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.

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August 05, 2015

Global Voices
Despite Millions of Recruits, Criticism of China's Online Civilization Army Mounts
During the Cultural Revolution, the red guards persecuted others in the name of patriotism and class struggle. Historical photo.

During the Cultural Revolution, the red guards persecuted others in the name of patriotism and class struggle. Historical photo.

After an online argument of a pro-government troll or “civilization volunteer” escalated into a well publicized offline street fight, many people started voicing their criticism of the Chinese Communist Party's strategy in manipulating public opinions.

Hou Jusen, a college student from Shandong Province's Weihai city is one of the approximately 18 million “civilization volunteers” the China Communist Youth League has recruited to “spread positive energy” online since February 2015.

The street fight

Hou like other civilization volunteers was recruited young and is rewarded in exchange for posting pro-government and pro-Communist party comments online. Huo participated in an “online propaganda training” organized by the Shandong branch of the Communist Youth League from June 29 to July 2. A few weeks later, Hou picked a quarrel with another teenager online. The two boys fixed a date to settle the score in person. On July 22, they fought in front of a college in the city.

Soon after, members of the China Communist Youth League framed the quarrel as a “patriotic youth” injured by an unidentified mob for expressing his love of country. Pro-government media outlets also depicted Hou as the victim of online bullying that escalated into real-life violence. But some netizens dug his online record to prove that Hou is a troll himself.

On July 24, Wendeng district police closed the case by ordering six individuals to spend seven to 15 days in detention. Hou was detained for 10 days. The police investigation triggered another round of debate.

Hou: the patriot

A local newspaper interviewed Hou and explained how he turned into a troll. The feature story was headlined on the popular Twitter-like Chinese micro-blogging service Weibo:

【爱国青年谈被打前后:骂人都是跟对方学的】山东爱国青年谈被打前后时称,常与网友因爱国言论骂战,自己照片多次被恶搞;和女友均遭人肉搜索,导致户籍信息被泄露,女友与其分手;低俗骂人贴是复制别人的话,骂人都是跟对方学的。其父亲称,警方对儿子判罚太重,影响当兵。

[Before and after the patriotic youth was beaten: I learned how to speak nasty from others] Before and after the patriotic youth from Shandong got beaten, he claimed that he always squabbled with other netizens for his patriotism. Because of that his photos have been parodied for many times. He and his girlfriend had been subjected to flesh search and their private information were revealed, leading to their breakup. His nasty comments just copied others’ and his abuse just learned from others. His father worried police’s punishment on Hou was too harsh and would affect his joining into the army.

Among thousands of comments under the post on Weibo, the majority thought Hou deserved the administrative detention.

Since Hou posts pro-government and pro-Communist party comments online in exchange for monetary or non-material gains, as an online civilization volunteer,  critics wondered whether people like him are even patriotic.

Some believed that patriotic trolls like Hou could lead to frenzy nationalism and suggested disbanding the Communist Youth League. The organization's network covers all levels from towns to province, from schools to state-run companies, with the major political task of mobilizing millions of youth to follow the party.

Civilization volunteer program fails

A Weibo poll on whether Hou should have been punished in administrative detention indicated that the civilization volunteer program has failed to win broad public support. “Special investigator” reported on the result of the poll:

投票【山东文登警方对侯聚森行政处罚是否适当?】持续22小时,参与人数7000。高达85.7%的群众支持警方,表明共青团及其网络宣传队干预司法的企图不得民心。7.2%抱怨警方未考虑侯聚森的所谓爱国青年身份,3.4%表示共青团还是算根葱的,警方应该给点面子。对于这10.5%的革命群众,我表示真的醉了。

Poll on [Whether Wendang police's administration detention of Hou Jusen is appropriate?] In 22 hours, around 7000 has voted. 85.7% supported the police, showing the Communist Youth League and its propaganda team didn’t win the public opinion. 7.2% complained that the police should consider the identity of Hou as a patriotic youth. 3.4% believed that the police should give face to Communist Youth League.  The 10.5% [the adding up of 7.2% and 3.4%] revolutionary mass is unbelievable.

Zhou Ze, a famous lawyer echoed disbanding the League:

这是想推动解散各级团组织吗?我完全同意。花纳税人钱的组织里面,最无所事事的就是各级团组织了!无事不免生非,解散了正好!

Is it a drive to disband the Communist Youth League? I definitely agree. The most idling organizations among those agencies spending taxpayers’ money are all levels of Youth League! Much Ado About Nothing. Disbanding is the best!

Hu Yong, a professor with Peking University, also denounced Communist Youth League for imposing inappropriate political pressure on the local police. He criticized their members for acting like the Red Guards who had cruelly persecuted others in the name of patriotism during the Cultural Revolution half a century ago:

昨天你闹得欢,今天我拉清单。共青团中央沦陷,约八成省级共青团沦陷,大量基层团委沦陷,前仆后继,豪壮激越,俨然新时期的红卫兵。江西、安徽、甘肃、青海、云南、贵州、吉林和河南等省鸡血指数位居前列,青海最猛,贵州最萌。在警方通报调查结论后,无一回应,未现反思。我谴责共青团

Yesterday you were happily throwing words at others, today you accused me for all the wrongs. The Central Communist League has fallen, together with 80% of its sub-branches. A large number of the grassroots committees of the League have fallen one after another, in glorious manner like the Red Guards in new era. The most bloodily fall has taken place in Jiangxi, Anhui, Gansu, Qinghai, Yunnan, Guizhou, Jilin. Qinghai is the most courageous one, Guizhou the most eye-catching one. After the release of the police investigation, they did not give any response and there wasn't any reflection. I condemn the Communist Youth League.

An investment consultant compared China’s “patriotic youth” to Boxer, a group of rioters who had killed foreigners and demolished churches in Qing dynasty:

100多年来你以为中国改变了吗?没有!过去叫八旗子弟,现在叫红色基因;过去叫祖宗家法,现在叫优良传统;过去叫老佛爷,现在叫老领导;过去叫义和团,现在叫爱国青年。

Do you think China has changed after over a century? Nothing. In Qing dynasty the ruling power was called the bannermen, now red gene; then the ruling mechanic was ancestor family discipline, now good traditions; then the top ruler was called Old Buddha, now old leader; then the nationalist was Boxer, now the patriotic youth.

Zhang Ming, a well-known political scientist and a critic of the government, mocked the patriotic trolls:

每天到我这里来骂街的,都是爱国青年,他们的爱国,就表现在骂街上。在中国,爱国是件挺容易,挺爽的事儿。

Those who abuse under my posts everyday are all patriotic youth. Cursing is their mere patriotic practice, which seems very easy and cool in China.

Wang Shuo, a famous author and a critic, pointed out that patriotism should not be an exclusive club:

通过攻击自己同胞来狠狠地抗击外敌,这隔山打牛的武功失传多年,被如今的爱国主义流氓重新挖掘出来。爱国主义成了一种特权,挂上这块牌子,立刻成了国家的主人,无法无天,理直气壮地耍流氓。挂着爱国主义牌子泄私愤戗害同胞者,请你们别继续侮辱爱国主义了!

Strike against foreign enemies by attacking their own fellows, that’s a lost trick reinvented by the patriotic rogues. Patriotism has degenerated into a kind of privilege with which anyone can suddenly become the host of the country and damage others legitimately. Don’t humiliate patriotism!

by Jack Hu at August 05, 2015 01:14 AM

10 Months On, Families March Across Mexico in Search of Missing Ayotzinapa Students
Familiares y compañeros de los 43 realizaron una marcha más, a 10 meses de la desaparición de los normalistas de Ayotzinapa. Foto: Francisco Cañedo, SinEmbargo

Relatives and classmates of the 43 march once again, 10 months since the disappearance of the teaching students of Ayotzinapa. Photo: Francisco Cañedo, SinEmbargo.

This article by Sergio Rincón was originally published on Sin Embargo and is reproduced here under a partnership agreement.

Relatives, students and activists announced two caravans will travel across Mexico from the north and south starting July 31 with the goal of joining forces and calling on more Mexicans to join the search for the 43 missing students of the Escuela Normal Rural Raúl Isidro Burgos (Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College) in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero.

The students disappeared on September 26 of last year in Iguala, presumably at the hands of municipal police.

Since then, national and international human rights organizations have investigated and requested that the Attorney General of Mexico widen the investigation into the missing students and open new lines of investigation, including calling in military personnel to testify.

Families and advocacy groups maintain allegations of the presence of military personnel during the disappearance should be investigated, but the Mexican Army refuses to allow Ayotzinapa parent-investigators onto military bases. Prosecutors maintain that there is a lack of evidence of military involvement for them to pursue that line of investigation.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights named a group of international experts contributing to the investigation, who made detailed recommendations this past April. However, human rights organizations and experts have not had success.

Over the last week, the National Human Rights Commission raised many flaws and omissions in the ministerial investigation on the part of Mexican Attorney General and the State Prosecutor of Guerrero. The head of the special unit of the Iguala Case, José Larrieta, along with the national Ombudsman, Luis Raúl Pérez Gonzáles, recommended that Mexican authorities explore new lines of investigation.

One new line of investigation is that the attack on the students could have happened in Pueblo Viejo and the La Parota (locations in the vicinity of Iguala) “as there are reports of a clearly identified individual who could provide information related of the disappearance of the students”. As well as there being allusions to other individuals, known only by their last names, who have yet to be investigated.

Hundreds of demonstrators took to the Paseo de la Reforma, a wide avenue that runs diagonally across the heart of Mexico City, as part of the day of protests, demanding the return of the students alive. Civil organizations and trade unions planned a demonstration at 4 pm to remind the authorities that a day like today, 10 months ago, after being held by police from Iguala, the students disappeared.

The demonstrators arrived at Hemiciclo a Juárez, a monument erected to honor former president Benito Juárez and located in Mexico City's historic centerwhere they held a rally with relatives of the 43. There they demanded justice so that the military personnel involved in the cases of Iguala, Tlatlaya and Ostula would be punished. “The army is performing extra judicial executions”, was heard at the protest.

“The Mexican Army murdered a boy in Michoacán, this is the same army that took our children. Therefore we demand you open up the [military] bases to the team of experts from Argentina”, said Felipe De La Cruz, spokesperson for the parents of the students.

De La Cruz mentioned that the government's historical truth has become “the country's historical lie”.

The movement that is demanding the search for the 43 announced that on July 31, two informative caravans will be set up. One in the northern states that will begin in Chihuahua, and another to the south of Mexico that will begin in Chiapas.

“We want to join together, to join the cause with organizations and society”, they put forward.

The northern caravan will also cover the states of Coahuila, Durango, Zacatecas, Guanajuato, and Jalisco. The southern caravan will pass through Michoacán, Oaxaca, Puebla, Tlaxcala, Morelos, Estado de México, Distrito Federal and finish up in Guerrero.

Throughout the rally, the parents of the families stated that for the last 10 months they have lived through hell, but thanks to the support of many Mexicans, they have the strength to go out and demand justice “because we cannot remain silent in a country where the authorities say that nothing has happened”, said a relative of the students.

They also put forward that they would not allow elections to go ahead in Iguala, nor would they allow the presence of armed forces in the town.

“There will be no elections until they open the barracks to the experts”, one woman said.

Prior to the rally and protest, a march was organized at the anti monument +43 where parents of the families warned that if anything happens to their children, it will be President Enrique Peña Nieto who is responsible.

The day of protests over the students’ 10 month disappearance began on August 2 in the state of Guerrero, with protests from intellectuals, relatives, and classmates of the students.

In the country's capital, a conference was held at the Hemiciclo a Juárez, where protesters demanded the return of the students alive, and also that they ensure that the recent report from the National Human Rights Commission shows that the official version of events seeks to conclude the parents’ movement to find their children.

“Today they ask us to go home and get over the pain. We say to them: we will not go home until our children are returned”, declared Vidulfo Rosales Sierra, lawyer from the Centre of Human Rights of Mount Tlachinollan.

In another act of solidarity, cyclists rode from Hemiciclo a Juárez to the Attorney General of Mexico with protest banners and photos of the 43 students.

by Glenn Bower at August 05, 2015 12:43 AM

August 04, 2015

Global Voices
14 Journalists From Veracruz, Mexico Have Been Murdered During Governor Duarte's Rule
@espinosafoto. Autorretrato.  Rubén Espinosa quien apareció muerto son signos de tortura.

Image of Mexican photojournalist Rubén Espinosa, who was found dead and showing signs of torture. Retrieved from Espinosa's Twitter account @espinosafoto.

Mexico's leading free speech organization Artículo 19, announced that photojournalist Rubén Espinosa was found dead on Friday, July 31. Espinosa worked as a correspondent in the Mexican state of Veracruz for the magazine Proceso, Agencia Cuartoscuro, and AVC Noticias.

Along with Espinosa, four women were also killed in a Mexico City apartment in the middle-class neighborhood of Narvarte, one of them Nadia Vera, an activist from Veracruz.

Attention: The Rubén Espinosa case is the first in that an internally displaced journalist is murdered.

After having received threats, the photographer fled from Veracruz to Mexico City in June of this year with the purpose of protecting his integrity.

Espinosa's death makes him the fourteenth journalist after Regina Martínez, Goyo Jiménez, Moisés Sánchez, Víctor Manuel Báez, Irasema Becerra, Guillermo Luna, Gabriel Huge, Esteban Rodríguez, Noel López Olguin, Miguel Ángel López, Misael López, Yolanda Ordaz, and Armando Saldaña to have been murdered during the administration of Veracruz's governor, Javier Duarte de Ochoa, who took office in December 2010. So far there has only been one arrest, for the murder of Regina Martínez.

“I left after having received several threats […] Veracruz is a lawless state,” Espinosa said in his last interview on July 9 with Rompeviento TV.

According to Artículo 19, the day before his attack, he headed the formal replacement of an honorary plaque for Regina Martínez, a journalist who was slain on April 28, 2012 in Xalapa, the capital city of Veracruz. As of this moment, three journalists have fallen in Xalapa, all of which have occurred during the Duarte administration.

Shot in the head

On August 1, the Mexican newspaper, El Universal, reported that five bodies were found in the Mexico City neighborhood of Narvarte in a building on Zempoala Street; one of them was that of Espinosa.

Family members, who had already reported him missing, identified the journalist's body, which displayed hits to the face and bullet wounds. All the victims received a shot in the head.

According to Proceso, in September 2013, state police had beaten Espinosa in Xalapa while he was documenting the violent removal of CNTE members from Plaza Lerdo. In addition, police forced him to erase from his camera's memory card all of the photographic material that had been taken that day.

Displaced journalist

Now in Mexico City, Rubén Espinosa was invited to participate in the Periodistas de a Pie program, which was transmitted on the internet television station, Rompeviento TV.

On the program, he denounced the constant threats against him and that of other journalists in Veracruz; and for that reason, he decided to leave the city where he had lived for seven years.

The late journalist stated that:

“Las condiciones son malas para todos los periodistas en Veracruz” .

“The conditions are bad for all journalists in Veracruz.”

He also denounced the criminalization which he fell victim to for having participated in the remembrance of Regina Martínez: “We have a group of colleagues that have called us guerrillas for installing a [honorary] plaque for Regina Martínez.”

Governor Duarte

On the other hand, there is audio circulating the internet via SoundCloud, in which the voice of Javier Duarte can presumably be heard in a meeting in the city of Poza Rica, Veracruz. The governor “advises” journalists to stay away from organized crime rings, and indicates that if “something happens to you”, it is for having been engaged in close proximity to these criminal groups.

He also stated that:

Es atractivo, es seductor en muchas ocasiones tener la primicia, tener la nota que uno de estos grupos criminales nos dé para poder publicarla, y poder ganar la nota y para poder asegurar la noticia pero créanme quien se mete con estas gentes generalmente termina mal.

On many occasions it's appealing and seductive to get the first news, to get the story that one of those criminal groups gives us to publish, and to be able to get that story and secure the news. But believe me, it normally ends badly for those who get involved with these people.

In the audio, the governor speaks to the journalists with an alleged petition: “…for your families, but also for me and mine; if something happens to you, I'm the one that gets crucified […] behave appropriately; we all know who walking on the wrong side of the tracks.”

In addition, Duarte mentions that he knows who has close ties with organized crime: “We all know who has ties with these groups in one way or another; let us play the dumb card […] I ask you, please, to behave appropriately.” He then ends his speech with a threat:

Vamos a sacudir el árbol y se van a caer muchas manzanas podridas, yo espero verdaderamente, se los digo de corazón que ningún colaborador, ningún trabajador de los medios de comunicación se vea afectado por esta situación, y solamente se van a ver afectados quiénes de alguna u otra manera tienen una vinculación con estos grupos criminales. No hay que confundir libertad de expresión con representar la expresión de los delincuentes a través de los medios (…), vamos a sacudir fuertemente el árbol.

We're going to shake the tree and many rotten apples are going to fall. I truly hope, I say this from the heart, that no collaborator nor media professional will be affected by this situation, and that the only ones that will be are those who have ties one way or another to these criminal groups. We should not confuse freedom of expression with representing the voice of criminals via the media […] we're going to fiercely shake the tree.

Also in statements, the governor removes himself from any responsibility: “As the saying goes: fair warning leaves no room for surprises. I told you openly and beforehand […] therefore, I ask nothing more of you—it's the only thing I ask—other than to behave appropriately. Don't stray off the path; don't get wrapped up in this matter.”

Based on the governor's words, Espinosa claimed that it was indeed a threat meant for all journalists in Veracruz.

“It's getting closer each time”

The murder of the five individuals shook Mexico's capital journalists; hundreds gathered at the Ángel de la Independencia, one of the most recognizable landmarks in Mexico City. A long time has passed since witnessing such a heavily attended protest. Perhaps this time because it hits closer to home seeing as how it took place in the nation's capital city. “It's getting closer each time,” says a colleague from the newspaper Reforma. 

Eduardo Velasco Vásquez Más de 131 Sociedad contra gobierno I

Protest outside the Veracruz government headquarters in Mexico City for the death of five individuals, among them, Rubén Espinosa and Nadia Vera. Next to the gate on the right it reads: “It was you Duarte”, alluding to the Veracruz governor. Photo: Eduardo Velasco Vásquez from More that 131.

Civil society also joined in by demanding justice, which also included that for Nadia Vera, an activist dedicated to Veracruz culture. She formed part of the collective #Yosoy132Xalapa [I am 132 Xalapa]. She was described as being a courageous woman and a critic of Duarte's administration. She emphasized on the state's violence several times in various interviews, and that the population finds itself among the harassment from drug traffickers and the omissions and impunity of the government. She even ensured collusion between the two.

People also spoke up for Yesenia Quiroz, who was a domestic worker from Colombia; for the moment this is the only known information about her. Both Quiroz and Vera were tortured and murdered in an apartment in the neighborhood Narvarte. The Mexico City authorities said that they would exhaust all possible lines of investigation, always stressing upon the point that the apartment had been robbed.

Therefore, journalist Témoris Grego made the demand during the protest that the first line of investigation be Espinosa's journalistic work.

In the last 15 years, we found that the murder of only one Mexico City journalist had been reported; it appeared in the newspaper Excélsior on November 15, 2006 by reporter José Manuel Nava.

The protest turned into a march. A silent and rainy march all the way to the Veracruz representation headquarters in Mexico City. While there, the rain intensified, but not before having cried Durate a “murderer”.

by Kelley Johnson at August 04, 2015 08:54 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
#HackingTeam Leaks: Ecuador is Spending Millions on Malware, Pro-Government Trolls
Citizens demonstrate against President Correa in Quito. Photo by Agencia de Noticias ANDES via Flickr (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Citizens demonstrate against President Correa in Quito. Photo by Agencia de Noticias ANDES via Flickr (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Written by Samuel Woolley

Three Ecuadorian media sites experienced incapacitating online attacks last month, just minutes after they published evidence of an association between the Ecuadorian government and the surveillance technology company Hacking Team.

News and commentary websites including Plan V and Gkillcity, along with the media freedom group Fundación Milhojas reported that their sites suffered DDoS attacks shortly after they pointed to documents leaked from the massive hack of Hacking Team’s systems. According to the exposed emails, which have since been published on WikiLeaks, the Ecuadorian government paid over half a million dollars to the beleaguered Italian company for subscription to Remote Control System, a software package used for wide-ranging digital surveillance.

The Hacking Team scandal has implicated the governments of numerous countries across the globe in large-scale domestic digital surveillance. Several other nations in Latin America appear on clientele lists exposed in the hack as well, with Mexico leading as Hacking Team’s top client worldwide. According to Colombian news weekly Semana, the Ecuadorian government paid an Israeli firm $5.5 million for similar surveillance technology in 2012.

Many local and regional media outlets have covered the Correa government’s attempts to “wage a social media counterattack” against the opposition, citizens the president has named ‘defamers.’ Streams of pro-government propaganda, anti-opposition trolls, and hashtag spamming are all part of what journalists and online activists have deemed ‘Twitter Gate’,  a politically-motivated social media spin campaign dating back to 2012. Several prominent media voices in the country have pointed to the existence of government-sponsored troll centers and denounced their existence. Calls for clarity on government trolling campaigns from regime critic and former congressman Fernando Balda revealed information relating to numerous Twitter accounts allegedly built expressedly to support the current administration.

In July 2014, several vocal opponents of the Correa government had their Twitter accounts suspended. Multiple media outlets soon after reported on critics’ assertions that Juan Carlos Vascones, CEO of the Ecuadorian company Ximah Digital, had engineered the suspensions. Vascones reportedly has ties to the government and also serves as a representative for Twitter’s partner in Ecuador, IMSCorp. Both Vascones and Ximah Digital are associated with Ribeney SA, a private company that allegedly serves as a social media troll center in the capital city of Quito. Official documents prove that Ecuador’s Ministry of Strategic Sectors signed a social media strategy contract with Ribeney in 2013.

Media freedom advocates in the country see the attacks as part of a broader trend. Since 2013, critics of sitting president Rafael Correa have grown increasingly concerned with restrictions on Internet access, online surveillance, and government-sponsored social media propaganda. Censorship and threats directed at prominent online activists, bloggers, and opposition leaders along with periodic allegations of social media manipulation reflect Correa’s firm policies against reporting that is critical of the government. At the beginning of 2015, the president released Somos+, a website dedicated to directly responding to the government’s detractors on social media. The site invites Correa supporters to subscribe to an alert service that will notify them each time a Twitter user “smears” the government. It urges them to then respond and “support the Citizen’s Revolution.”

Correa’s administration is pursuing this agenda via multiple channels. Authorities have used intellectual property and criminal defamation laws to curb freedom of speech among journalists and detractors, and in recent years, several journalists and opposition members have been jailed for speaking out against the government.

According to researchers, the upswing in the Ecuadorian government use of social media to influence public conversations and media coverage correlates with a similar rise in government-driven trolling by governments worldwide. Media watchdogs, activists and academics have been closely watching the rise Twitter propaganda in Latin American countries including Mexico, Argentina, and Venezuela.

Recent reports suggest that the use of automated computer programs, often integral to both DDoS attacks and social media manipulation, continues to grow in Ecuador. Several have called for an end to political attempts at using social bot technology to manipulate public opinion, but for now there is no clear end in sight.

 

Samuel Woolley works with the Political Bots Project and the Digital Activism Research Project. He is a PhD student at the University of Washington in the US. 

by Guest Contributor at August 04, 2015 05:02 PM

Harvard Law Library Innovation Lab
Creative Commons
Obama administration should require sharing of federally funded educational resources under Creative Commons licenses

White House_600
White House by Diego Cambiaso, available under the CC BY-SA license.

Today, Creative Commons and a broad coalition of education, library, technology, public interest, and legal organizations are calling upon the White House to take administrative action to ensure that federally funded educational materials are made available as Open Educational Resources (OER) for the public to freely use, share, and improve.

We ask the administration to adopt a strong Executive branch-wide policy requiring that educational, training, and instructional materials created with federal funds be shared under an open license. Some agencies have already implemented an open licensing policy for the outputs of federal grants, including the $2 billion Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant Program, jointly administered by the Departments of Labor and Education. In order to receive these funds, grantees are required to license to the public all work created with the support of the grant under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 (CC BY) license.

In issuing this public statement, we hope to ensure that the billions of taxpayer dollars invested in the creation of educational materials produce resources that are freely available to the members of the public that paid for them. The administration has both an educational and economic imperative to increase access to learning and workforce development opportunities. Further, it has the opportunity to spur innovation through opening access to a wealth of educational resources that can be improved and built upon.

To ensure that administrative policy advances these goals, the coalition has outlined five core principles for executive action:

  1. Adopt a broad definition of educational materials.
  2. Provide free online access to these educational resources.
  3. Create conditions that enable easy reuse of materials.
  4. Require prompt implementation of the policy.
  5. Mandate regular reporting of progress and results.

The following can be attributed to Cable Green, Director of Global Learning at Creative Commons:

“By embracing Creative Commons licenses for the digital education and training outputs of federal agency grant making, the Obama administration will be demonstrating its commitment to collaboration, innovation, and effective government spending. When we contribute publicly funded educational materials to the public commons, everyone wins. This type of sharing is worth fighting for.”

A copy of the complete letter is available here. You can show your support for open access to publicly funded education materials by signing it too.

by Timothy Vollmer at August 04, 2015 01:14 PM

Global Voices
The Biggest Threat to Mexican Journalists Aren't Drug Cartels Anymore
 Reporteros de medios escritos, televisivos y radiofónicos increparon hoy a funcionarios de la Secretaría de Gobernación (Segob) y del Gobierno de Veracruz, a quienes pidieron que expliquen qué harán para proteger la vida e integridad de las y los periodistas en la entidad.

Journalists protest in front of a Veracruz government building. Veracruz continues to be one of the most dangerous regions to practice journalism because of the number of murders that have occurred there. Photo taken from the Flickr account of CimacNoticias Agency under Creative Commons license.

This post by Mariana Muñoz was originally published originally on the blog Journalism in the Americas and is republished here with permission.

In the last decade, Mexico has become one of the most dangerous countries of the world for journalists, largely due to the so-called War on Drugs in the northern region that borders the United States.

Press freedom advocacy organizations, however, noticed a change in the geography of attacks against journalists, which are increasingly becoming more common in Mexico's southern states. They also noticed that the suspects behind the attacks are not members of drug cartels, but public officials and police officers.

Violence shifts from north to south

This year, so far, there have been six cases of journalists being murdered – all were killed in Mexico's south. In one week this July, three journalists were killed in Oaxaca, Veracruz and Guanajuato – all southern states.

Violence in Mexico

Statistics from Periodistas en Riesgo, a site that tracks and documents attacks against journalists in Mexico, seems to confirm this trend.

Javier Garza Ramos, an International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) Knight International Journalism Fellow who oversees Periodistas en Riesgo, recently wrote an article for El País where he explores the shift of violence from the north to the south.

Garza explains that the shift occurred because, in general, violence in the north decreased (with the exception of Tamaulipas) and shifted attention to the increasing incidents in the central and southern states.

In an interview with the Knight Center, Garza stated that there is a misconception on who is doing the most harm, however.

Public officials and police officers are now the main aggressors

According to Garza, attention has been largely focused on attacks against journalists by cartel members because they have been the most dramatic in the manner in which they attack. Consequently, cartel members are seen as the main aggressors toward journalists.

Garza argues that this is not true.

“They are the ones who attack more violently, but in quantitative terms, they are not the ones who attack the most,” he said.

According to Garza, public officials and police officers are responsible for most of the attacks toward journalists. The manner and intensity of attacks vary, ranging from threats and intimidation to kidnapping, beatings and homicides.

Freedom of expression in Mexico has taken a hit in recent years. Journalists in this country face threats from public officials and members of organized crime, leading to injuries and in some cases, death.

“Organized crime violence has started to decrease in northern regions like Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez, compared to 2010 and 2011. Tamaulipas is the only exception,” he said.

A recent event recorded by La Crónica appears to demonstrate the trend of public officials threatening or attacking journalists.

Daniel Blancas, reporter for La Cronica, was sent to the municipality of Almoloya de Juarez in the state of Mexico to investigate the escape from prison of Mexico’s biggest drug lord, Joaquín Guzmán Loera, also known as El Chapo. His job was to interview Calixto Estrada Castillo, the last owner of the house that served as the end point for Guzmán Loera's escape tunnel.

After being questioned and prohibited from entering the premises, Blancas says he received a threat: “Cemeteries are full of journalists like you!”

According to Huellas de Mexico, the threat was made by Jorge Peña, an official with the Office of the Attorney General in Zinacantepec.

Veracruz: “hell for journalists”

According to the first bi-annual report of 2015 by Article 19 titled, “Más violencia, más silencio” (“More violence, more silence”), 227 attacks against the press were recorded in the first six months of 2015. This is substantially higher than the average during Felipe Calderón’s administration from 2006 to 2012, which was about 182 per year, the report added.

The report also discussed the six murders of journalists that have occurred since January 2015, all in the southern part of the country.

Three of the six murders have occurred in Veracruz, located in the southeastern portion of the country on the coastline of the Gulf of Mexico.

Even though the state of Guerrero has the highest number of overall attacks toward journalists (38), Veracruz continues to be one of the most dangerous regions to practice journalism because of the number of murders that have occurred there, according to Animal Politico.

In a BBC Mundo article, the state is referred to as “hell for journalists.”

Eighteen journalists have been murdered there since 2000 and 12 of these murders (14, according to other sources) have been recorded under the administration of current governor Javier Duarte, according to Article 19.

A documentary titled,  “Death in Veracruz” produced by the all-digital channel AJ+, explores the manner in which the lives of journalists in Veracruz have changed, working under threat in recent years.

In 2011, the municipal police in Veracruz were dismantled due to alleged corruption and the fact that the army began to carry out their duties.

Self-defense groups, upset with the ineffectiveness of police, formed in the state.

Félix Márquez, a photojournalist in Veracruz, documented the groups.

“The authorities don’t want to recognize that these groups exist,”  he said. “I don’t know why they don’t like to talk about the self-defense groups. However, our job is to document them and prove they exist.”

Márquez said he was threatened over his photos of the self-defense groups.

“The Secretary of Public Security made a statement saying that I should be in prison,” he said in the documentary.

“Death in Veracruz” also explores the case of José Moisés Sánchez Cerezo, a journalist who was killed in Veracruz on January 2.

Sánchez founded the daily La Unión in the municipality of Medellín de Bravo in Veracruz to inform the community about things that were not reported by other news outlets.

Often reporting on police corruption, Sánchez was intimidated by public officials, and, in one instance, received word that the mayor was planning to scare him, according to the documentary.

Sánchez was abducted from his home on January 2; his lifeless body was found in Veracruz in the early hours of January 24. Many believe that the mayor, Omar Cruz, ordered his kidnapping and murder.

Jorge Sánchez, son of Moisés, continues to seek justice for the death of his father.

“There are many irregularities in this investigation,” he said in the documentary. “These are the same anomalies that exist in all the investigations of journalists’ murders.”

After the murder, police officers were assigned to monitor the Sanchez’s home—a method of protection for the family. A barbed wire fence was placed around the home.

“One would think that the other people are the ones who should be locked away, not us,” Jorge Sánchez said in the documentary. “But this is how things work here—the criminals roam free and we are the ones who have to be locked in.”

