Posts Tagged ‘Controversy’

The statement that spilled venom at a convention meant to create awareness and foster concern for homosexuality.

Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad: “The disease of Men Having Sex with Men (MSM), which was found more in the developed world, has now unfortunately come to our country and there are a substantial number of such people in India. Even though it (homosexuality among men) is unnatural, it exists in our country and is now fast spreading, making it tough for its detection. With relationships changing, men are having sex with men now. Though it is easy to find women sex workers and educate them on sex, it is a challenge to find MSMs.”

The Minister was addressing a national meeting on HIV/AIDS prevention on July 4. The AIDS convention, organized by a forum of parliamentarians, was also attended by PM Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi. Some Union ministers and chief ministers, besides members of Parliament and legislative assemblies, Zila Parishad chairpersons and mayors, apart from professionals working in the area also remained present.

The comment raised eyebrows and caused havoc in the country. Activists and other groups demanded apologies and some went to the extent of Azad’s resignation. Having foot in the mouth, the minister hastily called a press conference the next day. “Some people have played with the words. I have been quoted out of context,” he said. “My reference was to HIV as a disease. As health minister, I know (male homosexual sex) is not a disease.” Though, the video clips of Azad’s speech in Hindi kept ruling the Indian news channels.

Ghulam Nabi Azad has been in the news a few years ago for the late-night-TV-solution he offered to control population. “If there is electricity in every village, people will watch TV till late night and then fall asleep. They won’t get a chance to produce children. When there is no electricity, there is nothing else to do but produce babies.”

FACT FILES


Myth
: Homosexuality is a form of mental illness and can be cured.
Fact: The American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of official mental illnesses in 1973. The American Psychological Association followed suit in 1974. And so have most associations around the world.

Myth:
 Homosexuality does not exist in nature and therefore it is not natural.
Fact: Historians tell us that homosexuality has existed since the earliest of human societies. Anthropologists report that homosexuals have been a part of every culture. It is also a well-known fact that same sex behavior is ‘natural’ between animals.

Myth: Sexual orientation is a choice.
Fact: Sexual Orientation is not a choice. It usually manifests itself in early adolescence prior to any sexual experience. What is choice is a person’s decision to act on their orientation or to deny and act against it. Doing the latter can create emotional problems later.

Myth: 
Homosexuality is a foreign concept.
Fact: We have the Kamasutra in India, which is a 2500-year-old sex guidebook. The book has a chapter exclusively on homosexuality. There are temples in Khajurao, Modhera, Patan, Dahod, Somnath etc with homosexual statues that were built even before the Muslims invaded India. We have Shikhandi in Mahabharata who was gay. Also, we have several gay characters in Ramayana, Mahabharata and other Indian epics. We have this concept ofArdhnareshwari (Half Shiva and half Parvati). We also have gay Gods and lesbian Goddesses in our Hindu mythology.

THE HEALTHY COMMENTS ON THE UNHEALTHY COMMENT

MOHNISH KABIR MALHOTRA, a publicist and gay rights activist

“I think the minister needs to apologize immediately. He has insulted the entire homosexual community. Homosexuality is very much a part of nature and it even finds references in religious texts. To call it unnatural is absurd.”

MARIO D’PENHA, a historian of the gay rights movement in South Asia

“To have such a level of bias and ignorance expressed in that context about something so basic is very dangerous. What is farcical, given his comments, is that he said the country needs more sex education. There are a lot of gay people in India who would like to give the minister an education.”

NANDITA DAS, actor-director

“I am appalled by the ignorance of the health minister. He is in a position of responsibility, and so his ignorance cannot be overlooked as it sends out wrong messages. In today’s day and age where same sex marriage is being legitimized around the world, and our own Delhi High Court has decriminalized homosexuality, I am amazed how ill informed and insensitive our minister is.”

ADITYA BONDYOPADHYAY, a lawyer and gay rights activist

“When a minister, and especially the health minister, says this in public, it conveys the impression that this is government policy, and that can have a huge impact on the lives of gay people who already struggle with official discrimination and police harassment. The religious right will jump on statements like this to increase the amount of hate.”

FARHAN AKHTAR, actor

“Azad should apologize for discriminating against Indian citizens on the basis of their sexual orientation. There’s no scientific proof to justify his comments. I am surprised he made such a statement.”

