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September 02, 2015

Global Voices
Will a Visit From Taiwan's Former Vice President Lend Weight to China's Revisionist WWII History?
Taiwan Ex-president Lien Chan visited Beijing and met China President Xi Jinping back in 2013. Photo from Xinhua.

Taiwan's ex-Vice President Lien Chan visited Beijing and met China's President Xi Jinping back in 2013. Photo from Xinhua.

This post was co-authored with Global Voices partner New Bloom Magazine's editor Yeh Jiunn Tyng and Global Voices author I-fan Lin and translated into English by Tu Min.

Lien Chan, who served as vice president of Taiwan (Republic of China) from 1996 to 2000, has departed Taipei to attend a World War II military parade to be held in neighboring People's Republic of China on September 3, 2015. The news stirred a lot of controversy as Lien was a high-profile figure in Taiwan's ruling political party Kuomintang and his presence is symbolic to the Chinese Communist Party's military performance.

Kuomintang, which led Chinese efforts to defend against Japan's invasion in WWII, already commemorated the 70th anniversary of the war on July 4 in Taiwan. As the Chinese Communist Party does not recognize Kuomintang's leading role in the conflict, Lien's presence at the mainland military parade seems to do a disservice to his own party.

Ma Ying-Jeou, the president of Taiwan, has commented that it is not proper for Lien to attend the parade because it will back China's claim that the Chinese Communist Party were a crucial part of the defense against the Japanese invasion while downplaying Kuomintang's leadership. Hau Pei-Tsun, the ex-chief of the general staff of Taiwan from 1981 to 1989 and a veteran of WWII, also wrote an open letter to a Hong Kong-based paper, bidding the Chinese Communist Party to revise their interpretation of WWII history and recognize the Kuomintang's central role.

On several occasions since 2014, China's President Xi Jinping has ordered historians and intellectuals to delve into “the unwavering role” that the Chinese Communist Party played in the Second Sino-Japanese War, with the hope of establishing the party's legitimacy by playing to popular anti-Japanese sentiments. The struggle against Japan's invasion is hence the beginning of China's “national revival.” The military parade and film “The Cairo Declaration” are parts of the Chinese Communist Party's greater plan to promote its contribution in fighting against the Japanese locally and against fascism worldwide.

Unlike many important political figures in Kuomintang, Lien's family moved to Taiwan before the party relocated there after losing civil war to the Chinese Communist Party in 1949, four years after the end of WWII. Therefore, Lien embodies the Chinese Communist Party’s claim that the Taiwanese worked alongside the Chinese during the Second Sino-Japanese War, despite the fact that Taiwan was colonized by Japan at the time and many Taiwanese were asked to fight for Japan during WWII.

Skewed timelines

The Republic of China was established in 1911, but it was soon thrust into another period of warlordism. After Kuomintang leader Chiang Kai-shek pacified major warlords and announced the unification of China in 1928, Japan started its invasion of the northeastern Chinese city of Shenyang in 1931. The Japanese forces kept encroaching on Chiang’s army, leading to the declaration of the Second-Sino Japanese War in 1937. Besides external threats, internal conflict between the Kuomintang and the Chinese Communist Party was brewing. But the two political parties agreed to leave their issues aside and cooperate in fighting against the Japanese.

The Second Sino-Japanese War lasted eight years before the Japanese surrendered. Present-day depictions of the war vastly differ between the two parties. In Taiwan, the Kuomintang sees the Chinese Communist Party as avoiding battles with the Japanese, and then consolidating its power in Japanese-occupied regions. In China, the communist party downplays Kuomintang's wartime role.

The Chinese civil war broke out in the aftermath of the Second Sino-Japanese War. The Kuomintang, which was the ruling party of China back then, relocated to Taiwan in 1949. During the same year, the Chinese Communist Party established the People's Republic of China.

A Chinese netizen wondered on Twitter how the communist party could claim that they won the war against the Japanese in 1945 if the People's Republic of China wasn't established until four years later.

老師:「誰能用一句話,講一個精彩的穿越故事?」
學生:「一個1949年才成立的國家,卻在1945年的時候就成了戰勝國。」
老師:「你給我滾出去… …」

Teacher: “Who can tell a time-travel story in one sentence?
Student: “A country established in 1949 managed to gain victory in a war back in 1945.”
Teacher: “Go away and get lost… … “

‘A brainwashing event’

Lien Chan was the president candidate for Kuomintang in 2000 and 2004, but lost both elections to Chen Shui-Bian, the president candidate of Democratic Progressive Party. Because the Chinese Communist party did not trust Chen Shui-Bian, the relationship between China and Taiwan was tense during Chen’s administration. In 2005, China passed the Anti-Secession Law, which allows for the use of force to retake Taiwan if it should ever formally declare independence.

After losing to Chen Shui-bian in the 2004 election, Lien took advantage of the cross-strait tension and visited China in his capacity of Kuomintang chairman in April 2005, becoming the first chairman after 1949 to do so. Lien was even awarded the Confucius Peace Prize in 2010 for his relationship with China. In 2011 and 2014, the prize was awarded to Vladimir Putin and Fidel Castro, respectively.

Former Kuomintang Vice Party Secretary Chang Rong-gong who is accompanying Lien at the Beijing military parade, stressed in an interview:

大陸有大陸的觀點,雙邊對話可達到比單邊陳述達不到的效果,為兩岸未來開展共同研究抗戰史的契機。

Although mainland China has its own interpretation of the war, the presence of a dialogue clarifying this interpretation is still better than none. With mutual exchanges, and in hope of a good start, we will be working hard on researching the second Sino-Japanese War history.

However, many Taiwanese consider Lien's visit as a betrayal. Chen Ming-Fang, a professor in the department of Taiwanese literature at the National Cheng Chi University, commented on Facebook about Lien's visit:

九三大閱兵,是一次大洗腦。中國百姓看到軍容強盛的大陣仗,立即忘掉天津大爆炸,忘掉所有的貪官污吏,忘掉天安門事件的痛苦,忘掉文化大革命的羞辱。[…]連戰的到來,正好滿足了做為奴才的心願,可以與主子站在一起看閱兵,縱然他知道這樣的閱兵,其實是向台灣人民示威,縱然他知道這是在篡改歷史記憶。

The military parade on September 3 is a brainwashing event. Chinese citizens will see their strong army and soon forget the Tianjin explosion, the corrupt officials, the pain of the Tiananmen massacre, and the humiliation of Culture Revolution. […] Lien Chan's attendance just fulfills his own wish to be a stooge [of the Chinese Communist Party] to see the parade with his master, although he knows this military parade is a threat to Taiwanese and meant to alter history.

by New Bloom at September 02, 2015 01:49 PM

Hundreds of Austrians and Germans Turn Out to Welcome Refugees Arriving From Hungary
Vienna, Austria. 1 September 2015 -- A banner is held up by a group welcoming refugees arriving from Syria and Afghanistan at Vienna Railway Station where they plan to stay overnight en route to Germany. Photo by Martin Juen. Copyright Demotix

Vienna, Austria. 1 September 2015 — A banner is held up by a group welcoming refugees arriving from Syria and Afghanistan at Vienna Railway Station where they plan to stay overnight en route to Germany. Photo by Martin Juen. Copyright Demotix

Austrian and German citizens gathered to welcome thousands of refugees who were arriving by trains coming from the Hungarian border on September 1.

The evening before, the Hungarian police at Budapest's train station suddenly allowed refugees to enter trains leaving towards the Austrian border. Previously, refugees were forced to stay at train stations and in temporary camps in Hungary.

Journalist Christoph Schattleitner describes how at Vienna's train station, by 10 p.m. on Monday evening hundreds of people had arrived with donations they bought at a nearby supermarket. The outpouring of water, food and sanitary products was overwhelming, forcing some platforms to be closed. Authorities eventually had to urge people to stop providing more donations.

When refugees reported to be from Afghanistan, Eritrea and Syria arrived in Vienna on their way to Germany, they were met with cheers and applause:

Thunderous applause. Austria says ‘Refugees Welcome’

Happiness at the West train station

Voulunteers organize donations at the train station in Vienna. Picture by  Die Grünen Wienen.  Used with permission

Voulunteers organize donations at the train station in Vienna. Photo by Die Grünen Wienen. Used with permission.

In Munich in southern Germany, more than 3,000 refugees arrived on Tuesday morning. Also in Germany, citizens gathered at the train station to help with donations and welcome the exhausted refugees. The hashtag #trainofhope was used to organize volunteers, advertise what supplies and products were needed and tell people how they can help.

#refugeeswelcome to the max: Refugee family is escorted [out of the train station]. Supporters line up with umbrellas, give away soft toys.

This was very impressive today

Supporters arrange the donations in front of the central station

At some point the police in Munich urged people to stop donating:

Other organizations urged people to offer their mobile wifi hotspots and shops in the central station to open their routers to the arriving refugees:

We want to install wifi at the central station in Munich. Are there any shops close to the station who would install a router?

Refugees arriving in Germany have heavily relied on the kindness of citizens until recently, when the government ramped up its own efforts. Last week, Germany announced that it will allow all Syrian refugees to stay and apply for asylum instead of deporting them to their first port of entry, in accordance with European Union regulations.

Europe is experiencing a tremendous influx of refugees due to conflicts in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq as well as violence and instability elsewhere in the Middle East, South Asia and Africa. Dangerous crossings over the Mediterranean have also increased. Thus far, countries on the coast such as Greece and Italy have received a disproportionate number of refugees and asylum-seekers, while the Eastern European countries of Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Poland have resisted calls for a quota system to spread asylum-seekers out among the EU member states.

As European leaders bicker over how to deal with the crisis, people have lost their lives trying to reach the safety of the continent. Thousands have died or gone missing in the Mediterranean, according to the UN refugee agency. In late August, a truck with the bodies of 71 people was discovered on the side of an Austrian road; authorities say the victims, who are assumed to be refugees, suffocated.

As refugees made their way to Germany this week, many online users expressed their gratitude for and awe at the wave of solidarity among Germans and Austrians:

You cannot thank people for their support enough, those who are helping the refugees arriving at train stations or anywhere else. THANK YOU!

Something is working fundamentally right in this country. You overlook it often, but today it is impossible not to see it.

by Lena Nitsche at September 02, 2015 12:59 PM

Are Term Limits and Mandatory Political Changeover Really in the Interest of African Nations?
Chefs d' états de l’Afrique de l'Est. par Magnus Manske CC-BY-2.0

East African Community heads of state in 2009: Yoweri Museveni – Uganda; Mwai Kibaki – Kenya; Paul Kagame – Rwanda, Jakaya Kikwete – Tanzania, Pierre Nkurunziza – Burundi, by Magnus Manske CC-BY-2.0

The constitutions of several Sub-Saharan African countries limit presidents to two consecutive terms. The reason for this position is clear: these constitutions were inspired by western models—more often than not, the French Constitution. By embracing a fundamental law which was born on another continent, in another era and under different circumstances, and by failing to adapting this law to its new local context, you run the risk of its not being ideally suited to local politics.

During the build-up to elections in African countries where political change is predicted, the debate re-emerges almost systematically: should the Constitution be modified so that the state's political leader can set his or her sights on a new mandate?

Today, the question is directed towards Rwanda, the Republic of Congo and even Burundi. It is healthy debate such subjects, but it is also regrettable that this debate emerges only in pre-election periods, when candidates often have an ax to grind and fail to look at the bigger picture, and even make statements that contradict their deepest convictions.

In the Republic of Congo, for example, after having long denounced the current constitution, the opposition now rejects the notion that the Constitution should eventually be changed. The reason for this is that the change in question could see the current president, Sassou Nguesso, setting his sights on a third term in 2016. So the Congolese opposition has found itself once again in the indefensible position of defending a document it has always fought against, and of having to reject outright a new, more democratic constitution than even it had wished for. On the margins of electoral affairs, there would still be subjects leading to deep analysis of the need for mandatory political changeover after two mandates.

The reality of political life and the exercise of power in Africa date back to the frameworks that emerged in the pre-colonial period. The kingdoms and leaderships which widely controlled Africa were governed at the time by hierarchical clan or family principles. Political changeover “African style” is characterized by very specific traditions, under which the candidate running for office must already be a well-known figure who, in short, must already have proven himself before being able to take power. Failing which, he would not be taken seriously.

The strong community ties that prevail in Africa stand in contrast to the relative individualism prevalent in the West that accounts for lightning careers and dazzling success stories. In numerous African countries, a “great man” can only be replaced by another, which explains the popularity of men who, as soon as their governance has been declared legitimate, have held on to political power for a long time. In Europe, on that basis alone and regardless of their track record, they would be called tyrants.

President Paul Kagame of Rwanda - CC BY 2.0 via wikipedia

President Paul Kagame of Rwanda – CC BY 2.0 via wikipedia

This concept of power, while perhaps appearing somewhat quaint to westerners today, was not always limited to Africans. The constitutions which from which African states have drawn inspiration are all derived from the first global constitution, born in the United States in 1787. This document did not foresee any limitation of presidential terms. As Yann Gwet, the Cameroonian businessman and writer, recalls in the newspaper Jeune Afrique, the Founding Fathers of the United States, in particular Alexander Hamilton, believed that limiting terms in office would encourage behavior that was contrary to the national interest and the stability of the government. According to the Founding Fathers, in a democracy, only sovereign people are entitled to impose limits on the number of presidential terms. That's precisely why we vote.

Although the United States adopted early on the tradition of limiting presidential terms to two, it was because George Washington, tired of governing, decided to withdraw at the end of his second term. But at the time it was still only a tradition, destined to evolve. The proof, much later, was when Franklin Roosevelt strung together a whopping four terms. As Yann Gwet quite rightly wrote, it still stands that if Washington had waited till the end of his third mandate before proclaiming himself too weary to continue, the tradition, and later on the Constitution, might have retained the figure of three terms instead of two.

In 1947, the Republican opposition, who held the majority in two chambers, approved the 22nd Amendment, which expressly limits the number of presidential terms in office to two. This was above all a political decision, motivated by the fear of seeing themselves further excluded from power for more than a decade. In 1944, however, when the Republican party failed to win the election, it was above all because it wasn't able to offer a sufficiently competent candidate who could stand up to Roosevelt. In this context, political changeover would have weakened the country, which was at the time engaged in a global war.

That is what revealed itself to be the major drawback of the principle of political changeover: the quality of the alternatives on offer. A country is in good shape when its successive leaders are of top quality. That's just as crucial in Africa, where colonisers creating states from scratch divided territories without any consideration for pre-existing ethnic groups. States were outlined according to territory and not to nations or peoples. The resulting tensions are often still real, and it appears reckless to compromise the state of fragile stability that exists in certain countries by putting in command either an incompetent or a figure widely unpopular with a certain segment of the population.

Africa is still a vulnerable continent. Multinational companies, foreign investors, religious fundamentalists—these and others are trying to take the lion's share, shamelessly exploiting resources and people. However, in many cases, even if the opposition knows they are not able to put forward a candidate capable of securing the country's best interests against all kinds of speculators, they apply constitutional leverage to push aside presidents who have arrived at the end of their two mandates. Such manoeuvres, more often than not, jeopardise the stability of the state and, in effect, that of the people.

The idea is obviously not to allow Africa's leaders an unlimited number of terms in office, or even less so to establish life-long presidential terms, but instead to adapt the substance of the constitution to the country's specific needs. From the moment political changeover becomes a constitutional obligation, it cannot be regarded as anything but a constraint in countries where there are few leading figures capable of securing the role of head of state.

The real challenge is therefore not, in some strange arbitrary manner, to limit the number of presidential mandates to two throughout Africa, but to guarantee free, transparent and incontestable elections. If the people really don't wish to see their president re-elected a third time, they'll protest via the ballot box—and vice-versa.

by Elizabeth Arif-Fear at September 02, 2015 07:31 AM

Can Iranian TV Seduce Viewers in the Land of Telenovelas?
Hispan TV, a program of Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) tries to reach Spanish speaking audiences, and as of recent, is trying to compete with popular Telenovelas for the attention of Latin American audiences.

Hispan TV, a program of Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) tries to reach Spanish speaking audiences, and as of recent, is trying to compete with popular Telenovelas for the attention of Latin American audiences. YouTube screen capture.

In an attempt to bring Iran closer to the Latin American region, Hispan TV, a channel in Spanish run by the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) and accessible on YouTube, is broadcasting Iranian TV series dubbed in Spanish for Latin American audiences. Various stories about Iranians are included in these broadcasts, including love stories meant to compete with the familiar romance dramas audiences in the region know well.

Iran and Latin American countries, like Venezuela, have maintained oddly strange political ties over the years. Global Voices has written previously about the disconnect that exists between Venezuelan culture and Iran. Much of Latin American culture does not shy away from scantily clad women and alcohol, while Iran's ruling elite, and significant portions of Iranian society try to abide by conservative and religious sentiments. Despite this, it seems both countries are doing what they can to maintain an active cultural exchange, as we saw an influx of Iranians travelling to Caracas to populate government projects and offices, as part of the relationship. This exchange has continued into television media, it seems, as Iran's state run Spanish network endeavors to win hearts and minds with its own flavour of Iranian entertainment.

But could these series, which embrace morals very close to the traditional and conservative Iranian values promoted by the government, possibly gain popularity in a region so used to a very different set of stories and aesthetics?

The views on Youtube don't seem to go over 100, even after a discrete, but noticeable evolution in the storylines. The most recent program, Longitude 0, is a romantic love story between an Iranian student and a young Jewish woman in Paris. While dabbling in a topic thought of as controversial by Iranian standards, the series seems ignorant about the typical norms of Latin American TV audiences. For instance, television and films across Latin America typically use a standard Latin American accent. In most Hispan TV's broadcasts, however, they speak with a Spanish accent, a striking and often laughable difference for Latin American audiences.

Despite this, these Iranian shows try to break from Iranian norms in other subtle ways, probably in an effort to appeal to Latin American viewers. Women, for instance, seem to wear more make up, and even the non-Muslim characters appear on camera without the veil.

PerSoap

“Longitude 0″ is the Spanish name given to the Iranian series that tells the story of Habib, a young Iranian student who falls in love with a Jewish young woman named Sara. Screenshot of the Youtube video available on HispanTV channel.

On social media, there isn't much commentary about Hispan TV, and the comments that can be found indicate resistance to the new network. Complaints appear to echo typical mainstream stereotypes about Iran. In Venezuela, for example, Leonardo Padrón, a well known soap opera writer, tweeted an observation about the announcement of a possible connection between the previous opposition TV station Globovisión and Hispan TV. In response, users criticized the project, while others cracked jokes using the names of famous Venezuelan soap operas, imagining what they might have been called, had they been Iranian shows:

They'll release soap operas named “The Lapidated Woman,” “The Lady of the Burka,” “My Beautiful Burka,” and “Covered Face.”

Iranian television programming in Latin America has a long way to go, before it can rival the appeal enjoyed by more established entertainment, like shows from Turkey. Indeed, the more lavish, dramatic, and often sex-infused Turkish soap operas, such as Thousand and One Nights, have gained a popular following in the home of the telenovela.

Inside Iran, Latin American soap operas seem to win out, too. Iranian audiences flock to tune into Latin American telenovelas in massive numbers through satellite television.

Years ago, there was a heated debate when Farsi1, a channel based in the United Arab Emirates and accessed in Iran through illegal satellites not associated with the state, broadcast El Cuerpo del Deseo. Translated as Second Chance, the subject matter of the program was deemed to be excessively sexual by Farsi1, which censored some of its content. In fact, the trailer alone for this show illustrates the cultural and stylistic differences between telenovelas and HispanTV's productions.

Iran's offering of dramas attached to family and traditional values is hard to sell against these typical melodramas. Despite these contrasts, the cultural exchange taking place is undeniable, and the contrasts in television produced in these two cultures speak volumes about the different roles and representations of women, family, romance, and more.

by Laura Vidal at September 02, 2015 06:50 AM

Doc Searls
Everything we know is provisional

flyingsaucer

Dogs flew spaceships.The Aztecs invented the vacation. Men and women are the same sex. Our forefathers took drugs. Your brain is not the boss. Yes, that’s right: everything you know is wrong. — Firesign Theatre

In The Half-Life of Facts: Why Everything We Know Has an Expiration Date, Samuel Arbesman says most of what we know will be replaced, eventually, by new and better facts.

Let’s not argue Arbesman’s case either way. Instead let’s admit that there is at least some truth to it — a rightness: something we can agree on, even if we believe he’s wrong in some ways. After all, he’s talking about science.

Science is both a body of knowledge and a formal approach to growing it. In science, settled knowledge is organized into piles of agreements, many of which are about truths that are lacking in facts, or supported by facts that will be replaced with others, no less provisional than the originals.

In this sense science is a belief system; but hardly a religious one, since every belief might be less than a matter of faith than an operating assumption that will have to do for now.

On the whole we tend to believe scientists who have earned their greatness, or come close enough. What we grant them is authority.

It is interesting to approach the subject of authority by looking at the noun information, which is derived from the verb inform, which in turn is derived from the verb to form.

If you tell me something I didn’t know, and it becomes part of what I know — my own belief system — you haven’t just “delivered” to me a sum of unseen substance called “information,” as if it were container cargo. You have formed me. I am not exactly as I was before. I am larger, at least in the sense that humans are learning animals, best improved by learning until the moment they die. (“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever,” Gandhi is said to have said.)

Therefore authority is the right we grant others to form us. Put another way, we are all authors of each other.

Yet even our idols walk on clay feet when that’s the only way to get around. In Annals of the Former World, John McPhee reports that the geologist Kenneth S. Deffeyes once asked his friend and colleague W. Jason Morgan what he would do for an encore to Rises, Trenches, Great Faults and Crustal Blocks, Morgan’s landmark paper in the founding canon of plate tectonics. “Morgan said he didn’t know,” McPhee writes, “but possibly the most exciting thing to do next would be to prove the theory wrong.”

Though it be canon, the theory of plate tectonics is provisional, even to its primary authors. But for now it’s the working model we call a paradigm.

Before plate tectonics, the encompassing paradigm for geology — its canon — was the geosyncline. It was, in a three word phrase that will be with geology forever, “not well understood.” Plate tectonics is better understood than was the geosyncline, but there are still lots of gaps in it, filled mostly with working assumptions, about which there are plenty of disagreements.

Michael Polanyi, a scientist and philosopher (in that order) says science moves toward its settled facts by a process of creative guesswork that relies far more on tacit rather than explicit forms of knowing. His only quotable line, “We know more than we can tell” summarizes what he means by tacit. But that ain’t enough.

To unpack it a bit more, tacit knowledge is how we can far more easily recognize a person’s face than describe it.

We rely on tacit knowing when we make things explicit as well. Consider this: we usually don’t know know how we will end the sentences we start, or remember how we started the sentences we are ending, yet we somehow communicate meaning anyway. That meaning is mostly tacit as well.

All these things are high on my mind because lately I have been entering discussions on science, and feel a need to dump my brain (or what little I can make explicit of my tacit knowing on the subject). I also feel compelled to add one observation and a one story — about my own guessing on the subject of how the Rockies got there.

Here is the observation: There is no urge more human than the one to alter a permanent structure. Think about it. The first thing anybody moving into a new house wants to do is change it. Enclose the porch. Move a door. Change the flooring. Put in a new bathroom off the back hall. The best book ever written on this subject is Stewart Brand‘s How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They Are Built. It came out in 1994 and is no less brilliant now than it was then. Get it if you’re even thinking of buying, building or remodeling a house.

(Less great but no less useful to my wife and I, when we were remodeling our first place in the mid-’90s, was Your New House, by Alan and Denise Fields, now available for 1¢ on Amazon. I don’t have it with me, and the “look inside” thing doesn’t reveal the whole text, but here’s what I remember from it: “Your builder is not Bob Vila. Your builder is a crew of drunks, ex-felons and misfits who show up on alternate Thursdays.” While not true, it’s close enough.)

Now for the Rockies. In Annals of the Former World, John McPhee writes, “Plate tectonics theorists have been more than a little inconvenienced by the great distances that separate the mountains from the nearest plate boundary.”

At the time McPhee wrote that, it was generally assumed that when one plate subducted under another, it was at a deep angle. Flying over the Rockies many dozens of times after first reading that in the ’80s, I developed my own theory: that the Farallon plate (a former Pacific sea floor) didn’t dive under the western edge of North America, but instead slid under it at a shallow angle, like a piece of plywood under a rug. So I felt pretty smart about that until I later read that real geologists, William R. Dickinson and Walter S. Snyder, had theorized “flat subduction” (perhaps best explained here), in 1978, as an explanation of the Laramide Orogeny, which produced roughly the Rockies we know, within a few dozen million years.

(It’s actually messier than I thought. Or seems to be. Here’s what NASA says has become of the subducted Farallon, now deep in the mantle. By the way, what got scraped off the top of the plate as it went into the trench is what we call the Bay Area. Or, in geo lingo, the Franciscan assemblage.)

My purpose with this isn’t to brag on something I thought up (and turned out not to be original) but rather to point to contributions of greater substance I’ve been making to geology ever since, in the form of aerial photographs that geologists can use. Many do. So do Wikimedia Commons and Wikipedia.

“Make yourself useful,” Mom used to say. So I do.

To sum up, my provisional conclusion about science is that it’s all provisional: as functional and temporary as scaffolding. And now, thanks to the Internet, we can all take part in raising scientific barns of a countless kinds, and then re-raising more and better ones as we gather more facts, learn more stuff, share more knowledge, and better author each other in the process.

Bonus link: David Weinberger‘s Too Big to Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That the Facts Aren’t the Facts, Experts Are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room Is the Room. My short review: it formed me.

by Doc Searls at September 02, 2015 03:26 AM

What’s up with @TMobile in North Carolina?

Check this out:

oakleaf

I took that screen shot at the excellent Oakleaf restaurant in Pittsboro, NC a few days ago. Note the zero bars (or dots) of telephone service, and the very respectable (tested!) data service. To confirm what the hollow dots said, I tried to make a call. Didn’t work.

This seems to be a new thing for T-Mobile in North Carolina, where I spent much of this summer — or at least in the parts of it where I visited.

The company’s mobile phone coverage is pretty lousy to begin with, on the whole: great on highways and in the larger towns; but spotty when you head into the suburbs and countryside. What changed is the sudden near-disappearance of voice phone coverage in some places where it had worked before, and the improvement at the same time of data coverage.

At my sister’s house, near a major interstate highway, I could use my phone on the porch or in the yard, but not indoors, where I’d see the most dreaded two words in mobile telephony: “no service.” Or at least that was the case in July and early August.

Then something strange happened. I started getting data service indoors at her house, and in other places where before there was nothing. But all I got was data, identified by that little “LTE.” Telephony was five empty dots. At my sister’s place I also couldn’t make or get a call out in the yard, on the street, or anywhere in the neighborhood. But the data service was now terrific.

So I’m wondering if this is just me, or if T-Mobile is lately favoring data over telephony in some places. Anybody know? (I note that T-Mobile’s coverage maps only seem to deal with data, not telephony. But maybe I’m missing something.)

By the way, I should add that I wouldn’t trade T-Mobile for any other carrier right now, because I travel a lot outside the country. In addition to fine coverage in New York, Boston, and all the places I tend to go in California, T-Mobile gives me free data roaming and texting everywhere I go, and 20¢/minute on the phone. Yes, the data rates tend to be 2G rather than 3G or 4G/LTE. But it tends to be good enough most of the time. It also makes me tolerant of a less-than-ideal coverage footprint here in the U.S.

by Doc Searls at September 02, 2015 01:34 AM

September 01, 2015

Global Voices
Ecuadorian Journalist Fired Over His Outspoken Tweets
A screenshot of journalist Martín Pallares' Twitter account.

A screenshot of journalist Martín Pallares’ Twitter account.

Journalist Martín Pallares was fired on August 17 from the newspaper El Comercio, where he had worked for the past 13 years, over his personal Twitter account. According to freedom of expression organization Fundamedios, Pallares had been very critical of the Ecuadorian government in his tweets.

The newspaper officially says his dismissal was the result of his ignoring “cordial requests” made several months earlier to “comply with the best practices in social networks guidelines.” On his Twitter account, which has 15,800 followers, Pallares states, “What I say here is my sole responsibility and has no connection to my employer.”

Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa frequently talks about the journalist during his weekly Saturday addresses to the nation. According to freedom of expression network IFEX's annual report for 2013, “In at least ten separate occasions, President Correa has used adjectives such as ‘sick man, ink assassin, nuts, etc.’, to refer to the journalist.”

In an interview with the blog Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas, Pallares recounted his firing and the realities facing media in Ecuador:

The international community has been more involved in issues in Venezuela or Cuba, perhaps because they are more attractive internationally. The situation in Ecuadoran is getting more attention, but I think that the international organizations should help all journalists because I am not the only one, there are others they have been critical and have been dismissed from their media outlets.

His dismissal comes after a state of emergency allowing for censorship of communications, including in social media, was declared regarding the Cotopaxi volcano eruption, which caused the evacuation of nearby towns. Also in mid-August, the government canceled the visa of French-Brazilian journalist Manuela Picq.

Journalism in the Americas blog reports that “hostility to journalists, the media and activists has strained Ecuador, and attacks on freedom of expression are becoming more frequent.”

by Global Voices Latin America at September 01, 2015 06:17 PM

Donald Trump's Spat with News Anchor Jorge Ramos Highlights His Xenophobic Message
Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 9.50.47 AM

Screen shot of the video that capture the moment when Donald Trump's bodyguard pushed Mexican American Journalist Jorge Ramos out of the press conference.

At a recent press conference, would-be Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and his campaign team sparked controversy after security ejected a leading Mexican-American anchor from the Q&A and a Trump staffer told him to “get out of my country” in the hallway outside the conference.

Univision has long been the No. 1 network among Hispanics in the United States, and is becoming the most watched prime time network in the country, taking on competition in the form of ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC. Long-serving Jorge Ramos, who was pressing Trump on his anti-immigration policies at the time he was evicted, is its main anchor.

When Ramos stood up and said: “I'd like to talk about immigration” at the August 24 press conference in Dubuque, Iowa, Trump responded by ramping up his anti-immigrant rhetoric. The erudite Ramos stopped him in his tracks.

Struggling to maintain concentration, Trump appeared to signal to security to deal with Ramos. Ramos was subsequently ejected from the conference. Their first exchange is below:

Ramos’ first question was stark and simple: How did Trump propose to deport 11 million people from the United States?

Instead of answering, Trump told him: “Sit down” and “Go back to Univision.” Ramos persevered and asked how Trump intended to finance a wall across the Mexican border and justify the mass deportation of US-born children.

As security escorted Ramos from the room, the anchor could be heard saying: “Don’t touch me. I am a reporter. I have a right to ask questions.”

In a video released by Univisión, Ramos was shown being accosted in the hallway by a male Trump staffer, who sneered “Univision” and said: “Get out of my country.”

Ramos responded that he was an American citizen, to which the staffer responded: “Whatever.”

Later, a young woman who identified herself as another Trump staffer approached Ramos and asked if he would like to return to the press conference, admonishing him to “wait until you are called upon…. I’m sure he’ll call upon you.”

After Ramos was readmitted to the conference, Trump said ostentatiously: “Good to have you back.”

Ramos began to speak:

You cannot deport [11 million] people. You cannot deny citizenship to their children. You cannot build a wall…

At this point Trump asserted that “a lot of people think” those things could be done through an Act of Congress, and then digressed to a discussion of pregnant women crossing the border within a day of giving birth, using the derogatory term “anchor babies”.

Ramos then said: “Nobody is going to build a 1900 mile wall”, to which Trump replied: “I’m a builder.”

The real estate developer cum reality television entertainer referred to his “94 story buildings” over Ramos’s interjections: “What’s more complicated is building a building that’s 95 stories tall.”

Trump then moved on to the subject of drugs coming across the border: “They have pictures… coming over the fences which are this high. There are fences which are not as tall as I am.”

Trump asserted that Border Patrol was not being allowed to stop people at the border, and when Ramos managed to ask if he was intending to call in the military, Trump suddenly changed course and asked Ramos if he agreed “that there are gangs”: “Do you agree that there are some bad ones or do you think that everyone is just perfect?”

Trump then switched to calling out locations salient to the Black Lives Matter movement without clearly making the connection with Latinos or the Mexican border:

“They looked at gangs in Baltimore. They looked at gangs in Chicago. They looked at gangs in Ferguson.”

As Ramos attempted to return to his question, Trump exclaimed: “I can’t deal with this” and began addressing another reporter.

On Friday’s 4 pm EST edition of the Univisión program El gordo y la flaca, Ramos told presenters: “I hope it’s easier to talk to you than it is to talk to Donald Trump.”

Speaking in Spanish, Ramos brought up the following points:

“11 million people. Are you going to put people in stadiums?”

“75% of Latinos have a negative view of Donald Trump.”

When asked if he thought he had spoken out of turn, Ramos tried to explain how press conferences function:

Sometimes people are called, sometimes people speak out. Nobody else was talking when I asked my question. I asked my question, he didn’t like my question and he tried to cut me off.

This was the first time in my 30 year career as a reporter that I have been removed from a press conference.

