Randi Zuckerberg: on the dilemmas of digitally responsible parenting

Randi Zuckerberg: on the dilemmas of digitally responsible parenting

Mashable has this thought-provoking piece by Randi Zuckerberg (you see, I resisted the temptation to describe her as Mark’s sister) on the importance of unplugged parenting.#

As someone who grew up in a house without a TV I have huge amounts of guilt at the amount of CBeebies I let my son watch and don’t think it’s cool that he knows how to use a touchscreen phone and already has his favourite apps at the tender age of 2 years old.

I also try to respect his online privacy – if he wants to bore everyone with inane details about his life he can do that, when he’s old enough. But I’d like to get to arrive at that point with as clean a digital footprint as possible so I keep my facebook and youtube posting about him to a minimum.

In this hyper-connected era , privacy is a valuable commodity!

The murky politics of Camp Ashraf

A former UN human rights chief in Iraq has issued a damning indictment on his former employers.

In an article published congressional newspaper The Hill, Tahar Boumedra alleges that the UN’s has failed to ensure that international norms of human and humanitarian rights are maintained for Iranian exiles at Camp Ashraf, to the north of Baghdad.

He writes:

As hard as it might be for many to believe, as the United Nations serves the cause of human rights and world peace, this is a shameful story of hiding the truth and looking the other way when we knew there were violations: of complicity with wrongdoers, and neglect of human rights and humanitarian responsibilities.

His article explaining the reasons for his resignation includes a number of shocking allegations including:

  • In April 2011 a raid on unarmed refugees at Camp Ashraf took 36 lives and caused hundreds of injuries. The massacre saw men and women alike crushed to death by military vehicles or killed with one bullet at close range, yet Boumedra alleges that UNAMI never objected to the government’s attempts to block an inquiry, reporting instead that Iraq had met its international obligations.
  • Death threats in Farsi have been broadcast for 18 hours on most days through loudspeakers surrounding Camp Ashraf, and Iraq has issued nearly 200 arrest warrants against residents with no due process.
  • Special Representative Martin Kobler has enabled Nouri al-Malik’s agenda while falsifying information reported to senior U.N. leadership and the international community.
  • With 2,000 exiles at Camp Liberty to date, the United Nations has interviewed only a small number, and not one person has completed refugee processing.
  •  Foreign officials other than from the United Nations and a few consular officers have been denied access to both Camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty.

According to Boumedra the temporary transit location to which many of the exiles have been transferred is not fit to accommodate 3,400 men and women to the extent that he writes that “it reminds me of the concentration camp I lived in as a child during Algeria’s war of liberation”.

Yet UNAMI responded to the former chief’s allegations with the following claims about the conditions at Camp Hurriya:

The 2,000 residents of Camp Hurriya live in residential  containers.  On average, there are between two and four people per  container, as allocated by the residents’ leadership. All rooms are  fully air-conditioned.

Residents are free to undertake renovation projects with the approval of camp management. They have completed a range of landscaping initiatives and refurbishment of buildings. They are also free to bring in external contractors to implement these projects, with the agreement of camp management.

The camp has a dining facility with an industrial kitchen, a fully equipped gym, a mosque, several community centres, and numerous
recreational spaces.A medical facility is staffed by 2 Iraqi doctors working in shifts; at least one doctor is present at all times. Two ambulances are on constant standby.

The GoI ensures movement of residents to any external medical appointments as necessary.Bottled drinking water is imported by the residents. In addition, each resident has at least 200L of water per day for hygiene and other uses. Basic humanitarian standards require 100L of water per day. In Iraq, the average person gets between 70 and 90L per day. A water pumping and purification plant is being installed in the camp.

Electricity is currently provided by 19 generators, half of which operate at any given time to ensure that electricity is provided
24 hours a day. The average Iraqi in Baghdad has access to 9 hours of electricity per day.Residents have cell phones, internet connection and satellite television.

Camp Ashraf  (also known as Camp New Iraq), home to thousands of Iranian exiles, many of whom are members of a group known as the People’s Mojahedeen of Iran (MEK), has been one of the main issues dealt with by UNAMI for more than 18 months.

The base was established in 1986 as a headquarters and training site for the MEK by Saddam Hussein.  In 1997 the MEK, including the 3,400 detainees at Camp Ashraf, was put on the US list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO). MEK fighters had fought for Saddam Hussein and were captured by US troops in 2003. But by June 2004 residents at Camp Ashraf had been given “protected persons” status by the US under Article 4 of the Geneva Conventions.

The very public wrangling over these exiles centres on the

Earlier this year the Washington Times broke the story that former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell’s speakers’ bureau was being investigated by the Treasury Department for allegedly doing business with terrorists.

