Posts Tagged ‘Google’

Why are Nazis In America?

August 14, 2017

The ‘Last Week Tonight’ host didn’t hold back Sunday night.

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This weekend, the nation was fixated on the horrifying display of hate in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a group of neo-Nazis held court armed with tiki torches, military cosplay, guns, clubs, and an outrageous sense of entitlement.

These preppy fascists were said to have congregated on the University of Virginia campus to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, but really, most of these whiny brats couldn’t tell you the first thing about the Confederate general. They came to instigate outrage, and violence. And when all was said and done, a suspected white nationalist was arrested for allegedly plowing his Dodge Challenger into a crowd of anti-racist protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring at least another 19 people.

“It was truly a weekend of horrifying images. We saw Nazi flags and marchers carrying torches—tiki torches, by the way, because nothing says ‘white nationalist’ like faux Polynesian kitsch,” said John Oliver.

The Last Week Tonight host opened his program Sunday evening by addressing the events in Charlottesville—including President Donald Trump’s rambling, insufficient reaction to the tragedy, with the commander-in-chief refusing to denounce white nationalists, slipping in President Barack Obama’s name, imploring Americans to “cherish our history” (see: Robert E. Lee’s statue), and condemning hate “on many sides.”

“We condemn, in the strongest possible terms, this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence—on many sides. On many sides,” declared Trump from his Bedminster golf club.

“Wait… on many sides?!” exclaimed Oliver. “This was a white nationalist rally—you have to call that out by name. There aren’t many instances in modern American politics where you can honestly think, ‘That guy really should have mentioned the Nazis,’ but this is emphatically one of them. It’s like a reverse Godwin’s Law: if you fail to mention Nazism, you lose the argument.”

And, after “having made a wild false equivalence between Nazis and people who oppose Nazis,” Trump attempted to clear his own name, saying, “It’s been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama. It’s been going on for a long, long time.”

But this rally did have plenty to do with Donald Trump—according to the white nationalists who participated in it. In addition to white nationalists chanting things like “Heil Trump,” David Duke, a former imperial wizard of the Ku Klux Klan (whose presidential endorsement candidate Trump famously refused to disavow for several days), was interviewed in Charlottesville by a reporter.

“We are determined to take our country back. We’re going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That’s what we believe in, that’s why we voted for Donald Trump,” said Duke.

“I’ve gotta say, David Duke and the Nazis really seem to like Donald Trump, which is weird because Nazis are a lot like cats: If they like you, it’s probably because you’re feeding them,” said Oliver, adding, “And that kind of connection there is something that anyone in their right mind would want to immediately and repeatedly disavow, and it’s not like Trump wasn’t given the opportunity.”

Yes, Trump was repeatedly asked to condemn the white nationalists in Charlottesville, many of whom took to the streets in his honor, as he exited his Bedminster press conference. “How do you respond to white nationalists who say they’re participating in Charlottesville because they support you?” one reporter asked. “Do you want the support of these white nationalist groups who say they support you, Mr. President?”

The questions fell on deaf ears.

“Here’s the problem with that: A non-answer in a moment like this is an answer,” said Oliver. “And look, don’t take that just from me. White nationalists seemed pretty clear about the message Trump had sent to them with his response.”

Indeed, neo-Nazi site The Daily Stormer ran a piece on Saturday praising President Trump’s vague speech. “Trump comments were good… He said he loves us all. Also refused to answer a question about white nationalists supporting him. No condemnation at all. When asked to condemn, he just walked out of the room. Really, really good. God bless him,” they wrote.

“And look, maybe Trump will eventually take a second swing at personally condemning the white nationalists. Maybe he has since we’ve taped this show. But even if he does, it’ll be too late. Because his first response is who he is. And the truly infuriating thing is how predictable this was,” offered Oliver.

“It simply doesn’t get easier than disavowing Nazis. It’s as much of a presidential gimme as pardoning a fucking turkey. It is almost impossible to screw it up. But that’s exactly what happened,” the comedian continued. “So there is clearly no point waiting for leadership from our president in moments like this, because it is just not coming, which means we will have to look to one another, because incredibly, in a country where previous presidents have actually had to defeat Nazis, we now have one who cannot even be bothered to fucking condemn them.”

http://www.thedailybeast.com/john-oliver-accuses-trump-of-feeding-the-charlottesville-nazis

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‘Why are these Nazis able to come into our city?’ Charlottesville left in shock after day of violence

At the scene where a suspected far-right extremist mowed down anti-fascist protesters in Charlottesville, local resident Anna Quillom spent Sunday laying dozens of carnations along the street.

“I grew up here but this doesn’t feel like my home anymore. The lid’s come off it,” said Miss Quillom, 36, who runs wine tours in the historic college town. Welling up with tears, she added: “It was the best place in the world, inclusive, everyone cares about each other. Why are these Nazis able to come into our city?”

Nearby, at a makeshift memorial, a sign read “No Place For Hate!” A red shoe, lost by one of the victims, had been stuffed with roses.

 A mourner lays flowers at a makeshift memorial at the scene of where a car plowed into counter-protesters in Charlottesville
 A mourner lays flowers at a makeshift memorial at the scene of where a car plowed into counter-protesters in Charlottesville CREDIT: JUSTIN IDE/REUTERS

Charlottesville, a town of 47,000 with a university very much at its heart, was shattered by Saturday’s events when hundreds of racist extremists descended and violence erupted.

In the high street, dotted with book and antique shops, people appeared stunned….

Read the rest:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/08/13/nazis-able-come-city-charlottesville-left-shock-day-violence/

Trump Pressed to Disavow White-Nationalist Groups After Virginia Attack

August 14, 2017

Charlottesville violence shines a light on groups that have backed the president

Charlottesville residents on Sunday viewed a street memorial for the victim of Saturday's attack on those protesting a white-nationalist demonstration.
Charlottesville residents on Sunday viewed a street memorial for the victim of Saturday’s attack on those protesting a white-nationalist demonstration. PHOTO: SCOTT P. YATES FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

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Aug. 13, 2017 7:53 p.m. ET

President Donald Trump, in the wake of deadly weekend violence at a white-supremacy rally in Virginia, is facing pressure to break decisively with such nationalist groups that largely backed his campaign and presidency, or risk a fraying of his fragile governing coalition.

