Would tiered access infringe the basic human right to internet access?

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Internet access map 2012

On 1 July the United Nations resolved that access to the internet is to be considered a basic human right.

While this decision may seem straightforward, with the complex nature of human rights law considered, the resolution is far from simple.

In the face of the UN’s resolution, in part three of our series, we flip the coin and look at the the threats to net neutrality and unrestricted internet access. For this deep dive, we consult with the CEO of the World Wide Web Foundation, Anne Jellema and director of strategy for Free Press, Tim Karr.

Listen to the discussion

From an article by James Surowiecki in The New Yorker:

In the first decades of the twentieth century, as a national telephone network spread across the United States, A.T. & T. adopted a policy of “tiered access” for businesses. Companies that paid an extra fee got better service: their customers’ calls went through immediately, were rarely disconnected, and sounded crystal-clear. Those who didn’t pony up had a harder time making calls out, and people calling them sometimes got an “all circuits busy” response. Over time, customers gravitated toward the higher-tier companies and away from the ones that were more difficult to reach. In effect, A.T. & T.’s policy turned it into a corporate kingmaker.

If you’ve never heard about this bit of business history, there’s a good reason: it never happened. Instead, A.T. & T. had to abide by a “common carriage” rule: it provided the same quality of service to all, and could not favor one customer over another. But, while “tiered access” never influenced the spread of the telephone network, it is becoming a major issue in the evolution of the Internet. Until recently, companies that provided Internet access followed a de-facto commoncarriage rule, usually called “network neutrality,” which meant that all Web sites got equal treatment.

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More episodes from the podcast series:

Episode 1: Exploring the United Nations’ resolution that considers internet access to be a basic human right. Listen

Episode 2: Learn more about Estonia, one of the first countries in the world to classify internet access as a human right. Listen

Episode 4: Internet accessibility in the developing world. Listen


Sources: the guardian.com; newyorker.com

People everywhere are looking for them but, in Switzerland, the Pokémon are hunting people.


Pokémon Go is steadily taking over the world as its new-found obsession and people are unapologetic about it. Pro-Pokémon and anti-Pokémon camps have come up, with the former arguing that the game has made people come outdoors and while at it, meet new people with a shared love for Pokémon.

Thanks to a rather clever editor and Mr Bean fan, it seems a familiar face has joined the pro-Pokémon bandwagon. A man much ahead of his time understood the game is serious business. In this video of Mr Bean playing Pokémon Go, the protagonist is letting nothing come between him and his love for the game, literally!


No matter how strongly the loading screen warns users about always staying aware of their surroundings, oblivious Pokémon trainers have been going to all sorts of places where they should not go. This list includes everything from restricted locations such as an Indonesian military bases to places where hunting Pokémon is inappropriate, such as the US Holocaust Museum. This Mr Bean mashup perfectly captures the perceived attitude with which trainers hunt Pokémon, and very accurately we might add.

Watch the video here.

And the Pokémon take revenge:


  • In the video, four people don yellow Pikachu suits and run around throwing red-and-white balls at people looking at their phones
  • The Pokémon are getting ‘revenge’ on the people who hunt them in the popular game Pokémon Go
  • Some people run away, while others simply looked stunned — and one man is even knocked back into a fountain
  • The stunt is part of a viral marketing campaign for the city of Basel in Switzerland


Source: indianexpress.com; http://tech.firstpost.com;www.dailymail.co.uk

A mountainous birthday present.


Norway’s government could give Finland a mountain as a birthday present next year to celebrate 100 years of Finnish independence from Russia.

The arctic summit of the mountain Halti is currently on the Norwegian side of the border between the two Scandinavian countries, and stands at 1,365m above sea level – around the same height as Ben Nevis.

The Norwegian Prime Minister is considering granting Finland the top of the mountain, which would become the country’s new highest peak, by moving a national boundary in that area by around 40 metres.

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Source: independent.co.uk

‘Heat Dome’ to Grip U.S., With Heat Index Reaching Triple Digits

A heat alert grew Wednesday to include parts of 21 states as a « heat dome » is expected hover over much of the nation later this week, with some places forecast to reach up to a dangerous 115 degrees.

The sizzling heat index — a measure of how hot it feels when humidity is factored in with the actual air temperature — will first hit parts of the central U.S. during the latter half of the week and will then spread toward the Northeast and mid-Atlantic late this week into the weekend, according to weather.com.

(image source: www.noaa.com/nws)

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Cause and effect: two articles looking at some reasons for and consequences of the Brexit vote.


Britain’s vote to leave the EU has unleashed a wave of discrimination against UK researchers, with elite universities in the country coming under pressure to abandon collaborations with European partners.

In one case, an EU project officer recommended that a lead investigator drop all UK partners from a consortium because Britain’s share of funding could not be guaranteed. The note implied that if UK organisations remained on the project, which is due to start in January 2017, the contract signing would be delayed until Britain had agreed a fresh deal with Europe.

