Posts Tagged ‘Facebook’

Tibetan monk dubbed ‘world’s happiest man’ says eating meat is the reason we feel unfulfilled — “Be Happy! — Worship Broccoli!”

March 23, 2017

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  • Former genetic scientist Matthieu Ricard shared a video for PETA via Facebook
  • He insists the psychological benefits of sparing animals matches the health pros
  • Previously, the World Health Organisation has linked meat and dairyto sickness 

It’s considered the trendy lifestyle choice of millennials and hipsters.

But, despite its reputation as a mere affectation, a world expert in human happiness claims that going vegan is the key to a happy, fulfilling existence.

Former genetic scientist Matthieu Ricard, who’s now a Tibetan monk and respected scholar of western religion, made the assertion in a campaign video for PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) on Friday.

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Enlightened: Matthieu Ricard insists the psychological benefits of sparing animals matches the health pros and should be adopted by all

Enlightened: Matthieu Ricard insists the psychological benefits of sparing animals matches the health pros and should be adopted by all

The 71 year-old – who’s also a close confidante of the Dalai Lama – said in Friday’s Facebook post: ‘I am extremely concerned by the fate of the 8 million other species who share this world with us, and who, like us, wish to avoid suffering and live out their lives.

‘When you ask people if they are in favour of justice and morality, everyone will say yes. Do you think you could then ask that it’s just and moral to inflict unnecessary suffering on sentient beings? Everyone will say no.

‘And that’s exactly the case, because today this suffering is not necessary. If you love animals, watch and take action.’

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He then referenced a World Health Organisation study which linked a diet of meat to a number of poor health conditions, such as heart disease.

They’ve also previously advised that eating meat can increase the risk of developing colorectal cancers.

‘The animals suffer, the environment suffers and we suffer,’ he adds.

‘True happiness can only be attained when we avoid causing pain to others, so please become vegan like me.’

Popular: There are 521,000 vegans and 1.68million vegetarians in Britain - more than ever

Popular: There are 521,000 vegans and 1.68million vegetarians in Britain – more than ever

His warnings come shortly after French researchers claimed asthma sufferers could be at greater risk of problems if they eat too much processed meat.

Scientists believe the nitrites used to process cured meat such as salami may trigger inflammation in the airways – a typical feature of asthma.

Paul Brousse Hospital, Paris, experts tracked 971 people and monitored diet and asthma symptoms such as ease of breathing, chest tightness and shortness of breath.

Among those who ate ham, sausage or dried sausage no more than once a week, 14 per cent saw their asthma symptoms worsen over four years. Among those eating cured meat one to four times a week, 20 per cent saw their symptoms get worse.

And those who ate cured meat four or more times a week, 22 per cent had worsening asthma.

Guidance: The World Health Organisation has previously advised that eating meat can increase the risk of developing colorectal cancers

Guidance: The World Health Organisation has previously advised that eating meat can increase the risk of developing colorectal cancers


There are 521,000 vegans and 1.68million vegetarians in Britain – more than ever.

The dramatic rise in those sticking to the strict no-meat, fish or dairy diet – up 247 per cent from 150,000 a decade ago – has been put down to more people trying for a healthy lifestyle and growing concerns about the treatment of animals by the food industry.

Young people were largely behind the increase, with 42 per cent of all vegans aged 15 to 34, according to the research by Ipsos MORI and The Vegan Society.


Ricard’s reputation for being happy comes after 2012 research saw neuroscientist Richard Davidson wire-up the monk’s skull with 256 sensors.

The University of Wisconsin study was measuring the brain activity of hundreds of advanced practitioners of meditation.

The scans showed that when meditating on compassion, Ricard’s brain produces a level of gamma waves – those linked to consciousness, attention, learning and memory – ‘never reported before in the neuroscience literature’.

The scans also showed excessive activity in his brain’s left prefrontal cortex compared to its right counterpart, giving him an abnormally large capacity for happiness and a reduced propensity towards negativity, researchers believe.

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China’s New Industrial War — Influence and Power — China’s program to surpass the West

March 21, 2017
New Chinese economic theft campaign detailed by insider


The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has a new program for economic warfare, one that follows a path well trodden in the history of industrial competition.

According to a source in China who conducts business at the top levels of the CCP, the new program was launched in mid-2015 to early 2016 as a legal replacement to the CCP’s former model of using cyberattacks to steal information for economic gain.

On Sept. 25, 2015, then-President Barack Obama met with CCP leader Xi Jinping at the White House, where they announced a new bilateral agreement that said neither country would use cyberattacks to steal intellectual property, trade secrets, or other confidential information for “commercial advantage.”

The background of the meeting was that state-run cyberattacks from China had been stealing from the U.S. economy, and Obama had begun threatening to sanction Chinese companies that profited from the cyberattacks. The agreement diverted the sanctions.

As part of China’s program to surpass the West, it is relying less on cyberattacks and more on foreign acquisitions and joint ventures.

Already, however, business leaders and high-level officials in China are acting on an alternative plan for, as the CCP’s program for economic theft Project 863 puts it, “catching up fast and surpassing” the West.

“What they’re doing is sending teams of individuals to the United States—they’ll hook up with their current partners, and make new partners—to be able to do the same song and dance as before,” said the source, who requested to remain unnamed for personal security.

“The other part is, they’re coming to this country to begin to set up shop, business-wise,” he said. The teams come in order to learn more directly the tradecraft and business operations of Western companies “and steal it to bring back to their country.”

He gave an example of this in motion, noting a Chinese company that makes industrial unmanned aerial vehicles that had begun setting up joint ventures with U.S. companies.

