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China Communist Party Expanding Internet Crackdown

Fri, 08/04/2017 - 22:57

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China, the biggest communist country in the world and one of the countries with the worst record when it comes to personal freedom, is cracking down again this time when it comes to internet freedom. The response by the communist government is in part due to scheduled meetings in Beijing for the Communist Party, the largest political party in China.

“China’s internet connections service market has signs of disordered development that require urgent regulation and governance,” a statement released by the Ministry which oversees the internet read. The response is also another way of tightening the grips on who is allowed to offer VPNs, also known as Virtual Private Networks, which are used in the creation of new websites.

China’s government already has in place one of the greatest restrictions on internet freedom in countries where internet is available. Websites like Twitter, Facebook, and GOOGLE are blocked and websites that have any reference to the Tiananmen Square Massacre or any critical articles in references to the Communist Party are blocked as well.

China leads the leads the lists of countries who have the worst internet freedom. Following China are Iran, Syria, Ethiopia and Uzbekistan are the counties who make up the top five for worst internet freedom. On the opposite side, Estonia, Iceland, Canada, the United States, and Germany make the top five countries who have the best internet freedom.

Known as the “Great Firewall,” the reference has been used to describe the tough nature of the restrictions placed upon internet servers in China.  China only has three internet service providers that are allowed to authorize the creation of internet websites, China Mobile, China Unicom, and China Telecom. All three companies are under the control of the Chinese Government.

“This is a significantly escalated form of internet control and shows there is unprecedented urgency and desperation at the top of the government,” said Xiao Qiang, a professor at the University of Berkley who teaches internet censorship.

The response from the communist regime could be due to the fact that China saw its greatest increase in internet users in 2016, with 731 million people using the web. The growth in new technology also has played a role as smart phone and tablets challenge the government to broaden their technology for restricting websites.

The next national congressional meeting in Beijing will take place in the fall of this year. At the congress, the party will lay out its plans for the future.  This will be the 19th Party meeting.

“Our restrictions target service providers without licenses or operating illegally,” said, Ministry of Industry and Information, spokesman Zhang Feng at a recent press conference. Over 3,000 sites have been blocked in China. Search apps have also bowed to the pressure, and have removed apps that help internet users outside of China who are traveling to China to get around the firewall.

In conclusion, people should remember that even though the Chinese Communist Party has been modernizing with the times, the party still represents a heavy restriction on personal freedoms and a restriction on everyday life and should (even though it won’t happen) adapt a platform of personal freedom and liberty.

Links to Sources:

  1. The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/11/china-moves-to-block-internet-vpns-from-2018
  2.  GreatFire.org: https://en.greatfire.org/
  3. CNBC: https://www.cnbc.com/2017/01/24/china-cracks-down-on-vpn-that-help-people-getting-around-its-great-firewall.html
  4. CNN: http://money.cnn.com/2017/07/25/technology/china-vpn-censorship/index.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Election Day Should Be A National Holiday

Fri, 07/14/2017 - 21:41

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Voting is a privilege that not enough Americans realize they have. Voter turnout for the 2016 Presidential Election was only 54.7%. With just over half of our nation heading to the polls come Election Day, the change to make Election Day a national holiday must be implemented in order to not only increase voter participation, but also to ingrain the very concept of democracy into the American people.

Voter turnout for congressional elections is even lower than general elections. On average, only 40% of eligible voters vote in their congressional elections, with some districts experiencing voter turnout as low as 26%. Some people simply don’t care about voting, but others find themselves unable to vote on Election Day thanks to restrictions like work and business.

The United States continues to fall behind other developed countries when it comes to voter turnout. According to Pew Research, 55.7% of the voting-age population voted in 2016. This number is substantially lower than other developed countries.

In fact, a survey found that the United States ranked 139 out of 172 countries when it comes to voter turnout. Many of the countries ranked above the United States are industrialized nations such as South Korea, Germany, and France.

Even though the countries that outdo the United States when it comes to voter participation have different methods of electing officials, many nations hold one thing in common: they have the day off on Election Day.

Countries like France, Germany, and India all recognize Election Day as a national holiday or hold elections on the weekend in order to increase voter turnout.

Not only would making Election Day a federal holiday increase voter turnout among Americans, which is something that politicians and citizens in general complain about often, but it would also ignite a more patriotic spirit amongst the American people. When people do not need to worry about going into work on Election Day, they are both more apt to vote and more informed about voting by not having to worry about other work-related commitments on Election Day.

Beau C. Tremitiere, editor-in-chief of the Northwestern University Law Review puts in well:

“The demands of school and work schedules keep millions of Americans, especially those with children or long commutes, from ever getting to their polling stations. Countless other students and workers who do manage to cast their ballots would love to be even more involved in the process — whether by driving elderly neighbors to the polls, helping illiterate voters understand their ballots, or serving as a poll watcher to deter foul play — but can’t afford to skip class or take off a shift.”

As an informed American who is extremely excited to vote for the first time in the 2018 Midterm Elections, I am disappointed that a country which places so much importance on democratic ideals falls so short when it comes to voter turnout. Voting is a right that not everyone possesses across the world. Making Election Day a national holiday would bring many more people to the polls while at the same time showing off the values that the United States stands for regarding democracy.

