INFORMATION CENTRE AND ANALYSIS OF CHIAPAS (CIACH)

The magazine Palabra Created in the mid-eighties in the South East of Mexico, CIACH publishes a monthly magazine La Palabra broadcast in the indigenous rural communities, it organizes discussions in communities and also disseminates information on the Net. Ostensibly, even if no contact directly with the Zapatista rebellion, the CIACH supports its claims and participates in the process of asserting political, cultural and social Indians. He maintains regular contact and association with the”Enlace Civil”, prozapatiste pressure group that gathers information from the native villages, about violations of human rights because of the federal army or paramilitary groups. A commitment to it being now a target of the authorities in the tense situation in Chiapas.

  • The role of CIACH
  • Indian rights
  • Resumen Informativo
  • Palabra the Internet
  • With civil society
  • Funding and perspectives
  • Contact

The role of CIACH

Located almost at the end of the long narrow street Flavio Paniagua as far back from the main avenue that connects the Parque Central in San Cristobal de Las Casas in his local market of India, the current offices of CIACH are both close and back to the center of the city… Close enough not to feel too far away from the heart of the colonial city around key locations that ensures the future of the region, far enough away as to enjoy a certain peace of mind essential to the work.

In What made ​​these offices the monthly La Palabra (speech), distributed in thirty municipalities of the State of Chiapas in the central region of Altos around the colonial city and tourist center of San Cristobal de Las Casas, in La Selva and valleys where now lives a large part of the Mayan Indian population, and the north of the state.”In recent years, information has become a strategic area for the government and the army, says Elizabeth Polito Barrios, head of CIACH. More than ever, they intend to control it. As long as in the source distribution. They have their own version of the current state and they impose by whatever means. This ensures the”loyalty” of the major media – newspapers, radio and television – but also, and even worse, by intimidating the independent media that do not comply.” In short, the Centre has an independent certainly not the favor of the authorities, like many other actors of civil society Chiapas. The CIACH is defined as”a media open to the outside and serving the people and Indian and peasant organizations in the region”. It’s objectives? Informed of what’s really going on in Chiapas, “bringing in communities and grassroots elements that help in the analysis of reality” and “help raise people’s participation in making decisions that concern”. The government has the will to suppress the attempts to change data in the region. In particular, when they come from the Indian communities themselves. All independent organizations that want to give voice to the excluded are viewed by the government as obstacles to be swept or accused of all evils. Evidenced by the smear campaigns that the organizations most claims have been victims in the media when it is not harassment or even open repression…

Modestly but continuously, with ups and downs, the work of CIACH is therefore to cope. To participate, against all odds and from his work on information, self-organization of rural Indian communities and the articulation of popular movements independent. Meetings for analysis and discussion are organized in villages or with representatives of farmers’ organizations, or Indian human rights. From the themes developed in La Palabra – land distribution, marketing of coffee, elections, etc.. – And experience that each organization or individual can have, participants try to understand their social, political and economic and increase their ability to act on it.

Indian rights

The situation is not rosy every day for the campesinos (peasants) in Chiapas, especially for Mayan Indians, the majority in this part of the state where the work CIACH. Majority but obviously forgotten in the distribution of wealth in the region. And, for more than five hundred years! Very rich in natural resources (wood, oil, water, livestock, tourism…), the Chiapas only benefits a minority of Chiapas braced on their privileges. Today, however, following the Zapatista uprising of 1994 and despite the impasse in the peace process and the deterioration of the situation that tends to prevail, most of the Indians of this region of Mexico continue to brag their “Ya basta!” (that’s enough!).”Earth, education, food, health, shelter, freedom, democracy, justice… that’s what we were refused, that is what we demand.”

In 1985, when the center was established, its leaders had first intended to coordinate efforts in the field of information from many sectors of society in turmoil. Teachers, peasant movements, indigenous associations, students… each group at the time realized its own newsletter. All with the same goal: to circulate among the members an alternative to the official version information and prevent almost systematic repression suffered by independent organizations. These bulletins were still by force of circumstances sectoral and geographically limited. Students from San Cristobal had their own magazine and were the main players, the peasants of the northeast of the state not only by them spoke to the press releases sent, etc.. The CIACH was then formed with the idea to provide each organization a common space of expression and information, where one could find information on all the players and where the links between them would be favored…

The first steps were laborious. Without a lot of ways, the few volunteers began to buy, read, codify and classify systematically all the newspapers and news magazines sold in Chiapas. Besides the specific contribution of each of the independent organizations in the region, information was gathered and made available to all popular sectors of Chiapas, organized outside government institutions.

