Berkman Alumni, Friends, and Spinoffs

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

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

July 25, 2017

Marketplace Tech Report
07/25/2017: RIP, Microsoft Paint (1985-2017)
With many cities trying to become the next Silicon Valley or tech hubs in their own right, the job site Indeed decided to take a look at where job growth is actually happening. Turns out the same places (think San Francisco) still have a money monopoly on the market. But there are some promising areas. Indeed's chief economist Jed Kolko stops by to break down the site's findings with us. Next, we'll look at Windows' decision to phase out its Paint program, which will be replaced by a 3-D version. The BBC's Zoe Kleinman explains its appeal, and how even professional artists sometimes use it to create illustrations.

by Marketplace at July 25, 2017 05:18 AM

Global Voices
A Final Glimpse of Cambodia’s Iconic Phnom Penh White Building Before Its Demolition

Bird's-eye view of White Building, July 14, 2017. Photo and caption by Radio Free Asia / Vuthy Tha

This article is reposted with permission from Radio Free Asia. The article featured photos of Phnom Penh's iconic White Building days before it was demolished.

Radio Free Asia

This iconic 54-year-old apartment building with an open sky bridge often caught the attention of artists, dancers, and photographers in Phnom Penh, Cambodia's capital. But now it is being torn down.

The government plans to develop the area into a 21-story multi-purpose complex under a build-operate-transfer (BOT) concession with Arakawa, a Japanese company, at a project cost of $80 million.

The White Building was originally called the Municipal Apartments and was inaugurated in 1963 as a low-cost housing complex. Over the years, it transformed into a notorious slum and crime area, where prostitutes, heroin addicts, nuns, students, children and business owners lived side-by-side.

The building was originally designed by Cambodian architect Lu Ban Hap and a Russian-born architect Vladimir Bodiansky as part of the then-King Norodom Sihanouk’s vision for new Khmer urban transformation. Consisting of six blocks where 493 families resided, the building is located in the Tonle Bassac neighborhood along Sothearos Boulevard, just a couple of blocks away from Cambodia’s National Assembly and Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ buildings.

Only trash and some leftover sheets, pillows and tables are now seen inside the building. Nevertheless, seven families who owned apartments in the building remained defiant as they refused to abandon their apartments and accept ‘lower-than-market-price’ compensation, while other residents from four families residing along the right of way within the building complex also decided not to abandon the building before the demolition which began on 17 July, 2017.

View of White Building complex, July 14, 2017. Photo and caption by Radio Free Asia / Vuthy Tha

Piles of household belongings and trash next to a wall bearing campaign material of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, July 14, 2017. Photo and caption by Radio Free Asia / Vuthy Tha

A household shrine with incense sticks stands in front of one of the apartments in the White Building, July 14, 2017. Photo and caption by Radio Free Asia / Vuthy Tha

Defiant residents sleep on one of the sky bridges in the White Building, July 14, 2017. Photo and caption by Radio Free Asia / Vuthy Tha

Defiant residents who refuse to leave their apartment are seen sleeping inside their blocked apartment, July 14, 2017. Photo and caption by Radio Free Asia / Vuthy Tha

by Guest Contributor at July 25, 2017 01:03 AM

July 24, 2017

Global Voices
Jamaica's First Woman Prime Minister Retires Amidst Praise, Criticism — and a Contentious Battle to Succeed Her

Former prime minister of Jamaica, Portia Simpson-Miller, when she attended the ceremony unveiling the winning design for the slavery memorial at the United Nations (in her capacity, as then prime minister). Photo by United Nations Information Centres, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

On June 29, 2017, Jamaica's first female prime minister, Portia Simpson-Miller, made her final speech in parliament. It marked, at the age of 72, her retirement from representational politics.

Simpson-Miller had been under some pressure to step down as opposition leader ever since the People's National Party (PNP), under her leadership, lost the general elections in February 2016. Former finance minister, Peter Phillips, was returned unopposed as party leader, and sworn in as opposition leader on April 3, 2017.

Ms. Simpson Miller was showered with tributes by colleagues on both sides of the house in a joint sitting of parliament on June 27, where she was described as a champion of the poor. With rural roots, her political journey as a woman and her personal resilience in the face of stiff challenges were often topics of praise and admiration. However, her leadership skills were often called into question during her two stints as prime minister, and as she left the political stage she still had her detractors.

Outspoken entertainer Tanya Stephens took to Facebook to deliver a devastating critique of Simpson-Miller's legacy:

Hearing people lament Portia's departure is like seeing people congratulate my rapist for being a ‘good man'…she isn't a good person. SHE knows that. Besides unqualified AND an embarrassing representation who wasn't even of average intelligence as per her public displays, she was also an awful apathetic human who perfected the art of pandering to the hypocrisy of Jamaicans. I'm happy to see her back. I'm not alone. Good riddance.

Stephens responded to the many Jamaicans who were disturbed by her outburst by simply stating:

That it takes ‘audacity’ to criticize a PUBLIC SERVANT is a tragedy.

As a quite unpleasant war of words ensued, community activist Damien Williams shared:

To compare the fanfare & well wishes towards PSM [Portia Simpson-Miller] to that being offered to a rapist is NOT a critique of her capacity, competence or a commentary on her failures but NASTY personal attack, plain and simple. However, to offer a defense of PSM by doing same is equally nasty. Rape is NEVER something you downplay or use to inflict pain/recompense. We certainly can express dissent without ad hominem. We are always so grotesquely excessive and then use as a crutch, freedom of speech. KMT [Kiss my teeth]

Affectionately known as “Mama P,” Simpson-Miller presided over the gritty “garrison” constituency of South West St. Andrew for over four decades. It is an inner city area of the capital, plagued with poor infrastructure, unemployment and poverty. Columnist Martin Henry wrote:

Portia Simpson came to representational politics at the parliamentary level in 1976 when political tribalism and its ugly pickney, political violence, were on the upswing. The state of emergency declared by the Government that year, partly in response to escalating violence associated with the election campaign, assisted the young KSAC councillor to capture what up till then was a safe JLP seat, having never been won before by the PNP since its creation in 1959. Her 76 per cent margin of victory in '76 just kept growing to the point where it equalled the number of voters, even when a few voted for the JLP candidate.

Since 1976, criminal violence, indexed by murder, has progressively increased, with South West Andrew making its above-average contribution.

Within a week or two of Simpson-Miller's resignation as a member of parliament, the party became gradually embroiled in a political tussle over her possible successor in the constituency. This was reported and commented on in detail by both traditional and social media. Jamaicans have a taste for political intrigue, and many (especially those with party affiliations) are following every twist and turn with interest.

The story began with a drama — and a murder — when local Councillor Karl Blake (considered a possible successor) was injured and his assistant shot dead at their constituency office. Blake, who has recovered, is reportedly no longer interested in contesting the seat.

While Councillor Audrey Smith-Facey, who is campaigning under the hashtag #OurAudrey, was expected to be the main contender, the waters were muddied considerably when a video was posted of Simpson Miller endorsing former Kingston mayor, Councillor Angela Brown-Burke, to succeed her. This was a surprise to many, with some questioning whether it was genuine, having come after the nomination period had ended; this threw the party into further confusion.

According to one news report, however, party delegates are firmly rejecting Brown-Burke. Many would like to see the young maverick, Damion Crawford, in the seat. Crawford is apparently not interested, but this has not stopped him from seeing the humour in the situation (he locked horns with Brown Burke on social media in 2015):

Crawford himself added:

Noting in fake exasperation:

Meanwhile, some journalists are enjoying the cut and thrust within the party:

#OurAudrey shows no sign of backing down, issuing a somewhat sarcastic statement that she expects to be the “standard bearer”. One Jamaican Twitter user was amused:

Not to be outdone, Councillor Brown-Burke is busy campaigning on her Facebook page, with a photo of herself and “her people” in the constituency. She also wasted no time in updating the cover photo on her Facebook page to read, “I'm thankful for my struggle, because without it I wouldn't have stumbled across my strength!”

After a meeting of the party's executive council, the PNP has now agreed to hold a selection conference to decide between the two women on July 30, 2017.

The question remains, though: does Portia Simpson-Miller want to remain engaged with the people of South West St. Andrew, whom she described in her farewell speech as her “armour of steel”? Perhaps that depends on which woman succeeds her.

by Emma Lewis at July 24, 2017 10:10 PM

French Bank BNP Paribas Accused of Complicity in the Genocide of the Tutsis in Rwanda

Screenshot from the documentary on the role of France in the Tutsi genocide -

Identifying the guilty parties in the 1994 Tutsi genocide in Rwanda and bringing them into justice continues despite limited resources and enormous legal and political obstacles. Determining who bears responsibility at the international level, both as far as governments like that of France, as well as supranational bodies, still needs to be cleared 23 years after the genocide.

But last June 2017, three human rights NGOs filed a lawsuit  in the high court of Paris against the French bank BNP Paribas for the latter's alleged complicity in committing genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Rwanda.

The Rwandan genocide occurred from April 7 to mid-July 1994 and was a mass slaughter of Tutsi by members of the Hutu majority government in Rwanda at that time. An estimated 500,000–1,000,000 Rwandans were killed during the massacre. The genocide ended when the Tutsi-backed and heavily armed Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) led by Paul Kagame took control of the country. During the Hutu majority government, France maintained very close relations with the government and assisted Rwanda militarily against the RPF during the Civil War. During the first few days of the genocide, France launched a military operation to evacuate expatriates from Rwanda but they refused to allow any Tutsi to accompany them.

In a press release published on 29 June 2017, the NGOs Sherpa, the Collectif des Parties Civiles pour le Rwanda (CPCR) and Ibuka France explained the reasoning behind their legal action against the group BNP Paribas:

The bank would have agreed to transfer in June 1994, one month after the UN had voted an arms embargo and during the genocide, 1.3 million dollars from an account of its client, the National Rwandan Bank (BNR in French) to the Swiss account of a South African arms dealer, Mr Ehlers.

Mr. Ehlers would have then gone to the Seychelles with a Hutu colonel Mr Théoneste Bagosora to agree upon the sale of eighty tons of arms, on June 17th, which would then have been transported to Gisenyi (Rwanda) via Goma (Zaire). During his testimony in front of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), the colonel Bagosora confirmed that weapons coming from the Seychelles via Goma served to “give a hand to Kigali[1].

Further, the Brussels Lambert Bank (BBL in French) had refused the request to use the funds of the Commercial Bank of Rwanda (BCR in French) because of the UN arms embargo. According to the testimony of a person posted by the BBL in Rwanda, the banking sector, who already was under the obligation to inquire that its clients explain the destination of the funds under unusual circumstances, knew “the Rwandan government had a crucial need for fund […] it was clear for everyone that they had to buy weapons and ammunition. That Rwanda was under an embargo”. According to him, the BNP could have been the only bank which had agreed to provide financial resources to Rwanda.

Thus, according to the testimonies and investigation reports, such as the UN International Investigation Commission, the proceedings prove that the BNP knew the destination of the funds and that it could contribute to the ongoing genocide.

This is the first time such a complaint is initiated against a bank in France on such a legal basis.

The NGO TRIAL International summarized the case against Hutu Commander M. Théoneste Bagosora, who was condemned to life in prison by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda on 18 December 2008 for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes; but whose sentence was reduced to 35 years in prison through an appeal on 14 December 2011:

Bagosora was considered to be the “mastermind of the genocide” and already in 1990, was reported to have developed a plan whose intent was to exterminate the Tutsi civilian population, eliminate all opponents and thereby keep a hold on power. According to the bill of indictment, this plan, made up of several elements, included having recourse to hatred and ethnic violence, the military training and distribution of arms to militias as well as the drafting of lists of people to be eliminated. In the execution of this plan, Bagosora and his accomplices were said to have organised, ordered and participated in massacres perpetrated

The three NGOs are working with SumOfUs, launching an international petition in French, English et German to demand that the financial institutions be held responsible for their role in committing human rights violations in Rwanda. Launched on 29 June 2017, the petition has already collected more than 154,000 signatures calling on the Macron government and the new members of the French parliament.

If the facts are confirmed, the three NGOs consider that:

this legal action would shed light on the potential responsibility of financial institutions when it comes to war crimes, and also human rights abuses.

France has just elected a new President and legislature. With an international outcry, we can ask the new government to strengthen financial sector regulations for BNP and others. The statute on the duty of care of multinational corporations, voted on 21 February 2017, and which applies to banks, should from now on prevent the involvement of financial institutions in such violations.

The culpability of the banking group must not obscure those of the French government, which was suspected by a number of witnesses at the time of the genocide of having aided those committing the genocide in their activities. In his book “La France au cœur du Génocide des Tutsi”, freely available online, author Jacques Morel writes:

France contributed to training and the international recognition of the government which organised the massacres. It evacuated its citizens and fled. It blocked any action by the United Nations Security Council. It attained a mandate that from it, under the pretext of protecting populations in danger, which allowed the escape of its allies pursued by the Rwandan Patriotic Front. This, in the face of the refusal by UN peacekeepers to intervene to stop the massacres of the Tutsi, take control of arms, and put an end to what the United Nations recognized as the genocide of the Tutsi.

Morel is a mathematician who worked at the CNRS. He is known for his 9-years extensive research into the implication of France in Rwanda. Morel unpacks in further details the arguments laid out in his book in the video below:

Pope Francis, in receiving the President Paul Kagame recognised the guilt of certain members of the Rwandan clergy and asked for forgiveness. Will France one day have the courage to do as much? For the moment, it continues to turn a deaf ear. However, that is without considering the determination of the human rights NGOs to fight impunity.

For example, the association Survie recently filed a lawsuit against the politicians and French military alleging “complicity in genocide and complicity in crimes against humanity”.

Even amongst members of the French armed forces that operated in Rwanda and even outside of the country, people are beginning to talk. The former French Army Officer during the genocide, Guillaume Ancel, affirmed on the public news service France Info “that his superiors had clearly asked him to deliver arms to those committing genocide in the refugee camps.”

by Shawn Prest at July 24, 2017 09:21 PM

Info/Law
Identifying and Countering Fake News: New Study Published

Fake news has become a controversial topic, with media organizations, scholars, and even the President of the United States debating the issue. However, it’s not clear what counts as “fake news.” This makes it difficult to diagnose the social harms from fake news, or to create solutions to them. A new report, “Identifying and Countering Fake News,” brings much-needed rigor and clarity to the problem. It is authored by three media and Internet scholars at the University of Arizona: Mark Verstraete, Derek E. Bambauer, and Jane R. Bambauer. The report identifies several distinct types of fake news, including hoaxes, propaganda, trolling, and satire. The study also proposes a set of model solutions to reduce the production and dissemination of fake news.

In the public discourse, “fake news” is often used to refer to several different phenomena. The lack of clarity around what exactly fake news is makes understanding the social harms that it creates and crafting solutions to these harms difficult. This report adds clarity to these discussions by identifying several distinct types of fake news: hoax, propaganda, trolling, and satire. In classifying these different types of fake news, it identifies distinct features of each type of fake news that can be targeted by regulation to shift their production and dissemination.

This report introduces a visual matrix to organize different types of fake news and show the ways in which they are related and distinct. The two defining features of different types of fake news are 1) whether the author intends to deceive readers and 2) whether the motivation for creating fake news is financial. These distinctions are a useful first step towards crafting solutions that can target the pernicious forms of fake news (hoaxes and propaganda) without chilling the production of socially valuable satire.

The report emphasizes that rigid distinctions between types of fake news may be unworkable. Many authors produce fake news stories while holding different intentions and motivations simultaneously. This creates definitional grey areas. For instance, a fake news author can create a story as a response to both financial and political motives. Given this, an instance of fake news may exist somewhere between hoax and propaganda, embodying characteristics of both.

The report identifies several possible solutions based on changes to law, markets, code, and norms. Each has advantages and disadvantages. Legal solutions to fake news are likely to conflict with strong constitutional (First Amendment) and statutory (section 230 of the Communications Decency Act) protections for speech.  Market-based solutions are likely to only reach a subset of fake news. Code solutions may be limited by the difficult judgments required to distinguish satire from other types of fake news. Norms and other community solutions hold promise but are difficult to create through political will.

Some types of fake news are more responsive to regulation than others. Hoaxes are produced primarily in response to financial motivations, so solutions that remove (or decrease) the profit from fake news stories are likely to reduce the number of hoaxes created. By contrast, propaganda is produced primarily for non-financial motivations, so changes in its profitability are unlikely to significantly reduce its output.

The report introduces several solutions that can serve as starting points for discussion about the practical management of fake news, and networked public discourse more generally. These starting points include: expanding legal protections for Internet platforms to encourage them to pursue editorial functions; creating new platforms that do not rely on online advertising; encouraging existing platforms to experiment with technical solutions to identify and flag fake news; and encouraging platforms to use their own powerful voices to criticize inaccurate information.

For more information, contact lead author Mark Verstraete at markverstraete AT email.arizona.edu.

by Derek Bambauer at July 24, 2017 05:29 PM

Global Voices
Truths From the Front Lines of Climate Change in Europe’s Far North

Photo credit: Mose Agestam

This article is based on a piece written by Melanie Mattauch for 350.org, an organisation building a global climate movement, and is republished here as part of a partnership with Global Voices.

The indigenous Saami live in the Arctic regions of Sweden, Norway, Finland and Russia, at the front lines of climate change. These are four stories of Saami people speaking their truths about what climate justice means to them.

“As a reindeer herder you are very dependent on nature”

Jonas Vannar, reindeer herder. Photo credit: Mose Agestam

The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the global average. Since 1900 average temperatures have increased by 3.5 degrees Celsius. Last winter, temperature records led scientist to speak of “Arctic heatwaves.”

Warmer and increasingly unpredictable conditions threaten the livelihoods of Saami communities.

The changing climate poses a huge threat to reindeer that struggle to find enough food when thaw and freeze cover the ground under layers of ice. Recent years have seen mass starvation among reindeer.

These problems are exacerbated by the forestry industry and big infrastructure like wind parks or hydropower that cut off reindeer herding routes and pastures. Mining and mass renewable energy infrastructure expand heavily in Sápmi, with severe impacts on Saami livelihoods.

Jonas Vannar shares his experience as a traditional Saami reindeer herder in the video below. “As a reindeer herder you are very dependent on nature. It is both the biggest challenge and the greatest joy,” he says.

Note: “Sameby,” translated as “Saami village” in this video, is an economic association of reindeer herders that share a certain geographic area. The expression “Saami village” has a colonial heritage stemming from laws for farmers and settlers that the Swedish government imposed on the nomadic Saami people.

“There is a risk for ‘green colonialism'”

Áslat Holmberg, fisherman and politician. Photo credit: Mose Agestam

The number of Saami who still fish in traditional ways is rapidly declining. Áslat Holmberg is one of the few young people that still fish in traditional ways. Fishing has been key for him to gain traditional knowledge and learn the Saami language.

This summer, he won’t be allowed to fish in the rivers his family has always been fishing in. New fishing regulations imposed by Norway and Finland forbid traditional Saami fishing. Even though Saami customs prioritise nature above all else, it’s the traditional ways of fishing that are now most heavily restricted.

Áslat explains how this kind of “green colonialism” makes it harder and harder to keep Saami livelihoods, traditional heritage and culture alive: “…there is a risk for ‘green colonialism’ where vast areas, that often indigenous people like Saami use […], are seen as empty places to be used in other ways.”

“Constant exploitation of nature up here”

Anne-Maret Blind, journalist. Photo credit: Mose Agestam

Saami experience the effects of climate change and exploitation of nature more severely, even though they have done least to cause it. On the contrary, the world can look up to the Saami for solutions to these crises.

Anne-Maret Blind shares what her grandfather taught her about the Saami way of life, their values and perspectives.

“We have 2% old growth forests left in Sweden. That is all we have,” she says:

It hurts in my whole body and soul, in all of me. You will get depressed if you think about it too much. … But I know that there is constant exploitation of nature up here.

‘It’s not only us Saami that pay the price’

Sarakka Gaup, actress. Photo credit: Mose Agestam

Like many other indigenous people, exploitation of nature, racism and rules imposed by profit-driven, colonialist power structures inflict great harm on Saami communities. Climate change and the loss of nature and identity are seen as key factors driving up suicide rates, for instance.

Mio Negga and Sarakka Gaup are on tour with a play to speak their truths about these issues in Sápmi, as a way to heal and move towards a better future. These issues concern all of us, Mio says:

The point is that it should stop being about money. It should be about taking care of what we have left… It’s not only us Saami that pay the price. We will destroy our planet.

Mio Negga, music producer & actor. Photo credit: Mose Agestam

And Sarakka explains:

There is already so much done that cannot be undone. For many people and in many ways it’s already too late. … But as a young person with hope for the future, just choose to believe that things can change… Together we can make it actually happen!

All videos were filmed and produced by Mose Agestam, k13 filmproduktion.

by 350.org at July 24, 2017 03:18 PM

El Salvador Rape Victim Sentenced to 30 Years in Prison for Baby's Death Despite ‘Inconclusive Proof’

[In the sign: “The State must rectify its mistake. Justice for Evelyn”. Salvadoran associations protest, demanding that the court rectify the sentence given to Evelyn Beatriz Hernández. Screenshot from the video report made by CNN.

In El Salvador, there is a fine line between a miscarriage, an abortion, and the murder of a newborn baby.

This conceptual mix is manifested in the country's abortion law, which some consider to be the strictest in the world and recently led to 18-year-old Evelyn Beatriz Hernández being sentenced to 30 years in prison for “aggravated homocide”.

It all began on April 6, 2016 when Evelyn woke with pain in her back and went to her communal outhouse. There she lost two litres of blood, so her mother took her to the hospital. While she recovered, the police went to her home and found a dead baby at the bottom of the latrine. The question: was it an abortion, a miscarriage, or a homicide?

Evelyn is not the only woman to have faced this question in court. According to the Citizens’ Group for the Decriminalization of Therapeutic, Ethical and Eugenic Abortion, 129 women have been tried for abortion or aggravated homicide, and 49 were convicted.

Various groups believe that this recurrent problem has its origins in the country's strict anti-abortion laws. Women who want to procure an abortion legally cannot, so they risk their lives and are then imprisoned. And those who have obstetric complications are suspected of committing abortion or homicide.

Different versions of the case

According to the prosecutors, Evelyn knew she was pregnant but wanted to hide the pregnancy in order to get rid of the fetus. They first accused her of attempting abortion, but in the end she was convicted of aggravated homicide because the baby, at eight months’ gestation, was full term and the forensic evidence was sufficient to declare that it was alive at birth.

En la Vista Pública a cargo del Juzgado de Sentencia de Cojutepeque, se estableció con suficientes pruebas pericial, documental y testimonial, que la incriminada actuó con [premeditación], en contra de la vida de su hijo, porque incluso después de ingresar con hemorragia al Hospital “Nuestra Señora de Fátima” de Cojutepeque, el seis de abril del año dos mil dieciséis, y de diagnosticarle un parto vaginal intradomiciliar, negó que hubiere estado embarazada.

At the Public Hearing in the Sentencing Court of Cojutepeque, it was established with sufficient expert, documentary and testimonial evidence, that the accused acted with [premeditation], against the life of her child, because even after being admitted to “Nuestra Señora de Fátima” Hospital in Cojutepeque with haemorrhaging, on the sixth of April in the year two thousand and sixteen, and having been diagnosed as having had a home vaginal birth, she denied having been pregnant.

However, Evelyn has another version of the story. She testified that she was not aware of her pregnancy because she did not experience symptoms and her menstruation continued normally. This means that she was unable to prepare for her pregnancy and unknowingly increased the risk of miscarriage. Evelyn also claimed that she had been repeatedly raped by gang members. Nevertheless, these explanations do not carry legal weight as all abortions are prohibited in El Salvador, including for pregnancies resulting from rape.

Those who defended Evelyn, as well as feminist organizations, asserted that she was sentenced without any direct evidence. They pointed out that she was a victim of an erroneous judicial process based entirely on presumptions. They added that the forensic documents were inconclusive as they did not determine with certainty whether the baby died before or after birth. For Evelyn and the Salvadoran prosecution, this distinction is key. The prosecutors maintain the latter, which is why Evelyn was convicted of voluntarily killing her child. Her mother, with the help of the defense, is preparing an appeal.

International coverage

Evelyn's case is a complex one that has not only divided public opinion in El Salvador, but has also resonated internationally. However, the facts are difficult to clarify and it seems the international media did not help convey the nuance of the case, claiming that the woman was imprisoned for having a miscarriage or abortion. Tim, who blogs about ‘history, culture and analysis of El Salvador and the Salvadoran people’ explains this in his blog:

Most of the English language reporting is written for headlines and misses some of the complexities of the story. (…) Several English language news reports state that Hernandez was convicted for failure to seek prenatal care. Reading the various reports of this case (I was not in the courtroom), I think this is incorrect. There was testimony that a local health promoter came to check on her three different times because local people in the community were saying she was pregnant. She or her mother did not permit the health visit, but this was not alleged to be the cause of the fetal death. Prosecutors said this proved (a) Hernandez should have known she was pregnant, and (b) she refused the visits to cover up the fact that she was pregnant.

#JusticeForEvelyn

This controversy has given rise to the Twitter campaign #JusticeForEvelyn which seeks to revoke the court's decision. It is led by the Salvadoran association Las17 and has international support.

@berthamariaD explains that the autopsy protocol confirms that the cause of death is undetermined #JusticeForEvelyn

Other groups emphasize the poverty of those convicted, the common denominator among the women accused of abortion or homicide in El Salvador. Blogger Virginia Lemus highlighted this in a harsh and sarcastic tone, using the latrine as a symbol of the misery of these girls in her article “sign of the latrine“.

Nadie parece notar que una y otra y otra vez la narrativa de las mujeres acusadas de homicidio –no de aborto, ni lo quiera Dios– en contra de sus fetos tiene como escenario brutalista y vulgar el baño público. No es uno con pastillitas olor lavanda tropical, toallas suavecitas gracias al poder del Suavitel Adiós al Planchado ni duchas con control de temperatura, no. Son fosas sépticas. Estas mujeres-monstruo, inmorales, capaces de matar a sus propios hijos, suelen tener como escenario el piso de tierra, la pared de bahareque, las lombrices reptando al fondo de la fosa.

No one seems to notice that time and time and again the narrative of the women accused of homicide –not of abortion, God forbid– against their fetuses takes place in the brutal and vulgar scene of the public bathroom. It is not a bathroom with tropical lavender-scented air freshener, towels softened by the power of ‘Suavitel No More Ironing’ [fabric softener] and showers with temperature control, no. These are latrines. These monster-women, immoral, capable of killing their own children, have as their backdrop a dirt floor, mud walls, worms slithering in the bottom of the cesspit.

Finally, members of civil society also seek to highlight the fact that Evelyn's rapists continue to walk free. They assert that the prosecution should pursue the perpetrators of these sexual crimes, and not her:

They raped her, she gave birth to a stillborn child she didn't know she had and she goes to jail, not her rapist. #JusticeFor Evelyn THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE!

Image headline: Rape victim will spend 30 years in prison for losing her baby
Image text: Evelyn Beatriz Hernández Cruz, 19 years old, gave birth to a stillborn baby after months of sexual abuse. She was sentenced to three decades in prison under El Salvador's anti-abortion laws…

This is why we demand #JusticeForEvelyn

Image text: The Salvadoran State asserts that she, Evelyn, killed a human being, and thus convicted her of aggravated homicide. The defense alleges that this is not true, that Evelyn suffered a miscarriage. In the face of reasonable doubt, the State does not listen to reason and convicts her. She, a young woman of 18 years of age, living in poverty in rural El Salvador, where the minimum wage is about 150 dollars a month, who had been raped by gang members, is the only one deemed guilty and criminal.

The impunity of perpetrators of gender-based violence is not unusual in El Salvador, the country with the highest rate of femicide in the world. Most cases of domestic violence, rape and femicide are not reported, and of those that are only one percent result in convictions.

by Kitty Garden at July 24, 2017 02:00 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
Arrest Over a Facebook Rant Brings Trinidad & Tobago's Cybercrime Legislation Into Sharp Focus

Computer Data Hacker image by Blogtrepreneur, CC BY 2.0. Check out their page at: howtostartablogonline.net

A gruesome double murder took place on June 28 in Trinidad, in which a 13-year-old boy and his babysitter were found with their throats slit.

Police initially treated the incident as a robbery gone bad, but subsequently charged the sitter's brother and an accomplice for the murders.

The time in between the discovery of the bodies and the arrests was a distressing one, with many social media users lamenting the escalation of violent crime in the country and venting their frustration at the apparent impotence of the government and protective services to make a dent in it.

But one Facebook user, Rayad Mohammed, took things to another level when he suggested that someone should rape and slit the throats of the family of Prime Minister Keith Rowley.

His original status update was deleted, but blogger Rhoda Bharath made a screenshot of it and shared the post via Instagram.

Mohammed issued an apology, but was ultimately charged with “inciting violence” under the Summary Offences Act, of which Chap. 11:02 Section 105 deals with contentious “publications”. The charge attracts a fine of TT $1,000 (approximately US $148) or six months’ imprisonment.

The case raised critical questions for many citizens about the degree to which the comment was in fact inciting violence.

Netizens debate charges

The local blogosphere was immediately separated into two camps — those who thought Mohammed deserved to be charged for his reckless post, and those who felt that charging him with an offence was overly harsh.

Facebook user Keith Francis rejected outright Mohammed's explanation that he was simply trying to express his anguish over the murders, saying:

I didn't know yuh does rise up against what going on in the country by advocating violent crime. Miss me wid dat shit.

Maria Rivas-Mc agreed:

A woman on television declares that ‘he's being punished for what is going on in society’. Seriously? That's his defence? So, if some crazy had followed through, their defence would be, ‘that guy on FB made me do it'?

Barrister and lecturer Dr. Emir Crowne, explained the original intention of the clause under which Rayad Mohammed was charged:

The provision was enacted in 1951….to deal with the “misuse of telephone facilities and false telegrams.” The legislature at the time sought to capture offensive messages that may have been transmitted by landlines and telegrams.

It is a stretch, a painful one at that, to suggest that online activities are caught by this section—even if those activities are facilitated through one’s mobile phone. […]

To be successfully prosecuted under the Criminal Law, there must be a statutory wrong. In the absence of clear statutory language, there can be no criminal wrongdoing. […]

Indeed, if so-called cybercrimes were caught under this section—and others—there would be no reason for specific cybercrime legislation in the first place.

Attorney Daniel Khan posted a video to his Facebook page In the Pursuit of Justice DK, in which he asserted his position that the comment was “was not a threat, it was not inciting, it was not sedition.”

He argued that Mohammed's arrest should have all netizens concerned:

That Facebook post was disgusting. It was obscene, it was profane, and there's no defending that. […] But let's put emotions aside: that person committed no offence….He has been taken into custody and not released until three days later because his lawyer filed an application to court — and that is the scary thing. There are markers in society where we could say on this date, society went in this direction [….] we may be moving into [an] oppressive and dictatorship society and there'll be no turning back.

Khan even suggested that “people over 40″ may not understand the internet and social media, and advised that the government and police service “get out of Facebook”.

Mohammed, he insisted, was simply expressing his frustration:

He was fed up with crime….[expressing concern that] those that have the authority….to address the crime situation perhaps do not feel such an urgency because they are surrounded by security where crime may not affect them.

Khan believed that Mohammed's arrest infringed upon his individual right to express criticism of the government.

That freedom to criticise is what many are concerned about when it comes to Trinidad and Tobago's draft cybercrime legislation.

Case revives discussion over Cybercrime Bill

In a preliminary response to Rayad Mohammed's comment, the national attorney general (AG) publicly suggested that Mohammed could be charged under the country's cybercrime legislation.

What the AG might not have made clear in his statement, however, is that this legislation is currently in draft form and has not yet been approved or enacted. In fact, the government recently invited commentary on the latest draft.

In the current draft, Section 18 (1) of the Cybercrime Bill 2017 criminalises anyone who “uses a computer system to communicate with the intention to cause harm [i.e. emotional distress] to another person”.

Factors such as anonymity, “the extremity of the language”, the reach of the communication, its context and veracity would all be taken into consideration, but the offender could be subject to fines of up to TT $250,000 (US $36,904), as well as five years in jail.

