Monday, April 30, 2012


Saudi Arabia: a Wahhabi fatwa against Twitter.

Posted: 29 Apr 2012 01:59 AM PDT
 On the one hand, it's deeply worrying that the government is seeking to create a surveillance culture that encompasses spying on all digital media.
On the other, that same government would struggle to arrange a children's party if provided with a clown, a bouncy castle, some children and an unlimited supply of jelly.
The satirist Daily Mash on new British online surveillance laws 
Hamza KashgariOn the one hand, a Wahhabi fatwa against Twitter. On the other, a princely stake from an Al Saud in the platform.
And on the other other hand, a growing campaign across the region to censor - and censure - dissent from social media users that is no laughing matter.
Social media is certainty shaking up the Kingdom. Hamza Kashgari was arrested for "blasphemous" tweets - his supporters now assert that so desperate were the Saudi authorities to make an example of him to score points, they pressured Malaysian officials into arresting and extraditing him while he was traveling around Malaysia, and then lying about this by claiming they had detained him at an airport.
In addition to the aforementioned fatwa, at least three Saudi journalists have been arrested and detained for their role in participating in or covering Shia demonstrations in the eastern part of the country. As Toby C. Jones noted, the Shia demonizing campaign of spring 2011 had as much to do with fear of losing influence in Bahrain - and perhaps more so - as it did with fear of having to make concessions to the country's Shia citizens and rein in the Wahhabi establishment:
In Saudi Arabia, in dozens of places, hundreds of protesters routinely assembled, calling for relatively minor concessions, including greater religious tolerance and the release of Shiite political prisoners. But confronted by the sweeping changes underway across the region, officials claimed that the protests at home and especially in Bahrain, if they were allowed to succeed, would lead to a catastrophe - a democratic state next door controlled by a Shiite majority, one they insisted would take marching orders from Tehran.
Given the heavy-handedness of the Saudi authorities, online anonymity is a safer way to organize than congregating in a town square. But the net is heavily monitored nonetheless, and stepping out into the sun rarely ends well. "March 11—the intended Day of Rage—came and went without mass protest," Madawi Al-Rasheed wrote last month, and in the process of turnout and crackdown, at least one Saudi YouTuber was disappeared by the authorities.
The newest social media "subversive" stirring controversy in Saudi Arabia is @Mujtahidd, who is exposing many unwelcome details about the lives of the rich and powerful in Saudi Arabia, such as the jetsetting Prince Abdul Aziz bin Fahd and Deputy Minister of Defense Khalid bin Sultan. Those he has tweeted about find themselves deluged with angry questions about their alleged extravagances, such as “did your new estate in Riyadh cost the state 12 billion riyals?”, or accused of pocketing billions of riyals from arms deals and construction contracts. @Mujtahidd asserts that endemic graft is costing the country 500 billion riyals annually. @Mujtahidd’s moralizing anti-corruption drive has apparently struck a chord among 290,000 followers in digging up old scandals and warning of new ones involving the House of Saud.
Media monitoring, as practiced by governments in Libya, Bahrain, Egypt, Syria and Iran (to name a few), is not so much enforced by datacenters, wiretaps and informants but by searches of TV stations by police, days in a holding cell and the warrant officer's truncheon. The technology, of course, plays an increasingly vital role, not least because it makes it so much easier to prepare a mound of "evidence" to the prosecution's satisfaction. As Sultan Al Qassemi notes, governments and their supporters are becoming more social media savvy too: despite clerical criticism of the internet, the Twitterverse exploded with criticism of Kashgari from self-described "devout" Muslims.
Criticism of Gulf states' human rights records or military policies has proven to be dangerous for social media users in the UAE - where several bloggers have been detained on charges of "sedition" and "blasphemy" for daring to report on activists and criticizing members of the royal family – and Oman. The same goes for the West Bank, where the Palestinian Authority has arrested several reporters and bloggers who've criticized corruption in the government. Ironically, arrests such as these seem to be among the few tasks that Tel Aviv and Washington implicitly trust Ramallah with.
In Iraq, a new law that has been proposed lock internet users away for life they were proven to have "compromis[ed] the independence of the state or its unity, integrity, safety, or any of its high economic, political,  social, military or security interests" or "implement programs or ideas which are disruptive to public order." Considering that around only 2.5% of the population has ready internet access, this law demonstrates just how unpleasant Iraqi bloggers - as both independent observers of daily life and fixers for foreign media in Iraq - have become to the government (defenders of the law will cry havoc over a Baathist apologist on WordPress to make their case). Reports from Iraqi citizens on decaying infrastructure, missed opportunities, officials' power trips and sectarian violence are not exactly civil society efforts conducive to cementing what to many Iraqis appears an oligarchy of parliamentarians and police generals. And to the west in Syria - where Western "retail" surveillance technology has been popping up from the U.S. and Germany - censorship is and has long been the norm, especially now that the demonstrations of 2011 have led to open war among the regime and anti-government militias.
This is the other side of cyber-security, the more immediate one than all the industrial sabotage malware or avionics-compromising logic bombs. Censorship of dissent through cyberspace "has a broader meaning in non-democracies: For them, the worst-case scenario is not collapsing power plants, but collapsing political power.”

Germany: Berlin City Limits - Witness

Berlin City Limits - Witness - Al Jazeera English

makers: Agostino Imondi and Dietmar Ratsch
Lebanese siblings Hassan, Lial and Maradona are successful dancers and musicians living in Neukoelln, a densely populated, working-class district of Berlin that is populated largely by immigrants of Turkish and Arab descent.

Their father left home and their mother cannot support them, so the family faces the constant threat of deportation. But four of the children were born in Germany, they all go to school there - and it is the only home they have ever known.

"They are not Lebanese, but German, they don't speak the language," Hassan says of his family. Hassan speaks Arabic, but does not know how to write it. He was two years old when his family fled Lebanon's civil war to live in Germany.
In 2003, they were deported from Germany for the first time. Hassan recalls: "It was on Wednesday, April 2, 2003. Maradona turned nine on that day. It was about five or six in the morning and everyone was sound asleep. I woke up right away and before my mum was at the door, I knew what was up .... Through the door I heard a man's voice: 'Berlin police, open the door!'

"Four officers came in and asked about the children. They stomped through all the rooms and counted us like a herd of sheep. The officers told my mum that we were to be deported. My mum told them there was still a case pending, they couldn't deport us. But of course that didn't help. They woke up all the kids and told us to pack our things as fast as possible. We were going back for Lebanon. The police said: 'You can take a toy if you want.' That made me really angry, because it was so unnecessary at that moment. They drove us to a police station close to Tegel airport. No one said anything the whole drive. I looked once more at the neighbourhood I grew up in, and tried to imagine what awaited us.
"In my so-called homeland, I didn't feel comfortable, I didn't feel at home. I just wanted to go back home. To where I grew up, where I went to school and where my friends lived. With nothing to do I daydreamed all day and played soccer with my cousins. Playing soccer was better than singing the blues."
Six weeks later the family were back in Berlin, but the fear of another deportation is omnipresent in their lives, and a constant concern for all of them. Therefore, a good education, steady income and as little conflict with the authorities as possible is what guides Hassan and Lial's lives.
Determined to keep the family united, Hassan and Lial use their artistic talents to support the family financially and battle with Berlin bureaucrats to secure a residency permit for the entire family.
Meanwhile, younger brother Maradona's erratic school performance and his provocative street life create a lot of tension and anxiety for the family, as he risks getting a criminal record and jeopardising their application to stay in Germany.
"I think that the deportation is the main reason why Maradona is going in this direction. Maradona felt rejected by German society. He no longer felt [at] home here and that influenced his behaviour and lifestyle," Hassan says.
Their breakdancing wins huge crowds but can it help the three young Lebanese migrants hold off deportation from their hometown? In a powerful tale of survival, creativity and desperation, Witness follows the performers' struggle to stay in the city they consider home.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

India: The lost tribe - 101 East

The lost tribe - 101 East 

An ancient indigenous tribe is on the verge of extinction in India's Andaman Islands. Habitat loss, disease and exploitation could wipe out the 400-strong Jarawa tribe, who still hunt using bows and arrows.
Connect with 101 East
Lapses in policing and continued activity by tour operators, who encourage 'human safaris' where Jarawa women and children have in the past performed for tourists, are partly to blame for jeopardising the tribe's existence.

