Berkman Alumni, Friends, and Spinoffs

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

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August 26, 2016

Global Voices
Daraya, Symbol of Non-Violent Revolution and Self-Determination, Falls to the Syrian Regime

Daraya's “The peaceful protests were subjected to violent repression. Flowers were met with bullets, protesters were rounded up en masse and detained.” PHOTO: Non-violent protests with protesters holding roses in Baniyas, May 6, 2011. PHOTO: Syrian Freedom (CC BY 2.0)

By Leila Al Shami

Four years following its liberation, the predominantly agricultural town of Daraya, strategically located near Syrian capital, Damascus, has fallen to the regime. A deal was reached to evacuate the 4,000-8,000 civilians remaining there, out of a pre-uprising population of 300,000. The local fighters who defended their town so courageously will go to Idlib and join the resistance there.

The Daraya residents being evacuated know that they may never return to their homes. Photos circulated on social media showed people gathered at the graves of loved ones to say goodbye. Fears abound of a plan to cleanse opposition strongholds permanently, and in previous evacuation deals—even those carried out under UN auspices—many were detained by the regime, never to be seen again.

But Daraya's residents are desperate. A few days ago a group of women published a open letter to the world. They described the horrific conditions in the town. A regime-imposed siege, ongoing for 1,368 days, had blocked the entry of food and medical supplies. People were starving. They described the daily regime assault which has seen over 9,000 barrel bombs dropped on the town, as well as internationally prohibited poisonous gas and napalm. The hospital had been targeted and was out of operation. Agricultural land, the sole source of food, had been deliberately burned and destroyed. The women called on the international community to take action to end the violence and lift the siege. This letter followed months of protests held by women and children with the same demands. The first, and only, aid convoy to reach the town entered in June 2016. It contained medicine, mosquito nets and baby formula, but no food. ‘We can’t take medicine on an empty stomach,’ read a banner at a protest soon after.

Those who leave Daraya leave as heroes. Daraya is an iconic town for Syrian revolutionaries. It’s been a centre for the development of the thought and practice of non-violent resistance and has inspired civil disobedience across the country. And despite the horrific repression inflicted on the town, it’s had remarkable success in practicing local, autonomous self-organization. Revolutionary activist Razan Zeitouneh, who was herself kidnapped in 2013, said “Daraya was a star before the revolution and a star during. What the young men and women of the city built took immense efforts and resulted in a small exemplary model for the future of Syria, the one we dream of. The activism in the city never ceased to amaze us for a minute… In Daraya, the signs calling for co-existence continued to be held high even when the entire country was falling into despair following every new massacre.”

“Daraya is an iconic town for Syrian revolutionaries. It’s been a centre for the development of the thought and practice of non-violent resistance and has inspired civil disobedience across the country. And despite the horrific repression inflicted on the town, it’s had remarkable success in practicing local, autonomous self-organization.”

In 2011, when the uprising began, a local coordination committee quickly emerged to organize anti-regime protests. The committee emphasized the importance of non-violent struggle and handed out leaflets calling for a democratic Syria and for equality between all religious and ethnic groups. As church bells rang in solidarity, protesters marched holding flowers, and handed bottles of water to the security forces sent to shoot them. ‘The army and people are one,’ they chanted.

One of those involved with the local coordination committee was a 26-year-old tailor called Ghiyath Matar. He earned the nickname ‘Little Gandhi’ for his commitment to peaceful resistance. Ghiyath was arrested by security forces on September6, 2011. A few days later his mutilated corpse was returned to his family and pregnant wife. In one of his last Facebook posts, Ghiyath said: “We chose non-violence not from cowardice or weakness, but out of moral conviction; we don’t want to reach victory by having destroyed the country.”

The principles of non-violent resistancethat influenced Daraya’s youth had a history in the town. Unusually for Syria, a police state that ruthlessly suppresses independent organization, a group of young men and women aged between 15 and 25 established the Daraya Youth Group in 1998. They had been studying Quran under the religious scholar Abdul Akram Al Saqqa. Al Saqqa promoted social and political freedom and encouraged free thinking amongst his students. Because of his liberal views he was controversial amongst the Syrian ulema (religious authorities). He called for women to choose their own husbands and argued that women’s education was more important than whether or not they wore the veil. He introduced students to the work of Jawdat Said, an Islamist scholar who promoted non-violent thought and practice through the Quranic traditions as well as the teachings of Gandhi and Martin Luther King.

Al Saqqa’s work attracted the attention of the authorities and he was imprisoned in 2003 and 2011, but under his mentorship, the Daraya Youth Group organized actions such as cleaning the streets of their town, boycotting American products, and risky campaigns against bribery and corruption. In 2002 they demonstrated against the Israeli invasion of Jenin refugee camp and in 2003 they organized protests without government permission against the US invasion of Iraq. This activity led to the arrest of 24 members of the group. A few were released soon after, but the majority were sentenced to between three and four years in prison.

The peaceful protests were subjected to violent repression. Flowers were met with bullets, protesters were rounded up en masse and detained. In August 2012, following intense shelling, Syrian army troops stormed the town and committed one of the regime’s worst massacres. Some 400 men, women and children lost their lives in execution-style killings. Those attempting to flee were hunted down and shot. The bodies of the dead littered the streets or were thrown into mass graves.

In a scene that would be endlessly repeated, some Western commentators sought to exonerate the regime from wrongdoing. The celebrated journalist Robert Fisk visited Daraya shortly after the massacre, embedded with regime troops. He reported that the situation was the result of a Free Army hostage-taking and a prisoner exchange gone wrong, quoting sources saying that victims were relatives of government employees. Daraya’s local coordination committee issued a strong condemnation of Fisk’s report. They had never heard of the prisoner exchange story, questioned whether interviewees would be free to speak the truth in the presence of regime soldiers, and criticized Fisk for not meeting with opposition activists. Meanwhile, the American war reporter Janine Di Giovani also entered Daraya—without regime support—a few days after the massacre, and gave a harrowing account in her excellent book ‘The Morning They Came for Us’.

“Despite enormous challenges, Daraya’s local council has had remarkable success. It has established numerous offices to provide services to civilians, including media services, legal services and public relations (they maintain an excellent website). A relief office runs a soup kitchen which began providing three meals a day, although this frequency was reduced due to the siege. The council also tried to build self-sufficiency, growing beans, spinach and wheat.”

Daraya was liberated by local rebels in November 2012. As the state withdrew, residents set up a Local Council to run the town’s affairs. One of those involved was anarchist Omar Aziz, who encouraged revolutionary Syrians to organize their communities independently from the Assadist state, and work towards advancing a social revolution.

Despite enormous challenges, Daraya’s local council has had remarkable success. It has established numerous offices to provide services to civilians, including media services, legal services and public relations (they maintain an excellent website). A relief office runs a soup kitchen which began providing three meals a day, although this frequency was reduced due to the siege. The council also tried to build self-sufficiency, growing beans, spinach and wheat. A medical office supervises the field hospital which provides for the sick and wounded. A services office is responsible for opening alternative roads when the main ones are inaccessible due to airstrikes or collapsed buildings.

The local council also aimed to unify civil and military efforts. Daraya is one of the few communities where the local Free Army brigade is part of the council’s organizational structure and subject to civil administrative control. Revolutionary women set up the Enab Baladi magazine to discuss events happening in their community and Syria more broadly and promote civil disobedience. Activists built an underground library so residents could continue their education.

The people of Daraya have paid a heavy price for their dream of freedom. For four years they defended their autonomy from the Assadist state and kept going despite the bombing, despite the starvation siege. Their struggle will continue to be remembered and honoured by Syrian revolutionaries everywhere.

Leila Al Shami is a British Syrian who has been involved in human rights and social justice struggles in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East since 2000. She is the co-author of “Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution and War” with Robin Yassin-Kassab, and a contributor to “Khiyana-Daesh, the Left and the Unmaking of the Syrian Revolution”. A version of this story was originally published on her blog.

by Guest Contributor at August 26, 2016 10:11 PM

Brazil’s Highest Mountain Is Reopening for Shaman-Guided Ecotourism
yanomani10

An unprecedented expedition to Brazil's highest mountain aims to prepare a trail for ecotourism. Photo: Guilherme Gnipper/Funai, published with permission

This story by Marcos Wesley was originally published on Medium by Instituto Socioambiental, and is republished here as part of a partnership with Global Voices.

If climbing Pico da Neblina (Mist Peak) is already an exciting experience, imagine the journey guided by a Yanomami shaman who spent his or her entire youth right beside the mountain?

“This place was our house and we called it Irokae (the cry of the guariba monkey)”, says shaman Carlos Yanomami in his own language, pointing to the forest, where his relatives lived in a home, having parties and practicing rituals, 60 years ago.

Climbers all over the world know about Pico da Neblina. With a summit 2,995 meters (almost 10,000 feet) above sea level, it's Brazil's highest mountain. Nestled in the middle of the Amazon forest, it's been closed off for visitation since 2003 on a recommendation by the federal prosecutor's office and a decision by IBAMA, Brazil's environmental agency. Some climbers were frustrated to lose access to the mountain, but policymakers argue that something needed to be done to halt the region's environmental degradation and to protect the rights of the Yanomami.

The Yaripo Ecotourism project, developed by the Yanomami with the support of the Instituto Socioambiental (Socio-Environmental Institute), should put an end to the visitation restrictions. Starting in 2018, the hiking trail is scheduled to be reopened and managed by the Yanomami themselves. With controlled access, tourists will be able to learn about Yanomami culture, enjoy their hospitality, and bolster a respect for both the Amazon and its native inhabitants.

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A mountain in the proximity of Pico da Neblina. Photo: Guilherme Gnipper/Funai, published with permission.

This July marked the completion of the reopening's first stage: an expedition of 32 people walked for ten days all the way to the summit of Yaripo, as the Yanomami call the mountain, to investigate and map the conditions of the trail. Besides Carlos, another 18 Yanomami were part of the team, 16 of them men and two women, Maria and Floriza. They are training to monitor the trail and to work as guides, porters, and cookers, and to manage the ecotourism project that they plan to develop. Representatives of ICMbio (Brazil's conservation agency), the public prosecutors office, and the Brazilian army also took part in the expedition.

Packing GPS trackers, cameras, and a lot of interest, the explorers listened to shaman Carlos’ stories while walking the 36-kilometer (22-mile) trail, which begins at the village of Igarapé Tucano, at the Yanomami indigenous reserve, near the town of São Gabriel da Cachoeira in the Brazilian state of Amazonas.

While overcoming large distances and difficult terrains, the indigenous group marked the places where they spotted animals or their tracks, places with drinking water, parts of the trail that need improvement, and the most adequate places for the construction of overnight camping grounds. The team also identified the most environmentally sensitive areas.

Maria Yanomami, 52, made history by becoming the first Yanomami woman ever to reach the summit of Yaripo. Her trail companion, Floriza Yanomami, however, couldn't finish the walk out of respect for and fear of her own traditions: the day before she would have reached the summit, she got her period, and so she turned back, rather than break custom and risk upsetting the spirits who live at the summit. If she had completed her journey while menstruating, according to tradition, she could have endangered the lives of everyone in her travel group.

The Yaripo Ecotourism project is expected to provide an alternative form of income to the Yanomami, who need resources to buy manufactured goods of prime necessity: agriculture tools, kitchen utensils, bedding, and clothes.

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A young Yanomami who took part in the expedition to Pico da Neblina. Photo: Guilherme Gnipper/Funai, published with permission.

With the implementation of a community-based ecotourism project, 80 Yanomami are expected to receive income by providing regular services to visitors, indirectly benefiting 800 people among their relatives and dependents.

The trail's development should also benefit the AYRCA community association, in which all Yanomami people take part.

When Yaripo is finally opened to tourism, the stories of Carlos Yanomami and his people will gain new life, and visitors to Pico da Neblina will spread them across the world.

The Yaripo Ecotourism project is looking for supporters. If you're interested in supporting this initiative or want more information about it, please send an email to marcos@socioambiental.org.

by Taisa Sganzerla at August 26, 2016 11:11 AM

August 25, 2016

Global Voices
Africans Have a Laugh at Themselves Imagining ‘If Africa Was a School’
A photo shared on Twitter by different users such as @ColloTheBoy showing why all dormitories would be located in South Africa.

“#IfAfricaWasASchool all dormitories would be located in SA…” A “South Africa: Bed and Breakfast” meme shared on Twitter by different users such as @ColloTheBoy.

African Twitter users are at it again, making fun of the continent, its countries and their leaders.

Last year, it was the #IfAfricaWasABar hashtag. This time, Africans are using #IfAfricaWasASchool to make hilarious comparisons between aspects of school life and aspects of daily life in African countries.

Here's a selection of some of the better tweets published on Twitter.

African leaders

On President Jacob Zuma of South Africa:

The rand is South Africa's currency. Zuma has no formal education.

On President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda:

Museveni has been Uganda's president since 1986, and he won a controversial fifth term in February 2016 elections with over 60% of the vote. The political country's opposition claims that the poll was rigged, and international observers and human rights groups have also criticized the election process. Many of the country's leading opposition figures have been placed under house arrest for months. Authorities have shut down social media more than once in what some see as an effort to stymie discussion.

On President Muhammad Buhari of Nigeria:

In Nigerian primary schools, a pupil is usually appointed class captain, whose job is, among others, to compile a list of fellow students who make noise in the absence of a teacher. This list is usually handed over to the teacher and those involved are punished..

On President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe:

President Mugabe, 92, has been Zimbabwe's president since 1987.

African countries

On Egypt:

Egypt sits mostly in Africa, but parts of the country stretch into Asia. Many Egyptians don't consider themselves to be African.

On Zambia:

Zambia's leaders have a tendency to calling for national prayers to solve problems such as power shortages, election violence, depreceation of the local currency etc. In October last year, President Edgar Lungu called for national prayers and fasting on to ask God to intervene in the country's many issues of the day. Zambia's constitution declares it a Christian nation.

On Zimbabwe:

Zimbabwe is set to print its own version of US dollar due to cash shortage in the country. The country introduced the US dollar after abandoning its own currency because of hyperinflation.

On Madagascar:

The island of Madagascar is about 400 kilometers (250 miles) off the eastern coast of southern Africa.

On Kenya:

Kenyan runners have dominated long distance races for many decades.

On South Africa:

On Ethiopia:

Ethiopia and Liberia are the only countries in Africa that were never colonised.

The continent of Africa

Other tweeps joked about the continent in general:

Finally, the African Union was not spared:

by Ndesanjo Macha at August 25, 2016 10:16 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
Netizen Report: Bangladesh and Ethiopia Flip the Switch on Internet as Political Tensions Rise
Protest in Ethiopia's Oromo region. Photo from Abdi Lemessa's Facebook page. Used with permission.

Protest in Ethiopia's Oromo region. Photo from Abdi Lemessa's Facebook page. Used with permission.

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

Bangladeshi Internet users have experienced several waves on service shutdowns and website blockages in what the Communication Regulatory Commission described as a government-enforced “drill.” Since early August, authorities have blocked 35 news websites, many of which represent critical positions within the country’s political climate.

Citizens are struggling to see how these shutdowns are likely to have a positive impact on public safety, says Global Voices’ Zara Rahman, in a country where freedom of expression is increasingly under threat.

The Internet was also reportedly shut down yet again in Ethiopia as violence marred protests in the Oromia and Amhara regions. About 100 people were killed when security forces fired live bullets at demonstrators over the weekend of August 6. Tests by the Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI) confirmed the Internet was likely blocked during that time, though it remains unclear whether this occurred in all regions or across all types of networks in the country.

In Oromia, the Internet has become an important tool for protesters to disseminate information about their movement, which opposes a plan to expand the capital Addis Ababa into the region’s farmlands, a move that would likely displace thousands of local farmers. Coverage from the country’s mostly state-owned media has pushed misinformation or ignored the situation altogether. In an effort to control the dissent, state-owned telecommunication monopoly EthioTelcom has blocked social media platforms including Twitter, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger in Oromia in the past.

In Colombia, sharing just might be a crime

Colombian graduate student Diego Gomez, who is battling criminal charges that he violated copyright by sharing a thesis on the Internet, is likely to receive a verdict in the coming days.  In an effort to support Gomez’s case, Colombian digital rights NGO Fundacion Karisma launched the Twitter hashtag #CompartirNoEsDelito, which translates to “sharing is not a crime.” The copying and distribution of copyrighted works without permission in Colombia can carry a sentence of up to eight years in prison.

Peru buys millions of dollars worth of surveillance equipment

Peru purchased USD $22 million in technical surveillance equipment to spy on its citizens’ communications, according to the Associated Press. Government documents indicate that the “Pisco Project” (a name that refers to the popular Peruvian liquor) allows the government to intercept phone calls, text messages, emails, chats and Internet browser history. It can track up to 5,000 people and record up to 300 simultaneous conversations.

The National Intelligence Service of Peru also authorized a payment for Skylock, a tool that allows law enforcement officials to find and track any phone inside the country. Payments for these technical tools were made to the American-Israeli company Verint, which is also present in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Mexico.

Criminal charges and social media in Iran

The wife of prominent labor activist Najibeh Salehzadeh is awaiting a verdict in the Iranian state's case against her, in which she is accused of “insulting” Iran's Supreme Leader and compromising national security through a post on Facebook in early June. Salehzadeh has denied the charges and says she does not even have an account on the social media site, which is banned in Iran. Human rights activists believe the case was fabricated in an effort to intimidate her husband, Mahmoud Salehi, a prominent labor activist who has been arrested and imprisoned on a number of occasions in Iran for engaging in peaceful protest activities.

According to an announcement by Gerdab, the cyber division of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, it has summoned, detained, or warned over 450 administrators of social media groups in recent weeks. This is part of an ongoing crackdown that started in March 2015 that the Gerdab called “Ankaboot” (“Spider” in Persian) to implement broad-scale social media monitoring to curb immoral activity.

Journalists face legal challenges over child trafficking exposé in India

Indian journalists who dug up evidence that the right-wing Hindu organisation Rashtriya Swayemsevak Sangh (RSS) allegedly trafficked children have themselves become the target of a police investigation and online abuse. The investigative piece published by Outlook news site, titled Operation #BabyLift, reports that RSS broke Indian and international laws by trafficking 31 tribal girls between the ages of 3 and 11 in order to “Hinduise” them.

An assistant solicitor general and a spokesman for the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, which is a political offshoot of the RSS, had earlier lodged a criminal complaint against Outlook editor Krishna Prasad, as well as journalist Neha Dixit and Outlook publisher Indranil Roy, for inciting hate against different ethnic groups. Prasad has since been fired. Journalists and free speech advocates fear this case and others like it will lead to increased self-censorship in India.

Pakistani legislators approve cybercrime bill

Pakistan’s National Assembly passed a new controversial cybercrime bill, which will soon be signed into law by President Mamnoon Hussain. The Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill 2015 has been criticized for restricting freedom of expression and access to information, and is likely to be misused by authorities, according to National Assembly member Naveed Qamar.

Security through opacity? Paraguay promotes censorship to protect kids

A draft law under consideration in Paraguay, titled “On protection of kids and teenaagers from dangerous internet content,” seeks to install filters that would block content considered “dangerous” to young people on publicly accessible internet networks. This could result in increased censorship and make it difficult for adults to access age-appropriate material, and has been widely criticised for its potential impact on freedom of expression in Paraguay. The bill has passed Paraguay’s congress and now awaits a signature by the president, though under Paraguayan law he still has the opportunity to veto the bill.

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by Netizen Report Team at August 25, 2016 08:03 PM

Wife of Persecuted Labour Activist Goes to Trial Over Facebook Post
The wife of a prominent labor activist has been charged with posting “insulting” content on Facebook even though she insists she is not a member of the social media site, which is banned in Iran. Image from ICHRI and used with permission.

The wife of a prominent labor activist has been charged with posting “insulting” content on Facebook. She says she does not use Facebook, which is banned in Iran. Image from ICHRI and used with permission.

A version of this article was originally published in two parts on the website of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. You can find them here and here

The wife of prominent labor activist Mahmoud Salehi was charged with posting “insulting” content on Facebook in early June. Yet she insists she does not the social media site, which is banned in Iran.

In an interview with the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, Najibeh Salehzadeh explained:

They told me that during a trip to France I had posted material on Facebook against the Islamic Republic and the supreme leader but I don’t have Facebook and I traveled to France to accompany my husband, who had been invited by a large labor organization in Europe.

Salehzadeh told the Campaign she was summoned to Branch 2 of the Prosecutor’s Office in Saqqez, a city in Iran’s Kurdistan Province, on June 6, 2016 and charged with “propaganda against the state” and “insulting the supreme leader.” Her trial is now awaiting verdict after appearing at Branch 1 of the Revolutionary Court in the city of Saqqez in Iran’s Kurdistan Province.

According to the indictment, a woman named “Sanaz” had posted two items on Facebook with Salehzadeh’s mobile phone number printed on the bottom of at least one of the postings, yet prosecutors have never shown Salehzadeh the “evidence.” The alleged postings were identified by Iran’s Cyber Crimes Police Force (FATA), which then opened the case against Salehzadeh.

“I said in court that it does not make sense for me to use a false name on Facebook and then give out my real phone number to the public,” she said.

Salehzadeh told the Campaign that many people came to know her cell phone number in 2007 when her husband was first detained and she gave interviews regarding his situation.

Salehzadeh’s husband, Mahmoud Salehi, is a prominent labor activist who has been arrested and imprisoned on a number of occasions in Iran for engaging in peaceful protest activities. On September 28, 2015 he was sentenced to nine years in prison for “participation in opposition assemblies and propaganda against the state.” He is currently free on bail and seeking medical treatment for kidney disease.

In a post on Facebook, Salehi insisted on staying away from Iranian politics.

The honorable case judge has said that my wife and I had spread propaganda against the Islamic Republic [while we were ] in France. For your information, the video recording of my speech to the representatives of 50 labor unions in France is available, and the honorable judge… can see clearly that the conference had nothing to do with the Islamic Republic or anyone’s sacred beliefs.

Independent unions are not allowed to function in Iran, workers are routinely fired and risk arrest for striking, and labor leaders are prosecuted under national security charges and sentenced to long prison terms.

by International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran at August 25, 2016 05:51 PM

Global Voices
What Monica Puig's Olympic Gold Medal Means for Puerto Ricans
Mónica Puig stands on the podium wearing her gold medal at the Rio 2016 Olympics on August 13, 2016. Screenshot taken from video.

Mónica Puig stands on the podium wearing her gold medal at the Rio 2016 Olympics on August 13, 2016. Screenshot taken from video.

August 13, 2016 will forever be one of those days where almost every Puerto Rican will remember where she or he was and what they were doing. And chances are, they were probably breathlessly watching Puerto Rican tennis player Monica Puig (@MonicaAce93) win Puerto Rico's first ever Olympic gold medal.

Monica Puig played spectacularly well against Angelique Kerber from Germany, who at that moment happened to be ranked number 2 in the world. Puig entered the Olympic games ranked number 34.

But that's just one of the reasons why Monica Puig's victory will be remembered as one of the highlights of the Rio 2016 Olympics. Puig's success holds a very special meaning for Puerto Ricans everywhere. Not only did she win Puerto Rico's first ever Olympic gold medal in any sport, but she is also the first woman to win an Olympic medal for Puerto Rico. (She isn't the first Puerto Rican to win gold, however. That honor belongs to another tennis player, Gigi Fernández, who won gold in the Barcelona 1992 Olympic games playing doubles for the United States.)

Intriguingly, Puig could have chosen to play for the US Olympic delegation, which would have made sense considering she was raised and lives in the state of Florida. She has instead chosen to forge a career playing tennis representing Puerto Rico.

Why Puerto Rico, which is a US territory and has been for more than a century, has its own Olympic delegation is a complicated story. In short, the Olympic governing body recognized Puerto Rico's National Olympic Committee in 1948, and ever since then Puerto Rico has had its own team, though Puerto Ricans hold US citizenship. Other US territories, such as the US Virgin Islands, Guam and American Samoa, also compete with their own delegation.

Puig's victory came at a time when it was very much needed after a summer full of dispiriting headlines for Puerto Rico, from patronizing media coverage about the Zika virus to a loss of political autonomy thanks to a US government-imposed fiscal control board. Her words immediately after winning make it clear that she knew full well the significance this would have for many:

I think I united a nation, and I just love where I come from.

Social media erupted in an avalanche of celebratory joy upon the realization that Monica Puig won the match. Many users, irrespective of gender, changed their profile pictures to show her image and she became a trending topic across social media platforms. Many others reported having cried during the award ceremony, when for the first time ever Puerto Rico's national anthem was played at the Olympics.

Facebook user Margarita Javier shared just how meaningful that moment was for her and for countless Puerto Ricans:

[This] is the first time the Puerto Rican national anthem, “La Borinqueña” was ever played at the Olympics. We have been participating since 1948. I have watched every Olympics and our Puerto Rican athletes closely since I was a little girl, always hoping we'd get to hear the anthem. Even though we're not a politically independent country, ideologically and historically we are a fully realized, complex nation with our own unique culture, and our patriotism and nationalism is a form of colonial resistance. It's impossible to put into words why this moment is so meaningful and important to us. Every Puerto Rican in the island and abroad has been united. We are all Mónica Puig.

It is no wonder, then, that on August 23, 2016, people filled the streets of the capital city of San Juan to receive the Puerto Rico Olympic delegation on their return home. In the following video, students from the Puerto Rico Conservatory of Music can be heard playing the Puerto Ricon national anthem, La borinqueña, when the Olympic team passed by the Conservatory:

Puig's gold medal did more than just unite a people living in an archipelago of three inhabited islands. It united a people who are spread between that archipelago and many other parts of the world, not the least of which is the United States, where most Puerto Ricans emigrate to. When Puig said that she believed she united a nation, it wasn't a mere figure of speech. It was the truth.

by Ángel Carrión at August 25, 2016 03:09 PM

Earthquake Destroys More Than 200 Ancient Temples in Myanmar
A 6.8 magnitude earthquake hit Myanmar on August 24. Image showing the epicenter and extent of the earthquake is from the website of the U.S. Geological Survey

A 6.8 magnitude earthquake hit Myanmar on August 24. Image showing the epicenter and extent of the earthquake is from the website of the U.S. Geological Survey

Myanmar authorities reported that three people were killed and at least 228 temples and pagodas have been damaged in the whole of Mandalay after a 6.8 magnitude earthquake struck the country on August 24.

Among the damaged structures were 187 brick temples in the ancient capital of Bagan. This is a setback for the country’s bid to recognize Bagan as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Bagan is among Southeast Asia’s important archaeological sites, and they are often compared to Cambodia’s Angkor Wat and Indonesia’s Borobudur.

Bagan, which is also a popular tourism destination, has almost 3,000 pagodas and temples. The last time an earthquake destroyed Bagan temples was in 1975.

The powerful earthquake was felt not just in Myanmar but also in the neighboring countries of Bangladesh and Thailand.

Myanmar is already cleaning the debris left behind by the earthquake. Many are clamoring for the quick restoration of the ruined temples, but there are also those who want to preserve some of the damage in order to remind the people about the need to prepare for disasters.

Independent news website and Global Voices partner The Irrawaddy has documented the impact of the earthquake in Mandalay. Below are some photos which show the destruction in some of Myanmar’s famous Bagan temples:

Sulamani Temple suffered heavy damage in the aftermath of the earthquake. Photo by Zaw Zaw / The Irrawaddy

Sulamani Temple suffered heavy damage in the aftermath of the earthquake. Photo by Zaw Zaw / The Irrawaddy

Photo dhows the devastating impact of the earthquake in the Dhammayangyi temple. Photo by Zaw Zaw / The Irrawaddy

Photo shows the devastating impact of the earthquake in the Dhammayangyi temple. Photo by Zaw Zaw / The Irrawaddy

Soldiers collect the debris at famed Htilominlo Temple in Bagan. Photo by JPaing / The Irrawadd

Soldiers collect the debris at famed Htilominlo Temple in Bagan. Photo by JPaing / The Irrawadd

by Mong Palatino at August 25, 2016 03:04 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
WikiLeaks: From Collateral Murder to Collateral Recklessness
Wikileaks Van on Capitol Hill

Image by WikiLeaks Mobile Information Collection Unit via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

When pro-transparency website WikiLeaks published over 61,000 documents from the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs, they exposed communications and classified information providing valuable insight into the inner workings of Saudi foreign policy. They also published at least 124 private medical records and other information belonging to private citizens, according to an August 23 report by Associated Press.

Two of the medical reports named teenage rape victims. Another document exposed the identity of a Saudi citizen who was arrested for being gay, which AP called “an extraordinary move” for a country where gay people are routinely subject to social exclusion, imprisonment, torture and even death.

Many people immediately took to social media to voice their outrage. Joey Ayoub, Global Voices’ MENA Editor, wrote that for some people, the leaks could be a matter of life and death.

Historian and archeologist Sara E. Palmer called it doxxing, referring to the practice of publishing someone's personal information (such as address, phone number, state ID number) without their permission, often with a malicious intent.

WikiLeaks rose to fame in April 2010, when they released gun-sight footage of two US Apache helicopters in Baghdad from July 12, 2007 airstrike that killed around 12 people, including two Reuters journalists. The video was called “Collateral Murder“, and it instantly became front-page news, elevating WikiLeaks to international fame.

This penchant for exposing abuse of power, corruption and lack of transparency has earned WikiLeaks many supporters. In the past, representative of the organization emphasized their efforts to protect private citizens from undue harm that could result from such leaks.

“We have a harm minimization policy,” Assange said in a seminar in Oxford, in July 2010. “There are legitimate secrets. Your records with your doctor, that's a legitimate secret.”

But as the organization has faced increasing pressure, as well as increasing success, more examples have emerged demonstrating a disregard for the privacy of individuals who are not public figures.

On July 22, 2016, they published thousands emails from the servers of the Democratic National Committee in the US that revealed internal democratic party efforts to undermine the campaign of Bernie Sanders in favour of Hillary Clinton's campaign. However, they also included full names, addresses, phone numbers, passport details and social security numbers of a number of party donors. Two of the people named told AP that they were targeted by identity thieves in the aftermath of the leaks.

In another instance, WikiLeaks released hundreds of emails from Turkey's AKP party, the party of current president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The emails were combed by Turkish journalists and activists, who found that they were largely devoid of any “newsworthy” information. Beyond this, Turkish new media scholar Zeynep Tufekci reported:

WikiLeaks also posted links on social media to its millions of followers via multiple channels to a set of leaked massive databases containing sensitive and private information of millions of ordinary people, including a special database of almost all adult women in Turkey.

It's also worth mentioning, as Global Voices Advox project reported last year, that at least some of WikiLeaks’ indiscriminate mass leaks have included malicious files that can put any viewer of the documents leaks at risk. Both the AKP leaks and the Hacking Team emails released in 2015 contained malicious software.

Human rights advocates have sought to hold WikiLeaks to account for these acts. Following the Afghan War Diary leak, Amnesty International and other human rights groups requested that WikiLeaks redact the names of Afghan civilians working as U.S. military informants from files they had released, in order to protect them from repercussions.

Assange's response to the human rights groups was, “I'm very busy and have no time to deal with people who prefer to do nothing but cover their asses.” As more and more people come under threat from Wikileaks’ policy of indiscriminate leaking, it remains unclear whether Assange could see the inherent hypocrisy in that statement. What is clear however, is that WikiLeaks no longer has the popular support it once had.

by Tara at August 25, 2016 01:24 PM

DML Central
The Contradiction of Borderless Technology in a Border-Filled World

As I am slowly making my way through an analysis of the mission statements and strategic technology plans of the United States’ largest K-12 public school districts, one thing is becomingly increasingly clear to me — nearly every district is striving to prepare students to be “21st century ready,” but none define what exactly this means. Instead, what they are doing is throwing around terms like “global citizenship” or “21st century economy” to stress the necessity of new investments in pedagogical models (e.g. blended learning) and digital infrastructure.

I’ve realized that education policy discourse (particularly when it comes to education technology) is operating under the assumption that the key feature of the 21st century is a borderless society. This discourse proclaims that borders are becoming increasingly irrelevant when we have digital tools that can connect us to anyone anywhere, and that young people need to be ready to use these tools to work in a globally interconnected context.

The problem with this discourse is that the narrative of a borderless society, while appealing, is woefully far from our reach when considering the global challenges making the news today. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has made xenophobic immigration restrictions, including a proposed wall on the U.S./Mexico border and a ban on Muslims, key planks of his platform. Refugee crises and fears of terrorism are prompting countries around the world to close their borders or retreat from international alliances. And, borders of race, ethnicity, class, gender, and sexual orientation continue to roil public life and influence life outcomes in everything from health and education to housing and criminal justice.

Schools are crucial mediating sites where students and teachers try to figure out what to do with digital tools that promise to break down borders in a world that continues to erect them. As public institutions, they are swept up in the tides of public opinion and world events, and I believe that much of the murkiness and confusion around what exactly transformative, digitally-enhanced learning looks like can be attributed to these ideological and discursive contradictions.

