Posts Tagged ‘cellphones’

Proof The Distraction of Electronic Devices Means You Aren’t Paying Attention: College Students Checking Phones During Class Have Lower Grades

January 11, 2019

While reading President Trump’s latest tweets may seem like a much better alternative than listening to liberal college professors drone on about politics, a new study suggests that constantly checking your phone during class could come back to haunt you during exam time.

According to a new study in Educational Psychology, students in college classes that are allowed access to electronic devices such as smartphones or tablets that include nonacademic vices such as Facebook or Twitter tend to perform at a lower academic standard compared to classmates attending lectures where such devices were banned.

Image result for using electronic devices inschool, pictures

In the study, researchers at Rutgers University compared two separate classroom environments for learning: one class allowed tablets and cellphones for student usage, while another class banned the use of electronics entirely during lecture.

In their findings, researchers noted that students enrolled in the class that allowed smartphones and tablets to be used that admitted to using them during class performed approximately 5 percent lower (roughly half a letter grade) on the end of term final examination when compared to the population of students in the class that banned electronics.

Related image

It is also worth noting that students enrolled in the smartphone/tablet-friendly class who did not report using the devices during class performed better than their peers who chose to use the devices, but still did not perform as well as their peers in the class where electronics were banned, suggesting that such devices likely create a disruptive classroom environment that is detrimental to everyone’s grade, not just those who use devices.

The main author of the study, Arnold Glass, noted that while the usage of the devices were most detrimental to the grades of those individuals who were using the devices, the lack of rules banning their use almost certainly impact the information retention of all individuals enrolled in the class.

“These findings should alert the many dedicated students and instructors that dividing attention is having an insidious effect that is impairing their exam performance and final grade,” said Glass. “To help manage the use of devices in the classroom, teachers should explain to students the damaging effect of distractions on retention — not only for themselves, but for the whole class.”

John Patrick (@john_pat_rick) is a graduate of Canisius College and Georgia Southern University. He interned for Red Alert Politics during the summer of 2012 and has continued to contribute regularly.

Advertisements

Social Media Contributing to Epidemic of Mental Illness

June 14, 2018

NHS is “picking up the pieces” of an epidemic of mental illness among children, fuelled by social media, the head of the service has warned.

Simon Stevens urged companies like Google and Facebook to take more responsibility for the pressures they place on children.

Young girl using an iPad at home

It follows calls for social media and online gaming firms to have a statutory “duty of care” to protect children from mental ill health, abuse and addictive behaviour.

By 
The Telegraph
13 JUNE 2018 • 7:00PM
.
The icons of social media apps, including Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and WhatsApp, on a smartphone

Speaking at the NHS Confederation conference in Manchester, Mr Stevens said Britain’s children were hit by a “double epidemic” of mental illness and obesity.

The average person in this country spends twice as long on the toilet as they do exercising
–Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England

But he said the health service could not tackle its ills alone – turning on social media giants to do more to protect children.

“We have to ask some pretty searching questions around the role of technology companies, social media and the impact that is having on childhood,” he said.

“This cannot be a conversation that is simply left to the NHS to pick up the pieces for an epidemic of mental health challenge for our young people, induced by many other actors across our economy.”

He also called for more action to tackle unhealthy lifestyles, and said he hoped to see “renewed pragmatism” from the Government in its updated childhood obesity strategy, due to be published soon.

“The average person in this country spends twice as long on the toilet as they do exercising,” the NHS chief executive said.

Protect yourself and your family. Find out more about our Duty of Care campaign to regulate social media

France bans cellphone use in public schools

June 9, 2018

French lawmakers have approved a ban on the use of mobile phones in public schools. Critics have said the move will do little to end classroom disruptions or bullying.

    
Young girl texting on a smartphone (Imago/Photocase)

Opponents to the blanket ban on mobile phone use said it is unlikely to wean students off their phones. The legislation — approved by members of France’s lower house National Assembly on Thursday — would require students to keep their phones out of sight. However there was no penalty specified in the law for their use. Lawyers said that teachers do not have a right to confiscate non-dangerous belongings from students.

Supporters of the bill said smartphone usage among children has worsened cyber-bullying, eased access to pornography and hampered the ability of youngsters to interact socially.

Read more: Smartphone addiction messes up brain chemistry

Smiling teenager with smartphone (picture-alliance/Bildagentur-online/Tetra-Images)Critics say the law is unlikely to wean students off their smartphones

Richard Ferrand, head of French President Emmanuel Macron’s ‘Republic on the Move’ party in parliament, said the law would improve childrens’ social skills.”When, on a playground, you see young people next to each other all staring at their phones,” the consequence is “to break the link of camaraderie and sharing,” Ferrand said.

Some 93 percent of 12-17 year olds had a cellphone, according to a 2016 survey by France’s electronic communications and postal regulatory authority (ARCEP), up from 72 percent in 2005.

President Emmanuel Macron hopes the bill will pass through parliament in time to impose the ban before the start of the next academic year in September.

Read more: 100,000 German teenagers addicted to social media, study finds

http://www.dw.com/en/france-bans-cellphone-use-in-public-schools/a-44136616

kw/bw (AFP, Reuters)

See also:

Filipino youth more at risk to pitfalls of digital media

http://business.inquirer.net/247654/internet-savvy-filipino-youth-risk-pitfalls-digital-media#ixzz5HuaTrgTY

***********************************************

Smartphone addiction messes up brain chemistry

The brains of young people who use their smartphones or the internet too much sustain chemical changes. These change correlate significantly to diagnoses of addiction, depression and anxiety.

    
Afrikanischer Teenager mit Smartphone (picture-alliance/Bildagentur-online/Tetra-Images)

A team of researchers around South Korean radiology professor Hyung Suk Seo managed to detect changes in the chemistry of brains of teenagers who either use the internet or smartphones in an addictive manner.

The scientists from Korea University in Seoul tested 19 young men who had an average age of 15 1/2 years. All were suffering from smartphone or internet addiction. The doctors detected the severity of addiction through a standardized test, asking patients the extent to which they used the internet or smartphones and how that affected their daily routines, social life, productivity, sleeping patterns and feelings.

As a control group, researchers also tested 19 boys of equal age who did not have diagnosed signs of addiction as a control group.

Dr. Seo reported that the addicted teenagers significantly more often reported depression, anxiety, insomnia and impulsivity.

Looking for neurotransmitters

The doctors took 3D images of the brains of the participants using magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS). It works like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) – a three-dimensional x-ray. However, in addition to the regular MRI imaging, MRS is also able to display the chemical content of fabric and cells.

The scientists were particularly interested in gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) – a neurotransmitter in the brain that inhibits or slows down brain signals. They were also looking for the amino acids glutamate and glutamine, which interact with GABA. Those control the extent to which neurons become electrically excited.