The rally erupted in violence in Charlottesville on Saturday, and a woman was killedwhen a driver allegedly mowed down a group that had gathered to counter messages from the white nationalists, some of whom were self-described Nazi sympathizers. Dozens were injured in the car attack; later, two state troopers monitoring the demonstrations were killed when their helicopter crashed.

The president initially said the altercations came from “many sides” of the event, which leaders from both parties said seemed to improperly spread blame equally between the white nationalists and the counterprotesters.

Then on Sunday the White House issued a statement saying Mr. Trump “condemns all forms of violence, bigotry and hatred and of course that includes white supremacists, KKK, neo-Nazi and all extremist groups.”

Mr. Trump’s eldest daughter, White House senior adviser Ivanka Trump, said in a tweet Sunday: “There should be no place in society for racism, white supremacy and neo-Nazis.”

White nationalists flocked to Mr. Trump early in his candidacy and even before then, when he became a central figure in falsely questioning whether former President Barack Obama was born in the U.S. During his presidency, such fringe groups have become increasingly vocal.

For example, Mr. Trump’s Saturday comments were cited on the neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer as evidence of “no condemnation at all” of such groups by the president.

That dynamic is causing friction between Mr. Trump and many leaders of the Republican Party whom Mr. Trump now needs to advance his agenda in Congress.

“I would urge the president to dissuade these groups that he’s their friend,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) told “Fox News Sunday.”

Pointed condemnations of such groups also came Saturday from GOP leaders like House Speaker Paul Ryan as well as Senate conservatives such as Ted Cruz of Texas and Orrin Hatch of Utah.

“We should call evil by its name,” Mr. Hatch said on Twitter. “My brother didn’t give his life fighting Hitler for Nazi ideas to go unchallenged here at home.”

Other Republicans sought a middle ground between denouncing their party leader and seeming unwilling to single out racists and neo-Nazis.

“I stand with President Trump and leaders from both parties condemning these actions and encourage Americans to stand together in opposition to those who encourage hate or promote violence,” said Sen. Luther Strange of Alabama.

The Virginia clash has also re-focused attention on the White House role of Steve Bannon, who helped steer Mr. Trump’s election victory. Mr. Bannon joined the campaign from Breitbart News, which he once described as a “platform for the alt-right.”

The alt-right is shorthand for the “alternative right,” a loose agglomeration of groups with far-right ideologies, some of which embrace the tenets of white supremacy, while others consider themselves rebels against mainstream Republicans.

Over the past seven months, Mr. Bannon has fallen in and out of favor with the president, advisers to Mr. Trump have said, and in the wake of the Charlottesville episode, some of Mr. Trump’s supporters want to see his influence curtailed.

Anthony Scaramucci, who did a brief stint as White House communications director, appeared on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday and decried what he called the “Bannon-bart influence” in the White House, a mashup of Mr. Bannon’s name and the news site he used to run.

“I think the president knows what he’s going to do with Steve Bannon,” said Mr. Scaramucci.

Mr. Bannon declined to comment.

Throughout history, race has proved the most combustible domestic issue presidents have confronted.

In the modern era, John F. Kennedy faced down Southern insistence on segregated schools, while his successor, Lyndon Johnson, ushered in landmark civil-rights legislation. Mr. Obama, as the first black president, entered office with hopes of bridging the gap between the races only to find divisions hardening over his two terms.

Many white nationalists made themselves known at Mr. Trump’s rallies last year, although some took pains to conceal their affiliation for fear that it would embarrass his campaign. At a convocation of white nationalists in Tennessee last year, various attendees identified themselves as Trump campaign volunteers but said they kept secret their affiliation even from some fellow supporters.

“White nationalists were suspicious of candidate Trump in the early part of his campaign, but they were won over by a steady stream of signaling from the campaign, and later from the administration,” said J.M. Berger, who studies extremist ideologies and is a fellow with the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism—The Hague.

Now, though, white nationalist groups are closely watching Mr. Trump’s response to the crisis. They say they weren’t the ones to start the fighting.

Jared Taylor, editor of the white nationalist website American Renaissance, said that virtually all the violence between such groups were caused by counterprotesters.

“Whenever these confrontations take place, it’s where pro-white groups try to have a rally,” said Mr. Taylor, who said he wasn’t at the Charlottesville demonstration. “You will notice that pro-white groups never make a fuss or demonstrate when other groups have meetings that stand for things they abhor.”

David Duke, a former Ku Klux Klan leader, in response to a Trump tweet Saturday calling for unity and condemning “hate,” tweeted in reply: “I would recommend you take a good look in the mirror & remember it was White Americans who put you in the presidency, not radical leftists.”

As a candidate, Mr. Trump’s campaign said it didn’t rely on white nationalists to win. “The President has never considered this fringe to be part of his coalition,” said Michael Caputo, a former Trump campaign aide.

But some critics said that, as a candidate, he didn’t denounce such supporters in unequivocal terms. They also said messages from the campaign seemed aimed at a white nationalist audience.

In a CNN interview in early 2016, Mr. Trump was asked about Mr. Duke’s expressions of support. “I don’t know anything about David Duke,” he said. “I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists.”

In subsequent interviews and media appearances, he renounced the support of white supremacists and Mr. Duke in particular.

“David Duke is a bad person who I disavowed on numerous occasions over the years,” Mr. Trump said on MSNBC in March 2016.

Democrats, for their part, saw the Virginia episode as evidence of the Trump-era Republican Party as beholden to extremists.

“The President’s talk of violence ‘on many sides’ ignores the shameful reality of white supremacism in our country today, and continues a disturbing pattern of complacency around such acts of hate,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) said in a statement.

With images from Charlottesville dominating cable TV coverage, Mr. Trump is at a crossroads, Mr. Berger said.

“So the next few days will be crucial,” he said. “President Trump is facing substantial political pressure to make a stronger statement about white nationalist violence.”