Impunity is a problem in Mexico where crimes against journalists are rarely punished. The country ranks seventh in the Committee to Protect Journalist’s 2014 Global Impunity Index. Additionally, critics have pointed to serious problems with the federal protection mechanism for journalists who are in danger.

by Global Voices Latin America at August 04, 2015 04:44 AM

Doc Searls
What’s the best way customer love can help a brand?

In “Cool Influencers With Big Followings Get Picky About Their Endorsements,” Sydney Ember of the NY Times writes,

The more brands that use influencers for marketing campaigns on social platforms like YouTube, Twitter and Instagram, the less impact each influencer has. At the same time, many influencers, who once jumped at the opportunity to endorse brands, are being much more selective for fear of appearing to sell out.

In How the gig economy has turned bad analysts into vendor advocates, Horses for Sources writes,

The technology and services industry today is awash with individuals whose only professional activity is flitting from vendor conference to vendor conference, with the sole purpose of writing completely non-objective puff pieces praising their vendor hosts in exchange for money (or in the hope said vendors will pony up some dough in gratitude).

And in MediaPost‘s Influencers: When Are they a Bad Bet?, Erik Sass wisely writes,

Okay, let’s admit some basic facts: when you look at many influencers, there’s really not much to them.

So “influencer,” it appears, is a euphemism for sell-out. We’re talking about shills here.

What should a brand do with truly valuable customers? I see three choices:

  1. Pay the customer to shill for them. That seems to be the default in today’s marketing world.
  2. Reward the customer in some way, as airlines do with frequent flyer programs.
  3. Recruit the customer to get more involved with the company itself, helping to improve its products and services. In other words, use the customer as an influencer on the company, rather than on some target audience. Generate real value at the source.

I submit that #3 has far more value than #1, and can add enormous value to #2.

Think of three companies for which you are a committed customer. Then think about what value you can give to those companies as a veteran user and good source of intelligence and insight.

As examples, I’ll name three of my own:

I’m way past a million miles with United, and have been a “1K” (100k miles/year) passenger for years. Naturally, United is nice to me, as it tries to be with all frequent fliers. I have no complaints, and can think of much to praise. I’ve also done my best to be good to United as well (though not by shilling them). One small way is by tagging with “United,” “United Airlines” and “UAL” all the 10,000+ scenic photos I’ve taken out the windows of their airplanes.

But I would be glad to do more. For free. Like other frequent (and expert) fliers, I have plenty of ideas it would be good for United (or any airline) to hear, whether or not they implement them. But, aside from United’s feedback surveys, there is no easy or standard way to do that.

According to my personal account pages at MyGarmin.com, I own six Garmin GPS units and a map for one of them. In fact I’ve owned more than I see on both lists. (Some have been lost or stolen.) I’ve also loved every Garmin product I’ve ever used. My current fave is the little eTrex 20 GPS. That unit and earlier Legend and Vista models have yielded lots of useful data for me, including what’s visualized here on the company’s free BaseCamp map app:

basecamp

Same goes for data remembered, somehow, by Garmin’s older RoadTrip app:

roadtrip

Note the differences. I’d love to combine and reconcile them somehow, but have no idea how to do that. I’d also like to see the next-generation eTrex bring back some of the virtues I enjoyed in the Legend and Vista (such as the rubbery back and the non-flimsy way the earlier models held a MicroSD card).

I’ve had a number of conversations, over the years, with Garmin call centers, and their agents have always been highly knowledgeable and helpful. But I’d love to have a better way to relate to Garmin than the means the company alone provides.

I actually have only one Apogee product: the Mic microphone. It’s handy, and vastly improves sound over the built-in mics in my laptop and mobile devices. I carry it with me everywhere. In fact, I like the Mic so much that I would be glad to buy some of the company’s other products. But I haven’t, because the legs of my Mic have all fallen off. (Each were held on by a tiny phillips-head screw that easily unscrews and disappears. Two of the legs are now held on by substitute screws and the third by a twist-tie.) I just opened a support ticket on Apogee’s support page, asking for replacement screws, and attempted unsuccessfully to wake up the Live Chat thing. We’ll see how it goes with the support ticket.

I have two points here.

One I’ve already made: good customers have far more value to add than their patronage alone.

The other is new to business: we need a standard and common way for any customer to contribute useful intelligence to any company they care about. This would unlock immeasurable value through improved products and services.

We can’t get there by working the company side alone. Even if every company in the world improves its customer service to the max, every company’s systems and improvements would still be as different as they are today.

We can only innovate here on the customer side.

It helps that there is nothing new about this. The entire Internet is an example of exactly the kind of innovation we’re talking about here. It gives every customer scale, and provides a common way for everybody to engage everybody else. Same goes for basic tools we use on the Net. For example, browsers and email. Browsers especially provide standard and common ways for individuals to engage Web sites and services.

What we’re talking about here is a breed of VRM: Vendor Relationship Management. But it’s one breed, not the whole thing. And it’s a new breed.

I think it needs a name, so we can classify development there. Got one? Lemme have it.

Meanwhile, here is one hypothetical example of an innovation in this space.

 

 

 

 

by Doc Searls at August 04, 2015 12:34 AM

August 03, 2015

Global Voices Advocacy
Indians Blast Facebook Over Broken Community Standards
Cyber attack. - Image from Flickr by Florian F. Used under a CC license BY_NC-ND 2.0

Cyber attack. Image by Florian F via Flickr. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

There are over 100 million Facebookers in India, leaving the country second only to the U.S. in overall users, and poised to lead the pack of countries using the social network by 2017. Yet Facebook is struggling to keep pace with the complexities presented by the vast, multilingual and culturally diverse Indian market.

Recent incidents occurring on the social media platform within the space of a few days show how Facebook is losing the war against rampant misogyny, child abuse, nude content and even the recent ‘original name’ policy the social network proudly enforces globally.

Preetha G Nair - Victim of Cyber Attack Screen Shot

Screenshot of Preetha G Nair Facebook page.

Siding with the misogynists?

Preetha G Nair, a social media activist, has been the subject of a massive cyber-bullying campaign.

On July 19, Preetha wrote a post complaining about a misogynist remark made by G. Sudhakaran, a member of a political party in Kerala, India. In response, many of Sudhakaran's party followers reported Preetha's Facebook page as fake amid a bombardment of personal attacks on her led by Davis Thekkekara, Sudhakaran's political ally.

Preetha's account was duly suspended by Facebook, who cited ‘community standards’, only reinstating the account upon verifying that she was in fact not in the wrong. When on returning to the social network she spoke out against the politics of Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, India's 11th president, who died on July 27, Preetha was once more singled out based on her gender and subjected to a massive online attack.

A new Facebook profile subsequently appeared depicting her as a prostitute and featuring images of her friends and children as well as nasty stories with explicit sexual content. Many fellow Facebook users reported the profile and filed written email complaints with the Kerala Cyber Cell, the official website of the Kerala police.

But the Kerala police have not responded, while those reporting the issue to Facebook receive a standard message that the pages do not violate Facebook community standards. As of August 2, the fake profile was still online and active.

In support of capital punishment?

Elsewhere on Facebook, people were protesting the July 30 hanging of convicted terrorist Yakub Memon, whose capital punishment one prominent Indian journalist wrote “exposed [people's] hunger for the macabre”.

On July 31, anti-hanging pages, also in the Malaylam language, were taken down by Facebook immediately while users associated with the pages had their accounts frozen.

Anivar Aravind, an internet freedom activist, began a Twitter campaign against Facebook's policies using the hashtag #‎FoE‬. After a few hours, the frozen accounts were reinstated.

Sudheesh Sudhakaran, an active Facebooker, whose account was suspended amid the hanging controversy wrote:

ഇതിന്റെ അര്‍ത്ഥം ഫേസ്ബുക്കിന്റെ കമ്മ്യൂണിറ്റി സ്റ്റാന്‍ഡേര്‍ഡ് എന്ന് പറയുന്നത്, വധശിക്ഷയെ അംഗീകരിക്കുന്ന ഒന്നാണെന്നും അതിനെ എതിര്‍ക്കുന്നവരെ പുറത്താക്കും എന്ന് വേണമല്ലോ മനസ്സിലാക്കാന്‍. ഫേസ്ബുക്ക് ഇന്ത്യ ഈ നാട്ടിലെ മജോരിട്ടെരിയന്‍ പോളിട്ടിക്സിന്റെ മനുഷ്യത്വരഹിതമായ വികാരങ്ങളെ പരിപോഷിപ്പിച്ചു ഫ്രീഡം ഓഫ് എക്സ്പ്രേഷനെ തടയുന്നു എന്നല്ലേ ?

This clearly shows that Facebook Community standards are driven by people who support Capital Punishment and through them Facebook is only supporting right wingers who have no value for human rights or freedom of expression.

Whose Facebook is this?

Any person who knows how to read in the Malayalam language can understand that Preetha G Nair is being subjected to massive online abuse.

Simultaneously a simple protest against the decision of the Indian government to hang a convicted terrorist was taken as a violation of Facebook's “community standards”. This poses a question: who is monitoring Indian Facebook pages?

For women, who constitute a majority of Facebook users in India, this question is particularly important. The platform has undoubtedly helped them voice their opinions on public issues in a way that society sometimes does not allow. But that progress is being rolled back by vicious online attacks Facebook seems unable or unwilling to police. Facebook is an increasingly unsafe place for Indian women.

Screen Shot of Cyber Attack referencing Preetha's child and picture of the child

Screen Shot of comments referencing Preetha's child and picture of the child.

Sheeja Rajagopal, a PhD research Scholar from Chennai, commented:

This speaks volumes about Facebook's community standards (whatever that means). Harassing a woman using derogatory language and using her pictures doesn't violate any of Facebook's policies or standards. Posting a woman's pictures on a public page without her consent and using abusive language seems acceptable to Facebook.

Maya Leela, a Spain-based linguist and activist, stood behind Preetha:

അവഹേളനങ്ങള്‍ പ്രീതയോടൊപ്പം വളരെ വ്യക്തിപരമായി ഞാനും ഏറ്റു വാങ്ങുന്നു. ഒരു സ്ത്രീയെന്ന നിലയില്‍ മറ്റൊരു സ്ത്രീയ്ക്ക് സംഭവിക്കുന്ന ഒരു ദുരിതവും എന്റെതും കൂടെ അല്ലാതാവുന്നില്ല.

‪#‎preethaismyfriend‬

Preetha is my friend. The attackers  who are Malayalee men are threatening that they are going to post nude pictures and videos of Preetha […] The videos and pictures of Preetha will carry my face too. I am also receiving all the insults and abuse Preetha is being subjected to. Whatever happens to someone of my gender (woman) is happening to me also.

Arya Prakash, a student, vented:

Not that I'm surprised, but I'm fuming with anger. What the fuck are these community standards if they cannot take down a page that's nothing but purely abusive in nature and totally harassing a woman using her photos and other personal details? Facebook should review its community standards before it reviews other pages.

Meanwhile, the creators of the page have received over, 1,000 likes and have challenged the Kerala Police to find them, while also threatening further hacks on Preetha's account.

They also issued a threat to the people reporting them on their page:

സൈബര്‍ സെല്ലില്‍ ധാരാളം കമ്പ്ലയിന്റ് പോയിട്ടുണ്ട് എന്ന് അറിയാം അയാം വെയിറ്റിംഗ് പണി പാമ്പ് ആയി പരാതി കൊടുത്തവര്‍ക്ക് വരാതിരിക്കാന്‍ നോക്കുക

Whoever has complained to the police will have to suffer the consequences.

Screen Shot of Cyber attack challenging Kerala Police to find them.

Screen Shot of messages challenging Kerala Police to find them.

But amid the online violence and Facebook's inaction, a hopeful culture of solidarity is growing. Preetha's friends are posting messages of support and defiance under the hashtag #‎പ്രീതക്കൊപ്പം‬, or #‎standingwithpreetha.

by Global Voices Advocacy at August 03, 2015 04:25 PM

Exiled Journalist Speaks on Human Trafficking and The Gambia's Assault on Media Freedom

Sanna Camara, Gambia journalist living in exile in Senegal [Image used with his permission]

Sanna Camara, Gambia journalist living in exile in Senegal. Photo courtesy of Sanna Camara.

When Gambian journalist Sanna Camara began covering human trafficking in his home country of The Gambia last year, he was detained and questioned by police.

A journalist with The Standard, a leading newspaper in the Gambian capital of Banjul, Camara sought and published the opinion of a Gambian police spokesman in reaction to the US State Department's 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP) which called The Gambia a “source and destination country for women and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking.” After suffering intense harassment from government authorities and threats on his life, Camara fled The Gambia, leaving behind his wife and young children. He now lives in exile in Senegal.

The Gambia has been under the grip of a tyrannical ‘democracy’ for almost thirty years. President Yahya Jammeh, a young military officer took power after a 1994 military coup, promised upon assuming office: “we will never introduce dictatorship in this country.”

The Gambia is also one of the most repressive states in West Africa for press freedom. The Gambia currently ranks as number 151 out of 180 countries in 2015 World Press Freedom Index.

Image used with permission from Sanna Carma

Image courtesy of Sanna Camara.

Global Voices Nigerian author Nwachukwu Egbunike caught up with Camara recently in Abidjan, Ivory Coast and they discussed his work and decision to leave his country.

As a Gambian journalist, what type of reporting were you doing? What kinds of topics did you cover?

Since 2001, I have been reporting general news, ranging from politics, human rights, environmental and other developmental news stories both for a daily newspaper and my blog.

Your story, “Police admit ‘problems’ with human trafficking” for The Standard got you harassed by the police and later arrested. Can you give us some background on this story?

The issue of human trafficking, or trafficking in persons, has been a sensitive one in my country, particularly for the media. If you understand the political environment journalists operate in in my country, you will know that the space to report and investigate issues of interest to the population, or issues that affect their lives, is so limited – thanks to diverse reasons, but key is the laws limiting press freedom and freedom of expression.

1427331921939So in June 2014, while I was reporting for The Standard in Banjul, the US State Department released a report ranking countries all over the world on [the prevalence of] trafficking in persons, what measures governments take to curtail the issue in terms of laws, arrests, prosecutions, et cetera.

Not surprisingly, The Gambia was ranked TIER 3, meaning the country served as a source, destination, and transit country for human trafficking. Before this, no source, be it government, civil society or other sources was willing to speak on the relevance of the human trafficking situation to the media, even though you will hear them gossip about it in their small corners.

The US TIP Report gave me the relevant information and quotes needed to begin work on the matter. Hence my first reporting combined an interview with the Police spokesperson, quoting from the TIP report and a particular civil society voice that showed interest in the topic too, but were afraid to be named.

It was published on Friday, June 27, 2014. By 4pm, I got a tip that the Major Crimes Unit of the Gambia Police Force had been given orders to arrest me. I did not flee. I stayed and waited for them to come for me. Before they did, I received a call from the Police spokesperson telling me that “we have a problem” and that I should come meet him at a particular station before the Major Crimes get to me, which I did.

Why do you think the government was rattled by your story?

Sure the government was rattled by the news. At the time of the publication, the president was at an African Union Summit in Equatorial Guinea. The TIP Report's release and Gambia's ranking, as I learned, “caused great embarrassment” to government. Therefore, he specifically gave instructions for his officials to challenge the report.

Before this could be done, my story got published on the front page confirming some facts in the TIP report, thus undermining every [argument] that they would have used to challenge the TIP Report. As a high profile task force was set up within the government to look into this, my news came rattling…

Hence their ploy to unleash the Major Crimes [division] on me. They arrested me, interrogated me on who my sources were, why I was publishing such news when I knew it was “false”. Who was I and who was I working with, et cetera. I was charged with “publishing false news.” If convicted, I could pay a fine ranging from D50,000 (almost US$2000) to D250, 000 (about US$10,000). Or serve a sentence from six months or two years in jail.

When did you decide to go into exile? 

After two months reporting on bail at Major Crimes, I did not feel safe anymore to continue working as a journalist in the country. The harassment, threats and psychological pressure I had to go through made me to decide to flee to Senegal. On August 23 2014, I arrived Dakar and sought asylum with the Senegalese government. Although I was not granted asylum, the President of Senegal, Macky Sall has assured all persecuted and exiled Gambians in his country of their protection so long as we do not break the laws of Senegal.

What does it feel like to be in exile? 

The feeling is another experience for my life as a journalist. [Along with] the challenges of living in a Francophone country, this life sometimes feels so frustrating and hopeless, especially knowing that you have left behind a family of young kids and a loving and loyal wife. Finding a job in that country is equally frustrating when one does not have a French background, and despite the existence of various regional offices of media outlets, finding a space to work with them is very limited.

Are you still reporting on the Gambia from afar? In what ways is this different from reporting at home?

I publish a blog, Gambia Beat where I continue reporting on Gambia from Senegal. I derive no income from this, but I am driven by love for country and passion to practice. I cannot stay in Senegal and just stop reporting on my country. I believe the issues areas relevant now as they were before I fled.

This is different from when I report from home where I meet Gambian faces on daily basis in person and hear about their stories in order to report on them. Now I am used to the idea of using the Internet and the social media, and occasionally some phone calls to Gambia to gather information and report about them. It brings a whole new dimension to my practice of journalism. But then we are in the social media generation, aren't we? (laughs)

Recently, the Gambian president released political prisoners, what do you think about this move?

From the outset, I had the opinion that he did it purposely to score some political points. After all, most of the released prisoners were illegally detained or imprisoned in the first place…[the] majority of prisoners in Gambia since 1994 are there because they disagreed with the president, refused to be his enablers, are assumed enemies [and] hence accused of crimes they did not commit and received unfair trials that ended up in sentencing them to prison terms. Many did not receive the luxury of trials before being thrown in jail, some died in prison… The next presidential election in The Gambia, where Jammeh is trying to seek a fifth term in office, is slated for September 2016. Now you do the maths…

Do you think that The Gambia’s human rights situation – with particular regard to assaults on free speech – has received as much international attention as it should?

At some quarters yes it has, but not enough to affect the kind of change or pressure those of us fighting against tyranny would like. Sometimes I assume that it is because of our size as a country or our lack of mineral resources that makes others to ignore our plight….if Jammeh was head of state of a major country like Nigeria, or another African country, we would made great progress by now….Five years of tyranny in a lifetime is sufficient for any freedom-loving people. The Gambia has been on a trial of freedom, peace and prosperity…

What’s your take on freedom of expression and protection of journalists in West Africa?

I think the citizens are fighting for their God-given rights to freedom of expression and press in various countries in West Africa. Now with the Internet, social media, smartphone, there are unprecedented levels of awareness in the history of the struggle for freedom by civilian populations in any country in the world. Hence the tide of change is swiftly pushing the barriers of dictatorships and freedom as we used to know all over the world, particularly in Africa.

Traditionally, the tyrannical governments do a lot to control the flow of information to and from the population by maintaining a tight grip on the media. This is no longer tenable with the tools now available to the new generation. It also means increased ways journalists can access information, relate with their sources and disseminate same information. In some countries, it has raised the bar of threats they face from governments and enemies of free expression, but progressive ones see it as a blessing and value added to their means of governance.

In the sub-region, dictatorship posts are crumbling one after the other, and emerging ones are becoming more open to criticisms and democratic values. But the fight for press freedom and freedom of expression is not complete until the last dictatorship in the sub region is toppled.

 

by Nwachukwu Egbunike at August 03, 2015 03:51 PM

DML Central
Learning English Through Digital Media

Dr. Deborah Cohen, associate professor in the Global Education Innovation Center at Gyeongju University in  South Korea, uses three digital media-based practices to encourage her students:

    • YouTube videos such as the inspirational “Never, Ever Give Up” as “digital media artifacts” for teaching English as a second language.
    • In her classes on “Social Media for Social Change,” she assigns her students to follow, analyze, and discuss social media campaigns in political campaigns as they progress.
    • The third practice is “digital storytelling and life writing through digital stories.”

Dr. Cohen started out in South Korea almost five years ago, as a professor of digital media at Sogang University: “I’ve taught at two different universities with radically different student populations and in two different schools within each of the two universities.”  Digital media is a big part of life in South Korea, and according to Dr. Cohen, the country has a big initiative to increase the English speaking skills of their students. One way they’re doing that is by having English professors teach content courses, which is what Dr. Cohen did with “social media for social change” at Sogang University. More recently, she has been teaching English as a second language, which is where YouTube videos come in. 

“I’m amazed at how much better my students’ English becomes through their analysis and discussion of videos and other Internet media artifacts.” Cohen told me. “Korean learners are notorious for being very shy and not wanting to talk in language class because they are worried about their lack of skills. But the experience of analyzing these artifacts is so engaging to them that by the end, nobody is nervous about getting up in front of others and talking.”

Given the reticence of Korean learners, who, according to Cohen, “are mortified at the thought of having to speak English imperfectly,” these practices have been spectacularly successful in not just imparting language skills, but in motivating learners to use them.

Cohen’s courses include “English through Film and Drama,” “English through Pop Music” — “probably the most fun class I’ve taught over the range of my entire career — “English through Myth,” and “English through Festivals.”

“We spend a lot of time looking at YouTube artifacts. I’ll give them guidance about what to look for and what we’re going to discuss afterward. In my last cohort of “English through Film and Drama,” I introduced the concept of plot, how there’s a story and how something happens in the beginning and then something different happens at the end, and how you can tell who the important characters are by watching who has changed. I found one video, a real tear jerker that they all love, about a man who became very fat and disabled as a result of his military experiences, but he started working with a yoga instructor, and at the end of the seven-minute video, he’s running and has completely regained his mobility.”

One of Professor Cohen’s students pointed out that the inspirational  “documentary” was actually a promotion for the yoga instructor who helped rehabilitate the hero of the story. “Of course, that was a very important point to make. Between the analysis of the purpose of the video and the students’ strong emotional reactions, the students are pushing their English speaking skills without even realizing they’re doing it.”

Another one of Dr. Cohen’s practices is digital storytelling: “Doing life writing through digital stories — short films, five minutes or less, text-based, conveyed through images and sounds that are overlaid on the text.” At the next to last class meeting, everybody looks at everybody’s rough cut, everybody gives critiques, and each student has a choice of following suggestions from their peers or not in their final cut. This practice and other kinds of peer learning are different from traditional pedagogy in Korea. “My students and I work to establish learning communities. I think of my classes as learning communities where I present them with objects to discuss, such as YouTube artifacts, but invite them to come up with their own suggestions for videos to watch and discuss.

Dr. Cohen and I discussed her third social media pedagogical practice, of following social media political campaigns as they happen in real time, in this brief video.

Banner image: Deborah Cohen teaching class in South Korea. Photo by Priyanka Chaudhary

by mcruz at August 03, 2015 03:30 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
Iran Closes Down Hardline Newspaper After Anti Nuclear Deal Coverage
Iranian media run the words "shut down" across a cover page of 9 Dey newspaper. Image publish for reuse on banifilm.ir.

Iranian media run the words “shut down” across a cover page of 9 Dey newspaper. Image publish for reuse on banifilm.ir.

Iran's Press Supervisory have closed down 9 Dey, a hardline newspaper that has published dissenting views to the nuclear deal signed between Iran and the P5+1 countries, signed in Vienna on July 13.

The closure comes some weeks after the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance issued Iranian journalists with censorship guidelines on how to cover the deal. In a report for IranWire, Mansoureh Farahani described the directive as such:

In the directive, journalists are forbidden from publishing any articles that suggest rifts among “high-ranking authorities in Iran” — referring to President Rouhani’s administration and the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and his closest allies. In addition, journalists have been told to not report on anything that “indoctrinates” the public into believing that the nuclear deal goes “against the nation, Islam, or revolutionary values and ideals;” they have also been instructed not to report anything that might “polarize society”.

The directive suggested that publications that defied the orders could face up to two months of closure. Reports suggest that other hardline newspapers such as Kayhan have also been given warnings.

Iran's Press Supervisory board is composed of seven members, including the Iranian judiciary, the parliament, the Supreme Cultural Revolution Council, a seminary in Qom and the Ministries of Culture and Science. The board had previously banned 9 Dey in April 2014 for publishing what was deemed ‘slanderous’ articles against the president and the nuclear negotiations.

9 Dey is a radical right-wing publications in Iran, owned by Hamid Rasaei, a principalist cleric and member of parliament from Tehran.

9 Dey is the Persian date for December 30th, an anniversary that marks when pro-government supporters marched on the streets in 2009 in opposition to Green Movement protesters.

by Mahsa Alimardani at August 03, 2015 12:08 PM

Global Voices
#NepalQuake: When Human Trafficking Is not Earth-Shattering And More Needs To Be Done
Anonymous hands in chains on a bed convey the helplessness of victims of human trafficking universally, 11 July 2012. Image by Flickr User @Imagens Evangélicas (CC BY 2.0)

Anonymous hands in chains on a bed convey the helplessness of victims of human trafficking universally, 11 July 2012. Image by Flickr User @Imagens Evangélicas (CC BY 2.0)

Nepal is infamous as a hotbed for human trafficking. When two earthquakes rocked Nepal in April and May, killing nearly 9,000 people, and leaving many survivors homeless, the vulnerability of men, women and children to the thriving flesh trade in the region was picked up on by international media within the first week of the earthquake.

There was much fear that an overwhelmed government would not be responsive to the threat, but with the help of international organisations such as UNICEF,  513 potential cases of trafficking have been prevented since the earthquake in Nepal. In this regard, many regard the government's actions to stem the trade in a positive light:

Yet, despite significant government efforts to stem the trade both in Nepal and neighbouring India, many wonder whether existing regulations are strong enough to fight against the old and sophisticated machinery of trafficking, a system many see as unbreakable due to long-standing political protection.

Human trafficking in Nepal is not news

As of 2011, according to a report by the United Nations, 10-15,000 women and children are trafficked from Nepal to India and the Gulf where they are either forcefully engaged into the sex trade, or sold as bonded labourers.

Last year, there were efforts to raise awareness of the problem through campaigns such as #taughtnottrafficked, while the U.S. State Department provided an award to a Nepali judge who helped craft victim-focused legislation to combat trafficking.

But Nepal has still shown little progress since 2008 in terms of rooting out the problem.

Some, such as commentator Jwahar Talchabhadell, see the issue as too endemic to be overcome:

We can write about it, we can talk about it in the seminars, we can make documentaries and movies about it, but this has become so entrenched a staple in the Nepali society that even successive progressive democratic governments have decided to maintain a “hands-off” attitude. Not even God can or will help Nepali women from being sold into brothels not just in India but in all other parts of the world including the darkest of the continent.

‘Earthquake orphans’ are a business

Children are an easy target, particularly through the adoption trade. Traffickers are known to lure parents into putting their children in orphanages and childcare homes. Prior to the earthquakes this year, about 15,000 children lived in child care homes, even though 85 percent of them had a least one living parent.

There was therefore much fear that in the state of emergency a flood of ‘earthquake orphans’ would be taken into such homes, regardless of whether they had families or not. International and local organisations, as well as former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown argued bringing the children into school was the best means of protecting them from predatory traffickers.

On May 27, the Nepali government instituted child travel restrictions so that children would have to be accompanied by their parents or legal guardians when moving between districts and suspended both international adoption and the registration of new orphanages. It also intensified cooperation with the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs for greater vigilance on borders.

Moreover, authorities collaborated with UNICEF and Shakti Samuha, the first organsiation in Nepal to be established and run by survivors of trafficking, to spread information and awareness. A full list of all the actions undertaken in this project be found here.

But the complexity of trafficking cannot be understated.

The many ciphers of the trade

In the third week of July, a gang was caught trafficking 250 women from Nepal in the direction of the Gulf, with their accomplices including Air India officials, who were promised compensation equating to between $60 US and $80 US for every woman they got through the system.

While those Air India staff have been arrested, their involvement testifies to the multiplicity of actors at play in a typical trafficking scenario:

  • Trafficked persons, typically women, are approached in remote districts and offered lucrative jobs.
  • They are then taken to provincial Indian airports by buses and flown to Dehli.
  • They are then booked onto international flights to the Gulf. It is at the Delhi airport that airline employees such as those from Air India may receive bribes to help the women through immigration as international travelers.
  • In Dubai, trafficked persons’ passports are frequently confiscated, cutting them off from Nepal.

A structural problem

Human trafficking is deeply linked to poverty. One third of Nepal's GDP is made up of remittances. Migration is often seen as a family's only means of survival. From data collected in 2011, 35 percent of rural Nepali households have at lest one member of their family living and working abroad.

While campaigns have been pushed forward to educate vulnerable youth, Aidan McQuade, the Director of Anti-Slavery International points out the uncomfortable truth that this is not a situation wherein people are naive, but one wherein they are desperate. This is why much more is needed than mere awareness-raising work.

But it is not clear what economic opportunities a country already struggling before a tumultuous natural disaster might provide in its aftermath.

One change that must take place is in Nepali society itself, where victims are often blamed rather than comforted.

In one case, highlighted by the Guardian newspaper, a Nepali woman was sold into sex slavery in India. She later escaped the brothel where she was forced to work and took refuge in a shelter. Phoning her remote family home after the earthquake to check on the wellbeing of her relatives, her brothers did not acknowledge her, informing her she had dialled a wrong number.

Stories such as this and the story of Sapana, a girl saved from forced labour in a Kathmandu factory by the earthquake which destroyed it — only to narrowly escape the clutches of trafficking thanks to a local NGO — continue to recall the vulnerability of women and girls in Nepal.

While over 500 people have been saved through collaboration between the government, civil society and India, morality demands that offering protection to those most vulnerable to the human trafficking scourge becomes Nepal's very highest priority.

by Saprina Panday at August 03, 2015 10:07 AM

China Finally Opens Door to Overseas Game Consoles
Image remixed from public domain.

Image remixed from public domain.

After 15 years, mainland China's Ministry of Culture has finally lifted its ban on sales of game consoles. The new regulations went into effect on July 12, allowing in domestic and foreign companies involved manufacturing and selling consoles. These companies also have to agree to take responsibility for censoring forbidden content identified by Chinese officials.

In China, video games have long been called “electronic heroin,” and some parents and experts worry an increased supply might jeopardize children’s mental and physical health. In 2000, the State Council published a notice, joined by the Ministry of Culture and another seven administrative departments, decreeing the prohibition of manufacturing and selling game consoles in mainland China, claiming it “seriously jeopardizes young people and disturbs the social order.” This is an excerpt from the notice:

自本意见发布之日起,面向国内的电子游戏设备及其零、附件生产、销售即行停止。任何企业、个人不得再从事面向国内的电子游戏设备及其零、附件的生产、销售活动。一经发现向电子游戏经营场所销售电子游戏设备及其零、附件的,由经贸、信息产业部门会同工商行政管理等部门依照有关规定进行处理。

With the publication of this notice, the manufacturing and sale of electronic game devices and accessories must be ceased within the nation. There shall not be any enterprises and persons involved in manufacturing and selling such devices and accessories. If found to be violating these rules, the departments of economy and trade, information industry, and industrial and commercial administration shall punish [related people and companies], according to the relevant regulations.

