This week, Russian President Vladimir Putin made waves in the United States by offering NSA leaker Edward Snowden asylum and ragging on the Obama administration for its out-of-control surveillance programs. But today he's gotten our attention for an entirely different reason: speaking English.
In a video posted on the Kremlin's website on Wednesday, Putin makes an English-language appeal to the General Assembly of the International Exhibitions Bureau to let Russia host the 2020 World Expo, which he characterizes as a high-priority national project. He makes it very clear that Russia will fulfill all the requirements for hosting the event.
You can watch the clip in full below:
While the Russian leader doesn't speak English often, this admittedly isn't the first time he's shown off his language skills. In 2010, for instance, he spoke at the Judo Championships in Vienna. To be honest, I think he did a lot better then (perhaps his love of judo scared off stage fright).
He also spoke to CNN in 2008:
And who could forget his classic performance of "Blueberry Hill":
In comparison, Putin's appeal this week doesn't seem all that dramatic. Where was the piano?
(h/t: Miriam Elder)
Nelson Mandela is back in the news this week with the announcement that he's once again in the hospital and in fragile condition. And while the legacy of the former South African president and anti-apartheid revolutionary leader is open to debate, there's no denying that he's often turned to as a source of inspiration. Apparently, that even applies to the Democratic Republic of the Congo's M23 rebel militia.
On Monday, a Twitter account that appears to be run by members of the rebel movement published a series of tweets quoting Mandela and hailing freedom and peacemaking -- not exactly what you'd expect from an armed group that has used violence to battle the Congolese government since 2012.
“A leader. . .is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting themost nimble go out ahead, ~ Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom
“Courage is not the absence of fear — it s inspiring others to move beyond it.”?Nelson Mandela
“As I walkd out Z door toward Zgate Zat wld lead2my freedom,I knew if I didn't leav my bitterness&hatred behind,I'd stillBin prison~ Mandela
Great peacemakers are all people of integrity, of honesty, but humility.” ~ Nelson Mandela
“Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.” ~ Nelson #Mandela
“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to hishead.If u talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.~Mandela
“There is no passion to be found playing small - in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”~Nelson Mandela
“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”~ Nelson Mandela#M23
“For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others” ~Mandela #M23
“When a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in, he has no choice but to become an outlaw.” ~ Nelson Mandela #m23
Not surprisingly, the rebel army's decision to invoke one of the world's greatest peacemakers has ruffled a few feathers.
#Protip: if you carry out human rights abuses, you don't get to quote Mandela as your inspiration.— Laura Seay (@texasinafrica) June 10, 2013
So what explains M23's love of Mandela? It's not entirely clear, but M23 members have argued that they have Madiba's principles on their side in their struggle with the Congolese government. "I appeal to our brothers, the South Africans, not to allow an individual or a group of individuals to discard the values that have built their nation and for which values Nelson Mandela sacrificed his youth," declared M23 youth leader Ali Musagara last month, in urging South Africa not to support Kinshasa.
And hey, given that M23 leaders are currently trying to hash out peace talks with the Congolese government, maybe they actually are inspired. The group has already suggested that just like Mandela, who was once labeled a terrorist, M23 may one day be known for brokering peace, not waging war.
ISAAC KASAMANI/AFP/Getty Images
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Ergodan hasn't exactly been conciliatory toward protesters over the past week, condemning "extremists" and "bandits" for trying to destabilize the country. He also strongly objects to Twitter, which he has accused of being the "worst menace to society."
Menace or not, Erdogan's reference to protesters as "capulcu" (looters) has taken Twitter by storm. Turkish social media users have anglicized the word to "chapul" -- and they're bearing it proudly.
According to one Urban Dictionary definition, chapul is a verb that signifies "resistance to force" -- to "demand justice" and "seek one's right."
To use the word in a sentence you could say one of the following:
Even Noam Chomsky has gotten in on the action:
It'll be hard, though, for activists to top this:
For more fun with the Turkish protests, be sure to check out Andy Carvin's collection of humorous political art.