Fear of a Black Flag: The Islamic State’s Propaganda and Future

Fri, 07/14/2017 - 18:48

War in Mosul, Iraq – link

Every country has its own propaganda stuff: its currency, passports, internet sites, and media to communicate its ideology. The Islamic State (IS or ISIS) is sort of a state: they think they are a “Caliphate” (which is slightly different), they control territory and like all states enforce their administration with a monopoly of violence within their borders. Analysts and scholars write about their ideology, today we examine their propaganda.

Currently IS is failing in a physical sense. Its biggest city Mosul, Iraq, its spiritual center of Dabiq, and soon its administrative capital of Raqqa have fallen or are teetering on the edge of violent ruin. Mosul fell this week. The Russians claimed to have killed its charismatic leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi. But before we relegate IS to the trash can let’s understand that even if the physicality of IS is destroyed, it will remain a potent force in the same way Al Qaida, who never held an inch of ground, managed to terrorize us for decades.

Islamic State flag – link

IS’s most memorable visual is its flag with the Shahada in Arabic, Islam’s most sacred creed: “There is no God but God and Muhammed is His Prophet.” The world’s only black national flag is based on a Koranic prophesy: the “black banners of Khorosan will prevail over the kuffr (unbelievers).” Although designed on a computer it looks home spun in pre-printing press scrawled handwriting, giving it an ancient dynamic: which is the point. Khorosan, by the way, is broadly the Afghanistan-Pakistan area. Islam has its own year counting system (2017 is 1438), and Islamic traditionalists have their own geographic reality which is separate from actual national borders. For example there’s Hejaz and Nejd (within Saudi Arabia), Maghreb (North Africa), Misr (Egypt, separate from Sinai), Sham (the Levant: Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel), Hadramaut (Yemen-Oman) Andalus (Spain/Portugal) and so on. This redefining of dates and geography is emblematic of the differences between our cultures beyond mere language and religion.

Their other image is the American style orange prison uniforms used for televised executions, a media genre they invented, which says: ”We imprison you.”

As well as the flag, I.S. pretends to be a real “state” by issuing money, so far just proofs of gold coins like those in the 7th Century, with none in actual circulation, and photo-shopped mock-ups of passports. Theologically speaking IS can’t even issue passports, or hold diplomatic relations because the Caliphate must be ever expanding. They’ll suffer no compromises, fixed borders, or even interactions with anybody on the other side of the front lines beyond brief truces. For IS to open or accept an embassy or recognize a border would imperil its ideology and very raison d’etre from a Koranic standpoint.

Media

IS is tech-savvy. The Hollywood-style propaganda snuff films you can catch with a little clicking around serve as the emotional propaganda for ISIS, but Dabiq/Rumiya is the intellectual heart and face of ISIS. The magazine, not something you’d pick up at the dentist’s, was originally called “Dabiq,” named after the Syrian backwater where the final apocalyptic battle is prophesied between “Rome” (the West) and the Caliphate. Then….oops!… the few mud houses and a goat of a forsaken dusty nowhere town of Dabiq was actually re-taken by the Syrian army. Talk about embarrassed! So they re-named the magazine Rumiya and it’s where we turn our attention to today.

Republished by theclarionproject.org, Rumiya is hard and dull reading, though excellently put together journalistically. Terrorists and revolutionaries are often on top of new technology because they are usually young and thus familiar with it, like social media. It’s written in perfect English and translated into many languages, with most articles resembling the following:

Then, When You Have Inflicted a Massacre, Secure Their Bonds… If we know that the blood of the Christians is permissible to shed, we know that taking them as slaves is also permissible, and likewise ransoming them….”, “So when you meet those who disbelieve [in battle], strike [their] necks until, when you have inflicted slaughter upon them…” “We will conquer your Rome [the West], break your crosses, and enslave your women, by the permission of Allah, the Exalted….

But it’s not all neck hacking and this is where IS goes deep. It’s aspirational, promising the young men Rumiya is pitched at a wife, slaves, money, a gun, and a loyal community: meaning. All this is interspersed with magical religious fairy tales and scriptural justification. Most signups have troubled lives in their own countries and few prospects so it’s a tempting promise. In an article last year Rumiya profiled a female Finnish emigrant, the covered-cover girl if you will.

Finland has about the highest standard of living on earth and is one of the happiest and kindest of societies. It’s for this reason Umm Khalid al-Finlandia’s defection to IS, a poor, violent failed pseudo-state in Syria has such resonance to potential recruits. It’s worth noting that while the locals in Iraq and Syria are often either press-ganged or forced by poverty into signing up for (now $100 monthly) salaries, tens of thousands of Westerners have moved there voluntarily. Their Western passports, burnt on arrival, are something ordinary Syrians die at sea trying to acquire which adds a deeper level of disgust to the whole situation.

Miss Finland is probably fictional: the “voice” of her autobiography is suspiciously like another writer at Dabiq, and there are other “tells.” Whether she’s real or not matters little, “she” and little son welcome martyrdom: she’s happy when he’s killed. After trashing Finland, the joys and purity of the IS community, the wholesomeness of martyrdom are all central to her tale. It’s a search for fulfillment for people lacking it: the majority of those who join IS.

Al Qaida’s dull Osama-lectures in Arabic never had the pizazz of IS’s sleek magazines and certainly not the charisma of their reality-tv snuff films. Their gruesome short films are filmically excellent, often looking like Hollywood slasher movies except the violence and killing are real.

