Anti-censorship software compromised with spyware


Popular Iranian proxy software found to include Trojan that reports user data

Tags: Cyber crime,  Iran,  Malware,  Syria

Anti-censorship software compromised with spywareA compromised version of the Simurgh proxy has been sending user data to a remote site registered with a Saudi ISP.
By Mark SuttonPublished June 3, 2012

A popular web proxy in use by Iranians and Syrians to bypass web censorship has been compromised, according researchers at the University of Toronto.

The Iranian-developed Simurgh standalone proxy, has been widely used in Iran to bypass web censorship and to allow the user to browse anonymously, but in compromised versions downloaded from the 4Shared file sharing service, an additional Trojan has been added to steal user data.

Security researcher Morgan Marquis-Boire, wrote in a blog post: “This Trojan has been specifically crafted to target people attempting to evade government censorship. Given the intended purpose of this software, users must be very careful if they have been infected by this Trojan”

The university researchers discovered the back door after making a closer examination of Simurgh as it has been growing in popularity among Syrians. The Trojan includes a keystroke logger, and appears to be sending data via HTTP post request to a remote site registered with a Saudi Arabian ISP.

Researchers say most anti-virus software should detect the Trojan, but if a user does detect an infection, they should assume that any sensitive data and accounts accessed via that PC may have been compromised and users should change passwords. The Simurgh website is also warning users to check their PCs.