Write to Peter Nicholas at peter.nicholas@wsj.com

Appeared in the August 14, 2017, print edition as ‘Virginia Clash Tests Trump.’

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China and India Face Off in the Himalayas

August 2, 2017

Standoff between regional rivals began when Beijing moved to extend a road in a disputed area

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, left, talked in October with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a summit in Goa, India.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, left, talked in October with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a summit in Goa, India. PHOTO:MANISH SWARUP/ASSOCIATED PRESS
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Aug. 2, 2017 9:42 a.m. ET

NEW DELHI—China on Wednesday stepped up pressure on India to withdraw from a weekslong military standoff that shows how the countries’ contest for leadership in Asia is heightening the risk of conflict.

The dispute began in June when Beijing assembled workers and machines to extend a road in a remote Himalayan territory that is claimed by both China and Bhutan, a small, mountainous nation that is a close ally of India.

The road is located near an area known as the “tri-junction,” where China, India and Bhutan meet.

Bhutanese soldiers tried to stop the construction, according to India, which said it then dispatched its troops in coordination with Bhutan. Indian and Chinese soldiers have since planted themselves on the disputed land.

Beijing says India is trespassing and must fall back as a “precondition and basis for any meaningful dialogue.” New Delhi says road-building in the area hurts India’s security interests and Bhutan’s territorial claims. Bhutan has called China’s actions a “direct violation” of the countries’ understanding not to change the situation on the ground until their boundary dispute is resolved.

In a position paper released Wednesday, China’s foreign ministry accused India of “flagrantly” crossing over into Chinese territory. “India has invented various excuses to justify its illegal action, but its arguments have no factual or legal grounds at all and are simply untenable,” the ministry said in the paper.

“No country should ever underestimate the resolve of the Chinese government and people to defend China’s territorial sovereignty,” it added.

The standoff on the Dolam Plateau is sparking concerns of a prolonged period of strain between China and India, which are maneuvering for power and influence in a region being redefined by China’s rise.

“If India backed down, it would send a signal to the neighborhood that China is a better bet than India,” said Srikanth Kondapalli, a professor of Chinese studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. “This dispute is not just about a road. It’s a reflection of the changes and realignments that are taking place in Asia.”

Both countries are headed by nationalist leaders who have emphasized shows of strength. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to forestall a unipolar Asia.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, meanwhile, is preparing for a pivotal Communist Party congress in the fall. Foreign diplomats say that Beijing wants to minimize geopolitical tensions that could upset preparations but doesn’t want to be seen as soft on boundary claims.

A Chinese soldier and an Indian soldier in 2008 at a border crossing between the two countries
A Chinese soldier and an Indian soldier in 2008 at a border crossing between the two countries PHOTO:DIPTENDU DUTTA/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
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The two nuclear-armed nations face off from time to time along the long, undemarcated stretches of their border. India lost a war, fought over territorial issues, to China in 1962.

The current dispute stands out because India doesn’t claim the territory where its troops are positioned. Indian military strategists worry greater Chinese access to the area could leave India vulnerable at the “Chicken’s Neck,” a narrow sliver of territory near the tri-junction that connects the bulk of India with its northeast.

India’s national security adviser, Ajit Doval, was in Beijing late last week. Neither side would say if the dispute was discussed in his talks with Chinese officials.

Ties between the two countries, never close, have grown far knottier as China has pursued regional dominance. It has made inroads into India’s traditional sphere of influence, from Nepal to Sri Lanka and the Indian Ocean. In response, India has forged closer relations with the U.S. and Japan, moves that have irked Beijing.

India has also watched warily as Beijing has tried to shift the balance of power in Asia by enforcing its territorial claims in the disputed South China Sea.

The rivalry has surfaced in different ways in recent months. China is blocking India’s membership to an international body that controls trade in nuclear technology, and has stymied India’s attempt to impose United Nations sanctions on the leader of a Pakistan-based terror group.

In April, India facilitated a visit by the Dalai Lama to sensitive parts of the country, despite repeated warnings from China, which considers the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism a separatist.

The following month, India declined to participate in the launch of the One Belt, One Road initiative, China’s expansive infrastructure plan that seeks to tie dozens of countries to its ambitions. China’s efforts to build an economic corridor through Pakistan-governed territory claimed by New Delhi has drawn sharp protests from India.

 

“India’s positions on issues that go to the core of China’s vision for a new global framework have upset the Chinese,” said Jayadeva Ranade, the president of the New Delhi-based Center for China Analysis and Strategy. “It sees India’s intervention [over the Himalayan road] as the next in a series of provocative steps.”

Since the start of the standoff, Beijing has kept up a steady drumbeat of criticism of India’s position, which has been echoed in Chinese media.

A commentary published by the Global Times, a nationalist tabloid, warned, “The public’s patience is running short” and “perhaps it is time that it be taught a second lesson,” a reference to the 1962 war.

Bhutan is caught in the geopolitical competition. India provides vital economic and military aid to Bhutan and exercises significant influence, but the Bhutanese shun the notion their country is a protectorate of India, as recent Chinese commentaries have asserted.

China, which doesn’t have diplomatic relations with Bhutan, would like to harness those sensitivities to diminish India’s hold and start building influence there, as it has done elsewhere in the region.

India and China both have incentives to maintain their position yet avoid escalation, adding to the difficulty of predicting how long the standoff will last or how it will end, said Antoine Levesques, a research associate for South Asia at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London.

The two sides, he said, are searching for a way to “walk the tightrope of showing results and restraint—both of which are important to both of them.”

Write to Niharika Mandhana at niharika.mandhana@wsj.com and Chun Han Wong at chunhan.wong@wsj.com

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Related:
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Doklam deadlock: India and China will constantly challenge each other, get used to it

 (July 8, 2017)

VPN crackdown an ‘unthinkable’ trial by firewall for China’s research world

July 24, 2017

Beijing risks a brain drain and undermining international collaborations by cutting off academics reliant on virtual private networks, scholars say

By Sarah Zheng
South China Morning Post

Monday, July 24, 2017, 11:45am

But access to this resource is not guaranteed as he works at Tsinghua University in China – where the government has been tightening what are already among the strictest controls over the internet in the world.

