Friday, February 27, 2015

Why Did Egyptians Tie and Behead a Dog as Onlookers Watched?

This dog was “slaughtered” in a public beheading in Egypt.

On Twitter, @ahmedadel755 remarks: “This is the faithful dog and this is his treacherous dirty owner.”

News of the public “slaughtering” of a dog in a busy Cairo neighborhood as onlookers watched has sent shock waves around the world, with many questioning how people have become this violent, and why no one stopped the grisly act caught on video.

Cherine Kendous posted a summary of what happened:

"The owner of the dog had a fight with other people. The dog then defended its owner and bit one of the other people, who made a complaint in the police station afterwards. The dog's owner was then sentenced to a year in jail. He thus wanted to reach an agreement with the attacked person, so they decided that they will drop the lawsuit if he handed the dog over to them for them to take revenge their way. They tied the dog in a pole and attacked it by knives and slaughtered it."
Zeinobia wrote about the story and posted the video of what happened. The video was removed later on from Facebook for being graphical.

"The brothers asked for one thing: To kill the dog in front of everybody in the street so they could restore their pseudo-prestige after being humiliated by a dog. The dog’s owner agreed and we had that video."
Social media reacted to the incident with anger, some criticizing the lack of law and order that has driven people to take such actions. Nirvana Said tweets:

 And Maryse Matthew shares a quote:

Yet, the question remains, why people are becoming this violent?
Beesan Kassab blamed it on the custom of bringing children to watch the slaughter of sheep in Eid Al-Adha feast:

طب ما هو مؤگد فيه كم رهيب من البشر مستغربين ليه فيه كم اقل مصدومين من قصة ذبح الكلب ، اذا كانوا بيجيبوا عيالهم يتفرجوا على دبح خروف العيد؟ بالنسبة لحد بيشوف المشهد ده وهو طفل اكيد المسألة هتبقى ابسط لما يكبر…زي ما فيه اطفال اهاليهم بيعلموهم يصطادوا العصافير للتسلية بس،ولما حد يفتح بقه لازم اسطوانة ” ركزوا والنبي في البني ادمين الاول” تشتغل ، تقولش حضرته اللي بيتكلم كارل ماركس اسم الله

If they bring their children to watch the sheep while being slaughtered in the feast? For someone who watches such a scene while being a child, of course, he will be accustomed to the thing when he grows up. Like the parents who let their children shoot birds for fun. And whenever someone complains about these, they are faced with responses like “lets focus on human rights first”.
Actually, Fatima Said's tweet is a good demonstration for Beesan's last sentence:

This particular Eid Al-Adha custom has been discussed a lot, especially after a Saudi 3-year-old child stabbed his sister after being influenced by the slaughtering rituals.

On the other hand, Ehab Kamel draws his own lines between this incident and what happened to some people in Egypt a couple of years ago, for having different religious beliefs than their neighbours. He wrote:

The video of torturing and killing the dog is not that distant from what happened to Sheikh Hassan Shehata a while back. It is not strange from the general behaviour of the society. We are generally a group of psychopaths who suffered for a long while from passive aggression and it started to come to the surface after decades now, in the form of non stoppable lust towards killing and torturing and blood. We are in front of a society in a late stage of psychological illness. It is worth saying that, as a result of the distortion that been exerted on this society, we surrendered to it and face a society with no values, no morals, no goals, no social contract nor any form of system.
So, the question remains. Is this violence due to some social customs or is it the result of the oppression exerted on the people by their regime?
I better end this article with a quote by Paulo Freire.
Any situation in which some men prevent others from engaging in the process of inquiry is one of violence; to alienate humans from their own decision making is to change them into objects.
This incident reportedly took place four days ago, and three men have been arrested in connection with the crime.

Written byTarek Amr  for Global Voices

Thursday, February 26, 2015

ISIS Destroys 3,000-year-old Sculptures at a Museum in Mosul, Iraq

Armed with sledgehammers, drills and pickaxes, militants belonging to the ISIS are videotaped destroying ancient artifacts in a museum in Mosul, in Northern Iraq. The five-minute recording was allegedly made at the Nineveh museum and the 3,000-year-old sculptures being destroyed date back to the Assyrian Empire

This comes fresh on the heels of news emerging from Mosul claiming that the militants, who have come to control large swathes of Iraq and Syria, have burned thousands of books and rare manuscripts at the Mosul Library as well as other libraries in areas they hold. Mosul, Iraq's second largest city fell into the militants’ hands in June 2014 and is now under the control of the group, a splinter of the notorious Al Qaeda, which is also fighting in Syria.

