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.

August 17, 2017

Doc Searls
Elseware

eclipse

I’m blogging mostly at doc.blog these days. Just letting you know.

Nothing wrong here. Partly it’s easier there. I can just post, y’know? Like tweeting, but without the icky limits.

But mostly it’s that I see the future of blogging there, rather than on WordPress and platforms like it.

I mean, they’re fine for publishing, and I won’t stop doing that, here and in other places.

But I want to get back to blogging. Like I did in the old days at doc.weblogs.com, only for the Now we all live in.

I’ll explain more later. Right now I have an eclipse to drive to.

by Doc Searls at August 17, 2017 05:46 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
Palestinian Journalists Become First Targets of Controversial Cybercrime Law

A photo collage of the journalists arrested by the Palestinian Authority. Captions read: “journalism is not a crime” and “where are the journalists”. Source: Quds News Network on Twitter

Just a few weeks after it adopted a controversial cybercrime law, the Palestinian Authority (PA) has has gone after five journalists alleging that they “leaked information to hostile entities.”

The government did not identify the entities in question, but four of the journalists arrested work with media outlets affiliated with Hamas, the political rival of the ruling party in the West Bank, Fatah.

On the evening of 8 August, agents from the Palestinian Intelligence Service arrested the five journalists from various cities in the West Bank. The security forces raided their homes and places of work, and confiscated their phones and laptops.

These journalists include Mamdouh Hamamrah from Bethlehem and Ahmed Halayqah from Hebron, both reporters for Al-Quds TV channel; Tariq Abu Zaid from Nablus, a reporter at the al-Aqsa TV channel; Amer Abu Arafah from Hebron, a reporter at the Shehab News Agency; and Qutaibah Qasem from Bethlehem who is a freelance journalist and a blogger for Al Jazeera.

Their arrests come just weeks after President Mahmoud Abbas signed a highly controversial cybercrime law that stifles Palestinians’ freedom of expression online by criminalizing speech deemed harmful to “social harmony”, “state security” and “public order”. While the Public Prosecutor’s office denied at first any link between the new law and the arrest campaign, it later referred to Article 20 of the law as the justification for the journalists’ arrests.

Article 20 stipulates that any person who uses information technologies to publish news that would “endanger the safety of the state, its public order or the internal or external security of the state” will be imprisoned for at least a year or will be fined a minimum of $1400 USD.

The Reconciliation Court issued orders to keep the journalists in detention for a number of days, but they were then released instead on bail on 15 August with no indictment. Relatives of the journalists believe the arrests were a politically motivated retaliation for the June 8 arrest of journalist Fouad Jaradeh, a reporter for the PA's official broadcast TV, who was arrested in Gaza by Hamas officers.

The clamp down on journalists has caused an uproar among other Palestinian journalists and activists who have launched a campaign on social media platforms under the Arabic-language hashtasg #وين_الصحفيين ( ‘where are the journalists’) and (‘Journalism is not a crime’), to demand the immediate release of the journalists, and denounce the PA's use of the cybercrime law to repress media freedom.

The goal of the cybercrime law, which the authority enforced against the journalists, is to silence any voices opposing the government or inciting resistance against the occupation #Journalism_is_not_a_crime

Restricting press freedom and arresting journalists under a vague law is a crime #cybercrime_law_is_a_crime #journalism_is_not_a_crime

The cybercrime law compels journalists to lock their mouths

Holding signs that read “journalism is not a crime”, families of the arrested journalists as well as other activists and journalists protested in Ramallah on 12 August against the PA’s rising repression of media and public freedoms and its passing of the new cybercrime law.

by Marwa Fatafta at August 17, 2017 05:45 PM

Global Voices
Palestinian Journalists Become First Targets of Controversial Cybercrime Law

A photo collage of the journalists arrested by the Palestinian Authority. Captions read: “journalism is not a crime” and “where are the journalists”. Source: Quds News Network on Twitter

Just a few weeks after it adopted a controversial cybercrime law, the Palestinian Authority (PA) has gone after five journalists alleging that they “leaked information to hostile entities.”

The government did not identify the entities in question, but four of the journalists arrested work with media outlets affiliated with Hamas, the political rival of the ruling party in the West Bank, Fatah.

On the evening of 8 August, agents from the Palestinian Intelligence Service arrested the five journalists from various cities in the West Bank. The security forces raided their homes and places of work, and confiscated their phones and laptops.

These journalists include Mamdouh Hamamrah from Bethlehem and Ahmed Halayqah from Hebron, both reporters for Al-Quds TV channel; Tariq Abu Zaid from Nablus, a reporter at the al-Aqsa TV channel; Amer Abu Arafah from Hebron, a reporter at the Shehab News Agency; and Qutaibah Qasem from Bethlehem who is a freelance journalist and a blogger for Al Jazeera.

Their arrests come just weeks after President Mahmoud Abbas signed a highly controversial cybercrime law that stifles Palestinians’ freedom of expression online by criminalizing speech deemed harmful to “social harmony”, “state security” and “public order”. While the Public Prosecutor’s office denied at first any link between the new law and the arrest campaign, it later referred to Article 20 of the law as the justification for the journalists’ arrests.

Article 20 stipulates that any person who uses information technologies to publish news that would “endanger the safety of the state, its public order or the internal or external security of the state” will be imprisoned for at least a year or will be fined a minimum of $1400 USD.

The Reconciliation Court issued orders to keep the journalists in detention for a number of days, but they were then released instead on bail on 15 August with no indictment. Relatives of the journalists believe the arrests were a politically motivated retaliation for the June 8 arrest of journalist Fouad Jaradeh, a reporter for the PA's official broadcast TV, who was arrested in Gaza by Hamas officers.

The clamp down on journalists has caused an uproar among other Palestinian journalists and activists who have launched a campaign on social media platforms under the Arabic-language hashtasg #وين_الصحفيين ( ‘where are the journalists’) and (‘Journalism is not a crime’), to demand the immediate release of the journalists, and denounce the PA's use of the cybercrime law to repress media freedom.

The goal of the cybercrime law, which the authority enforced against the journalists, is to silence any voices opposing the government or inciting resistance against the occupation #Journalism_is_not_a_crime

Restricting press freedom and arresting journalists under a vague law is a crime #cybercrime_law_is_a_crime #journalism_is_not_a_crime

The cybercrime law compels journalists to lock their mouths

Holding signs that read “journalism is not a crime”, families of the arrested journalists as well as other activists and journalists protested in Ramallah on 12 August against the PA’s rising repression of media and public freedoms and its passing of the new cybercrime law.

by Marwa Fatafta at August 17, 2017 04:23 PM

Banning School-Going Mums Probably Won't Reduce Teen Pregnancy in Tanzania

However, Tanzanian President John Magufuli thinks it will.

Credit: PesaCheck.org

This article was originally published on PesaCheck.org, East Africa’s first fact-checking initiative.

Tanzanian President John Magufuli has called for teen mothers who get pregnant while they are still in school to be banned from returning once they have given birth.

Speaking at a rally in Chalinze, a small town in the eastern region of Pwani, President Magufuli chastised NGOs in Tanzania for encouraging teenage mothers to go back to school, stating that they were “finishing the country” and leading to a state of “moral decay” in Tanzania:

If a girl gets pregnant, if it is deliberate or by accident, gives birth and then returns to school, she will teach these others who haven’t given birth that this is okay. The same girl can then go again and get pregnant, give birth and go back to school. And again for a third time. Are we educating parents?

The president added that teen moms attending either primary or secondary school would be banned from going back once they have given birth:

I want to tell them, and those NGOs as well, that during my administration, no girl who has given birth will be allowed to go back to school .

The president went on to say that teen mothers could go elsewhere if they want to get an education, such as the Vocational Educational and Training Authority, or even taking up farming.

The announcement sparked outrage on social media, with Tanzanians using the #ArudiShule hashtag to criticize the move, especially considering that over 8,000 Tanzanian girls drop out of school every year due to pregnancy according to a Human Rights Watch report.

So, the question is, do student-mothers influence other students’ reproductive behaviour?

PesaCheck has researched the issue, with input from citizen-centered initiative Twaweza, and finds that President Magufuli’s statement is MISLEADING for the following reasons:

Causes of adolescent pregnancies

According to the Tanzania Health and Demographic Survey (THDS) 2015–16 the rate of adolescent pregnancies in mainland Tanzania is considerably high at 27%. What factors contribute to this figure?

publication by HakiElimu found citizens opinion on the key contributors to teen pregnancies includes low household income. The publication states that nearly 31% of the respondents (including parents and teenage girls) thought that poverty was a key factor, with difficult economic situations driving parents to marry off their children as they are not able to meet the basic needs of the female children.

The THDS report also shows that fertility varies with economic levels, decreasing with increasing household wealth. Wealthier households also have a higher age at first birth, meaning that poorer households are more likely to have younger mothers, most likely of schoolgoing age.

Corroborating this fact, a UNICEF report shows that one in six young women aged 15–19 is married in Tanzania. These girls get affected psychologically, meaning that many of them are unable to return to school once they drop out.

Another factor in the HakiElimu publication was “poor upbringing and teenage girls own personal desires”. They found that some parents don’t spend time on their children’s morals and upbringing. Another finding was the lack of reproductive education which helps teens to fully understand puberty. “A lot of parents in villages don’t speak to their female children who are going through puberty.” TDHS 2015 data shows that over half of women already experience sex before the age of 16.

The HakiElimu report also found another contributing factor to be the societal view of a girls child’s value is in being married and being a mother.

The TDHS 2015–16 report shows that fertility rates are strongly related to the level of education. It states that women with no education have 3.3 times more children than women with secondary education. Adolescent women with no education are 5 times more likely to have begun childbearing compared to those with secondary or higher education. TDHS 2010 as stated in the UNICEF report (p.12) found that for a majority of the girls who give birth while they are “still children themselves” are in fact not in school.

Are student-mothers key influencers of adolescent pregnancies?

According to the THDS, Zanzibar has a significantly low rate of adolescent pregnancies at 8% compared to mainland Tanzania. Zanzibar introduced a return to school policy in 2010 as a measure to reduce dropouts. Kenya is just in between Tanzania mainland and Zanzibar with 18% adolescent pregnancies. In both these places student mothers are going to school and the adolescent fertility is much lower.

Therefore the statement that student mothers returning to school will influence other students and lead to a rise in teenage pregnancies is MISLEADING. Most research around adolescent pregnancies attribute teen pregnancies to economic factors and the community attitude and upbringing of female children.

Do you want us to fact-check something a politician or other public figure has said about public finances? Fill this form, or reach out to us on any of the contacts below, and we’ll help ensure you’re not getting bamboozled.

This report was written by PesaCheck Fellow Mwegelo Kapinga, a development consultant, researcher and writer. Mwegelo has previously worked for Twaweza East Africa as a research analyst. The infographics are by PesaCheck Fellow Brian Wachanga, who is a Kenyan civic technologist interested in data visualisation. This report was edited by PesaCheck Managing Editor Eric Mugendi.

PesaCheck, co-founded by Catherine Gicheru, is East Africa’s first fact-checking initiative. It seeks to help the public separate fact from fiction in public pronouncements about the numbers that shape our world, with a special emphasis on pronouncements about public finances that shape government’s delivery of so-called ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ or SDG public services, such as healthcare, rural development and access to water / sanitation. PesaCheck also tests the accuracy of media reportage. To find out more about the project, visit pesacheck.org.

by Mwegelo Kapinga at August 17, 2017 08:05 AM

Marketplace Tech Report
08/17/2017: What tech companies should do about white supremacist groups
Two of the world's biggest tech companies, Alibaba and Tencent, are from China. With both having either recently released their quarterly earnings or preparing to, we'll take a look at how they're trying to expand their growth. Afterwards, we'll chat with Rashad Robinson, executive director at Color of Change, about the action that tech groups should take when their users include white supremacist groups.

by Marketplace at August 17, 2017 05:46 AM

August 16, 2017

Global Voices
Deadly Floods in Bangladesh, India and Nepal Wreak Havoc

Flood in Biratnagar Airport, Nepal. Screenshot from YouTube video by Deo Creations.

A series of terrible floods in Bangladesh, India and Nepal are disrupting lives of hundreds of thousands of people, displacing them and causing serious damage to property and infrastructure.

Heavy monsoon rain in southern Nepal and northern India caused flash floods and landslides, and the flood waters swept across downstream rivers in Bangladesh, killing at least 175 people in these three countries.

At least 6 million people were affected by the floods in Nepal's Terai region and more than 48,000 homes were submerged. A section of the Mahendra Highway, the most important east-west connection in Nepal, was washed away by torrential rains. Several villages and settlements were without help or relief as rescuers found it difficult to reach remote areas. The telecommunications and electricity services were down and connecting roads had been washed away.

People are sharing images and videos of the devastation on social media.

Lucky Deepak shared this YouTube video showing landslides and flood damages in Nepal:

Some are trying to crowdsource funds and relief goods to help the Nepal flood victims:

Meanwhile, In India, continuous rainfall triggered landslides in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh and caused flooding in the eastern and northeastern states of Assam and parts of Bihar and West Bengal. At least 99 people died and over 2 million people were affected across 21 districts of the Indian state of Assam. At least 41 people died and 180,000 people were evacuated in the Indian state of Bihar after flooding in 10 districts. This is the third wave of flooding since the start of the 2107 monsoon.

Downstream in Bangladesh, water levels in most of the major river systems sharply rose, caused by the overflow of flood water from India and Nepal and some heavy monsoon rain. More than 1 million people had been affected by flooding after rivers burst their banks following days of heavy rain in Bangladesh. Experts predict that the country is headed for a major flood, similar to the one in 1988.

This YouTube user posts a video showing the extent of floods in Dinajpur, a northern Bangladeshi district:

by Rezwan at August 16, 2017 05:46 PM

Creative Commons
The staff of music is long, but it bends towards harmony: An interview with the authors of Theft! A History of Music

“To those who think that mash-ups and sampling started with YouTube or a DJ’s turntables, it might be shocking to find that musicians have been borrowing—extensively borrowing, consciously and unconsciously—from each other since music itself began,” write James Boyle and Jennifer Jenkins, two superhero academics have taken on the subject of music and creativity in a new graphic novel. Meticulously researched and incredibly entertaining, the book explores 2,000 years of musical history, from Plato’s admonition that “musical innovation is full of danger to the whole state” to the recent “Blurred Lines” case – and everything in between.

theft-coverTheft! A History of Music is the newest comic from Jenkins and Boyle, the team behind the 2006 fair use comic Bound by Law. Theft was written in collaboration with the late illustrator and academic Keith Aoki; Boyle and Jenkins developed the graphic designs that were illustrated and inked by Ian Akin and Brian Garvey. The book is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 and is available on the website of the Duke Center for the Study of the Public Domain.

In the book’s afterword, you write that you thought you were “done with comic books.” Why this one, and why now? How did the process of writing this book, which took ten years, differ from your previous comic, “Bound by Law?” Why did you decide to take on music as your next subject?

Bound By Law had success far beyond our expectations because it met a need – it explained fair use to a generation of creators and reusers of culture who found the language of copyright law mystifying and felt thwarted by the “permissions culture” of today, which presumes that permissions and fees must be attached to even the tiniest piece of creative culture.

We thought the same was true of music – particularly the permissions culture point. But when we came to write the book we saw that it had to roam much further, through the history of attempts to regulate musical borrowing – whether on grounds of philosophy, religion, race, or property rights. We saw common themes in all of those, common relationships between technology, incentives, law and the fire of sympathetic inspiration, which is impatient with barriers – whether it was a generation of white teenagers being inspired by African American rhythm and blues, or a church composer taking from the songs of the troubadours. As for the ten years it took us to finish, that gets to the pledge we made to our dear departed colleague, Keith Aoki.

superhero

In some “superhero” type scenes, your protagonists struggle with the push and pull between power and control vs freedom, with alter-egos employed to demonstrate the impossibility of the decision. How do you, as academics and authors, reconcile the tension between these two forces?

We don’t think that the forces can ever be reconciled once and for all; they are dynamic tensions that actually drive the art. The important thing is to understand that this is a dynamic balance, not a simple equation where more control means more incentives and thus more art.

Jamie still remembers the first conversations with Larry Lessig, Hal Abelson and others about why we needed Creative Commons – we asked the Copyright office how creators could choose to share, to make their material freely available for others to use and build upon. Their answer was “we don’t provide that service.” That is missing a key part of the cultural dynamic – the fact that culture needs raw material on which to build. Creative Commons tried to deal with one aspect of that, namely the sharing commons. But we understood very well that some of that raw material needs to be there because law doesn’t reach it in the first place. For example, E=MC2 or the alphabet aren’t “owned” and if they were you would get less creativity, not more. Yet that does not mean freedom is always the answer. We want artists and composers to have rights over their work and to receive the compensation and attribution they richly deserve. That is in their, and our, interests. But it is also in their interests to have the freedoms to build on the past in interstitial ways that prior musical generations took for granted!

abbey-road

Something I found particularly compelling about the book is the complicated nature of many of the artists’ copyright disputes juxtaposed with lighthearted illustrations and narrative. For example, you discuss a number of surprising stories from the 20th Century, like the clampdown on the kind of sampling in early Public Enemy (the court decision announcing “get a license or do not sample”) or the case finding George Harrison liable for “subconscious” copying. You also include more distant history about Bach, Gutenberg, and even Plato in ways that are easy to understand and often irreverent. What was it like to turn court cases and history into comics? How did you employ storytelling tropes to craft a narrative out of 2000 years of scholarship and history?

Each domain of creativity – from music to comics – has its own dynamics. As academics, fond of long, carefully constructed arguments, we found it a wonderful challenge to fit complex and multifaceted ideas into a comic panel, a picture and a short speech bubble! But designing each of those panels was what made the art so truly satisfying – it was a rush, a creative high. As for law, it can be the subject of both art and humour – look at what Shakespeare and Dickens do with it! The question for us here was whether we could be technically faithful to the details and nuances – this is academic research with references behind every assertion, but it is also an attempt to capture a “conversation” that has been going on for hundreds of years, and do so fairly.

blurred-lines

Even a casual reader will notice that the book is well researched. How did you do the research? How did you decide on the narrative structure, from the invention of notation to “Blurred Lines?” What primary sources did you draw on, and how did you do it collaboratively?

Again, there is so much to tell. We worked with composers and musicologists – our colleague, Dr. Anthony Kelley of the Duke music department bears much of the credit there. We taught classes made up of half law students and half composers and asked each group to explain the lines that the other group drew around “allowed” and “forbidden” creativity. We scoured the great books about musical history and borrowing – there are many. We drew on the legal scholars who have touched on this debate – Mike Carroll, another person on the CC founding board has written several of the most important law review articles on the subject. And above all, we listened to how music has been influenced and changed over time.

As for the structure, it emerged out of the chaos of our desire to tell the story and our panic that we wouldn’t be able to do so in a way that showed how fascinating it is. The readers of the book will be the best judge of whether we succeeded.

staff-of-music

The book ends with a question – what will music production and rights look like going forward? How will musicians find their way in the 21st century? What do you think is the future of music?

We see several possible futures. Frankly, if we go on our current path – with the permissions culture extending legal claims to the atomic level of musical creativity – then we think that the future will be poorly served. We say in the book that we wouldn’t have got jazz, rock and roll, soul or the blues if we had used the rules we have today. Those musical forms would simply have been made impossible. It is a horrifying thought to think of that dynamic denying us the next great musical form. But we also see a reaction against that cultural sclerosis. We wanted this book to provide the raw material, the balanced information, that helps us decide as a culture which line we wish to go down.

Watch a three minute video about the book below: 

The post The staff of music is long, but it bends towards harmony: An interview with the authors of Theft! A History of Music appeared first on Creative Commons.

by Jennie Rose Halperin at August 16, 2017 04:16 PM

Global Voices
Why Is the Biggest Sugar Mill in Western Cuba Economically and Environmentally Inefficient?
Central Héctor Molina (Foto: Geisy Guia Delis)

Héctor Molina plant photo: Geisy Guia Delis. Published with permission.

The sugar industry has been a cornerstone of Cuba's economy since the colonial period until today. During its best years, it provided 25% of all the sugar in the world. In towns with sugar mills, residents find that their future, for good or for bad, is tied up with the industry.

Below is an excerpt of the article “Sugar Days,” which examines the environmental impact of the biggest sugar mill in Western Cuba. You can read the original Spanish-language article in full here and other articles by Geisy Guia Delis here.

In October 2002, the Cuban government’s decision to restructure the sugar industry and shut down all factories that were unable to produce sugar at a cost of 4 cents a pound or less was made official.

Before then, the Héctor Molina Agro-Industrial Complex, in the western province of Mayabeque, showed signs of underperformance. However, it continued to stay afloat thanks to the proper functioning of the surrounding arable land, available labor and transportation infrastructure.

For the people of San Nicolás de Bari, that was the best thing that could have happened.

But for years, the biggest sugar mill in the region has produced the worst harvest because it has constantly failed to meet the plans it has proposed, it’s an excessive consumer of water and electricity, and because constant equipment breakdowns cause significant economic losses.

Since the sugar mill was founded in 1850, the settlers constructed an irrigation system to water the sugarcane with the wastewater. Then a distillery was added to the plant, injecting the water with highly corrosive substances, capable of raising the soil’s acidity level and damaging crops. Over the years, with the looming possibility that the water contained heavy metals harmful to human health, the city’s Ministry of Science and Technology committee prohibited the use of this wastewater for irrigation.

“I’ve been here 15 years and all that time we have used the wastewater,” admits Rodobaldo León Aguilar, president of the Cuba-Nicaragua Cooperative of Agricultural Production. “We’re using them practically without treatment, raw. Before I got here, this cooperative used them for the rice paddies and other crops. I know it’s a serious risk. I use them because they cost me nothing.”

Rodobaldo acknowledges that they have wanted to use organic fertilizers such as cachaza, which is another residual of the harvest. However, doing this would mean losses, because the cachaza is very expensive and he has no way to irrigate it in the field.

In his 2014 thesis “Endangered Good Soils: The Degradation of Ferralitic Red Soils in Western Cuba,” Dr. Cs. José M. Febles González pointed out that during the last 30 years, the red ferralitic soils of Mayabeque and Artemisa have suffered intense degradation. “However, specialized literature continues to classify this type of soil as ‘non-eroded,’ which has led to the sequential degradation of Cuba’s most productive soils.”

Ana Julia Castillo, division head of the city’s Ministry of Science and Technology committee (CITMA), is responsible for enforcing CITMA’s provisions and their delegation throughout the province. The measures aimed at reducing the pollutant load of the plant started to be implemented in 2015. Now they are monitoring the liquid waste and some time ago, they began the construction of two oxidation ponds, a fertigation system, grease traps and a solid waste management system such as bagasse. In the ponds, the heavy materials must sediment out, so that the water, when passing through the irrigation, is suitable for use in the fields.

Days before a new harvest began in November 2016, the work was not yet finished. “If there is no solution to the residuals, the plant will not mill,” Ana Julia said on that occasion.

But the decision was not up to the city’s CITMA, but to the province’s CITMA and government, or to the State Council. On November 15, 2016, the boilers whistled, signaling the start of the milling. At that time, residuals were a minor problem compared to the cost of having a paralyzed plant.

In each city, there is a Center for Hygiene and Epidemiology. Pastor Soto Fernández is one of the specialists of that institution in San Nicolás de Bari. According to him, it is almost impossible for them to monitor the plant’s activity comprehensively. They don’t have any equipment to measure air quality, ambient noise levels, soil contamination, or the aggressiveness of the residuals.

The plant itself is not aware of the extent to which it is reducing its pollutant load, according to the director, chemical engineer Alexis Rodríguez. Laboratory tests are performed to check that the acidity values of the water are maintained at a level that allows them to continue to produce. Other than the waters, nothing else is measured. It is expected that with the oxidation ponds and the construction of the fertigation, there will be a clear short-term result, but without numbers, there is no way to confirm it.

Alexis acknowledges that they are not yet in a position to comply with the environmental policies. He has been directing the Héctor Molina plant for two years and is aware that he is at Cuba’s worst sugar mill, “or at what they say is the worst.”

“First you have to prove you make sugar. Then you have to develop a culture of saving energy and water. The system must be geared toward that. And that your people are happy.”

The plant is the city’s main source of employment. Most workers depend on whether or not there is a harvest. Everyone knows that if the plant stops, if they close it down due to inefficiency, this will become a ghost town, as has already happened in other villages.

Before heading the plant, Alexis ran the distillery. In 2016, he won a CITMA award for creating a plant that uses the residuals of this industry in the manufacture of pig food. He claims to have a penchant for environmental conservation, but now he is faced with more urgent challenges: “I have to make sugar to make money.”

by Melissa Wise at August 16, 2017 01:10 PM

Marketplace Tech Report
08/16/2017: The Justice Department and a web hosting company battle over user data
The Department of Justice has asked DreamHost for 1.3 million IP addresses connected to a site that organized protests around President Trump's inauguration. On today's show, we'll look at whether there's a historical precedent for such a request, and what this would mean for hosting companies if DreamHost were to give up this information. Afterwards, we'll chat with Alex Klein, CEO of the startup Kano, about the importance of coding.

by Marketplace at August 16, 2017 05:00 AM

Global Voices
Indigenous Nepali Language With Only Two Fluent Speakers Sees Pages of Hope in Newly Launched Dictionary

Gyani Maiya Sen is one of the two fluent Kusunda language speakers. Screenshot from a video by Felix Gaedtke.

A newly launched book-cum dictionary of the Kusunda language, one of several endangered languages in Nepal, is helping prevent the language from dying out with a whimper. The origins of the isolated language, which bears no obvious relation to any other spoken language in the world, continues to be a source of bafflement to linguists.

It took five years of effort to compile the Kusunda dictionary

Though the 2011 Census shows the population of Kusunda people in Nepal as 273 and indicates 28 people speaking the Kusunda language as their mother tongue, field studies suggest there are actually only 150 Kusundas of which only two people are fluent speakers of the language.

Kusunda language is an oral language without any script and there are no written records, documents or books available. The living Kusundas dispersed to different parts of the country and they do not get the opportunity to speak in their mother tongue. They had to assimilate in ways of life and cultural practices of the places where they live now. As a result, the Kusundas do not even speak their mother tongue at home.

According to Uday Raj Aale, the author of the book, the only two fluent speakers alive are Gyani Maiya Sen Kusunda, 81, from Deukhuri, Dang and Kamala Sen Khatri, 48, from Rolpa. Currently, Kusundas live in the Kapilvastu, Arghakhanchi, Pyuthan, Rolpa, Dang, and Surkhet districts of Nepal.

Jacket of the book on Kusundas. Used with permission.

The Kusundas, known as Ban Raja (kings of the forest), led a nomadic hunter-gatherer lifestyle in the hill forests of Nepal’s central and mid-western development regions until only few decades ago. Their lifestyle, patterns of habitation, and the distinct and unique Kusunda language suggest that they have been living in Nepal since ancient times.

The Kusundas also refer to themselves as ‘kings of the forest’, albeit in the Kusunda language, rendered Gilangdei Myahak and claim equal status and relationship to the Thakuris, the ruling clan in Nepal. According to the Kusundas, the Thakuris are kings of cultivated land, while they have dominion over wooded lands. Kusundas have typically taken Thakuri surnames such as Shahi, Sen, and Khan.

The book by Aaley talks about the history, language, culture, and tradition of the Kusundas and has a collection of more than 2,500 words from the Kusunda language. However, Aaley is not the only person studying the Kusundas. Brian Houghton Hodgson, Johan Reinhard, David Watters, B.K. Rana and Madhav Prasad Pokharel are among the other academics that have worked to shed light on the mysterious language.

This video made by Felix Gaedtke and Gayatri Parameswaran features interviews with Gyani Maiya Sen, her son and Professor Pokharel from Tribhuvan University’s Central Department of Linguistics.

This year’s local elections brought some good news for Kusundas. Dhan Bahadur Kusunda, founder of the Nepal Kusunda Development Society, was selected as a representative for the executive committee for the municipality of Ghorahi, Nepal’s seventh largest city, under the marginalized community category quota.

While the Kusunda language is still effectively facing extinction, the representation of Kusundas in local government and efforts like the compiling of the Kusunda dictionary will help to preserve the Kusunda culture and tradition as well as the language itself.

by Sanjib Chaudhary at August 16, 2017 03:42 AM

Register Now for the Global Voices Summit 2017: December 2-3 in Colombo, Sri Lanka!