China is notorious for its “Great Firewall” – the mass censorship and blocking of websites such as Facebook, Twitter and Google, plus news sites including The New York Times. It also routinely censors politically sensitive information across Chinese social media and websites.

 If researchers cannot use VPNs to access a free and open internet, it might lead to government censorship of academic information and a “brain drain” of skilled individuals overseas, one researcher says. Photo: Xinhua

Its push in recent years to further limit people’s abilities to circumvent controls on the internet have forced academics such as Pastor-Pareja to depend on tools such as virtual private networks (VPNs), which redirect users to offshore servers to bypass the censors. His personal VPN subscription, paid for out of his own pocket, allows him to access Google, monitor his Twitter feed for the latest scientific literature, and connect with the wider scientific community via social media.

“Everybody here does the same,” he said. “First-class research at a truly competitive level can’t go on with researchers cut off from the outside world. It’s truly unthinkable.”

However, it may become more difficult for people in China to evade the censors amid the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology’s “clean-up” campaign of internet access services such as VPNs.

Beijing has championed the concept of “cyberspace sovereignty” – control of its own digital space – that has forced VPN providers into a long-standing dance with the authorities over their “legal grey zone” of operation.

Freedom House, a US-based democracy and human rights NGO, says Beijing has escalated efforts to “restrict individual VPN usage over the past few years”, branding it “the world’s worst abuser of internet freedom”.

“VPNs provide a pressure valve for those who rely on open internet access to communicate and stay informed – even government supporters,” said Madeline Earp, a research analyst at the group. “Interfering with these channels to the outside world creates tremendous frustration and uncertainty.”

In January this year, Beijing launched a 14-month nationwide campaign against unauthorised internet connections, including VPN services, saying all service providers must obtain government approval.

Nathan Freitas, a fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Centre for Internet and Society, said “anyone who was anyone” in China depended on “the VPN of the week that works” to access essential blocked resources.

Any new restrictions would cause “significant” harm to global collaborations, including Chinese academics or open-source projects on the mainland, he said.

“There is this idea that for people inside – the playing field, the collaboration field, was levelled because they had VPNs,” he said.

John Zhang, a chemistry professor at New York University Shanghai, has used his college’s VPN network to access academic information for years. If that changed, “the impact on my work would be serious”, Zhang said.

Another Chinese academic at a university in Shanghai said he had used VPNs since 2012 to access sites such as Google, a service he needed to “accurately and quickly” find academic papers.

He now bypasses the firewall with his university’s VPN system. Since researchers could still access legal VPNs through work, he did not think the restrictions were harmful to China’s academia – “at least for now”.

 Both Chinese and foreign researchers in the country need to tap into global conversations for “well-informed research”. Photo: Chinese Academy of Sciences

A Chinese physics professor at a university in Beijing said he hoped the VPN crackdown would not affect his ability to use Google.

“Baidu has absolutely no use for my work,” he said, referring to the Chinese search engine.

“It is a shame … Without Google, academic research and study will definitely be adversely ­affected.”

Academics in China are reluctant to publicly comment on censorship. But both Chinese and foreign researchers in the country need to tap into to global conversations for “well-informed research”, according to Dr Nicole Talmacs, lecturer in media and communications at Xian Jiaotong-Liverpool University.

One former visiting scholar at Fudan University in Shanghai tried multiple services in his “adventures of finding a VPN”. The first was blocked upon arrival, the second worked for one night and the third worked only after a prolonged configuration process.

He said it was “catastrophic” for his research to be restricted from file sharing services such as Dropbox or Google Drive. “I don’t want to risk my access being limited to whatever the government decides I can use,” he said.

Dr Christopher Balding, a business and economics professor at the HSBC Business School in Shenzhen, frequently accesses Twitter, Gmail, and Google Scholar for his work.

“If we start taking [VPNs] away, it’s going to be very problematic,” Balding said.

“When you’re going to such extremes, you’re stopping basic access to information for professors … It’s really going to harm the types of jobs and industries that China says it wants to grow.”

Dr Mario Poceski, a former visiting scholar at Fudan University in Shanghai, said the lack of complete internet access was a constant hassle while he was in China, creating conditions that were “rather intolerable”.

He added that this would negatively affect the country’s appeal for foreign scholars.

The firewall’s impact on research was raised when the legislature met in March in Beijing.

Even Liu Binjie, a former director of the General Administration of Press and Publication, indicated support at the National People’s Congress meeting this year for the reintroduction of Google Scholar to China after the authorities suspended access to the service in 2010.

Luo Fuhe, a vice-chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, also said this year that limited access to the internet was harmful to scientists.

“It is not normal when quite a number of researchers have to buy software that helps them bypass the country’s firewalls in order to complete their scientific research,” Luo said.

The communist government has been increasing efforts to maintain its ideological grip on the country’s universities, which President Xi Jinping has vowed to turn into “strongholds of the party’s leadership”.

Universities – which fall under the control of Communist Party committees – have repeatedly been told to maintain purity in their socialist ideology, including steering clear of teaching topics such as press freedom and civil rights.

The party dispatched anti-graft teams earlier this year to inspect 29 top universities on criteria including the implementation of the party’s guiding principles for education and strong “political awareness”.

China’s drive for internet restrictions on academics may stem from a desire to keep data on Chinese internet platforms and sensitive information such as defence or cybersecurity research within its borders, according to Freitas.

But when scholars and researchers could not use VPNs to access a free and open internet, it might lead to government censorship of academic information and a “brain drain” of skilled individuals overseas, he noted. “Intelligent people want to be connected with a global cohort of collaborators,” he said.

Balding said China was “definitely a different environment” from when he arrived in the country eight years ago, citing its restrictive internet and politically sensitive academic environment.

