Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Global map of International takedown requests on Google

We have a pretty good handle on worldwide government takedown requests of Internet content by country and then by type of content, at Google’s map site called “government requests” (of Google and YouTube), link here
The United States map shows the count of six blogs involved in supposedly copyright infringing music clips .

The maps show how many of the requests were complied with. The largest volume was actually Brazil, with 291 requests of which 99 were orkut but over 30 were Blogger.

Germany was high with 188 removal requests.

The map also shows the number of data requests, which is usually much higher. Try this in Chrome.

The map does give us a handle on “international free speech”.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Prada Japan accused of sexist workplace discrimination

Bruce Watson of Daily Finance has an intriguing story of gender , marital status and age discrimination in the workplace in Japan in the fashion industry, specifically at Prada Japan (remember the film with meryl Streep?) The story link is here.

Apparently a female executive there was told that women over 30 without husbands and children were “disgusting” and was told to lose weight.

It’s hard to say if this fits the international fashion industry as a whole (“The September Issue”) and how it fits in with Japan’s paternalistic, gender-related workplace culture.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Indonesia upholds religious heresy law

A law banning religious blasphemy has been upheld in Indonesia, according to a story in the New York Times on p A8 of the April 20 New York Times, link here.

Indonesia recognizes six religions: Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Confucianism. But the law is mainly applied for perceived insults to Islam.

The law provides for up to five years in prison for “heresy.”

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Greenies now start to predict a population fall-off eventually

Here’s another interesting perspective on population demographics by Cheryl Wetzstein in the “family & kids” commentary, “Greenies warned of birthrate crash”, link here.

She admits that some of the discussion of "demographic winter" comes from the "pro-family" right, especially the "natural family" advocacy of writers like Allan Carlson (Books blog, Sept. 2009).

She discusses the predictions of British social scientist Fred Pearce and author of “The Coming Population Crash: and Our Planet’s Surprising Future” (Beacon Press, available Apr 1), (web url) link here.

Larger families in poorer countries make a smaller ecological or carbon footprint than small families or even individuals in rich ones. But even in the developing world fertility will level off and eventually world population will start to decline, for the first time since the Black Plague.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, if a population is older and wiser, if the economy can keep it employed and if people can stay healthier. But then the role of children and families as a component of human identity really will be put to the test.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

NYTimes op-ed points out a paradox in nuclear threat today compared to Cold War era

Scott Shane has a lively op-ed in the April 15 New York Times, “Cold War Nuclear Fears Now Apply to Terrorists,” link here.

As far back as 1951, president Harry Truman was warned about the possibility of sleeper cells that could smuggle in a nuclear weapon or even radioactive material. Alfred Hitchcock made at least one film in 1946 about the threat, “Notorious”, although the enemy was neo-fascists, not communists. (The same director had made other movies like "Saboteur" and would make "Torn Curtain" and "Topaz".)  And one of my own unpublished novel drafts from 1988, called “Tribunal and Rapture”, speculated that communist sympathizers could contaminate cities and force people into a Maoist “cultural revolution” retreat to the countryside. (A 1972 version of this idea had been called “The Proles” and I was working on a handwritten manuscript of this idea as far back as 1969 in the barracks when I was in the Army. Other buddies thought it was a troubling idea, good for the movies, at least.)

Of course, now, the roles are switched. Al Qaeda brags what it would do if it had a suitcase nuke, but it doesn’t seem that close to getting one. Hopefully. It’s a lot easier to do a “good police call” on loose nuclear waste around the world than seal borders. That’s the point made by the Nuclear Threat Initiative and it’s 45 minute film “The Last Best Chance.”

Friday, April 16, 2010

Russia questions allowing U.S. families to adopt its orphaned children

There are numerous media reports that Russia has suspended allowing American families to adopt Russian orphaned children, after a woman in Tennessee sent an uncontrollable child back to Russia, creating moral outrage among some.

The Fox network has a story (“Confusion surrounds US-Russia adoptions”) on the controversy, which is still uncertain as to resolution, here. But resources within Russia are not sufficient to adopt orphaned children there, despite the low birth rate, which the Russian government has tried to increase with incentives and “conception days”.

In the past, news outlets like ABC 20-20 have covered the horrible condition of orphans in post-Ceauşescu Romania, after communism.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Volcano in Iceland shuts down most European air travel suddenly

A volcanic eruption (Eyjafjallajokull) in Iceland has released ash into the air, stopping flights in Europe indefinitely. The ash could cause planes to fall out of the sky. It could affect some US flights to Europe. Britain is the hardest hit, and will be as long as the jet stream stays in the same place.

I leared about this as I walked into Ty's in Greenwich Village on a trip to NYC today.

One of the most dangerous possibilities is that the Cumbre Vieja volcano in the Canary Islands could erupt, causing a landslide and tsunami of several hundred feet that reaches the East Coast of the US.

