Score another one for new media: an anonymous, twenty-something blogger has become Mexico's go-to for information on the country's deadly drug war. Blog del Narco, launched in March, includes postings from both drug traffickers (such as warnings and even a beheading) and law enforcement (crime scenes accessible only to the police and military). In one case, Blog del Narco helped lead to a major arrest, when a video posted detailed a prison warden's system of setting inmates free at night to carry out drug cartel murders.
The AP tracked down this mysterious blogger, who revealed that he is a student in northern Mexico majoring in computer security. When he launched the blog, he intended it to be a hobby, but has grown faster than his wildest expectations, now receiving 3 million hits weekly. The blogger also uses Facebook and Twitter.
Since late 2006, over 28,000 people have died in drug-related violence in Mexico. The country has become one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists: at least 30 have been killed or have disappeared since 2006 and many news organizations have been attacked with bombs and gunfire. Many journalists engage in self-censorship to avoid crossing the increasingly brazen cartels that attempt to control the press. On August 7, hundreds of journalists marched in Mexico City to protest escalating violence against their peers.
This helps explain why Blog del Narco, now an essential resource for Mexicans concerned about which streets to avoid during shootouts, engages in intense anonymity.
The AP listed some examples of recent posts:
- A video of a man being decapitated. While media only reported police finding a beheaded body, the video shows the man confessing to working for drug lord Edgar "La Barbie" Valdez Villareal, who is locked in a fight with both the Beltran Leyva and Sinaloa cartels;
- The prison warden affair, which unfolded in a video of masked members of the Zetas drug gang interrogating a police officer, who reveals that inmates allied with the Sinaloa cartel are given guns and cars and sent off to commit murders. At the end of the video the officer is shot to death;
- Links to Facebook pages of alleged traffickers and their children, weapons, cars and lavish parties;
- Photos of Mexican pop music stars at a birthday party for an alleged drug dealer's teenage daughter in the border state of Coahuila, across from Texas.
The internet is generally seen as a "green" technology -- emails can cut down on paper waste, teleconferencing can save on CO2 emitted by flying, and smart grids can help reduce overall energy consumption. But, according to the Guardian's series on carbon footprints, the internet releases about 300 million tons of CO2 each year -- as much as all the coal, oil, and gas used for energy in Turkey and Poland.
The British newspaper acknowledges that carbon footprints are, in general, tough to calculate. However, it arrived at this rough estimate by accounting for the power used up by data centers ("buildings packed top to bottom with servers full of the web pages, databases, online applications and downloadable files that make the modern online experience possible") and personal computing devices. Data centers are one of the less visible factors in understanding the global carbon trail left by our emails, blog trolling, and facebooking, but they are quite significant. A Harvard physicist last year estimated that just two Google searches generate about 14 grams of CO2--or enough to bring a kettle to boil.
A recent UK study determined that in 2005, consumer and commercial information and communication technology (ICT) accounted for about 1.2 percent of fossil fuel emissions. The report predicts that ICT's footprint could climb by 60 percent by 2030.
The Guardian feature highlights some other carbon footprints. Among them:
The Iraq War: 250-600 million tons of CO2 since 2003
The World Cup: 2.8 million tons of CO2 ("more than a billion cheeseburgers")
The 2009 Australian bushfires: 165 million tons of CO2
A banana: 80g CO2 each
My colleague Ben Pauker has a great list up of the interesting political uses that people are finding for Google Earth. But judging by today's headlines, the company's most controversial product by far is Street View, the feature in Google Maps that provides ground level photographs of any given address.
Police in South Korea today raided Google's offices in Seoul and seized a number of computers as part of an investigation into data collected over WiFi networks by the company's Street View cars:
South Korea is one of many countries – including the UK – investigating the data collected by Google's Street View cars. The search giant has admitted to accidentally intercepting fragments – amounting to 600MB – of personal data through Wi-Fi networks in more than 30 countries as it sought to map towns and cities.
In May this year, Alan Eustace, a senior vice president in engineering and research at Google, wrote on the company's blog: "It is now clear that we have been mistakenly collecting samples of payload data from open Wi-Fi networks, even though we never used that data in any Google products."