Asked if he was now considering working outside China, he replied soberly: “I should probably start thinking about looking.”

 http://www.scmp.com/news/china/policies-politics/article/2103793/vpn-crackdown-unthinkable-trial-firewall-chinas

Has this man found the secret of happiness? — Man’s Search for Meaning

July 21, 2017

Image result for vintage Rolls-Royce, photos

  • Mo Gawdat personally started many of the Google’s worldwide operations
  • He was a former stock market trader, and made ‘a ton of money’ in Dubai
  • His ‘life had ticked every box’ but he was still feeling miserable
  • Death of Mr Gawdat’s son, Ali, 21, made him realise an equation for happiness

One click — and I had bought a vintage Rolls-Royce. Another click — and I bought a second. Just like that. It might sound like something from your wildest dreams, but this was just an average evening for me. Successful, wealthy and at the pinnacle of my career, I had every luxury you could imagine.

A top executive at Google, I had personally started close to half of the company’s worldwide operations. And even before I made it big at Google, you could certainly say that I was at the top of the tree. A former stock market trader, I had made a ton of money while working in Dubai.

I had a huge house. My colleagues and friends were similarly rich and successful. And to top it all, I had married my university sweetheart and had two beautiful children. My life had ticked every box.

Formula: Mo Gawdat was a former stock market trader, and made 'a ton of money' in Dubai. His 'life had ticked every box' but he was still feeling miserable (file pic)

Formula: Mo Gawdat was a former stock market trader, and made ‘a ton of money’ in Dubai. His ‘life had ticked every box’ but he was still feeling miserable (file pic)

My Rolls-Royces soon arrived. Exquisitely engineered, they were as perfect as my own existence appeared. I looked at them for 20 minutes. Then I left them in the garage without even opening a car door — and returned to my unhappy thoughts.

Yes, that’s right. Despite attaining all the things the modern world tells us we need for happiness, I was profoundly miserable.

The bitter irony of my situation was deepened by the fact that one of my personal side projects was developing a scientific formula for happiness.

I wanted to find a ‘code’ that could be applied to deliver happiness every time. I spent thousands of hours trying to apply logic to the issue of happiness, in the hope of finding an algorithm to summarise how the brain processes joy and sadness. My son Ali, then a teenager, helped me, vetting many of my ideas.

Eventually, in 2010, young Ali and I came up with a formula: a few letters and mathematical symbols that I thought nailed the art of happiness.

Little did I imagine that the sudden death of my beloved boy when he was just 21 — an earth-shattering, pointless event — would show me what fleets of cars and algorithms never could: the true meaning of happiness and how to be content, every day.

My path to finding the meaning of happiness began with a vision of unimaginable catastrophe.

Machines bleeped, tubes wove their terrible path in and out of my boy’s body — and Ali lay there, unconscious in an intensive care unit. It was 2014, and my son had been rushed to hospital for the most routine of operations, an appendix removal.

Mo Gawdat (pictured) personally started many of the Google's worldwide operations

Mo Gawdat (pictured) personally started many of the Google’s worldwide operations

But something went wrong. A needle punctured a major artery and precious moments slipped by before the doctors realised the blunder.

Then a series of additional mistakes were made. The words ‘agony’ and ‘despair’ do not come even remotely close to how Ali’s mother and I felt at the moment we realised we were going to lose our precious son.

We stood helplessly by his bedside, and I kissed his forehead. He looked so handsome, even in that state — as peaceful as I’d ever seen him.

We’d endured the worst night of our lives, as Ali was hooked up to machines, his life hanging delicately in the balance. We were tormented by the thought he might be in pain as his organs failed one by one.

Then came the moment to say goodbye. And as we left the hospital, leaving our 21-year-old son behind, our minds collapsed as grief set in, and penetrated every cell in my body.

The pain was like a spear piercing my heart. There were countless hours of tears, guilt and anger about what had happened, as well as my fear about having to exist in a world I could no longer contemplate without my beloved son.

Ali was kind, clever, loving and in the prime of his life, and losing him unexpectedly to preventable human error seemed unbearably cruel. How was I going to cope?

My feelings were all the more painful because Ali was the one person I would ordinarily seek out for comfort when times were hard. But now he was gone. Nothing made sense.

Without my son to anchor me, my thoughts spiralled and became toxic. ‘That doctor murdered my son,’ I thought. Then: ‘What’s the point of living even a day without him?’.

I couldn’t stop wondering whether his death was somehow my fault. Could life be punishing me for something I’d inadvertently done? Was this a sort of karma for my success, for not realising how blessed my existence had been?

I spent excruciating days in this state, numb to the outside world. I was terrified of what might happen to my wife, my daughter — of what else this cruel life might take from me. How could I ever be happy again?

Someone suggested we pursue a medical negligence investigation and we were asked if an autopsy could be performed on Ali’s body. I asked my wife what she wanted to do. She paused, then uttered the words that saved us: ‘Will it bring Ali back?’

It was like a lighthouse cutting through the fog. Nothing we could do — nothing — would bring Ali back. Any thought beyond this simple truth was pointless.

It was the turning point I needed.

No doubt any parent reading this will wonder how I can say I am happy after I’ve lost a child. Of course, life today is nothing like what it was when Ali was alive. But I am happy, despite the tragedy of his death.

How? It’s thanks to Ali. Deep down, I knew if I’d asked him Ali would say, with the precocious wisdom he was blessed with, ‘I’ve already died, Papa. There is nothing you can do to change that, so make the best of it’.

In the purgatorial time after his death, I heard no other voice in my head but Ali’s repeating those sentences. So when a negative thought popped into my mind I asked myself: ‘What would Ali do or say in this situation?’ It became a healing process.

When I angrily thought, ‘That doctor murdered my son!’, I would hear Ali’s reply: ‘Is that true? What doctor wakes up in the morning and says: “Today is the day I’m going to kill someone”?’

I am happy, despite the tragedy of his death. How? It's thanks to Ali. Deep down, I knew if I'd asked him Ali would say, with the precocious wisdom he was blessed with, 'I've already died, Papa. There is nothing you can do to change that, so make the best of it'

I am happy, despite the tragedy of his death. How? It’s thanks to Ali. Deep down, I knew if I’d asked him Ali would say, with the precocious wisdom he was blessed with, ‘I’ve already died, Papa. There is nothing you can do to change that, so make the best of it’

To my despairing howl, ‘No one should die at such a young age,’ Ali would answer: ‘Is that true? Youngsters die by the thousands every hour of every day.’

