Previous month:
February 2006
Next month:
April 2006

March 2006

Photo of Charles Taylor in Handcuffs

From the BBC web site: Charles Taylor in handcuffs. I asked around about the black vest and was told:

It's a body armor vest, with the pocket in the front to put a ceramic plate. It's raining, and they give him a wet jacket, so the nylon can look like leather on the picture, and they dind't adjust the size for that fat guy.

Safariscreensnapz015
Also, I now have a Flickr photoset of related photos.

MEANWHILE, on the subject of Taylor: Slate gives me credit for one of Alex Harrowell's better lines.


Update on the Wild & Crazy Armenian Brothers in Kenya: Send in the Crocodiles!

From the Kenya Times, this entertaining passage:

After a long silence, Artur Margaryan, now says he has brought to his residence more dogs and crocodiles to beef up his security. This is in addition to the ten dogs he had imported earlier. Westlands legislator Fred Gumo and his Makadara counterpart Reuben Ndolo should probably be warned not to take their threats to storm his residence, lest they be devoured by the crocodiles.

There's something reminiscent of The Old Lady Who Swallowed the Fly here. I've been wondering where this story is going. Perhaps it will end with the the Arturs being eaten by their, er, security forces.

(Who is cleaning up after all the animals, anyway? They have how many killer dogs? Wonder how it smells in there.)

I remain really interested in finding out who these guys are and where they came from.

On a more somber note, while these clowns hole up with large but untraceable amounts of cash, famine spreads across East Africa. And meanwhile Kenya is also having an outbreak of measles because of lack of vaccinations.

See also my previous posts:

Below the cut is an abundance of related links along with what I thought was the best line from each.

Continue reading "Update on the Wild & Crazy Armenian Brothers in Kenya: Send in the Crocodiles!" »


Lucent, Alcatel, & China: Issues of National Security & Censorship Technologies

Luencent Technologies, inc. (LU) -- which subsumed the legendary Bell Labs -- is in merger talks with Alcatel (ALA). Matt Armstrong of Mountain Runner makes an interesting point about the NYT story Lucent Talks Raise Issue of Security.

An important Alcatel relationship was ignored here: the relationship with China. Alcatel Shangahai Bell (ASB) is a substantial partnership with equally substantial backing from its near equal partner. Alcatel is the majority partner in ASB at 50% + 1 share. It is worth reading through this presentation by ASB's Executive Vice President of Sales & Services from November 2005. ASB is particularly active and successful in Africa and elsewhere.

See also BusinessWeek (via Telecommunications Industry and Regulation).

FreehaoOf course, this all raises national security issues. But even if you feel comfortable with those, try googling "Alcatel Shanghai censorship." I find that you come up with some rather interesting material. This is from IEEE Spectrum magazine in an article by Steven Cherry, The Net Effect:

China's Internet is the most efficiently censored in the world. . . .

Now China's experiment in cyberspace censorship is about to take a dramatic turn. A massive upgrade to the country's Internet will soon give China a robust, state-of-the-art infrastructure easily on a par with any in the developed world. China Telecom Corp., in Beijing, is investing US $100 million in what it calls the ChinaNet Next Carrying Network, or CN2.

The former national telephone monopoly is snapping up new network routers from four of the largest telecommunications equipment companies in the world: Cisco Systems and Juniper Networks of the United States; the French giant Alcatel; and Huawei Technologies, the only Chinese company to get a CN2 contract. During the next 12 months, the routers—the vertebrae of an Internet backbone—are to be installed in 200 cities throughout China's 31 provinces, autonomous regions, and municipalities.

Few doubt that China will emerge as a 21st-century global power. The questions now are about when it will emerge and what kind of power it will be. The issue of how China continues to censor its Internet, even as its infrastructure becomes vastly more sophisticated, has implications beyond what ideas China's populace—almost one-fifth of humanity—will be allowed to tap into. For one thing, if censorship technology flourishes in China, it will be easier and cheaper for it to also take root elsewhere. "The concern I have is that this is laying the foundation for a much more intrusive and censorship-friendly Internet infrastructure for all countries," says Roger Clarke, a consultant in Canberra, Australia, affiliated with the Australian National University. "The features that China wants installed in intermediating devices and software will gradually find their way into all of the suppliers' products, if only because it's cheaper that way."

Whether China's Internet censorship continues at the same level or—with its powerful new equipment—increases will probably play a significant role in answering the "What kind of global power?" question. Experts say that up to now, there have been technological constraints on the amount of censorship possible at the router level. In the network now taking shape in China, those constraints will be largely eliminated, making censorship more a matter of politics than of technology.

So there is a whole other way to read the potential security issues involved in a Lucent-Alcatel deal, having to do with irrevocable matters of technology transfer that will be used for upgrading their censorship capabilities in ways that can be exported worldwide: to quote a business headline from two years ago, "Alcatel Shanghai Bell Delivers Next-Generation Solutions." Let's help out that next generation and can this deal.

(On the other hand, in Today's Global Economy, as they say, there is of course the chance that this horse is already way out of the barn.)

ON A RELATED NOTE, Rebecca MacKinnon has a fine post on the subject of Yahoo and China.

You can engage in China and choose not to do certain kinds of business. Yahoo! has placed user e-mail data within legal jurisdiction of the People's Republic of China. Google and Microsoft have both chosen not to do so. Why did Yahoo! chose to do this?  Either they weren't thinking through the consequences or they don't care.

(Via BoingBoing & Dan Gilmore.)


Charles Taylor Caught! Then, Nigeria deports Charles Taylor to Liberia!

From Reuters:

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (Reuters) - Nigeria captured fugitive former Liberian President Charles Taylor on the border with Cameroon on Wednesday and deported him to Liberia, easing its embarrassment at his escape earlier in the week.

The dramatic arrest and deportation came hours before President Olusegun Obasanjo was due to meet U.S. President George W. Bush, who has been pushing for Taylor to face war crimes charges in a special U.N.-backed court for years.

"President Obasanjo has ordered the immediate repatriation of Charles Taylor to Liberia ... to help the government of Liberia which had requested custody of the former president," Nigerian Information Minister Frank Nweke said in a statement.

Journalists saw Taylor, dressed in a white safari suit and surrounded by about 20 soldiers, walk onto the tarmac at Maiduguri airport, in Nigeria's far northeast, and board a Nigerian presidential jet.

On the subject of Taylor's arrest, Global Witness has issued this eloquent statement:

GLOBAL WITNESS WELCOMES ARREST OF TAYLOR – WILL THIS END IMPUNITY IN WEST AFRICA?

The ending of impunity for heads of state responsible for conflict, and crimes against humanity could be a step closer today with the dramatic arrest of Charles Taylor as he sought to flee Nigeria to Cameroon.

The speed with which Charles Taylor has been captured by vigilant Nigerian customs officials is to be congratulated. Not withstanding any further security breaches or accidents, Charles Taylor will finally have his day in court – be it in Freetown or The Hague – to face trial for the 17 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes that he has been indicted for by the United Nations appointed Special Court for Sierra Leone.   

As a result of his arrest the chance for regional security and the prospects for peace have increased. The trial of Taylor will bring to an end many years of violent conflict that have blighted the region and caused untold suffering to millions of people. 

Taylor used revenues derived from diamonds and timber to fuel two bloody conflicts in which hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians died. Justice must be done, the ending of impunity for sitting and ex heads of state that have been responsible for some of the worst human rights abuses in the last twenty years must be tackled by the international community.

“The international community and Nigeria must now ensure that Taylor is speedily and successfully handed over to the Special Court for Sierra Leone and stands trial for the crimes against humanity with which he has been indicted,” said Alex Yearsley of Global Witness.

See also The Yorkshire Ranter post Who Are You Going to Massacre Next?, mirrored here:

Charles Taylor has been re-nailed, after a day or so of freedom on the lam from the UN Special Court for Sierra Leone. I was amused by this description of his arrest on the Nigerian-Cameroonian border:

The former Liberian leader had arrived at the frontier in a Range Rover jeep with diplomatic corps number plates, a trader working at the Gamboru-Ngala border post told AFP news agency.

"He was wearing a white flowing robe," said Babagana Alhaji Kata.

"He passed through immigration but when he reached customs they were suspicious and they insisted on searching the jeep, where they found a large amount of US dollars.

"After a further search they discovered he was Charles Taylor."

Flowing white robes, a Range Rover and a pile of cash, eh? His innate style didn't desert him. Like 50 Cent, but with more violence. Wasn't his last album called The Massacre, too?

Taylor's "spiritual adviser" - now there's a busy man - had been saying that he was seeking political asylum in Syria, Ethiopia, Venezuela, Equatorial Guinea or Gabon. These states will now be spared the embarrassment of having to answer. The spiritual adviser, by the way, is an American evangelical Protestant of Indian extraction, one  Dr. Kilari Anand Paul - the very notion of caring for Charles Taylor's immortal soul, though, reminds me of the John Donne poem about "who shall give me grace to begin" seeking God's grace.

"Dr" Paul (the doctorate isn't real), it seems, specialises in bizarre, rocambolesque interventions in war zones and offering the consolations of religion to murderous bastards. There is an interesting article here including the skinny on his "Dr", and he has a website here. He also has a Boeing 747, which could have come in handy, and a bad reference from the Southern Baptist Missions Board, who doubt his financial probity...

And here's Doug Farah on the subject of Taylor's arrest:

What has complicated the issue for Obasanjo, if one wants to give him the benefit of the doubt, which I am not sure he deserves, is that Taylor’s financial power allowed him to ally himself with many of the most powerful and corrupt in Nigeria, including senior members of the government and perhaps even members of Obasanjo’s own family.

Taylor’s arrest may open the way for Obasanjo to begin cleaning house and take down some of the structures Taylor is participating in, including the widespread “bunkering” or theft of oil before it enters the official state system. But the ongoing, warm U.S. relationship with Obasanjo should be contingent on Obasanjo’s willingness to tackle the entire corrupt structure that has choked the life from one of Africa’s potentially most vibrant economies.

It is a good day for West Africa and those seeking to end the impunity that has ravaged the region for generations. It is a good day particularly for the thousands of victims of Taylor’s wars in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast and Guinea. The amputee victims, the rape victims and the child soldiers may now have at least a small measure of closure when the architect of their misery finally faces justice.

And here is Laura Rosen's post:

Liberia's Charles Taylor arrested. A friend knowledgeable about US policy to West Africa writes, "[Nigerian president] Obasanjo can’t afford to play any more games, and Taylor will be sent to the tribunal, it looks like via Liberia.  Reuters reports that Obasanjo has ordered his immediate repatriation.  (UNMIL has a chapter VII mandate to make the arrest and transfer, and nobody wants him in Liberia, so this will go very quickly once he’s there.)   Obasanjo overplayed his hand, and got burned by the overwhelming response from Washington yesterday.  Never have I seen a better example of the White House, State Department, House and Senate, Democrats and Republicans, working together to send such a strong, clear signal.  US leadership yesterday may have saved West Africa from years of additional mayhem and suffering." More on what Taylor's arrest could mean for the region here.


Superconducting Magnet Quench

These are pictures from the STAR detector at the RHIC facility at Brookhaven that my father, John G. Cramer, brought to lunch today.  He was running on the machine at Brookhaven as part of the STAR Collaboration.  The first two are from a "normal" collision of two gold nuclei, producing several thousand particles in the center of the detector.  The next four show the results of a superconducting magnet quench that happened at noon on March 25, 2006.

The quench dumped all the protons they were planning to use for the next four hours of collisions, which hit the accelerator walls and produced a flash of radiation picked up the the STAR detector. I'm told the accelerator recovered after a couple of days.

Here is the sequence of pix with his captions. Click on them to see bigger images:

130GeV-central-front_b

1.  Central collision of two gold nuclei with collision energy 25,610 GeV as recorded by the STAR detector at RHIC in August, 2000. (End View)

And the second one . . .

130GeV-central-side_b

2.  Central collision of two gold nuclei with collision energy 25,610 GeV as recorded by the STAR detector at RHIC in August, 2000. (Side View)

ev4296-end_2

3.  Catastrophic superconducting magnet quench;  all stored proton beam dumped abruptly when magnetic field went to zero, as recorded in STAR detector (End View)

ev4296-side_2

4.  Catastrophic superconducting magnet quench;  all stored proton beam dumped abruptly when magnetic field went to zero, as recorded in STAR detector (Side View)

ev4295-side_2

5.  Next view of catastrophic superconducting magnet quench;  all stored proton beam dumped abruptly when magnetic field went to zero, as recorded in STAR detector (Side View)

ev4295-end_2

6.  Next view of catastrophic superconducting magnet quench;  all stored proton beam dumped abruptly when magnetic field went to zero, as recorded in STAR detector (End View)

And here we are right after we came back from lunch.

Kathryn Cramer & John G. Cramer

See also these sites: MRI Scanner Superconducting Magnet Quench, a diagram with a video, & Superconducting Magnet Issues (CERN).


Charles Taylor Escapes!

_39388539_taylor300Alex Harrowell of The Yorkshire Ranter just emailed me:

Looks like Charles Taylor's done flew the coop and done a runner from Nigeria to escape extradition to the UN Special Court for Sierra Leone.

And on his blog, Alex writes:

Liberian ex-dictator, war criminal and utter bastard Charles Taylor has done a runner from his Nigerian exile to avoid extradition to the UN Special Court for Sierra Leone, says the Nigerian government. Taylor has been living in comfortable exile in Calabar, Nigeria since an unairworthy Boeing 727 belonging to Ali Kleilat rescued him from his overthrow in 2004. Last week, Liberia's new president Ellen Johnston-Sirleaf issued a request for his extradition.

According to the Nigerian government, he's levanted. 5 security officers have been arrested as a pathetic sop to world opinion. This is bad news. Taylor was responsible for destabilising the whole of West Africa, reintroducing slavery to work his diamond mines, recruiting 10 year old kids into his army, hacking people's limbs off as a form of revolutionary terror, and more.

I am insanely disappointed by this news and the obvious Nigerian army partisanship (they are widely thought to have been complicit in his rise to power) that let the bugger get away.

Press reports last week said that Taylor had been summoned to the Nigerian capital Abuja on board an aircraft registered 5N-FGO. This plane is a Dassault Falcon 900 business jet belonging to the Nigerian Government, with "Federal Republic of Nigeria" titles on the fuselage.

Soj at Flogging the Simian writes:

Interesting. I wonder who composed the "security people" who were watching Taylor. I should mention that he was never in a prison or something, just a very expensive home that Nigerian police were supposed to be monitoring.

Here's the story from Reuters:

Charles Taylor said to have disappeared
Tue Mar 28, 2006 1:20 PM GMT

ABUJA (Reuters) - Former Liberian President Charles Taylor, wanted for war crimes by a court in Sierra Leone, has disappeared from his residence in southeastern Nigeria, the presidency said on Tuesday.

A statement said Nigeria would investigate whether Taylor had escaped or been abducted. President Olusegun Obasanjo has ordered the arrest of all security staff attached to Taylor, who has lived in exile in Nigeria since 2003.

From the Mail & Guardian yesterday:

As one of Charles Taylor’s closest advisers warns of “bloodshed and chaos” if the former Liberian president is extradited, analysts say the international community must act quickly to prevent his supporters from re-arming.

Taylor, currently in exile in Nigeria, faces 17 counts of crimes against humanity brought by an internationally backed special court in Sierra Leone.


The Global ONLINE Freedom Act of 2006 (HR 4780)

There are two very different bills with very similar names that are sometimes being discussed interchangeably. Short version: Global ONLINE Freedom Act of 2006 (HR 4780) mostly good; Global INTERNET Freedom Act (HR 4741) lame.

HR 4741 attempts to address the problem of Internet censorship, but its authors seem innocent of the fact that the US is exporting the tools to do the thing the bill's authors want combated.

On  the other hand, HR 4780, on a quick read through, looks pretty good and would sort out a lot of the Google-China type issues, and also seem to me to lay the groundwork for restricting exports of SmartFilter-type stuff, and also some of the most worrisome DRM enforcement tools that may be developed. (Wouldn't it be great to kill DRM by keeping the enforcement tools from being exported from the US into the global market?)

Before leaping into the fray, I want to have HR 4780 explained to me by someone who really knows how to read this sort of thing, but it looks awfully good to me.