Many activists want to close the main road into the tribal reserve to protect the tribe from further interaction with the outside world, but it is a lifeline providing food and work for the island's 600,000 inhabitants.

To include or isolate?

101 East's Kathy Hearn reports on an Indian tribe on the edge of extinction.

Chin: Building the Perfect Bug - H5N1

Building the Perfect Bug - People & Power - Al Jazeera English

at takes precedence - medical understanding of a flu virus that theoretically could one day mutate and prove deadly to much of the world's population, or the importance of keeping such knowledge out of the hands of people who could use it to harm others?

It might seem like an academic question but it assumed significance recently because scientists from the Netherlands and the US have engineered a version of the H5N1 bird flu virus that can be transmitted atmospherically.
Until now, the virus only passes on to humans via direct physical contact with infected birds - particularly by eating poultry such as chickens, ducks and geese - which has allowed public health officials to keep outbreaks under control.
Although the number of people who have fallen sick and died has been relatively small, scientists have long been concerned about the much more serious consequences if the H5N1 virus ever mutated into an airborne form. So in an attempt to work out how that might happen, and to formulate a scientific and medical response, researchers mutated the new strain of the bug in the laboratory with the intention of publishing their results so that others could study it too. 

But their work has divided the scientific community and alarmed global security agencies concerned about bioterrorism. The fear is that if the new variant of H5N1 got out of the laboratory, or the knowledge of how it was engineered was obtained by bio-terrorists bent on killing a great many people, the results could be devastating.
Laurie Garrett, a Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer, is worried because where humans are concerned H5N1 is especially dangerous, with a high lethality rate. Should an airborne variant, easily transmitted around the world from one person to another in this age of mass air travel, ever emerge into the open it could provoke a full blown pandemic, with devastating results.
"There's no way of saying how many humans would die," says Garrett. "The Spanish flu of 1918 killed 100 million human beings with a two per cent kill rate. So jump to the age of globalisation, and imagine a 50 per cent kill rate."

Others believe that the benefits of further understanding such bugs far outweigh any imagined threats and that much of the rhetoric is alarmist and overblown. They insist that in order to work out how to prevent a virus from spreading and to treat its effects, the medical community has to know more about how it works. And it is vital for the knowledge to be widely shared through scientific journals. 

Earlier this month, after a tense stand-off between the camps, the research projects won agreement from bio-terrorism officials to let them publish their work. But should the general public be concerned? This film by Andrew Fowler, Dee Porter, Bronwen Reed and ABC looks at the risks.

UK:When the cameras turned on the Murdochs - Listening Post - Al Jazeera English

When the cameras turned on the Murdochs - Listening Post - Al Jazeera English

hen the cameras - and the questions - turned on the Murdochs. The ongoing investigation into the News Corp scandal. And: NGOs, the new kids on the media block.
It was a week that saw the most powerful media mogul put under the spotlight. Rupert Murdoch and his son James went under oath at the Leveson inquiry - set up to look into media standards after the phone hacking scandal at the Murdoch-owned tabloid, News of the World. The media tycoon was put under scrutiny like never before and the story has exposed the links between Murdoch and Britain's political establishment. With a legal case set for the US, this story looks set to reverberate transatlantically. In this week's News Divide, we look at the mega-media story ripping through Britain's media and political elite.
This week's Newsbytes: Murdered: a senior journalist at Dawn, Pakistan's biggest English daily newspaper; fast cars and political protest: Bahrain tries to control the story after hosting the Formula One Grand Prix; Press stopped: an Egyptian independent publication is forced to close, citing financial reasons; and, alive and kicking: Venezuela's Hugo Chavez speaks out after rumours of his death spread on Twitter.
Kony 2012
On March 6, a viral video campaign smashed viewing records. 'Kony 2012' was produced by a US-based NGO named Invisible Children and called for support in arresting a Ugandan warlord, Joseph Kony. Less than a week after it was released, it had been viewed more than 80 million times. But as the number of hits grew, so did the criticisms. Commentators accused it over simplifying a complex situation, being inaccurate and portraying Ugandans in a negative light.
Despite the reactions, the video has marked a watershed moment in online campaigning. Once upon a time, NGOs had to rely on mainstream media to get their message out. But in a modern, multi-media world, this has changed. While some see this as a good thing, others, namely the communities NGOs work with, are calling for a more accurate representation to be reflected. In this week's feature, Meenakshi Ravi looks at the new kids on the media block.
We close the show with a face that regular viewers will be familiar with. Hugo Farrant - better known as Robert Foster - is the fake anchorman from Juice Rap News. This time, Foster interviews US military man General Baxter and attacks some of the more contentious issues raised by the Kony video. 'Yes We Kony' is becoming a hit on the web and it is our video of the week. We hope you enjoy the show.

Listening Post can be seen each week at the following times GMT: Saturday: 0830, 1930; Sunday: 1430; Monday: 0430.

Egypt: Is the Muslim Brotherhood in crisis? - Inside Story - Al Jazeera Eng

Is the Muslim Brotherhood in crisis? - Inside Story - Al Jazeera English

housands of Egyptians have rallied once again - this time under the banner of protecting the revolution. But as moderates, Salafists and the Muslim Brotherhood gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square, are the divisions beginning to show between the groups that were once united behind the revolution?

And as the presidential election looms, have the Muslim Brotherhood and the ruling military council misjudged the political landscape?
It was not so long ago that it seemed that the Muslim Brotherhood would be the main beneficiary of last year's revolution in Egypt. Indeed, the parliamentary elections saw the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party installed as the most dominant force in the chamber, and the party's voice was growing in influence across the country.

But in the months following the elections, the party has been accused of an inconsistent and indecisive political strategy - one that has put it at odds with both the ruling military and the other parties behind the country's revolution.

Among the factors that have affected the Muslim Brotherhood's fortunes, is the fact that in March, the group reversed its position on the presidential election. Initially, it had said that it would not field a candidate. But then the Brotherhood decided to take part, and when its candidate of choice was disqualified, it selected another.

Accusations of hypocrisy also followed Brotherhood demands that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) amend Article 28 of the constitution. That clause gives immunity to the elections commission. The Brotherhood had previously supported SCAF over the constitution.
Also, earlier this month, a Cairo court ruled that the Muslim Brotherhood's dominance over the committee that would draft a new constitution was unconstitutional.
So, is Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood going through a crisis? And is it alienating itself from some of the other parts of the revolution?
Joining Inside Story with presenter Teymoor Nabili to discuss this are: Nader Omran, a representative and co-founder of the Freedom and Justice Party, which is part of the Muslim Brotherhood; Sherif Gaber, an activist and advocate for housing rights who has been taking part in some of the protests over the last year following Egypt's revolution; and Abdullah al-Arian, an assistant professor of Middle East history at Wayne State University and a scholar specialising in Islamic movements.
"We've seen the Muslim Brotherhood, for instance, at a certain point in its time espouse a certain revolutionary ideology, but I think over time the trend has been to try and seek more accommodation with the regime. And we've seen that from the 1980s going forward, especially in its growing relationship with the Mubarak regime as kind of the chief, sort of semi-accepted opposition."