Twitter User @BBabayev
On Thursday, Gawker's John Cook announced that the news site's Indiegogo campaign to buy a video allegedly showing Toronto Mayor Rob Ford smoking crack could be in trouble. Raising the necessary $200,000 isn't the problem -- with four days to go, Gawker has already received more than $160,000 in pledges. The problem is that the owners of the footage have gone silent, perhaps in light of the intense media scrutiny the story has generated. "Our confidence that we can get a deal done has ... dimished," Cook wrote.
But that might not be the only snag awaiting the campaign. Canada's National Post has put forward another theory: If Gawker purchases the video from people involved in Toronto's drug trade, the payment could attract the attention of U.S. and Canadian regulatory agencies -- and be seized on the suspicion that it is helping the video's owners "profit from criminal activity."
The article goes on to explain how the case would boil down to whether the person who recorded the alleged footage was simply present at the scene and whipped out a camera, or involved in illicit activities:
[A]n electronic transaction that large between Canada and the United States will likely get flagged to both countries' financial regulatory bodies, said Christine Duhaime, a B.C. lawyer with a specialized anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing practice.
Electronic cross-border transactions over $10,000 must be declared, she said.
"Anyone is going to be concerned at any regulatory agency and any police force is going to be concerned with a company coming out and saying they're raising money to buy something from a drug dealer.... There are going to be some red flags. I don't really know how much this is going to be monitored, other than the fact that somebody is going to monitor the payment from Gawker fairly closely, because people have come out and said it is drug dealers [involved]."
The purchase of the video itself isn't illegal, but if the recipient - the details of which must be known for wire transfers and other electronic transactions - is a known criminal and shows up on a list of suspects or suspicious individuals, it will be reported to FINTRAC in Canada or FINCEN in the U.S., she said.
"Assuming it's a legitimate video and it's legally taken, that's not a problem," she said. "Except that it's going to a known drug dealer. Paying to a known drug dealer for a legitimate sale is problematic in and of itself, because the vendor [is] of questionable character and there are questionable activities."
Just one more wrinkle in an incredibly convoluted story.
Dennis Grombkowski/Getty Images
On Friday, chaotic clashes broke out in Georgia as an angry mob -- comprised mainly of young men but also including robed priests and some women -- descended on a gay rights rally commemorating International Day Against Homophobia. A day earlier, the head of the Georgian Orthodox Church had demanded that authorities stop the rally, calling it a "violation of the majority's right."
According to EurasiaNet, the mob, which numbered in the thousands, shouted violent slogans while chasing activists away from downtown Tbilisi. Clamors of "Kill them! Tear them to pieces!" and "Where are they? Don't leave them alive!" rang out as police herded activists into municipal buses and away from the area. As the activists left, protesters pelted the buses with stones and overpowered policemen trying to contain the scene. Seventeen people have reportedly been injured in the violence.
The video footage is quite dramatic:
Members of the Georgian government have spoken out against the attacks. UNM parliamentarian Gigi Tsereteli dismissed today's events as "anarchy" and added that "this is not the state we were building," while Justice Minister Tea Tsulukuani affirmed that "both groups have the right to hold peaceful rallies. Violence is unacceptable." While many have condemned the violence, comments later came from several ruling Georgia Dream party members that criticized the LGBT activists for raising tensions.
On May 15, Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili declared that sexual minorities "have the same rights as any other social groups" in Georgia and that society will "gradually get used to it." Judging from today's episode, Georgian society still has a ways to go.
(H/T: Arianne Swieca)
VANO SHLAMOV/AFP/Getty Images
In the latest example of crisis-mapping during natural disasters, the World Food Program's GIS Coordinator, Fabrice Recalt, has charted out the trajectory and intensity of Cyclone Mahasen and also made a map of available storm shelters, with detailed information on their facilities and potential vulnerability to the storm (everything from number of toilets to available water supply to date of construction).
The "digital humanitarian response" trend of compiling such crucial information has been extremely important in past disasters such as Typhoon Pablo in the Philippines, when geotagged tweets referencing previously publicized disaster hashtags (as in #PabloPH) were mapped out and provided to disaster response teams. The United Nations has embraced crisis-mapping as well.
