Berkman Alumni, Friends, and Spinoffs

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

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

May 30, 2016

Global Voices
Global Voices Seeks NewsFrames Project Director

Global Voices seeks a Project Director to manage a new, two-year project with the working title of Global NewsFrames, and to support the Global Voices community to design and run research projects related to this work. This project, funded by Google’s Digital News Initiative, will create a digital toolset and editorial process for rapid analysis of online media frames and trends in the world’s media markets. This work, if successful, is likely to continue as an integral part of the Global Voices mission. We envision the toolset and associated staff to be a resource for the Global Voices community.

Media Cloud's Data Visualization Tools

Media Cloud's Data Visualization Tools

The NewsFrames project will support the creation of a dashboard for research on global conversations, news and citizen media. It will produce digests of popular, important and under-reported stories by country and topic/theme and stories based on the data and on real-world issues that result from the research.

To build this toolset and editorial process we will collaborate with Media Cloud, an open data research tool that explores complex quantitative and qualitative questions about online media by tracking some 260,000 mass and social media sources. Media Cloud is a joint project of MIT Media Lab and Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society. See summaries of the project here and here.

Global Voices is a global, virtual organization, supported by the paid and volunteer efforts of people on every continent. The Project Director must possess a wide range of professional and personal skills to help the project reach its potential as the leading international network for the development of successful and effective citizen media projects.

Early prototype of Global Voices NewsFrames dashboard, by Sands Fish, May 2016

Early prototype of Global Voices NewsFrames dashboard, by Sands Fish, May 2016

The Global Voices Project Director will be responsible for the following:

  • Oversee the design, development, launch and integration of the project
  • Work closely with Global Voices core team, editorial team and volunteer community ensure broad interest and incentives for project usefulness
  • Work with the core team to identify and hire the rest of the team working on this project
  • Articulate a clear vision for what the toolset could do to support Global Voices’ work, and refine that vision in collaboration with the GV community
  • Promote and represent the project through mass media, social media, and other public forums
  • Manage the information architecture design process for the project
  • Manage the technology design and implementation, working closely with Media Cloud and with the Global Voices core team
  • Collaborate on the development of the editorial process with editorial teams
  • Represent the project to the funder, including timely reporting based on the workplan
  • Working with the core team, build a business model for the successful rollout and future funding of the project
  • Identify and oversee outreach to partner organizations and clients who might want to work with or use the resulting stories

We seek a candidate with the following qualities:

  • Deep experience in citizen media projects, Internet and media projects and working with Internet-based communities
  • Ability to manage information technology development, working with and supporting coders, designers, information architects and social science researchers
  • Strong familiarity with digital media technology, blogging, social media, and tools used to protect speech rights on the Internet
  • Ability to support and manage distributed, virtual communities
  • Strong research and analytic skills
  • Experience working with data and databases
  • Strong project management skills
  • Familiarity with open source software and open content communities
  • Ability to work independently and to produce results in a timely manner
  • Able to travel extensively
  • Comfortable speaking in public forums, conferences and workshops

To work effectively with our community and on this project, we would prefer that candidates have some combination of the following:

  • Data science skills and experience
  • Coding skills are helpful but not mandatory
  • Professional editing, writing, and public speaking skills in English
  • Active bloggers or creators of online media
  • Multilingual, with fluency in English and at least one other language
  • Experience working in diverse, multicultural environments
  • Are strong communicators and facilitators
  • Experience living and working internationally, or have traveled extensively in the global south

The Project Director will report to the Global Voices Executive Director and Managing Director.

The ideal candidate must have a passionate commitment to the values and goals of Global Voices. She or he will be joining a well-established core team who are dedicated to amplifying the voices of world. There is no geographic requirement associated with this position; Global Voices has no office or physical headquarters. Candidates must have access to broadband internet connectivity and be comfortable working in a wholly virtual environment. We strongly welcome candidates from outside North America and Western Europe, and encourage people currently contributing to the Global Voices project to apply.

The position is near full-time or full-time, but should be treated as a freelance contract.

Interested candidates should send a CV and letter of interest explaining why you'd be a good candidate for the job to: adminjob AT globalvoicesonline DOT org by no later than June 20, 2016.

by Ivan Sigal at May 30, 2016 06:58 PM

Peru Has Not One, but Two Tours Dedicated to Nobel Laureate Mario Vargas Llosa
Cruce de las calles Colón y Diego Ferré en Miraflores, Lima, calles recurrentes en las obras del Nóbel peruano. Foto de la autora, usada con autorización.

Corner of Colon and Diego Ferre streets in Miraflores, Lima, frequent streets in the works by Nobel Prize-winning Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa. Photo by the author, used with permission.

Fans of Nobel Prize-winning Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa‘s books are probably familiar with the names of certain streets and parks from the Lima district of Miraflores that appear in his stories, such as Ocharan, Colon, Diego Ferre, Juan Fanning, Salazar Park, and Kennedy Park, among others.

That's why in 2011, the Municipality of Miraflores started a touristic route known as “Literatour“, inspired by the work of Vargas Llosa, who lived there for a time during his younger years:

‘Literatur: la ruta de Mario Vargas Llosa’. Se trata de un circuito que une parques y avenidas emblemáticas […] inicia en el parque Kennedy, el mismo que está ubicado al lado de la iglesia principal de Miraflores, luego continúa por donde se encontraba el parque Salazar y donde ahora se encuentra el concurrido centro comercial Larcomar.

Más adelante, el circuito sigue por la Casa de Porras Barrenechea (ahora convertida en Instituto Cultural), donde Vargas Llosa trabajó seleccionando los libros. Para terminar, se continúa por la concurrida avenida Larco, y el pasaje Champagnat, donde se encontraba el colegio del mismo nombre donde estudió el literato.

“Literatour: the Route of Mario Vargas Llosa.” It's a tour that goes by parks and emblematic streets […] that starts at Kennedy Park, located next to the main church of Miraflores, then goes all the way up to where Salazar Park used to be and where the much frequented Larcomar Shopping Mall now stands.

The tour goes on to [Peruvian diplomat, historian and politician] Porras Barrenechea's house (now a cultural institute), where Vargas Llosa once worked curating books. Lastly, it passes by crowded Larco Avenue and the Champagnat passageway, where a school the man of letters attended and now bears his name used to be.

According to the website of the Municipality of Miraflores, to organize the tour:

[…] la Municipalidad de Miraflores desarrolló una investigación literaria e histórica que permite involucrar a los ciudadanos con el mundo literario de Vargas Llosa, y a la vez conocer un poco más sobre la historia de la ciudad, al recorrer sus principales calles.

[…] the Municipality of Miraflores carried out a literary and historical investigation with the aim of allowing citizens to get involved with Vargas Llosa's literary world, and at the same time get people more acquainted with the history of the city by passing through its main streets.

This YouTube video shows images from the sites along the Mario Vargas Llosa Literatour:

On Twitter, people have shared information about the Miraflores tour, equally called the Mario Vargas Llosa Literatur and simply Literatour:

Lima offers a tour that follows the footsteps of [Mario] Vargas Llosa. A Literatour inspired in the Nobel prize awarded…

As part of the 36th Ricardo Palma Book Fair, four events for the Mario Vargas Llosa Literatour have been scheduled.

Article excerpt: I can't help writing about Miraflores, Vargas Llosa once said . Discover the nostalgic tour that gets into the modern…

Tweet: Mario Vargas Llosa Literatour

Last year, one edition of the tour included a specialist in sign language for hearing-impaired people:

With the inclusive Mario Vargas Llosa Literatour. #InternationalWeekoftheDeaf

Miraflores isn't the only place with a tour inspired by Vargas Llosa. Arequipa also recently launched one that includes guided visits to Mario Vargas Llosa Regional Library and his personal library as well as visits to the House Museum where the author, who just turned 80, was born:

Entre las majestuosas fachadas de sillar que dan a Arequipa el nombre de “Ciudad Blanca”, la travesía recorrerá el centro histórico de la urbe para visitar la Biblioteca Regional Mario Vargas Llosa, y la biblioteca personal y la casa museo del último escritor con vida del “boom” de la novela latinoamericana.

La ruta Vargas Llosa es la primera propuesta turística de Arequipa enfocada en la literatura, y será una alternativa a otros recorridos más populares, entre ellos las visitas al imponente cañón del Colca, punto ideal para avistar cóndores, la campiña, las picanterías y la escalada al volcán Misti, que custodia la capital [del departamento].

Among the majestic [white stone] sillar facades that make Arequipa known as the “White City,” the tour will go through its historic center to visit the Regional Library named after Mario Vargas Llosa, his personal library and the House Museum of the last living writer from the Latin American literary “boom.”

The Vargas Llosa route is the first touristic project focused on literature in Arequipa, and will be an alternative to other more popular tours, such as the visits to the impressive Colca Canyon, an ideal spot to catch sight of condors; the countryside; the picanterías [restaurants serving spicy dishes]; and the climb up Misti volcano which looms over the [department's] capital.

Rommel Arce, the library manager, said the aim of the tour is to boost the number of visits to cultural centers dedicated to the author. The House Museum not long ago was restored and now allows visitors to take a virtual tour through Vargas Llosa's life milestones with pictures, videos and even a hologram of the author himself.

by Gabriela García Calderón at May 30, 2016 04:50 PM

Vietnam's Growing Number of Pet Lovers Are Challenging the Meat Industry's Treatment of Dogs
Photo of dogs on truck in Vietnam by Animals Asia. Source: Flickr, CC License

Photo of dogs on truck in Vietnam by Animals Asia. Source: Flickr, CC License

This edited article by Nguyễn Linh Chi is from Loa, an independent news website and podcast broadcasting stories about Vietnam, and is republished on Global Voices as part of a content-sharing agreement.

“How much is that doggie in the window?” That’s the song title and the query of the popular song immortalized by Patty Page in the 1950s, to which 26-year-old Mai Anh’s answer would be: nine million đồng, the equivalent of US $400.

That’s a lot of đồng for a dog, in a country where the average monthly salary is about US $220.

Anh is a teacher living in Hà Nội, the capital of Vietnam. She named her pup, a snow-white English bulldog, Bạch Bạch, which means white in Vietnamese.

I am willing to spend money because I really like this breed of dog. I got my puppy online. All white English bulldogs are very rare in Việt Nam. Luxury dogs in Việt Nam go anywhere from a couple million đồng to hundreds of million đồng.

Anh is part of Việt Nam’s emerging middle class, and expensive, imported dogs are their latest accessories. It’s a way for the young and ambitious to express taste and social status. The trend is also helping Việt Nam become more pet-loving, and thanks to the rise in the standard of living, the pet industry here is growing, fueled by a demand for premium pet goods and services.

According to Digi-escape, a Sài Gòn-based pet industry publication, the first pet shop was opened here in 2006. A decade later, there are now over 76 pet shops and vet clinics all over the city.

Digi-escape writes that the market for all things furball is still “small, fragmented and developing but with potential”.

Still, make no mistake about it. It’s difficult to be a dog in Việt Nam: They can go from being someone’s favorite pet to another person’s favorite dish as quick as the blink of an eye.

From “The Dog Meat Song” (or “Bài Ca Thịt Chó”) by Nguyễn Hải Phong to a rap song titled “Trộm Chó” (or “Stealing Dogs”) by Nam Lee, a number of songs expound on the ways dogs can be cooked or caught.

But a recent YouTube hit “Thịt Chó Không Ngon Đâu”, meaning “Dog Meat is No Good” by entertainer Huy JOo, is receiving love from pet lovers all around the web for its humane, though somewhat idealistic message. The song is a parody of the popular love song “Giữ Em Đi”. Huy JOo keeps the original catchy melody, while switching up the lyrics to call for a stop on dog meat consumption.

“I always remember my doggie, out playing when it was snatched. And I vow to never touch this delicious dish again, because I love dogs so much,” he sings.

As pet ownership increases, the dilemma of dog meat consumption is arguably clear. The ethics of eating any meat is hotly debated around the world. But it’s the treatment of these animals that is raising alarm bells.

There is a myth that the more pain the animal has to suffer before being killed, the tastier the meat. Some restaurants hang dogs, then bludgeon them to death to maximize the fear factor.

Methods of dog slaughtering can include anything from electrocution, burning, chest stabbing to throat slitting. A horrifying fate one can only imagine coming out of a horror movie is indeed the reality for many dogs in Việt Nam. There is no evidence to show how violently an animal is killed relates to the meat quality outcome, but watching this inhumane practice is heartbreaking.

According to the Asia Canine Protection Alliance, an estimated five million dogs are killed annually for meat in Việt Nam. That figure puts the small southeastern nation second on the list of Asian countries which eat the most dog meat, after China.

And not just dogs are being eaten in Việt Nam. Cat meat is also considered a treat in many parts of the country. Although it is illegal to consume cats, there are still plenty of restaurants serving cats in the north. A story in the South China Morning Post Magazine on the illicit cat trade quotes the owner of a restaurant located in Vietnam's Bắc Ninh province, saying

Everybody wants to eat cat now – it is more delicious and exotic than other kinds of meat, and some people are superstitious and eat it to bring them strength and good fortune.

Ironically enough, the restaurateur also shares that lawyers, policemen and rich people are the restaurant’s regulars.

The combination of tradition, the belief that eating dog meat brings good luck, and social custom will make it very difficult to wean people off the taste for dog meat.

Despite the many challenges, the animal rights community is growing rapidly in Việt Nam. Activists are becoming more vocal in the fight, not simply against dog or cat meat consumption, but against the larger issue of animal cruelty.

Catherine Besch, one of the co-founders of the Vietnam Animal Welfare Organization (VAWO) in Hội An, in central Việt Nam, says that one of the biggest problems is education. VAWO is amongst many young animal advocate groups who are actively working to make Việt Nam a friendlier place for animals.

She says there is a need for a collaborative effort between animal rights organizations in order to make animal welfare legislation happen in Việt Nam:

To get a grassroot social activism movement going in a country where people are into it but they don’t know what to do, two steps are needed. Step one: Love animal. Step two: [People say] I don’t know what to do now. The idea is to try to figure out how to bind them together and give them step by step results-based tasks so everyone knows what to do next. Get on the same page. If we are separate, we are a whisper. If we are together, we are a roar. We can make a voice so much stronger in that country.

Besch also wants society and the legal system to take care of animals, she says, so the rescues don’t have to. It’s the dream for decades and decades in the future, but it’s the goal that they constantly work towards, she adds.

The new generation of pet lovers who see animals as friends will serve as the driving force against animal cruelty in Việt Nam and push back the demand for dog or cat meat. Việt Nam is still a long way from becoming a safe and friendly country to pets, but changes are happening.

Listen to the podcast about the dilemma of eating dog meat in Vietnam:

by Loa at May 30, 2016 02:51 PM

DML Central
Artificial Intelligence, Cognitive Systems and the Learning Brain

New ideas about artificial intelligence and cognitive computing systems in education have been advanced this year by major computing and educational businesses, including Pearson and IBM. Pearson’s promotion of AI reflects its growing interests in data analytics and other digital methods while IBM is seeking to extend its existing R&D on cognitive computing into the education sector.

AI has been the subject of serious debate recently. High profile figures including Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates and Elon Musk have voiced concern about the threats it poses, while awareness about cognitive computing has been fueled by widespread media coverage of Google’s AlphaGo system. Commenting on these recent events, the philosopher Luciano Floridi has noted that contemporary AI and cognitive computing, however, cannot be characterized as some kind of “ultraintelligence.” Instead, machine intelligence is manifesting itself in far more mundane ways through an “infosphere” of “ordinary artefacts that outperform us in ever more tasks, despite being no cleverer than a toaster.”

So, if these technology developments are so ordinary, why are companies like Pearson and IBM advancing extraordinary claims for their benefits in education?

Pearson Intelligence

Pearson has been promoting itself as a new source of expertise in educational big data analysis since establishing its Center for Digital Data, Analytics and Adaptive Learning in 2012. Its ambitions are to make sense of the masses of data becoming available as educational activities increasingly occur via digital media, and to use these data to derive new understandings of learning processes and cognitive development. The latest signpost to Pearson’s aim in this direction is Intelligence Unleashed: An argument for AI in education, authored by Rose Luckin and Wayne Holmes of the University College London.

Pearson’s report proposes that artificial intelligence can transform teaching and learning:

Although some might find the concept of AIEd alienating, the algorithms and models that comprise AIEd form the basis of an essentially human endeavour. AIEd offers the possibility of learning that is more personalised, flexible, inclusive, and engaging. It can provide teachers and learners with the tools that allow us to respond not only to what is being learnt, but also to how it is being learnt, and how the student feels.

Pearson’s proposed vision of AIEd includes the development of Intelligent Tutoring Systems (ITS) which “use AI techniques to simulate one-to-one human tutoring, delivering learning activities best matched to a learner’s cognitive needs and providing targeted and timely feedback, all without an individual teacher having to be present.” It also promises intelligent support for collaborative working, such as AI agents that can integrate into teamwork, and intelligent virtual reality environments that simulate authentic contexts for learning tasks.

In technical terms, what Pearson terms AIEd relies on a particular form of AI. It is not the AI of sci-fi imaginings, but AI reimagined through the “ordinary artefacts” of data analytics systems. Notably, the report refers to advances in machine learning algorithms, computer modelling, statistics, artificial neural networks and neuroscience. AIEd applications are not ultraintelligences, but consist of a complex interaction of data analytics and machine learning processes with insights into human intelligence from brain science.

Importantly, Pearson’s vision of “how to blend human and machine intelligence effectively” through its AIEd applications is rooted in particular scientific understandings of human intelligence and cognition:

AIEd will continue to leverage new insights in disciplines such as psychology and educational neuroscience to better understand the learning process, and so build more accurate models that are better able to predict — and influence — a learner’s progress, motivation, and perseverance. … Increased collaboration between education neuroscience and AIEd developers will provide technologies that can offer better information, and support … a child’s progress.

These points highlight how the design of AIEd systems will embody neuroscientific insights into learning processes — insights that will then be translated into algorithmic models and machine learning applications that can be used to predict and intervene in individuals’ learning processes.

This reflects growing interest in neuroscience in education, and the adoption of neuroscientific insights for “brain-targeted” teaching and learning. Such practices target the brain for educational intervention based on neuroscientific knowledge. IBM has taken inspiration from neuroscience even further in its cognitive computing systems for education.

IBM Cognition

One of the world’s most successful computing companies, IBM has recently turned its attention to educational data analytics. Its particular focus is developing “cognitive learning systems” that are based on neuroscientific insights, technical developments in brain-inspired computing, and artificial neural networks algorithms.

Over the last decade, IBM has become a dominant research centre in cognitive computing. It defines cognitive systems as “a category of technologies that uses natural language processing and machine learning to enable people and machines to interact more naturally to extend and magnify human expertise and cognition.” Cognitive computing, IBM claims, aims to “emulate the human brain’s abilities for perception, action and cognition,” and it has dedicated extensive R&D to “neurosynaptic brain chips” and scalable “neuromorphic systems,” as well as its cognitive supercomputing system Watson.

IBM’s latest report on cognitive systems in education proposes that “deeply immersive interactive experiences with intelligent tutoring systems can transform how we learn”:

Until recently, computing was programmable — based around human defined inputs, instructions (code) and outputs. Cognitive systems are in a wholly different paradigm of systems that understand, reason and learn. In short, systems that think. What could this mean for the educators? We see cognitive systems as being able to extend the capabilities of educators by providing deep domain insights and expert assistance through the provision of information in a timely, natural and usable way. These systems will play the role of an assistant, which is complementary to and not a substitute for the art and craft of teaching. At the heart of cognitive systems are advanced analytic capabilities.

Rather than being hard-programmed, cognitive computing systems are designed like the brain to learn from experience and adapt to environmental stimuli. Instead of seeking to displace the teacher, IBM sees cognitive systems as optimizing and enhancing the role of the teacher, as a kind of cognitive prosthetic of human qualities. Perhaps the clearest illustration from IBM of how cognitive systems will penetrate into education systems is its vision of a “cognitive classroom.” This is a “classroom that will learn you” through constant and symbiotic interaction between cognizing human subjects and nonhuman cognitive systems designed according to a model of the human brain.

The promise of cognitive computing for IBM is not just of more “natural systems” with “human qualities,” then, but a fundamental reimagining of the “next generation of human cognition, in which we think and reason in new and powerful ways,” as claimed its white paper, “Computing, cognition and the future of knowing”:

It’s true that cognitive systems are machines that are inspired by the human brain. But it’s also true that these machines will inspire the human brain, increase our capacity for reason and rewire the ways in which we learn.

A recursive relationship between machine cognition and human cognition is assumed in this statement. It sees cognitive systems as both brain-inspired and brain-inspiring, both modelled on the brain and “rewiring” the brain through interacting with users.

Crucially, IBM’s R&D depends on translating neuroscientific understandings of the biological neural networks of the human brain into the artificial neural networks algorithms and models used by computer science. The result is an increasingly blurring of neurological and computational vocabularies, and a potential confusion of human cognition with computational capacities.

Human Computation

If Pearson and IBM are right, then educational environments are going to become increasingly inhabited by artificial intelligences and cognitive systems that have been built to act like the brain and then act upon the brain to extend and magnify human cognition. We can begin to understand what Pearson and IBM are proposing in the light of emerging neuroscientific explanations about the learning brain and their translation into the machine learning processes that underlie both AI and cognitive computing:

  1. Neuroscience produces new understandings of brain functioning and learning processes
  2. Models of brain functions are encoded in brain-based AIEd and cognitive systems applications for education
  3. AIEd and cognitive systems interact with human actors, becoming encoded in the embodied human learning brain
  4. Human brain functions are augmented, extended and optimized

Pearson and IBM are proposing to turn educational environments into both brain-based and brain-targeted spaces. The potential of neuro-technologies based on the brain is to become legible as traces in the neural networks of the human brain itself.

Media theorist N. Katherine Hayles recently commented on “nonconscious cognitive systems” which increasingly permeate information and communication networks and devices. Her view of “cognition everywhere” suggests that cognitive computing devices can employ learning processes that are modelled on those of embodied biological organisms, using their experiences to learn, achieve skills and interact with people. Therefore, when nonconscious cognitive devices penetrate into human systems, they can potentially modify the dynamics of human behaviours through changing brain morphology and functioning.

However, these developments raise serious questions about how the brain is being modelled computationally in companies such as IBM, or how neuroscientific insights and models are being embodied in the kinds of AIEd applications promoted by Pearson. The ways IBM and Pearson conceive the brain are deeply consequential to the AI and cognitive systems they are developing, and to how they might interact with human actors and possibly influence their cognition by shaping their brains. These understandings may not provide adequate approximations of human mental and cognitive functioning.

Many AI and cognitive computing enthusiasts treat the brain as a kind of computational system that can be debugged and optimized, and reproduce reductive scientific representations of the brain as an information-processing computer:

Just a few years after the dawn of computer technology in the 1940s, the brain was said to operate like a computer, with the role of physical hardware played by the brain itself and our thoughts serving as software…, firmly rooted in the idea that humans are, like computers, information processors. This effort now involves thousands of researchers, consumes billions of dollars in funding, and has generated a vast literature consisting of both technical and mainstream articles and books … speculating about the algorithms of the brain, how the brain processes data, and even how it superficially resembles integrated circuits in its structure. The information processing metaphor of human intelligence now dominates human thinking, both on the street and in the sciences.

IBM’s ideal that cognitive systems can “rewire the ways we learn” inscribes the information-processing metaphor onto the learning brain. While the systems that IBM and Pearson are promoting may be “brain-based” and “brain-targeted” then, they reproduce a problematic understanding of mental life in terms of computational information processing. They not only treat the neural networks of the learning brain as computable, but may be confusing brain-inspired machine learning and information processing with the complexity of embodied, culturally relevant and socially situated learning.

Banner image credit: brewbooks

The post Artificial Intelligence, Cognitive Systems and the Learning Brain appeared first on DML Central.

by mcruz at May 30, 2016 01:00 PM

Global Voices
The Meteoric Rise of (Recently Censored) Chinese Internet Celebrity Papi Jiang
"I really hate my parents for giving me such beautiful face!" screen capture of Papi Jiang's performance from "You have no idea the pain of being a beauty".

“I really hate my parents for giving me such beautiful face!” Screen capture of Papi Jiang's performance from “You have no idea the pain of being a beauty”.

If you're aren't active on the Chinese web, it's likely you haven't ever heard of Papi Jiang. She's one of the most popular online celebrities in China, known for her fast-talking satirical videos that mock everyday life, relationships, movies and social issues.

In China, such fame doesn't go unnoticed by authorities, however, and last month she was the target of the country's Internet censors, who took down some of her videos from Youku, China's most popular video platform.

Behind the Papi Jiang avatar is 29-year-old Jiang Yi Lei, who graduated from China's Central Academy of Drama. Her videos, in which she delivers comedic monologues or imitates high-profile figures or celebrities in her trademark high-pitch, rapid-fire voice, have earned her 11 million followers on social media site Sina Weibo.

Papi Jiang started posting videos in October 2015, and within months she became a top online celebrity. She proudly identifies herself as “leftover woman” (sheng nu), a derogatory term used to describe single women who are over the age of 30. Many of her popular videos center on the frustrations of young urban women in their careers, family and romantic relationships. She often curses and uses vulgar language in her performances.

Below is a typical video from Papi Jiang, this one uploaded to YouTube. The one-and-a-half-minute video is a satirical monologue titled “You have no idea the pain of being a beauty”:

The foul language in her videos is officially the reason why China's State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPRFT) took down most of her videos from Youku last month. The censors said if she removed her use of expletives, her videos could go back up.

Just one month before her videos were taken down, she received RMB 12 million yuan (about US $1.83 million) from a number of venture capital firms that invest in social media products. While some thought the SAPRFT's actions would hamper Papi Jiang's career, she still managed a few days after she was censored to sell advertising space on her weekly videos on April 21 for RMB 22 million yuan (approximately US $3.5 million) in an auction run by Ali Auction, an affiliate of the e-commerce giant Alibaba.

Since then, most of her videos have been restored online with the vulgar language edited out.

China not only has the world's largest Internet user population, but also the largest online video user base. According to Internet giant Tencent, the country's online video users reached 461 million by June 2015, and the video market accounted for RMB 11.53 billion yuan (US $1.9 billion dollar) in the third quarter of 2015.

That figure will continue to rise as the Internet population keeps growing. The China Internet Network Information Center's latest report shows that China had 688 million Internet user by end of 2015, and the penetration rate has reached 50.3 percent. A total of 90 percent of the users access the Internet via mobile phones, a device that favors the consumption of information through visual and audio means.

In the US, Internet content providers such as Netflix, Amazon and Hulu have been producing their own programs in order to lower the costs on copyright licensing. A similar trend is happening in China. Internet content providers are now competing directly with state-owned television producers. Yet smaller scale firms find it difficult to make a profit due to the high costs of production, bandwidth and copyright licensing, so more and more production teams have started using Youku and Tudou's video ad space to boost revenue. Papi Jiang is one of the most vivid examples of this model in action.

by Travis Meng at May 30, 2016 08:49 AM

Global Voices Advocacy
Ghanaians Oppose Shutdown of Social Media Platforms During Elections
ghana social media

Image from Penplusbytes's study of social media use by media houses in Ghana. Image used with permission.

Some countries in Africa have developed a routine habit of blocking social media platforms before, during and after elections citing “security concerns”.

During the recent elections held in Uganda, for example, the government ordered telecommunication companies to block access to popular social media platforms. Social media platforms were also blocked ahead of Ugandan President Museveni's inauguration.

Uganda and Nigeria are two countries that have recently indicated their intentions to impose stricter controls over social media, and Ghana, it appears, may be joining them.

‘We are thinking about it’

In Ghana, the Inspector General of Police (IGP), John Kudalor, has hinted Ghanaian authorities might consider shutting down social media platforms during elections due to take place on November 7.

The IGP emphasised that the potential shutdown of social media platforms during elections is based on the fact that some people abuse the space during voting.

There have been complaints that social media users spread misinformation and rumours about violations and violence at polling stations on election day.

In a quotes published by local media outlet Citi FM he said:

At one stage I said that if it becomes critical on the eve and also on the election day, we shall block all social media as other countries have done. We’re thinking about it. We are also thinking about the other alternative that the police should be IT compliant and get our own social media [account] to be able to stop these things on time. We are looking at the variables and come D-Day, we’ll come out with a decision.

The news of the potential shutdown unleashed a wave of negative reactions on TV, radio and social media platforms.

In response to the IGP's statement, the Alliance for Accountable Governance (AFAG), berated the mooted block.

Blocking or restricting access to social media is a blatant violation of freedom of expression. The 1992 constitution declares in no equivocal terms that: All persons shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression, which shall include freedom of the press and other media. The constitution guarantees that the press and every individual in Ghana has the right to say anything that they want, whenever that they want and wherever that they want. The position of the IGP in relation to the effect of social media on election suggests that the Ghana police lacks appreciation of the use of online social networking technology in a 21st century world as a platform of engagement. This kind of thinking is unacceptable.

Kinna Likimani, of the social media platform dedicated to election coverage in Ghana, Ghana Decides, also stated during an interview:

We are not a country that subscribes to heavy handed repressive tactics otherwise we will not be in a democracy. What we need to do is that within our democratic dispensation, we educate our citizens. The Police needs to understand and come on and we all work together. There is a huge space that even the Police can occupy on social media. Ways by which we can inform Ghanaians, ways in which we can help them in their job.

Not only the Police , including the EC who is now on social media. The last election, the EC released the results on Facebook. The Peace Council needs to be on social media, the government needs to be on social media. It is a platform for informing and together we can Police ourselves but to ascribe to heavy handed repressive tactics, I repeat it is not a democratic best practice and it doesn’t suite the path we are on as Ghanaians. We close down social media and then what. What message do we send to ourselves as Ghanaians. That we can’t handle ourselves.

A well known private legal practitioner, Ace Ankomah wanted to know which law will be used to block social media and prevent access to information which is a key democratic right in Ghana:

The right and freedom of information and communication is absolutely guaranteed and the excuse to it ought to be in accordance with law in a democratic society. So for even considering this the IGP is playing with a possible legal action from restraining it from doing it. On the basis of which law is he going to stop access to information? Our rights to communication cannot be infringed with under the provisions of the constitution unless it is in accordance with law and not just law, law that is necessary in a democratic society. So technically and legally they will struggle.

Nigeria did election without banning social media and the report show that social media helped. Uganda banned it so on what basis are we going the Ugandan way instead of going the Nigerian way? Let’s strengthen the traditional media to be able to give out information and give it out quickly so that we will know that the key thing is traditional media. So that when somebody put out some diabolic message, traditional media can quickly kill it. If you shut down social media, we can still talk and people can still do their diabolic.

Facebookers such as Stephen Saan-Ire regretted the fact that a country traditionally viewed as one of the continent's stronger democracies was seemingly falling into line with autocracies like Uganda, while Twitter also lined up to pan the potential block.

Most people, however, have been supportive of the suggestion that the Ghanaian Police should fine-tune its own social media skills in order to engage with the public.

Clearly, this is a preferable approach to information management than simply blocking the platforms.

by Kofi Yeboah at May 30, 2016 03:00 AM

Global Voices
Giant David Bowie Mural Unveiled in Sarajevo
David Bowie mural in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

“Fashion changes, but you will always be my heroes,” states the David Bowie mural in Sarajevo. Photo by Filip Stojanovski, CC BY.

A group of Sarajevo artists unveiled a giant mural of David Bowie in the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina May 28, recognizing the artist's contribution to humanitarian efforts in the country.

The Bowie mural is painted on the wall of a dilapidated building on the grounds of the Sarajevo university campus.

During the opening ceremony, the authors, who call themselves Team Bowie Sarajevo, also used stencils to paint Bowie logos on t-shirts for attendees.

According to local portal Clix.ba, this is “the biggest Bowie mural in the world,” 13 meters high and 10.5 meters wide (43 by 34 feet).

While this claim is hard to verify, the Sarajevo mural indeed looks much bigger than any of the “13 Of The Best Street Art Tributes To Bowie From Across The World” selected by NME magazine.

People at the unveiling of David Bowie mural in Sarajevo. Photo by Katarina Vučković, CC BY..

People at the unveiling of David Bowie mural in Sarajevo. Photo by Katarina Vučković, CC BY.

During the 1992-1995 war, when Sarajevo suffered a disastrous siege, Bowie took part in humanitarian actions aimed at helping its citizens.

Team Bowie Sarajevo includes musician Vedad Trbonja from the popular rock band Billy Andol, Marvel comics artist Enes Čišić, graphic designer and painter Zoran Herceg, as well as Mensur Demir, Aleksandar Brezar and Adnan Čomor.

They stated that they joined together to pay homage to “one of the greatest artists, who had passed away before any of them could manage to attend one of his concerts.”

Social media users have been using the #SarajevoBowie hashtag to express admiration for the project.

The mural site is part of an area that once served as one of the biggest barracks of the Yugoslav People's Army.

After the Bosnian War, the grounds were repurposed, used partly by a university, and partly by the new U.S. embassy.

Only part of the buildings in the campus have been renovated, and many of them stand as empty shells. Graffiti abounds, with other elaborate murals keeping Bowie company.

Part of the Sarajevo University Campus. Photo by Filip Stojanovski, CC BY.

Part of the Sarajevo University Campus. Photo by Filip Stojanovski, CC BY.

Part of the Sarajevo University Campus. Photo by Filip Stojanovski, CC BY.

Part of the Sarajevo University Campus. Photo by Filip Stojanovski, CC BY.

Another graffiti on Sarajevo University Campus, unrelated to Bowie. Photo by Filip Stojanovski, CC BY.

Another bit of graffiti on Sarajevo University Campus, unrelated to Bowie. Photo by Filip Stojanovski, CC BY.

Stencils near the David Bowie mural in Sarajevo. Photo by Filip Stojanovski, CC BY.

Stencils near the David Bowie mural in Sarajevo. Photo by Filip Stojanovski, CC BY.

by Filip Stojanovski at May 30, 2016 02:37 AM

May 29, 2016

Global Voices
Ghanaians Oppose Shutdown of Social Media Platforms During Elections
ghana social media

Image from Penplusbytes's study of social media use by media houses in Ghana. Image used with permission.

Some countries in Africa have developed a routine habit of blocking social media platforms before, during and after elections citing “security concerns”.

During the recent elections held in Uganda, for example, the government ordered telecommunication companies to block access to popular social media platforms. Social media platforms were also blocked ahead of Ugandan President Museveni's inauguration.

Uganda and Nigeria are two countries that have recently indicated their intentions to impose stricter controls over social media, and Ghana, it appears, may be joining them.

‘We are thinking about it’

In Ghana, the Inspector General of Police (IGP), John Kudalor, has hinted Ghanaian authorities might consider shutting down social media platforms during elections due to take place on November 7.

The IGP emphasised that the potential shutdown of social media platforms during elections is based on the fact that some people abuse the space during voting.

There have been complaints that social media users spread misinformation and rumours about violations and violence at polling stations on election day.

In a quotes published by local media outlet Citi FM he said:

At one stage I said that if it becomes critical on the eve and also on the election day, we shall block all social media as other countries have done. We’re thinking about it. We are also thinking about the other alternative that the police should be IT compliant and get our own social media [account] to be able to stop these things on time. We are looking at the variables and come D-Day, we’ll come out with a decision.

The news of the potential shutdown unleashed a wave of negative reactions on TV, radio and social media platforms.

In response to the IGP's statement, the Alliance for Accountable Governance (AFAG), berated the mooted block.