Colombo, Sri Lanka. PHOTO: Amila Tennakoon (CC BY 2.0)

The 2017 Global Voices Summit is open for registration!

We'll be gathering this year in Colombo, Sri Lanka on December 2-3 to discuss the evolving state of the open Internet, online civic movements and human rights in the digital age. In interactive sessions, panels, and debates, we will explore issues ranging from misinformation/disinformation, to corporate control of the internet, to legal threats against bloggers and activists—all challenges that could make or break the future of the internet.

Joining us will be communities and organizations central to the history and future of the open internet, both globally and regionally, including Creative Commons, Mozilla, Wikipedia, the Web Foundation, the Association of Progressive Communications, IFEX, the MIT Media Lab, the Digital Asia Hub, in addition to the leading lights of Sri Lanka’s internet culture, and many others.

The Summit will take place at TRACE Expert City, a technology hub and incubator in Colombo's Maradana district.

Visit our registration page to reserve your spot at the Global Voices Summit 2017, and keep checking in on the Summit web site over the coming weeks as we develop the Summit programme and post stories, audio and interviews.

We’ll see you in December!

The Global Voices Citizen Media Summit 2017 has been made possible thanks to the generous support of the Ford Foundation, MozillaMacArthur Foundation and Groundviews/Centre for Policy Alternatives.

by Georgia Popplewell at August 16, 2017 03:14 AM

Global NGOs Call for the Release of Cambodian Land Rights Activist Tep Vanny

Tep Vanny's supporters calling for her release. Photo from LICADHO, a human rights group in Cambodia.

At least 65 civil society organizations (CSOs) and non-government organizations (NGOs) from across the world have already signed a unity statement urging the Cambodian government to release land rights activist Tep Vanny, who has been in detention for the past 12 months.

Tep Vanny is a prominent human rights activist who has been campaigning on behalf of marginalized farmers and displaced small landholders in Cambodia. She was arrested last August 2016 for leading the ‘Black Monday’ protest which was organized to call for the release of five human rights defenders accused of interfering in a government case involving an opposition leader.

The court convicted Tep Vanny of “insulting a public official” and sentenced her to six days in prison. But during her detention, the government revived a 2013 case against her when she led a protest in front of the prime minister’s house over the eviction of Boeung Kak Lake residents. A government reclamation project in Boeung Kak Lake, located in the capital city of Phnom Penh, has displaced thousands of residents living around the area.

On February 23, 2017, Tep Vanny was found guilty of committing “intentional violence with aggravating circumstances” during the 2013 protest, and she received a prison sentence of two years and six months.

On August 8, 2017, the court affirmed the decision to convict Tep Vanny. It was also reported that Tep Vanny could face a third trial for another revived case related to a 2011 protest in a Boeung Kak Lake community.

Tep Vanny’s prolonged detention is seen by some activists as part of a government plan to silence the opposition and spread fear among the people in time for the 2018 general elections. Cambodia’s ruling party has been in power for the past three decades, but it lost a significant number of seats in the 2013 elections.

The joint statement signed by 65 CSOs and NGOs warned that Tep Vanny’s detention “contributes to creating an atmosphere of fear for human rights defenders throughout Cambodia.” It also emphasized that dissent and peaceful activism should not be criminalized:

As a result of her imprisonment, Tep Vanny is prevented from carrying out her peaceful and valuable work as a woman human rights defender. Peaceful protest and expressions of dissent are not a crime, and human rights defenders should not be penalized for the exercise of their human rights.

The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development noted that Tep Vanny’s trial violated international norms:

The fabricated charges against Tep Vanny and her arbitrary detention are politically motivated attempts to silence and restrict her activism as a human rights defender. The trial itself did not meet international standards for a fair trial.

Aside from local human rights groups, activists and residents in Boeung Kak Lake have been petitioning the offices of UN agencies and various embassies in Cambodia to seek help in pressuring the Cambodian government to release Tep Vanny.

Cambodian social media users are also encouraged to replace their profile photos with icons of the campaign.

by Mong Palatino at August 16, 2017 02:22 AM

August 15, 2017

Global Voices
Three Generations of Jamaican Textile Artists Reflect Strong Women's Voices

(Left to right): Artists Miriam Hinds-Smith, Margaret Stanley and Katrina Coombs at the opening of their exhibition “3 Generations of Textiles and Fiber Arts” at the Grosvenor Galleries, Kingston, Jamaica on June 24, 2017. Photo by Andrew P. Smith, used with permission.

An unusual exhibition took place recently at Kingston's Grosvenor Galleries: “3 Generations of Textiles and Fiber Arts” brought together Kingston-based artists Margaret Stanley, Katrina Coombs and Miriam Hinds-Smith for a vibrant expression of their personal aspirations and perspectives of society.

Stanley, 66, holds a degree in Fashion/Textiles from the Ravensbourne College of Art in London, England. She lectured at Jamaica's prestigious Edna Manley College for the Visual and Performing Arts (EMCVPA) from 1989-2017 and has exhibited widely in both the United Kingdom (UK) and Jamaica. Kingston-born Coombs, 31, was educated in Textile and Fiber Art and Curatorial Studies at the EMCVPA. She also holds a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Creative Practice from the University of Plymouth in the UK, via New York's Transart Institute. She has exhibited widely since 2008 and was featured in the Young Talent 2015 exhibit at the National Gallery of JamaicaHinds-Smith, 48, was also educated at EMCVPA and received her MFA degree from the Winchester School of Art at the UK's University of Southampton.

Global Voices asked the three artists about the development of their individual work, feelings about each others’ art and views on a recent nationwide controversy related to a “tablecloth.”

Global Voices (GV): Congratulations on a great exhibition! What moved you to take up textile art? Was it a process? Did you start out in textiles or in other art forms?

Margaret Stanley poses next to two of her pieces at the opening of the exhibition “3 Generations of Textiles and Fiber Arts” at the Grosvenor Galleries, Kingston, Jamaica on June 24, 2017. Photo courtesy Grosvenor Galleries, used with permission.

Margaret Stanley (MS): I originally wanted to be a fashion designer. My chosen course at college in the UK also offered textiles. I focused on making hand printed textiles for my fashion graduation show. Then I worked briefly in the fashion industry, but soon realised I wanted to make textiles. I did not know much about Textile ‘Art’, but fell into making large appliqué pictures, which over the years just developed into the work I do now.

Katrina Coombs (KC): I first started textiles and fiber art in high school, when I was introduced to macramé. I immediately found a love for fibers, tying knots and creating pieces.

Miriam Hinds-Smith (MHS): I am from a family of tailors and seamstresses. My mother sewed for us as children, and in my formative years, I had the fancy idea that I would become a fashion designer. This peaked in high school, where I made everything for myself. But I would say it was a gradual process. My initial decision to pursue a path in the arts was from a completely different angle. I wanted to become a graphic designer. But at the School of Visual Arts I had greater exposure to other art forms. I knew I wanted to do something far more expansive. It was a kind of returning to something I was innately responding to when I really fell in love with textiles. I loved every facet of it — designing, creating, imagining. There are cathartic aspects to working with this medium. It provided me with a voice that was quite poignant, quite auditable, unscripted, ephemeral yet tangible.

GV: To what extent does your work reflect your personal outlook or situation — or do you see it as a broader reflection of society?

Katrina Coombs with her pieces at the opening of the exhibition “3 Generations of Textiles and Fiber Arts” at the Grosvenor Galleries, Kingston, Jamaica on June 24, 2017. Photo courtesy Grosvenor Galleries, used with permission.

MS: My work mainly reflects my personal outlook. However, as I am part of Jamaican society, obviously it would also reflect my daily thoughts and observations.

KC: The works are generally a broader reflection of society as they deal with issues of ‘othering’ faced by all women at some point in their life. However, the first reference is the self and as such, the pieces are directly speaking to issues I have faced as a woman attempting to find my identity.

MHS: It is a mix of both, my personal references and what I know — what WE know — is happening in society. It is all in front of us. For some, it does not impact directly; it's a distant thing that you hear on the news. Truth be told, the effect is often closer to home — but we either sweep it under the rug or find ways of rationalising the situation away. Unresolved injustices are not acceptable. My work has moved from the very visceral and stridently literal. With this exhibition, I chose to focus on creating a space for healing, of sanctuaries for those to whom justice has been unrequited.

GV: How do you feel the medium of textiles enhances artistic expression?

Miriam Hinds-Smith poses next to her pieces at the opening of the exhibition “3 Generations of Textiles and Fiber Arts” at the Grosvenor Galleries, Kingston, Jamaica on June 24, 2017. Photo courtesy Grosvenor Galleries, used with permission.

MS: Textiles are important in all our lives, from birth to death. Special garments and fabrics in all societies have historical, cultural and emotional significance. Although I use many traditional techniques in my work, mostly in non-traditional ways, the layering of fabrics of differing colours, patterns and textures is an important inspiration.

KC: Textiles and fiber are used by artists as any other medium. One must first understand the material for all its characteristics — and through that understanding, be able to express oneself artistically.

MHS: The medium of textiles is canonised by Western culture as residing in a feminine domain — a specifically feminine expressive media. This is in stark contrast to other cultures where the medium (or interactions with textiles) resides in the male domain. I find textiles a pliable and eloquently responsive medium that communicates immediately. It has many nuances that allow for a multi-layered conversation.

GV: Do you feel that textile/fiber art gets the recognition it deserves in Jamaica? 

MS: Skills in traditional textile techniques like embroidery are still appreciated by the older generation. Textile Art? Not so much! However, with exposure from foreign experience and the Internet, more fine artists are using textile techniques in their work. This has led to more acceptance. The average Jamaican, however, is still more comfortable with painting!

KC: Recently, textiles and fiber have been put in the forefront of some exhibitions by some artists. This has been a slow process; however, it is beginning to get the recognition it deserves. With more artists exhibiting textile and fiber art-based works […] there will be more recognition.

MHS: Good Lord, no! I recall having a conversation with someone who considers himself an ‘art connoisseur’. He was concerned with the resale value of fiber-based art work. My preoccupation is to have works of art that speak to the issues, in places that will stir further conversations and awareness. Not the sale and ‘art as object’ scenario.

GV: How do you feel about the work of the other two artists in the exhibition? Where do you see the contrasts and similarities in your cross-generational work?

MS: I feel Katrina’s pieces work on many levels. Her concept is not necessarily what the viewer might take away. The visual experience is strong. Miriam’s work, to me, seems more cerebral and needs closer examination. Both artists use textiles, threads and fabrics in very creative ways.

KC: There are three powerful voices speaking through the works, which highlight very personal issues for all three of us. The works themselves reflect our identities as women and the different stages we are at in the process of our development — as well as our different generations. I have always admired Margaret and Miriam for the works they produce, the energies that flow through them and into their works. From being trained by them both, it was an honour being able to exhibit alongside them.

MHS: …The contextual synergy of the exhibition is interesting, considering we really had no prior discussion of theme, any concerns of the sort or any other area that would create forms of alignment. There are similarities across our work from a purely generic frame, being all textile-based. However, Katrina’s poignant fiber-based constructs are very powerful and allude to the tenuous yet robust feminine quality of her concerns. Yet, they are carefully positioned in a very contemporary context, speaking to issues that need to be confronted. I enjoy Margaret’s work, as she employs traditional techniques — but her approach is mixed, creating her unique play with these mediums. Her work is whimsical yet stoutly satirical; a reflective commentary on the every day and the celebratory nature of accepting self, our independence to change, and the cadence of our evolution as women.

GV: Lastly, what are your thoughts on the recent controversy over Jamaica's bandana fabric? (A  dancehall star recently sparked controversy when she disparagingly called the Jamaican bandana a “tablecloth.”)

MS: Bandana is just one colour combination of a traditional woven Indian Madras fabric called Cotton Madras. It has a link with colonialism but has become a symbol of the Jamaican culture. It is similarly used in other Caribbean islands. It is a wonderful, very useful fabric.

KC: This relates back to the issue of textile and fiber being recognised. Firstly, the bandana is a plaid printed cloth. It was originally woven, but due to manufacturing processes it is now easily found in print. It is labeled as our national dress; however, it is hardly ever used in any of Jamaica's ‘branding’. I think the controversy has brought some needed dialogue and recognition to the material and its values for our country.

MHS: “…My concern [is] that as an independent nation, as a signifier of our national identity, we still utilise, like all the other islands, one of the remnants of colonial domination — the ‘Madras’ cloth. It comes from Chennai which was renamed Madras by the British during the mid-19th century. Now Jamaica, an independent country celebrating 55 years of nationhood, still struggles with issues of identity and who we are as a people.

I did not hear the unfortunate ‘tablecloth’ incident first-hand [the comment was made on an Instagram post] but this singer referred to ‘not wearing a tablecloth like Miss Lou’. I don’t believe she meant to disrespect Miss Lou personally. In her own way, though, she was speaking out against the cloth forced on us as a label.

The Madras identified us as property of the colonial empire. Back then, each island was assigned a specific pattern. Now let us look at Miss Lou: an iconic stalwart, a defender of our spoken language patois, dressed in this Madras costume, reciting ‘Colonisation in Reverse’ (one of my faves!). To me, this is an ironic satire of her redefining who we are through wearing this costume. Miss Lou is saying the labeled slave now speaks with a voice that stands strong, resolute and independent — not celebrating the cloth, but what the wearer of the cloth has become.

by Emma Lewis at August 15, 2017 07:26 PM

A Viral Rap Battle Has Everyone in Russia—Including Business Journalists and Politicians—Talking

Record-breaking Russian rap battle: Oxxxymiron VS Gnoyny. Screenshot of video uploaded by versusbattleru to YouTube.

Early on Monday, August 14, readers of Vedomosti, one of Russia’s leading business publications and one of the few remaining independent media in the country, saw a headline that elicited many confused reactions from its loyal audience.

“Battle Between Oxxxymiron And Gnoyny Attracts 2.7 Million Views Overnight,” the article's headline said, looking quite out of place in a publication that normally covers initial public offerings, mergers and hostile takeovers by state-owned conglomerates.  

The event in question was an hour-long YouTube video of a highly anticipated rap battle between two prominent Russian hip-hop performers: Oxxxymiron, whose real name is Miron Fyodorov, and Gnoyny, whose artistic handle translates to “The Festering One” and who also is also known by the monicker Slava KPSS (a play on the diminutive form of popular Russian names like Vyacheslav and the Soviet-era slogan “Glory to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union”). Both contestants exchanged colorful poetic barbs in a smoke-filled bar, with Gnoyny declared the winner by the judges.

Even for native Russian speakers, the hour-long verbal ping-pong is difficult to understand in full, as a most of it deals with obscure subculture references, as well as in-jokes and insults recognizable only to someone fully versed in contemporary Russian hip-hop. For example, around the 15:33 mark Gnoyny delivers a scathing, rhymed review of Oxxxymiron's latest full-length concept album “Gorgorod,” finally released after a four-year hiatus:

Поговорим о твоём альбоме, разберём с хладнокровием Лаврентия Берии. Ты плохо учился в своём Гриффиндоре, если русские что и умеют, так это разваливать империи! Все ждали четыре года, он как мог нагнетал интригу, и всё, что ему пришло в голову — записать аудиокнигу! Причём банальную антиутопию, такой уровень дискурса больше подходит Джамалу и Лоику! С сюжетом, что по силам каждой недалёкой педовке! Твой рэп — дешёвая литература в мягкой обложке! Это набор самых скучных клише, которые существовали в истории! Оригинальный сюжет — трагическая любовь посреди антиутопии! Блять, такого же ни у кого не было, да? Ни у Оруэлла, ни у Замятина, это попсовый мотив, который заебал уже окончательно!

Let’s talk about your album, let’s dissect it with the cold-blooded composure worthy of Lavrenty Beria [Joseph Stalin’s chief of secret police]. You were a bad student at your Gryffindor [a reference from the “Harry Potter” book series] — if Russians have ever been good at anything, it’s tearing down empires! Everyone waited for years, he was building up suspense — and the best he could come up with was an audio book! And a banal one at that, a dystopian novel, such level of discourse better befits Jamal and Loic [rival hip-hop performers]! With a plot that looks like it's been put together by a dim-witted hustler! Your rap is pulp literature at best! It’s a collection of the most tired cliches in history! Oh, it’s such an original plot, look at it — a tragic love story in a dystopian setting! Fuck me, I’m sure no one yet has come up with anything of the sort, right? Not [Russian writer Yevgeny] Zamyatin, not [English writer George] Orwell! It’s a pop motif that’s just pissing everyone the fuck off!

Soon, Vedomosti’s news brief was picked up by many other outlets, including state-owned news agencies like RIA Novosti. At the time of writing RIA Novosti dedicated at least 12 separate articles to the battle, from incremental updates on the number of YouTube views to sympathetic analysis and commentary from music experts.

As the YouTube clip of the battle was accumulating more views — almost 12 million as of August 15 — it attracted unprecedented attention from general interest Russian media, both state-owned and independent. The Interfax news agency reported that the Oxxxymiron-Gnoyny battle set an absolute record for coverage of such a niche subject: more than 800 articles in a single day across the whole spectrum of Russian news outlets.

Many on Russian social media pointed to the contrast between the “serious” nature of news outlets like specialized business publications and state newswires and the “lowly” subject of reporting. Reporters and editors argued on Twitter whether a rap battle was a topic for “proper” news outlets to cover, or whether such incremental updates were indeed newsworthy.

Will there be a news update about 5 million views? What about 6 million?

Professional reviews of the rap battle appeared in publications like Kommersant, post-Soviet Russia’s oldest business newspaper, and Republic.ru, another prominent independent business and general interest news outlet. Reviews have been mostly positive, highlighting the fact that both contestants used complex, multi-layered allusions to classic Russian poetry and the affair wasn't just an exchange of profanities between two people with bizarre nicknames, as many have complained. Yevgeniya Albats, the veteran editor of a prominent opposition magazine The New Times, complained in a Facebook post about the distasteful monickers of the contestants:

Что это за человек, который выбирает себе кликуху “Гнойный” ? И почему 7 млн интересуются высказываниями человека, который сам себя обозначил столь мерзким определением?

What kind of a person chooses ‘The Festering One’ for a nickname and why would 7 million people be interested in anything from someone with such a disgusting self-designation?

The battle even attracted some high-profile political attention. Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny praised the battle in a blog post on his website:

Получил большое удовольствие и больше всего от мысли, что русская культура жива и развивается. […] Разве это не прекрасно? Ну да, мат. Ну да, довольно часто весьма низкопробный юмор. Тем не менее, всё равно это конкурс русских поэтов. […] В любом случае, это в сто раз больше культура, чем комедийные и песенные шоу на федеральных каналах телевидения.

I did enjoy the fact that Russian culture is alive and thriving. […] Isn’t that just beautiful? Yes, there’s a lot of profanity and below-the-belt jokes. But that’s what Russian poetry competitions look like. […] In any case, that’s 100 times more cultural than any comedy show or song contest you see on state television.

State officials also chimed in. Gennady Onischenko, formerly the head of the state consumer watchdog Rospotrebnadzor and now a parliament member for the ruling party, complained about the same aspects of the rap battle that Navalny praised. In a radio interview on August 14, Onischenko said:

Убогий язык, законы русской разговорной речи, культуры там даже и близко не ночевали.Интернет сегодня отражает ту убогость духовную, которая есть в нашем обществе, раз это находит такой широкий отклик.

[In this video clip] the speech is stilted, it has very little to do with the laws of our language and culture. Today’s internet lays bare the moral poverty in our society if [these videos] are in such demand.

Onischenko — infamous for his constant demands to ban or outlaw aspects of modern life, food products or gadgets as immoral or unwholesome — then went as far as demanding to reprimand the outlets which had reported on the battle.

Social media users quickly responded to Onischenko’s statements with ridicule:

Duma criticizes the Oxxxymiron vs Gnoyny battle. So parliament members do give a damn about laws of Russian language, but not about Russians’ wretched life.

Rap battles are an increasingly popular phenomenon on Russian YouTube, with one of the earlier battles involving Oxxymiron having so far generated an unprecedented 38 million views. Independent publication The Bell offers an explanation as to why the news was picked up by business publications: rap battles are serious business, with ad contracts from major clients like Tinkoff Bank and BMW potentially bringing in up to 5 million rubles ($83,480) to the organizers of Oxxxymiron vs Gnoyny alone.

by Alexey Kovalev at August 15, 2017 06:46 PM

Family Farmers in Paraguay Facing Debt Crisis Demand Government Accountability

Paraguay's family farmers fight for their land and livelihood.

Photograph from the “En sus zapatos” (In their shoes) collection, taken from Kurtural's website. Photograph used with permission.

In Paraguay, thousands of farmers have been marching in the streets of Asunción since early July. As small producers, they decry the failure of the government to meet an agreement signed in April 2016, which promised the refinancing of agricultural debts of approximately 18,000 producers. A year later, labourers have returned to the streets claiming the agreement has failed.

In Paraguay, approximately 2.6 million people currently live in rural zones, accounting for over 30% of the total population. Residents struggle against rising levels of land concentration in the countryside as one of their biggest problems. Agricultural businesses use 94% of arable land which produces food for exportation, while family farmers only use 6% for family farming, according to Oxfam's report Yvy Jára: Los dueños de la Tierra en Paraguay (“Yvy Jára: The owners of the Land in Paraguay”). 

The government's inadequate agricultural policies and a lack of information created by businesses linked to land concentration groups aggravate the situation:

The farmers have captured Paraguay's attention and solidarity is pouring in:

Students from different faculties are gathering in front of the Catholic University of Asunción to talk and show solidarity with the #FarmersMarch

- RTV  (@rtvparaguay) August 7, 2017

But some government members have referred to demonstrators as ‘cavemen‘ and the police have repressed the demonstrations:

#Urgent The police are getting ready to suppress: pic.twitter.com/l4tK0f8Afo

— Coord.Intesectorial (@CoordinadoraCNI) August 8, 2017

How did the Farmers’ March begin?

It is not the first time farmers have organized marches to fight for farmers’ rights. This year's marches are the result of an unfulfilled 2016 agreement signed by the government which aimed to solve labourers’ debts allegedly incurred from a series of state scams.

The farmers complained that the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock distributed damaged seeds, promised technical assistance never arrived, and when selling their harvest, market prices were higher than expected. This made it impossible for many farmers to pay off their public and private debts.

In 2016, after nearly a month of demonstrations, President Horacio Cartes’ government reached an agreement with the farmers consisting of panel discussions to hear farmers’ complaints and the creation of new laws to support rural farming. During these talks, the government promised firm support of the farming sector.

Farmers now complain that the agreement has not been honoured and small producers from other sectors are in similar situations, strained by a lack of public policy, growing inequality in the countryside, and the absence of markets and government assistance in times of flood and frost. 

Unfulfilled agreements and responsibilities

In Paraguay, the state must promote rural farming as detailed in the national constitution. It expresses the need for agricultural reform consisting of ‘the effective incorporation of the farming population into the economic and social development of the nation.’ Moreover, it promises to commit to taking measures that ‘stimulate production, discourage land concentration and guarantee the development of small and medium-sized rural properties.’

Many farmers face losing their land and livelihoods to pay off their debts if they don't find a solution to this crisis soon, and fear they will become part of a growing poverty epidemic in Paraguay.

But farmers face more than just problems of debts and subsidies.

One farmer's statement shared by the group Ápe Paraguay on Facebook reveals many of the limitations of working on the land in Paraguay:

Pasa que lo nacional no les interesa tanto, traen todo del exterior. Por ejemplo estos proveedores, que son millonarios, traen locote y tomate del exterior. Ellos declaran unos pocos, y meten como 20 mil kilos semanalmente. […] Yo traigo por ejemplo 3 mil kilos y no puedo meter en el mercado. Así ellos nos joden porque meten del exterior y nuestra producción nacional no vale. Eso es lo que un gobierno debe ver para ayudarnos. En nuestro país, la plata es lo que vale, por eso el contrabando no se detiene. Yo sé bien, porque traje una vez 5 mil kilos producción nacional y me detuvieron y me llevaron por tres días detrás de los papeles, haciéndome perder gran parte de la producción; luego vino otro de contrabando que pagó dos o tres millones y pasó. Tuve que estar aquí 3 días porque supuestamente no tengo documentos. Imaginen, traer de Concepción, de tan lejos, el gasto que representa

Local produce doesn't interest them because they can import everything. For example, these providers, who are millionaires, import peppers and tomatoes from overseas. They declare a few of them but sell like 20 thousand kilos every week. […] I produce roughly 3 thousand kilos and I can't sell it at the market. So they screw us over because they sell things from overseas and our own national production becomes worthless. The government should see this and help us. In our country, money is what matters, so smuggling isn't punished. I know this, because I once brought 5 thousand kilos of national produce and they detained me and kept me there for three days asking for papers [which spoiled] a lot of my produce; then another load came that was smuggled in and they paid two or three million [Paraguayan guaranies] and passed by. I had to wait there for three days because I supposedly didn't have documents. Imagine, bringing produce all the way from Concepción, the cost that represents…

Debt relief as a viable solution?

Farmers demand a ‘write-off’ of their debts under a financial rehabilitation law designed to protect vulnerable populations from abusive lending practices. The Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock is responsible for creating a list of potential beneficiaries who meet specific criteria. They must own less than 30 hectares of land and possess debts no higher than 51 million PYG (approximately 9,170 USD), the equivalence of 25 monthly minimum wages.

Only debts linked to agricultural activity will be recognized, limiting a significant number of potential beneficiaries. Debt-relief could affect at least 17,000 of the 196,000 small agricultural producers on the National Register for National Farming, the database used to determine beneficiary eligibility, though the exact number is unknown. 

Farmers’ subsidies demands dismissed 

Paraguay took on Azucarera Iturbe's 15 billion PYG debt, considered by President Cartes to be ‘the biggest in the history of Paraguay.’ Complaints in newspapers lament the subsidy of Petropar's diesel fuel to soy producers has reached 140 million USD, a group who received economic support even before the beginning of democracy in 1992. Similarly, the Paraguayan government has subsidized new buses for public transport and continues to subsidize fares.

Parliament passed a decision to subsidize farmers on the 2nd of August, but President Cartes vetoed it two days later, dismissing the farmers’ demands. He justified the veto by saying the decision countered the appropriate application of the financial rehabilitation law. Cartes also argued that the cost of the subsidy ‘could be more than 3.2 billion USD, approximately 25% of Paraguay's budget.’ However, a careful look at the numbers behind Cartes’ statement proves the president wrong. 

by Eleanor Weekes at August 15, 2017 05:51 PM

Marketplace Tech Report
08/15/2017: GoDaddy cuts ties with neo-Nazi site Daily Stormer
Daily Stormer, which describes itself as "The World's Most Genocidal Republican Website," has been let go from the domain GoDaddy after posting personal attacks about Heather Heyer, one of the Charlottesville victims. On today's show, we'll look at the role that services like GoDaddy play in controlling internet content. Afterwards, we'll look at a growing debate over the manufacturing standards for environmentally friendly electronics. Manufacturers seem to be getting better marks for  these products, but some in the gadget repair community say the lenses for judging those manufacturers are getting a little rose-tinted.

by Marketplace at August 15, 2017 05:32 AM

Global Voices
‘Dagdag Gastos’ Calculator Debunks Philippine Government Claim That Tax Reform Will Benefit the Poor

Protests against the Philippine government's tax reform measure. Photo Credits: Bulatlat.com. Used with permission.

The Computer Professionals’ Union (CPU) has launched a website that aims to inform Filipino taxpayers about the additional expenses they will have to pay based on the proposed new taxes of the Philippine government.

While the government of President Rodrigo Duterte has touted the proposed tax reform measure as a boon to the poor, who would supposedly benefit from the changes in the income tax rates, various groups have opposed the measure for imposing higher taxes on essential consumer items that would affect the poor.

If approved, the reform will mean a ₱6 (US$0.12) per liter additional excise tax on petroleum products beginning January 2018. This will come on top of the 12 percent value-added tax already being collected from petroleum products. Sugar-sweetened beverages will have a ₱10 (US$0.2) per liter excise tax. Apartments, houses, and other properties rented out at ₱10,000 (US$200) a month and lower will also be levied taxes.