China's regulatory efforts didn't exactly devastate the country's game culture. Writing on A9VG, a popular game forum, one user shared his doubts about the effectiveness of China's efforts to ban consoles:

其实我一直怀疑到底有没有禁止过游戏机,因为这些年来我们想玩任何游戏机都可以通过实体店或者网络购买到,游戏机房也开的到处都是,当然这些游戏机房基本都靠赌博机,政府虽然面上禁止游戏机,却放任水货在中国横行,真奇葩。

Actually, I've always doubted the prohibition decree of game consoles. These years, we can purchase any kinds of game consoles from physical or online stores, and we can see game-rooms everywhere, though most of of them are making profits as gambling machines. The government seemingly bans game consoles, but it allows sales of smuggled ones nationwide, which confuses me.

All hail the smuggled and pirated goods

The decree in 2000 was never terribly effective; both consoles and games easily reached smuggling markets like online retail platform Taobao, as well as physical game stores, where traders openly sold goods smuggled from Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, and the United States.

There were drawbacks to smuggled game systems, of course. The consoles would overheat, some discs would be unreadable, and a host of other issues emerged—all without any technical support, as the manufacturers refused to provide it for illegal purchases. When anything like this happened, Chinese gamers simply had to buy the product again.

Pirated games are also a lot cheaper, however. The average pirated game runs no more than RMB 10 yuan (about $1.60), whereas the genuine article can cost almost 30 times as much. For many gamers, the non-pirated product is simply unaffordable.

After buying a console, a gamer usually spends about RMB 100 yuan on a special “direct-read” chip, which allows circuit-modified game console to access the game copy—which can be easily found and downloaded online—directly from the external hard disk drive.

China’s illusive game market

China’s tremendous number of gamers has long been an alluring, but illusive, market. About a decade ago, on November 28, 2003, Sony announced the PlayStation 2 console in mainland China, which was already a major success throughout the world. To bypass the Ministry of Culture's prohibition, Sony called its product a “computer entertainment system,” instead of a “video game console.”

Ahead of December 20 launch date of Playstation 2, however, the Ministry of Culture issued a new decree, and Sony was forced to postpone its effort to bring the console to China.

In early 2004, Sony again tried to sell the PlayStation 2, this time focusing on Shanghai and Guangzhou, at the price of RMB 1,988 yuan ($300). This price was about 25 percent higher than on the black market. As a result, Sony sold only about 1,000 units, thanks to the higher cost and embedded anti-piracy “locked-area” technology.

Free trade zone offers new hope

Planned since 1997, Shanghai proclaimed that the Free Trade Zone to be China’s first economic experimental area in September 2013. The Chinese government issued a notice that welcomes foreign game companies manufacturing and selling game devices, after approval by the Ministry of Culture (in accordance with the guidelines of video-game censorship).

Despite the uncertain future of China’s game market, Microsoft soon announced a partnership with BestTV, a local information technology firm affiliated with state-owned Shanghai Media and Entertainment Group (known as SMG). The joint venture promised to bring the Xbox One—one of the most popular consoles today in North America and Europe—to China by September. Sony has made similar plans for the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita, in cooperation with SMG’s Oriental Pearl Group.

Where's the game rating system?

Game rating systems provide guidelines for game companies that must strictly rate their game content according to age groups. Though China’s government has been simplifying the process of game censorship since 2013, the censorship of the industry remains nontransparent and inefficient without a simple rating system.

On the game forum A9VG, one gamer believes China’s game industry needs to establish the game rating system:

游戏的审批在于中国没有分级制度,可是这个很麻烦,因为无论是欧洲通用的PEGI,还是美国的ESRB,这些都是这些企业为了自身行业的生命力和发展来支持组织的独立行为,都不是政府机构,并且贩卖销售者都会严格遵守,如果你违反了规定,将不会再有游戏卖,所以说大多数来自于行业内部的约束力,而不是政府主导的。

As for the examination of games, no rating system? That's a serious issue. PEGI in Europe and ESRB in the US, which are established on the basis of developing the [game] industry, are independent, nongovernmental organizations. Game traders would strictly follow the [game rating system]. If you break it, you cannot sell game products any more. So most of [game rating systems] are set up by the [game] industry itself, not by governments.

Facing challenge from other devices

With improving Internet access and faster wireless data speeds, online and mobile game has also been booming in China over the past several years. According to the 2014 report of China’s game industry, the gross value of online and mobile game have surged to over $88 billion.

Niko Partners, a research intelligence firm specializing in the Asian game market, said in its 2015 China’s video game report that sales of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One only have yielded 550,000 in China since 2015, partly due to a lack of Chinese games.

by Patrick Wong at August 03, 2015 01:50 AM

Taiwan’s Anti-Curriculum Change Campaign Intensifies Following Student Activist's Death
entermoe

High-school students expressed their condolences to the student who committed suicide in protest at curriculum changes. Photo from the Northern Area Student Alliance against Curriculum Changes.

On July 30, Guan-Hua Lin, 20, the former spokesperson of a student activist group protesting against high-school curriculum changes in Taiwan was found dead. Based on the initial police report and a conversation between Lin and his friends, it is likely Lin committed suicide in protest at the changes.

Since Taiwan’s Minister of Education announced the new high-school curriculum in February 2014, education professionals and students alike have been protesting against its changes. The ministry was accused of violating procedural justice as the curriculum revision committee refused to disclose the details of the committee discussion and voting results to the public.

Even after a court ruled that the ministry should put the committee minutes and voting records to a public examination, the ministry insisted there is nothing wrong with the new curriculum.

The controversies mostly lie with the history curriculum. Many consider that the new curriculum recounts the history of Taiwan through a united-China perspective. Critics say the revision is a political move by the ruling Kuomintang party (KMT), designed to build support for reunification with the People's Republic of China (PRC).

Despite these dissenting voices, the ministry claimed that the new curriculum became effective on August 1, and that changes cannot be stopped as new textbooks have already been printed.

Student activists began to protest outside the Ministry of Education and ask it to withdraw the new curriculum in June. On July 23, 30 high-school students even broke into the building of Ministry of Education. They were arrested and promptly sued by the ministry.

One of the key student activist organisations responsible for mobilising the protest was the Northern Area Student Alliance against Curriculum Changes (NASAACC), which Guan-Hua Lin acts as spokesperson for.

Soon after they heard the news of Lin's suicide, hundreds of high-school students occupied the Ministry of Education. In addition to their original request, they asked legislators to review the curriculum changes. Although legislators from the Democratic Progressive Party and Taiwan Solidarity Union agreed to help them, they still need to gain support from KMT, which represents the ruling majority in the country's Legislative Yuan.

While some KMT politicians claim the opposition parties have over-politicized the curriculum changes and used the high-school students as pawns, NASAACC said such claims were designed to belittle the student's campaign.

They wrote in a press release:

今天,七月三十日是林冠華的生日,他只有一個願望,希望八月一日即將上路的課綱能夠被撤回,能夠讓台灣人的子弟,受一個具台灣主體性的教育,我們不禁會想:身為一個台灣人,這是一個很奢侈的願望嗎?身為一個台灣人,想更瞭解自身的歷史與文化,是很困難的請求嗎?

Today is Guan-Hua Lin’s birthday, July 30. He had only one hope: that the new curriculum that will be claimed as effective on August 1 could be withdrawn, so that we Taiwanese can receive an education based on a Taiwanese perspective. We cannot stop thinking: Is this hope a luxury hope for a Taiwanese? Is the request to allow Taiwanese to understand our own history and culture unfulfillable?

Another activist group mainly composed of history researchers, teachers, and human rights activists, the Anti-Blackboxed Curriculum Alliance (A-BCA), also urged the government to take responsibility and correct their mistakes:

對於高中生反黑箱課綱、要求對話,教育部長吳思華一面龜縮、逃避、不敢面對,一面強硬堅持黑箱課綱8月上路。學生多次抗議,訴諸和平理性的各種方法,都無法獲得教育部回應,學生們被迫採取激烈的占領行動。學生們的努力,換來教育部的提告,如今竟然有學生不幸自殺身亡,令人心痛不已!

學生們的想法很單純:大人有錯,為何不承認、不道歉,竟然強詞奪理、蠻幹到底。年輕人基於義憤,無法忍受如此是非不分的情況。但是,我們要告訴學生們,犯錯的是執政當局,應該由執政者自己出來面對與善後。你們已經努力了,不應該再為這個爛透了的政府,付出超出你們能力能夠承擔的代價。

Facing the students’ request for discussing the black-boxed curriculum, the Minister of Education, Shi-Hua Wu, just turned his back toward the students and insisted to make the black-boxed curriculum effective in Aug. Students have tried to protest in peaceful ways, but the Minister of Education did not respond. In the end, students tried furious measures and occupied the Ministry of Education, and the Ministry of Education decided to sue these students. Now it is heartbreaking to see a protesting student commit suicide!
What these students think is very simple: If adults make mistakes, why don’t they acknowledge and apologize, and why do they do whatever they want to do just because they have the power to do so? These young people are angry because they cannot accept a condition whereby none of us can differentiate right from wrong. Now we want to tell the students: It is this government who makes mistakes, and this government should face the situation and solve the problems. You have made a lot of effort, and you should not overpay for trying to solve the problems that are made by this damn government.

Although the debate over new curriculum changes is Taiwan's internal affairs, the PRC government has cast its shadow over the issue. Three years ago when the Ministry of Education considered amending the school curriculum, the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council of China expressed its support for curriculum changes.

The Beijing body, which oversees its relation with Taiwan, claimed the move could “make things right” by retelling Taiwanese history from a united-China perspective, thereby eliminating pro-independence thoughts that might “mislead” the young generation in Taiwan.

After high-school students in Taiwan started to protest curriculum changes in June, several newspapers in China criticized the protesting students for making use of the campaign in order to advocate for Taiwan's independence.

On July 30, when the president of the PRC, Xi Jinping, spoke at a conference of the Politburo of the Communist Party of China, he also mentioned that Taiwan and China should write their history books together in order to protect Chinese pride and dignity.

by I-fan Lin at August 03, 2015 01:41 AM

August 02, 2015

Global Voices
Global Voices Partners with Myanmar’s The Irrawaddy

irrawaddy newsThese are interesting times for Myanmar as it pursues reforms in order to become a modern democratic state. It is a difficult transition for a country which has been under military rule for the past five decades but the international community should continue to press for reform.

Will there be clean and fair elections in November? Will the military-backed government continue to welcome foreign investment? What is the plan to achieve unity and peace amid ethnic and religious conflicts?

To improve our coverage of what’s happening in Myanmar today, Global Voices has partnered with The Irrawaddy, a leading media organization in the country which delivers alternative news.

irrawaddy magazineThe Irrawaddy was founded in 1993 by exiled Burmese journalists in Thailand. Many of them witnessed, documented, and joined the historic 1988 democracy uprisings.

The Irrawaddy magazine was the first independent news publication unaffiliated with Burmese political dissident groups. Because of its critical reports, it was banned by the military regime in Myanmar and anyone found with a copy could be arrested and imprisoned.

In 2000, The Irrawaddy website was launched and was promptly blocked in Myanmar remaining inaccessible in the country for the next 11 years. When media restrictions were eased in 2011, The Irrawaddy was finally made available to Myanmar Internet users. Meanwhile, the print magazine was finally distributed legally across the country in 2013.

Since its founding, The Irrawaddy has committed to provide the public with alternative news as part of its democratic positioning. It believes a free press is essential to a democracy:

We have a strong belief in democracy, and believe that without free media a democratic society is incomplete. It is our duty to protect and preserve press freedom and develop independent media free from bias and influences.

On the part of Global Voices, we are happy to undertake this partnership as we seek to provide our readers with better and more inspiring stories from Myanmar.

by Mong Palatino at August 02, 2015 03:56 PM

Indians Blast Facebook Over Broken Community Standards
Cyber attack. - Image from Flickr by Florian F. Used under a CC license BY_NC-ND 2.0

Cyber attack. Image by Florian F via Flickr. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

There are over 100 million Facebookers in India, leaving the country second only to the U.S. in overall users, and poised to lead the pack of countries using the social network by 2017. Yet Facebook is struggling to keep pace with the complexities presented by the vast, multilingual and culturally diverse Indian market.

Recent incidents occurring on the social media platform within the space of a few days show how Facebook is losing the war against rampant misogyny, child abuse, nude content and even the recent ‘original name’ policy the social network proudly enforces globally.

Preetha G Nair - Victim of Cyber Attack Screen Shot

Screenshot of Preetha G Nair Facebook page.

Siding with the misogynists?

Preetha G Nair, a social media activist, has been the subject of a massive cyber-bullying campaign.

On July 19, Preetha wrote a post complaining about a misogynist remark made by G. Sudhakaran, a member of a political party in Kerala, India. In response, many of Sudhakaran's party followers reported Preetha's Facebook page as fake amid a bombardment of personal attacks on her led by Davis Thekkekara, Sudhakaran's political ally.

Preetha's account was duly suspended by Facebook, who cited ‘community standards’, only reinstating the account upon verifying that she was in fact not in the wrong. When on returning to the social network she spoke out against the politics of Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, India's 11th president, who died on July 27, Preetha was once more singled out based on her gender and subjected to a massive online attack.

A new Facebook profile subsequently appeared depicting her as a prostitute and featuring images of her friends and children as well as nasty stories with explicit sexual content. Many fellow Facebook users reported the profile and filed written email complaints with the Kerala Cyber Cell, the official website of the Kerala police.

But the Kerala police have not responded, while those reporting the issue to Facebook receive a standard message that the pages do not violate Facebook community standards. As of August 2, the fake profile was still online and active.

In support of capital punishment?

Elsewhere on Facebook, people were protesting the July 30 hanging of convicted terrorist Yakub Memon, whose capital punishment one prominent Indian journalist wrote “exposed [people's] hunger for the macabre”.

On July 31, anti-hanging pages, also in the Malaylam language, were taken down by Facebook immediately while users associated with the pages had their accounts frozen.

Anivar Aravind, an internet freedom activist, began a Twitter campaign against Facebook's policies using the hashtag #‎FoE‬. After a few hours, the frozen accounts were reinstated.

Sudheesh Sudhakaran, an active Facebooker, whose account was suspended amid the hanging controversy wrote:

ഇതിന്റെ അര്‍ത്ഥം ഫേസ്ബുക്കിന്റെ കമ്മ്യൂണിറ്റി സ്റ്റാന്‍ഡേര്‍ഡ് എന്ന് പറയുന്നത്, വധശിക്ഷയെ അംഗീകരിക്കുന്ന ഒന്നാണെന്നും അതിനെ എതിര്‍ക്കുന്നവരെ പുറത്താക്കും എന്ന് വേണമല്ലോ മനസ്സിലാക്കാന്‍. ഫേസ്ബുക്ക് ഇന്ത്യ ഈ നാട്ടിലെ മജോരിട്ടെരിയന്‍ പോളിട്ടിക്സിന്റെ മനുഷ്യത്വരഹിതമായ വികാരങ്ങളെ പരിപോഷിപ്പിച്ചു ഫ്രീഡം ഓഫ് എക്സ്പ്രേഷനെ തടയുന്നു എന്നല്ലേ ?

This clearly shows that Facebook Community standards are driven by people who support Capital Punishment and through them Facebook is only supporting right wingers who have no value for human rights or freedom of expression.

Whose Facebook is this?

Any person who knows how to read in the Malayalam language can understand that Preetha G Nair is being subjected to massive online abuse.

Simultaneously a simple protest against the decision of the Indian government to hang a convicted terrorist was taken as a violation of Facebook's “community standards”. This poses a question: who is monitoring Indian Facebook pages?

For women, who constitute a majority of Facebook users in India, this question is particularly important. The platform has undoubtedly helped them voice their opinions on public issues in a way that society sometimes does not allow. But that progress is being rolled back by vicious online attacks Facebook seems unable or unwilling to police. Facebook is an increasingly unsafe place for Indian women.

Screen Shot of Cyber Attack referencing Preetha's child and picture of the child

Screen Shot of comments referencing Preetha's child and picture of the child.

Sheeja Rajagopal, a PhD research Scholar from Chennai, commented:

This speaks volumes about Facebook's community standards (whatever that means). Harassing a woman using derogatory language and using her pictures doesn't violate any of Facebook's policies or standards. Posting a woman's pictures on a public page without her consent and using abusive language seems acceptable to Facebook.

Maya Leela, a Spain-based linguist and activist, stood behind Preetha:

അവഹേളനങ്ങള്‍ പ്രീതയോടൊപ്പം വളരെ വ്യക്തിപരമായി ഞാനും ഏറ്റു വാങ്ങുന്നു. ഒരു സ്ത്രീയെന്ന നിലയില്‍ മറ്റൊരു സ്ത്രീയ്ക്ക് സംഭവിക്കുന്ന ഒരു ദുരിതവും എന്റെതും കൂടെ അല്ലാതാവുന്നില്ല.

‪#‎preethaismyfriend‬

Preetha is my friend. The attackers  who are Malayalee men are threatening that they are going to post nude pictures and videos of Preetha […] The videos and pictures of Preetha will carry my face too. I am also receiving all the insults and abuse Preetha is being subjected to. Whatever happens to someone of my gender (woman) is happening to me also.

Arya Prakash, a student, vented:

Not that I'm surprised, but I'm fuming with anger. What the fuck are these community standards if they cannot take down a page that's nothing but purely abusive in nature and totally harassing a woman using her photos and other personal details? Facebook should review its community standards before it reviews other pages.

Meanwhile, the creators of the page have received over, 1,000 likes and have challenged the Kerala Police to find them, while also threatening further hacks on Preetha's account.

They also issued a threat to the people reporting them on their page:

സൈബര്‍ സെല്ലില്‍ ധാരാളം കമ്പ്ലയിന്റ് പോയിട്ടുണ്ട് എന്ന് അറിയാം അയാം വെയിറ്റിംഗ് പണി പാമ്പ് ആയി പരാതി കൊടുത്തവര്‍ക്ക് വരാതിരിക്കാന്‍ നോക്കുക

Whoever has complained to the police will have to suffer the consequences.

Screen Shot of Cyber attack challenging Kerala Police to find them.

Screen Shot of messages challenging Kerala Police to find them.

But amid the online violence and Facebook's inaction, a hopeful culture of solidarity is growing. Preetha's friends are posting messages of support and defiance under the hashtag #‎പ്രീതക്കൊപ്പം‬, or #‎standingwithpreetha.

by Inji Pennu at August 02, 2015 07:20 AM

To Ethiopian-American Singer Meklit Hadero, ‘Home Is Always in Flux’
Meklit Hadero. Photo by Flickr user Shawn Anderson. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Meklit Hadero. Photo by Flickr user Shawn Anderson. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

This article and radio report by Monica Campbell for The World originally appeared on PRI.org on July 24, 2015, and is republished here as part of a content-sharing agreement.

Like a lot of immigrants in the United States, Meklit Hadero’s family arrived to a place unknown, with a single connection drawing them. For Hadero, that place was Iowa, where her dad knew a professor.

It was the early ‘80s, and Ethiopia was still feeling the aftermath of the 1974 revolution.

“There was a lot of kindness and community,” says Hadero, a singer and songwriter now based in San Francisco. “We were adjusting to living in this country. At the same time it was very challenging. There weren’t many immigrants at all, let alone immigrants from East Africa or Ethiopia.”

In fact, she remembers, there was one other Ethiopian family in town. “They heard through the grapevine that we had moved there and people said, ‘Oh, they live in that apartment complex.’ And they knocked on every door until they found us and we’re still friends today.”

Her parents were physicians who had to redo their residencies in the US in order to work. It took a long time. Five years. And the jobs they got brought the Hadero family to Brooklyn.

She returned to Ethiopia when she was 21 with her mom, carrying with her a body of stories, those highs and lows her family had talked about for years regarding life back in Ethiopia. Hadero says when she got to Ethiopia, she started to “see the holes” in her parents’ memories.

“I started to see the people who were maybe only hinted at filled into whole three-dimensional personalities,” she says. She also remembers her mom shifting between what she called “home” or “back home,” toggling between Ethiopia and the United States.

“Home is always in flux,” Hadero says.

Those journeys, and discovering more about Ethiopian music, have influenced Hadero’s music and can be heard in “We are Alive,” her latest album. It includes “I Like Your Afro,” Hadero's modern twist on a traditional Amharic-language Ethiopian love song called “Kemekem,” which means “the perfect Afro.”

“This is a very flirtatious love song, where the lyrics say, ‘Oh, my dear, with the perfect Afro, you live at the top of the hill, I live at the bottom of the hill, just roll on down and meet me there.’”

She calls it her version of a “countryside song that, at the core of it, is something that people all over the world can connect with.”

She also sees how people don’t always know how to classify her. “When I play my music for the world music, they say, ‘Well, this is too jazz.’ When I play it for the jazz people, they say, ‘Well, this is kind of pop.’ And when I play it for the pop people they say, ‘What is this?’”

by Public Radio International at August 02, 2015 05:00 AM

August 01, 2015

Global Voices
Malaysia’s #AtTheEdge Campaign Challenges Media Censorship
Journalists , activists, and concerned citizens gather in Penang, Malaysia to show solidarity to the campaign for the protection of free speech. Photo from Facebook page of 'Malaysians stand in solidarity with The Edge'

Journalists , activists, and concerned citizens gather in Penang, Malaysia to show solidarity to the campaign for the protection of free speech. Photo from Facebook page of ‘Malaysians stand in solidarity with The Edge’

Malaysian media groups and activists are preparing for a major rally on August 8 after the government ordered the suspension of two newspapers and the blocking of a news website which has been reporting about a corruption scandal involving Prime Minister Najib Razak.

The Coalition for Press Freedom was initiated by five media groups which adopted the campaign hashtag #AtTheEdge to highlight the rise of media censorship in the country.

These groups are Gerakan Media Marah (Geramm), Institute of Journalists, Foreign Correspondents Club of Malaysia, Reporters Sans Frontieres, and Centre for Independent Journalism.

On July 19, the Sarawak Report news website was blocked and on July 27, two local papers belonging to The Edge media group were suspended. These media companies have been exposing the anomalous dealings of 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), a state-managed investment company which reportedly incurred a debt of more than a billion US dollars. They have corroborated the expose of the Wall Street Journal which alleged Prime Minister Najib got 700 million US dollars in bank transfers through the 1MDB.

The campaign demands of #AtTheEdge are all directed towards the government:

1. Lift the suspension of The Edge Financial Weekly and The Edge Financial Daily immediately.
2. Unblock access to whistleblower site Sarawak Report.
3. Respect Malaysians’ right to information about 1MDB.

On July 31, more than 70 journalists and activists gathered in front of the office of The Edge to show their solidarity with the beleaguered publication:

Solidarity action in front of The Edge office. Photo from the Facebook page of 'Malaysians stand in solidarity with The Edge'

Solidarity action in front of The Edge office. PPPA refers to Printing Presses and Publications Act which was invoked by authorities when they suspended The Edge. Photo from the Facebook page of ‘Malaysians stand in solidarity with The Edge’

The August 8 rally, dubbed 808, aims to mobilize concerned Malaysians in Kuala Lumpur.

The campaign is quickly getting support from many sectors. The Facebook page ‘Malaysians stand in solidarity with The Edge’ already has 9,000 likes. Meanwhile, an online petition in support of #AtTheEdge campaign has received 30,000 signatures. The petition denounces the suspension order, which will last for three months, as a government ploy to hide the truth:

At a time when there are more questions than answers available regarding the humongous financial scandal, the Ministry’s action appears to be a self-serving draconian attempt at shutting up inquisitive Malaysians.

Transparency International's Malaysia office described the suspension order against The Edge as a counterproductive and irrational measure:

Suspending a newspaper which reported on the 1MDB scandal is not going to help the government in any way. In fact it will have more negative impact on Malaysia in terms of its international standing, sovereign ratings and the other ratings including the international perception on our press freedom.

Our government must not go for the ‘overkill’ in suppressing free speech on the pretext of acting against critics. Let’s get our facts right before we carry out more irrational measures.

Francis Loh, president of the advocacy group Aliran, underscores the importance of a free press in society:

…a democracy must have vibrant mass media and independent press which dare to conduct investigative journalism like what The Edge and Sarawak Report have done. They must make available information to the rakyat [people], especially when the authorities tell the rakyat to wait and wait.

by Mong Palatino at August 01, 2015 04:06 PM

Kenyans Put Obama's Visit Under the Microscope

A matatu [local public transport] with American flag colours and the portraits of Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr. and President Obama cruising Nairobi streets. Photo by Boniface Muthoni, copyright ©Demotix  (24/7/2015.

A matatu (local public transport) with American flag colours and the portraits of Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr. and President Obama cruising Nairobi streets. Photo by Boniface Muthoni, Copyright Demotix (24/7/2015).

US President Barack Obama visited Kenya during his last trip to Africa as president. Kenya is the birthplace of his father.

Obama condemned Kenya’s treatment of gays and lesbians at a joint press conference with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta. In a speech at Safaricom Indoor Arena in Nairobi, Obama called on Kenya's government to hold “visible” trials to tackle corruption, expand human rights and create a society more inclusive of women and girls, while also emphasising the need to fight terrorism. He said Kenya must tackle tribalism in order to grow.

Speaking at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, of which Kenya was co-host, Obama said Africa’s potential can be fulfilled by harnessing the power of its young people. He noted that Africa's time as a place of innovation has come.

As expected, his visit was a hot topic on social media and will continue to be discussed for a long time.

The Kenya Post observed that Obama’s visit took Kenyan politicians including President Uhuru down a notch, turning them into “schoolchildren”:

The visit by US President Barrack Obama to Kenya was in many ways significant not only because he was the first sitting US President to visit Kenya but also because it was the first time Kenyan politicians were made to look like school children.

MPs, Senators and even Governors were forced to abandon their trappings of power and trooped together like small kids wherever Obama was.

The politicians, who had been invited to attend the public address by the US President at Kasarani, arrived there in a bus like school children while others had to walk on foot all the way from Safari Park, where they left their cars, to the Kararani Gymnasium, where Obama gave his address.

The leaders, who are used to VIP treatment, also queued and went through normal security checks before they were allowed into the arena and near Obama.

The post continued:

And if you thought it was only MPs, Senators and Governors who were reduced to nothing before the US President, then you are wrong because our very own President Uhuru Kenyatta, his Deputy, William Ruto, Cabinet Secretaries and other leaders, including those from the Opposition led by former Prime Minister, Raila Odinga, were also meant to arrive at the venue earlier than usual and sat in the crowd like everybody else.

Another commenter chirped that Kenya became part of the US during Obama's visit:

You all need to know that Kenya during that weekend was part of the United States and not Kenya. US had taken over and even Obama said on camera that he was at home.

‘Serious gaffes’

Writing for the Kenya Post, F. Gori came up with a list of things that went wrong when Obama arrived at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, including the fact that the Kenyan deputy president wasn't part of Obama's welcoming party and that Obama's “body language towards [President] Uhuru was hmmmm not so warm”:

There were serious gaffes which should have been avoided. While signing the visitors book, Uhuru should have had a seat next to Obama, not standing next to him. Two, an excited Uhuru moved Obama’s chair- playing an aide de camp of sorts. THREE, as Obama convoy left, Uhuru was left standing somewhere, almost looking stranded (oops)! Protocol chaps could have done better. Many lessons to learn here for future engagements.

Commenting on Gori’s post, Sam said:

currently every body is an analyst even those with no idea…… Get live

An anonymous commenter reacted:

Global enterprenuer summit is why Obama came to Kenya. Focus on the business opportunities not side shows.

While Dre joked:

Uhuru was lyk a bodyguard left stranded wearing an oversized suit. ..

Tribal politics

During his public speech, Obama warned of tribal politics saying, “A politics that’s based solely on tribe and ethnicity is a politics that’s doomed to tear a country apart. It is a failure; a failure of imagination.”

Those remarks led to a blogger at Kenya Today asking whether Obama was indirectly blasting Kenyatta’s government for tribal appointments?:

Barrack Obama spoke about something. I read between lines and I can assure you that this son of ours with a mother from Kansas understands the state of affairs in Kenya, Africa for that matter.
That you do not need to come from a particular community for you to be the world’s Steve Job or Bill Gates as far as entrepreneurship. Let your surname never limit you. This one goes out to all those tribal morons.
The statement by Obama goes out to offer hope to the thousands of the jobless youth who have been marginalized in employment opportunities in public and private sector.

Anzo disagreed saying Obama did not dwell on tribal politics:

Obama didn’t talk tribe as in your imagination.he is neither a luo or kenyan american president,he is a product of his genius. tribes don’t get opportunities,individuals do.create that business of your genius and you won’t need your tribe to succeed.your tribe ain’t marginalized,only you who has not done it for yourself.may be your tribe will be better off without you.get your tribe off your head and you will have made the first step.

Gay rights

Commenting on Obama’s call to respect gay rights in Kenya, one online commenter Jo asked Obama to use his influence to defend polygamy instead of homosexuality since both the US and Kenyan presidents are products of polygamy:

If BHO senior had been a homosexual we would never have enjoyed this moment.
I support [Deputy President] Ruto against Obaminations and suggest to Uncle Barry to devote his enormous influence energy and resources to support and defend polygamy as an African thing that produced both him and his host His Excellency Uhuru Kenyatta in 1961.

Barlet clarified Obama’s position on gay rights:

Sexual orientation is not the act. By deciding to have a family it means potus disallows the act itself. What he says is that we should not discriminate them on the basis of their colour, creed, sex etc.

The future

On Kenya Today, Mama Mona and Nely drew eight critical lessons from Obama’s visit and the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, including:

1. Always remain Authentic and grounded. Obama epitomises that.
2. Everyone has a story. Connect to yours. Know where you are from, where you are now and from there be clear where you are going. Keep the Auma and Dani Sarah in your family always close.

And blogger Dana joked on local news site Kasanews.com that Kenyans can expect the following baby names following Obama’s visit:

The Beast came, Auma [Obama’s step sister] was hugged by the Forty fourth president of the United States, Air force one came, Global Entrepreneur Summit took place in Kenya, CNN ‘attacked’ Kenya.
Below are some baby’s names we should expect to see kenyan mums naming their kids in relation to the recent events.

1. Beast Onyango
2. Potus Oloo Odek
3. Obama Hug Auma Akech
4. GES [Global Entrepreneurship Summit] Kariuki Maina
5. Air force One Wamalwa
6. Beast Kiptanui..
7. Kidero Grass Omollo
8. Secret Service Amolo…
9. Barack Abdul Wakesho
10. Obama Oloo Otis
11. United States Wafula..
12. Unknown Destination Wanyonyi
13. Niaje Wasee Kamau…
14. Hawayuni Kipchumba..
15. Global Summit Sindiyo
16. HotBed kamau

by Ndesanjo Macha at August 01, 2015 03:42 PM

Will the Victims of Pinochet's Tyranny Finally Get Justice?
Este era el nicho en el cual fue sepultado Victor Jara, posteriormente a los estudios forenses en 2009, fue trasladado a la tumba definitiva. Photo taken from the Flickr account of Claudio Quezada under Creative Commons licence.

Niche that contained Chilean songwriter and activist Victor Jara's remains before forensic analysis in 2009, after which they were finally relocated to a grave. Photo taken from the Flickr account of Claudio Quezada under Creative Commons licence.

Last week saw the arrests of a total of 17 former Chilean army officers for two of the most resonant crimes committed during the Augusto Pinochet period: the brutal murder of Víctor Jara, a Chilean musician and communist sympathiser, and the burning of two activists.

