Saturday, May 31, 2014

CIA cover in Afghanistan blown; Plame looks at whether this is a big deal

Valerie Plame, the former CIA officer who was “outed” as loosely shown in the film “Fair Game” (Movie reviews, Nov. 5, 2010, TV review Oct. 22, 2007) discusses the “accidental” revelation of a CIA station chief in Afghanistan in the Daly Beast, here   calling it “colossally stupid”.
Valerie Plame worked "NOC" cover jobs in her own career, as outlined in the Wikipedia article here

Plame has a new novel, “Blowback” (not to be confused with a 2000 film of that name), and there is a lot of talk about NOC’s (non-official covers) vs. OC’s.   NOC’s work in cover jobs not connected to government of the host country, possibly even domestically sometimes.  But as Snowden suggested, a lot of intelligence work is electronic, is done by analysts who watch the fort from home, and depends much less on “recruiting assets” than in the past (although a lot of this still happens on the ground in countries in civil or tribal conflict or with weak governments).  But, of course, you might have to infiltrate to learn of a major plot. But you could stumble onto something like that in a bar.   

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Countries waiving visa requirements are generally progressive on gay rights

While I was in the air the past weekend, I noticed Delta’s route maps, and a list of countries participating in the (90 day) Visa Waiver Program. 
No countries in Africa (not even South Africa) and only four in Asia (Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and, interestingly, Singapore) are on the list Philippines is not).  It’s natural to expect that Russia and China aren’t there, but indeed sad. (Nor are any former Soviet republics except for the three Baltic states)  That shows how committed their political leadership is to opposing “western values”, despite the obvious embracement of capitalism, when it works.
As for my own international travels, Poland is as far as I’ve gotten (to see Auschwitz).  Going to China would be like visiting another planet, but Russia seems dangerous to me (I wonder if I could even get a visa, once they did a Google background check on me, anyway).  It seems that politicians in these countries behave as if they really have something to hide and fear, from journalists, even amateurs.  (Greenwald seems to be getting into Russia OK to meet with Snowden, however.) 
Delta, by the way, has some controversial routes.  Who would fly non-stop from Atlanta to Lagos, Nigeria?  

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Sudan sentences Christian woman to death for apostasy, but then downplays the incident

In a horrific example of religious persecution, Sudan sentenced a woman to death for apostasy, for refusing to renounce Christian faith, although it later indicated it would waffle and probably commute the sentence. CNN has an updated story here,

The incident is the latest in a series of terrifying stories from Africa, including anti-gay laws in several countries, the kidnapping of hundreds of girls in northeastern Nigeria by a terror group, and civil war in the CAR.  Companies that have to send workers to some of these countries (like oil companies) really willl have personnel issues on their hands.  Churches probably won't be able to provide volunteer assistance.

Wikipedia attribution link for Sudan oil and gas map.

Update: June 1, 2014

At the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC, Stam Hastey mentioned the case from the pulpit.  He indicated that the woman's Meriam Yahya Ibrahim, had been born of a Muslim father, which according to some implementations of Sharia law, makes her a Muslim.  She says she was always a Christian, and is legally married to a US citizen husband who says he is Christian, and has two children by him (the second about to be born).

Update: June 5, 2014

Suzanne Fields has a column in the Washington Times today, Commentary section, "The gallows for a Christian: Sudan says it will execute a mother of two who won't renounce her faith", link here.  However, TWT had reported May 31 that Sudan had released her to "wean her infant" (for two years?) and then she will be lashed and hanged.  

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

EU court asserts the "right to be forgotten" and rules that a Spanish man' can have 1998 news story of unfavorable financial history removed from search engine results (not from the original site)

A European Court has ruled that individuals have the right to expect search engine companies to remove results that refer to them, when they are old or aged and no longer relevant.  The case involves the “right to be forgotten”.  The case involved a Spanish man who wanted a reference to an auction and repossession notice from a local newspaper (La Vanguardia link) near Barcelona dating back to 1998.

The Guardian has a detailed story by Alan Travis and Charles Arthur here

Jimmy Wales of Wikpedia retweeted the item today, noting it was a blow to free speech.

The ruling seemed to look at Google as a “data controller” rather than a “neutral intermediary”.  It’s possible that the ruling could urge a similar push in the US.  

There have been comments to the effect that any fact published in a newspaper should always be searchable, as should any public record (which a foreclosure would be).

The text of the European Union Press release is here. This is case C-131/12 Google Spain v. Agencia Espanola de Proteccion de Datos, Mario Costeja Gonzalez.  The release reads "An internet search engine operator is responsible for the processing that it carries out of personal data which appears on web pages published by third parties. Thus, if following a search made on the basis of a person's name, the list of results displays a link to a web page which contains information on the person in question, that data subject may approach the operator directly and where the operator does not grant his request, bring the matter before the competent authorities in order to obtain, under certain conditions, the removal of that link from the list of results."  .