GABA has an influence on vision, motor controls and on the regulation of various brain functions such as anxiety and sleepiness.

Brain chemistry losing its balance

It turned out that the addicted teenagers had a higher amounts of GABA than glutamate and glutamine in their anterior cingulate cortex (a specific part of the front part of the inner brain).

A brain-model (picture-alliance/dpa/A. Weigel)The cingulate cortex is the outer red area. The anterior cingulate cortex is located at the far right of the model.

The researchers also noted a significant correlation between the measurements and the diagnosed levels of addiction, depression and anxiety.

However, there is some good news, after all: Twelve of the addicted participants also took part in a cognitive behavioral therapy program, and the ratio of GABA to glutamate and glutamine normalized within those patients who received the nine-month therapy.

What the researchers want to find out next: Is there a similar imbalance in the GABA to glutamate/glutamine ratio in other patients with different forms of addiction?

The researchers presented their findings at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of Northern America (RSNA) in Chicago on November 30th 2017.

http://www.dw.com/en/smartphone-addiction-messes-up-brain-chemistry/a-41599096

Trump’s cellphones reportedly lack ‘sophisticated security features’

May 22, 2018

President Trump reportedly uses cellphones that are not equipped with “sophisticated security features,” which could make them vulnerable to hacking.

Trump uses two iPhones — one for calls and another for tweeting — and has rebuffed efforts to make them more secure because he claims it is “too inconvenient,” Politico reported on Monday.

.

Aides have attempted to convince Trump to swap out his phones — a process President Obama took part in every 30 days — but the president has resisted, the paper said.

Trump’s phone for tweeting has not been swapped out in more than five months, while it is unclear how long he has had his call-capable phone, according to Politico.

In response, a White House official told the paper that the call-capable phones “are seamlessly swapped out on a regular basis.”

However, the official said that the Twitter phone “does not necessitate regular change-out.”

Also at issue appears to be the existence of both a camera and a microphone on the Trump call-capable iPhone — which could make it susceptible to hacking.

In response to the accusation that those devices were prone to hacking, the White House official told the paper that the phone was “more secure than any Obama era devices” because of advances in technology.

Trump ran a significant part of his 2016 presidential campaign by asserting that Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server as secretary of state made her vulnerable to hacking and thereby unfit to serve in the Oval Office.

FILED UNDER     

Cellphones may be to blame for surge in deadly brain tumors

May 4, 2018

Where Countries Are Tinderboxes and Facebook Is a Match — Facebook rumors and anger, revenge, riots, vigilante justice and lynchings

April 22, 2018

MEDAMAHANUWARA, Sri Lanka — Past the end of a remote mountain road, down a rutted dirt track, in a concrete house that lacked running water but bristled with smartphones, 13 members of an extended family were glued to Facebook. And they were furious.

A family member, a truck driver, had died after a beating the month before. It was a traffic dispute that had turned violent, the authorities said. But on Facebook, rumors swirled that his assailants were part of a Muslim plot to wipe out the country’s Buddhist majority.

“We don’t want to look at it because it’s so painful,” H.M. Lal, a cousin of the victim, said as family members nodded. “But in our hearts there is a desire for revenge that has built.”

The rumors, they believed, were true. Still, the family, which is Buddhist, did not join in when Sinhalese-language Facebook groups, goaded on by extremists with wide followings on the platform, planned attacks on Muslims, burning a man to death.

A false Facebook claim: “23,000 sterilization pills caught in Ampara. Thank you to the police. Muslim pharmacy owner from Akkaraipattu arrested. Who wants to sterilize the Sinhalese?”CreditAmanda Taub/The New York Times

But they had shared and could recite the viral Facebook memes constructing an alternate reality of nefarious Muslim plots. Mr. Lal called them “the embers beneath the ashes” of Sinhalese anger.

We came to this house to try to understand the forces of social disruption that have followed Facebook’s rapid expansion in the developing world, whose markets represent the company’s financial future. For months, we had been tracking riots and lynchings around the world linked to misinformation and hate speech on Facebook, which pushes whatever content keeps users on the site longest — a potentially damaging practice in countries with weak institutions.

I’ve had it–posted it to my Facebook page, listing reasons for cancelling my account tomorrow.This company’s irresponsibility and…

Time and again, communal hatreds overrun the newsfeed — the primary portal for news and information for many users — unchecked as local media are displaced by Facebook and governments find themselves with little leverage over the company. Some users, energized by hate speech and misinformation, plot real-world attacks.

A reconstruction of Sri Lanka’s descent into violence, based on interviews with officials, victims and ordinary users caught up in online anger, found that Facebook’s newsfeed played a central role in nearly every step from rumor to killing. Facebook officials, they say, ignored repeated warnings of the potential for violence, resisting pressure to hire moderators or establish emergency points of contact.

Facebook declined to respond in detail to questions about its role in Sri Lanka’s violence, but a spokeswoman said in an email that “we remove such content as soon as we’re made aware of it.” She said the company was “building up teams that deal with reported content” and investing in “technology and local language expertise to help us swiftly remove hate content.”

Sri Lankans say they see little evidence of change. And in other countries, as Facebook expands, analysts and activists worry they, too, may see violence.

The police guarding a restaurant run by the Atham-Lebbe brothers after violence broke out there.Credit Adam Dean for The New York Times

One Town, Two Versions

Five hours east of Medamahanuwara lies the real Ampara, a small town of concrete buildings surrounded by open green fields. The road there passes over verdant mountains before coasting through tropical flatlands, contested territory during the civil war that ended in 2009, now distinguished mostly by quiet teahouses.

But the imagined Ampara, which exists in rumors and memes on Sinhalese-speaking Facebook, is the shadowy epicenter of a Muslim plot to sterilize and destroy Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese majority.

As Tamil-speaking Muslims, the Atham-Lebbe brothers knew nothing of that version of Ampara when, using money they saved laboring in Saudi Arabia, they opened a one-room restaurant there. They had no way to anticipate that, on a warm evening in late February, the real and imagined Amparas would collide, upending their lives and provoking a brief national breakdown.

It began with a customer yelling in Sinhalese about something he had found in his dinner. Unable to understand Sinhalese, Farsith, the 28-year-old brother running the register, ignored him.

He did not know that the day before, a viral Facebook rumor claimed, falsely, that the police had seized 23,000 sterilization pills from a Muslim pharmacist in Ampara.

The irate customer drew a crowd, which gathered around Farsith, shouting: “You put in sterilization medicine, didn’t you?”

He grasped only that they were asking about a lump of flour in the customer’s meal, and worried that saying the wrong thing might turn the crowd violent.

