Congressman Reed to Talk Free Speech at BU – wnbf.com

A Congressman from the Western and Central Southern Tier is making a visit to Broome County to weigh in on the November protests and confrontations that riled Binghamton University and resulted in a couple of arrests.

23rdDistrict Republican Tom Reed is scheduled to meet today with the Binghamton University College Republicans and B.U. President Dr. Harvey Stenger to discuss the restriction of free speech on campus.

The former Mayor of Corning says he recently sent a letter to SUNY Chancellor Kristina Johnson and Dr. Stenger requesting more information about the incident that unplugged a speech by conservative economist Art Laffer and resulted in the detention of a couple students.

That confrontation followed a clash between students protesting two tables that had been set up on the campus, one promoting Laffers speech and the other supporting gun rights.

The events also sparked comments from President Donald Trump at a Republican student action rally last month. The President claimed radicals swinging clubs, bats "and everything" and wearing masks and red arm bands mobbed Laffers talk.

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Congressman Reed to Talk Free Speech at BU - wnbf.com

Facebook and Zuckerberg keep getting freedom of expression wrong – The Next Web

Last week, Facebook reaffirmed its hands-off approach to political ads, saying it wont ban them, wont fact-check them, and wont limit how granularly they can be targeted. Under siege, Facebook has continued to defend this stance by trying to position the tech giant is a bastion of free speech.

Whether in his testimony to Congress last October or his 2020 resolutions post last week, Zuckerberg has sought to frame the question of advertising as one of free expression. And in what was positioned as a landmark address at Georgetown, Zuckerberg cloaked himself in the constitution, invoking the First Amendment no fewer than eight times. He even cited the Fifteenth Amendment for good measure.

Curious, though, that Facebook never mentions the Fourth Amendment, which guarantees the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures interpreted by the Supreme Court in Carpenter v. United States to encompass digital privacy.

The inconvenient truth for Facebook is that these rights are inextricably linked. We cannot be truly free to speak our mind when we know that our every word and action is being tracked and logged by corporations and governments. The erosion of privacy threatens our freedom of expression, and it is hypocritical for Facebook to play at free speech champion while also being at the forefront of surveillance capitalism.

According to the new Freedom on the Net 2019 report by Freedom House, free speech and privacy on the internet also declined globally for the ninth consecutive year. And one of the main reasons cited by the reports authors for the decline? Increased surveillance on social media platforms.

Facebook has been central to the rise of a world where it is taken for granted that our personal lives are public by default and our private data is extracted and processed as a commodity, and as such, it is a direct threat to our freedom of speech. This digital panopticon creates a chilling effect, where people are hesitant or afraid about exercising their rights because of the potential negative ramifications that may result from their speech and actions being used against them.

Its not just theoretical: Following the Cambridge Analytica expos, The Atlantic surveyed its readers and found that 41.9 percent of the respondents said they changed their behavior on Facebook as a result of learning about the news, mostly by being more careful about what they posted. Over four in five (82.2 percent) said they self-censor on social media. The chilling effect even extended beyond Facebook to elsewhere on the internet, with 25.6 percent reporting that the Cambridge Analytica incident changed their behavior on other social media.

Theres a clear connection between Facebooks privacy failings and negative ramifications on open expression. So perhaps its time for Zuckerberg to stop being so pious and take user privacy seriously if hes genuine about his commitment to freedom of speech.

If Facebook intends to be a platform for people to express themselves, it needs to give people more visibility into and control over who gets to see what they express. Facebook should follow through on its commitment to full and clear disclosure of the data it collects, the people and organizations that have access to it, and what is done with this data. It has claimed it will do so in the past, but was caught again less than a year ago secretly sharing data in violation of stated privacy protections.

Facebooks control over what almost three billion people in the world can see, share, and express is unparalleled in human history. Without fundamental privacy protections and full transparency on its practices, that kind of power cant be good for freedom of expression.

The chilling effect of surveillance isnt complicated. Sitting before Congress a few months ago, with dozens of cameras pointed at him, Zuckerberg surely acted in a far more constrained manner than he wouldve in the privacy of his own bedroom. How does he expect Facebook to be the champion of free expression when it wont stop pointing evermore figurative cameras at us?

Published January 18, 2020 17:00 UTC

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Facebook and Zuckerberg keep getting freedom of expression wrong - The Next Web

All the free speech money can buy – The Week

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

January 17, 2020

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This is the editor's letter in the current issue of The Week magazine.

A sack of money, the Supreme Court has decreed, is just another form of speech, which is why Mike Bloomberg will have vastly more to say about the 2020 presidential race than almost every other American. Bloomberg intends to shell out $1 billion for his "free" speech about why President Trump must be defeated (and why Bloomberg is the Democrat best suited to beat him). That's about 10 times what any individual has ever spent to influence a presidential race and Bloomberg promises to keep spending even if another Democrat gets the nomination. The former New York City mayor, 77, is worth about $58 billion, so he can easily afford this indulgence.

With no sane limits on political spending, it was inevitable that attempts to buy the White House and Congress would escalate. In the 1976 Buckley ruling, the Supreme Court struck down Watergate-inspired caps on the amount of money wealthy individuals could spend to influence a race or donate to their own campaigns. The 2010 Citizens United ruling, which removed limits on political spending by "outside" groups, unleashed a tsunami of contributions from the superwealthy, including Charles and David Koch, George Soros, Sheldon Adelson, and Tom Steyer. In 2010, the top individual contribution was $7.5 million; by 2018, it had soared to $122 million (by Adelson, mostly in Trump's behalf). Now Bloomberg is raising the ante into the billions. Money alone, of course, does not win elections. But the blizzard of ads, get-out-the-vote operations, and skilled campaign staff that only money can buy can make a crucial difference. In the majority opinion in Citizens United, Justice Anthony Kennedy insisted that "the appearance of influence or access" that donors get for massive contributions "will not cause the electorate to lose faith in our democracy." Ordinary citizens, after all, still have the same constitutional right to free speech as any billionaire. Just a lot less of it.

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Op-ed: A Navy bribery scandal and the limits of free speech – NavyTimes.com

It seems like everyones talking about bribery these days but I, and anyone else who works for the federal government, have to limit what we can say about what does or does not constitute an ethical or illegal lapse.

I am an ethicist who teaches leadership, ethics and law, and I believe a recent bribery case in the U.S. military offers an interesting and distinctive perspective through which to consider these issues.

Unfortunately, due to current restrictions on what federal employees can and cant say about political matters, I cant discuss all the ways that case might apply to a broader debate.

Nonetheless, there is one thing I can say without caveat or equivocation. Bribery laws for government officials have a powerful ethical principle at their core: If you work for the government, your actions in office are meant to serve the public interest not your own.

Trouble in the 7th Fleet

The so-called Fat Leonard scandal is the largest bribery and corruption case in U.S. Navy history.

The key player is Leonard Glenn Francis, a Malaysian-born businessman based in Singapore who was commonly referred to as Fat Leonard because of his 350-pound weight. He ran a company called Glenn Defense Marine Asia that had U.S. government contracts to provide various services to Navy ships in Asian ports docking, refueling, sewage removal and shore transportation for both cargo and personnel.

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In 2015, Francis pleaded guilty to plying Navy officers with cash and favors in exchange for their efforts to steer the Navys Pacific fleet to ports where his company could provide services. Then, the company would fabricate bids by nonexistent companies to make its own charges look competitive, overbill the Navy for services and even draw up fake invoices to collect money for goods and services it never provided to the ships and crews.

