A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

Archive for the ‘internet’ Category

the origins of jihad, New Yorker edition

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on October 23, 2009

I’m on a media kick these days – and totally addicted to online newspaper and magazine archives. One thing that interests me is the way that certain terms come into vogue, and how the meanings that attach to them change over time.

So today I took a peek at the New Yorker‘s archives, curious to see when the word “jihad” first appeared, and in what context.

The New Yorker‘s archives stretch back to 1925, but the first mention of the word “jihad” does not appear until 1985, in the July 8 edition of John Newhouse’s “Diplomatic Round”. Titled “A Freemasonry of Terrorism”, the multi-page article uses the word “jihad” four times – but only as part of the group name “Islamic Jihad”, and not as a religious concept or a political strategy.

Terms that today might be associated with jihad, such as “martyrdom”, are used, but there is nothing in this article about terrorists “advocating jihad” or “espousing jihad” or “belief in jihad”.

The next article to use the term is Jane Kramer’s April 14, 1986 “Letter from Europe”. Kramer also uses “jihad” only as part of “Islamic Jihad”. (After introducing the group, she refers to them as “the jihad” in a way that reminds me of how some journalists today talk about “the hizb”. I find this approach bizarre, but what do I know?) Nor does this start much of a trend: the word “jihad” does not appear again until a July 1990 piece on Egypt, where it is again used as the name of a group (“Jihad”).

However, by November 1995, the situation appeared to be changing. A piece by Mary Anne Weaver on “The Annals of Covert Action”, titled “The Stranger”, used the term as follows:

“… the C.I.A.-sponsored “jihad”, or holy war, against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan …”.

In other words, “jihad” now appeared as a term of its own, but required a definitional gloss for readers.

By July 1998, the word had become detached not only from group names, but also from the need for definition: a feature on the failure Prince Charles’ campaign for traditional building styles described him as on “a jihad against modern architecture”.

I don’t have any sweeping conclusions to offer about this – I just find it interesting. Next up: “jihad” in the New York Times, where its use as noun and metaphor has a much longer history.

Posted in internet, media, research, words | Leave a Comment »

security blanketing the Internet, Shami-style

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on May 7, 2009

Last week, I came across an interesting article in Friday’s New York Times, about how people in Iran and other countries known for their aggressive Internet censorship, have connected with various “open net” sites that enable them to surf unrestricted (and with the subjects of their searches unrecorded by their governments – a key fact that the article does not mention). And on Monday I saw a Reuters story about what at least one media tracking organization sees as increasing censorship over the past year:

Syrian authorities have tightened their “mighty grip” on the media and Internet since ties improved with the West last year, the author of a new report on censorship in the Arab country said on Sunday.

“With Syria breaking free from its isolation, the need is greater than ever to ease the mighty censorship and grip over the media, which have only contributed to spreading ignorance and corruption,” Mazen Darwich, head of the Syrian Media Centre, told Reuters …

The report, entitled “Syrian pens fall silent”, said 225 Internet sites were blocked last year, up from 159 in 2007. The sites include several Arab newspapers and portals, Amazon, Facebook and YouTube.

Twenty one percent of the sites banned were Kurdish — Syria has around one million Kurds, including tens of thousands without citizenship — and 15 percent are run by Syrian opposition groups.

Bans on a few sites, such as the Arabic language Wikipedia, were lifted, but the Internet remains under the monitoring of the security apparatus, Darwich said.

“We are a long way away from a free cyberspace, but at least supervision should be in the hands of the government, not security, and subject to a law,” he said …

[Please click on the link above for the remainder of the article.]

In Syria, the government uses a company called Platinum, Inc. to manage the proxy system through which users access the Internet through government servers. Platinum, whose motto is (somewhat oddly, for a company that focuses on Internet access and network computing programs) “Beyond the Network”, offers a proxy service called “ThunderCache“. I can’t quite believe that this is a product designed in Syria, but nothing on either site indicates what company did develop it, or where. (I remember reading a press release some time ago that to me suggested that the company in question is actually a U.S. firm, but I can’t find any current confirmation of this. And I guess I wouldn’t be too quick to advertise if my software were being used to further the censorship goals of the Asad regime, either.) On the other hand,Platinum’s representative to last July’s ICT Security Forum in Damascus was a man named Erik Tetzlaff, which – if you’ll forgive my shameless stereotyping – doesn’t sound all that Syrian to me.