Meanwhile in Germany, the company announced that Street View would finally launch, but only after making modifications to the program to allow Germans to block out their houses.
Uniquely for Germany, however, Google will launch a campaign Wednesday informing citizens concerned about safety or privacy how they can have pictures of their homes or businesses pixelled out before they are published.
"Renters or owners can apply to have their building made unrecognisable before the pictures are published online" from next week, the company said.
Google already blocks out people's faces and car number plates in the other countries featured on Street View and will also do so in Germany.
German privacy advocates are still not satisfied, though the company notes that Germans are among the features most active users when planning trips abroad.
Worldwide, it's estimated that nearly half of the 60 legal or criminal investigations being faced by Google are related to Street View. But the seeming contradiction of a feature that makes people distinctly uncomfortable, yet continues to grow in popularity, is one that seems to hold true for nearly all Google's products.
As AFP article notes, Germany has some of the world's toughest laws on privacy, owing largely to its past experiences with Nazism and Communism. Admittedly, it's terrifying to think what the Stasi or Gestapo might have done with the personal data that millions voluntarily pour into Google's various products every day, but my guess is that the country's unease about privacy wont stand up long to Google's convenience.
DANIEL MIHAILESCU/AFP/Getty Images
Following the UAE's recent admonition of BlackBerry smartphones, the country will prohibit three of BlackBerry's web operations starting on Oct. 11 -- e-mail, instant messaging between BlackBerry phones, and the web-browsing program -- citing security concerns. Later this month, Saudi Arabia will also ban instant messaging between BlackBerrys.
A Saudi official revealed that the move is intended to strong-arm Research-in-Motion, BlackBerry's Ontario-based company, into conceding information, which it has already done for Russia and China. In 2007, RIM provided its encryption keys to a Russian telecommunications agency, which then passed it to the Federal Security Service. A year later, RIM's handset came out in China, but was delayed because the company "needed to satisfy Beijing that its handsets posed no security threat to China's communication networks."
The ban won't be lifted "until these BlackBerry applications are in full compliance with UAE regulations;" and it comes at a time when countries all around the world, are attempting to restrict the many freedoms provided by the Internet.
Several news outlets are currently reporting that Google web search has been fully blocked in mainland China. And indeed the company's website is reporting that search is blocked. However, actually Chinese web users don't seem to be having a problem. Blogger Rebecca MacKinnon is currently following the story on Twitter and retweeting reports from throughout China. So far, no one seems to be reporting any problems.
According to Reuters, "Shares of Google were down 1.4 percent in after-hours trading to $478.00, while shares of Baidu Inc, the biggest search provider in China, rose 3.5 percent," so it would be unfortunate if this were just a screw-up. Stay tuned.
For the second time this week, someone on the Internet has gotten in trouble for expressing respect for the late Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah. CNN Mideast Affairs Editor Octavia Nasr lost her job on Wednesday over a tweet about Fadlallah. Now, Britain's ambassador to Lebanon, Frances Guy, is taking fire from the Israeli government and others over a post on her foreign ministry blog about the late Shiite cleric. The ministry has taken the post down but a cached version is still available on Google. An excerpt:
When you visited him you could be sure of a real debate, a respectful argument and you knew you would leave his presence feeling a better person. That for me is the real effect of a true man of religion; leaving an impact on everyone he meets, no matter what their faith. Sheikh Fadlallah passed away yesterday. Lebanon is a lesser place the day after but his absence will be felt well beyond Lebanon's shores. I remember well when I was nominated ambassador to Beirut, a muslim acquaintance sought me out to tell me how lucky I was because I would get a chance to meet Sheikh Fadlallah. Truly he was right. If I was sad to hear the news I know other peoples' lives will be truly blighted. The world needs more men like him willing to reach out across faiths, acknowledging the reality of the modern world and daring to confront old constraints. May he rest in peace.
Those confused about the source of this controversy would do well to check out my colleague David Kenner's piece on the legacy of Fadlallah, who is frequently described as the spiritual leader of Hezbollah, but whose views, particuarly on Iran and women's rights, are far more complex.