As a physical and administrative state, IS is dying. Its arid slithers of Syria and Iraq shrink daily. Its jihadis will be overrun and immediately executed by the Syrian Army, Kurds, or Iranians. All sides play for keeps there but only IS publicizes their executions. Or they’ll be mowed down by Russian MIGS, or drone- dispatched from above. IS’s dream though, its poisonous ideology – as we see voiced by their propaganda and social media above – will remain long after the last square inch of defensible sand disappears.

Sources, further reading:
  • TheClarionProject.org – reproductions of all Dabiq/Rumaya editions
  • Memri.org – Israeli website which translates Arab media, school textbooks, etc.
  • Patrick Cockburn, The Rise of the Islamic State, 2015
  • F. Gerges: A History of Isis, 2016
  • Graeme Wood: The Way of the Strangers: Encounters with the Islamic State, 2017

Voting Selfie-Defense

Thu, 07/13/2017 - 17:18

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It seems ancient news now that voting season is over but rest not ye purveyors of political discourse and tomfoolery, the debate of the ballot selfie will be back in fashion soon enough. But let’s ask ourselves one very important question: why? While the subject didn’t cause the stir that other aspects of the last major election cycle did, it still managed to raise some eyebrows.

There are several states where this a non-issue but it should be one in all states. Of all the things to worry about during the course of an election ballot selfies should rank somewhere between how bad a candidate’s feet stink and their favorite Friends character. Simply, this shouldn’t be a thing to worry about in the least and should be a non-issue in all 50 states our blessed union.

The biggest argument in favor for banning these selfies is that it can lead to vote buying. That might be true, but to an extent that we should outlaw them? Don’t think so, bub. For this to happen on a level that would change outcomes (and don’t worry, Hitler didn’t really win an election by just one vote, so now you know you’re beloved 10th grade history teacher was wrong and your whole life has since been one enormous lie) the scheme would have to be done on such a massive scale that there would be no way for the ploy to escape public attention. Frown upon them. Ask people not do it. Try and shame them. These are all fine ways to discourage the ballot selfie, but making them outright illegal? This is tantamount to shutting down the entire theme park when the offending candy-bar shaped piece of feces was only found floating in the kiddie pool.

Let’s get one thing straight: ballot seflies (actually 99% of all selfies period) are silly. But hey, to each their own, right? I’d also rather set myself on fire than wear a “romphim” but I also don’t want to breach anyone else’s right to look extremely goofy. I mean, by all means, if you want, go ahead. But also, maybe, just don’t? Then again, what do we really expect? If the 2016 election taught us anything it’s that there’s enough voters out there who have lost all grasp on common sense.

New York State Political Corruption is a Problem That Won’t Go Away

Sun, 07/09/2017 - 20:28

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Following in a long history of corruption in New York politics, seven local officials from the town of Oyster Bay on Long Island have been indicted on corruption charges which can land them in prison for a very long time if convicted.

Accusations against Town Supervisor Mangano and his wife include accepting bribes for paid for vacations in four tropical locations from businessman Harendra Singh, along with a no-show high paying job for Mangano’s wife Lisa from another individual named in the case.

Harendra Singh is led out of the FBI office in Melville early Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2015. (Photo courtesy/ Newsday – Credit: James Carbone)

“Edward Mangano and John Venditto abused their positions as the highest ranking elected officials in Nassau County and the Town of Oyster Bay respectively at least until today,” FBI assistant Director William Sweeney said in a statement released regarding the issue. The FBI is involved in the case because of one of the accused is involved in a separate Federal corruption issue.

Additional accusations include paving company of being awarded millions in projects for the town, since 2002.  Ippolito previously worked for the paving company and was already serving a prison sentence for another charge and passed away in prison on June 5, 2017.

Former Town supervisor John Venditto, former planning and development commissioner Fredrick Ippolito and former public works commissioner Frank Antetomaso were all named in the suit. Other names include the Town Executive and his wife, Ed Mangano and his wife Lisa, along with a Long Island businessman Harendra Singh. Elisa Aly Lizza and Marisa Lizza of Carlo Lizza and Sons Paving Inc, a Long Island based Paving company, were named in the suit filed against the accused.

A State of Corruption

New York and Long Island have a long history of political corruption dating back to a scourge of corruption in the 1980s and 1990s when numerous high profile names were convicted of corruption. According to the website, Politifact,  there have been more than 30 corruption cases within the last decade. “Historically New York has struggled with corruption and continues to do so,” said Jennifer Rodgers, who is head of the Center for the Advancement of Public Integrity.

Politicians have made promises in their campaigns to clean up Albany and to clean up local politics in New York, but have continually broken that promise.

“In the past decade, in New York more than 30 current and former state officeholders have been convicted, sanctioned or accused of wrongdoing, more than any other state,” candidate Elaine Phillips, a Republican candidate for New York State senate accurately said in a Facebook post during her 2016 bid for the New York State Senate. Phillips won her 7th District Senate race over her Democratic opponents, Adam Heber 51.6 percent to 48.4 percent.

Trouble in Oyster Bay

If convicted, all parties involved in the Oyster Bay fiasco face long prison sentences.

The list of corrupt politicians is a bi-partisan problem that can be seen here. Issues of corruption range from bribery and acceptance of gifts while in public office, to throwing coffee in an aide’s face (the politician was convicted while in office so it was added to the list), to trying to use their office to influence personal business outcomes.

“Their alleged actions, if proven true, are a betrayal of the public trust and further shake our trust in government. Given the nature of the charges, it would be in the best interest of the County if both would resign in order to allow the people’s work to be conducted with unquestionable integrity,” Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos (D) said of the alleged allegations.