Ten suspects have been charged with Jara's murder following testimony of a military whistleblower. Another seven have been charged with setting fire to the two activists, one of whom died, with the other left severely injured.

In 1973, Pinochet overthrew Chilean socialist President Salvador Allende, marking the beginning of a 17-year-long military dictatorship during which more than 3,000 people were killed and tens of thousands imprisoned and tortured.

Jara was one of the many victims taken prisoner in the National Stadium in Santiago where he was tortured, had his fingers removed and his body embedded with 44 bullets. The poet and singer was also a political activist that sided with the left-wing working class. Jara was seized shortly after the start of the coup and killed on September 16.

In 1986, 18 and 19-year-old Carmen Gloria Quintana and Rodrigo Rojas were beaten, drenched in petrol and set ablaze by military officers. Rojas died four days later, and Quintana was left disfigured and in need of crucial surgery. Both victims were political activists documenting strikes and protests against Pinochet's tyranny. The attack was covered up by the military and the pair were accused by Pinochet of burning themselves whilst making petrol bombs.

For nearly three decades a pact of silence among the soldiers of the Pinochet army has secured de facto impunity for the perpetrators. However, Fernando Guzmán, an 18-year-old soldier at the time, finally broke the pact in an attempt to bring justice to the victims and their families.

Quintana said to reporters:

I think this pact of silence breaking apart after so many years is a milestone for our country. It's a before and after in the struggle for human rights. From now on many more soldiers who are burdened by their conscience, will talk because they know what they did. They murdered and forcibly disappeared people.

Joan Turner Jara, widow of the singer called the new developments in her husband's case “a message of hope”:

Víctor’s case can serve as an example, so we’re pushing forward in demanding justice for Víctor with the hope that justice will follow for everyone.

People worldwide have taken to social media to comment on the charges.

Guardian reporter Jonathan Franklin writes:

Chilean Politician, María Antonieta Saa expressed her horror at events of the past:

Seeing Pinochet back on TV casting doubt over the death of Rodrigo Rojas De Regri makes us remember with horror what we lived through. Truth and Justice.

As Joan Turner Jara noted, this could truly be a new chapter in the battle for justice for Pinochet's victims. The exposure of a cover up within the military may help uncover the truth about many other violations of human rights under Pinochet's regime.

According to official numbers, 40,018 people were victims of human rights abuses during the time the regime was in place while 3,065 were assassinated or went missing.

Pinochet's 17-year rule ended in a 1988 plebiscite, when 56% voted against him continuing as president leading to democratic elections to the Presidency and Congress. The former dictator was arrested under an international arrest warrant during a visit to London on October 10, 1998 in connection with numerous alleged human rights abuses. He returned to Chile in March 2000. In 2004, a Chilean judge ruled that Pinochet was medically fit to stand trial and placed him under house arrest.

Pinochet died in on December 10, 2006 — ironically the International Day of Human Rights — having been hospitalized for a heart attack. He was never convicted of any of the roughly 300 criminal charges laid this door which included tax evasion and embezzlement as well as human rights violations.

by Rhea Page at August 01, 2015 01:52 PM

A Holiday Too Delicious to Resist
The signature brownish Rasagola from Odisha. Image under CC-by-SA 3.0 by User:Riskyishwar, Wikimedia Commons.

The signature brownish Rasagola from Odisha. Image under CC-by-SA 3.0 by User:Riskyishwar, Wikimedia Commons.

This July 30, Twitter users from the Indian state of Odisha launched a campaign to dedicate an entire day to their state delicacy, a dessert known as Rasagola. (popularly known as “Rasgulla” in India) Calling it “Rasagola Dibasa” (meaning Rasagola Day in Odia-language), Internet users spread the hashtag #RasagolaDibasa, which trended across India for several hours, and celebrated offline in Odisha with support from both the government and private organizations.

Three months back, the Odisha government proposed a “geographical indication” for the dessert, which would establish as a historical fact that Rasagola originated in the area, securing Odisha's “bragging rights” on the dish.

Contrary to some claims that Rasagola is a Bengali dessert, Odisha says it hails from the Jagannatha temple in its region. According to local myth, on July 30, the deities of Jagannatha, Balabhadra, Subhadra, and Sudarshana return to the temple (known as “Niladribije“) after their annual trip to their aunt's house during the grand procession of Ratha Jatra. According to custom, temple-goers present offerings of Rasagola, in order to subdue the gods. This custom is called “Bachanika,” and marks the beginning of Rasagola Day.

Odisha Department of Tourism and Culture welcomed acclaimed sand artist Sudarshan Patnaik to participate at Puri beach:

A popular radio channel, Radio Choklate, held a Rasagola tasting in the city of Bhubaneswar, where the city's most popular confectioners took part in exhibiting and selling their desserts.

Popular Odia-language daily The Sambad formally celebrated the day at Pahala by collaborating with a local confectioner, promising and encouraging annual celebrations on the day of “Niladribije.”

In Bengal, where there are also popular claims of having invented the dessert, people have reacted with both support for and opposition to Odisha's Rasagola Day.

 “This seemed particularly cruel of our next-door neighbours, who are well aware Bengal loves its icons. We are down to just three authentic pieces: The venerable Tagore, the alarmingly-thin haired Sourav Ganguly and the “sickly sweet” rosogolla. Take away the myth of Subhas Bose being alive at 118 but spare our taste buds.”
— Dhrubo Jyoti, blog on Hindustan Times

India's national media has also taken notice of the celebration. Outlets including Zee, Hindustan Times, and India Today—not to mention many blogs—have published information and opinion about the event. India's two notable chef-celebrities, Sanjeev Kapoor and Pankaj Bhadouria, have also promoted the day on social media.

On her Facebook page, chef Pankaj Bhadouria wrote, “Did you know that 30th July is now being celebrated as Rasogola Diwas! Rasogolla is offered as Prasad at Jagannath Temple Puri and especially to Goddess Laxmi a day after the Rath Yatra ! Me? I am happy eating them everyday!! ‪#‎RasagolaDibasa.”

Chef  Pankaj Bhadouria's Facebook post on #RasagolaDibasa

Chef Pankaj Bhadouria's Facebook post on #RasagolaDibasa.

One of the key campaigners, Anita, blogged about the event, saying:

[..] Niladri Bije is an important day of celebration – the last day of the Rath Yatra marks the entry of the Gods to the Temple after their trip. [..] We are celebrating this day as Rasagola Dibasa- a day dedicated to Rasagolas. In Odia language, Dibasa means day. #RasagolaDibasa means Rasagola Day.

Despite the dispute about the dish's origins, Last week's celebration happily avoided any major mixups between Odisha and Bengal. The nationwide Rasagola phenomenon has also helped promote lesser-known spots in Odisha, like Pahala, which could become important in the region's geographical indication. In the long run, more national and even global attention could bring Odisha's cultural heritage to a much larger audience, helping people inside and beyond the region learn more about its important history.

by Subhashish Panigrahi at August 01, 2015 12:26 PM

Hong Kong Stages ‘Breast Walk’ to Protest Police and Judicial Absurdity
An online poster against police claim of "assaulted by woman protester's breast". From Facebook user orin.

An online poster against the police claim of “assault by a woman protester's breast”. From Facebook user orin.

Outraged by the three-and-a-half month jail sentence given to a woman convicted of assaulting the police with her breasts, more than a dozen organisations have mobilized a “breast walk” that will take place in Hong Kong on August 2.

Ng Lai-ying, 30, was convicted of assaulting police during an anti-parallel trader protest in March 2015 on the grounds that she had used her breast to “attack” the police officer. The incident occurred when the police officer grasped Ng's bag during the protest and she instinctively shouted “indecent assault”, as the police officer's arm brushed her breast. The charge filed against Ng Lai-ying inverted the accusation, depicting Ng as the aggressive party.

Several other protestors were also convicted of assaulting police on the same occasion.

Despite the fact the police officer did not suffer any injuries from the “breast assault” — while Ng's face was covered with blood when she was arrested — the magistrate indicated that Ng had precipitated chaos and violence against police by shouting “indecent assault” and sentenced her to three-and-a-half months in prison on July 30. Ng is currently out on bail pending appeal.

In response to the ridiculous ruling, a dozen civic groups created the “breast walk” protest. Event organizers urged participants to wear their bra on the outside of their clothes to deliver the message that “breasts are not weapons”.

On the Facebook event page:

We found this ridiculous as Ms Ng was originally making a complaint about suspected sexual assault of a police officer in the protest but now she has been turned into an attacker. We also feel angry about the fact that the case has made weapons of women's breasts and seems to be saying women are wrong to shout for help when faced with an attack.

One of the rally organisers Luk Kit Ling told independent news portal inmediahk.net that the groups would rally at the police headquarters to protest against the police officer's claim he was assaulted by Ng's breast:

陸潔玲稱到警總是要抗議作供的警員竟稱女性胸部襲擊,認為警員與普通市民權力不平等,日後警員將無須再在性騷擾及性別問題上有任何顧忌。

Luk Kit LIng explained that the rally at the police headquarters was to protest against the police officer's testimony that he was assaulted by a woman's breast. Given that police officers [are given authority as law enforcers] they are more powerful than ordinary citizens, this case would [lead to further abuse of power] to the extent that they could neglect complaints about sexual harassment [when police are in uniform].

Gloria Yip, a local artist, initiated a online poster action: Breasts are no weapon.

Gloria Yip, a local artist, initiated a online poster action: Breasts are not weapons.

Performance artist Gloria Yip initiated an online poster action to protest against labelling a woman's breast as a weapon.

Below is a selection of the online protest posters:

Photo uploaded by Kobe.

Photo uploaded by Kobe.

Poster uploaded by a theatre actor, Leo.

Poster uploaded by a theatre actor, Leo.

Image uploaded by Bull Tsang

Image uploaded by Bull Tsang

by Oiwan Lam at August 01, 2015 10:42 AM

How a Kazakh Boy Grew Up to Be a Glam-Rock Opera Singer in the US
Kazakh glam-rock and opera singer Timur Bekbosunov first got discovered singing Over the Rainbow at at festival in Kansas. Credit: Courtesy of Timur Bekbosunov

Kazakh glam-rock and opera singer Timur Bekbosunov first got discovered singing Over the Rainbow at at festival in Kansas. Credit: Courtesy of Timur Bekbosunov

This article and radio report by Alina Simone for The World originally appeared on PRI.org on July 23, 2015, and is republished here as part of a content-sharing agreement.

The story of how Timur Bekbosunov became a glam-rock opera singer in the US actually begins in 1958, in Almaty, Kazakhstan, then part of the Soviet Union. Timur says his father developed a strange idea — he wanted to go the US “to see what it’s all about.”

His dad even wrote a letter to Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev to see if the Communist Party would send him to the US.

He never heard back, but he never forgot America. In 1996 when Timur was 15, his dad surprised him, saying he’d applied to a program in the US on Timur’s behalf and that Timur had been accepted to study English for one year.

He ended up in Kansas, living with a nurse who became his adopted American mother. He says she encouraged him, “as corny as it sounds, to follow [my] dreams. And so I started to sing.”

That’s how Timur ended up being discovered singing “Over the Rainbow” at a festival in Kansas, by a scout from Wichita State University. And that’s where Timur discovered opera.

“I really began to enter this really strange, beautiful world of sometimes abstract, and sometimes ephemeral, way of singing,” he says. “It’s kind of an out-of-body experience when you sing.”

Since then, Timur has performed all over the world — at the Hollywood Bowl, with the LA Philharmonic — and in Kazakhstan. He went back as the soloist and producer of his own opera, The Silent Steppe Cantata, with music composed by Anne LeBaron.

“The music is composed for Kazakhstan folk instruments, so there are no western instruments,” he says. “That makes it a very, very unusual sound.”

The thing is, the people playing all those Kazakh instruments — none of them was from Kazakhstan. The large ensemble Timur brought with him was mostly made up of Westerners, which led to some friction. One time, the director of a hall burst in and interrupted their rehearsal.

“[He said], ‘No, no! It’s all over. You don’t have permission to be here.’ There were people with television cameras there, and he just makes this big stink about the whole thing. And he said we were plotting to shoot Borat 2.”

I’m just glad I wasn’t the first one to bring up Borat, the 2006 film that Kazakhstan once banned and officials denounced as “humiliating.”

But the country’s actually mellowed out on Borat considerably, Timur tells me.

“They aired at first some beautiful imagery of golden eagles flying over the steppes to counteract what Borat was bringing, but eventually they realized: Why are we trying to fight it? Let’s embrace it. And so they did.”

A couple of years ago, the foreign ministry even officially thanked Sacha Baron Cohen for boosting tourism.

And that director who burst into the hall ended up embracing Timur and his crew too — Silent Steppe Cantata toured successfully throughout Kazakhstan.

Back in the US, Timur continued to move into musical genres that defy classification. Take his band, Timur and the Dime Museum.

“What we’re doing now could be described as protopunk and minimalist chamber pop at times and it has this really great rock-opera segment to it,” Timur says.

The glammier influences of the Russian, American and European pop music he grew up listening to can also be heard on their forthcoming album, The Collapse.

Fun, right? Except the album is supposed to be a dark requiem about man-made ecological disasters.

“I would describe Collapse as a ride to the end of the world with a glass of champagne, if you can say that,” Timur says.

You can take that ride in Brooklyn this fall, where Timur and his band will perform The Collapse at BAM’s Next Wave Festival.

The other big project Timur is focusing on? His dad.

Oddly, their roles have now reversed; Timur wants his dad to join him in Los Angeles. But after spending his whole life in Kazakhstan, his father has mixed feelings about leaving.

“I’m trying to convince him that this is a good country to be in,” Timur says.

Timur’s adopted American mother passed away last month — and his mom died last year.

“I always felt I was the luckiest person because I had two mothers — one in Kazakhstan and one the United States. And suddenly I only have my Dad. I told him he has to step up his game,” he says, laughing. “When he gets to … the United States, I’m going to smother him with love.”

Sounds like his dad’s letter to Khrushchev is finally being answered — 50 years later.

by Public Radio International at August 01, 2015 05:00 AM

Government Aid Is Slow to Arrive as More than 100,000 Affected by Floods in North Myanmar
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Photo shared by artist Mawlaik on Facebook.

Non-stop rains in the past week have flooded the northern regions of Myanmar affecting 110,000 people. Many criticized the government for its slow response and delay in placing the country under state of emergency.

The regions heavily affected by the rains and floods are Sagain, Magway, Chin, Rakhine, and Shan. As of July 29, the floods have killed 20 people already. Many roads and bridges were damaged in Chin. There are fears continuous rains could break some irrigation dams.

Furthermore, as cyclone Komen batters neighboring Bangladesh, the western part of Myanmar and the delta region have been hit with flash floods.

As the rain continues, concerned citizens in Myanmar have been posting photos of floods and their concerns about the safety of affected residents:

Olar Magway wrote about the impact of the floods in Magway division:

Emergency!

We can contact through the only phone in Sidoktaya.

4/5 of the city has been covered with water and we are in need of shelter, water and food.

The whole city is dark and it keeps raining.

Note: Pwint Phyu City is also in danger of flooding.

People stranded in Sidoktaya are in need of aid through air support.

On Facebook, various local news pages and citizen media platforms are sharing photos of different cities affected by the floods.

11828549_921841067877270_7859147519288309587_n

Photo shared by Chin World on Facebook. Flooding near Kalay town of Chin State.

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Photo shared by Arakan Now. Flooding near Sittwe town of Rakhine state.

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Photo Shared by Naw Ko on Facebook. Flooding near Pwint Phyu town of Magway Division.

Myanmar Flood

Photo shared by Maung Tun Wai. Flood relief response by a civil society group.

The relief efforts of various civil society groups and volunteers are contrasted to the slow, or in some places total lack of government's response to the flood crisis.

Facebook user and activist Theinny Oo urged the government to provide more humanitarian assistance to affected regions. She said that the public and authorities should remember the lessons from the country's experience with cyclone Nargis in 2008:

(We) should remember the lessons from Nargis. Because the rescue response was late, we had such a huge loss. We were unable to rehabilitate the social, economic and education sectors. It took 5 years in Irrawaddy division alone to reconstruct. Now it is happening in five different states and divisions. Loss of civilian lives and properties is a national loss.

Political Activist Nay Myo Kyaw also shared his thoughts about the lack of government support:

When a natural disaster happens, it does not just affect one person. It affects at least a whole town or a whole state or nation. If civil society groups and grassroots organizations carry out disaster risk reduction activities, it will be only small scale. But the most responsible entity here is the government. When the people are having such a crisis and government is reluctant to help, it means authorities are not fulfilling their responsibilities.

According to renowned meteorologist U Tun Lwin, the government should have declared a national emergency during the first three days of the floods. He made this statement on July 29. The government eventually issued an official declaration of emergency on the afternoon of July 31.

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Government's response in Kalay town of Chin State. Photo shared by Hmuu Zaw, the official Facebook page of the Ministry of Information

Environmentalists are blaming rapid deforestation for the current flooding crisis. They warned that the country's forest cover has been reduced to only 20 percent of the country's total land area. They said that environmental preservation and rehabilitation should be prioritized by the government.

by Thant Sin at August 01, 2015 03:58 AM

July 31, 2015

Global Voices
Palestinian Baby Burned to Death in West Bank Settler Attack
Graffiti reading 'revenge' and 'long live Messiah' were left on the walls of the burnt houses [Photo: Rabbis for Human Rights]

Graffiti reading ‘revenge’ and ‘long live Messiah’ were left on the walls of the burnt houses [Photo: Rabbis for Human Rights Facebook Page]

Eighteen-month-old Ali Dawabsheh was burned to death in his home in Duma village in the Occupied West Bank in a settler attack. His parents and four-year-old brother were also injured, with up to 75 per cent of their bodies burned, according to medics in neighboring Nablus, who spoke to Al Jazeera.

Their home was torched along with a neighbor's house by a group of settlers who left graffiti reading “revenge” and “long live Messiah” on the burned out walls. A local resident, Mesalem Daoubasah, told Haaretz he saw four settlers fleeing the scene with several local residents following them in pursuit. According to Daoubasah, the settlers fled toward the settlement of Ma'aleh Ephraim nearby.

The toddler was enveloped in a shroud and his funeral drew large crowds of supporters:

While most Israeli mainstream politicians condemned the attack, activists were quick to point out that these very politicians (and established religious leaders) are part of the problem:

Pricetag attacks by Israeli settlers in the West Bank are very common. Between 2009 and the first half of 2012, there had been up to 995 attacks on Palestinian civilians. There has been 120 attacks this year alone. There were 340 arson attacks alone between 2004 and 2011.

Of these attacks, the overwhelming majority end up without prosecution by the Israeli occupation forces. According to Israeli NGO Yesh Din, up to 92.6% of Palestinian complaints are closed without further action due to “the inability of investigators to arrest suspects or to gather enough evidence to file an indictment.” Only 7.4% of complaints lead to indictments and only a third of these resulted in a conviction. In other words, the arrest of a suspect and his judgment is 1.8%.

by Joey Ayoub at July 31, 2015 04:09 PM

Harvard Law Library Innovation Lab
Global Voices
Calls to #StopEvictions as Pakistani Authorities Bulldoze Slums
Poster shared by Twitter users. via @Tooba_Sd

Poster shared by Twitter users. via @Tooba_Sd

Islamabad, the beautiful manicured capital of Pakistan, is currently in an awkward tussle with its own underserved class. The population of lower class shanty towns who serve as guards, domestic workers and cleaners are now at odds with the city's administration because it wants to evict them from the land they have illegally settled for years, sometimes decades.

Protests on Thursday at one settlement turned violent, with police using tear gas and batons to disperse those gathered. A 6-day-old infant died allegedly from suffocation due to the tear gas, and at least three other people were injured.

Journalist Siddique Humayun spoke to residents of one settlement for a report in national newspaper Dawn. One shop owner named Murtaza said the eviction warnings have been coming for months:

According to him, someone from the government came three months ago and told the slum dwellers to vacate, but they didn't. The three-day notices kept coming, but the people did not move.

Other locals said if the Capital Development Authority (CDA), the agency behind the eviction drive, insists on kicking residents out, it should provide sufficient alternative housing arrangements as many of them are with families and small children.

Civil society is currently standing up for these not so lucky neighbours of theirs, with many tweeting under the hashtag #StopEvictions.

Entrepreneur Zarlasht Faisal tweets:

Usama Khilji, an activist from Islamabad, wrote on Facebook:

Horrible how houses of the poor are being demolished brutally with no alternative options being provided or even discussed by government & authorities. The elite strike against the poor yet again.

Raza Rumi, a writer, blogger and journalist, called the CDA hypocritical:

Murtuza Solangi, the head of Radio Pakistan, also saw a double standard in CDA's actions:

Journalist Fahad Desmukh writes:

This fight for the evicted has been taken up not just by civil society activists but also by the left-wing Awami Workers Party. The party raised the alarm over dozens of residents and an activist who were reportedly arrested under the Anti-Terrorist Act.

Some are worried that people are only standing up because these colonies provide cheap labour and their removal would mean lowering their own standard of living. Motivations aside, it remains to be seen how the government will react to the strong uproar on social media over this enforced eviction. If it continues on this course, one thing is for certain: civil society is ready to put up a fight.

by Faisal Kapadia at July 31, 2015 11:37 AM

Miriam Meckel
Kernschmelze

WiWo_Titel_32_15_Auto_WEB

Hacker kapern Autos, Roboter werden zu intelligenten Waffen. Die künstliche Intelligenz braucht internationale Aufrüstungskontrolle.

Ein offener Brief von fast 2000 internationalen Forschern sorgt seit Tagen für heftige Diskussionen. Der Brief, veröffentlicht auf einer Konferenz über künstliche Intelligenz (KI) in Buenos Aires, fordert den vorsichtigen Umgang mit den Errungenschaften und Möglichkeiten dieser Technologie, ganz konkret: ein Verbot für Kampfroboter. Das klingt nach „Blade Runner“, nach „Terminator“ und einem Leben in der „Matrix“, in dem Menschen gegen Maschinen kämpfen, die nicht mehr zu stoppen sind. Also nach Science-Fiction.

Ist es aber nicht. Es ist Science-Faction. Innerhalb von Jahren soll es möglich sein, Roboter herzustellen, die nicht nur töten können, ohne dass noch ein Mensch in den Entscheidungsprozess einbezogen ist. Sie sind auch intelligenter als der intelligenteste Mensch, weil ihre Software selbstlernend ist, also Wissen aus Erfahrung generieren kann und auch dazu keinen Menschen mehr braucht. Computertechnologie entwickelt sich exponentiell. Der Punkt, an dem die Maschinen den Menschen überholen, ist irgendwann erreicht. Nun wissen wir: offenbar sehr bald. In der Evolutionsgeschichte der Computertechnologie werden wir zum müden Traktor, locker rechts überholt vom smarten Geschoss, bestückt mit künstlicher Intelligenz.

Die ersten Anzeichen dafür beobachten wir längst. Wie unsere Titelgeschichte beschreibt, ist es Hackern gelungen, Autos fernzusteuern und damit womöglich zur Waffe zu machen. Das ist eine reale Bedrohung für den Straßenverkehr, vor allem aber für die wichtigste deutsche Industrie. Es stimmt also ganz direkt, dass wir Gefahr laufen, von der Technik rechts überholt zu werden.

Bei den Forschern, die den offenen Brief unterzeichnet haben, handelt es sich nicht um ein paar langhaarige Ökofreaks, die am liebsten bei grünem Tee und Haschplätzchen von der heilen Welt träumen. Es sind die weltbesten Vorreiter der technologischen Innovation: Elon Musk, der den Tesla baut oder Raketen, die ins All fliegen und (meistens) heil wieder zurückkommen. Steve Wozniak, Mitgründer von Apple. Demis Hassabis, bei Google verantwortlich für das KI-Unternehmen Deep Mind. Stephen Hawking, berühmtester Physiker der Welt und kein Technologieverächter. Sie alle wollen weiterkommen, mit künstlicher Intelligenz arbeiten. Aber nicht so.

Wenn geschieht, was bislang kaum jemand für möglich gehalten hat, dann ist das ein Paradigmenwechsel. Die Technik ist nicht mehr Werkzeug des Menschen, sondern die Menschen werden Werkzeuge der Technik. Im militärischen Sektor wäre das dann die dritte globale Bedrohung für die Menschheit nach der Erfindung des Schießpulvers und der Atombombe. Leider werden wir dann von der Werkbank auf die Tribüne verbannt und müssen hoffen, dass jemand den bewaffneten Robotern mal das Sankt-Florians-Prinzip einprogrammiert hat.

Besser und effektiver wären internationale Zertifizierungsstandards, ähnlich einem IT-TÜV, vielleicht sogar eine technische Aufrüstungskontrolle für Gebrauchsgüter. Und eine politische Bewegung, die hinwirken muss auf etwas vergleichbar einem NATO-Doppelbeschluss für KI: Nutzung der Möglichkeiten bei gleichzeitiger Kontrolle des Missbrauchs.

Stephen Hawking sieht KI als größte Errungenschaft der Menschheit. Er sagt auch: Es wird leider die letzte sein.

wiwo.de

by Miriam Meckel at July 31, 2015 08:00 AM

Doc Searls
Remembering Bob Kauffman

bob-kauffmanWhen the Los Angeles Clippers open their first game at home this season, I want them to pause and celebrate their original franchise player: Bob Kauffman, the team’s all-star center for its first three seasons, when they were the Buffalo Braves.

In fact, I think the team should retire Bob’s jersey, #44. For the ceremony the team should also bring out his four daughters, all of whom were also basketball stars: Lara and Joannah at Georgia Tech, Carey at Duke and Kate at Clayton State. Bob died on July 27 at age 69.

Bob was an amazing player to watch, a privilege I enjoyed often as fellow student at Guilford College. Guilford was nowhere before Bob arrived and a powerhouse by the time he left. Same went for the Braves.

At 6-8 and 240, Bob was a big guy, but he played bigger. Here’s what Guilford wrote about him a couple days ago:

Kauffman scored 2,570 points on 64 percent field-goal shooting and collected 1,801 rebounds in his 113-game career, all current school standards. He also holds Guilford marks for career scoring average (22.7 ppg.), single-game rebounds (32), single-season rebounds (698, 1967-68), career rebounding average (15.9), career field goals (943), single-season field goal percentage (.712, 1967-68), single-season free throws (273, 1966-67), career free throws (684) and single-season free-throw attempts (344, 1966-67).

Great stats, but none suggest how tough and intimidating Bob was as a player. I remember watching one Braves game against the Celtics on TV, pleased when the announcer said Bob was the only center in the NBA who knew how to play Boston’s Dave Cowens, straight up. Amazingly, I just found an account of what followed, in 30 Things About Dave Cowens:

…he slugged Guilford’s Bob Kauffman, appropriately nicknamed “Horse,” at the foul line, then patiently waited for Kauffman to swing back. Kauffman hit Cowens so hard Cowens finished the game wearing an eye patch.

Bob’s pro career started as what today we’d call a lottery pick: he was taken third in the 1968 draft by the Seattle Supersonics (now the Oklahoma City Thunder) behind future Hall-of-Famers Elvin Hayes and Wes Unseld. But the Sonics didn’t know what to do with Bob. Nor did the Chicago Bulls, where he played the next year.

Then Bob got lucky. Thanks to various trades and player shufflings, he landed with the Buffalo Braves, an expansion team, for their inaugural season. The fit was perfect. Here’s Jerry Sullivan in The Buffalo News:

In the Braves’ first season of 1970-71, Kauffman averaged 20.4 points, 10.7 rebounds and 4.5 assists. He averaged 18.9 points and 10.2 rebounds in ’71-72 and 17.5 points and 11.1 rebounds in ’72-73. He made the Eastern all-stars in all three seasons for Buffalo teams that lost 60 games.

As his daughter Lara put it to Jerry, Bob left his heart in Buffalo:

“The Buffalo fans from all over, people who moved to Atlanta or wherever I go, they all remember my dad,” Lara Kauffman said. “What people remembered about my dad was he played very blue-collar. I think he was sort of a reflection of a lot of people in the Buffalo community the way he played. He wouldn’t back down from anybody. He played against Lew Alcindor at the time. He matched up against Wilt Chamberlain. My dad would go head-to-head with those guys.

“He was undersized. He was 6-8 and played a face-up game. But because he was so physical, oftentimes he would match up against the toughest player. He would go toe-to-toe with them. I think his style of play reflected Buffalo a lot. He was a hard-working player. Every timeout, he ran off the court. He was the first to the bench.

“He tried to set a good example of hard work and play,” his daughter added. “If my dad had a late night the night before with the guys, he was up at 5 a.m. running six miles. He never stopped. He was just a committed athlete. He was also a gentleman. He would sign autographs. He had all the patience in the world with the fans. They were important to him. He never treated people as second-class. He always had time for them.”

And that’s how I remember him as well. Back at Guilford, there wasn’t a bigger man on campus than Bob, yet he was sweet and friendly with everybody.

Bob’s career as a player was sadly short. Hip problems forced him to retire at 28, from the Atlanta Hawks. After that he coached the Detroit Pistons for a year and then returned to the Hawks’ front office before leaving the game for other work. (If memory serves, Bob was the GM for Detroit when they hired Dick Vitale as coach.)

My favorite testimony to Bob’s value as a player was uttered by his coach at Guilford, Jerry Steele. After Guilford’s play-by-play announcer told Jerry that Catawba College guard Dwight Durante (“the best 3-point shooter you never saw“) appeared that week in a Sports Illustrated piece, Jerry replied, in his usual slow drawl, “Well, Dwight Durante may have his picture in Sports Illustrated, but I’ve got Bob Kauffman’s picture in my bedroom.”

The announcer should have done the same, for he was none other than was Carl Scheer, known today as a legendary NBA executive, former GM of the Carolina Cougars, Denver Nuggets, LA Clippers and Charlotte Hornets — and the inventor of the Slam Dunk Contest, among other distinctions. If it weren’t for Bob, Carl might still be a lawyer in Greensboro. Suzanne Dietzel in Greater Charlotte Business:

After a respectable run in undergraduate college basketball and baseball, Scheer graduated from Marquette Law School and began a career in a small law firm in Greensboro. After realizing that his desire to litigate cases would likely be unrealized due to the size of the firm, he visited Guilford College and asked to be slated to broadcast basketball and football games – a passion he had indulged in graduate school.

Scheer had made fast friends with many in the sports community when opportunity knocked. According to Scheer, “Guilford was embarking upon an aggressive, small college basketball campaign, largely driven by star player, Bob Kauffman. I had announced his college career, and once he found himself in demand by two competing leagues, he asked me to represent him for his contract negotiations.”

Scheer elaborates, “In 1968, agents were unheard of. Knowing I was a lawyer, Bob asked me to represent him.” He jokes, “I am sure I left the poor guy quite a bit of money on the table! But, really, the experience introduced me into the world of sports and business; I was hooked.”

Not surprisingly, his work ethic and comfortable personality helped to foster a good rapport with team owners, and he was asked to interview for the position of assistant to the commissioner of the NBA.

Recalls Scheer, “The NBA commissioner at the time, Walter Kennedy, told me after my third interview that he liked me and thought I was a great candidate, but the job was going to ‘the other guy.’ At the time I was content with that. I had had that 15 minutes of glory and was happy to go back to my small North Carolina law firm. But months later he called back and told me the other candidate declined the position, and asked if I would like to be reconsidered. It was a dream come true. I moved to New York and began my indoctrination into the game. There, my sports career started.”

