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Tuesday:  October 27, 2014

When Will Chile's Post Office's Re-open? 

(PHOTO: Workers set up camp at Santiago's Rio Mapocho/Mason Bryan, The Santiago Times)Chile nears 1 month without mail service as postal worker protests continue. This week local branches of the 5 unions representing Correos de Chile voted on whether to continue their strike into a 2nd month, rejecting the union's offer. For a week the workers have set up camp on the banks of Santiago's Río Mapocho displaying banners outlining their demands; framing the issue as a division of the rich & the poor. The strike’s main slogan? “Si tocan a uno, nos tocan a todos,” it reads - if it affects 1 of us, it affects all of us. (Read more at The Santiago Times)

WHO convenes emergency talks on MERS virus

 

(PHOTO: Saudi men walk to the King Fahad hospital in the city of Hofuf, east of the capital Riyadh on June 16, 2013/Fayez Nureldine)The World Health Organization announced Friday it had convened emergency talks on the enigmatic, deadly MERS virus, which is striking hardest in Saudi Arabia. The move comes amid concern about the potential impact of October's Islamic hajj pilgrimage, when millions of people from around the globe will head to & from Saudi Arabia.  WHO health security chief Keiji Fukuda said the MERS meeting would take place Tuesday as a telephone conference & he  told reporters it was a "proactive move".  The meeting could decide whether to label MERS an international health emergency, he added.  The first recorded MERS death was in June 2012 in Saudi Arabia & the number of infections has ticked up, with almost 20 per month in April, May & June taking it to 79.  (Read more at Xinhua)

LINKS TO OTHER STORIES

                                

Dreams and nightmares - Chinese leaders have come to realize the country should become a great paladin of the free market & democracy & embrace them strongly, just as the West is rejecting them because it's realizing they're backfiring. This is the "Chinese Dream" - working better than the American dream.  Or is it just too fanciful?  By Francesco Sisci

Baby step towards democracy in Myanmar  - While the sweeping wins Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy has projected in Sunday's by-elections haven't been confirmed, it is certain that the surging grassroots support on display has put Myanmar's military-backed ruling party on notice. By Brian McCartan

The South: Busy at the polls - South Korea's parliamentary polls will indicate how potent a national backlash is against President Lee Myung-bak's conservatism, perceived cronyism & pro-conglomerate policies, while offering insight into December's presidential vote. Desire for change in the macho milieu of politics in Seoul can be seen in a proliferation of female candidates.  By Aidan Foster-Carter  

Pakistan climbs 'wind' league - Pakistan is turning to wind power to help ease its desperate shortage of energy,& the country could soon be among the world's top 20 producers. Workers & farmers, their land taken for the turbine towers, may be the last to benefit.  By Zofeen Ebrahim

Turkey cuts Iran oil imports - Turkey is to slash its Iranian oil imports as it seeks exemptions from United States penalties linked to sanctions against Tehran. Less noticed, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the Iranian capital last week, signed deals aimed at doubling trade between the two countries.  By Robert M. Cutler

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Entries in Google (4)

Tuesday
Nov292011

Google & Mercy Corps Partner to Help Young Palestinian Entrepreneurs (NEWS BRIEF)

(HN, November 29, 2011) - Google and Mercy Corps have formed a partnership to spark technological entrepreneurship among young Palestinians.

In an innovative venture called the Arab Developer Network Initiative (ADNI), the global private sector entity and NGO have come together to tap the "brain trust" of the vast numbers of young people in Gaza and the West Bank.

Says Mercy Corps: "Through a combination of training in technical and business essentials, peer-to-peer learning, mentorship, and an initial seed fund for high potential startups, capitalized at $500,000, ADNI will help build a critical mass of Palestinian youth who are competent in multiple programming platforms and able to create and run successful web-based businesses."

As in much of the Middle East and North Africa, the Palestinian population is young, well-educated, and chronically unemployed. The World Bank reports that at the end of 2010, unemployment among those between the ages of 15-29 was an estimated 26 percent in the West Bank and 53 percent in Gaza - though some reputable sources cite much higher figures of unemployment.

The potential is not lost on Google, which has commited $2 million so far to the territory.

"Palestinians have such a unique position," Gisel Kordestani, Google's director of new business development, told Fast Company. "They're well educated. They have strong English-language skills. With 88 million people in the [Middle East and North African] region getting online, they have the opportunity to build something for the Arab world."

Says Mercy Corps CEO Neal Keny-Guyer: "One of the biggest challenges to economic growth in Gaza and the West Bank is that people can't move freely or easily cross borders. But there's an incredible brain trust of educated young people in the region. Unlike most other industries, web-based businesses are not limited by the physical movement of goods or people. Fuelled by young talent, the tech sector here is just waiting to take off."

