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What if change never comes?

31 Aug

Are you waiting for change? Change that was promised to you in the last election campaign, or the one before that, or even earlier? What if that change never comes? The clips in this video highlight something we all know but either ignore, or feel powerless to change. Politics is losing its appeal, the lines are blurring, and political leaders, regardless of their party affiliation, seem to be singing the same tired old tune.

Having allowed ourselves to be seduced by bold political promises ay election time, when we look back we often see that, in reality, very little has changed. Certainly it feels like there have been very few significant changes for the better in recent years. It’s common to see articles complaining about how “they” – usually meaning one or other political leader – have failed to introduce beneficial changes, while at the same time introducing unexpected changes that have a negative impact, or are imposed on us without consultation. However, what should ultimately determine genuine change at the political level, is the extent to which we, as individuals, want that change. It should depend on whether we are willing to accept change, and the costs or benefits it brings.

But we also know that people do not always welcome or enjoy change. Much of the time, it scares them and makes them feel anxious and insecure. Even beneficial changes, like getting married, having a baby, or starting a new job, are among the most stressful events in our lives. The politicians making those bold speeches about “change” know this too. In fact, they rely on it to prevent people complaining about broken promises, or banding together to demand consultation on important changes, or campaigning to repeal new laws that represent abuse of power.

If you really want ‘change you can believe in’, start by believing in your power to think and reason for yourself. Learn how to step back and resist the impulsive urge, or urgent authoritative command, to jump to conclusions or follow the herd. Give yourself permission to not have an opinion, at least until you have had time to consider all the evidence and to think critically, outside of the margins of the information being presented to you. Be OK with “I don’t know yet” or “I’m not sure yet” and even with “I might never know.” You don’t have to believe everything you hear or read. You don’t have to be a “follower” just because someone else is a “leader.”

The strange part is, we all accept that we don’t and can’t have the answer to absolutely everything, but we can easily be swayed to react in a certain way whenever we are reminded of just how much we don’t know, or if we are made to feel threatened. These are cheap vaudeville tricks, which have earned their place in the entertainment industry, but they can take on a darker aspect when used by statesmen, media, or corporations, to manipulate public opinion. Uncertainty is not the enemy, it’s one of the most fundamental principles of life. Don’t give it up without stopping to think or question.

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Amnesty International UK Blogs: A Map of Non-Violent Activism in Syria

2 Jul
The interactive map shows the non-violence activities within the Syrian uprising © Omar al Assil

Non violent resistance in Syria? Don’t make me laugh. Those trying to topple Assad are all cannibals and head choppers….or so the likes of the academic “Angry Arab”, Asad Abu Khalil would, it would seem at times, try to convince you.

The reality is Syrians in their tens of thousands continue to resist the Assad regimes brutality (and sometimes resist certain armed opposition groups) through non-violent methods of staggering diversity and creativity. The extremely grim and brutal reality which regime apologists and quite often the mainstream media present is but one, extremely narrow perspective of what is going on in Syria. It is far from the whole truth.

A Syrian activist friend of mine, Omar al Assil, has recently produced a beautiful, interactive map of non-violent resistance in Syria. It was created with his colleagues in the Syrian Non Violence Movement including their members inside Syria.

I mention Abu Khalil as he was the first to respond to the map when the social commentator, Sultan Sooud Al-Qassemi posted it on his Facebook wall on June 21. Abu Khalil responded smugly: “Very convincing. Is there a special color for beheadings?”.

Pulse Media’s Muhammad Idrees Ahmad responded eloquently in the same thread to Abu Khalil’s customary inelegance: “He wants you to make blanket generalisations; to make no distinction between the Syrian majority who oppose the regime peacefully, the minority who defend themselves with arms, or the few who commit unpardonable crimes. They must all be judged by the standard of the lowest among them. Find the most criminal action, and extrapolate it onto the whole opposition.”

That extrapolation is a common reaction by many who only want to amplifythe negatives of those opposed to the Assad regime. Indeed it is the regimes strategy to not just amplify the negatives but exterminate the positives – quite literally when it comes to Syrian human rights defenders. The map and what it shows is a shining example of how many Syrians are peacefully resisting the regimes wide scale human rights violations and trying to build a brighter future. It’s a work in progress for sure and many more activities and initiatives will be added in the coming days and weeks.

I recently wrote about Omar and his colleagues in the SNVM and the campaigns training they have taken at Amnesty International. These activists, some inside Syria and some outside are despised by the regime and their apologists. Why? Because they are not committing human rights abuses – instead, they are campaigning against human rights violations and abuses. They are using methods which the regime and its apologists know are effective in the long term. They are genuinely fighting for a Syria for all – one which seeks to respect and protect the human rights of all Syrians. This confounds the regime narrative of blood thirsty jihadists rampaging and pillaging across Syria.

Omar got the idea to create this wonderful map when he was preparing a presentation for a peace group in Somerset, England. He wanted to list all the alternative newspapers and radio stations that started during the revolution and wanted to visualise it properly.

He told me he found an algorithm to visualise networks which was perfect to visualise the non-violence activities of the uprising. From there he formed a team consisting of SNVM members who started to collect the vast amounts of data about the grassroots activism in Syria.

Maimouna Alammar, who was arrested with her husband when she was pregnant with her daughter in the first days of the revolution, worked on this from inside Syria. She was key to this mammoth data collection operation and another SNVM member, Nisreen Alzaraee , translated the information into English. The project was in development for 3 months as there was so much activism and campaigning to document.

