Saturday, January 28, 2012

Is "ACTA" an international SOPA? Not exactly.

Recently, some groups such as Electronic Frontier Foundation and Righthaven Victims have been vocalizing opposition to the Anti-Councterfeiting Trade Agreement, to which the president signed on last fall.  It appears that it could go into effect in June 2012.

Here’s a copy (from Australia), link.

Here’s the website of Stop ACTA, link.

And “Read Write Web” gives a lot of the reasons for objection to it. For one thing, it seems to gut the American concept of “Fair Use”.  It can make crimes out of things that normally lead just to civil action.  The link is here.

News media report that Kader Arif, the “rapporteur” (“official investigative reporter”) for the EU with regards to the Treaty resigned over objections to it, as here with the BBC story.

The one potentially “good” thing about ACTA would seem to be that it could strengthen the ability of countries to seize the assets of “digital pirates” in other countries without the need to pass laws forcing other parties into downstream liability (SOPA and PIPA). 

More details will be forthcoming.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Revolutionary group MEK in Iran: would it help or hurt US if it toppled regime?

I ran across a controversy, as to how the United States should view the MEK, or PMOI (People's Mujahedin of Iran), as expressed in the movement and site "DelistMEK", here. The group is credited as having passed secrets on Iran's nuclear program and yet is known for notorious abuses itself, especially within its own ranks (the "self-criticism" sessions or shame therapy).  The "Delist" group (apparently lobbying to get the US State Department to change policy) was running broadcast television ads Thursday.

Wikipedia has a long history here.

The group, or its predecessors, was associated with the fall of the Shah and the rise of the Ayatollahs and supported the hostage taking in 1979, leading to the "444 days" that came to an end only when Ronald Reagan took office in 1981.  Separately, EDS had sponsored a private commando raid to free two of its employees from Iran in 1979 (held separately), big news in Dallas at the time after I had just moved there.

As we learn from the Arab spring (and a general lesson of history), governments put in place after revolutions are often more repressive than the regimes they have evicted.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Bad karma for US computer users? NY Times story on bad conditions for workers at computer parts manufacturers in China

Well, do western computer (especially Apple) users have bad karma?  The New York Times on Thursday has a lead story “In China, the Human Costs that Are Built into an iPad”, link here.  
The article discusses worker safety in the many parts factories around Chengdu, China, including living conditions and dormitory life. We depend on workers to do this for us.  The audit procedures from Apple are described in detail. How much did Steve Jobs involve himself with worker safety overseas?

Yet Donald Trump keeps saying, "The Chinese are not our friends". 

Wikipedia attribution link for map of Chengdu.  

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Navy Seals pull off perfect strike in Somalia rescue

For the Navy Seals rescue from Seal Team 6, of two American hostages, one can say only, "awesome".  100% success.  The presidents was informed just before his State of the Union Address Tuesday night.

There are still about 140 hostages held by pirates in Somalia

We have come a long way from "Black Hawk Down" in 1993.

Wikipedia attribution link for Somalia map.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Stopping media piracy should be responsibility of overseas law enforcement, not service providers

The current controversy over bills in Congress to oppose Internet piracy (SOPA and Protect-IP), resulting in one-day blackouts at sites like Wikipedia and Reddit, could place an onus on ordinary Internet sellers and publishers and service providers to avoid any contact with “rogue” foreign websites. 

In the United States, sites involved in illegal activity (including piracy, some kinds of spam, drugs, child pornography, etc) can be effectively shut down by seizing hardware and assets of the purportedly offending parties.  This does happen now under Immigrations Customs and Enforcement under Homeland Security.  In some cases, navigation to the affected site is intercepted by an ICE message.

When the offending company or person is in a foreign country, this may not work. Therefore, some in Congress want to burden Internet service providers and ultimately Internet users with the responsibility of not doing business with overseas entities accused by legacy media companies of piracy.  This could make continuation of many sites and smaller businesses impossible because of the “contingent burden” and downstream liability.

One way this problem should be handled is for the US government, through its Department of State, to encourage law enforcement in other countries to take similar action to seize companies in their own countries with blatantly illegal operations.  This will be easier with major western countries (using Interpol) than with Russia and China and maybe some smaller countries.  The responsibility to avoid piracy should rest with law enforcement against actual offenders, not against other users “drafted” into the battle.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Unitarian minister from Uganda to speak about anti-gay bill

The Washington Blade Jan. 13 ran two stories about the vitriolic anti-gay legislation proposed in Uganda. The main one, by Brian T. Carney on p. 23, regards an appearance by a Unitarian Ugandan minister in Silver Spring, MD Jan. 17, story link here. The bill would imprison others who failed to report homosexual acts and would even require extradition t Uganda.  It’s unlikely, I hope, that western countries would comply with such extradition requests.  This bill is predicated on a mentality of scapegoating, that homosexuality destroys the social cohesion within families.  It’s rather odd to blame people who have left home for the behavior of people “left behind”.  Earlier stories in the Metro Weekly had explained that African culture regards having children as a moral duty in order to preserve the vicarious “immortality” of ancestors.  Willful failure to procreate  is seen as “killing a family”, on a par with killing an individual person.

Another small sidebar (p 4) by Lou Chibarro Jr. reports that an organization called Trans Africa (site) has asked the United Negro College Fund to cancel an invitation to the ambassador from Uganda to the US to speak at one of its functions.

There has been a lot of criticism of some American "evangelical" preachers for fomenting the situation in Uganda. 

Monday, January 9, 2012

Churches encourage contact with religious persecution victims overseas; American ex-Marine a pawn in showdown with Iran

Here's another bulletin board ad at a church I saw about religious persecution in Africa, this one inviting people to send text messages to specific people.  I would wonder how many people in the worst areas even have cell phones.

Tensions continue with Iran and the Strait of Hormuz, with an American (ex-Marine) of Iranian descent being sentenced to death as a supposed "spy" while visiting grandparents.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Gingrich says Iran must stay nuke-free under all circumstances

On a night when Newt Gingrich is falling way behind in the Iowa causes, PBS (on Charlie Rose) aired a recent interview where Newt said that the highest priority must go to stop Iran from getting control of nuclear resources under any circumstances.

Gingrich seems to consider Iran the most dangerous existential threat on the planet, perhaps like to attempt an EMP attack as discussed previously.

Iran has been ambiguous today on the Hormuz issue, saying it will not act, but executing maneuvers in the area. Even a slight incident could cause oil prices to spike.

Santorum seems to be migrating toward personal morality as a predictor of public morality and as something that motivates bad actors to challenge our freedoms.

Iran warned the US not to allow a US aircraft carrier that was leaving return to the region.