Russia tightens control of anonymous messenger apps
Tuesday, November 6
MOSCOW (AP) — Tightening its control over popular anonymous chat apps, the Russian government has approved regulations that would identify users by their cellphone numbers.
The measures signed Tuesday by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev are part of Russia’s moves to clamp down on smartphone messenger services, such as Telegram, that authorities claim are used by criminals and terrorists.
Mobile phone network operators will be required to confirm the authenticity of a user’s phone numbers within 20 minutes. If a number cannot be verified, messenger services are required to block users from their platforms.
The Russian government will also require network operators to keep track of which messenger apps their users have registered for. The decree goes into effect after 180 days.
Over the past few years, Russia has adopted legislation aimed at curtailing internet freedom and limiting data privacy. One of the laws requires mobile phone operators to store data on voice calls and messages for several months. Other legislation allows authorities to target activists by fining and even sending them to prison for social media posts.
In April, Russian authorities sought to block Telegram over its refusal to hand over keys to its data encryption. Telegram, which was developed by Russian entrepreneur Pavel Durov, had refused to share data. In a battle to cripple Telegram’s operations, the Russian communications watchdog blocked some servers owned by tech giants Google and Amazon, affecting millions of Russian websites.
Opinion: The FCC’s ‘Ancillary Terrestrial Component’ Experiment Has Failed — I Would Know, I Was There
By Kathleen Abernathy
In the world of technology and technology policy, experimentation is a must if we hope to uncover new products and services for consumers.
When it comes to the world of wireless spectrum, the FCC is charged with managing this scarce resource and the agency is constantly searching for new ideas to maximize the benefits and value of our limited airwaves. Recently, for example, the FCC updated its rules for a new multi-tiered approach to sharing spectrum at 3.5 GHz.
This so-called “Citizen’s Band Radio Service” is a very novel approach to spectrum management that seeks to create a managed approach to shared spectrum. It holds tremendous opportunity for 5G and I hope it is a roaring success. But it’s never been done before and, as with any fundamentally new policy idea, there is no guarantee that the idea will work. The best-laid plans often go awry, as the saying goes.
As policymakers, sometimes great enthusiasm for a new approach is met with the reality that an idea is too complex or the economics just don’t work. When that happens and the marketplace speaks, regulators need to listen. Take, for example, the FCC’s creation of the “ancillary terrestrial component” (ATC) rules. Having had a front-row seat to this spectrum policy experiment 15 years ago, I know firsthand that not all ideas survive the harsh realities of the marketplace.
The ATC concept was pretty straight forward — to enhance the business model and expand the reach of satellite systems (think urban canyons), in certain spectrum bands. The FCC voted to allow satellite companies to integrate an ancillary terrestrial component into their service. In other words, satellite licensees would be permitted to design a service offering that would combine satellite capabilities with terrestrial wireless service accessed on a single handheld device. Spectrum zoned for satellite service would now be available for terrestrial use as a supplement to the satellite coverage.
It was an innovative approach, with many potential benefits and efficiencies. It also had its detractors who feared that the ATC concept would never work as an integrated service and could lead to attempts by satellite licensees to abandon their underlying satellite services in favor of a dedicated terrestrial wireless product. As I noted in my statement approving the order, “the record in this proceeding demonstrates that the shared usage of these bands by separate Mobile Satellite Services operators and terrestrial operators would likely result in the inability for both systems to operate effectively. This is especially the case for L-band and Big Leo satellite operations.”
So, we required “stringent requirements” that the satellite operator would have to meet to make sure satellite service remained the primary service. As my colleague at the time put it, “Our decision should not allow a Mobile Satellite Services system with an ancillary terrestrial component to evolve into a terrestrial system with an ancillary mobile satellite component.”
Fifteen years later, not a single company has deployed an ATC service as envisioned by the commission. Zero. And the fear that the rules would be gamed to permit primarily terrestrial operations in lieu of satellite service has borne out. Our vision, that satellite companies would integrate terrestrial service into their core satellite business as a supplemental service, has not matched reality.