Some Facebook users have interpreted parts of the bill as an attempt by the government to control the internet.

Tech blogger KnowProSE.com liked “the spirit of the [cybercrime] bill”, but had recommendations to improve it, including technology education for the police and the legal profession, the need for criminal intent to be established if laying charges, the need for independent audits, the protection of individuals’ privacy, and the importance of having different criteria for first time as opposed to repeat offenders.

Journalist Mark Lyndersay shared his concerns about the bill's potential impact on his profession, explaining:

The 2017 edition of the bill tidies some issues, but leaves others in place in a way that’s clearly intended to punish without overdue attention to the consequences for communicators and activists…

The Media Association of Trinidad and Tobago (MATT) and the Trinidad and Tobago Publishers and Broadcasters Association (TTPBA) have also expressed reservations about the bill, saying that it had to potential to “criminalise journalists”.

Centre for Law and Democracy's senior legal officer, Michael Karanicolas, explained:

Overbroad content offences are always illegitimate, but are particularly dangerous online, where many people are still in the process of discovering their voice. The Bill, if passed in its current form, could have a substantial chilling effect on online speech in Trinidad and Tobago.

The twin island republic is not the only regional territory to wrestle with cybercrime legislation. In a recent case in Jamaica, authorities sought to convict a women's rights activist under that country's Cybercrimes Act for “use of a computer for malicious communication” as part of a campaign against gender-based violence. Charges against activist Latoya Nugent were dropped after the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) deemed that it was “not a viable prosecution”.

That dangerous potential for censorship and abuse, many feel, outweighs the outrage that a poorly expressed rant like Mohammed's can generate.

Dr. Emir Crowne, who wrote a post for Wired868 about the problematic aspects of the Cybercrime Bill, summarised the issues this way:

The Bill is an ongoing recognition of the need to protect the citizenry against cybercrimes. In many ways, it is a paradigm shift in the way criminality is traditionally viewed.

However, in addressing this new avenue for criminality, care must be taken to draft legislation that is precise, impairs constitutional rights as least as possible, and sets out clear defences and exceptions, especially where personal liberty is at stake.

by Janine Mendes-Franco at July 24, 2017 01:27 PM

Global Voices
Ghana's Social Media Scene Opens New Spaces for Public Debate

Everyone is trying to leverage digital to reach new audiences.

Digital media has become really popular in Ghana. Photo By  SandisterTei available under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license

During the 2016 Ghanaian presidential elections, amidst the intense jockeying for power, something else was asserting itself. Social media and online platforms became crucial avenues for the electorate. Engaging voters in digital spaces became as important as speaking at a public rally.

It's not just politicians who have awakened to its power. Civil society also are taking advantage of the rise of social platforms, leveraging the popularity of the medium to demand good public services, like access to constant electricity.

Civil society organisation Odekro is harnessing technology to increase transparency in the legislative process. They are working to create a national platform whereby the public can access bills, motions, and parliamentary debates. In 2016, Odekro published online a report on the performance of members of parliament in Ghana to help citizens know how their MPs are faring in representing them in parliament. They used the hashtag #GhParliament to engage online users about their work.

Another think tank in the West African nation has been instrumental in ensuring that citizens are able to use social media to seek accountability from government. Imani Africa helped lead one of the largest protests by middle class citizens in Ghana, demanding better access to electricity, which started with the hashtag #OccupyFlagStaffHouse in 2014. Prior to this movement, citizens in Ghana typically had access to electricity for only 12 hours at that time, but now, Ghanaians have consistent and regular access to electricity.

Imani Africa has risen in prominence ever since. The organisation has carved a niche in Ghana’s policy environment, putting out objective, independent analysis and critique on many issues, such as advocating the privatisation of the electricity company of Ghana to ensure constant supply of electricity to Ghanaians.

Recently, they hosted a forum in the capital Accra to discuss “Governance in the Age of Social Media,” with a particular focus on Ghana and Switzerland.

Founding president of Imani Africa, Franklin Cudjoe, spoke about how the country's citizens are using social media to question acts of corruption and improper accountability:

One bemusing media revelation that was recently made was how the Ghana Minerals Commission reported that Ghana’s total gold receipts for 2016 from all its trading partners was $1.7bn when the Embassy of Switzerland reported that Switzerland alone purchased $2bn worth of gold from Ghana for the same year. Some social media commentators latched onto this confounding story and concluded that this was one of the grand schemes by former government officials to illicitly transfer funds into safer havens. They may be wrong, but the deafening silence from the minerals commission was not helpful.

Today, Ghanaians on social media are quick to make permutations of what number of public schools, hospitals, roads and sanitised water systems could have been constructed had certain amounts of public money not been diverted into private pockets or lavishly spent on the growing number of government appointees. And yes, we also troll our public officials and public figures when they make mistakes. And in this era of fake news on social media, its gotten even merrier.

Swiss President Doris Leuthard also attended the event and spoke at the forum. She gave an example of how her government has created accessible online platforms to enable citizens to identify damaged infrastructure and inform government authorities to fix them:

But there is still progress to be made. Online, @K_amofah tweeted his frustration of how the masses are not doing enough to employ social media during decision making in Ghana:

Alhamudulilah (@lilmodulo) also questioned whether Ghana has benefitted at all from being the first African country to get access to the internet:

In Ghana, out of a population of more than 7 million people, 28.4% have access to the internet, mostly through mobile data plans. Although this puts Ghana ahead of most countries in the region, it still trails behind countries including Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria. Ghana's high mobile penetration rate of 128% (a reflection of many citizens having multiple phone plans) may help pave the way for more Ghanaians to gain internet access and join civic conversations on social media.

by Kofi Yeboah at July 24, 2017 01:22 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
Bahraini Rights Activist Ebtisam Al-Saegh Charged Under Terrorism Law

International and regional human rights groups, including the Gulf Center for Human Rights and Amnesty International, are urging Bahraini authorities to release Ebtisam al-Saegh. Photo credit: Amnesty International

Prominent Bahraini human rights activist Ebtisam Al-Saegh has been charged under Bahrain's terrorism law. She remains in police custody three weeks after she was arrested for her work with the Geneva-based human rights group, Karama Foundation.

On 18 July, Bahrain's public prosecutor ordered her arrest for six months pending investigation, and accused her of “using human rights work as a cover to communicate and cooperate with Al Karama Foundation.”

Al-Saegh serves as the networking officer at Salam for Democracy and Human Rights, where she documents and drafts reports about rights violations. She is also a member of the umbrella human rights organisation, Bahrain Human Rights Observatory (BHRO). Last March, she participated at the 34th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. Security officers arrested her for the second time in less than two months, and raided her home, on July 3.

Just before midnight, five cars and a minivan arrived at her home and a group of armed security agents, reportedly belonging to Bahrain's National Security Agency (NSA) raided her home without a warrant. They took her away from her husband and children.

According to reports received by a group of United Nations human rights experts, Al-Saegh is being subjected to ill-treatment, long-term interrogation and held in solitary confinement at the Isa Town Women Detention Centre.

The arrest comes just weeks after Al-Saegh suffered torture and abuse at the hands of the NSA. On 27 May, she was summoned to Muharraq police station for questioning about her human rights activities. She was immediately arrested and reported to the Gulf Center for Human Rights that she was tortured and sexually abused by members of the NSA. The security officers also threatened to murder her and her children. She was released seven hours later, and she had to go directly to hospital due to the trauma suffered.

After her release, Al-Saegh strongly condemned these illegal practices, describing them on Twitter as a “crime against humanity.”

On 26 June, on the occasion of the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, she tweeted:

Al-Saegh has been harassed, detained and prevented from traveling by the Bahraini authorities because of her peaceful and legitimate human rights activities in the past. When she returned to Bahrain after speaking about human rights violations in her country at the 34th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva last March, she was subjected to a five-hour interrogation at the airport, and then had her passport confiscated.

The authorities have repeatedly asked her not to “go beyond the red lines,” in other words, to stop her rights activism.

Despite the threats and the abuse she has been subjected to at the hands of the Bahraini security apparatus, she has refused to be silenced, and has continued to use her voice to call for freedom and for a prosperous future for all Bahrainis.

The Gulf Center for Human Rights is asking supporters to tweet in English or Arabic calling on authorities in Bahrain to:

  1. Immediately and unconditionally free Ebtisam Al-Saegh;
  2. While she remains in detention, allow Ebtisam Al-Saegh unhindered access to medical care, as well as proper meetings with her family and lawyer; and
  3. Guarantee in all circumstances that human rights defenders in Bahrain are able to carry out their legitimate activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.

Supporters can tweet at Bahrain's Minister of Interior (@moi_Bahrain) and at Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs (@Khaled_Bin_Ali).

The Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR) is an independent, non-profit and non-governmental organisation that works to provide support and protection to human rights defenders (including independent journalists, bloggers, lawyers, etc.) in the Gulf region and its neighbouring countries by promoting freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly. This post was written by the center's executive director Khalid Ibrahim.

by Ellery Roberts Biddle at July 24, 2017 12:53 PM

Harvard Law Library Innovation Lab
AALL 2017: The Caselaw Access Project + Perma.cc Hit Austin

Members of the LIL team including Adam, Anastasia, Brett and Caitlin visited Texas this past weekend to participate in the American Association of Law Libraries Conference in Austin. Tacos were eaten, talks were given (and attended) and friends were made over additional tacos.

Brett and Caitlin had to the chance to meet dozens of law librarians, court staff and others while manning the Perma.cc table in the main hall:

On Monday Adam and Anastaia presented “Case Law as Data: Making It, Sharing It, Using It“, discussing the CAP project and the exploring ways to use the new legal data the project is surfacing.

After their presentation they asked those that attended for ideas on how ways to use the data and received an incredible response- over 60 ideas were tossed out by those there!

This year’s AALL was a hot spot of good ideas, conversation and creative thought. Thanks AALL and inland Texas!

by Brett Johnson at July 24, 2017 06:53 AM

Marketplace Tech Report
07/24/2017: Like LinkedIn, but for musicians
Advanced artificial intelligence requires small, yet very important components: chips. Google happens to be one of the latest tech companies that's starting to get into the AI chip game. And on today's show, we'll chat with Urs Holzle, senior vice president for technical structure at Google, about why the tech giant is starting to invest in this area. Afterwards, we'll look at a new social media service for musicians that may help create the next Sonny and Cher.

by Marketplace at July 24, 2017 05:06 AM

July 23, 2017

Global Voices
A North Korean Refugee and Cartoonist Draws What Life Is Like for Those Who Escape

On the left, one refugee asks, “Are you sure we can really eat as much as we want?” On the right, the other female defector says, “All the food in this restaurant is rotten.” South Koreans use the English word “buffet,” which sounds like the Korean word for “rotten.” A challenge for many North Korean defectors is to learn all of these borrowed foreign words that have become part of the southern vernacular. Credit: Choi Seong-guk

This story by Jason Strother originally appeared on PRI.org on July 6, 2017. It is republished here as part of a partnership between PRI and Global Voices.

The escape of around 30,000 North Korean defectors to South Korea might not seem like a storyline rife with laughter. But an online comic strip series created by a North Korean refugee, who now lives in Seoul, attempts to bring some humor to what is an often-harrowing journey and difficult resettlement.

After his own defection to South Korea in 2010, Choi Seong-guk, 37, realized that the two Koreas were no longer the same country — many cultural and linguistic differences have arisen during more than 70 years of division.

For Choi, who had once worked for Pyongyang’s premier animation studio, SEK, one of the first differences that stood out was that cartoons in the south weren’t anything like the ones in the north.

“When I first saw South Korean cartoons, I just didn’t get them,” he says. “There were no stories about patriotism or catching spies or war. They just seemed useless to me.”

Choi has had a knack for drawing since he was a kid, when teachers praised him for his sketches of evil American soldiers that he says he made look “as ugly and violent as possible.”

This is a re-creation of a drawing Choi made as a young student. It depicts an American soldier kicking a South Korean soldier as they prepare to cross the border into North Korea. The caption reads, “Invasion from the South.” Credit: Choi Seong-guk

In 2016, Choi returned to drawing and began an online comic strip series called “Rodong Shimmun,” which means “labor interrogation” — it’s a play on the name of North Korea’s “Rodong Shinmun,” the labor newspaper.

The satirical series follows a group of newly arrived refugees as they spend their first months in South Korea at a government–run integration center. Choi pokes fun at their ‘newbie-ness,’ like their shock about all the food at a buffet restaurant.

He also tells the story of one lovelorn defector, which he says is based on his own embarrassing cultural misunderstanding.

The defector meets a South Korean woman, who says, “Interesting. I’ve never met a North Korean person before. Can I have your phone number?” Credit: Choi Seong-guk

“One time I met a South Korean woman who asked for my phone number and said she wanted to become my friend,” he recalls. “I somehow misinterpreted that as she wanted to marry me.”

The woman goes on to use a term of endearment that’s casually spoken in South Korea. In a subsequent text bubble, Choi explains to his readers how this caused mixed signals.

“In North Korea only romantic partners would say that to each other. Amongst friends, we just call each other ‘comrade.'”

Not all of Choi’s drawings are funny, though. Some depict scenes in North Korea of people starving in the streets.

Throughout Choi’s comic series are glimpses of life in North Korea. In this drawing, the person says, “Hey, you could die. We should eat this grass.” Credit: Choi Seong-guk

Others portray how some defectors made their escape under fire from border guards.

Choi says he hopes his comic series will help change the mindset of South Koreans, who are generally apathetic toward North Korean refugees.

The caption above the drawing reads: “Escaping North Korea is all about survival. Even if one of your family members get shot and falls down, you just have to keep running.” Credit: Choi Seong-guk

And it might be working.

“Rodong Shimmun” now receives tens of thousands of views and some readers leave comments saying it’s helped them better understand the cultural differences between North and South Korea. Others write that they feel more empathetic toward defectors.

by Public Radio International at July 23, 2017 10:00 AM

July 22, 2017

Global Voices
Mongolian Nomads Say Goodbye to Herding, Hello to Smog

A smog-filled Ulaanbaatar in 2010. Photo by Flickr user Einar Fredriksen. CC BY-SA 2.0

This story by Anne Bailey originally appeared on PRI.org on July 10, 2017. It is republished here as part of a partnership between PRI and Global Voices.

A baby cries for attention while his mother makes tea and tends a stove inside her family’s ger, or yurt. The air inside the heavy canvas walls is thick with the smells of smoke and cheese curd. Two older boys are playing outside.

It’s a scene that could be from any time in Mongolia going back hundreds of years, and just about anywhere in the country’s vast open plains, where families of nomadic herders have followed their livestock for countless generations.

But things are changing fast in Mongolia. And recently this nomadic family set down its portable home in a place they never expected to end up — a sprawling patchwork of dirt roads, makeshift fences and hundreds of yurts in the country’s crowded capital city of Ulaanbaatar.

A few years ago the family gave up on herding and moved to the city after losing most of its livestock in a harsh winter, known here as a “dzud.”

And they weren’t alone.

“So many nomadic families lost their herds” during that time, says Jargalsaikhan Erdene-Bayar, the father of the family. “So they started moving here. And it’s still happening.”

Dzuds have always been part of life in Mongolia, but with climate change, they seem to be coming more often. And that’s contributing to a cascade of problems — lost traditions, displacement, overcrowding. And smog.

Look up on a winter day and you can see it.

“There is this dome over the city, this grey dome,” says local activist Tuguldur Chuluunbaatar.

In the wintertime, many of the city’s new residents burn whatever they have to stay warm.

“Mostly coal,” Chuluunbaatar says, “but some people tend to burn other things, tires, plastics, you know.”

Eight month-old Munkh-erdene sits next to his family’s traditional stove in thier ger, or yurt in Ulaanbaatar. The stoves are meant to burn wood or animal dung, but many families use them to burn coal, causing a spike in air pollution in the winter. Credit: Anne Bailey

Those are very dirty fuels, made worse by inefficient traditional stoves designed to burn only wood and animal dung. And the smoke from all that burning, along with vehicles, power plants, and industry, gets trapped beneath the colder air above the surrounding mountains. Together they contribute to air quality in this city of 1.4 million that can be worse than in notoriously polluted megacities like Beijing and Mumbai.

Erdene-Bayar’s family alone burns three tons of coal a winter.

He knows that heating his family’s home this way is unhealthy. But he doesn’t see another way.

“Burning coal is the only option,” Erdene-Bayar says. “Mongolia has no natural gas, and electricity is expensive.”

The government here has spent millions of dollars in recent years to fight air pollution. And it has plans to spend more to build high-rise apartments with more efficient central heating for families now living in yurts. But progress has been slow, and many migrants don’t want to give up their traditional homes for walls of concrete. Many still hope to go back to their old ways. But that may be an unrealistic hope.

“Desertification is a real, issue,” says Batjargal Zamba, a meteorologist and advisor to Mongolia’s Environment Ministry. “And according to the global warming, the arid area in Mongolia will expand.”

That means less grass for livestock. Which likely means there’ll be even fewer nomadic families, more migration to Ulaanbaatar and more challenges for the city.

Local activists like Chuluunbaatar know there’s not much they can do to solve those big problems, but they’re still pushing for change. Chuluunbaatar is part of a community project that maps environmental and social conditions in the city’s ger district — everything from average distance to a water supply to locations of illegal trash dumps to air pollution. The goal is to use the data to help rally support for action.

“It's really hard to make the government do something when you're alone,” Chuluunbaatar says. “But by the community, the voice is very strong.”

And things are slowly changing. The government has rolled out tax breaks for small businesses to produce better stoves, and it’s created incentives to encourage residents to heat with somewhat cleaner electricity.

But it’s a slow process, and Erdene-Bayar, the former herder, says he hasn’t noticed any improvements.

“Air pollution is a big issue,” he says. “It’s very dangerous for us to live here.”

Against all odds, Erdene-Bayar and his family still dream of returning to the country, where the air is clean.

“I want to continue with my nomadic lifestyle,” he says. “I love herding.”

Jargalsaikhan Erdene-Bayar holds his eight-month-old son Munkh-erdene inside his family’s ger in Ulaanbaatar. Erdene-Bayar herded livestock in the countryside until a harsh winter killed most of his animals and forced him to look for work in the city. Credit: Anne Bailey

by Public Radio International at July 22, 2017 10:00 AM

In the Depths of the Ecuadorian Amazon, Digital Communications Aid the Process of Self-Determination

Communication is an important element of the strategy of Sarayaku's defense of land rights.
Photo provided by the Sarayaku communications team and used with permission.

Residing within the southern part of Ecuador’s Amazon region, the approximately 1,200-strong Kichwa community of Sarayaku have drawn international attention for their battles over land and indigenous rights—battles that have relied on worldwide support.

Since 1996, when the Ecuadorian government gave concessions for exploration and extraction to corporations without consultation or consent from the community of Sarayaku, its people have fought against oil extraction in their territory. Extraction represented a threat to the land and to Sumak Kawsay, or good living, a community understating of life which, among other aspects, promotes harmonious coexistence between humans and nature.

The Sarayaku community took their fight to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in 2003, winning the case against the Ecuadorian state in 2012.

Though the group's struggles are about defending the inherited practices and traditional knowledge of their people, that doesn’t mean they avoid modern methods. Members of their community and other indigenous leaders recently shared with Global Voices how communications technologies such as the internet have played a crucial role in building international solidarity for their demands.

Rejecting Silence

For the people of Sarayaku, the use of mobile and virtual technologies is a means of rejecting silence, of connecting more deeply with others and with each other, and of building a bridge to the future. As Mirian Cisneros, Sarayaku’s current president, explained, making themselves heard has been an uphill battle for the people of Sarayaku:

Alguna gente en el poder ha tratado de silenciarnos y nos han privado de la posibilidad de expresarnos con libertad, pero nosotros mantenemos un activismo continuo porque queremos ser respetados y hacer escuchar nuestras voces a través de nuestras luchas. Somos un pueblo que quiere defender su territorio para poder sobrevivir y dejar un legado de resistencia, respeto y fuerza para futuras generaciones.

Some people in power have tried to silence us and to deny us the possibility of expressing ourselves freely. We've continued our activism because we want to be respected and, through our battles, make our voices heard. We want to defend our territory so that we can continue to survive and leave a legacy of resistance, respect and strength for the generations to come.

The community runs a blog, Sarayaku: El Pueblo del Medio Día. José Santi, one of the people in charge of the blog, told us that as they started realizing that the government and others had different perspectives on the extraction issue, the community quickly acknowledged the need to establish their own channels of communication.

That need is also driven by the sense that bottom their culture is neither understood nor respected. According to Hilda Santi, a former Sarayaku community president and current leader of education:

El gobierno habla de interculturalidad pero es solo una expresión sin fundamento. No hay un respeto real por nuestra cultura, solo quieren imponer formas de vida externas que no están alineadas con la nuestra. Tenemos mucho que decir y ofrecer y estamos encontrando nuevas vías de comunicación para que jóvenes, mujeres y hombres podamos ser protagonistas de informaciones.

The government talks about interculturality but it is just a word without foundation. There is no real respect for our culture, they just want to impose external ways of life that are not aligned with ours. We have much to say and to offer, and we are finding new communication channels so that our youth and the men and women from our community are protagonists in the information produced.

Connecting to others and each other

The reach of the Internet and other digital communications methods has also been important given Sarayaku’s remote location—the area is accessible only by light aircraft or canoe, after a two-hour drive from the city of Puyo. Internet and mobile coverage in the area is still limited, but community members have employed multiple strategies to encourage the use of online tools. Santi told Global Voices that besides the blog he helps run, they also have a Facebook page and  Twitter account to promote their initiatives at both nationally and internationally.

Andrés Tapia, one of the people in charge of the communication of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon (CONFENIAE), has worked with the Sarayaku for many years. Tapia observed that internet communication provides an important opportunity for sharing information, especially about culture and land rights, not only with non-indigenous people, but also among other indigenous communities.

While a certain amount of energy is devoted to transmitting community knowledge beyond Sarayaku’s borders, digital communication is also valuable for internal communication. Apawki Castro, the head of communications for the Confederation of the Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) , noted that the sharing of knowledge even internally has in fact been the more crucial part of the strategies employed by Sarayaku and other Ecuadorian communities:

Hay que aprovechar las redes sociales porque tienen la fortaleza de crear nuevas vías de comunicación y complementar las formas de comunicación tradicional como las asambleas.

We need to use social networks because they contribute to create new communication avenues and to complement traditional forms of communication, such as community meetings.

Katy Betancourt Machoa, director of Women for CONAIE. Republished with permission from CONAIE'S web site, https://conaie.org

A legacy for the future

According to Katy Betancourt Machoa, director of Women for CONAIEC, communicating digitally has also allowed the people of Sarayaku to articulate a diversity of perspectives and opinions among themselves:

Hay puntos de vista diversos y los diferentes canales de comunicación nos ayudan a articular estas posiciones y a encontrar maneras de organizarnos para resistir a los proyectos extractivos y a los otros temas que afectan directamente a la población indígena, pero que también afectan a los intereses del país en general.

There are diverse points of view and the different communication channels help us articulate these positions so that we organize ourselves and strengthen our efforts to resist extraction projects and the other issues that directly affect the indigenous population, but also affect the interests of the country more broadly.

While Sarayaku members use the Internet to communicate their interpretations of traditions connected to the land and environment, the newer forms of communication are equally about their future where, according to Sarayaku President Cisneros, women, children, and grandchildren can play crucial roles:

Queremos que las mujeres tomen un rol activo en la comunicación de Sarayaku porque las mujeres somos fuertes, somos valientes, y podemos liderar. Nuestra lucha no ha sido fácil, pero es el legado que estamos dejando a los jóvenes. No queremos que nuestros hijos y nietos vean solo en un libro nuestra historia, queremos que ellos vivan lo que nosotros estamos promoviendo, y sientan lo que nosotros estamos sintiendo ahora para que ellos también se unan a nuestra lucha.

We want women to take an active role in the communication of Sarayaku because we are strong, we are brave, and we can lead. Our fight has not been easy, but it is the legacy that we are leaving to the younger generations. We don’t want our children and grandchildren to learn our history only from books. We want them to live what we are promoting and we want them to feel what we are feeling so that they too get involved in our fight.

As the Kichwa People of Sarayaku continue to work through their past, present, and future within the larger national and international context, it looks like digital communications will be part of the process. In the end, Castro’s insight on media representation seems key:

El enfoque siempre es la autodeterminación desde los propios pueblos. No queremos que nadie nos dé hablando sino aliados que nos ayuden a visibilizar lo que nosotros estamos diciendo para así seguir rompiendo fronteras.

Our focus is always the self-determination of our own people. We do not want people speaking for us, but allies who who help us render what we are saying more visible so that we keep breaking boundaries in this way.

Sarayaku's president, Mirian Cisnero. Republished with permission from Sarayaku's blog, Pueblo Sarayaku, http://sarayaku.org/.

Through different projects, local organizations continue to join efforts with Sarayaku and communities facing similar struggles, to look for different avenues and tools to strengthen and share their voices, their acts of resistance, and their experiences, with broader audiences.

Stay tuned for more information about our continued conversations with the Kichwa People of Sarayaku in future posts.

by Belen Febres-Cordero at July 22, 2017 04:53 AM

Arrest Over a Facebook Rant Brings Trinidad & Tobago's Cybercrime Legislation Into Sharp Focus

Computer Data Hacker image by Blogtrepreneur, CC BY 2.0. Check out their page at: howtostartablogonline.net

A gruesome double murder took place on June 28 in Trinidad, in which a 13-year-old boy and his babysitter were found with their throats slit.

Police initially treated the incident as a robbery gone bad, but subsequently charged the sitter's brother and an accomplice for the murders.

The time in between the discovery of the bodies and the arrests was a distressing one, with many social media users lamenting the escalation of violent crime in the country and venting their frustration at the apparent impotence of the government and protective services to make a dent in it.

But one Facebook user, Rayad Mohammed, took things to another level when he suggested that someone should rape and slit the throats of the family of Prime Minister Keith Rowley.

His original status update was deleted, but blogger Rhoda Bharath made a screenshot of it and shared the post via Instagram.

Mohammed issued an apology, but was ultimately charged with “inciting violence” under the Summary Offences Act, of which Chap. 11:02 Section 105 deals with contentious “publications”. The charge attracts a fine of TT $1,000 (approximately US $148) or six months’ imprisonment.

The case raised critical questions for many citizens about the degree to which the comment was in fact inciting violence.

Netizens debate charges

The local blogosphere was immediately separated into two camps — those who thought Mohammed deserved to be charged for his reckless post, and those who felt that charging him with an offence was overly harsh.

Facebook user Keith Francis rejected outright Mohammed's explanation that he was simply trying to express his anguish over the murders, saying:

I didn't know yuh does rise up against what going on in the country by advocating violent crime. Miss me wid dat shit.

Maria Rivas-Mc agreed:

A woman on television declares that ‘he's being punished for what is going on in society’. Seriously? That's his defence? So, if some crazy had followed through, their defence would be, ‘that guy on FB made me do it'?

Barrister and lecturer Dr. Emir Crowne, explained the original intention of the clause under which Rayad Mohammed was charged:

The provision was enacted in 1951….to deal with the “misuse of telephone facilities and false telegrams.” The legislature at the time sought to capture offensive messages that may have been transmitted by landlines and telegrams.

It is a stretch, a painful one at that, to suggest that online activities are caught by this section—even if those activities are facilitated through one’s mobile phone. […]

To be successfully prosecuted under the Criminal Law, there must be a statutory wrong. In the absence of clear statutory language, there can be no criminal wrongdoing. […]

Indeed, if so-called cybercrimes were caught under this section—and others—there would be no reason for specific cybercrime legislation in the first place.

Attorney Daniel Khan posted a video to his Facebook page In the Pursuit of Justice DK, in which he asserted his position that the comment was “was not a threat, it was not inciting, it was not sedition.”

He argued that Mohammed's arrest should have all netizens concerned:

That Facebook post was disgusting. It was obscene, it was profane, and there's no defending that. […] But let's put emotions aside: that person committed no offence….He has been taken into custody and not released until three days later because his lawyer filed an application to court — and that is the scary thing. There are markers in society where we could say on this date, society went in this direction [….] we may be moving into [an] oppressive and dictatorship society and there'll be no turning back.

Khan even suggested that “people over 40″ may not understand the internet and social media, and advised that the government and police service “get out of Facebook”.

Mohammed, he insisted, was simply expressing his frustration:

He was fed up with crime….[expressing concern that] those that have the authority….to address the crime situation perhaps do not feel such an urgency because they are surrounded by security where crime may not affect them.

Khan believed that Mohammed's arrest infringed upon his individual right to express criticism of the government.

That freedom to criticise is what many are concerned about when it comes to Trinidad and Tobago's draft cybercrime legislation.

Case revives discussion over Cybercrime Bill

In a preliminary response to Rayad Mohammed's comment, the national attorney general (AG) publicly suggested that Mohammed could be charged under the country's cybercrime legislation.

What the AG might not have made clear in his statement, however, is that this legislation is currently in draft form and has not yet been approved or enacted. In fact, the government recently invited commentary on the latest draft.

In the current draft, Section 18 (1) of the Cybercrime Bill 2017 criminalises anyone who “uses a computer system to communicate with the intention to cause harm [i.e. emotional distress] to another person”.

Factors such as anonymity, “the extremity of the language”, the reach of the communication, its context and veracity would all be taken into consideration, but the offender could be subject to fines of up to TT $250,000 (US $36,904), as well as five years in jail.

Some Facebook users have interpreted parts of the bill as an attempt by the government to control the internet.

Tech blogger KnowProSE.com liked “the spirit of the [cybercrime] bill”, but had recommendations to improve it, including technology education for the police and the legal profession, the need for criminal intent to be established if laying charges, the need for independent audits, the protection of individuals’ privacy, and the importance of having different criteria for first time as opposed to repeat offenders.

Journalist Mark Lyndersay shared his concerns about the bill's potential impact on his profession, explaining:

The 2017 edition of the bill tidies some issues, but leaves others in place in a way that’s clearly intended to punish without overdue attention to the consequences for communicators and activists…

The Media Association of Trinidad and Tobago (MATT) and the Trinidad and Tobago Publishers and Broadcasters Association (TTPBA) have also expressed reservations about the bill, saying that it had to potential to “criminalise journalists”.

Centre for Law and Democracy's senior legal officer, Michael Karanicolas, explained:

Overbroad content offences are always illegitimate, but are particularly dangerous online, where many people are still in the process of discovering their voice. The Bill, if passed in its current form, could have a substantial chilling effect on online speech in Trinidad and Tobago.

The twin island republic is not the only regional territory to wrestle with cybercrime legislation. In a recent case in Jamaica, authorities sought to convict a women's rights activist under that country's Cybercrimes Act for “use of a computer for malicious communication” as part of a campaign against gender-based violence. Charges against activist Latoya Nugent were dropped after the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) deemed that it was “not a viable prosecution”.

That dangerous potential for censorship and abuse, many feel, outweighs the outrage that a poorly expressed rant like Mohammed's can generate.

Dr. Emir Crowne, who wrote a post for Wired868 about the problematic aspects of the Cybercrime Bill, summarised the issues this way:

The Bill is an ongoing recognition of the need to protect the citizenry against cybercrimes. In many ways, it is a paradigm shift in the way criminality is traditionally viewed.

However, in addressing this new avenue for criminality, care must be taken to draft legislation that is precise, impairs constitutional rights as least as possible, and sets out clear defences and exceptions, especially where personal liberty is at stake.

by Janine Mendes-Franco at July 22, 2017 12:24 AM

July 21, 2017

Global Voices Advocacy
Russia's Parliament Went on a Censorship Binge Today

The Kremlin is cracking down on online anonymity. Again. Images mixed by Tetyana Lokot.

Russia's lower house of parliament approved a spate of censorship laws today, voting for legislation that will prohibit messaging services from allowing users to communicate anonymously, outlaw the use of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), proxies, and other anonymizers, and require search engines to hide links to blocked sites.

In the last week before its summer recess, the State Duma passed an astonishing number of bills—69 in the last three days alone. Today's legislation, which is being sold as an important contribution to Russian national security, is the latest attempt by the government to monitor online activity. Many elements of the bills correspond with Vladimir Putin's Strategy for the Development of an Information Society and may presage more repressive regulatory measures.

