, you don't have to trust us.
  2. partitioned execution environment for introspection. (in case phone was compromised, don't ask it to self-eval)
  3. proper operation field-verifiable,
  4. hard to trigger false positives (like walking by a strong wifi emitter),
  5. hard to trigger false negatives Vendor can put holes in a wall that you once thought was intact.
  6. be undetectable: avoid leaving a signature that's easy to profile (that you're introspecting)
  7. intuitive interface :) Shouldn't have to be a cryto person to use it.
  8. final solution should be usable every day; not hard to do while traveling in and out of protected areas.

With that in mind, I went to shenzhen and started buying a bunch of bits and bobs. Are there any viable signals to introspect? We found signals strongly correlated w/ activation of the radio. even firmware updates would have a hard time bypassing that. Candidate wires/signals: configuring antenna switches, configuring power amps, baseband to comms, wlan to comms, reseting pci bus, bluetooth to comms, gps quality sync.

Next steps:

  • Develop hardware. Build circuit to monitor signals. "Battery case" add-on to existing iPhone 6
  • Extend technique. Other makes and models of phones. Filesystem and OS integrity using disk introspection.

Closing

See more: htps://goog.lg/y0Fslu and pubpub.org/pub/direct-radio-introspection

This was my first acad collab; having bunnie as your first collaborator is amazing. He is one of those individuals whose competence gives people impostor syndrome. So, I'll do my best. thank you very much.

by willowbl00 at July 21, 2016 06:53 PM

Global Voices
Will Trinidad & Tobago Students Be Last Out of the Gate if the Government Stops Funding Tertiary Education?
"UWI at sunset"; photo by Aneil Lutchman via CestLaVibe.com, used under a CC BY-SA 2.0 license.

“UWI at sunset.” Photo by Aneil Lutchman / CestLaVibe.com. CC BY-SA 2.0.

In 1962, on the eve of Trinidad and Tobago's independence from Great Britain, the twin island republic's first prime minister, Eric Williams, reminded the nation's youth that they “carry the future of Trinidad and Tobago in [their] school bags.” In the 1970s, when the country's economy was booming thanks to the oil revenues it enjoyed in the midst of the global energy crisis, Williams’ party, the People's National Movement (PNM) (which is now in power), introduced free tertiary education. The programme was discontinued by the following decade, but it's since had several reincarnations.

There was the “Dollar for Dollar” education plan, launched under the United National Congress (UNC) administration (which is now out of power), through which the government promised to pay half the fees for new enrollment at tertiary institutions. Then the PNM replaced it with the Government Assistance for Tertiary Education (GATE) programme. The 50-percent funding was still there, and the breadth of the programme was expanded to include privately funded, tertiary-level approved institutions. By 2006, the government agreed to pay 100 percent of university tuition fees for citizens.

Now, as Trinidad and Tobago finds its economy contracting, a public debate rages about the merits of “free” tertiary education as another PNM administration considers whether or not to do away with the GATE programme. Meanwhile, a Cabinet Task Force charged with finding ways to reduce the cost of GATE presented its finding this month, and the minister of education has admitted that insufficient data about the programme is raising questions as to whether or not it has been aiding economic development.

There are compelling cases for and against the programme. For several years now, Dr. Roger Hosein, an economist at the St. Augustine campus of the University of the West Indies, has recommended doing away with GATE — or at least restructuring the funding model — calling it a “manifestation of the resource-curse problem at work.” In his view, the state is educating citizens who can afford to pay and poorer students are suffering as a result.

Anthony Wilson, a business journalist, has challenged this view, writing in 2012:

By that logic, there should be discriminatory pricing of all of the goods and services provided by the State such as water, electricity, healthcare, primary education and secondary education. […] The universal funding of tertiary-level education by the State must be seen, not as a subsidy, but as an investment of taxpayers’ dollars in the development of the country’s human resource capital.

Meanwhile, the country's opposition leader has said that she is “deeply concerned” about some of the Task Force's recommendations, which include a proposal that university students should pay one third of their fees (which students have said they can't afford) and that the state should stop all postgraduate assistance. Other experts are suggesting that cutbacks will help to prevent a “brain drain” on the country.

Social media users have been very outspoken about the issue. On Facebook, Rhoda Bharath wrote:

I'm watching the GATE argument unfold.
I have one thing to add….economy in recession.
In short, how will we pay for it? What we cutting to fund GATE? Where are we finding 650m?
Once all yuh could answer that, I willing to listen.

In a follow-up status update, she asked:

Am I the only person remembering Dollar 4 Dollar? When the State paid 50% of a student's tuition fee?
How is offering to pay 66% during a recession a bad thing?
*waits on arguments equating the cost of a state funeral with GATE*

A lecturer at the University of the West Indies, one of the tertiary institutions that GATE covers, Bharath has an intimate understanding of the process, which she shared in this post:

The UWI works under the credit system.
Caricom students pay subsidised fees as a result of an arrangement between the countries who all contribute to the upkeep of the UWI.
The non-subsidized fees represent the full economic cost of a degree (100%) and go as follows:
Food and Agriculture US$ 290.00 per credit.
Science and Technology US$ 290.00 per credit.
Humanities & Education US$335 per credit.
Social Sciences US$335 per credit.
Engineering US$ 410 per credit.
Law US$ 310 per credit.
A full degree is 90 credits.
The full economic cost of tuition for an undergraduate degree in any of these listed faculties ranges from US$26,100.00 to US$36,900.
Or if I converted it to TT at an exchange rate of TT$ 6.25 to US$1.00 (hahahahahah):
TT$163,125.00 – TT$230,625.00.
That's what it actually costs the government to educate each UWI student. Depending on their degree option of course.
Know what the actual tuition fees charged are for the various faculties per annum?
Food and Agriculture TT$12,600.00
Science and Technology TT$12,600.00
Humanities&Education TT$12,000.00
Social Sciences TT$12,000.00
Engineering TT$18,000.00
Law TT$13,500.00
Now consider that in the midst of a recession the state is asking you to shoulder 1/3rd of the last set of fees I posted here.
‪#‎Spreadsheets
‪#‎UseDataNotEmotion
‪#‎GateGate

Patricia Worrell, who also worked at the university, noted:

I have a number of things to say on this topic, and some may seem contradictory, but they're not.
a) I agree that GATE has been abused, and it needs to be kept in some form, but seriously streamlined. Our young people MUST have opportunities for furthering their education, but if taxpayers must pay in a time of economic challenges, those opportunities must 1) be aligned to our developmental priorities 2) be provided first to those most in need 3) be treated as opportunities which, if abused, will be given to others. I saw too many instances at UWI of students who used GATE as an opportunity to sample programmes, work in a half-assed way, and leave as soon as things got too demanding, or insufficiently entertaining.

b) I think the scholarship programme needs to be scrutinized in the same way, and the demands there may need to be made more stringent as well.

c) I think the timing for doing this could have been better. You don't tell students in July that you will be making changes that may start affecting them in September. If I have to pay for my education I have to make arrangements. If my parents can't afford it, I may need to start saving – this is not enough time to do it, and it puts unnecessary stress on young people and their parents, who don't yet know where they stand.

The feeling that many students take advantage of GATE is widespread, even on Twitter:

There's now a hashtag making the rounds on Facebook — #dayswithoutgate — in which people who have been through the local tertiary education system without the financial assistance of GATE shared their memories. The underlying message is that although things were not easy, students of that era were made better by the challenges. Facebook user Keith Francis remembered quite a few high points:

When you had to book time to get to use a computer for an hour and you had to make that hour count
‪#‎DaysWithoutGATE

When the Logos touch down and the cheap books they had sell off because they were better than the prescribed texts
‪#‎DaysWithoutGATE

Sitting down in the bank every August with your parents to get that next loan
‪#‎DaysWithoutGATE

Cabinet has not yet taken a decision about GATE funding, but Prime Minister Keith Rowley has said the government is “committed to maintaining the programme,” though it wants to “cut out the abuse.”

by Janine Mendes-Franco at July 21, 2016 06:26 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
Turkey Adds Wikileaks to a Long List of Blocked Websites
Cartoon rendering of Erdogan riding an email into a pillar of democracy. Cartoon by Carlos Latuff/Wikileaks.

Cartoon rendering of Erdogan riding an email into a pillar of democracy. Cartoon by Carlos Latuff/Wikileaks.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan doesn't mind sharing pictures from his daughter's wedding or from his various visits and meetings with international leaders.

But he does seem to mind when his emails as well as thousands of other internal emails sent and received within the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) make it into public eye.

Shortly after Wikileaks released 294,548 such emails into the public, the site was blocked countrywide.

The announcement of the leak read as follows:

Today, 11pm Anakara Time, WikiLeaks releases part one of the AKP Emails. AKP, or the Justice & Development Party, is the ruling party of Turkey and is the political force behind the country's president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Part one of the series covers 762 mail boxes beginning with ‘A’ through to ‘I’ containing 294,548 email bodies together with many thousands of attached files. The emails come from “akparti.org.tr”, the AKP's primary domain. The most recent was sent on July 6, 2016. The oldest dates back to 2010. It should be noted that emails associated with the domain are mostly used for dealing with the world, as opposed to the most sensitive internal matters.

The material was obtained a week before the attempted coup. However, WikiLeaks has moved forward its publication schedule in response to the government's post-coup purges. We have verified the material and the source, who is not connected, in any way, to the elements behind the attempted coup, or to a rival political party or state.

A Turkish official told Al Jazeera that their primary motive in blocking the website was to bar local access to sensitive information, such as the personal contact data of public officials, and of private citizens who had emailed government agencies.

It is not difficult to imagine that Erdogan was also seeking to block public access to his own communications with this move.

The government has developed a reputation as one of the world's most block-happy, making regular requests to Facebook and Twitter to suspend anti-AKP and Erdogan accounts.

In the last three or so years the space for independent media in the country has shrunk markedly, with pro-opposition papers and media delving into the conflict in the Kurdish-speaking east teetering on the brink of extinction.

But the relative value of the leak in Turkey's current context is still being questioned by Turkish netizens.

Lack of interest in the leaks may also be due to the fact that many people are still struggling to make sense of happenings in Turkey after the drama of the failed military coup.

Not to mention the time and patience it takes to parse through 294,548 apparently unremarkable emails.

by Arzu Geybullayeva at July 21, 2016 05:33 PM

Jessica Valenti
Thank you!!
That’s it for me today, folks. I’m going to try to go through my inbox and answer some questions...