Resumen Informativo

Soon, however, was felt the need to publish this information in order to increase accessibility. Thus was born the first publication of CIACH the”Resumen Informativo” (Summary Information), a monthly manageable than fifty pages printed in a thousand copies, sold or distributed within a large network of grassroots organizations more or less Consolidated: peasant and indigenous organizations, such as the Central Independiente de Campesinos y Obreros Agricolas (CIOAC), the Union of Unions”are Pajala Kactic”, the Committee Defensa de la Libertad Indigena (CDLI), the Consejo of indigenous representatives in Los Altos de Chiapas (CRIACH )…, teacher union (Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación…), sector workers of hydroelectric power, student associations, promoters or” Pastoral” of the Catholic Church in the diocese of Bishop Samuel Ruiz, development NGOs or human rights organizations, research centers, etc..

The edition of Resumen Informativo was divided into eight parts, each them with a descriptive summary of the facts of the past month in one of eight areas of social life in Chiapas. The current agricultural union, urban, educational, political, economic and religious there was treated in detail in conjunction with events related to the Mexican border with Central America and the lives of Guatemalan refugees in Chiapas. The opportunity therefore for managers or members of many grassroots organizations to learn from information previously inaccessible due to cost, distance and lack of independence of the mainstream media…

Each new issue of Resumen Informativo was also an opportunity for readers to”take stock of the ins and outs of the news of the region and establish links between different issues”. And it is precisely to emphasize this aspect of his work, along with business writing and editing, CIACH organized from the beginning, periodic workshops and decentralized to”regional scan” for all the popular actors of social life in Chiapas. Workshops, to ensure the”memory”, also came out on a new quarterly publication:”The Review of Regional Workshops trends”.

In the early nineties, against a backdrop of economic crisis and a reflux movement social area facing repression, CIACH experienced a slump of three to four years and went to cease operations of writing and editing. Only continued to be provided by a team employee, but now reduced to a minimum, the job classification of information and maintaining the center.

Palabra the Internet

Today, CIACH found a high level of activity. The interest aroused by the news of Chiapas and the future of the Zapatista rebellion abroad brought him new ways. And, more than ever, information literacy is one of the central issues of the imbroglio Chiapas, both in rural than in urban India and the rest of Mexico. The monthly Resumen Informativo the eighties has been replaced by La Palabra, shorter, more illustrated than its predecessor and still pulled a few thousand copies. Next to this periodical, the CIACH publishes from time to time, on its own initiative or on a proposal from the outside, various documents: a detailed chronology of the conflict in 1998, full text of the agreements on indigenous rights signed by the government and the Zapatista rebellion in 1996, assessing the impact of Chiapas in the Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), selection of news of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), etc..

Since 1996, the daily information, and analysis of cross CIACH is only intended only to residents of Chiapas. It is now the turn of Mexico or the world via the Internet.”It is also a way for us to qualify the idyllic image of the country that the government intends to promote outside our borders, confirms Elizabeth Polito Barrios. Many groups in Mexico and elsewhere are demanding of our synthesis and use it to weigh on some international decisions that affect the field. They also denounce their government to human rights violations which are daily victims in favor of the Indians Zapatista rebellion: intimidation, imprisonment, militarization, repression… These actions are very important to us.” They are about two thousand correspondents to receive direct or indirect in the world of synthesis CIACH – daily or weekly – via e-mail. In early 1999, a web page was opened on the Internet and allows permanent access to the information collected.

With civil society

The current activities of CIACH and its links with civil society in Chiapas vary the rhythm of the news. From early 1994, when the Zapatista Indian uprising in late 1996, when the suspension of negotiations between insurgents and authorities, the CIACH was an active member of the Coordination of civil associations in Chiapas for Peace (CONPAZ). Essentially representative of an urban population tends to favor the Chiapas indigenous rebellion and order to ensure a political solution to the conflict by peaceful means, the CONPAZ touched all areas dear to its members: humanitarian assistance to indigenous communities displaced by the conflict, community development projects in the rebel regions, organization of Indian women to voice their demands equality, etc…

Thanks to the means of international solidarity, important in the early years of the uprising, the CONPAZ also provides Much of the work of logistics related to different phases of the negotiation process between Zapatistas and government: accreditation of observers from civil society, protection of the delegation of the EZLN, oganisation of human chains (“cinturón los de la paz” ) as security cordons around the table of the negotiations…

Within the CONPAZ, staff CIACH specifically assumed responsibility for the work of information in pursuing its usual work of writing and editing, but also taking into support relations with the press. The CONPAZ but did not survive. Subject to internal wrangling over the distance to be against the leaders of the rebellion, a victim of its success, the news knocked and redoubled the curiosity of the authorities, the association, upon dissolution, gave way to to Other attempts at coordination point.

