Tales from the Trail

U.S. State Dept. figures out how to say “Twitter” in Arabic

It took a while, but the U.S. State Department is now tweeting in Arabic.

EGYPT/With unprecedented political turmoil rocking Egypt and protesters turning to social media such as Twitter and Facebook, the mouthpiece of U.S. foreign policy wants in on the game.

Its first message? #Egypt #Jan25 تعترف وزارة الخارجية الأمريكية بالدور التاريخي الذي يلعبه الإعلام الإجتماعي في العالم العربي ونرغب أن نكون جزءاً من محادثاتكم

(Translation: “We want to be a part of your conversation!”)

The new State Department Arabic Twitter feed, @USAbilaraby, joins a growing chorus of Twitter feeds describing and commenting on events in Egypt and across the Arab world, where social media is helping to broadcast political ferment.

The feed, which currently has a scant 161 followers, has passed along messages including President Barack Obama’s statement that the future of Egypt is in the hands of the Egyptian people and Vice President Joe Biden’s demand that Egypt immediately stop harassing journalists and scrap its emergency law.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has directed the State Department to spare no effort to harness the power of the Internet to spread the U.S. message, and has repeatedly emphasized that Internet freedom — like freedom of speech — is an inalienable right. She has drawn the lines at Wikileaks, but there the rationale is that the leaked State Department cables are stolen property belonging to the U.S. government.

Schumer vs. Facebook

schumerCharles Schumer, the senior senator from New York, is concerned about the protection of  private information people give to Facebook and other social networking websites. And the Democrat wants new federal guidelines to help members of  these online communities keep control over how their personal details “can be shared or disseminated to third parties.”

Schumer (or someone posting on his behalf) says so on his Facebook page. He also posted a press release on his page and echoed concerns about privacy on social networking sites on Sunday at a news conference in his Manhattan office.

Schumer told reporters he wants to make sure private information isn’t given away without the user’s permission.

Some U.S. health insurers deny coverage to abuse victims, White House notes

USA/In eight U.S. states and the capital, Washington, D.C., being beaten by your spouse or domestic partner can be deemed a “pre-existing condition” that a company can legally use as a reason to deny health insurance coverage. Valerie Jarrett, a top adviser to President Barack Obama, raised the issue in a web chat making the White House’s case for healthcare reform on Monday.

“In some states if you have been a victim of domestic violence, you can be considered as having a pre-existing condition,” Jarrett said as she hosted the chat on the White House website and on the Facebook social networking site, taking questions on an array of issues, many having to do with healthcare issues faced by members of minority groups.

Some of the participants in the webcast responded by posting outraged notes after she said it.