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Archive for the ‘news’ Category

Turns of the Century by Martin Eiermann

In economy, Europe, government, history, news, North America, politics, society, South America on July 23, 2013 at 18:38

From: Turns of the Century: What the protests in Brazil and Greece tell us about world history by Martin Eiermann, The European Magazine, http://www.theeuropean-magazine.com

As I am writing this, 300,000 people are marching in Rio de Janeiro against corruption and public sector cuts ahead of next year’s soccer World Cup. It must be bad if Brazilians start anti-soccer riots. In Greece, protests have been ongoing for several years. In Spain, Italy and Portugal, popular discontent has ousted several governments and continues to cause a headache for their successors (in Greece, the government coalition is crumbling right now). In Great Britain, cuts to the National Health Service inspired regular demonstrations and a special segment during the Olympic opening ceremony in 2012, which defiantly celebrated the NHS as one of the great achievements of modern British society. Look at any newspaper front page today, and you are likely to see one or more photos of police in riot gear, shooting tear gas into crowds of protesters.

The language employed by protesters in Rio, Athens, and Madrid – against “corruption,” against “top-down politics,” against “welfare squeezes” – speaks to a commonality of experience that transcends the particularities of each context: Economic policies are broken, and politics seems unable to provide a fix. It’s thus misleading to think of the crisis of the last five years primarily as an “economic crisis.” Sure, it all started with a downward cascade in the financial and mortgage markets, but it has long since morphed into a social and political crisis. It is sure to leave its mark not only on economic history or on the history of a specific country, but on history as such.

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Reposted with permission from: The European Magazine

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Edward Snowden on Why He Stood Up to the NSA with Amy Goodman

In government, human rights, information, interview, news, politics, privacy, technology, video on July 12, 2013 at 18:39

From: Edward Snowden on Why He Stood Up to the NSA: Mass Spying “Not Something I’m Willing to Live Under” with Amy Goodman, Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, Democracy Now!, http://www.democracynow.org

GLENN GREENWALD: Was there a specific point in time that you can point to when you crossed the line from contemplation to decision making and commitment to do this?

EDWARD SNOWDEN: I grew up with the understanding that the world I lived in was one where people enjoyed a sort of freedom to communicate with each other in privacy, without it being monitored, without it being measured or analyzed or sort of judged by these shadowy figures or systems, any time they mention anything that travels across public lines. I think a lot of people of my generation, anybody who grew up with the Internet, that was their understanding. As we’ve seen the Internet and government’s relation to the Internet evolve over time, we’ve seen that sort of open debate, that free market of ideas, sort of lose its domain and be shrunk.

GLENN GREENWALD: But what is it about that set of developments that makes them sufficiently menacing or threatening to you that you are willing to risk what you’ve risked in order to fight them?

EDWARD SNOWDEN: I don’t want to live in a world where everything that I say, everything I do, everyone I talked to, every expression of creativity or love or friendship is recorded. And that’s not—that’s not something I’m willing to support, it’s not something I’m willing to build, and it’s not something I’m willing to live under. So, I think anyone who opposes that sort of world has an obligation to act in a way they can. Now, I’ve watched and waited and tried to do my job in the most policy-driven way I could, which is to wait and allow other people, you know, wait and allow our leadership, our figures, to sort of correct the excesses of government when we go too far. But as I’ve watched, I’ve seen that’s not occurring, and in fact we’re compounding the excesses of prior governments and making it worse and more invasive. And no one is really standing to stop it.

Watch to video & read the full transcript

Reposted according to copyright notice from: Democracy Now! website

Boston Marathon Bombings by Philippe Theophanidis

In government, human rights, law, media, news, North America, politics, war on April 27, 2013 at 19:52

From: Boston Marathon Bombings: the Emergency Declaration as a State of Exception by Philippe Theophanidis, Aphelis, http://aphelis.net

NGUYEN_2013_Boston_manhunt-620x826Up until recently (First World War), warfare had traditionally made a clear distinction between civilian and military targets. The bombings in Boston is yet another striking reminder that things have since drastically changed. The front lines that need to be protected have moved within the most intimate spaces of the civilian sphere. The war zone extend all the way into private living rooms and backyards.