The Facts – Crash course genocidal Israel


  1. There is a 130 year long record of religious Jewish opposition against the zionist scheme | Source Neturei Karta
  2. The sole one starting terrorism in the middle east is Israel, King David Bombing  July 1946, before any state of “Israel” was founded at all. | Source
  3. During the King David bombing, zionist terrorist organisations killed 91 people with a single bomb attack. So far the myths who started bombings | Source
  4. Israel committed over 77 massacres during the Nakba | Overview of all massacres
  5. The first massacre of the Nakba in Deir Yassin where zionist terror organisations behaved like nazi’s in WWII | Source | Video
  6. Deir Yassin is just one of the examples how Israel wipes of complete villages off the map of this very earth.  Every red dot on this map represents a vanished Palestinian town |Map
  7. Skipping some massacres, but this footage of Sabra & Shatilla could easily be mixed up for Holocaust footage | Photos | Documentary
  8. Holocaust comparisions do not make me happy, but this footage must be seen and please make up your own mind | Photos Hashoah vs Al-Nakba
  9. And before you jump into conclusions, this footage of Abu Ghraib style “trophy pictures” of Israel’s own soldiers says it all | Photos
  10. The Nakba, intended to ethnic cleanse Palestine for the sake of the greater Israel never ended. | Article by Alan Hart
  11. It goes on even today. In a continuous process of ethnic cleansing | Overview & resources
  12. Most people do not even have the slightest idea of the magnitude of the genocide on Palestine which killed est. 5.1 Million Palestinians since 1948 Research
  13. Genocide is committed in 2 ways: By direct violence or passively: by deprivation |Research by Dr. Gideon Polya
  14. The policies of Israel to deprive people are similar to those which cause the death of 1 in6 million, so 1 million Jewish people who died due to deliberate deprivation by the Nazi’s during world war 2. Yet, Israel is doing the same on Palestine. | More
  15. These deprivation policies are even proven for Israel went to Supreme Court to prevent documents about near starvation from leaking | Source
  16. Every mean possible is deployed by Israel to deprive cause illness and death while it keeps displaying a bodycount cause by direct aims and confirmed hits only. To be very clear: The alleged rockets from gaza have killed 21 Israeli in 11 years | SourceIsraelproject
  17. Israel inciting alleged threats of Gaza is hiding the facts about the myths about the home made flares | The Facts | The Footage
  18. Israel accusing Iran of being a so called nuclear threat was revuked before by the IAEA |Source Febr 2012
  19. Israel itself, is denying any investigation into it’s own nuclear arsenal which it’s possession it has been denying as in forever. While in Vanunu already exposed pictures of the Dimona nuclear weapon plant from 1985 | Footage
  20. Aside from this, US gave Israel, short before the Cast Lead Massacre 1000 GBU-39 bunker busters which it pounded indiscriminately on high dense urban areas of Gaza |Source
  21. In the soil of Gaza, 75 Tons of depleted uranium were found after the assault on Gaza |Report 1 | Report 2 | Report 3
  22. These weapons not only kill on impact, but while Israel folds it hands, kills on passively by causing cancer, increasingly as well | Report
  23. Which fits the zionist plan: “Shoot them, kill them, otherwise give them cancer” | Report
  24. If one gets inflicted by diseases like cancer: Deprive them of medical aid | Overview of facts of death due to deprivation of medical aid
  25. Or Israel kills by denying access to medical aid,  173 children died this way | Report
  26. 35 babies died (still births) before they could be born, because their mother was denied access to medical care, as well as 18.000 women a year develop complications during pregnancy due to restrictions of movement to medical aid facilities | Report, Facts, Resources and Video footage
  27. In a shocking  report of Israeli Physicians for Human Right it shows, that even inside 1948 (which is called Israel nowadays) people of Palestinian origin are severely infringed on their rights to medical assistance, treatments and even denied access. Causing high deathrates, less survival chances if inflicted by a terminal disease and even factor 4 to 5 reducing birthrate caused by racist policies | Report by PHR Israel
  28. Dialysis supplies, which cost about 29 dollar per treatment are prohibited from entering or delayed, causing continuously over 400 lives to be in danger, making the ill hostage of deliberate politics | Facts, Resources, Footage
  29. Cancer and Thallasamia patients neither have medications | Facts & Footage
  30. May 19, 2012:  204 types of medication and 218 types of medical consumables are depleted. 200 others are on their way to depletion. Because the siege on Gaza | Source
  31. While UN is celebrating “Long and healthy Lives” achievements, Israel prevents entry of vaccines, which is an obligation of UNRWA in Gaza for the refugees who also lack action or use of their mandate, putting Gaza’s children at vunerable ages at risks aside those they already are exposed to by all other factors | Facts
  32. Like water pollution: Only 5% of Gaza’s water is fit for human consumption. Supplies for aquifiers are prohibited from entering, causing water born diseases, blue baby syndrome, pollution and environmental damage. | Facts, footage, resources
  33. March 5, 2012 Again dams are flooded deliberately | Report
  34. “Access to safe water is a  fundamental human need and therefore a basic  human right.” ~ Kofi Annan | Website RighttoWater, legal resources, reports, research
  35. Israel steals 85% of Palestine’s water | Facts
  36. Israel if not stealing or destroying poisons water wells, flooding sewage or even directly poisoning orchards deliberately | Report
  37. Israel cuts electricity supplies, fuel, causing a severe crisis and blackouts sometimes over 18 hours a day. Directly targeting all which is functioning on electricity as well like dialysis machines, Intensive care and heart units, nurseries,  and at the moment even endangering the ability to do surgeries | Report by UN
  38. Electricity cuts also prevent aquifiers to work, sewerage and waterpumps, violating human rights but also endangering health | Report by Muftah
  39. May 24, 2012: Even emergency rooms in Gaza now face dangerous situations and shut down | Report
  40. While it slained 1500 people, of which 352 children only during 1 of the many massacre Operation Cast Lead on Gaza in 2008-2009, during 22 days | Photos | Videos | More
  41. With not only “traditional” ammunition launched by tanks, naval vessels, drones, F16′s but also previously mentioned Nuclear as well as chemical weaponry like white phosphorus which is forbidden by law | Report
  42. Israel deploys 24 hours a day drones and has an enhanced remote killing technology  called ” Spot and Shoot ” | Report
  43. With which it commits extra judicial killings in Gaza, turning the open air prison not only into a concentration camp but effectively into an extermination camp as well | Report 1 |Report 2 | Report 3
  44. Over 825 people have been killed this way by drones only,  in the last 5 years in Gaza |Report
  45. Snipers at the Gaza border shoot at over 1 mile range people working on their lands to death. Seems to be more for fun than danger | Report
  46. An example: This is 17yr old mentally disabled Khames, he was shot by snipers 10 times in head and upperbody | Case study
  47. Already in 2004 doctors in Gaza cried out to this world about the shocking rise of deaths by snipers who are merely hunting kids | Report 2004
  48. Not only in Gaza, in the west bank as well: A sniper shoots a 4 year old girl and paralyses her, she died earlier this year of wounds and complications | Report
  49. Or are hunted to death in a chase: An example: A healthy 30 year old worker chased to death | Report
  50. Or wounded, are refused treatment, and dumped by the army aside of a road, where one man died  this way | Report
  51. People are abducted and vanishing for Israel’s organ trade, sometimes corpses returned with missing bodyparts | Report
  52. Hit and Run Attacks. Cars used to kill. Or to disable. Hence even people in wheelchairs are ran over. None of the attackers has been punished for murder . Yet one of the attacks received an award | Overview 
  53. Prisoners are deliberately neglected and refused medical aid. As extermination tool |Report
  54. Israel uses over 105 torture techniques since 1967 resulting in at least 66 documented cases of torture deaths | Report
  55. Israel deliberately wounds and kills unarmed civilians with riot dispersal gear (tear gas, rubber bullets etc) in illegal ways causing death like Mustafa Tamimi | Overview, facts
  56. Israel arms settlers which caused an increase of racist induced settler violence wounded and deaths | Report
  57. Israel inciting so called dangers from Palestinians, it violent every day In the first 3 months of 2012, over 1000 attacks on Palestinians | Overview Jan – Mar 2012
  58. Not only killing inside Palestine, also those who want to visit it. Like the Mavi Marmara Massacre: 9 deaths | Overview, Footage, Facts