CPU’s Dagdag Gastos (Additional Expense) Calculator is a modification of the online tax calculator released by the Department of Finance early this year to popularize the government's tax reform measure. CPU explains their objective in launching the website:

We hope that with the Dagdag Gastos Calculator, more Filipinos will see that the promised relief offered by the tax reform is effectively narrowed down by DOF’s insistence on value-added tax (VAT) and excise taxes that impacts everyone regardless of income. Ultimately, more Filipino families will have to shoulder added expenses to their already gravely inadequate incomes.

Like the Department of Finance’s tax calculator, CPU’s Dagdag Gastos Calculator asks users about their taxpayer profile such as marital status, monthly salary, employer type, and number of dependents to determine one’s income tax.

But the similarity ends here. CPU's calculator also asks for one’s monthly expenses in terms of food, house rental, and utilities to calculate the additional household expenses resulting from the imposition of new taxes.

Additional expenses for the poor

Let's look at an example. If a poor head of household with four dependents in the Philippines earning a monthly income of ₱5,000 ($100) uses the Department of Finance tax calculator, their results will show that they are not affected by the tax reform package at all. They are not levied any income tax under the current tax scheme and will still not be burdened with any under the new scheme.

Now: ₱0.00 will be deducted from you. Under the tax reform: you will give ₱0.00 for the public!

The Department of Finance tax calculator shows poor people — as defined by government think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) — to be the least affected by the tax reform. According to the government institute, the poor are those who live on less than the official poverty threshold of ₱7,890 (US$157.8) per month or ₱263 (US$5.26) a day.

However, this doesn't take into account the added burden that additional taxes would impose on those living below the poverty line. According to the government’s 2015 Family Income and Expenditure Survey (FIES), families with an annual income of ₱60,000-99,999 (US$1,200-1,999) spends 58.8 percent of their income on food, 9.6 percent on house rental, 7.6 percent water, electricity, gas, and other fuels, and 3.9 percent on transportation.

Using these estimates with the Dagdag Gastos calculator, we see that a poor family with a ₱5,000 ($100) monthly income would actually pay an additional ₱135.30 (US$2.70) expenses from the new taxes on top of the ₱3,995 (US$79.90) total expenses before the new taxes are imposed.

Your current expenses in home rental, food, LPG [gas], transportation, and utilities may increase!

Previous amount: ₱3,995.00 (US$79.90)

Amount due to the tax reform: ₱4,130.30 (US$82.60)

Overall additional expenses: ₱135.30* (US$2.70)

*This is from:

  • 12% VAT from house rental
  • 1.6% estimated additional cost of food items
  • 10.5% estimated increase in LPG price
  • 1.1% increase in cost of electricity
  • 4.9% estimated transportation cost hike

The tax reform also includes the removal of most VAT exemptions and additional taxes on new vehicles and petroleum products.

Taking with the right hand what is given with the left

A hypothetical middle-income family with four dependents earning ₱40,000 (US$800) a month is shown in the Department of Finance tax calculator to have drastically decreased expenses with cuts in their income taxes. With the implementation of Duterte's tax reforms, income taxes would be reduced by P1,944.06 (US$38.88)  from the current ₱5,831.03 (US$116.6) to only ₱3,886.97 (US$77.74).

Because you have saved ₱1,944.06 (US$38.88) you can do the following:

Go to the spa and relax!

Go out of town with friends and family!

Save for your insurance!

But like the previous examples, the Department of Finance tax calculator does not show the additional expenses entailed by the new taxes. According to the 2015 FIES, families with an annual income of over ₱250,000 (US$5,000) would spend 35.3 percent of their total income on food, 13.2 percent on house rental, 7.9 percent on water, electricity, gas, and other fuels, and 6.9 percent on transportation.

Using these estimates with the Dagdag Gastos calculator shows that a middle-income family with a ₱40,000 (US$800) income would be slapped with an additional ₱1,091.56 (US$21.80) in expenses from new taxes on top of the ₱25,320 (US$506.40) in total expenses before the new taxes are imposed. PIDS define middle-income families as those living between four to 10 times the poverty line: ₱31,560 (US$631.20) to ₱78,900 (US$1,578) per month or ₱1,052 (US$21) to ₱2,630 (US$52.60) per day.

It thus becomes clear in this example that the tax reform takes with the right hand what is given with the left. As independent think-tank Ibon Foundation claims, it is the unemployed, underemployed, the poor, and middle classes who will bear the brunt of the new taxes, while big companies will continue to enjoy tax exemptions and other incentives.

What's behind the tax reforms

The tax reform measure was quickly approved by the pro-Duterte supermajority in the Congress’ lower house with a vote of 246 in favor, nine opposed, and one abstention, awaiting only further deliberation and approval in the upper house or Senate.

This tax legislation aims to generate revenues for Duterte’s “build, build, build” program that will create massive infrastructure projects in a bid to attract more foreign investors to the country. The DOF expects to get up to ₱600 billion (US$11.9 billion) from the tax reform measure by 2019.

As an alternative, critics like Ibon Foundation propose a more progressive tax system that bases collection on a citizen’s capacity to pay rather than an expansion of uniform tax coverage for all, which hits the poor the hardest.

by Karlo Mongaya at August 15, 2017 04:27 AM

August 14, 2017

Marketplace Tech Report
08/14/2017: Weaponized audio technology
Hewlett Packard Enterprise has developed a Spaceborne computer that'll be tested at the International Space Station to see if it can withstand trips to Mars. Mark Fernandez, lead developer for the NASA project, joined us to talk about the technology and why a private company like HP is getting involved. Afterwards, we'll look at news that State Department workers in Cuba may have suffered from an "acoustic attack."

by Marketplace at August 14, 2017 05:16 AM

August 13, 2017

Global Voices
Tata Genaro Ramírez: The Farmer Who Revived the Nawat Language in El Salvador
Genaro Ramírez en Santo Domingo de Guzmán, El Salvador. Con permiso del Colectivo Tzunhejekat.

Genaro Ramírez in Santo Domingo de Guzmán, El Salvador. Used with permission from Colectivo Tzunhejekat.

The Nawat speaking community in El Salvador lamented the passing of Genaro Ramírez, the Salvadorean who dreamed that the Nawat would still live. He was the first teacher of the language, but not the last, because through his hard work, Ramírez left an important legacy in the revitalization of his ancestral language.

The Nawat Pipil is only spoken by 200 Salvadoreans, according to UNESCO.  The vast majority of them live in a small village called Santo Domingo de Guzmán, or Witzapan, in Nawat.  This is the hometown of Genaro where he worked for the regrowth of the language for more than 40 years. He gave free classes every day of the week, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.  He had a mission. In the words of Genaro himself:

(…) entendí qué era aquel hoyo que por tanto tiempo sentía en el pecho. Así que tiré mis fierros ahí en la milpa porque sentí que ya no podía seguir así, y […] me dije: ‘Yo debo enseñar el náhuat aunque me muera de hambre

(…) I understood what that hole was that I had felt for so long in my chest.  So I threw my tools in the cornfield because I felt that I could not go on like this, and I […] said to myself: ‘I must teach Nawat even if I’ll starve to death’

Before Genaro, there weren’t any Nawat teachers. The indigenous Salvadorean community had entered a long silence since 1932, when 30,000 people, mostly Nawat pipiles, were executed by the army for having rebelled over the lack of food during the popular revolt in the country in 1932. The uprising was also a peasant revolt and the events, commonly remembered by its perpetrators as La Matanza (“The killing”), are the focus of many debates today.

Global Voices spoke with Werner Hernández, member of the Tzunhejekat Collective, a project that seeks to spread the Nawat language through different means and to make its native speakers aware.  Hernández, a student and close friend of Genaro Ramírez, comments on the situation of the Salvadoran indigenous community:

“[la comunidad indígena] se quedó afectada, se escondió. Ellos cambiaron sus apellidos, su vestimenta… su idioma. Todos todavía hablaban [el náhuat] en voz baja cuando surgió Genaro, el primer profesor de náhuat. Sabía que había nacido para eso.”

[The indigenous community] was affected, it hid.  They changed their surnames, the way they dressed…their language.  Everyone was still speaking [Nawat] quietly when Genaro rose up, the first Nawat teacher. He knew that he was born for that.

Hernández also explained that the first Nawat teacher not only succeeded in redeeming the pride of the indigenous Pipil people for their identity, culture, and language, but also collapsed the walls between the Pipil community and the rest of the country. He built bridges with the outside. It was in this way that other Salvadorans, like Werner, could discover a hidden part of their identity:

“Me ha abierto las puertas a una experiencia maravillosa de conectarme, conmigo mismo, como salvadoreño. Así decimos en nuestro colectivo [Tzunhejekat]: el salvadoreño que habla el náhuat mira el país en tres dimensiones, porque podemos entender nuestra realidad más allá de las palabras.”

It has opened the door to a wonderful experience connecting me, with myself, as a Salvadoran. Thus, as we say in our [Tzunhejekat] collective: the Salvadoran who speaks Nawat sees the country in three dimensions, because we can understand our reality beyond words.

Werner also recalls how the Nawat language is also a gateway to an extensive cultural universe: “There are certain nuances and colors that with only speaking the language, they understand each other.  It’s not the same to go see a ballet performance than reading a review of the show [that's how] reading a translated poem [would be like].” This reflection is also incorporated into debate in the country on the need to invest resources in the ancestral language. “Value and [economic] price is not the same,” Werner adds.

Genaro inspired a new generation of Nawat teachers, he launched the enthusiasm for the documentation of the language, broke taboos, and made the language known in all the political levels of the country:

Paula López [a known poet who writes in the nawat language] and “Tata” Genaro Ramírez sang in Nawat for President @sanchezceren in #CasaAbierta.

Today, because of the enthusiasm it generated, there are digital initiatives that help spread the language and protect the indigenous Pipil culture. There are collectives, such as Tzunhejekat and the Nawat Carriers Initiative, linguistic websites such as Tushik and its Facebook group, Nawat blogs such as Chachalaka, and videos uploaded on YouTube:

Genaro Ramírez left a favorable ground for the survival of the Nawat language. “The loss of Don Genaro marks our commitment to revitalize the language,” concludes Werner Hernández.

by Omar Ocampo at August 13, 2017 07:21 PM

2017 Commonwealth Short Story Prize Winner Trinidadian Ingrid Persaud Talks Writing

Writer Ingrid Persaud; photo used with her permission.

With a humourous, tender and engaging story about a father-son bond, Trinidad and Tobago-born writer Ingrid Persaud copped the 2017 Commonwealth Short Story Prize for the Caribbean region; she was also this year's overall winner. In “The Sweet Sop”, she masterfully explores the difficult themes of love and death without getting maudlin, and deliciously sweetens a sour relationship with all manner of chocolate.

Global Voices chatted with her about her win, her writing and Caribbean literature in general.

Global Voices (GV): Congratulations on winning this year’s Commonwealth Short Story prize (Caribbean). The narrative around your success has been that you are a “first-time author” and that you pretty much came out of nowhere to win this prize, but you have been honing your craft for a long time now. Can you tell us about your journey?

Ingrid Persaud (IP): The notion of a writer emerging fully formed is simply a version of the genius myth. I have been writing for the past five years persistently trying to understand how words slide and fall and play. I’ve written a novel and [am] working on another. I haven’t been writing short stories and the prize incentivizes me to look at this form more seriously.

My journey to writing has been circuitous. I have had two other lives. [I was] an academic lawyer and later I trained as an artist. Looking back, the thread that binds it all is the power of words.

GV: The beauty of “The Sweet Sop”, your story that so impressed the panel of judges with its originality, strength of characterisation and humour, is that it spoke of universal experiences with a distinctly Trinidadian voice. How did you accomplish that?

IP: Caribbean voices are as distinct and as easily understood as, for example, the Irish or Scottish voices we unquestioningly accept. I think this generation of writers is making a stand against the othering of Caribbean
voices as ‘patois’ or ‘first nation language’. Good stories and poems will always find a space because they speak to our common humanity. Trini humour warms my heart and I am delighted it touches others.

GV: Has blogging been useful in honing your writing skills, especially with regard to the short story format? What has it taught you as a writer?

IP: I am not a regular blogger but starting the blog was crucial to making writing a more central part of my life. We had moved from London to Barbados and I set myself the task of writing a 900-word weekly essay on this new life. It doesn’t sound like much but it provided structure, discipline and forced me to be more observant. Notes From A Small Rock gave me the space to experiment and get feedback from readers. I really ought I to feed that beast more often.

GV: Not only are you a writer, you are a parent, too. How did your family react when you won the prize, and how do you balance being a wife, mother and writer?

IP: The whole family was proud. Even our teenaged twin boys muttered something about my prize being cool. The boys are my first obligation and until they leave for university in the next year or so my world is determined
by their needs. That is my choice. The time and head space I reserve for writing is also sacred but what that looks like depends on whether it is holiday or term time or if the boys have exams. My husband is incredibly supportive of my writing as I am of his work [he's an economist]. We struggle on as a team — compromising and firefighting.

Ingrid Persaud; image used with her permission.

GV: How has social media factored into your ability to share and promote your work and connect with other Caribbean writers?

IP: I spend far too much time on Facebook and Twitter and excuse it because I live on an island that is 14 by 21 miles. It is my portal to interacting with other writers worldwide as well as my interface with news services and various publications. But I never confuse a virtual friend with the kind that turns up for lunch and you are both still talking and laughing as the moon is rising.

GV: Speaking of other writers, who inspires you?

IP: I read widely to catch a glimpse of the zeitgeist and I read strategically depending on the challenges I am trying to overcome in my own writing. For craft, Olive Senior’s work is inspiring. I re-read Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying more often than I care to admit. This summer’s best find has been The Story of a Brief Marriage by Anuk Arudpragasam.

GV: How do you notice Caribbean literature evolving and where does your voice fit into it?

IP: The Caribbean has a proud tradition of producing world class literature and we are continuing to do so with the authentic and unique voices of writers and poets such as Kei Miller, Vahni Capildeo, Marlon James, Barbara Jenkins, Jacob Ross and Sharon Millar. In time, when I’ve produced more work, my voice might find a space. But that is the critic’s job. My task is to keep writing.

GV: Any practical advice for aspiring regional writers, particularly female ones?

IP: Treat yourself with respect and kindness. Make your writing time sacred. When you are not writing, you should be reading. Writers are never off duty because material can come from anywhere — a chance remark or when buying bread. Maybe it is just my sieve of a memory but I recommend note taking on the go. And don’t wait for the muse. That woman woke up late this morning and is stuck in traffic. She’s coming but best you start writing now. She’ll join you later.

GV: Finally, what does winning the Commonwealth Short Story prize mean to you and how do you expect it might change the trajectory of your career?

IP: The prize has brought me in contact with some fantastic writers from around the Commonwealth — people I hope will be in my life for a long time. It has given me greater confidence and resilience to meet the demands of a writer’s life. But it also makes me a little scared that maybe the next thing I write won’t be as good.

by Janine Mendes-Franco at August 13, 2017 01:33 PM

On Anniversary of Nagasaki Bombing, Japanese Government Criticized For Refusing to Sign Ban on Nuclear Weapons
nagasaki nuke ban

Caption: “On the anniversary of the bombing of Nagasaki, calls on Japan to sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons—72 years since bombing, calls on government to act.” Subtitle: “We call on the countries that possess nuclear weapons and the countries under the nuclear umbrella (to sign the treaty banning nuclear weapons,” Nagasaki Mayor Taue Tomihisa. Screencap from ANN YouTube channel.

Last week the Japanese government was criticized at the annual memorial ceremony commemorating the August 9, 1945 atomic bombing of Nagasaki, while Prime Minister Abe Shinzo was later chastised by a survivor of the attack. On the seventy-second anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and as the United States and North Korea are threatening each other with nuclear attacks, the chief complaint in Nagasaki last week was that the Japanese government has refused to endorse the new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

On August 9, 1945, an American B-29 bomber dropped an atomic bomb on Nagasaki, just north of the city center. At least 75,000 people died in the blast, and many more were injured.

On this day 72 years ago. At 11:02AM, August 9, 1945, an atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. Out of a population of 240,000 people, 74,000 people were killed, approximately 36% of structures were incinerated or partially destroyed. Footage is from 16mm color film.

To commemorate the bombings, each year on August 9 several thousand people, including foreign dignitaries, Japanese politicians like the prime minister and hibakusha–the dwindling number of survivors of the atomic  bombing–gather in the large “peace park” in Nagasaki located on a hill overlooking the epicenter of the bombing in the suburb of Urakami.

The ceremony is typically broadcast live on television. Hibakusha survivors are asked to speak, and politicians, including the Prime Minister of Japan, lay wreaths and make their own remarks on the bombing. The mayor of the city also leads the ceremony, and makes a speech, delivering Nagasaki's annual Peace Declaration.

This year, with Prime Minister Abe Shinzo sitting in attendance, the mayor of Nagasaki Taue Tomihisa used the 2017 Nagasaki Peace Declaration to directly criticize the Japanese government for essentially turning its back on the principle of nuclear disarmament:

Despite the fact that the Japanese government has clearly stated that it will exercise leadership in aiming for a world free of nuclear weapons, and play a role as a bridge between the nuclear-armed states and the non-nuclear-armed states, its stance of not even participating in the diplomatic negotiations for the Nuclear Prohibition Treaty is quite incomprehensible to those of us living in the cities that suffered atomic bombings.

While the English-language version of the 2017 Peace Declaration can be read here, Taue's statement is based on Japan's refusal to acknowledge the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Signed in July 2017, the treaty has been described as the first legally binding treaty to abolish nuclear weapons. The treaty was endorsed by 122 UN-member countries, although countries that wield nuclear weapons, as well as many countries that either come under their protection or host weapons, such as Japan, boycotted the negotiations.

Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

Vote on the final draft of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, 7 July 2017. Blue = Yes, Red = No, Black = Abstain, Grey = Did Not Vote. Image by Wikipedia user NordNordWest. License: CC BY-SA 3.0 de.

The main criticism against the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is that it is unrealistic. Writing for the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, Masako Toki, a research associate in the Nonproliferation Education Program at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies notes:

Opponents of the Nuclear Ban Treaty—including nuclear-armed states and allies under their extended nuclear deterrence—not only boycotted the negotiations (with the exception of the Netherlands) but also criticized the treaty for deepening the division between nuclear weapons states and non-nuclear weapons states. These nuclear-armed states—especially the United States, the United Kingdom, and France—indicated no willingness to join the treaty. In fact, in their joint statement they reiterated their position that they do not “intend to sign, ratify or ever become party to it.” They asserted that the Ban Treaty “clearly disregards the realities of the international security environment.”

While Nagasaki Mayor Taue Tomohisa was expressing his incomprehension that Japan, the only country to ever have suffered nuclear attacks, would ignore an international agreement that would formally work towards abolishing those weapons, Japan has still called for a stronger Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to deal with what the country considers an emerging North Korean threat.

Besides the city's mayor, some attendees at the August 9 memorial ceremony in Nagasaki were also confused and even angered by the Abe government's refusal to sign the 2017 ban on nuclear weapons. In one exchange that went viral over social media, a hibakusha survivor of the bombings berated Prime Minister Abe in a face-to-face meeting, asking “Whose country are you leader of anyway?”:

“Whose country are you leader of anyway?” — representative of hibakusha group lashes out at Abe Shinzo

“Finally, our prayers are bearing fruit! The ban on nuclear weapons was passed!”

Although we are the sole country to ever have been attacked by nuclear weapons, listening to Abe in Hiroshima yesterday and in Nagasaki today, when he opened his mouth he was very skillful with his words:

“Since we as a country do not possess nuclear weapons, we as a country will not ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.”

That's enough to make anyone mad.

Others observed that Prime Minister Abe, in his remarks, did not really understand the significance of the annual memorial ceremony in Nagasaki:

The anniversary of the bombing of Nagasaki. At the memorial ceremony, the mayor of Nagasaki, speaking before Prime Minister Abe, strongly (criticized) the Japanese government for its refusal to ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Prime Minister Abe ignored the Treaty.

Despite that, in his address to the Nagasaki memorial, Prime Minister Abe declared “we vow to create an everlasting peace without nuclear weapons.”

On television you could see the families (of the hibakusha) assembled together all tilting their heads in puzzlement.

by Nevin Thompson at August 13, 2017 12:11 PM

China’s Taobao Faces Storm For Selling Personalised Messages Delivered by African Children

Screen shots from Taobao via HKFP.

This post was written by Jun Pang and originally published on Hong Kong Free Press on August 9, 2017. The version below is published on Global Voices under a partnership agreement.

Chinese Taobao vendors engaged in the sale of customised online photo and video messages that feature African children have faced a storm of criticism from commentators who view the practice as exploitative and racist.

The services are advertised on China's most popular online shopping platform, Alibaba’s Taobao marketplace, as a “meaningful” way to deliver a personal message. Listed by multiple vendors, the videos feature children from unspecified countries in Africa reciting custom-ordered messages in Mandarin while holding aloft signs.

The video messages target birthdays, anniversaries and even marriage proposals. Sample photos on vendors’ profiles also show children reading out advertisements for businesses such as dental practices, home refurbishment companies, and the Chinese search engine Sogou.

Screen capture of the search result of “Kids holding placards” on Taobao marketplace. Via HKFP.

The controversy over the clips feeds into broader concerns over the nature of China's role in Africa. Beijing took over the United States as the continent's largest trade partner in 2009, but some Chinese companies have been accused of echoing the exploitative practices of European powers during the colonial era.

Prices for the video clips range from RMB 10 to RMB 220 yuan (approximately US$ 1.5 – US$ 35 dollars). Buyers who opt for the higher price bracket receive a 10-20 second video featuring around ten children reading out a message in Mandarin, responding to instructions from the videographer. Those who purchase cheaper packages receive a photo of a child holding a sign with a handwritten message. Videos are usually completed within 24 to 72 hours of being ordered.

One vendor’s put up a disclaimer in the product description and stressed that the children were acting voluntarily:

Children are not merchandise. You can't choose from different video clips. Thank you for understanding.

HKFP has copied some samples of the video advertisements:

One vendor advertised their videos as a form of “charitable activity.” Posing as a potential customer, HKFP asked whether the price of a video would cover compensation for the children involved in its production.

The vendor said:

I am doing this out of the goodness of my heart. I’m not sure – I am asking someone else to take the video for me. I don’t know how much money is given to the children. Sorry.

Another vendor said the children “are considered to be employed”. When asked about how young the children were, the vendor said that he did not know the details of the production, but that the children were “definitely reimbursed” for their participation.

“Stupid, cheap, disgusting”

The practice sparked controversy online with one commenter on the US-based Sixth Tone platform saying:

Contemporary China’s first experience with neo-colonial racism? This is all kinds of messed up.

Another commenter on The Paper, a Chinese digital media outlet, said:

Stupid, cheap, disgusting. I recommend they put these people in jail.

Another said:

Brazenly disgraceful! Taobao should not only put an end to these shops, it should also investigate the vendors for false advertising and malicious anti-black racism – they are ruining the image of our country.

Some, however, defended the practice:

I feel like this is not a bad thing. The children get compensated, factories get to be advertised. This is reasonable.

Another added:

All the children had to do was to hold a sign, and then they would get a few dollars. Now that you have made a mountain out of a molehill, they don’t even have that.

Beijing Youth Daily spoke to a Chinese photographer who had previously produced similar video messages in Zambia. The photographer said that the children who featured in videos were only compensated with small snacks, or a few dollars each.

The people filming the clip received approximately RMB 90 (approximately $15) per video, which were then sold on Taobao by a vendor for double the costz of production.

Advertising law

Taobao has said it had received complaints regarding certain vendors using African children for suspected violations of Chinese advertising law, which state that advertisers may not use “superlative expressions” in their promotional materials. The company said that it would take down the products if the complaints were valid.

Users had previously criticised the vendors for allowing custom-ordered messages to include inappropriate content, including promotional phrases such as “the best,” “the most well-loved,” and “even the Africans know it!” as well as advertisements for pornographic live streams.

Some vendors note in their descriptions that custom orders cannot include swear words, sexual innuendos, mentions of gambling and drugs, or superlative advertising.

As this article went to publication, there remained multiple vendors offering their services on the online marketplace.

by Hong Kong Free Press at August 13, 2017 06:41 AM

August 12, 2017

Global Voices
Jamaica Police Review Absolves Officers in Tivoli Gardens Incursion

Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) uniform detail taken during Jamaica's 2010 state of emergency. Photo by the BBC World Service, CC BY-NC 2.0.

Just over seven years ago, Jamaican security forces entered the troubled West Kingston community of Tivoli Gardens, in search of alleged drug don Christopher “Dudus” Coke, who was wanted for extradition to the United States.

During the security operations — which raised major concerns among human rights groups — at least 72 Jamaicans lost their lives and about 35 more were wounded. It was the highest number of casualties in a single incident since the brutal suppression of the Morant Bay Rebellion of 1865.

On May 23, 2010 Jamaica was placed under a limited 2010 state of emergency for Kingston and St. Andrew, which ended nearly two months later on July 22. Coke was eventually captured and deported to the United States on June 24, and is currently serving a 23-year prison sentence for racketeering.

The government-appointed Commission of Enquiry into the “Tivoli incursion” (as it is known locally) published its report and recommendations on June 14, 2016. More than a year later, the Jamaica Constabulary Force (itself created by colonial powers soon after the Morant Bay Rebellion) released its own administrative review of the Commission's report, which Police Commissioner George Quallo shared on Twitter:

Among other recommendations, the June 2016 Commissioners’ Report noted that five senior members of the police force should not be put in charge of future internal security operations, after credible claims of dereliction of duty and extrajudicial killings. However, the police review committee, led by Assistant Commissioner of Police Wray Palmer, rejected this recommendation, going further to say that the Commissioners engaged in speculation, were biased and sometimes confused. The three Commissioners who were appointed in August 2014 included international crime expert, Professor Anthony Harriott; retired judge of the Court of Appeal of Jamaica, Mrs. Justice Hazel Harris; and former Chief Justice and Attorney General of Barbados, Sir David Simmons, who chaired the enquiry.

The response from Public Defender Arlene Harrison Henry was swift and emphatic. She called the police review “contemptuous” of the quasi-judicial Commission, which she noted was properly constituted under the laws of Jamaica by the Governor General. She also called on the Jamaica Constabulary Force to withdraw their review, promising to write Attorney General Marlene Malahoo Forte on the matter. Meanwhile, Quallo says he “stands by the report”.

Human rights advocate Susan Goffe observed in her blog:

Since the release, there has been increasing discussion of the report, with expressions of criticism and concern. I have been among those expressing concerns as, having read the report, I believe it raises questions of process, substance and tone. I think that beyond the report itself, there is also the consideration of its wider impact on issues of post-Commission of Enquiry processes and of police accountability.

In the final account, the Committee found that the JCF [Jamaica Constabulary Force], its systems, performance and members were ‘appropriate’, ‘adequate’, ‘clear’, ‘effective’, ‘effective’, ‘adequate’, ‘effective’, ‘adequate’, ‘rose to the occasion’, without basis to ‘be cited for misconduct and/or dereliction of duty’. The report and its findings give little indication of the kind of self-reflection that would be valuable to the police force following the events of 2010 and the report and recommendations of the Commission of Enquiry. There is a sense of the-JCF-did-nothing-wrong-time-to-move-on.

There are points at which the Committee’s tone seems to be defensive and dismissive in a manner that is not appropriate or useful.

There was more criticism from retired Deputy Commissioner of Police Les Green, who took offence at the way the Criminal Investigation Bureau (CIB), which he headed at the time, was characterised. In an open letter to Commissioner Quallo, Green commented:

I respectfully request that the false and misleading statements are promptly addressed in this publicly circulated review document (published on the JCF website page and widely reported in the media) as any delays will continue to cause distress, alarm and harm to the reputations of nearly 1,500 members of the JCF, who were members of the CIB in May 2010.

I was honoured and privileged to have served in the CIB and I can personally vouch for numerous CIB personnel, who during this period, demonstrated beyond the call of duty at the very highest standards of professionalism, discipline and dedication and this JCF internal review document has tarnished us all with an injustice that must be immediately addressed.

The day after the release of the administrative review, George Quallo shared a press release:

The release quoted the Police Commissioner's pointed words:

There are more decent, honest, hard-working men and women in our midst than there are unscrupulous members…

We have no place for individuals who decidedly run afoul of the law. As keepers of this democracy we are held at a higher level of moral conduct than the average citizen. Therefore, I call on the decent members of this organisation to stand up and be counted, denounce any act of misconduct or corruption that is likely to impact our image.

