Thursday, November 29, 2012

WCIT-12 conference in Dubai seen to have a dark side

Eric Pfanner has a disturbing article about a conference in Dubai, “Control of the Internet” (or more formally, “World Conference on International Telecommunications, WCIT-12”, link).  The title of the article is “Integrity of Internet is crux of global conference,” here

Ashton Kutcher tweeted the link today, “Dark warnings about future of Internet access”.  “Aplusk” wrote “The net is the greatest vehicle for peace in the world, for the people and by the people.  The smarts’ summit terrifies me”.   (But remember the 1995 film, “The Net”?)

The article suggests that big telecommunications companies are disappointed that they cannot compete with companies like Google and Facebook in the content area, but might seek to have countries regulate content providers. Governments may try to regulate content further, as China does and Vietnam threatens, and might veer away from the idea that the Internet is like a public utility.

There is a YouTube video "UN Internet Control Coming Soon":

It has since been reported that Syria has cut off Internet access throughout the country to thwart rebels. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Is Vietnam becoming a little China?

USA Today reports Nov. 27 in a story by Calum MacLeod, front page, that in Vietnam, the “capitalist” communist party now finds the Internet a “threat” much as does China.

The story notes that Vietnam underwent a Maoist style forced settlement of professionals and intellectuals to the countryside after the US was completely expelled in 1975 (“The Killing Fields”).

Is Vietnam, as unified, in about the same state that it would be in if the United States hadn’t sent a half million men to Vietnam and sustained 50000 deaths, with a divisive draft (and student deferments) in the 1960s?

I was “drafted” in 1968 bit escaped deployment because of “too much education”.

(Link not yet available). 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Ethiopia equates aggressive blogger journalism with "terrorism": the Eskinder Nega story

Electronic Frontier Foundation has a story about blogger-journalist Eskinder Nega in Ethiopia. He has been sentenced to eighteen years in prison for his reporting, under a bizarre law in Ethiopia that views provocative, spontaneous journalism as a kind of “terrorism”, almost like the reasoning seen with the furor in the Middle East over the “Innocence of Muslims” video.

The Ethiopian constitution is supposed to guarantee free speech, but in 1992 the country issued a “Press Proclamation” which gives the government the ability to shut down publications that disseminate “false information”.

The link for the EFF story is here.  The title is "Journalism is not Terrorism: Calling on Ethiopia to Free Eskinder Nega." 

Nega is the recipient of the PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award. 

Wikipedia attribution link for CIA map of Ethiopia.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Cyberwarfare enters the Israeli-Gaza conflict; the rhetoric remains existential

The hacker group Anonymous is taking credit for a large number of cyberattacks against Israel, as a protest of settlement policies in lands historically belonging to Palestinians, in a story on CNN here.

Anderson Cooper was reporting from Gaza Monday night, as the region watches for a possible truce and then talks.

Air defenses on both sides are able to knock out about 80% of incoming rockets, but maybe could be corrupted by hackers.

On CNN, an Israeli spokesperson said, "You do not negotiate with terrorists.  Defending yourself is right."  But a commentator asked, how do you defend yourself against an enemy who will die to prove you wrong?

Update: Nov. 21

Israel and "Hamas, Inc." have agreed to a cease fire (NBC News), link.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Petraeus, in testimony, emphasizes Al Qaeda, downplays role of amateur film in Libya attack

Former CIA director and former Army commander David Petraeus testified Friday that the attack on the consulate at Benghazi , Libya was a pre-meditated attack with support from Al Qaeda.

Peter King (R-NY) had said that as late as three days after the Sept. 11, 2012 attack, Congress had been left with the impression that it had been spontaneous, as a result of the “offensive” amateur YouTube film, “Innocence of Muslims”.

The attack appears to have been a hybrid storm, started intentionally, but then able to feed on the sudden opportunity for protests against the film.  It appears that the film was deliberately circulated “virally” with Arabic subtitles in the middle East in the days before Sept. 11. So there is the opportunity for some to say that asymmetric speech in the west is capable of creating security problems overseas because of different worldviews about responsibility for the effects of speech.

