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Monthly Archives: January 2012
Reblogged from Didactic Discourse: Source: princeton.edu Read more… 3 more words inform to all it’s main global problem
Reblogged from datingplus: Well, the first thing to remember is that men frequently err by talking TOO MUCH.Those topics which will almost GUARANTEE increased interpersonal attraction.Just because a woman listens to you and acts interested in what you’re saying doesn’t … Continue reading
Reblogged from VentureBeat: With increases in revenue and higher than expected subscriber growth, video rental service Netflix is once again the darling investment among Wall Street analysts (for the most part). However, not all the comments from Wednesday’s fourth quarter … Continue reading
Reblogged from Dancing With Jellyfish: So here we are. Day 3. Get yourselves comfortable. Coz I sure as hell am not. Rise of the Planet of the Apes. A remake of the old series, showing how in the search to … Continue reading
Reblogged from Ideas: Do the people of Oklahoma need to be protected from Sharia law? Clearly: no. There is no evidence that religious Islamic law — whose rules on matters like inheritance and divorce — is sweeping across the Sooner … Continue reading
What Your Eyes Say About Who You Are(What Your Eyes Say About Who You Are Using eye-tracking technology, scientists are discovering clues to how we think and learn
As you read these words, try paying attention to something you usually never notice: the movements of your eyes. While you scan these lines of text, or glance at that ad over there or look up from the screen at … Continue reading
Arab bloc urges power transfer in Syria Plan for Assad to step aside signals frustration in region By Liz Sly, Sunday, January 22,10:09 PM
DAMASCUS — The Arab League on Sunday called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to hand over power to his vice president under the terms of a transition plan similar to that which paved the way for the departure, hours earlier, … Continue reading
Syrian security forces and members of a resistance movement comprised of military defectors clashed in the Damascus suburb of Douma, activists groups said Saturday. But activists disagreed on whether dissidents, including the Free Syrian Army, were in firm control. The … Continue reading
Chinese writer gets 10-year prison term for Internet essays third high-profile activist sentenced Crackdown linked to concerns over social stability
— Chinese writer and activist Li Tie was sentenced to 10 years in prison for “inciting subversion,” his family members said Thursday. Li is the third high- profile dissident handed a lengthy term in the past few weeks, part of … Continue reading
Arab states are worlds apart on Syria as they haggle over whether to keep peace monitors in the country as their month-long mandate expires without a halt to President Bashar Assad’s bloody crackdown on popular unrest. Efforts by Syria’s Gulf … Continue reading
President Obama: Romney Foreign Policy Attacks Will Wither in ‘Serious Debate Read more: http://swamplpresident-obama-romney-foreign-policy-attacks-will-wither-in-serious-debate
President Obama dismissed Republican rival Mitt Romney’s critiques of his foreign policy credentials Wednesday in an exclusive TIME interview, saying the GOP frontrunner’s attacks are little more than primary posturing that will wither under the glare of “a serious debate.” … Continue reading
As the wheels of the ancient Afghan Airlines flight left the ground, I sent a text back to the Star news desk: She’s out.
We couldn’t be sure until the plane, packed with Muslim pilgrims on their way to Iraq, lifted us up and away from Afghanistan.
There was so much that could have gone wrong in Kandahar. It is the heartland of the Taliban, after all.
Donate online to The Roya Fund
Even the Afghan police — they’re supposed to be on our side — tried to stop us leaving at the
But today Roya Shams, the 17-year-old Afghan girl, is in Toronto and on her way to Ottawa’s prestigious Ashbury College, thanks in part to the generosity of Star readers.
The Star’s Paul Watson has been in a lot of terrible places.
He’s Canada’s only Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist.
He won for his work covering the Black Hawk Down disaster that forced the United States to retreat from its war against Somali warlords in 1993. You might have seen the movie.
Since then, Watson has reported on suffering and war across Africa, Asia and the Balkans.
Watson is war-weary and brutally honest. He knows why he’s on the spot. To report.
He has had, many times, to tell folks who were in bad trouble that he would not help them.
“With me, everywhere in the world where there’s trouble, I’ve always said ‘I can’t help you,’” he says. “Or if I feel terrible about their situation, I say ‘I’m so, so sorry, I can’t help you.’ Journalists don’t help directly, we report. It’s a principle — we observe, we don’t act.”
That principle was turned upside-down a year ago when Watson, the grizzled and scarred reporter, met Roya Shams.
Roya is a Taliban target.
Her father, Haji Sayed Gulab Shah, was a police colonel in charge of Kandahar’s District One.