“They want to be able to have their company in the United States and be able to make a connection with another company, work with that company, then be able to bring people or technology back to the mainland,” he said. “That’s the main focus of what they want to do.”

The CCP has moved quickly in its push for foreign acquisitions and joint ventures, and by fall 2016 its effects were already becoming visible.

According to data from New York-based advisory firm Rhodium Group, annual Chinese direct investment in the United States nearly tripled in 2016 from the previous year, going from $15.3 billion to $45.6 billion.

The shift caused a stir in business and political circles, not just in the United States but around the world.



In February 2016, The New York Times reported on a growing political backlash in Washington over Chinese companies attempting to purchase U.S. technology companies.

Bloomberg reported in August 2016 that Chinese takeovers triggered a global backlash ahead of the G-20 Summit, and The Trumpet reported that in Australia, the federal treasurer rejected two deals from China for power companies, valued at over $7.6 billion, over security concerns.

In August 2016, Israel’s Haaretz published an analysis titled “Why China Is on a Shopping Binge in Israel,” noting the acquisition trend but missing the motivation behind it. The reporter said Israel, with a solid economy and reputation for innovation, was merely an attractive parking lot for Chinese capital flight.

A Classic Strategy

The new push from the CCP for economic gain is not a novel approach, according to Amar Manzoor, author of “The Art of Industrial Warfare.”

“They’ve essentially copied Japan,” Manzoor said, referring to the CCP’s new program.

A similar situation took place in the 1950s. Manzoor noted that many Toyota cars used to look like Ford Mustangs, but were sold at a cheaper price. After they broke into the American market, Toyota partnered with American manufacturer General Motors to create the New United Motor Manufacturing plant.

By partnering with a major U.S. company to build a manufacturing plant in the United States, Toyota was able to test how receptive Americans would be to full-fledged Toyota plants in their own backyard. It also allowed Toyota to begin developing supply chains in the United States.

The value of controlling factories goes far beyond profit.


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Manzoor said many countries have gone through the process of copying a foreign competitor, then partnering with companies within the target market.

He noted that Indian automaker Tata Motors bought majority shares in Jaguar Land Rover, which is likewise helping them transfer automaker skills to India.

“Everything India is doing is based on industrial warfare. It wants access to the technology, it wants the plants,” Manzoor said. “This is the same thing with China.”

“What tends to happen is, you get these industrial hubs by doing that,” he said, noting it’s not just rising countries trying to build industrial hubs, but also developed countries, including the United Kingdom and the United States.

The value of controlling factories goes far beyond profit.

People involved in manufacturing—the folks who build the products—are often the ones who think of ways to improve the existing products.

Industrial innovation in the United States has been dropping due to competition from Chinese imports, according to a recent report from the National Bureau of Economic Research, which points out that fewer patents are being filed in the United States.

The country that controls the factories also controls the job market, and any nation well-versed in strategies of industrial warfare will also try to gain control of raw materials and the full supply chain.

With China in particular, Manzoor said, “They want to control supply and demand, and the best way to do that is to control the marketplace itself. This is where the industrial war is trending right now.”

When industrial warfare reaches this level, it also begins to affect national security.

According to a U.S. Army report, “Chinese companies’ access to resources, technologies, markets, and elites translates into means of influence and power than can be harnessed for a whole host of objectives that are not necessarily focused on commercial goals only.”

To show how this could play out, Manzoor gives the example of how during World War II, factories were re-purposed for the defense industry, and companies that had previously been building cars were instead building tanks and fighter planes.

If a country is pulled into a war unexpectedly, while also lacking domestic manufacturing, it will then need to build the factories, skills, and supply lines from scratch.

An Internal Shift

The CCP has reduced its cyberattacks against the United States, although some of its hacker units remain active. Cybersecurity company FireEye reported in June 2016 that since mid-2014, “we have seen a notable decline in China-based groups’ overall intrusion activity against entities in the U.S. and 25 other countries.” It says U.S. action responding to the attacks “may have prompted Beijing to reconsider the execution of its network operations.”

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The CCP’s new program on state-sponsored cyberattacks has two points of focus: one, to expand the reach of Chinese factories, and two, to steal intellectual property from competitors directly.

According to the source in China, “the only way they can innovate is by doing one thing: steal.”

It builds on existing programs for economic theft the CCP already had in place, which ran parallel to its cybertheft operations. These include its Torch program for high-tech commercial industries, its 973 Program for research, and its 211 program for using universities.

According to the book “China’s Industrial Espionage,” all of these programs leverage “foreign collaboration and technologies to cover key gaps” and use methods that include encouraging skilled experts to return to China, or to have them “serving in place,” providing information they gained from Western employers.

The economic situation in China isn’t as flashy as the regime wants the world to believe. The source in China said “the business environment has completely changed,” he said. “It has changed for the worse.”

Companies are realizing that due to the lack of a middle class, the actual Chinese market is only about 200 million out of a total population of 1.3 billion.


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“There are some significant problems going on. There are a lot of people unemployed. They are looking for answers, and the government does not seem to have them,” he said. “There are a lot of protests taking place there as well, which were not there before. … You’re talking thousands of people. They have signs and they have stuff spray-painted on their shirts as well, and they get into fights very quick.”

“These people have lost money. They’ve lost their life savings, the government is not answering to their needs, and businesses are trying to get new sales.”

Meanwhile, he said, “the innovators are leaving in droves. They’re either being chased out by the government, or they’re realizing the government is stealing their stuff.”

“They’re not making enough money and they’re not getting enough orders from their customers,” he said. Companies are realizing that due to poverty levels, and due to the lack of a middle class, the actual Chinese market is only about 200 million out of a total population of 1.3 billion.