In any case, here’s what Platinum has to say about ThunderCache, or “Tundercache”, as it is spelled on the bottom of ThunderCache’s website:

Speed, Stability, Security and low cost became the main factors in Web World:
That is our promise. Make it real, by using ThunderCache web proxy.

How can you control internal users from inappropriate Web surfing, opening back doors for viruses through Web based email or instant messaging, prevent spyware, or consuming network bandwidth and storage with P2P file sharing and video streaming?

[Hmm. I see a whole host of concerns bundled together in this paragraph: users surfing “inappropriately”; users allowing viruses or spyware to enter the network; and users taxing bandwidth by streaming videos and other high-load content. Wonder which one(s) worry/ies Platinum’s government client more than the others?]

The solution is to use a proxy device-such as the ThunderCache series of high performance proxy appliances Systems-designed specifically to provide visibility and control of all Web communications. Acting on behalf of the user and the application, the ThunderCache does not replace existing perimeter security devices; rather, it complements them by giving organizations the ability to control communications in a number of ways that firewalls and other devices can’t.

[“Acting on behalf of the user” – how nice. And yes, let’s not bother with firewalls – so unhelpful in their strict focus on the dangers of viruses and spyware, rather than on the more insidious dangers of ideas.]

ThunderCache helps organizations make the Web safe and productive for business. ThunderCache proxy appliances provide visibility and control of Web communications to protect against risks from spyware, Web viruses, inappropriate Web surfing, instant messaging (IM), video streaming and peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing while actually improving Web performance.

[I’d like to know more about Platinum’s definition of “Web performance”.]

I’m not a fan of censorship, Internet-filtering or otherwise. And if Syria must police its population, I personally would be much more supportive if its efforts focused on the truly dangerous, soul-destroying, society-weakening sites: those that offer pornography.


Posted in advertising, Arab world, internet, Syria | 1 Comment »

dream jobs, part I: “Good representation and looking”

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on April 17, 2009

Yesterday I received an email that I initially mistook for spam. Upon reading it a second time, I changed my mind. I think that it is a genuine job email – just a terribly written one. No wonder the company wants someone with “Good English writing and speaking!”

If you consider your self to have good looks, a good command of English, a good amount of Minimum experience, and charity in your heart, this job may be for you:

Vacancy
A printed and online Magazine is looking for Media Specialized Sales Representatives in Sharm El Sheikh Qualifications needed:

* Good representation and looking
* Good English writing and speaking
* Computer Skills
* Six month of Minimum experience in that field

If you see your self fitting those Qualifications Please send your CV with recent photo to the following mail redseajobs@yahoo.com

Note: any CV without recent photo will not be considered

Qualified person will be entitled to good salary, accommodation and commission

Posted in advertising, Arab world, Egypt, internet, media | Leave a Comment »

Defining the Middle East

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on November 19, 2008

Yesterday MESH (the Middle East Strategy at Harvard blog) had what seemed to be a delightfully time-wasting post on online quizzes about the Middle East.

I didn’t find any time to waste yesterday, but while stuck on a phone call this afternoon, I decided to try my hand at two geography quizzes aimed at testing my ability to correctly identify each Middle Eastern country on a map: Geo Quizz Middle East and Rethinking Schools’ Map Game.

Some of my errors were totally my fault. What was I thinking, forgetting about Libya? Or putting Oman where the UAE should be?

But others I would argue were the fault of the designers, and the general US tendency to leave “Middle East” as an ill-defined catch-all region.

What was Pakistan doing on these map quizzes? Why was Mali included?

Should North Africa be included (or central Africa, for that matter)? Should the ‘stans?

The two quizzes each listed roughly 35 countries as belonging to the Middle East. I find this fascinating, but I wish they had included a working definition of the term. Is it geography that connects all these countries? Culture? Religion? Language? When the scope is this broad, it seems to me that what they end up sharing is simply the “middle-ness” of being in the catch-all bin.

Anyway. Take the quizzes and enjoy – and if you do better than I did on in Africa and Central Asia, chalk my request for a “working definition” up to sour grapes 🙂 .

Posted in education, internet, maps, research | 1 Comment »

the slow pace of innovation in Jezzine

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on September 3, 2008

I love the English-language news services in Lebanon. Between Naharnet, Now Lebanon, and the Daily Star, there is always at least one article or news update that leaves us torn between scratching our heads and laughing out loud.