Both Rebecca MacKinnon and the EFF have weighed in and have misgivings with the part of the bill specifying that would require US Internet companies to hand over all lists of forbidden words provided to them by "any foreign official of an Internet-restricting country." But I find one passage of Danny O'Brien of the EFF's discussion of what he'd like to see instead at least as problematic as what he intends to replace.

Don't Do Direct Business with Forces of State Oppression

Companies should be prohibited from providing intentional ongoing support and assistance to those who abuse human rights in foreign countries. While many products such as filtering software, Internet monitoring programs and programs to unlock protected data can have multiple uses, American companies should not be actively and knowingly providing services that facilitate censorship or repression.

This is sufficiently vague as to allow for implementation along the lines of a trade embargo in which individuals needing access to US technology to overcome their oppression might be denied it in the name of not doing business with oppressive states.

And MacKinnon remarks,

But we must act in a way that respects the rights of people in other countries as much as we respect our own rights.

These are nice ideals, but I don't see how any kind of Internet filtering technology could be meaningfully restricted without ways of monitoring what was being filtered. My preferred tactic is adding censorware and related technologies to the Munitions List such that their export would require State Department approval, which would be given or not on a case-by-case basis. This would also require a recognition on the part of the US firms creating censorware that it is in a sense a military-type technology and needs to be handled accordingly.

Even if it is not perfect, HR 4780 has a lot to recommend it. Reporters Without Borders apparently supports the bill, and I am tentatively inclined to do likewise. Also, while HR 4780 does not specifically add censorware to the Munitions List, it lays the groundwork for that possibility.

Certainly, we don't need yet another situation in which the US plays global cop, but the bill is aimed mostly at policing our own technology exports in a situation in which we are exporting the tools for dystopia.


Melbourne IT Censors Political Satire at the Request of the Office of Australian Prime Minister John Howard

200406033_p4124003jpg343vSurely, Melbourne IT, home to any number of phishing sites [P O Box 99800, EmeryVille, CA linked to is Melbourne IT's privacy protection address], and the company that allowed the Panix domain hijacking a while back, had to draw the line somewhere. And here's where they drew it: political satire. From the Sydney Morning Herald:

One of the many online newsletters and blogs I consume regularly is written by Richard Neville, a social commentator and, to people of my generation, one of the driving forces of the Australian counter-culture in the 1960s. . . . On March 8, Neville posted a spoof website on the internet, purporting to be a speech by John Howard apologising for Australia's involvement in the Iraq war. It was just the sort of speech Howard might have made if he had apologised and many believed it to be genuine.

That impression was exactly what was intended. That's how satire works. It was greatly heightened by the website (http://www.johnhowardpm.org) being a direct copy of the Prime Minister's website (http://www.pm.gov.au). Neville's spoof immediately received thousands of hits, helped along by his own email marketing and word of mouth.

Then, a day later, the site disappeared. . . . He tried to contacted Yahoo! which had sold him the web hosting package and the domain name for $9.71, but no one got back to him.

    In that email, he asked six questions:

    · Who ordered the closing of the site?

    · On what grounds?

    · By what authority?

    · Through what mechanism?

    · Why in secret?

    · Will I get a refund from Yahoo!?

After a few days Neville found that the problem was not with Yahoo! but with Melbourne IT, the domain name registrar.  . . . Melbourne IT shut down the site after it received calls from the Prime Minister's office and the Australian Federal Police, through its agency called the Australian High Tech Crime Centre. Melbourne IT's chief technology officer, Bruce Tonkin, says the registrar acted only because Neville's site looked like the Prime Minister's real site and infringed on intellectual property rights.

What, after all, will innocent children think if they were to see the Australian Prime Minister satirized in public! We must think of the children!

Neville writes:

The domain name, johnhowardpm.org, is hosted by Melbourne IT. In less than 36 hours of its launch, following 10,500 visits to the site, the plug was pulled. By who? On what grounds? It took three days for Melb IT to make contact with me and help lift the veils of confusion. After receiving a phone call from Greg Williams of the People, Resources & Communications Division at the Department of the Prime Minister & Cabinet, Melb IT put the domain name on HOLD, where it remains. This domain cannot be transferred to another, more resilient host, for 60 days. In addition to the complaint from John Howard’s office, Melbourne IT said they had received calls from THREE Federal Police, and provided the name of an agent from the Australian High Tech Crime Centre. As far as I know, my passport has not met the same fate as my domain name.

See also Tim Longhurst.

[Advisory: as a Panix customer, I am unsure why Melboure IT remains in business.]


What Have We Done for You Lately: A Couple of New Books

076530617401_aa240_sclzzzzzzz_Yesterday, David brought home a couple of books I thought I ought to mention. First of all, below on the left, there is the 900+ page bound galley of our new anthology The Space Opera Renaissance, forthcoming from Tor in July. (I snarfed the cover image to the immediate right from the Amazon page where you can pre-order it.)

On the lower right is a cover for the trade paperback of volume 1 of The Science Fiction Century, ed. David G. Hartwell, which comes out in April.

Space Opera Renaissance bound galley plus finished copy if The Science Fiction Century, Pt. 1, in trade paperback


"Affordable" Transplants in China

This morning, I happened across a really subtle page on Flickr with a screenshot promoting the idea of going to China for one's organ transplants on the basis that it is easier to get a transplant match and is cheaper than a transplant in the US. All the photos on the site from which the screen shot is taken are of caucasians, and the target market for these transplant services seems to be Americans. I was seaching on the tag "censorship" and at first I didn't get it. When I did, I nearly choked on my coffee.

Here's the screenshot:

Unknown_3

Though the issue of where the organs come from is never really addressed on the pages of the Yeson site I read, there is the general implication that matches are not too hard to come by in China as compared to the US. In his blog, Dr. Yeson remarks:

Currently, more than 17,000 people in the United States are waiting for liver transplants. According to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), about 5,300 liver transplantations were performed in the United States in 2002.

Also, there is a discussion of using living donors.

The site never does explain why it might be easier in China to finding matching donors for Americans than it would be in the US. The general implication is that there is a far larger pool of available organs to draw upon. But the fellow on Flickr helps out with this link:
Majority of China's Transplants Come from Prisoner's Organs

Increasing numbers of patients with liver cirrhosis or renal failure from regions including South East Asia, North America, Europe and Australia are flying to China for organ transplants. China has become the world's center for organ trade and transplants. But, what China may not be revealing to the world, is that the main source for organ transplants come from executed convicts.

According to the U.S.-based China Information Center, due to higher survival rates of liver and kidney transplants, China's hospitals are experiencing a boom in this business. As such, recently, there have been moves to expand facilities and make liver treatment and transplant more accessible to patients.

Think about this the next time you hear a story about Yahoo getting someone in China arrested.

See also this document, Sale of Human Organs in China, from the website of the US State Dept.

(On the other hand, sometimes grim tales of organ transplants are not true.)


Insitutionalizing the Kenya Media Raid: A proposed bill to turn the current self-regulated Media Council of Kenya into a statutory media council, "essentially becoming a censorship body."

Over the past few days, I've spent a lot of time combing through the media overage of the aftermath of the Kenya media raids, which were an appalling spectacle of a corrupt government attempting to choke off the Kenyan public's access to information about the functioning of their own government. The crux of the issue is whether it is proper for the press to question the actions of the government: this is one of the most basic issues involving freedom of the press and the need for transparancy. The current Kenyan government does not wish to be criticized.

What emerges from the aftermath of the media raids is that one piece of what has gone very wrong with the current government there is the arrival of two very strange Armenian investors, Artur Margaryan and Artur Sargysan, who strut around Nairobi with an I already bought this country; what's your problem? attitude, when asked questions about their business and their involvement by the media. The details are floridly jaw-dropping; really over the top. And the media raids seem to have come about not because the Kenyan media is irresponsible, but rather because the sitting government has so much to hide.

So now the Kenyan Parliament has reopened. And on that opening day, Kenya's President Kibaki remarked:

Although the freedom of the Press cannot be over-emphasised, it is clear that it must be exercised within the bounds of responsibility.

SO. What are those bounds to be? Hmm? Well. There is this "Media Bill" which will turn the Media Council of Kenya into a censorship body. From Embassy: Canada's Foreign Policy Newsweekly:

So far, a total of six Kenyan journalists have been arrested and charged in court of publishing rumours likely to cause alarm. They are two from the Standard group and four from a weekly newspaper, The Citizen.

The media fraternity is gripped with fears that it's facing a chilling period. The government has published a Media Bill due to be tabled in parliament for enactment. According to the Bill, press accreditation of those considered rebel journalists is to be withdrawn. The current self-regulated Media Council of Kenya would be transformed into a statutory media council, essentially becoming a censorship body. The Bill will also allow for the creation of a media content commission that, with a fine tooth comb, will check on content in both electronic and print media to ensure the media toe the government line. Toeing the line will also be expected of public publications published by the civil society and the faith community.

Faced with this uncertain future, the Media Council of Kenya has called for a media stakeholders meeting to be held Friday, March 24 to launch a campaign against the Bill. . . .

The Chairman of Media Council of Kenya Board of Trustees Dr. Absalom Mutere described the raid on the Standard group as "exhibition of raw power," adding "my take is we ain't seen nothing yet."

Scary stuff. In the past few weeks of combing through this stuff, I've become rather fond of the Kenyan media. If the media raids were to become institutionalized through this legislation, it would be a loss to all of us. So let's do something about it.

How about the rest of us try to find out what is going on there. Who are these Armenian "investors"? I think we can find out. What is their real business, and how is the money flowing through the Kenyan political establishment? I think we should help out by taking a worldwide interest in this.  I think we would all be better for it.

(I would be very interested in hearing from anyone with expertise on Armenian organized crime.)


Year's Best SF 11 Table of Contents

Ybsf11coverPosting the Hugo Awards nomination list reminds me that I hadn't gotten around to posting the table of contents for our Year's Best SF 11 yet. Here it is. The stories are in alphabetical order, by author, rather in the order they appear in the book. (I may fix that later.) It's a longish table of contents this year, since Nature resumed their Futures column of science fiction short-shorts, and we took a number of those. Though our Year's Best Fantasy series is now published by Tachyon and will appear as a trade paperback, the Year's Best SF volume is being published as a paperback original by HarperCollins as usual.

“Mason’s Rats” by Neal Asher
“Lakes of Light” by Stephen Baxter
“Ram Shift Phase 2” by Greg Bear
“On the Brane” by Gregory Benford
“Toy Planes” by Tobias S Buckell
“What’s Expected of Us” by Ted Chiang
“I, Robot” by Cory Doctorow
“When the Great Days Came” by Gardner R Dozois
“Oxygen Rising” by R Garcia y Robertson
“Second Person, Present Tense” by Darryl Gregory
“Angel of Light” by Joe Haldeman
“The Forever Kitten” by Peter F Hamilton
“City of Reason” by Matthew Jarpe
“Third Day Lights” by Alaya Dawn Johnson
“The Edge of Nowhere” by James Patrick Kelly
“I Love Liver: A Romance” by Larissa Lai
“New Hope for the Dead” by David Langford
“A Case of Consilience” by Ken MacLeod
“Rats of the System” by Paul McAuley
“A Modest Proposal” by Vonda N McIntyre
“Sheila” by Lauren McLaughlin
“The Albian Message” by Oliver Morton
“Deus Ex Homine” by Hannu Rajaniemi
“Beyond the Aquila Rift” by Alastair Reynolds
“And Future King” by Adam Roberts
“Dreadnought” by Justina Robson
“Guadaloupe and Heironymous Bosch” by Rudy Rucker
“Bright Red Star” by Bud Sparhawk
“Ivory Tower” by Bruce Sterling
“Girls and Boys Come out to Play” by Michael Swanwick
“Ikiryoh” by Liz Williams


Hugo Nominations: Yes, we are nominees!

The Hugo Awards ballot is out, and David and I are both nominated. We're nominted jointly (along with Kevin Maroney) in the Best Semi-Prozine Category for The New York Review of Science Fiction, and David is nominated in the Best editor catgory. Here's the ballot:

Best Novel (430 ballots cast)
Learning the World
, Ken MacLeod (Orbit; Tor)
A Feast for Crows, George R.R. Martin (Voyager; Bantam Spectra)

Old Man's War, John Scalzi (Tor)
Accelerando, Charles Stross (Ace; Orbit)
Spin, Robert Charles Wilson (Tor)

Best Novella (243 ballots cast)
Burn,
James Patrick Kelly (Tachyon)

"Magic for Beginners", Kelly Link (Magic for Beginners, Small Beer Press; F&SF September 2005)

"The Little Goddess", Ian McDonald (Asimov's June 2005)

"Identity Theft", Robert J. Sawyer (Down These Dark Spaceways, SFBC)

"Inside Job", Connie Willis (Asimov's January 2005)

 

Best Novelette (207 ballots cast)
"The Calorie Man", Paolo Bacigalupi (F&SF October/November 2005)

"Two Hearts", Peter S. Beagle (F&SF October/November 2005)

"TelePresence", Michael A. Burstein (Analog July/August 2005)

"I, Robot", Cory Doctorow (The Infinite Matrix February 15, 2005)

"The King of Where-I-Go", Howard Waldrop (SCI FICTION December 7, 2005)

 

Best Short Story (278 ballots cast)
"Seventy-Five Years", Michael A. Burstein (Analog January/February 2005)
"The Clockwork Atom Bomb", Dominic Green (Interzone May/June 2005)
"Singing My Sister Down", Margo Lanagan (Black Juice, Allen & Unwin; Eos)
"Tk'tk'tk", David D. Levine (Asimov's March 2005)
"Down Memory Lane", Mike Resnick (Asimov's April/May 2005)

Best Related Book
(197 ballots cast)

Transformations: The Story of the Science Fiction Magazines from 1950 to 1970
, Mike Ashley (Liverpool)

The SEX Column and Other Misprints, David Langford (Cosmos)
Science Fiction Quotations, edited, Gary Westfahl (Yale)
Storyteller: Writing Lessons and More from 27 Years of the Clarion Writers' Workshop, Kate Wilhelm (Small Beer Press)
Soundings: Reviews 1992-1996, Gary K. Wolfe (Beccon)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form (364 ballots cast)
Batman Begins Story, David S. Goyer.  Screenplay, Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer.  Based on the character created, Bob Kane. Directed, Christopher Nolan.  (Warner Bros.)
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe Screenplay, Ann Peacock and Andrew Adamson  and Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely.  Based on the novel, C.S. Lewis.  Directed, Andrew Adamson. (Walt Disney Pictures/Walden Media)
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Screenplay, Steven Kloves.  Based on the novel, J.K. Rowling.  Directed, Mike Newell.  (Warner Bros.)
Serenity Written & Directed, Joss Whedon.  (Universal Pictures/Mutant Enemy, Inc.)
Wallace & Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit Screenplay, Steve Box & Nick Park and Bob Baker and Mark Burton. Directed, Nick Park & Steve Box.  (Dreamworks Animation/Aardman Animation).