Meanwhile, many companies used to have their products manufactured in China, but as local wages increase—and as other countries such as India and Indonesia grow their own manufacturing bases—the cost benefit of manufacturing in China is starting to fade.

The CCP is now trying to build a middle-class economy and to start making strong pushes to bring Chinese products—such as Lenovo computers and Xiaomi smartphones—into global competition. It is also making strong pushes to acquire raw materials and to negotiate trade deals.

Moving away from reliance on Western products and technology is now a high priority for the CCP.

The CCP is also pushing out some companies directly. The strategy, the source said, is that it is selectively pushing foreign companies out of China if their own domestic products are at a level where they could compete with each other in global or third-world markets. The companies they’re keeping in China are the ones they can still learn from.

“This is a new push [to buy or partner with companies outside China] that’s taking place,” the source said, “because as they push people out, they need something to replace the lost innovation.”

How innovative China is beating Facebook, Google and Amazon at their own game — I admire how China took on Silicon Valley and won

March 20, 2017

Niall Ferguson says China, unlike Europe, has shown great economic and political acumen in choosing to challenge the dominance of US internet giants

By Niall Ferguson
South China Morning Post

Monday, March 20, 2017, 2:03 p.m.
 The head office in Beijing of Baidu, China’s biggest search engine. The acronym of the moment, as China encourages its entrepreneurs to build internet businesses to rival those in Silicon valley, is “Bat”: Baidu, Alibaba (China’s answer to Amazon) and Tencent (the nearest thing to Facebook). Photo: AFP

Only in China could there already be a museum of internet finance. Though most Britons have barely adopted the term “fintech”, online banking is old hat in Beijing.

I toured the museum with its founder, Wang Wei, who delighted in showing me exhibits such as a bitcoin cash machine. The cryptocurrency is eight years old: in today’s China, that’s ancient enough to belong in a glass display case.

Some time soon, Europe needs a similarly designed museum of political idiocy. In its glass cases, I would like to exhibit stuffed specimens of politicians who have so hopelessly failed to understand the information technology revolution that began in California in the 1970s and has now almost completely taken over the world.

Prime candidates for the taxidermist’s knife are the members of the UK’s Commons Home Affairs Committee. They have laid into Google, Facebook and Twitter for not doing enough to censor the web on their behalf. Yvette Cooper, their chairwoman, complained that Facebook had failed to take down a page with the title “Ban Islam”. As she put it: “We need you to do more and to have more social responsibility to protect people.”

 German Justice Minister Heiko Maas. Photo: Reuters

Another possible exhibit in the museum of political idiocy is Germany’s justice minister, Heiko Maas, who unveiled a draft law last week that would impose fines of up to 50 million euros (HK$417.6 million) on social networks that failed to delete “hate speech” or “fake news”. He said: “Too little illegal content is being deleted and it’s not being deleted sufficiently quickly.”

If these people want censorship, let them get on with it, but arguing that Google and Facebook should do the censoring is nuts. As if these companies were not already mighty enough, European politicians want to give them the power to limit free expression.

Arguing that Google and Facebook should do the censoring is nuts

Best of all is the revelation that government advertising has ended up on jihadist and white supremacist websites. The news that London’s Department for International Development and the Metropolitan police have been spending taxpayers’ money in this undiscriminating way just strikes me as more evidence of European naivety.

There are three essential points to understand about the IT revolution. First, it was almost entirely a US-based achievement, albeit with contributions from computer scientists who came to Silicon Valley from all over the world and Asian manufacturers who drove down the costs of hardware.

Most of the big breakthroughs in software that made mass personal computing possible were made in America – think Microsoft and Apple. The internet, too, was made in America. Online retail was made by Amazon, founded in 1994 in Seattle. Online search based on the PageRank algorithm: made by Google, founded in 1996, its first office a garage in Menlo Park, California. Online social networking for one and all: made by Facebook, founded in 2004 at Harvard. YouTube (2005), Twitter (2006), the iPhone (2007), Uber (2009), Snapchat (2011) – you get the idea.

Point two: the most important of these companies are now mind-blowingly dominant. In Facebook’s little red book for employees, it is written: “The quick shall inherit the Earth.” Mark Zuckerberg has certainly inherited quite a chunk of this planet. His social network now has 1.23 billion active daily users.

Google and Facebook are predicted to increase their combined share of all digital advertising this year to 60 per cent. Google has 78 per cent of US search advertising. Facebook has 39 per cent of online display advertising.

Third point: this dominance translates into crazy money. Facebook will make US$16 billion from display advertising this year. The business is valued today at about US$400 billion, including a US$30 billion cash pile. That equips Zuckerberg to buy up pretty much whatever comes along that he likes the look of – as he did with Instagram, for example.

It is an amazing state of affairs. Consider the functions these companies perform. Google is essentially a vast global library; it’s where we go to look things up. Amazon is a vast global bazaar, where more and more of us go to shop. And Facebook is a vast global club. The various networking functions these companies perform are not new; it’s just that technology has made the networks both enormous and very fast. The more interesting difference, however, is that in the past libraries and social clubs did not make money from advertising. They were funded out of donations or subscriptions or taxes.

In other words, the truly revolutionary fact is that our global library and our global club are both making money from advertising, and that the more we tell them about ourselves, the more effective the advertising becomes, sending us off to Jeff Bezos’ bazaar with increasing frequency.

The rest of the world had two options: capitulate or compete. The Europeans chose the former … the Chinese opted to compete

Not for nothing is “Fang” the investors’ acronym for Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google. These guys really have got their teeth into us.

Confronted with this American network revolution, the rest of the world had two options: capitulate or compete. The Europeans chose the former. You will look in vain for a European search engine, giant online retailer or social network. The US Fang has been well and truly sunk into the EU.

