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Tag Archives: news
How BBC Persian is using Instagram and Telegram to get around Iranian censorship – Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard
Posted: at 3:45 am
Last month, a fire tore through an iconic Tehran high-rise building, killing more than 20 firefighters and injuring another 70 people as it collapsed.
The fire made international headlines, but it was a particularly important story for BBC Persian, the British broadcasters Persian-language service that targets Farsi speakers in Iran and neighboring countries.
Covering the story, however, presented a challenge: The Iranian government doesnt permit BBC Persian reporters in the country, and official news agencies are often not reliable.
So BBC Persian turned to a different source: Telegram, the most popular messaging app in Iran. (Its estimated that more than a quarter of all Iranians are on Telegram.) BBC Persian has more than 713,000 followers on its channel, but it also has a profile where users can get in touch with BBC Persian. After news of the fire broke, it asked its followers to share photos and videos of the fire.
Thats the main source of newsgathering at the moment for us, BBC Persian multimedia editor Leyla Khodabakhshi told me from London. The only way we could basically understand what is going on inside the country and get access to pictures was to put a call to action on different platforms and then receiving the UGC via our Telegram, she said, adding that lots of news agencies inside Iran have close ties to different political groups in the country, so you cant rely on what youre getting from the news agencies that are operating inside the country. We have to always crosscheck what we are receiving. Thats by putting different agencies together, but also to compare them to what were receiving from user-generated content as well.
The Iranian Internet is heavily censored. Facebook, Twitter, and most major social platforms are blocked. BBC Persians website is blocked (and its TV broadcasts are routinely censored as well). Even though Iranians regularly use VPNs to circumvent government censorship, BBC Persian has turned to platforms such as Telegram that are permissible in the country in order to conduct reporting and promote its coverage to a wide audience of Iranians.
This is a social circumvention strategy rather than a social media strategy, Khodabakhshi said.
BBC Persians other main platform in Iran is on Instagram, which is the rare social network that is permitted in the country.
BBC Persian has significant followings on Facebook and Twitter, but it recently surpassed 1 million followers on Instagram, where its audience tends to skew female, Khodabakhshi said.
Our strategy on Instagram is partly based on community building. Its where we try to engage women to debate news on our page, she said. Its not very straightforward, because its not a platform that is built for this type of debating or conversation, but it works for BBC Persian.
There are, of course, limitations built into Instagram, though (its difficult to share links, for instance), and thats why the Iranian government has decided at least for now not to block it, said Emad Khazraee, a professor at Kent State University who has studied social media and news consumption in Iran.
I believe the Iranian government consciously left Instagram open because the affordances of Instagram are very limited, Khazraee said. You had a hard time to use it for social activism. They then herd them to one platform by letting it be accessible while blocking the other ones. Within Facebook, you have features, like organizing groups and having private groups, that you can manage to organize protests.
BBC Persian puts most of its major stories on Instagram, Khodabakhshi said. And the account covers a wide range of stories from Playboys decision this week to bring back nude images to Austrias ban on full-face veils. It also uses Instagram to repurpose and promote BBC Persian television programs.
But because of the restrictions of the Telegram and Instagram platforms along with Iranian censorship driving users back to the BBCs own platform isnt necessarily a priority. Instead, Khodabakhshi said BBC Persians goal was to make as much information readily available as possible.
After President Donald Trump last month issued his executive order banning citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries including Iran BBC Persian went to work explaining the ban and its implications on each of its main platforms.
We had to put the news in bullet points and push them on Telegram so people knew what is the latest and how Iranians are affected by this executive order, Khodabakhshi said. BBC Persian also visualized it and post it on Instagram without necessarily thinking that we need to have a referral back to our website, even though we have a detailed explainer on our website. Thats how it works in BBC Persian. We have to serve the audience.
Messaging apps are popular among Iranians because they offer more privacy than more traditional social networks, Khazraee said. (But Telegram and other apps are still vulnerable.)
The beauty of messaging apps is that there is no API that you can go get user information from the system, he said. The max you might be able to do is to crawl all messages that are sent through a channel that is public, but you cant get much information about who is using these channels. This is hard for us as researchers because its extremely hard to study this environment, but its extremely effective in terms of preserving users privacy.
