Earlier this year, Creative Commons issued a statement in support of Bassel Khartabil, a longtime CC volunteer who has been detained by Syrian authorities since March 15. Amnesty International recently released a document with information suggesting that Bassel has been ill-treated and even tortured. This morning, we sent a letter to President Bashar al-Assad, Minister of Foreign Affairs Walid al-Mu’allim, and Minister of Defense ‘Imad al-Fraij; urging that Bassel be released unless he is promptly charged with an internationally recognized criminal offense. We urge Syrian authorities to grant Bassel immediate access to his family, a lawyer of his choice, and all necessary medical treatment.
Bassel has played a crucial role in the open technology and culture communities, both in Syria and around the world. Through his service as Creative Commons’ project lead in Syria and his numerous contributions to the advancement of open source and related technologies, Bassel has spent his career working toward a more free Internet. Many of us at Creative Commons have become friends of Bassel’s over the years. All of us have benefited from his leadership and expertise.
For eight years the Swedish journalist Dawit Isaak has been detained without a trial in a prison in Eritrea. It is difficult to imagine what that must be like. He was imprisoned on the 23 September 2001.
Here is an excercise in perspective:
One month after his imprisonment the first iPod was launched (23 October 2001) and Microsoft released Windows XP (25 October 2001). Facebook was launched in 2004 and so was the first version of the Ubuntu operating system.
Providing cameras and video cameras to different groups is not an uncommon method which allows the subjects to bring their own lives into focus without the direct mediation of the “outsider” camera/filmmaker. Naturally all uses of technology contain risks of bias and slanted views – nobody still believes that the camera never lies? Even if many still believe that fashion images are “real”.
In January 2007, B’Tselem launched Shooting Back, a video advocacy project focusing on the Occupied Territories. We provide Palestinians living in high-conflict areas with video cameras, with the goal of bringing the reality of their lives under occupation to the attention of the Israeli and international public, exposing and seeking redress for violations of human rights.
In projects such as these technology in the form of the cameras and Internet as a distribution medium can be used to empower those involved in a conflict while still providing a preaceful alternative way of coping with everyday violence.
The University of Bath has a podcast with General Sir Rupert Smith. Sir Rupert is the author of the insightful book The Utility of Force: The art of war in the modern world (amazon). His main thesis is that war is changing from the tradition industrial war into a war amongst the people.
The essential difference is that the use of force is no longer used to win a battle but to create a condition in which the strategic result is achieved in other means. The strategic object is to alter the opponents intentions as opposed to win over him or to remove him.
Once again one of Sweden’s largest daily papers refers to a report about the state of Swedish national IT security. Apparently we are totally unprepared and vulnerable to everything that’s out there. Two things really annoy me about reports like this:
Firstly, very few people seem to question the motives of these “expert” reports. Most of them are written either by companies attempting to provide systems intended to solve the problems they discover, or (as this latest report) is provided by organizations (often governmental bodies) that need to show that there is work to be done. The implication is that the organization should be funded to carry out the work.
Secondly, if the world was so unprotected and vulnerable to cyberwar and cyberterrorism then why is it that most of our technology related collapses, disasters and problems do not originate from bad people, purposely intending to do us harm but rather by faulty systems, incompetent staff, greedy management and pure incompetence. Just look at technology related disasters such as Five Mile Island, Chernobyl, Bhopal and Exxon Valdez.
Terrorism and war remain on the primitive level of bombs and rockets – incompetence and greed accompany high level technical systems.
Getting older is a strange thing. I don’t feel older – in fact I feel younger today than I have been for many years. But I am older and the best way of measuring age is not the way in which you feel but rather in the way you relate to older and younger people.
I am not old and yet I have a school tie in my closet that is older than many of my students, I am not old but I am trying to lecture to a room full of people who were born when I was attempting to disco.
The difficult thing about getting old is attempting to talk across the barriers of age. My students perceive me as older and I perceive them as younger. The difference, in a teaching scenario, is the problem of giving examples. It is hard to convey the importance and turmoil of 1989. This was the year that saw both the Tiananmen Square student massacre and the fall of the Berlin wall.
While growing up the concept of the cold war seemed outdated. East-West relations had been frosty for my entire life and we had always lived under the threat of nuclear war. My generation was bored with the fear of nuclear war and were more concerned with the social economic changes brought about by Reagan and Thatcher. We were tired and blasé, we did not really expect change. We knew that teenagers everywhere where in reality the same but politics was (and is) the game of old men.
So it’s understandable for my generation to see 1989 as a proof of the correctness of optimism and it is equally understandable for my students not to understand why I make a big deal of it all.
The question is what shall we all make of Putin’s decision to re-activate strategic flights by nuclear bombers:
Russia has resumed regular “strategic flights” of nuclear bombers. (They may or may not be carrying nuclear bombs, but you can practically hear Putin’s smirking tone as he says, “Our [nuclear bomber] pilots have been grounded for too long. They are happy to start a new life.”) (via Question Technology)
Are the cold war generation just nodding their heads in the understanding that the last 2o years has been an exception to the status quo. Do the post 1989 generation even think about the possible implications of this or have they lived in a post cold war era for too long to be able to imagine the alternatives.
And what on earth does my generation think about it all…
Wired News reports that In a directive (dated 19th April) US troops have been ordered not to blog without first clearing each post with a superior officer. There is also a discussion going on at the Wired Blog Danger Room.
Military officials have been wrestling for years with how to handle troops who publish blogs. Officers have weighed the need for wartime discretion against the opportunities for the public to personally connect with some of the most effective advocates for the operations in Afghanistan and Iraq — the troops themselves. The secret-keepers have generally won the argument, and the once-permissive atmosphere has slowly grown more tightly regulated. Soldier-bloggers have dropped offline as a result.
The new rules (.pdf) obtained by Wired News require a commander be consulted before every blog update.
It’s hardly a surprising move. It’s doubtful whether blogs were revealing security information (US troops should be better trained in this case) but on several occasions information on blogs and films of YouTube (for example Iraqi kids run for water) have caused embarrassing situations which hardly have improved anyone’s opinions of the war.
Certain technological artefacts should never have been designed, manufactured or used. Among these is the landmine. Its horrible impact is not only on the combatants but rather on the civil population which needs to live with the slowly decaying lethal devices for decades after the land was sown with them. Organisations such as the No More Landmines in the UK are working to ban them as legitimate weapons. These organisations need all the support that they can get.
The problem is that people are interested in a conflict while it is active and making headlines. When “peace” is achieved public interest declines considerably. This is unfortunate as the landmines remain. The cost of removing landmines is extremely high and almost impossible to meet for worn torn countries.
So how does one attempt to ensure that people’s interest remains focused on the landmine problem? Well artist & activist Will St. Leger came up with a novel and shocking approach. On Sunday 1st April he placed 100 fake ‘landmines’ made from stenciled metal plates in park around Dublin, Ireland.
Will explains: “The reason for doing this was to get people asking themselves “what if the world I walked in was littered with landmines?” They’re nearly all gone now, the Police took away most of them when a tourist called the emergency number to report ‘Landmines’. Afterwards, I wondered who the people of Laos, Cambodia and Iraq gonna call when they step on real landmine?”