The Chinese, by contrast, opted to compete. By fair means and foul, they made life difficult for the Americans. And they encouraged their own entrepreneurs to build businesses that rival the giants of Silicon Valley. The acronym of the moment in Beijing is “Bat”: Baidu (the biggest search engine), Alibaba (Jack Ma’s answer to Amazon) and Tencent (the nearest thing to Facebook).

These companies are much more than clones of their US counterparts; each has been innovative in its own right. A good example is Tencent’s ubiquitous messaging app

WeChat, which, by using QR codes to allow users to exchange contact details, is fast destroying the business card.

Needless to say, Silicon Valley gnashes its fangs at being shut out of the vast Chinese market. Zuckerberg has not yet given up hope, doing interviews in Putonghua and even jogging through the smog of Tiananmen Square. The recent experience of Uber cannot encourage him. Last year, it ran up the white flag in China, accepting that it could not beat the homegrown ride-sharing business Didi Chuxing. Cue more gnashing.

I have to say I admire how China took on Silicon Valley and won. It was not only smart economically but smart politically, too. Beijing now has the big data it needs to keep very close tabs on Chinese netizens. And good luck to the US National Security Agency as it tries to get through the Great Firewall of China.

Museums are where history’s victors display their trophies. What I learnt last week is that China may be winning the latest battle in the IT wars: to take not just banking but money itself online.

Niall Ferguson is a senior fellow of the Hoover Institution, Stanford

Apple CEO Tim Cook Defends Globalization in China Speech

March 18, 2017

Apple is facing political pressure in the U.S. to bring back factories


March 18, 2017 1:19 a.m. ET

BEIJING — Apple Inc.’s Chief Executive Tim Cook defended globalization in a rare public speech in China, as his company faces political pressure in the U.S. to bring back factories.

Mr. Cook also said data privacy was one of the company’s values, although he stopped short Saturday of criticizing decryption demands from governments as Apple has previously in the U.S. It was his first time speaking at the China Development Forum, an annual conference sponsored by China’s central government. It came as part of a broader charm offensive in China as Apple announced two new research centers.

Mr. Cook said in his hourlong session that globalization “in general is great for the world,” but gains aren’t evenly distributed within countries. While he said this was a problem, he cautioned against countries retreating from globalization as a response.

“I think the worst thing would be to–because it didn’t help everyone–is to say it’s bad and do less of that,” said Mr. Cook. “I think the reality is you can see that countries in the world…that isolate themselves, it’s not good for their people.”

U.S. President Donald Trump has made American manufacturing revival a key goal and has called on Apple to bring back iPhone production. That has raised concerns in China, the main manufacturing base for Apple and many other global companies.

Mr. Cook didn’t directly address the issue of bringing production back to the U.S. Saturday, beyond his defense of globalization. Analysts have said it would be difficult to make iPhones in the U.S. in a cost-effective way, although it might be possible to move limited production of other Apple products back.

Mr. Cook’s comments on privacy Saturday reflected the sometimes awkward line that U.S. companies walk as they try to do business in China. In the U.S., Apple has clashed publicly with the Federal Bureau of Investigation over its demands for the company to help decrypt an iPhone’s data.

China last year passed a controversial cybersecurity law that requires companies to provide technical assistance to authorities in investigations. But executives generally shy away from criticizing Chinese policies publicly, as it rarely results in policy change and often draws blowback.

Mr. Cook spoke in general about data privacy on Saturday, saying that Apply encrypts data end-to-end to prevent “hackers and so forth” from accessing it.

“We think that an individual should own their data and should be able to control their data,” Mr. Cook said.

For Western executives, speaking at the annual China Development Forum is seen as a move to improve government relations with Beijing, as many senior Chinese officials attend the event. Mr. Cook hasn’t previously spoken there, and rarely appeared in public in China. Facebook Inc. Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg spoke at the China Development Forum last year, but the social network has made little progress in staging a return to China, where it is blocked, and people familiar with him say he doesn’t want to return until there is progress. Mr. Zuckerberg isn’t on the speaker list this year.

Mr. Cook is also scheduled to introduce China’s top internet regulator, Xu Lin, in a closed-door discussion among business executives about security and internet regulation on Monday.

Tripp Mickle contributed to this article.

Write to Eva Dou at


Apple CEO Tim Cook says globalization is ‘great for the world’ in China speech

Apple CEO Tim Cook offered remarks on globalization, cybersecurity, encryption, international relations and more during a rare public appearance in China, part of the executive’s attempts to woo Chinese consumers.

Apple CEO Tim Cook meets Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong in Beijing in 2015.

As reported by The Wall Street Journal, Cook delivered commentary on world affairs during an hour-long address on Saturday at the China Development Forum, an annual conference sponsored by the Chinese government. The heads of western corporations sometimes attend the convention to bolster ties with high ranking officials in the Chinese central government, the report said.

During his speech, Cook said globalization “in general is great for the world,” but noted socioeconomic gains may not be evenly distributed within or between countries. Despite globalization’s shortcomings, countries should not shy away from such development, he said.

“I think the worst thing would be to — because it didn’t help everyone — is to say it’s bad and do less of that,” Cook said. “I think the reality is you can see that countries in the world…that isolate themselves, it’s not good for their people.”

The subject is a contentious one for Apple, a U.S. company that farms out a bulk of its manufacturing operations to China. President Donald Trump recently called for Apple to bring iPhone production to America, a move that would stimulate the domestic economy. Trump has asked the same of many U.S. multinationals in attempts to repatriate overseas jobs.

Beyond economics, Cook touched on cybersecurity and user privacy, both highly sensitive subjects in China. Parroting past statements on the matter, Cook said Apple employs end-to-end encryption to protect its customers from nefarious actors. He fell short of taking a stand against Chinese cybersecurity policy that requires companies to furnish authorities with technical assistance in investigations and data gathering operations.