VIKRAM BHATT, director-producer

“How can something that hundreds of people indulge in be unnatural? It could be unpopular for some, uninteresting for some and unbelievable for others. But unnatural? No chance!”

BREAKING THE CLUTCHES, HOLDING TO THE REALITY

The biggest challenge to overcome the myths that prevail in the society is to create awareness. And comments like these from a person of such a stature, leads us nowhere. Marginalization of HIV/AIDS and homosexuality makes the issues isolated. This makes it harder to spread the awareness messages and create social acceptance. Even today, it is considered a taboo to belong to the homosexual community. In such times, the Health Minister should not have afforded to make such an irrational and unscientific statement.

Read original article at: http://epaper.namoleague.com/EpaperArticle.aspx?title=Azad%20Bharat%20Ki%20Ghulam%20Mentality_673

CHINA AND INDIA HAVE BEEN NEIGHBORS WITH SHARED INTERESTS. BUT THE UNSOLVED DISPUTES HINDER THEIR JOURNEY AS THE WORLD’S SUPER-POWERS.

The world is taking notice. Neighbors, India and China are the world’s fastest growing economies. They house nearly two-fifth of the entire humanity. Both are poor, largely agricultural, countries that have made great efforts in reducing poverty, and liberalizing economic reforms. Comparisons between the two giants of Asia are inevitable. But India and China are not yet sure what to make out of each other. Even the best of the think tanks are unable to determine the intentions and inclinations of the duo, which is poised to take over the leadership of the world.

The two countries’ relationship bears great significance for the political environment of Asia. The to-be super powers have shared interests, but at the same time suffer from unsolved disputes.

INDO-CHINA: AS ASIAN BROTHERS

India and China, for thousands of years, have existed in close proximity. The two are very much similar in terms of population as well as the growth of their economies, with growth rates much admired by developing countries who are desperately struggling to crawl out of the poverty trap. Due to the massive population, the need for resources, especially land, water and energy are also in abundance. India and China together are home to the world’s largest pools of skilled human resources, and there is a consensus that these two countries will continue to be the engines of global economic growth in the 21st century.

Also, both face potentially destabilizing external disputes: China with America over Taiwan, India with Pakistan over Kashmir.

In the world market, China is emerging as a significant link in the manufacturing chain while India’s potential for the knowledge-based services and manufacturing is being noticed. These complementary strengths of the two economies can be further exploited for mutual benefit. Their geographical closeness, similar cultural values and large size of their economies can facilitate exploitation of these synergies.

THE 1962 WAR

No one particular reason can be named for the disputes between the two nations. Everything, from border disputes to plain ignorance play an equal role for the rising disturbances. That India is an open society and China is not is one of the most obvious differences between the two.

Indo-China relations have been tense ever since a border dispute led to a full-scale war in 1962 and armed wars in 1967 and 1987. In a weeklong assault of 1962, the Chinese seized much of Arunachal Pradesh, as well as a slab of Kashmir in the western Himalayas, and killed 3,000 Indian officers and men. The very thought of the brief war and the humiliation at the Chinese hands nearly 50 years ago still annoys India. A tradition of strategic mistrust for China is deep-rooted. India sees China as working to undermine it at every level: be it trade, blocking of a permanent seat for India on the United Nations Security Council or, above all, friendships with its smaller South Asian neighbors, notably Pakistan. And it is this unease that has pushed India strategically closer to America.

INDO-CHINA: AS ASIAN RIVALS

Since the Indo-China war in 1962, the two giants have been discussing the exact demarcation of the 3,500-km India-China border. New Delhi disputes Beijing’s rule over 38,000 sq km of barren, icy and uninhabited land on the Tibetan plateau, which China seized from India after the war. China, for its part, claims 90,000 sq km of territory in Arunachal Pradesh. Within this disputed area are Tawang and its monastery, a trace of Mahayana Buddhism. The sixth Dalai Lama was born here, claims Beijing, which shows that the district was a part of Tibet. Several rounds of talks since 1981 have so far failed to make progress.

Some of the major disputes are:
• Clash over Aksai China (that covers 20% of Kashmir) and McMahon Line that led to 1962 war
• Beijing’s access to Twang
• China’s claims on Arunachal Pradesh
• China is the main provider of arms and nuclear weapons to Pakistan
• China issues special visas to Indians from Arunachal and Kashmir
• China objected to a $60m loan to India from the Asian Development Bank, on the basis that some of the money was allocated for irrigation schemes in Arunachal Pradesh

THE RECENT KARMAPA CONTROVERSY

The relations between India and China have turned sourer due to the recent Karmapa controversy. The Karmapa Lama is the spiritual head of the Karma Kagyu sect, one of the four sects of Tibetan Buddhism and one of the richest. In the Tibetan religious hierarchy, he is considered the third most important religious head after the institutions of the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama. Karmapa literally means embodiment of the activity of all Buddhas.

