Turkey Adds Wikileaks to a Long List of Blocked Websites

Image Source: Surian Soosay, Flickr, Creative Commons
WikiLeaks Julian Assange

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan doesn’t mind sharing pictures from his daughter’s wedding or from his various visits and meetings with international leaders.

But he does seem to mind when his emails as well as thousands of other internal emails sent and received within the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) make it into public eye.

Shortly after Wikileaks released 294,548 such emails into the public, the site was blocked countrywide.

Armenia Shows More Sympathy for Gunmen Than Their Hostages

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Usually in a hostage crisis, the public sympathizes with the hostages upon their release. But in the Armenian capital of Yerevan, where a group of anti-government gunmen took over a police station last Sunday, more sympathy seems to be with the hostage-takers themselves.

“It is unclear why the guys turned to such a measure,” complained 35-year-old radio technician Armen Nersesian about the group’s July 23 agreement to release four policemen in exchange for a press briefing. “It is the most incorrect step they could take. Now [government forces] can invade at any moment and carry out an armed attack.”

Members of a fringe opposition movement called Founding Parliament, the fighters are mostly veterans of the 1988-1994 conflict with Azerbaijan over breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh. Some of them hold highly celebrated war records.

Azerbaijan and Turkey: Caught in a Bad Bromance

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When it comes to the spat between Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his one-time ally-turned mortal rival Fethullah Gulen, Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev long ago decided it was best to observe the rule that my best friend’s enemy is my enemy, too.

And following a coup attempt in Turkey on July 15 that Erdogan argues Gulen organised, this means the days of Gulen-linked institutions in Azerbaijan are effectively finished.

The gradual phasing out of organisations inspired by the controversial Islamic theoretician and educator in the South Caucasus country began at least two years ago, after once-friendly relations between Gulen and Erdogan suddenly soured dramatically.

This Month, The Reward For Mining Bitcoin Was Cut in Half

Bitcoin

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While Bitcoin may have had its ups and downs, it is certainly a trend that seems to be here to stay, with more users everyday. But newer users may be off to a rockier start, with rewards from mining cut in half.

The rewards from mining Bitcoin just got cut in half, after code written into the digital currency kicked in last July 9.

When Bitcoin was released in 2008, it had code that reduced the reward from bitcoin mining by half every four years. This keeps in check the currency’s inflation, due to the growing number of miners and ever-faster computers that mine for them.

The Anti-KFC Protests Spell Trouble for Chinese Authorities Trying to Confine Nationalism to the Internet

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For years, authorities under President Xi Jinping have stoked nationalistic sentiments in China as part of a larger campaign to push Chinese Communist Party ideology. Part of that effort includes “civilization” volunteers, who are recruited by the Communist Youth League and tasked with spreading the party’s message online.

“Online” being the key word. It seems protesting in the street is a step too far for the Chinese government, which finds itself at the moment in the odd position of denouncing demonstrations against American fast food chain KFC — fueled by the very brand of aggressive nationalism they helped foment.

Since July 16, Chinese people in at least a dozen towns and cities have protested in front of KFC restaurants because they are seen as representing the interests of the United States. Many in China think US meddling helped lead to an embarrassing ruling on July 12, in which an international tribunal shot down Beijing’s extensive claims over the South China Sea.

Loving America Means Finding Fault With It

Burning American Flag

Image Source:  Jennifer Parr

Nobody would say we’re flawless — especially not in a summer of mass shootings and police killings.

I was sitting on a bus one summer, chatting with a man behind me who’d worked all over the world in the U.S. foreign service. Like many conversations today, ours turned eventually to the many problems with our country.

That’s when his companion, who’d been silent so far, spoke. If things are so bad, he barked at me, why don’t you leave the country?

Erdogan Hints at Executing 13,000, Exits European Human Rights Convention

Erdogan in Turkey.

Image Source: valeriy osipov, Flickr, Creative Commons.

Turkish authorities have arrested more than 13,000 people believed to be tied to the coup attempt and have gutted the country’s civil services sector suspending over 60,000 educators, judges and police.

“‘Why should I keep them and feed them in prisons for years to come?’ – that’s what the people say,” said Erdogan. “The people now have the idea, after so many terrorist incidents, that these terrorists should be killed, that’s where they are, they don’t see any other outcome to it.”

In the wake of the coup, the Erdogan government immediately withdrew from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights, which bans executions, raising the likelihood of mass executions.

Foreign Office reveals ‘step-change’ in Egypt approach

Egypt

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Foreign Office concerns over Egypt’s human rights record have led to a “step-change” in the UK’s approach to that government, according to a new FCO human rights report.