And, for schools where I live in El Paso, Texas, that are situated virtually on the U.S./Mexico border and where residents experience a transnational way of life, the contradictions are especially stark. This is why I think that the experiences of teachers and students here hold lessons for all of us about what it means to negotiate borders.

I am teaching a graduate course for pre-service and in-service English teachers this semester at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) called “English Education in the Borderlands.” I don’t know if a course of this name exists in universities that are not located near physical borders — I haven’t heard of any — but I think that the relevance of borders (geographic, symbolic, etc.) in all of our lives demands that more of us consider a course like this as we prepare educators for this actual 21st century reality. I am sharing a bit about my course in the hopes of starting an exchange of ideas and resources with other teachers and teacher educators.

Here is how I welcome students to the course:

A borderland is a vague and undetermined place created by the emotional residue of an unnatural boundary. It is in a constant state of transition.
— Gloria Anzaldúa (1987), Borderlands/La Frontera

This course is based on what seems like a very simple idea: education does not occur in a vacuum. Our identities, the identities of those who surround us, and the social, cultural, political, and historical contexts that we find ourselves within invariably influence teaching and learning.

In practice, however, this idea is much more complicated; after all, our identities and contexts are multiple and constantly shifting. We may have power and privilege in one setting but face marginalization and oppression in another — or experience both simultaneously. We are always crossing boundaries — ones that we erect ourselves or are imposed upon us by others. And, we are especially attuned to this here on the physical frontera between the United States and Mexico, where we experience the effects of legal, cultural, linguistic, and economic borders on a daily basis in ways large and small.

This begs the question: what knowledge, skills, and competencies do we need as English Language Arts educators to help our students negotiate all of the intersecting borders in their lives in ways that both empower them academically and civically AND make our society more just and equitable?

These are questions that I will be exploring with my students (and sharing possible answers on this blog) in the months to come. But, I ask you, the DML readership: how do you respond?

Banner image credit: Nicole Mirra

The post The Contradiction of Borderless Technology in a Border-Filled World appeared first on DML Central.

by mcruz at August 25, 2016 01:00 PM

Global Voices
Where’s the Outrage Over Iran’s Exploited Children?
Unidentified child workers in Iran. Photo courtesy of International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran

Unidentified child workers in Iran. Photo courtesy of International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran

Child labor and exploitation remains a widespread problem throughout much of the world. The issue is centered around exploitation, trafficking and governmental negligence and presents a challenge for those living in closed societies which lack transparency, and social support systems.

The exploitation of children has become increasingly prevalent in Iran, and remains uninvestigated by authorities and the outside world.

The current geopolitical realities in the Middle East and the wave of refugees, combined with widespread failure in governance, have created the perfect storm for a rise in the exploitation of children. Iran’s location within a corridor of war-torn countries, coupled with state corruption and lack of a social safety net have exacerbated the issue. Iran has consistently been listed as a Tier 3 country for human trafficking by the US State Department. The Iranian regime itself has also been implicated in human trafficking and the exploitation of children.

Unfortunately, the issue of child labor is not new to Iran. Historically low-income families with multiple children have viewed their offspring as a source of labor and income for the family. In some cases impoverished families would send children off to serve as servants in the homes of wealthier Iranians.

However the problem has now grown beyond one of culture and economics, to one of exploitation and negligence. In a 2012 interview with Amsterdam-based Persian language radio Radio Zamaneh, Ali Akbar Esmailpour, who heads the Association for the Protection of Children’s Rights, pointed to a lack of information and accountability as one of the first challenges in tackling this problem:

The only information at hand is the statistics regarding street children, because they are very visible, but this does not give the complete picture.

Esmailpour pointed out that there a systematic failure to enforce child labor laws by the Ministry of Labour, stating “children sometimes work between 12 to 16 hours under very bad conditions without the slightest safety or hygienic considerations.”

Under Iranian law, child labor is prohibited until the age of 15, but there remains a loophole which promotes the exploitation of children. Many children under the age of 15 are often employed in a domestic setting and are not reported as employees but remain subjected to exploitation and mistreatment. According to a recent report published by a slew of civil society organizations, a 2011 national census reported 68,558 working children between the ages of 10 and 14 and 696,700 between the ages of 15 to 18.

“This is a problem largely ignored or even denied by governments. Child labor is one of the most outrageous realities and demands immediate attention and action,” Akbar Yazdi, director of an Iranian NGO that aids children in labor, told the Iranian English-language newspaper Financial Tribune.

‘I wake up every morning crying’

The issue is not only limited to child labor. An estimated 200,000 children live on the street in Iran — as much as half of this number are thought to be Afghan children. Many of these children are runaways, fleeing difficult circumstances or refugees from Afghanistan or Iraq. Refugee children are often particularly vulnerable within society.

A March 2011 article by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, an independent organization that supports local reporters, citizen journalists and activists in countries in crisis, reported that Afghan children were picked up by the security forces and deported back to Afghanistan. Some of these children had never been to Afghanistan before and appear to have been deported without their parents knowledge.

Abdul Majid, a 12-year-old Afghan refugee, was sent alone back to Afghanistan, without the knowledge of his family, who remained in Iran. “The police beat me up,” he said in an interview in Ansar refugee camp in Herat province:

They asked me whether I was involved in violent groups. I swore I wasn’t connected with any. They finally deported me after eight days, and sent me to Afghanistan.

The case of Abdul Majid is just one of hundreds of Afghan refugees who are denied legal counsel and deported back to their country of origin, something which is illegal under international law.  The children are often beaten in custody and denied food before they are sent back to a country in which they have no one. Majid, weeping, said:

I dream every night that my parents and brothers and sisters are looking for me. I wake up every morning crying.

Iran’s children, forgotten

Iran is also a prime hub for human trafficking between Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Gulf States. According to the UN, the fact that human trafficking presents a lower risk for criminals than trafficking in drugs under Iranian law makes the practice “a very attractive business alternative to drug trafficking bands in control of the southern drug smuggling routes” (see page 4 of UN Office on Drugs and Crime, Iran report).

The Iranian regime has also reportedly prosecuted victims of sex trafficking for committing what it claims are “unlawful acts” including adultery, despite the fact that victims are often under duress as direct result of being trafficked.

The policies of the Iranian government continue to defy international norms and regulations, demonstrating the systematic violation of the rights of children and the government’s complicity with human trafficking within the country. Though the regime has taken some steps to curb human trafficking, its behavior and legal regulations suggest otherwise.

Though Iran is a party to the Convention for the Rights of Children, its policies are in stark contrast to the articles of the convention, including those which guarantee the safety of children without guardians, and refugee children. Iran is also not currently a party to the 2000 UN Trafficking Protocol, an important international agreement focused on the prevention of human trafficking.

The lack of democratic will and societal transparency have made reporting on this issue a challenge for activists inside and outside of Iran. Iranian journalists and child activists who have sought to confront this issue are not only faced with a lack of cooperation by authorities, but have been subjected to threats and arrest by authorities. While the majority of the world focuses on the international and political issues surrounding country, Iran’s children remain largely invisible and forgotten.

For reports on this subject in Persian, see here.

by Hamid Yazdan Panah at August 25, 2016 10:38 AM

August 24, 2016

Global Voices
Ahmad Abughaush, Jordanian Gold Medalist, and the Erasure of Palestinian Identity
Ahmad Abughaush kisses the gold medal he won for Jordan in the 2016 Olympics in RioTaekwondo PHOTO: Salem Khamis (CC BY-SA 4.0) via Wikimedia Commons

Ahmad Abughaush kisses the gold medal he won for Jordan in the 2016 Olympics in RioTaekwondo PHOTO: Salem Khamis (CC BY-SA 4.0) via Wikimedia Commons

By Huda Ziade

When taekwondo athlete Ahmad Abughaush clinched the first ever gold medal for Jordan in the recently concluded Olympics in Rio, Jordanians, Arabs, and the ­world erupted in joy to celebrate the accomplishment and his brilliant performance. But or many Jordanian-Palestinians like myself, the initial burst of joy was followed by a bitter-sweet aftertaste. Most of us didn’t know Abughaush before his win, but for Arabs it didn't take more than his last name for us to know his story. After all, it’s on our last names that we are constantly being judged.

As Jordanian and global media shared the news of Abughaush’s win, they neglected to mention his Palestinian roots or the fact that he was the son of Palestinian refugees. I felt this was an active erasure of Abugaush’s Palestinian identity, but the full impact didn’t really hit me till I saw how Israeli media reported it. “His family decamped for Jordan shortly after the birth, but a number of relatives still live in the picturesque town, famed for its hummus restaurants.”

“Decamped”.

The reality is that forcefully expelled the Abugaush family from their village on two occasions:, first, when they destroyed Saeed Abugaush’s homestead in April 1948; and then again, when the Abugaush family fled, along with thousands of other Palestinian families, in the aftermath of the Deir Yassin Massacre, what Palestinians now call now the Nakbeh (“Catastrophe”). In the years after the Nakbeh, as many members of the Abugaush family tried to return to their hometown, they were killed by the Israeli army as “infiltrators”.

Palestinian refugees leaving Galilee during the period of the Nakba in 1948. PHOTO: Public domain.

Palestinian refugees leaving Galilee during the period of the Nakba in 1948. PHOTO: Public domain.

In Jordan, the context is slightly different, but the erasure is the same. The Nakbeh in 1948 forced many Palestinians to move to Jordan, as well as the West Bank, which was annexed by Jordan after the war. This was when many Palestinians were naturalised and given Jordanian citizenship. After Israel occupied the West Bank in 1967, another wave of Palestinians were forced further into Jordan.

In July 1988, Jordan unilaterally surrendered its claim to the West Bank, a decision which opened the door for the Palestinian Liberation Organisation to become the sole representative of the Palestinian people. For Jordanian-Palestinians, it meant that we could become stateless people overnight.

The mandatory visits to the Jordanian Department of Followup and Inspection became a nightmare for Palestinians living in the country. The Department was established under the Ministry of Interior, and tasked with categorising West Bank citizens as separate from Jordanian citizens. How it did so was opaque, and split many families apart. Thousands of Jordanian citizens were stripped of their national identification numbers, and were issued temporary passports instead.

Identification Card of Ahmad Said, a Palestinian refugee. PHOTO: mickyx09 (CC BY 2.0) via Wikimedia Commond

Identification Card of Ahmad Said, a Palestinian refugee. PHOTO: mickyx09 (CC BY 2.0) via Wikimedia Commond

So while many of us Jordanian-Palestinians love the country where we grew up, Jordan doesn’t necessarily love us back. We navigate this complex identity as if we are walking on hot coals, getting burned whatever direction we take.

Being Palestinian in Jordan is about facing systematic discrimination. It’s knowing that while your accomplishments belong to the collective, your failings are your own. As a Palestinian, you do not truly belong; but you have nowhere else to go because you are Jordanian. You are an incomplete citizen and a permanent refugee. As people celebrate Scottish football fans carrying Palestinian flags in a stadium, we Jordanian-Palestinians are prohibited  from carrying Palestinian flags in the open in the country where we live. We celebrate our national identity in private and are excluded when other Jordanians celebrate theirs—which should also be ours.

But we don’t know any other way but to be who we are. Being Palestinian is about remembering the place we came from, the place to which we are not allowed to return. Being Jordanian for us is about where the place where we’ve grown up, our friends and family, and the life we’ve built together here.

So forgive me if I feel a bit incredulous towards the nationalistic adulation showered on Ahmad Abughaush, particularly when it comes from the same people that who make fun of Gulf Olympic teams from the Gulf for “buying” athletes from other countries to compete for them. After all, as fans of the Wehdat refugee camp football club know, our Palestinian identity, and the fact that we are naturalised and not native Jordanians, is always used against us, and constantly pitted against an incomplete, exclusionary version of Jordanian identity. It must be convenient to be able to erase and rearrange the identities of people as you wish.

People like me know that being Jordanian and being Palestinian are not incompatible, because we are in fact both. Either by choice or because of external forces, we were part of this country from the start, working hard, like all Jordanians, to build it into what it is today. We believe in a Jordanian identity that includes us and empowers our struggle for national liberation, not one that erases us. It’s unfair that we should have to hide our Palestinian identify to serve an agenda that excludes us.

When Jordanian-Palestinians succeed, we want to be able to celebrate our whole identity, and most importantly, our story. That starts by celebrating Ahmad Abughaush, the Jordanian-Palestinian who fought his way up to the top of the podium.

by Guest Contributor at August 24, 2016 07:42 PM

Want to Celebrate Blog Day? Get Yourself to Paraguay!
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Advertisement for the Paraguay Blog Day. Image courtesy of Diadelblogpy.com.

Blogging isn't what it used to be, but there's still loads of content made by bloggers that finds its way onto the Internet today. In fact, tools like Medium have revitalized blogging, even as this form of writing has lost its novelty across the world. Another thing the Internet seems to have lost is the tradition of celebrating Blog Day, which technically occurs every August 31.

A group in Paraguay, however, is trying to bring back the bloggers’ holiday, planning an event in Asunción, Paraguay's capital. The festivities, which are free and open to the public, include several speakers and opportunities for Internet users to socialize and network offline.

According to the event's website, the celebration is about developing the local digital culture: 

El Día del Blog Paraguay nació en el 2010 como un encuentro anual sobre cultura digital. Un espacio donde se discuten, [se] exponen y se comparten temas en torno a la blogósfera y la web social, con la finalidad de aportar a su desarrollo y evolución.

Paraguay Blog Day began in 2010 as an annual conference about digital culture. A space where matters regarding the blogosphere and social web are discussed, presented, and shared, in order to contribute to their development and evolution.

This year's event is expanding into new areas, as well:

Compartiremos sobre nuevos formatos para medios digitales y redes sociales, desarrollo de blogs con mirada global, derechos humanos e internet, y contenido multiplaforma.

We will share [information] about new formats for digital media and social networks, blog development from a global perspective, human rights and internet, and multi-platform content.

In order to learn a little more about this initiative, Global Voices spoke to one of its organizers, Osmar Alejandro Cáceres, an editor and blogger at Dementesx.com.

Global Voices (GV): What is the situation with blogs in Paraguay?

Osmar Cáceres: Si bien no existen aún anillos de blogs meramente paraguayos, es buena hora para que esto suceda. Existen blogs de toda índole: tecnología, derechos humanos, historia, cultura general, entretenimiento, literatura, turismo, ciencias, contenido viral, humor gráfico, comunicación, universitarios, emprendimiento, videojuegos, entre otros. [Estos blogs están alojados] en espacios propios montados en blogspot, medium, wordpress. También se ven blogs con presencia en los portales de los diarios digitales con mayor tráfico (que responden en su mayoría al poder de turno: [Como] los medios del presidente Horacio Cartes).

Osmar Cáceres (OC): While there are still no networks of only Paraguayan blogs, it is a good time for it to happen. There are blogs of all kinds: technology, human rights, history, general culture, entertainment, literature, tourism, the sciences, viral content, graphic humor, communication, university, business, and video games, among others. [These blogs are housed] in their own spaces on Blogspot, Medium, WordPress. One also sees a blog presence on the digital newspaper websites with the highest traffic (responding mainly to those in power at a given moment [like] President Horacio Cartes’ media).

GV: How are you financing this event? There might be other blogging fans in the region who would be interested in knowing your strategy, in order to organize their own events…

OC: El evento Día del Blog Paraguay está financiado a pulmón, sudor, y señal wifi de unos pocos que creemos que la información y el poder de las ideas puede cambiar la realidad, transformarla desde otros puntos de vista necesarios. No existe financiamiento desde el Estado, las empresas privadas que se suman van bajo trato de apoyo simbólico, que muchas veces no costea el evento (producción, merchandising, oradores, y más). Con todo eso, lo hacemos igual, de entrada gratuita. El evento anual de este año también se podrá seguir en streaming.

A los amigos y bloguers de la región un mensaje desde Asunción, Paraguay: Los blogs no están muertos y nunca lo estuvieron. Quienes pretenden desarrollar solo el ámbito financiero de la blogósfera mantienen este relato, mas la realidad dice otra cosa. Muchos espacios independientes siguen, otros cierran, pero se abren nuevos. Las estadísticas globales hablan por sí solas*. Juntarse es más que necesario, salirse del cubículo y encontrarse con otros pares, desarrollar líneas de pensamiento, aportar nuestro gramo al desarrollo y evolución del ecosistema digital de Latinoamérica.

Por sobre todo, a bloguear, pasarla bien, y seguir compartiendo la cultura digital.

OC: Paraguay Blog Day is financed with a lot of blood, sweat, and WiFi signals from a few who believe that information and the power of ideas can change reality, transforming it through other needed viewpoints. There is no financing from the state, and the private companies that do join collaborate only symbolically—and at many stages the event is not funded (production, merchandising, speakers, and so on). With all of this, we still don't charge for admission. This year, you can also follow the event via live stream.

To friends and bloggers in the region, a message from Asunción, Paraguay: Blogs are not dead, and they never will be. Those who seek only to develop the financial atmosphere of the blogosphere maintain this narrative, but the reality says otherwise. Many independent spaces carry on, others close, but new ones are opened. The global statistics speak for themselves. We need to join together, and leave our cubicles and meet other peers, developing lines of thought, investing everything we've got into the development and evolution of Latin America's digital ecosystem.

And above all, we must blog, have fun, and continue sharing the digital culture.

You can follow news about this event on both Facebook and Twitter.

by Sara Holmes at August 24, 2016 05:29 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
Independent TV Station and Two Community Radio Stations Suspended Amid Disputed Elections in Zambia
Image of the press release from the Independent Broadcasting Authority announcing the suspension.

Image of the press release from the Independent Broadcasting Authority announcing the suspension.

Zambia's Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) has suspended the broadcasting licences of the country's biggest independent TV station as well as two radio stations for “unprofessional conduct posing a risk to national peace and stability” before, during and after the 2016 elections.

The broadcasting regulator justified its actions against Muvi TV, Komboni Radio and Itezhi Tezhi Radio by pointing to section 29 (1)(j) of the IBA Amendment Act of 2010, which states that “the IBA board may cancel a broadcasting license if the cancellation of the license is necessary in the interest of public safety, security, peace, welfare or good order”.

Immediately after IBA issued a statement about the suspension, reports surfaced that officials from the Zambia Information and Communication Authority accompanied by police officers confiscated an analogue transmitter from Muvi TV.

Biased coverage by the country's public broadcaster, Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation, made Muvi TV, Komboni Radio and Itezhi Tezhi Radio the main avenues for opposition politicians to communicate with voters.

Zambians voted in the general elections on August 11, 2016. The incumbent, Edgar Lungu, was announced the winner. However, the main opposition candidate, Hakainde Hichilema, has challenged the results in the Constitutional Court.

Media bodies such as Panos Institute Southern Africa, International Press Institute, MISA Zambia and the Media Liaison Committee have condemned the suspension.

As election day was approaching, The Post newspaper, Zambia's largest independent daily newspaper, saw their offices locked up and their printing equipment seized by the Zambia Revenue Authority because of outstanding taxes alleged to be at K68 million (US$6.1 million). The move was condemned by media organizations, activists and opposition politicians, who argued that the tax body was used to silence the paper during elections.

‘Close some, scare the rest’

On Twitter, Zambian human rights activist Laura Miti accused the government of trying to silence media coverage of Hichilema's petition against the election results:

Thandayo, a Zambian IT consultant, wondered about President-elect Edgar Lungu's motivations:

Some on Twitter defended Muvi TV, despite their personal distaste for the station's coverage.

Elias Munshya, a Zambian blogger and lawyer based in Canada, tweeted:

He added (GRZ stands for the “government of the Republic of Zambia”):

Twitter user Miles quipped:

‘Democracy isn't just voting’

@PackMuchi challenged the ruling party (PF) assertion that public broadcaster ZNBC is more professional than Muvi TV:

In an opinion piece on citizen media site Zambian Watchdog, David Kapoma made the case that Zambia “is slowly becoming a court room”:

We all must be careful when we speak out on issues of national interest. Those who transmit our views to the nation and the general public are the target at the moment. […]

We have since entered a different period in Zambia. Here it’s no mercy. You mess up with the authority, you face the consequences.

The controversial Zambian musician Pilato said the following on his Facebook page:

IBA may in their shallowest imagination think they are doing President Lungu a favor but in broader perspective they are killing his good name. Democracy isn't just voting, voting is just an event. President Lungu risks going down in history as being a low voltage dictator who shut down media institutions that chose to give platform to opposing views. IBA should be reminded that the same charges they laid against the private media institutions can also be laid against ZNBC and by every interpretation of the terms used, the public media institutions are guilty. With the closure of the key private media institutions, our country has become vulnerable to rumours, speculations and propaganda.

Chinganzule noted that the “crime” Muvi TV committed was to provide a counter-narrative to the ruling's party's election message:

Be honesty and real,what security breech has Muvi TV committed.All they have done is to counter the lope sided reporting of issues which is always inclined in favour of PF led tribalism campaign against [the opposition] UPND by state controlled media houses .People do you think all Zambians are gullible or blind to deduce the real situation here?

‘I thank the law for putting them in their rightful place’

Some Zambians, however, are in support of the IBA's decision.

Mpombo, for example, wanted the IBA to go further than simply suspending the stations:

But the IBA is also abrogating the same clause they’re quoting which says cancel not suspend Let them follow the act expenditiously if these idiots have abrogated it let their licences be cancelled go ahead & do it don’t apply the law half heartedly you may end up commiting a crime yourself the other word for cancel is ban or stop not suspend […].

Tonga said stations causing division in the country should be closed:

AS LONG AS ANY RADIO STATION WANTS TO BRING ANARCHY AND DIVISION IT MUST BE CLOSED BECAUSE ZAMBIANS LOVE PEACE AND UNITY.

And Kazim thanked the IBA for the suspension:

This is a very welcome move by IBA I mean why should a few over zealous and overly ambitious idiots threaten the peace of our nation by airing some biased statements all for the sake of their personal gain.We are tired of this lunacy and I thank the law for putting them in their rightful place.

by Advox at August 24, 2016 03:02 PM

Global Voices
Independent TV Station and Two Community Radio Stations Suspended Amid Disputed Elections in Zambia
Image of the press release from the Independent Broadcasting Authority announcing the suspension.

Image of the press release from the Independent Broadcasting Authority announcing the suspension.

Zambia's Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) has suspended the broadcasting licences of the country's biggest independent TV station as well as two radio stations for “unprofessional conduct posing a risk to national peace and stability” before, during and after the 2016 elections.

The broadcasting regulator justified its actions against Muvi TV, Komboni Radio and Itezhi Tezhi Radio by pointing to section 29 (1)(j) of the IBA Amendment Act of 2010, which states that “the IBA board may cancel a broadcasting license if the cancellation of the license is necessary in the interest of public safety, security, peace, welfare or good order”.

Immediately after IBA issued a statement about the suspension, reports surfaced that officials from the Zambia Information and Communication Authority accompanied by police officers confiscated an analogue transmitter from Muvi TV.

Biased coverage by the country's public broadcaster, Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation, made Muvi TV, Komboni Radio and Itezhi Tezhi Radio the main avenues for opposition politicians to communicate with voters.

Zambians voted in the general elections on August 11, 2016. The incumbent, Edgar Lungu, was announced the winner. However, the main opposition candidate, Hakainde Hichilema, has challenged the results in the Constitutional Court.

Media bodies such as Panos Institute Southern Africa, International Press Institute, MISA Zambia and the Media Liaison Committee have condemned the suspension.

As election day was approaching, The Post newspaper, Zambia's largest independent daily newspaper, saw their offices locked up and their printing equipment seized by the Zambia Revenue Authority because of outstanding taxes alleged to be at K68 million (US$6.1 million). The move was condemned by media organizations, activists and opposition politicians, who argued that the tax body was used to silence the paper during elections.

‘Close some, scare the rest’

On Twitter, Zambian human rights activist Laura Miti accused the government of trying to silence media coverage of Hichilema's petition against the election results:

Thandayo, a Zambian IT consultant, wondered about President-elect Edgar Lungu's motivations:

Some on Twitter defended Muvi TV, despite their personal distaste for the station's coverage.

Elias Munshya, a Zambian blogger and lawyer based in Canada, tweeted:

He added (GRZ stands for the “government of the Republic of Zambia”):

Twitter user Miles quipped:

‘Democracy isn't just voting’

@PackMuchi challenged the ruling party (PF) assertion that public broadcaster ZNBC is more professional than Muvi TV:

In an opinion piece on citizen media site Zambian Watchdog, David Kapoma made the case that Zambia “is slowly becoming a court room”:

We all must be careful when we speak out on issues of national interest. Those who transmit our views to the nation and the general public are the target at the moment. […]

We have since entered a different period in Zambia. Here it’s no mercy. You mess up with the authority, you face the consequences.

The controversial Zambian musician Pilato said the following on his Facebook page:

IBA may in their shallowest imagination think they are doing President Lungu a favor but in broader perspective they are killing his good name. Democracy isn't just voting, voting is just an event. President Lungu risks going down in history as being a low voltage dictator who shut down media institutions that chose to give platform to opposing views. IBA should be reminded that the same charges they laid against the private media institutions can also be laid against ZNBC and by every interpretation of the terms used, the public media institutions are guilty. With the closure of the key private media institutions, our country has become vulnerable to rumours, speculations and propaganda.

Chinganzule noted that the “crime” Muvi TV committed was to provide a counter-narrative to the ruling's party's election message:

Be honesty and real,what security breech has Muvi TV committed.All they have done is to counter the lope sided reporting of issues which is always inclined in favour of PF led tribalism campaign against [the opposition] UPND by state controlled media houses .People do you think all Zambians are gullible or blind to deduce the real situation here?

‘I thank the law for putting them in their rightful place’

Some Zambians, however, are in support of the IBA's decision.

Mpombo, for example, wanted the IBA to go further than simply suspending the stations:

But the IBA is also abrogating the same clause they’re quoting which says cancel not suspend Let them follow the act expenditiously if these idiots have abrogated it let their licences be cancelled go ahead & do it don’t apply the law half heartedly you may end up commiting a crime yourself the other word for cancel is ban or stop not suspend […].

Tonga said stations causing division in the country should be closed:

AS LONG AS ANY RADIO STATION WANTS TO BRING ANARCHY AND DIVISION IT MUST BE CLOSED BECAUSE ZAMBIANS LOVE PEACE AND UNITY.

And Kazim thanked the IBA for the suspension:

This is a very welcome move by IBA I mean why should a few over zealous and overly ambitious idiots threaten the peace of our nation by airing some biased statements all for the sake of their personal gain.We are tired of this lunacy and I thank the law for putting them in their rightful place.

by Kunta Kelu at August 24, 2016 02:19 PM

DML Central
Watchworthy Wednesday: Spreading Storytelling Through Photography and Connecting Educators

As a documentary photographer, Andrea Birnbaum is a storyteller. But, she emphasizes, “I am very aware that I cannot tell other people’s stories for them. I can only show my perspective on what I see in the world.”

So, when she discovered Phonar Nation, the online photography class immediately appealed to Birnbaum, also an educator, as it teaches students how to tell their own stories. Designed by award-winning photographer, Jonathan Worth, Phonar Nation was built to be taught from a mobile device for a mobile device user, and it’s an open course that any student can take anywhere, anytime.

Birnbaum is teaching Phonar Nation’s curriculum at the Farber Center, home to the Dresner Foundation Soul Studio and Soul Cafe where adults with special needs learn painting, ceramics, sculpture, weaving and photography. In September, she’ll also teach Phonar Nation to 5th- and 6th-graders at a school that values connecting its students globally, empowering them to tell their stories.

“It is so empowering, not just for young students, but for anyone, and works really well for adults with disabilities, who are so often marginalized in society,” Birnbaum says. “Phonar Nation gives them a vehicle to share their experiences and raise awareness about what they care about.”

That’s Phonar Nation’s goal, Worth declares. “It’s a standalone resource for teachers, mums and/or community leaders to pick up off the shelf and run a series of structured activities that encourage learners to more effectively participate in their own representation and that of their communities.”

With the help of Open Lab, Newcastle University, Worth says, the successful Phonar Nation is serving as inspiration for a new teaching practice and research project called Connecting Classes.

“We’re now working with educators and community leaders worldwide to unpack the design principles from our open and connected classes so that anyone will be able to apply them in their discipline and with their cohorts,” he explains. “We’ve run a path-finding first iteration and are just about to start a second round so any educator interested in delivering some of their classes this semester in a connected fashion is wanted to join us for co-support and guidance exchange or, indeed, just to connect our classes! We’re growing networks of peer-supporting connected teachers and super connected peer learners so it’s a great time to get involved.”

For more information on Connecting Classes, visit the website or send Worth an email at jonathan@phonar.org.

Banner image credit: Jonathan Worth

The post Watchworthy Wednesday: Spreading Storytelling Through Photography and Connecting Educators appeared first on DML Central.

by mcruz at August 24, 2016 01:00 PM

Global Voices
These Videos Expose the Dirty and Destructive Impact of Large-Scale Mining in the Philippines
Screenshot of a drone video showing the impact of a mining site in Zambales province. Image from the YouTube video of UNTV

Screenshot of a drone video showing the impact of a mining site in Zambales province. Image from the YouTube video of UNTV

The Philippine government has identified mining as a key industry that will boost the country’s economy. Because of the generous incentives provided by the government to foreign investors, mining operations have intensified in recent years.

Tax revenues slightly increased and temporary jobs were created in remote communities but overall, mining only had a minimal contribution to the economy. Some researchers have even pointed out that the extractive industry played an insignificant role in poverty eradication. Worse, it generated a huge amount of mining waste, which destroyed the biodiversity in several provinces, and it displaced indigenous peoples from their ancestral domains.

A growing number of affected residents, media groups, and environmentalists have been documenting the harmful impact of mining. Amateur reporters and investigative journalists are using mobile phones and even drones to expose how mining is destroying the country’s watersheds and rivers.

In the province of Zambales, located in the country’s biggest island, the governor suspended all mining operations because of complaints against the pollutive and illegal activities of mining companies. The governor accused mining firms of exploiting the province in the past 75 years while poverty worsened in the mining communities. Mining firms are denying the charge.

He even denounced the mining firms for exporting the rocks and soil of Zambales to China which were allegedly used to reclaim some portions of the South China Sea. The Philippines has accused China of violating the country’s territorial integrity in the South China Sea.

The broadcast network UNTV visited Zambales to verify the statements of the governor. The media company used a drone to document the impact of mining in Zambales. The footage captured the destruction of hills and valleys in the province.

Meanwhile, journalist Pia Ranada uploaded a short video of a mining operation in Surigao. The province is located in Caraga region in Mindanao Island, the country’s mining capital.

The video clearly presented what is fundamentally wrong in the country’s mining industry: mineral resources extracted from the mountains are deposited in barges and ships to be immediately transported to other countries for refining and processing. Activists are asserting that the export-oriented mining industry perpetuates plunder and underdevelopment in the country's rural areas.

In Agusan province, also in Caraga region, a YouTube user uploaded another brief video of the dirty legacy of large-scale mining:

In Cantilan, also in Caraga region, a mining firm has been accused by local leaders of polluting a river system:

Because of the rising incidents of mining disasters and the visible destructive impact of mining across the country, protests have also been organized in recent years. In fact, the new environment secretary of the government is a known crusader against large-scale mining. The country’s new president also suspended the operations of mining firms which were found guilty of violating the country’s environmental laws.

by Mong Palatino at August 24, 2016 09:35 AM

An Ethiopian Runner Makes a Brave Gesture of Anti-Government Protest at the Olympic Finish Line
Students mourning at Haromaya University. Photo shared widely on social media.

Students at Haromaya University displaying the anti-government gesture in December 2015. Photo shared widely on social media.

Defying Olympic rules and risking the wrath of his country's government, Ethiopian runner Feyisa Lilesa made a political gesture in support of the Oromo people after competing in a marathon during the last weekend of the Olympic Games in Brazil.

Lilesa, who won a silver medal, crossed his arms to make an “X” at the finish line and during medal presentation. The sign is used by the Oromo people and their supporters in their protests against their repression by the Ethiopian government.

The International Olympic Committee, however, bans political protests. Tommie Smith and John Carlos, for example, two black athletes from the United States, were famously expelled after they did a black power salute in the 1968 Games.

Lilesa, who told reporters that if he returns to Ethiopia he would be killed, plans to seek asylum in Brazil, the US or Kenya.

The Oromo people have been protesting since November 2015. The protest in Oromia, Ethiopia's largest administrative region, started when students asked the government to stop its plan to expand the capital city Addis Ababa into Oromia's surrounding farm lands. The students believe that the controversial expansion would result in mass evictions of farmers mostly from the Oromo ethnic group.

The government argued the plan was meant only to facilitate the development of infrastructure such as transportation, utilities, and recreation centers.

Although the government has scrapped the plan to expand Addis Ababa, the protesters are demanding action on the greater questions of self-rule, freedom and identity. For example, the students want Oromo to be made a federal language. Oromo, the language of the Oromo people, is the most widely spoken language in Ethiopia and the fourth largest African language. However, it is not the working language of the federal government.