What is the controversy?

• Karmapa mysteriously escaped to India in 1999-2000 with a few close aides from the Tsurphu monastery near Lhasa.
• There are controversies about him as another Tibetan religious leader, Trinlay Thaye Dorje, also claims to be the 17th Karmapa.
• Karmapa’s followers have acquired more than 400 properties (especially land) in Himachal Pradesh.
• Around $1.6m in various currencies, including Chinese Yuan were seized from Gyuto, the monastery Karmapa occupies near the Dalai Lama’s base in Dharamsala, in northern India.
• The leader’s medical reports have gone missing from an institute at Chandigarh, where he was examined after reaching India. His opponents claim they showed him to be older than stated on the birth certificate, which he provided, attested by the Dalai Lama, implying he is too old to be the true incarnation.
• He is supposed to have a Chinese link.

WHAT IS THE POSSIBLE SOLUTION?

Conflicts, competition, co-operation: India and China are all set to rule the world. The question is where to start? The first is definitely to solve the border disputes. The obligation is on China; however, both the nations need to put in a serious effort to solve their own disagreements. After all, China has solved pig-headed boundary quarrels with Russia, Mongolia, Myanmar and Vietnam. Surely, it cannot be so difficult to deal with India!

Secondly, the Asian giants should come closer in terms of two-way trade. What was only $270m in 1990; is expected to exceed $60 billion in 2010-11. The steps have already been taken as the two co-ordinate their bids for the African oil supplies that both rely on. On important international issues, notably climate-change policy and world trade, their alignment is already imposing.
There is even a word for this co-operative vision, “Chindia.” “India and China are not in competition,” India’s Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh often says. “There is enough economic space for us both.” China’s president, Hu Jintao, agrees. And no doubt, both want to believe it.

PRESENT IMPERFECT, FUTURE TENSE

The ancient civilizations of India and China had surprisingly little political interaction for most of that time. However, the twentieth century saw increased tensions between the two over disputed borders and geopolitical competition for power, influence, resources and markets. How the relationship will develop and play out is an important question in the twenty-first century.
What troubles is the thought that despite all the comparisons, good faith and increasing trade; the two are old enemies, bad neighbors and nuclear powers, and have two of the world’s biggest armies – with almost 4 million troops between them.

Read original article at: http://epaper.namoleague.com/EpaperArticle.aspx?title=RELATIONSHIP%20STATUS:%20ITS%20COMPLICATED!_470

India’s lobbying, manipulation, contacts, subversion, media management and their underbelly has got a new name – Nira Radia. The 2G scam is a wider web then one can even think of and is a direct question on our country’s democracy. One of the highlights of Indian democracy is a free and independent press. But the scam has raised uncomfortable questions on this powerful fourth estate of the country as well. If the Adarsh land scam has dented the image of the army, the Nira Radia tapes are a pointer to the stark reality that the media is not a holy cow either.

A QUICK REVIEW OF THE 2G SCAM

• 2G licenses were issued to private telecom players at throwaway prices in 2008
• According to CAG, Spectrum scam has cost the government Rs. 1.76 lakh crore
• Also rules and procedures were not followed while issuing licenses

Former Telecom Minister A. Raja has been alleged for misappropriation during the bidding for allocation of 2G Spectrum. It is said that he ignored the advice of TRAI, Law Ministry and Finance Ministry and issued licenses on a first-come-first-served basis, without inviting any proper bids. The corporates who were favored were:
• Unitech, Swan Telecom got licenses without any prior telecom experience
• Swan Telecom was given the license even though it did not meet eligibility criteria
• It got license for Rs. 1537 crore, sold 45% stake to Etisalat for Rs. 4200 crore
• Unitech Wireless got license for Rs. 1661 crore, sold 60% stake for Rs. 6200 crore
· All nine companies paid DoT only Rs. 10,772 crore for 2G licenses

The 2G licenses were issued in 2008, but the scam came to public notice when the Indian Income Tax Department investigated political lobbyist Nira Radia.
RULING THE HEADLINES: NIRA RADIA

Nira Radia is a public relations consultant and corporate lobbyist. She heads four PR companies: Vaishnavi Corporate Communications, Neosis Strategic Consulting Services, Vitcom Consulting and Neucom Consulting. She is a woman of formidable networking and PR skills, so much so that she represents both the Tata and the Mukesh Ambani group.