July 21, 2016 05:00 PM

Global Voices
A Protection Ritual to ‘Close the Body’ Links Different Religious Traditions in Brazil
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Candomblé. Photo by Flickr user Luciano Paiva. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

When the slave trade came to Brazil in the 16th century, African religious beliefs and rituals survived the long and treacherous journey along with it. Over the centuries, such beliefs would come to unify many of the descendants of the estimated four million slaves brought to the country, through the modern-day Afro-Brazilian religions of Candomblé and Umbanda.

During the same period of colonization, 700,000 Portuguese immigrants settled in Brazil, bringing their own particular kind of Catholicism with them. Some of those settlers would attempt to carve out a home in the unforgiving desert of the Sertão.

The two ethnic groups would come to share not only much of the same region — the Northeast — but also an important aspect between their religions — a ritual known as the fechamento de corpo, or closing of the body.

The fechamento de corpo is based on a protection prayer that results in a corpo fechado, or closed body. The ritual is meant to ward off evil — either spiritual, physical or both. If the insurance sought was physical in nature, the receiver would believe themself safe from attacks no matter the weapon, including knives, guns or even snake venom.

So how did the fechamento de corpo become a common thread running through such different religious traditions in Brazil? The history begins more than five hundred years ago.

Catholicism as a cloak

In the 15th century, the Portuguese went to Africa in search of a route to India, started producing sugarcane then moved onto the more lucrative business of slavery. During the same period, in Sub-Saharan Africa, missionaries from Portugal arrived with the aim of converting the locals.

The later manifestation of African belief systems in Brazil suggests their mission wasn’t fully successful. Rather than Africans changing their beliefs fundamentally, they ended up supplementing and/or disguising them with elements of the religion of the Portuguese slavers, Catholicism. One of the African beliefs to come under this Catholic cloak was the closed body ritual.

The Brazilian magazine Mundo Estranho wrote about this concealment in a January 2014 article:

Naquela época, chegaram ao país os primeiros africanos de origem iorubá, um povo que ocupava a região onde hoje ficam Nigéria, Benin e Togo. A religião dos iorubás era o candomblé, mas eles aportaram no Brasil como escravos e não podiam cultuar suas divindades livremente […] Por causa dessa proibição, os escravos começaram a associar suas divindades com os santos católicos para exercerem sua fé disfarçadamente. Como os santos católicos são bem numerosos, existem divindades que são identificadas com mais de um santo. Por exemplo: Oxóssi, o rei da caça, é associado a São Jorge e a São Sebastião.

At the time, the first Africans, of Yoruba descent, arrived in Brazil, a people that occupied the region where one finds Nigeria, Benin and Togo today. The Yoruba religion was Candomblé, but they arrived in Brazil as slaves and couldn’t worship their gods freely […] Due to this ban, the slaves started to associate their gods with Catholic saints to practice their faith in secret. As the Catholic saints are numerous, there are divinities that are identified as more than one saint. For example: Oxóssi, the king of hunting, is associated with Saint George and Saint Sebastian.

Candomblé as a religion was formalized in the 19th century. Then came Umbanda in the 20th century, which is mainly a mixture of Candomblé and Spiritism, which itself is a religious movement that believes in the existence of spirits and reincarnation.

The two African-based religions are “comparable to Christianity and Islam” since “they have completely different foundations, rites, visions and interpretations”, according to the blog Tenda de Umbanda Filhos da Vovó Rita, which is run by an Umbanda terreiro (a temple) in Santa Catarina. However, the blog explains that Candomblé and Umbanda do share some commonalities such as devotion to gods known as Orixás and the use of beads and hand drums.

And they both practice the closed body ritual. Interestingly, the ritual — also called ‘kura’, or cure — is usually practiced every year on Good Friday, before the Christian holiday Easter, throughout temple houses across Brazil.

The blog O Candomblé explains the ritual process:

As Kuras são incisões feitas no corpo do Yaô (noviço já iniciado no Candomblé), que por um lado representam o símbolo de cada tribo, como o símbolo de cada Ilê (casa ou terreiro), mas têm o objectivo de fechar o corpo do Yaô, protegendo-o de todo o tipo de influência negativas.

Para isso são feitas as incisões (o que chamamos de abrir) e nessas incisões é colocado o Atim (pó) de defesa para aquele Yaô (iniciado). O Atim tem uma composição base de diversas plantas e substâncias, mas o Atim utilizado para as Kuras, contêm também as ervas do Orixá daquele Yaô em quem ele vai ser aplicado.

The Cures are incisions made in the body of the already initiated novice of Candomblé, which in part represent the symbol of each tribe, like the symbol of each temple, but they have the aim of closing the body of the initiate, protecting it from all types of negative influences.

To this end, incisions are made (what we call “openings”) and in these incisions a powder is placed, for the protection of that initiate. The powder consists of various plants and substances, but the kind used for Cures also contains the herbs specific to the deity of the initiate receiving the application.

Umbanda, on the other hand, generally employs less invasive methods to “close” the body. Instead of incisions, the chief of the temple house will use a mix of herbs and other ingredients and gently do the symbol of the cross over different parts of the body of the person undergoing the ritual.

The ingredients vary. According to the blog Sete Porteiras, elements such as keys, white chalk, herbs, olive oil, chains, amulets, prayers, candles, water, shells, steel chains and garlic are commonly used. Each temple chief will have their own particular way of manipulating the physical elements meant for astral protection.

A bandit's prayers for protection

Afro-Brazilians weren't the only ones practicing the closing of the body. Resident peasants of Portuguese origin, who would go on to be called sertanejos — akin to the American cowboy — also took up the ritual.

Located in the northeastern hinterlands, the Sertão is the Brazilian desert. Low annual rainfall in the region has historically lead to droughts as well as soil that doesn’t lend to itself to crop growth. There, life is cyclical, full of sacrifice and daily battles, but despite this, its population survives and continues on. Euclides da Cunha, a Brazilian author and reporter who covered the War of Canudos, a peasant rebellion that happened in the late 19th century in the Sertão, spoke of the rural peasant’s longevity and strength, when he said “the sertanejo is, above all, a fortress”.

6101956480_52c166dfb6_b

Sertanejo home. Photo by Flickr user Wagner Rochink. CC BY 2.0

The region is home to a distinct culture. Over the centuries, oral traditions have blended and given rise to rich literature known as cordel; musical styles such as forró, frevo, xaxado, samba de roda and samba de coco; and winter festivals (during the rainy season) centering around Saint John the Baptist.

Religion in the Sertão also has a unique twist. Peasants created their own kind of rural Catholicism in Brazil, combining “magic, superstition, the presence of amulets, prayers of strength and protection, women of prayer, and the pious”, according to social scientist Max Silva D'Oliveira. This included the closed body ritual.

In the dissertation titled “O Mandonismo do Sertão” (The Despotism of the Sertão), author Luis Carlos Mendes Santiago describes various methods and ceremonies for closing one's body in the Sertão. They sometimes go beyond simple prayers. In one instance, described by famed Brazilian anthropologist Câmara Cascudo, the recipient remains standing, with the right foot over the left, in a bucket of water, while receiving hand gestures made with a key. Another manner includes having a nun sew sacramental bread — considered to be the body of Christ — under one's skin while prayers and ritual movements are undertaken.

One of the most high-profile sertanejos to practice the closed body ritual was Virgulino Ferreira da Silva, better known as Lampião. He was Brazil’s most famous bandit leader, operating in the Brazilian Northeast during the 1920s and 30s. American author Billy Jaynes Chandler, who wrote the book “Bandit King”, likens him to United States’ Jesse James, and while Lampião ardently and continuously broke the law, he never broke with his religious beliefs, which extended into the mystical.

The blog Lampião Aceso describes Lampião's beliefs in the era of nomadic banditry:

…onde era comum a crença de que aquele que soubesse alguma oração de corpo-fechado e tomasse seus cuidados, estaria protegido contra a peste e as balas mortais dos inimigos. Lampião e seus cangaceiros recitavam esta oração diariamente. O líder do cangaço acreditava que a força da fé era suficiente para protegê-los dos perigos naturais do Sertão […]. Outro guerreiro, séculos antes, tornou-se símbolo da proteção divina: São Jorge, que corresponde, na mitologia, ao Orixá dos exércitos e dos guerreiros. […] Lampião incluiu em sua oração de fechamento de corpo não só vários elementos da oração a São Jorge, como principalmente a imensa religiosidade que recobre o povo sertanejo.

…it was common to believe that those who knew some closed body prayer and took precautions would be protected against disease and the mortal bullets of one's enemies. Lampião and his gang recited such prayers daily. The bandit leader believed that the power of faith was enough to protect them from the natural dangers of the Sertão […]. Another warrior, centuries before, became a symbol of divine protection: Saint George, who corresponds, in mythology, to the Orixá of armies and warriors. […] Lampião included in his closed body prayer not just some elements of Saint George's prayer, but also the huge religious nature of the hinterland population.

In addition to merely reciting protection prayers, Lampião was well known among both his fellow bandits and enemies for his ability to see “beyond”. Not only that, but his enemies in the Forças Volantes – solders who were contracted to fight the bandits — also took the meaning of their own dreams to heart. In the book “Lampião: Senhor do Sertão” (Lampião: Master of the Sertão), author Elise Grunspan-Jasmin explains further:

Lampião não tinha somente o dom de interpretar os sinais anunciadores de boa fortuna, de perigo ou de desgraça. Dizia-se que era dotado de uma intuição de adivinho e, de acordo com alguns dos seus companheiros, de um ‘sexto sentido': ele ‘via’ o que os inimigos procuravam dissumular e também o que ninguém tinha possibilidade de ‘ver’.

Lampião didn't just have the gift of interpreting signs announcing good fortune, danger or bad luck. It is said that he was gifted with the intuition of a fortune teller and, according to some of his companions, a ‘sixth sense': he ‘saw’ what his enemies tried to hide and also what no one was able to ‘see’.

Despite his daily prayers for protection, Lampião, who must have felt invincible during his 16-year reign as Brazil's top outlaw, was eventually betrayed, leading to his death by police troops. His “closed” body was literally opened and part of it put on public display as a deterrent to others who might take up his cause. It could be said his death is proof that the closed body ritual doesn't work, but perhaps his nearly two decades as an outlaw proves the opposite.

A recourse for those who had it roughest

Most interesting of all is not that the closed body ritual lives or dies with certain people, but that it survives culturally, even after centuries, even when practiced by descendants of two completely different social groups.

