World

Analysis: Assessing Hillary Clinton's latest speech on internet freedom

In a major speech on internet freedom, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton haswarned governments not to restrict online liberty, while saying she opposed confidential leaks. This comes in the midst of uprising and protest in Middle Eastern countries, and as the US attempts to gain access to Wikileaks members’ Twitter accounts. Index on Censorship consulted a number of experts for their verdict. Watch and read the full speech here.

Rebecca MacKinnon,  co-founder Global Voices Online; Bernard Schwartz Senior Fellow, New America Foundation; expert on Chinese internet censorship

I applaud the Secretary’s strong commitment to the idea that internet and telecommunications companies must uphold core and universal rights of free expression and privacy. It was also very important that Clinton reiterated US support for multi-stakeholder internet governance.

I also agree that “there is no silver bullet” or “app” for internet freedom. There is no one set of tools that will magically and easily free people living in authoritarian societies from oppression. She was right to emphasise that people cause revolutions, not technology — though smart use of technology certainly helps.

Read Rebecca MacKinnon’s full analysis here

The full list of Index’s analysis is here.

Are some people's rights more human than others?

Perhaps, it is worth recalling what exactly the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo was jailed for. Here it is from the Preamble of Charter 08, a manifesto released on December 9, 2008, the document that was considered so subversive it led to this former literature professor being sentenced to jail for eleven years (translation courtesy of HRIC or Human Rights in China).

This year marks 100 years since China’s [first] Constitution, the 60th anniversary of the promulgation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 30th anniversary of the birth of the Democracy Wall, and the 10th year since the Chinese government signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Having experienced a prolonged period of human rights disasters and challenging and tortuous struggles, the awakening Chinese citizens are becoming increasingly aware that freedom, equality, and human rights are universal values shared by all humankind, and that democracy, republicanism, and constitutional government make up the basic institutional framework of modern politics. A “modernization” bereft of these universal values and this basic political framework is a disastrous process that deprives people of their rights, rots away their humanity, and destroys their dignity. Where is China headed in the 21st century? Will it continue with this “modernization” under authoritarian rule, or will it endorse universal values, join the mainstream civilization, and build a democratic form of government? This is an unavoidable decision.

In deciding to boycott the Nobel Prize conferment on Liu, the Philippines according to President Noynoy Aquino or PNoy was putting the interest of its citizens (particularly those on death row without reprieve in China now numbering six for allegedly smuggling drugs) above that of a foreigner. In sending its regrets to the Nobel Foundation, the government was seeking to appease China over a series of incidents that had strained bilateral relations. Here is what PNoy had to say against his detractors from human rights groups

It’s not their call to make the decisions, it’s my call. We have immediate problems, amongst them all those incarcerated in China. We’ve had strained relations because of the incident and so many other things, my interest has to be first with the Filipinos, I think nobody will begrudge me kung (if ) secondary interest ang (are) any other nationality, I did swear an oath to defend and to safeguard all Filipinos everywhere, inuna ko Pilipinas, kung kasalanan yun uulit ulitin ko yung kasalanan na yun (I placed the Philippines first, and I would do it again regardless of what others may think).

Fair enough, some might say. But, then again when PNoy’s father, the late Sen Ninoy Aquino, was incarcerated and sentenced to death by firing squad on trumped up charges of treason, it was in part due to the appeals of the same international human rights groups to Western leaders backing the dictator then Pres Marcos that he was granted a lease on life. If these leaders had thought the way PNoy had; for example, if they had thought that the rights of a dissident in a country led by an ally were not as important as the safety of their own people (and for a time they did just that), then things would have turned out differently back then.

The core question here is was it really in the Philippines’ interest to boycott the ceremony and hand China a diplomatic coup over the United States in the process at a time when its power and prestige are waning? And to do so on such a significant date as the commemoration of the the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a document which the Philippines through former UN Sec Gen Carlos P Romulo co-drafted, was just utterly distasteful (it makes you wonder what was passing through the mind of Foreign Affairs Sec Alberto Romulo at the time).

Not that we should be big fans of America and the way it has conducted its foreign policy in this and other parts of the world over the past century when it reached the zenith of its global might, but does the Philippines still have a coherent policy to speak of when it comes to this arena? Ever since the execution of Flor Contemplacion in Singapore back in 1995 and the public backlash against Philippine government officials that followed, it has been the policy of successive administrations to avoid such incidents at all cost. The question that emerges is could there have been a better way to smoothen ties with our immediate neighbor without having to sacrifice such a fundamental belief?