Yesterday, the Daily Star was the big winner, with a ridiculous piece on how Jezzine’s cafe and restaurant owners have discovered a “new way” to prepare argilehs: through a hollowed-out fruit.

Here’s the article:

“Narguileh takes on new flavors in Jezzine”

Owners of cafes and restaurants in the Southern region of Jezzine have found a new way to serve narguileh – the traditional Lebanese water pipe – as part of this summer’s tourist strategy to attract additional visitors.

“Making narguilehs is no longer limited to their different flavors and sizes,” Youssef, a waiter at Jezzine’s Sakhret alShalal restaurant, told The Daily Star on Monday.”We now use fruits instead of the heart of the narguileh that is usually filled with water.”

According to Youssef, fruits like watermelon, muskmelon, coconuts and even lemons are being used to smoke flavored tobacco. The fruit, Youssef explained, is pierced from the top and the traditional narguileh pipe and hose are then inserted.

“We [also] fill the emptied fruit with any juice flavor upon [the] customer’s request,” he added. “These are fresh and natural water pipes.”

Youssef said that these improvised fruit narguilehs were attracting scores of smokers, whom he said “prefer them to the ordinary ones.”

“The Lebanese people are known for their innovation skills,” he said. “They always create something new to draw tourists and promote the tourist season in their country.”

Oh, those innovating Lebanese. I’m sure that I’ve never heard of argilehs run through fruits before – not in Syria, not in Egypt, and not in the Gulf. Thank goodness those restaurateurs in Jezzine put their thinking caps on.

I can’t wait to see what they might think of next – the Internet, perhaps?

Posted in advertising, Arab world, Beirut, food, internet, Lebanon, media, nightlife, science, travel, vanity, words | 6 Comments »

feeling sluggish?

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on January 31, 2008

I try not to post news stories very often, because I feel that most people can find the news on their own, but this one is of more personal interest: the BBC is reporting that severed cables have disrupted internet services  around the region.

Of course, disrupted internet service is a way of life here in Lebanon, but I can personally attest that internet in Kuwait moves at light speed. So the slow-down must have been painful.

Internet services have been disrupted in large parts of the Middle East and India following damage to two undersea cables in the Mediterranean.

There was disruption to 70% of the nationwide network in Egypt, and India suffered up to 60% disruption.

UK firms such as British Airways have told the BBC that call centres have been affected by the outage.

Industry experts said it could take up to one week to repair the damaged cables and resume full service.

International telephone calls, which have also been affected, are being rerouted to work around the problem.
Degraded performance
Disruption also occurred in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, reported the Associated Press.

In Dubai, at least two internet service providers (ISPs) were affected.

An official at the provider, DU, told AP that a fault in a cable between Alexandria, Egypt, and Palermo, Italy, was to blame.

DU issued a statement to alert customers to “a degradation in internet services and international voice calls for some customers during peak times”.

The company said it was due to “cuts in two international submarine cable systems in the Mediterranean Sea this morning (Wednesday).

“We are working actively with the submarine cable system operators (FLAG Telecom and SEA-ME-WE 4) to ascertain the reasons for the cables being cut,” it said.

FLAG Telecoms operate the Fiber-Optic Link Around the Globe (FLAG), a 28,000km (17,400 mile) long submarine communications cable.

SEA-ME-WE 4, or the South East Asia-Middle East-West Europe 4 project, as it is known, is a submarine cable system linking South East Asia to Europe via the Indian subcontinent and the Middle East.

Repair work

Neither of the cable operators have confirmed the cause or location of the outage but some reports suggest it was caused by a ship’s anchor near the port of Alexandria in Egypt.

One Indian internet service provider, Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd (VSNL), linked the problems in India to the disruption in Egypt.

Egypt’s Telecommunications Ministry said it would probably take several days for internet services to return to normal following the disruption on Wednesday.

Emergency teams were trying to find alternative communication routes, including satellites, AP was told.

The ministry’s Rafaat Hindy said: “Despite this being an international cable affecting many Gulf and Arab countries, we are closest to it and so we have a lot of responsibility.

“We are working as fast as we can.”