Today, CIACH regular contact with the association”Enlace Civil”, prozapatiste pressure group that gathers information from the native villages, about violations of human rights because of the federal army or paramilitary groups. On the occasion of the various elections in Chiapas (July 1997 parliamentary, municipal, October 1998), the CIACH also serves as a relay to the association”Alianza Civica”, specializing in the observation of elections and the reporting of irregularities within communities. Past two years, the staff of the Information Centre has also participated in the Commission’s efforts for community reconciliation (CORECO) which includes, besides the Centre, an organization of human rights, NGO development and Alianza Civica. The goal is to resolve conflicts within and between communities that divide the natives. Work is being done by the verbal confrontation between opposing parties and a flat common causes of social and political divisions.

Funding and perspectives

The problem of the functioning of CIACH remains crucial. The team needs resources to ensure its daily editorial (salaries, office rent…), purchase and maintenance of equipment, but also for printing the numbers La Palabra, dissemination and their discussion within organizations and independent villages of Chiapas.”At the moment, even if our international correspondents and local associations who can pay us in exchange for the palabra or information that we provide, our aim in the short term can not be profitability, says one member. If at the beginning, we have benefited from the logistical support of any local organization, today we depend almost exclusively on subsidies from foreign NGOs, Canada and Belgium… The urgency for us is the strength, peace in Chiapas, the improvement of living conditions of Indians and their participation in democracy building. Otherwise, we will see. I do not know of any independent media that have reached break even…”

Financially, it is clear that the CIACH directly benefits from the attention generated beyond the borders of Mexico by the news of Chiapas. But it could also be the victim. While in the past, there was no plethora of initiatives in the field of activity covered by the CIACH, the current conflict between the federal army and the Zapatista rebellion has attracted a lot of people in the south- is Mexican, many journalists and social workers… with their own projects in information. The result is confusion among the initiatives in the presence and, consequently, the potential weakening of CIACH. Its members know and are aware of the benefit that could draw the authorities. Fragile and financially dependent on the outside, the Centre has however decided to continue its choice: retain its independence vis-à-vis government authorities but also vis-à-vis the EZLN, and continue its”information work in favor of popular demands for Chiapas Mexico and a fairer, freer and more democratic.”

Bernard Duterme

Journalist and sociologist, he is currently responsible for relations with Mexico and Latin America within the NGO and Brotherhood Mutual. Author of”Indians and Zapatista. Myths and Realities of a rebellion on borrowed time” (1998).

Contact

CIACH – Centro de Informacion y Analisis de Chiapas, AC
Calle Comitan 6-B, El Barrio Cerrill
San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas – Mexico
Tel / fax (967) 813-64. ciach@laneta.apc.org

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Of course, any regime who wants to control their society hates the internet.  A dictator is pretty much powerless to control any social media site and how it’s citizens behave and express themselves.  However most dictators have pretty much accepted that the internet is in their eyes a necessary evil and have in some particular way accepted it.

There are probably only two authoritarian states which have had trouble even accepting the existence of the internet – Burma and Cuba – I would also include North Korea but they have a whole league to themselves.  Instead of following the slightly more relaxed method adopted by most regimes of filtering the content they don’t like – these two have just blocked access completely.  It’s of course a much more effective method, there are loads of problems with filtering the internet and lots of web sites which demonstrate how to bypass filters like this one  centered around anonymous surfing and changing your IP address - here.

If you restrict access completely you have much more control but it of course comes at a price .  The most evident one is that of economic development, the internet is a huge global market full of opportunities which Cuba is simply missing out on.  It seems that slowly Cuba is beginning to realize it’s mistake.
It is still incredibly hard and expensive to get access to the internet in Cuba.  You still need a permit, yes you read that right you need a permit to access the world wide web in Cuba.  It’s also rather expensive as you need to access through specific controlled points.

But it is now possible for an ordinary Cuban to sit down online and surf the web – something that most of us have taken for granted for many years.  It’s still slow as well and the Cuban Government have now adopted something similar to the Chinese model which in theory allows full access but in reality starts blocking and restricting access to sites and services they don’t like. But of course, the Cuban’s aren’t nearly as experienced in this digital censorship so it’s a trivial exercise to use proxies to bypass, you can even watch the BBC here on your PC – check this.

Recently the access to Skype was blocked, your average dictators never likes communication methods that work internationally and they can’t monitor so it was hardly a surprise.  It will be interesting to see if countries like Cuba who are so far behind in internet usage will go the full mile and start investing in better infrastructure as well.  At the moment it seems little more than a token gesture and don’t expect the new breed of internet entrepreneurs to come out of Havana just yet!