The bill regulating messaging platforms requires services to provide a telephone number to verify a user's identity. The bill will force popular local messaging services like Telegram, Viber and Whatsapp to deny access to users who do not provide information verifying their identity.

The law also will require companies to prevent illegal content from being distributed across their platforms, a nearly impossible task given the volume of user messages sent across such platforms each day. The bill includes a provision that allows courts to instruct messaging services to block individual users’ messages.

The law also requires companies to allow state authorities to use their networks to send mass messages to their entire Russian user base.

Companies that do not comply with the law risk being blocked by Roskomnadzor, Russia's state censor.

The Duma approved a separate bill that requires internet anonymizers, including VPNs, to restrict access to certain online online content or risk being blocked by Roskomnadzor. The Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) and the Federal Security Service (FSB) will be responsible for tracking the anonymizing services. This regulation also mandates that search engines prevent links to blocked websites from showing up in search results.

Both bills are already being criticized for their lack of precision, which will likely leave the door open for state abuse.

On the same day, the Duma passed yet another bill mandating that SIM-card purchasers present a valid passport so that telecom providers are able to verify the identity of their subscribers.

The legislation must now be approved by Russia's upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, and then sent to the Kremlin to be signed by Vladimir Putin before it becomes law.

Some messaging services are already indicating that they will comply with the legislation, which would enter into force on January 1, 2018. The head of the messaging app Viber, which was one of the first companies to comply with a 2015 law mandating that internet companies store data belonging to Russian citizens on Russian soil, has announced that his company will comply fully with Russian legislation.

Telegram recently bowed to pressure from Russian authorities, agreeing to register the company but not to store user information in Russia or turn over any personal data to the government.

The Duma is likely to pass more restrictive regulations when it reconvenes in September: yesterday, at the NextM digital conference in Moscow, Leonid Levin, chairman of the State Duma Committee on Information Policy, Information Technologies, and Communication, announced that in the near future the government would have no choice but to pass more regulation on big data, the Internet of things, blockchain, and a number of other technologies.

by Isaac Webb at July 21, 2017 09:46 PM

Global Voices
Russia's Parliament Went on a Censorship Binge Today

The Kremlin is cracking down on online anonymity. Again. Images mixed by Tetyana Lokot.

Russia's lower house of parliament approved a spate of censorship laws today, voting for legislation that will prohibit messaging services from allowing users to communicate anonymously, outlaw the use of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), proxies, and other anonymizers, and require search engines to hide links to blocked sites.

In the last week before its summer recess, the State Duma passed an astonishing number of bills—69 in the last three days alone. Today's legislation, which is being sold as an important contribution to Russian national security, is the latest attempt by the government to monitor online activity. Many elements of the bills correspond with Vladimir Putin's Strategy for the Development of an Information Society and may presage more repressive regulatory measures.

The bill regulating messaging platforms requires services to provide a telephone number to verify a user's identity. The bill will force popular local messaging services like Telegram, Viber and Whatsapp to deny access to users who do not provide information verifying their identity.

The law also will require companies to prevent illegal content from being distributed across their platforms, a nearly impossible task given the volume of user messages sent across such platforms each day. The bill includes a provision that allows courts to instruct messaging services to block individual users’ messages.

The law also requires companies to allow state authorities to use their networks to send mass messages to their entire Russian user base.

Companies that do not comply with the law risk being blocked by Roskomnadzor, Russia's state censor.

The Duma approved a separate bill that requires internet anonymizers, including VPNs, to restrict access to certain online online content or risk being blocked by Roskomnadzor. The Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) and the Federal Security Service (FSB) will be responsible for tracking the anonymizing services. This regulation also mandates that search engines prevent links to blocked websites from showing up in search results.

Both bills are already being criticized for their lack of precision, which will likely leave the door open for state abuse.

On the same day, the Duma passed yet another bill mandating that SIM-card purchasers present a valid passport so that telecom providers are able to verify the identity of their subscribers.

The legislation must now be approved by Russia's upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, and then sent to the Kremlin to be signed by Vladimir Putin before it becomes law.

Some messaging services are already indicating that they will comply with the legislation, which would enter into force on January 1, 2018. The head of the messaging app Viber, which was one of the first companies to comply with a 2015 law mandating that internet companies store data belonging to Russian citizens on Russian soil, has announced that his company will comply fully with Russian legislation.

Telegram recently bowed to pressure from Russian authorities, agreeing to register the company but not to store user information in Russia or turn over any personal data to the government.

The Duma is likely to pass more restrictive regulations when it reconvenes in September: yesterday, at the NextM digital conference in Moscow, Leonid Levin, chairman of the State Duma Committee on Information Policy, Information Technologies, and Communication, announced that in the near future the government would have no choice but to pass more regulation on big data, the Internet of things, blockchain, and a number of other technologies.

by Isaac Webb at July 21, 2017 08:51 PM

MIT Center for Civic Media
Lessons from Galileo on Science and Religion: Eric Salobir and Maria Zuber at the Defiance Conference

Today at the MIT Media Lab's Defiance conference, Jonathan Zittrain facilitated a conversation about the story of Galileo and what it means for our understanding of research and activism that violates deeply-held boundaries. Joining the conversation were Father Eric Salobir and Professor Maria Zuber.

Father Eric Salobir is a Roman Catholic priest and a member of the Order of Preachers (known as Dominicans). As part of the General curia (government) of this religious order, he is in charge of media and technology. He is also the founder of the OPTIC network aimed to promote researches and innovation in the field of digital humanities.

Maria T. Zuber is Vice President for Research and E. A. Griswold Professor of Geophysics at MIT, where she has responsibility for research administration and policy, overseeing MIT Lincoln Laboratory and over 60 research laboratories and centers at the Institute.

Jonathan opens up by asking Father Eric how he started on a career as a person of faith, especially after a career as a banker. Eric responds, "while I was a banker, I found myself loving my work to bring people joy and hope and engage around ideas. Over time, I realized I wanted to do this all the time. I discovered the dominicans." Joining an order is like entering a bath time and time again. I met with many people inside and outside the church. I learned that one of the big problems in our time is a lack of hope. When you have two dominicans, you have three opinions: you don't have to enter a box or deny anything of who you are, he says. Jonathan asks: is there a moment when you have to take an oath? Father Eric responds that the Dominicans have an oath: a vow of obedience to God. After you make that decision, Dominicans have to follow the decision they made on their own.

Jonathan asks Maria Zuber: "you're a planetary scientist studying plate tectonics. Was there a moment when you felt: that's my calling?" No, says Maria; it was genetically-encoded in me to become a scientist. There are stories in my family about me in my playpen, rockets taking off, and me pointing at the rockets. Maria started reading science textbooks in elementary school. She always wanted to do astronomical research and has never deviated from the plan.

Jonathan asks about the story of Galileo. When most people hear about him and his work, what's the canonical story and the real one? Maria responds that Galileo was convicted of heresy for his support of the Copernican system, our understanding of the solar system where the sun is at the center. This system replaced the Ptolemaic system, which put the earth at the center. It is true that Galileo was accused of heresy by the Catholics. But Galileo didn't help himself, she says. The church was open to the idea of Galileo exploring the Copernican idea. He took observations that showed things like the moons of Jupiter, showing that things went around other things than the Earth. The church was open to him publishing material that treated the idea as a theory, but he wanted it viewed as fact, and there were still things that were unexplained. Was the church more scientific about this than Galileo, asks Jonathan? Maria notes that Galileo went after passages in the Bible that were consistent with the Earth being fixed and claimed that it was incorrect, despite their being multiple possible interpretations. It wasn't what Galileo said, says Maria, but rather how he said it.

In the latter part of his life, Galileo moved away from collecting data and dedicated himself to seeing that it be adopted. Perhaps if he had continued to collect data, things might have gone in another way, says Maria. Jonathan next asks Father Eric what the story of Galileo is within the Dominican order. Father Eric thinks there was an epistemological over-reach on both sides. Galileo wanted to think about the consequences of his theory for theology, but the theologians did the same. They were not able to be challenged and should have faced the evidence, says Father Eric. In the time of Galileo, people saw science as unifying–so changes in one area were seen as threats to others. In-between the scripture and the science is the interpretation of the scripture. In John Paul II's statement on Galileo, he argued that the theologians were unable to reconsider their understandings, and they preferred to shut out Galileo.

In 1979 John Paul II wrote of Galileo that, he "had to suffer a great deal... I hope that theologians, scholars and historians, animated by a spirit of sincere collaboration, will study the Galileo case more deeply and, in frank recognition of wrongs from whatever side they come, dispel the mistrust that still opposes, in many minds, a fruitful concord between science and faith." Why 1979, asks Jonathan. Maria points out that as early as the mid-1700s, pope Benedict allowed the publication of Galileo's book. It had been on the banned list, and then it was given approval; people in the church thought the matter was settled then. But that wasn't universally understood within the church or outside it.

What lessons might we draw from this history? asks Jonathan. Maria says that religion can help provide order to people who would otherwise fear their world. Science wasn't seen as a full understanding of nature; it was viewed as a way of explaining the observations we saw. People were afraid of eclipses, but the Ptolemaic system could still predict eclipses, which people feared. We should always be open to data, and if it causes us to change our idea, we should change it. But we also have to think about the pace of change. Even within science, change can occur in a way that's so quick that other scientists don't accept it.

Father Eric points out that at Galileo's time, the organization of all society was linked with religion. Galileo's work shook the whole societal system in ways that people weren't ready to face.

Jonathan notes that there had been a blurring between science and society at the time. Is it actually possible for people to de-conflict by keeping different conversations between science and religion. Father Eric says it's important for people from the humanities including theology and philosophy to ask questions that scientists might not always be able to ask.

Jonathan asks, if you're being spiritual, it's a set of values that you're reflecting upon and making the case for them. Do you think science has values as well, or is it a view from nowhere? We recently had a March for Science, where Joi spoke. Jonathan recalls some nervousness from scientists that it makes it just another player among many rather than an over-arching framework? Father Eric thinks that technology has taken the leadership; people expect a certain kind of help from technology. It brings a new set of questions. Science is about discovering what already exists, he says. It puts you in a situation of seeing reality as bigger than you. If you are a creator of technology, you don't have the same mindset of humility. You can have the same superpower feeling. Jonathan asks: if there were a march for science next week, would you happily march and what would your sign say?

Science provides the knowledge that provides the framework for technology, says Maria. It tells us what we can do and it doesn't tell us if we should do it, and it doesn't tell us what the implications are. Jonathan asks Maria about her institutional role as VP of research for MIT, would you ever find yourself looking at a massive research project and saying to someone: you need to have a values analysis or person involved. Maria explains that at MIT, we like to think that we create and use technology to help the world. Our fundraising campaign is "the campaign for a better world." Yet we hear about the negative outcomes as well, from things like automation.

Jonathan asks: is there knowledge better left undiscovered? Maria would say that more knowledge is better than less; the challenge is to choose a prudent pathway in order to progress. Father Eric agrees; what matters is how something is implemented. Is the technology mature enough, and is society ready for it? Jonathan asks: could you see a scientist making the judgment: humanity isn't ready for this. "Why only the scientist?" asks Father Eric. Society needs to answer those questions together.

When the floor opened up for questions, I asked a question. I mentioned that it seemed odd for a conference celebrating defiance would include a panel advocating for sticking within one's lane, especially with a prize that celebrates scientists who went into politics, citizens who do science, and people who create great art and ideas despite substantial resistance. I asked if maybe the story of Galileo locks us into an individual versus collective understandings of defiance, and where we might find inspiration for being defiant in productive ways.

Maria talked about evangelical groups that support Christians to better understand climate change, groups like the Evangelical Environment Network and climate scientists like Katharine Hayhoe.

Father Eric describes a Dominican in Brazil who works for farmers around land rights. he says, "There is only one thing you cannot disobey: it's your conscience. If there's something you see as fair and right, even if it's dangerous: no worries, do it. Conscience doesn't mean that you will never move. It's not like a compass: if you're in a boat, when the boat moves, the compass moves. Instead, it's like GPS, many sources combine to tell you where you are."

Jonathan responds, perhaps we have the Galilean model of the individual encircled by opposing forces, and the Pope's recent encyclical on climate change, which is an institution using their power to challenge and overturn assumptions as well.

by natematias at July 21, 2017 08:13 PM

Escaping The Conspiracy Trap: Masha Gessen at the Defiance Conference

Conspiracy thinking can take over our understanding of the world and immobilize our ability to create a better future. How does that work, and what can we do about it?

Here at the Defiance Conference, we're joined by journalist and author Masha Gessen. As a journalist living in Moscow, Gessen experienced the rise of Vladimir Putin firsthand. In her 2012 bestselling book The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin, she gave the chilling account of how a low-level KGB operative ascended to the Russian presidency. Her upcoming book looks at how totalitarianism reclaimed Russia.

Conspiracy thinking contaminates life under certain kinds of regime, says Gessen. She starts with "an unfunny joke" from a 1940s diary of an academic who kept a journal of the Hitler years: "Hitler has run into Moses. Hitler says to Moses, tell me the truth: you set the bush on fire yourself, didn't you?" The joke illuminates, says Gessen, partly because it refers to the Reichstag fire, which many people believed was started by the Nazi party to justify their following actions. Conspiracy thinking is also infectious. In this story, Hitler believes in conspiracies, people believe conspiracies about Hitler, and Hitler thinks that Moses is behind a conspiracy too.

Conspiracies form around the promise of simplicity. Authoritarians get elected by couching their promises in an imaginary past, drawing from traditional values. Conspiracies also work this way, presenting something that already happened as something that is going to happen. She describes 9/11 truthers, pizzagate, and birthers. Russiagate is also a conspiracy: it explains how we got here and how we're going to solve the problem: Russia got Trump elected, it is claimed, and when we prove it, we'll be able to get rid of him.

But the possible existence of conspiracy is not an excuse for conspiracy-thinking, says Gessen. When we cling to this idea that there's one thing that explains everything, we do grave damage to our own ability to think, our politics, and our ability to act.

Why is conspiracy thinking so terrible? It prevents us from looking at the complexity of a given situation. Sometimes things are just a mess. If you read yesterday's New York Times interview with the president, says Gessen: here's a man who can't grasp the meaning of health insurance, federal employment, parades, handshakes, dinners. But somehow, people still believe that he can grasp the meaning and import of a conspiracy: for example that he can keep a secret for many months. What's wrong with thinking that the president can do this? It's not reality, says Gessen.

Becoming divorced from reality is a very dangerous thing in life, action, and politics, says Gessen. A focus on the Russian conspiracy theory interferes with our grasp on reality. The Russian part of the story is a different kind of mess. In the popular imagination, the Russian government is governed with an iron fist of one man who controls armies of trolls, spies, etc.. Yet we know that the DNC was hacked by two independent groups that weren't aware of each other. That's not an accident; it's the kind of mess that the Russian state is in. The inroad to the Trump campaign was made by a low-level lawyer who was trying to advance the interests of her clients, says Gessen. She was probably in no position to dangle her offers. She was partly a con artist trying to con Don Jr. into taking that meeting, and she was successful. She may likely have been in competition with other Russians who also stood to benefit greatly by establishing relations with the Trump campaign.

Even if we accept the theory that the Russian government played a substantial role in the election, says Gessen, American voters are still the people who elected Trump. Some have argued that we need to take a closer look at the fabric of American society after the election, many people have focused instead on the Russia story, says Gessen. Newspapers don't have infinite resources, and their focus on Russia draws attention away from other things. For example, journalists haven't been asking many questions about US foreign policy toward Russia. Instead, they're asking about Russiagate. Similarly, argues Gessen, focus on Russiagate has reduced journalists' focus on the impact of the election on the state of US democratic institutions.

Conspiracies obscure the future. When we focus on conspiracies, we think about what happened. Conspiracy-thinking anchors our hopes about how discovery of the conspiracy will magically lead to change, rather than the things that create real change. The only way to counter a message of the imaginary past is to imagine a glorious future. People who resist authoritarian power often say that things were great before the authoritarian rose to power, and that we need to go back to how things were. Of course the resistance needs to focus on what to salvage, but someone needs to think about the future says Gessen. One of the reasons a complex world becomes so frightening is that people can no longer imagine the future. Citing Erich Fromm's Escape From Freedom, Gessen talks about how rootless people become when they can no longer imagine their future.

To defy conspiracy thinking, we need to engage with reality, says Gessen. Accept new information as something that exists in context, and just what you're learning today. Conspiracies pull us into our online universe of ever-spiraling conspiracy theorizing.

by natematias at July 21, 2017 05:48 PM

Harvard Law Library Innovation Lab
A Million Squandered: The “Million Dollar Homepage” as a Decaying Digital Artifact

In 2005, British student Alex Tew had a million-dollar idea. He launched www.MillionDollarHomepage.com, a website that presented initial visitors with nothing but a 1000×1000 canvas of blank pixels. At the cost of $1/pixel, visitors could permanently claim 10×10 blocks of pixels and populate them however they’d like. Pixel blocks could also be embedded with URLs and tooltip text of the buyer’s choosing.

The site took off, raising a total of $1,037,100 (the last 1,000 pixels were auctioned off for $38,100). Its customers and content demonstrate a massive range of variation, from individuals bragging about their disposable income to payday loan companies and media promoters. Some purchased minimal 10×10 blocks, while others strung together thousands of pixels to create detailed graphics. The biggest graphic on the page, a chain of pixel blocks purchased by a seemingly defunct domain called “pixellance.com”, contains $10,800 worth of pixels.

The largest graphic on the Million Dollar Homepage, an advertisement for www.pixellance.com

While most of the graphical elements on the Million Dollar Homepage are promotional in nature, it seems safe to say that the buying craze was motivated by a deeper fixation on the site’s perceived importance as a digital artifact. A banner at the top of the page reads “Own a Piece of Internet History,” a fair claim given the coverage that it received in the blogosphere and in the popular press. To buy a block of pixels was, in theory, to leave one’s mark on a collective accomplishment reflective of the internet’s enormous power to connect people and generate value.

But to what extent has this history been preserved? Does the Million Dollar Homepage represent a robust digital artifact 12 years after its creation, or has it fallen prey to the ephemerality common to internet content? Have the forces of link rot and administrative neglect rendered it a shell of its former self?

The Site

On the surface, there is little amiss with www.MillionDollarHomepage.com. Its landing page retains its early 2000’s styling, save for an embedded twitter link in the upper left corner. The (now full) pixel canvas remains intact, saturated with the eye-melting color palettes of an earlier internet era. Overall, the site’s landing page gives the impression of having been frozen at the time of its completion.

A screenshot of the Million Dollar Homepage captured in July of 2017

However, efforts to access the other pages linked on the site’s navigation bar return unformatted 404 messages. The “contact me” link redirects to the creator’s Twitter page. It seems that the site has been stripped of its functional components, leaving little but the content of the pixel canvas itself.

Still, the canvas remains a largely intact record of the aesthetics and commercialization patterns of the internet circa 2005. It is populated by pixelated representations of clunky fonts, advertisements for sketchy looking internet gambling sites, and promises of risqué images. Many of the pixel blocks bear a familial resemblance to today’s clickbait banner ads, with scantily clothed models and promises of free goods and content. Of course, this eye-catching pixel art serves a specific purpose: to get the user to click, redirecting to a site of the buyer’s choosing. What happens when we do?

The Links

Internet links are not always permanent. As pages are deleted or renamed, backends are restructured, and domain namespaces change hands, previously reachable content and resources can be replaced by 404 pages. This “link rot” is the target of the Library Innovation Lab’s Perma.cc project, which allows individuals and institutions to create archived snapshots of webpages hosted at a trustable, static URLs.

Over the decade or so since the Million Dollar Homepage sold its last pixel, link rot has ravaged the site’s embedded links. Of the 2,816 links that embedded on the page (accounting for a total of 999,400 pixels), 547 are entirely unreachable at this time. A further 489 redirect to a different domain or to a domain resale portal, leaving 1,780 reachable links. Most of the domains to which these links correspond are for sale or devoid of content.

A visualization of link rot in the Million Dollar Homepage. Pixel blocks shaded in red link to unreachable or entirely empty pages, blocks shaded in blue link to domain redirects, and blocks shaded in green are reachable (but are often for sale or have limited content) [Note: this image replaces a previous image which was not colorblind-safe]

The 547 unreachable links are attached to graphical elements that collectively take up 342,000 pixels (face value: $342,000). Redirects account for a further 145,000 pixels (face value: $145,000). While it would take a good deal of manual work to assess the reachable pages for content value, the majority do not seem to reflect their original purpose. Though the Million Dollar Homepage’s pixel canvas exists as a largely intact digital artifact, the vast web of sites which it publicizes has decayed greatly over the course of time.

The decay of the Million Dollar Homepage speaks to a pressing challenge in the field of digital archiving. The meaning of a digital artifact to a viewer or researcher is often dependent on the accessibility of other digital artifacts with which it is linked or otherwise networked – a troubling proposition given the inherent dynamism of internet links and addresses. The process of archiving a digital object does not, therefore, necessarily end with the object itself.

What, then, is to be done about the Million Dollar Homepage? While it has clear value as an example of the internet’s ever-evolving culture, emergent potential, and sheer bizarreness, the site reveals itself to be little more than an empty directory upon closer inspection. For the full potential of the Million Dollar Homepage as an artifact to be realized, the web of sites which it catalogues would optimally need to be restored as it existed when the pixels were sold. Given the existence of powerful and widely accessible tools such as the Wayback machine, this kind of restorative curation may well be within reach.

by John Bowers at July 21, 2017 04:56 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
Kyrgyzstan Blocks Archive.org on ‘Extremism’ Grounds

Image taken from Kloop.kg. Creative commons.

In an effort to combat extremism, a court in Kyrgyzstan blocked the popular US-based Internet Archive website, media in the ex-Soviet country reported earlier this week.

The Internet Archive (archive.org) claims to have archived almost 300 billion web pages in over two decades of operation. It also stores free-to-use books and music.

For more than a week, local users in Kyrgyzstan have been unable to access the site over the country's largest ISP Kyrgyztelekom, as well as another major ISP, Homeline. Users of smaller ISPs such as Aknet say that archive.org is still accessible.

A representative of Kyrgyzstan's state communications service told local media outlet Kloop.kg that the court blocked the website due to “extremist content” stored there, but did not specify when the court ruling was issued and what specific webpages had triggered the block.

The representative said:

Чтобы сайт разблокировали, он должен удалить со своих страниц материалы экстремистского содержания. Однако так сделать, скорее всего, не получится, так как ресурс накапливает все, что кто-то когда-то опубликовал, соответственно, экстремистские материалы на ресурсе будут только пополняться.

To unblock the website, [archive.org] should remove pages containing extremist content. However, this will most likely not happen, since the resource continually accumulates webpages that are being published [all the time] and accordingly, the extremist materials will only be replenished.

A staff member at the Internet Archive told Global Voices that Kyrgyz officials had not contacted the organization to express their concerns. Prior to Global Voices’ inquiry, the organization had no knowledge of the ban.

Indeed, the Internet Archive is constantly updated using technical tools that crawl the global internet and capture images of websites all across the network. This feature of archive.org, called the Wayback Machine, is useful for journalists and activists investigating the past activities of companies and public figures around the world, including in Kyrgyzstan, which ranks 136 out of 176 companies in Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index.

Earlier this week, a local activist linked to a nine-year-old webpage snapshot stored on the website to cast doubt over the government's decision to award a strategic hydropower contract to a Czech company.

#liglass deleted its website with lies about billions in turnover and hydro power plants in the Czech Republic, Armenia, Russia. But here is an archived copy.

These factors have prompted some local users to suggest the ban was not really about extremism at all:

The Internet kicked the state in their organs and now they are on the warpath!

The governments of the ex-Soviet region have regularly raised the alarm as thousands of citizens have joined up with radical factions fighting in Syria and Iraq.

Internet users in Russia reported being unable to access Archive.org in 2015, with the country's communications regulator Roskomnadzor also believed to have blocked the website on an anti-extremism pretext.

In Kyrgyzstan and Russia's neighbour Kazakhstan, the government has blocked hundreds of websites it views as propagating extremism in recent years. The blocking surge gained fresh impetus in 2014 when a video that apparently featured Kazakh-born minors undergoing military training in Syria was released by one of the ISIS militant group's media outlets.

Tajikistan, another country in Central Asia, also moved to block YouTube and other video-sharing platforms after a top police commander from the country announced his defection to ISIS via a video endorsed by the group in 2015.

The Tajik parliament on July 13 approved anti-extremism legislation that will allow security services the right to track the websites visited and comments made by citizens online. But the discussion in the parliament did not touch on what mechanisms would be used to monitor internet use. The text of the draft law is not publicly available.

by chrisrickleton at July 21, 2017 04:10 PM

MIT Center for Civic Media
Biohacking and the FBI: Ed You at the Defiance Conference

How is the FBI thinking about its relationship with bio hacking communities as they attempt to support innovation while also limit the risks from DIY biotech?

Here at the Defiance Conference, we're joined by Ed You, a supervisory special agent in the FBI’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate, Biological Countermeasures Unit. You is responsible for creating programs and activities to coordinate and improve FBI and interagency efforts to identify, assess, and respond to biological threats or incidents.

Investigations are inherently reactive, says Ed. After September 11th, the FBI decided to rethink their mission to focus on prevention. Ed is a molecular biologist by training, and now that the FBI has focused on prevention, they're hiring more people like him. Next, he talks about "WMD Coordinators," people like special agent Josh Cantor who work in the FBI's field offices on biological weapons. They work to establish partnerships with hospitals, researchers, and others who understand the risks before something happens.

The 21st century will be the century of the life sciences, says Ed. As we look for the promise of bio in our lives, we also need to think about the security implications. Ed talks about recent research about genetically modifying animal viruses to spread to humans. After this result came out, scientists put a temporary 60 day moratorium on this kind of research. Ed shows us conspiracy websites that raise fears about government funded work on biological weapons. He argues that

As synthetic biology becomes more widespread, it's possible to send information on DNA to synthetic bio companies and get a vial of smallpox or some other flu in the mail; a Guardian reporter actually did this in 2006. Since the report came out, the US has introduced regulations to carefully screen who makes these requests and what they ask for.

Yet it's also important to keep biological research open to the public if we're to gain the benefits of bio research in the 21st century, Ed tells us. Recent projects have made it possible to do CRISPR gene editing in the home. These are going to be genuine engines of innovation, just like the homebrew computer clubs that started in garages. At the same time, says Ed, governments are worried about genetically-engineered bio weapons and have cracked down on communities of innovation.

"How do you spur innovation while addressing innovation?" Ed asks. If you crack down on innovation, you could drive people underground and constrain important public benefits. Ed says that the FBI is trying to find ways to protect innovation. "Putting up walls is not the answer," says Ed, who encourages the FBI and biohacking communities to join up. "Be guardians of science," Ed encourages biohackers, inviting them to think about how best to protect public safety and mentor others to be responsible. Toward that end, the FBI became a sponsor of iGem, an international competition for bio hackers. Ed asks us to look at pictures of young people from China and other countries who participated in iGem. In the future, says Ed, these are people who will become leading citizens of science, and perhaps across the table in negotiations with the US. The FBI has also held meetups with DIY biohacking communities.

DIY bio is a good thing, says Ed. We need more of it, and we need to protect it, something that was emphasized in the 2009- 2017 US report on the study of bioethical issues. He argues that the FBI model can be an example for how other governments engage with creative communities. It pushes people's comfort levels, and it can lead to public benefits says Ed: some biologists have now been applying to join the FBI: "What better act of defiance than that?"

by natematias at July 21, 2017 04:00 PM

Global Voices
With China Now the Top Market for Initial Public Offerings, One Economist Fears for Ordinary Investors

China's stock market had one of its biggest crashes in 2015. Image from state-owned Xinhua.

China has overtaken Hong Kong as the top initial public offering (IPO) market. The number of listings in China's stock exchanges has surged 303 percent, with 246 companies raising up to US$18 billion in the first half of 2017.

Good news? Not according to Han Zhiguo, a renowned Chinese economist, who wrote a long post on popular social media platform Weibo slamming China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) for its poor regulation of the market. Small investors, he warned, will be the ones to suffer the consequences:

【 证监会在IPO问题上已经走火入魔 】 美国股市是注册制,一年的IPO才150家;中国股市是核准制,一年的IPO却高达500家。美国股市是开放型市场,今年上半年IPO的融资额才占全球总量的23.2%而屈居世界第二;中国股市是封闭型市场,今年上半年IPO的融资额却占全球总量的28.8%而稳居世界第一。

China Securities Regulatory Commission has gone too far on IPOs: The US stock market adopts a registered system for IPOs with 150 IPO listings last year. China adopts an approval system with 500 listings in the same period. As an open market, the IPO funding from US equities account for 23.2% of the global funding in the first half of the year, the second largest, while the IPO funding from Chinese equities, a closed market, accounts for 28.8% of the global funding, climbing to number one.

The economist pointed out that in the US the stock market has a transparent monitoring system that compels companies to disclose their business information, there are harsh penalties for business fraud, it operates in a free market and that market is currently on the rise. China does not have an open and transparent monitoring system in place and the market is full of fraud. Moreover, investors’ decisions are not based on free market information but political speculation. Currently, the Chinese stock market is very fragile after a series of crashes in the past two years.

The 2015 stock crash wiped out trillions of yuan from the portfolios of small investors, who included tens of millions of ordinary workers, farmers, housewives and pensioners. At that time, price-to-earnings (PE) ratios for Chinese stocks averaged an astonishing 70, against a worldwide average of 18.5, and the value of the A-shares inside China grew to be nearly double the equivalent shares of the same companies on Hong Kong's exchange.

However, the regulators have apparently not learned their lesson. Han alerted that the IPO listing frenzy is another huge trap for small investors:

在上市公司的退市制度、财务造假的惩戒制度和投资者权益的保护制度完全缺失的情况下继续进行IPO大跃进,在市场已经垃圾成山的情况下继续扩大垃圾规模并继续制造大小非“堰塞湖”的巨大陷阱,导致市场哀鸿遍野一地鸡毛民怨沸腾。公司上市就业绩变脸,一季报亏损的新股达到34家,业绩下滑的新股比例高达25%,表明造假上市的现象已经多么严重!

The surge of IPOs without a regulatory system that punishes business fraud, de-lists the poorly performing companies and protects investors’ rights has filled the market with garbage, and expanding the garbage market would create a huge “quake lake” that eventually buries everything and crashes the market as well as the small investors. In the first quarter of 2017, 34 newly listed companies have recorded deficits in their businesses and 25% of the newly listed stocks have seen a decline in their business performance. It reflects the scale of fraud in IPOs.

The above post was shared about 9,900 times on Weibo with more than 3,400 comments.

Most of the comments echoed Han's analysis and proposal for setting up an open and transparent market monitoring system, but some were skeptical given China's current political environment. For example, two of the comments in the thread read:

想法非常好,可惜官老爷们不会同意的,不搞审核怎么拿干股? 权贵怎么赚钱? 现在股市彻底沦落为权贵们的套现提款机了

Good ideas, but it's sad officials wouldn't agree. How could they get free shares with IPOs being reviewed? How could the powerful and rich make a fortune? The stock market has degenerated into the cash machine of the powerful and rich.

说白了中国股市就是国家捞钱的工具

To be honest, the Chinese stock market has become the tool of the state to make money.

Such a poor impression of China's stock exchanges has been fed by a number of cases of business fraud and misconduct involving CSRC's management.

For example, Yabaite, a listed building material company, was exposed by Chinese state television recently for faking overseas deals and cooking its books, but the cap fine imposed by CSRC was just 600,000 yuan — compare that with its 7-billion-yuan market value.

Lv Yongxiang, the president of Yongda, a Shenzhen-listed electronic switch company, and his family members cashed out all their stocks of about 6.8 billion yuan in the bull market of 2015 and resigned from all company positions.

Feng Xiaoshu, a former member of the Public Offering Review Committee in CSRC, gained nearly 250 million yuan by investing 3 million into a company just before its listing. Feng has been under investigation since April for insider trading.