It was alleged the bureau had accepted fees for speaking out in support of humane treatment for unarmed members of MEK detained by the Iraqis, as well urging their de-listing from the FTO so that they could be safely relocate outside Iraq.

Rendell is in good company. Prominent former U.S. officials, military and intelligence officers…have been doing the same. These include: former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former National Security Adviser James Jones, former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, Brig. General Phillips, former Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge, General Hugh Shelton, and R. James Woolsey. They are joined by eminent Democrats such as Howard DeanBill Richardson, and Patrick Kennedy.

Why would this illustrious group pay such attention to the plight of the inhabitants in a small camp 80km from the Iranian border? Well, the MEK are opposed to the current Iranian regime and in the struggles of geopolitics any enemy of my enemy can be my friend.

In March Foreign Policy reported that:

In recent weeks, retired U.S. officials and politicians — many of whom admit to being paid by the MEK or one of its many affiliates — have mounted a sophisticated media campaign accusing the U.N. and the U.S. government of forcing the group to live in subhuman conditions against its will at Camp Liberty, an accusation U.S. officials say is as inaccurate as it is unhelpful.

An ad in the New York Times quoted former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani calling Camp Liberty “a concentration camp” — a charge Giuliani made at an MEK-sponsored conference late last month in Paris.

The New York Times ad is only the latest in a years-long, multi-million dollar campaign by the MEK and its supporters to enlist famous U.S. politicians and policymakers in their efforts to get the group removed from the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations and resist Iraqi attempts to close Camp Ashraf, which the new government sees as a militarized cult compound on its sovereign territory.

Rain is Beautiful: one refugee’s journey


Catch a glimpse of this stunning, touching and insightful documentary by Nick Francis (speak-it.org) & Marc Silver (marcsilver.net). The film features Omar, a Somali refugee who fled the war in Libya last year to live in a camp on the country’s border with Tunisia.

This episode of his story, Rain is Beautiful, begins with emotional farewells at the camp as Omar leaves his friends behind to begin a new life in Sandviken in northern Sweden. He is met at Stockholm airport by the Swedish migration board, visits a doctor, gets his ‘right to remain’ signed and learns what margarine is.

London protests Trayvon Martin killing

It’s been almost a decade since I protested on the streets. For all of my mouthing off I rarely take the time to match my words with actions. The Iraq War protest was the last time I picked up a placard and this coming Saturday 31 March will be the next.

The killing of Trayvon Martin has sickened me. Perhaps because I first read about it in a heart-breakingly beautiful article by Charles M. Blow in the New York Times. Perhaps because I’m the mother of a 16-month-old boy who’s has American citizenship and I wonder if he could be next.

I’d like to think it’s just because I think the value of human life deserves to be respected and the failure to uphold this, first on an individual level and secondly on a legal level is barbaric.

If you feel the same and happen to be in London this Saturday come join the protest:

Saturday 31st March, 1.30pm-4pm, American Embassy, 24 Grovesnor Square.  

Action plan

How time flies. The summer is over and I’m back in London. What do I have to show for my summer in Ibiza? Not much in the way of blog posts that’s for sure. It amazes me how much time I spent chasing after my little son, which was such an amazing joy. I’m also appalled at the amount of hours I wasted away doing absolutely nothing. But perhaps I needed it. And still, I’m very pleased with the articles I got published while out there.

So, despite my intentions of hitting the ground running on my return to the Big Smoke I find myself almost as clueless as I was before I left for Ibiza. Except now I’m facing the added pressure of finding a house, childcare and a job. Still, musn’t grumble as having endless options in front of me is something I longed for back in the dark days of slaving away for ITV News. I’m being inspired (reading between the lines, actually feeling hideously jealous and insignificant in comparison) by all these 20-something mums who have babies, run their own companies, find time to write riveting blogs, maintain a social life and still look gorgeous.

It’s three weeks til my birthday so perhaps a good date for me to set myself a deadline by which time I need to pull my proverbial finger out and come up with a plan of action!

Usher, David Guetta, Ludacris and stars at Ushuaia Ibiza

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Has Ibiza seen anything like it? I don’t think so. Last Thursday’s event at the newly opened Ushuaia hotel in Playa d’en Bossa was a star-spangled affair which is likely to have been the highlight of the 2011 season.


On the bill were Usher (in his Ibiza debut), The Wire’s Idris Elba (launching his 7 Wallace project) and DJ David Morales. The special guest turned out to be none other than DJ David Guetta but even better were special guest appearances from Taio Cruz and Ludacris.


The night was unbelievable, the production – out of this world and Usher? Well, I know understand why people call him the hardest working man in R&B. His energy was amazing – he gave the performance everything he’s got.


What was even cooler to see was what a great team he has around him – all dedicated to the star but super smart, talented and best of all polite, no diva histrionics to report at all