This list can go on for ever for in over 60 years, there still has not come an end to this genocide.

Original Article here

Urgent Apppeal – Online Activism site Avaaz under Massive Attack #Censorship


Dear friends,

The Avaaz site is right now under massive attack by what an expert tells us is likely a government or large corporation. We’re still standing, but the attack is threatening our continued campaigning. We urgently need a defence fund to increase our security — let’s show the attackers they can’t silence us, and their attempts will only make us stronger:

Donate now

Right now, the Avaaz website is under massive attack. An expert is telling us that an attack this large is likely coming from a government or large corporation, with massive, simultaneous and sophisticated assaults from across the world to take down our site.

We were expecting this. Our people-powered campaigning has been fearless, and we’ve taken on the world’s worst actors head-on, in ways that genuinely hurt them – from the Syrian and Chinese regimes to Rupert Murdoch, Big Oil and organized crime. The Syrian dictatorship called our campaigner ‘the most dangerous man in the world’, and a UK inquiry recently revealed emails between Murdoch’s news corporation and top levels of government saying the Avaaz campaign against Murdoch was their biggest concern.Sometimes I lie awake at night wondering when these people are going to come after us.

And it’s begun. We have urgent campaigns on oceans, forests and Syria we need to run, but the attack has been going on for 36 hours straight, threatening our ability to keep campaigning. Because of top-notch security, our site is still up, but it’s not enough. We need to show these actors that when they attack Avaaz, they’re messing with people. And people-power can’t be intimidated or silenced, it only grows stronger. Click below to donate to an Avaaz defence fund to take our security to the next level, and show our attackers that whatever they throw at us only makes us stronger: 

https://secure.avaaz.org/en/massive_attack_on_avaaz_a/?vl

National authorities have been alerted to the attack. But we urgently need the defence fund to help us:

  • rapidly build industrial-scale security so that no attack can stop us campaigning
  • hire top hackers and technologists to manage our systems, defend us and test our defences
  • increase the physical security of our most vulnerable staff in places like Lebanon and Russia
  • take a range of other actions to improve our technology and security

Avaaz is a lightning rod that channels voices from across the world, from incredibly brave Tibetan, Russian and Syrian demonstrators risking everything for their freedom, to Bolivian indigenous communities saving their forest from being chopped in half. These people face intense danger, and repelling this attack is just another front in their and our struggle for democracy.

Millions of us have campaigned to keep corporations and governments from censoring and controlling the web. Now one of them is trying to censor us. So far, we’re still standing, and our amazing member-funded systems mean that we can run this appeal for support safely and securely. But our campaigning is under real threat. We need to act, and show that these tactics only make us stronger:

https://secure.avaaz.org/en/massive_attack_on_avaaz_a/?vl

Avaaz can stand up to governments and corporations only because all of our strength, legitimacy, and funding comes from people, and people alone.We don’t accept money – any money – from governments, corporations, foundations, or even large individual donors. It’s extremely rare among large civil society organizations today, but 100% of our money comes from small online donations, and we don’t accept gifts over 5000 Euros from anyone. That’s why we’re independent, and that’s why we’re a threat to those who put power before people. Let’s keep being a threat.

With hope and determination,

Ricken and the whole Avaaz team.

Syrian Nun Plays Key Role in Medical Underground


By Adel Mansur

WeNews correspondent

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

An activist doctor in Syria has a hero he calls “Sister Nanique.” The Catholic nun stockpiles medical supplies to help treat those wounded in the resistance. Here he tells the story of her recent dangerous mission to Homs.