Even though rituals such as the closing of the body didn't come from Brazil, the fact that they took root there, among those who had it the roughest — descendants of slaves and settlers of the Sertão – seems to be no coincidence. Perhaps the reason it survives can be found in the landscape, both geographical and religious, where it has the most relevance — a point of convergence which just happens to be Brazil.

by Adam Lee at July 21, 2016 05:00 PM

MIT Center for Civic Media
Introduction to Forbidden Research

Liveblog by Sam Klein and myself

Joi (director of the Media Lab), Opening

Research is forbidden when it won't get peer reviewed, you'll be ridiculed, your lab won't get any new students. Academic freedom is diminishing. We're not killed any more for the things we say and do (mostly). But looking at Nobel prizes, people are taking career-risking moves to discover something. Civic did an event called Freedom to Innovate. Laws for criminals used to stifle innovation. Courage needed to explore these areas on Forbidden Research.

So we're asking ourselves: how does an institution become robust? Laws etc put in place to protect the status quo. Academic institutions or society should question the status quo. All the things in history that we see as moments of social change have to do with doing taboo things. Reed Hoffman has agreed to support a Disobedience Prize ($250k). Difficult to award because "what is societally useful disobedience" ends up being complicated. We don't have a firm date but it's an experiment.

Ethan (director of Center for Civic Media)

This is public and on the record. Robotic cameras for live streaming. Hashtag is #ForbiddenML. Jeremy Rubin in late 2013 put together TidBit. Instead of an ad displaying, mined bitcoin and awarded it to the content creator. NJ district attorney didn't like this, issued a supeona. EFF came to defend him. What do we as MIT do when students/members of out community find themselves in trouble?

This is about Star Simpson and Aaron Swartz as well.

Pushing the limits and coming against legal issues when asking questions which are important to ask.

Freedom To Innovate. How do we protect the freedom to take on novel new research, deal with legal barriers? Not just the legal side of things, also need to be able to audit algorithms (bumps into how we're supposed to use websites). Research gets forbidden for all sorts of reasons. So big and consequential (who has the right to make this decision), icky/uncomfortable.

We are at a particularly dark moment in the US. A wave of violence targeted at people of color. And a wave targeted at police. Gun culture which we cannot study as a public health issue because in 1996 we cannot give money to the CDC to study gun violence. We know restrictions on what we can study and research are restrictions on an open society. Turkey is cracking down on academics as well. It's important that we find ways to be creatively and pro-socially disobedient. Being careful about their ethics.

And on the note of exploration of activism and prosocial disobedience through scifi, here's Cory!

Cory Doctorow

Academia is characterized by disagreement, by cut and thrust. Unfortunately, there is denialism, which is manufactured controversy. An example: smoking. A few high paid people cast doubt on links to cancer. The next movement was the AIDS denial movement was next, rivaling the cancer the denial of the Smoking Movement. In South Africa, one charlatan claimed that AIDS was caused by vitamin deficiency rather than HIV and required his brand of vitamins. He was friends with the president. 3,000 died and in South Africa the HIV rate went from 1% to 25%. When people call you out, you have to be able to silence them. They sued the Guardian for publishing the story that said the vitamins were bullshit. AIDS denial begat climate change denial.

Most interesting to the MIT crowd is Turing completeness denial. People want them to only run computers that don't make you sad. We haven't done that not because the nerds aren't complying with justice but because this is how computers work. Digital Rights Management is one of the key problems coming from Turing Completeness Denial. Cryptography denial has come out of this, which we thought was over in the 1990s. Privacy denial: you have nothing to hide so you have nothing to fear.

Denialism leads to Nihilism. These problems get worse when we deny them. People smoke light cigarettes. People kept having unprotected sex without taking anti-retroviral drugs. Or we insist we can build on flood planes or emit a lot of carbon and that it's going to be totally fine. It's fine. In the realms of DRM, the reason artists aren't getting paid isn't because of bad relationships with those that distribute there work, it's because people aren't listening to it in the right way. If we just force people to listen to music in the right way means more money in artists' pockets rather than better contracts with their producers.

In Crypto-denial, we build out infrastructure with known holes that law enforcement can use. But these can't be remediated because they live out in the real world and can't be patched. Recent baseband radio exploit. Even things with strong crypto are unecrypted on this front. We encourage the formation of business based on harvesting our data with the promise we can some day use that data for profit. Saying they're wrong would be unacceptable, so laws are passed instead saying you can't say anything. The flaws will still be weaponized, it will just be too late for them to know. We also create giant terms of service. We agree that they can take all of our information. [shows Pokemon Go ToS]. You've agreed to them having access to all your information and etc, which means it's ok that they're going it. It's too much trouble to even bother with. Been smoking all these years, all this carbon in the air, etc. "I'm going to leak my data no matter what so I might as well join Facebook and get invited to some parties on the way to the information apocalypse."

The problem becomes undeniable. CFAA makes violating ToS a felony, which means we can't investigate who collects what and how because we'd be violating ToS. DMCA makes it illegal to publish the flaws in the very system. DRM becomes an attractive nuisance. You can sue anyone who breaks it even for lawful purposes. We have lightbulbs with DRM. A firmware update from Philips made their lightsockets reject lightbulbs from other manufacturers. Because DRM, it was briefly possible to commit a felony by choosing to plug your own lightbulb into a Phillips light fixture, until they rolled the update back after public outrage.
So who wouldn't want to wrap their product in DRM? We have it on EVERYTHING. It is potentially lethal for you not to know how these systems work.

At some point we reach a point of peak indifference. This is the moment the activist tactics change. We're no longer telling people it's unacceptable, we're telling them it's even possible to change. A year ago, the Office of Personnel Management leaked a list of all the people who had recently applied for security clearance. Office of Emergency management, you told the gov everything that could be used to blackmail you. And that was breached and likely sold to the Chinese government. Of course, now you care about privacy.

It's not just the government. Ashley Madison is another example. "Ratters" will compromise social media channels, dig up nude images and then blackmail their victims into performing live sex acts for them. Often the victims are underage and Ratters can rack up hundreds of victims. People find themselves unable to ignore these problems any more. Their cars are being hijacked. Information stitched together to replicate housing paperwork and sell your house. Farmers are up in arms about John Deere locking up their diagnostic information about tractors and soil density to know about what to plant where. But you don't have access to that information, they sell it back to you along with seeds from groups like Monsanto. Farming magazines are now running ads upset about this. The moment when everyone starts caring about this is when we can avert Nihilism. This when you encourage people to install strong encryption. If you catch it you can help people move from indifference to making a difference.

Dealing with all of this requires principles. A way to defend them from future people like yourself who might waver in their commitment. A way to make it up to date. GNU Linux licensing regime is a great example of this in our community. Computers should serve rather than enslave people. You should be able to run your code, understand your code, improve your code, and share it with other people. The tactic is the GPL. There are no backsies, if you start your business under high minded ideals with opening up computers. No matter how desperate things become about payroll or acquisition or investors you can never GPL your code. And if people know that, they won't ask you. They pressure you on different things.

"Ulysses Pact" named after the mythical hero who lashed himself to the mast saying he would go down with the ship. You're doing something like throwing out your Oreos on day 1 of your diet not because you are weak-willed then, but because you are strong-willed enough to know that a day will come when you DON'T have your strong will.

We wanted to build a beautiful thing of the internet and instead we built the biggest surveillance mechanism ever. No one is the villain of their own story. The founders of the internet each made tiny little compromises along the way that made this possible. We need rules to guard us from ourselves. We as pirates must protect future pirates from our future admiral selves.

Cory's suggested principles

  1. Computers should always obey their owners.
  2. True facts about computers should always be legal to disclose.

Build them into our Terms. If the FDA is going to certify an implant they have to require the company to never bring DRM suit. We can incorporate them into the definition of open standards.

These are rules for rulebreaking. The werewolf sin is not turning into a werewolf but failing to lock yourself up at night before the full moon comes out. Your trick is not to stay pure, it's to guard yourself against the times you're a werewolf.

EFF filed a brief against the 1201 of DMCA as contrary to the 1st amendment. Apollo 1201, our new initiative, wants to end all DMCA within a decade. This is our opening salvo.

Closing

Ethan: Our Goal is 1 lawsuit per panel, so we're on track so far.

by willowbl00 at July 21, 2016 04:45 PM

Jessica Valenti
What is the best thing you ever did in your life?
Marry my husband. Sounds a bit cheesy, I realize. But he is an excellent partner in both life, love...

July 21, 2016 04:42 PM

What is your favourite snack?
Fig Newtons and radishes. (Not at the same time)

July 21, 2016 04:40 PM

what's your advice on dealing with catcalling and whilstling
I think it depends entirely on the situation. I really do think that people facing catcalling or...

July 21, 2016 04:40 PM

what is your favourite book of all time?
That’s such a hard one! Probably One Hundred Years of Solitude, if you count “favorite” as the one I...

July 21, 2016 04:27 PM

Why does the Guardian US hire you to write articles?
Because I’m really smart and a shit ton of people read me.

July 21, 2016 04:22 PM

Hi! What is your best advice on responding to online hate/trolls & for self-care afterwards?
Well, I guess I’d say you don’t always have to respond. Sometimes it’s best to walk away (though I...

July 21, 2016 04:20 PM

What do you like to cook? do you like to make candy or some pie? Do you like cinnamon buns? Sorry, I'm nervous. Hahah 😬
No need to be nervous! I’m actually not much of a baker, sadly. More of a savory sort of person....

July 21, 2016 04:16 PM

Who or what inspires you ? :)
My daughter, Layla, hands down. For this last year she’s been working really hard to overcome...

July 21, 2016 04:14 PM

Hey Jessica! My question is simply do you think planning a story before you write it is important? Thanks!
Thanks a really interesting question! I think it depends, honestly. For my past books (before Sex...

July 21, 2016 04:11 PM

Hello, I hope you're having a nice day. My name is Erica and I was wondering whether you had any advise for aspiring authors. Thank you.
Hi Erica! Some of the advice is the same as the advice I gave in the last question. But if you’re...

July 21, 2016 04:09 PM

What advice would you give to a young person that wants to be a writer :)
Read as much as possible. Become like the world’s best reader. Pitch EVERYWHERE but don’t write...

July 21, 2016 04:07 PM

Global Voices
Viral Photos of Fukushima Win Media Attention Abroad, Criticism From Some in Japan
Screenshot of a tweet by Keow Wee Loong.

“Laundry left behind since march 2011 in fukushima exclusion zone.” Screenshot of a tweet by Keow Wee Loong.

After an aspiring professional photographer from Malaysia claimed to have snuck into the Fukushima exclusion zone, his images went viral. Then the social media backlash began.