Abdullah al-Arian, an assistant professor of Middle East history

  • Protesters have rallied under a banner that read 'rescuing the revolution'
  • Voting in Egypt's presidential election is due to start on May 23
  • The election commission has released a list of those running for the presidency
  • The list confirms that Ahmed Shafiq is included among the 13 candidates
  • The Muslim Brotherhood is against allowing Ahmed Shafiq to run for the presidency
  • Many of Egypt's voters are thought to be undecided over who to support in the election
  • If no candidate wins more than 50 per cent of the vote, the election will go to a second round
  • The winner of Egypt's presidential election is to be declared on June 21
  • Mohamed Morsi is running as the Muslim Brotherhood candidate
  • Morsi took Khairat al-Shater's place as presidential candidate for the Muslim Brotherhood

Gregg Braden (1 of 5) The Divine Matrix with Gregg Braden

John Pilger | You Are All Suspects Now. What Are You Going to Do About It?

John Pilger, Truthout: "You are all potential terrorists. It matters not that you live in Britain, the United States, Australia or the Middle East. Citizenship is effectively abolished. Turn on your computer and the US Department of Homeland Security's National Operations Center may monitor whether you are typing not merely 'al-Qaeda,' but 'exercise,' 'drill,' 'wave'…. What has changed is that a state of permanent war has been launched by the United States and a police state is consuming Western democracy. What are you going to do about it?"
Read the Article

it's a boy-eat-dog world out there," Obama said.

Washington (CNN) -- The humor at the 98th annual White House Correspondents' Association Dinner went to the dogs.
President Barack Obama poked fun Saturday at everything, from the Secret Service scandal to the lavish spending by the Government Services Administration, to the upcoming general election.
However, it was a spoof about Mitt Romney and his dog Seamus that highlighted the president's monologue.
The joke recalled a political ad released by the Newt Gingrich campaign that took aim at Romney for admitting he once put his family dog in a cage and perched it on the top of his car.
"I know everybody is predicting a nasty election, and thankfully, we've all agreed that families are off-limits," the president said. "Dogs, however, are apparently fair game."
Obama talks dog politics at dinner
Kimmel unveils explicit dinner video
Kimmel spares no one at dinner
Obama, Kimmel deliver on dinner jokes
The president's punch line: An ad by a phony Super PAC that featured Romney on Air Force One with a dog cage on top of the aircraft and promoted dog freedoms, while warning of Obama's policy of dog socialism.
"Under his leadership, man's best friend has been forced into automobiles. Imagine the European-style socialism that he has planned for the next four years," the spoof ad said.
The president even poked fun at himself over recent criticism by the Romney campaign about revelations in his book, "Dreams From My Father," where he revealed he was fed dog meat as a boy in Indonesia.
"That's pretty rough. But I can take it, because my stepfather always told me, it's a boy-eat-dog world out there," Obama said.
The dinner was Obama's fourth as president. It has been a ritual in Washington since 1920, when it was first held to boost communication between the press and the president.
Journalists and news organizations were well-represented at the affair, and they brought famous faces in tow.
Among those in attendance Saturday were Claire Danes, Elizabeth Banks, Paul Rudd, Sigourney Weaver, Eva Longoria, Viola Davis, Kerry Washington, Rachel Zoe, Goldie Hawn and Josh Hutcherson.
The annual gala, also known as the "Nerd Prom," raises money for journalism scholarships.
While the dinner is notorious for its sometimes bawdy political humor, the president took a serious moment to recall the deaths of Anthony Shadid of The New York Times and Marie Colvin of the Times of London, "who made the ultimate sacrifice as they sought to shine a light on some of the most important stories of our time."
Shadid and Colvin died in February while covering the conflict in Syria.
Obama uses potty humor at dinner
Obama on Romney: What a snob!
Kimmel dishes out fat, skinny jokes
Kimmel skewers Secret Service at roast
Overall, Obama stayed true to the theme of the night -- humorous barbs. He joked about business tycoon Donald Trump, whom the president kidded at last year's dinner about pushing the president to release his long-form birth certificate.
"We gather during a historic anniversary. This weekend last year, we finally delivered justice to one of the world's most notorious individuals," Obama said to a packed ballroom at the Washington Hilton.
A photo of Trump was shown, rather than that of slain al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
Obama then went back even further in time.
"Four years ago, I was in a brutal primary battle with Hillary Clinton," Obama said. "Four years later, she won't stop drunk texting me from Cartagena," a reference to the city where Secret Service agents allegedly consorted with prostitutes.
The president also took aim at the scandal, itself: "I had a lot more material prepared, but I have to get the Secret Service home in time for their new curfew."
Obama, speaking before comedian Jimmy Kimmel, made light of a General Services Adminstration conference in Las Vegas that cost more than $800,000.
"Look at this party. We have men in tuxes, women in gowns, fine wine, first-class entertainment. I was relieved to hear it was not a GSA conference," Obama quipped.
He even chided Kimmel, star of ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live!"
"Jimmy got his start on the 'Man Show.' In Washington, that is what we call a congressional hearing on contraception."
Kimmel, who took the stage following the president's monologue, hit back.
"Remember when the country rallied around you in the hopes of a better tomorrow?" Kimmel asked. "That was hilarious."
Kimmel said there was a term for "guys like the president," and it wasn't two terms.
He said he told the Secret Service that for $800, he would stay away from jokes about the scandal.
"But they only offered $30," he said.
Nobody in the room was safe from Kimmel's barbs, which he fired at politicians, journalists, celebrities and corporate executives in attendance.
Kimmel praised Michelle Obama's work to combat obesity with her health initiative. The comedian then pointed out rotund New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to the first lady.
"Look, it's Chris Christie. Get him," Kimmel said.
Kimmel then took aim at Gingrich's weight. But Kimmel's fat jokes fell, well, flat with the former House speaker.