According to the video, doing the rounds on social media, the group claims that it had destroyed the ancient artifacts because they were idols. 

Beirut-based Foreign Policy Middle East editor David Kenner quips: 

Another journalist, Sheera Frenkel, asks for a source of the carnage:
Jameel, from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, notes:
"After they have burned the library in Mosul, the ISIS militants, may they be damned, are destroying priceless artifacts in the Ninawa Museum"

Palestinian Yaser Al Zaatreh tries to reason with the madness unleashed by the ISIS by asking the obvious:
"A question: Are those sculptures destroyed by the ISIS in Mosul new or ancient ones which have seen centuries of invaders, Caliphs and scientists, who have not destroyed them? This is just a question."

Zainab, from Kuwait, responds to those who say people's lives are more important than the relics, saying: 

"If we lament what's happening to the museum in Mosul, we get comments from those who say people are the most important thing, why doesn't your heart ache for them. I swear we can take interest in two issues at the same time"

And Daoud Ibrahim, from Lebanon, asks:

"When will the ISIS ideology be destroyed like they have been destroying the Mosul museum?"

Tounsia Hourra shares this video of the museum in Mosul from the 1950s, saying that it was Iraq's second largest museum: 
"The museum in Mosul destroyed by the ISIS is the second largest museum in Iraq. This is a short documentary about it"

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

'There Will Be A Reckoning'

Environmental visionary Lester Brown delivers stark warning over dust bowl conditions spreading over Africa and Asia
A satellite captured a 2001 dust storm swirling over China. The storm eventually crossed the Pacific and reached the United States. (Photo: NASA)

On the verge of retirement, noted environmentalist and celebrated systems analyst Lester Brown has a dire warning for the world he has spent more than half a century advising on issues of food and energy policy: there is no end in sight for the interrelated scourge of climate change, global poverty and hunger.

In fact, according to Brown, in several vulnerable areas around the world, the situation may be about to go from very bad to much worse.

"We are pushing against the limits of land that can be plowed and the land available for grazing and there are two areas of the world in which we are in serious trouble now," said Brown, who founded both the Worldwatch Institute and the Earth Policy Institute, in an interview with the Guardian's environment correspondent Suzanne Goldenberg.

“One is the Sahel region of Africa, from Senegal to Somalia," explained Brown. "There is a huge dust bowl forming now that is actually stretching right across the continent and that dust bowl is removing a lot of top soil, so eventually they will be in serious trouble."

At some point soon, he added, "there will be a reckoning" in those regions.

According to this NPR report from November, based on the work of the Earth Policy Institute, the dust bowl conditions forming in northern Africa and across central Asia are already having dire consequences:
In China, dust storms have become almost an annual occurrence since 1990, compared to every 31 years on average historically. In northern China and Mongolia, two large deserts — the Badain Jaran and the Tengger — are expanding and merging, often swirling together in massive sand storms when strong winds blow through each spring. The Gobi desert is also growing, inching ever-closer to Beijing as the grasslands at its edges deteriorate.
Meanwhile, in the Sahel region of Africa, millions of acres are turning to desert each year in countries including Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger and Nigeria. Dust from Chad's Bodele Depression been traveling the globe for many centuries — in fact, scientists think it helped make the Amazon fertile. But the amount of dust blowing out of West Africa has increased in the last 40 years. Dust clouds from the Sahara can affect air quality as far away as Houston, and may even harm Caribbean coral reefs.
According to Brown, as the situation worsens in these areas, the impacts will likely be much worse than they were in the United States during the 1930s. "Our dust bowl was serious," Brown explained to Goldenberg, "but it was confined and within a matter of years we had it under control ... these two areas don’t have that capacity."

The warning over soil erosion and the unsustainable farming practices that currently dominate large swaths of the planet have been on the mind of ecologists and agricultural experts for decades. As the threat of global warming has entered the public debate, the stakes have only intensified. Brown was among the first and most thorough minds to set attention on the threat of planetary climate change, devoting an entire series of books—collectively titled Plan B—which assess and put forth solutions to the approaching crisis. The most recent edition is Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization.

However, in a statement last month, Brown announced that he would officially retire later this year and wind down the Earth Policy Institute following the publication of his next book, The Great Transition: Shifting from Fossil Fuels to Solar and Wind Energy.