The story is an example of the general fascination that surrounds the name “Fukushima” following the March 2011 nuclear disaster, the sense of entitlement some non-Japanese visitors feel when spending time in the country, and the burning resentment felt by Japan's foreign-born population when they feel their adopted home is being disrespected or misrepresented in the media.

In early June 2016, Keow Wee Loong, 27, a photographer from Malaysia, posted photos to his Twitter account about a trip he said he took to an abandoned town in Fukushima. Five years earlier, following a large earthquake and tsunami, a series of explosions at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex forced tens of thousands of residents to evacuate from the Futaba region of Fukushima Prefecture.

While many residents of the region have been able to return to their homes, some parts of the town of Namie in Okuma have remained sealed off due to relatively high levels of radiation. Residents have never been able to return to clean up their homes and shops following the earthquake, and some neighborhoods remain as they were in March 2011.

Loong chose to enter this “exclusion zone” to do a bit of urban exploration and snap some photos:

By the middle of July, Loong's photos of the deserted homes, shops and streets of Namie in Fukushima had gone viral, and were picked up by Western media outlets such as the Daily Express, the Guardian and Lonely Planet.

CNN reported that Loong essentially defied authorities (and Japanese laws) by “sneaking in,” and Time Magazine even ran an interview with Loong:

For Loong, getting published in TIME seemed to indicate the realization of his dream to be recognized as a photographer. He wrote on Facebook:

Back in 2013, ever since i watch the movie about LIFE ,i always wanted to be publish on TIME MAGAZINE , i try so hard shooting alot of things but yet my photo was never publish and being appreciated by anyone.. when i stop trying so hard and do what i wanted to do , my dream came true…….

screencap fukushima

Screenshot from Keow Wee Loong's Facebook page.

Loong previously received some fame and attention for climbing skyscrapers in Dubai and Malaysia, and also for snowboarding down a volcano:

‘Beyond disrespectful to victims’

Some netizens with connections to Japan, however, were outraged by Loong's behavior in the off-limits areas of Fukushima. There were questions about why Loong's successful attempt to break the law was tolerated or even encouraged, and also worries about what his photos would do to Fukushima's reputation.

In a Facebook group run by and for foreign assistant English-conversation teachers living and working in Fukushima, one post about Loong's adventures resulted in plenty of discussion and condemnation:

PSA: there's a photoset circulating of a man who broke into the Fukushima exclusion zone and entered people's businesses and homes to take photos.

If you see it, please don't repost it or spread it. Not only is what he did illegal, but beyond disrespectful to victims of the disaster who had no choice but to leave their homes. Additionally, his post is full of misinformation about the disaster, radiation, and much more.

Please help promote this beautiful prefecture, not damage its image further for posterity and internet fame.

In a post titled An Open Letter to the “Fukushima Exclusion Zone” Photographer, Keow Wee Loong, an anonymous blogger writing in English said:

Are you sure this wasn’t just some publicity stunt, a last-ditch effort to get your 10 seconds of Internet fame? Because from where I’m standing, that’s exactly what it was: A cheap, disrespectful publicity stunt that oozes desperation in both its vision and execution.

The open letter itself went viral among English-speaking Twitter users with an interest in or connection to Japan.

In a thread about the Malaysian photographer in the English-language r/Japan subreddit, the consensus was that, besides being an attention seeker, Loong was guilty of trespassing. One Redditor noted:

The area surrounding the buildings are open to all, but the buildings in these areas are owned by people and CANNOT BE LEGALLY ENTERED WITHOUT OWNER PERMISSION […] Kaow took photos of himself inside businesses that are privately owned and thus cannot be entered without permission, which he has admitted he did not get. In other words, he DID admit to trespassing.

Another photographer, Arkadiusz Podniesiński, who had actually covered the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011 and recently published photos from the area affected by the accident, pointed out that Loong may never have actually entered most highly-contaminated areas of Namie that are still off-limits to the general public.

Alfie Goodrich, himself a Japan-based photographer well-known for his editorial and advertising photography, tweeted a link to Podniesiński's blog post:

In the blog post, Podniesiński carefully plots out the location of Loong's photographs and concludes:

I have visited Fukushima many times to document the destruction caused by the disaster at the nuclear power plant, and so I did not have any major problems identifying the sites where Keow Wee Loong took his photographs. It quickly turned out that all of the photos he took were not taken in the red no-go zones as he claimed, but only in the open green zone (sometimes orange) as well as on Road No. 6, which runs through the Fukushima prefecture. All of these places are open and accessible to all.

‘A lot of sensational language about Fukushima in his story’

For most of July, the story of Loong's surprising trip into the disaster-affected areas, and then the subsequent Internet outrage has been confined to English-language social media. After Huffington Post Japan reported on the controversy on July 19 and included Podniesiński's map that supposedly debunked the location of Loong's photos, the Malaysian photographer was forced to respond.

Posting publicly on Facebook, Loong said:

i still remember it was 4am here in asia and i received message from arkadiusz asking me on the location as he cant identify all of them so i exchange info with him, well i saw some of his work before from fukushima and i like it alot to be honest, but i really didnt expect that a fellow photographer will write such a thing to another fellow photographer and only highlight the town of namie but not others town that i've been…

Loong notes that there are some discrepancies between Arkadiusz, Huffington Post, and Greenpeace as to what is a red “off-limits” zone, but that his own GPS coordinates prove his location:

 Keow Wee Loong

“The overall map location by Arkadiusz Podniesinski , huffington.jp(front page today), my gps mark and info provided by greenpeace.” Photo by Keow Wee Loong, widely shared on social media

In his Facebook rebuttal, Loong also addressed many other questions raised by the Huffington Post Japan article, such as why he's wearing shorts, sandals and a gas mask in the selfies he took in Fukushima.

He explained that he had lost most of his money when he arrived in Japan, and could not afford to buy extra clothes or any sort of protective before entering what he reported to be highly contaminated areas in Namie.

He also stated that he only entered homes and businesses where the doors were obviously open; he didn't break down doors or otherwise force himself into a building. In terms of his motivations for publishing the photos, Loong said:

as a phographer it is, without publicity on our photo, we will not survive, and there will be no photo on the news paper or online portal you are reading now , without people publishing our photo, we will never survive as a photographer…….thats the harsh reality of being a photographer when everyone want free photo in exchange with publicity . Ask any photographer if they feel proud of their photo being publish… if you are a photographer working fulltime, you ask yourself this question.

The Huffington Post Japan article also notes that, to date, Loong has received the most criticism from foreign or non-Japanese residents of Japan, rather from Japanese people themselves. The story is only just starting to get traction in Japanese social media, and the main narrative seems to be centered around whether or not Loong's photos are fakes.

Huffington Post quoted Fukushima University administrator William McMichael, a Canadian from Vancouver, as saying that Loong's portrayal of the areas he photographed is just not correct:

「“レッドゾーン”、”ゴーストタウン”、“立ち入り禁止”、”5年間放置されたまま”…など、ロン氏の投稿にはセンセーショナルな言葉が多く使われています。まるで、福島は人が住めない場所になってしまったと言わんばかりですが、実際には写真が撮られた場所も復興が進められており、人が働いています。

“Red zone,” “ghost town,” “restricted entry,” “left untouched for 5 years,” etc…. Loong used a lot of sensational language about Fukushima in his story. Although the whole story made it look as though Fukushima is totally unlivable, in fact reconstruction is ongoing in the areas where Loong took his photos. There are people working there.

While Loong may be the target of a social media backlash, photographer Alfie Goodrich argues that the Malaysian urban explorer may not be entirely to blame:

by Nevin Thompson at July 21, 2016 03:17 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
As Constitutional Referendum Nears, Thailand Intensifies Censorship
As Thailand authorities ban public reading of vote-no documents, activists post photo from toilet. Photo and caption by ‏@sunaibkk

As Thailand authorities ban public reading of vote-no documents, activists post photo from toilet. Photo and caption by ‏@sunaibkk

Thailand’s military-backed government has authorized the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) to shut down TV and radio stations which are found guilty of broadcasting programs that threaten national security. Furthermore, the junta gave NBTC officials immunity from legal accountability.

Human rights groups believe this ruling aims to prevent activists and other political forces from campaigning against the approval of a draft constitution in a national referendum scheduled for August 7.

Several media networks have signed a joint statement expressing concern about the ruling:

The excessive expansion of authority to limit the press freedom and the people's rights to information through the NBTC as a tool might result in the media doing their job in fearful environment and eventually result in the people's failure to receive correct and well-round information.

The statement was signed by the National Press Council of Thailand, Thai Journalists Association, Thai Broadcast Journalists Association, News Broadcasting Council of Thailand, and the Online News Providers Association on July 15.

The army grabbed power in 2014, but its leaders promised to restore civilian rule once electoral and political reforms were implemented. Two years later, the army is still in control of the government. Protests are banned, media is strictly regulated, and dissenting politicians or journalists are given ‘attitude adjustment’ sessions in army camps.

The junta drafted a constitution as part of the normalization process, but critics have pointed out that it contains provisions that will reinforce military control in the bureaucracy.

Activists and academics cannot launch a vigorous information campaign about the constitution because the government has outlawed any discussion that would persuade the people to vote in favor or against it. The junta insists Article 61 of the 2016 Referendum Act only seeks to stop the spread of malicious and wrong information about the constitution, but activists assert that it legitimizes the crackdown on free speech.

In the past several weeks, activists have been arrested for distributing flyers that encourage the public to reject the draft constitution.

A plainclothes police man searches the desk of a journalist at the Prachatai office. Photo from Prachatai

A plainclothes police man searches the desk of a journalist at the Prachatai office. Photo from Prachatai

Last week, journalist Taweesak Kerdpoka and several activists were detained after police found information materials about the constitution in their car.

They have since been released. But police then raided the office of Kerdpoka, who works for independent news website Prachatai, a Global Voices partner. Prachatai reported on its website that the police seemed to be searching for evidence to link the news organization to activist groups campaigning against the constitution.

The Southeast Asian Press Alliance emphasized the importance of the media in providing a balanced information about the proposed constitution:

Amid a tightly controlled media and political environment, the media plays a very important role in keeping the public informed about all aspects of the document that will serve as the framework of their country’s governance. Unhampered media reportage of different views and activities is essential for Thai citizens to attain a balanced view about the draft charter’s merits and flaws, in order to vote according to their conscience.