China: Why China's Investments Aren't a Threat

The notion of the so-called "China Threat" often pervades the business media. According to many writers — who belong to what John Hopkins University's David Lampton has labeled the "China on Steroids" school — Chinese multinationals are, to paraphrase the Economist, intent on buying up the world.
Such statements create three lasting impressions. One, that China is one of the world's biggest overseas investors. Two, that, among the emerging economies, it is the largest foreign investor. Three, that China's outward foreign direct investment (OFDI) extends all across the world.
However, none of these impressions can be substantiated by data.
Take the notion that China invests abroad more than any other country does. According to the United Nations' World Investment Report 2011 (PDF), China and Hong Kong weren't among the top three foreign investors in 2010. They were only No. 4 and No. 5 respectively — well behind the U.S., France, and Germany. In fact, China's OFDI stock was only 6% that of the U.S. If Chinese companies could buy up the world with that amount of capital, American companies would be able to do so 16 times over.
There's also a widespread perception that China must be the largest foreign investor among the emerging economies. That's not the case, according to UN data. China's stock of OFDI, at 1.46% of the worldwide total, is three times India's 0.45%, and ahead of Brazil's 0.89%. However, Russia has invested more abroad (2.12%) than China has. Yet, nobody worries any more that Russia is taking over the world.
Finally, Chinese companies haven't invested in countries all over the world. Hong Kong accounted for 66.94% of China's OFDI stock while the rest of Asia received 8.55%. Significant round tripping of capital — which flows from China to Hong Kong, and then, back to China — has taken place in order to take advantage of Chinese regulations that favor "foreign" capital.
In addition, of the 12.45% of China's OFDI stock that Chinese corporations invested in Latin America and the Caribbean, tax havens like the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands absorbed 11.65%. As Beijing's control of Hong Kong intensifies, it's likely that the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands are increasingly assuming the role that Hong Kong has played in facilitating capital round tripping.
China's investments in Europe (3.53%), North America (2.11%), and Oceania (2.61%) were relatively small while Africa accounted for just 3.80% of China's OFDI as of 2009. Thus, the world outside Hong Kong accounts for just about a third of China's stock of OFDI, which represents 1.46% of the worldwide stock of OFDI.
Do a little math, and you will see that Chinese companies have invested a mere 0.031% of its worldwide stock of OFDI in North America. In dollar terms, that's about $6.3 billion. (That's the stock of China's OFDI in the U.S., meaning the accumulation of all such investments over the years.) By way of comparison, the revenues of the smallest U.S. company on the Fortune Global 500, Bristol-Myers Squibb (No. 500), was $19 billion in 2010. China's OFDI in North America, while emerging and increasing, is insignificant today.
Because of its small scale and limited geographic scope, China's foreign investments don't threaten any country. Policymakers the world over would do well to consider both the pros and cons, and when the economic benefits outweigh the costs, to approve Chinese investments — just as they would in the case of investments from other countries. When unemployment is high and jobs are hard to come by, turning away investments from the economy with the largest foreign exchange reserves in the world doesn't make much sense.

Chinese Investment in US Clean Energy

Chinese investment in clean energy in the United States is still small, but its growth may offer benefits for American businesses and US-China relatons.

by Linden J. Ellis, Devin Kleinfield-Hayes, and Jennifer L. Turner
The seven bilateral clean energy agreements signed by PRC President Hu Jintao and US President Barack Obama in the fall of 2009 focused on renewable energy, advanced coal technology, energy efficiency, electric vehicles, and many other technologies to promote lower carbon growth. These agreements have propelled numerous public and private sector collaborations, such as Duke Energy Corp. and China-based ENN Group's solar power, smart grid, and energy efficiency projects. But these agreements and new business partnerships have been downplayed as the United States and China have grappled with how to properly compete in the clean energy sector. Strikingly, clean energy was barely mentioned during PRC Vice President Xi Jinping's visit to the United States in February.

Quick Glance

  • Chinese investment currently makes up a small but fast-growing portion of clean energy projects in the United States.
  • Some Chinese companies have established local manufacturing in the United States to address US regulators' concerns about job creation.
  • Some local governments in the United States have encouraged Chinese investment in clean energy by offering supportive policies such as tax credits.
As trade tensions rise between the United States and China, energy experts say it is an important time to dig deeper into whether Chinese investment in US clean energy can be profitable and a sound platform from which the two countries can build stable relations.
Recent deals made between US and Chinese companies indicate it should be possible. In early 2012, new clean energy deals targeted manufacturing in the United States. For example, Yingli Green Energy Holding Co., Ltd. agreed in February to purchase materials from E.I. du Pont deNemours and Co. to produce photovoltaic (PV) panels. EmberClear Corp. and China's Huaneng Clean Energy Research Institute agreed to build a coal-to-gas plant that could create more than 1,000 jobs, according to the two companies. And China's Wanxiang (USA) Holdings Corp. invested $420 million in Massachusetts-based GreatPoint Energy to develop technology that converts coal to gas.
Although the costs of wind and solar power have significantly dropped, the US clean energy industry is still in its infancy and many companies are not able to stand on their own without government support. The collapse of Solyndra, Inc. in 2011, which had received $535 million in federal loan guarantees, has made domestic investors and the US government wary of the entire industry. In stark contrast, Chinese policymakers and investors have been pushing ahead on clean energy, both at home—with an ambitious new five-year strategy—and in foreign markets.

China: will begin construction on more than 60 key hydropower projects.

Source: China Energy News Net
Construction will finish by the end of 2015 on eight large hydropower zones, each comprising several hydroelectric plants and each producing tens of millions of kilowatts. By then, the national production of hydroelectricity will reach 910 billion kilowatt-hours, according to a report on An authoritative source reveals that in the coming 12th Five-year Plan of Renewable Energy Resources, hydropower will be the most prioritized source of renewable energy. During the 12th Five-year Plan period, China will begin construction on more than 60 key hydropower projects.
Previously the market expectation predicted six major hydropower zones, but the goal has now increased to eight. Analysts say that the process of authorizing hydropower projects has accelerated since the beginning of this year. This Five-year Plan clearly emphasizes hydropower projects as a goal, and this emphasis will comprehensively speed up the activation procedure for such projects and bring about a turning point for the industry. 
Construction to begin on over 60 hydropower projects in five years
The above mentioned source indicated that the next five years will see construction start on major hydropower zones on the Jinsha River, the Yalong River, the Dadu River, the Lancang River, the Nujiang River, the upper main strem of the Yellow River, the Zangbo River in Tibet and one other river.
It is expected that during the 12th Five-year Plan period, the country’s hydroelectric production will reach about 87.5 million kilowatts. Within the large hydropower zones, the plants operating on main stem rivers that will go into operation are Xiluodu, Xiangjiaba, Jinping, Nuozadu, etc. They are expected to produce about 52 million kilowatts. Sichuan, Yunnan and other provinces in China will see about 35.5 million kilowatts generated by their hydroelectric plants on tributary rivers. By the end of 2015, the net estimated installed capacity of these plants is expected to reach about 284 million kilowatts. If this estimation is realized, China will be exploiting 71% of its available hydroelectric power: 100% of that from eastern and central China and about 54% of the available hydroelectric power in west China.
The development of pumped-storage hydroelectric plants will accelerate. A few days ago, the Energy Department issued a statement requesting a moderate acceleration in the construction of pumped-storage hydroelectric plants.
According to Zhang Boting, the Assistant Secretary General of the Chinese Society of Hydroelectric Engineering, the 12th Five-year Plan has adjusted the construction goal of pumped-storage hydroelectric plants from 50 to 80 million kilowatts.
Translator: Wang Wen
Proofreader: Madelyn Finucane

For-Profit Colleges Joined ALEC

For-profit colleges are the ultimate special interest. Many receive around 90 percent of their revenue from federal financial aid, more than $30 billion a year, and many charge students sky-high prices. In recent years, it has been fully documented that a large number of these schools have high dropouts rates and dismal job placement, and many have been caught engaging in highly coercive and deceptive recruiting practices. Yet when the bad actions of these predatory schools got publicly exposed, the schools simply used the enormous resources they've amassed to hire expensive lobbyists and consultants, and to make campaign contributions to politicians, in order to avoid accountability and keep taxpayer dollars pouring into their coffers.

UK: UK's wealthiest defy recession

Sunday Times Rich List suggests

 Lakshmi Mittal Mr Mittal retains top spot despite his company's share price crashing this year

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The UK's richest people have defied the double-dip recession to become even richer over the past year, according to the annual Sunday Times Rich List.
The newspaper's research found the combined worth of the country's 1,000 wealthiest people is £414bn, up 4.7%.
It means their joint wealth has passed the level last seen in 2008, before the financial crash, to set a new record.
Top spot for the eighth straight year is held by Indian steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal, 61, with £12.7bn.
There are now 77 billionaires on the list, with individuals needing to have at least £72m to make the top 1,000.
The richest billionaire of all, Mr Mittal, retains his position despite seeing 27% of his family fortune wiped out in the last 12 months because of a drop in the share price of their steel producing business.
The Mittal family have held the number one spot in the list since 2005.

