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New TED Talk: "The shocking move to criminalize nonviolent protest"

"It was less than a year after September 11, and I was at the Chicago Tribune writing about shootings and murders and it was leaving me feeling pretty dark and depressed. I had done some activism in college so I decided to help a local group hang door knockers against animal testing. I thought it would be a safe way to do something positive but of course I have the absolute worst luck ever and we were all arrested. Police took this blurry photo of me holding leaflets as evidence. My charges were dismissed, but a few weeks later two FBI agents knocked on my door and they told me that unless I helped them by spying on protest groups they would put me on a domestic terrorist list.”

The ability to perceive reality is a prerequisite for self-governance

What is now at risk in the climate debate is nothing less than our ability to communicate with one another according to a protocol that binds all participants to seek reason and evaluate facts honestly. The ability to perceive reality is a prerequisite for self-governance. Wishful thinking and denial lead to dead ends. When it works, the democratic process helps clear the way toward reality, by exposing false argumentation to the best available evidence. That is why the Constitution affords such unique protection to freedom of the press and of speech.

—”Climate of Denial” by Al Gore writing in Rolling Stone (July 7, 2011)


When the Government Comes Knocking, Who Has Your Back?

Hat tip to Josh Stearns for making us aware of this 2012 report.

Via the Electronic Frontier Foundation:

When you use the Internet, you entrust your online conversations, thoughts, experiences, locations, photos, and more to companies like Google, AT&T and Facebook. But what happens when the government demands that these companies to hand over your private information? Will the company stand with you? Will it tell you that the government is looking for your data so that you can take steps to protect yourself?

The Electronic Frontier Foundation examined the policies of 18 major Internet companies — including email providers, ISPs, cloud storage providers, and social networking sites — to assess whether they publicly commit to standing with users when the government seeks access to user data. We looked at their terms of service, privacy policies, and published law enforcement guides, if any. We also examined their track record of fighting for user privacy in the courts and whether they’re members of the Digital Due Process coalition, which works to improve outdated communications law. Finally, we contacted each of the companies with our conclusions and gave them an opportunity to respond and provide us evidence of improved policies and practices. These categories are not the only ways that a company can stand up for users, of course, but they are important and publicly verifiable.

While some Internet companies have stepped up for users in particular situations, it’s time for all companies that hold private user data to make public commitments to defend their users against government overreach. The purpose of this report is to incentivize companies to be transparent about what data flows to the government and encourage them to take a stand for user privacy when it is possible to do so.

Read through for the report’s findings.


The Frightening Effects of the NYPD’s ‘Mapping Muslims’ Program

One of the program’s more damaging consequences, the report finds, was its effect on freedom of speech. Public talk of politics and foreign affairs, from the mosque to the barber shop (especially discussion involving the tactics of the city’s police department) has now long been and is still seen as an invitation for scrutiny. A father urged his son not to speak with the Associated Press as the investigation was breaking, for fear of backlash. A cafe owner in Bay Ridge stopped tuning his television to Al-Jazeera, in an effort to avoid NYPD scrutiny. (The tactic was duly noted in an NYPD report on Egyptian cafes [PDF].)

Read more. [Images: Reuters, AP]

It must have come as a surprise to the Egyptian teenagers who washed American teargas out of their eyes (during the Arab Spring) to hear that the U.S. supported change in the Middle East. It’s time for President Obama to keep his word … and for the U.S. to cease its persecution of WikiLeaks.
Julian Assange • In a video feed, aired at the United Nations on Wednesday, mocking Obama’s UN speech, which encouraged free speech in the Middle East. His point? Wikileaks certainly didn’t get a free-speech pass from the U.S. government; in fact, he says Obama has “done more to criminalize free speech than any other U.S. president.” Ouch.
We are simply praying and hoping that these young women and all these people shouting in front of the court building, committing sacrilegious acts not only in Russia but in other countries, realize that their acts are awful. And despite this the church is asking for mercy within the limits of law.
Archpriest Maxim Kozlov • Making a backhanded plea of forgiveness to the Russian punk band Pussy Riot, who were sentenced to two years in prison for “hooliganism” after they disrupted a Moscow cathedral with an anti-Vladimir Putin “punk prayer” back in March, weeks before his re-election. The Russian Orthodox church is a powerful force within everyday Russian life, political life even more so – said Tikhon Shevkunov, head of Moscow’s Sretensky Monastery (and believed by many to be a spiritual adviser to President Putin himself): ”We did forgive them from the very start. But such actions should be cut short by society and authorities.” So, in other words, we forgave you right away, but a nice two-year prison spell for uttering an unwelcome political opinion in our church sounds good? That, folks, is the very definition of cold comfort. source (viafollow)
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