Blocking or restricting access to social media is a blatant violation of freedom of expression. The 1992 constitution declares in no equivocal terms that: All persons shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression, which shall include freedom of the press and other media. The constitution guarantees that the press and every individual in Ghana has the right to say anything that they want, whenever that they want and wherever that they want. The position of the IGP in relation to the effect of social media on election suggests that the Ghana police lacks appreciation of the use of online social networking technology in a 21st century world as a platform of engagement. This kind of thinking is unacceptable.

Kinna Likimani, of the social media platform dedicated to election coverage in Ghana, Ghana Decides, also stated during an interview:

We are not a country that subscribes to heavy handed repressive tactics otherwise we will not be in a democracy. What we need to do is that within our democratic dispensation, we educate our citizens. The Police needs to understand and come on and we all work together. There is a huge space that even the Police can occupy on social media. Ways by which we can inform Ghanaians, ways in which we can help them in their job.

Not only the Police , including the EC who is now on social media. The last election, the EC released the results on Facebook. The Peace Council needs to be on social media, the government needs to be on social media. It is a platform for informing and together we can Police ourselves but to ascribe to heavy handed repressive tactics, I repeat it is not a democratic best practice and it doesn’t suite the path we are on as Ghanaians. We close down social media and then what. What message do we send to ourselves as Ghanaians. That we can’t handle ourselves.

A well known private legal practitioner, Ace Ankomah wanted to know which law will be used to block social media and prevent access to information which is a key democratic right in Ghana:

The right and freedom of information and communication is absolutely guaranteed and the excuse to it ought to be in accordance with law in a democratic society. So for even considering this the IGP is playing with a possible legal action from restraining it from doing it. On the basis of which law is he going to stop access to information? Our rights to communication cannot be infringed with under the provisions of the constitution unless it is in accordance with law and not just law, law that is necessary in a democratic society. So technically and legally they will struggle.

Nigeria did election without banning social media and the report show that social media helped. Uganda banned it so on what basis are we going the Ugandan way instead of going the Nigerian way? Let’s strengthen the traditional media to be able to give out information and give it out quickly so that we will know that the key thing is traditional media. So that when somebody put out some diabolic message, traditional media can quickly kill it. If you shut down social media, we can still talk and people can still do their diabolic.

Facebookers such as Stephen Saan-Ire regretted the fact that a country traditionally viewed as one of the continent's stronger democracies was seemingly falling into line with autocracies like Uganda, while Twitter also lined up to pan the potential block.

Most people, however, have been supportive of the suggestion that the Ghanaian Police should fine-tune its own social media skills in order to engage with the public.

Clearly, this is a preferable approach to information management than simply blocking the platforms.

by Kofi Yeboah at May 29, 2016 09:19 PM

Recent Rhino Translocation in Nepal Hints at Bright Future for the Vulnerable Animals
Greater One-horned Rhinoceros at Chitwan National Park, Nepal. Image from Flickr by GrahamC57. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Greater One-horned Rhinoceros at Chitwan National Park, Nepal. Image from Flickr by GrahamC57. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Conservationists around the world have a reason to smile — a healthy baby was born to a rhino translocated a few months ago from the Chitwan National Park to the Bardia National Park in Nepal.

The Chitwan National Park is home to the largest population of one-horned rhinoceroses in Nepal. According to the latest rhino count in 2015, the park had 601 rhinos out of the 645 in the country.

In the month of March five rhinos were translocated from the Chitwan National Park to the Bardia National Park which had only 29 rhinos as per the recent count despite being larger in area.

The video below shows how the rhinos were translocated:

From 1986 to 2003, a total of 87 rhinos were translocated from the Chitwan National Park to other protected territories.

Some 83 were transferred to the Bardia National Park and a further four to the Shuklaphanta Wildlife Reserve in western Nepal.

The authors of a 2009 scientific paperObservations on Habitat Preference of Translocated Rhinos in Bardia National Park and Suklaphanta Wildlife Reserve, Nepal” noted the motivations for translocation:

Chitwan National Park had the only surviving greater one-horned rhino population in Nepal until the 1980s. To reduce the threat of losing this population to natural calamities, catastrophic events and poaching, rhinos were translocated to the Bardia National Park (BNP) and the Suklaphanta Wildlife Reserve (SWR).

However, most of the translocated rhinos fell prey to poaching that peaked during the period of the Maoist insurgency.

In view of such bitter past experiences, some conservationists and local communities in Chitwan have protested against the government’s plan to translocate a further 30 rhinos to Bardia in three years’ time.

However, communities in Bardia were enthusiastic at the arrival of the rhino and welcomed the translocation team holding placards bearing the message “We can protect the rhinos”.

Moreover, according to the authors of the scientific paper, both Bardia National Park and Shuklaphanta Wildlife Reserve are good rhino habitats with surrounding areas that offer the potential to increase rhino populations in the long term.

Although the newly-born baby rhino has provided enough evidence that the rhinos, in the long run, will form another viable population in western Nepal, some criticize translocation for other reasons.

Dilli Bhattarai wrote on Facebook:

People, even wildlife Gurus and some animal rights activists, are saying this is nice news, great news…etc. Okay, may be it is nice news because the newly translocated Rhino successfully gave birth in a new habitat. But, have you ever imagined this pregnant pachyderm, who was going to give birth just few months later, had been sedated with drugs and loaded in the truck and transported into new habitat so far from the previous location? I am just wondering, wasn't that a crime against a pregnant animal? Probably, the Rhino experts will say it does not harm the animal at all. But is that the way you treat pregnant mothers?

The government authorities along with conservation organisations involved in the translocation and conservation of the rhinos need to address complaints such as this one through broad-based public discussion of the strategy and also ensure anti-poaching operations are strengthened in western Nepal.

Good management of habitats and effective public outreach is essential if the country is going to continue celebrating “zero poaching of rhinos in Nepal”.

by Sanjib Chaudhary at May 29, 2016 03:30 PM

Jessica Valenti
Jessica Valenti: my life as a ‘sex object’
Jessica Valenti: my life as a ‘sex object’: The Guardian is running an excerpt from my new book. I’m...

May 29, 2016 02:44 PM

Global Voices
How a Hmong Song Tradition Is Kept Alive in the American Midwest

This article originally appeared on PRI.org on May 26, 2016, and is republished here as part of a content-sharing agreement.

Think of kwv txhiaj as song poetry.

Or better yet, think of it like a Hmong version of the blues. And in that vein, think of kwv txhiaj the way American writer Ralph Ellison thought of the blues: “an autobiographical chronicle of personal catastrophe expressed lyrically.”

Ellison's quote starts off a new book about kwv txhiaj and one of its singers, a man named Bee Yang. The story is by his daughter, award-winning author Kao Kalia Yang. It's called “The Song Poet: A Memoir of My Father.”

Listen to this story on PRI.org »

Her book shows that, like the blues, kwv txhiaj can be soothing for the soul.

“It connects me to my dad,” Yang says. “Everybody in America knows him, and for most of my life I've talked about him as a machinist. But I know that in his heart and in his mind he is a song poet. So when I hear kwv txhiaj, I think about the man who, long before I'd ridden a bike or a car, I saw the world from his shoulders. It was those shoulders that took me to the tops of the trees and said, ‘One day your little hand and feet will not dictate your life journey. You will walk on the horizons your father has never seen.’ So when I hear kwv txhiaj I think about his words and I think about the future he saw for me.”

It's a future that is distinct from a past filled with war. Her father fled Laos for a refugee camp in Thailand during the US war in Vietnam, and in 1987 settled his family in the US state of Minnesota.

“As a child of the Hmong people, I know that we come from a war. Growing up in America I never knew which war we came from because in history classes we only learned about the Vietnam War as between the Americans and the North Vietnamese Army,” she says. “To belong to a people that has been deleted so thoroughly from history I think is terribly sad. My father and other traditional Hmong kwv txhiaj singers have tried to document this in their songs, the stories of how war came upon a people, how lives were lost, and how we stood up again.”

So kwv txhiaj is also history.

Yang adds that for many refugee children like herself, songs like the kwv txhiaj call them home and raise them up. And only a select few can do it.

“You cannot just be a kwv txhiaj singer. You have to be born with a gift because your voice is the only music accompanying your words into the world.”

by Public Radio International at May 29, 2016 12:00 PM

Myanmar Wants the World to Stop Using the Word Rohingya for Persecuted Ethnic Group
Loading a truck with Rohingya refugees. Photo by Steve Gumaer. Source: Flickr, CC License

Loading a truck with Rohingya refugees. Photo by Steve Gumaer. Source: Flickr, CC License

For human rights groups outside Myanmar, the Rohingya people are among the most persecuted ethnic groups in the world. But for Myanmar authorities and Buddhist nationalists, they are treated as illegal immigrants living in the western Rakhine State.

Myanmar’s foreign ministry is asking other governments to refrain from using the word Rohingya since it is deemed offensive by many people inside the country.

But last month, the United States embassy in Myanmar issued a statement expressing condolence to the families of Rohingya boat refugees who perished in an accident.

…we extend our condolences to the families of the victims, who local reports state were from the Rohingya community. Restrictions on access to markets, livelihoods, and other basic services in Rakhine State can lead to communities unnecessarily risking their lives in an attempt to improve their quality of life.

This statement angered Buddhist nationalists who organized a protest in front of the US embassy. They carried banners with messages like “Those who use the word Rohingya are our enemies!” and “Don’t meddle in our internal affairs!”

They insist that the Rohingya should be called “Bengalis” since they are “illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.”

The majority of Rohingya are Muslims who have been living near the Myanmar-Bangladesh border for hundreds of years. But the Myanmar government has refused to recognize the Rohingya as one of the country’s ethnic groups.

Since 2012, several clashes between hardline Buddhist and Muslim groups have displaced the Rohingya from their communities. Some fled to neighboring Southeast Asian countries as boat refugees while many took shelter in makeshift camps.

Addressing the United Kingdom Parliament, Myanmar’s first ever Catholic Cardinal Charles Maung Bo described the Rohingya as “among the most marginalized, dehumanized and persecuted people in the world.”

His statement was reported by the World Watch Monitor website:

They are treated worse than animals. Stripped of their citizenship, rejected by neighbouring countries, they are rendered stateless. No human being deserves to be treated this way.

Scot Marciel, the new US ambassador to Myanmar, acknowledged the position of the Myanmar government towards the word Rohingya but stressed that communities have the right to be called by their names.

Marciel’s statement sparked angry online comments in Myanmar despite the fact the word Rohingya was not mentioned by the US envoy.

The Irrawaddy, an independent news website, published an editorial on the topic.

Instead of fighting over a terminology, it urged dialogue between Buddhists and Muslims:

…rather than arguing over terminology, it is crucial to initiate a dialogue between the Buddhist majority and Muslim minority in Arakan State and negotiate a lasting solution, which would alleviate the everyday suffering of all communities in the impoverished state.

by Mong Palatino at May 29, 2016 07:36 AM

May 28, 2016

Global Voices
How a Single Blog Post Changed the Life of a Somali Single Mother of Eight
A single blog post changed the life of this Somali mother of 8. Photo by Somali Faces (Donia and Mohammed). Used with permission.

A single blog post changed the life of this Somali mother of 8. Photo by Somali Faces (Donia and Mohammed). Used with permission.

On May 1, Somali Faces covered a story about a poor Somali mother who is an Internally Displaced Person (IDP) and has eight small children, none of whom were attending school.

She was facing abuse for belonging to a minority Somali clan and because of her dark skin. She was contemplating suicide.

Sometimes I’m treated like a foreigner in my own country, like I don’t belong here. I’m a single mother of 8 and none of my children are at school. I clean houses whilst carrying the child I’m carrying now. The rest of my children look for any type of work that they can find. I know it’s a hard life and it’s not easy but what makes it so much harder and at times unbearable is how people treat me and my children. I sometimes feel like I’m in an ocean of people whose hearts are made of stone. Many discriminate against me because of my very dark skin colour. I tell them, that’s how God created me and I can’t change it. Either they reject me because I’m from a minority clan or because of my skin colour. Sometimes, I contemplate whether death is better for us than living in a wretched life.

Readers were moved by her story, and began a fundraiser for her. A total of $4,000 was raised in 21 hours.

After the donations, Somali Faces reported:

Your donations changed her family’s life. Because of you, she will have her own shop, her house will be repaired and she told us that with the money she will be making, she can easily pay for her children’s education. You couldn’t conceal her smile and happiness, at times; she had difficulty getting the words out. Never in a million years did she imagine that she would receive this amount of money. A week ago, she was discriminated against, hopeless and penniless and now, she has a continuous source of income for her family. We thank each every one of you for your unrelenting generosity and efforts to change this mother’s life. Somali Faces made sure that every dollar you sent was spent towards her family and we were involved every step when it came to the materials and how the money will be managed. We would like to thank Tadamun Social Society (TAAS) for their tremendous help. We will be monitoring her progress and will provide you with a video update 3 to 6 months from now on how her and her beautiful children are doing.

Somali Faces is an online project that shares everyday stories of ordinary Somali people from around the world. The idea was the brainchild of the creative duo of Donia Jamal Adam, a storyteller, human rights advocate and campaigner; and Mohammed Ibrahim Shire, an author and history enthusiast.

by Ndesanjo Macha at May 28, 2016 03:09 PM

Publicly Humiliated, Sacked and Then Reinstated: The Tale of a Minority Headmaster in Bangladesh
Bangladeshis posted pictures of themselves holding ears stating solidarity with the publicly humiliated headmaster. Image from Facebook

Bangladeshis posted pictures of themselves holding their ears in solidarity with the publicly humiliated headmaster. Image from Facebook

Bangladeshis have taken a stand against moral policing after a Hindu headmaster was made by an elected member of parliament to do squats while holding his ears on the false accusations of making disparaging statements about Islam.

Shyamal Kanti Bhakta, a principal in Narayanganj District near the capital city Dhaka, was initially suspended by his school as well following the public shaming. After a committee formed by the country's education minister found no evidence of the allegations against him of speaking against Islam, he was reinstated to his position.

The incident, which took place on 13 May, was captured on mobile phone video. The footage along with photos showed being shamed in front of a cheering crowd that included the local Member of Parliament AKM Salim Osman.

What led to the humiliating scene were accusations against the educator that he had punished a student in his class on 8 May and made a derogatory comment against Islam. However, Shyamal Kanti Bhakta denied making any negative remarks and said members of the school's managing committee held a grudge against him for not going along with their directives.

Subsequently, the boy's family lodged a complaint with the school managing committee, alleging corporal punishment, but they did not mention anything about a derogatory comment against Islam. The school managing committee then suspended the teacher.

The footage of his public shaming went viral on social media, sparking outrage. The reactions of Member of Parliament Osman, who belongs to the Jatiya Party (part of the ruling coalition) from the Narayanganj-5 constituency also added fuel to the fire. He claimed that the punishment was the only way to save the teacher from the wrath of the mob for his remarks regarding Islam. He also commented to the media defiantly:

I don’t feel any necessity to apologise to the headmaster who was punished as a nonbeliever, not as Hindu.

The population of Bangladesh is overwhelmingly Muslim, but Hindus represent about 9% of the country's religious make-up.

Osman's own party, however, called his behavior as “embarrassing” and having “tainted the party's image”. The country's education minister also condemned the incident and formed a probe committee to investigate the incident.

‪#‎SorrySir in solidarity

Bangladeshis on social media expressed their disgust as well. Corporal punishment in schools was banned a few years ago and generally is widely criticised. Applying it to not only an adult, but a teacher as well has been regarded as unbearably humiliating.

To show their support, people took photos of themselves in the same position that Shyamal Kanti Bhakta was made to adopt by the politician and posted them online. The trend eventually evolved into the #SorrySir campaign, attracting prominent online influencers and going viral.

Collage of images from Facebook

Collage of images from Facebook

Kunta Pal wrote on Facebook:

‪#‎sorrySir‬# That we live in a society where politicians are more powerful than the head Principle in the very school campus.

#sorrySir# For those students who cheer up in the misery of their teacher who gave more than a decade giving knowledge to them.

#sorrySir# Because religion will mostly come up anywhere to end up a discussion.

And Barnali Mandal commented on Facebook with a photo of her holding her ears:

যথাযথ সন্মান ও আত্মমর্যাদা নিয়ে বেঁচে থাকুক প্রতিটি মানুষ। সকল শিক্ষকদের প্রতি শ্রদ্ধা। ‪#‎SorrySir‬

Let each human being live with proper honour and self respect. #SorrySir

People also protested in the streets and burned an effigy of the member of parliament.

The dangerous consequences of criticising religion

On 18 May a High Court in Dhaka asked why Member of Parliament Osman and others should not face legal action for the headmaster's humiliation.

After feeling the pressure, Osman recently expressed his regret for the incident.

I'm ashamed of my behaviour with Shyamal Kanti Bhakta on May 13 last.

It wasn't all rosy, however. Shyamal Kanti Bhakta has received threats online. Also, in a rally on 20 May, radical Islamist platform Hefazat-e-Islam demanded his punishment, saying he hurt the religious sentiments of Muslims.

Allegations of hurting religious sentiments have become a weapon for extremists in recent years in Bangladesh. Actual violence isn't uncommon, either. A series of planned attacks devastated several Buddhist monasteries and houses in Ramu in 2012, and assaults on other religious minorities are alarmingly becoming frequent.

Meanwhile, the government has been cracking down on accusations of blasphemy, although blasphemy is not criminalised in Bangladesh. In April 2016 a court in southwestern Bagerhat jailed two Hindu teachers for blasphemous comments against Islam, invoking a colonial-era law that makes insulting any religion a crime.

Several secular bloggers have been murdered in Bangladesh over the last few years, and authorities haven't taken any significant measures to deter the trend. After Niloy Neel was assasinated in August 2015, a police chief warned bloggers about their speech. He said, “Free-thinkers and bloggers should not cross the limit of tolerance while expressing their views on religion”. Who needs a blasphemy law when there are so many who are eager to impose it in practice?

by Palash Ranjan Sanyal at May 28, 2016 07:07 AM

May 27, 2016

Creative Commons
Council of the European Union calls for full open access to scientific research by 2020

9894034145_45be21c99d_kScience! by Alexandro Lacadena, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

A few weeks ago we wrote about how the European Union is pushing ahead its support for open access to EU-funded scientific research and data. Today at the meeting of the Council of the European Union, the Council reinforced the commitment to making all scientific articles and data openly accessible and reusable by 2020. In its communication, the Council offered several conclusions on the transition towards an open science system:

  • ACKNOWLEDGES that open science has the potential to increase the quality, impact and benefits of science and to accelerate advancement of knowledge by making it more reliable, more efficient and accurate, better understandable by society and responsive to societal challenges, and has the potential to enable growth and innovation through reuse of scientific results by all stakeholders at all levels of society, and ultimately contribute to growth and competitiveness of Europe;
  • INVITES the Commission and the Member States to explore legal possibilities for measures in this respect and promote the use of licensing models, such as Creative Commons, for scientific publications and research data sets;
  • WELCOMES open access to scientific publications as the option by default for publishing the results of publicly funded research;
  • AGREES to further promote the mainstreaming of open access to scientific publications by continuing to support a transition to immediate open access as the default by 2020;
  • ENCOURAGES the Member States, the Commission and stakeholders to set optimal reuse of research data as the point of departure, whilst recognising the needs for different access regimes because of Intellectual Property Rights, personal data protection and confidentiality, security concerns, as well as global economic competitiveness and other legitimate interests.

You can read the rest of the conclusions here. Crucially, the Council said that “open access to scientific publications” will be interpreted as being aligned to the definition laid out in the Budapest Open Access Initiative: free availability on the public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers. The only constraint on reproduction and distribution, and the only role for copyright in this domain, should be to give authors control over the integrity of their work and the right to be properly acknowledged and cited.

The post Council of the European Union calls for full open access to scientific research by 2020 appeared first on Creative Commons blog.

by Timothy Vollmer at May 27, 2016 07:04 PM

Uruguayan rights holders seek to roll back progressive copyright reform

5646757752_5a4ea2ea2d_bLaw, by Woody Hibbard, CC BY 2.0

Uruguay is in the process of updating its copyright law, and in April a bill was preliminarily approved in the Senate. The law introduces changes that would benefit students, librarians, researchers, and the general public by legalizing commonplace digital practices, adding orphan works exceptions, and removing criminal penalties for minor copyright infringements. University students were the original proponents of the limitations and exceptions bill.

But after its initial approval, collecting societies and publishers created a stir in the media to roll back the bill. And yesterday, a document was released that outlines the views of the author’s collecting society (AGADU), the organization representing book publishers (CUL), and the university students (FEUU).

According to CC Uruguay, these organizations have come to an “agreement” that would remove or modify many of the positive portions of the bill. The changes would have far-reaching negative consequences for users, educational institutions, libraries, and the public. They include:

  • Eliminating the exception that permits copying for personal use. This could make illegal everyday practices such as making personal backups or format-shifting legally-acquired content.
  • Retaining the possibility for criminal penalties for minor infringements. This could mean that users that are technically infringing but who do not create any financial harm to the author could still be liable for monetary damages of up to 45,000 US Dollars, or even imprisonment. This could include harmless, widespread social practices like downloading files without intent to distribute or profit from them. However, it should be noted that the existing Senate bill recommends that such matters be handled via civil—not criminal—law.
  • Drastically limiting the scope of exceptions and limitations for education. Their recommendations seek to eliminate the ability for teachers to make translations or adaptations of copyrighted works within their educational institutions. For those uses that are permitted, they want to restrict the scope of the exemption to cover only reproducing short portions (up to 30 pages) of textbooks and “educational materials”. And the organizations say that only public educational entities should be able to take advantage of the copyright exception. Private and community educational institutions would be excluded. However, the current Senate bill is more supportive of exceptions and limitations for education. It permits both translations and adaptations of copyrighted works within educational institutions. It also does not discriminate against private and community institutions. Furthermore, the Senate version does not limit reproductions to only “educational materials”. This is important in order to take into account the wide variety of resources that are necessary for instruction in higher education today, but which might not fit with a traditional definition of “educational.” For example, music students need access to musical works, and many other subject areas need to be able access and use fragments of literary, scientific, and philosophical works. Finally, the Senate bill does not impose an arbitrary page limit for how much of a copyrighted work may be reproduced. Instead, it allows for greater flexibility in how much may be used; if there is a dispute, a judge will be able to assess whether the use was reasonable—taking into account the specific context of the educational use.
  • Adding severe restrictions on libraries. The recommendations seek to permit public lending only for written works. This would mean that it would restrict the public lending of musical, audiovisual, and photographic works. The Senate bill already legalizes the public lending of software.The coalition suggests that the law should be changed from permitting public lending for nonprofit purposes to to lending “whose activities do not directly or indirectly involve any commercial purpose”. This change could further restricting the ability for libraries to lend materials.Furthermore, reproductions of copyrighted works made by libraries at the request of a user would also be subject to the arbitrary 30-page limit. Finally, the Senate bill allows libraries to make a copy of a work for replacement purposes when the work is no longer available at a reasonable market price. The group of organizations suggesting the changes wants to eliminate this provision.
  • Enacting restrictions on freedom of panorama. The Senate bill legalizes a broad freedom of panorama—which means that anyone is permitted to draw, photograph, film, or create 3D models of architectural works, monuments, and works of arts exhibited permanently in public places. However, the coalition wants to restrict freedom of panorama for only non-commercial uses. This would mean that photographers, filmmakers, or artists who want to market their own works containing public monuments and architecture would be violating the law if they didn’t get permission from the rightsholder in the underlying work.

CC Uruguay believes that the recommended changes would be harmful for users, educational institutions, libraries, and the public. The changes would eliminate two of the most important protections in the Senate reform bill: the decriminalization of non-commercial infringement, and personal-use copying. The changes would also severely restrict other exceptions and limitations to copyright, including those for education, library lending, and freedom of panorama.

Their document recommends scaling back most of the user-friendly provisions in the bill, cuts other items that were drafted by the Council of Copyright in the Ministry of Education and Culture—and which already received unanimous political support by all parties in the Senate.

CC Uruguay thinks that Senate policymakers should view these recommended changes as only one voice among many stakeholders. Decisionmakers must also take into account the diversity of voices from educational institutions, libraries, and civil society organizations. The laws regulating access to creativity and culture should support the needs and interests of the public, and should be reached through a broad and democratic debate among all stakeholders.

The post Uruguayan rights holders seek to roll back progressive copyright reform appeared first on Creative Commons blog.

by Timothy Vollmer at May 27, 2016 04:33 PM

Global Voices
Classism in Mexican Cinema: Entertainment or a Serious Issue?
Portadas de películas mexicanas destacadas que son mencionadas en este post. Imagen del autor.

Covers of well-known Mexican films. Image by Juan Tadeo.

Mexican films that exploit classism and social inequality are some of the biggest hits at the box office. The latest example of this phenomenon is the recent release ¿Qué culpa tiene el niño? (“Why Blame the Kid?”).

As previously reported on Global Voices, economic disparity and poverty have cultivated rising class tensions in Mexico, leading to widespread perceptions that more affluent groups and individuals treat the rest of the population arrogantly. Visible extravagances and consumer excess only makes the country's inequality more obvious.

It's by no means trivial that the film “The Noble Family” was a record-breaking success at the box office when it was released in 2013. The movie is about a fictitious family at the top of Mexico's socioeconomic ladder and the complications the family faces as it tries to live like the rest of the country. Specifically, the family members have to work poorly paid jobs. One character finds a job in a bank, another drives a public bus, and a third works as a waitress, where she's forced to wear a skin-tight miniskirt on the job.

In May 2016, approximately 1,100 movie theaters in Mexico screened the debut of “Why Blame the Kid?” by the director Gustavo Loza. According to the newspaper Milenio, the movie attracted a bigger audience that weekend than “The Angry Birds Movie” and the multi-million dollar Hollywood super production, “Captain America: Civil War.” The winning formula is the same as always: poke fun at classism in Mexico. Movie critic Alejandro Alemán says it boils down to a single gag:

El humor en esta cinta versa sobre un solo gag. La diferencia social entre Maru y Renato así como el choque de clase que presupone la reunión de ambas familias. Mientras Maru es hija de un importante diputado (Jesús Ochoa haciendo su personaje de siempre) que vive en una cuasi mansión, Renato vive en una unidad habitacional con su mamá (Mara Escalante, haciendo de su personaje una revisión de otro similar que hace en la televisión); mientras Maru tiene un trabajo respetable en Santa Fe, Renato tendrá que meterse de repartidor de pizzas; mientras la familia de Maru bebe champaña, la familia de Renato bebe tepache.

The humor in this film is all about one gag: the social differences between Maru and Renato and the cultural clash presupposed by the union of their families. While Maru is the daughter of an important government official (Jesús Ochoa playing his classic role) living in a quasi-mansion, Renato lives in a housing unit with his mom (Mara Escalante playing a character very similar to one she plays on TV). While Maru has a respectable job in Santa Fe, Renato has to work as a pizza delivery boy. While Maru's family drinks champagne, Renato's family drinks tepache.

(Note: Santa Fe is an area in Mexico City that has gone through a gentrification process in the last decade due to the construction of office buildings and high-end commercial spaces. On the other hand, tepache is a drink made from fermented pineapple, which is becoming less popular. It is normally reserved for people with limited economic resources.)

The Mexican public's morbid fascination with romantic relationships between people from different social strata was central to the 2002 film “Amarte duele” (“Loving You Hurts”) and innumerable other Mexican movies, dating back at least to 1959, Alemán points out.

Social media users like Rufián warned viewers about classist tropes in “Why Blame the Kid”:

Well, “Why Blame the Kid” turns out to be fun. Despite the classism and, to a certain extent, backhanded misogyny.

— Rufián (@rufianmelancoli) May 14, 2016

Francisco Blas, meanwhile, noted that the reason we go to the cinema is to have fun:

Why Blame the Kid? Maybe it is a classist remake but it's entertaining and funny and that's why we go to the cinema, right? To have fun.

— Francisco Blas Ⓜ️ (@iQueBlas) May 15, 2016

It's worth mentioning that the popular Mexican film industry receives little recognition outside of the country, thus only a few high-quality films ever make it across the border. You can count stand-out Mexican films on one hand. Perhaps the most important of which is “Amores Perros” (2000), directed by the now award-winning and internationally recognized Alejandro González Iñárritu.

Also, the work of Luis Estrada shouldn't go unmentioned, with its well-timed critique of corruption and power of the political class both in “Herod's Law” (1999) and “The Perfect Dictatorship” (2014), among others. But that's about it. The bulk of commercial Mexican cinema has been dominated by romantic comedies adorned with the deeply rooted classism that characterizes (and seemingly appeals to) a large majority of Mexican society.

Satire has always spiced up critiques about undesirable behaviors that we should try to overcome. In Mexico, classism is used as sales hook that brings people to the cinema and makes them laugh for a while. Nevertheless, sometime soon, this same classism needs to be addressed seriously as a problem that doesn't make everyone laugh but instead has caused pitiful episodes of discrimination, abuse of power, and assaults against public servants in the last few months, as Global Voices has reported previously.

by Andrea Chong Bras at May 27, 2016 02:49 PM

‘I Do Not Want Any Children to Develop Cancer Like Me’, a Fukushima Resident Says
Fukushima Daiichi

“Fukushima watertanks.” Image from IAEA Imagebank official Flickr account. License: CC BY-SA 2.0

Independent filmmaker Ian Thomas Ash has uploaded to YouTube a four-part interview with a young woman from Fukushima Prefecture who has been diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Now 20, the interviewee was 15 years old when, following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power complex lost power and the ability to cool fuel in the reactors. The lack of cooling caused a series of hydrogen explosions that severely damaged four of the six reactors at the Daiichi complex.

As a result of the explosions and subsequent fires, nuclear contamination was spread over a large part of Japan's northeast. The young woman interviewed in the documentary, who wishes to remain unidentified, is one of 166 Fukushima residents who were 18 or younger at the time of the nuclear disaster who have been diagnosed with or suspected of having thyroid cancer (as of February 2016).

While some attribute the rise in cases of thyroid cancer to more rigorous screening, Ash notes that 74.5% of young people aged 18-21 as of April 1, 2014 who were living in Fukushima at the time of the nuclear accident have not yet taken part in the official thyroid ultrasound examination.

“This young woman’s reason for speaking out is to motivate the families of children who have not yet received the thyroid ultrasound examination to have their children tested,” Ash says in his introduction to the interview.

The interview has been uploaded to YouTube in four parts: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4.

The woman says according to her doctors, her cancer was caught at the right moment. Had she waited any longer, they told her, the cancer could have spread. As a result of the illness, she had part of her thyroid removed.

She will begin working in a nursery school this year, and is pained to think of any other children going through what she has endured:

I would hate if any children I taught developed cancer. To tell the truth, I do not want any children to develop cancer like me.

Ash, based in Tokyo, makes short documentaries about life in Japan after the March 11, 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster.

by Nevin Thompson at May 27, 2016 12:04 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
Netizen Report: Chilean Copyright Bill Could Eliminate Public Domain for Video, Music
"All Rights Reserved." Drawing by Frits Ahlefeldt, released to public domain.

“All Rights Reserved.” Drawing by Frits Ahlefeldt, released to public domain.

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

In the coming week, Chile’s Senate will vote on a proposed policy that could eliminate Internet users’ abilities to share videos and music online. The policy would amend Chile’s existing law on audiovisual artworks by forcing their creators to place all works under copyright and seek compensation (i.e. money) in exchange for their use.

The amendment stipulates that all contributors to an audiovisual performance whom the law regards as authors would be entitled to payment whenever their work is used online, even if they never asked for payment and don't want it. This would apply for the duration of the copyright, and would apply both to local and foreign works.

According to Luis Villarroel of Innovarte, a Chilean NGO dedicated to promoting balanced approaches to intellectual property, the legislation is being promoted by the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers and by Chilean collecting societies. He and others have been quick to point out that the new licensing fees would all be administered by the collecting societies themselves.

It is difficult to imagine how regulators would implement such a policy in the digital realm, as websites like YouTube and Vimeo are not built to accommodate such specific requirements within a particular country’s borders. One can imagine that platforms that are entirely Creative Commons-based, such as Free Music Archive, could be rendered obsolete altogether.

If the law passes the Senate and is approved by the executive branch, Chilean creators of audiovisual works will no longer have the option of putting their works in the public domain or using open licensing alternatives, such as Creative Commons. While it’s not clear specifically how the policy would impact online platforms and communities, like YouTube and Vimeo, the law would unquestionably limit the flow of free and shared creative content on the Web.

Journalist Khadija Ismayilova wins court challenge in Azerbaijan

Journalist Khadija Ismayilova was released from prison on May 25 after spending 537 days in jail when the Supreme Court reduced her sentence following an appeal. Ismayilova was detained in December 2014 on charges that are believed to be linked to her reporting on government corruption and the family of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. Ismayilova promised to continue her work as a journalist in a message she posted on Facebook.

Vietnam censors Facebook and Instagram in the face of protests

Facebook and Instagram were blocked in Vietnam following protests over an environmental disaster. Demonstrators used social media widely during the protests, both to organize and share photos from rallies.

Nigerian Senate throws out ‘anti-social media bill’

Last week, the Nigerian Senate withdrew the proposed Frivolous Petitions bill, also called the “anti-social media bill”, and suspended all further consideration of the legislation. The bill would have made false and abusive statements sent through text message, WhatsApp or other social media platforms punishable up to two years in prison. It was heavily criticized for damage it was expected to do to the freedom of expression online. The chairman of the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters said, “Even though the bill has a tacit implication of discouraging frivolous and malicious petitions, its passage into law in this current form will do more harm than good.”

No need for the courts, say Malaysian lawmakers

The Malaysian government has proposed amendments to the Communications and Multimedia Act of 1998 that would grant the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission more power to silence criticism online, by allowing it to take down online content without oversight. The amendments would also require the registration of political blogs and websites, and increase penalties for offenses related to “undesirable content”. Authorities in Malaysia have been active in trying to censor online content in the past year, shutting down news websites, blogs and newspapers for publishing information on government corruption involving Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Ghanaian officials rebuff telco push to censor WhatsApp, Viber

Responding to requests by telecommunications companies for the National Communications Authority to restrict subscribers from using the Internet for calls, Ghana’s minister of communications said the government has no plans to ban WhatsApp, Skype or Viber.

Venezuela is definitely censoring the Internet

New research confirms at least 43 websites are being blocked in Venezuela, the majority of which are related to currency black markets. However, 19 percent of the blocked sites are media-related, 12 percent are blogs critical of the ruling party and 9 percent are related to gambling. Information on the government’s Web-blocking practices, including which websites are being blocked, is considered a “state secret”.

China’s cyberspace agency launches security reviews for foreign tech companies

Foreign technology companies, including Apple, are being subjected to security reviews by Chinese authorities associated with the Cyberspace Administration of China. Though it’s unclear what the authorities are demanding exactly as part of the review process, executives and employees at the companies have been summoned to answer questions about their products, specifically their encryption and data storage capacities. While many countries require similar reviews for products that will be used by the military, these reviews are being applied more broadly to technologies popular among consumers in China.

New Research

 

Subscribe to the Netizen Report by email

 

Ellery Roberts Biddle, Weiping Li, Hae-in Lim and Sarah Myers West contributed to this report.

by Netizen Report Team at May 27, 2016 11:54 AM

Miriam Meckel
Bitte keine Frösche fragen

WiWo_Titel_22_16_Subvention_WEB

Erste Zeichen deuten auf einen Steuerwahlkampf hin. Das wird zu nichts führen. Nur Steuerwettbewerb kann neue Anreize setzen.