Britain's richest top 10

  • Lakshmi Mittal and family - £12.7bn.
  • Alisher Usmanov - £12.3bn.
  • Roman Abramovich - £9.5bn.
  • Sri and Gopi Hinduja - £8.6bn.
  • Leonard Blavatnik - £7.58bn.
  • Ernesto and Kirsty Bertarelli - £7.4bn.
  • The Duke of Westminster - £7.35bn.
  • David and Simon Reuben - £7.08bn.
  • John Fredriksen and family - £6.6bn.
  • Galen and George Weston and family - £5.9bn.
Another person who has made money from the metal industry, Arsenal shareholder Alisher Usmanov, is second with £12.3bn, while Chelsea owner and oil baron Roman Abramovich is third with £9.5bn, despite being £800m down on last year.
The richest woman is former Miss UK Kirsty Bertarelli, who shares a £7.4bn fortune with her husband Ernesto, while the Duke of Westminster's property portfolio makes him worth £7.3bn.
Several leading British entrepreneurs, who are further down the list, have seen their wealth increase this year.
Diamond retailer Laurence Graff's wealth has risen to £3,300m while Sir Anthony Bamford, owner of the JCB earth-moving machinery firm, has seen his fortune go up to £3,150m.
Sir Paul McCartney (right) and new wife Nancy Shevell Sir Paul McCartney's wedding to heiress Nancy Shevell boosts his position in the list
Inventor Sir James Dyson, who created the bagless vacuum cleaner, has also seen his wealth increase, to £2,650m.
Some of Britain's best-known performers and artists have also seen their fortunes improve.
Sir Paul McCartney's recent marriage to his third wife Nancy Shevell, who is the daughter of an American trucking magnate, sees him become the third wealthiest man in British music, as their combined wealth is now rated at £665m.
The two people surpassing him are music executive Clive Calder, who is worth £1,350m, and theatre owner and producer Sir Cameron Mackintosh, whose fortune has gone up to £725m.
Harry Potter creator JK Rowling's worth has risen by £30m in the last year to £560m, putting her 148th on the list, and a new addition to the list is London-based founder of the Spotify music website Daniel Ek, ranked 395th with a fortune of £190m - the same amount as David and Victoria Beckham.

China: Chen Guangcheng's escape sparks round-up

Chen Guangcheng and Hu Jia appear together in photo released by Mr Hu's wife Zeng Jinyan on social network site Twitter Hu Jia (R) met Chen Guangcheng (L) after his escape, and was later detained

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Chinese authorities have begun to round up relatives and associates of blind activist Chen Guangcheng, who fled from house arrest last week, reports say.
Several people involved in Mr Chen's escape have been detained or have disappeared in recent days, and fellow activist Hu Jia is being questioned.
Mr Chen is believed to be sheltering at the US embassy in Beijing.
The US and international rights groups have frequently expressed alarm at the treatment of Mr Chen and his family.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has demanded his release in the past, is due in China this week for a previously arranged meeting which is now likely to be overshadowed by Mr Chen's case.
The US government has not so far commented publicly on the whereabouts of Mr Chen.
Analysts say the issue will be highly sensitive for both sides, and will not be easy to resolve.
If Mr Chen is in the embassy, his case will raise memories of an incident in 1989 when another prominent activist, Fang Lizhi, fled to the US mission in Beijing.
He remained there for more than a year while the two sides attempted to broker a deal.
'Shameful saga' Mr Chen was placed under house arrest in 2010 after spending more than four years in jail for disrupting traffic and damaging property.
He had exposed how local authorities in Linyi, Shandong province, forced thousands of women to have abortions or be sterilised as part of China's one-child policy.


  • In 1989 dissident scientist Fang Lizhi fled to US embassy in Beijing after supporting the Tiananmen protesters
  • He remained in embassy for 13 months while US and China argued over his fate
  • Beijing eventually allowed him to leave to seek medical treatment abroad
  • Spent the rest of his life in exile in US, dying in April 2012
His colleagues said last Sunday's escape had taken months to plan, and was carried out with the help of a network of friends and activists.
He scaled the wall that the authorities had built around his house, and was driven hundreds of miles to Beijing, where activists say he stayed in safe-houses before fleeing to the embassy.
His wife and six-year-old daughter remain under house arrest, but several of his family members have been detained and others are being sought by the authorities.
One of Mr Chen's friends, He Peirong - who wrote on her microblog that she had driven him to Beijing - is believed to have been detained in the city of Nanjing.
"I was actually talking to her and the last words she said were 'the PSB [Public Security Bureau] has arrived,'" said Bob Fu, of the US-based ChinaAid pressure group.
Her microblog was later deleted, and all searches on popular microblogging sites for Mr Chen's name and other related terms were being blocked by the censors.
On Saturday, the authorities detained Hu Jia, who had earlier told the BBC how he had met Mr Chen since his escape.
Mr Hu's wife, Zeng Jinyan, said late on Saturday that her husband's detention had been extended for a further 24 hours.
Chen Guangcheng directly addresses Premier Wen Jiabao in a video released after his escape
"I asked where Hu Jia would sleep, they said on a chair," she said.
The fate of other associates of Mr Chen also remains unclear, with reports claiming several have disappeared.
The treatment of Mr Chen and his family by local authorities has long been controversial.
Amnesty International regards him as a "prisoner of conscience" and has called on the authorities to end the "shameful saga" of his detention.

UK: London 2012: Missiles may be placed at residential flats

Resident Brian Wheelan: "It creates a lot of fear. It's a massive inconvenience"

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The Ministry of Defence is considering placing surface-to-air missiles on residential flats during the Olympics.
An east London estate, where 700 people live, has received leaflets saying a "Higher Velocity Missile system" could be placed on a water tower.
A spokesman said the MoD had not yet decided whether to deploy ground based air defence systems during the event.
But estate resident Brian Whelan said firing the missiles "would shower debris across the east end of London".
The journalist said: "At first I thought it was a hoax. I can't see what purpose high-velocity missiles could serve over a crowded area like Tower Hamlets.
"They say they'll only use them as a last resort, but... you'd shower debris across the east end of London by firing these missiles."
Test run
Mr Whelan, who claims to have seen soldiers carrying a crate into the building, said his property management company put up posters and gave out the leaflets on Saturday.
He continued: "They are going to have a test run next week, putting high velocity missiles on the roof just above our apartment and on the back of it they're stationing police and military in the tower of the building for two months.
"It [the leaflet] says there will be 10 officers plus police present 24/7."
Extract from MoD leaflet This part of the leaflet assures residents that their residence will not become a terrorist target
The leaflet states that members of the Armed Forces will be at the location for a military exercise between 2 and 7 May.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Israel : A Stroll Through Tel Aviv

By Maira Kalman — Bauhaus, bookstores, opinionated people, and strong coffee: On Israel Independence Day, a Tel Aviv-born artist captures the scenes of her native city  

Independence Day

Israel : A Stroll Through Tel Aviv

Bauhaus, bookstores, opinionated people, and strong coffee: On Israel Independence Day, a Tel Aviv-born artist captures the scenes of her native city