DAMASCUS, Syria (WOMENSENEWS) — Dr. Fadi has a hero.

He calls her “Sister Nanique” and her name, like his, is changed to protect their safety.

Fadi, an activist doctor, says Sister Nanique has a stash of clean syringes, tetanus injections, surgical tools, serums, bags for collecting blood donations and lots of other medical supplies that have become almost impossible to obtain since the eruption of the Syrian revolution.

She stores them in a small room next to her monastery cell, a place that some in the nation’s underground network of doctors call the “sister’s pharmacy.” These doctors consider that room a key supply source for their work in such devastated places as the city of Homs. A United Nations committee arrived Monday in Syria to monitor a U.N.-brokered ceasefire that some opposition activists said had broken down.

Sister Nanique is a Catholic nun who realized, early on, the vital importance of medication to people wounded since the outbreak of anti-regime protests last March.
She would be in big trouble if caught by her church; in even greater trouble if caught by security forces that have waged a violent campaign to crush dissent and punish anyone helping the opposition.

The government has shelled and raided protest hubs for months, sparking a humanitarian crisis and the flight of thousands of refugees across borders laced with land mines.

More than 12,000 lives have been lost in the bloodshed, according to the watchdog Syrian Network for Human Rights.

There are no hard and fast figures but an estimated 2,000 people have died due to inadequate medical care. Many have died on the perilous road to hospitals in bordering Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.

The leaderships of Christian sects in Syria–from the Catholics, to the Orthodox, to the Syriac Orthodox–have all shied away from endorsing the popular uprising or have shown signs of sympathizing with the regime.

But many individual Christians in Syria, such as Sister Nanique, oppose their church’s stance and support the revolution.

Dying for a Bag of Blood

Fadi says that when the central city of Homs was being shelled by the army last month, civilians were dying for a bag of blood, and volunteer doctors were unable to remove the bullets from victims’ bodies because they did not have enough medical tools.

Supplies quickly ran out due to the blockade. Some activists managed to enter the city to help supply ad-hoc clinics in the basements of residential buildings. Many died under sniper fire, according to reports by the Syrian Network for Human Rights.

“Sister Nanique decided to go to Baba Amr when it was under fire, which meant practical suicide,” Fadi says, referring to one of the most devastated parts of Homs. “Getting to Homs was dangerous, let alone Baba Amr. It was the most violently bombarded region in Homs and was surrounded by the army.”

Fadi says he tried to discourage Sister Nanique from going to Baba Amr.

“I could not get her to change her mind, although she was fully aware of the hazard of her mission. There was only one thing she could think of: the fact that more and more people will die if she did not get there and give them the right medication.”

Dodging Suspicion

The nun’s religious attire, or habit, helped her dodge suspicion, Fadi says. “She filled her purse with hundreds of necessary injection needles and empty blood bags which allow people to donate blood to the wounded victims. She then called a fellow nun at a church in Homs, and she headed out to Baba Amr in a church car.”

Fadi says that for two days he lost touch with Sister Nanique because mobile and land lines to Homs had been severed by authorities.

“And then out of nowhere, the phone rang. It was Sister Nanique returning to Damascus after delivering her supplies to Baba Amr. When I saw her, I could read in her face all the suffering and devastation that she saw there. But she made no comment about what she had done, and she did not consider it a heroic act. She just kept on saying that God was the one to protect her.”

Fadi says that Sister Nanique and many other nuns also are providing food and material aid to families who were forced out of their homes or whose houses were destroyed by the shelling.

Many in the opposition believe that the church would like to give open medical assistance to the wounded, but would rather avoid any confrontation with the security authorities. But churches are providing help in the form of nutrition, clothing and shelter.

Sister Nanique feels that is not enough, Fadi says. Hundreds of lives are at stake for lack of medicine or blood transfusion, and hundreds risk losing their limbs for lack of tetanus injections or infection syringes.

That’s why Sister Nanique is doing what she does; because she believes medical assistance is more important than food right now for survival.

http://womensenews.org/story/war/120416/syrian-nun-plays-key-role-in-medical-underground

The writer is a Syrian who is adopting a pseudonym for personal-safety reasons.