The best lives have the best consequences. I’d like one of Bob’s to be a celebration of his place as the Clippers founding all-star — who also happened to be a four-star dad.

Links:

 

by Doc Searls at July 31, 2015 06:33 AM

July 30, 2015

Global Voices Advocacy
German Digital Rights Pioneers Investigated for Treason
Markus Beckedahl in 2014. Photo by Agnieszka Krolik via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Markus Beckedahl at a Wikimedia Salon event in 2014. Photo by Agnieszka Krolik via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Leading digital rights advocates and bloggers Markus Beckedahl and Andre Meister, along with an “unknown party,” are being investigated for treason for allegedly having leaked documents detailing Germany's plans to expand domestic Internet surveillance earlier this year.

The bloggers received an official letter from Germany's Federal Attorney General informing them that he had “initiated a criminal investigation on suspicion of treason against [the accused] on the basis of §§ 94 Abs. 1 Nr. 2, 25 Abs. 2, 53 German Criminal Code, due to criminal charges by the Federal Office for Protection of the Constitution.”

Netzpolitik.org is a critical german investigative blog with more than 30 authors who report mainly on issues concerning Internet surveillance and privacy since 2004. The website was awarded with the well-known Grimme Online Award in 2014. Beckedahl is also a founding director of the popular annual Re:Publica conference in Berlin, which focuses on digital rights and culture.

On their website, netzpolitik.org announced:

Today, we received a letter from the Federal Attorney General of Germany confirming ongoing investigations against our reporters Markus Beckedahl, Andre Meister and an “unknown” source, suspecting us of treason according to the German Penal Code.

In their statement, netzpolitik.org condemned the investigations as an attack on press freedom:

From the very beginning, the charges against our alleged source(s) were politically motivated and targeted to crush the necessary public debate about internet surveillance Post-Snowden. Whistleblowers in the public interest need protection, not prosecution for “treason”. Investigating the acclaimed media outlet netzpolitik.org as accomplices in treason charges is a direct attack on freedom of the press, which we thought was outlawed with the Constitutional Court ruling in the Cicero case 2007.

The last time such charges were brought against a journalist in Germany was in 1962, when the editor-in-chief of Der Spiegel was accused of treason for publishing secret documents about the German defense forces.

The netzpolitik.org bloggers have stated clearly that they will not be intimidated by the investigations and that their independent and critical journalism will continue:

The Federal Attorney General needs to drop the investigations against us and our alleged source(s) and instead investigate and charge the out-of-control secret services that are expanding their mass surveillance without public debate.

The investigation of netzpolitik.org has led to an uproar in mainstream and social media. #Landesverrat (#treason) immediately trended in Germany with many users expressing concern about the investigations.

#Landesverrat framed next to the Grimme Online Award and “Journalist of the Year 2014″.

You could also call it #Landesverrat when citizens are under mass surveillance. You could.

“Punish one, discipline hundreds.”

The investigation was also sharply criticized by the German Press Association. Michael Konken, Chairman of the German Journalists Association stated: “The investigations against the two journalists show, that the head of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution has not learnt anything concerning freedom of speech,” arguing that bloggers had simply delivered the information that is in the public interest and that the public is entitled to know. He has urged the Federal Attorney General to stop the investigation immediately.

by Global Voices Advocacy at July 30, 2015 09:54 PM

Global Voices
German Digital Rights Pioneers Investigated for Treason
Markus Beckedahl in 2014. Photo by Agnieszka Krolik via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Markus Beckedahl at a Wikimedia Salon event in 2014. Photo by Agnieszka Krolik via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Leading digital rights advocates and bloggers Markus Beckedahl and Andre Meister, along with an “unknown party,” are being investigated for treason for allegedly having leaked documents detailing Germany's plans to expand domestic Internet surveillance earlier this year.

The bloggers received an official letter from Germany's Federal Attorney General informing them that he had “initiated a criminal investigation on suspicion of treason against [the accused] on the basis of §§ 94 Abs. 1 Nr. 2, 25 Abs. 2, 53 German Criminal Code, due to criminal charges by the Federal Office for Protection of the Constitution.”

Netzpolitik.org is a critical german investigative blog with more than 30 authors who report mainly on issues concerning Internet surveillance and privacy since 2004. The website was awarded with the well-known Grimme Online Award in 2014. Beckedahl is also a founding director of the popular annual Re:Publica conference in Berlin, which focuses on digital rights and culture.

On their website, netzpolitik.org announced:

Today, we received a letter from the Federal Attorney General of Germany confirming ongoing investigations against our reporters Markus Beckedahl, Andre Meister and an “unknown” source, suspecting us of treason according to the German Penal Code.

In their statement, netzpolitik.org condemned the investigations as an attack on press freedom:

From the very beginning, the charges against our alleged source(s) were politically motivated and targeted to crush the necessary public debate about internet surveillance Post-Snowden. Whistleblowers in the public interest need protection, not prosecution for “treason”. Investigating the acclaimed media outlet netzpolitik.org as accomplices in treason charges is a direct attack on freedom of the press, which we thought was outlawed with the Constitutional Court ruling in the Cicero case 2007.

The last time such charges were brought against a journalist in Germany was in 1962, when the editor-in-chief of Der Spiegel was accused of treason for publishing secret documents about the German defense forces.

The netzpolitik.org bloggers have stated clearly that they will not be intimidated by the investigations and that their independent and critical journalism will continue:

The Federal Attorney General needs to drop the investigations against us and our alleged source(s) and instead investigate and charge the out-of-control secret services that are expanding their mass surveillance without public debate.

The investigation of netzpolitik.org has led to an uproar in mainstream and social media. #Landesverrat (#treason) immediately trended in Germany with many users expressing concern about the investigations.

#Landesverrat framed next to the Grimme Online Award and “Journalist of the Year 2014″.

You could also call it #Landesverrat when citizens are under mass surveillance. You could.

“Punish one, discipline hundreds.”

The investigation was also sharply criticized by the German Press Association. Michael Konken, Chairman of the German Journalists Association stated: “The investigations against the two journalists show, that the head of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution has not learnt anything concerning freedom of speech,” arguing that bloggers had simply delivered the information that is in the public interest and that the public is entitled to know. He has urged the Federal Attorney General to stop the investigation immediately.

by Lena Nitsche at July 30, 2015 09:51 PM

“Ethiopians Should Not Wait for Obama to Give Them Democracy”
Barack and Michelle Obama greet Ethiopian PM Hailemariam Desalegn and  Ms. Roman Tesfaye at a U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in 2014. Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon, released to public domain.

Barack and Michelle Obama greet Ethiopian PM Hailemariam Desalegn and Ms. Roman Tesfaye at a U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in 2014. Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon, released to public domain.

US President Barack Obama made history this week by becoming the first sitting president to visit Ethiopia and to deliver a speech before the African Union.

Obama's plan to visit Ethiopia was rebuked by human right advocates who argued that it would award undue praise to the Ethiopian government, which has pursued a crackdown on local media workers resulting in dozens of detentions and multi-year prison sentences, including the jailing of six members of the Global Voices community. The ruling party also secured 100% of parliamentary seats in the May 2015 elections, leaving Ethiopians suspicious that authorities had interfered with electoral systems.

The tone of the disappointment and anger began to ease after the release of several bloggers and journalists prior to the arrival of President Obama.

President Barack Obama and Ethiopia Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn hold a press conference at the National Palace

Barack Obama and PM Hailemariam Desalegn hold a press conference at the National Palace. Public Domain photo by the White House.

During his visit, President Obama and PM Desalegn were joined for a state dinner by prominent Ethiopian figures including artists, sportsmen and politicians. However, the leader of the Ethiopian Blue Party Yilikal Getnet turned down an invitation to the dinner, saying “it would amount to taking part in a luxurious dinner while millions suffer in Ethiopia.”

Displeased with President Obama's support for the Ethiopian government, Jawar Mohammed, a prominent advocate in Ethiopia-Oromo affairs, wrote on Facebook:

The US is now firmly and officially endorsing authoritarianism in Ethiopia

When we look at the statements by US officials Donald Booth (former ambassador to Ethiopia who said the 2010 election was good enough), Wendy Sherman (Deputy Secretary of State), Susan Rice (national security adviser) and now president Obama who in his speech twice declared the regime is democratically elected, we reach a conclusion that the United States [has] decided to publicly align itself with the Ethiopian authoritarian regime, both in words and deeds. The US has always supported this regime practically through massive aid, however, even George Bush's administration maintained verbal criticism of the authoritarian nature of the regime. The US has now gone blunt as Obama's administration has officially and openly endorsed the ‘developmental dictatorship’ narrative. Why is that?

1) Somalia- after the attempt to replace Ethiopia by Kenya and Uganda as its own extended hand for messing with Somalia's internal affairs failed to produce result, America is now back to the old tactic of fully relying on Ethiopian army and intelligence.

2) China- While US remains increasingly dependent on Ethiopia for its security interest, China has developed unmatched influence in the economy. William Davison nicely summarized this reality in his latest report, writing ” When Barack Obama became the first sitting President of the United States to touch down in Ethiopia’s capital on Sunday evening, it was at an airport being upgraded using a $250-million Chinese loan. His convoy then zipped along a six-lane urban expressway, also funded by the Export-Import Bank of China, to Meskel Square, where the two lines of a new Chinese-built electric railway intersect. Towering over the capital’s southwest, he may have spotted the headquarters of the African Union, a $200 million giveaway from China’s leaders.”

Such investment gives China significant influence not only over Ethiopia but also the rest Africa through the African Union which is located there.

Reacting to his Jawar's assessment, Amin Kedir advised:

Dont depend on external body to bring change, justice, democracy, etc for your internal issues. Mr. Obama come for his own benefit (his country benefit), dont expect more changes from Mr.Obama.

Kedir Tibeso did not expect much from Obama either:

Dictators are always dictators, and america want ethiopia for its own benefit. i do not expect any thing from obama.

Concurring with Jawar's arguments, Mohammed Siraj wrote:

Excellent analysis. Those who anticipated long for America to liberate them, be informed that America [is a] pragmatic country that run after its own interest. This is a good opportunity to get calm and think [about] the ineffective path being traveled so long.

The problem is not Obama but the lack of a united opposition movement based on ideology rather than tribe, noted Abo Ethio:

As long as z opposition groups are not united and show their strength (tangible), USA will continue to supporter z opperssor. You should hv to make note on what he spoke in Kenya, regarding ethnic based politics……. We will not have a strong alternative as long as we continue to organize our politics based on ethnic groups rather than the well founded political ideology n understanding of z geo-politics.

Many commenters on the visit concurred that Ethiopians should not wait for the US to build a democratic government in their country. They control their own destiny, wrote Falmataa Lamii:

[…]This is more than enough for us that USA Compromise Democracy with Security!! They are running after their national security. They don’t care about innocent people killed and jailed by those dictators! The western world (USA) always pleased dancing over the dead bodies the innocent people and wining of innocent blood!!

Therefore no more begging USA to generously give us Democracy!!! The western world (USA) officials (OBAMA) are not daddies of Democracy. But it is the result of united hands of the people! The united hands of our people are stronger than that of Western world (USA)!

Let us do that and reign the democracy we are longing for!!!!

During Obama's address to the African Union, Adam took note of Obama's support for presidential term limits:

Great speech Mr President. I hope that The African Union council must adopt new policy for African governors or promote maximum two terms in office for all African President. This will help growth and developments of the continent.

For a summary of what transpired during his visit to Ethiopia, read these highlights from Horn Affairs blog.

by Global Voices at July 30, 2015 06:49 PM

DML Central
The Power of Decentralization in the MOOC

Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of four blogs on digital technology.

Nishant Shah’s Annotation: In the last entry, I had suggested that instead of connectedness, what we really need to think about, in connected and digital learning, is the idea of distributedness. I had argued that the role of technology in MOOC environments is that of consolidation, and it is the act of consolidation that allows for the distributedness of learners, teachers, and resources to be sustained. Building upon this conversation, my colleague Mariam Haydeyan at the Leuphana Digital School, uses the opportunity of the recently completed Online Open Course, “Managing the Arts,” to think about decentralized learning environments and distribution of affect and intentions. What remains powerful in Mariam’s reflection is the implicit idea that technologies of consolidation often reinforce the idea of the user/learner as disconnected and alone, and that it is crucial to pay attention to the learner as an affective learner, and installed in conditions of collectivity rather than connectivity.

I remember an exam in an arts class where we were given an A3 print of Albrecht Dürer’s “Rhinoceros” and asked to build a new motif from cuttings of the sophisticated woodcut. The task itself was, of course, not cutting edge. Nevertheless, both the process and product were exhilarating. Our teacher wanted us to do simple, material work. Without employing additional materials, the central idea was to imitate and further develop Dürer’s structures and patterns to make a new picture, our own picture — one that speaks our language through his symbols, bearing the hallmarks of the original creation.

The result was that this entity, separated in parts and thoughtfully reassembled, underwent a radical transformation and was enfeebled of being something completed and absolute. Furthermore, intent upon appreciating and preserving the work’s original attributes, we were able to take up Dürer’s hand and to slip in forms and structures of our own. Carefully implemented, it was not outlandish at all. Why did this simple task fascinate me so emphatically and what has it to do with this entry and to tackling the question of what constitutes learning in the digital age?

Oftentimes, one reads that we must understand what learning is and how it can be defined. But, let us put it this way: we must understand how learning takes place today and, thus, delve into its practical application. What our task is now is to disengage from preconceived notions of these reactions, stop delivering “predigested knowledge,” and look beyond the traditional notion of learning in which knowledge is a commodity delivered from the transmitter to the recipient.

The Rhinoceros-exercise showed the virtuality of a seemingly real and coherent entity. That is exactly what we need in digital higher education. We need to uncouple knowledge transfer and conferencing from the oftentimes still predominant rigid notions of “teaching” and “learning” as predefined educational constructs. This consciousness of an ever changing identity of the learner and the teacher can help to further develop digital and open and connected learning and teaching toward new and multilayered educational role models.

How would that be manifested in a MOOC? The emergence and developments of MOOCs are going the right direction approaching a new learning constitution, shifting learning experiences from individual to collective, from consuming to producing, from reactionary to participatory and chiefly founding on conversation and co-creation. But, we need a pedagogy reflecting that. Furthermore, we need to understand that focusing on the learner by targeting a learner-centered approach should not conduct us to the wrong way of averting the focus from the teacher. In the contrary, s/he becomes more important than ever, having to serve the manifold needs and demands of the individual learner. Taking this into account, teaching cannot be embodied in one person or type but in multiple.

This is where the unique approach of Leuphana Digital School’s MOOCs — Mentored Open Online Courses — exemplifies how the concept of MOOCs can be further developed on behalf of the idea of concentrating on the individuality of the learner by decentralizing and breaking down the teaching process in multiple components. Leuphana Digital School’s Mentored Open Online Courses facilitate the implementation of a unique didactical concept where, equated to the idea that there is not “the answer” but a multiplicity of approaches, there is not “the teacher” but scholars, mentors, tutors, academic directors, facilitators and administrators in one MOOC. Leuphana Digital School’s Mentored Open Online Courses include teamwork, emphasizing peer-to-peer assessments as well as mentor-assessments, realigning the learning experience through project-based working in the space of a case-scenario based method.

The Teacher is Not Alone — Teaching is Granular

We exposed that open education was supposed to commit to accessing knowledge to all, thus contributing to social progress and the transformation of the individual.[1] The values emerging from the modern education concept of openness led us to ethics and a philosophy founding on participation, cooperation, and mutual and reciprocal experiences. We cannot forbear to absolutely apply a method to digital education by challenging teaching in online education — a symbiosis of pedagogical implementation and assessment concepts. However, challenging the teaching does not mean that teaching is embodied in one instance, even in one person, but has to be multi-generated to tackle the learner’s experiences on different levels and through different responsibilities.

Leuphana Digital School recognizes that teaching an online course consists of different roles and processes one person or type neither would be able nor would want to perform. Starting in 2012 with the pilot course, “ThinkTank – Ideal City of the 21st Century,” they have been giving their Mentored Open Online Course concept a try by gathering the participants in one platform around a strong faculty, a team of experts, undertaking the functions of different teacher types. The concept has proven to be successful, particularly on the example of the latest course, “Managing the Arts,” around marketing of cultural organizations, to as many as 17,000 users.

Chris Dercon was the course director and moderator — publicly introducing the course, internally introducing the students to the assignments and the course phases. The academic director and the MOOC facilitator built a strong duo, hosting the community during the course having curated its design and scenarios. The MOOC director, giving input in the forums, defining leading questions and managing the community on an individual and collective level, worked hand-in-glove with the MOOC facilitator, providing organizational information on the platform regarding course structure and processes. Scholars — experts in their specific fields — give input and impulses through short keynote lectures and contribute to discussions in the community during the course. Teams are assigned to mentors and tutors. Mentors accompany the teams throughout their learning experience on a content-related level, provide feedback on drafts and evaluate final submissions after a course phase ends. Tutors provide administrative and technical support. All these activities are bundled by a core project management team at Leuphana Digital School.

The Learner is Not Alone – Learning Through Affect

Leuphana University gives out ECTS certificates after successfully completing the courses, thus it is useful to gather all user activities, tasks and assignments on one learning platform. In doing so, they are enabled to formalize feedback processes and consolidate peer processes in one virtual environment. In this environment the learning experience extremely differs from the experience in a physical classroom. The learner finds himself in a space, where time and place collapse and collaboration and cooperation stand in the absolute foreground. I keep Jonathan Worth in mind. The professional photographer and instructor of #phonar (photography and narrative), an open course on photography and storytelling to as many as 35,000, raising one important question during Leuphana Digital School’s #FutureU workshop, that stands above everything else when creating an online course: “How do we create an experience in which we add value for the learner when learning with the digital?” [2]

My answer is affect. What Leuphana Digital School does is to organize the participants in working groups — during the course of the MOOC, they work collaboratively on a submission, based on assignments that are complexity deepening with every phase of the course. Every member of a course’s community, be it the teacher or learner, is driven by the atmosphere and dynamics predominating the course. Acting in a team or group does not mean that the sensibility of the individual does not stand in the foreground. The development of a MOOC very much depends on every singe, silent or loud mind, contributing to its success. So, what we have to do is to build a learning instance where we create emotion. Teachers as well as learners, in their particular roles, have to ask themselves certain questions, whose answers are determining the learning experience: Why are you part of this event? What is your intrinsic motivation? What do you love and where do you want to go? How do you define your goals and how can you turn the learning of a MOOC into strategies that help you to achieve them?[3]

What learners and teachers can do to affect each other is to foster provocation, encouragement, enthusiasm, success and failure. Marginal experiences, the belongingness to a group or community, the responsibility to contribute and the identification with the task or the goal create a strong commitment to the learning experience and enable an enduring learning outcome. Through sharing of information, resources and knowledge and synergy, conversation and discourse, common value is created, ideas generated and an intellectual home can be established.

Going back to the rhinoceros, it becomes obvious, why this task is still in my mind as an impressive learning experience. The teacher could have asked me about Dürer’s life, his oeuvre, about humanism and reformation, about the particular artworks’ history and background — dry reproduction of the information. But, what she actually did was to create emotion — she allowed me to converse with this piece of art and contribute to it, whereby, I took all the information she could have asked automatically into account, describing my derivative of this masterpiece.

If I would teach a class and give this rhinoceros or maybe a typewriter to a team in a MOOC or a whole community and then ask them to create something new of its components, they would start to learn facts about the products’ origin, history, attributes and identify, its composition and mechanics before starting to work on the task. Not only would they learn more about its “theory” if the only task would have been to learn all key data, but because they would decide to do so on their own, seeing the necessity of knowing the product before “destroying” it. Above everything, that’s how I imagine it to be. They would start to discuss, go toe-to-toe with each other, start to find strategies for agreement and find themselves in a complex circle of design thinking and creative problem solving.

What would the outcome be? What about a robot…?

Image credits: Banner image, Albrecht Dürer's "Rhionceros"; Image 2, Old Typewriter (Things Come Apart) by Todd McLellan; Image 3, Typewriter Assemblage Sculpture by Jeremy Mayer 

by mcruz at July 30, 2015 01:00 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
Digital Citizen 3.4
I want Internet - by Ramy Raoof on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

I want Internet – by Ramy Raoof on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Digital Citizen is a biweekly review of news, policy, and research on human rights and technology in the Arab World. Subscribe here!

For several years, Hacking Team—a Milan-based company that produces offensive intrusion and surveillance software to governments—has been a thorn in the side of digital rights activists. A 2014 paper from the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, which detailed how the company’s software works, relied heavily on its alleged use by Saudi Arabia to target individuals during protests in the eastern governorate of Qatif.

On July 5, the hackers were hacked, resulting in the release of a 400GB trove of documents demonstrating, among other things, that Hacking Team sold its software to repressive governments, something the company had previously denied.

“For Arab human rights defenders,” wrote Abir Ghattas shortly after the hack, the Hacking Team files confirm what they already knew: That Arab governments—including Tunisia, Morocco, Sudan, Bahrain, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia—had purchased and used Hacking Team’s remote intrusion tool, often against activists. The leaks showed that Israel’s police and defence ministry had also considered purchasing the software.

A debate centered on whether the export of such technologies should be controlled by the states in which they are produced has been ongoing for several years, with proponents arguing for export regulations and opponents claiming that such regulations could curb online freedoms. While that debate is sure to continue, one thing is certain: Repression, once mainly the domain of governments, has become a multi-million dollar industry and governments, the would-be regulators of these tools, have now become its customers.

Algeria

The Algerian police’s specialized cybercrime units in the southern city of Ghardaia summoned and arrested 27 Facebook users for investigation over charges of incitement. The users stand accused of inciting violence and hatred between Arab and Berber communities through a number of Facebook pages including “Ghardaia HD3”. The arrests followed clashes between the two ethnic communities in Ghardaia in early July, which resulted in twenty-two deaths and dozens of injuries. Police allege that evidence they obtained proves that the recent clashes were provoked by a group of persons who published rumors, lies and fake photos on Facebook pages and online forums.

On 2 July, authorities released labor rights activist Rachid Aouine after spending four and half months in jail. Aouine was arrested in March and sentenced to six-months in jail for “instigating an unarmed gathering” in an ironic Facebook update. The sarcastic post responded to a government announcement warning law enforcement officers not to take part in protests. Aouine wrote: “Police officers, why don’t you go out today to protest against the arbitrary decisions against your colleagues…, instead of controlling the free activists and the protesters against the shale gas?”

Bahrain

Human rights activist Nabeel Rajab was released from prison on 13 July, after receiving a royal pardon. Rajab was arrested at his home on 2 April for tweeting about abuse in Bahrain's Jaw Prison and the Saudi-led war against Houthi rebels in Yemen. While in detention, a court upheld a six-month jail term against him in the separate case of insulting security institutions on Twitter.

On 11 July, Bahrain handed over Kuwaiti citizen Yousef Shamlan Al-Essa to his country. Al-Essa stands accused of “spreading false news” for taking part in conversations hosted by a WhatsApp group called “Fontas”. In the conversations, the group accused judges at the constitutional court of receiving bribes.

Egypt

Under a new terrorism bill, journalists in Egypt could face up to two years in jail if they report non-government statistics. Article 33 of the law bans the publication of “false news or data about any terrorist operations that contradicts the official statements released by the relevant authorities”. The bill is set to be approved by President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi and has been criticized by rights groups in the country.

On 14 July, police raided the offices of Yaqeen News Network, arresting its director Yahia Khalaf, along with Ibrahim Abubaker, another employee of the network. Police also confiscated all of the network's equipment and devices. While Abubaker was released, Khalaf remains in detention.

Iraq

Iraq’s government ordered a complete shutdown of Internet services in the country to prevent cheating during the national exams for entry into junior high school. The shutdown lasted for three hours between 5am and 8am on 27 June. A one-hour outage was recorded on 29 June, but may have been connected to network testing.

Jordan

Ghazi Mrayat, a journalist at the state-owned daily Al-Rai, was sentenced to 15 days in jail by the state security court for violating a gag order in relation to a foiled terror plot allegedly backed by Iran. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, on 6 July, Al-Rai published on its website an article written by Mrayat, claiming that a suspect of Norwegian and Iraqi citizenship had been arrested with nearly 100 pounds of explosives. On 8 July, the newspaper published a follow-up article also written by Mrayat, with more details about the suspect and the Iranian link to the plot.

Lebanon

SMEX reports that mobile phone users in Lebanon are being charged for a service they didn’t request, and forced to pay even more than the cost of one month of that service to cancel. The digital rights group offers suggestions to telecoms on how they can respect users and their privacy.

Annahar enumerates 22 reasons behind slow internet speeds in Lebanon. According to the newspaper which quoted an official at the state run Ogero Telecom, in most cases these reasons are linked to the customer and not the provider such as age of the computer, opening several tabs and applications at the same time or not updating the software.

Morocco

On 2 July, a primary court in Rabat delayed the trial of Khalad Boubakri and Ibrahim Safi, journalists at the news site barlamane.com who are facing trial for their role in a nepotism scandal involving the Minister of Higher Education Lahcen Daoudi. The minister filed a defamation lawsuit against the site for publishing articles alleging that he exploited his position to appoint members of his party at Moroccan universities.

Oman

Activist Ahmed Al-Moghairi spent three weeks in solitary confinement after Oman’s Internal Security Service summoned him for investigation on 16 June. He was released on 9 July. The Gulf Center for Human Rights believes that Al-Moghairi was detained for discussing corruption and calling for democratic reforms on social media.

Palestine

In a recent article, 972mag exposes the double-standards of Israeli authorities with respect to inciting speech online. While Palestinians often face imprisonment or house arrests for petty acts such as sharing the logo of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Israelis do not face repercussions for “racist and inciting Facebook statuses” which have become “commonplace”. According to 972mag, “not a single Israeli has ever been sent to prison for publishing a status on social media.” The article points to the recent case of Uday Biyumi, a 23-year-old Palestinian from Jerusalem, sentenced to seventeen months in prison for publishing Facebook posts “systematically and widely.” The authors also note: “The court takes into account how much exposure these statuses receive when determining the defendant’s sentence.”

Syria

On 8 July, the ISIS-affiliated “Cyber Army of the Caliph” hacked the website of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and threatened its director, Rami Abdelrahman. The observatory documents human rights violations by all warring parties in the ongoing conflict.

Tunisia

Noureddine Mbarki, editor-in-chief of the news site akherkhabaronline.com, is accused of “complicity” under Article 18 of the country’s 2003 counter-terrorism law for publishing on his site a photo showing Sousse terror attacker Seiffeding Rezgui leaving a car right before killing 38 foreign tourists on a beach resort on 26 June. The photo, which was published on 5 July, has since been taken down at the request of the authorities. Prosecutors are seeking the source of the photo.

On 3 July, the Tunisian government withdrew the draft law on the right to access information without explanation. The draft was submitted to the National Constituent Assembly last year was only awaiting to be presented to the plenary of the People’s Representatives’ Assembly for its final approval. Article 19 described the withdrawal of the bill as “a step in the wrong direction”.

United Arab Emirates

The UAE jailed and deported Australian artist Jodi Magi for posting on facebook a photo of a parked car blocking two disabled parking spaces outside her apartment block in Abu Dhabi. Magi, who spent 53 hours in custody before her deportation, was convicted of “writing bad words on social media about a person”.

New research

  • Recent research indicates that state violence and internet shutdowns go hand-in-hand in Syria.
  • Women Journalists Without Chains released a report documenting media freedom violations during the first half of 2015 in Yemen.

In other news

  • The global privacy community lost two of its fiercest advocates in the past two weeks. British privacy activist Caspar Bowden, who had fought to ensure global privacy rights for all, passed away on July 9. Turkish activist Dr. Özgür Uçkan, a co-founder digital rights group Alternatif Bilisim, passed away on July 10. Both will be sorely missed.
  • Europol will form a new Europe-wide police team to combat the online presence of Islamic State (IS) beginning in July. The police team will work with social media platforms to track and block social media accounts linked to IS and aims to shut down any new accounts within two hours of their creation.”
  • From her prison cell, Egyptian photographer Esraa Al-Taweel writes about the last days before her arrest and what she has witnessed in prison since her detention.
  • Mohamed ElTaher explains the capabilities of RCS technology used by Egyptian authorities after news of Hacking Team exporting the technology to the Egyptian government.
  • ICANN’s Rafik Dammak discusses the current debate around the Domain Name System (DNS) and why activists should get involved in ICANN’s work.
  • Digital Citizen contributor Mohammed Tarakiyee writes about the feminist practice of digital security in the MENA region.
  • The UAE and the US launched the Sawab Center to counter the online propaganda of ISIS.

From our partners

  • EFF has published a report on how Microsoft Bing censors search results in the Middle East.
  • Access submitted a letter to Iraqi authorities calling on the country to stop shutting down the Internet.

Upcoming events

  • The Stockholm Internet forum will take place October 21-22, 2015.

Digital Citizen is brought to you by Advox, Access, EFF, Social Media Exchange, and 7iber.com. This month’s report was researched, edited, and written by Afef Abrougui, Fahmi Albaheth, Jessica Dheere, Mohamed ElGohary, Mohamad Najem, Dalia Othman, Courtney Radsch, Thalia Rahme, Hayat Rim Chaif, Mohammed Tarakiyee, Amira AlHussaini, and Jillian C. York, and translated into Arabic by Mohamed ElGohary and French by Thalia Rahme.

by Digital Citizen at July 30, 2015 10:38 AM

Global Voices
Need to Thank the Saints? Mexico Has You Covered
Saint Michael assists young love. Image from Exvotos Mexicanos Facebook account.

“One day I discovered that my boyfriend David was in love with my brother and I felt hurt, angry and let down, but thanks to Saint Michael the Archangel I met José Antonio and fell madly in love with him, and now it makes me very happy that my brother and David love each other so much and are as happy as I am. I offer this retablito to give thanks to Saint Michael.”
Image taken from the facebook account Facebook Exvotos Mexicanos.

Divine intervention is a concept that provides hope and sanctity in the everyday lives of those in need, and believers in the phenomenon often express their gratitude with the giving of gifts or offerings. This gesture of thanks is traditionally known as ex-voto. The origins of ex-voto are far from recent, with figurines found in sacred places across Latin America, suggesting that the practice began even before colonisation.

Nowadays, this tradition of repaying deities for the miracles they have granted continues to thrive in countries throughout the continent and has captured the attention of the world thanks to Mexico's unusual pictures, or retablitos. This form of popular art has inspired the creation of online spaces and art exhibitions dedicated to them.

According to the blog Descubre México, the ex-voto image should illustrate the scene of the event in a detailed and descriptive manner. It is also important to have an accompanying explanatory text, enabling the viewer to understand better the scene. The retablito usually depicts the virgin or saint that is being thanked, and believers glorify them by placing it at the shrine.

The central scene of the ex-voto depicts the circumstances before the divine intervention. During the 18th and 19th centuries, these retablitos expressed fears of deadly illnesses and of dangers that travelers might face on their long journeys:

484714_235160909961726_1664535940_n

In this anonymous ex-voto from 1761: Our Lady of Pain and Saint Sebastian are being thanked for giving health after a critical illness. Image from Exvotos Mexicanos Facebook account.