As a result of the review findings, Jamaicans have been regularly commenting on police matters of late:

In general, Jamaicans hold a low opinion of the police. Those participating in the Gleaner newspaper national poll in 2014 believed that 80% of police were corrupt. One tweet echoed this view:

Another tweeted a drastic solution:

Radical perhaps, but many still believe that the Tivoli Gardens incursion was just as extreme.

by Emma Lewis at August 12, 2017 11:48 PM

Thailand's Broadcasting Authority Suspends TV Network That Called Junta Leader a Dictator

Peace TV network is suspended for one month. Image from the Southeast Asian Press Alliance, used with permission.

Thailand’s National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) has suspended for one month the license of a TV network which has been criticizing the policies of the military-led government.

Signed on August 9, 2017, the NBTC order will take effect once the letter is delivered to the Peace TV network.

Peace TV is affiliated to the United Front Against Dictatorship for Democracy, a group also known as “red shirts” whose prominent leaders are supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Some “red shirts” are also known critics of the Lese Majeste (anti-Royal Insult) law, which the government has been using to prosecute activists and anti-junta politicians.

Thailand’s army grabbed power in 2014 and has remained in power through a constitution it drafted. It vowed to restore civilian rule once political and electoral reforms have been implemented. Since 2014, the junta has strictly regulated the media and arrested Internet users accused of defaming authorities.

NBTC said Peace TV violated the law when it aired two programs in July that undermined the constitutional monarchy, national security and “good morality.” However, it didn’t specify which parts of the programs have incited the public to oppose the government.

This is the third time that Peace TV has been suspended by the NBTC. It was previously suspended in April 2015 and July 2016 for allegedly threatening national security.

Some believe Peace TV was suspended because it dared to call former army chief and now Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha a dictator:

The Southeast Asian Press Alliance questioned the harsh ruling of the NBTC since it will affect all programs and employees of the TV network:

We see the suspension order as too severe, given that the NBTC has identified specific programming on specific dates that it deemed violating Thailand broadcasting laws. The order punishes the entire station including all programs regardless of content, and all personnel regardless of role.

The group also warned that the NBTC order will lead to the further curtailment of press freedom in Thailand:

Such broad and sweeping powers, especially under a regular law must be used with restraint and proportionality, considering that it can set precedents to be used to potentially infringe on freedom of the press and the public’s right to know and hear all sides of the political discourse in Thai society.

Peace TV officials insisted that the program episodes cited by NBTC didn’t incite the public to rise up against the junta. They added that during the month-long suspension, Peace TV programs will still be aired through Facebook Live.

They also questioned the timing of the suspension order, which coincided with the August 25 corruption hearing of ousted Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. But Prime Minister Prayut denied that the TV network was suspended in order to silence supportive “red shirt” media during Yingluck’s trial. He said that it this were the intention of the government, then all media networks should be suspended by NBTC.

by Mong Palatino at August 12, 2017 05:50 PM

Music Group Bokanté Serves Up Songs in the Key of Creole

The band members of Bokanté hail from four continents, and their music draws influences from Caribbean rhythms, West African music, and Mississippi Delta blues. Credit: GroundUP Music

This story by Sonia Narang originally appeared on PRI.org on July 24, 2017. It is republished here as part of a partnership between PRI and Global Voices.

The Vancouver Jazz Festival recently drew musicians from around the world to Canada’s West Coast. One band brought a distinctive sound flavored with Caribbean rhythms, West African music, and Mississippi Delta blues to the stage. They call themselves Bokanté, which means “exchange” in the Creole language of the Caribbean.

The musical group’s lead singer and songwriter Malika Tirolien grew up on the French-Caribbean island of Guadeloupe. She now lives in Montreal, and sings mostly in her mother tongue of Creole, which is a hybrid of French and her island’s local language.

“For me, the Creole is very, very important, and I’m very proud of it,” Tirolien says. “That’s why I put a lot of it into my music. And Creole is such a beautiful language,” she adds.

“I’m bringing that Caribbean flavor, and also I’m bringing a little bit the rhythm of gwo ka, which is a rhythm from Guadeloupe,” she says, and explains how the band’s recent album “Strange Circles” was a collaborative effort.

“In all the songs, the exchange is taking place. Every time somebody’s playing, they’re bringing who they are into the music,” she says.

One song off the new album is “An Ni Chans,” a title in Creole that means “I’m Lucky.” Tirolien says it’s a classic example of how the band fused an array of influences on a single track.

“I wanted to have a rhythm that is from Guadeloupe,” she says. “But the fact that everybody comes from different places, that changed the rhythm a little bit. Everybody is putting in a line, everybody has something to say musically. So, it’s like a multicultural discussion and exchange.”

Tirolien says this song is “about being very lucky to be surrounded by community and a family that loves us and gives us strength.” She herself comes from a supportive, artistic family — her grandfather was a poet, her grandmother a pianist, and her father plays multiple instruments.

During her youth on Guadeloupe island, Tirolien found herself drawn to soul, R&B, hip-hop, jazz, and, one of her favorites, Michael Jackson. She later moved to Canada to study jazz at the Université de Montréal, and began fusing urban hip-hop with jazz and Caribbean beats.

Bokanté’s lead singer Malika Tirolien stands backstage before her recent Vancouver show. She’s originally from the French-Caribbean island of Guadeloupe and now lives Montreal. Credit: Sonia Narang

As the front woman for Bokanté, Tirolien now uses music to create an exchange with her audience as she sings in both French and Creole.

“Not a lot of people know about Creole, and it kind of puts Guadeloupe on the map a little bit,” she says, and laughingly adds, “Well, that’s what I’m hoping.”

She was especially excited to come across a video of students in Malaysia singing one of her songs in Creole.

“It’s such an example of how this language can be sung by people so far away,” says Tirolien. “It makes me feel very, very happy, very proud, very humbled, very grateful to have people from far away singing in Creole.”

by Public Radio International at August 12, 2017 10:00 AM

August 11, 2017

Global Voices
A Young Engineer From Niger Is Taking on Industrial Air Pollution With His Invention

Screen capture of documentary by SciDev Afrique on the anti-pollution invention from Niger.

You might have heard of Boyan Slat, a young Dutch inventor and entrepreneur who created a system using the circulating ocean currents to clean the ocean of trash and other pollutants. His project, The Ocean Cleanup, received a lot of attention after Slat gave a TEDx Talk in 2012 about it, attracting more than $31.5 million in donations from sponsors including Salesforce.com and philanthropist Peter Thiel.

The next young inventor seeking to help the environment just might come from Niger. Meet Abdou Barmini, 22, who invented an anti-pollution device that cleans the air from industrial fumes. Barmini says the device, called the APFI Barelec, will clean 80% of the air impurities coming from factory chimneys. If his claim is correct, his invention could prove to be particularly beneficial for low-income countries.

Here is how it works as explained by the Barmini himself in the following video  (in French) produced by SciDev Afrique, the african portal of the news site on science and technology for global development:

In the video, Barmini details the process of his invention:

The prototype is to be installed at the base of the chimney of factories expelling the fumes. The T-shaped device captures the CO2-containing heavy substances from the fumes via an affinity-based chemical assay that binds CO2 particles. The purified fumes are expelled via the other branch of the T-shaped structure.

Screen capture of Barmini standing next to his prototype via Africa 24

He adds that it is still at the prototype level, so a lot can be done to optimize the device. His colleague Garba Boubacar, a researcher in physics and environmental studies at the University of Niamey, Niger, suggests that:

les particules en suspension dans l'air ne sont pas constituées que de gaz carbonique ; il y en a d'autres que son invention devra fixer, pour atteindre un taux de purification à 100%

The heavy particles found in the fumes are composed of more than carbon dioxide; there are others particles that his invention will have to fix, in order to achieve a purification rate closer to 100%.

Barmini says he worked tirelessly for two years, funding his research with his own income to achieve the prototype. His motivation for developing it was to find a solution to his growing concerns about air quality and climate change in his country of Niger.

The World Health Organization reports that ambient (outdoor) air pollution in both cities and rural areas was estimated to cause 3 million premature deaths worldwide in 2012 and that 88% of those premature deaths occurred in low- and middle-income countries. By reducing air pollution levels, countries can reduce the burden of disease from stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and both chronic and acute respiratory diseases.

Niger is a landlocked country in Western Africa that is consistently one of the lowest-ranked in the United Nations‘ Human Development Index. Furthermore, the West Africa region has been drastically affected by climate change in the recent years. Niger's economy relies heavily on mining of which uranium and coal are the largest exports.

Open pit uranium mine near Arlit, Niger by David Francois – CC-BY-NC-2.0

Therefore, air quality is an urgent and immediate issue for the nation that is already suffering from an extremely hot and dry climate, severe drought and recurrent famine.

You might ask, how is Barmini's invention different from other air purifiers? Here is his explanation when probed by the Organisation de la Propriété Intellectuelle (African Intellectual Property Organization):

Par ailleurs, en faisant l'état de la technique dans ce domaine, M. Abdou Barmini a souligné que les purificateurs ambiants existants sont des appareils électroniques qui sont utilisés pour nettoyer l'air. Ils le font en réduisant ou en éliminant complètement le nombre de particules nocives dans l'air (mais ils ne se focalisent  pas à la source de l'émission).[..] Les purificateurs domestiques se font souvent via un filtre.  Essentiellement, cela rend l'air sortant de la machine plus propre et plus sain. Mais cette technique présente des insuffisances. Elle provoque l'obstruction des mailles et ne peut faire l'objet d'une utilisation sur les cheminées industrielles.

When he presented the state-of-the-art in the air purifier industry, Mr. Abdou Barmini stressed that 1) the existing ambient (or outdoor) purifiers are usually electronic devices that are used to clean the ambient air surrounding a factory. They do this by reducing or eliminating completely the number of harmful particles in the air in the vicinity of the emitting source (but they do not target the source of the emission itself). […] 2) Domestic (or indoor) purifiers are often performed via a filter. This technique efficiently cleans the air coming out of the machine. But this technique has also its shortcomings. It can cause blockage of the filter's mesh and cannot be efficiently used for industrial chimneys.

Barmini's APFI Barelec does not use a filter. The prototype was built with local materials that Barmini recycled, adapted and assembled to his needs. Barmini hopes that his invention will be noticed by climate change organizations that will help him finalize his project.

by Lova Rakotomalala at August 11, 2017 04:23 PM

Creative Commons
Honoring Our Friend Bassel: Announcing the Bassel Khartabil Free Culture Fellowship
BasselPhoto by Joi Ito, CC BY 2.0

On August 1, 2017, we received the heartbreaking news that our friend Bassel (Safadi) Khartabil, detained since 2012, was executed by the Syrian government shortly after his 2015 disappearance. Khartabil was a Palestinian Syrian open internet activist, a free culture hero, and an important member of our community. Our thoughts are with Bassel’s family, now and always.

Today we’re announcing the Bassel Khartabil Free Culture Fellowship to honor his legacy and lasting impact on the open web.

Bassel was a relentless advocate for free speech, free culture, and democracy. He was the cofounder of Syria’s first hackerspace, Aiki Lab, Creative Commons’ Syrian project lead, and a prolific open source contributor, from Firefox to Wikipedia. Bassel’s final project, relaunched as #NEWPALMYRA, entailed building free and open 3D models of the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra. In his work as a computer engineer, educator, artist, musician, cultural heritage researcher, and thought leader, Bassel modeled a more open world, impacting lives globally.

To honor that legacy, the Bassel Khartabil Free Culture Fellowship will support outstanding individuals developing the culture of their communities under adverse circumstances. The Fellowship — organized by Creative Commons, Mozilla, the Wikimedia Foundation, the Jimmy Wales Foundation, #NEWPALMYRA, and others — will launch with a three-year commitment to promote values like open culture, radical sharing, free knowledge, remix, collaboration, courage, optimism, and humanity.

As part of this new initiative, fellows can work in a range of mediums, including art, music, software, and community building. All projects will catalyze free culture, particularly in societies vulnerable to attacks on freedom of expression and free access to knowledge. Special consideration will be given to applicants operating within closed societies and in developing economies where other forms of support are scarce. Applications from the Levant and wider MENA region are greatly encouraged.

Throughout their fellowship term, chosen fellows will receive a stipend, mentorship from affiliate organizations, skill development, project promotion, and fundraising support from the partner network. Fellows will be chosen by a selection committee composed of representatives of the partner organizations.

FELLOWSHIP DETAILS

Organizational Partners include Creative Commons, #FREEBASSEL, Wikimedia Foundation, GlobalVoices, Mozilla, #NEWPALMYRA, YallaStartup and SMEX.

Amazon Web Services is a supporting partner.

The Fellowships are based on one-year terms, which are eligible for renewal.

The benefits are designed to allow for flexibility and stability both for Fellows and their families. The standard fellowship offers a stipend of $50,000 USD, paid in 10 monthly installments. Fellows are responsible for remitting all applicable taxes as required.

To help offset cost of living, the fellowship also provides supplements for childcare and health insurance, and may provide support for project funding on a case-by-case basis. The fellowship also covers the cost of required travel for fellowship activities.

Fellows will receive:

  • A stipend of $50,000 USD, paid in 10 monthly installments
  • A one-time health insurance supplement for Fellows and their families, ranging from $3,500 for single Fellows to $7,000 for a couple with two or more children
  • A one-time childcare allotment of up to $6,000 for families with children
  • An allowance of up to $3,000 towards the purchase of laptop computer, digital cameras, recorders and computer software; fees for continuing studies or other courses, research fees or payments, to the extent such purchases and fees are related to the fellowship
  • Coverage in full for all approved fellowship trips, both domestic and international

The first fellowship will be awarded in April 2018. Applications will be accepted beginning February 2018.

Eligibility Requirements. The Bassel Khartabil Free Culture Fellowship is open to individuals and small teams worldwide, who:

  • Propose a viable new initiative to advance free culture values as outlined in the call for applicants
  • Demonstrate a history of activism in the Open Source, Open Access, Free Culture or Sharing communities
  • Are prepared to focus on the fellowship as their primary work

Special consideration will be given to applicants operating under oppressive conditions, within closed societies, in developing economies where other forms of support are scarce, and in the Levant and wider MENA regions.

Eligible Projects. Proposed projects should advance the free culture values of Bassel Khartabil through the use of art, technology, and culture. Successful projects will aim to:

  • Meaningfully increase free public access to human knowledge, art or culture
  • Further the cause of social justice/social change
  • Strive to develop both a local and global community to support its cause

Any code, content or other materials produced must be published and released as free, openly licensed and/or open-source.

Application Process. Project proposals are expected to include the following:

  • Vision statement
  • Bio and CV
  • Budget and resource requirements for the next year of project development

Applicants whose projects are chosen to advance to the next stage in the evaluation process may be asked to provide additional information, including personal references and documentation verifying income.

ABOUT BASSEL

Bassel Khartabil, a Palestinian-Syrian computer engineer, educator, artist, musician, cultural heritage researcher and thought leader, was a central figure in the global free culture movement, connecting and promoting Syria’s emerging tech community as it existed before the country was ransacked by civil war. Bassel co-founded Syria’s first hackerspace, Aiki Lab, in Damascus in 2010. He was the Syrian lead for Creative Commons as well as a contributor to Mozilla’s Firefox browser and the Red Hat Fedora Linux operating system. His research into preserving Syrian archeology with computer 3D modeling was a seminal precursor to current practices in digital cultural heritage preservation — this work was relaunched as the #NEWPALMYRA project in 2015.

Bassel’s influence went beyond Syria. He was a key attendee at the Middle East’s bloggers conferences and played a vital role in the negotiations in Doha in 2010 that led to a common language for discussing fair use and copyright across the Arab-speaking world. Software platforms he developed, such as the open-source Aiki Framework for collaborative web development, still power high-traffic web sites today, including Open Clip Art and the Open Font Library. His passion and efforts inspired a new community of coders and artists to take up his cause and further his legacy, and resulted in the offer of a research position in MIT Media Lab’s Center for Civic Media; his listing in Foreign Policy’s 2012 list of Top Global Thinkers; and the award of Index on Censorship’s 2013 Digital Freedom Award.

Bassel was taken from the streets in March of 2012 in a military arrest and interrogated and tortured in secret in a facility controlled by Syria’s General Intelligence Directorate. After a worldwide campaign by international human rights groups, together with Bassel’s many colleagues in the open internet and free culture communities, he was moved to Adra’s civilian prison, where he was able to communicate with his family and friends. His detention was ruled unlawful by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, and condemned by international organizations such as Creative Commons, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the Jimmy Wales Foundation.

Despite the international outrage at his treatment and calls for his release, in October of 2015 he was moved to an undisclosed location and executed shortly thereafter — a fact that was kept secret by the Syrian regime for nearly two years.

The post Honoring Our Friend Bassel: Announcing the Bassel Khartabil Free Culture Fellowship appeared first on Creative Commons.

by Ryan Merkley at August 11, 2017 02:00 PM

Global Voices
Amid Efforts to Clean Up Corruption, Uzbekistan's President Calls Prosecutors ‘Trash’

Uzbekistan's president Shavkat Mirziyoyev. Russian government image. Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International

President Shavkat Mirziyoyev rained his anger upon his country’s public prosecutors on August 2, accusing them of being “thieves” and corrupt.

Mirziyoyev has been ruling the country since last autumn, when iron-handed Islam Karimov, the first president of independent Uzbekistan, died after 25 years of being in the power.

The US-funded Radio Ozodlik, which broadcasts from Prague, obtained uncensored audio of the president’s video conference with Uzbek prosecutors, in which he said:

“Мен ўзи прокурор деган одамни, кечирасизлару, жуда ёмон кўраман. Буни очиқча айтяпман, нимага десангиз мен район ҳокими бўлганман, вилоят ҳокими бўлганман, бу ноинсофларни ғўддайишини ”.

I am sorry, but I don’t like prosecutors at all…. I was a district chairman, a province chairman and I know very well how these unscrupulous people behave.

With average monthly salary of $100-$150 in Uzbek government offices, officials live a comparatively luxurious lifestyle. According to Transparency International, corruption is widespread and systematic in the Central Asia, involving all spheres of lives of people and especially empowering security agencies’ staff to use their office positions and power for own enrichment. Particularly, Uzbekistan ranks 156 out of 176 countries in Transparency International perceptions of corruption index:

The government’s response to widespread and systemic corruption has been weak, with extensive emphasis given to anti-corruption training. Legal and institutional reform is needed to ensure meaningful separation of powers and adequate public accountability of government bodies.

That seems to fit with the reactions of Uzbek users of Facebook to the news coming out from the meeting:

“Молодец наш Президент! Сказал многое, что народ долгое время не осмеливался говорить. Реально человек узнает какой это карательный орган ( хуже чем НКВД, я отвечаю за свои высказывания и готов обосновать их) только после того, когда сталкивается с ним”.

Well done, our President! He said what people did not dare to say for years. Really, only after you face it, you find out what a punitive agency this is.

Recently, two of Uzbekistan's neighbours (both geographically and in the Transparency International Index), Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, shook their societies with the unprecedented move of arresting and jailing high-ranking security services officials on corruption charges. Millions of US dollars worth of luxurious homes, vehicles, gold, and cash were also seized from them.

Similar news came out of Uzbekistan when the Prosecutor-General's Office announced Gulnara Karimova, who is the daughter of the late President Islam Karimov and often referred to as the country's “princess,” was arrested on accusations of corruption involving billions of dollars.

In the audio of the meeting, Mirziyoyev spoke of the efforts to weed out corruption:

“Мана биз янги Бош прокурор қўйдик, 80 фоиз одамни ўзгартирдик, олдинги қолган ахлатдан, тизимдан, менга бош прокурор қолдирган ўғри тизимидан 20-15 фоиз одамлар юрибди”.

We appointed a new attorney general, cleaned the Prosecutor’s Office of former trash, changing 80% of the staff. Anyway, there are 15-20% remaining from the former thief system….We will clean it up fully.

If only something would be done to “clean up” the country's tarnished human rights record.

by Akhal-Tech Collective at August 11, 2017 11:51 AM

Marketplace Tech Report
08/11/2017: Is taking a moral stand good for business?
Tech companies have had to grapple with some big moral issues as of late. Recently, Airbnb reportedly deactivated the accounts of users planning to attend a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. Virginia. On today's show, we'll chat with University of Maryland professor Dana Fisher about whether the company is allowed to do something like this, and whether it's good for a business' bottom line to make a big political stand. Afterwards, we'll play this week's Silicon Tally with Saron Yitbarek, founder of the Code Newbie podcast.

by Marketplace at August 11, 2017 10:13 AM

Global Voices
Record-Breaking Action Movie ‘Wolf Warriors 2′ Takes Chinese Nationalism to a New Level

Widely circulated poster for “Wolf Warriors 2″ with the movie tagline: “Whoever offends China will be terminated no matter how far away they are.” Via Twitter

Chinese action movie “Wolf Warriors 2″ has dominated the summer box office, setting a country record with 3.5 billion yuan (approximately 525 million US dollars) in ticket sales in just 13 days since it opened on July 27.

Directed by and starring Wu Jing, the movie is a sequel to 2015's “Wolf Warriors.” It tells the story of Leng Feng, a Rambo-like soldier played by Wu, who ventures into an African war zone and saves hundreds of lives from Western bad guys.

The plot will feel familiar to anyone who has seen a Hollywood action movie, but this time it's a Chinese man upholding justice and keeping the world safe, a formula that has won the film praise — but also criticism. Numerous moviegoers have complained that the Chinese nationalism in the film is heavy-handed and comes at the expense of the story.

“Wolf Warriors 2″ was privately funded and has outperformed “The Founding of an Army,” the much-hyped state propaganda film about the establishment of the People's Liberation Army. A participant of a online roundtable hosted by in the investigative journalism platform, the Initium, argued that the movie’s huge success was not organic, but the result of authorities’ careful manipulation:

根据猫眼的专业评分,战狼是一部品质至少合格的电影,这样的爆米花战争大片本就容易被大众所接受口碑好就会不断传播,再加上同期的国产电影质量普遍不高…,以及处于国产片保护月,没有好莱坞大片竞争,战狼2取得高票房是可以预见的。只是谁也没想到,战狼2上映之前中国举行了盛大的阅兵,激起了大多数中国人的爱国热情,相当于国家做了个大大的宣传,自然票房超越了常理,疯狂飙升。某种意义上,战狼2的票房反映了中国电影市场的扭曲,中国政府大力的爱国和民族主义的宣传能直接影响电影,而为了追求年度票房的大幅增长和影院自己的业绩,整个电影市场都在推波助澜造就传奇,某种意义上不是市场的力量,更多的是行政的力量在操…

According to the film rating from [online ticketing platform] Maoyan, “Wolf Warriors 2″ is an OK movie. It's a blockbuster war movie that caters to popular tastes and more easily becomes a talking point. Moreover, the quality of domestic movies during the same period [it was released] is not high… In addition to that, this month in the domestic movie protection period [or the so called Hollywood movie blackout period – during the six to eight weeks foreign movies are barred from mainland theaters in order to open up more screen time for Chinese movies], so it is predictable that “Wolf Warriors 2″ would have high ticket sales. What was not anticipated is the military parade that took place [on July 30 to commemorate China's Army Day on August 1] just before the movie was released. The parade stirred up people’s nationalistic feelings. It is a huge government-funded advertisement for the movie, the box office surged like rocket. The box office record set by “Wolf Warriors 2″ is a reflection of a distorted Chinese film market. Nationalism advocated by the government has affected the movie industry, promotion from the film's production team and the entire film industry has further boosted the box office and created a legendary success, which is not a result of the market, but government administration…

In fact, a large number of government and army-affiliated media outlets have published positive reviews about the movie, claiming that the protagonist who appears unbeatable represents soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army and that the movie elevates Chinese nationalism to a new level. The tagline of the movie poster is “Whoever offends China will be terminated no matter how far away they are” (犯我中華者 雖遠必誅).

Netizen reviews of the movie vary. On Weibo and WeChat, social media platforms which are heavily censored in China and occupied by patriotic discourse, the majority of the comments are positive. For example, under one of the most popular film review threads on Weibo, the following two comments have more than 10,000 likes:

看了战狼你会觉的生在中国多幸运

After watching “Wolf Warriors 2,” you feel very fortunate that you are born in China.

妈的,太好看了,刚看好,看得我热血沸腾。吴京吊炸天一定要看,国产剧中算得上超级好看的。

My god, the film is so good. My heart was burning while watching it. Wu Jing is so cool and you must watch it. This is a super film among domestic films.

While on Douban, a popular art consumption and rating website, there are also critical reviews alongside comments that praise the film:

首映礼看的。太恐怖了这个电影,不讲道理的,完全就是吴京在实现他这个小粉红的英雄梦。各种装备轮番上场,视物理逻辑于不顾,不得不说有钱真好,随意胡闹

Watched the premiere. This movie is horrible and unreasonable, a dream of idiotic patriotism. A display of military equipment, jeopardizing all physical logic. I have to say those who have the money can act recklessly.

吴京让人看了不舒服,为了主旋律而主旋律,为了煽情而煽情,让人觉得他是个大做作、大谎言家。片子整体不如湄公河行动,1.整体不够流畅,编剧有毒,台词尴尬;2.刻意做作的主旋律煽情显得如此不合时宜而又多余。

Wu Jing’s [style of hyping] is awkward. The purpose is to push the main theme and trigger [nationalistic] feelings. It makes people feel that he is pretentious. The movie is not as good as “Operation Mekong” — first of all, the flow is not smooth, the story plot is poisonous and the script writing is embarrassing. Secondly, the orchestration with the main theme and the sensational presentation is outdated and excessive.

吴京的冷峰在这部里即像成龙,又像杰森斯坦森,但体制外的同类型电影,主角总是代表个人,无能的政府需要求助于这些英雄才能解决难题,体现的是个人的价值,所以主旋律照抄这种模式实际上是有问题的。我们以前嘲笑个人英雄主义,却没想到捆绑爱国主义的全能战士更加难以下咽。

Leng Feng, played by Wu Jing, seems like Jackie Chen or Jason Statham. But in other films in the same genre, the protagonists represent the value of individualism. So copying the genre to serve the main theme [of nationalistic ideology] is problematic. We used to scorn individual heroism, but binding the all-powerful superhero with patriotism is more repulsive.

《血战钢锯岭》中国人也会觉得好看,因为它歌颂的宗教情怀是超越政权的;但当你只想歌颂一个政权时,很明显就低了一个层次,甚至充满了现实乃至投机的考量,高下立见

Chinese audience like [US-Australian war film] “Hacksaw Ridge” too. The movie shows how religious faith goes beyond politics. But a film that just aims to hail a regime is in a lower league. It is a product of [political reality] and opportunity.

都说吴京打得精彩,看得我无精打采。用弹簧床接火箭炮,绝对是义和团用肉身挡子弹的升级版

People keep saying that Wu’s combat scenes are excellent. I found the staging artificial. Using a spring bed to catch a rocket-propelled grenade is absolutely a version of the Boxers [from the Boxer Uprising in China], who claimed they could block bullets with their bodies.

政治无比正确,剧情毫无逻辑,全场热血沸腾,个人英雄崇拜加集体主义

It's a movie that is absolutely correct in its politics, with illogical plot lines. It makes the audience feel a burning in their hearts and combines personal heroism and collectivism.

The movie is also showing in overseas markets and we can find more coherent, professional and uncensored film reviews from Western sources. This one from the site TL;DR reviews judged the film as such:

Wolf Warriors 2 brings Chinese propaganda films into the 21st century, however, it fails in presenting a solid story and in the production of many of its effects.

And it looked into how Africans are represented in the movie to prove that China is strong:

So what is the main theme of Wolf Warrior, well the film puts it as ‘China and Africa are friends’, a phrase that gets used so often that I wished I would have taken a tally of the times it was spoken. But it goes further than that, it feels more like China is Africa’s protector, and only hope for the future, and more so it is a film giving the middle finger to America and trying to capture a new future for China. Once again, there is nothing wrong with that, if you can also create an engaging film, but this is where it doesn’t work for Wolf Warrior… the film comes off less as an uplifting narrative of China in Africa, but more of a condescending critique. It treats its audience, as well as the people of Africa as children, it almost revels in the slaughter of civilians, Leng leaves people to be slaughtered because it is inconvenient to the plot, indeed when researching this review I struggled to find any of the African actor’s names.

by Jack Hu at August 11, 2017 01:47 AM

August 10, 2017

Global Voices
Paddling Against Pollution: One Man’s Mission to Protect Iraq’s Rivers for Future Generations

This post by Todd Reubold was originally published on Ensia.com, a magazine that highlights international environmental solutions in action. It is republished here as part of a content sharing agreement.

