Three Tibetan herders burn themselves alive in protest

The crisis among ethnic Tibetans in Sichuan Province continues: "three livestock herders set themselves on fire to protest what they saw as political and religious repression at the hands of the Chinese authorities," reports the New York Times, bringing the total number of such self-immolations over the past year to 19, "an unprecedented wave of self-inflicted violence among the tiny ethnic minority in China." Read the rest

VA state senator attaches rectal exam amendment to anti-abortion bill

"To protest a bill that would require women to undergo an ultrasound before having an abortion, Virginia State Sen. Janet Howell (D-Fairfax) on Monday attached an amendment that would require men to have a rectal exam and a cardiac stress test before obtaining a prescription for erectile dysfunction medication." (thanks, Antinous!) Read the rest

Tibet: China's bloody crackdown on Tibetan protesters escalates, as self-immolations continue

Ethnic Tibetans throughout Tibet this week held some of the largest demonstrations against Chinese rule in four years. Chinese forces responded by shooting protesters. Up to 5 are said to have been killed and more than 30 wounded, according to Tibetan advocacy groups.

On January 9, a 42-year-old monk became the latest in a continuing string of desperate protesters who burned themselves alive to protest Chinese military rule and cultural repression.

A New York Times report gathered accounts from a number of human rights groups. NPR's Morning Edition today aired an extensive report on the worsening human rights crisis in Tibet (MP3 link).

Details are hard to confirm, as foreign press access to the areas involved is all but impossible. Free Tibet has more, and Radio Free Asia has compiled various reports.

Dr. Lobsang Sangay of the Tibetan government-in-exile in Dharamsala, India, issued a statement on the conflict, published in video on YouTube (and embedded above).

Read the rest

Report: North Carolina aviation company handled extraordinary rendition flights for CIA

From Physicians for Human Rights: "A report (PDF) prepared by professors and students at the University of North Carolina School of Law states that the CIA has been relying on Aero Contractors, Ltd., a North Carolina operated civil aviation company to transport detainees to international destinations for detention, interrogation and torture." Read the rest

One more response to Boing Boing post on "Police Pad" gadgets in Georgia, by Some Guy from Georgia

People walk past graffiti on a street in the Georgian capital Tbilisi, Jan. 13, 2012. (REUTERS)

Editor's Note: In response to an anonymously-sourced wisecrack we published about police corruption in former Soviet states, the Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs responded with a statement, which we published in full. A Boing Boing reader from Georgia also asked to respond to the anonymously-sourced wisecrack, with which he takes issue. Like the wisecracker, this person requests anonymity.

The police in Georgia are definitely not fat or lazy. They are not corrupt on the street level, either. But the whole system still retains elements of corruption  (in enforcement, in the judiciary, and in the legislative realm). The problem lies more in the definition of corruption: the fact that you can no longer bribe the policeman in the streets or at the sovereign borders does not mean everything is crystal-clean.

The fact that citizens are still afraid  of police in Georgia as if they were monsters is still an expression of the damage of corruption. The fact that you can be imprisoned for smoking pot weeks before actually being tested by cops (because you might seem suspicious to them, not because you've been caught smoking pot) is a kind of corruption, I believe.

There is a terrible feeling of vulnerability in Georgia. Police are still used as a tool to terrorize people and make money, but these days, paying bribes to individual policemen is no longer normal.

Georgian policemen stand to attention during a daily shift change at the Interior Ministry in Tbilisi, Jan. Read the rest

Torture common again in post-Saddam "democratic" Iraq

"Iraqi state security officers are systematically arresting people on trumped-up charges, torturing them and extorting bribes from their families for their release." Guardian UK via Richard Engel. Read the rest

Response to Boing Boing post on "Police Pad" gadgets in Georgia, from the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia

Editor's Note: In response to an anonymously-sourced wisecrack we published about police corruption in former Soviet states, the Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs has responded with a statement, which we are more than happy to publish in full.

