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Cuba has introduced new controls over online content deemed to affect national interests, in a move described as "Orwellian" by independent media and activists.
Decree 35 was passed last week, following the biggest anti-government protests in decades, as Cubans called for better living conditions amid economic hardship and the pandemic. Details of the unrest spread in part because of social media.
The new law is aimed at content or messages that Havana deems to be false news, offensive or that may incite acts "that upset public order." Under it, anyone who tries to "subvert the constitutional order" will be considered a cyberterrorist. A special channel also has been set up for citizens to inform on anyone who breaks the law.
"Our Decree 35 goes against misinformation and cyber lies," Reuters quoted Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel as saying.
The Cuban president blamed the July 11 protests on an online campaign that he said was led by U.S.-backed counter-revolutionaries. So far, the penalties for breaching the regulations have not been made public, but it is believed the government would fine offenders, a Cuba-based journalist who requested anonymity, said.
Police detain an anti-government demonstrator at a protest Image source: voavoa
Independent media within Cuba and analysts have said the decree is similar to the totalitarianism described in George Orwell's novel 1984, in which Big Brother controls every aspect of citizens' lives.
"This decree is a way of silencing any critical voices in Cuba, which may have existed after 62 years of communist rule," Normando Hernandez, of the Cuban Institute for Freedom of Expression and the Press, told VOA. The Miami-based organization supports opposition media on the island.
"It is a way to kill off all liberty of expression. It means even if you call a meeting, this can be construed as cyberterrorism. Any content that the government construes as against the government can be seen as a crime," he said.
No arrests under the law have been reported. But Hernandez said that many Cubans already are fearful of violating the legislation, and they are avoiding posting on social media platforms. Bertrand De La Grange, chief editor in Madrid for independent Cuban website 14ymedio, said the new decree is "Orwellian."
"They are trying to create the same totalitarian world as George Orwell described in 1984 or Animal Farm," he told VOA.
De La Grange said the government introduced further restrictions on free speech in response to the biggest demonstrations since the 1990s, which in part were caused by criticism over the high coronavirus rate.
"The fact the regime is doing this shows it is on the defensive. It is not solving any of the major problems. The COVID-19 situation is much worse than the official media say," he added.
As of Thursday, Cuba has more than a half-million confirmed cases and 4,500 deaths from COVID-19, according to data from the Johns Hopkins University. Its new case rate is estimated at 9,376 a day over the past week. De La Grange said 14ymedio and other independent media had managed to circumvent controls because Havana does not operate a total block on the internet in the way that China does.
Government protest in Cuba Image source: wikimediawikimedia
"This decree is a way to try to punish those who publish what the regime calls 'fake news' but it is what we know is the true situation," said De La Grange.
Under the new decree, the state telecommunications company can suspend access to the internet for those found to have broken the new law. Journalist Camila Acosta said that despite the regulations, Havana could not prevent millions of Cubans from accessing social media.
"They can charge independent journalists like me – I have had five telephones confiscated this year alone – but they cannot possibly control millions of Cubans who access social media all the time. It is impossible," said Acosta, who works for the news website Cubanet, and for the Spanish daily ABC.
Acosta was arrested after reporting on the July demonstrations and has been placed under house arrest for six months while police investigate her case.
"This will make my job more difficult, but they have introduced previous legislation to attack the free media so this is not new. What is new is that it is an attempt to stop people organizing demonstrations," Acosta told VOA from her home in Havana.
Police scuffle with anti-government demonstrators in Havana, Cuba Image source: voavoa
Since the introduction of mobile internet a bit more than two years ago, platforms including Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram have allowed Cubans to air complaints. Havana insists that it permits free speech as long as it is "within the revolution." But Decree 35 has alarmed Cuba civil rights campaigners, who say it uses vague language regarding what information internet users should provide to the government.
The law says users should grant public security institutions the "technical facilities and services they require" and give the Communications Ministry the "information that (the ministry) determines."
"We have to see the context of this. Cuba has already introduced legislation to restrict the activities of journalists and activists," said Amnesty's Americas director Erika Guevara-Rosas, referring to a law passed in 2019. "This new decree is not sending out a message to them, it is sending a message to the general Cuban population."
"It wants to strengthen a culture of fear among anyone who might be thinking of organizing protests or complaining about the fact you have to stand in line for hours to get basics in Cuba," Guevara-Rosas told VOA.