For the past seven years, Nabil Musa has been traveling — often times on a paddle board or in a raft — around the Kurdistan region of Iraq on a one-man mission to promote the importance of clean waterways for the current and future generations.

In this documentary by Emily Kinskey, we follow Musa as he explains his relationship to the rivers in his region and the effect pollution has in his community.  “I really wanted to do something about the river we lost when I was a child,” Musa said.

Experts throughout the country fear that decades of war, pollution, uncharted development and damming mean a water crisis in Iraq is imminent.

Musa is part of the NGO Waterkeepers Iraq — an affiliate of Waterkeeper Alliance — which advocates and works “to protect the rivers, streams and waterways of Iraq and support local communities in the sustainable use of these natural resources.”

Toward the end of the video, Musa sums up the urgency at the heart of his work by asking, “If we don’t have this water, how can we survive?”  

This video was produced, filmed and edited for Ensia by Emily Kinskey, a documentary filmmaker and multimedia journalist currently based in Erbil, Iraq. Her work focuses on underreported and persecuted subcultures, and is characterized by collaborative videography and innovative multimedia techniques that assists oppressed communities in framing their narrative.

by Ensia at August 10, 2017 10:07 PM

Harvard Law Library Innovation Lab
Git physical

This is a guest blog post by our summer fellow Miglena Minkova.

Last week at LIL, I had the pleasure of running a pilot of git physical, the first part of a series of workshops aimed at introducing git to artists and designers through creative challenges. In this workshop I focused on covering the basics: three-tree architecture, simple git workflow, and commands (add, commit, push). These lessons were fairly standard but contained a twist: The whole thing was completely analogue!

The participants, a diverse group of fellows and interns, engaged in a simplified version control exercise. Each participant was tasked with designing a postcard about their summer at LIL. Following basic git workflow, they took their designs from the working directory, through the staging index, to the version database, and to the remote repository where they displayed them. In the process they “pushed” five versions of their postcard design, each accompanied by a commit note. Working in this way allowed them to experience the workflow in a familiar setting and learn the basics in an interactive and social environment. By the end of the workshop everyone had ideas on how to implement git in their work and was eager to learn more.

Timelapse gif by Doyung Lee (doyunglee.github.io)

Not to mention some top-notch artwork was created.

The workshop was followed by a short debriefing session and Q&A.

Check GitHub for more info.

Alongside this overview, I want to share some of the thinking that went behind the scenes.

Starting with some background. Artists and designers perform version control in their work but in a much different way than developers do with git. They often use error-prone strategies to track document changes such as saving files in multiple places using obscure file naming conventions, working in large master files, or relying on in-built software features. At best these strategies result in inconsistencies, duplication and a large disc storage, and at worst, irreversible mistakes, loss of work, and multiple conflicting documents. Despite experiencing some of the same problems as developers, artists and designers are largely unfamiliar with git (exceptions exist).

The impetus for teaching artists and designers git was my personal experience with it. I had not been formally introduced to the concept of version control or git through my studies, nor my work. I discovered git during the final year of my MLIS degree when I worked with an artist to create a modular open source digital edition of an artist’s book. This project helped me see git as an ubiquitous tool with versatile application across multiple contexts and practices, the common denominator of which is making, editing, and sharing digital documents.

I realized that I was faced with a challenge: How do I get artists and designers excited about learning git?

I used my experience as a design educated digital librarian to create relatable content and tailor delivery to the specific characteristics of the audience: highly visual, creative, and non-technical.

Why create another git workshop? There are, after all, plenty of good quality learning resources out there and I have no intention of reinventing the wheel or competing with existing learning resources. However, I have noticed some gaps that I wanted to address through my workshop.

First of all, I wanted to focus on accessibility and have everyone start on equal ground with no prior knowledge or technical skills required. Even the simplest beginner level tutorials and training materials rely heavily on technology and the CLI (Command Line Interface) as a way of introducing new concepts. Notoriously intimidating for non-technical folk, the CLI seems inevitable given the fact that git is a command line tool. The inherent expectation of using technology to teach git means that people need to learn the architecture, terminology, workflow, commands, and the CLI all at the same time. This seems ambitious and a tad unrealistic for an audience of artists and designers.

I decided to put the technology on hold and combine several pedagogies to leverage learning: active learning, learning through doing, and project-based learning. To contextualize the topic, I embedded elements of the practice of artists and designers by including an open ended creative challenge to serve as a trigger and an end goal. I toyed with different creative challenges using deconstruction, generative design, and surrealist techniques. However this seemed to steer away from the main goal of the workshop. It also made it challenging to narrow down the scope, especially as I realized that no single workflow can embrace the diversity of creative practices. At the end, I chose to focus on versioning a combination of image and text in a single document. This helped to define the learning objectives, and cover only one functionality: the basic git workflow.

I considered it important to introduce concepts gradually in a familiar setting using analogue means to visualize black-box concepts and processes. I wanted to employ abstraction to present the git workflow in a tangible, easily digestible, and memorable way. To achieve this the physical environment and set up was crucial for the delivery of the learning objectives.

In terms of designing the workspace, I assigned and labelled different areas of the space to represent the components of git’s architecture. I made use of directional arrows to illustrate the workflow sequence alongside the commands that needed to be executed and used a “remote” as a way of displaying each version on a timeline. Low-tech or no-tech solution such as carbon paper were used to make multiple copies. It took several experiments to get the sketchpad layering right, especially as I did not want to introduce manual redundancies that do little justice to git.

Thinking over the audience interaction, I had considered role play and collaboration. However these modes did not enable each participant to go through the whole workflow and fell short of addressing the learning objectives. Instead I provided each participant with initial instructions to guide them through the basic git workflow and repeat it over and over again using their own design work. The workshop was followed with debriefing which articulated the specific benefits for artists and designers, outlined use cases depending on the type of work they produce, and featured some existing examples of artwork done using git. This was to emphasize that the workshop did not offer a one-size fits all solution, but rather a tool that artists and designers can experiment with and adopt in many different ways in their work.

I want to thank Becky and Casey for their editing work.

Going forward, I am planning to develop a series of workshops introducing other git functionality such as basic merging and branching, diff-ing, and more, and tag a lab exercise to each of them. By providing multiple ways of processing the same information I am hoping that participants will successfully connect the workshop experience and git practice.

by Anastasia Aizman at August 10, 2017 08:40 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
India Bans the Internet Archive and More Than 2,600 File-Sharing Websites to Protect Bollywood

Internet Archive servers. Image from Flickr by John Blyberg. CC BY 2.0

It seems Bollywood is the reason why the Internet Archive (archive.org), an online digital library that allows people to find archived versions of webpages via a free service called the Wayback Machine, is blocked in India.

Since August 8, 2017, many Indians have reported they've been unable to access the Internet Archive. Users have received this message when attempting to go to the site:

Your requested URL has been blocked as per the directions received from the Department of Telecommunications, Government of India. Please contact administrator for more information.

No reason was cited by local internet service providers (ISP) or authorities about the ban.

On August 10, 2017, however, BuzzFeed reported that the ban is the result of two court orders issued by the Madras High Court in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu (accessible here and here). The ruling, issued on August 2, 2017, is based on the petitions of two prominent Bollywood production houses, Red Chillies Entertainment and Prakash Jha Productions, to stop file-sharing websites from distributing pirated copies of two recently released Bollywood movies, “Jab Harry Met Sejal”, and “Lipstick Under My Burkha”.

The Internet Archive is a San Francisco-based non-profit and an advocate of free internet. It has been been archiving the web for over 20 years and has preserved “billions of webpages from millions of websites” with the help of its bots that crawl sites regularly.

The ban was first reported by Indian technology news website MediaNama. According to MediaNama, the Internet Archive contacted the Indian government regarding the block but received no response. The report also mentioned that http://web.archive.org is blocked, but not https://web.archive.org.

Aside from Internet Archive, more than 2,600 file-sharing websites have also been affected by the court decision. The Bollywood film industry has stepped up the fight against piracy, especially the illegal online streaming of movies.

According to the site Internet Live Stats, India has 462.1 million internet users out of a general population of 1.3 billion people in mid-2016. Given those figures, a blanket ban on websites like Internet Archive has immense reach.

by Global Voices at August 10, 2017 11:08 AM

Global Voices
India Bans the Internet Archive and More Than 2,600 File-Sharing Websites to Protect Bollywood

Internet Archive servers. Image from Flickr by John Blyberg. CC BY 2.0

It seems Bollywood is the reason why the Internet Archive (archive.org), an online digital library that allows people to find archived versions of webpages via a free service called the Wayback Machine, is blocked in India.

Since August 8, 2017, many Indians have reported they've been unable to access the Internet Archive. Users have received this message when attempting to go to the site:

Your requested URL has been blocked as per the directions received from the Department of Telecommunications, Government of India. Please contact administrator for more information.

No reason was cited by local internet service providers (ISP) or authorities about the ban.

On August 10, 2017, however, BuzzFeed reported that the ban is the result of two court orders issued by the Madras High Court in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu (accessible here and here). The ruling, issued on August 2, 2017, is based on the petitions of two prominent Bollywood production houses, Red Chillies Entertainment and Prakash Jha Productions, to stop file-sharing websites from distributing pirated copies of two recently released Bollywood movies, “Jab Harry Met Sejal”, and “Lipstick Under My Burkha”.

The Internet Archive is a San Francisco-based non-profit and an advocate of free internet. It has been been archiving the web for over 20 years and has preserved “billions of webpages from millions of websites” with the help of its bots that crawl sites regularly.

The ban was first reported by Indian technology news website MediaNama. According to MediaNama, the Internet Archive contacted the Indian government regarding the block but received no response. The report also mentioned that http://web.archive.org is blocked, but not https://web.archive.org.

Aside from Internet Archive, more than 2,600 file-sharing websites have also been affected by the court decision. The Bollywood film industry has stepped up the fight against piracy, especially the illegal online streaming of movies.

According to the site Internet Live Stats, India has 462.1 million internet users out of a general population of 1.3 billion people in mid-2016. Given those figures, a blanket ban on websites like Internet Archive has immense reach.

by Rezwan at August 10, 2017 10:41 AM

Marketplace Tech Report
08/10/2017: Hacking the Air Force when you're still in high school
Facebook and Instagram have replicated many of Snap's features, from face filters to disappearing messages, and that hasn't been great for business on Snap's end. Does it still have some creative power going for it right now? Business Insider senior reporter Alex Heath takes a look at the company's future with us. Afterwards, we'll talk to 17-year-old Jack Cable about that time he hacked the Air Force.

by Marketplace at August 10, 2017 10:00 AM

Global Voices
She Dared to Say Pakistan’s Most Popular Politician Harassed Her. Then Came the Abuse.

Screenshot of Ayesha Gulalai speaking on a popular political TV show Capital Talk.

When 26-year-old Ayesha Gulalai was elected to Pakistan’s National Assembly in 2013, she became the country’s first tribal woman to be elected to parliament and one the country's youngest parliamentarians.

In early August 2017, Gulalai resigned from the political party she represented, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), and shared her reasons for doing so at a press conference. Among them were corruption, misogyny and the most damning of all—allegedly inappropriate text messages sent to her in October 2013 by the party's chairman, the cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan.

Khan is extremely popular, especially among younger voters, and Gulalai's very public allegations triggered a flood of threats and vicious trolling from his supporters on social media, including this widely-shared audio threat on Twitter from a female PTI supporter, which starts with a series of curse words in Urdu:

The smear campaign against Gulalai has been especially fierce on Twitter. In the past week, even her family, including her sister, an international squash champion, have been attacked. The tone of the comments point to the nasty and insidious problem of misogyny in Pakistan.

And outright disbelief of her allegations and victim-blaming has been a constant theme, as in this tweet from a popular female TV presenter:

Gulalai’s case is not unique, but by speaking out against one of Pakistan’s most powerful men she did set a precedent.

After resigning from the party, Gulalai made a bold and articulate speech at the National Assembly, while female PTI members chanted loudly against her.

In the speech she said, “If you are in the PTI, then you are a good person. But as soon as you leave the party, you will start receiving threats of acid attacks and murder.” She went on to explain that by speaking up she had done what women's rights organizations had not been able to do, by giving a voice to women facing exploitation. She added that “Imran Khan is not a god.”

Earlier this year, Zubaira, a journalist, wrote on her blog about being harassed by her boss, who made inappropriate advances to her on multiple occasions. In her blog post she shared screenshots of conversations between them.

While many lauded Zubaria’s actions, more people seemed interested in moral policing, asking on social media why she kept working for and engaging in conversations with a man whose his intentions were clearly not right.

“People don’t realize that calling out your boss isn’t that simple. In Gulalai’s case, he is the chairman of the party she works for, she couldn’t outright give him a shut-up call,” said Umer Ali, a journalist whose work involves social media analysis. “Even I as a male would think twice before I make any complaints about my boss.”

Umer explains that the targeting and slut-shaming of independent, strong-minded female public figures like models, actors and politicians is an increasingly common trend.

Gulalai is a Pashtun from South Waziristan, which is part of Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Even though her own family is progressive, the Pashtun community in Waziristan is conservative, and there are many stigmas attached to actions like the one she took against Imran Khan.

In a country where court cases can last for decades even when there’s sufficient evidence for a conviction, harassment cases are even more impossible. For Gulalai to come forward as she did took a lot of courage on her part.

“We have constantly seen racial profiling of Pashtuns,” says Gulalai Ismail, founder of Aware Girls, a women’s rights NGO in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. “I think people are surprised when they see a Pashtun woman speaking up and immediately link it to conspiracy theories, as if the woman doesn't have a mind of her own. Morality has become a measuring stick which is used to shun women who speak up. Morality, culture, and religion are used against women who dare.”

What has happened to Ayehsa Gulalai provided a teachable moment for Pakistanis, and highlighted that a woman’s morality is always open to question and public debate, which is the very reason many women choose to remain silent about harassment. But in patriarchal Pakistan, where it’s not only men against Gulalai but also women, the lesson may get lost in the chaos.

Some of her female colleagues in the PTI have dismissed her allegations on the basis that they themselves have never experienced anything similar at the hands of their male co-workers, and because the party stands for women’s rights. Harassment, in this case, is being treated as an organizational issue rather an individual crisis, eroding the little protection women enjoy against misogyny and sexism. There are Pakistanis who are speaking out for Gulalai's right to a safe space to speak up against harassment:

And social networking platforms are making it even harder. “Internet gives us a voice, empowers us and our opinions,” says Nighat Dad, founder of Digital Rights Foundation. “But at the same time gives power to hate speech, cyber bullying and harassment. This will only grow until the state takes charge.”

This Twitter user took on a popular TV presenter who accused Gulalai of fabricating the charges.

There are provisions in the cybercrime law and also under Pakistan’s penal court section 509, which dictate that anyone who talks against the modesty of a woman is punishable by law. “I don’t see the inhumane trend of running smear campaigns against women who have been harassed and are coming out about sexual harassment against powerful men changing anytime soon,” says Nighat Dad.

But victim-blaming is a by-product of discrimination and sexism, and the targeting of Ayesha Gulalai and the reducing the situation to a discussion of morality and not her agency in the matter, shows the long road Pakistan still has to travel towards equal treatment for all its citizens.

by Annam Lodhi at August 10, 2017 03:14 AM

Rising Voices
Brazil’s First Indigenous Online Radio Station Uses Digital Media to Promote Native Languages and Communities

Rádio Yandê producers in Paraty, Rio de Janeiro. Photo: Official Rádio Yandê Facebook page, published with permission.

Rádio Yandê combines a strong sense of community with digital media to bring Brazil’s indigenous cultures and languages to the forefront.

The station, which began streaming online in 2013, is the country’s first web-based broadcast of its kind: created by indigenous people, for indigenous people, with the intention of using technology to shred the stereotypes and misconceptions about Brazil’s native communities that emerge out of mainstream media narratives.

According to news site Agência Brasil, more than 150 indigenous languages are spoken in Brazil – with Tikuna, Guarani Kaiowá, and Kaingang being the three with the largest number of speakers. It is predicted, however, that by 2030 up to 45-50 of these languages are likely to suffer from extinction.

This project in particular, takes a wide-ranging approach to capturing the daily lives and issues concerning Brazil’s indigenous society. The station plays music from indigenous artists, as well as featuring news, debates, stories, poetry and messages that come directly from the communities themselves.

Radio Yandê is involved in all platforms: you can access it on the web, keep up to date with the latest news via Facebook, or even download a mobile app that gives you full access to its content.

While its headquarters are based in Rio de Janeiro, the station’s scope is Brazilian wide. In this YouTube video, for instance, Radio Yandê interviews a healer from the Dessana tribe in the northern city of Manaus – getting his insights on the indigenous perspectives of religion, the differences between traditional medicine and modern medical practices, and the important role the younger generation plays in the protection of indigenous culture:

Because the station’s primary aim is to educate the masses about all things indigenous, content from its YouTube channel is primarily in Portuguese. Even so, some interviews are conducted in native languages before being translated by the station’s reporters. This is shown in the following video, in which a young filmmaker from the Amazonian Kayapó tribe discusses his recent efforts to produce materials that highlight and help preserve his local culture and customs:   

Aside from collaborating with a network of indigenous Brazilian correspondents, Rádio Yandê also fosters relationships with indigenous-driven initiatives from abroad: including Canada’s Indian & Cowboy media network, the Latin America-focused Rádio Encuentros, and the Colombian station Informativo Dachi Bedea.          

by Eddie Avila at August 10, 2017 02:37 AM

August 09, 2017

Global Voices
Thousands of Families Face Forced Eviction From Their Homes Over Sardar Sarovar Dam in India

The massive Sardar Sarovar Dam project being built in 2008. Image from Flickr by Reinhold Behringer. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Indian authorities are moving ahead with the inauguration of a controversial dam, and thousands of families who have refused to leave their homes in areas that will be submerged stand to be forcibly evicted.

The government says about 18,000 families are affected, and 6,724 live in the submergence areas, although activists and academics put that number much higher and accuse officials of fudging the count to lower costs and avoid litigation.

Residents are supposed to be offered a “rehabilitation” package, including compensation for land lost and resettlement to a new home. However, many have refused to leave their villages, complaining that the compensation is unjustly low and resettlement sites lack drinking water, sanitation, primary medical centers, schools, electricity and even roads.

The main purpose of the state-initiated Sardar Sarovar dam project is to generate hydroelectric power and supply water for drinking and irrigation to the states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.

But from the start of construction in 1987, protesters have said it will come at the expense of local people. The World Bank initially approved a loan to the Indian government of $450 million toward the $6 billion project, but withdrew the funding in 1993 following immense criticism and protests. Works were temporarily halted as per a Supreme Court ruling from 1995 to 1999, but resumed thereafter.

Over the years, the dam's proposed height has been increased little by little from the planned 80 meters to the current 138.68. This means that the dam will affect even more people. Social entrepreneur Siddharth Agarwal tweeted a Google Earth video he made to illustrate how the areas will be submerged:

In February 2017, the Supreme Court gave a directive that the rehabilitation of affected families be completed within three months, and that the valley must be vacated by July 31. On June 17, 2017, the Narmada Control Authority gave the final go ahead to the Gujarat government to close the Sardar Sarovar Dam gates, making the project “officially” complete.

The grand inauguration of the Sardar Sarovar Dam project in Gujarat by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled on August 12, 2017 and the dam is likely to be filled to capacity by August-end, leading large areas to be submerged. The chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, had a recent update on Twitter:

Those affected who stayed now face forced eviction.

Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), a group of indigenous people, farmers, environmentalists and human rights activists who for three decades have been resisting against the installation of large dams across the Narmada River, has been leading the charge in defense of these dam victims.

On July 27, 2017, Medha Patkar and about a dozen other activists from NBA started an indefinite hunger strike in the Dhar district of the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh to demand proper compensation and rehabilitation for those affected.

However, on the 12th day of the hunger strike, on August 7, Patkar was forcibly removed from the protest site by police and shifted to a hospital in Indore.

Social activist Medha Patkar. Image from Flickr by Joe Athialy. CC BY-NC 2.0

Patkar and NBA have their critics, however, who argue they're impeding vital development in India.

There are also online trolls who appear to be posing as victims of the dam thanking the government for resettlement with, suspiciously, the same exact message each time:

But people in other parts of the country have also mounted their own protests in solidarity:

On August 8, the Supreme Court rejected a plea by NBA seeking an extension to the July 31 deadline to rehabilitate families affected by the Sardar Sarovar Dam. For the moment, it seems those Indians who live in the submergence area are destined for the forced eviction from their homes.

by Rezwan at August 09, 2017 05:00 PM

Global Voices
Young Peruvians Trade Weapons for Shears and Razors

Photo by Fadi El Benni, shared on Flickr by Al Jazeera English, under Creative Commons license CC BY-SA 2.0.

Physical appearance or grooming have seldom been so relevant. In this case, they’re helping keep Peruvian youth away from crime and promoting a legitimate profession like barbering.

El Callao – the main port in Peru, located on the shores of the Pacific Ocean not far from the Historic Center of Lima, the Peruvian capital – is a region with high crime rates, where street robbery and the sale of illegal drugs have a higher incidence. A survey released in April 2017 revealed that 51.5% of the area's inhabitants do not feel safe.

At the same time, Peru − like other Central and South American countries − has experienced an increase in the demand for aesthetic services for men. The trend of mirroring the physical appearance of sports stars with outlandish hairstyles like Paolo Guerrero (Peru), Arturo Vidal (Chile), Pedro Gallese (Peru), or Neymar himself (Brasil) has led ordinary citizens to more frequently seek the expert hands of a barber capable of emulating these elaborate hairdos.

The unprecedented demand for looks that push the envelope in terms of imagination and creativity has even inspired an annual event, “The Battle of Barbers,” which has taken place since 2014. At this event, experts compete to show who can achieve the most eccentric style, which you can see in the following video (more videos of recent editions of this competition can be found on the public Facebook profile Battle of Barbers):

That’s where educational institutions such as the Augusto Salazar Bondy school, located in El Callao, found the opportunity to persuade young people to trade weapons for hair styling tools; to receive training instead of bad advice; to work, thanks to the doors that will be opened to them once they learn the art of barbering.

Motivated by this occupation and the opportunities it could bring, dozens of young people have seen they can start working in a profession that is currently very much in vogue.

The school announced technical training workshops before the start of the school year in March, and also reported on some of its achievements:

Ya en 1995 nos convertimos en el único colegio técnico de la comunidad, así como del mismo distrito del cual nos sentimos orgullosos por el amor hacia sus hijos y tener así una comunidad educativa.

In 1995, we became the only technical school in the community, as well as the district, a fact we are very proud of, out of the love we have for your children, we’ve built an educational community.

by Melissa Wise at August 09, 2017 03:04 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
Rights Group Website and Columnist's Blog Become Latest Targets of Egypt's Censorship Campaign

Photo by Flickr user Turinboy (CC BY 2.0)

The Egyptian authorities have continued to block websites, this time targeting the site of a human rights group as well as a columnist's blog.

Over the weekend of August 5, the government blocked the website of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), which documents and reports on human rights violations in Egypt and across the Arab region.

In August 6 statement published on Facebook, the rights group slammed Egyptian authorities for the measure, while pledging to continue its work in support of human rights in the region:

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information – in spite of this attack, which is a mockery of the Egyptian law and constitution by the authorities, who are supposed to respect and uphold the law – remains committed to its mission to defending freedom of expression, human rights in the Arab world, exposing the violations in this part of the world, and speaking up for the victims, which is a role that now comes at a very high price more than ever, yet it also became more important than ever before.

[…] ANHRI confirms that it will seek all technical means to overcome the blocking and will not give in to it, and insists that it will continue to do its role.

ANHRI is the first website belonging to a human rights group in Egypt to be censored, since authorities blocked 21 websites more than two months ago, including the independent news site Mada Masr, the Arabic-language edition of the Huffington Post, and the website of the Qatar-based Al Jazeera network, for allegedly “supporting terrorism”.

In addition to ANHRI, the blog of columnist and human rights researcher Ahmed Gamal Ziada is no longer accessible in Egypt. Ziada has been using his blog to disseminate the columns and articles he writes for websites and media blocked in Egypt. Now the blog he set up to bypass the censorship machinery of the Egyptian government has itself been targeted. The blog-publishing service Blogger, which hosts Ziada's blog, remains accessible.

A former photojournalist, Ziada spent nearly 500 days in prison after he was arrested in December 2013 by Egyptian security forces while covering a student protest and taking footage of police beating two students. His articles mainly address politics and the human rights situation in Egypt.

On Facebook, he reflected on the government's blocking of his blog and what it means to him:

موضوع حجب المدونات قديم جدًا، لكنه سابقة في عهد عبد الفتاح السيسي، وبعيد عن إن حجب المدونة شئ لا يهم هذا العالم إلا إنه يهمني لسببين:
1 – إنهم قدروا يحسسوني إني بالفعل محاصر؛ اعتقال، محاولة قتل، استدعاءات أمن وطني، حجب مدونة، بالإضافة لحجب كل موقع أنا اشتغلت فيه.
2 – أثبتوا إني مكنتش بكتب على مية، يعني كلامي مؤثر حتى لو لقطاع صغير من القراء.

* عايز أقول إن المدونة بالنسبة لي كنت بأرشف فيها شغلي مش أكثر، وكنت ابتديت أنشر المقالات عن طريقها تفاديًا للحجب، لكن بعد حجبها وخوفهم من الكلام، إيه المانع إني أغير اللينك بتاعها عشان تشتغل أو اعمل مدونة تانية، والجدع يكمل للآخر.

The [tactic] of blocking blogs is very old, but it is a precedence in the era of [President] Abdelfattah al-Sisi, and apart from the fact that the blocking of the blog may not be of importance to the world, it does matter to me for two reasons:

1) They have made me feel that I am indeed under siege; an arrest, an attempted murder, national security summons, blocking [my] blog in addition to every single website I worked for.

2) They have proved that I was not writing for nothing, in other words, my words have an impact even if it is for a small audience.

I want to mention that the blog was an archive for me. I started using it to post articles to bypass censorship. But, now that they have blocked it, and [shown] that they fear [its] words, I can still change the link or create a second blog. The brave continue till the end.

From May 24 to August 6, Egyptian authorities blocked 133 websites, according to the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE), which conducted technical tests on the networks of various Internet Service Providers (ISPs) including Orange, Vodafone and Etisalat. AFTE also documented the blocking of services aimed at bypassing internet censorship and browsing the internet privately, known as Virtual Private Networks (VPNs). The association reported in its research:

On Monday the 12th of June, we noticed the beginning of blocking websites that provide VPN services. Such practice points to the intent of the Government to continue blocking and filtering the content that Egyptian users could access.

What makes the situation worse, is that these blocking decisions are taken behind closed doors and without a due process that gives Egyptians the possibility to challenge them in court. Now the question is how far is the Egyptian government willing to take its internet censorship campaign and who is it going to target next.

by Afef Abrougui at August 09, 2017 09:58 AM

Global Voices
Rights Group Website and Columnist's Blog Become Latest Targets of Egypt's Censorship Campaign

Photo by Flickr user Turinboy (CC BY 2.0)

The Egyptian authorities have continued to block websites, this time targeting the site of a human rights group as well as a columnist's blog.

Over the weekend of August 5, the government blocked the website of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), which documents and reports on human rights violations in Egypt and across the Arab region.

In August 6 statement published on Facebook, the rights group slammed Egyptian authorities for the measure, while pledging to continue its work in support of human rights in the region:

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information – in spite of this attack, which is a mockery of the Egyptian law and constitution by the authorities, who are supposed to respect and uphold the law – remains committed to its mission to defending freedom of expression, human rights in the Arab world, exposing the violations in this part of the world, and speaking up for the victims, which is a role that now comes at a very high price more than ever, yet it also became more important than ever before.

[…] ANHRI confirms that it will seek all technical means to overcome the blocking and will not give in to it, and insists that it will continue to do its role.