Other senior officials of the commission including Assistant Chairman Zhang Yujun and Deputy Chairman Yao Gang have been investigated amid a financial anti-graft campaign following the 2015 stock market crash.

In response to Han's criticism, four of finance newspapers — China Securities Journal, Shanghai Securities Journal, Securities Times and Securities Daily, which are designated by the CSRC for publishing its announcements and listing companies’ required disclosures — argued that CSRC should not slow down IPO listings as small- and medium-sized businesses need capital investment for further development.

Han fought back on Weibo, criticizing the papers for protecting the financial sector's interest rather than the public interest. This post was deleted soon after it appeared on highly censored Weibo. He urged his followers to copy his views and spread it via other social media outlets:

指定特殊媒体进行上市公司的信息披露,这本身就是计划经济的逻辑结果,这一陈腐的制度沿袭了20多年,既是中国股市市场化进程扭曲的表现,也是信息造假大行其道的根源。作为上市公司信息披露的载体,我们看到这四大媒体为履行信息披露的监督责任向中国证监会建言献策了吗?我们看到这四大媒体对上市公司的财务造假进行揭露了吗?我们看到这四大媒体为维护投资者利益而舍身取义了吗?一次也没有,一个也不见!

The practice of CSRC-designated media disclosing information about listing companies is the very consequence of a planned economy. Such a disclosure system has carried on for 20 years and has resulted in the distortion of the Chinese stock market and the root cost of faking business information. Have we ever seen these four media outlets criticizing CSRC's work on disclosing listed companies’ information? Have we ever seen these four media outlets exposing accounting fraud? Have we ever seen these four media outlets speaking up for small investors? Never!

by Jack Hu at July 21, 2017 02:57 PM

Creative Commons
Join us in Toronto: Creative Commons Global Summit 2018

cc-global-summit

We are proud to announce that the 2018 CC Summit will be in Toronto, Canada from April 13-15. This is a return to Toronto, which allows us to build on last year’s successful sold-out event. As part of our new strategy, CC has moved to annual summits to help build our community capacity and momentum, and we’re thrilled to be bringing people together again to support global collaboration and action.

For the 2017 Summit, CC selected Toronto as our location, and underscored a strong commitment to presenting a community-driven event. We divided up the work: CC provided the “container” — venue, catering, audio-visual, website, promotion, travel support, and other logistics — and the community “filled it” with the program, people, activities, and discussions that make our movement vibrant and engaging. It’s a busy season for conferences, but we’ve been able to fit into the timeline between other key community events like RightsCon and the Open Knowledge Festival.

Based on what we learned at the CC Summit in Seoul in 2015, we hired a full-time events manager to run logistics and ensure we had a world-class event. We also re-focused our scholarship funds to ensure we helped as many community members as possible to join us.

The improvements were noticeable and profound:

  • 42 community members led the development of the program, and selected over 100 sessions, with a mix of long standing community members and brand new participants
  • The conference sold out well in advance, with nearly 400 registered participants — our largest summit ever
  • We had five incredible international women scheduled as keynotes (4 in the end due to a late-cancelled flight), and not a single all-male panel
  • Nearly 60 percent of our scholarship funding supported African and Latin American region participants. We doubled the number of participants from Africa

As we plan for 2018, we have decided to return to Toronto. There are a variety of factors that make it a great destination along with some additional factors to consider. We expect Summit 2018 will exceed 500 participants, and also host the first meeting of the new Global Network Council. We want to build and iterate on what we learned in Toronto about running a great and inclusive event. The Canadian dollar continues to be low, which increases our purchasing power. The Delta Hotel, which did a spectacular job for us, is available to host us again. Many of the participants who got visas have them for terms long enough to permit a return next year. Finally, in this year of transition, there are very few teams that have the capacity to deliver an event of this size in just 11 months without significant support from CC HQ — most teams are (rightly) focused on their core work, not event planning.

With all of these considerations, we are very excited to return to Toronto, Canada for the CC Summit, scheduled for April 13-15, 2018.

Historically, CC has located the Summit at various venues around the world — Boston, Rio de Janeiro, Dubrovnik, Sapporo, Warsaw, Buenos Aires, Seoul. There are advantages and challenges of this solution. I’m excited about the opportunity to build on what we learned in 2017 — to iterate and remix the city for an even better event.

That said, this year’s decision to return to Toronto does not preclude the idea of future Summits being hosted in other locations. We expect the Global Network Council to help us think through our options for future summits. Many of you provided helpful criticism and feedback based on Toronto’s event. We’ll make a strong effort to incorporate those comments in our planning as we iterate and improve for the next event. In particular, several of you asked for more affordable hotel options. We’ll be adding a second conference hotel to ensure you have more choices.

As with 2017, CC will provide the “container” and the community will “fill it” with its energy, activities, and momentum. We’ll be opening a call for the planning committee in the coming months, and welcome your ideas for an even bigger, better, inclusive event. We can’t wait.

Photo: Sebastiaan ter Burg, CC BY 2.0

The post Join us in Toronto: Creative Commons Global Summit 2018 appeared first on Creative Commons.

by Ryan Merkley at July 21, 2017 02:42 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
Lebanese Government Bans All Protests Right Before a Syrian Refugee Solidarity Sit-In

A march in Lebanon, July 2016, against racism and curfews faced by Syrian refugees. Photo: Levant Chronicles on Facebook

The Lebanese government banned all protests around the same time activists were forced to cancel a sit-in—in support of Syrian refugees—due to online threats.

It is unclear if the two events are connected. The sit-in was scheduled to take place on 18 July in the capital Beirut.

In a clear violation of the right to assembly and protest, on 16 July, the Lebanese government announced a ban on all protests. Minister of Interior Nohad Machnouk tweeted that any requests to protest will be denied:

after discussing [recent developments] with the concerned security forces, we decided to decline any requests, from anyone, to hold a protest, in order to preserve security and civil peace.

Before the ban, the activists who were planning to protest the mistreatment of Syrian refugees faced numerous attacks and threats from Lebanese commentators and politicians, prompting the organizers to cancel the sit-in. The activists were accused of “inciting ” against the Lebanese army and of supporting ISIS.

Syrians make up about a quarter of Lebanon’s population, making it the highest concentration per capita of refugees in the world. Syrian refugees are often the scapegoat of economic and security issues in Lebanon. In 2014, Human Rights Watch documented 11 violent attacks against Syrian refugees or people perceived to be Syrians, and reported at least 45 curfews imposed on Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Vocal opposition to Syrian refugees in Lebanon has been rising steadily over the past year, with senior Lebanese politicians calling for them to return home to war-torn Syria.

The Socialist Forum, a leftist political group in Lebanon, organized the sit-in event, in solidarity with Lebanon's 1.5 million Syrian refugees, following a military operation on June 30 in “search for terrorists, weapons and explosives” in two refugee camps in the town of Arsal.

Death of detained Syrian refugees

The raid led to the arrest of more than 350 Syrians. Four of the arrested refugees died while in custody, the Lebanese army announced on 4 July. They blamed their deaths on “health complications” and hot weather. But the news website Middle East Eye obtained pictures showing “huge gashes and bruising on the bodies of three of the four men.” The detainees’ deaths have raised questions about the conditions of their detentions, particularly as pictures showing signs of mistreatment and bruises on the victims’ bodies began to circulate online.

Right before the ban, the threats against the Socialist Forum grew, when the names of three of its activists, who submitted a request for a protest permit to the Beirut municipality, were spread on social media with their telephone numbers and pictures.

Activists face online threats

Joseph Abu Fadel, a Lebanese political analyst and lawyer, posted a threatening tweet on 15 July in which he referred to the protest as one against the “champion Lebanese army by adulterers of Daesh” and threatened that the planned site for the protest would become “their cemetery.” Daesh is how the Arabic-speaking world refers to ISIS.

Abu Fadel has approximately 30,000 Twitter followers, and the tweet was retweeted more than 250 times at the time of writing.

Wiam Wahhab, a former minister of environment and the leader of the nationalist party, the Lebanese Unification Movement, called on the Ministry of Interior (in a tweet) to cancel the protest.

He also called for a counter-protest the same day in support of the Lebanese army and against Daesh. Wahhab's party is in the 8 March political alliance, which also includes the militant group Hezbollah, which intervened in Syria since 2013 to support the regime of Bashar al-Assad. In a third tweet, he added that if the Lebanese state cannot prevent the protest, people will.

If the state does not ban the protest against the Lebanese army, many Lebanese [political] forces will take care of it and the protest will be banned

A video posted on Facebook [warning: violent content] shows several men, one of them armed with a rifle, questioning a man who they identify as being Syrian about whether he will join the sit-in. The harassers, after asking the man for his papers, slap and kick him on the ground. They accuse him of being a member of Daesh and order him to repeat:

God with the Lebanese army, f*ck Daesh, God with the commander of the [Lebanese] army and the president of the [Lebanese] republic.

On the Wednesday 19th of July, Interior Minister Machnouk tweeted that the police had arrested the harassers.

In their 16 July statement announcing their decision to cancel the sit-in, the Socialist Forum condemned the Beirut municipality for the leak. The  group also clarified the purpose of the protest:

The goal was to strengthen or restore relations between Lebanese and Syrians, hoping to counter the discourse of hatred and racism.

The group further denied accusations that it is inciting against the Lebanese army, and called on authorities to investigate the deaths of the four detainees.

Contrary to what is being said by some officials and others on social media platforms, we would like to clarify that the Socialist Forum does not cause incitement against the Lebanese Army, as per its statement on July 13, 2017, which calls for:

1. A transparent and independent investigation to uncover all the causes of the suspects’ deaths.
2. The strict public accountability for all those involved in torture, murder, and other forms of abuse.
3. The revealing of the remaining arbitrary detainees, their release and compensation.
4. The end of the exploitation of the refugee issue for political manipulation, and to stop treating it as a security threat.
5. The abolishing of all racist decisions against refugees, and the end of practices that forces them to return against their will to brutal killings and massacres, as the regional and international community remains suspiciously and criminally silent.

In addition to the threats they faced online, Lebanese activists standing in solidarity with Syrian refugees were also subjected to harassment from the authorities.

Fidaa Itani, a journalist who criticized the Lebanese army, Lebanese president Michel Aoun and foreign affairs minister Gebran Bassil in a Facebook post, about the raids on the refugees camps in Arsal and the mistreatment of Syrian refugees, was detained for one night and questioned by the Internal Security Forces cybercrime bureau. He was released on 11 July only after he deleted the post. In another case of harassment, the army seized medical samples collected by Lebanese lawyer Diala Chehade from the bodies of the victims, obstructing any civil investigations into the matter.

Ban on protests

The government has not specified the duration of the ban on protesting. But Moulahazat, a blog that analyzes Lebanese politics, believes the reason behind this ban is to avoid any protests during parliamentary talks about tax hikes, which are often met with big protests in Lebanon:

The Lebanese government allowed two rival protests regarding refugees and the army to take place, and then banned all protests after an impression was given that the protesters were going to clash.

You all took the bait: A tax hike parliamentary session is taking place on Tuesday, and the ruling class just directly used the refugees issue to make things easier for them in parliament without you even noticing.
Lebanese Politicians 1 – Panicking Lebanese 0
Welcome to elections season, Lebanon.

by Hassan Chamoun at July 21, 2017 01:44 PM

Global Voices
Lebanese Government Bans All Protests Right Before a Syrian Refugee Solidarity Sit-In

A march in Lebanon, July 2016, against racism and curfews faced by Syrian refugees. Photo: Levant Chronicles on Facebook

The Lebanese government banned all protests around the same time activists were forced to cancel a sit-in—in support of Syrian refugees—due to online threats.

It is unclear if the two events are connected. The sit-in was scheduled to take place on 18 July in the capital Beirut.

In a clear violation of the right to assembly and protest, on 16 July, the Lebanese government announced a ban on all protests. Minister of Interior Nohad Machnouk tweeted that any requests to protest will be denied:

after discussing [recent developments] with the concerned security forces, we decided to decline any requests, from anyone, to hold a protest, in order to preserve security and civil peace.

Before the ban, the activists who were planning to protest the mistreatment of Syrian refugees faced numerous attacks and threats from Lebanese commentators and politicians, prompting the organizers to cancel the sit-in. The activists were accused of “inciting ” against the Lebanese army and of supporting ISIS.

Syrians make up about a quarter of Lebanon’s population, making it the highest concentration per capita of refugees in the world. Syrian refugees are often the scapegoat of economic and security issues in Lebanon. In 2014, Human Rights Watch documented 11 violent attacks against Syrian refugees or people perceived to be Syrians, and reported at least 45 curfews imposed on Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Vocal opposition to Syrian refugees in Lebanon has been rising steadily over the past year, with senior Lebanese politicians calling for them to return home to war-torn Syria.

The Socialist Forum, a leftist political group in Lebanon, organized the sit-in event, in solidarity with Lebanon's 1.5 million Syrian refugees, following a military operation on June 30 in “search for terrorists, weapons and explosives” in two refugee camps in the town of Arsal.

Death of detained Syrian refugees

The raid led to the arrest of more than 350 Syrians. Four of the arrested refugees died while in custody, the Lebanese army announced on 4 July. They blamed their deaths on “health complications” and hot weather. But the news website Middle East Eye obtained pictures showing “huge gashes and bruising on the bodies of three of the four men.” The detainees’ deaths have raised questions about the conditions of their detentions, particularly as pictures showing signs of mistreatment and bruises on the victims’ bodies began to circulate online.

Right before the ban, the threats against the Socialist Forum grew, when the names of three of its activists, who submitted a request for a protest permit to the Beirut municipality, were spread on social media with their telephone numbers and pictures.

Activists face online threats

Joseph Abu Fadel, a Lebanese political analyst and lawyer, posted a threatening tweet on 15 July in which he referred to the protest as one against the “champion Lebanese army by adulterers of Daesh” and threatened that the planned site for the protest would become “their cemetery.” Daesh is how the Arabic-speaking world refers to ISIS.

Abu Fadel has approximately 30,000 Twitter followers, and the tweet was retweeted more than 250 times at the time of writing.

Wiam Wahhab, a former minister of environment and the leader of the nationalist party, the Lebanese Unification Movement, called on the Ministry of Interior (in a tweet) to cancel the protest.

He also called for a counter-protest the same day in support of the Lebanese army and against Daesh. Wahhab's party is in the 8 March political alliance, which also includes the militant group Hezbollah, which intervened in Syria since 2013 to support the regime of Bashar al-Assad. In a third tweet, he added that if the Lebanese state cannot prevent the protest, people will.

If the state does not ban the protest against the Lebanese army, many Lebanese [political] forces will take care of it and the protest will be banned

A video posted on Facebook [warning: violent content] shows several men, one of them armed with a rifle, questioning a man who they identify as being Syrian about whether he will join the sit-in. The harassers, after asking the man for his papers, slap and kick him on the ground. They accuse him of being a member of Daesh and order him to repeat:

God with the Lebanese army, f*ck Daesh, God with the commander of the [Lebanese] army and the president of the [Lebanese] republic.

On the Wednesday 19th of July, Interior Minister Machnouk tweeted that the police had arrested the harassers.

In their 16 July statement announcing their decision to cancel the sit-in, the Socialist Forum condemned the Beirut municipality for the leak. The  group also clarified the purpose of the protest:

The goal was to strengthen or restore relations between Lebanese and Syrians, hoping to counter the discourse of hatred and racism.

The group further denied accusations that it is inciting against the Lebanese army, and called on authorities to investigate the deaths of the four detainees.

Contrary to what is being said by some officials and others on social media platforms, we would like to clarify that the Socialist Forum does not cause incitement against the Lebanese Army, as per its statement on July 13, 2017, which calls for:

1. A transparent and independent investigation to uncover all the causes of the suspects’ deaths.
2. The strict public accountability for all those involved in torture, murder, and other forms of abuse.
3. The revealing of the remaining arbitrary detainees, their release and compensation.
4. The end of the exploitation of the refugee issue for political manipulation, and to stop treating it as a security threat.
5. The abolishing of all racist decisions against refugees, and the end of practices that forces them to return against their will to brutal killings and massacres, as the regional and international community remains suspiciously and criminally silent.

In addition to the threats they faced online, Lebanese activists standing in solidarity with Syrian refugees were also subjected to harassment from the authorities.

Fidaa Itani, a journalist who criticized the Lebanese army, Lebanese president Michel Aoun and foreign affairs minister Gebran Bassil in a Facebook post, about the raids on the refugees camps in Arsal and the mistreatment of Syrian refugees, was detained for one night and questioned by the Internal Security Forces cybercrime bureau. He was released on 11 July only after he deleted the post. In another case of harassment, the army seized medical samples collected by Lebanese lawyer Diala Chehade from the bodies of the victims, obstructing any civil investigations into the matter.

Ban on protests

The government has not specified the duration of the ban on protesting. But Moulahazat, a blog that analyzes Lebanese politics, believes the reason behind this ban is to avoid any protests during parliamentary talks about tax hikes, which are often met with big protests in Lebanon:

The Lebanese government allowed two rival protests regarding refugees and the army to take place, and then banned all protests after an impression was given that the protesters were going to clash.

You all took the bait: A tax hike parliamentary session is taking place on Tuesday, and the ruling class just directly used the refugees issue to make things easier for them in parliament without you even noticing.
Lebanese Politicians 1 – Panicking Lebanese 0
Welcome to elections season, Lebanon.

by Hassan Chamoun at July 21, 2017 01:38 PM

Between Worlds: The Complicated Life of a Young Japanese Returnee

““Well, if you’re not speaking in Japanese,” he said, “you're not Japanese.” PHOTO: Shibuya, Tokyo, by S. (CC BY-SA 2.0) via Flickr

It's a common perception that living in different countries during your school years is a blessing. What people don't realize is that this blessing comes with its fair share of curses.

I was born in Tokyo and lived in an entirely Japanese environment until I was six. Then my father's job with a trading company moved to New York. He went ahead of us, my mother and I joining him when the school year was over. I still have the album full of goodbye messages from my classmates, wishing me good luck and expressing hopes of seeing me when I returned.

The first few months in New York were a nightmare. Having no English, I didn't understand a word my teachers and peers at kindergarten said. My teacher would get frustrated with me and give me 30-minute time-outs in the hallway, where nobody could be distracted by my crying. The only support I had at school was a Japanese ESL teacher, who aided me when she could, and a half-Japanese friend who used her limited Japanese to the best her ability on my behalf. My mother was worried about me and found me an English tutor. As I was so young, it didn't take long for the language to sink in. After a year of only listening and not speaking, by the first day of first grade, I had somehow learned how to speak and write in English.

The next few years were a blur. I became more and more fluent, to the point where I preferred English over Japanese. I made many American friends and adopted their interests: High School Musical, North Face fleeces, sleepovers. But as the years went by, more and more Japanese kids like me were entering the school. As I interacted with them, I started feeling as if I was American, but Japanese at heart.

Just as I was having the time of my life, the dream was shattered. My father was being moved back to Japan, and, naturally, our family with him. I cried buckets. I will never forget the pizza party my friends threw for me on my last day at school. I promised that I would stay in touch and we would see each other again. I was ten years old.

Back in Japan, I was now a “returnee”. I had to reacquaint myself with activities such as taking the train and navigating the city streets. But the biggest change was the people I thought I knew, who now seemed so different and distant. There was an elementary school attached to my old preschool, so I was going to school in the same location as before. But I knew only about half the people in my small class. Despite that, I thought I would have no problem fitting in.

I was wrong. The first day back my best friend from preschool introduced me to her circle of friends as the “girl that was in America.” Preparing for my English middle school entrance exams while everyone else had a Japanese entrance exam, my homeroom teacher told me not to study English in the classroom because it made the other students nervous. The worst was English class. We were studying types of fish, and the English teacher, who was Japanese, told the class that “cod,” in Japanese, translated to “salmon” in English. When I corrected her, she accused me “disrupting” the class and preventing the others from learning, and told me I should keep quiet. From that point on, I stopped participating in the English class, and the teacher gave me horrible marks on my report card for “not participating.” These things also affected me outside the classroom: I became less trusting of others and fearful of speaking English in public.

The junior high school I went to at age 11 favored returnees, so I believed the discrimination would stop. But as there was a large group of us, junior high ended up being an even crueler place. My grade level comprised six classes. The returnees were divided among two of the classes, while the “normal” students who had entered the school through a Japanese exam were spread among the six. Half of my class were returnees, whom I instantly befriended, as we had all experienced similar discrimination in our elementary schools and understood each other's feelings. The other students, however, didn't look kindly on our bonding together, nor did they like the fact that we spoke English among ourselves or that our entrance exam was easier the Japanese one. They were polite to our faces, but they gossiped behind our backs and judged everything we did. I remember vividly the time the non-returnees in our class made a list of all the returnees and ranked us from the most bearable to the worst, then showed us the list and laughed at our reactions. Some people found this so traumatic they erased it from their memories.

The only positive thing about this first year of junior high was that I became part of a group of friends who relied on each other. After having nobody with whom to share my experiences, I now had friends who understood what I was going through.

The second year of junior high was more relaxed. By then, many were old enough to recognize that being judgmental didn't fix everything. School became fun, and I even started to make non-returnee friends. But with the struggles in the classroom gone, I began to feel judged by society. When my friends and I spoke English in public, adults would stare, whisper, or even point at us. As our dress style was different from other Japanese teenagers, people would stare at us in our skimpier shorts and crop tops. In restaurants when, after talking among ourselves in English, we ordered in Japanese, waiters would act like we were from another planet.

Then my family got the news that we would be moving once more, this time to Australia for two years for my father’s job. I was sad to leave my new friends who understood me, but I also was excited at the prospect of getting a break from the judgment of Japanese society and becoming who truly be who I wanted to be.

In Australia, I made friends who didn't judge me and with whom I felt comfortable with no matter what. My school and my peers encouraged me to try new things and pursue my passions. I believe this helped me develop a better understanding of who I truly am, something that I couldn't figure out in Japan.

I slowly started to lose contact with Japan. I kept up with Japanese news and my friends, as those things were part of my identity, but I began shedding values and judgments about people and viewing others through a less biased lens.

Two years flew by, and before I knew it, it was time to leave. I flew back to Japan armed with the connections and self-understanding that I gained in Australia, ready to incorporate them into everyday life back at my school in Japan. I hoped that people there would have grown up, and would understand how I now perceived myself.

While many of my peers at school had in fact changed and had come to accept and even rely on us returnees for support, the Japanese public hadn't, and I felt the difference in perspective even acutely as I was now more grown up.

When I was 16, I was studying for my SAT World History test with a friend at a local convenience store. As we were discussing the French Revolution, an old man came up to our table and asked if we were Japanese. I replied, as politely as I could, that we were. He then asked why we were studying and speaking in English. We asked him what he thought was wrong with that. His response, for me, epitomizes the Japanese attitude toward things non-Japanese. “Well, if you’re not speaking in Japanese,” he said, “you're not Japanese. If you’re speaking English or French or whatever you’re speaking, get the hell out of my country. Go find another place to live! Nobody here wants you. You don’t belong with us!” His words took me by surprise, and neither my friend or I could muster up a response to the illogical, small-minded, and offensive conclusion the man had reached just by taking a look at our alphabet-covered SAT book.

A similar thing happened when my friend and I were speaking English at the train station like we usually do, and we had bumped into an elderly lady. We said “sorry” in Japanese, to which she replied, “Oh, you're Japanese? Then always speak Japanese, you foreigner!”

In the two years I was away it's possible that the Japanese public had not only failed to change—it had become worse. With so many tourists coming to Japan, among other factors, the Japanese feelings of nationalism seem to have grown stronger, in particular among the elderly.

Now, however. I cannot imagine myself as anything else but a returnee. Everything I am and do is influenced by my experience of living abroad. I now have a broader perspective on things, and understand that there are many different cultures and opinions in the world. In a monocultural society like Japan, it can be hard for my non-returnee friends to understand this point of view, but I know that I can rely on my returnee friends. Since there are only a few of us, we band together. Japanese society may be judgmental towards us, but I always know that my fellow returnees have my back.

by Airi Sugihara at July 21, 2017 01:04 PM

Three Decades After Dictatorship, Theater Aids the Search for Identity and Truth in Argentina

Institutional logo and Facebook profile photo of the Theater x Identity “Do not leave them with doubt” initiative.

“My name is… and I can say it because I know who I am.” With these words, the artists of Teatro x Identitad (Theater for Identity, or TXI for short) have opened all of their performances over the last 17 years.

In July 2017, TXI inaugurated a new season. The theater, which was launched in 2000, is an artistic initiative of the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo association and aims to support its efforts since 1977 “to locate and return to their legitimate families all the children disappeared during the last dictatorship in Argentina“.

TXI's performances have evolved and diversified to address different themes, but all revolve around identity. The goal is to “act so not to forget, to act to find the truth”. It has been estimated that in Argentina there are still about 400 people living with changed identities. They are the children of young militants who disappeared or were kidnapped and tortured during the 1970s by the dictatorship's forces. They were then adopted by families loyal to the government and their origins kept a secret.

In a recent article from the Página 12 newspaper, TXI member Eugenia Levin said:

Entendemos que la aparición tiene que ser ya, porque las abuelas se van sin conocer a sus nietos, muchos de los cuales ahora tienen hijos, así que hay bisnietos. Ya hay dos generaciones que no conocen su identidad, no queremos que sean tres.

We understand that these children need to appear as soon as possible, because their grandmothers are passing away without knowing their grandchildren, many of whom now have children, so there are great-grandchildren. There are already two generations that do not know their identity, we do not want to witness a third.

The following official video from 2015 was made for the 15th anniversary of TXI, a celebration that gathered several personalities of Argentina's national cinema and television and which was promoted with the “Encontrate hoy” (“Find yourself today”) slogan and the hashtag #notepierdaselabrazo (#DoNotMissTheHug), as a reference to the embraces that have taken place between grandmothers and grandchildren when they have recovered their identity and found each other.

TXI also has developed a traveling theater project, which brings performances to all corners of the country, in schools, universities, theaters, official and non-governmental organizations, squares, cultural centers and other entities where they are invited. Their purpose is to be a pedagogical tool, for reflection and debate, to help the public understand the historical reality and encourage other possible lost grandchildren to ask questions, express their doubts and seek their true identity.

Banner of the TXI's traveling theater for 2017. Photo publicly shared on Facebook.

The performances in educational institutions have been especially important for the members of the movement, as they know that this is where they can generate greater impact:

En los últimos años, los ITINERANTES han tenido una fuerte presencia en las escuelas de nivel medio y del segundo nivel de colegios primarios de todo el país. Muchas instituciones educativas han elegido enseñar una parte tan dura de la historia argentina a través del arte, entendiendo al teatro como una herramienta pedagógica esencial y efectiva. Esta creciente intervención en los colegios se relaciona con el hecho de que TXI, luego de realizar las obras, ofrece un debate donde alumnos y docentes pueden expresar todas las inquietudes y sensaciones que les dejó la puesta en escena.

In recent years, the traveling performances have had a strong presence in middle schools and the second level of primary schools across the country. Many educational institutions have chosen to teach about such a difficult part in the history of Argentina through art, understanding that theater is an essential and effective pedagogical tool. This growing involvement in schools is related to the fact that TXI, after the performances, offers the opportunity for discussion, when students and teachers can express all their concerns and feelings triggered by the performances.

In addition to the Facebook and Twitter pages, the project has a radio theater program that is broadcast live every Friday at 10 a.m. (GMT -03:00).

by Teodora C. Hasegan at July 21, 2017 11:07 AM

Marketplace Tech Report
07/21/2017: One big threat to self-driving cars? Kangaroos
We're starting off our show today by playing Silicon Tally, the game where we try to stump each other with numbers from the week's news. Our guest for this episode: Marketplace reporter Ryan Kailath. Afterwards, we'll examine an unexpected threat to the computer vision systems in autonomous vehicles: kangaroos.

by Marketplace at July 21, 2017 09:56 AM

Global Voices
Luxury Lifestyle of the Congolese President's Entourage Attracts Attention of French Investigators

Denis Sassou-Nguessou, president of the People's Repubic of the Congo, left, boards his aircraft to leave the country. ANDREWS AIR FORCE BASE, Washington D.C. a work of the U.S. federal government,- Public Domain

Julienne Sassou-Nguesso and Guy Johnson, the daughter and son-in-law of the president of the Republic of the Congo, are under investigation for money laundering of embezzled funds as part of the high-profile “Ill-gotten goods” inquiry. This development follows the investigation into Wilfrid Nguesso, the president's nephew.

Launched by the French justice system, the wide-ranging inquiry focuses on the assets of three African presidents, their families, and their entourages. The secretive way these funds have been accumulated and held outside the presidents’ own countries has attracted the attention of several anti-corruption bodies.

The French-language website Oeil d'Afrique summarised the background of the case:

Depuis 2010, des juges d’instruction français tentent de déterminer si les fortunes de trois familles présidentielles, celles de feu Omar Bongo (Gabon), de Denis Sassou Nguesso (Congo-Brazzaville) et de Teodoro Obiang Nguema (Guinée équatoriale), ont pu être bâties grâce à des deniers publics détournés de ces pays, avec l’aide d’intermédiaires et de sociétés offshores dans les paradis fiscaux.

Since 2010, inquiry judges have been examining allegations that three presidential families have built large fortunes by taking public money from their own countries and siphoning it through intermediaries and off-shore companies located in tax havens. The presidents in question are the late Omar Bongo of Gabon, Denis Sassou-Nguesso of the Republic of the Congo, and Teodoro Obiang Nguema of Equitorial Guinea.

In this case, the judges also intend to probe links between Julienne Sassou-Nguesso and Guy Johnson and companies registered abroad, for example in Mauritius, the British Virgin Islands, Dubai and Hong Kong. The website afriqueexpansion.com explains:

Les enquêteurs cherchent à savoir si des sociétés offshores à l'île Maurice, aux Îles Vierges Britanniques, à Dubaï et Hong Kong ont servi à financer de nombreuses dépenses en France, selon une source proche du dossier. Entre 2008 et 2011 plusieurs dizaines de millions d'euros du Trésor public congolais auraient transité par ces sociétés.

Les investigations portent également sur la société congolaise de transports maritimes (Socotram), qui perçoit des redevances sur le trafic maritime et le fret pétrolier, et qui est dirigée par Wilfrid Nguesso : une partie de ces fonds auraient été détournés pour servir à l'enrichissement personnel de ce dernier et de son entourage, selon la même source.

De son côté, sa défense conteste le fait que la Socotram puisse percevoir des fonds publics…

Après des premières plaintes en 2007 et 2008, restées sans suite, une plainte avec constitution de partie civile de l'ONG Transparency international avait déclenché l'ouverture d'une information judiciaire en 2010 confiée à des juges financiers.

The investigators are trying to find out whether offshore companies in Mauritius, the British Virgin Islands, Dubai and Hong Kong have been used to fund numerous purchases in France, according to a source close to the case. Between 2008 and 2011, tens of millions of euros from the Congolese public purse are thought to have passed through these companies.

The investigations are also centered on Socotram — the Congolese Maritime Transport Association, which collects license fees from shipping and the transport of crude oil. Wilfred Nguesso is head of the organisation. The same source indicates that both he and his entourage may have benefited from the embezzlement of the association's funds.

Mr Nguesso contests this, denying that Socotram is able to collect public funds.

After the first accusations in 2007 and 2008, which were never followed up, the NGO Transparency International lodged a civil complaint. This led to the opening of a judicial investigation in 2010 by specialist financial judges.

Journalist Eunice Kaoumé has researched the affair closely. She reports that Julienne Sassou-Nguesso was once an insurance agent and that Guy Johnson practises law. Here follows what she has written for afrikmag.com:

D’après les investigations, plusieurs dizaines de millions d’euros en provenance d’entités publiques du Congo-Brazzaville, auraient été transférées depuis 2007 sur les comptes de diverses sociétés offshores basées aux Seychelles, à l’Île Maurice ou à Hong Kong, soupçonnées d’alimenter ensuite, en partie, le train de vie de certains membres du clan présidentiel, selon une source proche du dossier.