This is not Donald Trump’s country. It is our country.

If we as reporters do not take a stand and ask the difficult questions, we are not doing our job.

When asked if he thought Trump could possibly be the next president of the United States, Ramos said he had no idea.

It is a grave error not to take Donald Trump seriously. His ideas are very dangerous.… Many millions of Americans think the way he does, and this is what is very dangerous.

They blame immigrants…. We need to make sure that we will not accept this sitting down…. There comes a moment to confront that.

When asked if he believes he will ever have a sit-down interview with Trump, he said he doubted it despite the fact that Trump was “someone so outspoken.”

In conclusion, Ramos said that “16 million Latinos will be able to go to the polls in the next election and it is very important for Latinos to come out and vote.”

by Danica Jorden at September 01, 2015 06:11 PM

‘Maximizing the Good, Hiding the Bad': How Poverty and Welfare Are Measured in Uzbekistan
Demotix Photo: ID: 198150. From Moynaq, Uzbekistan. 15 March 2013, by Yan Seiler.

Demotix Photo: ID: 198150. From Moynaq, Uzbekistan. 15 March 2013, by Yan Seiler.

In Uzbek there is a saying, yaxshilikni oshirib, yomonlikni yashirish, that translates roughly as “maximize the good, hide the bad”. It seems this practice is being widely applied in measuring poverty and development in Uzbekistan and the broader Central Asian region.

In local official mass media, the word ‘poverty’ is used exclusively to denote harder socio-economic times experienced by the republic during the Soviet period. Increasingly, poor people have made way for the more politically correct “vulnerable groups of the population”.

The eradication of extreme poverty and hunger is one of eight development goals adopted in September 2000 as part of the New York UN Millennium Declaration signed by all member countries and leading development institutions. This year commemorates 15 years since those goals were adopted. Talk is now of a ‘post-2015 agenda’.

el-yurt

“El-yurt tayanchi” (support of the country) monument personifies a futuristic Uzbek family with a daughter and a son unveiled by President Islam Karimov in 2006 in Karshi, the city of a province where he governed in late 1980's. It indirectly hints at the quantity of kids each Uzbek household might wish to have in decades from now. Photo by author.

Overall, there are conflicting narratives and interpretations about human development in Central Asia. Reports of international development institutions on the region differ. The reason for this duplicity is an absence of transparency and official readiness to present real data to international human development bodies.

For example, although the Food Agriculture Organisation's latest ‘State of Food Insecurity in the World 2015’ report commended Central Asia for “remarkably rapid progress in reducing hunger”, another report from the same organization notes that “lack of effective governance is rife in developing countries, and is especially acute in Central Asia and Central Africa.”

Poverty in Uzbekistan, however it is defined or calculated, has a seasonal character. It varies from one location to another, and suffers from serious institutional and legislative deficiencies. For instance, in 2015 weather in the country was particularly harsh. Due to abnormally cold weather in April, frost diminished 70% of the harvest from fruit trees in Uzbekistan.

Coupled with the fact the country reportedly exported 50 tons of fruits and vegetables to Russia, it is unsurprising that prices sky-rocketed, leaving many people few choices to consume or preserve it in glass jars for the winter, a tradition widely practised in the region.

And yet poverty in Uzbekistan is the subject of discretion. Teachers and doctors might prefer to bring their own lunch to work than pay for it in the canteen. People proudly own their own flats and houses but find themselves sharing them with more relatives than you can imagine.

Strong social bonds and remittances from abroad have contributed to effectively cloaking poverty, but have not completely banished it.

One 2009 UNICEF report on child poverty in Uzbekistan revealed that “pre-school enrolment is especially low in rural areas (19.2% of children at the respective age).”

Only 20% of children aged 3 years old to 5 years old are attending preschool, a figure that was much higher prior to independence.

Disabled people are another group poverty impacts disproportionately. According to the UNDP in Tashkent officially “people with disabilities number 780,000 people (2% of total population)” of whom 52% are women and 48% are men. Up to 70% of them are unemployed, while the level of poverty among people with disabilities is at least four times higher than the average in the country.

Disparities in living standards also vary widely between city centers and rural villages in a way that the Gini Coefficient, which measures the income of the richest part of the population against the poorest, cannot always grasp.

The poverty line is well above the 15% barrier in Jizzakh, Karakalpakstan, Khorezm, Namangan, Navoi, Surhandarya and Syrdarya, for instance, which represents more than half of the country.

Prosperity is perhaps only truly noticeable in the capital Tashkent, where around 2% live beneath the poverty line and where authorities are clamping down on luxurious weddings that sow envy in society.

map

Source: MDG Goals Report Uzbekistan 2015 (p.18), Center for Economic Research/UNDP

Perhaps the biggest indicator of poverty and general development failure in Uzbekistan and other Central Asian countries, however, is high rates of out-migration.

According to the Russian Migration Service, citizens of Uzbekistan (2,095,234 – 6.9% of population) top the list of Central Asians in the country. They are followed by Tajikistan (1,038,940 – 13% of population), Kazakhstan (693,793 – 4%), Kyrgyzstan (513,917 – 9.1%) and Turkmenistan (20,225 – 0.36%).

State media prefers to “maximize the good” and frequently refers to the World Happiness Report for 2015 that ranked Uzbekistan in 44th place worldwide ahead of Slovakia, Japan and South Korea and first among republics belonging to the Commonwealth of Independent States. But if millions of citizens were truly happy would they really have migrated abroad and associated their future with other countries?

by Zabikhulla Saipov at September 01, 2015 05:57 PM

Bahrain's Bombings: Unsolved Puzzles that End Up with Death Sentences
Karranah, Bahrain. 15th February 2014 -- Renewed clashes after protesters crawled to the Pearl Roundabout. Demonstrators marched towards the Pearl Roundabout, which was closed three years ago by the forces of order. Security forces dispersed the crowd with tear gas. Photograph by Sayed Baqer Alkamel. Copyright: Demotix

Karranah, Bahrain. 15th February 2014 — Renewed clashes after protesters crawled to the Pearl Roundabout. Demonstrators marched towards the Pearl Roundabout, which was closed three years ago by the forces of order. Security forces dispersed the crowd with tear gas. Photograph by Sayed Baqer Alkamel. Copyright: Demotix

Bahrain government's credibility is challenged by eyebrow-raising questions with every announcement of some sort of attack against its security forces. Over the past few months, the Interior Ministry declared a number of home-made bomb attacks that targeted police patrols on duty. The most recent was in a village named Karranah, on Budaiya Highway, west of Manama capital city.

This announcement by the Ministry on Interior on August 28 said a policeman was killed in a “terrorist” blast in Karranah:

On Twitter, Bubahrain challenged the ministry to make public the recordings of the attack.

There are surveillance cameras fixed along Budaiya Highway, from the roundabout and up to Budaiya area. Would the interior ministry broadcast the recordings to see who placed the bomb?

Bahrainmomo tweeted to her 39k followers doubting the bombing had happened in the first place.

The (number of) bombings increased as the government sent troops to fight in the war on Yemen. So for every victim who dies there, a scenario is made up here to accuse the opposition.

Alya Radhi adds:

After the Kuwait blast, pictures of the bombing, the wounded and the martyrs were shared in photo and film. Why have we not seen this in the Karranah blast?

The KarranahNews account on Twitter, which has 62K followers, cited the wide absence of confidence in the government.

On top of this, we call for a neutral inquiry body (to investigate) the bombing, we have no confidence in the stories told by the regime against the youth and people. The regime is not a neutral side.

Bahrain has been rocked by wide protests for political reform since the so-called Arab-Spring spilled over from Tunisia to other parts of the Arab world. The massive nonviolent protests that once filled main streets have been repeatedly banned since the opposition boycotted the parliamentary elections in December 2014. Smaller nightly protests are contained inside residential areas today. Of course, trouble makers who want to turn peaceful uprisings to violent movements can be found just about anywhere. So whether these bomb attacks are real or not remains a puzzle with the government ignoring calls to allow an international body to open investigations into the deaths of the policemen.

In this context, the Ministry of Interior is also being slammed for its obvious bias position from the victims of the political crisis that undermined the security situation in the country. Soon after the blast, the ministry announced a number of arrests.

Ahmed Alsaffar comments:

After 24 hours, more than 20 people have become suspects!! Over two years and to date, the killer of the martyr Ahmed Ismail has not been arrested yet.

[Ahmed Ismail was killed while filming protest in April 2012].

International news agencies report Bahrain's death toll since 2011 to be at least 65 people, however, rights groups believe the number is much higher.

Leading opposition group Al Wefaq issued a statement condemning the attack.

Human Right First's Director, Brian Dooley, expected the random arrests that usually follow such news, also, highlighting the Bahraini judiciary's lack of integrity shown over the past years.

“In the coming hours we can sadly expect to see a roundup of those the government claims are suspects, but the security forces’ reputation for lying and fabrication means there is virtually no chance of a fair trial or due legal process for those arrested. That, in turn, will likely further polarize the country and lead to greater unrest”.

Bahraini journalist Nazeeha Saeed reported arrest of three photojournalists right after the blast took place.

The photojournalists, who were rounded up from a coffee shop close to where the blast took place, were held for a few hours for questioning and later released.

Cases like this one have usually ended up with death sentences despite an international outcry as Bahrain is listed among countries that issue death sentences based on confessions extracted under torture and ill-treatment.

by Batool Al Musawi at September 01, 2015 04:15 PM

Police Violently Remove Activists Occupying Lebanon's Ministry of Environment
Supporters and protesters outside the Ministry of Environment building where #YouStink activists are staging a sit in. Photograph shared by Joey Ayoub on Twitter (@joeyayoub)

Supporters and protesters outside the Ministry of Environment building where #YouStink activists are staging a sit in. Photograph shared by Joey Ayoub on Twitter (@joeyayoub)

Updated at 20:47 GMT.

Security forces violently removed about 30 protesters from Lebanon's You Stink movement from the Ministry of Environment in Beirut. The activists had planned to occupy the building until the Minister of Environment stepped down for failing to address the country's trash crisis.

About 50 Lebanese protesters of the “You Stink” movement and other movements have announced an open occupation of the Ministry of Environment on Tuesday, hours before a 72 hour deadline to meet the protesters demands ended.

Minister Mohamad Machnouk was trapped in his office, as the government shut down the ministry, preventing more activists from joining the protesters, who stayed put, calling for Machnouk to resign. Authorities also cut off the electricity in the floor the sit in was being staged and has since deployed the army around Beirut. A squad of riot police were also sent in to the ministry, supposedly to deal with the sit in, who have reportedly started beating up the protesters.

Outside the ministry, hundreds of protesters have gathered, and the numbers continue to swell, to lend a hand to the sit in.

The protesters are chanting “leave leave” in reference to Minister Machnouk.

Al Hadath's correspondent: The minister of environment is being trapped inside the ministry by the You Stink movement

Other media channels are reporting that security forces are trying to get the minister out of the building through a back door. However the minister refuses to leave the building and wants to remain inside the building under the security's protection.

Communications coordinator at Human Rights Watch Rita Nehme confirms:

Meanwhile, people are starting to gather outside the ministry in Riyadh Al Solh in solidarity with the open occupation, and the police have locked the doors to prevent more people from joining the sit-in.

Luna Safwan tweets a picture of the protesters from inside the building:

First photos of #YouStink activists occupying the Environment Ministry now

Police Chief Mohammed Al Ayoubi had a meeting with the minister Al Machnouq and decided to allow a representative of the protesters to talk to the minister. However, the protesters turned down this deal and insisted on the resignation of the minister.

The Minister has announced yesterday his decision to suspend his participation from the newly formed ministerial committee that is tasked with finding a solution and managing Lebanon's trash crisis. However his decision was not good enough for the protesters who insist on his resignation from the position as a minister of environment.

AFP Beirut Correspondent Maya Gebeily reports:

Several pictures have been circulating on social media from the scenes inside and outside the ministry:

Police have been deployed to block all entrances that lead to the building, tweet Abit Ghattas:

Myra Abdulla shares a video of protesters trying to find other ways to get in:

Mashable news shares another video from inside the ministry:

Imad Bazzi, one of the You Stink leaders who is among the people inside the ministry, told the media that they are not planning to trash the ministry or destroy public institution, rather they are having a civilized sit-in to demand the resignation of the minister and won't leave until their demand is met. Outside, protesters echo the statement and confirm, they too will not leave the area until their demands are met.

In addition to Machnouk's resignation, the demands whose deadline ended today include a permanent, sustainable solution to the garbage crisis, which initially took the people to the streets. Other demands are holding accountable all those who have wasted public funds during the last period and holding accountable the minister of interior and all those who gave orders to open fire at the protesters.

You Stink has broadened its focus beyond officials’ mishandling of the refuse problem following the closure of the country's largest landfill in July. Members are now calling for the government's resignation, an end to corruption and fresh parliamentary elections, among other demands. Lebanon, already suffering from a poor infrastructure and daily electricity cuts, has had no president for over a year. In 2009, its parliament extended its term until 2017, with no elections, citing instability as a reason.

by Faten Bushehri at September 01, 2015 02:52 PM

Global Voices Radio Is Now Streaming Around the Clock
Global Voices Radio image by Kevin Rothrock

Global Voices Radio image by Kevin Rothrock

Beginning September 1, Global Voices Radio will be streaming around the clock. For 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, listeners can enjoy programming from around the globe, including world music, conversations about news events, and original content from our podcast partners across all of the different time zones. Through our Airtime Pro platform, you can access our Internet radio station from a web browser or mobile device.

Please visit our GV Radio landing page to see what is currently playing in your time zone and what programming is scheduled for that day. You can also listen using the player widget embedded in this post.

We will continue to feature content produced by our Global Voices community, such as our award-winning GV podcast, audio from select sessions from our recent summit, and audio from our GV Face conversation series. Partner content mentioned in previous GV Radio posts will also be highlighted, such as digital storytelling from Radio Ambulante, feature podcasts from Loa, and world music curated by GV community members in Mexico and Ghana, and much more.

This week we welcome two new podcast partners: Spotlight and Hyperlink.

Spotlight

Created by Global Voices community member Jakub Górnicki, the Spotlight podcast features interviews and profiles about current events taking place around the world, with a special focus on Eastern Europe.

This is Spotlight – discussing society and technology. The show brings out the people and ideas changing our world and aims to help you understand it better. Jakub Górnicki hosts travel and report blog Podróżniccy’s new podcast – Spotlight.

Hyperlink

As part of the Hyperstage platform, the Hyperlink podcast is an Arabic-language program that focuses on technology and created by Beshr Kayali (@beshr) and Saleh (@mskayyali).

Hyperstage is a digital platform that covers the technology, society, and culture news besides updates on science and arts. The website is attempting to focus on the latest world technology, views of tech professionals, books reviews, and opinion posts written by Hyperstage team.

Look for tweets from the Global Voices Twitter account (@globalvoices) and the hashtag #GVRadio announcing what is now playing with a link to the stream, and see the full schedule below.

by GV Radio at September 01, 2015 02:06 PM

Meet the ‘Loa’ Podcast Network: What Vietnam's Mainstream Media Has Been Missing
Loa's Facebook photo during the broadcast of the episode on VietPride 2015

Loa's Facebook photo during the broadcast of its episode on VietPride 2015.

Loa, which means megaphone or loudspeaker in Vietnamese, is a podcast dedicated to stories about Vietnam that are rarely seen in the mainstream media. A project of the Viet Tan reform party (an outlawed organization in Vietnam), Loa provides alternative perspectives not just about politics but also Vietnamese culture and trending topics in the country today.

In an interview with Global Voices, Loa editors explained that their goal is to promote a greater understanding of the Vietnamese way of life:

Loa seeks to explore the ideas and stories that shape Vietnam today. We amplify the voices you often don't hear and broadcast the perspectives you haven’t heard. We're trying to cover the gap of stories that mainstream and state media does not cover.

Trinh Nguyen, one of Loa‘s editor, explained that the podcasts are getting positive reviews in Vietnam, despite the fact that the country's communist authorities consider Viet Tan, which initiated the online project, to be a “reactionary organization.”

People from Vietnam actually make up 60 percent of our listenership and 80 percent of our likes on Facebook. We know that these stories are reaching Vietnam. We frequently get requests to cover a certain story or angle. Our listeners are very supportive of our work. They're also pushing us to do better and cover more stories.

Perhaps one reason why it’s easy to appreciate Loa is the clear, concise, and creative presentation of topics about unique aspects of Vietnamese living. The favorite of this author is the “Vietnamism” segment that features stories about Vietnamese arts and culture. One of these segments, for instance, teaches non-Vietnamese people how to pronounce Vietnamese names like Bích or Phúc (which, as you know, if you're reading this, resemble obscenities in English).

Another show is by Quyên Ngô, who explains the terms of address in Vietnam:

If that person is around your older sibling’s age, call them anh or chị. For addressing males, if they are younger than your father (or about the same age) you can call them anh or chú. If they are older than your father, call them bác. If a woman is a bit younger or older than your mom, call them chị or cô (only call them bác if they are much older than your mom).

Tiến Nguyễn discusses Tiết Canh, the Vietnamese pizza whose main ingredient is duck blood:

If you are a fan of pizza, you should try this type of “Vietnamese pizza” called tiết canh. Its ingredients include peanuts, coriander leaves, fish sauce, lime, and the main ingredient: duck’s blood. Here’s an important foodie tip: the blood has to be fresh! The dish is considered ready to eat when the blood is congealed, the color is still red, and when you lift it with a spoon the duck blood stays solid.

A show narrated by Nam-An Đinh shares the story of the cat that replaced the rabbit in the Vietnamese zodiac. Stella Trần, meanwhile, reveals the stories behind the mysterious numbers in many Pho restaurants in the United States:

Phở 54, Phở 75, Phở 79…. they are not just numbers to denote a sequence of stores, but usually come with a special meaning. Whether it’s to honor a memory, to reflect history, or to bring a bit of Việt Nam’s past to the places we go, it’s a legacy the Vietnamese diaspora serves up daily.

The podcasts are not just entertaining—they are also informative about the current struggles of many groups in Vietnam, such as the campaigns against environmental plunder, and in favor of LGBT rights, as well as efforts to publicize how the state persecutes and detains dissident bloggers. One podcast educates listeners about the background of the popular prison song, “Return to My People.”

As Internet use expands in Vietnam, the role of alternative websites like Loa grows as more people seek greater information about what’s happening in the country and aroundthe world. A recent Loa podcast discussed the impact of social media on local politics and the media landscape in Vietnam:

In Việt Nam, social media has definitely pushed mainstream media to be more responsive to issues that are politically sensitive. Often times, state media has picked up stories that began online. For state media, there are certain no-go areas: human rights, reporting on political dissent or popular movements.

Loa podcasts have also been featured on GV Radio

by Mong Palatino at September 01, 2015 01:08 PM

Dominica Rallies in Aftermath of Tropical Storm Erika
Roseau, Dominica's capital, in 2006. Photo by Roger W, used under a CC BY-SA 2.0 license.

Roseau, Dominica's capital, in 2006. Photo by Roger W. CC 2.0.

Tropical Storm Erika ravaged Dominica last week, leaving at least 20 people dead and several more missing. Many parts of the island were badly flooded and a significant degree of critical infrastructure was compromised. The region has been quick to rally though, with regional heads of state contributing to relief efforts, both financially and in terms of rescue teams and equipment. CARICOM issued a formal message of sympathy and support and some European countries have also come to the country's aid.

Netizens were pleased to see that so many countries are offering help:

One blogger, writing at Dominica Weekly, recalled the storm experience:

No water, no electricity and the Internet. Thank God, an old Nokia phone had a radio and we can catch the radio to hear the news: tropical storm Erika in Dominica. From our top of the mountain it was not [looking] scary: heavy rain, thunder, a bit dark and no wind. Nothing special. But it appears somewhere on the island people were dying. Landslides. Rivers overflow their banks, washing away everything in its path. Collapsing bridges, houses to dust, stone fences washed away. Over 35 people dead.

Next day helicopters were flying to get people from isolated areas.

Till now people [help] people to clear houses, roads and schools. Everybody comes together.

The Dominican government has since established a Recovery and Reconstruction Fund to aid in the extensive relief and rebuilding efforts and there have been many pleas for assistance on social media, especially on Twitter, where users have expressed the hope that the situation will attract global attention:

One of the hardest hit areas, Petit Savanne, started its own disaster relief fund. The regional blog Repeating Islands helped draw attention to the situation in this community:

We rarely posts any appeals for donations, but I am posting this one after seeing photos and film of the devastation in Petite Savanne, Dominica, after Erika.

The people of Petite Savanne–many of whom either work at the Jungle Bay Resort or provide the resort with the locally produced fruits, vegetables, natural oils, and rum that make it such a community-based enterprise–are among the most generous and caring people I know. I count many of them as dear friends.

The images of the devastation of their community are heartbreaking.

Please help if you can, as any amount, however small, could bring great relief to the community.

Officials have since evacuated Petit Savanne, where roughly 13 people are missing and feared dead. There was also a handful of other rural communities that have been declared “special disaster areas.”

On Facebook, Dominica News Online has issued regular updates about the post-storm situation in different parts of the island, linking to users’ photos and videos of the devastation Erika left in her wake. One member of the Dominican diaspora, Peter Azille, sent the following message to his compatriots via the Dominica News Online website:

As I looked at television, social media, scores of photos via WhattsApp [sic] and listening to DBS Radio, it was heart-wrenching to see and hear of the terrible loss of innocent lives and the utter destruction of homes, vehicles and public infrastructure on our fair homeland. […]

As I join with other patriotic Dominicans and friends of Dominica […] to mobilize relief supplies to send to all Dominicans, I am reminded of the belief that I have always held dearly, that we have one Dominica; that we are one people under God and that we are our Brother’s keeper. Our love, respect and care for each other must always eclipse every other sentiment. Hurricane Erika did not discriminate; it unleashed its fury on every Dominican family. We must ensure that there is not discrimination in the distribution of the relief and redevelopment supplies provided by the regional and international communities and by Dominicans and friends in the diaspora.

The redevelopment of Dominica is going to be the shared responsibility of all Dominicans at home and abroad.

Meanwhile, the authorities have been working on trying to get the country's main airport up and running again, and the Ministry of Health has been finding ways to get critical treatment to citizens who need special care, such as dialysis patients and diabetics.

by Janine Mendes-Franco at September 01, 2015 02:20 AM

August 31, 2015

Global Voices
One Syrian Refugee's Long and Dangerous Journey to Europe
Kos, Greece. 15 August 2015 -- Syrian migrants arriving on an overcrowded dinghy along the coast of the Greek island of Kos at Psalidi beach near to the luxury hotel complexes of the island. Photo by Wassilis Aswestopoulos. Copyright Demotix

Kos, Greece. 15 August 2015 — Syrian refugees arriving on an overcrowded dinghy along the coast of the Greek island of Kos at Psalidi beach near to the luxury hotel complexes of the island. Photo by Wassilis Aswestopoulos. Copyright Demotix

This article and radio report by Shirin Jaafari for The World originally appeared on PRI.org on August 25, 2015, and is republished here as part of a content-sharing agreement.

Thair Orfahli stepped onto the boat knowing he might die. But that same reality faced him if he stayed in Syria.

Only a few hours before, he had bid his friend goodbye, handing over his laptop — his most-prized possession. “I told my friend if I didn't arrive, you can call this number and give everything [to] my family,” he recalls.

Orfahli is one of thousands of men, women and children fleeing war-torn countries in the Middle East. He calls Syria home — or at least he used to.

Not long ago, he was a law student in Lebanon. He regularly went back to visit his family in Jobar, not far from the Syrian capital Damascus. Life was good.

Then came the war. The bitter fighting between the Syrian army and the opposition intensified.

Jobar became a battleground. “It [was] very dangerous. [There were] a lot of bomb, bomb, bomb,” he says.

Soon neighborhood men started to disappear, either forced to fight in the Syrian army or locked up because they were considered members of the opposition.

In 2012, life in Jobar simply became unbearable. “I [took] my family and my mother and my sister and ran away to Lebanon,” Orfahli recalls.

But even in Lebanon, he didn't feel safe. As a young and able Syrian, he feared he would get caught by Syrian regime sympathizers and sent back to fight. The thought terrified him. So, once again, he found himself on the move. This time, alone.

“In 2013, Thair became a refugee from the war in Egypt,” says Sara Bergamaschi, a close friend of Orfahli.

Bergamaschi, who's Italian and works for the United Nations, met Orfahli on a trip to Syria in 2009.

“We spent almost every day together,” she says, “We traveled all over the country. We became like brothers and sisters.”

Bergamaschi says not long after Orfahli moved to Egypt, he began looking for work. There was just one problem: he needed a work permit.

“According to Egyptian law you need to ask for this work permit from the Arab legal organization of your own country,” she says.

In short, Orfahli had to go back to Damascus in order to get the permit. Meanwhile, Orfalhi's student visa was running out fast and just when he thought things couldn't get any worse, they did. His passport was stolen. With no passport and no work permit, he had to act fast. He decided to make his way into Europe.

With so many Syrian refugees trying to make it to Greece and Italy, smugglers are not hard to find. A couple of phone calls later, Orfahli had found his smuggler.

“He told me I need $2,500,” he says. “[I said] ‘I have just $2,000. If you want, I give you, if you don't want, I will find another one,'” he says.

The smuggler agreed. He promised Orfahli he would be in Italy within five days.

But the time it actually took to get there? Ten days and 12 hours. Orfahli, along with more than 100 refugees spent more than 10 gruelling days at sea.

Australian singer Cody Simpson handed over his Twitter account to Orfahli so he could post Tweets about his journey.

There were elderly, pregnant women and small children on the trip.

“Everybody was scared. We [didn't] have food, we [didn't] have a lot of water and the water [was] very dirty,” he recalls.

Some of them, including Orfahli had to sleep on the deck. The nights were freezing and the waves of water that splashed onto them made it even worse.

As the days went on, the passengers became more and more anxious. They wondered whether they would make it to shore at all.

Finally, it happened. Their ship made it to the shores of Sicily.

Bergamaschi's family took Orfahli in.

“My dad went to pick him up and everybody was so happy,” she says. “Even my dad, I remember that he told me, ‘Sara, I'm amazed to see this guy because he really has nothing on him, just his little phone and he has holes in his shoes but he's so happy. I don't get it.’ And I'm like, ‘Yeah, papa, he's happy because he's alive. He's grateful to life.'”

Grateful as he was, he didn't stay in Italy for long. He had more borders to cross. He wanted to get to Germany.

And that's where he is today. He has applied for asylum and is waiting to hear back. As for his family, Orfahli says they're scattered all over the Middle East. One of his siblings is in Saudi Arabia, others are in Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon.

These days, he's at a refugee camp in Germany. He spends his time studying English and German.

“I like my [refugee] camp because I stay relax,” he says. “I want to forget everything in Egypt, every problem in Syria, every problem in the boat.”

For Orfahli, now, it's all about building a new life in the place he now calls home.

by Public Radio International at August 31, 2015 04:30 PM

Journalists Reporting in Mali Receive Death Threats From ‘Guardians of Jihad’
Rebels from the militant Islamist sect Ansar Dine in Mali - Public Domain

Rebels from militant group Ansar Dine in Mali. Public domain

A few journalists covering West Africa have received death threats following their reporting on the northern region of Mali.

In the message sent on 31 August, a group that names itself “Les Gardiens du Jihad” (Guardians of Jihad) did not specify the reasons for the threats but mentioned that foreign journalists, and French ones in particular, will be slain for “spreading lies about Islam”:

Here is a translation of an excerpt of the message:

In the name of the Guardians of Jihad, we announce that the Hand of the Prophet will help us slay all foreign journalists in Mali and journalists who work for foreign media. We know where you all live and we know where you are heading to. The Hand of the Prophet will guide us in getting rid of you and your lies about the jihad. We demand that you leave Mali [..] Heads will soon fall and it will begin with those of French journalists and journalists who work for France, the main enemy of Islam.

Two journalists, Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon, were killed in Bamako, Mali, in November 2013 by Bayes Ag Bakabo, a man suspected to be a member of Al-Qaeda in Maghreb (AQIM).

Recent events in northern Mali have provided cause for concern that peace is on tenuous ground in the region. On August 9, 13 people were killed, including five UN workers, in a hostage siege at a hotel in the central Malian town of Sevare. The UN force in Mali took over responsibility for security in the country from French troops in July 2013. France intervened in the country after Islamist militants threatened to march on Bamako in December 2012 in what was then called Operation Serval.

This is one of the many threats that French journalists in particular have received for their reporting on Islamic militants since the Charlie Hebdo killing on January 7, 2015. In June, French journalist Anna Erelle (a pseudonym) was trying to understand why young women and teenagers would leave their homes and families to join ISIS in Syria. She created a fake online profile and was approached by a man called Abu Bilel who proposed to her and invited her to join the group. When she refused, Bilel sent her death threats. The following is a video of Erelle explaining her current situation:

The threats aimed at journalists are adding to an already tense social context in France following the shooting aboard the Thalys Train from Amsterdam to Paris on 21 August. According to the French Attorney General François Molins, in the past few months:

  • 1.882 Français sont aujourd'hui impliqués dans le djihad
  • 87 personnes font l'objet d'une information judiciaire
  • 63 d'une enquête judiciaire
  • 209 ont été mises en examen et 125 placées en détention provisoire
  • 1,882 French citizens are now involved in jihad activities
  • 87 are currently subjected to a judicial inquiry
  • 63 are under criminal investigation
  • 209 were indicted and 125 are placed under temporary detention.

French President François Hollande stated on 25 August following the Thalys attack that additional attacks on French soil are to be expected. Hollande identified ISIS, Boko Haram and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as the threats towards security in France. Eight attacks have been conducted on French soil in 2015 (timelines here).

by Lova Rakotomalala at August 31, 2015 03:38 PM

Chairman Mao Wasn't at WWII's Cairo Conference. So Why Is He on the Movie Poster?
Original poster of the Cairo Declaration and netizen's spoofed version (via Twitter user @abin5689)

Original poster for “Cairo Declaration” (left) and an online spoof (right) via Twitter user @abin5689

Big-budget film “The Cairo Declaration” is set to hit cinemas all across China on September 3, the same day that Chinese officials have scheduled a military parade to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Japan's surrender in World War II. The movie, produced by August First Film Studio, a production company affiliated with the Chinese military, is meant to push the idea of the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) “crucial role” in defending the country against the Japanese invasion between 1937 and 1945.

The Cairo Declaration, which outlined post-war objectives for China, Japan and Korea, was issued by the Allies of World War II during a summit held in Cairo, Egypt, on November 27, 1943. Chiang Kai-shek, a political and military leader of the Republic of China (Taiwan), was present, yet the movie's trailers and posters released in mid-August give the impression that Chinese Communist Party leader Mao Zedong was at the Cairo Conference instead of Chiang.

Director Wen Deguang said that despite the posters, Chiang is a key figure in the movie and the story is based on historical fact. He further explained that the production of the movie took about three months’ time and the crew spent one and a half months working on scenes featuring Chiang and only four days on those featuring Mao.

Despite the difference screen time, the movie trailer still suggests that Mao was behind the scenes in the anti-Japanese war with his opening remark, “The task of communists around the world is to oppose fascism through struggle.”

Netizens have responded to the perceived distortion of history by turning the film's poster featuring Mao into an online meme. Twitter user @Mosendoo created a version with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and pointed to a website where users can generate their own poster spoof:

Since the poster for “The Cairo Declaration” was ruined [by Mao], different versions of the poster have started circulating online. Someone even created an online generator for the Cairo poster, you can upload your own photo and become a great leader!

Many believe that both “The Cairo Declaration” and the September 3 military parade are part of Chinese President Xi Jinping's dream of a “national revival” to rewrite the Chinese Communist Party's history in relation to Japan's war against China.

Public figures have spoken out against the party's questionable interpretation of history as the date of the military parade approached. Taiwanese President Ma Yingjeou criticized the movie's posters as a “joke” and stressed that anti-Japanese war efforts were led by the Kuomintang political party of the then newly established Republic of China (Taiwan), with the CCP playing little role.

Yang Jianli, a pro-democracy activist exiled to the United State since the 1989 crackdown on protests in Beijing's Tiananmen Square, pointed out that during the Cairo Conference in 1943 Mao was busy engaging in a party power struggle during the Yan'an Rectification Movement (1942-1944), through which he established his paramount role within the CCP:

回顾这段历史我们可以看到,当二战中的同盟国与轴心国拼杀到人仰马翻的时候(其中也包括苏联与希特勒的战争),从1941年起,毛泽东东靠阎锡山的屏障,西有盛世才的庇佑,高喊着爱国抗日的口号[…] 其实他将延安变成了一处抗战中的桃花源,在这里,他完全根据自己的需要,对党政军干部重新评估使用,对军队和干部进行彻底而残酷的洗脑,从而在中共历史上第一次形成了党的最高领袖对党和军队的绝对统一领导 […] 1945年初,在延安整风接近四年后,整人整得不亦乐乎的毛泽东发现日本战败的结局要比自己估计的时间提前,于是匆忙结束整风,厚着脸皮向被整者“脱帽道歉”,让他们下山摘桃子,去国共内战的战场上拼杀——要打仗,自然就没时间整人,好在人都已经整过,听话得很,而蒋介石除了嫡系部队之外,却是难以指挥。内战的胜负,仅在这一点上,就可以隐约看出端倪了。

We can see in history that when the Allies and the Axis were killing each other (the war also involved the USSR and Hitler), since 1941 Mao was fenced off from the war by Kuomintang's warlord Yan Xishan and Soviet-backed warlord Sheng Shicai. The struggle against the Japanese invasion remained a slogan […]

In fact, he turned the area of Yan'an into a dreamland where he could evaluate the party's officials according to his own liking. He also brainwashed the army and lther officials to make sure that they would be absolutely loyal to the party under his leadership and established his dictatorship.