The marketplace has determined the rules to be unworkable. To be sure, companies have tried to use the spectrum for terrestrial use, but not as an ancillary service. Instead, they have sought waiver after waiver and numerous rule changes to remove the “ancillary” nature of the regime and repurpose the spectrum for terrestrial purposes. Given this reality, the good government response is to reassess the rules.
A leading satellite company, Iridium Communications, recently asked the commission to “end the fiction that ATC is a viable framework and eliminate the ATC rules.” The filing laid out the history of the failed rules and the collateral damage that has resulted in the form of never-ending interference disputes, litigation and bankruptcies.
Notably, they didn’t suggest that the commission shouldn’t look for ways to enable terrestrial use in satellite spectrum bands where it can be done. In fact the commission already did that with one band, eliminating the applicability of ATC rules to the band and making it available for terrestrial use. At the same time, where satellite service is pervasive in a band and a separate terrestrial network appears to be unworkable, like the Big Leo Band that I identified as problematic 15 years ago, then the commission should consider whether to remove the ATC rules.
Regardless of one’s position on the feasibility of terrestrial service in any particular satellite spectrum band, there can be no debate that the FCC’s vision and hopes in 2003 have not worked out the way we hoped. Given this reality it is time to reassess. As the FCC said it would do a few years back, it’s time to revisit the viability of the ATC rules.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Kathleen Abernathy is special counsel at Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP and served as a commissioner at the FCC from 2001 to 2005. Wilkinson Barker Knauer serves as regulatory counsel to Iridium Communications Inc. She wrote this for InsideSources.com.
New findings add twist to screen time limit debate
November 6, 2018
Professor of Psychology, San Diego State University
Jean Twenge has received funding from the National Institutes of Health and the Russell Sage Foundation.
Many parents want to know how much time their kids should be spending in front of screens, whether it’s their smartphones, tablets or TV.
For years, the American Academy of Pediatrics had suggested a limit of two hours a day of TV for children and teens.
But after screen time started to include phones and tablets, these guidelines needed an update. So last year, the American Academy of Pediatrics changed its recommendations: No more than one hour of screen time for children ages 2 to 5; for older children and teens, they caution against too much screen time, but there’s no specific time limit.
This may give the impression that preschoolers are the only ones who need specific limits on screen time, with monitoring less important for older children and teens. Then a study came out last year suggesting that the imperative to monitor screen time for preschoolers may be overblown.
However new research conducted by me and my co-author Keith Campbell challenges the idea that vague directives and loose guidelines are the best approach.
Not only does this study suggest that specific time limits on screen time are justified for preschoolers, it also makes the case for screen time limits for school-age children and teens.
In fact, these older kids and teens may be even more vulnerable to excessive screen time.
A study muddies the waters
Several studies have found that children and teens who spend more time with screens are less happy, more depressed, and more likely to be overweight.
But a study released last year muddied the waters. Using a a large national survey conducted from 2011 to 2012, it found little association between screen time and well-being among preschoolers.
This led some to conclude that screen time limits weren’t important.
“Maybe you’re being too strict with your kid’s screen time,” suggested one headline.
However, this analysis examined just four items measuring well-being: how often the child was affectionate, smiled or laughed, showed curiosity and showed resilience – characteristics that might describe the vast majority of preschool children. This study also didn’t include school-age children or teens.
Diving into a more detailed date set
Fortunately, a version of that large survey conducted in 2016 by the U.S. Census Bureau included 19 different measures of well-being for children up to age 17, giving researchers a more comprehensive view of well-being across a range of age groups.
In our newly released paper using this expanded survey, we found that children and teens who spent more time on screens scored lower in well-being across 18 of these 19 indicators.
After one hour a day of use, children and teens who spent more time on screens were lower in psychological well-being: They were less curious and more easily distracted, and had a more difficult time making friends, managing their anger and finishing tasks.
Teens who spent an excessive amount of time on screens were twice as likely to have been diagnosed with anxiety or depression.
That’s a problem, because this generation of teens, whom I call “iGen,” spends an extraordinary amount of time on screens – up to nine hours a day on average – and are also more likely to suffer from depression.