“I don’t know,” Farsith said in broken Sinhalese. “Yes, we put?”

The mob, hearing confirmation, beat him, destroyed the shop and set fire to the local mosque.

In an earlier time, this might have ended in Ampara. But Farsith’s “admission” had been recorded on a cellphone. Within hours, a popular Facebook group, the Buddhist Information Center, pushed out the shaky, 18-second video, presenting it as proof of long-rumored Muslim plots. Then it spread.

An aerial view of Kandy, Sri Lanka, where Buddhists and Muslims have clashed.CreditAdam Dean for The New York Times

Vigilante Justice

As Facebook pushes into developing countries, it tends to be initially received as a force for good.

In Sri Lanka, it keeps families in touch even as many work abroad. It provides for unprecedented open expression and access to information. Government officials say it was essential for the democratic transition that swept them into office in 2015.

But where institutions are weak or undeveloped, Facebook’s newsfeed can inadvertently amplify dangerous tendencies. Designed to maximize user time on site, it promotes whatever wins the most attention. Posts that tap into negative, primal emotions like anger or fear, studies have found,produce the highest engagement, and so proliferate.

In the Western countries for which Facebook was designed, this leads to online arguments, angry identity politics and polarization. But in developing countries, Facebook is often perceived as synonymous with the internet and reputable sources are scarce, allowing emotionally charged rumors to run rampant. Shared among trusted friends and family members, they can become conventional wisdom.

And where people do not feel they can rely on the police or courts to keep them safe, research shows, panic over a perceived threat can lead some to take matters into their own hands — to lynch.

Last year, in rural Indonesia, rumors spread on Facebook and WhatsApp, a Facebook-owned messaging tool, that gangs were kidnapping local children and selling their organs. Some messages included photos of dismembered bodies or fake police fliers. Almost immediately, locals in nine villages lynched outsiders they suspected of coming for their children.

Near-identical social media rumors have also led to attacks in India and Mexico. Lynchings are increasingly filmed and posted back to Facebook, where they go viral as grisly tutorials.

Worshipers at a burned-out mosque that was ransacked and set afire along with neighboring Muslim shops and homes by a Buddhist mob in Digana. Credit Adam Dean for The New York Times
‘You Report to Facebook. They Do Nothing’
In a small office lined with posters in Colombo, Sri Lanka’s capital, members of an advocacy group called the Center for Policy Alternatives watched as hate exploded on Facebook — all inspired by the video from Ampara, which had overtaken Sinhalese social media in just a week.

One post declared, “Kill all Muslims, don’t even save an infant.” A prominent extremist urged his followers to descend on the city of Kandy to “reap without leaving an iota behind.”

Desperate, the researchers flagged the video and subsequent posts using Facebook’s on-site reporting tool.

Though they and government officials had repeatedly asked Facebook to establish direct lines, the company had insisted this tool would be sufficient, they said. But nearly every report got the same response: the content did not violate Facebook’s standards.

“You report to Facebook, they do nothing,” one of the researchers, Amalini De Sayrah, said. “There’s incitements to violence against entire communities and Facebook says it doesn’t violate community standards.”

In government offices across town, officials “felt a sense of helplessness,” Sudarshana Gunawardana, the head of public information, recounted. Before Facebook, he said, officials facing communal violence “could ask media heads to be sensible, they could have their own media strategy.”

But now it was as if his country’s information policies were set at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. The officials rushed out statements debunking the sterilization rumors but could not match Facebook’s influence.

Officials had pleaded with Facebook representatives, in a meeting in October, to better police hate speech and misinformation, which they warned could spiral into violence. They asked the company to establish an emergency point of contact in case it did. In a separate meeting, civic leaders urged Facebook to hire Sinhalese-speaking moderators to staff its reporting tool.

The Facebook employees left offering only vague promises, officials said.

Facebook still appears to employ few Sinhalese moderators. A call to a third-party employment service revealed that around 25 Sinhalese moderator openings, first listed last June, remain unfilled. The jobs are based in India, which has few Sinhalese speakers.

Facebook has no office in Sri Lanka, which officials say makes it difficult to impose regulations.

Mr. Gunawardana, the public information head, said that with Facebook unresponsive, he used the platform’s reporting tool. He, too, found that nothing happened.

“There needs to be some kind of engagement with countries like Sri Lanka by big companies who look at us only as markets,” he said. “We’re a society, we’re not just a market.”

A charred Quran at a mosque that was attacked. Credit Adam Dean for The New York Times

The Thrill of Tribalism

Facebook’s most consequential impact may be in amplifying the universal tendency toward tribalism. Posts dividing the world into “us” and “them” rise naturally, tapping into users’ desire to belong.

Its gamelike interface rewards engagement, delivering a dopamine boostwhen users accrue likes and responses, training users to indulge behaviors that win affirmation.

And because its algorithm unintentionally privileges negativity, the greatest rush comes by attacking outsiders: The other sports team. The other political party. The ethnic minority.

Online outrage mobs will be familiar to any social media user. But in places with histories of vigilantism, they can work themselves up to real-world attacks. Last year in Cancún, Mexico, for instance, Facebook arguments over racist videos escalated to fatal mob violence.

Mass media has long been used to mobilize mass violence. Facebook, by democratizing communication tools, gives anyone with a smartphone the ability to broadcast hate.

Facebook did not create Sri Lanka’s history of ethnic distrust any more than it created anti-Rohingya sentiment in Myanmar.

But the platform, by supercharging content that taps into tribal identity, can upset fragile communal balances. In India, Facebook-based misinformation has been linked repeatedly to religious violence, including riots in 2012 that left several dead, foretelling what has since become a wider trend.

“We don’t completely blame Facebook,” said Harindra Dissanayake, a presidential adviser in Sri Lanka. “The germs are ours, but Facebook is the wind, you know?”

“The house is burning.” Abdul Basith died when a Buddhist mob set fire to his family home in Digana, Sri Lanka. Credit Adam Dean for The New York Times
The Boiling Point
As anger over the Ampara video spread online, extremists like Amith Weerasinghe, a Sinhalese nationalist with thousands of followers on Facebook, found opportunity. He posted repeatedly about the beating of the truck driver, M.G. Kumarasinghe, portraying it as further proof of the Muslim threat. Mr. Weerasinghe stoked anger through images overlaid with text.

When Mr. Kumarasinghe died on March 3, online emotions surged into calls for action: attend the funeral to show support. Sinhalese arrived by the busload, fanning out to nearby towns. Online, they migrated from Facebook to private WhatsApp groups, where they could plan in secret.

In a video posted to at least one group, a man dressed as a monk yells, “The sword at home is no longer to cut jackfruit so kindly sharpen that sword and go.”

