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[liberationtech] Weekly News Update

Yosem Companys companys at
Sun Aug 16 21:14:18 PDT 2009

Dear friends,

Please find a collection of news articles from this past week on Liberation
technologies, or their derivatives, in the US and developing countries.




  88% of Electronics Exports Reused, Not Dumped
*Posted by timothy <> on Sunday August 16,
*from the well-at-first-anyhow dept.*
 [image: Earth] <>[image:
Technology] <>
retroworks <> writes*"
staff covered a study which sheds more light on the controversial practice
of exporting used computer equipment
University of Arizona professors Ramzy Kahhat and Eric Williams newly
published research, Product or Waste? Importation and End-of-Life Processing
of Computers in Peru <> apparently
confirms what says in the Video 'Fair Trade
Namely, that most of the exports of used computers imported by buyers
overseas (88%) are really for reuse and repair. Otherwise, people would not
pay to import them. This bolsters pro-export arguments made in a scholarly
article by Charles Schmidt of NIH in
Perhaps what is needed to stem e-waste pollution is not a ban on exports,
but for more people to export, so that buyers have more choice of (ethical)
suppliers. Put another way: If used computer exports are outlawed, only
outlaws will export used computers."*


*'Uh-Oh They're Here'*
A persistent blogger annoys police -- and winds up in jail.

Monday, August 10, 2009

A 34-YEAR-OLD woman, the mother of a 12-year-old girl, has been locked up in
a Virginia jail for three weeks and could remain there for at least another
month. Her crime? Blogging about the police.

Elisha Strom, who appears unable to make the $750 bail, was arrested outside
Charlottesville on July 16 when police raided her house, confiscating
notebooks, computers and camera equipment. Although the Charlottesville
police chief, Timothy J. Longo Sr., had previously written to Ms. Strom
warning her that her blog posts were interfering with the work of a local
drug enforcement task force, she was not charged with obstruction of justice
or any similar offense. Rather, she was indicted on a single count of
identifying a police officer with intent to harass, a felony under state

It's fair to say that Ms. Strom was unusually focused on the Jefferson Area
Drug Enforcement task force, a 14-year-old unit drawn mainly from the police
departments of Charlottesville, Albemarle County and the University of
Virginia. (Her blog at, expresses the view
that the task force is "nothing more than a group of arrogant thugs.") In a
nearly year-long barrage of blog posts, she published snapshots she took in
public of many or most of the task force's officers; detailed their comings
and goings by following them in her car; mused about their habits and looks;
hinted that she may have had a personal relationship with one of them; and,
in one instance, reported that she had tipped off a local newspaper about
their movements.

Predictably, this annoyed law enforcement officials, who, it's fair to
guess, comprised much of her readership before her arrest. But what seems to
have sent them over the edge -- and skewed their judgment -- is Ms. Strom's
decision to post the name and address of one of the officers with a
street-view photo of his house.

All this information was publicly available, including the photograph, which
Ms. Strom gleaned from municipal records. The task force's officers may have
worked undercover on occasion, but one wonders about their undercover
abilities, given that Ms. Strom was able to out them so consistently. Chief
Longo warned Ms. Strom that her blog posts were scaring off informants and
endangering the officers and their families, but he provided no evidence. At
no point did Ms. Strom's blog express a threat, explicit or otherwise, to
police or their sources.

Ms. Strom is not the most sympathetic symbol of free-speech rights. She has
previously advocated creating a separate, all-white nation, and her blog
veers from the whimsical to the self-righteous to the bizarre. But the real
problem here is the Virginia statute, in which an overly broad, ill-defined
ban on harassment-by-identification, specifically in regard to police
officers, seems to criminalize just about anything that might irritate

It should not be a crime to annoy the cops, whose raid on Ms. Strom's house
looks more like a fit of pique than an act of law enforcement. Some of her
postings may have consisted of obnoxious speech, but they were nonetheless
speech and constitutionally protected. That would hold true right up through
her last blog post, written as the police raid on her home began at 7 a.m.:
"Uh-Oh They're Here."