The allegations also said that Harendra Singh’s business benefitted from the work done by the County after he gave gifts to the Manganos. Some of the gifts Singh bought the Mangano’s include, a $3,371 Ergonomics office chair and Brookstone Massage chair for $3,623.73.

Elaine Phillips the candidate who ran against corruption also released a statement saying, “These defendants are of course, entitled to their day in court, but taxpayers and residents of Nassau County also have a right to know that their elected leaders are worthy of their trust, and that their first and only focus is on meeting the needs of our community.”

In conclusion, the issue of corruption is an old one that seems to never go away and it should therefore be an issue that is covered more closely in the national media. This type of political corruption has a major negative effect on the trust that politicians are given by the citizens they are supposed to be representing.

Links to sources:

  1. Patch.com Link: https://patch.com/new-york/oysterbay/nassau-county-executive-ed-mangano-appears-federal-court-thursday-morning
  2. New York Times, Political Corruption Page: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/07/23/nyregion/23moreland-commission-and-new-york-political-scandals.html
  3. ABC 7 Link: http://abc7ny.com/politics/7-surrender-to-face-40-count-corruption-indictment-on-long-island/2162851
  4. Politifact New York Link: http://www.politifact.com/new-york/statements/2016/sep/19/elaine-phillips/new-york-has-been-most-corrupt-state-decades/

Did CNN Threaten to Blackmail the Man Behind the Trump WWF gif?

Sun, 07/09/2017 - 20:07

On Sunday, President Trump tweeted the above video of himself body-slamming and wrestling WWF CEO Vince McMahon at a professional wrestling event held in 2007, the problem? The head of Vince McMahon was replaced with the CNN logo. Supporters of his were quick to defend the tweet by saying that he was “fighting back” against the mainstream media’s unfair coverage of him, while proponents of Trump called the President’s tweet hateful and inciting violence against journalists, such as CNN’s Brian Stelter, saying in response to the tweet:

Wrestling is fake and sometimes just plain funny. But threats against journalists are terribly real…

While moderate onlookers watch in perplexity of the arguably unpresidential actions of Trump versus the unprofessional reaction of the media, no one could predict the following calamitous actions of CNN. In an article titled “How CNN found the Reddit user behind the Trump wrestling GIF”, CNN’s “KFILE” (Andrew Kaczynski) describes the trail leading to the original creator of the Trump gif.

So where is the controversy in all of this? These are the two paragraphs in the article that are stirring the public.

“After posting his apology, ‘HanA**holeSolo’ called CNN’s KFile and confirmed his identity. In the interview, ‘HanA**holeSolo’ sounded nervous about his identity being revealed and asked to not be named out of fear for his personal safety and for the public embarrassment it would bring to him and his family.”

“CNN is not publishing ‘HanA**holeSolo’s’ name because he is a private citizen who has issued an extensive statement of apology, showed his remorse by saying he has taken down all his offending posts, and because he said he is not going to repeat this ugly behavior on social media again. In addition, he said his statement could serve as an example to others not to do the same.”

“CNN reserves the right to publish his identity should any of that change.”

When reading the article at face-value, it appears rather threatening towards the person that created the gif, that if they make one mistake, or create something that CNN disapproves of, they will have their personal information given to the general public, and their identity exposed to those who are willing to do harm. We have witnessed in the past what happens to those who have their identities leaked on the internet, hordes of death threats, hateful messages, and even swatting, the act of spoofing the targets phone number and calling emergency services in an attempt to send the police, or a swat team, to the target’s location.

Interpretations of the paragraphs vary, but the controversy this article has created is certain.

Two Term Presidential Limit Under Threat Across Africa

Sat, 07/08/2017 - 13:38

Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo – link

In Africa, the two-term presidential limit Africa is currently in the middle of a third term crisis. As tyrants come up against the presidential term-limits included in many multi-party constitutions, a significant number are refusing to relinquish power. Instead, a good number of leaders have sought to secure a third term with or without success. So far, this trend has taken in countries as otherwise diverse as Burkina Faso, Burundi, Namibia, Rwanda, Uganda, Djibouti and now, it seems, the Democratic Republic of Congo may go the same route.

Towards the 21st century, Presidents Sam Nujoma of Namibia, the late Fredrick Chiluba of Zambia, the late Bakili Muluzi of Malawi, and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda could not stomach the prospect of relinquishing power. While Museveni had ascended to power through a military coup in 1986 that deposed Idi Amin and Milton Obote, the other three presidents assumed power in the early 1990s, starting with Nujoma in 1990, followed by Chiluba in 1991 after defeating long time ruler Kenneth Kaunda and then Muluzi in 1994 after having defeated Hastings Kamuzu Banda in a presidential election. As per each country‘s Constitution at the time, all four presidents were obligated to stand down after a maximum of two-terms in accordance with the provisions of their respective constitutions.

Freedom House electoral democracies in 2013 Africa (in blue) –
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Nujoma, Namibia‘s first president following independence in 1989, was scheduled to leave office first when his second five-year term ended in 1999, followed by Chiluba in 2001. Muluzi and Museveni were to follow in 2004 and 2005 respectively. Faced with the uncertainty of life outside the presidency, all four leaders initiated national campaigns to debate the removal of presidential term limits. In the end, the presidents of Namibia and Uganda managed to change the tenure limit provisions in their respective constitutions, which allowed Nujoma to rule until 2004 and Museveni for an unlimited term provided he is re-elected on every elections, latest elections having been held last year. However, Malawi and Zambia rejected third-term bids, forcing both Chiluba and Muluzi to step down.