The British foreign ministry has been very active, and largely very successful, in encouraging diplomats to blog. But the Guy affair is an example of the tensions that can occur when people representing a government write in a medium generally designed for self-expression. The U.S. State Department got a taste of this recently with the uproar over irrevent tweets written on a trip to Syria by two State Department blog that were reprinted by FP's Josh Rogin.
Though if Russian Ambassador to NATO Dmitry Rogozin's Twitter is any indication, the Russian foreign ministry doesn't seem to worry about this too much.
Finland, yesterday, became the world's first country to garuantee broadband access to all of its citizens as a legal right:
The legislation, which came into effect Thursday, forces telecom operators to provide a reasonably priced broadband connection with a downstream rate of at least one megabit per second (mbs) to every permanent residence and office, the Finnish government said in a statement.
Most of the coverage I've read of this describes Finland as "tech-savvy" or one of the world's "most wired nations." But broadband penetration data compiled by the OECD last December actually shows the homeland of Nokia is pretty average compared to other wealth countries:
At 26.7 percent penetration, Finland actually has pretty low penetration for Northern Europe -- well behind its neighbors Norway and Sweden -- and only 0.3 percent higher than the United States, a country with a much higher population, land area, and income inequality. Viewed in this context, Finland's move to mandate broadband access by law is less a demonstration of technological superiority than a way to catch up.
Twitter Communications Director Matt Graves writes:
It's been an exciting morning at Twitter HQ. Russian President Dimitry Medvedev just visited to meet our co-founders, Ev Williams and Biz Stone, launch two official Twitter accounts for the Kremlin (@kremlinrussia in Russian, and @kremlinrussia_e in English), and send his inaugural Tweets.
The English account appears to be a direct translation of the Russian one.
The twitter feeds adds to the tech-savvy president's already formidable online presence, including a vlog and a livejournal account. After only five tweets (Example: "San Francisco is a very beautiful city. Heading to Silicon Valley today to visit Apple, Yandex and Cisco.") Medvedev already 7,842 followers on the English account and 10,201 on the Russian one.
Barack Obama, with whom Medvedev will meet in Washington this week, has already welcomed Medvedev to the twittersphere. Is it too late to start calling it the "retweet button"?
China's Xinjiang province is known mostly for being a hotbed of separatist violence and government crackdowns on free speech. But not all the news coming from Western China is bad: just days after Beijing ended a controversial 10-month Internet blackout there, President Hu Jintao announced an ambitious aid package to bring the region's per-capita GDP up to the national average. The goal is to complete the project in as little as 10 years, and to help meet the deadline, provincial governments are getting involved:
More specifically, 19 relatively affluent regions including coastal and
central provinces and big cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen,
will pipe support into different areas of Xinjiang during the next 10
years. In addition to financial aid, efforts will also be made to
improve employment, education and housing conditions for the poor in the
If your knowledge of Chinese geography is as rusty as mine, check out this neat color-coded map that highlights the participating provinces and breaks down their expected contributions.
Porfiriy / http://www.thenewdominion.net/1740/color-coded-guide-to-eastern-provinces-to-xinjiang-economic-aid-pairing/
Quiz question for the week:
Which country spends the most time on social-networking websites?
a) Italy b) Japan c) United States
(For those of you who don't subscribe to the bimonthly print edition of Foreign Policy, you're missing a great feature: the FP Quiz. It has eight intriguing questions about how the world works.)
Answer after the jump ...
Chris Jackson/Getty Images
Since Monday's clash between Israeli military forces and pro-Palestinian activists, both sides have issued video recordings to support their version of events (and, maybe more importantly, to unload blame onto their adversaries). So far, there's no clear consensus about which clips to trust, but according to a report by Haaretz, there seems to be general agreement about which ones to like: of the four most viewed YouTube clips in recent days, all of which provide on-the-ground footage of the raid, the top three are videos issued by the Israeli Defense Forces. In fourth place with a measly 610,000 hits (in comparison to the 3 million total received by the IDF posts), is a clip from Al Jazeera.