NIRA: A BUSINESS WOMAN

The first assignment, when Nira moved to India from the UK in 1995, was to smoothen the entry of Singapore Airlines into India. Though the project failed, it helped Nira build up her contacts with the then aviation minister Ananth Kumar and Ratan Tata, the chairman of the Tata group, which was to be Singapore Airlines’ Indian partner. Nira was keenly interested in the aviation industry and applied for a license to start an airline under her own firm with a capitalization of all of Rs1 lakh. But the project was controversial and hence Ananth Kumar could not approve it. Surprisingly, Kumar was moved out of the civil aviation ministry.

It was her meeting with Ratan Tata then that proved to be a stepping stone for Nira. She was appointed to manage the corporate communications of the Tata group – leading to the birth of Vaishnavi Corporate Communications in 2001. For many years, Vaishnavi’s main client remained the Tata group, so much so that that it was mistaken for being a Tata firm.

NIRA: A POWERFUL INFLUENCE

The Tatas were a prized possession for Nira and they opened bigger doors of success for her. Nira, who grew up in Kenya and had a British Passport, has a vast ‘contact’ list that include ministers, industrialists, politicians, bureaucrats, fixers and journalists. Apart from the big shots Tata and Ambani, Nira has almost 50 other companies in her kitty. She was at her highest in 2009-10 with a go-ahead to manage the media and lobbying requirements of the country’s two richest and biggest corporates. Her various firms are estimated to generate annual revenues of anywhere between Rs. 100-120 crores. However, if an attempt was to be made to assess the worth of the deals Radia was dabbling in, the figure would be perhaps matching the combined annual defense, railway and social sector budgets!

NIRA: AN EMBATTLED CONTROVERSY

The income-tax investigation of Nira started when P Chidambaram, the then Finance Minister, received a complaint dated November 16, 2007. It was mentioned that Nira had raised Rs 300 crore empire in less than nine years and that she “was an agent of foreign intelligence agencies”. The raid started by August 2008. On August 19, 2008, a decision was taken to tap 14 of her personal and official phones, including those of her colleagues. The tapping, authorized by then Union home secretary Madhukar Gupta, continued for 120 days, till December 2008.

The investigation resumed on May 8, 2009 and went on till July 9, 2009. For some unknown and strange reasons, this search was stopped during the election process! The leaked tapes belong to this later 60 days’ period. The recordings were found to be sensitive and harmful to the national security. And hence, a letter was shot at the IB Director, Rajiv Mathur on November 16, 2009.
Different mediums then carried stories and transcripts of the tapes. Also, the CBI announced that they have 5,851 recordings of phone conversations by Nira in relation to the 2G spectrum scam. The matter has reached the Supreme Court that said in its official statement, “We have been talking about pollution of the sacred rivers like the Ganga. But this pollution is mindboggling.”

NIRA: IN CONVERSATION

The tapes that are now in the public domain contain Nira’s conversations with some very prominent figures of the country. These tapes prove that PR is not simply about asking to publish press releases on the company’s developments, acquisitions, mergers, and latest offerings anymore. It is, now, a combination of influencing the media, molding public opinion, and, at the same time, putting your client out there in the limelight. Some of the personalities who were recorded live-in-talks with Nira Radia are:
Politicians:
1. A. Raja, former Telecom Minister
2. Kanimozhi, Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament
3. N.K. Singh, Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament
4. Annu Tandon, Lok Sabha Member of Parliament
5. Poongothai Aladi Aruna, Tamil Nadu Minister for Information Technology, DMK
Industrialists:
1. Ratan Tata, Tata Group
2. Mukesh Ambani, Reliance Industries
3. Noel Tata, half-brother of Ratan Tata
4. Tarun Das, former Head of Confederation of Indian Industry
5. Manoj Modi, key advisor of Mukesh Ambani
Journalists:
1. Vir Sanghvi, Hindustan Times
2. Barkha Dutt, NDTV
3. Prabhu Chawla, formerly with India Today, now with The New Indian Express
4. Shankar Aiyar, was then with India Today Group
5. G. Ganapathy Subramaniam, Economic Times
6. MK Venu, Senior business journalist
7. Rajdeep Sardesai, CNN-IBN
8. Jehangir Pocha, formerly with Business World, now with NewsX
Others:
1. Sunil Arora, 1980-batch IAS Officer
2. Ranjan Bhattacharya, son-in-law of former PM, Atal Bihari Vajpayee
3. Suhel Seth, actor-manager-columnist
4. RK Chandoliya, A.Raja’s advisor