With Thanks to http://www.anonymous-proxies.org

It’s supposedly completely unrelated, but surely the Turkish Government can appreciate how it seems. A couple of days after blocking the social media site Twitter, for gossiping about corruption online. In much the same way that the majority of the Turkish people are chatting about anyway – now we see YouTube is in the firing line.

In a nonsensical statement, Erdogan pronounced that –

“I don’t understand how people of good sense could defend Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter. There are all kinds of lies there.”

It’s madness, almost as if the Turkish PM thinks that the content which is all created by hundreds of millions of people across the world, is actually generated by a specific entity. The ‘lies’ he speaks about are not coming from some corporate giant in America, they’re merely relayed using these sites. The words that he hates come from his own people, and what you hear on Twitter and YouTube you’ll find spoken in coffee shops, bars and shops across Turkey too.

However the whole, sorry episodes are made even more pathetic by the impotency in actually delivering any sort of control on these sites. Strong words from a leader are followed by a pathetic DNS hack to block access to Twitter, a 20 second google search will show you the fix, you can either go simple with swift change to another DNS server or perhaps something more sophisticated which shows you how to hide ip address. Which you decide is really personal preference, but the Turkish blocks are so hopeless I wouldn’t worry too much.

The talks are taking place about lifting the bans, but the simple reality is that they don;t really exist. During the time Twitter has been blocked over the last few days the level of Tweets from Turkey has barely moved. It has made the country a laughing stock, powerful misguided speeches backed up by technical ineptitude. Loads of people in Turkey have been tweeting pictures of the YouTube ban being implemented – which I hope you can recognize the irony.

Further information on bypassing stupid blocks available here.

It’s always a very reliable sign for a dodgy leader, regime or government – I refer to the inept blocking of social media sites like Twitter.   Turkey is continuing it’s very poor reputation by attempting to block the largely inoffensive site – Twitter.

Here’s a video report about the block and how you can bypass it.

Apparently I hear from my Turkish friends, that it is a hopeless attempt and trying to staunch the flow of corruption allegations regarding the Prime Minister – Erdogan. The ban seems to have failed in this extent, especially when the vice leader has found a way to bypass the block – a simple DNS change which can easily be sidestepped. The number of Tweets sent from within Turkey has stayed fairly level even despite the ban which is good news for free speech, but not so good for allegedly corrupt leaders keen on taking back handers.

We would hope that Erdogan would receive his reward at the ballot box, but leaders like this rarely rely on democracy for maintaining power.

Information on Methods of Bypassing Blocks can be found here.

 

It’s a dilemma for many despotic regimes, what do you do about your citizens posting videos of torture, oppression and corruption across the internet.  Iran has put in stage one of it’s plan some time ago, anywhere you can share or discuss issues freely then they are likely to ban them.  For instance without using some sort of proxy like these - http://www.theninjaproxy.org/ then you won’t be able to access Facebook, Twitter or Youtube in Iran for instance.  

Now Stage 2 has been put into operation and it’s called ’Mehr’ which is Farsi for ’affection’.   Although I suggest that if you upload a video questioning Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s last election win then you’ll probably receive very little affection in return.  Mehr is in fact an Iranian version of YouTube were you can upload videos.  

I suspect it will not be a runaway success with almost certainly every video being vetted and approved by some Government internet stooges.   I feel that the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting department will probably have a different sense of humour and interests than the normal young Iranian,

There are extensive rumours that Iran is developing it’s own version of the internet.  As many countries who wish to prevent free speech online have found it is virtually impossible with the circumvention technoplogy available to all to block everything.  Proxies and VPNs are widely available for small subscriptions and for those unable to afford then their are technologies like TOR which are free.  The worry is that they have discovered the only effective censorship online is to block all access to the internet and produce some government controlled intranet within the country – sounds fun doesn’t it!!!

If it doesn’t go that way then there is some hope -

But if you do end up needing to be on a whitelist for a website to be displayed in Iran then even this IP address changer method will not work there.

In North Korea the internet is virtually non existent, unless you are part of the ruling few it’s something that you’ve no prospect of accessing either.  Some might wonder if it matters, after all if you live in North Korea there are probably lots of physical problems you have to deal with first like lack of food for example.  However as Google’s founder recently stated that in an increasingly connected world, soon North Koreas digital isolation will start to impact on many other levels.