AFSPA has to go: Human Rights Watch’s Kenneth Roth


Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth, who has headed several human rights investigations and missions around the world, was in Mumbai to address an Observer Research Foundation talk on ‘Human Rights in the Changing World Today.’Yogesh Pawar caught him on the sidelines of his talk. Excerpts from an interview:

Some say that by voting for a US-backed resolution urging Sri Lanka to probe rights abuses in the war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), India has only ended up pushing the island nation further into China’s arms?

Short term geo-strategic gains can’t be weighed against the long term right thing to do. We were quite confident India would come on board given the huge domestic sentiment in favour of such a move. In the last stages of the war, the Sri Lankan army indiscriminately shelled the Tigers trapped on a beach. Along with them, 40,000 civilians were also killed. These are substantial war crimes. Surely India wouldn’t have wanted to align itself with this brutality.

India has also been in a bind with other neighbours like Myanmar (Burma) as it has been unsure how much geo-strategic depth it can sacrifice for human rights concerns.

And to what avail? Today Chinese FDI in Myanmar is over 40% and India’s is a mere 2%. India realised the importance of engaging with the army since rebel groups in the North East were using Myanmar as a base. Having said that, creating pressure for a functional democracy, however, continues to remain important.

I would say current accelerated changes are being driven by the junta’s fears of an Arab Spring contagion. Mere gestures like releasing Aung San Suu Kyi will not help. The army just wants to change its clothes for civilian ones, leverage how Suu Kyi has reached the parliament and then demand for international sanctions to be dropped. India has a big role to play in the days to come if we want the change to be more than cosmetic.

How is that?

Already the junta has been unhappy about being under so much Chinese influence that Myanmar had almost become a Chinese province. The cancellation of the $3.6 billion China-funded Myitsonedam contract in September last year was the first sign of this change. India can use this opportunity to work with its neighbour and prevail upon it to accelerate the democratic process.

But many feel India’s own track record on human rights is not very good…

It is true that there are huge concerns in Kashmir, the North East, Central India and Gujarat. We continue to work closely with the Indian government on all these issues. This should not, however, take away from India’s role in the global human rights movement. We have seen India taking strong human rights positions in South Africa, in Myanmar, and now Sri Lanka and Syria, as well as for Tibetans. As a growing power it has emerged as a significant voice on the global stage.

You mention Kashmir and the North East. There has been a lot of criticism of the role of the armed forces in both these regions.

At Human Rights Watch we believe in working with both the government and those on the other side. There are human rights excesses from both sides which evoke concern. Having said that, there can be no two ways about the fact that the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) has to go. We continue in our efforts to persuade India and hope it sees our point.

What about the situation in Pakistan?

There is a lot to be concerned about in Pakistan which seems to be going through a state of flux. The honour killings and the blatant misuse of the anti-blasphemy laws against minorities is of grave concern and we want the government there to urgently address this.

There is a feeling in the sub-continent that the West has double standards on human rights. It raises this bogey as and when it suits its own interests.

It is a charge that is hurled at us often. Particularly by dictators who want to deflect attention from their own wanton disregard for human rights. It is very convenient to turn this into a North-South ‘us and them’ debate.

We have been, for example, very vocal in our opposition to the US’ policy of extraordinary rendition. We have got the European Union to back us on this opposition to picking up foreign nationals suspected of involvement in terrorism to detention and interrogation in countries where federal and international legal safeguards do not apply.

But the West seems to have no problems doing business with China despite its human rights track record…

This is exactly why so many dictators cite China’s model of development. Despite its magnificent rise as an economic superpower, there are huge problems with the way China has grown. There is a dark underside to the Chinese miracle. History has proven again and again that such model cannot be sustainable. In comparison, India represents a more accountable way of governance.As a vibrant democracy, India has demonstrably shown that its concern for human rights is not a western import.

What is HRW’s assessment of the current situation in Syria?

It is disastrous. Syrian forces are using military means against an opposition that is itself increasingly armed. A lot of the violence from the Syrian security forces is still directed at peaceful demonstrators. And much of the deaths are of peaceful protesters who want democracy.

Russia and China block most efforts by the international community, from the prosecution of the Assad regime by the ICC to a condemnation by the UN Security Council to the peacekeeping plan proposed by the Arab League. In light of the ongoing violence in Syria what would you say to Moscow and Beijing?

I find that those vetoes, which were really led by Russia and China followed up represent a callous indifference to the lives of Syrians. It is like playing global politics at their expense. Clearly Russia is concerned that the Assad regime is its last remaining friend in the Middle East and North Africa apart from being a major purchaser of Russian arms. Russia seems to look at the fight for democracy in the region through the lens of the Cold War. We hope Russia is widely condemned for this. This is not the way a permanent member of the UN Security Council should act.