Wikipedia attribution link for NASA photo of Eyjafjallajökull volcano

Monday, April 12, 2010

Nuclear summit in Washington DC focuses on "asymmetry" but deliberately omits India v Paksitan problem

The media in the Washington DC are covering the global summit at the Washington Convention Center Monday and Tuesday, April 12 and 13, regarding nuclear security. The local media (like wjla.com) have covered the traffic issues and local street security, requiring residents in the area to show id’s.

The main issue, as the president said, is to prevent terrorist organizations or even clever but unstable individuals from acquiring nuclear material. One problem is that neither North Korea nor Iran are at the summit, and their behavior has often been described by conservatives as potentially the most dangerous of any countries, even unstable Pakistan. Not only is the conventional threat of nuclear explosions possible, so are the issues of radiological dispersion devices and EMP.

Eli Lake and Ashish Kumar Sen have a detailed front page story in the Washington Times Monday morning here

The New York Times, Monday morning, however, offered a different slant in a story by David E. Sanger and William J. Broad, “Agenda of Nuclear Talks Leaves out a New Threat: Growing arms race in Pakistan and India shows limits of negotiatios”, link here. As the article explains, the tension between Pakistan and India and control of their material was deliberately left out of the agenda. The Bush administration had helped India end its nuclear moratorium, so Pakistan insists if must follow suit. Considering the instability of the Pakastani military in some areas (as in the Frontline program “Obama’s War”) this sounds like a deadly problem.

Former Senator Sam Nunn (perhaps a millstone in 1993 on "don't ask don't tell") has led the efforts to bring attention to the need to control the leftovers of nuclear material with his “Nuclear Threat Initiative” organization and his film “The Last Best Chance” (2005, dir. Ben Goddard, 45 min).

Friday, April 9, 2010

Saudi woman challenges authorities in poetry contest in Abu Dhabi

Note ABC’s Person of the Week, poet Hissa Hilal, a mother of four in Saudi Arabia who competed in a poetry contest against the threats of the religious police. The news story is by Alice Magin and Sadie Bass, “ link here. Hissa recited poetry in full niqab on the Aby Dhabi TV show “Million’s Poet”.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Simon Singh wins appeal in Britain on "Fair Comment" rule; maybe a help in disouraging "libel tourism"

British author Simon Singh has won an important decision in a British appeals court in a case regarding the British libel laws, which have tended to encourage the practice of “libel tourism”.

Singh had been sued by the British Chiropractic Association for challenging their claim that chiropractic treatment could fix a lot of seemingly unrelated medical problems. Singh successfully argued for what is known as the “Opinion Rule” in the United States. That is, it is clear that he was stating his own opinions or conclusions, and did not have to prove that what he said was “factually true.” Another name for the concept, becoming more accepted in Britain, is “Fair Comment”.

Karen McVeigh has a story in the Guardian, link here, title “Simon Singh's 'resounding victory' raises hope of libel reform: Appeal court quotes Orwell and Milton in supporting journalist's use of 'fair comment' defence against libel claims”.

Singh’s own website is here.

The “Fair Comment” concept has not always worked perfected in the United States, either. In 1996, Oprah Winfrey was sued (unsuccessfully) by Texas cattlemen for an “opinion” she expressed on her show about beef and mad cow disease. Also, in the US “SLAPP” lawsuits are often used to harass speakers (online and in the older print and “activism” world) without the financial resources to defend themselves, although states are clamping down on the practice. What one needs is a “loser pays” system (which is sometimes implemented by courts on a case-by-case basis, as ironically in a case involving anti-gay preacher Fred Phelps).

Kitty Kelly ("The Royals") had told the media back in 1997 that in Britain "truth is not a sufficient defense to libel" like it is in the US.

A summary of the story appeared Friday April 2 on p A10 of The Washington Times.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Uganda benefits from US AIDS funding; CBS 60 min report doesn't mention anti-gay bill

On CBS 60 Minutes tonight (April 4), Bob Simon reported on a program started during the Bush administration (in 2004) to provide money for anti-retroviral drugs to fight AIDS in Uganda. There is a large thrust toward abstinence education in Uganda with the churches, but promiscuity and “sugar daddies” (and the presence of other STDS’s) still contribute to apparently heterosexual spread.

Curiously, the report did not mention the draconian anti-gay law being considered in the Ugandan parliament, probably the most vitriolic in the world.

Watch CBS News Videos Online

Friday, April 2, 2010

Indonesian Islamist group bullies away LGBT conference: more gays flee Iran for Turkey

The Jakarta Post reports that a conference on sexual orientation in Surabaya, in East Java, Indonesia was bullied into cancellation when radical Islamist elements barged into the hotel and told the participants to leave by Sunday. The story (by Indra Harsaputra and Hans David Tampubolon) link is here.

Secretary-general of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) in East Java, Mohammad Chaeruddin said the participants were told to leave because their speech and activity contradicted Islamist teachings. (Sounds like the way the Vatican behaves, doesn’t it.) They were also ordered not to make media statements. (So I suspect they blogged, big time.)

On Good Friday, April 3, The Washington Post has an article by Anthony Faiola, “Gay Iranians fleeing their country after June’s crackdown”, link here. Some are settling into a largely secular Turkey, where there is a kind of “don’t ask don’t tell” attitude.