“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Abraham Lincoln

Archive for July 8th, 2009

Another Internet Blackout.

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Iran’s repressive rulers shutdown communication and restricted parts of the Internet around the recent Presidential election to suppress the exchange of information and try to limit dissent, well, it has happened again.

The Beijing dictatorship are doing the same, RWB reports:

“Reporters Without Borders condemns the Chinese government’s filtering of online information about the rioting in the Urumqi, the capital of the western province of Xinjiang, in which hundreds of people have been killed or injured. More than 50 Uyghur-language Internet forums were closed yesterday and communications were cut in the city.

“Urumqi is currently cut off from the rest of the world,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Once again, the Chinese government has chosen to cut communications in order to prevent the free flow of information. We firmly condemn this behaviour, which is serious violation of Uyghur freedom of expression and an unacceptable act of discrimination.”

The microblogging website Twitter has been inaccessible since yesterday afternoon. Uyghur PEN Centre general secretary Kasser said: “All the leading media are controlled by the state but only independent and privately-owned news sources are inaccessible. We have not been able to access any forum since this morning. It has so far been very difficult to confirm the reports we have been getting.”

Written by modernityblog

08/07/2009 at 21:17

Real Trade Unionism.

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The petulance and sloganeering that passes itself off in Britain as trade unionism, which is epitomised by UCU, achieves very little, but makes Westerners feel self-satisfied and content in their own small ways. Yet in the long run the anti-Israeli activities in UCU and other organizations actually weakens trade unions, it does not strengthen them.

With that in mind I was all the more gratified to find this video clip of genuine solidarity between Israeli and Palestinian trade unionists:

Written by modernityblog

08/07/2009 at 08:51

Troops Poured In.

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The Times reports:

“Thousands of Chinese troops poured into the restive city of Urumqi early today in a massive show of force, as President Hu Jintao cut short a visit to Italy for the G8 summit to deal with the outbreak of ethnic violence.

Along one road ringing the capital of the western region of Xianjiang where 156 people died in riots on Sunday, The Times counted more than 30 paramilitary trucks, each followed by about two dozen men, many in black body armour, and most carrying riot shields, batons and fire arms.

The convoys included several white armoured personnel carriers accompanied by tear gas vans, all with paramilitaries standing ready to open fire if necessary. They were preceded by land cruisers, their sirens wailing as they moved almost at a walking pace through the town. ”

Reuters has more analysis:

“SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Chinese President Hu Jintao abandoned plans to attend a G8 summit in Italy on Wednesday, returning home early to deal with ethnic violence that has left at least 156 dead in China’s northwestern region of Xinjiang.

More than 1,000 people have been injured and 1,434 arrested in unrest between Han Chinese and Muslim Uighurs since Sunday in Urumqi, capital of the energy-rich region which borders Central Asia and Pakistan.

Here are some scenarios at how current tensions may play out: “

AVPS has more information:

Racist clash at Guangdong factory

The protest was held to demand answers from officialdom over an incident in Guangdong, southern China, on 26 June. A horrendous communal (ethnic) clash between Han Chinese and Uighur migrant workers at a toy factory in the city of Shaoguan resulted in two Uighurs being killed (although there are reports the number could be higher) and 118 injured from both ethnic groups. The incident was started by a Han Chinese worker who had lost his job at Early Light, a private company, that until recently employed over 50,000 workers in southern China. Rather than blaming the boss – Hong Kong’s ‘toy billionaire’ Francis Choi – this worker vented his anger on the 600 Uighur workers brought to the province as cheap labour (even cheaper than Han). This worker, who has since been arrested, circulated a false story on the internet claiming six Uighur men had raped two Han women at the factory. Gangs of Han workers attacked the Uighur dormitories with knives and metal bars and the Uighurs defended themselves with the same means – a bloodbath ensued.

This incident is highly symptomatic of processes in China, as tensions reach breaking point over unemployment (at a post-1949 record), pay cuts (200m migrants have been pitched into a new ‘race to the bottom’ competing for fewer and fewer factory jobs) and official corruption that penetrates almost every sphere of human activity. With all protest channels closed down and workers’ self-organisation outlawed, anger against the state is rising but so too is racism, crime, drug abuse, suicide, and other expressions of hopelessness. As a footnote on the Shaoguan incident, Choi, the billionaire toymaker, is officially worth US$1 billion and boasts a mansion with over 30 sports cars in its car park. The minimum wage set by Shaoguan’s government, which is the norm for most migrant workers, is just 500 yuan a month (approximately US$73). Such are the extremes of the ‘two Chinas’ today: A migrant worker would have to work for 261 years, not spending one fen (cent) of his wage, in order to buy one of Mr Choi’s Ferraris; yet such abysmally low wages are being fought over sometimes with tragic and bloody consequences.

The outbreak of street fighting in Ürümqi represents a ‘feedback loop’ from the clashes in Guangdong. Reports have circulated that police also took part in attacking the Uighur workers in Shaoguan, that several Uighurs despite being victims were among those arrested, and there are rumours that the mobile phones of Uighurs in Shaoguan had been confiscated to prevent them speaking out. Angered by these reports, and suspicious of another official cover up, a crowd of Uighurs went to the streets of Ürümqi to demand answers and protest against what is obvious discriminatory treatment.”

Written by modernityblog

08/07/2009 at 08:31

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Windows 7, Dead In The Water.

