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Iran anticipates renewed protests amid social media shutdown



DUBAI — Iran was bracing for a renewed wave of protests Thursday, one day after authorities reportedly disrupted mobile internet access across the country.

Iran’s authorities have restricted mobile internet access in several provinces, an Iranian news agency reported on Wednesday, following a trend of social media posts and messages from relatives of those killed in unrest last month calling for more protests and ceremonies to commemorate the dead.

State media, meanwhile, said intelligence ministry agents had seized a cache of 126 mostly U.S.-made guns smuggled to the central city of Isfahan from abroad.



Dec. 6, 201903:37

The protests were initially sparked in November by hikes in gasoline prices but demonstrators quickly expanded their demands to cover calls for more political freedom and other issues.

The government, which launched the bloodiest crackdown on demonstrators in the 40-year history of the Islamic Republic, blamed foreign enemies for stoking tensions.

An official denied any order by the authorities to block the internet, which was shut down for about a week in the November unrest. A news agency also cited mobile operators saying their services had not been disrupted.

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The semi-official news agency ILNA quoted an informed source at the Communications and Information Technology Ministry as saying mobile internet access to overseas sites was blocked by “security authorities” in Alborz, Kurdestan and Zanjan provinces in central and western Iran and Fars in the south.

“According to this source, it is possible that more provinces will be affected by the shutdown of mobile international connectivity,” Reuters reported the ILNA as saying.

Internet blockage observatory NetBlocks said on Twitter: “Confirmed: Evidence of mobile internet disruption in parts of #Iran …real-time network data show two distinct drops in connectivity this morning amid reports of regional outages; incident ongoing.”

The shutdown appeared to be spreading.

“I just checked myself and asked a friend, and the internet is off on our mobiles,” a resident in Ahvaz, the capital of the oil-producing Khuzestan province, told Reuters.

But a communications ministry spokesman denied there was an order to shut down the internet. “No such order has been issued by the judiciary or other relevant authorities. The Fake News are at work,” Jamal Hadian said in a Twitter post.

Iran’s three mobile operators also denied experiencing any internet disruptions, the YJC news agency reported.

An Iranian woman uses her cellphone on Dec. 23 in the capital Tehran ATTA KENARE / AFP – Getty Images

In Alborz province, one of the areas affected by the shutdown, authorities this week arrested the parents of a young man who was shot dead during the protests, after pressuring them to call off a commemoration for their son scheduled for Thursday, citing concerns it could create unrest.

The weapons seized in Isfahan included assault rifles, handguns and pellet guns, the state news agency IRNA said. “Most of the weapons carry USA badges and are American-made,” it added.

The internet blockage made it difficult for protesters to post videos on social media to generate support and also to obtain reliable reports on the extent of the unrest.

The United States imposed sanctions on Iran’s communications minister last month for his role in “widescale internet censorship,” a reference to the nationwide shutdown.

Iran has blamed “thugs” linked to exiles and foreign foes — the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia — for stirring up unrest through social media.

During the protests, hundreds of banks and public buildings were attacked and damaged.

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Canmore photographer's new book uses power of social media, and adventure, to get dogs adopted – Calgary Herald



Rachael Rodgers didn’t set out to accumulate 80,000 Instagram followers.

She only started her account at a co-worker’s insistence. Rodgers had been posting photos of her adventures while mountain biking around Canmore, and her colleague thought they would do well on Instagram.

“I thought I could bring local trail data to local bikers,” Rodgers says. “I was doing that for a while until I started seeing a lot more traffic on some of my favourite trails.”

She realized she could use social media as a tool — for more than crowding her favourite rides — when a picture of her dog went viral with tens of millions of followers.

“I started getting a lot of followers that were more dog people and saw the opportunity to showcase some dogs who needed it — my dogs don’t,” Rodgers says.

Canmore photographer Rachael Rodgers.

