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November 2013

Stoic week 2013

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NEWS: You can now download the Stoic Week 2013 Handbook.
NB: It’s essential you complete ALL the correct questionnaires before and after Stoic Week – see below!

Please try to read it this weekend and prepare yourself for Stoic Week!

Registration: Before midnight (wherever you are) on Monday the 25th, please complete all the following pre-study questionnaires before reading the Handbook (doing so really helps us to gather an evidence base for how effective Stoicism might be):

  1. The Flourishing Scale
  2. Satisfaction with Life Scale
  3. SPANE Scale
  4. Stoic Attitudes and Behaviour Scale (SABS)

Please use your email address or you can also adopt a pseudonym (which can be virtually anything, though not something which someone else might also use, eg. ‘Seneca’), when filling out this questionnaires. The email address is preferable so that we can get in touch in a few months time to ask about the long-term effect of Stoic practices.

During the week: Read the Stoic Week 2013 Handbook, follow the daily exercises, and explore the suggested key Stoic theme each day.

To support your practice of Stoicism, please also use the following audio-visual resources, which are referenced in different parts of the Handbook.

There will also be articles uploaded daily to read on the blog during the week about different ways Stoicism is still used today, as well as the Stoicism Today magazine 2013 (released soon) for extra-reading.

You might also consider blogging about the week and make video diaries (and let @Stoic Week know on twitter), writing in with an idea for a guest piece on the Stoicism Today blog, and posting each day your reflections on this blog about how that day’s practices are going for you. Basically get in touch and we will share what you are doing!

After the week: At the end of the week, please fill out the same surveys, with the same email or pseudonym. Please use these links for the post-study questionnaires:

  1. The Flourishing Scale
  2. Satisfaction with Life Scale
  3. SPANE Scale
  4. Stoic Attitudes and Behaviour Scale (SABS)
  5. Additional overall feedback survey on Stoic Week

The statistical analysis of Stoic Week 2013 will be published early in the New Year. We will contact participants who have provided their email address a few months after Stoic Week to ask about the long-term impact.

More about Stoic Week…

Live Like A Stoic Week is happening for the second year. It will be taking place from November 25 to December 1. Everyone who is interested in Stoicism, or who practices it today, is encouraged to take part, get involved in an event or activity, and help spread the word.

Last year, Stoic Week attracted participants in schools, universities and philosophy clubs around the world, and generated articles in the Guardian, Independent, The Philosopher’s Magazine and the Huffington Post. We want to make this year’s Stoic Week even bigger.

How you can get involved:

We’d love it if, once again, Stoic Week events take place all over the world. This could be as simple as organizing a discussion on Stoicism in your local cafe or pub. It could mean local clubs, schools or philosophy departments organizing a debate on a Stoic question or theme, such as ‘can philosophy be a form of therapy?’ or ‘is virtue sufficient for happiness?’ If you’re a teacher or a lecturer, you might get your class to discuss Stoicism and to consider some of the Stoics’ practical techniques for changing our emotions.

We’re organizing a public event in London on Saturday November 30, ‘Stoicism for Everyday Life’. You can find more details here on the event’s website, and book. Places are filling up quickly, so book early so as to avoid disappointment.

It would be great if any bloggers interested in Stoicism used the week as an opportunity to share their own experience of Stoicism. Has it helped you? Do you think it has relevance in modern life? Which ideas or exercises have you found particularly helpful? Write a blog post or make a YouTube video, and be sure to mention Stoic Week and to help spread the word. Send Patrick Ussher or another project member the link, and we’ll share it with our followers.

You can also get involved in our annual study of the practical effects of Stoic techniques and ethics. This year, the handbook will be constructed as a ‘Journey into Stoicism’, which each day focusing on a key Stoic idea and exercises to go with it.  If taking part, fill in the Stoic questionnaire we provide, and send it back to us. You might also want to share your experience more informally via a blog or YouTube video.

To read about the team behind Stoicism Today, click here.

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The face of young Israel: Palestinians shouldn’t be in the Knesset, or in relationships with Jews

                    on October 14, 2013 166

Last month, I went to the Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall in West Jerusalem to interview Israelis, and spent half an hour sitting with three teenagers. After a few minutes, they allowed me to turn on my video camera. Max Blumenthal was with me, and I believe the exchange bears out the themes of Blumenthal’s new book, Goliath: that building and sustaining a Jewish state in defiance of most of the indigenous population has endowed young Israelis with fiercely militant, Jewish-supremacist ideas.