ANHRI is the first website belonging to a human rights group in Egypt to be censored, since authorities blocked 21 websites more than two months ago, including the independent news site Mada Masr, the Arabic-language edition of the Huffington Post, and the website of the Qatar-based Al Jazeera network, for allegedly “supporting terrorism”.

In addition to ANHRI, the blog of columnist and human rights researcher Ahmed Gamal Ziada is no longer accessible in Egypt. Ziada has been using his blog to disseminate the columns and articles he writes for websites and media blocked in Egypt. Now the blog he set up to bypass the censorship machinery of the Egyptian government has itself been targeted. The blog-publishing service Blogger, which hosts Ziada's blog, remains accessible.

A former photojournalist, Ziada spent nearly 500 days in prison after he was arrested in December 2013 by Egyptian security forces while covering a student protest and taking footage of police beating two students. His articles mainly address politics and the human rights situation in Egypt.

On Facebook, he reflected on the government's blocking of his blog and what it means to him:

موضوع حجب المدونات قديم جدًا، لكنه سابقة في عهد عبد الفتاح السيسي، وبعيد عن إن حجب المدونة شئ لا يهم هذا العالم إلا إنه يهمني لسببين:
1 – إنهم قدروا يحسسوني إني بالفعل محاصر؛ اعتقال، محاولة قتل، استدعاءات أمن وطني، حجب مدونة، بالإضافة لحجب كل موقع أنا اشتغلت فيه.
2 – أثبتوا إني مكنتش بكتب على مية، يعني كلامي مؤثر حتى لو لقطاع صغير من القراء.

* عايز أقول إن المدونة بالنسبة لي كنت بأرشف فيها شغلي مش أكثر، وكنت ابتديت أنشر المقالات عن طريقها تفاديًا للحجب، لكن بعد حجبها وخوفهم من الكلام، إيه المانع إني أغير اللينك بتاعها عشان تشتغل أو اعمل مدونة تانية، والجدع يكمل للآخر.

The [tactic] of blocking blogs is very old, but it is a precedence in the era of [President] Abdelfattah al-Sisi, and apart from the fact that the blocking of the blog may not be of importance to the world, it does matter to me for two reasons:

1) They have made me feel that I am indeed under siege; an arrest, an attempted murder, national security summons, blocking [my] blog in addition to every single website I worked for.

2) They have proved that I was not writing for nothing, in other words, my words have an impact even if it is for a small audience.

I want to mention that the blog was an archive for me. I started using it to post articles to bypass censorship. But, now that they have blocked it, and [shown] that they fear [its] words, I can still change the link or create a second blog. The brave continue till the end.

From May 24 to August 6, Egyptian authorities blocked 133 websites, according to the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE), which conducted technical tests on the networks of various Internet Service Providers (ISPs) including Orange, Vodafone and Etisalat. AFTE also documented the blocking of services aimed at bypassing internet censorship and browsing the internet privately, known as Virtual Private Networks (VPNs). The association reported in its research:

On Monday the 12th of June, we noticed the beginning of blocking websites that provide VPN services. Such practice points to the intent of the Government to continue blocking and filtering the content that Egyptian users could access.

What makes the situation worse, is that these blocking decisions are taken behind closed doors and without a due process that gives Egyptians the possibility to challenge them in court. Now the question is how far is the Egyptian government willing to take its internet censorship campaign and who is it going to target next.

by Afef Abrougui at August 09, 2017 09:55 AM

Marketplace Tech Report
08/09/2017: Navigating Google's diversity challenges
A Google engineer named James Damore recently penned a memo blaming tech's gender gap on biological differences between men and women, which then led to his firing. Nicole Sanchez, CEO and founder of Vaya Consulting, joined us to talk about what Google needs to do to address its diversity issues and how female staffers are feeling about the company. Plus: A look at secretive Amazon brands.

by Marketplace at August 09, 2017 09:32 AM

Global Voices
Jokes, Hashtags and Fake News: The Story of Social Media in Kenya's Closely Contested Election

The internet has been a hotbed of propaganda and comic relief.

It's election season in Kenya. Photo via Pixabay.

Kenyans went to the polls on August 8 to vote for their next government, from county assembly to the country's president. This year’s presidential election was termed as a “two-horse race” pitting incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of Kenya’s first president Jomo Kenyatta, and his long-time opponent Raila Odinga, the son of Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, one of Kenya’s founding fathers.

As of writing, early results show Kenyatta leading Odinga 54.64% to 44.51%, according to data published on the website of the country's Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). But Odinga's party is disputing the results.

Throughout the election, social media has come to play an important role in the vote, in both negative and positive ways. The Kenyan Internet regulator, Communications Authority of Kenya (CA), has on numerous occasions assured Kenyans that it will not follow the lead of other African countries and shut down the internet despite issuing warnings on misuse and threats to WhatsApp administrators in a bid to curb the spread of hate speech.

So with a healthy dose of skepticism, Kenyans are using platforms to discuss and joke, as well as make serious observations about the process.

Fake news

This election has made history as the most affected by the spread of fake news, according to a recent poll by research firm GeoPoll. In a study carried out in May 2017, 90% of Kenyans said they had encountered deliberately false information regarding the 2017 vote.

Kenya is one of the countries in Sub-Saharan Africa experiencing an internet and social media explosion. There are now 32 million internet users in the country, with an estimated 10 million users of the social messaging platform WhatsApp and 6 million on Facebook. Trust levels among Kenyans for social media as a source of election news are lower than that of mainstream media (TV, radio and newspapers), but about 49% of Kenyans cited social media as their main source of election news anyway, according to the same GeoPoll study.

In the last three months, Twitter has been a hotbed of propaganda and hashtags both organic and sponsored by the two political parties, Jubilee (under which the incumbent is vying for a second term) and NASA (Raila Odinga's party, which stands for National Super Alliance). The two have used bots, paid influencers, and in Jubilee’s case, big data firm Cambridge Analytica to sway the youth vote.

#ElectionsKE and #ElectionsKE2017

Two of the main hashtags for the vote are #ElectionsKE & #ElectionsKE2017, used by ordinary Kenyans as well as local and international media houses and Kenya's electoral body, the IEBC.

On July 25, in a press release shared by Team Ad Dynamo, the ad agency for Twitter in Kenya, the social networking site introduced an emoji for two hashtags #ElectionsKE and #ElectionsKE2017. The special emoji pictures a ballot box with the Kenyan flag draped around it.

#IKONetwork

In the last month, Twitter has become the de facto communication tool for Kenya’s electoral body IEBC as they seek to reassure Kenyans of their preparedness to run a free, fair and credible election. Through its Twitter handle @IEBCKenya, the body has been carrying out voter education as well as responding to queries by Kenyans regarding various aspects of the electoral process.

On August 6, with just two days until the vote, the IEBC through their Twitter handle shared a list of 11,155 polling stations that would be affected by the lack of 3G and 4G network coverage. Unlike previous elections, Kenya will be adopting technology in voter details verification as well as in the transmission of the results from the polling centers to the constituency, county, and national final tallying centers.

Many Kenyans were caught by surprise, wondering why IEBC would wait till the last minute to share such crucial information. The electoral body had earlier in the year assured Parliament on network coverage during elections.

As soon as the list of the polling stations affected was published, Kenyans started a hashtag #IkoNetwork (Swahili for “There is network”) to dispute the assertion by IEBC on the lack of mobile internet in some regions and to crowdsource information on areas that actually have coverage from the local residents.

Kenyans have expressed their fears that this could be a tactic by the government, through the electoral body, to doctor the voting results as presiding offers might be forced to travel several miles away from the polling stations, in some regions, in order to get 3G connectivity that will enable them to relay the vote tallies to the constituency, county, and national final tallying centers.

Kenya has three mobile network operators; Safaricom, Airtel, and Telkom. Interestingly, most of the regions indicated as lacking 3G network coverage are the regions where Airtel is the primary provider.

This has led many Kenyans online to speculate on the criteria that was used to decide the primary network operators as it emerged that the regions listed as having no 3G network also happen to be the opposition’s stronghold.

#CanaanForAll

In April, opposition leader Raila Odinga declared himself the Joshua who would lead Kenyans to the promised land of Canaan. These utterances made during a political rally in the country’s capital city struck a chord with many Kenyans online, and the narrative of Raila as Kenya’s deliverer from Egypt to Canaan took a life of their own when the videos of his speech were shared online.

Kenyans have since then been sharing their vision of how this Canaan will be like through memes, images and videos using the hashtag #CanaanForAll:

The hashtag has created great comic relief easing the tension that has been lingering on social media platforms between the hardcore support from the two political parties.

by Njeri Wangari at August 09, 2017 08:26 AM

August 08, 2017

Global Voices
Jordanian Rapper Emsallam Hdaib Talks About LGBTQ+ Rights, Freedom of Expression, and Resistance

Emsallam Hdaib smokes a cigarette in his studio. Photo taken by the author.

Emsallam Hdaib spends most of his time indoors, lazily vacillating from his canvas, to his computer, and occasionally to his couch. Always, however, one can either find a cigarette dangling between his fingers or resting between his nicotine-stained lips.

He resides on the top floor of his family’s home which they have owned since 1967—the year Israel completed its occupation of the West Bank and the year in which Hdaib’s family was forced to flee their village in Palestine where they lived as “felahyeen”, or farmers.

For the last six years, Hdaib has been a vocal activist, challenging Jordan’s conservative majority and its long-held assumptions on gender, sexuality, and freedom of expression through artwork and rap music.

He has also challenged Arab society to its core with music that so often focuses on Orientalism, Palestinian refugee-hood, and racism—all issues that affect not just his home city of Amman but cities that span from Syria's Damascus all the way to Yemen's Sanaa.

As a 25-year old, Hdaib views himself as someone who isn't constricted by borders, claiming that he empathizes with the suffering of those facing devastating foreign interventions in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Libya. Although he won’t say it, he has a particular aversion to U.S. foreign policy.

Hdaib looks at his artwork in his Amman based studio. Photo taken by the author.

Hdaib denies that his ability to resonate with those hanging on in war zones has anything to do with his identity as a “second generation Palestinian refugee,”—a term he employs to describe his own identity despite being born in Jordan and despite never having visited Palestine.

“I don’t feel this way because of my circumstances,” he insists. “I feel like that because I’m human,” Hdaib says as he pours watered down Nescafe into two cups during the holy month of Ramadan during which Muslims are supposed to abstain from consuming food from sunrise to sunset.

Jordanian law also mandates that the public consumption of food during Ramadan is illegal. It is obvious that Hdaib has an affinity for defying age-old traditions, but drinking coffee on a scorching June day isn't so much about defying Islam. On a more fundamental level, sipping on the lukewarm watered coffee and repeatedly inhaling the fumes from a Kent cigarette is more about breaking free.

Sometimes it feels like Jordan is an open air prison especially when you think of visiting the nearest countries to it. So you just avoid doing very basic rights like drinking water in public when it’s Ramadan [in order to] not to be jailed.

Recently, Jordan’s Interior Ministry cancelled Lebanese band Mashrou’ Leila’s upcoming performance, marking it as the second occasion such a decision was made by the government.

Parliamentarians aligned with the Islamic Action Front, the Jordanian offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, argued that the band’s lead singer’s sexual orientation – the lead singer, Hamed Sinno, is openly gay – was contrary to the cultural and traditional norms of the country and was the primary reason for the cancellation.

Member of Parliament Dima Tahboub, and former spokeswoman for the Islamist coalition, told CNN that the singer’s sexuality was “exactly” the reason the event was cancelled.

Many have also alleged that the band’s commitment to the Arab Spring, human rights, and to freedom of expression for Arabs stands as dangerous advocacy which threatens the long enshrined legitimacy of authoritarian regimes across the region.

In a statement released to the public, Mashrou Leila deemed the Jordanian people “progressive supporters of human rights” who remain committed to “intellectual and cultural pluralism.” The band’s statement may not simply be rhetorical fluff, but may actually reflect a growing on-the-ground reality in Jordan, as Hdaib’s work clearly shows.

In 2016, Hdaib challenged gender norms by depicting what in his view was the plight of Arab Women if they had engaged in sexual activity before marriage.

The image portrays an unnamed skeleton woman who appears to be trampled and whose limbs are extended into every corner of the canvas.

Around her is a sea of red, which presumably reflects the blood of the countless women who have lost their life to violence inflicted by those they are supposed to trust.

The practice of ‘honor killings’ – or at least, the recorded ones – in Jordan increased in recent years.

According to Human Rights Watch, not only did honor killings reach a zenith in 2016, but Jordan lacks the institutional infrastructure needed to properly take care of its women who are survivors of attempted murder or domestic assault.

According to a 1954 Crime Prevention law, at-risk women can be “indefinitely detained” and their release often requires years of bureaucratic procedures and assurances from the family that the woman will not be placed in danger.

Hdaib’s music has also attracted a large following and has gained a reputation for having no hesitation to address topics long considered taboo in his country. Filled with explicit references to sexuality, freedom, and expression, Hdaib denies that his work is political, but contends that he can’t separate his music from politics.

“I’m Middle Eastern, man. I was fed politics,” he claims.

In a song titled “Edward Sa’ed,” Hdaib deals with the issue of Palestinian identity head on. In “Lawla al 3aib,” and in “Ghareeb,” the focus is on poverty. The list of songs that are at their core political goes on.

In March 2016, Hdaib released a song titled “Santandano.”

In this song, one line is repeated with a disproportionate frequency:

“You are free, and everybody is free as well.”

The song proceeds to describe the world as a market from which, in Hdaib’s words, “you can take what you want”—religion or atheism, straightness or gayness.

He notes that hardly anyone in Jordanian society discusses gay rights, and that well until 2014, comments about equality for LGBTQ+ were highly censored.

In 2014, Hdaib gave an interview to Roya, a popular Jordanian network television show, and later found his comments taken out of context, twisted, and in his view, censored.

“They uploaded it with no cutting on Youtube but stream[ed] it on air edited,” he claims.

Today, Hdaib openly advocates for the Arab LGBTQ+ community and contends that intolerance toward homosexuality is not Islamic.

He mentions Abu Nawas, the eighth century poet who is today remembered for his homoeroticism.

For Hdaib, if Abu Nawas, at one point commissioned by the Caliphs, can openly write about homosexuality in the eight and ninth centuries, why can’t any Jordanian?

The issue, according to Hdaib, isn’t Mashrou Leila or the fact that the concert was cancelled.

Legally sanctioned attacks on free expression and the obstruction of progressive voices in the Hashemite Kingdom have been a re-occurring pattern.

As recently as January 2017, Jordan’s General Intelligence Directorate arrested several former government officials and members of the teacher’s union for social media posts critical of the deep-rooted corruption issues in the country.

For him then, the concert’s cancellation is simply the tip of the iceberg—the deeper issue remains structural changes in the way the next generation of Jordanians think.

For Hdaib, progress is a give and take—Jordan refused to host Mashrou Leila for the second time in a row, but the path towards progress, according to Hdaib, is paved with slow, deliberate, and internal changes—changes, he argues, that are taking place on a daily basis in the heart of Jordanian society.

Ultimately, Hdaib, like millions of other Arabs, dreams of an Arab World free of foreign intervention. From Baghdad to Jerusalem to Damascus, Hdaib dreams of not only bringing his work, but in his own words, “experiencing the land.”

Perhaps then, through music, art, and literature—and not bombs, cluster munitions, and artificial impositions of democracy, the region, at least Hdaib hopes, will progress toward real and substantive openness. In the meantime, Hdaib will keep rapping and by extension, resisting.

This coverage has been made possible by the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting, for which Aman is a student fellow. 

by Aman Madan at August 08, 2017 01:46 PM

In Highly Criticized Stunt, Chinese Reporter Drinks River Water to Prove It's Clean

Screen capture from video livecast of a swimming event in Guangzhou. Via Weibo.

During a live-streamed video of a swimming event in the Zhujiang, known in English as the Pearl River, a reporter from the Southern Metropolis Daily drank a few mouthfuls of river water to prove that it was clean.

The screen capture of the livecast has gone viral on social media. In a number of media workers’ WeChat groups, journalists have called it an unprofessional and propaganda that has shamed the whole news media industry.

The swim was held on July 25 near Sun Yatsen University Pier in China's Guangzhou city at the lower course of Zhujiang. The annual event was under the theme “Everyone, Work Out and Stay Healthy” (全民健身.全民健康) and about 2,000 people participated.

A number of Chinese state-affiliated media outlets featured the event and Guangzhou-based Southern Metropolis Daily broadcast it live. While doing so, the reporter said in front of the camera that the river water looked clean and transparent and drank a few mouthfuls to prove his point. According to discussions on social media (as reported by Hong Kong online media outlet HK01), the journalist actually drank from the water three times: in his first attempt, the camera happened to move away; the second was broadcast to the public, and the third was to pose for photos.

Zhujiang is the third longest river in China and its mouth is located at the most industrialized and polluted Pearl River Delta. Even though efforts were made between 2007 and 2013 to clean up the river, the water quality in the lower course of the river is still poor and far from being suitable for drinking.

The reporter's action has hence stirred a lot of frustration among media workers’ social circles on WeChat. In one of the groups, a reporter pointed out that Southern Metropolis Daily was one of the most critical media outlets in China just a few years back, but now it had devolved into a “positive energy” propaganda machine.

The criticisms from fellow media workers are also being shared by netizens. On one of the news threads on Weibo, many said the water-drinking stunt was unprofessional:

此风不可长!记者不是政客,媒体的公信力是最重要的

Such act should not be encouraged! Journalists are not politicians, credibility is the most important thing for a media outlet.

这个记者上位上得肯定快,来来来,环保局有个位置,来上班

This reporter can definitely advance in his career. Come, there is a position in the Environmental Bureau. Come take the position.

叫珠江水有点甜的升官了。此人莫非都想行此路?

Those who claimed that Zhujiang water was sweet advanced in their careers, this guy wanted to follow their example.

如果他吃一坨屎 能证明什么?
可以证明。屎可以吃

What can he prove by eating faeces?
He can prove that faeces is edible

他肯定没见过江边浮着的涨得跟气球一样的老鼠和死猪

Quite sure that he has never seen the dead rats and dead pigs floating like balloons in the river.

by Oiwan Lam at August 08, 2017 01:41 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
‘Troll-in-Chief'? Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte Admits Hiring Online Defenders During 2016 Election

Soldiers taking selfie photos with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in an army camp in Mindanao. Photo from the Facebook page of Presidential Communications (Government of the Philippines).

A University of Oxford study has caused uproar in the Philippines for examining the administration of Rodrigo Duterte's efforts to manipulate social media through trolling and fake accounts. The findings confirmed what government critics have long suspected while stirring harsh denials by the president's supporters.

Duterte himself, however, later said in a press conference that he had in fact hired online commenters during the election.

Entitled “Troops, Trolls and Troublemakers: A Global Inventory of Organized Social Media Manipulation”, the July 2017 study by Samantha Bradshaw and Philip N. Howard focused on the use of cyber troops or troll armies by governments, the military, and political parties in 28 countries.

The researchers made an inventory of the kinds of messaging, tools and communications strategies used across countries as well as the different organizational forms that were deployed by those in power to manipulate public opinion through social media.

They found that in the Philippines, pro-Duterte trolls were engaged in flooding social media with pro-government comments while harassing and trolling social media users with contrary opinions by using of fake accounts and automated bots.

Evaluating the capacities of specific organizations created for gathering cyber troops, the Oxford study outlined that Duterte’s machinery for the 2016 elections not only relied on civil society volunteers and paid citizens, but also hired a private contractor: Nic Gabunada, former advertising executive and former senior vice-president of TV giant ABS-CBN.

Also assessing the organizational capacity of the Duterte cyber army in terms of staffing and budget, the researchers discovered that it is characterized by ad hoc membership with coordination across teams. As much as 200,000 US dollars or roughly 10 million Philippine pesos has been spent to fund the Duterte troll army, which has a regular staff capacity of 400-500 individuals, according to the study.

And as if to confirm the findings of the study, social media trolls and pro-Duterte bloggers quickly took to social media to condemn the Oxford study and Oxford University, flooding the institution’s Facebook page with acerbic posts.

Screenshot of University of Oxford's Facebook page being flooded with pro-Duterte comments.

In a press conference, Duterte admitted that he did hire online defenders but only for the 2016 election campaign:

P10 million ang gastos ko? Ako? Sa election siguro, sa elections ma'am more than…They were all during the campaign.

I spent P10 million? Me? Maybe during the elections, in the elections ma'am, I spent more than that…They were all during the campaign.

Dismissing the idea that government is bankrolling an online army to dominate social media, Duterte swore that he had no more need for defenders online:

Pero ngayon, hindi ko na kailangan [But now, I do not need it]. I do not need to defend myself against attacks. I stated my piece during my inauguration and my campaign.

To cap his spiel, Duterte, tagged by critics as the country's “troll-in-chief” and biggest bully, also attacked Oxford University, one of the world’s leading higher education institutions:

Oxford University? Eskwelahan sa mga bobo ‘yan ah.

Oxford University? That's a school for the stupid people.

But an official of the president's political party denied that the campaign team hired online trolls during the 2016 election:

In the end, it would be best to take Duterte’s outbursts with a grain of salt. With his government regularly being hit for spreading falsehoods and the military establishment itself being criticized for propagating fake news in its counterinsurgency wars, what we now know may just be the tip of the iceberg.

by Karlo Mikhail Mongaya at August 08, 2017 11:29 AM

Global Voices
‘Troll-in-Chief'? Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte Admits Hiring Online Defenders During 2016 Election

Soldiers taking selfie photos with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in an army camp in Mindanao. Photo from the Facebook page of Presidential Communications (Government of the Philippines).

A University of Oxford study has caused uproar in the Philippines for examining the administration of Rodrigo Duterte's efforts to manipulate social media through trolling and fake accounts. The findings confirmed what government critics have long suspected while stirring harsh denials by the president's supporters.

Duterte himself, however, later said in a press conference that he had in fact hired online commenters during the election.

Entitled “Troops, Trolls and Troublemakers: A Global Inventory of Organized Social Media Manipulation”, the July 2017 study by Samantha Bradshaw and Philip N. Howard focused on the use of cyber troops or troll armies by governments, the military, and political parties in 28 countries.

The researchers made an inventory of the kinds of messaging, tools and communications strategies used across countries as well as the different organizational forms that were deployed by those in power to manipulate public opinion through social media.

They found that in the Philippines, pro-Duterte trolls were engaged in flooding social media with pro-government comments while harassing and trolling social media users with contrary opinions by using of fake accounts and automated bots.

Evaluating the capacities of specific organizations created for gathering cyber troops, the Oxford study outlined that Duterte’s machinery for the 2016 elections not only relied on civil society volunteers and paid citizens, but also hired a private contractor: Nic Gabunada, former advertising executive and former senior vice-president of TV giant ABS-CBN.

Also assessing the organizational capacity of the Duterte cyber army in terms of staffing and budget, the researchers discovered that it is characterized by ad hoc membership with coordination across teams. As much as 200,000 US dollars or roughly 10 million Philippine pesos has been spent to fund the Duterte troll army, which has a regular staff capacity of 400-500 individuals, according to the study.

And as if to confirm the findings of the study, social media trolls and pro-Duterte bloggers quickly took to social media to condemn the Oxford study and Oxford University, flooding the institution’s Facebook page with acerbic posts.

Screenshot of University of Oxford's Facebook page being flooded with pro-Duterte comments.

In a press conference, Duterte admitted that he did hire online defenders but only for the 2016 election campaign:

P10 million ang gastos ko? Ako? Sa election siguro, sa elections ma'am more than…They were all during the campaign.

I spent P10 million? Me? Maybe during the elections, in the elections ma'am, I spent more than that…They were all during the campaign.

Dismissing the idea that government is bankrolling an online army to dominate social media, Duterte swore that he had no more need for defenders online:

Pero ngayon, hindi ko na kailangan [But now, I do not need it]. I do not need to defend myself against attacks. I stated my piece during my inauguration and my campaign.

To cap his spiel, Duterte, tagged by critics as the country's “troll-in-chief” and biggest bully, also attacked Oxford University, one of the world’s leading higher education institutions:

Oxford University? Eskwelahan sa mga bobo ‘yan ah.

Oxford University? That's a school for the stupid people.

But an official of the president's political party denied that the campaign team hired online trolls during the 2016 election:

In the end, it would be best to take Duterte’s outbursts with a grain of salt. With his government regularly being hit for spreading falsehoods and the military establishment itself being criticized for propagating fake news in its counterinsurgency wars, what we now know may just be the tip of the iceberg.

by Karlo Mongaya at August 08, 2017 11:17 AM

Marketplace Tech Report
08/08/2017: A new generation of phones
With Samsung and Apple getting ready to launch new phones, we'll take a look at what we can expect from these new devices. Afterwards, we'll discuss Netflix's decision to buy Millarworld, the publishing company of comic book writer Mark Millar.

by Marketplace at August 08, 2017 10:02 AM

Global Voices
What's Behind the Success of Satirical Media in Hong Kong?

Screen capture of MostTV's three-minute satirical news program.

For years, Hong Kong's media industry has struggled to turn a profit in the digital age and maintain editorial integrity at a time when free expression is increasingly under pressure. In fact, cases of conventional organizations successfully pivoting toward a digital-first business models has been very rare and the initial public offering (IPO) application of satirical outlet 100 Most is one of the rare cases.

On July 26, Most Kwai Chung Limited, the operator of popular satirical media outlets TVMost, a online video outlet, and 100Most, a Chinese magazine with a Facebook outlet of more than 1.1 million followers, submitted draft listing documents to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

The IPO application revealed that between 1 April 2016 and March 31, 2017 the company brought in HK$95 million (approximately US$2.1 million) in revenue — the majority of which originated from digital media advertising — resulting in a gross profit of HK$58 million (approximately US$1.4 million). That represented a 74 percent increase over the 2015-2016 financial year.

The company was founded by three young people, Roy Tsui, Chan Keung and Bu, in January 2010 with less than US$1,000 in start-up funding.

Though the media company positions itself as an advertisement production house, it has accumulated a following through viral content that satirizes current affairs with a pro-democracy or “localist” political slant (localist refers to the movement which promote local values and culture over those of mainland China). In fact, the Chinese name of its two media outlets, “Most” or “Mou Gei” (毛記), is a parody of the city’s mainstream television station Television Broadcast (TVB) or “Mou Sin” in Cantonese. A number of its popular programs, including a daily three-minute satirical newscast, are also parodies of TVB’s programming.

The success of the TVMost and 100Most has stirred some online discussion. Some netizens says that other journalistic sites should learn from Most’s business model to survive in the market. However, others see them as high-quality content farms and are worried that the curation of entertainment and news into viral content could further curb the space for serious journalism.

Investigative journalism platform Initium organized an online discussion about Most’s new media business model. Below is a selection of the comments.

@Lamwaai supported Most100’s satirical news strategy:

我覺得100毛是年輕而有趣的新聞媒體,它給了壓力下生存的年輕人一種全新的可能性吧

I believe that Most100 is youthful and funny news media. It has provided young people who are under a lot of pressure to make it in life with a new possible [career path].

@sixstrings was also in favor of Most100’s satire and explained the socio-political context of its success:

抽水和政治戲仿在香港文化中一直有脈絡,100毛那種一切都可以惡搞的姿態,戲仿香港電台節目的二次創作,很可能是三位創辦人在電台出身時培養的觸覺。他們懂得怎樣切入時事才會有香港人看,懂得找觀眾。
我認為100毛沒有「主導」公共討論,至少100毛沒有表現出這樣的企圖。它只是在政治娛樂找到自己的定位,也許腦細們也沒有預計到這樣的成功。100毛的惡搞受歡迎,背後應是社會無力改變現實,只能在戲謔中找快慰。

The culture of spoofing and political parody has local roots. The three founders had the experience in working at Hong Kong Television and Radio Broadcast [a Hong Kong government-funded broadcaster] in the production of parodies, perhaps there they developed their sense of a popular strategy to engage with current affairs and attract audiences.
I don’t think Most100 has led the public discussion, or at least it does not seem to have such intentions. It just is situated in political entertainment. Probably even the founders had not anticipated such success. The reason why Most100’s parodies are so popular is related to the reality that people cannot change society and so they can only take pleasure in satires.