That is (in Spanish), "Un operador del motor de búsqueda en Internet es responsable de la tramitación que se lleva a cabo de los datos de carácter personal que aparece en las páginas web publicadas por terceros. Por lo tanto, si a raíz de una consulta efectuada sobre la base del nombre de una persona, la lista de resultados muestra un enlace a una página web que contiene información sobre la persona en cuestión, que el interesado podrá dirigirse al operador directamente y donde el operador no conceder su solicitud, someter el asunto a las autoridades competentes con el fin de obtener, en determinadas condiciones, la eliminación de ese enlace de la lista de resultados."

A Wall Street Journal story mentions a continental European tradition based on "the right to be forgotten" as born of duels for honor in the 19th century, a custom which died out in the US early in that century and is not familiar to Americans or the law now.  

I will cover this story in more detail on my main blog Wednesday. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Boko Haram kidnappings show that forceable conversion to Islam is still a goal for some

A French news agency has a picture and video of about 100 of the girls kidnapped by Boko Haram in northeastern Nigeria, story on CNN here. CNN says that many of the girls were Christian and were forceably “converted” to Islam and are wearing Islamic burqas and garbs. 

But accounts also claim that the group would release some or all of the girls if Nigeria released its own Muslim prisoners. 

It still strikes one as a lesson, that the Nigerian parliament and president Goodluck Jonathan thought he was appeasing extremism and gaining control with the anti-gay law.  Instead, things got worse.
It seems that Islamic extremist seem addicted to the idea of their ownership of some right to intercourse and impregnation of women at their will.  But many accounts say that all of this is simple thuggery in an ungovernable country.  

The group calls itself “The Congregation of People of Tradition for Proselytism and Jihad”, according to Wikipedia. That’s a pretty explicit description.. Wikipedia has maps of the group’s presence and where it has staged attacks (link). .

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Russia seems to want to crack down on amateur blogging

Russia has gone from focusing on gay “propaganda” to all “propaganda” as Neil MscFarquhar reports in the New York Times, “Russia quietly tightens reins on Web with new ‘Bloggers Law’”, link here,  on the front page in print Wednesday.

The law would maintain that any website with more than 3000 visitors a day must be held responsible for the accuracy of what it publishes.  But in the US,  civil liability for libel can exist with just one visitor, so the idea sounds superfluous.

I may have achieved that volume (among all my sites) a few times, but not often.

Putin also noted that someone who writes online has the power to affect the lives of thousands or hundreds of thousands of people, with no gatekeeper holding him accountable.  I guess I’ve made that point myself before, but it’s more the idea that someone doesn’t go away, so some ideas that may be difficult (especially for politicians) remain in play. 

Russia had passed another law Feb. 1 allowing the government to remove or block sites with politically provocative content.

As for Uganda, there is a law now requiring a gathering of more than three people to get a license to discuss politics! So the anti-gay laws are definitely a proxy for something much bigger.  

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Many mainstream pastors unaware of connections between anti-gay laws and other aggression by leaders

On Sunday morning, I did have a brief conversation with a pastor about the instability in Africa.  The pastor was well aware of the kidnapping of young women (those in school) in Nigeria and the likely sale of them into sex slavery.  He was aware of the general level of violence in a number of countries, and the enormous tension between Christians and Muslins in some areas, especially Nigeria and the CAR.  (The kidnapping in Nigeria continues, and indicates that the culture in the Muslim areas demands that women make themselves available for childbearing at the sole pleasure of men.)  He knew about the anti-gay laws and knew they were bad, but was not aware of the level of violence they had precipitated, and the connection between anti-gay laws and the immediate successive aggressive actions in other areas – such as Putin’s move into Crimea and against Ukraine. 
Russia has been reported now as considering a law to prohibit all gay bars (Nigeria already has that).  Russia seems to be denying visas to foreigners well known to have supported gay rights.  I wonder if it would bar me based on my blogs.  

The latest flop, of course, concerns the Sultan of Brunei (adjacent to Indoneais) imposing strict Shariah law and inviting a boycott of his Beverly Hills hotel. 

Friday, May 2, 2014

Ukraine restores military conscription of young men as it is unable to defend itself in the East

The Ukraine has restored military conscription, apparently of males 18-25, as a result of its inability to control Russian-associated violence and property takeovers in its eastern provinces. 

The UK telegraph has a story by Roland Oliphant, reporting from Donesk.   The measure was taken by interim president Olesandr Turchynov, reversing the cessation of conscription by former president Viktor Yanulovych.

Noah Rayman has a similar story on Time here

The idea of compulsory service used to be an important part of our moral debate in this country back during the Vietnam era.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Artists make "It's Not Okay" series on YouTube regarding Russian anti-gay "propaganda" law

Belgian actor-producer-singer Timo Descamps has produced a video (fall of 2013) “Dear Russia, It’s Not Okay”
Timo notes that he visited Russia two years before, for the first time in his life, just before a ban on “homosexual propaganda” was announced in St. Petersburg, home of the Hermitage “Russian Ark”.  As we know, essentially the same law for the whole country was passed in 2013, with horrific practical results, in terms of the government’s sending a signal inciting vigilantism and the like.
There is an "It's Not Okay" series by a variety of celebrities on YouTube regarding the Russian law. 
Michael K. Lavers has an article today in the Washington Blade, "LGBT Ugandans dying in crimes against humanity", focusing on transgendered issues and also on who whole families are pursued, here

Wikipedia attribution link for museum picture here