Georgian Police: Model for Successful Transformation

The article published on [Boing Boing on] January 12, 2012, about the initiative by the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia to introduce new portable field computers (so called “Police Pads”) ends with an anonymous quote declaring that "100% guaranteed those crooked, fat, lazy cops will be using these devices primarily for porn and Russian gambling services."

Stereotypes like this are easy to toss out—but are quite simply incorrect. This quote does not reflect the productivity, effectiveness, transparency, and reliability of the police force in Georgia today, but rather the bygone era of the 1990s, a reality that has drastically changed thanks to an ambitious and successful reform process.

The reform process in Georgia began immediately after the 2003 Rose Revolution. The new government inherited a completely corrupt and bloated law-enforcement system. The systemic corruption and the high level of crime throughout the country resulted in a very low level of public trust: fewer than 10% of Georgians had confidence in the police, according to 2003 polls. And the very low average policeman's salary (approximately $68 per month) made the soliciting of bribes routine. 

Georgia has since made the creation of an efficient and modern police force a national priority, undertaking a series of reforms that sought to rebuild the national police force literally from the ground up. Read the rest

Muslim student claims sexual harrassment, school ignores, she's falsely reported as a terrorist, FBI shows up at her door

Balayla Ahmad, an observant African-American Muslim student at the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut, has filed a federal lawsuit claiming she was sexually harassed by a male student in 2009 for months on end, but that university officials showed "deliberate indifference" to her repeated complaints—and that she was then reported to the FBI in revenge for having complained. From the Associated Press:

When she complained to a teacher, she was told that the university generally doesn't get rid of students right away over such incidents, the lawsuit said. Another teacher asked her if she were married and asked her not to report it to the dean because he would speak with the harasser, the suit said.

Ahmad then reported the harassment and fears for her safety to the university's president and dean, who promised to meet with her. But she said when she met with the dean, he said, "My hands are tied. What do you suggest I do?"

After reporting the sexual harassment in April 2009, Ahmad said she was approached by two university security directors who told her someone had made allegations against her and they threatened to call the FBI and have her arrested.

Later, two FBI agents knocked on Ahmad's apartment door, questioned her and left a business card, according to the lawsuit. She said she learned that her harasser or his associates had fabricated a story falsely accusing her of being a terrorist in apparent retaliation for having made a sexual harassment complaint against him.

Read the rest

TSA's brags about not catching any terrorists, proves its own irrelevance

Bruce Schneier looks at the TSA's brag sheet, documenting the "Top 10 Good Catches of 2011" and finds "mostly forgetful, and entirely innocent, people. Note that they fail to point out that the firearms and knives would have been just as easily caught by pre-9/11 screening procedures."

That's right; not a single terrorist on the list. Mostly forgetful, and entirely innocent, people. Note that they fail to point out that the firearms and knives would have been just as easily caught by pre-9/11 screening procedures. And that the C4 -- their #1 "good catch" -- was on the return flight; they missed it the first time. So only 1 for 2 on that one.

And the TSA decided not to mention its stupidest confiscations:

TSA confiscates a butter knife from an airline pilot. TSA confiscates a teenage girl's purse with an embroidered handgun design. TSA confiscates a 4-inch plastic rifle from a GI Joe action doll on the grounds that it’s a "replica weapon." TSA confiscates a liquid-filled baby rattle from airline pilot’s infant daughter. TSA confiscates a plastic "Star Wars" lightsaber from a toddler.

Meanwhile, the TSA literally cites preventing snakes on a plane is one of its top-ten catches.

