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Kazakhstan

first_img January 15, 2021 Find out more Follow the news on Kazakhstan KazakhstanEurope – Central Asia March 12, 2012 – Updated on January 20, 2016 Kazakhstan RSF_en Kazakh reporter accuses police of attacking her October 30, 2020 Find out more Kazakhstan, which considers itself a regional model after holding the rotating presidency of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in 2010, seems to be straying from its fine promises to embark without detours on the road to cybercensorship. In 2011, a unprecedented social protest movement prolonged by a violent uprising, a wave of odd attacks and the Head of State’s health problems made the authorities even more nervous, causing them to tighten their control over information, especially online. Read in Russian / Читать по-русски: Help by sharing this information February 5, 2021 Find out more Receive email alerts KazakhstanEurope – Central Asia to go further Reporters prevented from covering Kazakh parliamentary elections Organisation Regional newspaper editor harassed after investigating real estate scandal News Related documents Казахстан 2012PDF – 131.93 KB News News Website filtering and blacklistsSome twenty websites deemed “extremist” were blocked on August 20, 2011 by order of a district court in Astana (the capital), which ruled that the sites were helping to promote “terrorism and religious extremism” and contained “calls commit acts of terrorism and to manufacture explosive devices.” Unexpectedly, those blocked sites include the highly popular Russian-language blog platforms LiveJournal and LiveInternet. The blockage of these platforms seems totally unfounded, since much of the banned content has nothing to do with the terms of the decision. The latter was denounced by bloggers, notably by means of an online petition. According to the report “Central Asia: Censorship and Control of the Internet and Other New Media” by the International Partnership for Human Rights coalition, Net filtering is carried out with the assistance of the leading ISP Kazakh Telecom, which controls most of the bandwidth. The report stresses the lack of transparency of the work done by the “Center for Computer Incidents,” which involves drawing up blacklists of “destructive” websites. A presidential Security Council is already compiling lists of websites that should be blocked. According to this body, 125 websites containing “extremist” elements had been blocked by October 1, 2011. Measures are underway to block 168 more.News websites in the authorities’ line of sightThe pretext of the fight against terrorism is frequently used by the authorities to justify temporary or long-term blocking of independent news sites such as eurasia.org.ru, respublika-kaz.info, kplustv.net and krasnoetv.kz, which provide alternative insight into the struggle to replace ailing Head of State Nursultan Nazarbayev, and into the most publicized and longest wave of protests in Kazakhstan’s history and subsequent unrest. Censorship gained ground the country last year. Its main thrust was an attempt to impose a blackout on news about the strikes in the oil sector, and debates over the assertion of a “terrorist” threat in a country previously spared by this phenomenon. Bombings in the western city of Aktobe in May 2011, and later in the northern town of Taraz in November, fueled speculations that they could be attributed to an organized crime plot involving Islamist insurgents or Kazakh secret service forces.News website guljan.org, which is highly critical of the authorities’ abuses and corruption, is blocked on a regular basis, and sustained massive cyberattacks shortly after it was launched. The site and its editor, Guljan Ergalieva, were fined 5 million tenge (about USD 33,800) in damages for “attacking the honor and reputation” of senior official Sarybay Kalmurzaev in January 2012. News website Stan TV has been constantly hounded by the authorities, with “inspections” of all kinds, attempted bribery, threats, attacks, and court orders aimed at closing the offices. The website produces reports that are regularly broadcast K+, an independent satellite station devoted to Central Asian news, which is very critical of Kazakh authorities. Stan TV is a popular leading source of news on the conflict that has been going on for several months between the regime and striking employees of the Karajanbasmunay and Uzenmunaygaz companies in the western province of Mangystau. Two Stan TV journalists were violently assaulted while covering these events.Clampdown on dissent: A region cut off from the worldOn December 16, 2011, the celebration of Kazakhstan’s 20th anniversary of independence was disrupted by workers who had been on strike for several months in Zhanaozen (in Mangystau). Under what are as yet unclear circumstances, the police fired real bullets into the crowd and the rebellion spread throughout the city, where most of the official buildings were burned. The official toll is at least 15 dead, but