Berkman Alumni, Friends, and Spinoffs

Keep track of Berkman-related news and conversations by subscribing to this page using your RSS feed reader. This aggregation of blogs relating to the Berkman Center does not necessarily represent the views of the Berkman Center or Harvard University but is provided as a convenient starting point for those who wish to explore the people and projects in Berkman's orbit. As this is a global exercise, times are in UTC.

The list of blogs being aggregated here can be found at the bottom of this page.

October 25, 2014

Lawrence Lessig
Friends at The Nantucket Project remixed my talk to produce this…

Friends at The Nantucket Project remixed my talk to produce this beautiful 6 minute video, and Time is spreading it broadly. Let this be dedicated to the kids from Hong Kong who are reminding us all about the ideals of democracy. 

(Original post on Tumblr)

by Lessig at October 25, 2014 08:20 PM

Re Upton: It just gets curiouser and curiouser!

The campaign team released the following fact-check on the Upton campaign’s continued response…

(Original post on Tumblr)

by Lessig at October 25, 2014 08:02 PM

MIT Center for Civic Media
9 Best Practices for Diverse Inclusion and Cooperation in Open Communities

How can open source and participatory communities like Mozilla support diverse inclusion? Here at the Community Building Track at the Mozilla Festival, an international group of organizers convened to discuss ways to cooperate effectively across gender, age, accessibility, and cultural differences. It's part of a larger initiative here at the MozillaFestival to create a community building handbook for open communities.

The session was facilitated by Beatrice Martini, Katelyn Rogers, Flore Allemandou, J. Nathan Matias, Deb Soumya, Alifiyah Ganijee, Leo McArdle, Ibrahima Sarr, and Cynthia Ng. These notes were created by me and Katelyn Rogers.

In the session, we broke into groups, identifying best practices for diversity and suggesting actions that we could take next.

9 Best Practices for Inclusive Communities

Codes of Conduc are a baseline practice for ensuring that disrespectful conduct is not acceptable at any level of participation. Although they're often discussed in relation to gender diversity, they should also account for age and accessibility guidelines. Here are a few examples of Codes of Conduct that we could find: Allied Media, Ashe Dryden, Hacker School.

Diverse Mentorship and role models offer welcoming support to people who are less well represented within a community. Ensuring diversity among speakers and leaders in our communities is an important step, and it's important to.

 

One way to avoid tokenism is to partner with other communities to create trust and working relationships across culturally diverse groups over time.

Offer facilitation training to people within your community, supporting them to develop practices and instincts of listening, respect and inclusion. Training often helps people overcome instincts (like speaking too fast, too much, or interrupting others) that might other be dis-inclusive.

Great events welcome families and offer childcare to support parent involvement, and to support families to learn and create things together. When parents learn and create technology together with their children, fears and concerns about young people's technology interests can be overcome. Childcare opens participation to carers who might otherwise be excluded from in-person events.

 

Broaden your outreach by asking participants to suggest other people who don't look them, and then ask those people the same question.

Organize socializing events that are broadly inclusive. In some cases, this might involve providing space for non-drinkers. Other organizers build socializing time into the official event schedule, since some people (like parents) need to leave after business hours.

Funders and leaders should include diversity as a funded component of every project, since outreach and inclusion cost money.

Inclusion takes time; successful initiatives and partnerships across demographic and cultural diversity take time to build trust and working relationships over multiple gatherings.

Join the Conversation!

