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November 16, 2009
Today: Obama town hall not on Chinese TV, Russia expands

Stories compiled by Gizem Yarbil, Connie Kargbo, Channtal Fleischfresser, Christine Kiernan, Ivette Feliciano, and Mohammad al-Kassim, and edited by Rebecca Haggerty and Ben Piven.

CHINA: President Barack Obama pointed out the importance of unlimited access to information and called for Internet freedom during a town hall-style meeting with Chinese students in Shanghai. President Obama’s meeting was not broadcast live on national TV across China and the national news website Xinhua only made the transcripts of the meeting available even though it had earlier announced the meeting would be broadcast live online.

Police detained dozens of activists and petitioners in Beijing and other parts of China as President Obama arrived on his first trip to the country, human rights groups said on Monday.

AUSTRALIA: Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd offered a historic apology to thousands of impoverished British children who were forced to migrate to Australia with promises of a better life and were abused and neglected under state care. However, the government ruled out paying compensation.

MAURITANIA: Law enforcement and justice officials are learning some key tools to fight the practice of slavery. On Sunday training began to help these groups of officials uphold the 2007 law that bans slavery in Mauritania.

KENYA: Eleven people were killed when cattle raiders ransacked a village in central Kenya. There has been in increased amount of similar attacks as pressure from severe conditions due to the ongoing drought pushes clans to vie for resources.

ZIMBABWE: Tourism seems to be on the rise in Zimbabwe. According to the chief of tourism hotels have been around 60% full since the formation of the unity government in February compared to last years occupancy of only 30%. He attributes the increase to better political and economic stability brought about by the new government.

FRANCE/BRAZIL: The leaders of France and Brazil presented a joint plan on Saturday aimed at cutting emissions in advance of the Copenhagen climate change conference next month. They hope to convince other world leaders to adopt their plan.

UK: The British and Australian governments have issued an apology to the thousands of poor British children who were shipped to Australia and other former British colonies until the 1960s. Many of the children were abused and neglected, and often wound up in institutions or as farm laborers.

KOSOVO: Kosovo has peacefully conducted its first independent elections. Despite minority Serb calls for a boycott, voter turnout was estimated at 45 percent.


Russia’s Energy Minister announced that it has delayed the launch of Iran’s first nuclear power plant, citing technical reasons.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke out following President Medvedev’s meeting with Barak Obama on Sunday, declaring that Moscow is still hoping for a diplomatic solution to the Iran nuclear problem.

The world’s largest country is growing even bigger. As a result of earthquakes in the far east, Russia’s territory has expanded 4.5 square kilometers over the past three years.

Chechnya’s international airport opened this morning, when its first international flight in 15 years set off with passengers traveling to Saudi Arabia to make the Hajj pilgrimage.

LATIN AMERICA: Due to the fact that Europe is tightening its immigration laws, more and more immigrants from Africa are headed to Latin AmerIca.

EL SALVADOR: Authorities in El Salvador have raised the death toll to 192, after heavy rains caused massive mudslides in the country last week.

BRAZIL: Wrapping up a visit to Brazil, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights decried discrimination against Afro-Brazilians and indigenous groups, who she said lack access to basic services, employment, and are “mired in poverty.” She said these problems would hamper Brazil’s progress in other areas.

YEMEN: Yemen is once again is accusing Iran of funding Houthi fighters in their war against government forces in northern Yemen. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s military is continuing its shelling of Huthi positions in northern Yemen while a spokesman for the rebels said the Huthis have fired Katyusha rockets at a Saudi military base.

IRAN: The IAEA reported that Iran may have more secret nuclear sites.

PALESTINE: Chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat said yesterday that seeking UN Security Council recognition was aimed at protecting the two-state solution, which the PLO still prefers.

An Israeli cabinet minister said that Israel could annex more of the West Bank if Palestinians declared statehood without concluding a peace agreement.

PAKISTAN: A suicide bomber attack has killed at least four people in Pakistan‘s North West Frontier Province.

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President Obama has gotten a lot of flack around the Shanghai Town Hall. While I agree with many of the points I also think there are other ways to look at this. I don’t think the event itself can be evaluated in isolation but rather, it should be viewed as part of a larger continuum.

In one model, change is evaluated on a macro level, from the top down. What is the immediate, large scale impact of this event in China? And through that lens, reaching 7,000 does not seem significant. But another way of looking at this issue, as has been put forth by Benedict Anderson, Michael Omi, Howard Winant, and others, is through the lens of micro-level change that happens at the individual level, from the bottom up.

Looking at the event from this perspective provides a very different picture. Every movement needs its flash point, and it seems as though the opening up the Chinese firewall to Twitter & Facebook for this event (and their subsequent re-closing) has not only brought the “Great Firewall” issue onto the global stage, but evidence on Twitter and other sites shows that the specific response to the poll in the Chat Room about internet censorship and the fact that this information was excluded from Chinese language sites has been used as a rallying cry by the movement as a way to articulate their frustrations and bring light to this issue within China to a much broader audience.

For example take a look at this post (…in the last comment in the chain, user jiruan writes:
虽然7000人和中国人口相比是极其少数,但这些都是希望的种子 Although the 7000 and the Chinese population is extremely small in comparison, but these are the seeds of hope.

Similarly a Tweet by influential blogger Michael Anti has started to make the rounds: On Co.NX platform for asking Obama, 75% Chinese say Internet Freedom most concerned. On Xinhua platform, ZERO asks this.

I do not think that we can truly measure the success or failure of this event for some time. It may fade away into obscurity or it could be a seminal moment for a nascent movement that just found its rallying cry, and in my opinion its too early to know which category this will fall into.


Why is anyone surprised. China is quite open about not disseminating news to it’s home base that is unfavorable to them.

The U.S. does this all the time by simply not reporting international news or any news unfavorable to isrial. Don’t believe me, watch the BBC and World Focus, instead of Fox news!

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