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Zimbabwe’s Exiles : Pain and Memory February 26, 2007

Posted by publicpolitics in Uncategorized.
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There are more than 2 million Zimbabweans living in South Africa, and some 400.000 reside in London. They are refugees from a society with:

.. the fastest declining economy in the world; an unemployment rate of more than eighty per cent; and the lowest life expectancy in the world, with women living on average for only 34 years, according to the World Health Organisation. Most Zimbabwean exiles live in South Africa: they number more than two million, and hundreds more each day go into exile by crossing the Limpopo River, marking the border between Zimbabwe and South Africa.

Source: zimbabwejournalists.com

Some have been literally displaced, their homes destroyed to further a sweeping, vindictive, and economically unwise land reform program directed mainly against white farmers. All have their reasons for leaving, and many suffer from the unique, yet subtle miseries of exile. For many Zimbabweans, the peculiar pain of their country’s demise is exacerbated by the high hopes that many had for it at the beginning. Trevor Grundy’s interviews reveal a deep and subtle pain of exile , one tinged with memory of Zimbabwe’s great promise in 1980, the year of the country’s independence and the date of Mugabe’s election to an office that he still refuses to relinquish. Lawrence Vambe, Zimbabwe’s most distinguished historian, asks of Mugabe: “At school, Robert was considered a genius… What happened to turn him into such a monster? I’m not sure I know the answer to that question, even as I approach my 90th birthday in England, so far away from home.”

This kind of painful retrospection is not all the exiled Zimbabweans have to worry about. They are convinced that Mugabe’s secret police are conducting psychological warfare against them in Britain:

We get telephones calls late at night and a voice at the other end warns us we know where your parents are in Zimbabwe,,,, we know your sister and terrible things like that”. said a young Zimbabwean studying art in Bristol, in the west of England. “I have been praying that Mugabe will drop dead on his 83rd. We all do.”

Source: zimbabwejournalists.com

In fear for the present and in mourning for the lost potential of the past, Zimbabwean wait and work for change but it is hard to look to a future when the present is terrifying and the past is a kingdom of squandered opportunity. 

Related Link: The Association of Zimbawean Journalists

Tags: YEARS | remain | exile | celebration | birthday | ZIMBABWEAN | Zimbabwe | Politics | Mugabe | LAWRENCE | english | Britain | Africa


Flickr Filtered in Iran,UAE: Resistance February 17, 2007

Posted by publicpolitics in Censorship, Information policy, Middle East, Political Technology.
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Internet users in the United Arab Emirates and Iran discovered some time ago that their access to Flickr, the popular social networking-photo archive site had been blocked yet again, for the third time. In the UAE, the major Internet service provider, Etisalat, is the responsible party. But dedicated photojournalists and ordinary users alike may have a new technological countermeasure, a free Firefox extension called Access Flickr that is the brainchild of Hamed Saber, an Iranian with a technical bent, an ingrained opposition to Big Brother, and a belief that “no one has the right to censor anything for me”.

In a Global Voices interview with Sami Ben Gharbia, Saber said that he was unaware of any similar Firefox extension specifically designed to circumvent censorship. The idea was to create something similar to Tor, but more accessible. Saber says that the tool is “so simple.. not sophisticated and powerful like Tor.” It sounds easy enough:


This extension just substitutes some parameters in HTTP request header
before sending it, and after receiving the response, again it
substitutes some other parameters in the HTTP response header. The
source code is not encoded, and the extension is open source, anyone
can read the simple source code!

Source: globalvoicesonline.org

Other forms of resistance to internet filtering in Iran ( Filtering Country Study) and the UAE( Filtering Country Study) are spearheaded by the Open Net Initiative. Because the technology is simple, the obvious solution for the censors is to block the extension- and what will Saber do if that happens?

He’ll just develop another “bypassing way.”

With people like Saber in the world, we can all take heart. We are , collectively, smarter than they are.