In fact, we found that excessive screen time had stronger links to lower well-being for teens than it did for younger kids.
That might be because children spend more of their screen time watching TV shows and videos. This kind of screen use is not as strongly linked to low well-being as the social media, electronic games and smartphones used more often by teens.
These results suggest that it is teens – not young children – who may be most in need of screen time limits.
The case for clear guidelines
This research is correlational. In other words, it isn’t clear whether more screen time leads to depression and anxiety, or that someone who’s depressed or anxious is more likely to spend more time in front of screens.
Either way, excessive screen time is a potential red flag for anxiety, depression and attention issues among children and teens.
If we even suspect that more screen time is linked to depression and lower well-being – as several longitudinal studies find – it makes sense to talk about limits.
Right now, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that the screen time of older kids and teens shouldn’t come at the expense of sleep, extracurricular activities and schoolwork. Parents should add up the amount of time teens spend on these other activities, they say, and whatever’s left could be spent in front of screens.
This suggestion is problematic for several reasons.
First, how can a parent be expected, each day, to calculate how many hours their kid spends on these activities? What about shifting schedules and weekends?
Second, it places few limits on teens who don’t spend much time on homework or activities, and could even motivate kids to drop activities if they figure it could mean more allotted time for, say, playing video games.
Even if sleep isn’t affected and homework is done, it’s probably safe to say that playing Fortnite for eight hours a day or scrolling through social media feeds during every free moment probably isn’t healthy.
Parents need clear advice, and specific screen time limits are the most straightforward way to provide it.
The research on well-being, including this new study, points to a limit of about two hours a day of leisure screen time, not counting time spent on schoolwork.
In my view, The American Academy of Pediatrics should expand its recommendation of screen time limits to school-age children and teens, making it clear that two hours a day is a guideline with flexibility for special circumstances. Some parents may want to set a limit of one hour, but two hours seems more realistic as an overall guideline given teens’ current use.
Two hours a day also allows for many of the benefits of screen time for kids and teens – making plans with friends, watching educational videos and keeping in touch with family – without displacing time for other activities that provide a boost to well-being, like sleep, face-to-face social interaction and exercise.
Technology is here to stay. But parents don’t have to let it dominate their kids’ lives.
Iran officials mock, warn US over renewed sanctions
By NASSER KARIMI and JON GAMBRELL
Tuesday, November 6
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — The “largest-ever” U.S. sanctions list targeting Iran drew mockery from Iranian officials on Tuesday for including mothballed Boeing 747s, a bank that closed years earlier and a sunken oil tanker that exploded off China months ago.
However, the new list of sanctions, which also aims to cut Iran’s vital oil industry off from international sales, also included for the first time its state airline and its atomic energy commission, further highlighting the maximalist approach of President Donald Trump’s administration.
Trump pulled America out of the 2015 nuclear deal Iran struck with world powers in May. United Nations monitors say Iran still abides by the deal, in which it agreed to limit its uranium enrichment in return for the lifting of international sanctions.
The U.S. Treasury Department imposed penalties on more than 700 Iranian and Iranian-linked individuals, entities, aircraft and vessels in the new sanctions. Among those are 50 Iranian banks and subsidiaries, and more than 200 people and ships.
However, scattered among the list are surprising entries, like the crude oil tanker Sanchi. That vessel collided with a bulk freighter and caught fire off China’s east coast in January, killing all 32 sailors aboard.
Another entry was Iran’s Tat Bank, which closed in 2012.
Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif took to Twitter to mock some of the targets of the sanctions, describing it as a “desperate” psychological ploy.
“The U.S. designated a bank that was closed 6 years ago, and a ship that sank . in a widely televised saga,” he wrote, ending the tweet with “(hashtag)USisIsolated.”
But for the first time, the U.S. targeted Iran Air. It also sanctioned the state carrier’s mothballed fleet of Boeing 747s, which were manufactured in the 1970s.
