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Report: Russians Successfully Hacked 2016 Election Systems

Thu, 02/08/2018 - 17:18

Russians penetrated voter registration rolls in several states before the 2016 presidential election, according to a U.S. official charged with protecting American elections from hackers. “We saw a targeting of 21 states and an exceptionally small number of them were actually successfully penetrated,” Jeanette Manfra, the Department of Homeland Security’s head of cybersecurity, told NBC News…

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Violence Remains Serious Threat to South Africa’s Elections

Thu, 02/08/2018 - 16:45
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South African elections take place against a background of violence. By MARTIN PLAUT. The ruptures of the apartheid era have been carried over into post-apartheid society, leaving the country with a tragic reputation for beatings, murder and the abuse of women and children. Police record some 650,000 victims of violence a year. As a recent headline…

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The right balance between government transparency and publicity

Thu, 02/08/2018 - 16:42

By Austin Sarat, Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science, Amherst College. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes. AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite With the approval of President Donald Trump, the House of Representatives released the so-called “Nunes memo” on Feb. 2. In it, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes describes alleged abuses of surveillance practices by…

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Popular ProPublica Tool Monitors Facebook Political Ads

Thu, 02/08/2018 - 16:37

As the Australian government was conducting a national mail-in survey to gauge support for legislation legalizing same-sex marriage this fall, ads appeared on Facebook trying to sway specific groups of voters. Opponents of gay marriage targeted people who, based on pages they liked and posts they had clicked on, were interested in “prayer” and “Christianity.” It…

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VIDEO: State of Global Democracy According to Freedom House

Thu, 02/08/2018 - 12:18

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs held an event featuring three distinguished figures at the top their fields of journalism, political consulting and in global election watchdogs. The event was titled “The State of Global Democracy with the Council on Global Affairs and Freedom House” and featured:

  • Michael J. Abramowitz, President, Freedom House
  • Susan Glasser, Chief International Affairs Columnist, POLITICO
  • Jeremy D. Rosner, Partner at Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research

The event summary:

Political freedom has been in decline globally for over a decade, according to Freedom House’s annual Freedom in the World report. In recent years democratic governments have faced growing pressure from populist movements, disillusioned electorates, and foreign interference. Meanwhile the world’s autocratic regimes have felt emboldened to roll back political reforms. Why is global democracy in retreat today, and who can lead the defense of open, pluralistic political systems? To mark the release of Freedom House’s 2018 survey of global freedom a panel of experts will discuss the state of democracy and its future prospects.

The event is about an hour. Take a look:

Taking measure of the support for Putin inside Russian

Wed, 02/07/2018 - 18:00
Putin image from link

On a cold night in Moscow, in a downtown art gallery, Vladimir Putin is dressed in a red cape, shooting bullets from a gigantic weapon called the “Putin Blaster.” His target? Unclear. But there’s no mistaking his steely gaze, his grim determination. He is here to save us all. The Russian president isn’t physically at the…

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Mercedes apologises to China after quoting Dalai Lama

Wed, 02/07/2018 - 17:30

German automaker Mercedes-Benz has apologised for “hurting the feelings” of people in China after its Instagram account quoted Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, seen as a separatist by Beijing. The apology marks the latest backpedalling by a foreign company for offending Chinese consumers with advertising or information that clashes with Beijing’s official position. Mercedes’s seemingly…

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Robot Trolls Powerful Turkish Official in Viral Video

Wed, 02/07/2018 - 17:25

The Turkish government has come under fire in recent years for trying to gag critics and the free press but this week an android was the one rattling the powers that be, forcing a minister to demand that his aides “silence the robot.” The farcical scene took place at an even in the Turkish capital of…

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VIDEO: An activist Roma theater troupe challenging stereotypes

Wed, 02/07/2018 - 15:44
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In the heart of Romania, a new theatre group named Giuvlepin is challenging existing stereotypes of their community by exposing the world to innovative Roma theater. The following is an episode of The Stream, a program produced by Al Jazeera. According to the article posted with the video:

Formed by a group of Roma actresses in 2014, the troupe’s performance explores and busts stereotypes about Roma women and culture, challenging perceptions held both within and outside the community. The theatre company’s founders invented the term “Giuvlepin” because there was no previous Romani word for feminism.

