(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)
London police responding to incident at Oxford Circus
(CNN)Police are responding to an incident at the Oxford Circus underground station in London.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)
(CNN)Police are responding to an incident at the Oxford Circus underground station in London.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME.COM)
Looking at President Trump, you might think the rules of politics have changed. After Hurricane Maria, he attacked the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, saying she had shown “poor leadership” and was only criticizing federal aid efforts because she’d been told to by Democrats.
The tweet did not go over well — by one measure, it was the third least-popular tweet of his presidency. But Trump never backed down, continuing his attacks on the mayor and other “politically motivated ingrates” until the news cycle had moved on.
One energy company has learned that the old rules still apply, however.
After San Juan Mayor Cermen Yulín Cruz asked for more transparency on Whitefish Energy, a small company based in Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s hometown that received a $300 million contract to restore power to the island, it fought back — on Twitter.
First, the company said that it shared her frustrations with the slow pace of progress but felt her comments were “misplaced.” Yulín Cruz then responded, tweetingthat she is not the only person who has raised questions.
“What is it about women having an opinion that irritates some?” she wrote.
The company fired back: “We’ve got 44 linemen rebuilding power lines in your city & 40 more men just arrived. Do you want us to send them back or keep working?”
This exchange was so Trumpy the President himself could have drafted it. Facing criticism, the company doubled down, a common strategy for the commander in chief. When a question was raised about sexism, it responded by using variants on the word “men” twice.
And that’s where the comparison with Trump ends. After the company faced a barrage of criticism, the governor of Puerto Rico asked an inspector general to look into how it got the contract and said there would be “hell to pay.” Congressional Democrats sent their own letter.
“Whitefish is primarily financed by a private equity firm that is run by a contributor to the presidential campaign of Donald Trump. We’re concerned that Whitefish might have overstated its connections with the Trump administration to obtain the contract,” eight Democratic lawmakers wrote in another letter to the Interior Department’s inspector general.
A copy of the company’s contract leaked which appeared to show that the government cannot audit the company’s labor costs or profits.
The Federal Emergency Management Administration even weighed in, saying after an initial review it “has not confirmed whether the contract prices are reasonable.”
In short, following Trump’s playbook has already landed Whitefish in a lot of hot water, and things are just getting started, which is why the company has already done the least Trumpy thing possible: It apologized.
Trump may get away with attacking, tweeting, doubling down and never apologizing. But he’s the President, and barring any unlikely scenarios, he’s in office through January of 2021 at least. Everyone else in politics — especially companies with contracts at stake — is still bound by the old rules.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)
In his answer, Trump said in his defense that he had written personal letters to the soldiers’ family members, and he then tried to use the issue to gain a political advantage. Trump leveled false accusations at his predecessors, including former president Barack Obama, saying they never or rarely called family members of service members who were killed on their watch, when in fact they regularly did.
As anger swelled, Trump continued to attempt to bolster his broader claim Tuesday by invoking the death of Marine 1st Lt. Robert Kelly, the son of White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly who was killed in 2010 while serving in Afghanistan.
The White House has not explained why Trump took so long to comment publicly about the Niger ambush, but officials said Tuesday that he was regularly briefed on the incident during that period. They declined to provide details.
The White House did not receive detailed information from the Defense Department about the four dead soldiers until Oct. 12, and that information was not fully verified by the White House Military Office until Monday, according to a senior White House official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to comment on the internal process.
At that point, the official said, Trump was cleared to reach out to the four families — both in letters that were mailed Tuesday and in personal phone calls to family members that day.
“He offered condolences on behalf of a grateful nation and assured them their family’s extraordinary sacrifice to the country will never be forgotten,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.
In his call with Sgt. La David T. Johnson’s widow, Myeshia Johnson, Trump told her, “He knew what he was signing up for, but I guess it hurts anyway,” according to the account of Rep. Frederica S. Wilson (D-Fla.), who was riding in a limousine with Johnson when the president called and heard the conversation on speakerphone.
