Jaeah Lee

Jaeah Lee

Associate Interactive Producer

When Jaeah isn't coding, researching, or writing for Mother Jones, she's usually reading about foreign policy, climate change, or new dinner recipes. A lover of mass transit, she can pretty much navigate the New York City subway blindfolded.

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Prior to joining Mother Jones, Jaeah worked as a research associate at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, focusing on China. Her writings have appeared in the Christian Science Monitor, Global Post, Huffington Post, Talking Points Memo, and Movements.org.

What We Didn't Know About Internet Controls

| Thu Apr. 21, 2011 5:20 PM EDT

A new Freedom House report has uncovered increased threats to internet freedom worldwide. It's no news that politically restrained countries like China, Iran, and Burma are among the worst offenders, but as the report details, similar practices are fast spreading. Some surprising findings:

  • Even relatively democratic countries—notably Brazil, India, Indonesia, South Korea, Turkey, and the United Kingdom—are seeing increased threats to internet freedom, such as "legal harassment, opaque censorship procedures, or expanding surveillance." In many cases, censors target content related to illegal gambling, child pornography, or inciting violence, but censorship incidents are also politically motivated. South Korea, for example, blocked access to some 65 websites related to North Korea, including the official North Korean Twitter account launched in August 2010.
  • Arrests of online activists are on the rise. In 23 of the 37 countries assessed, a blogger or other internet user was arrested for content posted online. Authorities in Vietnam sentenced four activists to a total of 33 years in prison for posting human rights violations and pro-democracy views on the internet.
  • In all the countries studied, governments made decisions about restricting internet content arbitrarily and without transparency. Even in democratically governed countries, censorship decisions are made without public discussion, and appealing the decisions "may be onerous, little known, or nonexistent."
  • If you thought Egypt's internet shutdown in January was bad...in recent years 12 of the 37 countries were known to exploit their control over telecom infrastructure to restrict access to politically relevant information.
  • More websites, activists, and dissidents are self-censoring. China is known for pressuring websites to censor their own content, an issue that led Google to move its search engine operations off the mainland to Hong Kong in early 2010. Since 2007 Thailand, Kazakhstan, Vietnam, and Venezuela have issued new laws or directives that put the onus of politically unfavorable comments on the media outlet. At least one editor in Thailand, for example, is facing criminal charges over comments that criticized the monarchy.

All in all, what we're seeing is "a very worrisome trend," with the state of internet freedom around the world "on the decline," and cyber attacks "against regime critics intensifying," said the report's co-editor Sanja Kelly on Monday at a panel hosted by the World Affairs Council. Alex Fowler of Mozilla, also on the panel, noted that as we celebrate the advent of Twitter, Facebook, and Google in spurring discussions of protest, "those things are centralizing information about individuals" that create "a lot of new risks."

Electronic Frontier Foundation's International Director Gwen Hinze says a company based in a more free internet country like the US can't really get around censorship rules in countries with tighter controls. She notes that expansions in US laws on wiretapping and invasion of privacy can set a bad precedent for countries around the world.

Fowler, Hinze, and Yahoo!'s Ebele Okobi-Harris add that while internet and telecom companies are bound by the laws of the countries they operate in, there are ways in which they can prevent a bad situation from getting worse: stepping up consumer protection measures by alerting users when their information is requested by authorities.

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BP to Oil Spill Victims: Get Off My Stoop!

| Fri Apr. 15, 2011 3:50 PM EDT

Almost one year since creating the worst oil spill in US history, BP is holding steadfastly to its response strategy: Duck and hope for the best. At its annual shareholder meeting in London yesterday, five Gulf residents who flew in to tell investors about their loss of livelihood were denied entry. A few tried to sneak in, among them 62-year-old Diane Wilson, a fourth-generation fisherwoman from Seadrift, Texas, who covered herself in oil to make a statement. Police arrested her for "breaching the peace," the Associated Press reports. Others who made it in were dragged out by security guards. NBC's Nightly News has more on this:

Is there any other way for a major corporation to deal with these kinds of situations but ignore protestors and feign optimism? BP's chief executive Bob Dudley doesn't seem to think so, based on what he told shareholders on Thursday:

BP remains a great company with a great history and I believe a great future...Not every company gets such an opportunity and we don't intend to squander it.

Except, er, you kind of already did squander it. For all its promises to compensate victims, many have not yet been paid out. Journalists have been barred consistently from accessing the coastal areas affected by the spill. 