Her dad was on our side and he was shot dead during a hunt for a notorious Taliban commander, Mullah Qahar.
At the time, a year ago, Roya was defying the Taliban by attending a school, supported in part by money from Star readers.
To fulfill her father’s ambitions for her, Roya is determined to become a politician.
“My father believed in girls. He taught me to read. I have four brothers and four sisters, but my father always said he had nine sons because, in his view, girls were as good as boys,” Roya said.
When the death threats increased after her father was killed, Roya was forced to quit school and stay out of sight at home.
“There will be no mercy for me,” she told Watson at the time.
Watson wrote several stories and came to admire Roya’s spirit and ambition. He decided his principle of “I’m so, so sorry, I can’t help” just didn’t cut it this time.
“I’ve never felt compelled to step out of the reporter’s role to help someone this way. This time, with this person, I did,” Watson says. “Roya is an extraordinary young woman, the daughter of a father who fought the same fight Canadians were fighting and dying for. Knowing Roya made me think helping one is better than helping none.”
If she made it to a Canadian school, Roya promised Watson, “I will show to the Canadian nation that Canadians did not die for nothing in Afghanistan.”
That’s quite a promise: 158 brave young Canadian soldiers came home in coffins.
Hundreds of others returned home injured in body and mind.
With the backing of the Star, Watson began to try to find a place for Roya in a Canadian school. After interviewing her on Skype, the headmaster and the admissions director of Ashbury College said they would help. Free tuition.
“There were many obstacles and each time the person could have said no,” Watson said. “But each time the person said yes when it was easier to say no, Roya was a step closer to freedom.”
Watson went to the Canadian embassy in Islamabad, capital of Pakistan, to personally pick up Roya’s student visa for Canada.
Once he had that, the only thing left was to deliver the visa to Roya and then get her safely out of Kandahar.
I sat with Watson for two days in a small, chilly guesthouse in Kandahar city. There were three or four other guests. We were the only Westerners.
Watson, who knows a thing or two about bad guys with guns, thought we would be safe without U.S. military protection if we stayed mostly inside and wore Afghan head shawls when we went out in a car.
So this was a good opportunity to sit tight and get better at Sudoku.
There is nothing but danger in Kandahar. The day before we arrived, a suicide bomber reached the door of the police chief before he botched his assignment and blew up only himself.
The next day, a suicide car bomber rammed an armoured vehicle carrying a district governor, killing him and two of his sons.
Then that video of those American marines urinating on dead Taliban hit the headlines on Al Jazeera, setting the town on edge.
And Tuesday, the Taliban assassinated a tribal elder just around the corner from our guesthouse.
We went outside that guesthouse just three times.
First, to visit Roya’s house, where we were greeted by her brother, Sayed Gulale Shams. As the eldest son, he’s now in charge of the family. We sat on the floor for the traditional Afghan hospitality — a fabulous, colourful feast prepared by Roya, which she was not allowed to attend. Men only.
Roya’s brother thanked Star readers for helping his little sister.
Second, a dash to the cemetery as Roya, dressed in a lavender burqa, knelt and wept a farewell at her father’s grave. The cemetery is smack-up against an area under Taliban control — something Watson “forgot” to tell me until we were safely sipping tea later.
Third, the risky ride to the airport. Once we left the city, we tucked ourselves in behind a U.S. military convoy — each wheeled fighting machine the size of a small bungalow.
We peeled away at the civilian airport to check in. There was a tense hour with Afghan cops. A young woman travelling without a burqa and with two Western men? That’s an outrage! Show me your papers! Leaving Afghanistan? No, you must stay!
For seven years, Canada has spilled blood in Kandahar.
Our goal was to help Afghanistan build a stable democracy from the failed stone-age state it had become after decades of war.
The Star wanted to continue our country’s investment in building a better future for Afghans.
That is why, for the first time in its 120-year history, the Star took this extraordinary step of leading an effort to rescue a student from a war zone: to bring one of Afghanistan’s bright young people to Canada to further her education, away from the fear and bombs and bullets so she can return one day to help make her country a better place.
With the continued generosity of our readers, we hope this gesture will help ensure our soldiers did not die in vain.
The Star is committed to helping Roya finish her high school education and graduate from university.
Breathing again at 30,000 feet, I began to read Roya’s application to Ashbury.
“Kandahar is a challenging piece of earth for women and girls to have access to education …
“I wish to be a politician … I believe every Afghan citizen, man or woman, should have the right to speak freely and live in peace.
