Occupy Wall Street takes over Times Square (updated)

Watch live streaming video from occupynyc at livestream.com

445pm ET: Happening as I post this. Watch live video here. More on the New York City protesters' longer-term plans back at Zucotti Park, including a map, at Mother Jones. (via @antderosa)

Update, 715pm ET: I've been following live reports on Twitter from various sources, and the situation in Times Square sounds intense. By various estimates, 15-20,000 demonstrators have occupied the Square. NYPD are out in full force, including the Counter-Terrorism unit (photo below).

At least a dozen (maybe more) officers on horseback, and buses and paddywagons ready for mass arrests. Multiple sources on the scene describe police tactics aimed at, more or less, "kettling" people into a defined zone, surrounding them with nets, officers on horseback, and police with batons.

Here's a video uploaded a while ago that shows protesters near the "Toys-R-Us" at Times Square. And here's another, that gives a sense of the crowd density a couple hours ago. And here is another, showing mounted officers entering the area filled with demonstrators.

And below, via AntDeRosa at Reuters (a good one to follow today):

Occupy Wall Street protesters shout slogans against banks and economic system while they take part in a protest at Times Square in New York October 15, 2011 REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

There are various reports floating around on Twitter now that NYPD has been "authorized to use tear gas" against protesters. Some on the scene are tweeting that NYPD is ordering crowds: "Leave now and you won't get hurt."

The situation sounds volatile, and like a very large number of people (including families with children, and disabled persons who have limited mobility) are packed into an ever-shrinking space. Read the rest

Hostess life: "What I learned by being a migrant sex worker in Japan"

Bloomberg News has published a two-part, first-person investigative piece by Rhacel Salazar Parreñas, a professor of sociology at the University of Southern California, on the lives of Filipina sex workers in Tokyo, Japan. To study the living and working conditions of these "hostess bar" migrant laborers, Parrenas became one.

The Bloomberg pieces are excerpts from her new book “Illicit Flirtations: Labor, Migration, and Sex Trafficking in Tokyo,” released this week by Stanford University Press.

Here is part 1. And here is part 2.

The Bloomberg excerpts are fascinating, as is the book, for providing an unusual glimpse inside a world most of us will never witness first-hand.

Read the rest

Shell funded warring militias in the Niger Delta -- report

In Counting the Cost: corporations and human rights abuses in the Niger Delta, Platform and a coalition of NGOs accuse Shell Oil of funding vicious conflicts between rival gangs in the Niger Delta, bribing local militias to gain access to oil, and contributing to terrible human rights abuses in the region, including devastation in the town of Rumuekpe and the slaughter of 60 people there.

The gang became locked in competition witha rival group over access to oil money, with payments to one faction provoking a violent reaction from the other. "The [rival gang] will come and fight, some will die, just to enable them to also get [a] share. So the place now becomes a contest ground for warring factions. Who takes over the community has the attention of the company."

Platform alleges that it was highly likely that Shell knew that thousands of dollars paid per month to militants in the town of Rumuekpe was used to sustain a bitter conflict. "Armed gangs waged pitched battles over access to oil money, which Shell distributed to whichever gang controlled access to its infrastructure."

Rumuekpe is "the main artery of Shell's eastern operations in Rivers state", with aroundabout 100,000 barrels of oil flowing per day, approximately10% of Shell's daily production in the country. Shell distributed "community development" funds and contracts via Friday Edu, a youth leader and Shell community liaison officer, the report said, an exclusive arrangement that magnified the risk of communal tension and conflict.

Read the rest

Stephen Fry and Brit talk-show guests marvel at American prison system's brutality

In this clip from QI, the talk/quiz/comedy-show that Stephen Fry hosts, Fry asks the participants "where one percent of Americans can be found." The correct answer is prison, and the contests proceed to make a series of horrified remarks and jokes about this startling fact.

(via Sociological Images) Read the rest

Ugandan police firing pink-dyed water at protestors

On MSN's photoblog, striking photos of Ugandan police attacking demonstrators with water-canon that fire pink-dyed streams of water. Presumably, the pink dye helped the police track down protestors after the fact.