The backlash against UK researchers began immediately after the June referendum when the failure to plan for a post-Brexit Britain cast serious doubts over the chances of British organisations winning future EU funding. British researchers receive about £1bn a year from EU finding programmes such as Horizon 2020, but access to the money must be completely renegotiated under Brexit.

The 24 universities in the Russell Group are regarded as Britain’s elite institutions. With Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh, University College London and Imperial College among their number, they are renowned for world-class research and academic excellence.

Only 12% of bids for Horizon 2020 funds are successful, a rate that falls by more than half in highly competitive areas. Given the low probability of winning funds at the best of times, Gorman said it was natural risk aversion to be cautious of UK partners. In many cases, British organisations will not have a clue they have lost out. “If you don’t get invited to the party, you don’t even know there is a party,” he said.

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“The British people have voted to leave the European Union and their will must be respected,” Cameron declared. “It was not a decision that was taken lightly, not least because so many things were said by so many different organisations about the significance of this decision. So there can be no doubt about the result.”

But what soon became clear was that almost everything was still in doubt. At the end of a campaign that dominated the news for months, it was suddenly obvious that the winning side had no plan for how or when the UK would leave the EU – while the deceptive claims that carried the leave campaign to victory suddenly crumbled. At 6.31am on Friday 24 June, just over an hour after the result of the EU referendum had become clear, Ukip leader Nigel Farage conceded that a post-Brexit UK would not in fact have £350m a week spare to spend on the NHS – a key claim of Brexiteers that was even emblazoned on the Vote Leave campaign bus. A few hours later, the Tory MEP Daniel Hannan stated that immigration was not likely to be reduced – another key claim.

It was hardly the first time that politicians had failed to deliver what they promised, but it might have been the first time they admitted on the morning after victory that the promises had been false all along. This was the first major vote in the era of post-truth politics: the listless remain campaign attempted to fight fantasy with facts, but quickly found that the currency of fact had been badly debased.

The remain side’s worrying facts and worried experts were dismissed as “Project Fear” – and quickly neutralised by opposing “facts”: if 99 experts said the economy would crash and one disagreed, the BBC told us that each side had a different view of the situation. (This is a disastrous mistake that ends up obscuring truth, and echoes how some report climate change.) ….

A few days after the vote, Arron Banks, Ukip’s largest donor and the main funder of the Leave.EU campaign, told the Guardian that his side knew all along that facts would not win the day. “It was taking an American-style media approach,” said Banks. “What they said early on was ‘Facts don’t work’, and that’s it. The remain campaign featured fact, fact, fact, fact, fact. It just doesn’t work. You have got to connect with people emotionally. It’s the Trump success.”

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Sources: theguardian.com; pixabay (image)

How many statues celebrate women’s achievements?

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The new statue of Mary Seacole (1805 – 1881) outside St Thomas Hospital near the Houses of Parliament in London.

It seems as though the next Prime Minister of Britain will be a woman and women are becoming more visible in all areas of public life. Here’s an article about some public monuments to women whose achievements in the past are still remembered and celebrated today:

Statues across the UK are predominantly of men, but campaigns to memorialise important women are increasingly meeting a receptive audience, writes Mark A Silberstein.

  • Fewer than one in five listed statues are of women
  • Campaigns for more are gathering support
  • Two significant unveilings2 last month alone

On a cold overcast1 day, in the town centre of Sheffield, a statue dubbed « Women of Steel » is unveiled2 to a packed crowd. The memorial, depicting two women dressed in boiler suits3, celebrates the work of women in steel mills throughout both world wars.

The inVISIBLEwomen website, which campaigns for civic statues of women, notes the difference between depictions of men and women in public spaces: « … female figures are largely semi-clad4, often reclining, and typically depict a maternal, saintly or sexualised image of womanhood, rather than worldly achievements. »

In Manchester, a lack of women statues led Labour Councillor Andrew Simcock to hold a public vote on which famous local woman should be commemorated. Of the 16 choices the suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, who was born in Manchester, won hands-down5 with 53%. Simcock says: « There are 17 statues of public people in the city but 16 of them are men and the only woman is Queen Victoria. »

The statue of Pankhurst is expected to be erected in 2019 with the funding coming from crowd-sourcing.

Before the London mayoral elections this year, both the candidates, Sadiq Khan and Zac Goldsmith, pledged to become patrons of the Mary Seacole statue on the outcome of either one winning the race.

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  1. An overcast day is when the sky is covered in grey cloud.
  2. A new statue is revealed for the first time at its ‘unveiling’. The veil or cover is removed at a ceremony so the staue is ceremoniously ‘unveiled’.
  3. A boiler suit is a type of protective clothing. It is a one-piece garment that covers the arms, legs and body.
  4. Semi-clad means half-clothed and, therefore, half-naked.
  5. To win ‘hands down’ means that she won by a large majority.