Related Link: Freedom for UAE Flickr Users Petition UAE

Tags: vs | users | Filter | Extension | Community | Citizens | access | United Arab Emirates | Technology | saber | Middle East | Iran | internet | hamed | Flickr | Africa

Stevens Bill: Banning Wikipedia? February 16, 2007

Posted by publicpolitics in Censorship, Libraries, Political Technology, U.S. Congress.
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The Congressional response to the problem and the pseudo-problem of online predation via social networking sites has reached a new nadir. Ted Stevens introduced Senate Bill 49 last month . The putative legislation requires that “any school or public library that gets Federal Internet subsidies would have to block access to interactive Web sites, including social networking sites, and possibly blogs as well.

Here’s the newest from Sen. Ted Stevens, the man who described the Internet as a series of tubes: It’s time for the federal government to ban access to Wikipedia, MySpace, and social networking sites from schools and libraries

Source: computerworld.com

The new bill is closely related to DOPA ( HR5319) a bill that passed the House. But Marianne Richmond, among other commentators, rightly states that the bill goes well beyond that previous piece of censorious legislation. One part requires that sites distributing adult content excise the adult content from the homepage and to publish a warning on the homepage. The real menace comes in title 2, the subsidies section. This section also appears to require that schools monitor the net activities of students when not supervised by faculty.Such a duty would cause no end of headache and heartache for parents, school administrators, and teacher, even if , as would probably be the case, the more onerous duties were removed through a series of court cases. Who needs this expense? Who wants to generate this much confusion?

Texan Charged as Jihadist February 15, 2007

Posted by publicpolitics in Terrorism, Uncategorized.
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The Associated Press and several other news organizations are reporting that Daniel Joseph, Maldinado,a 28 year old American citizen and last resident in Houston, Texas, appeared Tuesday before Judge Calvin Botley in Houston on a charge of training with al-Qaida in Somalia. He was arrested last month in Kenya as he fled after the Ethiopians invaded Somalia, and was brought to the United States on Monday. The detention hearing will be held soon.

a former Houston man arrested in Kenya last month has been charged in Texas with teaming with al-Qaida to overthrow the Somali government and form an Islamic state there.

Source: guardian.co.uk

Maldonado, a Muslim convert, will be charged with collaborating with al-Qaida in Somalia and the Islamic Courts Union, an organization that occupied much of Somalia and controlled the capital, Mogadishu, before the Ethiopians invaded the country with U.S. assistance in December, 2006.Maldonado allegedly told FBI agents in Kenya the he ” would be fighting the Somali militia, and that turned into fighting the Ethiopians, and if the Americans came, I would fight them too..”

Ethiopia’s invasion was successful in dislodging the Islamic Courts Union, but a planned African peacekeeping force has caused controversy in the region. Uganda will likely send troops, but the move has caused parliamentary squabbles. South Africa refused the request.

The Ethiopians have said that they will withdraw quickly, and want to avoid a protracted occupation. Some of the leading Islamic Courts figures have fled to Yemen, where they have been offered the status of “guests “. Yemen denies offering political asylum.

Related: Ethiopia/Somalia Timeline

Tags: teaming | overthrow | Government | charged | arrested | al-Qaida | tuesday | Texas | somali | Politics | Maldonado | Kenya | ISLAMIC | Houston | daniel

Bastards and Roses: A Love Story February 14, 2007

Posted by publicpolitics in Censorship.
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There will be no “Love Song on the Bank of Mekong” tonight if Laos has its way with Thai television . “Love Song” is the title of a soap opera scheduled to play this evening:

Vientiane has conveyed their concerns to the television executives through the Thai Foreign Ministry last week that the soap opera “Pleng Rak Song Fang Kong” (Love Song on the Bank of Mekong) contained many scenes deemed inappropriate and contradicting to Lao culture, said Lao foreign ministry’s spokesman Yong Chanthalangsy.