In this session, we also collected a large number of actions to take in this space, ideas that will evolve as we work together on the Community Building Handbook here at the Community Track at MozFest. We'll be here all weekend (see the schedule), join us or tweet any of the organizers!

by natematias at October 25, 2014 12:56 PM

Global Voices
3 Online Initiatives to Boost Voters’ Involvement in Tunisia's 2014 Elections
Tunis, Tunisia. 22nd October 2014 -- Images of those killed and wounded in the Tunisian revolution are held up at a protest over the light sentences handed out to suspects accused of killing protesters outside the interior ministry in Tunis. -- Ahead of the Tunisian election, relatives of those who died or were injured in the revolution rallied outside the interior ministry in Tunis to protest the light sentences handed out to suspects accused of killing protesters. Copyright: Demotix

Tunis, Tunisia. 22 October 2014 — Images of those killed and wounded in the Tunisian revolution are held up at a protest over the light sentences handed out to suspects accused of killing protesters outside the interior ministry in Tunis. — Ahead of the Tunisian election, relatives of those who died or were injured in the revolution rallied outside the interior ministry in Tunis to protest the light sentences handed out to suspects accused of killing protesters. Copyright: Demotix

Tunisians are encouraged to vote in the country's parliamentary elections this Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014.

While voting turnout in 2011 was less than 45 per cent, civil society organisations have joined forces to launch new initiatives aimed at encouraging citizens to take part in the elections.

Tunisians now have access to material online to choose from the myriad of political parties and candidates taking part in the elections. They are also able to verify the candidates’ messages and even report on corruption and abuse.

Ikhtiar Tounes (Arabic/French)

Ikhtiar Tounes, which translates to Tunisia's Choice from Arabic, is a platform that compares voters’ opinions and answers on certain political and economic issues in Tunisia with several parties’ proposed solutions and programs. The end result is a comparability rate between the user's views and those of different parties registered on the platform.

Birrasmi.tn (French)

“Birrasmi” is a casual expression in Tunisia. It means “really?”

This platform verifies proposed solutions or recent statements made by political parties with sourced facts. The platform then assigns a credibility badge ranging from “totally true” i.e. feasible to “totally false” i.e. impossible to achieve.

Billkamcha.tn (Arabic)

Billkamcha is an anti-corruption platform where citizens can report administrative corruption in the country through several means of communication with the platform.

Several other organizations such as I-Watch or Mourakiboun have been working closely on monitoring the organizations of the elections, and transgressions have been noted. Some include signature buy-outs from citizens and/or data theft. Some candidates for the presidential elections have been involved in this scandal without further investigations or procession to trial.

List of organizations monitoring Tunisia 2014 Elections

List of organizations monitoring Tunisia 2014 Elections

Some voters today reported that their names are missing where they thought they were registered to vote. Others were registered in two bureaus.

To follow a live citizen coverage of the elections, you can follow the hashtag #TnElec2014. The National Public Television has also set an interactive digital map (Arabic) where results will be gradually reported in the upcoming days after the votes have been counted.

Tunisia will be holding its presidential elections next month on November 23.

by Ahmed Medien at October 25, 2014 12:05 PM

October 24, 2014

Global Voices
Hitting Below the Belt? Trinidad & Tobago President Tries to Gag Comedian Over Jokes About First Lady
Trinidad and Tobago President Anthony Carmona, speaking at the International Criminal Court's  Judicial Candidates Forum in New York in 2011. Photo by Coalition for the ICC; used under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license.

Trinidad and Tobago President Anthony Carmona, speaking at the International Criminal Court's Judicial Candidates Forum in New York in 2011. Photo by Coalition for the ICC; used under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license.

Trinidad and Tobago netizens did a virtual facepalm this week when it was revealed via a tweet from a journalist that the country's president, Anthony Carmona, had issued a legal letter intended to bar local entertainer Rachel Price from making fun of the first lady's fashion sense.

As of yesterday, Price said she still had not received the letter, but was prepared to come out guns blazing once she did.

Her Excellency Reema Carmona was roundly criticised by many for her choice of outfit at the Fashion for Development event last month, during the 69th Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York City. The selection of a thick tan belt worn over a black dress gave the illusion – at least in photographs – of a bare midriff. Many thought it inappropriate for an event which the first lady attended in her official capacity, and some still maintain that there was no belt at all.