Unlike the U.S., where Apple is an outspoken critic of government snooping — and last year went to court to fight Federal Bureau of Investigation demands to decrypt an iPhone — China is handled with kid gloves. Companies and individual who publicly oppose government mandate, especially when it comes to topics like cybersecurity, privacy and free speech, are often met with swift retaliation. At times, government responses can negatively impact business relations, which could be catastrophic to the bottom lines of companies like Apple.

Cook tiptoed around the subject of data privacy, saying, “We think that an individual should own their data and should be able to control their data.” He has made similar statements in the past, often using harsh words to condemn state-sponsored snooping, but the claws didn’t come out today in China.

Cook is in China to bolster relations with the country’s central government. Apple’s top executive is slated to speak with Xu Lin, director of the Cyberspace Administration of China, in a private meeting on Monday.

Pakistan: Government tries to silence media with threats pf “blasphemy” — which is punishable by death in Pakistan — “They should be scared.”

March 18, 2017

The Associated Press

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Ahmad Waqas Goraya couldn’t see anything through the black hood, but he could hear the screams.

A Pakistani blogger with a penchant for criticizing Pakistan’s powerful military and taking the government to task, Goraya was kidnapped in January along with four other bloggers.

“I could hear the screams of torture,” he said, struggling for words as the memories flooded back. “I don’t even want to think about what they did.”

But that wasn’t the worst of it, he said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. More terrifying was the accusation of blasphemy __ punishable by death in Pakistan __ hurled at him and his fellow bloggers. They were held in what Goraya called a “black site” on the edge of Lahore that some say is run by Pakistan’s powerful intelligence agency.

Analysts and social media monitors say the blasphemy law is a powerful tool to silence critics. Some say it is being used by extremists to silence moderates at a time when Pakistanis are increasingly speaking out against violence and extremism, and voicing support for a government crackdown on Islamic militants.

In Pakistan, even the suggestion of blasphemy can be tantamount to a death sentence. It has incited extremists to take the law into their own hands and kill alleged perpetrators, often forcing people to flee the country, as Goraya and the other bloggers have.

Pakistan’s government heightened concerns earlier this week when it said it had asked Facebook and Twitter to ferret out Pakistanis posting religiously offensive material, promising to seek their extradition if they are out of the country and prosecute them on blasphemy charges if they are in Pakistan.

In one high-profile case six years ago, Punjab Gov. Salman Taseer was gunned down by one of his guards, who accused him of blasphemy because he criticized the law and defended a Christian woman sentenced to death for allegedly insulting Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.

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Mumtaz Qadri, the killer of Salman Taseer. Reuters photo

“Right now they have made sure I cannot come back to Pakistan by introducing blasphemy charges,” Goraya said.

The lawyer who is arguing the case against the bloggers, Tariq Asad, has openly called for their deaths, while praising outlawed Sunni militant groups who want the country’s minority Shiites declared non-Muslims.

“They should have been killed,” Asad told the AP in an interview this week. “If I had the opportunity I would have killed them.”

Asad smiled at the suggestion that invoking the blasphemy law subdues the media and frightens social media activists.

“They should be scared,” he said.

The blasphemy charges against the bloggers being heard in Islamabad’s High Court were filed by Salman Shahid, who has ties to Pakistan’s Red Mosque, a hotbed of Islamic militancy where hundreds were killed in 2007 after security forces ended a months-long standoff with militants holed up inside. Asad is Shahid’s lawyer.

Zahid Hussain, a defense analyst and author of several books on militancy in the region, said invoking the blasphemy law is a form of “pushback” against the proliferation of news outlets and social media that amplify moderate voices.

Extremists “are trying to reassert themselves with this ideological battle and the easiest thing for them to use is the blasphemy law,” he said.

Hamid Mir, a popular Pakistani news anchor, says both media owners and journalists operate under a cloud of fear. Threats come from a variety of quarters in Pakistan, including the powerful spy agencies, but the most frightening are from those who would use the blasphemy law, he said.

Mir was shot six times in a drive-by shooting in Karachi three years ago. The culprits were later said to have been killed, but Mir pointedly accused Pakistan’s intelligence agency at the time.

“I am not afraid of bullets or bombs,” he said in an interview this week in his office in Islamabad. Even with three of the six bullets still in his body, he has refused to leave Pakistan.

But now he is having second thoughts. Last year, he was charged with blasphemy after writing a column condemning those who would kill in the name of honor following the burning death of a young girl.

“It broke me,” he said. “Here I had done nothing wrong and for four months I faced this blasphemy charge. Then I thought I should leave my country.”

Asad, the attorney prosecuting the bloggers, also argued the case against Mir.

A group of senior lawyers in Pakistan told Mir there was only one lawyer who could defend him, Rizwan Abbasi, who was defending the seven militants accused in the deadly 2008 multi-pronged assault in Mumbai, India, which killed 127 people. Abbasi had also defended Hafiz Saeed, the founder of the outlawed Lashkar-e-Taiba group and one of India’s most wanted men.

“I thought if the judge saw him by my side he would think ‘if he is with him then I won’t get into trouble if I free him,'” said Mir, explaining that judges and lawyers fear retaliation from militants if they exonerate someone of blasphemy.

But even Abbasi needed help. He had Mir send his column to five of the country’s top clerics to ask if it contained anything blasphemous. They all rejected the charge and it was dropped, but Mir says his approach to journalism has changed.

“I don’t talk about human rights any more. . . You become selective in your criticism,” he said.