Spain's Collapse is No Little Thing

Friday, April 27, 2012 – by Staff Report

King Juan Carlos
S&P cuts Spain's credit rating by two notches to BBB+ ... Standard & Poor's cut Spain's sovereign debt rating Thursday by two notches, warning that the government's budget situation is worsening and that is likely to have to prop up its banks. S&P cut the country's rating to BBB-plus and added a negative outlook, saying it expected the Spanish economy to shrink both this year and next, raising more challenges for the government. Esther Barranco, a spokeswoman for the Economy Ministry, told Reuters: "They haven't taken into consideration the reforms put forward by the Spanish government, which will have a strong impact on Spain's economic situation." S&P also said that eurozone-wide polices were failing to boost confidence and stabilize capital flows, and that the region needed to find ways to directly support banks so that governments were not forced to take on those burdens themselves." – UK Telegraph
Dominant Social Theme: It's just a downgrade. Spain will bounce back.
Free-Market Analysis: Is Spain beginning to collapse and, perhaps, the EU with it?
For well over a thousand years, Spain has been at the epicenter of Europe and its fate has provided a bellwether for Europe's larger situation. And whither Europe goes, so goes the West.
Read More

Thailand: Life in Chiang Mai

INDIA: Col Rush

India: Unintended consequences: India's rape crisis

Unintended consequences: India's rape crisis - 101 East - Al Jazeera English

India’s burgeoning economy has a dark side: Cities across the country are struggling with rising cases of rape and sexual harassment.
Connect with 101 East
While growing numbers of women have joined the workforce, many are also being attacked by men used to a traditional patriarchal environment, breeding resentment and violence.
In New Delhi, commonly described as the "rape capital" of the country, women and men alike are fighting back in creative ways. A new emergency task force, a special women’s taxi service and even an anti-rape smartphone app have been created to tackle the rape crisis.

IDF girls

Isrel: Happy Independence Day!

Friday, April 27, 2012

UK: Miss Milner - A DISABLED woman has been left

Miss Milner suffers from spinal problems and is often bedbound.

Janis MilnerJanis Milner
Published on Thursday 26 April 2012 08:50
A DISABLED woman has been left lying in her own urine and faeces after her care support was suddenly stopped.
Janis Milner, 33, of Stainland, has been tearful and distressed since being left without any dignity since Saturday.
She is incontinent and has little control over her bowel movements.
Her commode was left overflowing and she has had to use her washing-up bowl.
Miss Milner suffers from spinal problems and is often bedbound.
She has no feeling in her right leg and only 30 per cent feeling in the other.
Her disabilities have worsened since a car accident in 1999 and she did have carers calling three times daily.
Social services have been involved in meeting her needs through a healthcare company which included personal care, cleaning, and on good days outings to the shops.
Miss Milner said social services had told her they had been trying to contact her and if she didn’t return calls her care would be stopped and that happened.
But, Miss Milner, said no messages have been left on her mobile – for which they have the number – and her home phone isn’t working.
And, both organisations knew of her disabilities and it was wrong to cut-off her support withhout making alternative arrangements.
“It’s neglet. Utter neglect and I have been inconsolable,” said a tearful Miss Milner, who lives alone and doesn’t have family locally.
“I have just been left. If it wasn’t for my friends I would have been left with nothing other than Careline which have been fantastic but it’s not their job to empty my commode.”
Last Saturday night Miss Milner had to leave her door unlocked as she didn’t know if callers would know her keysafe number to gain access.
“If I fell someone would have needed to get access and with being downstairs I couldn’t sleep. If anyone I didn’t know came in what could I have done?”
Miss Milner was previously a finance manager and sporty with horse-riding and rugby among her interests.
After the accident she began to get back pain from bulging discs in her lower back which eventually virtually went through her spinal cord.
Treatment is still ongoing but her condition is expected to deteriorate further.
She has complained about her predicament but is still waiting for the issue to be resolved.
Miss Milner said social services want her to switch to a direct payment scheme for which she would be given a budget to organise her own care needs.
“I think I am being bullied to get something down about that and that is horrendous,” she said.
“For people to consciously take the decision they have I can’t get my head around it.
“If I didn’t have friends I would still be lying here in my own urine and faeces.”
Calderdale Council hid behind protocol and refused to comment in full or accept any responsibility for Miss Milner’s plight.
Instead, Director of Adults Health and Social Care, Bev Maybury, issued a brief statement: “The council never discusses the details of individual clients’ cases,” she said.
“However, what we would say is that, rather than narrowing clients’ choices in the way that they receive their care, we always try to increase the amount of choice available.
“Where clients do encounter problems and need urgent assistance, then there is an emergency number that they can contact, which is: 0845 1111 137.”

Rare Louis Armstrong recording released

Louis Armstrong in 'Louis Armstrong And His All Stars' on BBC2 on 2 August 1968 The recording includes classics such as Hello Dolly, Mack the Knife and Rocking Chair

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A rare recording of one of the last live performances by jazz trumpeter Louis Armstrong has been made public.
The star played at the National Press Club in Washington DC, against the advice of his doctors, in January 1971, just over five months before he died.
The What A Wonderful World singer had been in ill health because of heart and kidney trouble, but felt strong enough to play five songs at the event.
His performance has been released as a digital download and on CD.
The move was prompted by the press club discovering a rare LP of the event.
Those who attended the show, which was hosted by the British journalist David Frost, were given vinyl copies of the recording.
But the LP, which includes classics such as Hello Dolly, Mack the Knife and Rocking Chair, had become largely forgotten over the decades.
The liner notes included Armstrong's favourite recipes, such as Louisiana caviar and a New Orleans cocktail.
For most of the previous year, the jazz star had been too sick to pick up the instrument with which he helped define American music.

Guinea-Bissau: profile

Map of Guinea-Bissau
Once hailed as a potential model for African development, Guinea-Bissau is now one of the poorest countries in the world.
It has a massive foreign debt and an economy which relies heavily on foreign aid.
Compounding this, the country experienced a bitter civil war in the late 1990s in which thousands were killed, wounded and displaced.
Formerly Portuguese Guinea, Guinea-Bissau won independence from Portugal in 1974 after a long struggle spearheaded by the left-wing African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC). For the next six years post-independence leader Luis Cabral presided over a command economy.

At a glance

Workers processing cashew nuts
  • Politics: This former Portuguese colony has suffered a civil war and several coups, the latest one being in April 2012
  • Economy: Political instability and mismanagement have undermined the economy. Country is dependent on primary crops - mainly cashew nuts - and subsistence agriculture. Government often struggles to pay wages.
  • International: Country has become transhipment point for Latin American drugs; army clashed with Senegal's Casamance separatists in 2006
Country profiles compiled by BBC Monitoring
In 1980 he was overthrown by his army chief, Joao Vieira, who accused him of corruption and mismanagement. Mr Vieira led the country towards a market economy and a multi-party system, but was accused of crony capitalism, corruption and autocracy. In 1994 he was chosen as president in Guinea-Bissau's first free elections.
Four years later he was ousted after he dismissed his army chief, thereby triggering a crippling civil war. This eventually ended after foreign mediation led to a truce, policed by West African peacekeepers, and free elections in January 2000.
The victor in the poll, Kumba Yala, was ousted in a bloodless military coup in September 2003. The military chief who led the coup said the move was, in part, a response to the worsening economic and political situation.
Mr Vieira won the 2005 elections but his rule was brought to a bloody end in March 2009, when renegade soldiers entered his palace and shot him dead, reportedly to avenge the killing hours earlier of the army chief, a rival of the president.
The country's vital cashew nut crop provides a modest living for most of Guinea-Bissau's farmers and is the main source of foreign exchange.
Guinea-Bissau is also a major hub for cocaine smuggled from Latin America to Europe. Several senior military figures are alleged to be involved in the trafficking of narcotics, prompting fears that the drugs trade could further destabilise an already volatile country.
Guinea-Bissau parliament Guinea-Bissau's parliament in the capital Bissau