Specifically, the teenagers say that young Jews should not date Palestinians and that Palestinians should not have representation in the Knesset, because these inclusions undermine the Jewish character of the state. And the Jewish people need Israel to survive.

“We know that we can’t be Jewish anywhere else,” says one.

And all this as a guitarist picks out rock tunes in the background, including Tom Petty’s Free Falling.

The three teenagers are religious nationalists, but they say their attitudes are widely shared; and polls have indicated that 50 percent or more of Israelis have similar attitudes toward Palestinians.

The forceful young man on the right who is going into the army soon is named Matanya. He’s 19. The girl on the left in the Justin Bieber tshirt is Shiran, 18. The girl in the middle is 17, and named Shoham.

As the video is very long, I’m supplying a partial transcript below.

Matanya begins by explaining why it is necessary to act in Syria, and why the old are reluctant to do so. “Younger people have fire in their eyes” and are willing to die for their “ideals.” Matanya says he is willing to serve in Syria, whatever the risk.

“We have to do something. Something serious.”

The three agree that Arabs are not ready for democracy. “They don’t have the mentality for democracy like we do,” Matanya says. All humanity is moving toward democracy, but Arab political culture is particularly resistant to it.

Shiran says that she can relate to the uprisings of the Arab Spring. “The Jews always had pain in their history so you can understand being oppressed.”

I ask Matanya about the American belief that the occupation is the problem.

“I say that’s nonsense… I know they say that. It’s not true, because 40 years ago when we had the borders of ’67, still the Arabs want to kill us and want us not to be here anymore…They don’t want us here period.”

Is there an occupation? Max asks.

“In my opinion, No. because we were here before the Arabs.”

Shiran adds that Arabs and Jews could have coexisted but Arabs chose not to, beginning in 1948. “They could have a state right next to us. They didn’t want it from the start. Now the [Israeli] people don’t want it either because of the way they treated the Jews in the last few years.”

Matanya explains that Islam doesn’t permit a Jewish state. “If they want peace, of course we will give them peace. Our religion is all for it… [Judaism] says specifically that we should treat nicely the people who are not from our people. [i.e., the stranger]”

I ask the young people my favorite question of young Jews: Isn’t it better that Israel cease to be a Jewish state than that one more young person die for it to be such a thing? “Am I wrong to say that?”

Shiran says a binational state is a utopian idea. “It’s possible but it can’t be, because the Arab don’t want it.” And neither do the Jews. “The Jews need a place to be where they are not oppressed, a place where they can be Jewish.”

Matanya is more authoritative.

“This country has to stay Jewish for a few reasons. First of all, we saw what happens when there is no Jewish country. I am sure about it, if there’s not a Jewish country, there will be another Holocaust…. Our religion is true, I believe in all my heart that it’s true. This nation has been existing for the longest time in history. I think there’s something true about our religion. You see that something real is happening here.

“We know that we can’t be Jewish anywhere else. We know that Jewish people are forgetting their resource and wherever they come from in other countries, and we know there’s going to be another Holocaust if we’re not here.”

I ask if his attitude is representative. He says, “Most of the older people think exactly like me. That’s why they stay here and they want the country to stay Jewish.”

I say that during the civil rights movement, black and white people sometimes fell in love with one another, and in some parts of the country, that was considered bad. How do they look on love across religious/racial lines?

“We’re religious so religious people are not allowed to do it,” Shoham says.

Shiran says it’s not just religious people. “In girls’ schools, they tell you, teach you about how– I’m not saying that all the Palestinians are bad… they tell you how dangerous it can be.”

Shoham explains the danger. “It’s a different culture. They live in different places.” And sometimes when Israeli women marry Palestinians, they move to their villages. “It’s a different way of living And Israelis people are not used to it.”

“Oppressive,” Shiran says.

“Primitive,” Matanya says. “They treat women very primitively. I would not want… a girl I know to marry some Palestinian guy. Not because he’s bad. But because of the way they treat….”

I ask how much they would do to stop such a pairing.