The case is perhaps best known for the fact that one of the most common favors Francis provided were paid sexual partners: He even kept meticulous notes about the peccadilloes of different officers.

More significant for U.S. taxpayers is the fact that the decade-long scam ultimately bilked the Navy out of more than $35 million.

Whistleblowers and corruption

In some ways the Fat Leonard scandal is a textbook bribery scheme, with clandestine meetings, envelopes full of cash, and explicit arrangements to perform clearly illegal acts. In fact, one of the biggest questions raised when Leonard was finally arrested in 2013 was how his company had been able to get away with the scheme for almost a decade.

There were, in fact, several whistleblowers along the way, but as is often the case when corruption is widespread, those in on the scheme were notified of the complaints before word got to those who would hold them responsible.

So rather than being lauded, whistleblowers were instead widely vilified.

Nonetheless, the truth was eventually brought to light. To date, more than 20 people have pleaded guilty to federal crimes, including the first-ever conviction of an admiral for a felony.

Significantly, however, the scope of the scandal is even more far-reaching. Dozens of officers, including several admirals, have been reprimanded and removed from office for more minor related violations, without going to jail.

Reciprocity and bribery

These last cases are particularly interesting, because they help demonstrate not only the high standards of military, but also the ways that bribery schemes often dont conform to common, stereotypical, preconceived notions.

Many of the officers charged didnt accept cash payments, but rather the kind of favors that they couldnt or wouldnt be able to obtain for themselves: travel, champagne, scotch, luxury hotel rooms, ornamental swords, handmade ship models, spa treatments, Cuban cigars, Kobe beef, Spanish suckling pigs, concert tickets and even a culinary internship.

Ultimately, it shouldnt be surprising that bribery often begins with small favors rather than thick envelopes of cash. Human beings are social creatures; favors strengthen peoples social bonds and make them more likely to reciprocate in turn.

Thats why federal ethics rules regarding favors are generally so strict, prohibiting government employees from accepting all but the most minimal gifts (even modest meals) from contractors and foreign agents.

Those prohibitions have obvious exceptions, but the principle behind the general rules is all the more important in their exceptions: Official actions are meant to serve public, rather than private, interests.

In the Fat Leonard cases, the evidence is clear: Even in the cases in which leaders have been merely reprimanded and removed from office, the kinds of favors the officers accepted demonstrate they were acting for their own benefits not those of the nation.

Why I cant say more

There may well be lessons the Fat Leonard saga has for other cases in which the alleged exchange of official acts for something of personal value is a key element of the crime.

Those considerations might seem even more relevant given that in 1998, Mississippi Republican lawmaker Roger Wicker took to the House floor and declared the rule of law means that the commander-in-chief of our armed forces could not be held to a lower standard than are his subordinates.

More than two decades later Wicker, now a senator, has recently reaffirmed that standard.

However, I am a federal employee, and the U.S. Office of Special Counsel has issued unusually broad guidance about the Hatch Acts limits on federal workers partisan political activities.

The law generally bars federal employees from advocating in favor of or against the election of a particular candidate, as well from participating in other partisan political activities in an election. Yet the current guidance which itself has been criticized for taking sides on a political divide has been taken by some to apply to any analysis of any aspects of the presidents impeachment and trial.

Limiting public discourse

This is a free-speech problem, but its more than that. When federal and state governments hire experts and researchers as, in effect, public servants, I believe that expertise should be welcome in the public sphere, helping to inform the people we work for.

I work at a federally run university, which is why I come under these particular government rules. There are relatively few institutions like mine, so it might seem a minor issue.

However, numerous states have laws similar to the Hatch Act, at least some of which apply to employees of those statespublic universities. If the current federal rules stand, public state university employees may well find themselves facing similar, or even more problematic, limits in the future, especially if analysis is taken to be a form of advocacy.

Regardless of those concerns, the Office of Special Counsels current guidance remains, for better or worse, the rule for federal employees.

Given that fact, there very may well be another reason to follow it: Doing so can help further differentiate those who attempt to respect the significant distinction between campaigning and governing from those who seek to minimize, or even eliminate altogether, the difference between the two.

As a result, I leave any lessons of how the Fat Leonard scandal might apply to any other case as an exercise for the reader.

A former major in the U.S. Air Force, Dr. Marcus Hedahl is an associate professor of Philosophy in the Department of Leadership, Ethics and Law at the United States Naval Academy and a faculty affiliate at the Kennedy Institute of Ethics, Georgetown University. His views, which he cant fully express, dont necessarily reflect those of Navy Times or its staffers.

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Op-ed: A Navy bribery scandal and the limits of free speech - NavyTimes.com

Campus Ministry USA preaches in Free Speech Alley this week, sparks arguments – The Reveille, LSU’s student newspaper

Over the past few days, a Christian Ministry group known as Campus Ministry USA has been coming to LSU in Free Speech Alley to preach their religious beliefs to anyone who will listen. This has been drawing a large crowd, sparking interest from students who disagree with the groups confrontational approach.

The group, which has been preaching at college campuses since 1984, uses strong language informing students that they are going to hell for their sins. Some students consider it hate speech.

A heated debate sparked in Free Speech Plaza on Tuesday between students and an evangelizing

They say theyre out here to preach but its justa show," political science senior Jenna Gibbs said. "Its just a stage act to get views on YouTube and get a rise out of people."

Gibbs also said that the group has been visiting the University since her freshman year and has been escorted off campus before.

Psychology senior Sierra Roberson believes their purpose is not to debate, but to disagree with students.

People will come out here and say logical things against them and then itll turn into actual fighting back and forth, Roberson said.

For many passersby, the whole event seemed to be an unintelligible screaming match filled with vulgar terms.

Some fellow Christians also thought this ministry groups message wasnt the proper representation of their religion.

They keep hating on everyone here, and I dont think they came here to spread the word but to tell us how they are more holy than we are, pre-nursing freshman and self-professed Christian Meredith Davis said.

Davis said that her beliefs reflect Gods love and forgiveness rather than judgement.

The group themselves said they want to save those who are continuing to live in sin. Founder and President of Campus USA Jed Smock spoke most of the day at the center of the controversy.

We want to preach the death and resurrection of Christ," Smock said. "Sin is evil and they [students] can be forgiven, but if they dont ask for Gods forgiveness they are going to hell."

Smock said the group would be on campus all week.

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Campus Ministry USA preaches in Free Speech Alley this week, sparks arguments - The Reveille, LSU's student newspaper

Where Does the Federal Reserve’s Money Come From? – Free Speech TV

The Federal Reserve pours money into banks to support the economy, but where does that cash come from? More importantly, is that money ever repaid?

Richard Wolff joins Thom Hartmann to explain it all.

Richard D. Wolff is Professor of Economics Emeritus, University of Massachusetts, Amherst where he taught economics from 1973 to 2008. He is currently a Visiting Professor in the Graduate Program in International Affairs of the New School University, New York City.

Earlier he taught economics at Yale University (1967-1969) and at the City College of the City University of New York (1969-1973)

The Thom Hartmann Programcovers diverse topics including immigration reform, government intrusion, privacy, foreign policy, and domestic issues. More people listen to or watch theTH programthan any other progressive talk show in the world! Join them.

The Thom Hartmann Programis onFree Speech TV every weekday from 12-3pm EST.