Wilson recalled in an interview with The Washington Post that Johnson broke down in tears. “He made her cry,” Wilson said. The congresswoman said she wanted to take the phone and “curse him out,” but that the Army sergeant holding the phone would not let her speak to the president.
The White House neither confirmed nor denied Wilson’s account. “The President’s conversations with the families of American heroes who have made the ultimate sacrifice are private,” a White House official said in a statement.
But in a Twitter post Wednesday, Trump claimed Wilson “totally fabricated” her account of his call to the widow. Trump went on to back up his assertion by insisting he has “proof.”
“Democrat Congresswoman totally fabricated what I said to the wife of a soldier who died in action (and I have proof). Sad!” Trump wrote.
Wilson stood her ground. Speaking on an MSNBC, she called Trump’s call “horrible” and “insensitive.”
“She was in tears. She was in tears. And she said, ‘He didn’t even remember his name,’” said Wilson.
Leon Panetta, who served as defense secretary and White House chief of staff under Democratic presidents, said Trump should have more quickly conveyed the “deepest regrets of the country for the families that lost their loved ones.” He put some of the responsibility for Trump’s slow response on his staff.
“Somebody screwed up here, okay?” Panetta said. “You don’t let that amount of time pass when our men and women in uniform have been killed.”
Trump did not serve in the military — he sought and received several draft defermentsduring the Vietnam War — and has drawn pointed criticism in the past for his comments about military heroes.
As a presidential candidate, Trump mocked the service of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a prisoner of war in Vietnam, and feuded with the Gold Star parents of Army Capt. Humayun Khan, who was killed in Iraq in 2004.
And on his first full day as president, Trump used a speech before the Central Intelligence Agency’s wall of stars honoring intelligence officers who died in service to air his personal grievances, including about the media coverage of the size of his inaugural crowd.
Peter Wehner, an adviser and speechwriter in President George W. Bush’s White House, said communicating empathy and compassion has been for Trump like speaking “a foreign language.”
“Part of being a president is at moments being pastor in chief, dispensing grace and understanding and giving voice to sorrow, tragedy and loss,” Wehner said. “But he’s a person who’s missing an empathy gene.”
Steve Schmidt, a Republican strategist and former adviser to Bush and McCain, said he was surprised by Trump’s 12-day silence on the Niger attack.
“There is no issue too small for him to comment on,” Schmidt said. “He tweets at all hours of the morning and night on every conceivable subject. He has time to insult, to degrade, to demean always. But once again, you see this moral obtusity in the performance of his duties as commander in chief.”
Still, the brother of one of the fallen soldiers, Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright, 29, said he and his family have not been bothered by Trump’s comments.
William Wright said Tuesday afternoon in an interview that his parents were expecting a phone call from the president soon and that his family would consider it a “great honor” to speak with him. If Trump had called earlier, Wright said, the family would not have been ready for it.
“It’s not something we’re upset by, and it’s not something we are offended by,” Wright said. “This is a devastating experience to go through, and we have been blessed with a lot of support. It’s our hope that everyone can rally around the families of the fallen soldiers.”
Sanders defended Trump’s Monday comments, saying the president was not criticizing his predecessors “but stating a fact” that presidents sometimes have called family members, sometimes have sent letters and other times have met in person.
Inside the West Wing, Trump’s advisers have been furious with what they consider unfair criticism of their boss’s comments leveled by former Obama staffers. Privately, they have accused the media of assuming the worst in Trump — jumping to a conclusion that he does not respect military members because he waited so long to comment on the four killed Green Berets. One top aide argued that a “tone and veil of hate” has defined the coverage.
With the war against terrorism continuing well into its second decade, the number of battlefield deaths has greatly declined, making the loss of four soldiers on a single day all the more significant. So far in 2017, about 30 service members have died, compared with at least 346 hostile deaths in all of 2009 and 456 in all of 2010, which were Obama’s first two years in office.