Trinidad and Tobago is a country reputed for its picong — satirical banter that is not only part of every Trinbagonian's arsenal of repartee, but which has historically been the foundation of countless calypsoes that provide critical social commentary. In this context, the president's move came as a surprise and opened the head of state up to even more criticism.

In his inaugural speech, Carmona famously made the point that the Office of the President “is not impotent”:

I do want to emphasise [...] that I am not an Executive President. Under the Westminster form of governance, there are parameters within which I must operate. Powers you think I have… I do not. Powers you think I do not have… I do.

The speech made waves; people hoped to see less rubberstamping and more action when it came to matters of public concern. Rachel Price's jabs seemed trivial in comparison to pressing national issues, and netizens said as much via memes and on Twitter. The focus quickly shifted from the first lady's wardrobe…

reems

…to the president's defense of her:

president powers

Other Twitter users couldn't understand why Price was singled out, considering that so many — both on social and in mainstream media — were talking about it:

Some suggested the move was an attack on freedom of speech:

There were those who stood firmly in defense of the first lady and her right to wear whatever she chooses. Fashion designer Robert Young thought the reaction to Mrs. Carmona's outfit was “sexist and filled with internalized colonialism.” He made the point that fashion is a cultural phenomenon, saying, “Bellies are shown all over the world. The late Indira Gandhi must have shown her's.” (sic)

From the president's perspective, the issue is that his office considers Price's statements — though it isn't clear which ones — defamatory. Price has reportedly been promoting a comedy show at which she promises to target the first lady's attire, but it is not known if the letter refers to this or other comments. Public relations expert Dennise Demming felt that the president's response to Price was a bit like “using a hatchet where a scalpel is needed”, saying that he has only succeeded in “dignify[ing] poor humour and improv[ing] her popularity.”

It is also being debated whether the Office of the President should even be party to the legal action, since defamation cases can only involve individuals. At an address he gave at the 2014 Presentation of Graduates at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, the president likened Price's comments to cyber-bullying, telling graduates that social media websites had degenerated from “performing an envisaged function of creating a positive communication link among friends, family and professionals” to “a veritable battleground, where insults fly from the human quiver, damaging lives, destroying self-esteem and a person’s sense of self-worth.”

In response to this, and the president's insistence that people should “maintain respect” for his office, Facebook user Colin Robinson said:

I real tired of all this shit about office and reputation. Go and do some real work and get a reputation! Dignity of which office? Any office in Trinidad and Tobago have any dignity? We taking way people dignity every day in Magistrates Court, and police shooting them dead, and Kamla [Persad-Bissessar, the Prime Minister] and all of them could fock all who they want but they keeping laws against bulling on the books, and Wayne Kublalsingh is a reptile [...] And you want to preserve the dignity of you office??? And is not even like I feel Rachel Price right to spend so much time ponging a next woman for wearing a dress. Reema and she belly could wear whatever the kissmearse she want. But when you in public office you must take picong and pong and grin and wave. Else do not stand up next to Mrs. Ban on my tax dollar.

At Wired868, a site known for its political satire, Mr. Live Wire was all over the issue like fabric draped over a mannequin:

The late President ANR Robinson often challenged a sitting Prime Minister on matters that he felt ran contrary to the spirit of the constitution and abused the trust of the nation.

The current President is more like the dude who goes to a fete with his lady half-dressed and then wants to fight anyone he catches looking.

Some Facebook users thought the whole affair was a case of — as Trinidadians say — “do so don't like so”, reminding netizens of a similar lawsuit that was filed 11 years ago. On that occasion, Price was the one issuing the legal letter to radio talk show host Ricardo “Gladiator” Welch for libel and slander. Welch counter-sued and Price eventually dropped the lawsuit.