Perhaps if our diplomats had handled the matter with a little more foresight, tact and diplomacy (as their job descriptions suggest), the government would not have painted itself into a tight corner. The president would not have been forced into such an awkward position of having to cover for the mixed messages springing out of the Department of Foreign Affairs.

For the sake of the safety of its citizens overseas, the United States would never countenance sacrificing its core principles in the same manner. And the reason is that that nation regards America as not just consisting of its people, but of an idea. And it is that Idea (that all men are created equal) that they are willing to put their citizens in harm’s way in defense of. They may not always justly determine what constitutes a clear and present threat to Freedom, but they have at least demonstrated time and time again a capacity to offer their blood and treasure in pursuit of that ideal.

Perhaps our decision-makers ought to heed the words of PNoy’s late father who penned the following passage during the dark days of authoritarian rule

Leaders I admired, whose advice I sought
Became fallen idols, their souls were bought,
Their conscience they bartered for soft convenience,
Due to despicable cowardice, they’ve lost their patience.

Leaders became dealers, begging for part of the spoils,
Forgetting the value, the essence of the hottest toil,
Paralyzed by fear, they joined the amoral dictator,
Defending, waving the bloody flag of the new oppressor.

The pillars of society became the props of tyranny,
Be realistic, they urged, if not for safety, for money.
It is useless to resist, the tyrant is too strong,
Yet aware, with their help the tyranny will prolong.

In bartering for the safety of its citizens overseas, has this administration incurred too high a cost and become a prop of tyranny in China? In reference to George Orwell’s Animal Farm , where the dominant pigs wrote “some animals are more equal than others”, I ask are some people’s rights more human than others?

Photo: Eleanor Roosevelt holding the International Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948.

Isn't it time for football, Philippines?

On December 5, 2010 – The news of the evening was Team Philippines’ “stunning”, “historic” victory over Suzuki Cup defending champion Vietnam.

According to Inquirer.net, “The Philippines pulled off the most stunning win in the history of the AFF Suzuki Cup with a 2-0 blanking of defending champion Vietnam Sunday night before a boisterous crowd of close to 40,000 at the My Ding Stadium here.”

ABSCBNnews.com, on the other hand, described the upset as due to “deadly finishing and no-nonsense defending.”

The victory “shocked”, “silenced”, and “humbled” host country Vietnam and clearly put the Philippines on the football map, as sports anchors exclaimed, “The Philippines makes history!”, while announcing the results of the game.

* * *

Team Philippines celebrates with other teams in the 2009 Milan Homeless World Cup
Team Philippines celebrates with other teams in the 2009 Milan Homeless World Cup, where the author and her husband were volunteers | Photo by Nina Terol-Zialcita

But this isn’t the first time for the Philippines to make a remarkable showing on the football pitch. In September this year, Team Philippines of the Homeless World Cup posted its best performance in three years as it took home the Host Cup in the 2010 Homeless World Cup in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. True to its name, players of this particular brand of football are homeless youth from different parts of the Philippines.

In March 2010, another group of streetchildren from Manila beat the team from Brazil, home of single-name football legends Pele and Kaka, in the Street Child World Cup in Durban, South Africa.

The victories of all of these teams–professional and amateur alike–showed that the Philippines is ready for football, a sport which has no height requirement and which can maximize the Filipino’s inherent speed, dexterity, nimbleness, and flexibility.

* * *

Then, just this weekend, acclaimed filmmaker Jim Libiran (Tribu) also announced the completion of his independent film Happyland, a narrative about petty-thieving, rugby-sniffing streetchildren in Tondo whose lives were transformed by street soccer. The film was developed together with a street soccer program called “Futkal” or “Futbol sa Kalye”, where real-life Tondo youth were taught football and then used as actors in the film. The movie also used the crowdfunding model, raising funds not only from large corporate sponsors but also from individuals, to spread the good news that football can bring.

* * *

Three historic football wins plus one equally trailblazing movie in the same year when World Cup fever hit the Philippines. Could this be a sign that the Philippines will now be joining the rest of the world in playing what is perhaps the most loved, the most passion-inducing, and–on many fronts–the best game on the planet?