Wartime presidents historically have wrestled with how often they reach out to the bereaved, which is an important part of leadership, and how they maintain their own emotional health by not letting personal grief overwhelm their judgment, said Eliot A. Cohen, a senior State Department official in the Bush administration.
“If Franklin D. Roosevelt had personally contacted the family members of every service member who fell in World War II, he would have been so overwhelmed emotionally he could not have made any decisions,” Cohen said.
Panetta said each president has his own way of expressing condolences. “The most important test is whether it comes from the heart,” he said. “It’s not so much whether he decides to do a letter or a phone call. You don’t do this by the numbers. You do it by what you think can most appropriately reflect the nation’s concern.”
This month’s deadly operation in Niger was unusual and highly sensitive, and the military has not yet disclosed many details. It was something of a surprise that the Special Forces unit came under fire — and the remains of one of the fallen soldiers, Johnson, 25, were not recovered until two days afterward.
Marine Lt. Gen. Frank McKenzie, the director of the Pentagon’s Joint Staff, told reporters Oct. 12 that the ambush marked the first time in at least six months that the U.S. military had faced enemy fire in the region.
McKenzie said the operation was meant to be an outreach effort in which the U.S. soldiers went out alongside local forces; it was “not designed to be a combat patrol.” But he defended the support the soldiers had, saying that there was a “pretty good level of planning” and that French forces responded within 30 minutes with helicopter air support.
The general said the Pentagon believes there is some connection to an affiliate of the Islamic State terrorist group in the attack.
U.S. Africa Command first disclosed late Oct. 4 that U.S. troops had come under fire in Niger. The command confirmed the following morning that three U.S. soldiers — Staff Sgts. Bryan C. Black, 35; Jeremiah W. Johnson, 39; and Wright — were killed.
On Oct. 6, the Pentagon disclosed that U.S. troops also had recovered the remains of Johnson. The military did not explain how Johnson was separated from other U.S. forces in the mission, a development that rarely occurs in a military that prides itself on never leaving service members behind on the battlefield.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters Oct. 11 that he “completely rejected” any notion that the rescue effort for the unit was slow, and he promised that the military will examine the operation.
“We’re not complacent,” he said. “We’re going to be better.”
Sanders twice extended thoughts and prayers on behalf of the administration to the family members of the dead soldiers — in her press briefings on Oct. 5 and 6 — but Trump issued no statement echoing his press secretary.
Bonnie Carroll, who founded the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, said she has had good experiences with several presidents when it comes to mourning the loss of fallen service members.
“While there is no one way to acknowledge the death,” she said in a statement, “what is important for the family is that the president acknowledges the life and service of their loved one, and expresses gratitude on behalf of the nation.”
Alex Horton and Brian Murphy contributed to this report.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE PAKISTAN NEWSPAPER ‘DAWN’)
Twitter is citing “newsworthiness” and the public interest as reasons why it didn’t remove United States (US) President Donald Trump’s declaration in a tweet that North Korean leaders may not “be around much longer.”
On Saturday, after North Korea’s foreign minister called Trump a “mentally deranged man” at the United Nations General Assembly in response to the latter’s threatening speech, the US president responded on Twitter.
Twitter responded to questions about the policy on Monday, saying in a series of messages on its public policy account that “newsworthiness” is one of the factors it considers in determining if a tweet breaks the platform’s rules.
It says the policy has been internal, but its public-facing rules will be updated to reflect it.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)
(CNN) US President Donald Trump should stop conducting his international diplomacy on Twitter, Chinese state media said in a widely-published editorial, syndicated across the country.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CHRISTIAN POST)
GOP Senator Marco Rubio of Florida blasted left-leaning media, Politico, which published an article commenting that he was tweeting “the most Republican part of the bible,” referring to his use of verses from the book of Proverbs in the Old Testament.
