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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April 28, 2016

Global Voices
Five Cameroonian Data Journalists Take Stock of Paul Biya's 33 Governments
L'équipe des data journalistes - avec leur permission

The team of data journalists (used with their permission)

Their average age may be only 30, but with their website Les Gouvernements de Paul Biya, five data journalists have retraced the 34 years that their country's president has been in power, offering a fascinating look into Cameroon's government.

Les Gouvernements de Paul Biya is a journalism project compiling data and numbers about the 299 ministers who have served under Paul Biya's regime since he became president of the Republic of Cameroon on November 6, 1982.

In 34 years of power, Paul Biya has formed 32 government teams, including 13 in the 1980s alone, which was marked by coups in 1983 and 1984.

Gender parity in Biya's governments, according to the Les Gouvernements de Paul Biya project.

Gender parity in Biya's governments, according to the Les Gouvernements de Paul Biya project.

Les Gouvernements de Paul Biya offers many interpretive frameworks for the data, from the size of each government by year of reorganization, to gender parity, to the lifespan and geographical origins of high-up officials.

Infographie du projet avec leur permission

Project infographic (used with their permission): “What is the representation by region and department?”

As an example, according to the project, the Centre region, where President Biya's late first wife was from, has the most representatives, with 82 elected officials (28.1% of the total). Another example: No woman from the Far North has been elected since the beginning of Biya's reign.

Cameroon's Far North region, in addition to suffering attacks and damage caused by Boko Haram, has the country's lowest rate of female literacy: 17.4% compared to the national average of over 50%, according to a study conducted and published in March 2012 by the Ministry of Women's Empowerment and the Family.

Ratio de femmes dans les gouvernements Biya

Statistics on the number of women in Biya's governments

It goes without saying, then, that this research, for which it took six months to collect and process the data, is a source that, as the website says, “can potentially provide material for rigorous analysis by journalists, hagiographers and other historians”.

Speaking of history, this data journalism project is related to Les Circuits de la Mémoire, another initiative launched through the Yes Africa foundation by young Cameroonians in search of their historical and cultural heritage. This heritage could have a real impact if young people in Cameroon make their voices heard in coming elections, especially as observers are anticipating an early election by 2018.

by Savannah Goyette at April 28, 2016 04:52 PM

Creative Commons
U.S. should require “open by default” for federal government software code

photo-1453060113865-968cea1ad53aPhoto by Tirza van Dijk, CC0.

A few weeks ago we submitted comments to the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) draft federal source code policy. The purpose of the policy is to improve access to custom software code developed for the federal government, and would require that:

(1) New custom code whose development is paid for by the Federal Government be made available for re-use across Federal agencies; and

(2) a portion of that new custom code be released to the public as Open Source Software.

We provided feedback on a few different areas of the proposed policy.

First, we suggested that software developed by U.S. government employees should be clearly marked as being in the public domain not only in the United States, but worldwide, and as a matter of both copyright and patent rights. Under U.S. copyright law, works created by employees of the federal government are not subject to copyright protection in the United States. But what about foreign copyrights? Clearly, this custom code produced by government employees—thus in the public domain in the U.S.—could be equally as useful to developers outside of the U.S. There is no indication that the U.S. government has wishes to enforce its copyright abroad, but rather allows and even encourages the worldwide public to reuse its works freely, including software.

We said that software created by federal government employees should be released under the CC0 Public Domain Dedication, which waives any copyright that might apply, accompanied by a standard non-assertion pledge (“nonassert”) that indicates that the U.S. government will not to seek to enforce patent rights it may have against reusers of the software.

Second, we proposed that software funded by the federal government but developed by third party vendors should be released under free/open source software licenses that permit the greatest levels of freedom for reuse with the least number of restrictions. This will ensure that the public is granted rights to freely use, share, and build upon custom software code developed using public funds.

Third, we urged the federal government to consider setting a policy of “open by default” for custom software developed by third parties. Right now, the draft policy requires each covered agency to release at least 20% of its newly-developed custom code each year as open source software.

Finally, we urged the U.S. government to extending its open source licensing policy to the outputs of Federal grants and cooperative agreements. We discussed a precedent that support the adoption of a default open licensing policy for software—even for grants and cooperative agreements. In 2011, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) adopted an open licensing policy for the outputs of its $2 billion Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grants Program. As a condition of the receipt of a grant under this program, grantees are required to license to the public all digital content created with the support of the grant under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 (CC BY) license. In addition to content such as digital education and training resources, DOL requires that all computer software source code developed or created with grant funds must be released under an open license acceptable to either the Free Software Foundation and/or the Open Source Initiative. DOL adopted this open licensing policy “to ensure that the Federal investment of these funds has as broad an impact as possible and to encourage innovation in the development of new learning materials.” As of December 2015, the Department of Labor has adopted a department-wide open licensing policy, which covers all intellectual property developed under a competitive Federal award process.

The public comment period is now closed. The U.S. government will analyze the feedback and revise the policy as necessary. You can view all of the comments submitted here.

The post U.S. should require “open by default” for federal government software code appeared first on Creative Commons blog.

by Timothy Vollmer at April 28, 2016 04:51 PM

DML Central
3 Types of EdTech Baggage: Toolsets, Mindsets, Skillsets

Anyone with a background in technology integration will, of course, be familiar with the diffusion of innovation curve. This is a method to explain the way that different groups of people will react to new technologies. It’s useful, but tends to be used in a very two-dimensional way — as if people will always react in the same way to something new placed in front of them.

In particular, I think using the diffusion of innovation curve in a simplistic way can leave out that the adoption and use of technologies has an affect on the way we see ourselves, on our agency, and (ultimately) our identity.

So, in this post, I want to challenge the assumption that those resisting the adoption of a particular technology are neo-Luddites. I’m basing this on my experience in schools, universities, and now as an independent consultant working with all kinds of organisations. I see a much more nuanced picture than is often put forward. Assuming people should “get with the program” can, after all, be a little techno-deterministic.

The lens I want to use here is one prompted by a sketch Bryan Mathers shared with me recently and which can be seen at the top of this post. It reminded me that everyone is bringing “baggage” with them when interacting with technologies. I want to consider three types of “baggage”: the toolsets, skillsets, and mindsets that we bring to different situations, some of which must be jettisoned when adopting — or rejecting — new technologies. In particular, I think that while we focus on digital skillsets for those subordinate or more junior than ourselves, we sometimes lack the introspection to consider ourselves in need of such development.

Toolsets

Marshall McLuhan is famously quoted as saying, “we shape our tools and afterwards our tools shape us.” By this he meant that there is a two-way relationship between human and invented things. We’re all acquainted with the phrase, “if all you’ve got is a hammer, then everything looks like a nail.” That’s a perfect example of a technology, albeit not a digital one, affecting how we see the world.

Many of us are acquainted with people for whom the answer to every technology-related question seems to be a Google, a Microsoft, or an Apple tool. I would suggest that these people have as much of a ‘toolset’ problem as the ‘laggard’ on the diffusion of innovation curve. I’d contend that it’s as dangerous and damaging to have baggage that says one vendor’s products are always the best solution as it is to say that no technological solution is best.

Time and time again, I come back to a Clay Shirky quotation from an interview he did a few years ago for The Setup. In it, Shirky advocates jettisoning perfectly sound and valid workflows in favour of awkward new ones — just so you move out of your comfort zone. This is advice as valid for the Google Certified Teacher as it is for the neo-luddite they’re attempting to enlighten. As Audrey Watters reminded us recently with her piece on the ideology of the blockchain, technologies are not neutral; they have values, worldviews, and assumptions hard-coded into them.

Mindsets

These days, when most educators see or hear the word “mindset,” they think of the work of Carol Dweck. While I’ve attempted, ever since seeing her keynote the Scottish Learning Festival in 2009, to bring up my children with a growth mindset, I think there’s more to the simple fixed/growth mindset binary.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines a “mindset” as “the established set of attitudes held by someone.” If we consider attitudes people have toward technologies, then these can be many and varied, not just a belief in whether one’s intelligence is fixed. These “established attitudes” can take the form of almost any kind of belief. For example, what constitutes a just and fair society, or what is involved in human flourishing. As I’ve been reminded recently, it even includes extrapolating from where one stands on the introvert-extrovert spectrum.

I’m currently reading Cal Newport’s book, Deep Work: rules for focused success in a distracted world. It’s a good read but, a few chapters in, it’s already clear that the author is giving advice to those who want to succeed in the current status quo. Deep work means eschewing “distracting” tools such as Slack and Twitter which, Newport believes, will lead to success. He talks about “joining the ranks of winners in our economy,” betraying a particular mindset about what constitutes a good society (the one we’ve got) and how to be successful (don’t use technology much).

Skillsets

“Our learning management system should be as easy to use as Facebook,” is a common refrain in educational institutions. Some, in fact, have even gone so far as to use Facebook as an LMS. Keynote speakers around the world ask rapt audiences whether they had to be coerced into using Facebook, or whether they received any training on how to use it. “No? Then, shouldn’t we be challenging ourselves to do better in terms of educational technology?” comes the (inevitable) rhetorical question.

I’d like to push back on the idea that a platform designed for frictionless sharing, but which is a known source of corporate surveillance should serve as a model for education. While technologies should not be harder to use than they need to be, we need to think carefully about whether what the tool allows us to do, and what we actually want to achieve, are the same thing. It goes back to the earlier point about hammers and nails: if every answer is Facebook, then that somewhat limits what the questions can be.

We have a large problem with digital skillsets at the moment, something I’ve explored through the lens of digital literacies (in my thesis) and then web literacy at Mozilla. No one likes to think of themselves as deficient in the area of digital skills, especially when up to 90% of a knowledge worker’s job can be digitally mediated.

The truth is, however, that we are all playing catch-up when it comes to the digital skills we need to function now, and in the future. I’d argue that a lack of these skills limits the kinds of organisations we can envisage. The new normal is likely to be less hierarchy and more organisations with “flat” structures made possible by approaches such as holacracy. Working in those environments means new mindsets, of course, but they also require radically different digital skillsets to what we have now. Self-organising with colleagues around the world, mediated by digital technologies, requires a level of tech-savvy far different to that which we’re teaching in schools and universities. As Alvin Toffler said rather presciently in 1970, “the illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

Our collective baggage around skillsets tends to be that we cling to those skills we have developed in a particular area. It’s not dissimilar to the stereotype of the middle-aged dad only listening to the music of his youth. Instead, I’d argue, we need to adopt a playful attitude, to experiment with new tools and ideas before weighing them for their utility. In the process, we will develop new skills which, in turn, will affect our mindsets!

Conclusion

All of us have baggage around toolsets, mindsets, and skillsets when it comes to technology. We should recognise this and, where relevant, seek to jettison some of this. Some of this baggage, however, is useful and exists for a reason. It gives us a steer on the new things we see emerging, and makes us (rightly) wary about simply jumping on a bandwagon.

If nothing else, we need to recognise that all of us need to reflect on our mindsets and skillsets, rather than blindly using the toolsets that we’re used to or are forced upon us.

Banner image credit: Bryan Mathers

The post 3 Types of EdTech Baggage: Toolsets, Mindsets, Skillsets appeared first on DML Central.

by mcruz at April 28, 2016 01:00 PM

Global Voices
#MedeHollín: The Campaign Against Pollution That Changed the Name of a Colombian City
Como parte de la protesta, varias de las esculturas distintivas de la ciudad fueron intervenidas y cubiertas con tapabocas. Fotografía de Sergio González. Publicada con permiso.

As part of the protest, a number of different sculptures in the city were covered with face masks. Photograph by Sergio Gonzalez. Published with permission.

Since March 2016, the city of Medellín, Colombia, has been affected by air pollution. The environmental problem is caused by different factors, including the El Niño weather phenomenon, a rise in the number of car parks, and the geographic location of the city itself (located in a valley) which causes the smog to stay trapped between the mountains.

Medellín, which has historically held the nickname of “City of Eternal Spring,” was quickly and sarcastically renamed by web users #Medehollín, “hollín” meaning “soot” in English. Spanish-language Wikipedia defines soot as:

…partículas sólidas de tamaño muy pequeño, desde unos 100 nanómetros (100 nm) hasta 5 micras (5 μm) como máximo. En su mayoría compuestas de carbono impuro, pulverizado, y generalmente de colores oscuros más bien negruzcos resultantes de la combustión incompleta de un material (madera, carbón, etc). Su aspecto es similar a la ceniza pero con un tono más negro.

…tiny solid particles, from 100 nanometres (100 nm) to 5 microns (5 μm) maximum. Mostly composed of impure coal, crushed, and generally dark in colour or blackish resulting from the incomplete combustion of a material (wood, coal, etc). It looks similar to ash, but blacker in tone.

The incident caused such a stir, that one of the country's national newspapers, Revista Semana, published a piece explaining the origin of the hashtag.

How the hashtag ‘#MedeHollín‘ came to be

However, while some find it all amusing, the city's mayor, Federico Gutiérrez, was quick to issue a call to stop “degrading” Medellín by naming it as such:

Ladies and Gentlemen @RevistaSemana, with all due respect, we are experiencing an environmental emergency. We are #Medellín NOT #Medehollín. We will get through this too.

Citizen commentary ranges from calls to protect the environment, use of masks to protect yourself and opt for a bicycle, to the publication of up-to-date figures on the situation as its happening.

Medellín responds

Those living in Medellín like Juan Herrera thought that the problem is caused by a lack of care for their environment by the residents themselves:

No need for words. #Medehollin I'm so sorry, these people don't love you as much as they say.

Meanwhile, Daniel Urrea published a photo on Instagram reluctantly wearing a face mask:

El nuevo juguete. Cero divertido: muy necesario. Indignación. #Medehollín

A photo posted by George Falconer (@danielup_) on

New toy. Not fun: very necessary. Indignation. #Medehollín

Daniel Suárez shared that deaths due to respiratory causes in the city have increased:

In #Medehollin deaths from respiratory illnesses are going up, caused by pollution.

A Change.org petition is also channeling residents’ responses to the situation. In the petition's explanation, its creator Pablo Montoya unpacked the environmental, economic, governmental and societal reasons which are behind the pollution crisis in Medellín:

Para mí, una de las razones principales de esta crisis, no solo ambiental sino también social, es la gran cantidad de carros y motocicletas que entran a Medellín y sus municipios aledaños.

Cantidad que hace tiempos excedió, y con demasía, las capacidades mismas que tiene nuestro espacio para enfrentarla. Se sabe que el arribo del flujo automotriz se hace sin ningún control, o con controles pírricos en los que están directamente comprometidas la empresa privada y las autoridades estatales. No es necesario describir ahora este contubernio corrupto que solo funciona en aras de enriquecer a algunos.

For me, one of the biggest reasons for this crisis, not only environmental but also social, is the large number of cars and motorbikes which come into Medellín and its neighbouring towns.

It is a number which exceeds, by a long way, our capacity to deal with it. It is known that the flow of traffic happens without any control, or with controls which come at too great a cost in which private businesses and state authorities are directly compromised. This corrupt conspiracy which only serves to make a few people richer goes without saying.

‘Please don't make us live in Medehollín’

By way of protest, face masks were added to various sculptures:

I love this! The city is asking the mayor to make real and brave decisions.

Similarly, some buses were stuck with a message: “Please don't make us live in Medehollín”:

#Medehollin is moving through the city.

And the group SiCLas are campaigning to promote the use of bicycles:

Get out the bikes, we don't have to live in #Medehollín. Let's go #PedallingThroughTheAir away from our polluted cities.

Finally, the environmental emergency provoked a question: How do we think of current transportation in the city? A response came from the transport secretary by way of a tweet:

“Our priority is: First the pedestrian, then cyclists, then public transport, and finally private vehicles.” @FicoGutierrez

In the face of high pollution levels on 1 and 2 April, the government has taken measures such as No Car Day, free entry on the city's metro system, and a halt on open-air activities. Although by the time this post was published, the environmental emergency was over, it is certain that the subject will have to be included on the public agenda in a permanent way, as Twitter user Kenny Valenzuela pointed out:

@FicoGutierrez Look, We are still living in #MedeHollin measures cannot be temporary for a crisis that is already here.

by Anna Koumi at April 28, 2016 09:54 AM

The Fight to Control the Narrative in Burundi's Crisis
President Jacob Zuma visits Burundi, 25 Feb 2016. Photo Credit: GovernmentZA. Flickr, CC licence.

President Jacob Zuma visits Burundi, 25 Feb 2016. Photo Credit: GovernmentZA. Flickr, CC licence.

Burundi‘s year-long political crisis, sparked by the president’s controversial third term, has created a “climate of fear, distrust, and lawlessness”, in the words of Human Rights Watch. UN special rapporteur Christof Heyns described the violence moving from “overt” to “covert”, with arrests, disappearances, torture, and assassinations.

In the tense uncertainty, controlling the narrative is central to legitimacy. Government ministers challenge criticisms with counter-claims to discredit human rights investigators and opposition. People with views that differ from the official line are labeled ‘putschist-terrorists’ and protests are framed as ‘insurrection’, while international criticism is rejected as misinformed or imperialistic.

The space for a free, independent press has shrunk considerably. Burundi’s Reporters Without Borders 2016 Press Freedom ranking fell 11 places to 156 out of 180, which Alexandre Niyungeko, Burundian Journalists’ Union’s president, commented was still lenient.

Five radio stations were forcibly closed in May 2015 during a failed coup in May 2015, which tried to take power away from President Pierre Nkurunziza, making access to independent coverage difficult, especially as many Burundians rely on radio. Independent broadcaster Isanganiro and pro-government Rema radio stations were recently permitted to reopen – after months of forced silence – although under a potentially restrictive ‘agreement’. Isanganiro shared this video showing damages to its offices from the attack, allegedly by police, that resulted in its temporary shutter.

(In)security

The disagreement over Nkurunziza's decision to run for a third term last year, which first manifested in protests and citizen campaigns, eventually morphed into clashes and armed rebellions. The government has responded with a heavy hand, pushing dissenters into exile or silence.

Ministers downplay violence and economic problems, saying the country is 99% secure, despite deaths and the ongoing refugee flight, leaving some districts almost empty. Assassinations such as those of Colonel Darius Ikurakure and General Athanase Kararuza and arrests imply military divisions, and some note that politicians have heavy guards assigned to them, despite their claims of security. The International Monetary Fund estimated Burundi’s gross domestic product (GDP) shrank 7% in 2015, and food prices have multiplied.

Kenyan journalist Victor Ndula satirized this with a cartoon of Nkurunziza in a bath tub full of the country's blood:

The underground journalist collective SOS Médias Burundi summarized the deadly insecurity:

Tweet: #BurundiCrisis – Assessment of the first quarter 2016 (security source)

Image: 46 deaths including 8 police officers and 2 soldiers; 115 grenades thrown; 112 in Bujumbura; 215 injured; 150 rebels arrested (security source)

Dissenting voices risk violence and many have fled, from ruling party members and military to journalists. Reduced media, insecurity, and increased police control make verifying information difficult, especially outside of the capital of Bujumbura. Crucially, SOS Médias Burundi highlighted the varying death toll figures.

For example, by 1 April, 2016, 381 people had been killed in the crisis, according to the Commission Nationale Indépendante des Droits de l'Homme (the National Independent Human Rights Commission, the state-sanctioned human rights body). But the United Nations says 474, and the Association Burundaise pour la Protection des Droits Humains et des Personnes Détenues (Burundian Association for the Protection of Human Rights and Detained Persons, a prominent national human rights organization) listed 690. Others warn of much higher numbers.

Despite harassment and shutdowns, though, reporters have presented large amounts of evidence of violence by security agents and the government’s Imbonerakure youth-wing, as well as by rebel and unidentified attackers. Reporters are continually working to uncover facts, and SOS Médias Burundi announced an online form to collect testimonies.

Men presented by police as surrendered rebels have admitted to wide-ranging crimes, from political killings and staging videos for foreign reporters, to murdering Catholic nuns and even burning down a supermarket. These “revelations” have been questioned though. Scrutinizing contradictions and missing evidence, leading independent newspaper Iwacu highlighted suspicions of staged confessions, to conveniently clear security services of various cases while blaming opposition.

Human rights abuses 

Amid calls for inclusive, internationally mediated dialogue, the government held sessions of an internal inter-Burundian dialogue, but with most opposition and many civilians in exile, remaining opposition parties called it a “masquerade”, seeing it as achieving little but echoing official rhetoric.

Human rights organizations and the government have repeatedly come into conflict. Pierre-Claver Mbonimpa of the Association Burundaise pour la Protection des Droits Humains et des Personnes Détenues was even shot in an apparent assassination attempt, though he survived. And Marie-Claudette Kwizera of Burundian human rights organisation Ligue ITEKA disappeared.

Security services are accused of responding to a December rebel attack by arbitrarily attacking ‘rebellious’ neighbourhoods, killing possibly over 100 people. Amnesty International’s report showed satellite images of suspected mass graves, matching eyewitnesses’ accounts. These were denied, and the government subsequently announced it found several mass graves perpetrated by rebels. Iwacu, however, wrote that there were serious weaknesses in the testimony and evidence offered by the government.

A detainee presented by police also accused Human Rights Watch, which has criticized several government official inquiries into extrajudicial killings for omitting security services abuses, and therefore entrenching impunity, of staging rape footage. The organisation denied the allegation, highlighting that they have not even specifically reported on the subject.

Reporting mistakes can definitely occur, such as French TV programme “le Grand Soir 3″ airing of false video footage of violence, which caused significant controversy. This does not by extension invalidate other evidence, though.

International criticism, or ‘plots'?

Independently reported testimonies implicated Rwanda in training insurgents, which it denies, an interference which could be seriously inflammatory. Government figures used these accusations to blame the crisis more generally on Rwanda, though, trying to rhetorically externalize the crisis’ underlying problems.

On 12 March police presented a detainee as a Rwandan military spy, although his own family told reporter Esdras Ndikumana he was not a soldier. Rwanda's President Kagame was even accused of attempting to “export genocide”, and other statements implicated Rwanda’s government in the 1994 plane crash which killed the Rwandan and Burundian presidents.

Government representatives have also referenced international ‘plots’, implicating actors from the Vatican to European Union. Burundi ambassador to the UN Albert Shingiro rejected the organisation's reports on the crisis as “biased“, which in turn faced some scepticism:

Diplomatic isolation continues with the International Organisation of La Francophonie, which represents the world's French-speaking countries, suspending cooperation, followed by the EU halting aid. International pressure has gone little beyond sanctions, although long-stalled talks are scheduled for 2 May, to be led by Tanzanian ex-President Benjamin Mkapa, and International Criminal Court prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced a preliminary examination of the crisis.

Following the African Union delegation in February, two communiques were released, muddling their position. South Africa's President Jacob Zuma’s communique broadly called all ‘important’ actors to dialogue while the AU’s communique more specifically called for dialogue without pre-conditions, and linked international aid to improving security. This confusion allowed ministers to essentially choose their preferred AU statement, and bypass pressure for broad dialogue.

Deadly choices

The struggle for narrative is central to the crisis. Government critics are rejected as plotting or linked to insurgency, who become ‘terrorists’; a tag used in many contexts to justify broader clampdowns on political dissent, violent and peaceful.

Similarly, government supporters and security services employees become collectively associated with authorities’ repressive tactics. Louise Riziki, a Yaga blogger, recounted, for example, how a policeman from Musaga, a ‘rebellious’ Bujumburan district, felt trapped between social ostracization and keeping his job to support his family. In this way, political affiliation is reduced to a binary, divisive, dangerous choice.

Security services’ repression and retaliatory rebel attacks point to each other as justification. While the narrative is fought for, though, people continue fearing deadly attacks and a suffocating recession.

by Liam Anderson at April 28, 2016 04:39 AM

Global Voices Advocacy
Netizen Report: In Chad, You Can Rock the Vote, But Watch Your Back
Image: OSCE Parliamentary Assembly / Flickr / CC 2.0. Edited by Kevin Rothrock.

Image: OSCE Parliamentary Assembly / Flickr / CC 2.0. Edited by Kevin Rothrock.

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

State authorities in Chad took several stringent measures to control media during the first round of presidential elections this month, including disconnecting the Internet and blocking SMS messages. The election was conducted under heavy surveillance, according to Reporters Without Borders, and it is not the first time these measures have been deployed (Authorities tried to block access to Facebook in February in response to demonstrations over the gang-rape of a teenage girl.)

Brazilian Lawmakers to Vote on Cybercrime Bill

The Brazilian Chamber of Deputies will soon vote on proposed cybercrime legislation that threatens to have a deleterious effect on free expression and privacy. Among other things, the new proposals would give police warrantless access to IP addresses, require websites and mobile apps to monitor content, and would criminalize improper computer-system access that could present a “risk of misuse or disclosure of data.”

India Wants WhatsApp Group Administrators to Tell Them What’s Up

Local authorities in India, including the governments of Jammu and Kashmir, are responding to the rollout of end-to-end encryption on WhatsApp by demanding that administrators of WhatsApp groups register with the local magistrate. Officials also say they plan to hold group administrators accountable for “irresponsible remarks” or “untoward actions” by group members, according to TechDirt.

Mexico’s Controversial ‘Telecom Law’ Reaches the Supreme Court

In late April, Mexico’s Supreme Court will discuss the constitutionality of articles 189 and 190 of the “Justice Collaboration” chapter in the country’s Telecom Law. Some of the language in these articles states that telecommunication companies must maintain records of users’ metadata for a period of two years, and grant the proper authorities unrestricted access to these archives. This section of the law functions completely outside the court system, requiring no warrants or judicial oversight on data requests. There’s also no clarity about who the “proper authorities” might be. The law includes no requirements on how personal data is to be protected or used once it is collected by authorities. The Supreme Court is reviewing these articles after a protection motion, or writ of amparo, was filed by the organization R3D: Network in Defense of Digital Rights with the support of various organizations defending digital rights, the freedom of expression, and transparency, such as Article 19 and FUNDAR.

Enormous Data Leak Exposes 93.4 Million Mexicans’ Voter Records

A database of 93.4 million Mexican voter records—containing names, addresses, occupations, voting codes, and additional information—was revealed to be unprotected and easily accessible online on April 14. MacKeeper security researcher Chris Vickery discovered the database hosted publicly on an Amazon cloud server and contacted the US and Mexican governments, as well as Amazon, though the data remained online for another eight days. During that time, the personal information of roughly 70 percent of Mexico’s population was accessible to anyone, anywhere, unprotected by encryption or even a password, violating the privacy and potentially endangering millions of Mexican citizens. It remains unclear who leaked the data in the first place, how it was acquired, and why it was placed on a publicly-accessible server for all to see. As databreaches.net pointed out, Mexico has now joined Belize, Greece, Israel, the Philippines, and Turkey in having a majority of its population’s personal data leaked.

Viber Announces (Unverified) End-to-End Encryption: ‘Trust Us.’

The messaging app Viber announced end-to-end encryption for its 700 million users worldwide, which will be rolled out in stages. As an Israeli company owned by a Japanese conglomerate, Viber presents a “powerful example of the futility of legislating encryption,” like the bill now under consideration in the US Congress. However, unlike WhatsApp, Viber has not published any details about how its encryption is implemented, so the security of its protocols and implementation have not been verified by anyone outside the company (a best practice in ensuring the trustworthiness of the software’s security).

Cyber-Independence for Iraq’s Kurds

Iraq’s Kurds have declared independence in cyberspace through the establishment of a new generic top-level domain name, .krd. According to Hifa Afandi, who helped obtain the new domain name, “Those who have imprisoned us within these geographical boundaries do not have the same leverage in cyberspace. In the Internet, we choose our own borders.” Iran is the only country so far to object to the new domain name, citing the risks of “serious political conflicts” as a result.

The Physicist Who Said No to Iran’s Military Research

The #FreeOmid hashtag (for jailed physicist Omid Kokabee) trended on Twitter on April 21, before news broke that the American musician Prince had died. Iranians and Internet users throughout the world drew attention to Kokabee’s health, which has deteriorated after five years in prison without proper medical attention. The physicist was arrested in 2011 while trying to board a flight back to the US, where he was finishing a post-doctoral position. Kokabee was incarcerated for refusing to work on Iran’s military research. He underwent kidney surgery on April 20, though human rights advocates are worried his health will not recover, given Iran’s mistreatment of political prisoners.

New Research

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Mahsa Alimardani, Mary Aviles, Sam Kellogg, Hae-in Lim, Kevin Rothrock, Elizabeth Rivera, and Sarah Myers West contributed to this report.

by Netizen Report Team at April 28, 2016 03:55 AM

April 27, 2016

Global Voices
Anatomy of a Macedonian ‘Colorful Revolution’
"I am sick of Fear, I want Freedom!" Photo by Vanšo Džambaski, CC BY-SA.

“I am sick of fear, I want freedom!” Photo by Vanšo Džambaski, CC BY-SA.

For over two weeks, tens of thousands of Macedonian citizens from over a dozen cities have rallied together in what has been dubbed the “Colorful Revolution” to protest against state corruption and impunity. The movement takes its name from protesters tossing paint on government buildings and landmarks.

The demonstrations began after President Gjorge Ivanov announced a pardon for more than 50 top politicians and their associates who were under investigation for abuses of power. Last year, the political opposition revealed the country's secret service under ex-Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski had secretly wiretapped over 20,000 people; in those conversations, top Macedonian officials seem to implicate themselves in a variety of misdeeds including election fraud, which the Macedonian Special Prosecutor's Office was investigating until the president's pardon on April 12.

Since then, the movement has grown in strength, and participants are eagerly sharing their organizing tactics online in the hopes of encouraging others to join in. Here's how they're going about it.

Define who you are and what you stand for

The protests are organized ‘horizontally’ by a loose network of activists, including members of NGOs and civic initiatives, as well as members of some opposition parties — and any individual citizen who joins. A set of common principles is what unites them, and this has been essential in defining the movement.

For example, one graphic shared on Twitter laid out the protesters’ beliefs plainly:

"Why do I protest and what is the Colorful Revolution?" via @MKColorful

“Why do I protest, and what is the Colorful Revolution?” via @MKColorful

Зошто Протестирам и што е ШаренаРеволуција?

1. Оваа борба е против авторитарниот и корумпиран режим, чие олицетворение е Никола Груевски.
2. Оваа борба е немирна, но ненасилна.
3. Ни една група од граѓанското општество нема монопол врз борбата против авторитарниот режим.

Секој/а граѓанин/ка што се согласува со овие принципи е дел од #Протестирам и #ШаренаРеволуција. Ги повикуваме сите оние кои се согласуваат со овие принципи да излезат на протести.

Why do I protest, and what is the Colorful Revolution?

1. This is a struggle against the authoritarian and corrupt regime, personified by ex-Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski.
2. This struggle is not peaceful [in the sense of passive], but it is strictly nonviolent.
3. No civil society organization holds the monopoly on  the struggle against the authoritarian regime.

Every citizen adhering with these principles is part of “I protest” (#протестирам) and the #ColorfulRevolution. We call upon all who agree with these principles to come out and protest.

Participants have taken this decentralized approach as a way to attract more people and to prevent anyone from “hijacking” the protest for their own cause. Colorful Revolution's protesters often experiment and disagree on various approaches, and resolve differences through open discussion.

Embrace different languages

Reflecting the linguistic diversity of Macedonia, the protesters have been sharing information about the demands in various local languages, like Macedonian, Albanian (#protestoj!), Roma, as well as English.

Even the English translation of the term #ColorfulRevolution was a result of “the wisdom of crowds.” The Macedonian term #ШаренаРеволуција (“sharena revolucija” in the Latin alphabet) refers to mix of various colors, and can be translated as “multicolored” too.

However, “colorful” stuck, especially after Germany's international broadcaster Deutsche Welle used it within their article titled, “Protesters hit Macedonia's capital with paint balls and soap suds in a ‘Colorful Revolution’.” I held an informal poll on Twitter to see what Macedonian users thought about the translation. Results showed respondents overwhelmingly agreed with Deutsche Welle's choice:

Which translation is more suitable: Multicolor Revolution, Multicolored Revolution or Colorful Revolution?

Share eye-catching T-shirt and logos designs

Participants are often seen wearing T-shirts with a stylized logo of the three most prominent special public prosecutors, Lenče Risteska, Katica Janeva and Fatime Fetai, against the acronym “СЈО” (for Special Public Prosecutor's Office, in Macedonian). The original design was shared online for people to download and make their own t-shirts as a sign of support for the anti-corruption efforts of the prosecutors.

Colorful Revolution t-shirts.

Photo by Vančo Džambaski, CC BY-SA.

Soon, over a dozen designers started making logos and other visual materials, and posting them online in high resolution for public use. The web page sharena-revolucija.ie.mk collects these designs in one place, providing an easy to use digital resource. Participants have used them to make t-shirts, banners, stickers, various badges and flags.

Screen shot of sharena-revolucija.ie.mk with all the various logo designs used by protesters.

Screen shot of sharena-revolucija.ie.mk with all the various logo designs used by protesters.

All paraphernalia is self-financed by the protesters. The protests have also led to the blossoming of cottage industry catering to their needs — entrepreneurial street vendors offering whistles or bottled water follow the marches. They quickly switch to selling umbrellas when it rains.

Opt for paint-filled balloons over violence

Violent acts that bring criminal liability are strictly forbidden. This includes any activity that can harm another person, especially police officers. People who throw stones or other dangerous objects or strike out at others are considered provocateurs. This is in line with the established tradition of nonviolence of past protest movements in Macedonia.

But activities such as throwing eggs or paint or writing graffiti on buildings or statues are considered misdemeanors under Macedonian law, with penalty of about 50 euros (about 56 US dollars), and so the Colorful Revolution has embraced these tactics.

Protesters are using balloons filled with paint and sand (for safety in case of bad aim and for aerodynamics). The following online tutorial explains how to make them:

Дали сакате да се приклучите на #ШаренатаРеволуција? Многу е лесно, треба да следите само неколку чекори:

1. Земете што е можно поширока инка или направете сами
2. Вметнете го исечениот крај во еден празен балон
3. Наполнете го балонот до пола со обичен песок
4. Наполнете едно шишенце (полесно е ако е со цуцла) со боја
5. Закачете го балонот на шишенцето и наполнете го балонот со боја
6. Заврзете го балонот и исплакнете го со вода
7. Спремни сте за шарена револуција

Would you like to join the #ColorfulRevolution? It's easy, just follow these few steps:

1. Take a wide funnel or make your own from a big syringe
2. Put the cut end into an empty baloon
3. Fill half of the balloon with sand
4. Fill a plastic bottle with paint (used to transport the paint from home to protest site)
5. Tie the balloon to the bottle noose to fill it with paint
6. Tie the balloon and rinse it with water
7. You are now ready for a colorful revolution.

There's a loose consensus among the protesters to paint only objects that symbolize the power and what they deem the arrogance of the regime, such as the Triumphal Arch and the statue of clothed Prometheus, which bears resemblance to the works by Arno Breker symbolizing “The Party” as bringer of light and knowledge to the people.

Skopje 2014 Prometheus turned Pink. Photo by Filip Stojanovski, CC BY.

The Prometheus statue, built as part of the controversial development project Skopje 2014, turned pink. Photo by Filip Stojanovski, CC BY.

In response to arrests of some protesters on charges of rioting or participating in a mob, the movement is also sharing legal information in Macedonian and Albanian about citizens’ rights in case one is detained or arrested.

Counter the government narrative with a sense of humor

The Colorful Revolution name not only is a reference to the paint-filled balloons, but also ridicules the government claims that the protests are part of “Color Revolution,” which refer to the non-violent revolutions that took place in several countries formerly belonging to the Soviet Union and were perceived to be fomented by external Western forces.

To people acquainted with the history of Macedonian politics, these claims sound a bit ironic. In 2006, the ruling party VMRO-DPMNE changed their election campaign color scheme from red and black to orange in order to capitalize on the 2004 Ukrainian Orange Revolution and appear pro-Western and progressive.

VMRO-DPMNE publicity photo from 2006, part of their "Orange" phase, emulating the Ukrainian "Color Revolution.

VMRO-DPMNE publicity photo from 2006.

VMRO-DPMNE is now attempting to present themselves simultaneously as supported and victimized by the West. The party has poured several million dollars into lobbying in the US to present the opposition as pro-Russian. This went to such lengths that the US issued a denial of their support for VMRO-DPMNE or any other particular party.

On the other hand, ex-Prime Minister and current VMRO-DPMNE head Nikola Gruevski as well as President Ivanov blame the West for the protests. Russia has issued diplomatic note of support of the Macedonian government, while government-funded Russia Today has prioritized the message of the counter-protests and reported that they are more numerous than the anti-corruption protests.

One Twitter use poked fun at all the spin by doctoring a video clip of Gruevski:

by Filip Stojanovski at April 27, 2016 11:08 PM

Syria: What Forgiveness Doesn't Mean
Aleppo, Syria. Photograph shared by IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)


I wish that only one of the advocates of “forgive and forget” could guarantee that this forgiveness would spare Syria from this madness happening again, and not be more like a reward for the murderers,” writes Marcell Shehwaro. Children in an Aleppo street, in Syria. Photograph shared by IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

This post is part of a special series of articles by blogger and activist Marcell Shehwaro, describing the realities of life in Syria during the ongoing armed conflict between forces loyal to the current regime, and those seeking to oust it.

In the beginning I was beautiful, as I was filled only with the powerful beauty of the revolution, with the pure belief that we were here to make a change and that hatred could never be a way to make change; and that we had no alternative but to be patient and wait for the others to break the walls of silence and humiliation and join us. We believed that everyone had their own prophecy, and we had to wait for their first cries of birth. And we waited.

We had enough luxury, comfort, clarity of vision, and extra room for more grief. I used to follow the pictures of dead State army soldiers being spread on social media. I would be upset by people who ridiculed their deaths. I used to read the comments of the mothers, brothers, sisters, friends, girlfriends. The deceased were handsome young men in their twenties. I would become so obsessed that I visited their personal pages to learn about the real person behind the face of the victim, or the murderer, or both.

“We had enough luxury, comfort, clarity of vision, and extra room for more grief. I used to follow the pictures of dead State army soldiers being spread on social media. I would be upset by people who ridiculed their deaths. I used to read the comments of the mothers, brothers, sisters, friends, girlfriends.”

Some were so brainwashed. They considered us thugs or vandals backed by Israel, out to disturb the security of the country. A country they believed would combat its enemies thanks to the wisdom of Mr. President, about whom the only thing they knew about was that he was irreplaceable. They were so obsessed with protecting the country that they destroyed it.