Such an inversion (further) blurs the traditional distinction between what is public and what is private. Indeed, when the front lawn of private homes becomes a theatre for military-like operations in a democratic country, two issues arise. First, the extent of a government’s authority into the intimacy of private lives become spectacularly visible. The fact that such an intervention is conducted for the population’s “own good”, as it was repeatedly argued in the past few days, does not invalidate the relevance of this observation. Second, it raises some questions regarding the democratic principle of the separation of powers.

Which brings the question of the Emergency Declaration that was signed by President Barack Obama for the state of Massachusetts on April 17, 2013. At the time of writing, there doesn’t seem to be much information available online about this presidential declaration. Mainstream media have been very generous in providing the public with various informations regarding the events, including extensive coverage about the lifting of the Miranda rule for the captured suspect in the name of a “public safety exception”. However, informed analysis about the legal aspects surrounding an Emergency Declaration are scarce. A couple of informative points relative to the exceptional character of the authorities’s response are worth highlighting.

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Reposted with permission from: Philippe Theophanidis

Voices of Opposition Against CISPA

In government, media, news, privacy, technology on April 22, 2013 at 02:31

From: Voices of Opposition Against CISPA, Electronic Frontier Foundation, http://www.eff.org

Here is a list of organizations and influential people that expressed concerns about the dangerous civil liberties implications of the bill. Though each organization or person may differ in their terminology, they all reach the same conclusion—CISPA is not a “sharing of information bill only.” It is an expansive bill that enables spying on users and allows for unaccountable companies and government agencies that can skirt privacy laws.

American Library Association in ALA CISPA Information Page

“This bill would trump all current privacy laws including the forty-eight state library record confidentiality laws as well as the federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act, the Wiretap Act, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and the Privacy Act.

Mozilla in a statement to Forbes:

“While we wholeheartedly support a more secure Internet, CISPA has a broad and alarming reach that goes far beyond Internet security. The bill infringes on our privacy, includes vague definitions of cybersecurity, and grants immunities to companies and government that are too broad around information misuse. We hope the Senate takes the time to fully and openly consider these issues with stakeholder input before moving forward with this legislation.”

Free Press in Free Press Action Fund Joins Stop Cyber Spying Week to Protest CISPA

“As it stands, CISPA could lead all too easily to governmental and corporate violations of our privacy and attacks on our right to speak freely via the Internet. While there is a need to protect vital national interests, we can’t do it at the expense of our freedoms.”

Find out more at the EFF website

 

Fear Going On by Peter Stockland

In media, news, North America, psychology, society on April 17, 2013 at 19:41

From: Fear Going On by Peter Stockland, Cardus, http://www.cardus.ca

I had just returned from a run myself on a gorgeous Montreal April day, up Mount Royal to the Cross at the top and back, when I heard the news as I came into the change room of the Montreal Amateur Athletic building. My first concern was for the 30-plus members of the MAA running club who were at Boston. Reassured they were safe, my subsequent emotion was a bright flash of blackest revenge fantasy that involved inflicting horrible pain on those ultimately found responsible.

That, too, required a quick reality check. Vengeance will not beget justice no matter how odious the crime. So, where did that leave me? Where does that leave us as a people? Here is an image of what I am concerned might emerge from the struggle for an answer.

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Reposted with permission from: Cardus

What the frack? by Imre Szeman

In ecology, economics, ethics, government, news, North America, politics, sociology on January 3, 2013 at 16:42

From: What the frack? by Imre Szeman, Radical Philosophy, http://www.radicalphilosophy.com

Shale gas can be found in pockets all over the world, including Argentina, Australia, Canada, China, Mexico and South Africa. The extraction of natural gas from shale has generated headlines in almost every one of these countries as a result of the process used to gain access to it: hydrological fracturing, which is more commonly referred to as ‘fracking’. A process developed in late 1940s but only used widely in the last decade, fracking involves the injection of a mix of water, sand and chemicals into the bore created to access the gas with enough force and pressure to split the shale rock, and so make the gas recoverable. The success of fracking as a means by which to access natural gas deposits that were formerly thought to be inaccessible is connected with the concurrent development of horizontal (as opposed to conventional, vertical) drilling, a process now carried out in the field with relative ease. Horizontal drilling aided by fracking opened up the natural gas fields of the Barnett Shale in northern Texas a decade ago. Since then, oil and gas companies, small and large, have raced to gain access to the gas trapped in the Bowland Basin in the UK and the Marcellus Shale in the north-eastern USA, as well as many other places around the globe. Besides the profits promised by control over all these new gas deposits, industry and government have been quick to champion the other benefits produced by shale gas and fracking.