Both Oromia and Amhara regions are challenging the dominance of the Tigray ethnic group in Ethiopia's politics. The Tigray make up 6% of the population, but have an overwhelming hold on power in the country, while the Oromos, who are the country's largest ethnic group, representing 34%, and the Amharas at 27% have very little representation in key government positions.

Dissent, both physical and virtual, is not tolerated in Ethiopia. Early this month, security forces used live bullets to disperse protesters in Oromoa and Amhara, another administrative region, killing about 100 protesters, according to news sites and social media reports.

On April 25, 2014, nine bloggers and journalists were arrested in Ethiopia on accusations of “inciting public disorder via social media” and “receiving support from a foreign government.” The detainees had all worked with Zone9, a collective blog that fostered political debate and discussion.

On July 8 and 9, 2015 several days prior to Barack Obama's historic visit to the country, five of the nine writers were released from Kilinto Prison in Addis Ababa. On October 16, 2015, the remaining four bloggers — Befeqadu Hailu, Natnael Feleke, Atnaf Berhane and Abel Wabela — were acquitted of terrorism charges. Three of the four bloggers were released on October 19, and Befeqadu Hailu was released on bail on October 21, pending a separate charge of incitement to violence.

And in May 2016, the Ethiopian Federal High Court sentenced young Ethiopian blogger and activist Zelalem Workagegnehu to five years and four months in prison for “supporting terror” because of an alleged link to Ginbot 7 Movement, a pro-democracy political party labelled a “terrorist organisation” by the Ethiopian government in 2010. Zelalem is a human rights advocate and a scholar who regularly contributed to the diaspora-run website DeBirhan.

‘Shame on you, the despicable government of Ethiopia!

After Lilesa made headlines with his gesture, one Facebook user observed that the Olympics have exposed two things about the state of politics in Ethiopia: repression and favouritism:

This Rio Olympics has made two political revelations about the savage Ethiopian government. That guy who came 59th out of 59 swimmers showed how corrupt the Ethiopian government is. That loser guy was sent to the Olympics by his own corrupt father. Now the Marathon Silver Medalist showed a sign of the Oromo Protest which has exposed to the whole world the continued protest in Ethiopia against the brutal Ethiopian government. This is a good mix of politics with Olympics. Shame on you, the despicable government of Ethiopia!

Overweight Ethiopian Olympic swimmer Robel Kiros Habte became an object of ridicule after he came last in the preliminary men’s 100-meter freestyle heats. Some Ethiopians argue that the swimmer was included in the Ethiopian Olympic team because of his tribe and political affiliation.

Given Lilesa's decision not to return home for fear of his life, Ethiopians online raised US$54,433 in less than 24 hours to help him seek asylum.

The Ethiopian government officially says the runner will not be prosecuted over his protest gesture but “will be conferred a heroic welcome along with his team members.”

Endalk, an Ethiopian free speech advocate in exile and a Global Voices author, reacted to the government's statement by saying:

He continued:

While the Ethiopian government spokesperson congratulated Lilesa, state TV did not show footage of him at the finish line.

‘A muzzled generational cry for freedom’

Jeffrey Smith, a human rights activist, declared Lilesa's anti-government gesture a “profoundly courageous moment”:

Freelance journalist Mohammed Ademo further praised Lilesa:

Responding to those saying that he should go back to Ethiopia, Gebreslassie Kiros wrote on Facebook:

It is up to him to decide what he wants to do. We have thousands of feyisa and thosands of feyisas might be also produced. Hence, what is best is allowing feyisa wherever he needs to live

Ken Smith noted:

this nation has had its share of wars and genocides…but they still produce tremendous Olympians…especially marathoners. He deserves to be respected for this sign of protest…humanity needs more like him.

Hani Teshe wrote:

there is a genocide going on in Ethiopia .. the world must know what's going on in Ethiopia.

And Nardos Kefle observed:

Best moment from Rio De Jenero Olympic. Respect for Feyisa Lilesa, Ethiopian Olympic Silver medal winner in Men’s Marathon. If the 42.195 kilometres (26.219 miles, or 26 miles 385 yards) didn’t kill you the Ethiopian government, [the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front] can’t kill you.

‘Not a stage for personal views’

Not everyone supports Lilesa. On Facebook, Nicola Dotto said the Olympics are not a stage for personal views:

any and all Olympic athlete who shows any sign of political or religous protest in any form should be stripped of they're medal if they won,,these are world SPORTING EVENTS,not a stage for personal views..

Lina Aya also argued the event is not a “political showcase”:

The olympic isnt a political show case. You want to make difference you seat down in your country & create a solution. To Go out on olympic & lying and asking & a visa in a different country is a against the olympic law

Gebremeskel Tesfay Kidanu, an Ethiopian student, wanted Lilesa to go back to Ethiopia to apologise:

His act was dirty, & guilty. But, still we expect you to come to your homeland and saying excuse to the Ethiopian people that you ignored unknowingly.

It is curious to note that on 7 August, long before Lilesa made the gesture, one Twitter user, Ashe, said that she hoped that one athlete would make a solidarity gesture with the Oromo protests:

by Ndesanjo Macha at August 24, 2016 09:13 AM

The ‘Different Yet Equal’ Protest Politics of Sri Lanka
Different Yet Equal Protest

Different Yet Equal Protest

This post by Raisa Wickrematunge originally appeared at Groundviews, an award-winning citizen journalism website in Sri Lanka. An edited version is published below as part of a content-sharing agreement.

The corner of Bauddhaloka mawatha near Independence Arcade was relatively quiet at 4:30 p.m., apart from a small group holding white umbrellas.

These were participants of “Different Yet Equal,” an online-led campaign aiming to hold a peaceful vigil to advocate for a pluralist Sri Lanka, united against hatred and divisiveness.

As the crowd slowly grew, vigil participants eventually lined themselves up along the pavement, holding placards proclaiming “We all have the same blood” and condemning racism.

The underlying message was to pushback against the distinctive stickers that now adorn many trishaws and vehicles across the country—all bearing the word “Sinha-Le,” meaning “lion’s blood” in Sinhala—a reference to the lion ancestor that Sinhalese Buddhists claim. While there has been no violence as yet from this group, Muslim houses were spray-painted with this slogan earlier this year. (See Global Voices’ report.)

As vigil-goers began to speak about why they had gathered, a sudden disruption followed the appearance of counter-protesters that included Buddhist monks purporting to be from the Sinha Le movement. The monks said they objected to the appropriation of the term “Sinha Le,” which they felt was “their” word. “This is a Sinhala Buddhist country” they chanted repeatedly. The group was also carrying a distorted version of the Sri Lankan flag, notably missing the stripes denoting the country's minorities.

The ‘Sinha-le’ image.

The distorted flag.

Some participants, including former Deputy Mayor of Colombo Azath Salley, tried to confront the counter-protesters verbally. The situation soon escalated into a shouting match.

It was telling that most of the counter-protesters raised Sri Lanka’s population and the fear that the Sinhala Buddhist population was, somehow, being “overrun” by minority communities. The counter-protests refused requests to leave, saying, “Let them leave! This is our country!”

Police Inaction

As the chaos unfolded, the police had to be prodded into action. Though there was an officer standing just feet away, directing traffic, the vigil's participants had to approach him directly and ask him to intervene. Even then, the officer seemed to be most concerned about keeping road traffic unobstructed, and he paid no apparent attention to the group of counter-protesters.

When vigil participants pointed out that the group's flag was distorted and asked if this was the true national flag, the Sinhale faction answered, “Yes, check your history books.” Article 6 of Sri Lanka’s Constitution, however, clearly marks the national flag as “the Lion Flag.”

Eventually, the police tried to de-escalate tensions by asking the participants to sit down on the pavement and stop disrupting traffic. This the participants promptly did. The group of counter-protesters, however, continued trying to agitate the crowd—and it was only then that a police officer pushed a counter-protester away from the scene. The group remained until the vigil ended.

The vigil highlighted that the insecurity felt by some Sinhala Buddhists continues to persist, despite the fact that they remain the country's majority community. The planned disruption seems to have worked, in part, as well: media reports about the vigil focused on the conflict with counter-protesters, saying relatively little about the vigil itself. Counter-protesters’ slogans—not the message of the vigil—dominated the news coverage.

The vigil's organizers might have prepared better for such disruptions, given that a similar disturbance was staged at a candlelight vigil outside the Buddhist Cultural Centre on Sambuddatva Jayantha Mawatha in 2013 (covered extensively by Groundviews).

Many vigil participants engaged in verbal shouting matches, enraged by the counter-protesters’ xenophobic rhetoric. This, it seems, is exactly the reaction the group wanted, allowing them to swing the news narrative and grab the spotlight. (Apart from the appearance of the distinctive “Le” stickers, as well as the formation of parties like the Sinhale Jathika Balamuluwa, these hardliner activists had been relatively silent until this month.)

While the incident was certainly tense, there was one moment when the vigil's participants sang “Lowe Sama” to drown out slogans being shouted by the pro-Sinhale faction:

The singing prove effective, if only for a moment, and counter-protesters briefly stopped chanting and stood around suddenly nonplussed.

Below are audio clips from individuals who attended the vigil, explaining why they decided to come:

by GroundViews at August 24, 2016 04:14 AM

‘Safe Schools': Life-Saving Anti-Bullying Program or Radical Sexual Indoctrination? Australians Can't Agree.
LGBT flag map of Australia. Photo and description from Wikimedia Commons (CC license)

LGBT flag map of Australia. Photo and description from Wikimedia Commons (CC license)

A petition calling for the Australian state government of New South Wales to abandon ‘Safe Schools’ — a program designed to promote acceptance and respect for gay, intersex and gender-diverse students, and implemented in over 500 schools across Australia — has reignited a long-running national debate over whether it is a crucial anti-bullying initiative, or simply a radical attempt at sexual indoctrination.

According to Safe Schools Coalition Australia, the federally-funded program provides free resources and support to school staff in order to foster safer and more inclusive school environments. However, certain aspects of Safe Schools, ­including encouraging young people to accept that gender is a fluid concept, has alarmed some parents.

The 17,000-strong petition purports to represent the Australian-Chinese community in New South Wales and calls on the state government to “stop the implementation” of Safe Schools. It argues that the program:

  • Contains resources that promote a particular ideology, including gender fluidity, that is contrary to our cultural and belief system and
  • Discriminates against children and parents from other cultures who have a view of sexual relationships involving male and female as normative, due to their families’ cultural and religious belief system.

When asked to comment, Kenrick Cheah, president of a Chinese community group called the Chinese Australian Forum, said the petition did not represent the views of the entire Chinese community. A Twitter user also pointed to the larger number of people who signed a petition raised in support of Safe Schools:

A country divided

Opposition to Safe Schools has arisen from a cross-section of Australian society, including those who identify as LGBTIQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex or queer):

The issue has also highlighted rifts both between and within the major Australian political parties. In March 2016, a group of about 30 conservative members of parliament, led by Liberal MP George Christensen, signed a similar petition requesting that funding be pulled until a parliamentary inquiry was held into the program's appropriateness. Members of the same party disagreed with their colleagues’ treatment of Safe Schools:

Political infighting sparked a hastily called review into Safe Schools. As a result, the federal government moved to limit certain content to high schools, do away with activities where students role-played as same-sex attracted teenagers, and ‘empower’ parents to have more say in what their children are taught.

Some contend that any criticism of Safe Schools immediately invites unwarranted labels of being homophobic. In a post on schooling-focused news website Education HQ, a blogger writes:

Purportedly, Safe Schools are taking a stand against bullying which targets young people of diverse sexual orientation, a worthy goal, but if you delve a little further it appears to go way beyond this. At the risk of being politically incorrect, and possibly labelled as homophobic (because that’s what happens when someone raises legitimate concerns nowadays), I suggest that the Safe Schools Coalition goes much further.

So, I decided to head to their website and I must admit I was shocked by what I saw. The range of resources promoting gender diversity, intersex, bisexual, and homosexual lifestyles was a bit overwhelming… For example, Safe Schools are encouraged to let boys who believe they are a girl to use the girls’ toilets and change facilities. Similarly, girls who believe they are boys can do the same. Am I the only teacher and parent who sees this as a red flag and greatly open to abuse?

While resistance to Safe Schools continues, support for the program is widespread.

The state government of Victoria, for instance, committed to funding the program in all state secondary schools, regardless of federal support. James Merlino, the minister for education for the Australian state of Victoria, has repeatedly reiterated his support for Safe Schools.

Furthermore, in response to the paring back of Safe Schools in March, hundreds of academics and health professionals signed open letters to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to express support for the program. One of the letters cited studies showing that LGBTIQ Australians experience six to 14 times higher rates of suicide than their heterosexual peers, as well as higher levels of domestic violence, homelessness, substance abuse and school or job failure.

Other Australians pushed back against the latest petition to take down Safe Schools by stressing its importance in teaching tolerance and inclusion in Australian schools.

Samuel Leighton-Dore, editor of online LGBTIQ community Heaps Gay, wrote:

…today it was spectacularly revealed that a petition signed by 17,000 well-meaning, misinformed and scared parents has been lodged against the Safe Schools program – and yeah, I’m angry about it. So instead I want to write about how initiatives like Wear It Purple Day and Safe Schools are about so much more than sexuality and fostering a culture of tolerance in the schoolyard. I want to write about how they’re about beckoning in a new generation of young adults – adults who inevitably grow into middle-aged men and women of varying manner, religion, disposition, ethics and fulfilment. How they’re about ensuring these middle-aged men and women understand, at a basic level, the difference between right and wrong – ensuring they know how to treat other people with respect.

The petition will be debated by the New South Wales government on September 22.

by Fiona So at August 24, 2016 02:26 AM

Chinese Volleyball Coach Lang Ping Has Spent Her Career Thinking Outside the Communist Party Box
China's women volleyball coach Lang Ping. Screen capture from CCTV.

China's women's volleyball coach Lang Ping. Screen capture from CCTV.

Twelve years after their last gold medal finish, China’s women's volleyball team took gold in the 2016 Rio Olympics on August 20 in a 3-1 win over Serbia. Volleyball lovers know that the team's success is in large part due to Lang Ping, the team’s coach.

Lang has made a name for herself pushing back against Chinese Communist Party sports policy and forging her own path in the world of sports. She once was even accused by trolls of being a traitor for coaching the American volleyball team to victory over the Chinese team in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The 56-year-old former spiker was a national hero in the 1980s for leading China to snatch a number of world titles, beating Japan's and Cuba's volleyball teams. The “Iron Hammer,” Lang's nickname, came to represent teamwork and persistence: the spirit of women's volleyball.

Following victory in Rio, all Chinese media outlets praised the spirit of Chinese women's volleyball, with some drawing parallels between the team's perseverance and China's economic strength.

Lang's contribution was also highlighted, but her individual journey, in particular her decision to leave the country after she retired from play in 1986, rarely made appearances in Chinese reports. That's because many of her choices have been interpreted as showing distrust in the Chinese Communist Party-led sports system.

As prominent journalist Gao Yu pointed out on Twitter:

祝贺中国女排赢得金牌,12年重新夺得金牌。没有郎平,难以想象有今天,郎平是世界级的教练,她是中国人,也是一个在世界拼搏多年的独立的中国人,不是举国体制下的机器。

Congratulations to the Chinese women's volleyball team’s gold medal win after 12 years. It is difficult to imagine today’s success without Lang Ping. She is a world-class coach and she is Chinese. She is an independent Chinese who has been exposed to the international field of sport, she is not a cog in the machine of a national bureaucratic sports system.

Indeed, unlike her contemporaries in the world of athletics who have built careers as government officials in the State General Administration of Sports, Lang rejected the government job offer in the sports bureau after her 1986 retirement and left the country to study sports management at the University of New Mexico in the US.

Her decision was related to a corruption scandal involving the construction of a volleyball training site in Hunan in southern China back in 1984. Lang helped the local authorities ask for funding from the country's Central Planning Committee. The funding was approved, but the local authorities did not use the money for the training site, and she was then dragged into a corruption investigation because of their actions. She commented on the experience in her autobiography (via Mingjing News):

这个事件的阴影在我心里好像再也抹不去。有些人是这样当官的,当了官还得顺着别人说话,不管这是不是你的思想,上面说什么,你就得说什么。我当不了这样的官,我没这个修养,我心太软,老同情人,这不是当官的料。我希望自己能学点实在的、科学的、真正有用的东西。

This incident has been buried in my heart and cannot be wiped away. Some officials are like this: they have to echo the words of others even though they became government officials. Even if they do not agree, they have to follow instructions from above. I can’t be an official like this, I could not follow an etiquette like this. I have a soft heart and have compassion. I can’t be an official. I want to learn something concrete, scientific and useful.

In her 22-year coaching career, she has led volleyball teams in Asia (including China between 1995 and 1999), Europe and the US, helping them win regional and even world championships.

When she started coaching the US volleyball team in 2005 and led them to beat the Chinese team at Beijing's Olympic Games in 2008, she was called a traitor by “patriotic” trolls online.

However, bad-mouthing Lang could not help China's volleyball team regain its former strength. In 2012, China’s women's volleyball team failed to enter the semi-finals in the London Olympics, and the team was ranked the fifth by the International Volleyball Federation in 2013.

To rescue the team, officials from the state sport bureau invited Lang to coach them again. She finally agreed on the condition that authorities could not intervene in the management of the team.

After Lang became head coach, she recruited new blood, promoted young players to key positions, formed a coaching team and expanded the support team, which includes trainers and medical staff. More importantly, she gave up the conventional semi-military training method and encouraged her players to develop their own individuality on the court.

The fact that Lang brought the China’s women's volleyball team to a Buddhist temple before the Olympics illustrates how she defies the party’s ideological line, Gao Yu suggested:

Paying tribute to the Buddha is better than copying the party's disciplinary code: Lang Ping and other coaches led the team to Mount Putuo [in China] to pay tribute to the Buddhist gods. [Jokes online said] the China’s men's football team also wanted to visit Mount Putuo, but the monk said, “Please don’t make the gods feel difficult.” In August, before [the women's volleyball team] departed for the Olympics, they visited the Mount again and asked the monks to pray for them.

Chinese media is pushing the narrative that the women's volleyball team's Olympic win under Lang is a tale of patriotic conformity. But if Lang is the embodiment of women's volleyball spirit, the team's gold medal victory seems to be a success story not for the state-managed sports program, but for individuality and creativity in the pursuit of excellence.

by Oiwan Lam at August 24, 2016 01:44 AM

August 23, 2016

Creative Commons
A politics of cooperation: Caroline Woolard on free culture, fine art, and everyday life

The interdisciplinary artist Caroline Woolard engages with political economy and activism through radically innovative collaborative projects.

The post A politics of cooperation: Caroline Woolard on free culture, fine art, and everyday life appeared first on Creative Commons.

by Jennie Rose Halperin at August 23, 2016 06:07 PM

Global Voices
A Brazilian Judge Says a Photographer Has Himself to Blame for Getting Shot in the Eye by Police
Sérgio Silva with a glass eye and with a sign "Rubber bullet blinds, but won't silence"

On the left, Sérgio Andrade da Silva with a glass eye. On the right, Silva with a sign that reads, “Rubber bullets blind, but won't silence”. Photo taken by Silva, free to use.

In June 2013, Brazilian photographer Sérgio Andrade da Silva lost his left eye after being shot with a rubber bullet by a military police officer while covering a street demonstration. He sued the state of São Paulo and demanded 1.2 million Brazilian reais (375,000 US dollars) in damages and a pension of 2,300 reais (720 US dollars) a month for the rest of his life, as well as coverage of all his medical expenses.

This week, his suit finally went to court — and a judge denied his request.

Massive street demonstrations flooded Brazilian cities in June 2013, with millions turning out to demand better public services. Journalist Juliana Vallone, from the newspaper Folha de São Paulo, was also shot in the eye during the protests, but unlike Silva, she made a full recovery.

Alternative website Ponte Jornalismo reproduced part of judge's Olavo Zampol Júnior's decision:

as possíveis consequências do que pudesse acontecer, surgindo desse comportamento causa excludente de responsabilidade, onde, por culpa exclusiva do autor, ao se colocar na linha de confronto entre a polícia e os manifestantes, voluntária e conscientemente assumiu o risco de ser alvejado por alguns dos grupos em confronto”.

the possible consequences of what could happen, stemming from this behavior, leads to exclusion of responsibility, where the subject by his own exclusive fault, putting himself in the line of confrontation between police and protesters, voluntarily and knowingly took the risk of being targeted by some of the opposing groups.

In other words, the judge deemed Silva guilty of losing his eye because he put himself in danger.

On social media, many Brazilians reacted to the ruling by arguing that journalists simply get no protection from police violence while covering demonstrations, and are sometimes even targeted on purpose. Brazil’s military police often act with violence, not only against journalists but also the country’s black population in favelas, where officers have murdered residents with impunity, according to human rights groups.

Silva created a petition on Change.org demanding that São Paulo's court of appeals review the judge's decision. So far it gathered more than 3,000 signatures. In the petition, Silva comments:

A decisão do juiz Olavo Zampol Júnior é mais um episódio vergonhoso e monstruoso de violência judicial contra as vítimas da Polícia Militar. É mais uma demonstração de que o Estado defende apenas seus próprios interesses – e de que esses interesses definitivamente não são os mesmos interesses da cidadania. O que fazer diante de tamanha injustiça? É difícil saber ao certo. É chocante ler um documento público escrito com tal nível de desfaçatez. Mas eu escolho resistir, e sei que tenho muitas pessoas ao meu lado.

The decision of judge Olavo Zampol Júnior is another shameful and monstrous episode of judicial violence against the victims of military police. It is a demonstration that the state only defends its own interests — and that these interests are definitely not the same interests of the citizenry. What to do in the face of such injustice? It is difficult to know. It is shocking to read a public document written with such a level of effrontery. But I choose to resist, and I know I have many people by my side.

Some online commenters compared the judge's decision to another incident of protest-related violence in which the assailants were promptly punished. In February 2014, a cameraman from a Brazilian TV station, Santiago Andrade, died after being hit by a firecracker while covering a demonstration. It was later found that the firecracker was launched by two protesters, who spent a year in jail while awaiting trial (they were released on bail last year and are expected to be found guilty and sentenced to between two and eight years in prison).

Journalist Ignacio Aronovich posted on his Facebook page:

Ignacio Aronovich posted a photo of the moment pothe picture by Domingos Peixoto/AFP, Santiago Andrade (Bandeirantes TV) is hit by a firecracker.

Ignacio Aronovich posted a photo of the moment Santiago Andrade was hit by a firecracker in 2014, taken by Domingos Peixoto/AFP. Andrade died of his injuries. Screenshot from Facebook.

Na foto de Domingos Peixoto/AFP, Santiago Andrade (TV Bandeirantes) é atingido por um rojão.

Quem a justiça considerou culpada?

Quem lançou o artefato.

Em SP, no dia 13 de junho de 2013, Sérgio Silva foi atingido por uma bala de borracha.

Quem a justiça considerou culpada?

O fotógrafo.

Quem estava presente no dia 13 de Junho de 2013 na esquina da Maria Antônia com a Consolação sabe muito bem o que aconteceu ali.

Eu estava.

‪#‎culpadoporfotografar‬

In the photo by Domingos Peixoto/AFP, Santiago Andrade (Bandeirantes TV) is hit by a firecracker.

Who does the court consider guilty?

The people who launched the device.

Is São Paulo, on June 13, 2013, Sérgio Silva was hit by a rubber bullet.

Who does the court consider guilty?

The photographer.

Those who were present on June 13, 2013, at the intersection of Maria Antonia and Consolação streets knows very well what happened there.

I was there.

#GuiltyOfPhotographing

Davi Duarte, a professor, also commented on his Facebook page:

O Policial que mira uma bala de borracha no olho de uma pessoa, atira e o deixa cego não é nada além de um psicopata que reforça o repúdio à farda merecido pela população.

Covarde.

The police officer who aims a rubber bullet at a person's eye, shoots and leaves him blind is nothing but a psychopath who reinforces the people's rightful rejection of the uniform.

Coward.

Maycon Nunes, who is also a professor, showed his support to Silva on Facebook:

O Juiz culpa o fotografo Sérgio Silva, por estar na linha de tiro. Culparam a vítima!

Se o Sérgio Silva é culpado por exercer a sua função, por fazer o que é pago para fazer, por fotografar, fica aqui o meu manifesto!

Eu sou cúmplice

http://www.conjur.com.br/2016-ago-17/fotografo-culpado-tiro-deixou-cego-protesto-juiz?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=facebook

Manifeste-se!

Um povo calado, é um povo aprisionado!
#culpadoporfotografar

The judge blames photographer Sergio Silva for being in the line of fire. They blame the victim!

If Sergio Silva is guilty for doing his job, doing what he's paid to do, for photographing, here is my manifest!

I'm an accomplice

[…]

Speak up!

A silent people are an imprisoned people!
#GuiltyOfPhotographing

"The police officer had his gun pointed to people's heads". Photo by Alice V/Democratize, used with permission

“The police officer had his gun pointed to people's heads”. Photo by Alice V/Democratize, used with permission

On Twitter and Facebook, users are using the hashtag #culpadoporfotografar (guilty of photographing) to show support for Silva and to protest against the São Paulo judge's decision. NGOs such as Article 19 have also stood by the photographer. Silva will appeal the decision in higher courts.

by Raphael Tsavkko Garcia at August 23, 2016 05:04 PM

A Citizen Journalist in India Took on the Local Government Over Pensions—and Won
Screenshot from YouTube Video

Screenshot from YouTube Video

This post originally appeared at VideoVolunteers, an award-winning international community media organization based in India. A redacted version is published below as part of a content-sharing agreement.

One woman’s insistence for justice has brought change for almost 3,000 people in the Indian state of Bihar. They received their pension arrears by the authorities, after a Video Volunteers community correspondent recorded the testimonies of the victims, showed them authorities and pursued the case for months.

India has a number of centrally sponsored national social assistance schemes, which provide financial assistance to the elderly, widows and persons with disabilities in the form of social pensions. India's social security system is woefully inadequate compared to other countries. For example, 16.5 million senior persons (65 years and above) below the poverty line receive a pension as low as 400 rupees (US $6 only) per person per month. The benefit is small, and corruption and negligence prevent many from receiving them on time.

One year ago, community correspondent Tanju Devi made a video on the year-long pension arrears of the disabled, widows and senior citizens in Gaunaha, West Champaram district of the state of Bihar in eastern India.

Even after making repeated pleas to the authorities, the citizens of Gaunaha still hadn't received their rightful pension. This is when Bhuri Devi, Tanju’s neighbour and a physically challenged person, approached Tanju with the problem and urged her to take action for the issue.

According to Tanju:

When Bhuri approached me with this problem, I could relate to her. I have a physically challenged husband and an aging mother-in-law. I know how important are a few hundred rupees in an impoverished person’s life. It means food, medicine and security.

With a resolve to bring justice to all, Tanju set forth to show her community how persistence and harmony can bring accountability and change to the authorities. She recorded video testimonies of several affected residents and met with the Gaunaha Block Development Officer (BDO), bringing along with her the video and a requisition letter for the pensions:

Tanju Devi is a Video Volunteers Correspondent from West Champaran, Bihar, India.

Tanju Devi is a Video Volunteers correspondent from West Champaran, Bihar, India.

Initially, the BDO gave assurances but there was no action from the department. But I was resolved to get the pensioner’s arrears cleared. I kept increasing the pressure on the BDO – sometimes with a women’s group, sometimes alone and sometimes by showing her pictures of the village meeting I had organised.

Finally, after five months of relentless trying and community pressure, the BDO was forced into action, assigning officers to conduct an investigation into the local government’s actions and clearing the arrears.

On 14 May 2016, as many as 3,000 beneficiaries were called to a community gathering in Gaunaha and were given their due arrears. “I shall buy ration and medicines with this money,” Bhuri, Tanju’s neighbour, said.

While Bhuri felt relieved that her pension had started once again, it's necessary to ask how a disability pension of 300 rupees (US $4.50) per month covers the cost of the most basic needs such as health, shelter, electricity, clothing and so on. The question remains the same for the pension of 400 rupees (US $6) for widows and elderly people.

For example, the failure of pension schemes to support the survival of those in need is demonstrated by the ‘revised’ old-age pension scheme. In 2008, the government of India raised the old-age pension from 300 to 400 rupees. However, its inability to cover the most basic needs is evident by data from the 2011 census. According to the data, more than 11.7 million people over the age of 70 are still working in India, with a majority of them as full-time employees. Of these, 2.5 million people are over the age of 80, the report adds.

Video Volunteers’ community correspondents come from marginalised communities in India and produce videos on unreported stories. These stories are ‘news by those who live it.’ They give the hyperlocal context to global human rights and development challenges.

by VideoVolunteers at August 23, 2016 04:18 PM

Tremors Hit Southern Peru, Leaving Thousands Without a Home
Photo: Cross with geraniums in Malata, Tapay District. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International.

Photo: Cross with geraniums in Malata, Tapay District. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International.

A 5.2-magnitude earthquake hit southern Peru on Sunday, August 14. The quake came at night, centered in the village of Chivay, Caylloma province, in the region of Arequipa. Four people were killed in the disaster, and the number of locals affected is much larger.

Chivay, nestled in the Colca Valley, which is a well-known tourist destination, endured more than 60 aftershocks of varying intensity in the hours that followed the initial earthquake.

Earthquake in #Arequipa: new magnitude 3.4 aftershock in Chivay

The epicenter would have been very close to Maca, a settlement that has already suffered previous earthquakes, as it is located between geological fault lines on muddy terrain:

The epicenter was in Maca, an artisan village on fault lines, which still is sinking and had made an (failed) attempt to relocate.

In Caylloma, the earthquake hit during the celebrations of the Assumption of Mary, one of the most important of the region. The Christian site Aleteia describes how those who were out of their houses felt they were saved for being outside during the earthquake:

Los pobladores de Chivay agradecieron en todo momento a su patrona por haberlos mantenido fuera de sus casas [Durante el terremoto] Horas antes de iniciarse el movimiento telúrico […] la fiesta popular con música y bailes al aire libre estuvo dispuesta… [Para algunos] resulta sorprendente cómo los habitantes dejaron de pensar, por unos minutos, en el estado en que se encontraban sus viviendas, para expresar su fe a través de la danza.

Chivay's villagers thanked their patron for keeping them out of their houses [during the earthquake]. Hours before the telluric movement […] celebrations with music and dances were out in the open… [For some] it was surprising to see how the villagers stopped thinking about the state of their homes for some minutes, so they could express their faith through dancing.

According to social media, other surrounding villages, like Yanque and Ichupampa, suffered great damage to their infrastructure, as well.

Already there have been three aftershocks associated with the earthquake in the Colca Valley all superficial. Yanque is totally destroyed

The district of Yanque is the most affected by the earthquake in Caylloma: Arequipa

Church of ichupampa caylloma Arequipa

Ichupampa needs us.
158 houses destroyed
More than 600 victims.
The temperatures are below freezing at night….

To help those who were affected, the government activated humanitarian aid programs that start assisting communities in need:

Right now, the first truck of humanitarian aid is arriving at Yanque from the city of Arequipa

Many vital roads were closed thanks to landslides caused by the quakes. Water and food are scarce and the access to the towns is difficult. The growing number of the affected can be translated in people sleeping in the open, under freezing temperatures; and also families standing helpless next to the remains of their homes, waiting impatiently for aid.

The planned reconstruction of the towns that were destroyed is scheduled to get underway by the end of this year. This should include 693 of the houses that collapsed and 1,358 of those declared inhabitable. Also, since the affected towns are home to a considerable amount of the colonial-era patrimony in the Colca Valley, the reconstruction is expected to respect these cultural landmarks as well as the region's natural landscape.

This text is an adaptation of a blog post published in “Globalizado,” Juan Arellano's blog.

by Allie at August 23, 2016 01:25 PM

Philippine Sugar Farmers Facing Another ’Dead Season’ Turn to Government for Help
A farmland in Negros. Photo courtesy of UMA Pilipinas

A farmland in Negros. Photo courtesy of UMA Pilipinas.

Tiempo Muerto, or “The Dead Season,” visits sugar plantations across the Philippines, when many farmers struggle with hunger and deprivation because there’s no work during this off-milling period of the year. The season can be so brutal on farmers that more than a quarter of a million people—a whopping 385,000 sugar workers, known as “sakada”—are affected on Negros Island alone.

Despite the passage of numerous land-reform laws mandating the distribution of lands to farmers, many of the haciendas (plantations) in Negros have remained intact and in the hands of politically powerful family dynasties.

Farmers in these lands are given work during planting and harvesting time, but they have no income during off-milling season. Many struggle to find alternative work, but there are few other employment opportunities on the island. Peasant leader Danilo Ramos explains why the season is so traumatic for farmers:

Sugar workers bear the brunt of Tiempo Muerto every year. They try to look for other modes of decent employment or livelihood but these are obviously scarce because Negros—in this day and age—is still dominated by a decrepit monocrop industry and by centuries-old feudal oppression.

Carabao farming symbolizes the backward agrarian system in the Philippines. Photo courtesy of UMA Pilipinas

Carabao farming symbolizes the backward agrarian system in the Philippines. Photo courtesy of UMA Pilipinas.