This time, it appears that Price isn't backing down. She commented on her radio show:

This is a democracy and if I can’t talk about the President’s wife belly that was in meh eye, then something very wrong…Yuh damn right, I doh know meh place. But I know meh citizenship. I mightn’t know meh place but yuh know meh home. This is Trinidad and Tobago.

by Janine Mendes-Franco at October 24, 2014 06:28 PM

How Chinese President Xi Jinping and His Yellow Umbrella Became a Hong Kong Pro-Democracy Protest Meme
Xi confronted with Riot Police in Mongkok. Image via Arm Channel in Facebook.

Chinese President Xi Jinping photoshopped into a scene of protesters confronting riot police in Mongkok. Image via Arm Channel in Facebook.

Photoshopped images of Chinese President Xi Jinping holding an umbrella at various pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong are the latest political memes to go viral on social media. 

It started with Chinese state media's announcement that a photo of Xi visiting Hubei Province won the country’s top photojournalism prize. He was holding an umbrella and talking to some engineers in the rain. His pants were rolled up to prevent them from getting wet:

The photo, which is rather typical of mainland Chinese political propaganda to push a grassroots image of their leaders, quickly caught the attention of Hong Kong netizens. They remixed the photo, placing Xi and his yellow umbrella against the background of protest sites in Hong Kong, where people have gathered to demand
an open nomination system for chief executive candidates instead of the largely pro-Beijing nominating committed insisted upon by the mainland.

President Xi joined the Umbrella Revolution in Hong Kong. Image created by Andy Sum.

President Xi on the cover of Time magazine. Image created by Andy Sum.

Mainland Chinese media outlets are accusing the recent protests, called Occupy Central by local media or the Umbrella Revolution by foreign media, of being as color revolution that seeks to undermine the central government's authority, a serious charge. The political memes of Xi holding an umbrella — the symbol of the protest — have been a source of comic relief given the tense political atmosphere.

A photoshopped image of American magazine Time's cover showing Xi holding an umbrella in tear gas was reposted by 100most, a popular cultural magazine on Facebook, and attracted more than 10,000 likes and 800 shares. Ivan Wong commented with sarcasm:

習總果然是我們的父母官啊,「一把遮、一個眼神、一邊摺褲」落區聽民意的習總為689作親身示範。

President Xi is such a parent-like leader: He demonstrated to 689 [refers to Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying who won only 689 votes from the 1,200-member election committee in 2012] how to mingle with local communities and listen to people's opinion with “an umbrella, a sincere-looking glimpse and a cuffed pant”.

The meme below shows Xi edited into a scene at Admiralty, the key Occupy Central sit-in site in central Hong Kong:

Xi in Admiralty protest site. Image source: Leung Pak Kin via  Facebook 100most.

Chinese President Xi edited into the Admiralty protest site. Image source: Leung Pak Kin via Facebook 100most.

Surprisingly, Patrick Li reported that the meme has survived so far for more than 24 hours on WeChat, China's popular messaging and calling app, without being censored.

The Xi umbrella meme confronting riot police at the Mongkok protest site is perhaps the most dramatic as Mongkok is a heavily crowded, diverse working-class commercial district where violent conflicts have broken out almost every day since the sit-in began on September 28 between police officers and protesters, as well as between pro-Beijing groups and pro-democracy protesters.

Despite several police attempts to clear the area, resilient protesters in Mongkok have non-violently reclaimed the streets. The protest site in Mongkok generally sees a more grassroots participation from lower- to middle-class background, while college students, teachers and professionals frequent Admiralty.

Netizen Stephanie Lai believed if China's top leaders were really willing to stand with the grassroots communities like the image of Xi in Mongkok, people in Hong Kong would embrace reunification with China.

Xi at the top of Lion Rock. Via Tang Earthquake's Facebook

Xi at the top of Lion Rock. Via Tang Earthquake's Facebook

The most up-to-date meme is Xi at the top of Lion Rock in Hong Kong. The Lion Rock Hill has been a symbol of the hardworking spirit of the Hong Kong grassroots because of a popular TV drama in 1970s.