It also appeared that the U.S. for the first time was directly sanctioning the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, the government agency that oversees Iran’s nuclear program. Prior sanctions targeted specific subsidiaries of the organization.
Eshaq Jahangiri, President Hassan Rouhani’s senior vice president, also criticized the sanctions.
“Americans think their list is more effective if it is longer,” Jahangiri said, according to the state-run IRNA news agency. He said he had discussed the list with other officials, with many saying it was “less than what we expected.”
Still, Jahangiri warned that “Americans intend to damage economy of the country” through psychological warfare.
Zarif later issued an online video criticizing America’s “indiscriminate assault” on his country.
“The U.S. administration appears to believe that imposing illegal draconian sanctions on Iran will bring about such pain to our nation that it will force us to submit to its will, no matter how absurd, unlawful or fundamentally flawed its demands are.”
Zarif urged America to re-examine its “catastrophes” in the Mideast, including its support for Saudi Arabia and Israel.
Iran is already in the grip of an economic crisis. Its national currency, the rial, now trades at 150,000 to one U.S. dollar; a year ago, it was about 40,500. The economic chaos sparked mass anti-government protests at the end of last year, resulting in nearly 5,000 reported arrests and at least 25 people being killed.
Sporadic smaller demonstrations still reportedly erupt from time to time.
The new sanctions particularly hurt Iran’s vital oil industry, which provides a crucial source of hard currency. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the sanctions already had cost Iran the sale of over 1 million barrels of crude oil a day.
Analysts feared in the run-up to the sanctions that global oil prices could spike on tight supply and increasing demand. However, the Trump administration allowed some of its allies — Greece, India, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Turkey — as well as rival China to continue to purchase Iranian oil as long as they work to reduce imports to zero. The price of benchmark Brent crude has dropped from over $80 a barrel in recent days.
Goodbye Apu – here’s what you meant to us
November 4, 2018
Author: Faiza Hirji, Associate Professor Department of Communication Studies and Multimedia, McMaster University
Disclosure statement: Faiza Hirji does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Partners: McMaster University provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation CA.
The Simpsons’ Apu may be dead, but stereotyping of South Asians most certainly is not. In fact, from the debates that preceded the conflicting report of his demise, we can conclude a few things about Hollywood.
One, Hollywood doesn’t know how to address criticism of its racism; two, Hollywood doesn’t know how to recognize racism even when it consciously perpetuates it; and three, as audiences, we sometimes perpetuate the cycle of racist portrayals because our options seem so limited.
Even if Apu, the Indian-American convenience store owner who speaks with an exaggerated accent, is leaving, his exit would only signal the end of a character, not the end of what Apu and other South Asian characters on television have signified.
YouTube producer Adi Shankar first announced the end of Apu last week as reported on IndieWire. Shankar was running a script contest to help pivot Apu’s character for a YouTube parody. But as he was about to announce his winner, he said he found out The Simpsons is letting Apu slowly fade away. Simpsons executive producer Al Jean refuted the claim.
From the moment Hari Kondabolu released The Problem With Apu, a 2017 documentary on Apu, The Simpsons’ creator Matt Groening and Apu’s white portrayer, Hank Azaria, have found themselves under fire for what media scholar Shilpa S. Davé has called “the performance of brownface” and the stereotypical aspects of Apu’s character.
Getting rid of Apu may well be the handiest way to end the criticism. After all, while Apu is a cartoon character, South Asian characters, like other minority characters, have frequently been disposed of on television. This is all the easier when they portray sidekicks, comic relief or criminals.
Nerd, terrorist, sidekick: As good as the roles get?
The well-known actor Kal Penn admitted to some apprehension when he accepted a role on 24, where he was a member of a seemingly successful and integrated American family. Of course, this being Hollywood, the family was really a front for a terrorist sleeper cell (spoiler alert: most of the brown people die).
Abhi Sinha briefly played app developer Ravi Shapur and soap star Eileen Davidson’s love interest on The Young and the Restless, only to disappear from the screen without explanation, either for fans or for the actor himself.