The top spot goes to this snippet, which shows Israelis boarding the Mavi Marmara boat and calls attention (via handy yellow text) to activists wielding metal rods. At one point, according to subtitles, a voice in the background remarks, "Whoa, they just threw a soldier overboard...they tossed him."
By contrast, the Al Jazeera clip emphasizes that the flotilla was raided while in international waters and that shots continued to be fired even after the activists had raised a white flag in surrender.
YouTube surely isn't the best barometer of success when it comes to international crises, but this data is nonetheless worth taking note of -- not least because it seems fairly counter-intuitive. As spectators across the world mobilize to condemn Israeli actions, I'm surprised their views aren't more clearly represented by these numbers.
Epa que tal? Aparecí como lo dije: a la medianoche. Pa Brasil me voy. Y muy contento a trabajar por Venezuela. Venceremos!!
"Hey how's it going? I appeared like I said I would: at midnight. I'm off to Brazil. And very happy to work for Venezuela. We will be victorious!!"
Chavez has chosen @chavezcandanga as his handle -- candanga is an obscure word for "devil" -- and the feed will be part of what Chavez's allies have called an "assault" on social networking sites, which are currently dominated by the opposition.
But what are his thoughts about Justin Bieber?
GERALDO CASO/AFP/Getty Images
Google's January investigation into Chinese hacking of over twenty companies and the emails of dozens of human rights activists has highlighted an increasingly potent form of espionage:
"Cyber espionage is the great equalizer. Countries no longer have to spend billions to build globe-spanning satellites to pursue high-level intelligence gathering, when they can do so via the web..."
That is from a joint report released today by the Information Warfare Monitor and Shadowserver Foundation called "Shadows in the Cloud". It details how China-based hackers stole secret documents from the Indian Defense Ministry, the Dalai Lama's offices and the U.N over the past year. Although the report acknowledges no Chinese government link to what they dub the "Shadow Network," the information harvested is unlikely to be of much benefit to individuals. It includes secret assessments of India's security in regions bordering Tibet, Bangladesh and Myanmar; missile systems; information on the domestic Maoist insurgency; and embassy assessments of Indian relations with West Africa, Russia, former Soviet republics and the Middle East.
Reuters neatly summarizes the report's conclusions into how the attackers operated:
"The cyber-spies used popular online services, including Twitter, Google's Google Groups and Yahoo mail, to access infected computers, ultimately directing them to communicate with command and control servers in China"
Although the Chinese government has denied any involvement and made clear that it views hacking as an international crime, it will be interesting to see if it investigates such hacker networks operating from its territory. There is surely enough evidence to do so. On the other hand, it is no secret that the U.S. also hosts a large number of the world' cybercriminals; a recent report from Symantec's Message Labs showed that while the bulk of the world's targetted email attacks (28 percent) originate in China, 14 percent originate in the U.S.
In fact, since the Google-China debacle exploded, grievances in the American media have seemed to focus on freedom of speech and freedom from censorship rather than on issues of espionage. The Indian press also seems somewhat unconcerned -- the report has gotten little attention there and the Chinese government has brushed it off as media hype. It just seems that all parties are resigned to the fact, at least tacitly, that this is the way things work nowadays.
As you know, I, in my capacity as Federal Minister of Consumer Protection, am striving to ensure that personal data on the Internet is protected. Private information must remain private - I think that I speak for many Internet users in this respect. Unfortunately, Facebook does not respect this wish, a fact that was confirmed in the most recent study by the German consumer organisation "Stiftung Warentest". Facebook fares badly in this study. Facebook was graded as "poor" in respect of user-data policy and user rights. Facebook also refused to provide information on data security - it was awarded a "5" (= poor) in this category as well. It is therefore all the more astounding that Facebook is not willing to eliminate the existing shortcomings regarding data protection, but is instead going even further. [...]
Should Facebook not be willing to alter its business policy and eliminate the glaring shortcomings, I will feel obliged to terminate my membership.
I doubt Zuckerberg is trembling at the prospect of losing Ilse Aigner as a user, but she's probably the highest profile official to voice complaints that are shared by quite a few users. In any event, this case blurs the traditional battle lines of Internet privacy debates in that it's the popular company that wants to collect user data and the government that wants to protect it.