And, considering our poor global record in Pinoys’ most beloved game (basketball, what else?) and the fact that we always have to import Filipino-Americans to keep the game alive and interesting in the Philippines, isn’t it about time that we finally switched to a game that was made just for people like us?

Photo credit:

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Manila makes it to Brookings' Top Ten Cities

Derek Thompson of The Atlantic writes

Grading each metropolis by the growth of its income and employment, the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program found that the world’s fastest recovering cities are overwhelmingly in three key areas: China and India, Southeast Asian islands, and Latin America.

In the top 10, at number 9 for the first time ever was the city of Manila. Here’s what The Atlantic had to say

Talk about relying on overseas capital: The Philippines depends so heavily on remittances from far-flung Filipino workers that a 7 percent boost in mailed cash this year dramatically improved the country’s economic projections for 2010. Healthy tourism and demand for IT products helped Manila crack the top ten in Brookings’ rankings for the first time.

Here is the full list of cities in ascending order:

30. Hong Kong 29. Cairo, Egypt 28. Alexandria, Egypt 27. Montreal, Canada 26. Austin, Texas 25. Sao Paulo, Brazil 24. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia 23. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 22. Belo Horizonte, Brazil 21. Taipei, Taiwan 20. Jakarta, Indonesia 19. Buenos Aires, Argentina 18.Tianjin, China 17. Chennai, India 16. Kolkata, India 15. Guadalajara, Mexico 14. Melbourne, Australia 13. Bangalore, India 12. Mumbai, India 11. Hyderbad, India 10. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 9. Manila, Philippines 8. Beijing, China 7. Guangzhou, China 6. Shanghai, China 5. Santiago, Chile 4. Singapore 3. Lima, Peru 2. Shenzhen, China 1. Istanbul, Turkey.

If we are to listen to Richard Florida, the city where you live says a lot about you. After the tragedy that was inflicted on the capital back in August, this piece should help dispel a lot of myths regarding Manila as a non-destination. After the fiasco involving the Department of Tourism campaign for the Philippines, this should be welcome news.

For once, it is good to see us being placed back on the map. The question is, what do our other major cities have to do to gain the same status?

Philippine entry wins top prize in BBC's World Challenge 2010

One year after Efren Penaflorida won as CNN Hero of the Year, the Philippines again wins a global tilt for great, changemaking ideas when  Alternative Indigenous Development Foundation Inc. (AIDFI), an organization based in Bacolod City, bagged the top prize in BBC’s World Challenge 2010.

According to its website, World Challenge “is a global competition aimed at finding projects or small businesses from around the world that have shown enterprise and innovation at a grassroots level.” Now on its sixth year, it is organized and supported by BBC World News and Newsweek, in association with Shell.

“[This global competition] is about championing and rewarding projects and businesses which really make a difference,” the World Challenge website further said.

AIDFI bested11 other entries from Denmark, Guatemala, India, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mexico, Peru, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Zambia. Their project entries ranged from a coral park run entirely on solar power and water heating; a student-founded “solar energy kiosk” powering a remote African village; an online portal that connects African entrepreneurs with funding from donors and investors from around the world; and a number of others.

According to the official project description for AIDFI’s World Challenge entry:

AIDFI ram pump - BBC World Challenge 2010
The hydraulic ram pump of AIDFI | Image from BBC World Challenge website

It’s baffling how some inventions fail to achieve a tipping point. The hydraulic ram pump – which has been around for a couple of centuries. falls into this category. The Alternative Indigenous Development Foundation Inc. (AIDFI) is determined to see the ram pump finally come into its own. Using the power of a river’s flow to literally push water uphill without any other energy input, it’s proving to be a boon for poor villagers living in mountainous regions.

The ram pump can save both hours of back-breaking work carrying water and cash where expensive water pumps are replaced. AIDFI has introduced the ram pump to over 170 upland villages, and has plans to spread the benefits far and wide among poor communities.

*Learn more about the ram pump and how it works HERE.

According to AIDFI’s website, “The awards ceremony will be broadcast on the 4th of December 2010 on BBC World News and to be announced on the website on the same day and profiled in Newsweek magazine in the December 21 issue which will be on sale on 14th of December 2010.” The victory was announced ahead of time to Philippine viewers through the late-night news program Bandila, and supposedly confirmed by the BBC.