"After careful consideration of my life at 80 years," announced  Brown in the statment, "and with profound appreciation to my staff, collaborators and supporters, I have decided to step down as president of the Earth Policy Institute and end its work as of July 1, 2015." 

Brown continued, "I believe the Earth Policy Institute has accomplished what we set out to do when we began in 2001, and now it is time for me to make a shift and no longer carry the responsibility of managing an organization. I plan to continue to research and write on issues that I believe I can add to in some meaningful way."

Speaking with Goldenberg, Danielle Nierenberg, who joined Worldwatch in 2001 and went on to co-found her own institute, Food Tank, said the world owes much to Brown for his decades of work and unique vision.

"He’s the godfather of merging environmental and food issues," said Nierenberg. "If you are talking about food and the environment, everybody looks to Lester Brown."

As the world continues to grapple with the catastrophes spurred by our own human development, Brown wrote this in the introduction to Plan B 4.0: "The question we face is not what we need to do, because that seems rather clear to those who are analyzing the global situation. The challenge is how to do it in the time available. Unfortunately, we don't know how much times remains. Nature is the timekeeper but we cannot see the clock."

He continued, "The thinking that got us into this mess it not likely to get us out. We need a new mindset."

The last question society should ask, he concluded, is whether or not what needs to be done is considered possible.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Cameroon Bloggers Rally Behind #StopBokoHaram Campaign

Violent militant group Boko Haram, which now occupies large swathes of Nigerian territory, has launched 114 attacks on Cameroonian soil in the past year, according to the Cameroon government. The group has killed hundreds of Cameroonian civilians, scores of soldiers, and lost over 1,000 fighters in the process.

The most deadly Boko Haram attack on Cameroonian soil occurred on February 4, 2015, in Fotokol, where it killed about 90 civilians, according to government sources (some sources put the number of dead at more than 500).

In reaction to the persistent and increasingly macabre Boko Haram attacks on Cameroon and neighboring countries, the Cameroon Bloggers Association recently launched a #StopBokoHaram campaign. According to the AfrIct blog:

The goal of the campaign is threefold: highlight the threat posed by the terrorist group in Cameroon, show support for Cameroonian troops who have so far held back the Boko Haram onslaught, and express solidarity with the people of the North region who have been hardest hit by Boko Haram.
In an interview with government-owned daily Cameroon Tribune, Florian Ngimbis, president of the bloggers association, further explained the rationale behind the campaign:

The Cameroonian blogosphere would like to become, beyond the powerful personalities within its ranks, a real hub for political consciousness, not by creating a political party but by leveraging the strength of its network for national causes. It is our modest contribution to this war, which is not just a war that concerns the northern regions of the country, but the entire country and continent in the fight against obscurantism and terrorism.
The first part of the campaign has been primarily on social media with bloggers sharing their thoughts about the war against Boko Haram and explaining why they have joined the #StopBokoHaram campaign. Blogger Ulrich Tadajeu Kenfac explains that he has joined the campaign to preach the message of peace:

I began blogging a few years ago in order to “scream and force the world to come into the world,” to use the words of Sony Labou Tansi. Given the distress that our species has brought upon its own kind, given the terror that decimates lives and terrorizes families, we might wonder, along with Hölderlin, “what need is there for poets in times of distress?” In other words, “what need is there for bloggers in times of barbarism?” We need bloggers in times of barbarism to preach a message of love, a message of fraternity and humanity. That is my message today. Let the human live, and let peace and fraternity be our values. Let Boko Haram cease to exist so that humans may live.
For blogger Pulse Lounge, the campaign is an opportunity to speak up against Boko Haram:

A friend asked me what actions I would recommend, and if I was ready to take up arms against Boko Haram. I smiled. Relevant question nonetheless. My words, my pen, and the ease with which I express my feelings, choices and ideas in my writings, are my weapons. My goal is to encourage every Cameroonian, wherever they are, to speak up and campaign for a return to peace in Northern Cameroon…
Cameroon is my homeland; welcoming and humanly. I refuse to allow its liberty and integrity besmirched by individuals driven by gratuitous hatred, and who hide their pseudo-courage behind weapons and violence against a defenseless population.
At the heart of the campaign is the bloggers’ use of Facebook and Twitter to publish updates from the war front along with patriotic messages to rally Cameroonians around the war effort:

Hundreds of Cameroonians have joined in, replacing their Facebook and Twitter profiles and cover pictures with special banners created for the campaign, and sending out thousands of tweets using the #StopBokoHaram hashtag. Many Twitter users have also expressed their support for the campaign or explained what it means to them.