In a recent interview with New York Times, Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying argued that the government would not accept that idea of citizen nomination of candidates because the poor and working classes would dominate the elections. In response to his comment, a group of hikers decided to occupy the Lion Rock Hill by hanging a large banner that says “I want true universal suffrage” on October 23.

The political memes not only help the symbol of the Umbrella Revolution to travel further, but they also serve as a reminder of the role China has to play in the future of Hong Kong. President Xi keeps expressing his concern for the common people. Does that concern extend to the democratic wishes of Hong Kong's people?

by Ellie Ng at October 24, 2014 03:51 PM

MIT Center for Civic Media
Algorithms & Data-driven Storytelling Panel at the Computation + Journalism Symposium at Columbia

I'm at the 2014 Computation + Journalism symposium at Columbia University. Here's a quick intro to what we are talking about:

"Data and computation drive our world, often without any kind of critical assessment or accountability. 
Journalism is adapting responsibly—finding and creating new kinds of stories that respond directly to 
our new societal condition. We are excited that you can join us for a two-day conference exploring the 
interface between journalism and computing." (Symposium program)
 
Here is a live blog account from the first panel which consisted of three papers about Algorithms and Data-Driven Storytelling.

The Story Discovery Engine: Artificial Intelligence for Public Affairs Reporting

Meredith Broussard, Assistant Professor, Temple University

 

She shows a slide of Data from Star Trek. There is no such thing as Commander Data. Most of what we know of AI comes from the movies. What's real about AI is what we can make with code, algorithms and data.

It's hard as a reporter to come up with original story ideas. She was a reporter and wanted to move into educaion reporting. She had reported in a number of areas and wanted to write a story about textbooks but didn't have the sources. She wanted to talk with people at best schools, worst schools but didn't know where to start. She built some software to solve her reporting problem.

She also got a tip from a source who said that you could send your kid to a reputable school as long as you did fundraising for books. She wanted to see if there was a relationship between book shortages and the fact that students haven't been able to pass standardized tests in Philly public schools.

 

She shows a slide of the education system as a funnel. Standards like the Common Core lead to Scope & Sequence at the local level. This is a document that teachers read that should correspond to standards and helps teachers know what the students should know at different points in the school year. Then Branded Curriculum goes along with these. The top three companies have a 35% market share for educational materials.

 

So she still wanted to write a story about the education system. She built something based on a concept from AI called an "expert system". The idea is that you can ask a box advice and the box gives you answers as good as human ones. This idea fell out of favor because human intelligence so far supersedes black boxes based on code. She revived this idea and instead of having advice coming out of the box, she made it so that data visualizations came out of the box. It's a story discovery engine that a reporter can use to discover a story around public affairs. Could be used for education, public affairs or other topic area. Any area where you have a set of well-defined rules and way of operating.

A reporter is good at looking at what should be versus what is. In this case, the rules are articulating in laws and policies so that's why it works well for public affairs. Her prototype can be found at stackedup.org and the code is free on github.com. The site has a couple different components. She wrote 7 stories that were published in various places, most recently on the Atlantic's site. The "Reporting Tool" column helps you discover the stories. You can see how much textbooks cost for all of the schools or one of the schools. It shows that, for example, for a single textbook a school district would need to spend almost $9,000 in order purchase the needed books. You can also see whether a particular school that is missing the required textbooks is underperforming on standardized tests in comparison to the rest of the school district. You can see both that there are not enough books and that the school is not performing well. She is suggesting that these things are related. The tool addresses 241 schools and every grade in that data set.

She discusses the impact of her stories and her tool. There was a lot of media attention and one of the administrators responsible for book shortages were fired. It turns out money for textbooks had gone missing. Another senior administrator also left. In the process of this, the school district discovered a secondary problem with financing textbooks and has taken steps to remedy it.

She thinks of this project as using Big Data for social justice. She worked with three developers over six months to build this. They built it in a way that can be applied to any school district in the country.

Questions from the audience:

Q. You stated in your article that the school's inventory data turned out to be missing. what is the impact of that when the data is wrong?

