Sunday, August 30, 2009

Women in Afghanistan make gains in education, business

The “Sunday Read” of the Washington Times on Aug. 30 has an important story about the education of and growing business opportunities for women in Afghanistan. The story is by Ann Geracimos, the title is “Opportunities expand for empowered Afghan women”, link here. The newspaper magazine cover read "Lifting the Veil".

The opportunities include expanding literacy for married couples, a novel idea in a culture that had emphasized a simplistic idea of male domination and provisionism.

One of the biggest areas of entrepreneurialism is “microcredit”.

However, progress depends on keeping the Taliban and radical Islamic forces at bay. In some areas of Pakistan, trends are definitely going in the wrong direction.

On Monday Aug. 31, however, Pamela Constable had a front page story in The Washington Post, "Many Women Stayed Away From the Polls In Afghanistan: Fear, Tradition, Apathy Reversed Hopeful Trend", link here.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

CIA declassifies report on rendition; intelligence collected may be of marginal value

The CIA’s declassified report on the use of “rendition” on terror subjects including KSM is here. I had to use Mozilla: Internet Explorer 8 in Vista kept hanging on the sort by date, so there may be a minor programming problem on the site. Note the link for a PDF of the CIA Inspector General Report on Conterterrorism, Detention and Interrogation Activities from 2001-2003.

The media has reported that, while interrogation got terror subjects to revel what sound like horrific plans that could involve ordinary civilians in residences and offices in urban areas, many were probably “fantasies” and not at all close to being carried out—hence the moral justification for “rendition” is less. Peter Bergen discussed the report on CNN Tuesday night.

Former VP Cheney has insisted that the information collected did protect Americans, but others dispute his claims.

Picture: NYC from Amtrak train in New Jersey Meadowlands, November 2004.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Journalist jailed in Zambia while reporting on heath care

A journalist, Chansa Kabwela, has been jailed in Zambia for taking “pornographic” photos (and distributing them to government officials) of childbirth and other personal care matters while trying to document the state of the nation’s health care. The ABC Newser story, by Clark Bentson, is here.

The country’s newspaper, The Post, did not publish the photo but the country’s president Rupiah Banda heard about the photos and ordered the arrest.

Around the world, journalists wander and report the truth at their own peril.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Malaysian woman sentenced to caning under Shariah law

On August 21, a Malaysian state court sentenced a woman (Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno,) to caning after she was seen drinking beer in public. The punishment apparently follows Shariah law. Amnesty International reported the story on Aug. 21, here. The incident occurred in Pahang. The woman is the first to have corporal punishment under shariah.

Like much of Islam, some of Malaysian culture emphasizes the honor of the family as a group of people rather than as individuals, and believes that entire family is shamed.

The caning of Michael Fay in Singapore (an independent city-state) in 1994 attracted international attention.

Monday, the media reported that imposition of the sentence had been delayed.

Attribution link for Wikipedia CIA map (p.d.) of Malaysia.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Aghanistan voters subject to severe retribution by Taliban

In one of the most atrocious human rights abuses ever reported in recent times, CNN is saying that the Taliban is amputating the ink-stained fingers of people who vote in some villages in Afghanistan. The story link is here. In Afghanistan, people dip their index fingers in ink to identify that they have already voted; they don’t have sophisticated computerized poll lists and tracking systems that poll election judges know in the United States.

Naamua Delaney’s video clip on the election is here.

Monday, August 17, 2009

China drops "Green Dam" installation requirement for new PC's

The Washington Post has an important editorial Monday, Aug. 17, “China’s Great Firewall: The Green Dam episode suggests that the West has some influence in preserving Internet freedom”, link here.

China’s industry ministry dropped the requirement that all new computers in China come with the “The Green Dam” pre-installed. But the keyword triggered filter worked only with Internet Explorer, not with Mozilla or Chrome, and left PC’s vulnerable to hacking for botnets and DOS attacks.

China still employs civil servants to troll websites for politically disallowed speech. What a job.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Internet blogging Company pulls out of Australia because of downstream liability issues (no section 230 overseas)

Here’s a good example of what can happen when you don’t have Section 230-like protections for bloggers and forum hosts. A company that hosts a forum in Australia is pulling out of the country after ir was sued by aspiring filmmakers company who claimed they lost a movie deal because of the contents of a 9/11 thread. The suit was thrown out, but might come up again, so the company has pulled out. The posting was on “Slashdot” and made by “Timothy” and is here.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

EFF offers guide for overseas activists

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has a manual advice page for activists overseas in repressive countries. It is called “Surveillance Self-Defense International: 6 Ideas For Those Needing Defensive Technology to Protect Free Speech from Authoritarian Regimes and 4 Ways the Rest of Us Can Help” The link is here.