Ugandan police disperse protesters with water cannon

(Image: James Akena / Reuters) Read the rest

Putting the Internet freedom movement into context: Barefoot into Cyberspace

Becky Hogge is the former executive director of the UK Open Rights Group, but she left us a few years back to write; she says,
When I left the Open Rights Group a couple of years ago to concentrate on writing, my dream was to bring geek issues like online free speech, privacy and copyright reform to a mainstream audience with a book that was cool, accessible and fun. By a stroke of luck, the year I picked to write the book, 2010, was the year WikiLeaks took hacker culture to the top of the global news agenda. The book that resulted was published last week, "Barefoot into Cyberspace", and interweaves an insider's take on the drama of 2010 with a mix of personal reflections and conversations with key figures in the community like Stewart Brand, Boing Boing's own Cory Doctorow, Ethan Zuckerman and Rop Gonggrijp.

This is not just another WikiLeaks book. It sets out to ask a specific set of questions that I took with me when I left digital rights campaigning. Will the internet make us more free? Or will the flood of information that courses across its networks only serve to enslave us to powerful interests that are emerging online? And how will the institutions of the old world -- politics, the media, corporations -- affect the utopians' dream for a new world populated not by passive consumers but by active participants?

You can buy the book on Amazon in Kindle and print formats, and it's also available as a free download, licensed CC-BY-SA.

Read the rest

Bachmann's husband operates a "pray the gay away" psuedo-science clinic

In case you're curious about what happens during pseudo-scientific, inherently bigoted treatments to make gay people be straight, ABC news and Truth Wins Out have been investigating the clinic owned and operated by Michelle Bachmann's husband. Read the rest

CIA man reveals secret "black site" prison: "Some Will Call Me a Torturer"

Spencer Ackerman in Wired: "Though heavily censored by the CIA, [former CIA operative Glenn Carle] provides the first detailed description of a so-called 'black site.' At an isolated 'discretely guarded, unremarkable' facility in an undisclosed foreign country (though one where the Soviets once operated), hidden CIA interrogators work endless hours while heavy metal blasts captives' eardrums and disrupts their sleep schedules. Afterward, the operatives drive to a fortified compound to munch Oreos and drink somberly to Grand Funk Railroad at the 'Jihadi Bar.' Any visitor to Guantanamo Bay's Irish pub -- O'Kellys, home of the fried pickle -- will recognize the surreality." Read the rest

New York legislature says "I do" to same-sex marriage (big photo gallery)

People on the street cheer after the New York Senate passed a bill legalizing gay marriage in New York June 24, 2011.

The state legislature of New York tonight made same-sex marriages legal. New York now becomes the sixth state to allow gay people to get married, and the most populous state to do so. Reuters: "State senators voted 33-29 to approve marriage equality legislation introduced by Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat in his first year of office."

Gov. Cuomo has already signed the bill, so it will become law 30 days from now.

Human rights, dignity, equality, gift registries, tax breaks, divorces, and everlasting love for all.

They're celebrating in the streets tonight. Below, a couple follows the New York Senate sessions via twitter as they await the vote announcement. More photos follow of crowds awaiting, then celebrating the news, at the historic Stonewall Inn. The one photo that's really making the rounds tonight, however, is this one of a rainbow-lit Empire State Building.

REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi

Read the rest

Belarus: KGB goes after activists through their social media accounts

AP: "Belarus is undergoing a severe economic crisis, and longtime President Alexander Lukashenko has overseen a sweeping crackdown on opposition and government critics. Authorities routinely block opposition websites using web-filters similar to those used in China. Pro-democracy activists such as those protesting Wednesday routinely use Facebook, Twitter and other social networking websites to support one another and their cause." But one activist says he was arrested this week and only released after he agreed to give the KGB his social media account passwords. Read the rest

Bahrain: 8 prominent opposition activists sentenced to life in prison

From Foreign Policy: "A military tribunal in Bahrain has sentenced eight prominent opposition activists to life imprisonment and 13 others to lesser prison sentences, on charges of seeking to topple the monarchy and collaborating with a foreign terrorist group, among a host of other charges."

Zainab Al Khawaja (@angryarabiya) is the daughter of one of the activists sentenced today. Her Twitter feed today was filled with a chilling account of the sentencing, and what she went through to witness it. Here is a collection of her tweets today.

"I do feel that one reason I wasn't beaten today is Twitter," she wrote. "It makes them feel exposed, they like committing their crimes in the dark." Read the rest

China: artist, poet, activist Ai Weiwei released on bail

Dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei speaks to members of the media in the doorway to his studio after being released on bail in Beijing June 23, 2011. Ai, detained since April, was released on bail on Wednesday, state media said, citing Beijing police. The agency, in a late evening announcement, said the artist had been freed "because of his good attitude in confessing his crimes as well as a chronic disease he suffers from". Ai was detained at Beijing airport on April 3, igniting an outcry about China's tightening grip on dissent, which has triggered the detention and arrest of dozens of rights activists and dissidents. [REUTERS/David Gray].