The Source of Hope Foundation and Google.org are the main backers of the project.

- HUMNEWS staff, Mercy Corps

Tuesday
Feb222011

Pulling the Revolutionary Trigger - Via Facebook (PERSPECTIVE)

by Alina Vrejoiu

“Whatever the future may have in store for us, one thing is certain — this new revolution in human thought will never go backward.” --- Fredrick Douglas

(HN, February 21, 2011) -- As Libyan cities continue to fall into the hands of anti-Gaddafi supporters, many people are once again speculating on the root cause of the upheavals in the Middle East and Northern Africa.Ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was so terrified of social media he ordered the Internet shut for several days. CREDIT: Al-Ahram

As an educator, and having lived through the revolution in Eastern Europe, I can tell you that if you peel away all the layers one thing becomes clear: the lack of an educational foundation is at the top of the list for revolutionary triggers.

It’s no accident that in this information age, social networking is leading the North African and Middle Eastern leap to modernity. This - combined with a high population of youth and a poor economy - makes a very potent recipe for revolution.

Who would have imagined that social networking sites - such as Twitter, Facebook and others like them - once thought to be playful diversions, are now helping to thread together the fabrics of the revolution? And who would have thought that the technology embraced by so many millions could pose a threat to strongmen like Muammar al-Gadaffi, one of the nastiest in the region, Hosni Mubarak and long-standing regimes in Bahrain, Yemen, Algeria and elsewhere?

Protesters in Benghazi demonstrate against Colonel Gaddafi Photo: FLICKRYoung men and women of these long-closed societies - such as Google marketing executive Wael Ghonim in Egypt - have formed online communities of like-minded individuals who have been disenfranchised by their governments of economic dignity and freedom for so many decades.

Something had to give and the timing is no accident: food prices are sky-rocketing, joblessness is at an all-time high and promises of reform from long-serving strongmen in the region have produced nothing more than hollow results.

In this information age everyone is connected but no one is in charge - this is what is leading to a breakdown in the dictatorships.
The rotted out governments of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and other countries in Northern Africa and the Middle East are a clear example of how being out of touch with technology and the huge generational gap have become huge liabilities.

These are the two main propellant forces that will fuel more and more protests in countries all over region.

In the region, about 60% of people are under the age of thirty and they all want to be free and have economic stability like all human beings do.  

As a presidential contender, Barack Obama knew how to reach America’s youth like no other politician running for office. His hypnotic “Yes We Can” campaign slogan resonated not only with the youth in this country, but all over the world. He had the savvy to connect with and engage college students for the first time in the United States through the Internet.

Overthrowing a regime and making a change will require massive investment in infrastructure and social programs in order for change to be successful and sustainable.

According to the United Nations the countries in this region have not only avoided badly-needed investment in their people but they have also kept them in the dark - through tactics ranging from limiting access to Internet sites to keeping tight reigns on state-owned media outlets.

Expect this astonishing wave of change to wash across virgin territory. Iran’s regime is vulnerable to the same break down as the countries in Northern Africa are faced with. The Mullahs and the Islamic element are minor in comparison to the population of youth they must face. The regime will put up a lot of resistance but its chances of surviving are slim. I am making the bold prediction that the Iranian regime will collapse within a year’s time, at the latest, and will change the geopolitics in the Middle East.

People all across the Middle East and North Africa are willing to sacrifice their lives for a common cause. The reality is promising and - these days - the trigger seems just a click away.

---Alina Vrejoiu is a faculty member of Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn, New York and has taught international students for the last four years.

Sunday
Feb202011

Social Media Huge Challenge to Authoritarian Governments (UPDATED FEB 21 1740GMT)

Protesters in Cairo demanding a return of Internet access(HN, February 21, 2011) - Across the Middle East and North Africa, social media channels are being used widely to mobilize protesters, feed news to media agencies and to broadcast thoughts that were once a ticket for imprisonment.

The use of such social media channels as Facebook, Skype and Twitter - and more recently Speak2Tweet - in Tunisia and Egypt has highlighted their importance as tools for circumventing government dominance of the media sector and restrictive freedom of association laws.

As major cities in Libya appeared to fall today into opposition hands, supporters overseas Tweeted ISP phone numbers in Europe which could be used by Libyans with dial-up modems to continue broadcasting updates. (The same tactic was used by overseas supporters of protesters in Tahrir Square: an ISP dial-in number in France was passed around - complete with user names and passwords).