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Reposted with permission from: Radical Philosophy

New Town to Newtown with Amy Goodman and Rebecca Peters

In Australia & Oceania, government, interview, law, news, North America, society on December 21, 2012 at 17:40

From: New Town to Newtown: How ’96 Massacre Spurred Gun Laws in Australia — and No Mass Shootings Since with Amy Goodman and Rebecca Peters, Democracy Now!, http://www.democracynow.org

AMY GOODMAN: Well, as the debate over gun control is revived in the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings, we turn now from Newtown, Connecticut, to New Town, Australia, where gun laws were immediately revised following the worst mass murder in the country’s history. On April 28th, 1996, a gunman from New Town, Australia, opened fire on tourists in Port Arthur, Tasmania, killing 35 people and wounded 23 more.

The death toll eventually rose to 35 in what came to be known as the Port Arthur massacre. The person who carried out the mass killing was Martin Bryant, ironically from a place called New Town. Well, just 12 days after the grisly attack and the public outcry it launched, Australia’s government responded by announcing a bipartisan deal to enact gun control measures. The pact included agreements with state and local governments. Since the laws were passed—for more than 15 years—there has not been a mass shooting in Australia.

REBECCA PETERS: What happened in ’96 was so shocking, and also the level of anger and dissatisfaction and frustration in the public was so high by then, that really that was the tipping point for Australia. As you said, the prime minister exercised leadership. He called all the states together and said, “We’re going to fix this.” And the laws were state laws, so we had a patchwork of different laws. Some states had stronger laws, but the states that had weaker laws undermined those with stronger laws. And what we got was a scheme of nationally uniform laws, which set a much higher standard and included bans on assault weapons and some other measures, which basically meant that the whole—that you can still own guns in Australia, but the system is just much more under control.

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Reposted according to copyright notice from: Democracy Now! website

U.S. Grants License for Laser-Powered Uranium Enrichment by Sharon Weinberger

In news, North America, research, science, technology on November 19, 2012 at 22:50

From: U.S. Grants License for Laser-Powered Uranium Enrichment by Sharon Weinberger, Scientific American, https://www.scientificamerican.com

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) this week granted a licence to allow construction of a plant that uses a controversial uranium enrichment process — one that critics fear could pose a serious nuclear-proliferation risk. The plant, which would be built through a partnership between General Electric (GE) and Hitachi in Wilmington, North Carolina, could be used to enrich uranium to make fuel for nuclear reactors quickly and cheaply using a process that involves a laser.

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Reposted with permission from: Scientific American

India’s Gargantuan Biometric Database Raises Big Questions by Rebecca Bowe

In Asia, ethics, government, news, politics, privacy, technology on October 2, 2012 at 07:18

From: India’s Gargantuan Biometric Database Raises Big Questions by Rebecca Bowe, Electronic Frontier Foundation, https://www.eff.org

The government of India has amassed a database of 200 million Indian residents’ digital fingerprints, iris scans, facial photographs, names, addresses and birthdates. Yet this vast collection of private information is only a drop in the bucket compared to the volume of data it ultimately intends to gather. The Unique Identity Authority of India (UIDAI), the agency that administers Aadhaar — India’s Unique Identity (UID) program — has a goal of capturing and storing this personal and biometric information for each and every one of India’s 1.2 billion residents. Everyone who enrolls is issued a 12-digit unique ID number and an ID card linked to the data.

Once it’s complete, the Aadhaar system will require so much data storage capacity that it is projected to be 10 times the size of Facebook. And while it’s optional to enroll, the program is envisioned as the basis for new mobile apps that would facilitate everything from banking transactions to the purchase of goods and services, which could make it hard for individuals to opt out without getting left behind.

India’s is the largest biometric ID scheme in the world, and the masssive undertaking raises serious questions about widespread data sharing, a lack of legal protections for users’ data, and concerns about whether adequate technical safeguards are in place to keep individuals’ information safe and secure.

