Tag Archives: Activism

How to Get Internet to Cuba

Amid deepening poverty, escalating COVID cases and a lack of vaccines, Cubans are doing something very brave: protesting against the Communist dictatorship in the largest demonstrations in six decades.

I can’t even imagine how afraid they must be, but they’re out there. And activists need to be able to coordinate with each other. The Cuban government knows this, so they’ve taken a cue from dictatorships in Iran, Myanmar and elsewhere: restricting the internet.

Cuba’s government has disrupted access to WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, Telegram and YouTube, per London-based watchdog NetBlocks. These disruptions have gone on for over a week so far and show no signs of ending.

As an American with a love of freedom and a background in tech, I thought I’d research some options for our Cuban friends:

  • Alternative social platforms: Twitter is not yet blocked, although it could be at any time. Less used video platforms like Vimeo or Dailymotion are also available.
  • Privacy tools: VPN’s continue to work, as does Signal, the encrypted messaging app used by Edward Snowden. This could be a superb WhatsApp alternative. Tor is a great option for browsing. It’s available for desktop or mobile in a convenient browser form. It routes data through many servers, making your traffic untraceable. Unlike most VPN’s, Signal and Tor are free. I use them myself.
  • Satellites: Not viable. These need ground infrastructure that Cuba doesn’t have and their government won’t allow.
  • Balloons: Much discussed and a great potential solution, but I fear the implementation will take too long to be of use to Cubans. These balloons exist today, cost in the tens of thousands (chump change to the US government), and float in international airspace. They could be positioned over international waters as well.

    Cuba would be taking an extreme step to shoot them down, if they could even accomplish it. And in any case, we could always launch many, many more.

If anyone knows of any good charities working on these issues, please leave a comment at the bottom of the page. I’d be happy to contribute to any good effort in this area.

Patria y vida, amigos!

More on tech:




Photo: “Project Loon balloon” by douglas_coldwell is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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A COVID Vaccine is Being Manufactured in Baltimore Now. But the Government Won’t Let You Have It.

The AstraZeneca COVID vaccine is being manufactured today at a plant in Baltimore. This vaccine has been show to be between 62% and 90% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID.

But despite those excellent results in trials in the UK, Brazil, India and South Africa, the US government plans to wait until an American trial is finished in April. This as 4,000 of our fellow citizens die daily.

We should do what the UK and other nations have done, rely on the data we have, and get this vaccine approved immediately. I propose we follow the counsel of economist Alex Tabarrok:

“The AZ vaccine should be given an EUA immediately and made available in pharmacies for anyone who wants it while continuing to prioritize Moderna and Pfizer for the elderly and essential workers.”

Alex Tabarrok, Marginal Revolution

I just wrote my Congressman and Senators to urge them to push for immediate FDA approval of this life saving medication, and I humbly request you do the same! Frankly, I am very frustrated with this situation. Maybe you are too!

If you like, you can use the text I used, below. You can find your Congressman’s contact info here and your Senator’s contact info here.

Dear X,

The AstraZeneca COVID vaccine is approved in the UK and other countries and has shown efficacy of 62-90%. With over 4,000 of our fellow Americans dying daily, I urge you in the strongest possible terms to push the FDA to authorize this lifesaving medication immediately.

Thank you for all the good work you do!



The Art Piece I’m Loving Lately

I came across this beautiful art piece recently. It’s a mixed media piece made of acrylic paint, paper, and safety pins. It is in the silhouette of a girl seen through a fence. It appears to be meant to evoke the many people coming to the southern border for asylum in recent years.

I spoke with the artist, Amy Putman, and she said she got the idea from an article in the New York Times about people using safety pins on their clothing as a statement about people being linked, whether they be fortunate or disadvantaged.

Ms. Putman plans to make a series of prints from this image. I hope to get my hands on one when they’re ready!

What interesting pieces of art have you seen this year? Leave it in the comments!