User @DailyRetroCMR was fully behind the campaign:

Translated: Because today a new page of our history is being written, we wholeheartedly join @BloggersCM to say #StopBokoHaram.

And for Citizens Initiative, the campaign is a rallying point for anyone who is fighting against terrorism:

For @DarealBlueMagic, the campaign is about promoting those values that Cameroonians cherish and which are enshrined in their country’s coat of arms:

Translated: Peace has no price. Cameroon: Peace-Work-Fatherland. That's what we’re all about. #StopBokoHaram #Team237

User @Camerlive seized this opportunity to reiterate Edward Burke’s warning about the pitfalls of inaction in the face of evil:

Translated: #StopBokoHaram. All it takes for evil to prevail is for good people to do nothing. Let’s do something!

Boko Haram means “Western education is forbidden” in Hausa. Blogger Fadimatou Bello issues an unequivocal rebuttal to that backward message: 

Translation: Boko Harmaye Ha Kamaru, Lesdi am (Western education is not a sin in my country, Cameroon).

A number of Cameroonian musicians have also joined the campaign, the most notable being the collaborative effort by a group of urban musicians who produced a song titled Je Suis Kolofata (I am Kolofata) in honor of a town in the Far North region of Cameroon which has been repeatedly attacked by Boko Haram:

The #StopBokoHaram campaign has also garnered support outside Cameroon, for example, from the community of Togolese bloggers:

Translation:  Our total support for our @BloggersCM colleagues who have rallied to #StopBokoHaram. We're all affected. #Blog228 #Team237 #Team228

The most noteworthy foreign support has been from Guillaume Soro, former prime minister of the Republic of Cote d’Ivoire and current president of the Ivorian National Assembly:

Translation: The President of the National Assembly @SOROKGUILLAUME supports @BloggersCM. All of us together against the Boko Haram terrorist threat.

Thanks to the Cameroon bloggers’ campaign, many Cameroon have come to realize that the war against Boko Haram is not just “an affair of the North” but a war against a terrorist sect whose actions threaten Cameroon’s sovereignty and stability.

Public appreciation for the Cameroon Bloggers Association is summed up in a tweet from Georgie du Kamer:

Translated: @BloggersCM Bravo, guys! We are wholeheartedly behind you. May God protect you. Our fatherland or death, we shall prevail! 
Written byDibussi Tande for Global Voices

Monday, February 23, 2015

POSTPONED: AL Environmental Council to Host 3rd "PowerUp Energy Forum" - @AEConline at BSC @FromTheHilltop Feb25 POSTPONED

This event has been postponed due to weather. Check back for rescheduling.

The Alabama Environmental Council will host its third POWER-UP Energy Forum on Wednesday, February 25th at Birmingham Southern College from 8:30 AM until 3:30 PM. POWER-UP addresses energy issues affecting Alabama with local and regional representatives. POWER-UP stands for Promoting Our Wise, Efficient, Renewable Use of Power. This year’s theme is “Energy: Renewable & Efficient + Reliable & Economical.” The event is open to the public.
“Past year’s events have provided a great opportunity to have a conversation about Alabama’s energy future, and I’m excited about this year’s panelists,” said Michael Churchman, executive director of the Alabama Environmental Council. “There is so much growth around efficiency, renewables and planning for the future across the Southeast, and we are excited to bring that conversation to Alabama.”

POWER-UP is an open, public forum about energy in Alabama. Conversations will center on efficiency and conservation, alternatives, renewables and a transparent process for stakeholders to provide input in choosing and planning for Alabama’s energy future. Local, regional and national speakers will provide perspectives about what is working across the Southeast and what opportunities exist for Alabama. There also will be time for conversation and interaction among panelists and participants.

Shan Aurora is keynote speaker for the day and is Policy Programs Manager for Southface in Atlanta, Georgia. He is the Project Manager for, Southface’s initiative to deliver unique maps, charts, and tables that allow users to easily understand Georgia’s energy consumption, electricity generation and solar assets. Shan also manages Southface’s Clean Energy Industry Census project to quantify the economic benefits of Georgia’s clean energy sector. He is working with partners in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia to build upon the Census and create a four-state Clean Energy Roadmap that will provide guidance on how to grow the region’s clean energy industry. Other panelists include regionally-regarded individuals who focus on renewable energy and energy efficiency in Alabama and the Southeast.