As for the cry of all grieving parents, ‘This is the worst thing that could have happened!’, Ali’s voice echoed in my mind, saying: ‘Is that really true? I could have been diagnosed with a lingering cancer or drafted into the madness of war instead of leaving peacefully in my sleep.’

When I recriminated with myself, saying again and again, ‘I drove you to the hospital myself. I should have known better’, Ali would soothe me, saying: ‘Is that true? You did what you thought was right. You wanted me to recover. No one could have known this was going to be how things turned out.’

And to my most common thought of all, ‘I can’t bear this pain, it will torture me for years and years,’ Ali brought solace and clarity: ‘Is that really true? You will live, and time will pass. The days will be long, and the years will be short. Instead of thinking about the years to come, focus on now. Do the best you can. Make me proud.’

And so, 17 days after that terrible night, I began to write. I felt compelled to follow Ali’s advice and do something positive. Those writings eventually became a book, in which I sought to spread the true meaning of happiness — and it wasn’t to be found in flashy cars or expensive gadgets.

And as I wrote, it brought my mind back to that algorithm I’d created with Ali. Except now I finally understood the meaning of my equation for happiness.

Because, as I had found, the more successful I became, the more happiness seemed to elude me.

Each time I reached the next rung of the corporate ladder, there would always be another goal just out of reach. Yet I couldn’t stop myself working, striving to be better, wealthier, and ultimately, I hoped, happier.

I was driven by the misguided assumption that, sooner or later, all this effort would pay off and I’d find a pot of gold — happiness — at the end of my high-achievement rainbow. But it seemed like the more literal gold I accrued, the more miserable I became.

In the years where I worked myself into the ground in pursuit of more success, I was probably pushy and unpleasant — even at home. I spent too little time appreciating the remarkable woman I’d married and not enough time with my wonderful children or pausing to enjoy each day as it unfolded.

All the while I treated happiness as something I needed to succeed at, a puzzle that my rational brain needed to solve. I spent almost ten years investigating the mathematics behind happiness, and eventually developed an equation: a well-engineered model of happiness and how to sustain it.

Yet despite finding the ‘secret’ to happiness, I did nothing to implement this into my own life.

Then came Ali’s death — and my own moment of reckoning when I was forced to confront my secret equation head-on.

So what is the magic formula, I hear you ask. It’s H ≥ e – E. Or in other words: happiness is greater than or equal to the events of life, minus the expectations of life.

What I discovered was that, for most, happiness is the default setting. Children are born happy. But as we move through life, we grow out of that happy state.

As we strive for more, flashes of unhappiness appear every time life misses our expectations. The key to happiness, I concluded, lay in controlling the way we compare the events of our life with our expectations. It lay in being content with what we have in the present moment, rather than striving for the intangible ‘more’.

Until Ali’s death, I didn’t apply this discovery to my own life. But his departure forced my hand.

That’s not to say the pain of losing my son isn’t still very real. Indeed, it will never go away. Every time I remember Ali I weep.

But I have learned there’s a difference between pain and suffering. Pain is a mechanism the body uses to keep us alive — it protects us from further suffering. We learn from our pain.

Suffering, however, is not useful. It is a cycle where a thought causes more anguish through feelings of guilt. Pain should be enough of a motivation to improve your life.

And so, the minute I feel the pain of Ali’s death, which I feel every time I miss him, instead of self-flagellation and guilt, I think ‘What can I do about it? How can I make the world slightly better even though Ali is not in it?’. It has taught me that we are all in charge of our lives, our destiny and, ultimately, our happiness.

Because happiness really can be controlled. Anyone can be happy — even in the face of what appeared to be an unparalleled catastrophe like mine. Happiness is about filling your mind with beautiful memories, and finding reasons to be truly thankful, despite the pain life can bring.

And so sometimes I find it easier to think of Ali as a kind guest who was just visiting, but who brought light and happiness to our home.

The 21 years with him zoomed by, and if we’d had another 21 years together, they would have zoomed by just as fast. And even that wouldn’t have been enough.

So instead of thinking about losing him, I try to be grateful that we had him at all. I’ve changed my expectations. Rather than thinking that my son should never have died, I choose to be grateful for the times we had, rather than mourn the times we didn’t.

Happiness is not about what the world gives you — whether it’s a lottery win or the loss of a child — it’s about what you think about what the world gives you.

It’s not always easy, but it’s an exercise I run through many times a day. I think of it like going to the gym — I’m getting better at it all the time.

I’m glad to say I’ve helped many others, too; those who have found peace through mine and Ali’s discovery. One interview I did with Channel 4 has had 32 million hits and counting.

Yes, my heart aches. Yes, I want my son back by my side more than anything in the world. But I understand that I can’t have him — and so I have made the commitment and choose to be happy instead.

Interview by LOUISE ATKINSON

  • Solve For Happy by Mo Gawdat, Bluebird, £10.49 on Amazon

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Google escapes 1.1 bn euro tax bill in France

July 12, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | European action has become increasingly aggressive against US technology giants Amazon, Facebook and Apple as well as Google

PARIS (AFP) – Google is not liable for 1.115 billion euros ($1.272 billion) in unpaid taxes claimed by the French state, a French court ruled Wednesday, saying the internet giant’s Irish subsidiary is not taxable in France.”The French company Google Ireland Limited (GIL) is not taxable in France for the 2005 to 2010 period,” the court ruled.

Google paid just 6.7 million euros in corporate taxes in 2015 in France by booking revenues for its online empire at its European subsidiary in low-tax Ireland, a legal loophole prized by multinationals.

The group employs 700 people in France but advertising contracts for its search engine or video-sharing website YouTube are signed with its Irish subsidiary.

The French claim was the latest in a series against the California-based group, which faces mounting legal problems in the EU.

European action has become increasingly aggressive against US technology giants Amazon, Facebook and Apple as well as Google.