It might appear to be an isolated and extreme example, not all countries censor to the level of North Korea of course.  But every country with a less than popular ruler knows that their demise could begin with a message typed into an Iphone.  Potentially it’s all that’s needed to sow the seeds of a successful revolution. Words are power and they can travel far and wide in a digitally connected society very quickly indeed.

It’s hardly surprising then that the majority of internet policies implemented tend to restrict, monitor or block.  Even in the more democratic nations like the USA we see huge fights over restrictive policies like SOPA and PIPA. There are people dying in these countries too trying to keep information and the internet open and transparent for all – I speak of course of the sad death of Aaron Swartz.

There are many, many policies and agendas being implemented across the world from the restrictions of North Korea and China across to the European nations almost all are eroding the freedom of the internet to some extent.  In China using proxies and VPNs is almost essential to surf online properly – technologies like in the http://thenewproxies.com/ still work in most of the world though despite the authorities attempt to block them.  A war has broken out online with the prize nothing less than free speech and liberty – why should people from all sorts of backgrounds feel the need to hide their identity? 

The video is also available directly on YouTube here if you need to watch it again.

It looks like such tools will become part and parcel of being online.  No government anywhere in the world looks like it wants to keep the internet genuinely free and open even if they implement the restrictions under the guise of protecting us from terrorism.  Our level of connectivity is only going to increase, I read an article the other day saying that 70% of our cars will be connected in ten years!

There are few organisations in the free speech arena that take as active a role than the NGO – Reporters Without Borders. There latest effort needs to be applauded and replicated where ever possible.  They have offered the facility for several organisations in Zambia to have their web sites mirrored in order to bypass government blocks and filters.

The first site to be mirrored was the Zambia Repports website, which gave many Zambians their first glimpse of independent news for some time. The other site that was also mirrored was that of the Zambian Watchdog, another organisation who are often (rightly) critical of the current Government.

Of course, it’s only a matter of time before these mirrors get blocked as well, so you may as well ask what is the point.  Well the main effort is that most organisations seeking to censor or filter the internet soon discover they are fighting a losing battle. Mirrors can be set up easily, in fact if  you use relays then IP filtering is also very difficult and time consuming.  Once data and information is out it can also be circulated throughout a variety of other sources – personal blogs, Twitter, Facebook and a host of others.

Simply speaking although  the Zambian Government may have the desire to filter the internet for opinions they dislike, they do not have the resources to accomplish this.  They may believe that having a small team ready to block and ban IP addresses will work but this is simply not viable.  Infomration can be copied and duplicated easily – you can change the IP address on any device quite simply if you know what you are doing. 

Here’s a short video if you prefer to watch and listen rather than read - 

It doesn’t work in China, although they come a great deal closer by throwing huge resources and commercial pressure at their censorship efforts – so frankly Zambia had better face reality.  Instead of being hostile to independent journalists, the Patriotic Front Government should perhaps remember who they are supposed to be serving – the Zambian people.

Media Commodifying your Home

September 1st, 2013

One of the most curious ways in which the media can interfere in your life is about its portrayal of your home town, your country and your ethnicity. It is a subtle form of media prejudice that can easily go unheeded but that has a huge impact on people’s lives; the way they are perceived, and how they relate to the notion of their homeland.

Such types of media distortion works primarily through images in movies, adverts and non-fiction. It is never directly stated, only implied. The message is below the surface, but it is still clearly there, even if it is not overtly stated. People such as Malcolm X in the 1960s were among the vanguard of cultural critics to see how this media distortion worked. So in the case of black Americans they are often shown on the media eating corn, playing music, dancing, playing basketball, speaking street patois, and being pressed against the hood of a car by the police as they are arrested. They are not shown as lawyers, doctors and dentists. If they are then the cultural clash is often registered by an audience that often prefers streotypes.

Another type of streotyping is done with places. They are presented as holiday destinations at the expense of revealing the lives of the people that live in these places and have normal jobs not connected to the tourist industry. Rather than a beach where people live and work and eek out an existence from the sea and land, beaches in the Caribbean, South Pacific and South East East Asia become dreamy paradise locations with hotels, swimming pools; all the locals wear uniforms and serve guests. The truth of poverty and lack of employment and education opportunities are hidden behind the exotic paradise facade. Beaches are turned into commodities to be sold and for developers and hotel owners to be rewarded by.

What we don’t see on the media is the plight of Fiji farmers, the labor of coconut plantation workers, the dwindling supplies of fish that local fishermen bring in to port and market. The notion is that the commodity is timeless and perfect. It is unchanging and the ideal place to escape the concerns of the ’civilised’ and ’rich’ world.