Find out more on the POWER-UP forum online at or email for more information.

About the Alabama Environmental Council (AEC) protects Alabama's environment through advocacy, education, & preservation. The AEC is a solution-oriented organization that encourages industries, communities and individuals to engage in responsible and sustainable energy production and consumption. The AEC seeks to initiate action, promote leadership and provide powerful grassroots support. For more information, visit

Friday, February 20, 2015

Harvard Embattled as Students, Faculty, & Alumni Join Forces for Divestment

'Unless and until institutions like Harvard act to stigmatize the root causes of global warming, we will remain addicted to a system of energy production and economic injustice that guarantees catastrophe.'
The suit charges that the Harvard Corporation is breaching its duties under its charter by investing in fossil fuel companies.(Photo: Harvard Climate Justice Coalition/Facebook/Overlay)
The administration of one of the world's most elite higher education institutions has called the intensified tactics of its students a form of "coercive" protest and lawyers representing Harvard University will be in a court room on Friday as they try to persuade a judge to throw out a lawsuit which is part of the same effort: a push to get the Ivy League school to divest its $36 billion endowment from the fossil fuel industry.

The lawsuit, filed on by seven graduate and undergraduate students last fall, argues Harvard's continued holdings in the oil, gas, coal, and related sectors is a "mismanagement of charitable funds" controlled by the board of trustees in the form of the endowment and a direct violation of its obligations to the future of the university's financial health as well as the planet's well-being.

According to the complaint, investments in the fossil fuel industry "contribute to current and future damage to the University’s reputation and to that of its students and graduates, to the ability of students to study and thrive free from the threat of catastrophic climate change, and to future damage to the university’s physical campus as a result of sea-level rise and increased storm activity."
In a recent public statement, the students explained:

We’re bringing this case by ourselves, without lawyers, because we believe that every one of us has a responsibility to confront the reality of climate change. That reality has arrived; it poses and will continue to pose serious dangers to the most vulnerable among us. Unless and until institutions like Harvard act to stigmatize the root causes of global warming, we will remain addicted to a system of energy production and economic injustice that guarantees catastrophe. Our university has a legal obligation — and, more importantly, a moral duty —to stop profiting from human suffering and environmental destruction. Our lawsuit simply asks Harvard to live up to its centuries-old promise to promote “the advancement of youth.”
As the Guardian noted ahead of Friday's hearing, "The lawsuit puts a growing spotlight on Harvard, as the world’s richest university. Over the last few years, the divestment movement has jumped from college campuses to charitable foundations and pensions funds – with the recent crash of oil prices strengthening the financial argument for getting out of fossil fuels."

Last week, dozens of students staged a sit-in in the administrative building as a way to confront university leadership, including President Drew G. Faust, over their refusal to acknowledge the seriousness of the school's continued profiteering from an industry whose activities, the global scientific community agrees, is drastically warming the planet and altering the climate.

"By investing in fossil fuel companies, Harvard jeopardizes the future of its students and the world," said Sima Atri, a third-year law student and Divest Harvard member who participated in the sit-in.

In response to the protest, the university released a terse statement condemning the determined efforts of its students. "We are deeply disappointed that divestment advocates have chosen to resort to a disruptive building occupation as a means to advance their view," the letter stated. "Such tactics cross the line from persuasion to disrespectful and coercive interference with the activities of others."

However, large numbers of both faculty and alumni have rallied to the students cause.

A group of more than 230 faculty members from across the university's various schools, who have come together as Members of Harvard Faculty for Divestment, issued a statement in support of Divest Harvard.

According to the faculty letter:

Divestment is an act of ethical responsibility, a protest against current practices that cannot be altered as quickly or effectively by other means.  The University either invests in fossil fuel corporations, or it divests.  If the Corporation regards divestment as “political,” then its continued investment is a similarly political act, one that finances present corporate activities and calculates profit from them.
The only way to remain “neutral” in such circumstances is to bracket ethical principles even while being deeply concerned about consequences.  Slavery was once an investment issue, as were apartheid and the harm caused by smoking.
The letter concluded:

We know that fossil fuel use must decrease.  To achieve this goal, not only must research and education be pursued with vigor, pressure must also be exerted.  If there is no pressure, then grievous harm due to climate change will accelerate and entrench itself for a span of time that will make the history of Harvard look short.
We the undersigned are faculty and officers of the University, many with knowledge and research in climate science, energy, business management, ethics, and the effects of climate change on health, prosperity, and biodiversity.  Many are alumni and donors.  We appeal to our colleagues, fellow alumni, and donors to join us in signing this statement, as an act of conscience and fiscal responsibility, and in asking the Corporation to divest, as soon as possible, its holdings in fossil fuel corporations.
Ahead of the hearing over the pending lawsuit on Friday, the unified divestment groups from the Harvard community announced they would stage a week-long protest in April as a way to increase the pressure on the administration.