The TSA Proves its Own Irrelevance (via Beth Pratt)

(Image: Knilly and his Snakes on a Plane T-Shirt - Good Friday - The Angel on St. Giles High Street, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from charliebrewer's photostream) Read the rest

Testament of humanitarian aid worker who spent seven years being held and tortured in Gitmo

The NYT gives space to Lakhdar Boumediene, a humanitarian aid worker who was arrested on secret evidence that he was planning to blow up the US embassy in Sarajevo. Despite the fact that the case was found without merit by Bosnia's highest court, he was kidnapped to Guantanamo Bay by US forces and held for seven years, subjected to torture and isolation from his family. A US court finally freed him. You remember when they started releasing Gitmo prisoners and there was all that hand-wringing on how these dangerous,dangerous people couldn't possibly be released because they were all jihadis? Yeah, that.

I left Algeria in 1990 to work abroad. In 1997 my family and I moved to Bosnia and Herzegovina at the request of my employer, the Red Crescent Society of the United Arab Emirates. I served in the Sarajevo office as director of humanitarian aid for children who had lost relatives to violence during the Balkan conflicts. In 1998, I became a Bosnian citizen. We had a good life, but all of that changed after 9/11.

When I arrived at work on the morning of Oct. 19, 2001, an intelligence officer was waiting for me. He asked me to accompany him to answer questions. I did so, voluntarily — but afterward I was told that I could not go home. The United States had demanded that local authorities arrest me and five other men. News reports at the time said the United States believed that I was plotting to blow up its embassy in Sarajevo.

Read the rest

Bush-era whistleblower faced even more intense harassment under Obama

Jesselyn Radack is a former US government lawyer, blew the whistle on the US Justice Department when her advice that John Walker Lindh request to have access to a lawyer during questioning should be allowed was sealed, and then Attorney General John Ashcroft announced that Lindh had not requested a lawyer. She was given a blistering performance review, fired, and placed under criminal investigation and intense surveillance. She was also added to the nation's No Fly list.

When the Obama administration assumed office, they continued and amplified the Bush-era harassment of Radack. Her 10-minute speech on her plight is a chilling reminder of how hostile the US government is to workers who point out its criminal failings, lies, and misdeeds, no matter who is in office.

Obama’s War on Whistleblowers « naked capitalism Read the rest

LOLcats and the Arab Spring - human rights and the Internet

On the CBC Ideas podcast, a lecture by Ethan Zuckerman on the connection between LOLcats, Internet activism and the Arab Spring:

In the 2011 Vancouver Human Rights Lecture, Ethan Zuckerman, director of the Center for Civic Media at MIT, looks at the "cute cat" theory of internet activism, and how it helps explain the Arab Spring. He discusses how activists around the world are turning to social media tools which are extremely powerful, easy to use and difficult for governments to censor. The Vancouver Human Rights Lecture is co-sponsored by the UBC Continuing Studies, the Laurier Institution, and Yahoo.

The Vancouver Human Rights Lecture - Cute Cats and The Arab Spring

MP3 link Read the rest

ACLU fights Kafkaesque secret Occupy Boston Twitter subpoena

The ACLU of Massachusetts is representing an anonymous Twitter user who has been targetted by an Assistant DA who is trying to build a case related to Occupy Boston; the court and the ADA have sealed the proceedings, so no one -- not even some of the ACLU staff working on the case -- is allowed to know what is going on:

I had gone to court to listen to our legal team argue a case to protect the First Amendment rights of our client, Twitter user @p0isAn0n, aka Guido Fawkes. That user, who wishes to remain anonymous throughout the proceedings, was the target of a Suffolk County Assistant District Attorney’s administrative subpoena to Twitter, dated December 14, 2011. As we wrote last week, the subpoena asked Twitter to hand over @p0isAn0n’s subscriber information, including our client’s IP address, which can be used to help track down someone’s physical residence...

The known knowns: the scrum of lawyers, defense and prosecution, addressed the judge. I saw the judge speak to the lawyers. Then I saw our attorneys return to their bench, closer to where I was sitting, out of earshot of the sidebar. But the ADA stayed with the judge. He spoke to her, with his back to the courtroom, for about ten minutes. Our attorneys didn’t get to hear what he said to her, didn’t have a chance to respond to whatever the government was saying about our client, about the case. It was frankly shocking.

