Monday, January 31, 2011

Egypt #4: Million Egyptian March Set for Tuesday

Protests in Egypt seem to be gathering steam by the day.  Tomorrow (Tuesday, February 1st, 2011), there is a planned Million Egyptian March set to start at Tahrir and end at the Presidential Palace (unconfirmed).

The Egyptian Military has stated it will not use force on protesters.  Hosni Mubarak has continued to fill cabinet positions, however, this in no way has appeased protesters.

Local neighborhood watches (sometimes referred to as Militias) have had significant success in protecting sections of Cairo from looters (many of whom are reported to be NDP or police officials).  The military has participated in detaining these vagrants.

The internet is still down for most of Egypt.  If you know of people in Egypt looking to get internet access or information to the outside world, please convey the information present on We Rebuild.  There are free dial-up internet options being provided by European and US companies (long distance charges will apply).

If anyone has heard from Dody or other people in Egypt, please leave reports in the comments.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Egypt #3: El-Baradei addresses 100,000+ in Tahrir

Still no word on Dody at this moment, although cell phone networks are back up and its reported there are some dialup internet connections functioning.

Things have not quieted down in Cairo: What started as a relatively slow protesting day, with a disappointing number of looters, has turned into perhaps the largest gathering yet in Tahrir, reported at over 100,000 people.

Currently, El-Baradei has arrived in Tahrir and has seemed to have formed a semi-coalition (including the Muslim Brotherhood) to be the representive to negotiate a transition of power from the Mubarak lead government to what will replace it.  It is expected that he will speak soon.

There is a lot of misinformation out there, with Al Jazeera the only news station carrying live feeds (many local Egyptian stations as well as Al Arabya are reporting that the streets are quiet right now, which is a lie given the live pictures coming from Al Jazeera's offices).

The military is still sitting on the fence, although flexing some muscle (helicopter and airplane fly-bys, etc).  There is a rumor on twitter that at 12-midnight Cairo Time that the Military will be given orders to shoot to kill.  This is just a rumor, but certainly the kicking out of Al Jazeera, Suleiman as VP, and the surrounding of Tahrir seems to indicate that they have some plan.

UPDATE: El Baradei is walking through Tahrir talking to protesters (there is no microphone or stage or anything).  The message is simple: The current government has stolen their freedom.  What has been done cannot be undone and the current regime must step down.

Allegedly, the police force will be back on the streets tomorrow (Monday).  Sunday is the first work day of the week in Egypt, but of course with no internet and no order on the streets it doesn't appear that any usual business is happening.  Perhaps the police tomorrow will be there to try to get business as usual, but it will likely lead to clashes, where now protesters greatly out number uniformed police.

UPDATE #2: Unconfirmed reports of a meeting between top military generals and Mubarak.  The military is asking Mubarak to step down.  Also, the military seems to be more active: Setting up check points and being more proactive in policing the streets.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Egypt #2: Change, but not enough. Lawlessness in Cairo.

Police are hiding inside the Ministry of Interior building which is protected by the military.  There are essentially no authoritative forces on the streets.  There has been a lot of looting reported across the city (including Mohandeseen, Nasser City).  Al Jazeera is reporting quiet peaceful protests of tens of thousands in downtown Cairo, but are also reporting gun fire in Mahdi (typically known as a very western or even American district of Cairo).  The emergency number (911) is unresponsive.  There are thugs roaming the streets looting and robbing banks, which may or may not be the ones hired by the government to intimidate protesters.

People on the ground who interacted with the Army said the Army told them that they were there to protect the people, not the government. Although, there is now a lot off frustration with the Army that they are not doing anything (just standing there, not supporting police or the people).

In lieu of government services, citizens are organizing their own neighborhood watches to deter robbery and to help organize traffic through the streets.

As noted yesterday, Mubarak has sacked his cabinet, and has so far appointed two figures: Omar Suleiman, who is the head of the Egyptian Intelligence Services, to Vice President and Ahmad Shafik, former head of the airforce, to Prime Minister.  Omar Suleiman is generally respected by the Egyptian people, but given the way that he was appointed, its unlikely this will quell protests.

In addition, there are reports of prison riots, where protesters have been taken.  There are reports of deaths has the over packed prisons are attempted to be over run by the protesters.

Sadly, despite protesters forming a human ring around the Cairo Museum, Al Jazeera is reporting that there were looters inside the museum, resulting in the destruction of several artifacts, including at least 2 mummies.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Egypt on Info Lock Down

The internet is down in Egypt.  Not just google, facebook, twitter, etc, but all access in and out of Egypt has been turned off.  Check the Twitter stream below...quiet.

Dody most likely will not be back online until the embargo is lifted.  There are reports that only certain hotels (with dedicated fiber or satelite connections) have access to the WWW.

This story on the Arabist is now down (http://www.arabist.net/blog/2011/1/28/urgent-egypt-has-shut-off-the-internet.html).

Follow here or here for more information.  Also, Sara (an Egyptian-American) has been following the events on facebook here.

Our thoughts and support are with Dody, his team, and our Egyptian friends.

UPDATE: Egypt has closed most live TV bureaus, including Al Jazeera Arabic.  I believe the feed from the English bureau is down as well.  Watch coverage here.  Reports are coming in that the NDP (the ruling political party) office is on fire and the Foreign Ministry has been stormed by protesters.  Allegedly, Mubarak is to make an address soon.  The military is also on the ground in at least Alexandria (where they were met with applause), Cairo and Suez.  How the military will behave will set the tone for what direction things will go.  There is also a curfew as of 6pm Cairo Time (11am EST), but it has no affect.

The moments of prayer that were carried live by Al Jazeera, where protesters stopped and prayed Maghrib/Isha'a, were some of the most iconic so far of this revolution.

UPDATE #2: Hosni Mubarak did address the Egyptian people tonight saying that he will sack the current Egyptian government (ostensibly the prime minister, parliament and cabinet), which he installed in the first place.  He seems firm on retaining control and has stated he will do what it takes to "protect" the Egyptian people and order on the streets.  This does not seem to have an affect on the protesters who are still on the streets (its about 1:30am Saturday there).  Interestingly, before the speech, Egyptian TV had replaced serene, quiet video footage of Cairo with live footage of protests, possibly showing Mubarak's control over state run media is slipping.

No word on when internet and cell phones will be back online.  Its been over 12 hours now with cell networks down and the internet traffic slowed to trickle.  Only landlines appear to be up.

Also, How Egypt Shut Down the Internet.
More on the Egyptian internet shut down.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

"Rage Friday"


This poster calls out for people to join a demonstration tomorrow. I will be out covering this with cheaper camera and more extensive first aid kit.

The Guardian's coverage of yesterday. Enduring America covers today.

Btw, the university exams season ends today. All the students have been hunkering down trying to pass their exams for the past three weeks. Now they are free. Vacation starts next week.

Muslim Brotherhoods call for demonstration tomorrow as well - but this time, they are participants, not leaders of the movement. The tone and agenda of the protests had been set in #Jan25. El Baradey, the ex head of IAEA, is returning to Egypt tonight and will join the protests. He too will be one of the participants. There is no leader in these protests - just people.

"But there were signs on Thursday that the protest was spreading from Cairo’s dusty squares and alleyways in advance of demonstrations called for Friday, the Muslim holy day and the start of the Egyptian weekend, by protesters communicating on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

On its Web site, the Muslim Brotherhood, the largest organized opposition group, said it would join “with all the national Egyptian forces, the Egyptian people, so that this coming Friday will be the general day of rage for the Egyptian nation.”

At the stock exchange, the benchmark Egyptian index fell on Thursday to its lowest level in over two years, shedding more than 10 percentage points and forcing a brief suspension of trading, news reports said." NY Times

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Jan 25 Mashup



I like the song but I don't like the JFK quote at the end. Please do not wish for violent revolution - it's going to burn down the country.

If you play the video, you will see a bearded dude compelled everybody to join, regardless whether you are Christian, Muslims or Atheist, to take back your rights. That's not a sort of thing you hear from angry bearded conservative Muslim. The Atheist line is new and unexpected :)

The day after


Flickr

If you are planning to come to Egypt, there is no need to postpone your trip. It is still a very safe country. Yes, the vendors will still try to rip you off and the sharks might still be hunting people in the Red Sea but the visiting season is wonderful. You might even stumble on a demo or two.

Yesterday's demonstrations are about big morality, not small. They called for better governance, removal of emergency law, increase of minimum wages, jobs creations, reductions of corruptions and some more real life practical changes. It's not about the small morality of demanding people to behave better or not drinking or becoming more religious or pray more or women have to dress more modestly.