For those of you who don't subscribe to the bimonthly print edition of Foreign Policy, you're missing a great feature: the FP Quiz. It has eight intriguing questions about how the world works. (And, in honor of World Water Day on March 22, check out our special water quiz from last year.)
The question I'd like to highlight this week is:
How many Wi-Fi hot spots are there in the world?
a) 97,000 b) 197,000 c) 297,000
Answer after the jump ...
PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images
GoDaddy, the web domain registration company better known for its risque Super Bowl commercials than its political principles, announced today that it will stop registering domains in China in protest against cyber attacks and censorship:
"We believe that many of the current abuses of the Internet originating in China are due to a lack of enforcement against criminal activities by the Chinese government," Christine Jones, Go Daddy Group Inc general counsel, told a congressional commission hearing on Wednesday.
She said GoDaddy had repelled dozens of extremely serious attacks that appear to have originated in China in the first three months of 2010. GoDaddy would, however, continue to manage .cn domain names of existing customers.
"Our experience as been that China is focused on using the Internet to monitor and control the legitimate activities of its citizens, rather than penalizing those who commit Internet-related crimes," Jones said.
I'd be interested to know how much business GoDaddy is actually doing in China. Maybe I'm just being cynical, but since GoDaddy's whole business model depends on grabbing media attention, they may figure that the good publicity is worth taking a hit in the Chinese market. Not sure if it will be as effective an attention-grabber as those Danica Patrick ads but worth a shot I suppose.
Chinese President Hu Jintao has mysteriously given up on micro-blogging before ever really getting started.
China’s President startled the internet at the weekend by opening a micro-blog – the Chinese equivalent of Twitter.
Fascinated netizens began signing up at the rate of more than ten people a minute. But a day later the account of Hu Jintao disappeared.
A brief pro-forma note this morning on the empty site, hosted by the Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily Online, said simply: “This item cannot be found, the author may have erased it.”
That fails to explain the mystery of the president’s missing micro-blog.
Did the famously cautious leader of 1.3 billion people decide he wasn’t ready for such open interaction? Has he joined the ranks of those censored by the Great Firewall of China? Was it a case of identity theft? Had the People’s Daily failed to carry out the proper checks? Or was it a simple computer error.
Hu hadn't even posted a single tweet or adding a picture (see above photo) to his account. This is a rare instance where the Kremlin seems to be more on the cutting edge than Beijing.
For those of you who don't subscribe to the bimonthly print edition of Foreign Policy, you're missing a great feature: the FP Quiz. It has eight intriguing questions about how the world works.
The question I'd like to highlight this week is:
What percentage of the world's cell-phone accounts are in developing countries?
a) 25 percent b) 50 percent c) 75 percent
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images For The Clinton Foundation
As part of an open-source assessment of "security, safety, and border control" threats associated with the Winter Olympics, the Department of Homeland Security's National Operations Center has launched "Social Media Event Monitoring Initiative" to see what's being said online. This entails "monitoring publicly available online forums, blogs, public websites, and message boards" to assess possible homeland security threats. Among the many fine online sources the NOC is monitoring, is this blog!
Our Olympics coverage has been pretty minimal this year so I can't imagine we've provided a whole lot of useful intel, but thanks for reading, guys! Have you checked out this cool photo essay yet?
(Thanks to Josh R. for the tip.)
China's Xinjiang province has been without Internet access since anti-government riots last summer. At the end of 2009, the government began allowing access to a handful of government-run sites. This week the bans were lifted on a whopping 27 websites.
You might be getting tired of counting new sites being opened in Xinjiang as “news”. I know I am. If, however, you’re waiting for a single day when Xinjiang will suddenly “turn on the internet”, I have some bad news for you.
I believe China is strategically opening small parts of the internet and making headline news out of each event knowing full-well that the international media’s attention span won’t keep up. We’re already getting bored. 27 more sites are opened in Xinjiang today, 50 more next week…who cares?
Meanwhile the flow of information is being strictly controlled and authorities still take the opportunity to declare a state of freedom on the internet.