Missed an episode? Check out TH on FSTV VOD anytime or visit theshow pagefor the latest clips.

#FreeSpeechTVis one of the last standing national, independent news networks committed to advancing progressive social change. As the alternative to television networks owned by billionaires, governments, and corporations, our network amplifies underrepresented voices and those working on the front lines of social, economic and environmental justice.

#FSTV is available onDish,DirectTV, AppleTV,Roku,Slingand online atfreespeech.org.

economics Economy Fed Federal Reserve Richard Wolff The Thom Hartmann Program Thom Hartmann

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Where Does the Federal Reserve's Money Come From? - Free Speech TV

The Impeachment of Trump is Needed to Protect US Democracy – Free Speech TV

The impeachment trial begins its proceedings in the Senate today amid accusations of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell attempting to rush the impeachment process.

Senators will have 16 hours for questions and four hours for debate, after 24 hours for opening arguments on each side.

Democracy Now! speaks with Rick Perlstein, historian and author, and Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

Clarke says that thanks to the rules set by McConnell, Trumps impeachment trial could be over within a week, with much of the debate taking place in the evening. The process is designed to keep the Senate and the public in the dark, she says.

Democracy Now! produces a daily, global, independent news hour hosted by award-winning journalists Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzlez.

Our reporting includes breaking daily news headlines and in-depth interviews with people on the front lines of the worlds most pressing issues.

On DN!, youll hear a diversity of voices speaking for themselves, providing a unique and sometimes provocative perspective on global events.

Missed an episode? Check out DN on FSTV VOD anytime or visit the show page for the latest clips.

#FreeSpeechTV is one of the last standing national, independent news networks committed to advancing progressive social change.

As the alternative to television networks owned by billionaires, governments, and corporations, our network amplifies underrepresented voices and those working on the front lines of social, economic and environmental justice.

#FSTV is available on Dish, DirectTV, AppleTV, Roku, Sling and online at freespeech.org.

Amy Goodman Civil Rights Under Law Democracy Now! Donald Trump Free Speech TV impeachment Impeachment Trial Kristen Clarke Mitch McConnell Rick Perlstein United States

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The Impeachment of Trump is Needed to Protect US Democracy - Free Speech TV

Gilbert HOA threatening to fine residents over critical social media posts – ABC15 Arizona

GILBERT, AZ "If I didn't love this community, I wouldn't be fighting this fight," said Ashley Nardecchia.

Nardecchia lives in the Val Vista Lakes (VVL) community off Greenfield and Baseline Road.

Since 2019, she's been the admin of a private community Facebook page called Residents at VVL.

"It's all about bringing that community together," said Nardecchia.

It's your usual neighborhood page, full of events, lost dogs and safety updates. But when board elections kicked off last year, the debate over who should be seated got heated.

"It was disagreements about how certain members of the board run the board, where they're spending our money, things of that nature," said Nardecchia recalling the posts on the page during that time. Those disagreements played out in the comments on the page.

Following elections, the board proposed a social media policy restricting opinions about the board on Facebook. It was vehemently opposed by the community and quickly tabled.

Then a letter from a law office representing the board showed up at Nardecchia's home.

"They are threatening if I don't remove any content that frames certain members of the board in a negative light," said Nardecchia.

Threatening her with $250 daily fines as well as taking away her access to community amenities.

The letter was sent from a law firm paid for by HOA fee's to at least eleven residents.

"They are asking me to basically censor the speech of the 650 members that belong to that page," said Nardecchia.

"Clearly it's an overreach by the board," said Keith Faber.

Faber, a ten year resident of the community and former board member, received a letter too. He says the board has no right to restrict free speech on a private Facebook page.

"It's improper and they need to address, and maybe there should be some resignations," said Faber.

The letter demands posts that are disparaging, speculative or defaming to board members be removed immediately. It also cites past incidents including posts that said that board members altered or manipulated votes in annual elections and that board members purposefully retaliated against members in the association. Opinions that now come with consequences.

"I really do believe in that freedom of speech. We are a diverse community with diverse opinions and views, and we should be able to share that and have a discussion about that." said Nardecchia.

ABC15 spoke to a board member over the phone who said he would speak with others on the board and get back to us with a statement or comment regarding our story. They never called us back.

At least two attorneys focused on constitutional law, told ABC15 the board is over stepping their authority and may want to take a closer look at the protection found under the first amendment.

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Gilbert HOA threatening to fine residents over critical social media posts - ABC15 Arizona

Hearing Wednesday: EFF Urges Court To Rule That Blogger’s Opinion of Open Source Licensing Agreement is Protected by the First Amendment – EFF

San Francisco, CaliforniaOn Wednesday, January 22, at 9 am, EFF Staff Attorney Jamie Williams will tell a federal appeals court that a lower court correctly dismissed a defamation lawsuit against a blogger, finding that his criticisms of a companys business practices were opinions about an unsettled legal issue protected by the First Amendment.

EFF is representing Bruce Perens, founder of the Open Source movement, who criticized restrictions Open Source Security Inc. (OSS) placed on customers of its security patch software for the Linux Operating System. OSS sued Perens in response. The lower court found that OSSs lawsuit not only failed to plausibly state a claim for defamation, but also that it ran afoul of a California statute that protects defendants from SLAPPs, short for Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation. SLAPPs are malicious lawsuits that aim to silence critics by forcing victims to spend time and money to fight the lawsuit itselfdraining their resources and chilling their right to free speech.

At the hearing on Wednesday, Williams will tell a panel of Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals judges that Perenss blog post merely expressed his opinion about an unsettled legal issue of concern to a worldwide Open Source community, and that Perens disclosed the factual basis for that opinion. OSS, which disagrees with Perens, was free to state its disagreement publicly, but it was not free to sue Mr. Perens for exercising his First Amendment right, Williams will tell the court.

Read EFFs filing in the Perens case:https://www.eff.org/document/oss-v-perens-answering-brief

WHO: EFF Staff Attorney Jamie Williams

WHAT:OSS v. Perens

WHERE:Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals-James R. Browning CourthouseCourtroom 1, 3rd Floor, Room 33895 7th Street, San Francisco CA 94103

WHEN:WednesdayJanuary 219 am

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Hearing Wednesday: EFF Urges Court To Rule That Blogger's Opinion of Open Source Licensing Agreement is Protected by the First Amendment - EFF

The Ukraine Scandal and the Donald Trump Impeachment Trial – Free Speech TV

Sonali Kolhatkar speaks with David Marples, a Distinguished University Professor at the University of Alberta in Canada, specializing in Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus.

Parnas is a Russian born US citizen who was arrested last year along with another colleague Igor Fruman as they attempted to leave the country on one-way tickets.

Parnas says he along with Giuliani carried out much of the sordid plan to pressure Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden in exchange for US military aid.

That plan and the attempt to cover it up is at the heart of the two articles of impeachment against Trump that the House passed.

Meanwhile, in Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky, who has yet to complete his first year in office is plagued by more political problems than the Trump scandal.

Ukraines Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk offered to resign on Friday after his private criticism of the president became public. Zelensky has reportedly refused to accept the resignation.

Rising Up with Sonali is a radio and television show that brings progressive news coverage rooted in gender and racial justice to a wide audience.

Rising Up With Sonali was built on the foundation of Sonali Kolhatkar's earlier show, Uprising, which became the longest-running drive-time radio show on KPFK in Los Angeles hosted by a woman. RUS airs on Free Speech TV every weekday.