Big morality issues requires more than just slogans. It demanded structural economic changes, fundamental educational reform, simplification of business laws, change of mindsets and empowerment of the whole population. These are difficult stuff in the best of circumstances but they are important to tackle on if this country wants to have a better future for its people.

For Cairo, this is a large complex city of 22 millions people. This morning everything looks normal. The metro operates normally although you can see more large green trucks of security forces in key intersections. The square in front of my office has 17 security trucks as time of writing.


Tahrir Sq. last night (Tahrir Sq. = Liberation Sq.)


Enduring America is blogging about today here. Global Voices Online coverage of yesterday is here. NYTimes is here. The Guardian is here. Ahram Online is here. Slashdot is here.

Egypt Today has a video from the square last night (2 AM)

SOTU

I am a political geek so I tend to enjoy State of the Union speech.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

It's midnight and they are still protesting

A friend just returned from the square and he got plenty of videos. They were fucking loud out there. I will upload the videos when it's available.

russian bomb

“What occurred shows that there were violations in providing security,” Mr. Medvedev said in comments released by the Kremlin. “Such a quantity of explosive material that was carried in or brought in — that’s not so easy to do. We must hold responsible those who have ties to the company that makes decisions, the management of the airport.”(NYTimes)

I think what Medvedev is referring to is that the attacker probably bribed her way through the security.  And how many checkpoints do you think she bribed her way past on the way to the airport?  I can't say that I am current on Russian affairs, but if their Transparency ranking is reflective, (and if the attacker was indeed able to bribe her way all the way to the bank) then this would actually be Medvedev's fault.

Night demos

This guy came to me when I was taking picture at Mohandeseen, a major business artery of Cairo. He wants the emergency law removed.


Taken in Mohandeseen. The protesters moved quite fast. It was a peaceful demo. This small crow (1000 or so people) walked a couple of kilometers to join a much bigger crowd in Tahrir sq, the main square in Cairo.

Picture from one of the facebooker on the scene in Tahrir sq, the main square in Cairo.

It is almost 8 PM local time and there are still thousands in Tahrir Square demonstrating. Today is shaping up to be a very special day.

Yeah, I got pictures from today.



Today in Cairo: Is it going to be a sizzle or fizzle?

Enduring America is covering Cairo today.

Ahram Online is also live blogging the day.

We shall see. The morning is quiet (it's a holiday today) and quite chili due to an early overcast - the sky is grey. People stayed up last night, either to enjoy the welcome national holiday or to talk about about today. (8.34 AM local time)


I am going to head out to my office to check out how's the Cairo University Square look like today. Cairo University is one of the site for the planned demo today. Another one is Mohandesseen, a commercial/leisure center of Cairo with wide streets and high rises. The third location is in the Subhra neighbourhood, a large and sprawling poor neighbourhood north of Cairo.

I suspect that the students are going to join in the demo in Mohandesseen instead of protesting in/near their university (8.42 AM local time)

My morning walk to the office was uneventful. There were five security trucks in front of the Sheraton in Dokki and four more trucks on the square in front of the Gamaa bridge (University bridge). These were more than usual but not overwhelmingly so. I have seen more heavy security presence in other days. The atmosphere was relaxed and traffic was light - it's a holiday after all. The bowaab in my building warned me about an upcoming demonstration - he made two hand clenched gesture - and told me it's going to be at noon. So far it does not feel like a city under siege - which is good.(11.01 AM local time)

Random tweets pics from today

"Cairo security chief Ismail El-Shaer said the government had sent warnings to protest organisers that they would need an interior ministry permit: "In the absence of such permits, these demonstrations and sit-ins will be dealt with in a legal manner and those beyond the law will be arrested," he said.

There are at least four protests organized today around Cairo in Shubra, Mataria, in front of Cairo University and in the Gamat El Dowal Street in Mohandeseen.
Heavy security and police cars have cordoned off the expected meeting places of protesters around the capital. At least 50 armored vehicles and police dogs are blocking main roads in Cairo's Tahrir Square and Ramses, were pedestrians are also being stopped and questioned.

There are another six central police cars and 12 prisoner trucks in front of the High Court and another nine in front of the interior ministry. Parliament is also blocked by a heavy police presence. Mataria square, Shubra and Garden City are also closed by heavy security forces.

Riot police and state security cars are blocking Mustafa Mahmoud Street in Mohandeseen, as well as roads in Imbaba and the Corniche. " Ahram

I am heading out on the street. The area in front of Cairo University is calm. (12:50PM)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Bracing for 25th of January

There have been feverish energy in the capital tonight in anticipation for tomorrow.  No, I'm not joining the protest for a simple reason that it's not my country. Egypt is for Egyptians.

I do know that of my Egyptian friends are planning to go tomorrow. I wish them the best of luck. Take care and stay safe.

And for everyone's sake, let's wish for a peaceful day tomorrow.

There have been 9 self immolation attempts in the past 9 days in Egypt. That's fucking crazy.

"Egypt's authoritarian government is bracing itself for one of the biggest opposition demonstrations in recent years tomorrow, as thousands of protesters prepare to take to the streets demanding political reform.
An unlikely alliance of youth activists, political Islamists, industrial workers and hardcore football fans have pledged to join a nationwide "day of revolution" on a national holiday to celebrate the achievements of the police force." Guardian

Egyptian Chronicle reports on tomorrow's anticipation.

"The three Coptic Egyptian Churches — Orthodox, Catholic and Evangelical — have refused to participate in “Anger Day” demonstrations nationwide scheduled to take place on Jan. 25 to coincide with Police Day.
Each of the three churches separately told Copts to avoid participating in the demonstrations and to stay at home."Daily News Egypt

"What is going to happen in Egypt on January 25? People are calling for demonstrations and sit-ins everywhere. Who is going to participate, and where? What are their demands? Isn't it possible that some people are against the whole thing? We just need to pay the Egyptian blogosphere a quick visit to find out answers for all our questions." Global Voices Online

"As of Friday morning, nearly 69,000 people had signed up for the Jan. 25 protest on the “We Are All Khaled Said” Facebook page.
Traditional opposition groups have also started to join the call for protest on Tuesday. Mohamed ElBaradei, a key opposition figure who had warned of a “Tunisia-style explosion” in Egypt, stopped just short of backing the demonstration. On Thursday night, he finally offered tacit support, if only via Twitter: “Fully support call 4 peaceful demonstrations vs. repression,” he tweeted." Newsweek

A Buddhist Global Empire


"Carrying the simple garb of a monk, more than 30,000 men spread out across the plaza in front of Dhammakaya's Cetiya temple, as a lengthy ordination ceremony approaches its climax. The men will soon take their vows and then don the saffron robe that signifies their acceptance into the monkhood. Afterward, they will be assigned roles in temples across Thailand, where they will follow the sacred Buddhist precepts." Foreign Policy

No, Buddhism isn't immune to massive religious organization efforts either - with all its trappings - on the other hand, to each his own. To their credit, the founder of the movement is actually a woman (a Buddhist monk) - this is all too rare in this world.

Bathed in candlelight, throngs of women from every corner of Thailand begin a mass meditation at Wat Phra Dhammakaya. Unlike men at other Dhammakaya mass ordinations, who proceed to a period of monkhood, most women will soon return to their normal life of families and work.

The Palestine Papers

Over the last several months, Al Jazeera has been given unhindered access to the largest-ever leak of confidential documents related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There are nearly 1,700 files, thousands of pages of diplomatic correspondence detailing the inner workings of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. These documents – memos, e-mails, maps, minutes from private meetings, accounts of high level exchanges, strategy papers and even power point presentations – date from 1999 to 2010.
The material is voluminous and detailed; it provides an unprecedented look inside the continuing negotiations involving high-level American, Israeli, and Palestinian Authority officials.
Al Jazeera will release the documents between January 23-26th, 2011. They will reveal new details about: 
  • the Palestinian Authority’s willingness to concede illegal Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem, and to be “creative” about the status of the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount;
  • the compromises the Palestinian Authority was prepared to make on refugees and the right of return;
  • details of the PA’s security cooperation with Israel;
  • and private exchanges between Palestinian and American negotiators in late 2009, when the Goldstone Report was being discussed at the United Nations.
Al Jazeera
The reaction to this in the Middle East is going to be predictable - condemnation for all sides for Palestinian for giving up their struggles, etc. Well, let the Palestinian to define their own future - they cannot (and should not) carry the whole aspiration of the Arab world. If the Tunisian started their uprising for the MENA region, they would have stopped on day 2 because of the burden they carry on their shoulders.

