Another action packed week is almost over. I have been mostly out of the office, attending so many different events all over the city. On Monday I went to a discussion on North Korea, organised by Kang Cheol-Hwan, the author of Aquariums of Pyongyang (an account of Kang and his family’s imprisonment in the Yodok concentration camp). The audience was reminded of the staggering death toll of communism; 100 million and counting. The panel discussed the various initiatives that the North Korea Strategy Center is undertaking in order to bring about reform in the hermit kingdom. Part of what they do is ‘smuggling’ in USB sticks loaded with news, Wikipedia articles and even just TV material such as soap operas in order to target the younger generations.
On Tuesday I attended a panel discussion on freedom of speech on the Internet, hosted by Google at their seriously cool offices. The 4 panelists came from different backgrounds and voiced different opinions on what can and/or should be done to protect the right to freedom of expression whilst simultaneously protecting people’s safety and anonymity. The hero of the panel was Faisal Saeed al Mutar, a US refugee from Iraq who has been fighting bravely against religious fundamentalism. He has been on the receiving end of endless death threats, but continues to speak out on behalf of human rights and promoting secular humanism.
I’ve also been back to the Cato Institute for their annual conference on surveillance, and at the Heritage Foundation for a policy recommendation briefing to the president-elect about Cuba. I can’t say that I agreed with their firm belief in re-instating hard line embargoes on the island. Ultimately, we should let people trade freely, even if they live under tyrannical governments.
Tomorrow is the Atlas Christmas party! It’ll be time for people to let their hair down. I’m really looking forward to getting to know everyone better on a more casual basis. The cold weather has helped me get into more of a Christmas-y mood, so I am sure it will be a super fun evening.