Posted in Arab world, internet | Leave a Comment »

power & electricity: Ebay’ing for Lebanon

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on October 4, 2007

On Tuesday G sent me a link to a very special Ebay auction: the sale of Lebanon’s political figures (or figurines, as the seller termed them). The bidding started at 1 Euro, and the items for sale were described as follows:

Ces hommes politiques sont surtout des figurines. Ce ne sont pas de vrais hommes. On en a déjà usé et abusé dans maintes situations. Ils sont donc d’occasion. Vous pouvez toutefois en disposer pour des jeux de ping-pongs, de débats infructueux, pour épater la galerie(un homme politique libanais dans le salon, ça a son effet)

Sinon, ils ont chacun de très bonnes relations soit avec les USA soit avec l’Iran. Ils peuvent etre utiles pour déclencher des conflits à domicile. Le vendeur n’essaye en aucun cas de débarasser son pays de ce poids embarassant. Mais non. Le but de cette vente est simple. Leur faire prendre l’air à ces statues sans scrupules ni sentiments. Ils ont tant travaillé vous savez. Ils le méritent. Et nous aussi.

Hilarious. And the auction was utterly non-partisan: every major figure in Lebanese politics was included in a photo collage featuring Berri, Hariri, Emile Lahoud, Amin Gemayel, Nasrallah, Walid Jumblatt, Samir Geagea and Michel Aoun.

For those of you who might have been interested in placing a bid, I am sorry to inform you that the auction ended yesterday. (No word yet as to who the winner(s) might be!)

Meanwhile, I found a treasure of my own on Ebay: a portable generator. 1250 watts for only $99 – I kick myself every day for not having packed a nice camping generator into my luggage when I returned to Beirut. 1250 watts could power my computer, internet, and my tea kettle: life’s urgent necessities, otherwise unusable for large stretches of time each day.

Posted in Beirut, internet, Lebanon, media, politics, words | Leave a Comment »

his & hers spam emails

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on July 30, 2007

I usually identify pretty strongly as a woman. I like men, but I’m very pleased to be on the hair & nails side of the gender divide (not to mention the more reflective and better organized side).

Recently, however, my sense of womanly self has been taking a beating. My work email has become the darling of spammers, all of whom appear to believe quite strongly that I am a man – a man with rather pressing needs and some deep insecurities.

This morning, I received an email from Lenny, who promised that “she will love you more than any other guy” thanks to his pharmaceutical offerings. This was rather cheering, since I was already regretting Friday’s decision to pass up Cheri Levy’s “last chance to super-charge your performance”. After all, Kristen was telling me: “beautiful Russian women are waiting for you”.

It may be good that I held off on the PEP, Viagra and the Russians – as it seems that I, or at least my male alter ego, have the chance at some 1950s style domestic bliss:

Good day, dear

I dream of a family and of a loving husband. I know this happens rarely but I indeed don’t put shopping, beauty salons, friends or new shoes on the first place. I wish to be with my loving husband and our children. I love to cook, and I dream to cook for my husband. I like to grow flowers and to read books and I dream to read fairy-tails for our little kids. I know how to keep the house clean and tidy and I will be happy to sit with my husband on a porch with a cup of tea and watch the sunset… If you are that person, if you are my man, you can find me at http://loveisaclick.com/feelheal and I will answer you with my best respect and honesty… I will impatiently wait for the beginning of our future.

Waiting for your reply

Cecy P

It is tempting – I would love a live-in cook, not to mention a housekeeper. But I’m going to decline Cecy P’s offer. After all, I grew up in the post-women’s movement world. I expect equal pay for equal work, Title IX sports funding, and spam emails that address me as the lovely woman I am :-).

Posted in advertising, garbage, internet, research, romance, vanity, women | 2 Comments »

the unsearchable life: a world without Google

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on July 5, 2007

This afternoon Lebanon lost Google. And Yahoo.

And with that, my productivity sloooooooowed to a crawl.

Its amazing how little work I can do without a search engine at the ready.

Its even more amazing that an entire country can lose one of the world’s best internet resources due to its reliance on an oligopoly of providers.

Most of Lebanon relies on IDM (for which I would ordinarily provide a link but – guess what? I can’t google to find the URL!), which has periodic routing breakdowns.

For a while in the late spring I had no Google access from 1 to 4 every afternoon – as mysterious as it was annoying.

I’m hoping today isn’t the start of another round of Google roulette. Sporadic internet access is not one of Lebanon’s more charming quirks.

Posted in Americans, Beirut, Google, internet, Lebanon, research | Leave a Comment »