There is a lot of detail here, including the importance of https, the right way to use Tor bridges and relays. In some cases, activists should not publish in their own names or use ISP’s who do business in their countries.

There is discussion of Pigkin and Adium X messaging programs, for use of the OTR plug-in.

It is suggested not to use SMS messaging, common on cell phones and blackberries.

EFF also suggests that the public help by running Tor bridges or exit nodes.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Nigeria and Sharia explored in news story

Karen Brulliard of the Washington Post Foreign Service has an interesting piece Wed. Aug. 12, “In Nigeria, Sharia Fails to Deliver; Vows of accountability, equity under Moderate Islamic law are unmet”, link here.

There is a lot of discussion of the northern part of the country, and of the paradoxes that Sharia could introduce. To a westerner, it seems that Sharia seems like an attempt to measure everyone according to a religious value system that has some fatherly definitions of right and wrong.

The issue is critical probably also because Nigeria has quite a bit of problems with vandalism agains toil supplies.

Visitors will want to look at the “Muslims Against Sharia” blog (on Blogger), with URL link here.

Also, on Wordpress, look up “Creeping Sharia” here.

Of course, we're familiar with calls to implement Sharia on Muslims (individually, voluntarily?) in Britain.

Attribution link for CIA map (unclassified, public domain) of Nigeria.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

China arrests lawyer for advocating "rule of law"

The New York Times has a story about an arrest in China of Xu Zhiyong, a lawyer, supposedly for tax evasion, but apparently motivated by his advocacy of placing constitutional limitations on the arbitrary use of power by the “Capitalist-Communist” government of the Peoples Republic of China, so well documented last year by Ted Koppel’s documentary. The article also covers the histories of lawyers Gao Zhisheng and Chen Guangcheng, the latter having tried to expose China’s birth control program.

The story is by Andrew Jacobs, appears on the front page Aug. 10, and is titled “New blog to rights campaign as China detains legal activist”, link here.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Putin goes shirtless, and shows no shame

Media outlets have reported Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin shirtless in various outdoor poses, muscular and apparently proudly hairless, in a number of stories, such as this “K-G-Beefcake” AP story in MSNBC.

So, Putin is not modest about his body.

The scenery in the slideshows and video, from southern Siberia, looks like it came from Sergei Bodrov’s film “Mongol” about Ghengis Khan.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Bill Clinton apparently has negotiated release of journalists from North Korea

Many media sources report that North Korea will free two journalists recently sentenced to hard labor after wandering into the country from China. The release was brokered by former president Bill Clinton, whose wife was a candidate for the Democratic Party nomination in 2008 and is now Secretary of State. It is believed that president Obama arranged the meeting between Bill Clinton and Kim Jong Il.

The communique said that Clinton and "his party" were leaving, implying release. Apparently Clinton made some progress in getting North Korea to back down on nuclear weapons, based on his negotiations during his own term in the 1990s.

The North Koreans "win" by getting Bill Clinton to show up. Weird! Of course, Obama had promised during the campaign to "reach out to North Korea."


On Wednesday, media sources indicated that Bill Clinton was contacted through Al Gore, and that "officially" president Obama had nothing to do with it.

The journalists gave a press conference Wednesday morning. They indicated that when they were led to a meeting they saw Bill Clinton, and knew that their ordeal was over. Al Gore spoke at the press conference.

Al Gore's remarks:

Attribution link for Wikimedia topographic map of North Korea

Monday, August 3, 2009

Three "hikers" held by Iran in accidental border crossing

Iran has arrested three American hikers who apparently wandered across the border from Iraq. An Australian version of the story (Silo Breaker) is here and contains a lot of interesting speculation about the involvement of Switzerland and the Kurdish province.

There are some versions of the story that claim that one or more Americans might be amateur journalists. There is fear that Iran will try them or expect them to prove they are not spies.

A CNN story names the detainees, with link here.

They were identified as Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Joshua Fattal. Apparently they had been hiking in eastern Kurdistan, in an area depicted in the film ”Iraq in Fragments”.

Wikipedia attribution link for map of Kurdistan, public domain, from CIA.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

US Cyberwarfare limited by collateral damage concerns; concerns about "payback"?

The New York Times has an engaging front page article Aug. 2 about US policy on cyberwarfare and civilian infrastructure harm. The story goes back to 2003 when an official hack of the Iraqi financial system was considered, but it was feared that it would spread to Europe, other Middle Eastern countries, and even the US. But subsequent attacks with some collateral damage in Syria and other countries were considered acceptable.

The story by John Markoff and Thom Shanker is “U.S. weighs risks of civilian harm in cyberwarfare; a thorny policy issue; prospect of unintended havoc limits attacks on computers.” The link is here.

Of course, the US would be “setting an example” that conceivably could be imitated by overseas hackers with connections. What they said on "Days of our Lives" is "Payback's a b___".