Tech firms unite for ‘net neutrality’ protest

July 12, 2017
  • 12 July 2017
The BBC’s Dave Lee explains what the protest is about

The sites will display a variety of messages, or simulate the potential effects of losing the basic principle of all internet traffic being treated equally.

The US communications regulator earlier this year voted to remove an Obama-era rule that would prevent the prioritisation – or “throttling” – of data, as well as other measures campaigners consider to be detrimental to the internet.

Opponents to net neutrality say it stifles innovation and discourages investment in telecoms infrastructure.

Among the companies protesting, the headliners include Google, Facebook, Amazon, Reddit, AirBnB, Twitter and Snapchat.

Crowdfunding site Kickstarter will be involved, as will craft-selling site Etsy and dating app OkCupid. PornHub, one of the world’s most visited sites, will also be taking part.

Google sign
Google will be among those protesting. GETTY IMAGES

“Internet service providers could create special fast lanes for content providers willing to pay more,” said Corey Price, vice president of PornHub.

“That means slow streaming, which, especially in regards to online porn, is quite problematic as you can imagine.”

Campaigners told the BBC around 80,000 websites and services in all are taking part in the co-ordinated action that is designed to draw attention to a public consultation about the proposed rule reversal.

“What we want the FCC to hear, and we want members of Congress to hear, is that net neutrality is wildly popular, which it is, and we want them to stop trying to murder it,” said Sean Vitka, a lawyer for pro-net neutrality groups Demand Progress and Fight for the Future.

“It stops large companies, like internet service providers, from controlling who wins or loses on the internet. There’d be nothing to stop your ISP stopping the next Facebook, the next Google, from accessing customers equally.

“If a new company can’t access companies on the same terms as the incumbents they’re not going to have the chance to thrive.”

FCC Chair Ajit Pai
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has proposed reversing net neutrality rules for internet service providers  ERIC THAYER/GETTY

This kind of protest technique has been effective in the past.

When numerous firms went “dark” in opposition to the Stop Online Piracy Act, which they argued was a threat to free speech, it led to the bill being withdrawn.

But protest groups face a tougher battle in convincing the Republican-controlled FCC headed by new commissioner Ajit Pai.

Earlier this year the department described President Obama’s rule as risking “online investment and innovation, threatening the very open internet it purported to preserve”.

It added: “Requiring ISPs to divert resources to comply with unnecessary and broad new regulatory requirements threatens to take away from their ability to make investments that benefit consumers.”

Promoting investment in infrastructure is the strongest of the anti-net neutrality arguments, with major telecoms companies arguing that the Googles and Facebooks of the world would not be able to run were it not for the high-speed internet connections offered by internet service providers.

Campaigners have countered this by suggesting it is the lure of enticing premium services like Netflix that tempt users into paying more for better internet access.

AT&T role

A more curious position came from mobile carrier AT&T which said it was supporting the protest – despite in the past being a vocal opponent of net neutrality.

“We agree that no company should be allowed to block content or throttle the download speeds of content in a discriminatory manner,” the firm said.

“So, we are joining this effort because it’s consistent with AT&T’s proud history of championing our customers’ right to an open internet and access to the internet content, applications, and devices of their choosing.”

Campaign groups gave the company little credit, pointing out that it has sought to put in place data prioritisation, which would allow web companies to pay AT&T in order to get priority – i.e. quicker – access to their users.

“AT&T are lying when they say they support net neutrality, while actively opposing it,” said Evan Greer, director of Fight for the Future, in an interview with tech news site Ars Technica.

http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-40575882

Apple to build massive data centre at China’s new hi-tech hub in Guizhou province

July 12, 2017

The facility, estimated to house more than 30,000 server cabinets, is part of Apple’s US$1bn investment programme in one of the country’s poorest areas

By Bien Perez
South China Morning Post

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 July, 2017, 5:53pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 July, 2017, 5:59pm

Apple is looking to double down on its business in mainland China by establishing a data centre in Guizhou province to comply with rigid cybersecurity laws, while supporting Beijing’s efforts to develop one of the country’s poorest areas into a world-class hi-tech hub.

The 41-year-old technology giant, which counts the mainland as its second-biggest market after the United States, said it has partnered with Guizhou-Cloud Big Data Industry Co (GCBD), a government-backed data centre developer and operator, to build the facility in that southwestern province.

The data centre project forms part of a US$1-billion investment programme that Apple has drawn up for the province, according to a Reuters report on Wednesday that cited an Apple spokesman.

“Apple’s new data centre in Guizhou could potentially cover an area of up to 1 million square feet (92,903 square metres), or a total capacity of more than 30,000 server cabinets, supported by 150 megawatts of critical load capacity,” Jabez Tan, the research director at Toronto-based Structure Research, told the South China Morning Post.

Tan said the estimates for Guizhou’s most high-profile international investor were based on recent data centre developments in the province by e-commerce powerhouse Alibaba Group Holding, as well as telecommunications network operators China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom.

“The Guizhou provincial government has been offering a set of incentives, including discounts on electricity from the area’s plentiful supply of hydropower, which has resulted in cloud computing and data centre firms establishing test sites and pilot programmes there,” he said.

New York-listed Alibaba, which owns the Post, signed a framework agreement with the Guizhou provincial government in 2014 to set up an industrial base for its cloud computing business and so-called big data operations.

Hon Hai Precision Industry, the world’s largest contract electronics manufacturer known by its Foxconn trade name, had set up a factory and 46,451 sq m data centre in an industrial zone just outside the provincial capital of Guiyang. The Taiwanese company is the main supplier for Apple’s iPhone.

Data centres are secure, temperature-controlled facilities used to house large-capacity servers and data storage systems, and equipped with multiple power sources and high-bandwidth internet connections.

These facilities are used by enterprises to remotely store large amounts of data, manage their business applications and host cloud computing operations. Cloud services enable companies to buy, lease or sell software and other digital resources online on demand, just like electricity from a power grid.

“The addition of this data centre [in Guizhou] will allow us to improve the speed and reliability of our products and services, while also complying with newly passed regulations,” Apple said in a statement. “These regulations require cloud services be operated by Chinese companies, so we’re partnering with GCBD to offer iCloud.”

 Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, speaks about Chinese translation during Apple’s developer conference last month. Photo: Reuters

Launched in 2011, iCloud is Apple’s own online storage and cloud computing service for users of its Mac line of personal computers, iPads, iPhones and iPods.

The mainland’s Cybersecurity Law came into force on June 1, introducing data localisation measures and invasive forms of technology regulation, according to law firm Hogan Lovells.

Paul Haswell, a partner at international law firm Pinsent Masons, said “many overseas businesses will have to follow Apple’s lead [in setting up new data centre arrangements] in the coming months, as they wrestle with the ambiguities contained in the new cybersecurity law”.

Prior to its Guizhou project, Apple has been a so-called co-location tenant in a mainland data centre provider.

Apple reported in May its fifth consecutive quarter of revenue decline for its greater China business. It posted a 14 per cent decrease in combined first-quarter revenue from mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan to US$10.7 billion, compared with US$12.5 billion a year ago.

http://www.scmp.com/tech/enterprises/article/2102390/apple-build-massive-data-centre-chinas-new-hi-tech-hub-guizhou

US newspaper group assails Google-Facebook online ‘duopoly’

July 10, 2017

AFP

© GETTY/AFP | US newsstands are increasingly rare as readers turn to online platforms for information

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The US newspaper industry on Monday warned of a “duopoly” in online news by Google and Facebook, and called for legislation that would relax antitrust rules allowing collective negotiations with the internet giants.The News Media Alliance said that because Google and Facebook dominate online news traffic digital advertising, “publishers are forced to surrender their content and play by their rules on how news and information is displayed, prioritized and monetized.”

A statement by the association of some 2,000 media groups said news organizations “are limited with disaggregated negotiating power against a de facto duopoly that is vacuuming up all but an ever-decreasing segment of advertising revenue.”

The group, formerly known as the Newspaper Association of America, includes large dailies like the New York Times and Wall Street Journal as well as hundreds of smaller media groups and regional news organizations.

The request comes amid a prolonged slump in traditional print news, as readers increasingly turn to online platforms.

News Media Alliance president David Chavern, writing in a Wall Street Journal commentary, said that the internet platforms “distort the flow of economic value derived from good reporting.”

He said Google and Facebook account for more than 70 percent of the $73 billion spent each year on digital advertising, and they eat up most of the growth, with nearly 80 percent of all online referral traffic coming from the two firms.

“But the two digital giants don’t employ reporters. They don?t dig through public records to uncover corruption, send correspondents into war zones, or attend last night?s game to get the highlights,” Chavern said.

“They expect an economically squeezed news industry to do that costly work for them.”

Facebook and Google, which share some revenue with news organizations on certain platforms, have been stepping up efforts to help media groups with grants and other programs.

Facebook’s head of news partnerships, Campbell Brown, said in a statement to AFP: “We’re committed to helping quality journalism thrive on Facebook. We’re making progress through our work with news publishers and have more work to do.”

Google did not immediately respond to an AFP request for comment.

Thousands hold anti-Erdogan rally in Istanbul

July 9, 2017

AFP and AP

© YASIN AKGUL / AFP | Supporters of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) gather during a rally in the Maltepe district of Istanbul on July 9, 2017

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2017-07-09

Tens of thousands of people on Sunday massed for a rally of Turkey’s main opposition party in Istanbul, the biggest protest event in several years by critics of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

 

Republican People’s Party leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu launched the 450-kilometer (280-mile) march after a parliamentarian from his party was imprisoned in June. The march grew into a protest of the massive crackdown on people with alleged links to terror groups that began after a coup attempt last summer.

“If only there was no need for this march and there was democracy, media freedoms, if civic society groups could freely express their opinions,” Kilicdaroglu told The Associated Press as he headed Friday into the final stretch of his marathon march.

Once seen as feeble in his role as opposition leader, Kilicdaroglu has emerged as the voice of many Turks and been likened to India’s Mahatma Gandhi, who led a nonviolent march against British colonial practices.

Tens of thousands of people have joined Kilicdaroglu throughout his march in scorching heat, chanting “rights, law, justice.” Hundreds of thousands of people greeted Kilicdaroglu while waving Turkish flags and flags emblazoned with the word “justice.”

‘THIS IS A POLITICAL COUP FOR THE TURKISH OPPOSITION’

Organizers said the weekslong event expressed “a collective, nonpartisan desire for an independent and fair judicial system” that they claim is lacking in Turkey. No party flags or slogans were allowed during the on the march.

The government has accused Kilicdaroglu of supporting terrorist groups through his protest. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he is violating the law by attempting to influence the judiciary.

Turkey’s definition of supporting terror is so broad that it has caused an impasse in the country’s bid for European Union membership.

Parliament member Enis Berberoglu was sentenced last month to 25 years in prison for revealing state secrets for allegedly leaking footage to an opposition newspaper suggesting that Turkey’s intelligence service had smuggled weapons to Islamist rebels in Syria.

In a New York Times op-ed Friday, Kilicdaroglu called the case against Berberoglu “the last straw in a series of antidemocratic moves” by Erdogan’s government “targeting tens of thousands of Turkish citizens – politicians, journalists, academics, activists or ordinary citizens.”

Following last year’s failed coup, the government imposed a state of emergency leading to the arrest of more than 50,000 people and the dismissal of some 100,000 civil servants. A dozen lawmakers from the pro-Kurdish opposition party have also been jailed.

Ordinary citizens, sacked public employees and high-profile figures have joined Kilicdaroglu on his march. Novelist Asli Erdogan and leading Kurdish politician Ahmet Turk, both released from jail pending trial on various terror-related charges, as well as Yonca Sik, the wife of a prominent journalist currently in prison, were just a few.

Istanbul governor Vasip Sahin said 15,000 police officers were providing security at the post-march rally.

The U.S. Consulate issued a security message asking American citizens to exercise caution as “terrorists have targeted political rallies in the past, and that demonstrations and large events intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence.”

(AP)