June 23, 2007

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On the move

June 15, 2007

Dear reader,

Tinyplanet has packed its bags and its moving to a new domain. Come and visit at

Out and about

June 2, 2007

Egypt has freed a blogger who was detained more than a month ago for being a member of the banned Muslim Brotherhood.

Abdel Moneim Mahmoud, who is also a correspondent for British-based Arabic television channel al-Hewar, had not officially been charged. He had been detained along with 23 others, who were also set free.

Human rights group the El Nadim Center has claimed Mahmoud was taken into custody because of “the role he played in exposing crimes committed by the Ministry of the Interior through his blog, where he called for the release of detainees”.

The organisation also points out that Mahmoud took part in media activities arranged by Amnesty International after that group released a report documenting torture in Egyptian police stations.

The Muslim Brotherhood advocates an Islamic state — and let me state quite clearly that I support complete separation of clergy and state — but with democratic reforms Egypt needs.

For example, Egyptian presidents, with whom almost all power rests, have typically been elected in single-candidate votes since the country became a republic in the 1950s. September 2005 saw the first multi-party presidential vote; however, candidates were screened by an electoral commission which only allowed 10 of the 30 applicants to run. The Muslim Brotherhood, which has the broadest support of the opposition groups, had no candidate.

Unsurprisingly, Hosni Mubarack was re-elected.

A March 2007 referendum — which Amnesty International said represented the biggest erosion of human rights since 1981, when emergency laws were introduced following the assassination of Anwar Sadat — gave the president the power to dissolve parliament.

It also prohibited parties using religion as a basis of political activity, ended judicial supervision of elections and allowed for civilians to be tried by military courts in terrorism cases.

Isn’t politics fun?


May 31, 2007

A man described as one of the world’s most prolific spammers has been arrested. He’s apparently one of the 10 worst offenders in the world, and has been charged with mail fraud, wire fraud, e-mail fraud, aggravated identity theft and money laundering.

Does the punishment fit the crime?

May 29, 2007

China has sentenced the former head of its food and drug safety agency to death. He had pleaded guilty to corruption and accepting bribes.

According to Xinhua, Zheng Xiaoyu, aged 62, was accused of taking about E630,000 in bribes in exchange for approving drug-production licences. The court said the sentence was appropriate given the “huge amount of bribes involved and the great damage inflicted on the country and the public by Zheng’s dereliction of duty”.

However, the International Herald Tribune quite rightly points out that this impending execution comes amid outcry over China’s food safety. Earlier this year, two Chinese firms were accused of shipping contaminated pet food ingredients to the US, leading to the deaths of animals across the country and subsequently a massive recall.

Meanwhile, a chemical used to make antifreeze made it into cough medicine and toothpaste exported to Central America. More than 100 people died last year in Panama after taking cough medicine containing diethylene glycol, which left China marked “glycerin”. Last week, the same ingredient was found in toothpaste in Panama, the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua.

That China has a shoddy record when it comes to food and drug safety is putting it mildly. Counterfeit medication is rampant and mass food poisonings are common. However, I can’t shake the feeling that Zheng is taking the heat for a wider problem in the nation. His actions — if indeed he did what he has been accused of — have led to the suffering of many and the deaths of some from sub-standard medicine.

But I have to ask you: does Zheng’s punishment fit his crime?

It was inevitable

May 5, 2007

The English Premier League is suing YouTube for alleged copyright infringement. According to the BBC, the league has filed a lawsuit in New York and is seeking unspecified damages.

The case claims the ridiculously popular website “knowingly misappropriated and exploited” league property. The soccer power group wrote to YouTube in October, asking it to take down material it said infringed the rights of its clubs. YouTube is already being sued by Viacom for $1 billion. I wonder if Google have any regrets about their purchase?

It’s been a bad week for many people’s favourite search engine, as there’s speculation Microsoft and Yahoo! are working on an alliance to tackle Google’s dominance when it comes to online advertising. Ah well, it’s about time Microsoft had to work for their market share.

Hero or villain?

May 3, 2007


People will go to any lengths to keep their finances secret and avoid paying taxes — even handing their cash over to a man running a bank out of his house.

According to court records, Robert Arant, from Des Moines, Washington, ran a so-called “warehouse bank” named Olympic Business Systems which had hundreds of customers. The IRS has filed a civil case alleging he promoted abusive tax shelters and unlawfully interfered with revenue laws.

The documents claim he took customers’ cash and pooled it in various accounts with legitimate banks. He would then pay customers’ bills from said accounts, charging $75 annually for the service plus assorted maintenance fees (such as for wire transfers). IRS agent Susan Killingsworth said Arant’s clients could buy debit cards for $30 with which they could access their money.

He apparently advertised his company as being for people “who would rather not deal directly with the banking system”. He doesn’t seem all that put out by the impending civil case.

“It’ll be me against the beast,” he said, before adding the US Government is “a beast with no teeth”.

So I ask you digital reader, is this man a hero or a villain? Should we respect him for defying the state and system, or revile him for transgressing said system?

Read the full story at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.