Missed an episode? Check outRising Upon FSTV VOD anytime or visit the show page for the latest clips.

#FreeSpeechTV is one of the last standing national, independent news networks committed to advancing progressive social change.

As the alternative to television networks owned by billionaires, governments, and corporations, our network amplifies underrepresented voices and those working on the front lines of social, economic and environmental justice.

#FSTV is available on Dish, DirectTV, AppleTV, Roku, Sling and online at freespeech.org

David Marples Donald Trump Free Speech TV impeachment Impeachment Trial Joe Biden Lev Parnas Military Aid Oleksi Honcharuk Rising Up with Sonali Rudy Giuliani Sonali Kolhatkar Ukraine United States University of Alberta Volodymyr Zelensky

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The Ukraine Scandal and the Donald Trump Impeachment Trial - Free Speech TV

More Americans are choosing cremation over traditional burials, survey finds – USA TODAY

Have you thought about what to do with your body when you die? More Americans arechoosing cremation over traditional burials, says a new survey.

A new report by insurance firm Choice Mutual found 44% of Americans plan on being cremated, a 40% increase from the 1960s. Traditional burials were the second most popular choice, with 35% of Americanspreferring the method.

Choice Mutual surveyed 1,500 people in the U.S. on their burial preferences and practices.

Other burial preferences includedonating their bodies to science at 6%and natural burials being buried without a casket in the ground at 4%.

Cremation is becoming a popular choice for people in Florida.(Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

"People donate their bodies to science now because they want to help improve medical practices, and with the eco-friendly burials people are a lot more conscious of the environment," said Morgen Henderson, researcher at Choice Mutual, in a statement.

Americans arealso opting for moreunique arrangements for their cremated remains, including launching them into space or having them compressed into a diamond.

The most popular option among Americans was having their ashes spread in a specific location (40%),followed by their ashes being kept by a family member (36%). Onein 10 Americans who plan to be cremated want to be planted as a tree.

As burial preferences have changed significantly over the years,more Americans are shifting towardmore non-traditional plans such as sea burial or plastination, a process that involves removingall fluids from the body and replacingit with a polymer or plastic-like substance.

"With the improvements and developments in technology that has opened up a lot of different burial options," said Henderson.

Who inspires you?: USA TODAY seeks your Women of the Century to commemorate 19th Amendment

Burial Preferences: Cremation is making death a little cheaper

These alternative burial methods aren't cheap, however.

The costliest, mummification, which involves the preservation of the skin and the flesh of a corpse, starts at $67,000, says Choice Mutual.By contrast, the average cost fortraditional burials is$7,360, which doesn't include a burial plot or headstone. Cremations start around $500 but could cost thousands more with viewing or memorial services.

And, for those looking to be frozen rather than burned, cryonics freezing the bodyto a temperature low enough that it wont decompose starts at an average cost of $28,000.

The survey found 47% of Americans opt for burial plans based on personal beliefs, while 24% say family traditions influence their decision. Only 14% of Americans ascribe financial reasons as the determining factor for their choice.

The choices vary across generations, with family traditions becoming increasingly more important to younger generations while financial reasons are more important to older generations, said the survey.

According to a report by National Funeral Directors Association,62.5%of Americansfelt it was very important to communicate their funeral plans and wishes to family members before their own death, yet only 21.4% had done so.

Follow Jazmin Goodwin on Twitter: @jazminkgoodwin.

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More Americans are choosing cremation over traditional burials, survey finds - USA TODAY

Study: North Korea, China, and Russia top internet censorship charts – The Next Web

A new study published by Comparitech.com, a site that compares privacy tools, ranks countries on how much they exercise internet censorship. The study says North Korea takes the crown, while China is on the second spot followed by Russia, Iran, andTurkmenistan.

The website has taken a total of 10 factors into account:

[Read:Internet partially restored in Kashmir after 165 days social media still blocked ]

North Korea scores a whopping 10 out of 10 on this scored card with China scoring 9. Russia, Turkmenistan, and Iran scored 7 in this survey. Internet censorship is a huge issue across the world as more and more countries are trying to stifle or control online content one way or another.

Governments are also recognizing that more and more users are using Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to overcome the countrys internet restriction to access content or post on social media sites.

Unfortunately, the study doesnt include internet shutdowns, which is a major problem in countries like India with relatively lighter internet restrictions. However, legislators are trying to fight authority and minimize internet blocks. Recently, the countrys apex court ruled that the internet is a part of the basic right of freedom of speech.

You can check the study here and you can check out the full spreadsheet with data from all countries here.

Read next: Filipino billionaire denies endorsing Bitcoin 'scam'

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Study: North Korea, China, and Russia top internet censorship charts - The Next Web

Cries of censorship in Sudan as media outlets linked to old regime closed – Middle East Eye

The closure in Sudan earlier this month of four media outlets believed to have been connected to former ruler Omar al-Bashir's government has attracted international criticism following a period of praise regarding improvements that had been made over the freedom of the press.

The decision to close the Al-Sudani and Al-Ray Al-Am newspapers, as well as the satellite channels of Ashrooq and Teeba, over alleged corruption and financing by the National Congress Party (NCP), Bashir's former ruling party, has also caused controversy within the country.

Sudan seizes assets of Omar al-Bashir's former ruling party

The four media outlets were closed on 8 January as part of a broader effort to dismantle the NCP and all its affiliated entities.

In November, the country's transitional authorities announced a law to dissolve the NCP, which also allowed for the party's assets to be seized.

The committee that ordered the closure of the media outlets said the aim was to examine their bank accounts and establish whether they were still being financed by members of the former government.

Other institutions affected included the Holy Quran society, which was closed down over similar allegations, and the International University of Africa, based in Khartoum, which was ordered to be audited.

Taha Othman, a member of the sovereign council legal committee, said the Ministry of Religious Affairs would now manage the Holy Quran society.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) all condemned the decision to close the media outlets.

Reporters Without Borders condemns the new Sudanese governments sudden closure of four media outlets that supported the former regime and asks it to show concern for the fate of their more than 200 journalists," RSF said in a press release.

"Instead of closing media outlets, the authorities should make sure the Sudanese media comply with a code of ethics.

Sudan is ranked 175th out of 180 countries in RSFs 2019 World Press Freedom Index.

In a statement on its official website, the IFJ said: In a new move to curb press freedom, the Sudanese government announced the seizure of four independent media houses, including two newspapers and TV-channels.

"Their offices have been occupied by security forces and all employees have been ordered to leave

The CPJ called on Sudanese authorities to revise the decision.

Sudanese authorities should end the suspension of these newspapers and TV stations and ensure that press freedom does not become collateral damage during a sensitive moment, it said.

All four media outlets and the Holy Quran society have denied receiving money from the NCP.

Wagdi Salih, spokesman for theAnti-Corruption Committee, which has been tasked with dismantling the NCP and its affiliated entities, defending the decision to close down the media outlets.

Salih accused them of receiving illegal finance, money laundering and looting public funds, among other financial crimes.

'Its a big joke that the supporters of the old regime are now crying for the freedom of press and expression that they oppressed everyday through the 30 years of their ruling'

-Wagdi Salih, Anti-Corruption Committee

He told Middle East Eye that the decision to close the outlets had nothing to do with the freedom of the press or freedom of expression in the country.

We are tracking the illegal ownership of these institutions, not their editorial policies or what they wrote, Salih stressed.