Others were awash in sectarian speech loaded with excessive fear and hatred. They believed we were going to slay them all, and that our aim was not democracy, but that we were driven by malice towards them and their families and sects. A malice they believed would swallow them if they didn’t swallow it first.

While others—whose pages were the most painful to browse—were fidgety before their deaths. They’d count the hours to the day of their departure, which they were never allowed to take their mothers to witness, to see them waiting patiently for the promises of their discharge from the army which were never fulfilled.

Back then I was able to see them, like us, as victims of a regime that forced us to take to the streets to overthrow it, and forced them to kill us in order for it to retain control of the presidential chair.

Little by little the list grew too long for me to be able to follow their personal profiles and their sacrifices. Detainees and martyrs. I was running from one funeral to the other. They were killing too many of us, and the burden grew heavy on my shoulders. Poverty and brainwashing were not an enough excuse anymore. Fear was no longer a sufficient excuse for turning into a ruthless killing machine. To me, he began to merge with the murderer and his face and work and everything about him. To me they all became Bashar Al Asaad, not just his victims. Little by little he receded, tucked in his palace while the most truthful manifestation of him and his regime was that torturer in the prison, that soldier on the field, that chopper in the sky.

We had only a little energy left, and it was not enough for us to fight against ourselves and combat the easy notion of considering them merely “murderers”. The effort to consider them just like us became exhausting, as we were becoming more like them—murderers—than they were becoming more like us—victims.

“To me they all became Bashar Al Asaad, not just his victims. Little by little he receded, tucked in his palace while the most truthful manifestation of him and his regime was that torturer in the prison, that soldier on the field, that chopper in the sky.”

They were that person who has the ability to enjoy torturing somebody to the death. They were that person that gave the order to use chemical weapons, or to knife a child to death in Houleh in Homs. A massacre that took away any ability we had to combat hatred. Our hatred became part of our battle for existence. We needed anger to survive, to regain the realization that the violence meted out to us was not “normal” or “ordinary”. We needed anger to release our lives and refuse to surrender to death. “Life is worth living”: true, maybe, but in this life there is no longer enough goodness to allow both the murderer and the victim to live together.

From that day onward we were no longer bothered about killing them.

Afterward, it was very logical for ISIS to emerge from our hatred. With their presence, we became scared again in the areas we thought we had already paid enough blood to regain. In Syria nothing is free; everything has a price, especially your rights. Again I am back to square one, trying to sympathize with this new enemy. This time my justification was that they were victims of violence and hatred. Victims with a righteous cause against a world that had ignored them and everything that had happened to them.

Some of them were radicalized, and to them we were infidels backed by the US to destroy the Levant. Others were moved by hatred, fear and anger, believing that no one was protecting the State of Islam but them. Others were so fascinated by the images of foreign fighters equipped with full gear, compared to their clumsy weapons and sporadic supply. They were teenagers who believed that ISIS is a real life Counter Strike game. Some of them were, till yesterday, “one of us”, victims like us, until they grew bored of playing this role and realized that they were dead either way, and decided they didn’t want to die as victims, but as murderers.

“Others were moved by hatred, fear and anger, believing that no one was protecting the State of Islam but them. Others were so fascinated by the images of foreign fighters equipped with full gear, compared to their clumsy weapons and sporadic supply. They were teenagers who believed that ISIS is a real life Counter Strike game. . . .”

In time—faster this time—I became accustomed to the cycle of victim/murderer. I lost my sympathy towards them and the guilt I felt wondering whether there was something we could do to prevent them from becoming crazier.

They became our enemies. I had very little ability left to grieve. The little I had was not enough to distribute among the hundreds of victims who died every day even though they hadn’t killed anyone. And I am haunted by an obsession with what, today, can be considered just? How do we decide who is the victim of an oppressive regime, a local or a universal one, and who is the maker of this regime and its prophet? What is the just punishment for a pawn in the game of power, money and fear?

I wish the soul of the revolution was enough for me to be able to pardon them all, if only in the “court in my head”.

I wish that only one of the advocates of “forgive and forget” could guarantee that this forgiveness would spare Syria from this madness happening again, and not be more like a reward for the murderers.

I wish that this forgiveness did not mean complicity by us in forgetting the rights of those who are gone, the rights of those victims, because they are weakest. I wish I could hate the regime a thousandfold, and find its angels of death a thousand excuses. I wish I could hate ISIS to death and find its teenage soldiers a thousand excuses.

But I’m bound to be angry. I am enraged at having survived. I am enraged at my inability to change what has been and what will become.

You can grieve either side as much as you want, at any level of sorrow or hypocrisy. Whether it’s the person who is still fighting on the front for the regime, or the one who vowed allegiance to ISIS. You can even grief them both if you still have room on your shoulders. But you cannot exploit this cycle of victim/murderer and lock us inside it. Pressure us to death so that we forget who we were and what we have lost. Force us to forgive and forget. You cannot do all of that without proving to us, for once, how this forgiveness will prevent the history from repeating itself.

You cannot do all this without telling us how your stand, at equal distances from all parties, could guarantee a little, and only a little, justice.

by Lara AlMalakeh at April 27, 2016 06:13 PM

MIT Center for Civic Media
The Effects of Surveillance and Copyright Law on Speech: Jon Penney at Berkman

What effects do laws and surveillance have on the exercise of freedoms online?

Today, the Berkman Center welcomed Jon Penney (@jon_penney), who is finishing his D.Phil at the University of Oxford, to talk about his dissertation research on chilling effects. Jon is a lawyer, Oxford researcher, and a research fellow at the the University of Toronto's Citizen Lab.

What is a chilling effect? The idea, theorized in a US context by Schauer in 1978, was that laws might have an effect on legal, protected, and desired activities. Judges have been skeptical about this idea. In Laird v Tatum, judges claimed that chilling effects were not a 'cognizable' injury. In response to recent NSA cases, chilling effects were dismissed as too speculative. Scholars agree. Kendrick argued that chilling effects have a "flimsy" empirical basis. Many open questions remain, including the magnitude of chilling effects and their reach. In his dissertation, Jon set out to answer some of those questions.

How do you prove a negative? Jon points out that this challenge is one of the reasons that chilling effects have been so difficult to identify. Datasets of online behavior offer resources that can help us answer these questions in greater detail. Jon promises to offer two case studies with us today.

The effect of NSA surveillance on online participation

In June 2013, Edward Snowden released information about the US surveillance system PRISM. By 2014, Pew found that 2014 people had "heard" of PRISM. Matthews & Tucker (2015) looked at Google search activity and found a 5% decrease in Google searches on sensitive topics after June 2013. In March 2015, Wikimedia and the ACLU brought a lawsuit against the NSA, saying that pervasive surveillance had a chilling effect on participation.

Jon asked this question in his work, using an interrupted time-series design to examine traffic for sensitive content before and after revelations about NSA surveillance. What Wikipedia articles did he include in the study? Penney focused on 48 Wikipedia articles that corresponded with U.S. Department of Homeland Security "terrorism" keywords. The articles in this set received a total of 81 million views over the period of study. Jon checked these articles by asking Mechanical Turkers "if you knew the Government was monitoring online, how likely would you to be avoid them?" On average, the survey showed that this was content that would give some internet users cause to avoid them. Jon's research also normalized the traffic to these articles to overall traffic on Wikipedia.

What did Jon find? Firstly, he found that after the Snowden reports, sensitive content experienced a drop-off. But over time, people started to realize that they probably wouldn't go to jail, and the trend continued to increase over time. But there's a problem: there are two extreme outliers. What were these? Both of those outliers represent Israeli operations in Palestine, leading large numbers of people to read articles about Hamas.

In a second analysis, Penney developed a comparison group of security-related, non-terrorism articles from the same homeland security list. He also looked at the subset of potentially-chilled articles that were rated as most risky by Turkers. In this final analysis, he showed that among those articles, not only did fewer users read Wikipedia pages about those articles, the trend line reversed -- the traffic to those articles declined over time. In contrast, the comparison group did not have a reverse in trend lines. Penney suggests that there might be a long-term, ongoing chill from surveillance.

Do copyright laws like DMCA have a chilling effect on speech?

Next, Jon tells us about the DMCA "notice and takedown" copyright enforcement scheme, a statute that aims to police and enforce copyright on the internet. For example, imagine a blog on Google blogs. Imagine that some blogger has posted a video without permission. The rightsholder sends a DMCA notice to Google, who will then take the video down. The blogger can then decide if they want to accept the takedown or file a counter-notice. If they do file, the rightsholder can file a lawsuit. If not, the video is restored.

This scheme has been criticized widely. Many scholars have argued that this has a chilling effect-- there are millions of notices being sent every single day. Wendy Seltzer described this as a "chilling effect architecture" -- a regulatory scheme that favors a chilling effect on users. To test this, Penney did a random sample of 500 Google blogs. He visited each blog and coded them to identify which were online/offline, suspended, locked, and whether they had grounds for potential legal defenses. He then followed up to find out why they had made those decisions. The blogs in the sample ranged from business, culture, politics, adult content, science, personal blogs, and spam. The targeted content on those blogs were text, images, music, software, and "mixed."

What was the impact of the DMCA? Of the 500 notices, 88% of the content targeted by the notices was offline or inaccessible. 12% was still accessible. Among blogs that were targeted through the DMCA, 43% of the blogs were still there, the blog was suspended in 32% in the cases, 13% of the blogs were deleted or relocated by the user. Jon also analyzed the targeted content for potential legality. Across several categories, Jon found substantial percentages of likely-legal content that had been taken down, where the blog had been suspended or the person had deleted or relocated their blog. When challenged, users aren't replacing the content and leaving it offline, even if they have a good case for keeping it online. Penney also found no evidence of counter-notices -- people very very rarely challenge a DMCA takedown.

Overall Implications
Both case studies suggest the existence and persistence of regulatory chilling effects, says Jon. Secondly, Penney suggests conforming effects of these regulatory regimes, where people avoid certain information or leave content offline. Yet he's not sure if there's a single overarching theory to understand these effects. In the case of the DMCA, there might be a specific legal punishment that people fear, but perhaps surveillance is a . Finally, Penney's findings suggest that there's a huge potential scale of chilling effects. With 1 billion takedowns per year, a chilling effect at the size of 7% or 10% could be affecting very large numbers of people.

Questions & Answer

Could you talk about the choice of your comparison-related terms? Jon answers: this is one area of the study where I would like to enhance the sophistication of the comparison group. I wanted to avoid the bias. I considered a random sample of articles, but if you gather a group of random wikipedia articles, it's probably going to track certain trends that different kinds of events are going to influence. If I had to added articles about Justin Bieber, for example, it would be too different from terrorism content, such that whatever trends you would get would be too different. Instead he used what he called a "normative matching" approach, in the absence of a randomized trial.

I asked Jon if findings like his ever have impacts on courts, and what that path looks like. Jon: one of the challenges over constitutional litigation around surveillance is that there have been concerns about how to "prove" these claims. They're often described as subjective, speculative, "non-cognizable" injuries. Many of these fall down on the grounds that people don't have a standing to prove that they have been injured. Wikimedia lost at the first instance in the federal court, especially on standing grounds. Jon is hoping that having an empirical foundation for these kinds of claims might help the Wikimedia litigation and potentially other surveillance litigation. In other litigation, survey studies about chilling effects have been cited by briefs filed with courts. They've been successful sometimes to persuade courts.

Penny identified basically three routes for influence. One impact comes through methodologies that others could use when demonstrating they have experienced harm. Another impact comes through specific legal cases drawing attention to Penney's research to argue that chilling effects are real and that their specific complaint should be taken seriously. Finally, findings like Penney's could be shown to lawmakers as they consider similar regulations, to show them the side-effects of certain kinds of policies.

What might we do to reduce chilling effects? Penney replied that it's important to reform laws, which can be informed by empirical findings. Platforms also have a role; Google has been a leader in this area by providing all takedown notices to the Lumen project and supporting research. If more companies provided data to Lumen and collaborated more with researchers, they might be able to develop novel approaches to protect speech rights while responding well to the law.

What are the economic impacts of chilling effects? Jon notes that chilling effects can hurt public value in nonprofits like Wikipedia and can also hurt platform revenue, when they push users away from platforms.

by natematias at April 27, 2016 05:03 PM

Global Voices
Eight Challenges Indian-Language Wikipedias Need to Overcome
From language input to Unicode standards, Indian-language Wikipedias need a sustained effort from the community. Credit: Johann Dréo CC BY 2.0/Flickr

From language input to Unicode standards, Indian-language Wikipedias need a sustained effort from the community. Credit: Johann Dréo CC BY 2.0/Flickr

A version of this post was previously published on The Wire.

Even after a decade of existence, Indian language Wikipedias are not yet known to many Indian language speakers. Wikipedia, the largest available encyclopedia made in the human history, is what it is today because of the hundreds and thousands of volunteer editors. But while native-language Wikipedias are becoming game-changers in other corners of the world, the scenario in India is skewed. Here, from my point of view, are some of the challenges that Indian-language Wikipedias are currently facing.

1. Language communities

The language communities of many of the Indian languages are such that many of them do not know how to search for information online, in language typed in their script. Some of these communities even believe that because Google’s home page does not display their script, their language does not exist on the Internet. Google, which starting with five Indian languages as options in its interface, now has has nine Indian languages. But this does not stop a Santali or Manipuri user from searching in Unicode Ol chiki (the script for Santali) or in Unicode Meithei (the script for Manipuri). Google, or any search engine, for that matter, will display anything available in any script on the Internet. But the perceived lack of this very function is keeping many people from connecting to the Internet, and to Wikipedia in particular.

2. Wikipedia’s editor community

Wikipedia  is written by people like you and me. And everything, from writing to editing, is done by volunteers. And anybody can correct the mistakes and inaccuracies that exist in many Wikipedia articles. While several Indian languages are spoken by millions of people, the Wikipedia editor communities for these languages are very small, with only a handful editors contributing to editing those language versions of Wikipedia. In January this year, Hindi Wikipedia, for instance, had only 89 editors, while the total number of Hindi speakers is over 550 million.

3. Language input on computers

A vast majority of people in India do not know how to type in their own language. There is also little documentation instructing users about language input. Even though many government-run schools in India are seeing a proliferation in computer use and Internet access, native language input and other essential training of basic computing are not widely taught in schools in all states. This is unfortunate, as there is a wide variety of free software for native-language input, and the challenges of typing in Indian languages that existed a few years back are now almost non-existent.

4. Language input on mobile devices

With over 1 billion mobile phone users, India's 15% internet penetration rate will soon start growing at a faster pace. This in turn—along with the tough competition that will compel TSPs to lower data charges—will help many Indians get access to the Internet. If these people are not educated about native language input they will be victims of the English-centric Internet and fail to enjoy the virtues of the former. Many Indians who have smartphones need full Indian language support, and especially built-in input methods, to be able to contribute to Wikipedia in their own languages.

5. Scarcity of Indian-language content on the Internet

The relative lack of native language content on the Internet is another major factor in the low adoption of Indian language Wikpedias. According to an Internet and Mobile Association of India survey conducted in 2012, over 6% of the population is left behind with regard to joining the online sphere simply because of a scarcity of content in their languages. Take my home state of Odisha, for instance: while the Kerala state government’s official tourism portal is available in Odia and other Indian languages, at the time of writing the Odisha government’s tourism portal had no information in Odia. It is unfortunate that our languages are neglected largely within our own states.

6. Incompatibility between new and traditional media standards

Instead of adopting the Unicode standard, many traditional media outlets continue to use non-standard variants of the ASCII/ISCII script encoding systems  Unicode, a global standard, has been available for Indian languages for almost 25 years now, but most of India's vernacular print media has failed to adopt it. As a result, many popular Indian-language newspapers are unavailable in Unicode on the open Internet.

7. Lack of Open Access

The majority of the information published on the Internet, and by the Indian government, in particular, is copyrighted. This paywalled garden of copyright restrictions restricts access of this information and prevents people from sharing and learning more. Wikipedia, on the other hand, is distributed under a Creative Commons Share-Alike license that allows anyone to make use of the content, and even distribute it commercially. Opening up information for the masses under free license regime could make it easily accessible to millions of people.

8. Failure to cater for people with disabilities

Many people in India cannot read, speak or write, and the country has over 60 million people with some form of hearing impairment. There is a desperate need for a high-quality text-to-speech and speech-to-text engines for people with physical disabilities. These products also be freely available so that those who cannot afford to buy expensive proprietary software like JAWS can contribute to Wikipedia in their languages. Many of the text-to-speech engines available today for Indian languages sound so mechanical that it is difficult for the average speaker to use them.

Subhashish Panigrahi is an educator and free knowledge evangelist, and currently works for Communications, Program Capacity & Learning at Wikimedia Foundation, and Access to Knowledge at the Centre for Internet and Society.  Portions of this article are taken from a speech Subhashish gave at BHASHA: Indian Languages Digital Festival in New Delhi. 

by Subhashish Panigrahi at April 27, 2016 03:45 PM

MIT Center for Civic Media
From User to Citizen - Erhardt Graeff at TICTec 2016

This is a live-blog of Erhardt Graeff's talk at the TICTeC 2016 conference. Any errors or omissions are the fault of the author, Rahul Bhargava, due to trying to type as quickly as Erhardt speaks!

Erhardt is evaluating online learning engagement as civic learning. He works a lot on case-studies for civic impact - to inform how we design these tools. Instead of focusing on specific problems, he is interested in growth of individuals to be able to effectively participate in democracy.

Lets think about how our research serves a purpose. Our current model is a debate about slacktivism or “actualizing citizens". Morozov write about slacktivism as feeling good for doing something, versus having impact in the world. Micah White talks about clicktivism as distracting participants from doing real world important work to build social movements. Others suggest this digital engagement is “actualizing citizens” to work with others online, working with networks about an issue that matters to them.

This should be a core motivation question for all of us here at the conference. The participation gap (from Jenkins in 2006) is really important. Tons of folks are publishing media online, and that is where we are doing our civic work. If you don't have the skills to publish and share, then you won't be able to participate in 21st century democracy. This is very concerning.

What kind of citizens are we building? When you look back to education scholars, we can find models for civic educaton that create different types of citizens (Westheimer and Kahne 2004).

  • Personally Responsible - folks that are following rules
  • Participatory Citizens - the organizers that try to activate others
  • Justice Oriented - folks looking at systemic problems and how to solve them

While we do need all three types, we don't need everyone to be all of these. We have to redefine what it mans to participate in society now - it is about getting the skills and experience participate and engage with others online and offline.

We need a definition of civic learning, so he uses Merrifield's one from 2001 include knowledge, abilities and dispositions. Knowledge is about awareness of tools, theories of changes, and experiences to bring to bear. Abilities is broad - anything you can do to help bring about change. Dispositions are the values you bring and your sense of efficacy; we need to understand how youth thinks about this and how it grows. You need a combination of all three of these to get there. Merrifield says this is about linking to existing experience, practicing democracy, and solving problems. You have to engage with things in different ways, include scaffolding to on-board folks, and allow for deeper self-reflection to close the loop. This last bit is about how we learn. Have to participate in communities of practice, and more.

So you can map Civic Tech in multiple ways, but civic learning has to be at the center of it. Doing this well requires all methods to understand this well - longitudinal, psychometric surveys, ethnographic insights, and pre/post tests. This has to get deeper than if you feel efficacy today, to include the context and culture behind it. We have to built up a set of validated tools to assess learning. Erhardt admits he hasn't done this - it is a shared challenge we need to work on. Shute's Stealth Assessment approach about instrumenting video games is inspirational in how to determine learning over time.

Erhardt discussing Action Path

He pivots to talk about Action Path as an example, a tool he has been building with Rahul Bhargava (me) at the MIT Center for Civic Media. Imagine walking through your community and being alerted via a notification on your smart-phone to ask you for input on an issue up for public debate. This is attempt to lower the cost of engagement for participation. His goals including increasing quantity and quality of engagement, increase knowledge of city, and increase sense of efficacy. This is “design-based research”, where we try something new to see how it goes. He assessed this via ethnographic interviews with participants.

In partnerships with SeeClickFix in New Haven he found 14 people to work with. Every interaction with the app was logged with time and location, to assess if they are doing the behaviors designed into it. He starts with qualitative aspects to understand how it made people feel. At a high level, they said that they felt more connected. the vast majority said it changed how they viewed the city. This suggests that he is on the right track. Erhardt shared a number of quotes to highlight how people ended up feeling. There were about the folks around doing the work, and what role they felt in the process - all pieces of how connected each individual is.

So this is the challenge - how are our users evolving? To address these questions he started with, we have to figure out how to track this. We must create a framework for putting civic learning at the center of our design goals.

Audience Questions

One audience membe asks: Most of what you talked about is positive reinforcement loops, but mostly we have a lack or negative? You participate and it doesn't work, or you participate and see nothing happen. Erhardt responds The center for civic media believes you can't answer this in the tech itself; it relies on the partners and deployment in context. The community provides the opportunity to asses goals were actually achieved. This is quite a design challenge.

Another person asks about values as an element of disposition. As we think about impact, what are the values that are baked into the things we make? Does civic learning espouse a specific set of values that you see come up again and again? Erhardt responds that the core for the values question is that you have to be there to empower users vs. their potentially disempowering context they are in. This is about democratic participation. If you find that is uncomfortable, then the whole civic learning framing isn't going to work for you. He hesitates to go beyond this, because tech isn't neutral and the values baked in aren't always easy to counteract. Designers need to reflect, as do organizations; and community it transparently.

by rahulb at April 27, 2016 03:32 PM

Global Voices
Buenos Aires’ Not So Little Italy
Plaza Cortazar, en el bonaerense barrio de Palermo. Imagen en Flickr del usuario Omar Uran (CC BY 2.0).

Plaza Cortazar, in the Palermo neighborhood of Buenos Aires. Photo: Flickr / Omar Uran / CC 2.0

Italian migration in Argentina is the largest and most important migratory movement in South American country. According to some estimates, about 3 million Italian immigrants arrived in Argentina between 1814 and 1970.

Italian immigrants soon become part of Argentinian society, but recent generations have developed a certain nostalgia for the Old Country, looking today to older generations to reclaim various traditions and customs.

There's a tangible “Italianness” about a neighborhood in Buenos Aires, where a Piccola Itaila (a little Italy) is emerging today:

[…] cinco cuadras que son un espacio gastronómico y cultural para compartir y expresar la italianidad. Sus impulsores ya imaginan el arco en la esquina de Arévalo y Gorriti, en el barrio porteño de Palermo.

La italianidad en la Argentina resulta difícil de definir porque logró distribuirse en toda la sociedad, porque es inasible y omnipresente. Está en las palabras entremezcladas con el lunfardo, está en el valor de la familia y los amigos, está en las recetas heredadas y argentinizadas, está en cada barrio porteño con los negocios de nombres italianos, está en los aperitivos, está en las Volturno para el café corto y fuerte. Está.

[…] five blocks that are a gastronomic and cultural space to share and express Italianness. Their promoters already imagine the arch in the corner of Arévalo and Gorriti, in the Buenos Aires’ neighborhood of Palermo.

Italianness in Argentina is hard to define as it managed to spread out all aroud society, because it's ethereal and omnipresent. We find it in the words mingled with lunfardo, we find it in the value of family and friends, in the inherited and Argentinized recipes, in each Buenos Aires’ neighborhood on the shops with Italian names, it's in the aperitifs, in the Volturno for the strong coffee. It's there.

Lunfardo” is the jargon used originally by the working classes in Buenos Aires, and some of its terms and phrases were later introduced in popular Spanish in Argentina and Uruguay.

September 20 is a special date for Italians, both at home and abroad. It was on this day in 1870 that Italian troops completed the nation's unification by defeating the Papal States under Pope Pius IX. For the past three years, in honor of this event, Italian Argentines in Buenos Aires have staged and celebrated the “Al Dente!” festival.

On Twitter, some users shared pictures of the celebration held in 2015.

This is how we lived the Al Dente Festival and ArgNoticias tells you everything. We wait for you next year again!

This is how we spent Al Dente Festival.

An important crowd. It's amazing the success gained in just three editions.

by Gabriela García Calderón at April 27, 2016 03:30 PM

Macedonian Protesters ‘Congratulate’ Pardoned Ex-Interior Minister at Her PhD Graduation
"Congratulations on Your Pardon." Photo: Meta.mk News Agency, used with permission.

“Congratulations on Your Pardon.” Photo: Meta.mk News Agency, used with permission.

Amid nationwide protests against impunity, a group of demonstrators paid a surprise visit to Macedonia's former Minister of Interior Affairs Gordana Jankuloska, a key election fraud suspect who was pardoned by a blanket amnesty issued by the country's president earlier in April.

Jankuloska resigned as minister following a deadly shootout in the Macedonian town of Kumanovo between police and a militant group in May 2015. Afterward, she finished her PhD thesis on the “suppression of transnational financial crime.” At around the time some protesters were being interrogated in police stations on suspicions of participating in a mob or rioting, Jankuloska was attending a public ceremony to formally receive her doctoral degree at Bitola University in the Macedonian city of Bitola.

At the ceremony, the protesters unfurled a banner reading “Congratulations on your pardon!” This caused a bit of dismay among the university management and the audience, including the families and friends of 13 other PhD candidates.

Wiretaps, phantom voters and a murder cover-up

Jankuloska's voice appears in secretly wiretapped conversations leaked to the public by the political opposition in early 2015. In one of them, which were recorded by the secret service under the control of the then-prime minister's cousin, Jankuloska talks to another member of the ruling party about manufacturing ID cards for phantom voters. She says:

Тие им се испечатени, луѓево си ги имаат. Има една ризична работа, ама таа ја знаевме ние и затоа инсистиравме да дадат повеќе адреси Комитетиве. Како што знаеш, имаме по 50 души у стан од 40 квадрати. Е сега, тоа е.

They are printed, people already have them. There’s one tricky thing, but we knew about it and that’s why I insisted the committees give us more addresses. As you know, we have 50 people in an apartment of only 40 square meters. It is what it is.

In another set of wiretaps, Jankuloska, her then deputy Ivo Kotevski and VMRO-DPMNE party official Martin Protoger discuss the murder of Martin Neškovski at the hands of a police officer in June 2011 during street celebrations for the ruling party's re-election victory. Many Macedonians suspected at the time that authorities and sympathetic media were trying to cover up the killing, and massive protests calling for justice lasted for three months.

The wiretaps seemed to confirm those suspicions. In their conversations, the three admit that after then-Prime Minister Gruevski's bodyguard Igor Spasov killed Neškovski, a number of police officers and officials were involved in an organized attempt to deceive the public. It appears that Jankuloska and her colleagues were not informed about all aspects of the case at first, but then actively worked on “damage control”.

Except for Spasov, who was later convicted for the murder, those who helped to cover up the crime enjoyed full impunity on Jankuloska's watch. She describes her subordinates who tried to hide who was responsible for the killing on their own as “feeble-minded” and “idiots.” Some of her quotes from the wiretaps were shared as memes, like the one below:

"I am nervous, you can't hide a murder. - Gordana Jankuloska, Minister of Interior about the murder of Martin Neškovski." Widely shared meme with a quote from leaked wiretaps.

“I am nervous, you can't hide a murder.” Gordana Jankuloska, Minister of Interior about the murder of Martin Neškovski.” Widely shared meme with a quote from leaked wiretaps.

by Anastasija Petrеvska at April 27, 2016 03:03 PM

Chinese Big Brother Is Watching You, Even in Australia
Many Chinese dissidents are signing up Wu Wei demanding Sydney University to reconsider the case and protect Wu's right on free speech . Image from change.org

Many Chinese dissidents are signing a petition in support of Wu Wei, demanding that the University of Sydney reconsider the case and protect Wu's right of free speech. Image from Change.org

Wu Wei, a Chinese-born Australian PhD candidate and tutor at the University of Sydney's business school, resigned on April 18 over petitions from Chinese students that he had made “racist” remarks anonymously on popular Chinese social media platform Weibo under the screen name “Pekojima”. 

The university had launched an internal investigation into the matter, and Wu since apologized for his comments which were highly critical of China and privileged Chinese.

On Twitter, Chinese dissidents are raising concerns that the incident, which was a hot topic on Chinese social media, represents an attempt by the Chinese authorities to scare voices of dissent abroad into silence.

As reported on mainland Chinese media outlets, the remarks that got Wu into trouble included:

  • claiming that he is pro-Japan and pro-Taiwan on Weibo and revealing that he is an Australian and that he loves Australia. Chinese-Japanese relations are frosty at best thanks to the historic bad blood, and Taiwan is a sore spot — the defeated Kuomintang forces fled there from the mainland at the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949, and communist China still considers Taiwan a wayward territory (even though Taiwan today enjoys de facto independence).
  • being proud that he didn't donate to relief efforts following the Wenchuan earthquake in 2008, which killed nearly 70,000 people in southwest China. Red Cross China had caught in corruption scandal after the earthquake. He wrote he was also proud that he did contribute to aid after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan and floods in Queensland, Australia in 2010.
  • calling China “your country” on Weibo and Putonghua (Mandarin Chinese) “your language” on Weibo.
  • showing support for Tibetan students and Chinese ex-political prisoners over their protest outside the Chinese consulate in Sydney in 2015 on Weibo. Tibetans accuse China, which incorporated Tibet into its territory over 60 years ago, of religious and cultural persecution.
  • publishing a photo on Weibo of him burning his Chinese passport after he obtained his Australian citizenship.
  • mocking overseas Chinese students for hiring others to write their thesis. He used the term tun, which literally means “dolphins” but can be understood in English as the equivalent of “pigs”. It's slang for rich, young Chinese who flout their devotion to communism abroad.
  • saying, “It is a shame to be Chinese”.

Since April 14, when the case first became a hot topic on Chinese social media, Chinese Communist Party-affiliated media have certainly egged on the outrage. Some of Wu's supporters have questioned the motives of the Chinese who complained and wondered how the overseas students managed to match Wu's anonymously written posts, most of which were published in 2015 on Weibo, with his real-life identity.

Though Wu never expressed any inappropriate remarks on class, those who called for the school to fire him said they felt uncomfortable having him as a teacher, knowing what he had written. Evin Wang wrote on Facebook with screenshots of his posts on Weibo and the hashtags #FireWeiWu and #Stopbeingracist on 13 April:

As a Chinese student, I feel very insecure in his tutorials and lectures, because of how clearly he shows his HATE towards China and the Chinese people. He makes me wonder, if he hates Chinese so much, how could he possibly teach Chinese students without any prejudice? Is there any chance that he could hurt us in his tutorial? How can we pay $4750 tuition fee per unit to get this kind of “tutor”?!WE DO NOT ACCEPT IT.

On the other hand, a Change.org petition directed at the school argues the complaints were built on a series of anonymously written comments and extracted out of context:

We are concerned that Mr Wu is becoming a victim of the Chinese government’s increasingly intrusive attempts to curb voices of dissent among overseas Chinese. Mr Wu has a long track record of critical comments against the Chinese government, its political system and social affairs on social networks.

A Chinese student studying in Australia wrote anonymously to a Hong Kong-based investigative journalism platform called the Initium, explaining how the incident has created a chilling effect on overseas Chinese circles. The student referenced “human flesh search”, a term describing when online vigilantes dig through a person's social media history to find incriminating messages to later shame them:

在微博上,中國籍留學生中還是有小比例的異見者,但在日常生活中,幾乎聽不到有人公開表達這類政治觀點,或許peer pressure讓他們學會了自我審查。[…] 僅僅在微博上表達對吳維的支持,我就被一群中國籍留學生「人肉」出一些資料,在知識網站知乎上擁有上萬粉絲的「大V」發布了我的私人信息,聲稱我和其他幾位是「辱華邪教」。這種洪水般的惡意嚇到了我,隨後我刪掉所有個人信息:公開這樣的言論會給我父母帶來麻煩。
在大部分中國籍留學生心中,這樣的「人肉」,和利用群體壓力讓一個個泛異見者沉默,是針對「不愛國」最好的解決方案之一[…]

On Weibo, there is a small circle of dissidents among overseas Chinese communities. But they seldom express their political views. Perhaps they have learned how to self-censor under peer pressure. […] I was “human flesh searched” by a group of overseas Chinese students after I expressed my support for Wu Wei on Weibo. And on Zhi Hu, a Chinese version of question-and-answer site Quora, a big-V [online celebrity] published my personal data along with a few others, labeling us as “a cult against Chinese”. I was intimidated by such hostility and had to delete all my online data and posts: the distribution of the content would bring my parents trouble.

For overseas Chinese students, such kinds of “human flesh search” actions is one of the best means to silence dissent and those who are not patriotic enough.

The Chinese student further argued that the hullabaloo has extended the obligation of “patriotism” to overseas Chinese who have foreign passports:

最近的事件中,微博上出現了不少諸如「中國人移民了也要愛中國」之類的的言論。其荒謬性自無需贅述;但這樣的言論卻被很多微博用戶「點贊」。在大部分中國籍留學生的認知中,中國血統意味着背負愛中國的道德義務;而愛中國,在澳大利亞中國籍留學生的圈子裏,則經常地被等同為「支持中國當局」。

Throughout this recent incident, many have expressed opinions such as “Chinese have to love China even if they have migrated”. This is outright ridiculous. But these opinions have gained a large number of “likes”. Among overseas Chinese students, being Chinese means an obligation to love China. And among Chinese students in Australia, loving China is equal to “supporting Chinese government”.

Twitter user @RZLHK suggested that the Chinese big brother is watching even when one has left China:

Coincidentally, the overseas Chinese students’ campaign against Wu Wei was parallel to a domestic propaganda crusade against “sea turtle spies” — Chinese nationals who have returned to China after studying overseas. On April 20, state broadcaster CCTV suggested that the increasing number of young people studying abroad could put the country's national security at risk.

Taken to the extreme, this suggests that under the watchful eye of big brother, overseas Chinese students must make a performance of their love for China's government in order to return home without posting a security threat.

by Oiwan Lam at April 27, 2016 02:58 PM

European Union Slams China Over Missing Hong Kong Booksellers
Causeway Bay Books. Kris Cheng / HKFP.

Causeway Bay Books. Kris Cheng / HKFP.

This post was written by Kris Cheng and originally published on Hong Kong Free Press on April 26, 2016. The version below is published on Global Voices under a partnership agreement.

The European Union says the missing bookseller case poses the “most serious challenge” to Hong Kong’s constitutional law and the “one country, two systems” principle — the set-up in which the city comes under communist China's sovereignty, but is largely free to run its own political and economic affairs — since the UK handed the former colony of Hong Kong over to China in 1997.

In its annual report, the EU urged Beijing to restore the trust of Hong Kong residents and the international community in the arrangements concerning the city’s autonomy.

Five Hong Kong booksellers who sold gossipy titles critical of the Chinese government went missing in Thailand, China and Hong Kong in 2015 and eventually all showed up on the mainland saying they were voluntarily collaborating in an official investigation. Two of the missing people hold EU citizenship. The report said:

The case involves a serious violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms and raises grave concerns about the rule of law under the ‘one country, two systems’ principle and the mainland authorities’ application of [People's Republic of China] laws to acts carried out by Hong Kong residents on Hong Kong soil.

The yearly report was issued by the European Commission and European Union External Action Service on April 25.

It said Lee Bo, a British national who disappeared from Hong Kong, “seems to have been an abducted”:

Despite repeated requests for information and explanation by top officials of the Hong Kong [special administrative region] as well as by the EU and other members of the international community, the [People's Republic of China] authorities failed to provide any credible explanation.

It was not the first time the EU issued a statement on the incident – the first was a call for investigation published in January. The European Parliament also adopted a resolution in February expressing “grave concern” about the disappearances.

Electoral reform process

The EU also said in the report that it hoped Hong Kong would be able to resume the electoral reform process and reach an agreement on an election system that is democratic, fair, open and transparent:

Universal suffrage would give the government greater public support and legitimacy for its efforts to reach Hong Kong’s economic objectives and tackle social challenges, such as the socioeconomic and generational divides in Hong Kong society.

The government’s political reform package, which proposed that candidates for chief executive, as the city's top leader is called, should be vetted by a nomination committee, was voted down in June 2015 by the Legislative Council.

Academic freedom

It also mentioned the rejection of the appointment of liberal law scholar Johannes Chan Man-mun as the pro-vice-chancellor of the University of Hong Kong by its governing council “because of his links to opposition groups”:

This practice threatens independent university governance and could in the long run harm academic freedom in Hong Kong. […] The controversy prompted calls for the removal of the Chief Executive as ex officio Chancellor of all universities in Hong Kong.

The report highlighted other challenges for Hong Kong including the difficulty in recruiting judges, the shortage of support staff in the courts and the low fees paid to lawyers in legal aid cases, especially criminal cases.

A government spokesperson told local public broadcaster RTHK that the Basic Law, as Hong Kong's constitutional framework is called, and the one country, two systems principle have been working well since Hong Kong was made a special administrative region of China, and that foreign governments and legislatures should not interfere with Hong Kong’s internal affairs.

by Hong Kong Free Press at April 27, 2016 02:27 PM

Indigenous Echoes, Broadcasting the Voices of Mexican Diversity on the Web
XETAR "La voz de la Sierra Tarahumara" (emisora del Sistema de Radiodifusoras Culturales Indigenistas). Imagen de CDI utilizada con autorización.

XETAR, “The Voice of Sierra Tarahumara” (Indigenous Cultural Broadcasting System). CDI image used with permission.

A project called Indigenous Echoes brings together a number of regional radio stations in Mexico with the goal of making their broadcasts available online, thus breaking down boundaries and encouraging the preservation of languages that are in danger of falling into disuse or becoming extinct.

According to the official statistics, about 6.7% of Mexico's population over the age of five speak an indigenous language in Mexico, and that percentage has declined every decade since records began.

Decades ago, the Indigenous Cultural Broadcasting System was created to promote indigenous community radio stations, and now the network of stations are expanding their reach through Indigenous Echoes. The federal government agency in charge of the project is called the National Commission for the Development of Indigenous Peoples (abbreviated as CDI), which describes the initiative in the following way:

Gracias a los enlaces en vivo con las transmisiones locales de cada una de las emisoras del Sistema, se amplían los horizontes de difusión de los pueblos indígenas de México para llevar mensajes a lugares remotos. Gracias a Ecos Indígenas es posible escuchar una gama infinita de voces y manifestaciones musicales de todas las regiones del país, las palabras y las lenguas de muchos mexicanos, y llevar a todos los puntos del planeta un mensaje de la diversidad y pluriculturalidad mexicana.