Paul Biya of Cameroon successfully overturned the constitution. A two-term limit in the 1996 constitution should have prevented him from running again, but in 2008 he revised the constitution to eliminate presidential term limits. There is widespread belief that Mr. Biya, who came to power in 1982, is hoping to run again in 2018 – if the 82-year-old’s health holds up.

In Djibouti, long-time president Ismail Guelleh and his late uncle have been the only leaders since independence from France in 1977. The constitution has a two-term limit but, sadly Mr Guelleh is on his fourth, winning 87 percent of the votes in a country where democracy, rule of law and justice are foreign. Dissenting voices are thwarted and media is salvaged for any critical comment. Surprisingly, France, Japan, USA and China which all have military base turn a blind eye.

Down south, Rwanda and Burundi are not stranger to abuse of the law. In 2015, Burundi, President Pierre Nkurunzinza caused controversy with his election for a third term which left people dead and many others scurrying for cover in neighboring countries. In 2016, President Paul Kagame’s controversial third-term bid was largely peaceful with referendum giving him mandate to rule possible up to 2034 subject to re-election. Rwandans will head for presidential election on 3 and 4 August for diaspora voters and locals respectively.

Dennis Sassou N’Guesso of Congo-Brazzaville a long time ruler has no appetite of stepping down any time soon. In 2015, like Nkrunzinza hastily organized a referendum that removed presidential age limit which then was capped at 70 years.

A further crisis appears to be brewing in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where the President, Joseph Kabila, looks set to pursue an unconstitutional third term in office. DRC presidential election was due last year however, Kabila continues to hide behind financial constraints to hold a credible election. Last year, violent protests claimed several lives and injured many others in a country already in a civil war that begun in 1998. An agreement entered into with the opposition parties is said to allow Kabila to rule until December this year where an election will be held without him being a candidate. AII this is in total regard of Constitutions that was founded along the principles of democracy, the rule of law and justice for all.

About ten presidents left their office in an honorable manner and stood down at the end of their constitutionally permitted terms in office without seeking a constitutional amendment. These include Mathieu Kerekou of Benin, Mascarenhas Monteiro of Cape Verde, Jerry Rawlings of Ghana, Daniel Arap Moi of Kenya, Alpha Konaré of Mali, Joaquim Chissano and Almando Guebuza of Mozambique, Miguel Trovoada of São Tomé e Príncipe, Benjamin Mkapa and Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania. Rawlings and Moi, veterans of their countries’ politics, were both obliged by their post-Cold War constitutions to step down after two terms in office. Despite misgivings to the contrary, both of them resigned. Late President Nelson Mandela of South Africa ruled for only one term despite his country not having a term limit. In Zimbabwe, the two-term limit is set to come into effect in 2023.

How UNICEF Employs Drone Technology and Beyoncé

Sat, 07/08/2017 - 13:27

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UNICEF has teamed up with the Malawi government to gauge the possibility of using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for humanitarian efforts. Christopher Fabian, who is the Principal Adviser of the UNICEF Office of Global Innovation, says developing the corridor to suit humanitarian needs can significantly improve the agency’s productivity and ability to deliver services.

The recent collaboration and drone testing of the corridor is the first in Africa, and one of the very few worldwide of its kind. The intent is to use the drone to deliver services in places made inaccessible due to combat or environmental conditions—which harbor people who need assistance most. The tests will run in the Kasungu Aerodrome region of central Malawi for at least a year, with an expected completion date of June 2018.

Previously, a pilot project in Malawi took place in March 2016, which determined great potential in using drones to transport dried blood samples for early infant diagnosis of HIV.

Responses made by UNICEF to floods in Malawi between February and April 2017 also presented the opportunity to send out humanitarian drones, specifically to gather aerial footage that helped assess needs of different regions. The flights, thus, allowed efficient, cost-effective assessments of the damage generated by natural disaster.

A quadcopter drone – link

Based on these previous projects, the Humanitarian UAV Testing Corridor has created three main areas of focus for further development. First is imagery, which is the generation and analysis of aerial images during national crises, including situations requiring active monitoring of natural disasters with clear barriers on land. Second is connectivity, which centers on the possibility of using UAVs to extend Wi-Fi or cellphone signals across unpleasant terrain, especially during emergencies. Last is transport—the delivery back-and-forth of small supplies such as emergency medical supplies, vaccines, or samples for laboratory diagnosing.

Plans for the project were first announced in December of 2016, which prompted a total of 12 companies, universities and non-governmental organizations from every part of the globe to declare interest in using the corridor to assist UNICEF in its undertaking. Examples include GLOBHE in Sweden, UCANDRONE in Greece, and Precision in Malawi. The merging of the private sector, government, and local engineers ensures that optimum technological solutions are developed to support millions of distressed children worldwide.

But the buck does not stop there. UNICEF is also teaming up with global superstar Beyoncé, to help better the lives of African children. The singer has begun the partnership by launching a joint initiative with UNICEF titled BEYGOOD4BURUNDI—which aims to supply water to dehydrated children in Burundi.

The partnership will last for multiple years, through a focus on programs that strive for improving the quality and access of water in regions where more than half the population struggles to find a supply of clean water. Oftentimes children in these regions are forced to skip entire days of school to venture on mile-long searches for water—and usually with little to no avail. Thus, an adequate supply of safe water is made even more vital to the physical and psychosocial health of these children.