It would be a hard thing to boycott places because they are being commidified; but, it would be a good idea to try and correct people’s assumptions when you return from holiday. It might be a good idea to swim in the sea rather than some environmentally unfriendly swimming pool.

 

Detroit used to be on of the wealthiest American cities fifty years ago, but it has gone bankrupt today, and it is the largest municipality to go bankrupt. The economic downturn that this municipality now experiences is the result of wrong political decisions that has characterized its history for the past fifty years. It started on a downhill ride towards bankruptcy when it repeatedly and exclusively elected Democrats, and did so consistently for fifty years.

We spoke with a Jimmy Wangler of Plumbers Boise and he said “Why not let the city go bankrupt and things will go as they need to go”.  Many people feel the same as Jimmy and they don’t want to see others peoples money being spent on a city that they had nothing to do with.

Much of the debt that Detroit has now is tied up with pension liabilities and this could be easy to understand. When a local government is very big and has a large number of employees who are paid with promises of future payments, then the result could not be less inevitable. Some estimates indicate that this city has around 100,000 creditors, with unfunded liabilities that are nearly $20 billion in total. The city also show a disparity in its number of employees and that of retirees. It is estimated that the city has 20,000 retirees and 10,000 employees. This just shows how deep the city has fallen.

Now there is talk about Detroit getting a federal bailout, which is ridiculous, as the bad decisions made by those Democrats repeatedly elected for fifty years will be paid from the tax payer dollar. The sad thing is that those who made bad decisions about money they didn’t have might not even be there to face the consequences of their rash decisions. There are alternate proposals as well; one of them is having retirees moved to the Obamacare. But the question still remains: Who’ll shoulder the cost? Health care services are experiencing a steady increase because of Obamacare and this proposal will make rob tax payers to pay for the bad decisions made by those responsible for Detroit’s government for the past fifty years.

The bubble has burst in Turkey, at least the bubble of perception from the rest of the world.  All is not well in Turkey, and the attitude of the Prime minister is at the heart of the unrest.  For many years there has been a noticeable lack of freedom of expressiona and a growing degree of censorship in this democratic republic.  The warning signs were all around, especially the large number of journalists imprisoned.   Admitedly in the UK there are likely to be a few more journalists in jail soon, but none of them will have been imprisoned for speech!

 

When the protests in Turkey commenced there was global coverage all over the world.  This was a big event, the numbers involved were huge and so was the international media coverage.  However in Turkey initially it barely made the front page, it certainly wasn’t a headline  story – this tells it’s own story of the real independence of most of the Turkish press.

When the violence started, by which I mean the brutal intervention of the police – it began to be difficult to ignore even for the blinkered and controlled Turkish press.  There were rumours of the blocking and filtering of the popular social media channels, although through testing via a proxy server based in Turkey this didn’t seem to be true. There is help thought if the filtering is increased – http://thenewproxies.com/turkish-proxy/.

The facts are there to be seen though – there is an increasing amount of control, religious based control over the citizens of Turkey.  Many web sites are already banned including those for Gay/Lesbians and atheists or other non-muslim religions.  Remember this is supposed to be a secular state, but if you’re not a strict muslim then you’re likely to start feeling uncomfortable soon.

When you see the amount of people on the streets, then listen to Erdogan dismiss them as ’extremist fringes’ whilst calling Twitter a menace to society – you know all is not well.  The young people of Turkey know it too and it is this, not a park, that is bringing them together to protect their freedoms and rights.

If you live in a free democratic secular country, try and think carefully about the last time you heard of someone being prosecuted for insulting a leader or religious figure.  It will probably be hard to do as most democracies value freedom of expression and speech very highly.

However if you visit post revolution Tunisia or Egypt you won’t find anything like this sort of freedom.  Imagine in the United Kingdom over the last few weeks, the number of people insulting the ex-primeminister Margaret Thatcher – you’d have locked up millions of people.  However in Egypt a TV satirist Bassem Youssef is being charged by Egyptian prosecutors for insulting Islam and President Morsi. The Muslim bortherhood who made so many liberal and democratic promises to the people of Egypt actually filed a lawsuit to ban the political show that he produces.

Freedom of expression in these countries is actually in some ways looking worse than under the previous dictators.  In Tunisia a rapper called Wld El 15 has been sentenced to 2 years in prison for ’insulting the police’ -seems a little harsh??  His alleged crime was for releasing a video criticising the police for using excessive force.  The producer and a dancer who appeared in the video were arrested – Ala Yaakoubi then disappeared.

