Tag Archives: human-rights

Anonymity From The Front Line


Author’s Note: A recent proliferation in claims of anonymity provided in using various messaging apps raises the need to discuss the gravity of making such claims when human life is potentially at stake.


Anonymity from an ontological perspective, and issues revolving around information ethics, are themes I explore in my work as an artist/ontologist. Indeed, my portraits (kevinabosch.com) of the famous and not so famous are explorations into matters of identity and existence.

It had been percolating to the surface for many years, this concept I had become obsessed with, an elegant and discreet communication platform with so little friction or noise as to seem implausible. In 2007 I started a list of “rules” this platform would have to adhere to, which included:

  • Users would not have to use a login/password to send a message
  • No cookies issued under any circumstances
  • IP addresses would be tossed and therefore not connected to any message sent on the platform
  • Messages on the platform would not be stored indefinitely (mostly because I didn’t want to pay to store them)

The goal of such a platform would be to afford the user the opportunity to communicate discreetly and truly anonymously.

I am not of the school of thought that if you have nothing to hide, then you shouldn’t be concerned with maintaining your anonymity. Rather, I believe anonymity requires protection, and can even become an issue of human rights.

Thousands of people across the globe lose their lives every year simply because the words they speak or the words they write were attributed to them. Many never sought attribution, yet in their attempts to remain anonymous they were nonetheless, frequently through digital clues, discovered. These deaths often come in the form of State-sanctioned murder.

I have been a supporter of Amnesty International (www.amnesty.org) for years and have met many who have lost friends and family at the hands of governments who choose to silence voices opposing their agendas.

In November of 2013, I launched Kwikdesk (www.kwikdesk.com), a communication platform that strictly adheres to a privacy-protecting philosophy and employs technology not just to obfuscate, but to truly anonymize its users’ identities.

In the first week KwikDesk saw users flock to the site, but as we intentionally have no analytics on activity other than the number of unique users and the number of page views, we had no idea what was being communicated.

Soon, we would start to see people posting URL’s for various search strings (i.e. https://www.kwikdesk.com/#confession) on other sites like Twitter and Facebook, so we could see that our barebones platform was being used for freeform, asynchronous, topical discussion. The individual messages which we call Kwiks, are not linked to a URL so they cannot be crawled by bots. In interviews with the press I encouraged people to use KwikDesk in another way: for discreet messaging.

You can only search KwikDesk for #hashtags, so unless you know or stumble upon a #hashtag which has already been submitted to KwikDesk, your search results will be empty. You can only submit text to KwikDesk by including a #hashtag, which means that if you submit a message followed by a complicated #hashtag like “ #4ac14f6b60dd99439b7b061b440eb70f”, you essentially have a private anonymous message which can only be retrieved by searching for the same #hashtag. Two or more people who know the complicated #hashtag have a “secure line” of communication, that is unless someone gives up the #hashtag. In this sense, KwikDesk works as an anonymous “dead drop”, waiting for someone to retrieve the message. When messages are created, they are marked to “self-destruct” in either 24 hours or 10 days at the user’s discretion.

While the barebones platform has gained considerable traction in its short existence, we are now also developing a suite of anonymous social tools powered by the KwikDesk platform, and are partnering with other developers working with our API.

In late November 2013 KwikDesk launched a Chinese version of the site (cn.kwikdesk.com) with Wuerkaixi, student leader of the 1989 Tiananmen Square Protests in China. Wuer, whom I met through Amnesty International, is a longtime campaigner for human rights and has helped us reach a Chinese population which includes 591 million netizens. (WIRED 11/27/2013)

Anonymity is touted by many, but I’d advise taking a close look at the terms of service of some of these trendy players in the messaging space. How can you guarantee anonymity, and therefore potentially a user’s safety, when you are throwing cookies at them, running geolocation, and even pixel tracking?!

After a decade of allowing our personal data to be exploited in ways we may sometimes appreciate, but more often do not, or would not if we were aware of its extent, isn’t it time to build a comprehensive social-media experience upon true anonymity and with an entirely user-defined level of attribution ?

Feel free to share this ☺

— Kevin Abosch

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Moods Of Norway At Studio On Main With The PhotoFund And Animal Avengers  - Day 4 - 2011 Park City

‘Bachelor’ Star Gia Allemand Laid To Rest At Funeral In Manhattan !!! (REPORT)


Gia Allemand was laid to rest during a simple funeral on Thursday, Aug. 22, attended by about 150 people in the Chelsea church where she was confirmed as a child. Family, friends and fans mourned her death at Trinity Grace Church in Manhattan, where her casket arrived in a white hearse adorned with yellow and pink roses that spelled “Gia,” reports the New York Daily News.

