Author: Friends of The Fifth Column

Free labs for activists

An initiative in the city of São Paulo, Brazil, seeks to combine political knowledge with hacker culture to democratize and strengthen development.

The Instituto Cidade Democrática (Democratic City Institute), in Brazil, is about to launch and coordinate a very interesting initiative, part of the public project Redes e Ruas (Streets and Networks) of the Municipality of São Paulo, called Laboratórios Livres de Participação Social (Free Labs for Social Participation).

The premise of the project is to unveil the universe of political participation in the internet by experimenting with four free applications that put collective intelligence at the service of communities.

Despite Challenges, Volunteerism is Giving Young Jamaicans Hope

Are the voices of Caribbean youth being heard? Are they being listened to, and what are their concerns? Some youth-led volunteer organizations are beginning to emerge that are seeking to empower young Jamaicans to address their issues head on.

Global Voices recently caught up with Neville Charlton, a Kingston student who founded his own youth volunteer group four years ago called The Positive Organization. It currently has approximately 60 members, mostly in Kingston and its environs. One member in Montego Bay has started her own initiative, Retirement Youths for Change, in the vulnerable community of Retirement; another youth-led group, Okinos Helping Hand, has started working in deep rural St. Andrew.

Blast From the Past: Sweden Dusts Off Cold War Missile System

Amid unfounded fears of a Russian sneak attack, kindled by high-ranking politicians and military experts, Sweden has been taking steps to drastically re-activate its defense. In an obvious return to the Cold War mentality, Sweden has restored a Cold War missile system to protect the island of Gotland.

During the Cold War, Sweden possessed coastal artillery that protected Swedish islands, ports and waterways. In the modern era, the coastal artillery was gradually dismantled before the 2000 decision to disband coastal artillery for good. Today, a heavy missile system that was defunct for 16 years has been re-activated. The coastal defense is said to be particularly desirable on the island of Gotland, which in Sweden is widely believed to the likely target for Russian “aggression.”

Egypt NGO bill threatens to “devastate” civil society, UN expert warns

United Nations expert Maina Kiai has expressed serious alarm at Egypt’s approval of a draft law which would impose major restrictions on the work of non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
Mr. Kiai said that if the bill became law, it would devastate the country’s civil society for generations to come and turn it into a government puppet.

The Egyptian Parliament approved the bill on 15 November and sent it to the State Council for review; it will be sent back to the Parliament for a final vote at an unknown date. The government did not hold consultations with civil society on its contents.

Mr. Kiai, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, said the law appeared to be “deliberately drafted to curtail civil society’s ability to operate, and to stifle their ability to freely express themselves”.

Morocco: green for the rich, grey for the poor

With COP22 taking place in Morocco, is the kingdom greenwashing its image? And can there be climate justice without social justice?

The Moroccan propaganda machine has recently adopted an environmental narrative to polish its image, both domestically and internationally. But how does this narrative look like from the perspective of a fish vendor murdered in the compactor of a garbage truck in Al-Hoceima? Or from the eyes of an ecological prisoner sitting in a prison in Errachidia? Or from underneath the mud and bamboo ceiling of a peasant’s house, crumbling underneath the claws of a bulldozer in Imenchimen where a hydroelectric dam is being built?

Tehran to Construct New Naval Bases Amid Tensions With Washington

Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari, commander of the Iranian Navy, announced Monday that Tehran will construct three bases and two large naval zones in the country’s southeastern region along the Makran coast, near the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf.

Commander Sayyari noted that the naval initiatives were being undertaken to keep merchant vessels secure from pirate forces and to protect naval routes, especially after Somali pirates hijacked an Iranian cargo ship bound for Yemen in November 2008. He suggested that construction will also take place as tensions between Tehran and Washington escalate.

There were 23 encounters between Iranian and American vessels last year, with seven of Tehran’s fast attack watercraft approaching the USS Firebolt in September, nearly colliding with the coastal patrol ship.

Paris Agreement passes first stress test at COP22

In response to the close of COP22, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, leader of WWF International’s Climate & Energy Practice, issued the following statement:

“The UN climate talks continue to be filled with twists and turns, but they have delivered what they needed to this week – putting substance behind the promise of the Paris Agreement so it can be fully implemented. The Marrakech work has not been the most glamorous, but it’s a key step in the chain reaction needed to roll out the agreement.

EU Parliament Approves Resolution Equating Sputnik, RT to Daesh Propaganda

The European Parliament approved a draft resolution equating counteracting Sputnik news agency and RT TV channel with resistance to Daesh propaganda.

