Egypt Rising


All of us, whose countries have been stolen by a few authoritarian thugs, look to the events in Egypt in awe, solidarity and maybe even a little envy.

Next year it could be Pyongyang, or Bejing or, who knows, maybe the freedom-loving people of Teheran could finish what they started. Perhaps it could even be Havana…

Image via The Guardian, UK.


Chavez, the Paranoid


Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez speaks during a ceremony at the headquarters of the state-run oil company PDVSA in Caracas May 12, 2010. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins © 2010 Reuters All rights reserved.

Via the Associated Press:

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez called on authorities Sunday to investigate an article on a critical website that he said appears aimed at inciting a coup.Chavez read aloud from the Noticiero Digital article in which columnist Roberto Carlos Olivares writes that active and former military officers have been meeting to plan an ”inevitable” transition in the country.

Speaking on his weekly broadcast program, Chavez said the piece constitutes an apparent crime and told his vice president, ”This must be investigated urgently.”

There’s more…

Flotillas and the Wars of Public Opinion


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This report is republished with permission of STRATFOR. It was written by George Friedman. I found it through Josh Marshall’s TPM:

On Sunday, Israeli naval forces intercepted the ships of a Turkish nongovernmental organization (NGO) delivering humanitarian supplies to Gaza. Israel had demanded that the vessels not go directly to Gaza but instead dock in Israeli ports, where the supplies would be offloaded and delivered to Gaza. The Turkish NGO refused, insisting on going directly to Gaza. Gunfire ensued when Israeli naval personnel boarded one of the vessels, and a significant number of the passengers and crew on the ship were killed or wounded.

Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon charged that the mission was simply an attempt to provoke the Israelis. That was certainly the case. The mission was designed to demonstrate that the Israelis were unreasonable and brutal. The hope was that Israel would be provoked to extreme action, further alienating Israel from the global community and possibly driving a wedge between Israel and the United States. The operation’s planners also hoped this would trigger a political crisis in Israel.

A logical Israeli response would have been avoiding falling into the provocation trap and suffering the political repercussions the Turkish NGO was trying to trigger. Instead, the Israelis decided to make a show of force. The Israelis appear to have reasoned that backing down would demonstrate weakness and encourage further flotillas to Gaza, unraveling the Israeli position vis-à-vis Hamas. In this thinking, a violent interception was a superior strategy to accommodation regardless of political consequences. Thus, the Israelis accepted the bait and were provoked.

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“Down With (the Very, Very Evil) Facebook”


Some people will kill you — and your family — if they “think” you’re blasphemous.

Pakistan’s government ordered Internet service providers to block Facebook on Wednesday amid anger over a page that encourages users to post images of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.The page on the social networking site has generated criticism in Pakistan and elsewhere because Islam prohibits any images of the prophet. The government took action after a group of Islamic lawyers won a court order Wednesday requiring officials to block Facebook until May 31.

By Wednesday evening, access to the site was sporadic, apparently because Internet providers were implementing the order.

The Facebook page at the center of the dispute — ”Everybody Draw Mohammed Day!” — encourages users to post images of the prophet on May 20 to protest threats made by a radical Muslim group against the creators of ”South Park” for depicting Muhammad in a bear suit during an episode earlier this year.

There’s more…

A smart and thoughtful comment from my friend Todd Curl:

For me, this is a very complicated and polarizing issue. Being agnostic — meaning I know enough to know that I don’t know everything — I despise religious extremism in any form that it manifests itself. I do, however, try to respect another person’s beliefs as long as they are not infringing on me.

There is fanaticism and extremism in every one of the “big three” monotheistic religions. With Islam in particular, fundamentalists have created theocracies in the middle east, essentially squashing any form of legitimate critique. With Pakistan, a country that has yet to fully become one of these theocracies, a state crackdown on a particular website might be a sign of a theocracy in the making.

I also realize that the creators of this facebook page probably have little understanding of Islam other than the fanaticism they see through a western media lens, and feel like they are pointing out how absurd their fanaticism is. Of course, the U.S. is largely Christian, and many Christians, not unlike Muslims and Jews, view their beliefs as the only true spiritual path and everything else is false.