Its a big joke that the supporters of the old regime are now crying for the freedom of press and expression that they oppressed everyday through the 30 years of their ruling.

Salih said the committee had hard evidence and information they had received from the security organs and other institutions concerned proving that the outlets had basically been established and financed by the former ruling party.

Our aim and mandate asis to return the looted money to the nation because its one of the main demands of the revolution so we wont abandon our task...We will press on to dismantle all institutions that looted the money of the Sudanese people, regardless of them working in the media or any other area.

In a news conference last week, Rashid Saeed, the undersecretary of the Sudanese ministry of information, said that Ashrooq had been established by money paid following an order from Bashir.

He also said that the transitional government had suspended the media outlets under the law authorising authorities to seize the assets and funds of the former regime, and not because of their editorial line.

They spent millions of euros to establish this channel with public money, also for the Teeba channel, the former president himself has admitted in front of the court that he paid for them from public money, said Saeed.

For example, for the Holy Quran society, we found that it owns a gold mining site, this is clear corruption that we would never tolerate."

Inside Sudan, journalists and pro-democracy protesters were split over the closure, with some supporting the transitional government's committee tasked with the dismantling of the former ruling party, while others opposed the action, arguing the decision went against the message of the revolution.

Diya Aldin Bilal, the chief editor of Al-Sudani, one of the newspapers that was closed down, accused the transitional government of silencing the voices of journalists and any opposition, adding that they are practising the same attitude of the old regime.

Sudan opens Darfur crimes probe against former Bashir officials

Addressing a news conference in Khartoum earlier this month, Bilal denied any links with or the financing of his newspaper with the old regime.

We have nothing to do with the old regime's money or political positions, but the current government is practicing the same oppression against the media, he said.

Unfortunately, the Sudanese politicians are changing their views according to their political position and the government of the Forces ofFreedom and Change has changed its slogans and the principles that they claimed that they had come to defend when they came to the power.

However, Khalid Fathi, the secretary general of the Sudanese Journalist Network, welcomed the decision, saying its aim was to fight corruption and to control the assets of NCP, and had nothing to do with freedom of expression.

We have to take these outlets case by case, as for example with Teeba the authorities have received complaints from Nigeria and Ethiopia that this channel is broadcasting hate discourse in local languages in these countries," he told MEE.

"For Ashrooq and Al-Ray Al-Am it is known that they have been financed by the former ruling party, the controversy is now about the ownership of Al-Sudani, and that can be easily checked by the general auditor.

This moveis for fighting corruption and is actually supporting transparency and the rule of law.

"But the committee dismantling the old regime's institutions is supposed to be cautious and needs to double check the information it receives, especially about the media houses, because this issue is sensitive and can be linked to freedom of expression.

Sudanese political analyst Magdi el-Gizouli, a scholar at the Rift Valley Institute (RVI) think tank, believes that the transitional government should be focusing on more pressing threats to democracy in Sudan, rather than the banning of newspapers.

The real threats to democracy in Sudan are not the newspapers, but the security organs, the army leaders and the militias, they are all now on the top of the government following the compromise made between the civilians and the military, he said.

The reformation of the security sector is the priority, not the media.

I wonder how the new rulers, who were freedom fighters resisting the former regime, are now trusting the security organs which were part of the old regime, and receive their reports regarding the assets and investments of the former ruling party from them.

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Cries of censorship in Sudan as media outlets linked to old regime closed - Middle East Eye

Aichi Triennale Exhibition Will Be Restaged in Taiwan Following Censorship Controversy – Artforum

More than six months after an exhibition organized as part of the Aichi Triennale in Japan was shuttered following political and violent threats, the Taipei Museum of Contemporary Art in Taiwan announced that it would host the show in its studio space in the spring.

Following the opening of the exhibition After Freedom of Expression?, which focused on the history of censorship in Japan, in August, the Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art in Nagoya received numerous death threats by phone, email, and over fax over its inclusion of a comfort woman statuea monument that commemorates Korean women who were forced into sexual slavery by Japanese troops during World War IItitled Statue of Peace.

While the organizers of the exhibition cited the safety of museum staff and visitors as the reason for the closure, the participating artists and others opposed to the decision condemned the move as censorshipthe topic of comfort women remains a sensitive issue for Japan. Many expressed concern over the number of local lawmakers, including Nagoya Mayor Takashi Kawamura, who spoke out against the exhibition. The Cultural Affairs Agency, which previously pledged to provide 78 million yen in financial support to the triennial, later declared that it would not pay.

The controversy prompted more than a dozen artists, including Tania Bruguera, Pia Camil, Minouk Lim, Pedro Reyes, and Javier Tellez, to sign a letter addressed to the shows organizers, which read: We consider it an ethical obligation to stand by the exhibiting artists voices and their work being exhibited. Freedom of expression is an unalienable right that needs to be defended independently of any context.

While artistic director Daisuke Tsuda publicly apologized to the artists whose works were in the exhibition and for the strong sense of indignation and disappointment felt by the artists who ultimately withdrew works from the triennial in protest, he also defended the action and said that the exhibition drew threats beyond our expectations.

A government-appointed review board led by Toshio Yamanashi, director of the National Museum of Art, in Osaka later found that the closure and removal of the sculpture by Kim Seo-kyung and Kim Eun-sung was justified. It concluded that Tsuda deviated from the concept of the show by incorporating several new works when it apparently was only supposed to feature pieces that had previously been censored by the state. It also stated that Tsuda failed to effectively communicate with curators, administrators, and others involved in the festival, which was held from August 1 to October 14.

While the exhibition briefly reopened in October, it was only on view for a few days and visitors had to enter a lottery in order to see it.

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Aichi Triennale Exhibition Will Be Restaged in Taiwan Following Censorship Controversy - Artforum

Censorship On and By Social Media Platforms – Legal Reader

Social media platforms have the obligation to permit equal access to all perspectives. And, people, as well as companies, should be free to air out their views regarding a particular matter.

The Internet is an ideal platform for sharing and exchanging ideas. People and organizations use social media platforms for various things such as debate forums, disseminating values, and social media censorship among other things.

Censor political speech

As the presidential elections approach, there are frequent and urgent calls for government regulations which proscribe social media platforms from censoring political speech. The majority of these calls presume that government regulations will not encroach on the First Amendments rights of the platforms as they are only platforms and not publishers.

However, according to the U.S. Supreme Court, private social media platforms can systematize the speech on their platforms as they have similar First Amendment rights to private publishers. Hence, any government regulation which prohibits the authority of a platform to censor speech will indeed lead to viewpoint censorship thereby violating the First Amendment rights of the platform.

Usual government regulations

The censorship powers of social media platforms are not beyond the reach of government regulations. The government should consider adopting due process regulations which necessitate that platforms implement clear rules regarding the speech that they ought not to allow on the platform and protect against the arbitrary execution of these rules on users. In comparison to regulations which forbid platforms censoring authority, due process regulations can withstand First Amendment challenges because they do not inhibit platforms from controlling the viewpoints that people express on these platforms.

Do they have the right to censor?

The First Amendment provides exemplary protection which inhibits the government from limiting your right to manifest your viewpoint(s). Apart from controlling government regulations, it also protects against various types of censorship, for example, forms of compelled speech and speech restrictions set in grants conditions. So, platforms have the right to censor.