The ability of protesters to communicate and mobilise via social media raises questions as to whether such tools have brought about a permanent shift in the balance of power away from authoritarian governments. Activists in Tunisia and Egypt used social media to good effect as part of their efforts to challenge the reign of authoritarian throughout the Middle East and North Africa. Further protests are being organised via social media, including in Bahrain, Yemen and - most recently - Libya and Morocco.

The region has one of the most youthful populations in the world, with people under 25 making up between 35-45% of the population in each country. They make up the majority of social media users, though users over 40 are the fastest growing segment on Facebook.

Internet penetration hovers around 20-30% outside the Gulf region, whereas mobile penetration is approaching nearly 100% in many countries. Many young people are accessing the Internet and social media channels via their mobile phones and smart phones. Falling handset prices and the widespread available of prepaid credit has allowed even those from lower wealth quintiles to access mobile phone services.

In the region there are about 17 million Facebook users, 25,000 Twitter accounts and 40,000 active blogs, according to the Arab Advisors Group. However exact figures are almost impossible to calculate.

YouTube is extremely popular, with an average of 24 hours of video uploaded from the region every minute, including accounts devoted to tracking human rights abuses.

In Saudi Arabia, Internet use is spreading like wildfire, although sites deemed a threat to the regime are routinely blocked. Saudi Arabia’s Internet users spent around US$ 3 billion in 2010 on buying products and services through e-commerce, according to the Arab Advisors Group.

Egypt's shutdown of all access to the internet and pressure on mobile phone operators to block SMS services was unprecedented. The country has among the highest Internet penetration on the continent.

Although Burma and Iran attempted to do the same, the widespread nature of Egypt's blockages in such an economically important country were a wake-up call to experts and officials who thought such a possibility was off the table.

Just yesterday, a HUMNEWS correspondent in the capital of Yemen, Sana'a, reported that access to Skype had been cut again.

In Bahrain social media also played a big role in mobilizing protesters. (Kuwait Times)However, on another level, the digital blackout was a powerful reminder of the power of older technologies, and innovative solutions emerged to merge the best of both. Landlines continued to be available, people in Egypt were encouraged to leave their wireless connections unlocked, and wireless internet relays to neighbouring countries were created by stringing together access points. Protesters also shared mobile phone credit amongst each other.

In Bahrain, makeshift charging stations for mobile phones have been established in Pearl Square - underlining the importance of these devices.

Social media are not purely of benefit to activists. They also enable government surveillance. Semi-public fora such as Facebook are relatively easy for government operatives to infiltrate.

In Sudan, which has also seen some protests in the capital, activists claim that authorities have used faux protests publicised on social media to entrap and arrest them; Blackberry's maker, Research in Motion, in recent months has caved to demands by the United Arab Emirates, followed by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, India and others, to make its data streams accessible to host governments (although the data likely remains encrypted).

The UAE's request came just days after youth attempted to organise a peaceful protest against rising oil prices using Blackberry's messenger service, known as BBM.

Social media put powerful information and communication tools into the hands of individuals, but also facilitate state surveillance.

Sensing the power of social media in the region, the US State Department has opened Twitter accounts in Farsi and Arabic.

However, for the moment the scales are tipped in favour of activists because publicity and popularity can provide a level of protection to many of the more well-know digital activists, and protesters so far appear to be a step ahead of governments in terms of utilising social media and circumventing censorship.

- HUMNEWS staff, Oxford Analytica

Tuesday
Sep212010

Google Chief: New "Robust Networks" in Developing World Can Bridge Education Gaps (Updated Sept 22)

(HN, September 21, 2010) - The day is not far off where students in remote developing countries will be accessing text books through mobile phones.

That's according to Google chief Eric Schmidt, who said the rapid roll-out of robust networks and cheap handsets will make it easier for students in developing countries to access content. 

Schmidt said costs for smart phones and so-called feature phones are tumbling to below $150, making India the fastest-growing mobile phone market in the world. "Prices are going to fall very, very dramatically," said Schmidt, adding it could "empower citizens on an individual basis.

He said textbook content in the local language of students could be downloaded into phone - cutting the costs of printing and distributing hard copies.

Schmidt said that in natural disasters such as Haiti, his Google technology was deployed to provide low level imagery to help logisticians reach their targets.An ad for WIMAX in Maseru, Lesotho CREDIT: HUMNEWS

Worldwide, there are about 1-billion smartphones and about 4 billion feature phones.

Indeed, in southern Africa, large and medium-sized networks are rolling out high-speed, wireless WIMAX networks - though costs can be prohibitive to the average subscriber. Aid agencies on the continent are using SMS technology in some countries for sending out behaviour change messages, collecting data or warning people about oncoming disasters.