Right now the difference between internet in Xinjiang and the rest of China is determined by the way we describe the censorship. Throughout most of China people explain the Great Firewall by the number of sites which have been blocked; in Xinjiang we count how many sites have been unblocked. That's a huge difference.
(Hat tip: Ethan Zuckerman)
Here's the quick and dirty summary: Wieseltier uses a W.H. Auden quote as a framing device for long, tedious, and link-free article that paints Sullivan as an anti-Semite. Sullivan fires back with a rebuttal of Wieseltier's interpretation of the quote and shows the original email exchange that prompted Andrew to use it. He follows up a while later with a 2008 quote from Wieseltier explicitly saying Sullivan is NOT an anti-Semite. More is soon to follow. [UPDATE: Here's Sullivan with more. Much, much more.]
So far, I'm not impressed by any of it. Wieseltier does catch Sullivan writing some weird and sloppy things about Jews, and Andrew should be much more careful in criticizing Israel. But Wieseltier is equally sloppy and careless with his language, sweepingly accusing Sullivan of "venomous hostility toward Israel and Jews." The whole thing is pretty tiresome, and the fracas as it plays out will do little to enhance the discussion about Israel and the Palestinian question (and just wait until Marty Peretz throws his hat in the ring), or either man's image, for that matter.
Having read both TNR and Sullivan's blog for years now, I feel well-qualified to make a few unsolicited observations. First, Sullivan is no anti-Semite. He doesn't really have a set ideology, though he claims to be a conservative. His worldview seems to be determined not by deep, core beliefs, but by an innate sense of what his audience wants to read at any given moment. He's wildly successful as a blogger in part because he shifts with the political winds -- witness his conversion from a fanatical enthusiast for George W. Bush's war on terror to a strident critic of "enhanced interrogations," or his sudden passion for Iranian dissidents. It's probably not an accident, either, that he spent much of 2008 pumping up the ludicrous, but Web-driven Ron Paul candidacy while writing obsessively about the Google-riffic Sarah Palin.
Sullivan's criticism of Israel ought to worry defenders of the Jewish state, then, because he is a bellwether for a broader shift in American media and society that has happened over the last few years. Israel is using up a lot of the goodwill it had built up in the 1990s, when eminent statesmen like Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres made good-faith efforts toward peace with the Palestinians. Since then, the country has been governed by a series of unimaginative right-wing leaders who have pandered constantly to their settler base and chosen to solve political problems through the use of force. Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud Party may have their fingers on the pulse of their public right now, but their agenda is not one that appeals to most Americans, who strongly support Israel's right to exist but have little interest in underwriting the permanent occupation of the West Bank.
Tired old arguments like "but the Palestinians are worse!" may win debate points, but they aren't a good way to rebuild the widespread support for Israel that existed in Bill Clinton's time. Only wise and far-sighted Israeli leadership can do that, and self-styled friends of the Jewish state might want to think about ways they can help nudge the Israeli political class in a more productive direction, rather than publishing 4,000-word essays about ... bloggers.
UPDATE: Jeff Goldberg chimes in with a few additional thoughts:
What Israel needs is a leader who will step forward and say, "Here is the way things should look," and then present an outline for the creation of a viable Palestine. The settlers will go nuts, but that's what they do. Hamas will go nuts, because that's what it does. But Hounshell is right: What is needed is a Rabin.
I hadn't seen this earlier: John Pomfret relays word that Google's declaration that it would no longer comply with Chinese Internet censorship rules was a verboten subject in Davos this year.
"At China's request, that topic was left off the table at this year's World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Josef Ackermann, chief executive of Deutsche Bank and co-chairman of the event, told Bloomberg News," he writes.
So now China is capable of silencing debate in what's supposed to be an open forum?
Here's more from Bloomberg, which quotes Ackermann saying "China didn't want to discuss Google":
At Davos, participants such as financier George Soros, economist Joseph Stiglitz and French President Nicolas Sarkozy debated technology topics such as social networking and 3-D features used in the motion picture "Avatar." The discussion didn't include the conflict between China and Google, even in panels such as "The Rise of Asia" or "Redesigning the Global Dimensions of China's Growth."
Way to tackle the tough issues, guys.