Of course we’re all used to some elements of filtering and censorship  in our own lives.  We’ve all probably clicked on an interesting YouTube video to be informed that this is not available in your country, it’s a common event but actually easily solved – this is the process - it works in most circumstances.  In democratic nations this is more likely to be due to corporate actions or licensing restrictions than anything more sinister.  But imagine voicing criticisms of your elected ruler and suddenly facing a prison term – this is the environment that the young people of Egypt and Tunisia find themselves in.

The revolution particularly in Egypt was inspired by young people seeking a free and open society.  Instead they are being faced with the usual dictatorial restrictions but this time applied by old, religious extremists. All have promised laws to protect freedom of both the media and the people, yet it is still an environment where TV producers and pop stars are arrested for merely voicing their opinions.!

 

I’m sure you’ve probably heard about the new controversial technology for gas extraction called ’fracking’.  Most of the news stories I hear are fairly polarised – with the environmentalists on one side and various politicians and money men on the other side clearly in favour.

In the backdrop to this, a film maker Phelim McAleer has produced a film called FrackNation which argues in favour of using the technology.  The director has now accused the IMF of censoring parts of his film in order to not risk offending Russia, one of it’s most influential members.

The accusation refers to the fact  that the IMF was due to show the video at an upcoming conference.  However it was decided to omit a key scene from the film which highlighted that a major benefit of Fracking was that it would reduce Eastern Europe’s dependency on Russia for energy.  This would obviously also significantly reduce Russia and Gasproms revenue substantially if they were able to supply their own gas.

This would clearly not be popular with Russia and it appears that the IMF decided to cowardly dodge that part of the discussion.  A more blatent attack on the concept of a conference and a free exchange of ideas, you’d be hard pushed to find.  Unsurprisingly Phelim Mcaleer was not impressed at being told that he could only present certain parts of his argument and has pulled out of the conference.

It is the sort of attitude that is becoming increasingly common in our so called free society.  As I travel a lot I am acutely aware of the growing censorship that’s happening online too.  Many countries usually under the veil of catching criminals and terrorists are selectively filtering the internet.  I use my proxies and VPNs virtually every day now, from bypassing a content filter to trying to watch BBC iPlayer on an iPad abroad it’s becoming an essential part of doing anything online without being blocked – join me here.

I’m not particularly sold on the FrackNation argument however leaving out one it’s most powerful benefits is hardly a good basis on having any sort of free and open debate!

 

For a number of years, the prolific advertising of certain bodybuilding and fitness supplements and enhancing products has provided many with the means to build bigger, stronger and fitter physical bodies. Plenty has been written about the positive benefits of certain products, especially that of a growth enhancing protein known as IGF-1 (Insulin-like Growth Factor). But until recently, the negative side of this particular product was unknown.

Many people are unaware that this protein is responsible for more than just boosting the speed at which muscle tissue can be developed, or excess fat can be burned to facilitate weight loss. But a recent documentary by the BBC Horizon team changed all that.

Eating, Fasting and Aging

For many years, it has been widely known that there is a definite link between calorie restrictive eating, regular fasting and the slowing down of the aging process. Laboratory tests on mice show us that those forced to eat a calorie restricted diet lived far longer than those that were overfed.

There have been many instances in human populations where those that not only live longer but maintain better health for longer have attributed their health and longevity to a Spartan, yet healthy diet. The Horizon program highlighted the probable cause of this phenomenon as being a much lower level of IGF-1 in the body than those that died younger and suffered more ill health.

Why Does Eating Less Make You Live Longer?

Recent tests by medical experts working in the field of aging have uncovered a correlation to lower levels of IGF-1 in people who ate a calorie restricted diet or those that fasted regularly. It seems higher levels of this protein are also responsible for accelerated cell division and new cell creation in the body.

At first glance, this would seem to be a good thing, but the tests have uncovered the fact that when the life cycle of human cells is accelerated, so is the aging process. However, when this cycle is slowed down by the lowering of IGF-1 levels, cells stop multiplying so fast and instead go into repair mode.

When this happens, the aging process actually slows down as fewer new cells are created. Fewer old cells die, but are instead repaired and live longer in the body. The implications are huge.

Weight Loss, Aging and Health

There are many positive benefits to reducing the levels of IGF-1 in the body. By restricting calories and/or fasting, a person’s weight will naturally reduce as well as their body fat levels. This greatly reduces the risks of weight-related conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and even some cancers.

It improves health and reduces the need for medication when people approach retirement age. This is because their bodies are healthier on the inside and less prone to age related diseases. It also means a longer life expectancy.

This is a case where the media has provided us with an amazing piece of information that if applied, can potentially wipe out obesity and all the health problems that are associated with weight gain. More information on this weight loss genius strategy can be found by following that link to the website where many aspects of reducing body fat and mass are explained in easy to understand terms.