The Committee to Protect Journalists and Amnesty International have spoken out against the abduction of the bloggers and expressed concerns about growing fears within Pakistan’s journalist community brought about by the use of the blasphemy law.

“It’s not the elected government that is putting pressure on the media, but journalists express fear of offending religious and militant groups, and the military and intelligence organizations,” said Steven Butler, the CPJ’s Asia program director. “The latest fear is of being labeled as ‘blasphemer’ and that this could lead to attacks.”

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif did nothing to allay fears earlier this week when he demanded a review of social media to seek out offensive content, and when his interior minister said the government had reached out to Facebook and Twitter.

Facebook said it reviews all government requests carefully, “with the goal of protecting the privacy and rights of our users.” Twitter declined to comment.

In the past, Pakistan has banned YouTube after the circulation of videos deemed offensive to Islam.

“Our argument has never been about the law, but what is most dangerous is how it is used in Pakistan,” to stifle critics and muffle moderate voices, said Haroon Baloch with the Islamabad-based internet advocacy group Bytesforall. He said radical religious groups use social media to attack moderate views, but there have been no restrictions imposed on them.

In an open letter to Pakistan’s interior minister, Amnesty International earlier this month asked that the government “protect journalists, bloggers, civil society and other human rights activists who are facing constant harassment, intimidation, threats and violent attacks in the country.”

Goraya, the blogger, is still haunted by his three weeks of captivity at the black site, where he said several cells were overcrowded with men both young and old, many of them in chains. One of his eardrums is damaged and he no longer has feeling in one hand.

“I was tortured beyond limits, beatings, different equipment used, psychological torture,” he said.




Vietnam urges firms to stop YouTube and Facebook ads in protest over ‘fake content’ — Critisism from human rights groups and anti-communist posting embarrass Hanoi

March 16, 2017


By My Pham | HANOI

Vietnam on Thursday called on all companies doing business there to stop advertising on YouTube, Facebook and other social media until they find a way to halt the publication of “toxic” anti-government information.

At a meeting with the information and communication minister, companies including the local operations of Unilever, Ford and Yamaha Motor all committed to obey the call to suspend YouTube advertising.

Last month, the communist country began putting pressure on advertisers to try to get YouTube owner Google and other companies to remove content from foreign-based dissidents.

But Information and Communication Minister Truong Minh Tuan said the response had not yet been good enough. Although there were 8,000 anti-government videos on YouTube, Google had only blocked 42 and hadn’t removed them completely, the ministry said.

“Today we call on all Vietnamese firms that are advertising not to abet them to take advertising money from firms to use against the Vietnamese government,” Tuan told companies at a meeting in Hanoi.

“We also call on all internet users to raise their voice to Google and Facebook to prevent toxic, fake content violating Vietnamese law in the online environment.”

YouTube reiterated its global policy of thoroughly reviewing government requests to block content they believe is illegal and restricting it where appropriate. Facebook gave no immediate response.

The Asia Internet Coalition, an industry association which includes both companies, said Vietnam and its businesses benefited greatly from the internet.

“It is critical for the Vietnamese government to protect the open nature of the internet, and put in place the right conditions that incentivize investment and nurture innovation,” said Jeff Paine, the group’s managing director.

For governments to complain to Google and Facebook about content published online is not new, but industry officials said there was less precedent for a state to try to put pressure on them through their advertisers.

Vietnam’s state-owned Vinamilk, and flag carrier Vietnam Airlines suspended YouTube ads last month after the government told them their ads had appeared alongside inappropriate content.

Because of the computer-directed processes that pair adverts with their targeted audiences on social media, companies are not always aware of or have direct control over which specific videos an advert has been placed alongside.

Vietnam has come under fire from Western countries and human rights groups for its Decree 72 on social media – which bans information that it deems anti-government, damaging to national security or destroying national unity.

Despite the restrictions, content that ostensibly breaches the code’s standards is still prolific.

While Vietnam makes up a very small part of the business operations of companies like Google and Facebook, it is one of Asia’s fastest growing economies and a hot investment target for global consumer brands.

Within Vietnam itself, YouTube and Facebook account for two-thirds of digital media market share in Vietnam, according to Nguyen Khoa Hong Thanh, Operations Director at digital marketing agency Isobar Vietnam.

(Editing by Matthew Tostevin and Nick Macfie)

Behold the ‘Resistance’: a groundswell of anti-Trump fervor

March 15, 2017


© AFP / by Leila MACOR | With 1,500 attendees, ACLU launched People Power, a grassroots mobilization platform designed to help organize actions against US President Donald Trump
MIAMI (AFP) – Until Donald Trump became president, Kelsey Thomas spent her time studying, hanging out with friends and lounging on the beaches of Florida. But not anymore.Now she has become fiercely political, joining the new activist movement in America that has come to be called the “Resistance.”

For Thomas, a 29-year-old university student, the turning point was the huge wave of women-led protests that filled Washington and other cities on January 21, the day after Trump’s inauguration.

She traveled from Fort Lauderdale, where she lives, to the US capital to join the throngs protesting against the Republican billionaire president.

“That was really inspiring and motivating. I just started worrying after the elections and really I got more involved after he took office and after the Women’s March in Washington,” Thomas told AFP.

Thomas now works with a local women’s group that took part in that rally and is opposed to the Trump-backed Republican plan to replace the health care reforms known as Obamacare.

Many services, such as those for people with mental illness or substance abuse problems, would be taken away, she said.

“All of this motivated me to fight for all the injustices that I see and continue to see every single day,” said Thomas.

– ‘Fertile for activism’ –

Like Thomas, many in the “Resistance” movement feel their core values are being threatened by the Trump administration. And they are ready to fight back.