Omar said to me “It was very difficult and challenging to collect this amount of activities. We decided also to include some overview about each item in the map and a link to its website/Facebook page. Maimouna was working from inside Syria and most of the time she worked offline and without electricity to finish the project because of the difficulties to access the internet due to constant power outages”.

For Omar, the main objective of creating this map is to show the Syrian people and the rest of the world how powerful and widespread non-violence is within the Syrian uprising. He wanted to document the hundreds of activities involving tens of thousands of people to show a wider perspective of the revolutionary mosaic. This in turn would help challenge the narrative that all those opposed to the regime are “terrorists”.

Omar said “In the SNVM we believe that there is still a room for peaceful struggle and creativity amid all this chaos. Many people thought that the non-violence came to an end and this is a small step to show them that it is still there and they are using it or working with it on daily basis. So mainly it was to motivate people and the other aim is to document all these activities so interested people can have access to it easily.”

Omar and the SNVM plan to keep updating the map every fortnight. It is an excellent work in progress – regime apologists or indeed anybody that justifies human rights abuses, hate this sort of thing which makes the experience of navigating this map so much sweeter.

So check it out, especially those who think those opposed to the regime’s crimes against humanity are medieval barbarians only looking to munch your heart out.

PS for the techy minded, Omar says “the diagram is based on the Force-Directed Graph algorithm which automatically place nodes depending on their relations. Some of the tools used to generate the diagram are: Gephi, Sigma,InteractiveVis project by JISC and Oxford institute of technology. I did some coding using HTML and Javascript. The add/modify form is based on Form+ powered by Google Apps Script”

 

via Amnesty International UK.

Controlling Information in the Internet Age

2 May

CIMA announces the release of its most recent report, The New  Gatekeepers: Controlling Information in the Internet Age, by veteran journalist and  media development trainer Bill Ristow. The  report traces how the technological revolution of the past few decades has created a new corporate world of Internet-based companies that have become the new gatekeepers of information.

The technological revolution of the past few decades has opened up a world of information for anyone with a computer, smartphone, tablet, and an Internet connection. And it has created a new corporate world as well: companies that didn’t exist 20 years ago but that have become among the most highly capitalized in the world by creating ways to help us work, play, converse, learn, argue, shop, and do nearly anything else, all online.

In the process, whether by helping us find information, organize it, prioritize it, or share it, in many ways these Internet companies have become the new gatekeepers of information–and their data-parsing algorithms the twenty first century equivalent of the stereotypical editor with the green eyeshade who filtered the news before passing it along to readers. Of course, there are many big differences between that editor and, say, Google, Twitter, or Facebook. But one of the biggest is that these new gatekeepers aren’t just working in a single newsroom in a single city, largely isolated from everyone else.

The Internet companies, though the largest of them are based in the United States, are literally working on the World Wide Web, playing on a global scale and hoping to elbow out their competitors to lock up rich international markets. As they have expanded globally, these pioneering corporations have had to face, and deal with, a tough reality. The Internet that gave them birth espouses all sorts of high-minded principles of open and free expression. But many of the governments in countries that offer tantalizingly large commercial markets not only do not espouse those principles, they actively deny them. And so the computer and software engineers who have taken us out into the world increasingly find themselves having to navigate its thorniest problems, balancing profit against human rights, and thinking about hate speech, censorship, and yes, whether an image of a woman breastfeeding her baby violates a policy against depicting nudity.

As they forge ahead, a growing number of academics, civil-society organizations, and advocacy groups are working to monitor the impact of the new information gatekeepers. They appreciate the challenge these companies face, and laud them for much that they have achieved. But they also argue articulately that more oversight, more transparency, is needed. And they point to the companies’ own principles. Google, for instance, has long been known for an informal motto from its early days, “Don’t be evil.”

Given that, “it’s difficult to do business in a country that doesn’t have that principle,” said Madeline Earp, of Freedom House. When it comes to the thorny issues of free flow of information, she said, “companies themselves cannot be the final arbiters, which they are by default right now.”

Colin Maclay, managing director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, makes a specialty of studying such things. “Can we get the Internet companies to set a standard? Do we know what good behavior looks like?” he wonders. “If we can set global norms about what’s good behavior and what’s not, then we’re hopeful that in some of those challenging markets we can have better outcomes.”

Center for International Media Assistance.

 

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6 Apr

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Iranian hacker arrested for hacking Iran, US, Israeli websites

13 Nov

A professional Iranian hacker has been arrested in Iran after hacking into over 1,000 websites, most of which were U.S. and Israeli, tabnak website reported.

Iran’s South Khorasan province’s cyber police head Colonel Gholamreza Hosseini said that the police successfully managed to detain the hacker responsible for attacks through Facebook.

The interrogation revealed that among the websites damaged by the hacker, was the website of Iran’s National Television Network (IRIB).

During the interrogation, the captured hacker claimed he launched the attack on IRIB and other websites to express his support for the earthquake victims in Eastern Azerbaijan province of Iran.

Several days ago Iran’s Varzegan city of country’s East Azerbaijan province was shattered by the earthquake, that, according to the latest reports injured over 50 people. Most of the injured ones are school children.

Speaking of the other hacked websites, the detainee said he wanted to show the defensive weaknesses of Israeli and U.S. cyber world, and hacked them put of pure curiosity.

via Trend.Az.

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