I think the leak is positive for the Palestinians - it just shows the nasty intransigence of the current coalition government of Israel and the pragmatism of the leadership of the current Palestinian authority in approaching the peace process.  

Friday, January 21, 2011

jesus, the mobster

"And whosoever shall offend one of [these] little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea." Mark 9:42

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Rewarding the wrong people

Another thing that differentiates Goldman from Apple is how much it pays its employees. In 2010, Goldman’s 35,700 employees took home an average of $430,700. Apple doesn’t publish much information about its labor costs. According to the jobs Web site Simply Hired, the average salary at Apple is $46,000. Another Web site, Salary List, quotes a substantially higher figure—$107,719—but that doesn’t appear to include people working at Apple’s more than three hundred retail stores. Whichever number is more accurate, the basic message is the same. Apple employees earn a lot less than their counterparts at Goldman despite the fact they generate a much higher return—private and social—on the capital they use.
New Yorker
Apple contributes much to the world. Goldman on the other hand .. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

China build the longest bridge over water in just four years


"At 26.4 miles long, the Qingdao Haiwan Bridge would easily cross the English Channel and is almost three miles longer than the previous record-holder, the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway in the American state of Louisiana.
The vast structure links the centre of the booming port city of Qingdao in eastern China's Shandong Province with the suburb of Huangdao, spanning the wide blue waters of Jiaozhou Bay.
Built in just four years at a cost of £5.5 billion, the sheer scale of the bridge reveals the advances made by Chinese engineers in recent years." Telegraph

Yes, you can run a marathon on the bridge (Marathon is 26.2 miles)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

This is crazy

"An unemployed man set himself on fire in an attempted suicide in a building in the Khurshid district in Alexandria.
Ahmed Hesham El-Sayed, a 25-year-old, is the third Egyptian to copy Tunisia's Abouaziz, who set himself on fire in December triggering riots and the ultimate Tunisian revolution.
Hospital sources say that El-Sayed was severely burnt and has been unable to be questionned by police." Ahram
Dammit. You can't replicate the spark just by replicating the method. Stop burning yourself.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Sharam "party all the time"

Wikiscore?

"Rudolf M. Elmer, the former head of the Cayman Islands office of the prominent Swiss bank Julius Baer, refused to identify any of the individuals or companies, but told reporters at a press conference that about 40 politicians and “pillars of society” worldwide are among them.
He told The Observer newspaper over the weekend that those named in the documents come from “the U.S., Britain, Germany, Austria and Asia — from all over,” and include “business people, politicians, people who have made their living in the arts and multinational conglomerates — from both sides of the Atlantic.”

Mr. Elmer said he had turned to WikiLeaks to educate society about what he considers an unfair system designed to serve the rich and aid money launderers after his offers to provide the data to universities and governments were spurned and, in his opinion, the Swiss media failed to cover the substance of his allegations. “The man in the street needs to know how this system works,” he said, referring to the offshore trusts that many “high net worth individuals” across the world use to evade taxes.
" NY Times

No copycat please



An Egyptian man set himself on fire Monday outside the country's parliament, security officials said, in an apparent protest emulating the self-immolation of an unemployed Tunisian man last month that helped trigger a popular uprising.
It also follows a similar act in Algeria on Saturday. Algeria's Liberte daily said that a 37-year-old man set himself alight over the weekend in a village near the Tunisian border, and died hours later in the hospital. (AP)

Just because it triggered the Tunisian uprising, it doesn't mean this kind of action will trigger similar uprising in Egypt. The tension in Egypt has been steadily rising for the past days and there seems to be a giddy anticipation that something is going to happen. There's already an organizing happening on Facebook to do a demo on January 25 (Police Day) and almost 50,000 people have already confirmed attendence. Over 700,000 people invited still hasn't confirmed yet.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

How Stuxnet was created & spread (NYT)

"“The attackers took great care to make sure that only their designated targets were hit,” he said. “It was a marksman’s job.”For example, one small section of the code appears designed to send commands to 984 machines linked together.

Curiously, when international inspectors visited Natanz in late 2009, they found that the Iranians had taken out of service a total of exactly 984 machines that had been running the previous summer." (NYT)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Tunisia #21 - Ben Ali landed in Saudi Arabia

"Saudi Arabia has welcomed Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and his family a day after they fled an mass uprising in their country.
A statement released by the country's monarchy said the decision to welcome Ben Ali was based on appreciation of the "exceptional circumstances" in Tunisia.
"Out of concern for the exceptional circumstances facing the brotherly Tunisian people and in support of the security and stability of their country... the Saudi government has welcomed President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and his family to the kingdom," the statement said.
A Saudi source told Al Jazeera that Ben Ali's plane had landed in Jeddah, a city on the Red Sea coast, but did not specify who had accompanied him to the kingdom." Al Jazeera

Somebody has to allow him to land his plane. Saudi Arabia is as good as any.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Tunisia Uprising #20: That's all folks

The reporting on Tunisia started 5 days ago after Youssef Gaigi sent me an email about the uptick in the uprising. He is the source of any unlabeled on the ground reporting for this uprising. One of the report was from Safia, another Tunisian.

The on the ground report was unlabeled due to safety concern after bloggers in Tunisia being arrested left and right (especially since Youssef and Safia are based in Tunis). Now that this is over, I can now reveal their name so they can be credited with the on the ground reporting posted on this blog.

Gaigi started a blog a couple of days ago here and you should follow this because it will contain various interesting perspective now that Tunisia is reaching a critical stage of transition to a new form of country. Good luck for Tunisia.

Tunisia uprising #19: It is indeed Freedom Day

Gaigi wrote this earlier today
"The deaths and violence did not stop yesterday, and we saw, once again, the government’s propaganda machine at works: TV7.
We are not sure how things are going to be today.
But we are all determined. We will be free!"
and guess what, he was right.
"President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali has stepped down. Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi has taken over as interim president." BBC



This uprising will be known as Jasmine Revolution, based on the famous machmoum of Tunisia.

Tunisia uprising #18: End Game


"Mohamed Ghannouchi said he was taking over as interim president
1749: Mr Ghannouchi vowed to respect the constitution and restore stability. It is unclear whether Mr Ben Ali has left the country, but al-Arabiya reports that he is flying to Malta under Libyan protection.
1745: President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali has stepped down. Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi has taken over as interim president."
BBC

Alleged Ben Ali's departure capture on video

"1733: Sources tell al-Jazeera TV that President Ben Ali has left the country and that the army is in control."
"1732: Saudi-based Al-Arabiya TV reports that Tunisian Parliamentary Speaker Fouad Mbazaa will announce shortly that he is taking over control of the country from the president."
"Sources tell al-Jazeera TV that the Tunisian security forces have arrested members of Trabelsi family at an airport. Many of the protesters have expressed their anger at the power, wealth and influence of the extended family of President Ben Ali's second wife, Leila Trabelsi. "No, no to the Trabelsis who looted the budget," has been a popular slogan. Many refer to the president's relations simply as "The Family" or "The Mafia", according to the New York Times." BBC

Tunisia uprising #17: Flood of change

Enduring America is blogging up a storm on Tunisia. Check out their extensive list of youtubes videos of the event today and yesterday.


Protesters gathered with signs reading phrases like “Ben Ali Get Out” in Tunis, Friday.
NY Times

It's a showdown
1626: The full announcement by state television was as follows: "The president has given orders to Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi to create a new government. Following acts of violence, it has been decided to introduce a state of emergency in the country to protect Tunisian citizens. This state of emergency means that any gathering of more than three people is forbidden, that arms will be used by security forces in cases where a suspect does not stop when asked to do so by the police and thirdly, a curfew [is imposed] from 1700 this evening until 0700 in the morning for an indefinite period." BBC
"Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali has dismissed his government and dissolved parliament, and called new elections within six months.
A state of emergency has been declared amid protests over corruption, unemployment and food prices.
They culminated earlier in thousands of people protesting outside the interior ministry in the capital Tunis, urging the president to quit.
Police fired tear gas at the crowds outside the interior ministry." BBC



"In a sign of a deepening political stand-off in the North African nation, increasingly being referred to on social media platforms as the "Jasmine Revolution", thousands of protesters converged in front of the interior ministry building on Friday, chanting slogans such as "Ben Ali, leave!" and "Ben Ali, thank you but that's enough!".
The fresh protests came a day after Ben Ali offered sweeping concessions in an attempt to end the wave of dissent sweeping the country. "AlJazeera

Tunisia uprising #16: Cautionary tales of Karim Sanjabi

Say that you get rid of the current 23-year-in-power President of Tunisia, Ben Ali. Now what?
That's the terrible question that will linger in the country for some time.