Links to live local transmissions from each of the stations in the System expand the messages of the indigenous peoples in Mexico to remote locations. Thanks to Indigenous Echoes, it is possible to listen to an infinite range of voices and musical events from all regions of the country and to the words and languages of many Mexicans, and to bring to all parts of the world a message of Mexican diversity and multiculturalism.

The commission also describes what languages are included in this space:

La emisora transmite cada jornada en las lenguas: maya, náhuatl, p'urepecha, pames, tanek, mayo, yaqui, guarijio, mazateco, cuicateco, chinanteca, zapoteca, mixe, mixteco, triqui y muchas más. Actualmente el número de lenguas y las variantes regionales integra más de 36 lenguas indígenas vivas distintas.

The station broadcasts every day in the following languages: Mayan, Náhuatl, P'urepecha, Pame, Tanek, Mayo, Yaqui, Guarijio, Mazatec, Cuicatec, Chinantec, Zapotec, Mixe, Mixtec, Triqui and many more. Currently, the number of languages and regional variants include more than 36 different indigenous languages still spoken.

You can listen to Indigenous Echoes by clicking this link.

The CDI regularly uses social media, including Twitter, to promote Indigenous Echoes, such as the following tweet about XECARH, a station located in the Mezquital Valley in Hidalgo (in the central eastern part of the country):

Listen to “La Voz Del Pueblo Hñahñu” (“The Voice of the Hñahñu”) broadcasting in Hñähñu, Náhuatl and Spanish

XECARH is a station that opened in 1999 and has sought through its work to strengthen the identity of the Otomí people residing in the region.

Indigenous radio in Mexico has been studied for many years. In 2010, Dr. Inés Cornejo recounted in an article for Revista Mexicana de Ciencias Políticas y Sociales (Mexican Magazine of Political and Social Sciences):

Las radios culturales indigenistas se han dedicado generalmente a la producción y a diversas tareas más que a la investigación propiamente dicha, pues existía una idea proclive a “hacer” la radio más que a investigarla. Cabe mencionar que en cada emisora se ha realizado la investigación de campo que mejor ha funcionado en la producción radiofónica, y cada una de éstas lo ha hecho con diferentes grados de sistematización.

Indigenous cultural radios have generally dedicated themselves to production and various tasks rather than actual research, because the idea was to “do” radio, rather than to investigate it. It is noteworthy that each station has carried out field research that has worked best in radio production, and each of them has done so with varying degrees of systematization.

In the past, Global Voices has written about Mexican efforts to preserve indigenous languages, such as a resolution of Mexico's judiciary which recognized the right of the indigenous peoples in the country to transmit their “invaluable cultural identity, but without their language, it is difficult to achieve this,” as well as a daily newspaper with national circulation which launched an edition in Mayan language (the second indigenous language of the country, after Náhuatl).

by Teodora C. Hasegan at April 27, 2016 02:26 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
Mexico’s Controversial ‘Telecom Law’ Is Now in the Supreme Court’s Court
Ojos

Image: Pixabay / Public Domain

The Second Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN) in Mexico will soon discuss the constitutionality of Articles 189 and 190 of the Federal Telecommunications and Broadcasting Act (known simply as the “Telecom Law”), which went into effect in August 2014. These articles state that, among other things, telecommunication companies must maintain records of their users’ metadata for a period of two years, and grant unrestricted access to the proper state authorities.

As defined by the NGO Derechos Digitales (Digital Rights), metadata is information that puts into context other data, such as the information we exchange when we communicate. FayerWayer Magazine adds that the stored metadata makes it possible to know many of the behaviors and habits of a user, including:

Nombre y domicilio del suscriptor
Tipo de comunicación -voz, datos, conferencia- y servicios- suplementarios, de mensajería o multimedia- empleados
En telefonía móvil: datos para conocer el origen y destino de las comunicaciones
Fecha, hora y duración de la comunicación
Fecha, hora y ubicación de la primera activación del equipo
Datos de identificación y características técnicas de los equipos
Geolocalización digitalizada

The subscriber’s name and address
The type of communication (voice transmission, voicemail, conference) and additional services employed, such as messaging or multimedia.
Data about the origin and destination of mobile communications.
The date, time, and duration of communication.
The date, time, and location of the first service activation.
Identification data and technical characteristics of the device.
The geographical position of the lines.

In 2014, when the telecom law was passed, it was billed as a much-needed reform of the telecommunications sector, which continues to be dominated by monopolies. To date, authorities have not discussed in depth why the two articles in question were included, beyond justifying them for vague reasons of “security”.

At the time, the Network in Defense of Digital Rights (R3D) filed a writ of amparo (a legal instrument that aims to defend fundamental rights and counter arbitrariness) against the legislation's “Collaboration With Justice” articles, arguing that they violate human rights. Other organizations dedicated to defending digital rights, free expression, and transparency (such as Article 19 and FUNDAR) also supported the amparo.

R3D later published a paper titled “Frequently Asked Questions About the Unconstitutional Nature of Articles 189 and 190 of the LFTR,” noting that the content of the articles violates citizens’ right to the inviolability of private communications and the right to protection of personal data. The organization also says “there is an absence of clarification about who constitutes the competent authorities.”

The following video is part of R3D’s informational materials developed to show the importance of what the court will discuss:

La conservación masiva e indiscriminada de metadatos nos asume a todos como presuntos delincuentes y nos pone en mayor riesgo […]

En otros países la retención de metadatos ya fue prohibida. En abril de 2014, el Tribunal de Justicia de la Unión Europea invalidó su ley de retención de datos argumentado que “constituye una injerencia de gran magnitud y especial gravedad en los derechos fundamentales al respecto de la vida privada…”

It is thus possible to deduce things like your personal relationships, your political and religious preferences, or health status.

Metadata conservation assumes we are all criminal suspects and puts us at greater risk.

In other countries metadata retention has already been prohibited. In April 2014, the Court of Justice of the European Union overruled its data retention law arguing that it “constitutes an interference of a large magnitude and is particularly serious with respect to the fundamental rights to privacy…”

The Supreme Court was scheduled to settle the amparo on Wednesday, March 20, 2016, but a resolution was postponed, as announced by Ivan Martinez, an advocacy writer for R3D:

Court postponed decision regarding the amparo of @r3dmx another week.

Don’t let your guard down! Stalker Law. Telecom Law.

In preparation for the hearing, more than a dozen national and international organizations for the defense of digital rights have urged the court to protect the right to privacy and reject the constitutionality of the telecom law. A joint statement from these groups says Mexico faces a “historic opportunity”:

La SCJN posee una oportunidad histórica para establecer un precedente de protección a la privacidad en México y replicar las tendencias internacionales en el tema. Por el contrario, en caso de validar la vigilancia sin controles que facilita la Ley de Telecomunicaciones, la SCJN estaría enviando un mensaje sumamente peligroso de que todo se vale con el pretexto de proteger la seguridad, incluso medidas que, lejos de proteger la seguridad, la comprometerán aún más, sobre todo en el contexto de crisis en materia de derechos humanos por el que atraviesa el país.

The Supreme Court has a historic opportunity to set a precedent for privacy protection in Mexico and to replicate international trends on the issue. On the other hand, in the event that it validates the surveillance without limitations that is facilitated by the Telecommunications Act, the Supreme Court would be sending a very dangerous message that anything goes on the pretext of protecting safety, including measures that, far from protecting safety, would endanger it even more, especially in the context of crisis in the matter of human rights that is faced by this country.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation says the indiscriminate and massive retention of data allowed by the Telecom Act is “a serious state interference and full-scale invasion of privacy in the communications of millions of Mexican citizens,” arguing that judicial oversight in such policing measures is a necessity:

A dos años de la reformas de la Ley Telecom, el estado mexicano no se ha puesto a la altura de sus compromisos internacionales en materia de derechos humanos en el entorno digital, al poseer un instrumento legal que abre la puerta de manera desproporcionada a la vigilancia de las comunicaciones de una población entera e incluso autoriza el acceso a los datos retenidos sin autorización judicial.

Two years after the Telecom Law was reformed, the Mexican state has still not caught up to its international human rights obligations; mandatory data retention is an unnecessary and disproportionate measure that affects the privacy rights of millions of Mexicans. The Telecom law also allows warrantless access to the retained metadata, contrary to international human rights standards. Determinations related to communications surveillance must be made by a competent judicial authority that is impartial and independent.

Using the hashtag #LeyTelecom (Telecom Law), Internet users have discussed the controversial legislation on Twitter:

How can the government obtain your information and what can it do with it? We explain the capabilities of the Telecom Law.

No to the retention of metadata allowed by #Mexico with the Telecom Law because it facilitates control and surveillance.

Twitter users also shared the hashtag #LeyStalker (Stalker Law) to characterize the law as invasive and spy-like.

Happy day. I hope you are all working on behalf of the world you want to see.
Especially one that respects privacy, @SCJN. Follow @r3dmx #LeyStalker <3

Concerns about granting the Mexican government greater spying powers are especially high, in light of the 2015 leaks, which revealed that several of the country's state institutions are some of the Italian company Hacking Team‘s biggest buyers of surveillance technology in the world. (And much of this equipment was purchased to intercept communications illegally.)

There are also worries that officials will abuse any new surveillance powers and put citizens at risk, if the court upholds the law's constitutionality. Carlos Brito, the director of Advocacy at R3D, says this danger is real, pointing to the federal police in Mexico currently being investigated for kidnapping and extortion:

These people can access metadata and geolocation through the #TelecomLaw? Yes. The Stalker Law authorizes them to.

Following the same logic, others online have recalled the recent cyberattack on the National Electoral Institute's database, which resulted in the massive leak of 93.4 million voters’ information.

Beware – INE's database with 93.4 million registrations is on Amazon… and they still want to retain metadata.

According to the public policy analyst and Internet law specialist Gisela Pérez de Ancha:

En un país con un serio déficit democrático y en el que funcionarios públicos son los principales responsables de agresiones a periodistas y disidentes, la medida [prevista por la Ley Telecom] podría ser utilizada fácilmente para perseguir voces incómodas dentro del marco de la legalidad formal.

In a country with a serious democratic deficit and in which public officials are primarily responsible for attacks on journalists and dissidents, the measures [allowed by the Telecom Law] could easily be used to pursue uncomfortable opinions within the framework of formal legality.

In their collaboration for Nexos Magazine, Luis Fernando García, the director of R3D, and Ana Gaitán Uribe, a lawyer for R3D, asked Mexicans to think about the risks of handing so much power over to people who have inspired such little confidence:

Es entendible que demandemos mayor seguridad ante el miedo de ser víctimas de un delito, pero debemos preguntarnos si dichas medidas realmente nos hacen estar más seguros, rescatar a más víctimas, atrapar a más criminales. O si, por el contrario, fomentan un clima de opresión en el que nuestra expectativa de privacidad se erosione. Preguntémonos, también, cuál es el daño que se ocasionaría cuando las personas equivocadas tienen un fácil acceso a todos nuestros datos sensibles. Particularmente en un país en donde la diferencia entre el Estado y la delincuencia es frecuentemente inexistente.

It is understandable that we demand greater security in the face of the fear of being victims of crime, but we must ask whether these measures really make us safer, rescue more victims, catch more criminals. Or if, on the contrary, they foster a climate of oppression in which our expectation of privacy erodes. We should ask ourselves as well, what's the harm that would be caused when the wrong people have easy access to all of our sensitive data. Particularly in a country where the difference between the state and crime is often nonexistent.

Mexico has to wait until Wednesday, April 27, 2016, for the court to announce its decision. If the court upholds the legislation, R3D says it's prepared to take the case to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

by L. Finch at April 27, 2016 11:29 AM

Global Voices
Mexico’s Controversial ‘Telecom Law’ Is Now in the Supreme Court’s Court
Ojos

Image: Pixabay / Public Domain

The Second Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN) in Mexico will soon discuss the constitutionality of Articles 189 and 190 of the Federal Telecommunications and Broadcasting Act (known simply as the “Telecom Law”), which went into effect in August 2014. These articles state that, among other things, telecommunication companies must maintain records of their users’ metadata for a period of two years, and grant unrestricted access to the proper state authorities.

As defined by the NGO Derechos Digitales (Digital Rights), metadata is information that puts into context other data, such as the information we exchange when we communicate. FayerWayer Magazine adds that the stored metadata makes it possible to know many of the behaviors and habits of a user, including:

Nombre y domicilio del suscriptor
Tipo de comunicación -voz, datos, conferencia- y servicios- suplementarios, de mensajería o multimedia- empleados
En telefonía móvil: datos para conocer el origen y destino de las comunicaciones
Fecha, hora y duración de la comunicación
Fecha, hora y ubicación de la primera activación del equipo
Datos de identificación y características técnicas de los equipos
Geolocalización digitalizada

The subscriber’s name and address
The type of communication (voice transmission, voicemail, conference) and additional services employed, such as messaging or multimedia.
Data about the origin and destination of mobile communications.
The date, time, and duration of communication.
The date, time, and location of the first service activation.
Identification data and technical characteristics of the device.
The geographical position of the lines.

In 2014, when the telecom law was passed, it was billed as a much-needed reform of the telecommunications sector, which continues to be dominated by monopolies. To date, authorities have not discussed in depth why the two articles in question were included, beyond justifying them for vague reasons of “security”.

At the time, the Network in Defense of Digital Rights (R3D) filed a writ of amparo (a legal instrument that aims to defend fundamental rights and counter arbitrariness) against the legislation's “Collaboration With Justice” articles, arguing that they violate human rights. Other organizations dedicated to defending digital rights, free expression, and transparency (such as Article 19 and FUNDAR) also supported the amparo.

R3D later published a paper titled “Frequently Asked Questions About the Unconstitutional Nature of Articles 189 and 190 of the LFTR,” noting that the content of the articles violates citizens’ right to the inviolability of private communications and the right to protection of personal data. The organization also says “there is an absence of clarification about who constitutes the competent authorities.”

The following video is part of R3D’s informational materials developed to show the importance of what the court will discuss:

La conservación masiva e indiscriminada de metadatos nos asume a todos como presuntos delincuentes y nos pone en mayor riesgo […]

En otros países la retención de metadatos ya fue prohibida. En abril de 2014, el Tribunal de Justicia de la Unión Europea invalidó su ley de retención de datos argumentado que “constituye una injerencia de gran magnitud y especial gravedad en los derechos fundamentales al respecto de la vida privada…”

It is thus possible to deduce things like your personal relationships, your political and religious preferences, or health status.

Metadata conservation assumes we are all criminal suspects and puts us at greater risk.

In other countries metadata retention has already been prohibited. In April 2014, the Court of Justice of the European Union overruled its data retention law arguing that it “constitutes an interference of a large magnitude and is particularly serious with respect to the fundamental rights to privacy…”

The Supreme Court was scheduled to settle the amparo on Wednesday, March 20, 2016, but a resolution was postponed, as announced by Ivan Martinez, an advocacy writer for R3D:

Court postponed decision regarding the amparo of @r3dmx another week.

Don’t let your guard down! Stalker Law. Telecom Law.

In preparation for the hearing, more than a dozen national and international organizations for the defense of digital rights have urged the court to protect the right to privacy and reject the constitutionality of the telecom law. A joint statement from these groups says Mexico faces a “historic opportunity”:

La SCJN posee una oportunidad histórica para establecer un precedente de protección a la privacidad en México y replicar las tendencias internacionales en el tema. Por el contrario, en caso de validar la vigilancia sin controles que facilita la Ley de Telecomunicaciones, la SCJN estaría enviando un mensaje sumamente peligroso de que todo se vale con el pretexto de proteger la seguridad, incluso medidas que, lejos de proteger la seguridad, la comprometerán aún más, sobre todo en el contexto de crisis en materia de derechos humanos por el que atraviesa el país.

The Supreme Court has a historic opportunity to set a precedent for privacy protection in Mexico and to replicate international trends on the issue. On the other hand, in the event that it validates the surveillance without limitations that is facilitated by the Telecommunications Act, the Supreme Court would be sending a very dangerous message that anything goes on the pretext of protecting safety, including measures that, far from protecting safety, would endanger it even more, especially in the context of crisis in the matter of human rights that is faced by this country.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation says the indiscriminate and massive retention of data allowed by the Telecom Act is “a serious state interference and full-scale invasion of privacy in the communications of millions of Mexican citizens,” arguing that judicial oversight in such policing measures is a necessity:

A dos años de la reformas de la Ley Telecom, el estado mexicano no se ha puesto a la altura de sus compromisos internacionales en materia de derechos humanos en el entorno digital, al poseer un instrumento legal que abre la puerta de manera desproporcionada a la vigilancia de las comunicaciones de una población entera e incluso autoriza el acceso a los datos retenidos sin autorización judicial.

Two years after the Telecom Law was reformed, the Mexican state has still not caught up to its international human rights obligations; mandatory data retention is an unnecessary and disproportionate measure that affects the privacy rights of millions of Mexicans. The Telecom law also allows warrantless access to the retained metadata, contrary to international human rights standards. Determinations related to communications surveillance must be made by a competent judicial authority that is impartial and independent.

Using the hashtag #LeyTelecom (Telecom Law), Internet users have discussed the controversial legislation on Twitter:

How can the government obtain your information and what can it do with it? We explain the capabilities of the Telecom Law.

No to the retention of metadata allowed by #Mexico with the Telecom Law because it facilitates control and surveillance.

Twitter users also shared the hashtag #LeyStalker (Stalker Law) to characterize the law as invasive and spy-like.

Happy day. I hope you are all working on behalf of the world you want to see.
Especially one that respects privacy, @SCJN. Follow @r3dmx #LeyStalker <3

Concerns about granting the Mexican government greater spying powers are especially high, in light of the 2015 leaks, which revealed that several of the country's state institutions are some of the Italian company Hacking Team‘s biggest buyers of surveillance technology in the world. (And much of this equipment was purchased to intercept communications illegally.)

There are also worries that officials will abuse any new surveillance powers and put citizens at risk, if the court upholds the law's constitutionality. Carlos Brito, the director of Advocacy at R3D, says this danger is real, pointing to the federal police in Mexico currently being investigated for kidnapping and extortion:

These people can access metadata and geolocation through the #TelecomLaw? Yes. The Stalker Law authorizes them to.

Following the same logic, others online have recalled the recent cyberattack on the National Electoral Institute's database, which resulted in the massive leak of 93.4 million voters’ information.

Beware – INE's database with 93.4 million registrations is on Amazon… and they still want to retain metadata.

According to the public policy analyst and Internet law specialist Gisela Pérez de Ancha:

En un país con un serio déficit democrático y en el que funcionarios públicos son los principales responsables de agresiones a periodistas y disidentes, la medida [prevista por la Ley Telecom] podría ser utilizada fácilmente para perseguir voces incómodas dentro del marco de la legalidad formal.

In a country with a serious democratic deficit and in which public officials are primarily responsible for attacks on journalists and dissidents, the measures [allowed by the Telecom Law] could easily be used to pursue uncomfortable opinions within the framework of formal legality.

In their collaboration for Nexos Magazine, Luis Fernando García, the director of R3D, and Ana Gaitán Uribe, a lawyer for R3D, asked Mexicans to think about the risks of handing so much power over to people who have inspired such little confidence:

Es entendible que demandemos mayor seguridad ante el miedo de ser víctimas de un delito, pero debemos preguntarnos si dichas medidas realmente nos hacen estar más seguros, rescatar a más víctimas, atrapar a más criminales. O si, por el contrario, fomentan un clima de opresión en el que nuestra expectativa de privacidad se erosione. Preguntémonos, también, cuál es el daño que se ocasionaría cuando las personas equivocadas tienen un fácil acceso a todos nuestros datos sensibles. Particularmente en un país en donde la diferencia entre el Estado y la delincuencia es frecuentemente inexistente.

It is understandable that we demand greater security in the face of the fear of being victims of crime, but we must ask whether these measures really make us safer, rescue more victims, catch more criminals. Or if, on the contrary, they foster a climate of oppression in which our expectation of privacy erodes. We should ask ourselves as well, what's the harm that would be caused when the wrong people have easy access to all of our sensitive data. Particularly in a country where the difference between the state and crime is often nonexistent.

Mexico has to wait until Wednesday, April 27, 2016, for the court to announce its decision. If the court upholds the legislation, R3D says it's prepared to take the case to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

by Lindsey Mulholland at April 27, 2016 11:25 AM

Global Voices Advocacy
Xulhaz Mannan, an LGBT Activist in Bangladesh, Is the Latest Victim in a String of Brutal Killings
Xulhaz and Tonoy. Image from their Facebook profiles.

Xulhaz and Tonoy. Image from their Facebook profiles.

Two more progressive thinkers have been hacked to death in Bangladesh's capital Dhaka.

Thirty-five year-old Xulhaz Mannan was the editor of Bangladesh's first LGBT magazine, and worked with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and as a protocol officer for a former US Ambassador to Bangladesh. He was murdered along with his friend Mahbub Rabbi Tonoy, who was a theatre activist.

The gruesome murders come two days after university professor Rezaul Karim Siddiqui was killed in a northern district of Bangladesh. This month, four progressive Bangladeshis have been hacked to death, allegedly at the hands of Islamist militants.

Since 2005, at least 23 bloggers, publishers, editors and activists have been killed and scores of others attacked or threatened with death for their progressive and secular views. These bloggers and intellectuals were not advocating or perpetrating violence. They were writing about the complex, political climate in Bangladesh and promoting the protection of human rights.

The latest attacks

According to local reports, on April 25, at around 5pm, a man posing as a deliveryman arrived at Mannan's building, pretending to deliver a package. As Mannan took him inside, a few more of his accomplices entered the house and they lethally attacked Mannan and Tonoy with machetes, signs of trained killers, leaving both of them dead on the spot. The attackers fled after firing blank shots from their guns, shouting Naraye Takbir, Allahu Akbar” [Shout it out: God is great]. On their way out they fought off a security guard and a policeman who arrived on the scene.

Mannan's LGBT magazine Roopbaan was launched in 2014 to promote greater acceptance of LGBT communities, who face widespread discrimination in Bangladesh. Mannan had been arranging an annual Rainbow Rally since 2014. It was cancelled this year after police received threats against the group; four LGBT activists were even briefly detained.

Bangladesh's untouchable Islamic militants

In a tweet sent twenty hours after the attack, the local militant organisation Ansar Al Islam claimed responsibility. The group claims to be Bangladesh's unit of al-Qaeda in the Indian Sub-Continent. The tweet claimed the victims were “promoting homosexuality in Bangladesh since 1998 with the help of their masters, the US crusaders and their Indian allies.”

Bangladeshi Islamist militants have been blamed for more than a dozen murders of secular bloggers and online activists since 2013. Many of these killings have been claimed on the Internet or on social media by accounts believed to be linked to ISIS, Ansar Al Islam or Ansarullah Bangla Team.

Bangladesh's Minister of Home affairs Mr. Asaduzzaman Khan has tried to distance the situation in his country from international militant organisations like ISIS and Al Qaeda. He maintains that home-grown militants are behind the attacks and claims that local militant groups might share the ideology of international militant organisations or may be imitating them.

The Prime Minister Hasina Sheikh has blamed the opposition, saying that they are orchestrating the attacks to destabilize the country and upset her secular rule. She recently was critical against the writers who write about religion and “offend religious sentiments” and added that anyone “killing another person in response to what they have written is not Islamic”.

People, as usual, showed their frustration and anger online and protested the murder:

Moshiul Alam asks who is next in an oped in Bangla Daily Prothom Alo:

ব্লগার থেকে পুস্তক প্রকাশক, তারপর নিরীহ সেতারবাদক। এরপর কে? যে ছবি আঁকে? নাটক-সিনেমা বানায়? গল্প-উপন্যাস লেখে? কিংবা স্রেফ বই পড়ে?

From bloggers to publishers to this innocent Sitar player. Who is next? A painter? Film director? A novelist? Or merely a reader?

Blogger, lawyer and activist Rayhan Rashid is critical of virtual activists who aren't coming out on the streets to protest:

ব্লগার মরছে, একটিভিস্টি মরছে, প্রকাশক মরছে, শিয়া মরছে, ধর্মান্তরি মরছে, ভিন্নধর্মী মরছে, বিদেশী মরছে, সাধু মরছে, সন্নাসী মরছে, সেতারবাদক মরছে, শিক্ষক মরছে, সংস্কৃতি কর্মী মরছে, অধিকার-কর্মী মরছে। যথারীতি প্রতিবার আমরা আবেগ ভরা বাক্যবাণ ছুঁড়ে দিচ্ছি ইথারে আর ফেসবুকে।

Bloggers, activists, publishers, shias, apostates, atheists, Hindus, foreigners, priests, saints, sitar players, professors, cultural activists, rights activists, none are being spared. And after every killing, we are venting only in Facebook and elsewhere online.

What are the militants thinking?

Blogger Nijhoom Majumdar read the documents published by the radical groups and analysed their ideology and threats. He writes in an explanatory post:

ওরা তাদের এই বইয়ে পরিষ্কারভাবে বলে দিয়েছে যে এই “ম্যান মেইড” (তাগুতি) আইন বা গণতন্ত্র ওরা মানে না এবং এটিকে তারা ধ্বংস করবেই। ধ্বংস করে ওরা খিলাফাহ প্রতিষ্ঠা করবে। ওরা কোরান ও হাদীসের থেকে সেগুলোর কম্পাটিবল আদর্শ থেকে আইন বানাবে এবং এবং বাংলাদেশের মাটিতে ওরা এটা করবেই। [..]

আনসার আল ইসলাম কোরান শরীফের বিভিন্ন সূরা বিশেষ করে সূরা তওবা, সূরা আহজাব ও সূরা বাকারার নানাবিধ আয়াত দিয়ে স্পস্ট দেখিয়ে দিয়েছে যে বর্তমান সময়ে যারা নবী, রাসূল কিংবা আল্লাহ সম্পর্কে প্রশ্ন উত্থাপন করে কিংবা সমালোচনা করে তাদের জন্য একটাই “ঔষধ” আর সেটির নাম হচ্ছে “তরবারী”। [..]

এই বই পড়ে বুঝতে পারলাম যে এই যে কয়েকটি অল্প দলে দলে ভাগ হয়ে এই ব্লগার, লেখক, শিক্ষক, ম্যাগাজিনের সম্পাদকদের হত্যা করা হচ্ছে এই পুরো নিয়মটি তারা ফলো করছে নবীর সময়কার “আবু রা’ফে” কে যে পদ্ধতিতে হত্যা করা হয়েছে সেই পদ্ধতিতে। এই পদ্ধতিতে একটি দলে ৪ থেকে ৫ জন থাকে। এরা অনেকদিন ধরে টার্গেটের বাড়ী রেকি করে, খোঁজ খবর নেয় এবং একদিন সুযোগ বুঝে ছুরি বা তলোয়ার নিয়ে কোপায়। [..]

এইরকম খুন যে তারা আরো করবে সেটি তারা তাদের ওয়েব সাইটে লিখে দিয়েছে পরিষ্কার ভাবে। হতে পারে সেটি লেখক, কবি, সাহিত্যিক, ব্লগার, সমাজ কর্মী। যে কেউ। এইসব খুন, খিলাফাহ প্রতিষ্ঠার জন্য এই নৃসংসতা সব কিছুরই একটা যুক্তি তারা দিয়েছে। সেটি হচ্ছে- মৃত্যুর পর তারা আল্লাহর কাছে “কোন মুখ” নিয়ে দাঁড়াবে কিংবা নবীর সামনে কিভাবে দাঁড়াবে যদি নবী বা আল্লাহ তাদের জিজ্ঞেস করে যে দুনিয়ায় তারা কেন আল্লাহর আইন প্রতিষ্ঠা করতে পারেনি। আর তারা এইসব ব্যার্থতার দায় নিয়ে পরকালে “জাহান্নামী” হতে চায় না, সে কারনেই তারা দুনিয়ায় এসব করছে।

They have stated their ideology clearly in that book that they do not accept democracy or man made (Taguti) rule of law. They will do anything to destroy these and establish a Caliphate. They will make laws in line with the Quran and Sunnah and establish their writ in Bangladesh. [..]

Ansar Al Islam misconstrues a few chapters in the Quran, claiming that for those who question the prophet Mohamed, other prophets and God or criticise them, there is only ‘medicine’ for them – that is the ‘sword’ or machetes.

I also understood from their book that the way they kill bloggers, writers, professors or magazine editors is copied from how Abu Ra'af was killed during the prophet's time. In that tactic each team consists of four to five assailants. They take regular surveillance of the target's life, gather intelligence and attack with machetes or swords.

They have stated on their website that they will kill more people: writers, poets, artists, bloggers or activists. They have provided their reason for these killings and establishing a Caliphate with violence. They say they have to answer God and the prophet if they fail to establish God's rule. They don't want to go to hell for their failures, so they are doing all this in their lifetime.

A tremendous loss for the LGBT community:

Bangladesh, a predominantly Muslim nation, criminalises homosexuality. The colonial-era British anti-sodomy law punishes gay sex with hefty fines and prison sentences of ten years to life in jail.

Xulhaz Mannan was well-known and well regarded in the gay community in Dhaka. He was openly gay and fearless. Pakistani columnist Sabrina Toppa recalls her conversation with Xulhaz:

We talked at length about why it was so important for Roopban, Bangladesh's first LGBT magazine, to be underground, to be in Bangla, to be low in subscription numbers as long as the people who needed it found it, why no journalist needed to report on the difficulty of creating an LGBT magazine if it meant imperilling the lives of all the members involved. Xulhaz was a pragmatist, but fundamentally open to the world, regardless of its prejudice and hostilities

Xulhaz was optimistic in an interview to the Guardian:

In a country where the whole concept of sex and sexuality is a taboo, we are learning to navigate our ways by highlighting ‘love’ as the center of all, as a human right that can't be denied, hoping for better, and may be ‘faster’, acceptance.. some day!

The LGBT magazine Roopbaan, had not been condemned by the government and received some support from foreign embassies. The community had been careful to protect their identities; but it seems Xulhaz was exposed too soon.

Singer Armeen Musa writes:

Can they silence our outrage, our protests, our cries,
By making sure one by one we will die ?
It's 4:30am.
And I know you're awake.
Wondering who could be next.
Is it I?

by L. Finch at April 27, 2016 09:34 AM

Imprisoned Iranian Cartoonist Hadi Heidari Goes Free
Hadi Heidari announced his release from Evin Prison with a cartoon on his Instagram account

Hadi Heidari announced his release from Evin Prison with a cartoon on his Instagram account.

Iranian cartoonist Hadi Heidari has been freed from prison. The artist announced his release on Tuesday, April 26, in a post on Instagram, where he also thanks his friends and supporters from standing by him during his incarceration.

سلام بر آزادى! | به لطف خداوند بزرگ پس از گذراندن ايام حبس، امشب از زندان اوين آزاد شدم. از همه شما دوستاني كه در اين مدت مهر و لطف خود را شامل حال بنده و خانواده ام كرديد بى نهايت ممنونم. اميدوارم لايق محبت هايتان باشم.

Hello to freedom! By the grace of God, I was released from Evin Prison tonight after serving time. Thank you all for the kindness. I am extremely grateful to all my friends who supported me and my family during this time. Thank you. I hope I am worthy of your kindness.

Heidari gained international attention for his cartoon marking the November 2015 attacks in Paris, which left more than 120 people dead. Shortly after the publication of the cartoon, he was arrested.

Hadi Heidari's cartoon 'France cried' captured the emotions following the November 13 Paris Attacks. Image from Heidari's Facebook.

Hadi Heidari's cartoon “France cried” captured the emotions following the November 13 Paris Attacks. Image from Heidari's Facebook page.

Heidari's release marks the end of only his most recent problems with the Iranian authorities. He was first arrested in 2009 in the wake of presidential elections and again in December 2010.

That said, Heidari is no stranger to controversy. His cartoon, The Blindfolded Men, published in Shargh News, also landed the newspaper's publisher in prison in 2012. Some saw the cartoon as an insult to the veterans of the Iran-Iraq war. The day after the cartoon was published, Heidari was summoned to testify in court. (The newspaper and the publisher were ultimately acquitted of all charges.)

Global Voices reported on Heidari's arrest in 2015 here.

Iran still has artists locked up, though. For instance, Atena Farghadani, another cartoonist, remains in prison. On Monday, April 25, she heard that her 12-year sentence has been reduced to 18 months. She is scheduled to be freed from prison in mid-May.

by L. Finch at April 27, 2016 09:31 AM

Global Voices
Arrests Add Fuel to Anti-Impunity Protesters’ Fire in Macedonia
Banner "Freedom for the Activists!" at April 25 protest in Skopje. Photo by Vančo Džambaski, CC BY-NC-SA.

Banner “Freedom for the Activists!” at April 25 protest in Skopje. Photo by Vančo Džambaski, CC BY-NC-SA.

As massive protests against impunity for corruption continue in several Macedonian cities, police have placed five demonstrators under house arrest and are set to bring charges of participating in a mob or rioting against several others.

Authorities first summoned the protesters for questioning, then arrested them on April 25. They include university professor Zdravko Saveski, PhD, and Vladimir Kunovski, both of whom are founding members of the newly formed leftist political party Levica (The Left). The two are accused of participation in a mob, and were ordered to serve eight days of house arrest.

According to the Ministry of Interior, Saveski burned a photograph of the president and threw objects at the president's Public Outreach Office, which was ransacked on the second day of protests. Kunovski, meanwhile, allegedly took out chairs, two drawers, and a packet of juices using the broken window of the office. The packet of juices he then shared with the people present outside, according to the ministry.

The Helsinki Committee for Human Rights has accused authorities of selectively targeting prominent protesters like them in a blatant attempt to scare demonstrators and smother public unrest. House arrest for demonstrators, of course, means that they cannot participate in any rallies.

Macedonians have flooded the streets of the capital Skopje and other cities since April 12, when President Gjorge Ivanov extended a pardon to more than 50 top politicians and businessmen who were under investigation from the Special Prosecutor's Office for suspected corruption, election fraud and misuse of power. These alleged crimes came to light in conversations wiretapped reportedly on the order of former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski that were leaked last year by the political opposition.

The pardon also earned condemnation from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the US and the European Union, among others. Negotiations scheduled for last week in Vienna to end the political crisis were canceled, and Macedonia's government at the moment is showing no signs of reversing course.

Pro-government media outlet Kurir.mk published a list of 13 demonstrators, along with their ages and city of residence, who it said were involved in the destruction of the president's Public Outreach Office and would face charges. But some of those who appeared on the list denied that they had participated in any of the damage done to the office. One woman maintained she was actually arrested for complaining to police for dragging her male friend to the ground who had been filming officers.

‘FREEDOM is not easy to obtain!’

Zdravko Saveski and Vladimir Kunovski also appear in that Kurir.mk article. The NGO Solidarity Movement published a Facebook status Saveski posted before going to the police station, accompanied with their message that they won't be intimidated.

Соборци и соборки за слобода, БЛИСКУ Е ПОБЕДАТА! Го раздрмавме режимот! Но, не смееме да потклекнеме! Борбата не е завршена! Мора да излегуваме масовно на протести. Да се види колкаво е незадоволството од режимот. А не само да се претпоставува.

СЛОБОДАТА е скапа. И мора да ја заслужиме! Секој ден во 6!

Fellow freedom fighters, VICTORY IS COMING! We have shaken the regime! But we must not yield or surrender! The fight is not over! We must go to protests in mass numbers. So that the grave discontent with the regime is seen, not just speculated.

FREEDOM is not easy to obtain! And we must fight for it to deserve it! Every day at 6 pm!

Zdravko Saveski. Photo by Vančo Džambaski, CC BY-NC-SA.

Zdravko Saveski, PhD. Photo by Vančo Džambaski, CC BY-NC-SA.

At noon on April 25, after the pair were arrested, Levica organized a press conference in front of the court, and dozens other protesters came to express their solidarity. At the emergency press conference in front of the Criminal Court, Levica condemned the authorities’ actions. According to member Dimitar Apasiev: “This is a question of open political persecution against political opponents, following right after announcements made by a certain civil movement that claimed some parties should be banned, removed from the legal system — something that is already starting to enfold.”

The last bit is a reference to a speech made by a counter-demonstrator from the GDOM movement (which supports the ruling party VMRO-DPMNE), who called for constitutional amendments “banning the work of civil organisations and political parties that are destroying Macedonia.”

Levica demanded that the minister and deputy minister of interior affairs should record the criminal reports but refrain from processing them until the political crisis is resolved. The party members also called on public prosecutors to refrain from requiring arrest for these cases and for judges overseeing the cases to under no circumstances file the criminal charges.

World War II veterans join the protest

Outrage over the arrests was palpable on social media and seemed to fuel the determination of protesters to gather at 6 pm, in spite of cold and rain, as they have every day since April 12. The sentiment was summed up by activist Mariglen Demiri, who wrote “We have more people than you have prisons.”

In Skopje, a new group announced its presence with a large banner — veterans of the World War II struggle against fascism. Men and women in their 90s marched at the head of the column that walked from the Special Prosecutors’ Office to the Parliament.

Banner of Union of World War II Veterans at the April 25 protest in Skopje. Photo by Vančo Džambaski, CC BY-NC-SA.

Banner of Union of World War II Veterans at the April 25 protest in Skopje. Photo by Vančo Džambaski, CC BY-NC-SA.

After a round of speeches by activists and artists, thousands of participants took a new route for the daily protest march through the soaking rain. They walked besides the new building of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, throwing paint on its plaster and marble facade, and then as usual ended their procession in front of the government.

Protesters marching through an underpass in Skopje on April 25. Photo by Vančo Džambaski, CC BY-NC-SA.

Protesters marching through an underpass in Skopje on April 25. Photo by Vančo Džambaski, CC BY-NC-SA.

Besides Skopje, during that day protests took place in Bitola, Strumica and Kumanovo. More cities joined the so-called Colorful Revolution movement on April 26, with demonstrations scheduled in Tetovo, Ohrid, Radoviš, Kičevo, Bitola, Prilep, and Veles.

by Anastasija Petrеvska at April 27, 2016 06:18 AM

Imprisoned Iranian Cartoonist Hadi Heidari Goes Free
Hadi Heidari announced his release from Evin Prison with a cartoon on his Instagram account

Hadi Heidari announced his release from Evin Prison with a cartoon on his Instagram account.