alternative sources claim the number is higher. The authorities responded by declaring a state of emergency and imposing a news and communications blackout, preventing any accurate assessment of the situation. The protest’s epicenter – Zhanaozen and surrounding cities within a radius of at least 39 miles – have been totally cut off from the world and deprived of Internet connections and telecommunications. Elsewhere in the region, and particularly in the city of Aktau (the provincial capital) where tense demonstrations persisted for several days, it was very difficult, if not impossible, to exchange SMS messages or access the Internet from a mobile phone.In the absence of updates from the state press agency, preoccupied with independence festivities, Twitter, Facebook, and K+ labeled videos on Youtube have become the only sources of information – or disinformation – as reported by Global Voices. On December 16 and 17, on Twitter, the key word #Zhanaozen produced countless alarming tweets about “massacres” and “the civil war in Zhanaozen.” The uncertainty grew when Twitter, along with a number of Russian and Kirghiz media, were blocked in the evening of December 16. Heated debates about a possible propaganda or counter-propaganda operation filled the Kazakh Web. Although Twitter was soon accessible again, several leading news websites remain blocked, including Guljan.org, the Russian citizen news agency Ridus.ru, and the site of the opposition newspaper Respublika. For several days, the security services first prevented journalists from accessing the offices of these media by blocking their entry or even stopping them for questioning them on their way there. Then they let them through, but tried to interfere with their work as much as they could by imposing an escort or preventing them from meeting certain people. In several cases, the content of their computers, USB flash drives and audio recorders were closely examined. Blogger Murat Tungishbayev was brutally assaulted while filming a police check. On January 26, 2012, the Public Prosecutor’s office announced charges against the organizers of the social protest movement that degenerated into riots, the opposition leaders who supported them, and journalist Igor Vinyavsky, editor-in-chief of the newspaper Vzglyad. The authorities also pledged to pursue the policemen accused of killing demonstrators, allegedly corrupt high-ranking officials (including Zhanaozen’s mayor), and executives of the oil companies employing the strikers. These latest measures are viewed as a gesture to calm a population who is becoming increasingly unwilling to put up with the rampant corruption of its bureaucrats. Meanwhile, a genuine manhunt was initiated to identify those who took the videos proving that policemen had fired into the crowd. The Stan TV staff members who had broadcast them have had to endure even greater pressure. On January 13, 2012, the National Security Committee (KNB) called in most of the news staff for questioning.Repressive regulationsA 2009 Internet Law puts bloggers in the same penal category as journalists and holds Internet website administrators and their ISPs responsible for any content posted by others on their platforms, obliging them to hire moderators. Criminializing defamation has consequences for online freedom of expression, yet officials are entitled to special treatment. Media and journalists critical of the government often pay for it, as shown recently in the Guljan.org case (see above).Within the framework of a policy that centralizes all news sources inside the country, a September 2010 decree forced websites using the suffix .kz to channel all their traffic through servers based in Kazakhstan. Originally implemented for newly created sites, it gradually was applied retroactively. In May 2011, the government had insisted that Google use only servers located in Kazakhstan so that it would be easier for the authorities to monitor searches. It reversed its decision after Google announced in June 2011 that it was leaving the country and suspending google.kz. On December 30, 2011, new repressive regulations on Internet access were adopted. A decree made video surveillance and filtering equipment mandatory in cybercafés. Visitors are now required to present an ID and managers must maintain a log of the websites visited. Most importantly, cybercafé owners are required to provide the security forces, simply upon request, access to their visitor register, the log of sites accessed, and the video surveillance recordings. They must also keep a record of security services’ requests. In addition, owners must install a program allowing access to banned websites to be blocked. The use of proxies is prohibited, and the sanctions for such violations are not yet known. They will undoubtedly be the subject of a forthcoming application order. These new rules are a severe blow to cybercafés, which are already closing one after the other while the number of individual Internet and mobile phone accounts keeps on growing.The authorities’ agitation vs. the international community’s silenceThe increased use of cybercensorship is symptomatic of the harsher repression being waged by a regime worried about the end of the “Kazakh stability” myth. Yet Astana leaders are still strong. Despite the many frauds attested to by OSCE observers during the last elections, people did not riot in the streets. The international community remains discreet about human rights issues. Nursultan Nazarbayev can count on Kazakhstan’s vast natural resources to lessen global criticism. One recent example is the recent USD 3 billion partnership agreement concluded in February 2012 between Kazakhstan and Germany. Newslast_img read more