Guinea-Bissau leaders seized in coup are freed

Carlos Gomes Junior (file image) Carlos Gomes Junior was considered the front-runner in the presidential election

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Troops in the West African country of Guinea-Bissau have freed the interim president and ex-prime minister seized in a coup.
Former PM Carlos Gomes Junior and interim President Raimundo Pereira have been flown to Ivory Coast's commercial capital of Abidjan, officials said.
The coup leaders have also agreed to a 12-month transition to civilian rule, as demanded by regional bloc Ecowas.
The army seized power during a presidential election on 12 April.
The soldiers claimed that Mr Gomes - who was considered the front-runner in the election - planned to reduce the size of the army.
The BBC's John James, in Ivory Coast, says both freed men are due to meet Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara over the weekend, after more than two weeks of detention.
On arrival at Abidjan airport they were welcomed by Ivory Coast's Foreign Minister Daniel Kablan Duncan and African Integration Minister Adama Bictogo, an AFP reporter there said.
Mr Pereira thanked President Ouattara, the current head of Ecowas, for his role in their release.
Earlier, Ecowas leaders agreed to send troops to Guinea-Bissau - and also Mali - following coups in both countries.
Ecowas warned Guinea-Bissau's coup leaders on Thursday that they faced targeted sanctions if they failed to agree to the deployment of troops within 72 hours.
The bloc said it expected both countries to hold presidential elections within the next 12 months.
No elected leader in nearly 40 years of independence has finished their time in office in the former Portuguese colony.
Guinea-Bissau has become a major staging post for gangs smuggling cocaine from Latin America to Europe.

China: dissident Chen Guangcheng 'in US embassy'

Chen Guangcheng and Hu Jia appear together in photo released by Mr Hu's wife Zeng Jinyan on social network site Twitter Chen Guangcheng and Hu Jia appear together in a photo released by Mr Hu's wife Zeng Jinyan

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China dissident Chen Guangcheng is in the US embassy in Beijing following his dramatic escape from house arrest, fellow activist Hu Jia has told the BBC.
Mr Hu said Mr Chen - who is blind - had scaled a high wall and was driven hundreds of kilometres to Beijing.
Mr Chen escaped on Sunday, activists say, and has since released a video addressed to Prime Minister Wen Jiabao.
There are reports that his brother and nephew have now been held by police.
The rights group Human Rights in China quoted a source who knew about Mr Chen, and said his nephew Chen Kegui was taken away from his home by more than 30 police officers.
The UN human rights chief Navi Pillay said she was concerned for the wellbeing of Mr Chen and his family, who live in Dongshigu town, Shandong province.
"I'm disturbed to hear reports that other family members, including his brother Chen Guangfu and nephew Chen Kegui, have now been detained," she said in a statement.
The US state department has refused to comment on the claim that Mr Chen is in its embassy. The US embassy in Beijing has also not commented.

Start Quote

Around midnight, about two hours ago, they entered our property by jumping over the enclosed walls, they pried open the locks and kicked on the doors”
Chen Kegui Nephew of Chen Guangcheng, who lives in same town
Unidentified raiders
Blogger Yaxue Cao says he spoke to Chen Kegui on Friday at about 01:30 local time (Thursday 17:30 GMT), and he has transcribed the interview on his blog Seeing Red in China.
The transcript suggests that at the time of the interview Chen Guangfu had already been detained.
Chen Kegui was awaiting police arrest, having initially resisted an attempt to detain him by unidentified men less than two hours before by slashing at them with kitchen knives.
"Around midnight, about two hours ago, they entered our property by jumping over the enclosed walls, they pried open the locks and kicked on the doors. I heard my mother crying inside, helplessly: 'Please don't come in! Please don't come in!'"
Chen Kegui, who often sobs during the interview, insists: "I did not take knives to go out to kill anyone. I was defending myself in my own home. They attempted to apprehend me without showing any warrant."
Chen Guangcheng uses the video posted on YouTube to confirm he was under house arrest
The interview ends with Mr Chen saying: "I don't know whether the police are coming. Perhaps they will send a sniper to kill me. They would accuse me of killing. It's all possible."
Demands Chen Guangcheng, 40, was placed under house arrest after being released from a four-year jail sentence in 2010. Reports suggest authorities only realised he had escaped on Thursday.
Mr Hu - a friend of Mr Chen and himself a prominent activist and dissident - said he had met him in the last 72 hours, since his escape.
He said Mr Chen had fled to the US embassy in Beijing.

Chen Guangcheng

  • Born 12 Nov 1971
  • Nickname: The Barefoot Lawyer
  • Went blind as a child
  • Campaigned for women forced to have abortions or sterilisation under China's one child per family policy
  • Jailed for four years in 2006 for disrupting traffic and damaging property
  • Released from jail in 2010 placed under house arrest
  • Daughter barred from school during much of 2011, reports say
  • Escapes house arrest, April 2012
In his video addressed to Prime Minister Wen, delivered from a darkened room, Mr Chen said outwitting his guards had not been easy.
In the appeal, posted online by Boxun, a Chinese dissident news website based in the United States, he asks that:
  • Prime Minister Wen investigate and prosecute local officials Mr Chen says beat up his family members
  • The safety of his family be ensured
  • Corruption in general in China be dealt with and punished according to the law
The Chinese authorities have come under international criticism for their treatment of him. At one point his daughter was barred from school. Many sympathisers who have tried to visit his home say they have been beaten up.
A self-schooled legal activist, Mr Chen is known for revealing rights abuses under China's one-child policy and has accused officials in Shandong province of forcing 7,000 women into abortions or sterilisations.
The plight of Mr Chen has become famous around the world. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has repeatedly called for his release and is due to visit Beijing next week.
He Peirong, another China-based activist who had also campaigned for Chen Guangcheng, has also been detained at her home in Nanjing according to other activists.
The Chen affair comes at an unwelcome time for China's leaders, who have been embroiled in a lurid political scandal involving disgraced former party boss Bo Xilai.

Spain: unemployment hits record 5.64 million

Unemployed people in Spain describe their hunt for work
Spanish unemployment has hit a new record high, official figures have shown.
The number of unemployed people reached 5,639,500 at the end of March, with the unemployment rate hitting 24.4%, the national statistics agency said.
The figures came hours after rating agency Standard & Poor's downgraded Spanish sovereign debt.
Official figures due out on Monday are expected to confirm that Spain has fallen back into recession.
Earlier this week, the Bank of Spain said the economy contracted by 0.4% in first three months of this year, after shrinking by 0.3% in the final quarter of last year.
Other figures released on Friday showed that Spanish retail sales were down 3.7% in March from the same point a year ago, the 21st month in row sales have fallen.
'Huge crisis' In the first three months of the year, 365,900 people in Spain lost their jobs.
The country has the highest unemployment rate in the European Union and it is expected to rise further this year.