[…] in 1945, four years after the Yan'an Rectification Movement had started, Mao found out that the surrender of Japan happened earlier than he had anticipated. He ended the rectification and took off his hat, apologized to those he had persecuted so that they could fight in the civil war [between Kuomintang and the CCP]. After the rectification, the army was very obedient. As for Chiang Kai-shek, he would not keep other warlords under control. By then, he result of the civil war was implicit.

Yang said he hoped the movie would prompt viewers to research the history of the CCP and reflect on the impact of Mao's dictatorship in China and the rest of the world.

by Oiwan Lam at August 31, 2015 03:22 PM

Bahrain's Opposition from Dialogue Tables to Prison Cells
Bilad Al Qadeem, Bahrain. 30th December 2014 -- Marchers in Bilad Al Qadeem demanded the release of Sheikh Ali Salman, the Secretary-General of the Al-Wefaq political society in Bahrain, and main opposition to the current government. Photograph by bahrain14feb bilad. Copyright: Demotix

Bilad Al Qadeem, Bahrain. 30th December 2014 — Marchers in Bilad Al Qadeem demanded the release of Sheikh Ali Salman, the Secretary-General of the Al-Wefaq political society in Bahrain, and main opposition to the current government. Photograph by bahrain14feb bilad. Copyright: Demotix

The Bahraini government is closing in on Al Wefaq Islamic Society, the country's largest political group, whose key members are now in prison. The latest to be arrested is Shaikh Hasan Isa, who was picked up from the Bahrain International Airport, when he returned from a visit to Iran on August 18, and is being accused of funding “terrorism.”

It took the Bahraini Ministry of Interior five days to finally declare his arrest. No information was made public, despite a public outcry, and daily protests calling for his release. On the sixth day, the Ministry of Interior announced that Isa, a former member of parliament, was held for “funding terrorism” — heavy charges that could lock the opposition figure up for years.

In a statement released by the Ministry of Interior, it said:

He was arrested on the charge of financing terrorism by funding fugitive terrorists and others linked to terrorist acts.

[..]

The Director-General said the suspect received donations from various sources, including funds from the participants in rallies, and distributed the same among wanted fugitives. He also gave funds to a terrorist group and one of its members even though he was aware of their terrorist activities and helped cover up their crimes. He also provided shelter to members of the group despite knowing about its terrorist goals.

Following the announcement, many protested the accusations brought against the former legislator who won the 2010 elections with a 92 per cent of the total votes in his district in Sitra. His party, Al Wefaq, posted pictures of night protests in his home town.

An anonymous Bahraini woman with the nickname Siddiqa highlighted the government's headhunting of active dissidents who demand a democratic rule in the Gulf kingdom:

He was always in the front lines among those demanding rights, so the government accused him of terrorism.

In a prompt response, dozens of people slammed the Interior Ministry with photographs of pro-government figures who openly raised funds and went to fight with militant groups in Syria.

Bahraini activist Hassan Al Sharqi posted the picture, saying:

They gather funds and arms and export them to terror (groups) “openly” and Sheikh Hasan Isa gets arrested and accused of funding terrorism! Tell me, what class are the Shi'a?”.

Alsharqi is referring to the Interior Minister's statement that Bahrain's Shi'a are not second-class citizens, which he said during a press conference in response to widespread criticism of state discrimination against the Shia, who make the majority of citizens in Bahrain.

Some of the people in the photograph on the left were members of the Bahraini parliament at the time they went to fight in Syria. They are back in Bahrain now, but the government has not taken any measures against them since they now occupy official positions, enjoying immunity. This is despite the government being part of the US coalition against ISIS.

 

 

Detaining the wrongly accused Sheikh Hasan Isa will not bring you stability or gain. And leaving those whose (crimes) were proven by definitive evidence free, will bring terrorism to the people

For any regular observer of the Bahraini situation, it would not be difficult to link this dangerous escalation against the Wefaq opposition party to the Bahraini regime's previous attempts to suspend the association and criminalize its leaders.
Last June, a Bahraini court sentenced the Secretary-General of Al Wefaq Sheikh Ali Salman to four years in prison. The sentence is to be reviewed by the Court of Appeals on September 15. Salman was charged with publicly inciting hatred, disturbing public peace, inciting civil disobedience of the law, insulting public institutions and promoting a change in the regime through military force, in addition to other charges. The court sentenced him on the first three charges and found him not guilty of the latter which carries the lengthiest jail term. The ruling received wide international criticism. Salman's political assistant, Khalil Almarzooq, was locked up for over one month in late 2013 until the court finally responded to international pressure and dropped his charges. Almarzooq was also accused of inciting violence and terrorism. But the trial to suspend Al Wefaq is still ongoing.
With two of its leading figures, Sheikh Hasan Isa and Majeed Milad, both former representatives, behind bars, alongside their Secretary General, Global Voices Online asked Khalil Almarzooq about what these trials could possibly bring to Bahrain.

“Distorting the image of Al Wefaq could isolate it internally and internationally, this would put the government in a stronger position to run away from real reform,” he said. Yet, he seemed confident that this would not be the case.

“The Bahraini authorities are misleading themselves by accusing Al Wefaq leaders on malicious charges that nobody can believe,” he added.

“That is because there is confidence that Al Wefaq has adopted a national, nonviolent methodology and reform agenda since its formation. This is despite the challenging circumstances over the past four years.”

Many believe that the government wants to shut out Al Wefaq from any political settlement in the future, in order to make the least concessions.

Why target Al Wefaq leaders now as the region moves to settle the problems that need thorough dialogue?

Other law makers of the Wefaq bloc were stripped off their citizenship and/or arrested and tortured since 2011. It all started when the bloc walked out of parliament protesting the harsh crackdown on widespread demonstrations for political and economic rights, at the start of anti-government protests in Bahrain, at the beginning of the so-called Arab Spring.

And it is not only Al Wefaq on the chopping block as the government continues its crackdown on all forms of dissent. Prominent members of other opposition groups also remain in detention whilst being prosecuted over similar charges. Secular opposition figure Ibrahim Sharif is facing charges of attempting to topple the government, promoting political change through force and inciting hatred in a speech he gave last month honoring a 16-year-old boy who was shot dead by police. The list extends to include jailed human rights defenders, journalists, photographers, medics, sport figures and thousands of regular citizens all locked up in overcrowded prison cells.
The Bahraini regime has a tarnished record of “criminalizing dissent“.

Is it surprising that a leading figure in Al Wefaq is slammed with terror-linked charges upon return from Iran? Like Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Syria, Iran is home to holy Islamic shrines visited by tens of thousands of Bahraini Shia every year. It's also home to famous Islamic universities. Instead of easing its strangle on freedoms, however, the Bahraini government recently announced it is to “regulate” travel to conflict-zones, in particular, with broader travel regulations to individuals under 18.

This could not only mean further tightening on religious freedom and freedom of movement, but it could be seen as an intention to isolate the Bahraini Shia from their ideological counterparts in the region and criminalize any attempt made to break this new barrier.
Human right defenders are blaming the US for being too placate with its longstanding “strategic ally”, Bahrain, which is home to the US's fifth fleet. In June, the US moved to lift its ban on military aid to Bahrain citing “meaningful reforms” even as the political stalemate deepens. With the leaders of the “tolerated” opposition which was once on the dialogue tables now being shoved into jail one after the other, there doesn't seem to be a glimpse of a political settlement in the horizon.

by Batool Al Musawi at August 31, 2015 01:12 PM

Malaysia’s 34-Hour Bersih Rally Against Government Corruption Gathers 100,000 People
Bersih 4 is calling for the resignation of Malaysian Prime Minister najib Razak. Photo from the Facebook page of Bersih 4

Bersih 4 is calling for the resignation of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. Photo from the Facebook page of Bersih 4

An estimated crowd of 100,000 people gathered over the weekend in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur in support of Bersih 4, a political movement calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, who is implicated in a corruption scandal.

Bersih, which means “clean” in the local language of Bahasa, was organized to push for electoral reforms in 2007, 2011, and 2012. But this year, Bersih 4 is also calling for the removal of Najib, who is accused of receiving ill-gotten funds from 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a state-managed investment firm. Najib admitted that he received 2.6 billion ringgit (675 million US dollars), but he said this was an election donation from a friendly Middle Eastern country for his political party.

This year’s Bersih lasted for almost two days (34 hours to be exact) and its ending coincided with the national celebration of Merdeka, Malaysia’s independence day. During the first day of Bersih, police said the crowd was 25,000 in Kuala Lumpur and about 5,000 in other parts of the country. On the second day, the number of protesters in the capital went up to 35,000 in the afternoon, but it swelled to almost 100,000 during the final hours of the program, according to some media reports. Official estimates were not yet provided as of writing.

Bersih 4 was also supported by solidarity gatherings in 70 cities around the world.

The number of people who joined Bersih 4 is impressive considering that the rally is deemed illegal by the government. A recent order was even promulgated that criminalized the wearing of yellow Bersih 4 t-shirts.

Najib downplayed the Bersih protest and claimed that majority of Malaysians still support him. To counter Bersih, his followers vow to mobilize a million “red shirts” on October 10.

This video provides an aerial view of the rally in downtown Kuala Lumpur:

This video shows the Bersih 4 crowd during the final hours of the program:

One of those who joined Bersih was former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who ruled Malaysia for 22 years. Many were surprised to see Mahathir since he was against the holding of rallies during his term, but some organizers welcomed the presence of the country’s longest-serving prime minister. Mahathir said he supports the call for the resignation of Najib.

Below are some of the photos of #Bersih4 shared on Twitter:

‘Yearning for change’

There were various reactions to Bersih 4. Wong Chin Huat was one of the Bersih participants who slept in the streets during the weekend:

I slept on the pavement on Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman last night. It was like a refugee camp with many people – mostly in the illegal yellow Bersih 4 T-shirts – sleeping on not only the pavements, but also the middle of the road. Some brought sleeping bags, some used newspapers as their mat, others just slept on the road.

Why did they sacrifice their comfort in bed? Many of them, like me, have booked hotel rooms for refreshing themselves, but chose to sleep on the streets just to show our yearning for change.

Writing on news site Malaysia Kini, Dharm Navaratnam denounced Najib for calling Bersih participants unpatriotic:

To see so many Malaysians standing up for what they believe in can only be described as uplifting. To read today’s news that the PM accuses those of us who were at the rally of not loving the country is absolutely absurd. It is BECAUSE we love the country that we took part in the rally.

But Visithra Manikam wrote that more people could have joined Bersih if it was not scheduled a day before Merdeka:

I applaud those who went down to Bersih 4. It was quite a sight. I was most happy some of you carried the flag with you. Most of you were getting involved with something involving the nation for the first time ever. I applaud those who slept in the streets last night. That was indeed historical. But alas, the timing was ill-planned.

Neil Khor urged Bersih supporters to give more attention to the everyday issues of the poor, especially those who are living in rural areas:

…by failing to breach the rural divide – by being unable to mobilise even the semi-rural folks to participate – Bersih’s concerns, which have always been ideological rather than bread and butter issues – failed to connect with the masses.

Bersih 4 rally in Kuala Lumpur. Photo from the Facebook page of Bersih 4

Bersih 4 rally in Kuala Lumpur. Photo from the Facebook page of Bersih 4

This editorial by the Ant Daily news website describes the political impact of Bersih 4:

Within 34 hours, Bersih 4 has evolved from an event organised by a group of concerned Malaysians trying to bring a change to their country, into something totally different entirely.

It is an opportunity for normal Malaysians – the rakyat – to finally have the courage to express themselves, regardless of the consequences.

To many, Bersih 4 is something that gave them the courage to dream. To know that a fair and just Malaysia can truly exist. Where there is harmony and peace, understanding and compassion, a country where the rakyat does not need to fear nor bow to those who misuse power for their own gain.

by Mong Palatino at August 31, 2015 08:25 AM

August 30, 2015

Harvard Law Library Innovation Lab
Global Voices
Why Indigenous Communities in Mexico Need Community Self-Defence
Protest in Ostula, Mexico

Protest in Ostula, Mexico. Taken from the Flickr account of bradpose2, licensed under Creative Commons.

Recent events in Mexico have highlighted the problem of serious human rights violations against indigenous groups. The most recent of these has occurred in Santa María de Ostula, Michoacán state, where the local indigenous community claims to have been the victim of an attack by the Mexican military.

The military apparently aimed to apprehend the leaders of a community police force and other self-defence groups operating in the region.

Community police forces are not an uncommon phenomenon in Latin America. Self-organised security systems with their own managerial structures, these groups operate based on the needs of the local community.

The majority of these alternative security models have arisen to address local issues that have not been resolved by institutional police forces. In Mexico, community police usually deal with problems relating to organised crime groups, which are active in various regions across the country.

According to an online petition requesting the release of Semeí Verdía Cepeda, the commander of the community police force who was arrested following recent events in Santa María de Ostula, Michoacán state:

The indigenous community of Santa María de Ostula has, along with many others in the country, repeatedly come under the attack of criminal groups, principally those connected with drug trafficking. As a result of these circumstances and faced with the impotence of public and national security organisations in the country, the local residents came together to form a community police force.

Today, the community suffers not only at the hands of criminal groups but also at those of the Federal Police and the Army of Mexico.

This is not the first time that military forces in Mexico have been accused of excessive force or even criminal activity, particularly since they were first tasked with ensuring public safety in 2006.

The following post from the Mexican caricaturist Helio Flores which circulated on Twitter makes reference to this fact:

“Fratricide” by @Helioflores_mex. In #Ostula, Apatzingan, Tlatlaya and many other places + unsanctioned. Via @SamuelMdzM

The lack of confidence in security institutions was at least a partial factor in the decision of the people of Cherán, Michoacán to begin to govern themselves independently and resort to local defence initiatives. This same factor has likewise inspired other indigenous communities to follow Cherán's example.

One such community is the Zoque people of San Miguel Chimalapa, Oaxaca state, who took to their online blog to reject the municipal authorities and political parties present in the region and announce the creation of a Community Committee with the aim of defending shared territory and natural resources:

Our Committee has been created as a result of the alarm and concern we have experienced given the way in which our own local and municipal authorities have sold out to the government of Oaxaca. They have been more occupied with sharing resources, programs and projects amongst themselves, their friends and family than with the invasion, plundering and destruction of our ancestral lands and natural resources, which have thus far gone unchecked.

Such struggles for independence encourage us to question the validity of the dominant political and economic system.

There are many more examples associated with the Indigenous Peoples’ Front, including the Otomí of San Francisco Xochicuautla in Mexico state, who oppose a private road project which would damage the forest and lands belonging to them; the Huichol of Wirikuta battling to protect sacred land from huge mining projects and the Yaqui tribe of Sonora, who are focusing their efforts on opposing the construction of the Independencia aqueduct given the threat it poses to the culture and livelihood of the community.

These accounts of strength and resistance illustrate the necessity of pursuing alternative lines of action that promote coexistence and peace, respect the freedom of these communities to control their own future, and enforce human rights. For this to happen, however, it is essential first to become aware of their battles and their very legitimate requests.

by Andrew Cummings at August 30, 2015 04:48 PM

Lebanese-French Trumpeter Reimagines ‘Alice in Wonderland’ as a Hip-Hop Opera

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

Ibrahim Maalouf says he always loved the story of “Alice in Wonderland” because it's all about the freedom to imagine.

“Alice in Wonderland is like a hymn to creativity,” he says. “There's nothing that is less logical than the story of “Alice in Wonderland.” Lewis Carroll wrote something completely out of this world. He invented a story that doesn't have any meaning if you just read the story the way it is, but then everything has to be analyzed so that you understand why is he talking about this and it's like he didn't forbid himself anything, while writing.”

So when Maalouf was offered the chance to compose a piece for the Festival d'ile de France in 2011, he decided to re-imagine Alice.

The recording of Au Pays d'Alice features Maalouf's jazz band, a classical orchestra, and a children's choir. It follows the same storyline as “Alice in Wonderland” with the same characters. But Carroll's fantasy world is updated to modern-day France through the lyrics of Malian-French hip-hop artist Oxmo Puccino.

Ibrahim Maalouf says even though Alice was written 150 years ago it still resonates for him. “I think we live in a society where more and more things are forbidden and that scares me,” he says.

In the past few years, Maalouf says he's been thinking a lot about the climate of intolerance in Europe, and the growing anti-immigrant mood. Particularly in France. “You cannot wear this, you cannot wear that, you cannot think like this, you don't have the right to say this. They try to find solution to the problems and to the crisis through things that divide people, instead of finding solutions with things that unite people.”

Ultimately, Maalouf says he wanted to use the story of “Alice in Wonderland” to make a point about the right to express yourself. And in a world after the Charlie Hebdo slayings, it's even more important, he says.

by Public Radio International at August 30, 2015 08:30 AM

Tanzania General Elections 2015: A Defeat for Africa's Longest Ruling Party?
Former Tanzanian Prime Minister and main opposition presidential candidate Edward Lowassa. Photo by TZA One and released under Creative Commons.

Will the former Tanzanian Prime Minister and main opposition presidential candidate Edward Lowassa unseat the ruling party? Photo by TZA One and released under Creative Commons.

The October 30 General Elections will be the most tightly contested election in Tanzania’s history since the introduction of multiparty politics in 1992. That is because of a sudden twist in the otherwise predictable plot of the country's domestic politics which saw a number of high profile defections to the main opposition party, Chama Cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (Chadema), from the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM).

Two former Prime Ministers, Edward Lowassa, the presidential candidate for the opposition bloc Ukawa, (made up of four political parties, including Chadema) and Frederick Sumaye, both left the comfort of the ruling party this summer. The hugely popular and charismatic Lowassa defected in late July after he was eliminated from the list of presidential candidates for CCM.

The high profile defections have presented the opposition with a real chance of crushing CCM, which having been in power for the last 51 years is the longest-ruling party in Africa.

In an article written for the Huffington Post, the President of the opposition party Chadema Freeman Mbowe says that the CCM’s fear of losing has led the party and its government to resort to increasingly dictatorial methods to maintain its grip on power:

Moved by fear of losing, the ruling party is now resorting to undemocratic methods to maintain its grip on power. First, they passed a Draconian election expenses act which forbids the importation of any campaign materials, including flags, vehicles and finances, 90 days before the polling date. This deadline fell three weeks before the party's official nomination day. How can any candidate purchase materials before they know they are the official nominee?

On Monday, the police arrested 19 Chadema youths who were signing up supporters. They were arrested for the simple act of public campaigning. When the former Home Affairs Minister Lawrence Masha went to the police station to request their release, they arrested him, too.

The next day, the police ruled that our candidate Lowassa could not meet with the public. CCM was shocked by the public reception the former prime minister received when he drove on a bus to bring attention to the desperate need for better public transportation in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania's largest city.

Increasingly, the police are blocking our campaign's travel routes and disallowing our campaign plane from using airports. They have refused to grant our rally permits in the very grounds CCM held a rally only a few days before.

Finally, the government announced on September 1st, they will begin enforcing its free-speech suppressing “Cyber Security Act,” which makes it a crime to criticize the government in emails or across social media.

However, looking at the elections in general terms, Frank Charnas noted that the pre-vote competition shows Africa is becoming “more at ease with democracy”. He also pointed out that the outcome of the election will not only affect Tanzania:

Put together, the upcoming Tanzanian elections are indicative of a continent becoming more at ease with democracy, and realising the power of a united and organised opposition. It will take a concerted effort to unseat the CCM, but momentum appears to be behind Lowassa and his coalition, thus setting up what are expected to be the closest elections in the country’s history, the outcome of which is sure to affect not just Tanzania, but the region and the continent as a whole.

It is no wonder that Twitter is abuzz with election-related opinions and insights:

For one, this will undoubtedly be the most “tech-savy” election in Tanzanian history, wrote Robert Kasenene:

In reference to the conviction of the son of Senegalese president, Karim Wade, for corruption, Marielaura observed:

While in Tanzania corrupt politicians get off scot free and even compete in elections

Tanzanian blogger Jeff Msangi considered this year’s election to be a “wild card game”:

While some took note of the rise of a politically engaged youth in the country:

Political awareness is high this time around, wrote Straight Talk Africa:

But who will be to blame if the ruling party loses? Many think incumbent President Jakaya Kikwete:

This is the first time that Penny Kims has seen the ruling party scared:

Barak Bob and Penny Kims advised voters:

Corruption has taken center stage in pre-election campaigns:

While the high profile defections have given birth to ‘democrazy’ according to one tweep:

Ma Mary would like to see the ruling party and the opposition form a government together:

Will this be the re-making of Tanzanian and African political history?

by Ndesanjo Macha at August 30, 2015 06:00 AM

August 29, 2015

Global Voices
You Stink Movement Gives Lebanese Government 72 Hours to Meet Protesters’ Demands
Lebanese protesters at Martyrs' Square in Beirut earlier today. Photo credit: You Stink Movement official Facebook page

Lebanese protesters at Martyrs’ Square in Beirut earlier today. Photo credit: You Stink Movement official Facebook page

Lebanese protesters today gave the government a 72 hour ultimatum to meet their demands or face further protests on Tuesday. The demands include the resignation of Environment Minister Muhammed El-Machnouk and a permanent, sustainable solution to the garbage crisis, which initially took the people to the streets.

Earlier today, up to 250,000 protesters turned up at Martyr’ Square, where they continued to protest for a sustainable solution to the country's mounting garbage problem.

The demands, published on the Tol3et Re7atkom (You Stink) Facebook page, were shared on Twitter by Lebanese blogger and activist Joey Ayoub, who is also a Global Voices Online author and a You Stink movement member:

Other demands are holding accountable all those who have wasted public funds during the last period and holding accountable the minister of interior and all those who gave orders to open fire at the protesters.

Rami Khouri described the demands as “reasonable” but warned that failure to ensure them would mean the end of the You Stink movement. He warns:

Ayoub says close to 250,000 people attended the protest:

Blogger Habib Battah says over 200,000 people attended:

And Mohamad Najem gives a more modest estimate of the turn out:

Regardless, the Secular Club of the American University of Beirut shares those photographs from today's protest, saying “no picture will do justice to the size of the crowd here.”

And back to Battah, this was also the most eco-friendly protest he has ever witnessed:

According to Najem, Lebanese protesters stayed put, even after the protest officially ended and organisers announced their demands. He shares this video:

You Stink has broadened its focus beyond officials’ mishandling of the refuse problem following the closure of the country's largest landfill in July. Members are now calling for the government's resignation, an end to corruption and fresh parliamentary elections, among other demands. Lebanon, already suffering from a poor infrastructure and daily electricity cuts, has had no president for over a year. In 2009, its parliament extended its term until 2017, with no elections, citing instability as a reason.

Stay tuned for more coverage from Lebanon.


Also Read:
GV Face: Everything You Need to Know About Lebanon's Massive “You Stink” Protests

Videos Show How the Lebanese Security Forces Violently Dealt With ‘You Stink’ Protesters

‘You Stink’ Protesters Call for the Resignation of the Lebanese Government

by Amira Al Hussaini at August 29, 2015 09:34 PM

Puerto Rico Organizes From the Bottom Up in the Face of Economic Crisis
Photo by author.

Photo by author.

Representatives from Puerto Rico's civil society have organized to fight against austerity measures being put in place by the government in the face of a growing economic crisis.

Many of the measures come from the so-called “Krueger Report“, prepared by the former deputy managing director of the IMF, Anne Krueger. The report recommends reducing government spending, continuing to increase taxes, and reducing the minimum wage, among other measures.

Several members of the civil sector convened various events this past summer. Some have come out with banners to the financial district of Hato Rey in the capital San Juan, while other groups have gathered in amphitheaters, parks, or bookstores.

Global Voices spoke with the #A12J group that pushed for the July 12th assembly and was part of the People's Action meeting, which took place at the Capitol on July 24th.

The individual members of the group agreed to speak as a single voice.

“The assembly was called for by a group of artists of all kinds interested in detonating the collaborative aesthetic/political/poetic processes in an open and decentralized manner,” the group said of the meeting's objectives.

Purpose, form, structure and lines of communication moving forward were all addressed following the group's first meeting:

#A12J's diversity of participants aspired to “carry out concrete projects, direct actions, and other interventions.”

The method of organisation would be “autonomous, from the bottom up. The assembly in and of itself is not an organization,” the group said.

At the initial meeting, they highlighted the importance of using non-traditional methods to express themselves:

Fue una asamblea convocada, en parte, por y para una comunidad que usualmente está en minoría frente a procesos políticos tradicionales. Es una que se dedica a generar nuevas formas de relaciones sociales, nuevas economías, nuevas maneras de educarse; que incluso piensa su trabajo artístico como un trabajo político.

It was a meeting convened, in part, by and for a community that is usually in the minority when facing traditional political processes. It is one that is dedicated to creating new forms of social relations, new economies, new ways of educating; that even thinks of its artistic job as a political job.

Regarding the results of the first meeting:

La asamblea produjo una serie de grupos de trabajos: uno anti-carcelario; sobre recuperación y acceso a espacios; de guías gráficas para un nuevo país; sobre la industria del cannabis; de acción directa; uno de medios, y otros 4 o 5 grupos. Estos se formaron y reunieron por primera vez en la asamblea y están estableciendo próximas reuniones presenciales.

The assembly produced a series of working groups: anti-prison; recovery and access to spaces; graphic guides for a new country; the cannabis industry; direct action; the media; and four or five other groups. These formed and met for the first time at the assembly and they are setting up future meetings.

They clarified that they did not intend to force a consensus through the meeting, but one came about spontaneously:

Sabemos que estamos convocando a gente que ya se educan en cuanto lo político y tienen muchas ideas sobre acciones que se pueden o deben tomar, si es que no lo están haciendo ya. A una comunidad diversa, inteligente, alérgica a los discursos y los modos de organización jerárquicos e impositivos. A las mesas de discusión de expertos, no se le puede convocar para llegar a consensos ni ofrecer una posición política de antemano. Ofrecimos una estructura para la auto-organización. La asamblea le pidió a cada persona una manera de tomar acción; da la oportunidad para que el ‘consenso’ se produzca mediante la acción de los participantes.

We know that we're bringing together people who are already educated in terms of politics and have many ideas about actions that can or should be taken, if they're not already doing so. A diverse, intelligent community allergic to the hierarchical and imposing speeches and ways of organization. It is impossible to come together to reach a consensus or offer a political position in advance of the experts’ discussions. We offer a structure for self-organization. The assembly asked each person for a way to take action; it gives the opportunity for a “consensus” produced by participant action.

They said they were not expecting the state to be receptive to the proposals produced by the assembly:

No estarán receptivos, pero ellos tienen muy poco poder ahora mismo. Y el poco que tienen no lo ejercen a favor de los ciudadanos, sino a favor de los acreedores. Posiblemente los administradores gubernamentales no tienen ni una silla en la mesa de esta discusión. Estamos entre acreedores y procesos políticos más amplios y globales. Tenemos que reconocer nuestro propio poder como ciudadanos, organizarnos, encontrar los puntos de presión reales y proponer nuevas relaciones sociales y formas de vivir, que no dependan de todo tipo de saqueo e injusticia para ‘funcionar’.

They will not be receptive, but they have very little power now. And the little power they have they do not exercise in favor of the citizens, but in favor of the creditors. It's possible that the governmental administrators don't even have a seat at the table of this discussion. We are between creditors and more broader and global political processes. We have to recognize our own power as citizens, organize ourselves, find the real pressure points, and propose new social relations and ways of life that do not depend on any kind of looting and injustice to “function.”

In terms of the future of the assembly, they reiterated that they do not exist as an organization.

“For now, the groups are doing their jobs and organizing through a platform/network. Anyone can join any group. If a set of groups thinks it is important or necessary, we may come together in the future to talk about the different groups and make plans, which can only be done in person.”

by Marianna Breytman at August 29, 2015 06:08 PM

A Week Before a Huge Vote, Demonstrators Fill Guatemala's Streets, Calling For President to Step Down
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Guatemalans have been protesting since mid-2015 against government corruption. Photo: Flickr / Surizar / Creative Commons License.

A “citizenship celebration” was underway on the streets of Guatemala City as of Thursday. The pro-democracy demonstration, which has been peaceful, is being compared to the rallies that helped overthrow dictator Jorge Ubico in 1944 and launched the country's so-called Ten Years of Spring.

University students, peasants, families, indigenous groups, artists, cities, towns, hospitals, and more are rapidly joining calls for President Otto Pérez Molina to step down.

The trending hashtag #RenunciaYA (#ResignNow) has given way to #YoNoTengoPresidente (“I do not recognize the President”). Now this week's demonstrations have inspired a new hashtag: #27A.

President Pérez Molina's public support appears to be at its lowest point ever, just two weeks ahead of the country's general elections. The military, which has been a pillar of Pérez Molina's political strength in the past, has remained silent about the demonstrations sweeping the nation, so far.

Investigative journalist Allan Nairn argued on Twitter that Molina is finally paying the price for his alleged complicity in a genocide reportedly committed by his regime during the course of a 36-year civil war that ended in 1996:

The demonstrations began on April 16 when the future of the UN-backed International Commission Against Impunity (CICIG) was suddenly put in jeopardy after President Pérez Molina refused to renew its mandate for the third time.

The rallies that began at that time were geared around the question of extending CICIG’s mandate beyond September.

After an intense political battle, the commission was allowed to continue its work, which gradually exposed a massive corruption ring in the presidency called “La Linea,” where top officials cut deals with importers to evade customs duties.

On August 26, the real bombshell came, when officials transferred Pérez Molina's former vice president, Roxana Baldetti, to a high security prison, ahead of her trial. This marked the first time in Guatemalan history that someone so powerful had been stripped of pretrial privileges and subjected to such harsh incarceration.

Preventive prison for former Vice President Roxana Baldetti

Worries of corruption during the transition

After the country's most powerful business lobby, CACIF, demanded Pérez Molina's resignation, most of the President's cabinet hurried to resign, leaving their posts vacant. Well-known lobbyists soon took their places, leading to a host of new concerns about the country's executive branch.

Among the causes for concern reported by Nomada.gt is Guatemala's 4G communications network, which the outlet says is now at risk of ending up under the control of a monopoly. Similarly, it was reported that dubious medical supply contracts have been extended.

Other top officials have begun fleeing the country, but not without being noticed by ordinary citizens at the airports:

That Bonilla rat (former Interior Minister, Mauricio Lopez Bonilla) flees

Demonstrators at today's rally, which participants are calling “Dignity Day,” included Nobel-Peace-Prize-winner Rigoberta Menchu:

With the colleagues of the Foundation, I will walk with all the hope of this world.

Multinational fast food chains like McDonald's hedged their bets:

McDonald's supports Guatemala and will close its restaurants for today.

As Guatemalans of all ages and colors take to the streets, their elected officials in the Guatemalan Congress have initiated a process similar to impeachment that would strip President Molina of immunity from criminal prosecution.

If lawmakers cannot complete this process by the end of next week, Molina could enjoy another four years of immunity as a representative of the Central American Parliament, a regional association of which Guatemala shares membership with El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama, Honduras and the Dominican Republic.

Pérez Molina would become a representative of the regional body automatically after his presidency.

Organization and random acts of kindness during the crisis

Anonymous in Guatemala has taken a very active and sensitive role during the demonstrations, even distributing water to police:

A member from Anonymous gives water to police officers.

The demonstrations, so far, have been massive, peaceful, and scattered across the country. Young people and youth groups have played a leading role in the rallies, as the Congress moved to take from President Molina his legal immunity.

As Insight Crime explains:

Dirty money and lack of transparency has allowed corruption to fester throughout Guatemala‘s political landscape, regardless of the party in power.  Addressing these systemic issues will be painful for elites and businesses who benefit from the status quo, which makes it all the more telling that the governments of Honduras and El Salvador recently rejected the possibility of creating their own version of the CICIG.”

Elections will take place on September 6, with enormous implications for the country.

The International Commission Against Impunity (CICIG) has warned that Guatemala's political parties are significantly compromised in terms of party financing, calling into question the legitimacy of the entire election.

