When Hosni Mubarak shut down the internet during the protests that ultimately toppled him earlier this year, there was international condemnation. The creators of Speak to Tweet, a service that allowed demonstrators to phone in their messages when denied access to Twitter, were lauded for helping them circumvent the President’s repressive measures.
Now, in the wake of this week’s riots in London and other English cities, David Cameron is threatening to disrupt the use of social media by potential troublemakers during future disturbances. “Free flow of information can be used for good,” he told Parliament during a hastily-convened debate on Thursday. “But it can also be used for ill.” Whether any concrete policy to restrict access does emerge remains to be seen (and it goes without saying that I am not comparing Cameron's statement to Mubarak's last stand) but his words
In the world of journalism there’s an adage: ‘dog bites man’ is not a story; ‘man bites dog’ is. In the same vein it can be argued that ‘politician fails to be honest’ is not a story, whereas ‘politician is bluntly honest’ is so unusual there’s got to be a story in it.
A week or so ago this happened in Britain. Louise Mensch, a Conservative MP, was contacted by an investigative journalist who asked about her time while working at EMI records in the 1990s. Among other things, the investigator asked whether she "took drugs with Nigel Kennedy at Ronnie Scott's in Birmingham, including dancing on a dance floor, whilst drunk, with Mr Kennedy, in front of journalists". Here’s part of her reply:
"Although I do not remember the specific incident, this sounds highly probable. I thoroughly enjoyed working with Nigel Kennedy, whom I remember with affection. Additionally, since I was in
The euro crisis is not, it seems, taking a summer holiday. So is it time to scrap this troublesome currency? No, according to readers of the Economist, who have been voting over the past ten days in a debate on the subject to which our own Thomas Klau contributed.
The motion on the table, “This house believes that the euro, as a single currency, is dividing Europe and should be abolished,” was solidly beaten, with 64 percent voting against.
What was striking (apart from the fact that a third of respondents think that the euro should be abandoned – a dramatic step in anyone’s book) was how steady the voting remained. Over ten days that saw the euro crisis generate plenty of headlines, and despite the efforts of various experts to persuade the Economist’s readership one way or the other, the vote shifted by just five percent, having begun at 69 percent against the motion.
I once tried to buy a four-wheel-drive car in Sarajevo. I thought about buying a Serbian-made Lada Riva, a no-frills tractor-like workhorse that could make light work of a ploughed field in a monsoon. “Don’t,” said a wheeler-dealer Bosnian Serb contact of mine, who owned an unlikely restaurant complex on an industrial estate and wore cheap leather jackets. “I thought about it once, but I am married and have enough troubles in my life without a Riva.” He was right.* The Riva was the epitome of Soviet engineering – rugged (because it had to be with Russian roads that turned to quicksand twice a year in the rasputitsa season), fixable with a hammer and a bit of banging, and otherwise actually rather badly built. I was told the petrol gauge was especially faulty, and owners had to get used to estimating how many miles they’d covered on each tank to avoid spluttering to a halt in the
August 3rd isn’t usually a major date in the political calendar. Most of Europe is on its summer holidays – the British parliament is already in recess – and most major decisions are kicked into the long grass of September. In Egypt, where it is also the height of summer and where Ramadan means that the pace of life has slowed for many, August 3rd will require someone to make a momentous decision: whether former president Hosni Mubarak will appear, in person, for the start of his trial on charges that include ordering the shooting of protesters earlier this year – a charge that could carry the death penalty.
The stage has been set for a spectacle, with the trial moved to a hall at the national police academy that can hold far more onlookers than a normal courtroom, and a promise from the presiding judge that the proceedings will be broadcast on state television. Such measures seem
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