NIRA: A POWER BROKER
While some people rubbish the tapes as mere ‘Ethical Gathering of Information’, others are shocked and transfixed at the level to which the conversations reached. Nira is supposedly been functioning as a mediator between and the Congress and the DMK in the negotiations for allotment of union cabinet portfolios for the DMK. The DMK had been instrumental in bringing the UPA government back to power again in the 2009 general elections. But what followed was a prolonged deadlock during which the DMK allegedly threatened to withdraw its support unless it was given the 3 Cabinet and 4 Minister of State berths it had been pressing for a long time. Some talks like that of Nira’s with Vir Sanghvi of The Hindustan Times also reveal Nira almost dictating the journalist as to what he should write on Anil Ambani and the gas controversy.

An official report about the phone tapping said, “The cat is finally out of the bag. The CBI has acquired clinching evidence showing that a high-profile woman public relations lobbyist acted as powerbroker in the multi-crore 2G spectrum scam and that she was in regular touch with Telecom Minister A Raja.”

NIRA: WHAT’S NEXT?
As a veteran lobbyist has rightly said, “These tapes will not lead anywhere; there are too many powerful people involved.” But the spotlight continues to hover over Nira Radia. CBI claimed recently in November 2010 that Nira’s role in the 2G scam will be thoroughly investigated as the irregularities were of “enormous magnitude” having international effects. It also said that the investigation shall complete by March 2011.

In a recent development, the Enforcement Directorate (ED), India, summoned and then questioned Nira Radia for more than eight hours on 24th November, 2010, in what is her first interrogation by an investigating agency. She had excused herself from earlier summons by the ED on health grounds.
Amidst the controversies, questioning, raids and influence peddling lies the same old but important debate of ‘Public Interest v/s Privacy Issues’.

Read original article at: http://epaper.namoleague.com/EpaperArticle.aspx?title=THE%20DIFFERENT%20SHADES%20OF%20NIRA%20RADIA:%20TAPPED%20AND%20TRAPPED_358

Indian traditional attire – Saree had to undergo yet another test. In a recent humiliating incident, Meera Shankar, India’s ambassador to the United States was singled out by the airport security in Mississippi and was patted down for wearing a saree. Meera, who is considered for her grace and intelligence, had to undergo a humiliating security check at the Jackson-Evers International Airport in Mississippi on December 4. She was going to board her flight to Baltimore after taking part in a programme of the Mississippi State University. Witnesses who were present during the incident said that Meera Shankar was singled out because she was wearing saree. She was taken to the VIP room and also pulled out of the line for the screening process. Later she was also pat down by a female TSA (Transportation Security Administration) officers. Despite the fact that she presented her diplomatic credentials, she had to undergo a hands-on search. According to the Transport and Security Administration guidelines, diplomats are subjected to normal screening when they present their diplomatic credentials and when they are escorted with security, but an exception was made in case of Meera Shankar just because of her saree. This is the height of embarrassment not only for the Indian diplomats but also for the national female attire of India which is considered to be extremely graceful all over the world. It was a real shock for the Indian Government and the incident has irked the External Affairs ministry which voiced strong concerns regarding the pat down and summoned US deputy chief of mission Donald Lu and threatened to review privileges granted to US diplomats if such incidents are repeated. India also asked the US to sensitize the authorities at all its airports to cultural and religious sensitivities of foreign diplomats. Janos Radvanyi, the Hungarian diplomat-academic at whose invitation Meera visited Jackson, said he plans to send a formal apology letter to the ambassador, and he expects other state and university leaders will, as well. However, US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said that she looked into the matter and found nothing new in it. She added that diplomats are subject to the same basic screening as other passengers at US airports. On the other hand, when asked about the incident during a press conference with the Nigerian Foreign Minister, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had said: “We are obviously concerned about it. We will be certainly looking into it and trying to determine what had happened and what we could do to prevent such incidents in the future.” Incidents like these are not new. Last year, America’s Continental Airlines had apologized to former Indian president Abdul Kalam for frisking him before he boarded a US-bound flight. Read original article at: http://epaper.namoleague.com/EpaperArticle.aspx?title=PAT%20DOWN%20OF%20SAREE-CLAD%20MEERA%20SHANKAR%20AT%20U.S.%20AIRPORT%20HAS%20IRKED%20CONTROVERSIES_346