However, at least Sinha’s character had some depth and was allowed the possibility of romance. Actor Utkarsh Ambudkar notes that typical Indian male roles involve being both nerdy and emasculated, although he says that as South Asian artists gain prominence, they are lobbying for change.
Isn’t everyone in ‘The Simpsons’ a stereotype anyway?
Apu, created by a white writer and voiced by a white actor, occupies a stereotypical role as convenience store owner, with reference to his arranged marriage and eight kids. Kondabolu’s documentary includes a clip where Azaria notes that he was asked to play up the Indian accent for laughs.
Despite the evocation of blackface and minstrel shows, Groening denies that the intention was racist. The overall defence from writers on the show, and from fans, has been consistent only in its weakness, with claims that everything on The Simpsons is a stereotype. Most recently, that defence has edged towards the discourse of neoconservatives.
In an episode earlier this year, The Simpsons responded to the controversy by having the character of Lisa — generally seen as the smartest, most liberal and most empathetic on the show — decry political correctness.
Many audience members, including those with South Asian heritage, decry political correctness as well. More than 10 years ago, I conducted a study of young Canadians of South Asian descent, curious to know what value they saw in Bollywood films, which circulated widely in the diaspora and contained many offensive tropes, including portrayals of Muslim terrorists, drunken Punjabis and promiscuous Christians.
For Canadian audiences starved to see reflections of themselves, even stereotyped ones can be appreciated.
Some of the interviewees recognized these issues but noted that they had grown up in a Canada, where the media mainly showed whiteness, affecting their identity, sense of self and belonging. Even if Bollywood was problematic, it was still a platform for characters who looked like them.
Media teaches us about the world
This is a familiar experience for television viewers, I would venture to guess, and now some Apu fans who are of South Asian descent are rolling their eyes, dismissing the claims of racism. And yes, of course, there are more significant issues involving racism in North America than pondering whether or not Apu is a racist caricature. However, as so many have argued, representation does matter.
For many of us, mass media are the way in which we learn about the world around us. If you don’t know many people of South Asian descent, or you don’t know them very well, you may come to think that the Apus and the Rajesh Koothrappalis offer great insight into what it means to be South Asian.
Luckily, with the success of actors like Priyanka Chopra, Mindy Kaling and Hasan Minhaj, the picture is becoming more diverse.
This push for change doesn’t invalidate the criticism around Apu, nor does it erase the effect his existence has had on some members of the audience. It is wholly insufficient to say that The Simpsons offered up a brown stereotype because its stock in trade is stereotypes.
A stereotype built upon someone’s ethnicity is racist, and therefore, when Azaria says, “they’ve done a really good job of being, shall we say, uniformly offensive without being outright hurtful,” one might want to ask if a white actor performing brownface is in a position to determine who is being hurt by this not-so-uniform offensiveness.
Whether Apu lives or dies, stays or goes, I would suggest that his legacy has been exposing the extent to which racism lives in Hollywood, and that’s no laughing matter.
Found: the earliest European image of Aboriginal Australians
November 5, 2018
Author: Liz Conor, ARC Future Fellow, La Trobe University
Disclosure statement: Liz Conor receives funding from the Australian Research Council for the Future Fellowship, Graphic Encounters: Colonial Prints and the Inscription of Aboriginality.
Partners: Victoria State Government provides funding as a strategic partner of The Conversation AU. La Trobe University provides funding as a member of The Conversation AU.
The earliest found European image of Aboriginal Australians, engraved in 1698, depicts them resisting their enslavement. Recently discovered in the Hamilton library of Honolulu University it is an apocryphal image for its times, intending to portray the Indigenous people described, “New Hollanders”, as “unfit for labour”.
Seen today it unwittingly shows their resistance to the very first incursion by the English on Aboriginal land.
I found the image recently while I was researching in the rare books Pacific collection of the Hamilton library at Honolulu University. Until now the earliest printed image has been considered to be that by Sydney Parkinson, published by his brother (after a dispute with Banks) in 1773. Parkinson’s image, importantly, is still the first image from direct observation. It shows two Gweagal warriors challenging Cook’s landing at Botany Bay.
