Fundamentalist threats of violence block video link speech in India

Jaipur Festival Poster
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Salman Rushdie says he is “sad for India” after threats of violence prevented him from addressing an Indian literary festival.

He said religious extremist groups had prevented freedom of ideas and blamed politicians for failing to oppose the groups for “narrow political reasons”. The planned video-link was cancelled after Muslim activists prepared to march on the venue in Jaipur.

Many Muslims regard Sir Salman’s book, The Satanic Verses, as blasphemous.

The video-link had been organised after Sir Salman withdrew from attending the festival, saying that sources had told him of an assassination threat.

What century owns the minds of people prepared to kill for blasphemy?

Speaking to India’s NDTV television channel, Sir Salman said: “I have a lot of personal disappointment but the overwhelming feeling is disappointment on behalf of India – a country I have loved all my life and whose long-term commitment to liberty and secularism I have praised all my life.”

He said the decline in liberty in India was “the saddest thing”

Sir Salman said it was ludicrous he was cast as the enemy of Islam when the real enemies were extremist leaders who were strengthening the image of the faith as a violent and repressive ideology…

Tuesday was the final day of the five-day festival.

It may have been the beginning of the end of the sort of democracy practiced in India. That, uh, is not meant to imply improvement, BTW.

Comcast starts banning consumers who move too much data

The end of the internet comes not with a bang or a procession of four lolcats of the apocalypse, but just with two blinking lights on a modem. At least that’s how it came for Andre Vrignaud, a 39-year-old gaming consultant in Seattle, when Comcast shut him off from the internet for using too much data.

Vrignaud, it seems, committed the foul of using more than 250 GB of data on Comcast two months in a row, triggering the company’s overage policy that results in a year-long ban from using its services.

“It’s one of those things I never thought would hit me,” Vrignaud said. “They didn’t even call. I just got double blinking lights on my modem…”

It was the second month in a row that Vrignaud got those blinking lights. The first time he called in and tried to figure out what the problem was.

So he turned off the router he had that was open to the public, and asked his roommate to go a bit lighter on data usage, since his household is heavy on streaming media, including YouTube, NetFlix and Pandora.

What he didn’t count on, Vrignaud said, was that Comcast, who he was paying $60 a month for a 15Mbps download speed, was counting uploads against the quota as well.

Just recently he’d switched his online backup system from Mozy to Carbonite, after Mozy put an end to its unlimited back-up service. Carbonite has no such limit, but does throttle users’ uploads once it hits a high level…

He’s got his music ripped into lossless FLAC format, in addition to lower rates, amounting to about a gig a disc — which he stores in a basement RAID server that can handle 12 TB of data. (He says it has plenty of empty space.)

As an amateur photographer, he saves his photos in RAW format, which can run to about 10MB per image. And when Amazon last week opened up its cloud music service to unlimited storage of music files in AAC, Vrignaud batch-converted his collection and began uploading it.

The music is what he assumes caused the problem, but he’s not sure. He admits to doing a little bittorrenting in the last month, but says it was limited to getting a few episodes of a famous British sci-fi show that’s not totally available in the U.S.

And all Comcast is saying is that he’s kicked off — and under the terms of the ban, he can’t even switch to a uncapped, higher-priced, lower-speed business connection.

Life in the Land of Liberty – where establishing standards based on the needs of ordinary citizens is extremist and offering information services as a public utility is socialist.

Both of those concepts may be correct in their identification. Which is why my feelings aren’t hurt when some dimwit populist hurls such accusations in my direction. That doesn’t alter the needs of modern-day Americans however. If industrial-level capitalism doesn’t meet our needs then it really is time for a change at some level or other.

Republicans continue to block checks to unemployed

If you wondered how Republicans care about workingclass families…

Senate Republicans have once again blocked legislation to reinstate long-term unemployment benefits for people who have exhausted their aid, prolonging a stalemate that has left more than a million people without federal help.

With the Senate apparently paralyzed by partisan gridlock, the fate of the aid, as well as tax breaks for businesses and $16 billion in aid for cash-strapped states, remains unclear. California and dozens of other states are hoping for federal aid to help balance their budgets.

Republican lawmakers — joined by Democrat Ben Nelson of Nebraska — maintained a unified front to sustain a filibuster of the $110-billion bill. The vote was 57 to 41; the majority was three short of the 60 needed to cut off debate and bring the bill to a final vote.

So much for democracy.

If there were ever evidence that this is the party of no, this is it,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who added that several governors would be arriving in Washington next week to make the case for the bill to help states, businesses and those who have been out of work more than six months…

The unemployment extension would add about $30 billion to the national debt. Democrats say all the provisions in the bill are offset by spending cuts and tax increases except the jobless benefits, which Congress traditionally has approved as an emergency without looking for a way to pay for them. Benefits for the long-term unemployed lapsed at the end of May because of the congressional stalemate.

The Labor Department estimates that more than 1.2 million long-term unemployed will have lost their benefits by the end of this week.

Any idea how many times in my life I’ve seen the Republican Party do their utmost to impede or disable unemployment insurance? I lived and worked, been unemployed and out on the job trail through several major recessions since I started as an apprentice machinist in 1955.

Time after time, Republicans used beancounter excuses to try to halt the legislation FDR got through Congress in 1935 to aid folks out of work during the Great Depression. And here we are, now – struggling out of the Bush/Bankers Great Recession and the Party of NO continues their crusade against working people.

25% of countries served – block or censor Google

Would the flag catch your eye if it was Estonian?
Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

Google’s services are blocked or censored to some degree in one-fourth of the countries where it operates, the company said Monday.

“China is the most polarizing example, but it is not the only one. Google products — from search and Blogger to YouTube and Google Docs — have been blocked in 25 of the 100 countries where we offer our services,” wrote Rachel Whetstone, Google’s vice president of global communications and public affairs, on the company’s European public policy blog.

“In addition, we regularly receive government requests to restrict or remove content from our properties,” she wrote, adding that Google has argued to narrow the scope of such requests when it believes the request is “overly broad…”

What a turn of phrase – “polarizing example”. What that means is any excuse to whine about China is legit in the minds of American media and consumers of that media. That’s not really very bright or apt – of you care about being well-informed.

China isn’t the only country that wants to manage Internet content. For example, Australia is proceeding with plans to block access to Internet sites with material on sexual abuse of children and information that could be used to commit crimes, after tests showed blocking access to blacklisted sites didn’t slow down Internet access for users.

Opponents have objected to the Australian plan, noting that the list of blocked sites includes links that extend beyond the intended scope. In addition, users are able to circumvent the blacklist to access these sites, just as Chinese users are able to circumvent censorship controls there.

Is politics getting in the way of access to information? You betcha.

Is whining about a couple of specific examples worthwhile because it fits your own ideology – of the dozens who attempt to limit access to information? That speaks more about your own parochial politics and fear – than it does about technology or access to knowledge.