Source: nationmultimedia.com

Apparently, the Laotians object to the melodrama on two grounds. One is that the female romantic heroine’s mother is unmarried, which makes our lead- not to put to fine a point on it- a real bastard. The other is that in a fit of romantic pique, the lady trashes a flower- in this case a white fragipani, which happens to be the national flower of Laos.

Apparently, the depiction of the heroine as a bastard offends the national sense of decorum, as does the impression that she is an “easy woman”. And the flower is definitely treason by another name:

“You might get angry with your boyfriend who hand you (sic!) the flower, but the national flower should not be thrown away in that manner… why didn’t the producer use rose or the other kind, rather than our national flower?” whined the official, patriotically and pathetically.

It will be small comfort to the would be Laotian censors that it is Valentine’s day in some places, and that the tale of bastards and roses will ring out many variations tonight, with happy and otherwise endings. No doubt many roses and precious few single fragpiani will find a dustbin home today, some hurled in anger, some dropped indifferently. And the appellation “bastard” will no doubt be applied more than a few times, although not mostly in the genealogical sense. Let’s hope the nascent Laotian censors just sit back and enjoy the Thai program- because not even the most melodramatic and cliched art deserves to be censored. After all, life does often imitate it.

Tags: urged | television | suspension | spokesman | soap | scenes | opera | inappropriate | EXECUTIVES | deemed | Culture | conveyed | contradicting | contained | Concerns | Yong | Vientiane | thai | Politics | Pleng | MINISTRY | laos | Kong | fang

FBI Reduces Lost Weapons ,Stolen Laptops Increase February 13, 2007

Posted by publicpolitics in Information policy, Weapons.
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The FBI reported the loss or theft of 354 weapons and 315 lost or stolen laptops in a 28 month period from 1999-2001. The Office of the Inspector General and the FBI found that alarming, and issued several sets of recommendation. Today, the OIG reports that the situation has improved. During a follow up audit, 160 laptops and 160 weapons went missing, so there is still plenty of room for improvement.

To determine whether the FBI has made progress in reducing its number of lost and stolen weapons and laptop computers, we compared the rate of loss identified in our 2002 audit to the rate found in this follow-up audit. Our prior audit found that over a 28-month period the FBI reported 354 weapons and 317 laptop computers as lost or stolen. Our follow-up audit found that over a 44-month period the FBI reported 160 weapons and 160 laptop computers as lost or stolen. We determined that, except for stolen laptop computers, the rate of loss for each property category decreased…”

Source: docuticker.com

The follow up audit was conducted over a period of 44 months2002- (2005), so the more relevant statistic is the monthly loss or theft rate by category. During the new audit period, the FBI lost 1.09 functional weapons (down from 3.82) per month,and 2.14 functional weapons were stolen( down from 3.75). The monthly loss of functional training weapons dropped from 5 per month to less than 1, while the number of stolen training weapons was zero in both audit periods.

During the first audit, the monthly rate of lost laptop computers was an astonishing 10.71 per month. Although this number fell to 2.54 per month in the new audit , the real surprise is an increase in the number of stolen laptops, from an average of 0.61 per month to an even 1.00. That’s quite a percentage increase.

The FBI objects to the inclusion of 43 of the weapons included in the newest audit because the loss occurred before the follow up audit period. The OIG auditors rejected this rationale because the weapons did not enter the FBI’ s property loss reporting system until after the audit started and excluding them would have given “the appearance that the FBI had fewer lost or stolen weapons than was actually the case.””

Read the Report(PDF)

Tags: wireless | weapons | Subscribe | Stolen | report | Rate | Loss | Laptop | Follow-Up | computers | audit | Politics | DocuTicker

UN to Somalia: Release Journalists Support Press Freedom February 13, 2007

Posted by publicpolitics in Africa, Censorship.
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The United Nations’ independent expert on human rights in Somalia , Ghanim Alnjjar,has called for the release of three Somali journalist detained shortly after Ethiopia’s lightning invasion of Somalia in late December 2007. The Ethiopians invaded that country to displace the Islamic Courts Union (BBC Backgrounder) and to aid in the installment of a transitional federal government.