She volunteered at a local shelter as a dog walker where she convinced them to let her take the dogs on longer adventures outside of their normal walking routes. That was in 2016 and, since then, her account has blossomed to where she features several adoptable dogs from Canmore and Calgary-area shelters in beautiful portraits and playful videos.

“Since it was shown to be a success, a lot of shelters approach me now which is a lot less work for me,” Rodgers says. “There was definitely some convincing (of) some shelters in the beginning, going through everything slowly and thoughtfully and empathizing with their concerns. I’ve done a lot of learning and I think I had a lot I could bring for information, for how it could work.”

That brought her to releasing an online social media guide PDF for shelters and now an upcoming book, Adventures with Adoptable Dogs: An Instagram Guide for Animal Advocates. The book will be published in April by Rocky Mountain Books and features both advice for shelters and shelter volunteers, as well as stories and gorgeous photos of some of the dogs Rodgers has met along the way.

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This is Spudd. He’s a year old. Our trusty buddy (and chauffeur to the occasional homeless dog) Kelly picked Spudd up from the shelter and brought him to Canmore and traded for Anna (who has a warmer reaction to Kelly than to me). Word at the shelter is that Spudd is a “puller”; he wore a harness (from the shelter) made to minimize pulling. But sometimes full pulling is more fun than minimal pulling (if one plans on standing on skis while someone else pulls them, for instance). So I changed his harness and packed my skis. When I presented Spudd with my car (hatch open), he pretended convincingly that he didn’t know what to do. After some dilly-dallying and words of encouragement, he jumped in. I drove us to Lake Louise while he breakfasted on kibble in the back. It’s not easy to find a suitable place (groomed ski trail) where one is permitted to wear skis while simultaneously being tethered to a dog around these parts. The beautiful, frozen Lake Louise groomed XC ski trail met us with a non-ambiguously worded sign: “no dogs please”. Not very welcoming to my buddy (who happens to be a dog), but we found an alternative: a bumpy, icy route across the lake packed by many booted feet over the winter. I figured this was going to be about the most embarrassing place to test our ski relationship. (It wasn’t the first plan, but it’s where we ended up.) We started slowly, letting Spudd get used to my bizarre outfit and skis, and to me chasing towards him at the same speed as he ran away from me (and my bizarre outfit and skis). Spudd was a very good sport with all of this nonsense. After an awkward few-minute spectacle alternating between tying me up and tying himself up, we were off. I only crashed thrice and that was because we were forced to ski in an uncivilized manner on a walking route made of rerouting mounds and bumps. Each time I fell, Spudd ran to me immediately, looking remorseful. Each time I assured him it wasn’t his fault and then he licked my face (not necessarily in that order). Do you know someone who would love an empathetic puller like Spudd? Let them know he’s currently waiting at @aarcs in Calgary. #adoptable

A post shared by Rachael Rodgers (@trailsandbears) on Feb 1, 2020 at 7:07am PST

Rodgers was neither trained in social media or photography — she graduated from university with a double major in biology and psychology — and, surprisingly to her, it came naturally.

“It’s a really weird thing to discover I’m good at because I grew up in the woods, outdoors and with nothing like this at all, nothing in the realm of social media,” she says.

One important thing she’s focused on as she’s built her Instagram following and gotten dozens of dogs adopted: don’t talk about a pup’s breed, instead talk about the dog’s character. Breeds invoke stereotypes — positive or negative — that may not apply to the adoptable dog.

“My old dog happens to be a purebred border collie,” Rodgers says. “My partner got him from a farm, they were going to get rid of him because he needed surgery. He is not like any other stereotypical border collie. If somebody wanted a border collie and they got him, I don’t know if they’d be disappointed. He’s amazing, but he’s not a stereotypical border collie. I think you need to meet a dog — if you’re going to adopt a dog or get a dog in your family, the best way is to volunteer or foster and then you can find out if that dog is a great fit. Short of that, that’s what I try to bring to my posts, expedite the process for people so they don’t have to spend a week with a dog and realize it’s not the right one for their family.”

