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‘Istanbul like war zone’: RT crew caught in crackdown on protesters at Taksim

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Think tank finds May 13 polls ‘questionable’

Prof. Bobby Tuazon, Director for Policy Studies at think tank Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG) on Wednesday said the May 13 midterm polls were unreliable, citing several aspects of non-compliance with election laws.

“Kwestyunable [dahil] ung proseso na dinaanan ng midterm elections—ranging from patuloy na non-compliance sa mahigpit na election provisions—digital signature, verifiability feature [hanggang] itong nangyaring premature proclamation,” Tuazon said in an interview aired over GMA News TV’s “News to Go”

Tuazon added that the observation was not just CenPEG’s alone, as other election watchdogs also saw the poll results as unreliable.

“Kabilang na diyan ang AES (Automated Election System) watch at ilan pang kapatid dito sa election monitoring, ay nagkakaisa sila na kwestyunable ang naging conduct at naging resulta ng midterm election,” he said.

Tuason pointed out that to date, around 10 million votes have yet to be counted and these “missing” votes gave the elections a sense of confusion.

“‘Yung the fact na halos 13 thousand ER’s (election returns) ay hindi pa talagang nata-transmit, equivalent iyon to 8 million to 10 million votes that remained to be unaccounted for; pinaka latest ang discrepancies na nakita roon sa kalahati ng mga RMA (Random Manual Audit) areas,” he said.

“Lahat ng ito, tingin namin, nagdudulot ng pangamba at agam agam sa question na was the vote really counted? Sino ba talaga actual na nanalo at natalo lalo na sa senatorial race?” he added.

Accuracy rating

Tuazon also brought up the much debated accuracy rating of the PCOS machines, saying that even before the elections were conducted, the machines failed to meet parameters during tests.

“If we go back to the discovery, na natagpuan namin, na accuracy rating of PCOS system ng Smartmatic, batay doon sa idinaos na mock elections sa House of Representatives noong July 24 to 25 of 2012, lumalabas doon ‘yung ang accuracy rating ay taliwas doon sa R.A. 9369. Sinasabi sa batas na dapat ang accuracy rating nito ay 99.995 percent,” Tuazon said.

But instead of 99.995 percent, Tuazon revealed that the PCOS’ rating was 97 percent.

“So, ‘yung nakikita nating discrepancies, ‘yung probable program errors, lahat ng ito manifestation ng realization na kwestyunable ang accuracy rating ng PCOS system ng Smartmatic,” he said.

Tuazon also pointed out the earlier pattern observed by an Ateneo professor that constantly showed administration bets garnering 60 percent of votes while the opposition and the independent candidates received 30 and 10 percent, respectively.,

“How about ‘yung pattern na nakita 60-30-10, very interesting pattern, although, hindi pa naman conclusive ‘yan. Pero it really raises this question, kung iko-correspond sa sinabi ni Chairman Brillantes, sinabi niya na ‘we decide the result of the election not on the basis of concrete results, but on the basis of projection and anticipated votes.’ I mean, saan galing ‘yung ganung klase?” Tuazon said. — Patricia Denise Chiu/DVM, GMA News


Nothing is more beneficial during a modern disaster than public participation. As the saying goes, “two minds are better than one.” When it comes to social media, millions of minds come together to solve problems, seek out answers, and disseminate vital information. As has been evident in recent days, the public has played a key role in both information dissemination and assistance to authorities via social media.

Social Media Aids Disaster Recovery Efforts

A primary source of real-time information, social media has had a transformative effect on modern disaster recovery. It has played a key role in everything from natural disasters to man-made tragedies worldwide. Bystanders and people miles away take to social media during disasters for multiple purposes, from alerting authorities to who and where the injured may be and locating important persons of interest.

Social media also affords the government a nearly unparalleled level of transparency in times of disaster. Real time updates  – like those which we saw during the apprehension of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects – allow the public to not just be witness to but also assist in times of crisis.

Social Media and The Spread of Vital Information

Social media also drives information dissemination at a rate never known before – hotlines to find injured family members are found quickly and easily, and the process of seeking and finding of loved ones has become a crowd-sourced process. Important information can be shared with millions, and by millions, quickly and efficiently.