As the school newspaper The Crimson reports:
activists plan to engage in “highly civil civil disobedience,” both locally through the sit-in demonstration around Massachusetts Hall and remotely through social media, phone, and email, according to the open letter. Its signatories include filmmaker Darren S. Aronofsky ’91, Nobel Peace Prize winner Eric S. Chivian ‘64, Pulitzer Prize winner Susan C. Faludi ’81, actress Natalie Portman ’03, activist-author Cornel R. West ’74, and former Colorado Senator Timothy E. Wirth ’61.
Despite emphasizing the plan to protest “peacefully and politely but firmly,” the letter hinted at the potential for police intervention. “If anyone is to be led away by the University Police, surely it’s easier for those of us with stable and secure lives than for students at the start of their careers,” the alumni signatories wrote.
According to the “Heat Week” website, all protesters must attend a non-violence training and an action briefing before participating in the sit-in.

All of this activity at Harvard takes place in the recent shadow of the Global Divestment Day, which took place last week and saw hundreds of direct actions and community events calling for fossil fuel divestment around the globe. And in an op-ed written by a coalition of student divestment organizers published on Common Dreams earlier this week, the promise coming from the movement is that school administrators and trustees can expect to see not only more activity around this push, but an intensification of purpose and an escalation of tactics.

"Investments that support an unconscionable status quo are themselves unconscionable," the organizers wrote. "As students build a more imaginative future, we ask that our leaders join us. Until then, we will disregard business-as-usual just as business-as-usual has disregarded us. This marks the beginning of the next phase of the fossil fuel divestment movement. We vow to march forward and will refuse to back down." 

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License from Common Dreams

Your Mobile Privacy is Under Threat Because of US and UK Spies

One of the “biggest Snowden stories yet” has arrived today, according to journalist Glenn Greenwald.

Spies from the United States’ National Security Agency (NSA) and the United Kingdom's Government Communication Headquarters (GCHQ) “hacked into the internal computer network of the largest manufacturer of SIM cards in the world, stealing encryption keys used to protect the privacy of cellphone communications across the globe.” The information was obtained from top-secret documents leaked by Edward Snowden.

So what, exactly, did the spy agencies do? According to journalist Jeremy Scahill (who also works for The Intercept with Greenwald):

Encryption keys are what keep encrypted communications private to third parties, such as governments. In the case of mobile technology, the key is stored in the SIM card [pdf], and the mobile carrier also holds a copy.

Communications are encrypted between the carrier and the phone only, meaning that the mobile carrier can use their key to access your data. Typically, a mobile carrier would only hand over the key if compelled to do so by law enforcement. Therefore, by hacking into the network of Gemalto, the world's largest SIM card manufacturer, the spy agencies are able to bypass the rule of law and gain access to the SIM encryption keys of potentially billions of mobile phone users, allowing them to decrypt phone calls, text messages, and other traffic.* 

On Twitter, many readers seemed unsurprised by the latest news, considering all of the leaks that came before it.

@AnonyOps questioned the efficacy of the hack, asking:

Privacy International's Eric King joked:

Another important question raised by the story is who is affected by the breach. As The Intercept points out, Gemalto's clients include US mobile carriers AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, and Sprint, as well as 450 wireless network providers around the world.

“The company operates in 85 countries and has more than 40 manufacturing facilities,” they report. The piece also mentions Vodafone (Europe), Orange (France), EE (Europe), Royal KPN (the Netherlands), China Unicom, NTT (Japan), and Chungwa Telecom (Taiwan), as well as “scores of wireless network providers throughout Africa and the Middle East.” A look at Gemalto's website also unearths China Mobile and South Africa's MTN as partners; the company's Wikipedia page shows telecom clients in Turkey and Italy, as well.

Some readers expressed anger at the two countries for their seemingly endless spying.