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form (261 ballots cast)
Battlestar Galactica "Pegasus"  Written, Anne Cofell Saunders. Directed, Michael Rymer. (NBC Universal/British Sky Broadcasting)

Doctor Who "Dalek"  Written, Robert Shearman. Directed, Joe Ahearne.  (BBC Wales/BBC1)
Doctor Who "The Empty Child" & "The Doctor Dances"  Written, Steven Moffat. Directed, James Hawes. (BBC Wales/BBC1)
Doctor Who "Father's Day"  Written, Paul Cornell. Directed, Joe Ahearne. (BBC Wales/BBC1)
Jack-Jack Attack  Written & Directed, Brad Bird.  (Walt Disney Pictures/Pixar Animation)
Lucas Back in Anger  Written, Phil Raines and Ian Sorensen. Directed, Phil Raines.  (Reductio Ad Absurdum Productions)
Prix Victor Hugo Awards Ceremony (Opening Speech and Framing Sequences).  Written and performed, Paul McAuley and Kim Newman. Directed, Mike & Debby Moir.  (Interaction Events)
(There are seven nominees due to a tie for fifth place)

Best Professional Editor (293 ballots cast)
Ellen Datlow (SCI FICTION and anthologies)
David G. Hartwell (Tor Books; Year's Best SF)
Stanley Schmidt (Analog)
Gordon Van Gelder (F&SF)
Sheila Williams (Asimov's)

Best Professional Artist (230 ballots cast)
Jim Burns

Bob Eggleton
Donato Giancola
Stephan Martiniere
John Picacio
Michael Whelan
(There are six nominees due to a tie for fifth place)

 Best Semiprozine (219 ballots cast)
Ansible, ed. Dave Langford
Emerald City, ed. Cheryl Morgan
Interzone , ed. Andy Cox
Locus, ed. Charles N. Brown, Kirsten Gong-Wong, & Liza Groen Trombi
The New York Review of Science Fiction, ed. Kathryn Cramer, David G. Hartwell & Kevin J. Maroney

Best Fanzine (176 ballots cast)
Banana Wings
, ed. Claire Brialey & Mark Plummer

Challenger, ed. Guy H. Lillian III
Chunga, ed. Andy Hooper, Randy Byers & carl juarez
File 770, ed. Mike Glyer
Plokta, ed. Alison Scott, Steve Davies & Mike Scott

Best Fan Writer (202 ballots cast)
Claire Brialey
John Hertz
Dave Langford
Cheryl Morgan
Steven H Silver

Best Fan Artist (154 ballots cast)
Brad Foster
Teddy Harvia
Sue Mason
Steve Stiles
Frank Wu

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer of 2004 or 2005 [Not a Hugo – Sponsored, Dell Magazines] (186 ballots cast)
K.J. Bishop (2nd year of eligibility)
Sarah Monette (2nd year of eligibility)
Chris Roberson (2nd year of eligibility)
Brandon Sanderson (1st year of eligibility)
John Scalzi (1st year of eligibility)
Steph Swainston (2nd year of eligibility)
(There are six nominees due to a tie for fifth place)

Here are Locus's comments on our two categories. Best Editor:

Sheila Williams is a first-time nominee in the Best Editor category; she took over editorship last year of Asimov's SF Magazine from Gardner Dozois, who for the first time since 1987 has not been nominated in this category (Dozois won 15 times out of 19 consecutive nominations from 1987 to 2005). Ellen Datlow has 12 previous nominations in this category, and has won twice, in 2002 and 2005. None of the other nominees has ever won a Hugo. David G. Hartwell has 14 previous nominations in this category, and 31 nominations overall, holding the record for most nominations by anyone who has not won a Hugo. Stanley Schmidt has 27 previous nominations, including every year in this category since 1980. Gordon Van Gelder has 14 previous nominations, including every year in this category since 1998.

. . .and Semiprozine:

All the Best Semiprozine nominees are veterans; the newest, Emerald City, has 4 previous nominations, and won in 2004 in the Fanzine category. Ansible has been nominated 14 times previously, and has won 5 times in the Fanzine category, and once, last year, in the Semiprozine category. Locus has been nominated in the amateur magazine, fanzine, or semiprozine categories every year since 1970 with just one exception (1979), and has won 26 times. The New York Review of Science Fiction has been nominated 17 times in this category, every year consecutively since 1989, though it has never won.

 

CensorWare for Australia?
Plus Who decides what stays & goes? Is this all yet another move to make the Internet more like TV?

Just when you thought that censoreware was only for oppressive goverments, and for use with children, and institutions by that treat their employees like children -- the US Military, General Electric (GE), Procter and Gamble, Exxon Mobil, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Bayer, Conagra Foods, Lockheed Martin, British Telecom, Fujitsu, Volvo, Kohler, and Tiffany & Co.)* -- politicians in Australia propose to turn censorware on their population: Labor to force porn block

(We already know that where such systems are in place, for example Secure Computing's SmartFilter, they block a whole lot more than what any reasonable person would consider porn.)

Internet service providers (ISPs) will be forced to block violent and pornographic material before it reaches home computers if Labor wins the next federal election. Under the policy, announced by Opposition Leader Kim Beazley today, international websites would be banned by the Australian Communications and Media Authority if they contained graphic sexual or violent material, rated R or higher. The bans would be maintained by ISPs.

The policy aims to protect the two-thirds of Australian households where no internet filters are in place because of a lack of technical knowledge or cost. Mr Beazley said all households would be included in the policy unless there was a specific request for access to such material.

It was "too hard" for many parents to install internet blockers on their computers to prevent offensive material being downloaded, he said.  . . . Any user can also report material to Australian Communications and Media Authority and if it is found to be hosted in Australia and banned, an ISP is ordered to take it down within 48 hours or face penalties. If the content is illegal, but hosted overseas, it is referred to federal police and filter providers add it to the blocked list.

"No child in Australia need be exposed to harmful and offensive content," Mr Coroneos said.

Gotta love that bit about giving members of the public the opportunity to block "offensive material" for the whole country. The possibilities for that are endless: evolution, birth control, liberal politics, breastfeeding. Even if the Internet were merely held to the standards of television and not as harshly censored as it is by such systems as SmartFilter, a whole lot would disappear.

Think I'm kidding about them maybe pushing breastfeeding off the Internet? I'm not.Note also that Kirstie Marshall, a member of the Victorian Legislative Assembly in Australia, was ejected from parliament for exposing her breast breastfeeding her newborn child.

Think of all the stuff you see on the internet that you almost never see on TV; think of it gone.

(Via Anthony Baxter.)

Flashman at Electron Soup has a few suggestions:

The flip-side of 'opt-out of the clean feed' is 'opt-in to the dirty dwarf-porn bukkake feed'. Put your name on our list, dear citizens, if you want to declare that you don't like our censorship, and that you want access to all the nasties on the net. Yeah, sure, I'm totally fine with that intrusion on my privacy. . . .

If Kim Beazley wants to offer peace of mind to parents, he should at most mandate that ISPs maintain an opt-in clean feed. Additionally, he should ascertain whether the nation's children are being taught healthy internet habits, in the same way that 'stranger danger' and other safety issues are addressed.

Here's a simple solution that's much more workable and costs virtually nothing: use your parenting skills.

UPDATE: Cory Doctorow has a really interesting post on the subject of the application of "local" community standards to the Internet in the context of the obscenity section of the Communications Decency Act in the US:

Online sexual material is obscene if any community in US objects
The Supreme Court of the United States has declined to hear an important case about obscenity and the Internet, leaving anyone who publishes sexual material on the Internet in uncertainty about whether they're open to federal penalties.
At stake is the obscenity section of the Communications Decency Act, which bans publishing "obscene" material on the net. The problem is that US courts use "local standards" to determine whether something is obscene -- so if in the eyes of some local community, the material is obscene, then you can't distribute it there.

But the Internet can distribute material into all communities in the country, and because the Communications Decency Act is federal, prosecutors can bring their charges in the most sex-o-phobic corner of the country (say, the conservative Catholic private town that the guy who founded Domino's Pizza is building in Florida).

And to echo the point I keep hammering on, zero-tolerance for something like the abstract concept of nudity is not necessarily even of benefit to children, as "local community standards" can prevent women from the most basic of mamalian acts: breastfeeding their infants.

MEANWHILE, an Australian firm out of Perth, Scotland has made a deal to "provide its 'broadband condom' service in Guatemala." Tracking this stuff is becoming like a game of whack-a-mole!

UPDATE: See Mark Pesce's Op-Ed: Net filters lose battle in the end.


Kenya: More on the Mysterious Armenian Brothers


   Artur Margaryan 
  Photo by by mwasb (Boniface Mwangi).

The Kenyan investigative journalists have been doing an amazing job of investigating the mysterious Armenian brothers who have become embroiled in the growing corruption scandal in Nairobi in the aftermath of the Kenyan media raids of a few weeks ago. (Among other things, the brother are alledged to be the white guys on cell phones in the TV station security cam footage of the raid.)

Kenya's journalists are writing articles faster than I can blog them, so I've added a Typelist on the subject to my left-hand sidebar, giving links to articles of interest so I can just toss in new ones as I go along. I have my theories of what is going on here, but the pool of available information is growing so fast that I'll hold off on theorizing.

Here are a few favorite items from the links in the sidebar. First of all, they have IDed Artur Margaryan's intriguing bodyguard:

Ms Shefana Igbal, is a daughter of a renown Mombasa businessman said to be close to businessmen in the underworld and particularly drug barons, our sources confided to us. The armed woman is known for her daring driving skills and apart from chauffeuring Artur Margaryan around the city, she also doubles as a bodyguard.

This next item is of Jamesian narrative complexity. Parse the point of view on this one:

allAfrica.com: Kenya: Michuki Questioned As 'Armenian' Plot Thickens
Michuki further claimed that the Group intended to publish a series of stories linking key government officials to the Al-Qaeda terrorist group, sources close to the Committee said. "It was a government action. The Standard Group has a propaganda unit which wanted to run stories that key government officials have Al-Qaeda links," a source close to the committee said of Michuki.

So, the Standard -- raided by police apparently under orders from Michuki -- reports that someone said that Michuki claimed that the Standard was going to run stories linking various government officials to Al Qaeda. Kenyan politics has a very subtle aesthetic. I feel like this is what I went to grad school in literature for! As Alex Harrowell remarks, ". . . yes, the government tactically leaked the information that the opposition were accusing them of terrorism in order to bash them for playing the terrorism card . . . or something."

Artur Margaryan, on the other hand, is not a subtle fellow. Gotta love this quote:

Margargran, interjected: "Your country's budget is not enough for the country. It is not enough to hire us."

. . . and this one:

Foreigner Artur Margaryan yesterday told Internal Security Minister John Michuki to stop commenting on their issue until investigations are complete. . . . He also cautioned Michuki against commenting on issues "he knows nothing about".

Margaryan can't possibly mean that bit about AQ, can he? He keeps going on about being a Christian.

Meanwhile the Standard manages to be at least a little forgiving and takes Michuki's side against Margaryan:

What sticks in the craw is that Michuki is just the latest in Artur Margaryan's line of fire. Wearing his arrogance and disdain proudly and loudly this man seems bent on belittling every prominent Kenyan he comes across.

A number of editorialists called for the Armenian brothers to be expelled from Kenya, but interestingly Health Minister Charity Ngilu made a somewhat tortured argument as to why they should not be deported:

HEALTH Minister Charity Ngilu yesterday asked the government not to deport the two Armenians at the centre of the mercenaries row before Kenyans knew their true identity and motive. Ngilu who is the Kitui Central MP said the duo should remain in the country so that Kenyans can get to the bottom of the truth.

Why would a health minister come to the aid of guys who seem a bit too cozy with the world of drug trafficking?

And then there's this business article which makes a sad but remarkable claim:

Two brothers from the Trans-Caucasian republic of Armenia are believed to be the only significant foreign investors Narc has so far managed to attract.

One of the most interesting things about these investors is that they have no need of bank accounts:

THE saga surrounding two Armenians, variously referred to as mercenaries and investors on the other hand took a new twist yesterday, when it become apparent that the duo have no known accounts in any Kenyan bank. Sources close to the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) have confirmed that Mr Artur Margaryan and his brother Arur Sargayan, neither operate a bank account indivindually, nor in any of the companies associated with them. Neither the Brotherhood International Company, nor any other company associated with them has a bank account in any of the 42 banks registered in Kenya, or in any of the existing forex bureaux in Kenya. . . . This means that the Sh 150,000 the duo are claiming to be spending daily cannot be accounted for, alluding to a possibility of massive money laundering in the country.

And don't miss this batch of photos by the talented young Kenyan photographer, Boniface Mwangi.

And there's this piece, suggesting that the members of the current administration have been unlucky and have been having problems with their life expectancy. Subtext is all. And that subtext does beg the question of the identity of that "snake" of John Michuki's now infamous remark, "When you rattle a snake, you should be prepared to be bitten by it."

This does all have a kind of startup/venture capital feeling about it. Perhaps the MacGuffin in this strange tale is the eighty million dolars worth of cocaine -- "1.1 metric ton shipment, confiscated in December 2004" -- that's been sitting around in a warehouse for a while, that the Kenyan government has just agreed to destroy. If you were a criminal, woudn't you want it? That may be the simplest explaination for what's driving this circus.

Wonder how much of it is left.

(See also The Yorkshire Ranter. and the tHiNkEr’S rOoM.)


The BSA, MPAA and RIAA have officially objected to a proposal to let the public break DRM that "threatens critical infrastructure and endangers lives."

I've got a lot on my plate today, so I don't have time to do more than just mirror this post from BoingBoing, except to say that what is at issue here is extremely serious.

MPAA/RIAA/BSA: No breaking DRM, even if it's killing you (literally!)        

        The BSA, MPAA and RIAA have officially objected to a proposal to let the public break DRM that "threatens critical infrastructure and endangers lives." They argue that if it becomes legal to break DRM that could kill you that it might harm their business:

In order to protect their ability to deploy this dangerous DRM, they want the Copyright Office to withhold from users permission to uninstall DRM software that actually does threaten critical infrastructure and endanger lives.

Link (via EFF Minilinks)

Even without this wrinkle, I think DRM has some serious human rights implications for human rights if force-exported throughout the world. This current bit seems to me clear evidence that the music and entertainment industries are being willfully ignorant and negligent about the human rights issues.


US Navy Battles Pirates off Somalia

Burcadbadeed01From the Associated Press:

Two U.S. Navy warships exchanged gunfire with suspected pirates Saturday off the coast of Somalia, and one suspect was killed and five others were wounded, the navy said.

Seven other suspects were taken into custody after the early-morning shootout, said Lt. Cmdr. Charlie Brown, spokesman for the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet.

No sailors were wounded in the battle, which occurred at about 5:40 a.m. local time, approximately 25 nautical miles off the Somali coast in international waters.

The battle started after the USS Cape St. George and USS Gonzalez, which were patrolling as part of a Dutch-led task force, spotted a 30-foot fishing boat towing smaller skiffs and prepared to board and inspect the vessels.

The suspected pirates were holding what appeared to be rocket-propelled grenade launchers, the navy said. When the suspects began shooting, naval gunners returned fire with mounted machine guns, killing one man and igniting a fire on the vessel.

The caption to the AP photo on the right reads: Plumes of smoke rise from a suspected pirate vessel after an exchange of gunfire with U.S. Navy warships on Saturday. (AP Photo/U.S. Navy, Daniel Sanford).

So far, the news stories about this have been devoid of mentions of the transitional government of Somalia's pirate-fighting contract with Top Cat Marine Security. Do let me know if you find any.

UPDATE: Well, if it isn't Jim Kouri of all people who mention's Top Cat in his syndicated new story! Someone should ask Kouri if he has checked why Top Cat hasn't shown up for duty in Somalia yet. Perhaps he could ask those intelligence sources he mentions in his next paragraph:

The Somali government -- a government practically in exile because of warlords, Al-Qaeda and Wahhabi terrorists -- has signed a contract with a US security company that specializes in marine special operations. The hope is that the security firm will put an end to the proliferating piracy in that African region.

New York-based Topcat Marine Security signed a deal worth more than $50 million with the Somali Transitional Federal Government, which is temporarily based in Nairobi, to escort ships traveling through Somali waters.

According to intelligence experts . . .


Customs to Privatize?

GovExec.com reports that the Customs bureau may seek private sector help. I read this with a dirty mind, especially in the context of the unauthorized spy equipment found in the Customs area  of the Guam airport. This looks to me like another great opportunity to compromise security in the name of security.

Customs and Border Protection only has 80 inspectors to validate the security plans for about 10,000 companies that have applied to be part of the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism program, Jayson Ahern, the agency's assistant commissioner of field operations, told the House Homeland Security Economic Security Subcommittee at a hearing.

He said the agency plans to hire 40 more inspectors within the next 45 days, but is "not where we need to be."

For the first time, the agency is considering hiring private companies to validate the security plans of some companies that primarily work out of countries with a low risk of terrorism activity, Ahern said.

An opportunity like this does not come along every day! Big earning potential for the right company! Get your foot in the door as a customs contractor!


Guam's Red-Light Zoning Proposal: "Look at a map"
How Will This Zoning Proposal Square with the US Military's Prohibition on Facilitating Human Trafficking?

This post started as a remark on a weird little news story that I happened across this morning and evolved into something more serious and substantial, raising the issue of whether the Guam Zoning Board is taking the US Military's ban on facilitating human trafficking at all seriously.