A. One of the things that is fascinating about data-driven work is when you explore the places where the data is missing.

Q. A lot of time legislation is written in a way that doesn't easily lend itself to code, how did you deal with that?

 

A. There is not a strict translation of legislation into code. I had to take apart the legislation itself and rewrite the rules. That's a human intervention. It's not scalable but it's necessary.

Transparency and Interactivity in Data-Driven Rankings

Nick Diakopoulos, University of Maryland

Stephen Cass, IEEE Spectrum

Joshua Romero, IEEE Spectrum

 

Nick Diakopoulos wants to share his research around rankings and creating ways to share rankings more interactively and transparently with the public. A new ranking came out earlier this month. LinkedIn analyzed millions of users on the platform. It looked at rankings for media professionals and showed that New York University, Hofstra and Duke were the top three. US News and World Report ranks these places usually much lower. This is surprising. Rankings are a mystery. We don't really know what is driving the ranking behind these things.

 

US News & World Report does publish the criteria and their weighting, but LinkedIn publishes a blog post. They say they analyze people who end up in "desirable companies". It's difficult to understand that and then compare to US News & World Report. They started working with IEEE (largest professional org for electronics and electrical engineers) to rank the top programming languages.

IEEE & Nick ranked the top 10 programming languages. Java is at the top and the list includes Python, Javascript, PHP, Ruby, R and C. They had a multitude of criteria, including what is most widely used, what is trending, what platforms the language works on. Their task was to open up these rankings and provide insight into how they ranked these things. Users could drill down into a ranking and see that Google, Github, and other sites were driving that technology's particular ranking. Users could create their own rankings and compare those to how the IEEE-defined system ranked languages.

They wanted users to be able to understand through creating their own rankings.

 

What was the response from the public to this report?

 

A couple thousands tweets and likes and a couple hundred comments. 1285 tweets translated to 884 original tweets. Many of those were in the editing interface. 127 of those were people who had gone in and tweaked the rankings in various ways. 6 of them had tweet text that referred to how they had edited the rankings. The team did not have in-app metrics to assess engagement.

 

Comments on the app were interesting. People were critiquing the editorial decisions the team made. Why is a language missing? Why is SQL a programming language? People pointed out things that were missing, definitions, classifications and methodology among other things.

Take Aways

Only 16% of tweets interacted deeply with the editing/filtering capability. This raises the question as to how much transparency in ranking systems really necessary? When do people care enough to step in and trying to know more about the behind the scenes.

 

He takes the other points as design criticism and is reflecting on the editorial decisions they made.

 

The edge cases provide an opportunity for co-constructing meaning with the users of the visualization.

Regulatory Breakdowns in Oversight of U.S. Stockbrokers

Rob Barry, Wall Street Journal with Jean Eaglesham

 

Rob leads by talking about a real-world process of gathering data and turning that into stories, including some of the hurdles and analytical problems. For him, the most difficult part was obtaining the information.

There are 634,000 people who are licensed traders. FINRA is one of the financial industry regulators. Many of us might think the job of a trader would be done by etrade today. It's interesting that there are still hundreds of thousands of people who call people up and try to get them to buy securities. Those traders fall under an opaque regulatory regime. FINRA used to be the NASD and then merged with the NY Stock exchange. It's made up of the traders AND regulates the traders. It's a non-governmental entity so there is no way to request information from them. So if you want to know a list of traders that have criminal pasts, you can't get that.

But, for every stock broker, FINRA puts up a dossier of their histories. They forbid you from "scraping" the data and you can't get the data by asking. So their question was how could they get that data? The data is actually stored in a state repository called the Central Registration Depository. Every state has jurisdiction over the individual brokers in that state.

However, every state told them they didn't have access to that data. Rob's team had to actually work with them individually and tell them how to navigate the interface of the software, which buttons to click on and where the data lived. He shows a completely incorrect letter from the Attorney General of New York that states that the state doesn't have the data they were requesting. Rob shows how just prior to that letter, the state of NY had made exactly the opposite case in a court case.