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Reposted according to copyright notice from: EFF website

Is There an End to DR Congo’s Suffering? by César Chelala

In Africa, ethics, government, news, politics, society, technology, war on September 17, 2012 at 01:07

Is There an End to DR Congo’s Suffering? by César Chelala, Common Dreams, https://www.commondreams.org

DR Congo. A relative holds a war-wounded patient’s hand in a Goma hospital. (Photo: © ICRC / Phil Moore)

The rebellion in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo), which has spread to the South Kivu province, has caused the humanitarian situation in the country to deteriorate significantly, warned the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Human Rights Watch. The conflict in the DR Congo has already caused almost 6 million victims and caused enormous environmental damages.

Behind the war in Congo are what are called “conflict minerals,” such as coltan. Coltan is the name for Columbite-tantalite, a black mineral found in great quantities in Congo, from which the elements niobium and tantalum are extracted. Coltan is a crucial element in creating devices that store energy, and which are used in a wide array of small electronic devices such as cell phones, laptop computers and prosthetic devices for humans. Once coltan is processed, then it is sold to big companies which use it to make their products. Although it is mined in several countries, Congo has large amounts of this mineral.

The prime exploiters of coltan in the Congo are Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi, whose proxy militias are responsible for thousands of rapes and killings, part of a history of exploitation of natural resources such as coltan, cassiterite, wolframite and gold. In addition, the Congo has 30% of the world’s diamond reserves. To exploit more freely those resources, militias from those countries have conducted for years campaigns of intimidation, and brutal rapes and killings, leaving afterwards a terrorized local population.

Although Rwanda and Uganda possess little or no coltan, their exports escalated exponentially during the Congo war. For example, recorded coltan production in Rwanda increased from 50 tons in 1995 to 1,300 tons in 2001, when coltan was the biggest single export earner. Much of that increase was due to the fraudulent re-export of Congolese coltan. The Tantalum-Niobium International Study Centre in Belgium has asked international buyers to avoid buying Congolese coltan on ethical grounds. Because international dealers are under pressure not to buy from the DRC, however, they circumvent this prohibition by having Congolese coltan re-exported as Rwanda’s.

“The consequences of illegal exploitation have been twofold: (a) a massive availability of financial resources for the Rwandan Patriotic Army, and the individual enrichment of top Ugandan military commanders and civilians; (b) the emergence of illegal networks headed by either top military officers or businessmen,” noted a UN report on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources.

The DRC has half of Africa’s forests and water resources. However, because of uncontrolled mining, the land in the DRC is being eroded and there is significant pollution of lakes and rivers.

To make matters even more troublesome, this war-ravaged country has a new emerging rebel group, known as March 23 or M23 Movement. While the government forces are being backed by Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe, rebel forces are backed by Uganda and Rwanda. All sides take advantage of the chaos reigning in the country to plunder its considerable natural resources. The conflict has resulted not only in the loss of millions of lives, but also on increased levels of disease and malnutrition, creating one of the worst health emergencies to unfold in Africa in recent times.

The M23 forces answer to Gen. Bosco “the Terminator” Ntaganda, who is a fugitive wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court. He has been accused of rape, murder and child-soldier recruitment. Although his forces are trying to show that they can administer territory better than the central government in Kinshasa, many are skeptical of those claims. More significantly, there is widespread fear that the M23 forces will reignite a wider regional conflict.

Rwanda, which has been a key player in these events, has been charged by the UN and by Human Rights Watch of backing M23, and provoking an increase in tension between Rwanda and the DR Congo. Rwandan President Paul Kagame did not attend a recent regional meeting aimed at finding a solution to the continuous unrest in eastern Congo.

Without a concerted international effort aimed at curbing Rwanda’s support for rebel forces operating in eastern Congo, notably the M23 movement, there won’t be a solution to the DR Congo’s problems. It is time to stop the bloodletting of a country made poor by its own riches.

César Chelala

 César Chelala, MD, PhD, is a co-winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award. He is also the foreign correspondent for Middle East Times International (Australia).

Reposted with permission from: Common Dreams

 

Setback for Armenia’s Lake Sevan by Arpi Harutyunyan

In Asia, community, ecology, news on August 16, 2012 at 05:33

 

From: Setback for Armenia’s Lake Sevan by Arpi Harutyunyan, IWPR, http://iwpr.net

Lake Sevan fell by a metre a year from 1949, when schemes to channel off water started operating, and the pace increased after Armenia became independent in 1991. After 2002, however, the trend was reversed thanks to a World Bank-backed programme, and water levels have risen by more than four metres since then. The plan is to achieve an annual rise of 20 centimetres until the ideal level is reached within 30 years.

