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Did the New York Times Just Get Blocked in China -- Again? [Updated]

Updated: A New York Times spokeswoman has told FP that T Magazine's Chinese language site is "once again accessible" in Mainland China. Although the cause of the outage is "unclear," it "appears to be technical and has been resolved."

The New York Times' flagship English and Chinese-language websites are already blocked in China. Now, the Times' latest hope for avoiding the wrath of censors there may have suffered a setback. Portions of the Chinese-language site of T Magazine, the Times' lifestyle publication, have been inaccessible in Mainland China since the afternoon of Nov. 13, Beijing time.

Problems accessing the site first came to light when social media users complained on Sina Weibo, a popular microblogging platform, where T Magazine maintains an active presence. A Nov. 13 test using the servers of Greatfirewallofchina.org, a site that tests web addresses for accessibility behind China's so-called Great Firewall, found that T Magazine's Chinese site is "most likely NOT accessible" from the Mainland. A Tea Leaf Nation contributor in Beijing said that while she was able to access the magazine's front page without the aid of a virtual private network, articles she clicked on would not load.

It is unclear why T Magazine's Chinese-language site is not currently accessible from the Mainland; it could be censorship, or merely a glitch. A spokesperson for the New York Times told FP via phone that the publication is "aware there is an issue" with site accessibility, but is still investigating the cause.

If there's a block, it's impossible to say how long it will last. Beijing does not officially admit the existence of the Great Firewall, publish a list of blocked sites, or officially confirm or deny what it has censored. However, the timing is suspicious, falling soon after a Nov. 8 New York Times report stating that Bloomberg News editors spiked two stories likely to be offensive to Chinese authorities, one detailing financial links between a Chinese tycoon and some of China's top leaders. (Bloomberg has denied the allegations.)

T Magazine has been a source of optimism for a news organization that had run afoul of Chinese censors before. The T Magazine Chinese-language site launched Oct. 10, 2013, about 10 months after Chinese authorities blocked both the English and Chinese language sites of the New York Times, likely in retaliation for the outlet's Oct. 2012 story about possible corruption associated with family members of then-Prime Minister Wen Jiabao. T Magazine's Chinese language site does not publish stories about politics, economics, or foreign policy, focusing instead on less controversial topics like fashion, design, education, and real estate. The day of the launch, the Times thought it possible the T Magazine site could, according to the Wall Street Journal, "pave the way for the unblocking of the publication's English and Chinese news websites" in Mainland China.

The New York Times is not alone among international media in its struggle with Chinese censorship. The Chinese-language site of the Hong Kong-based newspaper South China Morning Post is intermittently blocked in the Mainland. Bloomberg's news sites were blocked in China after the service ran a June 2012 story about the wealth of Chinese President Xi Jinping's extended family. On July 17, censors deleted the official Weibo account of Asahi Shimbun, Japan's second-largest newspaper. Time will tell whether the Great Firewall has just added another brick.

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Can The Castro Regime Ban 3D Movies... And Survive?

The Cuban regime is not quite sure whether to call 3D film technology the newest enemy of the revolution. A week after issuing an all-encompassing ban on movies using the technology, the Castros might be changing their mind.

On Nov. 2, the Cuban government announced in the state newspaper Granma that "cinematic exhibition (including 3D rooms) and computer games will cease immediately in whatever kind of private business activity." Ever since Raul Castro took over the reins in Cuba, the regime has been loosening its grip on the economy, allowing for some private ventures. This journey into the third dimension appeared to be the latest example.

The note itself cited economic reasons for the ban -- "to ensure the economic reforms proceed in an orderly fashion." The private screening rooms, a big success on the island, compete with state-run cinemas. According to Sampsonia Way, an online magazine devoted to freedom of speech, the movie theaters are rooms in private residences, with a capacity ranging from 20 to 100 and are equipped with air-conditioning, 47-inch TV sets or 200-inch screens, 3D glasses and decent sound systems. They offer snacks and popcorn. Unsurprisingly, an afternoon spent in an air-conditioned room enjoying such goodies and watching slightly dated 3D Hollywood blockbusters such as "Star Trek" or "Ice Age" wins out over one spent in a dilapidated government cinema showing the 2010 French Holocaust drama "Sarah's Key."

Not long before the Granma notice, however, Vice Minister of Culture Fernando Rojas suggested that there might be a different reason for the government's disapproval of the "video salons." He wrote in the Communist youth newspaper Juventud Rebelde that they promoted "frivolity, mediocrity, pseudo culture and banality." And everyone knows that when American pseudo culture is in 3D, its frivolity increases at least threefold.

The ban found many Cubans disappointed with the regime. Entrepreneurs would lose thousands of dollars they had invested in setting up the viewing rooms (including importing the technology) and the population would have to give up one of its only sources of entertainment. Parents worried that, with no movies and video games, their children would take to the streets.

Lionny Gonzales, a 15 year-old high school student told the Associated Press that the ban was "a lack of respect," and asked: "What are we going to do now?" He added that the only thing left to do was going to a disco. "There's nothing else."  

3D films arrived in Cuba recently, according to the independent website Havana Times. A blogger with a pseudonym "Warhol P" wrote, in all caps, that the Cubans, "the wretched of the earth," were "BEHIND IN EVERYTHING." (The technology has been around in the United States since the 1950s, though it became widespread in the 2000s, after the success of James Cameron's 2009 film "Avatar.") Now that "Warhol P" finally had the chance to go get dizzy watching objects flying straight at him through tinted glasses, "the Comandante's arrived and put an end to the party."

But alas, there is some hope for "Warhol P." On Nov. 11, Granma acknowledged the backlash against the ban, after conducting a survey of social media and -- wait for it -- a public survey of a staggering sample of a 150 Cubans. Concluding that the ban was unpopular, the article suggested the authorities might be re-thinking their decision.

"It's extraordinary because the government made a very clear decision, and now it seems it's being walked back," said Cuba analyst Philip Peters.  

Maybe Cuba's economic outlook will fare better in 3D glasses.

ANO SHLAMOV/AFP/Getty Images