The protests that led to the Egyptian revolution last year were organized in part by Wael Ghonim, who used an anonymous Facebook page to coordinate the demonstrations. In his new book, Ghonim explains how social media helped transform his country.
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Katherine Boo spent more than three years in Mumbai's Annawadi slum to do research for her new book, Behind the Beautiful Forevers. Residents of the slum — which is located next to the Mumbai airport and in the shadow of several luxury hotels — live in devastating poverty. [NPR]
Russian police don't take kindly to opposition protesters – even if they're 5cm high and made of plastic.
Police in the Siberian city of Barnaul have asked prosecutors to investigate the legality of a recent protest that saw dozens of small dolls – teddy bears, Lego men, South Park figurines – arranged to mimic a protest, complete with signs reading: "I'm for clean elections" and "A thief should sit in jail, not in the Kremlin".
"Political opposition forces are using new technologies to carry out public events – using toys with placards at mini-protests," Andrei Mulintsev, the city's deputy police chief, said at a press conference this week, according to local media. "In our opinion, this is still an unsanctioned public event."
Reports about Apple's behavior in China, conducted by way of its Taiwanese intermediaries at Foxconn, have been coming out for a number of years now. But perhaps none were as damning as the monster New York Times article that was just published. A few key allegations should be highlighted.
1) While Apple has been tediously slow to enforce its own worker guidelines at Foxconn, the leading supplier for iPad and iPhone assembly, lives have been needlessly lost.
"Two years ago, 137 workers at an Apple supplier in eastern China were injured after they were ordered to use a poisonous chemical to clean iPhone screens. Within seven months last year, two explosions at iPad factories, including in Chengdu, killed four people and injured 77. Before those blasts, Apple had been alerted to hazardous conditions inside the Chengdu plant, according to a Chinese group that published that warning."
2) While workers have been toiling at 72-hour work weeks, sometimes at less than Chinese minimum wage, Apple has posted record profits.
"Tuesday, Apple reported one of the most lucrative quarters of any corporation in history, with $13.06 billion in profits on $46.3 billion in sales."
3) Apple's complicity in Foxconn's abuse of its workers has not been incidental.
"We’ve known about labor abuses in some factories for four years, and they’re still going on,' said one former Apple executive who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity because of confidentiality agreements. 'Why? Because the system works for us. Suppliers would change everything tomorrow if Apple told them they didn’t have another choice... If half of iPhones were malfunctioning, do you think Apple would let it go on for four years?'"
4) Steve Jobs sought to mislead the public about the actual conditions at Foxconn (well-documented by Apple, which has regular audits) telling attendees at a conference, "I mean, you go to this place, and, it’s a factory, but, my gosh, I mean, they’ve got restaurants and movie theaters and hospitals and swimming pools, and I mean, for a factory, it’s a pretty nice factory."
For government officials in Huili, a distinctly modest county in a rural corner of south-west China, attracting national media coverage would normally seem a dream come true. Unfortunately, their moment in the spotlight was not so welcome: mass ridicule over what may well be one of the worst-doctored photographs in internet history...
The EastSouthNorthWest (translation) blog quotes this excerpt from Southern Metropolis Daily:
On the evening of June 26, an Internet user made a post titled <Too fake: the propaganda photo for our county> at the Tianya Forum. "I had nothing to do today so I visited the website for our county government. The headline story was about the upgrade for the road to the countryside. I looked at the photo and I almost coughed out half a liter of blood! Even a rank amateur like myself can tell that this was a PhotoShop job, and they had the nerve to put this on the home page!" The post included a screen capture of a photo, in which three men were "floating" over a road. There were clear indications that this was a composite job. According to the caption: "County mayor Li Ningyi and vice-mayor Tang Xiaobing are inspecting the newly constructed country road at Lihong Town." This post drew plenty of readers, and the Huili County Government website was even down for a while because of the heavy traffic volume.
On the afternoon of June 27, our reader interviewed the Huili County Government publicity department director Zhang Yongzhi. According to Zhang, several county leaders went out to inspect the road. An accompanying worker took some photos for the record. But when it came to posting onto the website, the worker decided that "the background of the original photo did not look very good" so a decision was made to crop the leaders onto a different background. The Huili County Government has removed all relevant information and reprimanded the worker who handled the photo. The Huili County Government issued an apology at the Tianya Forum and the Sina.com Weibo.
Still waiting for a Photoshop artist to draw them walking on water.
With an impending European visit by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, Ai’s release served a strategic purpose and came after weeks of intense international pressure. Both Britain and Germany had lobbied vociferously on Ai’s behalf; on the façade of the Tate Modern museum in London, huge letters spelled out “Release Ai Weiwei,” and at the recent art fair in Basel, Switzerland, visitors perused avant-garde artwork, wearing paper masks of his face. “They just had to free him,” says a European ambassador to China, requesting anonymity. Otherwise, “this would have been a trip about Ai Weiwei and nothing else.
The first tightening came when Chinese security forces began to "tidy" the city in preparation for the 2008 Beijing Olympics and its thousands of international visitors. Among those tidied away was Hu Jia, an Aids activist who concluded that the authorities' lack of respect for Aids patients and orphans was rooted in a disregard of human rights. He was imprisoned for fear he might embarrass the authorities during the Games.
It was pretty minor stuff. Among others arrested were people protesting at being forced from their homes for Games redevelopment. Two elderly women were given "re-education" sentences merely for requesting permission to demonstrate. In the months that followed there was low-level harassment of lawyers who acted for such victims.
But it was with the award of the Nobel prize to Liu Xiaobo last October that things moved up a gear. Beijing reacted angrily, blocking all foreign news broadcasts into China.