Tag Archives: BBC

Chinese Government Responds to Call for Protests

When I went to China there were heavily armed police at every metro stop, every tourist site, and especially at Tiananmen Square where the 1989 protests took place.  Every university has a party member censoring what they lecture, and it is strongly discouraged to speak about any rebellion against the government.  Not only is the information everyday Chinese citizens receive censored, as the news media is controlled by the state, but information about the recent protests in Egypt, Tunisia, and Bahrain was especially limited.

Which makes this really interesting!

And no, don’t blame this on communism – this is totalitarianism.

According to BBC News:

Figures published last year suggested the Chinese government spent almost as much on maintaining internal security as on defence.

A leading government think-tank has said there have been 90,000 so-called “mass incidents” – examples of public unrest – in China every year since 2007.

A revolt seems to be fomenting!  If only the story could break in China…

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New York Times, Andrew Jacobs

BEIJING — Skittish domestic security officials responded with a mass show of force across China on Sunday after anonymous calls for protesters to stage a Chinese “Jasmine Revolution” went out over social media and microblogging outlets.

Although there were no reports of large demonstrations, the outsize government response highlighted China’s nervousness at a time of spreading unrest in the Middle East aimed at overthrowing authoritarian governments.

The words “Jasmine Revolution,” borrowed from the successful Tunisian revolt, were blocked on sites similar to Twitter and on Internet search engines, while cellphone users were unable to send out text messages to multiple recipients. A heavy police presence was reported in several Chinese cities.

In recent days, more than a dozen lawyers and rights activists have been rounded up, and more than 80 dissidents have reportedly been placed under varying forms of house arrest. At least two lawyers are still missing, family members and human rights advocates said Sunday.

In Beijing, a huge crowd formed outside a McDonald’s in the heart of the capital on Sunday after messages went out listing it as one of 13 protest sites across the country. It is not clear who organized the campaign, but it first appeared Thursday on Boxun, a Chinese-language Web site based in the United States, and then spread through Twitter and other microblogging services.

Eugene Hoshiko/Associated Press - A man, center, was detained by the police near a planned protest site in Shanghai on Sunday.

By 2 p.m., the planned start of the protests, hundreds of police officers had swarmed the area, a major shopping district popular with tourists.

At one point, the police surrounded a young man who had placed a jasmine flower on a planter outside the McDonald’s, but he was released after the clamor drew journalists and photographers.

In Shanghai, three people were detained during a skirmish in front of a Starbucks, The Associated Press reported. One post on Twitter described a heavily armed police presence on the subways of Shenzhen, and another claimed that officials at Peking University in Beijing had urged students to avoid any protests, but those reports were impossible to verify Sunday.

The messages calling people to action urged protesters to shout, “We want food, we want work, we want housing, we want fairness,” an ostensible effort to tap into popular discontent over inflation and soaring real estate prices.

In a sign of the ruling Communist Party’s growing anxiety, President Hu Jintao summoned top leaders to a special “study session” on Saturday and urged them to address festering social problems before they became threats to stability.

“The overall requirements for enhancing and innovating social management are to stimulate vitality in the society and increase harmonious elements to the greatest extent, while reducing inharmonious factors to the minimum,” he told the gathering, according to Xinhua, the official news agency. Mr. Hu also urged those gathered to step up Internet controls and to better “guide public opinion,” a reference to efforts aimed at shaping attitudes toward the government through traditional propaganda and online commentators who masquerade as ordinary users.

Human rights advocates said they were especially concerned by the recent crackdown on rights defenders, which intensified Saturday after at least 15 well-known lawyers and activists were detained or placed under house arrest. Several of them reached by phone, including Pu Zhiqiang and Xu Zhiyong, said they were in the company of security agents and unable to talk, while many others were unreachable on Sunday evening. Two of the men, Tang Jitian and Jiang Tianyong, remain missing.

Many of those subjected to house arrest had met in Beijing on Wednesday to discuss the case of Chen Guangcheng, a blind lawyer under strict house arrest in rural Shandong Province. The plight of Mr. Chen and his family gained widespread attention last week after a video he and his wife made about his arrest emerged on the Internet.

Mr. Jiang, one of the missing lawyers, was forced into an unmarked van on Saturday night, his second abduction in recent days, his wife, Jin Bianling, said by telephone. She said the police had also searched the couple’s home and confiscated his computer and briefcase.

In an interview after his first detention on Wednesday, Mr. Jiang said that he was taken to a police station and assaulted.

