“Do you know what these pages are?”

Anyways, so I went to the internet café and did my regular tour: raed in the middle, riverbend, etc etc..and then I was bored again. I left the internet café heading towards the financial department again. [...]

“come with us, we have some questions please” they said, and I went with them, searching for answers inside my head…

They searched me very carefully; they took my shoes off and searched them, and even took my watch. They read every paper I had in my pockets, and asked me questions about my origin, nationality, and many other questions. Then they asked me to unlock my mobile phone so that they can check it out. [...]

I was afraid to be taken to the torture rooms directly; I was praying to find someone to talk to, to explain to him that this all is nothing but a little silly mistake!

For the next few hours, they asked me questions like “who are the other members of our terrorist cell, where does your fund come from? What operations did you have?” [...]

Then finally I understood why I was there, after few hours. Security guards at the university had printed out all the websites I was reading while I was online there. They were accusing me of “reading terrorism sites” and “having communications with foreign terrorists”. “Do you know what these pages are?” I looked at them and figured out they were the comment section of Raed in the Middle!!

Excerpted from Khalid Jarrar’s lengthy account of his extended visit to the Iraqi mokhabarat’s jail. See also Rael in the Middle‘s earlier (ie. pre-release) “Fortunately, it’s a nice governmental gang!:

The feelings of joyfulness in our family now would give anyone the impression that my brother has won the lottery! My mom spent the morning planning my brother’s future, including the arrangements of his wedding party!

If your child or sibling vanishes for two days then calls from the secret service jail in any other place on earth, that would be considered a disaster and a violation of human rights…

In Iraq, however, it’s Happy News.

Because the other options include: To be tortured, executed, and thrown in garbage by SCIRI and their Badr brigades. To be held by the Iraqi police and left to choke to death in one of their cars. To be held by the US troops then disappear and be mistreated for months in one of their many prisons. To be kidnapped by one of the countless criminal gangs and cost your family some tens of millions of Iraqi Dinars and/or your life.

From Faiza,

Well, when i came back from America before one month, my plans to the future was like that i should go back to Iraq to participate the political operation and try to make change to the better..to stop the violence, the corruption, the evil works controling the daily life. But after the ordeal of my son, i can see Iraq from new eyes, its not the one i want to live in or work with, its now filled with people in power working under the banner : ‘its our turn to revenge and nobody can stop us !’

So, they are controling the streets, the media, the decisions, the social and political activities.. And the moderate groups are helpless, there is no chance to them now, nobody listen to their voice, the violence and hatred are talking now loudly in Iraq , some groups from inside and outside of Iraq, want this to be, to accomplish their agenda… and the victims are iraqis, all iraqis, the rich and the poor, the old and the young, the men and women and children, the sunni and shi`ee, and iraqis and noniraqis ….all have been targeted in this mess. I have met different kinds of iraqi people, working with government as moderate, trying to make change, but i saw how depressed they are, and trying to protect their families to get them out of iraq, this is their priority now, and i saw them as powerless, they cant help any iraqi in jail or bad condition, they have nothing to do..

See Khalid’s post for stories of the other prisoners, more on the interogation and court process…

My family played an important role to help me get out of the Mukhabarat’s jail faster than other people. Like any other corrupt system, you can get a better treatment by knowing the right people and giving the right “gifts”. My family didn’t pay anything to the judge because they believed I was innocent, they tried their best to get me a lawyer, but they couldn’t. I was freed because I was innocent, and I have the capabilities to defend myself in front of a judge.

The question is: what about the rest of Iraqis? The ones who don’t have the money or the power to leave places like that? The innocent people who were taken away from their families and loved ones and accused of false crimes? What happens to them? Who will stand for them? What about human rights? What about civil rights? What about humanity?

Meanwhile, in London

Chris Goad on RDF and GML

RDF versus GML, Chris Goad (Sept 2004),

GML is the XML language for geography developed by the Open GIS consortium. The third major revision of this specification, known as GML3, was released in January of 2003. RDFMap, when used in conjuction with RDFGeom, constitutes an attempt to develop an alternative approach based on RDF to expressing geographical information. This note outlines the relationship between this approach and GML, and suggests techniques for converting data between the two formalisms. The important differences between RDFMap and GML derive from the choice of RDF, and would apply equally to other RDF-based formalisms for geography.