The story of the BBC’s Horizon program can be found here: The power of intermittent fasting

Abusing the Media in Belarus

January 10th, 2013

For many the internet has been a huge boost to the ability to protest and demonstrate.  Activists across the world in some of the most oppressed regions in the world can at last have a voice.  Unfortunately although we’d like to think that this communication can only be a good thing, there are others who use it as a tool for exactly the opposite reason.  Here’s a perfect example of what can happen when basically the authorities just make up the laws as they go along.

These three gentleman are protesting on International HUman Rights day against the imprisonment of Ales Byalyatski a human rights leader who was suspiciously sentenced for 4 years for tax evasion.  There were testimonies from four policeman who were rounded up fom somewhere.

It sounds a run of the mill explotation case until you read that nobody but them was actually at the ’demonstration’.  They were arrested as a result of this picture being put online.  The police who were witnessess weren’t actually at the protest, so I’m not sure what they witnessed.

One of the activists complained that he was arrested for what he advocated not for anything he had done.  This is a common practice for the KGB in Belarus who have realised it is easier to catch militants and activists by tracking them down online rather than in real life.  Sure this way they have less evidence and need to usually invent some witnesses in order to prosecute but that’s rarely a problem for that special brand of police who have a different agenda than upholding the law.

IN many countries you have to extremely cautious about what you upload to the internet.  The technique of arresting people based on their online activities was pioneered by the Iranians and Chinese who have huge teams of internet savvy people tracking down opponents to their regimes.  Of course activists can take precautions by perhaps using a VPN or US proxy for example to protect their connections but posting personal information or images is a huge risk.

In 2012 Swedish Activists dropped a huge number of teddy bears across Belarus.  Two journalists had their photos taken with the bears to show solidarity with the protestors – they were both arrested and fined, their crime erm posing with a teddy bear!!

Thailand is a very popular location for tourists, more so than China, Japan and its south East Asian neighbors. No doubt tourists are drawn by the warm climate, the rich Buddhist culture, the cheap prices and the golden sand beaches. During the 1970s and 1980s it was mostly backpackers that visited Thailand. This started changing in the 1990s. In the first decade of the Twenty-first century tourism of Thailand was been dominated by package tourism and the middle and upper ends of the socio-economic scale. Has political instability had any effect on tourism in Thailand? Has Thai policy any effect on tourism?

Coups and Demonstrations

In 1991 and 2006 the military in Thailand took control of government. They ousted democratically elected governments with impunity and largely without the censure of Western governments. Throughout the Twentieth Century there have been political upheavals in Thailand. The present Thai King’s father was assassinated under mysterious circumstances. Today the country is torn between the red shirts that support Thaksin and the Yellow shirts that support the Democracy party. There have been a number of violent clashes between the two groups especially in the capital Bangkok.

Throughout all of this, visitor numbers to Thailand have continued to increase. It was only when protestors shut the main international airport down in 2008 that tourist figures were affected.

The Media and Tourism

In contrast a country like Columbia that has managed to gain stability after years of Marxist guerilla activity has very low tourist figures. It would appear that the media not political events shape perceptions of countries. Thailand has the third highest rate for murders by firearms (http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/cri_mur_wit_fir-crime-murders-with-firearms). And yet the general perception of Thailand is one of a safe country. On December 31st, 2012 a British man was shot dead at the Full Moon Party in Koh Phangan. Foreigners are attacked and murdered every week in Thailand. It should be seen as a dangerous country but the travel industry has done well to portray Thailand as ‘Amazing’. There is simply too much money involved for travel agents. The media as well as search engines have continually downplayed the danger of visiting Thailand to keep the money rolling in. Instead the media continues to provide images of famine, lawlessness and poverty in Africa. We need to resist media perceptions of countries and insist on accurate and even-handed coverage.

Thai Policy and Tourism

Successive Thai governments have changed the visa rules for Thailand. These have been to discourage low-end tourism and to stop backpackers spending months if not years living in the country. While some abuses needed rectifying the policy has caused small businesses in Thailand that cater to budget conscious visitors to suffer. The policies have also unfairly penalized foreigners who are married to Thais. These policies are mostly a symbolic gesture to nationalist feelings. Nothing has changed concerning foreign ownership in Thailand, but it looks like the government is playing tough.

The other result of new visa laws has been to encourage the development of more high end hotels and resorts; even traditional backpacker destinations such as Koh Phangan have seen a lot of high end accommodation being built.

There is a strong connection between politics and tourism in Thailand. It works through media manipulation and visa laws.