@Mr Kwan saw the adverse effect of Most100’s satirical news on serious journalism:

現在網絡與手機盛世的時代,似乎大家都覺得內容(content)應該是免費的,不應該像昔日那般(即紙媒主導的年代)是付費的。當一旦看到需要收費才能看的內容,就很下意識地離開尋找其他免費的替代源。[…]
慢慢,整個電子媒體都在爭用戶流量來讓廣告收益作爲媒體營運的主要來源。[…]爲了流量,新聞都娛樂化,標題黨化,情色化,取巧化 […] 而100毛的成功崛起,正是因爲站對了這個大衆品味的風口。[…]
由於100毛的內容成功是基於時事熱話的二次創作,我的觀察是,大衆慢慢地將100毛當作另類時事與新聞去看“新聞” […] 其實對新聞傳播而言,不是一件好事。

We are now in era of internet and mobile communication, people think content should be free and should not be paid for (unlike the conventional newspaper). However, when they come across content that is not free, they look for a substitute. […] Gradually, the digital media sector has come to depend on page views for advertising income. […] In order to boost page views, tactics that rely on entertainment, sensational headlines, pornography among others are used to package news […] The success of Most100 reflects popular tastes […]
While Most100’s content is parody of current affairs hot topics, gradually, the public sees Most100 as alternative news and consumes the content as “news” […] This is not a good development for journalism.

Lam Yin Bong, a media worker, argued in Stand News, a non-profit media outlet, that people should not mix the business of new media production with journalism:

新聞媒體轉型失敗,並不代表100毛的成功,是新聞媒體可以/應該學習的方向。
其一,100毛(及其他類似平台)對「新聞」過份簡化和情緒化的操作方式,就是抽水,休閒笑笑無妨,作為嚴謹的一手資訊來源絕不可取;其二,其集中二次創作、忽略一手資訊的定位,和發掘一手資訊以監察社會的新聞媒體角色,本來就有衝突;其三,又很老土地說,我無法想像新聞媒體,為財團「度橋」賣廣告。

We could say that the news media has not found its way. That does not mean that the success of Most100 is something that news media can or should learn from.
First of all, Most100 (and other similar platforms) has simplified and sensationalized news. We can consume the parody as entertainment but should not see it as a source of news information. Secondly, its marketing strategy of remixing others’ information as content is at odds with news media which positions itself as the watchdog of society by digging up first-hand news sources. Thirdly, being old school, I cannot imagine any news media taking up the role to help corporations develop ideas for selling their product.

by Oiwan Lam at August 08, 2017 01:56 AM

August 07, 2017

Global Voices
Secular Voices in the Balkan States Oppose Religious Education in Public Schools

Collage made from school textbook cover pages. From left to right: ‘With Christ through Life’ (Croatia), ‘Orthodox Catechism’ (Serbia), Ethics of Religions in Macedonian and Albanian (Macedonia), Getting to Know Religions (Macedonia).

Humanists and activists from former Yugoslav republics warn that the expansion of religious education in public schools threatens to undermine the secular character of their countries.

During the period of socialism (1945-1990) Yugoslavia enforced some limitations to the work of religious institutions, including the nationalization of lands owned by churches. However, since for the most part the officials of these churches and Islamic communities cooperated with communist authorities, the state tolerated and sometimes even supported the work of the religious sector. But religious education was confined to religious institutions, similar to the concept of Sunday School in the U.S.A.

During the period of transition towards democracy after 1990, the political influence of religious institutions became stronger. Most Balkan nationalist ideologies considered having a particular religious identity as an essential element of cultivating a more solid kind of patriotism. This partly explains why surveys in post-communist states showed high levels of religious sentiment among the people.

Except for Slovenia, Albania and Montenegro, Balkan countries have introduced some sort of religious education in their school curriculum. This remains a subject of controversy and sometimes heated debates on social media in Serbia, Croatia, Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

For starters, the term for religious education in Croatian, Serbian and Macedonian (“vjeronauk”, “veronauka” and “веронаука” respectively) is derived from combining the word “faith” (vjera or vera) with the word “nauk” or “nauka”, which in the past was applied to “learning”, but in contemporary language chiefly means “science”. Thus it can be translated literally as “religious science.” Critics claim this creates confusion in understanding the differences between religious teachings and the actual scientific disciplines such as physics or biology.

Why do they call it ‘religious science’ when it's not a science, but a subject about beliefs. So it needs to be called ‘religious beliefs.’

Religious education in Croatia

Croatia was the first former Yugoslav republic to introduce religious education in public schools during the 1990s. The classes promote the teachings of Roman Catholic Church, the majority religion in the country.

The subject is an elective, but without an alternative – the children whose parents decide to opt out of it usually have to wait out in the empty hallways or school library for the duration of the class. In some cases, due to peer pressure, children of atheists, Orthodox Christians or Muslims attend this class and various related religious activities like Christmas plays.

The Croatian NGO Center for Civil Courage had been publicly demanding educational reforms related to this subject. The group explained why it thinks some aspects of religious education in public schools are not helpful to children. Below is the group's statement sent to Global Voices through email:

The biggest problem of such teachings is reflected in the expansion of hatred and intolerance toward others and toward those who are different – from the attitude toward homosexuals (they are likened to pedophiles), people of other nationalities, other religions, to the attitude towards unbelievers.

For example, in the textbook “With Christ through Life” for the 8th grade, young believers (about 86% of all primary school children) are taught that atheists are people brought up without God and therefore are willing to create something (horrific) like the Auschwitz (despite the fact that Auschwitz was conceptualized by those brought up with the idea that God exists), that atheists are absolutely unacceptable, that they are egoistic fools whose number should be gradually reduced through the imposition of Christian belief, the so-called “civilization of love”.

Auschwitz was part of the network of concentration camps used by the Nazis and Fascists during World War II for the extermination of ‘undesired’ populations in Europe, such as Jews, Roma, Slavs, as well as political opponents, LGBT people and people with disabilities. Historical records show that most members of these regimes publicly claimed they belong to some religious communities, and at times even received open support from some priests.

The Center for Civil Courage has published segments of the textbook on their Facebook page, including English translations of the controversial claims.

Lesson on atheism from Croatian textbook on religious education, illustrated with the painting “The Scream” by Edvard Munch, with annotations by Center for Civil Courage. Click to enlarge.

Second page of the lesson on atheism from Croatian Religious Education textbook, illustrated with the painting “Anxiety” by Edvard Munch, with annotations by Center for Civil Courage. Click to enlarge.

The NGO has lodged an anti-discrimination complaint with the competent authorities, but only the Ombudsman for Children recognized the problem and reported it to the Ministry of Education and the Croatian Conference of Bishops three years ago. This didn't result in any reform of the textbook or the curriculum.

The new Minister of Education and Science of the Republic of Croatia, Blaženka Divjak, who assumed office in June 2017, stated in her latest interview published August 2, 2017, the the issue of religious education is not part of the reforms that the ministry will be implementing. She said it's up to the schools to review the teaching of this elective in a manner that won't negatively affect the students, as well as to “nurture an atmosphere of tolerance within the schools.”

Macedonia's alternative: ‘Ethics of Religions’

The right-wing government that ruled Macedonia from 2006 till the spring of 2017 introduced the subject of religious education as an elective in public schools in 2008. It has two versions reflecting the teachings of the two biggest religious organizations in the country: Macedonian Orthodox Church and the Islamic Community. A subject named “Getting To Know Religions” was presented as a secular alternative.

Parents criticized the religious education class because it required the children to declare their religious identity, leading to traumatic experience for kids who found themselves in the minority among their peers.

In 2009, the Constitutional Court struck down the article enabling religious education from the Law on Primary Education for violating the secular character of the state. Authorities replaced it with a subject named “Ethics of Religions” supposedly as an objective introduction to the topic.

However, parents who read the textbook of “Ethics of Religions” discovered that it's the same textbook from the repudiated religious education class, promoting Orthodox Christianity and additional lessons on Islam and Judaism. Jovan Petrov noted that instead of providing a comprehensive historical overview of religions, it promotes indoctrination ‘in a sheep's clothing.’

Using a PDF version of the textbook available online, Mr. Petrov identified segments of the text where even the name of the old subject has not been replaced.

Tweet: Just one piece of evidence – consider this screenshot… Is this hardline religious indoctrination of sixth graders or what? They even forgot to replace the word “religious education” with the name of the subject, BTW :)
Textbook text: “With the help of your religious education teacher select and read some segments from the book of Luke the Apostle: Works of the Holy Apostles. Find out how joyful and responsible the apostles were while spreading the evangelical truth about Christ. May such feelings wash over you every time you speak about God.
Image: Map of geographical region of Macedonia with a cross connecting some cities of historical and religious significance.

A word search of the PDF reveals that the textbook “Ethics of Religions” does not mention the existence of atheism at all, nor does it mention other religions with hundreds of millions of followers such as Hinduism or Buddhism, or any other religious practice or belief.

Meanwhile, the textbook for the ‘alternative’ subject “Getting To Know Religions” is written with a more objective language, but has a similar focus on the three monotheistic faiths that have followers in Macedonia. It mentions the term “atheists” once, in the “Glossary of Less Known Terms” at the end of the book. It also has a section about magic as a precursor to religions, illustrated with a photo from a movie about Harry Potter.

by Marko Angelov at August 07, 2017 11:38 PM

SJ Klein
Mental battlefield: How we are forfeiting the zeroth AI war

Last week, Jean Twenge wrote the latest in a series of reflections on connected culture: “Have smartphones destroyed a generation?

Some commentators wrote off her concerns as the periodic anxiety of an older generation seeing technology changing the world of their children, comparing it to earlier concerns about books or television.  But I don’t see this as Yet Another Moral Panic about changing tech or norms. I see it as an early AI conflict, one that individuals have lost to embryonic corporate AI.

The struggle is real

We have greatly advanced algorithms for claiming and retaining human attention, prominently including bulk attacks on shared Commons such as quiet spaces, spare time, empty mailboxes. This predates the net, but as in many areas, automation has conclusively outpaced capacity to react. There’s not even an arms race today: one the one hand, we have a few attention-preserving tools, productive norms that increasingly look like firewall instructions, a few dated regulations in some countries. On the other hand, we have a $T invested in persuasion, segmentation, attention, engagement: a growing portion of our economy, dinner conversations, and self-image as a civilization.

Persuasion is much more than advertising. The libraries of mind hacks and distractions we have developed are prominent in every networked app and social tool. Including simple things like adding a gloss of guilt and performative angst to increase engagement — like Snap or Duolingo adding publicly visible streaks to keep up daily participation.

We know people can saturate their capacity to track goals and urgencies. We know minds are exploitable, hard sells are possible — but (coming from a carny, or casino, or car salesman) unethical, bad for you.  Yet when the exploit happens at a scale of billions, one new step each week, with a cloak of respectability — we haven’t figured out how to think about it.  Indeed most growth hackers & experience designers, at companies whose immersive interfaces absorb centuries of spare time each day, would firmly deny that they are squeezing profit out of the valuable time + focus + energy of users :: even as they might agree that in aggregate, the set of all available interfaces are doing just that.

Twenge suggests people are becoming unhappier the more their attention is hacked: that seems right, up to a point. But past that point, go far enough and people will get used to anything, create new norms around it. If we lose meaningful measures of social wellbeing, then new ones may be designed for us, honoring current trends as the best of all possible worlds. A time-worn solution of cults, castes, frontiers, empires. Yet letting the few and the hawkers of the new set norms for all, doesn’t always work out well.

Let us do better.
+ Recognize exploits and failure modes of reason, habit, and thought. Treat these as important to healthy life, not simply a prize for whoever can claim them.
+ Measure maluses like addiction, negative attractors like monopoly, self-dealing, information asymmetry.
+ Measure things like learning speed, adaptability, self sufficiency, teamwork, contentment over time.
+ Reflect on system properties that seem to influence one or the other.
And build norms around all of this, countering the idea that “whatever norms we have are organic, so they must be good for us.

by metasj at August 07, 2017 10:03 PM

Global Voices
A Team of Women Is Unearthing the Forgotten Legacy of Harvard’s Women ‘Computers’

Curator Lindsay Smith Zrull places a glass plate photograph of a section of the sky onto a lightbox. Smith Zrull recently discovered boxes of notebooks belonging to early women astronomers who studied the glass plates as early as 1885. Credit: Alex Newman/PRI

This story by Alex Newman originally appeared on PRI.org on July 27, 2017. It is republished here as part of a partnership between PRI and Global Voices.

In a cramped Harvard University sub-basement, a team of women is working to document the rich history of their predecessors.

More than 40 years before women in the US gained the right to vote, women labored in the Harvard College Observatory as “computers” — astronomy’s version of NASA’s “Hidden Figures” mathematicians.

Between 1885 and 1927, the observatory employed about 80 women who studied glass plate photographs of the stars, many of whom made major discoveries. They found galaxies and nebulas and created methods to measure distance in space. In the late 1800s, they were famous: newspapers wrote about them and they published scientific papers under their own names, only to be virtually forgotten during the next century. But a recent discovery of thousands of pages of their calculations by a modern group of women working in the very same space has spurred new interest in their legacy.

Surrounded by steel cabinets stuffed with hundreds of thousands of plate glass photographs of the sky, curator Lindsay Smith Zrull shows off the best of the collection.

“I have initials but I have not yet identified whose initials these are,” Smith Zrull says, pointing at a paper-sized glass plate crowded with notes taken in four different colors. “One of these days, I’m going to figure out who M.E.M. is.”

A dozen women computers hold hands in this 1918 photograph, which Smith Zrull calls the “paper doll” photo. To the far right is Edward Pickering, who hired the women computers. Credit: Courtesy Harvard College Observatory, Plate Stacks

Each glass plate is stored in a paper jacket and initialed to show who worked on it, but for decades no one kept track of the women’s full names. So Smith Zrull started a spreadsheet about 18 months ago and adds initials when she discovers new ones and then tries to locate the full names in Harvard’s historical records.

“I’m slowly starting to piece together who was who, who was here when, what they were studying,” she says. Smith Zrull has about 130 female names and about 40 are still unidentified.

Not all are computers. Her list has grown to include assistants and, in some cases, astronomers’ wives who helped with their husbands’ work.

Curatorial assistant Anne Callahan inspects a plate before it is cleaned for scanning. She makes sure the metadata from the paper jacket is properly entered into the computer before the plate goes to be wiped down and then scanned. Credit: Alex Newman/PRI

“We know there were at least 80 women who worked in this space on these glass plate photographs, which is a pretty amazing number considering women were still trying to get social approval to go to college, let alone work in the sciences,” Smith Zrull said.

In the Plate Stacks at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics — the modern version of what was once called the Harvard College Observatory — Smith Zrull oversees a digitization project to make the glass plates available to the world. Since 2005, a custom-built scanner has been making its way through the collection of more than half a million plates from 1885 to 1993. The team scans 400 plates per day — they’re at about the halfway point now — and Smith Zrull estimates about three years of scanning remains.

‘People forgot they were there’

Last fall Smith Zrull turned her attention to about 30 notebooks in the plate stacks belonging to the women computers.

“I started to realize a lot of these books were missing,” she says. “I started doing a little bit of digging and eventually came across some proof that we might have boxes in storage off-site, which is very common for libraries around Harvard.”

Smith Zrull found 118 boxes, each containing between 20 and 30 books. Inside were more notebooks from the women computers and notebooks from astronomers who predated photography and made hand-drawn sketches of planets and the moon.

“People didn’t know they existed when they were in storage,” Smith Zrull says. “As different curators came and went here, I suppose people forgot they were there. Now that we know they exist, we can make them accessible to the public, they can be cataloged in a library so people can come across them.”

The books had moved from one library to the plate stacks to another library to a book depository, essentially lost to history until Smith Zrull began looking for more information on the women computers.

To resurrect their legacy, she enlisted the help of librarians from the Wolbach Library in the Center for Astrophysics. The librarians prepared to manually go through the boxes and begin the labor-intensive process of cataloging them. Project PHAEDRA (an acronym for Preserving Harvard’s Early Data and Research in Astronomy).

‘OK, we’ve hit pay dirt’

Then Smith Zrull made another discovery in the plate stacks: a handwritten catalog of the books from 1973.

“At some point in 1973, someone who we assume is named ‘Joe Timko’ went through all of these boxes at an item level and recorded as much information as he could find,” says head librarian Daina Bouquin. “We have no sense of why this was done or what became of the person who did this, but we thought, ‘OK, we’ve hit pay dirt.’”

This is the envelope Smith Zrull found in the plate stacks that included a handwritten catalog of all of the women computer's notebooks. A person named Joe Timko painstakingly went through the collection in 1973. Credit: Alex Newman/PRI

Then someone found a typewritten version of the 1973 catalog, adorned with a Post-it saying “Finally done! Rachel.” On the very last page was a handwritten path to a computer file, a spreadsheet on a Harvard server that hadn’t been accessed since 2001.

The discovery sped up the digitization project by months, if not years.

“We went from having absolutely no metadata, like 30 characters on each box, to having item-level, machine-readable, type-written metadata that we could then edit and clean up and turn into real records,” explains Bouquin. “Thank you Joe Timko and possibly Rachel, wherever they may be.”

The library has completed transcription of about 200 volumes. Right now, notebooks from two women are listed on the Smithsonian Transcription Center website. There are many more to come — nearly 2,300 out of a total 2,500 books — but the work has begun. Bouquin hopes the public will help transcribe the books, but anticipates it will still be years before everything is readable.

“You’ll be able to do a full-text search of this research,” Bouquin says. “If you search for Williamina Fleming, you’re not going to just find a mention of her in a publication where she wasn’t the author of her work. You’re going to find her work.”

Bouquin, left, and Smith Zrull, right, hold up an original image of Williamina Fleming posing in the plate stacks in a 1891 photo that was the first photo used in bestselling author Dava Sobell's 2016 book, “The Glass Universe.” Smith Zrull says they know the 1891 image is posed because a window is closed and the tool Fleming is using to study a plate only works with window light. Credit: Alex Newman/PRI

‘She’s the one who really found it’

Fleming is the first famous woman computer. Fleming emigrated to the United States from Scotland in the late 1870s. While pregnant, she was abandoned by her husband and found work as a maid in the home of Edward Pickering, the observatory director. In 1881, Pickering hired Fleming to work in the observatory. She would go on to discover the Horsehead Nebula, develop a system for classifying stars based on hydrogen observed in their spectra and lead more female computers.

Wolbach Library unveiled a new display case in early July showcasing Fleming’s work. The case includes pages from her diary as well as her work on the plates showing the nebula and the log book containing that discovery.

The display case in Wolbach Library includes pages from a journal kept by Fleming; a portrait of her that librarians chose because she describes buying a hat (but not necessarily the one pictured) in the diary; and one of the recently-discovered logbooks, opened to the page where she noted the Horsehead Nebula for the first time. Credit: Courtesy Daina Boquin, Wolbach Library

“When the [Horsehead Nebula] was discovered, it was just a little ‘area of nebulosity in a semi-circular indentation,’” says librarian Maria McEachern, who has helped the team sort through the notebooks to find the more interesting pieces. “That’s how it was described at the time. It wasn’t until years later that it became known as the Horsehead Nebula and one of the male scientists at another institution who named it was the one who got credit for it. It wasn’t even until recently that people have been doing more scholarship and finding out that, yes, she’s the one who really found it.”

But Fleming was just the first of many to become famous.

Pickering hired Henrietta Swan Leavitt in 1895. She was tasked with measuring and cataloguing the brightness of the stars. Her major discovery: a way to allow astronomers to measure distance in space, now known as “Leavitt’s Law,” an attempt to give her credit for her work.

Annie Jump Cannon joined the observatory in 1896 and worked there until 1940. Cannon created the Harvard Classification System for classifying stars, which is the basis of the system still in use today.

Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin came to the Observatory in 1923 and earned a doctorate from Radcliffe in 1925, but she struggled to get recognition from Harvard. For years she had no official position, serving as a technical assistant to then-director Harlow Shapley from 1927 to 1938. It wasn’t until the mid-1950s that she became a full professor and later, the first woman to head a department at Harvard.

Payne-Gaposchkin’s notebooks will be the next set scanned and submitted for transcription. (Leavitt and Cannon’s notebooks are in the process of being transcribed.)

‘They’ve always been there’

“I like to think resilience goes a long way, but I think some of these women go a little above and beyond what we think of when we think of overcoming things,” Bouquin says.

Both Bouquin and Smith Zrull said they want to give young girls more role models like the Harvard computers — role models who weren’t well-known when they were young.

“Yes, look at Sally Ride, look at modern women who people associate with the space-based sciences, but go back further,” Bouquin says. “They’ve always been there. As long as they could be, they were there.”

Smith Zrull — who hated history as a teen — said she struggled to find women who encouraged her.

“It really took me a long time to start to find women who I felt were like me, who did important things,” Smith Zrull said. “I think more women need to know, you’re not alone, you can do it.”

by Public Radio International at August 07, 2017 03:44 PM

Despite Pressure From China, Taiwan Finds Ways to Participate on the World Stage

“Light Chang is visiting the US from Taiwan, proudly displaying the flag of Taiwan as he rides his loaded touring bike from coast to coast.” Photo and description credit: Mark Stosberg. Cropped. Originally shared under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Taiwanese who wish to take part in international organizations face an enormous hurdle called the One-China Policy, which China uses to prevent their participation.

So what is it exactly? In short, the One-China Policy means there is only one state called “China”. But there are two countries in the world bearing that name, the People's Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of China (ROC), so the international community must choose one over the other.

The government of the ROC, which is the official name for Taiwan, ruled the territories of mainland China from 1912 until 1949, when it lost the country's civil war to the communist PRC forces. Subsequently, the ROC relocated their capital to Taipei. They continued, however, to represent China in the United Nations until 1971, when the body forced them to give up their seat to the PRC (Resolution 2758).

Since then, the PRC has regularly leveraged its influence in the world to isolate Taiwanese based on the “One China Policy”.

Over the years, more and more Taiwanese prefer to have one China and one Taiwan instead of two Chinas or one united China. Nevertheless, the PRC is determined to have Taiwan in the near future, so they oppose any moves to formalize Taiwan's self-rule. Beijing even prefers that Taiwan use the name Republic of China as they can then accuse any country who supports Taiwan's independence of interfering with the internal affairs of China.

The PRC has become a non-negligible superpower through its economic and military growth in the last decades, and the country has used its international influence to further put the squeeze on Taiwan. For example, Chinese physician Margaret Chan served as the director-general of the World Health Organization from 2006 to 2017. In 2010, she reaffirmed the Memorandum of Understanding between the WHO and the PRC, a document signed in 2005, which stated that the approval of Beijing is required for any involvement by Taiwan in the organization’s activities. Furthermore, she specifically requested their members to call Taiwan a province of China.

In addition, Fang Liu, who became the secretary-general of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in 2015, and Meng Hongwei, who was elected as the president of the Agency Executives of the International Police Organization (INTERPOL) in 2017, are two other Chinese in high-ranking jobs in international organizations.

Perhaps it's not surprising, then, that the ROC's application to join the World Health Assembly, the ICAO, and INTERPOL in 2016/2017 were all rejected despite the support from the US and the EU. Moreover, Taiwanese journalists were expelled from the ICAO, and Taiwanese NGO representatives were told that Taiwanese are not allowed to join the World Health Assembly even with a valid observer pass.

“The 23 million people in Taiwan should not be absent”

Despite the tremendous pressure from China, Taiwanese keep finding ways to be involved in the international arena. Taiwan has participated in the Olympic Games since 1984, in Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation since 1991, and in the World Trade Organization since 2002. And in 2016, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations held its first official dialogue with Taiwan on trade.

In the events listed above, Taiwan participates as a sport entity and an economic entity, since it isn't recognized as a state. Taiwanese hope that in the future they can also participate in other arenas as a health entity (in the WHO) and a cultural entity (in UNESCO).

In 2003, for example, because of the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, several countries supported Taiwan’s application to participate in the World Health Assembly. In response, China’s diplomat Sha Zukang said during the debate there was no need, since China was taking care of the health issues in Taiwan.

The reality, however, was that during the outbreak, it was the United States’ Centers for Disease Control, not China, that dispatched its experts to Taiwan to connect WHO and Taiwanese officials. Yu-Chen Tsai attended the World Health Assembly in 2003 when he was the vice president for internal affairs in the International Federation of Medical Students. He wrote on his blog:

幾年來,看著台灣政府跟非政府組織對加入世衛組織的努力,我也衷心的希望,不管世衛組織的未來將面臨多大的挑戰,台灣的兩千三百萬人,都不應該缺席。

I have seen the efforts that the Taiwanese government and NGOs make to participate in the WHO. I sincerely hope that no matter what challenges WHO will face in the future, the 23 million people in Taiwan should not be absent.

After Margaret Chan was succeeded by Tedros Adhanom in 2017 as WHO director-general, there is hope among Taiwanese that the Memorandum of Understanding between WHO and the PRC can be reviewed.

“‘The world’ is the water in a fish tank, and we are all fish in this tank”

Taiwan is home to an impressive amount of cultural heritage. For example, in contrast to its size, Taiwan hosts one of the most important museums in the world: the National Palace Museum, which is sometimes referred to as “The Louvre of Chinese Art”. Taiwan’s indigenous culture also plays an important role in Polynesians’ history. And its written language preserves the traditional Chinese characters that the PRC has moved away from.

But Taiwan is not a member of UNESCO, and therefore cannot apply for its World Heritage or Intangible Cultural Heritage designations.

Taiwanese artists and researchers still find ways to work with the world. OISTAT, the International Organization of Scenographers, Theater Architects and Technicians, is an NGO sponsored by UNESCO, and it is one of the rare international organizations that has Taiwan as a full member. Moreover, OISTAT moved its headquarters to Taiwan from Netherlands in 2006.

And the international non-profit World Monuments Fund listed the Rukai tribe’s old settlement, Kucapungane, in Taiwan in their World Monument Watch in 2016.

In a forum reported by Taiwan indigenous TV, Hui-Chen Lin, a professor in the Department of Architecture and Cultural Heritage at Taipei National University of the Arts, said that no matter if Taiwan is a member of UNESCO, Taiwanese should preserve their culture heritage, and maybe someday it can be introduced to the world in a formal way:

因為我們現在不是(聯合國)會員,所以我們在國內,先把台灣很有價值的東西,先把它安排好,準備有一天,可以把它指定世界遺產。

Because we are not a member of the [UN], we should preserve this valuable heritage in Taiwan and prepare to make them world heritage someday.

Wan-Jung Wei, the general manager at OISTAT, shared on Facebook her views about Taiwan operating in the international space:

是的,大部分的時候,我們需要努力「走出去」。
是的,大部分的時候,我們常常被擋在門外。
慢慢地,我們忘記,我們也是「國際」的一份子,沒有我們,「國際」終將缺一角。[…]
「國際」不是窗戶外面的世界,
「國際」是魚缸裡的水,我們都是水裡的魚。

Yes. Most of the time we need to make our way out.
Yes. Most of the time we are blocked by the door.
Slowly, we forget that we are also part of the world, and there will be a missing piece in the world without us. […]
‘The world’ is not the world outside the window.
‘The world’ is the water in a fish tank, and we are all fish in this tank.

by I-fan Lin at August 07, 2017 09:38 AM

Marketplace Tech Report
08/07/2017: Drones may join Trump's personal security team
President Trump is scheduled to spend 17 days of working vacation at Trump National Golf Club this month. And near the fairway, the Secret Service will be testing one or more drones. Missy Cummings, director of the Humans and Autonomy Laboratory at Duke University, joined us to chat about how these drones will likely be utilized. Afterwards, we'll look at the video game phenomenon "Overwatch."

by Marketplace at August 07, 2017 09:22 AM

August 06, 2017

Global Voices
Sexual Harassment and Abuse of Power Threaten the Careers of Many Medical Students in Paraguay

Photo: Protest taking place at the Universidad Nacional de Asunción. Published with Kurtural's permission.

The following is a re-edited version of María Dominguez‘s piece, published originally by Kurtural in their series “El país de las mujeres” (A women's country). In the original version, there are more details about the legal issues that make it diffcult to bring sexual harassment perpetrators to justice.  

“It’s just a kiss. No one will know.”

Carolina Wolf is a medical student and delegate of her class at the Asuncion National University School of Medicine (UNA) at its extension campus in Santa Rosa del Aguaray, 250 kilometers north of Asuncion, Paraguay’s capital. She was sitting in the car with Gustavo Rodriguez Andersen, a faculty member of her university, on a rainy night.