Petraeis indicated that some intelligence about Al Qaeda was not at first shared publicly, so as not to tip off enemies and impede investigation. It may have been advantageous (although harmful to web speakers) to allow the public to believe that the video had caused the "riot" when it hadn't.  But wasn't the president told the right information immediately?

Susan Rice, when she gave a briefing a few days after the attack, limited her remarks to what was unclassified, which would have comprised speculation about the role of the video (the "movie rage").

It's clear that the State Department did not provide proper security for the consulate.  
The was no discussion of the Petraes scandal today, other than to note it had no effect on operations.

CNN has a comprehensive story link here.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

In this matter, the GOP seems more willing to protect amateur speech from downstream blame than the Democrats. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Grandmothers keep order in China as Communist Party changes government; outages

A story by William Wan in the Washington Post, Monday November 12, 2012, describes the extensive security in Beijing as China prepares for a “change of leadership” in its “Peoples Republic of Capitalism”.

The capital city is almost under martial law, but the government is also using “nanas” or older grandmothers to help keep order with a gentle touch.  It’s a sign of the extensive socialization in Chinese society.
The story link is here.

Google has experienced a major outage in China, apparently started by the government, which seems to be promoting its own Baidu, which it can control. Datamation (indeed a classic d.p. publication going back to the days of Perot) has a story here. I tried Baidu; it opens a new window for every search result.  

I don’t know how an American blogger could travel to China and stay connected on his own. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Saudi royal government tries to educate women, who face "brick wall" in employment

Kevin Sullivan, reporting for the Washington Post from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, has a front page story Tuesday November 13, 2012, “Saudi women: educated but jobless: Young females with government-funded programs face ‘brick wall’ of restrictions”, and titled “Saudi Arabia struggles to employ its most educated women”, link here

The royal family and government have recently supported female education (in stark contrast to the attitude of the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan), but local religious rulers make visible professional employment of women difficult in the kingdom in most areas. Curiously, not following government would be seen as “libertarian” in western countries, but not here.

Saudi (and other Islamic) religious rules separating women in public and requiring their covering with burqas, veils or abayas and often prohibiting most outside employment.  These rules seem designed to protect the sexual investment of men in marriage in a conservative culture, seemingly by giving men a sense of “ownership” that would seem wrong in western culture.
 Contractors often fill lower paying jobs or those with special skills (including a lot of information technology).  Western companies can have difficulties placing female contractors in these positions.  In the 1980s in Dallas, I worked with a man who had contracted in Saudi Arabia and lived on an American compound. He reported that “religious police” still visited their compound looking for alcohol and women.
In 2011, when I worked for Census on special surveys, I had conducted an interview of a wife of a Middle Eastern man on an initial first personal visit.  That evening, I got an angry phone call from the husband for speaking to his wife when she wasn’t present.  I was quite disturbed by this at the time.  His attitude was even more absurd because I am gay. 
Yet, there is a YouTube video from Newsy reporting that Saudi Arabia plans to build a city where only women are allowed:

Friday, November 2, 2012

There is a strong movement in Scotland to hold a referendum on secession from Britain

Go back to your freshman European history texts.  There is a strong movement in Scotland to hold a referendum on secession from Britain late in 2014, termination a sovereign union in effect since 1707.  The Uinted Kingdom would no longer be the UK. 

Some of the motives are said to be economic: Scotland holds most of the oil resources. 

Another is that smaller European states (like the Netherlands, Belgium) have a lot more power in proportion to their size and population.

There is a general opinion, following a Supreme Court of Canada opinion on a similar question for Quebec, that it is difficult for a referendum alone to establish independence, but it could put strong practical pressure on London (Wikipedia, here. 

There is a summary of the issue on “The Week” (covering “The Beast” and “Altantic”) here

Wikipedia attribution link for Inverness picture. I visited the country in 1982, and took the train north from here.  It was November, and dark before 4 PM for "tea".