You could end up with a successful transition (although terrible in early years) to full democracy like Indonesia or you could end up like Iran.

RT put a cautionary tale of Karim Sanjabi, an Iranian liberal political leader of the 20th century who pushed the Shah out and through the process, got himself overrun by the stronger party in Iran

"As the leader of the National Front during the revolutionary uprising of 1978–1979, Sanjabi and his colleagues initially wished to negotiate a peaceful solution with the Shah. However, in November 1978, he met as representative of the National Front with Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in France. He had gone there hoping to convince Khomeini to support the creation of a coalition government headed by the National Front. Despite the rising revolutionary fervor, Sanjabi and many other liberals had remained loyal to the idea of a constitutional monarchy with the Shah as ceremonial figurehead and they wished to bring Khomeini over to their point of view. Khomeini, however, refused to budge and reiterated his demand for the overthrow of the monarchy. In the end, Sanjabi, acting as head of the National Front, capitulated to Khomeini's demands. Khomeini at the time was extremely popular amongst the religious masses, and Sanjabi emerged from his meeting "with a short declaration that spoke of both Islam and democracy as basic principles",[1] and Sanjabi declared his support for Khomeini. Unfortunately[says who?] for this agreement, after the overthrow of the monarchy on February 11, 1979, Khomeini "explicitly refused to put the same word, democracy, into either the title of the Republic or its constitution."[1] Sanjabi served as the foreign minister of the provisional government (February–April 1979). After the creation of the Islamic republic, he became an opponent of Khomeini's regime and he fled Iran in 1982. He died in 1995." Wikipedia

As a product of the generation that bring about change in Indonesia, I am hopeful and optimistic of the change in Tunisia. But yes, the road to achieve the dreams of an uprising is not easy and it could turn badly. Just ask Cuba or Iran. In the end, it is a struggle worth pursuing when the status quo is no longer acceptable to the people of the country. Tunisia in the end belongs to the Tunisians - and as observers from afar - I wish them the best of luck and I am excited with the possibilities of the future.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Tunisia #15 - Breakthrough?

"Dear all,
Today's speech shows definitely a major shift in Tunisia's history.
Ben Ali talked for the third time in the past month to the people. Something unprecedented, we barely knew this guy. Ben Ali talked in the Tunisian dialect instead of arabic for the first time ever.
He spoke directly to the police forces and ordered them not to shoot, unless in cases of self-defense. On the same line he said a commission will investigate in the murders that occured.
He also said that people misled him in several areas, and particularly in the areas of politics and freedom. He admited that he didn't achieve his goals or dreams in these areas.
He granted that all liberties will be given to the people of Tunisia. He stated that the right of setting an organization, a political party, or a media will be totally opened. He said all censorship online or on traditional media will be stopped.
People are still cautious and doubt these words. We are talking about billions of $ stolen by his family. A political party, RCD, which is much much stronger than other parties. We are also talking about 150k policemen who acted like a terrorist organization for decades and particularly lately. Turning his words into action will be a very difficult mission.
We will probably start by checking his words tomorrow.
Thank you all for your help."


"I missed another major point in his speech, porbably because of the excitement of this moment.
He announced that he would not run for president in 2014.
Again, I am not sure this is sufficient. Yet this is a step forward."

Tunisia #14 - Earlier Today


"People walked past a burned building after riots in the Ettadhamoun district of Tunis on Thursday."
NY Times

Tunisia uprising #14

This blog is worth bookmarking.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Tunisia uprising #13 Daily Tidbits

"I was in front of Journalist union yesterday which was surrounded by police.
We saw the military has joind the police after the head of the Army Rechid Ammar has disappeared since more than 36 hours after he refused to shoot protesters ( source from journalist of Nesma TV). He was replaced by one of the head of the intelligence Ahmed Chbir.
Yesterday I was trying to get to Ettadhamon where the protests started, all road were closed. After sneaking from alternative streets we got closer and we saw trace of fire, detroyed and burned cars and big rock in the road.
The police didn't allow us to get into the neiberhood but we were just in the main entrence of Hay Ettadhamen. Police and Military were standing together to resist the riot. Saw the theory of a coup arranged by the military is getting unlikely to happen, specially after the change of the head of the military by the intellengence.
People were calling friends and family to convince them to go home because of the chooting and even make pressure on them. This is very dangerous and might stop the riots. Peaople should continue to walk in the street to hold the pressure."

a thousand words


TPM

Chinese Parenting

"The Yale professor may have daughters who play instruments beautifully and got near-perfect scores on their SATS. I had a student in 2008, the daughter of immigrants who owned a dry cleaners, who tried to kill herself by drinking cleaning products when her transfer application was rejected by UCLA. I’ve heard many other stories of suicide and suicide attempts. If we’re gonna get anecdotal, no ethnic group in the multicultural melting pot that is PCC has had as many self-reported incidents of self-harm per capita as have my East Asian students. That’s based on more than 18 years of community college teaching and mentoring, including five years as advisor to the overwhelmingly Asian honor students’ society, but it’s also based on the reality that Chinese-Americans 15-24 are much more likely to kill themselves than are white teens, a statistic that’s remained depressingly consistent since the 1980s. None of my Chinese students have taken their lives while my students, but I hear more stories of attempts — and the deaths of friends and siblings — than I do from any other ethnic group." Hugo

Above article is a response to the idea presented on this book


Amazon

I was raised in a Chinese family tradition but it was pretty much a chill out environment for me and my sisters. We were just encouraged to read, read and read anything. I was growing up in a household that subscribe to 4 magazines and two newspapers (morning and evening) - I think we were raised in some kind of benign neglect - mark at school aren't a big deal as long as we don't fail the year.

Tunisia uprising #12: a citizen report for Tuesday


Samir Labidi, Tunisia's communications minister, said the protests had been hijacked by 'extremists' [AFP]

"Today was quite intense. We started the day with the news of artists organizing a protest in front of the municipal theater in the main street in downtown Tunis, Avenue Habib Bourguiba. Artists were beaten up by police. Many of them were quite angry, and expressed themsleves in videos they posted on facebook videos, you can browse previous and next ones to see other artists talking.
http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=100792419997755&comments
http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=100794656664198&comments
The center of Tunis was closed, cops ordered shops and cafés to shut down by noon.
Then the news this afternoon is that protests broke down in cité ettadhamen and cit al intilaka, two major underprivilidged areas in the western suburb of Tunis. Safia (Cced) was there tonight and got caught inside, police closed down the area. I am not sure if she managed to get out.
On my side I was near the airport a few minutes ago I saw three military trucks going either towards the center, the southern suburb, or going further inside the country. I was quite happy to see them, I opened my window, saluted them, and exchanged encouraging smiles with two soldiers. The military is seen as the savior, since our police turned out to be a terrorist organization. That is not my only my own opinion. Yesterday, protestors were chanting: "The ministry of interior, a terrorist ministry".
On the government side, the minister of communication hosted a press conference where he announced that they set up green numbers to inform journalists, and are implementing regional news offices to inform the press. I believe these actions are fruitless, we do not want new ways to gather information. We want press freedom, journalists should go wherever they want, whenever the want and write whatever they believe.
The president in his speech yesterday talked about "mercenaries and bandits engaging in vandalism". But there's a sentiment that these violences are orchestrated by civilian police forces to reinforce the government position. Today, all we see on Tunisian TV are pictures of burned offices and accusations of vandalism.
People feel the government is scaring us to justify its own existence and its power. Yet, we know that the protestors are us, and all we are claiming is our freedom, and every time we screamed for it we are beaten up. We know that the dead are our kids, unemployed and oppressed.
Tonight i was up for a drink with friends in the suburb of Tunis, but news of protests and clashes came down along with orders from the police to shut down the restaurant of fear of protests. A strange feeling that we were victim of this terrorist government propaganda who aims at spreading parnoia, thus justifying its own existence and its use of force.
But, I know, I know, I know that I lived for 23 years under the same president, I know that my government is corrupted, I know that the police has always oppressed us, I know that i can not rely on traditional media to know what is happening in my country, i know that i can not protest freely, i know that i can not access hundreds of websites, i know that two bloggers are jailed right now, i know so much about this government that i do not want it anymore... And most of all, i know how all of this started, wasn't it when Mohamed Bouazizi was slapped in the face by a police officer, and after he tried to complain to government officials without success he immolated himself.
Beware soon, I will turn to a bandit, a mercenary...may be soon i will become an insurgent or a terrorist just like an iraqi in iraq, or a palestinian in palestine."

