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Friday
Jul292011

Belarus Update: Getting to the Truth on Repression and Social Media (Belarus Digest)

Western media often spread myths about the extent of Internet censorship in Belarus.  Many have the impression that all or many social media sites have been shut down or blocked by Belarusian KGB. The truth is that unlike television or FM radio, Internet access remains largely unrestricted in Belarus. 

Because only a small fraction of Belarusians use Internet to get political information, authorities are rather relaxed about Internet censorship. They usually intervene to temporarily block certain Internet web sites around the dates of scheduled protests. In addition, they effectively use traditional methods against pro-democracy activists such as arrests and pressure on protestors' universities and employers.

Click to read more ...

Friday
Jul292011

Iran Cartoon of the Day: Repairing Ahmadinejad "Is a Waste of Time"

Earlier this week, cleric Jafar Shojouni said that the Iranian system, led by the Supreme Leader, "will repair [President] Ahmadinejad, not replace him". Cartoonist Maya Nayestani offers her perspective, as a Revolutionary Guard declares, "Repair is a waste of time."

Thursday
Jul282011

The Latest from Iran (28 July): An Opposition Move on the Elections?

2045 GMT: Politics Watch. A move within the Iranian establishment today, as clerics and former Government officials have announced their "Islamic Constancy Front". Those involved include Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, his clerical ally Morteza Agha-Tehrani, former Government spokesman Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel, and former Minister of Interior Sadegh Mahsouli.

Mehr has no less than four stories emphasising the Front's declaration that it strengthens the unity of conservatives and principlists.

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Thursday
Jul282011

Bahrain Document: The Outcome of the National Dialogue

Reuters journalist Andrew Hammond, writing on his website Hammonda, posts the English-language summary of the finding of the Bahraini regime's National Dialogue, which began on 1 July, with  an Arabic version is to be published on Friday. King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa is meeting Dialogue members today --- opposition party Al Wefaq says it will not attend, but the opposition Waad Party. Waad member Munira Fakhro said it is not clear if the King will approve all or any sections of the document.

Hammond comments, "The important thing is that [this] does not change the balance of power between the appointed upper house of parliament and the elected one. It only allows the elected [house] more powers to question cabinet ministers and some other powers of scrutiny, [as in] Kuwait. But at least Kuwait’s Parliament is entirely elected. Also, [there are] no limits on the terms of [the] Prime Minister and other ministers."

Bahrain’s National Dialogue: Executive Summary of Outcomes

Introduction

Bahrain’s National Dialogue was launched on 2nd July 2011 to address the concerns
of Bahraini citizens in the wake recent events. Setting aside differences, the National
Dialogue’s aim was to build consensus on the most salient political, economic, social
and human rights issues, without preconditions, and based on proposals by
participants. Its success was dependent on the active participation of close to 300
delegates from across Bahraini society, and on their willingness to bridge divides,
enhance the reform process and define a shared vision for Bahrain’s future.

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Thursday
Jul282011

Iran Snapshot: When a Highway Becomes a Waterway (France24)

"This project is an absolute mess. It’s the laughing stock not only of Rafsanjan but of everyone who visits the city. If it’s raining, people actually come from far away to see the ‘waterfall’ and ‘swimming pool’ for themselves. It’s pathetic."

"Rumour has it that the engineers responsible for overseeing the project had ties with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which directly or indirectly controls most of the construction and development projects in the country.”

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Thursday
Jul282011

EA Cyber-Watch: Anonymous Launches Another Campaign Against PayPal

On Wednesday, the Web-based shopping outlet eBay opened to a 1% fall in its shares on the US stock market. The cause? The computer "hacktivists" Anonymous has resumed its campaign against the online payment company PayPal.

Last year, Anonymous launched a campaign against PayPal, as well as other financial and credit services like Visa and MasterCard, after the company refused to process donations to WikiLeaks, the website which had downloaded hundreds of thousands of classified US documents. 

Now #OpPayPal, called by Anonymous and their associates at LulzSec and Wikileaks, is protesting the company’s compliance with the FBI to charge and fine online actvisists. Mercedes Haefer, a 20-year-old Social Sciences student at the University of Nevada, is one of 14 defendants facing charges of "conspiracy and intentional damage to a protected computer", having taking part in a denial-of-service attack, with a possible sentence of 15 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

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Thursday
Jul282011

Syria, Bahrain (and Beyond): Can You "Disappear" All the Protesters?

2030 GMT: Big news from Libya tonight as the opposition National Transition Council has announced the death of its military commander, General Abdel Fattah Younes and two other officers.

The three men appear to have been slain by an assassination squad, possibly a "sleeper cell", in the opposition centre of Benghazi.

Earlier today the opposition had announced that Younes, the former Minister of Interior under Muammar Qaddafi, was going to be detained for questioning over his family's ties to the regime. Tonight the Council said Younes had been killed before he was interrogated.

The Council has announced three days of mourning for the slain commander.

1940 GMT: Back from a break to find claimed footage of a general strike today in Daraa in southern Syria:

And in Hama:

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Wednesday
Jul272011

US Politics & Economy: Scott Lucas on the BBC About the Debt Crisis

Complementing James Miller's summary of the battle in Washington over the Federal Government's debt, with the prospect of a US default next week, I was in a discussion on BBC Radio 2 this lunchtime about the political and economic causes of the problem and on the question, "Does this mean America is on its knees and finished as a superpower?"

(The answer to the question is easy, "That is the wrong way to look at the current situation." Explaining the causes is a lot more complex, although James Miller's "Start with the tax cuts", and the Government spending binge of the last decade is a good beginning.)

The discussion begins just before the 1:11.00 mark. My contribution is from 1:20.45.

And later in the afternoon, I had the chance on BBC West Midlands to offer an introduction to the "debt ceiling", the politics of the crisis, and the question, "Does it really matter if the US defaults next week?"

The chat starts just after the 1:41.30 mark.

Wednesday
Jul272011

The Latest from Iran (27 July): Foreign Manoeuvres

1755 GMT: Border Watch. Iranian state media are reporting that two Revolutionary Guards and 21 Kurdish insurgents have died in further fighting near the Iraq border. Two Guards were reportedly wounded in the clash in the city of Sardasht.

A senior Revolutionary Guards commander and five troops were killed in fighting earlier this week. Iranian officials say at least 50 members of the insurgent group PJAK have died in the battles over the last fortnight.

1535 GMT: Cyber-Watch. An official of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance has explained that linking to social networks is a "computer crime".

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Wednesday
Jul272011

Libya, Syria (and Beyond) LiveBlog: "No Talks"

2119 GMT: We close the live-blog with news from Libya. Rebels launched a new military campaign in the west, near Nalut (noted earlier):

A rebel spokesman told Reuters that a small attack had been launched against pro-Gaddafi forces earlier on Wednesday, resulting in the destruction of three of their tanks. He said that Gaddafi's forces had fired Grad rockets, but that no casualties had been reported.

Meanwhile, the United states is reviewing a request from the National Transitional Council to open an embassy in Washington.

The rebels have been pledging to use Ramadan as an opportunity to refocus on toppling Gaddafi. The opposition in Syria and Bahrain, based on the spectacular video below, has similar ideas. Come back tomorrow and watch what happens, and thanks for reading ~ James Miller

2111 GMT: Night protests in Al Dair, Bahrain:

Night protests in Al Kawara, Bahrain:

Night protests in Qariya, Bahrain:

Click to read more ...