Iranian cartoonist Hadi Heidari has been freed from prison. The artist announced his release on Tuesday, April 26, in a post on Instagram, where he also thanks his friends and supporters from standing by him during his incarceration.

سلام بر آزادى! | به لطف خداوند بزرگ پس از گذراندن ايام حبس، امشب از زندان اوين آزاد شدم. از همه شما دوستاني كه در اين مدت مهر و لطف خود را شامل حال بنده و خانواده ام كرديد بى نهايت ممنونم. اميدوارم لايق محبت هايتان باشم.

Hello to freedom! By the grace of God, I was released from Evin Prison tonight after serving time. Thank you all for the kindness. I am extremely grateful to all my friends who supported me and my family during this time. Thank you. I hope I am worthy of your kindness.

Heidari gained international attention for his cartoon marking the November 2015 attacks in Paris, which left more than 120 people dead. Shortly after the publication of the cartoon, he was arrested.

Hadi Heidari's cartoon 'France cried' captured the emotions following the November 13 Paris Attacks. Image from Heidari's Facebook.

Hadi Heidari's cartoon “France cried” captured the emotions following the November 13 Paris Attacks. Image from Heidari's Facebook page.

Heidari's release marks the end of only his most recent problems with the Iranian authorities. He was first arrested in 2009 in the wake of presidential elections and again in December 2010.

That said, Heidari is no stranger to controversy. His cartoon, The Blindfolded Men, published in Shargh News, also landed the newspaper's publisher in prison in 2012. Some saw the cartoon as an insult to the veterans of the Iran-Iraq war. The day after the cartoon was published, Heidari was summoned to testify in court. (The newspaper and the publisher were ultimately acquitted of all charges.)

Global Voices reported on Heidari's arrest in 2015 here.

Iran still has artists locked up, though. For instance, Atena Farghadani, another cartoonist, remains in prison. On Monday, April 25, she heard that her 12-year sentence has been reduced to 18 months. She is scheduled to be freed from prison in mid-May.

by Tori Egherman at April 27, 2016 03:18 AM

April 26, 2016

Global Voices
Xulhaz Mannan, an LGBT Activist in Bangladesh, Is the Latest Victim in a String of Brutal Killings
Xulhaz and Tonoy. Image from their Facebook profiles.

Xulhaz and Tonoy. Image from their Facebook profiles.

Two more progressive thinkers have been hacked to death in Bangladesh's capital Dhaka.

Thirty-five year-old Xulhaz Mannan was the editor of Bangladesh's first LGBT magazine, and worked with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and as a protocol officer for a former US Ambassador to Bangladesh. He was murdered along with his friend Mahbub Rabbi Tonoy, who was a theatre activist.

The gruesome murders come two days after university professor Rezaul Karim Siddiqui was killed in a northern district of Bangladesh. This month, four progressive Bangladeshis have been hacked to death, allegedly at the hands of Islamist militants.

Since 2005, at least 23 bloggers, publishers, editors and activists have been killed and scores of others attacked or threatened with death for their progressive and secular views. These bloggers and intellectuals were not advocating or perpetrating violence. They were writing about the complex, political climate in Bangladesh and promoting the protection of human rights.

The latest attacks

According to local reports, on April 25, at around 5pm, a man posing as a deliveryman arrived at Mannan's building, pretending to deliver a package. As Mannan took him inside, a few more of his accomplices entered the house and they lethally attacked Mannan and Tonoy with machetes, signs of trained killers, leaving both of them dead on the spot. The attackers fled after firing blank shots from their guns, shouting Naraye Takbir, Allahu Akbar” [Shout it out: God is great]. On their way out they fought off a security guard and a policeman who arrived on the scene.

Mannan's LGBT magazine Roopbaan was launched in 2014 to promote greater acceptance of LGBT communities, who face widespread discrimination in Bangladesh. Mannan had been arranging an annual Rainbow Rally since 2014. It was cancelled this year after police received threats against the group; four LGBT activists were even briefly detained.

Bangladesh's untouchable Islamic militants

In a tweet sent twenty hours after the attack, the local militant organisation Ansar Al Islam claimed responsibility. The group claims to be Bangladesh's unit of al-Qaeda in the Indian Sub-Continent. The tweet claimed the victims were “promoting homosexuality in Bangladesh since 1998 with the help of their masters, the US crusaders and their Indian allies.”

Bangladeshi Islamist militants have been blamed for more than a dozen murders of secular bloggers and online activists since 2013. Many of these killings have been claimed on the Internet or on social media by accounts believed to be linked to ISIS, Ansar Al Islam or Ansarullah Bangla Team.

Bangladesh's Minister of Home affairs Mr. Asaduzzaman Khan has tried to distance the situation in his country from international militant organisations like ISIS and Al Qaeda. He maintains that home-grown militants are behind the attacks and claims that local militant groups might share the ideology of international militant organisations or may be imitating them.

The Prime Minister Hasina Sheikh has blamed the opposition, saying that they are orchestrating the attacks to destabilize the country and upset her secular rule. She recently was critical against the writers who write about religion and “offend religious sentiments” and added that anyone “killing another person in response to what they have written is not Islamic”.

People, as usual, showed their frustration and anger online and protested the murder:

Moshiul Alam asks who is next in an oped in Bangla Daily Prothom Alo:

ব্লগার থেকে পুস্তক প্রকাশক, তারপর নিরীহ সেতারবাদক। এরপর কে? যে ছবি আঁকে? নাটক-সিনেমা বানায়? গল্প-উপন্যাস লেখে? কিংবা স্রেফ বই পড়ে?

From bloggers to publishers to this innocent Sitar player. Who is next? A painter? Film director? A novelist? Or merely a reader?

Blogger, lawyer and activist Rayhan Rashid is critical of virtual activists who aren't coming out on the streets to protest:

ব্লগার মরছে, একটিভিস্টি মরছে, প্রকাশক মরছে, শিয়া মরছে, ধর্মান্তরি মরছে, ভিন্নধর্মী মরছে, বিদেশী মরছে, সাধু মরছে, সন্নাসী মরছে, সেতারবাদক মরছে, শিক্ষক মরছে, সংস্কৃতি কর্মী মরছে, অধিকার-কর্মী মরছে। যথারীতি প্রতিবার আমরা আবেগ ভরা বাক্যবাণ ছুঁড়ে দিচ্ছি ইথারে আর ফেসবুকে।

Bloggers, activists, publishers, shias, apostates, atheists, Hindus, foreigners, priests, saints, sitar players, professors, cultural activists, rights activists, none are being spared. And after every killing, we are venting only in Facebook and elsewhere online.

What are the militants thinking?

Blogger Nijhoom Majumdar read the documents published by the radical groups and analysed their ideology and threats. He writes in an explanatory post:

ওরা তাদের এই বইয়ে পরিষ্কারভাবে বলে দিয়েছে যে এই “ম্যান মেইড” (তাগুতি) আইন বা গণতন্ত্র ওরা মানে না এবং এটিকে তারা ধ্বংস করবেই। ধ্বংস করে ওরা খিলাফাহ প্রতিষ্ঠা করবে। ওরা কোরান ও হাদীসের থেকে সেগুলোর কম্পাটিবল আদর্শ থেকে আইন বানাবে এবং এবং বাংলাদেশের মাটিতে ওরা এটা করবেই। [..]

আনসার আল ইসলাম কোরান শরীফের বিভিন্ন সূরা বিশেষ করে সূরা তওবা, সূরা আহজাব ও সূরা বাকারার নানাবিধ আয়াত দিয়ে স্পস্ট দেখিয়ে দিয়েছে যে বর্তমান সময়ে যারা নবী, রাসূল কিংবা আল্লাহ সম্পর্কে প্রশ্ন উত্থাপন করে কিংবা সমালোচনা করে তাদের জন্য একটাই “ঔষধ” আর সেটির নাম হচ্ছে “তরবারী”। [..]

এই বই পড়ে বুঝতে পারলাম যে এই যে কয়েকটি অল্প দলে দলে ভাগ হয়ে এই ব্লগার, লেখক, শিক্ষক, ম্যাগাজিনের সম্পাদকদের হত্যা করা হচ্ছে এই পুরো নিয়মটি তারা ফলো করছে নবীর সময়কার “আবু রা’ফে” কে যে পদ্ধতিতে হত্যা করা হয়েছে সেই পদ্ধতিতে। এই পদ্ধতিতে একটি দলে ৪ থেকে ৫ জন থাকে। এরা অনেকদিন ধরে টার্গেটের বাড়ী রেকি করে, খোঁজ খবর নেয় এবং একদিন সুযোগ বুঝে ছুরি বা তলোয়ার নিয়ে কোপায়। [..]

এইরকম খুন যে তারা আরো করবে সেটি তারা তাদের ওয়েব সাইটে লিখে দিয়েছে পরিষ্কার ভাবে। হতে পারে সেটি লেখক, কবি, সাহিত্যিক, ব্লগার, সমাজ কর্মী। যে কেউ। এইসব খুন, খিলাফাহ প্রতিষ্ঠার জন্য এই নৃসংসতা সব কিছুরই একটা যুক্তি তারা দিয়েছে। সেটি হচ্ছে- মৃত্যুর পর তারা আল্লাহর কাছে “কোন মুখ” নিয়ে দাঁড়াবে কিংবা নবীর সামনে কিভাবে দাঁড়াবে যদি নবী বা আল্লাহ তাদের জিজ্ঞেস করে যে দুনিয়ায় তারা কেন আল্লাহর আইন প্রতিষ্ঠা করতে পারেনি। আর তারা এইসব ব্যার্থতার দায় নিয়ে পরকালে “জাহান্নামী” হতে চায় না, সে কারনেই তারা দুনিয়ায় এসব করছে।

They have stated their ideology clearly in that book that they do not accept democracy or man made (Taguti) rule of law. They will do anything to destroy these and establish a Caliphate. They will make laws in line with the Quran and Sunnah and establish their writ in Bangladesh. [..]

Ansar Al Islam misconstrues a few chapters in the Quran, claiming that for those who question the prophet Mohamed, other prophets and God or criticise them, there is only ‘medicine’ for them – that is the ‘sword’ or machetes.

I also understood from their book that the way they kill bloggers, writers, professors or magazine editors is copied from how Abu Ra'af was killed during the prophet's time. In that tactic each team consists of four to five assailants. They take regular surveillance of the target's life, gather intelligence and attack with machetes or swords.

They have stated on their website that they will kill more people: writers, poets, artists, bloggers or activists. They have provided their reason for these killings and establishing a Caliphate with violence. They say they have to answer God and the prophet if they fail to establish God's rule. They don't want to go to hell for their failures, so they are doing all this in their lifetime.

A tremendous loss for the LGBT community:

Bangladesh, a predominantly Muslim nation, criminalises homosexuality. The colonial-era British anti-sodomy law punishes gay sex with hefty fines and prison sentences of ten years to life in jail.

Xulhaz Mannan was well-known and well regarded in the gay community in Dhaka. He was openly gay and fearless. Pakistani columnist Sabrina Toppa recalls her conversation with Xulhaz:

We talked at length about why it was so important for Roopban, Bangladesh's first LGBT magazine, to be underground, to be in Bangla, to be low in subscription numbers as long as the people who needed it found it, why no journalist needed to report on the difficulty of creating an LGBT magazine if it meant imperilling the lives of all the members involved. Xulhaz was a pragmatist, but fundamentally open to the world, regardless of its prejudice and hostilities

Xulhaz was optimistic in an interview to the Guardian:

In a country where the whole concept of sex and sexuality is a taboo, we are learning to navigate our ways by highlighting ‘love’ as the center of all, as a human right that can't be denied, hoping for better, and may be ‘faster’, acceptance.. some day!

The LGBT magazine Roopbaan, had not been condemned by the government and received some support from foreign embassies. The community had been careful to protect their identities; but it seems Xulhaz was exposed too soon.

Singer Armeen Musa writes:

Can they silence our outrage, our protests, our cries,
By making sure one by one we will die ?
It's 4:30am.
And I know you're awake.
Wondering who could be next.
Is it I?

by Rezwan at April 26, 2016 11:56 PM

Joi Ito
Reinventing Bookkeeping and Accounting (In Search of Certainty)

Accounting underlies finance, business, and enables the levying of taxes for raising armies, building cities, and managing resources at scale. In fact, it is the way that the world keeps track of almost everything of value.

Accounting predates money, and was originally used by ancient communities to track and manage their limited resources. There are accounting records from Mesopotamia dating back more than 7,000 years, listing the exchange of goods. Over time, accounting became the language and information infrastructure for trade. Accounting and auditing enabled the creation of vast empires, such as those built by the Egyptians and the Romans.

As accounting scaled, it made sense to go from counting sheep, bushels of grain, and cords of wood, to calculating and managing resources using their exchange value in terms of an abstract unit: money. In addition to exchange, money allowed for recording and managing obligations. So where earlier bookkeeping just kept records of promises and exchanges between individuals (Alice lent Bob a goat on this date), money opened up a new realm of accounting by dramatically simplifying the management of accounts and allowing markets, companies, and governments to scale. However, through the centuries, this once powerful simplification has a resulted in a surprising downside-a downside made worse in today's digitally connected world.

Defining Value

While companies today use enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems to keep track of widgets, contractual obligations, and employees, the accounting system-and the laws that support it-require us to convert just about everything into monetary value, and enter it into a ledger system based on the 700-year-old double-entry bookkeeping method. This is the very same system used by the Florentine merchants of the 13th century and described by Luca Pacioli, the "father of accounting," in his book Summa de Arithmetica, Geometria, Proportioni et Proportionalità, published 1494.

When you take, for instance, a contract that pays out $1 million if it rains tomorrow, and put it into your accounts, you will be required to guess the chance of rain-maybe 50 percent-and value that asset at something like $500,000. The contract will actually never pay out $500,000; in the end, it will either be worth zero (no rain) or $1 million (rain). But if you were forced to trade it today, you'd probably sell it for something close to $500,000; so for tax and management purposes, you "value" the contract at $500,000. On the other hand, if you are unable to sell it because there are no buyers, it might actually be valued at zero today by regulators interested in liquidity, but then suddenly valued at $1 million tomorrow if it rains.

Basically, a company's accounts are an aggregate of cells in various ledgers with numbers that represent a numerical value denominated in some currency-yen, dollars, euros, etc.-and those numbers are added up and organized into both a balance sheet and an income statement that show the health of the company to management and investors. They are also used to calculate profits and the amount of tax owed to governments. This balance sheet is a list of assets and liabilities. If you looked in the assets column, you'd have a number of items that you would be reporting as having value, including things like printing presses, lines of code, intellectual property, obligations from people who may or may not pay you in the future, cash in various countries' currencies, and best guesses on things like the future prices of a commodity or the value of another company.

As an auditor, investor, or trading partner, you might want to drill down and try to test the assumptions that the company is making and see what would happen if those were incorrect at the time they were recorded, or turned out to be wrong sometime in the future. You might also want to understand how buying another company would change your own company based on the way your obligations and bets interacted with theirs. You could rack up millions of dollars in auditor fees to "get to the bottom" of any number of assumptions. The process would involve manually reviewing the legal contracts, and also the assumptions made in every cell of every spreadsheet. That's because standard accounting is a very "lossy" process that reduces complex and context-dependant functions and transforms them into static numbers at every step. The underlying information is somewhere, but only exposed with a lot of manual digging.

The modern complex financial system is full of companies that have figured out ways to guess when investors and the companies themselves have made mistakes in their assumptions. These companies bet against a company with inaccurate pricing or take advantage of the gap in information to convert this into financial returns for themselves. When these mistakes are duplicated across the system, it can cause fluctuation amplification that also allows companies to make more money both as markets rise, as well as fall, if they can successfully predict those fluctuations. In fact, as long as the whole system doesn't collapse, smart traders make more money on fluctuation than on stability.

Just like rodent exterminators aren't excited about the idea of rodents being completely eliminated because they would no longer have jobs, those financial institutions that make money by "making the system more efficient and eliminating waste" don't really want a stable system that isn't wasteful.

Right now, the technology of the financial system is built on top of a way of thinking about money and value that was designed back when all we had were pen and paper, and when reducing the complexity of the web of dependencies and obligations was the only way to make the system functionally efficient. The way we reduce complexity is to use a common method of pricing, put elements into categories, and add them up. This just builds on 700­-year­-old building blocks, trying to make the system "better" by doing very sophisticated analysis of the patterns and information without addressing the underlying problem of a lossy and oversimplified view of the world: a view where everything of "value" should be as quickly as possible recorded as a number.

The standard idea of the "value" of things is a reductionist view of the world that is useful to scale the trading of commodities that are roughly of equal worth to a large set of people. But, in fact, most things have very different values to different people at different times, and I would argue that much-if not most-things of value can't and probably shouldn't be reduced to numbers on a spreadsheet. Financial "value" has a very specific meaning. A home clearly has "value" because someone can live in it and it's useful. However, if no one wants to buy it and no one is buying similar homes on the market, you can't set a price for it; it is illiquid and it is impossible to determine its "fair market value." Some contracts and financial instruments are nonnegotiable, may not have a "fair market value," and may even have no value to you if you needed money (or an apple) RIGHT NOW. Part of the confusion comes from the difficulty of describing legal and mathematical ideas in plain English, and the role of context and timing.

One example is exchange rates. My wife moved to Boston from Japan several years ago, but still converts prices into yen. She sometimes comments on how expensive something has gotten because the value of the yen has diminished. Because most of our earnings and spending are in dollars, I always have to remind her, the "value" in yen is irrelevant to her now, although not irrelevant to her mother, who is in Japan.

We have become accustomed to the notion that things have a "price," and that "price" is equivalent to its "value." But an email from you to me about a feeling that you had about our last conversation is probably valuable to me at a particular time and probably not valuable to most people. A single apple is worth a lot more to a hungry person than the owner of an apple orchard. Context is everything.

"Can't Buy Me Love" - The Beatles

The economics notion of consumers making financial decisions to maximize "utility" as a kind of proxy for happiness is another example of how the notion of a universal system of "value" oversimplifies its complexity-so much so that the models that assume that humans are "economically rational" actors in a marketplace simply don't work. The simplest version of this model would mean that the more money you had, the happier you would be, which Daniel Kahneman and Angus Deaton argue is true up to about $75,000 a year in annual income.[1]

Today, we have the technology and the computational power to create a system of accounts that could retain and deal with a lot of the complexity that the current system was designed to avoid. There is, for example, no reason that every entry in our books needs to be a number. Each cell could be an algorithmic representation of the obligations and dependencies that it represents. In fact, using machine learning, accounts could become sophisticated probabilistic models for what might happen depending on how things around them change. This would mean that the "value" of any system would change depending on who was asking, their location, and the time parameters.

Today, when a bank regulator conducts a stress test, it gives a bank a scenario-changes in the credit markets or the prices of certain things. The bank is then required to return a report on whether it would crash or remain solvent. This requires a lot of human labor to go through the accounts and run simulations. But what if the accounts were all algorithmic, and instead you could instantly run a program to provide the answer to the question? What if you had a learning model that could answer a more important question: "What sets of changes to the market WOULD make it crash, and why?" That's really what we want to know. We want to know this not just for one bank, but the whole system of banks, investors, and everything that interacts.

When I'm buying something from a company-let's say a credit default swap from your company, AIG-what I would want to know is whether, when the day comes to pay the obligation, in the unlikely chance that the AA mortgage-backed bonds that I was betting against defaulted, would your company be able to pay? Right now, there is no easy way to do this. However, what if all of the obligations and contracts, instead of being written on paper and recorded as numbers, were actually computable and "visible"? You'd immediately be able to see that, in fact, in the scenario in which you'd have to pay me, you'd actually have no money since you'd written similar contracts to so many people that you'd be broke. Right now, even the banks themselves can't see this unless an internal investigator thinks to look for this ahead of time.

Rethinking the Fundamentals of Accounting

With cutting edge cryptography like zero-knowledge proofs and secure multiparty computation, there are ways we might be able to keep these accounts open to each other without compromising business and personal privacy. While computing every contract as a cell in a huge set of accounts, every time anyone asked a question it would exceed even today's computing capacity. But with machine learning and the creation of models, we might be able to dampen, if not stabilize, the massive amplifications of fluctuations. These bubbles and collapses occur today, in part, because we are building our whole system on an oversimplified house of cards, with the handlers having an incentive to make them fragile and opaque in order to introduce inefficiencies they can exploit later to make money for themselves.

I think the current excitement about Bitcoin and distributed ledgers has created a great opportunity to take advantage of its flexible and reprogrammable nature, allowing us to rethink the fundamental system of accounts. I'm much more interested in this than in apps for banks, or even new ideas in finance, which will address some of the symptoms without taking a shot at eliminating one of the root causes of the impossibly complex and outdated system that we've built on a 700 year old double-entry bookkeeping method-the very same system used by the Florentine merchants of the 13th century. It feels like we are using integers when we should be using imaginary numbers. Reinventing accounting should be more like discovering a new number theory than tweaking the algorithms, which is what I feel like we've been doing for the last several hundred years.

--

Originally posted on PubPub.ito.com. Please read and post comments there.

References

[1]Daniel Kahneman and Angus Deaton. "High Income Improves Evaluation of Life But Not Emotional Well-Being". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. (2010).

by Joi at April 26, 2016 10:32 PM

Global Voices
French Activists Say If You Are Harassed or You See Harassment on the Street, Speak Up
'Hey sweetie, how are you?' 'You, you look hot.' 'Nice tail! " Screenshot from the Hé' app by Stop Harcèlement de Rue, which simulates sexual harassment in the street.

‘Hey sweetie, how are you?’ ‘You, you look hot.’ ‘Nice tail! ” Screenshot from the Hé’ app by Stop Harcèlement de Rue, which simulates sexual harassment in the street.

Unfortunately, sexual harassment of women in public spaces is nothing new in France, just as it is in other parts of the world. A French amateur survey on Google Forms, which has gathered over 5,000 responses since it was created in 2013, shows that 94% of respondents say they have been a victim of physical or verbal street harassment. With regards to the frequency of harassment, 32% replied: ‘at least once a week’.

Another study carried out by the Thomson Reuters foundation in 2014, revealed that 85% of women in Paris “have little faith” that anyone would come to their aide if they were assaulted on the metro. A different study found 41% of women in Paris claim to have been subjected to physical violence (a pinch on the bottom, a grope, or even rape).

However, various France-based organisations such as Projet Crocodile (The Crocodile Project), Paye Ta Shneck (Pay Your Squeeze) and Stop Harcèlement de Rue (Stop Street Harassment) are all fighting to raise awareness of street harassment and educate the public on why it is unacceptable in the hopes of eradicating it forever.

They also provide strategies for those who witness or experience such acts. One such technique is to create a diversion, as illustrated by Vincent Lahouze, an artist based in Paris, France. He recounted on his blog how he ended a potentially dangerous situation of harassment in the Parisian metro:

La jeune femme avait le visage tourné vers la vitre, elle semblait tétanisée. Je me suis approché encore, pour écouter ce que l’homme lui disait, collé à elle. (Toi j’vais te baiser tu sais oh oui j’vais te baiser salement et tu vas aimer ça hein bien sûr que tu vas aimer ça mmh allez t’écoutes ce que j’dis petite pute réponds petite salope j’sais que tu en as envie je l’ai vu dans ton regard de petite chienne en chaleur fallait pas porter une jupe si t’es pas intéressée ouais toi j’vais te baiser…) La jeune femme ne disait rien, le regard fixé sur son reflet, sans sourire, pétrifiée. [..] C’est fou comme la peur nous paralyse dans ces moments-là, vraiment.

Mais je me suis assis à côté d’eux et tout en croisant le regard de la jeune femme, je lui ai dit, Hey Camille! Ça faisait un bail que je ne t’avais pas vue! Comment ça va, ma cousine? puis me tournant vers l’homme, avec un grand sourire, je ne vous dérange pas, j’espère? Ces quelques mots ont suffit à la jeune femme pour reprendre vie, et comprenant ce que je tentais de faire m’a suivi dans ma brève comédie familiale. L’homme a immédiatement retiré sa main, comme si les fils de sa marionnette venaient de se couper, comme s’il venait de se brûler au contact de la peau de la jeune femme. Sans un regard, il s’est levé, et il est sorti de la rame sans se retourner.

The young woman had her face turned to the window, she seemed petrified. I approached closer, to hear what the man was saying to her in her ear, while pinning her in her corner. He whispered to her: ‘I'm going to take you good, you know, I'm going to have you hard and you're going to love it. Of course, you're going to love it …listen to what I'm saying, you little b*tch, answer me, you little whore, I know you want it, I saw it in your little slut face…You shouldn't wear a skirt if you're not up for it, yeah you, I'm going to take you…’ The young woman said nothing, her gaze fixed on her reflection, frozen, paralyzed with fear. […] It's crazy how fear can paralyse us in moments like this.

I sat down next to them and, catching the young women's eye, I said to her, ‘Hey Camille! I haven't seen you for ages! How's it going, cousin?’ then, turning towards the man with a big smile, ‘I'm not bothering you, I hope?’  These few words were enough to bring the young woman back to life and, understanding what I was trying to do, she played along with my brief family reunion make-believe. The man retracted his hand immediately, as if his puppet strings had just been cut, as if he had just burnt himself on the young woman's skin. He got up and left the carriage without so much as a look back.

Below is a poster from Stop Harcèlement de Rue which explains how to react if harassed:

How to react when faced with street harassment: 1) State the problem: ‘Your hand is on my thigh’; 2) The impact: ‘It makes me uncomfortable’; 3) The solution: ‘Remove it’.

How to react when faced with street harassment: 1) State the problem: ‘Your hand is on my thigh’; 2) The impact: ‘It makes me uncomfortable’; 3) The solution: ‘Remove it’.

Stop Harcèlement de Rue encourages people to speak up if they see their friends or strangers harassing someone. The organisation also released a mobile app last year called Hé! (Hey!) which simulates street harassment for anyone who has never experienced it personally.

In 2015, the government introduced a plan to combat sexist violence in the street. An awareness campaign was launched to promote “a free conversation on the subject of street harassment”, including video advertisements such as this one (with English subtitles):

In an interview with newspaper Le Figaro in March 2015, Secretary of State for Women's Rights Pascale Boistard explained why the government introduced the plan:

Il faut que chacun sache comment réagir face à des situations inacceptables. Nous réfléchissons également à la façon dont de nouvelles technologies peuvent permettre aux voyageurs importunés comme aux témoins de prévenir les forces de l'ordre de façon discrète, comme avec un SMS ou via une application dédiée. Mais le plus important, à mes yeux, est de faire prendre conscience aux femmes de leurs droits.

Everyone should know how to react when faced with an unacceptable situation. We also consider the ways in which new technologies can allow both hassled travellers and witnesses alike to alert the police in a discreet manner, for example by text or via a dedicated application. But the most important, in my eyes, is to make women more aware of their rights.

Further French-language resources against harassment are available in the toolkit page of the Stop Street Harassment project and at the NON, c'est non (No means No) project.

by Philip Smart at April 26, 2016 04:11 PM

After Weeks of Scorching Heat, Myanmar Is Hit by the Worst Hailstorm in 50 Years
Kakku pagodas in southern Shan State damaged after strong winds. Photo by Myanmar Army Commander-in-Chief Office / Facebook. Photo taken from The Irrawaddy, content partner of Global Voices.

Kakku pagodas in southern Shan State damaged after strong winds. Photo by Myanmar Army Commander-in-Chief Office / Facebook. Photo taken from The Irrawaddy, content partner of Global Voices.

A rare hailstorm recently hit several provinces of Myanmar, at a time when the whole country is experiencing a prolonged drought caused by rising temperatures. Strong winds struck Mandalay, Sagaing and the states of Shan and Chin, while hailstones as big as golf balls rained down on these regions.

More than 1,700 pagodas and 7,500 houses were damaged across the country. Authorities described the freak hailstorm as the worst in 50 years.

Many residents were surprised to see hailstones in the middle of summer. Currently, Myanmar is struggling to cope from the harsh impact of the El Niño weather phenomenon. Water shortages are affecting both urban and rural residents, especially farmers who are dependent on rain for the cultivation of their crops. According to hospitals, heat stroke cases are on the rise because of the hot weather.

Meteorologists said the extreme weather events are related to the “atmospheric instability” in the region.

Below are some of the hailstorm photos shared by Myanmar Internet users:

#Hailstones at my home back door Photo taken by Dad. (23Apr16)

A photo posted by WinLei Phyu (@winleiphyu) on

by Mong Palatino at April 26, 2016 02:42 PM

Latin America's Women Confront Sexual Harassment By Sharing Their Stories of Abuse
"No dejes que pase de nuevo". Foto del usuario de Flickr Pablo Fernández. Usada bajo licencia CC 2.0

“Do not let it happen again.” Photo from the Flickr account of Pablo Fernández. Used under CC 2.0 licence.

Over the past few days, the Twitter hashtag #MiPrimerAcoso (“My First Assault”) has accumulated tweets from tens of thousands of women relating harrowing testimonies of their first – and often not their last – experiences with sexual harassment.

This conversation began on social networks in support of a nationwide protest against sexist violence, called “Vivas Nos Queremos” (“We Want Us Alive”), that was held in several cities throughout Mexico on April 24, 2012.

Online the movement hasn't been limited to people in Mexico, and women from other Latin American countries have also dared to share their painful experiences.

When and what was your first encounter with sexual harassment? Today from 2pm (Mexican time) use the hashtag #MiPrimerAcoso. We all have a story, speak out!

The testimonies

Asked to share stories about the first time they were sexually harassed, most women have recalled assaults that occurred in childhood. Here are some Twitter users demonstrating just how early such violence begins:

I was 12 years old. I was at the school gate waiting to enter. A guy passed by and put his hand underneath my jumper. My First Assault

My First Assault: I was 11 years old and a guy passed by on a bicycle and squeezed my breast. A lady in the street blamed me for wearing that blouse.

I was on the tram. 13 years old. The guy put his genitals on my shoulder. I stood still. I didn’t know what to do. I was disgusted and ashamed. My First Assault.

My First Assault: I was about 8 years old, I was seated on the bus and an idiot stuck his miserable penis on my arm. I was with my mother, I did not tell her.

My First Assault: About 6 years old. A man sat me on his lap and reached a hand under my dress. I moved away covertly because I was ashamed.

My First Assault: When I was 5 years old a guy, who was more than 40 years old, picked me up to hold me and then fingered my genitals underneath my dress.

My First Assault: I was 8 years old. My teenage neighbor took me to a secluded place, and pulled down my pants to touch me. I managed to escape.

Reading through women's stories, Karina Velázquez wondered how skeptics might respond:

Arriving and reading My First Assault tweets and almost all of them speak of shocking ages: 4, 6, 8, 11… Now say it's “because we’re provocative,” I want to see it…

For those who preferred to participate anonymously, there was also an online space on Facebook:

If you would like to speak about My First Assault anonymously send a private message to facebook.com/estereotipas/ and we will publish it from our account.

Here is one of dozens of the testimonies submitted anonymously:

My First Assault: My parents worked and I would wait leaning out the window until they returned, I was about 10 years old and a teenage neighbor came up to my window, lowered his shorts, and began to masturbate, urging me to touch him, until I fell from the little chair that I was using while trying to get away. I never returned to wait for my parents at the window, nor did I let my little sister who was 5 years younger do it either.

The silence

Another recurring theme was the silence in which many women endure sexual harassment on an almost daily basis. Whether it is because of embarrassment, guilt, or helplessness, many women have chosen to say nothing. Others say they did speak up, but were ridiculed or not believed, and so they decided to kept further incidents to themselves, until now:

The boys at the public pool who took turns swimming past me to touch my butt while I was in the pool with my little sister, and I had no idea what to do. The guy in shabby clothes who followed me for two blocks, masturbating. The taxi driver that stopped in front of me and demanded that I get in the car. The man that cornered me on the street with his truck while I was walking home alone, until a bus rescued me. The guy who approached me at the entrance of the movie theater where I was waiting for my friends and told me: “come, you will go with me to the movie that you want.” The drugged-up kid who last Thursday screamed at me: “you’re going to like it!” while he walked fast behind me, until fortunately I arrived at the bus stop and he then began to harass other people (how lucky). The ex-boyfriend who, for many years, too many years, did with my body what he pleased every time he drank too much, and then later remembered nothing. The subtle acts of people close to me as well as people I don’t know, which make me feel uncomfortable, like I should suddenly cover up my body, or take off running. And all that I can’t even manage to remember right now. Cities that are full of death traps. Families that are full of silence. All the harassers that with small and large actions add to the layers of fear. It is not about convincing anyone that there’s a problem; it's about getting rid of the problem, starting with saying it, demarcating it, and seeing it. And I swallow my own words a little bit: while I still believe that there aren’t any universal codes with which to respond, we don’t “have to” say anything, nor are there standards for brave victims or cowardly victims. It’s true that reading what you all are saying for the first time has given me confidence to say these things so publicly, and sharing has made me feel sad for the Alejandra who was assaulted, because it shouldn't have happened, but it has also released me from a shame that should have never existed either. It’s like giving me an embrace that has been kept away for many years, which I extend to you all now. Thank you.

I have read many messages on my timeline saying the hashtag “My First Assault” is uncomfortable and challenging. Voices have been raised, many remain silent. We are more than what you see.

Many of us remain silent about sexual harassment because of shame, because we feel guilty, because society makes us feel guilty. My First Assault.

Shocked by the hashtag My First Assault. Because it is so difficult to say it, because we continue to be vulnerable, and because still there are those who mock us.

Many of the women who shared their stories wrote that their first experience with sexual harassment was at the hands of a family member, which put them in even more vulnerable situations that culminated in silence.

My First Assault: The brother of my friend would touch her while she slept, her mother didn’t believe her, her sisters did because he did the same thing to them.

[The poster reads: We live in a society that teaches women NOT TO GET RAPED instead of teaching men NOT TO RAPE.]
My first assault was at the hands of my mother’s father and I was 9 years old. I came forward when I was 25 years old and nobody believed me. My First Assault.

My First Assault was when I was 9 years old, at a family reunion. Nobody knew about it then and it hurts me very much to think that even now they wouldn’t believe me.

Sexual harassment's routine nature

It is so commonplace for a woman to be violated in the streets that a prevalent theme in thousands of tweets is the feeling that sexual assault has been normalized.

I don’t remember My First Assault. The same way I don’t remember what it’s like to walk down the street without the fear that something will happen and escalate.

My mother told me to ignore the men who stare at me as I walk down the street, because “that’s the way men are.” My First Assault.

Since we were children we have had to live with their sexist violence, their filthy looks, their catcalls and street whistling, their groping.

Growing up, since I was very little I saw how in the streets my sisters were harassed EVERY DAY. When it happened to me I thought it was normal. My First Assault.

The problem is not only My First Assault, the problem is that it happens a second a time, a third time, a fourth…until you believe that it’s normal.

Solidarity

Although there were those who joked about the subject or responded with misogynistic comments, there were some men who read the testimonies carefully and reflected on the disturbing reality of daily harassment against women, as well as their own role in gender violence.

Reading the stories from My First Assault, I think of all the times that we as men, from childhood, are witnesses to and normalizers of that type of violence.

It is heartbreaking to read hundreds of women open their hearts with the hashtag My First Assault.
But it is more heartbreaking to know that it was not the last time.

Just a few days ago, three women publicly urged Mexicans not to remain silent when they are the victims of sexual crimes. Many online embraced the call, appealing for solidarity, and arguing that speaking up and supporting those who are suffering from harassment are ways to break the cycle of violence.

Many of the My First Assault stories are brutally solitary experiences in eminently public spaces. If we notice it, we must approach [the situation], we must protect each other.

First tweet: Hug your girlfriends soon. Speaking about My First Assault is very difficult for many girls because on top of it all one might feel guilty for not reacting.

Second tweet: Be kind to yourself. The girl who was 10 years old didn’t know how to react or why. The adult you are today can help herself and help others.

The testimonies of My First Assault fill me with anger but also with hope. Now we are not afraid. Now we have one another.

You can read more testimonies and reflections on Twitter at #MiPrimerAcoso (My First Assault).

by Lindsey Mulholland at April 26, 2016 01:24 PM

Ecuadorians Come Together Online to Help Those Affected by the Earthquake
"¿Cómo puedes ayudar si no puedes poner manos a la obra? Enviar donaciones al consulado más cercano o depositar dinero en la Cruz Roja te sabe a poco. Quieres estar ahí, y ayudar a alguien. Conversar con alguna persona en busca de desahogarse del susto que se ha llevado. Llevar a los niños a jugar al parque, para que se olviden un momento de la tristeza y sus padres puedan poner en orden la cabeza." Donaciones tras terremoto en Ecuador. Captura de pantalla tomada del video hecho en Cruz del Papa el 16 de abril.

Screenshot of video taken in Quito, the capital of Ecuador.

It is a tragedy that has united 14 million residents. As Global Voices reported, during the evening of April 16, 2016, Ecuador's coast was shaken from north to south by a 7.8-magnitude earthquake, one of the worst to hit Latin America in the last decade. The epicenter was located in the Pacific Ocean at a depth of 20 kilometers, and 697 aftershocks were felt after the initial tremor. The strongest aftershock, which registered 6.2 on the Richter scale, took place during the early morning of April 20, as the Geophysical Institute of Ecuador confirmed via its Twitter account (@IGecuador).

This event has made people forget about their political and social differences. Personal approval or rejection of the national government's policies were put aside in order to help the most affected provinces: Esmeraldas, Manabí, Santa Elena, Guayas, Los Ríos and Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas, all belonging to the coastal region. Hundreds of buildings were reduced to rubble in just minutes. Roads were damaged. The touristic center of Ecuador was devastated.

This is the building on Ayacucho and Garcia Moreno streets in #Guayaquil which collapsed during the earthquake #EarthquakeEcuador

For those Ecuadorians watching in horror from abroad, all they could do was wait for news to trickle out of the affected areas. Ecuadorian journalist Sabrina Duque, who currently resides in Lisbon, spoke with alternative news site GkillCity about what it's like to experience the tragedy from distance:

Cuando estás lejos y no puedes abrazar a quien quieres, la tragedia te duele de una forma diferente. ¿Cómo puedes ayudar si no puedes poner manos a la obra? Enviar donaciones al consulado más cercano o depositar dinero en la Cruz Roja te sabe a poco. Quieres estar ahí, y ayudar a alguien. Conversar con alguna persona en busca de desahogarse del susto que se ha llevado. Llevar a los niños a jugar al parque, para que se olviden un momento de la tristeza y sus padres puedan poner en orden la cabeza. O simplemente quieres estar ahí para abrazar a tu mamá.

