Monthly Archives: February 2012

Crack in the Great Firewall?

Amazingly  people in China were able to access Facebook and YouTube without using a proxy server or other Great Firewall leaping technology Tuesday.

Chinese relish crack in Great Firewall, log on to Facebook

By Wednesday, however, everything was back to normal. No Facebook. No Twitter. No YouTube.


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Filed under Censorship, China

El Universal libel case gets weirder — Judge accuses Correa team of attempted bribery

The latest twist in the lawsuit against El Universal by Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa has the original judge in the case seeking asylum. (Judge in Ecuador libel case flees country)

The judge, Monica Encalada, told the press she was seeking the protection of the Inter-American Human Rights Commission after she publicly accused the judicial system of being corrupt.

Encalada told a press conference in Bogata, Colombia, that lawyers for Correa promised her US$3,000 a month and steady work if she ruled in favor of the president.

The US$42 million criminal libel case was started by President Correa after El Universo criticized the president for actions the government took to free Correa while he was briefly held hostage by protesting policemen September 2010. A commentary by columnist Emilio Palacio in February 2011 suggesting that Correa could face criminal charges for allowing troops to storm the hospital and harm innocent people. Palacio also regularly referred to Correa as “the dictator” in the commentary.

The trial, which ruled against El Universo, ended in September. Palacio’s sentence was upheld in appeal in late December. By that time, Palacio had left  El Universo and fled to Miami. Earlier this month he applied for political asylum in the United States.

A final appeal on the case reaffirmed the original court decision last week.

The final appeal came after Correa and about 20 of his cabinet ministers and top aides occupied much of the eighth-floor courtroom, according to press reports.

In a Twitter appeal from Correa, supporters quickly gathered outside the court, where they burned copies of newspapers and shouted “Down with El Universo.”

Correa supporters also roughed up several journalists covering the case and the demonstration.

Part of the appeals process focussed on how quickly the trial judge turned around his 150-page decision.

The judge, Juan Paredes, said he depended on the prepatory work done by Encalada. For her part, Encalada called Paredes a liar.

Encalada acknowledged giving Paredes a memory stick with part of the casework, but, she said, none of that material was in the final sentence. She added that he later told her that the decision and sentence was written by Correa’s legal team.

A court-approved Ecuadorian consultant found irregularities in the document. A U.S. consultant retained by the defense said his own examination showed that the decision was actually written by Correa’s attorney, Gutemberg Vera.

El Universo says the sentence was written on a pirated version of Microsoft Word registered to a fictitious “Chucky Seven,” but that has been traced back to Vera from other documents.

The “Chucky Seven” claims, as they are known in Ecuador, have been rejected by the government. The Correa team is doubling down on its attacks against El Universal by now accusing them of buying off Encalada.

The bottom line is that Correa has been attacking the free and independent media in Ecuador. The Committee to Protect Journalists called the most recent decision against El Universal “dangerous” and “sets a dark precedent for freedom of expression in the Americas.”


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Filed under Censorship, South America

Perceptions of changes in marriage

This has nothing to do with international issues. But it does have something to do with making connections between events from today and the past.

I just hope that some journalists look at the latest PEW report on Intermarriage and make the connection to Loving v. Virginia. (Hear the Loving argument as an MP3 file before the Supreme Court.)

Some points from the Pew report:

  • About 15% of all new marriages in the United States in 2010 were between spouses of a different race or ethnicity from one another, more than double the share in 1980 (6.7%). Among all newlyweds in 2010, 9% of whites, 17% of blacks, 26% of Hispanics and 28% of Asians married out. Looking at all married couples in 2010, regardless of when they married, the share of intermarriages reached an all-time high of 8.4%. In 1980, that share was just 3.2%.
  • More than four-in-ten Americans (43%) say that more people of different races marrying each other has been a change for the better in our society, while 11% say it has been a change for the worse and 44% say it has made no difference. Minorities, younger adults, the college-educated, those who describe themselves as liberal and those who live in the Northeast or the West are more disposed than others to see intermarriage in a positive light.


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Filed under Connections, Story Ideas

Globovision gets hearing on appeal against fine

This past week a Venezuelan court held hearings on an appeal from Globovision against a fine of more than $2 million imposed  by a state regulatory agency.

Seems the regulatory agency — Conatel — did not like some of the reporting Globovision did of a prison riot in June and July of last year.

The real issue is that Globovision has not bent to the will of the Chavez government.

The use of the courts and official agencies to punish independent media outlets is standard practice for Chavez and his followers.