Social Media and Disaster Relief

Social Media is also useful in the days and months following a disaster. Raising money for victims is no easy feat when done offline. “Crowd-funding” allows users near and far with a simple and fast way to donate to and solicit donations for victims of disasters. As we saw recently in Boston, in many cases hundreds of thousands of dollars have been raised for disaster victims. Social media allowed for triumph in the midst of tragedy, helping victims start new lives with a tremendous support system.

Natural disasters like the tsunami in Japan and Hurricane Sandy reflect the public’s desire to participate and aid victims through social media. Many turn to social media outlets first to learn what is happening, see how they can contribute, and keep on top of developing events.

Social Media Offers A Worldwide Network

Social media is an incredibly useful means for public participation and government transparency.  Never again will there be a time where television is our only source of news during times of need and disaster. From aiding the FBI to aiding victims of national disasters, Twitter, Facebook and other online media serve as vital components of transparency and efficient outlets for managing disaster responses.

Four more years in the same direction cannot be tolerated.

WikiLeaks comment on U.S. election:
Wed Nov 7 06:22:37 UTC 2012

Obama promised a more open government. But instead his administration has built a state within a state, placing nearly five million Americans under the national security clearance system, replete with secret laws, secret budgets, secret bailouts, secret killings, secret mass spying, and secret detention without charge.

Four more years in the same direction cannot be tolerated.

The Obama administration continues to conduct a “whole of government” investigation of “unprecedented scale and nature” into WikiLeaks and its people. It has fuelled the extrajudicial banking blockade against the WikiLeaks and has held an alleged WikiLeaks source, Bradley Manning, for 899 days without trial, in conditions that the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Mendez, formally found amounted to torture.

Mr Assange has been formally found to be a political refugee over the Obama administration’s behavior, U.S. ambassadors publicly warned countries such as Switzerland not to offer him asylum.

The Obama-Biden campaign brags of having prosecuted twice as many national security whistleblowers as “all previous administrations combined”. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/sep/05/obama-campaign-brags-about-whistleblower-persecutions. This must change.

Politicians always say your decision, come election-time, will determine the future. But, as has been seen with the Obama administration, deciding on who gets into formal office is not a meaningful choice, because when you vote your party into government you also vote the government, including all its agencies and contractors, into your party.

Parties taking office are eliminated as the restraining voice of opposition. The last four years, like the next four years, will see the U.S. republican party as the ‘restraining’ voice of opposition.

But there is another option.

It was WikiLeaks’ revelations – not the actions of President Obama – that forced the U.S. administration out of the Iraq War. By exposing the killing of Iraqi children, WikiLeaks directly motivated the Iraqi government to strip the U.S. military of legal immunity, which in turn forced the U.S. withdrawal.http://salon.com/2011/10/23/wikileaks_cables_and_the_iraq_war/

It was WikiLeaks’ revelations and pan-Arab activists, not the Obama administration, that helped to trigger the Arab Spring. While WikiLeaks was exposing dictators from Yemen to Cairo, Vice-President Joseph Biden was calling Hosni Mubarak a democrat, Hillary Clinton was calling his government “stable” and the U.S. administration was colluding with Yemeni dictator Saleh to bomb his own people.http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/may/13/amnesty-international-wikileaks-arab-springhttp://www.worldaffairsjournal.org/article/wikihistory-did-leaks-inspire-arab-spring

And it was WikiLeaks’ revelations, not the White House, that led to the reform of the largest children’s hospital network in the United States.http://wikileaks.org/wiki/Report_on_Shriners_raises_question_of_wrongdoing

Just over a month ago, on 28 September, the Pentagon again threatened WikiLeaks. Pentagon spokesman George Little demanded WikiLeaks destroy its publications, including the Iraq War logs which revealed the killings of more than 100,000 civilians. Little said: “continued possession by WikiLeaks of classified information belonging to the United States government represents a continuing violation of law”. The Pentagon also again “warned Mr Assange and WikiLeaks” against “soliciting” material from U.S. military whistleblowers.

Don’t ‘hope’. ACT.