When you are far away and you cannot embrace who you want, tragedy hurts in a different way. How can you help if you cannot be there to lend a hand? Send donations to the nearest consulate or give money to the Red Cross about which you know little. You want to be there and help someone. Talk to someone who is looking to unburden the scare he has experienced. Take the kids to play in the park, so they can forget about the sadness for a moment, and so that their parents can sort out their thoughts. Or you just want to be there to hug your mom.

Solidarity 2.0

Social media has served as a great support not only for Ecuadorians abroad, but also for those on the ground. The first news of the earthquake came from Facebook and Twitter users who used the hashtags #TerremotoEcuador (#EarthquakeEcuador) and #SismoEcuador (#SeismEcuador) to report what was happening in their locations. Then #DesaparecidosEc (#MissingEc) was created to identify missing persons, which the country's Ministry of the Interior used to search for victims. Reporting those who had been rescued was done through #EncontradosEc (#FoundEc).

Likewise, volunteers coordinated using the hashtag #SeNecesitaEC (#NeededEc) for collecting food, clothing and medicine. #SeOfreceEc (#OfferedEc) is useful for users who want to make donations. Minister of Production, Employment and Competitiveness Vinicio Alvarado has posted updates on his Twitter account about the financial support that the country has received from the private sector.

The #EcuadorListoYSolidario (#EcuadorReadyAndUnited) is used throughout the day to send messages of encouragement to those affected. The government has also created the website of the same name, Ecuador listo y solidario, to register volunteers and to communicate the status of transport routes, the collection centers for donations and recommendations for emergencies.

Are you looking for a missing relative?, enter their information on this platform #MissingEc

200 people, including volunteers and staff, help in Manta, Ecuador #EcuadorReadyAndUnited

#FoundEc these are some of the people who were found in good health #Let'sPrayForEcuador

Digital tools to manage donations

A group of Ecuadorian hacktivists designed Divi-Damos, a free digital tool to manage the donations being collected throughout the country. The purpose of the platform is to make decisions based on an up-close understanding of the situation on the ground. Thus, agencies that are in charge of the distribution of donations can estimate what is received, request what is needed, and know in real time about the delivery of supplies to those who need it.


Another citizen initiative is Mapping Ecuador, a digital map that facilitates the set-up of routes for the delivery of aid to the victims of Manabí and Esmeraldas, the regions most affected by the earthquake. At the same time, this allows the authorities to rebuild the cities affected by the earthquake.
The creators of the tool have focused on publicizing its use and teaching many people how to build maps. More explanations can be found in this Spanish-language Hangout created by the group:

More Hangouts and tutorials are shared under the hashtag #MappingEcuador.

‘The citizen has taken the power of all the organizing and the collaboration’

On April 20, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa announced the implementation of economic measures to address the damages and costs of the earthquake. Some of the measures include an increase in taxes and the creation of new contributions, which provoked reactions on social media. On Twitter, the #EcuadorNoConfiaEnCorrea (#EcuadorDoesn'tTrustCorrea) trend continued for several hours and supported the citizen initiatives over those of the government.

A president who passes the bill for the disaster on to the whole country and does not seek alternative solutions for emergencies #EcuadorDoesn'tTrustCorrea

Citizens have taken charge of all the organizing and the collaboration, there was no need for Rafael Correa in this country #EcuadorDoesn'tTrustCorrea

Some even organized a sit-in and donation drive for April 28 to protest. “The country is in an emergency and [the ruling party] Alianza País has politicized the situation!” a press release, tweeted below, read. “As civil society, we've organized ourselves effectively on various fronts to offer our support to those who need it today, without interference from this authoritarian and populist government.”

Let us support the #SolidaritySitIn, civil society can and should be organized. #EcuadorDoesn'tTrustCorrea

Digital volunteering

As of April 24, the Department of Risk Management and local media reported 655 people dead; and 4,605 injured. The Pedernales canton (north of the Manabí province) has been hit the hardest — 80% of the area, home to about 50,000 residents, is destroyed, and the cost to rebuild it, according to the government, is approximately $240 million.

Authorities have made a plea to the public to distribute information about the earthquake responsibly. They request that users, in their digital collaboration efforts, turn to official sources of information in order not to spread panic in the affected areas.

In these moments it is important to get informed through official media and accounts #EcuadorReadyAndUnited

Online discussions and volunteer efforts continue, and while people still may disagree over the way the country is run, every donation made in the spirit of aid is helping to heal the extreme political polarization that was until recently dividing Ecuador:

Tweet: Never underestimate the value of a word of encouragement!! #EarthquakeEcuador

Image: Keep it up! You're not alone. Together we're more. Strength! Strength! Keep it up!

by Teodora Hasegan at April 26, 2016 01:01 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
A University Professor Is Hacked to Death, Another Victim of Deadly Intolerance in Bangladesh
We Want Justice for Professor AFM Rezaul Karim Siddiquee Poster: Facebook

“What he wrote will be investigated. But someone said he only played sitar.” We Want Justice for Professor AFM Rezaul Karim Siddique. Poster: Facebook

Rezaul Karim Siddique, 58, an English professor at Rajshahi University, was found hacked to death near his home on Saturday, April 23 in Rajshahi, a northern district of Bangladesh. His death is the second targeted killing purportedly at the hands of Islamist militants this month.

Siddique was waiting for a bus to take him to campus when two or three people attacked him from behind and stabbed him in the neck. He died at the scene.

Online portal At Tamkin, which is aligned with the Amak news agency belonging to militant organization ISIS, claimed that a group called Dawatul Islam carried out the attack because Siddique “used to call people to embrace atheism.”

Bangladeshi Islamist militants have been blamed for a number of murders of secular bloggers and online activists since 2013, including the most recent killing of secular activist Nazimuddin Samad in Dhaka.

Siddique is the fourth university professor to be murdered at Rajshahi University within the last 12 years. He was a writer, sitar player and was involved with several cultural organisations. He lead a cultural group called Komol Gandhar and edited a biannual literary magazine. He also set up a music school at Bagmara, a former bastion of an outlawed Islamist group called Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB).

The danger of free-thinking in Bangladesh

Siddique joins the growing list of intellectuals, bloggers and foreigners who have lost their lives in similar killings, using sharp weapons and targeting the head or neck.

According to police, in each of these attacks unidentified assailants hacked the victim to death with machetes or cleavers. Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent reportedly claimed responsibility for the the murder of the bloggers, and ISIS said it was behind the killings of the two foreigners, Italian aid worker Cesare Tavella and Japanese national Kunio Hoshi. Bangladeshi security officials, however, claim that local Islamist groups were behind the murders and that messages from ISIS and Al Qaeda were meant to cover the trail and confuse investigations.

The response of the government to the recent murders leaves much to be desired. As a non-religious parliamentary democracy, Bangladesh has no Sharia or blasphemy law, and anyone who identifies as atheist has the same rights as other citizens in the Muslim-majority country. Under the country's penal code, though, a person with “deliberate” or “malicious” intention of “hurting religious sentiments” can be prosecuted.

Addressing the murder of law student Nazimuddin Samad earlier in April, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan scolded the victims in an interview with US news channel CNN: “The bloggers, they should control their writing. Our country is a secular state. … I want to say that people should be careful not to hurt anyone by writing anything — hurt any religion, any people's beliefs, any religious leaders.”

And on the eve of Bengali New Year, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina stated that it is not at all acceptable to write something hurting religious sentiments of others.

Police have only arrested some individuals, including members of a banned group called the Ansarullah Bangla Team, for involvement in a few of these murders. In December 2015, two people were convicted and sentenced to death for the 2013 killing of blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider. Haider was hacked to death on the street at the height of the Shahbag Square protests demanding the death penalty for war crimes committed during Bangladesh's liberation from Pakistan in 1971.

But no one else has been prosecuted for the killings of six other men, all of whom were targeted for their secular thinking.

As per the latest reports, police have arrested a student relating to the killing of Professor Siddique.

‘Why did they murder him so brutally?’

These killings have sparked outrage at home and abroad, with international rights groups demanding that the government bring the assailants to justice, and to protect freedom of speech and the safety of people of all sects within the country.

Will the home minister say this time that we have to investigate what the professor wrote as he edited a literary magazine titled “Komol Gandhar”?

One of Siddique's former students and Editorial Assistant at PoribortonMojaffor Hossain, speculated in a Facebook note why Siddique was targeted:

তার কোনো ব্লগ বা ফেসবুক অ্যাকাউন্ট ছিল না। অল্প কিছু কবিতা, ছোটগল্প আর চলচ্চিত্র রিভিউ লিখেছেন। বিশেষ কোনো পত্রিকাতে সেগুলো প্রকাশিত হয়নি। তার কোনো লেখা ধর্মীয় বিদ্বেষমূলক না। সামাজিক বক্তব্যধর্মী লেখা লিখতেন। আর সিটিজেন কেইন, বাইসাইকেল থিপ, পথেরপাঁচালি-চোখের বালি-মেঘে ঢাকা তারা, অমৃত কুম্ভের সন্ধানে, সিনডার লিস্ট– এসব ক্লাসিক ছবি নিয়ে লিখেছেন। তাহলে এভাবে নির্মমভাবে খুন করা হল কেন? অন্তত আমার কোনো উত্তর জানা নেই।
রেজাউল করিম স্যারের মোটাদাগে দুটি সমস্যা ছিল। আমাদের সমাজে ‘চিহ্নিত’ সমস্যা।
এক. তিনি অন্যায়ের সঙ্গে আপোশ করতেন না।…
দুই. তিনি খুব সংস্কৃতিমনা ছিলেন। …

He did not have any blog or Facebook account. He wrote a few poems, short stories and movie reviews. They were not published in reputed newspapers nor were they writings containing religious hatred. His writings had social meaning. Others were written about classic films like Citizen Kane, Bicycle Thief, Pather Panchali, Chokher Bali, Meghe Dhaka Tara, Amrita Kumbher Sandhane and Schindler's List. Then why did they murder him so brutally? I, at least, do not know the answer.

Largely, Rezaul Karim Siddique had two issues, which are identified as “problems” in our society.
One, he would not compromise with wrongdoing.
Two, he was a very cultural person.

Professor Rezaul Karim Siddique. Photo: Facebook

A boycott of classes has been called by the Rajshahi University Teachers Association over the killing:

Students of Rajshahi University carried out a protest march condemning the killing of an RU professor.

On Facebook, writer Nazrul Islam blasted the timidity of some in condemning Siddique's murder:

বিশ্ববিদ্যালয়ের একজন শিক্ষক খুন হলেন। ছাত্ররা চুপ, ছাত্র সংগঠনগুলো চুপ, শিক্ষকেরা চুপ, শিক্ষক সংগঠনগুলো চুপ।
একজন সেতার বাদক খুন হলেন। সাংস্কৃতিক সংগঠনগুলো চুপ, সম্মিলিত সাংস্কৃতিক জোট চুপ।
একজন সম্পাদক খুন হলেন। লেখকেরা চুপ। সবাই চুপ, কোথাও কোনো শব্দ নাই। …
যে কোনো কথা বলার আগে নিশ্চিত হতে হবে, খুন হওয়া ব্যক্তিটা কি নাস্তেক ছিলো নাকি মানুষ ছিলো? তারপর বাকি কথা সাজানো যাবে
তদন্ত করে দেখা হোক

A university professor was murdered. Yet, the students are silent; The student associations, the teachers, the teachers’ association — everyone is silent.
A sitar player was murdered. Yet, the cultural organizations, their leaders — all are silent.
An editor was murdered. Yet, writers are silent. Everyone is so quiet, not a single voice anywhere…
Before saying a single word, does it have to be checked whether the victim was an atheist or a human? And then the rest can be sorted.
Let's investigate this.

by L. Finch at April 26, 2016 09:59 AM

Iranian Cartoonist Atena Farghadani's Prison Sentence Reduced From 12 Years to 18 Months
Atena Farghadani stands trial on Tuesday May 18 for charge that include insulting members of parliament and spreading propaganda against the system. Image taken from the 'Free Atena' Facebook page.

Atena Farghadani stood trial in 2015 for charges that included insulting members of parliament and spreading propaganda against the system. Image taken from the “Free Atena” Facebook page.

Activist and cartoonist Atena Farghadani is set to be released from prison in Iran after an appeals court reduced her sentence from 12 years to 18 months.

On April 25, Journalism is Not a Crime, an organization that documents persecution of Iranian journalists, reported that she will be freed on May 11, 2016, according to her lawyer.

In 2015, Farghadani went on trial in Iran for a cartoon about access to contraception. In it, she portrayed members of Iran's parliament as animals. At the time, the country's parliament was voting on a bill to limit access to voluntary contraception.

She was tried in what is called a Revolutionary Court, which are known to hand down harsh sentences for minor offenses.

In June 2015, Farghadani was convicted on charges of spreading propaganda against the system, insulting members of parliament through paintings, and insulting the supreme leader, and sentenced to 12 years in prison. At the time, Hadi Ghaemi of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran commented, “The peaceful expression of dissent remains a red line in Iran. Cross it and you risk prison time.”

According to Human Rights Watch, Farghadani may have been a particular target because of her connection to the families of political prisoners who died in prison following Iran's flawed presidential elections in 2009.

Throughout her custody, Farghadani has faced violence at the hands of authorities. According to a report from the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran (see pdf):

On 10 January 2015, Ms. Atena Farghdani was summoned to branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court, where she was arrested and subsequently beaten in front of her parents. Upon Ms. Atena’s protest, she was taken to a court room, where she was insulted and beaten again, this time allegedly in front of a court judge. […] Of the two months in detention, she reportedly spent 20 days in solitary confinement and was also subject to a harsh bodily search and mistreatment. She also allegedly engaged in a hunger strike to protest her prison conditions, lack of access to defense lawyer and contacts with family members.

According to a different UN report, she was also “reportedly forced to take virginity and pregnancy tests,” which Iranian authorities justified as a response to “allegations of sexual assault against her on some websites.”

Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Ann Telnaes urged vigilance to ensure Farghadani is released:

For past coverage on Global Voices of Atena Farghadani's case:

by L. Finch at April 26, 2016 09:57 AM

Global Voices
Iranian Cartoonist Atena Farghadani's Prison Sentence Reduced From 12 Years to 18 Months
Atena Farghadani stands trial on Tuesday May 18 for charge that include insulting members of parliament and spreading propaganda against the system. Image taken from the 'Free Atena' Facebook page.

Atena Farghadani stood trial in 2015 for charges that included insulting members of parliament and spreading propaganda against the system. Image taken from the “Free Atena” Facebook page.

Activist and cartoonist Atena Farghadani is set to be released from prison in Iran after an appeals court reduced her sentence from 12 years to 18 months.

On April 25, Journalism is Not a Crime, an organization that documents persecution of Iranian journalists, reported that she will be freed on May 11, 2016, according to her lawyer.

In 2015, Farghadani went on trial in Iran for a cartoon about access to contraception. In it, she portrayed members of Iran's parliament as animals. At the time, the country's parliament was voting on a bill to limit access to voluntary contraception.

She was tried in what is called a Revolutionary Court, which are known to hand down harsh sentences for minor offenses.

In June 2015, Farghadani was convicted on charges of spreading propaganda against the system, insulting members of parliament through paintings, and insulting the supreme leader, and sentenced to 12 years in prison. At the time, Hadi Ghaemi of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran commented, “The peaceful expression of dissent remains a red line in Iran. Cross it and you risk prison time.”

According to Human Rights Watch, Farghadani may have been a particular target because of her connection to the families of political prisoners who died in prison following Iran's flawed presidential elections in 2009.

Throughout her custody, Farghadani has faced violence at the hands of authorities. According to a report from the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran (see pdf):

On 10 January 2015, Ms. Atena Farghdani was summoned to branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court, where she was arrested and subsequently beaten in front of her parents. Upon Ms. Atena’s protest, she was taken to a court room, where she was insulted and beaten again, this time allegedly in front of a court judge. […] Of the two months in detention, she reportedly spent 20 days in solitary confinement and was also subject to a harsh bodily search and mistreatment. She also allegedly engaged in a hunger strike to protest her prison conditions, lack of access to defense lawyer and contacts with family members.

According to a different UN report, she was also “reportedly forced to take virginity and pregnancy tests,” which Iranian authorities justified as a response to “allegations of sexual assault against her on some websites.”

Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Ann Telnaes urged vigilance to ensure Farghadani is released:

For past coverage on Global Voices of Atena Farghadani's case:

by Tori Egherman at April 26, 2016 09:51 AM

Creative Commons
The long arm of copyright: Millions blocked from reading original versions of The Diary of Anne Frank

anna_frank-infograph2v2 (3)

The original writings of The Diary of Anne Frank should have entered the public domain on January 1, 2016. They should have become freely accessible to everyone who wants to read and experience this important cultural work. Instead, the texts remain clogged in the pipes of EU copyright law. In some countries like Poland, the texts are in the public domain. In others, such as the Netherlands, the original writings are protected under copyright until 2037. As a result, millions of people are unable to access and read the online versions of the original works. (The situation is even worse in the U.S., where those writings will remain under copyright until 2042.)

Centrum Cyfrowe, Kennisland, and COMMUNIA are highlighting the strange legal situation around The Diary of Anne Frank with the campaign #ReadAnneDiary.

Today, the Polish digital education organization Centrum Cyfrowe published the original, Dutch-language version of The Diary of Anne Frank online at annefrank.centrumcyfrowe.pl. This is the first time internet users will able to read the original writings of Anne Frank online. But unless you’re in Poland, you won’t be able to access it. Why? Because as of today, the primary texts are still protected by copyright in most member states of the European Union.

COMMUNIA explains the copyright confusion surrounding the diary:

First, the Anne Frank Foundation announced their plans to list Otto (Anne Frank’s father) as a co-author, which would extend the protection period of the published diary until 2050. Next, due to a transitional rule in Dutch law it became clear that Anne Frank’s original writings would not enter the public domain in 2016 in the Netherlands (and many other EU countries with similar rules). Finally, in early February the Wikimedia Foundation (the organization that hosts Wikipedia and related projects) decided to remove the Dutch-language text of the diary from Wikisource.

It’s a mess. But it doesn’t have to be this way. COMMUNIA underscores the need for a modern, progressive copyright framework in Europe:

Currently, the rules for establishing the duration of the term of protection are so complex that we need the support of legal experts from different European countries just to determine whether an individual work is still protected by copyright or neighboring rights. In particular, the lack of effective harmonisation of the duration of copyright across the EU hampers efforts of organisations and entrepreneurs, who want to offer online products and services. Only an intervention at the European level can be remedy this situation. As we have repeatedly argued, the term of copyright protection should be reduced and fully harmonized and unified throughout the EU. If we want to fully unlock the potential of our rich cultural heritage we need clear rules that allow anyone to determine whether a work is still protected by copyright. This also includes making it clear that digitization of public domain works does not create new rights.

The #ReadAnneDiary campaign corresponds with this year’s World Intellectual Property Day. Copyright and other intellectual property rights can be used to promote creativity, sharing, and innovation. Creative Commons licensing allows authors to publish their creative works on more flexible terms than the default all rights reserved regime. Creators of all types are leveraging open copyright licensing and the public domain to collaborate and share a wealth of content—including digital educational resources, scientific research findings, and rich cultural and artistic works.

At the same time, it’s crucial that the public has the right to access important historical works like original versions of The Diary of Anne Frank. It should be available online—in the public domain—for anyone to access, read, and appreciate.

The post The long arm of copyright: Millions blocked from reading original versions of The Diary of Anne Frank appeared first on Creative Commons blog.

by Timothy Vollmer at April 26, 2016 08:00 AM

April 25, 2016

Global Voices
A University Professor Is Hacked to Death, Another Victim of Deadly Intolerance in Bangladesh
We Want Justice for Professor AFM Rezaul Karim Siddiquee Poster: Facebook

“What he wrote will be investigated. But someone said he only played sitar.” We Want Justice for Professor AFM Rezaul Karim Siddique. Poster: Facebook

Rezaul Karim Siddique, 58, an English professor at Rajshahi University, was found hacked to death near his home on Saturday, April 23 in Rajshahi, a northern district of Bangladesh. His death is the second targeted killing purportedly at the hands of Islamist militants this month.

Siddique was waiting for a bus to take him to campus when two or three people attacked him from behind and stabbed him in the neck. He died at the scene.

Online portal At Tamkin, which is aligned with the Amak news agency belonging to militant organization ISIS, claimed that a group called Dawatul Islam carried out the attack because Siddique “used to call people to embrace atheism.”

Bangladeshi Islamist militants have been blamed for a number of murders of secular bloggers and online activists since 2013, including the most recent killing of secular activist Nazimuddin Samad in Dhaka.

Siddique is the fourth university professor to be murdered at Rajshahi University within the last 12 years. He was a writer, sitar player and was involved with several cultural organisations. He lead a cultural group called Komol Gandhar and edited a biannual literary magazine. He also set up a music school at Bagmara, a former bastion of an outlawed Islamist group called Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB).

The danger of free-thinking in Bangladesh

Siddique joins the growing list of intellectuals, bloggers and foreigners who have lost their lives in similar killings, using sharp weapons and targeting the head or neck.

According to police, in each of these attacks unidentified assailants hacked the victim to death with machetes or cleavers. Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent reportedly claimed responsibility for the the murder of the bloggers, and ISIS said it was behind the killings of the two foreigners, Italian aid worker Cesare Tavella and Japanese national Kunio Hoshi. Bangladeshi security officials, however, claim that local Islamist groups were behind the murders and that messages from ISIS and Al Qaeda were meant to cover the trail and confuse investigations.

The response of the government to the recent murders leaves much to be desired. As a non-religious parliamentary democracy, Bangladesh has no Sharia or blasphemy law, and anyone who identifies as atheist has the same rights as other citizens in the Muslim-majority country. Under the country's penal code, though, a person with “deliberate” or “malicious” intention of “hurting religious sentiments” can be prosecuted.

Addressing the murder of law student Nazimuddin Samad earlier in April, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan scolded the victims in an interview with US news channel CNN: “The bloggers, they should control their writing. Our country is a secular state. … I want to say that people should be careful not to hurt anyone by writing anything — hurt any religion, any people's beliefs, any religious leaders.”

And on the eve of Bengali New Year, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina stated that it is not at all acceptable to write something hurting religious sentiments of others.

Police have only arrested some individuals, including members of a banned group called the Ansarullah Bangla Team, for involvement in a few of these murders. In December 2015, two people were convicted and sentenced to death for the 2013 killing of blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider. Haider was hacked to death on the street at the height of the Shahbag Square protests demanding the death penalty for war crimes committed during Bangladesh's liberation from Pakistan in 1971.

But no one else has been prosecuted for the killings of six other men, all of whom were targeted for their secular thinking.

As per the latest reports, police have arrested a student relating to the killing of Professor Siddique.

‘Why did they murder him so brutally?’

These killings have sparked outrage at home and abroad, with international rights groups demanding that the government bring the assailants to justice, and to protect freedom of speech and the safety of people of all sects within the country.

Will the home minister say this time that we have to investigate what the professor wrote as he edited a literary magazine titled “Komol Gandhar”?

One of Siddique's former students and Editorial Assistant at PoribortonMojaffor Hossain, speculated in a Facebook note why Siddique was targeted:

তার কোনো ব্লগ বা ফেসবুক অ্যাকাউন্ট ছিল না। অল্প কিছু কবিতা, ছোটগল্প আর চলচ্চিত্র রিভিউ লিখেছেন। বিশেষ কোনো পত্রিকাতে সেগুলো প্রকাশিত হয়নি। তার কোনো লেখা ধর্মীয় বিদ্বেষমূলক না। সামাজিক বক্তব্যধর্মী লেখা লিখতেন। আর সিটিজেন কেইন, বাইসাইকেল থিপ, পথেরপাঁচালি-চোখের বালি-মেঘে ঢাকা তারা, অমৃত কুম্ভের সন্ধানে, সিনডার লিস্ট– এসব ক্লাসিক ছবি নিয়ে লিখেছেন। তাহলে এভাবে নির্মমভাবে খুন করা হল কেন? অন্তত আমার কোনো উত্তর জানা নেই।
রেজাউল করিম স্যারের মোটাদাগে দুটি সমস্যা ছিল। আমাদের সমাজে ‘চিহ্নিত’ সমস্যা।
এক. তিনি অন্যায়ের সঙ্গে আপোশ করতেন না।…
দুই. তিনি খুব সংস্কৃতিমনা ছিলেন। …

He did not have any blog or Facebook account. He wrote a few poems, short stories and movie reviews. They were not published in reputed newspapers nor were they writings containing religious hatred. His writings had social meaning. Others were written about classic films like Citizen Kane, Bicycle Thief, Pather Panchali, Chokher Bali, Meghe Dhaka Tara, Amrita Kumbher Sandhane and Schindler's List. Then why did they murder him so brutally? I, at least, do not know the answer.

Largely, Rezaul Karim Siddique had two issues, which are identified as “problems” in our society.
One, he would not compromise with wrongdoing.
Two, he was a very cultural person.

Professor Rezaul Karim Siddique. Photo: Facebook

A boycott of classes has been called by the Rajshahi University Teachers Association over the killing:

Students of Rajshahi University carried out a protest march condemning the killing of an RU professor.

On Facebook, writer Nazrul Islam blasted the timidity of some in condemning Siddique's murder:

বিশ্ববিদ্যালয়ের একজন শিক্ষক খুন হলেন। ছাত্ররা চুপ, ছাত্র সংগঠনগুলো চুপ, শিক্ষকেরা চুপ, শিক্ষক সংগঠনগুলো চুপ।
একজন সেতার বাদক খুন হলেন। সাংস্কৃতিক সংগঠনগুলো চুপ, সম্মিলিত সাংস্কৃতিক জোট চুপ।
একজন সম্পাদক খুন হলেন। লেখকেরা চুপ। সবাই চুপ, কোথাও কোনো শব্দ নাই। …
যে কোনো কথা বলার আগে নিশ্চিত হতে হবে, খুন হওয়া ব্যক্তিটা কি নাস্তেক ছিলো নাকি মানুষ ছিলো? তারপর বাকি কথা সাজানো যাবে
তদন্ত করে দেখা হোক

A university professor was murdered. Yet, the students are silent; The student associations, the teachers, the teachers’ association — everyone is silent.
A sitar player was murdered. Yet, the cultural organizations, their leaders — all are silent.
An editor was murdered. Yet, writers are silent. Everyone is so quiet, not a single voice anywhere…
Before saying a single word, does it have to be checked whether the victim was an atheist or a human? And then the rest can be sorted.
Let's investigate this.

by Palash Ranjan Sanyal at April 25, 2016 08:30 PM

The ‘Urabá Diaries’ Lay Bare the Struggles and Hopes of Young People in Colombia's North
Foto: Carretera hacia Urabá, fotografía de Wikimedia Commons, del dominio público.

Photo: Road to Urabá, photography of Wikimedia Commons, from the public domain.

Diarios de Urabá (Urabá Diaries), a series published on the blogging platform Medium, offers a window into the lives of people living in the agricultural and cattle ranching region of the north of Colombia. The Diarios bring together stories, as told by educators working in the region, of everyday struggles of the residents there, whose trials and tribulations would otherwise be little known had it not been for the space they created for themselves online.

Written in a clear style of language, the Diarios takes readers closer to the students trying to get an education and find a future for themselves in a place “where the roads, although in poor condition, are watched over by a magnificent vegetation of a thousand colours”:

El agua es un bien escaso, pero abundan las soluciones para encontrarla. Por eso en nuestro Urabá cordobés la lluvia es sinónimo de felicidad. En esta tierra de contrastes y absurdos hay personas dispuestas a recorrer horas de camino, desafiando las condiciones del medio, para ir a la escuela.

Water is very scarce, but there are many solutions for finding it. That is why in our Cordoban Urabá, rain is synonymous with happiness. In this land of contrasts and absurdity, there are people willing to traverse hours of path, braving the environmental conditions, in order to go to school.

Urabá was one of the areas of Colombia that suffered an “armed strike” (a forced strike) during the first days of April, ordered by the criminal organisation known as the Clan Úsuga. This group could very well become an important actor in Colombia if a peace agreement between the government and the guerrilla groups that have been fighting for more than 50 years is signed.

The Colombian conflict has gone through numerous phases, but it can be viewed as the continuation of a fight over land ownership and the political orientation of the people, who is constantly caught in the middle between the two opposing sides.

In the complex Colombian context, what is it like to live within a region in conflict? To totter between armed groups and the struggle to work the land? The Diarios have been inactive for months, but the testimonies haven't lost their strength or their relevance. Readers can still, for however briefly, follow the journey of those who are ultimately first in the firing line of the country's political and economic tug-of-war.

Personal struggles against a backdrop of armed conflict

Ángel, who features in the Diarios, could very well be one teenager more in the region where cattle is the wealth of a few landowners. On this land emerged the right-wing paramilitaries as a counter to the leftist guerrillas. Ángel grew up seeing his father work for the paramilitaries, and at the age of 12, he followed in his footsteps. By that time, his parents had separated and he was faced with the dilemma of incorporating himself fully into the criminal group or following his dreams of being a footballer like Cristiano Ronaldo.

One day he finally decided — he packed his bags and went to find his mother:

Después de un tiempo la vida lejos de su mamá empezó a hacerse más difícil, no solo la extrañaba sino que también se enfrentaba con la obligación de vincularse formalmente al grupo para el que trabajaba esporádicamente, lo que significaba dejar su familia, su colegio y su sueño de ser como Cristiano Ronaldo. Ángel no es una persona que este dispuesta a renunciar a sus sueños tan fácilmente, así que alistó maletas y se fue a buscar a su mamá para, al igual que ella, empezar de nuevo

After some time, living far from his mum became more difficult. Not only did he miss her, but he was also faced with the obligation to be formally linked to the group that he had sporadically been working for, which would mean leaving his family, his school and his dream of being like Cristiano Ronaldo. Ángel isn't someone who is willing to give up his dreams so easily, so he got his suitcases ready and left in search of his mum to, in the same way as her, start afresh.

When the education system is indifferent to its people

Ángel's world is not the same as that of Richar, who is also the focus of one of the stories told in the Diarios. Richar lives in an isolated community, where an aqueduct and sewage system are too much of a luxury. Richar is a chilapo, a derogatory term used for those who are a mix of indigenous and black, and he is offended when he is associated with either of these ethnicities. This is perhaps because of displacement, also a product of the armed conflict; his grandparents with whom he lives haven't communicated this cultural heritage to him:

La escuela tendría entonces esa responsabilidad. En el área de ciencias sociales Los Estándares de Educación le apuntan al desarrollo de pensamiento crítico frente a diversos temas entre los cuales se encuentran: respeto por los derechos humanos e inclusión social. Cada institución educativa debe adecuar su plan de trabajo para lograr estos objetivos teniendo cierta libertad para decidir cómo, de acuerdo con su contexto.

Sin embargo el plan de área del colegio de Richar, al igual que el de muchos otros colegios, no fue elaborado pensando en las necesidades de los estudiantes que atiende, sino que fue copiado de Internet

The school would then have that responsibility. In the area of social sciences, education standards are aiming at the development of critical thinking in the face of various issues, among which are the respect for human rights and social inclusion. Every educational institution must adapt its work plan to reach these objectives, with some freedom to decide how to fit its individual context.

However, the work plan of Richar's school, as well as many other schools, was not developed with the needs of the students attending in mind, but was copied from the internet.

Without these values incorporated, the quality of education received not only suffers, but intolerance appears in its place:

“Richar cree que llamar a alguien indio o negro es un insulto, se resiste a aceptar hombres con el pelo largo, personas con tatuajes, mujeres solteras, acentos diferentes y diversidad religiosa. Esto significa que las futuras generaciones no tendrán las herramientas para construir la sociedad cohesionada y en paz que desde hace más de cincuenta años pretende el país.”

Richar believes that calling someone “Indian” or “black” is an insult, he is opposed to accepting men with long hair, people with tattoos, single women, different accents and religious diversity. This means that future generations will not have the tools to construct the united and peaceful society that the country has been hoping for, for more than 50 years.

But the reflection goes beyond that. Instead of an integrated vision of education, the government is bringing about the opposite:

Permiten la realización de ciertas actividades, como “El Día de la Antioqueñidad”, que lo único que genera es profundizar en los regionalismos, culpables de la segregación al interior de las comunidades con el imaginario de superioridad cultural.

Esta celebración conmemora del día de la independencia del departamento en 1813. Sin embargo la celebración no tiene ningún tinte histórico sino que se limita a exaltar el sector más poderoso del departamento, hacendados y empresarios blancos, olvidando que la historia antioqueña la han escrito también negros, mestizos, indígenas, desplazados, costeños. Al igual que en los demás departamentos de este país fragmentado por las ideas regionalistas.

They allow certain activities to be carried out, like “El día de la Antioqueñidad” [a day to celebrate all things Antioquian], which is only deepening regionalism, guilty of the segregation within communities that have imagined superiority.

This celebration commemorates the day of independence for the department in 1813. However, the celebration doesn't have any historical tinges, but rather is limited to praising the most powerful sector of the department — white landowners and businessmen — forgetting that the history of Antioquia has also been written by black people, people of mixed race, indigenous people, displaced people, and coastal dwellers. It is the same for other departments of this country, fragmented by regionalist ideas.

Joseph, who features in an entry titled Cuando sea grande quiero ser (When I grow up I want to be), wants to break this exclusion. He was born in Itsmina, a town in the neighbouring department of Chocó, which is said to be the poorest in Colombia, where the population of people of African descent is the majority. Because of this, when the teacher in ethics class asked his pupils to imagine how they will be when they are older, Joseph was unable to respond. But it was then that he realised his calling. At night he imagined the rest of his life and he saw himself in a classroom teaching. Eventually, Joseph studied at the Technological University of Chocó, completed his degree in physical education, and moved to Urabá in pursuit of his dreams.

Joseph is sensible, has formed a family and meets the requirements of his work. Nevertheless, the government, always at a distance, demands quality from its people without giving them the means to achieve it. This has become a nightmare for the young teacher. In spite of this, neither the difficult environment nor the indifference that his teaching colleagues communicate to their pupils, nor the pointless meetings that go nowhere, convince him to give up, as has happened to others.

A region ‘plagued by dreamers’

Diarios de Urabá exposes with concern how the “Escuela Nueva” (New School) model, imposed because of the shortage of students, fosters an unsatisfactory education. It also explains how religious institutions are taking hold of the system, which is supposed to be secular according to the country's constitution.

Nevertheless, hope remains, thanks to those who are waging one of the most important battles of the region:

“Menos mal [que esta] región está plagada de soñadores, líderes y personas dispuestas a demostrar que su historia no definirá su futuro.”

Thankfully [this] region is plagued by dreamers, leaders, and people who are willing to prove that its history will not define its future.

by Laura Macfarlane at April 25, 2016 06:55 PM

Journalist Zoran Božinovski's Supporters Fear Extradition to Macedonia Puts Him at Risk of Torture
Zoran Božinovski. A photo circulated by his family via Facebook as part of appeals for his freedom.

Zoran Božinovski. A photo circulated by his family via Facebook as part of appeals for his freedom.

Serbian authorities extradited journalist Zoran Božinovski, who sought political asylum in Serbia months before he was arrested on charges of espionage, extortion and criminal conspiracy, back to Macedonia on April 21. He is currently in a Macedonian detention center, and colleagues and family fear that his life and health could be in danger due to past threats of torture reportedly made against him by high-up politicians.

Božinovski owns the tabloid-style web portal Burevesnik.org, famous for publishing leaked information that seems to implicate prominent members of the Macedonian political elite in a variety of misdeeds.

In 2012 the Macedonian government run by the right-wing party VMRO-DPMNE started a court case code-named “Spy” (“Шпион” in Macedonian) accusing about 20 people, including government critics and whistle-blowers, for spying on behalf of EU members Greece and Hungary. Macedonia did not issue a diplomatic note to these countries for this alleged offence. In fact, three months later, Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov gave a medal to Hungarian President Viktor Orbán for being “a great friend and supporter” of Macedonia.

The government staged spectacular arrests of some of the accused suspects, leading to conviction of 17 people by October 2014. Božinovski, who emigrated in Serbia some time before for safety reasons, appealed for political asylum there. Macedonian authorities issued an international warrant leading to Božinovski's arrest in Serbia in November 2013. After more than 300 days in prison, he was released by the Serbian Court of Appeals while the case for his extradition continued to be processed.

Leaked wiretapped conversations published by Macedonia's political opposition in 2015 revealed some top politicians seemingly making threats of torture toward Božinovski. In a conversation between Martin Protuger, the right-hand man of Macedonia's then-Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, and the then-Minister of Interior Gordana Jankuloska, the two discuss how to torture him once he's within their power. Protuger requests to pay him a visit “with the CCTV camera turned off in that time.” They also discuss arranging his rape by other inmates as something “that goes without saying.”

The Association of Journalists of Macedonia condemned the extradition, stating that it's “perverse” to extradite a journalist to a country where secret police illegally survey journalists and the president pardons such crimes (President Ivanov announced on April 12 he was granting a pardon to more than 50 top politicians and their associates who were under investigation over the revelations contained in the leaked wiretaps):

Веруваме дека експресната одлука на српските власти за есктрадиција е политички мотивирана и ќе предизвика сериозна штета врз слободата на медиумите не само во Македонија, туку и пошироко во регионот.

Со екстрадицијата Србија свесно го изложува на напотребен ризик новинарот Божиновски иако претходно беа информирани за заканите што врз него ги упатуваа највисоките претставници на власта. Српската влада ќе сноси одговорност ако Божиновски во македонските затвори биде изложен на нечовечки третман.

We believe that the prompt extradition decision of Serbian authorities is politically motivated and that it will cause serious damage to freedom of media not only in Macedonia, but in the wider region also.

With this extradition, Serbia consciously exposes the journalist Božinovski to unnecessary risk, even though they were previously informed about the threats against him by the highest government representatives. The Serbian government will bear responsibility if Božinovski is exposed to inhuman treatment in Macedonian prisons.