“God bless my late father and his soul. He prepared for family members to have education despite this unbelievable and most insecure province. A girl going to school in Kandahar is somehow like a hell.”
Later, in Dubai, there was nothing I could do to get Roya to walk alongside Watson and me. She stayed several paces behind.
“I cannot,” Roya said. “That would be disrespectful.”
Roya got her first dose of Canadian reality on Tuesday — she went to what she called “the skating game” — and saw the Leafs lose to the Senators 2-3.
Her report: “The Leafs played very well in the beginning and then not so well in the end.”
Told you she was smart.
Internet users in China are speaking out about a plan to eliminate anonymity on the country’s popular microblogs, saying that the move will limit their freedoms online.
The plan, roughly outlined by senior propaganda officials in Beijing Wednesday, mandates that Chinese-based microblog operators obtain certified real names from their users upon registering new accounts. In a second phase, existing accounts will also be required to provide real information about their identity.
Wang Chen, minister of the State Council Information Office, justified the government’s policy to counter “false, illegal and obscene information that might harm the healthy development of the Internet in China.”
Wang added that such orderly development is a wish of the Chinese Internet users known as “netizens.”
On Weibo, China’s most popular Twitter-like website, bloggers challenged Wang’s claim.
Internet user Mengfei asked for “convincing proofs” that Chinese netizens actually want a name registration system. “When I heard this, it made me want to curse,” he wrote in a post on Thursday.
A netizen nicknamed Mister Langfeng said that the real name registration system would further limit opportunities for free expression for Chinese Internet users.
China, with an online population of more than 505 million people, is the world’s largest Internet market. The Chinese government blocks Internet access to some U.S.-based social networking sites, such as Twitter and Facebook, but there are many domestic microblogging sites.
Half of Internet users in China regularly use microblogging services and commentators have dubbed 2011 “the year of Weibo,” with a nearly 300 percent increase in usage from the year before.
Major news events are widely debated on these online services, where anonymity often allows netizens to be more frank.
Traditionally sensitive topics like government corruption, food safety scandals and human rights spark lively discussions on the Internet, despite government efforts to scale down the discussions when they strongly challenge the Communist party’s agenda.
Weibo has also proved to be an effective tool in breaking news coverage.
On July 2011, it was a post on Weibo that alerted Chinese mainstream media to a deadly train crash. Microblogs kept the conversation going afterwards, asking the government to explain its late and sloppy rescue management.
The Chinese blogger and journalist who calls himself Michael Anti says that Weibo’s simple design, which only requires a phone connected to the Internet to post messages, is key to its success.
From the isolated Chinese countryside people can send messages that reach people with influence in Beijing. And, they can dialogue with them. He says if you have encountered cases of corruption and you want to petition them, then it is likely that some mainstream media will pick them up through Weibo.
Anti became an outspoken opponent of real-name registration in early 2011, when Facebook deleted his account because he did not register using his real name.
He complained against Facebook’s decision then and continues to oppose online real-name policies in every country. He says, “If we link online accounts to real identification, then it decreases the level of freedom one enjoys when using the Internet.”
Last December, Chinese authorities announced initial testing of the real-name policy. Municipal governments of Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou ordered microblog operators to register users under their real names.
But there has been high-profile opposition to the plan.
Tencent Holdings Ltd, China’s biggest Internet company, announced earlier this month that it would not implement the real-name system for its popular instant message program, QQ. The company is based in Shenzhen, one of the four pilot cities.
Jeremy Goldkorn, the founder of the China media monitoring website Danwei.org says although authorities said the new system would start in December, not much has changed. “I don’t think it has actually been implemented anywhere, at least not thoroughly. Because it’s still possible to do a lot in the Internet without using your real name, including Weibo services.”
If authorities do follow through on the plan, Goldkorn agrees with other critics who say that the loss of anonymity will have a big impact on microblogs.
“It will certainly have a chilling effect on discussion on Weibo, because a lot of people will be wary of speaking their mind if there is going to be a real name attached to their account. But I don’t think it’s going to kill off Weibo,” Goldhorn said.
The government’s announcement this week comes as it is struggling with finding the best way to manage public discourse.
In his speech, Wang Chen also insisted on the need for better-trained government’s spokespersons who could positively carry out Beijing’s message to domestic and foreign audiences. “The most important thing,” he says, is for the spokespersons to provide “accurate information based on the facts.”
Walker opponents to submit recall petition Opponents of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker on Tuesday will submit a mountain of petition signatures demanding his recall, and in anticipation the embattled Republican has flooded airwaves with ads highlighting his stewardship in creating … Continue reading