Contraception and Catholicism–Posner

Contraception and Catholicism

by Richard Posner

It is always difficult to decide whether a religious tenet of a hierarchical religion, such as Roman Catholicism, reflects religious belief or institutional strategy. The Roman Catholic Church is a huge “corporation,” one that reached its present size, wealth, and influence in a competitive environment, where it had first to confront paganism and Judaism, and later Protestantism and secularism.

The Church has long been hostile to contraception, but the nature of its hostility has changed, and may be changing yet again with the Pope’s recent acknowledgment that the use of condoms may sometimes be justified as a way of preventing the spread of AIDS. I want to consider the institutional as distinct from doctrinal considerations that might explain the history of orthodox Catholic views of contraception.

In the early years of Christianity, the Church had to steer a middle course between Christian extremists who thought sex a form of purely animal behavior that Christians should eschew, and pagans, who had a notably relaxed attitude toward sex, including masturbation, homosexual and other nonmarital sex, and contraception in the form of coitus interruptus and abortion. Rejecting sex altogether was not a viable policy for an ambitious Church (think where rejection of sex got the Shakers), but accepting the pagan view would have resulted in a failure to differentiate Christianity from paganism, and perhaps reduce Christianity’s appeal to women.

The compromise position that the Church adopted was that sex was proper as long as it was oriented toward its proper function, which, the Church held, was procreation within marriage. But it had to qualify this view to avoid condemning sex by married people who turned out to be sterile, for example because the wife had reached menopause. So the Church allowed that a secondary lawful purpose of sex was to reinforce the marital bond.

Many centuries later the “demographic transition”—the tendency for the birthrate to fall when a nation achieves a certain level of prosperity—placed the Catholic condemnation of contraception under pressure. Married couples wanted to have sex, but didn’t want to have the number of children that an active sex life would produce without contraception. And contraceptive methods improved. Eventually the Church achieved a partial accommodation by authorizing the “rhythm” method of contraception, since that was a form of abstinence and abstinence was consistent with Catholic doctrine—indeed it was enjoined on priests and nuns. But few married couples found it satisfactory.

Greatly improved contraception (notably the pill), improved treatments of venereal diseases, increased privacy, relaxation of parental controls, continued declines in family size, and increased divorce rates (in part a consequence of lower birthrates and women’s greater access to the job market)—all factors that reduced procreative relative to nonprocreative sex (in part by increasing the prevalence of nonmarital sex)—put irresistible pressure on the Catholic prohibition of contraception, to the point where today in the United States and most European nations, even such traditionally strongly Catholic nations as Ireland and Italy, Catholics use contraception at the same rate as non-Catholics.

With the Church unable to resist the sexual revolution, efforts to prevent contraception were seen as likely to have perverse consequences. True, if contraception were unavailable, there would be less promiscuity; but there would be some promiscuity, and probably a good deal, and a higher fraction of sex acts would result in unintended pregnancy, and therefore in an increased number of births to unwed teenagers and an increased number of abortions. The net effect would be unclear, but could well be worse from the standpoint of overall Catholic doctrine.

(read the rest of this post on The Becker-Posner Blog)

First Court Order thru Facebook Sent

First Court Order thru Facebook Sent
Manila Bulletin

SYDNEY (AFP) – Australian police served a court order on an alleged cyber bully using the social networking site Facebook, officials said Wednesday, describing it as a national first.

Victoria police got court approval to use the site after attempts to serve the order in person, over the telephone or via the post failed.

The “prolific” Facebook user was accused of, among other things, using the site to harrass, bully and threaten another person, and police said they transcribed all the court documents and sent them to his Facebook inbox.

A video was also made of the order being read “as if the Respondent was being directly spoken to” and sent electronically to him.

“He stated that he understood the seriousness of the orders, having read … documents served via the social media website and agreed to comply, stating that he would delete his Facebook profile,” a police statement said.

“In this instance we were able to deliver justice through the same medium as the crime committed,” said leading senior constable Stuart Walton, the officer in charge of the investigation.

“Police will always pursue traditional means to enforce the law and to protect the community, but we won’t shy away from innovative methods to achieve positive outcomes either.”

