Thursday, January 21, 2010

Hillary Clinton's Historic Speech on Global Internet Freedom

This morning at the Newseum in Washington, DC, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivered remarks on Internet freedom and the future of global free speech and expression. [Transcript is here + video.] It will go down as a historic speech in the field of Internet policy since she drew a bold line in the cyber-sand regarding exactly where the United States stands on global online freedom. Clinton's answer was unequivocal: "Both the American people and nations that censor the Internet should understand that our government is committed to helping promote Internet freedom." "The Internet can serve as a great equalizer," she argued. "By providing people with access to knowledge and potential markets, networks can create opportunities where none exist."

Unfortunately, however, "the same networks that help organize movements for freedom... can also be hijacked by governments to crush dissent and deny human rights." Echoing Winston Churchill's famous "iron curtain" speech, Sec. Clinton argued that "With the spread of these restrictive practices, a new information curtain is descending across much of the world." She noted that virtual walls are replacing traditional walls in many nations as repressive regimes seek to squash the liberties of their citizenry. That's why the Administration's bold stand in favor of online freedom is so essential.

Importantly, Sec. Clinton made it clear that the Obama Administration is ready to commit significant resources to this effort. She said that, over the next year, the State Department plans to work with others to establish a standing effort to promote technology and will invite technologists to help advance the cause through a new "innovation competition" that will promote circumvention technologies and other technologies of freedom. Sec. Clinton also challenged private companies to stand up to censorship globally and challenge foreign governments when they demand controls on the free flow of information or digital technology.

That is particularly important because Secretary Clinton's speech comes on the heels of the recent news that Google and at least 30 other Internet companies were the victims of cyberattacks in China, which raises profound questions about the future of online freedom and cybersecurity. Sec. Clinton's remarks will make it clear to online operators that the U.S. government stands prepared to back them up when they challenge the censorial policies of repressive foreign regimes.

It's also worth noting that, back in October, Secretary Clinton took a bold stand on global religious defamation policies, which are becoming a growing international concern from a free speech perspective. I praised her for that speech here and noted how important it was that Administration officials put issues such as freedom of religious worship and freedom of speech and expression front and center in future foreign diplomacy efforts. With today's speech, Sec. Clinton and the Obama Administration have again risen to that challenge by making it clear that these issues will now be part of future diplomatic efforts and discussions.

At one point she joked that somewhere in the world a foreign government official was trying to censor her speech as she delivered it! But she's right: Plenty of foreign government are still aggressively attempting to censor the Net and to repress digital technologies every second of the day. To put things in perspective, just yesterday, the OpenNet Initiative (ONI) reported that more than half a billion Internet users are being filtered worldwide. And if you want a country-by-country synopsis of just how bad things are, check out the amazing report, Access Denied: The Practice and Policy of Global Internet Filtering, which is compiled by several scholars involved in the ONI project.

To understand the profound (and somewhat ironical) historical significance of Sec. Clinton's speech today, you need to remember that less than 15 years ago in this country we had a heated debate over whether American citizens should even be allowed to use encryption technology, or if the government should "hold the keys" to such technologies. Luckily, the "Clipper Chip" wars ended when Hillary's husband and his Administration basically gave up in its efforts to pursue it further. Moreover, I can't help but recall what Mrs. Clinton said after the White House sex scandal erupted back in 1998 and the details spread rapidly across the Internet: "We are all going to have to rethink how we deal with [the Internet], because there are all these competing values," she said. "Without any kind of editing function or gatekeeping function, what does it mean to have the right to defend your reputation?" It seems like Mrs. Clinton has come a long way, so much so that she is now defending technologies -- and is apparently willing to even subsidize technologies -- that will allow citizens to evade "gatekeepers" of all sorts.

