Egypt -- For the rocks and other projectiles that protestors are hurling in the streets of Cairo, Egypt's riot police have shields. To combat social media, another important weapon for the demonstrators, outside experts and people living in the country say the government has coordinated a blockage of certain communications websites and unplugged internet access entirely to parts of the country. On Thursday, protesters active on Twitter and Facebook, publicly documenting demonstrations on the streets of Cairo, Alexandria and other cities, went quiet. Around the same time, many websites centralized on servers in Egypt disappeared. On Friday, that Web shutdown seemed to be holding.Reports continued to flood Facebook and Twitter that land line service has been shut down in some Egyptian cities, though it's unclear whether that came as a result of a government edict or overloaded networks. Cellular telephone operators were told by authorities to suspend services in parts of Egypt, according to a statement from Vodafone, a global cell carrier that operates there. These services have played major rules in protests in Tunisia and Iran and for dissidents in China. They had begun to explode alongside street protests. "We are aware of reports of disruption to service and have seen a drop in traffic from Egypt this morning," a Facebook spokeswoman said Thursday. Facebook has been referring requests for comment to Herdict.org, a Harvard University project chronicling potential censorship of the Web around the world.
- 27 New York- Dennis Oppenheim, a pioneer of earthworks, body art and Conceptual art who later made emphatically tangible installations and public sculptures that veered between the demonically chaotic and the cheerfully Pop, died on Friday in Manhattan. He was 72. The cause was liver cancer, his wife, Amy Van Winkle Plumb, said. Mr. Oppenheim, who died at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, had homes in Manhattan and the Springs section of East Hampton on Long Island. Belonging to a generation of artists who saw portable painting and sculpture as obsolete, Mr. Oppenheim started out in the realm of the esoteric, the immaterial and the chronically unsalable. But he was always a showman, not averse to the circuslike, or to courting danger. For “Rocked Circle — Fear,” a 1971 body art piece, he stood at the center of a five-foot-wide circle painted on a New York sidewalk while a friend dropped fist-size stones from three stories above, aiming for inside the circle without hitting the artist. There were no mishaps.
- 26 Yemen- Inspired by the ousting of Tunisia's president a week ago, Tawakul Karman led two protests at Sanaa University, criticizing autocratic Arab leaders and calling on Yemenis to topple President Ali Abdullah Saleh by using text messages and emails. A security source said Karman, a member of the Islamist party Islah, was arrested by order of the General Prosecution Office. Police stopped Karman on her way home early on Sunday and charged her with organizing unlicensed demonstrations without permission, said her husband Mohamed Ismail al-Nehmi, who was with her. After Karman's arrest, several hundred students gathered outside Sanaa University, demanding her release. Karman, who heads the Yemeni activist group Women Journalists Without Chains, had also called on Yemenis to support the Tunisian people. Saleh has ruled Yemen, the Arab world's poorest country, for over three decades, his cash-strapped government challenged by rebellions in the north and south and by spreading al Qaeda militancy. Hundreds of protesters in Sanaa last week held signs reading: "Leave before you are forced to leave." Thousands demonstrated in the south on Thursday to show their rejection of political reforms proposed by the government, including a limit on presidential terms, which they said did not go far enough.
- 19 Haus der Kunst is pleased to announce the appointment of Okwui Enwezor as the next director of Haus der Kunst. Enwezor will take up the position in October 2011. He will succeed Chris Dercon, the outgoing director who will take over as director of the Tate Modern in April and will still be supervising the exhibition, "Carlo Mollino. Maniera moderna" (Haus der Kunst, September 16, 2011 ñ January 8, 2012). Enwezor (b. 1963 in Calabar, Nigeria) is currently Adjunct curator at International Center of Photography, New York, and previously Dean of Academic Affairs, San Francisco Art Institute, San Francisco, as well visiting Professor in Art History University of Pittsburgh, Columbia University, and University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He is currently Joanne Cassulo Fellow at the Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program in New York City and artistic director of Meeting Points 6. In addition to his academic activities he has been recently appointed chief curator of La Triennale, Paris 2012 and serves as advisory curator of "Dublin Contemporary" in 2011. Munich's public has been familiar with Okwui Enwezor since 2001: With his exhibition, "The Short Century. Independence and Liberation Movements in Africa 1945-1994", he presented the most extensive overview to date of artistic production in late- and post- colonial Africa. In this show, which treated art and documentary material as equals, he questioned the autonomy of art as well as the dichotomy between the private and the public. Okwui Enwezor began studying political science in 1983 in New York. At this time he also became interested in art and found that African artists were under-represented in both exhibitions and in the global art market. By contrast, he discovered significant gaps in the historiography of art in African countries. These observations created the foundation on which Enwezor would sharpen his profile as author and curator: Enwezor consistently urged the international art market to overcome its focus on the European-American connection and supported this appeal with publications. In 1994 he founded the tri-annual magazine, "NKA: Journal of Contemporary African Art", which he continues to edit together with Salah Hassan (Cornell University) and Chika Okeke-Agulu (Princeton University). The minister for education says: "Okwui Enwezor brilliantly directed documenta 11 in 2002, creating outstanding art experiences that continue to impact the world of art. As artistic director Mr. Enwezor held leading positions in Seville and Johannesburg. He is ancored in both the European and international art scene like few other figures." Okwui Enwezor says: "I am immensely delighted and honored to be joining Haus der Kunst in the next phase of its growth in the global landscape of contemporary art. In the last decade Haus der Kunst has been a place of great vitality and a formidable voice in advancing the key argument that serious contemporary art is as varied as the artists whose practices have been presented in its exhibitions. Munich is a great city that represents many crossroads of the global community and I look forward to working with the team at the Haus der Kunst in building an exciting platform for exhibitions, debates, and ideas." The Haus der Kunst team looks forward to working with Okwui Enwezor and to creating an internationally focused contemporary exhibition program in which "not nationalities, but rather ideas" (Enwezor) are in the forefront.
