Russia bans

Russia's blogosphere reacted with anger today after a regional court banned YouTube because it carried a single video containing "extremist" content.

The court in Komsomolsk-on-Amur in Khabarovsk region in the Russian far east ordered Rosnet, a local internet provider, to block YouTube as well as three online libraries and a website that archives deleted web pages.

The regional ban was made because YouTube hosted Russia For Russians, an ultra-nationalist video which was added to the justice ministry's federal list of banned extremist materials after a separate court decision in Samara region in November.

The other four sites –,, and – all carried copies of Hitler's Mein Kampf.

Anton Nosik, Russia's leading internet guru, condemned the decision. "The level of crassness in this court ruling is typical of legal proceedings concerning the internet in Russia," he said. Google, the owner of YouTube, said the ruling violated Russians' constitutional right to freedom of information.

Many bloggers also decried the ban, warning it could be a slippery slope to tighter censorship across the country.

"I can imagine it now," wrote Ghost82 on LiveJournal. "Russia in 2015, YouTube is banned everywhere. In search of a gulp of air, people travel to the border with Georgia where they will sit with their laptops and pay unimaginable sums to connect to the internet via powerful Wi-Fi transmitters for a taste of depraved western civilisation."

Alexander tweeted on RuTvit: "YouTube has been given to understand that Russia, Pakistan and North Korea have much in common."

An engineer with Rosnet said the company had suggested prosecutors should contact the portals concerned directly to request they take down the offensive material, rather than issuing a blanket ban. "They [prosecutors] remained deaf to these pleas," he told the news website. Rosnet is appealing the ruling.

While television is tightly controlled by the state, Russia's soft authoritarian government has so far done little to rein in the internet. Social media and blogging sites are popular and provide a vital outlet for opposition and civil movements.

However, a package of laws to be reviewed by parliament in October could give the security services new powers to close down sites at short notice.

The YouTube ruling is likely to be an embarrassment for President Dmitry Medvedev, who recently launched his own channel on the video-sharing site.

Other countries that have banned YouTube include China, Pakistan, Turky and Iran.

come let's go

dear people

when the little box was checked and the little card was dropped into the bucket three weeks ago i didn't realize the impact that it would have on my life. pastor brad had just gotten through exhorting us to try to do our best to follow along at home on this new teaching adventure: chasing daylight. i, for one, have never been a proponent of homework, but was strangely compelled to do just that very thing. to go buy the book, read one chapter a week, and attend my small group to discuss what we had all been experiencing. well, things were working smoothly on that front. my wife and i had been keeping our end of the bargain waiting on God to show us why we had signed up in the first place. i mean. i can get God just the same without a little book, can't i?

come let's go. come let us go. whether three words or four, they have been running through my head for over a month now. it has been a bit tricky at times to fit it into our schedules, but, i imagine we have all had that as either an excuse or a reason to not do anything that we promise to do. last week we fell behind a little in the reading part of it, so we found ourselves "cramming" before our small group started with chapter three. the weekly readings of "chasing daylight" by erwin mcmanus have been meaningful and thought-provoking thus far, but it had not impacted our lives until this week. it all started on sunday.

on sunday i proposed to do such a thing. something that had "come let's go" written on it. my wife and i are both givers and we were both seeking God on who to bless with a "monetary surprise" and we happened to decide on the same person and almost the same amount. having her and i agree on money was indeed a miracle, so we decided to go for it. so, using stealth and love, we sprang our blessing on our unsuspecting victim after church service sunday and departed with the happiness that can only be felt through doing something awesome. it was more than we even usually put in the offering bucket, but we felt good about things. it even fit neatly into our budget for the month. hey, what could be better?

things were even happy when my beautiful wife decided to take the day off monday so that we could run down to the tag agency and work on our quote "car stuff" as i like to call it. things were not so happy thirty minutes later when the total bill for our "car stuff" had topped off at around a thousand dollars. no kidding. a thousand bucks.

after leaving the tag agency with empty wallets, fuzzy brains and weakened resolve there seemed to be a black hand that came up from the horizon and loomed over us. even the drive home, usually five minutes seemed like a journey across the great state of kansas that lasted an entire day. i immediately became fearful and disenchanted with Gods perfect plan for my life and argumentative towards my wife. things were looking bleak. severely bleak indeed. i could have really used a heads up God.

so now we have no money. besides the gas in our cars and the change bucket we had at the house. we had no money. rent was due on the first, and we hadn't even bought our bi-weekly groceries. we need oranges, we need bread. we need milk.

and so the week went. we cooked leftovers and visited exciting websites that promised a cuisine out of three potatoes and a tablespoon of cooking oil. it was time to get inventive. it was time to stand firm in our faith, it was time to believe in the promises of God for our lives. so what did we do? yeah. we mostly did just that. i would like to give this great story a twist and tell you how i climbed up in the crows nest and had a lieutenant dan moment, but no. this story is nothing like that. we just relaxed and trusted Jesus. it was pretty cool.

and here is why:

number one: we were obedient when God told us to bless those people.

number two: we had "done something". we said to eachother: "come let's go" and decided to let God determine the outcome.

number three: we trusted Him with our giving. no pomegranate tree-sitters here. we had one sword and were going to use it.

well so now our story comes to a close. i'll bet you are guessing what comes next. were they able to pay rent? did God come through? what happened? ooh i'll bet the suspense is killing you.

yes. God came through. and he answered in a way that makes a great ending to this little story. over the course of this week, unexpectedly, God has had four different people sow food and money into our lives. over three hundred dollars. we can now pay rent, buy some oranges and some bread, and hold eachother reassuringly knowing that God is in His throne, His son is standing next to Him interceding for us, and His Spirit, the hope of Glory, resides in us, comforting us in everything.

oh look, the mailman just got here. guess what just arrived. some coupons for free milk.

isn't God amazing?

-pauly hart