WikiLeaks has been firing up popular imagination by suggesting that the round-the-corner leaks will have serious consequences on the world. Its strategy is to get and post on the Internet, secret documents flying out of the wraps of Governments and businesses.

WHAT IS THE MUCH-TALKED-ABOUT ‘WIKILEAKS’?
WikiLeaks is a website that is used for publishing sensitive documents and news. It established an editorial policy that accepted only documents that were ‘of political, diplomatic, historical or ethical interest’. The website run by The Sunshine Press, was launched in 2006. It is a non-profit media organization that works with the objective of publishing submissions of otherwise unavailable documents from anonymous news sources and leaks. The idea was relatively simple: given the viral nature of the Internet – and the ease of duplicating digital documents – once secret information was published, it could never become secret again.

WikiLeaks describes itself as “an uncensorable system for untraceable mass document leaking”.

IS WIKILEAKS, BY ANY MEANS, RELATED TO WIKIPEDIA?
A very common misconception prevails: Wikipedia and WikiLeaks are affiliated to each other. But this is NOT the case. These are two different entities that share the same ‘wiki’ prefix. Wiki is the abbreviation of WikiWikiWeb, which was the first wiki software. It’s actually a Hawaiian word that means “fast.” As a noun, wiki means a collaborative website that can be directly edited using only a web browser.

Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia editable by any user. Whereas, WikiLeaks was formerly a wiki, but and has turned into a more traditional website. Also, wiki is a generic word that anyone can use; it is not a brand name.

HOW WAS WIKILEAKS BORN? HOW DOES IT WORK?
The wikileaks.org domain name was registered on October 4, 2006. The website was unveiled, and published its first document in December 2006. The site claims to have been “founded by Chinese dissidents, journalists, mathematicians and start-up company technologists, from the US, Taiwan, Europe, Australia and South Africa”.
WikiLeaks has been in the eye of the storm due to the controversial nature of content published by it. They really do not have any permanent website due to a number of denial-of-service attacks and its division from different Domain Name System (DNS) providers. Formerly, the website was http://www.wikileaks.org.

It was launched as a user-editable wiki site, where any person can submit sensitive data without the fear of being tracked by Government agencies or organizations. However, a team of reviewers – volunteers from the mainstream press, journalists and WikiLeaks staff – decides what is published.

WHO ARE THE BRAINS BEHIND WIKILEAKS?
The creators of WikiLeaks have not been formally identified. It has been represented in public since January 2007 by Julian Assange and others. He has been called “the Robin Hood of hacking.” As the founder and public face of WikiLeaks, Julian Paul Assange is best known as the spokesperson and editor-in-chief for the whistleblower website. He is an Australian journalist, publisher and internet activist.

Assange was reportedly born in 1971 in the city of Townsville, northeastern Australia. When he turned 16, he began hacking computers, reportedly assuming the name Mendax – from the Latin splendid mendax, or “nobly untruthful.”

Before working with the website, Assange was a physics and mathematics student as well as a computer programmer. He has lived in several countries and has told reporters he is constantly on the move. He makes irregular public appearances to speak about freedom of the press, censorship, and investigative journalism.

The soft-spoken Assange is almost as opaque as the website he edits. He declines to release personal details and leads a somewhat nomadic lifestyle.
And the information war continues. The super power US v/s the whistleblower WikiLeaks is the biggest cyber war the world has witnessed.

Read original article at: http://epaper.namoleague.com/EpaperArticle.aspx?title=WIKILEAKS:%20THE%20POWER%20THAT%20HAS%20SHAKEN%20THE%20WORLDS%20SUPER%20POWER_344

A controversy that has ignited a very important debate – WikiLeaks – has created nothing short of a storm worldwide. WikiLeaks and potential imitators could be game changers for the relationships between journalists and the Governments and companies they cover. The merits or dangers of those changes are, however, big points of conflict for both the organizations that have experienced leaks and the journalists who cover them. Multiple stories on the issue do exist, but the first million-dollar question to be addressed is:

WHAT IS THE CONTROVERSY?