“I’ve known her since she was 3 years old. Gia seemed like she had everything,” said a friend identified only as Becca. “I want to correct this misconception. Gia didn’t have everything; she gave everything — support and laughter, happiness and strength, inspiration and love.”

Allemand willed everything to her mother, Donna Micheletti, in her suicide note. Micheletti recently released a statement regarding her daughter’s death and her plans to eventually discuss the tragedy with the media.

Moods Of Norway At Studio On Main With The PhotoFund And Animal Avengers  - Day 4 - 2011 Park City

2013 NBA Draft Combine, Day 2

Shabazz Muhammad breaks rule !!!! (QUICK READ)


The following post is from ESPN!

Minnesota Timberwolves guard Shabazz Muhammad has been sent home from the NBA’s Rookie Transition Program, the team confirmed Wednesday.

USA Today reported Muhammad was dismissed for violating a rule by bringing a female guest into his hotel room. Muhammad also will be fined, according to the report.

“We have been made aware of the circumstances surrounding Shabazz Muhammad’s dismissal from the NBA’s Rookie Transition Program in New Jersey,” Wolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders said. “The team fully supports the NBA’s rules and policies in all matters pertaining to this situation, and we will abide by the league’s action.”

The four-day program, held in Florham Park, N.J., helps rookies get anointed into the league through a series of seminars, instructions and guest speakers. Nearly 50 rookies or players are participating in the program, which ends Friday.

The report stated that just hours before Muhammad was sent home, players were given rules for the program, which included no guests unless approved by administrators.

Muhammad, the 14th pick in the draft out of UCLA, will have to return next year to complete the program.

2013 NBA Draft Combine, Day 2

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Saudi man dies in kingdom from MERS coronavirus: Health Ministry !


The following content is from the ChicagoTribune!

DUBAI (Reuters) – A Saudi man has died of the coronavirus Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), the Saudi Health Ministry said on Saturday, raising to 39 the number of deaths from the SARS-like virus in the kingdom where it first emerged last year.

“The Ministry of Health has announced the death of one case, who had been previously announced to be infected with this virus in Asir, may Allah have mercy upon him,” the ministry said in a statement.

An 83-year-old man from the same southern province was also confirmed to have contracted the virus, bringing the total number of confirmed cases inside the kingdom to 66, the ministry said.

An unidentified prisoner reads a newspaper in a communal cellblock at Camp VI, a prison used to house detainees at Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base

Obama renews vow to close Guantanamo detention camp


(Reuters) – Saying it was damaging to U.S. interests to keep holding prisoners in legal limbo at Guantanamo, President Barack Obama renewed an old vow on Tuesday to close the camp, where about 100 inmates are on hunger strike to protest against their years in detention without trial.

An unidentified prisoner reads a newspaper in a communal cellblock at Camp VI, a prison used to house detainees at Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base

Human rights groups welcomed Obama’s recommitment to shutting the prison, but some activists called for action, not just words.

Criticism of the camp, set up at the U.S. Naval Base in Cuba in 2002 to hold foreign terrorism suspects and now housing 166 inmates, has intensified in recent weeks as the U.S. military is force-feeding some of those on hunger strike.

Obama, who repeatedly pledged to close the camp when he was campaigning for a first term and after he first took office in 2009, put the blame on Congress for his failure to make good on his promise and said he would re-engage with lawmakers on the issue.

At a White House news conference, he lamented the status quo, which has kept most prisoners in detention without trial or charge for more than a decade, but offered no new path to overcoming the political and legal obstacles.

“It’s not sustainable – I mean, the notion that we’re going to continue to keep over 100 individuals in a no-man’s land in perpetuity,” Obama said.

His comments were his first public remarks about Guantanamo since the hunger strike began in early February. Military officials have attributed the protest action in part to a sense of hopelessness among detainees over their open-ended detention.

Long a subject of international condemnation but low on the list of the American public’s policy concerns, Guantanamo returned to the spotlight with the hunger strike. Some inmates have given harrowing accounts of force-feeding and human rights groups have denounced the practice.

Obama defended the military’s decision to force-feed hunger strikers, saying “I don’t want these individuals to die.”