 

They got CD discs from all the states and he shows a photo of all of those disks. The data came in all of the different formats - XML, CSV, Access, Excel. They got 110 million rows of data in total. They had to consolidate the data into a single database they could query. They had to eliminate duplicates. They got around 550,000 individuals identified from the overall field of 630,000 that they knew existed.

They were interested in the "disclosures" like criminal record, bankruptcy, customer complaints  and liens. For the first time, they were able to see who the people are. 13% of people had at least one red flag. Three or more red flags - 2% or 10,000 - fit that category. A couple hundred even have more than 10 red flags in their history.

One of the things they did was follow the brokers as they traveled from firm to firm. A lot of them were located in Long Island. A number of individuals from one firm all moved to another firm at the same time. They also cross-referenced all 550K individuals with public records databases. They found a pattern of "cockroaching", meaning brokers scuttling from firm to firm. They also showed how individuals dodged arbitration claims by closing up shop. They saw this pattern in the data.

Rob is interested in this because of the lack of disclosure. He sees data journalism as a way of going around this lack of disclosure to get at information that should be public.

 

Questions from the Audience

Q: What lessons learned came out of this practice? Repeatability and scalability are mantras of computation. Is there something you could share around how to repeat and scale this kind of work?

 

A: I'd be embarrassed to share the code with you guys. We are looking to make more information available in the coming weeks. The process of asking for the information. There are tools for filing FOIAs but that stuff needs a lot of work. Dealing with government in bulk is hard.

 

Q: Paul Resnick asks if you had all the computer scientists in the room, what would you have done differently?

 

A: Rob would like to have more sophisticated data analysis techniques at his disposal. He doesn't know the acronyms like 'LDA'. He wishes more CS people could work in newsrooms but the pay won't work.

 

Q: Are you making the data available? How could people re-use this?

A: The question of reuse is really hard. Internally it's hard to even tell your colleagues. Sharing externally - we want to be very careful with public records. We are going to make more data available but it's not a decision that I have the jurisdiction to make.

 

 

by kanarinka at October 24, 2014 03:45 PM

Global Voices
Ideological Divides Run Deep in Brazil Ahead of Presidential Runoff

On one side, fear of communism. On the other, fear of fascism. Will the two groups ever make peace? Image by flickr users Ninja Mídia and Aécio Neves. CC BY 2.0

On one side, fear of communism. On the other, fear of fascism. Will the two groups ever make peace? Image by Flickr users Ninja Mídia and Aécio Neves. CC BY 2.0

Within only a few days until the presidential election runoff, emotions are running high among Brazilian voters. Countless rallies supporting both candidates — Aécio Neves, from the center-right Brazilian Social-Democratic Party (PSDB), and incumbent Dilma Roussef, from the center-left Workers’ Party — have taken over Brazil’s major cities in the past weeks. 

But some believe the tone of political discourse has taken a hateful turn in the streets and especially on social media, with campaigns bullying rather than debating ideas.

On one side, Neves supporters at rallies hold signs against corruption and express their fear that Brazil is headed toward a Bolivarian dictatorship, “like Venezuela”, they say. On the other, Rousseff's supporters talk of losing Brazil's hard-earned social policies and regressing to the hardship of the 1990s, when PSDB was in charge. The more one side salutes the national flag, the more the other raises the red one. As Brazil approaches its seventh direct elections since it became a democracy, will these two ideological groups ever reconcile?

Just yesterday, in downtown São Paulo some Neves and Rousseff supporters clashed after both groups ran onto each other by chance. And on Tuesday, at São Paulo's PUC University opponents threw coins, cigarettes, plastic cups and other objects at protesters supporting Roussef’s reelection. In a YouTube video, a student is shown saying “the university is not a place for political campaigns” – despite wearing a sticker in support of Aécio Neves’ candidacy.