Opinion: Two views on Vermont health care reform

first_imgHealth Care Reform Ain’t Beanbagby John McClaughryThe bill to put Vermont on the irreversible path toward a single payer health care system is now well on its way to the governor’s desk. The ceremonial signing may well be the governor’s answer to the pageantry of the Royal Wedding.Perhaps the most startling aspect of this four month legislative saga has been the enormous contrast between the daunting requirements of organizing the new $3 billion government program, and the limited competence of its advocates.The 2010 legislature launched the process – for at least the third time – by voting $300,000 to Dr. William Hsiao of the Harvard School of Public Health to explain how to gather all Vermonters into the grand single payer system. The Hsaio team recommended a level of health benefits thought to be suitable for Vermont’s under- 65 population. It specified the payroll tax rates required to bring in enough tax dollars to pay for the program. It claimed an astounding $590 million a year would be saved (starting in 2015) by abolishing health insurance companies.So the House Health Care Reform Committee brought out a bill that gave the Hsaio-recommended Green Mountain Care Board the power to set benefit levels and decide how much to underpay health care providers – but neglected to include any provision for raising the necessary $2 billion of new taxes. Instead, the new Board was told to take another year and another million dollars to grapple with the same questions that Hsaio had already studied.Once the eligible population is identified, the Board’s view of the “appropriate health care at the appropriate time in the appropriate setting ” spelled out, the costs of that care estimated, and the Federal subsidies added in, the Board can tell the legislature how much it will have to raise in new taxes to keep this ship above water.In the Senate, the majority Democrats won the vote of Sen. Kevin Mullin (R-Rutland ) by agreeing to require the Board at some unspecified point to announce to the world that it believes that Green Mountain Care would reduce administrative costs (whose?), contain the growth in health care costs, improve the quality of care, attract providers, and not damage the state’s economy. There is no appeal process or enforcement mechanism for these declarations.Gov. Shumlin has made it clear that he wants the new ObamaCare-mandated Exchange to be the only place anyone can obtain health insurance. In addition, liberals have long ago taken to viewing Health Savings Account plans as a conservative plot to thwart their collectivist ambitions. Sen. Vince Illuzzi (R-Essex-Orleans) offered a carefully crafted amendment that would have prevented the Exchange from exterminating the popular HSA plans. The Democrats voted it down 11-19. The Democrats also voted down an amendment from Sen. Randy Brock (R-Franklin) to advance the date for the Administration’s health care tax request from January 2013 to September 2012 . That would allow the voters to learn what’s in store for them if the governor is reelected. Only eight senators were willing to support that eminently sensible provision.It was patently apparent during the legislative debate that the backers of single payer – now relabeled “universal and unified health system” – have little grasp of the complexities involved in completely disassembling and repackaging Vermont’s $5 billion health care sector to satisfy the red-shirted Sanderistas shouting that “health care is a human right”.The Democratic legislators are marching to orders from the Shumlin health care high command. They are almost mystically convinced that the native genius of Vermonters can somehow make Green Mountain Care work. This is so even though forty years of the almost identical Canadian single payer model have produced rationing, waiting lines, maddening bureaucracies, demoralized doctors and nurses, shabby facilities, obsolete technology, declining quality of care, and of course much higher taxation.Typical of this widely held attitude is the remark of Sen. Anthony Pollina (I-Washington): “We’re from Vermont. We’re one of the smartest states in the country, and we can figure this [single payer thing] out.” This is the same Sanderista activist whose venture to pay farmers premium prices for milk and sell