Venezuela’s politics : Yet another method to entrench the president’s power


WHEN Jorge Urosa, the archbishop of Caracas, said recently that Hugo Chávez was installing a “Marxist-communist” regime in Venezuela, the country’s leftist president called him a “troglodyte” and accused him of “instilling fear in the people.” Yet Mr Chávez, an avowed socialist, is openly seeking to introduce what looks like a novel form of communism. After taking over the courts and provoking an opposition boycott of legislative elections, he is now targeting state and municipal governments, currently the last bulwark against his rule among elected officials. By forcing them to compete for resources with pliable “communes”, he may starve them to death.

In June his legislative allies approved on first reading a draft bill creating the commune, a “socialist local entity…on the basis of which socialist society is to be built,” with legislative, judicial and executive functions. The communes are supposed to be partly self-sufficient, thanks to a “socialist productive model”, outlined in a separate bill, that will replace the existing capitalist economy. But in practice, the state will provide most of their resources, determine which communes can register, and impose “development” laws and decrees.

Darío Vivas, the vice-president of congress, says the bill will “develop popular participation in the most democratic way possible.” But the opposition calls it a scheme to increase Mr Chávez’s power. Each commune will “regulate social and community life [and] guarantee public order, social harmony and the primacy of collective over individual interests.” Their courts will have jurisdiction over all residents, even though the communes are exclusively intended for socialists. Meanwhile, states and municipalities will be forced to transfer part of their revenues to the communes. Since communes can span municipal borders, they could move public funds from opposition-led districts to government-friendly ones.

The project flies in the face both of the constitution and of public opinion. Mr Chávez first tried to establish communes through a constitutional-reform package in 2007, which was narrowly rejected in a referendum. Many key articles in the proposed communes law were taken from the failed reform. Mr Vivas insists that “if we were to ask those questions today”, the reforms would pass. But recent surveys suggest the reverse. According to a June study by Hinterlaces, a polling firm, only 31% of Venezuelans support Mr Chávez’s “21st-century socialism”, whereas 80% prefer private to communal property.

The bill still requires a second reading to become law. But although a more plural congress will be elected in September, new members will not be seated until January, allowing the outgoing assembly to pass unpopular laws without electoral repercussions. Moreover, even while the bill awaits approval, the government says that over 200 communes are already in formation. A local referendum in which as little as 15% of the electorate casts a vote will be enough to bring them into existence. Faced with declining popularity, Mr Chávez is wasting little time in setting up new means to wield his authority.

The Economist

Opposition launches new appeals to the poor, gaining ground on populist government in election race.

Amy Prieto was the first member of her family to go to university and she credits the Chavez government for helping her [Christopher Arsenault/Al Jazeera]
Wearing her cap and gown while surrounded by friends and neighbours in this gritty hillside slum on the outskirts of Caracas, Amy Prieto is the first person from her family to graduate from university.

Read more: Chavez support continues in Venezuela slums

Venezuela’s election system is high tech but low trust


CARACAS, Venezuela — As the United States squabbles over its voter ID laws, Venezuelans will face one of the most rigorous systems in the hemisphere when they head to the polls Oct. 7.

After keying in an identification number, a voter’s photo and name will pop up on a screen. Only after validating their identity with a thumb swipe over an electronic reader will the voting machine be activated.

The government and independent observers say the new system is one of the most sophisticated in the hemisphere. It’s designed to weed out double voting and leave behind a paper and digital trail that makes it fast and easy to audit.

“As a matter of fact, of the 92 elections that we’ve monitored, I would say the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world,” former President Jimmy Carter said this month at The Carter Center.

But in polarized Venezuela – where President Hugo Chavez is facing one of the tightest races of his 14-year tenure – some are fretting that the new machines, and other quirks of the electoral system, may give the government an edge.

Independent auditors and the opposition’s own technical team say the thumbprint reader attached to the Smartmatic voting machines scrambles the order of votes, so there’s no way to know who voted for whom. But the fact that the identification system is visibly linked to the voting panel seems designed to generate doubts, said Ludwig Moreno, a member of the Voto Limpio election watchdog group.

“Let me be clear: the vote is most likely secret, but it doesn’t appear to be secret,” he said. “And that’s why these machines were installed.”