The communist government wanted to "formalize digital repression" in a country in which it already controls all aspects of life, Guevara-Rosas said. U.S. lawmakers, including Senator Marco Rubio, as well as foreign diplomats in Havana, have criticized the new measure.
"What the dictatorship doesn't realize is that the Cuban people have lost all fear to voice their opinions, they've realized the despotic nature of the regime and aren't afraid of protesting against over 60 [years] of repression," Rubio told VOA.
Congress this month passed an amendment co-sponsored by the Republican senator from Florida to provide Cubans uncensored access to the internet.
"It is now in the [U.S.] president's hands to act upon what Congress has approved," Rubio said.
British Ambassador to Cuba Antony Stokes also voiced concern at the decree, tweeting, "Harassment, detentions against peaceful protesters, trials without due process and censorship embodied today by Decree Law 35 silence legitimate voices and violate international conventions." (VOA/RN)
Keywords: Cuba, Cyber Security Law, Protests
Great historic events that have shaped the world and changed the outlines of countries are often not recorded in memory, or so we think. Wars made sure to destroy evidence and heritage, and the ones who survived told the tale of what really happened. Folklore, albeit through oral tradition kept alive many such stories, hidden in verse, limericks, and rhymes.
Ringa-ringa-roses, a common playtime rhyme among children across the world, is an example of folklore that has survived for many centuries. It tells the story of the The Great Plague of London which ravaged the city between 1665-1666.
The Plague broke out from improper disposal of garbage and poor sewage conditions. Fleas from the rats that lived in the sewers spread the disease that killed more than half of London's population. Many people fled from their homes as there was no medicine available for those who were infected.
Beak-shaped masks worn during the Great Plague of London Image source: wikimedia commons
It was around this time that masks began to be invented. The first masks were shaped like beaks, and were worn not to protect the wearer from the disease, but to the prevent them from being able to smell the decay and death around them, which they called 'miasma'. The beaks were filled with floral herbs that allowed doctors and nurses to tend to the sick without being reviled from the smell.
Children are often seen forming circles by holding hands and reciting loudly,
Pockets full of posies
We all fall down"
An illustration of the Great Plague of London, 1665 Image source: wikimedia commons
When the last line is sung, they break the circle and fall down. The roses and posies are believed to be the preferred fragrances inside the masks, and a single sneeze (a-tishoo) was enough to infect the one who was exposed to the disease. Consequently, they fell down, ill, and later died.
An alternative version of this rhyme is sung about the fall of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the aftermath of World War II. The roses and posies are interchanged with geranium and uranium, to symbolise what was used in the atomic bomb. But this version is not as famous the original.
Keywords: Rhymes, Ringa-ringa-roses, Great Plague of London, WWII, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Folklore
In modern times, many social movements aim to bring reform to the society we live in, on the basis of certain existing patterns. Patriarchy is something that many aim to cleanse our cultures of, to usher in the era of social and gender equality. Despite all these so-called movements, in southern India, certain societies that patronise matriarchy have existed since before India's independence. The Nairs and Ezhavas of Kerala, and Bunts and Billavas of Karnataka are matrilineal societies that continue to thrive in a patriarchal country.
Kerala remains separate from the rest of India in many ways. Be it literacy policy, form of government, or cultural practices, this state does not always conform to the ideal that India is known for. Even so with their social structure. Certain tribes have remained matrilineal, where the decision-making power rests with the eldest female of the family.
The Nairs and Ezhavas of Kerala, and Bunts and Billavas of Karnataka are matrilineal societies that continue to thrive in a patriarchal country. Image source: wikimedia commons
A male member, who is the close confidante of the matriarch is chosen. He plays a crucial role in representing the male members of his family, and his opinion is highly valued. He is called karavanan. The men reside in separate rooms or in separate houses, and do not interfere in the upbringing of children. Property is also passed down along the lineage of the eldest female. Among the Nairs, matriarchy is more prominently adhered to than the Ezhavas, who have some patrilocal connections.
In Karnataka, the Bunts and Billavas belong to the Tuluva ethnic group. They are also a predominantly matriarchal society, founded on the belief in a legend. Their matrilineal descent is known as Aliyasantana.
The story is told of a demon who threatened to destroy a kingdom if the king did not sacrifice his sons, but the king's sister comes forward to offer her children in sacrifice for the sake of the kingdom. The demon is touched and does not destroy the city. Since then, the kingdom, or the property is inherited through female lineage.