What Donald Trump Loves About The Brexit

On Friday, just a few hours after the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union, Donald Trump sent out an email to raise money off the referendum.


“Voters in the United Kingdom chose to leave the flawed and failing European Union and reassert control over their borders, politics and economy, taking a brave stand for freedom and independence,” he wrote. “They put the United Kingdom first, and they took their country back. With your help, we’re going to do the exact same thing on Election Day 2016 here in the United States of America.”

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Source: www.fivethirtyeight.com

What happened? And what will happen next?



What happened? Results and one very honest confession.


One voter’s point of view:

« On Thursday, I too participated in an act of national insanity and voted to leave the European Union. This is how the next 24 hours unfolded for me.

I wanted to give the establishment a kicking. I was disappointed at the result of the general election last year and wanted something to change. After working for five years in graduate-level jobs, I’m still living in a pretty grim flat share, with more than £20,000 of student debt.

There was no way I was going to let the leaders of all the political parties, Tony Blair, big business, or President Obama bully me into a vote. The claims from Britain Stronger in Europe were downright ridiculous. If you’re reading this, David Cameron, I’m still waiting for that official statement from Isis that they’ve welcomed Brexit.

After voting, I called my 90-year-old grandfather, a Second World War veteran living near Cambridge. I’d expected he was going to vote Leave, but he told me he’d voted to stay in. We had to make decisions together. Doubts started to trickle in.

The pound went in to freefall. The FTSE dropped. David Cameron resigned, and he’s set to be replaced by a far more right-wing alternative. Donald Trump arrived in the UK to declare this a “great victory”.

What have we done? If I could take my vote back now, I would. I’m ashamed of myself, and I want my country back. »

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What will happen next? Here are some different opinions:

A law that passed last year to set up the EU referendum said nothing about the result being binding or having any legal force. “Sovereignty” – a much misunderstood word in the campaign – resides in Britain with the “Queen in parliament”, that is with MPs alone who can make or break laws and peers who can block them. Before Brexit can be triggered, parliament must repeal the 1972 European Communities Act by which it voted to take us into the European Union – and MPs have every right, and indeed a duty if they think it best for Britain, to vote to stay.

Britain, absurdly, is the only significant country (other than Saudi Arabia) without a written constitution. We have what are termed “constitutional conventions”, along with a lot of history and traditions. Nothing in these precedents allots any place to the results of referendums or requires our sovereign parliament to take a blind bit of notice of them.

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David Cameron has (today) set up a new unit in Whitehall to come up with options for how Brexit will actually work – after officials failed to make contingency plans in advance.

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Boris Johnson, the former London mayor who was the most prominent face of the campaign for Britain to leave the European Union, issued on Sunday evening his most detailed statement yet about what’s next.

Mr. Johnson said the changes would be only positive ones:

The only change — and it will not come in any great rush — is that the U.K. will extricate itself from the E.U.’s extraordinary and opaque system of legislation: the vast and growing corpus of law enacted by a European Court of Justice from which there can be no appeal. This will bring not threats, but golden opportunities for this country — to pass laws and set taxes according to the needs of the U.K.

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With Britain still deeply divided over the outcome of the EU referendum and the two major political parties divided over who should lead them forward and how, is a general election the only way out of the post-referendum chaos?

The next one isn’t due until 2020, but a legislative loophole allows a two-third majority of MPs to set an earlier date.

Now, a growing number of politicians and commentators are arguing that a prompt general election is the only way to establish a credible mandate for the future.

« There is no shared understanding of what our country is or should be, » argues Juliet Samuel in the Daily Telegraph. « Even inside the Leave campaign, there is no coherent idea of how the country should look. »

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Sources: The Independent; guardian.com; telegraph.co.uk; bbc.co.uk; BuzzFeed News; Yankee Herald

Down to earth


Britsh astronaut Tim Peake returned to earth on Saturday after six months in the International Space Station:

British astronaut Tim Peake is experiencing the “world’s worst hangover” after spending six months in space.

Now back on Earth at the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany, he faces three weeks of rehabilitation during which he will undergo a barrage of medical tests and maintain a strict exercise regime.

Doctors will draw blood, conduct Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans, and question Peake to improve their understanding of the physical and psychological effects of space travel.

The astronaut will also be examined on a tilt table that can rotate his body from a horizontal to a vertical position to monitor how his heart and blood circulation are responding to gravity.

It will take Peake a few days to learn to walk again. Soon after landing in Kazakhstan on Saturday he could be seen making his first attempts at walking in Earth’s gravity supported by two helpers.

Sense of balance is also greatly affected by the transition away from an environment where there is no “up” or “down” as defined by gravity.

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…he took numerous photographs of the home planet. Some of his best have now been arranged on a map of the earth by cartographers at Esri UK.created by Esri UK

See map and photos

Sources: www.guardian.com; http://www.independent.co.uk