DNA Article here

Profits of War- cash, construction , medicine, and petrol black markets


Reuters, March 25, 2012

Syria‘s economy might be broken but illegal construction has boomed – the authorities are too busy crushing the revolution – and cash, medicine, and petrol black markets have mushroomed all over

BEIRUT:  While Syria’s economy as a whole has been crippled by violent unrest, there are some people for whom the uprising has created business opportunities. Take building contractor Ahmed, who asked to be identified only by his first name for fear of arrest. He has been artfully building unlicensed , small-scale housing while the authorities are distracted with the more pressing task of quelling a revolt. “Yes , yes, I exploit the revolution. The government is preoccupied,” the 48-year-old said from his home in Aleppo, Syria’s northern, sprawling merchant city of 2.5 million people. “I used to do some covert building before, but now I’m fairly public about it,” the entrepreneur added. President Bashar al-Assad‘s forces have killed more than 8,000 people in his drive to crush the year-long uprising, according to the United Nations , with his troops fanning out around the country to try to stamp out the opposition.

Opportunistic builders, loan sharks and black market importers have all done well from the revolt, Syrians say. Urban residents say security firms, selling closed-circuit television cameras and thick steel doors to fretful Syrians who want to beef up home safety, have also seen a boom in sales. Jihad Yazigi, a Damascus-based economist and editor of the English-language Syria Report , said that in the early days of the revolt Syrians saw that inflation would become a threat – the value of the Syrian pound against the dollar has roughly halved since the unrest started. They therefore sought to buy property or build on existing land holdings as an investment.

This strategy appears to have worked, with house values remaining fairly strong in areas not directly caught up in the fighting. “We saw a lot of illegal building in the first few months of the revolution, not only because people were afraid of inflation but because many people had plans to build but they didn’t have licences,” Yazigi said over the telephone from Damascus. He said authorities had since clamped down on illegal building in the capital, while cement and steel prices have risen sharply, making construction more expensive. But in other parts of Syria, the building boom appears to have continued . For Syrian men, owning one’s own property is often a prerequisite to getting married; high demand has driven up house prices. For Syrian fathers, slyly adding a floor or two to the family home is often cheaper than buying apartments for sons.

Cash from chaos

Other entrepreneurs have taken advantage of the chaos in the country’s banking sector, which is reeling from economic sanctions and falling foreign currency reserves; Western and some Arab countries have banned imports of Syrian oil and cut financial ties with Syrian banks, among other steps. Syria’s bank deposits have shrunk almost a third since the unrest began. Few banks are willing to sell scarce foreign currency, for which demand grows as the Syrian pound weakens, and bazaar-based currency traders selling dollars in the central markets of Damascus have profited from panic buying. Bank loans appear nearly impossible to acquire , creating opportunities for unlicensed loan sharks.

Ali, 34, works for his father, a struggling farmer who has been trying to keep the family business alive but has been refused loans from both state-owned and private banks. “My father ended up borrowing money from a loan shark,” Ali said, adding that the loan was a three-month advance at 50 percent interest, with a 25 percent surcharge for late payment. “I was so surprised at how organised it was, and how he had official papers. Everyone is having to take out these loans now and the lenders are working openly while the police are distracted .”

In an effort to preserve foreign currency reserves , the government has increased customs tariffs on some imports to prevent currency from leaving the country. Syrians who are in need of foreign-manufactured goods, such as medical drugs, have been forced to look to the black market.

Lama, a 25-year-old pharmacist in the capital , says there has been a marked increase in the trade of black market drugs. “We have been forced at the pharmacy to deal with smugglers. Medicine is not something that can be postponed. If we don’t boost our supplies using illegal means then customers, especially those with chronic diseases, will try to get smuggled medicine themselves.” And as queues to obtain heating oil and petrol lengthen and the government raises the official prices of fuel, city residents increasingly head to the flourishing black market. Issa, a mid-twenties student in Damascus, said he had noticed a change of business practice in the petrol station where he works parttime . “As fuel prices rise, my boss has hired more people to walk along the queue of cars waiting for petrol. When they see people give up waiting and drive off, they stop them and ask if they want to buy fuel at a higher price,” Issa said. Reuters | Mar 25, 2012 “The queues are so long that people are willing to pay extortionate prices.”

