China: Lawyer linked to "disappeared" artist Ai Weiwei resurfaces after detention

Liu Xiaoyuan, the human rights lawyer associated with the recently-"disappeared" artist Ai Weiwei, today tweeted that he is back in Beijing. The attorney had gone missing for the five previous days. "He told the Guardian he was fine but did not want to give any more details of what had happened." Ai Weiwei remains missing.

OpenNet Initiative releases new report on use of Western censorware by Mideast censors

From ONI: "The recent political unrest in the Middle East and North Africa has thrown into focus the information shaping, events-based blocking, and counter-control activities undertaken by governments throughout the region. New research by the OpenNet Initiative shows that many of these activities are supported by Western filtering tools and services." Read the OpenNet Initiative's new report: "West Censoring East: The Use of Western Technologies by Middle East Censors, 2010-2011," authored by Jillian York and Helmi Noman. A related Wall Street Journal item is here, but requires subscription/login.

Libya: Woman struggles to tell foreign journalists of kidnapping, rape by Qaddafi militia

"A Libyan woman burst into the hotel housing the foreign press in Tripoli Saturday morning and fought off security forces as she told journalists that she had been raped and beaten by members of the Qaddafi militia. After nearly an hour, she was dragged away from the hotel screaming." (New York Times)

Her name is Eman al-Obeidy. CNN's Nic Robertson was present, and his tweeted account is screengrabbed here. "CNN camera was violently snatched, systematically smashed to pieces and video footage stolen," he wrote. "Some journalists were beaten in blatant display of regime thuggery."

"Journalists are demanding to see her. David Kirkpatrick of the New York Times and I went to officials in charge who claimed they don't know who took her, or where she was taken."

A related Reuters item is here. Above: A related Sky News clip. The UK Telegraph also has video coverage. (via @acarvin).

Time lapse video of woman with HIV/AIDS

Just noticed this powerful advertisement from the Topsy Foundation. It was one of the winners at TED's "Ad's Worth Spreading" contest, which is generally worth checking out. This particular video does a great job (with a lovely twist at the end) at showing the effectiveness of HIV antiretroviral drugs (ARVs). There's also a followup video you can view that checks in on the woman (Selinah) as well as chatting with the folks behind the video. Although I realize that the ARVs have been made possible by the work done in the pharmaceutical industry, and that there is a chance that Topsy's programs are facilitated by kind donations from the same industry, it's still a pity that there isn't a more sustainable system for the provision of such drugs to developing countries. Pity that these sorts of medicines are usually priced way too high for individuals like Selinah, which is why so many go untreated and so many die. Pity also that laws like Bill C-393 (which aim to explore different ways to create that sustainable market and lower that price) are being deliberately stalled in government so as to guarantee not being passed. That kind of unfortunate reality deserves a megafacepalm.

Will the Harper government receive a #MEGAFACEPALM for C-393?

(FOR BILL C-393 STALLING UPDATES SEE BOTTOM OF POST: LAST UPDATE ON FRI, MARCH 25th) A few weeks ago, I was lecturing during a global issues course (ASIC200), when it became immediately clear that on some occasions, a solitary single facepalm is simply not enough. In fact, there seemed to be many things and events in this world that would merit many many simultaneous facepalms, or as we've been calling it in class, a MEGAFACEPALM! Anyway, when I looked it up on the internet, there didn't seem to be any pictures of large groups of people doing the facepalm, and so I thought, why not make our own? And so after a few clicks on my camera, and a handy "Make your own motivational poster" website, here is how it turned out: megafacepalm.jpg Of course, then the big question was for what occasion should we bestow this honour - this first unaltered photographic MEGAFACEPALM image? Well, I had a chat with the class the other day, and it seemed that the issue of Bill C-393 seemed like a worthy cause. Now, if you're late to the game and need a primer on this Bill C-393, then read this boingboing post and then come back here for the MEGAFACEPALM lowdown.