- 17 Puerto Rico– A student strike against the neoliberal education policies of conservative Governor Luis Fortuño Burset of the right-wing, pro-statehood New Progressive Party has led to the invasion of the University of Puerto Rico's campus in Rio Piedras, just outside San Juan, by police. The central issue in the strike is the role of the university as an educational center available to the whole population (about 3.76 million) of Puerto Rico regardless of economic status. Early in 2010, the island's government announced that it was going to add an extra "Fiscal Stabilization Fee" of $800 for each student per semester, starting in January 2011. The reason given for this action was the bad state of the Puerto Rican economy, which has been hard hit by the world financial and economic crisis. However, student activists and their supporters in labor and the general community accuse Fortuño's government of aiming at a corrupt privatization of university functions. Student leaders say that the new fees would push as many as 10,000 students out of 65,000 in the 11-campus University of Puerto Rico system. The Puerto Rican government, pleading budget shortfalls, has failed to honor commitments to fund the university facilities, provoking the crisis and endangering the accreditation of some of the campuses. Students at the main campus of Puerto Rico at Rio Piedras, just outside the capital of San Juan, began protests against these policies in the Spring, when they shut down the campus for two months amid clashes with police. On December 14, students again went on strike at Rio Piedras and five other campuses (out of the total of 11), with demonstrations, rallies and marches involving at least 500 people. On December 20, police units, including the SWAT team and private rent-a-cops contracted by the University, were sent onto the campus to suppress student protests. This violated a major tradition in all of Latin America which is that university campuses are autonomous and are not to be entered by police or troops. Before the police invasion, the Puerto Rican Supreme Court had issued a ruling that student strikes can be prohibited. Police used tear gas, beat students and arrested 18, some accused by the police of using smoke bombs to roust non-striking students from the Natural Sciences Faculty. In response to the police action, a protest of 15,000 people marched on the governor's mansion, La Fortaleza (the Fortress) in San Juan.
- 14 VATICAN CITY — Sex and civic education in schools in Europe is an "attack" on religious freedom, Pope Benedict XVI said on Monday, following a Vatican row with Spain over a new course promoting liberal values. "I cannot remain silent about another attack on the religious freedom of families in certain European countries which mandate obligatory participation in courses of sexual or civic education," the pope said. In his traditional New Year's address to ambassadors to the Vatican, the pope said such courses "convey a neutral concept of the person and of life, yet in fact reflect an anthropology opposed to faith and to right reason". Benedict said this was an example of the "threats" against "the cultural roots which nourish the profound identity and social cohesion of many nations". In a collection of interviews published in November 2010, Benedict said for the first time that he approved of condom use to reduce the risk of disease, leading some to wonder whether his attitude to sex education was changing. But the Vatican later insisted that the pope's comments referred only to sex workers who were HIV positive and could not be applied more widely. The pope's comments follow a heated row between the Roman Catholic Church and Spain's socialist government over civic education, after compulsory citizenship education classes were introduced in 2007. Thousands of parents in Spain have since complained about the course, which openly addresses topics such as homosexuality, divorce and abortion, and has been condemned by critics as being "anti-Christian". In Monday's address, the pope said Catholic education was being "compromised or hampered by legislative proposals which risk creating a sort of state monopoly" in schools, particularly in Latin America.
- 12 CHINA--Six medical students at Peking University Health Science Center have established a campus clinic to provide free medical service, including pre-diagnostic aid and some medicines for migrant workers without medical insurance. Xue Kan, 24, one of the six and a fifth-year medical student, told the Global Times that migrant workers usually don't go to hospitals when suffering minor illnesses because they lack medical insurance. "The still uneasy relationship between doctors and patients world-wide also pushed us as future doctors to do something to improve the situation," he told the Global Times. The clinic, named Sunshine and Love Clinic, follows the US "student-run free clinic" (SRFC) model, according to Jiang Xiaoxiao, 22, also a fifth-year medical student and co-founder. Jiang said that it was one of their classmates' experiences as a volunteer at a SRFC in the US that inspired them to start a similar one in China. Last year, six medical students including Jiang and Xue, both then clinical medical science seniors, made a trip to Jacksonville, Florida and stayed there for two weeks to learn about operating a SRFC. They also found that hospitals with a SRFC have a good reputation for better communication between patients and the medical staff. The clinic staff has grown from six to 40 students, including those studying clinical medical science, basic medicine and public. Xue said the clinic is exclusively organized and managed by students, under the supervision of teachers from the Youth League Committee at the university.
