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from The Great Debate:

Palmer Raids Redux: NSA v civil liberties

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President Barack Obama speaks about the National Security Agency's secret collection of telephone records from millions of Americans, June 7, 2013.REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

During the “Red Scare” that swept the United States in the wake of Russia’s 1917 Bolshevik revolution, the Justice Department launched a cycle of raids against radicals and leftists. The U.S. attorney general, a once-celebrated Progressive leader named A. Mitchell Palmer, gave his name to this unfolding series of attacks against civil liberities.

Though initially supported by Congress, the courts and the press, the 1919 Palmer raids revealed a darker side of the American psyche. They eventually provoked a national backlash, which inspired the formation of the American Civil Liberties Union; led to stirring free speech dissenting opinions from Supreme Court Justices Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. and Louis Brandeis, and ignited a political counter-movement determined to prevent similar civil liberties abuses in the future.

President Barack Obama is far from resembling Palmer in terms of civil liberties abuse, but his conviction in his own progressive righteousness is an unfortunate trait when it comes to designing and overseeing surveillance programs. Obama has also continued to defend the current invasive National Security Agency surveillance programs – even while insisting he welcomes a national conversation about the appropriate balance between liberty and security.

from FaithWorld:

17 Chinese churches petition parliament for religious freedom

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(Chinese police usher people onto a bus at the site of a planned outdoor service by the Shouwang Church at the Zhongguancun commercial district in Beijing in this still image from April 10, 2011 video/Reuters TV)

Seventeen churches in China have appealed to China's lawmakers to provide legal protection of religious freedom after police detained dozens of Christians from a Beijing church that has been trying to hold outdoor services. The petition, delivered on Wednesday by hand to the National People's Congress -- China's rubber-stamp parliament -- was the first of its kind and the boldest statement by the nation's "house churches" to the central government.

from Africa News blog:

South Africa’s unions flex their muscles

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After South Africa’s unions came close to blocking the listing of mobile phone group Vodacom, new President Jacob Zuma may want to keep a closer eye on his left wing allies.

The attempt to sink the $10 billion bourse debut of Vodacom, which went ahead on Monday after an 11th-hour court ruling, hurt the rand currency and revived investor concerns over Zuma.

from India Insight:

Bengal intellectuals queer pitch for communists

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Amidst the stream of billboards, posters and party flags flooding Kolkata’s chaotic streets in the run-up to elections, a glazed hoarding featuring popular intellectuals of West Bengal is catching everyone’s eyes these days.

"Pariborton Chai" (We want change), reads the hoarding popping up at regular intervals, in opposition of the communists who have ruled the state uninterruptedly since 1977.

from India Insight:

Stars add glamour to Trinamool’s campaign in Bengal

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The controversial seizure of land for industry by the ruling communists in West Bengal may be the biggest chink in their armour for the 2009 polls.

But the opposition Trinamool Congress is not leaving anything to chance in this general election -- it's also taking help from the stars.

from India Insight:

First, Second or Third (Front) – What’s the difference!

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Much has been written about the imminent arrival in New Delhi of the Third Front, the joker in the Indian political pack that has talked itself up as a serious alternative to the two national parties in the 2009 parliamentary elections.

The difference they tout is of being more inclusive, bringing into the public fold social groups neglected or oppressed by the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party.

from India Insight:

Will West Bengal’s Muslims vote for the left?

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Are the ruling communists in the stronghold state of West Bengal losing the confidence of its traditional Muslim voters, ahead of their most crucial electoral test this month?

For decades, Muslims have always felt safe in West Bengal, although they have been caught in an uncomfortable position elsewhere in the country after each bomb or militant attack.

from Changing China:

Talking the same language

    By Ben Blanchard and Ralph Jennings
    What's in a word? A great deal if you are Chinese or Taiwanese. Despite unprecedented detente in recent months, China and Taiwan sometimes seem as far apart as ever when it comes to language.
    Take, for example, the vexed question of the wording of a future political solution between the two sides.
    China claims Taiwan as its own, and views it as a rebel province to be reeled in, by force if necessary. Beijing says Taiwan has been China's "since days of old", and it is only because defeated Nationalist forces fled there at the end of a civil war in 1949, and managed to hold off the Communists, that the island is still run separately. 
    China says it wants "reunification", to bring back together that which was once whole.
    But for many in Taiwan, that's the wrong word. They would rather term it "unification", saying that China, or at least the Communist Party, has never run Taiwan and has no legitimate claim over the island. Hence there is nothing to "reunite".
    Trouble is, in Chinese the word "tongyi" can be translated as either "reunification" or "unification". That makes writing about the issue in English tricky for reporters who seek to stay neutral.
    The politics of language go deeper, though. Taiwan, along with Hong Kong, Macau and many in the overseas Chinese world, use the traditional Chinese script, rather than the simplified version used in China and introduced by the Communists.
    Some in Taiwan call their traditional script "correct font," implying that China uses the wrong words.
    The official spoken language, Mandarin Chinese, is largely the same on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, but Taiwanese often eject a mouthful at foreigners who speak in mainland-inflected Mandarin.
    Likewise, mainland Chinese may laugh at foreigners who speak Taiwan-accented Mandarin when in China.
    Taiwanese also love throwing in English and Japanese words when speaking Mandarin, which does not happen much on the mainland.
     Taiwan is proud, too, of its non-Mandarin linguistic heritage. Taiwanese, also known as Hokkien, as made a big comeback since being supressed by the Nationalists and is now widely used in politics, on the television and in pop songs.
    Written Taiwanese, using Chinese characters, is all but impossible for someone who only speaks Mandarin to understand, though they can guess at the gist of it.
    Taiwanese is also spoken in China, in the southern part of Fujian province, the origin centuries ago for many ethnic Chinese people in Taiwan, and is generally called Hokkien. In China though, use of  okkien in public life gets little official backing.
    So while China and Taiwan may talk about moving closer together, they might not always be talking the same language.

from Africa News blog:

How far will South Africa’s ANC shift?

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Given that the leaders of the world's most firmly capitalist countries are splashing around unprecedented billions to nationalise banks, prop up industry and try to get economies moving, it might seem churlish for anyone to question South Africa's ruling ANC for planning to spend a bit more freely.

This weekend, the African National Congress set out its election manifesto priorities of creating jobs and improving education and health - promises interpreted by many as marking a generally leftward shift under the leadership of president in waiting Jacob Zuma.

from Global News Journal:

Poland fetes Dalai Lama

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  Forget the economic crisis, forget climate change -- images of an elderly, bespectacled Buddhist monk in a maroon robe have dominated Polish newspapers and television screens all week.

  The Dalai Lama has come to town and it seems everybody, from the president and prime minister to college students and housewives in this still-staunchly Roman Catholic country, want to meet and hear Tibet's exiled spiritual leader.

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