BlackBerrys in UAE deemed threat to national security

BlackBerry phones may be unwelcome guests at dinner parties, in class, or at the movies, but in the UAE, the smartphones have recently been labeled a "security threat."

"As a result of how Blackberry data is managed and stored, in their current form, certain Blackberry applications allow people to misuse the service, causing serious social, judicial and national security repercussions," an authority from the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority declared.

Despite what may appear to be honest "social [and] judicial" concerns, Emrati officials are annoyed because they can't access BlackBerry users' personal data. Research in Motion, the company behind BlackBerrys, stores their customers' data overseas - outside of the UAE's jurisdiction.

But, this is just the latest attempt at censorship. A year ago, the country's biggest state-run mobile provider Etisalat, promoted an update to the phone that would have allowed the company to access users' personal data like emails and text messages; but it was met with fierce opposition. More recently, Bahrain banned  BlackBerry's "Urgent News" app which aggregated stories from the country's six main newspapers.

Reporters Without Borders listed the UAE as an "Enemy of the Internet" and recently stated that the UAE  "regards the services offered by BlackBerry, especially its instant messaging, as an obstacle to its goal of reinforcing censorship, filtering and surveillance."

The era of the BlackBerry (or CrackBerry, its affectionate nickname) may be over, according to recent figures: In America, R.I.M's share of the smartphone market fell to 41 percent in the first quarter, down from 55 percent last year. But its sales are still increasing overseas. If Dubai still wants to become the financial capital of the world, they're going to have to embrace the CrackBerry.



Which country produces the most hashish?

This week's quiz question:

Which country produces the most hashish?

a) Afghanistan    b) Morocco    c) Russia

Answer after the jump …

A, Afghanistan. Afghanistan is well known as the world's top producer of opium, but it's also the world's top producer of hashish, according to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Other countries do have more land area under cannabis cultivation, but Afghanistan comes out on top because its crop yields more hashish (derived from the resin of the cannabis plant) per hectare. Cannabis generates more net income per hectare than opium poppies, but farmers prefer the poppies because the cannabis plant is more perishable once harvested and grows in the summer, when irrigation water is less available.

"Afghanistan's drug problem is even more complex than just the opium trade," said Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the UNODC, in March. "Yet the remedy remains the same. By improving governance and development in Afghanistan's drug-producing regions, we can knock out the world's biggest supplies of both hash and heroin." 

Now, if only there were a way to wave a magic wand and have better governance in Afghanistan …

Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images