Despite the large Christian demographic, those who believe it to be a fairy tale, or hypocritical, are able to mock it or be as derogatory or critical as they want, due to more freedoms of expressions that aren’t so common in the Muslim world. Likewise, I doubt the Pakistani Government would have a problem with something critical of Christianity being written or displayed through other forms of media.

Is the Pakistani Government being hypocritical? Perhaps they are, but the divide between the west and the middle east brings about nothing but reactionary words and actions from both sides. Is the facebook page designed to mock Muhammad racist and culturally insensitive? Probably so, but is still acceptable due to western notions of freedom of expression and opinion.

There is no right side or wrong side. It’s complicated and is part of the reason I have no involvement with religion of any sort. Rather than looking at similarities, we focus on the differences, leading to a history of war and destruction under the guise of religion. Everybody loses unfortunately.

You can visit Todd’s blog HERE

The Enemies of the Internet 2010


The “Enemies of the Internet” list drawn up again this year by Reporters Without Borders presents the worst violators of freedom of expression on the Net: Saudi Arabia, Burma, China, North Korea, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, Uzbekistan, Syria, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, and Vietnam.

Some of these countries are determined to use any means necessary to prevent their citizens from having access to the Internet: Burma, North Korea, Cuba, and Turkmenistan – countries in which technical and financial obstacles are coupled with harsh crackdowns and the existence of a very limited Intranet. Internet shutdowns or major slowdowns are commonplace in periods of unrest. The Internet’s potential as a portal open to the world directly contradicts the propensity of these regimes to isolate themselves from other countries. Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan have opted for such massive filtering that their Internet users have chosen to practice self-censorship. For economic purposes, China, Egypt, Tunisia and Vietnam have wagered on a infrastructure development strategy while keeping a tight control over the Web’s political and social content (Chinese and Tunisian filtering systems are becoming increasingly sophisticated), and they are demonstrating a deep intolerance for critical opinions. The serious domestic crisis that Iran has been experiencing for months now has caught netizens and the new media in its net; they have become enemies of the regime.

Read the rest of the report (PDF File) from Reporters Without Borders HERE

(H/t @Sonja_Jo)

European Union Condemns the Castro Dictatorship


Via the AP:

STRASBOURG, France – The European Parliament voted Thursday to condemn Cuba for the “avoidable and cruel” death of a dissident hunger striker, earning a stinging response from Havana, which said it did not appreciate the lecture and would not respond to international pressure.

The European assembly called on Cuba to immediately release its political prisoners and urged Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign and security affairs chief, to push the totalitarian, Communist-run island toward a peaceful transition to multiparty democracy.

There’s more…

RT &Transl @darria Please sign petition “For the Freedom of All Cuban Political Prisoners” HERE

Internet Technology to the Rescue


From today’s New York Times, good news for oppressed societies yearning to — use the internet — be free:

Seeking to exploit the Internet’s potential for prying open closed societies, the Obama administration will permit technology companies to export online services like instant messaging, chat and photo sharing to Iran, Cuba and Sudan, a senior administration official said Sunday.

On Monday, he said, the Treasury Department will issue a general license for the export of free personal Internet services and software geared toward the populations in all three countries, allowing Microsoft, Yahoo and other providers to get around strict export restrictions.

Here’s the (imperfect) translation, for my Cuban blogger friends:

Buscando tomar ventaja del potencial del Internet para abrir sociedades cerradas, la administracion del Presidente Obama permitira a compañias tecnologicas exportar servicios de internet como mensajes instantaneos, chat y compartimiento de fotos a Iran, Cuba y Sudan, un representante de la administracion dijo el Domingo.

Hoy Lunes, el Departamento de Estado aprovara una licensia de tipo general para la exportacion de servicios gratuitos y software (?) dirijido a los ciudadanos  de estos tres paises, permitiendo a Microsoft, Yahoo y otros provedores evadir las estrictas restricciones de exportacion.

There’s more (en ingles)