 Dumpster diving + computer = 100 trees

*DOBBS FERRY, New York (CNN)* -- Jude Ndambuki teaches high school
chemistry, but when he's not in class, you might find him Dumpster diving
for discarded computers.
 [image: Jude Ndambuki's Help Kenya Project provides refurbished computers
for Kenyan students.]

Jude Ndambuki's Help Kenya Project provides refurbished computers for Kenyan
 [image: Click to view previous
1 of 3
[image: Click to view next

For the past eight years, the Kenya native has been refurbishing computers,
printers and other electronic educational resources otherwise headed for
landfills, then sending them to grateful students back home.

"The children in Kenya have very few resources; even a pencil is very hard
to get," said Ndambuki, 51, who lives in the New York City suburb of Dobbs
Ferry. "Being one of the kids who actually experienced very dire poverty in
Kenya, I feel any part that I can play to make the life of kids better, I
better do it."

In lieu of compensation for the considerable time, expertise and expenses he
devotes to his Help Kenya Project <>, Ndambuki
asks that recipients plant 100 trees for every computer they receive. By
connecting computer recycling, educational development and environmental
conservation, he hopes to encourage a greener, more prosperous future for
his country.

The Help Kenya Project has provided more than 2,000 refurbished computers to
Kenya's schools and planted more than 150,000 trees. [image: Video]Watch
Ndambuki and his Help Kenya Project in action

"Many of the schools that I give computers [to] in
Kenya<> have
not seen computers before. So we're bringing them closer to the
development," explained Ndambuki, adding that without this opportunity, some
of those schools might have gone another 20 years without touching a

"It's like giving the kids new life," he said. "Computers are getting new
life, and trees are being planted to bring a new life, too. It's all

*Finding treasure in the trash*

"Growing up was not easy" for Ndambuki, who said he became a teacher to help
children who are struggling the way he did.

The second of eight children raised by a widowed mother, Ndambuki attended
school at the expense of his older brother; he quit because the family
couldn't afford both boys' education.

Ndambuki was appointed principal at a Kenya high school where he befriended
American exchange students who helped bring him to the United States to
further his education. In 1997, he arrived with his wife and two children
for his new teaching post in a Dobbs Ferry private school.

On a late-night walk home from continuing-education classes, he passed a
computer thrown out on the curb for trash collection. He brought it home,
where he found it was in perfect working order. It struck Ndambuki that the
machines ending up in landfills could offer life-altering opportunities for
children in his homeland.

"It all came together," recalled Ndambuki. "Kids in Kenya need to know
technology. It's the way of the world, and they will be left behind without
it. I am determined to prepare them for office jobs instead of field work."

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
estimates that 98 percent of Kenya's public primary schools and 80 percent
of public high schools lack computers. And 70 percent of Kenya's energy is
derived from charcoal and firewood culled from the country's forests,
according to the UN Environment Programme.

"There's a lot of trees that are cut every year," Ndambuki said. "We find
the land becomes bare, a lot of erosion of the soil takes place. So we need
trees to be planted."

The trees also help protect the computers from dust blowing in through the
classroom windows, he said.

Ndambuki ships a 40-foot container loaded with hundreds of refurbished
computers to Kenya for distribution once a year. He and a few of his
chemistry students often tinker with computer parts after classes, spending
hours refurbishing, packing and preparing the shipments. Each Kenya school
receives an average of five computers.

To ensure that private data of the computers' former owners is not
accessible to new users, the Help Kenya Project wipes that information from
the machines, loads them with necessary memory and restores them to
functioning order.

Every two years, Ndambuki visits recipient schools to show teachers and
students the basics of computer programming and maintenance. Some of his
American students accompany him and help teach the computer classes. [image:
Video]Watch Ndambuki trade technology for trees in his native Kenya village

In addition, Ndambuki joins students, teachers and members of their
communities to plant trees.

"While I'm doing this project, I feel so much connection with the kids in
Kenya," he said. "I'm not just gone to America to enjoy the good life. This
has been a very nice bridge for me so that I can feel I've not left them."

*Want to get involved? Check out the **Help Kenya
* and see how to help.