One of the things I love about blogging strange goings on in far-flung places is that when you start following their news-feeds you encounter the most bizarre stuff. This morning's special is a zoning proposal in Guam that I know is never, ever, going to come to my neighborhood. From Pacific Magazine: GUAM: Red Light District Plan Still On

Tourism officials and executives from the hotel and restaurant sectors in Guam are moving ahead with plans to rezone the Tumon tourist district and establish a “red light district” that would group all adult entertainment outlets in one area.

Bart Jackson, Guam Hotel and Restaurants Association chairman, said yesterday that the organization is moving ahead with its plan to rid Tumon of adult entertainment businesses that may destroy the island’s image as a family destination.

“Right now, we are moving forward. We have been researching legislation in other jurisdictions like Los Angeles, New York, St. Paul, and Philadelphia, which have all launched this kind of rezoning legislation in their locales,” Jackson said. . . .

The government of Guam is considering the establishment of a red light district to ensure that adult-oriented establishments are not mixed with the predominantly family-oriented establishments catering to the island’s visitors. The establishment of a red light district that would host the island’s massage parlors, strip joints, and other adult entertainment fare was already discussed by a joint task force composed of representatives from the Guam Visitors Bureau, Department of Public Health and Social Services, Guam Police Department, and Department of Revenue and Taxation.

Hmm. Love the justification of comparing this proposal with zoning in large American cities, but based on the superficial details available in the article, this sounds like it has more in common with zoning in San Francisco in the 1870s than with that of twenty-first century NYC.

Guam's problem is not the kind of problems with adult entertainment establishment encountered by big cities. Why might there be some kind of plausible need for this rezoning? Well, I gather the US Military is considering explaining their presence there by a lot. From the Washington Times: Guam seen as pivotal U.S. base

ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam -- The U.S. Pacific Command is moving forward with plans to recast the posture of its military forces in the western Pacific and Asia with the new pivot point to be a robust base on the island of Guam.
    "Look at a map," said the command's leader, Adm. William J. Fallon, as he flew toward Guam after a weeklong trek through Southeast Asia. He pointed to the relatively short distances from Guam to South Korea; the Taiwan Strait, across which China and Taiwan confront each other; and Southeast Asia, the frontier of terror in Asia.
    U.S. officers often talk about the "tyranny of distance" in the Pacific Command's area of operations, which runs from the west coast of North America to the east coast of Africa. Guam, when it is fully operational, will provide a base for land, naval and air forces closer to targets than for forces on the U.S. mainland or Hawaii. Guam was a major air base during the war in Vietnam.

The fly in this ointment is as of January 30th, 2004, "U.S. troops, government civilians and defense contractors worldwide now are expressly forbidden from involvement with people illegally trafficked across borders, most often for illicit sex." From the Navy Times in 2004:

Wolfowitz orders moves to halt human trafficking

By William H. McMichael
Times staff writer
U.S. troops, government civilians and defense contractors worldwide now are expressly forbidden from involvement with people illegally trafficked across borders, most often for illicit sex.

The decree comes in a Jan. 30 memo from Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz stating that trafficking in persons “will not be facilitated in any way by the activities of our service members, civilian employees, indirect hires or DoD contract personnel.”

Trafficking involves criminal efforts to lure or kidnap people, usually young women, across borders, entrapping them and forcing them into prostitution. It is practiced in many countries, including the United States.

Trafficking in persons “is a violation of human rights; it is cruel and demeaning; it is linked to organized crime; it undermines our peacekeeping efforts; and it is incompatible with military core values,” Wolfowitz said.

The memo, sparked by a national security directive signed by President Bush on Feb. 25, 2003, that mandated a “zero tolerance” for trafficking, was sent to all military service secretaries, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, combatant commanders and Defense Department inspectors and legal specialists. Pentagon officials confirmed Feb. 12 that it carries the “full weight and authority” of a directive.

There is a much more detailed discussion of the meaning of this policy in Keith J. Allred's article Human Trafficking: Breaking the Military Link.

In another remarkable innovation, on 15 September 2004 the Department of Defense's Joint Service Committee on Military Justice proposed several changes to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), a federal criminal code that applies to active duty military personnel worldwide, at all hours of the day, regardless of their deployment status.23 Under the UCMJ, U.S. military personnel can be tried for military offenses such as disrespect and failure to obey orders, as well as the more traditional criminal offenses.24 Among the proposals was a suggested new criminal offense of "patronizing a prostitute," intended to completely eliminate U.S. forces from the equation of demand for paid sexual services anywhere worldwide. Under the proposed legislation, patronizing a prostitute would become a crime for all military personnel after 1 July 2005.25 The new offense would punish the soldier-customer even if the sex act is consensual and prostitution is legal in the country where the act occurs.26

SO. What, then, is going to happen in Guam if the US Military expands its presence and the proposed Red-Light rezoning takes place? Will US military personnel etc. be strictly forbidden from setting foot there? Will the rules on not facilitating human trafficking be enforced? Or not? How is this going to work?

Perhaps those in charge of making the prohibition on facilitating human trafficking ought to have a little talk with the Guam zoning board before Guam sets up their little Red Light theme park, yes?

(Thanks GW!)


Bush Confronted on Nuclear Pact

There is a beautiful story in the LA Times this morning on Bush's failure to fool all of the people all of the time, even at a carefully managed event: Bush Confronted on Nuclear Pact

While speaking about Medicare, the president gets a surprise challenge from a negotiator of the nonproliferation treaty that India never signed.
By Peter Wallsten, Times Staff Writer
March 16, 2006

WASHINGTON — Two weeks after signing a controversial nuclear cooperation agreement with India, President Bush had a surprise encounter Wednesday with one of the original negotiators of the very anti-nuclear treaty that critics say is threatened by the deal.

The exchange capped an afternoon of unusually confrontational questions posed to Bush by a public audience — a change for a White House that has frequently organized friendly crowds to show Bush in a positive light.

The India challenge came from Lawrence Weiler, 85, a resident at the Washington-area retirement center that was the venue for the Wednesday event, intended to promote the president's new Medicare prescription drug program.

When Bush opened the floor to questions, and one man stood to thank the president for making U.S. civil nuclear technology available to India, Weiler could not contain himself.

"Mr. President, there are some — and I guess I would include myself — who have different views about the Indian agreement, because they're concerned about the effect that the agreement will have on the capacity of India to stimulate its own production of nuclear weapons," he said.

Weiler told Bush that he was one of the few surviving negotiators of the 1970 Nonproliferation Treaty, which was ratified by the world's major nuclear powers and more than 180 other nations to limit the spread of nuclear weapons.

India never signed the treaty, and critics charge that Bush's plan to let U.S. firms begin sharing civil nuclear technology with India would help that country expand its weapons program and invigorate a nuclear arms race by inspiring other nations to ignore the treaty.

Weiler, who worked for the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, went on to ask Bush to consider adopting a "no first use" policy on nuclear weapons as an additional enticement to keep the treaty intact.


Kenya: "He was accompanied by a woman who on Monday he claimed was his bodyguard."

In the aftermath of the Kenya media raids, there have been conflicting reports of the involvement of "Russian mercenaries" in one aspect or another of the situation. Now we are getting a few more specifics, and boy are they strange. First of all, there's this story from the Nation: NARC Politician is Linked to Armenians

The Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) yesterday linked a Narc politician to a press conference by two former Soviet bloc foreigners Langata MP Raila Odinga describes as mercenaries.

And the movement accused the Government of providing state security to Mr Artur Sargsyan and Mr Artur Margaryan, who they claimed were "international criminals." . . .

In a move that added more mystery to the saga behind the two Armenians, the former Roads minister claimed Mr Sargsyan, who had been said to have flown into the country a few minutes before the Press conference, was in fact in the country. . . .

The two said they had been introduced to both Mr Odinga and Mr Kalonzo Musyoka by another businessman, and had been asked by Mr Odinga and Mr Musyoka to fund the ODM's no-vote campaign in the last year's November 21 referendum on the proposed Constitution.

They said they refused to do this, saying they never helped to fund political work, but said that instead they agreed to a request by Mr Odinga to lend him $1.5 million (about Sh108 million).

Mr Odinga and Mr Musyoka have denied the claims and accused the Government of being behind the allegations "to tarnish the integrity of ODM leaders". . . .

"It is clear to us that the presence in Kenya of the two persons of questionable character and integrity is with the express knowledge of the Government at a very high level," he said at Parliament Buildings in Nairobi.

The leaders also queried the source of huge sums of money for the Armenians' investment and the bank through which the transactions were carried out.

And then there's this one, also from Kenya, which identifies the company involved as Brotherlink International: Confusion As Police Confront Armenian

The eight had gone to House 977 on Glory Road, off Runda Grove, as an advance team to provide security for detectives investigating the activities of Mr Margaryan and his brother, Mr Artur Sargsyan.

Mr Margaryan was to have been interviewed by Nairobi deputy provincial CID chief Isaiah Osugo, who was appointed last week by police commissioner Mohamed Hussein Ali to investigate claims by Lang'ata MP Raila Odinga that the brothers were mercenaries.  . . .

Mr Margaryan repeated his claims that he had in the past met Mr Odinga. He said it was between December 13 and 15, last year in Dubai, when he allegedly gave him the equivalent of Sh100,000 in UAE currency (dirham), to spend as he wished.

He said his brother would be returning to Kenya next week.

He went on: "I will go to court as well as demand protection from the Government because it was my right to ask for protection."

Mr Margaryan acknowledged that his company Brotherlink International Ltd had entered into a contract in January this year to rent the house. His company was involved in various businesses including car imports, electronics and real estate. . . .

Asked to explain why his brother's particulars were missing from the passenger manifest on the flight he claimed he had taken from Dubai to Kenya, he said all passengers from Arab countries used their mothers' names and not their own or their fathers'. . . .

After his brief chat with the journalists, Mr Margaryan returned to his compound and later drove off in a dark blue Subaru whose number plates were hidden behind strips of cardboard. He was accompanied by a woman who on Monday he claimed was his bodyguard.

This sure is getting interesting. I wonder where it will go.

MEANWHILE IN UGANDA, Peter Wadron (see my previous post) is facing charges. The Arms Dealer of the Lord turns out to also be a Bounty Hunter of the Lord as well: Jailed American Wanted to Grab Kony

Dr Peter Waldron, an American facing charges of illegal possession of arms, planned to use a Congolese rebel militia to capture Joseph Kony, the elusive leader of the Lord's Resistance Army.

A highly placed source said Waldron planned to claim the $1.7 million bounty on Kony's head. Ugandan and US officials, however, remained tightlipped about the case, which is set to raise more eyebrows about Waldron and his involvement in Uganda.

The Inspector General of Police, Gen. Kale Kayihura, told Daily Monitor that a charge of terrorism could be added after initial police investigations linked Waldron to anti-government propaganda. Among Waldron's various businesses and professional interests is a publication Africa Dispatch which has been critical of the arrest of Dr Kizza Besigye and the deployment of armed men at the High Court in Kampala during his trial in January.

"Obviously the Criminal Investigations Department have established a link between Waldron and several Congolese that were arrested in connection with illegally possessing guns," Kayihura said yesterday.

Until now the arrest of Waldron, an IT consultant with the Ministry of Health, who doubled as a born-again businessman with a variety of interests, has perplexed most observers.

Daily Monitor can now reveal that Dido Manyiroha, Waldron's co-accused, is one of the topmost leaders of Movement Révoluntionaire du Congo (MRC), a rebel outfit operating in Eastern Congo.

"He [Waldron] made a deal with MRC to do an operation in Garamba Park where Kony and his group are said to be hiding." a security source who declined to be named said.

"He promised to claim the reward on Kony's capture and share it with the group afterwards. He also advanced them $20,000 to organise the operation."

The International Criminal Court in The Hague has issued an arrest warrant for Kony, his field commander Vincent Otti and others, and has promised a reward of $1.7 million (over Shs3 billion) for his capture.

"MRC promised Waldron they have the men and the capacity to grab Kony because they are Congolese and they know the forests,"
the source added.

Praise the Lord, pass the amunition. Or something. (Thanks GW!) WALDRON UPDATE, 3/28/06: Waldron has been released and deported from Uganda. See Soj.

KENYA UPDATE: The Nation (whose registration process I finally managed to get to work) has some more lovely details on the Amrenian brothers:

Mr Musyoka emerged from a one-and-a-half hour session with the CID officer tasked to investigate the mercenaries allegations, Mr Isaiah Osugo, to state that he has never requested for funding from the two Armenians.

He said Mr Sanghani introduced the two foreigners, whom he described as "flamboyantly endowed in gold chains, rings, bracelets and watches" at the Grand Regency's Summit Club in late November last year.

"Whilst at the club, businessman Raju Sanghani walked over to where I was seated accompanied by two persons who were casually dressed and introduced them as businessmen from Dubai," Mr Musyoka said.

Mr Sanghani is the former owner of Guilders International Bank, chairman of Real Motors Group and an estate management firm.

During the 10-minute encounter, Mr Musyoka said one of the two foreigners introduced himself as a relative of the Armenian President and that he had set his eyes on a top political seat in his country.

In apparent reference to Mr Sargsyan, he said the Armenian told him of his business interests in DR Congo and inquired if Mr Musyoka could use his influence as a former Foreign minister to introduce him to President Kabila.

"I informed them that I knew President Kabila but was not well-acquainted with him. That was the end of our discussion," narrated the Mwingi North MP.

Contacted last evening, Mr Sanghani confirmed he had introduced Mr Musyoka to the two men in an "accidental" meeting.

He said the two were associates of a Dubai businessman, Mr Zakher Omar, a friend he had met in Mumbai, India, last year. Mr Omar deals in general commodities, steel rolling and real estate development in Dubai and India.

"He and l met accidentally at the hotel l was staying in and we got talking. I tried to interest him in investing in Kenya especially in real estate..."

"Sometime in November he came with two people he introduced as Arthur and James. He claimed they were members of the "royal" family in Armenia," Mr Sanghani said in a telephone interview.

He said that one evening during the three or four days which Mr Omar and his associates spent in the country, he took them to the Summit Club in the Grand Regency where they met Mr Musyoka.

"It was a casual, accidental meeting. I introduced them and told Mr Musyoka that they were members of the Armenian "royal" family. Indeed, l told him that one of the men was a presidential aspirant. I also told him that the men were interested in investing in gold and diamonds in the Democratic Republic of Congo," Mr Sanghani said.

On the face of it, these guys sound to me more like criminals and con-artits than mercenaries as such.

(See also The Yorkshire Ranter.)


Taking the Plame Wars to a Whole New Level

Now HERE's a news article that caused me to create a new tag: What were you thinking? The Chicago Tribune seems to be trying to outdo Bob Novak. Not content to out one CIA agent, they're trying to collect the whole set, or at least want us to think that's what they've done. (This reminds me a bit of the fake reports that Google Earth was being used to spy on our troop positions.) What were they thinking, anyway?

Here's the spin du jour: Forget Scooter Libby, the CIA has bigger problems. The pocket watch swings back and forth. You're getting sleepy, very sleepy: Forget Scooter Libby. Forget Scooter Libby. Got it?

Larry C. Johnson has a really good post on the subject that I'm going to mirror in it's entirety.

Well, the theater of the absurd that tries to pass for journalism has gone to new lows with a goofy story in today's Chicago Tribune. The article, Internet Blows CIA Cover claims, "It's easy to track America's covert operatives. All you need to know is how to navigate the Internet."

Oh really? Okay Mr. Crewdson (the author of this nonsense). Please search the internet and identify 100 CIA officers for me. Go ahead. Give it a shot. Oh, I forgot, first you need a name. You do not just enter a random name and come up with a flashing sign that says, "this guy is CIA". So really what you are saying is that if I tell you someone works for the CIA you can do a search and find out that someone, who is a private consultant, once worked for the U.S. State Department? In other words, you first have to be tipped off to look at a particular person.

Well, Valerie Plame was safe until the White House pointed reporters in her direction. Even if Crewdson's assertion that Valerie's cover was "thin" (it was not), what we know for a fact is that her neighbors did not know she worked for the CIA. Only those who had a need to know knew.