Es war nach einer Teezeremonie mit den G7-Finanzministern und Notenbankchefs in Japan, als plötzlich ein Moment der Einsicht gekommen schien. Und was immer man Bundesfinanzminister Wolfgang Schäuble in seinen Tee getan haben mag – schlecht kann es nicht gewesen sein. Denn Schäuble sagte: „Wir haben eine zu hohe Besteuerung der mittleren Einkommen.“ Und dann sagte er: „Wir haben Spielräume gewonnen, und da bin ich dafür, diese auch zu nutzen.“ Von Steuererleichterungen sagte er nichts, und die wurden auch sogleich als Möglichkeit von der CDU zurückgewiesen. Aber wer Schäuble kennt, weiß, dass er solche Sätze nicht dahinplappert.

Es wäre vermutlich angesichts des mangelnden Willens zu politischer Gestaltung dieser Tage vermessen, zu glauben, ein paar Fakten könnten Auslöser für neue Einsichten des Finanzministers gewesen sein. Die lauten nämlich, dass Bund, Länder und Kommunen nach der aktuellen Prognose bis zum Jahr 2020 zusammen mit 42 Milliarden Euro Steuermehreinnahmen als bisher geplant rechnen können. Wer mehr einnimmt, kann zumindest mehr zurückgeben, besser noch: gleich weniger erheben. Das sind die Spielräume, die zwar gewonnen, aber offenbar auch gleich wieder zerronnen sind.

Am Thema Steuern kann man sich schnell die Finger verbrennen. Das hat der ehemalige Richter am Bundesverfassungsgericht, Paul Kirchhof, 2005 erfahren müssen. Er forderte als Anwärter auf das Finanzministerium in einer schwarz-gelben Koalition die Einheitssteuer und wurde dafür als weltfremder Wissenschaftler verspottet. Die FDP, einst liberale Kraft mit Breitenwirkung im deutschen Politikbetrieb, schrumpfte unter Führung ihres ehemaligen Vorsitzenden Guido Westerwelle zur eindimensionalen Steuersparpartei. Und die Grünen? Nun, während ein Kind nur einmal auf die heiße Herdplatte fasst, um sich die Finger zu verbrennen, machen die Grünen das auch zwei Mal. Sie wollen mit der Forderung einer Vermögensteuer in den Bundestagswahlkampf 2017 ziehen. Der große Erfolg von 2013 kann nicht der Grund dafür sein.

Ganz ehrlich: Erwartet noch irgendjemand, dass diese vorzeitigen Scheingefechte, die auf den Bundestagswahlkampf im nächsten Jahr zielen, etwas verändern? Das Thema aber verdiente eine ernsthafte Auseinandersetzung. Denn die Steuerfrage ist eine Kernfrage gesellschaftlichen Zusammenlebens. Wofür wollen und sollten wir gemeinsam bezahlen? Und wie lässt sich gewährleisten, dass den Bürgerinnen und Bürgern nur das Nötigste auferlegt wird?

Neidisch kann man auf die Schweiz schauen, die einen erheblichen Steuerwettbewerb unter den Kantonen pflegt. Das mag gelegentlich zu seltsamen Auswüchsen führen. Grundsätzlich aber ist es die Garantie dafür, dass der Staat sich erklären und seine Forderungen begründen muss. Wettbewerb ist heilsam. Im wichtigsten Feld politischer Gestaltung, in der Steuerpolitik, findet er aber nicht statt.

Das sollte sich ändern. Statt einen allemal verkorksten Länderfinanzausgleich zu verhandeln, sollte eine unabhängige Kommission sich des föderalen Steuerwettbewerbs annehmen. Allerdings nicht unter Führung der Ministerpräsidenten. Sonst fragt man wieder die Frösche, ob der Teich kleiner werden darf.

wiwo.de

by Miriam Meckel at May 27, 2016 05:17 AM

Jessica Valenti
My book is coming out in less than two weeks! If you want to do...


My book is coming out in less than two weeks! If you want to do me a solid, please consider pre-ordering (preorders signal to bookstores the level of interest in a book, so the number sold before the pub date mean a lot). 

I’ve never been prouder of anything I’ve ever written, or more terrified about its release! Can’t wait to hear what you all think of it. 

May 27, 2016 02:34 AM

May 26, 2016

Global Voices Advocacy
China’s Independent Journalists Face High Risks — And Are in High Demand
Some independent journalists in China called themselves grassroots historians and published their writing on social media platform. They would also participate in historian gathering such as the Shenzhen History Carnival in 2014. Photo from Jiang Xue's Weibo.

Some independent journalists in China call themselves grassroots historians and publish their writing on social media platforms. They also participate in historical gatherings such as the Shenzhen History Carnival in 2014, seen here. Photo from Jiang Xue's Weibo.

This article was written by Ip Iam Chong and originally published in Chinese on citizen media platform inmediahk.net on May 6 2016. The edited version below was translated by Kristen Chan and is published on Global Voices as part of a content-sharing agreement.

An experienced Chinese journalist recently told me that nearly all major news stories that captured public attention in the past three years were written by independent journalists who have no legal status in China.

As propaganda authorities have become increasingly unreasonable and numerous journalists have received jail time for doing journalistic work, more and more professional journalists have either abandoned or transformed their careers.  While some have moved into management positions at major online news portals, others have left media outlets and started writing and distributing independent investigative reports by making use of social media.

Media regulation in China

Media outlets in mainland China are all state-affiliated, falling under the control of provincial governments, party committees or propaganda departments at different administrative levels. There are no privately operated media outlets.

For instance, the Southern Media Group, which has operated a number of outstanding newspapers including Nanfang Daily, Southern Weekend and Southern Metropolis Daily for liberal voices, is under the supervision of the Guangdong Province party committee. Officials from the propaganda department can step in and take control over a newspaper's editorial at any time.

Although the people in the latter group are journalists by training and by trade, they are do not fit China's legal framework for what constitutes a journalist. Indeed, it is illegal for a person to identify as a journalist if he or she does not hold a press card. All journalists must hold a press identity card issued by registered media outlets, otherwise it is illegal for them to call themselves journalists. The press card must be renewed annually by the journalist's work unit or it will expire.

At a recent conference, I met a number of independent journalists from mainland China. They identified themselves using terms like “writer”, “grassroots historian”, “interviewer” and other monikers avoid using the term “journalist” to describe their work.

One type among this group is similar to those independent journalists working in Hong Kong. They choose and research topics according to their own liking. Rather than pursuing “hot topics”, they typically follow the convention of reportage literature, by researching historical events such as grassroots stories from the anti-Rightist Campaign and Cultural Revolution, or the history and culture of a particular place that has been neglected by the general public. Apart from reports, they also write commentaries.

They commonly distribute their writings through WeChat's public pages. The social media platform offers an option similar to Facebook's public page where other users can subscribe to the content on a particular page and interact with the writer/administrator. WeChat even has a “reward system” that encourages readers to pay a small contribution to the writer. For example, Jiang Xue, a journalist with 20 years of experience in the field, has rebuilt her career as an independent interviewer by using WeChat public platform last year. Most of her interviewees are from grassroots groups.

Another common path for independent journalists in China is to work as an informal media outlet sub-contractor. These journalists have close connections with editors or management staff from more established media outlets that cannot initiate their own investigative reports because of internal censorship. However, they do have budgets to buy content like individual interviews, photos and features from outside writers and pay famous bloggers to use their platforms. Hence this group of independent journalists can make a living by selling their reports to conventional media outlets or portal sites.

According to existing regulations, portal sites cannot conduct original news reports and hence cannot have their own reporter teams. Yet, they have paid columns or paid special features for independent writers to fill in the content. For example, reports from the WeChat public platform “Qianjieyihao” or “No.1 on front street” are frequently quoted by news portals such as Ifeng, QQ and even Xinhua. The platform, which describes itself as “the Eden of a group of oppressed social reporters,” publishes posts produced by teams, some of whom may be affiliated with state media.

There are no reliable figures on how many journalists work in this mode in China, but it is clear that they are walking on a tightrope which carries immense risk, but can also yield opportunities.

Independent journalists have no institutional protection. The censorship system within media outlets is a form of control, but it also protects journalists from touching sensitive issues that can get them into trouble. The bureaucratic structure makes certain that responsibility is shared at all levels — editors and management staff work to ensure that news coverage will not break local laws or offend state or party officials. This minimizes the part that the journalists have to take on their shoulders.

Outside the umbrella of the media institution, independent journalists face many more risks. After the introduction of China's Rumor and Libel Regulation in September 2013 , which criminalized rumors and defamatory content that has been reposted 500 times or more, reporting on sensitive stories became much more dangerous for them.

The growth of the independent journalism sector depends on individual courage, but it has also benefited from developing media and communication ecologies. More and more, breaking news circulates first via social media. Similar to other parts of the world, the conventional media sector is withering in the face of competition from online media — this may be even more pronounced in China, where censorship practices have made state-affiliated media increasingly rigid in recent years.

And in contrast to conventional media outlets, where sensitive content often never makes it to the printed page, sensitive online content is deleted after publication. A popular post that touches on sensitive topics can reach tens or even hundreds of thousands of readers within a few hours on WeChat before the web censor steps in.

In the face of rapid growth of capital investment in the Internet and technology sector in China, content is king and news content is also essential to the development of online platforms. As independent journalists are more flexible and courageous in picking up social topics, including sensitive ones, they are welcomed by Internet portals. Thus their work is high-risk — and in high demand.

by inmediahk.net at May 26, 2016 03:22 PM

Global Voices
China’s Independent Journalists Face High Risks — And Are in High Demand
Some independent journalists in China called themselves grassroots historians and published their writing on social media platform. They would also participate in historian gathering such as the Shenzhen History Carnival in 2014. Photo from Jiang Xue's Weibo.

Some independent journalists in China call themselves grassroots historians and publish their writing on social media platforms. They also participate in historical gatherings such as the Shenzhen History Carnival in 2014, seen here. Photo from Jiang Xue's Weibo.

This article was written by Ip Iam Chong and originally published in Chinese on citizen media platform inmediahk.net on May 6 2016. The edited version below was translated by Kristen Chan and is published on Global Voices as part of a content-sharing agreement.

An experienced Chinese journalist recently told me that nearly all major news stories that captured public attention in the past three years were written by independent journalists who have no legal status in China.

As propaganda authorities have become increasingly unreasonable and numerous journalists have received jail time for doing journalistic work, more and more professional journalists have either abandoned or transformed their careers.  While some have moved into management positions at major online news portals, others have left media outlets and started writing and distributing independent investigative reports by making use of social media.

Media regulation in China

Media outlets in mainland China are all state-affiliated, falling under the control of provincial governments, party committees or propaganda departments at different administrative levels. There are no privately operated media outlets.

For instance, the Southern Media Group, which has operated a number of outstanding newspapers including Nanfang Daily, Southern Weekend and Southern Metropolis Daily for liberal voices, is under the supervision of the Guangdong Province party committee. Officials from the propaganda department can step in and take control over a newspaper's editorial at any time.

Although the people in the latter group are journalists by training and by trade, they are do not fit China's legal framework for what constitutes a journalist. Indeed, it is illegal for a person to identify as a journalist if he or she does not hold a press card. All journalists must hold a press identity card issued by registered media outlets, otherwise it is illegal for them to call themselves journalists. The press card must be renewed annually by the journalist's work unit or it will expire.

At a recent conference, I met a number of independent journalists from mainland China. They identified themselves using terms like “writer”, “grassroots historian”, “interviewer” and other monikers avoid using the term “journalist” to describe their work.

One type among this group is similar to those independent journalists working in Hong Kong. They choose and research topics according to their own liking. Rather than pursuing “hot topics”, they typically follow the convention of reportage literature, by researching historical events such as grassroots stories from the anti-Rightist Campaign and Cultural Revolution, or the history and culture of a particular place that has been neglected by the general public. Apart from reports, they also write commentaries.

They commonly distribute their writings through WeChat's public pages. The social media platform offers an option similar to Facebook's public page where other users can subscribe to the content on a particular page and interact with the writer/administrator. WeChat even has a “reward system” that encourages readers to pay a small contribution to the writer. For example, Jiang Xue, a journalist with 20 years of experience in the field, has rebuilt her career as an independent interviewer by using WeChat public platform last year. Most of her interviewees are from grassroots groups.

Another common path for independent journalists in China is to work as an informal media outlet sub-contractor. These journalists have close connections with editors or management staff from more established media outlets that cannot initiate their own investigative reports because of internal censorship. However, they do have budgets to buy content like individual interviews, photos and features from outside writers and pay famous bloggers to use their platforms. Hence this group of independent journalists can make a living by selling their reports to conventional media outlets or portal sites.

According to existing regulations, portal sites cannot conduct original news reports and hence cannot have their own reporter teams. Yet, they have paid columns or paid special features for independent writers to fill in the content. For example, reports from the WeChat public platform “Qianjieyihao” or “No.1 on front street” are frequently quoted by news portals such as Ifeng, QQ and even Xinhua. The platform, which describes itself as “the Eden of a group of oppressed social reporters,” publishes posts produced by teams, some of whom may be affiliated with state media.

There are no reliable figures on how many journalists work in this mode in China, but it is clear that they are walking on a tightrope which carries immense risk, but can also yield opportunities.

Independent journalists have no institutional protection. The censorship system within media outlets is a form of control, but it also protects journalists from touching sensitive issues that can get them into trouble. The bureaucratic structure makes certain that responsibility is shared at all levels — editors and management staff work to ensure that news coverage will not break local laws or offend state or party officials. This minimizes the part that the journalists have to take on their shoulders.

Outside the umbrella of the media institution, independent journalists face many more risks. After the introduction of China's Rumor and Libel Regulation in September 2013 , which criminalized rumors and defamatory content that has been reposted 500 times or more, reporting on sensitive stories became much more dangerous for them.

The growth of the independent journalism sector depends on individual courage, but it has also benefited from developing media and communication ecologies. More and more, breaking news circulates first via social media. Similar to other parts of the world, the conventional media sector is withering in the face of competition from online media — this may be even more pronounced in China, where censorship practices have made state-affiliated media increasingly rigid in recent years.

And in contrast to conventional media outlets, where sensitive content often never makes it to the printed page, sensitive online content is deleted after publication. A popular post that touches on sensitive topics can reach tens or even hundreds of thousands of readers within a few hours on WeChat before the web censor steps in.

In the face of rapid growth of capital investment in the Internet and technology sector in China, content is king and news content is also essential to the development of online platforms. As independent journalists are more flexible and courageous in picking up social topics, including sensitive ones, they are welcomed by Internet portals. Thus their work is high-risk — and in high demand.

by inmediahk.net at May 26, 2016 03:18 PM

DML Central
Dear Future President

As the candidates and the media concentrate on issues that matter to voters in this election season, how can young people engage and have a voice? Young people should have a say on the issues that matter to them, their communities, and our country. How can we support our youth to participate as productive and active citizens?

This post is an invitation to support youth voice and civic participation through “Letters to the Next President,” an initiative that empowers young people to voice their opinions and ideas on issues that impact them. Join teachers and mentors to power civic participation for a new generation of youth.

In 2008, more than 10,000 young people from across 800 schools took up the challenge of identifying, researching, and writing publicly about issues that mattered to them, their families, and their communities. With support from teachers and mentors, the resulting websites, news coverage, and publications brought the voices of young people into the public discourse and invited young people around the country to write letters to the future president about their concerns, hopes, and perspectives. If you’d like to read some of the student letters from the 2008 iteration of Letters to the Next President, this report from the National Commission on Writing features writing that was selected from the online publishing project sponsored by the National Writing Project and Google. The Letters to the Next President 2008 website featured 6,466 letters from 212 schools across the country on topics such as global warming, the economy, healthcare, education, and immigration.

Eight years later in our current election cycle, Letters to the Next President 2.0 is a reboot of that earlier large-scale youth participation project. In 2016, Letters to the Next President 2.0 (or L2P 2.0) is hosted by the National Writing Project and KQED, together with a growing list of public media and Educator Innovator partners. This collaborative project has been launched as a place for teachers and mentors to get resources they can use to spark research, thinking and civic engagement with young people.

Throughout this summer, L2P 2.0 will continue to gather a wide range of partners to provide resources, host live conversations, and point to technology tools for educators. L2P 2.0 is an open learning opportunity, curated by its hosts and partner organizations. If your organization is interested in being a partner, contact nextprez@nwp.org. A growing list of nonpartisan educational partners are committed to providing learning opportunities and resources. Partners are not selected based on opinions or political standing, and have no influence on the featured resources, curriculum, or opportunities. The L2P 2.0 monthly bulletins will share everything that’s coming up.

After the conventions conclude and the candidates are chosen, our attention turns to what the young people in our communities want to say to the next President of the United States. In the late summer, L2P 2.0 converts to a massive, open online publishing platform where any educator or youth mentor can make space for their students to voice their thinking. Students will then have the opportunity to write publicly about the issues that they believe the next president needs to address. Sign up for resources and opportunities and be the first to know when the publishing site for youth is open. Here’s how to participate:

  • encourage others to sign up to receive monthly bulletins that, highlighting upcoming opportunities and featuring a set of resources;
  • follow @2nextprez on Twitter and Like the project page on Facebook;
  • share what you and your students are working on via social media using the hashtag #2nextprez; and
  • connect with colleagues via L2P 2.0-related opportunities and resources.

The post Dear Future President appeared first on DML Central.

by mcruz at May 26, 2016 01:00 PM

Global Voices
Now's Not a Good Time to Wear a Hammer and Sickle T-Shirt in Indonesia
A store owner in Indonesia selling a t-shirt which features the album cover of German band Kreator was arrested for promoting the banned hammer and sickle communist symbol. Source: Wikipedia

A store owner in Indonesia selling a t-shirt which features the album cover of German band Kreator was arrested for promoting the banned hammer and sickle communist symbol. Source: Wikipedia

The police and military in Indonesia are stepping up the campaign against communism by arresting people suspected of promoting the outlawed ideology.

Earlier this month, two activists in Mollucas were jailed for wearing t-shirts that bear the logo “Partai Kopi Indonesia” (Indonesian Coffee Party). According to the police, the symbol resembles the acronym of the now-defunct Indonesian Communist Party (PKI), even if the t-shirt refers to coffee lovers.

Meanwhile, the owner of a memorabilia shop and his employees were also arrested for selling t-shirts of German heavy metal band Kreator that feature the hammer and sickle logo.

In February this year, the Belok Kiri Fest (Turn Left Fest), which was organized to discuss leftist ideas, was canceled after the police revoked its permit.

In Indonesia, communism and Marxism are considered subversive ideologies and a threat to national security. Any manifestation of support for communism, Marxism or Leninism can be viewed as treason under the amended Indonesian Criminal Law. The law could even criminalize the work of a scholar who writes about communism.

Military officials believe there is a treasonous plot to revive communist groups in the country, but some analysts think the army is only trying to undermine efforts to probe the anti-communist hysteria in 1965 which led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of suspected communists and their sympathizers across Indonesia.

The military is accused of orchestrating the mass killings, which led to the rise to power of General Suharto. For its part, the military claims it only retaliated against attacks instigated by communists.

Suharto banned the PKI and prevented the public from investigating the role of the army in the 1965 killings. Suharto ruled for 32 years until his resignation in 1998.

When President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) won in 2014, human rights groups urged him to give justice to the victims of the 1965 killings.

Reacting to the string of recent arrests, Jokowi asked law enforcement to stop any effort to revive the communist party, but he also urged them to respect human rights and freedom of expression.

The country's cabinet, meanwhile, seems to be divided on the issue. While the defense chief rallies active and retired army officials to help in blocking the revival of communism in Indonesia, the coordinating minister for justice and human rights sees nothing wrong with exploring leftist ideas as long as it's for scholarly research.

For Muslim scholar Akhmad Sahal, there is a better way to defeat communism instead of arresting suspected communists:

The best way to DEFEAT communism is by analyzing leftist thoughts. Reviving not the communist party, but critical and scientific mindsets. Because paranoid=closed-minded.

Because of this tweet, he was accused by some netizens of defending communism and betraying his Islamic faith. Sahal then clarified his stance:

I disagree with communism, what I stand for is the right to be smart and to read, including those of leftist ideas. To stop being paranoid.

In Indonesia, it is common to hear officials equating communism and the LGBT community with terrorism. These are often described as concepts that disturb the country's unity and sovereignty. Some Twitter users are against this simplistic mindset:

Marxism won't die because of the threat from [hardline religious group] Islamic Defenders Front (FPI). Marxism will die once it becomes a dogma. Just like the holy books.

Fear of communism, fear of liberalism, fear of LGBT, fear of Chinese and foreign powers: personalities of those with inferiority complexes. Fearing their own stupidity.

There's an effort to fabricate false enemies by reviving the communism issue or LGBT. #stopshacklingthedemocracy

As usual, it's a news pattern. Before it was LGBT, then alcohol, now communism. What comes next? My guess is pornography.

by Carolina at May 26, 2016 10:18 AM

May 25, 2016

Global Voices
Health Crisis Provokes Protests in Medellín, Colombia
Image shared by the collective Somos14más1 on Twitter.

Image shared by the collective Somos14más1 on Twitter.

Demonstrators gathered in front of hospitals and health centers in the Colombian city of Medellín last week, on May 19, trying to pressure the authorities into addressing persistent and pervasive shortcomings in the local healthcare system.

More protests to bring attention to the health crisis, hospitals have no way of attending to patients without resources

Problems with healthcare in Medellín are unfortunately nothing terribly new. Five years ago, one blog traced today's most pressing healthcare issues back to the government of Álvaro Uribe:

Después de las desastrosas medidas tomadas durante el gobierno anterior, la salud se transformó en un negocio, por lo cual nos encontramos con que las entidades encargadas de la salud en Colombia sólo piensan en un beneficio económico, olvidándose que su trabajo principal es salvar vidas no recibir y provocar tutelas.

After the disastrous measures taken during the previous government, healthcare transformed into a business, such that the entities in charge of healthcare in Colombia only think of economic gains, forgetting that their main work is to save lives, not receive and induce admissions.

The blog PROESA highlighted two of the fundamental problems with the health system:

  • Represamiento del flujo de fondos, lo cual a su vez trae dificultades para la oportuna prestación de los servicios.
  • Insuficiente transparencia y rendición de cuentas por parte de las entidades del sector.

•  Reduced flow of funds, which in turn brings difficulties for the timely provision of services.
•  Insufficient transparency and accountability on the part of entities within the [healthcare] sector.

Many of the demonstrators last week shared on social media their reasons for attending the protest. Catalina Valencia, for example, said she turned out to support people's right to health:

Image: Without health, prosperity for all is a LIE!
Tweet: Success We Are 14+1. 30 Minutes For Healthcare. Healthcare Crisis

While patients have suffered the brunt of the crisis, healthcare facilities in Medellín and throughout the Antioquia region have faced challenges of their own—particularly the large and mounting debts owed by hospitals and clinics to the Entidades Promotoras de Salud (the Healthcare Promoting Entities) and the state, which has contributed to the deterioration of local response capacities.

Image:
Consequences of the lack of timely payments:
Crashes in the emergency network.
Closure of services and hospital beds.
Failure to pay suppliers and employees.
Difficulty relying on medicines and supplies that allow service delivery to patients.

Sit-in: Healthcare continues mourning
Thursday, May 19
From 8:00 am

Tweet: We know the consequences of failing to make timely payments to institutions.

The organizing force behind these healthcare demonstrations was the collective Somos 14 más 1 (“We Are 14 Plus 1”), and it helped promote the event on Twitter, using the hashtags #CrisisDeLaSalud (“#HealthcareCrisis”) and #30MinutosPorLaSalud (“#30MinutesForHealthcare”).

#30MinutesForHealthcare The [Healthcare Promoting Entities] owes us 1.7 billion pesos. Where are the resources for health?

by Liam Anderson at May 25, 2016 02:52 PM

A Flurry of Poaching Cases Casts a Cloud Over Nepal's Tiger Conservation Efforts
Bengal Tiger - Panthera Tigris. Image from Flickr by Shaunak Modi. CC BY 2.0

Bengal Tiger – Panthera tigris. Image from Flickr by Shaunak Modi. CC BY 2.0

More than a dozen tigers killed in a year – that’s grave news for a country which was hailed for its record third “zero poaching year” for rhinos.

Most of them were poached in and around the Bardia National Park, reported the daily Annapurna Post. Not long ago, the country was celebrating the fact that not a single tiger was killed during the one-year period between February 2013 and February 2014.

Since the poachers take the animal carcass with them, cases of poaching are difficult to track. The whole body of a tiger – from toe nails, skin and bones to the meat – is put up for sale on the international market by the poachers. Only when the petty traders are caught with tiger skins and bones in their possession do the authorities learn that the animals were killed by the gangs behind the illegal trade.

Last year, police caught poachers with tiger skins and bones at different places in the country. Thanks to the concern of authorities, a poacher who was on a run for years after killing Nepal’s first GPS (Global Positioning System)-collared tiger Namo Buddha was arrested. However, the frequent sighting of nomadic Banjara people in western Nepal is a reason for worry for conservationists and security agencies as they have in the past been involved in poaching and illegal trade of tiger parts.

Doubling the tiger numbers by 2022

Though tiger poaching remains a serious problem, the latest census showed that tigers increased in numbers by 63% from the previous census. The last census put the number of tigers at 198.

The Government of Nepal along with conservation organisations like World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and National Trust for Nature Conservation (NTNC) wants to double the tiger numbers by 2022. That goal isn't such a distant dream if the trend of rising tiger numbers continues, but poaching needs to be curbed.

Rare sightings of tiger

While tiger numbers are increasing, it’s rare to see a tiger in the wild in Nepal. When people do, it's noteworthy — for better or worse.

Journalist Ujjwal Acharya tweeted when his team came across a tiger in Nepal’s Chitwan National Park.

In February, news of a Dutch tourist named Gerard Van Laar being saved by a local guide from a tiger that didn’t let him come down from a tree went viral in the mainstream and social media. Van Laar survived by clinging to a tree for two hours as the tiger waited for him below.

Celebrities’ fascination with Nepal’s tigers

The magnificent animals not only fascinate ordinary people, but high-profile celebrities as well. Recently, when the UK's Prince Harry visited Bardia National Park in Nepal, he acted like a tiger, crouching and walking which was captured by a camera trap that help monitor the animals.

Academy Award winner Leonardo DiCaprio is no exception. He donated US $3 million towards tiger conservation when he visited Bardia National Park.

To fight poaching, conservation organisations have come together to organise awareness-raising activities along the border with India in western Nepal. Besides the efforts of celebrities, conservationists and communities who have been crucial in conserving the striped cats, a recent report of forest cover increasing by over five per cent in Nepal is another silver lining in the cloud.

The coordination between the concerned government authorities, conservation organisations and communities will be crucial if tiger numbers are to be doubled by 2022. And conserving them will in turn be crucial for the ecosystem, which will have an impact on humanity's own survival.

If the tiger is conserved, the forest will be conserved, the conserved forest will conserve the tiger. So, conserve humans on this planet by conserving the tiger and the forest.

by Sanjib Chaudhary at May 25, 2016 12:41 AM

May 24, 2016

Global Voices
A Novel About the ‘Anonymous People Who Every Day Live, Love, Resist and Struggle’ for Syria
Leila Nachawati Rego

Leila Nachawati Rego. Photo courtesy of Leila.

Leila Nachawati Rego, a Syrian-Galician journalist and activist, is taking a punt on telling other stories; those stories that we don't read, see, or hear. Syria, one of her native countries — and greatest passions — has been immersed in a grueling and bloody war, but still love and resistance flourish there. This belief, among other things, is the basis of her first novel “Cuando la revolución termine” (When the Revolution Is Over).

In an email, Leila (@leila_na) spoke to Global Voices, another one of her great passions where she volunteers as a writer, about her new novel, literature, identities, and her memories of another Damascus.

Global Voices (GV): Why do you feel that this is a story which is better told through literature than journalism?

Leila Nachawati (LN): Llevo años escribiendo artículos y ensayos sobre Siria y oriente medio, y cuanto más pasaba el tiempo más me parecía que la región no se entiende, se interpreta en claves geostratégicas y religiosas/identitarias. Creo que una novela puede llegar a un público más amplio y hacer que la gente empatice con un contexto que consideran lejano y en realidad no lo es tanto. Las críticas de la novela hasta el momento han destacado el hecho de que la novela muestra cómo era Siria antes de 2011, cómo se vivía, qué se comía, cómo se divertía la gente… y luego qué reivindican a partir de las protestas de 2011, qué reclaman… y eso es importante porque acerca y facilita la empatía, algo que no siempre se da con análisis y coberturas de medios de comunicación de masas.

Leila Nachawati (LN): I have been writing articles and essays about Syria and the Middle East for years, and the more time passed, the more I realized that the region wasn't understood, it is interpreted in terms of religion, identity or geopolitics. I think that a novel can reach a wider public and make people empathise with a context that they consider to be far away, yet in reality is closer than they think. Reviews of the novel so far have highlighted the fact that the novel portrays Syria before 2011, how people lived, what people ate, how people enjoyed themselves, and this is important as it creates empathy, which is not always something you get with coverage and analysis from mass media.

Cuando la revolución termine by Leila Nachawati Rego

Cuando la revolución termine by Leila Nachawati Rego

GV: Your novel is political, yet also a love story; love for children, friends, partners, for countries, and for cities. For a long time now, the only stories we read about Syria are horror stories, tales of death and devastation. What are we not reading about Syria? What other stories need to be told?

LN: Leemos a diario historias en las que los protagonistas son los que destruyen (ya sea Asad o ISIS /Daesh, y escuchamos poco a los que resisten, a los que construyen y reconstruyen en un contexto cada vez más difícil. Mi novela es un homenaje a esa gente anónima que día a día vive, se enamora, resiste y lucha por su país, por una sociedad mejor aunque todos los vientos soplen en contra.

LN: Daily we read stories in which the protagonists are those that destroy Syria (be it [Syrian President] Assad or ISIS/Daesh) yet we hear little of those who resist, construct and reconstruct the country, in an increasingly difficult context. My novel is a homage to those anonymous people who every day live, love, resist and struggle for their country, for a better society, even if the odds are against them.

GV: You are Syrian-Galician. How do you navigate your identities?

LN: Creo que quienes vivimos a caballo entre dos culturas tenemos esa doble visión que nos permite ser una especie de puente, de traductores de entornos distintos que en realidad tienen mucho en común. La “distancia media” de la que hablaba Aristóteles.

LN: I think that those of us who spend our lives between two cultures have a double vision which allows us to be a sort of bridge, translators of different environments which actually have a lot in common. The “happy medium” that Aristotle talked about.

GV: Tell us about your memories of Damascus.

LN: Damasco para mí es ruido de tornos, de obras sin acabar, de bocinas de coche en el tráfico en hora punta, de olor a arguile de dos manzanas, de cebolla friéndose en mantequilla, de naranjas y jazmín. De sonrisas y miradas cómplices, de silencios que hablan más que cualquier grito, de susurros, de deseo reprimido de cambio.

LN: To me, Damascus is the sound of lathes, of construction that is never finished, of car horns in rush hour traffic, the smell of double-apple shisha, of onion frying in butter, of oranges and jasmine. Of smiles and knowing glances, of silences that speak more than any scream, of whispers, of the suppressed desire for change.

Leila señala un cartel que pide la libertad del desarrollador de software sirio, Bassel Khartabil. Foto cortesía de Leila.

Leila points to a poster appealing for the freedom of Syrian software developer Bassel Khartabil. Photo courtesy of Leila.

GV: How has belonging to the Global Voices community influenced your life? The protagonist in your novel is also a GV author.

LN: Global Voices marcó un antes y un después en mi vida, me permitió conocer a toda una generación de activistas que me abrió los ojos a unas luchas y deseos de cambio, de justicia social, que parte de lo local y a la vez es muy global, basada en unas redes de solidaridad muy fuertes y unos vínculos que se crean más allá de las diferencias culturales. En la novela, Global Voices marca un punto de inflexión en la trayectoria de la protagonista, que dice: “Antes de 2011, en todos mis viajes a Siria, no había conocido a un solo activista. Conocería a muchos a partir de entonces”

LN: Global Voices marked a before and after in my life, it allowed me to meet a whole generation of activists who opened my eyes to struggles and desires for change, to social justice, both local and global at once, based in strong networks of solidarity and bonds formed regardless of cultural differences. In the novel, Global Voices marks a turning point in the path of the protagonist, who says, “Before 2011, in all my travels to Syria, I hadn't met a single activist. From then on, I would know many.”

by Philip Smart at May 24, 2016 11:22 PM

A New Campaign Encourages Latin American Indigenous Communities to Create Their Own Media
Captura de pantalla del video hecho para la campaña "Por nuestros propios medios". Disponible en Vimeo.

Screenshot of the video for the campaign “Por nuestros propios medios” (“By our own media”). Available on Vimeo.

An educational campaign called “Komunikatuz Eraldatu, Peoples Owning Their Communication” (Komunikatuz Eraldatu, los pueblos dueños de su comunicaciónin Spanish) is counteracting the distorted image of indigenous peoples and communities that mainstream media regularly portray.

The campaign was launched by Mugarik Gabe, a non-governmental organization from the Basque Country of Spain that has worked in the areas of development and social equality since 1987. This NGO is present in a number of countries in Latin America, and one of their main goals is to advocate for indigenous communities’ rights.

According to Mugarik Gabe:

Con esta nueva campaña queremos mostrar cómo los pueblos indígenas de Latinoamérica han creado medios de comunicación para defender sus derechos y reforzar sus lenguas y su identidad como tales.

Y unir todo ello también con la labor que han hecho y hacen con el mismo objetivo actores del ámbito de la comunicación alternativa y los medios de comunicación locales de Euskal Herria.

With this new campaign we want to show how indigenous peoples of Latin America have created ways of communication to defend their rights and strengthen their language and identity.

This campaign also connects them with others who have done and are doing work with the same objective within alternative media and local media of Euskal Herria [the Basque Country].

“Komunikatuz Eraldatu, Peoples Owning Their Communication” is planning to hold a series of conferences in May 2016 on indigenous peoples, popular media and communication for social change, which will consist of lectures, discussions and screenings of documentaries, with the participation of journalists and communicators from Euskal Herria (as the Basque Country is called in the Basque language), Bolivia, Mexico and Argentina.

The campaign brochure contains more information in Spanish on this topic. More updates can be found on the Twitter and Facebook accounts of Mugarik Gabe.

The video below also presents an animated explanation of the campaign and its goals. It shows how mainstream media tends to portrait indigenous communities and the ways in which these representations can change with the creation of alternative media that tell their own stories:

At the end of the video, the narrator sums up why it is important for indigenous communities to have a say in how they are presented to the world:

Al construir nuestros propios medios de comunicación los pueblos indígenas somos protagonistas de nuestra historia, vamos tejiendo nuestra propia palabra, escapamos del olvido, celebramos la vida, celebramos un mundo, donde a pesar de las injusticias, predomina la esperanza.

By creating our own media, we, the indigenous peoples, are protagonists of our own history, we write our own words, we escape oblivion, we celebrate life and a world where, despite the injustices, hope prevails.

by Teodora C. Hasegan at May 24, 2016 08:35 PM

MIT Center for Civic Media
Liveblogging #ODR2016: Afternoon sessions on innovating justice

I'm here at the #ODR2016 conference at the Peace Palace in The Hague. ODR2016 is the annual meeting of the Online Dispute Resolution Forum, an international assembly of lawyers, mediators, technologists, and others who care about technology and dispute resolution. It is cohosted by the National Center for Technology and Dispute Resolution, where I am a fellow.

This liveblog represents a best-efforts account, not a direct transcript, of the lecture, presentation, and/or panel.