A farming village in Negros during Tiempo Muerto. Photo courtesy of UMA Pilipinas

A farming village in Negros during Tiempo Muerto. Photo courtesy of UMA Pilipinas.

Government statistics show that 30.5 percent of families in Negros Occidental (the island's western side) live in poverty, while the figure jumps to 46.6 percent of families in Negros Oriental (the eastern side).

Since early August, farmers across Negros have staged protests in the province's capital, demanding the immediate release of disaster funds and other forms of assistance allotted by the national government.

One of those who joined the protests was Nanay Lani, who summarized how many families are plagued by debt burdens during Tiempo Muerto.

Now it’s Tiempo Muerto and work is scarce. Even if we get some work, we no longer take home any cash. We even incur so much debt during this tiggulutom (season of hunger).

Farmers hold a protest action in front of a government agency to demand the release of calamity funds. Photo courtesy of UMA Pilipinas

Farmers hold a protest in front of a government agency to demand the release of disaster funds. Photo courtesy of UMA Pilipinas.

Protesting farmers tear up their pay slips which show the meager salary they receive by working in the sugar plantations. Photo courtesy of UMA Pilipinas

Protesting farmers tear up their pay slips, showing the meager salary they receive by working in the sugar plantations. Photo courtesy of UMA Pilipinas.

The disaster in Negros has been multiplied by an El Nino—an extreme drought—that hit the island earlier this year.

Further exacerbating some farmers’ problems is the government's campaign to evict some farmers in Negros. In the town of Murcia, there have even been violent clashes between resisting farmers and police and soldiers.

Police and soldiers are seen ordering some farmers to vacate a property being claimed by the provincial government. Photo courtesy of UMA Pilipinas

Police and soldiers are seen ordering some farmers to vacate a property being claimed by the provincial government. Photo courtesy of UMA Pilipinas.

The video below features an interview with a farmer who explains the impact of poverty and militarization in his village:

At a protest staged in the provincial capitol, Negros farmers urged the country’s new president to implement land reform and extend assistance to farmers affected by Tiempo Muerto.

by Mong Palatino at August 23, 2016 12:50 PM

Peruvian Pokémon Go Players Eager to Cover More Ground Are Hiring Motorcycle Taxi Drivers
    Mototaxis en flia. Imagen en Flickr del usuario Martín García (CC BY-NC 2.0).Motorcycle taxis waiting in line. Photo: Flickr / Martix (CC BY-NC 2.0).

Pokémon Go, the trendy mobile game that sent Nintendo's stock values on a rollercoaster ride lately, is pumping money into another industry in the Peruvian Amazon, where motorcycle taxi drivers in Iquitos, the capital city of the Loreto region, have seen a spike in demand, as the game's players hire drivers to move around town more efficiently. For eight to twelve soles (between $2.50 and $3.60) an hour, a Pokémon hunter can hire a typical three-wheel ride to drive them around the streets of Iquitos, so they can catch the elusive virtual creatures.

In Iquitos.

Motorcycle taxi drivers in Iquitos are the peak of Peruvian creativity. I pay my respect to them. [I am] #PokeDumb.

This is not floro.

(In colloquial Peruvian speech, floro means trying to convince someone using lies or exaggerating reality.)

In a text republished by several different media outlets, a driver named Luis López explained how the Association of Motor Taxi Drivers of Iquitos has embraced the trend:

Nosotros brindamos el servicio y el usuario con su celular nos pide que vayamos por el centro de Iquitos, donde existen mayor aglomeración de pokemones y pokeparadas. Los pokemones más raros están en avenidas fuera del centro, entonces nosotros conducimos, sin distraernos y el usuario puede atraparlos.

We provide the service and the user, with their mobile phone, asks us to drive around Iquitos downtown, where most Pokémons and pokéstops are located. The rarest Pokémons are found in avenues outside downtown, though, so we drive without distractions while the user catches them.

López also said the association is working in coordination with the police to avoid traffic collisions, and pointed out that some younger players have risked their lives while playing, out of eagerness for the game. Police have also stepped up patrolling efforts to protect players from mobile-phone thieves.

Unfortunately, despite these efforts, the city has seen an increase in traffic collisions:

En las últimas horas se ha registrado un incremento de accidentes de tránsito relacionados a Pokémon Go en la ciudad, según reveló la policía de Iquitos. El General PNP Julio Mercado, jefe policial del Oriente, dio a conocer que los peatones que vienen jugando se distraen constantemente en las vías llenas de vehículos.
Además, muchos de los usuarios son víctimas de accidentes pues utilizan motocicletas para atrapar a las criaturas y otros son blanco de malhechores que les arrebatan sus celulares.

In the past few hours, the number of Pokémon-Go-related traffic collisions in the city has increased, according to Iquitos police. General of Peruvian National Police of the East, Julio Mercado, said that pedestrians playing [the game] are constantly distracted in the roads full of vehicles.

Also, many users become involved in accidents while driving motorcycles to catch the creatures and others have become targets for wrongdoers who take their mobile phones.

Drivers aren't limiting themselves to motorcycle taxis, however, and some services are making boats available to players who want to find Pokémon on the Amazon river.

20 soles ($6.00) per hour. That's it.

Iquitos, incidentally, isn't the only city offering Pokémon-Go-related services. In Fortaleza, the Brazilian state capital of Ceará, there are similar reports of motorcycle taxi drivers earning extra money thanks to the search for Pokémons.

Thirty-two-year-old driver Denis Paz, for instance, used Facebook to announce that he is making his vehicle available to “Pokemaniacs,” so they can visit various spots around the city:

Segundo entrevista ao Estado, em apenas 24 horas ele recebeu mais de 50 pedidos para agendar “tours” através da cidade. “Inicialmente quero cobrar R$ 25 por hora”, disse. “Acho que pode ser um negócio promissor.”

According to an interview with [the Paulista news outlet] Estado, in only 24 hours [Denis] got over 50 requests to reserve “tours” all around the city. “At first, I'd like to charge R$25 (about $7.80 in US dollars) per hour,” he noted. “I think this can be a promising business.”

On Twitter, the new industry is also getting some notice:

Motorcycle taxi drivers in Fortaleza take advantage of Pokémon-Go fever to score some extra rides.

It remains to been seen if these are isolated cases when it comes to Pokémon Go boosting local transport markets, or perhaps this is a sign of things to come elsewhere, as the Japanese game and augmented reality in general grow more mainstream.

by Gabriela García Calderón at August 23, 2016 11:02 AM

Where's the Party At? Trinidadian Developers Created an App for That!
Trinidadian software developers Andel Husbands and Jonathan Agarrat in New York, where they met to brainstorm the WhereDPump app and get the ball rolling on its completion. Photo courtesy the subjects, used with permission.

Trinidadian software developers Andel Husbands and Jonathan Agarrat in New York. Photo used with permission.

From a country widely known for its “feteing” (partying) and “liming” (hanging out) comes an app that points partygoers in the direction of the action. Childhood friends Jonathan Agarrat and Andel Husbands, both 21, developed — and then launched this past June — the WhereDPump app, taking partying and technology to another level.

With Carnival 2017 fast approaching, Trinidad and Tobago's party enthusiasts will no longer have to search for hip events by scouring through social media or hearing about them by word of mouth. The app gives party-promoters the chance to list their events, collecting in a single space entertainment options for club hoppers.

Global Voices spoke to the creators of WhereDPump, and learned more about the new service.

The app's home screen, showcasing the different events.

The app's home screen, showcasing the different events.

Global Voices (GV): What inspired you to create the app? What need do you think it fulfills?

Andel Husbands (AH) and Jonathan Agarrat (JA): Our love for partying! We found it strange that a lot of businesses in Trinidad still do many things manually and on paper. We thought that it required too much effort to find out what each club is doing tonight, who’s listing, what’s the cover charge, are there any drink specials and how many people are going? With that in mind, we decided to solve those problems using technology.

GV: Was it a completely original idea or are there apps on the market similar to yours?

JA: There are similar apps but they aren’t the same. Let me explain: Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter — they are all blogs at the end of the day so they are similar — but are they the same? No, right? There are other events apps: not sure if there’s any app that only deals with parties, but that’s what we do.

What I am sure of is that no other app allows you to get listed for clubs, message committee members for tickets and earn points which can be redeemed for complimentary party tickets. That’s original.

Upon selecting an event, you can see more details about it and -- if offered -- even list yourself as an attendee right from this screen!

Upon selecting an event, you can see more details about it and — if offered — even list yourself as an attendee right from this screen!

GV: What has been the response since the launch of WhereDPump on iOS, and did anything surprise you?

AH: The response has been terrific. We actually weren’t surprised, as a lot of time and effort went into ensuring we were building something people would find useful and enjoy using. What was surprising though, is the amount of people asking for it to be available in places like New York and Miami.

GV: What kind of impact or difference are you hoping to make with this app?

AH & JA: We hope to set a standard for developing in Trinidad and inspire other developers to execute their ideas. Additionally, we hope we can create an interest in students across the island to learn computer science and really take Trinidad forward with technology. We have a lot of brilliant minds.

GV: What's next for WhereDPump? Any exciting upcoming events?

JA: Our #1 question, ‘What’s next?’ We’ll never actually say. There’s a lot still to be done and as the needs of users change, so will the app. Just remember to always keep your app up to date to enjoy our latest features.

GV: How did you get into coding and did websites like Codecademy help to sharpen your skills?

AH & JA: We’re both self-taught. The funny thing is, to build a simple website all you need is a word editor. So we’d just read the documentation for HTML (a markup language for coding websites) and play around in a word editor. Codecademy wasn’t what it is today. It was a bit too beginner for us when we discovered it. One of the best ways to learn development is to look at existing code and try to understand it and/or manipulate it. In our early development stages, it was a lot of copying and pasting code from existing websites. We eventually found out how it worked.

GV: What life or entrepreneurial skills does coding help to nurture? What would young people gain from learning the skill, and would you consider setting up coding programmes for youth in Trinidad and Tobago?

JA: Steve Jobs already said it best, so I’ll just quote him. ‘Everyone in this country should learn to program a computer because it teaches you how to think.’ There’s really no better way to put it. At a young age you’re less likely to fear failure; you’re more interested in trying than failing so young people coding is generally where we see really innovative solutions to problems. We actually started setting up a coding programme for our Alma Mater this July/August vacation. However, due to some complications, we were unable to run the programme but we’ll be up and running soon.

This is the users' profile. Here they see their points and manage their lists and tickets if they are a seller or committee member.

This is the users’ profile. Here they see their points and manage their lists and tickets if they are a seller or committee member.

GV: Is there life beyond the app? What should consumers look out for in the future?

AH: Consumers drive the app, so as long as they voice their problems or opinions, they can expect to see solutions.

JA: Also, in addition to all we have in store for WhereDPump, we have many other ideas we’re waiting to execute.

GV: How has being in this business together affected your friendship?

JA: We’ve been friends for 17 years, so not much has changed. We both bring a lot to the table. The thing with running a company and having two people able to make decisions is to have mutual respect and not to compete with each other. What’s fortunate for us is that’s never the case, as our skills compliment each other.

GV: What are your other professional interests? Do you see yourselves as app creators or inventors?

AH & JA We’d both like to be somewhere to the front — if not at the front — of technology in the Caribbean. We plan to grow a tech company in Trinidad and Tobago.

AH: I’d also like to build my skills more in various areas of computer science, mainly web design, app development and graphic work.

JA: I plan to build software focused on the educational system in the Caribbean and also work on medical devices.

The software developer duo is currently still in college: Andel Husbands in his sophomore year at the University of South Florida, and Jonathan Agarrat a senior at the New York Institute of Technology.

by Atiba Rogers at August 23, 2016 01:10 AM

August 22, 2016

Global Voices
A New Digital Tool Helped Rio de Janeiro Activists Document Abuses in the Olympics
1

Screenshot of the WITNESS website.

The Rio Olympics recently welcomed the world’s finest athletes and provided a stage for Herculean feats of physical achievement, but the event’s host city stood as a backdrop of stark inequality. From the forced eviction of the community of Vila Autódromo to give way to the Olympic Park to deplorable working conditions, myriad rights violations underlay the spectacle.

It might have been easy for these abuses to be swept under the rug as the media’s light shone on medals and pageantry, but activists harnessed the power of new technology to compile and share evidence of the cost of Rio 2016.

CrowdVoice.by is a new tool that enables activists and grassroots organizations to collaboratively curate media related to their causes. It streamlines the task of collecting and disseminating evidence, drawing in content from multiple sources for distribution across many different platforms. It encourages users to harness the power of their networks to work faster and smarter.

WITNESS, an international organization that trains citizens in the documentation of rights violations, used CrowdVoice.by to curate live streams and information shared on social media regarding the the conditions faced by residents of Rio de Janeiro for its feature “Rio 2016 Human Rights Live.” Because CrowdVoice.by employs embeds, it can be easily used in conjunction with other tools within the framework of an organization’s webpage. In the Witness feature, a CrowdVoice.by media feed is used alongside a Timeline tool from the news media innovation Knight Lab.

Another movement, Rio2036, used CrowdVoice.by to showcase background information regarding its cause. The campaign formed in opposition to proposed legislation that would freeze government spending on social services in the city. A media embed appears on the site alongside printable stickers to promote street-level awareness of the issue during the height of the Olympics, exemplifying an intersection of digital and on-the-ground activism. CrowdVoice.by allows visitors to the page to browse realtime information from multiple sources within a single space, and even contribute media directly to the stream.

2

Screenshot of the Rio2036 website.

Though CrowdVoice.by is only in its beta iteration, it is already seeing adoption by the technology-savvy activists of Rio de Janeiro to ensure that the issues they work to address are not eclipsed or overlooked. CrowdVoice.by and tools like it have countless applications in countless communities beyond Brazil and beyond the Olympics. Technologies tailored specifically for the needs of human rights defenders have the ability to empower citizens everywhere to tell their own stories, and use the evidence they gather to demand culpability and change.

CrowdVoice.by is hosted by Majal, a network of online platforms that amplify under-reported and marginalised voices throughout the Middle East and North Africa. The author of this post, Abir Ghattas, manages Mideast Tunes, a music platform also hosted by Majal.

by Abir Ghattas at August 22, 2016 08:09 PM

Say Hello to Thailand’s New Constitution. And Say Hello Again to Thailand’s Military Rule.

Thailand, Bangkok. September 24, 2006. M41 Walker Bulldogs parked within the Ministry of Defense's compound. Photo by Roger JG. CC 2.5.

Earlier this month, Thailand’s voters approved a new constitution in a nationwide referendum. Supporters of the new document, which was drafted by the military-backed government under the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), say it paves the way to the restoration of civilian rule. Critics, however, worry that the new constitution only institutionalizes Thailand's military dictatorship and its crackdown on the media.

When the army grabbed power in 2014, it assured the public that elections would be held once political and electoral reforms have been implemented. Two years later, the junta remains in power. Political demonstrations are banned, the media is heavily regulated, and activists detained by police are often subjected to “attitude-adjustment” sessions.

The NCPO urged the public to approve the draft constitution, saying it would expedite Thailand's political “normalization,” making elections possible in 2017 or 2018. Any campaigning for or against the constitution was prohibited, however, and critics say voters were deprived adequate information about the content of the document. Fearing punishment for illegally trying to “persuade” people, both journalists and scholars avoided discussing the draft constitution publicly in significant detail.

Those who expected the military to step down and recognize civilian supremacy in government will be disappointed to learn that the constitution allows the military to rule the country through various means. For example, 194 senators will be selected by the NCPO.

The infographic below, published by independent news website and Global Voices partner Prachatai, explains the various constitutional mechanisms that will allow the military to retain control of the government:

Infographic by Prachatai

Infographic by Prachatai

The military's restrictions on the media don't appear to be going anywhere, either. The Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) warns that the constitution “provides the state with potentially more power to intervene on press freedom and freedom of expression.” It added that the new constitution is a “regression” compared to the 2007 constitution, when it comes to upholding the freedom of the media.

SEAPA says sections 34, 35, 36, 41, and 60 of the new constitution all undermine free speech.

Section 34, for instance, guarantees academic freedom but also states that this right “shall not be contrary to the duties of Thai people or good morals of people and shall respect and not impede differing opinions of other persons.” According to SEAPA's analysts, the phrase “shall not impede differing opinions of other persons” is antithetical to the foundations of academic study.

Section 35, meanwhile, abandons certain media protections found in Thailand's 2007 constitution, jettisoning the right of media outlets to organize their own personnel ranks, self-regulation, and promotion of professional ethics. According to the newly adopted constitution, state-media journalists also lose guarantees of editorial independence. The 2007 constitution classified interventions by the state in the media as “misuses of power.” The new constitution does not include this language.

Infographic by the Southeast Asian Press Alliance

Infographic by the Southeast Asian Press Alliance

By all accounts, Thailand’s new constitution boosts the dominance of the military, threatening to institutionalize even further a culture of censorship and state control over the media.

by Mong Palatino at August 22, 2016 06:26 PM

Creative Commons
Open Access to Research Critical to Advance Progress Against Cancer

The National Cancer Moonshot Initiative seeks to make ten years of progress on cancer research in half that time, with a goal to end cancer in our lifetime. The project—led by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden—recently called for ideas to help shape the cancer research priorities for the Moonshot. They received over 1,600 comments and … Read More "Open Access to Research Critical to Advance Progress Against Cancer"

The post Open Access to Research Critical to Advance Progress Against Cancer appeared first on Creative Commons.

by Timothy Vollmer at August 22, 2016 06:23 PM

Global Voices
Breaking the Siege of Aleppo
Graphic widely shared on social media.

“In the days of intense fighting last week, in a tragi-comic display of defiance, the people of Aleppo burned hundreds of tires, sending plumes of black smoke into the air to create their own No Fly Zone.” IMAGE: Graphic shared widely on social media.

By Leila Al Shami

The people of eastern Aleppo celebrated on August 6 after rebels broke through the siege that had been imposed on them by the Syrian regime and its allies since July 17. For almost a month, the areas of the city held by the revolutionaries since July 2012 had been turned into an open-air prison where some 300,000 people stockpiled food and supplies for fear of starvation.

It required a great feat of unity on the part of the rebels, with their vastly inferior arsenal, to break the siege. The democratic nationalists of the Free Syrian Army joined together with Islamist militias and, crucially, Jabhat Fatah Al Sham, which until earlier this month had been known as the Nusra Front, Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria.

“It required a great feat of unity on the part of the rebels, with their vastly inferior arsenal, to break the siege.”

Syrian civil society was not generally impressed by the rebrand. Whilst Nusra has avoided the strict imposition of Islamic law in areas where it has a presence, there has been popular opposition to the group due to its attempts to undermine local civil administrative structures, and its establishment of parallel structures such as Sharia courts. Nusra has also arrested civil society activists, including journalists and local council members, and has been responsible for sectarian attacks. Indeed, revolutionaries in Idlib province—site of the revolution’s first large-scale attack on Assadist forces—have been protesting for over five months against Nusra’s refusal to submit to independent courts and calling for the release of Nusra’s detainees.

Nusra was pushed out of Aleppo in 2014 by popular pressure, but returned recently. It has clashed with other rebel groups, and its attempts to dominate institutions and the provision of services such as electricity and food supply have made the group unpopular among city residents.

But the demands of survival supersede political principles. Many democrats—who are terrified by the prospect of jihadist rule—find themselves celebrating jihadist advances. Nusra is a key component of Jaish Al Fath, the Army of Conquest, which freed the city of Idlib from the Syrian regime last year. And Jaish Al Fatah led the assault that broke the siege of Aleppo.

Residents of liberated Aleppo demonstrated in support of the counter-offensive. In the days of intense fighting last week, in a tragi-comic display of defiance, the people of Aleppo burned hundreds of tires, sending plumes of black smoke into the air to create their own No Fly Zone. The successful breaking of the siege only increases the importance of Nusra in the eyes of the local population. This is where abandonment has led.

If Aleppo had fallen, which seemed imminent in the days before the siege was broken, it wouldn’t have ended the war. But it may have signaled the death of a revolution which has already been betrayed and abandoned. A free Aleppo embodies the aspirations of the continuing but increasingly marginalized popular struggle for freedom.

“If Aleppo had fallen, which seemed imminent in the days before the siege was broken, it wouldn’t have ended the war. But it may have signaled the death of a revolution which has already been betrayed and abandoned.”

With little beyond rhetorical support from their supposed friends in the West, the people of Aleppo had pushed out the Assad dictatorship in July 2012 and pushed out Daesh (ISIS) extremists in January 2014. The liberated districts in the east ran their own affairs and struggled to keep basic services operating through their democratically elected local councils. One of the largest concentrations of active civil society groups anywhere in the country came into existence, including dozens of free media groups and emergency and relief organizations such as the ‘White Helmets’ Civil Defense Force. A group of women set up the first women-owned independent radio station, Radio Naseem, whose programming addresses human rights issues, women’s role in the revolution and the dangers posed by extremism. This is the legacy of the revolution, the embodiment of its democratic ideals and its resilience, and it is all this that is currently being bombed out of existence.

Aleppo has suffered years of artillery strikes, barrel bombs and scuds, but the current bombing is the most intense ever. Hospitals and camps for displaced people have been bombed repeatedly by the Russian or Syrian air forces. Attacks on residential areas by the regime and its allies have driven thousands from their homes. With nowhere else to go, many are now sleeping in public buildings or outdoors. Water, electricity and healthcare facilities are being deliberately targeted. These war crimes have brought essential and life saving services to the brink of collapse. Critical shortages of medical supplies and physicians leave little help for the daily wounded.

In retaliation for the rebels’ recent success, Idlib is being pounded by airstrikes, with reports of Russian jets dropping incendiary thermite bombs on civilian areas. Last night there were reports of chlorine gas attacks on rebel held Aleppo.

In such a context, regime/Russian claims of establishing ‘humanitarian corridors’ for people to flee are seen for what they are: an attempt to depopulate the opposition held area and signal that those who remain are a legitimate target for the mass slaughter now taking place. The bombs need to stop and aid desperately needs to be allowed into the city.

“In such a context, regime/Russian claims of establishing ‘humanitarian corridors’ for people to flee are seen for what they are: an attempt to depopulate the opposition held area and signal that those who remain are a legitimate target for the mass slaughter now taking place.”

The US administration, never a true ally of the popular struggle, is now pushing for greater military cooperation with Russia in the ‘fight against terrorism’. According to Russia’s definition this includes any opposition to the regime. This short-sighted policy suggests it trusts Russia to pressure the regime to end its assault on moderate rebel groups and opposition-held territory, despite Russia and the regime’s failures to abide by any agreements made relating to ceasefires or access for humanitarian aid. The perception on in the ground is that the US is collaborating with the attackers. If democratic anti-regime forces are crushed by foreign powers and sectarian Shia militias, violent extremism will only grow in their place.

The West doesn’t need to intervene militarily against the regime or Daesh. Syrian revolutionaries have been successful in defeating them in the past and they could do so again. But much stronger political and economic pressure is needed on countries propping up the regime (the main cause of the bloodshed and extremism) to end their support. Assad can’t hold ground alone and is completely dependent on foreign forces for survival (Russian airstrikes, and Iranian-backed Shia militias on the ground). The regime is desperately attempting to recruit prisoners and teachers to fight as regime loyalists try to avoid conscription or flee.

As Aleppo burned, then starved, the United States appeased Russia and Iran, turned a blind eye to Iran’s Shia jihadists, vetoed anti-aircraft weapons to the rebels and failed to give adequate support to democratic civil initiatives. Al Qaeda’s former affiliate, on the other hand, are giving their blood to save the city. The ramifications will be enormous.

Leila Al Shami is a British Syrian who has been involved in human rights and social justice struggles in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East since 2000. She is the co-author of “Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution and War” with Robin Yassin-Kassab, and a contributor to “Khiyana-Daesh, the Left and the Unmaking of the Syrian Revolution”. A version of this story was originally published on her blog.

by Guest Contributor at August 22, 2016 05:47 PM

Harvard Law Library Innovation Lab
Summer Fellows Share, Join Us

LIL fellows are wrapping up their terms this week! Please join us for and learn from our Fellows as they present their research involving ways we can explore and utilize technology to preserve, prepare, and present information for the common good.

Over 12 weeks, the Fellows produced everything from book chapters, web applications, and board games ­ and, ultimately, an immeasurable amount of inspiration that extends far beyond the walls of Langdell.  They explored subjects such as text data modeling, web archiving, opening legal data, makerspaces, and preserving local memory in places disrupted by disaster.

Please RSVP to Gail Harris

Our fellows will be sharing their work these fascinating topics on Wednesday, August 24 from 1:00-3:00 in Casperon Room.

fellows-poster

by Matt Phillips at August 22, 2016 04:36 PM

Global Voices
A Jamaican Company's Offensive Olympic Tweet Offers a Lesson in Social Media Responsibility
Screen grab of a YouTube video showing Omar McLeod's stunning gold-medal finish in the 110m hurdles at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Screen grab of a YouTube video showing Omar McLeod's stunning gold-medal finish in the 110m hurdles at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Jamaicans love the track and field portion of the Olympics; it's a “feel good” mood all round. Yet, an offensive one-word tweet threatened to derail Jamaicans’ joy over one of their medal-winning track athletes, raising issues about the appropriate use of social media by corporate entities.

After Omar McLeod emphatically won the 110-meter hurdles (the first Jamaican to win gold in this event), Jamaica Gleaner employee Terri Karelle Reid tweeted an innocent question:

Of the many smart and witty headline suggestions on Twitter, one single-word response — “goldfish” — struck a sour note. “Fish” is a derogatory term for a gay man; to make matters worse, it was sent from the account of a local manufacturing and distribution firm.

The reaction from Jamaicans on Twitter and Facebook was immediate and condemnatory, and the company, Lasco Distributors Limited, issued an appropriate retraction soon after on its Facebook page. In it, they announced the employee behind the tweet had been fired:

Dear All:
Earlier this evening an unauthorized and offensive tweet was posted via our company account.
We wish to sincerely apologize to our fans, friends, customers, consumers, partners, Jamaicans and everyone for this terrible act. Most importantly, we issue our sincerest apologies to Mr. Omar McLeod.
The LASCO Affiliated Companies are also offended by such utterances which are a clear breach of our own values. Consequently, we have removed the tweet and deactivated the account. Further, we have terminated the employee who posted the tweet as this action was a violation of our code of conduct.
We, at LASCO, have the utmost respect for the remarkable achievement of Omar McLeod. We congratulate him on his gold medal victory in the Men’s 110 M Hurdles Olympic Event. We deeply regret any embarrassment or displeasure caused by the post and again offer our sincerest apologies.
Humbly,
LASCO Distributors Limited

Screen shot taken from Ingrid Riley's commentary on the issue.

Screen shot taken from Ingrid Riley's commentary on the issue.

After her initial angry response on Facebook, digital strategist and blogger Ingrid Riley shared her blog post about the issue, noting that it was a “teachable moment” for companies on social media. She recommended that companies educate their management so that they understand how social media can (or cannot) work for them, and that social media policies should be updated and circulated:

Social media has irrevocably changed the way we do business, offering us a new model to engage with customers, colleagues, and the world at large. This kind of interaction, helps all businesses to build stronger, more successful customer relationships, that inevitably lead to business growth. It is not a fad of the youth, it is a legitimate, profit generating strategy for your Caribbean business. […]

Further consider this, Lasco Jamaica is a publicly traded company, it has shareholders to answer to and it is in the middle of expanding, so this was NOT a great thing to happen at this time. It literally could have cost them way more brand equity and real loss of dollars. So, it was good for them to have moved so quickly. I would [love] to see them take it further, by embracing Omar McLeod in a special way only the Lasco brand would.

Social media expert and journalist Ross Sheil noted in his blog that local companies have not taken the responsibility of social media seriously enough:

First Lasco’s Twitter account last night sent a homophobic tweet directed at Olympic gold medallist Omar McLeod. Second they claimed the account had been hacked. Third, amid a firestorm of social media backlash, they sent another apology […] this time acknowledging and sacking the employee responsible. Their chairman Lascelles Chin then appeared on radio this morning to apologise further.

From my experience (and yes mistakes) working for, consulting and training Jamaican companies I’m only surprised something this ‘OH SHIT!’ never happened sooner. Surprised because few companies have taken digital seriously to prevent such a thing happening.

Another point about training: diversity. I was proud to have played a role in founding Respect Jamaica and in doing so had to recognise that we still have a long way to go in our workplaces in recognising ALL forms of discrimination. It was great to see so many corporates sign up to support the programme but reality is that within local companies discrimination and harassment too often gets whitewashed.

(Read more about the kind of work Respect Jamaica does here.)

That evening, opposition leader Portia Simpson Miller tweeted:

Sports journalist Leighton Levy wrote in the mass market tabloid, the Jamaica Star:

On Tuesday night, Omar McCleod created a bit of history of his own by becoming the first Jamaican man to win an Olympic sprint hurdles title. […]

His accomplishment was hailed and celebrated like it should be. However, some of us would not be satisfied until they found a way to taint his accomplishments, not because of something he did, or did not do, but because of something we believe him to be.

Omar McLeod is an outstanding young man. A talented athlete and a good student, and did you hear his articulate post-race interview and see how engaging he was? But apparently, for some of us that is not enough.

Because of his mannerisms some people have categorised him as someone that makes Jamaicans extremely uncomfortable. That I feel was what made someone send out a most unfortunate tweet that subsequently cost them their job. And rightly so.

I can never wrap my mind around why in someone's moment of glory while representing his or her country, should we try to tear them down because we believe they are different from we are. And belief is all it is. […] And whether or not those among us who feel that he is the way they feel about him is actually true, so what?

Nevertheless, award-winning blogger Zaheer Clarke warned:

On Facebook, public relations practitioner and former journalist Elon Parkinson observed:

The ‪#‎Goldfish‬ tweet reveals more than just a casual acquaintance with bigotry; it also demonstrates how differently the society will respond when the prejudice is directed towards a person they hold in high esteem, against another who is not so lucky to be considered.

Jamaicans ended the Olympics on a high note, however, celebrating McLeod's sunny personality, his cry of “Thank you Jesus!” as he crossed the finish line, and his heartfelt singing of the national anthem on the podium:

by Emma Lewis at August 22, 2016 02:31 PM

DML Central
Teaching Computational, Abstract Thinking

Visual programming languages and programming as a learning tool are old dreams, rooted in the late Seymour Papert’s creation of the Logo programming language for children. Lately, many promising variants — all of them based on visual rather than command-line interfaces — are popping up: Scratch, a successor to Logo, has been evolving in the MIT Media Lab’s “Lifelong Kindergarten;” Google has entered this arena with Blockly, “a library for building visual programming editors;” UC Berkeley’s Snap focuses on robotic control, as does Roberta. Many of these are powerful learning instruments, but because they run in their own “sandboxes,” are not meant for creating apps that run in the wild. David Bennahum’s visual programming language Ready, “an open-ended software creator,” is intended to change that.

Ready is intended to be used in the classroom — here is a video of some examples and a library of lesson plans. But Bennahum, like other developers of visual learning languages, sees Ready as a tool for teaching “computational thinking,” abstract thinking in general, and for creating real apps that others can use outside of sandboxes. Although some tout it as a pathway to employment in an increasingly computerized world, Carnegie-Mellon, which has been championing computational thinking, defines it as “a way of solving problems, designing systems, and understanding human behavior that draws on concepts fundamental to computer science. To flourish in today’s world, computational thinking has to be a fundamental part of the way people think and understand the world.”

The importance of abstraction, algorithm, procedural thinking goes back further than Papert to his own mentor, Jean Piaget, who viewed children as active agents who constructed knowledge through experimentation with the world. Papert’s theory of “constructionist learning,” derived in part from Piaget’s “constructivism,” is fundamental to the idea that computational thinking is about more than programming machines: “Constructionism shares constructivism’s connotation of learning as ‘building knowledge structures’ irrespective of the circumstances of the learning. It then adds the idea that this happens especially felicitously in a context where the learner is consciously engaged in constructing a public entity, whether it’s a sand castle on the beach or a theory of the universe.” The legacy of Piaget and Papert dramatically influenced Alan Kay’s original vision of “the Dynabook,” a learning tool that was one of the most important prototypes for today’s personal computers.

More recently, constructionism is being viewed as one of the learning-theory foundations of maker ed. In other words, computational thinking and visual programming has generated much broader educational implications than the vocational application to understanding and practicing the programming of computers.

I’ve known Bennahum since 1994, when I was the founding executive editor of HotWired and he was one of our contributors, and I followed his subsequent writing as a Wired contributor. Recently, we talked about Ready and he demonstrated how it works — how a community of programmer-thinker-creators is already forming. Watch this short video to hear how it came about, what Ready intends to do, and see how it works.