However, the themes of the retablos are changing with the times, revealing new cultural anxieties. The bustle of today's city life has created new problems and insecurities, and urban violence and the risks associated with it have come to play a powerful role in the public psyche. Immersed in a society where there is less and less place for religion, devotees beg the saints for divine intervention in situations as diverse as games of wrestling, homophobia, or married life:

Mirada acusadora

Saints are believed to intervene in many aspects of human life, including emotional ordeals, marriage and separations. Image taken form the blog “La gracia de dar las gracias”.

Cuando éramos novios Elisa era muy celosa y el día de nuestra boda hizo tal coraje después del banquete [de bodas] que murió de indigestión. Después de tres años de haber quedado viudo decidí casarme de nuevo y conocí a una linda y buena muchacha con la que me casé, y después [de] que regresamos de la luna de miel el fantasma de Elisa se empezó a aparecer en nuestro cuarto y se veía muy enojada y nos miraba con rencor y furia y a mi me dio mucho miedo y le recé a la Virgen de Zapopan [advocación mariana de la ciudad y municipio de Jalisco] y traje al cura que echó agua bendita en la casa y doy gracias porque Elisa por fin descansa en paz y nosotros podemos estar tranquilos en la casa sin su mirada acusadora.

When we were engaged. Elisa was very jealous and on our wedding day she got herself so worked up that she died of indigestion. After three years of being widowed, I decided to remarry and I met a kind and beautiful woman whom I married. After we got back from the honeymoon, Elisa's ghost appeared in our room and she looked very angry and she watched us with resentment and rage, and it really scared me, [so] I prayed to the Virgin of Zapopan and I brought the priest round who threw holy water in the house. I give thanks to Elisa for finally resting in peace and now we too can be at peace in our house without her accusing look.

This anonymous ex-voto dedicated to San Antonio shows the fear of rejection in the emotional life.  Image taken from the blog La Gracia de Dar las Gracias.

This anonymous ex-voto dedicated to San Antonio shows the fear of rejection in the emotional life.
Image taken from the blog La Gracia de Dar las Gracias.

Desde pequeña yo era fea y recibí muchas burlas y rechazos por eso, pero no me acomplejé y nunca perdí mi sentido del humor y gracias a ese sentido del humor, Francisco, que es uno de los hombres más guapos del pueblo, se enamoró de mi y doy gracias a san Antonio porque nos casamos en una hermosa ceremonia donde fui envidiada por todos mis compañeros y conocidos.

Ever since I was little I've always been ugly and I was mocked and rejected for my looks, but I didn't let it get to me and I never lost my sense of humour and thanks to that sense of humour, Francisco, who is one of the most handsome men in the town, fell in love with me and I give thanks to Saint Antonio because we got married in a beautiful ceremony where I was the envy of all my friends and acquaintances.

On Facebook and Tumblr, you can find accounts dedicated, almost entirely, to the Mexican ex-voto. Displayed on these pages are retablitos with subjects ranging from the traditional themes of illnesses being cured, to more contemporary pieces relating to domestic violence, undiscovered infidelities, and even prostitutes looking for clients to support their families.

exv

Image taken from the Facebook account of Exvotos Mexicanos.

Gracias virgencita de Guadalupe que mi esposo ya no me pega tanto. Te pedí y tú me lo concediste y ahora nos queremos tanto que soy muy feliz y aquí te lo vengo a agradecer. María Torres. Mayo 10, 1970

Thank you, Virgin of Guadalupe, now my husband doesn't hit me so much. I asked you and you granted my wish and now we love each other so much that I am happy and I have come here to thank you.

It's no surprise that in a country like Mexico, where undocumented immigration to the US is a huge issue, you can find lots of retablitos relating to the border between the two countries. Many immigrants have made ex-votos giving thanks for having crossed the border, for the success of a medical treatment in the neighbouring country or even for marriage to a US citizen.

In this video, shared by YouTube user Paurakewe see a sequence of “border ex-votos” expressing the gratitude of travelers who managed to get out of a US prison or who managed to pass by immigration authorities unnoticed. The retablitos in the video features various testimonies from migrants and their families giving thanks for being able to see their loved ones again, or for having survived the many dangers that come with crossing the border:

Dedico el presente retablo a la santísima Virgen de San Juan de los Lagos por haberme salvado de [que] un texano me llevara […] Me escondí debajo de un árbol con mi hermanito a la orilla de la carretera.

I dedicate this retablo to the sacred Virgin of San Juan de los Lagos for having saved me from being taken by a Texan… I hid beneath a tree with my little brother on the edge of the street.

by Rhea Page at July 30, 2015 10:23 AM

So the Caribbean Walks Into a Bar…
RAM Party Inside Haiti's Historic Hotel Oloffson; photo by Steve Bennett, used under a CC BY-NC 2.0 license.

RAM Party Inside Haiti's Historic Hotel Oloffson; photo by Steve Bennett, used under a CC BY-NC 2.0 license.

The rest of the world often regards the Caribbean region as a monolith, but there are so many cultural differences — and sometimes points of contention — among territories that it can be hard to keep up.

Twitter has come to the rescue, though, with an insanely popular hashtag #IfTheCaribbeanWasABar. If you want to understand the region's strange sensibilities, what makes the Caribbean tick and how citizens of different islands perceive one another, put on your party clothes and have a drink in the virtual bar that is the Caribbean archipelago.

Who pays for the drinks?

Rich in natural resources, Trinidad and Tobago has long had a reputation for being one of the more economically stable countries — and in its heyday (the 1980s, when oil prices were high) it was often in the position to loan money to other islands.

As a result, Trinidadians earned a reputation for being a tad boastful about their means. Equate them to the guys in the bar who pull up in the most expensive cars and swagger their way around…

The ‘in’ crowd

In this virtual beach bar, most folks want to hang with the ‘cool’ people — in Caribbean terms, that apparently means Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, despite their rivalry…

And speaking of catty rivalries…

The islands that didn't get in

Montserrat is at the top of the list, especially considering that it barely has a population to talk about — most people were forced to flee, mainly to the UK, after the eruption of the Soufriere volcano 10 years ago.

There are also territories that many netizens don't really consider Caribbean, even though they are, whether geographically or politically:

And then, there's Tobago. The sister island of Trinidad and one of the most beautiful in the archipelago, Tobago has gained the unfortunate reputation of being the ugly stepsister, and Twitter users milked it for all it was worth:

The regional spotlight

Of course, pressing regional issues, such as the pending deportation that many Dominicans of Haitian descent now face — and the region's attitude towards Haiti as as a whole — have come under fire:

Hey Mr. DJ!

There was quite a bit of commentary about the region's music, dancing and socialising styles:

If the popular hashtag continues to trend on Twitter, some netizens are afraid it might have long-term effects:

by Janine Mendes-Franco at July 30, 2015 08:47 AM

Global Voices Advocacy
How China's Online Civilization Army Turned a Youth Street Fight into a Patriotic Struggle
Hou Jusen in front of the computer. Image remixed by Weibo user 皇城牧羊

Hou Jusen in front of the computer. Image remixed by Weibo user 皇城牧羊

 

Hou Jusen, a Chinese teen from Shandong Province's Weihai city, recently picked a quarrel with another teenager online. The two boys fixed a date to settle the score in person and on July 22, along with their friends, they fought in front of a college in the city.

The incident was most likely just an ordinary street fight, as the city's police officers concluded in a message published on popular social media site Weibo. But Hou is not just any teen — he is an online “civilization volunteer”, a young person recruited and rewarded in exchange for posting pro-government and pro-Communist party comments online. Soon after the skirmish, members of the China Communist Youth League portrayed it as something ideological — a “patriotic youth” injured by an unidentified mob for expressing his love of country.

Since February 2015, the China Communist Youth League has recruited approximately 18 million civilization volunteers to “spread positive energy” online. The organization of the volunteers is in a form of hierarchical network lead by the party which analyzes public opinion and gives guidelines to network members who orchestrate the party's view. Huo had participated in an “online propaganda training” organized by the Shandong branch of the Communist Youth League from June 29 to July 2.

Online, Hou's peers from the civilization army swore to root out enemies in revenge, while those who oppose the policing of Internet comments under the pretext of “patriotism” ridiculed Hou and his comrades, saying that they deserved to be beaten up. Many expressed worry that similar incidents will recur and that the online battle will eventually spill over into physical conflict, similar to what happened during the Chinese Cultural Revolution half a century ago.

The online war of words began with Hou's tweet on July 22:

纳蛆几个LOW货,五六个打我一个又是辣椒水又是甩棍的,有本事你别跑啊,推墙推的走火入魔了吧?这样就想打垮我,太天真了 。

The bunch of debased maggots, five to six of them beat me with pepper water and rod. If you have the guts, don't run away, you wall-climbing gang are processed by devil. You are too naive to believe that you can beat me down with this.

The term “wall-climbing gang” refers to those who use circumvention tools to get around China's Great Firewall of domestic Internet censorship and access foreign websites. The message thus hinted that the fight is political in nature.

Hou's tweet was spotted by the official account of Shandong Youth League not long after, which framed the incident as an attack against an upstanding patriotic youth:

【关注!爱国青年被网络暴民群殴】有网友反映:威海青年@侯聚森-侧卫36 因为发表爱国言论被网络暴民堵在校门口群殴。在此之前,已有人冒他之名发表不法言论,现在又被施以暴力!爱国,竟成了被阴暗力量迫害的理由?施暴者必须受到法律惩处。侯聚森,你不孤单,我们都在你的身旁!@威海警方在线

Attention! Patriotic youth beaten up by violent online mob. Some netizens reported that Hou Jusen from Weihai was trapped and beaten by some online violent gang in front of the school gate for his patriotic comments. Before that, some people had used his name to publish illegal comments online, now they resort to violence. Patriotism has become motivation for such back-stabbing oppression. The law must be upheld and the attackers punished. Hou Jusen, you are not alone. We are standing beside you. @Weihai police

The message was re-posted more than 6,000 times, and the Central Communist Youth League also urged the public to pay attention to the incident in their official Weibo.

In response to these calls for justice, the Weihai city police investigated the street fight and reported on their Weibo account:

【回应社会关注:此案文登警方正在调查】7月22日13时30分许,山东省威海市文登区师范学校门口发生一起治安案件。接到报案后,文登警方迅速处警进行调查。经初步调查查明:当事人侯某在网上与他人发生言论纠纷后,相约文登师范门口,并发生肢体冲突。详细情况公安机关正在进一步调查中。

In response to public concern: Wendeng district police are following the case. At 13:30 p.m. July 22, a disturbance took place outside the gate of Normal College at Wendeng district of Weihai city. After the case was reported, Wendeng police started an investigation. The initial finding: Hou had some disputes with others online, they picked a time to meet outside the school gate and came to blows. Public security authorities will continue to follow the case.

Weibo screen capture by China Digital Times. The user said "I want to break into the Wendang police station".

Weibo screen capture by China Digital Times. The user says, “I want to break into the Wendeng police station.”

Usually in cases related to public disputes, both parties are placed in administrative detention. On July 24, Wendeng district police closed the case by ordering six individuals to spend seven to 15 days in detention; Hou was detained for 10 days. The police investigation triggered another round of debate.

Some labelled the Wendeng police as traitors, saying they wanted to break into the police station to express their anger. A remark from Weibo user “The Naked Gun” explains to some extent the logic of the patriot camp:

作为国家机关,公安机关不但需要打击违法犯罪,更应该以身作则维护国家的安全、荣誉和利益。[…] 当一个人因为爱国言论而被暴力侵害时,这已经不是治安案件,这是刑事案件![…] 按照你们的逻辑,抗日战争应该叫中日互殴战争。日本鬼子欺负到家门口了也不能还手对吗?

As a national organization, the role of public security authorities is not only to crack down on crime, but also to defend national security, honor and interest. […] If someone was attacked because of his patriotic speech, this is not a public disturbance, this is a criminal case! […] according to your logic, the anti-Japanese war should be called a fight between China and Japan. Even if the Japanese bullied us and invaded our home, we should not fight back?

The Central Communist Youth League doubled down on that line of thinking in their Internet Opinion report published on July 25. The report criticizes the Wendeng police for not being sensitive enough when handling the case and also suggests there may have been “foreign forces” behind the street fight.

Some netizens were not convinced by the claims that Hou was completely innocent. They dug up Hou's online history on various social media platforms, which showed he has a history of picking quarrels online and using sexual foul language. Many criticized the Communist Youth League, accusing them of using patriotism as shelter for thugs or online bullies.

Both camps continue to squabble online, and worry is ripe that these nasty Internet comments could spill over into the streets again one day. Sekikouei, a professor from Jiangxi Normal University, slammed the online patriotic sentiment:

没有爱,整天喊打喊杀,今天叫嚣枪毙这个,明天叫嚣枪毙那个,这不是爱,而是恨啊。这样的爱国,当然也不是爱国,而是恨国。
历史已经证明,意识形态和阶级斗争那一套,不是爱国,而是害国祸国。[…]面对网络言论,我们不是组织专家学者讲道理,传播常识、知识和真理,反而是收买少不更事的年青学生,让他们在网上针对批评者和公知群体展开谩骂和人身攻击,这是培养年青人的爱国情怀,还是培养他们的斗争精神和流氓素质?

There is no love. They just pick quarrels and fights all day long. Today vow to execute this and tomorrow execute someone else. This is not love but hatred. Such patriotism is not loving one's country but hating one's country.

History has proven that ideological struggle is similar to class struggle. The result is not love, but harm to the country. […] When handling online opinion, instead of inviting experts and professors to engage in rational talk and pass on knowledge and truth, we seduce students who are naive and launch verbal and personal attacks on public intellectuals. Is this patriotic education? Or a cultivation of thugs?

by Oiwan Lam at July 30, 2015 02:13 AM

Global Voices
How China's Online Civilization Army Turned a Youth Street Fight into a Patriotic Struggle
Hou Jusen in front of the computer. Image remixed by Weibo user 皇城牧羊

Hou Jusen in front of the computer. Image remixed by Weibo user 皇城牧羊

Hou Jusen, a Chinese teen from Shandong Province's Weihai city, recently picked a quarrel with another teenager online. The two boys fixed a date to settle the score in person and on July 22, along with their friends, they fought in front of a college in the city.

The incident was most likely just an ordinary street fight, as the city's police officers concluded in a message published on popular social media site Weibo. But Hou is not just any teen — he is an online “civilization volunteer”, a young person recruited and rewarded in exchange for posting pro-government and pro-Communist party comments online. Soon after the skirmish, members of the China Communist Youth League portrayed it as something ideological — a “patriotic youth” injured by an unidentified mob for expressing his love of country.

Since February 2015, the China Communist Youth League has recruited approximately 18 million civilization volunteers to “spread positive energy” online. The organization of the volunteers is in a form of hierarchical network lead by the party which analyzes public opinion and gives guidelines to network members who orchestrate the party's view. Huo had participated in an “online propaganda training” organized by the Shandong branch of the Communist Youth League from June 29 to July 2.

Online, Hou's peers from the civilization army swore to root out enemies in revenge, while those who oppose the policing of Internet comments under the pretext of “patriotism” ridiculed Hou and his comrades, saying that they deserved to be beaten up. Many expressed worry that similar incidents will recur and that the online battle will eventually spill over into physical conflict, similar to what happened during the Chinese Cultural Revolution half a century ago.

The online war of words began with Hou's tweet on July 22:

纳蛆几个LOW货,五六个打我一个又是辣椒水又是甩棍的,有本事你别跑啊,推墙推的走火入魔了吧?这样就想打垮我,太天真了 。

The bunch of debased maggots, five to six of them beat me with pepper water and rod. If you have the guts, don't run away, you wall-climbing gang are processed by devil. You are too naive to believe that you can beat me down with this.

The term “wall-climbing gang” refers to those who use circumvention tools to get around China's Great Firewall of domestic Internet censorship and access foreign websites. The message thus hinted that the fight is political in nature.

Hou's tweet was spotted by the official account of Shandong Youth League not long after, which framed the incident as an attack against an upstanding patriotic youth:

【关注!爱国青年被网络暴民群殴】有网友反映:威海青年@侯聚森-侧卫36 因为发表爱国言论被网络暴民堵在校门口群殴。在此之前,已有人冒他之名发表不法言论,现在又被施以暴力!爱国,竟成了被阴暗力量迫害的理由?施暴者必须受到法律惩处。侯聚森,你不孤单,我们都在你的身旁!@威海警方在线

Attention! Patriotic youth beaten up by violent online mob. Some netizens reported that Hou Jusen from Weihai was trapped and beaten by some online violent gang in front of the school gate for his patriotic comments. Before that, some people had used his name to publish illegal comments online, now they resort to violence. Patriotism has become motivation for such back-stabbing oppression. The law must be upheld and the attackers punished. Hou Jusen, you are not alone. We are standing beside you. @Weihai police

The message was re-posted more than 6,000 times, and the Central Communist Youth League also urged the public to pay attention to the incident in their official Weibo.

In response to these calls for justice, the Weihai city police investigated the street fight and reported on their Weibo account:

【回应社会关注:此案文登警方正在调查】7月22日13时30分许,山东省威海市文登区师范学校门口发生一起治安案件。接到报案后,文登警方迅速处警进行调查。经初步调查查明:当事人侯某在网上与他人发生言论纠纷后,相约文登师范门口,并发生肢体冲突。详细情况公安机关正在进一步调查中。

In response to public concern: Wendeng district police are following the case. At 13:30 p.m. July 22, a disturbance took place outside the gate of Normal College at Wendeng district of Weihai city. After the case was reported, Wendeng police started an investigation. The initial finding: Hou had some disputes with others online, they picked a time to meet outside the school gate and came to blows. Public security authorities will continue to follow the case.

Weibo screen capture by China Digital Times. The user said "I want to break into the Wendang police station".

Weibo screen capture by China Digital Times. The user says, “I want to break into the Wendeng police station.”

Usually in cases related to public disputes, both parties are placed in administrative detention. On July 24, Wendeng district police closed the case by ordering six individuals to spend seven to 15 days in detention; Hou was detained for 10 days. The police investigation triggered another round of debate.

Some labelled the Wendeng police as traitors, saying they wanted to break into the police station to express their anger. A remark from Weibo user “The Naked Gun” explains to some extent the logic of the patriot camp:

作为国家机关,公安机关不但需要打击违法犯罪,更应该以身作则维护国家的安全、荣誉和利益。[…] 当一个人因为爱国言论而被暴力侵害时,这已经不是治安案件,这是刑事案件![…] 按照你们的逻辑,抗日战争应该叫中日互殴战争。日本鬼子欺负到家门口了也不能还手对吗?

As a national organization, the role of public security authorities is not only to crack down on crime, but also to defend national security, honor and interest. […] If someone was attacked because of his patriotic speech, this is not a public disturbance, this is a criminal case! […] according to your logic, the anti-Japanese war should be called a fight between China and Japan. Even if the Japanese bullied us and invaded our home, we should not fight back?

The Central Communist Youth League doubled down on that line of thinking in their Internet Opinion report published on July 25. The report criticizes the Wendeng police for not being sensitive enough when handling the case and also suggests there may have been “foreign forces” behind the street fight.

Some netizens were not convinced by the claims that Hou was completely innocent. They dug up Hou's online history on various social media platforms, which showed he has a history of picking quarrels online and using sexual foul language. Many criticized the Communist Youth League, accusing them of using patriotism as shelter for thugs or online bullies.

Both camps continue to squabble online, and worry is ripe that these nasty Internet comments could spill over into the streets again one day. Sekikouei, a professor from Jiangxi Normal University, slammed the online patriotic sentiment:

没有爱,整天喊打喊杀,今天叫嚣枪毙这个,明天叫嚣枪毙那个,这不是爱,而是恨啊。这样的爱国,当然也不是爱国,而是恨国。
历史已经证明,意识形态和阶级斗争那一套,不是爱国,而是害国祸国。[…]面对网络言论,我们不是组织专家学者讲道理,传播常识、知识和真理,反而是收买少不更事的年青学生,让他们在网上针对批评者和公知群体展开谩骂和人身攻击,这是培养年青人的爱国情怀,还是培养他们的斗争精神和流氓素质?

There is no love. They just pick quarrels and fights all day long. Today vow to execute this and tomorrow execute someone else. This is not love but hatred. Such patriotism is not loving one's country but hating one's country.

History has proven that ideological struggle is similar to class struggle. The result is not love, but harm to the country. […] When handling online opinion, instead of inviting experts and professors to engage in rational talk and pass on knowledge and truth, we seduce students who are naive and launch verbal and personal attacks on public intellectuals. Is this patriotic education? Or a cultivation of thugs?

by Oiwan Lam at July 30, 2015 02:03 AM

July 29, 2015

Global Voices Advocacy
Netizen Report: Peru and Pakistan Erode Citizen Privacy With New Surveillance Tactics
Advocates demonstrate for digital and public health rights in Peru, 2013. Photo by Medicinas para Todos.

Advocates demonstrate for digital and public health rights in Peru, 2013. Photo by Medicinas para Todos.

The Netizen Report offers an international snapshot of challenges, victories, and emerging trends in Internet rights around the world.

A recent executive decree from Peru’s government compels all telecommunications companies and Internet service providers to store traffic data for three years. Assuming that the decree holds, telcos will be forced to provide police with individual user data from these logs upon their request. Issued one day before Peru’s independence day, the decree explicitly states that the police should have access to geolocation data without a warrant or court order, and that this data is not protected under the Peruvian Constitution. Peruvian lawyer Miguel Morachimo told the Electronic Frontier Foundation:

Any policy like that is controversial in itself, but the fact that it was directly approved by the Executive Branch without prior debate and in the middle of national holiday season is especially undemocratic.

The decree has significant potential for abuse of its new powers. It ignores the fact that most cellphones today constantly transmit detailed location data about every individual to their carriers, and that all this location data is housed in one place—with the telecommunications service provider. This will leave Peruvian police with access to more precise, more comprehensive, and more pervasive data than would ever have been possible under previous policies.

Pakistan is also planning to expand its surveillance capabilities, which could include monitoring broadband Internet traffic, phone records, and cellular data transmissions, according to a report by Privacy International. The Verge notes that because Pakistan already has stringent registration requirements, such as a national biometric ID program and SIM card registration by fingerprint, these bulk surveillance plans may be particularly invasive.

Lebanon used Angry Birds to infect devices with Hacking Team malware

Emails leaked after Hacking Team’s systems were hacked in early July—and now searchable on WikiLeaks—indicate that Lebanon’s Interior Security Forces, General Security office, and Cybercrime Bureau all pursued contracts with the Milan-based surveillance-software maker. Emails suggest that Security Forces personnel were able to successfully infect target devices with the help of Hacking Team staff, and that they created a technical “backdoor” in the devices (a virtual channel through which authorities can monitor a user’s activities) by exploiting a security flaw in Angry Birds.

These revelations confirm what various bloggers and political activists had suspected after they were summoned for questioning by the Cybercrime Bureau. Beirut-based technology journalist Habib Battah described the bureau’s approach in June:

In some cases, bloggers have claimed that police agents tricked them into giving up information by sending malware to their computers, a practice [Major Suzan Hajj Hobeiche, head of the Cybercrime Bureau] seemed to endorse by claiming “ethical hacking” used by law enforcement is sometimes needed to protect the greater good. Yet, increasingly that greater good seems to be defined by the interests of the wealthy and well-connected. …many activists and lawyers worry that the bureau is unregulated and poses a threat to free speech.

UK High Court strikes down discrete data retention practices

In slightly better news from the world of digital surveillance, a UK High Court ruled against data retention laws that allowed the government to order telecommunications companies to retain their users’ metadata for one year stand. The reason: The laws failed to require authorities to obtain judicial approval prior. The court also took issue with the lack of “clear and precise rules” for the collection of data in the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014 (sections 1 and 2). The Home Office says it will appeal the decision.

Malaysia blocks news website in face of public finance investigation

Malaysia blocked news website the Sarawak Report and suspended two local papers after they published investigative reports on the suspicious transfer of US$700 million from a government-managed investment fund into the personal bank account of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. While there is evidence that the government has censored the Internet in the past, this marks the first time it has publicly acknowledged doing so. Although the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission claims that the block was carried out legally under the Communications and Multimedia Act of 1998, the law does not sanction censorship of online websites.

Is YouTube headed for Russia’s Internet blacklist?

Russian media and Internet watchdog Roscomnadzor issued an official warning on July 22 to YouTube that the site may be added to the country’s Internet blacklist for copyright violations. The warning comes after the Moscow city court ruled that copyright was violated when two Russian TV shows were uploaded to YouTube. Though YouTube took down the videos, others were subsequently uploaded. Roscomnadzor reported seeing 137 copies on the site as of July 20.

Transparency reports: When it comes to takedowns, copyright is king

The online marketplace Etsy shut down more than 168,000 accounts over the year 2014, according to its first transparency report. It shut down 3,993 shops for violations of Etsy’s intellectual property policy and disabled 176,137 listings in response to DMCA takedown requests. However, the majority of the shutdowns were for non-IP related issues, such as spam and the sale of items prohibited on the site. New Zealand marketplace Trade Me and US web performance and security company Cloudflare also issued new transparency reports this week. Meanwhile, Vodafone has published its second annual transparency report, which it calls the “Law Enforcement Disclosure Report.”

New Research

Juan Arellano, Ellery Roberts Biddle, Hae-in Lim, Katitza Rodriguez and Sarah Myers West contributed to this report.

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by Netizen Report Team at July 29, 2015 09:18 PM

Global Voices
Battle of the Hashtags in Lead-up to Trinidad & Tobago's General Elections
Political cartoon from Darren Trinity Cheewah's #fullcorbeaux series. Used with permission.

Political cartoon from Darren Trinity Cheewah's #fullcorbeaux series. Used with permission.

As the September 7 general elections in Trinidad and Tobago draw closer, the ruling Kamla Persad-Bissessar administration has many pressing issues to address, including crime, campaign finance reform, accusations from disgraced ex-FIFA vice-president Jack Warner and corruption allegations. Yet, it has been focusing its re-election campaign on one main premise: that the country would be better off not electing the current leader of the opposition, Dr. Keith Rowley, and his People's National Movement (PNM) party.

A week ago the government launched the #NoRowley campaign, about which the Facebook group Poliwatch commented:

An hour ago at the Hyatt the UNC launched its ad campaign for ‪#‎GE2015‬.
Two things to note:
1. Vasant Bharath says they have no idea what the campaign is costing but the UNC is footing the bill. This implies that the political party has a source of income. What is it?
2. The campaign is called www.NoRowley.com. The party's PR team insists it is not personal, but is factual.

The anti-Rowley ads are in heavy rotation, even popping up on You Tube streams:

One ad in particular shows parliamentary footage of former prime minister and leader of the People's National Movement, Patrick Manning, calling Rowley “very, very angry”, “a raging bull”, and “completely out of control”. The satirical Facebook page for “Patos Manning” couldn't resist commenting:

Abt to watch p̶o̶r̶n̶ nature videos on YouTube and a NoRowley video pops up, killing my l̶i̶b̶i̶d̶o̶ desire to see animal antics! V immoral.

Netizens weren't too impressed either. In a public Facebook status update, Ghan Shyam, who was fed up of the tactics of both parties, said:

The ‪#‎norowley‬ campaign, like the ‪#‎getoutkamla‬ campaign launched by the PNM on May 24th 2015 ( but clearly was not followed through with) is juvenile and a bit distasteful. Rodney and Vasant looking like two idiots going around with cut outs of Rowley. Go attack the issues on a different level!

Another Facebook user, Anthony Morgan Beach, publicly posted his displeasure, complete with photos, at “the latest ploy in the UNC's [United National Congress, the main party in the coalition government] ‪#‎NoRowley‬ campaign”:

…to depict (not coincidentally) a single-parent (female), Afro-Trinidadian family suffering the indignity of an empty grocery shopping cart under the tenure of Dr. Rowley. Versus a full cart under the UNC.
Gather from that what you may.

Grocery carts; photo by Anthony Morgan Beach, used with permission.

Grocery carts; photo by Anthony Morgan Beach, used with permission.

Photo by Anthony Morgan Beach, used with permission.

Photo by Anthony Morgan Beach, used with permission.

This was only one example of the campaign moving from a virtual space into a real one — another instance that got people talking on Facebook involved a sign posted at the front of a Roman Catholic school that was posted publicly on The Archdiocese of Port of Spain's Facebook page:

Signage outside St. Peter's R.C. school in Point Cumana, Trinidad; photo via The Archdiocese of Port of Spain's Facebook page.

Signage outside St. Peter's R.C. school in Point Cumana, Trinidad; photo via The Archdiocese of Port of Spain's Facebook page.

In response to several queries asking about the church's position on the sign, the archdiocese posted this response:

catholic media

One Twitter user felt that the campaign direction was achieving the opposite effect from what was intended…

Another was at such a loss, he suggested that Jack Warner's Independent Liberal Party might actually be a safer bet than either the government or opposition:

The PNM has been using the hashtag #getoutkamla in its social media communications, though there does not appear to be a formal advertising campaign supporting it. They have also responded with an invitation to #KnowRowley. Facebook user Rhoda Bharath posted a black and white photograph of a young Rowley participating in a political march, with the comment, “He in this town a while now”:

YOUNG ROWLEY

There is also a public #KnowRowley Facebook page, where supporters have been making their own accusations against the current government, with many maintaining that the #NoRowley campaign is racist. Meanwhile, some supporters of #NoRowley were taking issue not with the man, but with his party's policies, saying:

This is a failure waiting to happen. Zoning of taxes and its use would not help rural communities. So poor areas would remain run down according to this plan. The poor stay poor and the rich stay rich. PNM Policies again.
Failure before launch. […]
#‎NOROWLEY

In a public Facebook post, however, Marlon Rampersad summed up the public's frustration over the level of politicking in the country:

VAT Increases. Spending Cuts.
‪#‎NoRowley
PP/UNC/PARTY HACKS
ah hope allyuh know where allyuh taking this now eh. this is bordering on stink, nasty, dutty, if not there already.
we need to stop appealing to people's ignorance and worst yet, playing on said ignorance. you may not suffer; because you have it made. but ordinary poor people will suffer in the long run.
I wish people could wake up and reject this kind of nasty politics and say to ALL politicians that we deserve more. much more

by Janine Mendes-Franco at July 29, 2015 04:20 PM

Africans Take Jabs at One Another With #IfAfricaWasABar Hashtag
A public drinking place in Joe Slovo Park, Cape Town, South Africa. Creative Commons photo uploaded by Wikipedia user Discott.

A public drinking place in Joe Slovo Park, Cape Town, South Africa. Creative Commons photo uploaded by Wikipedia user Discott.

There are those days when Africans on Twitter decide to pick on each other. A random tweet started by Siyanda- Panda, a writer from Botswana, sparked this hilarious #IfAfricaWasABar hashtag.