I also appreciated Sec. Clinton's quip that "once you're on the internet, you don't need to be a tycoon or a rock star to have a huge impact on society." She repeatedly argued in her speech that the Internet has empowered every man, woman, and child to be heard and to make a difference in this world. Amen. But those opportunities for each of us to make a difference can only be realized if governments worldwide are willing to let them happen. I've always generally agreed with John Gilmore's famous quip that "the Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it." Nonetheless, I'm not a quixotic utopian when it comes to these things. I'm enough of a realist to understand that if governments put enough effort into the task, they can quash networks and silence a great deal of expression. However, it's a far more difficult undertaking today than it was in the past. The sheer volume and scope of online activity alone makes it an enormous undertaking.

Could we be on the verge of "the end of censorship" as I have wondered here before? Probably not any time soon, but thanks to the bold vision and steps that Secretary Clinton and Obama Administration announced today, we are a little bit closer.

Scott Brown will not only represent Massachusetts as it first Republican Senator in 40 years, but he will also teach your children some new words.

t looks like this Scott Brown character has a history of rather inappropriate outbursts, like the bizarre statements about his daughters during his acceptance speech.

This from an article about Brown's profanity laced discussion with a group of 80 high school sophomores in 2007.

State Senator Scott Brown, a rising star in the state's depleted Republican ranks, yesterday defended his use of profanity during a student assembly at King Philip Regional High School in Wrentham, saying he simply repeated hateful statements that had been posted online about him and his family.

"I was merely reading the things that they had written about me," Brown said in an interview. "What's the issue, exactly? I don't quite know what the big deal is, exactly."
Brown, the father of "American Idol" finalist Ayla Brown, read the postings Thursday -- and, in some cases, identified the students he believed had written them -- during a meeting with about 80 sophomores who had invited him to discuss his opposition to same-sex marriage.

Yesterday, Brown said his speech in the school library has been blown out of proportion. Brown appeared on at least two radio shows to defend himself, saying the messages he read were a small part of his speech.

Some of the messages, posted on the social networking site, used profanity and made reference to his family, he said. Brown's daughter is a basketball player at Boston College. The comments were posted on a page dedicated to a history teacher at the high school who supports gay rights and have since been removed.

"A couple of people objected to the language, and I said, 'I object, too,' " Brown said. "It's offensive, in that I now have to justify why I repeated what kids said about me, as if I'm doing something inappropriate. "

Brown told Statehouse News Service that he used the "F-word" twice.

Students who heard Brown speak said he read the profane statements "loudly and pretty angrily."

"Some teachers immediately were outraged to hear the language that was used," student Stephen Small told WHDH-TV. "Some people still feel it was inappropriate to read them word for word."

As others have pointed out in another thread, I have daughter. And if my daughter were called names on Facebook, or any other place, I would be pretty damned mad. However THIS is not about a father's anger. This is about subjecting other people's children to inappropriate language in a public school setting.

Sure we know these kids undoubtedly know these words, and some may even use them with some frequency, but when it comes from an adult, a STATE SENATOR for God's sake, it has a very different effect.

Something about his guy is very troubling, and I have to wonder how the voters of Massachusetts managed to miss it. Even after he received a substantial amount of blow back Brown was unapologetic.

John Edwards Admits Fathering Rielle Hunter Love Child; No One Surprised

ohn Edwards has finally admitted what we have suspected for years - that he is indeed the father of a two-year-old daughter with his mistress, Rielle Hunter.

The former U.S. Senator and Democratic presidential candidate said today in a statement that he’s taking responsibility for the child, Frances Quinn Hunter:

“I am Quinn’s father. I will do everything in my power to provide her with the love and support she deserves. I have been able to spend time with her and trust that future efforts to show her the love and affection she deserves can be done privately."

"It was wrong for me ever to deny she was my daughter and hopefully one day, when she understands, she will forgive me. [I've] been providing financial support for Quinn and have reached an agreement with her mother to continue providing support."

"I understand that to all those I have disappointed and hurt, these words will never be enough, but I am truly sorry.”