Banner image credit: Karl-Ludwig Poggemann

The post Teaching Computational, Abstract Thinking appeared first on DML Central.

by mcruz at August 22, 2016 01:14 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
In India, a Nationalistic ‘Witch Hunt’ Targets Journalists Who Exposed #BabyLift Trafficking Operation
Screenshot from Outlook Magazine

Screenshot from Outlook magazine

Journalistic exposé Operation #BabyLift, a groundbreaking investigative piece about child trafficking by the Hindu organisation Rashtriya Swayemsevak Sangh (RSS) in India, was published by Outlook magazine on July 29, 2016. The 11,000-word article, which went viral, explores how Operation #BabyLift broke Indian and international laws by trafficking 31 girls — between three and 11 years of age — from Assam to Punjab and Gujarat in order to ‘Hinduise’ them.

What happened next was quite extraordinary. The journalists who broke the story have since become the target of an investigation, with an onslaught of vilification, defamation and threats being hurled against them.

A criminal complaint for inciting hate against different ethnic groups has been lodged against an independent Indian journalist, Neha Dixit, as well as Indranil Roy and Krishna Prasad, the publisher and editor of Outlook magazine. The complainants are Subhash Chandra Kayal, an assistant solicitor general of the government of India at the Gauhati High Court, and Bijon Mahajan, a spokesman for the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is a political offshoot of the right-wing RSS.

Now, instead of a follow-up on the trafficking issue, Dixit and Outlook magazine are being trolled and their patriotism and journalistic ethics are being called into question. Neha Dixit has been intimidated online and there is a fake Facebook account in her name.

Journalist Neha Dixit's fake profile on Facebook

Journalist Neha Dixit's fake profile on Facebook

Pictures of Dixit's husband are also being shared; he is being labelled as a Naxalite, a member of a violent guerrilla group in India.

Free speech under Indian law

The complaint against Dixit and Outlook was lodged under Section 153-A of the Indian Penal Code, whereby it is an offence to promote disharmony and enmity between different ethnic groups. This section has been used against renowned literary figures, artists and freethinkers such as Salman Rushdie for his book The Satanic Verses, which is banned in India; M.F. Hussain, a Muslim painter who liberally drew on Indian mythology and in 2006 was booked for her painting of a nude Hindu goddess; and Indologist Wendy Donegar for her critical historical work The Hindus: An Alternative History. In Donegar's case, Penguin had an out-of-court settlement, and the book, though not banned, was voluntarily recalled from India by the publisher.

The Delhi Union of Journalists and the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists have both condemned this “witch hunt” against the reporters. A group of like-minded journalists, activists and academics have also issued a statement to condemn the attacks on Dixit and Outlook magazine:

Journalists are particularly vulnerable, as their investigative reports that reveal RSS organizations’ strategies to attack minorities, Hinduise tribals and created hatred between communities, are themselves targeted as ‘inciting communal hatred’.

Rebuttal published, editor fired

The RSS issued a press release denying these accusations. It called the Outlook article “baseless” and said it was “defaming the organisation”. A rebuttal to Dixit's piece, also published in Outlook and entitled ‘Conjured Crime’, was written by Monika Arora, a supreme court advocate and a member of RSS:

None of these Indian and international guidelines are violated by RSS outfits. The parents have given their consent to the RSS outfits to take their children for education – then how on earth are the Juvenile Justice Act 2000 or other laws are applicable in this case?

A few days after publishing the rebuttal, the news magazine fired its editor, Krishna Prasad, sharing the news with employees through an email. Earlier, Prasad reacted to the First Information Report (FIR) lodged against him and told media watch website The Hoot:

Threats against journalists may be an occupational hazard but what we are seeing today is a more serious attempt to shoot the messenger. The country is fast hurtling down a fascist mode and this fiction of public narrative of demonizing journalists is dangerous for free speech.

There were instant reactions on Twitter:

‘This climate of impunity and fear will lead to greater self-censorship’

Veteran journalist Pamela Philipose — senior fellow with the Indian Council of Social Science Research, recently appointed public editor for news site The Wire and former director and editor-in-chief at the Women’s Feature Service — shared her perspective about the removal of Outlook's editor and the pressure on Indian media houses and journalists:

This climate of impunity and fear will lead to greater self-censorship on the part of individual journalists and enormous pressure being brought to bear on managements to clamp down on independent reportage. For instance, while it was claimed that the change of the editor-in-chief at Outlook was a decision that had already been taken, the timing of the announcement clearly indicates an anxiety on the part of the management to appease the powers-that-be.

Human rights organisation Amnesty International is also facing sedition charges in India over holding an event about Kashmir — territory in the north of the country where dozens have been killed by Indian security forces recently while protesting the death of a separatist leader. The group's India office, which is at present closed because of security concerns, was attacked by Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) workers armed with petrol can bottles. ABVP is a nationalist student organisation affiliated with the RSS.

Kuldip Kumar, an Indian journalist, suggested that the country has “reached a stage where a Hindu’s nationalism is never in doubt even if he debunks the Constitution, glorifies Gandhi’s assassin and mourns India’s independence; but the nationalism of Muslims and Christians is always suspect”. In a recent article, he deconstructed the influence that the RSS is enjoying under the current BJP administration:

The RSS is enjoying political power and the BJP, its subsidiary, enjoys a majority of its own in the Lok Sabha [lower house of Indian parliament] – it is in power in as many as eight states. This power has rekindled the RSS’s dreams and aspirations, although even now it knows that refashioning India into a Hindu nation is not such an easy task.

The case of Indian secularism and free speech is not clear. According to its constitution, the country is a secular republic with freedom of expression, but the same constitution also prohibits anything that hurts religious or ethnic sensitivities. There are many journalists, artists and authors who are suffering for asking critical questions about free speech. Is the space for liberal free thinkers in India shrinking?

by Annie Zaman at August 22, 2016 12:33 PM

Global Voices
In India, a Nationalistic ‘Witch Hunt’ Targets Journalists Who Exposed #BabyLift Trafficking Operation
Screenshot from Outlook Magazine

Screenshot from Outlook magazine

Journalistic exposé Operation #BabyLift, a groundbreaking investigative piece about child trafficking allegedly by the Hindu organisation Rashtriya Swayemsevak Sangh (RSS) in India, was published by Outlook magazine on July 29, 2016. The 11,000-word article, which went viral, explores how Operation #BabyLift allegedly broke Indian and international laws by trafficking 31 girls — between three and 11 years of age — from Assam to Punjab and Gujarat in order to ‘Hinduise’ them.

What happened next was quite extraordinary. The journalists who broke the story have since become the target of an investigation, with an onslaught of vilification, defamation and threats being hurled against them.

A criminal complaint for inciting hate against different ethnic groups has been lodged against an independent Indian journalist, Neha Dixit, as well as Indranil Roy and Krishna Prasad, the publisher and editor of Outlook magazine. The complainants are Subhash Chandra Kayal, an assistant solicitor general of the government of India at the Gauhati High Court, and Bijon Mahajan, a spokesman for the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is a political offshoot of the right-wing RSS.

Now, instead of a follow-up on the trafficking issue, Dixit and Outlook magazine are being trolled and their patriotism and journalistic ethics are being called into question. Neha Dixit has been intimidated online and there is a fake Facebook account in her name.

Journalist Neha Dixit's fake profile on Facebook

Journalist Neha Dixit's fake profile on Facebook

Pictures of Dixit's husband are also being shared; he is being labelled as a Naxalite, a member of a violent guerrilla group in India.

Free speech under Indian law

The complaint against Dixit and Outlook was lodged under Section 153-A of the Indian Penal Code, whereby it is an offence to promote disharmony and enmity between different ethnic groups. This section has been used against renowned literary figures, artists and freethinkers such as Salman Rushdie for his book The Satanic Verses, which is banned in India; M.F. Hussain, a Muslim painter who liberally drew on Indian mythology and in 2006 was booked for her painting of a nude Hindu goddess; and Indologist Wendy Donegar for her critical historical work The Hindus: An Alternative History. In Donegar's case, Penguin had an out-of-court settlement, and the book, though not banned, was voluntarily recalled from India by the publisher.

The Delhi Union of Journalists and the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists have both condemned this “witch hunt” against the reporters. A group of like-minded journalists, activists and academics have also issued a statement to condemn the attacks on Dixit and Outlook magazine:

Journalists are particularly vulnerable, as their investigative reports that reveal RSS organizations’ strategies to attack minorities, Hinduise tribals and created hatred between communities, are themselves targeted as ‘inciting communal hatred’.

Rebuttal published, editor fired

The RSS issued a press release denying these accusations. It called the Outlook article “baseless” and said it was “defaming the organisation”. A rebuttal to Dixit's piece, also published in Outlook and entitled ‘Conjured Crime’, was written by Monika Arora, a supreme court advocate and a member of RSS:

None of these Indian and international guidelines are violated by RSS outfits. The parents have given their consent to the RSS outfits to take their children for education – then how on earth are the Juvenile Justice Act 2000 or other laws are applicable in this case?

A few days after publishing the rebuttal, the news magazine fired its editor, Krishna Prasad, sharing the news with employees through an email. Earlier, Prasad reacted to the First Information Report (FIR) lodged against him and told media watch website The Hoot:

Threats against journalists may be an occupational hazard but what we are seeing today is a more serious attempt to shoot the messenger. The country is fast hurtling down a fascist mode and this fiction of public narrative of demonizing journalists is dangerous for free speech.

There were instant reactions on Twitter:

‘This climate of impunity and fear will lead to greater self-censorship’

Veteran journalist Pamela Philipose — senior fellow with the Indian Council of Social Science Research, recently appointed public editor for news site The Wire and former director and editor-in-chief at the Women’s Feature Service — shared her perspective about the removal of Outlook's editor and the pressure on Indian media houses and journalists:

This climate of impunity and fear will lead to greater self-censorship on the part of individual journalists and enormous pressure being brought to bear on managements to clamp down on independent reportage. For instance, while it was claimed that the change of the editor-in-chief at Outlook was a decision that had already been taken, the timing of the announcement clearly indicates an anxiety on the part of the management to appease the powers-that-be.

Human rights organisation Amnesty International is also facing sedition charges in India over holding an event about Kashmir — territory in the north of the country where dozens have been killed by Indian security forces recently while protesting the death of a separatist leader. The group's India office, which is at present closed because of security concerns, was attacked by Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) workers armed with petrol can bottles. ABVP is a nationalist student organisation affiliated with the RSS.

Kuldip Kumar, an Indian journalist, suggested that the country has “reached a stage where a Hindu’s nationalism is never in doubt even if he debunks the Constitution, glorifies Gandhi’s assassin and mourns India’s independence; but the nationalism of Muslims and Christians is always suspect”. In a recent article, he deconstructed the influence that the RSS is enjoying under the current BJP administration:

The RSS is enjoying political power and the BJP, its subsidiary, enjoys a majority of its own in the Lok Sabha [lower house of Indian parliament] – it is in power in as many as eight states. This power has rekindled the RSS’s dreams and aspirations, although even now it knows that refashioning India into a Hindu nation is not such an easy task.

The case of Indian secularism and free speech is not clear. According to its constitution, the country is a secular republic with freedom of expression, but the same constitution also prohibits anything that hurts religious or ethnic sensitivities. There are many journalists, artists and authors who are suffering for asking critical questions about free speech. Is the space for liberal free thinkers in India shrinking?

by Qurratulain (Annie) Zaman at August 22, 2016 12:18 PM

August 21, 2016

Global Voices
Nicaragua Has a Cervical Cancer Problem. A Coffee Farm Is Trying to Help.
Maritza Blandón, a coffee grower in the mountains of Nicaragua, got her first pap smear at the age of 47. She tested posted for HPV and get treatment. Blandón is a single mother. If she died of cervical cancer, no one would be here to take care of her eight children. Credit: Shuka Kalantari/PRI

Maritza Blandón, a coffee grower in the mountains of Nicaragua, got her first pap smear at the age of 47. She tested posted for HPV and get treatment. Blandón is a single mother. If she died of cervical cancer, no one would be here to take care of her eight children. Credit: Shuka Kalantari/PRI

This article by Shuka Kalantari originally appeared on PRI.org on August 18, 2016. It is republished here as part of a content-sharing agreement.

Maritza Blandón is crouched over a row of young coffee plants at a farm in Matagalpa, in the Northern mountains of Nicaragua. She works with a handful of other female coffee farmers who live and work here with their children. Most of them are like Blandón: on their own with their children.

“I'm both mother and father to my children,” she says while carefully weeding the coffee plants.

Blandón had her eight children at home and had never been to a hospital before. Then a few months ago another coffee grower, a friend, was diagnosed with cervical cancer. It spread to her intestines. She died nine days before I met Blandón.

Nicaragua has one of the highest cervical cancer death rates in all the Americas. Women like Blandón, in rural areas, are most at risk of not getting medical care.

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Country data from 2009 or latest year. Age-standarized mortality rate (ASMR) is a technique used to compare different populations when their age profiles are different. Source: WHO. Graph by Kuang Keng Kuek Ser for PRI. Click the image to visit the interactive graph on PRI.org

At 47 years old, Blandón went to a clinic and got a pap smear. It was the first time she has seen a doctor in her life. She tested positive for human papilloma virus, HPV — a major risk factor for cervical cancer. She got treated immediately, and now goes in for regular checkups. (Note: There is no formal HPV vaccination program in Nicaragua currently).

Blandón says she can afford to miss a day of work, but as a single mother, she can’t afford to die.

Her friend, Mely Montenegro, grows coffee with her. She insisted Blandón get a pap smear. She did it herself five years before and also had to be treated for HPV. Like her friend, it was Montenegro’s first time seeing a doctor. She was 28, a single mother of three.

“It was an embarrassing thought,” Montenegro says. “None of us wanted to see a gynecologist.”

Community health workers started visiting the farm and urging the women to go to the clinic and get exams. Montenegro didn’t like the health workers, and she wasn’t about to let them look at her vagina. But then she thought of her kids who live with her in a one-bedroom cabin on the farm.

“If I got an extreme case of cancer, where would my children go?” Montenegro says. “Who could I leave them with? So I made the decision to go to the clinic and get tested.”

More people in Nicaragua die from cervical cancer than any other cancer.

Marcela Cisne wants to change that. She’s with Fara Foundation, which owns the coffee farm, runs the health clinic and manages health workers. It’s crucial work, because most coffee growers here are women.

“We have to take care of women in the community because they’re the glue that keeps that whole family together,” Cisne says. “If a woman dies, they eat the chicken, they sell the pig, the house falls down, the crop dies because nobody waters it, and the husband goes and lives with somebody else. And the children go with the grandparents or the aunts or the neighbors. The whole community has collapsed. That’s why we want to keep that woman alive.”

Cisne says even when women in Nicaragua manage to get tested, they often never get results. Doctors don’t follow up, or patients have to head back into the mountains before results are ready.

But Cisne says the main culprit for the country’s high cervical cancer death rates is Nicaragua’s machismo culture. Men have multiple partners here, and they spread HPV. But these same men think it’s taboo for their women to go to a gynecologist. And there’s very low contraception use.

“When we offer free condoms we say, ‘You need to have protected sex.’ They say, ‘Oh no, no, my husband would kill me,’” Cisne says. “Then we have to explain to them, ‘Well he’s somehow killing you.’ We have to educate this woman.”

Back on the coffee farm Mely Montenegro, the woman who got tested and persuaded her friend to do so too, is on a mission to get her friends tested.

“I tell my friends to not be embarrassed by getting pap smears,” Montenegro says. “Because they’re nothing compared to cervical cancer.”

Montenegro says she’ll teach her own daughters to get screened for cervical cancer when the time comes. She’ll teach them there is nothing taboo about wanting to stay alive.

by Public Radio International at August 21, 2016 11:03 AM

With Brazil's ‘More Love Between Us’ Project, Women Lean On Each Other
Mais Amor Entre Nos

Image from Mais Amor Entre Nós Facebook page

Brazil is no stranger to non-monetary and alternative means of mutual assistance, but the country has shown there's room for even more social initiatives with the arrival, a few years back, of time banks, and now of a grassroots campaign-turned-platform Mais Amor Entre Nós.

The project, which means More Love Between Us, started in March 2016 as a Facebook hashtag by Bahia-born journalist Sueide Kintê and focuses on the gift economy concept with an important difference — it's exclusively for women.

Launched in Brazil's center of Afro-Brazilian culture, the city of Salvador, the idea grew into a community of black Brazilian women helping each other through one-hour donations of their time. Members offer varied services such as assistance with video editing, sewing, house cleaning, vegetarian cooking, and to discuss topics like self-esteem, politics, race and gender.

It not only encompasses any and all women, but those across Brazil and now several other countries.

As mentioned in a May 2016 article in the Brazilian magazine TPM, her reasoning behind the decision is straightforward (even if the underlying cause is complex):

É só para as mulheres porque somos um sujeito mercantilizado. Se existe um grupo de pessoas dentro da sociedade brasileira que é mais vulnerável, é o de mulheres, principalmente as negras.

It's just for women because we are a commercialized people. If there is a group of people within Brazilian society who are the most vulnerable, it's women, especially black women.

The Facebook post below, where the hashtag was introduced, was a simple message that Sueide posted to her personal account; it was enough to start an entire movement:

Se vc é mulher e precisa de ajuda em alguma das coisas listadas abaixo eu faço de GRAÇA pra vc menina! Estou disponível uma hora por dia. Me procure no zap ou inbox.
Posso ficar de babá do seu filho para vc fazer algo q precise, te ensinar a nadar, a andar de bicicleta, projetar seu site pessoal, fazer um release seu ou do seu trabalho, trançar seu cabelo, fazer seu dreadlock com agulha de croché, meditar com você, praticar hit dance contigo, cozinhar massas com molhos inusitados e deliciosos, escrever projetos culturais para captação de recursos, ajuda-la a tirar uma ideia do papel(sou boa nisso), ou, simplesmente só te ouvir.
Me pede inbox q te passo meu zap
‪#‎maisamorentrenos

If you are a woman and need help with some of the things listed below, I'll do it for you for free, girl! I am available for an hour per day. Search for me on WhatsApp or [send a message to my] inbox.
I can take care of your child so that you can do something you need to do, I can teach you to swim, to ride a bicycle, to design your personal website, to do a press release for yourself or your job, braid your hair, do your dreadlocks with a crochet needle, meditate with you, practice your dance hit with you, cook spaghetti with delicious and unexpected sauces, write grants for your cultural projects, help you get an idea on paper (I'm good at this), or simply just listen to you.
Ask me [through my] inbox and I'll send you my WhatsApp
#morelovebetweenus

As the post suggests, the type of gifts that are exchanged is totally up to the community, which is currently more active on Facebook than on the project's official website. Some of the less day-to-day offerings include personal care for women with the Zika virus and even advice on how to publicly assume one's own sexuality. In addition, both the site and the Facebook community have an online store component, where members are welcome to declutter their closets and offer any unwanted items for free to other members.

Mais Amor Entre Nos 2

Screenshot from Mais Amor Entre Nós website

Sueide and her team are currently working on turning the site into a mobile app to increase interaction between members and improve the ease of participating in the network itself — 22,500 people have joined the official Facebook page in a matter of just five months. With a solid idea that continues to gain traction (even abroad), an app in progress and an interested public, it looks like Sueide, much like anyone who has a good idea and implements it, might find herself too busy to take part in her own creation. Luckily for her, though, she has over 20,000 women ready and willing to back her up.

by Adam Lee at August 21, 2016 01:49 AM

August 20, 2016

Global Voices
‘I Want to Appeal to the Doctor Within Assad': One Syrian Medic's Message After Visiting Aleppo
Dr Zaher Sahloul (Right) with two fellow colleagues from Chicago in Aleppo, end of June 2016. Photo used with permission.

Dr Zaher Sahloul (Right) with two colleagues from Chicago in Aleppo, end of June 2016. Photo used with permission.

In 1988, Dr. Zaher Sahloul, founder of the American Relief Coalition for Syria and senior adviser and former president of the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS), graduated from medical school. Among his classmates was a man who would later impact Syria's future more than any other person: Bashar Al Assad. In this exchange with Global Voices after his latest trip to now besieged and rebel-held Eastern Aleppo, Dr. Sahloul appeals to the “doctor within” Assad.

Dr. Sahloul recently gave a talk at the United Nations, in which he compared his visit to Aleppo with the account of a Soviet lieutenant general in the Red Army who witnessed the Siege of Stalingrad (1942-1943), describing it as “10 times worse than hell“.

As with his previous trips to the city, Dr. Sahloul came prepared. The driver, before speeding up, told him to “say your final prayer because the risk of death is very high in the next five kilometers”. Those five kilometers refer to Castello Road, “the only road leading to the northern and western countryside of Aleppo”, offering the sole path to the outside world via Turkey, and consequently, to food, medicine and other necessities used in Aleppo.

The following video was recorded by Dr. Sahloul:

Dr. Sahloul recalls:

This last mission was my fifth mission to Aleppo and things have gotten really worse since the previous one. When we went there, it was on June 27 and the road to Aleppo was semi-blocked. It was already very dangerous. There were five kilometers in which we were exposed to shelling from the regime side, snipers from the Kurdish side and also airstrikes which could be from the regime or from the Russian government.

The stretch, dubbed the ‘Road of Death‘ by an opposition activist, was surrounded by burnt cars and upside-down trucks and buses in which decomposing bodies were left to rot.

The Road to Aleppo, taken by Dr. Zaher Sahloul and used here with permission.

The Road to Aleppo, images taken by Dr. Zaher Sahloul on June 27, 2016 and used here with permission.

Once in Aleppo, Dr. Sahloul and his colleagues reached M10, an underground hospital that has been bombed 17 times by the Assad regime in the past four years. It is one of the few remaining hospitals in Eastern Aleppo.

The working conditions of Syrian doctors have regularly been cited as among the worst in the world, if not the worst. There are an estimated 35 doctors left in Eastern Aleppo which, with a population of approximately 300,000, means that there is currently one doctor for every 8,570 people. Fifteen of the 35 doctors recently penned an open letter to President Obama, in which they say that “a medical facility is attacked every 17 hours by the Russian-backed Syrian air force”. Meanwhile, Doctors Without Borders reported that at least 82 of its supported facilities have been targeted since January of 2015. All in all, at least 738 Syrian doctors, nurses and medical aides have died in more than 360 attacks on medical facilities since March 2011, according to Physicians for Human Rights (PHR)

Dr. Sahloul says the explosions can be heard throughout the day and night:

The hospital walls shake but people continue to work because they’ve gotten used to these sounds. The fact that [M10] is underground gives some level of protection and safety for the patients and the physicians. This is the largest trauma hospital in Eastern Aleppo.

You can hear the explosions in the following short video taken by Dr. Sahloul. According to a man whose voice can be heard in the recording, they were caused by a Scud missile. He says:

When the Russian government or the Syrian regime bomb these hospitals they do so with the intent of destroying the hospitals. They want to drive the doctors out so people can follow them. Because when there’s no doctors in town, when there’s no hospitals in town, people don’t stay.

According to Dr. Sahloul, of the 300,000 people living in Aleppo, 85,000 are children including about 20,000 below the age of two. One of these children is Ahmad Hijazi, just five years old. He was hit by one of Assad's barrel bombs and consequently, had a chest contusion and shrapnel lodged in his spinal cord. Unfortunately, Hijazi did not survive.

He was paralyzed from his neck down. When I saw him, he was breathing with great difficulty so we had to put a breathing tube into his mouth and put him on life support. He was between life and death when I was there and the day after I left, he had a cardiac arrest. He was five years old.    

Barrel bomb victims are among the most common patients in the M10 underground hospital. Another victim, 25-year-old Fatima, was already the mother of three children and three months pregnant with her fourth when two barrel bombs were dropped on her house. Two of her children died. Abdo, nine years old and Ilaf, three, were pulled dead from under the rubble. Luckily, both Fatima, who had internal bleeding and was immediately put on life support, and her third child, Mahmoud, pulled through, but Fatima lost her unborn child.

Mahmoud, Seven Years Old. Photo taken by Dr. Sahloul in June 2016 and used with permission.

Mahmoud, Seven Years Old in an M10 hospital room. Photo taken by Dr. Sahloul in June 2016 and used here with permission.

Dr. Sahloul recently told CNN's Hala Gorani that he wishes to appeal to the “doctor within [Assad]” to stop the barrel bombs. He explains further:

Who knows? We exhausted everything. I think the international community exhausted everything in terms of applying pressure on the Syrian regime. I don’t know if he does, but he probably knows that children are being killed and mutilated and hospitals are being targeted. I mean, he has children, he has a wife. He studied medicine. He was supposed to be an eye physician. In one of the meetings that we had with him, the first meeting after he became president, he told us that he would have preferred to be a physician rather than a president. I think we have to appeal to that side in him. I don’t know if it’ll work or not. Many Syrians gave up completely, especially after he oversaw the destruction of half the country. More than 470,000 people in Syria were killed. He caused this war. He could have done things early on in the crisis, like meet the demands of the population for reform like what has been done in other countries like Morocco and Jordan. Maybe it’s too late, but what else can we do? 

He adds that he has seen Assad's power in practice:

When I came back from Chicago after the first meeting with him as president, people knew that I met with him. So the next year, I received an email from someone who asked if I can give a letter to the president and I said that I'll have to read it first, but yes. [It] was an appeal from a person whose father was a physician, a pediatric doctor, educated in the U.S. and then went to Syria in the late '80s and was imprisoned by the father of Bashar Al Assad, Hafez Al Assad. He had been in prison for 21 years, accused of supporting the opposition. So I told him that I’d try, but that I couldn’t promise him anything.

Luckily, we were invited to meet with the president in his presidential palace again. […] As I was leaving, I told him about the letter and he accepted to read it. And half an hour after we left, someone called me and he said, ‘Your friend is released’. So he released that physician after 21 years, after reading that letter.

This is just to say that he is in control and he is able to make these decisions quickly and people follow them. That physician was actually allowed to travel to the United States to see his wife who had terminal cancer. He stayed with her [for] two years before she died. And now he’s practicing medicine in Chicago.

The regime does that for people sometimes, especially when it’s someone you want to use as an ally. They do you a favor and then they expect you to stick with them. That’s the system in Syria and in other dictatorial countries. A president will do you a favor and I guess that President Assad thought this was a favor for me. It gives you an insight into how things work in Syria.

With regard to democracy in Syria, Dr. Sahloul says of Assad:

When I asked him about the question of democracy, he told me that Syrians are tribal, that there’s a lot of sectarianism, that they’re not educated civically, that they’re not able to make decisions on their own. He complained about parliament not enacting laws the way he expected them to, and how he has to do things on his own. And then he said – I don’t remember the words exactly – that Syrians are not ready for democracy. It has to be a very slow and gradual process and that was the first year after he became president. Twelve years after that, nothing happened.

As for President Obama, Dr. Sahloul met him in July 2013, one month before the regime's infamous Ghouta massacre, and told him that Syria will determine his legacy as president. This was the exchange:

I delivered a letter on behalf of SAMS. There was an Iftar at the White House at that time as it was Ramadan. I told him that in our letter we’re asking for a no-fly zone to protect hospitals and civilians, the things that we’re still asking for right now. Nothing has changed. I told him, ‘I think that your legacy will depend on what you do or you don’t do in Syria.’ So he paid more attention. And then he laughed and said that his legacy will be determined by other things, to which I replied, ‘But I think Syria will be the main factor.’ And he said, ‘I’ll get back to you.’ But he never got back to me. He never responded to the letter.

by Joey Ayoub at August 20, 2016 10:15 PM

Gourmet Chefs Use Olympic Seconds to Cook Up Free Meals for Rio's Poorest
The RefettoRio team of chefs in action in Rio. Credit: Angelo DalBo/Refettorio Gastromotiva

The RefettoRio team of chefs in action in Rio. Credit: Angelo DalBo/Refettorio Gastromotiva

This article by David Leveille originally appeared on PRI.org on August 18, 2016. It is republished here as part of a content-sharing agreement.

Olympic athletes eat a lot more than powerbars and high protein shakes. Just imagine the roughly 250-ton mountain of food that has to be prepared to feed more than 11,000 athletes competing in the Rio Games.

The food supply chain at the Olympics, like other huge events, requires advance logistics, planning and educated guesses as to how much food and ingredients to have on hand to make nourishing meals.

Inevitably there’s going to be a surplus, whether it’s cases of bruised fruit and vegetables, or leftover palettes of potatoes and rice.

Now an international group of chefs and anti-hunger activists calling themselves RefettoRio Gastromotiva (refettorio is an Italian word meaning dining hall) has stepped in to rescue the Olympic food that might otherwise go to waste. Two chefs, Italian Massimo Bottura and Brazilian David Hertz, are leading the effort to turn excess food destined for the Olympic Village into meals for the hungry. They say the aim is to “offer food and dignity to people in situations of social vulnerability.”

Smoked banana peels substitute nicely for bacon in a RefettoRio dish of carbonara. Credit: Refettorio Gastromotiva

Smoked banana peels substitute nicely for bacon in a RefettoRio dish of carbonara. Credit: Refettorio Gastromotiva

For the past few weeks, RefettoRio chefs have been serving up nightly dinners for 108 from the surplus of ingredients donated to them by the catering company that feeds the Olympic Village. These are not leftovers or table scraps.

“RefettoRio is going to work only with ingredients that are about to be wasted … like ugly fruit and vegetables, or yogurt that is going to be wasted in two days if you don't buy it,” says chef Hertz.

The restaurant has been set up in the Lapa neighborhood near the Olympic Village.

“It doesn't feel at all like a regular restaurant,” says Alexandra Forbes, a Brazilian food writer who helped organize RefettoRio. “The customers are so different. For many of them, it's the first time they’ve experienced a three-course dinner made by a great chef, one that’s so delicious. They feel very special.” One diner told the Times the food was the best he’d had in his 40 years.

Local neighborhood organizations that serve the underprivileged handpick the patrons from all walks of Brazilian life. They might include homeless people who are forced to pick through garbage bins for meals, street kids who scavenge for food, or abused mothers.

“They are not used to being treated with such care and respect,” says Forbes, adding that “they are so appreciative of the meal that sometimes they clap and dance with joy.”

Every day a different chef takes the lead. ”For instance,  the other day chef Massimo Bottura made a pasta, a carbonara that’s usually made with pancetta or bacon. He had a little bit of bacon but then he also used banana peels that had previously been smoked on a grill and he mixed that with the bacon, and it was smoky like bacon and it was delicious.”

Creating gourmet meals from an odd collection of ingredients can be challenge enough. But Forbes says the real goal for her RefettoRio team of cooks, bakers and servers is to “end some of the prejudice, prejudice against poor people, or against people who have problems.”

Battered women or people struggling with substance abuse, she says “are people like us, so just to show that they can be treated with respect and be served a great meal, I think, is important.”

At the same time, RefettoRio is trying to send a message about food waste. More than 30 percent of food produced around the world is never eaten because it is spoiled after harvest and during transportation, or thrown away by shops and consumers. Yet almost 800 million people worldwide go to bed hungry every night, according to UN figures.

“Events such as the Olympics are especially big in creating waste because you’re feeding so many people that it's really hard to calculate exactly what you need of each thing and it’s inevitable that you will have a lot of waste. But no one had really pointed a finger at that issue.”

Until now, that is.

RefettoRio Gastromotiva plans to build on its success by launching a paid lunch service. The profits will help offset the cost of providing free dinners for the hungry at night. There are also plans to try out the RefettoRio idea in Montreal, Los Angeles and New York.

Free meals are being served nightly to 108 patrons at a special restaurant set up near Olympic Village. Credit: Refettorio Gastromotiva

Free meals are being served nightly to 108 patrons at a special restaurant set up near Olympic Village. Credit: Refettorio Gastromotiva

by Public Radio International at August 20, 2016 11:00 AM

Defying Web Censors, Chinese ‘Worship’ Toads to Mark a Former State Leader’s 90th Birthday
A toad worship poster from a Hasi forum.

A toad worship poster from a “hasi” forum.

Chinese social media has recently been overrun with memes about toads. Why? To celebrate the 90th birthday of former Chinese Communist Party leader Jiang Zemin, who many consider looks somewhat like the squat amphibian.

On the Chinese web, those who publish the memes about Jiang are called toad fans or hasi (蛤絲) and the act of publishing itself is called toad worship or moha (膜蛤).

Since early 2015, Chinese web censors have deleted toad worship memes. Still, on Jiang’s birthday this year, hardcore toad fans just could not resist poking the toad — and some have paid a price for it.

For example, media outlet Fenghuang’s editor wrote on popular social media platform Weibo, “Good morning, this is Fenghuang: Today is the 90th birthday of the elder, let’s wake up early to add one second for him.” The message accompanied a photo of a motorcycle that bears a resemblance to a toad.

Editor of media outlet Fenghuang got fired for posting a toad worship message on August 17, 2016. Screen capture of Fenghuang Weibo via Mingjing News.

“Good morning, this is Fenghuang: Today is the 90th birthday of the elder, let’s wake up early to add one second for him.” The editor media outlet Fenghuang was over this toad worship message. Screen capture of Fenghuang Weibo via Mingjing News.

Meanwhile, political cartoonist @temonwangxt retweeted on Jiang’s birthday his drawing about Jiang Zeming’s death hoax in 2014:

Cartoon reads: How much longer can you live this time?
Tweet reads: Happy birthday!