Through its collaborations, UNICEF is proving the effectiveness of joining forces with other powers to exhibit the most innovative ideas, services and assistive projects. With ongoing research, dedication, and the strength from uniting together, we can all successfully and progressively fuse creative energies to empower the voiceless, alleviate suffering and save millions of lives across the globe.

Colorado Repeals Ballot Selfie Law

Tue, 06/27/2017 - 18:37

Politicians in Colorado have recently overturned a 126 year old law that makes it illegal for people to publicly share photos of their ballots from the voting booth. These types of “selfie laws”, as they have become known, came to us with the development of smartphones and newer technology, became a hot topic during the 2016 as many millennials challenged the law taking photos of their ballot inside the voting booth.

“The idea of voting is an awesome opportunity and we should give people a chance to celebrate that anyway they darn well please,” Colorado state Senator, Owen Hill said of his support of the bill.

Hill is a Republican and a main sponsor of the bi-partisan which stalled last in last year’s legislative session but the co-sponsors were able to get enough votes to pass the bill through the Senate and the House of Representatives.

“You shouldn’t go to jail and you shouldn’t be fined for precipitating in a political democracy,” Hill continued after the bill passed the Senate. The bill passed the Senate 31-4, with a group of bi-partisan politicians opposing the legalization of the ballot selfie.

Three Republican Senators and one Democratic Senator voted against the bill. The three Republicans who voted no were, State Senators, Kevin Priola, Vicki Marble, and Jack Tate. The lone Democrat to oppose the bill was Daniel Kagan.

Unlike many issues in this country at our present time, this bill was both supported by Republicans and Democrats, and opposed by Republicans and Democrats. The bill was in response to a current outpouring of challenges to the law nationally, as the voting age has become younger and technology is started to become more influential within our daily and political lives.

The concern for the law came out of the original law which was passed and signed in 1891. The original law prevented people from disseminating their ballots, and was classified as a misdemeanor which carried a penalty of up to a year in prison.

22 states and the District of Columbia allow ballot selfies, and 19 states have laws specifically banning the ballot selfie. 9 states have laws that are categorized as “unclear,” as to where the state stands on the ballot selfie.

“Our concern is the downstream policy impacts of allowing this practice and what it would lead to, intimidation, fraud, vote selling, those types of things, Deputy Secretary of State, Suzanne Stairet said of her concern about the bill.

House Bill 1014 was in response to a growing trend during the 2016 general and primary election where people known as “never trumpers,” shared the ballots on social media in key states in an effort to try and stop President Trump from winning the Republican and Presidential election.

Governor Hickenlooper signed the bill into law on March 16 2017.

In conclusion, Colorado did the right thing by decriminalizing the celebration of people wanting to share that they participated democracy, which is one of the most patriotic civic duties a citizen can participate in.

Links to recently published clips:

  1. Coloradoan Link: http://www.coloradoan.com/story/news/2017/03/02/ballot-selfie-bill-approved-colorado/98635956/
  2. The Denver Channel: http://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/politics/hickenlooper-signs-colorado-bill-allowing-ballot-selfies
  3. Denver Post: http://www.denverpost.com/2017/01/24/colorado-repeal-ban-ballot-selfies/
  4. NBC news: http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/2016-election-day/which-states-allow-voters-snap-ballot-box-selfies-n673376

Questions about Liu Xiaobo’s Treatment in China Prison

Tue, 06/27/2017 - 15:34

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Activists are calling for Nobel Peace Prize-winning activist Liu Xiaobo’s unconditional release

A growing chorus of Chinese human-rights lawyers and activists are calling for Nobel Peace Prize-winning activist Liu Xiaobo’s unconditional release after he was granted medical parole to undergo treatment for late-stage liver cancer. The US also added its voice on Tuesday urging China to give Liu and his wife, Liu Xia, freedom to move and choose…

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Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, a Chinese dissident imprisoned since 2009, has been released from confinement on medical parole, but his supporters are pressing for him to be allowed to seek treatment abroad for liver cancer. Liu, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in absentia in 2010, was diagnosed with late-stage liver cancer on May…

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Brazilian President Michel Temer Charged With Bribery

Tue, 06/27/2017 - 15:30

Brazilian President Michel Temer was charged of taking multimillion-dollar bribes by top federal prosecutor, Monday. The 64-page-long indictment looks to impeach the incumbent president if he does not resign first. The formal accusation has been brought on by Attorney General Rodrigo Janot, who began investigation into Temer’s financial dealings in May 2016. Janot has alleged that…

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Brazil’s top federal prosecutor has charged President Michel Temer with taking multimillion-dollar bribes. Rodrigo Janot submitted the charge to the country’s Supreme Court, alleging Temer had “fooled Brazilian citizens” and owed the nation millions in compensation for accepting bribes. What do the charges relate to? Temer was charged in connection with a graft scheme involving the…

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China’s Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Released From Prison

Mon, 06/26/2017 - 20:25

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Chinese dissident and Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo has been released from prison on a parole

Noted Chinese dissident and Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo has been released from prison on a medical parole. He was diagnosed with late-stage liver cancer last month and is being treated at a hospital in the northeastern city of Shenyang, according to his lawyer. Liu, who is 61, was sentenced to 11 years in prison…