After lunch, we have three speakers lined up for afternoon sessions:

  • Making ODR happen: an executive branch perspectiveTom Wynne-Morgan, UK Ministry of Justice
  • Making ODR part of cutting edge innovation strategies of governments - H.E Al Majid, Chief Innovation Officer UAE Ministry of Justice
  • HiiL Innovating Justice approach to ODR and justice innovationSam Muller, CEO, HiiL Innovating Justice

Tom Wynne-Morgan is a designer who currently works as a product manager within the UK Ministry of Justice. A few years ago, the UK announced a 'Digital by Default' standard for their government, and implementing this has required a massive amount of work to transition basic (and advanced) government services into usable digital experiences. Doing this well has required focusing on the user, shifting the role of government from IT procurement to service delivery, and setting UI/UX standards.

Tom has been working on a project for UK MOJ to facilitate divorces. He quotes a UK legislator working on family issues who issued a call to "to foster a cultural change to enable people to solve their own disputes in a less acrimonious way and not look to government to do it for them."

~50k Britons attend court to make arrangements for children as a result of marriage disputes. There are an increasing number of litigants who may not fully understand what the courts can (or can't) provide them. Part of his mandate, Tom says, is to design systems that better understand and facilitate user needs and expectations so they don't have to fall-back on the courts.

Tom argues that policy-making and service-design are (or should be) the same thing. He quotes Herbet Simon: "everyone designs who devises courses of action aimed at changing existing situations into preferred ones." He describes the methods by which the UK MOJ mapped user 'touchpoints' in family courts to abstract needs that a newly designed service could fulfill, as well as the challenges of trying to implement conventional best-practices for digital service design (i.e. agile methodology) within a legislative context and culture that accepts and generates change much more slowly.

Tom views the future of building government technology for the UK as one where the government does the work of settling political questions (e.g., what kind of taxonomies should be used to structure public data) and making available data, and then both public and private partners build on that base to design new products for constituent/consumer use.

***

H.E Al-Majid opens with a history of the foundation of the UAE and also a vision of its future. The seven touchstones of UAE Vision 2021, includes a safe and fair public judiciary..

Al-Majid says that UAE is innovating to achieve justice by transitioning toward more ODR. Based on the metrics outlined on the UAE website, it seems that one way that UAE self-evaluates is by a set of World Bank metrics, e.g. "A composite indicator that measures the effectiveness of enforcing contracts within the "Doing Business" report..." So, from my perspective, it seems like ODR makes sense in terms of helping UAE meet certain goals.

To be honest, this talk was way more about how UAE is trying to create national happiness than it was about anything substantively related to ODR or justice.

I wanted to ask whether ODR would be available to the migrant workers laboring under so-called 'modern-day slavery' to build much of the UAE, but unfortunately, I was not able to get access to the microphone during Q&A.

***

Sam Muller, the CEO of HiiL, wants to share some insights on why he helped start HiiL and what he sees the future of ODR to be. Sam believes that 'a good state' offers its citizens a 'bundle of effective procedures' that helps people negotiate disputes as they encounter them in daily life.

The traditional solutions, argues Muller, are more of everything: more courts, more lawyers, more rules, more systems. But, Muller argues, the continued accretion of traditional legal concepts and entities will not actually provide more justice to anyone. He points to the ICC (which he was involved with initiating) as the ultimate, inadequate legal institution. Instead, a more 'innovative' approach will contemplate new actors and ways of approaching and resolving disputes.

Part of this approach requires better data on the kinds of actors who have disputes and the disputes that they have. Muller points to a survey HiiL carried out in Yemen at the behest of the UN. They assumed that most of the problems would have been in the traditional 'human rights' realm, but most people actually reported consumer complaints, like buying a cellphone or car that didn't work. This kind of empirical work can help set priorities for governments, NGOs, and companies in this space, which can be consolidated through political coalitions. Muller sees the 'innovation of justice' as proceeding through a combination of this kind of data-driven and compromise-enabled empirical/political work.

by Petey at May 24, 2016 01:03 PM

Global Voices
The Threat That Was Cyclone Roanu, and the ‘Success’ That Was Bangladesh's Response
Satellite Image of Cyclone Roanu as on May 21, 2016. Image credit NASA Earth Observatory.

Satellite image of Cyclone Roanu as on May 21, 2016. Image credit NASA Earth Observatory.

Bangladesh has come a long way in disaster preparedness since 1970, when about 500,000 people were killed in the Bhola cyclone. The country has built more than 2,500 cyclone shelters on elevated platforms, which serve the dual role of schools or community centers during normal weather. Early warning systems have been developed, and many volunteers have been trained to help evacuate people to the shelters.

However, preparedness is a constant battle, given the country has been battered by tropical disasters every few years. Tropical Cyclone Roanu was the latest test for Bangladesh.

On 14 May, a low pressure area formed over the Bay of Bengal and consolidated into a tropical depression as it entered Sri Lanka over the east coast. Since then, nearly half a million people have been displaced and 82 people have died in Sri Lanka due to excessive rain and landslides caused by the depression, which became Tropical Cyclone Roanu on 19 May. The Maldives named the cyclone; “roanu” means “coir rope” in Maldivian (Dhivehi).

Roanu also brought torrential rainfall to the Indian states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha. It drifted on northeastward to finally make landfall in the southeast of Bangladesh.

Bangladesh was better prepared this time. About 2 million people were evacuated before Roanu brought strong winds and rain to Bangladesh's populous coastal communities, killing at least 24 people and displacing about half a million people.

The death toll has been low, if you compare it to Cyclone Sidr in 2007 which claimed 3,447 lives and caused millions of dollars of damage. This time, the disaster management ministry, fire brigade and meteorological department worked together to keep the impact of Roanu to a minimum. However, many houses and roads may be damaged, leaving families without shelter for the oncoming monsoon season.

Some people shared mobile phone videos of the storm on social media, such as this footage from YouTube:

Expat Bangladeshi Naser Imran Hossain described on Facebook how things have changed in his native country:

The greatest wealth that a nation has is it's people, be it ignorant, bigoted, religiously and socially intolerant people- they are the rulers of the land, they are the torchbearers, they are the ones that are best suited to thrive and survive. Even 10 years ago, a cyclone such as Roanu would kill hundreds, devastate thousands of lives- look how situation has change, how the death toll has dwindled, how information technology with improved clarity and awareness has saved hundreds of thousands of lives, giving them a second opportunity to start, anew from the ashes.

However, not everyone had the same thought. Educator Kaberi Gayen warned against downplaying the loss of life from Roanu:

রোয়ানু নেই নেই করেও ২৬ জনের জীবন নিয়ে নিয়েছে।
এটি ঘোষিত হতে পারতো জাতীয় দুর্যোগ। কিন্তু মৃত্যু আমাদের গা-সওয়া হয়ে গেছে।

Although it seems like an achievement, 26 lives have been lost due to Roanu. This could be declared a national disaster. But it seems we are accustomed to a large number of deaths.

The process of improving disaster preparedness in Bangladesh isn't over, but it's headed in the right direction, argued Khurshid Alam on the United Nations Development Programme's blog:

Bangladesh’s exposure to cyclones will not lessen – in fact, with climate change we may see the coast battered more often, harder, and in unpredictable ways. In the past decade, Bangladesh has transitioned from disaster management to disaster risk reduction by – among other things – changing the public mindset and government policy, expanding early warning systems and volunteerism, and engaging communities in identifying and addressing local risk.

[…]

We must all ask ourselves: how can we help in ways that don’t just alleviate suffering, but support communities to become more resilient for the future? Our work in disaster risk reduction in Bangladesh offers some of the best examples of how our efforts can prevent or reduce crises, not just manage them.

by Rezwan at May 24, 2016 12:20 PM

MIT Center for Civic Media
Liveblogging #ODR2016: Reconfiguring legal representation to provide justice for detained asylees

I'm here at the #ODR2016 conference at the Peace Palace in The Hague. ODR2016 is the annual meeting of the Online Dispute Resolution Forum, an international assembly of lawyers, mediators, technologists, and others who care about technology and dispute resolution. It is cohosted by the National Center for Technology and Dispute Resolution, where I am a fellow.

This liveblog represents a best-efforts account, not a direct transcript, of the lecture, presentation, and/or panel.


As part of the #ODR2016 conference I attended a working group meeting on asylum cases hosted by Vikki Rogers, Director of Institute of International Commercial Law Pace Law School. Her talk/slides: "Mining the Process: The Case of Asylum-Seekers from the Northern Triangle into the United States Using Technology to Promote the Rule of Law in Asylum Cases."

Vikki volunteers with the CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project, which organizes legal representation for asylees, particularly women and children, who have been impacted by the intensifying 'deterrance' policies and practices of the Obama administration. CARA works "to ensure that detained children and their mothers receive competent, pro bono representation and to end the practice of family detention entirely by leading aggressive advocacy and litigation efforts to challenge unlawful asylum, detention, and deportation policies."

So what makes this an ODR issue? After canvassing the set of stakeholders, policies, and politics, Vikki tells the story of LawLab, a nonprofit software company/product developed by immigration lawyers to organize effective legal representation. In the most basic sense, LawLab is case-management software, but what it facilitates is a kind of distributed legal representation that has not previously been possible (or at least effectively applied). According to Vikki, the US government strategically places deportation centers in rural, relatively inaccessible areas in order to make it more difficult for sufficient lawyers to be able to do pro-bono work. With LawLab, CARA has organized a network of legal volunteers who can track, advance, and assist cases from wherever they are located in the country. Vikki is based in New York but continues to volunteer on cases via LawLab.

Vikki positions this as an interesting flip on the traditional model of providing legal services: instead of a small number of lawyers working on a small number of cases from beginning-to-end, the CARA project, facilitated by LawLab, has allowed a large number of volunteers, some (but not all) lawyers, to work on a large number of cases by breaking up the processs into modular tasks. The project was successful in closing one government detention center in Artesia, NM and continues to work today to provide justice to asylees and refugees.


What made me want to attend and blog this working group, besides my personal interest and investment in immigrant rights, is the way this project flips the traditional script for how technology will change the legal profession. For decades, Richard Susskind and others have predicted the 'end of lawyers,' arguing that new technologies, particularly forms of automated text analysis/processing and decision-making, will make human analysis/processess/decisions obsolete. And certainly this has happened to some extent; LexisNexis and WestLaw are easily searched than books, and LegalZoom has made it easier to fill out legal forms like TurboTax has for tax forms.

However, I tend to be skeptical of arguments that certain forms of intelligence will be replaced. As my friend Erik Stayton argued in his master's thesis "Driverless Dreams: Technological Narratives and the Shape of the Automated Car", the idea of automation divorced from human agency is only one of many possible futures of how humans and computers can work together to make things possible.

In this case, I see LawLab as reconfiguring the process of legal representation; not eliminating but rather redistributing the kind of work historically done by one lawyer across many people, some of whom have specific legal expertise and credentialing, some of whom do not. This offers genuinely new possibilities for providing legal aid and justice to some of the poorest, least-resourced populations who have historically struggled to obtain adequate representation.

by Petey at May 24, 2016 10:54 AM

Global Voices
A Peruvian Amazon Community Is Putting Up a Fight Against the Expansion of Oil Palm

Imagen de pantalla obtenida del video <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RqAOMBeux6A">UCHUNYA - ¿Y dónde vamos a vivir?</a>

Screenshot of the video UCHUNYA – Where will we live? Subtitle reading: ‘In future the Amazon will be [empty as] an airfield.’

This post is a version of an article originally published on Juan Arellano's Globalizado blog.

Santa Clara de Uchunya is a small community in the Peruvian Amazon, located on the banks of the Aguaytía river in the Ucayali region. Its members, who are of Shipibo origin, are taking legal action against the Plantaciones de Pucallpa (Plantations of Pucallpa) company's appropriation and deforestation of about 5,000 hectares of land that the community considers part of its ancestral territory.

An analysis of satellite images taken in August 2014 revealed about 12,200 hectares of primary forest in two areas of the Department of Ucayali near the Aguaytía river had been razed. According to the MAAP (Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project), the deforestation is caused by the expansion of two large-scale plantations of oil palms. Subsequently, a report by the environmental website Mongabay linked these plantations with Czech businessman Dennis Melka, through the Grupo Palmas del Perú (Palms Group of Peru), Plantaciones de Ucayali (Plantations of Ucayali), and Plantaciones de Pucallpa (Plantations of Pucallpa) companies.

Melka is best known as the CEO of United Cacao, a company based in the Cayman Islands accused of cutting down more than 2,000 hectares of virgin forest in the Loreto region of the Amazon in northeastern Peru. He is also the founder, chairman, president and chief executive of United Oils, headquartered in the Cayman Islands, and owns a palm oil refinery in Singapore.

This year, investigative journalism initiative Convoca published a special report on the activities of Melka in Peru, both in Loreto and in Ucayali. They discovered that the manager of the regional directorate of agriculture in Ucayali and the former president of the regional government of Ucayali are being investigated by the first prosecutor specializing in environmental matters of Ucayali over alleged environmental crimes, offenses against public resources and accountability of a public official for the sale of land to a Melka company.

Melka companies also began to acquire land from the communities in adjacent areas. Once in their possession, they began to cut down the native forest with heavy machinery. The report by Convoca gathered testimonies from those affected, who denounced the Plantations of Ucayali officials for usurping land. Ramiro Tapullima, of the Bajo Rayal area, testified before the prosecutor:

Arrasaron toda mi chacra de arroz y yuca de más o menos dos hectáreas. No pude detenerlos debido a que eran personal armado, vigilantes con armas de fuego que nos amenazaban

They destroyed all my rice and cassava farm of about two hectares. I could not stop them because they were armed personnel, security guards with guns threatening us.

Carmela Castro Najarro, from the same village, said:

Me manifestaron que saliera de mi chacra porque ellos iban a trabajarla. La empresa me amenazó con palabras soeces con que me pasaría cualquier cosa, motivo por el cual tuve que salir.

They told me to leave my farm because they were going to work on it. The company threatened me with vulgar words that anything could happen to me, this is why I had to leave.

However, Conveagro-Ucayali officials point out that the areas supposedly deforested have always been dedicated to agriculture.

Other communities haven't fought like Santa Clara de Uchunya. The residents of the Shambo Porvenir community for their part said that, in response to the lack of support from the regional government to pursue alternative crops to coca, they accepted the offer from Plantations of Pucallpa to work the oil palms.

However, what is happening in the community of Santa Clara de Uchunya is different from the situation in Shambo Porvenir. The disputed sale of 4,759 hectares of land, as reported by Convoca, between the Regional Directorate of Agriculture in Ucayali and Plantations of Pucallpa in December 2012 did not have the authorization of the Regional Council of Ucayali, and did not take into consideration that these lands already had owners, among them being the community of Santa Clara de Uchunya.

Last year, research by the government found that 6,824.39 hectares of forest had been destroyed, leaving only 0.3% of forest cover. All this deforested area is within the area that the community identifies as its ancestral territory.

Imagen de pantalla obtenida del video <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RqAOMBeux6A">UCHUNYA - ¿Y dónde vamos a vivir?</a>

Screenshot from the video UCHUNYA – ¿Y dónde vamos a vivir? (UCHUNYA – And Where Will We Live?). Santa Clara de Uchunya features in the center of the map, while to the left the community's ancestral territory is outlined in white. Pink represents the loss of forest cover.

The blog of the Justicia Viva (‘Live Justice’) organization analyzed the case and concluded that several fundamental rights have been violated, which is why the community has taken the issue to court:

Se ha vulnerado una serie de derechos reconocidos en la Constitución Política y el Derecho Internacional de los Derechos Humanos, que pasan por la propiedad comunal, la consulta previa y el medio ambiente adecuado y equilibrado, entre otros del mismo rango. Este contexto permite a la comunidad nativa de Santa Clara de Uchunya a exigir en sede judicial –y a través de un proceso constitucional, concretamente el de amparo– el cese inmediato de los actos violatorios de sus derechos fundamentales y la vuelta de las cosas al estado anterior a que estas ocurrieran: al momento antes que la ambición tomase el disfraz de palma aceitera y se plantase en lugar del bosque, que hoy ya no está.

A number of rights recognized in the Constitution and by the International Law of Human Rights have been violated, in terms of communal property, prior consultation and what's suitable and balanced for the environment, among others of the same type. This context allows the native community of Santa Clara de Uchunya to demand in court–and through a constitutional process, namely that of protection–immediate cessation of the acts that violate their fundamental rights and a return to how things were before these incidents occurred: the moment before the greed took the guise of an oil palm and was planted instead of the forest, which today no longer exist.

The community of Santa Clara de Uchunya has not stood idly by; in addition to legal action, it has campaigned to increase public awareness. To help in this regard, it has produced a video that “based on community testimonies, shows the impacts which the community are suffering as a result of this appropriation of their traditional lands and the fight to defend their territorial and cultural rights.”

Los esfuerzos de la comunidad para lograr el reconocimiento de sus derechos territoriales abarcan más de 30 años y ahora han llegado a un punto crítico. El caso legal de Santa Clara de Uchunya es emblemático, puesto que su resultado tendrá consecuencias trascendentales para el futuro de la Amazonía peruana y sus pueblos indígenas.

The efforts of the community to achieve recognition of their territorial rights encompass more than 30 years and they have now reached a critical point. The legal case of Santa Clara de Uchunya is emblematic, because its outcome will have far-reaching consequences for the future of the Peruvian Amazon and its indigenous peoples.

In April 2016, representatives of Santa Clara de Uchunya community, together with other indigenous leaders from Indonesia, Colombia and Liberia, were in several European countries to demand that “the European Union take measures and reinforce its legislation against the violation of human rights and against the appropriation of land related to the global supply of palm oil.” They also went to the London Stock Exchange (LSE) to request that the United Cacao company, owned by Dennis Melka, stop trading on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM), the branch of the LSE on which United Cacao is listed.

It should be noted that although the strategy of Melka and his companies’ lawyers is to remain silent, as they did when Convoca journalists requested interviews, or initiate libel suits against media that discuss the subject, like what happened to the French portal News Confectionary and the German NGO Rettet den Regentad's Salva la Selva (Save the Forest), in this case United Cacao responded. The company said it operates according to the Peruvian laws, since the environmental impact study of the project was initially accepted in 2013 by the competent authorities and that they are awaiting final approval sometime this year.

In the midst of this negative situation, encouraging news came in the form of an injunction by the 9th Constitutional Court of Lima to halt deforestation in Tamshiyacu, Loreto, by the company Cacao Peru North SAC, of the United Cacao. It remains to be seen if the same will happen soon for Santa Clara de Uchunya.

by Teodora C. Hasegan at May 24, 2016 09:00 AM

MIT Center for Civic Media
Liveblogging #ODR2016: Present Practices and Future Directions for ODR

I'm here at the #ODR2016 conference at the Peace Palace in The Hague. ODR2016 is the annual meeting of the Online Dispute Resolution Forum, an international assembly of lawyers, mediators, technologists, and others who care about technology and dispute resolution. It is cohosted by the National Center for Technology and Dispute Resolution, where I am a fellow.

This liveblog represents a best-efforts account, not a direct transcript, of the lecture, presentation, and/or panel.

My liveblogging begins with day 2 of the ODR conference (I missed day 1 due to various travel delays). The morning begins with a series of remarks from some of the key organizers of the conference:

Jin, our host for this year's conference, welcomes everyone back for the second day. He outlines the events of the day and quickly introduces Ethan as the 'godfather' of ODR and to have him speak on the future directions of ODR.

Ethan begins by quoting at length a 1996 essay by Richard Susskind about the printing press, the slide rule, the videophone, and the ATM. Two decades ago, Susskind wrote this essay to outline different histories/futures of 'transformative' technologies. Ethan asks the audience to consider which of these technologies ODR seems most akin to.

Jeff Aresty, of the Internet Bar, asks Ethan what he thinks about the focus on 'ODR in the courts' means in the context of this conference. Why are we focusing on courts when they move so slowly?

Ethan says that, for a long time, it indeed seemed like courts were not going to be the first place for ODR to function well. Part of this depends on what we count as 'courts': as Ethan notes, eBay has been essentially administrating its own private small claims court for decades now. However, he points to developing EU regulations that require alternative-dispute resolutions in traditional courts as a potential driver of innovation in traditional public courts.

An audience member brings up research done here in the Netherlands that the very poor and rural citizens don't use the Internet or have the same access. She asks how ODR will empower these types of people?

Ethan agrees that there are several issues. However, he says that he is no longer as concerned about the 'digital divide' as he once was. Everyone has, or soon will have, mobile phones; the larger problem, in Ethan's opinion, is that you can't dialup access to the justice system like you can access to Uber. We need to simultaneously build that infrastructure so there is something for them to connect *to*.

Ethan combines several questions to ask whether ODR is a *part* of the courts or an *alternative to* the courts. He says the ultimate question is whether these labels will even apply or make sense in a few decades. The goal of ODR, as he conceptualizes it, is not based so much around courts or not, but a more abstract question of what it takes to have access to justice, and what tools and technologies will help achieve that. As an example, Ethan points to HiiL, which is trying to develop ways to measure justice. What would it even mean to measure justice, Ethan asks? It's a hard question to ask and answer, but maybe it's one we need to in order to guide us to the kind of change we need to realize.

Jin tells the audience that unfortunately Daniel could not attend today because he is working in Washington on the forthcoming presidential transition. However, he has submitted a video of his remarks.

After Daniel's presentation, Jin invites us all to split off into the working groups which will take us up to a mid-morning coffee break:

  • ODR and the legal profession: enabling legal professionals to deliver more justice – Janet Martinez, Director of the Martin Daniel Gould Center for Conflict Resolution
  • Bending the Bar rules – Professor David Allen Larson, senior fellow at Mitchell Hamline’s Dispute Resolution Institute
  • Landlord-tenant disputes – Eiichiro Mandai, President ODR Room Network Japan
  • Timing interventions in the ODR process – Nicolas Vermeys, Associate Director Cyberjustice Laboratory University of Montreal
  • Small Claims – Sue Prince, Associate Professor in Law University of Exeter

I will be floating between these working groups and may not be able to liveblog many of them.

by Petey at May 24, 2016 08:01 AM

Jessica Valenti
In 2013, Purvi went to an emergency room in South Bend, Indiana...


In 2013, Purvi went to an emergency room in South Bend, Indiana seeking treatment for heavy vaginal bleeding. She told doctors she miscarried and the child had not survived. A few hours after arriving in the hospital, her attending doctor, a member of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, called the police. When they arrived, officers interrogated Purvi while she was still in her hospital bed and put her under arrest.Purvi was later convicted of contradictory charges: “feticide” and “neglect of a dependent.” The state of Indiana alleges that Purvi committed feticide by taking medication to terminate her pregnancy, which is not a crime in the state…

In this tragic case, Indiana law passed to protect pregnant women is being used to criminalize pregnant women by punishing them for abortion and other pregnancy outcomes. This case means women can be imprisoned not only for abortion, but also for miscarriages and home births where the child is born but does not survive.

Please share Purvi’s story and take action now.

May 24, 2016 03:09 AM

May 23, 2016

DML Central
Childhood and the Pursuit of Meaning in Today’s Connected World

Most adults reckon they know about children because they were one once. This is a strange kind of qualification. First of all, there is a tendency to universalize childhood as if the child you were once can stand for all children. Secondly, the childhood you experienced is for all its similarities to the ones being lived today, structurally, materially and existentially quite different. My colleague, Sonia Livingstone, and I spent a whole year with 28 13- and 14-year-olds trying to get a grip on what it means to grow up in London in the second decade of the 21st century, with an emphasis on getting hold of the meaning of everyday life.

There is a strange tension between independence and constraints at this age. Very little escapes a controlled routine. Although adolescent, the young person’s body is frequently monitored from the time it is made to wake up to the time it is deemed ready for sleep. In our study, around a third of young people shared a bedroom with their siblings and privacy, thus, becomes most focused on the smart phone — the main portable personal device putting young people in touch with people of their choice. As is common across Great Britain, the school we were working in had a version of school uniform so what to wear was quite precisely defined and evaluated. At school, bodies are kept quiet, in order and moved from classroom to classroom where seating was defined by the teacher. Even talk between young people was kept to a minimum — usually being censored and, thus, even the simplest of social interactions became strangely unnatural.

If life at school was structured and disciplined, life at home was beginning to fray. Many of the members of the class were beginning to uncouple from the routines of family life but hadn’t settled on any other kind of focus. The young people who could be engaged in regular structured activities still managed by their parents often seemed perfectly happy and enjoyed most freedom but working-class boys, in particular, seemed at times to be lost.

Paradox of Purpose

This paradox of overwhelming structure imposed from the outside and a search for internal purpose often created an existential ennui leading to what one girl called “the boredom.” When asked about her interest in Minecraft — which at the time seemed to us, defining and absorbing — she commented that it was a way to defeat the boredom. This, she said, was significantly a sense of isolation — of loneliness even in the family — as well as a way to occupy time. Yet, time was at a premium. Considerable efforts to set homework and to ensure at least the pretense of a meaningful activity seemed all-encompassing yet as this comment suggests, there may be a disparity between the imposition of tasks and meaning making from the young person’s point of view.

When we started the research for our project, The Class, a number of colleagues and even the head teacher at the school where we were proposing to work, suggested it would never succeed. This was partly a question of practicalities: would we be able to elicit the trust of all the members of the class and would they open up to us? However, retrospectively (after we had “succeeded”), this skepticism also suggested a deep uncertainty on the part of the school about the possibility of understanding the day-to-day life of young people. It was certainly true that the young people worked quite hard to keep adults out of their lives and to some extent the extraordinary compliance with daily routine acted as a mechanism to avoid scrutiny and intervention — good behavior was a way of keeping adults away from you.

Defeating Boredom With Digital Media

Obvious as it might sound, this was the primary function of digital technology in young people’s lives — a daily, simple way of avoiding scrutiny. There may have been varied investment in the seriousness with which they invested in the identity work of managing themselves online, they certainly played with the fashions of new platforms — at the time, Tumblr and Twitter. They got themselves into scrapes with their parents when the first bill for the smart phone arrived in the house, and it wasn’t at all clear what the point of the meaning of much of the chatter with friends meant. Nevertheless, it was a way of “defeating the boredom.” It was a way of creating meaning and purpose for and by the individual — an existential assertion of agency.

And, so, as we sat in classrooms day after day, as we watched a succession of demands and impositions more obeyed rather than resisted, as we witnessed the flow of bodies through the school in the hundreds as they dispersed through the streets back to their houses and apartments, we felt ever more strongly that the key to understanding childhood or adolescence lay in the the meanings we could ascribe to routine. Even the pleasures of repeated contact: When are you leaving home? Where shall we meet? Every day on the way to school, these were the clues to a self struggling to define itself against all the expectations held for it. We may all have been children but how many of us can put our fingers on the repetitions, the boredom of everyday life, as the key to understanding the people that we have become?

Baner image credit: shaindlin

The post Childhood and the Pursuit of Meaning in Today’s Connected World appeared first on DML Central.

by mcruz at May 23, 2016 10:33 PM

Creative Commons
Controversy: A Recap of the copyright issues surrounding Prince’s estate

800px-Prince_Brussels_1986

Prince performing in Brussels during the Hit N Run Tour in 1986, CC-by-2.0

Today at Copyright On!, Britton Payne discussed the unique copyright situation surrounding Prince’s estate. This potentially long and bitter battle could shape the future of music copyright to come. Prince fought a number of legendary copyright battles, which makes this current fight over the ownership of his works particularly interesting.
As Payne writes, “Prince was a tireless advocate of his rights as an artist, using copyright law to control and protect his artistic footprint, even when it seemed like it would cost him more than it would gain. For different reasons, it appears that more contentious exploration of copyright law will continue to be part of his legacy.”

The tl;dr of Payne’s post:
I Feel for You (I think I want my copyright back): The termination of transfer law
After 35 years, artists can reclaim copyright from the copyright holder, which essentially gives them another “bite at the apple” to control their own work. While this law was created to protect artists in 1978 (coincidentally the year Prince’s first album was released), there has been little guidance on the execution of this law.

Prince reworked his contract with Warner Brothers in 2014 to regain access to his early back catalog, which resets the clock on this law. However, every year more of Prince’s back catalog will be up for termination of transfer law, which means that his estate can gain ownership of an increasing number of works, and by extension, control the money that continues to pour in from his most popular titles.

How come U don’t call (a lawyer) anymore: Prince didn’t leave a will

Prince’s will has yet to be found, which means that several conflicting laws surrounding his unpublished back catalog are coming into effect. Because he also left no living heirs, his estate and copyright is now in the hands of his sister, Tyka Nelson, and his five recognized half siblings. (More than 700 people have claimed to be Prince’s half-siblings, but none are recognized by the courts.)

However, siblings cannot execute termination of transfer unless they are the “administrator” of the estate. The title of “administrator” is currently in the hands of a “court appointed ‘special administrator’” called the Bremer Trust. In six months, a more permanent administrator will be found (possibly Tyka, Prince’s sister.)

My name is Prince, but also Joey Coco, Alexander Nevermind, and Jamie Starr

Prince collaborated with many artists and also wrote music under a series of pseudonyms including Alexander Nevermind, Joey Coco, and Jamie Starr. These collaborations as well as his “works made for hire” are covered by different copyright statutes than his solo composed music. There are several issues complicating these works:

  • Many of his co-authors are deceased
  • Pseudonymous works have a longer copyright statute than works written under Prince’s own name
  • Prince’s “works made for hire” are covered by different copyright law than his other work

In short, Prince wrote thousands of songs, many of them unpublished, jointly published, written for other artists, or written for hire, and hundreds of them are potentially affected by different copyright laws.

The Beautiful One(s): The PRINCE act and post mortem rights of publicity
A new act in Minnesota may protect Prince’s likeness for the next 50 years. This act, called “Personal Rights in Names Can Endure”(PRINCE) will keep Prince’s likeness in the hands of his estate. This precedent will be the first to protect deceased celebrities to limit commercial rights to his likeness, so be sure to hang on to your vintage Purple Rain t-shirt. (It’s worth noting that Prince never endorsed merchandising in his lifetime, so most of the apparel floating around the Web is bootleg.)
Tonight we’re gonna party like it’s 2086

In 2086, most of Prince’s works will enter the public domain. Copyright law has been progressively expanded to protect the rights of artists, so any changes to the law will likely benefit his heirs.

Prince’s music in the public domain seems like a long way off, but imagine the next generation discovering this video, and it all seems pretty worth it.

Read more at Copyright On!

The post Controversy: A Recap of the copyright issues surrounding Prince’s estate appeared first on Creative Commons blog.

by Jennie Rose Halperin at May 23, 2016 05:19 PM

Global Voices
A Celebration of Sri Lanka's Musical Diversity, From Traditional Drumming to Urban Rap
Galle Music Festival

Photo from GroundViews

This post was written by Amalini De Sayrah for Groundviews, an award-winning citizen journalism website in Sri Lanka. An edited version is published below as part of a content-sharing agreement.

The skies overhead were overcast. Strong winds played with the hair of those walking along the ramparts. A light drizzle came and went as it pleased.

Far away, there was music.

It was coming from the recent Galle Music Festival, which brings together performers from the Northern tip, the Southern belt, the Eastern coast, the Western metropolis and the Central hills of Sri Lanka to a single stage in the city of Galle.

The diversity of the local performers is given the spotlight, and the event is a celebration of the talents and traditions that have been passed down from one generation to the next, through conflict and poverty. The performers that day, a few of whom are featured below, each brought with them histories of their people and were filled with the pride that comes with mastering and adapting their craft, whatever the genre.

The Sufis — Eastern Province

They have travelled far, across a significant stretch of the country, from the town of Irakkamam in the Ampara district. The men are mostly old and graying, possibly telling of the fact that the group is yet to draw younger members of the community into the musical practice. One hopes this is not the case.

The Sufis - Eastern Province

Photo from GroundViews

The sufis 2

Photo from GroundViews

Photo from GroundViews

Photo from GroundViews

Their accompaniments are minimal – a few small drums, shakers, a tambourine, cymbals and a flat instrument reminiscent of the sarpina, producing a tune similar to something from the string family. It is their voices, in a devotional song based on the writings of ancient Sufi poets, that rise in volume and energy, their connection to the words and movement of the piece evident in the movement of their bodies.

The Sandasi Drummers — Colombo

Clad in black, an air of confidence emanating from them as they prepare to take the stage, the young students from the University of the Visual and Performing Arts make up what is one of Sri Lanka’s few all-female drumming ensembles.

Photo from GroundViews

Photo from GroundViews

Photo from GroundViews

Photo from GroundViews

Aside from school-level bands, local percussion performances are a male-dominated category. Trained by Dinusha Sandamali Wijenayake, a young woman with a vast experience in local music, the Sandasi Drummers have ventured forth to make their mark as a force to be reckoned with. The girls speak with a passion for their music, telling of the time and commitment that has gone into perfecting the performance they gave.

Koothu — Northern Province

The costumes catch your eye instantly, even as the performers are waiting in the wings for the show to begin. Two young men dressed as leopards, in bright orange overalls, and two more dressed as a man and woman, complete with long hair, a bow and a quiver of arrows. The skit begins with the leopards hiding in the forest – in this case, the patchy grass of a sports ground muddied by the day’s rain – and the antics that follow when two humans stray into the wild on a hunt.

Photo from GroundViews

Photo from GroundViews

Photo from GroundViews

Photo from GroundViews

Koothu is a community artform that involves a small skit, accompanied by chanting voices and drumming of a small group of musicians. A dying practice that is seen along the Eastern coast, all the way up to the Northern peninsula, it is generally used to depict the stories from ancient Tamil epics but is not strictly limited to that. It takes on the character and practices of the village that is performing it, giving each performance distinct details. The young costumed actors are an indicator of the fact that slowly but surely, koothu is being taught to new generations.

Thappu — North & North-Eastern Province

The downpour has stopped for now, and the women are doing their best to prepare for the item. Makeup is brushed on, pottus are placed on foreheads and drums are quickly held to the flames of a fire lit on the damp ground, a quick quality-control measure for the sounds they are about to ring out. Their performance is fast-paced, smiles beaming on their faces as they beat their drums while, light on their feet, dancing to the rhythm of the song.

Photo from GroundViews

Photo from GroundViews

Photo from GroundViews

Photo from GroundViews

Kaveri Kala Manram, a women’s arts and cultural movement, began with the hope of using drama to begin conversations with those marginalised from society. Thirteen years and many displaced families later, it has expanded to address the needs of families resettling and rebuilding their lives in the North, scarred by years of fighting between government forces and guerrillas there. This process would be difficult enough for an individual, so the group brings the community together through song and dance, rebuilding both the individual spirit and the community strength.

Kolam — Southern Province

The loud flute, closer in sound and strength to a trumpet, accompanied by a single drummer, cuts short to allow the narrator to drawl out the story being told. Standing along one edge of the stage are green and yellow faces with unblinking eyes that seem to stare beyond the soul. You’re disoriented for a second, shaking your head to remind yourself that it’s a face hewn out of wood.

Photo from GroundViews

Photo from GroundViews

Photo from GroundViews

Photo from GroundViews

The drive down to the festival, if one had chosen to take the longer scenic route, cuts right through the birthplace of the mask and mask dancing culture in Sri Lanka. Tukkawadu Gunasena and his ancestors are identified as the pioneers of mask dancing in Ambalangoda, and this particular troupe can be traced 250-300 years back. This makes it one of the first kolam dancing groups in the area, and creations made by the carvers who crafted these masks can be seen at the National Museum for their iconic historical value.