The elder and the toad

Jiang served as China's president from 1993 until 2003. He is nicknamed “the elder” because of a video taken in 2000 in which a Hong Kong reporter asks him if he supports the re-election of former Hong Kong chief executive Tung Chee Hwa (Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China). Jiang suddenly loses his temper and scolds the reporter. “Today I am speaking to you as an elder,” he rants.

The culture of toad worship started in 2011 when rumors about Jiang’s death spread online. A similar death hoax has surfaced almost every year since then. Someone even created a playlist of 41 videos on YouTube titled “I added one second to President Toad. Excited!” The expression “add one second” or “+1s”, which means adding one more second onto Jiang’s life, also has its origins in 2011 in response to the death hoax.

Chinese netizens, in particular the millennials, find Jiang’s real-life gestures, facial expressions, preference for high-waisted pants, and mixed-language talks amusing because they stand in deep contrast with the ruling charisma portrayed in Chinese propaganda. They love poking fun at Jiang by quoting his expressions in their social media messages and doctoring photos to include Jiang or a toad.

Japanese cartoon figure Doraemon standing in front of the People's Great Hall in Jiang's high-waisted pants style. Public domain image via Mingjing News.

Japanese cartoon figure Doraemon standing in front of the People's Great Hall in Jiang's high-waisted pants. Public domain image via Mingjing News.

In 2014, the toad worship subculture became more visible because of a popular WeChat public account called “Seminar on Jiang’s selective writings” (江选研讨会). The public account wrote on moments in Jiang's life in toad worship style. For example, “How many foreign languages does the elder know?”; “The elder’s love story with his wife”; “The American reporter Wallace is way above you”; “How fast does a Hong Kong reporter run?”

The last two refer to Jiang's outburst from the above mentioned video, in which he criticized Hong Kong reporter Cheung Bo Wah for being “too young” and “too simple and naive.” He also said that Hong Kong reporters “always run faster than Western reporters” and offered the late American reporter Mike Wallace as an example to follow (“He's way above you all”).

The WeChat public account only managed to survive for barely one year. It was banned in 2015.

‘Nostalgic for an era when political control was not as tight’

A toad fan's profile pic from Tianya (user account deleted).

A toad fan's profile pic from Tianya (user account deleted).

Some see the suppression of toad worship culture as a reflection of the power struggle between current Chinese President Xi Jinping and Jiang’s own political clan. The latter embraces economic liberalisation while Xi’s dream is to revive socialist culture. Others consider the ban to be a way to prevent the spread of a subversive youth culture that defies authorities.

Murong Xuecun, an independent writer based in Beijing and Hong Kong, made a political interpretation of the subculture on Twitter:

膜蛤之风的兴起,一是因为对官方话语的厌倦,基本可以视为一场「静悄悄的反叛」,它与庆丰造神密切相关庆丰鼓吹越甚,膜蛤就越是风行。二是对一个稍微宽松时代的怀念,蛤时代谈不上什么自由,但总比包时代要体面一些。在这个意义上,中国人膜蛤,差不多就相当于禁闭中的囚犯怀念那些偶尔放风的时刻。

The rise of toad worship culture reflects a distaste of official discourse. It can be considered a silent revolt against the attempt of Qingfeng [which is a nickname for President Xi Jinping] to revive the myth [of Chinese Communist Party]. Many choose to worship the toad in response to the rise of this new political culture directed by Qingfeng. The culture is also nostalgic for an era when political control was not as tight. While the toad's era was not free, it looked better than Bun's [meaning Xi's] era. In this sense, Chinese people worshiping the toad is similar to prisoners in confinement, missing their brief outdoor recess.

Despite the ban, hardcore toad fans could not resist the temptation to have a laugh. After all, the 90th birthday of the toad is a rare moment, indeed, maybe even as rare as a toad-shaped cloud supposedly spotted ahead of the special day:

A popular toad worship image circulated online. Via Twitterer @ranxiangmm

A popular toad worship image circulated online of a toad-shaped cloud. Via Twitterer @ranxiangmm

Though authorities issued a warning against public celebrations of Jiang’s 90th birthday, some still insisted on holding a private birthday party, with a specially made birthday cake:

Birthday cake on Jiang Zemin's 90th Birthday. Image from Twitter user @iruitui

Birthday cake on Jiang Zemin's 90th birthday. Image from Twitter user @iruitui

Many birthday cards popped up online — and disappeared quickly. Here is a typical one with birthday blessings via Twitter user @wentommy:

The birthday card to the elder.

“Elder Jiang: 1926-infinity. Stay young. Stay simple.” A birthday card to the elder.

by Oiwan Lam at August 20, 2016 01:59 AM

August 19, 2016

Global Voices
How Traditional and Western Medicine Are Working Together to Help Indigenous Patients in Venezuela
Wisiratu invocando los espíritus ancestrales a través del humo del tabaco: Foto de Álvaro Laiz, publicada con permiso.

A Wisiratu man invoking ancestral spirits with tobacco smoke. Photo by Álvaro Laiz, published with permission.

This article is an edited version of the original published by Minerva Vitti in the Gumilla Center's SIC magazine.

The first time when Jan Costa traveled to the Orinoco Delta was on 14 April 2014, the same month when he turned 24. He studied medicine at the José María Vargas School of the Central University of Venezuela and he was going to do his two-month internship in the town of San Francisco de Guayo, in Delta Amacuro State, in the eastern part of the country.

When Jan saw the precarious health situation in the Delta, he decided to come back and carry out his rural internship for one year. This was how he came to the Nabasanuka community, where he worked with the Warao indigenous people, about an hour boat ride from San Francisco de Guayo.

It was during this second stay when the young doctor learned the native language better and discovered the wisiratu, or the “master of pain.” As it is often said, no matter how much the Warao people have culturally adapted to western ways, they strongly believe in the wisiratu.

Medicine and health in the Warao culture

In the Warao culture, diseases are treated by three types of shamans: bajanarotu, joarotu and wisiratu. They act as intermediaries between mystical entities and human beings. The wisiratu is the shaman who serves as a mediator between their people and the jebu (evil spirit).

The wisiratu holds the power of the gods of the North, East and South, and from the moment of their initiation, they carry in their body six children of these cardinal deities, which act as guardians.

Throughout their life, the wisiratu is reminded to keep the vows they took during his initiation, and provide tobacco smoke and sago from moriche palm for the gods and their court. In return, the gods reduce the number of children's deaths and endow the wisiratu with the power to cure diseases.

Apart from their role as healer, the wisiratu also provides psychological counseling and reinforces moral norms within the group. The highest ranking wisiratu is known as the Guardian of the Sacred Stone, who plays a dual role: they are an incarnation of one of the deities, while at the same time they serve as the deity’s main source of protection.

The wisiratu and western medicine

Jan recalled that he thought of the idea of bringing wisiratu to the hospital in Nabasanuka, where Warao people who were bitten by the poisonous mapanare snake went for treatment. Patients, desperate after seeing their symptoms getting worse, asked the doctor for the intervention of the wisiratu:

Me decían ꞌdoctor me quiero ir al wisiratu’. Yo me preguntaba ¿cómo controlo esto para que no empeoren los síntomas, para que no les dé una hemorragia, si se van del hospital? Entonces se me ocurrió que si tenía a los wisiratu en la comunidad podía meterlos en el hospital, así el paciente no se va, tiene su wisiratu; es feliz y yo soy feliz.

They told me, ‘Doctor, I want to go to the wisiratu’. I wondered how I could respond to this request, so that their symptoms do not get worse and cause hemorrhage if the patients leave the hospital. Then, it occurred to me that if I had the wisiratu in the community I could bring them to the hospital, so the patients do not leave, but they still have access to their wisiratu. They are happy, and I am happy.

Pastora, a wisiratu, dedicated herself to helping the doctor cure the children who had pneumonia or diarrhea and, of course, the victims of mapanare snake bites. She is a wisiratu who sings and gives massages. Through these practices the spirits of the mapanare snake, of diarrhea, and of pneumonia are removed. Jan said:

Un día [cuenta Jan] por curiosidad le pregunté a Pastora cómo era el canto de la serpiente. Ellos consideran eso secreto, pero básicamente lo que expresa el canto es una petición al veneno de la serpiente para que dejara de causar dolor y para que se saliera.

One day out of curiosity I asked Pastora about the song of the snake. The wisiratu healers consider this a secret, but basically what the song expresses is a request to the snake venom that causes pain to stop and to leave.

In the SoundCloud file above, one of these healers can be heard singing. The translation in Spanish was done by the National Recording Center:

Joa warayaja (espíritu sanador de dolores)

Iaeee emm, soy espíritu enviado para curar. ¿Quién quiere hacerle daño a esta persona?, ¿cuál es su mal? Aquí están los que sacan el daño en lo profundo de su ser, aquí están también los que chupan los malos espíritus. Yo mismo soy el [que curará] a este nieto pequeño. Revisaré su cabeza, su estómago. Vine a curar su dolor. Colocaré y limpiaré su espíritu. Si está mal o débil, si está dañado con sangre mala o tiene un mal espíritu de muertos, devolveré su espíritu a su cuerpo, yo curaré su cuerpo dañado.
[…] Yo soy el que sacará el espíritu de muerto que ha poseído este cuerpo, curaré su mal […] Yo soy el que cura el cuerpo dañado […]. Yo sí limpiaré este cuerpo enfermo y dañado por malos espíritus y enfermedades extrañas, soy el que te curará […]
Yo sí, este cuerpo poseído por algún espíritu de muerto [mi poder] cesará su dolor […]. Ahora sí nieto, te sentirás mejor. Tu cabeza, yo así tocando y echando todo mal te curaré […] conmigo también están mis hijos que te cuidarán, sanarás, […].

Joa warayaja (healing spirit of pains)

Iaeee emm, I am the spirit sent to heal. Who wants to hurt this person? What is his illness? Here there are those who take the harm from the depths of his being, here there are those who suck away the evil spirits. I myself am the one who [will heal] this little child. I will examine your head, your stomach. I came to cure your pain. I will find and cleanse your spirit. If it is sick or weak, if it is damaged with bad blood or has a bad spirit of the dead, I will return his spirit to his body, I will heal your damaged body.

[…] I am the one who will bring the spirit of the dead who has owned this body, I will heal their illness […] I am the one who heals the sick body […]. I cleanse this sick body damaged by evil spirits and strange diseases, I'm the one who will heal you […]

If this body is possessed by some spirit of the dead [my power] will cease its pain […]. Now, child, you'll feel better. By touching your head and throwing away all sickness, I will heal you […] with me there are also my children to look after you, you will heal […].

Pastora's presence helped the Warao patients remain in the hospital. According to Jan:

[Los warao se sentían más tranquilos] porque tenían como dos medicinas: la del hombre blanco y la del warao. Disminuyó el índice de indígenas que se iban del hospital. Aunque igual, siempre te presionan para irse rápido, así tengan al wisiratu, e incluso con este tampoco es que se queden mucho tiempo […] Ellos piensan que el hospital está lleno de espíritus, duendes y fantasmas de los que murieron en el hospital. Especialmente cuando no hay luz, ellos dicen que comienzan a escuchar cosas, monstruos, escuchan sonidos de niños llorando.

[The Warao patients felt calmer] because they had two doctors: that of the white man and the one of the Warao people. This decreased the rate in which the indigenous peoples were leaving the hospital. But equally, they always put pressure on you so they can leave fast, and even with the presence of a wisiratu, they will not stay a long time […] They think the hospital is full of spirits, of ‘duendes’ (sprites) and of ghosts of those who died in the hospital. Especially when there is no light, they say they begin to hear things, monsters, sounds of children crying.

In a broken healthcare system, doctors and healers struggle alike

The main hospital problems are the shortages of medical supplies, of river ambulance and of electricity. Nabasanuka has two power plants, one for the hospital and another for the community. The oil that runs both electric generators is brought by the barges, which in theory should stop by once a month and leave more than 10 barrels at the hospital and more than 30 at the community, but this is not enough:

Dejan cinco o cuatro tambores al hospital y quince o dieciséis a la comunidad. Eso no dura ni un mes y siempre quedamos con un déficit de siete días sin luz. El peor de los casos fue dieciséis días sin luz. Esto ocurrió en octubre.

They leave five or four barrels at the hospital and 15 or 16 in the community. That does not last even a month and we are always left with seven days without light. The worst was 16 days without light. This happened in October.

Jan is very sure it was that month because he counted all the days. They had to attend to births at night with flashlights, and there was also the problem of not having ambulances and any way to get patients to Nabasanuka:

Había veces [en que] yo tenía que ver cómo se morían varios pacientes [por no haber] ambulancia fluvial, y si se conseguía era pidiéndole favores a la comunidad: Con uno conseguía el motor, otro warao me prestaba la embarcación, otro me daba el aceite, otro me daba la gasolina…

There were times [that] I had to see many patients dying [because of the lack of] a river ambulance, and if anything was achieved was by asking favors to the community: one got the engine, other Warao man lent me the boat, another gave me oil, another provided the gasoline…

One of the toughest cases that this young doctor remembered was of a pregnant Warao woman who came to the hospital with serious complications from childbirth. In the remote Warao communities the women prefer to give birth at home, because they do not have the means to travel to Nabasanuka. They only go to hospital when there are complications with the labor. This woman had tried to give birth in her community; when she arrived at the hospital she had been with complications for two days and the child was dead inside her.

As Jan struggled to arrange for boat, motor, fuel and oil, 30 minutes passed. They arrived in Puerto Volcán at seven in the evening. From there they called the ambulance. They had been unable to notify earlier because there was no electricity in Nabasanuka. Twenty minutes later the ambulance arrived, but the mother died in the operating room that midnight. Jan then had to find a solution for the overnight stay and for the next day return to Nabasanuka.

The Regional Health Authority did not provide any support.

by Teodora C. Hasegan at August 19, 2016 04:11 PM

‘When They Took Me Inside’ Syria's Saydnaya Prison, ‘I Could Smell the Torture’
Screenshot from 'Inside Saydnaya', Amnesty International's video report of its findings. Source: YouTube Video.

Screenshot from ‘Inside Saydnaya’, Amnesty International's video report of its findings. Source: YouTube Video.

At least 17,723 Syrians have died in custody since 2011, a new damning report by the international human rights group Amnesty International has revealed. The report, entitled “‘It Breaks The Human': Torture, Disease and Death in Syria's Prisons”, started of with what is common knowledge by now, namely that:

Torture and other ill-treatment have been perpetrated by the Syrian intelligence services and other state forces for decades, fostered by a culture of impunity that is reinforced by Syrian legislation. However, since the current crisis in Syria began in 2011, the situation has become catastrophic, with torture committed on a massive scale. 

But one particular prison highlighted by Amnesty International's report may be the most notorious of them all. In a Facebook post, the well-known Syrian intellectual and dissident in exile Yassin Al-Haj Saleh, who has himself spent 16 years in regime prisons for being a member of a communist pro-democracy group, described it as “the most horrible place on earth”. Eyal Weizman, director of the Forensic Architecture agency of Goldsmiths, University of London, even told British newspaper the Guardian “that the building is, itself, an architectural instrument of torture.”

Al-Haj Saleh and Weizman are both referring to Saydnaya prison, a military prison facility located 30 kilometers north of Damascus. It was this prison that Amnesty International attempted to expose in collaboration with Forensic Architecture and backed by first-hand testimony of 65 torture survivors. 

Their accounts bear witness to some of the horrors endured by dissidents of the regime inside Saydnaya since the start of the revolution in 2011. Tales of the many methods of torture, including rape, were featured in the short documentary ‘Inside Saydnaya’ released by Amnesty International to coincide with the publication of the report. 

One man, named ‘Jamal A’ by Amnesty International to protect his identity, was arrested for helping civilians displaced by the fighting and sent to Saydnaya in October 2012, where he stayed until January 2014. He recalls:

When we first arrived, they put us all in the shower [area of the cell], on top of each other. We were naked of course. My penis was touching [a fellow detainee’s] back. I got cramp and had to move my leg, and my friend took the space that I made. Then I accidentally put my foot down on his penis. He screamed. For this, they were beating us with a steel bar on the front of the palms. I had had an operation on my hand earlier, and we told them [but] they just concentrated on that spot, and beat it harder. The surgery meant that I had 10 times the pain.

Salam featured in 'Inside Saydnaya', Amnesty International's video report of its findings. Source: YouTube Video.

Salam featured in ‘Inside Saydnaya’, Amnesty International's video report of its findings. Source: YouTube Video.

‘Salam’, a lawyer from Aleppo, was arrested in September 2011 and sent to Saydnaya from January 2012 to June 2014 for taking part in peaceful demonstrations. He told Amnesty International that he could ‘smell the torture’ as soon as he entered the prison:

When they took me inside the prison, I could smell the torture. It’s a particular smell of humidity, blood and sweat; it’s the torture smell. They took me three floors underground. There were seven of us after the beatings. We were taken into our cell. It was about 2.5 meters by 3 meters. There was a big wall at the end of the room with a hole. There is no shower, just a toilet. It’s dirty and wet; water is leaking from the roof of the cell. It’s totally dark; there is no light; you can’t even see the other people in the same room with you.

Another activist, ‘Shappal’, who advocated for the rights of Kurds in Syria, said he was repeatedly beaten while the guards yelled ‘Bashar is your God’, referring to Syria's President Bashar al Assad, who has clung to power throughout the last five years of civil war:

They brought the food, but it was very little. They spent two hours beating us and saying ‘Bashar is your God’. They did the same for the detainees in the other solitary cells – we could hear them coming to us, cell by cell, and going down the row after us. Of course the other solitary [underground] cells were next to each other in a row, but the sound of beating was so loud that it could reach the sky.

Screenshot from 'Inside Saydnaya', Amnesty International's video report of its findings. Source: YouTube Video.

Screenshot from ‘Inside Saydnaya’, Amnesty International's video report of its findings. Source: YouTube Video.

‘A testimony to hold the mass-murdering Syrian regime accountable’

These testimonies follow a report released by the UN Commission of Inquiry in February 2016 in which the killings of detainees occurring between 10 March, 2011 and 30 November, 2015 were examined based on 621 interviews. It concluded:

Detainees held by the Government were beaten to death, or died as a result of injuries sustained due to torture. Others perished as a consequence of inhuman living conditions. The Government has committed the crimes against humanity of extermination, murder, rape or other forms of sexual violence, torture, imprisonment, enforced disappearance and other inhuman acts. Based on the same conduct, war crimes have also been committed.

In a statement released with the report, Philip Luther, the director at Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Program, stressed that the international community, specifically the governments of Russia and the US, must commit to ending these practices

The international community, in particular Russia and the USA, which are co-chairing peace talks on Syria, must bring these abuses to the top of the agenda in their discussions with both the authorities and armed groups and press them to end the use of torture and other ill-treatment.

Speaking to Global Voices, Yassin Swehat, a Spanish-Syrian blogger, journalist and co-founder of the commentary site Al Jumhuriya, reflected:

رغم أن تقرير الأمنستي لا يحمل جديداً بالنسبة للسوريين، الذين عاشوا ويعيشون قصصاً يومية مع الاعتقال، ومع كل الآلية المتسلطة المبنية حول مسألة الاعتقال، بما في ذلك شبكة الفساد الهائلة حولها (لمعرفة أوضاع معتقل، لإيجاد مكانه، لإيصال ملابس أو أدوية..أو حتى فقط لمعرفة إن كان لا يزال على قيد الحياة) إلا أنه تقرير مهم للغاية، إذ يوثق كيف صنع العهد الأسدي الثاني، عهد بشار، سجنه الأيقوني الخاص بعد أن كان سجن تدمر الرهيب هو السجن الأيقوني للعهد الأسدي الأول، عهد حافظ. للأسف أخشى للتقرير مصيراً مشابهاً لتسريبات قيصر، إذ أثبت العالم عدم اكتراثه لانتهاكات حقوق الإنسان من قبل النظام وحلفاءه. لكن مع ذلك التقرير وثيقة مهمة للغاية، وسيكون لها أهميتها في الذاكرة التاريخية السورية بلا شك، وأرجو أن يكون له أهمية قانونية يوماً ما كشهادة لمحاسبة آلة الطحن والقتل والاعتقال، أي النظام السوري.

Although Amnesty's report does not contain new information for Syrians who have lived and are living under the threat of arrest every day, subjected to the mechanism of authoritarianism surrounding the issue of detentions, worsened by rampant corruption (to know the prisoner’s conditions, to locate him, to deliver clothes or medicine, or to know if he’s even alive), it is a very important report that documents how the second Assad era, the era of Bashar, created its private iconic prison that followed the iconic Tadmur prison of the first Assad era, the era of [Bashar's father] Hafez al Assad.

Unfortunately, I worry that the fate of this report will be similar to the [2014] Caesar leaks [detailing the torture and execution of prisoners by Syrian authorities], as the world proved its indifference towards human rights violations practiced by the regime and its allies.

But this report is a very important document, and will have importance in the Syrian historical memory without a doubt, and I hope that it carries legal importance one day, like a testimony to hold the mass-murdering Syrian regime accountable.

Luna Watfa, the co-founder of Woman Organization for Syrian Prisoners and a former detainee herself, who spent 13 months in Syrian government prisons, asked her Twitter followers to read Amnesty's report:

The Committee to Protect Journalists took this opportunity to remind us of a journalist for Palestine Today, Bilal Ahmed Bilal, who died in December 2013, nearly two years after being sent to Saydnaya:

by Joey Ayoub at August 19, 2016 03:43 PM

When Never Forgetting the Attacks on France, Try to Remember the Heroes, Too

For the past 18 months, Europe has seen a wave of attacks that has increased social tension and polarized many conversations on religion and immigration, especially in France. While the media's talking points these days seem to center around whether people should be allowed to wear burkinis at the beach, other newsworthy actions are quickly forgotten—extraordinary actions that help more to solidify France's social fabric than anything to do with swimwear. Global Voices looks at several heroic stories during the latest mass attacks on French soil.

Attacks in Nice on July 14, 2016

Franck, the hero of Nice - photo posted on twitter by @Pabliteau

Franck, the hero of Nice. Photo: Twitter / @Pabliteau

Franck is 49 and a father of two. When Mohamed Lahouaiej Boulhel drove a truck in a crowd gathered for fireworks on Bastille Day in Nice, he was riding a scooter nearby and witnessed the start of the tragedy. In his own words, here is his recollection of what happened:

On a pris la Promenade au niveau des Bosquets. On avançait tranquillement. En fait, je voulais aller au feu d’artifice, mais on est parti trop tard. Alors j’ai dit à ma femme, ce n’est pas grave allons manger une glace sur le Cours Saleya. On a senti un mouvement de foule venir dans notre dos. On a entendu des cris et des voitures se mettaient en travers. Ma femme m’a dit: ‘Arrête-toi, il y a un truc qui ne va pas’. Et le temps de se retourner, on a vu la foule courir dans tous les sens, comme si elle fuyait quelque chose. C’est alors que l’on a vu le camion arriver.

Nous, nous étions au milieu de la route. Il y avait peu de voitures. Je devais rouler à 60 km/h. Je n’ai même pas eu le temps de regarder dans mon rétroviseur. Et là, il m’a doublé à fond. Il roulait sur le trottoir. J’ai en tête les images des corps qui volaient de partout. J’ai tout de suite compris. J’ai alors décidé d’accélérer. Ma femme, derrière moi, me tirait le bras et me demandait où j’allais. Je me suis arrêté. Je lui ai dit: dégage! Et j’ai accéléré à fond.

Pour le rattraper, il fallait slalomer. Entre les gens, vivants et morts. J’étais à fond. Je ne pouvais freiner que de l’arrière car j’avais la poignée bloquée. Je me souviens même de crier dans le casque. Je criais à la mort en fait… Je n’avais que l’arrière du camion dans les yeux. J’étais déterminé à aller jusqu’au bout. Je voulais à tout prix l’arrêter. J’étais dans un état second mais à la fois lucide. Je suis donc parvenu à me mettre sur sa gauche, mon objectif était d’atteindre la cabine.

J’étais sur les marches au niveau de la fenêtre ouverte. Face à lui. Je l’ai frappé, frappé, et frappé encore. De toutes mes forces avec ma main gauche même si je suis droitier. Des coups au visage. Il ne disait rien. Il ne bronchait pas

My wife and I were on the Promenade des Anglais on my scooter [the boardwalk where the attack occurred]. We were moving forward slowly. In fact, we wanted to go see the fireworks, but we left a bit too late. So I said to my wife, “It does not matter. We'll eat ice cream at the Cours Saleya [Saleya Square in Downtown Nice].” We felt a stampede was coming behind us. We heard shouts and a few cars that were trying to get away. My wife said, “Stop, there's something wrong.” By the time we turned around, we saw the crowd running in all directions, as if they were fleeing something. That's when we saw the truck coming.

We were in the middle of the road; there were few cars. I was riding the scooter at 60 kilometers [almost 40 miles] per hour. I didn't even had time to look in my rearview mirror. And then the truck passed right by us. He was driving on the sidewalk. I still have in mind the images of bodies flying everywhere. I immediately understood what was going on. I decided to accelerate. My wife was behind me pulling my arm and asking me what I was doing. I stopped. I told her to get off, and I drove away quickly to catch up with the truck.

In order to catch up, I had to zigzag between people, some dead and some alive. I wanted to stop him at all costs. I was both in a daze and lucid at once. So I managed to get on the left of the truck and my goal was to reach the cabin. I was soon on the steps at the open window, facing him. I hit him again and again and again with my left hand but I am right handed. I landed blows to his face but he said nothing. He did not even flinch.

Aymeric and Sam Monrocq, a couple who lives in Normandy, set up a crowdfunding website to buy a new scooter for Franck. The initiative raised 25,466 euros (almost $30,000). Franck used than a third of the money to purchase a new scooter, and he donated the rest to hospitals, local associations, and other initiatives.

Attacks in Paris on November 13, 2015

Ludovic Boumbas as published on twitter by his friend @chilavertlille

Ludovic Boumbas as published on twitter by his friend @chilavertlille

Ludovic Boumbas was 40 and an IT engineer based in Lille, France. He was sitting at the Bistro La Belle Equipe in Paris when Daesh militants opened fire on the restaurant. His friend was sitting with him, so he threw his body in front of her to protect her from the bullets. Ludovic died on the spot, while his friend was also shot, but she survived. Ludovic is originally from the Republic of Congo. His friends remember him fondly:

Friends described Mr Boumbas as someone who loved people and travelling. “He was just one of life’s good, good people,”

Nicolas Cantinat, 37, and Julien Galisson 32, reacted to the gunfire like Ludovic, shielding the people around then when the bullets rang out. Both Nicholas and Julien died from their wounds. At the Bataclan, the scene of the worst carnage that night, Sébastien, a 34-year-old man from Arles, was trying to escape from the killing spree when he saw a pregnant woman suspended at the window. She was pleading for people underneath to catch her, if she fell. The window was 15 meters (50 feet) from the ground. Sebastien recalls what happened next:

   À l'une d'elles, était suspendue une femme enceinte qui suppliait les gens en bas de la réceptionner si elle sautait. En bas aussi c'était le chaos. Je suis passé par l'autre fenêtre et je me suis accroché à une bouche d'aération. À 15 mètres du sol. J'ai tenu cinq minutes puis la femme enceinte, qui n'en pouvait plus, m'a demandé de l'aider à revenir à l'intérieur. C'est ce que j'ai fait.

A pregnant woman was hanging outside a window and was begging people below her to catch her if she jumped. Down on the ground—it was chaos. I went through the other window and I clung onto an air vent to get to her at 15 meters above the ground. I held her for five minutes and then the exhausted woman asked me to help her back inside. So that's what I did.

The whole scene was caught on video:

Attacks in Paris on January 9, 2015

Lassana Bathily is from Mali. He was working at the Hyper Casher grocery store in Paris when Amedy Coulibaly, a member of Daesh, walked in with a rifle and killed four people, planning on murdering even more. Lassana hid at least six people and a baby in the cold room of the store and then went out of the storage room on his own to talk to Coulibaly. Here is a video of his testimony immediately following the ordeal:

During the attacks, Yoann Cohen, Bathily's coworker at the grocery store, tried to disarm the assailant  and was consequently shot in the head by Coulibaly. Yoann's father hails from Algeria and his mother is from Tunisia.

These ordinary people did not expect the tragedies they encountered suddenly, and they responded instinctively and selflessly. In fact, there were numerous additional examples of acts of bravery during these attacks, ranging from a lone police officer entering taking on all the attackers at Bataclan to the people who opened their doors to stranded event goers.
As a populist rhetoric grows more deafening and the climate of fear seems to sweep much of Europe (especially in France), remembering these stories of altruism and sacrifice is more vital than ever.

by Lova Rakotomalala at August 19, 2016 07:16 AM

Miriam Meckel
Mit offenem Visier

WiWo_Titel_34_16_Amazon_Blog

Die Burka ist kein Ausdruck von Religionsfreiheit, sondern Zeichen der Unterdrückung. Sie gehört in der Öffentlichkeit verboten.

Der Islam gehört zu Deutschland, die Burka nicht. So lässt sich sauber unterscheiden, was hinter dem zurzeit wieder anschwellenden Bockgesang um ein Burkaverbot steckt.

Leider zeigen die vordergründigen Argumente der Verbotsbefürworter größtenteils, worum es nicht geht und wie man es nicht machen sollte. Wenn da manch ein politischer Lautsprecher von vollverschleierten Terroristinnen fantasiert, die mit Sprengstoffgürtel unter dem Gewande unsere Sicherheit bedrohen, dann ist das lachhaft.

Radikalislamistische Selbstmordattentäter brauchen keine Burka. Die schaffen Zerstörung im Angesicht der liberalen Gesellschaft, die sie verletzen wollen. Das Burkaverbot ist eine Debatte wert, aber es taugt nicht als innenpolitischer Stimmenfänger im Wahlkampf.

Innenminister Thomas de Maizière hat dieser Tage gesagt: „Man kann nicht alles verbieten, was man ablehnt.“ Recht hat er, denn das ist der Kern der liberalen Gesellschaft. In ihr ist nicht Freiheit begründungspflichtig, sondern ihre Einschränkung. Jeder ist frei innerhalb der sozialen Regeln eines Gemeinwesens. Wenn die aber verletzt werden, lässt sich eine Einschränkung rechtfertigen.

Die Burka, verteidigt bis hin zu abweichenden Meinungen von Richterinnen des Europäischen Gerichtshofs, ist kein Ausdruck des Grundrechts auf Religionsausübung. Sie ist Symbol einer patriarchalen Gesellschaft, eines rückständigen Islams, der Frauen behandelt wie Haushaltsgegenstände (weswegen sie auch am besten da bleiben, wo sie hingehören, nämlich zu Hause). Wer zu Hause eine Burka tragen will, kann das tun. Das zu verbieten dürfte über eine rechtsstaatliche Argumentation auf dem Boden des Grundgesetzes kaum möglich sein.

Im öffentlichen Raum und Leben aber sieht das anders aus. Im Zuge der Aufklärung ist das Individuum mit seiner uneinschränkbaren Würde, seinen Rechten geschützt. Nirgends drückt sich die Individualität eines Menschen deutlicher aus als in seinem Gesicht. 23 Muskelpaare können Freude, Abscheu, Angst oder Trauer zum Ausdruck bringen. Und das ist in allen Kulturen ähnlich. Wer einem Menschen nicht ins Gesicht schauen kann, kann ihn als Individuum nicht erkennen.

Und wenn es für Menschen in Deutschland im Jahr 2016 möglich ist, sich für andere unkenntlich zu machen, dann ist das die symbolische Abkehr von einer wesentlichen Errungenschaft der aufgeklärten freien Gesellschaft. Sie ist nicht zu rechtfertigen, auch nicht im Sinne der Religionsfreiheit.

In Frankreich gilt das Burkaverbot. So hat es der Europäische Gerichtshof vor zwei Jahren entschieden (mit den genannten Minderheitsvoten), weil er die soziale Kommunikation im öffentlichen Raum höher bewertet hat als die Religionsfreiheit. Das viel kritisierte Urteil weist den Weg. In einem säkularen Staat muss die Religionsfreiheit, ob Christentum, Judentum oder Islam gewährleistet und geschützt sein. Aber der Einsatz religiöser Symbole zum Kulturkampf im öffentlichen Raum gehört nicht dazu.

In Berlin gibt es Stadtviertel, in denen Juden sich aus Angst, beschimpft, bespuckt oder gar körperlich angegriffen zu werden, nicht mehr trauen, die Kippa zu tragen. Der Respekt vor Religionen gehört zu Deutschland, ihre ideologische, extremistische Aufladung nicht. Eine liberale Gesellschaft tut gut daran, dagegen ein Zeichen zu setzen. Auch ihr Angesicht wird mit der Burka verschleiert.

wiwo.de

by Miriam Meckel at August 19, 2016 05:51 AM

August 18, 2016

Creative Commons
“This is my time and I’m recording it”: Carol Highsmith and the nature of giving

Photographer Carol Highsmith has donated her life’s work of tens of thousands of photos to the Library of Congress during her decades long career.