Claudio Guarnieri, an Italian malware expert, tweeted:

Maher Arar, a Syrian-Canadian who was once renditioned by the US to Syria and reportedly tortured while in custody, wrote:

Gemalto, the company at the center of the story, has not yet responded publicly, but a video from the manufacturer shows its good intentions:

*It's worth noting that this does not allow NSA and GHCQ to access calls, messages, and other communications that are encrypted by other, additional means, such as tools like RedPhone or ChatSecure. For more information on mobile security, check out Surveillance Self-Defense or Security in a Box.

#FightFastTrack: Coalition Takes Aim at Lawmakers over Corporate-Friendly 'Trade' Agreement

Environmental, labor, and community groups are staging public forums and creative direct actions urging their representatives to say no to a rushed TPP deal
People gather at Peace Arch Park in 2012 to oppose the U.S.-led Trans Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP). (Photo: Caelie_Frampton/flickr/cc)
Environmental, labor, and community groups are organizing rallies, public forums, and creative direct actions this week urging their congressional representatives to say "no" to a renewed bid to rush through the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership "trade" deal by passing "fast track" legislation.

"Senate Finance Committee Chair Orrin Hatch (R-UT) is saying he wants to reintroduce Fast Track legislation for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) this month — right after Members of Congress return from the Presidents Day recess," explains Citizens Trade Campaign, referring to legislation that would allow the Obama administration to avoid transparency and full congressional review of the deal. "Now’s the time to tell Congress: no Fast Track for the TPP!"

"Fast track legislation could be introduced as early as next week," Arthur Stamoulis, executive direct of Citizens Trade Campaign, told Common Dreams. "Fast track would allow harmful trade deals like the TPP be rushed through Congress. We need everyone to be telling their Congress members to put the breaks on."

From California to Illinois to Connecticut, over 22 events are slated for the President's Day recess (February 14 to 23), during which lawmakers are at home, in their districts. Organizers hail from labor, workers' rights, environmental, and community organizations, and actions span from an overpass light brigade in San Diego to a public forum in New York.

While some events have already taken place, additional actions are scheduled for the coming days. Updates and commentary are being posted to Twitter:

Critics are blasting the highly-secretive Pacific "trade" deal under negotiation, which has been called "NAFTA on steroids," as a tool for advancing U.S. and corporate power at the expense of environmental and public health.

In fact, many argue that it's inaccurate to refer to the TPP as a "trade" deal at all, since the real prerogative is to protect corporate profits and protections.

The TPP negotiations between the U.S. and 11 other nations (Canada, Mexico, Japan, Vietnam, Chile, Peru, Brunei, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia) are so secretive that even many members of Congress have not seen the text. This is despite the fact that the pact, if passed, would impact 40 percent of the world's economy.

The information that is available to the public was leaked. Documents show that negotiators are pushing for inclusion of NAFTA's infamous corporate tribunals, in which corporations "settle disputes" with governments in secrecy and trample domestic protections including public health and environmental regulations, completely circumventing their own national legal systems.
Furthermore, leaks show that the U.S. is pushing to expand the power of pharmaceutical companies to establish monopolies on life-saving drugs, and even laws regulating tobacco companies could be slashed.

The TPP would affect wages, climate protections, internet freedom, access to medicine, indigenous rights, food safety, financial regulations, and a whole lot more," said Stamoulis. "It's really a corporate power grab with the status of a trade agreement."

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License from Common Dreams

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Cuba Announces New IT Policy and Does Not Mention Internet Access

Social networks have been used in Cuba for citizen demonstrations in ecological initiatives like Twittsaneo. Photo by Jorge Luis Sánchez, reproduced with permission.
Specialists in the IT and telecommunications sectors will discuss an IT policy in Havana that is intended to be “inclusive, modern, and facilitate sustainable processes over time,” said Ailyn Febles Estrada, Vice Chancellor of the University of Information Science, to Cubadebate

According to Febles, “all opinions from professionals linked to the sector are important” in defining and executing the new policy.

Nevertheless, this vision excludes—at least initially—those who are not considered “industry experts,” in a context where ICT use and access is of interest to all of society, and is even one of the talking points in the normalization of relations between Cuba and the United States. Febles did not allude to Internet access either, which should be a central topic in any discussion on information and communication policies. 

The National Workshop on Informatization and Cybersecurity will bring together over 11,000 computer experts, mostly connected via video conference in 21 sub-sites located across all of the country's provinces. On February 19 and 20, the event will be held in the Center for Integrated Technology Research at the José Antonio Echeverría Superior Polytechnic Institute, and around 260 experts will participate, analyzing topics such as human and scientific resources, e-government, computer security, the economy and legislation, Cubadebate explains. 