Shiran: “I would try very hard to stop it.… I’m not saying that they all live that way but still– you’re Jewish, you shouldn’t marry a non-Jew… even if [that person is] a very good person, you don’t know what their family would think, friends would think. Also because You should try and raise your kids Jewish. Not religious– Jewish.”

Max then asks if their schools warn them about these dangers.

Shiran: “Yeah they do. Because it’s very important… Not in a way that Arabs are bad. They don’t wash your brain.”

Shoham clarifies, “They’re talking about family and it’s like– they warn you about not marrying an abusive husband. So it’s like they’re also talking about not marrying a non-Jewish man.”

Matanya ties this into ideas of nationality. “We know that we’re not responsible only for ourselves, but for our whole country and also for the Jewish people. So any action you take you have to think about that.”

I say, I know lots of Jews in the U.S. and half of my friends are married to non-Jews. Is that what Matanya means when he sees Jews falling away?

“Yes. I think that’s the way that the Jewish vanish. If all the Jews will do that, there won’t be Jewish people anymore, and we want to keep the Jewish people running for a lot more generations.”

Near the end now, and I ask about tribal beliefs that Jews are smarter. The teenagers don’t buy this. But they do say that Israelis have more get-up-and-go.

Matanya says, “We push harder, we go further, we’re not afraid. You don’t see it in a lot of places in the world. In the US you live very calmly, you don’t have a lot of pressure. Not like here. Here you have life and death situations. In every area of living, from high tech to army…. We come to a place where no one ever succeeded in doing anything with those lands, and we made them great lands with a lot of crops.”

Shiran: “We work harder, we don’t give up.”

Max says, “How come the Jews aren’t smart enough to get out of this situation of endless war?”

I don’t think the answers make a lot of sense, though Matanya emphasizes, “We don’t come to kill. We come to save life, not to take life. We have no intention of taking anyone’s life.”

I say that these young people seem to want to renew the Zionist dream, and Matanya agrees.

Then I ask about strong leaders.

Matanya says, “I’m not sure we have a lot of them now. But I’m sure there’s going to come new blood.”

Shiran says that the leaders have been “letting us down.” She seems to mean in the economy.

Max asks if Ariel Sharon was strong.

Shiran says, “We don’t like him.”

Matanya: “He did a lot of very good things for the Israeli people. He gave his whole life for our security. But at the end of his life he made a big mistake, a very big mistake.” He refers to the removal of settlers from Gaza in 2005.

“So, no further pullouts of settlers?” Max asks.

“For sure. Ever,” Matanya says.

I then ask Matanya about visiting him in the Knesset 50 years from now, and will there be peace?

“I pray with all my heart that there will be peace, but anyway we’ll keep going.” He says that Arabs will be free to live here peacefully, with liberty and have the best life they can have, better than in neighboring Arab countries.

“But in my opinion they should not have political figures in our Knesset.

“In other words, they should not have Arab members in the Knesset?” Max says.

“Ideally, yeah. We will. For sure, the Jewish people will take care of the Arabs, they will get what they have to get, the food, the liberty, they can work wherever they want, but if we want to keep our country Jewish and Israeli and in peace, we have to take control of what is happening.”

Shiran: “The way they treat us is exactly the way their leaders treat them. Something has to be done.”

Max. “So Haneen Zoabi has to get out of the Knesset.”

Matanya: “No doubt. She has to get out. She is a representative of the Israeli nation, and she goes on the Marmara, that was completely against the country, it was a betrayal…. I think the only way there will be peace is if she won’t be there, and we’ll be there.”

But what rights will Palestinians have? I ask. And must they leave?

Matanya says, they can stay where they live. “We’re not going to take the lands.. but we’re not going to give any of our lands and we will expend what we can expend because it’s our country.” Arabs have the right to live here, but the refugees cannot return. “That won’t happen. But they can stay on the land, we will have control of the country, and they can live here peacefully, and happily, with all the rights.”

source

Federal Bureau of Prisons Details Plans for Limited “Audit” of Solitary Confinement Practices

A cell at ADX Florence federal supermax, where individuals may spend years or decades in extreme solitary confinement.

A cell at ADX Florence federal supermax, where individuals may spend years or decades in extreme solitary confinement.