BBC Persian approaches Telegram slightly differently than Instagram and other social platforms. Though it shares video and other features on Telegram, the apps chat interface helps BBC Persian view Telegram primarily as a breaking news tool, Khodabakhshi said. It sends about 20 messages per day.
When stories break, itll post news on Telegram and then also solicit comments and user-generated content as well, taking advantage of the less-public nature of the apps.
We have received hundreds of messages on Telegram about people who have been trapped somewhere, Iranians who have been traveling, those who were really concerned about the impact of the executive order on their lives. It has helped us give a more human personal flavor to our coverage. Not only for BBC Persian, but for the wider BBC as well.
Ultimately, Khodabakhshi said BBC Persian is committed to publishing online to reach audiences in Iran, and it will continue to adapt as platforms and access changes in the country.
We have always had to have contingency plans, Plan Bs, she said. If they shut down this platform, if they filter this platform if they block Telegram, for example, all together, what would be our Plan B? Were basically all the time on our toes.
Posted: February 17, 2017 at 1:50 am
Lets not make it harder for law enforcement to use civil asset forfeiture to fight the war on drugs.
Most people are oblivious to that war, though it rages around us continually. Worth an estimated $120 billion a year, illegal drugs smuggled from Mexico might well be the greatest foreign threat to our national security. Beyond a doubt, its the one killing the most Americans.
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To get a first-hand look, I recently visited a drug task force that operates out of a county courthouse in southeast Oklahoma. In one room was a just-arrested drug mule and more than a million dollars worth of marijuana. In another was a photo of an 18-year-old Oklahoma girl, dead of a drug overdose. It was haunting, how her still-open eyes stared straight into the police camera.
Her case was not especially outrageous. No, the outrage is that cases like hers are so commonplace. Thats every day, shrugged the officer who showed me the photo from a new case that morning.
Its easy to make civil asset forfeiture sound like an un-American, police-state scenario. Although assets may be seized without first obtaining a drug-related conviction, the reason for no conviction is no trial. The reason for no trial is the drug mule posts bail and is never seen again.
Oklahoma law enforcement may not seize someones homestead in the case of a drug bust involving local citizens. And despite what youve heard, if an officer sees a bag of cash in a car, absent other evidence he will not seize it.
If cash is seized, it has to wind its way through a tedious government process before eventual distribution among the state, county and municipal agencies having overlapping territorial jurisdiction. And boy, do they need that money.
Not for salaries, though. Those come from local funds supplemented by federal Justice Assistance Grants made to the states. Every year for the past three years JAG funding has declined, most recently by 18.5 percent.
Rather, income from asset forfeiture covers only operational costs: bulletproof vests, clothing, radios, tires, gasoline and, rarely, a new vehicle. A radio can cost $4,000. Thanks to changing technology standards, upgrading radios is a requirement. Believe it or not, a bulletproof vest decomposes and is warrantied only for three years.
Seizing a drug mules vehicle is problematic. If he drives a rental car, the agency is considered innocent and gets its vehicle back. Alternatively, drug runners often drive someone elses car. The required procedures to gain title can require years of effort. The task force I visited still had vehicles seized more than two years ago. Sometimes their value is so low, its just not worth the trouble.
My visit convinced me that, far from having a free hand, law enforcement almost has its hands tied. If you look at this as a war, this is not a war we are going to win, an officer told me.
But wait, theres more: 80 percent of nondrug crimes burglary, theft, domestic violence trace to the criminals addiction to drugs or alcohol. And, therefore, so are the resulting burdens on society like divorce, foster care, prison crowding and treatment expense.
A vote to make civil asset forfeiture more difficult, one could argue, is a vote to make Oklahomas social problems worse.
Maybe our Legislature should mandate a $5,000 fine for transporting drugs in a vehicle that you dont own, and make the fine due when posting bail. Thats a simple step based on the facts on the ground. It would take traffickers money and use it against them.
Civil asset forfeiture alone will not win the drug war. But it helps keep our officers on the front lines.
Scott Pendleton is a former international journalist and president of an IT solutions provider in Tulsa.
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Anti-LGBT Lawmakers Unveil Slew of ‘Religious Freedom’ Bills Despite Business Concerns – The Texas Observer
Posted: at 1:14 am
Dallas County Justice of the Peace Bill Metzger, who wont perform same-sex marriages, speaks at a news conference on anti-LGBT religious freedom bills at the Capitol on Wednesday.