Karagam — Central Province

The little girl balances precariously on the man’s shoulders. The pot of flowers balances on her head yet even as he turns, she sways her hands to the music, never once faltering in her step, the vase barely shaking on her head. Once lowered to the ground, she and her fellow dancers continue in their steps, all displaying the same light-footed confidence and balance in their movement.

Photo from GroundViews

Photo from GroundViews

Photo from GroundViews

Photo from GroundViews

Karagam is a century-old form of dance that originated in the central hills, first created and performed by someone named Marimuttu. This group was missing the drums that they would traditionally use to accompany the dancers, having lost them in the movements and troubles that affected their communities in the last three decades. Having been able to find recordings of the music, they have now been able to resume their practices and performances of their art.

Urban Rap — Colombo

The crowd is invited forward, promising engagement and interaction with the rappers who are going to perform in the Sinhala and Tamil languages. The local youth mutter among themselves, not believing yet that good Sinhala and Tamil rap is possible. They are pleasantly surprised. OJ begins the set; hailing from Nuwara Eliya, he is dedicated to rap in his mother tongue, a connection that shows in his words and the passion in his performance.

Photo from GroundViews

Pamuditha ‘Zen’ Anjana, a vocal online activist from Dematagoda, unapologetically expresses his views on current issues. Shafni, of the duo Krema Diaz, speaks about the life of a young person in Galle, accompanied by a catchy beat that gets the audience going.

Imaad Majeed, a poet, singer, rapper, songwriter with a heavy focus on social issues, joins the three for a collaboration titled ‘The Ballad of Wednesday Night’; a love song, essentially, one that talks about the social barriers that keep people apart. Class, race, religion, language divisions that they hope the younger generations will be aware enough to overcome.

The story was originally published here. All text, photos and audio were produced by Amalini De Sayrah for GroundViews.

by GroundViews at May 23, 2016 03:41 PM

What Is Latin American Social Media Laughing at? One Critic Offers a Clue
Rincón

Screenshot from Omar Rincón's interview with Nicaraguan newspaper Confidencial

In an interview conducted in Nicaragua for the newspaper Confidencial, renowned researcher and Colombian media critic Omar Rincón explained the ways in which many Latin Americans have a laugh on social media.

Rincón discussed how the general themes of online comedy have evolved over time and how memes have managed to rescue local forms of humor. He pointed out the differences between different types of humor – the kind that takes place within social media and the kind that happens spontaneously on the street. He emphasized the fundamentals of what he calls “good humor,” which is based on the ability to laugh at oneself: “If you're capable of laughing at yourself, it means your don’t take yourself so seriously.”

According to Rincón, humor and power don’t mix. That’s why various Latin American leaders, like late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and current Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, have adopted communication strategies that aren't compatible with forums for dialogue and are aggressive in their responses to criticism. Both Chávez and Correa hosted television programs that seek to communicate with their citizens. However, these programs have given rise to disputes with the critics of their governments, inside and outside of the country:

Creo que por eso quieren dominar tanto las pantallas. Tener buen sentido del humor es autocriticarse, y estos “telepresidentes” que es como llamo a los políticos obsesionados con la pantalla no aceptan ningún tipo de crítica […] El humor es la herramienta de los débiles porque ante el humor no se puede responder. […] Ningún autoritario o poderoso acepta el humor, lo persiguen desesperadamente. Desde [el caso] Charlie Hebdo [el medio humorístico francés atacado por fundamentalistas religiosos] pasando por Correa […y por] por Uribe a quien nunca se le conoce sonrisa. […] Chavez tenía “mal humor” le gustaba burlarse y hacer chistes, pero no recibirlos; y la base del humor es saber reírse de uno mismo. En eso ha hecho un mejor trabajo Obama.

I think that’s why they want so badly to dominate the screens. Having a good sense of humor is self-criticism, and these “telepresidents,” which is what I call politicians who are obsessed with the screen, don’t accept any type of criticism […] Humor is the tool of the weak because in the face of humor, there is no response […] No authoritarian or powerful person accepts humor, they desperately persecute it. From [the case of] Charlie Hebdo [the French satirical magazine attacked by extremists] to Correa and [former Colombian President] Uribe, who has never been known to smile. […] Chávez was grouchy. He liked to dish it out – making fun of others and telling jokes – but he couldn’t take it, and the foundation of humor is knowing how to laugh at oneself. Obama has done a better job of that.

However, not all politicians in Latin America have failed in the same way. For Rincón, some have managed to become recognized personalities in global conversations despite not exploiting mass communication resources:

Yo hago la diferencia entre los “reyes locales”, gente que domina en su comarca, pero mundialmente no son nadie (…) [y quienes logran hacerse nombre internacionalmente…] El héroe del buen humor es [José “Pepe”] Mujica [el ex-presidente de Uruguay]. Eso lo hace un pop star. Mujica fue un tipo de un país re-pequeñito, que se volvió un pop star mundializado, que es lo que en realidad funciona.

I make the distinction between “local kings,” people who dominate their region, but worldwide are nobody [and those who manage to make a name for themselves internationally…] The hero of good humor is [former President of Uruguay José “Pepe”] Mujica. That’s what makes a pop star. Mujica was just a guy from a tiny country who became a global pop star, which is what actually works.

Cartoons reinvented by the people's web

The bridges created by social media and their users also reach more traditional genres, like cartoons. In this sense, jokes are made not only about political events, but also to newer “serious” issues like pop culture.

Las redes sociales redescubrieron la caricatura, pero llevada a niveles distintos. (…) En video, en youtube hay caricaturas sobre no solamente los políticos, sino también sobre la cultura pop. Quienes tienen mayor subscripción son quienes hacen caricaturas de una realidad pop. La caricatura refleja la capacidad que tenemos de ironizar sobre realidades que nos tomamos muy en serio, y como el mundo contemporáneo se está tomando muy en serio el mundo pop y de la farándula, entonces la caricatura está yendo más hacia el espectáculo.

Social networks rediscovered the cartoon, but have taken it to a whole different level. […] On video, on YouTube, there are cartoons not only about politicians, but also about pop culture. Those who have larger subscriptions are those who make pop reality cartoons. Cartoons reflect our ability to satirize the realities we take very seriously, and since the contemporary world is taking the pop world and show business very seriously, it’s becoming a spectacle.

Memes: A Latin American specialty

According to Rincón, Latin Americans are very good at pointing out details: “We’re able to produce something very quickly out of something real that’s happened. And say something that seems humorous and ironic at the time. What we are bad at is arguing for it…writing a few paragraphs.”

La caricatura tiene la ventaja de tener la capacidad visual de descubrir algo. Pero el texto es complementario. En los memes se parte de que la foto en sí misma no es la que produce [el impacto], sino que es la frase, es la espontaneidad latinoamericana de la frase rápida. Por eso ha gustado mucho en América Latina.

Cartoons have the advantage of being able to convey something visually. But text is complementary. In memes, the photo itself is not what produces [the impact], but rather the phrase – the Latin American spontaneity of the quick phrase. That's why it’s so popular in Latin America.

He continued with a reference to the use of written and oral language, and how people make bridges in everyday life:

Lo que están recuperando los memes es la espontaneidad oral y rápida de los latinoamericanos. A la foto se le pone encima una frase y esa frase puede funcionar. (…). Por ejemplo, cuando hay un evento, como un evento deportivo, o un evento político, pues es muy fácil tomar una foto de cualquier cosa y poner una frase [corta] encima de eso que llama la atención de la foto en la que está. Es casi como una “oralidad visual”: Arrancas en lo oral, terminas escribiendo, pero en el fondo es para crear un impacto visual. Por eso es tan fácil [encontrar memes en la región], la gente es muy ingeniosa en las frases que dice. Un teórico decía algo muy importante: América Latina se acostumbró a hablar en sus textos. Nosotros no decimos nunca lo que pensamos en primer instancia, sino en sub-textos. Entonces las frases, los tonitos son los que funcionan, y el meme recupera eso, entonces es muy fácil y muy divertido hacerlo. ¿Qué hace que un meme conecte? Que pueda conectarse con las ironías del mundo local de cada región.

What memes are recovering is the oral and rapid spontaneity of Latin Americans. A phrase or sentence is superimposed upon a photo and that sentence can work. […] For example, when there’s an event such as a sporting event, or a political event, it is very easy to take a picture of anything and put a [short] sentence on it that draws attention to said photo. It is almost like a “visual orality”: You start with the oral and you end up writing, but ultimately the idea is to create a visual impact. That’s why it’s so easy to [find memes in the region], people are very ingenious in the phrases they use. One theory said something very important: Latin America became accustomed to speaking in their texts. We never say what we initially think, only in sub-texts. So phrases, undertones are what is working, and the meme restores that, and makes it very easy and fun. What makes a meme relevant? Whether or not it can connect with regional ironies.

However, there are memes that engage stereotypes and open questions of cultural order:

Los memes que en Colombia [que] molestan mucho, [son los que] siempre [son adaptados] a la droga. La gente se molesta mucho, pero la respuesta son memes con Pablo Escobar, nuestro más grande narcotraficante […] eso habla mucho de la identidad de Colombia.

The memes that bother people in Colombia a lot, [are those that] always [are related] to drugs. It upsets people, but the response is memes with Pablo Escobar, our biggest drug trafficker […] that says a lot about Colombian identity.

As for the relationship between social media and traditional media regarding memes and humor, Rincón says:

Los memes se vuelven famosos cuando los retoman los medios de comunicación. Los memes se están volviendo cada vez más importantes porque los medios de prensa y TV es lo que le da densidad a las redes. […] y esto además es una fuente rápida de información en un mundo en el que los medios cuentan cada vez con menos recursos humanos. Pero eso también tiene que ver con la necesidad de producir. La gente quiere producir información. Quiere producir comentario, quiere tener opinión pública. Y de pronto la gente, los jóvenes sobre todo, no son capaces de tener una opinión pública muy elaborada, pero tienen la posibilidad de hacer una frase que parezca simpática.

Memes become famous when the media get a hold of them. Memes are becoming increasingly important because the press and TV give density to social networks […] and this is also a quick source of information in a world where the media have increasingly fewer human resources. But that also has to do with the need to produce. People want to produce information. The want to produce commentary and have public opinion. And suddenly people, especially young people, are not able to have an elaborate public opinion, but they do have the potential to make a phrase that seems nice.

Rincón elaborates more on humor and its levels in other texts that are more opinionated and more critical of the media in the region in general, and in Colombia in particular. For Rincón, less developed humor is the “type that gets ratings. Humor that is sexist, homophobic and makes fun of others”:

Lo cierto es que en esa pobreza que es nuestra televisión, este programa tiene un ‘rating’ aceptable. Los colombianos reconocemos que no tenemos más humor que la burla, hacer el ridículo o practicar nuestros sexismos o racismos. Nos reímos mucho de los demás, lástima que el buen humor sea reírse de uno mismo.

What’s true is that in the impoverished environment that is our television, this program has an acceptable rating. Colombians recognize that all we have is mocking others, ridiculing or being sexist or racist. We laugh a lot at the expense of others, it’s a shame that “good humor” is actually that laughing at yourself.

by Melissa Wise at May 23, 2016 03:25 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
Ghanaian Minister Vows Not to Ban Whatsapp, Skype and Viber Calls
An MTN vehicle in Uganda, November 28, 2005, CC 2.0

An MTN vehicle in Kampala, Uganda. Photo by futureatlas. (CC Generic 2.0)

Increased use of Whatsapp, Skype, Viber and other mobile apps for calls in Ghana is decreasing the revenues made by telecommunication companies. There have been many calls to by telecommunications companies in Ghana asking the National Communications Authority to restrict subscribers from using the Internet for calls.

One such call recently went viral. In an article published by CitiFM Online, Chief Executive Officer of MTN Ghana, Ebenezer Twum Asante said:

In as much as Sim Boxing is illegal and we must all fight very hard to stop it, there is a much bigger issue with over the top calls generated through the internet media. So when you make a whatsapp call you are making the call through the internet and bypassing the traditional channel. If you compare that one to Sim Boxing, my position is OTT [over-the-top content] is more expensive. I think we must apply the same level of seriousness to OTT calls since it has a bigger revenue threats”.

The term “OTT” (Over-The-Top) describes Internet-based (typically third-party) applications that allow mobile phone users to communicate using messaging, voice and/or video over Internet protocol technology, rather than the more traditional methods of call and text over telephone networks. Skype, WhatsApp and Viber are among just a few examples of technologies that ride “on top” of a user's data plan, meaning that they typically cost less than (they're often free) similar services provided by a telecom operator.

Asante's statement stirred up a lot of discomfort among mobile phone and social media users in Ghana. Maximus Ametorgoh, a digital marketing lead and Managing Director for Pop Out, wondered how such a regulation would be implemented:

I don't understand this call for regulation of selected OTTs because they affect cellular calls… Government is expected to monitor the activities of these OTTs? How? What should the regulation entail?

Theo Acheampong, an economist, pointed out on his Facebook page that telecommunication companies needs to prepare to meet the disruptive technologies that are going to be developed to challenge the traditional way of making calls:

Our telcos are beginning to sound like sore losers. Why must Over-The-Top (OTT) calls made through social media networks such as WhatsApp be redirected through the traditional channels just for revenue making purposes? Isn't the cost of providing the service covered by the internet bundles consumers buy to access these apps and programmes; therefore, why must they pay an extra dime? Methinks the telcos need to smell the coffee because the traditional ‘voice game’ is over, and with it, the monopoly profits they used to make. It's all about data! Welcome to the world of disruptive technologies! The consumer is KING…

As a result of the social media uproar, Asante spoke to the media to clarify what he meant by regulating OTT calls. He said:

We have never mentioned anywhere that OTT should be banned. We do not stand for that, we are rather interested in all the things we need to do to expand internet usage including the medium of OTT.  The only thing that we raised was around regulation. Regulation should not be equated to a ban. With regulation, all that we are saying is that, just as a company like MTN is regulated by the NCA, so should we also have all the OTTs; the major ones also regulated so that whatever you do on that platform it will be within the laws of Ghana.

In response to this call, the Minister for Communications, Dr. Edward Omane Boamah, who spoke at the World Telecommunication and Information Society Day in Accra assured Ghanaians that, the government is not considering any ban on internet calls. He stated that:

The other focus of today’s discussions is on OTT Services, of which there was a lot of media discussion last week. The reality of today’s telecommunication Industry is that consumers are in control. Consumers love innovation, flexibility, efficiency, comfort, and more often than not, low-cost alternatives and will always seek them out to enhance their livelihoods.

Our mandate should be to seek a balanced approach such that all stakeholders in this industry have their needs fulfilled. It is also imperative for us to learn from other countries and understand why they have or have not encouraged this trend of affairs.

But in all this, I wish to state emphatically that Government is not and has not in any way considered a ban on OTT services. We believe that as an emerging trend, the regulator, together with operators and consumers should find a middle ground which befits our peculiar situation.

To this end we wish to reiterate that we recognise the media as development partners and as such, we need your support in communicating accurate and verified messages to the public.

In a tweet posted by Joy FM, one of Ghana's most popular radio stations, indicated that:

Nene Odonkor (@nenedonkor) responded to the tweet saying:

Maxwell Atiah (@maxwell_atiah) pointed out the reason why there should not be a ban on the internet calls:

Many social media users are urging the telecommunication companies to develop innovative ideas and provide quality Internet services to boost their revenue instead of asking government to restrict Internet calls.

by Kofi Yeboah at May 23, 2016 02:42 PM

Global Voices
Ghanaian Minister Vows Not to Ban Whatsapp, Skype and Viber Calls
An MTN vehicle in Uganda, November 28, 2005, CC 2.0

An MTN vehicle in Kampala, Uganda. Photo by futureatlas. (CC Generic 2.0)

Increased use of Whatsapp, Skype, Viber and other mobile apps for calls in Ghana is decreasing the revenues made by telecommunication companies. There have been many calls to by telecommunications companies in Ghana asking the National Communications Authority to restrict subscribers from using the Internet for calls.

One such call recently went viral. In an article published by CitiFM Online, Chief Executive Officer of MTN Ghana, Ebenezer Twum Asante said:

In as much as Sim Boxing is illegal and we must all fight very hard to stop it, there is a much bigger issue with over the top calls generated through the internet media. So when you make a whatsapp call you are making the call through the internet and bypassing the traditional channel. If you compare that one to Sim Boxing, my position is OTT [over-the-top content] is more expensive. I think we must apply the same level of seriousness to OTT calls since it has a bigger revenue threats”.

The term “OTT” (Over-The-Top) describes Internet-based (typically third-party) applications that allow mobile phone users to communicate using messaging, voice and/or video over Internet protocol technology, rather than the more traditional methods of call and text over telephone networks. Skype, WhatsApp and Viber are among just a few examples of technologies that ride “on top” of a user's data plan, meaning that they typically cost less than (they're often free) similar services provided by a telecom operator.

Asante's statement stirred up a lot of discomfort among mobile phone and social media users in Ghana. Maximus Ametorgoh, a digital marketing lead and Managing Director for Pop Out, wondered how such a regulation would be implemented:

I don't understand this call for regulation of selected OTTs because they affect cellular calls… Government is expected to monitor the activities of these OTTs? How? What should the regulation entail?

Theo Acheampong, an economist, pointed out on his Facebook page that telecommunication companies needs to prepare to meet the disruptive technologies that are going to be developed to challenge the traditional way of making calls:

Our telcos are beginning to sound like sore losers. Why must Over-The-Top (OTT) calls made through social media networks such as WhatsApp be redirected through the traditional channels just for revenue making purposes? Isn't the cost of providing the service covered by the internet bundles consumers buy to access these apps and programmes; therefore, why must they pay an extra dime? Methinks the telcos need to smell the coffee because the traditional ‘voice game’ is over, and with it, the monopoly profits they used to make. It's all about data! Welcome to the world of disruptive technologies! The consumer is KING…

As a result of the social media uproar, Asante spoke to the media to clarify what he meant by regulating OTT calls. He said:

We have never mentioned anywhere that OTT should be banned. We do not stand for that, we are rather interested in all the things we need to do to expand internet usage including the medium of OTT.  The only thing that we raised was around regulation. Regulation should not be equated to a ban. With regulation, all that we are saying is that, just as a company like MTN is regulated by the NCA, so should we also have all the OTTs; the major ones also regulated so that whatever you do on that platform it will be within the laws of Ghana.

In response to this call, the Minister for Communications, Dr. Edward Omane Boamah, who spoke at the World Telecommunication and Information Society Day in Accra assured Ghanaians that, the government is not considering any ban on internet calls. He stated that:

The other focus of today’s discussions is on OTT Services, of which there was a lot of media discussion last week. The reality of today’s telecommunication Industry is that consumers are in control. Consumers love innovation, flexibility, efficiency, comfort, and more often than not, low-cost alternatives and will always seek them out to enhance their livelihoods.

Our mandate should be to seek a balanced approach such that all stakeholders in this industry have their needs fulfilled. It is also imperative for us to learn from other countries and understand why they have or have not encouraged this trend of affairs.

But in all this, I wish to state emphatically that Government is not and has not in any way considered a ban on OTT services. We believe that as an emerging trend, the regulator, together with operators and consumers should find a middle ground which befits our peculiar situation.

To this end we wish to reiterate that we recognise the media as development partners and as such, we need your support in communicating accurate and verified messages to the public.

In a tweet posted by Joy FM, one of Ghana's most popular radio stations, indicated that:

Nene Odonkor (@nenedonkor) responded to the tweet saying:

Maxwell Atiah (@maxwell_atiah) pointed out the reason why there should not be a ban on the internet calls:

Many social media users are urging the telecommunication companies to develop innovative ideas and provide quality Internet services to boost their revenue instead of asking government to restrict Internet calls.

by Kofi Yeboah at May 23, 2016 02:41 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
Venezuela: Research Confirms Censorship of News Platforms, Currency Websites
Homepage for IPYS "Navegar con Libertad" (browse freely) portal.

Homepage for IPYS “Navegar con Libertad” (browse freely) portal.

A recent study conducted by the Institute for Press and Society (IPYS) in Venezuela has confirmed that at least 43 different websites are being blocked in the country, shedding new light on the filtering practices of the Venezuelan government.

The research focused on documenting incidents surrounding web access and net neutrality, zeroing in on the treatment of national networks during the 2015 elections. The organization measured connection speeds and blocking over 48 days (from November 25, 2015, to January 14, 2016) and gathered 6.4 million data points. They found that 44% of the websites blocked are related to the black market of currency, while 19% are media-related, 12% are blogs that are critical of the ruling party, and 9% are related to gambling. Some URL shorteners, anonymization and circumvention tools and hosting services were found to be blocked as well.

The study also confirmed that all local Internet service providers using DNS (domain name system) blocking, technique through which domain name servers respond incorrectly to requests for a particular domain. When a website is blocked via DNS, the server will reply incorrectly or will deny the request when that website is called upon. The study did not find evidence of other kinds of technical censorship, including IP blocking or keyword blocking. However it is important to keep in mind that the study is a pilot test of only a small proportion of websites that are currently unavailable in the country. Previous research has indicated that roughly 1500 websites were blocked in Venezuela at some point during 2015.

What is the Domain Name System?

At its core, the Internet is a network of computers that can send messages between one another. Every computer and website connected to the Internet has an Internet Protocol (IP) address — a seemingly random set of numbers. The Domain Name System links each IP address to a website URL, allowing users to enter an easy-to-remember name rather than having to remember and type in a long string of numbers.

For example, if a user wants to visit our website, she can type globalvoices.org into her browser. This tells her computer to send a request to a domain name server that will then find the corresponding IP address and thus give the user access Global Voices. When a website is blocked using the DNS, the server will either deny the request or send back the wrong information.

In 90% of cases, the websites in the study were being blocked consistently across all five of Venezuela's largest ISPs. All appeared to constitute some violation of the notoriously broad Law on Social Responsibility on Radio, Television and Electronic Media, suggesting that the websites were blocked in compliance with an administrative measure under the aforementioned law. More specifically, the Institute inferred that the websites are considered to promote disobedience of the law, disavow authorities, or “foster unrest” within society.

The study also indicated that the mobile service company Movistar had the most websites blocked, among them  websites that were not blocked by the state-owned telecom CANTV. This could be a consequence of Venezuela's Law on Social Responsibility, wherein ISPs can risk being issued a penalty if they don’t comply with their obligations regarding forbidden content.

While the government’s practices regarding Internet blocking are not exactly a secret (this is a government that issued a web blocking order on national television back in 2014), the specific procedures, reasons, and particular websites currently blocked, along with all telecommunications information, is considered a “state secret”. This terminology was used in a 2014 Supreme Court ruling in response to a request for information concerning online censorship filed by Caracas NGO Espacio Público. However, it is known that the National Telecommunications Commission (CONATEL), a body that responds to the Executive branch, has issued procedures against at least nine ISPs for allowing access to certain websites. In a handful of other cases, such measures have been public, such as in the case of the Colombian news channel NTN24, which after providing coverage of the 2014 protests was blocked by all providers following an order issued by CONATEL.

IPYS is currently developing a system for monitoring the limitations to Internet access and net neutrality in Venezuela, drawing from the lessons learned in this pilot study. The entire report (in Spanish) and the original data is available on their website.

by Marianne Diaz at May 23, 2016 02:09 PM

The Iranian State Versus Kim Kardashian
Kim Kardashian takes on Tehran. Photo edited by Kevin Rothrock.

Kim Kardashian takes on Tehran. Photo edited by Kevin Rothrock.

Kim Kardashian has become the Iranian state's newest enemy. Tehran made this announcement in the wake of arrests of eight Instagram models—a campaign that began earlier this year, when Iranian authorities launched a series of operations they called “Spider.”

Accounts were blocked and the models arrested and put on trial. The most well-known of the models on trial, Elham Arab, had appeared on a popular Iranian television program called Honeymoon.

A photo posted by Elham Arab (@elhamarab__) on

 

The case of Elham Arab and the other models has received international attention. Her public apology was broadcast on Iranian state television, and it's also accessible on a new Instagram account called Elham Arabofficial.

“All people love beauty and fame. They would like to be seen, but it is important to know what price they will pay to be seen.”

Kim Kardashian and Instagram Are ‘Threats’ to Iranian Society

Mostafa Alizadeh, the spokesman for Iran's Organized Cyberspace Crimes Unit, has claimed that Instagram and Kim Kardashian are conspiring to influence Iranian society.

IranWire reports:

“Ms. Kim Kardashian is a popular fashion model so Instagram’s CEO tells her, ‘make this native,’” Alizadeh said. “There is no doubt that financial support is involved as well. We are taking this very seriously.”

Telegram Users Respond to the Kardashian Threat

One of the images shared widely on Telegram originated in a tweet from Omid Memarian, where he shared an image of prominent figures who have been labeled enemies of Iran's revolution. The image begins with Uncle Sam in 1978 and ends with Kim Kardashian in 2016.

The evolution of enemies of the revolution! Having survived the onslaught of Popper and Soros, it's now facing #Kardashian. What a transformation!

enemies of iran

1978: Uncle Sam

1988: Salman Rushdie

1997: Karl Popper

2004: George Soros

2016: Kim Kardashian

The following cartoon also made the rounds on Telegram, showing a young man eating ice cream. In the cartoon, his mother says she wants him to find a wife.

sweetie its time we found you a wife

“Dear son, it's time to find you a wife.”
“No I prefer Kim [a flavor of ice cream in Iran].”

Given Kim Kardashian's reputation for her ample posterior, it's perhaps no surprise that many young Iranians have started sharing on Telegram the following picture of a plump tomato:

tomato

گوجه ی #کیم_کارداشیان پروژه ی #نفوذ گوجه ای یکی از ابزار های رخنه به جوانان توسط کارداشیانِ #جاسوس کشف شد

#Kim_Kardashian tomato – the tomato #influence project – one of the tools to influence the youth discovered by the #spy Kardashian.

Another image shared widely on Telegram shows a manipulated photo featuring Kim Kardashian, US President Barack Obama, and her husband, Kanye West. In the photo, the color of Kardashian's sweater has been changed from the original color. This kind of manipulation is often the work of Iran's censors. This led many to question whether this Telegram post originated with Iranian authorities.

kim obama kanye

عکس لو رفته از یکی از جلسات کیم کارداشیان با رییس‌جمهور آمریکا برای #نفوذ در بین جوانان ایران

Photo leaked from a meeting with Kim Kardashian and the president to discuss influencing Iran's youth.

The original image was shared by Kim Kardashian on Instagram:

#FBF POTUS

A photo posted by Kim Kardashian West (@kimkardashian) on

Another message shared on Telegram sarcastically complains about the influence of Kim Kardashian. The message expresses the wish that more young women would dress like parliament member Fatemeh Alia instead of Kim Kardashian. Fatemeh Alia is famous for her strict hejab and hardline stance.

Women in Iran's Parliament. Photo from Dar Sahn.

Women in Iran's Parliament. Photo from Dar Sahn.

جوانان ما به جای فاطمه آلیا، کیم کارداشیان را الگوی خود قرار داده اند،خب این #غلط_است_دیگر

Our young people are copying Kim Kardashian instead of Fatemeh Alia. #That_is_just_wrong

Telegram users are also sharing a cartoon published on IranWire showing the Iranian version of Godzilla: Kim Kardashian.

Haji send in the back up our youth are dropping like flies

Haji! Haji! We need backup. Our youth are dropping like flies.

Iran's Cyber Army Sees All

It's tempting to laugh at the absurdity of making an enemy out of Kim Kardashian and Instagram. It is funny. Yet, the crackdown on hair salons and Instagram models has very real effects. It follows a pattern of control over cultural expression and women's appearance that dates back to the start of Iran's cultural revolution.

In the early 1980s, women were followed on the street by militia members. They were arrested for showing a single strand of hair. At the gate to the universities, their fingernails were checked for traces of nail polish. Guards sniffed at them to make sure women students wore no perfume.

Women have continually pushed the limits of physical and cultural expression in Iran. They have challenged the restrictions against them at every turn.

Hadi Ghaemi of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran states:

“This kind of stifling and intimidation will only deprive Iranians of the cultural and artistic vitality that is rightfully theirs and further alienate the country’s youth.”

“The Revolutionary Guards’ assault on Iran’s fashion industry testifies to the fear of hardliners who try to control every aspect of people’s lives and squash any visible challenge to their narrow world view.”

The intention of these types of actions against young women in Iran is to remind families of their need to control their daughters. No one is safe. Nothing is private. There is no place for personal expression.

It's not actually a laughing matter at all.

by Advox at May 23, 2016 01:57 PM

Global Voices
In Japan, the Panama Papers Are Met With a Collective Shrug
Panama Papers Japan

On May 8, 2016 the ICIJ published the names of at least 250 entities and individuals listed in the Panama Papers. Image from Panama Papers website.

When the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) released the names of about 240,000 entities and their shareholders on May 9 as part of the leaked documents known as the Panama Papers, there were about 230-240 Japanese names on the list and 20 companies.

The Japanese citizens who appear in the leaks include the owner of the UCC beverage company, the family that founded SECOM, Japan's oldest private security company, and Mikitani Hiroshi, CEO and co-founder of Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten.

However, there has been comparatively little significant media coverage and analysis so far in Japan about the Panama Papers or why prominent people, some reportedly connected to the government, may be sending assets to tax havens overseas. Neither does the government itself seem interested in digging into the leaks. This, despite rising income disparity in Japan and increasing rates of poverty,

A different money-driven scandal has overshadowed the Panama Papers news in recent days — allegations that the Japanese Olympic Committee may have paid bribes in order to get enough votes to host the 2020 games in Tokyo. Advertising giant Dentsu has been linked to the alleged payments.

Before the Olympic bribe story came to lead the headlines, tabloids such as Shuukan Gendai and Nikkan Gendai were the most critical of Japan's media in their treatment of the Panama Papers release, generally treating people named in the documents as “ultra rich celebrities dodging taxes.”

The tweet below shows weekly tabloid Shukan Gendai's table of contents for its May 21, 2016 issue (published on May 9); the Panama Papers dominates the spread:

Translation of both tweet and Shukan Gendai's front page: BIG SCOOP: HERE'S THAT LIST OF TAX-EVADING SUPER-RICH! Panama Papers list finally revealed! SECOM founder, UCC director and others move assets overseas to avoid taxes.

Daily tabloid Nikkan Gendai emphasized the affluence of those named in the Panama Papers. It posted to Twitter a list of organizations and individuals named in the release side by side with a photo of Rakuten CEO Mikitani Hiroshi:

Nikkan Gendai tweet: Hear what CEOs and company founders exposed by the Panama Papers have to say: https://t.co/tkiznrf7z0 #NikkanGendai Digital

@pacemken's tweet: While rich elites such as Mikitani Hiroshi suck up profits from Japanese citizens, they are also choosing ways to avoid paying taxes.  Don't use Rakuten, use Amazon instead.

Among member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Japan has a relatively high incidence of income inequality (although there is some debate whether or not inequality is rising or falling).

Despite this fact, examining whether or not Japan's richest citizens are paying their fair share is generally not part of the national conversation at the moment.

Sankei Shimbun, one of Japan's leading national dailies, emphasized in a tweet the relatively low number of Japanese names included so far among those exposed worldwide in the Panama Papers:

Graph title: Addresses of individuals, entities listed in Panama Papers (by country)

Countries in graph, from left to right: China, Hong Kong, USA, Singapore, Russia, UK, Switzerland, Japan

Graph source: ICIJ

Tweet: 28,000 Chinese names exposed in Panama Papers. “Network of tax havens” brought into sharp detail.

In the days following the May 9 revelations of Japanese names included in the Panama Papers, a common complaint in the media has been that there seems to be very little official interest in investigating whether or not the “ultra rich” in Japan are avoiding taxes.

For example, Nikkan Gendai published:

Right-side headline in image: The Abe government and the tax office appear to have zero interest [in investigating tax evasion].
Top headline in image: If this keeps up, Japan will be the laughing-stock of the world.
Subheading in image: Investigating Panama Papers could be delicate.

@Trapelus's tweet: We'll be the laughing stock of the world: “The Abe government and the tax office appear to have zero interest [in investigating tax evasion]. Investigating Panama Papers could be delicate.” If the government doesn't get mad and stays quiet, it's the Japanese people who will have the last laugh.

According to Nikkan Gendai in a story published on May 11, this reluctance may be in part due the fact that some names on the list are connected to the government. The tabloid notes that the sister-in-law of Kato Katsunobu, a junior member of Prime Minister Abe Shinzo's cabinet, is the director of a Japanese company named in the Panama Papers.

In the same news story, Nikkan Gendai quotes Takatori Shuichi, the parliamentary vice-minister of health, labour and welfare, as stating:

「報道で名前があっただけ。現時点では特別の調査は考えていない」

Some names have simply been reported by the media. At this time we're not thinking of conducting any special investigation at this time.

Sankei News suggested that tax avoidance is “old news.” A feature article published on May 16 read:

Tweet, quoting Sankei article: Impact of Panama Papers: “Tax evasion is already old news,” scoffs finance pro. [There are countless methods of] laundering money and evading taxes.

Sankei article synopsis: “Tax evasion is old news.” When Iceland's prime minister was forced to resign, the true extent of tax havens [around the globe] was uncovered. While repercussions from the Panama Papers continue to reverberate around the globe, one finance expert says “it's nothing new at all.”

There are some who think Japan could be doing more to deal with the problem of tax havens and tax evasion. The Sankei article concludes with a cautionary note by someone else active in Japan's finance industry:

ただ、タックスヘイブン対策だけでは不十分と指摘する声もある。外資系証券会社元幹部は「日本は金融のセンターでなくなって久しい。租税回避どころか資本逃避が進んでいることの対策を考えるべきだ」と話している

There are those who say Japan is not doing enough in its efforts to tackle tax avoidance. The former chief of an international investment firm says, “Japan has long since ceased to be an international finance center (which attracts Japanese capital). I really think Japan should be investigating all the ways in which capital is being moved offshore from Japan.”

by Nevin Thompson at May 23, 2016 12:26 PM

Global Voices Interviews Activists From ‘Defense of Democracy’ Committee Who Say Poland Is in Peril
One of the biggest KOD's anti-government demonstrations took place on May 7, 2016 2016 in Warsaw. Picture used with permission.

One of the biggest KOD's anti-government demonstrations took place on May 7, 2016, in Warsaw. Photo used with permission.

Jarek Marciniak divides Polish people in three categories: those who have no idea how a democratic state works (80 percent), those who have a general but unspecific idea (15 percent), and those who are experts (5 percent). He is a board member and one of the founders of the Committee for the Defense of Democracy (KOD), a civic movement initiated in opposition to the actions of Poland's current conservative government led by the Law and Justice party (PIS).

KOD accuses the government of destroying the country's democratic foundations. Marciniak wants the organisation to play a major role in creating a civil society and enabling Polish citizens to make their own conscious political decisions.

But not everybody sees KOD in this role. The controversial politics of the current government have caused a deep divide in the society, and KOD has come to symbolize this polarisation, with its activists both loved and hated by the public. For many Poles, KOD activists are the country's true defenders, and they're often compared to the historical KOR movement (the Workers’ Defense Committee active during Communist times). For other Poles, however, KOD is made up of “traitors” bent on damaging the country's image beyond its borders.

On the one hand, KOD organises massive demonstrations (between 45,000 and 240,000 people attended the last one, depending on who you ask), and the group counts many prominent names among its patrons and supporters. On the other hand, KOD has been accused over-representing wealthy, middle-class Poles afraid of losing their privileges.

Global Voices’ Kasia Odrozek recently met up with three KOD activists in Berlin, who are currently completing a European Tour, to discuss their motivations, plans, and supporters. In addition to speaking to Jarek Marciniak, Odrozek also sat down with Artur Sierawski, the leader of KOD Youth, and Aleksandra Śniegocka-Goździk, who heads KOD's women's group and international media.