Most of those who thronged the McDonald’s in Wangfujing, the Beijing shopping district, said they had no idea what the commotion was about. Some thought that perhaps a celebrity had slipped into the restaurant for a hamburger. But a young man, a Web page designer in his late 20s, quietly acknowledged that he was drawn by word of the protest.

Despite the absence of any real action, the man, who gave only his family name, Cui, said he was not disappointed by the outcome, in which police officers tried in vain to determine who was a potential troublemaker and who was simply a gawker. He predicted that many people, emboldened by the fact that an impromptu gathering had coalesced at all, would use social networking technology to stage similar events in the future.

“It’s very difficult to do this in China, but this is a good start,” he said. “I’m thankful to be able to participate in this moment in history.”

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India Facebook users urged to ‘appear whiter’ – BBC News

Facebook users in India are being urged to make themselves appear whiter online, as part of a marketing campaign by a skincare company.

Vaseline has launched software to promote its new skin-whitening cream, which promises to reduce five types of dark face spots.

Facebook users are asked to download a programme or app, which will then similarly adjust their photographs.

Having lighter skin is considered an asset in parts of India.

It is being called “Snow White syndrome” in India, a market where sales of whitening creams are far outstripping those of Coca-Cola and tea.

Pankaj Parihar of Omnicom, the advertising firm behind the campaign, told the AFP news agency the response to its “Vaseline Men” cream “has been pretty phenomenal”.

The Vaseline Men Facebook page has more than 500 fans, who also receive grooming tips such as this:

“Don’t shave for a day or two and let the stubble grow in rakishly. Combine this with sunglasses to look utterly mysterious, rakish and thoroughly attractive.”

But not all users approve. Ember Rayne Hulett from Virginia in the US writes that “Black is Beautiful. You don’t need a cream to be cool”.

As with the Indian economy as a whole, the skin-whitening industry is growing like never before, and is now worth billions of dollars.

Most products, such as Fair and Lovely are aimed at women, but men are being targeted as well by lotions like Fair and Handsome.

Ravi Raj Narula, the owner of a cosmetics shop in central Delhi, said his customers include men from the villages surrounding the Indian capital.

“Earlier it was only the ladies who were interested, but now many young boys and men also want to have a fairer complexion,” he said.

“Maybe it is because of the impact of the Indian film industry because traditionally the heroes and heroines have been shown as white-skinned people.

“Or maybe it is a legacy we inherited from the Britishers when they left India?”

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The Speed Sisters in Palestine – NPR

What do you think of when you hear “racing?”  The roaring of engines?  Drunken fat men cheering?  Bikini-clad women waving checkered flags at the finish line?  I hear the victory bells of equality!

So gender equality in racing is no reality yet, but women the world over are staking their claim in this quest of man over machine.  NPR, CNN, and BBC ran stories recently on The Speed Sisters in the West Bank – a growing group of competitive female race car drivers tackling gender politics on the race track in the Middle East.

And since I believe in activism, show some support for these fearless leaders by friending them on Facebook or following them on Twitter.  On their Facebook fan page you can see some really amazing photos of their fun and daring endeavors.

Here are some segments from the three articles.  Check out the articles in their entirety by clicking the links.

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“The Speed Sisters,” BBC

The eight-strong team is made up of Muslim and Christian women aged 18 to 39.

Not only are they challenging their male counterparts on the track, but also the often conservative nature of Middle Eastern society.

They recently competed in their first race as a team on what has always been a male-dominated circuit.

In another event they took part in, 50 competitors of both sexes had to race against the clock around the car park of a vegetable market in Jenin.

Matthew Bannister spoke to Suna Aweidah about how she came to be a competitor and how male attitudes towards her and the team have changed.

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“In the West Bank, Women with a Need for Speed,” Sheera Frenkel, NPR

Khaled Khadoura, head of the Palestinian Motorsport Federation, says that it took no time for women to move from novelty racers at the track to serious competitors. “I’m very proud to see our young women today taking an interest in race car driving, and training in order to improve themselves,” Khadoura says.

But not everyone is happy to see her on the track. Despite the growing popularity of racing across the Arab world, a number of Muslim clerics have spoken out against the sport.

Teammate Sahar Jawabrah says she’s heard men call it haram, or forbidden, but she thinks they are ill-informed. There is nothing wrong with racing, she says.

While most of the men at the races applaud just as loudly for the female racers as for the men, some say they are uncomfortable with women at the racetrack.