Siyanda asked:

Nigeria and Kenya seemed to have their fair share:

Madagascar would be the quiet one, according to @Nanjala1:

Zimbabwe would be stuck in the past, @Captain_FBS tweeted:

Tanzania was the butt of a few jokes:

Ethiopia wouldn't have to worry about the bill, @Chrisposure joked:

Even Boko Haram would be at the bar:

US, China and Europe were also dragged into the tweef:

by Prudence Nyamishana at July 29, 2015 02:20 PM

To Ululate or Not to Ululate for President Obama? Kenyans Are Asking That Question
Kenyan TV host and anchor Julie Gichuru. Creative Commons photo by the World Trade Organisation.

Kenyan TV host and anchor Julie Gichuru. Creative Commons photo by the World Trade Organisation.

Kenyan TV host and anchor Julie Gichuru welcomed US President Barack Obama at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in a unique style: She ululated to welcome him during his official visit to Kenya.

Ululation is commonly used in Africa as a cheer, mourn or attention-seeking sound by women. The YouTube video below posted by Citizen TV shows Gichuru ululating:

Her ululation has ignited online debate about whether the occasion was right for it. Some are strongly in support of her, while others think otherwise.

After a story of her ululation was posted on Kenya Today website, readers took to their keyboards to express their views.

Eve liked the gesture:

she is an African woman.
I liked it too.

An anonymous reader asked:

Whats wrong with ululating? I thnk it was a very unique way of welcoming the heads..its different from the usual official ways….sometimes its good to appreciate we are Africans and this is part of us! Stop hating!

James Mathu noted:

I liked it.It’s African and I dont think President Obama took offense to it.I bet he wanted to know about it’s origin and meaning.

Wakisome thought what she did was part of African culture:

it depends on which angle you look at it. infact the African way of appreciating our kings, heroes and heroins to the podium is through ululation. it is very African and I remember her saying to do it African way. I mean what’s wrong with that? I think she right.

Mimi said that those who are complaining have been brainwashed by Western imperialism:

These complainants Guchurus welcome is a direct evidence of how western cultural imperialism has brainwashed black Africans to turn against their modes of speech and communication. Keep it up Gichuru.

The ululating made Onyango proud of his Kenyan and African heritage:

I liked the way Julie did it, it is unfortunate that some of us are unable to appreciate themselves to the extent that they extend their self-hatred to other people, Julie is Julie and let her be Julie and she cannot be anyone else but herself. She made me proud to be a Kenyan and an African and I appreciate our diversity.

While Mimi went further by suggesting that the practice should me made official:

Julie give us more and more of this! Actually, why not make it the official Kenyan welcome style!

Referring to those who are criticizing Gichuru, Justus Atuti warned:

I thought Gichuru did so well and her did was so African, a reflection of who we are as a people. With this level of hatred, Kenya is as good as dead. 2017 is a dangerous year for us all.

However, one reader claimed that ululating on a microphone is a health hazard:

Why must we hide behind culture and tribalism when avoiding correction?Then why do we go to school? Journalists have their ways of doing things and 2 wrap it all,it is health hazard to spat on mike in the name of ululation,just for your good ears to listen. African ululate a lot but this time round,my sister Julie,it was a little bit bad so next time try and change on it. Let’s avoid ths political mood,it has cost Auma to reign where it’s known well as your domain and actually,she won. Wish u better next time my sister Julie.

Utamaduni thought it was unprofessional:

Its all got to with journalists putting aside professionalism to pander to the whims of politicians and its rampant in this country.

by Ndesanjo Macha at July 29, 2015 10:58 AM

Funny Cartoons Illustrate People's Concerns as Election Draws Near in Myanmar
Myanmar Election Cartoon

Cartoonist Mg Mg Fountain believes that Myanmar's election process continues to exclude many people. The arrow reads “Let's vote”. This cartoon is widely shared on Facebook.

Myanmar Internet users are actively sharing political cartoons that reflect various social issues related to the November 8 general election.

This is the second election since the country embarked on a democratic transition in 2010. The ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) will compete with the opposition party, National League for Democracy (NLD), which is led by Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

The election is crucial since it will determine if the military-backed government is committed to implementing more democratic reforms in the country.

For more than five decades, Myanmar was under a military government, which was accused of committing human rights abuses and widespread corruption. Military rule began in 1962 when General Ne Win led a coup d'état and established a socialist government. After a major uprising in 1988, Myanmar (then called Burma) held a general election two years later but the military refused to recognize the landslide victory of NLD led by Suu Kyi. Opposition leaders were arrested and Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest while General Than Shwe established a new military regime.

In 2010, the regime was replaced by a civilian government but the army retained 25 percent of the seats in Hluttaw (Parliament). Further, the democratic transition in the past five years was marred by rising cases of communal violence, armed conflicts, land protests, online hate speech, persecution of journalists, harassment of students, and the rise of religious fundamentalists.

Cartoons have been a popular form of expression reflecting political issues even when Myanmar was under totalitarian rule. As the election draw near, cartoonists in Myanmar are continuing the tradition of using their drawings to comment on what is happening in the country. The Facebook page Brainwave (Nyanhlain) is featuring the works of some of these cartoonists.

Take a look at some of the most popular cartoons and social issues that are being widely discussed on social media.

Error-filled voters’ list

One of the pre-election issues is the prevalence of errors in the official list of eligible voters across the country. Many are concerned that legitimate voters won't be able to vote on election day, prompting various groups to conduct election awareness campaigns. Voters are also encouraged to check their registration via online platforms like Let's Check Voter List.

Cartoonist Thiha (Sa Khan Thit) is worried over reports that the erroneous list of voters is already a nationwide problem:

11242785_835582656549185_6799582738983795483_o

Cartoon by Thiha (Sa Khan Thit), widely shared on Facebook.

Text in the cartoon: Since voter lists have errors in almost every town in the country, isn't it a proof of a national conspiracy?

Pre-election campaigns

Some cartoonists are also describing the way political parties behave during their campaigns. Kar Hlu Pyi drew a metaphorical cartoon on the lack of unity in the country, which got 3,000 likes and 1,000 shares on Facebook:

11667418_837085796398871_7819358948486645133_n

Cartoon by Kar Hlu Pyi, widely shared on Facebook.

Text in the cartoon: Hey, Hey… although it's true that we can move if we push together, this is not how you do it!

Cartoonist Min Htet Lu reflects on what people feel about the government's efforts to persuade voters:

11703263_837550106352440_8739932288160754835_o

Cartoon by Min Htet Lu, widely shared on Facebook

Text in the cartoon: [They] are really good: as the election draws near, they started repairing roads, schools, wells, etc. The only thing they do not repair is their habit.

[Translator's note: in Burmese language, the words “repair” and “change” are the same.

Second rerm for the president

Cartoonists also reacted humorously to the president's remarks on his desire to serve a second term.

11402961_835207276586723_6745477545838946797_n

Cartoon by Hpaung Hpaung, widely shared on Facebook.

Text on the left: The president said he will consider serving a second term if the people wish so.

Text on the right: Well… He can then decide after reading the comments below [on Facebook].

For cartoonist Thura, many people did not react favorably to the president's statement:

20314_835668776540573_7255341002294895770_n

Cartoon by Thura, widely shared on Facebook.

Text on the left (president): Regarding my second term, if people wish so, I will seriously contemplate serving again.

Text on the right: Oh my god… just be gone, already!

Mg Mg Fountain is skeptical about the future of the country:

10857724_840097159431068_8224680699374257847_n

Cartoon by Mg Mg Fountain, widely shared on Facebook.

Text on the top left: If [we] have the chance to run the country for next five years, poverty will not exist anymore.

Text on the right (map): What about me? Will I still exist then?

Cartoonist Htin Lin Kyaw illustrates the ‘people's desire':

11698384_839608242813293_1167802741795133167_n

Cartoon by Htin Lin Kyaw, widely shared on Facebook.

Text on the left: Do you know what would happen if there are no projects, no budget, no foreign investment, no crackdown, and important people like us!!?

Text on the right: Then it's the people's desire.

There are also concerns about the return of direct military rule. Thiha (Sa Khan Thit)'s cartoon on this issue got more than 8,000 likes on Facebook:

11402705_835828726524578_6591096889885088134_n

Cartoon by Thiha (Sa Khan Thit), widely shared on Facebook.

Text on the left: The army assures that there will be no coup as long as there is stability in the country.

Text on the right: People are just worried that [they] will create instability in order to perform coup.

by Thant Sin at July 29, 2015 10:00 AM

Iran's University of Kurdistan Opens Department of Kurdish Language and Literature for the First Time
The entrance to the University of Kurdistan. Image from ISNA use. Published with license for reuse.

The entrance to the University of Kurdistan. Image from ISNA use. Published with license for reuse.

This post first appeared on IranVoices.org and is translated into English and published here as part of a content-sharing agreement. 

Iran's University of Kurdistan has opened a new department of Kurdish Language and Literature. Bakhtiar Sajjadi, the new chair of the department, announced last week that 40 students have been accepted to start their studies this October.

Sajjadi told Kurd Press that the department was created with the permission of the Ministry of Science, Research and Technology. The University of Kuridstan is the largest university in the province of Kurdistan, established in 1974.

This is the first time that an Iranian University offers Kurdish as a post-secondary level of study inside of Iran. Kurdish is one of many minority languages in Iran, alongside Turkmen, Baluch, and Azeri, that have vied for the freedom to speak, teach and publish in that language.

Iran's ethnic Kurds reside predominantly in northwestern Iran, close to the Iraqi and Turkish borders. Estimates suggest Iran has a population of around 6-7 million ethnic Kurds. Iran's Kurds have had a history of contention with authorities who have often denied the community basic rights and freedoms.

The moderate President Hassan Rouhani came into office with the promise to instate the language of minorities in schools. Iran has typically promoted a policy of assimilation in Iran's education system. Previous requests to set up formal post-secondary education in Kurdish language and literature by Kurdish authorities had been rejected. This had been a matter of dispute, according to BBC Persian, as opponents argue that education in minority languages endangers national identity.

Rouhani's associated Facebook page announced the news of the Kurdish Language and Literature department launch on July 24.

Social media responses to Rouhani's announcement in the program ranged from critical to celebratory. Many Iranians on the president's page criticized the government for not doing the same for Turkish language rights, while some users noted the government had done little to improve unemployment for Kurdish Iranians. Others, however, praised the president for delivering on campaign promises.

by Iran Voices at July 29, 2015 09:36 AM

Doc Searls
What am I doing here?

dsbabyI was born sixty-eight years ago today, in Jersey City‘s Christ Hospital, at around eleven in the morning. I would have been born earlier, but the hospital staff tied Mom’s legs together so I wouldn’t come out before the doctor showed up. You know Poe’s story, The Premature Burial? Mine was like that, only going the other way: a Postmature Birth. It wasn’t fun.

When they finally took the straps off Mom, I was already there, face-first, with my head bent back so far that, when the doctor yanked me out with a forceps, the back of my C5 vertebra was flattened. The bruise that rose on the back of my neck was nearly the size of my head.

Mom wasn’t happy either, but you didn’t complain in those days. Whatever the shitty new status quo was, it beat the hell out of the Depression and the War. And, to be fair, the postwar Baby Boom was also at high ebb, stripping the gears of all kinds of systems: medicine, government, transport, education, whatever.

So we built a new postwar industrial system, and watched it all happen on TV.

All my life I’ve watched that system closely and looked for ways to have fun with it, to break it, and to fix it. I didn’t realize at first that fixing it was what I was here for, but eventually it dawned on me.

Specifically, it happened at Esther Dyson’s PC Forum, in March 1994. John Gage showed off the World Wide Web, projecting Mosaic (the Ur graphical browser) from a flaky Macintosh Duo. I already knew about the Web, but seeing it at work, all over the world, blew my mind and changed my life.

What I saw in the future were near-infinite computing and communications powers on our laps and in our pockets, projecting our very lives into a second digital world that would coexist with our physical one. In this second world we would all be a functional distance apart of zero, at a cost that leaned toward the same. The digital genie had been loosed from the physical bottle, and both would rule our species henceforth.

The question What am I doing here? — which had haunted me all my life, now had an answer. I had to help the world make the most of its new situation. “Your choice is always to help or to hurt,” Mom used to say. I wanted to help.

That’s why I started writing for Linux Journal in 1996, involving myself in the free software and open source movements. It’s why I co-wrote The Cluetrain Manifesto in 1999. And it’s why I started ProjectVRM in 2006.

The simple idea with VRM (vendor relationship management) is to fix business from the customer side, by providing tools that make each of us both independent of businesses yet better able to engage with them. The mass market industrial model is to give businesses “scale”: the ability deliver the same products and services to countless customers. In the VRM model, the customer gets scale too, across all the businesses she deals with. (Imagine, for example, being able to change your address for every business you deal with, in one move, using a tool of your own. Or to set your own privacy boundaries, or terms of engagement.)

It’s a long-term ambition, and success may take longer than it does for me to complete my tour of the planet. But there are now lots of developers on the case, around the world.

I have absolute faith that fully empowered customers will prove good for business. Or, in other words, that free customers prove more valuable — to themselves and to business — than captive ones.

Making that happen is what I’m doing here. Sure, I do lots of other stuff too. But that’s the main thing.

Bonus link: The Final Demographic.

by Doc Searls at July 29, 2015 07:42 AM

July 28, 2015

Global Voices
Ostula and Mexican Army Hold to Clashing Versions of Recent Attack
Image shared by several media. Shows the Mexican Army in Santa María de Ostula. Independent press and local sources denounced attacks to civilians during an operation. This and other photos have come forward during the coverage that has captured Internet users’ attention in Mexico.

Image shared by several media. Shows the Mexican Army in Santa María de Ostula. Independent press and local sources denounced attacks to civilians during an operation. This and other photos have come forward during the coverage that has captured Internet users’ attention in Mexico.

In Mexico, the independent investigation agency SubVersiones has published a compilation video that chronologically shows what events that took place on July 19, 2015, in the indigenous Nahua community of Santa María de Ostula. That day ended with four wounded and a dead child, after Mexican soldiers allegedly opened fired on civilians during an operation designed to arrest a leader of a local self-defense group.

SubVersiones‘ video starts with footage of villagers armed with sticks, yelling at the soldiers to go look for the runaway drug lord Joaquín El Chapo Guzman, among other things. Soon, shots are fired from army vehicles, in a barrage that likely included the bullets that killed one and injured four.

Some villagers attacked the soldiers with rocks in an apparent attempt to halt their advance:

En varios momentos se puede observar que el ejército se parapeta en posición de tiro. En otras escenas se aprecian los gases lacrimógenos lanzados por la policía estatal. Estas imágenes contradicen la versión oficial que niega las agresiones del ejército que sostiene que los tiros fueron al aire. La magnitud del operativo es también una muestra de que esta acción estuvo dirigida no sólo a Semeí Verdía sino a desestructurar la organización comunitaria.

In various moments, one can observe that the army was standing in a shooting position. In other scenes, one can see tear gas thrown by the state police. These images contradict the official version that denies that the army committed any aggression or fired any shots, other than some into the air. The magnitude of the operation is also proof that this action was not only aimed at apprehending Semeí Verdía, but also had the objective of destroying the community's self-organization.

The description given by Subversiones supports Ostula citizens’ accusation that the military shot openly at civilians.

On the other hand, Michoacan's Coordination Group rejected the claim that soldiers fired at locals protesting that day in Aquila Municipality. General Felipe Gurrola, who is in charge of the Special Security Unit in Michoacan, said at a press conference:

El Grupo Antimotines respondió a la agresión con la activación de gases lacrimógenos y de humo, con el propósito de dispersar a los manifestantes; el caos fue aprovechado por civiles armados que se retiraron del lugar y se ocultaron entre la maleza.

The Antiriot Group responded to the attack with tear and smoke gas in an effort to scatter the demonstrators; civilian armed groups took advantage of the chaos and later retreated and hid in the bushes.

YouTube user Victor Americano uploaded a video showing, from the soldiers’ point of view, the aggression described by General Gurrola.

Civilians were the only ones to suffer on July 19, the military has pointed out. At least one soldier was allegely injured by a piece of shrapnel.

Con ello está claro que sí hubo disparos por parte de civiles armados el domingo anterior, en el puente de Ixtapilla, en contra de elementos del Ejército Mexicano

With this [evidence], it is clear that there were shots coming from armed civilians, last Sunday on the Ixtapilla bridge, against elements of the Mexican Army.

by Elizabeth at July 28, 2015 08:37 PM

Creative Commons
Announcing the first round of Global Summit keynote speakers

We’re happy to announce the first set of keynote speakers for the 2015 Creative Commons Global Summit:

  • Lila Tretikov, Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation
  • Yochai Benkler, author and law professor at Harvard Law School
  • Julia Reda, Member of the European Parliament and rapporteur of the Parliament’s review of the EU Copyright Directive
  • Ryan Merkley, CEO of Creative Commons

The 2015 CC Global Summit will take place in Seoul, South Korea 15-17 October. Every two years, a vibrant international community of experts, academics, and activists engaged in stewarding and expanding CC come together to celebrate the commons, share ideas, and collaborate on projects. We’re excited to host this diverse set of leaders to share and engage with our community of copyright experts and commons advocates in Seoul. We’ll be announcing additional speakers and sessions in the coming weeks.

Summit registration is open. The early-bird registration discount will be available until 23 August, so sign up now!

Lila_Tretikov_600
Lila Tretikov by Lane Hartwell, available under the CC BY-SA license.

Lila Tretikov is the Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit organization that operates Wikipedia. Wikipedia is freely available in 290 languages and used by nearly half a billion people around the world every month.

yochai_benkler_600Yochai Benkler by Joi Ito, available under the CC BY license.

Yochai Benkler is the Berkman Professor of Entrepreneurial Legal Studies at Harvard Law School. He studies commons-based peer production, and published his seminal book The Wealth of Networks in 2006.

julia_reda_600
Julia Reda by Open Knowledge Foundation Deutschland, available under the CC BY license.

Julia Reda is a Member of the European Parliament and rapporteur of the Parliament’s current review of the 2001 EU Copyright Directive. Reda’s report outlining potential changes to EU copyright law was approved by the Parliament in July.

ryan_merkley_600
Ryan Merkley by Rannie Turingan, available under CC0.

Ryan Merkley is the CEO of Creative Commons, the global nonprofit that enables the sharing and use of creativity and knowledge through free legal tools. Ryan was Chief Operating Officer of the Mozilla Foundation, the nonprofit parent of the Mozilla Corporation, creator of Firefox.

by Timothy Vollmer at July 28, 2015 08:05 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
Russian Censors Threaten to Shut Down Business Website for Writing About Bitcoin
scroogecoin

Scrooge McDuck, lover of coins, would never have let this happen. Image edited by Kevin Rothrock.

Picture a book that has pages added to it almost every day, though the plot never seems to change. You might as well be reading the story of Russian censorship, which got another update today, when the Kremlin's media watchdog, Roskomnadzor, threatened to block another news website. Officials today told Zuckerberg Pozvonit, or “Zuckerberg Will Call,” which focuses on news related to Internet entrepreneurialism, that it must delete or edit within the next three days an article it published about bitcoins. If the website refuses, Roskomnadzor will block it.

The suddenly controversial article, titled “What Are Bitcoins and Who Needs Them?” (available here and archived here), was published more than two years ago in April 2013.

Roskomnadzor's warning is a response to a February 2015 court decision in Astrakhan, which determined that Zuckerberg Pozvonit‘s article contains “the propaganda of tax crimes in the area of legalizing [money laundering] income obtained in a criminal way” and “has a negative impact on the legal consciousness of citizens.”

Roskomnadzor actually resisted enforcing the court order at first, appealing to the court for clarification, arguing that the article in question was merely informational. “The court's decision contains no ambiguity,” the court answered in July. (Copies of both Roskomnadzor's appeal and the court's response are avaialble on Zuckerberg Pozvonit‘s website.)

Vyacheslav Tsyplukhin, who publishes Zuckerberg Pozvonit, stated on Facebook that, according to its editorial policy, ZP media intentionally avoids any political issues. Given this, Tsyplukhin says he is surprised by the court's decision:

Мы ещё не обсуждали этот вопрос коллективно, но я буду отстаивать позицию, что мы не должны ничего удалять. Пускай закрывают сайт, а потом объяснят 1,8 млн читателям и всей отрасли, что происходит.

We haven't discussed this issue collectively yet, but I maintain the position that we don't have to delete anything. Let them close the website, and then let them explain to our 1.8 million readers, and to the industry, what is going on.

Ironically, two weeks ago, during his visit to a youth summer forum, Vladimir Putin signaled his tacit support for using bitcoins in Russia, stating clearly that the crypto-currency shouldn't be banned. “One can use them,” he told the crowd. “They're spreading to ever more places, these days.”

by Kevin Rothrock at July 28, 2015 07:56 PM

Russia to Web Anonymizers: Shut Up and Go Away
The Kremlin is officially cracking down on online anonymity. Images mixed by Tetyana Lokot.

The Kremlin is officially cracking down on online anonymity. Images mixed by Tetyana Lokot.

Russia is now officially cracking down on anonymizing web services—tools that allow users to access content and websites that might be banned in the country. Roscomnadzor, Russia's Internet censor, has added the anonymizing service NoBlock to its blacklist registry.

The block came after a court in Anapa decreed the service could be used to access content that had earlier been added to the extremist materials list. The court decree from 13 April, 2015, says NoBlock would allow Internet users “to have full access to all banned websites through anonymous browsing and user IP masking.”

The same court in Anapa was quite busy in April, and banned two other anonymizers, with the respective decrees essentially carbon copies of the one above, but those websites have not yet been added to the Roscomnadzor-managed blocked websites registry. Several other Russian courts, including some in Bashkortostan and Dagestan, have also ruled to block anonymizers, but the court decrees do not reveal the specific addresses of the banned websites.

In May, RosKomSvoboda, a Russian Internet freedom and human rights organization, reported that the very same Anapa city court also ruled to block part of their website on the grounds that the page in question was an anonymizer. In fact, the section of the website owned by RosKomSvoboda only provided instructions on how to bypass geoblocking and access websites blacklisted in Russia.

It's worth noting that in almost all of the rulings, the court cited existing legislation not specific to Internet anonymization services, such as the law on extremism. Still, the fact that the court specified the term “anonymizer” as one of the premises for blocking the websites is cause for concern, since anonymizers, proxy-servers, and other similar tools are not explicitly prohibited in Russia.

Russian officials have debated restrictions on VPNs and anonymizers for quite a while. In 2013 Russian media reported that the Federal Security Service (FSB) was considering lobbying the State Duma with a bill banning “Tor and other anonymizing proxy servers,” but the idea never got out of committee. In February 2015, Leonid Levin, an MP heading the parliamentary committee on information policy and communications, suggested that access to anonymization and circumvention tools such as Tor, VPNs, and proxy-servers needed to be restricted.

In 2014, the Russian Interior Ministry offered almost 4 million rubles (about USD $100,000) to anyone who could devise a way to decrypt data sent over the Tor network. Most recently, in July, Russian media reported that the Kremlin commissioned a study of “possibilities of influencing the development of the Russian segment of the Internet,” that included looking into methods of preventing anonymous activity online and developing ways of regulating and filtering information posted anonymously, analyzing encryption methods, and monitoring encrypted online traffic.

RuNet Echo's own analysis shows that Tor use has been on the uptick in Russia, ostensibly in response to the Kremlin's efforts to regulate or censor content online. Though a recent report by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression recognizes encryption software and anonymizing tools as “essential to free speech,” the Kremlin seems to be eager to curtail the use of the software that facilitates anonymity and free expression online.

by Tetyana Lokot at July 28, 2015 07:10 PM

#HackingTeam Leaks: Lebanon’s Cybercrime Bureau Exploited Angry Birds to Surveil Citizens’ Mobile Devices
Red bird pilot by fORCEMATION via deviantart.com (CC BY 3.0)

Red bird pilot by fORCEMATION via deviantart.com (CC BY 3.0)

Since the massive hack of the controversial Italian security and surveillance technology firm Hacking Team, journalists and human rights defenders in the Arab region have been carefully combing the 400GB of leaked data.

Hacking Team is best known for its “Remote Control System” which the leaks confirm has been used by oppressive regimes in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Sudan, UAE, Oman, Morocco and Egypt to surveil and intimidate political opponents, journalists, and human rights advocates.

Two weeks ago, WikiLeaks published more than 1 million searchable emails from the hack, which have shed light on the modus operandi of the firm’s team, their communication with clients, and their regular analysis of the political dynamics in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Gamers, beware

In a previous post, we explored leaked files confirming that the Lebanese Army purchased Hacking Team’s Galileo spy software, among other products. WikiLeaks’ searchable database indicates that Lebanon’s Interior Security Forces (ISF), General Security and the Cybercrime Bureau also contacted Hacking Team in an effort to purchase the software. A simple search for any of these terms in WikiLeaks database renders dozens of results.

Among emails exposed in the leak, the first signs of communication between ISF, its intelligence branch, and Hacking Team appear in 2014. These and all other communications between Lebanese officials and Hacking Team were mediated by PSEC & KAF, a private electrical and engineering services company in Lebanon.

Emails indicate [see PDF reproduction of email attachments]* that Hacking Team conducted a “proof of concept” demo on July 23-24, 2014 on the Interior Security Forces premises in Beirut. A rough translation of the report indicates that during the demo, ISF personnel were able to successfully infect target devices. With the help of Hacking Team staff, they created a technical “backdoor” in the devices (a virtual channel through which authorities can monitor a user’s activities) by exploiting a security flaw in the mobile phone game application Angry Birds:

HT email 11936/5569

Along with the Lebanese Army and the Interior Security Forces, the Cybercrime Bureau established contact with Hacking Team on February 25, 2015. Their email read as follows:

Sirs,
This is cybercrime and IP Bureau-interior security forces-Lebanon.
Please note that we are a law enforcement agency in Lebanon,specialized in cybercrime investigations and we think that your software “GALLILEO-remote control system” could be helpful in our job.
Therefore,you are kindly requested to provide us with all the details about that software including the features,price,contact person and email address in case we need any support,and how this
software could be helpful in our criminal investigations.
Best Regards.
Cybercrime and IP bureau
Interior security forces

Further emails indicate that a demo for Galileo RCS took place in Beirut on March 30, 2015 in the offices of the Cybercrime Bureau. A reproduction of the report from the demo appears below.*

The report also indicates that the Cybercrime Bureau had contact with Gamma, another leading surveillance technology company and creator of FinFisher, a spyware product with capabilities similar to Hacking Team’s Remote Control System.

Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 3.55.26 PM

The demo focused mainly on mobile infection and interception. The demo and reports were followed by an offer revealing that the Cybercrime Bureau pursued a contract under which they targeted 50 individuals for a total of 450,000 Euros.

Targeting activists and bloggers

Several activists and bloggers who have been subject to repeated summons and investigations by the Lebanon’s “cyber watchdog”, the Cybercrime Bureau, now suspect that authorities used Hacking Team products to infect their devices and monitor their communications.

In a recent article on data privacy and digital surveillance in Lebanon, journalist Habib Battah described a tense local scenario in which citizens and various government agencies have widely varying interpretations of what constitutes lawful surveillance in Lebanon. Here, he summarizes a common approach taken by Lebanon’s Cybercrime Bureau in the course of investigations:

When summoned, the cyber crime bureau agents reportedly pressure bloggers to sign draconian documents vowing to refrain from mentioning the company or individuals they have criticized in the future. In some cases, bloggers have claimed that police agents tricked them into giving up information by sending malware to their computers, a practice [Major Suzan Hajj Hobeiche, head of the Cybercrime Bureau] seemed to endorse by claiming ‘ethical hacking’ used by law enforcement is sometimes needed to protect the greater good. Yet, increasingly that greater good seems to be defined by the interests of the wealthy and well-connected…many activists and lawyers worry that the bureau is unregulated and poses a threat to free speech.

How legal is Lebanon’s Cybercrime Bureau?

In its message to Hacking Team, the Cybercrime Bureau describes itself as a “law enforcement agency” within the Interior Security Forces. This is not entirely accurate. The Cybercrime Bureau was established under Memorandum 204/609 in 2006, but no decree was issued to amend the organizational structure of the Internal Security Forces, an amendment that is technically required for such a maneuver.

Many civil society advocates regard the bureau as an illegal entity. In a 2014 article for The Legal Agenda, lawyer Ghida Frangieh raised several questions regarding the vagueness of the bureau and its actual duties. Like Battah, she noted that over the last couple of years, multiple journalists, activists and bloggers were summoned by the bureau as part of an effort to have certain material removed or censored from the web.

Frangieh also pointed out that “despite the fact that the confidentiality of electronic communications is protected under Law 140/1999, this Bureau is equipped with the necessary technical capability to access private correspondence among Lebanese users.” In other words, the Cybercrime Bureau seems to be conducting surveillance outside the boundaries of local law — and using Hacking Team software to do it.

For more information about the Cybercrime Bureau and ongoing analysis of its actions follow @legalagenda, @smex and @maharat_Lebanon.

Bloggers and activists summoned to the Cybercrime Bureau can contact the Lebanese NGO March hotline for free legal advice and to be connected with competent lawyers and experts.

* Attachments to select emails mentioned in this story, and hosted on WikiLeaks, may contain malicious code. In order to avoid harm for our readers and our site, we took screen captures of the attachments using Google Docs Viewer and loaded them to our site as images. We advise anyone reviewing or opening attachments in emails from the Hacking Team leaks, whether on WikiLeaks or other sites, to proceed with caution.

 

by Zalfa Quino at July 28, 2015 04:56 PM

Harvard Law Library Innovation Lab
Creative Commons
Happy 150th, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland!

Alice’s Abenteuer im Wunderland
Alice’s Abenteuer im Wunderland / Public Domain

This year is the 150th anniversary of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. In celebration, Medium and the Public Domain Review have teamed up to host A Mad Hatter’s Mashup Party, complete with the original text, illustrations, animated GIFs, and silent film adaptations in the public domain and under CC licenses.

This is a great opportunity to creatively engage with the Commons and put Medium’s CC licensing feature to work. A dozen Lewis Carroll experts will also be participating by annotating a special version of the text one chapter a week. 

The party starts today, July 28, and continues for as long as anyone wants to join. We’ll be recommending our favorite pieces on Medium.

by Jane Park at July 28, 2015 04:17 PM

Global Voices
Destroying a Mountain: Mexican President Orders Expropriation of Native Lands for Freeway Project
Xochi Daniel Vargas 0

Members of the indigenous Otomi community in Xochicuautla protest the construction of a freeway through their land. Photo by Daniel Vargas Más de 131.

Life on the mountain just beyond the “Campamento de Paz de la Digna Resistencia” (Peaceful and Dignified Resistance Camp), located in a dense forest between the Mexican capital and the city of Toluca, was finally returning, before it was destroyed in October 2014.

“No one can beat the mountain. Even as it is, it only takes three years for the trees to grow [back],” one member of the local Otomi community explains, strolling along an area where the Toluca-Naucalpan highway is to be built.

The Otomis (or ñätho, as they are referred to in their own language) set up the Resistance Camp to halt the destruction of their lands, and the six houses they've built on it, when they learned of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto's order to expropriate close to 100 acres for a highway project.

The project's construction contract went to the Teya Corporation, part of Grupo Higa, a corporation that previously built a seven-million dollar house as a gift for the president in Lomas de Chapultepec, an area with the highest property appreciation values in the country. The scandal attracted worldwide attention less than a year ago, in November 2014.