Interesting comparison. I’m somewhat wary of over-hyping RDF’s offering here. There’s certainly value in looking how GML application schemas might be reflected into RDF vocabularies (and vice-versa). Chris’s article ends with an example taken from the GML spec, represented in RDF. I wonder about going back the other way too, showing RDF properties used inside a GML document.

geobloggers: “Network Link” in Google Earth

This is the hidden gem of Google Earth. Adding a “Network Link” allows you to fetch KML data from remote servers. It does this in two ways, Time Based or Location Based. So *anyone* can add dynamic data to Google Maps.

Apparently KML is based on GML. I don’t know Keyhole/Google’s work differs. There seems to be a role here for something simple enough for Google Earth, WorldWind, and other viewer apps to use, when consulting a remote server for info about some area of interest. Maybe it’s GML Web Feature Servers, maybe KML, maybe geo-extended RSS/Atom, or perhaps generic query interfaces like the SPARQL protocol. SOAP, WSDL and REST fit in the picture somewhere. Probably, various things will be used in different environments, depending on application emphasis. We might be looking up the opening-hours of a shop, contact information for an organization, or jobs, events, photos, blog posts, FOAF profiles etc in a certain area, … it isn’t clear where the line is drawn between ‘geographic’ data and the wider unbounded collection of information about the world. GML has strengths at the geographical end of the spectrum, RDF (and its query system, SPARQL) has strengths at the generic, domain-neutral end. RSS/Atom is serving well as a generic carrier for data syndication. It isn’t clear to me yet where KML fits (or SVG, for that matter), but work on the relationship between GML and RDF would seem timely.

The geobloggers post has examples and links to flickr and del.icio.us-based services that expose this interface. I’m going to try making such a service on top of SPARQL…

geo/photo raw materials from a walk around Bristol

I’ve just been for a walk around town, taking a few photos on the way, with the camera’s clock sync’d to that of my new GPS. I’ve not yet figured out the best tool to use (other than write my own) for hooking up the photo and location metadata. It’s easy enough to get the data off of the device using GPSBabel; for now I’ve saved tracks and waypoints in GPX format. GPSBabel offers a wealth of other options, none of which I’ve explored yet.

The first thing I had to hand that consumed GPX was Google Earth on my WinXP laptop; it plotted the tracks happily enough:

2004-07-24 walk around town, plotted via google earth

I’m sure there are other, more open-data and hackable systems out there that I can feed this data to, but for a quick test, Google Earth (formerly ‘Keyhole’) is quite fun.

For Windows users, there are WorldWind scripts that convert GPX into World Wind Layers, available as an online service. I’ve just tried that; it produced me XML document that references a PNG image. I need to read the instructions again a bit more carefully, but nice to see that there’s more to the world than Google. There are also some notes on the OpenStreetMap site on MakingGpxTracks.

The next thing I should try is getting the location and photo metadata integrated, and then I can play around with associating images on maps. There is also a growing geo-tagger community using Flickr (by creating odd ‘tags’ that embed lat/long data). For example see various of jip’s photos, and the geobloggers website (which seems to use HTTP REFERER to plot geotagged flickr images with Google maps).

Update: as I suspected, the Locative guys have already done the work :)

After CPAN-installing the Perl dependencies Image::EXIF and RDF::Simple::Serialiser, Time::Piece, LWP::UserAgent, XML::Simple, Data::Compare and Geo::Track::Log, it looks like geoloc_media.pl is just what I’m after (thanks!).

geoloc_media.pl 0 http://rdfweb.org/people/danbri/media/2005/07/ ../../mydata/2005-07-24-Tracks.gpx    danbri@foaf-project.org 2004-07-24-BristolWalk/*jpg

The resulting RDF looks about right, from a quick look.