However, official estimates suggest the rising waters will flood roads running alongside the lake, and dozens of lakeside homes – many of them owned by senior members of Armenia’s political and business elite.

That, say some environmentalists, is the real reason for draining off water – the drought is just a pretext to prevent rising waters inundating top officials’ holiday homes.

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Reposted with permission from: IWPR

CERN experiments observe particle consistent with long-sought Higgs boson by CERN

In nature, news, science, space on July 4, 2012 at 15:54

 

From: CERN experiments observe particle consistent with long-sought Higgs boson by CERN, http://press.web.cern.ch

“We observe in our data clear signs of a new particle, at the level of 5 sigma, in the mass region around 126 GeV. The outstanding performance of the LHC and ATLAS and the huge efforts of many people have brought us to this exciting stage,” said ATLAS experiment spokesperson Fabiola Gianotti, “but a little more time is needed to prepare these results for publication.”

“The results are preliminary but the 5 sigma signal at around 125 GeV we’re seeing is dramatic. This is indeed a new particle. We know it must be a boson and it’s the heaviest boson ever found,” said CMS experiment spokesperson Joe Incandela. “The implications are very significant and it is precisely for this reason that we must be extremely diligent in all of our studies and cross-checks.”

Read the press release

War minus the shooting: Russia vs Poland at Euro 2012 by Zygmunt Dzieciolowski

In history, news, politics, society on June 16, 2012 at 00:19

 

From: War minus the shooting: Russia vs Poland at Euro 2012 by Zygmunt Dzieciolowski, openDemocracy, http://www.opendemocracy.net

‘War minus the shooting’ was George Orwell’s definition of sport, unpleasantly brought once more to mind during the recent battles between Russian and Polish football fans. There is a long history of animosity over sporting events between the two countries, but there could be a way forward, says Zygmunt Dzieciolowski.

The streets of Warsaw turned into a battlefield on Tuesday night, as Russian and Polish football fans clashed before, during and after a Euro 2012 group stage match. The scale of the violence was such that Vladimir Putin took the unusual step of phoning Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk to appeal to his sense of responsibility, and to remind him that, as host country, Poland was under an obligation to guarantee the safety of all football fans who came to watch the championship. Putin also sent his special envoy, Mikhail Fedotov, to Poland to help Polish authorities investigate the clashes.

No other match at Euro 2012 has produced such tensions and emotions as this clash between Poland and Russia. But that perhaps is of little surprise, given the often unhappy history between the countries and the fact that for weeks before the game the Polish media had been so full of speculation about it.

After the match, Poles had many questions. Why were Russian fans allowed to use old Soviet symbols on their flags and t-shirts? Should the hammer and sickle motifs not be read as incendiary communist propaganda? And should the Russian fans be allowed to organize a patriotic march on their way to the Warsaw National stadium to celebrate Russia’s Independence Day (the anniversary of the Russian Supreme Soviet declaration of Independence passed on 12 June 1991), which unfortunately coincided with the match day?

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Mary Fonseca’s “Letter from Lisbon”: portents of plague

In news, political science, sociology on April 29, 2012 at 23:27

 

Mary Fonseca’s “Letter from Lisbon”: portents of plague – RadioOpenSource

More recently, people who know a bit more about Europe as a whole have pointed out that before the crise hit, the Germans were only too eager to buy the bonds that countries of Southern Europe put on the market, thus showering us with the money we needed to import the Mercedes and BMWs they wanted us to enjoy. Besides, our banks were indulging in the sexy new financial operations they learned about from Wall Street and the City of London.

There’s a lovely song by Stephen Foster, “Hard times, hard times come again no more.” I don’t know of one that corresponds in Portuguese, although the language has lots of expressions about hard times: years are either ones of “vacas gordas” or “vacas magras” (fat cows or thin cows) or “Quem nấo tem cấo, caҫa com gato” (“Who has no dog must hunt with his cat.”) Maybe the resignation of rural folk will have to do, for a while.

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