Jose Parra, a political analyst at a consultancy called Prospero Latino, said “the public in general is beginning to become politically educated when they feel that there is a threat to their way of life and that is what is happening with the Trump administration’s proposals.”

What is at stake for these new political warriors are the rights of women, immigrants and Muslims, equal treatment of gays and lesbians and progress in public health and environmental protection.

“There is a controversy for every taste,” said Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, America’s largest human rights advocacy group and a pillar of the new anti-Trump drive. “There are a lot of issues under threat.”

Romero, who was visiting Miami, said his organization had 400,000 members before the presidential election and now has 1.2 million.

“We are living in times that are very fertile for activism because people feel threatened,” he told AFP.

“But at the same time there is nothing romantic about this. People know that the federal government in the hands of Trump wields vast power.”

To harness all this grassroots energy, the ACLU created a platform called with the slogan “Join the Resistance.” With this, the organization hopes to recruit more activists and lay the groundwork for political action against Trump.

The movement was launched last Saturday in Miami at an amphitheater filled with 1,500 future activists. The event was broadcast live on Facebook.

People of all ages who, like Thomas, had their political awakening four months ago, listened to lectures on how to convene rallies, what kind of activities are legal, the best places to gather and what rights police and immigration officers have in dealing with protesters.

– Ideological zeal –

This surge of political awareness that prompted the ACLU to create is seen all over.

When the mayor of Miami-Dade County, Carlos Gimenez, announced that the city would no longer be a sanctuary city — one that refuses to cooperate with federal immigration authorities seeking to deport people — a rally took place the very next day outside his office.

Since then there have been many more protests against him.

Late night talk and comedy shows are now rich in political satire that ridicules or lampoons Trump, and their ratings have risen sharply.

Activists are even recruiting on the dating web site Tinder, where one can now find people eager to do something as un-sexy as go to a town hall meeting.

And NGOs are recruiting on new sites like MeetUp and that old-fashioned place called Facebook.

For instance, on Sundays the civil rights group MoveOn holds nationwide call-ins, known as “Ready to Resist,” in which it trains people in the finer arts of grassroots resistance.

Wilfredo Ruiz, spokesman for the Florida chapter of CAIR — America’s largest Muslim rights advocacy organization — told AFP that Trump’s travel ban targeting people from an initial seven and now six mainly Muslim countries has caused people to rally to his group’s defense.

This is creating a kind of unified, organic resistance nationwide. “We are teaming up with other civil rights organizations at other, unprecedented levels,” said Ruiz.

Now, collaboration among NGOs, universities, churches, mosques and synagogues is not just about marching or filing lawsuits together. Rather, they are sharing strategies, resources and logistics, he said.

This is happening for instance in California, where religious leaders have created a clandestine network of homes where people are willing to shelter unauthorized immigrants.

Some people — including Romero, Parra and Ruiz — are comparing this groundswell of ideological zeal to the climate that gave rise to the civil rights movement of the 1960s to end racism and discrimination against blacks.

by Leila MACOR

German Justice Minister Wants Fines of $53 Million For Hate Speech, Defamatory “Fake News” on Social Networking Sites — Denies reported plans to create a “truth commission”

March 14, 2017

By Frank Jordans
The Associated Press

BERLIN (AP) — Germany’s justice minister is proposing fines of up to 50 million euros ($53 million) for social networking sites that fail to swiftly remove illegal content, such as hate speech or defamatory “fake news.”

The plan proposed Tuesday marks a further step in Germany’s attempt to impose its strict domestic laws against incitement on the free-wheeling world of online chatter.

Justice Minister Heiko Maas, a member of the center-left Social Democratic Party, said social media companies had already taken voluntary steps to crack down on hate crimes that have resulted in improvements.

“This isn’t sufficient yet,” Maas said, citing research that he said showed Twitter deletes just 1 percent of illegal content flagged by users, while Facebook deletes 39 percent.

No automatic alt text available.

The proposal would require companies to provide a round-the-clock service for users to flag illegal content, which would have to be removed by the site within seven days. All copies of the content would also have to be deleted and social media companies would need to publish a quarterly report detailing how they have dealt with such material.

Sites would also have to nominate a person responsible for handling complaints, who could face fines of up to 5 million euros personally if the company fails to abide by mandatory standards.

Maas said the measures, which will become part of a bill to be put before Parliament, wouldn’t restrict freedom of speech that already exists in Germany and there were no plans to create a “truth commission” against so-called fake news.

But he noted that fake news could constitute illegal content “if it constitutes slander, defamation or libel.”

Facebook declined to comment directly on the new proposal, but insisted that tests the company had commissioned showed higher rates of removal than those cited by Maas. Facebook also said it had taken measures to train staff in how to deal with the legal situation in Germany and expects to have 700 people in Berlin examining flagged content by the end of the year.

Twitter, too, declined to comment on the proposal. However, the company noted a number of measures taken in recent months that it said are designed to prevent abuse and allow users to filter unwanted content.

Follow Frank Jordans on Twitter at

UN expert urges states to work toward cyber surveillance treaty

March 8, 2017


By Tom Miles | GENEVA

The world needs an international treaty to protect people’s privacy from unfettered cybersurveillance, which is being pushed by populist politicians preying on fear of terrorism, according to a U.N. report debated on Wednesday.

The report, submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Council by the U.N. independent expert on privacy, Joe Cannataci, said traditional privacy safeguards such as rules on phone tapping were outdated in the digital age.

“It’s time to start reclaiming cyberspace from the menace of over-surveillance,” Cannataci told the Council.

With governments worldwide demanding data from firms such as Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Apple and Twitter, it did not make sense to rely entirely on U.S. legal safeguards, and creating an “international warrant” for data access or surveillance would unify global standards, he said.