Start Quote

The recession is so deep that when you take one step forward on austerity, it takes you two steps back”
Stephen King Chief economist, HSBC
The rate has risen sharply since April 2007, when it stood at 7.9%.
"The figures are terrible for everyone and terrible for the government... Spain is in a crisis of huge proportions," Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo said.
The new government has announced reforms to the labour market, including cutting back on severance pay and restricting inflation-linked salary increases, that it hopes will ease the problem.
These measures have angered unions, which have organised widespread general strikes in protest.
The government has also introduced drastic spending cuts designed to reduce its debt levels and meet deficit targets agreed with the European Union. These cuts are contributing to Spain's economic contraction.
"In Spain today, a cycle similar to Greece is starting to develop," said HSBC chief economist Stephen King.
"The recession is so deep that when you take one step forward on austerity, it takes you two steps back."
The interest rate, or yield, on Spanish government bonds traded in the secondary market rose following the release of the unemployment figures and the S&P downgrade.
The yield on 10-year bonds rose to 5.96%, up from 5.81%, suggesting investors were becoming more wary of Spain's ability to repay its debts.
Also on Friday, the interest rate Italy has to pay to borrow money from international investors rose. In a sale of 10-year bonds, the government offered a rate of 5.84% compared with 5.24% at a similar sale a month earlier.
However, the government raised 5.95bn euros ($7.88bn; £4.85bn), towards the top end of its target range.
'Comprehensive' reforms Late on Thursday night, the ratings agency Standard & Poor's cut Spain's rating by two notches to BBB+, warning that the country might have to take on more debt to support its banking sector.
S&P predicts the Spanish economy will shrink by 1.5% this year, having previously forecast 0.3% growth.
However, the agency did make a number of positive comments about the government's attempts to bolster Spain's economy.
"We believe that the new government has been front-loading and implementing a comprehensive set of structural reforms, which should support economic growth over the longer term," S&P said.
"In particular, authorities have implemented a comprehensive reform of the Spanish labour market, which we believe could significantly reduce many of the existing structural rigidities and improve the flexibility in wage setting."

Oslo: 40 000 people sing to denounce Breivik

40,000 Norwegians Sing Out in Defiance and Love

“It is we who win”

- Common Dreams staff
Tens of thousands of Norwegians marched beneath pouring rain in Oslo today, converging at Central Square to sing together a Norwegian version of American folk music singer Pete Seeger's "Rainbow Race" in a moving protest against mass killer Anders Behring Breivik, who murdered 77 Norwegians last year in the name of eliminating "multiculturalism" and leftist ideologies.
Some 40,000 people stand in pouring rain in Oslo's Youngstorget square to participate in the singing of "Barn av Regnbuen" (Children of the Rainbow), April 26, 2012. (AP) The song -- the Norwegian version translates as "Children of the Rainbow" -- extols the type of multicultural society Breivik has said he despised and one that he specifically mentioned during his trial last week as "Marxist propaganda", triggering a Facebook initiative for today's protest.
Norwegian folk singer Lillebjørn Nilsen guided the song with his ukulele as the rose-carrying and umbrella-laden crowd of an estimated 40,000 sang along.
"Shocked by Breivik's lack of remorse for his massacre," writes the Associated Press, "Norwegians by and large have decided the best way to confront him is by demonstrating their commitment to everything he loathes. Instead of raging against the gunman, they have manifested their support for tolerance and democracy."
One blue sky above us
One ocean lapping all our shore
One earth so green and round
Who could ask for more
And because I love you
I'll give it one more try
To show my rainbow race
It's too soon to die.
Some folks want to be like an ostrich,
Bury their heads in the sand.
Some hope that plastic dreams
Can unclench all those greedy hands.
Some hope to take the easy way:
Poisons, bombs. They think we need 'em.
Don't you know you can't kill all the unbelievers?
There's no shortcut to freedom.
Go tell, go tell all the little children.
Tell all the mothers and fathers too.
Now's our last chance to learn to share
What's been given to me and you.
*  *  *

The NSA Is Watching You

Three targeted Americans: A career government intelligence official, a filmmaker and a hacker. None of these U.S. citizens was charged with a crime, but they have been tracked, surveilled, detained—sometimes at gunpoint—and interrogated, with no access to a lawyer. Each remains resolute in standing up to the increasing government crackdown on dissent.(Photo by CC-BY)
The intelligence official: William Binney worked for almost 40 years at the secretive National Security Agency (NSA), the U.S. spy agency that dwarfs the CIA. As technical director of the NSA’s World Geopolitical and Military Analysis Reporting Group, Binney told me, he was tasked to “see how we could solve collection, analysis and reporting on military and geopolitical issues all around the world, every country in the world.” Throughout the 1990s, the NSA developed a massive eavesdropping system code-named ThinThread, which, Binney says, maintained crucial protections on the privacy of U.S. citizens demanded by the U.S. Constitution. He recalled, “After 9/11, all the wraps came off for NSA,” as massive domestic spying became the norm. He resigned on Oct. 31, 2001.
Along with several other NSA officials, Binney reported his concerns to Congress and to the Department of Defense. Then, in 2007, as then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was being questioned on Capitol Hill about the very domestic spying to which Binney objected, a dozen FBI agents charged into his house, guns drawn. They forced aside his son and found Binney, a diabetic amputee, in the shower. They pointed their guns at his head, then led him to his back porch and interrogated him.
Three others were raided that morning. Binney called the FBI raid “retribution and intimidation so we didn’t go to the Judiciary Committee in the Senate and tell them, ‘Well, here’s what Gonzales didn’t tell you, OK.’ ” Binney was never charged with any crime.
The filmmaker: Laura Poitras is an Academy Award-nominated documentary filmmaker, whose recent films include “My Country, My Country,” about the U.S. occupation of Iraq, and “The Oath,” which was filmed in Yemen. Since 2006, Poitras has been detained and questioned at airports at least 40 times. She has had her computer and reporter’s notebooks confiscated and presumably copied, without a warrant. The most recent time, April 5, she took notes during her detention. The agents told her to stop, as they considered her pen a weapon.
She told me: “I feel like I can’t talk about the work that I do in my home, in my place of work, on my telephone, and sometimes in my country. So the chilling effect is huge. It’s enormous."
The hacker: Jacob Appelbaum works as a computer security researcher for the nonprofit organization the Tor Project (, which is a free software package that allows people to browse the Internet anonymously, evading government surveillance. Tor was actually created by the U.S. Navy, and is now developed and maintained by Appelbaum and his colleagues. Tor is used by dissidents around the world to communicate over the Internet. Tor also serves as the main way that the controversial WikiLeaks website protects those who release documents to it. Appelbaum has volunteered for WikiLeaks, leading to intense U.S. government surveillance.
Appelbaum spoke in place of Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, at a conference called Hackers on Planet Earth, or HOPE, as people feared Assange would be arrested. He started his talk by saying: “Hello to all my friends and fans in domestic and international surveillance. I’m here today because I believe that we can make a better world.” He has been detained at least a dozen times at airports: “I was put into a special room, where they frisked me, put me up against the wall. ... Another one held my wrists. ... They implied that if I didn’t make a deal with them, that I’d be sexually assaulted in prison. ... They took my cellphones, they took my laptop. They wanted, essentially, to ask me questions about the Iraq War, the Afghan War, what I thought politically.”
I asked Binney if he believed the NSA has copies of every email sent in the U.S. He replied, “I believe they have most of them, yes.”
Binney said two senators, Ron Wyden and Mark Udall, have expressed concern, but have not spoken out, as, Binney says, they would lose their seats on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Meanwhile, Congress is set to vote on the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, or CISPA. Proponents of Internet freedom are fighting the bill, which they say will legalize what the NSA is secretly doing already.
Members of Congress, fond of quoting the country’s founders, should recall these words of Benjamin Franklin before voting on CISPA: “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.
Amy Goodman
Amy Goodman is the host of "Democracy Now!," a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 900 stations in North America. She was awarded the 2008 Right Livelihood Award, dubbed the “Alternative Nobel” prize, and received the award in the Swedish Parliament in December.