Crewdson insinuates, but doesn't demonstrate, that a simple search of the internet enables one to easily identify CIA employees. The true story is more complicated. Crewdson's searches were conducted after the names of individuals and companies appeared in the news. He searched on those names and found links to the U.S. Government. Nowhere on the internet will you find a list of undercover folks that says, "they really work for the CIA". Crewdson is right about one point, the CIA has done a lousy job of developing effective cover positions. But that is a failure of leaders like Tenet rather than officers, such as Valerie Plame.

But here is what is really fascinating. Crewdson says he identified 2600 CIA officers but, out of concern for national security, declined to out them. Thank you Mr. Crewdson. At least you understand that blowing someones cover, even a thin one, would be an act of treason. I am in favor of having Crewdson give Bob Novak a lesson in journalistic ethics and responsibility.

There is no such thing as ironclad cover. Whether Valerie Plame's cover was thin or deep, the basic fact remains--she was an undercover intelligence officer and expected senior government officials to protect this secret. Scooter Libby, Karl Rove, and Dick Cheney, who learned that she was a CIA officer, were obligated to protect that secret. Instead, they betrayed Valerie and helped destroy an intelligence network that was devoted to trying to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. That's the real story that true Americans should be fretting over.

I share Johnson's scepticism that the Chicgo Tribune's reporters have done what they claim. If they really had, they wouldn't have published the article. (And the scenario seems to come from an alternate universe in which the printed phone book was never invented.) But it does seem that this takes the Plame Wars to a whole new level in which our intelligence agents are now to be outed in bulk and not individually. While the agency is not staffed entirely by perfect angels, and while I enjoy a good outing as much as the next blogger, if we are to have intelligence services at all, this kind of political operative gamesmanship has got to stop.


Guam Airport Chief LOVES Manila

From an ongoing series on unauthorized cameras and listening devices found in the Customs area of the Guam Airport.

From Marinas Variety -- "Micornesia's leading newspaper since 1972" -- this bit of high comedy. It took me a moment to get a sense of whether they were making this up, since it does so have the flavor of The Onion. I think this is for real, and  there is an accompanying story with a more serious tone. The context of this, for those who have not been following it, is that an investigation is underway to determine who planted unauthorized spying equipment (listening devices and hidden cameras) in the customs inspection areas of the Guam airport: Guam airport chief loves Manila

The executive manager of Guam International Airport Authority on Wednesday admitted traveling frequently to Manila for his weekend “rejuvenation.”

“I don’t like Manila, I love Manila,” GIAA general manager Jess Torres told this reporter. “I do not have anything to hide. I don’t like going to Philippines — I love going to Philippines. I need it for relaxation and I am entitled to that.”

When asked why he loves the city, Torres said besides shopping Manila also has “many beautiful girls.”

According to Torres it is “therapeutic” for him to be in Manila’s Ermita district every weekend because he can do everything he wants and he gets the pampering he needs.

I can get my manicure, pedicure and hair coloring in very affordable prices, and yes I love shopping at Robinson’s Galleria, walk along Malate and enjoy the warm hospitality of my Filipino friends. Would you believe that I am more familiar with the nooks and crannies of Manila than of the island?” Torres said.

He said the pass rider or buddy pass he has been using was provided to him by an employee of Continental Micronesia married to his nephew Fred Tupaz, the airport’s contractual consultant.

“It was offered to me by my niece — I never coerced her and it is her discretion whether she wants to use it or give it to a relative and it just happened that she extended it to me,” Torres said. . . .

Despite these criticisms, Torres said he is already looking forward to his next trip to Manila.

“I would love to go back to Manila again. After our meetings about our expansion projects and various improvement programs I will definitely get my break — anyway I deserve it,” Torres said.

The Office of the Public Auditor sees things a little differently, as recounted in the other story on the Marinas Varity site: OPA joins probe on airport manager’s travels

THE Office of the Public Auditor will conduct its own investigation on the frequent travels of Guam International Airport Authority general manager Jesse Q. Torres to determine whether he violated ethical standards.

Torres traveled 16 times to Manila, Philippines from February 2005 to January 2006 on Continental Airlines using a buddy pass extended to him by a Continental employee named Ana Tupaz, the wife of Fred Tupaz who is Torres’ nephew and works as an airport contractual consultant.

Public Auditor Doris Brooks said the OPA investigation was prompted by the Attorney General’s Office’s request for actions on the report that Torres has been traveling on Continental Airlines using the buddy pass of the airport vendor’s employee.

Attorney General Douglas Moylan, in a two-page letter to the public auditor, cited the Guam Procurement Law which prohibits kickbacks, gratuities, gifts and favors of any kind up to a value of $200 a year.

The law, according to Moylan, states that it shall be a “breach of ethical standards for any person who is a contractor or any person associated with, to offer, give or agree to give any employee or agent of the territory or for any employee or agent of the territory to solicit or accept for any such person or entity or agent thereof, a favor or gratuity on behalf of the territory whether or not such favor or gratuity may be considered a reimbursable expense of the territory.”

Hard to tell from this distance whether the airport manager's trips to Manila will tie into the investigation of who it was that was spying on US customs inspectors, but it certainly is suggestive!

MEANWHILE, the Philippines seems to have a customs scandal of its own, which I have just begun to try to parse. From the Manila Standard Today: Smuggling is rampant — Customs

BUREAU of Customs (BoC) officials admitted that the smuggling of shabu and other drugs into the country remains rampant.

Customs enforcement and security service chief Nestorio Gualberto told Standard Today that shabu coming from so-called high-risk countries such as China is rampant.

Gualberto explained that aside from China, other high-risk countries include Afghanistan, Hong Kong, Thailand and several African countries where the use and distribution of heroin and opiate are widespread.

Because of this, Malacañang has ordered the BoC to intensify its campaign against drug smuggling following reports that the United States State Department tagged the Philippines “drug smuggler’s paradise.”

According to BoC legal service director Reynaldo Umali, however, the agency is doing its best to curb the illegal entry of drugs and other shipments. . . .

For his part, acting Customs Commissioner Napoleon Morales said his personnel are under a heightened alert status and are closely monitoring all shipments and cargo coming from these high-risk countries after the bureau received an intelligence report stipulating that a drug syndicate is attempting to bring in large shipment of drugs in the guise of candles.

Morales said all cargo and baggage coming from these countries will be placed under surveillance. He assured that smuggling will be prevented since the agency is equipped with advanced detection systems.

There is also this interesting piece from journel.com.ph in the Pilippines: Why Customs lose billions

SMUGGLING lord Samuel Uy Lee uses nine importer firms and eight Customs brokers to cheat the government of billions of pesos in badly-needed Customs revenues yearly.

And if there's truth to reports gathered by the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group that Lee has been operating in the Port of Manila since the 1990s, Customs revenue losses could even reach several billions of pesos, according to Roger S. Santos, national president of the 300,000-member Citizens Anti-Crime Assistance Group (CAAG).

According to government estimates, the Bureau of Customs loses some P100 billion in yearly revenue leakages.

As this developed, hundreds of Customs personeros (brokers'  representatives) yesterday expressed dismay over the excessive red tape in the POM formal entry division saying that their import documents are consumption import entries and that they are willing to pay the correct duties and taxes prior to the release of their goods.

''Buhat ng mabulgar ang smuggling ni Samuel Uy Lee, pati kami ay pinapahirapan ng mga taga-assessment division kahit binabayaran naming ang tama ang tarifa," said the Customs personeros, who expressed fears that it would now take them two to three weeks to have their goods released from the piers, instead of the usual five days.

They called on Customs Commissioner Napoleon Morales to immediately attend to their complaints.

Also yesterday, President Macapagal-Arroyo made a surprise visit to the Manila South Harbor to personally commend Commissioner Morales for checking the  smuggling activities of Samuel Uy Lee, who was apprehended by a  CIDG team under Chief Supt. Jesus A. Versoza for alleged illegal diversion of three container vans of untaxed resin shipment to an enduser.

Santos furnished the Journal Group a three-page official Customs document listing the nine importer firms and eight Customs brokers being used by the smuggling lord.

Santos identified the nine firms as Can Walk Commercial, importer of used chasis assembly and used aluminum frame; 2) Pacific strait Enterprises, importer of used auto engine spare parts; 3) Goldsam Enterprises Inc., importer of used automotive parts; 4) Liontex Enterprises Inc. importer of frozen dough and assorted products; 5) White River Concepts Co., Inc, importer of gypsum powder and chemicals; 6) Qualitex Garments Inc., importer of poly bags, textiles and garment accessory products; 7) Wellknit Impex Mfg. Corp., importer of packaging materials and accessories; 8) Asia Clothing Co., Inc, importer of textiles, packaging materials and clothing accessories; and 9) Capital Garment Corp., importer of textiles and garment accessories.

Based on Santos' papers, the smuggling lord uses the following Customs brokers, namely 1) Jade Bros Freight Int'l Inc. 2) MS Misual Customs Brokerage, 3) Global Logistics 22 Customs Service, 4) Marcelo D. Laylo Customs Brokerage, 5) Harbor Link Brokerage Services, 6) Allblanc Customs Brokerage, 7) Elitsped Services Inc. and 8) Mark Davies Int'l Corp. . . .

But the manner of approval made on the 59 questioned import entries is highly irregular because the same were merely subjected to the so-called table examination. In plain language, according to an insider, not a single container van consigned to Lee's firms had been opened for ocular Customs examination as required by law. . . .

Customs insiders said Samuel Lee's protectors and fixers include media people who ape hard-hitting broadcasters and columnists.


Kuwait Dabbling in Allowing Foreign Investment: I Wonder What This Machine Does

Kuwait, which has strict controls on foreign investment, especially in its oil industry, has in the past few years begun to open the door a little to foreign investors in the form of something called Project Kuwait:

In March 2001, Kuwait's national assembly passed the "Foreign Direct Investment Act," which aimed at promoting foreign investment. Among other things, the Act eased restrictions on foreign banks, provided long-term protection to foreign investors against nationalization or confiscation, and eliminated the requirement for foreign companies to have a Kuwaiti sponsor or partner. In the oil sector, the Kuwaiti constitution forbids foreign ownership of Kuwait's mineral resources, but the Kuwaiti government is exploring allowing foreign investment in upstream oil development under terms . . . which provide for per-barrel fees to the foreign firms rather than traditional production sharing agreements (PSA's). The Kuwaiti government is currently making an attempt to enact legislation to facilitate foreign investment in the upstream oil sector, as part of its "Project Kuwait" initiative to boost production capacity. The Kuwaiti parliament is expected to act on the proposed legislation sometime in 2005.  . . .

"Project Kuwait" is a $7 billion, 25-year plan, first formulated in 1997 by the SPC, to increase the country's oil production (and to help compensate for declines at the mature Burgan field), with the help of international oil companies (IOCs). In particular, Kuwait aims to increase output at five northern oil fields -- Abdali, Bahra, Ratqa, Raudhatain, and Sabriya (Kuwait's third largest field) -- from their current rate of around 650,000 bbl/d to 900,000 bbl/d within three years. Project Kuwait has been repeatedly delayed, however, due to political opposition and resistance from nationalists and Islamists in parliament to the idea of allowing foreign companies into the country's oil sector. Legislation which would facilitate Project Kuwait has been introduced again in the Kuwaiti parliament in early 2005. The bill was approved by the Finance and Economic Committee in June 2005, but with amendments limiting its scope to four of the five fields, excluding Bahra. Final action on the bill by the full parliament is still pending, but is expected by the end of 2005.

In February 2003, KPC completed a draft contract and proposed financial terms for Project Kuwait. There are three major consortia competing for the project, led by: 1) ChevronTexaco (along with Total, PetroCanada, Sibneft and Sinopec); 2) ExxonMobil (along with Shell, ConocoPhillips, and Maersk); and 3) BP (along with Occidental, ONGC/Indian Oil Corp.). Reportedly, KPC prefers to have three groups working under three separate IBBCs: one for Raudhatain and Sabriya (the largest IBBC); one for Ratqa, Bahra and Abdali; and one for Minagish and Umm Gudair. Currently, foreign companies like BP, Shell, and ChevronTexaco operate in Kuwait strictly under service contracts (SCs).

Alexander's Gas & Oil Connection (2003) has more detail:

One consortium is led by US major ChevronTexaco, which is the operator and has a 50 % stake. France's Total is the second operator and has a 20 % stake. The consortium's non-operating partners are PetroCanada, Sibneft and Sinopec, each having a 10 % stake.

A second consortium is led by the UK's BP as operator with a 65 % stake, and includes the US' Occidental Petroleum and India's Indian Oil Corporation as non-operators. A third consortium is led by US major ExxonMobil as first operator with a 37.5 % stake. Shell is the consortium's second operator with a 32.5 % stake. US firm ConocoPhillips and Denmark's Maersk are non-operating participants.

I think it's really sweet how they're spreading the love around the member countries of the UN Security Council! For example, group number one includes: Chevron (US), Total (France), Petro-Canada (Canada), Sibneft (Russia), & Sinopec (China). As Henry Kissinger said, power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.

This distribution sounds, well, a little familiar: From the Timesonline, 2004: Saddam ‘bought UN allies’ with oil

The UN oil-for-food scheme was set up in 1995 to allow Iraq to sell controlled amounts of oil to raise money for humanitarian supplies. However, the leaked report reveals Saddam systematically abused the scheme, using it to buy “political influence” throughout the world.

The former Iraqi regime was in effect free to “allocate” oil to whom it wished. Dozens of private individuals were given oil at knockdown prices. They were able to nominate recognised traders to buy the cheap oil from the Iraqi state oil firm and sell it for a personal profit.

The report says oil was given to key countries: “The regime gave priority to Russia, China and France. This was because they were permanent members of, and hence had the ability to influence decisions made by, the UN Security Council. The regime . . . allocated ‘private oil’ to individuals or political parties that sympathised in some way with the regime.”

The report also details how the regime benefited by arranging illegal “kickbacks” from oil sales.

From September 2000, it is said Saddam made $228m (£127m) from kickbacks deposited in accounts across the Middle East. The analysis details only the export of oil — not the import of humanitarian supplies, also alleged to have been riddled with corruption.

So here we see that same UN Security Council buy-off pattern. Interesting. So what's up?

This 2003 article, Kuwait will not Benefit form Foreign Investment in the Northern Fields Even if an Agreement with Iraq is Reached, argues that the purpose of Project Kuwait is not the additional capacity that will be generated, but rather that it is driven by "political consideration."

Kuwait may not benefit from allowing foreign investment in its upstream oil industry because it does not need the additional capacity, especially at a time when Kuwait is trimming its production along with other OPEC members to increase oil prices. Recently, Kuwait called on OPEC members to extend production cuts beyond September 2002 and lobbied successfully to prevent OPEC from increasing its quota. In a recent speech, Nader Sultan, the CEO of KPC, declared that Kuwait will invest in extra capacity only if there is a demand for it. He insisted that investment in extra capacity must be justified by the return on investment; otherwise funds will be directed toward more profitable investments. When OPEC is cutting output, there is no justification for more investment to increase capacity. This conclusion gives even more weight to the previous conclusion that "Project Kuwait" is based mostly on political considerations.

So, just what are the politics of this? Whatever the answer turns out to be, it is likely to be complex, as this 2004 article explains: Scheme to expand Kuwait's oil production likely to cause stir

One of the most heated debates is likely to be on the fate of a scheme proposed by the government to expand production from oilfields in the far north of the country, close to the Iraqi border. On the face of it, this does not seem to be high on the list of controversial subjects that have tend to raise the blood pressure of certain Kuwaiti MPs (like demands that women should be given the vote, for example). But when one points out that the scheme has been on the drawing board since 1998, it becomes clear right away that the proposals are far from straightforward.

The question now is whether the government will succeed this time, having failed thus far in separating the project - known as Project Kuwait - from the complex web of the nation's internal politics. In other words, will it be able to win the National Assembly's support for a venture which it insists is essential for the country's future and which most MPs say is either unnecessary or politically unacceptable.

The authorities are determined to push ahead regardless. An indication of their determination was the recent creation of a post on the board of the state-owned Kuwait Petroleum Corporation (KPC) dedicated to the northern oilfields scheme.

ITPBusiness.net (2005) suggests that Project Kuwait may be a way off, in effect, allowing Kuwait the use of the military capacity of the participating countries:

Some analysts, however, think it is the government astutely playing geopolitics: let foreign oil prospectors go digging along the border, and should Iraqi tanks rumble over their wells, the majors’ governments will hear their cries and run to Kuwait’s defense.