Due process regulations are different

Despite the ability of the First Amendment to limit government censorship, the government can still address the dangers of biased platforms. Due process regulations are different as they do require platforms to modify their message, hence their ability to withstand First Amendment difficulties. Furthermore, due process regulations address most of the concerns that people raise. And, these regulations enable users to know the rules earlier so that they can develop content that complies with these rules.

Kinds of censorship

As aforementioned, there are various kinds of censorship that the First Amendment protects against. Coming up with an essay on a political topic can be challenging. But, with professional assistance from Essay Kitchen, drafting an outstanding and impeccable article will not be an issue.

What can we do?

Social media platforms have the obligation to permit equal access to all perspectives. And, people, as well as companies, should be free to air out their views regarding a particular matter. Furthermore, the First Amendment protects against the intervention of the government in limiting your ability to express your thoughts and opinions. Hence, people should say no to government regulations that censor social media. The government should not control what people say and how they say it.

In conclusion, there should be no restrictions on how people choose to express their views and share their ideas. The First Amendment aids in limiting government censorship and people should embrace it.

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Censorship On and By Social Media Platforms - Legal Reader

Internet Censorship In Africa Is A Trend In Africa – What To Expect In 2020 – WeeTracker Media

In 2019, deliberate internet censorship cost African economies a collective USD 2.16 Bn. The shutdowns, mostly orchestrated by governments, have been on for many years.

Though such restrictions have been going on for many years, last year was the worst year in terms of amount of money foregone. So, for 2020, what should African businesses and individuals expect?

Internet shutdowns are becoming a trend in Africa. Period. The Global Cost of Internet Shutdowns in 2019 report finds that most internet shutdowns occur in response to protests or civil unrest surrounding elections.

Usually, these web and social media blackouts occur when governments want to restrict the spread of information and maintain their power grip. This does not not only toy with citizens freedom of expression, but also with their right to information.

The first major internet shutdown in Africa for last year is proof that the reports findings are correct. In Zimbabwe, the administration of Emmerson Mnangagwa executed a web blackout to quell protests arising from the ridiculous hike in fuel prices. It marked the first time for such to happen in the Southern African nation, which made Zimbabweans clamor for the return of their former leader Robert Mugabe.

A similar event occurred in Sudan, where the government shutdown the internet for weeks. The intention was to smother the protests against the generals who seized power after Omar al-Bashir was ousted by military forces in April.

These series of disturbing events occurred after Sudan-wide demonstrations against his rule. After shutting down the internet to curb malpractice during national exams in June 2019, Ethiopia went on to sustain the blackout due to failed military coup attempts.

The examples are endless, but the trend is certain. Whats more, the report by Top10VPN says that there is little to suggest that internet shutdowns will stop in 2020. This comes in spite of their negative impact on the global economy, human rights and the democratic processes.

Simon Migliano, Head of Research at Top10VPN, told WeeTracker that internet shutdowns have become a popular strategy across Africa during times of political unrest. This seems to be undeterred by condemnation by the United Nations and human rights organizations around the world.

Given that the rate of internet shutdowns has been increasing over the last three years, we have every reason to expect that there will be more in Africa this year, particularly in regions like Ethiopia and Sudan where elections are on the horizon, he said.

Simons predictions are not implausible, because truly, there are a couple of elections to be held in Africa this year. Also, some of these polls are being held in countries where internet censorship has occurred in the past. These include Chad, Mauritius, Ethiopia, Somalia, Tanzania, Egypt and Liberia.

Peaceful and fair elections are encouraged across the continent, but theres a likeliness that internet censorship will occur in these countries. Togo is likely to join the crop, as it prepares to hold the first African presidential election of the year on February 22nd. Factors that will make for an internet censorship in the West African country are numerous.

The current president, Faure Gnassingb, has been in power since 2005, after the death of his father. His regime is to be extended as hes to be the only candidate on the ballot. Faures father seized control of the small country in 1967. Protests upon protests have registered displeasure over the seemingly dynastic rule of the Gnassingbs.

The internet may ultimately not shutdown in Togo, but the other promising crop of countries on the continent make us beg to differ. The nations aforementioned are known for civil unrest, long-ruling presidents and military shakedowns. Take Sudan for instance, where their last internet censorship led and resulted in to military open-fire on the nations citizens.

African businesses are actually better off expecting internet censorship this year and put things in place to enable them cope. Businesses that only exist online or on social media wont be able to operate at all during a shutdown.

According to Simon, those that have physical locations or provide services should be aware of alternative ways to communicate with suppliers, employees and existing or future customers.

On the signs of an internet shutdown, Simon said that any election or authority-related protest or form of unrest can be seen as a precursor to an internet shutdown. The reality is that unless a business operates completely offline, an internet shutdown will undoubtedly have some negative impact on their ability to successfully function, he says.

All businesses can really do is ensure that they have a means of staying connected and, where possible, find alternative methods of carrying out activities that would usually be done online.

A 2017 report by CIPESA on internet censorship revealed that the impact of being dumped offline is not a binary issue. The survey titled Calculating The Economic Impact Of Internet Disruptions In Sub-Saharan Africa, said that even after internet access is restored, the impact of a cut-off continues to resonate.

Economic losses caused by an internet disruption persist far beyond the days on which the shutdown occurs, because network disruptions unsettle supply chains and have systemic effects that harm efficiency throughout the economy, the report noted.

Internet disruptions, however short-lived, undermine economic growth, disrupt the delivery of critical services, erode business confidence, and raise a countrys risk profile.

Theres not exactly many options available when a business is disrupted by internet censorship. Simon explains: For many people, its just the old-fashioned way: telephone or fax! If an affected business is close to a region where internet remains available, then its a case of travelling there to conduct the most urgent matters via laptop and mobile internet before returning home. Of course, thats not an option for many. This is why internet shutdowns are so damaging.

Featured Image: New York Times

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Internet Censorship In Africa Is A Trend In Africa - What To Expect In 2020 - WeeTracker Media

The spy who fell off my family tree and nearly got away – The Jewish News of Northern California

In 1939, the notorious German-born spy Julius Silber vanished.

The double agent, known as the spy who was never caught, had passed secrets to Germany during World War I while embedded in a British censorship bureau. Then he humiliated Britains MI5 by outing himself in his 1932 autobiography, The Invisible Weapons. The Nazis rewarded his service by annulling his citizenship because he was Jewish, something Silber had kept under wraps.

Silber himself had no direct descendants, but he has distant relatives. I am one of them.

With enemies on both sides of the Channel, Silber crossed the Atlantic at the end of 1933 and became a U.S. citizen the following year. He traveled back and forth to Europe from 1934 until at least 1937, writing articles on European politics for American newspapers. On Jan. 17, 1939, the week before he turned 60, Silber was scheduled to address a womens group in Rockville Centre, Long Island. Then he disappeared. No more lecture announcements in newspaper archives. No more citations on ships manifests. No listing in the Social Security Death Index.

Biographer Ronald Seth believed Silber died of failing health in Germany in 1939, but I was suspicious. The Germans kept good records, and there were none.

My search for answers led me to London this past fall, where I met with Katie Figulla, the great-granddaughter of Silbers older sister, Malafka Silber Asch, and Figullas mother, Lesley.

Katie had found me through Ancestry.com and reached out, looking for information about her great-grandmother and her own Jewish roots.

Did you know about [Malafkas] infamous brother, Julius Silber, who spied for Germany during WWI, working undercover in England? I asked her by email before our meeting.