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Yemen: state of emergency after pro-government snipers massacre protesters

Yemeni security forces and plainclothes snipers on rooftops shot dead up to 42 protesters at an anti-government rally in Sanaa after Muslim prayers on Friday. President Ali Abdullah Saleh has since declared a state of emergency. "The Interior Ministry put the death toll at 25, but doctors said 42 people had died and at least 300 were injured." (Reuters)

Rejected by Bahrain

RTR2K0NX.jpgPhoto: Anti-government protesters' reflections are seen on a car that was hit by bullets during an operation by Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) military forces to remove protesters from Pearl Square in Bahrain, March 17, 2011. (REUTERS/James Lawler Duggan)

Bahrain awoke to a violent crackdown by police on demonstrators camped out at the country's iconic Lulu (Pearl) roundabout on Wednesday. That afternoon, I boarded a flight from Doha, Qatar to Bahrain, to see for myself what was unfolding in the island nation I once called home.

Hours later, I found myself on a flight back to Doha, without having been allowed to set foot out of Bahrain's airport in Muharraq.

The flight itself was quite uneventful. The plane - an Airbus A321, with a listed 177 passenger capacity - carried less than 30 people. A short line to immigration meant I was at the desk in minutes. Immigration officer asks, "Where are you coming from? Qatar? OK, 5 Bahraini Dinars."

Thumbing through my passport, he suddenly stops and looks me in the eye. "Wait, where are you from? Who do you work for? ... Please have a seat - over there." I can't be sure if it was the Iraq visa, the India visa, or the numerous Qatar & Saudi visas in my American passport he found suspicious. Or perhaps it was my telling him in Arabic that "my origin" is half Indian, half Hispanic.

So my wait began. There were quite a number of other people on the benches too. Anyone who'd arrived with the intention of driving across the King Fahad causeway into Saudi Arabia was being told they'd have to fly. There is a curfew in effect on Bahrain's main highway from 4pm-4am, and last I heard, the bridge to Saudi was closed indefinitely. This of course, due to the month-long protests against the government by opposition groups calling for democratic reforms, a constitutional monarchy and basic human rights.

After about an hour of waiting, and checking in a couple times to see if there was any problems, one of the immigration officers asked, "You used to work for Al Jazeera, right?"

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Killing Bill C-393 would be a facepalm of the highest possible order.

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Access to life-saving medicines is not a luxury, but a human right.
~Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network
To me, the above statement is one of those things that sound like a no-brainer. Put another way, if I were to ask you whether you thought a person's income should determine whether they live or die from something like HIV/AIDS, then I think you would see that the answer is nothing but obvious. But here I am, in Canada, writing this post, because there is a very real danger that members of my government think that this isn't such an easy decision after all - that maybe wealth and business interests do matter when dealing with such ethical choices, and that there is a hierarchy where certain lives are worth more than others. Let me backtrack a bit, and provide a little context. I'd rather not write a rant, emotional and heart wrenching as this discussion can be - I'd prefer to rely on reason, and not on rhetoric. I want everybody to understand why this is an important issue, one that deserves coverage, and one that deserves our involvement. More importantly, I want everybody to understand why the right thing to do is obvious. To start, let me mention the letters and numbers that make up the label, "Bill C-393." Keep them in your head - at least for a moment. If you're the sort that prefers hearing at least a quick definition, then this one might work:
Bill C-393 aims to reform CAMR and make it easier for Canada to export affordable, life-saving, generic medicines to developing countries.
~Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network
If you're thinking that this is a Canadian thing, then think again. Other rich countries are watching how Canada will behave. There's a few in Europe, and apparently even China is curious. In the U.S., the topic appears to be quenched, but the behaviour of the Canadian government could catalyze dialogue. And if you're not from a rich country? Well, you might actually have lives that will be affected by it, millions of lives even.