Andersen had invited her to attend a conference with him at Asuncion, so she could train her classmates later. At the end of the event he offered her a ride, but before that, he drove around campus for a while, and finally stopped next to a sugar cane plantation, a “dark place”, as Wolf remembered.

“My neck is hurting me,” said professor Andersen.

Wolf looked at him and saw that he was touching himself. “The only thing on my mind at the time was my family. I took my cell phone and started showing him pictures of my mom, dad and siblings to try to distract him,” said the student later. Then she asked him to take her to a nearby food store where someone else would pick her up. When they arrived, Andersen insisted again. He approached Wolf, grabbed her neck, tried to kiss her. There was a struggle.

Wolf broke away from him, got out of the car and walked to the store. She was scared. She called her boyfriend and asked him to come and pick her up. “I told him to never let me come by myself to the university again,” she said.

After that incident Andersen did not try to kiss Wolf again, but he was abusive to her in a different way. “He used to yell at me in front of the entire class, I was speechless when he talked to me. He used to tell me that I was dumb, an idiot and stupid, and all just because I am a woman,” said Wolf.

Wolf did not know how to explain what was going on to her family. She did not say a word about it to anyone. “No one would stop him from being abusive to me; if another student ever tried to say anything their career would be over,” she said.

In September of 2015, UNA’s students finally spoke up about the irregularities at the university. Allegations and charges against dean-level positions and others holding high academic roles at the university became public. The hashtag #UNANoTeCalles (#UNA Don’t Keep Quiet) became a trend on social media during that time. In the middle of that broken silence, Wolf learned that one of her classmates had also been sexually harassed by Andersen.

For me, that was a slap in the face. I still blame myself for not going to the authorities when he attacked me. I knew that he was a powerful man within the university, but I could not stop thinking of what happened to my classmate, so I decided to act and I reported my incident to the authorities,” she explained.

A network of favors

The school of medicine at UNA receives a large amount of state funding through its link with the public hospital network in Paraguay. In the specific case of the extension campus at Santa Rosa, the students’ legal advisor, attorney Guillermo Ferreiro, thinks that this campus was created with the intention of having a place to appoint favorite faculty and administrative members to high-paid positions. “The School of Medicine has become a tool for political domination,” said Ferreiro.

Meanwhile, Minami Akita, a surgery tech student, says that teachers at the school of medicine “owe favors to one another”. Their biggest focus is to get promoted and earn contract positions at the university and/or the hospital. “There is express faculty,” says Akita, referring to staff who are given positions without meeting all the necessary criteria, with the intention that “The Claque” — the power control group at the university — secures a certain number of voters to maintain its authority within the organization.

During the student strike and #UNANoTeCalles campaign, it was said that certain positions at the university were for sale. “Men were asked for cash in exchange for appointing them to certain positions; women, on the other hand, were asked for sexual favors,” says Akita. Because of this, and the fact most of the university's leadership positions are occupied by men, Akita believes that the School of Medicine exercises dual oppression against women.

During their promotion of #UNANoTeCalles social media campaign, Akita and her group received several complaints about the university’s wrongdoings; at least five or six out of every ten complaints were due to sexual harassment. One of the most remarkable stories was about a surgical tech student who acted in some way as an agent, behaving as a pimp would. In the operating room, she negotiated with students about attending private parties with certain teachers. At these events, students would exchange sexual favors for jobs at the hospital. Sometimes, it was the surgeons themselves who would make the offers directly to the students, while working with them during medical procedures.

A protocol to stop sexual harassment at the university

During the #UNANoTeCalles movement, students’ family members came to the university to protest against the abuse, harassment and aggression that the students were victims of, and that — for the first time — were becoming public knowledge. One of them was Dr. Graciela Escobar, an anesthesiologist who also graduated from UNA, and mother to one of the leaders of this student movement at the school of medicine.

In recent months, students’ families have embarked on a “crusade against harassment”, as Escobar calls it, by hearing the severity of the witness testimonies.

Using Wolf’s case as a starting point, they have been asking senators and representatives to act as intermediaries in a debate to establish new protocols against harassment and gender-based discrimination at institutions of higher education. “We’re asking for a new protocol to deal specifically with harassment cases across all campuses of UNA, and that includes a system that keeps victims from being re-victimized by having to tell their story over and over again. We want student affairs offices to have psychologists, psychiatrists and social workers, and that these offices can receive these types of complaints and handle them properly with the corresponding authorities”, says Escobar.

In the midst of all these efforts against impunity, there is the possibility of reopening Carolina Wolf’s case. On May 30, 2016, the Court of Appeals overturned the dismissal of Andersen’s charges made earlier in February. This change may lead to a new hearing of the case with a different judge and district attorney.

by Miriam Kellerman at August 06, 2017 06:56 PM

‘They Can't Stop Us’ — World Mourns Execution of Palestinian-Syrian Activist Bassel Khartabil Safadi by the Assad Regime

Photo of Bassel used on social media in his honor, based on a Tweet he sent on December 17, 2011. Used with permission.

On August 1, 2017, Noura Ghazi Safadi revealed that her husband, the famous Palestinian-Syrian open web activist Bassel Khartabil (aka Bassel Safadi), was executed by the Assad regime days after being taken from Syria's notorious Adra prison, where he was held, in October of 2015.

Bassel was a close friend of many in the Global Voices community and participated in our 2009 Arab Bloggers Meeting. We had been calling for his release since his disappearance in 2015.

Bassel could trace his origins to Safed, a Palestinian town in the Galilee region of historic Palestine, and one of the many areas from which Palestinians were ethnically cleansed by Zionist militias in the context of the creation of the State of Israel, an event Palestinians call the ‘Nakba’, or ‘Catastrophe’ in English.

He was well-known for his advocacy of online access and open knowledge to the Syrian public, as well as bringing open-source software to Syria.

In two separate statuses, one in Arabic and one in English, Noura wrote:

Words are difficult to come by while I am about to announce, on behalf of Bassel's family and mine, the confirmation of the death sentence and execution of my husband Bassel Khartabil Safadi. He was executed just days after he was taken from Adra prison in October 2015.
This is the end that suits a hero like him.
Thank you for killing my lover.
I was the bride of the revolution because of you.
And because of you I became a widow.
This is a loss for Syria.
This is loss for Palestine.
This is my loss…

The news of Bassel's execution mobilized many from the Syrian and/or open source and free Internet advocacy movements.

Palestinian blogger and Global Voices contributor Budour Hassan said:

We can't walk in your procession our dear. We can't celebrate your martyrdom. O Martyr, we can't put roses on your grave, O Bassel.

O Bassel and Noura, you broke us. We are so helpless and defeated.

Hassan had written an article in late 2016 entitled ‘Syria's Desaparecidos‘, in which she speaks of Bassel as a symbol of Syria's “third alternative”:

Much has been said about the lack of a ‘third alternative’ in Syria, which has been cast by western media as a binary conflict between a military dictatorship and Islamists.
Bassel and Noura opposed both while also rejecting foreign intervention, as do thousands of Syrians who are still languishing in the Syrian regime’s jails. Surrounded by some terrorists in suits and others with long beards, and betrayed by a fragmented opposition handcuffed by donor states and driven by foreign agendas, there are Syrians who want to reclaim a country they could call home; a country where they wouldn’t have to choose between assorted evils; where they don’t have to choose between death by beheading or shelling or starvation.

The New Palmyra online community platform, which Bassel founded, released this statement:

Murhaf Fares, from the Oslo-based Syrian Peace Action Centre, who is in exile, reflected on Bassel's death by mentioning two schoolmates from Damascus University that are still missing to this day:

Over 60 Syrian organizations honored Bassel and demanded that all prisoners of conscience be released in Syria. Their demands were translated by Global Voices contributor and co-founder of Social Media Exchange, Mohammad Najem, who was a good friend of Bassel's:

Najem would send Bassel books to read and Bassel was particularly happy to receive a book by the Persian poet Rumi. Najem shared the letter on social media:

Najem also revealed that he was running the @MeInSyrianJail Twitter account on behalf of Bassel:

Washington Post's Liz Sly revealed that Bassel was one of her unnamed sources in the early months of the revolution, reflecting that she can now reveal that information:

Amnesty International's Senior Director of Research, Anna Neistat, said that “Bassel Khartabil will always be remembered as a symbol of courage, who peacefully fought for freedom to the very end”, adding that his death is “a grim reminder of the horrors that take place in Syrian prisons every day”:

The tens of thousands of people currently locked away inside Syrian government detention facilities face torture, ill-treatment and extra-judicial executions. These cruel acts undoubtedly amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Palestinian activist Mariam Barghouti described Bassel's death as “a terrible loss”:

Salim Salamah, a Palestinian-Syrian activist and refugee now living in Sweden, reminded us that an estimated 3,000 Palestinian-Syrians have been killed by the Assad regime:

The Free Internet community also mourned Bassel with several statements. The Jimmy Wales Foundation announced:

Jimmy Wales and The Jimmy Wales Foundation are strongly condemning the criminal execution of Bassel, an innocent activist, and sending our deep condolences to Bassel’s wife and family.

Ryan Merkley, CEO of Creative Commons, reacted with shock:

Access Now used the #WhereIsBassel hashtag, which was the one used when Bassel first went missing:

The MIT Media Lab, which had offered Bassel a research scientist position in the Media Lab’s Center for Civic Media, also acknowledged the great loss. It turned out that they had made the offer around the same time of Bassel's reported execution:

As Bassel was a Wikimedian, the Wikimedia Foundation also mourned him:

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) released a number of letters that Bassel had sent to them. In one of them, dated March 15, 2015, from Damascus Central Jail, he wrote:

As long as you people out doing what you are doing, my soul is free. Jail is only a temporary physical limitation.

In the subsequent Twitter thread, the EFF explained Bassel's role in promoting the open internet in Syria:

Bassel created Aiki Lab, Syria's first hackerspace, in Damascus in 2010, and helped open the internet to the Syrian people. He worked with global contacts, including EFF activists, to advance freedom of speech and access. He received a number of awards including the 2013 Index on Censorship Digital Freedom Award for using technology to promote an open Internet. Among many, many accomplishments, he was a contributor to Mozilla and Wikipedia, and he was the Syrian lead for Creative Commons.

by Joey Ayoub at August 06, 2017 04:44 PM

How an Indian Village in West Bengal Successfully Campaigned to Get Its Own Ambulance Service

The ambulance availability in India is inadequate. Image from Flickr via user Jenny Mackness. CC BY-NC 2.0

This post was written by Alankrita Anand and originally appeared on Video Volunteers, an award-winning international community media organization based in India. An edited version is published below as part of a content-sharing agreement.

In India, there is tremendous shortfall in emergency medical services (EMS) in urban and rural areas. In rural and remote areas critical patients risk their lives due to the lack of affordable ambulance services. This article tells the story of how a video report by VideoVolunteers community correspondent Bikash Barman depicting the problem made it possible to produce an ambulance at a nearby health facility.

Delayed Treatment of Critical Patients

The delay in arrival at a public health facility, in seeking care and the delay in provision of adequate care has been identified as central causes of maternal mortality and need to be addressed to ensure that India meets Goal Three, Target 3.1 of the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals which seeks to “reduce the global maternal mortality rate to less than 70 per 100,000 live births by 2030.” While the World Health Organisation stipulates one ambulance for every 100,000 people in the plains and one ambulance per 70,000 people for more sparsely populated areas, a study conducted by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) revealed that in New Delhi itself, there is one ambulance for every 144,736 people. Far from the national capital, the condition worsens in India’s rural areas.

In West Bengal, there are 788 ambulances against the ideal number of 913. A study in the Purulia district of West Bengal found that over 60% of pregnant women in the district died in healthcare facilities while 12% were declared dead on arrival, attributing this to the lack and inefficiency of government ambulance services. The lack of ambulance services in Kalpani village of Coochbehar district led to a high rate of home deliveries, which can pose a threat to the life of the mother and child in case of high-risk pregnancies. The village is surrounded by the Torsa river on three sides and boats do not ply in the monsoon. The village does not have a Primary Health Centre either and in the monsoon months, it becomes difficult to get to the nearest hospital, making it particularly difficult for women to access maternal health care.

A Video Made The Difference

On December 11, 2016, Minoti Karji, a resident of Kalpani went into labour. Repeated calls to 108, the ambulance helpline went unanswered and eventually, a private vehicle was hired for 700 rupees, a hefty sum for most residents of the village. According to a UNICEF study on maternal and perinatal death, the high cost of transportation often deters poorer families from accessing healthcare. In cases of emergency, precious time is wasted over deciding whether to spend on a private vehicle or not and the loss of time leads to deaths.

In Karji’s case, the family did manage to take her to the hospital in time but she was told that she still had over a month for her delivery and was discharged the next morning despite being in pain. Karji delivered her baby later that evening. Karji was furious that she still had to give birth at home, which is often risky, despite having spent out of her pocket to get to the hospital in the first place. She didn’t have the money to hire another private vehicle to go the hospital and so, gave birth at home.

After the incident, Bikash Barman took up the issue of maternal health care in the village and decided to first take up the issue of unavailability of ambulances through a video in December 2016.

For the next six months, the community with support from Bikash and White Ribbon Alliance (WRA), a non-profit that is working on addressing the issue of high rate of home births in Kalpani, pursued the case. The video became an important tool for reaching out to stakeholders across the board: it was first screened at a meeting of the gram panchayat (village governance) in the presence of the village headman. Soon, the village headman along with ASHA workers (community health workers) from Kalpani and WRA decided to take up the issue with local member of parliament (MP) Partha Pratim Roy, who asked the gram panchayat to file an application. The panchayat submitted the application in February itself. By March, the village got its own 24/7 ambulance and the service was finally inaugurated on June 2, 2017. Bikash says that buying and registering the vehicle took some time. Nonetheless, the availability of the service is a huge relief for the residents of Kalpani. Minoti Karji is visibly happy that maternal and child care is now within reach.

The story of Kalpani is an example of how a community with support from civil society and a willing state can ensure delivery of maternal health care services even to the most remote areas. While in the case of Kalpani, the state authorities did act; examples from other parts of the country show how communities and organizations have come up with alternatives in the absence of support from the state. In Bilaspur in Chhattisgarh, Jan Swasthya Sahyog (JSS) runs buses connecting villages to health centres at 40 paise (1 US Cent) per kilometre. A public-private partnership model is also being followed in some states; Deepak Foundation is in partnership with the government of Gujarat and provides ambulance services for pregnant women in Baroda. Alternative models range from practical to shocking. In Nandurbar district of Maharashtra, residents have put together the most rudimentary means of transport for those in need of healthcare: a bamboolance or a bamboo stretcher. While innovations of this kind are a boon in remote areas, they cannot replace essential public services.

Minoti is relieved that Kalpani now has a dedicated ambulance service. Screenshot from YouTube Video

Moreover, the availability of ambulances is only one part of the problem. In the above video, Bikash reports that the village does not have a private health clinic and the river has no bridge to take the residents to the town either. Even when Karji did make it to the hospital in a private care, hers was a case of medical negligence. Despite the community health workers insisting that she was in labor, the doctor sent her away and asked: “Am I the doctor or you?” A clear breach of medical ethics is evident here, Bikash says that nothing can be done about the way doctors treat patients from poor and marginalized backgrounds.

According to the WHO, five women die every hour in India from childbirth complications and the majority of these deaths are preventable. The example of Kalpani is a success story at the outset but multiple aspects of maternal health care need to be taken care of. Under the government’s MMR reduction programme, the Janani Suraksha Yojna, ambulance services are to be made available to women in need within 30 minutes of their call. This is but the first step and a futile one if the hospital does not have the required facilities or is negligent of the patient’s needs.

Video Volunteers runs India's only reporting network that's focused exclusively on providing broad coverage from the poorest, most media-dark districts in India.

by VideoVolunteers at August 06, 2017 04:28 PM

Japanese Politician Pressures School Principal About the Use of History Textbook that Explains the ‘Comfort Women’ Issue

”Let's make sure our children have a textbook that tells them the truth about history.” (Stock photo). Image from Wikimedia user Japanexperterna.

On Friday, August 4, 2017, the topic of history textbooks took over Japanese Twitter. The phrase “why was this textbook selected” (教科書なぜ採択) briefly trended on Twitter after a local newspaper in Kobe in western Japan reported that a local politician and member of the government questioned how and why a prestigious middle school chose a new history textbook, prompting fears of political pressure over the education system. A subsequent hashtag also briefly trended, “they included descriptions of the ‘comfort women'” (#慰安婦の記述を残した).

In World War II, up to 200,000 women from more than ten countries across Asia were forced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army. These women were euphemistically called ianfu (‘comfort women’) in Japanese, and have long been a source of political controversy.

According to a story published on August 4 by the Kobe Shimbun, Moriyama Masahito, a member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party who serves as a deputy justice minister and represents the affluent city of Nishinomiya to the east of Kobe, asked why Nada Middle School had chosen a textbook called “Studying Human History Together” (ともに学ぶ人間の歴史).

Moriyama Masahito asked Nada Middle School “Why was this textbook selected?” (Reported by Kobe Shimbun NEXT)

#they included descriptions of the ‘comfort women‘” Middle school history textbook “Studying Human History Together”, Manabisha (Schoolhouse) edition.

Nada Middle School is affiliated and co-located with a prestigious high school in Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture, that routinely sends its graduates to top-ranking universities in Japan and abroad. In fact, Moriyama is a graduate of the school, and, as an “old boy” and member of the government, can be expected to wield considerable influence at the school.

As Kobe Shimbun observed:

インターネット上でも「政治圧力ではないか」と問題視する声が上がっている

On the Internet, worried voices wondered:  “Isn't this political pressure?”

According to Kobe Shimbun, Moriyama had a problem with the fact the history textbook selected for Nada Middle School described the ‘comfort women’ issue. During World War II, the Japanese Imperial Army had forced women in several Asian countries, known as ‘comfort women’, to work in military-run brothels.

However, the problem Moriyama and others have with the textbook is not that it mentions the ‘comfort women’ issue. Instead, according to the Kobe Shimbun article, the problem is that the textbook includes a short description of the Japanese government's 1993 “Kono Statement.” In the Kono Statement, the Japanese government acknowledged that the Japanese army coerced women into working in brothels, but some conservative politicians and commentators in Japan such as Moriyama still dispute the Japanese government's role.

According to Kobe Shimbun:

同校が採択したのは、「学び舎(しゃ)」の歴史教科書「ともに学ぶ人間の歴史」。教科書は現役教員やOBらが執筆し、他社で記述がない慰安婦問題に言及。1993年に河野洋平官房長官(当時)が元慰安婦へのおわびと反省を表明した「河野談話」を載せ、併せて「軍や官憲によるいわゆる強制連行を直接示すような資料は発見されていない」と現在の政府見解も取り上げている。

Nada Middle selected Gakubisha's history textbook “Studying Human History Together” (ともに学ぶ人間の歴史). The textbook was written by current faculty and alumni of Nada High School, and includes details of the ‘comfort women’ issue that are not included in other (middle school) history textbooks. Then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Kono Yohei published regrets to former ‘comfort women’ in a document known as the Kono Statement.

At the same time, the current Japanese government's position is that “there is no evidence of Japanese military or government coercion.”

Kobe Shimbun noted that Nada Middle School's new textbook had been approved by Hyogo Prefectural Board of Education for use in schools, although Nada Middle School was the only school to use the textbook. Other observers have noted that, despite perceptions from outside of Japan and pressure from right-leaning politicians, Japanese history textbooks offer a rather dry chronology of events without much interpretive narrative.

Moriyama was not the only Japanese politician or alumnus of the school to complain about the textbook. Kobe Shimbun noted that a year ago, Wada Yuichiro, a member of the Hyogo Prefectural (state) Assembly representing a ward in Kobe, had also complained to the school principal, Wada Magohiro about the selection of the textbook. In a letter published onto the Internet (the full letter can be read here), the principal said he felt “unfairly pressured” (謂れのない圧力) from both politicians, as well as a letter-writing campaign protesting the textbooks that saw at least 200 postcards sent to the school.

According to Kobe Shimbun, both Moriyama and Wada have denied any connection to the letter-writing campaign, while Moriyama has stated he was simply making his feelings known as an “old boy,” rather than as a member of the government.

While criticisms over the selection of the textbook at Nada Middle School have been ongoing for about a year, Kobe Shimbun first reported on the controversy on August 4, shortly after Wada Magohiro published his letter. The Kobe Shimbun story quickly became a national story, getting picked up by Yahoo! News and other outlets, as well as on blogs and by Japanese Twitter users.

One Twitter user observed that the feud over textbooks at Nada Middle School comes at a time when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government is being hammered in opinion polls in part because of a shady land deal that benefited ultra-conservative and ultra-nationalist organization Moritomo Gakuen that teaches emperor worship.

Moriyama Masahito asked Nada Middle School “Why was this textbook selected?” (Reported by Kobe Shimbun NEXT)

I thought that ever since the Moritomo Gakuen issue the consensus has been that political intervention in education is undesirable???

by Nevin Thompson at August 06, 2017 11:09 AM

A Retired Teacher and Granddaughter of Slaves Gives Her Personal Account of Racism in Modern Brazil

“I want them to recognize that the Brazil of today exists because black people died…”

The account of the teacher on how it is to experience racism in Brazil went viral. Screenshot of video via Facebook.

Diva Guimarães was not a name known to Brazilians until 28 July. The 77-year-old retired teacher, who is black, became the star of the country’s largest literary event when, during a discussion on racism in Brazil, she rose from her chair to explain her own personal experiences.

After a few minutes, her emotional account — her voice was strong, but broke at times — got a standing ovation at the Literary Festival of Paraty (FLIP), which is held every two years in the city on Rio de Janeiro state’s coast. She said later:

Ontem, eu fui libertada por mim. Eu quero deixar claro que não me sinto vítima, não me sinto nenhuma miserável, apesar de tudo o que eu passei, e que ao pensarem que estavam me prejudicando, me auxiliaram com todo o sofrimento a chegar onde eu cheguei.

Yesterday, I set myself free. I want to make it clear that I did not feel like a victim, I did not feel miserable at all, despite everything I’ve been through, and that when they thought they were hurting me, they helped me with the suffering to get to where I have.

Diva was born in the city of Serra Morena in Paraná state in southern Brazil. According to her, the place now has a little over 200 houses. A granddaughter of slaves, she said that her mother endured all types of humiliation to ensure that her children received an education. This was how Diva, still a child, came to the state capital Curitiba — a city where only 2.8% of the population identify as black — and then become a teacher.

During her talk, which went viral on social media, she said she was taken to a religious school at the age of five to study and work, and recalled the racism she encountered there:

Vou contar uma história que marcou a minha vida. Eu amadureci com 6 anos. As freiras contavam a seguinte história: Jesus criou um rio e mandou todos tomar banho, se banhar na água abençoada daquele maldito rio. As pessoas que são brancas é porque eram pessoas trabalhadoras, inteligentes e chegaram nesse rio, tomaram banho, ficaram brancos. Nós, que como negros, somos preguiçosos – o que não é verdade, porque esse país vive hoje porque meus antepassados deram condição para todos – mas então, nós, como negros preguiçosos, chegamos no final, quando todos tinham tomado banho e o rio só tinha lama. Por isso, nós só temos a palma da mão clara e a sola dos pés. Porque nós só conseguimos tocar as mãos e os pés [na água]. Isso a freira explicava para contar aos brancos como nós éramos preguiçosos. Isso não é verdade, porque senão, a gente não teria sobrevivido.

I am going to tell a story that marked my life. I matured at the age of six. The nuns told the following story: Jesus created a river and told everybody to wash, to bathe themselves in the blessed water of that cursed river. The people who are white are so because they were hardworking, intelligent people and came to this river, bathed, became white. We, as blacks, are lazy – which is not true, because this country lives today because my ancestors provided for everybody – but then we, as lazy blacks, arrived at the end, when everybody had bathed and the river was only mud. So, we only have the palms of our hands and soles of our feet clear. Because we only managed to touch our hands and feet [to the water]. The nun explained this to tell the whites how we were lazy. This is not true, because otherwise, we would not have survived.

This year, Diva travelled to Paraty to meet Conceição Evaristo, a writer and activist in the black movement, who is someone of reference in Brazil. She told a TV outlet at the festival that she always dreamed of participating in the event, but was unable to as she uses her salary to support three other people. She ended up, though, coming in the very year that the person honoured was writer Lima Barreto, who was also the grandson of enslaved people.

In the same video, Diva explained what made her ask for the microphone to speak:

O que aconteceu ontem foi da alma. Eu me levantei por impulso e disse: não vou perder essa oportunidade de falar pelos negros de hoje e, especialmente, pelos negros de ontem, que sofreram por esse país, morreram de todas as formas. Eu quero que eles reconheçam que o Brasil de hoje existe porque os negros morreram para dar qualidade de vida para os que hoje estão aqui.

What happened yesterday was from the soul. I stood up on impulse and said: I am not going to lose this opportunity to speak for the black people of today and, especially, for the black people of yesterday, who suffered for this country, died in every way. I want them to recognize that the Brazil of today exists because black people died to give a quality of life to those who are here today.

The teacher, who became a celebrity and was asked for selfies at the festival, asked today’s young black people to study and read to help undo the prejudiced myth that their people are “lazy”.

Soon after giving her account, which already has millions of views, she said experienced racism once more. The episode was recounted to the newspaper Folha de São Paulo, and it shows the prejudice that so marks Brazil, but which the country resists acknowledging: Diva was walking through the Literary Festival fair when she was approached by an angry salesperson, who harassed her to clean up the excrement of a dog a few metres away. Aside from her not being the dog’s owner, she was also not the only person in the area that he could have approached. Even so, the man chose her out of all those passing by. She remarked: “I know why”.

With over half the population identifying as black, Brazil denies racism

A survey by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) highlights that black people represent 53.6% of Brazil’s population today. However, they make up only 17.2% of the country’s richest 1%. In May at the UN Council of Human Rights, African and black-majority countries called for the Brazilian government to take measures to combat racism in the country. According to the BBC:

Essas nações pediram providências do governo brasileiro para a redução dos homicídios contra jovens negros, garantia de liberdade religiosa, melhora ao acesso a educação de qualidade pela população afro-brasileira, proteção e garantias de direitos para mulheres negras e mais acesso a políticas de redução da pobreza e acesso a programas sociais.

These nations asked for measures from the Brazilian government to reduce homicides of young black people, to guarantee freedom of religion, to improve access to quality education for the African-Brazilian population, to protect and guarantee the rights of black women and more access to policies of poverty reduction and access to social programs.

At the same discussion which made Diva famous shortly before she spoke, actor Lázaro Ramos also gave an account of how racism has a ripple effect on all Brazilian society. Brazil was the last country in the Western world to abolish slavery, doing so in 1888. “It is a central question what is happening today in Brazil with the black youth. Many people with potential are being assassinated”, he said before going to the reading of one of his texts:

Sim, somos racistas. Acreditemos e lutemos para não sermos. Sim, somos classistas. Aqui, quem estuda mais, ou seja, quem teve mais chance, tem direito a cela especial [no presídio]. Gostamos de celebrar e de privilegiar o especial. Cela ruim é para preto e pobre. Bota eles lá e tira eles da nossa frente.

Yes, we are racist. We believe and fight to not be. Yes, we are classist. Here, who studies more, that is, who had more opportunity, has the right to a special cell [in prison]. We like to celebrate and privilege the special. A bad cell for black and poor. Throw them there and take them out of our way.

Independent journalist group Mídia Ninja met with Diva in Paraty and asked, “What message would she give to today’s young black women?” Her response was:

“Que elas não se valorizem pelo corpo, se valorizem pela cultura. Que elas não são mercadoria sexual (…) Que elas tenham discernimento para distinguir esse tipo de abuso. Ela tem o direito de usar o corpo como quiser, mas não dessa maneira que tentam passar, como tentam fazer que os negros sejam conhecidos fora do Brasil como objeto sexual”.

That they do not measure themselves by their body, but measure themselves by their culture. That they are not sexual merchandise […] That they have the insight to discern this type of abuse. She has the right to use her body as she wants, but not in this way that tries to pass, as they try to make it that black people are known outside of Brazil as sexual objects.

by Liam Anderson at August 06, 2017 10:42 AM

Feeds In This Planet