In another group, a user shared a photo of a dozen makeshift weapons with a list of targets: “Thannekumbura mosque and the mosque in Muruthalawa tonight. Tomorrow supposedly Pilimathalawa and Kandy.”

Photo

A Sri Lankan WhatsApp user posted a photo of makeshift weapons and a list of mosques to target as anti-Muslim mobs descended on several towns.
On Facebook, Mr. Weerasinghe posted a video that showed him walking the shops of a town called Digana, warning that too many were owned by Muslims, and urging Sinhalese to take the town back. The researchers in Colombo reported his video to Facebook, along with his earlier posts, but all remained online.

Over the next three days, mobs descended on several towns, burning mosques, Muslim-owned shops and homes. One of those towns was Digana. And one of those homes, among the storefronts of its winding central street, belonged to the Basith family.

Abdul Basith, a 27-year-old aspiring journalist, was trapped inside.

“They have broken all the doors in our house, large stones are falling inside,” Mr. Basith said in a call to his uncle as the attack began. “The house is burning.”

The next morning, the police found his body.

In response, the government temporarily blocked most social media. Only then did Facebook representatives get in touch with Sri Lankan officials, they say. Mr. Weerasinghe’s page was closed the same day.

Mohammed Haniffa Lebbe Mohammed Ibrahim, second from left, an imam, had to hide when his mosque was attacked. Credit Adam Dean for The New York Times

One Size Fits All

No organization has ever had to police billions of users in a panoply of languages. Although Facebook prohibits incitement and hate speech, there is no clear line between prudence and censorship.

Despite criticism and concerns from civil society groups, the company has done little to change its strategy of pushing into developing societies with weak institutions and histories of social instability, opening up information spaces where anger and fear often can dominate.

When Facebook entered Myanmar in 2014, Buddhist extremists seized on the platform, spreading misinformation that set off a deadly riot that year. In 2017, hate speech on Facebook contributed to ethnic cleansing against Myanmar’s Rohingya minority.

Amrit Ahuja, a company representative, says Facebook’s approach to hate speech “has evolved” globally. The company plans to hire more moderators and increase coordination with officials and civic groups, she said in an email, to “help keep our community in Sri Lanka safe.”

Adam Mosseri, who runs Facebook’s newsfeed, said on a Slate podcast that he and his team were “losing sleep” over the platform’s role in Myanmar. Tweaks to the algorithm, he said, will privilege people’s long-term interests over their short-term preferences in an effort to address the problem.

Change is not without risk for the company. In January, when Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook chief executive, announced changes to the newsfeed, the company’s stock tumbled 4.5 percent in a few hours.

And it is not without risks for users. From October to March, Facebook presented users in six countries, including Sri Lanka, with a separate newsfeed prioritizing content from friends and family. Posts by professional media were hidden away on another tab.

“While this experiment lasted, many of us missed out on the bigger picture, on more credible news,” said Nalaka Gunawardene, a Sri Lankan media analyst. “It’s possible that this experiment inadvertently spread hate views in these six countries.”

Atham-Lebbe Farsith, right, a Muslim restaurant worker, was attacked by a customer who accused him of putting “sterilization medicine” in the food. Credit Adam Dean for The New York Times

‘You’re From the Video!’

A week after the violence, Shivnath Thukral, Facebook’s public policy director for South Asia, and two of his colleagues flew to Colombo, for a meeting with a group of government aides.

Mr. Thukral was conciliatory, acknowledging that Facebook had failed to address hate speech and promising better collaboration. In a call with civic leaders, he conceded that Facebook did not have enough Sinhalese moderators, pledging to hire more.

Still, government officials said, they face the same problem as before. Facebook wields enormous influence over their society, but they have little over Facebook.

Even blocking access did not work. One official estimated that nearly three million users in Sri Lanka continued accessing social media via Virtual Private Networks, which connect to the internet from outside the country.

As officials met in Colombo, Atham-Lebbe Farsith, the Muslim restaurant worker, was in hiding. He had shaved his beard. Not to hide his faith, he said, but because even in the Muslim village where he found shelter, he could hardly make it a block without being recognized.

“People would ask me all sorts of questions,” he said. “‘You’re from the video!’”

Facebook had turned him into a national villain. It helped destroy his business, sending his family deeply into debt. And it had nearly gotten him killed.

But he refused to abandon the platform. With long, empty days in hiding, he said, “I have more time and I look at Facebook much more.”

“It’s not that I have more faith that social media is accurate, but you have to spend time and money to go to the market to get a newspaper,” he said. “I can just open my phone and get the news instead.”

“Whether it’s wrong or right, it’s what I read.”

The Interpreter is a column by Max Fisher and Amanda Taub exploring the ideas and context behind major world events. Follow them on Twitter @Max_Fisher and @amandataub.

Dharisha Bastians contributed reporting from Digana and Iromi Perera from Colombo.

A version of this article appears in print on April 22, 2018, on Page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Where Facebook Rumors Fuel Thirst for Revenge

Source:https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/21/world/asia/facebook-sri-lanka-riots.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=photo-spot-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news

 Related:
.

.
.
.
  (Includes links to our Facebook archive)
.

After China Makes a Big Oil Deal with Iran; Throws Vietnam a Bone: Iran welcomes Vietnamese leader, looks to boost trade

March 15, 2016

 

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran’s president welcomed his Vietnamese counterpart on Monday, saying Tehran hopes to boost trade with the Southeast Asian nation to $2 billion from the current $350 million within five years, state media reported.

Hassan Rouhani said he and Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang discussed cooperation against terrorism as well as unspecified “problems” in East Asia, according to state TV.

“Moves and competition in the region should be resolved through diplomacy and international regulations,” Rouhani was quoted as saying.

The report said the two countries plan to enhance their cooperation in the industrial, tourism and information technology sectors. They also plan educational exchanges involving university students and teachers.

Iran currently exports nearly $250 million worth of oil, agricultural and fishery products to Vietnam. It imports some $100 million worth of rubber, cellphones and canning materials.

***********************************

TUOI TRE NEWS

UPDATED : 03/15/2016 11:25 GMT + 7

Vietnamese State President Truong Tan Sang and his senior delegation to Iran were welcomed by President Hassan Rouhani on Monday, marking the first visit of a sitting Vietnamese head of state to the Persian Gulf country since sanctions against it were lifted earlier this year.

An official ceremony was held at the Sa’dabad Palace to welcome the Vietnamese leader in the morning, followed by a secluded cordial talk between the two heads of state.

The Iranian president passionately embraced President Sang’s state visit to his country, regarding it as a significant event, especially at a time when the traditional new year of Iran is drawing near.