Les enquêteurs pensent que le couple aurait financé une partie des travaux par le biais d’une société seychelloise alimentée par le fruit de la vente des parts détenues par Julienne Sassou-Nguesso dans une société de télécommunications, qui serait liée à des “opérations de corruption”, selon la même source. Ils s’interrogent aussi sur le rôle du gendre du président, apparu comme le gérant d’une SCI qui avait acquis en 2007 pour quelque 19 millions d’euros, un hôtel particulier dans le cossu 8ème arrondissement de Paris, et dont des parts étaient notamment détenues par le clan d’Omar Bongo, ainsi que son épouse, Edith Lucie Bongo Ondimba, aujourd’hui décédée, qui était la fille aînée du dirigeant congolais.

La justice a déjà saisi plusieurs propriétés du clan des Sassou Nguesso ainsi qu’une dizaine de voitures de luxe.

According to the investigations, it is thought that several tens of millions of euros from public bodies in Congo-Brazzaville have been transferred to the accounts of different offshore businesses based in the Seychelles, Mauritius and Hong Kong since 2007.  A well-informed source says that these funds are believed to partly finance the lifestyle of certain members of the president's circle.

The same source affirms that investigators think the couple may have financed some of the work with the sale of Julienne Sassou-Nguesso's share of a telecommunications company thought to be linked to “corrupt dealings”. Funds are believed to have been siphoned through a Seychellois company. The role of the president's son-in-law, Guy Johnson, is also under scrutiny. He is the director of a private property company which bought a distinctive hotel for some 19 million euros in the well-heeled 8th Arrondissement of Paris in 2007. Notably, the shares of the property company were held by members of Omar Bongo's circle, as well as his wife, the now deceased Edith Lucie Bongo Ondimba, who was the eldest daughter of the Congolese President Sassou-Nguesso.

Judicial authorities have already seized properties belonging to the Sassou-Nguesso clan, as well as 10 or so luxury cars.

In a declaration reported by the website dac-presse.com, Lamyr Nguelé, president of the Congolese National Commission against Corruption, Misappropriation and Fraud (CNCCF), noted in July 2016 that corruption is a serious problem in his country:

les secteurs les plus corrompus sont les douanes, les impôts et le trésor. Il a, par ailleurs, rappelé que l’indice de perception de la corruption au Congo oscillait entre 2.1 et 2.3 dans les années 2015-2016, selon Transparency international.

Dans le secteur de la santé, la corruption perdure encore faute d’application effective des mesures de gratuité décrétées par le chef de l’Etat, sur les traitements contre la tuberculose, le VIH-sida, la césarienne, les autres soins obstétricaux et le traitement du paludisme.

Dans les hôpitaux en effet, des agents véreux continuent leur macabre besogne qui consiste à soutirer des médicaments des sacs des personnes souffrantes et de les leur revendre. Les membres des familles de ces personnes sont obligés d’acheter ces médicaments pour réserver la vie de leur patient. «Si on n’achète pas leurs médicaments, ils rechignent à traiter la personne malade pour punir ceux qui ont refusé d’acheter leurs médicaments », a confié un parent dont le fils souffrait de diarrhée et vomissement.

The most corrupt sectors are customs, tax collection and the treasury. Furthermore, Congo's perception of corruption index fluctuated between 2.1 and 2.3 in the years 2015-2016, according to Transparency International.

In the health sector, corruption endures despite decrees from the head of state to introduce free treatments for tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, caesarian sections and other obstetric procedures, and malaria.

Indeed, dishonest officials still practice their dark arts in the hospitals. Taking medication from patient's bags, they sell it back to relatives, who are forced buy in order to keep their loved-one alive. “If we don't buy the medication, they object to treating the sick person as a punishment to those who have refused”, confided a parent whose son was suffering from diarrhoea and vomiting.

But he admitted the commission's power is limited:

Lorsque les faits sont avérés, nous transmettons le ou les dossiers au procureur de la République qui engage des poursuites. La commission n’a pas compétence de les engager. Malheureusement, force est de constater qu’aucun de nos dossiers n’a fait l’objet d’une poursuite judiciaire.

When the facts come out, we send the file or files to the prosecutor to begin proceedings. The CNCCF does not have the power to do so. Unfortunately it must be said that none of our files has been the subject of a legal action.

That is tantamount to calling the institution an empty shell, with no other use than to create a smokescreen to the international community. Moreover, Transparency International's 2016 report ranks the Republic of Congo 159th out of 170 countries, according to its Corruption Perceptions Index.

To find out more about the “Ill gotten goods” affair in Africa, here are several reports for reference:

by Edward Shelley at July 21, 2017 09:55 AM

Thai Academics to Be Summoned by Military for Raising ‘Anti-Junta Placards’ at an International Conference

Pakawadee Weerapaspong (left) and Chaipong Samnieng (right) holding up placards reading ‘An academic forum – is not – a military camp’. The man in the middle has not yet been identified. Photo from Thai Academic Network for Civil Rights.

This edited article is from Prachatai, an independent news site in Thailand, and is republished on Global Voices as part of a content-sharing agreement.

The deputy governor of the northern province of Chiang Mai has threatened three academics in Thailand who allegedly put up banners against the junta.

On 18 July 2017, Deputy Governor Puttipong Sirimart submitted a letter to the Ministry of Interior reporting three academics who allegedly held up placards reading, “An academic forum is not a military camp”, at the 13th International Conference on Thai Studies in Chiang Mai.

The letter identified the three as Prajak Kongkirati, a political scientist from Thammasat University, Pakawadee Weerapaspong, an independent writer, activist, and translator, and Chaipong Samnieng, a lecturer at the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Chiang Mai University.

The letter states that the three will be summoned by the military in Chiang Mai, claiming they used an academic forum to engage in anti-junta activities. The letter, however, does not specify when the three should report to the authorities.

The three are among 176 academics who signed a joint statement at the forum calling for the return of democracy. Here's an excerpt of the statement:

The state must respect academic freedom by returning the space of knowledge in which the people can access different kinds of information and facts, as well as allowing the exchange of knowledge without suppression, control or distortion.

Thailand's army staged a coup in 2014 and has remained in power through a constitution it passed in 2016. It vows to restore elections and civilian rule after political reforms have been implemented.

The deputy governor's letter adds that the three have consistently been involved in movements against the junta through the Thai Academic Network for Civil Rights (TANCR).

In response, the TANCR issued a statement saying that Prajak Kongkirati, although named in the letter, was not involved in holding up the placards and that the group has always called for freedom and human rights.

The statement condemned the measure to summon the three as “shameful”, adding that the 2017 Constitution does not forbid people from holding up placards.

Prajak Kongkirati, a well-known political scientist from Thammasat University, reading the statement which 176 Thai and foreign academics signed at Chiang Mai University on 17 July 2017.

by Prachatai at July 21, 2017 08:45 AM

July 20, 2017

Global Voices
Netizen Report: Authorities in China and Indonesia Threaten Whatsapp, Telegram Over Political Content

Flock of birds. Photo by Christoffer A Rasmussen, via Wikimedia. Licensed to public domain.

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

Indonesia’s Ministry of Communications and Information Technology threatened to ban the secure messaging app Telegram on July 15, reasoning that it is being used to “recruit Indonesians into militant groups and to spread hate and methods for carrying out attacks…”

As a partial measure, the government has already blocked access to 11 URLs offering the web version of Telegram. In response, Telegram has vowed to double its efforts to remove “terrorist” content from the platform by forming a team of moderators tasked with monitoring networks in Indonesia and removing such content as swiftly as possible.

Although Telegram may prefer this solution to being banned altogether, it may also increase the likelihood of overcompliance by the company, which could lead to censorship of lawful speech.

On July 18, Facebook’s popular messaging app WhatsApp was blocked in China, following the funeral of Chinese Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo. The world-renowned democracy advocate was sentenced to 11 years in prison in 2009 for “inciting subversion of state power” for his involvement in Charter 08, a manifesto that called for democratic reforms in China, and died of liver cancer on July 15.

Liu’s passing brought a new wave of censorship of social media, also affecting conversations on WeChat and Sina Weibo. Before his death, discussion of Liu on WeChat was allowed as long it did not touch on sensitive topics. After his death any mention of his name has resulted in the blocking of messages, including images sent over one-to-one chat. Until this week, WhatsApp had been the only Facebook app product accessible in the country.

Turkey detains human rights defenders with no charges

Ten human rights defenders who were arrested while attending a digital security and information management workshop in Istanbul on July 5 received a preliminary ruling from a judge on July 18. Four of the defenders were released on bail and the remaining six will be held in pre-trial detention while they are assessed for charges. They have been detained on accusations that they “aided an armed terror group,” though the authorities have cited no evidence to support this accusation and it is unclear whether they are formally charged. Protests have been held around the world calling for their release.

Ethiopia’s resistance musicians face arrest, censorship

Ethiopian authorities are now cracking down on musicians. Seven producers and performers of a popular YouTube video were arrested several weeks ago and last week were charged with terrorism for producing music videos and ‘uploading them on YouTube’. Musicians such as Seenaa Solomon, a well-known singer who is among those recently charged, became an important source of inspiration and provided the soundtrack to the resistance movement against government plans to expand the capital, Addis Ababa, into the Oromo region. The plan led to wide-scale protests and a violent crackdown between 2014-2016. Despite her jailing, Solomon’s music continues to flourish on YouTube.

In UAE, another arrest for “showing sympathy” with Qatar on social media

An Emirati man was arrested for showing sympathy with Qatar on social media. Ghanem Abdullah Mattar was detained after posting a video urging Emirati citizens to show respect for their “Qatari brothers” during the UAE’s blockade of Qatar. The UAE has criminalized any show of sympathy towards Qatar, punishable by a jail sentence of up to 15 years and a fine of up to $13,500. Mattar’s whereabouts remain unknown since his arrest.

Bangladesh’s ICT Act spawns record number of lawsuits against journalists

More than twenty journalists have been sued over the past four months in Bangladesh under the country’s controversial Information and Communications Act, which prohibits digital messages that “deteriorate” law and order, “prejudice the image of the state or person”, or “hurt religious beliefs.” The Minister of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs pledged in May to eliminate the Section 57 of the law, which has been used to file these lawsuits, but has shown no progress on this thus far. Nearly 700 cases have been filed under the law since it was amended in 2013.

China forces citizens in ethnic minority region to install mobile spyware

On July 10, mobile phone users in the Tianshan District of Urumqi City received a mobile phone notification from the district government instructing them to install a surveillance application called Jingwang (or “Web Cleansing”). The notification from police said the application would locate and track the sources and distribution paths of terrorists, along with “illegal religious” activity and “harmful information,” including videos, images, ebooks and documents. Among other things, the application can negate the password requirement of a Windows operating system and access the computer hard disk with no restrictions.

Facebook blocks newspaper accounts in India

Two Indian newspapers were blocked by Facebook in the past month for reasons that remain unclear. The first, Vartha Bharati, was blocked on two occasions in June and July, while the second, Kashmir Ink, was blocked once in July after posting a cover image of the militant commander Burhan Wani.

Can Australia strongarm US tech giants into weakening their security standards?

The Australian government proposed a new cybersecurity law that would force Facebook and Google to give government agencies access to encrypted messages. The law, which Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said would be modeled on the UK’s Investigatory Powers Act, would grant the Australian government expansive surveillance powers and require companies provide them “appropriate assistance” in investigations. When asked how the government plans to prevent users from turning to other software not controlled by tech companies that could turn over data, Turnbull asserted the laws of Australia would override the laws of mathematics.

Netizen Activism

The Association of Progressive Communications launched a survey collecting data concerning threats to and enhancement of sexual expression online. The survey is available at this link.

New Research

 

Subscribe to the Netizen Report

 

 

Ellery Roberts Biddle, Angel Carrion, Leila Nachawati, Inji Pennu and Sarah Myers West contributed to this report.

by Advox at July 20, 2017 09:36 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
Netizen Report: Authorities in China and Indonesia Threaten Whatsapp, Telegram Over Political Content

Flock of birds. Photo by Christoffer A Rasmussen, via Wikimedia. Licensed to public domain.

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

Indonesia’s Ministry of Communications and Information Technology threatened to ban the secure messaging app Telegram on July 15, reasoning that it is being used to “recruit Indonesians into militant groups and to spread hate and methods for carrying out attacks…”

As a partial measure, the government has already blocked access to 11 URLs offering the web version of Telegram. In response, Telegram has vowed to double its efforts to remove “terrorist” content from the platform by forming a team of moderators tasked with monitoring networks in Indonesia and removing such content as swiftly as possible.

Although Telegram may prefer this solution to being banned altogether, it may also increase the likelihood of overcompliance by the company, which could lead to censorship of lawful speech.

On July 18, Facebook’s popular messaging app WhatsApp was blocked in China, following the funeral of Chinese Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo. The world-renowned democracy advocate was sentenced to 11 years in prison in 2009 for “inciting subversion of state power” for his involvement in Charter 08, a manifesto that called for democratic reforms in China, and died of liver cancer on July 15.

Liu’s passing brought a new wave of censorship of social media, also affecting conversations on WeChat and Sina Weibo. Before his death, discussion of Liu on WeChat was allowed as long it did not touch on sensitive topics. After his death any mention of his name has resulted in the blocking of messages, including images sent over one-to-one chat. Until this week, WhatsApp had been the only Facebook app product accessible in the country.

Turkey detains human rights defenders with no charges

Ten human rights defenders who were arrested while attending a digital security and information management workshop in Istanbul on July 5 received a preliminary ruling from a judge on July 18. Four of the defenders were released on bail and the remaining six will be held in pre-trial detention while they are assessed for charges. They have been detained on accusations that they “aided an armed terror group,” though the authorities have cited no evidence to support this accusation and it is unclear whether they are formally charged. Protests have been held around the world calling for their release.

Ethiopia’s resistance musicians face arrest, censorship

Ethiopian authorities are now cracking down on musicians. Seven producers and performers of a popular YouTube video were arrested several weeks ago and last week were charged with terrorism for producing music videos and ‘uploading them on YouTube’. Musicians such as Seenaa Solomon, a well-known singer who is among those recently charged, became an important source of inspiration and provided the soundtrack to the resistance movement against government plans to expand the capital, Addis Ababa, into the Oromo region. The plan led to wide-scale protests and a violent crackdown between 2014-2016. Despite her jailing, Solomon’s music continues to flourish on YouTube.

In UAE, another arrest for “showing sympathy” with Qatar on social media

An Emirati man was arrested for showing sympathy with Qatar on social media. Ghanem Abdullah Mattar was detained after posting a video urging Emirati citizens to show respect for their “Qatari brothers” during the UAE’s blockade of Qatar. The UAE has criminalized any show of sympathy towards Qatar, punishable by a jail sentence of up to 15 years and a fine of up to $13,500. Mattar’s whereabouts remain unknown since his arrest.

Bangladesh’s ICT Act spawns record number of lawsuits against journalists

More than twenty journalists have been sued over the past four months in Bangladesh under the country’s controversial Information and Communications Act, which prohibits digital messages that “deteriorate” law and order, “prejudice the image of the state or person”, or “hurt religious beliefs.” The Minister of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs pledged in May to eliminate the Section 57 of the law, which has been used to file these lawsuits, but has shown no progress on this thus far. Nearly 700 cases have been filed under the law since it was amended in 2013.

China forces citizens in ethnic minority region to install mobile spyware

On July 10, mobile phone users in the Tianshan District of Urumqi City received a mobile phone notification from the district government instructing them to install a surveillance application called Jingwang (or “Web Cleansing”). The notification from police said the application would locate and track the sources and distribution paths of terrorists, along with “illegal religious” activity and “harmful information,” including videos, images, ebooks and documents. Among other things, the application can negate the password requirement of a Windows operating system and access the computer hard disk with no restrictions.

Facebook blocks newspaper accounts in India

Two Indian newspapers were blocked by Facebook in the past month for reasons that remain unclear. The first, Vartha Bharati, was blocked on two occasions in June and July, while the second, Kashmir Ink, was blocked once in July after posting a cover image of the militant commander Burhan Wani.

Can Australia strongarm US tech giants into weakening their security standards?

The Australian government proposed a new cybersecurity law that would force Facebook and Google to give government agencies access to encrypted messages. The law, which Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said would be modeled on the UK’s Investigatory Powers Act, would grant the Australian government expansive surveillance powers and require companies provide them “appropriate assistance” in investigations. When asked how the government plans to prevent users from turning to other software not controlled by tech companies that could turn over data, Turnbull asserted the laws of Australia would override the laws of mathematics.

Netizen Activism

The Association of Progressive Communications launched a survey collecting data concerning threats to and enhancement of sexual expression online. The survey is available at this link.

New Research

 

Subscribe to the Netizen Report

 

 

Ellery Roberts Biddle, Angel Carrion, Leila Nachawati, Inji Pennu and Sarah Myers West contributed to this report.

by Netizen Report Team at July 20, 2017 09:34 PM

Global Voices
Up-and-Coming Trinidadian Soca Singer Devon Matthews’ Journey Comes to an End

Screenshot taken from a YouTube video of Devon Matthews’ cover of Lionel Richie's “Jesus is Love”.

This is the time of year that Trinidad and Tobago Carnival masquerade bands typically introduce their costume designs for the upcoming season to the thousands of people who participate in what has come to be known as “the greatest show on earth”. The events are usually lavish affairs, with models parading in extravagant costumes and performances by top-level soca music artists.

However, a time to celebrate quickly turned into a time to mourn the sudden passing of Trinidadian soca singer, Devon Matthews, who collapsed after performing at Tribe Carnival‘s band launch. The 36-year-old was rushed to the St. Clair Medical Centre, where he could not be saved.

Tribe Carnival's Facebook page called him “a strong, versatile talent whose star was on the rise”. Matthews had been performing for over a decade and placed third at the 2017 International Soca Monarch Competition with his hit song, “D Journey”, featuring Ella Andall.

As friends and fans mourned their loss, a self-identified “close friend” of the singer, who preferred to remain anonymous, did an interview with the Trinidad Guardian in which he suggested that diet pills may have contributed to Matthews’ death. At the time of the interview, an autopsy had not yet been performed. By the time the autopsy report revealed that Matthews had died of a heart attack on June 16, 2017, both the interview and the “friend” were already being bashed on social media.

Radio station owner and soca promoter Tony Chow Lin On observed:

To write an article based on an anonymous friend and suggest that Devon Matthews died from a diet pill , WITHOUT AN AUTOPSY ,,,,I do not comment on the work of media colleagues but this is wrong on several levels , Trinidad Guardian please think about what you achieved with this one

Facebook user Kathryn Stollmeyer-Wight added:

The Guardian Newspaper should apologize to Devon's family […] the reporter & the editor who allowed this ‘speculation’ to make news needs to take an unpaid vacation.
I mean, seriously? […]
Sorry, I maybe [sic] 61 & a little old fashioned, but I find this unacceptable. […]
RIP Devon Matthews.

The Red 96.7 FM DJ's radio station family expressed their grief. Matthews’ unexpected death also met with an outpouring of heartfelt messages from fans.

Cheva Alexa posted this video with the caption “RIP,” on her Facebook page:

Radio host Marc Wood, meanwhile, remembered that “We always ended our all conversations with ‘let's make it happen'”, calling Matthews “a brother, friend and a positive soul who really defines humility, love and persistence in character”.

On Twitter, some used the hashtag #nokilljoy — one of Matthews’ popular sayings — in reactions to his death:

Others were simply stunned:

Even though the online community could hardly believe he was gone, they had faith that Matthews’ musical legacy would live on, with one Twitter user quoting a line from his 2017 Carnival hit:

Matthews’ funeral is scheduled to take place on Monday July 24, at the Arima Velodrome, a stadium in the singer's home town. The service is to be followed by a private cremation.

by Atiba Rogers at July 20, 2017 09:06 PM

Dhaka Citizens Show Mayors Red Card for Failure to Control Mosquito-Born Diseases

Dhaka citizens show mayors the red card for not solving the rampant mosquito problem. Image by Gazi Manjurul Alam Zuboraz. Used with permission.

On Saturday, the 15th of July 2017, a cross section of residents of the Bangladesh capital of Dhaka went on a demonstration in front of the National Museum at the Shahbagh intersection showing red cards to mayors of both Dhaka North and South City Corporations for their failure to handle the mosquito-borne chikungunya outbreak in Dhaka.

A Facebook event was created with a call out to ‘writers, artists, students, teachers, journalists and citizens’ to which a few thousand people responded. According to the event spokesperson, one in every ten Dhakaites bear the risk of suffering from chikungunya and the disease is spreading like an epidemic. The recent monsoon season resulted in a mosquito outbreak and both of Dhaka's city corporations have failed to take measures to eradicate the problem. If mosquitoes cannot be controlled, the city is in danger of a dengue epidemic as well, the event spokesperson explained.

Screenshot of Dhaka citizens showing their red cards on the Facebook event page. Image via Sangita Ghosh. (Click on the link to see full size images)

Chikungunya is an infection caused by the chikungunya virus which is spread between people by two types of mosquitos: Aedes albopictus and Aedes aegypti. Symptoms include fever, headache, nausea, fatigue, rashes, and severe muscle and joint pain. Worse, even after months of remission, long-term musculoskeletal pain persists. Although the risk of death is around 1 in 1,000, the disease is practically unbearable for the very young, and elderly people with health complications.

Harry Faisal suffered from chikungunya and writes in Facebook about the unbearable disease:

এই মুহূর্তে শুধু ডানহাত ১০০% চালু। বাম গোড়ালি আর বাম কব্জি ফুলে আছে এবং হাটার জন্য পা ফেললেও ব্যাথার চোটে মাথা ঝিমঝিম করে উঠে।

বন্ধু, সিনিয়র -জুনিয়র, অফিস কলিগ – সবার কাছে দোয়া প্রার্থী।

At this moment only my right hand is working. My left ankle and the left wrist have swollen. I cannot walk as the unbearable pain hurts my head.

I seek prayers from my friends, colleagues and dear ones.

The mosquito problem in Dhaka is a perennial one. Dhaka's unclean water bodies including an inadequate sewage system are blamed for the growth of mosquitos and the diseases they spread. Both mayors of Dhaka North and South City Corporations won the election with the promise to eradicate mosquitoes from this mega city.

Chikungunya mosquito. Image from Flickr by CDC Global. CC BY 2.0

The disease has also spread to other parts of Bangladesh and health experts have publicly stressed cleanliness in and around the house to eradicate the disease-carrying mosquitos.

Recently Annisul Haque, mayor of Dhaka North City Corporation gained infamy by commenting that he cannot go to each home and kill mosquitoes and that the people should take measures to keep themselves safe from mosquitoes. Writer and publisher Robin Ahsan wrote in response on Facebook:

না মেয়র, আপনাকে কেউ ঘরে এসে মশারি টাঙাতে বলেনি। আমাদের যাতে মশারি না টাঙাতে হয় সেই দায়িত্ব আপনাকে দেওয়া হয়েছিল। আপনিও আর দশটা রাজনীতিবিদের মতোই চটকদার কথা বলে দায়িত্ব এড়ালেন।

No, Mr. Mayor, nobody has called you to fix mosquito nets inside their homes. You were given the responsibility to kill mosquitoes so we don't require mosquito nets. You just shifted your responsibility like other shrewd politicians.

Journalist Kabir Ahmed asked:

মেয়র আনিসুল হকের প্রতি প্রশ্ন, নগরের নাগরিক জীবন নির্বিঘ্ন করা যদি আপনাদের কাজ না হয়, তাহলে কী কাজ আপনাদের?

My question to Mayor Annisul Haque, if you cannot ease the lives of the citizens by fixing solvable problems, then what exactly is your job?

Rashes of a chikungunya patient. Image from Flicker by Pan American Health organization. CC BY-ND 2.0

On the other hand, the health minister blames the city corporations who failed to control the spread of mosquito-borne diseases. The Dhaka North City Corporation with 36 wards has only 279 staff members and the Dhaka South City Corporation with 56 wards has only 284 staff members. Last year, the budget for mosquito control in Dhaka North was only 232.5 million Taka (US$ 2.87 million) and in Dhaka South only 115 million Taka (US$ 1.42 million). That is certainly inadequate for Dhaka metro with a population of 19 million.

In response to citizen outrage in recent times, the city corporations have intensified their mosquito control program by launching special larviciding and fogging activities at different corners of the capital. Wahiduzzaman Khan, a banker, commented:

মশা-জলাবদ্ধতা-পাব্লিক ট্রান্সপোর্টের অভাব এগুলোর সাথে থাকতে থাকতে আমরা অভ্যস্ত হয়ে গেছি। আর এই অভ্যস্ততার সুযোগ নিচ্ছে পাব্লিক অফিস হোল্ডাররা। আমাদের উচ্চকন্ঠে অসন্তোস প্রকাশ তাদের টনক নড়িয়ে দিবেই।

People are being accustomed to civic problems such as traffic, mosquito, lack of public transport, etc. These executives of public offices are taking this to their advantage and are slacking. We have to cry out loud in protest to make them get back to work.

The protesters on Saturday formed a human chain under the banner “Writers, Singers, Students, Teachers, Journalists, and Citizens” and vowed to show their red cards again at the head offices of both city corporation if sufficient measures are not taken.

by Rezwan at July 20, 2017 05:30 PM

Caracas the Deceiving City (and Other Forms of Pain)

Caracas, Venezuela, viewed from El Avila National Park. PHOTO: GustavoMelero via Wikimedia Commons

This post is the third of a series originally published by the author on Medium. Click on the links to read the first , second and third installments.

I cannot put it any other way: I'm afraid of the city where I was born. These are strong, painful words, but it's a sincere expression of my feelings. Caracas scares me, in a deep and distressing way. But I’ve grown used to being afraid, and unfortunately, I'm not the only one. Fear has become an inherent part of the way we experience the city, the way we live, create and build it, both in our minds and in reality. And it hurts to be so afraid of the place where you were born and raised.

Fear is part of this society made of bewildered citizens afraid of what the future might hold. In my case, it has become almost an obsession. I'm afraid of everything, from robbery to an incident in the street that could trigger a dangerous event. An intricate web of small occurrence where the only common factor seems to be my fear of violence. Violence is always there.

My dread of violence is with me whenever I take the bus or subway, when I walk down the street, when I drive down a busy avenue. Because violence in Venezuela is part of daily life, whether we are aware of it or not. It is part of the urban way of life we associate with cities.

I've been writing about Caracas to the point of exhaustion, I've been walking through its streets, camera in hand, trying to overcome my own fear in order to capture what I love most about it. Somehow I can see my own story reflected in its neglected streets and avenues. And yet I continue to endure it, with this feeling of bitter disenchantment that seems almost like a betrayal of my innocence. Because I used to love Caracas very much. My city was my first source of inspiration, and it was through its history that I started perceiving myself as part of it.

We talk a lot about fear in generic terms, but we hardly ever acknowledge it as our own. I think about this as I'm sitting in El Calvario Park, looking down on Caracas, a silent, and in its own way an almost simple city in its chaotic beauty. So remote. Caracas is mine, it is part of my history.  You and I  are united, Caracas, by this vision of the world that we once shared. Is that enough, I wonder, as I lift my camera. I look at you through the viewfinder my lens captures your most hidden treasures and slowly focuses on them. And then it reveals the Caracas of my dreams.

When you live in the second most dangerous city in the world, you always have to consider the possibility of random violence, at any times, anywhere. An invisible, latent identity marker of a country that is broken to pieces. An unhealed wound.

My mother feels uneasy when I talk about these things. During the last few years, we have had arguments and confrontations because of the fear that permeates our lives. You can call it what you like: these arguments come in different shapes and sizes, but they are all triggered by fear. It expresses itself in warnings like, “Don't be late”, “Watch where you go,” “Be careful what you do.” This in spite of the fact that I'm over 30, quite independent, and that I'm generally careful and take care of myself. But for my Mom that's not enough. It will probably never be enough. Because for her, Caracas is more than a city—it represents a threat.

“It's not about taking care of yourself. Caracas is dangerous because it's unpredictable,” she says to me.

“But it's more than that,” I say. “It is about the concept of Caracas as the sum of its troubles and flaws. Caracas is Caracas”.

“That is philosophy,” she says. “Caracas has never been so dangerous or cruel. Earlier…”

“Like how long ago?”

Mom purses her lips. We've had this conversation so many times before that it seems like the same argument over and over again. Mom remembers a Caracas that is no longer there, and that I can't even grasp: a city with lively streets and a radiant nightlife. A modern, advanced and cosmopolitan Caracas, a city seeking to overcome simple problems of urban development.

The Caracas I know is a different city: a tough one, destroyed by indolence, broken by the weight of pain, poverty, and indifference. A city of closed doors and security grills. One that witnesses death and pain on a daily basis. My Caracas, the city I know, is not the same as my Mom's Caracas.

“Caracas is the consequence of this country's history, more than any other region or place in Venezuela,” she tells me. “Caracas started as a dream: Guzmán Blanco dreamed of a beautiful, Frenchified, but at the same time, phony city. Then Pérez Jiménez turned it into a symbol, rebuilt it, placed it inside his concept of how the country should be—that is, organized and under the military rule. Partisans from the political parties “Acción Democrática” and “Copey” have fought for it. Chavismo uses it.”

All this is true, but in spite of the profusion of symbols, ideas, and approaches, Caracas keeps going against all odds. In spite of this constant transformation, the insistence of looking at it as part of history and at the same time as a metaphor for a young, nascent country, Caracas becomes what we want it to be.

Caracas can be this broken and chaotic city, with its old quarter halfway rebuilt and the diverse neighborhoods that grew around it. It might be history itself, a history that considers itself forward-looking and that is retold day after day. But Caracas is also a memory of what it could have been. Of what it will no longer be. My Mom smiles when she tells me the first time she went to Teresa Carreño Theater and how impressed she was by its dimensions and also its importance.

“A world-class theater,” she tells me. “That was the first thing that came to my mind as I ascended in the huge escalator, looking at the place in wonder. The brand new theater, a symbol of “Saudi Venezuela”. There was no other building in the country that could compare to it and I thought: I wonder what awaits us in the future.”

And although I don't say a word, I feel sad. A few months ago I went to Teresa Carreño Theater and it was totally different from my mother's memories. Cracked walls. Tarnished floors. The whole place smelled of decay. Yet for me it retained some of its beauty. Despite the dried-up vegetation, the small signs of deterioration that no one cares to repair. It’s just like Caracas, lots of makeup to hide the wrinkles, its mouth hardened into an expression of pure bitterness. But it's Caracas, and I love it.

“We have no choice but to love Caracas,” says F, a fruit juice seller in front of the Church of Altagracia. I go wandering around there from time to time, trying to rediscover Caracas, to remember how it was even if I did not know the city by then. But F is an optimist: even in these hard times when it's difficult even to get sugar for the juices he sells and the oranges are so expensive he can barely afford them. But he keeps selling fruit juice because it is “good for the heart” and his customers still buy it. Like me. I savor the tartness of freshly-squeezed oranges with an almost childish thrill. It tastes like history, like small miracles in the midst of this city that has stopped believing in anything.

“Sometimes I feel so scared of how hard it is to love this city,” I tell him. My friend shakes his disheveled but venerable head and his wrinkled face breaks into a smile.

“It is easy to be scared. It's quite straightforward—one can be afraid of just about everything. But Caracas is different, it has a sense of identity. There is fear for sure, but there is also the happiness of small things. The smell of the experiences one has had in it. The small hidden treasures.”

How poetic, I think, as I finish my juice. What a wonderful moment, where Caracas becomes almost beautiful with the dome of the church gleaming in the sun and this warm, pleasant feeling of eternal summer. And the smell of the city: pungent, hard, distinctive. The mixture of odors. Leaning against a half-built wall, talking to F, I feel that life goes very fast, and sometimes it can even taste good. I guess that's how my mother remembers Caracas.

But I experience the city in a different way. For me it is the anxiety I feel when I walk its streets. The feeling of having to look constantly over my shoulder. But there is also the El Ávila National Park” a place so dazzling that makes me angry. What a pleasure it is to spend time marveling at the exuberance of its vegetation. How delightful to smile and contemplate its unforgettable green. But even then, it is not enough. Not in the midst of so much anguish, scrambling, and fear.