No I did not! Katie replied.

When we met in my hotel lobby in London, Katie shouted Cousin! as she and her mother came over to hug me. Her mother carried an envelope with copies of family photos, including one of Uncle Jules, a distinguished-looking man with a goatee, and another of Malafka, who died at Theresienstadt in 1943 at age 75, a month after she was deported from Berlin.

She was murdered, Lesley Figulla said.

Like Woody Allens Zelig, Julius Silber changed his identity when it suited him and began calling himself Jules, J. C. Silber or Jules Crawford Silber. The name Crawford may have come from a British biscuit tin, not from his Jewish parents. Born in 1879 in Breslau, Germany (now Wroclaw, Poland), Silber left home as a teenager. He arrived in South Africa in 1896 with plans to study medicine, but the Boer War disrupted his studies. Skilled at languages, he learned to speak English even better than my native tongue, he wrote, and became thoroughly conversant with the language of the Boers as well as with that of the Zulus.

As an interpreter for the British in South Africa, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), and in India, he emulated the mannerisms of British colonialists. He hunted and hiked, enjoyed club life and smoked fine tobacco. Did the Brits know he was Jewish? Unlikely.

In 1903, Silber left South Africa and settled in New York, where he succeeded in making a comfortable fortune, according to his autobiography. One thing he left out was his engagement to Ida Richardson Hood, a curator at New Yorks American Museum of Natural History and the daughter of a Confederate general. Silber jilted Ida, according to her nephew, James Bagg.

Nobody in my family ever mentioned anything about Jules having been Jewish, so it either was unknown or was considered unimportant, Bagg wrote in an email. But his devotion to his native Germany was all the stranger in light of his background.

That devotion took root in 1914, when war broke out. Although Silber had created a new life in New York, he was overcome by twinges of patriotism for his fatherland. Taking advantage of his knowledge of British customs, he decided to help Germany by serving as a double agent in England. However, without a passport, the German-born Silber couldnt sail from New York. Instead, he traveled to Montreal, where he boarded a cargo ship bound for England. Masquerading as a French Canadian, he embedded himself in the British postal services censorship bureau in London and later in Liverpool.

With no training as a spy, Silber developed an ingenious technique for passing military secrets to the Germans. Using an already stamped window envelope addressed and mailed to himself, he would open the envelope, write an innocuous-seeming letter, address it to a person on the British suspect list and enclose microfilm with strategic information. Then he would reseal the envelope and mark it Passed by the Censor.

Silbers envelope escapades were never discovered, although he had several narrow escapes. Required to register for the draft, he used his medical knowledge to fabricate a heart ailment and avoid conscription.

After the war, without a passport and suffering from a heart disease which grew rapidly worse, Silber wrote that he was unable to leave England. Then by a stroke of luck, Belgium sought to increase tourism by issuing weekend passes to British visitors who had no passports. In May 1925, Silber boarded a ferry to Ostend and took a train to the Dutch border. After receiving a passport at the German Legation in The Hague, he was on his way to Berlin. At last I was at home, he wrote at the end of his autobiography.

But he wasnt home for long. In December 1933, after Hitler came into power, Silber sailed for New York. Six years later, he disappeared.

With no resolution on the fate of Cousin Julius, I put his story on a back burner until I received Katies email last year. Not only was she unaware of Julius, but she did not know that her great-grandmother Malafka had died in the camps. Katies 85-year-old father, Frederick Figulla, hadnt shared this information with his daughter until she told him what I had uncovered.

Malafkas only daughter, Kthe Asch, left Germany for England in 1938 in order to marry her fianc, Hugo Henry Figulla, with whom she shared a young son. The Nuremberg laws prohibited marriage between Jews and non-Jews, and Hugo Henry was not Jewish. They had left 3-year-old Frederick in the care of family friends, expecting to return soon, but the war, sadly, resulted in a long separation from their son.

Frederick didnt recall meeting Uncle Julius, but he knew of his espionage activities. When Katie and her mother asked about Silbers disappearance in 1939, Frederick was adamant.

Julius did not disappear, he told them.

So, I asked, what happened?

He committed suicide, Katie said. He killed himself in 1939. In Lisbon.

Lisbon? I shouted. Coincidentally, we happened to be flying there the next day. Maybe I can find some answers. It would be a satisfying ending to a story that began when an L.A. second cousin I found, Amy-Hannah Broersma, first put me onto Silbers bizarre story five years ago.

Good luck! said the concierge of my hotel, who provided me with historical background. During World War II, when Portugal was a neutral country, Lisbon swarmed with spies on both sides. Finding a record of Silbers arrival would be next to impossible. Finding a record of his death? I could try. She directed me to Lisbons civil records bureau.

Arriving, I interrupted a clerk to ask for information.

Take a number, she said. After an hours wait, I left. Later I learned the bureau had no wartime records, and I emailed the city archives.

Im still waiting for a response, and the elusive spy continues to haunt me. But in the process, my world and my family have grown.

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The spy who fell off my family tree and nearly got away - The Jewish News of Northern California

Some people in China help the party police the internet – The Economist

Citizen censors focus on smut, misleading ads and political gossip

THE INTERNET is the spiritual home of hundreds of millions of Chinese people. So Chinas leader, Xi Jinping, described it in 2016. He said he expected citizens to help keep the place tidy. Many have taken up the challenge. In December netizens reported 12.2m pieces of inappropriate content to the authoritiesfour times as many as in the same month of 2015. The surge does not indicate that the internet in China is becoming more unruly. Rather, censorship is becoming more bottom-up.

Officials have been mobilising people to join the fight in this drawn-out war, as a magazine editor called it in a speech in September to Shanghais first group of city-appointed volunteer censors. Internet governance requires that every netizen take part, an official told the gathering. It was arranged by the citys cyber-administration during its first propaganda month promoting citizen censorship. The 140 people there swore to report any online disorder.

Some netizens, it seems, are as enthusiastic about the task as online scolds in the West are about denouncing heresy on Twitter. Rongbin Han of the University of Georgia says this suggests that the popular image of a shadowy state versus a resistant citizenry is oversimplified. Oversight of cyberspace has become highly decentralised. Private internet firms have long played a big role in censoring content they and their users produce. Increasingly, ordinary citizens are joining in.

Officials want them to look out for harmful content relating to several broad categories. The partys priorities are, in order: political, terrorist and pornographic. Of the material reported by the public, data released by the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), the central governments internet watchdog, suggest that most is either political or pornographic. In March 2017, pornography was the biggest category of citizen-flagged content (47%). Politics came second (27%). Official figures from June that year show the order reversed, with political content comprising 42% and smut 38%.

No examples are given of offensive items. But officials define the political type very broadly, as including anything deemed to threaten Chinas national security or interests such as political rumour. No tittle-tattle about Mr Xi and his colleagues, in other words.

Since June 2017 the CAC has stopped providing a breakdown of reported content by type in its monthly reports. But some provincial governments still do. In Tibet, for instance, 45% of content reported to the regional cyber-administration in December was political and only 19% pornographic. An additional 16% of it involved Tibet-related conventions. This term is not defined but probably covers material challenging the partys way of running Tibetan affairs. Local officials say that preventing the spread of counter-propaganda from the Dalai Lama is a priority.