The shift comes days after Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson sparked surprise when he insisted at a press conference with US Secretary of State John Kerry that a “burgeoning crisis” in Egypt was now a priority for the UK.

What is missing in President Barzani’s rhetoric for a Kurdish state-building enterprise?

Kurdistan

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The question before Masoud Barzani is what to do in order to turn state-building rhetoric into a future Kurdish state.

KRG’s President Barzani has recently intensified his efforts for independence. There might be many reasons for this. First and foremost, the state of Iraq is often regarded uncontroversially as a ‘failed state’, artificially designed by British and French colonisers in the aftermath of WW1, offering the Kurds nothing but a calamitous century-long history including genocidal attempts to eradicate Kurdish nationalism. Added to this, the domestic demand for the right of self-determination is well known to the Kurdish leadership. 98.8 percent of Kurdish voters said yes to independence in the Kurdistan independence referendum of January 2005.

The small region of Kurdistan, little more than an autonomous region of Iraq protected by a no fly zone before the overthrow of Saddam, has now become an international entity. The KRG has its own foreign relations apparatus with 34 foreign consulates operating in Erbil. It has also a vast economic reach mainly because of colossal oil and gas preserves in Kurdistan as well as its trade with neighbouring countries. This has convinced the outside world that the notion of a Kurdish state is no longer out of the question.

Calls for the International Community to Intervene as Gambia Continues to Imprison Dissidents

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Mother and child, Farafenni Gambia

On July 20, 2016, a Gambian High Court sentenced the leader of the main United Democratic Party (UDP) (currently in opposition), Ousainou Darboe, and 18 other opposition activists to three years in prison for — among other charges — participating in a demonstration without a licence. They were arrested on April 19 in the capital, Banjul.

The opposition has denounced the trial, while human rights organisation Amnesty International has noted that these prison sentences for opposition leaders continue the downward spiral for human rights in The Gambia.

Bahrain: Journalist Faces Prosecution, Travel Ban

Bahrain peace.

Image Source: Al Jazeera English, Flickr, Creative Commons.

Stop Licensing Reporters for Foreign Media

A Bahrain prosecutor on July 17, 2016, charged a correspondent for a French media outlet with violating the country’s licensing law for journalists, Human Rights Watch said today. The criminal charges against the journalist, Nazeeha Saeed, who has covered Bahrain’s domestic unrest for France 24 since 2009, violate her right to free expression and further undermines media freedom in Bahrain.

The authorities charged Saeed with working for foreign media without a license. United Nations human rights experts have stated that state licensing of journalists inherently violates freedom of expression. Saeed is also one of 23 people subjected to travel bans since the start of June. They include human rights lawyers and activists, trade union leaders, teachers’ and nurses’ representatives, and the president of the Bahrain chapter of Transparency International.

Repression backfires in Serbia, fueling anti-corruption movement

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Serbia Grunge Flag

On Wednesday, July 13, over 10,000 protesters in Serbia filled the streets of Belgrade, marching as part of a growing popular movement against political corruption and criminal acts surrounding the Belgrade Waterfront Project.

The march was the fifth so far in an ongoing movement that has gained momentum since April. Dubbed “Beograd NIJE MALI” or “Belgrade is not small,” the name of the march also carried a direct message to Belgrade mayor and project supporter Sinisa Mali that “Belgrade is not Mali.”

Opposition to the waterfront project began with a small group called Ne Da(vi)mo Beograd, or Don’t Let Belgrade D(r)own. It has since swelled to a mass movement denouncing government corruption and calling for the mayor’s resignation after a series of illegal demolitions were undertaken in late April to clear land along the Sava River for the new development.

The Persistence of Elite Control in Syria

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Syria 2007 008 Damascus Bashar al-Assad

If lasting political change is to occur in Syria, the experience of its neighbours must be heeded.

The UN still aims to facilitate a Syrian agreement for a transitional government by August, envoy Staffan de Mistura affirmed at the end of June. Although there are many reasons why a political settlement is unlikely to be near, recent geopolitical shifts and the upcoming election of a new US president could mean that a window for effective diplomacy would open next year.

Many of Syria’s current realities would continue even after such a settlement, however. Even if power changes hands in Damascus, the provision of security and services will remain a matter of competition and power-sharing between elites.