Last week, representatives of six nonprofit organizations critical of solitary confinement met in a closed-door meeting in Washington, D.C., with the team hired to conduct an internal audit of the federal Bureau of Prisons’ controversial “segregation” policies.

The idea for an audit came out of Senator Dick Durbin’s June 2012 Senate hearing on solitary confinement, where BOP director Charles Samuels was grilled on the federal prison system’s use of solitary, especially on prisoners with mental illness. Further criticism emerged from media coverage, lawsuits, and a scathing report from the Government Accountability Office, which found that the BOP did not know whether its use of “segregated housing” had any impact on prison safety, how it affected the individuals who endure it, or how much it all cost American taxpayers.

The audit team is led by Ken McGinnis, the former warden who directs correctional programs at CNA, a Virginia think tank known primarily for military contracting. CNA is beginning a one year, $498,211 contract to provide a “Special Housing Unit Review and Assessment” for the National Institute of Corrections, which is itself an arm of the Bureau of Prisons.

On November 11, McGinnis and several colleagues met with representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union National Prison Project, National Religious Campaign Against Torture, CURE, Vera Institute for Justice, National Association for Mental Illness, and Prison Fellowship–a group that, according to participants, hopes to function as a sort of advisory committee to the auditors. Among other things this group has asked to receive briefings as the study progresses and to provide feedback to the final report. The group does not include any formerly incarcerated people or family members of those currently held in solitary.

According to individuals who attended the meeting, McGinnis described his plans to tour several different prisons, including the government’s notorious supermax, ADX Florence in Colorado, as well as Special Housing Units (SHUs) and Special Management Units (SMUs). An overview of the audit provided by CNA states that the project will make “an operational assessment of 8 BOP special housing units that will include at a minimum 1) Florence ADX, Florence SHU and Florence SMU; 2) Either Allenwood SHU and SMU or Lewisburg SHU; 3) Three additional SMU’s are yet to be to be determined.” (For descriptions of SHUs and SMUs, see our earlier post on the subject.)

In the end run, according to McGinnis, as many as 13 units may be inspected. Teams of experts will be dispatched to these facilities over the next few months to tour the facilities, and talk with the people who run them and the prisoners held there. McGinnis did not say whether prisoners would be interviewed without corrections staff present, or given the opportunity to fill out anonymous surveys–methods that are widely considered to be the only way to get candid information from people who are currently incarcerated.

Among CNA’s tasks will be “a comprehensive review of the Bureau’s mental health assessment process.” This controversial subject has been addressed in recent lawsuits and media reports, which show that  numerous individuals with serious mental illness are being held at ADX, in violation of the BOPs own clear policy directives.

The audit will also review “the application of inmate due process rights…during duration of placement within SHU at ADX and or SMUS.” These due process rights, for the most part, consist of pro forma hearings and reviews, presided over solely by prison officials. Some critics argue that these processes lack even a semblance of fairness or independence.

The audit will pointedly not include “any inmates with Special Administrative Measures (SAMs),” which ban virtually all communications between those in prison and the outside world, and even permit monitoring of attorney-client communications. The auditors will not enter the section of ADX called H-Unit, which holds a group of the most restricted, high-security prisoners, including Ramzi Yousef (1993 World Trade Center bombings), Zacarias Moussaoui (9/11), and Ahmed Ghailani (US embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania).

According to one court document, individuals in H-Unit have had their mail suspended and their phone privileges and contact with immediate family members denied. Every phone call, every piece of mail is closely monitored by the FBI–and some, according to the prisoners, is discarded, including pleas for help to attorneys. H-Unit banned prisoners from receiving books by President Obama, along with such innocuous publications as a book on world history, sports magazines, and even a magazine on crocheting. Individuals held at in the unit have been subjected to force feeding when they go on hunger strikes. (See “Voices from Solitary: Life in H-Unit, ADX Federal Supermax.”)

What is particularly unusual about H-Unit is the extent to which the FBI appears to be involved in it operation. (The FBI has no statutory authority to operate inside of federal prisons.) According to court documents, FBI agents listen in on phone conversations, read mail, and dictate punishments–even when BOP personnel object.