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Anti-government protests around the world (big photo gallery)

A girl attends Friday prayers in front of an army tank in Tahrir Square. Egyptians held a nationwide "Victory March" on Friday to celebrate the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule one week ago, to protect the revolution and to remind new military rulers of the power of the street. Hundreds of thousands joined the rallies, which are also a memorial to the 365 people who died in the 18-day uprising, with many Egyptians expressing their intention to guard their newly-won prospect of democracy. (REUTERS/Suhaib Salem)

A demonstrator shows his T-shirt that features the star and crescent symbol and reads "Yes We Can" during a protest against the regime of Libya's leader Muammar Gaddafi outside the Libyan Embassy in Berlin, February 21, 2011. (REUTERS/Thomas Peter)

More photos follow, from Algeria, Yemen, Bahrain, Iraq, and other nations throughout Africa and the Middle East where the "revolution virus" is spreading.

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Bahrain: anti-government protests continue despite brutal crackdown (big photo gallery)


People gather to mourn and pray for demonstrators who were injured after riot police stormed an anti-government protest camp, outside the Salmaniya hospital where the casualties were sent to, in Manama February 17, 2011.


Family members of the protester who was killed this morning during police clashes mourn at a hospital after receiving news of his death in the Bahraini capital of Manama.

More photos below (REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed).

Warning: graphic content.

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Egypt's military junta now has an official Facebook page

To better communicate with the internet-savvy youngsters who toppled Hosni Mubarak's regime, The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has launched an official Facebook page dedicated "to the sons and youth of Egypt who ignited the January 25 revolution and to its martyrs." Lest you be left with the impression these are happy-fun guys, Amnesty International said today it has found new evidence that this same military has been, and still is, torturing detainees. (AFP)

Bahrain: peaceful protests turn violent as police attack demonstrators

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Breaking: Amira Al Hussaini at Global Voices: "Bahrain police have just launched an attack on protesters at the Pearl Roundabout." She has a Twitter roundup, and you can also follow NPR's Andy Carvin right now for fast and furious RTs from people who are there, apparently being teargassed and shot with rubber bullets and/or other forms of ammunition. It is 3AM there; the demonstrators were sleeping; news crews are are nowhere to be found.

(photo, inset, via maryamalkhawaja, above Abu Sufyan, both via @acarvin)

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Growing list of journalists detained, threatened, or attacked in Egypt

ABC News: "We've compiled a list of all the journalist who have been in some way threatened, attacked or detained while reporting in Egypt. When you put it all into one list, it is a rather large number in such a short period of time." (Ed. note: Since they've last updated the list, I've seen word of a dozen new cases pop up on Twitter. This really is unprecedented.—XJ)

Egypt: CNN's Anderson Cooper beat up by pro-Mubarak thugs

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Link to details at Huffington Post, and CNN has posted this video. Shortly after the incident, Cooper tweeted, "Its getting really bad in front of Egyptian museum"—all of the Twitter feeds I'm following from folks on the ground there point in the same direction. The protests are now being flooded by pro-Mubarak thugs, and various state employees paid to be present, and there are very high counts of injuries today. The situation sounds increasingly dangerous.

As an aside, I have plenty of complaints about CNN, but I have nothing but respect for Anderson Cooper's work. Dude is for real. From the tweets, sounds like he and his crew have been awake for four days solid since landing in Egypt. I think they're doing solid reporting under extremely difficult conditions.

Update: Cooper spoke to Reuters about the attack.

Katie Couric, Christiane Amanpour, and a number of reporters with Al Arabiya and Al Jazeera have also been beaten up by thugs who back (or are employed by) Mubarak.

Egypt: protests were safe space for women until they turned violent today

Sarah Topol in Slate: "Egypt has a sexual harassment problem. In a 2008 study, 86 percent of women said they had been harassed on Egypt's streets--any woman walking through a crowd of men in Egypt braces to get groped. But in the square, crammed in shoulder-to-shoulder, men apologized if they so much as bumped into you. After wandering around the protests for days, it suddenly dawned on me that I hadn't been groped, a constant annoyance when I'm faced with large crowds in Cairo. When I pointed this out to other women in the square, we all took a moment to reflect. 'I hadn't even thought of that,' one woman in Tahrir told me. 'But it's because we're all so focused on one goal, we're a family here."