(Click for photo gallery) Mona Ennab, a former beauty pageant contestant, has been racing for more than seven years. But this year she's found herself as part of a team, the Speed Sisters - a group of Palestinian female race car drivers that's breaking stereotypes in the Arab world's increasingly popular auto racing scene. Photos by Maya Levin for NPR

Tareq Sarsou, a 33-year-old Ramallah store owner, says that while he was impressed by the sport, he isn’t sure it’s appropriate for Palestinian society. “I would not allow my wife, my sister or my daughter to race here,” Sarsou says.

In this season’s races, nearly all the women fared well against the men. And one of the Speed Sisters earned a spot in the top 10 rankings.

Like many of the women on the team, Ennab says she began her racing career almost by accident. “I love cars, I love speed, so I drive fast. And after they see me in Ramallah when I drive fast they told me to come to the federation and join,” she says.

“I think for me, driving isn’t like any other sports; men and women can compete in the same race. And you know what — they’re beginning to get there,” McLuskie says. “At the beginning of the season we had one of our girls who won her category. And you should have seen the faces of those guys.”

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“The Palestinian women racing drivers with a need for speed” by Paula Hancocks, CNN

Noor Daoud is 20 years old and car-crazy.

She wears black-and-yellow overalls rolled down to her waist, her curly hair tied back in a ponytail, and holds her helmet loosely in a perfectly manicured hand: This Palestinian woman who freely accepts she’s a tomboy.

Daoud has been driving since the age of 11 and used to run errands in the car for her mother in East Jerusalem. She was tall for her age, which is how she was able to reach the pedals.

Some of her male friends have come along for moral support and she says when other men see her race, they have no idea at first she’s a girl.

“They think I’m a boy, they don’t know I’m a girl,” she said, adding that she gets some raised eyebrows when she takes her helmet off. “They’re really surprised, they say ‘How can she? Where did she learn?’ And I never learned really, nobody taught me, it’s all me,” she said.

Daoud recently had some expert coaching from British trainer and former competitor Helen Elstrop. Elstrop told CNN: “The determination I see is just much stronger in these girls, and the Palestinian women I have met. They have worked very, very hard to achieve. Just to be out there is such a big, huge step.”

As Elstrop helped to break down gender barriers in Britain in what was traditionally thought of as a boy’s sport, she is helping the Palestinian women to do the same.

“When you have a crash helmet on, when you have your overalls on, when you have the windows up, who knows [who is] in the car?” she said. “It doesn’t matter, we like a level playing field.”

That was certainly the case on Ramallah race day. Seven women were competing with 43 men, and as the cars spun past scarily close to the spectators it was almost impossible to tell who was inside.

Although a man won this race, one of the women came seventh out of 50 — an impressive achievement considering how young the sport is for Palestinian women.

Little disappointment from Noor. She said “It’s been fun watching people win … because we’re all winners, we’re all sisters. We’re all speed sisters.”

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Quake this – The Boobquake Phenomenon and Feminism

So I recently stumbled upon an event called Boobquake and couldn’t resist the extremely current discussion of feminism.

Begun by Blaghag blogger and fellow Boilermaker Jen McCreight, Boobquake is a worldwide Facebook event in which anyone (especially women, but McCreight later included men) can dress immodestly on Monday April 26, 2010 to rock the world off its axis with boobs.  Yes, boobs.

Isn't this picture kind of amazing? (Reuters/Eduardo Munoz//Salon)

McCreight explains the impetus for Boobquake on her blog, saying:

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This little bit of supernatural thinking has been floating around the blogosphere today:

“Many women who do not dress modestly … lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes,” Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi was quoted as saying by Iranian media. Sedighi is Tehran’s acting Friday prayer leader.

I have a modest proposal.

Sedighi claims that not dressing modestly causes earthquakes. If so, we should be able to test this claim scientifically…. Time for a Boobquake.

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Listen to CNN’s coverage of Hojjat ol-eslam Kazem Sediqi‘s earthquake comments here and BBC’s coverage here.  The BBC story gives a better context for the comments by describing Iran’s decade of devastating earthquakes.  CNN’s story states that Sediqi is a senior cleric who was appointed last year by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei as a substitute Friday prayer leader in Tehran, an extremely influential position.  His views on promiscuity and immodesty and their connection with natural disasters are also shared by American televangelist Pat Robertson who “suggested that January’s devastating earthquake in Haiti was because of a pact Haitians made with the devil in order to throw off French rule in the 18th century.”

Also, the connection between women’s sexuality and natural disasters/terrorism/the apocalypse has a long history and is still very relevant.  Just read any Susan Faludi book, or more specifically, her recent book on the attack on women’s sexuality after 9/11.  I could talk for days about this – another blog, another time.  Back to Boobquake.