Additionally, they will analyze “the bases of the policy for developing secure informatization in the country, its national priorities, as well as the details on beginning the process of creating a new social organization that will bring together ICT-related professionals.” 

The “Governing Program of Informatization in Cuban Society,” adopted in 2005 and currently in force, establishes:
The informatization of society is the process of orderly and mass use of Information and Communications Technology in daily life to meet the needs of all areas of society, each time in an effort to achieve more effectiveness and efficiency and therefore greater wealth and an increase in the quality of life for citizens. 
In a research study conducted for CLACSO [pdf] (the Latin American Council of Social Sciences), Cuban professor and journalist Milena Recio considers that “the unilateralism of the [2005] policy, and the low levels of social participation in its design, determine that this notion [of orderly use] points more to regulated, scheduled, assigned use, which somewhat contradicts the very spirit of networks and the social impact that is expected in terms of developing and expanding the traditional boundaries for freedom of individuals in society.”

“It has not been massive, understood in its quantitative aspect, directly at least. The data confirms this,” Recio adds. 

The latest statistics (pdf) from the Cuban National Bureau of Statistics and Information reflect that in 2013, only 26% of the Cuban population had access to an Internet service or a home network, which only provides e-mail and allows the use of websites located in the country.

The policy of Internet access in Cuba favors free use in universities and research centers, but limits public access points with high prices in comparison to citizens’ average income. One hour of Internet browsing costs $4.50, and only 60 cents when it is for domestic use. The average monthly salary in Cuba is $25 CUC (roughly convertible to $25 USD).

During the first round of talks between Cuba and the United States, held in Havana in January 2015, Josefina Vidal said that Cuba was willing “to welcome U.S. telecommunications companies to explore business opportunities in this field (…) that may be beneficial for the country.” 

A look at the controversial resolution

“The Internet is shit! Let's see… whoever wants Internet, raise your hand.” Cartoon by Lázaro Saavedra (reproduced with permission).
In late July 2007, the Ministry of Informatics and Communications issued Resolution 127. The Safety Regulation for Security for Information Technologies annex contained various controversial articles that have been analyzed in Cuban blogs in recent times. Article 72, for example, “prohibits the placement of pages or websites from state entities on foreign servers that offer these services for free.” This would include blog and social network services used by university professors, students, doctors, and other users that access the Internet from these state institutions. 
On his blog ZorphDark, Alejandro Cuba commented:
Based on the existence of multiple groups, societies, and individuals with similar interests to the state policy, it is valid to question the costs and efficiency of bureaucratic mechanisms that limit the possibility of providing their content under the .cu domain. Not to mention the comparisons between the quality of the free services that recognized foreign companies offer and the limited national alternatives. 
Other articles prohibit “the establishment of email accounts from state agencies on servers located outside the country, considering that the uncertainty of the use of such means for the entity is beyond the control of the Cuban State,” and suggest that “subscribing to email lists and using chat services by the staff of an entity be authorized under the direction of the entity itself in all cases.” 

This resolution has provided a legal framework for penalizing, expelling, and taking administrative action against bloggers and social network users who occasionally publish posts that are considered “politically incorrect” by some managers of state workplaces. Nonetheless, nobody seems to remember when professionals use their personal sites online to transmit a triumphalist and non-controversial image of Cuban reality.

Another literacy campaign 

An article published in the Temas journal concludes that “the use of ICT in Cuba and the assumption of the Internet as a repository of information, a tool for e-commerce, and/or for the development of political campaigns, almost always from a vision of dissemination, is a long way off from the necessary understanding of this scenario as a space for conversations and direct dialogue between representatives and the people.” Back in 2011, in La Jiribilla, Recio said:  

    When in 1961 the Cuban people decided to conquer their right to the future for themselves through the spread of “letters” via a massive literacy campaign, it was simultaneously offering the liberating “weapon” of reading and writing, while solving a great social debt with the Gutenberg techno-cultural cycle.

    Fifty years later, in the new scenarios, another literacy is almost imperative, this time to insert yourself more fully into the new techno-cultural cycle opened by digital info-communication.

    This other alphabetization – the digital/informational kind – that we need, seems to be as urgent an issue as the marabou one. Curing the infection of the lands is conditional to offering food to the stomach; stretching out, going on a campaign towards a societal model sustained in the value of knowledge would give us certain guarantees for a future in which every vocation is not reduced to the mere stomach.

    Written byElaine Díaz