Dismissing potential economic backlash, socially conservative state lawmakers unveiled a slate of anti-LGBT religious freedom bills on Wednesday, including a sweeping measure known as the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA).
FADA, modeled after proposed federal legislation bearing the same name, would allow individuals, businesses and other entities to refuse service to same-sex couples based on the belief that marriage should be between one man and one woman.
State Representative Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, the author of the bill, said he isnt worried about opposition to FADA from business groups or possible boycotts. Last week, the NFL suggested it wont hold future Super Bowls in Texas if the Legislature passes anti-LGBT legislation, such as Lieutenant Governor Dan Patricks anti-transgender bathroom bill.
I think religious liberties and the protection and preservation of them is of the utmost importance, said Krause, whose district includes Arlingtons AT&T Stadium, a perennial contender to host major national sporting events. If the NCAA wants to pull out because were pursuing those and validating one of our most dearly held fundamental principles, thats a decision theyre going to have to make.
Last year, after Mississippi became the only state to pass such a law, a federal judge struck down the law as unconstitutional. But Krause told the Observer hes confident his bill would survive legal challenges because its more narrow, stressing that it would also protect those who have religious objections to opposite-sex marriage, even though that isnt mentioned in the text.
It goes both ways, Krause said. If you believe marriage should be man and man, woman and woman, the government cant discriminate against you on that grounds either.
In the 2015 session, lawmakers introduced 23 anti-LGBT bills, but none passed. This year, Krause said proponents of religious freedom bills have refined their strategy, and he expects several to land on the governors desk.
In the past, the right hand didnt really know what the left hand was doing, Krause said. We actually got together and talked.
Kathy Miller, president of the pro-LGBT Texas Freedom Network, said now that same-sex marriage is legal, lawmakers are targeting numerous specific groups for religious freedom protection, such as university clubs, state-licensed professionals and county clerks.
It feels to me like the strategy is to pass tiny bits of discrimination in a lot of bills, instead of a lot of discrimination in one bill, Miller said. I hope that the House leadership can see through this pitiful attempt to force discrimination into Texas law wherever they can. This stuff needs to stay off the [House] floor.
House Speaker Joe Straus, a moderate Republican, has repeatedly deferred to economic arguments against anti-LGBT legislation, but state Representative Jeff Leach, R-Plano, said the decision about whether to pass the bathroom bill or religious freedom measures should be up to the chamber.
If we sense that these bills are getting killed behind closed doors, and there are deals being made to make these issues go away, youre going to see a public fight on the floor of the Texas House to bring those issues to light, said Leach.
Chuck Smith, CEO of Equality Texas, said he expects groups, including the Texas Association of Business, the states chamber of commerce, to oppose anti-LGBT religious freedom bills in the same way theyve fought the bathroom bill.
Equality Texas lists 13 anti-LGBT bills on its website, but state Representative Scott Sanford, R-McKinney, said that more religious freedom bills are likely to be filed before the March 12 deadline.
Sanford is the author of House Bill 1805, which would allow taxpayer-funded adoption and foster care agencies with religious objections to decline to place children with same-sex couples. Despite a severe shortage of high-quality foster homes, Sanford said the bill is needed in part because it would preserve the right of religiously affiliated agencies to reject parents from different faiths.
Would you use the force of government to compel a Muslim agency to place with a Jewish family? Sanford said. Why not allow everyone to place according to their religions?
Krause, Leach and Sanford were among about a dozen all-white, all-male lawmakers who appeared at a Wednesday news conference, which drew a relatively small turnout from the media because it coincided with a hearing on high-profile anti-abortion legislation.
Hours before the news conference, Patrick appeared in Washington, D.C., to defend the bathroom bill on a program hosted by the Family Research Council (FRC), designated an anti-LGBT hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Patrick saidSenate Bill 6, by state Senator Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, would be good for business because it would protect the privacy of women.
I know from our experiences in Texas, when were recruiting a company, one of the biggest voices to make the final decision is the CEOs wife, Patrick said.
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Trump Attacks the First Amendment to Discredit The Facts About His Russian Connections – PoliticusUSA
Posted: at 12:59 am
President Donald Trump used his press conference about his new labor nominee to launch an attack on the First Amendment by blaming the free press for reporting on his campaigns Russia connections.