The worse news

However, many people in Syria believe the general economic crisis is so severe that even the most savvy entrepreneurs are probably only breaking even. The government has not provided figures for how the unrest has affected gross domestic product, but Yazigi estimated the economy may have shrunk 15 percent last year and could shrink a further 15 percent or more this year. The government has warned citizens of the possibility of wider energy rationing, blaming terrorists for the sabotage of power plants, in what economists and business leaders say is an effort to conserve scarce fuel.

The Syrian government says these “armed terrorists” have killed more than 2,000 soldiers and police during the unrest. And as the value of the Syrian pound has plummeted, the cost of living has sky-rocketed . Many Syrians are unable to buy anything but the bare essentials. The official inflation rate was 15 percent in January; some basic goods such as sugar, butter, vegetable oil and eggs have risen in price by as much as 100 percent.

Marie Colvin Killed in Syria, and the Story She Paid With Her Life to Tell


Peter Bouckaert

Published in:  The Daily Beast, FEBRUARY 22, 2012

She took to wearing a black patch over the eye she lost when shot in the civil war in Sri Lanka in 2001, and always seemed to have a notepad and a pen in her hand. She was inevitably in the midst of war’s chaos before the rest of us got there, proudly filing,as she did on Tuesday, as “the only British newspaper journalist” at the scene. She was a legend to all of us who cover conflict, and universally beloved for her inspiring courage and deep commitment to the work of reporting.

On Tuesday, after she filed her horror-filled account from Homs for her paper, The Sunday Times, she got in touch on Facebook to tell me just how horrific the situation in Homs was. We had worked closely together in Libya for the past year, strengthening an occasional friendship over the years into a deep and affectionate bond. As she was preparing to enter Syria last week, we compared notes several times, looking at the routes into the besieged city of Homs and assessing the risks she would face. Her drive and determination to report—to witness—overcame all of her fears, and she was absolutely determined to get in, somehow.

Our conversation reminded me of what a unique person Marie Colvin was—an amazing journalist for sure, always first on the scene, but also a deeply caring human being who was never overcome by the cynicism and egotism that plagues the world of war reporting.

Her story for The Times was behind a pay wall, so many could not read her powerful account of atrocities in Syria. She first encouraged our Facebook group of conflict journalists and rights reporters to post her latest story from Homs, saying she wasn’t technically competent enough to do it, and saying that she’d face “the firing squad” at her paper for the lost revenue, explaining “I don’t often do this, but it is sickening what is happening here.” Many of us commended her for her courage, and then a journalist, believing she had already left Homs, expressed his relief that she was safe. She responded in her usual funny fashion, relishing the dark humor of war correspondents:

“I think the reports of my survival may be exaggerated. I’m in Babo Amr. Sickening, trying to understand how the world can stand by and I should be hardened by now. Watched a baby die today. Shrapnel, doctors could do nothing. His little tummy just heaved and heaved until it stopped. Feeling helpless. As well as cold! ….

Read more here

 

What Twitter’s New Censorship Policy Means for Human Rights


Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...

Twitter dropped quite the shocker last week when it declared its new policy to remove tweets in certain countries to abide by specific national laws. While a tweet will remain visible to the rest of the world, specific messages will disappear in the target country (e.g., following requests by governments).

The ensuing backlash saw a lot of people screaming “censorship” (ironically, on Twitter). While the first wave of criticism has quickly calmed down, for a human rights watchdog, the announcement is quite alarming:

As we continue to grow internationally, we will enter countries that have different ideas about the contours of freedom of expression… Until now, the only way we could take account of those countries’ limits was to remove content globally. Starting today, we give ourselves the ability to reactively withhold content from users in a specific country — while keeping it available in the rest of the world.

A new policy for old-school repression

Twitter claims that this isn’t a dramatic shift in policy, but rather clarification of existing policy, with a “fix.” Previous removals of content were global, for example, when they removed a tweet, no one could see it anywhere. Now, country-by-country, Twitter can block content specially tailored to that country. In a bizarre logic, the increase in control of information in response to government demands means, according to Twitter — less ‘censorship.’

One may incredulously respond that country-specific removal would further disadvantage people who saw Twitter as a means of circumventing illegal restrictions on their speech and expression. Further disadvantaging people who’ve turned to the service as a means of empowering themselves through voice, assembly, and access to information.