President Rouhani underlined the significance of his Vietnamese counterpart’s visit, as it has turned the page on Vietnam-Iran relations, marking a new era of cooperation between the two nations.

“The peoples of our countries have both suffered years of war and economic sanctions. We have shared common experience and have both proved our perseverance. The two nations also share interest in various regional and global issues, on which grounds our relations should be strengthened in the coming years to achieve such common goals,” the Iranian president said during a joint press meeting after talks with President Sang.

The two leaders asserted that similar historical backgrounds are fundamental to the development of bilateral relations, and expressed contentment seeing such relations undergoing positive transformations.

President Sang and President Rouhani agreed to increase exchanges of high-level delegations and visits between the two nations, as well as upholding the tradition of standing on the same ground on regional and global issues, especially at the United Nations and Non-Aligned Movement, voicing support for each other at international forums and organizations, and voting in favor of nominations by the other nation in international organizations, most importantly the UN.

“The potentialities for cooperation in the economic, investment, and trade sectors between the two countries are immense. However, these have yet to be fully leveraged due to economic sanctions against Iran in the past years,” the Iranian president said.

Present Rouhani went on to announce that the two leaders had agreed to raise the bidirectional trade turnover between Iran and Vietnam to US$2 billion in the next five years.

President Sang said that the two nations would create favorable conditions for businesses to cooperate and invest in energy, telecommunications, science and technology, fishing, tourism, and more.

In view of such goals, the leaders expressed their appreciation for the signing of a memorandum of understanding on cooperation between the State Bank of Vietnam and the National Bank of Iran, considering it the groundwork for improvement in bilateral collaboration on trade and investment.

Apart from economic cooperation, the two heads of state highlighted the need for ties in tourism, culture, and exchanges of people, specialists, research students, and undergraduates between Vietnam and Iran.

President Sang and President Rouhani consented to accelerate negotiations on, and the signature of, cooperation agreements in the financial sector, phytosanitary fields, communication, and media.

The two leaders also discussed regional and international issues concerning both nations such as terrorism and territorial disputes in East Asia and the Asia-Pacific region.

President Sang voiced his support for the Iranian president’s proposal for a “World Against Violence and Extremism,” which is a call for all nations across the globe to denounce violence and extremism.

The two nations agreed to enhance collaboration on maintaining peace and order around the world, reaffirming that all disputes are to be resolved through peaceful measures in line with international law.

On the occasion, the Vietnamese president also extended his invitation to President Rouhani to visit Vietnam. President Rouhani accepted the invitation and promised to visit the Southeast Asian country in the near future.

The Vietnamese president is scheduled to meet with the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran Ali Khamenei today, March 15.

The UN Security Council began imposing sanctions on Iran in 2006 after the nation refused to suspend its uranium enrichment program.

The sanctions had negatively affected multiple sectors of Iran’s economy, until they were lifted in January this year, following the country’s agreement to limit its nuclear programs.

Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter to get the latest news about Vietnam!

http://tuoitrenews.vn/politics/33736/a-new-chapter-in-vietnamiran-relations

*****************************

Iran, China agree $600-billion trade deal after sanctions

Chinese President Xi Jinping reviews an honor guard as he is welcomed by his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani. APChinese President Xi Jinping reviews an honor guard as he is welcomed by his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani. AP
Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani prepare to shake hands at the conclusion of their joint press conference at the Saadabad Palace in Tehran. APChinese President Xi Jinping and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani prepare to shake hands at the conclusion of their joint press conference at the Saadabad Palace in Tehran. AP

DUBAI: Iran and China agreed to expand bilateral ties and increase trade to $600 billion in the next 10 years, President Hassan Rouhani said on Saturday during a visit to Tehran by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Xi is the second leader of a UN Security Council member to visit Tehran after the nuclear deal Iran struck with world powers last year. Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Tehran in November.

Iran emerged from years of economic isolation this month when the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog ruled it had curbed its nuclear programme, clearing the way for the lifting of UN, US, and European Union sanctions.

“Iran and China have agreed to increase trade to $600 billion in the next 10 years,” Rouhani said at a news conference with Xi broadcast live on state television.

“Iran and China have agreed on forming strategic relations (as) reflected in a 25-year comprehensive document,” he said.

Iran and China signed 17 accords on Saturday, including on cooperation in nuclear energy and a revival of the ancient Silk Road trade route, known in China as One Belt, One Road.

“China is still heavily dependent on Iran for its energy imports and Russia needs Iran in terms of its new security architecture vision for the Middle East,” said Ellie Geranmayeh, policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

“Iran plays quite an integral role for both China and Russia’s interests within the region, much more than it does for the Europeans,” Geranmayeh said.

New markets

Xi was quoted as saying by China’s Xinhua news agency: “The China-Iran friendship … has stood the test of the vicissitudes of the international landscape.”

The Chinese state-backed Global Times newspaper said in an editorial on Saturday that China hoped to improve ties with Iran as part of its sweeping plan to rebuild trade links with Europe and Asia and carve out new markets for its goods.

“China is of course considering its self interest in strengthening cooperation with Iran, especially at a time when China is in the midst of expending efforts to push forward the One Belt, One Road initiative, Iran is an important fulcrum,” the paper said.

Rouhani said the countries had also agreed to cooperate on “terrorism and extremism in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Yemen”.

China signalled its support for Yemen’s government, which is fighting an Iran-allied militia, during Xi’s visit to Saudi Arabia, Iran’s rival for influence in the region, this week.

Iran has called on China to join the fight against the Islamic State militant group and play a more active role in the region.

Tehran is widely credited with convincing Russia to start its military intervention in Syria and join the fight against Islamic State.

“Although China and Russia backed UN sanctions against Iran on its nuclear programme, they were also heavily pushing for special waivers to continue trading with Iran,” Geranmayeh said.

“Iran had a relationship both politically and economically with China and Russia for the last ten years in ways that it hasn’t had with Europe. So it’s quite natural to see it opening up first to these countries.”

The Chinese president was to meet Iran’s most powerful figure, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, later in the day.

********************

A Peace and Freedom source told us that after Xi Jinping made his oil deal with Mr. Rouhani, he told the leaders of the Communist Party in Vietnam to get to Iran to reap the reward of the “Iran Nuclear Deal” that the United States arranged….

The Vietnam-Iran deals set up with the help of China may help to keep Vietnam within the “Chinese sphere of influence” on matters relative to the South China Sea….

Hillary’s e-mail defense is ‘total BS’: former State Dept. officials

August 23, 2015

By Paul Sperry

August 23, 2015

Former State Department security officials don’t buy Hillary Clinton’s latest alibi that she couldn’t tell that government e-mails — which she improperly, if not illegally, kept for several years on an unsecured home server — contained top-secret information because they lacked official markings and weren’t classified until later.