U.S. tests system to break foreign Web censorship
Thu Aug 13, 2009 7:09pm EDT

  By Jim Finkle<>

BOSTON (Reuters) - The U.S. government is covertly testing technology in
China and Iran <> that lets
residents break through screens set up by their governments to limit access
to news on the Internet.

The "feed over email" (FOE) system delivers news, podcasts and data via
technology that evades web-screening protocols of restrictive regimes, said
Ken Berman, head of IT at the U.S. government's Broadcasting Board of
Governors, which is testing the system.

The news feeds are sent through email accounts including those operated by
Google Inc, Microsoft Corp's Hotmail and Yahoo Inc.

"We have people testing it in China and
said Berman, whose agency runs Voice of America. He provided few details on
the new system, which is in the early stages of testing. He said some
secrecy was important to avoid detection by the two governments.

The Internet has become a powerful tool for citizens in countries where
governments regularly censor news media, enabling them to learn about and
react to major social and political events.

Young Iran <>ians used social
networking services Facebook and Twitter as well as mobile phones to
coordinate protests and report on demonstrations in the wake of the
country's disputed presidential election in June.

In May, ahead of the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown, the
Chinese government blocked access to Twitter and Hotmail.

Sho Ho, who helped develop FOE, said in an email that the system could be
tweaked easily to work on most types of mobile phones.

The U.S. government also offers a free service that allows overseas users to
access virtually any site on the Internet, including those opposing the
United States.

"We don't make any political statement about what people visit," Berman
said. "We are trying to impart the value: 'The more you know, the better.'
People can look for themselves."

In addition to China and Iran<>,
targets for the FOE technology include Myanmar, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and
Vietnam, he said.

Berman, however, said there would be modest filtering of pornography on the
system. "There is a limit to how much (U.S.) taxpayers should have to pay
for," he said.

 Young Muslims turn to technology to connect, challenge traditions
 By Manav Tanneeru

*(CNN) *-- Esra'a al Shafei, a recent university graduate in Bahrain, is
young, Muslim and frustrated.

The 23-year-old says the complexity of who she is as a Muslim is being
distorted by extremists and the media coverage of them.

Channeling her frustration, she started, a Web site she
describes as a place for young people in the region to "show a different
side of our religion" and discuss topics big and small, taboo and not.

She represents a generation of Muslims who are using technology to express
themselves, connect with others, challenge traditional power structures and
create an identity in an era when Islamic extremists often grab the

"I think the word that clearly defines the younger generation and also
separates them from their parents is 'globalized,'" said Reza Aslan, the
author of two books on Islam, including the recently published "How to Win a
Cosmic War: God, Globalization and the End of the War on Terror."

Access to technology <> lags in
countries with large Muslim populations compared with Europe and the United
States. Access also varies between those countries depending on a variety of
factors such as governmental control and economic development.

But the numbers of people using the Web and cell phones are growing -- and
quickly. "The percentage increases of Internet users in places like Iran,
Pakistan and Egypt are astronomical during the past five years," Aslan said.

A recent study by Forrester Research predicted growth rates for Web usage
would continue to soar in the region during the next five years.

*A battle over interpretation*

Al Shafei, who spoke to CNN by phone from Bahrain, said her
Islamic<> identity
was partly shaped by a childhood that included Christian classmates and
American and British teachers.

She also grew up in a country that was relatively progressive enough to
appoint a female Jewish ambassador recently. "Islam is much more relaxed
here," she said. "But it doesn't mean we're not good Muslims."

She discovered blogs, and the more she read, the more she grew frustrated
with the nature of the dialogue. "No one was talking to each other," she

The conflict between Hezbollah and Israel in 2006 was the turning point for
her. "I was really annoyed by how the Western and Arab media were covering
it," she said. "Both sides were sticking to the extremes."

She said she started her Web site that year to provide the world -- and
media -- a different perspective on Islam. "We're not as simplistic as the
media would often make of us," she said.

Al Shafei said the Web site's discussion subjects range from the political
to the taboo, including homosexuality, premarital sex and atheism. The
anonymity provided by the Web helps foster such discussion, she said.