Here’s a quick query of the data using the online Redland SPARQL service. The query I ran was as follows (basically echoing back the core data structure emitted by the perl script above):

PREFIX foaf: <http://xmlns.com/foaf/0.1/>
PREFIX geo: <http://www.w3.org/2003/01/geo/wgs84_pos#>
PREFIX locative: <http://locative.net/2004/packet#>

SELECT DISTINCT ?image, ?lat, ?long, ?email 
WHERE {
  ?x rdf:type locative:Packet .
  ?x locative:media ?image .
  ?x geo:lat ?lat .
  ?x geo:long ?long .
  ?image foaf:maker ?who .
  ?who foaf:mbox ?email . 
}
ORDER BY ?lat

See the Locative wiki for more uses of the data, including some nice SVG hacks. Or the OpenStreetMap view of the area (seems to be bitmap imagery there but no streets etc yet).

Conspiracy Theory?

There are two kinds of people in the world, those who believe there are two kinds of people in the world and those who don’t.

–Robert Benchley, Benchley’s Law of Distinction

From a recent Guardian article, “Police scrutinise extremist Islamist websites“:

Among the sites causing concern is Jihadunspun (JUS), a highly professional website which claims to present “a clear view of war on terror”. It has been widely criticised in the US by agencies including the state department.

Nearby in the Web, Google News carry the site, causing much grumbling amongst those who’ve noticed its iffy content.

Digging around a bit more unearthed a bit of controversy around the site, specifically, claims that it is a CIA front. For example, see commentary on the Wisdom Fund site, or Information Clearing House. Both of which draw attention to the Canadian hosting of the site, its use of PayPal to sell video content, etc.

Who to believe? :)

Rummaging on the JUS site itself, there’s a lengthy and peculiar story from its “owner and publisher”:

My name is Khadija Abdul Qahaar and I am the owner and publisher of Jihad Unspun. I am Muslim, who like many others, embraced Islam as the result of 911. Many of our viewers will know me as Bev Kennedy and Paul Morris-Read, the pen names I have used on this portal, a necessary precaution particularly in the early days of publishing this portal, due to the nature of our work. [...]

Most intriguingly…

For the curious, a copy of my CV is located here.

That article mentions “Bev’s” prior work in the Web industry, and her work for the “aerospace market”. The CV includes 1999-2003 as president/director/shareholder of DataCrafters Inc. Their website is now blank, but much of it is available through the Internet Archive. The Client Kudos section is interesting, as is the Before and after page, which features happy customer Royell Manufacturing, makers of aerospace parts. Back in the pre-9/11 copy of the site, the “spinbin” section had a press release announcing the release of the “eSYS Online Estimating System”, including a glowing quote from a Robin Crabb of Aeroalliance, (whose website is full of pictures of scary military jets):

“We are delighted that eSYS is now in beta testing. With feedback from high caliber Aeroalliance members like Royell, we are confident that we will have captured the ease of use and familiarity of process that aerospace manufacturers find appealing.”

The company seems to have had a lot of dealings with the military-tinged aerospace industry, before Bev switched to working on JUS. Bev’s autobiographical note on the JUS goes into some detail describing her change of heart, as – if you believe twf.org – does this lengthy letter, which also discusses the “CIA front” accusation. Whatever the truth, it’d make for a good movie.

I could go on, there’s plenty more out there on the site. It’s hard to know really what the Guardian guys should’ve done. Ten minutes of digging around the background to DataCrafters does suggest a remarkable change of heart, and one that’s not documented heavily on the JUS site.

Is the “this is a CIA front” accusation purely an exercise in tin-foil hattery? Who knows!

Another quote from the JUS site, puffing up the warmongering ‘clash of civilizations’ agenda…

I named the portal as a reference to Benjamin Barber’s best seller, Jihad vs. McWorld, an excellent work that explains the clash of two civilizations, but that entirely omits the reason why. The result was Jihad Unspun.

Update: there’s a huge and often silly, offensive etc thread on the libertyforum.org site. See also jihadunspun unhinged on the Internet Haganah site; they seems to take JUS seriously and quote from Bev’s JUS-hosted story:

Late in 2002, the Jewish vigilante groups struck with a vengeance. Through a stupid error on our part, we had a portfolio gallery showing off some of our client work on our web company’s website and after putting two and two together, they managed to access some of our client list. They of course went after the aerospace companies and I was forced to sell of my aerospace application at a significant loss and eventually I had shut down the company entirely in order to protect my clients.

I wonder what happens next…