Within a year of its launch, the site claimed a database that had grown to more than 1.2 million documents. WikiLeaks is a website that posts formerly secret documents online, in the search of accountability and transparency. Its release of more than 75,000 US Army and Marine Corps documents recording six years of events in Afghanistan, has angered officials in Washington, Britain and Pakistan. It has created serious controversy over the inherent conflict between national security interests and Government transparency. At the center of the WikiLeaks controversy is US Army Private First Class Bradley Manning, the man suspected of having passed the whistle-blower website a massive collection of US embassy cables.

The post is an infamous video shot from a US helicopter, which shows suspected militants being gunned down in Iraq. In the video, a group of men alleged to be militants are shot at for over an hour until most of them are dead or wounded, when a rescue van arrives, unarmed men are shot down as well. Recorded by the US Defense Department in 2007, the video has reignited a debate about leaks, the responsibilities of those who publicize them, and the ways the Internet is changing the nature of keeping secrets.
Apart from these, WikiLeaks is supposed to have leaked many other controversial documents:

– Extrajudicial killings in Kenya
– Report on Toxic Waste Dumping on the African coast
– Church of Scientology manuals
– Guantanamo Bay procedures

HOW DOES WIKILEAKS MANAGE TO GET THE INSIDE SCOOP?
The process is this: The website is set up to allow completely anonymous submissions from whistleblowers around the world via a supposedly secure online form, although questions have been raised lately about its reliability. Assange and company then leaf through these confidential submissions, repackage them into multimedia presentations and publish them on the Web, still guaranteeing their sources complete anonymity.

As for the recent controversy of US secret cables, it has been said that the US military had recently introduced an information-sharing initiative called Net-Centric Diplomacy which allowed insiders to gain access to classified information. Under the new initiative, a subset of State Department documents are published through a Secret Internet Protocol Router Network, or SIPRNet, which is supposed to be Pentagon’s Secret-level global network. The information available on this network is accessible to authorized American military service personnel. Manning is believed to have downloaded a cache of documents and passed them on to WikiLeaks.
Needless to mention, Governments around the world would like to take down WikiLeaks for once and for all, but it is not that easy. They are only able to block the website. But it can be bypassed using separate URL’s maintained by WikiLeaks. This is because: WikiLeaks hosts itself by PRQ, a Sweden-based company providing “highly secure, no-questions-asked hosting services”.

WHY IS THE SUPER POWERED UNITED STATES WORRIED ABOUT WIKILEAKS?
The US Government has solemnly warned that WikiLeaks is endangering the lives of American diplomats, soldiers and spooks. “Such disclosures put at risk our diplomats, intelligence professionals, and people around the world that come to the US for assistance in promoting democracy and open Government,” the White House declared. “By releasing stolen and classified documents, WikiLeaks has put at risk not only the cause of human rights but also the lives and work of these individuals.”

ALLEGATIONS SURROUND JULIAN ASSANGE
On 20 August 2010, an investigation was opened against Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks and an arrest warrant issued in Sweden in connection with sexual encounters with two women, aged 26 and 31, one in Enkoping and the other in Stockholm. Assange’s defense lawyer, Mark Stephens, says the sexual assault allegations against his client are part of a conspiracy. Julian Assange, too, dismissed the allegations made against him in Sweden and vowed to fight against extradition. Hinting at a conspiracy,

Assange’s lawyer described the accusations as a “political stunt” and “political motivations that appear to be behind this.”
Assange was arrested on 7 December, 2010 and WikiLeaks appealed to its supporters to make up Assange’s bail in the days before his arrest. Journalist John Pilger, film director Ken Loach and sister of Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith, Jemima Khan offered to put up sureties. However, this proved to be unnecessary. The City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court refused Julian Assange bail because of the risk of him fleeing.

THE QUESTION OF ETHICAL V/S UNETHICAL
Weighing the merits of publishing against the risks of making sensitive information known, experts claim the authority to decide which materials to make public. Needless to say, the Government disagrees. From a journalistic point of view, the ethical problem that arises is determining who decides what is at risk and what it is worth. There are also serious question marks with regard to the verification of the documents and the motives of those who sent them.
As the most basic level, though, the question results from the simple fact being: good facts are necessary for good ethics and we don’t have all the facts needed to fully assess how much harm the leaks will cause. The possible consequences of the leaks have been
the subject of intense disagreement. Predictions have ranged from the leaks having no serious consequences to their undermining “the functional integrity of the whole Western security machinery on which its very survival depends”.