Such messages contain sensitive “keywords” distinguishing them from unclassified information, even if the material didn’t bear a classified heading as she claims.

The secretary would have known better, the department ­officials say, because she was trained to understand the difference when she was “read in” on procedures to ID and handle classified information by diplomatic-security officials in 2009.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks at a town hall meeting, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2015, in North Las Vegas, Nev. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Clinton also went through a so-called “read-off” when she left ­office in 2013. In that debriefing, security officials reminded her of her duty to return all classified documents, including ones in which the classification status is “uncertain,” which would have included the e-mails stored on her private server — which she only this month turned over to authorities. The read-off would have included her signing a nondisclosure agreement.

“Once she resigned as secretary, she needed to return classified documents and other government-owned documents, which in this case would have included the server,” veteran Diplomatic Security Service Special Agent Raymond Fournier said.

US intelligence officials so far have determined that at least four — and as many as 305 — of the more than 30,000 e-mails Clinton and her aides have printed out and turned over to investigators were classified at the time they were written.

They include a 2011 message from Clinton’s top aides that contains military intelligence from United States Africa Command gleaned from satellite images of troop movements in Libya, along with the travel and protection plans for Ambassador Christopher Stevens, who was later killed in a terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya. Another staff ­e-mail sent to Clinton in 2012 contained investigative data about Benghazi terrorist suspects wanted by the FBI.

Ambassador Christopher Stevens was killed in Benghazi

Both e-mails were classified TS/SI — Top Secret/Special Intelligence — and required the nation’s highest security clearance to read. SI is a control system within the supersecret designation known as Sensitive Compartmented Information.

SCI intelligence, which if leaked can cause “grave harm” to national security, is tightly controlled and usually kept in hard-copy form in bound books numbered and stored in highly secure “read rooms” known as SCIFs at department headquarters in Foggy Bottom. Before entering, cleared officials are required to place cellphones, BlackBerrys, iPads, laptops and other electronic devices on a shelf outside the monitored facilities. TS/SCI material is transported between SCIFs in locked bags carried by special couriers.

Clinton aides, however, put it into electronic form. Clinton still maintains she didn’t know that their TS/SCI e-mails were classified when she received them on a private computer server she set up outside the department in 2009.

“I did not receive any material marked or designated classified, which is the way you know whether something is [classified],” she said last week, revising an earlier claim that “there is no classified material.”

“That’s total BS,” said retired Army Col. Larry Mrozinski, who served almost four years as a ­senior military adviser and security manager in the State Department under both Clinton and Condoleezza Rice.

He says Clinton easily would have ID’d the material as classified based on “keywords and phrases” and the fact that the information came from foreign sources.

“TS/SCI is very serious and specific information that jumps out at you and screams ‘classified,’ ” Mrozinski said. “The sources [of the information] also drive and signal sensitivity.”

He added: “It’s hard to imagine that in her position she would fail to recognize the obvious.”

Mrozinski was the certified security manager for the peacekeeping, sanctions and counterterrorism office in the Bureau of International Organization Affairs, where he had TS/SCI clearance and spent roughly 15 to 30 minutes a day in SCIFs.

“This is a serious breach of national security,” Mrozinski said, and “a clear violation of the law.”

“You are strictly forbidden to discuss TS/SCI of any kind outside a SCIF,” he explained, and yet “she was viewing and hand­ling it in direct violation of the law and possibly exposing it to our enemies,” such as ISIS and Beijing, which has hacked Pentagon sites.

“Anybody else would have already lost their security clearance and be subjected to an espionage investigation,” Mrozinski added. “But apparently a different standard exists for Mrs. Clinton.”

“She’s in big, big trouble,” Fournier agreed.

Paul Sperry, a visiting media fellow at the Hoover Institution, is author of “Infiltration.” E-mail: Sperry@SperryFiles.com

http://nypost.com/2015/08/23/hillarys-e-mail-defense-is-total-bs-former-state-dept-officials/

Teachers, Parents, and Many Students Fed Up with Disciplinary Problems and Bureaucracies that Impede Education

April 12, 2014

Groundswell of support for teacher who wrestled disruptive student to the floor shows the public is fed up with the disciplinary problems and bureaucracies that impede education.

By Sandy Banks
The Los Angeles Times

Mark Black and student

A cellphone video of Santa Monica High School teacher Mark Black restraining a student in his classroom went viral. (KTLA)

At this point, it may not matter much to the public what actually went on in that Santa Monica High classroom where a teacher was recorded wrestling a student to the floor.

The 58-second cellphone clip recorded by a student went viral this week, turning the teacher and the student into symbols of what’s wrong with public schools:

Defiant students. Overwhelmed teachers. Feckless administrators. Knee-jerk policies with no room for common sense.

“We’re in the middle of a cultural change, and this case reflects that shift,” said Shawn McMullen Chen, a high school teacher for 25 years. “The teaching environment feels more corporate now; very litigious, very careful, very impersonal…It’s not easy to make the human connection you need to reach kids.”

Investigators in Santa Monica are trying to sort out what led to the classroom tussle. Here’s what we know so far:

Wrestling coach Mark Black was teaching science when he scolded a student for walking in and out of the classroom. Classmates suggested the trips had something to do with marijuana. When Black threatened to call security, the two wound up nose-to-nose and the student shoved the teacher. Black responded with a series of wrestling moves and restrained the student on the classroom floor.

When the cellphone video made the evening news, the student’s family was offered support by the district’s superintendent — who publicly chastised Black and placed the teacher on leave.

That prompted a public uproar that shows no sign of easing.

School officials have been flooded with emails. Social media erupted with expressions of indignation, hailing Black as a hero thrown under the bus by bureaucrats who don’t recognize the value of good teachers.

This week, police arrested the student, Blair Moore, 18. He’s been charged with possessing marijuana and a weapon (a box cutter) on campus, and threatening and using “force or violence against a school employee” — all misdemeanors.

That turned up the heat among the teacher’s supporters. Hundreds have pledged to show up Sunday for a Santa Monica rally dubbed “Community Peace Gathering celebrating Mark Black and all teachers who step up for their students.” Almost 23,000 have “liked” a “We Support Coach Black” Facebook page, created by former students.

“What was he going to do, turn his back?” posted the mother of a junior at the school. “Brave man…I feel my son is in good hands if all the teachers are like him.”

::

Black is a legend at Santa Monica High — a revered wrestling coach, beloved teacher and father figure to students.

But the outsized support, from people across the country and around the world, probably has less to do with Black’s history than with his new maverick status — the teacher who took a stand that preserved his authority in the classroom.