Kasia Odrozek (KO): You call yourself the Committee for the Defense of Democracy. Why does Polish democracy need defenders these days?

Zaczęło się od tego, że w listopadzie staliśmy się świadkami dwóch bardzo niepokojących wydarzeń. Pierwszym z nich to było ułaskawienie człowieka, który był oskarżony o nadużycia władzy, kiedy pełnił funkcję szefa Centralnego Biura Antykorupcyjnego. Okazało się, że pan prezydent postanowił go ułaskawić, by następnego dnia mógł objąć urząd ministerialny. To już trochę wzburzyło nas wszystkich i wywołało dość szeroką dyskusję, że jest to działanie bardzo mocno na granicy prawa (wyrok był w tym momencie jeszcze nieprawomocny – przyp.red.). Za chwilę okazało się, że prezydent nie chce przyjąć ślubowania od 3 legalnie wybranych sędziów. Wiec mówimy o naruszeniu pewnych podstawowych zasad systemu demokratycznego. Politycy muszą prowadzić politykę w ramach prawa, które obowiązuje. Kiedy to odwrócimy, to konsekwencje mogą być opłakane.

Jarek Marciniak (JM): It all started in November when two very unsettling things happened: the president pardoned a man accused of abusing his powers while he was the Head of the Central Anti-Corruption Bureau, so he could be appointed a minister. This action was in a legal grey zone [the sentence wasn't legally binding yet]. This was already disturbing and started a public debate. Not long after this, the president refused to swear in three judges of the Constitutional Tribunal. So we're talking about an infringement on some basic rules of Poland's democratic system. The politicians have to shape their politics within the current rule of law. If we reverse it, the consequences would be deplorable.

KO: When you say “us”, who do you mean? Who are the people of KOD?

KOD to jest dosyć duża grupa ludzi, która wyznaje podobne wartości. Dla których demokracja, rządy prawa, równość, wolność to są idee, którymi chcą się posiłkować w swoim życiu. Do tego mamy europejskie wartości, które też są nam bliskie. Ten katalog tutaj możnaby rozwijać i podawać go w poszczególnych przykładach i mówić, dlaczego to jest istotne. Ale wszyscy widzimy, jak dobrze rozwija się Polska od momentu przystąpienia do Unii Europejskiej, jak dużą wartością jest Unia Europejska, bo mamy prawie 80 lat bez wojny w Europie i możemy skupić się na rozwoju, na współpracy z innymi. Mamy parę dobrych rzeczy, jak na przykład strefa Schengen, możemy jeździć, pracować gdzie chcemy, możemy studiować gdzie chcemy.

JM: KOD is a pretty big group of people who cherish similar values: democracy, the rule of law, equality, and freedom. European values are also close to our hearts. I could expand this list and give you many examples showing why this is important, but everybody can see how well Poland has developed since joining the European Union. We've had almost 80 years without a war and we can concentrate on development and cooperation with others. And we have a couple of great things, like the Schengen Area, which allows us to go and work or study wherever we want [within the Schengen Area].

Artur, Aleksandra and Jarek: Polish democracy activists on a European Tour. Image used with permission.

Artur, Aleksandra and Jarek: Polish democracy activists on a European Tour. Image used with permission.

KO: Tell me more about the people who support KOD.

Zaczęło się od pierwszego weekendu, to było tak że w czwartek, to był chyba 19 listopad, Mateusz założył grupę, ja założyłem fanpage i ludzie zaczęli przychodzić spontanicznie, sami z siebie. Po weekendzie okazało się, że na fanpage'u jest 8.000 osób a na grupie prawie 30.000 osób. W tej chwili mamy 220.000 na fanpage’u, to ci którzy śledzą co robimy, użytkowników facebook'a, z drugiej strony mamy 60.000 osób które bierze udział w dyskusjach na grupie. Okazuje się, że jak zaczęliśmy organizować protest, przyszło 1.000 na samym początku, przy pierwszym proteście, a potem było gdzieś tam 50, 80, 100.000 w lutym i teraz mamy 240.000 w maju. Coś, czego nie sposób spotkać gdzie indziej. To są ludzie przeróżni: to są i tacy, którzy prowadzą fajny biznes, i ci którzy są lekarzami, prawnikami ale również tacy, którzy pracują w markecie, jeżdżą jako dostawca ciężarówką. Przekrój jest naprawdę szeroki. W większej części są to osoby, które pamiętają lata 80te i które pamiętają walkę o nasz wolność, ale nie brakuje też młodych osób.

JM: It all started on a weekend, I think it was Thursday, November 19, when Mateusz [Kijowski, the leader of KOD] created a group on Facebook and I started a fanpage. People started to join spontaneously. After the weekend, it turned out that we had 8,000 fans on the fanpage and almost 30,000 in the group. Right now we have 220,000 on the fanpage—people who follow what we do—and on the other hand we have 60,000 people who take part in discussions inside the Facebook group. It turned out that, when we started to organise a protest, 1,000 people came, and then there was 50,000, 80,000, and even 100,000 in February and then we had 240,000 in May. It's something you can't find anywhere else. These are all sorts of people: ones that have a successful business, and doctors and lawyers, but it's also the people who work in a supermarket or drive a truck for a living. The variety is really great. Mostly these are people who remember the 1980s and the fight for our freedom. But we also attract young people.

KO: What about your education mission?

To jest priorytetowa sprawa dla KODu: edukacja, i to nie tylko młodych ludzi o tym, czym jest istota demokracji. I stworzenie, próba kreacji społeczeństwa obywatelskiego.

Artur Sierawski (AS): This is one of the highest priorities for KOD: education about the essence of democracy, and not only for young people. We are attempting to create a civil society.

KO: What exactly will you do (or what are you already doing) to approach the pretty big group of people whose opinion about the current government differs so radically from yours?

JM: Ja mogę podać przykład z tej kampanii z życia wzięty: kiedy zbieraliśmy podpisy pod naszą inicjatywą ustawodawczą dotyczącą Trybunału Konstytucyjnego wielokrotnie spotykaliśmy ludzi o drastycznie odmiennych przekonaniach. I zauważyłem, że w momencie w którym zaczyna się z nimi prowadzić rzeczową rozmowę, na poziomie argumentów, po pierwsze oni przestają o nas mysleć jak o jakichś zdrajcach, którzy są oderwani od koryta, którzy pragną czegoś złego dla Polski, bo widzą, że jesteśmy ludźmi których celem jest funkcjonujące państwo i silna Polska. Silna Polska, która jest częścią Europy. I Europa, która jest też silna dzięki temu, że Polska tam jest. W tym momencie, w którym zaczynamy rozmowę, to są rzeczy, co do których mamy odmienne opinie, ale oni widzą, że wielokrotnie powtarzali przekaz, który usłyszeli w swoich mediach.

JM: I have a very recent example. While collecting signatures under our legislative initiative regarding the Constitutional Tribunal many times we met people with drastically different opinions. I noticed that once we start a genuine conversation, using arguments, these people stop seeing us as traitors who want something bad for Poland. They see that we want a strong Poland—a strong Poland that's part of Europe. And a strong Europe, also! Because Poland is part of it! Of course we have different opinions about many things, but they start to realise that often they were just repeating what the media tells them.

KO: For example?

W Polsce panuje takie mylne przekonanie, że większość może wszystko. Jak zaczynam dyskusję z paroma osobami, to oni potwierdzają ”większość może wszystko”, “czyli obecna sytuacja ci się podoba?” “tak, podoba mi się”, “czyli mamy ultrakatolicki czy ultraprawicowy rząd i on wprowadza pewnego typu zakazy i jest super”, “tak, bo większość ma rację”. Mówię “OK, to teraz wyobraź sobie, że za 4 lata zmienia się sytuacja, przychodzi do władzy ultralewacki rząd i mówi, że można mieć przy odpowiednich dochodach tylko jedno dziecko, a jeśli chcesz więcej, musisz dokonać aborcji, aborcji możesz dokonywać na życzenie do 5 miesiąca, małżeństwa między osobami homoseksualnymi można zawierać w kościele i kościół musi to respektować. Pytam: Czy to jest OK? A on mówi, że nie. No to pytam, a czym to się różni? Demokracja liberalna polega na tym, że większość rządzi, ale dba o mniejszość. Są pewne prawa, zasady, które są niezmienne. I nieważne kto będzie przy władzy, muszą być zachowane.

JM: In Poland, we still have this mistaken belief that the majority is allowed to do anything it wants. When I start to discuss that with people, many confirm it. I ask them, “So you like the current situation?” and they say, “Yes”. “We have an ultra-Catholic, ultra-right-wing government and it is introducing certain types of bans and that is okay”. “Yes, because the majority is right”. I say, “All right, then imagine now that in four years the situation changes and an ultra-left government gains power. They say that with a certain income you are allowed to have only one child, you can get abortion up to fifth month, marriage between same sex couples can be performed in churches, and the church needs to respect that. Is that okay for you?” I hear, “No”. So what's the difference? Liberal democracy is about the majority ruling but taking care of the minorities, too. There are certain laws—rules that are immutable. And no matter who is in power they should be preserved.

KO: But not everybody is ready to talk.

To jest problem, o którym wielokrotnie juz mówiliśmy. Od momentu kiedy zaczęliśmy żyć w świecie facebook'a, twitter'a, personalizowanych stron w Internecie, zaczęliśmy się otaczać ludźmi, którzy mają podobne poglądy. I tu trzeba znaleźć ten wspólny grunt, gdzie ludzie żyjący w takich bańkach zaczną ze sobą w końcu rozmawiać. Może właśnie takie kluby demokracji, widziałem coś podobnego we Włoszech, gdzie ludzie mogą się spotkać i mogą się na przykład nauczyć jak lepić pierogi, a przy tym rozmawiają.

JM: This is a problem we have talked about many times. From the moment we started to live in the world of Facebook, Twitter, and personalised websites, we started to be surrounded by people who share opinions very similar to our own. We need to find a common ground where people who live in separate bubbles start to talk to each other. Maybe creating democratic clubs could be a solution. I've seen something similar in Italy, where different people can meet, cook together, and talk about different topics. We have to bring the society together to function in one place, regardless of our different political sympathies.

KO: And you think somebody would come to such a club, for example a government supporter?

Być może tego nie trzeba robić pod logiem KODu, być może niech to się nazywa klub demokracji w centrum miasta, który ma uczyć demokracji.

JM: Maybe it doesn't have to be done with a KOD logo. This might be a democratic club in the town center educating people about democracy.

KO: The images of several thousand people marching in defence of democracy are very inspiring, but even after the biggest demonstration the question remains: what do they bring in terms of actual politics? Support for PIS has declined only minimally since the election.

Ludzie, którzy zagłosowali na PIS liczą na dobrą zmianę. Na to, że będzie im się żyło lepiej, że wszystko będzie funkcjonowało lepiej. Oni nie rozumieją, a dalej mówimy tu o tych 80% ludzi, którzy nie rozumieją jak działa państwo, oni nie rozumieją dlaczego z Trybunałem Konstytucyjnym coś się wydarzyło. W ich życiu, w ich ekonomii nie zaszła żadna zmiana, co więcej dostali 500 zł na dziecko. Wiec jest spełnienie obietnicy wyborczej. Mają lepiej w życiu? No część z nich ma lepiej w życiu. Nie wszyscy rozumieją, jak to funkcjonuje, nie wszyscy widzą, jakie są konsekwencje tego, że to 500 zł zostało przyznane. Za to widzą ten pozytyw i chcą utrzymania tego poziomu w sondażach. Tutaj trzeba zwrócić uwagę na to, w jaki sposób są wykonywane te sondaże. Rozmawiałem z jednym z profesorów, który się tym zajmuje. Pierwsze pytanie jest takie: czy weźmiesz udział w następnych wyborach? Jeśli odpowiedź brzmi nie, to nie odpowiadasz na kolejne pytania. Wiec mozna powiedzieć, że pasywna część społeczeństwa nie jest uwzględniana.

JM: People who voted for PIS hope for the “good change” [the election slogan for PIS]. They hope for a better life—that everything will work better. They don't understand, and I mean the 80 percent who don't understand how a democratic state works, why something relevant happened with the Constitutional Tribunal. Nothing really changed in their lives, and they even received 500 zl for a child. So the campaign promise was fulfilled. Do they have a better life? Yes, some of them do. Not everybody understands the budgetary consequences of the fact that they received the 500 zl. But they see the positive changes in their lives and they continue to support PIS in the polls. You also have to consider how the surveys are conducted. I talked to a professor who is an expert in this area. The first question is: will you take part in the election? If the answer is no, you are not answering the next one. So one can say that the opinion of the passive part of the society is not considered in the results of these polls.

KO: And you assume they wouldn't be supporting the governing party?

Istnieją badania, które mówią, że to się niby rozkłada podobnie. Ale widać po marszach, ze coraz więcej osób się angażuje. Wydaje mi się, że z czasem kiedy bedą pojawiać się nowe sondaże, to po pierwsze efekt tego 500 zł zniknie, bo jak ludzie coś dostają to się do tego przyzwyczajają, po drugie my to odczujemy w swojej gospodarce czy nam się to podoba czy nie. Nie można pompować wydatków w nieskończoność, no chyba że zaczniemy dodrukowywać pieniądze.

JM: There is some research saying that supposedly it would lead to a similar result. But even from the number of people taking part in the demonstrations you can see that more people [are willing to] get involved. I think that with time the poll results will change. First of all, the effect of the 500 zl will disappear because people lose their excitement about such gifts and, second, we will feel it in our economy, whether we like it or not. You can't raise the expenses infinitely unless you start printing money.

KO: So do you think that PIS will destroy themselves? How do you define success and does the way there involve becoming a political party?

Nie chcemy być partią polityczną, nie zamierzamy, chcemy dalej pozostać ruchem obywatelskim. Dlatego cieszymy się takim poparciem społeczeństwa, bo ludzie nam zaufali, zaufali obywatelom, którzy są zaniepokojeni o swój kraj. Jeżeli nagle stalibyśmy się partią polityczną, to jestem pewien, ze stracilibyśmy dużą część poparcia.

AS: We don't want to be a political party. We want to remain a civic movement. People trusted us as citizens worried about our country, that's why we received so much support. If we were to become a party, I'm sure we would lose lots of support.

KO: But maybe you would have a more measurable influence on what's going on in politics?

Ale my mamy wymierny wpływ! Jeśli chodzi o kilka ustaw, czy projektów ustaw, chociażby likwidację gimnazjów czy ustawę antyaborcyjną. Rząd zacząl się raczkiem wycofywać, jak zobaczył że społecześstwo twardą ręką powiedziało: nie.

Aleksandra Śniegocka-Goździk (ASG): But we do have measurable influence! Regarding just a couple of legislative projects, consider the elimination of gimnazjum [junior high-school] or the law aimed at sharpening the anti-abortion law. The government started to withdraw their plans once society clearly said: no.

JM: Naszym celem jest zwiększenie liczby wyborców, niech w przyszłych wyborach pójdzie do wyborów choćby 65 albo 70%. Nigdy nie chcemy stać się partią polityczną, ale zdajemy sobie sprawę z tego, ze bez działania z politykami na pewnym gruncie nie da się tego zrobić, dlatego stworzyliśmy niedawno koalicję, która nazywa się “Wolność, Równość, Demokracja”, do której przystąpiły partie. My jesteśmy płaszczyzną porozumienia. Doszliśmy do wniosku, ze są cztery wartości, co do których możemy się zgodzić wszyscy i wszędzie, są to: Trybunał, konstytucja, wartości unijne, mowa nienawiści, której się sprzeciwiamy.

JM: Our goal is to increase the number of voters to let's say 65 percent or 70 percent in the next election. We don't want to become a political party, but we do realise that without cooperation with politicians in some dimension, we will not be able to [increase voter turnout]. This is why in the last days we created a coalition named “Freedom, Equality, Democracy,” and several parties have joined. We are the platform for seeking a broad consensus. We came to the conclusion that there are four values that we all can agree on: the Constitutional Tribunal, the Constitution, the European Union's values, and the rejection of hate speech.

KO: When will you be able to say that KOD has fulfilled its mission and you can “go home now”?

Ja na początku myślałem, że taki moment będzie, że obronimy Trybunał i będziemy mogli pójść do domu i zająć się tym co chcemy. Ale wydarzenia tych ostatnich miesięcy dowodzą tego, że w Polsce jest potrzeba zbudowania społeczeństwa obywatelskiego i to jest na pewno rola dla KODu, który będzie to społeczeństwo budował przez długie lata i potem monitorował, czy to wszystko jest przestrzegane i funkcjonuje w należytej formie.

JM: I first thought that this would happen after we defended the Constitutional Court. But the developments in recent months proved that Poland needs to create a strong civic society and this is our role. We will build this society for many years to come and then we need to make sure that everything is working the way it should.

I patrzył na ręce każdej władzy, nawet jeśli ta władza się zmieni.

AS: And keep an eye on any authorities, no matter who this might be in the future.

by Kasia Odrozek at May 23, 2016 11:15 AM

The Arkana Alliance: An Organization that Builds Bridges with the Shipibo Communities of Ucayali in Peru
AA

Photo of the work being done with the kids at the intercultural elementary school of the Shipibo urban community in Bena Jema (in central Peru) to paint a mural showing the four worlds of the Shipibo cosmovision. Photography from the Facebook page of the Arkana Alliance, February 2015, used with permission.

logoAlianza Arkana / The Arkana Alliance (AA), in its own words, “is a grassroots alliance regenerating the Peruvian Amazon by supporting its indigenous people and their traditions. One of its projects, “Chariboan Joi” — which in the Shipibo language means “Voices Soaring Like the Maracaná Macaw” — was among the grantees of the 2014 Rising Voices Amazonia initiative that aimed at “disseminating on the internet stories, traditional knowledge and everyday experiences.”

According to the Arkana Alliance, “The wellbeing of life on Earth depends on the resilience of the Amazon rainforest and its people. Community alliances for regeneration are essential to growing this resilience. The Arkana Alliance creates mutual relationships with communities in the Peruvian Amazon to cultivate sustainable solutions and creatively confront the array of eco-social challenges we face today.”

In practice, the group that makes up the Arkana Alliance is quite diverse. It consists, on the one hand, of foreigners coming mostly from European countries, and on the other, of members of the Shipibo indigenous communities from the region. This gives us a vision of the intercultural work promoted by the AA.

According to Dr. Paul Roberts, one of the founders of the Arkana Alliance, the idea is “to build solid long-term partnerships with indigenous organizations and communities, aiming at strengthening the Shipibo culture.” An example of these partnerships was the “Seeds for the Amazon” program launched by AA a few years ago, an indigenous youth-led community program for the regeneration of the Peruvian Amazon.

However, Dr. Roberts says it is not so easy to carry out this intercultural work:

Toma tiempo para crear confianza con los shipibos. Además los shipibos han visto que muchas ONG vienen y salen después de poco tiempo, entonces creemos que debemos estar aquí por mucho tiempo más.

It takes time to build trust with the Shipibo. Moreover, the Shipibo have seen that many NGOs come and leave after a short time; this is why we believe that we should be here for much longer.

One way to succeed has been to involve the Shipibos themselves in the management of the projects:

Creo que algo muy importante es que hemos integrado más shipibos a que trabajen con Alianza Arkana. Tanto como personal y como asesores de la organización. Incluso estamos involucrando mucho más las organizaciones y comunidades con quienes trabajamos en la búsqueda y elaboración de propuestas para obtener fondos.

I think that something very important is that we have involved more Shipibos to work with the Arkana Alliance, both as part of the staff and as consultants for the organization. We are even involving more organizations and communities with whom we work on research and development of fundraising proposals.

Roberts also mentions another example of their work:

Hemos iniciado un proyecto que es un servicio de salud básica en la comunidad urbana de Bena Jema donde hay muchos problemas de salud. Este proyecto está liderado por dos mujeres — una mujer shipibo que sabe mucho de la medicina tradicional de las plantas y una mujer alemana que es partera y además practica la homeopatía. Me da mucha alegría ver cómo este proyecto está avanzando. Para mi es un buen ejemplo de un trabajo intercultural — en este caso en salud.

We have started a project that is a basic health service in the urban community of Bena Jema where there are many health problems. This project is led by two women — a Shipibo woman who knows a lot about traditional medicinal plants, and a German woman who is a midwife and also practices homeopathy. It gives me great joy to see how this project is progressing. For me, this is a good example of intercultural work — in this case, related to health.

Solidarity and struggles for the environment

The Arkana Alliance is also involved in the struggles of several other indigenous communities, not only of the Shipibo. Thus, it helps to spread throughout the world the message of indigenous leaders. An example is the following video in which, during an interview about the 40 years of pollution in the Peruvian Amazon, Alfonso Lopez, leader of the Kukama community, asked the international community to support his people's struggle in defending the environment, its life and rivers:

artesanas

Artisans from Bena Jema. One of the main activities of the women in these indigenous communities is the making of handicrafts, painting, weaving and jewelry with seeds. This type of activity implies that the mother and the female relatives have the task of caring for and supporting the family. Image created by children of the Shipibo community in Bena Jema during a workshop organized by the Arkana Alliance. Photo used with permission.

A good way to learn about the activities of the Arkana Alliance is through its blog, published in Spanish and English. For example, this post about its major achievements in 2015 is very interesting, or another post on the publication of “Learning from the Peruvian Amazon” (which can be downloaded for free) written by Dr. Paul Roberts, Director of Intercultural Education for the Arkana Alliance, and Laura Dev, PhD student at the University of Berkeley, California.

You can also follow the Arkana Alliance on Facebook, Twitter and You Tube.

Some of the Arkana Alliance team members in February 2015. Photo from the Facebook page of the Arkana Alliance, used with permission.

by Teodora C. Hasegan at May 23, 2016 10:33 AM

Chiloé Fishermen to the World: ‘Communities Must Unite!’
Protesta comunitaria en Chiloé. Foto de Victor Bahamonde. Usada con permiso.

Community protest in Chiloé. Photograph by Victor Bahamonde. Used with permission.

The maritime phenomenon known as “red tide,” the excessive accumulation of algae which causes elevated concentrations of toxins, has been affecting fishing on the southern Chilean island of Chiloé for months. Fisherman from the area have been protesting since May 3, 2016, because they feel that the government isn't doing enough to alleviate the economic loss created by this environmental disaster and want to find definitive solutions.

To understand better the conflict and the possible solutions envisaged, Global Voices interviewed Víctor Bahamonde (V.B.), a professor of history and a member of the Pensar Chiloé (Thinking Chiloé) organization. GV also interviewed Richar Ojeda (R.O.), the leader of the Sindicato de Recolectores de Orilla, Mar de Todos, Marichiweu (a Mapuche word which means “ten times victorious”) (Shore Harvesters, Ocean for Everyone, Marichiweu Union) of Ancud.

This interview was conducted in part by Patricio Cabello (P.C.), a professor of journalism at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso.

Patricio Cabello (PC): We are receiving information about what is happening in Chiloé through different news sources, but we would like to hear how both of you would summarize the situation from your point of view.

RO: Desde que se inició todo esto, desde indicaron zona de catástrofe hasta hoy, hemos sentido que el gobierno no se ha manifestado correctamente con nosotros. Nos ha bypasseado muchas veces. No se ha sentado con una propuesta clara tampoco. Hoy día el tema de los bonos fueron ya depositados personas que no necesariamente estaban dentro del rango más vulnerable de la pesca artesanal. Entonces, creo que el gobierno aquí no ha dado la talla. No nos ha tomado en cuenta a muchos sindicatos. Eso más o menos.

Y respecto al movimiento, bueno, nosotros seguimos movilizados, dando una respuesta al gobierno y nos mantendremos así hasta que ellos nos presenten una propuesta clara y nos beneficien ojala a todos.

Richar Ojeda (RO): Since the beginning of all of this, since the area was recognized as a catastrophe zone, until today, we've felt that the government has not behaved properly with us. They have bypassed us many times. They have not come up with a clear proposal either. Now, the financial aid that was promised was deposited into accounts of people who aren't necessarily among the most vulnerable in the traditional fishing community. So, I think the government hasn't been able to measure up. They haven't taken into consideration a lot of the unions. This is more or less the situation.

And in relation to the movement in general, we are still mobilized, we are still responding to the government and we will stay this way until they give us a clear proposal which will, hopefully, benefit all of us.

Víctor Bahamonde (VB): La gente considera que hay un conflicto mucho mayor que específicamente la marea roja y que tiene que ver con la contaminación, y por sobre todo con la industria salmonera que ha estado por 40 años en este lugar y que hoy día ha cambiado las lógicas culturales y económicas, además de generarnos un conflicto ambiental que ya es insostenible.

Víctor Bahamonde (VB): People think that there is a greater conflict than just specifically the red tide and it has to do with contamination. But above all, the salmon industry which has been here for 40 years, has changed the current cultural and economic logic, and also has generated an environmental conflict that is now unsustainable.

PC: How are you organized? Is there an assembly of unions? Who is articulating the protests? Who is joining in? 

VB: Hoy día tenemos muchos tipos de organización. Tenemos, por ejemplo, las asambleas de barricada que son los espacios donde la gente, la comunidad en general y los pescadores estaban sosteniendo las tomas en diferentes comunas; se hicieron espacios o instancias de diálogo o participación, como las mesas de trabajo provinciales y locales, donde la gente también está haciendo otro tipo de propuestas por sobre el bono.

VB: Nowadays we have a lot of different organizations. For instance, we have the assembly of barricades which are places where people, the general community, and the fisherman, were maintaining the protests in different municipalities; there are dialogue spaces or participation forums, similar to the provincial and local roundtables, where people are also making different proposals besides the financial aid.

Protestas en Ancud. Foto de Victor Bahamonde. Usada con permiso.

Protests in Ancud. Photo by Victor Bahamonde. Used with permission.

PC: We've been told that some of the protests are ‘costumbrists’ (local artistic representations). It is interesting to me that they are protesting this way; it seems more like a party than a conflict. Are these same types of protests happening in Ancud? 

RO: La comunidad se ha manifestado en masa en apoyo a nosotros, los pescadores. La forma de manifestarse de la gente ha sido muy positiva porque ellos quieren levantar el ánimo de la gente que está bastante decaído, que está en los puestos de barricada, que tienen que amanecerse, que no ha comido. Estamos muy agradecidos también y contentos de que se hagan partícipes de algo que es vital como es el tema de la contaminación.

RO: The community has come out “en masse” to support us fisherman. The way that the people have been protesting has been really positive because they want to boost morale of everyone, which is pretty down, [the morale] of who those who are at the barricades, who have to stay up all night, and who haven't eaten. We are really grateful and happy, as well, that they are participating in something as vital as the issue of contamination.

VB: Si bien se hacen marchas, no son las que comúnmente estamos acostumbrados a participar. En general lidera la marcha un grupo folklórico. Y también han participado diferentes actores de la comunidad, incluyendo los niños. Ayer hubo una marcha que convocó la barra del equipo de básquetbol de acá, llegaron con la indumentaria que llevan al gimnasio. Se han hecho show artísticos abajo donde están las barricadas. Hoy día caminas por las calles de Ancud y la comunidad, los comercios incluso, tienen banderas negras. Se han hecho misas también en las barricadas. Incluso, los comités de capilla, gente ligada a la iglesia, también están organizando los cortes de ruta. En otras ciudades hemos visto que se han instalado juegos para niños en la mitad de la calle para que jueguen. Entonces, si bien pareciera que la barricada es un método violento porque lo que estamos haciendo es cortar el paso a la gente, pero sobre todo a los camioneros que transportan salmones o temas productivos dentro Chiloé y en la Décima región, la gente está participando de manera pacífica.

La comunidad es la que está dando diferentes luces de cómo podría modificarse, podría ampliarse y entrar a participar del conflicto que también es una de las cosas yo creo que se han visto en la última semana. Si bien se reconoce que el actor principal acá es el pescador artesanal, sus organizaciones y sus negociadores, también la gente ha puesto temas sobre la mesa que tienen que ver con derechos que se han visto afectados: el tema de la salud, de la educación, de la conectividad interior, de los caminos rurales. Son cosas que hoy día la gente también está poniendo sobre la mesa y que quizás no se resuelvan ahora, pero la gente está movilizada. Es como un sentir que ha existido en Chiloé desde hace muchos años. La gente está sacando toda la rabia que tiene acumulada en esta movilización.

VB: Even though they are protesting, these aren't the typical protests that we are used to. In general, a folkloric group leads the march. And many different members of the community have joined in, including children. Yesterday, there was a march brought together by the fans of our local basketball team. They came with the same clothes that they wear to the basketball courts. People have put on shows down by the barricades. Nowadays you can walk through the streets of Ancud and the communities—even the businesses, have black flags. They have performed masses at the barricades, as well. Even chapel committees, people connected to the church, are organizing the roadblocks. In other cities we have seen playgrounds put up for children to play in the street. So even though barricades seem like a violent method—because we are stopping people from circulating on the roads, especially truck drivers that are transporting salmon and other products inside Chiloé and the Los Lagos region—people are participating in a peaceful way.

The community is shedding a different light on how it can transform, expand, and participate in the conflict, which is also one of the things that I think can be seen this past week. Even though it's known that the key player here is the small-scale traditional fisherman, their organizations, and their negotiators, the community has also put ideas on the table about the rights that they have seen affected: the issue of health, education, transportation connection to the interior, and rural roads. These issues perhaps won't be resolved now, but people are mobilized. It's a feeling that has existed in Chiloé for many years. People are taking out their built up anger in this mobilization.

Biblioteca ambulante instalada en Ancud. Foto de Victor Bahamonde. Usada con permiso.

Temporary library installed in Ancud. Photo by Victor Bahamonde. Used with permission.

PC: How has the relationship with government representatives been? Is there some kind of organization? Some contact? Are you working with them, or not? 

VB: Al principio la gente, las mesas de trabajo que se hicieron contemplaban también la participación de las municipalidades. Los diputados en general se han mantenido a la distancia, hasta cuando ya el conflicto estalla y hay que buscar más soluciones a corto plazo para que se destrabe, digamos, la negociación. Algunos actores como diputados, senadores yo no he visto por lo menos, algunos concejales, algunos cores (consejeros regionales), se han hecho partícipes de este conflicto pero dejando que los pescadores tomen el liderazgo. Algunos pescadores si han sido más cercanos a que puedan participar de manera más directa, pero yo creo que la gran mayoría de la ciudadanía y de los pescadores, han cortado ese tipo de relaciones porque en el fondo también estamos en un año electoral y sabemos que cada cual está por intereses particulares. Y además, que yo creo que en general la gente considera que las autoridades que tenemos hoy día también son responsables de lo que está pasando, porque ellos fueron los que de alguna manera abrieron las puertas a los salmoneros, y a que este tipo de situaciones no fueran controladas en su momento, lo que hace que tengamos una crisis que no tiene vuelta atrás. Si no se toman medidas hoy que sean estructurales va a ser muy difícil poder mantener la misma relación económica que se tenía con el mar a lo que conocíamos hasta hoy.

VB: In the beginning, the people considered including the municipalities in the working roundtables they made. In general, congressmen kept their distance until the dispute blew up and short-term solutions had to be found to, let's say, unlock the negotiations. Some players like congressmen (I haven't seen any senators myself), some councilmen, and some regional advisers have become involved in this conflict but have allowed the fisherman to take leadership. Some fishermen are eager to have a closer relationship with them and allowing more direct participation but, I think the majority of the residents and the fisherman have cut off these types of relationships because we are in an election year and we know that everyone is there for political interests. Also, I think that generally people believe the authorities we have today are also responsible for what is happening because, to a certain extent, they were the ones who opened the door to the salmon industry, and these situations weren't controlled at the time, which has put us in a crisis with no return in sight. If they don't take structural measures today, it will be very difficult to maintain the same economic relationship with the ocean that we have had up until now.

Global Voices (GV): In relation to structural measures and taking into account the fact that the salmon industry has been in the area for decades, what long-term solution or measure from the government are you hoping to achieve to not only solve the problem today but to avoid the same situation in the future? 

RO: Nosotros aquí con todas las cosas que hemos logrado investigar y todo lo que sabemos, consideramos que a estas alturas del partido ya es irreparable el daño que han causado las salmoneras. Entonces, pensando en eso, nosotros creemos que la única solución que queda aquí es que se vayan. Es que se erradique por completo el tema de las salmoneras porque todo el mundo conoce la contaminación que han hecho, por lo tanto, creo que cumplieron su ciclo. Ya de aquí para adelante seguirían contaminando todavía mucho más aún las aguas que por ahí quedan “limpias”.

RO: With all of the research that we have done here and all of the things we know, at this stage in the game we think the damage caused by the salmon industry is irreparable. So with this in mind, we believe that the only solution we have left is for them to leave. We should completely eradicate the salmon industry because everybody knows about the contamination it has caused and as a result, I think it has outlived their use. It will continue contaminating the water that is still “clean”.

VB: Yo creo que en general, lo que se espera un poco del Estado es que pueda generar políticas de largo plazo en este rubro. Entendiendo que el mar ya no va a ser lo mismo que antes, hay que hacer una reconversión económica completa de la región. Pero de eso no solamente tiene responsabilidad el Estado, tienen que participar directamente de la decisión las comunidades de Chiloé, o las comunidades de la Décima región.

El Estado decidió unilateralmente que las aguas de Chiloé y los fiordos del sur eran aptos para la salmonicultura y ofrecieron este lugar para que llegaran los salmoneros hace 40 años, y evidentemente se equivocaron. Entonces, yo creo que hoy día no podemos estar esperando que aquellos que decidieron que la salmonicultura esté en este lugar, que aquellos que generaron las condiciones más óptimas para que los salmoneros se siguieran quedando, por ejemplo con subsidios y concesiones acuícolas con capacidad de hipoteca, vuelvan a reconvertir esta región económicamente hacia un área que nosotros consideremos que es sustentable, o que puedan considerar por lo menos la opinión de las comunidades que viven este lugar.

Ya hay varios pescadores y organizaciones sindicales de pescadores están pensando que harán de aquí en adelante. No solamente tendremos que ver lo que está ofreciendo el Estado y las inversiones que se podrían dar en distintas áreas. Porque también sabemos que culturalmente no podemos pasar de ser pescadores artesanales a comerciantes o telefonistas de un call center, como se trató de hacer en la reconversión de Lota, cuando se cerró la mina del carbón. Yo creo que aquí hay que tomar políticas mucho más serias, aprender de las experiencias de reconversión que han existido y operar con la mejor de las voluntades en torno a que aquí no solamente estamos esperando a que el gobierno nos proponga, si no que la gente también tiene que tomar decisiones, y la gente tiene que tener posturas claras para ver hacia dónde va la región.

VB: In general, I think what is expected of the state is that they generate long-term policies in this industry. Taking into account that the ocean is not going to be the same as it was before, we have to do a complete economic restructuring in the region. This is not only the responsibility of the state; the Chiloé and Los Lagos communities have to participate directly in the decisions.

The state unilaterally decided that the Chiloé's waters and the southern fjords were suitable for salmon farming and invited the salmon industry here forty years ago, and they obviously made a mistake. So nowadays, I don't think we can expect the people who allowed the salmon farms to come here, the people who created the optimal conditions for the salmon industry to stay, such as subsidies and aquaculture concessions with mortgage rights, to be the same people who restructure the economy in the region towards an industry that we think is sustainable, or at least consider the opinion of the communities that live here.