What happens before and after September 6 will be vital to shaping the country's foreseeable future.

by Renata Avila at August 29, 2015 04:01 PM

India Has a Less-Than-Rosy Track Record on Media Freedom
Indian social activists hold placards during a protest against the hanging of 1993 Mumbai blast convict Yakub Memon, in the Capital. Image by Himanshu Sharma. Copyright Demotix (30/7/2015)

Indian social activists hold placards during a protest against the hanging of 1993 Mumbai blast convict Yakub Memon, in the Capital. Image by Himanshu Sharma. Copyright Demotix (30/7/2015)

Last month, three Indian news channels were issued separate show-cause notices by the government. ABP News, NDTV 24×7 and Aaj Tak allegedly showed disrespect to the judiciary and the president of India by airing content criticizing the decision to execute Yakub Menon, convicted of the 1993 Mumbai bombings.

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has asked the channels to explain why the government should take no action against them for broadcasting the controversial content. The ministry even threatened to cancel their licenses.

The content in question included phone-in interviews with Chhotta Shakeel, a Mumbai underworld figure who is believed to be one of the masterminds behind the bombings. In his interview, Shakeel claimed that Yakub Menon was innocent and that his execution was a “legal murder”.

The ministry's actions were viewed in many parts of the media as questionable and a form of censorship. But others disagreed, taking issue with the sympathetic tone that they perceived in the media's reporting on Menon's case and execution.

In the op-ed at Business Standard, Jency Jacob claimed the media had “done irreparable damage” by portraying Memon as innocent to advance their own anti-death penalty agenda. Jacob also argued that media had acted irresponsibly when it broadcast Shakeel's warning that there will be “consequences” for Memon's death. It's all part of why Indian audiences are distrustful of media, he said:

Whenever any attempt is made by the government to regulate the media, the industry is up in arms, and rightly so. But when you lose the trust of your readers and viewers, you pave the way for the government to bring in curbs. That most newsrooms, high on the ‘exclusive’ interview with a fugitive living overseas, are not able to perceive this distrust is a reflection of the disconnect today’s media has with reality.

‘Ostrich mentality’

Media sins aside, press freedom in India is indeed lacking. India ranks a dismal 136 out of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index. In March, the Economic Times reported that the Narendra Modi's administration is planning to spend Rs200 crore (US $32 million) to set up a new journalism university modeled on Beijing’s government-run Communication University of China. It is needless to point out that such a journalism university and its products would be a government mouthpiece.

One doesn't have to look too far back in history to find examples of officials meddling with the press and other forms of media (including social media). Banning online access and distribution of BBC’s “India’s Daughter“, a documentary on the Nirbhaya rape case, was one such instance in which India’s online censorship looked inspired from China. The documentary was banned from release in India and then removed from YouTube too at the request of the Indian government.

Update Sept. 1, 2015: Recently, the Indian censor board refused to certify a documentary based on the 2014 election campaign in Varanasi, saying that it “pokes fun” at the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The documentary which shows poll rallies and public speeches given by several candidates from the constituency at the time, was rejected by the censor board as they felt that the contents of the documentary showed “Modi in a bad light and mocked him”.

In June, journalist Jagendra Singh was killed in northern India after he was set on fire, allegedly by local policemen and goons under the direction of the Uttar Pradesh state minister for dairy development, for writing Facebook posts accusing the minster of having links to corruption.

More recently, the Department of Telecommunication issued a secret order to ban 857 websites thought to contain pornographic content. After public outrage, authorities announced that the ban was temporary, except for sites that contained child abuse or pornography.

India prides itself as the world’s largest democracy. If a free press is truly the cornerstone of democracy, it appears that India still has some work to do to live up to that title.

by Sourabh at August 29, 2015 03:46 PM

Doc Searls
Will Content Blocking push Apple into advertising’s wheat business?

wheat+apple

A couple weeks ago, I posted Separating advertising’s wheat and chaff, contrasting privacy-respecting brand advertising (the wheat) with privacy-offending tracking-based advertising (the chaff), better known in the industry as “adtech.”

Apple pushes both, through its own advertising business, called iAd. The company is also taking sides against both — especially adtech — by supporting Content Blocking in a new breed of mobile phone apps we can expect to see in iOS 9, Apple’s next mobile operating system, due next month.

In Apple’s Content Blocking is chemo for the cancer of adtech, which I posted a few days ago, I visited the likely effects of content blocking. Since then a number of readers have pointed to posts about iAd and the opt-out choices Apple provides for advertising on iPhones and iPads.

Both iAd and the opt-outs reveal that Apple is as much in the adtech business as any other company that tracks people around the Net and blasts personalized advertising at them.

Apple also appears to be taking sides against adtech with its privacy policy, which has lately become more public and positioned clearly against the big tracking-based advertising companies (notably Google and Facebook). In September of last year, for example, Apple put up a new pageapple.com/privacy — that contained this paragraph:

Our business model is very straightforward: We sell great products. We don’t build a profile based on your email content or web browsing habits to sell to advertisers. We don’t “monetize” the information you store on your iPhone or in iCloud. And we don’t read your email or your messages to get information to market to you. Our software and services are designed to make our devices better. Plain and simple.

What we have here, then, is Apple’s massive B2C business in conflict with one of its B2B businesses. Since there is a lot of history here, let’s review it.

On 8 July 2010, Engadget published iAds uses iTunes history, location information to target advertising. It begins,

We’ve heard about this before, but now that it’s up and running, this is probably worth a revisit. Apple’s iAds system actually uses lots of your information, including your iTunes purchasing history, location data, and any other download or library information it can suss out about you, to determine what ads you see. So say a few marketing firms working with the large companies now buying and selling iAds.

A recent series of ads for soap was able to target “married men who are in their late 30s and have children.” That’s very specific, and when Apple rolls out the full program, it’ll even be able to use things like iBooks purchases and iTunes movie and TV downloads to target you with advertising.

On 15 October 2014, Digiday published Apple revamps mobile ads with retargeting options. It begins,

Apple’s release of its new mobile operating system last month came with an overlooked gift for marketers: the ability to retarget ads based on users’ in-app browsing behaviors.

According to ad agencies, Apple is actively pitching the new capability as a way to effectively solve the mobile cookie problem.

Say, for example, a visitor to a retailer’s iPhone app adds a pair of shoes to his cart but ultimately decide not to buy it. In this scenario, the retailer will now be able to retarget that user with an ad for that exact pair — even in another app on his iPad. When tapped, the ad would direct him back to his abandoned checkout page and automatically add the shoes to his online shopping cart.

That was when iAd was new. Since then it has come to be regarded, at least by the online press, as something of a failure. On 16 Ocbober 2014, Business Insider published Here’s Apple’s Plan To Turn Around iAd, One Of Its Biggest Flops. The gist:

Several sources have confirmed to Business Insider that Apple is currently visiting mobile specialists at the top media agencies in New York City to push the new function. (Cross-device retargeting.)

Cross-device retargeting is of most use to retailers: if a customer spends some time looking at a dress on their iPad app but decides not to buy it, that same retailer can “retarget” them with an ad displaying an image of that dress, options to buy, or directions to the store when they next pick up their iPhone.

On 19 November 2014, AdExchanger published iAd starts selling programmatically, and explains how it works:

iAd has more than 400 targeting options for advertisers. Its audience is also validated, since users must create an iTunes account in order to download apps. With the release of iOS 8, Apple announced that those Apple IDs could be used by iAds advertisers to retarget users across their devices. Those capabilities make it a good fit for advertisers doing audience-based targeting, who often prefer transacting in programmatic channels.

iAd has scale: “Apple iAd’s sell-side SDK is one of the most penetrated SDKs in the industry,” said Michael Oiknine, CEO of Apsalar. “They now have added iTunes radio inventory, so it’s a smart yield maximization strategy for Apple and is akin to Facebook strategy, which maximizes inventory sales via FBX and PMDs.”

On 21 November 2014, Venturebeat published Apple and AdRoll enable iOS ad retargeting — with extra data from iTunes and the App Store. It begins,

In a significant move for the mobile advertising industry, Apple and retargeting leader AdRoll have announced a partnership that will see AdRoll providing its retargeting and programmatic buying capability for iAd. In addition, Apple will enable advertisers to target potential customers via access to its proprietary data sets from iTunes and the app store.

On 21 November 2014, AdWeek published Get Ready for More Mobile Ads on Your iPhones as Apple Launches New iAds. The gist:

Today, Apple is unveiling partnerships with companies like AdRoll, which will flip a switch and start serving iAds through its automated marketing platforms. This turn toward programmatic mobile advertising has been in the works for at least a year. Last year, the company stopped treating iAd like a high-end marketing platform for only the top brands with the most cash.

Apple wanted to build a self-serve mobile advertising system in house, and it bought Quattro Wireless to help. Sources said that effort faltered, and Apple decided to partner with ad tech companies like AdRoll and The Rubicon Project to compete with mobile ad giants like Facebook, Google and Twitter.

AdRoll is a retargeting specialty firm that lets marketers use their own consumer data profiles to deliver ads across such platforms. And Rubicon unexpectedly leaked word earlier this week that it was partnering with Apple.

On 22 January 2015, ExchangeWire asked What will Apple’s Ad Tech Play look like? They say,

Apple’s renewed designs on the advertising business were revealed when it was announced it was to start selling its iAd inventory on a programmatic basis, with several firms including MediaMath, Rubicon Project, among others, over four years after its iAd unit was initially launched, asking advertisers for (the then audacious sum of) $1m per campaign on its iOS devices.

Since launch, Apple’s presence in the advertising business has been largely underwhelming (apart from its own spend). But the revelation it had chosen several supply-side platforms (SSP) to sell programmatic guaranteed opportunities on behalf of the 250,000-plus App Store developers indicated its renewed designs on the sector.

The announcement itself made waves, not least because of the bungled nature of the announcement,which itself raises a number of issues to debated about Apple’s influence in the ad tech sector (more on that later).

The initial announcement read: “Apple’s iAd provides 400-plus targeting options to advertisers, based on hundreds of millions of validated iTunes accounts worldwide. This rich first-party data asset makes it easy for buyers to target the specific mobile audiences of their choice.”

The move represented, for the first time, that Apple is willing to loosen control over its first-party iTunes data with advertisers expected to be willing to pay top dollar for the access.

They add,

Apple has since started to advertise for roles within its iAd business, requesting applications for UK candidates to join its iAd Marketplace Sales Organisation.

Among the skills requested are: “Apple’s customers on the various products iAd has to offer as well as how to leverage iAd’s self service buying platform, iAd Workbench.”

In addition: “Third-party tags familiarity a plus.”

What is clear, from all these pieces and many others like them, is that Apple’s adtech business is little if any different from the rest of them — meaning just as creepy and privacy-abusing — and notable as well for failing to live up to its original ambitions, which were both huge and (via Business Insider) outlined by Saint Steve himself:

At launch, Jobs set out the bold ambition that iAd would capture 50% of the mobile ad market. Apple marketed iAd as a best-in-class solution for advertisers because it owns both the hardware and operating system the ads ride on and gains valuable data when people sign up for Apple ID to register for iTunes accounts. That means it can target ads by age, gender, home address, iTunes purchases and App Store downloads.

However, it’s still somewhat behind that lofty 50% target. iAd made up just 2.5% of the mobile ad revenue booked in the US last year, according to eMarketer, behind Google which takes the lion’s share (37.7%) and Facebook (17.9%). The most recent data from IDC states Apple generated $125 million in mobile ad sales in 2012.

Apple’s total sales in FY 2012 were $125 billion, or 1000x its mobile ad sales that year. Put another way, iAd contributed 0.01% to Apple’s sales.

Meanwhile, does any Apple customer want advertising on their iPhone or iPad?

Apple knows the answer to that question, which is why Apple provides ways for you to “limit ad tracking on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch” and “ads based on your interests.”* (Just go to Settings > Privacy > Advertising to “Limit Ad Tracking,” and to Settings > Privacy > Location Services > System Services. to turn off “Location Based iAds.”) And soon we’ll have Content Blocking as well.

Sacrificing its adtech business would position Apple in full alignment with three things:

  1. Tim Cook’s privacy statement. It would take the loopholes out of that thing.
  2. Market demand. People are fed up with losing their privacy online — almost all of it to the tracking-based advertising business. (Sources: Pew, TRUSTe, Customer Commons, Wharton.)
  3. The moral high ground called simple human decency. Most people don’t want to be tracked in the online world any more than they want to be tracked in the physical one. Nor do they want information about them known by first parties to be sold to third parties, or to anybody, with our without their knowledge, no matter how normative that practice has become.

Dropping adtech would also be good for iAd, which could then concentrate on placing non-tracking-based brand ads, which are more valuable anyway: to brands, to publishers and to the marketplace. Also to Apple itself, because they would be selling wheat, rather than chaff.

Until then, the loopholes persist in Tim Cook’s privacy statement, and Apple retains major conflicts between its massive B2C businesses and its struggling B2B adtech business.

It will be interesting to see what the company does once the Content Blocking chemo hits the App Store bloodstream.

* “Based on your interests” (aka “interest based advertising“) is a delusional conceit by both adtech (examples here , here and here) and online retailing (prime example: Amazon). Neither visiting sites nor buying are measures of interests. All they show are actions that could mean anything — or nothing.

The interest-based advertisers say our interests are “inferred” by what we do (and they like to observe, constantly and everywhere). And yet those inferences are weakened by another assumption that is flat-out wrong, nearly all the time: that we are always in a shopping mode. In fact we are not.

We are, in fact, always in an owning mode, which is why I think that’s the real greenfield for e-commerce. If companies shifted a third of what they spend on adtech over to customer service, they would vastly increase both customer loyalty and brand value.

By the way, Apple knows this, possibly better than any other technology company. That’s one more reason why I think their B2C smarts will correct the adtech crowd-following errors of their B2B ways.

[Later…] @JamesDempsey tweets,

iOS 9 content blocking is in Safari. iAds appear in apps—not web pages: iAds not blocked.

Good to know. Apple’s iAd site doesn’t make that clear (to me, at least). What this tells me is that iAd is in the chaff business while Content Blocking encourages wheat on Safari. Doesn’t change the point of this post, or the earlier ones.

by Doc Searls at August 29, 2015 01:40 PM

Jessica Valenti
Anita Sarkeesian interview: 'The word "troll" feels too childish. This is abuse'
Anita Sarkeesian interview: 'The word "troll" feels too childish. This is abuse': Proud to have...

August 29, 2015 01:13 PM

Global Voices
Google's Optical Character Recognition Software Now Works with All South Asian Languages
A step-by-step process to use Google's Optical Character Recognition software that supports almost all major South Asian languages. Image by Subhashish Panigrahi, freely licensed under CC-by-SA 4.0.

A step-by-step process to use Google's Optical Character Recognition software that supports almost all major South Asian languages. Image by Subhashish Panigrahi, freely licensed under CC-by-SA 4.0.

The Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software by Google now works for more than 248 world languages, including all the major South Asian languages, and it's easy to use and works with over 90 percent accuracy for most languages.

OCR software has been extremely beneficial for the study of language, helping to extract text from images of virtually any printed text—and sometimes even handwriting, which opens the door to old texts, manuscripts, and more.

Ketan Pratap at NDTV Gadgets writes:

Users can start using the OCR capabilities in Drive by uploading scanned document in PDF or image form after which they can right-click on the document in Drive to open with Google Docs. After choosing the option, a document with the original image alongside extracted text opens, which can be edited. Google notes that users will not be required to specify the language of the document as the OCR in Drive will automatically determine it. The OCR capability in Google Drive is also available in Drive for Android.

On Twitter, many users have welcomed and even celebrated this new feature from Google:

Typically OCR software has difficulty reading the text on old documents or pages with blemishes and ink marks, spitting out gibberish instead of legible text.

Google's support page on this project shares additional details about character formatting, like its ability to preserve bold and italicized fonts in the output text:

When processing your document, we attempt to preserve basic text formatting such as bold and italic text, font size and type, and line breaks. However, detecting these elements is difficult and we may not always succeed. Other text formatting and structuring elements such as bulleted and numbered lists, tables, text columns, and footnotes or endnotes are likely to get lost.

For some of the languages, like Malayalam and Tamil, the OCR works with almost 100 percent accuracy, and includes support for formatting things like like auto-cropping, separating text by discarding images, and ignoring color backgrounds, explains Tamil user and Wikimedian Ravishankar Ayyakkannu on Facebook:

[…] Google Tamil OCR works with 100% accuracy ! Keep testing with various samples and comment here. Performance has been the same for many other Indic languages too. […] Auto crops, discards images and colored background. Recognizes different layouts. I could find only 1 mistake in whole page. Testing latest Vikatan – https://docs.google.com/…/1OXre4…/edit.. […]

(Bangla, Malayalam, Kannada, Odia, Tamil, and Telugu-language users have commented in the same post with feedback after testing the updated OCR software. For a few scripts, like Gurmukhi (used to write Punjabi), it turns out that the output after OCR is quite poor, resulting largely in gibberish, when testing a screenshot image from Punjabi Wikipedia.)

Issues with Gurmukhi script after OCR using Google's OCR

Issues with Gurmukhi script after OCR using Google's OCR. Screenshot from Punjabi Wikipedia.

This is quite a large leap for the languages with lots of old texts that are not yet digitized. Old and valuable texts in many languages could now be digitized and shared over the internet using platforms like Wikisource and could be preserved and made available for sharing knowledge.

Google's OCR partly uses Tesseract—an OCR engine released as freeware. Developed as a community project between 1995 and 2006 (and later taken over by Google), Tesseract is considered to be one of the world's most accurate OCR engines and works for over 60 languages. The source code is now hosted at https://github.com/tesseract-ocr. Check this link for the OCR outputs in various South Asian scripts.

by Subhashish Panigrahi at August 29, 2015 08:28 AM

August 28, 2015

Global Voices
The Lebanese Get Creative in Their Protests Against the Trash Crisis
Some trash should not be recycled. This is a modified version of a sign held up in a protest in Lebanon shared on Twitter by @Beirutspring

Some trash should not be recycled. This is a modified version of a sign held up in a protest in Lebanon shared on Twitter by @Beirutspring. It shows Lebanese politicians across the political spectrum

Grassroots movement Tol3et Re7atkom (You Stink) has managed to rally around 20,000 people and get them into the streets not only protesting against the trash crisis in Lebanon, but also demanding the resignation of the government for its continuous practice of corruption.

On August 22 and 23, Beirut witnessed its largest protests in recent history, with people of all ages and classes gathered to tell the government that they basically stink. Lebanon's trash crisis started when on July 17, the country's largest landfill in Naameh city was shut down by residents of the area. That landfill catered to the areas of Beirut and Mount Lebanon, which together house almost half of the country's population. The government's inability to resolve the trash crisis resulted in mountains of rubbish piling up on the streets, forcing people to walk around wearing masks.

The pictures below were taken from the official Facebook page of “You Stink” movement:

Mountains of trash in Beirut. Photograph from the the official Facebook page of "You Stink" movement

Mountains of trash in Beirut. Photograph from the the official Facebook page of “You Stink” movement

Lebanon's garbage disposed in a hazardous manner, which harms the environment. Photograph from the official page of the You Stink movement

Lebanon's garbage disposed in a hazardous manner, which harms the environment. Photograph from the official page of the You Stink movement

This problem has only added fuel to the already existing political flames in the country. Lebanon, already suffering from a poor infrastructure and daily electricity cuts, has had no president for more than a year. In 2009, its parliament extended its term until 2017, with no elections, citing instability as a reason.

In addition to people carrying political signs, some came up with creative ways to draw attention to the cause.

Saudi journalist Ahmed Al Omran tweeted a photograph of a guy who wished the government's characteristics were reflected in his love life:

Rana Harbi shared a couple of photographs she thought were funny and “typical Lebanese”. Some men wore costumes to the protest in attempt to relay the message:

This man really wanted to express how intense the smell of piled up trash spreading across Beirut was, so that's how he showed up:

A protester made a bold comparison between the Lebanese politician and Lebanese porn star Mia Khalifa, saying she has more honor than the politicians.

On other social media platforms, people exchanged more creative photographs like these:

"Either you leave, or we won't give birth. #YouStink"

“Either you leave, or we won't give birth. #YouStink” (Source: Unknown)

Yasmine Ballout shares a picture of a sign she deems as creative. The sign reads: “We have chicken and garlic sandwiches, would you let us in?”

When they say everyone joined the protest, they really meant everyone, including movie characters:

Stay tuned for more coverage from Lebanon as it gears up for more protests tomorrow.

by Faten Bushehri at August 28, 2015 08:30 PM

Uncovering Attempts to Hide Oil's Footprints in Peru
Impacto de la actividad petrolera de Pluspetrol en la comunidad de José Olaya, ubicada en la provincia del Datem de Marañón, Loreto. Foto: Julio Angulo - La República

Environmental impact of Pluspetrol’s oil activities at Jose Olaya community, located in the province of Datem del Marañon, Loreto. Photo: Julio Angulo – La Republica (used with permission)

The oil and gas industry has left deep scars in Peru, which the authorities themselves have acknowledged. After 40 years of oil exploitation in Loreto, the government has declared an environmental and health emergency in four basins located around lot 192 (ex 1AB) in the Amazon region, where the company Pluspetrol Norte operates. For years, indigenous populations have complained of a silent and resounding impact on their lives.

Convoca, an investigative reporting outlet in Peru, has gained access to hydrocarbons environmental monitoring reports, which were not made public and were ignored by the last three governments in spite of the seriousness of the evidence. After reviewing more than 20,000 pages of documents and building a record covering 21 regions, authors Gabriela Flores and Milagros Salazar bring you the story. It was originally published on Convoca and republished on Global Voices with permission.

Wilson Sandy follows the oil footprints in the Peruvian Amazon with the cleverness of a detective and the determination of those protecting their home: the Achuar territory of Loreto. He is 39 years old, and for over ten years he has dedicated his life to gathering evidence of pollution by the oil companies that operate in the Amazon region with the largest number of environmental scars in the country. Why is he doing it? “To defend my brothers, to document what happens, so that others do not say that we lie,” says Sandy with the same confidence with which he makes his way through the forest, rivers and black oil lakes to record evidence among wilted plants and dead fish. Sandy locates the affected sites with GPS, and takes photos and videos to reveal what he has found.

Sandy is the leader of 19 environmental inspectors of the Corrientes River in Loreto. But he is not the only witness to what he calls in the Achuar language nunka nemeskamu: the contaminated soil. Indigenous populations live among oil spills, gas leaks and other environmental incidents that often are buried in the dense jungle for decades. It is a chain of silent stories that can overcome any suspicion.

“We found hundreds of unprocessed monitoring reports in cardboard boxes,” explained lawyer Maria Luisa Egusquiza, who is responsible for the Enforcement, Sanctions and Incentives Directorate of the Agency for Environmental Assessment and Enforcement (Organismo de Evaluación y Fiscalización Ambiental, OEFA), in an interview with Convoca in mid-2014. She was referring to evidence of potential environmental infringements that were never evaluated by the authorities to punish the responsible companies. Which companies were they, and what did the documents say?

Since then, Convoca has sought to answer these questions and to find out what was in those stacked boxes in a corner of OEFA's offices. Egusquiza assured that her institution asked the Comptroller of the Republic to investigate the responsible officials, but did not provide any further details on that interview in which Hugo Gomez, the president of OEFA, was also present. Today, after a year, we reveal the first part of this story.

Hidden papers

What we found were approximately 20,000 pages of alleged environmental violations primarily by oil and energy companies. Convoca had access to over 1,000 complete documents, including environmental monitoring reports, internal letters and photographs that were not public.

Convoca analyzed and developed a record to determine the severity of the cases, the operators, and those responsible. As a result, it was identified that over 70 percent of these cases involved oil and gas activities in 21 regions of the country and that the company that benefited the most was Argentinian Pluspetrol, which is the main oil operator in Peru and the top violating company.

Jose Olaya Village (Loreto). Photo: Julio Angulo – La Republica.

All these cases were archived in 23 days between August 2013 and September 2014 through 1,101 resolutions from the Division of Instruction and Research of OEFA, not for lack of evidence, but because the authorities allowed them to exceed the legal four-year deadline for initiating a disciplinary procedure after the initial evidence is collected. This requirement is called the statute of limitations.

The inspectors presented their reports to the Supervising Agency for Investment in Energy and Mining (Organismo Supervisor de la Inversión en Energía y Minería, Osinergmin) between 1998 and 2009, as stated in the documents obtained by Convoca.

These reports were finally archived between 2002 and 2013 during the governments of Alejandro Toledo, Alan Garcia and Ollanta Humala. In early 2011, OEFA received these reports from Osinergmin when it took over the hydrocarbons environmental enforcement.

Resident of Jose Olaya village. Photo: Julio Angulo – La Republica.

While Osinergmin was in charge of this work, it allowed 98 percent of the cases to lapse within two to 13 years. OEFA did the same with 20 cases that lapsed in the two years when it assumed the environmental monitoring of this sector. No administrative penalty process was initiated, although the experts consulted found cases of possible serious violations.

One such case was the spill of 50,000 gallons of oil from the North Peruvian pipeline of PetroPeru, of which 25,000 ended up on the Marañon River, a habitat for 100 species of animals, located between Jaen and Amazon. The incident occurred the morning of May 8, 2006, because a 25-ton rock fell on the pipeline; it ended up affecting a stretch of the Fatima and Chingaza villages. According to the report No. 79426-1, the company did not report “the damages on the riverbanks, downstream of the Marañon River,” and allowed the villagers to collect contaminated material without protection.

Evidence of the oil spill on one of the sections of the North Peruvian pipeline of PetroPeru in 2006, included in an archived monitoring report.

For this reason, inspectors recommended evaluating “the physical, biological and social damages,” “identifying landslide-prone areas” and a remediation plan. It was not just any incident. For toxicologist Ruben Loayza from Cayetano Heredia University, this spill qualified as an “environmental catastrophe” due to the amount of oil spilled into the river, but the report was forgotten for five years and in 2013, it was archived by OEFA along with 1,100 reports because the deadlines to investigate and punish had expired.

To be continued.

The compilation of the prescribed environmental records was a collaborative effort. Contributors were Esteban Valle-Riestra, Aramís Castro, Gloria Alvitres, Wendy Vega and Claudia Risco.

by Diana Navarrete at August 28, 2015 08:25 PM

Brazilian Police Are Preventing Poor Black Teens From Visiting Rio's Upscale Beaches
Rio de Janeiro's Leme Beach, in the wealthy South Zone area. Photo: Flickr user armandolobos CC-BY-NC-SA

Rio de Janeiro's Leme Beach, in the wealthy South Zone area. Photo by Flickr user armandolobos. CC-BY-NC-SA

Nothing beats a dip in the cool waters of Rio de Janeiro's world-famous beaches on a hot Sunday morning. A favorite leisure spot, they appear on Brazil’s most widely recognized postcard — and also offer a less-than-sunny portrait of the country’s strained class and race relations.

While a privileged few live close enough to walk or bike to the sand strips of Copacabana and Ipanema, located in upscale South Zone neighborhoods, most of Rio's residents will spend more than an hour on public transportation to enjoy them. Last weekend, 150 teenagers who were making the trip from Rio's outskirts to the beach ended up spending the day in a police station instead. The reason? They might commit a crime.

According to the story uncovered by local newspaper Extra, police were regularly stopping buses heading from the North Zone to Copacabana beach and hauling teenagers to the police station, where they would fill out a form and wait for a parent or guardian to fetch them. Reporters discovered a group of 15 teens, all but one of them black, detained — none were found with weapons or drugs.

“They think we're thieves because we're black,” a 15-year-old told a reporter. X., 17, explained what happened:

Os PMs entraram no ônibus e selecionaram quem eles queriam que saísse. Fomos nós cinco e mais dois. Achamos que seríamos revistados e depois nos liberariam, mas isso não aconteceu. Um policial disse que essa era a lei aqui de baixo, porque estava tendo muito roubo

The policemen entered the bus and demanded that some get out. It was the five of us and another two. We thought we would be frisked and let go, but that didn't happen. An officer said that that's the law ‘down here’ now because of too many thefts at the beach.

Police said their objective was to “protect minors who are in a vulnerable situation”, but rights groups believe the real reason was to prevent poor youth from frequenting the fashionable South Zone beaches, where they would allegedly commit mob theft — locally known as arrastões.

A public servant from the social welfare department present at the police station, who asked the Extra reporters to remain anonymous, revealed she didn't agree with the policy, as well as the number (160) of detained teenagers over the weekend:

No início, o critério era estar sem documento e dinheiro para a passagem. Agora, está sem critério nenhum. É pobre? Vem para cá. Só pegam quem está indo para as praias da Zona Sul. Tem menores que, mesmo com os documentos, são recolhidos. Isso é segregação.

In the beginning, the criteria was to be without ID or money for the bus fare. Now, there is no criteria. Are they poor? Come over here. They only detain those who are going to the South Zone beaches. Some minors, even with ID, are collected. This is segregation.

Public attorney Eufrázia Souza das Virgens told the press that children above 13 years of age are free to circulate in public spaces without the presence of a parent or guardian. “A risk situation is when a child is on the streets or being exploited. If this is the case an intervention could happen, but conducted by social workers, not the police,” she said.

She and her colleague Rodrigo Azambuja are demanding a formal investigation be conducted by the child and adolescent protection police bureau. “Not even a formal complaint was registered at the station. What happened was the boys were grounded for the day,” she said.

While some were shocked by this policy, Rio de Janeiro state governor defended the police's actions this week and said the operation has been going on since the beginning of summer in late 2014, when the police started to “track” minors who had committed thefts at the beach in the past:

Quantos arrastões nós tivemos, praticados por alguns desses menores? Não estou falando que são todos os que estavam ali, mas tem muitos deles, mapeados, que já foram apreendidos mais de cinco, oito, dez ou 15 vezes, como na Central do Brasil.

How many mob thefts were committed by some of those youths? I'm not saying all of them [who were “collected” over the weekend] are involved, but many have been tracked by us, they have been detained five, eight, 10 or 15 times before.

Rodrigo Azambuja, however, says that the police's actions are still completely illegal if you look at Article 230 of the Statute of the Child and Adolescent, which forbids the detainment of children and teens without a court order or who are not caught in the act of committing an offense.

State legislator Marcelo Freixo, from the Socialist Party, posted on Facebook:

A Polícia Militar do Rio de Janeiro, a mando do Estado, montou uma operação para evitar os arrastões na praia. Para isso, proibiu que mais cem jovens pudessem ir à praia. Com qual devida suspeita estas pessoas foram recolhidas? Baseados em que informações e denúncias? Apenas porque eram jovens, moradores do subúrbio e negros.

É evidente que ninguém quer e concorda com arrastão, mas não podemos condenar toda uma população pobre, negra e que vem do subúrbio para as praias porque eles podem vir a cometer um crime.

The military police, under state orders, carried out an operation to avoid mass robberies at the beach. In doing so, it prevented more than 100 young people from going to the beach. Based on what suspicion were these people “collected”? Based on what information or whose complaint? It was just because they were young, suburban residents and black.

It's obvious that no one wants or agrees with mass robberies, but we can't condemn an entire poor black population that come from the suburbs to the beaches because they might commit a crime.

Racism and security politics: a love-relationship

The so-called arrastões, which translates as “dragnet”, dates back to the 1990s and are an old grievance of Rio's beachgoers. In groups of 15 or more, children and adolescents  — some as young as 10 — sweep the beach snatching bags, phones, jewelry and whatever else they can carry. Sometimes, some of them fake a brawl while others take advantage of the turmoil to rob. From time to time, police respond with major crackdowns on suspects right at the beach, in a dismal scene with chairs and umbrellas flying over people's heads.

Angry reactions from the victims often seem to highlight the racism and segregation in unequal Rio de Janeiro, with white, rich residents of South Zone feeling their territory is being “invaded” by the poor masses. For a while, some of them even advocated that bus lines connecting the North Zone with the beaches be discontinued.

In January, a journalist suggested a “fee” should be imposed for those wishing to sunbathe in Ipanema or Copacabana, as this would be “the only way” robberies could be prevented. “This would sound strange to Cariocas, who are used to go to the beach for free, but overseas this is quite common,” she said in a Facebook post that was later deleted.

In 2001, an artificial saltwater pool known as Piscinão de Ramos (“Ramos’ Big Pool“) was built amidst favelas in Rio's North Zone, generating much controversy. It was seen as a “bread and circus” policy, with its main objective being to keep the poor from heading to the South beaches.

A classic Brazilian TV documentary from 1989, titled “The Poor Head to the Beach” (today often seen as racist in itself), shows white South Zone residents publicly saying that “those people” are not “really Brazilian”, but rather a “sub-race”.

by Taisa Sganzerla at August 28, 2015 07:06 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
Is Telegram's Compliance with Iran Compromising the Digital Security of Its Users?
Telegram is reportedly complying with the Iranian government. Image remixed by author.

Telegram is reportedly complying with the Iranian government. Image remixed by author.

The mobile messaging application Telegram boasts over 12 million downloads on Cafe Bazaar, Iran's version of the Google Play store. The app's growing popularity in Iran faces its first test, as the Iranian Ministry of ICT asserts that Telegram has agreed to restrict some of its features in Iran at the request of the Iranian government. These features were being used by Iranians to share porn and satirical comments about the Iranian government. Some users are concerned that Telegram's willingness to comply with Iranian government requests might mean future complicity with other Iranian government censorship, or even allow government access to Telegram's data on Iranian users.