FBI Issues Gag-Order To Agents Following Clinton Email Decision

(Photo: Jonathan/ Creative Commons/ Flickr)

The FBI’s decision to not indict Hillary Clinton has been largely overshadowed by ongoing police killings and reputed retaliation. If it were getting appropriate media attention, then perhaps more of us would’ve heard of an unusual feature of the Clinton case. FBI investigators were ordered to sign irregular non-disclosure agreements forcing them into silence, unless called to testify. The latter, of course, isn’t happening, much to public and FBI suspicion alike.

Anonymous FBI officials who commented on the agreements felt they resulted from an “inside deal.” “This is very, very unusual”, said one unnamed official, claiming to never have signed or distributed one before. Some even felt the so-called “deal” may have had something to do with Loretta Lynch’s controversial meeting with Bill Clinton. No, this isn’t the talk of conspiracy theorists. According to Free Thought Project, a massive delay in a batch of Clinton emails came just days following the meeting. The specific form agents signed, New York Post reports, is dubbed a “Case Briefing Acknowledgement”.

Afghanistan: Hazardous Work for Children Widespread

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090204-F-6426S-102 
GOZARAH, Afghanistan-Village girls wait as the Afghan National Police unload a shipment of humanitarian aid at their village, Feb. 4. Food, winter clothing and supplies were delivered to 300 villagers of Gozarah district in Herat province of western Afghanistan. (ISAF photo by U.S. Air Force TSgt Laura K. Smith)(released) .

Unenforced Law Puts Thousands at Risk of Injury, Death

The Afghan government is failing to protect tens of thousands of children, some as young as 5, from hazardous conditions in the workplace, in violation of Afghanistan’s labor laws.

The 31-page report, “‘They Bear All the Pain’: Hazardous Child Labor in Afghanistan,” documents how child workers work dangerous jobs in Afghanistan’s carpet industry; as bonded labor in brick kilns; and as metal workers. They perform tasks that could result in illness, injury, or even death due to hazardous working conditions and poor enforcement of safety and health standards. Many children who work under those conditions combine the burdens of a job with school, or forego education altogether. Working compels many children in Afghanistan to leave school prematurely. Only half of children involved in child labor attend school.

Swastikas and Porn or: How Russian Cops Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Internet Crackdown

When the news website MediaZona reported in January 2016 that Russian police pad their solved-crime statistics by targeting young men who share pornography on social networks, it seemed like the quintessence of how Russia’s onerous new Internet regulations misallocate the country’s law-enforcement resources. But now this problem has a new perfect example, and it has to do with the Web’s other favorite obsession: Nazis.

Last month, a court in the Rostov region convicted a police officer of abusing his authority and forging evidence. According to his trial, Detective D. Eliseev reached out to a local man named A. Minaev on January 16, 2015, asking him to find someone in town who would agree to publish a swastika on their Vkontakte page, on the promise that the punishment would be the absolute minimum fine. (It’s unclear what monetary reward Eliseev offered in exchange.) Minaev had some experience in this sort of thing, having been fined twice the year before for sharing “extremist content” online, including images of swastikas.

How the Tables Have Turned! Middle East States Warn About Travel to the US

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Due to the recent violence in American cities, Middle Eastern states, alongside a Caribbean nation, have issued travel warnings for their citizens looking to visit the US.

The United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and the Bahamas have all advised caution when travelling to the US. Travel warnings are regularly issued by the US urging Americans to either avoid or exercise caution in countries marred by violence or political instability.

However now the tables have turned and foreign governments in the Middle East and the Caribbean have told their citizens to be careful as protesters marched in the US throughout the weekend after police killed black men in Louisiana and Minnesota.

The Czexit debate is coming – are you ready?

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Czexit? With President Milos Zeman calling for a referendum, it is becoming increasingly possible.

Believe me, you don’t want to feel like I did on the morning of June 24. And every day since.

Brexit means losing my EU citizenship and with it the ease with which I live and work here in the Czech Republic. But beyond practicalities, it means losing so much more.

Recently Discovered Rock Paintings May Change Machu Picchu’s History as We Know It

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Considered a masterpiece of architecture and engineering, Machu Picchu, declared one of the New 7 Wonders of the World in 2007, never ceases to amaze.

On July 4, Pedro Astete, director of national archaeological park of Machu Picchu, reported the finding of two new rock paintings, close to the ruins of the most famous Inca city in the world:

The image of a llama, a man and above both of them a geometric figure, were found in the area of Pachamama, on the access path to the archaeological area of Machu Picchu.
In […] 1912, the second Peruvian expedition of Yale University, under the direction of Hiram Bingham, discovered four tombs. Until today, however, [the images] had gone [unnoticed]