After those ten minutes of secret government-judge conversation, our attorneys were invited back to the sidebar, whereupon the scrum of lawyers spoke with the judge for another ten or fifteen minutes.

Read the rest

War on General Purpose Computing auf Deutsch

Christian Wöhrl has produced a German translation of my 28C3 talk, The Coming War on General Purpose Computing. Thanks, Christian! Read the rest

Danish company helped Iran with surveillance program that identified journalist who was arrested and tortured

RanTek, a Danish company, is reportedly supplying Iran with censor/spyware technology, which was part of a larger effort that was used to identify a dissident journalist who was arrested and tortured.

Until he was arrested, he worked for Mehr, the official Iranian news agency. He received information from all over the country about protests and demonstrations, information too controversial to be used in the news agent's official work. Instead he published it through other channels, e.g. Facebook. However, after the elections in June 2009, when people took to the streets in protest against Ahmadinejad's election victory, it was clear to the Iranians that the Internet is in no way safe.

Nearly 4000 people were arrested solely on the basis of monitoring of their private internet traffic«, says Farahani.

Now it seems that the Danish company RanTek helps the Iranian regime with the monitoring of the Iranian population. The day before Christmas the Bloomberg news agency reported that the Danish IT company re-packages and sells surveillance equipment to Iran. Ironically, the equipment originally comes from the Israeli manufacturer Allot Communications, which means that the Israelis through a Danish intermediary have helped their mortal enemies.

Eksperter: Dansk firma hjælper med iransk overvågning (Danish)

Danish company helps Iran spy on citizens (English)

(Thanks, Henrik!) Read the rest

Guide for bloggers who worry that they'll be imprisoned by their governments

The Electronic Frontier Foundation and Global Voices Advocacy have produced a guide for bloggers who believe that their work is liable to get them arrested or kidnapped by the authorities:

All bloggers should:

* Consider providing someone outside the country with the following information: - Login credentials to your social media, email, and blog accounts - Contact information of family members - Information about any health conditions * Regularly back up their blog, Facebook, email, and other accounts * Consider mirroring your website if you want to ensure it remains up without your attention to it * Encrypt sensitive files and consider hiding them on a separate drive * Consider using tools like Identity Sweeper (for Android users) to secure/erase your mobile data * Consider preparing a statement for release in case of arrest-- This can be helpful for international news outlets and human rights organizations * Consider recording a short video identifying yourself (biographical info, scope of work) and the risks that you face and share with trusted contacts * Develop contacts with human rights and free expression organizations* * Think about a strategy/contingency plan for what to do if you're detained (see below)

For Bloggers at Risk: Creating a Contingency Plan Read the rest

UPDATED: Danish human rights activist arrested in Bahrain, faces torture: will Danish foreign minister intervene?

Update: Zainab is back home!

Carstenagger sez, "The blogger and human rights activist Zainab Alkhawaja has been detained since Thursday, December 15th, where she was detained after being teargassed while participating in a peaceful demonstration. Her husband and her father are imprisoned, her father sentenced to life in prison and allegedly hideously tortured. Zainab is in *great danger* of being tortured, given the present climate in Bahrain. Zainab is a very courageous activist, which prompted NY Times reporter Nicholas Kristof to tweet: 'I suggest that Bahrain officials avoid torturing and imprisoning @AngryArabiya. Some day she could be their president.' Here is how YOU can help: Zainab is a Danish citizen. Our new Minister of Foreign Affairs is all too fond of photo ops with Hillary Clinton, but he will succumb to pressure and hopefully create a diplomatic incident to protect one of his citizens. Please drop him a line on udenrigsministeren@um.dk and express your concern for Zainab Alkhawaja and ask him to use his influence to demand her release [Ed: see above -- she's back home]."

Dansk aktivist anholdt i Bahrain (Thanks, Carsten!)

(Photo: @mazenmahdi) Read the rest

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