We need unity, Trump said just minutes before he began launching missiles at the First Amendment from the bully pulpit in an attempt to discredit the source of his Russian connections.
In the East Room of the White House, Trump called for unity and then devolved into a campaign type speech during a press conference that needed to stay on message if it were to work as a pivot. Trump left Alex Acosta behind as he stumbled his way through trying to silence the press.
Many of our nations reporters will not tell you the truth, Trump said. The press is out of control. The level of dishonesty is out of control.
Trump accused reporters of speaking not for the people, but for special interests. The press has become so dishonest.
Trump claimed that Reince Priebus has to put out fake fires.
Asked about Flynn, Trump said he asked for Flynns resignation, but Flynn did nothing wrong, I dont think he did anything wrong. If anything, he did something right.
What went wrong with Flynn wasnt Flynn talking to Russia, it was the medias reporting on Flynns activities, Trump claimed.
Trump claimed the Russia stories were fake news. Later in questioning, Trump tried to explain that the leaks were real but the news is fake because the news is fake.
This was followed up later when Trump claimed that the tone was such hatred. He repeated this again, the tone is such hatred. Fox and Friends are very honorable people But they have the most honest morning show. The tone, the hatred, I mean.
Trump complained about the hatred and venom from almost exclusive anti-Trump people. Trump said, When I go to rallies they start screaming about CNN.
Trump ranted about how the press was publishing classified information, which he said was illegal.
I called, as you know, Mexico All of a sudden, its out there for the world to see. Its classified, Trump claimed, as he tried to build his case for silencing the leaks that are revealing his Russian connections.
Some of the information Trump was talking about was not actually classified, but that isnt even the point since Trump gleefully used leaks that came from a hostile, aggressive foreign country against Hillary Clinton. Trump claimed that was okay because it wasnt classified. He justified Wikileaks saying they didnt publish classified information.
That is also inaccurate.
Trump would not answer the question about whether or not his campaign was in contact with Russia during the campaign. He pivoted, ranted, and moved the goal posts but would not say definitively that they had not.
Trump said he has no loans in Russia and no deals in Russia. He asked if anyone thought Clinton would be tougher on Russia than him. (The answer to that is everyone who is being honest thinks that including most importantly Putin.)
Then Trump pivoted to whining about how no one reported on Hillary Clinton allegedly cheating on debates by a heads up about questions in advance (a thing that Trump also did, according to Megyn Kellys book).
CNNs Jim Acosta pointed out that when Trump calls news Fake news, he is attacking the First Amendment and undermining the free press.
Trump got lost in weeds of trying to explain that hes there, and he wants an honest press. He couldnt actually point out anything inaccurate. Trump kept falling back on the idea that the people dont believe the press anymore, which of course, has been a result of his campaign against the press.
Kelly ODonnell pointed out that Trump actually has good relationships with some journalists, What is hard for public to see @POTUS criticizes media broadly but has some good relationships with journalists he knows.
Trumps press conference was all about how to silence and control the free press because he has no other response to reality.
What Trump doesnt realize is that he has no control over the First Amendment.
Trump attacking the press is meant to make the press the issue, instead of his contacts with Russia. Trump is trying to make the public doubt the reports about his activities with Russia by smearing the sources.
Trump refused to answer what he was going to do about the Russian spy ship off of the coast of Connecticut, claiming he doesnt announce actions in advance of doing them.
Trump doesnt think Putin is asserting himself with that ship. If Trump believes that, Vice President Pence should step in immediately.
Trump attacks the First Amendment at press conference, Trump first amendment, Trump press conference
How being early is the secret to the best Royal Caribbean cruise, from start to finish – Royal Caribbean Blog (blog)
Posted: February 15, 2017 at 9:38 pm
Royal Caribbean Blog (blog)
How being early is the secret to the best Royal Caribbean cruise, from start to finish
Royal Caribbean Blog (blog)
We have spent years sharing tips, secrets and strategies on this blog about taking a better and more fun Royal Caribbean cruise, and we discovered there is one common thread among so many of our best tips: being early. There are plenty of ways to …
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The rest is here:
Posted: at 9:27 pm
The genre of trance music has inspired a large portion of the electronic influence that has cast a major shadow over the world throughout the history of dance music. Since the dawn of electronic music, trance has seemed to stand the test of time along with other genres like Techno and Drum n Bass as an everlasting popular obsession within the community. Just released was a list that showed that early trance iconsTiestoandPaul Van Dykare actually the two mosttraveled musicians of all time, and to no surprise their early influences have helped to shape the massive size of the electronic scene. Check out our news piece on the list here.
