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Libya: Inside Gadhafi's secret surveillance network

An excellent long read in the new Wired magazine: Jamming Tripoli: Inside Moammar Gadhafi's Secret Surveillance Network. Matthieu Aikins examines how activists suffered "greatly at the hands of Gadhafi’s spy service, whose own capabilities had been heightened by 21st-century technology."

By now, it’s well known that the Arab Spring showed the promise of the Internet as a crucible for democratic activism. But, in the shadows, a second narrative unfolded, one that demonstrated the Internet’s equal potential for government surveillance and repression on a scale unimaginable with the old analog techniques of phone taps and informants. Today, with Gadhafi dead and a provisional government of former rebels in charge, we can begin to uncover the secret, high tech spying machine that helped the dictator and his regime cling to power.

Marie Colvin: a portrait of the slain war correspondent, by Molly Crabapple

From Molly Crabapple, this wonderful portrait of Marie Colvin, the Sunday Times war reporter who was recently killed in Syria.

More about Colvin here. Killed with her was French photojournalist Rémi Ochlik.

Colvin died trying to retrieve her shoes so she could escape a rocket shelling attack (the custom in Syria is to leave one's shoes at the door before entering a home; the rocket landed a few yards away from her as she was preparing to escape).

Molly says, and I agree:

Looking at Marie Colvin's face, it occurs to me she has the perfect beauty of an older woman- the beauty of good bones and battle scars. The beauty that comes from bravery, from power, from competence, from taking no shit. Earned beauty.

This tribute at the New Yorker is a beautiful read. Reuters today released amateur video believed to have been shot by Syrian rebels just before, and after, the attack. In the video, one of the survivors says he believes—contradicting other reports— that they were not personally targeted by the Syrian government. "They've been bombing civilians for days... we were just unlucky."

In former Soviet state of Georgia, an iPad knockoff for police

An employee demonstrates a "Police Pad" at the Algorithm factory in Tbilisi, Georgia, on January 11, 2012. Five thousand police officers will receive portable field computers, equipped with features that will assist them with their work, assembled at this factory, according to local media.

Update: An official response to this blog post from the government of Georgia is here. And a response from a Boing Boing reader who is a Georgian native is here.


From the Tbilisi-based Georgian language news organization Rustavi 2:

Five thousand police officers will be handed over portable computers. New police pads were produced in Georgia by the Algorithm Company. Minister of Interior Vano Merabishvili observe the process of police pad production in the factory personally. `I have an honor to inform Georgian society and the officers of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, that in a few days five thousand police officers will be equipped with such field computers, which will allow the citizens and the police officers to provide services offered by the ministry to our citizens more comfortably,` Minister said adding Georgian police would soon become the most developed and modernized police in the world.

Says a friend who travels to the region often: "100% guaranteed those crooked, fat, lazy cops will be using these devices primarily for porn and russian gambling services."

Update: A counselor from the Georgian embassy to the United States has contacted Boing Boing to express disappointment that the quote above was included in this article. The remark is unfair, the official says, and it's something of a sore point for a country that has done so much to address the issue in recent years. They direct our attention to the Georgian government's efforts to reform police and fight corruption—with results, they say, that are a global example of success for an emerging democratic state. We've invited the government of Georgia to share those comments in longer form, and we'll gladly post them here as a guest opinion piece in entirety. It should also be noted that the source of the critical quote in this article loves Georgia, its people, and its culture, and travels there frequently to this day. Some who applaud the success of reforms still argue there's more work left to do.

(photo: REUTERS/David Mdzinarishvili)

UK warns of riots if Euro fails

Ottawa Citizen: "British embassies in the eurozone have been told to draw up plans to help British expatriates through the collapse of the single currency, amid renewed fears for Italy and Spain." Xeni

Egypt police detain, beat, sexually assault US-based journalist Mona Eltahawy; other journalists also targeted

[video link] US-based Egyptian blogger, speaker, and journalist Mona Eltahawy was released today after spending 12 hours detained by Egyptian security forces in Cairo. According to her tweets, she was arrested by riot police while observing the ongoing protests in Tahrir Square, where thousands of Egyptian citizens are calling for the military junta SCAF to be disbanded, and a representative, democratically-elected leadership to take their place.

While she was held, Mona managed to tweet from a fellow detainee's Blackberry that she had been beaten and was in prison. When she was released, Mona tweeted more details: she had been sexually and physically assaulted, and sustained a broken arm and a broken hand from beatings inside the interior ministry in Cairo, in the early hours of Thursday morning.

"The whole time I was thinking about article I would write," she writes, "Just you fuckers wait."

A number of journalists and well-known voices from Twitter have been detained in the last few days, including Egyptian-American documentary maker Jehane Noujaim, and Maged Butter, shown below (WARNING: graphic image):

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Berlusconi Bye Bye?

Is this really the final end of the Berlusconi era, or just another pause for the Cavaliere to catch his breath?

Will he return on a fresh horse as the savior of an ever-crumbling Italy, as he has done repeatedly for the past 20 years? Will my Italian friends finally be able to travel abroad without a miasma of shame, and not be forced to explain to all what a bunga bunga orgy means? Will the numerous foreigners living and working in Italy, legal, clandestine, and semiclandestine, be able to face their children and say: we did the right thing to come here? Will they say: a new day dawns on the peninsula, the specter of crisis, gloom and crime has finally lifted! Work hard for your future!

These are open questions, and frightening questions today in Italy after yesterday's dramatic countdown, and Berlusconi's declaration that he will step down only after passing an emergency law on the Italian economic crisis. United Europe and its presses have closely followed the saga of the decadent emperor. They know that it was global economics and not his domestic scandals that pried the scepter from his hands.

Italians are wondering : whatever next? How badly off is the Italian political culture, which after all is to be blamed for many times that Berlusconi has managed to take and hold power? Where was the legitimate opposition, why were the counter-forces so weak? After the fall of Milosevic in Serbia, the deeply corrupted and dysfunctional state system was hard put to maintain any pretense of a normal government. Can Italy recover, and behave like a major G-7 power again? How is that possible?

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