ROME – If you’re on Twitter, #conclave has been one of the best places to follow news about the next leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics. On Tuesday evening Rome time, between start of the vote, and the inconclusive end to the first ballot, tweets were coming in at around 40 per minute by my count, a mix of news updates from Rome, smartphone pics from around the Vatican, lewd comments from unknown locations on some of the recent scandals, and some light-hearted gags. But most are just tuning in to hear the results, which should come within three days, according to Vatican spokesperson Father Federico Lombardi. The Vatican’s system for spreading news is sending black smoke up through temporary chimneys to announce that a round of voting failed to produce a winner. Everyone’s waiting for the white smoke, followed by the ringing of the St. Peter’s church bells, when there’s a result.
KUALA LUMPUR — On Feb. 17, Malaysia’s still-influential former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad weighed in on an ongoing debate about freedom of the press in Malaysia, a rising Southeast Asian economy. Writing on his widely-read blog, he opined: “Frankly I would rather have the government censoring me … [I]f I don’t like what the government is doing, I can work for the rejection of the party which forms the government. But there is nothing I can do to stop people who may wish to deprive me of my freedom through the alternative media.” Mahathir, who was prime minister from 1981 to 2003, the longest such stint in Malaysia’s history, was reacting to videos posted online showing sections of the crowd mocking current Prime Minister Najib Razak at a Chinese New Year event in Penang, an electronics hub and tourist draw in Malaysia’s northwest.
BANGALORE – The Indian Government has gone on the offensive against internet giants such as Facebook, Google and Twitter after political unrest in various parts of the country, demanding hundreds of pages be removed or blocked. On August 15th, India’s independence day, Indian northeasterners began fleeing Bangalore, the country’s southern IT hub and 5th largest city, after a series of widely-disseminated text messages threatening Assamese and other ethnic groups from the northeast of the country. Attempting to stop bulk messaging, authorities restricted text messages to five recipients. On the platform at Bangalore train station were hundreds of people from Assam state and other areas of India’s northeast, a remote part of the country almost 2000 miles away. The region is mostly surrounded by Bangladesh, Bhutan, China and Burma and is linked to the rest of India only by a narrow strip of land nicknamed the chicken-neck.