The edge

"An off-duty police officer allegedly opened fire on a train in Egypt Tuesday, killing one Coptic Christian and wounding five others, the government said.
The Interior Ministry confirmed the shooting but it was unclear whether the alleged gunman, a Muslim, had singled out Christians, The New York Times reported.
The suspect was identified as Amer Ashour Abdelzaher and the person killed was Fathy Said Ebeid, 71, the Times said. The wounded included Ebeid's wife, three other women and a man."
UPI

1st of January brought a suicide bombing in a New Year's mass in Alexandria. Last week one of the 'usual suspects' was tortured to death in a police custody and now last night's attack. It's getting tense here.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Brisbane Flood Maps 2011



Get it here and more flooding info for Wednesday Jan 12.

More flooding pictures


"Flood water in Milton. Photo: Cameron Atfield"


"Flooding at South Bank. Photo: Amelia Bentley"

Tunisia uprising #12: What's in a name

There's an effort to call this uprising "Jasmin Revolution" based on the various machmoum, an assortment made of Jasmine, that Tunisia is famous for.

Tunisia uprising #11: On the ground updates

Notes: These updates are published unedited - they come through my Inbox.

  • The detention and inculpation of two bloggers and activists Slim Amamou et Azyz Amami who are apparently accused of collaboration with Anonymous.
  • Yesterday there were protests in most Tunisian cities, then the president made a speech at 4pm which was not well received for the lack of actions in critical areas which are democracy and freedom of speech.
  • The stock market seems to continue its fall.
  • There's a curfew in Thala, west of Tunisia.
  • Slim is partly in trouble because he talked about anonymous a few months ago the TEDx Carthage, Tunisia
  • BBC has amazing photographs of the protests.
  • Facebook Video from yesterday's protest. "This is not Gaza"
  • Schools and universities are shut in Tunisia, yesterday supermarkets were ordered to close at 18hr. Right now, all stores and cafés are closed in Tunis.

"There are attempts to organize flash mobs by bloggers and young tunisian internet users
Seems that cops are forbidding people to sit in cafés in Tunis., and are even beating up some people who seem to be young revolutionaries around the center .
Worse in western Tunisia police is forbiding assembly of two people or more and the answer wold bullets
There is quite some tension all over the place."


Map for reference

Tunisia uprising #10: Grey Lady wakes up



"The Tunisian government ordered the closing of all schools and universities in the country on Monday until further notice in an attempt to quell escalating riots over poverty and unemployment.
At least 14 people have died in the riots, according to the official Tunisian news agency, which also reported the school closings. Opponents of the government contend that riot police officers have shot and killed many more since the riots broke out three weeks ago.
President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, in a televised address, promised to create more jobs, but also to stamp out any violence. He blamed unspecified enemies abroad for the rioting."NY Times

Tunisia Uprising #9: Volatility in Tunisian Stock Exchange during the unrest



Interactive chart : Bloomberg

Tunisia uprising #8: the flow and ebb of hope

In my inbox two days ago

"Today the president will make a speech. The second one!
The first one came two weeks after #Bouazizi immolated himself. He annouced severe consequences for trouble makers.
After the death of #Bouazizi on Tuesday protesters hit the streets. Especially shocked by the coldness of Tunisian media about the protests.
People are determined to get their freedom. It is the first time for 23 years that we see protests all over the country. And people feel they are closer to their freedom.
20 deaths among Tunisian youth is a shocking fact for a country that didn't new violence for a long time, the last similar riots happened 1984.
The future will eventually get clearer after the presidents speech tonight. The tweetosphere, then facebook will inform us on the reactions of people of #tunisia and the outcome of the protests of #sidibouzid.
But I believe, that the president will have to stretch its politics and give peole freedom with radical changes, in order to please them. This will be an unprecedented move in the history of Tunisia. A country that wintesses some of the toughest regimes in the world.
"

then subsequent email confirming that the expected speech wasn't to be.

"no speech! it was a rumour!
the national continued its usual speech. They broadcasted images and videos of burned offices and administrations as to point to the youth who were doing protests.
Now it is obvious and definite, something will happen tomorrow in Tunis!"

Brisbane's under water




"Jan 11: Morayfield shopping centre is engulfed by floodwaters. (Reader picture)"

More pictures here.

Brisbane is the third largest city in Australia and one fine city with the river snakes through its center. My alma mater, Queensland University of Technology, is located in this city.



"The Brisbane River has broken its banks with evacuations under way in the heart of the city amid fears Brisbane will see its worst flooding since the 1974 disaster.
Roads are becoming choked as people leave work to secure their homes from floodwaters, which are closing a growing number of roads. City car parks have opened their boom gates, telling people to get their cars out." The Australian

Monday, January 10, 2011

Economist's on Salman Taseer



"IN HIS first speech to Pakistan’s constituent assembly, on August 11th 1947, the country’s president, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, made clear his belief that religious toleration should prevail in the country he had brought into being. “You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this state of Pakistan.” It is a dreadful measure of how far Pakistan has sunk since then that Salman Taseer, governor of Punjab, was murdered on January 4th because of his outspoken support for that principle.
Mr Taseer, a member of the Pakistan People’s Party and a close ally of the president, Asif Ali Zardari, had been campaigning on behalf of Asia Bibi, an illiterate Christian farm worker who in the course of a row with neighbours over drinking water was accused of blasphemy, convicted and sentenced to death. He had called for her to be pardoned, and also for the law, under which death for blasphemy against the prophet is mandatory, to be changed. His murderer, one of his bodyguards, said this was why the governor was killed." Economist

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Tunisia uprising #7 Internet Tit for Tat

"The Tunisian Internet Agency (Agence tunisienne d'Internet or ATI) is being blamed for the presence of injected JavaScript that captures usernames and passwords. The code has been discovered on login pages for Gmail, Yahoo, and Facebook, and said to be the reason for the recent rash of account hijackings reported by Tunisian protesters.
ATI is run by the Tunisian Ministry of Communications. They supply all of the privately held Tunisian ISPs, making them the main source of Internet access in the country. They’ve been under scrutiny for years, due to the fact that they make use of their authority to regulate the entire national network. Last April, ATI earned international attention by blocking access to sites such as Flickr, YouTube, and Vimeo.
According to Reporters Without Borders, authorities claim to target only pornographic or terrorist websites. “However, censorship applies above all to political opposition, independent news, and human rights websites.”"
TechHerald

Some protesters have been busy in generating custom made arts of the current ruler of Tunisia

More songs:


"OPERATION TUNISIAMAIL
The outline plan is to find the governments internal email system and take it down. This will mess up their comms. Just like an army would. We use computers they use guns!
The appaling situation in Tunisia has forced us to take action, BUT, we arent just going to take out their tourist sites! were going for something that will effect the government and ALSO bring the situation to the main stream medias attention! JOIN US!!
We research the attack over the weekend and then we go at them on monday! Keep them offline as long as we can! It could bring chaos to their government and thats the ONLY way we can really help these people. STILL following the anonymous plan. We are just taking real action to make a REAL difference!!
If we were a real army with guns (which we dont agree with!!) then thats the first target. We can take out their comms without any violence! maybe it will make a difference, maybe it wont. It WILL bring media attention and thats what is needed as NO main stream news channel seem to be covering this!!
I AM ANONYMOUS
YOU ARE ANONYMOUS
WE ARE ALL ANONYMOUS" AnonNews

Context of the uprising is here.

Tunisia uprising #6 Mainstream Media Watchful Eyes

That's pretty much it. The events in the past days in Tunisia did not exactly captured world media attention (or they have been dozing off through an event that could mark a new beginning in North Africa).

Context of the uprising is here.

Tunisia uprising #5 Videos

(Note: I will try to provide context on these videos when I can)

Facebook 1
"This video was taken yesterday night in the hospital of Kasserine, a city in the west of Tunisia."

Battle of Kasserine

Facebook 2
"Standard NATO 5.56 mm bullets were used against the protesters"

Facebook 3

Funeral of Salah Dacharoui
"Not sure when he was killed"

Here's a map of Tunisia as a reference for all cities named in the reporting



"On Thursday, amidst protests in Tunisia, rapper El General (Hamada Ben-Amor) was detained. His brother Hamdi Ben-Amor explained, ""Some 30 plainclothes policemen came to our house to arrest Hamada and took him away without ever telling us where to. When we asked why they were arresting him, they said 'he knows why'."
"Why" is making music critical of the Tunisian Government with lines such as "President, Your People Are Dying":" EA

Context of the uprising is here.