- 11 The Tunisian government has ordered all schools and universities closed indefinitely in response to a month-long wave of rioting over unemployment that has been dubbed the “Jasmine revolt” by Twitter activists. “Following violence in universities and lycées, and while awaiting an investigation to establish who was responsible for inciting students, we have decided to stop all the lessons in all educational establishments ... until further notice,” Tunisia’s TAP news agency quoted the education ministry as saying. Opposition activists said security forces’ suppression of the protests had claimed as many as 10 lives in the western town of Kasserine on Monday, but there was no confirmation from the authorities. The government said at least 14 people had been killed at the weekend. Amnesty International put the death toll at 23. The protests have shaken the stable image of Tunisia, an authoritarian state ruled since 1987 by Zein al-Abidine ben Ali, president. The unrest started in mid-December when a young man set himself on fire after police took away a stall of fruit and vegetables because he had no permit to trade.TRENTON — Education advocates and state lawyers faced off before the New Jersey Supreme Court today, arguing whether Gov. Chris Christie's cuts to education spending were unconstitutional. The Education Law Center said the loss of about $1 billion in aid to schools violates the state's constitutional obligations. It wants the court to force the state to fully fund the school funding formula in the upcoming budget year. The state countered by saying cuts to education spending were unavoidable because of the economic recession. It also said there's no constitutional inequity in school funding, leaving the court no role in saying how the state should spend taxpayer money. It's unclear when the Supreme Court will issue a decision on the matter. Some justices floated the idea of appointing a special master to review the impact of funding cuts before the court makes a decision, a move that would significantly lengthen the case.
- 10 WAYNE — At times, Arthur “Art” Smith was received as an irritating gadfly rather than an honorable public watchdog when he approached the podium multiple times during local government meetings to question or criticize township officials. Smith served as a public voice for nearly 20 years at almost every Board of Education,Township Council, Planning Board, and Board of Adjustment meeting. But he also was someone who guarded taxpayer dollars by joining in a successful fight that led in 1994 to Township Council members giving up public health benefits. He helped preserve local history by collecting signatures to save the 300-year-old Schuyler-Colfax house and served as a public voice for nearly 20 years at almost every Board of Education, Township Council, Planning Board, and Board of Adjustment meeting. Smith died Dec. 19 while visiting family in Florida. A memorial service in being planned by Vander May Wayne Colonial Funeral Home. And the Township Council remembered Smith for his dedication to the community and his persistence at public meetings. Joe Schweighardt, who replaced Purcell as council president, also lauded Smith for his public involvement. Smith began attending meetings regularly in the early 1990s after he retired as an electrical inspector for Thomas Electronics. He also was known for dressing up as Uncle Sam on Memorial Day, was a history buff and painted a scene of the Morris Canal that hung in the Lincoln Park Museum, where he had been a volunteer curator for about 30 years. Councilman Gerard Porter credited Smith’s persistence for getting Board of Adjustment meetings broadcast on the local cable station. He said Smith also was aggressive at collecting signatures for a referendum that ended public health benefits for council members, an idea Porter didn’t support at the time. Mayor Christopher Vergano said Smith “brought a different insight to the government,’’ adding “I appreciate the amount of time he devoted to attending our meetings and trying to bring different issues to the public.’’Timothy Collins, a Planning Board member and a public works superintendent who sometimes was the target of Smith’s criticism, said Smith played an important role in the township. “He was an activist, and you need activists,’’ Collins said. “They serve a purpose: They keep a watch on government.’’
- 07 ATLANTA -- The days of a free college education for Georgia high school students who maintain a "B" average might be coming to an end, officials said. Georgia's Hope scholarship program gives some students up to $6,000 per year for tuition for maintaining a "B" average in high school, but the program is about to be cut by a new governor and a Legislature facing a stagnant economy, The New York Times reported. Since the program started in 1993, 1.3 million Georgia students have received $5.6 billion in educational support. The plan is paid for with proceeds from the state's lottery system and was considered so innovative 15 states copied it. Last year, lawmakers had to pull millions of dollars from the state's reserve fund to cover the program and big shortfalls are expected this year and the next, the report said."Undoubtedly, this is, in every sense of the word, a very strongly ingrained entitlement for a certain segment of voters, and politicians are indeed reluctant to touch it," said Christopher Cornwell, a professor of economics at the University of Georgia.