“Proverbs is the Republican part of the bible? I don’t think Solomon had yet joined the GOP when he wrote the first 29 chapters of Proverbs,” Rubio wrote, after an article in Politico said, “Each day, the Florida senator is quoting a verse from Proverbs, the GOP’s favorite part of the book.”
The article couldn’t stop Rubio from quoting Proverbs.
Hours after commenting on the Politico article, the senator’s tweet read, “Where words are many, sin is not wanting; but those who restrain their lips do well. Proverbs 10:19.”
The article quoted Rubio’s tweet from last month: “As dogs return to their vomit, so fools repeat their folly. Proverbs 26:11.”
The author, Joel B. Baden, professor of Hebrew Bible at Yale Divinity School, wrote that the senator had been tweeting bible verses since May 16.
“He has tweeted a biblical verse almost every day since then. Almost all of them come from the Old Testament, and specifically the book of Proverbs,” Baden wrote, remarking that “Proverbs is probably the most Republican book of the entire Bible.”
The author said other Republicans also like to quote Proverbs, citing Ben Carson as an example.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Carson “compared himself favorably to the blustery style of then-candidate Donald Trump by quoting Proverbs 22:4: ‘By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches and honor and life.'”
Gerald Ford’s favorite Bible passage was Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust wholeheartedly in Yahweh [the Lord], put no faith in your own perception; in every course you take, have him in mind: He will see that your paths are smooth,” Baden added. “Ford repeated this when he served in the Navy during World War II, throughout his presidency and in his swearing-in.”
President Trump also likes the idea of Proverbs, the author went on to say, quoting from a September 2015 interview on CBN. Trump claimed in that interview that some of his most appreciated verses were from Proverbs, however, he said his favorite verse in Proverbs was “never bend to envy,” which doesn’t appear in Proverbs or anywhere else in the Bible.
“There is surely nothing wrong with a politician turning to the Bible for spiritual, ethical and moral guidance,” Baden wrote. “The Bible is the foundational text of Western civilization, after all. But concentrating exclusively on the parts of it that affirm one’s own perspective is a form of confirmation bias.”
Baden suggested Rubio should read and tweet from Ecclesiastes or from Prophet’s such as Amos: “Because you trample on the poor and take from them levies of grain, you have built houses of stone — but you shall not live in them” (Amos 5:11).
The author also quoted Leviticus 19:33–34, “When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not wrong him. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself.”
When Rubio first started posting Bible verses to Twitter, there were some negative reactions, which Rubio described as a “Twitter freak out.” One political blogger called the Bible verses “oddly terrifying.”
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CBS NEWS AND THE AP)
WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/AP) — National Public Radio marked the Fourth of July by tweeting the entire Declaration of Independence, but it seems some Twitter users didn’t recognize what they were reading.
The broadcaster tweeted out the words of the declaration line-by-line Tuesday.
Some of the founders’ criticisms of King George III were met with angry responses from supporters of President Donald Trump, who seemed to believe the tweets were a reference to his presidency.
One tweet read, “A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.”
Another said: “and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.”A Twitter user accused NPR of condoning violence while trying to sound patriotic. The user apologized after the misunderstanding was pointed out. Tweets like that one drew a snarky reply from comedy writer Chris Regan.
Another user asked if the tweet was talking about the U.S. current foreign agenda, asking if Americans were the tyrants.
Others were under the impression NPR was trying to provoke Trump with the tweets and praised the outlet for doing so. Many, recognizing it was the Declaration of Independence, said how history is repeating itself.
NPR broadcast its annual reading of the declaration for the 29th straight year on Independence Day. This is the first year the tradition has been extended to Twitter.
In addition to the text of the document, NPR also tweeted the names of the men who signed the declaration, listing them by colony.
Spokeswoman Allyssa Pollard says the tweets were shared by thousands of people and generated “a lively conversation.”