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Although Boobquake will assuredly never amount to a movement of plate tectonics, the event has resulted in an explosion of worldwide participation as well as a heated debate over feminism.

The Boobquake Facebook event page currently has more than 86, 000 confirmed guests and has grown exponentially since it’s inception last week.  McCreight has also been interviewed on CNN (story here).  The event and blog post garnered so much attention that McCreight issued “a quick clarification about Boobquake” on her blog specifically about issues of feminism and the sexual objectification of women:

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I just want to apologize if this comes off as demeaning toward women. To be honest, it started as silly joke that I hurriedly fired off since I was about to miss the beginning of House. I never thought it would get the attention it did. If I would have known, I would have spent more time being careful about my wording.

That being said, I don’t think the event is completely contrary to feminist ideals. I’m asking women to wear their most “immodest” outfit that they already would wear, but to coordinate it all on the same day for the sake of the experiment. Heck, just showing an ankle would be considered immodest by some people. I don’t want to force people out of their comfort zones, because I believe women have the right to choose how they want to dress. Please don’t pressure women to participate if they don’t want to. If men ogle, that’s the fault of the men, not me for dressing how I like. If I want to a show a little cleavage or joke about my boobs, that’s my prerogative.

I also hate the ideal of “big boobs are always better!” The cleavage joke was just a result of me personally having cleavage, and that being my choice of immodesty. And I thought “boobquake” just sounded funny. Really, it’s not supposed to be serious activism that is going to revolutionize women’s rights, but just a bit of fun juvenile humor. I’m a firm believer that when someone says something so stupid and hateful, serious discourse isn’t going to accomplish anything – sometimes light-hearted mockery is worthwhile.

Anyway, I’m not forcing anyone to agree with me. Maybe I am failing at Feminism 101, or maybe I’m just taking a different approach.

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When I first decided to “attend” Boobquake, I, like McCreight, didn’t even think about the complex feminist response (and like McCreight, I’m a big whoppin proud young feminist).  I did come across Beth Mann’s insightful response to Boobquake which provides a counter feminist perspective on Boobquake.

Her title, “Why I won’t be joining the ‘Boobquake‘: A racy feminist protest against extremist Muslim misogyny quickly devolves into ‘Girls Gone Wild,'” says it all.  Her article, originally appearing on her Open Salon Blog, states that the event has turned into “‘male-friendly’ feminism” and poor body image for women:

Another amazing retro photo, from Beth Mann's blog

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I appreciate McCreight’s intentions behind this; she meant it as a feminist response to a ridiculous statement. Unfortunately, it seems to be turning into something else, with many men chiming in, with their “show us your tits” camera-ready attitude. Women on parade again … sigh. Since when did we “stick it to the man” by wearing low-cut shirts or short shorts? When women burned bras back in the day, there was a statement there, full of boldness and righteous anger. This type of happening feels like feminism lite, “cute” feminism or “male-friendly” feminism.

Reviewing the hundreds of comments that continue to pour into the Boobquake Facebook page, many women apologetically replied, “Sorry, I don’t have enough cleavage to show” or “I’m as flat as a board … sorry!” A movement that encourages more body issues! Yay for us.

Women should be able to wear what they want. That’s a given. Women should be able to sexually express themselves how they see fit. Of course. And underneath it all, I guess that was Boobquake’s intention. Unfortunately, we live in a world that sees that kind of freedom of expression as a photo opportunity or another cheap thrill. All parties must be on board and in celebration of the cause in a way that doesn’t include lasciviousness, latent female hatred or sexual over-saturation. If not, then all we’ve got is “Girls Gone Wild” with a cause slapped on it.

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I agree with Mann, that while Boobquake is a fantastic feminist proclamation of women’s sexuality, it can easily be misrepresented as “Girls Gone Wild” with a cause slapped on it.  In fact, it reminded me of a report I saw a year ago that still haunts me – a vegetarian strip club in Portland, Oregon called Casa Diablo.

As a feminist vegetarian I’m horrified at the combination of using women’s sexuality to sell animal rights, and especially equating women with “meat.”  However, far unlike McCreight, this strip club’s anti-feminist motives were intentional.

So where does that leave us?  I, personally, will not be baring my breasts as part of the Boobquake Revolution on Monday, April 26, despite my support for McCreight and her motives.  Instead, I will be wearing a sticker in protest that says, “My sexuality or body do not result in natural disasters.”  Many of my friends will be participating, however, and I’d love to hear everyone about their thoughts on Boobquake and their experiences.  Most of all, I’m just excited to talk about feminism.

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