The U.S. military has said 21 prisoners are being force-fed liquid meals through tubes inserted in their noses and down into their stomachs. Forty medical personnel have been sent to reinforce the military’s existing teams at Guantanamo to deal with the hunger strike.

VIOLATION OF MEDICAL ETHICS

The force-feeding has been criticized by rights groups and also by the American Medical Association. On Thursday, the president of the AMA sent a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel reiterating the association’s position that it is a violation of medical ethics to force-feed mentally competent adults who refuse food and life-saving treatment.

Asked about the hunger strike, Obama said it was “not a surprise to me that we’ve got problems in Guantanamo” and ticked off a list of reasons why the camp should be shut down.

“Guantanamo is not necessary to keep America safe,” he said. “It is expensive. It is inefficient. It hurts us, in terms of our international standing. It lessens cooperation with our allies on counter-terrorism efforts. It is a recruitment tool for extremists. It needs to be closed.”

Obama said he had asked his advisers to “examine every option that we have administratively” to deal with Guantanamo. It was unclear whether that meant Obama might use executive powers that some legal experts say he has to transfer some detainees.

U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, backed Obama’s effort. “The deteriorating situation at Guantanamo, including the ongoing and expanding hunger strikes by prisoners … is disturbing and unacceptable,” he said.

But Howard McKeon, Republican chairman of the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee, said: “The president faces bipartisan opposition to closing Guantanamo Bay’s detention center because he has offered no alternative plan regarding the detainees there, nor a plan for future terrorist captures.”

Obama has approved military tribunals to try some of the most dangerous suspects, but only nine of the current prisoners have been charged or convicted of crimes.

Of the other inmates, 86 have been cleared for transfer or release, 47 are considered too dangerous to release but are not facing prosecution and 24 are considered eligible for possible prosecution.

U.S. lawmakers, mostly Republicans but including some Democrats, have blocked Obama from transferring Guantanamo prisoners to American jails, saying they would pose a security risk if housed in the United States. They have also made it difficult to repatriate others.

The U.S. government will not send some prisoners back to their homelands because of instability or concerns over mistreatment. Most countries are reluctant to accept them for resettlement when the United States itself will not take them.

Obama said ultimately he would need approval from Congress to shutter the facility and acknowledged that would be an uphill struggle, saying, “It’s easy to demagogue the issue.”

Zeke Johnson, director of Amnesty International USA’s Security with Human Rights Campaign, issued a statement saying: “President Obama is right to recommit to closing Guantanamo. But it’s time to do more than talk. Instead of sending more medics to force-feed detainees, a process that can amount to ill-treatment, he should take concrete steps to keep his promise to close the detention facility.”

“WAIVER PROCESS”

The Center for Constitutional Rights said: “We praise the president for reaffirming his commitment to closing the base but take issue with the impression he strives to give that it is largely up to Congress.”

It said that if Obama were “really serious” about closing Guantanamo, he could use a “waiver process” to transfer some of the detainees who have already been cleared for release, lift the moratorium on transfers to Yemen and appoint a senior administration official to shepherd the closure.

The United States has not sent prisoners back to Yemen, where 56 of those eligible for release are from, since a foiled plot in 2010 to bomb an American passenger aircraft was hatched my militants in Yemen.

The Guantanamo camp was opened by Republican President George W. Bush, to hold foreign terrorism suspects captured overseas after the September 11 attacks on the United States in 2001.

Obama failed to meet his promise to close the prison within a year of taking office in early 2009 and it has become an enduring symbol of widely condemned U.S. interrogation and detention practices during the Bush era.

An independent U.S. task force issued a report on April 16 calling indefinite detention of prisoners at Guantanamo “abhorrent and intolerable.” It called for the camp to be closed by the end of 2014 when NATO’s combat mission in Afghanistan is due to end and most U.S. troops will leave the country.

The U.S. military on Monday counted 100 prisoners as hunger strikers. Five of those being force-fed have been hospitalized for observation but did not have life-threatening conditions, a spokesman for the detention camp, Army Lieutenant Colonel Samuel House, said on Tuesday.

A few Guantanamo detainees are allowed to watch television and likely saw Obama’s news conference, he said.

“We are confident that some saw it, but much of the talk was about Boston,” House said, referring to Obama’s remarks about the Boston Marathon bombings on April 15. “We are sure that word will get around very quickly.”