There are already a number of fisherman and union organizations for fisherman that are thinking about what to do in the future. We don't only have to see what is being offered by the state and the investment that they can make in different areas. Because we also know that, culturally speaking, we can't just move from being fisherman to salesmen or call center operators like they tried to do after closing the coal mines in Lota. I think that serious policies need to be made which learn from previous restructuring experiences and work with the best intentions, keeping in mind that we are not just going to wait for the government to propose ideas, but the people also have to make decisions with clear ideas about the direction that the region needs to go.

"Soy de Ancud y ya no puedo comer luche". Foto de Victor Bahamonde. Usada con permiso.

“I'm from Ancud and now I can't eat luche (type of seaweed).”  Photo by Victor Bahamonde. Used with permission.

GV: A lot has been said about the lack of traditional media coverage about this dispute, how has citizen media (social media, alternative newspapers, community radio) helped or hurt your cause? How can they be used to help your cause in the long-term? 

VB: Lo que nosotros podemos evidenciar es que son los medios ciudadanos, los medios comunitarios o los medios alternativos los que han dado una cobertura mucho más certera del conflicto. Yo creo que los medios masivos como la televisión, o algunos medios de radio que tienen cobertura nacional, lo que han hecho hasta ahora es construir noticias en donde no las hay. Cuando ellos se encuentran con un conflicto que ha sido bien manejado por la comunidad, donde no hay enfrentamiento con carabineros, donde no hay lo que normalmente se espera de un conflicto de esta envergadura, empiezan a crear noticias y a especular con la información.

Porque también sabemos que en los medios de comunicación no se ha hablado nada de la salmonicultura. Que en el fondo cuándo aparecen este tipo de situaciones, lo que hacen los medios de comunicación masiva es proteger al sector industrial al cual afecta, entonces son los medios ciudadanos, los medios comunitarios son los que han dado la información o al menos ampliado la discusión. Y aunque todavía no tenemos certezas desde el punto de vista científico, si sabemos cuál es la sensación de la población en general, y de más o menos que opina la gente de las responsabilidades que aquí existen. Por ejemplo, nadie ha dicho a los medios masivos que aquí la responsabilidad del vertimiento de los salmones es de Sernapesca pero también de la Armada. Son ellos los que autorizaron que los salmoneros contaminaran. Y no es solamente hablo de la coyuntura de la salmonicultura en torno al vertimiento de salmones, si no son 40 años de contaminación estructural ya que cambiaron el ecosistema completo de la zona de Chiloé. Entonces eso no se está informando en los medios de comunicación masiva, si se está informando en los medios de comunicación alternativos. Son los medios ciudadanos los que generalmente están preguntando dónde está la fuente, hacia dónde va el conflicto, qué es lo que más o menos se analiza, lo que se entiende, cuáles son las salidas posibles

A nosotros en específico nos han entrevistado más de los medios vinculados a las comunidades, de los medios alternativos que los medios masivos, porque los medios masivos se quedan con dos o tres dirigentes que son afines a lo que ellos quieren mostrar en la televisión o en la radio.

VB: What we can see is that citizen media, community media, and alternative media have provided more accurate coverage of the dispute. I think that traditional media, like television or some radio channels with national coverage, have created news stories where there were none. When they come face to face with a dispute that has been well managed by the community, without police confrontations or any of the other things you might expect from a dispute of this magnitude, they begin to create news stories and speculate about the facts.

We know that the traditional media has not talked about the salmon industry at all. We know that when these situations happen, big media outlets protect the industrial sector affected; and so citizen and community media are the ones that share the facts or at least expand the discussion. And although we don't have proof from a scientific standpoint, we know the opinion of the public in general, and more or less what the people think about the responsibilities that exist here. For example, nobody told the big media outlets that the people responsible for the salmon dumping are Sernapesca (a government entity) and also the Navy. They are the ones who allow the salmon industry to contaminate. I'm not only talking about the situation surrounding salmon dumping on salmon farms, but also the 40 years of structural contamination that has completely changed the ecosystem in the Chiloé area. This is not being reported in big media outlets but it is being reported in alternative news outlets. Generally, citizen media asks where is the source, where is the dispute heading, what is being analyzed, what is being understood, and what are the possible outcomes.

We've been interviewed more by media outlets with ties to the community, by alternative media than big outlets, because the latter stay with the two or three leaders which are aligned with the kind of information that they want to show on the television or the radio.

"Si no hay justicia para el pueblo, no habrá paz para el gobierno". Foto de Victora Bahamonde. Usada con permiso.

“If there isn't justice for the people, there won't be peace for the government.” Photo by Victora Bahamonde. Used with permission.

GV: This interview will be translated into different languages because our organization has the opportunity to break language barriers to tell stories. What message do you want to send to the international community? 

VB: Hoy día, la comunidad internacional, aquellas personas que se interesan en este tipo de conflictos porque aparecen en medios de comunicación, no tiene que solamente solidarizar intentando resolver algunas cosas en apoyo a las comunidades que se están movilizando. Yo creo que si bien la solidaridad y empatía con el conflicto es importante, uno de los llamados que hemos estado haciendo es a la organización. Si en el fondo esto está ocurriendo porque la misma comunidad se ha desorganizado, el tejido industrial se ha descompuesto. Por lo tanto, hoy día en los proyectos industriales, en el capitalismo en general, se logran posicionar este tipo de actividades económicas y ambientales porque la gente se desorganizó en cierto momento.

Entonces yo creo que para resolver este conflicto, que además tiene que ver con el cambio climático que tenemos en todo el planeta, son las mismas comunidades que vivimos y nos asustamos con estos conflictos, las que tenemos que solucionarlos proponiendo alternativas a este modelo. No podemos esperar que el cambio se dé en una reunión de la ONU o en un acuerdo internacional entre países. Si bien ese puede ser un camino, quienes ejecutan las políticas de verdad en los territorios son las comunidades organizadas. Por lo tanto, la gente debe tomar conciencia para que quizá esto no pase desapercibido. Que también las personas que están en otros territorios, en otros países, en otras latitudes puedan tomar experiencia de lo que ha ocurrido acá para que no vuelva a pasar en sus lugares. Estamos a tiempo de poder hacerlo, pero si no estamos organizados, vamos a seguir esperando desde los mismos que han afectado los territorios socialmente y ambientalmente que se nos entregue una propuesta que sabemos de antemano que siempre va a ser insatisfactoria.

VB: Nowadays, the international community, or those people who are interested in these types of disputes because they appear in news outlets, don't only have to show solidarity and try to resolve some situations in support of the communities that are mobilizing. I think that even though solidarity and empathy with an issue is important, one of the calls to action that we have been trying to make is to organize. See, this is all happening because the very same community became disorganized and the industrial fabric has come undone. Thus, industrial projects, and in capitalism in general, are able to position these types of economic and environmental activities because the people stopped organizing.

I think that in order to resolve this conflict, which is also related to climate change all over the planet, the very communities that live with and are scared by these conflicts are the ones who need to propose alternative solutions to the existing model. We can't wait for a change to happen in a meeting at the United Nations or with an international agreement between countries. Although this can be one pathway, the people who are really carrying out the policies in each region are the organized communities. Therefore, people should become more aware so that this doesn't go by unnoticed. People in other areas, in other countries, in other latitudes can learn from our experience and not allow this to happen in their communities. We still have time to make this happen, but if we aren't organized we are going to keep waiting for those who affected the environment and social fabric of our territories, to hand us proposals that are never going to be good enough.

On May 19, after this interview was published in Spanish, the fishermen of Chiloé reached an agreement with the government after almost three weeks of protests.

Barricada en Chiloé. Foto de Victor Bahamonde. Usada con permiso.

Barricade in Chiloé. Photo by Victor Bahamonde. Used with permission.

by Andrea Chong Bras at May 23, 2016 09:00 AM

May 22, 2016

Rising Voices
Strengthening the Miskitu and Mayangna Languages in Nicaragua Through Digital Media
Miskitu1

Students at the leadership school at URACCAN University.

This is the first post from the project “Miskitus and Mayangnas on the internet”, grantee winner of the 2015 Microgrant call to support digital activism initiatives for indigenous languages. The project is being carried out in Nicaragua, and seeks to strengthen local languages with the active participation of young people.

In the beginning, the project “Miskitus and Mayangnas on the Internet” consisted of a series of three workshops and two forums which focused on the creation of personalised media platforms for young people. Three workshops focused on students from the leadership school of URACCAN University, on the Atlantic coast of Nicaragua. There are 51 leadership students, ranging from ages 13 to 18. Most of the leadership students speak Miskitu although some are learning Mayangna, and there are some who prefer to speak Spanish and Nicaraguan English Creole.

The three original workshops included video editing, the construction of a digital dictionary, and an introduction to web design. All the projects had to include a bilingual component using both Spanish and an indigenous language (Miskitu or Mayangna). However, upon meeting with the new director of the Leadership School of URACCAN University, it became clear that the young people would need a Digital Media course instead of just three workshops in a month. The Director explained that many organisations and individuals from outside Nicaragua had come to offer workshops to the youth leadership students and they felt that the temporary interaction was not beneficial for their academic development.

We started to develop lesson plans including 3 different bilingual videos, 1 bilingual dictionary with 50 entries, and a bilingual website to show each of the students’ videos and dictionaries. URACCAN University offered to let the leadership students use 2 public computing labs that have internet access and the software MovieMaker, WeSay and Wix.com.

The first day of the new course “Digital Media” introduced all the projects and software that would be used throughout the course. The leadership students were able to explain their favourite hobbies, such as listening to music, playing sports and dancing. These turned into the topics for some of the videos. The students also enjoyed a traditional snack called “wabul“, which in this case is made of ripe plantain.

The second “Digital Media” class consisted of a workshop where the students were able to go out onto the street and take photos of themselves individually and in groups. All the students used cellphones, smartphones and tablets to practice taking pictures in vertical and horizontal orientations.

After taking the photos there was a short demonstration of how to upload the photos to a computer. The third “Digital Media” class began in the classroom outside of the leadership students’ dormitory, which includes a whiteboard. The lesson focused on how to make a script using the photos they took of each other during the previous course. The students learned how to include a title, a series of scenes with subtitles in Miskito or Mayangna, and credits.

The leadership students enjoyed a snack in Nicaragua's Creole community which is called “Pati” and a small drink before entering the computing lab for the first time. The fourth “Digital Media” class took place inside a computing lab called “Lakia Tara” or “Big Star” in Miskitu.

The leadership students worked in groups to upload their own photos and favourite music from their cellphones, smartphones and tablets. Most students were able to complete videos using a succession of photos, subtitles and music that tells a story about them and their families. The fourth class took place in the classroom outside their dormitory again, and included a presentation on the possibility of using illustrations to create a digital oral story. The leadership students saw an example of a digital story on Youtube. Then they began to develop their own illustrated stories, some based on animations, some based on Kisi nani (oral children's stories in Miskito) or popular stories in Mayangna bilingual texts.

At this point the leadership students were very happy to go back to Lakia Tara to upload the illustrations for their projects and finalise the first video projects that they have made for themselves, their classmates and their families.

Miskitu2

Students working at the leadership school at URACCAN University.

by Kitty Garden at May 22, 2016 07:33 PM

Creative Commons
#happybdaybassel
Bassel

Bassel Khartabil, CC by 2.0

On May 22nd, more than four years after his detention and six months after his disappearance, Bassel Khartabil (Arabic: باسل خرطبيل‎) will turn 35 years old. Bassel’s imprisonment by the Assad regime is a brutal human rights violation and the continued lack of answers about his fate is a hindrance to the fight for free information in the Middle East and beyond. While Creative Commons has been actively involved in the Free Bassel Campaign since the beginning, Bassel’s rumored death sentence makes today’s call to action particularly pressing.

As Lawrence Lessig wrote in 2012, “We distract ourselves with a million other things, but distraction doesn’t change reality: thousands have died; thousands more are being held; tyranny still lives.”

Bassel Khartabil is a Palestinian-Syrian Free Software and Free Culture activist and project lead for Creative Commons Syria. Bassel’s work on Mozilla Firefox, Wikipedia, Fabricatorz, and other open culture projects with his research company Aiki Labs has been credited by the European Parliament with “opening up the Internet in Syria and vastly extending online access and knowledge to the Syrian people.” Shortly after his detention, Bassel was named one of the top 100 global thinkers by Foreign Policy for “insisting, against all odds, on a peaceful Syrian revolution.”

This weekend, we’re joining with his friends around the world to continue to demand his immediate return to life as a free global citizen.

Take action at the Free Bassel campaign website.

The post #happybdaybassel appeared first on Creative Commons blog.

by Jennie Rose Halperin at May 22, 2016 03:06 PM

Miriam Meckel
Ordnungspolitischer Irrsinn

WiWo_Titel_21_16_Familienunternehmen

Der Mittelstand wird viel gepriesen, doch Subventionen kriegt ausgerechnet die Autoindustrie? Da läuft etwas falsch in Deutschland.

Und noch ein planwirtschaftlich geregelter Wirtschaftszweig. Auch für die Elektromobilität werden Marktakzeptanz und Innovationsstrategie nun durch eine Morgengabe der großen Koalition in die vermeintlich richtige Richtung geschoben. Das Bundeskabinett hat die Kaufprämie für Elektro- und Hybridautos in dieser Woche beschlossen. Wer bis Ende Juni 2019 ein solches Fahrzeug kauft, bekommt 4000 Euro Zuschuss für den Stromer, 3000 Euro für das Hybridgefährt.

Der Kunde ist dabei nur der Förderhebel für den eigentlichen Nutznießer dieser „Prämie“. Und das ist die deutsche Autoindustrie. Man muss ihr Respekt bezeugen für die Unbescheidenheit, mit der eine bislang blühende Industrie sich zur unterstützungsbedürftigen Branche mit Nehmerqualitäten gewandelt hat. Blühend bis auf die selbst verschuldeten Einbrüche durch skandalöses Geschäftsgebaren. Gegen BMW-Chef Harald Krüger ist Sankt Martin ein Waisenknabe. Krüger hat soeben das Geschäftsjahr und 100-jährige Firmenjubiläum mit einem Gewinn von 6,4 Milliarden Euro nach Steuern abgeschlossen. Aber er stellt sich nicht mit geteiltem Mantel (Hälfte für die Kunden …), sondern gleich ganz nackt vor die Kanzlerin. Botschaft: Ohne die Kaufprämie erstickt die deutsche Autoindustrie nicht an ihren überhöhten Abgaswerten, sondern an den Investitionskosten in einem unsicheren Markt.

Das haben Märkte so an sich, dass sie unsicher sind. Und genau das ist das Gute an ihnen. Wo es nämlich keinen Bedarf gibt, muss keine ganze Industrie subventioniert werden. Und wo der Bedarf entsteht, da regelt das Zusammenspiel von Angebot und Nachfrage die Preisbildung in der Regel sehr vernünftig.

Es interessiert in Berlin offenkundig niemanden, dass die Elektromobilität schon ordnungspolitisch fußkrank ist, bevor auch nur ein Rad losgerollt ist. Nicht einmal der so gerade noch abgewendete Aufstand in der Unionsfraktion gegen die von Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel zugesagte Prämie hat etwas ändern können.

Das ist ein verheerendes Signal deutscher Wirtschaftspolitik, denn Großkonzerne, die darin versagt haben, sich selbst frühzeitig auf neue Märkte und Technologien einzustellen, werden dafür noch belohnt. Es zeigt auch ein gehöriges Maß an ordnungspolitischer Verblendung der großen Koalition, die mit zunehmender Regierungszeit überproportional zu wachsen scheint. Und es wirft ein verheerendes Licht auf das Verständnis für das Fundament der deutschen Wirtschaft. Natürlich spielt die Autoindustrie als wichtigste deutsche Branche zu Recht eine bedeutende Rolle.

Aber was ist eigentlich mit dem in vielen koalitionären Sonntagsreden gepriesenen mittelständischen Unternehmen? Hat mal jemand in Berlin darüber nachgedacht, wie viel sie für die Digitalisierung investieren müssen? Welcher Veränderungsprozess in Technologien, Infrastruktur und Personal am Digitalen hängt? Man hört diese Unternehmen übrigens fast nie jammern oder klagen. Sie wollen kein Geld. Sie wären schon froh, wenn ihnen durch die Politik ein paar bürokratische Hürden aus dem Weg geräumt würden. Damit sollte sich die Koalition einmal befassen. Aber so viel wie über die Kaufprämie für E-Autos verhandelt wurde, blieb dafür einfach keine Zeit.

wiwo.de

by Miriam Meckel at May 22, 2016 12:30 PM

Global Voices
He'd Never Seen Jukeboxes Before Immigrating to the US. Now He's a Master at Repairing Them.
Magdi Hanna, from Alexandria, Egypt, runs one of the few workshops in the United States dedicated to saving jukeboxes. Credit: Saul Gonzalez. Used with permission.

Magdi Hanna, from Alexandria, Egypt, runs one of the few workshops in the United States dedicated to saving jukeboxes. Credit: Saul Gonzalez. Used with permission.

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

It’s easy to think of how technology has left some products behind. After all, when’s the last time you used a pocket calculator or made a call from a pay phone?

And then there’s the jukebox.

But if you head to Los Angeles, and the 2000 block of Pico Boulevard, look for a shop run by Magdi Hanna. He is one of a handful of people left in the United States dedicated to fixing jukeboxes. His mission? To save the machines for future generations.

Listen to this story on PRI.org »

Hanna is from the Egyptian port city of Alexandria and, until arriving to the US, he had never seen a jukebox. Now, he calls the decades-old machines, which he has repaired since 1980, a slice of American history.

Hanna says that he fell in love with jukeboxes right away and quickly decided to devote himself full-time to repairing them. In the 20th century, jukeboxes could be found in nightclubs, bars and diners — icons of American life, right up there with Marilyn Monroe, the Corvette or Elvis (his music is featured on one of the jukeboxes in Hanna's shop). But a machine that played a limited selection of records could not compete with technological progress, from the transistor radio to CDs to now, of course, music over the internet.

Jukeboxes at Magdi Hanna’s workshop in Los Angeles. “We didn’t have jukeboxes in Egypt,” he says. Credit: Saul Gonzalez. Used with permission.

Jukeboxes at Magdi Hanna’s workshop in Los Angeles. “We didn’t have jukeboxes in Egypt,” he says. Credit: Saul Gonzalez. Used with permission.

So jukebox companies like Wurlitzer and Seeburg faded along with many jukebox repair experts.

“I know a few,” says Hanna. “But I don’t know of new people coming into the jukebox business.”

Not surprisingly, Hanna has little affection for new ways to hear music. “If you hear Elvis Presley on a 45, it's completely different than you hear it on the radio or on the CD or on the computer.” He says a 45-rpm single just conveys more “feeling.”

The day I visited Hanna, he had just finished weeks repairing a Model 850 Wurlitzer jukebox from 1941. He showed it to me, opening the handsome wood exterior with peacock figures etched into glass. “Look how big the motor is,” he says. “It’s like the alternator from a car.” The jukebox, which holds 24 records, takes 5 cents to play one song, two songs for a dime, and four songs for a quarter. It also only plays one side of a record (later models, built in the 1950s, could eventually flip the record and play both sides).

Tools Magdi Hanna uses to repair jukeboxes at his Los Angeles workshop. Credit: Saul Gonzalez. Used with permission.

Tools Magdi Hanna uses to repair jukeboxes at his Los Angeles workshop. Credit: Saul Gonzalez. Used with permission.

Hanna’s customers are often collectors, bringing in broken jukeboxes they’ve found at garage and estate sales. Each one, he says, is like a musical time capsule with records in them untouched for decades. “Some people have had jukeboxes in the garage for 20 years, and it has records from the '50s and '60s. Original records.”

When asked what it was like to bring such machines back to life, Hanna says, “Oh, you feel like you want to dance!”

As I wrap up my visit to his repair shop, I ask Hanna if I can select a song from one of the jukeboxes he’s repaired. Sure, he says. And having not used a jukebox since sometime in the '80s, it was a bit thrilling (I selected “My Special Guy” by The Six Teens).

After listening to that music coming out of a 60-year-old machine, iTunes and Spotify just did not seem nearly as cool.

A jukebox in Magdi Hanna’s workshop in Los Angeles. "I don’t know of new people coming into the jukebox business," he says. Credit: Saul Gonzalez. Used with permission.

A jukebox in Magdi Hanna’s workshop in Los Angeles. “I don’t know of new people coming into the jukebox business,” he says. Credit: Saul Gonzalez. Used with permission.

by Public Radio International at May 22, 2016 12:00 PM

May 21, 2016

Rising Voices
Creating a Space for Guinea's National Languages on the Internet
Tasfir Baldé. Used with his permission.

Tasfir Baldé. Used with his permission.

2015 and 2016 have been crucial in terms of elections in Africa. Over the course of these two years, there have been 14 elections to date.

Internet users have developed a range of initiatives to empower the people to exercise the full range of their civic rights. In Guinea, for example, where 65% of the population is illiterate, the Guinean Bloggers Association (l’Association des blogueurs de Guinée, or ABLOGUI) launched a campaign to raise awareness and address the use of ethnic differences as a political agenda, to avoid clashes within the population. (Full disclosure: The campaign has funding from the Open Society Initiative for West Africa; Global Voices receives support from Open Society Foundations).

ABLOGUI is doing so in Pulaar and Malinke (Maninka), two languages widely spoken in Guinea. While French is the official language of government in Guinea, two-thirds of the country's people don't speak or understand it, so making information available in these languages is important.

Global Voices asked Tafsir Baldé, head of the commission for the promotion of national languages within the Guinean Bloggers Association, to give his thoughts on this experience.

Global Voices (GV): Mr. Baldé, can you introduce yourself again to our readers?

Tafsir Baldé (TB): Je suis Tafsir Baldé, chercheur en langues et cultures africaines et blogueur en #Pulaar sur www.misiide.net, membre fondateur de l’Association des blogueurs de Guinée (ABLOGUI), et responsable de la commission promotion des langues nationales au sein de la dite association.

Tafsir Baldé (TB): I am Tafsir Baldé, a researcher of African cultures and languages and a blogger in the #Pulaar language on www.misiide.net, founding member of the Guinean Bloggers Association (ABLOGUI), and head of the commission for the promotion of national languages within this association.

GV: What is the #GuineeVote hashtag? What relationship does it have with the national languages Pulaar and Nko (the alphabet on which Malinke and other languages is based) ?

TB: #GuineeVote est une plate-forme web participative autour des élections en Guinée. Un projet citoyen porté par l’Association des Blogueurs de Guinée (ABLOGUI). Sur cette plate-forme, une rubrique des langues nationales a été créée pour traduire l’essentiel de l’actualité électorale en langues nationales #Pulaar et #Malinké.

Depuis sa création, notre association s’est fixé comme objectif fondamental de s'impliquer sur la façon dont les leaders des partis font la politique. Pour atteindre ce but au-delà de toute position partisane, nous avons pensé qu’il était nécessaire de réformer le discours politique en poussant les candidats à parler de leurs programmes et non des sujets à caractère ethnique. Nous avons donc établi un système pour comparer leurs programmes et pour que ceux-ci soient compris par la majorité d’une population qui ne maîtrise pas dans son ensemble la langue française nous avons introduit cette partie des langues nationales.

Notre commission de langues nationales a donc traduit et publié sur www.guineevote.com dans ces deux langues expliquant le code électoral, l'importance de voter, les fonctions d’un élu, la comparaison des programmes des différents candidats, etc.

TB: #GuineeVote is a participatory web platform based around the elections in Guinea. A citizen project led by the Guinean Bloggers Association (ABLOGUI). This platform includes a section for national languages, created in order to translate the gist of news on the current elections into national languages #Pulaar and #Malinke (based from Nko.

Since its creation, our association has had the fundamental aim of involvement in the way in which party leaders set policy. To achieve this beyond any partisan position, we felt that it was necessary to reform the political discourse by urging the candidates to talk about their political agendas and not about subjects relating to ethnicity. We therefore established a system to compare their agendas and, so that they can be understood by the majority of a population — not everyone is fluent in French — we introduced this national languages section.

Our commission for national languages has therefore translated and published on www.guineevote.com in these two languages explaining the electoral code, the importance of voting, the role of a councillor, the comparison between the agendas of the various candidates, etc.

GV: What were the results?

TB: Nos résultats ont été remarquables. D’abord nos lecteurs se sont satisfaits parce qu’avec les publications dans ces deux langues, ils pouvaient mieux comprendre le processus électoral et son importance dans la vie de chaque Guinéen. Un lecteur nous a écrit dans un commentaire en Pulaar: “A weltaanama seydi Balde! Golle maa ɗen no labaa fota”  (traduction: Nous sommes très fiers de tes travaux remarquables, Monsieur Baldé). Sans oublier que nous avons amélioré la visibilité de nos langues nationales par le biais de ce projet.

TB: Our results were remarkable. Firstly, our readers were satisfied because with the publications in these two languages, they could understand better the electoral process and its importance in the life of every Guinean. A reader wrote a comment to us in the Pulaar language: “A weltaanama seydi Balde! Golle maa ɗen no labaa fota” (translation: We are very proud of your remarkable work, Mr. Baldé). Not to mention that we have raised the visibility of our national languages through the project itself.

GV: Do you know of other examples of initiatives for the use of national languages through the engagement of bloggers in West Africa?

TB: En ce qui concerne la participation des blogueurs, à part  notre initiative, je ne connais pas d’autres initiatives de ce genre dans la sous-région! Toutefois, de nombreuses télévisions, mais surtout de radios diffusant en langues nationales sont disponibles online.

Il faut signaler aussi que dans le cadre d'une participation démocratique plus large, le Burkina Fasso vient de traduire son code électoral dans ses principales langues nationales.D'autre part, en 2014, l’assemblée nationale sénégalaise a introduit la possibilité pour les parlementaires d'intervenir à l’hémicycle dans six langues nationales.

Voilà des exemples à suivre pour permettre aux gens de mieux s’intéresser et exprimer leurs opinions.

TB: With regards to the participation of bloggers, I don't know of any other initiative of this type apart from ours in the sub-region! Nevertheless, various television stations, but above all radio stations that broadcast in national languages are available online.

I should also stress that, as part of a wider democratic participation, Burkina Faso has just translated its electoral code into its main national languages. On the other hand, in 2014, the Senegalese National Assembly made it possible for members of parliament to speak in parliament in any one of six national languages.

These are examples worth following to allow people to develop more interest and express their opinions.

GV: What are the obstacles in your eyes to a greater use of new information communication technology in the electoral process in Guinea and in West Africa as a whole?

TB: Il faut mettre en évidence que les NTIC peuvent être efficaces pour l’expansion de nos langues nationales. On a réalisé des avancées significatives dans ce sens pour le pular et le n’ko. Je pense que limiter ces actions citoyennes en langue française ne sert pas grand-chose! Car selon les statistiques, environ 65 % de la population guinéenne ne comprend rien de la langue officielle de l'Etat et de toutes les institutions. Il va falloir donc que cela soit pris en compte dans le système d’information que nous blogueur mettons en place; qu’ils ne se sentent pas marginalisés parce que ne comprenant le français que peu ou prou.

Nous n’avons rien contre l'usage du français, mais il nous revient la lourde tâche d’informer ces milliers de lecteurs dans leurs langues respectives.

TB: It should be highlighted that the NTIC can be an effective expansion of our national languages. We have made significant progress in that respect with Pulaar and N’Ko. I don't think it's very productive to limit these civic actions to the French language! According to the statistics, around 65% of the Guinean population have no understanding of the official language of the government and state institutions. We must therefore take this into account in our work as bloggers; we must not make anyone feel marginalised because they have little or no understanding of the French language.

We have nothing against the use of French, but it leaves us the onerous duty of informing thousands of readers in their respective languages.

GV: How do you see the future of use of national languages on social media?

TB: Une étude réalisée par Gilles Maurice de Schryver et Anneleen Van der Veken, nous affirmait que ces langues apparaissent sur la Toile beaucoup plus comme des objets d’étude.

Les langues africaines sont présentes sur les réseaux sociaux de deux manières distinctes. La première manière est caractérisée par des hashtags sur des sujets d'actualité nationale ou qui font référence à des éléments linguistiques régionaux. C’est le cas par exemple de #lwili (en langue mooré, l’une des principales langues du Burkina Faso), qui fait allusion à un pagne national, le lwili-peendé; porté depuis le temps colonial.

Ce hashtag évoque naturellement toute la symbolique de l’oiseau, emblème de Twitter. Aussi, dans la culture ivoirienne du réseau social, l’expression « #Kpakpatoya » (en nouchi) indique le fait de relayer l’actualité nationale ou internationale pouvant intéresser les suiveurs du fil. Nous bloggeurs de Guinée, sommes en train de chercher un hastag à l’instar des ces pays de la sous-région.

La deuxième manière se distingue par l’introduction des langues africaines sur les réseaux sociaux comme langue pour les utilisateurs. De plus en plus, les principaux acteurs des réseaux sociaux et des sources de référence offrent de la place aux langues africaines.

TB: A study carried out by Gilles Maurice de Schryver and Anneleen Van der Veken confirms that these languages appear on the web as much more than the subject of research.

African languages are present on social networks in two different ways. The first is characterised by hashtags relating to national news topics or making reference to regional linguistic elements. This is the case, for example, for #lwili (in Mooré language, one of the main languages of Burkina Faso), which refers to a traditional loincloth, the lwili-peendé, which has been worn since colonial times.

This hashtag naturally evokes the symbolism of the bird, which is the emblem of Twitter. Also, in the social media culture of Côte d’Ivoire, the expression ‘#Kpakpatoya’ (in Nouchi) means to share national or international news with the followers of a thread. As bloggers in Guinea, we are on the lookout for a hashtag like these in other countries in the sub-region.

The second method is defined by the introduction of African languages in social networks as a user interface language or display language. The main players on social networking and resource reference markets are increasingly offering their product in a range of African languages.

GV: Which main players are you talking about? Can you show us what they do?

TB: Wikipédia, par exemple, propose des contenus dans quelques langues africaines, dont le peul et le bambara, une langue très proche du malinké. En outre, cette source de contenus a créé Afripedia en partenariat avec l'Institut français et l'Agence universitaire de la Francophonie depuis juin 2012.

Même si ce n'est pas son objectif premier, le projet Afripédia visant à favoriser l'accès aux contenus sur les réseaux en ligne au plus grand nombre d'utilisateurs ne disposant pas facilement de connexion Internet, peut aussi contribuer à une plus grande utilisation des langues africaines dans les NTIC.

Après le tamazight en 2013, Facebook a tout récemment adopté dix (10) autres langues africaines sur son réseau social comme langues d’utilisation. Personnellement, j’ai intégré le groupe des traducteurs de facebook en pular. D'après l'équipe en charge de veille sur nos travaux dénommée “Facebook Translations Team”, nous avons traduit le réseau en pular à 85%.

A noter que depuis 2014, des jeunes africains se sont mis à concevoir des réseaux sociaux  purement africains. C’est le cas par exemple de « #Ilemba » (la marque en gabonais) basé à Libreville.

Tous ces facteurs améliorent la visibilité des langues africaines sur les réseaux sociaux.

TB: Wikipedia, for example, offers content in certain African languages, dont Fula (Peul) and Bambara (Bamanankan), a language very close to Malinke (Maninka). Furthermore, Afripedia has been developed in collaboration with the Institut Français and the Francophone University Association since June 2012.

Although not its primary objective, the Afripedia project aims to promote access to online content to the greatest number of users who do not have reliable internet access, and can also contribute to a greater use of African languages in the field of New Technology of Information and Communcation (NTIC).

After the Berber language Tamazight in 2013, Facebook has just recently introduced ten other African languages as display languages for the social network. I personally formed the Pulaar translators group on Facebook. According to the Facebook Translations Team, which oversees our work, we have translated 85% of the social network into Pulaar.

Since 2014, young Africans have even wished to develop a purely African social network. This is the case for example with ‘#Ilemba’, a social network from Libreville in Gabon.

All these factors improve the visibility of African languages on social networks.

GV: What do you anticipate will follow the elections with regards to the promotion of the use of these two languages amongst Guinean web users?

TB: Dans l’agenda de nos principaux des activités de l’année 2016, nous comptons organiser une conférence débat sur la place des langues nationales dans les TIC. La rencontre vise à valoriser l’usage des langues nationales dans les technologies nouvelles. Au cours de cette conférence débat, nous allons mettre l'accent sur les innovations technologiques dans les langues locales afin d'inciter les citoyens et l'Etat à se servir des ces outils du web pour lutter contre l’analphabétisme dans notre pays.

TB: We plan to organise a debate-conference in 2016 to discuss the place of national languages in information and communication technology. The meeting aims to promote the use of national languages in new technologies. Within this debate-conference, we are going to place an emphasis on technological innovations in local languages in order to urge citizens and the government alike to arm themselves with the tools of the web to fight against illiteracy in our country.

GV: A final word?

TB: J’invite mes amis bloggeurs, à prendre en compte les langues africaines dans leurs activités de blogging. Cela en vue d’une seule finalité, promouvoir la diffusion des langues africaines par les outils du web 2.0.

TB: I invite my blogging friends to include African languages in their blogging activity. There is a single important objective to doing so — to promote the spread of African languages through the tools of Web 2.0.

by Eddie Avila at May 21, 2016 09:09 PM

Global Voices
How a Self-Taught Translator Created a Literary Masterpiece One Word at a Time
Screenshot from ARIRANG NEWS video on YouTube.

Deborah Smith. Screenshot from ARIRANG NEWS video on YouTube.

This article originally appeared on PRI.org on May 18, 2016, and is republished here as part of a content-sharing agreement.

The Man Booker International Prize for Fiction came out this week, and South Korean writer Han Kang got the brass ring for her novel “The Vegetarian.”

It's about a woman who believes she is turning into a tree. Critics have called the story “lyrical and lacerating.” It's also pretty erotic.

But the thing many people are talking about isn't the book itself. It's the translator.

Listen to this story on PRI.org »

Deborah Smith, the 28-year-old Brit behind the novel's masterful translation to English, only started learning Korean six years ago. So how did she manage to interpret the book so well?

“If you're asking for the secret, I'm afraid I'm as ignorant as you are,” she says. “Looking back now it feels like I must have looked up almost every other word in the dictionary. That's probably an exaggeration, but that's what it felt like at the time. It was a bit like climbing a mountain.”

She says her newness to Korean was actually a boon. “I really knew that I needed to double-check everything and be extra careful,” she says. “I also had to question the dictionary translations of certain terms.”

Plus, with literature, direct translations don't always work best. “Just because it's the literal equivalent doesn't mean it's the right word to use if you are aiming for some kind of literary effect,” she says.

A Korean friend also provided Smith with help. Smith says she imposed many an annoying question upon this friend, a fellow student in a PhD program. (In exchange for help with the translations, Smith would proofread all of her friend's coursework.)

Deborah Smith and Han Kang. Screenshot from ARIRANG NEWS video on YouTube.

Deborah Smith and Han Kang. Screenshot from ARIRANG NEWS video on YouTube.

The book's prose holds up in English, but it also passes a much harder test: Smith says that people who speak both fluent Korean and English cannot tell that a non-native speaker did the translation. “Nobody has really commented on that from having read it,” she says. “People certainly talk about it from hearing my story from other channels. But the strength of the translation and the skill of a literary translation is how well you know the target language, not really how well you know the source language.”

The key, according to Smith, was really knowing English and how to use it to recreate the Korean novel's style and voice. For that skill, she is overqualified. She reads about 200 books a year. “And I have so for as long as I remember,” she says. “So on that end, I was pretty confident.”

“The Vegetarian” was unlike any other book Smith had read, and she was the one who approached a publisher back in 2013 about doing a translation. “I think it's one of those books where you can really see what is exciting about contemporary Korean literature. It is quite distinctive from a lot of other countries’ [literature],” she says.