Women at the camp say the psychological terror has not stopped since construction began. It's not simply watching the trees fall or seeing the mountainside without vegetation; it's the constant presence of police and the division in the community between those who benefit from the development and those who don't. When the police come around, “children scream in defense of their sacred mountain,” women at the camp say, while those who stand to benefit “offer the officers flowers, bread, and fruit.”

Xochi Ariadna León 2

The intimidation of women and children is constant. Photo by Ariadna Leon Más de 131.

A day after learning of the presidential decree, the Otomis arrived at the National Human Rights Commission to demand some measure of protection from the incursion by police and the Teya Corporation.

The President's written decree, however, states that the Otomis were consulted between June 5-12, in accordance with the first and second articles of the Mexican Constitution and Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization, as well as the United Nations declaration regarding the rights of indigenous peoples.

“Es una consulta que se inventaron en unos días” asegura José Luis Fernández, vocero y comunero de Xochicuautla. “El presidente dice que fuimos consultados. Es una gran mentira. No puede haber una consulta de pocos días como dice el decreto”, denuncia.

“It's a consultation they made up over a few days,” assured Jose Luis Fernandez, spokesperson and Xochicuautla community member. “The President says we were consulted. That's a big lie. There could not have been a consultation in the short amount of time stated in the decree.”

Fernandez related how, in 2007, topographers began surveying the land without consulting its inhabitants. A year later, armed with information about the project that they themselves sought out, the community called an assembly to decide if it would consent to the highway's construction.

“On Februrary 24, 2008, after examining our community practices and customs, we decided against it,” recounts Fernandez.

The decree states as its first point that the expropriation of land for construction of the Toluca-Naucalpan Highway will be carried out for “public use.” It also states that the indigenous people will be compensated approximately $674,000 dollars.

“Esta obra enlaza directamente con el Aeropuerto Internacional de Toluca a toda la zona norte y noroeste de la zona metropolitana de la Ciudad de México, lo que significa una enorme aportación al desarrollo socioeconómico de toda la región centro del país”, dice el decreto.

“This project directly links the Toluca International airport with the north and northeastern metropolitan areas of Mexico City, which would mean an enormous boost to the socioeconomic development of the entire central region of the country,” states the decree.

What the decree does not say is that a federal highway already runs from the city of Toluca to Naucalpan. It also fails to mention that it will be a toll road, thatthe Teya Corporation won its construction contract in 2007, when Peña Nieto was governor of the state of Mexico, where the proposed highway is to be built.

In 2014, Peña Nieto expropriated Huitzizilapan and other neighboring communities of Xochicuautla.The freeway was 34 percent complete at the end of 2014, according to the state government.

Just a few months after Peña Nieto took office as President, Banobras (Mexico's National Works and Public Services Bank) allotted over $172 million, in order to finalize the project by the second half of 2015.

Teya has a subsidiary, Autovan Inc., which the Federal Attorney General, the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources, and the Mexican Environmental Protection Agency have accused of “rights violations,” “destroying vegetation,” and “cutting down trees” in wooded and communal indigenous (Otomi) lands.

Since 2011, the state government has sent riot police to monitor community meetings in Xochicuautla, detaining 22 members: 14 in May 2013 and eight in November 2014. Everyone was released after a few days because of a lack of evidence.

Besides Xochicuautla and Huitzizilapan, construction has affected the Otomi community of Ayotuxco, which filed an appeal to stop Teya's bulldozers, which have already destroyed part of their land.

In defense of the forest

The project cuts through a forest that separates the country's capital and the city of Toluca. The forest falls under the protection of state laws, such as the one designating the Otomi-Mexica State Park as an ecological reserve.

The Otomi-Mexica forest is key for the preservation of the aquifer that supplies water to Mexico City and Toluca. The forest is also home to native species such as the aquatic salamander and deer. It is one of the traditional routes used by several indigenous communities that ascend the mountain where they conduct rituals to seek a fruitful harvest as well as natural and spiritual balance in the region.

Xochi Daniel Vargas

Partial view of the Otomi-Mexica Forest which is critical for the preservation of the aquifer as well as native traditions. Photo by Daniel Vargas Más de 131. (Translation left sign: “Here we breathe struggle, the sub-reality of living in a community with no more identity; right sign: No repression, no devastation, no intimidation, no freeway.”)

Xochicuautla has been defending its forests for eight years, employing various strategies, such as holding forums with other indigenous communities, like the Yaqui Tribe from the northern state of Sonora, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, who took up arms in 1994, and the families of the missing 43 students in Ayotzinapa, who will visit the indigenous community on July 20.

By defending this sanctuary, the community is deserving of the Sergio Mendez Arceo Human Rights Award, the most prestigious independent recognition in Mexico.

At a July 15 press conference, the Zeferino Ladrillero Center for Human Rights, which is providing legal assistance to the Otomis, announced that Xochicuautla approved a “reappropriation counter-decree,” in order to return the land that has already been appropriated. The “counter-decree,” signed by community representatives and the Indigenous Supreme Council, intends to create a legal precedent in Mexico.

Armando Garcia, a delegate for practices and customs, has called on the general public and other indigenous groups to support their cause and join their camp.

“It is clear that agrarian law has served to legalize the displacement of native and indigenous groups, not only in Xochicuautla. There is also opposition to La Parota Dam in the state of Guerrero and to the construction of an aqueduct in the territory of our friends, the Yaqui Tribe,” says Fernandez, spokesperson and Xochicuautla community member. “The same thing is happening all over Mexico,” he adds.

by Samuel Francis at July 28, 2015 04:14 PM

Creative Commons
It’s time to #MoveFASTR: support public access to publicly-funded research

Shinkansen_600
Shinkansen Tokyo by Parag.naik, available under the CC BY-SA license.

Tomorrow the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs will markup S. 779, the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (called FASTR for short). The bill–if enacted–would increase access to federally funded research. It was introduced in both the Senate and House of Representatives on March 18, 2015.

FASTR requires federal agencies with annual external research budgets of $100 million or more to provide the public with online access to the research articles stemming from that funding no later than 6 months after publication in a peer-reviewed journal. FASTR would extend the current NIH Public Access Policy to several federal agencies, such as the Department of Agriculture, Department of Energy, NASA, the National Science Foundation, and others.

We’ve supported policies aligned with the practice of making taxpayer funded research available free online, ideally under an open license that communicates broad downstream use rights, such as CC BY. In addition to making articles free to access and read, FASTR ensures that the research generated from federal tax dollars is made available and useful for new research techniques such as text and data mining. FASTR includes a provision to study the possible impact of requiring open licensing for federally funded research articles. The text calls for agencies to examine:

“whether such research papers should include a royalty-free copyright license that is available to the public and that permits the reuse of those research papers, on the condition that attribution is given to the author or authors of the research and any others designated by the copyright owner;”

FASTR would solidify the February 2013 White House directive aimed to increase access to the results of federally funded scientific research. That memorandum is similar in scope to FASTR, but since it is a directive and not a law, a subsequent administration could rescind that order.

It’s time to #MoveFASTR, and you can help! Check out the SPARC action page for ways to support FASTR. For example, you can:

  1. Call your Members of Congress and express your support for FASTR. You can reach them by calling the US Capitol’s switchboard at 202-224-3121 and asking for your Senators.
  2. Engage your Senators on social media by tweeting at your elected officials about FASTR using the hashtag #MoveFASTR, or post about the bill on Facebook. You can find a list of all the twitter accounts for Congress here.
  3. Write a letter of support for this legislation and send it to your Senators. You can find a draft letter of support here. You can find your Senators’ contact information to submit the letter here.

by Timothy Vollmer at July 28, 2015 01:48 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
Malaysia Blocks News Website and Suspends Two Local Papers for Reporting on Government Corruption
Local media groups in Malaysia are calling the public to protect the independence of the media. Image is part of the campaign to support the beleaguered newspapers

Media groups in Malaysia are calling the public to protect the right to free speech. Image is part of the campaign to support the suspended newspapers

A news website was blocked and two local papers in Malaysia were suspended for three months after publishing investigative reports about a financial scandal involving the country’s prime minister.

Sarawak Report was blocked on July 19 based on an order issued by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) for allegedly posting “unverified accusations” about the financial dealings of 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), a government-managed investment company. A few days later, the Malaysian Home Ministry (Kementrian Dalam Negeri – KDN) suspended the license of The Edge Financial Daily and The Edge Weekly, also for publishing stories and releasing documents on 1MDB.

The 1MDB issue refers to the questionable financial transactions of the company, which allegedly cost taxpayers billions of dollars. Early this month, the Wall Street Journal published a report suggesting that 700 million US dollars were transferred to the bank accounts of Prime Minister Najib Razak via the company. The government is currently probing the 1MDB as Najib denies the allegation.

The MCMC said in a statement that Sarawak Report was blocked “based on complaints and information received from the public.”

…the MCMC will not hesitate to take action against any party who falsely or inaccurately reports anything, or spreads misinformation which has not been verified.

But Sarawak Report has maintained that it did not do anything criminal and it urged the government to present evidence about 1MDB rather than censor news websites:

Sarawak Report will not be impeded in any way by this action in bringing out future information as and when its investigations deliver further evidence. This latest blow to media freedom only brings further discredit upon the present administration, who have proven unable to counter the evidence we have presented in any other way.

The blocking of Sarawak Report inspired many Malaysians to visit and ‘like’ its Facebook page. As of this writing, Sarawak Report now has 129,000 Facebook ‘likes’.

Meanwhile, the Home Ministry said it suspended two papers of The Edge because their 1MDB reports were allegedly “prejudicial or likely to be prejudicial to public order, security or likely to alarm public opinion or is likely to be prejudicial to public and national interest”.

The Edge decided to release more documents about 1MDB and hinted that it may be their last story on the issue because of the suspension order:

We have in this report, which is possibly the last on this subject, laid out all the key facts about what happened during the three-year business ties between 1MDB and PetroSaudi International

Our report is based on evidence corroborated by documents that include bank transfers and statements.

How can the work that we have done be deemed as a political conspiracy?

The Edge is set to file a judicial review in response to the suspension order.

The blocking of Sarawak Report and the suspension of two papers of The Edge were viewed by many as an attack on Malaysia’s media sector.

The Centre for Independent Journalism said the government should probe allegations of corruption instead of restricting free speech:

CIJ is also deeply concerned that there is a further clamp down on the discussion around a critical public interest issue which negates the public's ability to find out information, debate and form important opinions. CIJ renews its calls for a focus on investigating the actual issues at hand, and rejects further regulation and censorship on the internet as a way to manage the issue.

Malaysiakini, an alternative news website, published an editorial denouncing the action of the government, which it says has already shed its credibility:

For a leadership that has nothing to hide, silencing the media does nothing for its credibility. Instead, this suspension sends an indelible message to Malaysians that the government has indeed something big to hide.

The Foreign Correspondents Club of Malaysia noted that none of the 1MDB coverage government agencies are questioning has been challenged in court for being unfair or false:

To begin with, the very idea that the government can suspend or revoke printing licenses at a moment's notice needs to be done away with if the government is truly committed to press freedom. But to suspend a newspaper over reports that no one has been able to prove were false, is plainly contrary to the notion of natural justice.

Human rights group Suaram urged the government to uphold truth and transparency. The Lawyers for Liberty group said the suspension of Sarawak Report has a chilling effect on the press:

The authorities must be reminded that journalism is not a crime. Press freedom is an indispensable component of any modern and democratic society as it functions as a form of check and balance against government excesses. Such authoritarian behaviour unfortunately sends a chilling message to the press to self-censor on issues such as 1MDB or else they may invite retaliation.

It added that media reports like those published by The Edge should be encouraged to promote good governance:

The Edge’s coverage of the 1MDB scandal was Malaysia’s press’ finest hour. It was journalism at its best as they fearlessly investigated and reported on the massive and complex 1MDB scandal despite the overwhelming odds and threats against them. The Edge should be lauded for their outstanding journalism instead of being persecuted.

Local media groups are planning to hold a public rally on August 8 to condemn the government’s actions against critical media groups. Their five-group coalition is asking the public to protect free speech in the country by supporting the campaign for a strong and independent media.

by Mong Palatino at July 28, 2015 01:24 PM

Global Voices
Conspiracy Theory Blaming China's Stock Market Plunge on Foreign Forces Finds Online Support
Image from Twitter user @StockCats on Chinese government's intervention of the stock market.

Image from Twitter user @StockCats on Chinese government's intervention of the stock market.

China’s steep market drop in early July zapped US $3 trillion worth of yuan from investors’ pockets. More than half of the listed companies temporarily suspended trading and the Chinese government rolled out several measures to try to right the ship.

Pretty soon after the fallout, rumors began to circulate that blamed hostile foreign forces of “malicious” short-selling. Yet, in a market which consists of 99% domestic investors, even state-controlled media had to clarify that the conspiracy theory could not explain the plunge. Though the Ministry of Public Security said it would help the China Securities Regulatory Commission investigate evidence of “malicious” short selling of stocks and indexes, thus far no official report has been released.

But the conspiracy theory of foreign manipulation reemerged with an accusation made by Lin Zuoming, chairman of a state-owned aerospace and defense company called China Aviation Industry Corp.

Lin's statements appeared as a headline news on Weibo, China's most popular social media platform on July 19:

中航工业董事长林左鸣:6月18日香港政改方案搁浅当天A股进入暴跌通道,6月29日亚投行签字当天A股仍遭暴力砸盘。时间上的惊人巧合并非偶然,而是有预谋的恶意做空。目的是诱导人民对政府不信任,最终破坏改革,直至击溃整个经济。在A股打响这场经济战争,是冲着五星红旗来的。

Lin Zuoming, chairman of China Aviation Industry Corp., said in an interview with a state newspaper that China’s stock market crash resulted from deliberately malicious short-selling aimed at breaking people’s faith in government, ultimately damaging China’s reform and crashing the economy. “It’s an economic war to change the five-star red national flag.

He further elaborated his point in a July 21 opinion piece on Huanqui.com, a nationalistic news portal:

这一次的矛头明确针对中国了,直接挑战中国共产党的执政地位,考验我党驾驭经济的能力。做空势力想通过一连串事情导致经济滑坡,社会不稳定,甚至可能借机策动颜色革命。如今这个世界,经济、政治和军事是难以分割的,是一场立体战争。

This short-selling directly challenged the ruling position of the Communist Party of China, testing the party’s ability to manage the economy. The short-selling powers tried to use the plunge to make China’s economy slump and its society to become unstable, even to mobilize a Color Revolution.

His remark, despite not being grounded in reality, has gained much support online, but many finance and economic experts criticized the nationalistic conspiracy theory. Liu Shengjun, a well-known economist, mocked the executive for his opinion on Weibo:

微臣以为,像林“左鸣”同志这样政治觉悟高、对敌人动向嗅觉极佳、口才好、既有股市谋略又有操作经验的同志,担任一家公司董事长太屈才了。我承认辩论不过他…臣力荐他担任《环球时报》总编辑

Your majesty, your humble servant's view is that comrades like Lin “Zuoming” [Lin's name literary means “voice from the left”] are very sensitive to political fights and spotting the enemies. With his excellent talent for debate and knowledge of stock investment strategies, it is a waste for him to be the chairman of a company. I admit that I could not win against him in a debate… your humble servant wants to nominate him as the editor-in-chief of Global Times [China’s nationalist newspaper]…

Shifting the blame

Since late June, the Chinese government has introduced a series of measures to pump up the stock market:

  • The central bank cut interest rates and then injected liquidity to support the market in June.
  • China Securities Finance Corp., set up in 2011 to support margin financing by securities companies, set aside 260 billion yuan ($41.8 billion) to lend to brokerages to finance stock purchases.
  • Authorities restricted initial public offerings, called on company founders not to sell shares and launched an investigation into alleged “malicious” short selling.
  • Authorities also allowed a suspension of trading in more than 1,400 stocks while the insurance regulator let insurers use more of their premium income to buy shares. Meanwhile, new hurdles to short-selling of index futures were put in place.

Regardless of whether the conspiracy theory holds or not, it is true that the finance system has become a significant part of Chinese national security, as reflected in its newly passed National Security Law. It is not surprising to see government mouthpiece People's Daily maintain that the official support was necessary to prevent a stock market disaster and argue that regulators in other countries have used similarly measures to head off potential market meltdowns.

The newspaper commentary did not address why regulators stood by and watched as credit poured into the stock market, fueling a prolonged advance that ultimately came undone. The newspaper also didn’t explain why it cheered the bull market before the fall.

The market collapsed essentially because stocks were overvalued and margin trading was excessive. Regulators moved too slowly to bring unsupervised margin trading under control. Investors got burned for believing the government could stop share prices from falling, and they were proved wrong; the predictable plunge damaged middle-class assets.

For months, the government urged households to invest in the stock market to generate more capital for state-run companies being weaned off bank loans, and editorials in China’s state-run news media celebrated the rising indexes. Market adulation reached its peak in April, when a commentary of People’s Daily told readers the 4,000 point mark reached by the Shanghai Stock Exchange was “only the start of the bull market.”

If anyone has to be made accountable, it's the central government, state media and regulators, not “hostile foreign forces.”

by Jack Hu at July 28, 2015 02:21 AM

Taiwanese High School Students Arrested After Protesting New Textbook Guidelines
entermoe

High-school students entered the Ministry of Education. Photo from independent reporter Yu Yo Lin.

Many high school students in Taiwan will have a more colorful answer than usual to the question “What did you do during your summer vacation?” when they return to the classroom in the fall.

A good number have spent the holidays protesting against new history textbook guidelines rather than having fun, and last week some were even arrested.

The protests, which began in June 2015, take issue with the Ministry of Education's new curriculum that recounts the history of Taiwan through a united-China perspective (from ancient China to Republic of China) instead of from a Taiwanese perspective.

For example, the original guidelines emphasize who Taiwanese are (including the history of its aboriginal peoples and migrants) and how Taiwan interacts with the world, but the new guidelines focus on how Taiwan interacts with China under the assumption that Taiwan is always part of China. Because none of the members in the supervision team for the revisions of the guidelines specialized in history and the major player in the supervision team (Prof. Hsiao-Po Wang) is a close friend of President Ma Ying-Jeou, critics say the revisions are just a political move by the ruling Kuomintang party, meant to build support for reunification with the People's Republic of China.

The guidelines will go into effect in August. Ahead of the change, 30 high school students entered the office building of the Ministry of Education on July 23 to protest and were arrested by police. Three reporters who followed these students were also arrested. All of them were charged with forcible entry into the building.

The Juvenile Law Garden released 11 students who are minors and demanded their parents accompany them home. Nineteen adult students made bail, while three reporters refused to pay. Later, they were released without paying bail, but the charge have not been dropped.

arrested students

Students were arrested by the police. Photo from independent reporter Yu Yo Lin.

In response to the arrests, student activist group the Northern Area Student Alliance against New Textbook Guideline proclaimed on Facebook that the July 23 action was just the beginning:

教育部不但不正視學生訴求,從去年五月底開始逃避與學生的座談會,堅持以各種方式令新課綱上路;[…]我們要馬上撤銷微調課綱,我們要立即釋放被逮捕的學生,我們不訴求虛假的道歉,我們要訴求正義的實現。

Since last May, the ministry has not dealt with students’ requests, has avoided attending public forums, all while insisting that they go ahead with the new guidelines. […] Our goal is [to force them] into withdrawing the new guidelines. We demand the release of the students, we don't want to listen to a hypocritical apology and want justice to be upheld.

One of the three arrested reporters is from independent news site coolloud.org. The news organization urged the government to respect freedom of the press and release the reporters.

landhistory

Three reporters arrested by the police. Photo from coolloud.org.

苦勞網記者宋小海於昨日(7/23)晚間11點半趕赴教育部採訪反課綱高中生最新行動,有幸在第一時間尾隨翻牆學生進入教育部,目擊了學生行動與警方逮捕的過程。[…]台北市警局表示,因為教育部已經提告,必須釐清三人「是否與高中生一樣有侵入行為」。
在此,苦勞網要對警方在新聞現場強硬限制記者採訪工作表達強烈抗議

Yesterday (7/23), Cooulloud reporter Shiau-Hai Sung went to the Ministry of Education to report on the actions of high school students protesting against the new textbook guidelines. He was lucky to enter the building of the Ministry of Education with the students and witnessed the students’ action and how the police arrested the students. […] Taipei City Police Department said that the Ministry of Education sued [all the people entering the building], so they need to clarify whether these three reporters forcibly entered the building like other high school students.

Coolloud expresses serious disagreement with the police's forcible restriction of the reporters’ work at the scene.

The Ministry of Education announced the new textbook guidelines on January 17, 2014, and claimed that the adjustments were minor. But closer reviews revealed the changes were much more in-depth than advertised.

Moreover, the ministry was accused of violating procedural justice as the textbook revision committee members were asked to cast their vote in a box and the votes were only counted by the committee secretary after the meeting was dismissed. Even after controversy arose, the ministry refused to release the meeting minutes or the voting results to the public.

To defend citizens’ right to access public information, the Taiwan Association for Human Rights sued the ministry for their black-boxed procedures, and the Taipei High Court ruled that it should put the committee minutes and voting details under public examination.

landhistory

Words left by the protesting students: This is our land, and this is our history. Photo from Denis Chen's Facebook page

The ministry insists that despite the procedural errors, there is nothing wrong with the new guidelines. However, the fact that none of the members in the supervision team for the new textbook guidelines are specialized in history provoked a public statement signed by more than 100 history researchers and teachers expressing their opposition to what they call unprofessional edits and additions.

Moreover, the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has stated that the its party's mayors will not follow the ministry's new textbook guidelines in their cities and counties.

Despite these opposing voices, the ministry insists moving forward with the new guidelines as scheduled without changes. Therefore, these high school students will end up spending their summer vacation protesting outside the ministry or even inside jail.

History professor Yi-Fen Hua explained in a blog post why the new textbook guidelines are doomed to fail:

過去的掌權者可以透過各級學校歷史教育,灌輸國民特定意識形態,加深對敵我關係的認知。[…]年輕世代對「國家」、「歷史」與「世界」的認知,不再是透過意識形態教育的灌輸來取得;而是透過親身接觸、實際碰撞、近距離觀察,並參考網路世界提供的五花八門意見。當年輕世代必須以自由開放的多元視野來面對二十一世紀全球化浪潮帶來的嚴峻挑戰,黨國歷史教育想強力灌輸給他們的「大中國國族意識」,剛好只是幫倒忙而已。

In the past, the person in power could push a specific ideology as well as their vision of who the enemy is and who we are through history education in schools. […] The younger generation no longer recognizes ‘nation’, ’history’, and ’world’ through the instruction of ideology. They see the world on their own through personal contact, close observation and the overwhelming amount of information on the Internet. While the younger generation must have a free, open and multicultural perspective to face the austere challenges of globalization in the 21st century, the ‘big Chinese nationalism ideology’ in the new history textbook guidelines from Kuomintang don't help.

by I-fan Lin at July 28, 2015 01:56 AM

July 27, 2015

Global Voices
How To Miss A Coup d'Etat
The neo-Gothic Old Police Headquarters on Sackville Street in Port of Spain, Trinidad, frames the country's parliament building, Renaissance-style Red House (1906), which was stormed by insurgents of the Jamaat-al-Muslimeen on July 27, 1990.  Photo by David Stanley (CC BY 2.0).

The Red House (L) and the Old Police Headquarters (R) in Port of Spain, Trinidad. The Red House was stormed by insurgents of the Jamaat-al-Muslimeen on July 27, 1990. The Old Police Headquarters were also damaged by a car bomb. Photo by David Stanley (CC BY 2.0).

The original version of this piece was published on the Caribbean Free Radio blog on July 27, 2010, the 20th anniversary of the attempted coup d'état perpetrated by members of the Jamaat-al-Muslimeen in Trinidad and Tobago. 

Start by leaving the country a few days before the event (not that you know it’s going to happen). About five days is good—say around July 22, 1990. Make sure the place you’re going is far from any established West Indian community. Northern California is a workable option.

On the morning of the event, sit down in your Trinidadian Stanford Medical School student friend’s cottage in Menlo Park, type up a television script on said friend’s boyfriend’s Mac Plus computer, print it out and take it to a nearby copy shop. From the shop, fax the script to your colleagues in Trinidad, who, later that day, will use it to shoot a segment of the television show you’re working on together. The act of faxing also inserts you—tenuously—into your colleagues’ much more heroic narrative related to the event, though of course you don’t know this at the time.

Take the train into San Francisco, trawl around the city like a tourist, then in the afternoon meet up with your friend in order to hitch a ride back to Menlo Park. While sitting in the car in rush-hour gridlock on US-101, fiddle with the dial on the radio and happen upon a National Public Radio report about an attempted coup in your country.

Marvel at the coincidence of your landing, just at that moment, upon a news report about a nation that would otherwise receive scant coverage in US news, even on public radio, but still await the jingle at the end of the report announcing that what you just heard was a comedy segment. When, instead of a jingle, you hear another report about something bad happening in some other part of the world, freeze for a few seconds. Then try to recall whether, five days before, there had been any sign or indication that something like this was going to happen. Decide that there hadn’t.

As it would be some years yet before either you or your friend—or most of the world’s citizens—acquires a cell phone, sit impatiently in traffic until you get back to Menlo Park. Once there, rush to the answering machine which is pulsating with voice messages. Be amused at the succinctness of your friend’s Washington DC-based sister’s message: “They had a coup! Call me!” Wonder how all the Trinidadians on the west coast had managed to get hold of your friend’s number. Return calls. Answer new calls that come in. Lament the fact that nobody has any real information.

Even though the phone lines to Trinidad are perpetually busy, keep trying to get through to family, but make sure you have a list of questions prepared, as long distance calls aren’t cheap and neither Skype nor the Magicjack has yet been invented. Lament the absence, in northern California, of a real West Indian community such as exists in New York or Washington D.C. or south Florida or even Atlanta, and discuss how this limits your access to the choicest rumours and to folks who know folks who had managed to get through to somebody in Trinidad who knows somebody who knows what’s going on. Experience feelings of profound isolation.

Keep the radio tuned to NPR. Make sure you tune in to an NPR report in which a journalist you know is interviewed in Port of Spain about the horrors to which your homeland is being subjected while sitting on the bonnet of a car in Stinson Beach, in the atmospheric Marin Headlands, looking out at the magnificent Pacific. Note it as one of the most bizarre juxatpositions of your life thus far.

Leave California for New York. Wait it out there for what seems like—or may well be, as you don’t yet record all your trips using as-yet-to-be-dreamed-of services like Dopplr and TripIt—weeks. Watch, over and over again, that single, worrying image on CNN of the city of Port of Spain with a plume of smoke rising up from the middle of the city. Listen to the West Indian radio stations; talk to folks on the phone—but still feel you have no idea what’s going on in your homeland, except that the insurgents have surrendered and there’s now a curfew. Write letters (longhand, on paper, as you’re still five years from getting an e-mail account) to friends in various places announcing that you might end up stranded in the US.

Be deeply envious of your two colleagues who were in fact shooting your script when news of the insurrection reached them, and who, with all other work brought to a standstill by the events, report that they’ve been venturing out with a camera to capture coup-related action.

Keep harassing the airline to put you on a flight back home. Settle eventually for one that connects in Miami, even though it means spending an awful night in Miami International Airport.

Return to Trinidad. Fail to remember, 25 years later, who collected you at the airport, what you saw from the car on the way home, what you felt when you finally walked through the doors of the home you weren’t sure you’d ever see again.

Wonder if 25 years is really that long, or if there’s some other reason you’ve shoved those memories aside.

 

by Georgia Popplewell at July 27, 2015 07:22 PM

Saudi Woman Dies After Her Daughter Is Rejected From University

UPDATED ON 7/28/2015:
After a meeting with an investigation committee that was formed by minister of education, Faisal Al-Hwaity said to Makkah newspaper that his sons accepted to join University of Tabuk’s medical college. But, he demanded the committee to continue investigating on why his wife died at Tabuk’s campus.

Screen shot of video showing Mrs Al Omrani arguing with the university admission's office before her death

Screen shot of video showing Mrs Al Hwaity, left, arguing with the university admission's office before her death

A grief-struck Saudi mother literally dropped dead at a university campus which refused to admit her daughter into its medical school. The video, which shows the mother arguing with the University of Tabuk's admission's officers, has gone viral, sparking a discussion on both mainstream and social media about the university's cold reaction to the issue.

Rahma Al-Hwaity and her husband, Faisal Al-Hwaity, went to the admission of University of Tabuk to ask why their daughter's application was refused when they applied to medical school, Makkah newspaper reported.

“I will either die victorious or be struck with grief,” Rahma Al-Hwaity told an admission adviser, shows the video that was shared on YouTube.

You can watch the video below:

Before her death, Mrs Al-Hwaity threatened that she would stage a sit-in outside the campus. Minutes later, she died from a heart attack while waiting for her husband to finish his meeting with admission consultants.

The University of Tabuk said in a press release that the woman's death had no link with her daughter's admission.

The press release included the certificate of Al-Hwaity’s family and what colleges they applied to. It shows also that Al-Hwaity daughter’s, whose name was not mentioned in any coverage, put computer science as her first choice. In Saudi Arabia, when you apply to a university, you have to choose 10 majors in order of preference. If you are qualified for all of them, you will be accepted to the first major you choose.

Faisal Al-Hwaity accused the University of Tabuk of changing his daughter's choices, adding to Al-Hayat newspaper that he had evidence.

A spokesperson of Ministry of Education said the minister ordered for an investigation committee to be formed to reveal the reasons behind for rejecting Al-Hwaity’s daughter in medical school although they passed the requirements, according to a statement published via Facebook.

The Tabuk woman's death was discussed widely on Twitter under the hashtags #جامعة_تبوك (The University of Tabuk) and #الام_اللتي_ماتت_قهرا_في_تبوك (The mother who died from grief in Tabuk). The hashtag forced the situation to be discussed in Saudi media, TV and newspapers. It also showed how people are divided, but most of them were sympathetic to the family.

Dr. Manal Meccawy, who teaches at King Abdulaziz University, said on Twitter:

God have mercy on her soul, but universities are not managed by emotions. The university’s statement is convincing … the father wants to vent his sadness.

Another Saudi author, Barjas Albarjas said:

Some people defend error not because they are in favor of it, rather they are jealous of systems riddled with errors.

A cartoon describing the situation was also widely shared on social media. The caricature shows two trying to enter a manager's office. The gate-keeper is Wasta, or well-connected person who can help get to wherever you want. The man with excellent academic credentials is refused entry while the one who barely passed his exams is welcomed by Wasta:

This is what's happening in our society. Despite this, some will side with the perpetrator of injustice

From Jeddah, Dr Fawaz Al Ayesh wants to know who is responsible for what happened to Mrs Al-Omrani and what penalty he will face:

This is now a national issue. We should know who was behind it and what is the penalty he would face.

Saudi sociologist Amani Alshalan has a message to the daughter:

My message to the daughter: You have to be a great daughter to win a victory for your mother by getting into a medical school to make her dream come true

And Riyadh-based Dr Ali bin Shareeda, an academician specialised in language learning, says if there was any wrong-doing, someone had to be punished:

If she had the right to get into medical school and was wrongfully not admitted, then the school's dean and dean of admission and registration should be put on trial for corruption and unintentional murder

by Mohammed Al Nemer at July 27, 2015 06:49 PM

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