Telegram's user base has experienced astronomic growth in Iran in the past year as users recognize that the platform is more secure than other mobile messengers such as Viber and WeChat, and not blocked from use in Iran like other secure applications such as CryptoCat. Many users have also reported widespread disruptions and connection difficulties with Viber, causing users to switch to Telegram. Others argue that the design and interface of Telegram, alongside its unique features are reasons for its popularity in Iran. Among those features are “bots“, automated accounts created by both Telegram and third-party users that Telegram says will “teach, play, search, broadcast, remind, connect, integrate with other services, or even pass commands to the Internet of Things.”

Recently, social media sources have been claiming that Telegram is restricting access to some bots because of the type content users are sharing. On August 24, users claimed that attempts to access a porn bot returned the response “Sorry, this bot is no longer available in your country due to local restrictions.”

While traffic through Telegram bots can be monitored because it is not end-to-end encrypted, blocking is occurring according to the bot's theme, not on the basis of specific content. As such, certain bots are not available inside Iran. This is a decision likely being made between Telegram and Iran, although there is no official statement from either entity regarding the decision process. Reports on social media have been about the blocking of sexually explicit material.

Concerns with Telegram started at the end of July, when users reported disruptions to Telegram's network connections.

In response, Iran's Ministry of ICT denied meddling with the application's traffic. In an interview with Vice, Telegram's founder Pavel Durov explained that the situation was “not 100% clear” and believed the disruptions were not related to censorship, but rather economics. As he told Vice, the issue was due to the fact that Iranian mobile Internet providers had to pay exorbitant amounts of money to buy Telegram's traffic. Collin Anderson later told Vice that Durov's argument fell flat: “Telegram cannot produce nearly as much traffic as applications such as Instagram, which are not restricted.”

The Ministry later explained that assertions that Telegram would be censored were false, but said that the government's concern about immoral communications on the application would be resolved by restricting access to the platform's stickers bots, as the government had found use of rude Persian language jokes. The sticker bot allows users to create their own custom stickers, a feature widely used by Iranians to depict jokes, some the Iranian government has deemed immoral and against the values of the Islamic Republic.

An example of custom Persian language stickers that are used by Telegram's Iranian users. Image from author.

An example of custom Persian language stickers that are used by Telegram's Iranian users. Image from author.

Following the July network disruption of Telegram, Iran's Minister of Information Communications and Technology, Mahmoud Vaezi, reported that Telegram would not be blocked from access inside Iran. The Minister explained that Telegram's management had been in touch with the Ministry to apologize for their sticker features, and to block access to them accordingly. Telegram has not confirmed their compliance with the Iranian government.

پس از این مصاحبه مسئولین تلگرام با همكاران این نهاد تماس گرفته و عذر خواهی و عنوان كردند سیستمی برای همه كاربران دنیا طراحی کرده‌اند كه كاربر بتواند استیكر بسازد، اما نمی‌دانستیم برخی كاربران در ایران از این موضوع سو استفاده می‌کنند بنابراین مسئولان تلگرام عنوان کرده‌اند این امكان را در ایران مسدود می‌کنند تا بتوانند در ایران حضور داشته باشند.

After our interview the administrators of Telegram were in touch with us with regard to this issue and apologized and explained the system was created so all users from around the world could use and design the stickers but we did not know that this would be misused by a few users in Iran. So the managers of Telegram stated that they will disable this option inside of Iran so this app can be used inside Iran.

While the blocking of rude stickers and porn bots might seem minor, these events trigger worries for Iranian Internet users regarding Telegram's relationship with the Iranian government. This worry is compounded by the recent announcement of a new social media monitoring program by the Revolutionary Guards known as Spider, which Vaezi has explained will enable the government's “complete surveillance over social media”.

Telegram boasts secure communications, however security experts have questioned the robustness of its cryptography. Matthew Green, a Professor of Cryptography at John Hopkins University told Global Voices in an email the following, while evaluating the privacy of Telegram: 

  1. Is the cryptography really end-to-end? That is, can the Telegram company read your messages, or are they only available to the two endpoints.
  2. Does the application protect metadata, such as which users are communicating with each other? Even knowing who spoke to whom, and which IP address they came from, can provide a huge amount of information about communications.
  3. Is the cryptography any good, and is it usable? Even if the application claims to provide end-to-end encryption, it may do so in a manner that can be exploited by a smart attacker. Or the encryption may be fine, but it could be so difficult to use that most users mess it up and inadvertently make themselves vulnerable.
  4. Where is the infrastructure located? If the application fails to meet conditions (1) and (2), then the operator can potentially mine a lot of information about your communications. Thus, it really matters what legal jurisdiction they fall into and whether that company (and host country) is likely to cooperate with your government.

With regard to Telegram, specifically, I've looked a bit at the crypto and while I think their hearts are in the right place, the system still needs work. In particular, while Telegram provides end-to-end encrypted messaging, this is not the default setting. All messages are always encrypted — but normal messages are encrypted in a manner that the Telegram server can read. Only ‘secret chats’ are actually encrypted so that only the endpoints can read them.

In addition, users have to master a fairly complicated process of comparing ‘key fingerprints’ in order to ensure that they're really talking to the right person. Which means that someone with access to the Telegram server could potentially intercept their connections.

Regarding Green's fourth condition of cooperation with governments, Telegram has agreed to abide by Iran's censorship policies with regard to its porn bots and stickers. Whether or not Telegram would comply with other Iranian surveillance policies is unknown, but is now of concern to some Iranian users.

by Mahsa Alimardani at August 28, 2015 06:02 PM

Global Voices
Argentina Has Had Decades of Democracy, But Why Do the Disappearances Continue?
Mural in Buenos Aires of Susana Trimarco, the mother of Marita Verón, a young girl of 23 who disappeared from the Argentinian city of Tucumán in April 2002 at the hands of a human trafficking ring. Image taken from the Flickr account PixelBeat! under the Creative Commons license.

Mural in Buenos Aires of Susana Trimarco, the mother of Marita Verón, a young girl of 23 who disappeared from the Argentinian city of Tucumán in April 2002 at the hands of a human trafficking ring. Image taken from the Flickr account PixelBeat! under the Creative Commons license.

For many in Argentina, the image of the “missing person” vividly recalls the forced disappearances of the 1976-1983 dictatorship. Despite 32 years of democracy, however, thousands of people—particularly women and young girls—are still unaccounted for in Argentina.

According to UNICEF and Argentina's Ministry of Justice, Security, and Human Rights, more than 4,000 people become victims of the slave trade every year. One element of the trade is kidnapping, which typically targets young girls and women, as well as young boys, who are then plunged into the world of prostitution:

Esta modalidad abarca casos de secuestros de niños, niñas y adolescentes para transformarlos en verdaderos esclavos, carentes de todos los derechos, en objetos en poder de otros que dirigen sus acciones y su vida misma.

This involves the kidnapping of young boys, girls, and teenagers, who are then forced to become slaves deprived of all of their rights, [and] objects belonging to other people who are then in control of their every move and their entire life.

In 2006, Argentina implemented the Law against Human Trafficking (Law 26.364), and in June 2015, according to the officials, 8,151 human trafficking victims have been freed thanks to this legislation.

While human trafficking may not be a new problem, it has been cast into the spotlight recently due to the story of Marita Verón, a young girl of 23 who disappeared from the city of Tucumán in April 2002. She was reportedly kidnapped and sent to work as a prostitute in Argentina's northeast. In light of allegations that police and local politicians collaborate with the trafficking rings, the victim's mother, Susana Trimarco, has tirelessly dedicated herself to finding the young woman on her own.

Thirteen years have passed since Marita's disappearance and she has still not been found. On her search, Susana met the families of other young kidnap victims who managed to escape their captors. She was led to the realization that her daughter's story is not an isolated case, and that there are organized prostitution rings dedicated to the kidnapping and trafficking of women, many of which rely on political and police support. Having discovered this, Susana committed herself to the fight against human trafficking and founded the Fundación María de los Ángeles, a group that receives reports of missing people and offers support and counseling to the victims’ families.

Verón's case gained the public's awareness thanks to Vidas Robadas, a 2008 soap opera shown on national television station Telefé, which appealed to the country's civil society to come together to fight back against kidnapping. This hasn't been the only effort to draw social attention to the issue. Many producers and artists have contributed to raising awareness about human trafficking in Argentina. For example, the transmedia documentary Mujeres en Venta (Women for Sale) offers a global perspective on the problem. The program shares the heart-rending testimonies of victims, and experts discuss methods of “recruitment” and “deprivation of freedom” implemented by the human trafficking rings.

(Video in Spanish)

There are also fictional pieces that tackle the subject, such as the short film by Gustavo “oRni” FernandezUndercover: Human Trafficking, which has an unexpected twist to its ending.

(Video in Spanish)

Alternatively, the fictional short ALMA, which is directed by Marcela Suppicich and declared to be of “social interest” by the Legislature of the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires, tells the story of Alma, a young girl kidnapped by a human trafficking ring, and is a much needed wake up call on the subject.

(Video in Spanish)

Meanwhile, in the world of comic strips, reporter and cartoonist Julieta Arroquy uses her popular character Ofelia to trace parallels between the disappearances of women such as Marita Verón, Florencia Penacchi, Érica Soriano, and María Cash, and the forced disappearances that occurred during the military dictatorship.

Likewise, various campaigns have been launched on social media to raise awareness about the victims and to help end their suffering:

Without clients there's no trafficking

 #NotoTrafficking Without clients there is no trafficking. REPORT FREE ON LINE 145. ARGENTINA

by Rhea Page at August 28, 2015 03:18 PM

Migrant Filipinos and Their Families Tell the Government: ‘Hands Off Our Balikbayan Boxes!’
Activists hold a rally near the presidential palace denouncing the stricter rules in inspecting balikbayan boxes. Photo from the Facebook page of Lennon Ying-Dah Wong

Activists hold a rally near the presidential palace denouncing the government's order to physically inspect and tax balikbayan boxes. Photo from the Facebook page of Lennon Ying-Dah Wong

A recent order by the Bureau of Customs increasing duties for balikbayan boxes and subjecting them to physical inspection has sparked outrage among Filipino migrant worker communities around the globe and their families back in the Philippines. Balikbayan boxes are packages containing consumer goods and other items sent by overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to relatives back home.

Many OFWs expressed their disgust through social media. The Twitter hashtag #HandsOffOurBalikbayanBoxes was used in the past week to pressure the government to recall its order. The campaign succeeded after President Benigno Aquino III instructed the bureau on August 24 to screen the boxes through X-ray.

The balikbayan box is an important symbol of the Filipino migrant labor phenomenon. Through the box, OFWs are able to give their families a taste of life abroad. An estimated 10 to 12 million Filipinos are working or living in other countries.

The Bureau of Customs said the order aims to increase tax collection and to curb illegal smuggling. The agency blamed a loss of 600 million pesos (12.8 million US dollars) annually from non-declared goods that are said to be smuggled in the country through balikbayan boxes. Furthermore, the agency reported that some unscrupulous traders have used the balikbayan box to smuggle goods and contraband into the country.

OFW boxes, milked for profit OFW cases, neglected! -Migrante

“OFW boxes, milked for profit
OFW cases, neglected!
Migrante”
The person in the image is President Aquino

But the announcement that balikbayan boxes would be opened by customs officials for inspection drew the ire of OFWs and the public for two main reasons: first, the Bureau of Customs is perceived as a corrupt agency; and second, many felt upset that the government is treating OFWs as smugglers and tax evaders. OFWs are popularly called the country’s modern heroes for keeping the economy afloat.

Blogger and newspaper columnist Tonyo Cruz explains the anger expressed by OFWs:

It beggars the mind that Customs and Malacañang are implying that OFWs are out to cheat government of customs duties and taxes through their balikbayan boxes. Not only is it crazy, but it betrays the government’s total lack of knowledge and empathy on the plight of OFWs everywhere, how much they usually earn, why they flee the country in the first place and the challenges they face abroad.

Ask a domestic helper in Hong Kong, a nurse in the United Kingdom, a construction worker in the Middle East, or a teacher in the U.S. They had to leave the country to find work for themselves and for families back home — while at the same time face rising anti-migrant measures and dwindling job prospects wherever they work. Tax evasion is not in their minds. The implied accusation that they are out to cheat government is an insult they can never forgive and forget.

Sociologist Arnold Alamon explains further the public backlash:

You see, dear government, these boxes mean more than the uncollected revenue that should go into public coffers which you will also steal anyway. These are the private symbols of the hardships and sacrifices of dignified Filipinos who would rather work abroad than wait for things to turn around here under one bungling administration after another. The backlash is searing and fiercely emotional and it places into serious question the already little trust people have for government.

An online petition against the customs directive has reached over 87,000 signatures in less than a week. Migrant activists have organized protests against the bureau. They have also called for a “Zero Remittance Day” on August 28. Progressive legislators have meanwhile filed a resolution to investigate the Bureau of Customs for the balikbayan box issue.

Below are some tweets and Internet memes that supported the campaign against the BOC policy.

11052469_1167004069981688_4138258985065795538_o

“We don't smuggle. We struggle. -OFWs”

dear bureau of customs the OFWs go through blood, sweat, fatigue, sickness before making one #balikbayanbox. don't intrude on what's not yours!

You'd like to make money even out of the #OFW #BalikBayanBox? How thick-faced! @CustomsPH #BureauOfCustoms

In the tweet above, pasalubong means gift. The tweet refers to the Canadian trash issue where large amounts of trash from Canada were allowed entry in Philippine ports.

As public indignation reached a boiling point, President Aquino, who earlier urged the public to simply let the customs do its job, recalled the random inspection policy. He also directed the bureau to ensure the presence of representatives from stakeholders when a balikbayan box needs to be inspected by customs officials.

Activists see this as an initial victory. But the struggle for migrant workers’ rights continues.

Julius Rocas also contributed to this story.

by Karlo Mikhail Mongaya at August 28, 2015 02:29 PM

Ousted Trinidad & Tobago Minister ‘Gypsy’ Is Singing a Bitter Tune—Literally
Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Kamla Persad-Bissessar,  speaking at the 7th Americas Competitiveness Forum in Panama. Photo by OEA - OAS, used under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license.

Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, speaking at the 7th Americas Competitiveness Forum in Panama. Photo by OEA – OAS, used under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license.

In the latest split — and there have been a few — in the lead-up to Trinidad and Tobago's September 7 general elections, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar announced that her minister of community development, Winston ‘Gyspy’ Peters, would not be chosen to contest the seat in the Mayaro constituency of south Trinidad.

In retaliation, ‘Gypsy’ has penned, recorded and released a calypso entitled ‘Kamla’, in which he calls the prime minister a “neemakharam” — a word derived from the Hindi “Namak Harama”. In Trinidad and Tobago, the term has come to be synonymous with an ingrate, especially in a political context.

Peters, who spent much of his public life as a calypsonian and brilliant extempo artist before going into politics, wasn't the first minister to not make the cut for the upcoming polls. Prior to the announcement about Peters, the prime minister revealed that Minister of Transport Stephen Cadiz would not be contesting his seat of Chaguanas East in central Trinidad (the governing party's stronghold).

Cadiz’ reaction, however, was a tad tamer than Peters’. Cadiz put the decision down to a strategic move to win an election, while Peters appeared to take the whole thing quite personally, calling the prime minister an “ungrateful ingrate”. To emphasise his point, he resigned not only from his ministerial post, but also from the government he has been a member of for the past 20 years. Interestingly, his constituents didn't seem too perturbed by the change.

Social media users, by and large, thought it was a case of too little too late, saying that if Peters thought so little of his political leader, he should have spoken up sooner, not just when he had something to lose. In a comments thread on the issue, Vinodatt Lutchman could see both sides of the issue, saying:

I am disappointed in what MP Gypsy has said in his resignation press conference especially as he said that he was asked whether he would have been disappointed if he was not selected at the screening committee stage. He should have expressed his concerns and views then and not now go public. The tone of his resignation is very bitter, smacks of sour grapes and he is obviously very hurt. In spite of reaction the screening committee and party hierarchy have mishandled the decision to use a new candidate without being very sensitive to his 15 years service and involvement as the Mayaro MP and bearing in mind his closeness to former UNC MP, Party Chairman and Minister Warner. His loyalty has not been properly valued and common courtesy has not been extended to him.

Some Facebook users felt that the decision to oust Peters was race-based, while Laura Alleyne had no sympathy for him, saying that he went along with the status quo when he should have been standing up for what was right. Jacqueline Charles agreed:

Ste…..uphs! [Trinbagonian gesture of displeasure] This man stayed for 5yrs see all the corruption he hinting about and it's only because he was rejected …. and now want to come in hindsight to insult de collective intelligence of the nation! Nah Gypsy come better than that! You leave for the wrong reason… #warpedmoral #noethics

Meanwhile, Peters was making nice with two other political parties — disgraced ex-FIFA vice president Jack Warner's Independent Liberal Party and the opposition People's National Movement.

That's as far as the niceties go, however. Remember when we wondered whether the country's electioneering could get any weirder? With the general election less than two weeks away, Peters has used the song ‘Kamla’ as a jumping off point to embark upon an “anti-Kamla campaign”, encouraging voters not to support her and the People's Partnership coalition government at the polls.

In his heyday, one of Peters’ most popular calypsoes was “The Sinking Ship”, which likened Trinidad and Tobago to a “luxury liner” that was being mismanaged by the prime minister at the time, George Chambers, and his People's National Movement. Peters’ clever lyrics, paired with a melody that was almost impossible not to sing along to, solidified his reputation as chantwell of political commentary. With Peters’ latest move, though, some netizens couldn't help but note the irony.

Satirical blog The Late O'Clock News was happy to have the last word on the issue:

Gypsy, disappointed with himself that he remained with the ungrateful leader for five whole years without making a squeek [sic], mounted an anti-Kamla campaign this morning to atone for his guilt. Determined to show the entire world for years to come that Persad-Bissessar is a ‘bad person’, he has petitioned the Oxford Dictionary to change the meaning of the word ‘ingrate’ to be more specific to his experience with the Honourable Prime Minister and for a picture of her to be included next to the new definition.

Gypsy’s proposed definition to the Oxford dictionary […] reads:

ingrate /kam-la/ .n. literary. an ungrateful neemakaram, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, 6th Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, a woman who did not give Winston Gypsy Peters a seat in her next government after he helped her rise to power in 2010 – ORIGIN Trinidadian kemler

by Janine Mendes-Franco at August 28, 2015 01:26 PM

Bahrain's Opposition from Dialogue Tables to Prison Cells
Bilad Al Qadeem, Bahrain. 30th December 2014 -- Marchers in Bilad Al Qadeem demanded the release of Sheikh Ali Salman, the Secretary-General of the Al-Wefaq political society in Bahrain, and main opposition to the current government. Photograph by bahrain14feb bilad. Copyright: Demotix

Bilad Al Qadeem, Bahrain. 30th December 2014 — Marchers in Bilad Al Qadeem demanded the release of Sheikh Ali Salman, the Secretary-General of the Al-Wefaq political society in Bahrain, and main opposition to the current government. Photograph by bahrain14feb bilad. Copyright: Demotix

The Bahraini government is closing in on Al Wefaq Islamic Society, the country's largest political group, whose key members are now in prison. The latest to be arrested is Shaikh Hasan Isa, who was picked up from the Bahrain International Airport, when he returned from a visit to Iran on August 18, and is being accused of funding “terrorism.”

It took the Bahraini Ministry of Interior five days to finally declare his arrest. No information was made public, despite a public outcry, and daily protests calling for his release. On the sixth day, the Ministry of Interior announced that Isa, a former member of parliament, was held for “funding terrorism” — heavy charges that could lock the opposition figure up for years.

In a statement released by the Ministry of Interior, it said:

He was arrested on the charge of financing terrorism by funding fugitive terrorists and others linked to terrorist acts.

[..]

The Director-General said the suspect received donations from various sources, including funds from the participants in rallies, and distributed the same among wanted fugitives. He also gave funds to a terrorist group and one of its members even though he was aware of their terrorist activities and helped cover up their crimes. He also provided shelter to members of the group despite knowing about its terrorist goals.

Following the announcement, many protested the accusations brought against the former legislator who won the 2010 elections with a 92 per cent of the total votes in his district in Sitra. His party, Al Wefaq, posted pictures of night protests in his home town.

An anonymous Bahraini woman with the nickname Siddiqa highlighted the government's headhunting of active dissidents who demand a democratic rule in the Gulf kingdom:

He was always in the front lines among those demanding rights, so the government accused him of terrorism.

In a prompt response, dozens of people slammed the Interior Ministry with photographs of pro-government figures who openly raised funds and went to fight with militant groups in Syria.

Bahraini activist Hassan Al Sharqi posted the picture, saying:

They gather funds and arms and export them to terror (groups) “openly” and Sheikh Hasan Isa gets arrested and accused of funding terrorism! Tell me, what class are the Shi'a?”.

Alsharqi is referring to the Interior Minister's statement that Bahrain's Shi'a are not second-class citizens, which he said during a press conference in response to widespread criticism of state discrimination against the Shia, who make the majority of citizens in Bahrain.

Some of the people in the photograph on the left were members of the Bahraini parliament at the time they went to fight in Syria. They are back in Bahrain now, but the government has not taken any measures against them since they now occupy official positions, enjoying immunity. This is despite the government being part of the US coalition against ISIS.

 

 

Detaining the wrongly accused Sheikh Hasan Isa will not bring you stability or gain. And leaving those whose (crimes) were proven by definitive evidence free, will bring terrorism to the people

For any regular observer of the Bahraini situation, it would not be difficult to link this dangerous escalation against the Wefaq opposition party to the Bahraini regime's previous attempts to suspend the association and criminalize its leaders.
Last June, a Bahraini court sentenced the Secretary-General of Al Wefaq Sheikh Ali Salman to four years in prison. The sentence is to be reviewed by the Court of Appeals on September 15. Salman was charged with publicly inciting hatred, disturbing public peace, inciting civil disobedience of the law, insulting public institutions and promoting a change in the regime through military force, in addition to other charges. The court sentenced him on the first three charges and found him not guilty of the latter which carries the lengthiest jail term. The ruling received wide international criticism. Salman's political assistant, Khalil Almarzooq, was locked up for over one month in late 2013 until the court finally responded to international pressure and dropped his charges. Almarzooq was also accused of inciting violence and terrorism. But the trial to suspend Al Wefaq is still ongoing.
With two of its leading figures, Sheikh Hasan Isa and Majeed Milad, both former representatives, behind bars, alongside their Secretary General, Global Voices Online asked Khalil Almarzooq about what these trials could possibly bring to Bahrain.

“Distorting the image of Al Wefaq could isolate it internally and internationally, this would put the government in a stronger position to run away from real reform,” he said. Yet, he seemed confident that this would not be the case.

“The Bahraini authorities are misleading themselves by accusing Al Wefaq leaders on malicious charges that nobody can believe,” he added.

“That is because there is confidence that Al Wefaq has adopted a national, nonviolent methodology and reform agenda since its formation. This is despite the challenging circumstances over the past four years.”

Many believe that the government wants to shut out Al Wefaq from any political settlement in the future, in order to make the least concessions.

Why target Al Wefaq leaders now as the region moves to settle the problems that need thorough dialogue?

Other law makers of the Wefaq bloc were stripped off their citizenship and/or arrested and tortured since 2011. It all started when the bloc walked out of parliament protesting the harsh crackdown on widespread demonstrations for political and economic rights, at the start of anti-government protests in Bahrain, at the beginning of the so-called Arab Spring.

And it is not only Al Wefaq on the chopping block as the government continues its crackdown on all forms of dissent. Prominent members of other opposition groups also remain in detention whilst being prosecuted over similar charges. Secular opposition figure Ibrahim Sharif is facing charges of attempting to topple the government, promoting political change through force and inciting hatred in a speech he gave last month honoring a 16-year-old boy who was shot dead by police. The list extends to include jailed human rights defenders, journalists, photographers, medics, sport figures and thousands of regular citizens all locked up in overcrowded prison cells.
The Bahraini regime has a tarnished record of “criminalizing dissent“.

Is it surprising that a leading figure in Al Wefaq is slammed with terror-linked charges upon return from Iran? Like Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Syria, Iran is home to holy Islamic shrines visited by tens of thousands of Bahraini Shia every year. It's also home to famous Islamic universities. Instead of easing its strangle on freedoms, however, the Bahraini government recently announced it is to “regulate” travel to conflict-zones, in particular, with broader travel regulations to individuals under 18.

This could not only mean further tightening on religious freedom and freedom of movement, but it could be seen as an intention to isolate the Bahraini Shia from their ideological counterparts in the region and criminalize any attempt made to break this new barrier.
Human right defenders are blaming the US for being too placate with its longstanding “strategic ally”, Bahrain, which is home to the US's fifth fleet. In June, the US moved to lift its ban on military aid to Bahrain citing “meaningful reforms” even as the political stalemate deepens. With the leaders of the “tolerated” opposition which was once on the dialogue tables now being shoved into jail one after the other, there doesn't seem to be a glimpse of a political settlement in the horizon.

by Batool Al Musawi at August 28, 2015 12:13 PM

8 Ways Climate Change Is Already Affecting Africa
Oxfam International's 'Let Them Eat Carbon' stunt at the UN climate summit in Durban, South Africa, in 2011. Credit: Ainhoa Goma/Oxfam. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Oxfam International's ‘Let Them Eat Carbon’ stunt at the UN climate summit in Durban, South Africa, in 2011. Credit: Ainhoa Goma/Oxfam. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

This article is based on a piece written by Bhavna Deonarain for 350.org, an organisation building a global climate movement, and is republished on Global Voices as part of a content-sharing agreement.

Right now, the effects of climate change are already being felt by people across Africa. Evidence shows that the change in temperature has affected the health, livelihoods, food productivity, water availability, and overall security of the African people.

According to the Climate Change Vulnerability Index for 2015, seven of the ten countries most at risk from climate change are in Africa.

Africa has seen a decrease in rainfall over large parts of the Sahel and Southern Africa, and an increase in parts of Central Africa. Over the past 25 years, the number of weather-related disasters, such as floods and droughts, has doubled, resulting in Africa having a higher mortality rate from droughts than any other region.

1. Impacts on weather patterns

A deserted drought-stricken village in Mauritania. 01/01/1984. Mauritania. UN Photo/John Isaac. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

A deserted drought-stricken village in Mauritania. 01/01/1984. Mauritania. UN Photo/John Isaac. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Flooding

Flooding is the most prevalent disaster in North Africa, the second most common in East, South and Central Africa, and the third most common in West Africa (AWDR, 2006).

In North Africa, the 2001 disastrous flood in northern Algeria resulted in about 800 deaths and economic loss of about $400 million. In Mozambique, the 2000 flood (worsened by two cyclones) caused 800 deaths, affected almost 2 million people of which about 1 million needed food, 329,000 people were displaced and agricultural production land was destroyed (AWDR, 2006).

Drought

Between July 2011 and mid-2012, a severe drought affected the entire East Africa region and was said to be “the worst drought in 60 years.”

2. Impacts on water supply and quality

The estimated extent of the glacier on Mount Kilimanjaro in 1912, and the extent of the glaciers there in 2002. Credit:  Delphine Digout, UNEP/GRID-Arendal.

The estimated extent of the glacier on Mount Kilimanjaro in 1912, and the extent of the glaciers there in 2002. Credit: Delphine Digout, UNEP/GRID-Arendal.

Observable effects of climate change on water resources in Africa include: flooding, drought, change in distribution of rainfall, drying-up of rivers, melting of glaciers and the receding of bodies of water. 

West Africa

Entire economies suffer when the water levels of Africa’s huge rivers drop. Ghana, for example, has become totally reliant on the hydro-electric output of the Akosombo dam on the river Volta. Mali is dependent on the river Niger for food, water and transport. However, great stretches of the river are now facing environmental devastation as a result of pollution. In Nigeria, half the population has no access to clean water.

Mount Kilimanjaro glaciers

The gradual yet dramatic disappearance of the glaciers on Mount Kilimanjaro is a result of climate change (IPCC, 2001). The glaciers act as a water tower and several rivers are now drying up. It is estimated that 82% of the ice that capped the mountain, when it was first recorded in 1912, is now gone. (IPCC, 2001)

3. Impacts on agriculture and food

Across Africa the landscape is changing. Droughts, heat stress and flooding have led to a reduction in crop yields and livestock productivity.

East Africa is facing the worst food crisis in the 21st century. According to Oxfam, 12 million people in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia are in dire need of food. Rainfall has been below average with 2010/2011 being the driest year since 1950/1951, a serious problem for a continent almost entirely dependent on rain for its agriculture.

4. Impacts on human health 

Malaria medication. Nigeria. Photo: Arne Hoel / World Bank. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Malaria medication. Nigeria. Photo: Arne Hoel / World Bank. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Climate-sensitive diseases and health impacts can be high in poor countries that have minimal resources to treat and prevent illness. Examples of climate related health impacts include: 

  • Frequent and severe heat stress linked to sustained increases in temperature
  • The reduction in air quality that often accompanies a heat wave can lead to breathing problems and worsen respiratory diseases.
  • Impacts of climate change on agriculture and other food systems increases rates of malnutrition and contributes to poverty. “With one in four people still undernourished in sub-Saharan Africa, climate change impacts make it even more difficult for governments across the region to improve food security and help reduce tensions,” reads global risk analytics company Maplecroft's Climate Change and Environmental Risk Atlas for 2015.
  • The spread of malaria may increase in areas projected to receive more precipitation and flooding. Increases in rainfall and temperature can cause spreading of dengue fever. 

5. Impacts on shelter

Severe flooding and intense droughts has led to the destruction of many homes, shelters and villages across Africa. Conflicts over resources also exacerbate these impacts and, in turn, contribute to the ongoing migration within and between countries in Africa.

Extreme events displace large amounts of people, especially those who are unable to respond and rebuild after disasters, due to lack of resources.

“South Sudan refugees residing in a UN camp are living in knee-deep, sewage-contaminated floodwater, forcing some families to sleep standing up so they can hold their children out of the water,” Al Jazeera reported in August 2014.

6. Impacts on vulnerable populations

An Ethiopian woman carries a water barrel. Photo credit: 2006 Badadha Kule/IFPRI. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

An Ethiopian woman carries a water barrel. Photo credit: 2006 Badadha Kule/IFPRI. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Women, children and the elderly are more vulnerable to climate change impacts across Africa. Women labourers often experience additional duties as caregivers and as well as from societal responses to climate change after extreme weather events (eg, male migration).

The water scarcity places an additional burden on African women, who walk hours and sometimes even days to fetch it. (IPCC, 2014)

Children and the elderly face graver risks due to susceptibility to infectious diseases, such as malaria, limited mobility and reduced intake of food. The elderly face physical danger and even death due to droughts, heat stress and wildfires. Children often die from starvation, malnutrition, diarrheal diseases and flooding. (IPCC, 2014)

7. Impacts on national security

Climate change impacts have the potential to exacerbate national security issues and increase the number of international conflicts. Conflicts often occur over the use of already limited natural resources, fertile ground and water. Access to consistent and dependable sources of water is greatly valued in many African regions. However, changes in the timing and intensity of rainfall have threatened water availability and are causing conflicts over this limited resource (IPCC, 2014).

According to a United Nations report, access to water may be the single biggest cause of conflict and war in Africa in the next 25 years.

The changes in precipitation and temperature are already affecting crop yields in Sub-Saharan Africa. This has resulted in food shortages, that have triggered cross border migration and intraregional conflicts, which has sparked political instability in Nigeria for example.

8. Impacts on ecosystems

Baby sea turtle in Zanzibar. Photo by Flickr user missy. CC BY 2.0

Baby sea turtle in Zanzibar. Photo by Flickr user missy. CC BY 2.0

Climate change has already led to changes in freshwater and marine ecosystems in eastern and southern Africa, and terrestrial ecosystems in southern and western Africa. The extreme weather events have demonstrated the vulnerability of some of South Africa’s ecosystems. The migration patterns, geographic range and seasonal activity of many terrestrial and marine species have shifted in response to climate change. The abundance and interaction among species has also changed (IPCC, 2014).

Despite the fact that the African continent has contributed the least to anthropogenic factors causing climate change, Africa is the worst hit.

by 350.org at August 28, 2015 11:41 AM

Miriam Meckel
Die Kraft des Faktischen

WiWo_Titel_36_15_Dax_NEU_fin

Die EU als Wertegemeinschaft? Dann müssen Asyl und Migration endlich verbindlich geregelt werden.

Zeichen der organisierten Unverantwortlichkeit einer überforderten EU, das waren die schier endlosen Verhandlungen um einen Kompromiss zur vermeintlichen Rettung Griechenlands im dritten Anlauf. Was wir derzeit erleben im Umgang der EU-Staaten mit der wachsenden Zahl an Flüchtlingen, ist die Steigerung davon. Es ist ein Zeichen dafür, dass die europäische Wertegemeinschaft die Luft nicht wert ist, die es braucht, um diesen Begriff auszusprechen. Eine leere Hülle. Eine Plattitüde.