Solitary Watch asked Shaina Vanek, the contracting officer in charge of the study and a National Institute of Corrections spokesperson who attended the meeting, confirmed in an email: “the review of the Bureau of Prisons use of Restricted Housing excludes a review of inmates with Special Administrative Measures (SAMs) and also the H unit at the ADX.  The BOP has a population of approximately 219,000, and 54 inmates have SAMs.”

While the numbers are indeed small, these individuals are subject to the most extreme, and potentially torturous, form of solitary confinement; their exclusion means that such practices will receive no review whatsoever.

According to one attendee at the November 11 meeting, McGinnis and his team seemed eager to secure “buy in” from the advocates present and to produce a report that will be accepted by them. One of the advocates was asked to represent the group in future communications, and another meeting may take place in the new year.

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Palestine Parkour – Gaza Free Running

SETI

SETI@home


Winter 2013
Dear SETI@home Volunteer:We need your help to continue the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence!

For the last thirteen years, SETI@home has brought the search for extraterrestrial intelligence to millions of participants around the world. We use the largest and most sensitive telescopes on earth to scan the skies for the faint whispers of another technology. Your tax-deductible donation will help enable us to continue the SETI@home and Astropulse projects at Arecibo Observatory, as well as pursue ambitious new experiments at the Green Bank Telescope (GBT) and other observatories around the world.  SETI@home is primarily funded by the financial support of its participants. Your contribution is vital to sustaining our search for intelligent life on other worlds.

The search for extraterrestrial intelligence life is at a very exciting point. The detection of extrasolar planets by the Kepler mission as well as by ground based observations suggest that there are as many as 40 billion habitable earth-like planets in our galaxy.

The Kepler planet detections are enabling a fascinating new type of observation, which we are currently conducting at the GBT.  Using the precisely known orbital characteristics of planets in multiple planet systems we can predict when two such planets line up with each other and the earth.  These alignments, known as conjunctions, allow us to eavesdrop on possible planet-to-planet communication or active astronomy (much like we use the Arecibo planetary radar to image other planets in our solar system).  The data gathered from these observations will be distributed on the SETI@home network as well as subjected to in-house analyses.

In the realm of technology development, we have a couple of exciting projects to report on. The next generation in the long line of SERENDIP experiments, SERENDIP VI, is in rapid development and we hope to deploy it early next year at both Arecibo and the GBT.  As a bonus, SERENDIP VI will also look for the new and mysterious fast radio bursts.

SETI data analysis is coming to a phone or tablet very near you! The SETI@home application for android based cell phones and tablets is now in beta. We plan to release this application to everyone in the next few months.

Please consider making a financial contribution to SETI@home to help us see these and other projects through to fruition.

– Jeff Cobb, Co-founder of SETI@home


The University of California is a nonprofit educational and research organization governed by the provisions of Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Donations are tax deductible for residents of the United States and Canada.


SETI@home respects your privacy. E-mail addresses are not shared with any other organization. If you do not wish to receive further e-mails from SETI@home, you can automatically “opt-out” by following the link:

http://setiathome.berkeley.edu

“Assassination Market”

“Assassination Market” Crowdfunds Murder of Gov’t Officials with Bitcoins; Bernanke, Obama, NSA’s Alexander Top Kill-List

In Archive, on November 20, 2013 at 9:56 AM

assassination-market-list

11/18/2013

Andy Greenberg/Forbes:

Last month I received an encrypted email from someone calling himself by the pseudonym Kuwabatake Sanjuro, who pointed me towards his recent creation: The website Assassination Market, a crowdfunding service that lets anyone anonymously contribute bitcoins towards a bounty on the head of any government official–a kind of Kickstarter for political assassinations. According to Assassination Market’s rules, if someone on its hit list is killed–and yes, Sanjuro hopes that many targets will be–any hitman who can prove he or she was responsible receives the collected funds.

For now, the site’s rewards are small but not insignificant. In the four months that Assassination Market has been online, six targets have been submitted by users, and bounties have been collected ranging from ten bitcoins for the murder of NSA director Keith Alexander and 40 bitcoins for the assassination of President Barack Obama to 124.14 bitcoins–the largest current bounty on the site–targeting Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve and public enemy number one for many of Bitcoin’s anti-banking-system users. At Bitcoin’s current rapidly rising exchanges rate, that’s nearly $75,000 for Bernanke’s would-be killer.