Another traveled trance actthat has consistently been aleader in the genre is Egyptian duoAly & Fila.Their label, Future Sound of Egypt, sits atop a pyramid within the trance community along with labelsAnjunabeatsandA State of Tranceas the forward thinking and decisive labels when it comes to new releases and new up and coming talent in trance. One of their long standing artists, Arctic Moon,released his new track entitled Cyberpunk, and let us warn you now this track is absolutely massive. Featuring a complex and intense melody that drives the powerful track to an ever more explosive drop, the Polish producer has created one of the most powerful pieces of trance music we can remember in the last few years. Putting it simply, we can’t seem to get enough of this track. Noting that it has been on repeat over the last few weeks for our site does not even do justice to how much we love this piece. Take a listen below and make sure to hold onto your seats for this one!
Posted: at 12:06 am
We’re breaking down the top segments from Tuesday’s edition of PFW in Progress radio show so you don’t miss a thing.
PFW in Progress 2/14 Podcast >>
0:02:00 – Fred, Paul, Andy, and Erik were all on today’s episode of PFW In Progress. Foxboro is digging out of it’s second major snow storm in the last five days, but the action on the show was not lackluster. Today began with a bang as Fred Kirsch voiced his disappointment in Patriots Nation.
0:10:00 – Paul Perillo’s expense report was a fascinating topic of discussion on today’s show. Just how many Diet Millers did Paul consume while in Houston?
0:15:00 – Patriots tight ends coach Brian Daboll was in the news yesterday as his name is being linked to the vacant offensive coordinator position at Alabama.
0:30:00 – The future of Jimmy Garoppolo will be a topic that continues to be discussed during the off season editions of PFW In Progress.
0:55:00 – The PFW Boys discussed the potential intentional grounding call that was missed on Tom Brady during the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LI. The play in question occurred at the start of the game tying drive.
1:30:00 – Fred Kirsch read a heartfelt email from Kat in Chicago asking for help for a fallen PFW In Progress listener. Steve in Kileen, TX passed away this fall. Steve was a fantastic contributor to Patriots.com Radio and an all around great person. He will be sorely missed by everyone in our PFW In Progress community.
1:45:00 – Tom Brady’s missing jersey is still missing. Could it potentially turn up this far removed from the Super Bowl? Read
Originally posted here:
Posted: February 14, 2017 at 11:51 am
Loving others well has always been a struggle of mine. It probably has something to do with having a self-centered and selfish heart, but recently, I felt convicted in my heart about not loving others the way Jesus loves me.
As many of us know, politics and the general state of our world is all over the place. From the immigrant travel ban to new federal government appointees being sworn in, it is an interesting time to be alive.
I read my news feed on social media and find myself unfollowing people with outspoken opposing views to my own. I would peg my emotion as righteous anger, however, in the midst of me getting caught up in the world, am I taking time to pray and love these so-called friends or officials I disagree with?
As I was reading through the book of Matthew this past week, I read Matthew 7:14, So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them We have heard this verse before dubbed famously as the golden rule – Treat others the way you would like to be treated.
Personally, I believe it is my right to be given immediate and full tolerance and respect for my opinion because this is America. However, when it comes to others opinions that stray far, far away from mine, I refuse to offer grace and love in my own heart.
Yet in John 14:34-35, Jesus says, A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. Jesus has set the standard of true love by dying on the cross for all of our sins, and now He basically says, Remember how I showed you love when I was beaten and killed for you so you could have eternal life? Yeah, I expect for you to show that intensity of love to others.
I dont know about you, but that is heavy.
But, Jesus says no more of that, leave all that junk at the foot of the cross, and fill your heart with My love to share with others. This is obviously still a lesson the Lord is walking me through.
This week, I urge all of us to practice sharing words and actions reflecting Jesus love despite the craziness whirring around us.
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