Cyclone Mahasen, which hit Bangladesh on Thursday and threatens more than 8 million people, including displaced Rohingya Muslims in Burma, has so far mainly affected residents of fishing villages, who may not have benefitted much from Recalt's map. The category 1 cyclone has reportedly killed at least 12 people so far, making the storm much less serious than Cyclone Nargis in 2008, which left more than 130,000 people dead, and it is expected to dissipate within the next 24 hours. But had the storm been more serious, initiatives like Recalt's may have helped save lives.
(h/t Mari Ramos)
MUNIR UZ ZAMAN/AFP/Getty Images
Every year for the past seven May Days, Bolivian President Evo Morales has nationalized key industries as a gesture of populist zeal. But this year he went one (or two or three) steps further. "Today we are only going to nationalize ... the dignity of the Bolivian people," the leftist leader declared in protest of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's description of Latin America as the "backyard of the United States."
So, how exactly do you go about nationalizing a people's dignity? By kicking out USAID, apparently. Morales accused the aid organization, which has been operating in the country for 49 years, of attempting to undermine his government.
On Wednesday afternoon, USAID issued a statement in response to getting the boot:
The United States government deeply regrets the Bolivian government's decision to expel the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).We deny the baseless allegations made by the Bolivian government.
USAID’s purpose in Bolivia since 1964 has been to help the Bolivian government improve the lives of ordinary Bolivians. All USAID programs have been supportive of the Bolivian government’s National Development Plan, and have been fully coordinated with appropriate government agencies. The United States government has worked in a dedicated fashion over the past five years to establish a relationship based on mutual respect, dialogue, and cooperation with the Bolivian government. This action is further demonstration that the Bolivian government is not interested in that vision.
What is most regrettable is that those who will be most hurt by the Bolivian government’s decision are the Bolivian citizens who have benefited from our collaborative work on education, agriculture, health, alternative development, and the environment.
This is not the first time that the United States and Bolivia have butted heads; in 2008, for instance, Morales expelled the U.S. ambassador and the Drug Enforcement Agency. But only now has the Bolivian people's dignity been caught in the middle.
AIZAR RALDES/AFP/Getty Images
Anonymous, the hacktivist movement meant to simultaneously be the voice of everyone and no one, is getting a bit more institutionalized. How? They're starting a news organization: Your Anon News, a.k.a. YAN.
On Wednesday, YAN's indiegogo campaign came to a close having raised $54,668, well over the intended goal of $2,000. Claiming to be tired of Twitter and Tumblr, "they" (a select unknown group staking a claim to the mask) want to create a media site to support independent journalists instead of just aggregating the news (the money raised this week will go to expenses like web hosting fees).
We will engineer a new website which will allow us to collect breaking reports and blog postings from the best independent reporters online. We'll provide feeds for citizen journalists who livestream events as they are taking place, instead of the 10-second sound bites provided by the corporate media. Likewise, we know it would be beneficial to our followers to exist as a community beyond simple social media interactions. Many people have asked us to establish a site that accomplishes all of this and we've decided it's time we build it.
A noble mission statement. But it raises the question: How will Anonymous remain true to nature and serve as a news organization at the same time?
If, for example, Anonymous is going to devote time and resources to becoming a news organization, it will need to embrace some level of top-down decision-making about its coverage -- an approach that seems highly antithetical to the decentralized dogma that the movement preaches. What stories will it pay attention to? Whose voices will be heard?
For a sample of what we can expect, here's a snapshot from several hours ago of YAN's Twitter feed, which ironically focused on the very breaking news -- the West, Texas explosion, the frantic search for suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing, House approval of a controversial cybersecurity bill -- that the mainstream media was tracking on Thursday (the feeds contains more links than you might expect to the "corporate media").
At one point today, another Twitter feed simply called "Anonymous" called YAN out for lacking evidence in its assertion that there were private military forces at the Boston Marathon.
@youranonnews I hope you have editors for your news site and that they kill tweets/stories like ths. Report the facts.— Anonymous (@AnonyOps) April 18, 2013
With no apparent use of independent media, little coverage of underreported stories, and speculation worthy of the New York Post, welcome to the brave new world of Anonymous news.
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