The Committee to Protect Journalists is urging the Thai government to stop intimidating the media sector:

If Thailand's military junta wants its referendum to be seen as credible, it must stop harassing journalists covering the campaign and let information flow freely to the public.

iLaw, a group promoting civil liberties, insists that the Article 61 ban on information that “influences” voters one way or another undermines the credibility of the referendum:

We have observed that public discussions on the Draft Constitution and on the Referendum are unusually muted, even though day of the Referendum is rapidly approaching. People are afraid to speak out, or to take part in debates, or to carry out campaign activities. This atmosphere is not conducive to a free and fair referendum, and therefore the results are unlikely to be fully accepted, either in Thailand or abroad.

by Mong Palatino at July 21, 2016 02:09 PM

Global Voices
One Children's Song, Translated Into Australia's Many Local Languages

Languages and cultures may differ, but the joyful sound of children singing is universal. A song called “Marrin Gamu,” created for primary school children and teachers to promote the diversity and beauty of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages, is proving just that.

The title of the song combines the word for “body” in two of the languages. Marrin is the word for “body” in the Wiradjuri language of New South Wales, and Gamu is the word for “body” in the Kalaw Kawaw Ya language from the Torres Strait.

The song is also the basis of a friendly contest organized by First Languages Australia and ABC Splash. First, communities are invited to teach local children the lyrics in English.

Verse 1. Eyes and ears, (3 times).
Verse 2. Hand and foot, (3 times).
Verse 3. Leg and arm, (3 times).
Verse 4. Head and belly, (3 times).

Then once the children know the song, the community is asked to translate the lyrics into their own native language. Finally, the community and school work together to create a video to be uploaded to the competition website.

The Marrin Gamu website provides an example to help get teachers and students started. Also included in the website is a range of Australian curriculum-linked classroom activities developed around the project. Conversation starter questions are suggested as a way to facilitate discussions with students about their language:

Questions for the class:

  • Are their any similarities between the body words in the languages in the video and your language?
  • Is there any reason the song cannot be directly translated into your language?
  • What might you do to overcome this?

The project will run for the next two years so that all schools have time to develop the necessary relationships to participate in the project. Contest organizers hope to see “Marrin Gamu” sung in many of Australia’s hundreds of first languages.

“Marrin Gamu” fits into a broader strategy to prevent language loss by focusing on schools and students and working with local teachers. Many teachers do not have deep knowledge of these languages, so the website shares cross-curricular programs for use in the classroom. Incorporating an element of digital media and the internet may motivate students when they see their creativity and local language reflected online.

Screenshot from Guarang language video.

Screenshot from Guarang language video.

The first submission is a video created by a school in Queensland in which students sing “Marrin Gamu” in the Guarang language. As more videos of the song are submitted, we'll be sharing them here.

by Eduardo Avila at July 21, 2016 12:57 PM

DML Central
Amino One Makes Bioengineering Useful, Easy to Learn

A chemistry set was a big part of what first interested me in science, back in the 20th century. Today’s scientist of tomorrow has the opportunity to play and learn with a bioengineering set! Yes, you can safely experiment with genetically altering bacteria to create your own pigments and more. It’s called Amino One from AminoLabs — a “laptop size Personal Bioreactor and Transformation Station” that enables learners to experience safe hands-on bioengineering — and make personally useful products. Personally, as a painter, I can’t wait to engineer bacteria to create my own pigments.

Julie Legault, CEO of Amino Labs and Justin Pahara, Chief Science Officer, plan to demonstrate their synthetic biology learning kit at DML2016 in a Tech Showcase: “The Amino One Personal Biolab.”

Amino One grew out of Legault’s 2015 thesis research at The MIT Media Lab. She described the birth of her enterprise in “Synbio for the Masses: A Media Lab Grad’s ‘Deploy or Die’ Story,” in which she wrote: “Synthetic biology affects so many aspects of our lives, such as food, medicine, cosmetics, energy, and materials. Yet right now, only a select few have access to the equipment and knowledge to experiment with biotechnologies. Obviously, specific knowledge is required for in-depth research and good use, but in the same way that anyone can now experiment with software and electronics, we should be able to experiment with plug-and-play biotechnology. It’s affecting so much of our lives — we need to be able to understand it firsthand and get past the fear and anxiety, because understanding biology allows us to interact more thoughtfully and meaningfully with our environments.”

A lot of the publicity about bioengineering and the prospect of desktop bioengineering has played on fears of its dangers. The dangers shouldn’t be discounted. But, neither should they prevent safe exploration. The strain of bacteria used in Amino’s experiments is rated “Biosafety Level One” by the Center for Disease Control. Synthetic biology is already part of our lives — foods, fragrances, cosmetics, and medicines are only the beginning. If new antibiotics are to be deployed against the growing list of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, they are more likely to be created than discovered. Personalized treatments for cancer via gene sequencing are already in trials. I believe that educating today’s young scientists is critically important to both mitigating the hazards and harvesting the benefits of synthetic biology.

Banner image credit: Julie Legault

The post Amino One Makes Bioengineering Useful, Easy to Learn appeared first on DML Central.

by mcruz at July 21, 2016 12:43 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
Chinese Reformist Magazine Shuts Down to Resist Authorities’ Hostile Takeover
Du daozheng standing in front of a calligraphy written by Chinese president Xi Jinping's father Xi Zhongxun. The calligraphy is a gift which praises Yanhuang Chunqiu's publication work in 2001. Photo from Bowen Press.

Du Daozheng standing in front of a calligraphy written by Chinese President Xi Jinping's father Xi Zhongxun. The calligraphy is a gift which praises Yanhuang Chunqiu's publishing work in 2001. Photo via Bowen Press.

“Better to be a broken jade than an intact tile.” With that Chinese idiom, which means death is preferable to dishonor, the publisher of Yanhuang Chunqiu announced on July 17 that the reformist magazine would cease publication.

Founded in 1991, Yanhuang Chunqiu was partly state-affiliated, but nevertheless initiated discussions in China about political reform, including “intra-party democracy,” congressional reform and relaxing the government's control over the media.

Authorities’ tolerance for the magazine, however, has waned in recent years amid President Xi Jinping's tightening grip on power and aggressive ideological campaign. On June 12, the China Academy of Art, which comes under the Ministry of Culture, removed all of the magazine's directors and assigned six new people to take over its management. The magazine's editorial committee attempted to file legal charges against the Academy for violating previous agreements, but the effort failed.

Things then escalated dramatically in the days that followed. On July 15, authorities broke into the magazine's offices, seized all the property including bank accounts and changed the password for the magazine's website.

Founder and publisher Du Daozheng condemned the takeover of Yanhuang Chunqiu in the statement announcing the end of operations:

宣佈改組雜誌社領導機構,嚴重侵犯了憲法第35條賦予公民的出版自由,違反了協議書中明確約定的我社人士、發稿和財務的「自主權」。
鑒於此,經過炎黃春秋雜誌社社委會討論並一致決定,自即日起(即7月17日)停刊,此後任何人以《炎黃春秋》名義發行的出版物,均與「本社」無關。

[The China Art Academy]'s announcement of the magazine's new leadership has violated citizens’ freedom of the press, which is protected by Article 35 of the Constitution, and has broken the previous contract, which ensured the editorial committee's autonomy in managing, publishing and financing the magazine.

After Yanhuang Chunqiu's editorial team discussed the matter, everyone agreed that from today onward (July 17), the magazine would cease to operate. Any other person publishing under the name of Yanhuang Chunqiu has no relation to this editorial committee.

All three directors removed by the Academy have strong links to the Chinese Communist Party, suggesting that the decision to intervene came from the party's top leadership.

Du, 73, is the former head of the state press ministry. Hu Dehua is the son of former Chinese Communist Party leader Hu Yaobang. And Li Cheng is the daughter of Li Zhuan, the former chief editor of People's Daily, which is the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party.

Attempt after attempt to intervene

Since 2013, the party has made several attempts to intervene in the magazine's editorial autonomy. In January 2013, the magazine's website was taken offline for more than two weeks. The block came after a high-profile incident of censorship at the Guangzhou newspaper Southern Weekly in which authorities replaced discussion of constitutionalism in favor of praise for the Chinese Communist Party. Observers believed that the move against Yanhuang Chunqiu was meant to prevent the magazine from spreading their proposals for political reform in support of their liberal friends.

In September 2014, the magazine's supervision was re-assigned from the Chinese Yinhuang Culture Research Institution to the China Academy of Art under the Ministry of Culture, a change which the editorial committee resisted. They appealed to the magazine's advisory committee, which is composed of senior party members, for support. Eventually, the magazine was allowed to retain partial editorial autonomy, but had to accept the stationing of content supervision staff appointed by the Academy.

In February 2015, the Academy banned the magazine from publishing its spring festival editorial and forbade the editorial committee from organizing its annual spring festival gathering. In June of that year, the extreme leftist wing within the Chinese Communist Party launched an attack on the magazine's “anti-party” mistake in narrating the history of the party, and its chief editor was forced to leave. In May 2016, censorship authorities stopped the printing of the magazine's feature on the 50th anniversary of the Cultural Revolution — the violent purge of people deemed anti-communist during the 1960s and 70s — at the presses.

Moreover, a number of the magazine's editors and advisers have been harassed for their characterization of Chinese history. Hong Zhenkuai, former chief editor of the magazine, was sued in July 2015 for “defaming” the Five Heroes of Langya Mountain — a group of soldiers glorified for refusing to surrender to invading Japanese warriors during the Sino-Japanese War in 1941. They are said to have killed themselves instead by jumping off a cliff. Hong had pointed to historical records that indicated two of the heroes actually died from accidents.

And 93-year-old Chinese Communist Party historian He Fang was put under a party-led disciplinary investigation for criticizing former Chinese leader Mao Zedong in May 2016.

‘Xi's government wants to educate its officials into “fools”‘

Following the announcement of Yanhuang Chunqui's shutdown, one of the magazine's former managing editors quoted current Chinese President Xi Jinping's own words, as spoken to party magazine Quishi, to explain what has happened to China's media sector:

思想輿論領域大致有紅色、黑色、灰色'三個地帶'。紅色地帶是我們的主陣地,一定要守住;黑色地帶主要是負面的東西,要敢於亮劍,大大壓縮其地盤;灰色地帶要大張旗鼓爭取,使其轉化為紅色地帶。

[Xi said] ideology and the public sphere are divided into three color zones: red, black and grey. Red is our territory and we have to defend it; black represents the negative side and we have to use our swords to minimize its influence; as for grey area, we have to take it over and turn it into the red zone.

Yanhuang Chunqui must then fall into the grey area, according to the ideological battle that Xi is waging.