The post “This is my time and I’m recording it”: Carol Highsmith and the nature of giving appeared first on Creative Commons.

by Jennie Rose Halperin at August 18, 2016 05:59 PM

‘Reclaim Invention’ for the benefit of everyone

The vision of the Creative Commons project is universal access to research and education, and full participation in culture to drive a new era of development, growth, and productivity. Collaboration, sharing, and co-operation are in our nature — building community, co-operating towards common goods, and creating shared benefits are at the heart of who we … Read More "‘Reclaim Invention’ for the benefit of everyone"

The post ‘Reclaim Invention’ for the benefit of everyone appeared first on Creative Commons.

by Timothy Vollmer at August 18, 2016 05:25 PM

Global Voices
Snapchat Filters Allow Sexual Assault Survivors in India to Share Their Stories Anonymously
Screenshot of victims of sexual abuse using snapchat to tell their stories.

Screenshot of victims of sexual abuse using snapchat to tell their stories.

An Indian journalist has recently started using popular social media app Snapchat in an innovative way to enable victims of sexual violence to tell their stories without revealing their identities.

Like in many other countries, violence against women is a serious problem in India. It has led authorities to enact numerous stringent laws against perpetrators. Despite this, not many victims come forward to register complaints or report attacks to police due to insensitive questioning and social stigmas that come with being a survivor of sexual violence in India's highly patriarchal society.

To try to change this, journalist and self-titled Snapchat-storyteller Yusuf Omar provides his subjects with a wide variety of ‘filter’ options that disguise their face so they can speak on-camera about their tumultuous journeys anonymously. It's a creative and powerful method that allows survivors to change the narrative and let their voices be heard.

Omar's use of Snapchat has attracted national and international media attention. In an interview with Global Voices, Omar, who is the mobile editor for newspaper Hindustan Times, explained:

unnamed

Yusuf Omar's Snapcode

The filters were the only reason they shared their story. In India it’s both illegal to show the identity of rape survivors in the media, but there’s also the question of stigma- a society where they risked being alienated from friends of family and banished from their communities for making their stories public.

How has the public reaction been to the story?

My biggest fear was people thinking Snapchat was making a serious topic trivial. Quite the opposite happened. The story got people taking about rape culture, sexual abuse in India and women’s issues in a broader way. But that conversation started with the innovative use of tech. The global Climb Against Sexual Abuse organisation have borrowed the idea and are calling on survivors around the world to Snapchat their stories. I’m really happy about that.

Omar, meanwhile, used traditional journalism methods to make the survivors comfortable with the tools before recording the project.

Snapchat, primarily a messaging app, has more than 150 million daily active users and is gaining popularity in India. A YouTube video uploaded by Yellowbulbs.com shares the result of a survey done in 2016 amongst 100 students from New Delhi, which describes the use of Snapchat among India's millennials:

Omar harnesses this popularity to address a huge problem: in 2014 alone, India witnessed 36,735 reported rapes, while many others that went unregistered. Incidents of rape have risen 9 percent since 2010, according to news reports.

Here's what makes the whole experience extremely personal for the survivors, according to Omar:

It wasn’t difficult because even though they weren’t too familiar with Snapchat, any millennial around the world knows how to take a selfie, and that’s all this was. First I tried the filters on myself. They laughed. Then they tried a few. We giggled. Finally they hit the red button, shared their story and the world cried.

On social media, Omar's efforts have won praise for giving deeper meaning to what was before just a fun app:

Others have used Snapchat for important work as well. Avani Parekh, Nida Sheriff and Rajshekar Patil from India have set up a domestic abuse advice account called lovedoctordotin on Snapchat for Indian teenagers who feel they may be in abusive relationships.

Omar's offered advice to journalists who use digital tools for reporting extremely sensitive stories:

Look beyond the gimmicks. Snapchat at face value is about funny self portraits and emojis, but behind the filters are phenomenal algorithms. Use the technology as a tool to tell better stories. See the potential to hack anything. Right now I’m looking at Pokemon Go and saying, how can we tell news stories like this. Maybe we direct people with smartphone cameras to breaking news events like gamers are flocking to animated creatures.

However, the legal implications of this innovative storytelling remain to be seen, such as whether the stories will be admissible in court. Only a couple of months ago, Indian right-wing political parties armed with police complaints threatened comedian Tanmay Bhat for posting a parody video using Snapchat filters of two prominent Indian celebrities.

by Vishal at August 18, 2016 05:23 PM

DML Central
The Situational Approach to Learning with New Media

The topic of whether or how children should use new and emerging technologies for learning is evergreen, particularly as the new school year commences. I’ve written in this space before about reactions to tools for electronic reading and writing, and I’ve begun to notice that commentators on these subjects adopt a few different approaches for discussing learning with new (and old) media. I call them the nostalgia, work habits, and the situational approaches.

Nostalgia Approach

The nostalgia approach tends to focus on personal and emotional connections to books. When this approach is evoked, advocates note their love for the feel of print books or associated ways of reading — the way books smell, cozying up with a book on a rainy day, a room full of bookshelves. There is certainly nothing wrong with loving books, but this approach tends to emphasize how print, a technology itself, fits into the advocate’s cultural and behavioral world. To the extent that electronic devices do not fit in that cultural context (“as the rain beat against the windowpanes, I grabbed a cup of tea and a blanket, sat down at my iMac, and double-clicked on the Kindle icon…”), they are considered bad (for society/kids).

Work Habits Approach

The work habits approach has a more concrete focus, identifying the processes or methods one uses to research or write (to give two examples) noting how changing those habits — by reading electronically, for instance — would alter the outcome for the worse. This approach has in its favor that it focuses on how technologies like print books are used. As a researcher, if I have become comfortable with skimming print books, underlining passages, and drafting notes in a notebook, I may be reluctant to move to an electronic format that did not allow all of those behaviors because such a move would make me (at least temporarily) less efficient. It is imperative to recognize the benefits of existing techniques and what work habits that can support. It is equally important to not let habits close us off to new opportunities for learning, and the habit-based approach has the tendency to treat our media environments as static or to never question the processes used for a particular learning task.

Situational Approach

A situational approach, in contrast, is respectful of the other two approaches, while simultaneously clear-eyed about the potential benefits (and drawbacks) of new technologies. Nostalgia is a perfectly reasonable guide for decorating one’s living space, and we should be wary of altering effective learning practices without good reason. But, when it comes to learning, we should be always be open to questioning our own processes and assumptions, particularly as the material and social conditions of our learning change.

I think that naming these distinctions can be productive because it helps us to identify how studies of legacy and emerging learning technologies can be planned, and ultimately applied, more strategically. Studies of emerging technologies tend to treat emerging technologies as static, for example, lumping electronic reading technologies together in ways that ignore the situational uses or unique affordances of those technologies, or only asking how well those technologies fit into existing learning habits. By adopting a situational understanding of learning technologies, researchers could ask how well-suited technologies are for particular tasks and outcomes. Such situational studies of emerging technologies require a greater investment on our part in research that continually addresses how these technologies might change learning habits.

Banner image credit: Laurie Sullivan

The post The Situational Approach to Learning with New Media appeared first on DML Central.

by mcruz at August 18, 2016 01:00 PM

Global Voices
Exposing Discrimination or Unfair Trial by Social Media? The Case of a Workplace Hairdo in Trinidad & Tobago
Black Power fist; image by Paul Sableman, used under a CC BY 2.0 license.

Black Power fist; image by Paul Sableman, used under a CC BY 2.0 license.

The COLFIRE controversy continues to heat up in Trinidad and Tobago. In correspondence dated August 11, 2016, the insurance company's human resources manager signed a letter asking employee Maurice Ramirez, who is black, to adopt a more professional hairstyle. Ramirez posted a photo of the letter — and his ‘do — to Facebook. Although he thereafter deleted the post, it had already gone viral, sending the local blogosphere into a tizzy over the perceived discrimination against natural hair.

Four days later, it was revealed that COLFIRE's management had sent Ramirez on paid leave, pending an internal investigation on the matter. In a statement over the weekend, the company said that it couldn’t publicly discuss the case of an employee and that it “denies the damning allegations that have resulted from the publication of an internal document”. In an update on the matter posted by Facebook user Pearce Robinson (who supports Ramirez), he states:

The company thought that it was necessary to enforce ‘administrative leave’, because he caused the company great ‘public embarrassment’.

Staff have been told to use their social media accounts to boost the company's image online and any employee found to be bad talking the company on social media or entertaining such talk will face disciplinary action.

On the same Facebook thread, commenter Arun Ballie suggested:

He [Ramirez] is wrong to light up his employer so on a public forum … It would have been smarter to comply and then complain.

Robinson replied:

Sometimes we have to shatter the status-quo to make fundamental changes. its how things have happened for centuries. There is always a spark that ignites the change.

Quizzes, combs and Donald Trump

Change is what netizens are agitating for. Many interpret the company's conservatism as racial discrimination and believe that this has been the status quo for far too long. University lecturer Amilcar Sanatan quoted an excerpt from the 1971 report of the Commission of Enquiry into Racial and Colour Discrimination in the Private Sector:

We are impressed generally in the case of the banks that a state of racial and colour imbalance exists because of the inheritance of institutionalized forms of discrimination which have not been completely changed…some banks have been more radical and progressive than others, but in general the older the bank, the more conservative its policy appeared…Even though active discrimination in new appointments may have ceased, the social effects of past discrimination still remain highly visible…this requires in the interest of social justice and public confidence that deliberate institutional measures be taken…to see that this situation brought to an end.

Nearly 50 years later, the country appears to be fighting the same battle, albeit virtually this time. Netizens began to hit back, some in very creative ways. Artist Darren Trinity Cheewah posted two new anti-COLFIRE images on Facebook, which were being widely shared — the first portraying a silhouette of an employee shackled to his desk and the other comparing the insurance firm's stance to United States Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's controversial election campaign:

Image by Darren Trinity Cheewah, used with permission.

Image by Darren Trinity Cheewah, used with permission.

Image by Darren Trinity Cheewah, used with permission.

Image by Darren Trinity Cheewah, used with permission.

There was even a quiz — the link to which social media users were liberally posting — to determine who had what to took to be a COLFIRE hire.

A screenshot of the "FIRED" result of the COLFIRE quiz that is being widely shared on social media.

A screenshot of the “FIRED” result of the COLFIRE quiz that is being widely shared on social media.

On Twitter, Livewired Group commented:

Even Trinidadian calypsonian David Rudder put in his two cents’ worth, posting a photo of the Jamaican athlete who won gold in the Men's 110m hurdles in Rio and commenting on his Facebook page:

A Jamaican, Omar Mc Leod, sporting a ‘Colfire’ wins the 110 m hurdles gold in Rio.
And in case yuh don't know what a Colfire is, it's a now controversial Trinidadian hairstyle.

‘The internet has created a new class of publishers’

Humour aside, there is the serious question of possible legal consequences. Some lawyers are telling the media that the employee “doesn't have a legal leg to stand on” if he were to bring a discrimination suit against the company or the company were to take him to court. But one netizen, Tshai S White, said that she spoke to a lawyer in the industrial court who disagreed, saying that the header of the letter Ramirez posted “did not state Private and Confidential”. In Trinidad and Tobago, some companies may ask employees to sign confidentiality agreements pertaining to sensitive operations or client information — but it is debatable whether such agreements would extend to workers’ rights issues.

Given the numbers of netizens accusing the company of racism, there's also defamation to think about. In a recent blog post, lawyer and Global Voices author Jason Nathu, who recently won a groundbreaking discrimination case in Trinidad and Tobago, talked about the potential legal ramifications of posting content on social media networks:

The internet has created a new class of publishers: ordinary, everyday people who are posting comments about each other on public forums.

An online comment is potentially libellous in Trinidad and Tobago if it damages someone’s reputation […] These include letters to the editor of local newspapers, public comments on media websites, blogs and comments to blog postings, social media posts and chat rooms. […]

The main defence to a libel action is ‘truth’, that is being able to prove that the defamatory allegation is substantially true.

Nathu spoke about the issue in a recent television interview:

This knowledge has not stopped social media users — and now, even COLFIRE employees — from speaking out. Some staffers have been contacting activists like Pearce Robinson to share their experiences. On Facebook, he recounted some of them, posting another update with scans of letters the company has issued to former employees:

Employees are threatened with their jobs if they take ‘Sick Leave’.
Staff sick leave has been reduced from 14 to 12 days without consultation.
Members of the finance department confirm that Mr Ramirez seems to be unfairly targeted. […]
The company generally tries to be ‘all inclusive’ but that its not always reflected in how they speak & treat certain people in the company, often with dual standards.

Rhoda Bharath shared similar complaints on Twitter:

Robinson explained:

This reality is not only a reality at COLFIRE but many corporate institutions right across Trinidad & Tobago. But it doesn't have to be that way, especially if we are mobilised to stand up against this behaviour. The sheer racism and bullying of #COLFIRE must not be tolerated, but also the general attitude of oppress, intimidate and bully employees needs to be stamped out. Employees must not feel that there is no recourse to dismantling the systems of empire.

by Janine Mendes-Franco at August 18, 2016 12:42 PM

A Nepalese Version of Humans of New York Tells the Stories of Individuals From All Walks of Life
“I have travelled to 71 out of the 75 districts and all the way from Mechi to Mahakali, alone in my wheelchair, to raise my voice for equal rights for people with disabilities in the new constitution.” (Surya Bahadur Ranabhat Yatri, Pokhara). January 1, 2016

“I have travelled to 71 out of the 75 districts and all the way from Mechi to Mahakali, alone in my wheelchair, to raise my voice for equal rights for people with disabilities in the new constitution.” Surya Bahadur Ranabhat Yatri, Pokhara. January 1, 2016.
Photo by Jay Poudyal. Used with permission.

As a child, Jay Poudyal enjoyed listening to his grandma tell folk stories. As an adult, he became interested in reading, travelling and taking photos. He also began to drink heavily, turning into a severe alcoholic.

After Poudyal completed rehab with his wife's help, he discovered Humans of New York (HONY), a blog in which Brandon Stanton photographs and interviews random people on the street. Poudyal was inspired to start a Nepalese version, so he created a page on Facebook, posted a story and began sharing it with friends.

Thus, began the journey of Stories of Nepal.

Photographer Jay Poudel. Image by Yasodha Gauchan.

Photographer Jay Poudyal. Image by Yasodha Gauchan.

On his photo blog, he writes:

[…] I am on a journey to discover and share stories of the everyday Nepali. Over the past couple of years, I have roamed the streets of Kathmandu and travelled my country to talk to people, hear what they have to say and listen to their tales of sorrow and happiness. I started off as a photographer, capturing moments and people, but inspired by Humans of New York I started sharing these pictures along with the conversations I had with individuals. After all, a picture may say a thousand words, but a few words can change the story. That was how Stories of Nepal Facebook page was born, and its community has come a long way. […]

With around 265,000 followers on Facebook, Stories of Nepal features tales of individuals from all parts of Nepal – the mountains, the mid hills and the southern plains.

Let’s take a look at some of his photo stories.

The legacy of Bara

Legacy of Bara. Used with permission.

The legacy of Bara. Photo by by Jay Poudyal. Used with permission.

As a kid, I have watched my grandfather and then my father make Bara Aloo from the exact spot you are taking my pictures. I’m the third generation to continue in this legacy.

We have been running and serving Bara’s for the last 80 years. My grandfather, Krishna Raj Shrestha, opened this shop so that travelers/porters heading Bhaktapur from Kathmandu could stop en route for a protein enriched snack. It was then passed on to my father Ramsharan Shrestha. After his demise I took over and we are still going strong.

Bara is a light and spongy lentil patty that resemble a small flat pancake.

What makes your Bara special?

“My passion for making perfect Baras. Also, I only use local home made sunflower oil for the Bara and it’s cooked in wood-fire and served in leaves.”

Mukesh Shrestha, runs a small Bara Pasa (Bara Shop) at 7 Pahakha Bazaar Madyapur Thimi.

Fishes tonight

Fishes tonight. Used with permission.

Fishes tonight. Photo by by Jay Poudyal. Used with permission.

“We have to eat, no matter what. No matter how happy, how sad. No matter how rich, how poor. Fish tonight, hopefully, if you let me fish (laughs).” (Rapti River near Patiyani, Chitwan)

Violence against women

VAW. Used with permission.

Violence against women. Photo by by Jay Poudyal. Used with permission.

“Burnt alive. Beaten and forced to eat human faeces for being a ‘witch.’ Raped. Molested. Abused, physically and psychologically, in public spaces, in front of mute bystanders. The news about violence against women in our immediate and distant communities is brutal and consistently shocking. As an artist, I believe they deserves an equally shocking reflection and response – at least enough to provoke a sense of discomfort with what we allow and accept in our society where female deities are revered, in the country of the living virgin goddess Kumari, a world built by mothers, sisters, wives. Kumari is a living goddess and some of our biggest festivals are based around her. But why is reverence of women reserved to the gods, and not their mortal counterparts on whom the deities are in fact based?”

– Aditya Aryal, Gairidhara, Kathmandu

It costs Rs. 1 lac” (about US$1,000)

It costs Rs. 1 lac. Used with permission.

It costs Rs. 1 lac. Photo by by Jay Poudyal. Used with permission.

“There are around 50 horses in my stud. Sometimes it goes up to 75 if someone asks me to take their horses out with mine. This one’s called Sete and is very obedient but shy. It can carry up to 100 kilos at a time.

It costs Rs. 1 lac.”

– Subash Subedi, Met in Syangboche, Mustang.

I was mad

I was mad. Used with permission.

I was mad. Photo by by Jay Poudyal. Used with permission.

“We were Shamans from old times. When father died, it became my responsibility to follow in his footsteps. But I really didn’t want to become a shaman. I wanted to do something normal. Maybe just become a farmer and go to school. But every time I brought up school, father would start playing his drums and chanting his spells. He would say I was possessed. So I became depressed and I became mad. I did not recognise people and places and sometimes I walked around the river banks without clothes. One day a girl came to me and gave me Mug-wort to eat and some water. She asked me to chew on the Mug-wort and drink the water. I did and I was cured. I put on my clothes and went home and told my father, I will obey him. That day there was a big celebration at home. Father sacrificed a goat and a chicken and I ate full stomach after a long time.”

– Lakpa Dorje Sherpa, Gadi, Sankhuwasabha

Everything will be fine”

Everything will be fine. Used with permission.

Everything will be fine. Photo by by Jay Poudyal. Used with permission.

“We were both the same age when we got married. Maybe 17. We spent almost 50 years together. Cried together and laughed together. But last year she passed away and left me alone. She would come and sit next to me and help me make baskets and we would talk for hours. When lunch was ready she would bring it to me. She was happy woman. Today, I feel she is somewhere around. Every once in a while I feel her presence and turn around to see if she is at her spot. Sometimes I hear her whisper and say, ‘Don’t worry, everything will be fine.’”

– Nati Kazi Maharjan, Chapagaun, Lalitpur

Tattoos for afterlife

Tattoos for afterlife. Used with permission.

Tattoos for afterlife. Photo by by Jay Poudyal. Used with permission.

“In the old days, when girls of my age were young, a man from India would come and do these tattoos in our bodies. When my friend was being pierced, I could see tears in her eyes because of the pain and I remember being afraid as I was next. That night I couldn't sleep. The next day I asked my mother why I had to get the tattoo. She said, “Who will marry a girl without a tattoo? No one will take you unless you have them.” I never understood that. Later I also learnt that in our culture tattoos were also a worship to nature. We don't take anything with us when we die, but I will take these tattoos. It is like a gift of this life and this nature for me to take to my afterlife.”

– Thagani Mahato, Meghauli, Chitwan

by Sanjib Chaudhary at August 18, 2016 01:18 AM

The Crocodile's Got to Go? A Jamaican Bishop Blames the Country's Coat of Arms for Crime
A postmark on Jamaica's Coat of Arms. Image by Mark Morgan, used under a CC BY 2.0 license.

A postmark on Jamaica's Coat of Arms. Image by Mark Morgan, used under a CC BY 2.0 license.

If any period in the year could be described as the “silly season” in Jamaica, it would be the month of August. Once the independence day festivities have retreated, a torpor descends on public life. Journalists complain that there is no news, as the “movers and shakers” are mostly on holiday. This year, those Jamaicans who can afford the trip are at the Rio Olympics, while those at home celebrate Jamaican track victories in front of their televisions, in sports bars or at Half Way Tree in Kingston. Even Parliament goes on a long break, as Member of Parliament and public commentator Ronald Thwaites bemoaned.

In the midst of the vacuum, however, one religious leader has shaken up the summertime calm by suggesting the country's coat of arms encourages crime.

Unlike other National Symbols created at the time of Jamaica's Independence in 1962, the coat of arms, incorporating the national motto “Out of Many One,” is a legacy from British colonial rule dating back to 1661. Among other images, it depicts a man and women from the indigenous Taino community (formerly called Arawak Indians). The man holds a bow (likely used for hunting), while the woman holds a basket of fruit. A crocodile (the American Crocodile is a protected species in Jamaica) stands on a log above a royal helmet.

Bishop Rowan Edwards of the Lighthouse Assembly Church of God is a member of the Spanish Town Ministers Fraternal, an activist church grouping that holds regular rallies against crime and violence. A gang member deported from the United States in April has been blamed for a recent upsurge in violence in Spanish Town, and while addressing a prayer meeting in the town, Bishop Edwards pointed to aspects of the coat of arms that, in his view, promote violence and war.

In a radio interview, he explained:

You can have something more modern, something more unique, that does not speak of war. The Arawak Indians were involved in war…We know what they did here. But that's years ago, decades ago, and I think it's now time for a change.

In an interview with the newspaper Jamaica Gleaner, he elaborated, placing focus on the crocodile:

‘As a pastor serving the community of Spanish Town – and Jamaica on a whole – for the last 35 years, I cannot sit back and watch crime and violence take over Jamaica. … We are dealing with crime by fighting it on a pruning basis. You cannot prune a tree and have the tree die. You have to deal with things from the root,’ he said.

At the root of Jamaica's problem, Edwards believes, lies one of our national symbols.

‘We have a coat of arms that has a crocodile sitting on top of it. Those days are finished. Why should we have a crocodile sitting on top of us as a nation? Why should we have two Indians with swords in their hands, saying, “It's time for war” in this nation?’ the Bishop queried.

Stressing that it is wrong, Edwards said crocodile speaks of fear and that it is out of place on the coat of arms.

‘Secondly, if you notice the Bank of Jamaica, their monetary symbol is a crocodile holding a key. Who wants to have a crocodile hold their key? No wonder why the financial condition is so bad,’ observes Edwards.

According to Edwards, Jamaica's problem with crime and poverty is a spiritual one, and it will not be alleviated until the issues surrounding the emblems are addressed.

Bishop Edwards announced his intention to obtain thousands of signatures in an effort to have the Jamaican Government “update” the coat of arms.

‘The upstart church taking selfies while Rome burns’

In reaction, young broadcast journalist Rashona Fitz-Henley tweeted:

While many Jamaicans joked about it, others corrected Fitz-Henley by pointing out that it was only one or two individuals who raised the issue, and that they did not represent “The Church”:

Some felt the discussion was worthy of consideration, in the context of Jamaica's approach to symbols from the colonial era. The Jamaica Observer editorialized:

While we have retained some very important symbols and institutions of colonialism, there is, indeed, justification to make more changes, even as we acknowledge that it will take some time to do so…

In recent weeks, a call to change the Coat of Arms has triggered debate, which is healthy, because the fact that it has been like that for so many years does not mean that it should not be reviewed and changed if necessary.

As Jamaica continues to struggle with high crime rates, however, Rashona Fitz-Henley maintained a commonly held view:

Columnist Franklyn Johnston dismissed the bishop's argument, suggesting “The Church” might have better things to do:

The pesky attention-seeking bishop who made an issue of our coat of arms continues the tradition of the upstart church taking selfies while Rome burns. The bishop won — he got column inches — but what impact on crime? We are chat and pose people.

‘We might as well change the national motto’

One letter writer defended the coat of arms, suggesting that through the logic of the bishop's argument, symbols of the rebellious Maroons should also be removed:

The call to change the Jamaican coat of arms by Bishop Rowan Edwards is preposterous! If we were to accept his argument about the presence of the bow in the Tainos’ hands as symbols of violence, the same fallacy could be applied to the abeng of the Maroons, a powerful symbol of African culture and tradition used to alert the villagers if a wedding, birth or death was being announced, or a call to arms for impending war.

The gumbeh drum used by the Maroons and similar types now used in Anglican and Roman Catholic worship were originally for communicating with the dead, or sending messages to start uprisings against the government.

The Jamaican coat of arms, which is now 325 years old, was accepted by the Government and Opposition at the birth of independent Jamaica in 1962 as a ‘badge of great historical significance to the nation’ and should be retained.

Another observed wryly that perhaps it is time Jamaica began to live up to its national motto, “Out of Many One”:

I respect the contribution made by the goodly bishop, and I stand by his right to free speech; however, I totally disagree with his stated position. The truth exists that there are many other things within our culture which inspire and nourish crime and violence. Examples of our music and socialisation can be listed, but the coat of arms is not to be named among them.

This national symbol is perhaps one of, if not the last known symbol which pays regards to the earliest settlers of our country and notes the contributions they made. If changing its substance is a means to tackling crime, then we might as well change the national motto as well, for we certainly haven’t been living as if we are truly ‘one’.

Bishop Edwards’ words have fallen on mostly stony ground. It is generally accepted that the Arawaks were a peaceful people, and crocodiles rarely attack Jamaicans, who mostly treat them with a fearful respect. However, crime in Jamaica remains as intractable problem as ever.

by Emma Lewis at August 18, 2016 01:06 AM

August 17, 2016

Doc Searls
The cash model of “customer experience”

coins

Here’s the handy thing about cash: it gives customers scale. It does that by working the same way for everybody, everywhere it’s accepted. Cash has also been doing that for thousands of years. But we almost never talk about our “experience” with cash, because we don’t need to.

Marketers, however, love to talk about “the customer experience.” Search for customer+experience and you’ll get 35+ million results, nearly all pointing to stuff written by marketers and their suppliers. Even the Wikipedia entry for customer experience reads like an ad for a commercial “CX” supplier. That’s why a big warning box at the top of the article says it has “multiple issues” (four, to be exact), the oldest of which has persisted, uncorrected, since 2012. Try to read this, if you can:

In commerce, customer experience (CX) is the product of an interaction between an organization and a customer over the duration of their relationship.[1] This interaction includes a customer’s attraction, awareness, discovery, cultivation, advocacy and purchase and use of a service.[2][not in citation given] It is measured[by whom?] by the individual’s experience during all points of contact against the individual’s expectations. Gartner asserts the importance of managing the customer’s experience.[3]

Customer experience implies customer involvement at different levels – such as rational, emotional, sensorial, physical, and spiritual.[4][need quotation to verify] Customers respond diversely to direct and indirect contact with a company.[5] Direct contact usually occurs when the purchase or use is initiated by the customer. Indirect contact often involves advertising, news reports, unplanned encounters with sales representatives, word-of-mouth recommendations or criticisms.[6]

Customer experience can be defined[by whom?] as the internal and personal responses of the customers that might be line[clarification needed] with the company either directly or indirectly. Creating direct relationships in the place where customers buy, use and receive services by a business intended for customers such as instore or face to face contact with the customer which could be seen through interacting with the customer through the retail staff.[7][clarification needed] We then have indirect relationships which can take the form of unexpected interactions through a company’s product representative, certain services or brands and positive recommendations – or it could even take the form of “criticism, advertising, news, reports” [7] and many more along that line.[7]

Wholly shit. Do you—or anybody—have any idea what the fuck they’re talking about? Did you even try to read more than a few words of it?

Why would an industry big enough to put 35 million documents on the Web not have one comprehensible document in the only place where it would make full sense?

Here’s why: the industry is talking to itself. It’s one big all-BS echo chamber.

But let’s dig into it a bit, because (bear with me) we actually can fix this thing.

Basically, we have two problems with CX: complexity and perspective.

First, complexity.

Company promotions tend to be complex, because they’re gimmicks. Meaning they are a come-on to customers and not a persistent and predictable part of doing business.

Because promotional gimmicks are temporary and provisional, they also tend to have a bunch of moving parts. Even coupons, the simplest of promotional gimmicks, require that the company mint its own currency, for conditional uses, for limited periods of time, with restrictions on eligibility and lots of other forms of cognitive and operational overhead for everybody: the company, the customer, and whatever other partners that might be involved.

Here’s a good example.

This morning I got a promotional email from T-Mobile with a promo that looked interesting to me: an hour of free Wi-Fi from GoGo In-Flight, the next time I get on a plane. When I went to T-Mobile link for the promo, I found these instructions:

Before you board

  • Have a valid E911 address on file and a T-Mobile phone number.
  • To get your hour of FREE Wi-Fi and unlimited texting, make one Wi-Fi call before you board.
  • If you don’t have Wi-Fi calling, you can still get FREE Wi-Fi for one hour and use iMessage, Google Hangouts, WhatsApp, and Viber all flight long.”

Each of those bullet points contained deal-killing conditions:

  • I don’t know if I have a “valid E911 address.” In fact, I didn’t know what one was until I looked it up in Wikipedia, 30 seconds ago.
  • I think I know what they mean by a “Wi-Fi call,” but my experience of that (or what I think it is) with T-Mobile is with making normal calls on my T-Mobile phone over Wi-Fi where there is no T-Mobile cellular coverage. Would I have to look for a place at an airport where there’s no cell coverage but there is Wi-Fi? Am I making a Wi-Fi call when my phone says “T-Mobile Wi-Fi,” but I’m also getting a signal reading on my phone? I don’t know, and I don’t want to take the time to find out.
  • I have no interest in getting a free hour of Wi-Fi that limits me to four services I don’t use.

So I went on Twitter, tweeted what I hoped would be some good feedback to @T-Mobile and @GoGo. Here’s that tweet, with responses from both companies:

dsearls-tmobile-gogo-thread

Before we go forward with the lessons from this example, I want to make clear that I do appreciate what *NikosP, *RudyG and ^Joe are trying to do here. I am also clear that there are buildings full of other good people, all doing “social CRM,” or whatever its called this week, to care about customers and give them the best possible experience.

The problem for me, as a customer, is that getting this free hour of Wi-Fi on a plane isn’t worth the trouble. The problem for T-Mobile and GoGo In-Flight is that it’s probably not worth the trouble for them either.

Many years ago the great Jamie Zawinski uttered the best (and perhaps only worthy) critique, ever, of Linux. He said, “Linux is only free if your time has no value.” You can swap any promotion you like for “Linux” in that sentence. For example, “An hour of Wi-Fi on a GoGo equipped plane is only free if your time has no value.”

As Don Marti often puts it, customers are much better at applied behavioral economics than any of the companies trying to make customers fall for promotional come-ons.

So I’m wearing my applied behavioral economist hat when I decide that my time is worth more to me than whatever sum of it I might spend getting one hour of free wi-fi on a plane some day, even with all the help being tweeted to me.

I am also noticing that my time would be spent on this thing, and not invested. Worse, it would all be gone in one hour. Worse than that, it would be gone on a plane, where the working conditions are not ideal.

I have no idea how much time and money T-Mobile and GoGo In-Flight are spending on this promo, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the internal and external costs of it turn out to be far higher than whatever they would get out of investing the same amount of money and effort on simply making their services better.

So that’s complexity. Now lets look at perspective.

All of the CX perspective—100% of it—is anchored on the corporate side. Not the customer side. Worse, in every CX case the perspective is of one company, or a small collection of companies (e.g. T-Mobile and GoGo Inflight, or both plus the four other companies in the third of the first set of bullet points above).

See, each company is doing its own kind of CX to “deliver” an “experience” that is exclusive to them. In fact, that’s one way they compete. With this promo, T-Mobile is trying to do something Verizon, AT&T and Sprint aren’t doing.

The problem with this perspective is that it makes the customer’s experience different for every company she deals with. Worse, she has to spend non-recoverable time and effort trying to figure out what’s going on with each of the different companies imposing cognitive burdens along with promotional bargains. As the promos add up, the diminished returns are compounded, and the bargains add up to far less than $0.

If we take away the complexity, and take the customer’s perspective, you see  only two ways a company can “deliver” the best possible “experience” to customers:

  1. By making it as simple as possible to deal with the company; and
  2. By offering better products and services than competitors. That’s it.

For example, my wife and I have T-Mobile phones because we travel a lot outside the U.S. T-Mobile, alone among U.S. mobile phone carriers, provides free data and texting in something like 200 other countries, plus just 20¢/minute for phone calls. We also like not worrying about data usage, because T-Mobile has relatively high data allowances for that. So we don’t worry about going over. To obtain those simple graces, we put up with T-Mobile’s inferior coverage outside metro areas in the U.S. (though, to its credit, is catching up fast).

Our 19-year-old son, on the other hand, doesn’t travel much outside the country, so his phone is on Ting, which has outstanding customer service and the simplest possible usage pricing, with no promotional gimmicks. So both company and customer have low cognitive and cost overhead to deal with.