Though there has been an outpouring of anger in response, some are quite pleased. Today, Thailand became the first government to publicly endorse Twitter’s decision. China and Iran haven’t made any statements (China’s state-run newspaper did praise the move), but I suspect they’re pleased, as are several other governments that have sought to shut down Twitter at the first sign of dissent.

As an aside I should note that — as with any attempt to control information (see my post on SOPA/PIPA — there are already easy ways — five at last count — to bypass Twitter’s blocks.

Outrage and tough choices

I’ve appreciated the outrage, given the importance (not to be confused with value) of Twitter. I have no doubt that information posted on Twitter — and any other large public networking platform — has resulted in all manner of things, from the terrible, to the great.

We know that information spread via Twitter has saved countless lives, from natural disasters such as in Japan or in humanitarian crises, such as in Cote d’Ivoire. Twitter has contributed to regime change in repressive places. It has even helped free a prisoner in Kashmir and has become a valuable network for citizen journalists and concerned citizens, such as in Mexico. It is a medium by which human rights advocates carry forward their work, such as our Eyes on Syria project (look for #EyesonSyria — but maybe not if you are in Syria), or Amnesty’s own Twitter account.

But for all of these goods, information on Twitter has surely created harm. In crisis, it can become a dangerous medium for rumors or misinformation (or “terrorism” charges). Al-Shabab‘s recent banning of the International Red Cross (a violation of international law of the highest order) was communicated via Twitter. Indeed, Kenya‘s military has been fighting Al-Shabab on the ground, as well as in the twitterverse.

Importantly, information has no inherent value… it is the effect of the content that lends moral weight.

Twitter has never had to make difficult decisions about that content, however. Twitter has never had to be responsible for controlling content in the manner its new policy will require of it. And Twitter will be called on by governments around the world to censor. The cat is out of the bag, and the decisions that will need to be made by Twitter lawyers and staff should give them sleepless nights. At some point — somewhere — harm will be done by those choices. Voices will be silenced. Lives will be lost. Twitter will inevitably make mistakes, and the world will be different as a result. It is a power it would have been wise to deny having.

The stark fact is that — like traditional media, housing, agriculture, or any of the other sectors upon which humanity’s ability to fully enjoy their human rights is dependent — profit motivates great innovations in the digital world. Profit also motivates consolidation and control.

The source of the immense outrage over the policy says more about our collective confusion over digital networking tools than Twitter’s policy. Twitter is seen as a public good. But it is not. Twitter is a (private) company, one that probably made over $100m in profit in 2011 — though its profit potential may be an order of magnitude higher. It is a company like any other, with motives. As with other companies, we — as consumers — have leverage.

But far from suggesting a boycott, let’s start with the basics.

#International Law

I appreciate Twitter’s appeal to the rule of law. Let me make my own.

We have an international body of law that protects the rights of people, and sets forth the obligations of governments, businesses, and the everyday person. Amnesty International and other human rights organizations spend an exceptional proportion of their resources monitoring compliance with the law, and calling out those who violate human rights law. Not just governments, but businesses as well, from Shell and Dow Chemical, to cell phone manufacturers, mortgage banks, and private security firms.

Allow me to offer a word of advice to Twitter: Laws often clash. In the U.S., there were laws on the books in the southern states that were ruled unconstitutional long before they were finally scrapped. And there are surely domestic laws in countries that will be cited by governments or security elements as a basis for denying speech via Twitter that will clash with international human rights law. They will be illegal domestic ‘laws’ in contravention of established international human rights laws. They will be unjust laws.

What will Twitter do?

At some point, Twitter will be pressured by governments to change its terms of service so the work around for access to blocked tweets becomes a use violation…Twitter does in fact know where you are tweeting from, and can deny your ability to change your location to circumvent information blackouts.

At some point, user information and location will be demanded by a repressive regime with a cheap, and by international standards, meaningless veneer of a court order. They will demand it, and will appeal to domestic ‘law’.

What is abundantly clear is that human rights monitors and advocates — for the immense power Twitter and other digital networking tools have given them — have an entirely new domain to monitor. As with other sectors, business decisions in the digital world have human rights implications. For the immense value of Twitter, the policy announcement only brings into focus what we’ve known for some time — human rights monitors and advocates have a lot more work to do since the digital revolution. Our collective vigilance is needed more than ever, however we chose to communicate.

We will be watching you, Twitter. Take it as a measure of your importance.

Scott Edwards is Director of International Advocacy for Africa and Director of the Science for Human Rights program at Amnesty International USA.

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