Sanjuro’s grisly ambitions go beyond raising the funds to bankroll a few political killings. He believes that if Assassination Market can persist and gain enough users, it will eventually enable the assassinations of enough politicians that no one would dare to hold office. He says he intends Assassination Market to destroy “all governments, everywhere.”

“I believe it will change the world for the better,” writes Sanjuro, who shares his handle with the nameless samurai protagonist in the Akira Kurosawa film “Yojimbo.” (He tells me he chose it in homage to creator of the online black market Silk Road, who called himself the Dread Pirate Roberts, as well Bitcoin inventor Satoshi Nakamoto.)  ”Thanks to this system, a world without wars, dragnet panopticon-style surveillance, nuclear weapons, armies, repression, money manipulation, and limits to trade is firmly within our grasp for but a few bitcoins per person. I also believe that as soon as a few politicians gets offed and they realize they’ve lost the war on privacy, the killings can stop and we can transition to a phase of peace, privacy and laissez-faire.”

I contacted the Secret Service and the FBI to ask if they’re investigating Assassination Market, and both declined to comment.

Sanjuro didn’t actually invent the concept of an anonymous crowdfunded assassination market. The idea dates back to the cypherpunk movement of the mid-1990s, whose adherents dreamt of using encryption tools to weaken the government and empower individuals. Former Intel engineer and Cypherpunk Mailing List founder Tim May argued that uncrackable secret messages and untraceable digital currency would lead to assassination markets in his “Cryptoanarchist’s Manifesto” written in 1992.

A few years later, another former Intel engineer named Jim Bell proposed a system of funding assassinations through encrypted, anonymous donations in an essay he called “ Assassination Politics.” The system he described closely matches Sanjuro’s scheme, though anonymity tools like Tor and Bitcoin were mostly theoretical at the time.

Sanjuro tells me he’s long been aware of Bell’s idea. But he only decided to enact it after the past summer’s revelations of mass surveillance by the NSA exposed in a series of leaks by agency contractor Edward Snowden. “Being forced to alter my every happy memory during internet activity, every intimate moment over the phone with my loved ones, to also include some of the people I hate the most listening in, analysing the conversation, was the inspiration I needed to embark on this task,” he writes. “After about a week of muttering ‘they must all die’ under my breath every time I opened a newspaper or turned on the television, I decided something had to be done. This is my contribution to the cause.”

“I am a crypto-anarchist,” Sanjuro concludes. “We have a bright future ahead of us.”

source

U.S. “Army Network 2020″: Behavior-Based Analytics Will Monitor Soldiers/Employees to Thwart Future Whistleblowers

November 20, 2013 at 10:16 PM

whistleblower-insider-threat

11/19/2013

Mashable:

The U.S. Army plans to monitor the online behavior of its employees with tracking software that will be woven into Army Network 2020, an in-house computer network set to launch in seven years.

The network, which aims to catch anyone who might download and distribute classified documents, comes after former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden leaked information revealing that the agency collects data on everyone from average American citizens to world leaders. The order for a tracking system dates back to last November, when U.S. President Barack Obama issued a memo that describes programs meant to “deter, detect and mitigate actions by employees who may represent a threat to national security.”

See Also: Obama’s Crackdown Views Leaks as Aiding Enemies of U.S.

The network will use “behavior-based analytics” to monitor the activity of soldiers, according to National Defense Magazine, citing Maj. Gen. Alan Lynn. In particular, the army plans to target employees who have just started or are about to leave their job, as they are seen as most likely to leak information. The system will be able to detect a range of behaviors, including how many emails someone sends per day, and the amount of information that person downloads.

“Outside of simply saying that the Army intelligence community is complying with executive orders and directives that call for network auditing, the details of those efforts are not releasable,” Matthew Bourke, a spokesperson for the U.S. Army, told Mashable in an email.

Although Bourke declined to answer questions about the extent of the monitoring, his statement confirmed that Army Network 2020 will include an employee-monitoring component.

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The heartbreaking journey taken by asylum seekers

Un­der­stand­ing the men­tal­ity, back­ground and rea­son for asy­lum seek­ers com­ing to Aus­tralia is vital to hu­man­ise their sto­ries.