In Karnataka, the Bunts and Billavas belong to the Tuluva ethnic group. They are also a predominantly matriarchal society, founded on the belief in a legend. Image source: wikimedia commons
In the recent past, many of these matriarchal societies have been reduced to matrilineal societies by certain governmental laws. They fall under the patriarchal scheme of the rest of the state but have reserved the right to pass on property and heritage through the female line. In the North east of India, matriarchal dominance is far more resilient than the south.
Keywords: Bunts, Billava, Nair, Ezhava, Aliyasantana, Matrilineal, South India, Karnataka, Kerala
Apple inc. Is an American multinational tech firm specialized in consumer electronics, computer programs, and internet services founded by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne in 1976 to manufacture Wozniak's Apple iComputer. It is the world's top tech company in turnover (totaling $274.5 billion in 2020) and its most valuable corporation. Apple is the fourth-largest PC seller by unit sales and the fourth-largest smartphone manufacturer in the world.
Apple has revealed a slew of new products at a special launch event that has been long-awaited. On the day of the live event, Apple announced the iPad mini, Apple Watch Series 7, iPhone 13 mini, and iPhone 13, as well as the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max.
Apple has revealed a slew of new products at a special launch event that has been long-awaited. | Photo by Daniel Romero on Unsplash
In the first major product announcement during the event, Apple introduced the newest edition of the iPad and a 5G-capable iPad Mini.
iPad: The 10.2-inch iPad is equipped with a solid A13 processor that delivers 20 percent quicker performance than the preceding version. According to Apple, it is now three times faster than a Chromebook. A new 12MP ultra-wide camera with Center Stage, which utilizes machine learning to optimize the front-facing camera during FaceTime video chats, as well as more incredible accessory support, including compatibility with the first-generation Apple Pencil, are among the new features. For 64GB of storage, the iPad costs $329.
iPad Mini: In addition to reduced borders and more rounded edges, the 8.3-inch iPad mini also has improved front and back cameras. A liquid retina display, USB-C compatibility, magnetic support for the Apple Pencil, an enhanced speaker system, and new hues such as pink and purple are all features of the new Apple iPad Mini. The starting price is $499.
In the first major product announcement during the event, Apple introduced the newest edition of the iPad and a 5G-capable iPad Mini. | Photo by Leone Venter on Unsplash
The other major unveiled products include:
iPhone 13 and other variants: The iPhone 13 range is almost identical to the iPhone 12 lineup, with a 5.4-inch iPhone 13 Mini, a 6.1-inch iPhone 13, a 6.1-inch iPhone 13 Pro, and a 6.7-inch iPhone 13 Pro Max. It was also revealed that the Watch Series 7 has a smaller "S7" processor, which may allow for a bigger battery or other components to be housed in a smaller footprint. The gadgets have a revolutionary design that includes a dual-camera system, placed diagonally. Apple's iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini have longer-lasting batteries than the previous generation of devices. In addition, Apple claims that the iPhone 13 will have a battery life that is 2.5 hours longer than the iPhone 12, and the iPhone 13 mini will have a battery life that is 1.5 hours longer. A more energy-efficient display, an upgraded 5G chip, and functionality called "Cinematic Mode," similar to the famous Portrait mode function but is only available for movies, are among the other enhancements. The A15 Bionic chip present in the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini is also used in the 6.1-inch iPhone 13 Pro and 6.7-inch iPhone 13 Pro Max, also 6.1-inch devices. However, it also has a five-core CPU, which promises graphics that are 50% quicker than previous models. Other notable features of the Pro devices include a brilliant Super Retna XDR display with a higher refresh rate and long-lasting battery life. Now, for the price, it will start at $699 for the iPhone 13 mini with 128 GB of storage, $799 for the iPhone 13 with 128 GB of storage, and the Pro and Pro Max have starting prices of $999 $1,099, respectively.
Apple Watch Series 7: The new Apple Watch Series 7, which is smaller and has a larger screen than its previous model, was introduced by Apple on Wednesday. There is a 20% increase in screen size over Series 6 on the new watch. A complete keyboard that you can touch or slide to write out text messages can show 50% more text. It starts at $399.
Keywords: Apple, iPad, iPad Mini, iPhone 13, iPhone 13 pro, iPhone 13 Pro Max, iPhone Mini, Apple event 2021