American Law Professor Arrested in Rwanda

American Law Professor Arrested in Kigali - Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation Press Release
HRRF Calls Upon the International Community to Intervene

The Rwanda News Agency reported on May 28 that American law professor C. Peter Erlinder (William and Mitchell College of Law - Minnesota) was arrested over accusations related to negating the Rwandan genocide. The Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation deplores this clearly politically motivated arrest, and implores the international community to act quickly and decisively to demand Professor Erlinder's immediate release from custody.

Erlinder, an outspoken critic of the Kagame regime, is frequently criticized by the Rwandan government. His name recently appeared on a publicized list of foreigners who the Rwandan government allegedly wants silenced for their views. Erlinder traveled to Rwanda last week to defend presidential candidate Victoire Ingabire on the charges brought against her by the Rwandan government. Mrs. Ingabire, a political opponent of current President Kagame, was jailed recently and is currently under house arrest for expressing her political views, which are in opposition to official government policies. Erlinder is also a defense lawyer and leader of the association of defense attorneys defending Rwandan genocide suspects at the International Criminal Tribunal in Arusha, Tanzania. His current trip to Rwanda was intended to provide defense counsel in a peaceful legal process, but with this arrest his human rights, liberty and possibly his person safety are in danger.

Professor Erlinder was reportedly arrested on charges of "genocide negationism," which means that he disagrees with the official version of the 1994 genocide perpetuated by the current Rwandan regime. This law is frequently applied to silence critics of the regime, including in the past Mrs. Ingabire, Human Rights Watch investigators, and even the BBC.

Immediate action is needed to free Professor Erlinder and guarantee his human rights and personal safety. Educators can show their support by contacting the US and Rwandan governments.

Call the White House:202-456-1414

Call Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Secy of State Hillary Clinton  (202) 647-9572   State Dept: Fax 202 647 0244

State Department Main Switchboard 202-647-4000 TTY:1-800-877-8339
(Federal Relay Service)

Senator Al Franken: (202) 224-5641 Email

Senator Amy Klobuchar: 202-224-3244 Fax: 202-228-2186 Email at

Representative Keith Ellison: 202-225-4755 Email at

Representative Betty McCullom: (202) 225-6631 Fax: (202) 225-1968 Email

Bureau of African affairs 202-647-4440    Fax: 202-647-6301

Johnnie Carson,Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs  Phone: 202-647-2530 Fax: 202-647-0838

Rwanda embassy (NY): Telephone: +1 212 679 9010 or 1 212 679 9023   Fax:
+1 212 679 9133

Stephen J. Rapp war crimes ambassador Phone: 202-647-6051 Fax:

Susan Rice, US AMB to the UN Accredited Journalists: 212-415-4050
Opinion & Comment line: 212-415-4062 Fax: 212-415-4053

Rwanda Mission to the UN in USA: phone: +1 212 679 9010 or 1 212 679
9023 Fax: +1 212 679 9133

Rwandan Amb. James Kimonyo 1714 New Hampshire NW Washington, DC 20009
Tel: 202-232-2882 Fax: 202-232-4544

Transparent, Translucent, and Opaque

You hear the term "transparency" used a lot these days. We want more of it in government, business, and education.

What is it?  A dictionary would say it is "free from pretense or deceit" or "readily understood" "characterized by visibility or accessibility of information."

But what we too often get - to follow this metaphoric usage - is translucency. That's a state when something is transmitting and diffusing light (or information) so that things cannot be seen clearly.

And, in the worst situations, things are opaque and we can't see anything or it is hard to impossible to understand or explain.

I have to admit that this post has been sitting in the queue (Tim might say that is has been "festering" there) for several months. I started it when Google zapped my AdSense account that I used on several websites and this blog. (Tim has since replaced it with his own.)

Google has taken some criticism for issues bigger than my account that seemed to lack transparency and clash with their "Do no evil" mantra. They are especially disliked in the European Union (the Germans are not fan boys - Jeff Jarvis has an interesting take on this) where privacy is defined and treated differently than in the U.S.

People weren't happy with the way they launched Buzz (privacy issues, no beta, using your Gmail contacts to grab an immediate base of users).

When they killed my AdSense account, the most frustrating part was that they didn't say why (they gave a link to possible reasons) and the ban is for life!

Google is not alone in getting criticism for their lack of transparency. Facebook seems to attract a lot of criticism each time they launch some new design. Why? It always seems to be something that is easy to correct. They make the default setting that your information is "public" and you have to set it to some level of privacy.  (It's like those business sites that pre-check the "subscribe to our newsletter" for you.)

Penelope Trunk wrote that the "value of your privacy is very little in the age of transparency and authenticity. Privacy is almost always a way of hiding things that don’t need hiding... And transparency trumps privacy every time. So put your ideas in social media, not email.”