The incident has parents worked up; it’s an unsettling peek behind closed doors on a big urban campus. No one wants their child in a classroom where teachers and students are apt to wind up rolling around on the floor.

But teachers told me they have few options to deal with disruptive students: You call security and hope help arrives before the disruption robs students of too much learning time or someone in class gets hurt.

They resent the perception that teachers are to blame for classroom management problems; that if they’re skilled in keeping students engaged, no one will act up.

“Teaching has a lot more gray than most people understand,” said Chen, an English teacher at Mira Costa High in Manhattan Beach. “You can have 17 kids who really want to do great things, and five or six who act out. You want an open, collaborative class. You don’t want to be too strict… It’s a tough tightrope to walk.”

Many public schools — including Los Angeles Unified campuses — aren’t allowed to suspend students anymore for what’s considered “willful defiance.”

“You’ll send a kid to the office, the administrators don’t want to deal with it, they send him back to class,” Chen said. That’s undermines teachers and destabilizes their classes.

For teachers, the public support for Black feels like vindication.

“It’s an indication,” Chen said, “that there is some possibility the public really does understand what a difficult job teaching is.”

I understand Supt. Sandra Lyon’s gut reaction. The video of the classroom struggle is alarming to watch. But just as alarming is the idea of a student peddling weed in class.

For the district superintendent to respond to one and ignore the other suggests the depth of the problem.

The official investigation into what happened is supposed to wrap up before spring break ends next week. But the public discussion ought to continue, and look at the broader issues the incident may reveal:

What does the groundswell of support for Black say about our expectations of public schools? Are teachers equipped to manage the fallout of social issues that play out in their classrooms? How do we keep vulnerable students from drifting off track?

Moore was on the baseball and track teams as a sophomore; two years later he’s allegedly carrying drugs in his backpack. Did something go wrong that school officials should have noticed and could have attended to?

The superintendent has backed off her original stance, which many found offensive. But she ought to explain why she leapt to the presumption that the teacher was the villain.

For many of us, this goes beyond whether the teacher should have resorted to wrestling moves to handle a student challenge. It’s about scapegoating a profession that’s under siege right now.

We need to train and trust teachers to manage their classrooms — so students can focus on learning, not disturbances that call for cellphone cameras.

sandy.banks@latimes.com

Twitter: @SandyBanksLAT

http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-0412-banks-samo-teacher-20140412,0,5449784.column?page=2#ixzz2yebgsMg8

Developing economies plus infrastructure projects plus Chinese state-run banks seems to equal corruption, more often than not

January 7, 2014

Local governments in developing countries often bribed by China —  then used “to intimidate others not to speak against the Chinese company.”

By Matthew Dalton

Matthew Dalton

Updated Jan. 6, 2014 11:01 p.m. ET

Towers like the one pictured have spread cellphone use across Ethiopia. Matthew Dalton/The Wall Street Journal

LAKE WENCHI, Ethiopia—In the green highlands here southwest of Addis Ababa, farmers like Darara Baysa are proud owners of cellphones that run on a network built by China’s  ZTE Corp.                                  

The trouble is, they have to walk several miles to get a good signal. “The network doesn’t work well,” says Mr. Baysa, a former army sergeant, stopping on the unpaved road near his home to show his hot-pink smartphone.

Among other troubles: Ethiopian government officials have in recent years complained to ZTE that the company’s contract for building the network requires Ethiopia to pay too much, say people familiar with the discussions.

The Ethiopian network’s glitches underline the broader troubles that sometimes face poorer nations as they borrow heavily to invest in telecommunications, roads, utilities and other infrastructure to help lift them out of poverty.

China’s financial firepower helps its firms win many of these contracts. But in agreeing to such deals, some governments appear to have flouted rules meant to foster sound public investment. When countries sidestep such rules, say experts at institutions such as the World Bank, big projects often cost more and are more likely to be poorly executed.

China’s impact has been particularly visible in telecom projects. In Ethiopia, ZTE beat out Western competitors in 2006 for a major telecom project by offering $1.5 billion in low-interest financing, funded by Chinese state-run banks.

A World Bank investigation found that the Ethiopian government appeared to ignore its own procurement rules requiring competitive bidding when it awarded the contract, which gave ZTE a monopoly on supplying telecom equipment for several years. The 2013 report also criticized Ethiopia for giving such a big project to one company and called for the country to audit the contract. It didn’t find that ZTE acted improperly.

Ethiopia ended ZTE’s monopoly in July 2013, bringing in its main Chinese rival, Huawei Technologies Co. The two companies split another big contract, for the next phase of the network’s expansion. Again, financing won the day, with the two pledging a total of $1.6 billion, people close to the negotiations say. Western equipment suppliers, such as Ericsson and Alcatel Lucent SA, couldn’t match the Chinese offer, these people say.

A ZTE spokesman says it has complied with Ethiopia’s regulations. Ethiopia’s telecommunications minister and a spokesman for the state-owned telecom monopoly, Ethio Telecom, didn’t respond to queries. The World Bank report notes that Ethiopian authorities told its investigators that they invited eight companies to bid for the project.

Tony Duan, chief executive of Huawei’s Ethiopian division, says the company is “fully aware of the issues linked to poor quality telecom services and frequent interruptions of mobile networks in the country.”

Jia Chen, chief executive of ZTE’s Ethiopian business, acknowledges that the network’s service has been uneven. He blames delays in awarding the next phase of expansion, construction projects that cut telecom lines and slack maintenance by Ethio Telecom. “Maintaining the network is not our job,” he says. “We guarantee the quality of the network, but you have to guarantee our base stations get electricity.” He says ZTE must charge more in Ethiopia than elsewhere partly to offset the project loans’ large size and long repayment period of 13 years.

Ericsson and Alcatel decline to comment.

Complaints have surfaced in other developing countries about alleged overbilling, mismanagement and flouted contracting rules in telecom deals financed by Chinese state-run banks.

Kenya’s government late last year canceled a contract for a national police-communication system that was tentatively awarded to ZTE last year, with funding to come from loans pledged by China, according to Kenyan government documents. Anticorruption activists say Kenya violated its constitution by letting only Chinese firms bid on the deal, while a government review of ZTE’s bid claimed the company offered its equipment at double normal market prices.

ZTE appealed the decision to a review board, which sided with the Kenyan government: “It does not require rocket science in view of the evidence before the Board to establish that (ZTE’s) financial proposal was highly exaggerated,” according to the board’s decision, reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. tried to intimidate others not to speak against the Chinese company

ZTE declines to comment. The Kenyan government didn’t respond to queries.