Tunisia uprising #4: Overseas reactions


A call to free several Tunisian bloggers attached in a Tunisian consulate in (guessing) Germany




"The blogger and activist Slim Amamou was arrested today for around January 06 at 13h, at which time his friends and colleagues had no news of him" Nawaat.org


Slah Eddine Kchouk, Azyz Amami and Slim Amamou
"A censorship war has unfolded on the streets and on the Internet in Tunisia over the past weeks. Freedom of speech activists are demanding less censorship regarding the country’s growing social unrest, but instead of giving in the Government is shutting down the blogs of activists and critics, as well as talking over Gmail and Facebook accounts. The situation took a turn for the worse this week when several net activists, bloggers and members of The Pirate Party were arrested for reasons unknown."

Torrent Freak

Context of the uprising is here.

Tunisia uprising #3: On the ground report from a citizen

Tunisia's opposition and civil society has been fabricated by the ruling party since independence, and further more since ben ali came to power in 1987.
Consequently, since the act of Mohamed Bouazizi, who immolated himself on Dec 17th, people came out to the street in a voluntary and spontaneous manner, without organizational support. Yet, we can see that most of the protesters were friendly with the syndicate.
There are three main bodies revolting the lawyers, the syndicate, and bloggers and internet users. For three weeks no org adopted the mouvement and formulated demands, because of the pressure of the police on the top management of organizations. The head of the lawyers organization was beaten up and threatened, so he withdrew his call for a strike, but the lawyers ignored him and made the strike. The same was going on with the syndicate, but two days ago, the syndicate adopted the movement.
The main demands are freedom of expression and employment. Then, there are slogans such as thiefs (goverment and ruling family), dictators, no life long presidency, the right to protest and organize...However demands are not structured because the gov wouldn't allow any organization to endorse, protest, or even meet.
In the meanwhile, Tunisian media is silent and continue lying by hiding the facts. On the other hand, the protests continue and there were several dead people (around 15) by police shots, and several cases of suicide and self immolation.
The main communication mean that allowed the mouvement to continue and the word to spread is twitter and facebook.
The Tunisian people, especially from the interior are fed up and seem determined to remove the president. What is certain, is that they are attacking and burning the offices of the ruling party in their towns.
If you walk around Tunis, you will see police everywhere, the atmosphere is tense. Yet, business continues as usual. High schools and universities are protesting.
There are several arrests, kidnappings, and disappearances of syndicate members, lawyers, students, bloggers, and even rappers who expressed their anger.
In the meanwhile, Tunisia is joined by Anonymous who launched a cyberwar to bring down the gov websites, now they are trying to hack the internal email system of the gov and the operation seems to start on Monday. This was a major blow to the government who is used to censor the web as he wished, yet they weren't able to stand the attacks. The government started then major phishing operations to gathers ids and passwords of google, yahoo, and facebook accounts. Many activists saw their emails hacked.
How wide spread? Within two weeks it reached every single city...It gathers all the stratas in the interior of the country, In Tunis, only the three groups: Lawyers, syndicate, and facebook and twitter users, as well as bloggers. The missing part are our doctors, business men...and all those who are making a good living.
I will keep you posted!

Tunisia uprising #2



http://24sur24.posterous.com/sidibouzid-66





"While you were enjoying the various holidays on offer, Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali went on live television to address a nation gripped by the worst unrest in a decade.
Unsurprisingly, he was agitated. When you’ve been in power for 23 years, you are used to addressing the nation when you want. This wasn’t one of those times. Two young men driven to desperation by unemployment had attempted suicide (one successfully) and had lit a fuse of popular anger that was spilling across one of the most tightly controlled police states in the Middle East. Ben Ali was not having a good day.
And then, in the middle of his live address, as he feigned concern for the young and the poor, the telephone on his desk started ringing.
I kid you not."
The Star



Above is a banner of resistance against Tunisian government to block access to critical Internet sites.

"Reporters Without Borders condemned the arrests and disappearances yesterday of bloggers and online activists across a number of Tunisian cities.
The worldwide press freedom organization has monitored at least five such cases but the list could well be longer.
Police arrested the bloggers to question them about hacking into government websites by the militant group Anonymous, several sources told the organisation." All Africa

Search for #sidibouzid #optunisia on twitter.

Click on Tunisia tag to find previous blog about this uprising.



"At least 20 people have been killed in clashes with police in a two cities in Tunisia.
Six people were killed and another six wounded in the city of Tala, 200km southwest of the capital Tunis, on Saturday, after security forces opened fire on protesters.
Another 14 people were killed in similar clashes in the Kasserine region, union sources told Al Jazeera.
Belgacem Sayhi, a teacher and trade union activist, told the AFP news agency that the victims in Tala were between 17 and 30 years old, and were killed when the police opened fire on the crowd.
The government has put the death toll after the Tala riots at two.
"The police opened fire in legitimate self-defence and this led to two dead and eight wounded, as well as several wounded among police, three of them seriously," a government statement said." AlJazeera

Enduring America is live blogging.


A young man died after being shot by government forces. Exact time and location are unknown

"Union sources said troops were deployed on Saturday for the first time since the crisis erupted in the central town of Sidi Bouzid in mid-December, and had taken up positions around public buildings. However, they had taken no direct action against the demonstrators.
Union official Belgacem Sayhi said the death toll in Tala alone reached five early Sunday when a 17-year old youth died from his injuries. He said the victims had been killed when police opened fire on demonstrators in the town centre.
Another union official Sadok Mahmoudi, told AFP that angry demonstrators had on Friday set several official buildings and a bank on fire in Tala, a few dozen kilometres from Kasserine near the border with Algeria, where at least four people have reportedly been killed in days of rioting over rising food prices.
In France, police said a blast damaged shutters at the Tunisian consulate in Paris, which the country's ambassador denounced as a "terrorist act".
Tunisia's ambassador to France, Raouf Najar, said in a statement sent to AFP: "The disinformation these past few days on what is happening in Tunisia is such that anything is possible, even this terrorist act."" Africa Asia



"Paramedics rush one of the wounded to medical assistance. The man later died." ANN

"Ahmed Nejib Chebbi, leader of the opposition Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) said the death toll had been collated by his party's network of members in the south-central towns of Kasserine and Tala, the epicentre of clashes since Friday.
Chebbi appealed to Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali "to call an immediate ceasefire to spare the lives of innocent citizens and respect their right to protest."
The toll contradicts a statement from the interior ministry earlier Sunday, which said two people had been killed and eight wounded after security forces fired on demonstrators." Channel News Asia

Context of the uprising is here.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

South Sudan gearing up for Independence


"Yet during a rare visit to Juba, the southern capital-in-waiting, in the days before Sunday’s referendum on self-determination for the South he said he would accept partition if that is the will of the southern people, 3.9 million of whom have registered to vote.
“Imposing unity by force doesn’t work,” Bashir said in a speech. “We want unity between the North and the South but this doesn’t mean opposing the desire of the southern citizen.”"
Bashir said Khartoum is ready to recognize and support an independent South, saying, “The benefit we get from unity, we can also get it from two separate states.”
“I personally will be sad if Sudan splits,” he added. “But at the same time I will be happy if we have peace in Sudan between the two sides.”
Global Post



"Get out the vote: Two men ride through the city center of Juba with a pro-independence banner and a Southern Sudanese flag on Jan. 5. In the days and weeks leading up to the independence referendum, Juba has been a city of near-daily rallies. Men, women, and children of all ages gather across the city to urge their fellow Southern Sudanese to vote for separation from greater Sudan." FP

Friday, January 07, 2011

Autism Fake Research

"The British Medical Journal on Wednesday accused a disgraced British doctor of committing an "elaborate fraud" by faking data in his studies linking vaccines with autism.
Andrew Wakefield's work convinced thousands of parents that vaccines are dangerous. Such fears have not only caused parents to skip vaccinations for their children, which critics say has led to ongoing outbreaks of measles and mumps, but have forced costly reformulations of many vaccines.
The journal's editors said it was not possible that Wakefield made a mistake and that he must have faked the data. They supported their position with a series of articles by a journalist who used medical records and interviews to show that Wakefield falsified data." Washington Post

Tunisia uprising

"Anti-government protests over soaring unemployment and poor living conditions erupted across Tunisia after Mohammed Bouazizia, young unemployed university graduate, set himself on fire in frustration on December 17. He died while being treated in a hospital near Tunis, the capital, on January 5, according to family members.
This act of self-immolation ignited simmering anger at policies that the government's critics say favour an elite minority. Demonstrations across the country have continued unabated since December 17.
Most video-sharing sites face blanket censorship in Tunisia, as do news websites like Nawaat, Al Jazeera Arabic, and, most recently, Al Jazeera English.
Yet many Tunisians share videos on Facebook, via email or use proxies to break through the media blackout.
Here's some of what they filmed..." Aljazeera

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Bill Zeller's Suicide Notes

I have the urge to declare my sanity and justify my actions, but I
assume I'll never be able to convince anyone that this was the right
decision. Maybe it's true that anyone who does this is insane by
definition, but I can at least explain my reasoning. I considered not
writing any of this because of how personal it is, but I like tying up
loose ends and don't want people to wonder why I did this. Since I've
never spoken to anyone about what happened to me, people would likely
draw the wrong conclusions.