“Roma art has always been marginalized because of the segregation of Roma people”, said the group in a 2016 interview. “There is a certain curiosity about Roma women in non-Roma communities…it was quite a surprise to observe through our audiences how invisible Roma women actually were and how the simple fact of our existence was a novelty.”

Representing Giuvlipen in the Al Jazeera video was Mihaela Drăgan. From Mihaela Drăgan website:

Mihaela Drăgan is an actress activating within the cultural space as part of the Roma feminist theater company Giuvlipen which she initiated together with Zita Moldovan și Mihai Lukacs. These past few years she’s been working mainly with shows that put forward an emancipating and affirmative vision on Roma women, analyzing from various perspective the situations these women are confronted with.

Mihaela Drăgan mixes artistic practices with human rights activism and an active involvement in certain communities. This year, the artist was nominated for The Gilder/Coigney International Theatre Award, granted by New York’s Women’s Professional Theater League.

Also in the video were the President of Democratic Federation of Roma from Romania Nicoleta Bitu, Founder of Roma Political Theater in Romania Alina Serban, and News Editor of the Traveller’s Times Lisa Smith. Read more about the program at Al Jazeera. The video is about 25 minutes. Take a look:

VIDEO: Interview With Russia Presidential Candidate Ksenia Sobchak

Wed, 02/07/2018 - 15:05
Ksenia Sobchak – link

Yesterday, a panel discussion held at the think tank, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, starred perhaps the most unusual candidate for President of the Russian Federation there has ever been. Ksenia Sobchak, seen by many as Russia’s version of American celebrity Paris Hilton, was in Washington D.C. for the talk. The video is below.

Putin at the funeral of Ksenia’s father, the ex-mayor of Saint Petersburg Anatoly Sobchak – link

The Washington Post did an article bio that had some interesting tidbits about Sobchak. According to that article, “It has been rumored, though never confirmed, that Ksenia Sobchak is Putin’s goddaughter”. Some quick research reveals that Sobchak gained fame after appearing on Russia’s “Big Brother” ripoff and later was a Playboy pin-up model.

Ksenia Sobchak is the main democratic opposition candidate registered for the upcoming presidential elections in Russia. The Civil Initiative, a non-parliamentary party, supported her nomination. Her goal is to make Russia a prosperous country that is respected by the world community.

She wants a country governed by the rule of law, where presidents and lawmakers are elected and not appointed over and over again, where courts serve justice and do not punish innocent law-abiding citizens, where the parliament is a truly independent branch of power and not a rubber stamp in the hands of the President, where laws support development of small- and mid-sized businesses rather than suppress them, and where law enforcement agencies actually protect citizens.

The event was held under the title, “Russia’s Post-Authoritarian Future: A Conversation with Russian Presidential Candidate Ksenia Sobchak” as part of the CSIS Prospects and Hopes series. Introductory remarks were made by President and CEO of CSIS Dr. John J. Hamre, who was also the 26th U.S. deputy secretary of defense,  followed by a presentation from Sobchak. The moderator was Dr. Olga Oliker, director of the Russia and Eurasia Program at CSIS.

The video is about 90 minutes. Take a look:

Still struggling to provide Tunisian citizens democratic rights

Wed, 02/07/2018 - 12:58

Tunisians risk being prosecuted for exercising basic rights despite progress towards democracy following its 2011 uprising, rights groups said Wednesday. The North African country is seen as the only success story to emerge from the Arab Spring uprisings after its 2011 ouster of dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali sparked upheaval across the region. But four…

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How South Africa’s combative Zuma might leave office

Wed, 02/07/2018 - 12:53
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Pressure is mounting on South Africa’s scandal-tarred president, Jacob Zuma, to leave office ahead of elections next year. Here are the ways by which he could leave office early: – Vote of no confidence – Zuma’s enemies have previously sought to topple him with parliamentary votes of no confidence. Several such motions have been tabled in…

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Repression buttresses Burundi leader’s bid to extend rule