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
For those of you who know me you know that I am neither a Republican nor a Democrat though I do and I have voted for some of both in the past. Even though I am a registered voting Independent I do find it difficult most of the time to figure out whom to vote for in the different elections. This past November I voted for a third-party candidate just because I just couldn’t pull the lever for Mrs. Clinton nor Mr. Trump. If I was forced to vote this past November and I only had the two folks I just mentioned as my choices I guess, I think, I would have chosen Mr. Trump even though I had major issues with his ego and his maturity as I just couldn’t get my self to vote for Mrs. Clinton. I still believe that if the DNC did not have their ‘super delegates’ that Bernie Sanders would have won the Democratic nomination instead of Hillary. I also still totally believe that the existence of these ‘super delegates’ are unconstitutional. I also believe that if Mr. Sanders had won the Democratic nomination that he would definitely have beaten Mr. Trump quite easily last November. So, in a sense I believe that it is a fair assumption that the DNC elected Donald Trump as our President.
I wrote that first paragraph because I know that some folks will say that since I am writing a negative issue about Mr. Trump that I am really a liberal Democrat yet I believe that those who say such things are speaking yet have no knowledge of what they are saying. I have evolved through the years into being very much a moderate, I want the two extremest political parties to meet in the middle on almost all issues so that the country and the Congress can get out of the gridlock it has been in for so long now.
Mr. Trump is the President of our Country whether we like him, love him, or hate him. During the campaign trail I was concerned about his habitual lying just as I was about Hillary’s. I have never believed that either one of them cares anything about the everyday working class, working poor, or just plain poor people in our Country or in any other Country. The Democratic Party would easily win the elections if they did not insist on condoning abortions and for trying so hard to take the citizens of our Country ability to protect our selves from thugs and from the Government itself by stripping our God-given and 2nd Amendment rights away from us. Again, the DNC can and should blame themselves for Mr. Trump being our President.
If the ignorant things that Mr. Trump did during the campaign didn’t scare you or worry you about his narcissistic, egotistic, stupidity, are you concerned yet? Think about some of his statements such as him saying he knows more about what is going on in the Middle-East than our Generals do. Since being in Office saying that he does not need the morning security briefings. He doesn’t believe in nor does he trust any of our Nations Intelligence agencies Directors. The man we have in the Oval Office seems content to spend his days watching cable TV and listening to right-wing folks like the folks on Fox and Friends. He has proven to be a very, very thin-skinned person who has a constant habit of not thinking or caring about anything before he degrades himself into being the Twitter King. Just as the Secret Service took away Mr. Obama’s Blackberry as soon as he assumed Office they should for the sake of our Country also take away Mr. Trumps Twitter abilities.
These past few days have been very disturbing because of the hugely ignorant Tweets that he has put out concerning the couple that does the ‘Morning Joe’ cable show and for the absolutely asinine ‘wrestling event’ with CNN. Are you yet worried about this mans sanity? How about his maturity level? Is this man totally mentally unhinged as well as having the mentality and the maturity of a spoiled brat first grader? I read articles from all over the world everyday, from newspapers that are State owned and free ones as well. I read blogs from many countries everyday also and I get article from news TV stations all around the globe and when it concerns their thoughts about our President they range from concern, worry, or just plain laughter at him. Yet the biggest issue is trust or faith in him as a leader. Our Allies are worried and our enemies are laughing at him. I will make one final statement here about the situation we all find ourselves in with Mr. Trump as our President. This statement is that if Mr. Trump does not quickly grow up and start acting like an adult the Republicans in the November 2018 midterm elections are going to lose both the House and the Senate. There is no chance that Mr. Trump will ever grow up so the only chance the Republicans have in that election is if the Republican led Senate impeach this pathetic child from the Presidency ASAP!
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF GLOBAL VOICES)
China’s notorious Great Firewall makes it difficult — but not impossible — for Chinese netizens to access sites like Twitter, Facebook, western news outlets like the New York Times, and thousands of other websites, not to mention Global Voices.