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Beijing (dpa) – Chinese writer and human rights activist Liu Xiaobo said he had “no enemies” when he was sentenced to 11 years in prison in 2009 for subversion of state power. One year later, Liu, who in his decades-long career has called for political reform and the end of China’s one-party rule, was awarded the…

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Voting Underway in Mongolian Presidential Elections

Mon, 06/26/2017 - 20:21

Voting is under way across Mongolia’s cities, townships and prairies as the country chooses a president

Voting is under way across Mongolia’s cities, townships and prairies, as the country chooses a new president amid worries about corruption and economic turmoil. Most voters expect a two-horse race between the ruling Mongolian People’s Party (MPP) candidate Miyeegombo Enkhbold, the former mayor of capital Ulaanbaatar, and former martial arts star and property tycoon Khaltmaa Battulga…

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Marathon Papua New Guinea National Election Starts

Mon, 06/26/2017 - 20:18

Voting has begun in Papua New Guinea’s marathon national elections as the PM faces an arrest

Voting has begun in Papua New Guinea’s marathon national elections as the Prime Minister faces an arrest warrant for corruption. Peter O’Neill’s People’s National Congress won the last poll in 2012, but critics are accusing him of “burying” the economy in debt. Papua New Guinea, or PNG, is a South Pacific nation of almost 7 million…

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Hong Kong Activists Hold China Protest Ahead of Xi Trip

Mon, 06/26/2017 - 20:15

Pro-democracy protesters draped a black flag over a statue symbolising the city’s return to China

Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters on Monday draped a black flag over a statue symbolising the city’s return to China by Britain, days before a visit by President Xi Jinping to mark 20 years since the handover. High-profile student campaigner Joshua Wong and a dozen demonstrators attached the black cloth to the giant golden bauhinia flower on…

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Vietnam Exiles Dissident After Revoking His Citizenship

Sun, 06/25/2017 - 20:48

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A Vietnamese dissident blogger with dual French citizenship has arrived in Paris

A Vietnamese dissident blogger with dual French citizenship has arrived in Paris, after he was stripped of his birth nationality by the Asian country and deported. Former mathematics lecturer Pham Minh Hoang was put on a plane to the French capital, weeks after his Vietnamese citizenship was revoked – a rare move that has sparked outrage…

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Albanian Democracy Tested in Key Parliamentary Election

Sun, 06/25/2017 - 20:22

Albanians are voting in a key parliamentary election that follows a landmark agreement

Albanians are voting in a key parliamentary election that follows a landmark agreement between the country’s two biggest political parties to back efforts to secure European Union membership. Sunday’s race pits socialist Prime Minister Edi Rama against Lulzim Basha of the centre-right Democratic Party. Neither party won an outright majority in the 140-seat parliament in the…

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Why a Mark Zuckerberg Presidential Run Won’t Happen

Sun, 06/25/2017 - 19:57

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Rumors about a run for president won’t go away for Zuckerberg despite previous denials in public. One colleague is not convinced. Zuckerberg will be 36 in 2020, putting him in place to be the youngest president ever if he ran and won. A new post by Eric Johnson, the Podcast producer at Recode had a story recently that raised doubts about a run:

If you pay even a little attention to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, you’ve heard about his yearlong project to travel around the United States, which plenty of armchair observers have claimed is him getting ready to run for political office. Facebook has repeatedly denied this, though not everyone believes it. The political rumor mill started turning again this week when Zuckerberg used Facebook Stories to praise the early-caucus state of Iowa and its pork tenderloin sandwiches…

…He called the idea of Zuckerberg running for president “silly,” saying instead it’s more plausible that the U.S. tour reflects the Facebook CEO’s long-held “ruthless survival instinct.” Hubbard did, however, close with the hashtag #Sheryl2020 — meaning Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, who also denies she’s running.

See his full tweetstorm by Zuckerberg friend and Twitter’s former media/commerce boss Nathan Hubbard can be read here. There is even one group raising money to convince Zuckerberg to run:

A newly formed progressive Super PAC named “Disrupt for America” is now accepting donations for their cause: convincing Zuckerberg to run in 2020. “We will have to convince the American people to convince Mark,” a spokesperson for the PAC said in an email, noting that 2020 is still awhile away. And why is the group fixated on Zuckerberg?  

“His comments on the topic are measured, sensible, and allow him to retain flexibility. I think most people would (and should) say something very similar in this situation, ” the spokesperson said. ” Having done some preliminary focus group work on this, we are confident that we can overcome any hurdles we might face with respect to the electorate’s perception of Mark as a viable candidate.”

Zuckerberg denied he would run for president in a long statement on Facebook:

My personal challenge this year is to visit every state I haven’t spent time in before to learn about people’s hopes and challenges, and how they’re thinking about their work and communities. After my early trips, people asked me what I was learning but I wanted to be careful not to generalize because every state is so different. I have a lot more to learn, but I’m starting to see some common threads.

My biggest takeaway so far is that our relationships shape us more than we think — how we consider opportunities, how we process information, and how we form habits. There is a lot of discussion about inequality, but one under-looked dimension of inequality is in the makeup of our social networks.

There’s a widely held myth that if people in other places just had better information they’d make better decisions.

I’ve found this is generally wrong and the people I’ve met are rational. Now, it’s true we’re all missing some information that would help us make better decisions no matter where we live. But the people I’ve met have good reasons for the decisions they make based on their experiences and those of their friends and family.

The more fundamental issue seems to be the friends and family we surround ourselves with. This is a powerful force upstream of the information we receive and it determines how we process and factor it into our decisions.