Voter privacy is a sensitive issue in Venezuela. In 2004, the names of more than 2.4 million people who had signed a presidential recall petition were released.

Government agencies were accused of firing and discriminating against people on the Lista Tascon. In 2005, Chavez called on his supporters to quit using the list, but it left many wary of openly opposing the administration.

Still, many view the privacy warnings as an opposition ploy to cloud an eventual Chavez victory. On a recent weekday, Luis Otorio, 62, a retired dentist, stepped out of one of the mock voting booths set up around Caracas. He declared the new system “super fino” and said the only people who were questioning it were supporters of opposition candidate Henrique Capriles.

“They’ll say or do anything to win this race,” Otorio said. “They’re thrashing around like drowning chickens.”

On paper, Venezuela is one of the most civically active nations on the planet, with a voter registration rate of 96.5 percent. (By comparison, only 65 percent of potential U.S. voters are registered.) The Chavez administration has said the historic levels are the result of a massive registration drive, which began in 2003. But for some, the figures are too good.

Alfredo Weil was on the board of Venezuela’s election council for 12 years, most recently in 1994. Weil, who now runs the Esdata election watchdog group, points out that in 2003 the registration rate was 76.5 percent. He said it is hard to believe that voter rolls increased so dramatically over such a short period of time.

“According to government figures all but (3 percent) of people took the time to register to vote but abstention is 30 percent,” he said. “It just makes no sense.”

While Costa Rica and Peru have similar registration levels of 95 percent, voting in those countries is compulsory.

To the conspiracy-minded, many of those new registrations represent a slush fund of phantom voters that can be pressed into government service.

Venezuela’s Catholic University, however, suggests more mundane reasons. In a June study, the university found that authorities were not expunging dead voters fast enough. As a result, 49,500 voters who died between 2011 and 2012 remained on the rolls.

But the study also found that 14 out of 24 Venezuelan states have more registered voters than people eligible to vote. The rural northern province of Delta de Amacuro, for example, has 122 percent more registered voters than its projected population.

Despite these “inconsistencies,” the study determined that the registration rolls “meet the minimum requirements to hold presidential elections October 7.”

Weil says the only reliable way to audit voter rolls is to match them to birth certificates. In 2005, the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights’ Center for Electoral Promotion and Assistance tried to do just that.

But when it asked the government for the birth records of 12,820 voters picked at random, authorities could not produce enough documents to run the test. The center did not draw any conclusions from the omission but simply skipped that section of the audit.

One of the keys to any election is observation. “Even well-structured electoral systems in functional democracies can be manipulated if a disorganized opposition isn’t capable of having witnesses at the voting booths,” noted a recent report by the Wilson Center.

In Venezuela, that challenge is growing exponentially. During the 2000 presidential election, there were 7,000 voting tables nationwide, according to the Venezuelan embassy in the United States. This year there will be 39,226 voting tables. The increase may be good for voters, but it’s a logistical nightmare for political parties trying to cover far-flung polling stations. According to a Voto Limpio analysis, 150 of those centers have less than 12 voters and 15 of them only have one voter.

The issue is compounded by the fact that, as in the United States, Venezuela’s candidates don’t receive public financing, and the nation hasn’t invited international observers since 2006.

In past elections, there have been accusations of ballot stuffing at remote polling stations. And some blame the practice for Chavez’s ability to crush a 2004 recall referendum.

In 2006, the peer-reviewed journal International Statistical Review published an analysis of the recall and found 18 percent of voting centers – representing some 2.6 million voters – showed irregular voting patterns. According to the journal’s analysis, the opposition should have won the referendum with 52 to 60 percent of the vote, instead of losing it with 41 percent, as the government tally shows.

The opposition says it will have enough volunteers – 256,423 – to cover every single voting center this year. And Capriles recently told The Miami Herald that he had won four hotly contested elections “because I’ve always guarded my votes.”

Most experts agree that the potential for wide-scale fraud is minimal and the government has made strides to improve the election system.

“The election process is more or less protected,” said Saul Cabrera with Consultores 21 polling firm. “But almost half of Venezuelans still don’t trust the system.”