Google CEO Eric Schmidt did briefly raise the subject on his own, however, according to the Wall Street Journal:
"We like what China is doing in terms of growth...we just don't like censorship," Mr. Schmidt said, speaking at the World Economic Forum's annual summit here. "We hope that will change and we can apply some pressure to make things better for the Chinese people." [...]
Mr. Schmidt maintained Friday that Google wants to continue operating in China. But he said the company didn't want to do so if it had to operate under China's censorship laws. To operate its Web site, Googe.cn in China, Google had to agree to censor its results.
"We would very much like to stay in China. We would very much like the censorship we oppose to improve in China," Mr. Schmidt replied.
Li Keqiang, China's vice premier, didn't address the issue in his speech, but apparently insisted in private that foreign companies must follow Chinese laws.
Twitter users may have noticed the trending topic "UPS is shipping to" on their side rails. The topic consists almost entirely of the re-tweeted message:
UPS is shipping to Haiti for free today UNDER 50 POUNDS- Clothing and Food Drives at all United Way and Salvation Army
This is not true:
In a blog post Wednesday on UPS's Web site, a spokeswoman debunked the rumor and said that destruction of Haiti's roads and communications networks "means our own shipping services to Haiti are on hold."
UPS is donating $1 million to help the people of Haiti through relief agencies, she said.
There were similar rumors last night about American Airlines and JetBlue flying doctors to Haiti for free and both airlines were flooded with calls as a result.
With all the talk of Google's response to Chinese cyber-attacks, less noticed has been the attack on Chinese search giant Baidu today. Earlier today, users trying to access Baidu were redirected to the above page (screenshot via Danwei.org)saying, "This site has been hacked by the Iranian cyber army".
This same previously unkown group hacked Twitter in December. Given Twitter's well-publicized role in the green revolution, it was a logical target for pro-Iranian extremists. But what's their beef with Baidu?
In any event, strange day on the Chinese internets.
My colleagues here have been weighing in on Google's "bombshell" revelation that China has been spying on dissidents and human rights activists, trying to crack open their Gmail accounts, presumably with the aim of monitoring and disrupting their activities. A lot of commentary is so far focused on the immediate issue at hand -- China's crushing censorship and Google's controversial policy of accomodating it in the hopes of gaining market share (see Jordan Calinoff's excellent dispatch on how this policy has largely failed). Of course, we already knew China did this sort of thing, but having the details so dramatically thrust into the public sphere is shocking. This is going to be a huge, ongoing story, not only because Google and China are two of the biggest and most widely debated news topics in the world, but also because nearly everyone's going to sympathize with the people whose privacy and peace of mind has been violated.
There's a larger story developing though, of a very tense year in relations between China and the West. Eurasia Group's Ian Bremmer made that prediction earlier this year, and it's probably happening even faster than he imagined. In addition to this Google story, which U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has already jumped on, there's also a brewing U.S.-China fight over arms sales to Taiwan, China's recent missile test in retaliation, and a guerrilla trade war that now seems more likely to develop into a full-blown trade conflict.
By overplaying its hand with the activists, and messing with a huge global company with a massive ability to get its message out, China has foolishly just thrown away whatever goodwill it has built up over the years through its "charm offensive" -- at least in the West. Now, those arguing across a range of issues that China is a bad actor have been handed an enormous rhetorical club to beat Beijing over the head with. It's going to get ugly.
The official website for Spain's European Union presidency was briefly hacked this morning by an unidentified hacker who posted a smiling picture of British comedian Rowan Atkinson's famous character Mr. Bean. Apparently the resemblance of Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Maria Zapatero to the bumbling character has been a running joke in Spain for years. Never thought of it before but I can see it.
Screenshot via elmundo.es
The year's best takedowns, journalistic or otherwise. Put yours in the comments.
10. Glenn Greenwald on Jeffrey Rosen's profile of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor in The New Republic: "[Rosen's] smear of Sonia Sotomayor's intellect and character -- based almost exclusively on anonymous, gossiping ‘sources' -- is such a model of shoddy, irresponsible, and (ironically enough) intellectually shallow ‘journalism' that it ought to be studied carefully."
9. Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic on airport security (from 2008, but timely): "I was wearing under my shirt a spectacular, only-in-America device called a 'Beerbelly'.... which fit comfortably over my beer belly [and] contained two cans' worth of Bud Light at the time of the inspection. It went undetected. The eight-ounce bottle of water in my carry-on bag, however, was seized by the federal government."
8. Stephen Holmes on Chris Caldwell for The American Prospect: "If Caldwell and his fellow doomsayers are to be believed, Muslims have now done what they failed to do at the gates of Vienna in 1683. They have breached Europe's defenses and created 'beachheads' behind enemy lines....Some may object that this way of seeing Europe's immigration problem is inflammatory, but the more serious problem is that it makes no sense."
7. David Rieff on Daniel Jonah Goldhagen for the National Interest: "It is hard to believe that the erstwhile-Harvard political scientist turned full-time moralist, pro-Israel polemicist and amateur historian Daniel Jonah Goldhagen could have a more devoted admirer than, well, Daniel Jonah Goldhagen."
6. Barney Frank at a town hall meeting, responding to a protester who said he supported a "Nazi policy": "On what planet do you spend most of your time?...Trying to have a conversation with you would be like trying to argue with a dining room table. I have no interest in doing it."
5. Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone on Goldman Sachs: "The first thing you need to know about Goldman Sachs is that it's everywhere. The world's most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money."
4. Jacob Heilbrunn on Ban Ki-moon in Foreign Policy: "As secretary-general, Ban's soporific effect has never left him. One U.N. watcher told me that Ban is like the proverbial tree falling in the forest with no one around to witness its crash-if you don't hear him, does he really exist?"
3. Rory Stewart in the London Review of Books on Afghanistan counterinsurgency jargon: "After seven years of refinement, the policy seems so buoyed by illusions, caulked in ambiguous language and encrusted with moral claims, analogies and political theories that it can seem futile to present an alternative."
2. Betsy Kolbert in The New Yorker on Superfreakonomics: "To be skeptical of climate models and credulous about things like carbon-eating trees and cloudmaking machinery and hoses that shoot sulfur into the sky is to replace a faith in science with a belief in science fiction. This is the turn that SuperFreakonomics takes, even as its authors repeatedly extol their hard-headedness."
1. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the failure to capture Osama bin Laden at Tora Bora: "Removing the al Qaeda leader from the battlefield eight years ago would not have eliminated the worldwide extremist threat. But the failure to finish the job represents a lost opportunity that forever altered the course of the conflict in Afghanistan."
Chris Hayes in the Barnes and Noble Review on Ralph Nader's novel
Conor Clarke on Sarah Palin on cap and trade for the Daily Dish
Jon Stewart with Betsy McCaughey
Jon Stewart with Jim Cramer
Ezra Klein on the Republican budget proposal
Matt Yglesias on Greg Mankiw
U.S. President Barack Obama to CNN's Ed Henry
The New York Times editorial board on Lou Dobbs
Stephen Walt on the myth of al Qaeda safe havens for Foreign Policy
Weston Kosova and Pat Wingert on Oprah Winfrey for Newsweek
Maureen Tkacik on CNBC for the Columbia Journalism Review
David Rothkopf on the Commerce Department for Foreign Policy
Finnish citizens now have a legal right to broadband access:
[E]very person in Finland (a little over 5 million people, according to a 2009 estimate) will have the right of access to a 1Mb broadband connection starting in July. And they may ultimately gain the right to a 100Mb broadband connection.
Just more than a year ago, Finland said it would make a 100Mb broadband connection a legal right by the end of 2015. Wednesday's announcement is considered an intermediate step.
France, one of a few countries that has made Internet access a human right, did so earlier this year. France's Constitutional Council ruled that Internet access is a basic human right. That said, it stopped short of making "broadband access" a legal right.
Cory Doctorow looks at the bigger picture:
It's also significant because the EU is trying to pass legislation on behalf of the record industry that would require European ISPs to cut off your Internet access if you were accused -- without proof or a court case -- of infringing copyright. Recognizing that broadband is a right makes this much harder to square with norms of justice and human rights.
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