Why do citizens play along? Some people are genuinely worried about vulgarity, pseudoscience and the peddling of unsafe products. An official survey last year of more than 200,000 netizens found that dishonest advertising, rumour and pornography were the most frequently encountered types of problematic content. But some netizens are simply anxious to impress. In 2015 the Communist Youth League began requiring each university to organise a group of volunteer censors. Would-be members of the league, or the party, have an incentive to sign up. Weibo, a Twitter-like service, has a team of 2,000 volunteer supervisors (in addition to its army of in-house censors). They can earn rewards for reporting harmful material. In October they found 3.8m examples.

The partys efforts may be working. In 2019 Freedom House, an American think-tank, lowered Chinas internet-freedom score to 10% free, down from 15% when Mr Xi took power in 2012. Controls keep tightening. Information-technology rules, which took effect on December 1st, oblige new subscribers to mobile-phone services not only to prove their identities, as has long been required, but also to have their faces scanned. That, presumably, will make it easier for police to catch the people who post the bad stuff online.

This article appeared in the China section of the print edition under the headline "Some people in China help the party police the internet"

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Some people in China help the party police the internet - The Economist

Nepal: Information Technology Bill threatens freedom of expression – Amnesty International

Nepals parliament must amend the Information Technology Bill (IT Bill) to bring into line with international standards and ensure that the law is not used to criminalize the peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression, Amnesty International said today.

Provoking widespread criticism from Nepals civil society, the proposed IT Bill would empower the government to arbitrarily censor content online, including on social media, and punish offenders with up to five years imprisonment and a fine of 1.5 million Nepali rupees (approximately 13,000 USD).

The IT Bill is one of three proposed pieces of legislation that use vague and overbroad clauses to unduly restrict the right to freedom of expression. The bills have been proposed against the backdrop of intensifying attacks on free expression in the country.

Nepal was once envied by people across the region for its openness towards critical views and opinions. That reputation is now at risk as the government continues to crack down on what people say, write and even sing. The IT Bill and all other legislation must be amended and brought into line with international law and standards to guarantee peoples right to freedom of expression, said Biraj Patnaik, South Asia Director at Amnesty International.

In 2019, laws like the Electronic Transactions Act 2006 were used to arbitrarily detain journalists for publishing stories which criticized the government or others who posted critical comments online. In April, journalist Arjun Giri was charged under the Act for reporting on financial fraud. In June, comedian Pranesh Gautam was arrested for posting a satirical film review on YouTube. In October, musical artists Durgesh Thapa and Samir Ghishing popularly known as VTEN, were arrested for the content of their songs.

Nepal was once envied by people across the region for its openness towards critical views and opinions. That reputation is now at risk as the government continues to crack down on what people say, write and even sing

Several provisions in the IT Bill do not meet international human rights law and standards. For example, section 94 of the bill vaguely criminalizes people who post content on social media if it is deemed to be against national unity, self-respect, national interest, relationship between federal units.

Other provisions of the IT Bill, which are open to very wide interpretation, could also be abused to stifle critical opinions, satire, public dialogue, and public commentary. For example, the bill prohibits teasing, deceiving, demotivating, and demeaning.

Section 88 of the bill also restricts the publishing of such content through use of any electronic medium, which could include news sites, blogs and even emails.

Section 115 of the bill envisions an Information Technology Court in each of the seven provinces around the country, with the mandate to deal with all issues under the bill, including criminal liability. As the bill authorizes the government to appoint the members of the court bypassing judicial council, this poses serious concerns on the influence of the executive over these courts, the independence of the judiciary and fair trails guarantee in such courts.

Under international human rights law, states are permitted to limit the right to freedom of expression, but these limitations must be set forth in law in a precise manner, and be necessary and proportionate to a legitimate aim, as stipulated in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Nepal is a party.

If passed in its current form, the provisions in the IT Bill further risk creating a chilling effect, and will ultimately give rise to censorship and self-censorship online where people will no longer be able to share their feelings or debate ideas freely and without fear of repression, said Biraj Patnaik.

In 2019, the government of Nepal proposed a series of bills in parliament with provisions criminalizing acts that should be protected under the right to freedom of expression, and give the authorities excessive powers to impose harsh sentences for vaguely worded offences.

In February 2019, the Information Technology Bill was proposed in the house of representatives.

In May 2019, the government registered the Media Council Bill in the upper house of parliament with provisions that would muzzle freedom of expression through printed and online media. Under Section 18, the Council will have the power to impose fines of up to one million rupees (approximately 9,000 USD) if a journalist is found guilty of libel or defamation, which is also punishable under the criminal code. According to international human rights standards, defamation should be treated as a matter for civil litigation, not criminal.

The Mass Communication Bill, also drafted in 2019, includes provision of even harsher sentencing and fines to journalists with up to 15 years of imprisonment if found guilty of publishing or broadcasting contents deemed to be against sovereignty, territorial integrity and national unity, as per section 59 of the draft bill.

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Web needs an element of censorship as some of it is bordering on pornography: Niki Walia – IWMBuzz

Niki Walia, who entertained in TV shows Astitva Ek Prem Kahani and Dil Sambhal Jaa Zara, is now exploring the web world. After being part of Puncchbeat, Niki is now part of Nakuul Mehta and Anya Singh starrer web series Never Kiss Your Best Friend on ZEE5.

In conversation with IWMBuzz.com, Niki spoke about her new series, co-star Nakuul Mehta and more.

How was your experience working for Never Kiss Your Best Friend?

It has been an awesome experience to work with such legendary actors. This entire shoot was more like a big fat party rather than working, we were working for grueling long hours but it was just awesome. Captain of the ship Arif, hats off to him, a special mention to him, he is such a young lad but he is so amazing. I have loved the production Niraj, Sarita, Yukti, Naina everybody. It was a treat, this entire shoot was a treat.

Tell us about your bond with co-star Nakuul Mehta?

Nakuul and I have known each other socially and weve met at Sanjay Kapoors house for dinner along with his wife Jankee. I think both of them are an absolutely adorable couple. Nakuul, in particular, is not just a dedicated actor but he is also someone who believes a lot in self-growth and is so involved with personal growth. He reads he travels, he explores, hes into theatre, and he makes sure the atmosphere on the set is perfect. He is a breath of fresh air in todays generation of actors and I genuinely believe that he is an all-rounder. Its a very rare quality that you get in people today that come to work and arent cribbing, complaining or bitching or forever finding fault with either the production department or the direction department.

In this new generation of actors, he is the first guy I have come across after a very long time who also believes in the same things. Our work ethics are very similar. He is ever so courteous, a thorough gentleman, he is adorable, I just love Nakuul and Jankee. I am so happy I met Nakuul it was amazing working together.

What is your take on the digital medium which is flourishing nowadays?

Web gives one more room to experiment. The roles are more interesting and diverse rather than the linear that exists on television.

Do you think the web needs censorship?

I believe there should be an element of censorship as some of it is bordering on pornography and its unnecessary in the stories.

Any other projects you are working on?

After Never Kiss Your Best Friend, I also have How To Kill Your Husband, Guilty, Tuesdays and Fridays, as well as Puncch Beat Season 2 and 3 coming up. And there a few others but its too early to talk about them right now.

Which is your preferred medium to work?

I am not choosing work according to medium but rather what excites and challenges me.

Any final message

I would want the audience to binge-watch Never Kiss Your Best Friend on ZEE5 as it is an amazing series.

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Web needs an element of censorship as some of it is bordering on pornography: Niki Walia - IWMBuzz