For years, netizens in China (and other countries with heavy restrictions on Internet content) have used virtual private networks (VPNs) that allow them to circumvent censorship by creating a secure and well-hidden connection to another network in a different geographic location.
But their days using VPNs may be numbered.
Netizens are anticipating that the majority of VPN apps serving individuals’ needs will be taken down from Apple and Android App markets by 1 July 2017.
Whisperings of a state ban on unauthorized VPNs spread widely on Twitter and Weibo after the popular VPN service provider Green announced that the company would cease operations by 1 July. Below is the company’s letter to its customers, dated 22 June:
Dear respected Green customers,
We have received notice from the higher authorities. We regret to inform you that Green will cease our service on July 1st, 2017. We apologize for any inconvenience caused.
We will start processing our users’ refund request after service stopped (the amount will be calculated based on the remaining days in your plan). If you need a refund, please make sure to submit your refund request by August 31, 2017. We won’t be able to process any refund request submitted after that date. Since the workload of processing the requests, information verification and money transfer would be huge, we won’t be able to set an exact date for the refund. We plan to process the refund soon after August 31, please wait patiently.
Your praise and affirmation have encouraged us to last as long as we have. We will always be grateful for this. In the future, the Green team will transform the business. We look forward to meeting you again.
Green is just one of the VPNs that appears to be facing a mandatory shutdown. VPN providers including Netfits, VPN Master Pro, Ponhon, Snap VPN, SkyX, among others have disappeared from Apple and Android app stores over the past few months.
While some companies offering these services are banned or disrupted in China, others are fully licensed to operate. It has been estimated that 1-3% of China’s internet users use circumvention tool to visit overseas websites.
People who follow the news closely might have anticipated the coming of a full VPN ban. In January 2017, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology announced that it would ban “illegal services” that carry out cross-border operations, including unauthorized virtual private networks (VPNs), until March 2018.
Yet July 2017 is eight months ahead of March 2018, and state authorities have made no official announcement of the ban being expedited.
Chinese human rights activist Hu Jia believes that the ban is related to the upcoming 20th anniversary of Hong Kong being handed from British to Chinese power, which falls on July 1. A few months later, the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China will meet in November. He said on Twitter:
#July 1 the 20th anniversary of the doomsday of Hong Kong’s rule of law and freedom and the CCP #19 Congress around end of the year would be the heyday of the Great Fire Wall. #Xi Jinping is responsible for cybersecurity and he is more heavy-handed and effective in controlling the net. #Xitler.
Chinese President Xi Jinping will be visiting Hong Kong for the July 1 ceremony and the city will be under high security control in this week. As for the 19th National CCP Congress, a majority of the Politburo Standing Committee (top decision-making body) is expected to retire and new members will be replaced. It is a critical moment for the party, which has been experiencing internal political struggle in recent years.
Some Chinese Twitter users are worried that they won’t be able to climb over the wall again soon:
As censorship measures escalate, many circumvention tools have been forced to stop. Climbing over the wall may become history. We have to treasure the days when we can still access Twitter. If one day I cannot climb over the wall, will you miss me?
Others believe that the move is related to Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui’s corruption allegations against top Chinese official Wang Qishan, the secretary of Chinese Communist Party’s anti-corruption agency. Guo Wengui himself believes this too. In a reply to Mr. Sun’s comment about the VPN ban, he said:
孙先生好：封禁VPN是又一次的美国之音的断播事件．这是上天赐给我们的又一个大礼物……他们有多猖狂．多恐惧．我们就会有多强大！他们的任何愚蠢行动都会让我们大陆的同胞会从沉默中醒来！墙一定会被推翻的！我们的国际上的朋友从来没有像今天一样愿意与我们共同一起战斗！一切都是刚刚开始！ https://twitter.com/sunjie1432/status/877870576836030464 …
Dear Mr. Sun: The ban on VPNs is another incident similar to the ban on Voice of America. It is another gift from the heaven… The more furious and mad they become, the stronger we become. All the stupid acts that they have done will only help our fellows in mainland China to wake up. The wall will fall. Friends from the international society are now more willing to fight with us. Everything has just begun.
In a June 16 interview with Mingjing magazine, Guo showed the US passport and social security number of the wife of Wang Qishan, indicating Wang’s wife has long been a US citizen. The exposé rebuffs the party’s claim that it is cracking down on “naked officials”, cadres of prominent party members whose wives or children live overseas.
Guo also showed the addresses of multiple luxury houses owned by alleged relatives of Wang. Since the allegations were so explosive, many from mainland China have climbed over the Great Firewall to watch Guo’s video streaming on YouTube.
Netizens believe that some domestic VPN providers will still be operating after July 1, but there is no guarantee that communication via authorized networks will be safe from surveillance. For now, netizens on Weibo, Twitter and WeChat are anxiously sharing tips and strategies for climbing over the wall.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)
It is not strange that Iran is the only country in the Middle East that blocks services which are considered essential now like Twitter, Facebook, and WhatsApp as part of its continuous blackout policy. Tehran even disturbs the signal of several broadcast channels blocking citizens from any external media access.
Of all international social media applications available, Iranians are only left with the messaging application Telegram.
Telegram was formed by two Russian brothers and is headquartered in Germany. Almost 40 million Iranians use its voice messages, while 20 million use the application for texting. Being the only application available, this precious service is in high demand among Iranians who amount up to a quarter of Telegram’s users across the world.
But then the government quelled Iranians’ sole source of joy by blocking most of Telegram’s services, precisely the voice messages under the pretext of protecting national security.
The truth is that the regime blocked the application fearing it would affect the course of the upcoming elections; a course that had already been engineered.
Thousands of local candidates are “filtered” according to the criteria of the “democratic Iranian religious clerics”. In the end, only those whom they are satisfied with are allowed to run for elections. It is not a secret system and, eventually, no one is allowed to win the elections or even run for it if the Supreme Leader doesn’t agree.
The 2009 elections caused a great embarrassment both domestically and internationally because those who diverted from the leadership were figures licensed by the leaders of the regime to run for the elections.
The supreme leadership decided that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would become president and forged the results accordingly. This angered the candidates who had the best chance in winning and led to the famous “Green Movement” revolution, during which many died or were injured and arrested. The memory of the uprising has been haunting the authorities that believe this massive antagonist movement wouldn’t have been possible, especially in Tehran, hadn’t it been for Twitter and Facebook.
Indeed, back then al-Arabiya Channel relied almost completely on the videos, photos and information it received from those two platforms to cover the Iranian events after the authorities shut down its office and expelled its correspondent. The results were astounding! The regime was in confusion after images of the protests, clashes, and injuries were broadcast on international media outlets.
After reading a report published about a month ago in the Los Angeles Times about the influence of Telegram inside of Iran, I sensed the regime’s fear and anticipated its next move. The report mentioned that the security authorities had already begun warning users of political messages and forced anyone who owned a channel with over 5,000 subscribers to obtain a permit from the Ministry of Culture. The government then began a series of arrests for active users on the application.
Iran has now shut most of Telegram’s services hoping to contain the atmosphere of the parliamentary and presidential elections, which are mostly an encore of the same charade. Results can be partially or completely forged, even after the filtration and suspension done during the early stages of candidacy.
The regime is really concerned with controlling the reactions of the Iranian street to avoid the repetition of the Green Revolution.
No surprises on the level of the presidential elections are expected because the approved candidates are just copies of each other.
Even former President Ahmadinejad, despite his importance and history, was banned by the Supreme Leader from running for this election. Ahmadinejad shocked everyone and announced himself a candidate with a series of clarifications and apologetic statements saying he didn’t disobey the directives of the Supreme Leader. He pledged to withdraw from the elections after the first round and said he only participated to support his friend, a presidential candidate, and give him the media and public attention.
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