In March, the anti-torture committee of the Council of Europe (an international organization for the promotion of democracy and human rights with 47 member states, not to be confused with the 28-nation  European Union) published a report on the conditions within the Macedonian penal system, expressing deep concern due to “numerous consistent allegations of ill-treatment of detainees by custodial staff were received, and there were frequent instances of inter-detainee violence.”

Association of Journalists of Serbia also expressed concern about Božinovski's safety after his extradition to Macedonia.

Anti-government portals in Macedonia accuse the Serbian government of collusion with the Macedonian government. Both countries are currently run by right-wing parties which are members of the European People's Party, a center-right European-wide political party with a presence in the European Union and the Council of Europe. For example, their critics point to an incident in October 2015, when Serbian authorities simply released former Macedonian secret service chief and Gruevski's cousin Sašo Mijalkov after a short detention for smuggling a gun and ammunition on an airplane. The results of an investigation into the case in Macedonia are still pending.

by Marko Angelov at April 25, 2016 01:05 PM

DML Central
Equitable Connected Learning Requires Diverse Research Perspectives

As a former high school English teacher in two large, urban school districts, I completely understand how educators, parents and policymakers who are wrestling each day with the most pressing issues facing public education — standardized testing, the effects of poverty on learning, opportunity gaps — might be a bit impatient with educational theory and research. Is this new theory about the intersection of culture, politics, and digital media going to give me the answers about how to help my most struggling students today? If not, it can wait. My students need me right now.

So, I can chuckle for a moment along with Dr. Frederick Hess, director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, when he pokes fun at some of the paper titles that were presented earlier this month at the 2016 annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association (AERA), the largest professional organization of education researchers in North America. The titles he singles out are often extremely lengthy, contain more than their fair share of colons and million-dollar vocabulary words, and generally seem far away from classroom life.

I am now an educational researcher and freely admit that I have been guilty of these crimes against clarity and precision in my writing. Too often, academic writing that hopes to offer information to address the most pressing problems facing practitioners uses language that serves to alienate the very people researchers are trying to help — an issue that Dr. Mike Rose of UCLA just implored researchers to address at the AERA conference. The community of academia, like many other specialized communities, can get wrapped up in its own jargon to the detriment of its larger mission.

I can even give Dr. Hess a pass when he declares during a session on public scholarship at the AERA conference that Twitter is a social media site that does not lend itself to substantive public conversations. Perhaps he has seen too many snarky tweets and missed out on the amazing dialogues created by #FergusonSyllabus or #SlaverywithaSmile.

Yet, shortcomings in the communication of research, whether online or at conferences, do not mean that educational research is not crucial to informing and improving educational practice. In my courses for pre-service and in-service teachers, I remind my students that theory and research are inextricably linked to practice — that all decisions made in public education, from how we organize our lessons and assess student learning to how we structure school financing and school choice, flow from theories we have about the purpose of public education, the abilities of our students, and the kind of society we want to create. Naming these theories produces productive debate about the future directions of public education and helps us clarify our practice and policy.

That’s why I quickly stopped laughing at Dr. Hess’ derisive ridicule of educational research in The National Review and turned downright angry at his subsequent lofty dismissal of the entire AERA community of 25,000 education researchers in an EdWeek blog post. He does not simply mock academic jargon. He consistently singles out for abuse scholarly research that forefronts considerations of inequality, whether by race, class, or gender.

While he considers a study exploring Common Core reading strategies to be “reassuringly scholarly,” he lambasts a study exploring racial inequities in college admissions as “politically correct navel-gazing.” He then accuses the entire AERA membership of “groupthink,” proposing that all of its researchers are “fixated on questions of race, class, and privilege.”

Oh wait, but not all of the researchers. Hess excuses the “economists and evaluators” and finds a few words to praise the two sessions in which he himself participated. It sounds to me like Hess has his own privileged assumptions about what real research is.

Based on a few sessions he may or may not have attended (he does not specify), Hess makes the ridiculous assumption that all of AERA is comfortable “comparing Republicans to Nazis” and will not tolerate disagreement.

I fail to understand how Hess can claim that AERA does not welcome different perspectives when it invited him to speak. After all, he advances the idea in his blog that undocumented students should be characterized as “illegal” and “lawbreakers” and that we should be talking about personal responsibility instead of structural inequities. While I don’t have the space here to explain my fundamental problems with these ideas, Hess had a platform to speak at AERA alongside the critical researchers of whom he is so dismissive.

Based on his post, I suspect that Dr. Hess may not have attended AERA’s Presidential Address, offered by Dr. Jeannie Oakes. If he had, he may have learned more about how educational researchers (largely white and male) have historically engaged in counting and measuring — the kind of traditional research that Hess thinks is the only real scholarly kind — in order to hand down prescriptions to educators about how to make their practice more efficient without considering diverse perspectives. And that they have failed to contribute to the inclusive and equitable democratic society that parents want for their children and teachers want for their students.

Perhaps he would have learned that scholars of color who work to amplify the voices of those from marginalized communities and diversify education research have fought and scratched for years in order to carve out space for themselves in national organizations like AERA. And are continuing to fight that uphill battle.

Perhaps he would have heard Dr. Oakes say that, “different questions require different theoretical lenses and different methods and different data.” And that inviting all voices to the table is needed in order for education research to tackle the most intractable issues of our time — no, not promoting charter schools or bashing colleges of education — but fighting xenophobia, racial isolation, and concentrated poverty.

Hess would have learned that he is wrong on two counts. First, rather than being a monolithic organization, AERA advances multiple perspectives, including many that he would agree with. And, second, it is scholars like him rather than AERA who “can and should do better” in considering the nature and purpose of educational research. His claim that he criticizes AERA as a friend makes me curious about what he thinks friendship means.

So, I invite Dr. Hess to do some more listening before continuing to generalize an entire community of researchers. There is room for all of us at the table.

Banner image credit: DML Research Hub

The post Equitable Connected Learning Requires Diverse Research Perspectives appeared first on DML Central.

by mcruz at April 25, 2016 01:00 PM

Global Voices
Puerto Ricans Take Heart in ‘Hamilton’ Creator Lin-Manuel Miranda's Success
Además del premio Pulitzer, Hamilton ganó también el premio Grammy por mejor álbum de teatro musical. Imagen tomada de video.

In addition to the Pulitzer prize, Hamilton won a Grammy award for the best musical theater album back in February. Image from video.

The Puerto Rican press and social media have been active this week with the news that Lin-Manuel Miranda has become the most recent winner of the prestigious Pulitzer prize in the drama genre with his musical Hamilton, which he composed and wrote.

The musical is based on a biography written by Ron Chernow of Alexander Hamilton, who immigrated from the Caribbean to what would become the United States and later served as the country's first treasurer after it gained its independence from Britain. Miranda is the second Puerto Rican to receive that honor, with Quiara Alegria Hudes being the first for her play “Water by the Spoonful” in 2012.

The musical is a sensation on Broadway, where it has received praise from critics and the public. Lin-Manuel, who won the Tony award in 2008 for his musical “In the Heights,” was named one of the most influential people of the year by Time magazine. Filmmaker J.J. Abrams wrote this about him for Time:

Lin-Manuel Miranda conceived, wrote, and stars in this breakthrough masterpiece, cementing his place as one of the most miraculous creative minds of our time. Like Alexander Hamilton, Miranda is a powerful reminder that greatness comes from unlikely places. His Puerto Rican parents’ collection of Broadway-musical records was as strong an influence during his New York City upbringing as the hip-hop he would come to love. There is no recipe for genius, but one can see the disparate elements that Miranda has miraculously seized and synthesized, embraced and celebrated, to create something profoundly moving and wholly original. He has redefined the musical and made us see anew the origins of the remarkable experiment called democracy.

US Congressman for the state of Illinois Luis Gutierrez, who is of Puerto Rican descent, made the following observation while being interviewed by Amy Goodman on independent news channel Democracy Now! He referenced “West Side Story,” a musical and film about opposing gangs in New York City in the 1950s:

Isn’t it a difference when we get to write the scripts for the Broadway plays? The depiction in West Side Story of me and fellow young Puerto Ricans, and today the depiction of us as a community when we get to write the scripts, it’s very, very different. I’m so proud that I live in both the America in which a West Side Story showed us as gangbangers, as foreigners, as people that weren’t from here, and someone who writes about the history of the United States, Hamilton, in a way that all Americans celebrate.

In the publication Dialogo of the University of Puerto Rico, Ana Garcia Roman alluded to the precarious economic and fiscal government situation while reflecting on how welcome news like this is:

En un momento en el que las cosas en la Isla se tornan un poco grises, levantarse con noticias como esta, le sube el ánimo a cualquiera.

In a moment when things on the Island are becoming a little bad, waking up with news like this cheers anyone up.

Certainly, Lin-Manuel Miranda's accomplishment is a very pleasant antidote to the uncertain economic climate that Puerto Rico is living, and one that every Puerto Rican can be proud of. For this week, at least, on the front page of the country's newspapers there was a story that reminds Puerto Ricans of what they are capable of.

by Salvador Sarabia at April 25, 2016 12:53 PM

Japan Gets Ready to Plant Rice During ‘Golden Week’
Rice planting in Japan

Planting rice in Japan. Much of Japan's rice is produced by small-scale farming, often in suburban neighborhoods. Screencap from YouTube user kazu san.

April marks the start of rice planting season in Japan. Fields are plowed and flooded in preparation for planting new rice seedlings, typically during the extended ‘Golden Week’ holiday in early May.

In the lead up to Golden Week, some Japanese people are posting photos of preparations for ta-ue (田植え), or rice planting.

Here's another photo of Oyama Senmaida in Chiba [east of Tokyo]. As the sunrises about four hectares of flooded, terraced fields transform into a beautiful tableau. There are about 375 terraced fields, large and small, here, making Oyama Sendai one of Japan's “Top 100 Terraced Rice Fields” (棚田百選). Flooding the fields before planting really makes this a representative scene of Japan. The call of the Japanese nightingale (ウグイス, uguisu) echoes throughout the valley. I am entranced by the scene.

On average a Japanese person will eat 60 kilograms of rice a year. While this amount of consumption is about half of what it was 50 years ago, rice is still an important part of Japan's food culture.

Government subsidies mean many households in regional and rural Japan are able to cultivate rice in relatively small plots, more as a hobby and a family activity than as a business.

Golden Week is a time when many extended families gather to plant rice. The flooded rice paddies of late April and early May signify that spring has truly begun in Japan.

They're already planting rice in the Chiba. Also, for reason there is a seagull hanging out here even though we're about 10 kilometers from the sea.

The “new green” (新緑, shinryoku) of new leaves combined with the brilliant flooded fields of spring is an irresistible subject for photographers.

Here in the middle of Hiroshima Prefecture, rice planting time is drawing near.

Some regions of Japan plant rice earlier than others. Mountainous areas, as well as Japan's northeast, typically plant rice a few weeks later than in the rest of the country.

It's almost time for plangint rice [here in Nagano, in the mountains west of Tokyo]. Pretty soon I'll be able to take this shot with the train and flooded fields.

Fields, once plowed, must be flooded for several weeks in preparation for planting seedlings.

Getting ready for rice planting, we've flooded the fields, which provides a beautiful refection of the seasons. There has been a large earthquake in Kumamoto and I know people who are affected. I pray for their safety. Sadness, challenges and pain are part of our human existence. So I pray positive thoughts.

The flooded fields reflect the brilliant, warm light of spring in Japan, providing opportunities to capture magnificent images.

The water flooding the rice paddies is warming up. Soon we'll be able to plant rice here in satoyama.

In some parts of rural Japan, the wide flat valleys seem to be filled with flooded rice fields.

We're planting rice next week so right now we're tilling the flooded paddies. The weather's fine and I have the theme from the movie ‘A River Runs Through It’ stuck in my head.

Once flooded, the rice seedlings are planted. While machines have automated much of the labor, some planting is till done by hand, typically in the corners of the rice paddies that are hard to reach on tractors.

In some parts of Japan they have already begun planting the seedlings. One by one we plant the rice and pray for their success.

The seedlings themselves are grown in greenhouses prior to planting.

We started growing koshihikari [the most popular strain of rice in Japan that was developed in Sakai, Fukui Prefecture in the post-war years] 28 years ago here in Aizu, Fukushima. First we grow the seedlings under cover here, and then transfer them to the rice paddy in mid-May when they're tall enough for planting.

Sometimes the seedlings are grown in and sold by large greenhouses operated by the local agricultural cooperative.

Here we are at the nursery. It's often said it takes an awful lot of effort to grow rice, and after visiting here today I can see why that is. I am really looking forward to rice planting in May, though!

There are a variety of strains of rice grown in Japan, each developed to match a specific microclimate. Kochijiwase is grown in a corner of Niigata known for a cooler climate.

This is a rice strain called koshijiwase. It looks like it's doing well. On April 21 we will be planting it!

The rice seedlings are typically planted by a specialized tractor developed in Japan after World War II.

Planting rice.

The flooded rice fields make for spectacular images.

Before and after shots of planting rice.

Rice planting is also a time for Japanese people to bond as they participate in an activity that is typically linked to Japan's national soul.

Rice planting… I'd like to try again! All of the third-year students at Hata Agricultural High School had an awesome time planting rice as part of after-school clubs. We got a little dirty, though.

by Nevin Thompson at April 25, 2016 08:59 AM

April 24, 2016

Global Voices Advocacy
Azerbaijan's Hunger Games: Independent Media on the Brink
Meydan.tv homepage. Screenshot taken on April 24.

Meydan TV homepage. Screenshot taken on April 24.

A strategically-placed oil-producing state in the Caucasus, Azerbaijan hosted the European Games last year, and despite some of the worst authoritarianism in the ex-Soviet region retains healthy relations with the West.

But for what remains of its independent press and beleaguered opposition, life in the country is much more reminiscent of the “Hunger Games” film and book series than any glitzy sporting event.

Most recently, on April 20, the state prosecutor's office launched a criminal investigation targeting Meydan TV, a dissident media outlet founded by former political prisoner Emin Milli and operating from headquarters in Berlin.

The probe alleges the outlet is guilty of illegal profiteering and large-scale tax evasion according to the lawyer representing it Elchin Sadigov.

A day later, on April 21, the prosecutor's office named 15 individuals in the criminal investigation launched against Meydan TV, some of whom are journalists based in Azerbaijan.

While no one has been officially charged, a number of Meydan TV reporters are facing travel bans and have been questioned.

Along with the Azeri service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), multimedia Meydan TV is one of the few outlets providing regular coverage of the Azeri rights crackdown from inside the country.

The outlet's founder and leader Emin Milli spoke out against the charges on Meydan TV:

Bir daha bəyan edirik ki, Azərbaycan hökuməti bu cür absurd cinayət işi ilə söz azadlığına, jurnalist fəaliyyətinə əngəl törədir və demokratiya mühitini boğur. Meydan TV rəhbərliyi irəli sürülən ittihamları rədd edir və bundan sonra da fəaliyyətini dayandırmayacaq.

We declare yet again, by opening this absurd criminal investigation the government of Azerbaijan is creating barriers to freedom of speech, and journalism activity, as well as suffocating democratic environment. Meydan TV rejects all the allegations and has no intention to stop its work.

Disclaimer: the author of this post is former English language editor of Meydan TV and a regular contributor to the website.

No let up

Such heavy handed probes into the activities of independent journalists marks a return to normalcy following the release of 14 political prisoners ahead of President Ilham Aliyev's visit to Washington DC to attend the Nuclear and Security Summit.

Aliyev inherited the presidential throne from former communist boss and father Heydar, and has shown even less regard for freedom of expression and other basic human rights.

As the country's economy suffers under the strain of low oil prices, the regime has looked ever more like the brutal game designers envisioned by American author Suzanne Collins, and later turned into a series of popular films.

Meydan journalists have faced scaled-up persecution since 2014 — the year when global prices for Azerbaijan's main export shrank by half — with detentions, impromptu tax inspections, and other forms of harassment in the last two years.

According to the Index on Censorship's senior advocacy officer Melody Patry:

Meydan TV and its staff have been ruthlessly targeted by Azerbaijani authorities. The charges invoked against Meydan TV are of similar nature to the charges that were used to send [other] journalists and government critics to prison. This investigation confirms the government has no intention of changing its approach toward independent media and free expression in the country.

by Arzu Geybullayeva at April 24, 2016 04:59 PM

Global Voices
Macedonian Crisis Deepens as Protests Increase in Number and Intensity
Protesters holding mirrors to policemen blocking their way on April 23. Photo by Meta.mk News Agency, used with permission.

Protesters holding mirrors to policemen blocking their way on April 23. Photo by Meta.mk News Agency, used with permission.

The political crisis in Macedonia continues to deepen, affecting the country’s international relations as a plethora of protests proliferate across the tiny Balkan state complementing the more general #ColorfulRevolution protest movement.

According to the report by OSCE Election Observation Mission, published April 22, the political climate in the country began to sharply deteriorate after April 12, when President Ivanov pardoned all those charged, under investigation and suspected in a wiretapping scandal targeting members of the country's opposition.

OSCE is not the only institution flagging danger in Macedonia. Both the U.S. State Department and the EU called on Ivanov to reverse his pardon.

In a recent interview with 24Vesti, the EU Parliament mediator for Macedonia Richard Howitt expressed his concern for the country’s welfare if Brussels’ recommendation is ignored by the government in Skopje.

Howitt, along with fellow Members of the European Parliament Eduard Kukan and Ivo Vajgl, as well as Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn released an April 22 statement saying that the government could face sanctions if it continues its authoritarian course.

As part of the trust-building measures sanctioned by the Pržino Agreement — a political compromise reached with Western mediation last summer — the Macedonian parliament appointed representatives of the opposition at the heads of two key ministries: interior and social policy.

But the new Minister of Interior, Oliver Spasov, has warned ruling party apparatchiks within the ministry have staged “a coup” and that his subordinates are refusing to heed orders, answering only to the VMRO-DPMNE faction's leadership.

Meanwhile, on the streets…

On April 22, three different protests took place in Skopje, all independent of each other, pointing to a boiling political mood.

In the morning medical students demonstrated under the slogan “We are not lab rats!” as part of a protest against the changes in the Law on Medical Studies, which they claim diminishes the quality of education they receive.

The Minister of Health’s office received representatives of the protesters and told them that no change can be made to legislation while the parliament is not working.

The students say their protest is not connected to the general protest movement sweeping the country.

In the afternoon of the same day, opposition ethnic Albanian political parties held their own an anti-government protest.

This protest complements the Colourful Revolution protests, demanding an end to government corruption, but with a distinct focus on the grievances of ethnic Albanians.

Their slogans — emphasising fabricated court cases against ethnic Albania and targeting the ruling VMRO-DPMNE party –evoked memories of the militant Albanian National Liberation Army, famous for its bitter conflict with Macedonia's security services that peaked in 2001.

Quite a number of ethnic Albanians, have also been at the forefront of other civil protests within the movement #protestiram (#протестирам) AKA the #ColorfulRevolution (#ШаренаРеволуција)

The main event

These bigger ‘Colorful Revolution’ protests continue to gain momentum. Every day at 6 pm thousands of people continue to gather in front of the Special Public Prosecutors’ Office, and then march the streets passing various institutions.

More join along the way, especially at points where police block the procession.

All of these protests are non-violent, although an overwhelming police presence — especially when ethnic Albanian opposition parties were on the march — has helped kindle tensions.

Colorful Revolution protesters place stickers with hearts on riot police shields upon close encounters. Photo by Vančo Džambaski, CC BY-NC-SA.

Colorful Revolution protesters place stickers with hearts on riot police shields upon close encounters. Photo by Vančo Džambaski, CC BY-NC-SA.

Artistic license

On Friday evening the ‘Colorful’ protest showed that no government building or monument will be spared by the “artists” of the Colorful Revolution.

Protesters seem to agree with OSCE’s take on the deterioration of media, and chucked paint all over the new Agency for Audio and Audiovisual Media Services building on April 22 in a symbolic act of resistance.

Demonstrators chanted: “This used to be a park” while redecorating the facade, condemning both the government’s illegal construction of buildings on public land and the hypocrisy of media legislation.

This used to be a park! I protest!

One of the leaked wiretaps that fuelled the political crisis in the first half of May 2015 showed the government destroyed the park in 2013 after the Former Prime Minister Gruevski decided to “beautify” the area with a ‘baroque’ administration building, punishing local residents who did not vote for his party during the previous elections.

A group of civil activists called Parkobrani (“Park defenders”) occupied the park, until a 400-strong police force laid siege to the whole central area and arrested 11 of them.

As Balkan Insight reported, “the demolition took place while Macedonia celebrated the country's biggest national holiday, Ilinden, when the city is half deserted as many residents traditionally go on vacation.”

The facade of the new Agency for Audio and Audiovisual Services in Skopje on April 22. Photo by Vančo Džambaski, CC BY-NC-SA.

The facade of the new Agency for Audio and Audiovisual Services in Skopje on April 22. Photo by Vančo Džambaski, CC BY-NC-SA.

On Saturday, April 23, the protest started in front of the Public Prosecutor’s Office as usual, but the demonstrators soon headed to the Constitutional Court building.

A police cordon stopped them midway at the bottleneck of Goce Delchev Bridge. Unable to reach their target the protesters chose to redecorate the statues of bronze lions placed on the bridge in 2010.

Police and 'Color Revolution' Protesters facing each other in Skopje on April 23, 2016. Photo by Vančo Džambaski CC BY-NC-SA.

Police and ‘Color Revolution’ Protesters facing each other in Skopje on April 23, 2016. Photo by Vančo Džambaski CC BY-NC-SA.

During this protest, citizens of Skopje also held mirrors to the faces of the policemen blocking their way.

The protest ended with demonstrators standing in front of the Government for a further hour.

Bilingual Macedonian-Albanian poster, announcing the upcoming April 26 protest in Tetovo on Facebook.

Bilingual Macedonian-Albanian poster, announcing the upcoming April 26 protest in Tetovo on Facebook.

In other cities, the protest movement continues. Traditionally quiet provincial Tetovo is expecting its first protest on Tuesday, while protests in Bitola and Strumica have been going strong for days.

by Anastasija Petrеvska at April 24, 2016 04:39 PM

Some Iraqi Refugees Who Made It to Europe Are Choosing to Return Home
Dana Maghdeed Aziz holds up the identification issued to him by the Germany government. Credit: Rebecca Collard

Dana Maghdeed Aziz holds up the identification issued to him by the Germany government. Credit: Rebecca Collard

This article by Rebecca Collard originally appeared on PRI.org on April 21, 2016, and is republished here as part of a content-sharing agreement.

In September 2014, Dana Maghdeed Aziz decided he could no longer stay in Iraq. ISIS seized control of his town, Mahkmour, and the future looked bleak. He sold his taxi and some of his wife’s jewelry and borrowed money from his family. Then he flew to Turkey.

Listen to this story on PRI.org »

“In Turkey, I bought a fake passport and tried to get into Bulgaria but they caught me and put me in jail,” Aziz says. “I told them I’m not criminal. I’m just a regular refugee looking for asylum.”

Aziz was taken to a camp in Bulgaria and told he had to claim asylum there. But he didn’t want to stay in the country, so he slipped away.

“I tried everything to reach Germany,” he says over coffee.

In March 2015 he finally made it. His plan was to get asylum in Germany and establish a new life for his wife and two children, who were waiting in Erbil to join him.

But almost a year later, he still didn’t know if Germany would grant him asylum or if his family would ever be allowed to join him. Germany is overwhelmed. Just last year, it received 500,000 new asylum applications.

Dana Maghdeed Aziz’s German identification cards on the table in a café in Erbil. After months in Germany he still didn’t know if he would be granted asylum. Credit: Rebecca Collard

Dana Maghdeed Aziz’s German identification cards on the table in a café in Erbil. After months in Germany he still didn’t know if he would be granted asylum. Credit: Rebecca Collard

“I had my first asylum interview in July of 2015. They said it would take three months. But in December I still didn’t know,” Aziz says. “Then in January, my children got sick.”

On top of all that, Aziz wasn’t allowed to work while he waited. He was living in government-provided housing with a monthly stipend of 325 euros from the German government (about $365).

Like many of the Iraqis who went to Europe, Aziz was the breadwinner for his family. But now he couldn’t send any money home.

“My wife had to sell the rest of her gold jewelry to support the family,” he says.

In February, Aziz gave up. He went to the Iraqi consulate in Frankfurt to get a one-way travel document and came home.

Dana Maghdeed Aziz holds up the cards through which he received a stipend from the Germany government. Credit: Rebecca Collard

Dana Maghdeed Aziz holds up the cards through which he received a stipend from the Germany government. Credit: Rebecca Collard

He's one of about 5,000 Iraqis who’ve returned since October with help from the International Organization for Migration. Many more Iraqis have returned on their own, unwilling to wait for assistance.

A security guard at Erbil international Airport says every flight from Germany is carrying some returnees. On one recent trip, there were at least eight Iraqis coming home after making the dangerous and expensive trip to Germany. Among them was Samad, who didn’t want to use his last name. In December, he says, he sold his land and paid a smuggler to get to Germany.

“I just followed the other people. They were saying there’s a better life in Europe,” Samad says. “I wanted to see for myself.”

But the reality was disappointing.

“I was expecting a comfortable life and that they would provide us with help,” he says. “But it was so difficult.”

Like Aziz, he didn’t know if he would be granted asylum or if his wife and three children would be able join him in Germany. And he was trying to support the family from afar.

“We were always in the camp. I shared a room with eight people and I wasn’t allowed to work,” says Samad. “If there was a hope I would get asylum soon, I would have stayed. But there was no hope.”

While Syrians have a good chance of getting asylum in Germany, for Iraqis it's less certain. Samad was so anxious to return, he didn’t wait for help. He spent the last of his money to buy his own ticket back to Erbil.

“I sold everything to go there,” he says.

Back at the café in Erbil, Aziz explains that if his family had been with him in Germany, he never would have come back to Iraq.

His town has been retaken by Kurdish forces now, but it’s still on the front line. And he doesn’t think it’s safe to go back. For now he’s sharing a house with his parents in the city, looking for work.

Aziz and Samad are both starting again from scratch — no taxi, no job, no money. Aziz spent almost a year in Europe and in the end has nothing to show for it.

“Of course I regret it,” says Aziz. “I spent all my money on a goal I didn’t achieve. Now, I’m in my own country and I can’t even buy a cup of coffee.”

by Public Radio International at April 24, 2016 10:36 AM

These White Butterflies from Nepal are Spreading a Message of Hope and Social Change Throughout the World
A boy looks on from an old abandoned vehicle installed with white butterflies. Image from the Facebook page of the White Butterfly project. Used with permission.

A boy looks on from an old abandoned vehicle installed with white butterflies. Image from the Facebook page of the White Butterfly project. Used with permission.

White means peace and these white butterflies from Nepal are spreading their wings all over the world, carrying a message of peace, hope and social change wherever they flutter.

It all started when Nepalese artist Milan Rai let the butterflies loose in the streets of Kathmandu, mostly at old, dilapidated and forgotten locations such as tree stumps, but also on busy streets and famous landmarks.

According to Rai, butterflies, as symbols of metamorphosis, represent transformation and hope.

Rai says the idea for the art installations struck him when a real white butterfly landed on his paintbrush as he was planning a more complicated art project.

Thus his own white butterflies began their journey.

The paper cut-out creatures have evoked strong emotions and empathy for Rai's cause among visitors to his diverse installations.

Recently, he installed 9,000 white butterflies at the premises of Kathmandu’s Kalmochan Temple in memory of around 9,000 people killed by the April earthquake last year.

The temple was completely destroyed by the earthquake.

Earlier, he had installed the butterflies under the bridge of the Bagmati River in Kathmandu, expressing hope for the holy river's liberation from uncontrolled pollution.

People of all walks of life are coming together to clean this holy river as part of an ongoing environmental campaign.

BagmatiRiver

The white butterflies installed under the bridge of the Bagmati River. Image from the Facebook page of the White Butterfly project. Used with permission.

This ‘butterfly effect’ has attracted and inspired people from around the world and many have asked him for more butterflies.

In his recent Facebook post, he wrote:

Verena came to visit my studio and took 500 white butterflies with her. She is going to a village called Ghyachchok – the epicenter of earthquake from 11-13 Baisakh. She is taking white butterflies for this community. She had also participated in spreading 9 thousand white butterflies on 6th april at Kalmochan. She is from Australia and works as a Music therapist in a children’s hospital.

Now the butterflies have travelled across the globe, where they have been widely photographed.

His butterflies were seen with children, adults, elders and activists coming together in Brussels to save a park, for instance.

The white butterflies at a park in Brussels. Image from the Facebook page of the White Butterfly project. Used with permission.

The white butterflies at a park in Brussels. Image from the Facebook page of the White Butterfly project. Used with permission.

And here they are again, in Jackson Height, New York:

Image from the Facebook page of the White Butterfly project. Used with permission.

Image from the Facebook page of the White Butterfly project. Used with permission.

And again in Cambodia:

Image from the Facebook page of the White Butterfly project. Used with permission.

Image from the Facebook page of the White Butterfly project. Used with permission.

High-school drop-out Rai has shared his personal story in Portrait of an Artist – Milan Rai uploaded on Vimeo by Kathmandu-based filmmaker Shashank Shrestha.

Recently, he was invited to Harvard University where he talked about his project and installed his famous protagonists in different parts of the famous institution:

Two days ago, I had a meeting with Harvard Divinity school Buddhist ministry students. It was a heart warming experience to share my creative journey with the the Professors and students. I mostly talked about my personal transformation and how a tiny butterfly changed my life. After that we went to spread white butterflies in other departments.
‪#‎buddhism‬ ‪#‎enter‬ the ‪#‎gate‬ of ‪#‎wisdom‬ ‪#‎life‬ ‪#‎peace‬ ‪#‎harvard‬ ‪#‎learning‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Image from the Facebook page of the White Butterfly project. Used with permission.

Image from the Facebook page of the White Butterfly project. Used with permission.

He added on Facebook:

I finished this white butterflies art installation yesterday at the CGIS building (Center for Government and International Studies) ~ Harvard. It starts from the ground floor swirling up to the 4th floor.

Nowadays, as Rai tours the world on the wings of his viral art project, he reserves some special words of kindness and appreciation for flight attendants:

Image from the Facebook page of the White Butterfly project. Used with permission.

Image from the Facebook page of the White Butterfly project. Used with permission.

Usually the flight attendants say, “Thank you for flying with us.” Whenever I meet them I say, “Thank You for flying with me.”

by Sanjib Chaudhary at April 24, 2016 05:59 AM

Cheers and Jeers as Ugandan Female Researcher Undresses to Get Her Office Back
Dr. Stella Nyanzi outside her locked office. Photo posted on her Facebook page.

Dr. Stella Nyanzi outside her locked office. Photo posted on her Facebook page.

On April 18 Dr. Stella Nyanzi,  a research fellow at the Makerere Institute of Social Research (MISR), stripped naked to get her office back. After undressing, she took pictures and a video clip, which she posted on her Facebook wall.

Professor Mahamood Mamdani, the head of the institute, said that he locked Dr. Nyanzi out of her office because she refused to teach a doctor of philosophy (PhD) class at the institute.

Nyanzi claims that teaching was not part of her responsibilities.

She first used her Facebook page to ask Professor Mamdani to open her office. Three days later, she took matters in her own hands, and early on April 18, she undressed in front of her office. This act prompted the university officials to hand her back her keys.

However, Makerere University subsequently suspended her pending an investigation.

Makerere University Vice Chancellor Prof. Ddumba Ssentamu, who accused Prof. Mamdani of effectively forcing Dr. Nyanzi to de-robe publicly, has named an eight member committee to investigate the issue.

“Sexual modes of expression”

This is the second nude protest in Uganda in a space of two years.

In April 2015, the Daily Monitor reported an incident wherein women from northern Uganda stripped naked to protest what they claimed was a land grab in the area where they lived.

Uganda's Wildlife Authority wanted to lease 827 sq km to a private investor who wanted to turn it into a private game park.

For some communities in Uganda, stripping in public is believed to invoke a curse on one's enemy.

Justifying her act, which she called a “sexual mode of expression“, Dr. Nyanzi wrote on her Facebook page:

The weapons of the powerless never make sense to the powerful. You can laugh at and mock me for using my nudity against the illegal eviction from my office, but it was the only weapon I had in my battle against Mahmood Mamdani's insubordination to the DVC [Deputy Vice Chancellor] who asked him to [cancel] the eviction. I am fighting to the death against the oppression and ‪#‎RotAtMISR‬.

Dr. Nyanzi's form of protest has sparked heated arguments on social media.

Some Ugandans called Stella insane:

With all due respect to Dr. Stella Nyanzi, she's starting to look very desperate and mad.

— Arnold Kwizera (@TherealKwizera) April 18, 2016

Comorade Otoa was sure that Stella Nyanza needed help:

But Allan Ssenyonga, a Ugandan journalist based in Rwanda, scoffed at the hypocrisy:

And Joshua Mali, a former BBC reporter, ridiculed a growing number of people who claimed that what Nyanzi did was a violation of traditional African culture.

Among the hashtags associated with the incident, one highlights the apparent degeneration of the once-respected Makerere Institute of Social Research (#RotAtMISR), while another expresses support for Prof. Mamdani in his face off with Nyanzi (#IStandWithMamdani).

by Prudence Nyamishana at April 24, 2016 05:01 AM

April 23, 2016

Miriam Meckel
Im Spiegelkabinett

WiWo_Titel_17_16_Autokraten_WEB

Wie wollen wir in einer global vernetzten Welt mit autoritären Staaten umgehen? Nur „Boykott“ schreien jedenfalls reicht nicht.

Da ist er wieder, der große Aufschrei, der inzwischen alles begleitet, was nicht im engen Raster der Norm und der politischen Korrektheit verharrt. Bundeswirtschaftsminister Sigmar Gabriel hat den ägyptischen Präsidenten „beeindruckend“ genannt und erntet dafür Hohn und Spott auf der ganzen Linie. Es ist ja auch leicht, aus dem bequemen Bundestagssessel heraus moralische Missbilligung in die Welt zu blöken. Fragt sich nur, was geschähe, müssten die Entrüsteten ein Rezept vorlegen, wie man in einer globalen, wirtschaftlich vernetzten Welt mit Staaten wie Ägypten, der Türkei, Russland, Saudi-Arabien und China umgeht.

Die teilen unsere Werte nicht? Da wird doch wohl ganz schnell der Stecker gezogen! Das hilft weder den Menschen in diesen Ländern noch unserer Wirtschaft. Stille. Die nächste Wildsau kommt sicher bald gerannt, der man entgegenhalten kann, sie möge sich wie ein Kuschelkätzchen benehmen, aber dabei bitte noch genügend Schnitzel abwerfen.

In diesen öffentlichen Diskussionen über richtiges Verhalten zeichnet sich ein neuer binärer Code ab, der ganz ins digitale Zeitalter passt: Entweder man ist Null oder Eins, schwarz oder weiß. Kurzum: Wer nicht für mich ist, ist gegen mich. Das ist nicht neu und war immer eine streitbare Form der Truppenbildung. Angeblich soll Jesus – in Anlehnung an Julius Cäsar – einen ähnlichen Satz gesagt haben. Doch schon die Evangelisten ringen um die richtige Reihenfolge. Matthäus lässt einen ziemlich intoleranten Jesus sagen: „Wer nicht mit mir ist, ist wider mich.“ Das klingt mehr nach Feldherr denn nach Volksversöhner. Wenn Markus in seinem Evangelium also Jesus die umgekehrte Reihung in den Mund legt, ist das ein besseres Vorbild für heutige Zeiten: „Wer nicht wider uns ist, ist für uns.“

Und was hat das alles mit Außenwirtschaftspolitik zu tun? Sehr einfach: Um in den Beziehungen zwischen Staaten voranzukommen, den Handel und damit den Wandel zu fördern, sind Purismus und grundsätzlich angenommene Gegnerschaft ein selten dummer Ansatz. Noch nie hat ein Mensch, ob Privatperson oder Staatenlenker, sich dem Kontakt geöffnet, wenn er erst einmal einen vor den Latz geknallt bekommt. Man möge sich nur erinnern, was die Isolation Wladimir Putins in den G8 für die Ukraine gebracht hat. Nichts. Der Präsident einer angenommenen Weltmacht soll am Katzentisch sitzen? Da wird er den anderen erst einmal zeigen, wie real sein Anspruch ist, und zwar gerne mit allen Mitteln.

Das ist kein Plädoyer für übermäßige Anpassung oder ein laxes Verständnis der eigenen Werte und Rechtsgrundlagen. Es ist nur der Hinweis, dass viel Veränderung durch Zuwendung und Ausdauer, wenig aber durch Ablehnung und Strafe entsteht.

Wie verändert sich eigentlich ein Chamäleon, wenn es in einem Spiegelkabinett sitzt? Das Tier wird hektisch, kriegt rot-gelbe Streifen und schaltet auf Angriff. So ähnlich funktioniert die deutsche Diskussion derzeit in der Außenwirtschaftspolitik. Merke: Das Chamäleon glaubt, im Spiegel den Gegner vor sich zu haben, weil es sich selbst nicht erkennen kann. Der Mensch, der in den Spiegel schaut, weiß: Was er sieht, das ist er selbst.

wiwo.de

by Miriam Meckel at April 23, 2016 07:52 PM

Global Voices
Pressure Mounts on Gambia’s President Over Worsening Human Rights Situation
Protestors in Banjul in the Gambia. Photo taken from the main opposition party (UDP) Facebook page.

Protestors in Gambia's capital Banjul. Photo taken from the main opposition party (UDP) Facebook page.

Domestic and international pressure is mounting on Gambia’s long-serving President Yahya Jammeh over his worsening human rights records. Both the United States and the United Nations have called on the government to respect the rights of citizens to peaceful protest. The calls came amid reports of deaths in detention of up to three opposition activists.

The activists had been arrested on April 14 for organising a peaceful protest calling for electoral reforms before the presidential election to be held in December 2016. They are also calling for the resignation of President Jammeh, who has been in power since 1994.

France 24 reported:

The protests began on April 14. Demonstrators want the government to enact political reforms before the presidential election, set for December. The president, Yahya Jammeh, who has been in power since a coup d’etat in 1994, is running for his fifth term in office. Opponents say that the president wants to make sure that the results of this election are predetermined. They point to many recent decisions as proof. First, a politician close to the president was recently chosen to head the electoral commission responsible for organising the elections. But that’s not all. Activists also decry the decision to increase by tenfold the fee for running a candidate – it now costs 500,000 dalasis, which is roughly equal to 10,000 euros.