The EU Parliament adopted a draft resolution proposed by EU lawmaker from Poland Anna Elzbieta Fotyga on EU strategic communication to counteract propaganda against the bloc by third parties, which says that Russia is allegedly engaged in propaganda against the European Union.

A total of 691 lawmakers participated in the vote: 304 voted in favor of the resolution, 179 against it and 208 abstained from voting.

Authors of the document equate counteracting Russia with the resistance to Daesh terrorist group and call on EU member states to boost financing counter-propaganda projects.

Security Council Press Statement on the Ethnic Violence and the Situation in South Sudan

The members of the Security Council were briefed by the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General Ellen Løj, the United Nations Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide Adama Dieng, and the Chair of the South Sudan sanctions committee on the situation in South Sudan.

The members of the Security Council expressed deep alarm ‎over the escalation of ethnic violence in South Sudan reportedly carried out by the SPLA, the SPLA in Opposition, as well as militias, and unidentified armed groups.

Burma: New Wave of Destruction in Rohingya Villages

820 Newly Identified Destroyed Buildings; UN-Aided Investigation Urgently Needed

New satellite imagery of Burma’s Rakhine State shows 820 newly identified structures destroyed in five different ethnic Rohingya villages between November 10-18, 2016, Human Rights Watch said today. The Burmese government should without further delay invite the United Nations to assist in an impartial investigation of the widespread destruction of villages.

The latest images bring the total number of destroyed buildings documented by Human Rights Watch in northern Rakhine State through satellite imagery to 1,250. US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power, at a November 17 UN Security Council meeting on the deteriorating situation in Rakhine State, called for international observers to be allowed to investigate and for aid groups to have their access restored. After a short visit by diplomats to the area, Yanghee Lee, the UN special rapporteur on Burma, said on November 18, “The security forces must not be given carte blanche to step up their operations under the smokescreen of having allowed access to an international delegation. Urgent action is needed to bring resolution to the situation.”

Violent Weekend in Southern Mexico Leaves 24 People Dead

At least 24 people, some bearing signs of torture, were killed in a series of incidents over the weekend in Mexico’s violence-plagued southern state of Guerrero, officials have said.

Faced with an uptick in bloodshed the state governor held an “urgent session” with army commanders and federal and state police in an effort to strengthen security in the region, the state’s security spokesman Roberto Alvarez told a Mexican television channel on Monday.

“The bodies of nine males with visible signs of torture” were discovered on Sunday night on a road between the towns of Tixtla and Atliaca, in Guerrero’s central region, the state’s secretary of security said in a statement on Monday.

Asian infrastructure boom could be end of the road for tigers

With massive infrastructure plans threatening all tiger landscapes and risking recent gains in tiger conservation, Asian governments must adopt a sustainable approach to infrastructure planning and construction or drive tigers toward extinction, according to a new analysis by WWF.

Released at the halfway point of an ambitious global effort to double the number of wild tigers between 2010 and 2022, The Road Ahead: Protecting Tigers from Asia’s Infrastructure Development Boom highlights the unprecedented threat posed by a vast network of planned infrastructure across the continent.

Turkey Pursues a Reset with Uzbekistan

The president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, arrived for a two-day visit to Uzbekistan on November 17 in a diplomatic overture that aims to undo more than a decade of frostiness.

Erdogan was due to open his trip with a visit to Samarkand, where he planned to visit the grave of the late Uzbek leader, Islam Karimov. But observers’ attention will be fixed mainly on his meeting with Acting President Shavkat Mirziyoyev for what Uzbek media have said will be an exchange of views on regional and international issues.

Hitting New Highs: North Pole Experiencing Record Heat Wave

As polar night has covered the Arctic, it is supposed to be extremely cold there. But on the contrary, it is super-hot by polar standards, with temperatures hitting new highs.

“Today’s latest #Arctic mean temperature continues to move the wrong direction. . . up. Quite an anomalous spike!” said Zack Labe, a PhD student at the University of California at Irvine who studies the Arctic, on Twitter.

As temperature has increased to about 36 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than usual, the extent of sea ice has decreased.

My Son the Jihadi

How did a perfectly normal British teenager end up fighting in Somalia as a recruit for the Al Qaeda-affiliated group Al Shabaab?

Peter Beard’s documentary “My Son the Jihadi” follows the life of traumatized mother Sally as she struggles to come to terms with her estranged son’s transformation from a ‘normal teenage lad’ to Abdul Hakim, the violent Islamic extremist. Through this lens, we see a mother who is torn between the love for her child and a disgust at his actions in a faraway land. She admits, “I’m ashamed of him, but he’s still my son”.