China's news agency reports that the Chinese poet, artist and activist Ai Weiwei has been released on bail. He pled guilty to charges of tax evasion. He is now home. From China Daily:

The Beijing police department said Wednesday that Ai Weiwei has been released on bail because of his good attitude in confessing his crimes as well as a chronic disease he suffers from.

The decision comes also in consideration of the fact that Ai has repeatedly said he is willing to pay the taxes he evaded, police said.

The Beijing Fake Cultural Development Ltd., a company Ai controlled, was found to have evaded a huge amount of taxes and intentionally destroyed accounting documents, police said.

More, from US-based news outlets: WP, AJ, NYT NPR.

As an aside, and not directly related to the news of his release: in New York City, the Asia Society is planning an exhibit of his work. Read the rest

Journalist and family shot dead in Mexico

Journalist Miguel Angel Lopez Velasco, his wife, and their 21-year-old son were shot to death inside their home in Veracruz, Mexico today. Snip from AP report:

Lopez Velasco wrote a column about politics and crime and was editorial director for the daily newspaper Notiver. His son had been working as a photographer for the same newspaper.
Another reporter was found dead in Veracruz just earlier this month. Mexico is the most dangerous country in the Americas for journalists, according to various press freedom groups: More than 60 have been murdered there since 2000, according to Mexico's National Human Rights Commission (Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos, or "CNDH"). More than 36,000 people have died in "narcoviolence" since Mexico's president Felipe Calderon initiated a military-led crackdown on drug cartels in 2006.

More coverage: AFP, Notimex, El Universal, BBC, Read the rest

US underwriting "liberation technology" projects to route around internet censorship abroad

"The Obama administration is leading a global effort to deploy 'shadow' Internet and mobile phone systems that dissidents can use to undermine repressive governments that seek to silence them by censoring or shutting down telecommunications networks." From James Glanz and John Markoff in the New York Times. Read the rest

FBI gives agents new powers to spy on you and go through your trash

The New York Times reported this weekend that the FBI will grant "significant new powers to its roughly 14,000 agents"—powers that allow them them greater freedom to "search databases, go through household trash or use surveillance teams to scrutinize the lives of people who have attracted their attention." The FBI's general counsel describes the changes as "more like fine-tuning than major changes." The ACLU isn't buying it. Read the rest

Europride and Gaga in Rome

(Lady Gaga performs during a gay pride concert in downtown Rome. Stefano Rellandini / Reuters)

The gay icon Lady Gaga was there wearing her green wig, together with up to one million people marching chanting singing in a carnival gay pride march.

Rome is the capital of Vatican too, the place where Pope lives and preaches from his balcony every Sunday morning about how people should live and love. Lady Gaga's motto this Sunday was the power of love. She recalled her Italian origin and name ( La Germanotta) and, in a passionate speech, demanded immediate equal rights for the gays, meaning the right to get married, have children etc. While singing her new song Born This Way, an anthem to diversity...

But only few days ago, the Pope announced his firm opposition to equalize even straight informal marriages, that is, unions not sanctioned by God in a marriage sacrament. Where the Catholic church is concerned, gay marriages are not only a taboo topic but even a place of severe demonization and homophobia.

Read the rest

White man from Georgia is "Gay Girl from Damascus"

For weeks, journalists, bloggers, and human rights advocates have been trying to track down a "disappeared" mideast blogger named Amina, who identified herself on her blog as a "Gay Girl from Damascus." The journal purported to chronicle "an out Syrian lesbian's thoughts on life, the universe and so on."

Well, not so much. After she went missing, people started digging. And it turns out Amina is a 40-year-old white man from Stone Mountain, Georgia named Tom MacMaster.

Christ, what an asshole.

Update: Andy Carvin (@acarvin) of NPR deserves credit for pushing this story from the start, poking at cracks early on, and doing much of the sleuthing that led to the ultimate realization that this was an exploitative hoax. Here's his post at NPR.org.

Update 2: Credit where it's due: The digging by two bloggers, Ali Abunimah and Benjamin Doherty, originally uncovered Tom MacMaster's identity. More at Electronic Intifada. Jillian York also deserves note for skepticism and questions early on, and smart analysis: related posts at jillianyork.com, technosociology.org, bookmaniac.org, and ethanzuckerman.com. Read the rest

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