The Gambia is one of two countries in West Africa without presidential term limits.

In 2015, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) wanted to introduce two-presidential-term limits across the region. The Gambia and Togo forced the 15-member bloc to drop the idea.

Jammeh claims that term-limits are set by God. In 2011 he told the BBC that he will rule for “one billion years”, if God wills it.

Gambia's vanishing opposition

Ebrima Solo Sandeng, Youth President for the opposition United Democratic Party (UDP), was among more than a dozen opposition figures arrested over the election reform protest on 14 April.

Barely 24 hours after the arrest, Ebrima Solo was reportedly in a state of coma and without due medical attention.

He died shortly afterwards in unknown circumstances.

A statement from the Spokesperson of the UN Secretary General read:

The Secretary-General learned with dismay of the death in detention in Gambia of political activist and opposition United Democratic Party (UDP) member Solo Sandeng and two fellow party members…The Secretary-General is deeply concerned about the apparent use of excessive force and the arrest and detention of peaceful demonstrators on 14 April 2016. He calls on the authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all those arrested, including UDP leader Ousainou Darboe, and uphold the rights of the Gambian people to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

Shortly after news of the death of Ebrima broke, the UDP leader, Ousainou Darboe, led a protest demanding the body of his party member and the unconditional release of all other detainees.

Darboe was arrested immediately and placed in detention alongside three other executive members of the UDP.

Ousainou Darboe has since been charged in court alongside 40 other protesters.

They are facing up to six charges of illegal protest, incitement of violence, unlawful assembly, holding a procession without a permit and riotously interfering with vehicles.

They have all pleaded not guilty but denied bail. Eyewitnesses say up to four members of the opposition were missing in court, raising fears about their fate.

Darboe is said to have courageously told his supporters:

While Sabrina Mahtani, Amnesty International West Africa researcher, has called for an independent investigation:

The tragic death in detention of Solo Sandeng must leave no space for impunity. The authorities must conduct an immediate, thorough and independent investigation

“The Gambia will always be peaceful”

In the meantime the government has defended the arrests and detentions of the protesters.

Information Minister, Sheriff Bojang told journalists that the protesters were arrested because they violated Gambian law:

Mr. Darboe is a veteran lawyer and he’s quite informed that in the Gambia just like in every other country there is something called the Public Order Act which forbids procession, street protests, meetings, and so forth without first seeking and being granted permission by the police.

For his part, President Jammeh has reportedly dismissed the opposition protests as the “instigation of instability in African countries” adding that The Gambia “will always be peaceful” on his return from Istanbul where he had been attending the 13th session of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

Gambia is slated to host the OIC in 2018.

The Chairman of the National Youth Council, Ibrahim Ceesay, was fired after he shared a post on social media calling on all youth to join a peaceful protest over the dead activist and continued detention of the activists.

The post has since disappeared.

Gibairu Janneh, a former secretary general of the Gambia Press Union, expressed dismay over the situation in Gambia and called on the Information Minister (his former colleague) to intercede on behalf of the protesters:

I hope the Information Minister who in 2013 stood alongside my humble self to protest against the closure of his Newspaper and for press freedom would cordially inform the Justice Minister that such provisions exist in our constitution. The information Minister at that material time joined me and all other journalists in the street because he was affected by the closure of his newspaper which was put under lock and key without due regard for the law. If he can come to the street to demonstrate his dissatisfaction with that government action, the it must be clear to him that these young protesters and the UDP members have equal rights to go onto the streets to demand electoral reform because it affects them. This is what democracy dictates.

Gambians in Dakar, Senegal and Atlanta, US and their supporters have also being organising protests against the Jammeh regime:

Change needed

The opposition are calling for electoral law reform as the current legislation unfairly advantages President Jammeh.

In the meantime, calm has returned to the streets of Banjul.

However, there is still a heavy security presence on the capital's streets. Activists say that until their colleagues are released and their demands met, there will be more protests.

Jammeh is widely criticised criticised for mistreatment of journalists, opposition members and the LGBT community.

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

Pan African institutions such as the Banjul based African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights and Ecowas have also called for calm.

Follow tweets about the political situation in the Gambia using the hashtag #GambiaRising.

by Demba Kandeh at April 23, 2016 12:36 PM

A Feisty 12-Year-Old Shows Us What Life in Nepal Is Like After the Earthquake
Shreesha Duwal doing chores at the temporary camp in Bhaktapur where she and her family moved after their house was destroyed in the 2015 earthquake in Nepal. Credit: Sonia Narang

Shreesha Duwal doing chores at the temporary camp in Bhaktapur where she and her family moved after their house was destroyed in the 2015 earthquake in Nepal. Credit: Sonia Narang

This article by Sonia Narang originally appeared on PRI.org on April 21, 2016, and is republished here as part of a content-sharing agreement.

When Shreesha Duwal takes me to her family home in Bhaktapur, outside Kathmandu, there’s just a gaping hole and piles of bricks. The multi-story building collapsed during last year’s earthquake.

Listen to this story on PRI.org »

“There were 20 houses here, all 20 of them have been destroyed,” she says.

“It pains my heart to stand here. It hurts to see everyone else’s houses gone too.”

Books and clothes, including many of her school uniforms, are buried under the rubble.

Now she lives with her mother, father, brother, and grandfather in a one-room tin shack, in a camp for the displaced that houses 60 families.

Almost a year has gone by since a 7.8-magnitude earthquake destroyed towns and villages across Nepal, on April 25, 2015. It killed more than 8,000 people and left many thousands homeless. But a large number like the Duwal family are waiting for a recovery that's hardly begun. Nepal's government has not yet approved plans for the reconstruction of homes.

In Shreesha's camp, there's no running water and they have to cook outside, making dinner in the dark by the light of the fire. The walls are made of corrugated metal sheets with a tarp for a roof. Clothes hang from long wires next to large bags overflowing with yarn. She and her mother knit gloves for extra money.

Shreesha likes to joke about the giant rats that run around the shack. “We have killed so many already,” she says. “But no matter how many we kill, it seems like we have the same amount of rats.”

There’s no escape from the weather either.

It’s very hot in here,” she says. “During storms, the wind blows the dust inside and makes everything dirty in our small room. When it rains, water leaks inside.”

As a kid, she’s most annoyed by the fact that the TV doesn’t work properly.

“Only half of the screen lights up when we try to watch TV,” she says. “So, I think, what’s even the point?”

Shreesha is a bright, confident eighth grader, but she finds it hard to study with the never-ending construction noise across the street.

When she’s at school, the other kids taunt her for being homeless.

“You don’t even have a house to live in,” they say. “How are you living in one room?”

The camp for people displaced by the earthquake is meant to be temporary, but the government has been slow in doling out funds for reconstruction. Ironically, Shreesha’s father is a construction worker who spends his days building other people’s homes. What little money he earns, he puts toward school fees for his kids.

“I think we will have to stay here for a long time to come,” Shreesha says.

Shreesha Duwal at the site of her former home in Bhaktapur, Nepal Credit: Sonia Narang

Shreesha Duwal at the site of her former home in Bhaktapur, Nepal Credit: Sonia Narang

A few days after I meet Shreesha, I join her extended family for the Nepali New Year. They take me up to a tiny, dark room on the third floor of an abandoned building next to their old house. It’s rickety and the floor shakes when anyone walks, but they’re determined to celebrate somewhere outside of the camp.

We drink Mountain Dew soda and eat rice and vegetables. They seem lighthearted, and the meal is full of laughter. Through the window, their old neighborhood still looks like a bombed-out war zone.

When I ask Shreesha what keeps her going, her answer is straightforward.

“It is the dream of having my own house one day, and my own room, that gives me the strength,” she tells me.

After the New Year’s meal, Shreesha, her dad, and cousins lead me through a maze of historical alleyways full of festivities near her old house. We try some of Bhaktapur’s famous “King Curd,” a delicious sweet yogurt, and stop at a temple ceremony to listen to the music.

In this moment, Shreesha seems really happy.

Sonia Narang reported from Nepal with support from the South Asian Journalists Association.

by Public Radio International at April 23, 2016 10:30 AM

Jamaica's Christian Conservatives Point Fingers at International Agencies Over Comprehensive Sex Education
A sculpture at Jamaica's UTech university campus. Photo by Janine Mendes-Franco, used with permission.

A sculpture at Jamaica's UTech university campus. Photo by Janine Mendes-Franco, used with permission.

There are two topics that really get Jamaicans hot under the collar: sexuality and religion. When the two are combined, fireworks are the likely result.

The debate between fundamentalist Christian Jamaicans and those advocating for greater sexual and reproductive rights has been ongoing for the past several years, with an intensity that fluctuates with the news cycle.

Recently, the fundamentalists have “upped the ante,” perhaps seeking to catch the ear of the new political administration.

The leader of the Love March Movement Dr. Wayne West, a radiologist and Chairman of the Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society, often speaks of his fear of “sexual anarchy” in Jamaica, ascribing the influence of foreigners to this perceived trend.

A year ago during the visit of President Barack Obama to Jamaica, Dr. West criticized the U.S. President for attempting to “normalize” homosexuality, in his view.

Now his group has directed its gaze towards international agencies — in particular the United Nations — in relation to Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE).

UNESCO describes CSE as “an age-appropriate, culturally relevant approach to teaching about sex and relationships by providing scientifically accurate, realistic, non-judgemental information.”

Incompatible agendas

The issue of sex education has a controversial history in Jamaica. In 2012, a firestorm erupted in the media and the general public — including among conservative Christians — over the Health and Family Life Education Curriculum for Grades 7 to 9, a pilot project.

Although the Ministry of Education, then headed by Roman Catholic deacon Reverend Ronald Thwaites, made it clear that international agencies were not involved in drafting controversial sections, it decided to remove one section immediately, and revised the Sex and Sexuality component of the curriculum.

An HIV and health educator commented at the time:

The public uproar over the health and family life education (HFLE) curriculum has done a grave disservice to a programme that addresses many of the social ills plaguing Jamaican youth.

The Love March Movement

Launched in 2012, the Love March Movement‘s Mission Statement is “to speak and act boldly, creatively and prayerfully in love to protect and restore sexual purity, marriage and family within the borders of our nation. We define marriage as a faithful, monogamous, life-long, heterosexual union. Family should ultimately be based upon the principle of marriage.”

The group currently has a petition circulating around local churches which appeals to the prime minister to keep the country's buggery law on the books. There is also another active petition dealing specifically with the issue of sex education.

In this vein, the group also arranged a public forum at the Covenant City Church in Kingston with the dramatic title: “Keep Us Free From Evil Powers: How International Agencies Are Sexualizing Our Children”. (The first part of the title is a phrase from the Jamaican National Anthem).

About 150 Jamaicans attended the meeting, including a substantial number of representatives from several civil society organizations, who took notes, sought to engage individuals on the issue and made contributions during the Q&A session.

J-FLAG and its affiliate WE-Change, representing the LGBT community; the University of the West Indies’ Model United Nations; the Jamaica Family Planning Association (FamPlan)Eve for Life Jamaica, which supports young women and children living with HIV; and the National Family Planning Board, which will be merging with the National HIV/STI Programme to form the new Sexual and Reproductive Health Authority of Jamaica, were all at the meeting.

A representative of UNICEF Jamaica was also present, although the organization was hosting its own event later that evening under its #KeepChildrenSafe campaign:

Organizations and individuals who sought to counter the Christians’ stance included the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition, who tweeted:

The Love March Movement on Facebook issued this dire warning:

Comprehensive Sexuality Education EXPOSED. Beware of partnerships with International Planned Parenthood (FamPlan is the regional division), UNFPA, UNESCO and even the WHO.
Eg. UNESCO – teaching children at age 9 about the definition and function of orgasm.
Do not be deceived. The truth is rising!

And, in a further attack on international donor agencies, it tweeted a quote at the forum from Dr. Wayne West:

Youth advocates also had their say. The Jamaica Youth Advocacy Network (JYAN), in a series of tweets on Comprehensive Sex Education, noted a comment by the local UNFPA office:

…but added in support of CSE:

LGBT activist Latoya Nugent shared a copy of the letter to be sent to Education Minister Ruel Reid (ironically speaking at a UNICEF event that same evening), which was circulated for signature at the event.

The letter asks the newly installed Minister to withdraw the Health and Family Life curriculum and CSE from schools:

As the debate raged, the choice of words grew increasingly important. The Love March Movement tweeted:

One commentator retorted:

While the discussion was vigorous on and offline, some activists took a more conciliatory, even humorous approach. Latoya Nugent commented in her blog:

I am writing because I want us to start thinking about the way forward in a very practical, conciliatory way.

How can Sexual and Reproductive Health & Rights (SRHR) advocates and health practitioners who understand the real world and people of faith who are more preoccupied with the Bible world, reach a point of common understanding for the benefit and welfare of all?

Where can we find common ground?

On what issues do we agree in principle?

What are some possible starting points?

Following the forum I was a part of a group of about six people who were engaged in dialogue about church, Christianity, SRHR, and sexuality. It wasn’t hostile. Views were allowed to contend, even though for some time there appeared to be no common ground. Truth be told, I was really there for the fun at first, but then I recognised the value of the dialogue.

As folks shared their views including some of my young advocate friends (on whose faces I could see the pain and struggle), I realised in that moment just how draining advocacy work can be in religious spaces, and I felt their pain.

JYAN tweeted:

Space for conversation?

After all the heated rhetoric and emotional outbursts of recent years on sexual and reproductive rights, the largely non-confrontational forum may, after all, signify a shift towards more reasoned dialogue.

This may be less titillating in terms of media reporting, but would no doubt help to clarify many issues in the eyes of an often confused and poorly informed public.

It remains to be seen what approach the new political administration — and Education Minister Ruel Reid (a former high school principal) in particular — will take to this hot-button issue.

by Emma Lewis at April 23, 2016 07:49 AM

Goodnight, Sweet Prince: The Caribbean Bids Farewell to the Consummate Artist
Prince Rogers Nelson (June 7, 1958 – April 21, 2016) . Image by PeterTea, used under a CC BY-ND 2.0 license.

Prince Rogers Nelson (June 7, 1958 – April 21, 2016) . Image by PeterTea, used under a CC BY-ND 2.0 license.

Back in January 2016, with the shock of David Bowie's passing still so fresh, it seemed inconceivable that any other international artist could affect the sensibilities of the Caribbean as much as The Thin White Duke.

Unless, of course, that artist is Prince.

News of the talented American musician's passing plunged the Caribbean blogosphere — like much of the rest of the world — into mourning and sombre remembrance.

Much like Bowie, Prince was an artistic chameleon, conquering the worlds of both music and film. Losing them both in the same year, to many, was a particularly cruel blow.

The region lovingly remembered Prince as a master musician, a compelling performer and the embodiment of all that is funky, radical and different in the world.

A seamless blend of every genre from blues to psychedelic, Prince was a musical genius, writing, singing and producing every song — and skilfully playing every instrument — on his 1978 debut album “For You”.

His risqué lyrics and electrifying live performances grew his following; a mere six years after his debut, Prince released Purple Rain — the album and the film.

His signature style soon became synonymous with Minneapolis sound. The Minnesota-born star even penned hits for other artists, including Sinead O'Connor's mega-hit, “Nothing Compares 2 U”.

Famously, in the early nineties, he announced that he was changing his name to a symbol — commonly referred to as the “Love Symbol” — in defiance of his record label, Warner Brothers, which he claimed was enslaving him through unreasonable levels of control over his creativity and earnings.

He moved to another record label, but in 2000, once again began calling himself “Prince”.

Whatever he conjured quickly turned into gold, prompting Twitter user and Global Voices Managing Director Georgia Popplewell to quip:

Netizens shocked and saddened

Artist Darren “Trinity” Cheewah posted a striking image of Prince on his Facebook page; Prince's hair is intertwined with the all-too-appropriate lyrics of the musician's hit song, “Let's Go Crazy”, saying:

let's go crazy… we gots mad love for The Artist

Portrait of Prince by Darren "Trinity" Cheewah; widely shared on Facebook.

Portrait of Prince by Darren “Trinity” Cheewah; widely shared on Facebook.

Trinidadian writer Sharon Millar said on Facebook:

Oh Prince. So young. My heart is breaking. My whole teenage life can be summed up by Purple Rain. I dated guys that looked like you, I wanted to ride behind you on that motorbike. I wanted to meet you so badly. Thank you for the memories. ‪#‎singinheaven‬ ‪#‎restinpeace‬

Journalist Laura Dowrich-Phillips was another disciple. She posted an image of a Prince songbook that she used to keep as a teenager:

Laura Dowrich-Phillips' record of Prince song lyrics, created when she was fifteen; used with permission.

Laura Dowrich-Phillips’ record of Prince song lyrics, created when she was fifteen; used with permission.

Indeed, many netizens acknowledged that it was the way in which Prince and his music deepened their own self-discovery that made his untimely passing difficult to bear.

Many social media users at a loss for words shared the photo of The New Yorker's eloquent tribute cover:

A picture says a thousand words -- the cover of "The New Yorker" magazine in tribute to Prince; widely shared on Facebook.

A picture says a thousand words — the cover of “The New Yorker” magazine in tribute to Prince; widely shared on Facebook.

What Prince really stood for

Others who couldn't quite express their loss turned to the words of American artist and activist Natasha Thomas-Jackson, who wrote on her blog:

And as is the case with all cultural icons, the grief is being felt in all corners, by people of all races, ethnicities, economic classes, gender expressions, etc. There is no doubt that his Purple Majesty touched people all over this world.

For me, Prince was confirmation of the heights one could reach when they weren’t afraid…to be different. Non-conforming. Confusing. Questionable. Nuanced. Hard to understand. Hard to explain. Though I was deeply appreciative of his musical genius, Prince was more of a spiritual psychopomp for me, a shining example of how to obtain the deepest form of liberation: being your damn self.

Prince's damn self was anything but ordinary and Thomas-Jackson couldn't help but note the irony of how many Prince bandwagonists are probably “unapologetically queerphobic, transphobic, homophobic, or against anyone having the audacity to live outside of [the] norms as it pertains to sexual and/or gender expression”.

This kind of intolerance for and lack of understanding regarding gender identity, sometimes takes a violent turn in Caribbean societies.

Dele Adams, who now lives in St. Kitts, showed full solidarity for what Prince stood for, however:

Going to wear assless pants and eyeliner out of respect.
I guess this is why Doves Cry. ‪#‎Prince‬

Prince showed a short black kid growing up in a very racist part of the UK that being different didn't mean you had to dim your light any.

At the time of time of publication, no information had been released regarding the cause of Prince's death despite the completion of an autopsy on his body.

To many in the region and across the world, though, the artist's life was already enshrined as legend.

by Janine Mendes-Franco at April 23, 2016 04:31 AM

Global Voices Advocacy
Malaysia Will Likely Force ‘Political Blogs’ and News Websites to Register With the Government
Bloggers in Malaysia brace themselves for state-mandated registration. Image edited by Kevin Rothrock.

Bloggers in Malaysia brace themselves for state-mandated registration. Image edited by Kevin Rothrock.

Malaysia’s Communications and Multimedia Ministry has formally proposed legal amendments to the Attorney General that would require the country's political blogs and online news portals to register with the government. Minister Salleh Said Keruak denies that the legislation amounts to censorship, arguing that the proposal is designed to preserve the Internet as a tool for promoting Malaysia's economic growth, and meant to protect the country against internal divisions brought about by misleading information published online, he says.

Human rights groups and media freedom advocates denounced the proposal as a curtailment of free speech, saying the move reverses the government's earlier stated commitment to promoting Internet freedom.

Critics of Malaysia's ruling political party say the push to force political blogs to register with the state is a desperate tactic meant to silence dissent. Since last year, the government has struggled against a corruption scandal that's sparked mass protests across the country. Internet users, including bloggers, are some of the prime minister's most vocal detractors, accusing him of ill-gotten gains in several dubious transactions. State censors have already blocked a handful of news websites for reporting allegedly ”unverified” information about the corruption issue.

Many bloggers who fear the proposed amendments recall recent comments by the communications minister, who said Internet freedom is a privilege, not a right, and is something the government can curtail.:

…freedom of speech and the expressing of one’s opinion is almost taken for granted. What we sometimes forget, however, is that this must be treated as a privilege rather than an absolute right. And privileges, if abused, can sometimes be withdrawn.

Meanwhile, on Twitter, critics rallied around the hashtag #BiarlahBlog (Let Blogs Be), standing against mandatory registration for political blogs in Malaysia. The legislation's opponents say the amendments don't specify what constitutes a “political blog,” and warn that the new restrictions could be widely damaging to Internet use in Malaysia. Twitter users are calling on the government to reconsider its plan, and instead conduct public consultations, before trying to revise the amendments any further.

Below are some of the points raised by activists, journalists, lawyers, teachers, and bloggers about the issue:

by Kevin Rothrock at April 23, 2016 03:55 AM

Global Voices
Malaysia Will Likely Force ‘Political Blogs’ and News Websites to Register With the Government
Bloggers in Malaysia brace themselves for state-mandated registration. Image edited by Kevin Rothrock.

Bloggers in Malaysia brace themselves for state-mandated registration. Image edited by Kevin Rothrock.

Malaysia’s Communications and Multimedia Ministry has formally proposed legal amendments to the Attorney General that would require the country's political blogs and online news portals to register with the government. Minister Salleh Said Keruak denies that the legislation amounts to censorship, arguing that the proposal is designed to preserve the Internet as a tool for promoting Malaysia's economic growth, and meant to protect the country against internal divisions brought about by misleading information published online, he says.

Human rights groups and media freedom advocates denounced the proposal as a curtailment of free speech, saying the move reverses the government's earlier stated commitment to promoting Internet freedom.

Critics of Malaysia's ruling political party say the push to force political blogs to register with the state is a desperate tactic meant to silence dissent. Since last year, the government has struggled against a corruption scandal that's sparked mass protests across the country. Internet users, including bloggers, are some of the prime minister's most vocal detractors, accusing him of ill-gotten gains in several dubious transactions. State censors have already blocked a handful of news websites for reporting allegedly ”unverified” information about the corruption issue.

Many bloggers who fear the proposed amendments recall recent comments by the communications minister, who said Internet freedom is a privilege, not a right, and is something the government can curtail.:

…freedom of speech and the expressing of one’s opinion is almost taken for granted. What we sometimes forget, however, is that this must be treated as a privilege rather than an absolute right. And privileges, if abused, can sometimes be withdrawn.

Meanwhile, on Twitter, critics rallied around the hashtag #BiarlahBlog (Let Blogs Be), standing against mandatory registration for political blogs in Malaysia. The legislation's opponents say the amendments don't specify what constitutes a “political blog,” and warn that the new restrictions could be widely damaging to Internet use in Malaysia. Twitter users are calling on the government to reconsider its plan, and instead conduct public consultations, before trying to revise the amendments any further.

Below are some of the points raised by activists, journalists, lawyers, teachers, and bloggers about the issue:

by Mong Palatino at April 23, 2016 03:53 AM

April 22, 2016

Lokman Tsui
自己資料自己攞

小時候,有一次回到家,我如常看看郵筒裏有沒有寄給我的信。信箱內有一封信,是寄給我的,已被拆開。究竟是誰拆開了我的信?我問媽媽什麼回事;正忙於清潔的她,一邊工作,一邊應聲說她誤以為信是她的,所以拆開了信件。但我倆的名字差天共地,怎會認錯?「有冇搞錯呀!」我說,但她只聳聳肩,堅稱以為信是她的。雖然我當時還小,但我已知這事有點不妥。她為什麼要打開一封明明不是屬於她的信?我相信我媽是出於關心,才拆開我的信件,我卻為自己的私隱被侵犯而不安,她的舉動亦漸漸傷害了我們之間的信任。這事令我體會到保護個人私隱和個人資料的重要。

「沒機構比網絡供應商更能威脅私隱」

時移世易,我們已甚少寫信,愈來愈依賴電郵、聊天軟件和社交媒體等等媒介來溝通。我們留下的數碼腳印當中,亦包括愈來愈多個人資料。誰可以獲取這些個人資料呢?我們經常打趣道,facebook和Google知道我們所有事情;其實,網絡供應商和電訊公司掌握的個人資料也許更多。喬治城大學法學院教授保羅拉姆(亦是該校私隱和技術研究中心的主任)在2008年的一篇論文中強調「社會裏沒有機構比網絡供應商更能威脅我們的私隱」。他指出,以前由於技術所限,網絡供應商沒法處理大量的個人資料;但今時不同往日,技術進步遠超你我想像,他們已經可以輕而易舉地追蹤和分析我們的個人資料。他們能知道你什麼時候在哪裏、逗留了多久、瀏覽了什麼網頁,以至種種敏感的個人資料。

因此,我和其他民間團體一起開發了「誰手可得」這個網站,目的是了解我們的個人資料究竟怎樣被收集、處理和分享。用家只需選取為自己提供服務的公司並填寫簡單的個人資料,網站就會幫用家撰寫一封「查閱個人資料要求」的信件,用家隨後可以發送給該公司的私隱條例事務主任。

根據《個人資料(私隱)條例》第18條,我們有權查閱公司收集了的個人資料。根據個人資料條例第19條,公司亦必須在40日內依從「查閱資料要求」回覆查詢。

為何建立這個網站呢?我是中文大學新聞與傳播學院的助理教授和美國哈佛大學貝克曼研究中心(Berkman Center for Internet & Society)的研究員。我一向研究網絡自由,十分關注網絡政策。參與這個研究計劃的機構,包括同樣關心網絡自由的「獨立媒體(香港)」和「鍵盤戰線」。另外,跟我們合作的多倫多大學的研究智庫Citizen Lab和Open Effect在2014年研發類似網站,成為這個程式的藍本。

我們希望透過「誰手可得」了解有關個人資料的保障現况,包括我們的個人資料如何被收集和處理?它們會被保留多久?誰能夠拿到這些資料?我們留下的數碼足印會不會被各種各樣的機構利用,甚至濫用?

為何要關心個人資料?

也許你會覺得個人資料都是雞毛蒜皮的小事,如果身家清白,為何要關心呢?讓我分享兩個故事。

故事一:2005年內地記者師濤被判監禁10年。案件源自他將一份中共的文件「泄露」給海外民運網站。這份文件要求記者不得報道有關六四事件的紀念活動。師濤用他的雅虎電郵寄出了這份文件,而雅虎公司將師濤的資料,包括辦公室地址、電話號碼和電腦的IP地址交予中國執法機關,成為他被判監的關鍵證據。雅虎的做法被國際媒體和社會批評,亦被控違反香港個人資料條例。出乎意料之外,私隱專員和行政上訴委員會卻指雅虎交給執法機關的資料,不屬於個人資料。

故事二:2010年八達通公司被發現在未經客戶同意下,售賣客戶個人資料,包括電話號碼、住址、職業、收入水平和「日日賞」計劃的消費資料。八達通公司將140多萬客戶的資料售賣給不同公司,包括保險公司和市場調查公司。八達通公司終承認過去4年半出售客戶資料作推銷用途,獲利4400萬元,佔其間總收入近三分之一。

這兩個故事告訴我們,保護我們的個人資料十分重要。無論是出於商業、政治或法律原因,有很多機構對我們的個人資料甚感興趣。作為公民,如果想保障個人資料,我們能做什麼?我們是否無能為力?

幸好香港有法律保障個人資料。經過八達通事件,個人資料條例經修改。根據現時的個人資料條例,我們有權查閱網絡供應商和電訊商收集了哪些個人資料。如果你的個人資料不準確,你甚至有權更改。換句話說,我們能評估我們個人資料泄露的風險和了解個人資料的去向。要行使你查閱個人資料的權利,你需正式寫信向機構提出要求。「誰手可得」可幫你撰寫這封信,讓你確認這些公司是否對我們的私隱負責任。

權利需不斷運用才會增強

香港正在努力推動創新及科技發展,但如果我們想推動創新經濟,我們要能夠信任收集、處理和分析我們個人資料的公司。權利就像肌肉一樣,需要不斷「運用」才會增強。研究個人資料保障也一樣,不能單靠文字描述或分析,亦要透過行使我們的權利,才能真正了解法律的本質。珍惜我們擁有的權利就要好好運用。請登錄「誰手可得」(accessmyinfo.hk),寫信給你的網絡供應商或電訊公司,一起行使我們的權利吧:自己資料自己攞。

文:徐洛文

作者是香港中文大學新聞與傳播學院助理教授

原文載於2016年4月21日《明報》觀點版

by Lokman Tsui at April 22, 2016 10:14 PM

Creative Commons
Vice President Biden: Taxpayer-funded cancer research shouldn’t sit behind walls

On Wednesday in New Orleans, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden spoke at the convening of the American Association for Cancer Research on the need to speed up scientific research, development, and collaboration that can lead to better cancer treatments.

Vice President Biden is leading the National Cancer Moonshot Initiative, which aims to accelerate cancer research and “make more therapies available to more patients, while also improving our ability to prevent cancer and detect it at an early stage.”

VP Joe Biden asks about CC’s Ryan Merkley’s op-ed in Wired from Matt Lee on Vimeo.

In his remarks to the American Association for Cancer Research, Biden discussed a broad global support for the Cancer Moonshot Initiative. He talked about the importance of collaboration among cancer researchers, academic institutions, patient groups, the private sector, and government.

He made a commitment to cancer researchers to help break down barriers that get in the way of their work. One of the barriers is not having broad open access to cancer research and data. The Vice President asked about the types of innovative insights and discoveries that could be made possible with next generation supercomputers and openly accessible, machine readable text and data.

Biden spoke about realigning the incentives around sharing cancer data so that research and development can lead to better treatments, faster. He said, “taxpayers fund $5 billion a year in cancer research every year, but once it’s published, nearly all of that taxpayer-funded research sits behind walls. Tell me how this is moving the process along more rapidly.” Biden quoted Creative Commons CEO Ryan Merkley, who this week published an op-ed in WIRED on the urgent imperative for open access to publicly funded cancer research:

 Imagine if instead we said we will no longer conceal cancer’s secrets in a paywall journal — pay-walled journals with restricted databases, and instead make all that we know open to everyone so that the world can join the global campaign to end cancer in our lifetimes? It’s a pretty good question. There may be reasons why it shouldn’t be answered like I think it should — and I’m going to hear from you, I hope, because I’ve not made these recommendations yet. But it seems to me this matters. This question matters.

In the op-ed, Merkley pushed for a fundamental change in the model for sharing and collaboration around scientific information, including cancer research: “An alternative system, where all publicly-funded research is required to be shared under a permissive license, would allow authors to unlock their content and data for re-use with a global audience, and co-operate in new discoveries and analysis.”

We’re grateful to see Vice President Biden’s continued support in the fight against cancer, and we’re committed to assisting in the efforts to ensure unrestricted access to cancer research for the public good.

The post Vice President Biden: Taxpayer-funded cancer research shouldn’t sit behind walls appeared first on Creative Commons blog.

by Timothy Vollmer at April 22, 2016 07:03 PM

Global Voices
Protests in Macedonia Against the President's Pardon Get a Dose of Color
April 21 Colorful Revolution protest in Skopje, Macedonia. Photo by Vančo Džambaski, CC BY-NC-SA.

“Colorful Revolution” protest in Skopje, Macedonia, on April 21. Photo by Vančo Džambaski, CC BY-NC-SA.

Streets in several Macedonian cities swarmed with people during the tenth day of protests in reaction to a pardon extended to a number of politicians and businessmen suspected of corruption, electoral fraud and other abuses of power.

President Gjorge Ivanov announced the pardon on April 12. Since then, protesters from the #протестирам or “I protest” citizen movement have been gathering every day at 6 pm in front of the offices of the Special Public Prosecutor's Office created to investigate the alleged crimes, which arose from wiretaps leaked to the public hit Macedonia almost a year ago.

The protests, which at the beginning included several incidents of violence and clashes with the police, have since regained their peaceful character. In addition to using the #протестирам or “I protest” name, during the past two days protests have took on the name #ШаренаРеволуција or “Colorful Revolution,” a result of protesters pelting different monuments and structures from the controversial development project Skopje 2014 with balloons filled with paint.

The name, which circulated on Twitter, seems to have been readily accepted by participants. Many arrived at the protests with colorful T-shirts, banners, face paint and other items.

Colorful Revolution protestors in Skopje. Photo by Vančo Džambaski, CC BY-NC-SA.

“Colorful Revolution” protesters in Skopje. Photo by Vančo Džambaski, CC BY-NC-SA.

On the tenth day of protests on April 21, the streets of the capital Skopje filled with largest number of protesters so far. They were accompanied by a heavy police presence. According to organizers’ estimates, more than 20,000 people joined the rally. The rise in support for the protests came after the announcement that European Union-brokered crisis negotiations were canceled and the EU was threatening sanctions over the situation (Macedonia is a candidate for EU membership).

Similar to other days, the protest began in front of the Special Public Prosecutor's Office at 6 pm and then continued in front of the EU InfoCentre, part of the EU Delegation to Macedonia, where police stopped protesters. After a short address by student and activist Dolores Popovikj, protesters moved towards the government building, where they threw balloons with paint towards the government, left colorful hand-prints on the street and traffic signs, and spilled buckets with paint on the ground.

Colorful Revolution protesters in front of Government of Macedonia. Photo by Vančo Džambaski, CC BY-NC-SA.

Colorful Revolution protesters in front of government of Macedonia. Photo by Vančo Džambaski, CC BY-NC-SA.

Parallel to the “Colorful Revolution” protests, the Citizen Movement for Defense of Macedonia (GDOM) which supports the right-wing ruling party, VMRO-DPMNE, held their counter-protests before the Parliament building. Estimates in local media put attendance around 15,000, though GDOM themselves claimed they had gathered up to 60,000 supporters. Anti-pardon protesters said many counter-protesters were brought to the capital from other cities, and some Twitter users reported numerous buses parked alongside Skopje’s main streets.

Demonstrators demanded that parliamentary elections be held on June 5 as scheduled. The country's political opposition, many civil society organisations and members of the European Union oppose this, arguing there's no guarantee that the vote would be free or fair and that more reforms are needed.

One of the speakers at the counter-protest, Aleksandar Pandov, publicly asked for constitutional amendments to be made “banning the work of civil organisations and political parties that are destroying Macedonia.” Counter-protesters held anti-NATO and anti-EU slogans and banners, and said they were defending Macedonia from a conspiracy instigated by ‘the West.’

What is a dictatorship? I ask in the name of North Korea.
GDOM with demand that the Constitutional Court temporarily halt the nongovernmental sector.

Another GDOM speaker, Aleksandar Daštevski, whom the ruling party appointed as member of the state Commission for Protection from Discrimination, claimed the movement had the support of “true” Macedonians, while the protests against the president's pardon are supposedly inflated by foreigners — in reference to Greeks and Serbs, specifically — and “foreign and domestic mercenaries.”

Some of the banners at the counter-protests reflected the influence of government officials, like President Ivanov's accusation that NATO and EU ambassadors are meddling in internal affairs. Others tried to respond to messages held aloft at the “Colorful Revolution”. For instance, those protesters wrote graffiti on the Triumphal Arc with the message “your gate is ugly.” Counter-protesters had a banner (pictured below) reading “your ambassadors are ugly.”

Both groups were peaceful, and the police did not allow them to meet during their demonstrations, which ended around 9:30 pm. However, there was a point of tension as people began dispersing because counter-protesters were allowed to return to their buses and directly crossed the path of the anti-pardon protesters near the main Orthodox church. Police cordons blocked protesters from continuing while the counter-protesters passed, which resulted in a lot of discontent, with protesters shouting “traitors!” and “sheep!” to counter-protesters. The police did not allow the situation to escalate and the crowds dispersed soon after.

Alongside Skopje, the Colorful Revolution protests are gaining momentum in 10 other cities across Macedonia: Bitola, Prilep, Kavadarci, Kocani, Gostivar, Ohrid, Kumanovo, Veles, Strumica, and Shtip.

Tweet: Gostivar

Image: “Enough Silence!” [Banner in Albanian, Macedonian, Turkish and Roma language from the April 21 protest in the multi-ethnic city of Gostivar.]

Tweet: Bravo, Gostivar!

Image: “I protest = I exist!” [Sign in Albanian held by elderly woman in Gostivar]

Even larger protests are expected on April 22 as several ethnic Albanian opposition political parties have announced their support for the movement and called for all Albanians, Albanian NGOs and political parties to join them.

by Vesna Ilievska at April 22, 2016 04:14 PM

Following Olympics Drama, Trinidad & Tobago Fans Lobby for Gymnastics Board to Resign
Screenshot of the "Welcome Home Thema" video on Vimeo by Unlock Media TT.

Screenshot of the “Welcome Home Thema” video on Vimeo by Unlock Media TT.

Update: Since this post was published earlier today, an online petition addressed to Trinidad and Tobago's Minister of Sport is being circulated, in an effort to cut funding to the Trinidad and Tobago Gymnastics Federation (TTGF) with immediate effect. The petition has already attracted more than 3,000 supporters. The Sport Company of Trinidad and Tobago (SPORTT) has subsequently asked for a full report about the situation from the TTGF, though it maintains this this request is standard procedure.

Local support for Thema Williams, the Trinidadian gymnast who was pulled from the 2016 Rio Olympics Test Event — ostensibly because of a knee injury — is stronger than ever, following a contentious move by the Trinidad and Tobago Gymnastics Federation (TTGF) board to replace Williams with Marisa Dick, who is Canadian-born but can compete for Trinidad and Tobago because she holds dual citizenship.

Both athletes were in hot water with the association earlier this year over topless photos they had taken of themselves and posted on their Instagram and Snapchat accounts; their matters are currently before a TTGF disciplinary committee.

She may not have got the chance to prove herself in Rio, but Williams returned to Trinidad to great fanfare — supporters and well wishers greeted her at the airport, where she received a hero's welcome to the strains of cricketer Dwayne Bravo's song, “Champion”, which went recently burgeoned in popularity after the West Indies cricket team won the international T20 tournament.

Williams’ American coach, John Geddert, who some are saying “opened the door” for the TTGF to pull the gymnast from the event because of the overly dramatic wording of his training report, just as dramatically came to her defence, admitting he regretted his choice of words:

I regret sending them a report that was incomplete […] and I regret sending them the ammunition to make the decision that I think they always wanted to make…

Thema had a disappointing practice. Athletes have disappointing practises all the time…

You are supposed to give them an honest report of what is going on … Now, in hindsight, it obviously should not have been.