She is, however, careful to avoid talking about some topics, which could get
her in trouble. "I always remind myself that I have my limitations," she
said. "There are various issues that I am unable to tackle for security

Al Shafei said she hopes that Web sites such as hers could help fight
extremist Islamic groups by defeating their arguments through cultural and
religious dialogue. But she concedes there's catching up to do.

"We have to move faster" because extremist groups are more widespread in
traditional media such as newspapers and radio stations, which are still
consumed by more people than new media such as Web sites, she said.

*The extremists' lure*

Some extremists are adept at using technology and new media as well. The
killings of journalist Daniel Pearl, U.S. businessman Nicholas Berg and
Eugene Armstrong, an American contractor working in Iraq, were all recorded
and later broadcast on the Web.

It's long been a concern that the Web is being used by extremist groups such
as al Qaeda to recruit young Muslims to their cause. However, Bruce Etling,
who co-authored recent studies of the Arabic and Persian blogospheres at
Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet & Society, said he found
little evidence of such activity.

"In the Arabic blogosphere we found no specific clusters related to
extremism, and when it was discussed, it tended to be in negative terms," he
said. "It was a counter-narrative we were surprised to find."

There are several possible reasons why, he explained. It's difficult for
extremist groups to maintain a static presence on the Web -- they constantly
have to move to avoid being found.

Additionally, popular sites such as Facebook have strict terms of usage,
which make it difficult for extremist groups -- and their sympathizers -- to
build a following.

Aslan, who is also the executive editor of the social-networking Web site, said that research has consistently shown that the Internet is
not an effective recruiting tool for extremists. He said extremist groups
use the Web more as a marketing and communication tool.

"Nobody, absolutely nobody, straps a bomb on their body because they were
recruited from the Internet," he said. "It takes an enormous amount of
personal face-to-face contact and time in order to recruit a young person
into the cause of jihad."

*The Web and the streets*

Observers say that like other young people around the world, Muslims mostly
use technology such as cell phones and the Web for social and recreational
reasons, not political.

Jared Cohen traveled through the Middle
East<> from
2004 through 2006 for his book, "Children of Jihad: A Young American's
Travels Among the Youth of the Middle East." He joined the U.S. State
Department in September, 2006.

He said his travels showed him that the same tools young Muslims are using
to socialize also are helping them organize.

While at an underground party in Iran a few years ago, he asked the Iranians
how they heard about the gathering. They told him that if he were to go to
the marketplace during the day and turn on his Bluetooth, he could receive
random messages with details on where to go and at what time.

Western-style parties and music are prohibited in Iran, so young people hold
them secretly to evade security.

Cohen said the partygoers were dismissive when asked if they were afraid of
the security forces finding out. "No one over 30 knows what Bluetooth does,"
the young Iranians told him.

 That knowledge and tech savviness played a significant role in the recent
protests after the disputed Iranian election. Protesters used Twitter, cell
phones and other social-networking tools to organize and spread word of what
was happening on the streets.

*The impact on Islam: A new identity?*

The post-election fallout in Iran is one example that portends a broader
generational and hierarchical struggle in the Muslim community, some experts

 There are a lot of young Muslims. By some estimates, about 60 percent of
Muslims in the Middle East are under the age of 30.

"What the printing press is to Christianity in the 16th century, that's what
the Internet is doing to Islam now," Aslan said. "It has opened up the
monopoly over the interpretation of Islam that used to solely belong to the
religious class."

Some clerical authorities, well aware of the challenges posed to their
influence by the powers of the Web, are becoming more tech savvy and are
building a digital presence, Aslan says.

But their interpretations and authority increasingly have competition from
sites created by young Muslims such as al Shafei and online communities
found on Facebook and Twitter.

However, emerging technology also could be a force that helps forge a new,
more global Islamic identity. Syrian Muslims can now talk to Muslims in
Pakistan, Indonesia, the U.S. or Europe.

"During the 20th century, the parents of this generation were struggling to
define for themselves some conception of a pan-Arab or pan-Muslim unity,"
Aslan said. "But that was elusive because there are so many things
geopolitically that separate the Muslim world.

"With the Internet, those boundaries, those borders are irrelevant."
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