Uganda in 2011 canceled a $74 million contract that the Uganda Broadcasting Corporation signed with Huawei—with Export-Import Bank of China funding—saying procurement rules were flouted. Ugandan government officials didn’t respond to queries. Huawei declines to comment on the Uganda matter. The Export-Import Bank of China declines to comment for this article.

A $330 million Philippines contract with ZTE in 2007 to build a broadband network—using money from the Export-Import Bank of China—negotiated without competitive bidding, rocked the government after lawmakers alleged that ZTE inflated the project’s price to pay kickbacks to government officials.

Anticorruption prosecutors charged then-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo with accepting bribes to approve the deal; the trial is continuing. Ms. Arroyo canceled the contract when she was president, and her lawyer says she maintains her innocence. ZTE declines to comment, citing the ongoing legal process. In a statement to the Chinese press in 2007, ZTE said it had done nothing wrong.

Governments need competitive bidding and other controls to get the best prices and ensure projects are well-planned, says Neill Stansbury, director of London-based Global Infrastructure Anti-Corruption Centre, who contributed to the World Bank report on Ethiopia’s project.

Large loans can obscure project costs, he says: “You may end up overall, over 20 years, with a much more expensive package than you would have done buying another manufacturer’s equipment at a more expensive financing cost.”

ZTE and Huawei have grown to be two of the world’s largest telecom-equipment makers, aided by access to hefty financing that helps them outbid Western rivals.

Western companies can get loans supported by government export-finance banks. But almost all these banks, unlike China’s, have signed an agreement backed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development limiting such lending, especially to countries with debt-problem histories.

The state-owned Export-Import Bank of China and the China Development Bank finance exports and overseas projects. They provided nearly $50 billion in financing for Africa from 1995 through 2012, mostly export credits, according to estimates by Deborah Brautigam, director of the International Development Program at Johns Hopkins University. Chinese companies also get financing from state-run China Export and Credit Insurance Corp.

The U.S. Export-Import Bank has provided about $12 billion in financing for African buyers during the same period. The U.S., the European Union, China and other nations have been negotiating international guidelines on export financing that Western governments hope will restrain Chinese state-run banks.

China has had a sizable presence in Ethiopia for more than a decade, and ties between the two grew closer after Ethiopia’s disputed elections in 2005. Then-Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who led Ethiopia for more than 20 years until his death in 2012, began to view the West as less friendly.

He aligned Ethiopia with China, awarding ZTE the 2006 telecom deal, which was funded with loans from the Export-Import Bank and China Development Bank. China Development Bank didn’t respond to a request for comment.

A ZTE spokesman says it has built more than 2,000 cellphone transmission sites in Ethiopia and laid about 5,000 miles of fiber-optic cable in forbidding terrain. ZTE says paying cellphone users in Ethiopia have soared from around one million in 2005 to over 12 million in 2013, a seventh of the population.

The network has vastly improved quality of life for many. Cellphone service now extends across much of Ethiopia, an impoverished country whose 90 million people form one of Africa’s largest, fastest-growing markets.

In rural areas, where most live, the network has ushered in new ways of doing business.

Afework Wondimu uses his cellphone to check the price of teff, a millet-like grain used to make injera, the Ethiopian cuisine’s ubiquitous flat bread. If the price is good, he loads big bundles of teff onto donkeys and heads into town.

“Otherwise we keep it and find another way to sell it another time,” he says, as a team of oxen threshed golden piles of teff on his farm west of the capital.

Two years ago, before he got a cellphone, Mr. Baysa, the farmer with the pink phone, says he sometimes had to travel three days from his home by foot, horse and bus simply to check on friends and family.

Still, he wouldn’t mind a luxury he has heard others enjoy: phoning from bed.

Ethiopians elsewhere also complain about the network’s spottiness. In the capital of Addis Ababa, the phone network appears overburdened and is sometimes inaccessible during the day.

If the network and other infrastructure projects don’t work well, Ethiopia could see economic growth suffer and its foreign-exchange reserves depleted to repay debts, says Benedicte Vibe Christensen, an economist who was an Africa expert at the International Monetary Fund until 2009.

“If the quality of investment projects is not good, at the end of the day the risk is that foreign exchange reserves would be insufficient to repay all loans,” she says.

The Chinese loans for the 2006 project account for about 12% of Ethiopia’s nondomestic public-sector debt, according to government data. Ethio Telecom doesn’t publish financial statements. It started repaying the loan in 2010, and it has repaid around $300 million in principal, according to a person familiar with the repayment.

Financing has a cost: ZTE’s Mr. Jia says ZTE must charge Ethiopia more for its network partly because the loans are large, the repayment period is long—13 years—and ZTE is liable if Ethio Telecom doesn’t repay.

“If you just think about the price compared with the others, you think, ‘Oh, your prices are very high, then you make a lot of money,’ ” Mr. Jia says. “But you have to think: This money, I’m going to get it back in 13 years!”

The network’s uneven performance echoes worries that former Ethiopian telecom managers say they had about ZTE’s gear before it won the 2006 contract. Calls to and from ZTE-covered areas were frequently dropped, and the mobile-phone signal in those areas was so weak that people living in brick or stone houses often had to go outside to use their phones, the former managers say.

A ZTE spokesman says interconnection problems such as those the network experienced in that era are a common result of different suppliers’ equipment using the same frequency.

Some of those managers say they raised concerns about giving contracts to ZTE—and were punished for it.

The former managers say they argued that Ethiopia’s telecom operator hadn’t run a proper competitive bidding process for the 2006 ZTE contract. They say they worried the deal would make Ethiopia completely dependent on ZTE.

“We complained: It will damage the future of the Ethiopian Telecommunications Corporation,” says a former manager at the ETC, a predecessor to Ethio Telecom. “If we select only one company, we are going to depend on one company.”

The managers who say they raised the concerns were among two dozen employees that the Federal Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission of Ethiopia prosecuted in 2008 for violating government contracting rules, mainly for a previous contract that they awarded to Ericsson in 2005.

A court sentenced some to jail, including the former chief executive, Tesfaye Birru, who has denied the charges and remains in jail.

Senior government officials “tried to intimidate others not to speak against the Chinese company,” says the former ETC manager.

Officials at the anticorruption commission deny the prosecutions were an attempt to silence ZTE’s critics. The commission didn’t accuse the managers of personally profiting from the Ericsson deal.

The anticorruption commission says: “What is confirmed is that the defendants abused their power, violated existing rules and regulations, conspired to benefit others and caused the government to incur unnecessary costs.”

A former Ericsson manager in Ethiopia who is no longer in the country, Moncef Mettiji, says there were no improprieties involved in the 2005 contract.

—Olivia Geng contributed to this article.

Write to Matthew Dalton at Matthew.Dalton@wsj.com