Hunger strikes have occurred at Guantanamo since shortly after the United States began detaining suspected al Qaeda and Taliban captives there in January 2002.

The current hunger strike began in early February, after guards seized photos and other belongings during a cell search. Prisoners said the guards had mistreated their Korans during the search. The U.S. military has denied that.

(Additional reporting by Jane Sutton in Miami.; Editing by Frances Kerry and Christopher Wilson)

(VIA. Reuters)

U.S. President Obama delivers remarks at a concert celebrating Memphis Soul music

After court, gay rights spotlight shifts back to Obama


U.S. President Obama delivers remarks at a concert celebrating Memphis Soul music

(Reuters) – President Barack Obama may have made a slow start on gay rights issues, but by the end of his first term his record was such that a news magazine dubbed him the nation’s “first gay president.” Now activists want more.

Fresh from historic Supreme Court arguments over same-sex unions, advocates want Obama to use his executive powers to fight discrimination at businesses, schools, and military bases and stop waiting for action from a reluctant Congress.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule in June on big issues: the constitutional right to gay marriage and the right of gay married couples to federal benefits. Both are backed by Obama.

Now gay rights groups are pushing for additional measures they believe are key elements for cementing equality.

First on their wish list is an executive order from Obama barring federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation, an act that could have sweeping impact.

“There is more that he can do,” said Jon Davidson, legal director at Lambda Legal, a non-profit organization supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. “He has repeatedly said as president that it’s people’s job to push him to do more and more, so we intend to keep doing that.”

So far, the president helped bring an end to the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that prevented gays from serving openly in the military, signed hate crimes legislation into law, and mandated that nearly all U.S. hospitals give visitation rights to partners of LGBT patients.

Last year, in the middle of the presidential election, Obama announced his support for same-sex marriage, concluding an “evolution” of his views that took years.

While Obama’s advisers tout his record on the issue, they make clear that an executive order on federal contractors soon is unlikely, arguing that it would carry far less weight than broader congressional action. Legislation called the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) lacks enough votes to become law.

“We want to continue to advocate for legislation. We think that that’s the most robust way to accomplish what we want to accomplish,” White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett told Reuters in an interview.

“ENDA is a priority. Right now the votes aren’t there, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be,” she said.

However, congressional aides say they see little evidence that the White House – already consumed by gun control, immigration reform and budget issues – is pushing to win support for ENDA.

Political support for gay rights is certainly gathering momentum – a point conservative Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts made in the March arguments when he told a lawyer defending same-sex marriage: “Political figures are falling over themselves to endorse your side of the case.”

Apart from a few exceptions, however, Republican lawmakers have not been vocal supporters of gay rights. On Friday, the Republican National Committee reaffirmed its commitment to defining marriage as between a man and a woman and called on the Supreme Court to “uphold the sanctity of marriage.”

A NEW FOCUS

After lobbying successfully for Obama to weigh in against Proposition 8, a California measure prohibiting same-sex marriage that is now before the Supreme Court, gay rights activists argue executive action is the best way to keep up the momentum.

“Now the priority for our community is definitely continued progress on getting that executive order out of the administration,” said Fred Sainz, a spokesman for the gay-rights group Human Rights Campaign.

An order barring discrimination by federal contractors would apply to about 20 percent of the U.S. workforce, according to HRC. It would make it illegal for companies with U.S. government contracts to fire or avoid hiring employees based on sexual orientation and gender identity, just as it now is with race.

Federal action is necessary, activists say, because state laws are inconsistent. They say it is legal to fire someone for being gay in 29 states and for being transgender in 34 states.

Some activists are skeptical that Obama is backing away from executive action because he believes Congress will act. They think he is wary of upsetting the business community by forcing a new regulation on it.

“This Congress is not going to pass ENDA, and they know that,” said one activist, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Republican Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois intend to introduce a bill on the issue, according to a Senate aide. However, a similar bill is stalled in committee in the House of Representatives, another aide said.

Obama’s advisers believe he has proven his commitment to gay rights is more than lip service, and gay-rights advocates recognize that patience pays off.

Obama’s actions, including his administration’s decision to weigh in on Proposition 8 and decline to defend the Clinton-era federal Defense of Marriage Act before the Supreme Court, led Newsweek magazine to call him “The First Gay President” in a story on its cover last year.