President Rafael Correa of Ecuador sued El Universal for referring to Correa as “the dictator.” (By any rights, the paper was correct, given Correa’s attacks on free media and dissident groups.)

Just this month past week the (puppet) courts re-affirmed the law suit judgement. The Committee to Protect Journalists called the action “a serious blow to freedom of expression and a setback for democracy.”

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Filed under Censorship, South America

Changing identities in China?

According to recent surveys it’s Taiwanese and Hong Konger before it is Chinese when it comes to self-identification. Soon, will we see more mainlanders think of themselves as democrats and Chinese, much to the chagrin of the ruling Communist Party?

Ellen Bork takes a look at the changes taking place in the Chinese-speaking world and how democracy is making major inroads.

Nationality: Democrat

A few points Bork makes:

Hong Kong’s people have energetically defended their civil and political liberties. To Beijing’s chagrin, that includes holding demonstrations held each year on July 1, the anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to Chinese rule


Despite their different policies on relations with China, today both of Taiwan’s major political parties consider democracy a non-negotiable element of any resolution of the island’s fate.

Looking further, Bork notes

The democratic identity developing among Tibetans in exile is also a challenge for Beijing.

Even as the Dali Lama repeats over and over that he is NOT calling for Tibet to split away from China but rather have similar autonomous rights granted Hong Kong.

Beijing keeps up the drumbeat that anyone calling for democratic rights are “splittists” (Tibet) or “slaves of dirty political money” (Hong Kong. At the same time Beijing is also denouncing anything that smacks of separating a Chinese identity from whatever Beijing says that identity.

Bork has a great line that sums it all up:

A civic identity that prioritizes democracy is an existential threat to the Chinese Communist Party, which peddles a brand of nationalism based on chauvinism, xenophobia, and great power pretensions.

Obviously this manic obsession with controlling a people’s identity is part and parcel with the CCP’s perceived need to control all aspects of society, including the mainstream and social media.

Many thanks to The China Hotline for pointing this out.

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Filed under China, International News Coverage

English media: For better or verse

Great piece pointed out by Roy Greenslade at The Guardian. Well worth the few minutes to watch.

The Sun’s witchcraft – by Charlie Brooker

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Filed under Ethics

Gallup: People say it’s important. So why aren’t they getting it?

A recent survey by Gallup shows just what Americans think about the U.S. position in the world and what is vital to America.

When asked “how important do you think what happens in each of the following countries is to the United States today,” the percentage of people who answered “Vitally Important” or “Important but not vital” showed a marked interest in these countries.

  • Afghanistan: 81%
  • Canada: 77%
  • China: 92%
  • Cuba: 72%
  • India: 77%
  • Mexico: 84%
  • North Korea: 83%
  • Pakistan: 79%
  • Venezuela: 67%

Please note that Cuba and Venezuela showed the lowest amount of importance, despite the shrill sounds coming from certain politicians.

In December 2010  people were asked Do you think the United States does or does not have a special responsibility to be the leading nation in world affairs?

  • Yes, has special responsibility: 66%
  • No, does not: 31%
  • No opinion: 3%

In February 2008, Gallup asked about building democracy in other countries.

  • Very important: 24%
  • Somewhat important: 43%
  • Not too important: 22%
  • Not important at all: 10%
  • No opinion: 2%
Two-thirds of the American people think the United States has a special responsibility to be a leading nation in world affairs. Another two-thirds think it is important to help build democracies in other countries.
Please explain, if you can, why almost that same percentage — 65% — in February 2009 say the United States spends too much on foreign aid.
  • Too little: 6%
  • About the right amount: 21%
  • Too much: 65%
  • No opinion: 8%

Maybe because the American people really have no idea how much is really spent of foreign aid. Most Americans think 25% of the federal budget is spent on foreign aid.

FYI: All of the non-military foreign affairs budget — that is the State Department, foreign development assistance, commercial affairs, agriculture, international law enforcement/training, etc. accounts for about 1% of the total US budget. And that number has been pretty consistent for several years.

I am not surprised at the split personality results of the people wanting to have the US play a major role in the world but not being willing to pay for it. We see that same issue in domestic policy. But at least in domestic issues there are thousands of words written to discuss the issues, the costs and the conflicts.

Unfortunately in foreign affairs the word count is much lower and what does appear usually does not make it to most medium or small media markets.

The American people in all parts of the country want information about what is happening around the world. They want to know how those global events affect them in their towns and states. In my journalism classes, I told my students that telling people why a story was important to them is called context.

Unfortunately we are missing not only the stories but more importantly the context of those stories that do get published/aired.

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Filed under Connections, Story Ideas