And why wouldn't BP ignore its victims, when few in Washington seem to care that much? Mother Jones' Kate Sheppard told us earlier this week about certain GOP Congressmen who are trying to expand off-shore drilling. And as Mac McClelland reported, Kenneth Feinberg, whom the president appointed to oversee victim compensation issues in the Gulf, was entirely unmoved by victims complaints at a recent town hall meeting in Louisiana. All of which is why the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression named the company and the Obama administration the worst First Amendment violators of 2011.

Meanwhile, some BP shareholders are increasingly frustrated about the way things are going. Investors accounting for 60 percent of shares voted yesterday against re-electing William Castell as the head of its safety committee, while about 7 percent voted against re-electing Carl-Henric Svanberg as BP chairman. Around 11 percent voted against the company's remuneration report, which awarded bonuses to Iain Conn, who oversees BP's refining activities, and Chief Financial Officer Byron Grote. BP might continue to ignore its oil spill victims, but good luck dodging your investors.

The #18DaysInEgypt Media Revolution

| Fri Apr. 15, 2011 3:01 AM EDT
Feb. 11, 2011, CAIRO—As doctors and nurses march peacefully on one side of Al Qasr Al Aini Street, onlookers shoot video from their mobile phones. Even early in the demonstrations, protesters had cameras ripped from their hands and smashed on the ground, and journalists had their equipment confiscated. So the revolution was captured from their mobile phones.

Earlier this year, as the world watched tens of thousands of protesters pour into the streets of Egypt, Jigar Mehta noticed something: Many of the people in the crowds were also holding cameras. "Holy crap, people have probably been recording something over the last few days," he told himself. Mehta, a former New York Times video journalist, saw an untapped wealth of raw footage from the protests. He wanted to collect them and turn them into something bigger.

Mehta hashtagged his project #18DaysInEgypt, and sent out a call to action on Twitter, Facebook, and various email listserves. He asked people in Egypt to tag their videos and photos from the protests, and to catalog and reflect on their experiences. "All the footage is important to someone," he told me later. "What I want to know is why they chose to film at that moment."

When I first interviewed him back in February, Mehta didn't know what the end product of his crowd-sourcing media experiment would look like, but he thought it would help pioneer a new kind of storytelling. I caught up with Mehta again last week in San Francisco, where he's a Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford University. What he showed me looked like a marriage between YouTube, Wikipedia, and Google Maps, culminating into an interactive, curated learning experience.

Take, for example, footage like this:

5 Ways to Sip a Cocktail and Save the World

| Thu Apr. 14, 2011 2:50 PM EDT

Getting tipsy might not be the first idea that comes to mind when figuring how to help out poor farmers in Bolivia. But it is a pretty good one, say the fair-trade wine and spirits folks I met over the weekend. At the San Francisco Green Festival last Saturday, Fair Trade Spirits's Danny Ronen and wine importer Michael Hutchinson unveiled a few brands of alcohol that prove a fine Merlot can also be socially conscious. Since we've already told you how to minimize your carbon footprint at the wet bar, why not improve your social impact too? Try out a few of these recipes at your next party* and tell us what you think.

Photo courtesy Fair Trade USA.Photo courtesy Fair Trade USA.A Caïpirowska that creates jobs: Consider it a lazy mojito, made from fair-trade quinoa vodka (yes, quinoa) that is cultivated by more than 1,200 small-scale producers in the Bolivian Altiplano and gathered in the Anapqui cooperative, the country's main association of farming producers. Thanks in part to the new craze for quinoa in the US, fair-trade quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) production has generated an additional 2,675 jobs in the Bolivian highlands, and increased profits have gone to support the coop's new vehicles purchases and agricultural training programs. It tastes better than potato-based vodka, too.

  • 5 centilitres fair-trade quinoa vodka
  • 1/2 lime
  • 2 spoons of fair-trade sugar

Cut the 1/2 lime in 4 pieces and crush in a mortar with the sugar. Top with crushed ice and add the vodka. Shake well and serve with two short straws. (Recipe from Fair Trade Spirits.)

Ivo Posthumus/Flickr.Ivo Posthumus/Flickr.A White Russian that puts kids through school and combats cancer: The liqueur in this drink, otherwise known as the "Jackie Caucasian," is made from coffee grown by small-scale farmers in Huatusco, Mexico, and sugar harvested by independent cane growers in Malawi. Profits from the coffee have funded some $21,000 in scholarships and helped build a cancer screening clinic in Huatusco, and sugar sales have helped install 10 safe drinking water wells in Malawan villages. The Dude would be proud.

  • 2 ounces fair-trade quinoa vodka
  • 1 ounce fair-trade cafe liqueur

Pour over rocks in a rocks glass. Top with organic half-and-half. (Recipe from Fair Trade Spirits.)

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