Wed, 02/07/2018 - 12:44
Pierre Nkurunziza- link

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is sharply criticizing a bid by Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza to make changes to the constitution that could see him hold onto power for another decade or more, according to a report obtained by AFP on Tuesday. Guterres said the opposition and civil society groups must be included in any decision to…

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Oh No, Jerusalem

Wed, 02/07/2018 - 08:00
Netanyahu and Trump – link

First published at the Moderate Voice:

Lately the world’s largest open air mental hospital, as the Holy Land has been called, has lived up to its moniker. Trump has helped by moving our embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Trump family in Jerusalem – link

Some aspects of this destabilizing action have been neglected or misunderstood by the media, however. Firstly, any hope of a Palestinian state is now pretty much dead. For decades what would have been the second state of a two-state model has been chipped away, enclaved, and geographically scattered by Israel, illegally by some measure. Much of the world went along with barely a peep outside Europe. Endorsing Jerusalem as its capital is a de-facto agreement with the current status quo for the entire West Bank.

Twenty years ago, let alone forty or fifty, Trump’s embassy shift would have resulted in all kind of howls from the Islamosphere. Ambassadors would have been recalled, boycotts thrown, state sponsored mass protests and the like. But in the last month apart from a few street demos by Palestinians themselves, Arab push-back has been muted to non-existent. Remember in the 1970s and ‘80s Palestinians, the P.L.O and its attendant non-state allies were terrorism. Spectacular plane hijacking and bombings were regular fare. It was a different, naive era of secular terrorism where Marxist groups and their socialist state supporters fought for the definable goal of “Palestine.”

That was before a religious, millenarian suicidal jihad began in the 1990s. Religion has supercharged terrorism – in part by convincing terrorists to die themselves as well as kill others, en-mass, mainly by putting Allah in center of the picture. Today’s terrorist is seeking otherworldly paradise, not a shabby little nation state by the Mediterranean.

The “why” of Trump’s moving the embassy has been misunderstood: is not the work of the “Israel lobby.” Jews get the credit or blame (depending on perspective) for America’s lock-step alliance with Israel, however other factors are at play. Consider there are only four million Jews in the US, the majority of whom vote Democrat even though the Republicans are the more Israel friendly of the two big parties.

It’s the Christians. Trump is doing what he always does: playing only to his base, regardless of consequences, in this case 60+ million Evangelicals. Don’t underestimate the importance of this embassy kerfuffle to them and how much they’ll love him for it. According to Biblical prophecy for the Messiah to return to earth Israel must be under Jewish control. By endorsing Jewish ownership of Jerusalem and thus the West Bank Trump has made the return of Jesus that much closer. Plus, with the West Bank “settled” in every respect, Israel gets closer to the dream of a (huge) “Greater Israel.” Greater anywhere; Greater Israel, Greater Somalia, Yugoslavia, etc. always involves the revanchist invasion of neighbors. This embassy move is so important to American Evangelicals it leaves other old saw horses like gay wedding cakes or Roe v. Wade in the dust.

Additionally, presenting this utterly unacceptable situation to the Palestinians (with nothing in return from the Israelis by the way) is all but guaranteed to stop any future negotiations, thus relieving the Trump administration of even talking with them, let alone trying to “fix the problem” as he promised. He boasted it would be taking Jerusalem, the toughest part of the dispute, “off the table” when actually he is kicking the entire table over.

Graffiti on the Israeli West Bank barrier says “Ich Bin Eine Berliner” – link

Worth noting is that it’s primarily in the Middle East where humanity’s worst traits flourish. Consider that during the Vietnam War 58,000 Americans and a million Vietnamese died, yet several decades later we’re friends: ever closer partners containing China together. Similarly, after being almost destroyed by the allies following their ill-fated wars of aggression, Germany and Japan were able to let bygones be bygones and turn on a dime into firm allies themselves.