Currently, the term “Yanhuang Chunqiu” is blocked from search on popular Chinese social media site Weibo. On Twitter, @Zodiac4698 commented on the magazine's “outspokenness”:

Yanhuang Chunqiu should not be considered outspoken. It is just an official channel for party leaders and officials to understand the history of the Chinese Communist Party. The crackdown on Yanhuang Chunqiu and today's takeover indicates that Xi's government wants to educate its officials into “fools” like the rest of the society. Party members and officials should remain naive.

Political cartoonist @thomasycwong gave the situation a humorous spin, imagining how Xi Jinping successfully can make a desk bow to him:

Hey, Yanhuang Chunqui, a bunch of bookworms who know nothing [about politics]! I can make a desk bow to me!

by L. Finch at July 21, 2016 07:41 AM

Global Voices
Two Argentineans Travel Throughout Latin America Looking for ‘The Other Education’
La educación en movimiento busca reunir en un documental los principales proyectos de educación popular impulsados por los movimientos sociales de América Latina

“Education in Motion,” a trip to explore, connect, and disseminate popular educational projects inspired by Latin American social movements. Photo from the campaign's Facebook page.

When we talk about education and educational quality, few of us stop to analyze how traditional education, despite evident improvements and constant evolution, continues perpetuating the stereotypes of a predominant culture that maintains little relation to the reality of Latin American communities. In recent decades, social movements have sought alternatives to promote the integration of education into the life of the communities, which gave rise to a pedagogical discipline known as public education.

Along these lines of thinking, it’s been almost one year since two young Argentineans interested in studying and strengthening these movements set out on “a trip for education that fights for and creates that other world possible” throughout Latin America, in an ambitious project called La educación en movimiento (“Education in Motion”).

The project is based on a journey, in the literal sense of the term. With help from family members, friends, and other collaborators, they prepared their truck and left Buenos Aires on August 11, 2015, heading out on an extensive journey throughout Latin America, in order to get an up-close look at the educational projects of these social movements inside the diverse communities of the region. Their goal is to study them, learn from them, and ultimately reveal them in a documentary that they will edit after returning. The film will be available for free distribution.

The leading characters of this real-life story are Malena and Martin, two young people dedicated to inspiring public education in the neighborhoods of their city, and “Guagua Transhumante,” a Renault Kangoo 1.9 diesel truck transformed into a motor home, equipped with the basic facilities, in order to serve as simple, but comfortable lodging. As they explain on their website's homepage:

En algunos países de Nuestramérica, “guagua” quiere decir  “ómnibus”, pero en otros significa “niñ@”. “Transhumante”, por nómade.

In some countries of Our America, “guagua” means “bus,” but in others it means “kid.” “Transhumante,” for nomad.

On their website, converted into a wonderful and extensive audiovisual blog, the travelers upload all the information, interviews, and clips that they have been compiling and producing along the way, in order to capture their experiences, which will be a part of their future documentary. They also have a Facebook page where they share stories, photos, and the day-to-day of their adventure with more than 2,000 followers.

The search for an educational change came about as a response to a common problem involving traditional schools’ relationship with the communities. In one of the interviews conducted during the trip, Mario Rodriguez, a Bolivian public educator and co-founder of Red de la Diversidad Wayna Tambo (The Network of Wayna Tambo Diversity), talked about his experience in a completed investigation and how the schools “didn’t look.” On that subject he said:

Martín, Malena y la Guagua Transhumante en la costa pacífica rumbo a Quito, Ecuador

Martín, Malena and the Guagua Transhumante on the Pacific Coast heading to Quito, Ecuador. Photo shared publicly on Facebook.

Una de las cosas que más me impresionaba en el caso de las niñas […] es que la escuela, en determinado momento, era un perjuicio para sus vidas porque, si las niñas llegaban al bachillerato, entraban más tarde en los circuitos de intercambio mercantil a través de los mercados de ferias locales, y que gran parte de su posibilidad de vivir y de ampliar su experiencia, de generar riqueza, pasaba por su incorporación temprana a estos mercados y sistemas que la escuela era incapaz de mirar, ¿no? Y, entonces, al no mirar, no era capaz de formar a las niñas, a las jóvenes, para ese escenario, que era parte de su vida cotidiana.

One of the things that left a big impression on me regarding the girls specifically […] was that the school, at a particular point, became detrimental to their lives because if the girls went to high school, they would be included in the commercial exchange circles at the markets of the local fairs much later and a large part of their possibility to live, expand their experience, and generate wealth, occurred because of their early incorporation in these markets and systems that the school wasn’t capable of looking at, right? And so, by not looking, it wasn’t capable of educating the girls, the youth, for this scenario that was a part of their daily lives.

Numerous social movements in each corner of “Our America,” as Malena and Martin call it, have worked and continue to work with communities, non-profit organizations, trade unions, government entities, and other groups interested in the creation and dissemination of educational projects that (1) are free of Western educational, social, and gender stereotypes; (2) coincide with the local reality; (3) are financially, economically, and geographically practical according to local means of living; (4) empower the communities helping them to grow; (5) protect the environment; and (6) preserve their culture. These are the projects that La educación en movimiento (Education in Motion) looks for, studies, and proliferates through their documentary journey, some of which are described in detail in the first assignment.

UNICAM-SURI, First Rural University in Argentina

In Santiago del Estero, a northern province of Argentina, members of the indigenous movements and of the poorest neighborhoods of the region communally construct the first rural university in the country. The construction itself is already a rich learning experience for all the participants because they take turns performing group tasks, from the construction of the rooms, classrooms, and bathrooms, to the preparation of food for the workers and broadcasting the radio show.

The province has provoked an enormous amount of clips and interviews due to the quantity of projects currently underway, and is also where the Mocase VC, The Rural Movement of Santiago de Estero Vía Campesina, an organization that fights for the right to the land, health, and education of the Santiagueño citizens, actively works.

The New Education Law in Bolivia: For An Alternative Education

Is a mutual effort among education, the state, and the social movements possible? The proclamation of the new “Avelino Siñani – Elizaldo Pérez” Law of Education Number 070 in 2010, kick-started the decolonization of the educational system while respecting and reaffirming the social and cultural expressions of the nations and original indigenous populations and including the original languages as a first language of education, in addition to Spanish and a foreign language.

In Peru, Public Education Is “Alive and Kicking”

Continuing on the journey, Malena and Martin arrived to Lima where, among other things, they had an interview with Nelida Cespedes, Executive Secretary of the CEAAL, Consejo de Educación Popular del Caribe y América Latina (Public Education Council of the Caribbean and Latin America). CEAAL is “a public education movement that, acts as a network aiding in educational, social, political, cultural, and economical transformation processes in Latin America and the Caribbean, on local, national, and regional levels, in dialogue with the world. It is in favor of the sovereignty and integration of nations, social justice, and democracy, from the perspectives of human rights, gender equality, intercultural awareness, and an ethical, pedagogical, and politically emancipatory option.” The following video shows part of the interview where Nelida talks about the validity of public education and the alternative perspectives they propose.

We have only shared three experiences that Malena and Martin have compiled during their first months of travel. The journey continues and they’ve passed through Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, and Mexico and—at the time of this writing—they’re headed to Venezuela. The main purpose of their documentary trip is to interconnect the movements, strengthen them, and facilitate the collaboration and exchange of ideas in hopes that their clips will add to the debate and trigger new ideas and movements throughout the educational integration of each town in the region.

In our next update, we will present more details about the trip, the interviews, and the clips that define the rich experience of this project and show what diverse communities in Latin America have created in matters of education.

Education in Movement is a self-managed project that functions thanks to the support of partners, collaborators, and friends. By following this link, you will find the ways in which you can contribute to the project’s success. You can also check out the project's Facebook page for a journal of photos and stories.

by Danelle Hood at July 21, 2016 05:14 AM

Info/Law
Internet Troll’s “Political Shenanigans” Are Protected Speech–State v. Hirschman

(Cross-posted at the Technology & Marketing Law Blog.)

Aaron Hirschman, a self-proclaimed “Internet troll,” posted the following message on Craigslist:

Wanna make an easy $20 for voting? (Downtown Bend)

Are you interested in making a quick and easy $20? Meet us in the parking lot downtown near the drop off voting booth this weekend. All you need to do is bring your UNFILLED clean voting ballot and let us fill it out then you sign, and we hand it to the volunteer in the voting booth. Its that simple! Then you get $20. We’ll be there all weekend through tuesday.

Everybody, including state prosecutors, agreed that Hirschman had no intention of actually buying votes or carrying out this plan. His post was what the state called a “political shenanigan,” designed to provoke reactions by taking an absurd or offensive position.

troll

Unfortunately for Hirschman, his trolling was not obvious enough for the government’s liking. Even though nobody replied to Hirschman’s post, the Oregon Secretary of State’s office thought the post would be reasonably interpreted as a genuine proposal to create a contract. He was charged with and convicted of violating ORS 260.715(9), which states that “a person may not [] offer to purchase, for money or other valuable consideration, any official ballot [].”

On appeal, Hirschman made two key arguments: First, the trial court misinterpreted the meaning of the word “offer” in the statute by failing to incorporate an intent element that would require the state to prove he had a subjective intent to form a contract. Second, if the statute did apply to Hirschman’s post, then it violated his constitutional right to free expression under the Oregon Constitution (though the analysis would share many similarities to a First Amendment challenge under the U.S. Constitution.)

The Court of Appeals reversed Hirschman’s conviction. But the analytical path it took to reach its result is a bit surprising.

The court could have avoided a free speech analysis by interpreting the Oregon statute as the defendant suggested—requiring subjective intent by the offeror to actually enter into an illegal contract. This would have allowed the court to dispose the case on statutory rather than constitutional grounds. But the court declined. After consulting Webster’s dictionary and contract-based uses of the term “offer,” the court explained that the Oregon statute must sweep broader than the defendant suggests. The defendant’s version of the statute would be indistinguishable from an attempt to purchase a ballot (which could be charged under a different part of the criminal code).

This seems to me to be a needlessly rote approach to statutory interpretation. Defining the scope of criminal liability is a good time for courts to create legal terms of art that do not match in all respects the way the words are used elsewhere. Crime-facilitating speech is a well-known hazardous area for regulation since it lies at the boundary between protected speech and unprotected conduct. The best way to manage it is to ensure that criminal laws hew closely to transactions, using speech only as evidence of the transaction or preparatory steps. That way, if I make the joke “please, I’ll pay, just somebody please take out the Kardashian family,” the criminal consequences do not teeter on how well or poorly I communicate that I am not serious.