Photo by Rachael Rodgers.

Though her Instagram account, trailsandbears, has been a success, she still works “about 10 jobs” including selling her own hybrid photograph-digital art of Canmore landscapes. The book, and her account, is more about helping shelters use social media to get the word out about adoptable dogs.

“It’s a free resource for shelters and it’s so untapped, so far,” Rodgers says. “But we’re going in the right direction.”


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Bernie Sanders vs Bloomberg and the corporate media machine – Aljazeera.com



On The Listening Post this week: Unelectable or frontrunner? Why is Bernie Sanders getting such a tough ride from US corporate media? Plus, the satirists mocking Angola’s elite.

Sanders vs Bloomberg and the corporate media machine

We’re in the early days of the US election season and the battle for the right to take on Donald Trump currently looks like a two-horse race.

On the progressive side of the Democratic Party, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. To his right, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

In the coverage of the two candidates – whose politics are poles apart – the US news media are showing their corporate bias. Sanders is a democratic socialist, Bloomberg is the 9th-richest person in the world.

Sanders relies on a huge grassroots following and record-breaking fundraising; Bloomberg is already out of pocket to the tune of $350m on an advertising blitz.

Despite leading the pack as far as opinion polls are concerned, Bernie Sanders is being cast as unelectable in much of the media coverage.

Months ahead of the November election, for a lot of voters, the US news media is already an election issue.


Anoa Changa – Host of The Way with Anoa

Shane Ryan – Politics editor, Paste Magazine

Sophia McClennen – Professor, Penn State University

John Nichols – National affairs correspondent, The Nation

On our radar:

Richard Gizbert speaks to producer Johanna Hoes about the media tug-of-war between the US and China, with Beijing expelling three Wall Street Journal reporters and Washington ramping up disclosure requirements for Chinese news outlets on American soil.

The funny side of corruption: A masterclass in Angolan satire

Former Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos repressed his political opponents and the news media, leaving very little room for dissent.

His successor, Joao Lourenco, has promised a new era of media freedom and celebrated the work of journalists who were jailed under dos Santos. In this budding climate of tolerance, one particular form of dissent is flourishing: satire.

Ever since the colonial era, Angolans have used humour to make some serious points about the powers that be.

The Listening Post spoke to two of the country’s most accomplished satirists – one a comedian, the other a cartoonist – about how their crafts enable them to critique Angola’s political class.


Tiago Costa – Comedian and host, ‘Sopa Saber’

Sergio Picarra – Cartoonist and creator, ‘Mankiko’

Source: Al Jazeera News

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China brings in seven cruise ships to house Wuhan medical workers, state media reports – CNBC



The Yangtze River luxury cruise ship “Blue Whale” set sail from Chongqing and arrived in Wuhan, providing comfortable temporary accommodation for medical workers.

Costfoto | Barcroft Media | Getty Images

China is bringing in seven cruise ships to house medical workers in Wuhan, state media said on Saturday, at a time when such ships are under scrutiny after hundreds of passengers on the Diamond Princess liner in Japan contracted the coronavirus.

The first of these ships, the Blue Whale, arrived in Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, on Friday from Yichang, a nearby city down the Yangtze River.

The seven ships will provide 1,469 beds in total.

Tens of thousands of medical workers have been brought into central Hubei province and its capital, Wuhan, from across China to help contain the coronavirus outbreak.

A senior Chinese health official said last week as of Feb. 11, 1,716 health workers had been infected by the coronavirus, including several who died.

The ships are normally used for river cruises in the Three Gorges scenic area, Xinhua added.

The ships are expected to provide safe dining and living conditions for medics to keep them refreshed as they fight the epidemic, state media said.

The Diamond Princess, held under quarantine in Yokohoma, Japan, since Feb. 3, has reported more than 630 cases, accounting for the biggest infection cluster outside China.

Several countries have already evacuated scores of passengers from the ship, which carried about 3,700 people.

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