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I wouldn’t like to speculate on the future of Microsoft or Windows 7, scheduled for release mid-October if the rumours are to be believed, but with Google releasing Chrome OS then the people in Redmond must be feeling rather unwell, the FT has more:

“Among the main attractions promised for the Chrome OS is much faster “boot” time to give users instant access to their e-mail and web browsers. That echoes a wider challenge to Microsoft from other software makers who have also targeted the slow start up times of PCs.

In other veiled attacks on the Windows operating system, Google added that users “want their computers to always run as fast as when they first bought them”, and that they “don’t want to spend hours configuring their computers to work with every new piece of hardware, or have to worry about constant software updates.”

Microsoft has faced considerable criticism over the slowness of its Windows Vista operating system, though the next version of its operating system, Windows 7, has already drawn good reviews for working far faster, particularly on low-powered, cheaper machines such as netbooks.

Google said the Chrome OS would first appear on netbooks in the second half of 2010, and that it was announcing the software now because it had already started discussions with hardware makers that wanted to use it in some their machines.”

Over at the Google blog I noticed this part:

Google Chrome OS will run on both x86 as well as ARM chips and we are working with multiple OEMs to bring a number of netbooks to market next year. The software architecture is simple — Google Chrome running within a new windowing system on top of a Linux kernel. For application developers, the web is the platform. All web-based applications will automatically work and new applications can be written using your favorite web technologies. And of course, these apps will run not only on Google Chrome OS, but on any standards-based browser on Windows, Mac and Linux thereby giving developers the largest user base of any platform.”

Written by modernityblog

08/07/2009 at 08:25

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Bernie and PressTV

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I am just waiting for Bernie Ecclestone to be offered a slot on PressTV, the Holocaust denying outfit masquerading as a TV channel.

Ecclestone is not unsurprisingly a bit apologetic after his stupid and crass comments about Hitler.

The Sunday Times had an interesting piece:

“Zahra, an Iranian woman studying at an English university, is in a state of terror. Her husband, an activist in the cause of the defeated Iranian presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, was arrested a fortnight ago, and has not been seen since. Zahra, whose eyes are lined in green, the colour of the country’s reformist opposition, told the BBC: “Why should he be in jail? What was wrong with what we did in Tehran? It was the basic right of all Iranians to take part in the election.” She went on: “They don’t let my husband call me . . . this is torture.”

It is torture for Zahra because she has a good idea of what is happening to her husband. The Iranian state media have been broadcasting a series of “confessions” by demonstrators against the alleged rigging of the presidential vote in favour of the incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. They all tend to say the same thing: “I admit that I demonstrated under the influence of the BBC, the Voice of America and other foreign media.”

Their identities are not discernible, because their faces have been obscured. The reason for this was made horribly clear by remarks in The Guardian from a shopkeeper friend of an 18-year-old who had been “questioned” by the Iranian security services: “You could tell straight away he had just been released. His face was bruised all over. His teeth were broken and he could hardly open his eyes . . . [Later] the doctor told me that he had suffered rupture of the rectum.”

The shopkeeper quoted his 18-year-old friend to the effect that he had not “confessed” despite several days of beating while being hung from a ceiling with his hands and feet tied together. At that point two men tore his clothes off while a third “did it” – that is, inflicted the assault that ruptured his rectum. He was raped several times in this way, in front of four other detainees, but continued to refuse to sign a confession along the lines suggested by his interrogators.

Press TV’s most well-known presenter – sorry, Mr Gilligan – is George Galloway, who has a show called The Real Deal. On it, the Respect MP has defended the conduct of the Iranian presidential elections – in which two provinces apparently managed a voter turnout of more than 100% – contrasting it with the US, where, he said, George W Bush had “actually stolen” the American presidency. Galloway, who has a tendresse for any “antiZionist” leader – how could we forget his face-to-face eulogising of the late Saddam Hussein? – said last week that “Press TV is Iranian-owned, but that doesn’t influence my opinion”.

I’m sure that’s true: Press TV devotes an extraordinary proportion of its output to attacks on “Zionism”, as Martin Bright, the former New Statesman political editor, pointed out in his forensic demolition last Wednesday of Press TV’s spokesman on BBC2’s Newsnight.

It was only a pity that time prevented Bright from detailing how Press TV’s website commissioned an article by a British Holocaust denier called Nicholas Kollerstrom. Kollerstrom insists that no Jews were gassed at Auschwitz, but instead happily played water polo together in the camp’s “elegant swimming pool”. This is, of course, entirely consistent with the views of Ahmadinejad.

I wouldn’t dream of suggesting that Gilligan and co sympathise with the Iranian president’s enthusiasm for Holocaust denial. The London “stars” of Press TV would presumably argue that they are just journalists plying their trade to the best of their ability, selling their talents to anyone who is prepared to bid for them. Indeed, several said last week that they will continue with their shows, because they were “not subject to any political interference” from the Iranian authorities.

How delightful for them; but it should also occur to Gilligan, Ridley and Booth that they are being paid to lend credibility to the propaganda arm of a regime that subjects its own journalists to the most brutal “political interference” – Bahari is one of 24 local reporters or bloggers who have recently been seized by the Iranian authorities – and which is now inciting violence against British reporters in Tehran, by declaring that they are the cause of riots and bloodshed.”

Written by modernityblog

08/07/2009 at 08:13