Assessing the defendant’s subjective intent can do some of the work (perhaps not all) to ensure that direct prohibitions of speech are actually targeting a realistic threat. This is why intent is a constitutional requirement in incitement prosecutions. See Dennis v. United States (“The structure and purpose of the statute demand the inclusion of intent as an element of the crime.”) It is worth noting, though, that the Supreme Court still has not clarified whether subjective intent is a constitutional requirement in other similar areas of criminal law like true threats (see Elonis).

But even apart from the wisdom of constitutional avoidance, there is another sensible reason to interpret an “offer” in this criminal context differently from in the contracts context: the goals of the two legal constructions are very different. In contract law, the state has an interest in enforcing accepted offers even if they are made without subjective intent to form a contract–so long as the statement of an offer was objectively believable–in order to encourage transactions. When the putative offeror’s and acceptor’s interests are at odds, the contract system is better off using the objective meaning of the language and context involved so that this and future acceptors are protected from fraud, and so that future offerors can make credible offers that are not discounted as cheap talk. The goal of contract law’s definition of an offer, then, is to enable transactions. When transactions are criminally prohibited, these goals are moot. The only reason to prohibit “offers” is to discourage the transaction from occurring at all, not to enhance their reliability.

Hirschman gave the court an opportunity to define “offer” in the context of a criminal statute as a species of attempt—as a solicitation with the purpose of entering into an agreement that would itself be illegal. But because the court rejected it and accepted the state’s version of the statute, the law wound up in the buzz saw of free speech scrutiny.

Given that the court gave the criminal statute the wide scope that it did, its free speech analysis is strong and, in my view, correct. The Oregon Constitution’s protection of free speech seems to be as protective as the U.S. Constitution when the government creates content-based prohibitions of speech, applying very strong scrutiny to all but the historically excepted categories of speech.  (In fact, the Oregon constitution may offer even stronger protections than the federal right to free speech since the court seems to limit the government to only the historically recognized exceptions).

First, the court found that the law targets expression rather than effects since a person violates the law only through communication, and since that communication can violate the law even if there are no bad effects.

Next, the court rejected the state’s claim that the anti-offer statute in this case was covered by the well-established historical exception for “solicitation or verbal assistance in crime” since solicitation crimes include the very element that the state insisted was not necessary for this particular law: the element of intent that the solicited crime be accomplished.

The court also saw right through the state’s argument that the statute was necessary to promote public trust in the state’s election system. Even if the effects are what the state fear they will be, the diminution of trust alone cannot justify the suppression of political speech. As the court put it, the state “selected a phenomenon and labeled it as a harm.” Derek Bambauer and I call these “tautological harms” in our forthcoming article Information Libertarianism. It’s nice to see a judicial opinion that so clearly identifies the problem; Courts are rarely this attuned to it.

The outcome of this case is doubtlessly correct. Hirschman’s odd mockery is surely part of our constitutional experiment in open political discourse. But given the path taken to reach the result, Oregon legislators may have to revisit and redraft laws criminalizing “offers” to engage in illegal activity lest prosecutors get trolled again.

Case citation: State v. Hirschman, 2016 WL 3675617 (Ore. Ct. App. July 7, 2016)

by jyakowitz at July 21, 2016 02:21 AM

Global Voices
As Constitutional Referendum Nears, Thailand Intensifies Censorship
As Thailand authorities ban public reading of vote-no documents, activists post photo from toilet. Photo and caption by ‏@sunaibkk

As Thailand authorities ban public reading of vote-no documents, activists post photo from toilet. Photo and caption by ‏@sunaibkk

Thailand’s military-backed government has authorized the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) to shut down TV and radio stations which are found guilty of broadcasting programs that threaten national security. Furthermore, the junta gave NBTC officials immunity from legal accountability.

Human rights groups believe this ruling aims to prevent activists and other political forces from campaigning against the approval of a draft constitution in a national referendum scheduled for August 7.

Several media networks have signed a joint statement expressing concern about the ruling:

The excessive expansion of authority to limit the press freedom and the people's rights to information through the NBTC as a tool might result in the media doing their job in fearful environment and eventually result in the people's failure to receive correct and well-round information.

The statement was signed by the National Press Council of Thailand, Thai Journalists Association, Thai Broadcast Journalists Association, News Broadcasting Council of Thailand, and the Online News Providers Association on July 15.

The army grabbed power in 2014, but its leaders promised to restore civilian rule once electoral and political reforms were implemented. Two years later, the army is still in control of the government. Protests are banned, media is strictly regulated, and dissenting politicians or journalists are given ‘attitude adjustment’ sessions in army camps.

The junta drafted a constitution as part of the normalization process, but critics have pointed out that it contains provisions that will reinforce military control in the bureaucracy.

Activists and academics cannot launch a vigorous information campaign about the constitution because the government has outlawed any discussion that would persuade the people to vote in favor or against it. The junta insists Article 61 of the 2016 Referendum Act only seeks to stop the spread of malicious and wrong information about the constitution, but activists assert that it legitimizes the crackdown on free speech.

In the past several weeks, activists have been arrested for distributing flyers that encourage the public to reject the draft constitution.

A plainclothes police man searches the desk of a journalist at the Prachatai office. Photo from Prachatai

A plainclothes police man searches the desk of a journalist at the Prachatai office. Photo from Prachatai

Last week, journalist Taweesak Kerdpoka and several activists were detained after police found information materials about the constitution in their car.

They have since been released. But police then raided the office of Kerdpoka, who works for independent news website Prachatai, a Global Voices partner. Prachatai reported on its website that the police seemed to be searching for evidence to link the news organization to activist groups campaigning against the constitution.

The Southeast Asian Press Alliance emphasized the importance of the media in providing a balanced information about the proposed constitution:

Amid a tightly controlled media and political environment, the media plays a very important role in keeping the public informed about all aspects of the document that will serve as the framework of their country’s governance. Unhampered media reportage of different views and activities is essential for Thai citizens to attain a balanced view about the draft charter’s merits and flaws, in order to vote according to their conscience.

The Committee to Protect Journalists is urging the Thai government to stop intimidating the media sector:

If Thailand's military junta wants its referendum to be seen as credible, it must stop harassing journalists covering the campaign and let information flow freely to the public.

iLaw, a group promoting civil liberties, insists that the Article 61 ban on information that “influences” voters one way or another undermines the credibility of the referendum:

We have observed that public discussions on the Draft Constitution and on the Referendum are unusually muted, even though day of the Referendum is rapidly approaching. People are afraid to speak out, or to take part in debates, or to carry out campaign activities. This atmosphere is not conducive to a free and fair referendum, and therefore the results are unlikely to be fully accepted, either in Thailand or abroad.

by Mong Palatino at July 21, 2016 12:45 AM

Chinese Reformist Magazine Shuts Down to Resist Authorities’ Hostile Takeover
Du daozheng standing in front of a calligraphy written by Chinese president Xi Jinping's father Xi Zhongxun. The calligraphy is a gift which praises Yanhuang Chunqiu's publication work in 2001. Photo from Bowen Press.

Du Daozheng standing in front of a calligraphy written by Chinese President Xi Jinping's father Xi Zhongxun. The calligraphy is a gift which praises Yanhuang Chunqiu's publishing work in 2001. Photo via Bowen Press.

“Better to be a broken jade than an intact tile.” With that Chinese idiom, which means death is preferable to dishonor, the publisher of Yanhuang Chunqiu announced on July 17 that the reformist magazine would cease publication.

Founded in 1991, Yanhuang Chunqiu was partly state-affiliated, but nevertheless initiated discussions in China about political reform, including “intra-party democracy,” congressional reform and relaxing the government's control over the media.

Authorities’ tolerance for the magazine, however, has waned in recent years amid President Xi Jinping's tightening grip on power and aggressive ideological campaign. On June 12, the China Academy of Art, which comes under the Ministry of Culture, removed all of the magazine's directors and assigned six new people to take over its management. The magazine's editorial committee attempted to file legal charges against the Academy for violating previous agreements, but the effort failed.

Things then escalated dramatically in the days that followed. On July 15, authorities broke into the magazine's offices, seized all the property including bank accounts and changed the password for the magazine's website.

Founder and publisher Du Daozheng condemned the takeover of Yanhuang Chunqiu in the statement announcing the end of operations:

宣佈改組雜誌社領導機構,嚴重侵犯了憲法第35條賦予公民的出版自由,違反了協議書中明確約定的我社人士、發稿和財務的「自主權」。
鑒於此,經過炎黃春秋雜誌社社委會討論並一致決定,自即日起(即7月17日)停刊,此後任何人以《炎黃春秋》名義發行的出版物,均與「本社」無關。

[The China Art Academy]'s announcement of the magazine's new leadership has violated citizens’ freedom of the press, which is protected by Article 35 of the Constitution, and has broken the previous contract, which ensured the editorial committee's autonomy in managing, publishing and financing the magazine.

After Yanhuang Chunqiu's editorial team discussed the matter, everyone agreed that from today onward (July 17), the magazine would cease to operate. Any other person publishing under the name of Yanhuang Chunqiu has no relation to this editorial committee.

All three directors removed by the Academy have strong links to the Chinese Communist Party, suggesting that the decision to intervene came from the party's top leadership.

Du, 73, is the former head of the state press ministry. Hu Dehua is the son of former Chinese Communist Party leader Hu Yaobang. And Li Cheng is the daughter of Li Zhuan, the former chief editor of People's Daily, which is the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party.

Attempt after attempt to intervene

Since 2013, the party has made several attempts to intervene in the magazine's editorial autonomy. In January 2013, the magazine's website was taken offline for more than two weeks. The block came after a high-profile incident of censorship at the Guangzhou newspaper Southern Weekly in which authorities replaced discussion of constitutionalism in favor of praise for the Chinese Communist Party. Observers believed that the move against Yanhuang Chunqiu was meant to prevent the magazine from spreading their proposals for political reform in support of their liberal friends.

In September 2014, the magazine's supervision was re-assigned from the Chinese Yinhuang Culture Research Institution to the China Academy of Art under the Ministry of Culture, a change which the editorial committee resisted. They appealed to the magazine's advisory committee, which is composed of senior party members, for support. Eventually, the magazine was allowed to retain partial editorial autonomy, but had to accept the stationing of content supervision staff appointed by the Academy.

In February 2015, the Academy banned the magazine from publishing its spring festival editorial and forbade the editorial committee from organizing its annual spring festival gathering. In June of that year, the extreme leftist wing within the Chinese Communist Party launched an attack on the magazine's “anti-party” mistake in narrating the history of the party, and its chief editor was forced to leave. In May 2016, censorship authorities stopped the printing of the magazine's feature on the 50th anniversary of the Cultural Revolution — the violent purge of people deemed anti-communist during the 1960s and 70s — at the presses.