it at competitive prices predictably collapsed into insolvency.As the saying goes, “politics ain’t beanbag.” Neither is health care reform, but the beanbaggers are in the driver’s seat.John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute (www.ethanallen.org(link is external)). Here are two views on Vermont’s attempt to reform the health care system, one from John McClaughry of the Ethan Allen Insitute and the other from Andrea Cohen of Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility.Businesses for Health Care Reformby Andrea CohenThe Vermont House took bold and necessary action by passing the Universal Health Care bill, H. 202. There are many businesses in this state that support reform because they believe the current health care system is unsustainable, inefficient, and unfair. Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility is one statewide business association that believes inaction is not an option and that businesses large and small, all across the state, will benefit from an improved system.When VBSR solicits feedback from our 1,200 members the stories we hear about the current state of our health insurance system are shocking and discouraging. In addition to the burden of annual double-digit cost increases, we hear about how the current system creates a competitive disadvantage to employers who offer decent health insurance benefits when their competitors do not. As one might imagine it is hard to have the low bid on a construction job when you are paying $10,000/year for each of your employees’ health insurance when your competitor is not incurring the same cost. It adds insult to injury when the business realizes they are also paying for their competitor’s uninsured employees due to the cost shift. We frequently hear about lost opportunities; when a person does not dare leave a dead-end job to start their own business for fear of losing health insurance. Another less spoken of, but still common, situation is when an employer retains a mis-matched employee because they don’t want the employee to lose health coverage. While this is admirable it is not smart business. We also frequently hear about the tremendous amount of time and effort many businesses need to devote to exploring options and managing health insurance- this is time and effort that is being diverted from their core business functions. The time has come to decouple health insurance from employment.In addition to the obvious inefficiencies and counter-productive market signals the current system sends, from a dollars and cents perspective it is just not sustainable. Last summer VBSR surveyed our membership and we found that the cost of health insurance was the greatest obstacle to the success of our member businesses’greater than taxes, greater than regulations, greater than access to capital. The cost of health insurance was a greater barrier than any of the nineteen other choices offered. If we truly want to help Vermont businesses succeed we must take steps to move away from our employer based health insurance system and we need to start now.Here is what we know:  – Health insurance continues to get more expensive for employers.  61% of our member businesses that offer health insurance pay more than the equivalent of 10% of payroll. 20% of them pay more than 20%.  – Employers are responding to the increasing costs by offering lesser quality health insurance coverage to their employees. 36% of survey respondents reported they have reduced benefits in last 5 years. – Employers are asking their employees to contribute more towards their health insurance. 43% of the businesses have introduced or increased employee contributions in the past 5 years.H.202 sets Vermont on a path for reform. It sets up a process for payment reform and for reducing system costs. What H.202 does NOT do is impose a financing system’financing solutions will be tackled as part of future work. It is important that we continue to have an open and honest conversation about what this bill does and does not do so that we may improve the system to the benefit of our businesses. We need to at least be willing to explore an alternative system that the experts tell us will save us $590 million in its first year of implementation, and that will bring equity and quality health care.VBSR believes inaction will cost us way too much. Vermont has a history of using its independent and self-reliant nature to take bold initiatives. By collaboratively designing and instituting a true system of universal health care, Vermont could take a leadership role in business attraction, retention, and success. The benefits associated with doing so include a more stable and productive workforce; greater incentive to create, move, or expand a business in Vermont; improved efficiency and reduced costs throughout the public and private sectors; and a healthier population of Vermonters.Andrea Cohen is Executive Director of Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility. She lives in Montpelier, VT. last_img read more