 

by Liliane Tambasco at July 20, 2017 10:43 AM

Marketplace Tech Report
07/20/2017: A new way of cleaning your house
They may not be the most anticipated items in the world, but transparency reports are important because they reveal how companies disclose information about the way they deal with the U.S. government. On today's show, we'll talk with Michee Smith, a product manager at Google, about the changes the company is making to its report. Afterwards, we'll look at the model behind Up & Go, a service that connects those in New York City who need cleaning services with small business owners.

by Marketplace at July 20, 2017 10:07 AM

Global Voices
I Dread Setting Foot on U.S. Soil While Trump is President

Winter time in Indiana. Photo by the author and used with permission

The United States was my country of residence from August 1996 to October 2010. Since then, I have returned to visit friends stateside four times, and it was always a great pleasure to touch base and reminisce about the good old days.  Many of the happiest moments of my life occurred in one of the five cities I lived in: meeting my future wife, finishing graduate school, getting my first job and travelling across the country with friends and family.

I miss my US friends dearly, but it is impossible for me to visit them for a while, I am afraid. It would mean having to overcome too much frustration over how the country I used to know has changed.

I have tried to give the benefit of the doubt to the new Trump administration despite all the evidence to the contrary, from the acrimonious 2016 presidential campaign to the inauguration. This administration has been as terrifyingly incompetent, reckless and cruel as I'd feared.

Six months after Trump assumed power, I have seen the despair in my friends’ eyes increase with each asinine decision or tweet by their president, including the efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, the travel ban and the more than 135 false statements the president uttered publicly.

I have also admired the resolve many US citizens have shown in resisting the Trump onslaught—their resilience is remarkable. But the empowerment of so many acts of villainy by the current political elite is just too much for me to handle.

Not visiting my friends and relatives is not a decision I have made lightly. These are people who have meant the world to me for 14 years. People who showed me how to navigate this fast-moving world without losing my wits. People who welcomed me when I felt utterly lost in this new country and made me feel at home. This is the version of the country I want to remember. It is heartbreaking to see it at the mercy of a few bitter ignoramuses.

I still remember when I first arrived in Washington, D.C. 21 years ago. The Georgetown University campus above the Potomac river was a sight to behold, and I thought of how fortunate I was to have been given this opportunity. I am still so grateful for the education I received in DC and many other places across the country. So it is even more maddening to learn that folks much more deserving than I of such an opportunity, the members of the Afghan all-girls robotics team, were denied entry without a second thought.

Visa restrictions were already strict under previous administrations. But you didn't feel that any random person arriving at a United States border could be detained for no reason whatsoever. In February the French historian Henry Rousso landed in Houston to attend a conference at Texas A&M University. The immigration officer told Rousso he wasn't “allowed to give a lecture and receive an honorarium” on his tourist visa.

This is just one of many incidents that have occurred since Trump entered the White House. Canadian schools have cancelled visits to the US based on the uncertainty of immigration policies, as have other frequent visitors from north of the border.

How could things so quickly have taken a turn for the worse?

The list of incomprehensible measures taken by this administration is endless. Going through all of them would be pointless, and most of them have already been analyzed, dissected and debated at length. Still, any bill that removes health coverage from 23 millions citizens seems like the questionable measure par excellence. And a policy that prevents soldiers who fought for your cause from entering the country make as little sense.

I am from Madagascar, which in the past decades has become one of the poorest countries in the world. It is thanks to idiotic policies and incompetent rulers that we have arrived at such a dire situation. But I would still take any of our former presidents over the current US president,  any day of the week, and twice on Sunday. At least, none of them thought that fake-tackling a news outlet WWE-style was something worth publishing on their social media profile.

This kind of senseless behavior is the reason I dread going back to the United States. If a president feels entitled to make a mockery of the media and shows no remorse for physically assaulting the press (even in jest), why would his supporters think they need to show restraint? Trump has empowered all the radicals and lunatics to act out their impulses. Bravado is celebrated while reason is belittled. As somebody who is visibly a minority, in the current climate, it wouldn't be unreasonable to expect that some idiot could ambush me just to show off to his equally idiotic friends. The numbers support this: the Southern Poverty Law Center reports that as of February 10, 2017, there were 1,372 post-election hate crimes reported.

Hate crimes also took place under the Bush and the Obama administration, of course. I had just started graduate school when 9/11 happened. A Sikh friend of mine was assaulted in front of his home two days after. While I often did not agree with the Bush administration, you could at least expect some decency in times of crisis. The Obama administration's foreign policy did its part in antagonizing the rest of the world, but Obama was always quick to condemn hate crimes whenever they occurred. The behavior of Trump's two predecessors demonstrated a respect for the office of President. I see none of that in the current administration.

Trump's brashness does get him attention, and the man certainly loves attention. You don't let go of being a reality television star that easily, I guess. News about Trump has taken over my social media feed for months. It got so out of hand that I have considered filtering out the word Trump altogether, for as a wise man once said:

I do hear the people who argue that the world needs less sarcasm and more understanding. I hear that the polarization of politics is a dangerous trend to accentuate. But if such behavior by a political leader does not galvanize you, what will? When a person in a position of power picks a fight against your community, should the answer honestly be to try to understand where he's coming from?

That is one of the reasons I ‘d rather not visit the US.  Just thinking of the nonsense Trump sputters aggravates me. I do not want to be subjected to non-stop gaslighting. Above all, I do not want to start equating his behavior with a new norm in the US. My friends don't deserve that.

There has been enough reporting on the many decisions by this administration that have gone wrong. But there has not been much writing that reflects how sad (and worried) the rest of the world is to witness the charade developing in the United States. Most people in the world were not ever naive enough to go along with the whole “leader of the free world” notion. To begin with, we were never sure what that meant, and we certainly understand that nations seek their self-interest first. But The United States was perceived as an ally, one that you could talk to when a disagreement arose. Not anymore.  A few of the US's overseas allies have started to turn away from the Trump administration.

The bottom line is, as Trump himself would say, that America is America's issue first. In theory, this only concerns people from outside the US if they choose to go there. So I won't. But it does affect the rest of the world. A nuclear war is now within the realm of possibility because of things Trump has said on Twitter:

I am not the only one who feels uncomfortable visiting the US in the current circumstances. A report in the LA Times estimates that visits to the US will decline by 6.3 million visits by the end of next year. Of the reasons cited by those not willing to travel to the US anymore, many cite the “atmosphere of fear at the nation’s airports”. The fear of an authoritarian Trump regime has already galvanized citizens to act. Several protests took places in cities across the country before the 4th of July to demand Trump's impeachment.

As for me and my US-based friends and family, this is where I say goodbye for now. I hope to see you again in four years, if not sooner. Please forgive my absence, and know that I miss you and I wholeheartedly support the homegrown resistance against ignorance and in favour of the return of sanity.

by Lova Rakotomalala at July 20, 2017 09:08 AM

“In Spain We Have The Best System To Get Rid Of Racism – Denying It Exists.”

Photograph taken by Pixabay, published under CC0 Licence in the Public Domain.

The following article was originally written by Aitor Gorrotxategi Cortina, a lawyer from Madrid. His analysis was originally published on the Afroféminas website and has been edited and shared by Global Voices with permission from the site's administrators under its publishing protocols. 

We've done it. After centuries of fighting against it, there is now no racism in Spain. The cases are anecdotal. Other than a tiny number, the Spanish people are not racist.

We're going to export our method to other countries like the United States (look at them with Donald Trump, the poor things!) or France (the Presidential candidate Marine Le Pen got lots of votes, such Fascists!).

We see films like ‘Mississippi Burning’ or '12 Years A Slave’ and we say to ourselves, those rednecks are such bastards! We see the Ku Klux Klan or the political rallies held by the far-right French political party the National Front, and we see ourselves as different, better.

Because we are not racist. Not at all. We say things like ‘racists are the minority’. They're old people, stuck in their ways, or they're tiny, far-right groups that swarm around some Spanish cities. We see them as Fascists.

Who cares that Nazis and racists have free range on social networks? What does it matter that there are evident discrimination problems in many of our schools, a lack of opportunities and equal access to the same jobs, political persecution, rejection at all levels, huge pockets of poverty, objectification, erasure, etc? Who cares if Spanish sports teams are constantly coming out with racist chants? Or that we have refugee camps where thousands of immigrants are locked up against their will for the crime of seeking a better life, with the approval of the majority of the population? What do the (reported) hundreds of racial aggressions that take place every year matter?

Racism in Spain isn't brutal, it's subtle. It's about a lack of empathy. Normally, the victim is accused of exaggerating, which is very logical in our atmosphere of denying racism. This is very similar to what has happened in the past with other discriminiation. Next comes the feeling of not wanting to integrate.

Integrating in this system means keeping quiet and not interfering.

I recently read a response by ‘Anon’ to a comment on a post on Afroféminas , saying the following about Guillem Balboa, the recently appointed black mayor of a town in Majorca:

La realidad es que estrictamente en su significado, la sociedad española no es racista, lo cual no significa que en España no hayan racistas, obviamente, pero en su conjunto los españoles no son partidarios del racismo, y en nuestra Ley no existe ese tipo de discriminación.

Una sociedad racista fue la que existió en EEUU cuando los negros tenían que sentarse en los últimos asientos del autobús, o incluso mucho antes, cuando existía la exclavitud. Eso es una sociedad racista, por definición aquella que mediante la exacerbación de un grupo étnico discrimina y persigue a aquellos con los que convive y no pertenecen a su “raza”. Una sociedad racista es la que existía en Sudáfrica durante el apartheid.

Lo que tú sufres es una sociedad estúpida con 4 racistas de libro y algunos racistillas de poca monta. Personas en posesión de prejuicios con mejor o peor voluntad, que a pesar de ello, puede elegir y elige democráticamente a políticos negros para ejercer cargos públicos, como lo es una alcaldía. Parece que no te sorprende este hecho, a lo mejor es que imaginas que todos los que han votado a este hombre eran negros, pero la realidad es que seguramente ni el 1% lo son. ¡Ah! No, perdona, los que han votado a este señor fueron los hippie guays, esa gentuza, esos racistas que te hacen la vida imposible, a ti y a tu hijo aparentemente blanco…

In reality, to be strictly literal, Spanish society is not racist. That's not to say that there are no racists in Spain, of course, but as a collective the Spanish do not take part in racism, and there is no racial discrimination in our laws.

The USA had a racist society when black people had to sit at the back of busses, and before that when slavery existed. That was a racist society; by definition, one that encourages discrimination against an ethnic group and persecution against those who live alongside them but don't belong to their ‘race’. A racist society also existed in South Africa during Apartheid.

What you are facing is a stupid society, with a few stereotypical racists and minor racists. People who have prejudices, with good or bad intentions, who have the right to choose and who democratically elect black politicians to positions like the mayor. You don't seem surprised by this; maybe you're assuming that everyone who voted for this man was black, but actually not even 1% of them were. Ah! No, sorry, the ones who voted for him were the cool hippies, that mob, those racists who make life impossible for you and your child who looks white…

His tone is typically condescending. The white man explains to the black woman what racism is, and tells her that she is bitter and suffering from delusions because, of course, she thinks that all white people are bad. This offensive talk is always the same: it's no big deal. You think you can see ghosts all around you, and you're a little ignorant. All together now: Spain is not racist because, look, one of our towns has a black mayor and we've let him live. This is an important thing; the feeling that many of us have that we are doing him a favour, we are good people.

Us white people have a problem. We don't like it when they contradict us. Anything that doesn't cause us to suffer or dominate our lives is unimportant; therefore, racism in Spain is not an important issue.

Moreover, we think that if these little issues have to be solved, who better than ourselves to do it? We can do it. We don't have any idea what it is to be discriminated against for our ethnicity, religion or origin. But who cares? We can be the saviours.

One clear example is the anti-racism policies that institutions carry out. The vast majority of institutions that deal with these issues are directed almost every time to decisions made by white people, who definitely never face racism or exclusion themselves. Imagine a man leading a women's shelter or a gender equality council. There are cases, but they get shouted down nowadays. This should be the case for issues related to racism and immigration, too.

On the other hand, these policies are infantile, if not offensive, to the groups that they are supposed to help. At best, they are ineffective.

While searching for information for my job about the ‘Anti-rumours’ platform in Barcelona, an organisation for preventing racism, I found a photo of some workshops. Was there a single foreigner there? I'll go even further: was there anyone there who wasn't white? No.

This is the ‘white saviour’ complex. Even when we are trying to help, we are talking over others. Even when trying to eradicate something like racial discrimination and xenophobia, we end up practising it. Worse still, we don't realise how damaging these social structures that persist in our world are.

I'm not denying that people have good intentions, but we must listen to those who suffer racism and exclusion. These women and men understand the problem better than anyone, and they must be our leaders in the struggle, the front line. They don't need representatives. They can represent themselves, and they are empowered.

To me, taking up space in this issue that doesn't affect me has been a problem. But I'm not here to talk to the black readers of Afroféminas, but to the people who are on the same rung of the social ladder as me – which exists, whether we like it or not. Origin or skin colour are essential elements in the formation of the different privileges in this ladder.

If you are aware that racism happens but don't deem it important, you are complicit in it. I know it doesn't happen to you, but I'm sure there are other kinds of suffering that don't affect you, don't put up with so calmly; you protest or contribute or do something. So: do something, because, sorry to disappoint you, this is happening in this country, my country, to those who aren't like us.

It is racism.

by Eleanor Weekes at July 20, 2017 08:45 AM

A Look Back at Japan's Transformative ‘Showa Era’
showa mini truck

A Showa-era utility truck in Fukui Prefecture. Image by Nevin Thompson

As Japan heads into high summer, it's a reminder that the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo is just three years away. While there are worries the Tokyo summer games may be too expensive and may leave the Japanese capital cluttered with “white elephants,” this will be in fact the second summer Olympics that Tokyo has hosted.

Tokyo hosted its first Olympics in 1964, and the summer games that year were intended to showcase the economic miracle of Japan as it rose from the ashes of the Second World War.

One blog and Twitter account, “A Tour of Spots from the Showa Era” (@昭和スポット巡りShowa Spotto Meguri), preserves this postwar history, combing encyclopedias, photo magazines, guidebooks and other sources for nostalgic images from Japan's postwar recovery:

Advertisement for a Daihatsu “Fellow” in 1967.

The Showa era in Japan stretched from 1926 to 1989 and the death of Emperor Hirohito, and covers Japan's descent into military dictatorship, war and subsequent defeat until the country's economic rebirth and growth into the world's second-largest economy in the 1980s.

1964: Edobashi Junction. From the guidebook “Japan.”

The 1964 Olympics in Tokyo were a defining symbol of this period. Tokyo, already obliterated and rebuilt following the war, was once again reshaped ahead the games, notably with new elevated expressways.

The Showa era of the mid-60s to mid-70s. Kabuto-cho, Nippponbashi in Tokyo. Image from Encyclopedia Nipponica.

Besides massive new infrastructure projects such as highways and high-speed rail lines, the Japan of the 1960s and 1970s had become a consumer culture with its unique style.

The television weather report with typhoon updates in 1960.

The decade around the 1964 Olympics also provided some striking designs.

Trains of Japan National Railways around 1968. Image from Encyclopedia Nipponica.

The “A Tour of Spots from the Showa Era” Twitter account doesn't just explore the Tokyo of the 1960s. There are photos from the 1950s, when Japan was already rocketing to economic recovery, and from different cities, such as this nostalgic image of Osaka:

Dotonbori (an entertainment district in Osaka) in the 1950s.

The 1970s was also an iconic time in Showa-era Japan, with its own unmistakable style.

Kitchen tiles in the 1970s.

“Fuji,” a Western-style cake shop.

“Pinocchio,” a coffee shop and restaurant in Kamo City.

The rear ends of various domestic-model cars in the 1970s.

The Twitter account also captures the look and feel of Japan's postwar cities. Most were built in a hurry, with cheap, utilitarian ferro-concrete architecture that is still a defining characteristic of Japan's fading regional cities in 2017:

“Brick Road” shopping street in Gifu City. For more photos, click here: http://showaspotmegri.cocolog-nifty.com/blog/2016/11/post-a2c3-15.html

“A Tour of Spots from the Showa Era” also captures parts of Japanese postwar culture that have mostly vanished in 2017:

1963: A man sleeping in a luggage rack on a long-distance train is admonished by a train conductor (Japan National Railways). Image from “Asahi Graph.”

To provide a glimpse of how Japan has transformed since the 1964 summer games, earlier in July, Kyodo, a news agency and wire service based in Tokyo, published an online gallery of images that compare Tokyo in 1964 with images of the city in 2017:

More photos of Showa-era Japan can be viewed Twitter and on the Showa Meguri Spotto blog.

by Nevin Thompson at July 20, 2017 02:36 AM

July 19, 2017

Global Voices
A Water Weed Is Damaging Ethiopia's Largest Lake and Putting Livelihoods at Risk

The outlet of the Blue Nile River. Photo by Richard Mortel via Flickr. CC BY 2.0

Since 2012, an invasive weed known as the water hyacinth has been subsuming tens of thousands of acreage of the surface of Lake Tana, as well as adjacent wetlands and ranches surrounding the lake.

About two million Ethiopians directly depend on the lake as well as adjacent wetlands and ranches for their livelihood, according to Nature And Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU), a German non-governmental organization focused on sustainability and conservation in the region. The steady growth of the water hyacinth has taken a toll, particularly on the western side of the lake, an area populated by fishermen, farmers, and ranchers whose work depends on it.

The vast, 832-square-mile body of water is Ethiopia's largest lake, and is packed with ecological, cultural and historical charm. It is situated in the highlands of Ethiopia’s second-largest region, Amhara administrative state.

Ecologically, Lake Tana is home to rare and endangered bird species such as the black-crowned crane and also hosts several migratory birds.

Lake Tana is also notable for being the headwaters of the Blue Nile river that flows westward before it merges with White Nile at Khartoum, Sudan’s Capital.

The Blue and White Nile are the two major tributaries of world’s longest river, the Nile. Along the way, the Nile is fed by numerous smaller streams before it flows northward into Egypt, but the Nile gets more than 80 percent of its water from Blue Nile. Describing the eminence of Lake Tana, the renowned adventurer and geophysicist Pasquale Scaturro said, “The riches of Egypt is a gift from Lake Tana.”

Now, the lake is a very different symbol — of the dire state of Ethiopia’s natural resources at a time when the country’s fast-growing population needs more of everything.

When first spotted in 2012, the massive water hyacinth blooms were first confined to areas covering about 77 square miles of the shallow water and shores of the lake around its western edges. Since then, the floating weed has grown rapidly, devouring large swatches of the surface of the lake. As a result, the average expanse of the lake in the western province of Dembiya has steadily shrunken, residents told state media.

According to experts who spoke to government media, the water hyacinth has grown nearly 100 percent from 2012 to about 155 square miles, though a relatively dry winter season in 2016 slowed its expansion.

The spread of this invasive alien species is the result of human activity around Lake Tana. According to a paper written by two academicians, the rapid growth of the pernicious weed is caused by the inflow of nutrient rich water from urban and agricultural runoff and products of industrial waste, threatening other Ethiopian lakes as well such as Lake Hawasa, and Lake Zeway.

Since 2015, UNESCO has recognized Lake Tana as a World Heritage site for its unique ecological biosphere reserve, due to NABU's efforts to secure this status as part of its conservation efforts in the region. UNESCO also recognizes the islands’ rich historical, cultural and religious significance with deep ties to the Ethiopian Coptic Orthodox Church.

The lake is also home to historical monasteries and churches. Their relatively isolated location on islands has aided their preservation, but as the menacing water hyacinth threatens to clog the entire lake, their survival is at stake as well as the livelihoods of all who live near and depend on Lake Tana as a natural resource.

by Endalk at July 19, 2017 08:55 PM

Creative Commons
Should copyright law deny creators the right to share freely? Let the authors choose.
Band reflections by Dave Ferguson, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Imposing a mandatory and unwaivable compensation scheme violates the letter and spirit of open licensing.

Copyright policymakers in Europe and South America have proposed legislation that would impose an unwaivable right to financial remuneration for authors and performers on copyrighted works. The laws attempt to ensure that creators receive payment for their work, but they would interfere with the operation of Creative Commons licensing by adding a special and separate economic right above and beyond the intention of some authors who wish to share their creative works with the world for free.

In short, these unwaivable rights would damage or break the global standard mechanism for sharing content freely and openly online.

Copyright automatically extends to every work of original authorship fixed in some tangible medium of expression—from paint on canvas, a digital photo on a smartphone, or a mindless scribble on a napkin. Copyright attaches to a work whether or not the creator wants it, and protection extends to literary, musical, and dramatic works, as well as photographs and graphics, audio and visual recordings, and software.

We know that many creators feel that the default rules of copyright are too restrictive. The Creative Commons licenses are a standardized and legally sound tool for creators to grant permission in advance for the public to use works in ways that the law otherwise forbids. When creators choose to share, it is a gift to the world, allowing anyone to build and create on top of their works. To date the CC licenses have been used to share more than 1.2 billion works, which are downloaded and reused tens of millions of times a day, creating an expansive digital commons of works that anyone can view, use, and enjoy.

It’s clear that digital technologies and the web have dramatically altered—and continue to change—the ways creative content is produced and shared. The proliferation of new content distribution mechanisms, social media platforms, and crowdfunding services have fueled innovation in the way authors, artists, and performers connect with fans and are paid for their creative work.

Recently, there has been an increasing call by rightsholders and intermediaries to use copyright as the means to ensure that authors and performers can earn adequate compensation for their creative works, even after those creators have transferred their rights to publishers, or film or music producers. For example, in the context of the EU copyright reform legislation, the ITRE Committee of the European Parliament has introduced amendments that would impose an unwaivable right to remuneration for authors and performers. This right would apply to all works, even those published voluntarily under an open license. Last year Chile passed a similar law that applies to authors of audiovisual works.

Unfortunately, these solutions are ill-suited to address the core business and labor issues at hand. Instead, they seek to use copyright as the mechanism to remedy the inequity in the bargaining position of creators in relation to rightsholders. These unwaivable remuneration schemes may be well-intentioned, but they have significant unintended consequences because they reduce the overall flexibility of how copyright can be exercised. An unwaivable right to compensation would interfere with the operation of open licensing by reserving a special and separate economic right above and beyond the intention of some authors.

Creative Commons has taken the position that these types of regulations would create unnecessary complexity for those who wish to share their works under our licenses because they would deny creators the choice to share as they wish. All Creative Commons licensors permit their works to be used for at least non-commercial purposes. When an author applies a CC license to her work, she grants to the public a worldwide, royalty-free license to use the work under certain terms. And many authors simply want to share their creativity freely under open terms to benefit the public good. For example, educators and scholarly researchers create and share works primarily to advance education and to contribute to their field of study—not necessarily for financial remuneration.

We support authors and creators, and we firmly believe in their right to choose to share, or to seek compensation for all or some uses of their works. At the same time, we must find solutions that also honor those authors who choose to share with few or no restrictions. Mandatory and unwaivable compensation schemes violate the letter and spirit of Creative Commons licensing, and they’re a poor substitute for more meaningful and lasting change in service of fair remuneration for those working in the creative industries today.

The post Should copyright law deny creators the right to share freely? Let the authors choose. appeared first on Creative Commons.

by Timothy Vollmer at July 19, 2017 08:03 PM

Global Voices
How the Assault on Independent Media in Bahrain Silenced a Trusted Regional Watchdog

Karranah, Bahrain, February 2014. Demonstrators marched towards the Lulu (Pearl) Roundabout on the anniversary of February 2011 protests. Security forces dispersed the crowd with tear gas. Photograph by Sayed Baqer Alkamel. Copyright: Demotix

Last month in Bahrain, one of the Gulf region's few truly independent media outlets, Al Wasat, closed its doors.

On 4 June, the Bahraini Ministry of Information informed Al Wasat that it would immediately suspend the newspaper’s online and print editions over a column that included “a defamation of a sisterly Arab country.” The opinion piece in question, published on 4 June, addressed the wave of protests calling for jobs and economic development in Al Hoceima and other cities in Morocco.

Al Wasat, which covers Bahrain and other countries in the Middle East and North Africa regions, is unique in that it has no ties either to government or to individuals close to a ruling family.

In a statement released on 14 July, Amnesty International said the shuttering of the newspaper and online site was an “arbitrary decision” and part of an “all-out campaign to crush freedom of the press” in the Gulf island kingdom of Bahrain.

Amnesty also called on the authorities to renew the accreditation of prominent journalist Nazeeha Saeed and other journalists and for Saeed’s conviction for working without a permit to be quashed.

Bahrain, a Shia Muslim majority country ruled by a Sunni Muslim royal family, has seen ongoing protests over the past six years. In February 2011 in the capital Manama, tens of thousands of peaceful protesters calling for democratic reform took over a prominent landmark, Lulu (Pearl) Roundabout, only to be driven off with force. In the days and weeks that followed, dozens of people were killed, hundreds wounded, thousands were rounded up and approximately 5000 people were arbitrarily sacked from their jobs. Most of those affected were Shia.

Al Wasat covered the story of the occupation of Lulu Roundabout and its aftermath and in doing so paid a high price. When its offices and printing press were attacked and wrecked by a vigilante mob in 2011, the police did not intervene. And in 2012, Al Wasat co-founder Karim Al Fakhrawi was murdered.

Al Wasat co-founder Karim Al Fakhrawi was beaten to death while in police custody Photo: kareemfakhrawi instagram account.

When Al Fakhrawi complained to police that authorities were about to bulldoze his house, he was detained. A week later, he was dead. Authorities initially claimed his death resulted from kidney failure, but a subsequent investigation indicated that he was beaten to death in custody.

In December, 2012, two police officers were convicted of manslaughter and received sentences of seven years each, subsequently reduced to three years on appeal.

This conviction came about largely due to an inquiry by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), an independent group of human rights analysts convened by the Bahraini government in June 2011 in response to international condemnation of their handling of the protests.

In November 2011, BICI delivered a damning indictment of the regime, noting the use of excessive force and the impunity with which police arrested and tortured  and killed protesters.

In the section dealing with media harassment, the report noted:

It is clear that the media in Bahrain is biased towards the GoB (government of Bahrain). Six of the seven daily newspapers are pro-government and the broadcasting service is State-controlled. The continuing failure to provide opposition groups with an adequate voice in the national media risks further polarising the political and ethnic divide in Bahrain.

The seventh newspaper was Al Wasat.

The BICI report recommended that the government “consider relaxing censorship and allowing the opposition greater access to television broadcasts, radio broadcasts and print media.” But despite promises of King Hamad to carry out in full all of the recommendations of the BICI report, and despite Article 24 of the Kingdom's Constitution, which affirms freedom of the press, the situation of media freedom in Bahrain remains dire.

Like all the other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, Bahrain has enacted and enforced draconian legislation aimed at silencing its critics. In 2014, the government amended the penal code to specify a prison sentence of one to seven years and a fine of up to 10,000 Bahraini dinars ($26,500) for anyone who publicly insults Bahrain’s king, flag, or national emblem. In 2016, the Ministry of Information approved a decree introducing a licensing scheme for electronic media.

Al Wasat’s editor in chief Mansoor al Jamri has long been recognized for his dedication to the values of objective, free and independent journalism. Despite facing constant pressure from the ruling family, he has remained true to his belief that what Bahrain and the Gulf need is a media that speaks truth to power, and that only through a free and unfettered media would Bahrain and the other Gulf states begin to build inclusive societies.

Working under this ethos, Al Wasat faced near constant harassment. It has been suspended several times, its journalists have been denied accreditation and arrested and the government has withheld advertising from the site to cut off its resources. Individual staff have been subjected to online hate campaigns that have included death threats. And yet still Al Wasat and its editor continued working to hold the government to account.

But on 24 June, Al Wasat’s board of directors informed its staff of around 185 full and part-time employees that in light of the suspension and the continuing refusal of the government to meet with it, it had no other option but to terminate their contracts.

As a Bahraini journalist who asked to remain anonymous said at the time:

…freedom of expression is under sustained attack here and with the shuttering of Al Wasat, there is no real journalism left.

by Bill Law at July 19, 2017 07:58 PM

Is the Legalisation of Marijuana in Trinidad & Tobago an ‘Idea Whose Time Has Come'?

Marijuana leaf pattern; photo by Jurassic Blueberries, CC BY 2.0.

Even as many parts of the world moves towards the decriminalisation of marijuana, Trinidad and Tobago still considers its cultivation and use illegal.

As early as 2014, activists in neighbouring regional territories were agitating for the “freeing up” of the herb. By February 2015, Jamaica became the first Caribbean nation to decriminalise marijuana when its House of Representatives passed a law allowing possession of up to two ounces of cannabis. The new legislation also allows users to grow up to five plants for personal consumption, and guidelines are being established for the cultivation and distribution of both medical marijuana and use of the herb for religious ceremonies.

In a region whose justice systems are plagued with a backlog of minor possession offences, decriminalisation has been a welcome move to many. In Jamaica, not only has use of the herb been decriminalised, it's been largely normalised — there's talk of ganja cooperatives and the potential of pot tourism. In fact, in late 2015, the country's first Rastafari Rootzfest celebrated the emancipation of marijuana, though some insist the development of Jamaica's legal ganja industry isn't happening fast enough.

Trinidad and Tobago's stance on the issue, meanwhile, remains the polar opposite. The official Twitter feed of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) often posts photos and updates about the quantities of marijuana that are seized and destroyed:

Some netizens feel that the legalisation of ganja would separate its use from the dangerous and violent illegal drug trade and ease the burden on the country's justice system, but the TTPS continues to lump them all together, proudly noting that its 2017 marijuana seizures have increased by 29.7% from the year before.

The other facet of the issue is, of course, medical marijuana. In September 2015, C420, a cannabis law reform NGO in Trinidad and Tobago, threatened to sue the country’s ministry of health, saying that it had neglected to make known that legislation pertaining to the lawful possession of marijuana does exist in the country.

Back in October 2015, writer Nazma Muller, who has been a strong advocate for decriminalisation, wrote a guest post about the issue for Global Voices. In it, she noted that this “updated legislation has also been mysteriously overlooked by the legions of lawyers who earn astronomical fees defending clients charged under the Dangerous Drugs Act. In the 15 years since it was introduced, it has never once been used as a defence in the thousands of marijuana possession cases that have been clogging the country’s judicial system.”

Muller's work as an activist and leader of the Caribbean Collective for Justice, a political party that recently campaigned on a green platform that focused on cannabis legalisation, has convinced her that all the United States’ War on Drugs has managed to accomplish is the incarceration of predominantly “poor, young black men“.

She is not alone; her online petition, which calls for the government to “address the fact that as long as ganja remains illegal, it will always be under the control of criminal gangs”, has been signed by more than 3,000 people, and there is a documentary film about the subject. In a public Facebook post that Muller shared, she noted that a former University of the West Indies lecturer, Dr. Onwubiko Agozino, wrote the country's prime minister and suggested that the legalisation of weed would see a dramatic drop in crime:

The only ones benefiting from keeping marijuana illegal are the drug gangs and they will be forced out of business by legitimate dealers who would be licensed and who would pay taxes on their sales to generate more revenues. Other products could also be manufactured from hemp to help diversify the economy.

The government will also save money from ending unnecessary prosecutions by directing police officers to cease and desist from going after non-violent marijuana users. […]

If the government is afraid of the electoral consequences of legalization, then call a referendum on the policy and let the people decide. Otherwise, encourage a bipartisan bill to be presented in parliament for legalization. Or encourage citizens to sue the government for the deprivation of liberty and let the courts decide. The more courageous move would be for the Honourable Prime Minister to lead the policy change with an immediate directive to the Law Revision Commission to reclassify marijuana as a legal substance.

In a post for the popular satirical sports and politics site Wired868, blogger Jabal Hassanali presented his case for “making the marijuana move”:

With legalisation, academic research into marijuana—its positive medicinal benefits as well as its harmful effects—would be a lot less encumbered and, although we are very late to join the party, I feel sure we would be able to produce innovations and findings that would not only be relevant globally but useful to our own local context as well.

Over time, these findings would feed back into public policy, helping us to chart the best way forward in literally uncharted territory. […]

We cannot allow ourselves to be paralysed by inaction because we are trying to develop the perfect system.

Perfect in this regard is the enemy of good and, no matter how much due diligence we undertake, it must be recognised that there will always be kinks and blind spots in the early stages of the experiment. Still, even the creation of an imperfect legal market can go a long way toward seriously disrupting the black market.