Moreover, a number of the magazine's editors and advisers have been harassed for their characterization of Chinese history. Hong Zhenkuai, former chief editor of the magazine, was sued in July 2015 for “defaming” the Five Heroes of Langya Mountain — a group of soldiers glorified for refusing to surrender to invading Japanese warriors during the Sino-Japanese War in 1941. They are said to have killed themselves instead by jumping off a cliff. Hong had pointed to historical records that indicated two of the heroes actually died from accidents.

And 93-year-old Chinese Communist Party historian He Fang was put under a party-led disciplinary investigation for criticizing former Chinese leader Mao Zedong in May 2016.

‘Xi's government wants to educate its officials into “fools”‘

Following the announcement of Yanhuang Chunqui's shutdown, one of the magazine's former managing editors quoted current Chinese President Xi Jinping's own words, as spoken to party magazine Quishi, to explain what has happened to China's media sector:

思想輿論領域大致有紅色、黑色、灰色'三個地帶'。紅色地帶是我們的主陣地,一定要守住;黑色地帶主要是負面的東西,要敢於亮劍,大大壓縮其地盤;灰色地帶要大張旗鼓爭取,使其轉化為紅色地帶。

[Xi said] ideology and the public sphere are divided into three color zones: red, black and grey. Red is our territory and we have to defend it; black represents the negative side and we have to use our swords to minimize its influence; as for grey area, we have to take it over and turn it into the red zone.

Yanhuang Chunqui must then fall into the grey area, according to the ideological battle that Xi is waging.

Currently, the term “Yanhuang Chunqiu” is blocked from search on popular Chinese social media site Weibo. On Twitter, @Zodiac4698 commented on the magazine's “outspokenness”:

Yanhuang Chunqiu should not be considered outspoken. It is just an official channel for party leaders and officials to understand the history of the Chinese Communist Party. The crackdown on Yanhuang Chunqiu and today's takeover indicates that Xi's government wants to educate its officials into “fools” like the rest of the society. Party members and officials should remain naive.

Political cartoonist @thomasycwong gave the situation a humorous spin, imagining how Xi Jinping successfully can make a desk bow to him:

Hey, Yanhuang Chunqui, a bunch of bookworms who know nothing [about politics]! I can make a desk bow to me!

by Oiwan Lam at July 21, 2016 12:42 AM

July 20, 2016

Global Voices Advocacy
PokéStops or Stopping Poké? Iran Reacts to the Pokémon Go Phenomenon
The author of this post imagines playing Pokémon Go in Tehran, holding the game up to a picture of Azadi Tower.

Post author Mahsa Alimardani imagines playing Pokemon Go in in front of Azadi square in Tehran, holding the game up to a picture of the monument. Screencapture by Mahsa Alimardani.

Pokémon Go has become a worldwide phenomenon with over 30 million downloads since its release on July 6, 2016 in selected countries.

The game uses Google Maps data to superimpose characters from the Pokémon series into your geographic surroundings. As you walk, your smartphone uses GPS to track your position in the world, and it will know if you get close to one of these characters. You can then capture the character on your phone screen, train it, and then deploy it in the “augmented reality” battlefield that is Pokémon Go.

Despite the fact that the game is only available in certain places, the craze has drawn in many players from other countries, including Iran, who have used VPNs to download the game.

How has Iran — the country with one of the most restricted Internet environments in the world — reacted to Pokémon Go?

Finding Pokémon in Tehran is not easy

Many Iranian users have commented on the difficulty of finding Pokémon around cities such as Tehran. A Reddit user in Iran asked the Pokémon Go Reddit feed on 10 July if others have been locating creatures in Tehran.

Hi, I have a quick question. I'm in Iran right now and I was wondering if pokemon go will work? I'm in the middle of Tehran so it's a big city but I can't find any information if the app even works here. I have 4g mobile data but I haven't seen anything special on the map. Thanks

Respondents to the post theorized that the application is blocked, but others noted that they had occasionally come upon some characters, and even indicated Poke stops in Tehran parks or gardens in the city of Shiraz. One Twitter user reported finding Pokemon by the historic Blue Mosque in the city of Tabriz.

A neighbourhood with Pokemon in #Tabriz…Kabood Mosque.

Another Twitter user in the city of Karaj described feeling happy that Pokémon had given him an excuse to go outside and move.

Tonight I went to hunt Pokemon, it's a very amusing game :)) at least I now have excuse to move since I barely do

A female Twitter user in Tehran jokingly complained that life has become difficult now that she has to hunt for Pokémon while being on the lookout for the country's morality police, who arrest and fine women for improper hejab.

It's quite difficult to be in the streets and be focused on both hunting Pokémon and on the lookout that gasht ershad don't hunt me. Life has become hard :))

Notable Iranian game developer Mohammad Mehdi Behfarrad offered some deeper analysis on the appeal of the game, theorizing that it might not have broad appeal in Iran for a number of reasons, including the nation's unfamiliarity with the Pokémon series that has been around since 1995.

نکته اصلی درباره بازی پوکمون داستان اصلی پوکون است که از فضا و ویژگی‌های داستانی آن به بهترین شکل در طراحی بازی استفاده شده است. به تعبیر دیگر داستان واقعی شکل‌گیری پوکمون در قالب تکنولوژی AR تبدیل به یک بازی سرگرم‌کننده شده است که طبیعتا برای مخاطبان هم جذاب است. آدم‌ها اساسا به دنبال تجربه‌های تازه هستند و طبیعتا در کنار هم قرار گرفتن این ظرفیت‌ها توسط کمپانی معتبری همچون نینتندو تبدیل به یک اتفاق می‌شود…از آنجا که داستان اصلی پوکمون خیلی در ایران شناخته شده نیست،‌ شاید سرعت برقراری ارتباط مخاطب ایرانی با این بازی مانند نمونه‌های دیگری مانند.

The main point about the Pokemon is the story and the best usage of the features of the story in the AR [augmented reality]  structure of the game. On the other hand the conversion of the story into this new entertaining technology is what attracts the masses. People are looking to new experiences and naturally when this comes together with a reputable company like Nintendo in this capacity it turns into an event…From knowing that the main Pokemon story is not very known in Iran, it may not have the same speed in connecting with the Iranian players.

Will Pokémon meet authorities’ demands?

Authorities have also commented on the game. Hasan Karimi Ghodosi, the director of the National Foundation for Computer Games (NFCG), said that he has been in talks with the game's developers. In the past, the NFCG has issued bans on games such as “1979 Revolution” a game depicting struggles of resistors of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, as well as “Battlefield 3” a game that involved a US military invasion of Tehran.

Ghodosi explained to Mehr News Agency (an organisation owned by the Islamic Dissemination Organisation) on July 17 that the status of the game in Iran would depend on the game developer's cooperation with authorities.

درباره بازی پوکمون ما یک مکاتبه ایمیلی با سازندگان این بازی داشته‌ایم  با این مضمون که اگر قرار است این بازی در ایران توزیع و عرضه شود حتماً باید از فیلتر بنیاد ملی بازی‌های رایانه‌ای بگذرد و هماهنگی‌های لازم در این زمینه صورت گرفته باشد و در غیر این صورت ناگزیر از فیلتر و جلوگیری از عرضه بازی هستیم.

We had a communication through email with the developers of Pokemon Go and with the issue that if the game wants to come to the Iranian market it has to pass through the filtering of the National Foundation of Computer Games along with their cooperation, otherwise we have to filter and block this game in our market.

He further explained that the NFCG already had two conditions for the developer's of the game, which they had not communicated to them yet. These include keeping the game's data servers inside of Iran, as well as cooperating with the government to prohibit the game from targeting locations that could be of national security concerns.

The request to host servers inside the country might be seen as an extension of the demand from this past May by the Supreme Council of Cyberspace to all foreign messaging companies that they have a year to move the data they hold on Iranians onto servers inside the country or face censorship.

برای عرضه این بازی دو شرط را مدنظر داریم که البته هنوز به صورت رسمی به سازندگان بازی اعلام نشده؛ یکی اینکه باتوجه به حجم اطلاعات ثبت شده کاربران در فضای این بازی، سرور اصلی آن حتماً باید در ایران باشد و دوم اینکه نقاط تفریحی و مقاصد هدف‌گذاری شده در سراسر کشور برای تگ شدن در این بازی هم باید با هماهنگی و همکاری بنیاد مشخص شود. نباید نقاطی برای کاربر معین شود که از لحاظ موازین و قوانین کشور منعی برای حضور کاربر در آنجا وجود داشته باشد. مانند مراکز نظامی و امنیتی.
اگر سازندگان این بازی به دنبال ورود رسمی به ایران هستند باید این موارد را مدنظر داشته باشند اما با توجه به نامه‌نگاری‌ای که داشتیم آنچه از واکنش آن‌ها برمی‌آمد به صورتی بود که احساس نمی‌کنیم در شرایط فعلی برنامه‌ای برای ورود به ایران داشته باشند. بازار بازی‌های رایانه‌ای ایران همچنان برای بازِی‌سازان و شرکت‌های جهانی یک بازار پیچیده و ناشناخته است و به همین دلیل کمتر به دنبال ورود به آن هستند، به خصوص که درباره این بازی در همین محدوده فعلی بازار عرضه هم سازندگانش سود سرشاری را عاید خود کرده‌اند.

To supply this game in the country, we have two conditions that are not formally announced to the original game makers. Firstly, with attention to the information users register within the game, the original server has to be located in Iran and second all the targetted locations in the game for tagging around the country has to be coordinated and cooperated with the National Foundation of Computer Games. There should not be locations that users are prohibited to be in, like the military or national security locations.

If the game makers want to officially enter the Iranian market they have to comply with our rules but from their correspondence we see that they don’t have any plans to enter the Iranian market. Iran’s gaming market is a complicated market for developers and global companies and for this reason they are not looking into entering our market.

The director of the NFCG himself recognized that Pokémon Go's developer's were unlikely to cooperate with their demands, and would continue to operate as they have been inside of Iran for the past few weeks, with downloads through VPNs, which are ubiquitous in Iran.

by Mahsa Alimardani at July 20, 2016 11:03 PM

Jessica Valenti
So very excited to be doing a Tumblr AnswerTime segment...


So very excited to be doing a Tumblr AnswerTime segment tomorrow, Thurs July 21, at 12pm (EST) about Sex Object. Ask me about the book, feminism, cooking (srsy, I love cooking) or whatever comes to mind.

July 20, 2016 08:58 PM

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