And that seems to be the prevailing attitude from companies. Your information is our information.

But it's not all privacy. Apple is another company that has been hit with the lack-of-transparency arrow. Take the new iPad. They say that the iPad is a blockbuster with 1 million sold in 28 days, but their fanatic need for secrecy even about sales seems absurd at times. Why are they really trying to kill Adobe Flash? Did you follow the whole lost iPhone prototype story? Their lack of transparency is making them disliked as a company in the way that Microsoft attracted criticism and Google is beginning to have its enemies. David Carr in the NY Times criticized Apple for their handling of the Gizmodo iPhone case, and the government may be checking into whether Apple is engaging in antitrust activities.

Is College A Good Investment?

graphThis past weekend, I stumbled upon this section of the BusinessWeek website called "The Debate Room" with the topic "Is college worth the cost?"

Notice that I didn't use that as this post's title because I think they actually ended up debating whether or not a degree is a good investment, and that is not really the same thing. (Okay is on the  BUSINESSweek site...)

Since I attended a few colleges and have worked at a few, I take the "pro" side in this debate. Joining me is Brooks C. Holtom - an academic business person (McDonough School of Business at Georgetown) - who says the math is simple and that the benefits of a degree far outweigh the costs of tuition.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, people who graduate with bachelor’s degrees will earn nearly twice as much over the course of their careers as those who complete only high school. College grads earn $2.1 million in lifetime income compared with $1.2 million for high school grads. The cost of four years’ tuition for a public school amounts to approximately $28,000 and for private school is about $100,000. Even if they go with the more expensive educational option, college grads net on average an extra $800,000 in lifetime earnings.

College also prepares you for a well-rounded and healthful life (college grads smoke less, exercise more, and are twice as likely to engage in volunteer work).

The social networks (the real ones, not online) developed in college have lifelong personal and professional benefits.

A college education dramatically increases the probability of finding a job that you enjoy.

Of course, someone is going to bring up someone like Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) or Michael Jordan or LeBron James and point out that these people achieved success without a four-year degree. But it's easier to point out the bigger numbers of people who succeed with a degree - not million-billionaire success, but a good return on the degree.

The Filters Are Clogged

filterA line I heard way back in the good old days of the emerging Internet was that doing research on the Net was like "trying to take a sip of water from a fire hose."  There's just too much information out here.

Over the years, all of us have developed ways of filtering the content.

One of the things that was doing back in 1995 was acting as a web search engine. But it was also a web directory and eventually it diversified into a web portal. Those were the days of Yahoo!, MSN, Lycos, Excite and Altavista and they all saw part of their role as filtering the "better" content to users.

Now, Google is the big player. It began with search, but we all know that it tries (and often succeeds) at doing much more with the information on the Net.

As Web 1.0 became Web 2.0 and we were hit with a lot more content produced by users on blogs and other sites, some of those people also became "filters." In fact, we have thought of Serendipity35 as a kind of filtering service. If you like this blog, it may be because you like what we select to feature in the posts. Or perhaps you subscribe to just one of our RSS categories from the sidebar, filtering only posts about "openness" or only those about "educational technology" or "eLearning."

The point is that all of either create filters using tools like RSS feeds, or Twitter or Facebook groups or rely on others who we trust to filter and find the best things.

But the filters are clogged. The information is overloading the filters.

I have created several Twitter accounts simply to keep my different lives apart. For example, I created one account just for the poetry people I follow. And within that account I had to divide them up into groups such as "publishers" so that when I click a link I might actually be able to read the posts rather than be confronted by hundreds of updates that I cannot get through.

I have had to drop some people I follow on Twitter simply because they fill up my feed. You could spend your day just following the posts of a few Twitter accounts on technology like Mashable who has almost 2 million followers and has made about 23,000 posts.

And the same thing happens in Facebook, in your Google Reader and was especially apparent in the dreadful launch of Google Buzz which threw a bunch of people you have some contact with into your Buzz following list.

Maybe you can't handle the flood of posts from a site like ReadWriteWeb, but you're okay with reading about the one or a two that I read and report on. Unfortunately, MY filter is becoming clogged too. I'm not sure I can get through all the content on a site like that and even filter out a few topics of interest.

Clay Shirky says that this is not a case of information overload but "filter failure" and I agree. There has always been more information (books, movies, newspaper, magazines...) than any one of can handle. We have always had our filters and they have always involved people - parents, teachers, librarians, mentors, friends, colleagues - in some way.

Talking about social networking use by teenagers in schools, Lisa Thumann found that because there were so many options for students and teachers to use, that there was no agreement on what works - and there was frustration that probably causes some to just not use anything. "Yet another place to have to check for information," she concludes.

How do we fix the filters? What filters do you use?