And that's the big reason she chose to tackle a project in a language she spoke imperfectly. “I think that is kind of the point of translation, to make something available in a language or a culture that is new and that wasn't there before.”

Check out an excerpt of “The Vegetarian” here:

by Public Radio International at May 21, 2016 12:00 PM

Andacollo, The Chilean City Surrounded by Mine Tailings
Plaza principal de Andacollo. Imagen tomada de Wikimedia Commons y publicada bajo términos de GNU Free Documentation License. Fotografía tomada por Katja Radon.

The Andacollo town square. Image by Wikimedia Commons and published under the terms of a GNU Free Documentation License. Photo by Katja Radon.

Relaves.org is a group whose mission is to make the Chilean government take responsibility for abandoned mine tailings (ore waste of mines) and promote their mitigation. Lately, the group has been drawing attention to the case of Andacollo, a mining city and region of about 10,000 inhabitants in northern Chile. According to the group's website, Andacollo “was declared an ‘area saturated with contamination’ by particulate matter PM10 [‘which could be ash, soot, metallic particles, cement or pollen’] in 2009. In addition to this, there are more than 18 tailing heaps located right in the city, which has caused serious health impacts”:

Image: Yes, this is a tailing heap.
The Case of Andacollo

Tweet: Find out about the #CaseOfAndacollo, an area saturated with contamination and where more than 18 tailing heaps are located

YouTube user Bastian Salfate uploaded a video made by students from the Journalism School of the Universidad de la Serena featuring interviews with Andacollo locals about the regional mining issue.

When asked about the overall impact of mining, one Andacollo resident answers:

[Yo lo encuentro] negativo. Porque no deja ningún beneficio acá. Todo lo compran en otro lado. La gente de Andacollo no se ha favorecido en nada.

[I think it is] negative. Because it doesn't leave any benefits here. They buy everything elsewhere. The people of Andacollo haven't seen any benefits.

Another resident points out the origins on the mining companies:

La gente le tira mucho a la minería, pero desgraciadamente pero ya no se puede […]  Porque la minera acá, según dicen, que han comprado todo Andacollo. ¿Y de qué nos sirve a nosotros? De nada. Las empresas son canadienses. ¿De qué nos vale a nosotros? No sé.

People expect a lot from mining, but unfortunately we can't anymore […] Because here the mining companies, so they say, they've bought up all of Andacollo. And what good is that to us? None at all. The companies are Canadian. What value does that have for us? I don't know.

Mining is a complicated issue in this region, and some companies are declaring bankruptcy and laying off workers in Andacollo, threatening a local economy that relies heavily on this industry. As companies withdraw, it also becomes more difficult to mount efforts to mitigate the environmental damage already done by extractive operations.

But the problem of mining waste isn't limited to Andacollo. There are approximately 449 tailing deposits in Chile according to 2010 figures, and it's estimated that mining companies in the country produce around 1,400,000 tonnes of waste every day. We should also remember the case of the El Soldado mine, where a deposit of toxic tailings collapsed after an earthquake in March 1965. More than 200 people died and hundreds of kilometres were contaminated by the waste.

by Kitty Garden at May 21, 2016 09:55 AM

May 20, 2016

Global Voices
Saint-Exupéry's ‘Little Prince’ Can Speak Aymara Now
Portada de "Prinsipi wawa". Imagen ampliamente difundida en línea.

Cover of “Prinsipi wawa”. Image widely shared online.

For the first time, Aymara speakers will be able to enjoy in their native tongue Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's book “The Little Prince”, the story of the encounter of a pilot whose plane breaks down in the middle of the African desert and a mysterious boy.

According to estimates, Aymara has about 2.2 million speakers who hail from the Central Andes, in areas of Bolivia, Peru, Chile, and Argentina. Aymara becomes one of more than 240 languages into which The Little Prince has been translated since it was originally published in 1943.

The Aymara translation was carried out by college professor Roger Gonzalo Segura:

Bajo el título de “Pirinsipi wawa”, la traducción de esta novela universal corrió a cargo del profesor de quechua y aymara de la Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú (PUCP) Roger Gonzalo, quien aseguró a Efe que el trabajo le tomó alrededor de dos años.

With the title “Pirinsipi wawa”, the translation of this universal novel was in charge of Quechua and Aymara professor from the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru (PUCP) Roger Gonzalo, who told Efe news agency that the translation took him about two years [to be completed].

According to Gonzalo, he had no difficulties telling the story within the Aymara world view:

“En el mundo [aymara] tenemos muchísimas historias para imaginar, incluso asustarnos. Hay animales y seres que no existen y muchas aventuras”, asegura. No obstante, había elementos del mundo occidental, como el ferrocarril, que tuvo que refonologizarlos, es decir, adaptarlos a la gramática de la lengua. En otros casos, no fue necesario crear nuevas palabras. Por ejemplo, palabras como ‘avión’ y ‘motor’, solo cambiaron a ‘aviona’ y ‘motora’.

“In the [Aymara] world, we have many stories that make us imagine, or even to be scared of. There are animals and beings that don't exist and also many adventures,” Gonzalo notes. However, there were elements from the Western world, such as railroads, that we had to rephonologize, that is, that we had to adapt to the language grammar. In other cases, it wasn't necessary to create new words. For instance, words such as ‘airplane’ [avión in Spanish] and ‘motor’, were just changed to ‘aviona’ and ‘motora’.

Gonzalo was born in the community of Chatuma, located in the district of Pomata, in the Punean province of Chucuito. Describing the recently translated book, he said:

Es una obra universal. El mensaje (que puede llegar a las poblaciones andinas) es la manera cómo una persona puede conceptuar la vida, explicar las cosas de su alrededor y qué significado pueden tener para la vida los personajes de El Principito. Estéticamente es fantástica.

This is a universal book. The message (that can be conveyed to Andean communities) is the way how someone can consider life, explain things around them and the meaning this may have for the life of the characters in The Little Prince. Aesthetically, it's fantastic.

On Twitter, you can find images and links related to Gonzalo's translation and the work behind it:

The Little Prince can now be read in Aymara language.
Quechua and Aymara languages professor, Roger Gonzalo Segura, was in charge of the translation
.

Peruvian professor translated The Little Prince into Aymara.

The Little Prince was translated into Aymara. How long did this work take? We tell you about it.

Prinsipi Wawa – The Little Prince translated into Aymara.

Professor Gonzalo is also a speaker of Quechua, a language family spoken in the Central Andes with over 10 million speakers. Besides his work as translator of The Little Prince, he is in charge of Quechua Rimarina, a program broadcast on a university YouTube channel that teaches Quechua.

by Gabriela García Calderón at May 20, 2016 03:36 PM

Creating a Space for Guinea's National Languages on the Internet
Tasfir Baldé. Used with his permission.

Tasfir Baldé. Used with his permission.

2015 and 2016 have been crucial in terms of elections in Africa. Over the course of these two years, there have been 14 elections to date.

Internet users have developed a range of initiatives to empower the people to exercise the full range of their civic rights. In Guinea, for example, where 65% of the population is illiterate, the Guinean Bloggers Association (l’Association des blogueurs de Guinée, or ABLOGUI) launched a campaign to raise awareness and address the use of ethnic differences as a political agenda, to avoid clashes within the population. (Full disclosure: The campaign has funding from the Open Society Initiative for West Africa; Global Voices receives support from Open Society Foundations).

ABLOGUI is doing so in Pulaar and Malinke (Maninka), two languages widely spoken in Guinea. While French is the official language of government in Guinea, two-thirds of the country's people don't speak or understand it, so making information available in these languages is important.

Global Voices asked Tafsir Baldé, head of the commission for the promotion of national languages within the Guinean Bloggers Association, to give his thoughts on this experience.

Global Voices (GV): Mr. Baldé, can you introduce yourself again to our readers?

Tafsir Baldé (TB): Je suis Tafsir Baldé, chercheur en langues et cultures africaines et blogueur en #Pulaar sur www.misiide.net, membre fondateur de l’Association des blogueurs de Guinée (ABLOGUI), et responsable de la commission promotion des langues nationales au sein de la dite association.

Tafsir Baldé (TB): I am Tafsir Baldé, a researcher of African cultures and languages and a blogger in the #Pulaar language on www.misiide.net, founding member of the Guinean Bloggers Association (ABLOGUI), and head of the commission for the promotion of national languages within this association.

GV: What is the #GuineeVote hashtag? What relationship does it have with the national languages Pulaar and Nko (the alphabet on which Malinke and other languages is based) ?

TB: #GuineeVote est une plate-forme web participative autour des élections en Guinée. Un projet citoyen porté par l’Association des Blogueurs de Guinée (ABLOGUI). Sur cette plate-forme, une rubrique des langues nationales a été créée pour traduire l’essentiel de l’actualité électorale en langues nationales #Pulaar et #Malinké.

Depuis sa création, notre association s’est fixé comme objectif fondamental de s'impliquer sur la façon dont les leaders des partis font la politique. Pour atteindre ce but au-delà de toute position partisane, nous avons pensé qu’il était nécessaire de réformer le discours politique en poussant les candidats à parler de leurs programmes et non des sujets à caractère ethnique. Nous avons donc établi un système pour comparer leurs programmes et pour que ceux-ci soient compris par la majorité d’une population qui ne maîtrise pas dans son ensemble la langue française nous avons introduit cette partie des langues nationales.

Notre commission de langues nationales a donc traduit et publié sur www.guineevote.com dans ces deux langues expliquant le code électoral, l'importance de voter, les fonctions d’un élu, la comparaison des programmes des différents candidats, etc.

TB: #GuineeVote is a participatory web platform based around the elections in Guinea. A citizen project led by the Guinean Bloggers Association (ABLOGUI). This platform includes a section for national languages, created in order to translate the gist of news on the current elections into national languages #Pulaar and #Malinke (based from Nko.

Since its creation, our association has had the fundamental aim of involvement in the way in which party leaders set policy. To achieve this beyond any partisan position, we felt that it was necessary to reform the political discourse by urging the candidates to talk about their political agendas and not about subjects relating to ethnicity. We therefore established a system to compare their agendas and, so that they can be understood by the majority of a population — not everyone is fluent in French — we introduced this national languages section.

Our commission for national languages has therefore translated and published on www.guineevote.com in these two languages explaining the electoral code, the importance of voting, the role of a councillor, the comparison between the agendas of the various candidates, etc.

GV: What were the results?

TB: Nos résultats ont été remarquables. D’abord nos lecteurs se sont satisfaits parce qu’avec les publications dans ces deux langues, ils pouvaient mieux comprendre le processus électoral et son importance dans la vie de chaque Guinéen. Un lecteur nous a écrit dans un commentaire en Pulaar: “A weltaanama seydi Balde! Golle maa ɗen no labaa fota”  (traduction: Nous sommes très fiers de tes travaux remarquables, Monsieur Baldé). Sans oublier que nous avons amélioré la visibilité de nos langues nationales par le biais de ce projet.

TB: Our results were remarkable. Firstly, our readers were satisfied because with the publications in these two languages, they could understand better the electoral process and its importance in the life of every Guinean. A reader wrote a comment to us in the Pulaar language: “A weltaanama seydi Balde! Golle maa ɗen no labaa fota” (translation: We are very proud of your remarkable work, Mr. Baldé). Not to mention that we have raised the visibility of our national languages through the project itself.

GV: Do you know of other examples of initiatives for the use of national languages through the engagement of bloggers in West Africa?

TB: En ce qui concerne la participation des blogueurs, à part  notre initiative, je ne connais pas d’autres initiatives de ce genre dans la sous-région! Toutefois, de nombreuses télévisions, mais surtout de radios diffusant en langues nationales sont disponibles online.

Il faut signaler aussi que dans le cadre d'une participation démocratique plus large, le Burkina Fasso vient de traduire son code électoral dans ses principales langues nationales.D'autre part, en 2014, l’assemblée nationale sénégalaise a introduit la possibilité pour les parlementaires d'intervenir à l’hémicycle dans six langues nationales.

Voilà des exemples à suivre pour permettre aux gens de mieux s’intéresser et exprimer leurs opinions.

TB: With regards to the participation of bloggers, I don't know of any other initiative of this type apart from ours in the sub-region! Nevertheless, various television stations, but above all radio stations that broadcast in national languages are available online.

I should also stress that, as part of a wider democratic participation, Burkina Faso has just translated its electoral code into its main national languages. On the other hand, in 2014, the Senegalese National Assembly made it possible for members of parliament to speak in parliament in any one of six national languages.

These are examples worth following to allow people to develop more interest and express their opinions.

GV: What are the obstacles in your eyes to a greater use of new information communication technology in the electoral process in Guinea and in West Africa as a whole?

TB: Il faut mettre en évidence que les NTIC peuvent être efficaces pour l’expansion de nos langues nationales. On a réalisé des avancées significatives dans ce sens pour le pular et le n’ko. Je pense que limiter ces actions citoyennes en langue française ne sert pas grand-chose! Car selon les statistiques, environ 65 % de la population guinéenne ne comprend rien de la langue officielle de l'Etat et de toutes les institutions. Il va falloir donc que cela soit pris en compte dans le système d’information que nous blogueur mettons en place; qu’ils ne se sentent pas marginalisés parce que ne comprenant le français que peu ou prou.

Nous n’avons rien contre l'usage du français, mais il nous revient la lourde tâche d’informer ces milliers de lecteurs dans leurs langues respectives.

TB: It should be highlighted that the NTIC can be an effective expansion of our national languages. We have made significant progress in that respect with Pulaar and N’Ko. I don't think it's very productive to limit these civic actions to the French language! According to the statistics, around 65% of the Guinean population have no understanding of the official language of the government and state institutions. We must therefore take this into account in our work as bloggers; we must not make anyone feel marginalised because they have little or no understanding of the French language.

We have nothing against the use of French, but it leaves us the onerous duty of informing thousands of readers in their respective languages.

GV: How do you see the future of use of national languages on social media?

TB: Une étude réalisée par Gilles Maurice de Schryver et Anneleen Van der Veken, nous affirmait que ces langues apparaissent sur la Toile beaucoup plus comme des objets d’étude.

Les langues africaines sont présentes sur les réseaux sociaux de deux manières distinctes. La première manière est caractérisée par des hashtags sur des sujets d'actualité nationale ou qui font référence à des éléments linguistiques régionaux. C’est le cas par exemple de #lwili (en langue mooré, l’une des principales langues du Burkina Faso), qui fait allusion à un pagne national, le lwili-peendé; porté depuis le temps colonial.

Ce hashtag évoque naturellement toute la symbolique de l’oiseau, emblème de Twitter. Aussi, dans la culture ivoirienne du réseau social, l’expression « #Kpakpatoya » (en nouchi) indique le fait de relayer l’actualité nationale ou internationale pouvant intéresser les suiveurs du fil. Nous bloggeurs de Guinée, sommes en train de chercher un hastag à l’instar des ces pays de la sous-région.

La deuxième manière se distingue par l’introduction des langues africaines sur les réseaux sociaux comme langue pour les utilisateurs. De plus en plus, les principaux acteurs des réseaux sociaux et des sources de référence offrent de la place aux langues africaines.

TB: A study carried out by Gilles Maurice de Schryver and Anneleen Van der Veken confirms that these languages appear on the web as much more than the subject of research.

African languages are present on social networks in two different ways. The first is characterised by hashtags relating to national news topics or making reference to regional linguistic elements. This is the case, for example, for #lwili (in Mooré language, one of the main languages of Burkina Faso), which refers to a traditional loincloth, the lwili-peendé, which has been worn since colonial times.

This hashtag naturally evokes the symbolism of the bird, which is the emblem of Twitter. Also, in the social media culture of Côte d’Ivoire, the expression ‘#Kpakpatoya’ (in Nouchi) means to share national or international news with the followers of a thread. As bloggers in Guinea, we are on the lookout for a hashtag like these in other countries in the sub-region.

The second method is defined by the introduction of African languages in social networks as a user interface language or display language. The main players on social networking and resource reference markets are increasingly offering their product in a range of African languages.

GV: Which main players are you talking about? Can you show us what they do?

TB: Wikipédia, par exemple, propose des contenus dans quelques langues africaines, dont le peul et le bambara, une langue très proche du malinké. En outre, cette source de contenus a créé Afripedia en partenariat avec l'Institut français et l'Agence universitaire de la Francophonie depuis juin 2012.

Même si ce n'est pas son objectif premier, le projet Afripédia visant à favoriser l'accès aux contenus sur les réseaux en ligne au plus grand nombre d'utilisateurs ne disposant pas facilement de connexion Internet, peut aussi contribuer à une plus grande utilisation des langues africaines dans les NTIC.

Après le tamazight en 2013, Facebook a tout récemment adopté dix (10) autres langues africaines sur son réseau social comme langues d’utilisation. Personnellement, j’ai intégré le groupe des traducteurs de facebook en pular. D'après l'équipe en charge de veille sur nos travaux dénommée “Facebook Translations Team”, nous avons traduit le réseau en pular à 85%.

A noter que depuis 2014, des jeunes africains se sont mis à concevoir des réseaux sociaux  purement africains. C’est le cas par exemple de « #Ilemba » (la marque en gabonais) basé à Libreville.

Tous ces facteurs améliorent la visibilité des langues africaines sur les réseaux sociaux.

TB: Wikipedia, for example, offers content in certain African languages, dont Fula (Peul) and Bambara (Bamanankan), a language very close to Malinke (Maninka). Furthermore, Afripedia has been developed in collaboration with the Institut Français and the Francophone University Association since June 2012.

Although not its primary objective, the Afripedia project aims to promote access to online content to the greatest number of users who do not have reliable internet access, and can also contribute to a greater use of African languages in the field of New Technology of Information and Communcation (NTIC).

After the Berber language Tamazight in 2013, Facebook has just recently introduced ten other African languages as display languages for the social network. I personally formed the Pulaar translators group on Facebook. According to the Facebook Translations Team, which oversees our work, we have translated 85% of the social network into Pulaar.

Since 2014, young Africans have even wished to develop a purely African social network. This is the case for example with ‘#Ilemba’, a social network from Libreville in Gabon.

All these factors improve the visibility of African languages on social networks.

GV: What do you anticipate will follow the elections with regards to the promotion of the use of these two languages amongst Guinean web users?

TB: Dans l’agenda de nos principaux des activités de l’année 2016, nous comptons organiser une conférence débat sur la place des langues nationales dans les TIC. La rencontre vise à valoriser l’usage des langues nationales dans les technologies nouvelles. Au cours de cette conférence débat, nous allons mettre l'accent sur les innovations technologiques dans les langues locales afin d'inciter les citoyens et l'Etat à se servir des ces outils du web pour lutter contre l’analphabétisme dans notre pays.

TB: We plan to organise a debate-conference in 2016 to discuss the place of national languages in information and communication technology. The meeting aims to promote the use of national languages in new technologies. Within this debate-conference, we are going to place an emphasis on technological innovations in local languages in order to urge citizens and the government alike to arm themselves with the tools of the web to fight against illiteracy in our country.

GV: A final word?

TB: J’invite mes amis bloggeurs, à prendre en compte les langues africaines dans leurs activités de blogging. Cela en vue d’une seule finalité, promouvoir la diffusion des langues africaines par les outils du web 2.0.

TB: I invite my blogging friends to include African languages in their blogging activity. There is a single important objective to doing so — to promote the spread of African languages through the tools of Web 2.0.

by Philip Smart at May 20, 2016 02:46 PM

On Not Becoming a Buddhist

 

Raikoji Temple, Tsuruga

Raikoji Temple, a Jodo Shin temple in Matsushima-cho, Tsuruga (Fukui Prefecture). Photo by Nevin Thompson.

Shortly after my oldest son was born in September 2002, I found myself kneeling before a statue of Yakushi Nyorai, the bodhisattva of healing. Was I making an offering, I wondered, a prayer, or a plea?

We were living in Fukui Prefecture, on the Japan Sea coast, just north of Kyoto. A few days after birth, our newborn son developed a fever, and, eventually, sepsis, a serious infection of the blood. The hospital was not very optimistic. When I saw the doctor actually run with our child to initiate some life-saving treatment, I realized that we were nearly out of options. (Our son recovered, and, now nearly 14 years old, has never been sick since).

So, sitting outside the hospital, near six stone statues of Jizo, the bodhisattva of children and guide of the dead through the underworld, for the first time in my adult life, I decided to pray for help.

“…sitting outside the hospital, near six stone statues of Jizo, the bodhisattva of children and guide of the dead through the underworld, for the first time in my adult life, I decided to pray for help.”

I went to Tada-ji, a temple nestled under a wooded hill a short drive from my son's hospital in the small fishing town of Obama. The hondo, or main hall, was cool and dark after the walk from the car under the torrid late summer sun. Like every other Buddhist temple in Japan, the interior was dim and smelled of incense. Accompanied by the abbot, I crept in bare feet across creaky hardwood floor to the space front of the altar, which was covered in ratty green carpet.

Tada-ji's object of veneration is a two-metre statue of “Yakushi Nyorai the healer” that is more than a twelve hundred years old. The statue dates back to a time before modern medicine, when illness resulted in a quick death or lifelong debilitation.

At the time the temple was established and the statue carved, it would be another 500 years before Dogen would bring Zen meditation and the concept of “extinguishing the self” to Japan. In a pre-literate age, when Buddhism in Japan was reserved for the privileged few who could read, everyone else relied on Yakushi Nyorai, Jizo and other bodhisattvas for any and all help.

As I was doing now.

At first glance, Tada-ji's statue of Yakushi Nyorai is just a hunk of wood, not ornate at all, and, in the dim light of the hondo, almost crudely carved. I had paid a token amount of money to the abbot who had inherited the stewardship of the temple.

Yakushi Nyorai Amulet

Yakushi Nyorai (Bhaisajyaguru) amulet from Tada-ji Temple, in Obama, Fukui. Photo by Nevin Thompson.

As I kneeled before the statue, the spry, white-haired abbot, recited a darani or mantra associated with Yakushi Nyorai. As part of his job the abbot led tours when busloads of visitors arrived at the temple, conducted funerals, and recited a prayers for solitary visitors like me. I had no idea what he was saying, and I focused on the statue's rough, blocky features, hewn out of wood nearly 1200 years before.

Growing up in secular 1970's Canada, I was unfamiliar with the concept of prayer. I didn't even understand how or why someone might pray to a Bodhisattva. “There is no god in Buddhism,” I had read. So why ask a statue for help?

I had driven to Tada-ji and other temples in Obama many times before over the previous ten years I had spent living in this rural part of Japan. While wars and natural disasters can sometimes destroy antiquities in Japan, isolated Obama's cultural heritage has remained largely intact for more nearly 1500 years. Many of the temples and their treasures had been purposefully located in Obama, about two days’ journey by foot from Kyoto, to save them from the wars that frequently razed the old imperial capital. The temples of Obama provided me with a good chance to learn more about art history. The stories behind the architecture, statuary, and relics I encountered got me interested in “learning about Buddhism.”

But even living near hundreds of temples in Obama and Kyoto, I discovered learning about Buddhism was not easy. “How do you become a Buddhist?” I would sometimes ask people I thought really ought to know the answer to that question, such as teachers at the high school I taught at who, on weekends and holidays, ran the family temple. When I asked them that question, they looked at me as though I was crazy. “Why do you want to be a Buddhist?” they usually asked me. “You're not even Japanese!”

“When I asked them that question, they looked at me as though I was crazy. “Why do you want to be a Buddhist?” they usually asked me. “You're not even Japanese!””

And there wasn't really any other way to learn. Generally speaking, mainstream Buddhist denominations held no Sunday services. There was no Sunday school, nor really anything resembling even a Bible that Japanese people rely on to learn scripture.

And yet there appeared to be a methodology in Japan for “practicing Buddhism.” Funerals and annual memorial services are observed according to strict and formal rules. Families visit the graveyard for higan, the equinox in spring and fall. I had even seem a woman prostrated in front of a massive statue of Yakushi Nyorai in the Tokyo National Museum of Art, on loan to the museum from its home at Daigoji. But no one could tell me how to “become” a Buddhist.

And then, by chance I came across an English language book about Zen meditation. It turned out the book was written by the abbot of Hosshin-ji, a small Soto Zen monastery in Obama (Fukui Prefecture is also home to Eiheiji, one of the great Zen centres in Japan), and then translated by Daigaku Rumme, an American Buddhist monk who had lived at Hosshin-ji, in Obama for more than thirty years. I phoned him up, and we became friends.

My first question to Daigaku: “What books should I read to learn more about Buddhism?” His answer: reading books to learn about Buddhism can be dangerous. His recommendation was to learn how to sit instead, and I eventually spent a week at a Zen seated meditation retreat at Hosshin-ji in Obama with other lay practitioners.

The Zen tradition, “to forget the ‘small’ self and be enlightened or verified by all things” was tremendously appealing to me. The Zen approach discarded all of the contradictory teachings of the various schools of Buddhism people belonged to in Japan. There wasn't much more to enlightenment than learning to sit or breathe mindfully. You could even achieve enlightenment while washing the dishes.

And yet just a year or two after I met Daigaku I found myself kneeling in front of Yakushi Nyorai, appealing for some sort of help for my son.

The temple priest finished reciting the mantra, and completed the ceremony by shaking a haraegushi, a wooden wand outfitted with paper streamers over my head as a form of purification, and then handing me a small gold amulet of Yakushi Nyorai on my way out to the car.

Our newborn son recovered from sepsis a few days after my visit to the temple, although the odds were against it. Did my visit to Tada-ji and Yakushi Nyorai help? It's hard to tell, although we will forever keep the skilled doctors and staff of the hospital in Obama in our hearts. And we have kept the amulet safe as well.

by Nevin Thompson at May 20, 2016 01:33 PM

Brazilian Musicians Mount an Orchestra Against Brazil's Interim Government
Musicians organized a "Concert for Democracy" at an occupied government building in Rio de Janeiro. Photo: Shared on Facebook

Musicians organized a “Concert for Democracy” at an occupied government building in Rio de Janeiro. Photo: Shared on Facebook

A few weeks ago, a famous Brazilian musician and critic wrote a poignant article pointing out how the events that have recently rocked Brazil lack a soundtrack, a musical dimension as in previous political upheavals in the 1960s and 1970s, when Brazilian popular music was at the center stage.

Well, perhaps no more: Brazilian musicians are occupying and organizing in social media classical concerts in buildings owned by the Ministry of Culture, which was recently extinguished by Brazil's interim president Michel Temer.

Check out this one, which took place in Rio de Janeiro at Palácio Capanema on May 17, in which the late German composer Carl Off's “Carmina Burana” was turned into a chant of “Fora Temer” (Temer Out):

Organizers say a thousand people came to the event. This was the second concert organized by the group — the first was at a public square on May 5, before Dilma Rousseff was impeached and therefore before the Ministry of Culture was dissolved. Therefore the event had a whole significance this time.

Despite its interim character, Michel Temer's government already announced drastic changes in Rousseff's administration, from replacing the entire cabinet ministry to shifts on foreign policy. It has also announced a series of austerity measures like slashing cabinet posts, privatizing and outsourcing public companies, implementing changes in pension laws, and dropping more than a few hints that it wants to make worker protection laws more lax and downsize the public health care system. In his inaugural speech, Temer said he is committed to taming inflation and capping a budget deficit to put the economy back on track.

On May 12, the Brazilian Senate decided in favor of opening an impeachment trial against President Dilma Rousseff for allegedly committing fiscal trickery to hide a growing public deficit. She has to step aside for six months until a final trial, also in the Senate and presided by the president of the Supreme Court, will finally decide whether to unseat her. In a dramatic process that has engulfed Brazilian society as much as its politicians, Brazilians seem divided between those who campaigned for her ousting and those who see the process as a “soft coup”.

The extinction of the Ministry of Culture infuriated the arts world of Brazil. At the moment, artists of all stripes are occupying 18 state buildings owned by the office in 12 cities. Famous Brazilian singers and musicians are putting on concerts in some of them. Another orchestra concert is scheduled in São Paulo on May 25 — this one, however, at the Museum of Art of São Paulo (MASP), a major location of protests for and against the government since 2013.

by Taisa Sganzerla at May 20, 2016 11:18 AM

Global Voices Partners With Groundviews From Sri Lanka
Screenshot from Groundviews website.

Screenshot from Groundviews website.

Global Voices and Groundviews have launched a new partnership that will combine Global Voices’ focus on citizen media and Groundviews's analysis and expertise to bring our readers original and in-depth coverage from Sri Lanka.

Edited by Sanjana Hattotuwa and Raisa Wickrematunge, Groundviews is an award-winning citizen journalism website, and the first of its kind in Sri Lanka.

The website was launched in November 2006 and has been publishing compelling stories, in the form of text, audio, video and photos in English, Sinhala and Tamil, for ten years. Its powerful and provocative articles on governance, human rights, the arts and literature, and peace-building push the boundaries of traditional media forcing Sri Lankan readers to think outside their comfort zones.

Groundviews has won international awards for its journalism, including the prestigious Manthan Award South Asia in 2009. Freedom House noted in its 2013 annual report on the global media:

Web-based media and blogs have taken on a growing role in the overall media environment, with outlets such as Groundviews and Vikalpa providing news and a range of commentary, even on sensitive stories and events that are barely covered by the mainstream media.

Groundviews on Twitter maintains three Twitter lists on Sri Lanka – leading bloggers, journalist sources and media and official Twitter accounts of Sri Lankan politicians and the government. Groundviews is also available on Facebook.

by Rezwan at May 20, 2016 09:54 AM

Trinidad and Tobago Reconsiders Marriage Act After Push to Recognise Child Marriage as Abuse
Photo of the Global Child magazine issue about bringing an end to child marriage. Image by flickr user RubyGoes, used under a CC BY 2.0 license.

Photo of the Global Child magazine issue about bringing an end to child marriage. Image by flickr user RubyGoes, used under a CC BY 2.0 license.

Trinidad and Tobago is a society of contradictions: just about a year ago, the legal age of sexual consent was raised from 16 to 18, even as an archaic law — the Marriage Act of 1923 — remained on the books, citing the legal age for marriage as 12 for girls and 14 for boys.

Child marriage is sometimes practiced in the country's Muslim and Hindu communities — and certain religious leaders seem intent on holding onto it. Earlier this week, Brother Harrypersad Maharaj, the leader of the Inter-Religious Organisation (IRO), a group that brings together representatives from the country's diverse religious groups and claims to “speak to the Nation on matters of social, moral and religious concern”, said that the state should not amend the Marriage Act because “age did not determine maturity”. Maharaj added that the IRO members’ stance on the matter was unanimous. He was supported by Shouter Baptist Archbishop Barbara Burke, who said that the IRO would vigourously fight governmental interference in the Muslim and Hindu Marriage Acts. She did acknowledge, however, that only 18 representatives of the country's 25 religious denominations were present at the meeting.

The Roman Catholic Archbishop, Joseph Harris, who did not attend, later called forcing children into marriage “legalised statutory rape”. The Anglican bishop also called for a review of the existing marriage legislation, although the popular sports and current affairs website Wired868, which referred to child marriage as “state-sanctioned pedophilia”, thought the bishop was rather wishy-washy on the issue.

In 2011, the country's Central Statistical Office confirmed that more than 8,400 girls and 1,300 boys under 19 were married between 1997-2007. It is worth noting that Trinidad and Tobago is a signatory to the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), which defines minors as “every human being below the age of 18”. Under the convention, signatories agree to protect children from harm and abuse and look out for their best interests.

In practice, however, the reality is very different. There is an off-colour joke that many people make — “After 12 is lunch” — meaning that once a girl is older than 12, she is no longer off limits sexually. Locally, and in many instances regionally, the reasons for marrying off a child can be economic; they can also be tied to the concept of honour — better to marry off a pregnant teen than have her bring shame to the family. In some cases, a sexual predator may choose to marry the victim as a way of avoiding prosecution. This most recent debate is also taking place against the backdrop of high rates of domestic violence and sexual assault against women, including minors. On May 18, police detained a 36 year-old man after two naked, intoxicated girls were rescued from his vehicle. The parents of the girls confirmed that the man was a friend of the family.

Naturally, there has been a lot of public pressure over the issue; the government has stated that “the time has come for the age of marriage to be the same [as the legal age of sexual consent] to protect a child’s right to enjoy life” and the country's attorney general has promised to make a statement on the matter very soon. The Prime Minister's Office released a statement which may offer a glimpse into the direction the current administration may take on the issue, saying:

The gap between the age for marriage (currently 12, 14 and 16) and the age of consent to penetrative sexual conduct (18 years) has increased since the proclamation of the Children Act, 2012 in May 2015 and must be harmonised.

Early marriage can expose a child […] to: Decreased opportunity for education; Serious health risk such as premature pregnancy and sexual transmitted infections since the child cannot abstain from sex or insist on condoms; High risk due to early pregnancy such as death during delivery, endangering the health of young mother and their babies; and
Increased likelihood of being subjected to gender-based violence.

Moreover, early childhood marriage terminates many of the elements associated with a healthy and enjoyable childhood and creates a cycle of poverty by curtailing the educational opportunities of the children involved.

UN statistics for the period 2002-2012 in Trinidad and Tobago show that the percentage of children who were married by age 15 was 1.8 percent and by 18, 8.1 percent. Interestingly, the dynamic Hindu Women's Organisation supported the government's position, calling for an end to child marriage and for sex education to be taught in schools (something which many religious leaders are also against).

The outcry on social media has been swift. There is an online petition advocating for an end to child marriage in the country, which has already got over 3,000 supporters. On Facebook, netizens were vociferous about their views. Rhoda Bharath said:

On 102.1 IRO President Harrypersad Maharaj says sex education should not be taught in school.
He asked who would be teaching the practicals.
He says that ending child marriage has led to an increase in the divorce rates.
He says the IRO made a unanimous decision. The IRO is the IRO. 17 religious groups of 25 were present at the meeting.
You see the level of ignorance we dealing with?
Child Marriage is Child Abuse!
‪#‎ProtectOurGirls

Many social media users called for the head of the IRO to step down, sharing this meme on Facebook:

Meme; widely shared on Facebook, which promotes the hashtags being used to advocate for an end to child marriage in Trinidad and Tobago.

Meme; widely shared on Facebook, which promotes the hashtags being used to advocate for an end to child marriage in Trinidad and Tobago.

In response to statements by certain members of the IRO for the state to stay out of religious matters, social media user Mark Lyndersay said:

Yes, the State should stay out of the Church. And the Church should stay out of the State. Start with building your own halls of worship.

Trinidad and Tobago has an awkward history of religious sects being granted state funds to build churches.

Members of the diaspora also weighed in. Cherise d'Abadie, who now lives in the United States, said of the debate:

It's like watching the live birthing of a T&T Tea Party.

Trinidadian Facebook user Charlene Thompson, who lives in Africa, shared a link about Theresa Kachindamoto, the chief of a Malawi tribe who has annulled hundreds of child marriages, saying:

This amazing woman will be speaking this weekend at TEDxLilongwe. Child marriage is a violation of the rights of a child. Please do some research, read and understand just how harmful child marriage is. ‪#‎endchildmarriage‬ ‪#‎childrights‬ ‪#‎notasubjectfordebate‬ ‪#‎betterdandattrinidadandtobago

The satirical website The Late O'Clock News couldn't resist weighing in on the issue, either, posting an outlandish story about the country's controversial children's hospital being repurposed as a nightclub for the IRO to “have a safe space with their child brides”. On Twitter, though, netizens were much more stern about the issue:

And so the public debate about an issue that many feel should not be up for debate, continues.

by Janine Mendes-Franco at May 20, 2016 03:29 AM

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