Humpty Dumpty Sat On A Great Firewall


Did Apple Have No Choice But To Make It Harder to Scale the Great Firewall of China?: Apple CEO Tim Cook defended his company’s decision to comply with the Chinese government’s demand to remove several Virtual Private Networks (VPN) apps from its Chinese App Store. VPNs can be used to avoid censorship and surveillance in countries such as China that have tight restrictions on internet use. Activists and average Chinese citizens have used VPNs to scale the country’s infamous “Great Firewall of China,” which blocks Facebook, Google, Twitter, foreign news media outlets, and any anti-government or ‘subversive’ content. To operate a VPN service in the country, companies must be authorized by the Chinese government. Those without permission, such as ExpressVPN, have been singled out for removal from Apple’s App Store. In a blog post, ExpressVPN stated: “We are troubled to see Apple aiding China’s censorship efforts. ExpressVPN strongly condemns these measures, which threaten free speech and civil liberties.” However, Beijing has been tightening controls domestically as well and recently shut down a number of Chinese-run VPNs.

Apple stated that it disagreed with China’s policy but that it had to comply with the country’s laws and that comparisons to a legal battle in the US last year, when Apple refused to help the FBI unlock a terror suspect’s iPhone, were unfair. Cook said on Tuesday: “We would obviously rather not remove the apps….But like we do in other countries, we follow the law wherever we do business.” Cook said that Apple stated its opposition to the removal through the “appropriate” channels: “We believe in engaging with governments even when we disagree.”

…Don’t Worry, Apple–Amazon Can’t Climb the Wall, Either: Days after Apple removed VPN apps off its Chinese app store, American tech giant Amazon also bowed to China’s tough Internet restrictions. A Chinese company that operates Amazon’s cloud-computing and online services business in the country said on Tuesday that it informed local clients to stop using any software that would enable citizens to circumvent the Great Firewall. The recent capitulations by Apple and Amazon show that Beijing has the power and clout to force America’s biggest tech companies to play by Chinese rules if they want to maintain access to the Chinese market. Experts say China has been more aggressive in pressuring companies to make concessions following the passage of a new cybersecurity law that went into effect on June 1.


What State Department Briefings? Pop Quiz: What was the first federal agency created in July 1789 under the new US Constitution? Answer: The Department of Foreign Affairs, or as it came to be known two months later, the Department of State (DOS). It is the federal executive department that advises the president and leads the country in foreign policy issues. Besides negotiating treaties with foreign entities and representing the US at the United Nations, the DOS provides an array of services to US citizens living or traveling abroad, to American businesses operating in international marketplaces, to other US agencies and the US military with regard to their global activities, in addition to many other diplomatic functions.

As an essential “soft power” tool of international relations, it’s important to remember how vital the State Department is. It’s responsible for keeping the world informed about US foreign policy and its relations with other countries, and for providing feedback from the public to administration officials. DOS employees are civilians, using words instead of weapons to explain and advance US foreign policy through daily press briefings. Yet, according to The New York Times, State Department press briefings under President Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson occur less frequently than they have in decades.  

Former DOS spokespeople say the decrease in daily briefings is just one measure of how differently the department is operating under this administration. One former spokesperson said: “The process of preparing for the daily briefing took somewhere between six and eight hours. The White House briefing is… mostly about politics. The State Department briefing is very much about policy… (and) far more substantive….” Another former official said: “Foreign governments read the briefing and take that as it should be taken: as a signal of where the US is on a variety of foreign policy issues.” One spokesperson warned about the dangers of such infrequent briefings: “No one’s sure what the policy is. If you don’t know what the policy is, you don’t want to be communicating it.”


From The “Nobody Makes This Stuff Up Better” Files: In a lawsuit filed on Tuesday, Fox News has been accused of coordinating with Trump allies and the White House to publish a false story (uhhhh, fake news?) designed to debunk accusations that Trump’s campaign colluded with Russians during the 2016 election.

The defamation suit, filed by Rod Wheeler, a Fox News contributor and private investigator, claims the White House worked with Fox News and a wealthy GOP donor, Ed Butowsky, to invent a story about the unsolved 2016 murder of a DNC staffer, Seth Rich. Wheeler was supposedly investigating Rich’s death to help his family get closure.

Wheeler’s lawsuit claims the real purpose was to link Rich to Wikileaks’ publication of Hillary Clinton’s emails in an attempt to discredit US intelligence agencies’ determination that it was in fact Russia that had hacked DNC computers and obtained the emails. The story Fox News published in May quoted Wheeler as saying there was evidence showing Rich had been in contact with Wikileaks. But Wheeler claims he never made those statements, and that Fox News reporter Malia Zimmerman, with the “knowledge and support” of Butowsky, fabricated quotes that were then attributed to him. Wheeler also claims Butowsky texted him that the president had seen the story before it was made public and wanted it to be published, despite Wheeler’s objections.

Opposition Leaders in Venezuela Seized and Taken to Military Prison: Two opposition leaders in Venezuela, Leopoldo López and Antonio Ledezma, who had been under house arrest, were taken to a military prison on Tuesday by Sebin, the Venezuelan intelligence service. The country’s Supreme Court, which critics say is filled with government loyalists, announced it had received intelligence reports alleging the two leaders were trying to flee. Ledezma and López were key figures in nationwide protests that swept through Venezuela in 2014 in which 43 people were killed. Under house arrest, they have played a less prominent role in the most recent demonstrations, but their video messages are still reported and shared widely on opposition websites.

In a statement, President Trump called for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners and said that the “United States holds Maduro – who publicly announced just hours earlier that he would move against his political opposition – personally responsible for the health and safety of Mr. López, Mr. Ledezma, and any others seized.”

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