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Russia: The Maestro of Made-to-Order News

Yasha Levine at Wired tells the story of a Sergey Gorshkov, a Moscow blogger who has become a national sensation by publishing a steady stream of political smears — and perhaps half of his stories are zakazukha, bought and paid for by rival politicians. He says he’s in it for the money, and the money…

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Azerbaijan’s “Guerrilla” Islamic Finance

The Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy’s Fuad Aliyev writes on Islamic banking practices, which are expanding under the noses of regulators who attempt to ban these practices. A case study in how local culture can make issues of regulation and transparency fiendishly complex. “Guerrilla Islamic Finance:” Islamic Banking the Azerbaijani Way By Fuad Aliyev Project Manager &…

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Shunkouliu

A cigarette gets you in the door,And with the wine you hear the deal,But if you want the problem solved,It’s gotta be a great big meal. This Chinese “slippery jingle” via translator Perry Link, author unknown.One more, also translated by Perry: Officials are addicted to moneyWhile the people labor and sweat.If something else counts, then…

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Israel’s Accountability Crusaders

The Economist describes a “rule-of-law gang” that is pushing accountability in Israel — and punishing those who oppose them. The Economist: They are known collectively by their opponents as the “rule-of-law gang”, and for the moment they seem to be in the ascendancy. The gang is the collection of judges, prosecutors, policemen and journalists who…

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Letter from a Cairo Jail

Writing from Tura Prison near Cairo, former Egyptian MP Ayman Nour pens a letter on the future of Egypt, the usefulness of Islamic fundamentalism in justifying authoritarianism, and the impact of the Iraq War on reformers in the Arab world. “Although legitimate dreams usually turn to be terrifying nightmares in our country,” Nour writes, “the…

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USA: Serious Doubts on U.S. Voting Machines

Partisan politics and closed-source technology collude to leave American democracy in questionable hands. Many election reform activists are voicing deep concerns about electronic voting machines being used in the next presidential election. Election reform activists (here, here) ask whether the political leanings of the companies developing the new electronic voting machines will have anything to…

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