The capital, Mogadishu, was warlord-dominated before the rise of the ICU, and Reuters reports that the four outlets shut down in Modadishu were HornAfrik Media, Shabelle Media network, a Koranic radio station (IQK), and the local office of Al-Jazeera.

The three journalists detained in Somaliland, which declared independence from Somalia after dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was ousted in 1991, worked for a group called Haatuf Media Network.

The U.N. expert named them as Yusuf Abdi Gabode, Ali Abdi Din and Mohamed Omar Sheikh, but gave no indication of the charges against them.

Source: today.reuters.co.uk

The three were detained in Somaliland, a self-proclaimed independent entity with no international recognition.

The Bush administration regards Ethiopia as a major U.S ally in the Horn of Africa, and U.S. helicopter gunships aided the Ethiopians during the December invasion.

Relevant Links: Alnjjar’s U.N. Press Release

More Articles by Ganim Alnjarr

Tags: Alnajjar | threats | Media | journalists | independent | freedom | Expert | called | somaliland | Somalia | Politics | Mohamed | Mogadishu | Abdi

Iraq’s African Shadow: Insurgency Grows , Peacekeepers Hesitate February 11, 2007

Posted by publicpolitics in Africa, Iraq.
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Ethiopia’s war against Somalia continues, with Ethiopian troops still very much present in the capital and other cities. Ethiopia’s Meles Zenawi, the country’s controversial political leader, invaded Somalia with U.S. assistance at Christmas. He pledged a quick, decisive war without a polonged occupation.

So far, things are not turning out as expected.

Zenawi promised to dislodge the Islamic Courts, a loose affiliation of Islamicist groups that had managed to control Mogadishu’s warlords and impose order throughout most of the country. At least two U.S. helicopter attacks supported Zenawi’s troops as they scored a quick rout of the Courts. Since the invasion and Zenawi’s declaration of victory, the peace has been at least punctuated, if not rocked, by attacks from an as yet ill defined insurgencies, as well as popular demonstrations in Mogadishu against what many Somaiis view as a foreign occupying force..

And as Mohammed Abdi Farah reports from Kismayu, the violence is not confined to Mogadishu.

At least four people, one of them a soldier have been killed and dozens more including senior Somalia military officers were wounded in a bomb explosion in the center of the southern Somalia port city of Kismayu on Sunday.

Source: somalinet.com

The Ethiopian government claims that the attacks came from “remnants” of the Islamic forces, although no group has claimed formal reponsibility.

Although Zenawi pledged to have all Ethiopian troops out of the country two weeks after taking the capital, not many have been withdrawn. Part of the difficulty is that the invasion plan involved using Ethiopian troops only as the sharp head of the spear and to replace them after the military victory with a diverse group of peacekeepers whose job it would be to keep civil order and to control any possible resurrection of the Islamicist movement.

Part of the problem is that only one part of a two step plan was in place before Ethiopia invaded. Zenawi apparently did not give much forethought to the peacekeeping force that was to stabilize Somalia after the initial military action. South Africa, one of the richest countries on the continent, outright refused to send troops. The request for troops has turned out to be a divisive political question in Uganda, a country known for its usual willingness to deploy in the region.

Members of the Ugandan Parliament believe they need more information about the contestants on both sides in order to avoid an Iraq-like scenario in which any post-invasion force winds up fighting a protracted war of occupation. Latif Ssebagala(MP) puts it this way:

Uganda is a member of the Organization of
Islamic Conference. Islamic States like Egypt , Djibouti , Libya and
Sudan , which are also members, have abstained. Don’t you think we
shall see a similar situation like that of Iraq unless we go back to
the drawing board? My colleague has rightly put it that over 95% of
Somalis are Muslims and they speak one language, so why are they
fighting each other? …According to the information I have the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC)
made a tactical withdraw. And since, presently, there are no genuine
negotiations between UIC and TFG; are we going for peacekeeping or
peace enforcement?