Which gets me back to cash.

Cash comes from the customer’s perspective. She can use the same cash with every company she deals with. She isn’t busy thinking, “Gee, I need to use Walmart’s money at Walmart and Burger King’s money at Burger King.” The cash in her purse gives her scale across every company that accepts it. Cash also gives her the same leverage across all her credit cards and other instruments of intermediation. It’s a great CX model.

So, is there hope we can wind down the BS in CX, and bring something with cash-like scale into the portfolio of tools customers have for dealing with many different companies?

Yes, there is.

A number of VRM developers are now working on CX, mostly by helping companies welcome help from customers, and learning from it. There are also some CRM companies starting to look toward VRM as a way of giving customers cash-like scale across many different companies as well. (The jlinc protocol, for example, has a lot of promise in that direction.)

That work, and other developments like it, give me hope that “Markets are conversations” will actually mean something—in less than two decades after marketers were first inspired to talk about it.

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by Doc Searls at August 17, 2016 11:41 PM

Global Voices
It's ‘No Mean Feat’ Being a Female Human Rights Activist in Timbuktu, Says Psychologist Fatoumata Harber
Camion en feu dans une région déjà défavorisée par la nature ! Photo de F. Harber avec sa permission

Truck is set on fire in conflict-ridden northern Mali. Photo by F. Harber. Used with her permission.

The attacks that have recently struck the Western world have dominated the front pages of the media. Attacks on less wealthy countries do not often receive the same level of media coverage, as though a life lost in the Sahel or Iraq will inspire less compassion than a life lost elsewhere.

However, fear and loss are felt just as strongly within countries living under the threat of extremists. This is what it’s like for people living in the centre and north of Mali.

Fatoumata Harber has been part of the Global Voices community since 2014. She lives in Timbuktu in the north of Mali, a city that was under militant jihadist occupation for many long months until it was liberated in January 2013. Global Voices interviewed her to give a better understanding of the conditions in which her people are living and the challenges they face in order to survive under the constant threat of conflict. Her unlimited positive energy is contagious as she tells her story of Mali.

 Global Voices (GV): Fatoumata Harber, tell us a little about yourself.

Fatoumata Harber (FH): Je m’appelle Fatoumata Harber, je suis psychologue de formation, j’enseigne la psychopédagogie dans un institut de formation des maîtres bilingue à Tombouctou, au nord du Mali. Je suis également activiste, je suis blogueuse et je suis basée à Tombouctou. Mon nom de plume est Faty.

Fatoumata Harber (FH): My name is Fatoumata Harber, I’m a professional psychologist, I teach educational psychology in a bilingual teacher training institute in Timbuktu, northern Mali. I’m also a human rights activist and a blogger based in Timbuktu. My pseudonym is Faty. 

GV: Describe your daily life like as a female activist in Timbuktu.

FH: Le quotidien d’une militante dans une zone en proie à l’insécurité n’est pas de tout repos. C’est d’ailleurs cette situation qui m’a motivée à militer pour les droits de l’homme.

Le travail que je fais consiste justement à rendre publique et à dénoncer les exactions de ces groupes armés contre la population de la zone. Le nord du Mali n’a pas de route digne de ce nom qui le relie au reste du Mali. Nous sommes comme en vase clos avec ces brigands des groupes armés qui se font passer pour des indépendantistes et des défenseurs de la population. Quand ils ont besoin de quelque chose, ils se contentent de piller les villages reculés. L’information ne passe même pas dans la presse nationale, à force parler de la presse internationale.

Nous autres utilisateurs des réseaux sociaux pouvons faire connaitre ces actes criminels très rapidement, même si les interventions de sauvetage sont rares pour ne pas dire inexistantes.

À cause de mes activités ou pour avoir eu des joutes verbales avec leurs représentants sur les réseaux sociaux, je sais que certains groupes armés me suivent, mais je ne me sens pas plus en danger qu’un autre habitant de Tombouctou. Je suis convaincue que mon travail est important. Il faut faire savoir la réalité: la majorité de la population du nord du Mali n’est pas liée à ces groupes armés, elle n’est pas indépendantiste, mais ce n’est pas une raison pour ne pas dénoncer les limites de l’état dans le cadre de la réalisation des infrastructures de base dans le septentrion malien. Parfois les menaces viennent du côté des autorités.

FH: The daily life of a female human rights activist in an area plagued by insecurity is no mean feat. It was this situation that motivated me to campaign for human rights.

The work that I do is all about drawing attention to and publicly speaking out against the acts of violence undertaken by armed groups against the local people. There is no road worth speaking of to connect the north of Mali to the rest of the country. It’s as though we are trapped in a vacuum with these thieves, these armed gangs, posing as supporters of independence and defenders of the people. If ever they are in need of anything, they simply steal from the remote villages. This information doesn’t even make it into the national media, let alone the international press.

We social media users are able to spread awareness of these crimes very quickly, however, people rarely come to our aid, if ever.

Because of the things I’ve been doing, and the verbal battles I’ve been having with their representatives on social media, I know that some armed groups follow me, but I don’t feel in any more danger than anyone else living in Timbuktu. I know the work I do is important. We’ve got to make people aware of the reality: that the majority of people living in northern Mali are not in any way connected to these armed groups, they are not advocates of independence, but that’s no reason not to publicly criticise the state for its failure to provide basic facilities to the north Malian. Sometimes the threats come from the inside.

GV: Can you tell us about how women are contributing to the region’s development?

FH: Pour la participation des femmes au développement de ma région, j’ai créé le Centre Flag des Femmes, une structure financée par la Compagnie américaine Flag International LLT avec notamment un programme de formation en leadership pour les femmes des groupements féminins que nous avons regroupés en un grand réseau de plus de 200 associations.

Nous apportons également notre aide à ces associations en aidant les femmes qui ont des activités génératrices de revenus de les reprendre en leur fournissant le fonds nécessaire. C’est ainsi que 10 femmes boulangères ont pu bénéficier de fours neufs et de matériel pour reprendre la fabrication du pain qui est traditionnelle à Tombouctou. Nous disposons également d’une salle informatique connectée à Internet – c’est un exploit- pour former les femmes et les jeunes à l’informatique gratuitement. De notre ouverture en janvier 2015 à aujourd’hui, nous avons formé une centaine de femmes et 15 jeunes. Mais malheureusement, nous venons de perdre notre partenaire à cause de l’insécurité récurrente.

FH: To get women involved in the development of my region, I created the Women’s Centre, a structure funded by the American company Flag International LLT, which most importantly offers a leadership training programme to women from various female groups that we have brought together, building a network of more than 200 members.

We can also help by providing the funds necessary to allow women to resume their normal income-generating activities. This is how 10 female bakers have been able to buy new ovens and other materials to enable them to continue making the type of bread that is traditional in Timbuktu. The centre also has an internet room for use – and this was quite an achievement — which allows women and young people to access information freely. From the time we started in January 2015 to today, we’ve trained about a hundred women and 15 young people. Unfortunately, due to the recent troubles we have just lost our sponsor.  

GV: You were involved in the PAT-Mali and the #Mali100Mega programmes. Where are they now? 

FH: PAT-Mali est un programme de L’USAID qui a été d’une aide inqualifiable – selon moi- pour la région de Tombouctou à travers les différents projets qu’ils ont réalisé dans la ville. Le projet est malheureusement fermé début 2016.

L’initiative #Mali100Mega est née d’un constat. Le domaine de l’internet fait l’objet d’une hégémonie de la part des 2 compagnies de téléphonie qui sont presents au Mali. Des activistes travaillant dans le secteur des TIC se sont réunis pour former ce collectif pour réclamer un changement du tarif et une hausse du débit minable qui est pratiqué au Mali. Nous avons ainsi déposé des dossiers au niveau de l’AMRTP – agence malienne de régulation des télécommunications et des postes-, à l’assemblée nationale, au Ministère de tutelle avec une étude comparative des prix pratiqués par ces compagnies. Cela a été aussi suivi d’une campagne médiatique notamment sur Twitter et Facebook, mais aussi à la télévision et dans certaines radios nationales et internationales. Nous continuerons à être mobilisés sur les réseaux sociaux tant que cela ne changera pas. Les TIC ne sont pas un luxe, nous maliens y avons droit, aussi bien pour notre bien que pour notre développement.

FH: PAT-Mali [PAT stands for Support Programme for the Transition from Mali, a programme co-founded by the Malian administration and the US Aid agency to support the transition to democracy and long-term development] is a USAID programme that had an immeasurable impact, in my opinion, on the region of Timbuktu across all the different projects happening in the city. Unfortunately, the project was closed at the start of 2016.

The #Mali100Mega initiative was inspired by this simple fact: the broadband provision in Mali was at the mercy of its two internet service providers. So, activists working in Mali’s ICT sector got together to work on the initiative, which called for price changes and an increase to the pathetic broadband speed that we had in Mali. So we took it to the AMRTP — the postal and telecommunications regulation agency of Mali – and we presented a document comparing the prices charged by the companies to the line ministry at the National Assembly. This was followed by a media campaign, via Twitter and Facebook in particular, but also on TV and some national and international radio stations. We’ll continue to have a visible presence on social media networks for as long it takes to bring about change. Information and communications technology is not a luxury, we Malians have the right to use it, both for our own well-being and our future development.

GV: In a region where the people have so many problems just to get internet access, how do you manage to maintain such a strong internet presence?

FH: Comment je réussis à être présente alors que l’accès aux services tels que l’électricité et l’internet posent toujours problème ? Je contourne tout simplement les difficultés en utilisant les moyens que m’offrent les progrès technologiques : j’ai toujours 2 smartphones performant pour échapper à la menace de la panne subite, par manque d'électricité ou manque de couverture du réseau. J’utilise plus la connexion mobile, qui même si elle est mauvaise, je peux au moins envoyer des mails à d’autres membres de la communauté des blogueurs du Mali qui publient les articles de mon blog à ma place.

Je recharge mes appareils – téléphone, ordinateurs, batteries- avec une plaque solaire spécifique. J'en profite pour dire un grand merci au Réseau des Citoyens Actifs Mali RECAM, qui me soutient financièrement pour que je ne sois jamais à cours de forfait Internet malgré le coût d'abonnement élevé au Mali. Un forfait  2G mobile coûte 13500 FCFA et le service 2G s'épuise rapidement quand on est connecté en permanence.

FH: How do I maintain a presence while access to services such as electricity and internet are always such a problem? I get around it simply by clever use of technology: I always have two functioning smartphones so I’ve got a backup in case one stops working due to power cuts or loss of network coverage. I rely mainly on my mobile connection because even when it’s not so good I can at least manage to send emails to other members of the blogging community of Mali, who then repost items from my blog on my behalf.

I recharge all my devices – mobiles, computers, batteries – using a solar panel. I must say a big thank you to the Network of Active Citizens of Mali (RECAM), who support me financially so that I am never without internet in spite of the high contract costs in Mali. A 2G mobile package costs 13,500 FCFA [23 euros/month] and the 2G service doesn’t last very long when you’re permanently connected.

GV: Any last words for the young people?

FH: Mon mot pour la jeunesse africaine ? L’Afrique a besoin d’une jeunesse engagée pour gagner le défi du développement !

FH: Any words for the young Africans? Africa needs young people who are committed to winning the battle of change!

by Claire Fielden at August 17, 2016 08:47 PM

DML Central
Watchworthy Wednesday: Connecting Hip-Hop and Coding

How can young people use coding to express their interests in areas such as hip-hop dance? To explore this question, Progressive Arts Alliance and the MIT Scratch team will host the Hip-Hop and Scratch Coding Summit, a two-day workshop for educators and program leaders to learn about creative pathways into computing.

The summit, to be held Oct. 21-22 in Cleveland, Ohio, will bring together a diverse group of people who lead programs for young people, especially for youth in underserved communities. Forty participants will be chosen on Sept. 5, so there’s still time to apply.

The summit is part of a National Science Foundation-funded initiative, “Coding for All: Interest-Driven Trajectories to Computational Fluency,” a collaboration led by the Scratch team at the MIT Media Lab, the DML Research Hub at UC Irvine, and Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society.

“The summit will expand the impact and reach of our collaborative cyberlearning project, Coding for All,” said Natalie Rusk, a learning researcher at the MIT Media Lab. 

The Coding for All initiative aims to engage more young people from all backgrounds in expressing themselves fluently with computing by connecting to their interests, in areas such as hip-hop dance, fashion and sports. The initiative builds on the Scratch programming language, which enables young people to create their own interactive stories, games and animations and share them to an online community.

The Coding for All partners, in collaboration with Progressive Arts Alliance, created a dance tutorial, activity cards, and a facilitator guide — all available on the Scratch website.

As part of the summit, participants will engage in a hip-hop dance and coding activity. They will learn hip-hop dance moves, such as toprocking and popping, take photos of themselves in several dance poses. Then, using Scratch, they will animate their dance moves, add music and create interactive dance scenes. And, they will explore connections between dance and coding, including concepts such as sequences, loops, and timing.

“We will use this design experience as a launching point for discussing ways to develop and support interest-based pathways into computational fluency for youth from groups underrepresented in computing,” Rusk said. “And, we will share the lessons we’ve learned implementing this Scratch hip-hop dance activity through workshops with youth and local hip-hop performers at public libraries in Los Angeles and Cleveland. We’re looking forward to bringing together program leaders from libraries, museums, schools, and other community centers to provide more creative and connected learning experiences for young people.”

Since 2002, “we’’ve been developing pedagogical practices that fuse hip-hop and other modern forms of expression into rigorous arts learning experiences,”” explained Santina Protopapa, executive director of Progressive Arts Alliance. ““We’’re looking forward to continuing our partnership with the Coding for All partners by co-hosting the dynamic summit, in Cleveland, that will engage participants from throughout the nation in dancing and Scratching!””

To see examples of hip-hop coding projects created by young people at Progressive Arts Alliance, visit the Hip-Hop Dance Gallery on the Scratch website.

Banner image credit: Scratch

Editor’s note: Watchworthy Wednesday posts highlight interesting DML resources that appear in this blog every Wednesday. Any tips for future posts are welcome. Please comment below or send email to mcruz@hri.uci.edu.

The post Watchworthy Wednesday: Connecting Hip-Hop and Coding appeared first on DML Central.

by mcruz at August 17, 2016 08:00 PM

Global Voices
Some Japanese Find the ‘Dangerous’ Giant Hornet Cute, Inspiring—Even Delicious.
オオスズメバチ

Japanese giant hornet. Image by Yasunori Koide. GNU Free Documentation License.

Japan has a morbid fascination with the Japanese giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia japonica). These giant insects can be found all over Japan, and are especially active in the month of August. Their bites are painful, and a single sting can result in hospitalization. Multiple stings can result in death.

The summer months in Japan sometimes are accompanied by stories of hapless hikers or farmers being swarmed by the giant hornets and stung to death. One blogger has compiled a list of do's and don'ts when encountering giant hornets in Japan. The best advice? Stay away from their nests, especially in August.

There is actually quite a variety of bees, wasps and hornets native to Japan. Hornets are generally referred to as “suzume-bachi” (literally “sparrow-wasp”, likely due to their size) and include the Japanese yellow hornet (Vespa simillima), similar to a yellow jacket in Europe and North America.

Two species of giant hornet in Japan: at left, Japanese yellow hornet (Vespa simillima xanthoptera Cameron) queen with female worker and male drone; at right Japanese giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia japonica) queen with female worker and male drone. Image widely shared on social media.

However, the Japanese giant hornet (“oh-suzume-bachi,” Vespa mandarinia japonica) is a different beast. Related to the “yak-killer” Asian giant hornet, the female workers of the Japanese giant hornet species can grow to 3 centimeters in length, and are large and strong enough to carry the other insects that serve as its prey back to its hive.

The giant hornets fill many Japanese people with a special kind of dreaded wonder.

As soon as I got home I put away my groceries, and started watching…

“Hornets from Hell” on TV.  (‘ε'*)

Ever since I was stung in junior high I've been afraid of bees (I realize I am getting mixed up with bees and hornets). So let's all take the time to remind ourselves to be careful of hornets!

The Japanese giant hornet is most active in August and early September, as thousands of larvae in the nest have matured to become not only new male and female drones ready to take off, mate and find a new colony, but the workers that support and feed them. Anyone out walking in the woods, or even having a barbecue in the park, needs to be careful.

From early August until the beginning of September (horizontal axis) the danger from Japanese giant hornets skyrockets as the number of active wasps (vertical axis) dramatically increases within each nest. Image from grapee.

Hornets and humans can live in close proximity. While giant wasps prefer wooded areas for their nests, the Japanese giant hornet can be found in the city.

While not a giant Japanese hornet's nest, this Twitter user, with a photo of a yellow hornet's nest, shows just how easy it can be to come face to face with a less-than-friendly insect:

Holy crap! There's a wasp nest on our window! This is the first time I've seen a hornet up close!

Giant Japanese hornets can be very dangerous, and in the summer months it's not uncommon to come across signs and cordoned-off areas warning people away.

Anyone coming to the picnic area, but warned! Don't come near the wasp nest!

And, unfortunately for giant hornets, there is not a “live-and-let-live” mentality in Japan:

I found a hornet's nest underground. I sprayed some bug-killer on it.

Still, Japan, like many other parts of the world, has long had a complicated fascination with the giant Japanese hornet.

This is the first time I've been to the bug museum in a while… Here's a model of a giant Japanese hornet my friend made. It's going to be hot tomorrow so I'll just try to do my best at my part-time job.  ^_^

Some people actually stick up for what is really an amazing insect:

While everyone is afraid of giant hornets, when you see them eating sap from a tree they're actually kind of cute. It's easy to get close to them while they're focusing on eating, and they won't attack. Giant hornets are kind of cool. Just be careful to never go near their nests.

It's also often said that the Japanese giant hornet is considered a delicacy by some people, but it's more likely the insect is considered an exotic food you might only ever try on a dare.

Look at this delicious souvenir I got: a bottle of shochu (a distilled spirit similar to vodka) with two giant hornets inside (the shochu was distilled from honey). We then dared each other to eat it. Apparently giant hornets are an effective medicine against diabetes??? […]

Today's edible insects: silkworm soup, cicada rolls, and deep-fried giant hornets.

Others have found beauty in the hornet, such as this potter who specializes in some pretty amazing creations inspired by insects and other animals.

I wonder if anyone will be interested in buying this hornet's nest (with giant hornet) ceramic mug?

by Nevin Thompson at August 17, 2016 04:57 PM

‘Disappointed’ Activists Criticize India's ‘Iron Lady’ for Daring to End Her 16-Year-Long Hunger Strike
Screenshot from the video showing Irom Sharmilla breaking her 16 year long fast

Screenshot from The Quint's video showing Irom Sharmilla breaking her 16-year-long fast.

Activist Irom Chanu Sharmila recently decided to end her 16-year-long hunger strike against a controversial draconian law in order to join politics in India's north-eastern state of Manipur and settle down with her boyfriend. While many have cheered her decision and courage (hers was often called the world's longest fast), some of her supporters and fellow activists are not pleased.

Sharmila, 44, had intended to stay in a local Manipur colony after being discharged from the hospital, where she had been kept detained and force-fed through a tube in her nose on the basis of a law that prohibits suicide. But community members rejected her, as did a local Iskcon temple. Police then brought her back to the hospital to stay in the meantime.

Activists from the group Sharmila Kanba Lup (Protect Sharmila Organisation) complain that Sharmila did not consult them before deciding to stop her hunger strike and feel “disappointed” and “let down”. Another group, the Manipuri separatist organization Alliance for Socialist Unity, Kangleipak, urged her not to marry her boyfriend, a British-Indian man, deeming his Indian descent suspicious; some supporters felt that her relationship might have “misled” her into taking this decision.

Sharmila, also known as the ‘Iron Lady’ of Manipur, started her non-violent protest in November 2000. Her main demand was the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), which grants government forces de facto impunity in their bid to rein in militants and separatists working in the region.

Many consider her to be a Manipuri icon, and say ending her fast and entering politics could sully that image. Another organization, the Sharmila Kanba Lup (Save Sharmila Campaign), was dissolved after she announced she was going to stop her hunger strike, although it appears to have happened with Sharmila's blessing.

Addressing the criticism and local rejection she experienced, a pained Sharmila told the press:

At that moment, I felt the best thing for them would have been beating me to death. What is the difference between being beaten to death or dying from fasting. Not much. They want me to remain a martyr forever. But I can’t always be a martyr.

‘Zenith of moral bankruptcy’

Manu Joseph summarized the situation in the newspaper Hindustan Times:

They said she had betrayed their cause. They had promoted her as “iron lady”, but now she was not behaving like one. Fair-weather friends and family isolated her. People who had made her a deity, now abused her. At least one group threatened her.

Irshad Ahmed reacted to the news on Facebook:

India has lost humanity. India is slowly losing hearts of people of North East and Kashmir.

For a better India we must speak up for rights of one and all, we cannot allow the politicians to divide us further.

Shashikumar Velath criticized on Facebook those who had “exploited” Sharmila:

All human rights organizations – national and international – are responsible for creating an icon without thinking through a focused exit strategy. All exploited her struggle to raise the mast of their narrow campaign narratives, forgetting about the suffering of a real human being. They lulled the society to believe that Irom's hunger strike would be a never ending reality show. This is what happens when human rights bureaucracies elevate everything to clinical assessment of violations vis a vis national and international law standards. […]

Zenith of moral bankruptcy.

Indian actor Renuka Shahane offered up his own home and praised Sharmila's efforts:

Irom Sharmila if you have no place that is willing to accept you please stay with me in Mumbai, it will be an honour! All those human rights & anti AFSPA “activists” who were happy & supportive only when you had a tube attached to your nose for force-feeding or only when you were facing the wrath of the State with courage, are not worth a second thought. You are still fighting against AFSPA; you are going to do that with a person whom you have chosen to love & in a manner that you & only you should choose to do. You are so used to dissent. Now, its from within the people you consideted your own. That is more difficult & painful.

Writing on “infotainment” website Arre, Shoma Chaudhury described the injustices that Sharmila is facing on all sides:

Sharmila’s protest should have become a lightning rod in India’s public life. The media should have given it life breath. The State should have acknowledged its moral force and entered a dialogue. Instead, the media has tired of her and the State has worn Sharmila down and leached her protest of its magnetism.

The situation might be different if Sharmila's former supporters would only trust her commitment to repealing the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, which she has emphasized:

Nobody told me to start fasting then (November 2000). And I dissuaded others from joining me because I knew how hard it can be on a woman with multiple responsibilities in a conflict-torn land. Why can’t they understand I have not deviated from the goal of getting AFSPA repealed?

And besides that, what Sharmila does in her personal life is purely her choice.

by Vishal Manve at August 17, 2016 11:36 AM

Doc Searls
Shooting the Bluecut Fire

BluecutFireTo get away from the heat today—into a little less heat and an excuse to exercise, I drove up to Mt. Wilson, where I visited the Observatory and walked around the antenna farm there. As it happened, the Bluecut Fire was also visiting the same San Gabriel Mountains, a few miles to the east at Cajon Pass. Starting at 10:36 in the morning, it was past 10,000 acres with 0% containment by the time I observed it in the mid to late afternoon.

Here’s a photo set. If anybody wants to use any of them, any way they please, feel free.

The view here is to the east, along the spine of the range, across 10,064-foot (3068m) Mt. San Antonio, also known as Old Baldy. I like to ski there (at Mt. Baldy) in the winter. Nothing like skiing nearly two miles up, looking down on 20 million people enjoying subtropical weather. The lifts are open in the summer (for zip-lining), so you can get up there and watch the fire from a closer (but safe) vantage, I assume. Check first.

 

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by Doc Searls at August 17, 2016 05:30 AM

August 16, 2016

Creative Commons
U.S. Moves Ahead with Limited Code Sharing Policy

Image by Ilya Pavlov, CC0. Last week the White House finalized the Federal Source Code Policy to improve access to software code developed by or for the federal government. The policy is a step in the right direction toward making software accessible and reusable across U.S. government agencies, as well as for the general public. … Read More "U.S. Moves Ahead with Limited Code Sharing Policy"

The post U.S. Moves Ahead with Limited Code Sharing Policy appeared first on Creative Commons.

by Timothy Vollmer at August 16, 2016 10:19 PM

Global Voices
Israel, One of the World’s Driest Countries, Is Now Overflowing With Water
Sorek Desalination Plant. Photo courtesy of IDE Technologies. CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0

Sorek desalination plant. Photo courtesy of IDE Technologies. CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0

This post by Rowan Jacobsen was originally published on Ensia.com, a magazine that highlights international environmental solutions in action, and is republished here as part of a content-sharing agreement.

Ten miles south of Tel Aviv, I stand on a catwalk over two concrete reservoirs the size of football fields and watch water pour into them from a massive pipe emerging from the sand. The pipe is so large I could walk through it standing upright, were it not full of Mediterranean seawater pumped from an intake a mile offshore.

“Now, that’s a pump!” Edo Bar-Zeev shouts to me over the din of the motors, grinning with undisguised awe at the scene before us. The reservoirs beneath us contain several feet of sand through which the seawater filters before making its way to a vast metal hangar, where it is transformed into enough drinking water to supply 1.5 million people.

We are standing above the new Sorek desalination plant, the largest reverse-osmosis desal facility in the world, and we are staring at Israel’s salvation. Just a few years ago, in the depths of its worst drought in at least 900 years, Israel was running out of water. Now it has a surplus. That remarkable turnaround was accomplished through national campaigns to conserve and reuse Israel’s meager water resources, but the biggest impact came from a new wave of desalination plants.

Israel now gets 55 percent of its domestic water from desalination, and that has helped to turn one of the world’s driest countries into the unlikeliest of water giants.

Bar-Zeev, who recently joined Israel’s Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research after completing his postdoc work at Yale University, is an expert on biofouling, which has always been an Achilles’ heel of desalination and one of the reasons it has been considered a last resort. Desal works by pushing saltwater into membranes containing microscopic pores. The water gets through, while the larger salt molecules are left behind. But microorganisms in seawater quickly colonize the membranes and block the pores, and controlling them requires periodic costly and chemical-intensive cleaning. But Bar-Zeev and colleagues developed a chemical-free system using porous lava stone to capture the microorganisms before they reach the membranes. It’s just one of many breakthroughs in membrane technology that have made desalination much more efficient. Israel now gets 55 percent of its domestic water from desalination, and that has helped to turn one of the world’s driest countries into the unlikeliest of water giants.

Driven by necessity, Israel is learning to squeeze more out of a drop of water than any country on Earth, and much of that learning is happening at the Zuckerberg Institute, where researchers have pioneered new techniques in drip irrigation, water treatment and desalination. They have developed resilient well systems for African villages and biological digesters than can halve the water usage of most homes.

The institute’s original mission was to improve life in Israel’s bone-dry Negev Desert, but the lessons look increasingly applicable to the entire Fertile Crescent. “The Middle East is drying up,” says Osnat Gillor, a professor at the Zuckerberg Institute who studies the use of recycled wastewater on crops. “The only country that isn’t suffering acute water stress is Israel.”

That water stress has been a major factor in the turmoil tearing apart the Middle East, but Bar-Zeev believes that Israel’s solutions can help its parched neighbors, too — and in the process, bring together old enemies in common cause.

Bar-Zeev acknowledges that water will likely be a source of conflict in the Middle East in the future. “But I believe water can be a bridge, through joint ventures,” he says. “And one of those ventures is desalination.”

Driven to desperation

In 2008, Israel teetered on the edge of catastrophe. A decade-long drought had scorched the Fertile Crescent, and Israel’s largest source of freshwater, the Sea of Galilee, had dropped to within inches of the “black line” at which irreversible salt infiltration would flood the lake and ruin it forever. Water restrictions were imposed, and many farmers lost a year’s crops.

Their counterparts in Syria fared much worse. As the drought intensified and the water table plunged, Syria’s farmers chased it, drilling wells 100, 200, then 500 meters (300, 700, then 1,600 feet) down in a literal race to the bottom. Eventually, the wells ran dry and Syria’s farmland collapsed in an epic dust storm. More than a million farmers joined massive shantytowns on the outskirts of Aleppo, Homs, Damascus and other cities in a futile attempt to find work and purpose.

And that, according to the authors of “Climate Change in the Fertile Crescent and Implications of the Recent Syrian Drought,” a 2015 paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was the tinder that burned Syria to the ground. “The rapidly growing urban peripheries of Syria,” they wrote, “marked by illegal settlements, overcrowding, poor infrastructure, unemployment, and crime, were neglected by the Assad government and became the heart of the developing unrest.”

Similar stories are playing out across the Middle East, where drought and agricultural collapse have produced a lost generation with no prospects and simmering resentments. Iran, Iraq and Jordan all face water catastrophes. Water is driving the entire region to desperate acts.

More water than needs

Except Israel. Amazingly, Israel has more water than it needs. The turnaround started in 2007, when low-flow toilets and showerheads were installed nationwide and the national water authority built innovative water treatment systems that recapture 86 percent of the water that goes down the drain and use it for irrigation — vastly more than the second-most-efficient country in the world, Spain, which recycles 19 percent.

But even with those measures, Israel still needed about 1.9 billion cubic meters (2.5 billion cubic yards) of freshwater per year and was getting just 1.4 billion cubic meters (1.8 billion cubic yards) from natural sources. That 500-million-cubic-meter (650-million-cubic-yard) shortfall was why the Sea of Galilee was draining like an unplugged tub and why the country was about to lose its farms.

The country faces a previously unfathomable question: What to do with its extra water?

Enter desalination. The Ashkelon plant, in 2005, provided 127 million cubic meters (166 million cubic yards) of water. Hadera, in 2009, put out another 140 million cubic meters (183 million cubic yards). And now Sorek, 150 million cubic meters (196 million cubic yards). All told, desal plants can provide some 600 million cubic meters (785 million cubic yards) of water a year, and more are on the way.

The Sea of Galilee is fuller. Israel’s farms are thriving. And the country faces a previously unfathomable question: What to do with its extra water?

Water diplomacy

Inside Sorek, 50,000 membranes enclosed in vertical white cylinders, each 4 feet high and 16 inches wide, are whirring like jet engines. The whole thing feels like a throbbing spaceship about to blast off. The cylinders contain sheets of plastic membranes wrapped around a central pipe, and the membranes are stippled with pores less than a hundredth the diameter of a human hair. Water shoots into the cylinders at a pressure of 70 atmospheres and is pushed through the membranes, while the remaining brine is returned to the sea.

Desalination used to be an expensive energy hog, but the kind of advanced technologies being employed at Sorek have been a game changer. Water produced by desalination costs just a third of what it did in the 1990s. Sorek can produce a thousand liters of drinking water for 58 cents. Israeli households pay about US$30 a month for their water — similar to households in most US cities, and far less than Las Vegas (US$47) or Los Angeles (US$58).

The International Desalination Association claims that 300 million people get water from desalination, and that number is quickly rising. IDE, the Israeli company that built Ashkelon, Hadera and Sorek, recently finished the Carlsbad desalination plant in Southern California, a close cousin of its Israel plants, and it has many more in the works. Worldwide, the equivalent of six additional Sorek plants are coming online every year. The desalination era is here.

What excites Bar-Zeev the most is the opportunity for water diplomacy. Israel supplies the West Bank with water, as required by the 1995 Oslo II Accords, but the Palestinians still receive far less than they need. Water has been entangled with other negotiations in the ill-fated peace process, but now that more is at hand, many observers see the opportunity to depoliticize it. Bar-Zeev has ambitious plans for a Water Knows No Boundaries conference in 2018, which will bring together water scientists from Egypt, Turkey, Jordan, Israel, the West Bank and Gaza for a meeting of the minds.

Even more ambitious is the US$900 million Red Sea–Dead Sea Canal, a joint venture between Israel and Jordan to build a large desalination plant on the Red Sea, where they share a border, and divide the water among Israelis, Jordanians and the Palestinians. The brine discharge from the plant will be piped 100 miles north through Jordan to replenish the Dead Sea, which has been dropping a meter per year since the two countries began diverting the only river that feeds it in the 1960s. By 2020, these old foes will be drinking from the same tap.

On the far end of the Sorek plant, Bar-Zeev and I get to share a tap as well. Branching off from the main line where the Sorek water enters the Israeli grid is a simple spigot, a paper cup dispenser beside it. I open the tap and drink cup after cup of what was the Mediterranean Sea 40 minutes ago. It tastes cold, clear and miraculous.

The contrasts couldn’t be starker. A few miles from here, water disappeared and civilization crumbled. Here, a galvanized civilization created water from nothingness. As Bar-Zeev and I drink deep, and the climate sizzles, I wonder which of these stories will be the exception, and which the rule.

Rowan Jacobsen is the James Beard Award–winning author of Fruitless Fall, The Living Shore, Shadows on the Gulf and other books. He is a frequent contributor to Outside, Harper’s, Mother Jones, Orion and other magazines, and his work has been anthologized in Best American Science and Nature Writing and other collections. His new book, Apples of Uncommon Character, will be published in September. He tweets from @rowanjacobsen.

by Ensia at August 16, 2016 04:04 PM

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