Geddert told sports website Wired868 that he had “never had to deal with so much drama as I've had in this two year period—ever”, and maintained that the TTGF had a bias against Williams.

Even though Williams’ replacement managed to secure Trinidad and Tobago's first ever position at the Olympics, Geddert insisted that Marisa Dick was the wrong choice and has “zero chance” of medalling.

The TTGF, in a press conference, maintained that its decision was done in the best interest of Williams, saying it didn't want the athlete to “injure herself even more” — but the board seems to be the only one coming to its own defence. LoopTT reported that even as Williams’ supporters continue to agitate for the resignation of current TTGF board members, “word is that a few of the members are indeed looking to step down”:

The reason for their impending resignations. they said, is total dissatisfaction with the board which has done nothing for the development of the sport for the past eight years and the handling of the whole situation with regard to Williams.

‘They have done nothing to develop the athletes. Their focus has been totally on Olympics and even that the preparation has been shoddy and biased. Clifton McDowell (coach) developed Thema without any assistance from the TTGF. The clubs have been so dissatisfied that in fact four clubs boycotted last year’s Nationals, two of which were Olympia and Tots and tumblers. Reasons for that boycott were direct issues with the running of the organization: No AGMs [annual general meetings] for years, no financial statements, and so many more internal issues,’ the members revealed.

The Loop report also revealed that the TTGF's decision may well have litigious consequences, since due process was allegedly not followed in pulling Williams from the competition:

The process is such that the board cannot remove/pull an athlete from competition. The process is that grounds have to be given by the coach doctor/physio and head of delegation who was in this case Nicole Fuentes. It is them and not the board that makes the decision. It is interesting that there are issues now surrounding her (Nicole Fuentes) now that she has confirmed that Thema was in fact fit enough to compete. When it seemed that she was in their corner it was all fine and well for her to go to Rio under the title of Head of Delegation and physiotherapist, paid for by public funds, sanctioned by the board. Now they, the board, are claiming that she is not in fact a physiotherapist but rather a massage therapist. All very convenient since her findings that Thema was in fact fit enough to compete.

Still, the anonymous sources were careful to say that “the gymnastics federation didn’t do anything wrong in theory. They responded to a report from coach. What Brian Lewis [president, Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee] and the TTOC have to do is investigate if the process was followed according to the athlete’s agreement and act accordingly.”

Public opinion is squarely against the TTGF, however. On Facebook, social media user Abeo Jackson said, in a public post that she wanted people to share:

This is bigger than one incident, this is about years of horribly poor stewardship of the board of an organization, for whom it seems the welfare of athletes is nowhere on their to do list. From botched elections, to the withholding of financial statements, to organization wide known preferential treatment of certain athletes. They must step down!!

Fellow Facebook user Natasha Ramnauth added:

Everybody but the board seems to want to leave this organisation. If they are however, receiving public funds I expect that the policy adhering Ministry of Sport shall conduct the necessary investigations.

Most netizens believe that despite the TTGF's protests, there is more in the mortar than the pestle; at this stage, it it still unclear who to believe, though Wired868 gave it a good shot when it tried to reconstruct the timeline of Williams being pulled from the competition and Dick being flown in to Rio. You can follow developments on Twitter using the hashtag #WeSupportThema.

by Janine Mendes-Franco at April 22, 2016 02:38 PM

Marriage Equality Is Now Accepted by Colombia's Constitutional Court, but Still Not by All Colombians
El matrimonio entre personas del mismo sexo en Colombia ha recibido aprobación de la ley, pero no de la mayoría de la sociedad colombiana. Fotografía de Wikimedia Commons, del dominio público (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Marriage between people of the same sex has now been legally approved, but not by most of Colombian society. Photo by Wikimedia Commons, a public domain (CC BY-SA 2.0)

gay couple, Fernando José Silva and Ricardo Betancourt, who have lived together for 33 years and want to get married, managed to receive legal permission from the Constitutional Court on 7 April.

This decision reformed a law that had existed since 2011, which recognised that couples of the same sex were able to form a family but forbade them from getting married, a right reserved for heterosexual couples. Instead, it created a contract called a “formal union” (unión solemne, in Spanish) which gave similar rights but was not a true marriage.

Moreover, it gave Congress until June 2013 to properly regulate these unions. But Congress hasn't, and so gay couples were free to formally ask a judge or notary to approve their marriage. This lack of clarity meant that while the authorities were talking of formal unions, dozens of partners were requesting a conventional marriage, although only a few were successful.

This confusion has now been cleared up, thanks to the decision in favour of Silva and Betancourt. From now on, judges and notaries will have to grant civil marriage and will not be able to object based on the sexual identity of the couples. It represented one fo the last major legal battles left for the LGBT community in Colombia to win. Five months ago, they were granted the right to adopt by this same court, and in the last several years they have won several other significant victories.

From legal struggle to social debate

Voices for and against marriage equality have not held back. Interior Minister Juan Fernando Cristo has stated, “Marriage equality is a step towards a more inclusive Colombia”, while Senator Armando Benedetti, who has been unsuccessfully fighting since 2006 for legislation in favour of homosexuals, declared that from now on, “The country´s notaries are legally obliged to marry any and all members of the LGBT community who ask them to”. Similarly, Leftist Senator Iván Cepeda let his satisfaction show by remarking that the judgement is “an important step towards democracy”.

However, others were strongly opposed. The attorney general has said he will push for a constitutional reform that forbids same-sex marriage. This then motivated Germán Rincón, a defence lawyer for the rights of this minority, to respond: “The biggest losers are the radical conservatives who attack us. This is a slap in the face from the attorney, he's literally chasing us down”.

Ex-President and current Senator Álvaro Uribe also got involved. He described the decision as political rather than legal, claiming that the court had superceded legislators and the people. He also stated that authorities must respect “the continuation of the human species”.

For his part, Monsignor José Daniel Falla, the general secretary of the Episcopal Conference in which all of the country's Catholic bishops meet, warned, “Now they can do as they please… Everything will end up like Sodom and Gomorrah”, a reference to the Biblical cities present in the Old Testament that were destroyed because of the perversions of their people. He used the hashtag #sodomaygomorra (Sodom and Gomorrah), which soon was where Colombians got into a heated debate over marriage equality. The hashtag #matrimonioigualitario (marriage equality) was also soon trending with 11,000 tweets, along with #GraciasCorteConstitucional (Thank you, Constitutional Court).

Márgara Ortiz, for example, took a political stance and brought up other controversial decisions:

-Legalised abortion
-Maximum quantity raised
-Gay marriage approved
-Trampling on the Magna Carta
-The Constitutional Court is Sodom and Gomorrah

Ortiz was referring to the Constitutional Court´s decision in 2006 to decriminalise abortion in three cases: when the mother's life is in danger, when the foetus is deformed or when the mother was raped. Recently, the Supreme Court of Justice established criteria to define the maximum quantity of illicit drugs a person can have before it is no longer seen as “personal use”.

Others, such as Andrés Cárdens, took a religious standpoint:

Your return is close, #JESUS said that the end of days would be like #SodomandGomorrah. Our redemption is coming

Meanwhile, Twitter users like Andrés Velandia fought back, calling attention to the cases of abuse committed by the Catholic Church:

It´s unbelievable that the Church is speaking up when it still hasn't repaired the damage made to the victims of its terrible rapes and abuse

In what seems to be a response to Senator Uribe's statement that the human species is at stake, popular journalist Pirry tweeted:

Now they're saying that marriage equality is a threat to the human race. I thought it was war, starvation and inequality. Oh, how dumb we are.

A lawyer and activist for the rights of the LGBT community responded to the claims of catastrophe:

Two things to remember for those that oppose Marriage Equality: 1. It's not obligatory and 2. No one's going to ban your lifestyle.

Politician Angélica Lozano, whose girlfriend is Senator Claudia López, added her own happiness to the mix:

Tweet: Marriage equality passed!!!!! Equality is unstoppable!!! 6-3

Gif: Love wins. Colombia says yes to marriage equality. Our families are respected! Equality is unstoppable!

For her celebration, Lozano received insults. Luz Mireya Carreño supported her, responding to one such aggressive insult from a Catholic Twitter user with images that pose possibly uncomfortable questions for defenders of the Catholic Church:

Angélica Lozano's tweet: I respect other people's beliefs. You need to learn to respect those who think differently. Do you pray with that kind of language?

Image on the left: If a DNA test existed that determined if a baby would be born gay, would Christians be against or in favor of aborting it? Explain your answer.

Image on the right: Marriage equality isn't a privilege for gay people, it's equal rights. Privilege would be if gay people didn't pay taxes. Like churches.

Love wins?

The division is obvious, and although Colombia can now claim to be the 24th country to approve marriage between people of the same sex, this legal decision is far from having unanimous approval in society. Those against it are preparing for to fight it however they can, supported by a large percentage of the population. A survey carried out by Gallup last November showed that 59% of Colombians disagree with marriage equality, while 38% support it.

There are still battles to be won. A constitutional reform could soon be presented by the attorney general that would annul the court´s decision, or there could be a referendum like the one put forward by Senator Cristiana Viviane Morales against adoption by homosexual couples. The Husband and Wife Foundation (in Spanish, La Fundación Marido y Mujerannounced that it will denounce the magistrates who voted in favour of marriage equality and  the ministers of the interior and of justice before the Commission of Accusations by the House of Representatives for the presumed crimes of breaching legal duty by action and omission.

Meanwhile, in spite of everything, Colombia´s LGBT community is celebrating their unexpected legal victory:

Tweet: #ThankYouConstitutionalCourt #MarriageEquality

Image: Thank you, Constitutional Court. We are the 24th country. #MarriageEquality #Colombia

by Eleanor Weekes at April 22, 2016 02:30 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
Facial Recognition Service Becomes a Weapon Against Russian Porn Actresses
Photos used in Dvach's doxing campaign. Image: Tjournal.ru.

Photos used in Dvach's doxing campaign. Image: Tjournal.ru.

The developers behind “FindFace,” which uses facial recognition software to match random photographs to people’s social media pages on Vkontakte, say the service is designed to facilitate making new friends. Released in February this year, FindFace started gaining popularity in March, after a software engineer named Andrei Mima wrote about using the service to track down two women he photographed six years earlier on a street in St. Petersburg. (They’d asked him to take a picture of them, but he never got their contact information, so he wasn’t able to share it with them, at the time.)

From the start, FindFace has raised privacy concerns. (Even in his glowing recommendation, Mima addressed fears that the service further erodes people’s freedoms in the age of the Internet.) In early April, a young artist named Egor Tsvetkov highlighted how invasive the technology can be, photographing random passengers on the St. Petersburg subway and matching the pictures to the individuals’ Vkontakte pages, using FindFace. “In theory,” Tsvetkov told RuNet Echo, this service could be used by a serial killer or a collector trying to hunt down a debtor.”

Hoping to raise concerns about the potential misuses of FindFace, Tsvetkov seems to have inspired a particularly nasty effort to identify and harass Russian women who appear in pornography. On April 9, three days after the media reported on Tsvetkov’s art project, users of the Russian imageboard “Dvach” (2chan) launched a campaign to deanonymize actresses who appear in pornography. After identifying these women with FindFace, Dvach users shared archived copies of their Vkontakte pages, and spammed the women’s families and friends with messages informing them about the discovery. The effort also targeted women registered on the website “Intimcity,” which markets prostitution services.

Dvach (2chan) users organize a campaign to dox Russian women appearing in pornography and on prostitution websites.

Dvach (2chan) users organize a campaign to dox Russian women appearing in pornography and on prostitution websites.

The Internet users behind the doxing campaign say their motivation is moral outrage, claiming that women in the sex industry are “corrupt and deceptive.” (Tellingly, Dvach users also complained that such women typically ignore the kind of men who make up Dvach’s audience.)

A Dvach user informs one woman's acquaintance on Vkontakte about her nude photoshoot.

A Dvach user informs one woman's acquaintance on Vkontakte about her nude photoshoot.

Part of the doxing campaign included a community created on Vkontakte, where participants were supposed to upload links to shared files containing copies of women’s social media pages. (This step was intended to preserve any information that would be lost, if the women deleted their accounts, or altered their privacy settings.) Following a complaint by an anti-sexist community, Vkontakte quickly banned the group set up by Dvach users. The group’s page now displays the following message:

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Vkontakte responds. “This community has been blocked for organizing an attack on Vkontakte pages or communities.”

Speaking to the website TJournal, FindFace founder Maxim Perlin said there’s no way he can prevent people from using his service to harass women in this way, though he points out that distributing pornography illegally in Russia is a felony. “We are making every effort to protect all Vkontakte users from potential malicious acts,” Perlin says. ”And we’re prepared, if necessary, to provide any information needed to find the users responsible for this harassment.”

by Kevin Rothrock at April 22, 2016 01:16 PM

Global Voices
Freeman, the Blog Bringing Mexico's Little-Known Mountain Culture to the Masses
En la imagen: Vista del volcan Popocatépetl mientras Raúl Morales escala el Iztaccíhuatl. Foto utilizada con autorización de Raúl Morales.

Raúl Morales climbing Iztaccíhuatl volcano, with Popocatépetl volcano in the background.
Photo used with his permission.

Mexico is a country of intense sporting activity. Companies and media focus their attentions on macho sports, usually football, and occasionally on Olympic activities with a significant involvement of Mexican competitors, such as diving or taekwondo.

Rock climbing and alpine sports, however, receive little to no coverage in traditional media, despite the fact that many Mexicans participate in these activities.

To address this imbalance, we contacted Raúl Morales, founder of Freeman, a blog dedicated all things climbing and mountaineering, from reviews of mountain routes or products to news of mountain accidents, which are often reported there before any other news outlet picks up the story. The blog even has its own film distribution division.

Global Voices (GV): So tell us, what is Freeman and how long has it been online?

Raúl Morales (RM): Freeman es un vehículo para comunicar cultura de montaña y lo más relevante sobre deportes de aventura –escalada en roca, montañismo, trail running, etcétera- en México, a través de exhibir películas sobre esos deportes en Cinépolis [el más grande exhibidor cinematográfico del país], y por medio de nuestro sitio web www.freeman.com.mx, que está en operación desde el 2014.

Raúl Morales (RM): Freeman is a means to communicate mountain culture and the most relevant information about adventure sports – rock climbing, mountaineering, trail running, etc. — in Mexico, by showing films about these sports in Cinépolis [the biggest chain of cinemas in Mexico] and on our website www.freeman.com.mx, which has been in operation since 2014.

GV: Is Freeman a community project or an independent project? Is it in any way related to the television duopoly that controls the traditional media in the country?

RM: Nuestro sitio es completamente independiente y no tiene relación con el citado duopolio. Creemos que los deportes de aventura tienen un fuerte componente de libertad y cierta rebelión personal, por lo que también intentamos vivir esa independencia hacia nuestras actividades en el sitio. Es precisamente el espíritu de aventura y de cierta emancipación al status quo lo que creemos que los deportes de aventura pueden contribuir a la búsqueda de una sociedad más armónica que en la que vivimos actualmente.

RM: Our site is completely independent and has no relation to the duopoly you mention. We think that adventure sports have a strong element of freedom and a certain personal rebellion and because of this we also try to gear this independence towards our activities with the site. We feel that adventure sports have much to contribute to the search for a more harmonious society than the one which we currently live in, namely the spirit of adventure and a certain emancipation of the status quo.

The expression television duopoly refers to the two consortia that dominate Mexican television content and are expanding their influence to other media such as radio, the press and the internet. Nevertheless, following recent legal reforms, it is hoped that another corporation will be able to enter the market.

GV: What role has Freeman played in recent accidents related to mountaineering and alpine sports in Mexico?

RM: Además de comunicar lo más objetivamente posible los hechos que han ocurrido, siempre utilizando un ángulo especializado en el deporte, también nos hemos involucrado en los trabajos de profesionalización y desarrollo de la industria relacionada a estos deportes. Actualmente somos parte de la mesa de trabajo para la actualización de la Norma Oficial Mexicana sobre turismo de aventura y también pertenecemos al grupo denominado Montañistas Unidos, creado como respuesta ciudadana a los asaltos ocurridos en julio de 2015 a más de 4,500 metros de altura en el Iztaccíhuatl.

RM: Aside from communicating the facts in the most objective manner possible, always from a sport-centric point of view, we have also become involved in efforts to professionalise and develop the industry that surrounds these sports. We are currently part of the work group for an update of the Mexican Official Standard on adventure tourism and we also belong to the group known as Montañistas Unidos [Mountaineers United], created as a civic response to the assaults that occurred in July 2015 at an altitude of over 4,500 metres on Iztaccíhuatl.

Popocatépetl visto desde el Iztaccíhuatl, emblemáticos volcanes del Valle de México. Foto de Freeman utilizada con autorización.

Popocatépetl seen from Iztaccíhuatl – the emblematic volcanoes of the Valley of Mexico. Photo from Freeman used with permission.

GV: What challenges does a professional mountaineer find in this country? Can Freeman help to overcome these challenges?

RM: Como deportistas, los montañistas profesionales se enfrentan a los mismos obstáculos que se viven en el resto de los deportes profesionales con las conocidas excepciones, es decir, falta de presupuesto, atención gubernamental limitada, y presencia prácticamente nula en medios de comunicación masivos, por ejemplo. Por otro lado, a pesar de que en México existe una tradición montañera de casi cien años, la cultura de montaña no ha permeado fuera de la pequeña gran familia de montañistas, escaladores, etcétera, algo que ocurre con mayor naturalidad en países donde la geografía y clima demandan conocer más sobre cómo interactuar con el viento, la nieve y la lluvia, por ejemplo, y que en México conduce frecuentemente a que exista “turismo de la nieve”, por ejemplo, o personas intentando subir el Iztaccíhuatl con zapatos de fútbol soccer y tomando cerveza.

RM: As sportspeople, professional mountaineers face the same challenges as they would in any other professional sport with the obvious exceptions, that is to say, a lack of funding, limited government attention, and practically no coverage in mass media, for example. On the other hand, despite the fact that Mexico has a tradition of mountaineering dating back nearly a century, mountain culture has not penetrated beyond the small extended family of mountaineers and climbers, a process that happens more organically in countries where the geography and climate demand a greater knowledge of how to interact with the wind, the rain and the snow, for example, and which in Mexico frequently contributes to the existence of “mountain tourism”, for example, or people trying to climb Iztaccíhuatl armed with little more than a case of beer and a pair of trainers.

GV: What are your ambitions for Freeman in the short term?

RM: Buscamos, por un lado, que el modelo de comunicación pueda ser útil para otros deportes y actividades, no solo para el montañismo, la escalada y el trail running. Creemos que la libertad de la que hablamos puede reflejarse en muchas otras actividades y Freeman puede ser también un vehículo para comunicarlas. Así, también buscamos que la cultura de montaña permee fuera del nicho que ya practica los deportes de aventura.

RM: We want, on one hand, the model of communication to be useful for other sports and activities, not only for mountaineering, climbing and trail running. We feel that the freedom that we speak of can be reflected in many other activities, and Freeman can also be a means to communicate them. In this way, we also want to extend the transmission of mountain culture beyond the niche that already practice adventure sports.

GV: Any message for Global Voices readers who are reading this from outside of Mexico?

RM: La respuesta más frecuente que he recibido al hacer preguntas similares a atletas y cineastas destacados en el medio, es que el espíritu de aventura puede formar parte de la vida de cualquiera dispuesto a enfrentar sus miedos, puede ser a través de un deporte, el arte, de poner un negocio propio o de estudiar lo que en verdad nos gusta, por ejemplo. Algo que enseñan los deportes de aventura es que, en la vida, no hay tiempo que perder.

RM: The most frequent response that I've received when asking similar questions to both athletes and filmmakers in this field, is that the spirit of adventure can be part of the life of anyone ready to face their fears, whether this is through sport, art, running your own business or studying what we truly enjoy. Something that adventure sports do teach is that in life, there is no time to lose.

Foto tomada por Raúl Morales, utilizada con autorización.

Photo taken by Raúl Morales, used with permission.

In addition to the blog, you can learn more about Freeman by following @Freemanclimb on Twitter.

by Philip Smart at April 22, 2016 12:49 PM

In the Lead-Up to Trinidad and Tobago's Bocas Lit Fest, a Valediction for a Writer We Should Have Known Better
The gathering at Trinidad's Medulla Gallery to pay tribute to the late, remarkable writer Irma Rambaran. Photo courtesy Bocas Litfest.

The gathering at Trinidad's Medulla Gallery to pay tribute to the late, remarkable writer Irma Rambaran. Photo courtesy Bocas Lit Fest.

When I saw Salman Rushdie’s name on this year’s Virgin Islands Literary Festival and Book Fair programme, I said a prayer for the festival organisers. Landing a star guest is every festival's dream, of course: a big name raises the event's profile and brings in the non-specialist audiences. But luminaries also suck up oxygen and the attention and energy of organisers and media, and cast their long shadows over other worthy festival invitees. For a fledgling festival on an island of 50,000, a figure like Rushdie, who—thanks to a fatwa issued by Ayatollah Khomeini, an ex-wife who'd go on to host “Iron Chef”, and his own mediagenic personality—has managed to attain an unusual level of celebrity, was always going to be a bit much.

Then comes the news, two days before the festival opening on April 22, that Rushdie had cancelled. Particularly unfortunate news in light of the fact that the VI Lit Fest isn't free, or inexpensive; those who were coming to the festival especially for Rushdie's keynote must be bitterly disappointed. Even sadder, arguably, is the fact that this would hardly be the eminent writer's most famous no-show, as what could top his exit from the 2012 Jaipur Literary Festival, after learning he'd possibly been targeted by killers commissioned by an underworld don?

On the evening of the day Rushdie's VI Lit Fest cancellation was announced, about 30 people gathered in the white-walled basement of the Medulla Art Gallery, 500 miles south-east of St. Croix in Port of Spain, Trinidad, to pay tribute to a writer who, in every respect except ethnicity, is Rushdie’s opposite.

The event had been quickly pulled together by writers Nicholas Laughlin (who's also program director of the Bocas Lit Fest) and Anu Lakhan, and shoehorned into the pre-festival program for Bocas, whose sixth edition starts on April 23. (And this is probably an opportune time for me announce to disclose my Bocas Litfest bias—I am a friend and fan of both the festival and its organisers).

For the people in the room that evening, perhaps the most important way in which the writer in question is the anti-Rushdie, is that the latter is still alive. Irma Rambaran died at the end of February 2016—quietly, as was her way, at the age of late fiftysomething. She was a writer and journalist, according to the promo for the event, ‘whose literary work was little published but much admired by those lucky to be her readers.’

Trindiadian writer Irma Rambaran in her younger days. She died in February 2016, in her late fifties. Photo from her Facebook page.

Trindadian writer Irma Rambaran in her younger days. Photo from her Facebook page.

I'd met Irma a few times, but wasn't part of the small circle who knew her writing well. Three of the people who would read from her work that evening knew it intimately. Nicholas and Anu and fellow writer and poet Lisa Allen-Agostini had met Irma on the St. Augustine campus University of the West Indies (UWI) twenty-odd years ago. In spite of being several years their senior ‘she had a lot of time for people like us,’ Nicholas said in his opening remarks. ‘I think the reason we didn't grasp how much older she was is that she treated us like ordinary, thinking people.’

Irma was also one of the writers Nicholas published in Prometheus, a tiny literary magazine he started while he was at UWI. Irma handed him a sheaf of papers one day with several brief pieces, sometimes comprising just a paragraph or two, or a few sentences, that may or may not have been fiction. She referred to them as vignettes: in today’s literary parlance they’d be called “short short” or “flash” fiction. He remembers reading them and thinking, ‘Wow—she really knows what she's doing.’

Over the years Irma published a fair amount of her creative writing in Trinidadian magazines and newspapers, including The New Voices, Caribbean Beat, Anansesem, Newsday, and the Trinidad & Tobago Review, though self-promotion was not one of her talents. She worked at various media outlets in Trinidad, including the government television unit. From an essay by academic Kris Rampersad paying tribute to Irma, I learn that in the 1990's she was a scriptwriter on the television series “Book Talk” and “Cross Country“, a locally-produced travel show showcasing Trinidad and Tobago's little-known corners that, according to Rampersad, was once the most popular show on television.

Anu Lakhan hinted that Irma may have been schooled in the vignette form by writer and creative writing teacher Wayne Brown, who believed strongly that learning to write these snapshots in words, to tell a story plainly, succinctly and vividly using only material that was immediately available to the senses, was a critical discipline for a budding writer. For most Brown students this was probably a useful and interesting exercise, but not an idiom they cared to perfect. Judging from the evening’s first three or four readings it was one where Irma was completely at home.

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“Friday Morning” and “Lunchtime”, two spare, crisp pieces that clock in at just over 150 and 130 words, respectively, are almost transgressive in their economy. Describing moments and small gestures that appear mundane, on the face of it, Irma manages to convey a world of feeling. In “Restless”—93 words—she demonstrates a flair for dialogue and some sharp comic timing. “Eyes and Smiles” telegraphs the sensuality that permeates Trinidad’s carnival in just 240.

Kris Rampersad writes of Irma's talent for ‘draw[ing] some satirical analogy from some great work of literature, or some anecdotal experience, idea or humorous incident. . . which would allow us to refocus and pour our creative energies on the task at hand to shape . . . rather than waste it in a lament.’ Two of pieces on the program do have the ring of narratives inspired by current events, but not so much ripped as lifted carefully from the headlines and re-imagined with those from the periphery in the center as protagonists.

A Simple Man”, perhaps the most affecting piece read that evening, imagines the events surrounding the mistaken airdrop of a bale of cocaine in a fishing village, and shows Irma’s solid command of the longer story, and a genuine feel for plot and the ordering of details and exposition in order to build towards a powerful revelation. “Circular, Drive”, is a hilarious, pitch-perfect retelling of last year’s dramatic jailbreak in Port of Spain from the point of view of the taxi driver who ended up transporting one of the escapees.

Irma wasn’t uncomplicated (what good writer is?): Rhoma Spencer in the prologue to her reading of “Rum Shop” hinted at a drinking problem, as did Kris Rampersad in her essay. But shining through all of the stories read that evening was a deep humanity. “Even though the plots she inserts them in might be difficult or cruel,” Nicholas Laughlin said in his introductory remarks, “you never thought she felt cruelly towards her characters. There are writers now whom you think, that’s kind of sadistic what you're putting these people through. But you could never say that about Irma.” Her characters appear guided by a moral compass whose needle may float a bit, but which skews generally in the direction of decency, and the picture she paints of Trinidad is unusually gentle. In “Rum Shop”, for instance, a bar owner who cheats a customer turns out to have a compassionate ulterior motive. Even “Circular, Drive”’s prison escapee has a few redeeming qualities.

At the end of an hour of listening to Irma’s work, which lends itself particularly well to being read aloud, the group of us hanging out in the Medulla Gallery basement drinking wine, quoting lines that had struck a chord, agreeing that Irma, with her skill at painting pictures in words and conjuring atmosphere, would have made a helluva screenwriter, wanted to believe that there was a cache of notebooks just awaiting discovery, a hard drive somewhere, that contained more of Irma’s work.

At festivals and conferences the marquee events can be excellent, but as people often say, it's the surprises, the serendipitous encounters that take place in the corridors and interstices, that often turn out to have the most value. I’ll add to that list the sessions where you discover that a writer whose work you didn’t know before is in fact brilliant. Had Irma Rambaran not died last February, the lucky handful in that white room on April 20 would probably not have had the chance to experience as a body of sorts, and to be moved and entertained by, her fine writing. The Bocas Lit Fest hasn’t yet officially started, but one of its most important events may already have taken place.

by Georgia Popplewell at April 22, 2016 11:39 AM

A Little-Known Perspective on the Life of Homeless People in France—Their Own
Tents from charity 'Les Enfants de Don Quichotte' on the banks of the Canal Saint-Martin, Paris. From Wikipedia Creative Commons 2.0

Tents from charity ‘Les Enfants de Don Quichotte’ on the banks of the Canal Saint-Martin, Paris. From Wikipedia Creative Commons 2.0

There are many preconceived ideas about the lives of the homeless in France. The most widespread amongst them are as follows:

  • “It's a declining trend in France.”

The total number of homeless people in France (excluding refugees in the camps in Calais) is difficult to estimate, but the FNARS, a national organisation for social inclusion and re-insertion, estimates the figure to be between 150,000 and 240,000 people. The Fondation Abbé Pierre, a homeless charity based on the benevolence of its namesake, a 20th century Catholic priest, estimates that there are 50% more homeless people in France than three years ago — including 30,000 children.

  • “To be homeless is an active choice.”

A study shows that only 6% of homeless people choose to live on the streets.

  • “The homeless don't work.”

Many homeless people are employed on fixed-term or temporary contracts.

In an attempt to correct the narrative about the homeless, some homeless people in France over the years have told their stories in their own words on social media. Let's meet three of them: Stéphane, Francis and ‘SDF75′, who all have at one point offered insight into their lives on their respective blogs.

‘I am a computer programmer first and a homeless person second’

SDF75 explained why he wanted to create a different blog:

Pourquoi un Site Internet en tant que SDF ? Je pourrais répondre simplement : Pourquoi pas ? Mais pour être logique, je dirai qu'avant même d'être SDF, je suis d'abord Informaticien et que je désirais déjà avoir mon propre site internet.

Quand on colle sans arrêt à certaines catégories de gens une étiquette complètement irréelle et calomnieuse, notamment à propos des SDF, alors ne vous étonnez pas que soit utilisée une apparence totalement inverse pour la démonter…

Why would a homeless person make a website? I could simply say, ‘Why not?’ But to be logical, I will say that I am a computer programmer first and a homeless person second…I would simply like to have my own website.

When we constantly brand certain groups of people, particularly the homeless, with a completely unrealistic and defamatory label, don't be surprised when I chose to showcase the opposite image in order to disprove these false ideas…

SDF75 doesn’t hesitate to bust prejudices by publishing “show off” photos (to use his own words) and give regular updates on his work as a programmer and of his sporting activities:

J'ai travaillé pendant plus de 13 ans. Des emplois stables, mais aussi de l'intérim, ce qui m'a permis d'exercer des postes très différents, et ainsi de progresser plus vite en compétences. En ajoutant ce que j'ai fait comme services aux particuliers (dépannages, upgrades, installations de Windows, montage de configurations personnalisées, sans oublier de la formation à internet.), j'ai environ 16 ans d'expérience. Actuellement, je perçois le RSA, et bien sûr, en plus je fais la manche. Oui, car si on veut rester clean et vivre décemment, on ne vis pas avec de la morale, mais avec des espèces…
Et c'est ce qui me permet de maintenir mes connaissances.

I worked for over 13 years. Stable jobs, but also temporary contracts, which allowed me to hold a range of different permissions, and in this way to quickly develop a strong skill base. If we include my work with individuals (repairs, upgrades, installing Windows, personalised configurations, not to mention internet training), I have around 16 years experience. Now, I claim job seekers benefit, and of course I beg as well. Because if you want to stay clean and make a decent living, you don't live by morals, but by cash…
And this is what allows me to maintain my knowledge.

SDF75 dans la salle de musculation - capture d'ecran d'une video de son blog

SDF75 in the gym – screenshot from a video on his blog

‘Something happened which turned my life upside down’

In 2006, Stéphane shared the story of what pushed him to the streets:

Après avoir travaillé comme chauffeur de direction puis un licenciement,  j'ai créé une petite affaire de pressing à domicile sur Paris.  J'y ai mis toutes mes économies et toute mon énergie. Au moment ou les choses ont commencé a aller mieux,  il s'est produit un évènement qui a fait basculer ma vie.  Ma femme ( j'étais marie depuis 7 ans avec deux enfants) décida de divorcer car elle souhaitait une situation stable.  Après en avoir parler avec elle pendant plusieurs jours et essayer de la convaincre de me soutenir, elle décida de partir.  Un après-midi,  je suis rentrer à la maison, et là,  plus personne, plus de vêtements, juste un mots pour m'expliquer son départ. Je me suis retrouvé seul dans cet appartement vide,  ce fut horrible.  Pendant des heures je restais dans la chambre de mes enfants avec ma déprime.  Résultat:  je me suis laisser aller, pendant des semaines, je ne faisais plus rien.  Plus d'argent,  plus de loyer,  et un jour,  c'est la rue.

After being fired from my job as a chauffeur, I started an ironing business in Paris. I put all my savings and all my energy into it. At the point where things started to go wrong, something happened which turned my life upside down. My wife (I was married for seven years with two children) decided to divorce because she wanted a stable situation. After having spoken with her about it for several days and trying to convince her to support me, she decided to leave. One afternoon, I came home and there was no-one there — no clothes, just a note to explain to me that she had left. I found myself alone in this empty flat, it was horrible. I stayed in my children's bedroom for hours with my depression. The result was that I let myself go. For weeks I did nothing at all. No money, no rent and one day, it was the streets for me.

‘People think that we don't care’

In 2012, Francis was 60 years old and at that point had been homeless for 15 years. He hoped to be able to take retirement soon to be able to change his life.

On his blog, hosted on news site Rue89, Francis tried to set straight a few preconceptions about the lives of the homeless, one being that the homeless are not interested in the evolution of current society. Francis explained that the homeless discuss politics as much as anyone else:

Les gens pensent qu’on s’en fout mais dans la queue des soupes populaires, dans la rue, on parle partout des élections  ! En 1998, une loi relative à la lutte contre les exclusions ouvre l’inscription sur les listes électorales aux sans-abri. Le vote est réservé aux personnes de nationalité française, jouissant de leurs droits civiques et capables de fournir une attestation de domicile. Pour la plupart des SDF, il s’agit de se domicilier dans un centre agréé par les préfectures – Emmaüs, par exemple, gère 400 domiciliations. Mais la complexité des situations administratives et les conditions de vie extrêmes font que la rue vote peu.

People think that we don't care, but in the queue at the soup kitchen or on the streets, everywhere we're talking about the elections! In 1998, a law to combat social exclusion opened registration to the electoral register to include the homeless. The vote is reserved for people of French nationality, exercising their civic rights and able to prove their address. Most homeless people are homed in a centre established by the authorities – the Emmaüs charity, for example, manages the residence of some 400 homeless people. However, the complexity of the administrative situations and the extreme conditions of life mean that the homeless rarely vote.

He added his thoughts about presidential elections in 2002 and 2007:

En 2002, j’avais voté Jospin au premier tour. Chirac au second. Pas de gaité de cœur, mais Le Pen, je peux pas. J'aurais peut-être voté Sarkozy en 2007. Aujourd’hui, plus question: on sait maintenant que ça n’est pas lui qui aidera les pauvres. Il ne réduira pas les inégalités sociales. Comme Hollande d’ailleurs. Sur le social, il fera à peu près la même politique  : il privilégiera l’hébergement d’urgence en hiver et c’est tout. C’est pas assez pour la rue.

In 2002, I voted for Jospin in the first round and for Chirac in the second. Chirac was definitely not my first choice, but I couldn't possibly vote for Le Pen. I might have voted for Sarkozy in 2007 but today I wouldn't even think about it: we know now that it's not him that will help the poor. He won't reduce social inequality. Like [current French president François] Hollande, by the way. His policy will be much the same on social issues: he prioritises emergency shelter in the winter but nothing more. That's not enough for those on the streets.

In France, 3.6 million people are either homeless (895,000 people), living in very difficult — overcrowded or below the comfort threshold — circumstances (2,880,000 people), or in a precarious situation, such as living in a hotel, caravan, or other temporary accommodation. This data is according to the Fondation Abbé-Pierre. Three homeless people in 10 have a job, generally an insecure position, whether a fixed-term contract or temporary work. It is the cost of housing and the lack of adequate social housing provision that keeps them on the streets.

by Philip Smart at April 22, 2016 09:45 AM

#NakedProtest Draws Attention to Rape Culture at South Africa's Rhodes University
A screenshot of images of Rhodes University protesters posted on Twitter.

A screenshot of images of Rhodes University protesters posted on Twitter.

Topless students at Rhodes University (RU) in Grahamstown, South Africa, are protesting against the university's sexual assault policies. All academic activity have been suspended indefinitely due to the demonstrations.

The protest was triggered by a list called the “RU Reference List” posted on social media to name and shame 11 alleged rapists at the university. Protesters and their supporters are tweeting under the hashtags such as #NakedProtest, #RUReferenceList and #RapeCulture. The students had threatened to shut down the university if their demands of reforming the university’s rape policy, changing the definition of rape, removing the burden of proof from victims, mandatory sensitive training for staff and suspending the 11 alleged rapists are not met.

Other demands are that the university proctors, Gordon Barker and Sarah Driver, step down, a task force be set up to investigate sexual assaults, a ban against sexual assault offenders running for Student Representative Council be established, and students receive immunity from disciplinary action for protesting.

The students also claim that the current sexual policy at the university requires victims to prove that their perpetrators intended to rape them and that there is only one Harassment Officer to deal with all cases of abuse and assault.

Police used teargas and stun grenades against the protesters and arrested three students. One student was taken to hospital after suffering from a panic.

Reacting to police actions against the students, Saya Pierce-Jones wrote:

The RU Reference List

The university has set up several task teams and will review existing policy on rape, according to Rhodes University Vice Chancellor Sizwe Mabizela.

The so-called “RU Reference List” that inspired the protests fueled debate on how universities treat rape and sexual assault. Protesters and their supporters argued that the sharing of the list was a result of the university failing to take rape seriously, and the demonstrations are necessary to force change.

But the list and the resulting protests have earned some pushback around South Africa, who dismissed the legitimacy of women's complaints or felt all men were being blamed for rape.

Accusations of indecency

Some Twitter users have come to the defense of the protesting nude students after some South Africans criticised them for indecency.

Lindiwe Mazibuko, former leader of the opposition in South African parliament, expressed said:

While Yvette said:

Beey asked:

And another user wondered:

Some traditional African attires leave women bare-chested.

Grootman'bae wrote:

Rhodes University students are a part of a growing trend of student-led mass protests in South Africa in recent months. These protests are usually organised using social media tools. Other movements include #RhodesMustFall, #FeesMustFall and #AfrikaansMustFall.

by Ndesanjo Macha at April 22, 2016 08:55 AM

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