To derive maximum benefit from so doing, we shall have to ensure that we keep the barriers of entry into the industry so that it is made easily accessible to persons from disenfranchised communities.

The post also addressed the “elephant in the room”, which is that the United Nations — despite many of its signatory countries’ movement away from prohibitionist drug policies — continues to criminalise the non-medical or scientific use of cannabis:

Bear in mind that, once the UN does make the necessary adjustment [to at least decriminalise, if not legalise marijuana] the floodgates will open and the rest of the world—including major bandwaggonists Trinidad and Tobago—will all of a sudden see this as a non-issue. So if we take the risk now, where, realistically, in the Western Hemisphere would the diplomatic backlash come from?

Certainly not the USA, who are skidding along on a technicality, state by state, and have lost the moral authority to protest. […]

As a diversification option, this opportunity represents relatively low-hanging fruit that can be plucked in the short-to-medium term if we play our cards right.

We can simultaneously reduce crime and boost tourism and the economy.

One stone(r), two birds.

by Flora Thomas at July 19, 2017 07:28 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
China's Xinjiang Residents Are Being Forced to Install Surveillance Apps on Mobile Phones

A personal communication device check point in Xinjiang via Twitter user 即时中国大陆映像

Residents of Xinjiang, an ethnic minority region of western China, are being forced to install spyware on their mobile phones.

On July 10, mobile phone users in the Tianshan District of Urumqi City received a mobile phone notification from the district government instructing them to install a surveillance application called Jingwang (or “Web Cleansing”). The message said the app was intended to “prevent [them] from accessing terrorist information.”

But authorities may be using the app for more than just counter-terrorism. According to an exclusive report from Radio Free Asia, 10 Kazakh women from Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture were arrested for messages sent to a private WeChat group chat soon after they installed the app.

The notification from police said the application would locate and track the sources and distribution paths of terrorists, along with “illegal religious” activity and “harmful information,” including videos, images, ebooks and documents.

Jingwang's website describes the application as follows:

净网卫士是江苏电信面向家庭宽带用户推出的家长、小孩上网分级防护服务,主要提供色情网站拦截;网络诈骗、病毒木马、钓鱼网站阻断;上网时间控制提醒;手机远程管理等安全防护服务。为未成年人筑起一道网络安全屏障,为孩子的健康成长保驾护航。

Jingwang is a protection service with an adult and child categorization system introduced by Jiangsu Telecom. The main function is to block pornographic websites, online scams, trojan horses, and phishing sites; to alert users of how much time they spend online; and to enable remote control of one's home network. The tool is intended to help kids develop a healthy lifestyle by building a safe web filter for the minors.

Of course, any tool with these capabilities could be used in multiple ways. For example, the app's “remote control” feature could enable state actors or even hackers to manipulate or steal from a person's home network.

The move is consistent with other measures of control over digital activities in the region. While stories of digital censorship in China often focus on the experiences of users in major cities in the east and south, the reality is often more bleak for those living in remote, embattled ethnic minority regions such as Xinjiang and Tibet. Seeking to contain unrest and discontent in conflict areas, authorities often impose extreme censorship and surveillance measures and routine Internet shutdowns.

A Twitter-based media outlet, “Images from mainland China” (即时中国大陆映像), which covers censored news in China, posted photos taken from a checkpoint where police officers randomly checked residents to see if they have installed the surveillance app:

Authorities from Xinjiang are checking to make sure that people are using the official Jingwang application. A mobile notification demanded people install the app within 10 days. If they are caught at a checkpoint and their devices do not have the software, they could be detained for 10 days. This is a setback on the development of technology. They forced people to use devices designed for the elderly. It is a form of confinement by through surveillance technology. We are back to Mao's China.

“Images from mainland China” (即时中国大陆映像) also posted a product description of Jingwang which explained that the tool can negate the password requirement of a Windows operating system and access the computer hard disk with no restrictions.

Once installed with Jingwang, computers and mobiles in Xinjiang, would become electronic handcuffs.

The Jingwang requirement may be a response to the city party committee’s instruction to crack down on the distribution of illegal content. All government branches and government and party affiliated institutions, including universities and research organizations, are obligated to follow instructions from the Cybersecurity Office on managing their computer and communication networks.

A recent report from Freedom House, a US-based human rights group, also touched on the new surveillance practices:

In Xinjiang, authorities in a district of the regional capital Urumqi issued a notice on June 27 instructing all residents and business owners to submit their “personal ID cards, cell phones, external drives, portable hard drives, notebook computers, and media storage cards” to the local police post for “registration and scanning” by August 1.

[…]

The goal is ostensibly to identify and purge any “terrorist videos,” but the action violates the privacy rights of Urumqi's three million residents and exposes them to punishment for a host of other possible offenses, including those related to peaceful religious or political expression.

by Oiwan Lam at July 19, 2017 02:59 PM

Global Voices
China's Xinjiang Residents Are Being Forced to Install Surveillance Apps on Mobile Phones

A personal communication device check point in Xinjiang via Twitter user 即时中国大陆映像

Residents of Xinjiang, an ethnic minority region of western China, are being forced to install spyware on their mobile phones.

On July 10, mobile phone users in the Tianshan District of Urumqi City received a mobile phone notification from the district government instructing them to install a surveillance application called Jingwang (or “Web Cleansing”). The message said the app was intended to “prevent [them] from accessing terrorist information.”

But authorities may be using the app for more than just counter-terrorism. According to an exclusive report from Radio Free Asia, 10 Kazakh women from Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture were arrested for messages sent to a private WeChat group chat soon after they installed the app.

The notification from police said the application would locate and track the sources and distribution paths of terrorists, along with “illegal religious” activity and “harmful information,” including videos, images, ebooks and documents.

Jingwang's website describes the application as follows:

净网卫士是江苏电信面向家庭宽带用户推出的家长、小孩上网分级防护服务,主要提供色情网站拦截;网络诈骗、病毒木马、钓鱼网站阻断;上网时间控制提醒;手机远程管理等安全防护服务。为未成年人筑起一道网络安全屏障,为孩子的健康成长保驾护航。

Jingwang is a protection service with an adult and child categorization system introduced by Jiangsu Telecom. The main function is to block pornographic websites, online scams, trojan horses, and phishing sites; to alert users of how much time they spend online; and to enable remote control of one's home network. The tool is intended to help kids develop a healthy lifestyle by building a safe web filter for the minors.

Of course, any tool with these capabilities could be used in multiple ways. For example, the app's “remote control” feature could enable state actors or even hackers to manipulate or steal from a person's home network.

The move is consistent with other measures of control over digital activities in the region. While stories of digital censorship in China often focus on the experiences of users in major cities in the east and south, the reality is often more bleak for those living in remote, embattled ethnic minority regions such as Xinjiang and Tibet. Seeking to contain unrest and discontent in conflict areas, authorities often impose extreme censorship and surveillance measures and routine Internet shutdowns.

A Twitter-based media outlet, “Images from mainland China” (即时中国大陆映像), which covers censored news in China, posted photos taken from a checkpoint where police officers randomly checked residents to see if they have installed the surveillance app:

Authorities from Xinjiang are checking to make sure that people are using the official Jingwang application. A mobile notification demanded people install the app within 10 days. If they are caught at a checkpoint and their devices do not have the software, they could be detained for 10 days. This is a setback on the development of technology. They forced people to use devices designed for the elderly. It is a form of confinement by through surveillance technology. We are back to Mao's China.

“Images from mainland China” (即时中国大陆映像) also posted a product description of Jingwang which explained that the tool can negate the password requirement of a Windows operating system and access the computer hard disk with no restrictions.

Once installed with Jingwang, computers and mobiles in Xinjiang, would become electronic handcuffs.

The Jingwang requirement may be a response to the city party committee’s instruction to crack down on the distribution of illegal content. All government branches and government and party affiliated institutions, including universities and research organizations, are obligated to follow instructions from the Cybersecurity Office on managing their computer and communication networks.

A recent report from Freedom House, a US-based human rights group, also touched on the new surveillance practices:

In Xinjiang, authorities in a district of the regional capital Urumqi issued a notice on June 27 instructing all residents and business owners to submit their “personal ID cards, cell phones, external drives, portable hard drives, notebook computers, and media storage cards” to the local police post for “registration and scanning” by August 1.

[…]

The goal is ostensibly to identify and purge any “terrorist videos,” but the action violates the privacy rights of Urumqi's three million residents and exposes them to punishment for a host of other possible offenses, including those related to peaceful religious or political expression.

by Oiwan Lam at July 19, 2017 02:56 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
Ethiopia's Music of Resistance Stays Strong, Despite Repression

Screenshot from one the more melancholic music videos of Teferi Mekonen viewed more than 200,000 times from the group's YouTube channel.

In Ethiopia, journalists and bloggers have long been subjected to imprisonment and terrorism charges, but musicians have been relatively free — until recently.

Over the past year, what activists call “resistance songs” have flooded a tiny corner of the Ethiopian internet. But as political music has become more visible in public life and online, Ethiopian authorities have expanded their political repression tactics to musicians whom they see as sympathizers with opposition.

Since December 2016, multiple popular Ethiopian musicians aligned with the country's growing opposition movement have been arrested and jailed. Last month, the prominent group of rising start singer Seenaa Solomon was charged with terrorism for “inciting” lyrics and uploading their music video to YouTube.

The contentious political environment in which these arrests took place has grown out of the Ethiopian government's plan to expand Addis Ababa, the nation's capital. In 2014, the ruling EPRDF party announced plans to expand the capital into adjacent farm lands of Oromia, Ethiopia’s largest region that is primarily home to the country's largest ethnic group, the Oromo.

The plan led to wide-scale protests and a violent government crackdown, ultimately resulting in a state of emergency declared in October 2016 and still effective today. Some say the state of emergency, which was extended to four more months in March 2017 has brought some calm after two years of political unrest.

While the state of emergency may be curbing the demonstrations, feelings and narratives of resistance remain alive and well. And Afan Oromo (the region's language) musicians have begun to rise as a visible — and audible — driving inspiration for the opposition movement.

For Oromos, resistance songs have long been at the heart of their political movements. However, over the last few months the ‘resistance songs’ have grown louder and angrier in tones and have gained a much larger following. And of late, even Amharic singers who have not sung overtly political songs have joined the chorus resistance songs. Prominent Amharic singer Yehune Belay released a popular Amharic song in which he pleaded with Ethiopian soldiers to stop killing people.

Large numbers of YouTube channels and Facebook pages have sprung up, documenting the cultural aspects of the protest. Websites and blogs frequently post resistance songs.

On YouTube, channels carrying montages of protest images linked to the resistance songs regularly garner hundreds of thousands of views.

Addis Ababa in the late afternoon. Photo by Amanda Lichtenstein.

Offline, street CD vendors and small CD rental shops are part of an informal chain of supply of resistance songs for Ethiopians who don’t have internet access.

The government has tried all methods to censor ‘resistance songs’. It has arrested singers, denied them gigs and even driven them out of Ethiopia. It haas blocked YouTube channels and jammed diaspora-based satellite television stations.

But the government’s tactics in repressing critical singers often seems only to increase the popularity of resistance songs. For example, Yai Gulalle Film, the YouTube channel run by Seena Solomon and her colleagues before their arrest, has been viewed more than 3,525,996 times.

by Endalk at July 19, 2017 01:41 PM

Global Voices
Ethiopia's Music of Resistance Stays Strong, Despite Repression

Screenshot from one the more melancholic music videos of Teferi Mekonen viewed more than 200,000 times from the group's YouTube channel.

In Ethiopia, journalists and bloggers have long been subjected to imprisonment and terrorism charges, but musicians have been relatively free — until recently.

Over the past year, what activists call “resistance songs” have flooded a tiny corner of the Ethiopian internet. But as political music has become more visible in public life and online, Ethiopian authorities have expanded their political repression tactics to musicians whom they see as sympathizers with opposition.

Since December 2016, multiple popular Ethiopian musicians aligned with the country's growing opposition movement have been arrested and jailed. Last month, the prominent group of rising start singer Seenaa Solomon was charged with terrorism for “inciting” lyrics and uploading their music video to YouTube.

The contentious political environment in which these arrests took place has grown out of the Ethiopian government's plan to expand Addis Ababa, the nation's capital. In 2014, the ruling EPRDF party announced plans to expand the capital into adjacent farm lands of Oromia, Ethiopia’s largest region that is primarily home to the country's largest ethnic group, the Oromo.

The plan led to wide-scale protests and a violent government crackdown, ultimately resulting in a state of emergency declared in October 2016 and still effective today. Some say the state of emergency, which was extended to four more months in March 2017 has brought some calm after two years of political unrest.

While the state of emergency may be curbing the demonstrations, feelings and narratives of resistance remain alive and well. And Afan Oromo (the region's language) musicians have begun to rise as a visible — and audible — driving inspiration for the opposition movement.

For Oromos, resistance songs have long been at the heart of their political movements. However, over the last few months the ‘resistance songs’ have grown louder and angrier in tones and have gained a much larger following. And of late, even Amharic singers who have not sung overtly political songs have joined the chorus resistance songs. Prominent Amharic singer Yehune Belay released a popular Amharic song in which he pleaded with Ethiopian soldiers to stop killing people.

Large numbers of YouTube channels and Facebook pages have sprung up, documenting the cultural aspects of the protest. Websites and blogs frequently post resistance songs.

On YouTube, channels carrying montages of protest images linked to the resistance songs regularly garner hundreds of thousands of views.

Addis Ababa in the late afternoon. Photo by Amanda Lichtenstein.

Offline, street CD vendors and small CD rental shops are part of an informal chain of supply of resistance songs for Ethiopians who don’t have internet access.

The government has tried all methods to censor ‘resistance songs’. It has arrested singers, denied them gigs and even driven them out of Ethiopia. It haas blocked YouTube channels and jammed diaspora-based satellite television stations.

But the government’s tactics in repressing critical singers often seems only to increase the popularity of resistance songs. For example, Yai Gulalle Film, the YouTube channel run by Seena Solomon and her colleagues before their arrest, has been viewed more than 3,525,996 times.

by Endalk at July 19, 2017 01:39 PM

Marketplace Tech Report
07/19/2017: A chipmaker's challenges
Qualcomm may not be a household name, but its chips are inside a household item: your phone. On today's show, we'll look at the company's ubiquity, along with the struggles it's been facing as smartphone makers decide to find solutions in-house. Afterwards, we'll discuss the announcement of Bluetooth Mesh, the idea that eventually all your Bluetooth devices may be able to talk to each other separately from your Wi-Fi network.

by Marketplace at July 19, 2017 10:20 AM

Global Voices
Mexican-American Researchers Reclaim Heritage to Radically Change the Way We Eat

‘Decolonize Your Diet’ Luz Calvo (right) garnishes desserts with Adilia Torres (left) during a fundraiser dinner for the East Bay Meditation Center on April 2016. Photo: Facebook public profile. Used with permission.

Like many cultural practices, what we eat and consider healthy is part of our surroundings, which are also the result of myriad cultural, historical, political and economic influences. Inspired by this concept, two researchers from Cal State University in the United States, Luz Calvo and Catrióna Rueda Esquibel, created the project and cookbook ‘Decolonize Your Diet’ to underscore the way eating habits connect with empires and to illuminate the wisdom of communities abandoned by modernity.

Calvo and Rueda Esquibel collect strategies from ancient Mexican culture and Chicanx (Mexican-American) traditions:

Decolonize Your Diet will walk with you as you reclaim your culture by sharing recipes, cooking techniques, and discussions of ingredients. We believe that food is medicine and we share information about the health benefits of ancestral foods, herbs, and teas. We encourage you to talk to your elders, relatives, and traditional healers in your community to learn from their wisdom and knowledge. We honor cultural knowledge by contributing what we know. We encourage you to do the same […] As US-born Latinos/as, we have much to learn from the way our ancestors ate. Eating our ancestral foods can help us prevent and treat the diseases that result from adopting the Standard American Diet. […]

Health was a very important motivation for Luz Calvo to start researching food intensely after being diagnosed with breast cancer. For Calvo, that was the beginning of a commitment to eating clean, whole organic food and make every meal “an opportunity to prevent cancer from recurring. So far so good!”
Global Voices spoke to Luz Calvo to know more about the project and some other inspirations behind ‘Decolonize Your Diet’.
GV: What is ‘Decolonize Your Diet'?

Luz Calvo (LC): We are theorizing decolonization from the point of view of Mexican American (our preferred term is Chicanx) peoples. Decolonizing our diets means that we are trying to reconnect with healthier ways to nourish ourselves. This means connecting to our ancestral knowledge—knowledge that has been passed down for thousands of years in the Americas. We research pre-Hispanic era foods in order to better understand the wealth of indigenous food knowledge that is the root of much of contemporary Mexican cuisine. So to us, decolonizing our diets is a political stance, one that rejects white supremacy and Eurocentrism as the organizing narrative of “healthy” food and recognizes the cultural knowledge held by our immigrant communities.

GV: Where did the idea come from? What inspired it?

LC: There are a lot of reasons that we felt compelled to write this book. We’re Ethnic Studies professors in the business of teaching culturally relevant history to Cal State students. We found that many of the models of healthy eating emphasized the Mediterranean diet, which is really just the Greco-Roman model of western civilization. We wanted to emphasize how the native foods of America had a profound influence on cuisines all over the world. All the chiles, tomatoes, corn, potatoes, squash, many of the berries, most of the beans in the world all originated in indigenous American cultures.  So we wanted to shift the focus to show how a Meso-American diet is traditionally healthy: with a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, plant-based proteins, and an amazing array of flavors.

GV: Why do you think we need to decolonize what we eat? In what way is it colonized?

LC: A lot of people think that eating healthy means eating to lose weight, or going without. One student told us that she had tried and tried to eat more healthy, to eat salads instead of her regular meals. “I failed,” she said. This student, a child of Mexican immigrants, had internalized dominant US culture’s narrative about what constitutes healthy eating (largely eating salads and being skinny). There is a misconception that Mexican food is inherently unhealthy. However, the diet of rural Mexico is rich in fruits and vegetables: corn, beans, squash, chiles, nopales, and wild greens are all central to the rural Mexican diet. Once this student examined her diet by reading ingredients and tracking the content of the foods, she realized that the tamales, vegetable soups, salsas did not need to be eliminated! Instead, she cut out the sugary drinks like soda. She talked to her family about alternatives, such as water and unsweetened or lightly sweetened agua frescas. As a young mom, she has continued to practice healthy eating following our principles. And she is raising her son on home-cooked Mexican meals!

Through our research, we have come to understand that most ancestral diets (pre-1950s) were healthy, including the Meso-American diet. We find it objectionable that doctors will often recommend a “Mediterranean diet” to their Mexican patients, without understanding that the beans, corn, and vegetables that are central to the Mexican ancestral diet is just as, if not more, healthy.

GV: What other ways of colonization can be seen in daily life?

LC: The United States is a settler colonial state so pretty much every system and institution is implicated in the ongoing colonization of the land and dispossession of indigenous peoples. Schools are set up to tell history from the point of view of European settlers.  Capitalism as a system imposed a logic of extraction and profit. Most of us have lost any kind of direct relationship to the land and the cycle of life. Our water and our air is polluted. We are caught up in a endless spiral of extraction, consumption, and disease. Our relationship to Mother Earth needs healing.

GV: What other projects exist online with these same goals?

LC: Many other folks have been working on this project for a long time, including Decolonial Food for Thought, Decolonizing Diet Project, Devon Abbott Mihesuah, and many indigenous chefs in the US and Mexico.
Recipes from their cookbook “Decolonizing Your Diet: Mexican-American Plant-Based Recipes for Health and Healing” (published by Pulp Press in 2015) as well as events organized or made in collaboration with ‘Decolonize Your Diet’ can be found on their Facebook page and Calvo's Twitter feed.

by Laura Vidal at July 19, 2017 06:50 AM

In Bangladesh, Fear Drives Headline-Making Spate of Snake Killings

Snakes are killed in rural Bangladesh when they are found in human habitat. Image from Flickr by Vipez. CC: BY-NC-ND 2.0

July 16th was World Snake Day, a day to celebrate the reptiles and raise awareness about their conservation. Bangladesh is one place where snakes might need a little more care, because according to media reports, there's a snake killing spree in the northeast and southeast regions of the country due to popular fears of the animal as well as a lack of specialized rescuers on staff in local governments.

Recently, these regions have seen an increase in snake sightings, leading to news headlines like “12 cobras found inside fast food shop”, “Snake pit with 125 cobras found in a Rajshahi kitchen”, and “116 cobras found in Kushtia”. In most of these cases, the people in these rural areas of the country have resorted to killing the snakes found inside their homes or other establishments.

There have also been more snake bites, and according to reports, the local farmers in certain rural areas are refusing to work in the field as the number of snake bites have risen. A local volunteer organization distributed some rubber boots to mitigate their fears.

Dr Monirul H Khan, an associate professor of zoology at Jahangirnagar University, said in an interview with Dhaka Tribune that snakes are already known for settling near human habitats because of the prevalence of rats near homes. Snakes also breed during monsoon season, so it's not surprising that people are seeing more of them. Each snake can lay up to 50 eggs, and the recent snake killings have mostly been people killing baby snakes.

Experts say that due to intense floods in the past few years, many poisonous snakes migrated from neighboring India to Bangladesh and they are taking refuge in human habitats, especially village homes built with mud and bamboos. The local government hospitals have asked for more supplies of anti-venom as snake bite cases have increased, but no deaths from snake bites has been reported.

The truth is that most snake species in Bangladesh aren't poisonous, and as the president and founding member of the Wildlife Conservation Team of Bangladesh, Mohammad Quamruzzaman Babu, reminded, snakes help in agriculture as they help minimize the population of plant-eating rats, and there will be disruptions in the ecosystem if snake populations are diminished.

Banner via Facebook page Snakes of Bangladesh

Snake conservation and awareness Facebook page Snakes of Bangladesh shared an article by Abdur Razzaque, a researcher of Dhaka University, on why people are killing snakes:

বিগত কয়েকেদিন যাবৎ দৈনিক খবরের কাগজে প্রায় চার শতাধিক এর বেশি সাপ মারার সংবাদ এসেছে। এবছরেই যে মানুষ এতবেশি সংখ্যক মেরেছে তা নয়। প্রতি বছর হাজার হাজার সাপ মানুষ মেরে ফেলছে। [..] আমাদের দেশে প্রায় ৯০ প্রজাতির সাপের মধ্যে প্রায় ২৭ প্রজাতির বিষাক্ত এবং বাকিগুলো অবিষাক্ত সাপ। কিন্তু মানুষের কাছে সাপ মানেই আতঙ্কের নাম, সেটি বিষাক্ত হোক কিংবা অবিষাক্ত। [..] সাপ দেখলেই মারতে হবে ব্যাপারটা এখন আমরা শুধু বংশপরম্পরায় নয় বরং যেন জেনেটিকালি বহন করে বেরাচ্ছি। যে প্রাণিটি মানুষ এত ভয় পায় সেটি প্রকৃতিতে থাকার কোন কি দরকার আছে? কিন্তু বিজ্ঞান বলছে, প্রাকৃতিক ভারসাম্য বজায় রাখতে, খাদ্য শৃঙ্খল অটুট রাখতে এদের দরকার আছে। [..]

সাপ প্রকৃতিতে যেসব পরিবেশে থাকতো সেগেুলো আমরা নিজেদের প্রয়োজরে ধ্বংস করে ফেলেছি এবং প্রতি বছর ব্যাপকহারে সাপ মারার কারণে প্রাকৃতিক পরিবেশে এখন খুব কম সাপ দেখা যায়। [..] সাপ খাবারের প্রয়োজনে, প্রজননের সুবির্ধার্থে বর্ষাকালে মানুষের আবাসস্থলে ঢুকে পড়ছে। [..] বসতবাড়িতে সাপ ঢুকলে মানুষ না মেরে কি করবে? কেননা দেশে সাপ উদ্ধারকারী দক্ষ লোক নেইে। আর উদ্ধার করলেও, এগুলোর দায়ভার কেউ নিতে চান না।

In recent weeks we have read reports of the killing of more than 400 snakes in several districts. This is unfortunately not out of the ordinary. Each year people in our country kill thousands of snakes. […] There are more than 90 species of snakes in our country and only 27 from them are venomous. But for common people a snake is a fearful animal irrespective of being venomous or non-venomous. […] It seems we carry this notion genetically that whenever we see a snake we have to kill it to save us and our families. People fear this animal so much. So do they deserve to live? Science says snakes are vital to the ecosystem, and they act as natural pest-killers. […]

The natural habitats of snakes are being destroyed by humans for their own need. Each year more and more snakes are being killed and their population is decreasing. […] During monsoon season they sneak into human habitats for breeding and food. […] When people find snakes nesting in their homes, what should they do when there are not enough snake catchers or preservationists? Even if the snakes are rescued, there are no facilities to keep these snakes and nobody wants to take responsibility.

Razzaque also suggested that organizing a volunteer team of snake catchers in the localities could save these snakes. A member of this Facebook community Borhan Biswas Romon reported:

Today we rescued 17 cutie cobra babies and a matured female Spectacled cobra from a villagers house, location, Poba Rajshahi.

Children play with a captured baby snake. Image from Flickr by Vipez. CC: BY-NC-ND 2.0

State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam expressed concerns over the killings of snakes in a Facebook post:

কয়েকদিন থেকে দেখছি রাজশাহী থেকে শুরু করে বাংলাদেশের আনাচে কানাচে সাপ খুজে খুজে মারা হচ্ছে। প্রায় সব পত্রিকা সেটা গ্রহণযোগ্য ভাবে প্রচার করছে। না বুঝে নতুন করে মানুষ সাপ মারতে উৎসাহিত হচ্ছে। এইসব জায়গার কোথাওই সাপেড় কামড়ে সম্প্রতি কেউ মারা গেছেন তাও শোনা যায়নি। কিন্তু তবুও চলছে সাপ মারা। [..]

ঝুঁকি মনে হলে বাসায় কার্বলিক এসিড রাখবেন। খুব সমস্যা মনে হলে সাপ ধরে (গ্রামে সাপ ধরার মানুষ পাওয়া যায়) বন বিভাগ বা প্রাণী বিভাগে দিয়ে দিবেন কিন্তু অযথা মেরে নতুন বিপদ ডেকে আনবেন না দয়া করে।

I am concerned that in recent weeks snakes are being killed in different parts of the country, including Rajshahi. The mainstream media is spreading the news with enthusiasm. This is leading to more people being interested in killing these animals. However, nobody has heard that these snakes have killed anybody. And the indiscriminate killing is still going on. […]

If you think snakes are a risk, keep carbolic acid (as a deterrent) in homes. If snakes nesting at home seems to be a problem, catch them (with the help of snake charmers) and hand them over to the forest or zoology department. But don't create new problems deciding to kill them by yourselves.

by Rezwan at July 19, 2017 02:33 AM

July 18, 2017

Global Voices Advocacy
In State of Emergency, Turkey Jails Six Human Rights Defenders Pending Trial

Demonstrators on World Press Freedom Day in Turkey 2013. Image by Amnesty International Turkey.

An Istanbul court ruled on 18 July that six of the 10 human rights defenders detained in Turkey since 5 July will be remanded in pre-trial detention. The remaining four detainees will be released on bail.

The judge cited “aiding an armed terrorist organization” as the reason for keeping six of the rights defenders in custody.

The arrests took place while the group was gathered for a digital security and information management workshop on one of Istanbul's islands, Buyukada. Police raided the workshop, detained the participants, and confiscated electronic equipment including computers and mobile phones.

According to Amnesty International, the six jailed human rights defenders are İdil Eser (Amnesty International), Günal Kurşun (Human Rights Agenda Association), Özlem Dalkıran (Citizens’ Assembly), Veli Acu (Human Rights Agenda Association), Ali Gharavi (IT strategy consultant) and Peter Steudtner (non-violence and wellbeing trainer). All are Turkish nationals, with the exception of Gharavi, who is a Swedish national, and Steudtner, who is a German citizen.

On 17 July, all 10 defenders were brought to the public prosecutor's office for individual questioning, after having been questioned by the police on 16 July. Videos posted by the Free Rights Defenders Twitter account showed the detained rights defenders at the courthouse speaking with their supporters:

After the statement Ozlem Dalkiran's message: “I am well. Do not worry.”

Local civil society contacts told Global Voices that the six are arrested pending a trial over accusations that they aided an armed terror group, though it remains unclear whether or not they have been formally charged, and authorities have cited no evidence to support this accusation. All of those detained on July 5 demonstrate a commitment to peaceful, constructive protection of the rights of all Turkish people as enshrined in local laws and international human rights norms.

The four rights defenders who have been released are barred from traveling abroad and must report regularly to the police.

German media outlet Spiegel Online described the situation as “repression reaching a new dimension” in Turkey.

The Guardian quoted Amnesty International chief Salil Shetty as saying:

This is not a legitimate investigation, this is a politically motivated witch-hunt that charts a frightening future for rights in Turkey.

The group faces the same charge as Amnesty Turkey head Taner Kilic, who was detained just a month ago.

Daniel Ó Cluanaigh, Berlin-based human rights consultant and colleague of Gharavi and Steudtner, said in a press statement:

We are shocked that Ali and Peter's support for peaceful human rights defenders has led to their imprisonment. The accusations of aiding an armed terrorist organisation against them are groundless. Workshops of this kind are common, essential education for human rights organisations, so that they can protect sensitive information, such as testimonies from witnesses of human rights violations or personal information of victims. We demand the immediate and unconditional release of Ali Gharavi and Peter Steudtner as well as their four colleagues.

On the same day, the Turkish government voted to extend the state of emergency in the country for the fourth time, by an additional three months.

European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker on Sunday urged Turkey to uphold democratic values if it hopes to join the European Union, after a year of purges following the failed July 2016 coup attempt.

Supporters of the rights defenders used Twitter to share anger and sadness at the decision, under the hashtags #FreeRightsDefenders, #Istanbul10 and #HakSavunucularınaDokunma (hands off human rights defenders).

The director of Europe and Central Asia for Amnesty International tweeted:

Andrew Gardner, Turkey researcher for Amnesty International, was at the courthouse tweeting updates:

In Istanbul, supporters and friends went to the courthouse to show their support:

We have been in front of the courthouse for the last 13 hours in support of our friends. They have concluded giving their statements. We continue to wait.

Since their detention, protests have been held around the world calling for their release.

Observers call the court decision a “new low”. But in a country where “new lows” have become the norm since the failed coup attempt in July 2016, this may be an understatement.

by Arzu Geybullayeva at July 18, 2017 02:38 PM

Global Voices
In State of Emergency, Turkey Jails Six Human Rights Defenders Pending Trial

Demonstrators on World Press Freedom Day in Turkey 2013. Image by Amnesty International Turkey.

An Istanbul court ruled on 18 July that six of the 10 human rights defenders detained in Turkey since 5 July will be remanded in pre-trial detention. The remaining four detainees will be released on bail.

The judge cited “aiding an armed terrorist organization” as the reason for keeping six of the rights defenders in custody.

The arrests took place while the group was gathered for a digital security and information management workshop on one of Istanbul's islands, Buyukada. Police raided the workshop, detained the participants, and confiscated electronic equipment including computers and mobile phones.

According to Amnesty International, the six jailed human rights defenders are İdil Eser (Amnesty International), Günal Kurşun (Human Rights Agenda Association), Özlem Dalkıran (Citizens’ Assembly), Veli Acu (Human Rights Agenda Association), Ali Gharavi (IT strategy consultant) and Peter Steudtner (non-violence and wellbeing trainer). All are Turkish nationals, with the exception of Gharavi, who is a Swedish national, and Steudtner, who is a German citizen.

On 17 July, all 10 defenders were brought to the public prosecutor's office for individual questioning, after having been questioned by the police on 16 July. Videos posted by the Free Rights Defenders Twitter account showed the detained rights defenders at the courthouse speaking with their supporters:

After the statement Ozlem Dalkiran's message: “I am well. Do not worry.”

Local civil society contacts told Global Voices that the six are arrested pending a trial over accusations that they aided an armed terror group, though it remains unclear whether or not they have been formally charged, and authorities have cited no evidence to support this accusation. All of those detained on July 5 demonstrate a commitment to peaceful, constructive protection of the rights of all Turkish people as enshrined in local laws and international human rights norms.