Despite the controversial nature of Project Kuwait, it seems to have survived the death of one of its key supporters, Emir Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmed al-Sabah.

Kuwait's government is trying to push through parliament the $8.5 billion Project Kuwait, involving multinationals to upgrade four major northern oilfields to help boost its output capacity.

"The country has set a long-term oil strategy which will not change. It is committed to increasing production capacity to meet the needs of the oil markets," Baghli said.

"Project Kuwait will eventually pass after parliament adds the legal touches and some regulatory restrictions on the government," he said.

Several MPs have objected to the plan in its current form, and the parliament is due to hold a special session on January 23 to discuss the long-awaited project, which has been under discussion since the early 1990s.

As of last week Kuwait's Energy Minister Shaikh Ahmad Fahd Al Sabah said top ministry executives will meet with audit bureau officials to 'reach an understanding on the issue':

Kuwaiti MPs and the government have discussed legal and financial objections to a controversial $8.5 billion oil investment in which foreign oil majors would participate.

Objections to the legal framework and financial details had been raised by the audit bureau, the state accounting watchdog, prompting MPs in December to withdraw a report on the long-stalled project preventing its debate in parliament.

The head of parliament's financial and economic affairs committee MP Ahmad Baqer, a former justice minister, said the panel asked the bureau to prepare a fresh report based on new information sent by the energy ministry.

The report will be assessed by the committee after three weeks when it would probably take a final decision on the investment which has been opposed by more than 20 MPs of the 50-member parliament.

Energy Minister Shaikh Ahmad Fahd Al Sabah, who attended the meeting, said top ministry executives will meet with audit bureau officials to 'reach an understanding on the issue.'

'We will study the bureau's comments on the project ... and could accept some of them to make the necessary changes,' Shaikh Ahmad said.

Eight and a half billion dollars, hmm? I think they'll reach an understanding.

UPDATE: Via Mountain Runner, I happened across this Knight Ridder news story: Administration backs off Bush's vow to reduce Mideast oil imports. Why would the Administration want to reduce Mideast oil imports when Kuwait is ready to cut our oil companies such a deal?!?


Guam: Customs working to identify who authorized installation of surveillance equipment

From KUAM.com:

Guam Customs and Quarantine officials are trying to follow the paper trial and determine who authorized the installation of listening devices at the agency's screening area in the Guam International Airport. On Wednesday Airport executive general manager Jesus Torres confirmed the Airport received an aviation security grant for additional cameras after 9/11.

Officials have yet to figure out why listening devices were installed at the Customs screening area. Customs chief Ralph Sgambelluri says the investigation so far has revealed that local company Sunny Electronics was contracted to install the devices.

Officials have not said how much was paid, who authorized the installation, or where the devices were transmitting.

I just love how insecurity is the Doppelganger of the post 9/11 security fetish. While of course the whole customs surviellance story is worrisome, there's something aesthetically satisfying about this duality, reminiscent of what we used to focus on when I was a grad student studing 19th century German Romanticism. It's, like sooo ETA Hoffman.


Secure Computing: Fulfilling a Wish for the Censor

189015919001_aa240_sclzzzzzzz_I bought a book this morning for Secure Computing's  SmartFilter censor Tomo Foote-Lennox and videotaped the experience. I was Googling his name to see if my posts mentioning him had been indexed by Google, and I made an interesting discovery.

I noticed that there was a link to a review he'd posted on Amazon and I decided to learn a little more about his tastes, which are apparently very interesting. As it turned out, he'd only ever reviewed that one item.

But he did have a Wish List, which I did have a look at. While it contained only two items, I decided to grant one of his two wishes and buy him a copy of The Mistress Manual: The Good Girl's Guide to Female Dominance, which he had listed. I decided I would buy it for him, and I would videotape myself fulfilling his wish, and then I would blog it.

Imovie_hdscreensnapz001_1My sexual quirk is that I am turned on by intellectual excitement; specifically, I find ferreting out weird facts and then acting upon them sexully exciting. One of Tomo Foote-Lennox's many quirks seems to be masochism. And so the act of publicly fulfilling this wish for him is an odd species of Internet sexual act: a moment is which he and I -- who otherwise would be quite incompatible -- have a strange moment of resonance. I very much enjoyed blowing nineteen bucks to publicly buy him the book he said he wanted; I hope he enjoys receiving it just as much. I made sure Amazon wrapped his present.

I tried uploading the video to YouTube, but it isn't uploading. So probably I need to go back and re-edit to make it shorter. I'll let you know when it's up.

Shifting back into my usual social persona, I want to say that the problem with a fetishist playing censor for millions of people is that the fetsishist's gaze is a sexualizing one, and so much material which is not inherently smut will look dirty to someone viewing the world through that lens. I had an unsatisfactory correspondence with Tomo on the subject of what material about breastfeeding would make it through their censorship. Many things I could do in the lunchroom of my son's elementary school or in broad daylight on the streets of NYC would not have made it. I find this unacceptable, and I attribute part of the problem to the point of view (and arrogance) Tomo brings to the issue.

UPDATE: This Domini person thinks I've been bad, very bad. He thinks that I should have called Tomo to ask — "hey Tomo, do you want me to buy you the Mistress Manual?" — rather than turning a loaded credit card on him. (When Tomo responds to my most recent email message to him, maybe I'll ask. But I don't think he's speaking to me right now.) I gotta say that the credit card purchase, Amazon order # 102-9375069-1924901, is leaving an awfully nice paper trail to Maple Grove, Minnestota.  (Hmm, has Domini go a problem with my lifestyle as a dominant female blogger?)


Find Out How Your Site Rates on SmartFilter

If you've been wondering how to find out what SmartFilter thinks of your site and the sites you regularly read, here's how to find out what their censors think of you and your reading habits: the SmartFilterWhere URL Checker:

Finderscreensnapz001
I love the stock-art lady wit the curls in their graphic. What is she finding so fascinating on the screen? Has she perhaps found something they missed in their attempts to sanitize the web?


Guam Airport Spying Update

From an ongoing series on unauthorized cameras and listening devices found in the Customs area of the Guam Airport.

From KAUM.com: Public funds will determine who's monitoring GIAA's monitors

Thousands of dollars in taxpayers money will now be used to determine exactly who was monitoring the monitors at the Guam International Airport Authority. Through its preliminary investigation, the agency's executive manager, Jess Torres, confirms it was the Airport that paid for the installation of the security cameras by way of an aviation security grant after 9/11.

It was done so for added security measures by Pacific Security Alarm. Although he hasn't totaled up exactly how much was spent on installing the security devices, Torres estimates tens of thousands were spent. The preliminary investigation also revealed that one particular camera led straight to Torres' office. When asked how he felt knowing the monitors were monitoring one of the biggest monitors - himself - Torres stated he has nothing to hide.

"I feel deeply concerned because for all I know, even my office was bugged," he shared. "But then again on a personal basis, if they were trying to zero in on me to listen to my conversation, they are welcome to do that. If they want to photograph me on how I do my business, they are welcome to that because I have nothing to hide."

What "bugs" Torres is the idea of bugging him without his knowledge. But then again, we're back to the question of what's wrong with having monitors monitor the monitors. (After all, even the monitors need monitoring.)

Consequently, GIAA hired the team of Pacific Security Alarm and private investigator Greg Hall at a price tag that Torres says should not exceed $25,000 and should not take more than about two weeks to settle. Torres says the $25,000 that taxpayers will have to shell out will determine "where these wires are going to, who's listening to them, if they are indeed listening to them. If some of these cameras are still active or the listening devices because I'm not in the position to make that determination."


Kenya Roundup: With Press Freedom Under Seige, the Kenyan Government Hires an Ad Agency to Educate the Public about Corruption

A lot was happening yesterday with Kenya and the aftermath of the media raids, and I didn't really get a chance to get a look at what was up. So here goes:

The Independent, Saatchi hired to help Kenya's 'war on corruption'. Oh, what amazing timing. Oh my goodness you just can't make this stuff up.

The Kenyan government has hired the Saatchi and Saatchi advertising agency to handle its nationwide anti-corruption campaign.

President Mwai Kibaki launched the country's anti-corruption campaign in Nairobi last month. It began with the creation of a logo - an eye with a tiny Kenyan flag superimposed on the pupil - and a catchphrase which urges people to "see Kenya through proud eyes".

Saatchi says it envisions a campaign stretching over three years. The first phase aims to "change mindsets" and the second will show how corruption affects everybody. A third - as yet undefined phase - is expected to be "more positive" and will be launched sometime in 2008.

Saatchi's creative director, Samira Mathews, said one of the problems in Kenya was that people did not know how to identify corruption. "People have no idea that identity documents and birth certificates are freely available. They don't know their rights," she said.

Part of Saatchi's approach will be to try to mobilise people into acting against corruption. Cathrine Kinyany, a spokeswoman for Saatchi and Saatchi in Kenya, said: "We need to demonstrate the cost of corruption by saying these are the roads we could drive on, this is the building we could have, this is what our schools could look like. There must be a clear demonstration of the success of the campaign to keep people believing in the value of honesty."

However, the launch of the campaign comes at a time when the Kenyan government is embroiled in a series of corruption scandals.

From the Financial Times, World Bank anger over Kenya raid:

The World Bank's top official in Kenya said yesterday that a police raid on a leading media group was inexcusable, adding that the unprecedented media crackdown could affect relations between donors and the government.

Colin Bruce, the bank's country director, told the Financial Times the bank was waiting for an explanation for last Thursday's night raid on the Standard Group, which forced a tele-vision station off the air for more than 12 hours.

"I recognise there have been statements made about internal intelligence and matters of that sort, but frankly I cannot think of a scenario under which that kind of action as it turned out can be excused," Mr Bruce said. "It's very serious, and in fact we are awaiting an explanation . . . and it could in fact affect that relationship [with the donors]."

From African News Dimension: Central Bank Boss could face corruption charges

The Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission has completed investigations on Central Bank governor Andrew Mullei over corruption allegations and asked the Attorney-General to take action against him.

It means Dr Mullei could face court charges arising from allegations concerning his management, which had caused a major split between the Treasury and the Central Bank Board.

"We did receive some complaints, allegations, which we did investigate some time back," Mr Nicholas Simani, the spokesman of the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission (KACC) told reporters.

"We came up with specific recommendations, which we forwarded to the Attorney-General for appropriate action," he added but refused to divulge details of the recommendations.

Mr Mullei is at the centre of a series of allegations raised in an anonymous letter by staff, which were first raised in May last year. The Treasury, which sits on the bank board, took exception to the way the complaints, were handled by other directors and suggested there was a risk of a cover-up.

IOL: Angry Kenyans swarm through streets in hordes

Nairobi - Thousands of angry Kenyans, including prominent opposition politicians, paraded through Nairobi on Tuesday protesting last week's police heavy-handed raid on the country's second largest media group.

More than 2 000 people took part in the demonstration organised by opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), a coalition of parties opposed to President Mwai Kibaki, and poured scorn on last Thursday's raid, which saw a Standard Group's printing press damaged, thousands of newspapers burnt and its television station taken off the air for several hours.

"We are demonstrating in order to protect press freedom in Kenya. Press freedom in Kenya is under siege," former roads minister and ODM leader told the crowd that had gathered outside Kibaki's office.

And from Flickr, a photo of the March 2nd raid on the East African Standard taken by Fredrick Onyango:

The caption reads:

Standard newspaper employee run past copies of the newsprint bundles ready for distribution as he flee from the security personnel called the "Kanga Squad" which raided the printing plant and destroyed copies of newsprint that was to be circulated to the public the next day. The squad destroyed newsprint worth millions of shillings and switched of a television station owned by the standard media group.


Secure Computing: My Letter to Paxworld

This is part of a series on Secure Computing and SmartFilter.

I just sent the following letter to Anita Green, V.P. for Social Research at Paxworld, a socially responsible mutual fund with significant investments in Secure Computing (SCUR):

Dear Anita Green:

I am writing to express concern about one of the companies in the Paxworld Balanced Fund's portfolio, Secure Computing (SCUR). While I am not one of Paxworld's investors, I support the general philosophy of companies like yours. I am an investor in the New Alternatives Fund which emphasizes alternative energy.

I have several concerns about the SCUR. Chief among these is that it is my understanding that they are licensing their censorship software, SmartFilter, to the oppressive governments of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Tunisia.  It really ought to be illegal for them to export content restriction software to governments that restrict freedom of speech and freedom of the press. It isn't yet, but this practice should be strongly discouraged on human rights grounds.

Secondly, this same software has been licensed to the US Military and is in use controlling what military personnel and security contractors can read overseas. If all they were filtering out was hardcore porn, that would be one thing. But their filtering is much more expansive and includes, for example, the popular weblog BoingBoing which no reasonable person would consider smut. Also there seems to be a political bias to which sites are available for viewing and which are not. And the company seems to have a very aggressive idea of what constitutes pornography and nudity. I had a very unsatisfactory correspondence with Tomo Foote-Lennox of Secure Computing yesterday about what kinds of depictions of breastfeeding might make it through their filters, for example. Mr. Foote-Lennox seems to have a very sexualized concept of the mother infant relationship which bears some examination in light of the censorship power he exercises and his claims that he is protecting the interests of children.

I would like to encourage you to consider divesting Paxworld of their SCUR holdings.

Sincerely,

Kathryn Cramer

I suppose I should also have mentioned SCUR's unsubstantiated claims in their 2004 report about various domains hosting vast troves of porn but I didn't want to go on too long.

 


Secure Computing, Smart Filter, & the Female Breast

MbThis is part of a series on Secure Computing and SmartFilter. The image to the right is via the Got BreastMilk? Project.

Following the New York Times story Popular Web Site Falls Victim to a Content Filter, concerning Secure Computing's product SmartFilter blocking BoingBoing,  I wrote the following letter to Tomo Foote-Lennox, of Secure Computing, who is apparently the guy in charge of deciding what is smut and what isn't. He claims to be a defender of the interests of children:

In an e-mail message to Xeni Jardin, another of Boing Boing's chiefs, Tomo Foote-Lennox, a director of filtering data for Secure Computing, asked why the bloggers were starting a war. "We discussed several ways that you could organize your site so that I could protect the kids and you could distribute all the information you wanted," Mr. Foote-Lennox wrote.

One of the BoingBoing posts that Secure Computing used to justify classifying involved a shot showing a cat attempting to nurse on a woman's breast: Japanese TV show about cat that loves human milk. The image was very blurry and involved less actual nudity than your average shot of an Oscar-night dress. As a very experienced nursing mother, my hunch was that nursing, not an interspecies relationship, nor the expanse of cleavage, was at issue. So I wrote to Secure Computing's Censor-in-Chief to ask about this issue.

Nursing_1Regular readers of this blog are aware that I write with some frequency about breastfeeding issues, and may even be aware that when BBC Radio needed a Representative of American Womanhood to talk about nursing in public, they picked me. I have spent hundreds of hours nursing in public and have nursed on most major airlines and even nursed from the podium while doing public speaking. This is not a political stance, but rather a matter of pure practicality. The BBC pitted me against a man who said over and over that Public nudity is not socially acceptable, in the context of arguing that a nursing mother (Margaret Boyle-White) who refused to stop when confronted by UK police should have been arrested. I was followed on the program by Scottish MP Elaine Smith, who had introduced the bill recently passed at the time of the program making it an offense to stop mothers breastfeeding in public. (Preventing a woman from breastfeeding is already illegal in the State of New York.)

So I wrote the following letter to Foote-Lennox, to try to tease out whether what I suspected was true:

Dear Thom Foote-Lennox:

I am writing to express concern about your remarks concerning BoingBoing in the New York Times. As a long time BoingBoing reader, I am quite certain that it is by no stretch of the imagination a porn site. But I am also a nursing mother, so I am also concerned about what exactly causes you and your company to draw the conclusion the the nursing cat post was porn.

Nursing is not a sexual act. While there exist adults who sexualize children and the activities of children such as nursing, that is not what is going on in that image. The nursing cat seems to me simply a stand-in for a breast pump. Breast engorgement is a real phenomenon and dealing with it is a practical, not a sexual problem.

So what exactly about the nursing cat is sexual?