The new image, from 75 years earlier, was drawn from textual description, and comes from a little known edition of the explorer William Dampier’s journal, published in the Netherlands.
William Dampier’s journal of his first circumnavigation of the globe was published in London in 1697 as A New Voyage Round the World and became a sensation, running to five English editions by 1706 and numerous translations. His exploits – roving, mutinying, sacking, scuttling and pillaging for 12 years throughout the Caribbean and beyond – captivated an increasingly literate public at the dawn of the Enlightenment, ravenous for descriptions of exotic species and “savage” peoples.
The image comes from an illustrated edition published in 1698 in the Netherlands. It took passages from Dampier’s unvarnished description and engraved them into copperplates.
These included a ship being tossed in high seas, a marooned “Moskito” Indian being rescued some years later, a live burial, a beheading, and “New Hollanders” refusing to carry barrels (p. 340) aboard the ship Dampier crewed, the Cygnet.
This remarkable visual vignette – now the earliest known printed European image of Indigenous Australians – was incised by an Amsterdam engraver and draughtsman Caspar Luyken for the printer Abraham De Hondt. The public was agog for accounts of the New World and particularly any reports of Terra Australis Incognita, the Great Southern Land first hypothesised by the Roman scholar Ptolemy in the second century.
Dampier had been searching for any sign of the Tryall, an English vessel which had been shipwrecked in 1622. He was one of 42 European landings and sightings along the Australian coast prior to James Cook (not to mention the Macassans, Sulawesi trepangers who traded with Aborigines along the northern coast as early as 1700).
Dampier had returned to London bereft of the spices and treasures by which other privateers enriched themselves. But he had with him a slave named Jeoly from the island of Miangas (an outlying island of now Indonesia) dubbed the Painted Prince Giolo, whom he displayed at the Blue Boar’s Head in Fleet Street, London. Jeoly and his mother had been bought by Dampier in Bencoolen, or British Bengkulu, in Sumatra. They had been brought in by one Mr Moody, a trader in “clove-bark”.
Dampier was clearly sanguine about slavery. He had previously worked on a plantation in Jamaica with more than 100 slaves and later lamented a lost opportunity of acquiring “some 1,000 Negroes” – “all lusty young men and women” – to enslave in a mine at Santa Maria.
When Dampier imposed himself on the land of the Bardi-Jawi in King George Sound WA in January 1688 he experimented with the Indigenous people’s capacity to labour. This first known image of Australian Aboriginals is accompanied by a highly derogatory description.
It tells how the men were clothed (“to one an old pair of breeches, to another a ragged shirt, to the third a jacket that was scarce worth owning”) and made to carry barrels of water – “about six gallons in each”. The “new servants” were brought to the wells, and a barrel was put on each of their shoulders for them to carry to a canoe:
But all the signs we could make were to no purpose for they stood like statues without motion but grinned like so many monkeys staring one upon another: for these poor creatures seem not accustomed to carry burdens; and I believe that one of our ship-boys of 10 years old would carry as much as one of them. So we were forced to carry our water ourselves.
The men then took off the clothes and laid them down, “as if clothes were only to work in. I did not perceive that they had any great liking to them at first, neither did they seem to admire anything that we had”.
Poor creatures indeed – a life unencumbered by burdens. We can surmise they were more likely unaccustomed to assigning labour to others that they were perfectly capable of carrying out themselves, and in exchange for items of no value to them.
Aboriginal people did not enslave nor exploit. Dampier did capture “several” of the people here, giving them “victuals” before letting them go. And he wondered they would not “stir for us”.
With this description Dampier created a stereotype of Aboriginality that persists to this day, that of indolence. I’ve traced the entrenching of this trope through reprints of Dampier’s description into the 1950s, but I never imagined I would find it as the first printed European image of “New Hollanders”.
The image and Dampier’s journal attempts to enshrine Aboriginal people as “unfit for labour”, as this passage is bannered in later editions of Dampier’s journal. Instead the very first image of Aboriginal Australians is testament to their resistance by refusal, from very first contact with English to take up their burdens.