Edwards is not speaking publicly on the subject, in part because of an ongoing federal investigation into whether campaign money was used to try to cover up the affair.

He has denied wrongdoing, but then again, he also denied the affair with Rielle Hunter, and fathering the child with Rielle Hunter, so who knows with this guy!

Edwards' attorneys say he's been seeing Quinn and providing financial support for about a year, and just signed a new child support agreement with Rielle.

A spokesperson for John's cancer-stricken wife, Elizabeth Edwards, says she learned last year that Quinn is John's child. Yet this is the first formal admission.

John Edwards’ personal and political troubles began after the National Enquirer began reporting in late 2007 about his affair with Hunter, which he denied.

In 2008, after his failed presidential bid, Edwards was caught visiting Hunter in a hotel and eventually confirmed to ABC News that he had an affair with her.

Still, he vehemently denied on the air that he was the father of her child. Dude lies a lot and will only come clean when his hand has been forced, basically.

Today's admission comes on the heels of the political expose Game Change by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, which sent shock waves around D.C.

A portion of the book about the 2008 election, which ran in New York Magazine, dealt with details of Edwards’ affair and his relationship with Elizabeth.

The admission also comes in advance of a tell-all book by Andrew Young, a former Edwards aide who originally claimed to be the father of Hunter’s child.

Basically, he would have kept on denying it if he had any choice, and had no interest in actually coming clean for morality's sake. Pretty typical, John.

U.S. Immigration Grants Haitians Temporary Protected Status

New York, NY, United States - Immigration officials in New York told Haitians in the country that they will be granted temporary protected status (TPS) to allow them to legally stay and work in the country temporarily.

New York Citizenship Immigration Service district director Andrea Quarantillo informed Haitians in a briefing in Manhattan about the new immigration program aimed at helping Haitians, whose families were victims of the earthquake that devastated the Caribbean country.

The TPS will also allow Haitians in the US to travel home to help their countrymen and return to the U.S. without being denied re-entry, according to Quarantillo.

Only Haitians in the U.S. are covered by the new immigration program. Those in detention centers are also eligible to apply for TPS.

Woman Faces Charges For Biting Off Part Of Sister's Nose

Jackson, MI, United States (AHN) - A Michigan district judge has set bail at $5,000 for a Jonesville woman charged with mayhem and assault for biting off a third of her sister's nose during a violent fight.

Bobbie J. Smith, 27, has also been charged with aggravated domestic violence, resisting arrest and malicious destruction of police property for damaging the inside of a police car during her arrest after the biting incident.

Smith told Judge James Justin during her arraignment that she was sorry for the injury she caused her sister Sandra. The younger sister is reportedly seeking a plastic surgeon to re-attach the lost part of her nose.

Bobbie Smith said it was her sister who started the fight by hitting her and that both of them were intoxicated.

Jewish Prayer Boxes Force Pilot To Divert Plane

Philadelphia, PA, United States (AHN) - A Jewish prayer box worn by a teenage passenger was mistaken for an explosive device and forced a USA Airways Express pilot to divert a flight Thursday as a precaution.

Flight 3079 with 15 passengers took off from New York's LaGuardia Airport past 8 a.m. for Louisville, Kentucky and landed at the Philadephia airport around 8:30 a.m. without incident. The 17-year-old boy and his sister explained to investigators the use of the black leather boxes called tefillin.

A stewardess apparently saw the boy strapping the boxes on his left arm and forehead as part of a prayer ritual. The crew inquired about the boxes but did not understand the boy's explanation so she alerted the pilot.

The pilot reported to Philadelphia airport authorities that a device with wires was onboard and he is making an unscheduled landing, according to Philadelphia Police Chief Inspector Joseph Sullivan. The tefillin straps were mistaken as wires, Sullivan said.

Police later ruled there was no threat to the plane and its passengers, who were booked on other flights.