The four rights defenders who have been released are barred from traveling abroad and must report regularly to the police.

German media outlet Spiegel Online described the situation as “repression reaching a new dimension” in Turkey.

The Guardian quoted Amnesty International chief Salil Shetty as saying:

This is not a legitimate investigation, this is a politically motivated witch-hunt that charts a frightening future for rights in Turkey.

The group faces the same charge as Amnesty Turkey head Taner Kilic, who was detained just a month ago.

Daniel Ó Cluanaigh, Berlin-based human rights consultant and colleague of Gharavi and Steudtner, said in a press statement:

We are shocked that Ali and Peter's support for peaceful human rights defenders has led to their imprisonment. The accusations of aiding an armed terrorist organisation against them are groundless. Workshops of this kind are common, essential education for human rights organisations, so that they can protect sensitive information, such as testimonies from witnesses of human rights violations or personal information of victims. We demand the immediate and unconditional release of Ali Gharavi and Peter Steudtner as well as their four colleagues.

On the same day, the Turkish government voted to extend the state of emergency in the country for the fourth time, by an additional three months.

European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker on Sunday urged Turkey to uphold democratic values if it hopes to join the European Union, after a year of purges following the failed July 2016 coup attempt.

Supporters of the rights defenders used Twitter to share anger and sadness at the decision, under the hashtags #FreeRightsDefenders, #Istanbul10 and #HakSavunucularınaDokunma (hands off human rights defenders).

The director of Europe and Central Asia for Amnesty International tweeted:

Andrew Gardner, Turkey researcher for Amnesty International, was at the courthouse tweeting updates:

In Istanbul, supporters and friends went to the courthouse to show their support:

We have been in front of the courthouse for the last 13 hours in support of our friends. They have concluded giving their statements. We continue to wait.

Since their detention, protests have been held around the world calling for their release.

Observers call the court decision a “new low”. But in a country where “new lows” have become the norm since the failed coup attempt in July 2016, this may be an understatement.

by Arzu Geybullayeva at July 18, 2017 02:34 PM

Marketplace Tech Report
07/18/2017: It's a supercomputer that may not be pulling in enough money for IBM
What is Watson? As IBM prepares to announce earnings this afternoon, investors are claiming that the artificial intelligence — which has made appearances on Jeopardy and even has its own cookbook — isn't raking in as much as it should be. Jefferies analyst James Kisner joined us to talk about why IBM invested in Watson and why he thinks it isn't working out for the company right now. Afterwards, we'll chat with entrepreneur Cindy Whitehead about her tech incubator Pinkubator, which aims to help female entrepreneurs with access to capital and mentorship.

by Marketplace at July 18, 2017 10:30 AM

Global Voices
What Will it Take to End Child Marriages in Afghanistan?

Photo for illustration purposes only. Taken by Flickr user SAM Nasim. Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0).

Earlier this year, Afghanistan took an unprecedented policy step in the battle against the ‘child bride’ custom by launching the National Action Plan to Eliminate Early and Child Marriage. Activists are hopeful the plan will become more than a piece of paper, despite clear challenges ahead and the government's poor record for implementation.

Today, according to Girls Not Brides, one in three girls in the developing world are married before they turn 18. This practice is particularly an issue in Afghanistan, where the child marriage rate was 33% in 2016. Although rights groups claim that any marriage before 18 is a violation of human rights, it is still taking place today in Afghanistan, where the legal age of marriage for girls is set at 16 by the Afghan Civil Code.

Those unions typically take place in rural areas in Afghanistan, rather than in the big cities such as Kabul.

The National Plan was developed by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and the Ministry of Information and Culture, and approved in April.

The First Lady of Afghanistan, Rula Ghani, has been one of the National Plan's strongest supporters:

“I urge all Afghan families to avoid child and forced marriages. Your girls face a huge risk when they get married at a young age. Early marriage robs them from their childhood and future opportunities.”

Eliminating child marriage and promoting education is one of 17 Sustainable Development Goals launched by the United Nations goals is to eliminate child marriage and promote education.

National Action Plans have a weak record in Afghanistan in terms of enforcement. Neither the 2007 National Action Plan for the Women of Afghanistan, nor the 2009 Law on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, nor the plan to enforce the pro-women United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 can be considered successes.

Moreover, the National Action Plan to Eliminate Early and Child Marriage in Afghanistan does not seem to be publicly available. Thus, it is hard for non-policymakers to determine if measures are being put in place to discourage child marriage, and what mechanisms there are to turn words into action.

Zahra’s story

Less than a year ago, on July 18, 2016, a story broke that Zahra, a 14-year-old girl who was married and four months pregnant had been burned to death (news report features distressing footage) by her husband’s family. Her father, Muhammad Azam, told the New York Times that her daughter’s in-laws, as well as her husband, stabbed and beat Zahra when she refused to work in the opium field because of her pregnancy.

Zahra’s father claimed his daughter was set on fire to cover up the physical abuse she had suffered before death.

Zahra was a victim of ‘baad’, a traditional practice which involves giving a girl to another family to resolve a dispute. Indeed, she was sold because her father eloped with a woman from Zahra’s husband’s family. She was used to settle the dispute between the two families.

Unfortunately, Zahra’s story is one of many. Each child bride has her own tale, but happy endings are a rarity.

Why are Afghan families selling off their daughters?

Many factors need to be taken into consideration when evaluating how families come to the decision to sell their daughters. However, it is important to note that the decision to sell off girls is nearly always made by the men of the family rather than by the women, who have little or no say.

The key factor is poverty. A lot of families in rural areas in Afghanistan sell off their daughters in exchange for money or livestock. In some cases, families cannot feed their children, so they have no choice but to sell them. Sheep, cows, and money, unfortunately, can be more valuable to Afghan fathers than their daughters.

Perhaps for this reason, Khan Wali Adil, a teacher and activist for women’s rights who camped out in front of the Afghan Parliament for a month in 2016 to protest against the traditional practice of “baad”, complained that in Afghanistan, “[girls] are treated like animals.”

A lot of child brides, like Zahra, fall into marriage as barter in “baad” debt-settling agreements.

In other cases, child brides are traded between families. For example, in Afghanistan, boys hold more ‘value’ than girls, thus sometimes, a father takes the initiative to exchange his daughter for a wife for his son. This practice is a traditional one, and is called “baadal.”

While both “baad” and “baadal” are prohibited by the 2009 Law on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, those practices still occur today.

Consequences of child marriage

The most obvious and potentially fatal consequence of child marriage is early pregnancy. The bodies of young girls are not mature enough to endure pregnancy or deliver a child. Girls who marry at a young age might also suffer from internal damage due to sexual violence.

The lack of medical facilities and proper medical care in rural areas compounds the problem because girls cannot get any treatment or assistance during their pregnancy and delivery, which often contributes to their death.

Some young girls also suffer physical and psychological abuse in their new families. In addition, because they ‘belong’ to a new family, they often cannot go to school and are not able to work. It is impossible for them to become financially independent.

Many girls believe that the only way out of a marriage is suicide. Bora Gull Heha was 16-years-old when she decided to set herself ablaze with an oil lamp.

Monika Hauser, the gynecologist who founded Medica Afghanistan, told Rawa News that “the suicide rate is rising particularly in towns because women are fighting against forced marriages there”. Girls who live in rural areas tend to be less educated and more likely to suffer in silence.

by Anais Wardak at July 18, 2017 12:20 AM

July 17, 2017

Global Voices
The Venezuelan People's Vote of Rebellion
Foto de Andrés Azpurua (andresAzp) en Flickr. Usada bajo licencia CC 2.0

In 2009, Venezuelans turned out en masse against a different referendum, one that abolished term limits for the president. Photo by Andrés Azpurua (andresAzp) on Flickr. Used under CC 2.0 license.

After more than one hundred consecutive days of popular protests, Venezuelan opposition and civil society groups organized a ‘plebiscite,’ a popular referendum challenging the official Constitutional Assembly that President Nicolás Maduro has convened for July 30, 2017.

The July 16 referendum posed three questions:

  1. Do you reject and refuse to recognize the formation of a Constitutional Assembly as proposed by Nicolás Maduro without the prior approval of the Venezuelan people?
  2. Do you demand that the Armed Forces and all public officials obey and defend the 1999 Constitution and support the decisions of the National Assembly?
  3. Do you approve the renovation of public powers as established in the Constitution, and the holding of free and transparent elections as well as the formation of a government of national unity to reinstate constitutional order?

In total, 7,676,894 Venezuelans voted in the referendum, and results showed overwhelming support for the “yes” side.

Any Venezuelan of 18 years of age or older could vote, whether in the electoral register or not, and regardless of current country of residence.

At a press conference, Carlos Ocariz, leader of the opposition plebiscite campaign, commented:

En el extranjero fueron habilitados 667 puntos de votación, distribuidos en 602 ciudades de 100 países.

A total of 667 polling stations have been established abroad, in 602 cities across 100 countries.

He added:

Este proceso va a tener distintos mecanismos de observación, entre ellos la de organizaciones nacionales e internacionales, y de personajes de la política internacional.

This process will have various observation mechanisms, including those of national and international organizations, and international political figures.

Citizens from Saudi Arabia, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, Germany and Oman were among the ones who responded to the call. Below are just some of the thousands of testimonies of Venezuelan voters throughout the world.

The #PopularConsultation has already started in Saudi Arabia.

Long lines as thousands of Venezuelans head to the polling station for #PopularConsultation16J on the corner of 125b St and the Highway in Bogotá.

This is what the voting station for the popular consultation looks like in Santiago de Chile.

From the farthest places, Venezuelans participate in the #PopularConsultation Chipre, Kenya, Granada

In the Vatican … election party

This is what it's like [in Barcelona] at 3 pm. #PopularConsultation

The strangest polling station for the plebiscite is Yuzhno-Sajalinsk, a Russian town in an island to the North of Japan on the Siberian Coast.

In Venezuela, the Mesa de la Unidad Democrática (MUD, Democratic Unity Roundtable) installed 2,030 polling centers, 14,404 voting booths and accredited 42,272 polling officials throughout the country. In addition, they had more than 80,000 volunteers, according to a statement from Carlos Ocariz.

Former presidents from four Latin American countries were in Venezuela to participate as international observers of the process including Colombia's Andrés Pastrana, Mexico's Vicente Fox, Costa Rica's Laura Chinchilla and Miguel Ángel Rodríguez, and Bolivia's Jorge Quiroga.

The president of the National Assembly, Julio Borges, stated that non-government organizations like Transparencia Perú (Transparency Peru), Alianza Cívica de México (Mexico's Civic Alliance) and Participación Ciudadana (Citizen Participation) of Ecuador were also present as observers.

Venezuelans in the country shared images of voters rejoicing in joining this democratic event.

My great aunt exercising her right to vote in #Venezuela.

Today in the streets Venezuelans experienced a happiness they have not felt in a long time.

And YES, YES, YES Venezuela. You will be the future…

Video subtitles:
For those who are here, yes.
For those who want to return, yes.
For Venezuela, yes.
We will get you back, together.
There are more of us good guys.

In this video, a man explains that he exchanged his clothes with a female friend because she did not want to go to vote in a short dress.

The best thing I've seen all day! Hahahaha
Venezuelans are unique

Video transcript:
Woman: Why are you looking so beautiful?
Man: Because the girl I was with on my way here said she wasn't going to come and vote because she was wearing a short dress, and I said “I'll swap you that dress, and let's go and vote!” and I gave her my clothes and she gave me the dress.
Woman: With a flag and everything, bravo! Welcome!
Man: For a new Venezuela, for a beautiful Venezuela, for a Venezuela that will go far… like we were before, free! Freedom! That's all I'm going to say today. We're all going to celebrate, it's going to be nothing but a party from now on, there won't be enough beer, there won't be enough aguardiente…

But it wasn't all happiness on this day of civil disobedience. In Catia, Caracas, a traditionally chavista area, voters were surrounded by armed people. Before 4 p.m. Venezuelan Standard Time (VST), militias aligned with Nicolás Maduro's regime shot at voters. A nurse, Xiomara Escot, was killed in the attack, and at least three other women were injured. Journalist Luis Olavarrieta was also kidnapped, and was later found beaten at a medical center. The street where the incident took place emptied out, but some people decided to go to nearby areas to vote in spite of the threats.

They threaten people with death, they shoot at their children, they kill those who have the least. And civic Venezuela responds with life in the streets.

Preliminary results were announced at around midnight, VST.

BREAKING NEWS | VIDEO – MUD announces official result of the Popular Consultation:
In Venezuela: 6,492,381
Abroad: 693,789
Total: 7,186,170

Various citizens quickly expressed their congratulations online for the success of the process.

We achieved this with 2 weeks of organization and 7 times fewer booths than in a regular electoral process.
We're on fire.

Regarding the consultative exercise, the digital portal El Chigüire Bipolar reflected in a post called “Country perfectly capable of functioning without dictatorship:”

También se demostró que somos profundamente democráticos, ¿no? Revisa tu Instagram para que veas: estemos donde estemos los venezolanos solo queremos votar. Votar hasta en las condiciones más difíciles. Hasta cuando las elecciones tengamos que organizárnoslas nosotros mismos. Votar y votar, aunque el gobierno nos niegue el derecho.

It also demonstrated that we are deeply democratic, right? Check your Instagram to see: wherever we may be, we Venezuelans just want to vote. To vote, even in the most difficult conditions. Even when we have to organize the elections ourselves. To vote and vote, even if the government denies us the right.

Read more related articles on our Venezuela special coverage.

by Kitty Garden at July 17, 2017 08:26 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
Bangladesh's ICT Act Paved the Way for Hundreds Lawsuits Over Online Speech

A protestor at Teacher Students Centre (TSC) of Dhaka University, during 2015 social media shutdowns. The poster reads “How many excuses more? Open Viber, Messenger, WhatsApp and Facebook NOW.” Image copyright Zaid Islam. Used with permission.

Over the past four months in Bangladesh, more than twenty journalists have been sued under a controversial law prohibiting digital messages that can “deteriorate” law and order, “prejudice the image of the state or person,” or “hurt religious beliefs.”

Although its authors may have intended for this part of the law to be used sparingly, it is now routinely used to suppress freedom of speech and harass writers, activists, and journalists, often for their comments on social media.

Bangladeshi law enables individuals and private companies to file suit against one another under the law, Section 57 of the 2013 Information and Communication Technology Act. The offenses mentioned above are non-bailable and carry a minimum punishment of seven years (with a maximum of 14 years) and a maximum fine of up to Tk 10 million (USD $123,150).

On June 3, three journalists were sued by a ruling party activist in Habiganj over a report involving local ruling party (Awami League) lawmaker Abdul Majid Khan. On April 29, a private company filed a lawsuit against journalist Ahmed Razu, executive editor of online portal Natunsomay.com, for publishing two reports that allegedly tarnished the image of the company. The law has been used many times against journalists for their comments against the rich and the powerful.

Nearly 700 cases have been filed under the ICT Act since it was amended in 2013. Research by The Daily Star shows that 60% of them were lodged under Section 57. Approximately 319 such cases are currently at trial.

In the most recent publicly reported case, a professor at Dhaka University's Department of Mass Communication and Journalism used the law to sue his colleague, Associate Professor Fahmidul Huq, over a Facebook post. The professor alleged that the post divulged confidential official university information.

As of July 17, a University spokesperson said that Professor Abul Mansur Ahmed had decided to drop charges against his colleague, Associate Professor Fahmidul Haq. According to the statement, Ahmed took the decision after Haq uploaded another post on Facebook apologising for his previous post.

The ICT Act

The law was first introduced in 2006. A 2013 amendment made several updates to the law, among which was an increase of the maximum punishment for certain offenses and make them non-bailable.

Human rights activists and writers have long campaigned to repeat the ICT Act, reasoning that its broad scope has left it vulnerable to misuse by political opponents, enemies, and law enforcement agencies.

Shariful Hasan commented on the lawsuit against Dr. Fahmidul Huq:

অাপনার কা‌ছে অামার প্রশ্ন স্যার মত প্রকাশের স্বাধীনতা, মুক্তবুদ্ধির চর্চা এস‌ব যে বিষয়ের ভি‌ত্তি সেই বিভা‌গের শিক্ষক হ‌য়ে ৫৭ ধারায় সহকর্মীর বিরু‌দ্ধে মামলা কর‌তে অাপনার কী একটুও ‌বিবেকে বাঁধ‌লো না? অ‌াপনার কোন অ‌ভিযোগ থাক‌লে অাপ‌নি কেন বিশ্ব‌বিদ্যালয়ের অাইন অনুযায়ী গে‌লেন না? [..]

স‌ত্যি বল‌ছি, অামি অাস‌লেই হতভম্ব। ক‌য়েক‌দিন অা‌গে সাংবাদিক নাজমু‌লের বিরু‌দ্ধে ৫৭ ধারায় মামলা করায় সাংবাদিকতা বিভা‌গের শিক্ষক-‌শিক্ষার্থীরা মানবনন্ধন ক‌রে‌ছেন। অামি জা‌নি না অাপনারা এখন কী কর‌বেন।

My question to you sir, as you belong to the department of Dhaka University, the basis of which is freedom of expression and free thinking: “Didn't your conscience hold you back even a bit from suing your colleague from the same department under the controversial section 57 of the ICT Act?”

If you had allegations against him why didn't you follow the rules of the University to file a complaint? [..]

Really, I am dumbfounded. Teachers and students of the department of mass communication and journalism of Dhaka University recently formed a human chain protesting the lawsuit under section 57 against journalist Nazmul. I don't know what you will do now.

Blogger and Activist Abu Mustafiz Hassan wrote on Facebook:

কয়দিন পর স্বামী স্ত্রীর বিরুদ্ধে আর স্ত্রী স্বামীর বিরুদ্ধে ৫৭ ধারায় মামলা করব …সেই পরিস্থিতি দেখার আগেই আসেন… সবাই ফাহমিদুলের পাশে দাঁড়াই

Soon a husband will sue his wife and the wife will sue her husband under the Section 57 of ICT act… Before we reach to this point, please take a stand for Fahmidul Haque.

Activist and filmmaker Reza Ghatak wrote on Facebook:

ঘরে ঘরে অনুভূতির শত্রু তৈরি করার জন্য আইসিটি ৫৭ ধারা খুবই টেকসই অস্ত্র! সরকার বুঝে শুনে একটি কালো-আইন বানিয়ে মানুষের ভেতর এই অবিশ্বাস আমদানি করছেন। এই আইন বাপ-বেটা, ভাই-ভাই, ভাই-বোন, স্বামী-স্ত্রী, আত্মীয়-অনাত্মীয়, জাতি-গোষ্ঠী-সম্প্রদায় সবার ভেতরেই কেবল অবিশ্বাস আর বিভেদ সৃষ্টি করবে। আইসিটি ৫৭ ধারা বাতিল করো! নইলে এই আইন একদিন ঘরে ঘরে শত্রু বানাবে!

The section 57 of the ICT Act is an impactful tool to create enemies whose feelings are hurt somehow. The government has deliberately brought this mistrust among them using this black law. This law will create division and mistrust between father-son, siblings, couples, relatives, friends and across the society. Please repeal the section 57 of the ICT Act. Otherwise, it will create enemies among families.

Many journalists have been holding rallies demanding the controversial ICT law should be repealed.

Activists and lawyer Jatirmoy Barua said in an interview to local news portal Jago News:

তথ্যপ্রযুক্তির ৫৭ ধারাটি সাংবাদিকদের ওপর খড়্গ হয়ে দেখা দিয়েছে। কারণ সাংবাদিকরাই ইন্টারনেট ব্যবহার করে সংবাদ পরিবেশন করছেন বেশি। বই লিখে কোনো কবি-সাহিত্যিক সমালোচনা করলে মামলায় পড়ছেন না। কিন্তু একই বিষয় ইন্টারনেটে প্রকাশ পেলে মামলা খেতে হচ্ছে। [..]

কোনো নিয়ন্ত্রণ নেই। কে কার বিরুদ্ধে মামলা করছে, তার কোনো মাপকাঠি মিলছে না। অনলাইনে কোনো কিছু প্রকাশ পেলে এবং এর সঙ্গে দ্বিমত থাকলেই যে কেউ মামলা ঠুঁকে দিতে পারছেন।

Section 57 of the ICT Act has become a tool to persecute journalists because many journalists are now using the internet and social media to publish/share the news. Writings full of argument, criticism, and disagreement published in books or printed magazines are not being targeted. But the same writings, if shared online are being targeted. [..]

There is no control. It cannot be fathomed who is suing whom. Any statement or expression shared online can be [subject to a lawsuit] if someone else feels their feelings are hurt or they are targeted.

In 2015, Barrister Barua lodged a writ petition against this controversial act in the Supreme Court, which is still waiting for a hearing date.

In May 2017, the Minister of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Anisul Huq publicly pledged to scrap Section 57 from the law. Instead, they said, these issues will be covered under Bangladesh's forthcoming Digital Security Act, which may be introduced as soon as in August 2017.

It remains to be seen how this law will affect online speech, and how the many cases launched under Section 57 will play out.

by Rezwan at July 17, 2017 05:24 PM

Global Voices
Bangladesh's ICT Act Paved the Way for Hundreds of Lawsuits Over Online Speech

A protestor at Teacher Students Centre (TSC) of Dhaka University, during 2015 social media shutdowns. The poster reads “How many excuses more? Open Viber, Messenger, WhatsApp and Facebook NOW.” Image copyright Zaid Islam. Used with permission.

Over the past four months in Bangladesh, more than twenty journalists have been sued under a controversial law prohibiting digital messages that can “deteriorate” law and order, “prejudice the image of the state or person,” or “hurt religious beliefs.”

Although its authors may have intended for this part of the law to be used sparingly, it is now routinely used to suppress freedom of speech and harass writers, activists, and journalists, often for their comments on social media.

Bangladeshi law enables individuals and private companies to file suit against one another under the law, Section 57 of the 2013 Information and Communication Technology Act. The offenses mentioned above are non-bailable and carry a minimum punishment of seven years (with a maximum of 14 years) and a maximum fine of up to Tk 10 million (USD $123,150).

On June 3, three journalists were sued by a ruling party activist in Habiganj over a report involving local ruling party (Awami League) lawmaker Abdul Majid Khan. On April 29, a private company filed a lawsuit against journalist Ahmed Razu, executive editor of online portal Natunsomay.com, for publishing two reports that allegedly tarnished the image of the company. The law has been used many times against journalists for their comments against the rich and the powerful.

Nearly 700 cases have been filed under the ICT Act since it was amended in 2013. Research by The Daily Star shows that 60% of them were lodged under Section 57. Approximately 319 such cases are currently at trial.

In the most recent publicly reported case, a professor at Dhaka University's Department of Mass Communication and Journalism used the law to sue his colleague, Associate Professor Fahmidul Huq, over a Facebook post. The professor alleged that the post divulged confidential official university information.

As of July 17, a University spokesperson said that Professor Abul Mansur Ahmed had decided to drop charges against his colleague, Associate Professor Fahmidul Haq. According to the statement, Ahmed took the decision after Haq uploaded another post on Facebook apologising for his previous post.

The ICT Act

The law was first introduced in 2006. A 2013 amendment made several updates to the law, among which was an increase of the maximum punishment for certain offenses and make them non-bailable.

Human rights activists and writers have long campaigned to repeat the ICT Act, reasoning that its broad scope has left it vulnerable to misuse by political opponents, enemies, and law enforcement agencies.

Shariful Hasan commented on the lawsuit against Dr. Fahmidul Huq:

অাপনার কা‌ছে অামার প্রশ্ন স্যার মত প্রকাশের স্বাধীনতা, মুক্তবুদ্ধির চর্চা এস‌ব যে বিষয়ের ভি‌ত্তি সেই বিভা‌গের শিক্ষক হ‌য়ে ৫৭ ধারায় সহকর্মীর বিরু‌দ্ধে মামলা কর‌তে অাপনার কী একটুও ‌বিবেকে বাঁধ‌লো না? অ‌াপনার কোন অ‌ভিযোগ থাক‌লে অাপ‌নি কেন বিশ্ব‌বিদ্যালয়ের অাইন অনুযায়ী গে‌লেন না? [..]

স‌ত্যি বল‌ছি, অামি অাস‌লেই হতভম্ব। ক‌য়েক‌দিন অা‌গে সাংবাদিক নাজমু‌লের বিরু‌দ্ধে ৫৭ ধারায় মামলা করায় সাংবাদিকতা বিভা‌গের শিক্ষক-‌শিক্ষার্থীরা মানবনন্ধন ক‌রে‌ছেন। অামি জা‌নি না অাপনারা এখন কী কর‌বেন।

My question to you sir, as you belong to the department of Dhaka University, the basis of which is freedom of expression and freethinking: “Didn't your conscience hold you back even a bit from suing your colleague from the same department under the controversial section 57 of the ICT Act?”

If you had allegations against him why didn't you follow the rules of the University to file a complaint? [..]

Really, I am dumbfounded. Teachers and students of the department of mass communication and journalism of Dhaka University recently formed a human chain protesting the lawsuit under section 57 against journalist Nazmul. I don't know what you will do now.

Blogger and Activist Abu Mustafiz Hassan wrote on Facebook:

কয়দিন পর স্বামী স্ত্রীর বিরুদ্ধে আর স্ত্রী স্বামীর বিরুদ্ধে ৫৭ ধারায় মামলা করব …সেই পরিস্থিতি দেখার আগেই আসেন… সবাই ফাহমিদুলের পাশে দাঁড়াই

Soon a husband will sue his wife and the wife will sue her husband under the Section 57 of ICT act… Before we reach to this point, please take a stand for Fahmidul Haque.

Activist and filmmaker Reza Ghatak wrote on Facebook:

ঘরে ঘরে অনুভূতির শত্রু তৈরি করার জন্য আইসিটি ৫৭ ধারা খুবই টেকসই অস্ত্র! সরকার বুঝে শুনে একটি কালো-আইন বানিয়ে মানুষের ভেতর এই অবিশ্বাস আমদানি করছেন। এই আইন বাপ-বেটা, ভাই-ভাই, ভাই-বোন, স্বামী-স্ত্রী, আত্মীয়-অনাত্মীয়, জাতি-গোষ্ঠী-সম্প্রদায় সবার ভেতরেই কেবল অবিশ্বাস আর বিভেদ সৃষ্টি করবে। আইসিটি ৫৭ ধারা বাতিল করো! নইলে এই আইন একদিন ঘরে ঘরে শত্রু বানাবে!

The section 57 of the ICT Act is an impactful tool to create enemies whose feelings are hurt somehow. The government has deliberately brought this mistrust among them using this black law. This law will create division and mistrust between father-son, siblings, couples, relatives, friends and across the society. Please repeal the section 57 of the ICT Act. Otherwise, it will create enemies among families.

Many journalists have been holding rallies demanding the controversial ICT law should be repealed.

Activists and lawyer Jatirmoy Barua said in an interview to local news portal Jago News:

তথ্যপ্রযুক্তির ৫৭ ধারাটি সাংবাদিকদের ওপর খড়্গ হয়ে দেখা দিয়েছে। কারণ সাংবাদিকরাই ইন্টারনেট ব্যবহার করে সংবাদ পরিবেশন করছেন বেশি। বই লিখে কোনো কবি-সাহিত্যিক সমালোচনা করলে মামলায় পড়ছেন না। কিন্তু একই বিষয় ইন্টারনেটে প্রকাশ পেলে মামলা খেতে হচ্ছে। [..]

কোনো নিয়ন্ত্রণ নেই। কে কার বিরুদ্ধে মামলা করছে, তার কোনো মাপকাঠি মিলছে না। অনলাইনে কোনো কিছু প্রকাশ পেলে এবং এর সঙ্গে দ্বিমত থাকলেই যে কেউ মামলা ঠুঁকে দিতে পারছেন।

Section 57 of the ICT Act has become a tool to persecute journalists, because many journalists are now using the internet and social media to publish/share the news. Writings full of argument, criticism and disagreement published in books or printed magazines are not being targeted. But the same writings, if shared online are being targeted. [..]

There is no control. It cannot be fathomed who is suing whom. Any statement or expression shared online can be [subject to a lawsuit] if someone else feels their feelings are hurt or they are targeted.

In 2015, Barrister Barua lodged a writ petition against this controversial act in the Supreme Court, which is still waiting for a hearing date.

In May 2017, the Minister of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Anisul Huq publicly pledged to scrap Section 57 from the law. Instead, they said, these issues will be covered under Bangladesh's forthcoming Digital Security Act, which may be introduced as soon as in August 2017.

It remains to be seen how this law will affect online speech, and how the many cases launched under Section 57 will play out.

by Rezwan at July 17, 2017 05:22 PM

An Indian Woman's Eco-Friendly Venture Creates Paper Gifts That Grow Into Plants

Miniature Indian paper flags. Image from Flickr by Daniel Incandela. CC BY-NC 2.0

During national day festivities and other occasions, you might see crowds of people waving hundreds or thousands of little flags in celebration. But when the fun is over, those flags are often discarded, littering the ground.

But what if they didn't become trash? What if they contained seeds that with a little care grew into a plant? That's the creative idea of one Indian nature lover with a master's degree in forensic biotechnology — infusing seeds into disposable gifts.

Mansi Shah launched her venture Gift Green a year ago, quitting her day job with a vision to do something good for the environment. She started with creating soil and seeds molded in the form of modaks, or sweet dumplings for the Ganesh festival. Then she created seed-infused rangoli, which are clay art forms used during Diwali festivals.

This prompted her to go forward with new ideas. Shah told the Times of India in an interview that she was inspired by a Japanese custom where seeds are attached at a corner of the daily newspaper and readers are informed about how to plant them. Her father had a printing press and she took his help to implement the idea of placing seeds inside the paper.

Soon her venture was making paper stationery items like cards, bookmarks, wedding invites, diaries, journals and coasters infused with seeds of different plants.

Happy moment! 🇮🇳 Plantable Indian Flags. Thank you for the appreciation. #giftgreenindia #gifts #republicday 🇮🇳

A post shared by GiftGreen (@giftgreenindia) on

These items come with instructions on how to plant the gifts. The paper's color corresponds to what plant seeds it contains; for example, red is tomato and green is basil.

People are lauding this idea as a good move for the environment. Rajashree Kuttisankaran‎ wrote in a Facebook post:

Just when I thought there couldn't be a perfect gift, Gift Green came along. I hate to gift a bouquet of flowers that'll die soon, or a showpiece that is forgotten in a week. On the other hand, a plant will grow and with good care, be around forever.

Debjyoti Bhattacharyya suggested that others can replicate Shah's idea:

আচ্ছা, বইমেলায় মেলাপ্রাঙ্গণ যারা কাগজের টুকরোয় ছেয়ে দেন, তাঁরা এটা ভাবতে পারেন না?
আচ্ছা আনন্দ, পত্রভারতী, দেবসাহিত্য কুটির, দেজ, মিত্র ও ঘোষ, আপনারা যে প্যাকেটে বই দেন, তা তো দু মিনিট বাদের সবাই ছিঁড়ে ফেলে দেয়! ওর একধারে মানসীর মত কয়েকটা প্রায় অদৃশ্য বীজ আটকে দিলে খুব সমস্যা হবে কি? ভাবুন তো, সে প্যাকেটটা রাস্তার ধারে কোন আস্তাকুঁড়েতে গাছ হয়ে যাচ্ছে।

Those who decorate the book fair with paper festoons, can't they replicate this idea? Publishers like Ananda, Potrvarati, Dev Sahitya Kutir, Dey's, Mitra and Ghosh sell books in thin paper packets which end up in the road or dustbins. If you could infuse a few seeds into those packets will that be so hard? Just think about it, the packets that end up on a street corner or in a dump grow into a plant.

My new friend. 🤗 Thank you @giftgreenindia #NewFriend #AloeVera #Plant #GiftGreenIndia

A post shared by shivangi joshi (@shivangijoshi) on

Shah's organization is also undertaking some motivational and skill building initiatives like composting and gardening workshops. They want to make available more personalized environment friendly items which will further their mission.

by Rezwan at July 17, 2017 03:31 PM

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