In the broader Middle East however, or wherever the big three revealed monotheisms clash, wounds fester for centuries and grudges are cast into a concrete of hate as permanent structures of culture. The Jewish-Islamic conflict, smoldering forever but lit in 1948 will burn for all our lifetimes, Christianity and Islam are now determined to enter a larger war of civilizations, and the real up and comer of human misery is the internecine split between Sunni and Shiite Islam. Evidence of that horrible division can be seen now in the assorted ruins formerly known as Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Afghanistan, and Yemen. In fact that divide – between the Sunni Gulf and the rest versus Shi’ite Iran will be the main dynamic on earth for the foreseeable future. Religious beefs don’t get better with age.

Trump’s move, one of the most ill-considered American actions in the Middle East for a generation is just the latest iteration of a dynamic between a horribly unqualified president and the millstone of poison ideologies which will grind the region into dust.

VIDEO: Expert Panel Takes on the Task of Reimagining Pakistan

Wed, 02/07/2018 - 06:00

The Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University hosted the former Pakistani ambassador for a discussion about Pakistan’s history and to give his view of the current situation. The event on Brown’s Providence, Rhode Island campus, took place Friday, February 2 and was part of the Center for Contemporary South Asia’s interdisciplinary series ‘South Asia Seminar’. A bit about Haqqani from the extensive bio on his website:

Husain Haqqani is former Ambassador of Pakistan to the United States (2008–2011). He is currently Senior Fellow and Director for South and Central Asia at the Hudson Institute and co-edits the journal ‘Current Trends in Islamist Ideology’ published by Hudson Institute’s Center for Islam, Democracy and Future of the Muslim World.

The video is about 2 hours. Take a look:

Russian crackdown on critical voices as Putin coronation nears

Tue, 02/06/2018 - 21:10

The Kremlin is clamping down on critical voices as Russia ‘s presidential election is due to take place in about six weeks. Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was arrested in Moscow last weekend and h is Youtube-based channel was shut down in the middle of a broadcast. It’s the fourth time Navalny has been arrested since…

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Equatorial Guinea dictator promises more of same in major speech

Tue, 02/06/2018 - 20:00

Equatorial Guinea’s President Teodoro Obiang Nguema has reappointed his prime minister after dissolving the government last week. “Making use of the powers granted to me by law, I appoint Francisco Pascual Obama Asue as Prime Minister in charge of administrative coordination,” said a presidential decree, read on national television on Monday night. Obiang also renamed the…

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Hong Kong democracy activists freed in victory for protests

Tue, 02/06/2018 - 19:23

Joshua Wong and two other leading Hong Kong democracy activists won an appeal against their jail terms at the city’s highest court Tuesday in a case seen as a test for the independence of the city’s judiciary, which some fear is under pressure from Beijing. But the trio warned it was not a time for celebration…

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How Indian women contributed to Britain’s suffrage movement

Tue, 02/06/2018 - 19:19

100 years ago, British women won the right to vote after decades of resistance. The Representation of the People Act 1918 granted women older than 30 and with property the right to cast the ballot. But as Emmeline Pankhurst and Millicent Fawcett were lionised as leaders, the contribution of working class women and women of colour…

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VIDEO: Can the American Senate be saved?

Tue, 02/06/2018 - 19:15

Yesterday, an event was held at the public policy nonprofit Brookings Institution discussing the latest book by Ira Shapiro, “Broken: Can The Senate Save Itself And The Country?”. Shapiro is the celebrity President of Ira Shapiro Global Strategies, LLC, an international trade-oriented consulting firm. Take a look at the event description here:

Intense political partisanship has rendered the Senate inefficient and dysfunctional. While it was once viewed as an institution that transcended ideology to produce bipartisan solutions, legislative achievements supported by senators on both sides are now few and far between. How did the Senate become so broken? Can its members rise above hyper-partisanship to find common ground?

In his new book “Broken: Can The Senate Save Itself And The Country?” Ira Shapiro details some of the Senate’s most prominent battles of the past decade, assesses the Senate’s performance during Trump’s first year in office, and explores various solutions to restore its integrity and influence. On Monday, Feb. 5, Shapiro joined Governance Studies scholars William Galston and Molly Reynolds to discuss the decline of the Senate and what can be done to repair it.

After the session, panelists took audience questions.

The video is about 90 minutes. Take a look: