• Threatened #Himalayas: What do we know? | The Third Pole

    Jacqueline Joy Pereira, who was one of the three coordinating lead authors of the Asia chapter of AR5 and is Vice Chair of Working Group II of AR6, made a presentation based on the findings of AR5. For ten of the impacts that she mapped out, two had scenarios where adaptation efforts made no impact at all on the outcome – crop failure and coral reef decline. There was minimal impact in a third area – heat-related mortality. These scenarios looked at a temperature increase of 4 degrees Celsius over the period up to 2080-2100.


  • The global evolution of travel visa regimes: An analysis based on the #DEMIG_VISA database

    Drawing on the new DEMIG VISA database which covers global bilateral travel restrictions from 1973 to 2013, this paper explores patterns and trends in international visa regimes. We construct indices of cross-regional inbound and outbound travel restrictiveness to investigate (i) the extent to which different world regions and regional unions have opened or closed to other regions and (ii) the ways in which the formation of regional unions or the disintegration of countries or unions of countries (e.g. the USSR) has affected international visa regimes. Generally, the analysis challenge the idea of a growing global mobility divide between ‘North’ and ‘South’, and yields a more complex image reflecting the rather multi-polar and multi-layered nature of international relations. While the strongest change has been the decreasing use of exit restrictions, the level of entry visa restrictiveness has remained remarkably stable at high levels, with currently around 73 per cent of country dyads being visa-restricted. While predominantly European and North American OECD countries maintain high levels of entry visa restrictiveness for Africa and Asia, these latter regions have the highest levels of entry restrictions themselves. Although citizens of wealthy countries generally enjoy greatest visa-free travel opportunities, this primarily reflects their freedom to travel to other OECD countries. Visa-free travel is mostly realised between geographically proximate countries of integrated regional blocs such as ECOWAS, the EU, GCC and MERCOSUR. Analyses of global dynamics in visa reciprocity show that 21 per cent of the country dyads have asymmetrical visa rules, but also show that levels of reciprocity have increased since the mid-1990s. Our analysis shows that visas are not ‘just’ instruments regulating entry of visitors and exit of citizens, but are manifestations of broader political economic trends and inequalities in international power relations.
    #visas #visa #migrations #histoire #statistiques #chiffres
    cc @fil

  • Erik Prince: Trump’s Knight in America’s New Crusade? | The Oakland Institute

    Prince’s post Blackwater maneuvers – acquiring logistics capacity in Africa, the Mediterranean Region, and Asia, and networking with high-level individuals in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to launch a private equity fund, Frontier Resource Group (FRG).

    “According to our findings, Prince’s connections range from top Emirati businessmen to Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Court,” said Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director of the Oakland Institute. “The first investor in the Frontier Resources Group was a company linked to Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the brother of Abu Dhabi’s ruler itself,” she added.

    The UAE is a country where both Trump and Prince have business interests and unsurprisingly was not included among seven predominantly Muslim nations impacted by Trump’s travel ban. The UAE is also a key US ally in the wars that are raging in the Muslim world.

  • Tensions erupt between the Philippines and China over disputed island - World Socialist Web Site

    Tensions erupt between the Philippines and China over disputed island
    By Joseph Santolan
    30 March 2017

    Over the past several weeks, sharp tensions emerged between Beijing and Manila over the disputed Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea, exposing the advanced character of the crisis gripping the Philippines, a result of Washington’s preparations for war with China.

    The Scarborough Shoal is a triangular chain of rocks and atolls located 140 miles west of the Philippine island of Luzon. In the wake of the Obama administration’s launching its “pivot to Asia” in 2010, this collection of rocks in the South China Sea became the subject of fierce contention. Manila and Beijing came to the brink of a shooting war over the shoal in a military stand-off that lasted for months in the first half of 2012.


  • Europe-Asia capacity crunch a sign of shifting trade patterns, says Maersk - The Loadstar

    The eastbound capacity crunch hitting shippers to Asia is not temporary, but the beginning of a more permanent shift in trading patterns, Maersk Line told The Loadstar today.

    The current capacity crunch on the Europe-Asia backhaul leg was originally attributed to a severe cull of westbound sailings during the Chinese new year holiday, but there has also been a big spike in demand, according to Maersk.
    [Maersk Line’s trade manager for the route, Sushil Sriram] said there was a definite shift in the Chinese economy towards production for domestic consumption, evidenced by the recent rise in the import of raw materials, including iron ore.

    Beijing’s long-term strategy for GDP expansion is for consumer demand to replace exports as China’s main engine for economic growth, and Mr Sriram confirmed there was a big increase in demand, especially for western luxury goods – “everybody wants a BMW or a Mercedes”.

    Mr Sriram explained that the euro’s continued erosion of value against the US dollar in the past year, as well as further falls in the value of sterling since the UK’s referendum vote last June, have made European exports more attractive in Asia.

  • Japan expands military operations in Asia - World Socialist Web Site

    Japan expands military operations in Asia
    By Peter Symonds
    15 March 2017

    As the Trump administration ramps up its confrontation with North Korea and heightens tensions, especially with China, throughout the region, the Japanese government is significantly extending the activities of its military. While operating under the umbrella of its strategic alliance with the US, Tokyo is exploiting the opportunity to rearm militarily so as to pursue its own imperialist ambitions.

    In another menacing warning to Pyongyang, a Japanese guided-missile destroyer yesterday began two days of joint exercises with similar vessels from South Korea and the US. The warships, all equipped with Aegis anti-ballistic missile systems, are operating in the area where four North Korean test missiles landed last week.

    #japon #conflit #asie #stabilité_régionale #Militarisation

  • What the numbers say about refugees. The biggest concentrations of displaced people lie far from the spotlight.

    Growing concerns over an ‘invasion’ of refugees and migrants helped to elect Donald Trump and sway Brexit voters. Yet the data suggest that the situation is very different from how it is often portrayed.

    Researchers warn that misleading reports about the magnitude of flows into Europe and the United States are creating unjustified fears about refugees. That is undermining efforts to manage the massive humanitarian problems faced by those fleeing Syria and other hotspots.

    The number of refugees and migrants entering the European Union is low compared with the bloc’s population. Nations in Africa and Asia are absorbing many more. “The number of refugees in Europe is a classic example of perception versus reality,” says geographer Nikola Sander at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands.!/image/refugees-feature-graphic-online01.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_630/refugees-feature-graphic-online01.jpg!/image/refugees-feature-graphic-online02.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_630/refugees-feature-graphic-online02.jpg
    #statistiques #chiffres #afflux #mythe #préjugés #graphiques #visualisation
    cc @reka

  • Morocco: China’s Gateway to Africa? | The Diplomat

    t’s the night before Morocco’s 2016 parliamentary elections, yet all one of the kingdom’s most influential bankers wants to talk about is China. Chinese-Moroccan relations have blossomed in the last year, and Brahim Benjelloun Touimi, the director general of BCME Bank and the chairman of the Bank of Africa, hopes to benefit from the change.

    Seated inside a restaurant that was once a palace, Touimi enjoyed a traditional Moroccan stew over couscous and offered his views on China. BCME, he said, has over 500 branches in Morocco and recently opened its first full branch in Shanghai. “We are in Asia because of Africa; we opened the Shanghai branch because of Africa. Morocco can be China’s gateway into West Africa and beyond, where Moroccan companies and businessmen are already playing a leading role,“ he said.

    #maroc #chine #afrique #chinafrique #sud-sud

  • Millets, Grains That Might Help Indian Farmers Fight Drought – And Improve Diets, Too : The Salt : NPR

    Now, after nearly four decades of intensive farming (and growing urban populations which use a lot of water), most of India is facing severe water crises. So, many states are trying to come up with a more sustainable way to farm. And Karnataka is leading the way with its efforts with millets.

    There are many factors that make millets more sustainable as crops. Compare the amount of water needed to grow rice with that for millets. One rice plant requires nearly 2.5 times the amount of water required by a single millet plant of most varieties, according to the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid (ICRISAT), a global research organization helping to make millets more popular. That’s why millets are primarily grown in arid regions of Asia, Africa and Latin America.

    Millets can also withstand higher temperatures. “Crops like rice and wheat cannot tolerate temperatures more than 38 degrees Centigrade (100.4 Fahrenheit), while millets can tolerate temperatures of more than 46 degrees C (115 F),” says S.K Gupta, the principal scientist at the pearl millet breeding program at ICRISAT. “They can also grow in saline soil.” Millets could therefore be an important solution for farmers grappling with climate change – sea level rise (which can cause soil salinity to increase), heat waves, droughts and floods.

    #ah_la_la #riz #millet #résilience #eau #Inde #alimentation #climat

  • Pant by numbers: the cities with the most dangerous air – listed | Cities | The Guardian

    Billions of people in cities around the world are exposed to dangerous air, but pollution levels vary widely – and the fast-growing cities of Asia and Africa are the worst affected.

    We’ve broken down data from the World Health Organization on ultra-fine particles of less than 2.5 microns (PM2.5s) region by region. Paris’s air may have almost twice as many PM2.5s as WHO recommended levels (18 micrograms per cubic metre compared with 10µg/m³) – but Delhi’s air contains 122µg/m³, while Zabol, Iran, is the worst at 217µg/m³.

    #pollution #air #particules_fines #dataviz

  • Libro Cartografía de las fronteras. Diario de campo

    Este diario es resultado de la observación realizada en tres zonas de convivencia fronteriza en tres continentes distintos (África, Asia y Europa), al tiempo que da cuenta del seguimiento mediático de los refugiados sirios, afganos e iraquíes que se suben a un barco con el objetivo de llegar a costas griegas o italianas, para posteriormente intentar llegar lo más al norte europeo que les sea posible, atravesando diversas “fronteras verticales”. Lo mismo que de los migrantes mal denominados económicos de varios países africanos que se quedan varados horas en las vallas de #Ceuta, hasta que la policía migratoria los baja a palos para evitar que crucen la “frontera horizontal” del Mediterráneo. De la situación que viven los palestinos que día a día son acosados por los militares israelíes en los cruces y garitas de las “fronteras internas”. O las notas periodísticas que dan cuenta de los desalojos de lo que he denominado “las zonas de convivencia de limbo administrativo”, entiéndase los campos de refugiados que han crecido de forma irregular en diferentes zonas de convivencia fronteriza, como el de Calais (Inglaterra-Francia), o en el monte Gurugú (Marruecos-España), e Idomeni (Grecia-Macedonia).
    #frontières #cartographie #visualisation #livre #Calais #Gourougou #Maroc #Espagne #Grèce #Macédoine #asile #migrations #réfugiés #France
    cc @reka

  • Indigenous Voices In Asia - India: 70 villages in Maharashtra unite to oppose mining, save the Adivasi way of life

    December 5 was a significant day in Gadchiroli, a Maoist-affected district in eastern Maharashtra. That day, representatives of 70 gram sabhas, Adivasi leaders, student bodies, grassroots organisations and political leaders came together for the first time in years to call on the government to halt mining in the region and cancel all sanctioned and proposed mines.

    The gathering – which also included district-level leaders of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and Congress, and former Congress MLA Namdeo Usendi – passed a resolution that underscored the importance of the Forest Rights Act and the Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas Act in securing the livelihood and culture of the indigenous people while also protecting forests and biodiversity. It asked the police and other government departments to stop harassing people who raise questions about their rights or demand justice. It also expressed concern over what it called an attack on Adivasi culture and way of life in the name of development and mainstreaming.

    Coming from a district where even political leaders, journalists, non-governmental organisations and grassroots organisations shy away from talking about police excesses or opposing mining, the resolution marked a significant shift.

    At the forefront of this endeavour was the Surjagad Paramparik Ilaka Ghotul Samiti, an organisation of traditional authority figures – such as the senhal/manjhi (heads of areas, similar to kings), gaitas (village headmen), bhumiyas (keepers of land records, similar to revenue officials) and permas (priests) – from the 70 villages. These authorities were earlier known for keeping away from all things political. Confined to their specialised roles, they rarely if ever spoke publicly about mining, government policy or police excesses.

    All that changed about a month ago when they decided to come together and voice what each of them had been feeling for months.

    #inde #extractivisme #forêt #peuples_autochtones #contestation

  • Continental Rift - Roads & Kingdoms

    The idea that Istanbul is a transcontinental city—the literal bridge between Europe and Asia that represents a metaphorical bridge between East and West—has become an integral part of the city’s, and Turkey’s, identity. Turkey is a modern, secular (i.e., “Western”) country with Islamic (i.e., “Eastern”) roots. The issues that vex Turkey today—its increasing authoritarianism and Islamization, its strained ties with the European Union and NATO—are all interpreted, both inside and outside of the country, as factors nudging Turkey one way or another along a spectrum marked “East” on one end and “West” on the other.

    #frontières #asie #europe #turquie #photographie

  • Green groups want paper giant to stop using drained peat in Indonesia

    International and Indonesian NGOs are calling on the country’s largest paper company to stop using drained peat swamps for industrial agriculture.

    The practice, which relies on drying out the waterlogged soil so that acacia trees can be planted, has enabled vast new swaths of land to be opened for pulpwood production. But it also renders the soil vulnerable to haze-causing fires which each year sweep through the archipelago country, affecting the health of millions and sending greenhouse gas emissions skyrocketing.

    The environmental groups want Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) not only to stop draining peatlands but also to phase out existing estates on peat, and then to rewett and restore those areas so that no more fires occur.

    Such a move by APP would amount to a drastic restructuring of its entire business. The paper giant has planted more than 600,000 hectares (2,300 square miles) of peat, an area seven times the size of Singapore, according to a report by Wetlands International. That’s roughly a quarter of its entire land bank.

    On en parle dans cash investigation

    #industrie_papetière #tourbière #acacias #forêt #déforestation #Indonésie

  • African migration : trends, patterns, drivers

    Africa is often seen as a continent of mass migration and displacement caused by poverty, violent conflict and environmental stress. Yet such perceptions are based on stereotypes rather than theoretically informed empirical research. Drawing on the migration and visa databases from the Determinants of International Migration (DEMIG project) and the Global Bilateral Migration Database (GBMD), this paper explores the evolution and drivers of migration within, towards and from Africa in the post-colonial period. Contradicting common ideas of Africa as a ‘continent on the move’, the analysis shows that intra-African migration intensities have gone down. This may be related to state formation and the related imposition of barriers towards free movement in the wake of decolonisation as well as the concomitant rise of nationalism and inter-state tensions. While African migration remains overwhelmingly intra-continental, since the late 1980s there has been an acceleration and spatial diversification (beyond colonial patterns) of emigration out of Africa to Europe, North America, the Gulf and Asia. This diversification of African emigration seems partly driven by the introduction of visa and other immigration restrictions by European states. Contradicting conventional interpretations of African migration being essentially driven by poverty, violence and underdevelopment, increasing migration out of Africa seems rather to be driven by processes of development and social transformation which have increased Africans’ capabilities and aspirations to migrate, a trend which is likely to continue in the future.
    via @isskein
    #Afrique #migrations #préjugés #stéréotypes #pauvreté #décolonisation #migration_de_masse #mobilité #ancrage
    cc @reka

  • African migration: trends, patterns, drivers | Comparative Migration Studies | Full Text

    Africa is often seen as a continent of mass migration and displacement caused by poverty, violent conflict and environmental stress. Yet such perceptions are based on stereotypes rather than theoretically informed empirical research. Drawing on the migration and visa databases from the Determinants of International Migration (DEMIG project) and the Global Bilateral Migration Database (GBMD), this paper explores the evolution and drivers of migration within, towards and from Africa in the post-colonial period. Contradicting common ideas of Africa as a ‘continent on the move’, the analysis shows that intra-African migration intensities have gone down. This may be related to state formation and the related imposition of barriers towards free movement in the wake of decolonisation as well as the concomitant rise of nationalism and inter-state tensions. While African migration remains overwhelmingly intra-continental, since the late 1980s there has been an acceleration and spatial diversification (beyond colonial patterns) of emigration out of Africa to Europe, North America, the Gulf and Asia. This diversification of African emigration seems partly driven by the introduction of visa and other immigration restrictions by European states. Contradicting conventional interpretations of African migration being essentially driven by poverty, violence and underdevelopment, increasing migration out of Africa seems rather to be driven by processes of development and social transformation which have increased Africans’ capabilities and aspirations to migrate, a trend which is likely to continue in the future.

    #migrations #afrique

  • Containerships ’Full to the Gunnels’ on Asia-North Europe Route as Rates Hit 20-Month High – gCaptain

    Containerships sailing from Asia to North Europe are running “full to the gunnels” ahead of the Chinese New Year (CNY) holiday this month, causing a spike in spot rates and a rollover of lower-rated contract cargo.

    UK NVOCC Westbound Shipping Services said today that, in the present climate, the lowest-rate contracts “are worthless” as a guarantee of shipment on board.

    Headquartered at DP World London Gateway, Westbound claims container lines will either admit the rates are too low and refuse the booking, or accept and “accidently” leave the boxes behind until the next vessel has space – which at this rate is likely to be after CNY.

    #ras_le_bastingage !

  • China seizes over 3,000 kg of pangolin scales in biggest-ever smuggling case

    Pangolins use their scaly armor to protect themselves. Unfortunately, these protective scales have become the very reason for their population collapse.

    Today, eight species of pangolins survive, four each in Asia and Africa. All four Asian species are on the verge of extinction, while the African species are moving towards a similar fate, thanks to rising demand for pangolin meat and scales in China.

    Although #pangolin scales are made of keratin, just like human fingernails and rhino horns, people (incorrectly) believe that they contain medicinal properties. Traders claim that pangolin scales can promote menstruation and lactation, and treat rheumatism and arthritis. But these claims remain unproven. Consumption of pangolins has also become a status symbol as supply becomes scarce and demand increases.

    The three tonne seizure is just the tip of an iceberg, officials say.

    #extinction #braconnage #trafic #perlimpinpin #croyances

  • From Migration Hub to Asylum Crisis: The Changing Dynamics of Contemporary Migration in Yemen

    Historically, Yemen has been a country of emigration, immigration and transit. The fate of Yemeni society has been tied to emigration, as well as to the presence and activities of a Yemeni diaspora scattered throughout the world, in the Gulf countries mainly since the 1950s, in Asia and Africa, and also in the United States and Europe. Yemen’s migration history seems to have reached a stalemate in the past two decades as, gradually since the 1990s, the borders of oil-producing countries have become largely closed to Yemenis.

    Since the early 1990s the country has also had to deal with a substantial influx of refugees from the Horn of Africa, who have con- tinued to seek asylum in a country plagued by its own political crisis. In addition, from 2000 onwards, there has been significant internal displacement as the country unravels – as a result of the Sa‘ada war in the north since 2004, and the southern insurrection since 2007. Most recently, the national uprising of 2011 has also had side effects involving additional displacement. Forced and economic migration are connected in Yemen, as the country plays a strategic role in the management of migratory and trafficking flows between the Horn of Africa and the Arabian peninsula.

    In the first part of this chapter, I examine the historical structure of mobility to and from Yemen, and assess the importance of migration as a core element of the country’s domestic and international profile. In the second part, I examine refugee movements from the endemic humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa; for these refugees, Yemen represents a staging-post and, paradoxically, a ‘safe haven’. Finally, I consider the local and regional impact of a new trend of mobility – internal displacement – as a consequence of the various conflicts that have been taking place in the country relating to the 2011 uprisings...
    #Yémen #migrations #asile #réfugiés
    cc @reka

  • African migration: is the continent really on the move?

    African migration is often perceived as massive and increasing, mainly directed toward Europe, and driven by poverty and violence (Lessault and Beauchemin 2009). However, these assumptions are not based on empirical evidence. We now have a much better ability to assess the volume and geographical orientation of African emigration, thanks to the Global Bilateral Migration Database (GBMD) on the presence of emigrants abroad (migration stocks; World Bank and University of Sussex ).¹ African migration is first and foremost intra-continental. In 2000, 75 percent of all African migrants lived in another African country, while 16 percent were in Europe, 5 percent in America, 4 percent in Oceania and 0.3 per cent in Asia. In fact, African extra-continental emigrant rates seem to be the lowest of all world regions.
    #Migrations #Afrique #cartographie #visualisation #statistiques #chiffres
    cc @reka

  • Unlike Us | About

    Invitation to join the network (a series of events, reader, workshops, online debates, campaigns etc.)

    Concept: Geert Lovink (Institute of Network Cultures/HvA, Amsterdam) and Korinna Patelis (Cyprus University of Technology, Limassol)

    Thanks to Marc Stumpel, Sabine Niederer, Vito Campanelli, Ned Rossiter, Michael Dieter, Oliver Leistert, Taina Bucher, Gabriella Coleman, Ulises Mejias, Anne Helmond, Lonneke van der Velden, Morgan Currie and Eric Kluitenberg for their input.

    The aim of Unlike Us is to establish a research network of artists, designers, scholars, activists and programmers who work on ‘alternatives in social media’. Through workshops, conferences, online dialogues and publications, Unlike Us intends to both analyze the economic and cultural aspects of dominant social media platforms and to propagate the further development and proliferation of alternative, decentralized social media software.

    Whether or not we are in the midst of internet bubble 2.0, we can all agree that social media dominate internet and mobile use. The emergence of web-based user to user services, driven by an explosion of informal dialogues, continuous uploads and user generated content have greatly empowered the rise of participatory culture. At the same time, monopoly power, commercialization and commodification are also on the rise with just a handful of social media platforms dominating the social web. These two contradictory processes – both the facilitation of free exchanges and the commercial exploitation of social relationships – seem to lie at the heart of contemporary capitalism.

    On the one hand new media create and expand the social spaces through which we interact, play and even politicize ourselves; on the other hand they are literally owned by three or four companies that have phenomenal power to shape such interaction. Whereas the hegemonic Internet ideology promises open, decentralized systems, why do we, time and again, find ourselves locked into closed corporate environments? Why are individual users so easily charmed by these ‘walled gardens’? Do we understand the long-term costs that society will pay for the ease of use and simple interfaces of their beloved ‘free’ services?

    The accelerated growth and scope of Facebook’s social space, for example, is unheard of. Facebook claims to have 700 million users, ranks in the top two or three first destination sites on the Web worldwide and is valued at 50 billion US dollars. Its users willingly deposit a myriad of snippets of their social life and relationships on a site that invests in an accelerated play of sharing and exchanging information. We all befriend, rank, recommend, create circles, upload photos, videos and update our status. A myriad of (mobile) applications orchestrate this offer of private moments in a virtual public, seamlessly embedding the online world in users’ everyday life.

    Yet despite its massive user base, the phenomena of online social networking remains fragile. Just think of the fate of the majority of social networking sites. Who has ever heard of Friendster? The death of Myspace has been looming on the horizon for quite some time. The disappearance of Twitter and Facebook – and Google, for that matter – is only a masterpiece of software away. This means that the protocological future is not stationary but allows space for us to carve out a variety of techno-political interventions. Unlike Us is developed in the spirit of RSS-inventor and uberblogger Dave Winer whose recent Blork project is presented as an alternative for ‘corporate blogging silos’. But instead of repeating the entrepreneurial-start-up-transforming-into-corporate-behemoth formula, isn’t it time to reinvent the internet as a truly independent public infrastructure that can effectively defend itself against corporate domination and state control?

    Going beyond the culture of complaint about our ignorance and loss of privacy, the proposed network of artists, scholars, activists and media folks will ask fundamental and overarching questions about how to tackle these fast-emerging monopoly powers. Situated within the existing oligopoly of ownership and use, this inquiry will include the support of software alternatives and related artistic practices and the development of a common alternative vision of how the techno-social world might be mediated.

    Without falling into the romantic trap of some harmonious offline life, Unlike Us asks what sort of network architectures could be designed that contribute to ‘the common’, understood as a shared resource and system of collective production that supports new forms of social organizations (such as organized networks) without mining for data to sell. What aesthetic tactics could effectively end the expropriation of subjective and private dimensions that we experience daily in social networks? Why do we ignore networks that refuse the (hyper)growth model and instead seek to strengthen forms of free cooperation? Turning the tables, let’s code and develop other ‘network cultures’ whose protocols are no longer related to the logic of ‘weak ties’. What type of social relations do we want to foster and discover in the 21st century? Imagine dense, diverse networked exchanges between billions of people, outside corporate and state control. Imagine discourses returning subjectivities to their ‘natural’ status as open nodes based on dialogue and an ethics of free exchange.

    To a large degree social media research is still dominated by quantitative and social scientific endeavors. So far the focus has been on moral panics, privacy and security, identity theft, self-representation from Goffman to Foucault and graph-based network theory that focuses on influencers and (news) hubs. What is curiously missing from the discourse is a rigorous discussion of the political economy of these social media monopolies. There is also a substantial research gap in understanding the power relations between the social and the technical in what are essentially software systems and platforms. With this initiative, we want to shift focus away from the obsession with youth and usage to the economic, political, artistic and technical aspects of these online platforms. What we first need to acknowledge is social media’s double nature.

    Dismissing social media as neutral platforms with no power is as implausible as considering social media the bad boys of capitalism. The beauty and depth of social media is that they call for a new understanding of classic dichotomies such as commercial/political, private/public, users/producers, artistic/standardised, original/copy, democratising/ disempowering. Instead of taking these dichotomies as a point of departure, we want to scrutinise the social networking logic. Even if Twitter and Facebook implode overnight, the social networking logic of befriending, liking and ranking will further spread across all aspects of life.

    The proposed research agenda is at once a philosophical, epistemological and theoretical investigation of knowledge artifacts, cultural production and social relations and an empirical investigation of the specific phenomenon of monopoly social media. Methodologically we will use the lessons learned from theoretical research activities to inform practice-oriented research, and vice-versa. Unlike Us is a common initiative of the Institute of Network Cultures (Amsterdam University of Applied Science HvA) and the Cyprus University of Technology in Limassol.

    An online network and a reader connected to a series of events initially in Amsterdam and Cyprus (early 2012) are already in planning. We would explicitly like to invite other partners to come on board who identify with the spirit of this proposal, to organize related conferences, festivals, workshops, temporary media labs and barcamps (where coders come together) with us. The reader (tentatively planned as number 8 in the Reader series published by the INC) will be produced mid-late 2012. The call for contributions to the network, the reader and the event series goes out in July 2011, followed by the publicity for the first events and other initiatives by possible new partners.

    Topics of Investigation
    The events, online platform, reader and other outlets may include the following topics inviting theoretical, empirical, practical and art-based contributions, though not every event or publication might deal with all issues. We anticipate the need for specialized workshops and barcamps.

    1. Political Economy: Social Media Monopolies
    Social media culture is belied in American corporate capitalism, dominated by the logic of start-ups and venture capital, management buyouts, IPOs etc. Three to four companies literally own the Western social media landscape and capitalize on the content produced by millions of people around the world. One thing is evident about the market structure of social media: one-to-many is not giving way to many-to-many without first going through many-to-one. What power do these companies actually have? Is there any evidence that such ownership influences user-generated content? How does this ownership express itself structurally and in technical terms?

    What conflicts arise when a platform like Facebook is appropriated for public or political purposes, while access to the medium can easily be denied by the company? Facebook is worth billions, does that really mean something for the average user? How does data-mining work and what is its economy? What is the role of discourse (PR) in creating and sustaining an image of credibility and trustworthiness, and in which forms does it manifest to oppose that image? The bigger social media platforms form central nodes, such as image upload services and short ulr services. This ecology was once fairly open, with a variety of new Twitter-related services coming into being, but now Twitter takes up these services itself, favoring their own product through default settings; on top of that it is increasingly shutting down access to developers, which shrinks the ecology and makes it less diverse.

    2. The Private in the Public
    The advent of social media has eroded privacy as we know it, giving rise to a culture of self-surveillance made up of myriad voluntary, everyday disclosures. New understandings of private and public are needed to address this phenomenon. What does owning all this user data actually mean? Why are people willing to give up their personal data, and that of others? How should software platforms be regulated?

    Is software like a movie to be given parental guidance? What does it mean that there are different levels of access to data, from partner info brokers and third-party developers to the users? Why is education in social media not in the curriculum of secondary schools? Can social media companies truly adopt a Social Network Users’ Bill of Rights?

    3. Visiting the Belly of the Beast
    The exuberance and joy that defined the dotcom era is cliché by now. IT use is occurring across the board, and new labour conditions can be found everywhere. But this should not keep our eyes away from the power relations inside internet companies. What are the geopolitical lines of distribution that define the organization and outsourcing taking place in global IT companies these days? How is the industry structured and how does its economy work?

    Is there a broader connection to be made with the politics of land expropriation and peasant labour in countries like India, for instance, and how does this analytically converge with the experiences of social media users? How do monopolies deal with their employees’ use of the platforms? What can we learn from other market sectors and perspectives that (critically) reflect on, for example, techniques of sustainability or fair trade?

    4. Artistic Responses to Social Media
    Artists are playing a crucial role in visualizing power relationships and disrupting subliminal daily routines of social media usage. Artistic practice provides an important analytical site in the context of the proposed research agenda, as artists are often first to deconstruct the familiar and to facilitate an alternative lens to understand and critique these media. Is there such a thing as a social ‘web aesthetics’? It is one thing to criticize Twitter and Facebook for their primitive and bland interface designs. How can we imagine the social in different ways? And how can we design and implement new interfaces to provide more creative freedom to cater to our multiple identities? Also, what is the scope of interventions with social media, such as, for example, the ‘dislike button’ add-on for Facebook? And what practices are really needed? Isn’t it time, for example, for a Facebook ‘identity correction’?

    5. Designing culture: representation and software
    Social media offer us the virtual worlds we use every day. From Facebook’s ‘like’ button to blogs’ user interface, these tools empower and delimit our interactions. How do we theorize the plethora of social media features? Are they to be understood as mere technical functions, cultural texts, signifiers, affordances, or all these at once? In what ways do design and functionalities influence the content and expressions produced? And how can we map and critique this influence? What are the cultural assumptions embedded in the design of social media sites and what type of users or communities do they produce?

    To answer the question of structure and design, one route is to trace the genealogy of functionalities, to historicize them and look for discursive silences. How can we make sense of the constant changes occurring both on and beyond the interface? How can we theorize the production and configuration of an ever-increasing algorithmic and protocological culture more generally?

    6. Software Matters: Sociotechnical and Algorithmic Cultures
    One of the important components of social media is software. For all the discourse on sociopolitical power relations governed by corporations such as Facebook and related platforms, one must not forget that social media platforms are thoroughly defined and powered by software. We need critical engagement with Facebook as software. That is, what is the role of software in reconfiguring contemporary social spaces? In what ways does code make a difference in how identities are formed and social relationships performed? How does the software function to interpellate users to its logic? What are the discourses surrounding software?

    One of the core features of Facebook for instance is its news feed, which is algorithmically driven and sorted in its default mode. The EdgeRank algorithm of the news feed governs the logic by which content becomes visible, acting as a modern gatekeeper and editorial voice. Given its 700 million users, it has become imperative to understand the power of EdgeRank and its cultural implications. Another important analytical site for investigation are the ‘application programming interfaces’ (APIs) that to a large extent made the phenomenal growth of social media platforms possible in the first place. How have APIs contributed to the business logic of social media? How can we theorize social media use from the perspective of the programmer?

    7. Genealogies of Social Networking Sites
    Feedback in a closed system is a core characteristic of Facebook; even the most basic and important features, such as ‘friending’, traces back to early cybernetics’ ideas of control. While the word itself became lost in various transitions, the ideas of cybernetics have remained stable in fields such as artificial intelligence, robotics and the biopolitical arena. Both communication and information theories shaped this discourse. How does Facebook relate to such an algorithmic shape of social life? What can Facebook teach us about the powers of systems theory? Would Norbert Wiener and Niklas Luhmann be friends on Facebook?

    8. Is Research Doomed?
    The design of Facebook excludes the third person perspective, as the only way in is through ones own profile. What does this inbuilt ‘me-centricity’ imply for social media research? Does it require us to rethink the so-called objectivity of researchers and the detached view of current social research? Why is it that there are more than 200 papers about the way people use Facebook, but the site is ‘closed’ to true quantitative inquiry? Is the state of art in social media research exemplary of the ‘quantitative turn’ in new media research? Or is there a need to expand and rethink methods of inquiry in social media research? Going beyond the usual methodological approaches of the quantitative and qualitative, we seek to broaden the scope of investigating these media. How can we make sense of the political economy and the socio-technical elements, and with what means? Indeed, what are our toolkits for collective, transdisciplinary modes of knowledge and the politics of refusal?

    9. Researching Unstable Ontologies
    Software destabilizes Facebook as a solid ontology. Software is always in becoming and so by nature ontogenetic. It grows and grows, living off of constant input. Logging on one never encounters the same content, as it changes on an algorithmic level and in terms of the platform itself. What does Facebook’s fluid nature imply for how we make sense of and study it? Facebook for instance willingly complicates research: 1. It is always personalized (see Eli Pariser). Even when creating ‘empty’ research accounts it never gives the same results compared to other people’s empty research accounts. 2. One must often be ‘inside’ social media to study it. Access from the outside is limited, which reinforces the first problem. 3. Outside access is ideally (for Facebook and Twitter) arranged through carefully regulated protocols of APIs and can easily be restricted. Next to social media as a problem for research, there is also the question of social research methods as intervention.

    10. Making Sense of Data: Visualization and Critique
    Data representation is one of the most important battlefields nowadays. Indeed, global corporations build their visions of the world increasingly based on and structured around complex data flows. What is the role of data today and what are the appropriate ways in which to make sense of the burgeoning datasets? As data visualization is becoming a powerful buzzword and social research increasingly uses digital tools to make ‘beautiful’ graphs and visualizations, there is a need to take a step back and question the usefulness of current data visualization tools and to develop novel analytical frameworks through which to critically grasp these often simplified and nontransparent ways of representing data.

    Not only is it important to develop new interpretative and visual methods to engage with data flows, data itself needs to be questioned. We need to ask about data’s ontological and epistemological nature. What is it, who is the producer, for whom, where is it stored? In what ways do social media companies’ terms of service regulate data? Whether alternative social media or monopolistic platforms, how are our data-bodies exactly affected by changes in the software?

    11. Pitfalls of Building Social Media Alternatives
    It is not only important to critique and question existing design and socio-political realities but also to engage with possible futures. The central aim of this project is therefore to contribute and support ‘alternatives in social media’. What would the collective design of alternative protocols and interfaces look like? We should find some comfort in the small explosion of alternative options currently available, but also ask how usable these options are and how real is the danger of fragmentation. How have developers from different initiatives so far collaborated and what might we learn from their successes and failures? Understanding any early failures and successes of these attempts seems crucial.

    A related issue concerns funding difficulties faced by projects. Finally, in what ways does regionalism (United States, Europe, Asia) feed into the way people search for alternatives and use social media.

    12. Showcasing Alternatives in Social Media
    The best way to criticize platform monopolies is to support alternative free and open source software that can be locally installed. There are currently a multitude of decentralized social networks in the making that aspire to facilitate users with greater power to define for themselves with whom share their data. Let us look into the wildly different initiatives from Crabgrass, Appleseed, Diaspora, NoseRub, BuddyCloud, Protonet, StatusNet, GNU Social, Lorea and OneSocialWeb to the distributed Twitter alternative Thimbl.

    In which settings are these initiative developed and what choices are made for their design? Let’s hear from the Spanish activists who have recently made experiences with the platform developed by Lorea. What community does this platform enable? While traditional software focuses on the individual profile and its relation to the network and a public (share with friends, share with friends of friends, share with public), the Lorea software for instance asks you with whom to share an update, picture or video. It finegrains the idea of privacy and sharing settings at the content level, not the user’s profile. At the same time, it requires constant decision making, or else a high level of trust in the community you share your data with. And how do we experience the transition from, or interoperability with, other platforms? Is it useful to make a distinction between corporate competitors and grassroots initiatives? How can these beta alternatives best be supported, both economically and socially? Aren’t we overstating the importance of software and isn’t the availability of capital much bigger in determining the adoption of a platform?

    13. Social Media Activism and the Critique of Liberation Technology
    While the tendency to label any emergent social movement as the latest ‘Twitter revolution’ has passed, a liberal discourse of ‘liberation technology’ (information and communication technologies that empower grassroots movements) continues to influence our ideas about networked participation. This discourse tends to obscure power relations and obstruct critical questioning about the capitalist institutions and superstructures in which these technologies operate. What are the assumptions behind this neo-liberal discourse? What role do ‘developed’ nations play when they promote and subsidize the development of technologies of circumvention and hacktivism for use in ‘underdeveloped’ states, while at the same time allowing social media companies at home to operate in increasingly deregulated environments and collaborating with them in the surveillance of citizens at home and abroad? What role do companies play in determining how their products are used by dissidents or governments abroad? How have their policies and Terms of Use changed as a result?

    14. Social Media in the Middle East and Beyond
    The justified response to downplay the role of Facebook in early 2011 events in Tunisia and Egypt by putting social media in a larger perspective has not taken off the table the question of how to organize social mobilizations. Which specific software do the ‘movements of squares’ need? What happens to social movements when the internet and ICT networks are shut down? How does the interruption of internet services shift the nature of activism? How have repressive and democratic governments responded to the use of ‘liberation technologies’? How do these technologies change the relationship between the state and its citizens? How are governments using the same social media tools for surveillance and propaganda or highjacking Facebook identities, such as happened in Syria? What is Facebook’s own policy when deleting or censoring accounts of its users?

    How can technical infrastructures be supported which are not shutdown upon request? How much does our agency depend on communication technology nowadays? And whom do we exclude with every click? How can we envision ‘organized networks’ that are based on ’strong ties’ yet open enough to grow quickly if the time is right? Which software platforms are best suited for the ‘tactical camping’ movements that occupy squares all over the world?

    15. Data storage: social media and legal cultures
    Data that is voluntarily shared by social media users is not only used for commercial purposes, but is also of interest to governments. This data is stored on servers of companies that are bound to the specific legal culture and country. This material-legal complex is often overlooked. Fore instance, the servers of Facebook and Twitter are located in the US and therefore fall under the US jurisdiction. One famous example is the request for the Twitter accounts of several activists (Gonggrijp, Jónsdóttir, Applebaum) affiliated with Wikileaks projects by the US government. How do activists respond and how do alternative social media platforms deal with this issue?

  • OxyContin goes global — “We’re only just getting started”

    #OxyContin is a dying #business in America.

    With the nation in the grip of an opioid epidemic that has claimed more than 200,000 lives, the U.S. medical establishment is turning away from painkillers. Top health officials are discouraging primary care doctors from prescribing them for chronic pain, saying there is no proof they work long-term and substantial evidence they put patients at risk.

    Prescriptions for OxyContin have fallen nearly 40% since 2010, meaning billions in lost revenue for its Connecticut manufacturer, Purdue Pharma.

    So the company’s owners, the #Sackler family, are pursuing a new strategy: Put the painkiller that set off the U.S. opioid crisis into medicine cabinets around the world.

    A network of international companies owned by the family is moving rapidly into Latin America, Asia, the Middle East, Africa and other regions, and pushing for broad use of painkillers in places ill-prepared to deal with the ravages of opioid abuse and #addiction.

    #opiacés #etats-unis #exportation #mort

  • Mapped : The global coal trade | Carbon Brief

    Carte des exportations de charbon, design intéressant, original et assez efficace (toujours difficile ces cartes de flux, et ici une bonne solution).

    Repéré par Olaf Merk que je remercie.

    Mapped: The global coal trade

    The global coal trade doubled in the decade to 2012 as a coal-fueled boom took hold in Asia. Now, the coal trade seems to have stalled, or even gone into reverse.

    This change of fortune has devastated the coal mining industry, with Peabody – the world’s largest private coal-mining company – the latest of 50 US firms to file for bankruptcy. It could also be a turning point for the climate, with the continued burning of coal the biggest difference between business-as-usual emissions and avoiding dangerous climate change.

    Carbon Brief has produced a series of maps and interactive charts to show how the global coal trade is changing.

    #charbon #matières_premières #sémiologie #sémantique #couleurs #cartographie #flux #circulation

  • Ports America Signed to Nova Scotia Mega-Port Project – gCaptain
    Sydney Harbor, Nova Scotia

    U.S. terminal operator Ports America and #Sydney_Harbour Investment Partners have announced an agreement for the promotion, development and management of the proposed Novaporte deepwater mega-port in Sydney Harbour, #Nova_Scotia capable of accommodating the world’s largest ships.

    Sydney Harbour Investment Partners, or SHIP, is a private company with exclusive development rights to the approximately 500 acres at the Port of Sydney. Now with the support of Ports America and a specially formed development group, they plan build a dedicated, semi-automated, deep-water marine container facility capable of handling 18,000+ TEU Ultra Large Container Vessels.
    Novaporte is a uniquely located deep water port able to handle the largest of the next generation of ultra-large container vessels,” said Peter Ford, Chief Strategy Officer at Ports America. “Geographically, it is the first stop for vessels on the Great Circle Route from Europe and Asia via the Suez. It has abundant land, an adjacent 1,200-acre logistics park and is located in a foreign trade zone. Add to that abundant power, road and rail, as well as a skilled work force, and you have the makings of an East Coast gateway for the next generation of super ships.