“What the world needs is not more state-sponsored shenanigans on the Internet but rational, civilized agreement about appropriate state behavior in cyberspace,” the report said. “This is not utopia. This is cold, stark reality.”

Cannataci was appointed as the first “Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy” in 2015, following the uproar caused by revelations by Edward Snowden, a former U.S. security contractor who once worked at the U.S. mission in Geneva.

His report was submitted last week, before the latest publication by anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks of what it said were thousands of pages of internal CIA discussions of hacking techniques of smartphones and other gadgets.

The United States did not react to Cannataci’s report, but many countries welcomed it and agreed that online privacy standards should be as strong as offline standards.

China’s diplomat at the Council said rapid technological advances and the “drastic increase worldwide in the violation of privacy” made it urgent to enhance protection, while Russia’s representative said Cannataci’s report was “extremely topical”.

Venezuela, Iran and Cuba all welcomed Cannataci’s work and criticized international surveillance.

A draft legal text was being debated by activists and “some of the larger international corporations” and was expected to be published within a year, Cannataci said.

In his report, he criticized populist laws that intruded on privacy in the name of fighting terrorism.

He said such sweeping but unproven powers were largely based on fear, and said that their lack of proportionality should be tested in ways similar to those used by a U.S. federal judge when he assessed President Donald Trump’s proposed restrictions on migrants from Muslim-majority countries.

“The level of the fear prevents the electorate from objectively assessing the effectiveness of the privacy-intrusive measures proposed,” he wrote.

“Trying to appear tough on security by legitimizing largely useless, hugely expensive and totally disproportionate measures which are intrusive on so many people’s privacy – and other rights – is patently not the way governments should go.”

(This stpry corrects paragraph 13 to remove implication of a direct comparison to Trump’s travel ban)

(Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Alison Williams)

U.S. Government Can Spy on Just About Anyone Via The Cell Phone or TV — WikiLeaks

March 7, 2017

No automatic alt text available.

By March 7, 2017 10:59 AM PST

WikiLeaks says it’s released thousands of documents showing the CIA’s secret hacking tools that the agency can use to break into our phones, cars, computers and smart TVs.

The organization, which has published everythin from US diplomatic cables to Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman’s emails, posted the documents Tuesday. The documents could potentially reveal the agency’s most important hacking techniques used to penetrate systems around the world. CNET is unable to verify if the documents are real or have been altered.

“We do not comment on the authenticity or content of purported intelligence documents,” CIA spokesman Jonathan Liu said in an email.

If true, the leaks provide a glimpse into just how much access the CIA has into your life — thanks to the gadgets that you carry around all day. The magnitude of the hacking tools are jaw-dropping; the documents suggest the agency was able to break into the underlying operating systems running iPhones, Android phones and Windows and Linux computers. That meant that it had access to data stored on the device, and even encrypted messages sent through popular services like WhatsApp, Signal and Telegram.

WikiLeaks has a long track record of releasing top secret government documents, and experts who’ve started to sift through the material said it appears legitimate, CBS News reported. Yet it’s unclear whether these programs are still running or whether they affect the latest versions of each operating system.

These leaks come after more than a year of debate over government investigators accessing consumer devices. Frustrated at not being able to access encrypted information — which is scrambled and unreadable without a password — the government can purchase or develop its own hacking tools that get around encryption by unlocking devices.

This debate took off when the US Department of Justice sought to require Apple to help it open an encrypted iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino shooters. After Apple fought back in court, the FBI said it had obtained another way to access the phone.

If the CIA could break into a phone’s operating system, it wouldn’t have to break the encryption, but rather gain the same access to messages that a regular user would have when unlocking their phone or computer.

Apple, Google and Motorola declined to comment on WikiLeaks’ claims. Samsung didn’t respond to a request for comment.

“We’re aware of the report and are looking into it,” a Microsoft spokesman said in an email.

WhatsApp declined to comment. Signal parent Open Whisper Systems didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. Telegram said on its website that the problem lies with operating systems and not encrypted messaging apps and that naming specific encrypted services is “misleading.”

Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who leaked documents detailing NSA spy programs to journalists in 2013, wrote about the WikiLeaks documents Tuesday on Twitter. He said hacking the operating system is actually “worse” than hacking encrypted messaging services like WhatsApp.

PSA: This incorrectly implies CIA hacked these apps / encryption. But the docs show iOS/Android are what got hacked – a much bigger problem. 

The hacking tools described by WikiLeaks go beyond merely opening encrypted devices. The WikiLeaks press release says the documents show the CIA developed tools to turn Smart TVs into listening devices with a tool called “Weeping Angel,” and sought to find ways to hack the control systems in internet-connected cars. Like something out of a spy movie, other colorful codenames include “Brutal Kangaroo,” a system to hide data images, or “Hammer Drill,” which infects software distributed on CDs or DVDs.

WikiLeaks said the CIA had also “hoarded” vulnerabilities in the software run by tech giants like Apple and Microsoft, staying quiet about exploits so the agency could retain backdoor access.

WikiLeaks claims the leaks come from a high-security CIA network in Langley, Virginia. The US spy agency appears to have targeted computers, phones and smart TVs, according to CBS News.

WikiLeaks said in a tweet that the CIA showed “negligence” in not protecting the very information it was publishing.

CIA negligence sees it losing control of all cyber weapons arsenal sparking serious proliferation concerns 

First published March 7, 2017 at 10:04 a.m. PT

Update, 10:59: Adds comment from Microsoft, commentary from Edward Snowden and background information, and notes that WhatsApp declined to comment. 11:32 a.m.: Notes that Motorola declined to comment and that Open Whisper Systems didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment, and adds comment from Telegram and more details from leaks.

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