Charles Kabooza reporting on allafrica.com

Those are all good questions, and ones that must be answered if any intelligent policies are going to emerge . As with Iraq, it would have prudent to consider the peace long before the war started.The price of not doing so may well be a continuous , ever more fractious insurgency, popular opposition to the putative “liberators”, and bitter domestic debates in all the countries involved.

Iraq has a long shadow, indeed.

Tags: WOUNDS | southern | SENIOR | officials | OFFICERS | KILLS | including | Government | Explosion | dozens | COMMANDER | Bomb | Army | sunday | Somalia | Politics | mahdi | Kismayu | Juba | Hassan | Abdi

Atheist’s View of Quran Banned from YouTube? February 10, 2007

Posted by publicpolitics in Censorship.
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Nick Gisburne is a self-professed atheist whose latest video, a selection of verses from the Quran describing what should happen to infidels, was allegedly banned from YouTube. It is unclear whether Mr. Gisburne has been reinstated or has been readmitted under another name, since both the original video and a video he made asking to be reinstated both are present, as of this writing, on the YouTube site.

However, Mr Gisburne has sparked a mini-rebellion against the banning, according to one writer:


The video that got him banned, however, has since been reposted dozens and dozens of times.

Source: freerepublic.com

The video in question simply displays verses (suras) from the Quran , set to music. It is much less obnoxious that some permitted YouTube videos, and it is hard to imagine why what amounts to a set of photographs of words ever fell into the category of prohibited material.

Tags: video | posted | KILLED | dozens | deleted | banned | account | YouTube | teachings | Quran | Politics | ISLAMIC | Cruelty

Pelosi Airways: Flying Blind February 10, 2007

Posted by publicpolitics in U.S. Congress.
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The next time you are sitting in economy class, with your knees bent nearly to your chin and a screaming kid on either side of you, think of how nice it would be to fly with Nancy Pelosi, who might just get her own new plane to commute to and from her California home.

Last week, articles appeared in The Washington Times claiming that the new House Speaker had requested a new airplane that was much larger and more expensive than the one that her Republican predecessor, Dennis Hastert, used to travel to and fro. The Times article attributed the request to Pelosi herself, and Republican blogs had a field day. The Times had its story only partially straight. While it is true that the new plane will be capable of flying non-stop from Washington to California, the replacement requisition came not from Pelosi, but from Bill Livingood, the House sergeant at arms:

“The fact that Speaker Pelosi lives in California compelled me to request an aircraft that is capable of making non-stop flights for security purposes, unless such an aircraft is unavailable,” Livingood, who has been at his post for 11 years, said in a written statement.

Source: cnn.com

Pelosi had already denied the Republican claim that she had asked for a new plane, and the story reports that John Murtha is planning to conduct hearings on Congressional travel arrangements and perks.

That is a good idea. Pelosi has expressed her willingness to travel commercially, along with the rest of us. The Pentagon points to security issues as the reason for providing military transport to selected legislators Let’s hope that the proposed Murtha hearings don’t continue to beg the real question here, which is not whether our representatvies should have a more or less costly means of government transport. The ii issue Murtha and others ought to address is this: if security arrangements on commercial airlines are not tight enough to protect nearly all of our elected officials, are they really good enough for the rest of us?

Related Documents: Congressional Research Service 98-385(PDF) House Sergeant at Arms

Pentagon Letter to Pelosi(PDF)

Tags: YEARS | unavailable | statement | Security | request | purposes | non-stop | making | lives | larger | Issue | flights | compelled | capable | aircraft | Washington | speaker | Politics | PELOSI | nancy | Livingood | California