I’ll share three stories about how our relationships affect very different social problems.

First story: I was in Ohio and sat down with recovering heroin addicts. They told me the first step in fighting addiction is to detox, but the second is to get completely new friends. If you stay friends with the people you were using with — or even with people who are using on their own — you’re almost guaranteed to relapse. It’s tough when those people are your close friends and even tougher when they’re your family, but building new relationships is the most important predictor of staying clean.

This isn’t a matter of information. These recovering addicts all know heroin is bad for them and they know they shouldn’t use it. But the people around you are a much stronger influence than information. So to move forward, we need to operate on the level of helping people build better relationships, not just getting them information.
Second story: I was in Indiana at a juvenile justice center. Some of the kids had committed serious crimes like murder or robbery, but others had just misbehaved in class. The most striking fact is that those kids are more likely to become criminals after going through detention than they were before they went in. The correctional system is building a negative and self-reinforcing social network.

Similar to the first story, these kids know crime is bad and they don’t want to go to prison. But we all model our behavior on people around us. If we want to help them, we should help these kids build positive relationships with role models.

Third story: This one is about economic upward mobility. When I was driving through some depressed areas in the south, I was struck by how few people move to seek better opportunities elsewhere. It turns out there’s good research showing how a lot of economic inequality comes from our lack of willingness or ability to move geographically. (See Raj Chetty’s work here: equality-of-opportunity.org/neighborhoods)

From my conversations, a lot of people’s decisions about whether to move depend on their friends and family in a couple of ways. First, if you grow up in a place where all your friends and family move away for college or to seek a job, then that sets an example for you. The reverse is also true, and if all your friends and family stay home, that sets a norm too. Second, and perhaps stronger, if all your friends and family move away for opportunities, there is less reason to stay where you grew up. On the other hand, if all your friends and family stay in the same place, there is a strong pull back home.

I’ve heard lots of stories of people who went away to college, but when they had kids they needed help, and since childcare is so expensive, they moved back home to be closer to their family. Coming home has great advantages, but if you don’t have a diversity of friends and family who can expose you to different things, that may limit your ability to find opportunity.

I’ve seen lots of more stories like the three above that point to your friends and family as the most powerful force in shaping your path, including positive ones.

In Detroit, I met community leaders who turned an abandoned building into a safe place where kids can hang out after school. The founder told me: “We want kids to be able to think again, and that comes from seeing men and women who care about what they do. We’ve got whole neighborhoods of kids just waiting for someone to give them a sense of purpose.”

This isn’t a scientific study and it requires further research, but I think there’s something to this idea that your relationships shape your path more than we realize.

I also think this is an area where Facebook can make a difference. Some of you have asked if this challenge means I’m running for public office. I’m not. I’m doing it to get a broader perspective to make sure we’re best serving our community of almost 2 billion people at Facebook and doing the best work to promote equal opportunity at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.

In many ways, relationships are the most important things in our lives — whether we’re trying to form healthy habits, stay out of trouble, or find better opportunities. And yet, research shows the average American has fewer than three close friends we can turn to for support.

Facebook has been focused on helping you connect with people you already know. We’ve built AI systems to recommend “People You May Know”. But it might be just as important to also connect you with people you should know — mentors and people outside your circle who care about you and can provide a new source of support and inspiration.

There are a number of models for how this might work. The Peace Corps creates service opportunities where people exchange culture and build new relationships. Perhaps we could build a new digital peace corps. Another model is Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, where people who have struggled with these challenges and overcome them go on to become mentors for others, with the hope of training them to one day become mentors themselves. This is something I’ve only recently started studying and working with our teams at Facebook to build.

One thing I’ve been inspired by is that if we can just help a few percent of people, that can make a huge positive impact on our society overall. On the unfortunate side, even though only a few percent of people are addicted to opioids, we all know someone affected by this. But that also means that if we can just help a few percent of people build new positive relationships, that will affect all of us as well. That gives me hope that we can do this.

My hope is that we can help more people build positive relationships with people who expand their sense of possibility. I believe that if we do this, we will make progress on a lot of our greatest opportunities and challenges.

I hope a lot of you have challenged yourselves to get out and learn from other perspectives this year too. I’d love to hear your stories and reflections as well

Is a North Korean Collapse Getting Closer?

Sun, 06/25/2017 - 10:33

Thanks to its official state ideology ‘Juche’ North Korea is in rude health in 2017

In 1994, just five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the United States and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) signed the Agreed Framework, which was aiming to suspend the latter’s nuclear programme, Although the agreement eventually failed, US policy became predicated on the belief that the Democratic People’s Republic, like the communist…

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Dennis Rodman Takes Credit for American’s Release From North Korea

Sun, 06/25/2017 - 10:31

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North Korea’s decision to release U.S. student Otto Warmbier was partly down to Rodman’s trip

Former NBA star Dennis Rodman made an appearance on Friday’s “Good Morning America” and essentially took credit for North Korea’s release of Otto Warmbier, an American college student imprisoned in the country for 18 months. Warmbier returned home to Ohio on June 13 with severe neurological injuries. He died Monday. Chris Volo, Rodman’s agent, sat alongside…

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North Korea’s decision to release U.S. student Otto Warmbier—who died on Monday after returning home in a coma—was partly down to ex-NBA star Dennis Rodman’s trip to the authoritarian state, at least according to the former basketball player himself. Warmbier was detained by North Korea for almost 17 months after being arrested in January 2016, allegedly…

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