Sincerely,

Kathryn Cramer
Pleasantville, New York

He replied:

We never called it porn.  We have categories for pornography, but we rated this as nudity.  Some of our customers want to limit the viewing of nude pictures in their schools or offices.  We give them the ability to make that choice.

- Tomo

I wrote back:

So a site that, say, depicted public breast feeding would make your list as nudity?

Kathryn

He replied:

Look at our categories on our web site.  Medical diagrams (women nursing cats on television don't count) are rated as nudity if they are explicit, but also as health, educational or consumer information.  Many elementary schools choose to block all nudity, but high schools usually exempt health and education, meaning if it is health or education, you ignore any other category it may have.

- Tomo

I wrote back:

You are aware that in some countries where women are not even allowed to expose their faces in public, it is socially acceptable for women to bare their breasts to feed their infants, yes?

K

It strikes me when I read his replies that, first of all, my basic intuition is correct. It was exposing the human breast in the context of nursing that was perceived as sexual and inappropriate, not the surreal twist given it by Japanese TV.

Nursey_1When breastfeeding in public for those hundreds of hours (sometimes even in elementary schools [gasp!]; always with at least one child present), I utterly failed to to provide health, educational, and consumer information. Here's voice-over I forgot to give: You know, dear, using breastmillk as eye-drops works as well for clearing up pink-eye as commercial pharmaceuticals! And it works pretty well in clearing up ear infections when used as ear drops as well! I assumed you knew. You did know that, didn't you? Mothers: always remember to educate the public while nursing in public, lest your public nursing be taken as some kind if sexual act!

Secondly: here I am talking to the Internet Censor-in-Chief for the US Military and their overseas contractors and for three countries (Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar), and he has this oddly sexualized idea of breastfeeding. He's just this guy, and he's entitled to his personal quirks, but exactly how did this situation evolve to put him in charge of deciding what is sexual and what is not? What is porn and what is not? What he was giving me was distanced by being a description of how software works, but was really very close to the rantings of that strange little man the BBC pitted me against who just kept repeating "nudity is not socially acceptable."

Combining this with questions about the legitimacy of Secure Computing's claims to have found vast quantities of porn on some sites, I conclude that the awarding of these sweeping contracts to them was really quite premature, even if you accept the idea that the military and three whole countries need their Internet censored (which I don't). What exactly qualifies this guy to evaluate what is and is not nudity, porn, inappropriate, etc.? Did he have some special training? Even Justice Potter Stewart was reduced to trying to define porn by saying "I knowing when I see it." Secure Computing offers much more than a definition: multiple categories of inappropriate material, each with their own definition. So just where does this guy Tomo get off telling the world exactly the manner in which the female breast may and may not be displayed on the Internet?

What I think we have here is censorship practiced as a kind of fetishism: Secure Computing employees read the Internet with a dirty mind and then have their way with it based on what they read into what they see.


Firedump: 3C-QRF the Second

Post mirrored from Soj at Flogging the Simian via also Alex Harrowell at The Yorkshire Ranter, as part of Operation Firedump, for the purpose of taking Viktor "Merchant of Death" Bout's planes out of circulation:

Right, another go to get 3C-QRF seized...

Soj is going for the Romanian Ministry of Transport. Post mirrored..

This is the text in Romanian language. If you want to participate, copy this:

    Domnul Ministru Gheorghe Dobru,

    Va scriem pentru a va informa cu respect despre existenta aeronavei model BAC-111, cu numarul de inregistrare 3C-QRF, cu numarul de fabricatie 61, care in prezent este localizata pe aeroportul Baneasa in Bucuresti, Romania.

    Aceasta aeronava este utilizata de compania "Jetex Flight Support", care este inregistrata in Guineea Ecuatoriala, dar in principal isi realizeaza afacerile in Sharjah in Emiratele Arabe Unite.

    Aceasta aeronava cu numarul de inregistrare 3C-QRF apartine companiei "San Air General Trading". In data de 16 martie 2004, Comitetul Consiliului Securitatii Natiunilor Unite a pus in discutie o lista care contine nume a indivizilor si companiilor carora le este interzisa calatoria si desfasurarea afacerilor datorita implicarii lor in razboiul civil din Liberia.

    http://www.un.org/Docs/sc/committees/Liberia3/1521_list.htm

    Compania "San Air General Trading" se afla pe aceasta lista. Aeronava QC-3RF a fost de asemenea utilizata pentru a transporta arme catre Republica Democrata Congo in 2004, ceea ce reprezinta o violare a Hotararii Comitetului Consiliului Securitatii Natiunilor Unite.

    Desfasurand afaceri cu aceasta companie si aproband planurile sale privind operarea in Romania reprezinta o violare a Rezolutiei 1521 a Comitetului Consiliului Securitatii Natiunilor Unite.

    Cu respect va cerem luarea masurilor, de urgenta, necesare pentru interzicerea derularii afacerilor sau uzului personal pe aceasta aeronava. Aven informatii privind montarea unui alt motor pe aeronava, de asemenea, am dori confiscarea acestei aeronave de catre autoritati.

    Va multumim pentru timpul acordat si pentru luarea in considerare a cererii noastre.

    (your name and contact info)

It should be sent to this email: bpresa@mt.ro (Romanian Ministry of Transportation)
CC emails to Romanian press: marius.tuca@jurnalul.ro, razvan.ionescu@evz.ro, redactia@adevarulonline.ro, carol@cotidianul.ro, office@realitatea.tv, pr@protv.ro, stiri@antena3.ro

This is the English translation of the above letter. This is simply for non-Romanian speakers.

    Dear [Transportation] Minister Gheorghe Dobru,

    We write to respectfully inform you that there is a model BAC-111 aircraft, registration number 3C-QRF, serial number 61, which is currently located at the Baneasa Airport in Bucuresti, Romania.

    This airplane is being leased by the company "Jetex Flight Support", which is registered in Equatorial Guinea, but does business primarily in Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates.

    This airplane with registration number 3C-QRF belongs to San Air General Trading, Inc. On March 16, 2004, the United Nations Security Council Committee issued a list of individuals and companies prohibited from traveling and doing business because of their involvement in the civil war in Liberia.

    http://www.un.org/Docs/sc/committees/Liberia3/1521_list.htm

    The company San Air Trading, Inc. is on this list. This airplane QC-3RF was also used to fly in weapons to the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2004, also in violation of a United Nations Security Council Resolution.

    Doing business with this company and allowing their planes to operate in Romania is violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1521.

    We ask that you immediately issue a prohibition for any business or individual to use this airplane. We have information that a replacement motor is soon to be installed on this plane, therefore we ask that this airplane be immediately confiscated by the authorities.

    We thank you for your consideration in this matter,

    (your name, contact info)

Time to move, lads. We may not have much.


Anti-Intelligence: Secure Computing (SCUR)

Before I begin, I want to say that there needs to exist something like the US Munitions List for the various types content restriction software and that it should be illegal to export content restriction software and various DRM enforcement tools to countries that do not respect freedom of speech and freedom of the press. There really ought to be a law --

This blog post started out as a remark on a headline from American Chronicle: New Anti-Intelligence Leak Initiatives Adopted by Gov't. The headline pertains to leaks involving the CIA. But before the ink was even dry on the post, I found a really fine example of what one might mean by "Anti-Intelligence."

If there is such a thing as anti-intelligence, it must certainly figure into the business model of the company Secure Computing, which is making money selling censorware to oppressive governments. (That'll teach the world to sing!)

Mark Frauenfelder writes:

It helps corrupt dictators oppress their people. In defiance of the US government's stated goal of promoting democracy around the world, Secure Computing has the gall to license its filtering products to totalitarian governments, such as the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. These countries, which have government-run ISPs, pass all their citizens' web requests through centralized filters. Can you imagine having a business model that includes selling tools of oppression to tyrants?

Their product description for SmartFilter, currently blocking BoingBoing and possibly also Google's translation tools, begins:

Protect your organization from the risks associated with employee Internet use with SmartFilter® Web filtering. By controlling inappropriate Internet use with SmartFilter, organizations can reduce legal liability, enhance Web security, increase productivity, and preserve bandwidth for business-related activities. SmartFilter puts you in control.

But given whom they are selling to and the purpose it's being put to, it might as well read:

Protect your country from the risks associated with citizen Internet use with SmartFilter® Web filtering. SmartFilter puts you in control.

Why wait for the Dystopian Future when you can have it right now?

Secure Computing’s executives are John McNulty, President, Chairman and CEO; Tim Steinkopf; Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer; Vincent M. Schiavo, Senior Vice President, Worldwide Sales; Mike Gallagher, Senior Vice President, Product Development; Mary K. Budge, Senior Vice President, Secretary and General Counsel, Paul Henry, Vice President, Strategic Accounts, and Scott Montgomery, Vice President, Product Management. T. Paul Thomas has resigned after a "brief stint" as senior vice president, marketing and corporate strategy in early March.

Looks to me like the one possibly responsible for the worrisome international deals is probably Vincent M. Schiavo, Senior Vice President, Worldwide Sales.

Speaker_schiavoPrior to joining Secure Computing, Vince Schiavo was president at PolyServe, Inc., an enterprise software development firm, where he guided the company from concept to international presence with multimillion-dollar annual software revenues. With 21 years in the computer industry, Mr. Schiavo has a proven track record in OEM sales, distribution channels, direct sales, business development, marketing and team leadership. He served as Vice President, Worldwide Sales at Sonic Solutions, Inc. and has also held sales and marketing positions with Radius, Inc., Apple Computer, Inc. and Data General Corporation. Mr. Schiavo has a B.S. in Computer Science from the University of Maryland.

Secure Computing is a publicly held company with ticker symbol SCUR. This is a chart of how their stock as done over the past year:

Mailscreensnapz001

This Press Release came out from the company over Business Wire this morning:

Secure Computing's SmartFilter and Webwasher Products Help Customers Manage Internet Usage Policies While Preserving Bandwidth

SAN JOSE, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--March 6, 2006--Secure Computing Corporation (NASDAQ:SCUR - News), the experts in securing connections between people, applications and networks(TM) today announced that its SmartFilter® and Webwasher® Secure Content Management suite can help companies manage important bandwidth and maintain employee productivity during high profile events such as college basketball's signature event, the 2006 NCAA Basketball Tournament, which is also known as March Madness(TM).

I imagine it also helps whole countries preserve bandwidth during public beheadings or while  filling mass graves, yes? I think I need a new category: Corporate Navel-Gazing.

Here are their major shareholders. Perhaps some could be pursuaded to divest themselves of SCUR on moral grounds.

Safariscreensnapz001

To date, Secure Computing's press coverage seems to have been dominated almost entirely by their press releases. There seems to be almost no discussion of the company or the nature of its products on the financial discussion boards. Perhaps that needs to change.

Also, their execs do make public appearances from time to time. Someone might want to go see Paul Henry, VP of Strategic Accounts, and ask what is strategic about selling censorware to tyrants. Here are a few of his speaking engangements:

Finally, if any of the Secure Computing execs are reading this, I suggest they read about the recent media shutdown in Kenya, for example, before they license their products to any more oppressive governments. This isn't about whether the US rock'n'roll lifestyle can be exported, or whether  corporate employees or people in the milotary get to see nipples at work. This is about very basic freedoms: Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press. Thou shalt not export censorware to tyrants.

UPDATE: It appears that one of SCUR's major stockholders, Paxworld Balanced Fund, is a socially responsible mutual fund. We should all politely request that they request themselves of SCUR.

(See also Websites blocked by political stripes for Marines in Iraq? on BoingBoing.)


Department of Justice Investigating Price Fixing in the Online Music Market: "The antitrust division is looking at the possibility of anti-competitive practices in the music download industry."

Recently I have been writing about legislation involving proposals for "Digital Rights Management" designed to protect Hollywood and the music industry. Well, while these corporations have been busy weeping about the violations of their digital "rights" and trying to overhaul the Internet and the consumer electronics industries to make the whole world take care of them and their revenue streams -- and they're only just getting started -- they are already being investigated for price fixing.  (Again, I think I know who the real pirates are.)

From the Independent: US launches price-fixing probe into online music market

Music companies including EMI, the company behind Coldplay, are under investigation for alleged price fixing in the surging online market.

In the latest blow to the troubled music industry, officials from the US Justice Department are poised to issue subpoenas to leading players as they open an inquiry into the issue.

Although the investigators were tight-lipped yesterday, it is understood that the UK's EMI, along with Germany's Bertelsmann, Warner Music of the US and Japan's Sony are central to the inquiry.

The US Justice Department, which usually works in conjunction with the FBI, said yesterday: "The antitrust division is looking at the possibility of anti-competitive practices in the music download industry."

At the heart of the investigation is the suggestion that the four major labels have been placing pressure on Apple, the computer company that has taken a strong hold of the download market, to increase prices.

Let's all shed a few crocodile tears for the poor beleaguered music industry!


Shadow Company Advance Screenings to be Held in Austin
March 12th, 14th, & 18th

Purpose Films has a rather good documentary on the private military industry, Shadow Company, coming out soon. There will be screenings at the South by SouthWest Festival in Austin. I highly recommend it. (I saw a draft version.) You can see a trailer via their website.  Also, do read Matt Armstrong's favorable review HERE.

2:00 PM, Sunday March 12th - Austin Convention Center
11:15 AM, Tuesday March 14th - Austin Convention Center
7:15 PM, Saturday March 18th - Alamo S. Lamar 1

Previewscreensnapz001

Previewscreensnapz002_1


Haiti: Rene Preval's Inaugeration to Be Delayed

From the BBC:

Haiti's electoral council says the second round of parliamentary elections will be delayed.

Council head Rosemond Pradel said it was impossible to keep to the 19 March date because complaints from the first round were still being dealt with.

This means that in the absence of a parliament, the inauguration of President-elect Rene Preval, set for 29 March, must also be delayed.

(see also my Haiti archive.)


Guam: "If Rick Blas doesn't know that something's going on at his agency, something's wrong."

More on Guam and the spying equipment found in the customs area of the airport there:

KUAM: Former TSA chief calls for federal investigation of Rick Blas

Local customs and quarantine director Rick Blas called on the assistance of his federal counterpart to assist in the investigation of about surveillance equipment found hidden in various security sensitive areas at the Guam International Airport Authority, as numerous wireless cameras and listening devices were found during a sweep of the Customs screening and airport offices yesterday.

While officials still have no concrete answers on who installed the devices or where they are transmitting to, there's a new twist in the investigation as the former Transportation Security Administration director has called for a federal inquiry into Blas.

While Blas is trying to determine the identity of Big Brother - identifying precisely who installed surveillance cameras and listening devices throughout the customs screening area - former TSA federal security director Adolph Sgambelluri is requesting a federal investigation into the cameras and Blas. Sgambelluri declined to do an interview today but tells KUAM, "If Rick Blas doesn't know that something's going on at his agency, something's wrong."

The former TSA official says several years ago he became aware of an investigation alleging Customs officers were interrogating passengers coming off flights from the Philippines. Sgambelluri claims the interrogations were done without probable cause. He maintains the feds and TSS had nothing to do with the installation of surveillance equipment at the airport.

KUAM News asked whom he believes installed the cameras - Sgambelluri maintains it was Blas himself.  . . .

In the meantime, unnamed sources from the Airport tell KUAM News that after September 11, 2001, the Federal Aviation Administration mandated the agency install more security cameras around the facility. At the FAA's instruction, the Airport installed numerous cameras within its facilities, but sources could not say where those cameras were installed.

Wouldn't it be fun if those cameras turned out to have something to do with Jack Abramoff's big checks he was throwing around in Guam? What a made-for-TV movie that would make!

See Pacific News Daily last week: Lawyer explains lobbyist checks

A California attorney, whose office received more than $400,000 in payments from the Superior Court of Guam for now disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, said he was told that most of the payments needed to be in $9,000 checks to comply with local court procurement rules.

UPDATE 3/6: KUAM News this morning reports that a "federal aviation security grant allowed for the enhancement of security measures" at the airports, but they still haven't established that whatever was up with the security cameras etc in customs was legit.


Unauthorized Surveillance Cameras in Guam Airport: Who Was Watching The Customs Channel?

GuamThere's a suggestive news story just out of Guam from Pacific News Daily: FBI takes airport spy devices

FBI agents have taken custody of mini-surveillance cameras and listening devices found Thursday at the island's airport as part of a joint investigation with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Several listening devices and at least three small cameras were found after the Guam Department of Customs and Quarantine received a tip from U.S. Customs, said Guam Customs Director Rick Blas. The devices were concealed in the area where customs agents check arriving passengers and their bags.