In 2008 an Australian lawyer won the right to serve legal documents via Facebook, the same year a Sydney court allowed lawyers to serve rugby player Sonny Bill Williams with a subpoena via SMS text message.

Australia, with a population of 22.5 million, has almost nine million Facebook users.

Global insecurity around food security

Global insecurity around food security
By Derrick McElheron, CNN

Hong Kong, China (CNN) — While nations debate what to do about long-term problems such as climate change and dwindling water supplies, two words send immediate shivers down the spines of government officials across the world: Food security.

A series of environmental disasters fueling a wave of food price volatility has given governments, “a much needed wakeup call,” said Abdolreza Abbassian, an economist for the United Nation’s Security of Intergovernmental Group on Grains.

The UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization will be holding a special meeting to discuss the issue and the recent volatility in Rome on September 24.

The meeting was called after Russia decided to ban wheat exports after a punishing drought wiped out 25 percent of its crop. Moscow’s decision pushed food prices up about 5 percent worldwide. Bread prices surged in some countries and triggered the deadly riots in Mozambique.

Massive floods in Pakistan also caused huge losses to the country’s crops, adding to the uncertainty in the markets.

“The pace in which prices went up, nobody predicted markets could turn so fast,” said Abbassian. “It’s been two months and we’re still struggling with it.”

Food security, in simple terms, is defined by the United Nations as food being available in sufficient quantities to reliably feed a nation’s population.

Market volatility is nothing new, especially when it comes to commodities. During the food crisis of 2007-2008, prices spiked dramatically: Rice surged more than 200 percent; wheat and corn jumped more than 100 percent. The cause continues to be debated, but the effects led to protests and deadly riots from Haiti to Mogadishu.

But the current market conditions are very different from a few years ago, said Hafez Ghanem, the FAO’s assistant director-general for economic and social development.

“(I)n the years ahead we’ll probably be seeing more of the turbulence we’re experiencing now because markets are set to become more volatile in the medium term for at least three reasons: a) the growing importance as a cereal producer of the Black Sea region, where yields fluctuate greatly from one season to the next; b) the expected increase of extreme weather events linked to climate change; and c) the growing importance of non-commercial actors in commodities markets,” Ghanem said in an interview posted on the UN Food and Agricultural Organization website.

If the next few years could be more volatile, the next few decades could be downright frightening.

“The most urgent issue confronting humanity in the next 50 years is not climate change or the financial crisis, it is whether we can achieve and sustain such a harvest,” said Julian Cribb, scientist and author of “The Coming Famine.”

Read the rest of the entry at CNN.com

Obama announces development plan at U.N.

Obama announces development plan at U.N.
By the CNN Wire Staff

New York (CNN) — President Barack Obama on Wednesday announced the creation of a comprehensive administration initiative devoted to spurring development efforts around the globe.

Obama calls it new U.S. Global Development Policy and says it’s the “first of its kind by an American administration.”

“Put simply, the United States is changing the way we do business,” Obama said at the summit of the U.N. Millennium Development Goals, an ambitious agenda world leaders set 10 years ago to tackle global poverty, which has grown amid the world economic recession.

The program has four approaches. One is changing the definition of development.

“For too long, we’ve measured our efforts by the dollars we spent and the food and medicines that we delivered. But aid alone is not development. Development is helping nations to actually develop, moving from poverty to prosperity. And we need more than just aid to unleash that change. We need to harness all the tools at our disposal, from our diplomacy to our trade to our investment policies,” he said.

Second, the administration is changing how “the ultimate goal of development” is viewed.

“Our focus on assistance has saved lives in the short term, but it hasn’t always improved those societies over the long term. Consider the millions of people who have relied on food assistance for decades. That’s not development, that’s dependence, and it’s a cycle we need to break. Instead of just managing poverty, we have to offer nations and peoples a path out of poverty.”

Obama said that the United States will “partner with countries that are willing to take the lead” and that the time when “development was dictated by foreign capitals has come to an end.”

“The United States of America has been, and will remain, the global leader in providing assistance. We will not abandon those who depend on us for life-saving help, whether it’s food or medicine. We will keep our promises and honor our commitments,” he said.

But, he emphasized that creating the conditions where assistance is no longer needed is what is needed now.

“So we will seek partners who want to build their own capacity to provide for their people. We will seek development that is sustainable.”

Read the rest of the entry at CNN.com