My first memories as a child are of being raped, repeatedly. This has
affected every aspect of my life. This darkness, which is the only way I
can describe it, has followed me like a fog, but at times intensified
and overwhelmed me, usually triggered by a distinct situation. In
kindergarten I couldn't use the bathroom and would stand petrified
whenever I needed to, which started a trend of awkward and unexplained
social behavior. The damage that was done to my body still prevents me
from using the bathroom normally, but now it's less of a physical
impediment than a daily reminder of what was done to me.

This darkness followed me as I grew up. I remember spending hours
playing with legos, having my world consist of me and a box of cold,
plastic blocks. Just waiting for everything to end. It's the same thing
I do now, but instead of legos it's surfing the web or reading or
listening to a baseball game. Most of my life has been spent feeling
dead inside, waiting for my body to catch up.

At times growing up I would feel inconsolable rage, but I never
connected this to what happened until puberty. I was able to keep the
darkness at bay for a few hours at a time by doing things that required
intense concentration, but it would always come back. Programming
appealed to me for this reason. I was never particularly fond of
computers or mathematically inclined, but the temporary peace it would
provide was like a drug. But the darkness always returned and built up
something like a tolerance, because programming has become less and less
of a refuge.

The darkness is with me nearly every time I wake up. I feel like a grime
is covering me. I feel like I'm trapped in a contimated body that no
amount of washing will clean. Whenever I think about what happened I
feel manic and itchy and can't concentrate on anything else. It
manifests itself in hours of eating or staying up for days at a time or
sleeping for sixteen hours straight or week long programming binges or
constantly going to the gym. I'm exhausted from feeling like this every
hour of every day.

Three to four nights a week I have nightmares about what happened. It
makes me avoid sleep and constantly tired, because sleeping with what
feels like hours of nightmares is not restful. I wake up sweaty and
furious. I'm reminded every morning of what was done to me and the
control it has over my life.

I've never been able to stop thinking about what happened to me and this
hampered my social interactions. I would be angry and lost in thought
and then be interrupted by someone saying "Hi" or making small talk,
unable to understand why I seemed cold and distant. I walked around,
viewing the outside world from a distant portal behind my eyes, unable
to perform normal human niceties. I wondered what it would be like to
take to other people without what happened constantly on my mind, and I
wondered if other people had similar experiences that they were better
able to mask.

Alcohol was also something that let me escape the darkness. It would
always find me later, though, and it was always angry that I managed to
escape and it made me pay. Many of the irresponsible things I did were
the result of the darkness. Obviously I'm responsible for every decision
and action, including this one, but there are reasons why things happen
the way they do.

Alcohol and other drugs provided a way to ignore the realities of my
situation. It was easy to spend the night drinking and forget that I had
no future to look forward to. I never liked what alcohol did to me, but
it was better than facing my existence honestly. I haven't touched
alcohol or any other drug in over seven months (and no drugs or alcohol
will be involved when I do this) and this has forced me to evaluate my
life in an honest and clear way. There's no future here. The darkness
will always be with me.

I used to think if I solved some problem or achieved some goal, maybe he
would leave. It was comforting to identify tangible issues as the source
of my problems instead of something that I'll never be able to change. I
thought that if I got into to a good college, or a good grad school, or
lost weight, or went to the gym nearly every day for a year, or created
programs that millions of people used, or spent a summer or California
or New York or published papers that I was proud of, then maybe I would
feel some peace and not be constantly haunted and unhappy. But nothing I
did made a dent in how depressed I was on a daily basis and nothing was
in any way fulfilling. I'm not sure why I ever thought that would change
anything.

I didn't realize how deep a hold he had on me and my life until my
first relationship. I stupidly assumed that no matter how the darkness
affected me personally, my romantic relationships would somehow be
separated and protected. Growing up I viewed my future relationships as
a possible escape from this thing that haunts me every day, but I began
to realize how entangled it was with every aspect of my life and how it
is never going to release me. Instead of being an escape, relationships
and romantic contact with other people only intensified everything about
him that I couldn't stand. I will never be able to have a relationship
in which he is not the focus, affecting every aspect of my romantic
interactions.

Relationships always started out fine and I'd be able to ignore him for
a few weeks. But as we got closer emotionally the darkness would return
and every night it'd be me, her and the darkness in a black and gruesome
threesome. He would surround me and penetrate me and the more we did the
more intense it became. It made me hate being touched, because as long
as we were separated I could view her like an outsider viewing something
good and kind and untainted. Once we touched, the darkness would
envelope her too and take her over and the evil inside me would surround
her. I always felt like I was infecting anyone I was with.

Relationships didn't work. No one I dated was the right match, and I
thought that maybe if I found the right person it would overwhelm him.
Part of me knew that finding the right person wouldn't help, so I became
interested in girls who obviously had no interest in me. For a while I
thought I was gay. I convinced myself that it wasn't the darkness at
all, but rather my orientation, because this would give me control over
why things didn't feel "right". The fact that the darkness affected
sexual matters most intensely made this idea make some sense and I
convinced myself of this for a number of years, starting in college
after my first relationship ended. I told people I was gay (at Trinity,
not at Princeton), even though I wasn't attracted to men and kept
finding myself interested in girls. Because if being gay wasn't the
answer, then what was? People thought I was avoiding my orientation, but
I was actually avoiding the truth, which is that while I'm straight, I
will never be content with anyone. I know now that the darkness will
never leave.

Last spring I met someone who was unlike anyone else I'd ever met.
Someone who showed me just how well two people could get along and how
much I could care about another human being. Someone I know I could be
with and love for the rest of my life, if I weren't so fucked up.
Amazingly, she liked me. She liked the shell of the man the darkness had
left behind. But it didn't matter because I couldn't be alone with her.
It was never just the two of us, it was always the three of us: her, me
and the darkness. The closer we got, the more intensely I'd feel the
darkness, like some evil mirror of my emotions. All the closeness we had
and I loved was complemented by agony that I couldn't stand, from him. I
realized that I would never be able to give her, or anyone, all of me or
only me. She could never have me without the darkness and evil inside
me. I could never have just her, without the darkness being a part of
all of our interactions. I will never be able to be at peace or content
or in a healthy relationship. I realized the futility of the romantic
part of my life. If I had never met her, I would have realized this as
soon as I met someone else who I meshed similarly well with. It's likely
that things wouldn't have worked out with her and we would have broken
up (with our relationship ending, like the majority of relationships do)
even if I didn't have this problem, since we only dated for a short
time. But I will face exactly the same problems with the darkness with
anyone else. Despite my hopes, love and compatability is not enough.
Nothing is enough. There's no way I can fix this or even push the
darkness down far enough to make a relationship or any type of intimacy
feasible.

So I watched as things fell apart between us. I had put an explicit time
limit on our relationship, since I knew it couldn't last because of the
darkness and didn't want to hold her back, and this caused a variety of
problems. She was put in an unnatural situation that she never should
have been a part of. It must have been very hard for her, not knowing
what was actually going on with me, but this is not something I've ever
been able to talk about with anyone. Losing her was very hard for me as
well. Not because of her (I got over our relationship relatively
quickly), but because of the realization that I would never have another
relationship and because it signified the last true, exclusive personal
connection I could ever have. This wasn't apparent to other people,
because I could never talk about the real reasons for my sadness. I was
very sad in the summer and fall, but it was not because of her, it was
because I will never escape the darkness with anyone. She was so loving
and kind to me and gave me everything I could have asked for under the
circumstances. I'll never forget how much happiness she brought me in
those briefs moments when I could ignore the darkness. I had originally
planned to kill myself last winter but never got around to it. (Parts of
this letter were written over a year ago, other parts days before doing
this.) It was wrong of me to involve myself in her life if this were a
possibility and I should have just left her alone, even though we only
dated for a few months and things ended a long time ago. She's just one
more person in a long list of people I've hurt.