In considering the ethics of WikiLeaks, a point to be kept in mind is that what is and isn’t ethical can differ at different levels of analysis. These levels are the individual (micro), institutional (meso), societal (macro), and global (mega). All of them are relevant in the case of WikiLeaks. Something that might pass ethical muster at one level might not do so at another. For instance, freedom of speech might justify disclosure of certain information at the level of individual rights. The harm that disclosure would cause at all the other levels would make it unethical at those levels, however.

While there are questions over whether he would get a fair trial, Assange himself has no choice but to believe in the system. He has invoked the values of the system to commit some of his other acts. He has admitted at various points of time that he is only the messenger and that there is an attempt to shoot the messenger. The self-styled defender of freedom of speech continues his war with his enemies – the corporations that attacked WikiLeaks. He is supported by a lot of followers who believe in him and his only weapon – his laptop!

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Jones suspended the event of the Qur’an burning immediately preceding 11th September, 2010. He ultimately gave a statement confirming that the Church will not burn the Qur’an, not today, not ever. He claimed that his ultimate aim was to expose that Islam is “very dangerous and very radical”.

The cancellation was announced by Jones on 9th September. He then planned to meet the Imam, Faisal Abdul Rauf at New York. Terry Jones claimed that he called off the burning as he was promised that the planned Islamic Centre and the mosque would be moved away from the New York’s Ground Zero. However, the Imam denied such promises. “We are, of course, now against any other group burning Qurans,” Jones said. “We would right now ask no one to burn Qurans. We are absolutely strong on that. It is not the time to do it.” He also believed that if the mosque will be moved, it would be a sign of God to call off the Qur’an burning.

The decision was welcomed by many, where as the ‘copy cat’ protests continued in some parts of the world.

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A declaration by a small group and a world wide chaos – it all gained notice when the pastor Terry Jones and his wife Sylvia decided to burn the Holy Qur’an. The couple heads 50 member Church in the Gainesville, Florida named Dove World Outreach Centre. The Church is known for its Islam and Gay criticism. Jones announced that the Church would burn the Qur’an in order to mark the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 bomb blasts.

Terry Jones also founded and led a Church named Christliche Gemeinde Köln (CGK), in the Cologne, Germany. However, the Gainesville Sun reported that he left the Church in Germany after being accused of fraud and he was also fined by the Cologne Court for illegally using the title ‘doctor’. A leader of the Cologne church said “He (Jones) didn’t project the biblical values and Christianity, but always made himself the center of everything.” The CGK closed down after the departure of Jones and re-opened under a new leadership.

Before the declaration to burn the Qur’an the Church has been into many anti-Islamic activities as well. In 2009, Dove World posted a lawn sign which stated in large red letters “Islam is of the Devil”. This obviously ignited a lot of protests by the activists and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). Soon after the Church put up this sign, CAIR came up with another sign that read: “Koran 9:5 Kill the disbelievers wherever you find them.” As for the International Burn a Koran Day, the announcement was made by the Church in July, 2010. The Church members decided to burn hundreds of copies of Qur’an to mark the protest against the 9/11 attacks. However, Jones admitted that he did not read the Qur’an but defended himself by saying that the Qur’an is “full of lies”. As this started gaining awareness through the media, hundreds of protests and condemnations began. Jones attracted fans and critics on the social networking sites and he mentioned that he has received death threats since the day he announced this event. On the other hand, on September 8, 2010, Rackspace, the provider of hosting service to Dove World Outreach website, withdrew its services stating that it was a ‘contract issue’ and not a ‘constitutional issue’.

Criticisms spread in abundance, not only on local levels but at the international levels. Religious leaders got together and organized Peace Rallies and Gatherings as “Interfaith Solidarity Day” declaration. President Barack Obama too feared the planned burnings as “a recruitment bonanza for Al Qaeda” that could result in serious violence. This was supported by the words of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “It is regrettable that a pastor in Gainesville, Florida, with a church of no more than 50 people, can make this outrageous and distrustful, disgraceful plan and get the world’s attention”.

In spite of all these international condemnation and personal threats, Jones said he would not “back down because of fear.”

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