The New York Times mag­a­zine has an in­cred­i­ble fea­ture in its mag­a­zine this week, writ­ten by Luke Mo­gel­son (back­ground to the story here) and pho­tographed by Joel Van Houdt, that stun­ningly cap­tures the chal­lenges, heartache and un­cer­tainty of refugees des­per­ately want­ing to set­tle in Aus­tralia from Iran, Afghanistan, Pak­istan and be­yond.

This is one of the most lyri­cal and mov­ing pieces of jour­nal­ism I’ve read in ages:

It’s sur­pris­ingly sim­ple, from Kabul, to en­list the ser­vices of the smug­glers Aus­tralian au­thor­i­ties are so keen to ap­pre­hend. The prob­lem was that every Afghan I spoke to who had been to In­done­sia in­sisted that no West­ern jour­nal­ist would ever be al­lowed onto a boat: Para­noia over agents was too high. Con­se­quently, the pho­tog­ra­pher Joel van Houdt and I de­cided to pose as refugees. Be­cause we are both white, we thought it pru­dent to de­vise a cover. We would say we were Geor­gian (other op­tions in the re­gion were re­jected for fear of run­ning into Russ­ian speak­ers), had sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion about our gov­ern­ment’s ac­tiv­i­ties dur­ing the 2008 war (hence, in the event of a search, our cam­eras and recorders), trav­eled to Kabul in search of a smug­gler and learned some Dari dur­ing our stay. An Afghan col­league of mine, Hakim (whose name has been changed to pro­tect his iden­tity), would pre­tend to be a local schemer an­gling for a foothold in the trade. It was all overly elab­o­rate and highly im­plau­si­ble.

When we were ready, Hakim phoned an el­derly Afghan man, liv­ing in Jakarta, who goes by the hon­orific Hajji Sahib. Hajji Sahib is a well-known smug­gler in In­done­sia; his cell­phone num­ber, among Afghans, is rel­a­tively easy to ob­tain. Hakim ex­plained that he had two Geor­gians — “Levan” and “Mikheil” — whom he wished to send Hajji Sahib’s way. Hajji Sahib, never ques­tion­ing our story, agreed to get Joel and me from Jakarta to Christ­mas Is­land for $4,000 each. This rep­re­sents a slightly dis­counted rate, for which Hakim, as­pir­ing mid­dle­man, promised more busi­ness down the road.

A few days later, we vis­ited Sarai Shahzada, Kabul’s bustling cur­rency mar­ket. Tucked be­hind an out­door bazaar on the banks of a pol­luted river that bends through the Old City, the en­trance to Sarai Shahzada is a nar­row cor­ri­dor mobbed with traders pre­sid­ing over stacks of Pak­istani ru­pees, Iran­ian rials, Amer­i­can dol­lars and Afghan afgha­nis. The en­closed court­yard to which the cor­ri­dor leads, the ex­te­rior stair­wells as­cend­ing the sur­round­ing build­ings, the bal­conies that run the length of every floor — no piece of real es­tate is spared a hard-nosed dealer hawk­ing bun­dled bricks of cash. The more il­lus­tri­ous op­er­a­tors oc­cupy cramped of­fices and offer a va­ri­ety of ser­vices in ad­di­tion to ex­change. Most of them are bro­kers of the money-trans­fer sys­tem, known as hawala, used through­out the Mus­lim world. Under the hawala sys­tem, if some­one in Kabul wishes to send money to a rel­a­tive in Pak­istan, say, he will pay the amount, plus a small com­mis­sion, to a bro­ker in Sarai Shahzada, and in re­turn re­ceive a code. The re­cip­i­ent uses this code to col­lect the funds from a bro­ker in Pe­shawar, who is then owed the trans­ferred sum by the bro­ker in Sarai Shahzada (a debt that can be set­tled with fu­ture trans­ac­tions flow­ing in re­verse).

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The Wall Street Code (Marije Meerman, VPRO)

11/04/2013

Backlight:

The Wall Street Code: A thriller about a genius algorithm builder who dared to stand up against Wall Street. Haim Bodek, aka The Algo Arms Dealer.

From the makers of the much-praised Quants: The Alchemists of Wall Street and Money & Speed: Inside the Black Box. Now the long-awaited final episode of a trilogy in search of the winners and losers of the tech revolution on Wall Street. Could mankind lose control of this increasingly complex system?

………..

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