Die EU zeigt sich derzeit von ihrer schlechtesten, weil hilflosen und national egoistischen Seite. Griechenland und Italien, überwältigt von der Zahl der Flüchtlinge, weisen freundlich den Weg nach Norden, weil sie keinen Ausweg mehr wissen. Der erste Fingerabdruck der Flüchtlinge gehört Deutschland, damit kein sicherer Drittstaat dazwischenkommt. Kann man es den gepeinigten Kriegsflüchtlingen aus Syrien verdenken? Nein. Richtig ist deshalb, dass Deutschland nun das Dublin-Verfahren für syrische Flüchtlinge außer Kraft gesetzt hat. Eine Anerkennung der Kraft des Faktischen.

Das wird nicht reichen. In der EU und in Deutschland müssen schnell einige grundlegende Fragen beantwortet werden. Die wichtigste davon: Was wollen wir sein? Eine rechtsstaatliche Solidargemeinschaft oder der Ort, an dem jeder sich verhält, als könne sich der andere wie Baron von Münchhausen selbst am Schopfe aus dem Schlamm ziehen?

Ist Europa eine Wertegemeinschaft? Wenn ja, dann müssen Asyl und Migration endlich verbindlich geregelt werden. Dublin ist tot. Es muss eine Kontingentlösung her. Griechenlands Schuldenfrage war den EU-Regierungschefs fast schon regelmäßige Nachtsitzungen wert. Zur Flüchtlingsfrage ist dagegen keine (in Zahlen: 0) überliefert. Es ist Zeit für Entschlossenheit und entsprechenden Verhandlungsdruck. Niemand darf sich hier aus der Verantwortung stehlen. Wenn Großbritannien sich weigert, sich bei der Lösung der Flüchtlingsfrage zu engagieren, ist das eine Entscheidung gegen Europa – mit allen Konsequenzen.

In Deutschland gilt es, zwischen Flüchtlingen aus Kriegsgebieten und wirtschaftlich motivierter Zuwanderung zu unterscheiden. Dazu brauchen wir endlich ein Einwanderungsgesetz, denn wir brauchen die Menschen. Die deutsche Bevölkerung wird nach Angaben der Vereinten Nationen von heute 81 Millionen auf 74,5 Millionen in 2050 sinken. Mit einem Durchschnittsalter von 46 Jahren sind wir derzeit nach Japan das zweitälteste Land der Welt. Für unsere Wirtschaft bedeutet das: Schon 2020 werden den Unternehmen knapp zwei Millionen gut ausgebildete Mitarbeiter fehlen. Folglich wird es auch ein Problem, das Wachstum auf Kurs zu halten, und sei es nur mit dem derzeitigen Wert von etwa 1,1 Prozent. Damit ist durchaus nicht garantiert, dass Deutschland dauerhaft das größte Land der EU nach Bevölkerungszahl und Wirtschaftsleistung bleibt.

Welche Begründung man auch vorzieht, die humane oder die ökonomische: Es muss nun zügig eine Lösung her. Wenn Biedermann das Flüchtlingsthema ratlos mit untauglichen Mitteln zu verwalten sucht, sind die Brandstifter längst auf dem Durchmarsch.

wiwo.de

by Miriam Meckel at August 28, 2015 10:14 AM

Global Voices
Mother Nature Hits ‘Nature Isle’ Dominica Hard With Tropical Storm Erika
Dominica's picturesque capital, Roseau, 2005. Photo by Jean & Nathalie, used under a CC BY 2.0 license.

Dominica's picturesque capital, Roseau, 2005. Photo by Jean & Nathalie, used under a CC BY 2.0 license.

This year's Atlantic hurricane season has begun with dramatic effect with the arrival of Tropical Storm Erika, which has wreaked havoc on the island of Dominica. Experiencing about one inch of heavy rainfall every hour for about 12 hours, the “nature isle” has been facing severe flooding, with landslides reportedly causing several fatalities.

As is often the case during a crisis, social media was the communication channel that people were depending on for information. Twitter was, of course, instrumental in getting information and images out quickly; Robert Tonge, Dominica's minister for tourism and urban renewal, was regularly updating his Facebook page with citizen media videos, photos and updates.

Facebook user Roberts Josie posted a video of the area of Mahaut, in which the river broke its banks and came charging through the town with a fury. The Roseau River, named after the island's capital, was also a frightening sight. There were several photographs of submerged cars; even a car dealership suffered the effects of the storm. Across the island, it seemed, flood waters were raging. Facebook user Reichen Sylvester Faustin posted a photo of the Bayfront area of the capital — it was difficult to tell the difference between land and sea — even the Coast Guard base was under water.

One of the island's airports was also flooded:

A portion of the Roseau Rover Church collapsed under pressure from the swirling waters; you can hear screaming as onlookers realised what was happening.

Large sections of roads gave way and there were a few reports of missing persons.

As the scale of the damage became more apparent, there were widespread calls on social media to pray for Dominica. The storm finally subsided at about 5 p.m. on Thursday, August 27, leaving in her wake significant devastation:

In a curious twist, Facebook user Leslie-Ann Boisselle was appalled to discover that some netizens were not getting their geography or their politics right:

I am seeing lots of posts online where people are saying ‘it good for Dominica – they treat the Haitians so bad’ ‘the Haitians wukking Obeah on the Dominican people’ LETS GET THIS STRAIGHT
Dominica is a sovereign island state. Dominican Republic shares the island of Hispanola with Haiti. THEY ARE TWO DIFFERENT COUNTRIES for the love of mike.
And no one should be reveling in the misfortune of others. That is not right -not right at all

Even as the region's hearts went out to the people of Dominica, there were concerns as to who could be next:

The storm seems to have its sights set on south Florida; there were earlier concerns about it hitting Antigua, but it seems the tiny island towards the north of the archipelago was spared.

Netizens across the region continue to keep an eye on the first major storm of the 2015 hurricane season.

by Janine Mendes-Franco at August 28, 2015 08:28 AM

It's About Time to End Female Genital Mutilation in the Only Latin American Country Where It Still Exists
Agencia Prensa Rural Follow Embera Katío  Recorrido por la vereda Igueronal del corregimiento de Crucito, en Tierralta Córdoba. Es una zona que ha sido habitada cientos de años atrás por los Embera Katíos,

Members of Embera ethnic group in the town of Crucito in Tierralta Córdoba, Colombia. Photo taken from the Flickr account of Agencia Prensa Rural under a Creative Commons licence.

In Colombia, there are indigenous communities that still practice female genital mutilation, also known as female circumcision. This makes Colombia the only country in Latin America where this custom is still in practice, according to some organizations.

Well into the 21st century, female circumcision affects 140 million women and 26 countries in the world, among these Colombia. NO TO FEMALE MUTILATION!!

In the indigenous community of Emberá, where female genital mutilation is still practiced, a group of young girls dying as a result of the procedure in 2007. Five years later, a public declaration by the indigenous authorities officially suspended the practice. But that didn't manage to completely wipe out female genital mutilation — last year, four Emberá girls died after undergoing the procedure.

Don't forget the news about female mutilation that still exists among Emberá women. Yes, right here in Colombia…

Alberto Wuazorna, leader of the Emberá Chamí (located in the central and west Colombian Andes), worked for over three years to raise awareness in the community with the goal of eliminating female genital mutilation. Of course, this was no easy task as the practice falls into the realm of women's sexuality. Based on his experience, he declared that “here we face an issue that goes back centuries, a process older than 200 years that we won't be able to eliminate in just three.”

How did female circumcision come to the Americas “swings between history and myth.” Víctor Zuluaga, a retired historian from the Technological University of Pereira who has worked with the Emberá Chamí communities from Risaralda since the 1970s, says:

[…] en el siglo XVII, cuando los colonos ya habían tomado el control de la mayoría de pueblos indígenas, los chamí se mantuvieron indomables. Eran un pueblo casi nómada que vivía más de la caza y de la pesca que de la agricultura o la minería. La salida que encontraron para ellos fue, pues, el camino: los usaron para trasladar carga entre la costa y las montañas. Su trayecto pasaba por Tadó, un pueblecito riquísimo en oro actualmente en el departamento del Chocó, donde trabajaban cientos de esclavos africanos. Cuando coincidían los domingos, a veces también en sábado, los indígenas y los esclavos tenían “un pequeño espacio de libertad” donde compartir costumbres y rituales.

[…] in the 17th century, when the settlers were already in control of most of the indigenous communities, the Chamí remained indomitable. They were a nomadic community that lived off of hunting and fishing more than farming and mining. The way out that they found was the road: They used it to move cargo between the coast and the mountains. Their route went through Tadó, a little town very rich in gold, currently part of the department of Chocó, where hundreds of African slaves used to work. When they met each other on Sundays, and sometimes on Saturdays, indigenous people and slaves had a “small space of freedom” where they shared traditions and rituals.

The slaves mentioned by Zuluaga hailed from Mali and were accustomed to their men spending much time away from home. The Emberá men also could spend two or three weeks hunting animals in the jungle, so the Malis taught them their ‘cure’ for controlling women's sexuality.

The Emberá Chamí are among the 30 indigenous communities from Colombia who are at risk of extinction. Historically, extreme poverty has afflicted many of the community’s members. Victims of exclusion and discrimination in the best of cases, and violence and displacement from their lands in the worst, the Emberá Chamí have also found themselves at times caught in the crossfire of armed groups operating in the area.

Human rights and women's advocacy organizations estimate there are between 100 and 130 million women in the world who have suffered female genital mutilation. And when it comes to Colombia, experts believe that in the Emberá Chamí community, three to four girls die every year due to complications from the “cure”:

“Soy mujer, soy emberá y no practico la ablación”. El mensaje que transmiten ahora Norfilia Caizales, consejera de mujer del Consejo Regional Indígena de Risaralda (CRIR), y otras mujeres de ambos resguardos no puede ser más claro y contundente. “Llevamos desde el año 2007 buscando nuevos procesos para el fortalecimiento de nuestras niñas, y ya es hora de decir, ‘no más a la práctica de la curación’”, añadió Norfilia.

“I am a woman, I am an Emberá and I don't practice female genital mutilation.” The message conveyed now by Norfilia Caizales, women's adviser at the Indigenous Regional Council of Risaralda (CRIR), and other women from both shelters can't be clearer or more compelling. “Since 2007 we are looking for new processes to empower our girls, and it's about time to say, ‘No more practicing the cure,’” added Norfilia.

According to UNICEF data, female genital mutilation is concentrated along a 29-country strip in Africa and the Middle East.

Gabriela García Calderón contributed to this post.

by Gabriela García Calderón at August 28, 2015 08:05 AM

Doc Searls
Dig the Aurora

Here’s what the current geomagnetic storm looks like right now, data-wise:

k indexThe visuals are in the sky, in the form of brilliant auroras, visible all over Canada and as far south as Michigan. The near-full moon doesn’t help, but the show is there to see. (Alas, I’m in North Carolina, so it’s a longer shot.)

by Doc Searls at August 28, 2015 03:03 AM

August 27, 2015

Global Voices
Medical Workers Dance to Celebrate Release of Sierra Leone's Last Ebola Patient

Sierra Leone entered a 42-day countdown on 25 August 2015 to being declared Ebola free after the country’s last known Ebola patient, Adama Sankoh, was released from hospital.

As of that day, the Ebola outbreak had killed 3,952 in the West African nation, according to the World Health Organisation.

Medical workers at the International Medical Corps treatment center in Makeni, the third largest city in Sierra Leone, danced and sang to mark the occasion. Watch the YouTube video above posted by the International Medical Corps showing the staff's celebrations.

by Ndesanjo Macha at August 27, 2015 04:47 PM

An Indigenous Reindeer Herder Takes on Oil Giants in Siberia
Sergey Kechimov shows the traces the oil companies left on Khanty land. Courtesy Denis Sinyakov/Greenpeace.

Sergey Kechimov shows the traces the oil companies left on Khanty land. Courtesy Denis Sinyakov/Greenpeace.

This is an edited version of an article written by Mikhail Matveev for 350.organ organization building a global climate movement. It is republished on Global Voices as part of a content-sharing agreement.

On August 17, a five-minute hearing was held in a provincial court of Surgut District in Russia's Siberia. The defendant, Sergey Kechimov, a reindeer herder from Yugra and one of the few Khanty indigenous people left, is accused of threatening to kill two workers of Surgutneftegaz – one of the largest Russian oil companies. Being sentenced may cost him up to two years in prison, under the Russian criminal code.

During the hearing, lawyers told Judge Asharina that Kechimov was not provided with translators throughout the investigation. Despite admitting Kechimov’s rights had been violated, the judge decided to proceed with the case. The next hearings will take place on September 12. But this is a case that goes far beyond the accusations being levied.

The Kechimov case could be framed as involving a petty crime and deemed unworthy of the public’s attention. According to the case, the conflict rose when Kechimov shot a dog owned by the oil company workers that had killed a reindeer in his herd and attacked him as well. Oil company workers claimed Kechimov also ordered them out of his ancestral lands and demanded compensation payment while waving his shotgun at them.

Kechimov is one of the last Khanty people living near the Imlor Lake. For centuries, Khantys have deified and praised nature, believing that no person can take more gifts from her than those she is ready to share.

When the oil companies arrived, the sacred Imlor Lake became an expendable source of hydrocarbons, spoiled by oil and mutilated by ugly constructions. Unsurprisingly, most of the Khanty people decided not to live side by side with the newcomers, leaving their ancestral lands behind for the oil workers to take over.

Those like Kechimov and the others who dared to stay have became a constant nuisance for the oil companies. Government measures to protect the ancestral peoples’ rights are providing effective motivation for oil companies to swiftly get rid of such peoples.

For the locals, the presence of oil companies resembles the days of military occupation – with block-posts, humiliating document checkings and personal searches by private security guards.

So the Kechimov case is not just a conflict between individuals: it’s an expression of two incompatible approaches to the relation between people and nature colliding. A conflict now left for Judge Asharina, at the 2nd sub-district of the Surgut Court District, to resolve.

Find a Change.org petition in support of Kechimov here.

by 350.org at August 27, 2015 11:49 AM

No, India, Hindi Will Not Take Over Without a Fight
Image courtesy Bengaluru based Promote Linguistic Equality Facebook Page.

Image courtesy Bengaluru based Promote Linguistic Equality Facebook Page.

During this year's Independence Day celebrations in India, a group of Twitter users launched a campaign to promote greater linguistic equality in the country. As a result, the hashtag #StopHindiImposition started trending nationwide.

Participants in this campaign are also demanding that the government amend India's Official Language Act and declare Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Bengali, Marathi, and other languages to be India's official languages.

According to census data from 2001, the most common languages spoken in India after Hindi are Bengali, Telugu, Marathi, and Tamil, whose speakers constitute about 30 percent of the population. In other words, each of these languages has more native speakers than many European languages and each state where these languages are spoken is bigger than most European countries.

The campaign on Twitter began with the Bengaluru-based Facebook group Promote Linguistic Equality, which has roughly 4,000 Facebook followers. The group says the policies of the Indian Government favor the Hindi language, ignoring rights of other languages. Promote Linguistic Equality also states that:

The purpose of this Twitter Campaign is to demand the Indian Union Govt to Promote Linguistic Equality & #StopHindiImposition on Non Hindi Speaking States.

A nation with a long history of heated language politics

The Anti-Hindi Imposition protest is a not a new phenomenon in India, and has in fact existed for several decades. In 1937, the Indian National Congress tried to impose Hindi education in the schools during the Madras Presidency (which the public vehemently opposed for nearly three years). In 1940, the British Governor of Madras, Lord Erskine, removed Hindi education from schools.

Image courtesy: Promote Linguistic Equality Facebook page

Image courtesy: Promote Linguistic Equality Facebook page

During the 1949 debate in India's Constituent Assembly about the country's official language, T.A. Ramalingam Chettiar, representing Madras, once warned that there would be bitter consequences, if officials imposed Hindi as a national langauge. Due to staunch opposition from the members of South India, the assembly dropped the plan to introduce Hindi or Sanskrit as India's national language.

In 1965, the Indian government tried to introduce a Hindi-only policy, which provoked widespread protests and riots across Madras. Later that year, Indian Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri gave assurances that local officials would continue to use English as the country's official language, so long as non-Hindi-speaking states want it. In 1967, Madras also witnessed significant political changes, as the Congress party was defeated and DMK came to power for the first time.

It was in 1967 that the Indian government introduced the three-language formula, making Hindi compulsory in schools, even in Non-Hindi-speaking states. It lead to strong protests in South India, and eventually the Legislative Assembly of Madras State (Tamil Nadu) scrapped the three-language formula and introduced a two-language formula, stating that no language other than Tamil and English could be used in the state's public spaces, government administration, or educational institutions.

Anti-Hindi imposition protests were renewed recently when the new government under the Bharatiya Janata Party formed in 2014. The government, which strongly favors Hindi, decreed that “government employees and officials of all ministries, departments, corporations, or banks, who have made official accounts on social networking sites, should use Hindi, or both Hindi and English, but give priority to Hindi.” All political parties in Tamil Nadu strongly opposed the measure.

Tensions brought on by new waves of migration

Stop Hindi Imposition, another Chennai-based Facebook group actively promoting linguistic rights, condemns the attitude of some of the Hindi speakers who are moving into the city, who often expect the local population to be well versed in Hindi.

On Facebook, Ganesh Velusami writes, “Will [the Hindi speaker] lament that people around him don't speak Hindi, if he were to have gone to [the] US for work? Why then this imperialistic attitude while in India alone? Because he has been brainwashed that India has one national language of first class importance: Hindi and other regional languages of the second class people.”

Sandeep Kambi posted a picture on Twitter, and asks

Most non-Kannadigas in Bengaluru feel they can get by knowing little or no Kannada at all, writes Sriram Vittalamurthy.

Twitter user Vashant Shetty raises a question:

Blogger Vignesh Raj complains:

I can remember my flight from Thiruvananthapuram to Chennai by Air India. The safety announcements and other important announcements were only in Hindi and English in a region where over 90% customers know either Tamil or Malayalam or both. How fair is to make ‘ceremonial’ announcements in a region where both languages are foreign? I flew with British Airways from London Heathrow to Chennai. As I was greeted by the Air hostess I heard a welcome message ‘ British Airways ungalai anbudan varavaerkirathu (Welcomes You)’ followed by announcements in English.

Aishik Saha, a student and Quora user, writes:

The myth that Hindi is the national language of India has persisted, and been propagated by the mainstream and alternative media for a long time. Those, who have pointed this out are often shouted down by our ultra-nationalists as anti-national or anti-Hindu.

It’s not just in Bengaluru or Chennai; the imposition of Hindi is occurring in almost every part of the country.

In the past few years, due to an economic boom in southern states, many people from northern parts of the country have begun migrating to the south. But many of these people, especially in cities like Bengaluru and Hyderabad, are reluctant to learn those states’ official languages, and instead lean on the locals to learn Hindi.

Penetration of Hindi is highly visible in the non-Hindi-speaking states like Karnataka, Maharashtra, West Bengal, and Telangana. This phenomenon is also present to an extent in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Andhra Pradesh.

A matter of social justice

The 1976 Official-Languages Rules of the Indian Constitution that ensures Hindi won't be used officially for any purpose in Tamil Nadu. Reality is another matter, however. Even basic day-to-day information and services in banks, railway stations, and government offices are often offered only in Hindi or English, leading many locals to complain that they're being denied their basic rights.

Preethi Sridhara, a Quora user, observes:

Kids are being taught Hindi from the first standard. There is absolutely no need of Hindi there. Then why? Why is the government shoving Hindi down their throat?

She continues:

If everybody wants a neutral language, let's go for English. Everybody understands English, right? But no, my friends are being forced to conduct meetings in Hindi. Now isn't that a little unfair?

S. Vallish Kumar writes:

Flawed language policy adopted by the Union Government of India, ever since the current political India was formed. The prolonged special treatment to Hindi by the Union Government of India, is what has caused the perception that everything related to Union Government must have Hindi in it.

Last year, E.M. Sudarsana Natchiappan, a member of parliament, authored a resolution to declare Tamil an official language. Union Minister of State Haribhai Parathibhai Chaudhary rejected the legislation, saying that Articles 343-351 of the Indian Constitution declare that only Hindi and English are the country's official languages.

As it happens, Indian languages like Tamil enjoy official-language status in Sri Lanka and Singapore. Also, Bengali and Nepali are official languages in Bangladesh and Nepal, respectively, but they are denied the same status in India, where vast majority of these languages’ native speakers live.

On Twitter, Mithun says:

“Aggressive Hindi propaganda by the Hindi centric Central Govt’s. and also to an extent Bollywood Movies, have created a false ego among some North Indians (not all) that Hindi is the supreme Indian language,” writes Quora user Sudhindra Sanjeev.

Prassanna LM, one of the organizers of the #StopHindiImposition campaign, demands:

Indians can enjoy true independence only when all Indians and their languages are given equal status. Otherwise, non-Hindi speakers will remain as second class citizens. We demand that all 22 languages of union be declared as official languages under the 8th Schedule of the Constitution.

Though India's mainstream media has often portrayed anti Anti-Hindi-Imposition protests as isolated to Tamil Nadu, the movement has also enjoyed support in Karnataka, Maharashtra, and West Bengal, where Twitter users have echoed calls for linguistic equality in India.

by Winnan Tirunallur at August 27, 2015 04:49 AM

China Won't Tolerate Anything but Praise for Its Showy World War II Parade
Xi's solo military parade. Spoof image from Facebook WikiLleaks Chinese page.

Xi's solo military parade. Spoof image from Facebook WikLleaks Chinese page.

To commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, China has invited world leaders from Africa, Central Asia and Eastern Europe to take part in a large military parade on September 3. The guest list was revealed on August 24.

The disruption to people's daily lives and the absence of national leaders from Western Europe, among other aspects of the parade, were hot but censored topics on Chinese social media.

This is the first time that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has organized a military parade to commemorate the end of WWII. China's role in the Second Great War began two years before war broke out in Europe, when Japan invaded China, sparking the Second Sino-Japanese War. After Japan, which was allied with Germany and Italy, bombed the US naval base at Pearl Harbor in 1941, the Sino-Japanese War became a major front in the larger conflict.

As anti-Japanese war efforts were led by the Kuomintang political party of the then newly established Republic of China (Taiwan), many on Chinese social media have wondered if the CCP should claim credit for the victory in the Sino-Japanese War at all.

But Chinese President Xi Jinping was eager to exhibit the “crucial role” that the CCP played during the Sino-Japanese War as the victory is symbolic to China's national revival, a nationalist project propagated by Xi since he has taken over the leadership. Some spoofed the parade as Xi's one-man show, depicted in the image at the top of this post as well as in Patrick Boehler's video pick on Twitter:

Cheng Ming, a political commenter based in the US, even called Xi's attempt “shameless”:

有人說這是習近平試圖通過大閱兵,嚇唬日本,逼迫安倍承認中國大陸的亞洲霸權;有人說這是習近平試圖通過大閱兵,宣示自己完全掌控了中共的槍桿子。在我看來,習近平通過這次大閱兵,試圖再一次欺騙中國人和欺騙全世界,要人們、尤其是中國大陸的年青一代,相信七十年前的抗戰勝利是在中國共產黨領導下取得的。[…] 隨著九月三日一天天臨近,中國大陸正出現大閱兵熱。在習近平要求全黨深入研究中共的「中流砥柱」指令下,中共的媒體和御用文人也正在開展一場撒謊大賽。

Some say that the military parade is Xi's attempt to intimidate Japan and force [Japanese Prime Minister] Abe to recognize China's hegemony in Asia; some say that Xi wants to demonstrate to the world that he is in control of the military force. For me, Xi is using the parade to lie to the Chinese people and the world, in particular to the young people in China that the victory of the Sino-Japanese war was led by the CCP. […] As September 3 is approaching, media hype has surrounded the military parade. Party intellectuals are participating in a lying contest to prove that the CCP played a “crucial role” in the anti-Japanese War under Xi's instruction.

Of course, the military parade is far from being a literal one-man show as 30 heads of state, mainly from Africa, Central Asia and Eastern Europe, will be present. To make sure things stay on script, authorities have tightened their grip on and offline. During the rehearsal over the weekend, major roads, public transportation and some businesses were shut down. Some users on the ground reported on Twitter:

Went out to buy some vegetables under the blue sky prepared for the military parade in the morning. I was in a rather good mood, but then, the vegetable kiosk was gone. It will only be back in business on September 5. Breakfast shop, chicken restaurant and my favorite cafes all were shut down.

Many expressed frustration with the arrangement, but very few have dared to speak out against the state performance. A very harsh censorship directive has been issued to media outlets to make sure that:

all news and comments related to the military parade must be carefully reviewed before posting to guarantee they are positive and not offensive to the [People's Liberation Army] or the military parade; that they do not attack the Party, the [People's Republic of China], or the political system; and do not attack national leaders.

It turned out that not only critical comments but also negative news were censored. The authorities banned media outlets from reporting on the crash of a military helicopter that was preparing for a parade on August 16. More measures to restrict the flow of information will be introduced in the next few days, according to Astrill, a VPN provider, its service will be disrupted until end of the parade:

Due to upcoming Beijing's military parade next week, China is cracking down on IPSec VPNs using GFW auto-learning technique. VPN access form iOS devices may be limited at this time.

Until end of parade, some of the servers will not be available in iOS application.

The image showing Hitler's military parade has been circulating on Chinese social media since early August as a subtle comment to the upcoming parade.

The image showing Hitler's military parade has been circulating on Chinese social media since early August as a subtle comment on China's upcoming parade.

Despite the harsh censorship measures, sarcastic comments and images occasionally pop up, but soon disappear. For example, on fascism:

据说有个法西斯国家要搞个反法西斯阅兵

They say a fascist country is about to host an anti-fascist military parade

Following the release of the guest list, mocking remarks surfaced, only to vanish quickly, in the comment section of a news thread. Below are some of the comments on China's parade guest list retrieved from Free Weibo, a project dedicated to recovering censored content from popular Chinese microblogging platform Weibo:

3月份刚给了三千万美金物资援助,原来是出场费,回头我也去非洲成立个国家,没事挣点钱花。

In March, [China] paid out US $30 million dollar in aid. That's the fee to show up. I should establish a country in Africa to earn some money.

参加中国阅兵的南太平洋国家瓦努阿图,1982年独立,人口20多万,被称为世界上最幸福国度。根本不知道什么是反法西斯战争。到北京打酱油的!

The Republic of Vanuatu in the southern Pacific Ocean will join the Chinese military parade. The country was established in 1982, with a population of 200,000. It is crowned as the happiest country in the world. The country has nothing to do with the anti-fascist war. They come to Beijing just to hang around.

失道寡助。九三阅兵,各国元首首脑出席者实在是可怜,独联体、前南、前华约、共产国体(蒙朝越古)、几个非洲黑兄弟、亚洲小兄弟(柬巴),估计有些还是花了银子搬来捧场的。

A person without principles has very few friends. Those state leaders who show up in September for the military parade are the pitiful few — former USSR, former communist alliances in southern Asia, the remaining communist states, a few African and Asia brothers. Some probably paid to show up.

State-controlled media are gearing up for the military parade with series of feature reports. As the performance approaches, Chinese people seem to have two options: publicly praise the parade or keep silent.

by Oiwan Lam at August 27, 2015 02:37 AM

MIT Center for Civic Media
Understanding media coverage: seven summer-long experiments with Media Cloud

At Center for Civic Media, we use Media Cloud, our system that collects and analyzes stories from over 50,000 media sources, to study protest movements and understand why some disasters generate more news coverage than others. Our colleagues at Harvard have used Media Cloud to understand how internet-based activists defeated SOPA/PIPA and the structure of online debates about net neutrality.

We’ve been curious what other researchers would do with our tools. Thanks to the Ford Foundation, this summer, we had a great chance to find out. Our friends at Ford sponsored a contest in which we invited teams of researchers to pitch us on research projects using Media Cloud. We hoped to receive ten applications and fund three projects – instead, we had almost fifty applications and ended up working with ten teams on their projects. Applicants and award winners included academics, activists and individuals with interesting questions about media attention where we felt Media Cloud could advance their research agendas.

On Monday, seven of the teams visited Center for Civic Media to show off their work in progress. Their talks offer a great overview of what’s possible to do with the Media Cloud tools, as well as illustrating a wide range of techniques and approaches to quantitative and qualitative research on media attention and issues of social change.

Many of these research projects are heading towards academic papers, while others will likely become articles in the popular press. With permission from their authors, here’s a brief sneak peek at the teams’ questions, approaches and findings.


Julia Wejchert and Katherine Ida used Media Cloud to analyze the the visual reality of abortion news coverage. They downloaded thousands of stories about the abortion debate using the Media Cloud tool, then hand-coded the images that appeared in each story, discovering that news articles about abortion rarely show the people most likely to be having abortions. Instead, the visuals of these articles illustrate abortion as an issue about politics, not about patients.

Wejchert and Ida analyzed two sets of stories, one set randomly selected from the Media Cloud corpus, the other sorted to detect stories that were frequently shared on social media. (Media Cloud uses bit.ly data to determine how often stories were shared online.) Only 8% of the most shared abortion stories featured a potential abortion patient – 22% showed activists or protesters, while 24% showed politicians. When women appear in these images as potential patients, only 27% of images feature women of color, while 64% of abortion patients are women of color. The images frequently portray visibly pregnant women to illustrate these stories, though most abortions occur much earlier in the pregnancy.

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 12.22.10 PM

Media Cloud includes sets of media sources that have been hand-coded for their political leanings, sorted into liberal, conservative, centrist and libertarian sets. Progressive media most frequently showed images of protesters – usually anti-abortion protesters – in stories about abortion. Mainstream media most often showed legislative photos, and conservative media most often showed a fetus or a live infant. This language of imagery is a conscious strategy, Ida and Wejchert report, on the part of anti-abortion activists, who want to shape a narrative about defenseless infants rather than about women’s choice. But their analysis of imagery suggests that there’s no conscious narrative on the pro-choice side countering this visual narrative.


Kate Mays and Karin Seth from the BU Emerging Media Studies Program used Media Cloud to examine the framing of dialog around same sex marriage before and after Obergefell v. Hodges was decided in the Supreme Court on June 26, 2015. They retrieved 8,000 stories from Media Cloud and 42,000 tweets using DMI-TCAT, tracking hastags like #gaymarriage, #marriageequality and #samesexmarriage. They then hand-coded the top 600 stories (ranked by social media shares and by inlinks) to identify a dozen different ways these issues are framed in online media.

Traditionally, the equal marriage debate has been framed in terms of morality (identifying same sex marriage as immoral or sinful) and in terms of equality (gays and lesbians should have the same rights as other citizens.) Mays and Seth find that two narratives ended up dominating the debate after the Supreme Court decision. Those who favored the decision saw it as a civil rights victory, while those who did not invoked the first amendment’s protections of religious freedom to assert a right not to recognize these marriages. They also found extensive evidence that the US decision was influential in an international context, invoked in discussions in Australia and other countries making judicial and legislative decisions around equal marriage.


Daniel Preotiuc-Pietro and Jordan Carpenter at the University of Pennsylvania used Media Cloud to test Jonathan Haidt’s “moral foundations theory”, the idea that ideas of harm, fairness, authority, loyalty and purity/sanctity underly society’s moral institutions and debates about matters of morality. Haidt suggests that liberals argue primarily from two moral bases – harm and fairness – while conservatives argue from all five. Haidt and colleagues have created a lexicon that identifies words associated with positive and negative invocations of each of these foundations – for instance, “unclean” might be a word associated with a negative invocation of purity and sanctity, while “patriot” might be associated with a positive invocation of authority and loyalty.

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 12.21.17 PM

Carpenter and Preotiuc-Pietro took stories from 17 “controversies” – collections of Media Cloud stories on a specific controversial topic – and analyzed the words used in thousands of stories on each controversy to determine which moral foundations were invoked. They were able to find similar moral framings for related stories – stories on teen pregnancy and on Hobby Lobby’s decision not to pay employee medical costs associated with contraception invoked similar moral foundations. Other related stories – Trayvon Martin, Freddie Gray, Ferguson – did not show the same pattern of shared foundations. And while Carpenter and Preotiuc-Pietro found frequent invocation of harm, loyalty and, in one case, authority, they saw no evidence of appeals to fairness or purity in these controversies.

There’s many possible next steps to Carpenter and Preotiuc-Pietro’s research. They’d like to improve the lexicons they’re working with, so they do a better job identifying the foundations invoked. But they also have questions about whether political and moral arguments really do invoke these five foundations, or whether questions of harm – who’s hurt by a decision – end up dominating most media discussions.


Marie Lamensch and Nikolai Pogadl from the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies are deeply engaged with the task of monitoring media coverage, especially for sub-Saharan African nations. Lamensch notes that close monitoring of Rwandan media would have provided early warning of genocidal violence. Understanding US media is particularly important as it can often predict US and European response to African issues – when US media talked about Rwanda in terms of the US failed engagement in Somalia, it was an indicator that the US would not intervene in Rwanda.

