Saturday, May 30, 2015

China disguises it cultural and party control as "security"

China is disguising its desire for centralized ideological control over citizens, local governments and companies with its national security law, according to a front page article Saturday in the New York Times by Edward Wong, link here

The law will deliberately elevate the part and stifle dissent, and the article says “Mao would approve.” There is lot of attention to foreign NGO’s an allowing access to foreign encryption, and blocking some foreign media.  There doesn’t seem to be any 60s-style cultural revolution drafting everyone to serve time as a peasant, though.

Still, the rules seem to be based on the idea that stability requires discipline down to the individual level, and fitting into a hierarchy. 
Just as with Russia, one wonders if a controversial blogger can safely travel in China.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

DC Metro bans all issue-oriented ads after Geller tries to advertise an "offensive" cartoon of Muhammad

Pamela Geller tested the “free speech” by submitting a cartoon of Muhamad for ad space in the Washington DC Metro system.  The Metro board responded by closing ad space to all issue-oriented ads until the end of 2015.  I have sometimes photographed these ads about a number of controversial domestic and international topics.
Geller had sponsored the cartoon event that led to a violent attempt in Garland, TX.
Chris Cuomo interviews Geller here on CNN, link and video 

International Business Times has a story on the Board action by Julia Glum here.  Conservative critics call the action cowardly and caving in to terrorists.  Or s this a reality of actual warfare? Many major media outlets say that they have policies not to show "cartoons" of religious leaders on their networks (although it's pretty hard to imagine how to enforce that with other religions -- stained glass windows have images of Christ that could be viewed as cartoons.)  

It is not unusual for airlines, travel and transportation services to avoid advertising on controversial websites.  I found this to be the case twelve years ago when I used an ad service called Linkshare and found that these sorts of companies automatically shunned me.

Note the controversy over an event in Phoenix, organized by John Ritzheimer, here

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Russia bans "undesirable" NGO's

Don Melvin reports on CNN that Vladimir Putin has signed into a law allowing the Russian government (eg. Putin) to declare any foreign NGO “undesirable” and make it a crime for any Russian to work for one, story link here
It’s pretty obvious that the law will silence political opposition (such as over Ukraine) but could also be used against LGBT groups.
It’s pretty apparent that the law would be selectively enforced.

Friday, May 22, 2015

South Africa would require a "license to publish" from amateurs

South Africa is considering legislation that would require most user-generated content to be “licensed” before publication, according to a story by Electronic Frontier Foundation, Jeremy Malcolm, link here.

The law intended to be aimed at reducing racially divisive speech, given the history or apartheid and the serious problems with violent crime in the country.
It doesn’t appear that this law would have any significant affect internationally.  The country could try to block “unlicensed” or offensive speech, but we know (as with China and Muslim countries) this never works too well in practice. 


Monday, May 18, 2015

Refugee crisis from Myanmar overshadowed by Middle East

On Sunday, a local church included in a prayer request a recognition of the plight of refugees from Myanmar, fleeing by sea (Andaman) to Malaysia, and to Thailand.  Reuters has a story here . Malaysia says it has taken in 120,000 refugees.  There are refugees from Bangladesh, too.

The refugee crisis from those fleeing ISIS, including those in the Mediterranean fleeing Libya, has gotten much more attention. 

There is a review of a documentary about Myanmar on the movies blog Dec 23, 2014, and of “The Lady” April 27, 2012. 
Wikipedia attribution link for CIA ethnic map of Burma  (1.0 license). 


Thursday, May 7, 2015

"Wild tales" from world news tonight, with ABC (rather than CNN) the scariest

Today was a wild day in “national security” politics.  An appeals court slaps the NSA on the hand over the metadata smartphone collection program.  Talk continues of a DOJ deal with Edward Snowden. But in the wake of the police-foiled Texas attack (on what appeared to be an anti-Muslim hate group) the FBI says that “thousands” may be following on social media.  ABCNews covers that particular story much more than any other network (even CNN) and generates wild debate in the comments on Facebook.
The "Arab spring", so aided by social media a few years ago, seems to have turned on itself. 
At the same time, Russia sends out vibes again that it might want to take all of Uraine, or at least Kiev, to protect its own “ethnic Russian”.  North Korea talks about lobbing nukes again.
We ask why even a few hundred American young people could want to join ISIS and free their “brothers and sisters” overseas. In an individualistic society, we forget that a lot of people need to “belong”.  Young people, sometimes of less opportunity, less academic education, or sometimes just with more group-oriented personalities, simply feel left out by a lot of adults (sometimes including their own parents) who should be serving as role models, who simply have become indifferent, lost in their own worlds.  So they drift to the nearest, or slickest salesman. 

Saturday, May 2, 2015

FBI had aided Weinstein family with "ransom" payment in 2012, stirring intractable controversy

The Wall Street Journal, in a front page article Thursday, April 30, 2015, by Adam Entous and Devlin Barrett, reports that the FBI indirectly aided the family of Warren Weinstein in making a ransom payment through a Pakistani middleman.  The family had apparently decided to make private arrangements, and the FBI says it was protecting the family from scams through the process.  The WSJ has a video here
Yet it is apparently illegal for individuals of families in the US even to use private monies to pay ransom to terrorists overseas, as explored in this article by Philip Sherwell and Colin Freeman in the UK Telegraph, here
Of course, the US (somewhat at odds with European countries) believes that paying ransom only rewards further kidnappings.  But this is indeed a question about “sacrifice”.  Although it hasn’t happened, I would never become involved in a fundraising activity to pay ransom or for any specific victim.  I don’t respond directly to situations like this. Social media companies like Facebook would be likely to ban such campaigns when they are illegal. 
The US policy, arguably, could hinder churches and charities from deploying aid workers or missionaires in conflict-countries or in poorer countries generally.  College or older high school students sometimes go in the summer on such missions (which so far have not produced any such incidents, to my knowledge). Under this policy, they would be “let go”.  So people would not be able to volunteer for such efforts. 
It does seem, however, that actual prosecution of a family by the US for making a ransom payment privately is very unlikely.   

Friday, May 1, 2015

Article shows relationship of LGBT community to Israel-Palestine-Gaza conflict

An article by Toshio Meronek in Truthout starts out by discussing Seattle’s gay mayor and the Indiana boycott by the state (for paid travel), before going to make a comparison with Israel, which now wants to appear progressive on gay issues, while, as the writer notes, continuing “apartheid” on the West Bank and Gaza, link here. 
There follows a detailed interview with Dean Spade about a visit to the West Bank by an LGBT delegation, and a tactic called “pinkwashing”.  There is also a right wing organization, “StandWithUs”, associated with anti-gay advocacy in the US.