At least two of the cameras were "live," or in operation, when they were discovered, Blas said, adding that local officials do not yet know where the camera signals were going. . . .

Guam Customs Director Rick Blas yesterday said he believes the equipment was installed during the term of former airport Executive Manager Gerald Yingling. Blas, who was customs chief at the time Yingling ran the airport, said he recalled people working in the same areas where the devices were found Thursday.

Yingling yesterday said there were cameras installed at the airport during his tenure after the 9-11 terror attacks. At the time, he said, the Federal Aviation Authority told the airport to "beef up security at the airport" and the airport had several cameras installed around the facility.

Yingling yesterday said he did not know if the devices found on Thursday were the same ones. Yingling said he didn't know the make of the cameras that were installed. He also did not know who installed them and where they were placed at the airport.

Current airport Executive Manager Jess Torres has said that old work orders on file at the airport will be examined to determine who authorized and paid for the placement of the cameras and listening devices. Torres said the devices discovered Thursday were not authorized under his watch.

So. What's up with this? Who would want to monitor what was happening in US Customs inspections in Guam? Probably the private sector, I would guess. And probably someone with goods passing through customs. Smugglers? Or?

Guam_apt_ext_nightBut OK, say smugglers want to do this. How do they gain access to secure areas in the first place to plant the surveillance equipment? Hmm.

See also KUAM News: Surveillance equipment discovered at Customs office

For the last year, the Guam Customs and Quarantine Agency has heard rumors about being under surveillance. Officials say it was merely speculation, that is until today when a thorough sweep was made in the customs airport offices and screening area.

Customs and their federal counterpart found numerous surveillance items, including cameras and listening devices, in places they thought were secure. Now officials are concerned that they may have violated the civil rights of thousands of passengers and their employees.

Looking at a small, pin-sized, non-intimidating object, you probably wouldn't think too much of what it contains. To a layperson, it merely looks like a small panel for some electrical wires, but the small pinhole in the center is actually a camera. This is just one of many found during a sweep of the Customs' airport offices this morning. Director Rick Blas says he was shocked with the findings, wondering who would go to such great lengths to keep an eye on his agency. "You would think that we would be safe in our homes, but as we found out this morning that is not the case," he said.

Apparently for an undetermined amount of time, Big Brother has been watching Customs officers conducting daily business at the Guam International Airport, from screening passengers, entering and exiting their offices, to cameras inside the break room and surrounding each secondary search area. During this morning's sweep officials found numerous items that looked like switches in the screening area at the Airport, but Blas confirms they weren't switches at all; in fact, they were listening devices.

Poking around for images, I found this lovely historical postcard of Vice President Spiro Agnew's arrival at the Guam Airport.

2_photos_vice_president_agnew_arriving_g

The airport is having a logo design contest (deadline tomorrow). Maybe one should do a design that involves bugs. Something sort of retro, maybe early-Nixionian. They had bugs back then, too, didn't they?

(See also my follow-up post.)


Kenya: The Standard Is Back Online

The East African Standard, a paper attacked during yesterday's media shutdown in Kenya, is back online and back in business. They have an impressive video of the masked men who attacked CCTV in Kenya taken by security camera, which is available for viewing. I'm going to try to arrange to mirror it so we don't suck up all their bandwith; it is well worth watching.

Help_viewerscreensnapz001


Media Shutdown in Kenya

See Mentalacrobatics for excellent coverage of the media shutdown.

I went to look at a news story on the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation site a moment ago, and on the page there was this ominous message, which I take to be a form of SOS:

BREAKING NEWS:  Kenya Television Network, KTN is off-air and Standard newspapers off streets after people said to be security agents conducted an overnight operation shutting down their facilities. Information Minister denies prior knowledge of the raid. KBCNewsAlert…

Kbcwithfire

They also have a story on the raid on a newspaper printing plant there:

Raid on media House condemned
The Standard Group Chief Executive Tom Mshindi has condemned the invasion on the Group’s printing plant and offices, saying it was an unwarranted affront on Media freedom.

Journalism.co.za seems to have the most detailed account:

Close to 100 masked men, some armed with AK-47 assault rifles, raided the offices and printing press of Kenya's Standard Group, stopping the operations of its television station and newspaper, writes Eric Nyakagwa.

The masked men staged simultaneous raids on the editorial offices of Kenya Television Network (KTN) and the group’s printing press in a Nairobi industrial area, where they vandalized machines and carried away some machinery crucial for production.
At both premises, the raiders, who struck shortly after midnight on Wednesday night, roughed up security officers who were on duty and managed to access the group’s headquarters after one of the men in the group identified themselves as a police officer and demanded entry.

The security men were all herded into a corner as the attackers demanded access to the editorial floors and the KTN transmission room where they took away a computer, some power units and interfered with cables, effectively disabling transmission.

At the printing press, they vandalised equipment and burned most of the Thursday papers, which were either rolling off the press or were being packaged fordistribution.

See also

  • African News Dimension: Kenya : Police raid, shut down KTN and burn Standard newspaper
  • Reuters: KENYA: Leading media house shut down by armed men

    The men, who stormed the media house at 1.00 a.m. local time [10.00 GMT], took away computers and transmission equipment, damaged the presses and set fire to Thursday's editions of the country's oldest newspaper. "We have very strong evidence to suggest that these acts were carried out by the police," Mshindi said.

  • The BBC: 'Police' raids close Kenya paper

    Staff say they were beaten and forced to lie on the floor

  • AP: Gunmen shut down Kenyan paper, TV station
  • The closure came after three journalists were detained without charge for a story Saturday that alleged Kibaki met secretly with a key opponent. Kibaki and former environment minister-turned Kibaki foe, Kalonzo Musyoka, have denied the meeting took place.

    Mutua said police on Tuesday summoned The Saturday Standard Managing Editor Chacha Mwita, News Editor Dennis Onyango and journalist Ayub Savula and questioned them.

    The journalists remain in police custody, and authorities have yet to comment about the detentions. Mshindi has said no charges have been filed.

Alex at Yorkshire Ranter provides more details and Kenyan diplomatic contact info world wide. See also Xeni at BoingBoing.

CnnkenyaUPDATE: The kenyan government now admits to the raid. From CNN:

The police spokesman said journalists at the Standard had been paid to write a series of fabricated articles about the government, and that police were acting on intelligence information about "an intended act" that would threaten national security.

I've been trying to parse the politics of all this on the fly. There is an interesting Flickr photostream, also featured on BoingBoing, concerning governmental hostility to journalists in Kenya. In it figures Health minister Charity Ngilu. 105418887_67db38b9cb_mThe photo to the right is captioned:

Health Minister Charity Ngilu found herself in a tight spot when journalists blocked her way. They wanted to know which side she was supporting during the referendum elections in Kenya held in November last year. She voted 'Yes' but the government lost their quest for a new constituion by more than a three million voters who said 'No' against the government two.

There are some recent articles in which she is featured. One I found intrguing was this one from the Standard: Ngilu says all parties in Narc must be consulted

The National Rainbow Coalition (Narc) chairperson, Charity Ngilu, wants constituent parties to be consulted before party recruitment and elections are held.

The Health minister, who dismissed reports that her colleagues were forming another party, said none of the partners in Narc should be ignored.

"First, we must sit down and agree on modalities before anyone calls for member recruitment or elections," she said.

A local dairy reported yesterday that President Kibaki’s allies were split on whether to form another party, Narc-Kenya, or hold elections for the ruling coalition.

Ngilu said despite the woes afflicting the coalition, those still supporting it must agree on whether to hold elections or not.

Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has abandoned the coalition to join the Official Opposition party, Kanu, to form the Orange Democratic Movement. The two coalitions are fielding candidates in the Kasipul-Kabondo by-election scheduled for today.

Livestock minister Joseph Munyao has backed the move to form another party.

Munyao, who is the Democratic Party secretary-general, said they were trying to find ways of "working round" the issue.

"We are burning midnight oil to come up with a solid body for next year’s General Election. If we decide that it will be the same coalition then it will be," he said.

Burning the midnight oil? Looks to me like someone's been burning the midnight newspaper. There's also this story: Ngilu, Central MPs headed for NARC showdown

I have a few correspondents in that neck of the woods and am trying to get a sense of what to make of all this. I'll let you know what I find out.

It is now March 3rd there, and the new front page is up on the KBC site:

Police admit raid on media

GREAT BLOG COVERAGE of the media shutdown from Mentalacrobatics in Kenya. I'm just starting to read it.

There is a letter being crossposted on the blogs of Kenya which reads:

Press Freedom: Letter to Kibaki
Dear President Kibaki:

On March 2, 2006 government forces raided the headquarters and printing plant of the Standard Group. In addition to destroying equipment and newspapers, they shut down the KTN news station.

This latest attack follows the jailing of three journalists from Standard Newspaper, attacks on Citizen Weekly, and ongoing harassment of journalists by government-sponsored forces.

I urge you to condemn these attacks and to support freedom of the press.

**Please copy and paste a copy of this letter on your blog. You may alter the wording to suit your needs.

The rest of us outside Kenya should also urge President Kibaki to condem the attacks and support freedom of the press.

Mentalacrobatics has a number of really fine posts on the situation. I'm going to mirror two of them to get them to the larger audience they deserve:

Raid on EA Standard

The raid was a matter of State Security. When you rattle a snake you must be prepared to be bitten by it.
National Security minister, John Michuki

I had written this long post on the illegal raid on the EA Standard this morning when this quote by Michuki a man so detached from reality he should be not be holding any position of power, lit up my screen. The man has lost it completely. He needs to go now.

OK let’s just make this official, our government has totally lost it. An elite police force, set up to fight armed robbery, carjacking, outlawed sects, illegal paramilitary militias is used to shut down a media house? Madness.

A quick read of the story has identified two areas of concern for me:

  1. The raid was led by Mr James Njiru, assistant police commissioner in charge of operations at the provincial police headquarters. Njiru’s boss the Nairobi Provincial Police Chief Mwangi King’ori, claims that he did NOT know that the raid was taking place. Even more shocking, The head of the Police, the number one guy, Police Commissioner Major General Hussein Ali has expressed shock at the raid on the Standard offices. Ali, who called the ‘Standard’ newsroom from Seychelles where he is on official duty, said he was unaware of the raid and said he would be issuing a statement later after getting the full report from his officers in Nairobi. It looks like the raid was timed to coincide with Ali being out of the country.
  2. The raid was aimed at a media house, yet the Information Minister Mutahi Kagwe claims he did NOT know the raid was taking place.

Who ordered the raid? Who knew about the raid? Why wasn’t the police chain of command observed and informed? Or rather, who is powerful enough to ignore the police chain of command? All roads lead to State House as Michuki proudly boasts.

This has got to be the most stupid thing that the government could do. It is so stupid you start to look for a hidden story. There must be something else going on … but no it was just a stupid move.

What have they achieved? The EA Standard will still come out, this type of action seems to galvanise not intimidate Kenyan journalists, and with the power of the internet the whole world is talking about this story. Search for Kenya Police Raid on Google news and you will find that CNN, BBC, San Jose Mercury News - USA, Reuters, Xinhua - China, Financial Times - UK, Washington Post, Mail & Guardian Online - South Africa, United Press International, Pravda - Russia, African News Dimension, CPJ Press Freedom Online, ABC News, Los Angeles Times, Deutsche Welle, Al Jazeera, Hindustan Times, India all carry the story and those are only from page 1 of around 4 (and counting) pages on the story. 

What the hell is Alfred Mutua going to bang on about at his next press conference? How will he be able to look at his former colleagues in the eye?
Pictures from the BBC

    1 comment    March 2nd, 2006            

Press harrasement Kibaki style

Two Standard editors and a reporter were yesterday questioned and detained by police for hours  over a story, which claimed that Kalonzo Musyoka had met Kibaki at State House two weeks ago, published last Saturday … Afterwards, the three said they were not questioned but were asked to record what they knew about the story and disclose their source … they were then told to wait for instructions “from above” on the way forward.

This is ridiculous. The one thing that drives me mad about Kenya is the stupid, “orders from above” nonsense. Here we have professionals doing their job and they get harassed by police for no reason other than, “orders from above”. If anyone feels that the journalists have broken the law then let him follow due process and take them to court.  Kenya Democracy Project asks, “… how insecure can a regime be that they move in with a sledge hammer to stifle a story- especially if it is allegedly “not true”.”

Do not forget that this comes hot on the heels of last week’s move to muzzle the press when thirteen employees of the Weekly Citizen were arrested as dozens of police officers swooped on vendors and confiscated copies of the newspaper. The 43 newspaper vendors who were also arrested for selling the newspapers were behind bars for 3 days and then released without being charged. Kumekucha observers, “Reading between the lines, the whole objective was just to intimidate the poor newspaper vendors so that they’ll be frightened to sell the next issue of the Weekly Citizen.” I agree with him. All this at a time when the government spokesman is busy spending tax payers money on adverts about “Democratic Space” that President Kibaki has so kindly given us.

Kalonzo Musyoka should stand up and voice his disapproval with these latest arrests. That would be true leadership.

    7 comments    March 1st, 2006            

There is a webring of 159 Kenyan blogs. (The members of the Kenyan Blogs Webring are spread all over the world.) Links to them can be found here. Some of them are covering the media shut down. (As is usual with a bunch of blogs, many have not been upated in a while.) Poking around the in-Kenya discussions is interesting, in that there is a certain contingent saying stuff like I know where the government is coming from. I'm sorry, but that response smacks strongly of Stockholm Syndrome. There can be NO EXCUSE for the Kenyan government to behave this way.

UPDATE: From the Thinker's Room, blogging from Kenya:

Well! Whenever I say Mwai Kibaki is the type of man who never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity, he grits his teeth in determination and exemplifies the notion. And then when I say that no matter how low the bar is set, the Kibaki Government will find a way to slither under.

For me, this photo by Fredrick Onyango just says it all:

99275129_5198d9b305

The caption reads:

Journalist take to task former internal security minister Dr. Chris Murungaru over the Anglo leasing scandal that has fleeced the country billions of Kenyan shillings. The minister is said to have sanctioned the purchase of Military and naval ships during his tenure as a minister.With the vibrant and libralisation of the media in Kenya, most of the government official are being put on the spot on how they are spending the taxpayers money.

I just love the expressions on the faces of the members of the press in this photo and others in the photostream.

UPDATE: Mentalacrobatics has security camera pix from the raid on CCTV which I have taken the liberty of uploading to Flickr so that they may achieve broader distribution:

Securitycampix

Mentalacrobatics comments on the pix:

Here are some stills taken during the raid from internal CCTV cameras. The raid were carried out by a rapid response unit code-named the Kanga Squad, detectives from Nairobi provincial CID headquarters and officers from the General Service Unit. They are wearing bright orange reflective vests with “QRU” for Quick Rescue Unit/Quick Response Unit which indicates their day job of fight hardcore criminals like carjackers, bank robbers and murder hit squads.

These pictures are very disturbing. In some of them they have an employee spread eagled on the floor with a gun pressed against his/her head and a boot in his/her face. Remember these are NOT criminals being man handled like this. These are Kenyan men and women who went to work only to be pistol whipped and roughed up by an elite police squad.

Here are some very-much-to-the-point comments from au lait in Kenya:

So, surprise, surprise. 'Our' dear government has once again proven that it is hellbent on its peculiar course of self-destruction. As one person said today, this government is surely "suicidal".

Enyewe seriously, what were they thinking?

That's the first thing that came to mind when I woke up today to the news that KTN and Standard offices had been invaded commando style by guys in masks and the police.

It really comes doesn't come as news that our government is not made up of the sharpest tools, BUT did the person who ordered this attack even stop to think? At all?

Who told those guys to attack after midnight? Is that the only time that those who sit in State House can find their way to I&M or Nation Centre (invoking precedent here). And then some bright guy, decided they should wear ski masks. I wonder if they bought them from the same store Al-Qai'dah frequents.

I've come across people defending the government's action but really? I mean really people really? Those guys were thugs!!!! Common thugs. Why the dramatic ski masks if this was all a clean exercise to rein in an out-of-control media house?