I could spend pages talking about the other relationships I've had that
were ruined because of my problems and my confusion related to the
darkness. I've hurt so many great people because of who I am and my
inability to experience what needs to be experienced. All I can say is
that I tried to be honest with people about what I thought was true.

I've spent my life hurting people. Today will be the last time.

I've told different people a lot of things, but I've never told anyone
about what happened to me, ever, for obvious reasons. It took me a while
to realize that no matter how close you are to someone or how much they
claim to love you, people simply cannot keep secrets. I learned this a
few years ago when I thought I was gay and told people. The more harmful
the secret, the juicier the gossip and the more likely you are to be
betrayed. People don't care about their word or what they've promised,
they just do whatever the fuck they want and justify it later. It feels
incredibly lonely to realize you can never share something with someone
and have it be between just the two of you. I don't blame anyone in
particular, I guess it's just how people are. Even if I felt like this
is something I could have shared, I have no interest in being part of a
friendship or relationship where the other person views me as the
damaged and contaminated person that I am. So even if I were able to
trust someone, I probably would not have told them about what happened
to me. At this point I simply don't care who knows.

I feel an evil inside me. An evil that makes me want to end life. I need
to stop this. I need to make sure I don't kill someone, which is not
something that can be easily undone. I don't know if this is related to
what happened to me or something different. I recognize the irony of
killing myself to prevent myself from killing someone else, but this
decision should indicate what I'm capable of.

So I've realized I will never escape the darkness or misery associated
with it and I have a responsibility to stop myself from physically
harming others.

I'm just a broken, miserable shell of a human being. Being molested has
defined me as a person and shaped me as a human being and it has made me
the monster I am and there's nothing I can do to escape it. I don't know
any other existence. I don't know what life feels like where I'm apart
from any of this. I actively despise the person I am. I just feel
fundamentally broken, almost non-human. I feel like an animal that woke
up one day in a human body, trying to make sense of a foreign world,
living among creatures it doesn't understand and can't connect with.

I have accepted that the darkness will never allow me to be in a
relationship. I will never go to sleep with someone in my arms, feeling
the comfort of their hands around me. I will never know what
uncontimated intimacy is like. I will never have an exclusive bond with
someone, someone who can be the recipient of all the love I have to
give. I will never have children, and I wanted to be a father so badly.
I think I would have made a good dad. And even if I had fought through
the darkness and married and had children all while being unable to feel
intimacy, I could have never done that if suicide were a possibility. I
did try to minimize pain, although I know that this decision will hurt
many of you. If this hurts you, I hope that you can at least forget
about me quickly.

There's no point in identifying who molested me, so I'm just going to
leave it at that. I doubt the word of a dead guy with no evidence about
something that happened over twenty years ago would have much sway.

You may wonder why I didn't just talk to a professional about this. I've
seen a number of doctors since I was a teenager to talk about other
issues and I'm positive that another doctor would not have helped. I was
never given one piece of actionable advice, ever. More than a few spent
a large part of the session reading their notes to remember who I was.
And I have no interest in talking about being raped as a child, both
because I know it wouldn't help and because I have no confidence it
would remain secret. I know the legal and practical limits of
doctor/patient confidentiality, growing up in a house where we'd hear
stories about the various mental illnesses of famous people, stories
that were passed down through generations. All it takes is one doctor
who thinks my story is interesting enough to share or a doctor who
thinks it's her right or responsibility to contact the authorities and
have me identify the molestor (justifying her decision by telling
herself that someone else might be in danger). All it takes is a single
doctor who violates my trust, just like the "friends" who I told I was
gay did, and everything would be made public and I'd be forced to live
in a world where people would know how fucked up I am. And yes, I
realize this indicates that I have severe trust issues, but they're
based on a large number of experiences with people who have shown a
profound disrepect for their word and the privacy of others.

People say suicide is selfish. I think it's selfish to ask people to
continue living painful and miserable lives, just so you possibly won't
feel sad for a week or two. Suicide may be a permanent solution to a
temporary problem, but it's also a permanent solution to a ~23 year-old
problem that grows more intense and overwhelming every day.

Some people are just dealt bad hands in this life. I know many people
have it worse than I do, and maybe I'm just not a strong person, but I
really did try to deal with this. I've tried to deal with this every day
for the last 23 years and I just can't fucking take it anymore.

I often wonder what life must be like for other people. People who
can feel the love from others and give it back unadulterated, people who
can experience sex as an intimate and joyous experience, people who can
experience the colors and happenings of this world without constant
misery. I wonder who I'd be if things had been different or if I were a
stronger person. It sounds pretty great.

I'm prepared for death. I'm prepared for the pain and I am ready to no
longer exist. Thanks to the strictness of New Jersey gun laws this will
probably be much more painful than it needs to be, but what can you do.
My only fear at this point is messing something up and surviving.

---

I'd also like to address my family, if you can call them that. I despise
everything they stand for and I truly hate them, in a non-emotional,
dispassionate and what I believe is a healthy way. The world will be a
better place when they're dead--one with less hatred and intolerance.

If you're unfamiliar with the situation, my parents are fundamentalist
Christians who kicked me out of their house and cut me off financially
when I was 19 because I refused to attend seven hours of church a week.

They live in a black and white reality they've constructed for
themselves. They partition the world into good and evil and survive
by hating everything they fear or misunderstand and calling it love.
They don't understand that good and decent people exist all around us,
"saved" or not, and that evil and cruel people occupy a large percentage
of their church. They take advantage of people looking for hope by
teaching them to practice the same hatred they practice.

A random example:

"I am personally convinced that if a Muslim truly believes and obeys the
Koran, he will be a terrorist." - George Zeller, August 24, 2010.

If you choose to follow a religion where, for example, devout Catholics
who are trying to be good people are all going to Hell but child
molestors go to Heaven (as long as they were "saved" at some point),
that's your choice, but it's fucked up. Maybe a God who operates by
those rules does exist. If so, fuck Him.

Their church was always more important than the members of their family
and they happily sacrificed whatever necessary in order to satisfy
their contrived beliefs about who they should be.

I grew up in a house where love was proxied through a God I could never
believe in. A house where the love of music with any sort of a beat was
literally beaten out of me. A house full of hatred and intolerance, run
by two people who were experts at appearing kind and warm when others
were around. Parents who tell an eight year old that his grandmother is
going to Hell because she's Catholic. Parents who claim not to be racist
but then talk about the horrors of miscegenation. I could list hundreds
of other examples, but it's tiring.

Since being kicked out, I've interacted with them in relatively normal
ways. I talk to them on the phone like nothing happened. I'm not sure
why. Maybe because I like pretending I have a family. Maybe I like
having people I can talk to about what's been going on in my life.
Whatever the reason, it's not real and it feels like a sham. I should
have never allowed this reconnection to happen.

I wrote the above a while ago, and I do feel like that much of the time.
At other times, though, I feel less hateful. I know my parents honestly
believe the crap they believe in. I know that my mom, at least, loved me
very much and tried her best. One reason I put this off for so long is
because I know how much pain it will cause her. She has been sad since
she found out I wasn't "saved", since she believes I'm going to Hell,
which is not a sadness for which I am responsible. That was never going
to change, and presumably she believes the state of my physical body is
much less important than the state of my soul. Still, I cannot
intellectually justify this decision, knowing how much it will hurt her.
Maybe my ability to take my own life, knowing how much pain it will
cause, shows that I am a monster who doesn't deserve to live. All I know
is that I can't deal with this pain any longer and I'm am truly sorry I
couldn't wait until my family and everyone I knew died so this could be
done without hurting anyone. For years I've wished that I'd be hit by a
bus or die while saving a baby from drowning so my death might be more
acceptable, but I was never so lucky.

---

To those of you who have shown me love, thank you for putting up with
all my shittiness and moodiness and arbitrariness. I was never the
person I wanted to be. Maybe without the darkness I would have been a
better person, maybe not. I did try to be a good person, but I realize I
never got very far.

I'm sorry for the pain this causes. I really do wish I had another
option. I hope this letter explains why I needed to do this. If you
can't understand this decision, I hope you can at least forgive me.

Bill Zeller

---

Please save this letter and repost it if gets deleted. I don't want
people to wonder why I did this. I disseminated it more widely than I
might have otherwise because I'm worried that my family might try to
restrict access to it. I don't mind if this letter is made public. In
fact, I'd prefer it be made public to people being unable to read it and
drawing their own conclusions.

Feel free to republish this letter, but only if it is reproduced in its
entirety.