“He said going in he wanted to do a lot, but I don’t think anybody really was sure that he meant it. I put myself in that category, and I admit to being proven wrong,” said Richard Socarides, a former senior adviser on gay issues to President Bill Clinton in the late 1990s.

Critics say it took a while to get there. Some Obama backers were frustrated that his “evolution” on gay marriage took so long, and some thought the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” did not get its momentum from the White House.

“He supported it, he signed it, but it’s clear that they weren’t pushing it,” Socarides said.

Now gay rights activists are cautious. Pushing too hard for an executive order would seem ungrateful and could backfire.

POLITICAL PAYOFF

Activists believe Obama could send other signals – for example, by naming an openly gay member to his cabinet.

He could also grant spouses of gay military personnel equal access to commissaries, allow them to live on bases rent free and give them access to legal services such as preparation of wills.

Legislatively, Obama could push for measures to include LGBT students in public school anti-bullying programs.

And, activists say, he could maintain his support for the inclusion of same-sex couples under protections offered by immigration reform efforts making their way through Congress.

Politically, Obama’s actions so far have boosted his standing with young voters, and politicians from both parties have noticed, leading to a wave of new, high profile declarations of support in the last few weeks alone.

Exit polls from the 2012 presidential election showed 5 percent of voters considered themselves gay, lesbian or bisexual, and 76 percent of them supported Obama.

Since endorsing gay marriage, Obama underscored the point by referring to it during his Inaugural Address on January 21, tying the push for gay rights to the broader civil-rights movement.

Polls have shown a rapid shift in public opinion on gay rights issues, but Jarrett said that while Obama recognizes his role in shaping public opinion, that was not what drives him.

“This isn’t a matter of satisfying a constituency. It’s a matter of doing what’s right,” she said.

(Additional reporting by Richard Cowan; Editing by Marilyn W. Thompson, Mary Milliken and David Brunnstrom)

U.S.POLITICS

(VIA. Reuters)

APphoto_TV Lohan Anger Management

Lindsay Lohan boosts Charlie Sheen’s ‘Anger Management’ on FX


Charlie Sheen has recently helped out Lindsay Lohan with finances and job opportunities. Lohan has now returned the favor by giving Sheen’s “Anger Management” a little boost.

APphoto_TV Lohan Anger Management

Lohan’s guest shot on the FX comedy pulled in more than 1.25 million viewers, a 22% increase over last week’s installment. The episode attracted 705,000 viewers in the 18-49 demographic, a 35% increase over last week.

The comedy, which stars Sheen as an anger management therapist, has a weekly average of about 1.2 million viewers.

The troubled actress, who is scheduled to start a 90-day rehab stint on May 2, played herself as a patient on the show.

On “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” this week, Sheen said that Lohan was on time and knew her lines perfectly on the first day, but the second day was more problematic because she was several hours late. He joked that she held the show “hostage.”

The turnout for the “Anger Management” episode is particularly good news for Lohan, showing she still has some drawing power following her turn late last year as Liz Taylor in the Lifetime movie “Liz & Dick,” which drew scorching reviews and disappointing ratings.

(VIA. Los Angeles Times)

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Raw politics explains why DOMA got wide support in 1996


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WashingtonPost – During Wednesday’s Supreme Court oral argument over the Defense of Marriage Act, Chief Justice John G. Roberts was intent on getting one question answered from those seeking to overturn the law: were the politicians who passed the measure bigots? As Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, Jr. explained that DOMA denies equal protection to gay Americans under the law since they are barred from getting married, Roberts pressed Verrilli on the point.

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Study Shows Censorship On Sina Weibo Is A ‘Sophisticated’ And Very Speedy Operation


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Techcrunch – Known as the Twitter of China, Sina Weibo is also infamous in the West for the number of high profile users who have had tweets censored, including Kai-fu Lee. The former head of Google China, who was once booted off Sina and Tencent Weibo for three days, recently made a graph of how often his microblogging posts have been censored. Computer scientists Jed Crandall and Dan Wallach conducted a study on how quickly censorship on Sina Weibo can work, with findings reported by the BBC and originally published on arXiv.org.

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Changes to law used to prosecute Aaron Swartz gets a cold reception in cyberspace


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VentureBeat – Legislators proposed changes to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act over the weekend, hoping to enact stricter repercussions for hacking and other computer crimes. The bill was used to prosecute the recently deceased coder and activist Aaron Swartz, prompting many to say it was too harsh and poorly written.