Lamensch and Pogadl used Media Cloud to conduct automated monitoring of media stories agout Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Niger, Nigeria, Uganda and South Sudan. They were interested in seeing how campaigns like #BringBackOurGirls (urging the Nigerian government to find girls kidnapped from Chibok, Nigeria) and #148notjustanumber (calling attention to the 148 students and teachers killed in Garissa, Kenya) influenced global media. What they found instead is that African presence in US and European media is linked heavily to football, and that coverage of the Africa’s Cup of Nations and the Women’s World Cup greatly outweighed coverage of political and human rights issues on the continent.

One of the most interesting findings was that international coverage of African issues is deeply influential to local debates, sometimes in damaging ways. US coverage of Ebola was deeply influential within Liberia, they found. And because US coverage tended to focus on Ebola as deadly rather than survivable, those who were exposed to US media stories became more fatalistic about Ebola and less likely to support efforts to control the spread of the disease.


Miranda Bogen from the Fletcher School at Tufts University used Media Cloud to examine the phenomenon of internet companies making “foreign policy” decisions. She examined two cases where Google’s corporate policies were examined in as if the company were making diplomatic judgements: the decision to rename Google Palestinian Territories to Google Palestine, and decisions to block access to the Innocence of Muslims movie trailer in Egypt and Libya, despite no legal requirements to do so. In both cases, Bogen used Media Cloud to create detailed timelines of media coverage of these decisions, looking at how language to describe Google’s behavior changed over time.

While headlines like “Google ‘Recognizes’ Palestine” caught a good deal of public attention, analysis of the controversy shows that Google’s actions followed a UN decision to upgrade Palestine’s status to a non-member observer, triggering a change in ISO designation, which is what Google cited in making their change. While news organizations made much of the “symbolic importance” of Google’s decision, the company described the change as a technical change in international naming conventions, and the quick decay of the story suggests that media organizations took the company’s explanation at face value.

Google’s decision to take down the “Innocence of Muslims” trailer was much more complicated. Early in the discussion, news outlets referred to this clip as “causing violent riots” throughout the Middle East. Over time, that assertion dropped to an conjecture, with outlets saying that the clip “might have caused riots” or “was said to have caused riots”. Google acknowledged that they made an unusual decision to block the content, and Bogen sees evidence that media framing influenced the decision to make the block. In this case, it may be less that Google is making foreign policy than that media coverage is making Google policy.


Eric Enrique Borja and colleagues from UT Austin used Media Cloud to study media coverage of protests associated with #BlackLivesMatter in Ferguson and Baltimore. He used Media Cloud to create collections of stories about protests in Ferguson after Michael Brown’s death and again after a jury failed to indict Darren Wilson, and protests in Baltimore after the death of Freddie Gray. Noting that social movements “live and die by mainstream media public opinion”, he sorted stories into frames with positive and negative valences, offering the real CNN headline “Rioters set fire to looted drug store” as an example of negative framing.

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 12.20.02 PM

In both waves of Ferguson protest, Borja sees comparable levels of positive and negative framing. Many stories invoke rioting and looting, but there is also discussion of activists, civil rights, uprisings, protests and demonstrations. By the second wave of Ferguson protests, the negative frame is increasing in power. In Baltimore, there’s a massive disparity between positive and negative frames: there is virtually no media coverage of the events after Freddie Gray’s death that refers to protest, and massive coverage of riots and violence. Borja points to a story of an “angry Baltimore mother” physically restraining her son from entering the protests as part of a media framing of the Baltimore events as chaotic and lawless, rather than as legitimate outrage at police abuse.

Understanding the disparities in coverage between Ferguson and Baltimore is critical, Borja argues, because he sees evidence that black politics in general is often portrayed as a disruption to peace and order. The more balanced coverage, especially to the first wave of Ferguson protests, gives room for protest and dissent as legitimate expression, while the Baltimore framing makes that discussion impossible.


Brandi Collins of Color of Change took on a project called “Deconstructing ‘Thug'”, a cultural history of a fraught and loaded term. President Obama and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake both described demonstrators and protestors in Baltimore as “thugs” (the mayor subsequently apologized, while the President did not), leading to discussions that “thug” had emerged as a proxy for race, or as a new, socially acceptable “N-word”. Collins was interested in starting a campaign called “Ban the T-word”, when she discovered that people’s feelings about the term “thug” are complex and multi-layered – even her mother wasn’t convinced that “thug” was a word that should disappear from the vocabulary. So Collins took a deep dive into the origins of the term, and its recent rise in media discourse.

“Thug” is traceable back to the 14th century, used as a pejorative term to describe Indian worshipers of Kali. These “thugees” were described as robbing and strangling innocents, but it’s unclear that these attacks actually happened. In the mid-1800s, British colonial administrators embraced the myth of the thugee to justify mass incarceration in India. The term became popular in the US in associated with labor protests, tied to union organizers in the Haymarket uprisings, and then associated with the Italian mafia and union organizers. The term took on another layer of meaning in the 1990s when Tupac Shakur’s “Thug Life” tattoo tied the term to corners of hiphop culture.

In contemporary usage, Collins sees “thug” attached to marginalized people – African Americans in the US, Muslims in the UK, as well as to organized labor. Tracking the work in the Media Cloud corpus from 2011 to 2015, she saw a spike in usage of “thug” connected to union organizers opposing Scott Walker in Wisconsin. Usage of the term appears to be increasing in US media, though slowing in mainstream, centrist media. It’s had slow, steady growth in conservative media, and Collins was surprised to find “thug” appearing widely in liberal media, often invoked to identify and fight conservative framings. At the end of the day, “thug” does appear to be code for race – 70% of the peaks in usage of “thug” coincided with stories about race and racial justice.


It was an incredible experience to see these teams work with our tools in such creative and disparate ways. We built Media Cloud to solve some of our own research questions, but also to be useful to anyone with questions about how ideas, frames and terms spread through media. If you’re interested in asking these sorts of questions about media, please sign up for a free account and try it out. We would love to hear what you discover.

by EthanZ at August 27, 2015 02:06 AM

Doc Searls
The greatest western I’ve ever read

10-17-Love— is John McPhee‘s Rising From the Plains.

It’s one book among five collected in Annals of the Former World, which won a Pulitzer in 1999. In all five, McPhee follows a geologist around; and all five of the geologists are interesting characters.

None, however, is more interesting than J. David Love, who grew up on a hardscrabble ranch in the center of Wyoming and became one of the most accomplished geologists in the history of the field.

And yet Love is still less interesting than both his parents — one an endlessly resourceful Scottish builder and re-builder of the family ranch (also possibly, McPhee suggests, a one-time member of Butch Cassidy’s gang), and the other one of the finest diarists ever to put pen to paper in a time and place that was still the Old West.

I’ve read and re-read Rising From the Plains so often that the pages are browned at the edges, simply because I love the writing and the characters in the stories that braid through the text (which is actually about geology, though you can ignore that).

I bring all this up because last night, on my sister’s Netflix, we watched Episode Eight (1887-1914), of The West, a Ken Burns documentary that ran on PBS so long ago that the picture is in 3×4 low-def, shaped to fit old vacuum-tube TV screens. In the episode is a section titled “I Will Never Leave You,” which is about the trials endured by the Love family at their ranch. It features photos of the Loves I had never seen, along with interview footage of David Love, then in his 80s, telling stories I had read countless times, yet loved to hear again, straight from The Man Himself.

The old ranch house was still standing when Love and McPhee visited it for a last time, sometime before the mid-80s, when Rising From the Plains was published. John Perry Barlow, who knew Love, told me a few years ago that the place is now long gone. Google Earth says the same.

But Wyoming, which the Loves loved, and which David knew more deeply than anybody, lives. And visiting that ranch site is one of the very few to-dos on my bucket list.

A few bonus links:

 

by Doc Searls at August 27, 2015 01:36 AM

August 26, 2015

Global Voices
Videos Show How the Lebanese Security Forces Violently Dealt With ‘You Stink’ Protesters
Beirut, Lebanon. 23rd August 2015 -- A man stands next to burning barb-wire in Riad el Solh Square in Beirut, Lebanon after the army was deployed to curb the rubbish disposal protesters rallying in the capital against the government. -- Protest organized by the "You Stink" movement Sunday turned into violence in Beirut Riad AlSolh square after protesters started to remove the barbed wire that leads to the Grand Seraii, Lebanese government head quarters building. Photograph by Issam Abdallah. Copyright: Demotix

Beirut, Lebanon. 23rd August 2015 — A man stands next to burning barb-wire in Riad el Solh Square in Beirut, Lebanon after the army was deployed to curb the rubbish disposal protesters rallying in the capital against the government. — Protest organized by the “You Stink” movement Sunday turned into violence in Beirut Riad AlSolh square after protesters started to remove the barbed wire that leads to the Grand Seraii, Lebanese government head quarters building. Photograph by Issam Abdallah. Copyright: Demotix

Videos coming out of Lebanon show protesters being attacked viciously by security forces using teargas and water cannons, shot directly at the crowds.

The Tol3et Re7atkom (You Stink) movement gathered thousands of people last weekend in Beirut to demonstrate for a sustainable solution to the country's piling rubbish. But protesters were met with police violence in some cases, despite the movement's declarations that it is adhering to Non-Violent Direct Action (NVDA).

Here are some videos which show examples of police violence against civilians.

After chanting “This is a peaceful protests” civilians were beaten up by police forces:

This footage shows teargas being fired directly at protesters:

This video allegedly shows security forces attempting to kidnap and beat a woman:

Police trying to disperse the protesters in Beirut:

Teargas bombs launched at the protesters:

Military beating peaceful protesters:

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Video footage of military men beating peaceful protesters. PLEASE SHARE. MORE FOOTAGE TO COME.

Posted by ‎طلعت ريحتكم‎ on Saturday, 22 August 2015

Teargas fired at the protesters inside Beirut Souks:

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Protesters, civilians trapped and fired with tear gasses by the police INSIDE Beirut Souks.

Posted by ‎طلعت ريحتكم‎ on Saturday, 22 August 2015

Lebanese blogger Joey Ayoub, who is also Global Voices Online Lebanon author, provides a first hand account of what happened on August 22, and how the situation escalated on his blog Hummus for Thought. Ayoub explains:

I was there alongside thousands of Lebanese citizens demanding for our rights when we were met with police brutality, teargas canisters, water-canons and armed thugs following peaceful protestors and beating them.

[…]

As one of those who helped organize this protest, I can safely tell you that the government’s reaction was beyond anything we were expecting. We were expecting water-cannons like last time, and many of us came prepared for those (putting our phones in plastic bags etc.). But we were not prepared for the teargas and we were certainly not expecting to see riot police and army men playing the role of government thugs.

[…]

The sheer savagery of riot police and army men shooting teargas canisters haphazardly at any concentration of people they saw in front of us was a shock to us all. We saw old women and children between carried by men to save them from getting crushed by everyone else. We were yelling ‘we have kids! We have kids!’ while riot police increased the velocity of the water cannons until none of us could stand on our feet. The water-cannons pushed nearly 10,000 people into one another on a narrow street. Kids who came with their parents were being trampled on, old ladies screaming ‘shame! shame!’ while they tried to run away, young men and women building a solidarity wall to prevent the brutality of water cannons from hitting the weaker ones among us.

Ayoub wonders:

It was extremely dangerous. We genuinely feared for our lives. And for what? Demanding sustainable solutions to Lebanon’s trash crisis as opposed to its current catastrophic mismanagement? Wanting to live normal lives free of such suffocating corruption and sectarian nepotism?

You Stink has broadened its focus beyond officials’ mishandling of the refuse problem following the closure of the country's largest landfill in July. Members are now calling for the government's resignation, an end to corruption and fresh parliamentary elections, among other demands. Lebanon, already suffering from a poor infrastructure and daily electricity cuts, has had no president for over a year. In 2009, its parliament extended its term until 2017, with no elections, citing instability as a reason.

Also Read:

‘You Stink’ Protesters Call for the Resignation of the Lebanese Government

Lebanese Activists Warn Against Political Attempts to Exploit Their Movement

Peaceful Protestors Face Riot Police Brutality in Lebanon

And our coverage on Global Voices Checkdesk

by Anna Kozakova at August 26, 2015 09:53 PM

Chinese Cultural Revolution Sci-Fi Wins Hugo Awards’ Best Novel Prize
2015 Hugo Awards Best Novel goes to Chinese writer Liu Cixin. Image: Book covers of Liu's first two trilogy.

2015 Hugo Awards Best Novel goes to Chinese writer Liu Cixin. Image: Book covers of Liu's first two work in his trilogy.

This year's fan-selected Hugo award for best novel goes to The Three-Body Problem, the first part of a trilogy by former engineer Liu Cixin.

Translated by American author Ken Liu, this is the first year the prestigious sci-fi prize has gone to a Chinese or even Asian author, and the first time a translated work has taken the prize.

First published in 2006 as a series in a local science magazine, Three-Body is a story of an alien invasion set against the backdrop of China's Cultural Revolution, pitching humans who side with the aliens against those who defend the human race—with some outside assistance.

Though the quality of writing hasn't been disputed by readers, Liu's win wasn't for his novel alone. A strictly homogeneous group of U.S. writers and readers had made concerted efforts to skew vote results to keep the award within their circle according to the perceived political leanings of the writers. But the “Rabid Puppies” campaign backfired when their efforts prompted their preferred frontrunner, Marko Kloos, to withdraw his nomination earlier this year and distance himself from the group, leaving Liu the voters’ choice.

It's pretty ironic that the Puppies brigade tried to rig the Hugo Awards vote and ended up with an even less desirable outcome. That said, there wasn't much difference in the way Three-Body fans tried to swarm the voting. I can't stand it when works are judged solely for political correctness, but the Puppies really took it too far. In any case, it can't be that bad when it's the first time ever a mainland Chinese author has won a Hugo.

In China, interest in Three-Body now has been less focused on the Puppies campaign failure and more on details of the film adaptation, which began production in March this year. Fans fear a domestic production won't give the film the high-budget Hollywood treatment they feel it deserves.

Author Liu Cixin, who is also executive producer of the film, said in interviews that he had no time to wait for a Hollywood deal given the strong possibility the planet will be destroyed by aliens at any moment. However, Liu also pointed to films such as Japan Sinks, saying that the 2006 remake was far inferior to the 1973 original, made free of computer imagery.

Journalist and vocal Three-Body fan Michael Anti says this is simply the price to be paid for such delayed international recognition of the novel.

It's too bad The Three-Body Problem wasn't given a Hugo Award in time for a Hollywood director to sign on to film it, and instead will be ruined by a shitty Chinese director.

The director of the film is Zhang Fanfan, who bought the copyright of the trilogy back in 2009 when Liu started repackaging the serial into book form. Many are skeptical of the upcoming movies as the production team is not considered the best that the Chinese film sector has to offer.

Politically correct paradox

The Hugo award is likely to bring the book readers from outside the sci-fi community. Another sci-fi writer, Baoshu, worries that critics will ruin Liu:

真心觉得大刘不容易,以前自己想写什么写什么,现在吸引太多人的注意,新作写出来如果不严谨给硬科幻迷骂,文笔没有逼格给文评家骂,塑造的女性不如意给女权骂,设想的未来不够普世价值给右派骂,太普世了也许根本出不了……要真想方方面面周全,就永远写不出新作了。

This puts Liu in a tough spot. Before, he could write whatever he wanted, but now having drawn so much attention, if the science in his next work isn't perfect, he'll get it from his sci-fi fans. If his form isn't spot-on, he'll be hearing it from the literary critics. There'll be heat from the feminists if the women he creates don't meet expectations, as well as from the liberals if the future he imagines isn't liberal enough, though if it's too liberal it won't be any…if he has to take all these demands into account, he'll never write anything again.

Chinese sci-fi readers, many not fans themselves of political correctness, have pointed out the way women and race are portrayed in Third-Body is probably closer to the taste of right-wing Puppies than not.

And then there's an authoritarian aesthetic to which a Chinese director is more likely to stay faithful, writer Star River argued:

The science fiction in Three-Body is truly impressive, but as a novel it's infatuated with totalitarianism and authoritarianism. Much sci-fi comes from despair over reality, at what's inescapable by design, and reflects the author's values and worldview. Which is why it's appropriate to have [investor] Kong Ergou make the film, it'll be part of the same project.

Even with all the dodgy science in Liu Cixin's sci-fi, his values and literary skill aside, his imagination still far surpasses that of other contemporary Chinese sci-fi writers. Authoritarianism strips people of wits, imagination, and ability to express one's self, which has long kept modern Chinese language literature in a very low place. Inferiority is collusion between author and audience, and also the hallmark of authoritarianism.

Liu Di, the dissident and sci-fi writer who uses the pen name Stainless Steel Rat, added:

Random speculation: the first part of the trilogy was rewarded for denouncing the Cultural Revolution, but as the latter two books don't fit with American values, they don't stand a chance.

The second part of the trilogy, The Dark Forest, was published in English just this month, and the final part is in translation now.

Liu Cixin, writing this week at an online forum popular with Tsinghua university students and alumni, had this to say in his notes of thanks:

最想感谢的还是本书的读者,感谢他们分享了我的想象世界,在《The Three Body Problem》和其后的两部续集中,展现了一个最糟的宇宙,但像其它的科幻小说一样,在其中人类是做为一个整体出现的,面对着共同的危机和挑战,面对着共同的未来。在宇宙中做为一个整体的而出现的人类,是科幻小说带给我们最珍贵的感受;事实上,在现实中人类也正在变为一个整体,这不用等到外星人到来,为此,科幻小说做出了微小但宝贵的努力。

Those I'd like to thank most are the readers of these books, for sharing my imaginary world. The Three-Body Problem, along with the following two books, has revealed the worst kind of universe, but as is the case in all sci-fi novels the humans in them come together as one in the face of a common threat and challenge, and a common future. And it's the bringing together of humans as a single entity in the universe that is the beauty sci-fi gives us; in fact, in reality, humans are coming together as one at this very moment; we don't need to wait for the aliens to show up for that.

by John Kennedy at August 26, 2015 05:15 PM

Doc Searls
Apple’s content blocking is chemo for the cancer of adtech

Intravenous equipmentThe tide of popular sentiment is turning against tracking-based advertising — and Apple knows it. That’s why they’re enabling “content blocking” in iOS 9 (the new mobile operating system that will soon go in your iPhone and iPad).

Says Apple, “Content Blocking* gives your extensions a fast and efficient way to block cookies, images, resources, pop-ups, and other content.”

This is aimed straight at tracking-based advertising, known in the trade as adtech.* And Apple isn’t alone:

[*Note: far I know, there was not a term for tracking-based advertising until adtech seemed to emerge as the front-runner. I chose it for this post because others (e.g. the first two examples above) have done the same. Tell me a better word and I’ll swap it in. And if you want to know why we need to distinguish  between advertising based on tracking people and advertising that is not, read my last post, Separating Advertising’s Wheat and Chaff.]

Here’s Apple’s tech-speak on the feature:

Your app extension is responsible for supplying a JSON file to Safari. The JSON consists of an array of rules (triggers and actions) for blocking specific content. Safari converts the JSON to bytecode, which it applies efficiently to all resource loads without leaking information about the user’s browsing back to the app extension.

This means the iOS platform will now support developers who want to build sophisticated apps that give users ways to block stuff they don’t like, such as adtech tracking and various forms of advertising — or all advertising — and to do it privately.

This allows much more control over unwanted content than is provided currently by ad and tracking blockers on Web browsers, and supports this control at the system level, rather than at the browser level. (Though it is executed by the browser.)

How likely is it that these apps will be built? 100%. One of those is Crystal, by Dean Murphy. His pitches:

  1. Remove advert banners, blocks, popovers, autoplay videos, App Store redirects & invisible tracking scripts that follow you around the web.
  2. Pages render more than 3.9x faster on average**.
  3. Reduces data use by 53% on average**.

[**Benchmarks calculated from a selection of random pages from 10 popular sites.]

All three of these address obvious appetites by customers in the marketplace:

  1. To avoid ads, and being tracked.
  2. To speed things up.
  3. To minimize data usage, for which mobile carriers charge money.

In iOS 9 content blocking will transform the mobile Web: I’ve tried it., Owen Williams (@ow) of TheNextWeb gives Crystal a spin, finding it delivers on its promises.

If I read Owen right, he believes Content Blocking will have two results:

  1. Publishers will lose, because they depend on advertising that will be blocked; and
  2. Apple will win, because publishers will be driven to the company’s News app, on which Apple can make money with its own advertising system, called iAd.

While these assumptions might be correct, they are part of a much larger picture, which will surely change as content blockers such as Crystal get adopted. So let’s look at that picture.

  1. The market is very unhappy with abuses to personal privacy. Studies by Pew, TRUSTe, Customer Commons and Wharton all make clear that more than 90% of the connected population doesn’t like privacy abuse on the commercial Web. Following people with tracking cookies and beacons violates their privacy. This is a big reason why ad and tracking blocking, through popular browser extensions and add-ons, is already high and continues to go up. It is therefore safe to say that iOS apps like Crystal will be very popular.
  2. There are two kinds of advertising at issue here, and it is essential to separate them (which I do, at length, in Separating Advertising’s Wheat and Chaff). One is tracking-based advertising, or adtech. That’s the kind that wants to get personal, and depends on spying on people. The other is plain old brand advertising, which isn’t based on tracking, and is targeted at populations rather than individuals. Content Blocking is aimed squarely at adtech.
  3. Apple’s iAd is for brand advertising, not adtech. At least that’s what I gather from Apple’s literature. (See here, here, here and here.) This puts them on the side of wheat, and Apple’s competitors — notably Google, Facebook and all of adtech — on the side of chaff.
  4. Apple has put a big stake in the ground on the subject of privacy. This is clearly to differentiate itself from adtech in general, and from Google and Facebooks in particular.
  5. Brand advertising is more valuable to publishers than adtech. Its provenance and value are clear and obvious and it sells for better prices. Also, while some of it may be annoying, none of it shares its business model with spam, which adtech does. And brand advertising uncorrupted by fraud, which is rampant in adtech — so rampant, in fact, that T.Rob Wyatt, a security expert, calls adtech “the new digital cancer.”

This is why content blocking is chemo for the cancer of adtech. It is also why everybody involved in the advertising-funded online ecosystem should start separating the wheat from the chaff, and to make clear that the wheat — plain old non-tracking-based brand advertising — is (to mix metaphors) the baby in the advertising bathwater that users will start throwing out with their content blockers.

However it goes down, the inevitable results, long term, will be these:

  1. Brand advertising (the non-tracking-based kind) will be seen again as the most legitimate form of advertising.
  2. Brand advertising will again be credited for doing the good work of funding publishers (also broadcasters, podcasters and the rest).
  3. Adtech, and spying in general, will be shunned, as it deserves to be.
  4. Adtech will still live on, rehabilitated and cleansed, as a trusted symbiote of users who give clear and unambiguous permission for trackers they bless to dwell in their private spaces and give them optimal personalized advertising experiences.

In other words, what I said at the close of the Advertising Bubble chapter of The Intention Economy will come true:

When the backlash is over, and the advertising bubble deflates, advertising will remain an enormous and useful business. We will still need advertising to do what only it can do. What will emerge, however, is a market for what advertising can’t do. This new market will be defined by what customers actually want, rather than guesses about it.

* As a term, “content blocking” is an unfortunate choice, since until now it meant government censorship. But the deed is done. From this point forward it means you get to block stuff you don’t want happening on your mobile device.


Later (2:36pm) — So I tweeted this post here, not long after it went up, and the response is split between yea and nay (though mostly yea). Since I have no argument with the yeas, I’ll take on the nays…

@cpokane writes,

it is offensive to us who work in adtech by day and nurse the result of cancer by night, at home. disappointing metaphor.

Gareth Holmes (@mgrholmes) adds these:

No offence to but comparing ad tech to cancer is beyond hyperbole. FACT: ad tech has been keeping the internet free since 1993

having never met I only hope he doesn’t have to wait until he’s lying next to a dying loved one to realise he was wrong.

And Vlad Stein (@vstein) weighs in with this:

Couldn’t imagine a stupider, more offensive title. Ad tech is what makes free online content viable, like it or not.

No offence taken. Or meant to be given. Cancer is a common metaphor for many things that are not. So is chemo: a medicine that sickens a patient while killing (or at least trying to kill) his or her cancer. Tell me a better metaphor and I’ll gladly use it. (I have also experienced loved ones dying of cancer, and I’m not sure they would have disapproved of the metaphor.)

As for hyperbole, guilty as charged. I’m making a strong point here, and one almost nobody else (other than Don Marti and Bob Hoffman) is making — or has seen sunk in. The market sentiment against surveillance-based marketing — aka adtech — is strong, growing, and almost entirely ignored by the whole adtech business.

As for Apple’s nature as a company, they are hardly pure. In fact, there is a vast inconsistency between what they’re doing on the B2C side with Content Blocking and on the B2B side with adtech.

On the B2C side, which is 99+% of what Apple does, the company works on behalf of its paying customers. This is huge, because there isn’t a customer on Earth who wants to be tracked like an animal without clear and explicit permission, or to have pages slowed by tracking cookies, beacons and ads fed by unknown and unwelcome servers. Especially on mobile. Apple knows this because they talk on the phone and in stores every day with those customers. They’ve also seen abundant research (some cited above) that makes clear how much people hate having their privacy violated, which Adtech does with abundant impunity. Meanwhile adtech doesn’t talk to those customers. It only follows them. Ain’t the same.

On the B2B side, Apple with iAd has been in the adtech business from the start, in 2010. (I visit all this in my next post.) While they don’t allow third party cookies or tracking, they do allow advertisers to aim their ads based on what Apple knows about you from your iTunes and App Store purchases, plus other intelligence the company gathers from its interactions with you. This is adtech, pure and simple.

So yes, Apple is having it both ways.

I suspect Apple will reconcile the two by pushing non-tracking-based brand ads for higher prices. If they do that, both publishers and brands will appreciate the lack of reader confusion about the provenance and motives of those ads. But I don’t know. We’ll see.

Next, saying adtech (or anything) has kept the Net free is like saying coupon flyers have kept geology free. The Net was born free and remains that way. Same goes for the Web. They support an infinite variety of sites, services and activities, and not just commercial ones. (More about that here, here and here.)

In fact, commercial activity was impossible on the Internet before NSFnet (the one non-commercial network within the Internet) stood down on 30 April 1995. After that ecommerce took off. (Amazon and eBay were both born in ’95.) So did advertising, but not as fast. Adtech (or ad tech) didn’t take off until well after the turn of the millennium.

This blog has been free and viable since 1998, by the way, without an ounce of advertising. So has everything Dave Winer‘s done. Without Dave we wouldn’t have blogging, syndicating (e.g. RSS) or podcasting as we know it.

Something worth thinking about: if we had jobbed out inventing and developing the Net and the Web to commercial interests, would they even exist?

@Ertraeglichkeit writes,

@dsearls what did the NSFnet bring, that it started “commercial activity” on the net and say not hotwired in 1994 with ad banners?

The Internet is a collection of networks united by agreements called protocols. Those protocols said data should be passed between any one end and any other end over any path available, on a best effort basis. This means the data you send to me could go over any path on any network between us on the whole thing called the Internet. This also meant that if any one network forbid one kind of activity, it would do for the whole internetwork. Because the NSFnet (National Science Foundation Network) forbid commercial activity on itself, and the NSFnet was a member of the Internet, it forbid commercial activity for the whole thing. So, when the NSFnet went down on 30 April, 1995, it opened the whole Internet to commercial activity. That’s a short version. If you’re interested in learning more, I recommend Wikipedia’s article on the NSFnet.

[August 27] Bonus link from Bob Hoffman, the Ad Contrarian (and a hero of all-wheat advertising): Is Our Long Digital Nightmare Coming To An End? Writes he,

I can think of nothing that has done more harm to the internet than adtech.

It is a plague. It interferes with virtually everything we try to do on the web. It has cheapened and debased advertising. It has helped spawn criminal empires. It is in part responsible for unprecedented fraud and corruption. It has turned marketing executives into clueless baboons. And it is destroying the idea of privacy, one of the backbones of democracy.

And for what? 8 clicks in 10,000 impressions?

But maybe there is hope for those of us who hate adtech.

Sure hope I’m right.

by Doc Searls at August 26, 2015 04:32 PM

Global Voices
Uruguay, Chile and Brazil Lead South America in Download Speeds
Mapa de velocidad de conexión a internet en América Latina

The average Internet broadband connection speed in Latin America is 7.3 Mbps, and only three countries are above the average: Uruguay, Brazil, and Chile.

In its most recent report, “La nueva revolución digital: de la Internet del consumo a la Internet de la producción” (The New Digital Revolution: from Internet Consumption to Internet Production) the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean published the ranking of Internet connection speeds in Latin American countries.

According to the report, the average download speed on broadband is 7.3 Mbps in South America. In more advanced countries, the average download speed is 32.2 Mbps.

There are only four countries in the region that are above the average: Brazil, Chile, Mexico, and Uruguay.

Chile was the country with the best ranking in 2012 with an average download speed of 8 Mbps. By the end of 2014, Uruguay had the best ranking with 22.6 Mbps. This number is very similar to that of Spain, Portugal or the United Kingdom. Excluding Uruguay, the best download speeds were recorded in Chile and Brazil. The worst download speeds were recorded in Bolivia, Paraguay, and Venezuela.

According to the same report, the average loading speeds in Latin America is 2.9 Mbps, while 13.4 Mbps is the average in more advanced countries. “Uruguay has the best loading speed (5.9 Mbps) followed by Mexico (5.7 Mbps) and Brazil (4.2 Mbps). Argentina, Bolivia, and Peru have the slowest loading speeds.”

Uruguay has the best ranking for loading and downloading speeds on mobile broadband.

En cuanto a la velocidad de descarga (16,96 Mbps), este país se encuentra por encima del promedio de los países avanzados (14,8 Mbps); lo siguen Colombia (9,9 Mbps) y Perú (9,6 Mbps). En la velocidad de carga, Uruguay (6,8 Mbps) es seguido por Perú (5,7 Mbps), ambos ubicados por encima del promedio de los países avanzados (5,6 Mbps). Colombia, con 4,8 Mbps, ocupa el tercer lugar. Bolivia, Colombia y Perú, que no destacan en banda ancha global, alcanzan buenas posiciones en las velocidades de banda ancha móvil”.

This country has a download speed (16.96 Mbps) that is above the average of more advanced countries (14.8 Mbps). It is followed by Colombia (9.9 Mbps) and Peru (9.6 Mbps). With regards to loading speeds, Uruguay (6.8 Mbps) is followed by Peru (5.7 Mbps). Both countries are above the average of more advanced countries (5.6 Mbps). Colombia is in third place with 4.8 Mbps. With no ranking in global broadband, Bolivia, Colombia, and Peru achieve better positions with mobile broadband speeds.

by Janine Rhyans at August 26, 2015 03:48 PM

Dismissal of Mexico Coach Sparks Debate Over Freedom of Speech
Piojo Herrera - México

One of the many memes created by Internet users related to the confrontation between “The Louse” Herrera and reporter Christian Martinoli, which resulted in the dismissal of the Mexico manager.

This post by Mariana Muñoz was originally  published on the blog Periodismo en las Américas and has been reproduced here with authorization.

The recent dismissal of the coach of Mexico's national football team, Miguel Herrera, or “El Piojo” (The Louse), over an alleged assault against a reporter, has sparked a debate throughout the country about the freedom of speech.

Christian Martinoli, a reporter and chronicler of TV Azteca, says Herrera punched him in the neck when they saw each other at an airport in Philadelphia in the United States on July 27, according to the newspaper AS Mexico.

Martinoli also says Herrera's daughter pushed him and yelled at him to leave, as captured in images shared by Univision.

(Video in Spanish)

Herrera tried to fight the reporter and threatened him, saying, “This is what will happen every time I see you!” Martinoli claims.

According to CNN Mexico, the dispute between was triggered by comments Martinoli made after the Mexican team lost a match against Ecuador on June 19. (“What Mexico needs is a manager not a cheerleader—a manager and not a marketer,” Martinoli said on his program TV Azteca.)

The next day at a press conference, Herrera referred to Martinoli's comment, saying, “I will find him and fight him,” although he didn't mention the reporter by name.

Tension between the two then continued on Twitter. On June 21, Martinoli responded to Herrera's comments on his personal account, calling him a “barrabrava” (hooligan). Herrera then hit back, saying he wanted to meet Martinoli somewhere “to work out their differences”:

That's not what I'm like but I do hope to meet you somewhere.  To work out our differences

Herrera denies the airport incident and insists that he wouldn't be “so stupid” as to attack a reporter in a US airport.

Herrera's dismissal became official on July 28, when Decio de María, president of the Mexican Football Federation, announced at a press conference that Herrera's lack of respect for the freedom of speech was one of the reasons for his departure:

La violencia no cabe en la sociedad, en la familia y mucho menos en ningún deporte. Nadie que quiera imponerse con agresiones y no con ideas y conceptos sobre el principio de la libertad de expresión puede ser miembro de la Federación Mexicana de Fútbol”.

Violence has no place in society, family, and especially sports. Anyone wanting to start a fight, or without any idea or concept of the principle of freedom of speech cannot be a member of the Mexican Football federation.

Decio de María acknowledged Herrera's success both on and off the pitch, but announced that “the score cannot come before our statutes, rules, and respect for the freedom of speech.”

That same day, Herrera released a statement offering his apologies to fans, players, directors, and the media. The statement did not address Martinoli.

Some people are beginning to question the way Martinoli has criticized coach Herrera.

Pablo Carrillo, sports reporter for Grupo Imagen Multimedia, wrote on Twitter:

I wonder also if the ways of storytelling should be more respectful, sarcastically, with relish, but without overdoing it? I have questions about it.

Support for the reporter has also been present on social media recently, with people even creating the hashtag #YoSoyMartinoli (IamMartinoli) to express solidarity for the newscaster. Various reporters such as Paola Rojas of Foro TV, ESPN's David Failteson and León Krauze, and others, have expressed their support for Martinoli on Twitter.

Unacceptable behavior from @MiguelHerreraDT My solidarity is with @martinolimx  

by Rhea Page at August 26, 2015 03:38 AM

Australian National TV Airs Lewd Twitter Handle About Prime Minister
Abbott Loves anal

Screenshot courtesy Twitter user @kobijv (Kobi J A VanBennekom )

It seems that hardly a day passes without Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott (@TonyAbbottMHR) becoming the eye of a media storm. The latest controversy involves the media itself, both old and new.

State-owned Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) has apologised for allowing the words ‘AbbottLovesAnal’ to be broadcast during an episode of popular TV program Q&A, in which a panel of public figures answer questions from the audience. The ‘offensive’ phrase was a Twitter handle; the program, which is broadcast live, features an onscreen feed of tweets from viewers who participate under the hashtag #qanda.

The tweet itself read:

i prefer ones twitter feed to their biographies #qanda

At Mashable Australia, editor Jenni Ryall (@jennijenni) explained that it is the second time this year that the ABC TV program Q&A has offended the PM.

In June, the program came under fire for having controversial figure, Zaky Mallah, in its audience. He told the panel that politicians were causing Australians to leave and join the Islamic State.

Mallah was charged in 2003 under Australia's anti-terrorism laws but found not guilty. The earlier episode involved Mallah's question to a parliamentary secretary (junior minister) about his case. In June 2015 Prime Minister Abbott asked “Which side is the ABC on?” adding that “heads should roll” because the ABC had rerun the program without censorship.

The Twitterverse responded to ABC's latest faux pas under a number of hashtags including: #AbbottLovesAnal, #QandA or just a ‘Q&A‘ search. Perhaps this comment best captures the Twitter noise:

A detailed analysis is beyond the scope of this post, so please explore the links.

Meanwhile the offending Twitter account has been removed. At this stage it's not clear whether it is an unlikely case of self-censorship or action by Twitter itself.

ABC management seems to have learnt a political lesson from the earlier controversy. It did not remove the tweet from its program repeats or online iview version, but blacked out the contentious twitter handle.

Satire site The Shovel mirrored what was happening in realpolitik but joked about the futility of attempts to muzzle the media:

After a terse phone call from Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, the ABC has agreed to remove the offending tweet from repeats of the episode, to ensure those who watched the live broadcast are the only people to see the tweet.“I think through our swift actions we’ve managed to stop this from growing further,” a Government spokesperson said.

If the old cliché about all publicity being good publicity is correct, then the Abbott government should easily win the next election.

by Kevin Rennie at August 26, 2015 02:13 AM

August 25, 2015

Global Voices
Everyday People Put Solidarity Into Action Helping Refugees in Greece
Piraeus, Greece. 21 August 2015 -- Syrian refugees, 2.176 in total, arrive at Piraeus harbor aboard the Eleftherios Venizelos, a special vessel chartered by the Greek government. Photo by Wassilis Aswestopoulos. Copyright Demotix

Piraeus, Greece. 21 August 2015 — Syrian refugees, 2.176 in total, arrive at Piraeus harbor aboard the Eleftherios Venizelos, a special vessel chartered by the Greek government. Photo by Wassilis Aswestopoulos. Copyright Demotix

As Greece replaces Italy as the main European gateway for refugees fleeing their war-torn homelands, the country is battling to cope with the huge influx of souls at a time when it doesn't have much to give. Its economy remains severely strained. Following embattled Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ resignation, Greeks will once again go to the polls to elect a parliament — the fourth vote be held in less than three and a half years. 

Given the lack of a unified European Union policy on migrants, Greece isn't finding much support from its European neighbors, either. 

Almost 1,000 lives reach Greek shores every day, of which 60% are from Syria, according to the United Nations refugee agency. The Eastern and North Aegean Islands of Kos, Kalymnos, Leros, Chios and Lesbos have become temporary shelter for thousands arriving in dinghies from the sea.

The islands, many of which are tourist destinations, don't have the infrastructure and means to serve so many people. Additionally, local residents are not always in a welcoming mood.

Nevertheless, the deus ex machina in this case is not the government, but local residents and activists from near and far who are gathering food, medicine, clothes, toys and other equipment for the refugees. Many of them are using Facebook and Twitter (#refugeesGr) to spread the word.

‘I owe it to them’

Many older islanders have memories of the 1922 Catastrophe of Smyrna (modern Izmir in Turkey), when a great fire led countless Asia Minor refugees to flee to the same neighboring islands on the Greek side. The vast majority of local residents are descendants of those refugees.

Giorgos Tyrikos-Ergas, a member of NGO Agkalia (Hug), posted to Facebook on August 20 a brief personal account of what he witnesses every day helping refugees arriving to Lesbos Island. His post has been shared over 2,540 times and has more than 5,870 likes:

Nα βάζεις στο χέρι Σύρου πρόσφυγα πενήντα ευρώ και εκείνος να μη τα δέχεται με τίποτα λέγοντας “εγώ είμαι ένας, θα τα καταφέρω, δώσε τα σε μια οικογένεια”. Να συζητάς νύχτα στην Αγκαλιά που δεν έχει ρεύμα για την “Καρδιά του Σκότους” του Κόνραντ παρέα με Πακιστανό καθηγητή Αγγλικής Φιλολογίας από το Πανεπιστήμιο της Λαχώρης. Να σου απαγγέλλει νεαρός Αφγανός στίχους της Σαπφούς και να σου λέει πως λυπάται που ήρθε βρώμικος πρόσφυγας στο νησί της. […] Να σχολάει dj από τη νυχτερινή του βάρδια σε μπαρ, να τον πετυχαίνεις εφτά η ώρα το πρωί ξενύχτη και να σου δίνει εβδομήντα ευρώ, ο,τι έβγαλε ολόκληρο το βράδυ “για να βοηθήσω τους ανθρώπους” και να φεύγει χαμογελώντας κάνοντας και μια σούζα. […] Να έρχεται Έλληνας μετανάστης από Γερμανία και να σου λέει πεταχτά ενώ χάνεσαι πως θα πάει να προπληρώσει φρούτα και να καταλαβαίνεις πως σου πλήρωσε τα φρούτα όλου του επόμενου μήνα και βάλε και να μην ξέρεις καν το όνομά του να πεις ευχαριστώ. Να σου στέλνει μήνυμα ο Σύριος με την υπέροχη οικογένεια που πέρασε από την Αγκαλιά πριν ένα μήνα και να σου λέει “είμαστε Γερμανία, τα καταφέραμε, είμαστε ζωντανοί”. Είπα να μην κάνω άλλη ανάρτηση για αυτήν την εβδομάδα, μα τέτοια πράγματα αν δεν τα μοιραστώ θα σκάσω…Καταστάσεις που δεν είχαμε τη δύναμη να φανταστούμε. Αλήθεια δεν έχω δικαίωμα να μην πω τι ζούμε, τα καλά και τα κακά, δεν έχω το δικαίωμα.

Handing a Syrian refugee 50 euros and he won't accept it, saying “I am just one, I will make it through, give it to a family”. Discussing “The Heart of Darkness” by Conrad with a Pakistani professor of English literature from the University of Lahore throughout the night at the Agkalia [building] without electricity. An Afghan youngster reciting Sappho‘s verses and telling you he's sorry he arrived to the island as a dirty refugee. […] Α DJ finishing his nightclub shift, meeting him 7 o’ clock in the morning, sleepless, and he gives you 70 euros, his daily earnings, “to help the people” and leaves smiling on his motorcycle. […] A Greek immigrant from Germany coming and telling you quickly that he is going to prepay for fruit and moments later, you understand that he prepaid the fruit for the whole next month and more and you don't even know his name to say thank you. Receiving a message from that Syrian guy with the wonderful family that passed by Agkalia a month ago and learn that “we are in Germany, we made it, we are alive”. I said I wouldn't post anything else for this week, but I cannot help but share those things…We didn't have the power to imagine such situations. Honestly, I don't have the right to stop recounting what we are witnessing, good or bad, I don't have this right.

His grandmother, Eleni Pavlou, had told him about her family's connections to Syria. Giorgos retold her memories to journalist Anthi Pazianou from news site Efsyn:

Οι δικοί μου, πρόσφυγες στον Β’ Παγκόσμιο Πόλεμο στη Συρία, έζησαν γιατί επί έξι χρόνια βρήκαν ένα πιάτο φαΐ. Είμαι ζωντανή χάρη στην αλληλεγγύη τους. Δεν ξεχνώ, τους το χρωστώ και είμαι εδώ για να βοηθήσω.

My family, refugees to Syria during World War II, managed to survive because they had a “dish to eat” during those six years. I am alive thanks to their [Syrian] solidarity. I don't forget, I owe it to them and I am here to help.

 

The NGO is run by four active volunteers at the moment, led by priest Papa-Stratis, who is featured in a short clip entitled “A Good Samaritan in Greece” by the UN refugee agency:

‘It's not charity, it's solidarity from everybody to anybody’

Still on Lesbos, another citizen collective has intensified its activities at the transit Kara Tepe Camp, which houses 3,000 people and where it was reported during July that the “situation is particularly dire; until a few days ago only five toilets and two showers were operational”.

Social kitchen “O Allos Anthropos” (The Other Man) distributes “Free Food For All”:

The group shared a collection of photos on their Facebook Page. A short commentary on their blog reads:

Πολλοι το βλεπουν σαν φιλανθρωπια,αλλοι το βλεπουν σαν ελεημοσυνη,αλλοι σαν σισιτιο,αλλοι λυπουντε,αλλοι και τι να κανουμε,αλλοι βριζουν εγω ενα εχω να πω και ας διαφωνητε με αυτο.ΔΕΝ ΕΙΝΑΙ ΦΙΛΑΝΘΡΩΠΙΑ ΕΙΝΑΙ ΑΛΛΗΛΕΓΓΥΗ ΑΠΟ ΟΛΟΥΣ ΓΙΑ ΟΛΟΥΣ ΜΕ ΤΗΝ ΣΥΜΕΤΟΧΗ ΟΛΩΝ ΑΚΟΜΑΚΑΙ ΤΩΝ ΠΡΟΣΦΥΓΩΝ,ΕΙΝΑΙ ΣΕΒΑΣΜΟΣ ΑΠΟ ΟΛΟΥΣ ΓΙΑ ΟΛΟΥΣ ΚΑΙ ΕΙΝΑΙ ΚΑΙ ΑΓΑΠΗ ΑΟ ΑΝΘΡΩΠΟΥΣ ΓΙΑ ΑΝΘΡΩΠΟΥΣ ΧΩΡΙΣ ΔΙΑΚΡΙΣΕΙΣ ΣΤΟ ΧΡΩΜΑ,ΣΤΗΝ ΕΘΝΙΚΟΤΗΤΑ,ΣΤΗΝ ΘΡΗΣΚΕΙΑ.

Many see it as charity, others see it as alms to the poor, others as soup kitchens, others feel sorry, others say what can we do, others curse. I have one thing to say, even if you disagree with this. It's not charity, it's solidarity from everybody to anybody: everyone participates, even the refugees. It's respect from everyone to anyone. It's also love from human beings to human beings regardless of skin color, ethnicity or religion.

‘Humanity and hope do not have national borders’

On Kos Island, Symmaxia (“Coalition”) volunteers offered their help at the abandoned Captain Elias Hotel, which acts as a shelter to many refugees who have arrived to the island during the last weeks:

Σήμερα Κυριακή οι εθελοντές της συμμαχίας μοίρασαν τρόφιμα στους περίπου 700 πρόσφυγες και παράτυπους μετανάστες που βρίσκονται στο καπετάν Ηλίας.
Ελπίζουμε σύντομα να ενημερωθούν και οι υπόλοιποι πρόσφυγες που βρίσκονται στο λιμάνι και πλέον όλοι να σιτίζονται μόνο στο ξενοδοχείο και να μην χρειάζεται να βρίσκονται σε πλατείες κοντά στο λιμάνι

Today, Sunday, Symmaxia volunteers distributed food to almost 700 refugees and immigrants at Captain Elias. We hope soon the rest of the refugees currently at the port will be informed, so everybody will be fed at the hotel, they don't need to be in public squares near the port.

The UK's Channel 4 News invites Facebook users to “meet the retired British nurse helping out with the growing humanitarian crisis in Kos island”:

At Thessaloniki, the second largest city in Greece, the Refugee Solidarity Movement says it is “ensuring food security and basic supplies for refugees“. With the recent violence against refugees at the Greek-Macedonia border, volunteers went to the Greek border village of Eidomeni to hand out water, food, clothes and sanitary items.

Thessaloniki. We gather food, medicine and first aid items for #refugeesGr

Around 170 people who took shelter during the previous month at Pedion Areos park in Athens have been relocated now to Refugee Hosting Center in Elaionas. Many of them will seek asylum in other European countries as well as try to locate friends and neighbours already residing abroad.

At the center, one child illustrated the refugee experience of crossing the sea. Twitter user @epan_e_kinisi shared the drawing, a reminder that behind the numbers are thousands upon thousands of innocent human beings deserving of help:

Drawing by a refugee kid at Elaionas Refugee Hosting Center. Humanity and hope do not have national borders.

by Veroniki Krikoni at August 25, 2015 02:06 PM

August 24, 2015

Global Voices
The Story of Salim Alaradi, a Canadian National of Libyan Origin Detained in the UAE
A picture of Salim Alaradi taken from the official Twitter account created for him @freesalimaradi.

A photograph of Salim Alaradi taken from the official Twitter account created for him @freesalimaradi.

Seventeen-year-old Libyan-Canadian Marwa Salim Alaradi is leading an online crusade to rescue her father from prison. It has been almost one year since Libyan-born Canadian Salim Alaradi was detained in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for unknown reasons, with no charges or access to a lawyer. He was arrested on August 28 of last year.

The 46-year-old man immigrated with his family to Canada from the UAE in 1998. He lived in Vancouver until 2007, when he decided to return to the Middle East to run a home appliance business with his brother in the UAE.

He was vacationing with his family in the UAE last August when he was called to go down to the hotel reception where he was staying for a quick questioning by security services, and hasn't returned since.

On July 28, Alaradi's detention has been extended for 30 more days for the 11th time since he was arrested on August 28 of last year, according to the website freesalialaradi.com.

On August 7, a coalition of national organizations, including Amnesty International, CODEPINK and Libyan Canadian Community Organization, have called on Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to intervene.

Alaradi is the father of five children. Marwa is the oldest. She is followed by Nur, 15; Mohamed, 13; Rayhana, seven; and Yasmin, four.

His daughter Marwa took the lead in fighting for her father's case and made it her mission to work for his release. She created pages and accounts on all social media platforms to advocate and shed light on Alaradi's story. Marwa tells the story in her own words:

What Happened to Salim?

During their vacation, Alaradi received a call from the hotel reception where he was staying, asking him to go down to the lobby to be questioned regarding a matter. Alaradi did as he was told and was then abruptly taken from the hotel. For two months and 11 days, the family knew nothing about his whereabouts, charges against him, or if he was even alive. They finally received a phone call from him, and then a few other phone calls. In his first phone call Marwa says he just kept saying
“I am OK there is nothing wrong”. Like all calls from prison, it was monitored and Alaradi could not talk much about himself.

“He thought my grandmother had passed away and was very emotional. Somehow he was given that impression,” says Marwa.

About five months later his wife was allowed to visit him, and that is when she noticed a burn mark on his hand. That visit has triggered family concerns that he has been tortured at an Abu Dhabi prison where he's being held with no charges.

Daughter Marwa told Global Voices Online:

Our understanding is that in these illegal detentions the UAE State Security releases people when the marks of torture heal. We know that my father was tortured, however, this leaves us with a very difficult situation as it could mean either he was extremely tortured or they continue to torture him.

Alaradi was among 10 Libyan businessmen who were arrested around the same time, including his brother Mohammed Alaradi, and his business partner. Both his brother and business partner were released in December after having spent four months in prison. The family stayed in the UAE hoping that Alaradi would soon be released, and the case would be resolved. Seven months later with no progress, the family moved in with relatives in Windsor city in Ontario, Canada, where they continue to work for his release from there.

Political Involvement and Link to the Libyan Muslim Brotherhood

According to the official website dedicated to Alaradi, he has no political affiliations and isn't currently active. His political activism did not exceed support for the Libyan revolution against Muammar Al Gaddafi, like millions of others, including the Emirati Royal family, says the website:

The UAE fully supported the revolution and Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Charity and Abu Dhabi Khairia Charity both supplied medical treatment and humanitarian aid to Libya.

However, his brother Abdelrazag Alaradi has been more involved, and according to Marwa was a member of the Libyan Muslim Brotherhood, contrary to her father who she says was never involved in politics.

In 2014, the UAE listed the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) as a terrorist organization, and that included al-Islah local group for its alleged link to the MB. It is unclear, however, whether the arrest of Alaradi has anything to do with his brother's affiliation and activity.

Who Is Salim Alaradi?

Kenneth Aquan-Assee puts it simply on Twitter:

Alaradi completed his elementary and secondary school in Libya where he was born. He then continued his undergraduate studies in business and earned a masters degree in business administration. He always had interest in entrepreneurship and started a small business in Vancouver that expanded globally. On the website created by his daughter, Alaradi's ambition is to “develop a Canadian brand while penetrating international markets.”

What's Going on Now?

A father of five gone for about a year has had its toll on his family. Marwa says her mother has been going through difficult times trying to normalize their life as much as she can.

We've told my younger siblings that my father is on a business trip. My brother knew about my father's case recently and he was heart broken he couldn't believe it. My brother Mohammed and my sister Nur are both trying to help me.

Yet his case remains on hold. The Canadian foreign affairs officials told Alaradi's family they are concerned about him and doing everything possible to get him out without really explaining what exactly has been done.

I have no doubt that the UAE State Security are not cooperating. They have kidnapped my father, interrogated and tortured him. They have denied him his basic human rights.

However, Marwa says she has faith in the Emirati royal family, and is sure they would have resolved this had they known about her father's case.

I am sure that if the UAE rulers knew what the State Security is doing they would bring this to an end. Our family lived their many years and we loved the UAE and we could not imagine something like this would happen to us or anyone.

Marwa urges the Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to intervene and make a call to the highest levels in the UAE Government and arrange for her father's release. She says she is surprised Canada would allow this to happen when over 40,000 Canadians live in the UAE.

Alaradi was held in a secret prison from August until December of last year. He was then moved in January to a special wing at Whatba Prison in Abu Dhabi.

His family has tried to get lawyers but none have accepted to take on the case mainly because they can't defend him until he is charged, but also because many don't want to risk of getting involved with the national state security.

As for Marwa, she had to learn the tricks of the trade quickly to keep her father's case alive online. She explains:

I wasn’t very active online before this. I have had to learn so much. I am getting help from my relatives. At the beginning, I did some research of other campaigns that were on the internet. I have tried to figure out how they did it and copy them. I also got some tips from the family of another campaign.

I have come a long way in knowing how to write good tweets and making time every day to do it. The same goes for Facebook and the website.

by Faten Bushehri at August 24, 2015 05:26 PM

A Japanese Woman’s Impressive Appetite Leaves the Internet Hungry for More

A Japanese woman named Yuka Kinoshita (木下ゆうか) is living the dream of being able eat a variety of food and a lot of it, apparently without any ill health effects.

Kinoshita, a self-described “professional competitive eater,” is also a dedicated YouTuber. According to her YouTube profile, Kinoshita also earns a living partly by promoting the restaurants where eating competitions are hosted.

To satisfy the demands of her fans, every day Kinoshita uploads videos that show her eating a large amount of food in short amounts of time.

For example, one video features Kinoshita consuming a beefsteak bowl weighing over seven pounds and clocking in at 6,625 food calories (kilocalories), and includes a cooking tutorial.

Another video demonstrates Kinoshita eating seven pounds of McDonald’s Big Mac sandwiches prepared with rice in a rice cooker.  

Kinoshita's most ambitious meal features super-sized dishes traditionally made for children that total over 23,000 food calories (kilocalories).  

Although Kinoshita shares the meal with others, she consumes most of the food, to the delight of her guests.

How is Kinoshita able to perform these whimsical flights of epicurean fancy?

In an English-subtitled Q&A video posted to YouTube last year, Kinoshita credits her success to her anatomy:  

When I got examined by a doctor, it was determined that I have a very unique stomach… My stomach is able to expand and fill up all the spaces within my body.  That is why I can eat so much.

Kinoshita further credits her anatomy for her lack of weight gain. “My body doesn’t digest things at the same rate… and just passes them through.”

There is even a video that features her receiving a full physical examination.  She completes a series of tests along with a her fellow Japanese YouTubers and appears to be in good health.

Despite the professional eater's prodigious skill and resulting stardom, it's clear she doesn't take herself too seriously:

Photo caption: Useless adult

Kinoshita’s high level of spirited food consumption has earned her over 460,000 subscribers on YouTube and nearly 69,000 followers on Twitter. Thanks to the efforts of fellow YouTuber Aphexx, who has translated her recent videos into English, Kinoshita now has fans from all around the word.

Her fans show their appreciation for Kinoshita's craft by tweeting fan art as well as by generally offering praise for her work.

Yuka! I'm sooo hungry now! (。´Д⊂) I really want pictures of delicious food!m(。≧Д≦。)m

ケージェイ – Q: Is that your boyfriend over there? A: Nope, that's Mochiko over there.\(* ¨̮*)/\(*¨̮ *)/ Yuka: My clothes look like watermelon! So cute!\(* ¨̮*)/\(*¨̮ *)/ ♡

Apexx, who does the English subtitles for my videos, has made an English website for my videos! And now this! [Twitter user] K-Jay drew this picture for me!

I am very happy to be surrounded by wonderful friends and viewers.

Kinoshita has also been featured on Japanese television program “Oogui” (大食い), where she travels to various restaurants around the country to eat enlarged portions of various restaurant's signature dishes.

by N'Donna Russell at August 24, 2015 04:50 PM

‘Why Does the Thai Government Want to Destroy Krabi With Coal Power Plant?’
Community protest against a coal project in southern Thailand. Photo from the Facebook page Save Andaman from Coal

Community protest against a coal project in southern Thailand. Photo from the Facebook page of “Save Andaman from Coal”

Many residents of Krabi, a popular tourism province in southern Thailand, are opposing the government's plan to build a coal plant close to their homes.

The Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT), an electric power transmission and generation authority owned by the Thai Ministry of Energy, proposed in early 2014 to build a coal-fired power plant with a capacity of 870 megawatts in Krabi.

Furthermore, it recommended the construction of a coal seaport in Nuea Khlong, which is also located in Krabi.

The construction is part of the government's energy plan called Power Development Plan 2010 to boost the country's power supply. Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha warned that if the plan has not been realised and that Thai citizens might therefore have to bear higher electricity costs.

Krabi residents have immediately expressed concern about the possible detrimental impact of the plant to the local environment. They pointed out that the shipment of a large amount of coal and the construction of a massive port could harm the coastal area of Krabi, which is a protected RAMSAR site.

RAMSAR is an international convention which identifies wetlands that needed to be conserved to sustain global biodiversity.

Residents are also worried that the coal plant could also harm the health of the local population. Groups opposed to the project have claimed that the public hearing conducted by the project's backers covered only a small number of people.

Image from the Facebook page Save Andaman from Coal

A drawing of ‘Protect Krabi, No Coal’ campaign depicting protesters in a civil disobedience activity. Image from the Facebook page of “Save Andaman from Coal”

A local villager said that the community was not properly consulted about the project:

We did not know that there was even a public hearing though the power plant was to be constructed behind my backyard, we thought it was an elephant show. For the second public hearing, they just cancelled the event when more and more people came. During the third public hearing, there were as many as 500 police officers there, the event was postponed, but the community still has doubts.

According to the regulations of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, any power plant project slated for more than 100 megawatts of capacity must first be subjected to an Environmental and Health Impact Assessment (EHIA) before it is granted a government license.

Last August 5, a letter was signed by 42 organizations and 52 individuals asking the government to scrap the project. They reminded authorities that the region's energy security is stable and it even registered a surplus in power supply. The letter has three demands:

Environmentalists are worried that the coal project will pollute Andaman Sea. Image from the Facebook page  of Save Andaman from Coal

Environmentalists are worried that the coal project will pollute Andaman Sea. Image from the Facebook page of “Save Andaman from Coal”

- The government should conduct more public consultations about the country's energy policies, specifically the use of coal in building power plants;

- The government should suspend the bidding for the Krabi coal plant pending the issuance of the EHIA; and

- The government should nullify the results of previous consultations. The next round of public hearings must be done in a transparent manner.

Local electricity producers also asserted that there are other options than coal like the use of renewable energy. They also wanted the government to address the lack of connectivity grids which is a major obstacle in delivering electricity across the country.

Akradej Chakjinda, a campaigner from Save Andaman from Coal wrote on his Facebook page about the struggle of Krabi residents to protect the integrity of their local environment:

Why does the Thai government want to destroy Krabi with a coal [burning] power plant?

Krabi has a vision and mission to be a green city. The people of Krabi also want to protect Krabi nature and the environment for the sustainability of local communities.

Krabi has a choice! We can sustain ourselves with renewable energy. Why choose coal? Thus, we would like to ask all of you — Krabi lover, to help us shout out ‪#‎krabinocoal and ‪#‎protectkrabi. Let our voices be heard by the Thai government!

by Wanwadee Erawan at August 24, 2015 03:48 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
Digital Citizen 3.5
Labyrinthine circuit board lines by Karl-Ludwig Poggemann on Flickr. used under (CC BY 2.0)

Labyrinthine circuit board lines by Karl-Ludwig Poggemann on Flickr, used under (CC BY 2.0)

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

Bahrain

The Bahrain Center for Human rights reported that on 9 July 2015, the Bahraini electronic crimes directorate started investigations some Twitter users for alleged insults toward elected members of parliament, and that one user was arrested.

Egypt

A new draft of the Right to Information law will reportedly criminalize spreading rumors on social media that could potentially harm the state, according to Egypt’s Al-Watan newspaper. The new law will also reportedly define “cybercrime” in greater detail, a definition that will include “disclosing classified national security information” and “spreading harmful rumors.”

Yaqeen News Network (YNN) announced on 20 July the suspension of all of its activities, six days after a police raid against its offices. The network's director Yahia Khalaf—who was arrested in the raid—remains in detention.

The government has dropped a two-year jail sentence against journalists from a proposed counter-terrorism law. The draft previously prescribed a two-year jail term against journalists if they publish non-government data about terror operations. Journalists still, however, face fines ranging from 200,000 to 500,000 Egyptian pounds.

Iraq

An Iraqi member of parliament collected 150 signatures from fellow MPs to censor pornographic websites inside the country. On social media, campaigns were launched to support the process, while others protested the move arguing that the parliament should instead focus on more important priorities. The issue was first raised by the highest Shiite authority in the country represented by Ali al-Sistani, who declared that watching pornography is forbidden in Islam.

Jordan

Jordanian journalist Jihad Muheisen faces charges of undermining the regime and lèse-majesté for comments made on Facebook, the International Press Institute recently reported. Muheisen, who is a columnist with Al Ghad, allegedly criticized Jordan’s democratic process and said he would become a Shiite. The State Security Court detained Muheisen on 12 July, the same day it released Al Rai journalist Ghazi Mrayat. Mrayat spent five days in detention for violating a gag order in relation to a foiled terror plot allegedly backed by Iran.

Kuwait

Human Rights Watch has called Kuwait’s new cybercrime law “a blow to free speech.” The law establishes criminal penalties for various offenses, including hacking electronic systems, fraud, publishing pornography, and engaging in human trafficking via the Internet, but it also broadens the reach of existing restrictions on print publications to cover online content, resulting in expansion of censorship in the country.

Lebanon

Lebanon’s Cybercrime Bureau ordered from the Italian surveillance and security technology firm “HackingTeam” spying software and surveilled the actions of its citizens “by exploiting a security flaw in the mobile phone game application Angry Birds”. According to the advocacy groups Legal Agenda, SMEX, and Maharat, these attempts of the Bureau to implement targeted surveillance are outside the sphere of legality and violates Law 140/1999.

Palestine

Apple refused to publish a new application for the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas on the Apple Store.. The application is available in the Google Play store.

Israeli blog +972 recently reported on how the government of Israel spies on citizens using social media. According to their report, the IDF contracts Israeli companies to monitor posts on social media, while Army Intelligence filed a request to gather data on citizens of Israel who write about protests, as well as users who write in Arabic and use words like “the Zionist state” and “al-Quds” (“Jerusalem” in Arabic).

Syria

Members of the Syrian Centre for Media and Free Expression (SCM), Hussein Ghreir and Hani Al-Zitani were released from prison, while their colleague Mazen Darwish remains in jail. Ghreir, Al-Zitani, and Darwish were arrested in 2012 in relation to their rights-defending activities, including the monitoring of online news and the publication of human rights reports. On 22 July their trial was postponed for the 25th time.

Tunisia

Police arrested a mathematics teacher for alleging on Facebook that the 26 June beach resort attack in Sousse, which left 38 foreign tourists dead, was a conspiracy carried out by security officers. The teacher, identified as Abdelfattah Said, stood before an investigative judge on 27 July. According to Human Rights Watch, he was charged with complicity in terrorism under the 2003 counter-terrorism law. He further stands accused of insulting government figures for sharing and commenting on a photoshopped picture of PM Habib Essid. The picture, which was originally shared by another user, shows Essid holding a shovel. Said posted the photo on 12 July, along with a comment on a decision by the broadcast regulator to close a number of religious radios and TV stations. He said: “as if they [the government] are waiting and thirsty for the Sousse crime to happen, to shut down all sources of moderate Islam. As if it is a gift they got from heaven”.

Following the Sousse attack, the interior ministry launched a crackdown on individuals using social media to “support terrorism”. On 20 July, the ministry announced the arrest of eight individuals for “incitement to terrorism” on social media.

On 25 July, the parliament adopted a new anti-terror law. Human rights groups criticized the law for endangering rights and containing a number of flaws including the granting of security and intelligence services exceptional powers to use “special investigative techniques” including surveillance, interception of communication, recording of phone conversations for a period not exceeding four months after obtaining judicial authorization.

United Arab Emirates

Cyberpoint, a Maryland-based company reported to be a customer of Hacking Team, has been granted a license by the US State Department to provide “cyberdefense” assistance to the UAE. The company claims their work in the country is “defensive” and not “operational.”

The UAE passed an anti-hate speech law which prescribes jail terms to those who violate it, ranging from six months to ten years and fines from 50,000 to million Emirati Dirhams. The law criminalises acts inciting religious hatred and insulting religion through any form of expression, including online media. The law was quickly put to use when a former police chief filed a case against a Saudi writer for “spreading hate” against the UAE on social media using his Twitter account.

On Twitter, Abdulkhaleq Abdullah an advisor to the ruler of Abu Dhabi, warned the new law should not be exploited to restrict free speech, which is already at its lowest levels”.

Yemen

On 5 July, Houthi rebels kidnapped rights activist Abd al-Kader al-Guneid from his home in the city of Taizz. On Twitter, al-Guneid has been critical of the Houthis, who took control of much of the country and forced president Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi to flee the capital Sanaa in February. According to his wife and son, he has been receiving threats on Facebook and over the phone by Houthi supporters.

New research

In other news

  • For Iranian blogger Hossein Derakhshan, who spent more than five years in prison before being released last year, “the rich, diverse, free web that [he] loved — and spent years in an Iranian jail for — is dying”.

From our partners

  • EFF is seeking volunteer translators to work on technology projects
  • “Hacking Team leaks confirm what Arab privacy advocates already knew,” writes EFF’s Jillian York
  • Access puts surveillance on the agenda for Human Rights Council elections
  • SMEX has published an update to the ongoing story of mobile providers breaching customer rights in Lebanon.
  • EFF has submitted comment to the US Commerce Department regarding the implementation of the Wassenaar Arrangement export controls.

Upcoming events

Digital Citizen is brought to you by Advox, Access, EFF, Social Media Exchange, and 7iber.com. This month’s report was researched, edited, and written by Afef Abrougui, Michael Fuchs, Mohamed ElGohary, Dalia Othman, Courtney Radsch, Thalia Rahme, and Jillian C. York, and translated into Arabic by Lara AlMalakeh and Mohamed ElGohary and French by Thalia Rahme.

by Digital Citizen at August 24, 2015 03:32 PM

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