A first-time presidential candidate and former governor of Brazil’s second most populous state, Minas Gerais, Aécio Neves has tapped a sector of Brazilian society unsatisfied with the Workers’ Party government, who's been in power since 2003. Historically, the Social-Democractic Party has represented conservative sectors of Brazilian's middle and upper classes, as opposed to the Workers’ Party, which had its genesis in the working class. 

Poverty, race and privilege

The kind of voter that each party attracts has not only been a cause for much debate, but also ammunition for the campaigns to influence people’s choice. 

After the first round, when incumbent Dilma Rousseff finished with 42 percent of the votes, ex-President Fernando Henrique Cardoso (1995-2002), who governed with the Social-Democratic Party and now is a vocal Neves’ supporter, gave an interview to news website UOL saying Rousseff did well in far-flung cities and poor regions because its populations were “less informed”. Some believe this encouraged the xenophobic rants against Brazil’s northerners that followed the first round.

Another ex-president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who supports Rousseff, echoed a local community leader's controversial declaration about a potential Neves’ win on Twitter:

“A PSDB government means the genocide of the black youth population”, Elaine, representative of the outskirts cultural movement. #OutskirtsWithDilma

A young black man responded:

I'm black and I vote for Aécio, stop trying to divide Brazilians by color or income, we are all # 45 [PSDB's voting number]

The idea that the poor vote for Rousseff and the powerful and rich vote for Neves has been largely exploited by the Workers’ Party campaign. Earlier this week, they dug up an old interview that Neves gave to a local New Jersey newspaper in 1977, when he was a 17-year-old exchange student in the United States. Under the title “A teen’s life in Rio not much different”, he talked about his life in his home country, saying things like “In Brazil, everyone has two maids, one for cleaning and one for cooking”, or “I have never made my own bed”, statements that the Workers’ Party have used to portray him as an elitist “daddy’s boy”, distant to the reality of most Brazilians. 

Candidate Aécio Neves was featured at a US newspaper when he was 17 years old; what he said back then has been used by PT to portray him as a "daddy's boy". Image: Brasil247

Candidate Aécio Neves was featured in a US newspaper when he was 17 years old; his rather classist testimony has been used by the Worker's Party to portray him as a “daddy's boy”. Image: Brasil247

Is that portrayal so far off? Though he is a vehement supporter of meritocracy, his first job at 19 years old was as an adviser to his own father, who was a federal deputy in the 1970s, and he owes much of his political career to his family. His supporters certainly don't help that negative image: on Thursday, pro-Neves activists joined a rally in São Paulo that The Economist called the “cashmere revolution”. The march took place at Avenida Faria Lima, a major financial hub in the city, and most of its attendees were wearing suits and pashminas, and carrying pricey iPhones. According to the magazine, “the only thing missing was the champagne flutes.”

‘How unpleasant is all this generalization that people are doing?’

In a much shared TV Folha video, featuring activists from both sides, his supporters openly displayed their aversion towards the Workers’ Party. One woman says, “If it were up to me, there would be a military intervention”, while others worship the police. Another girl says she believes the Workers’ Party is the one who creates this hateful environment and that “they’re trying to segregate us, to pit us against each other.”

Rousseff supporters, however, believe the hate is actually directed at them, and mainstream media is to blame. For TV presenters and vloggers PC Siqueira and Diego Quinteiro, media has a crucial role in making people misunderstand left-wing positions. They created a video called #DesçaDoMuro, or “Get out of the middle”, calling on people to openly profess their political opinions even if they seem radical. “And please, don’t start telling us to go to Cuba or North Korea. Listen to what we have to say”, they insist.

Others still call for a more moderate tone, believing that “choosing a team” is harmful. Journalist Gustavo Foster posted on his Facebook:

Como é desagradável essa generalização que muita gente faz. De um lado, “quem estuda não vota na Dilma”; do outro, vídeo engraçadinho tirando eleitor do Aécio para clone da Rachel Sheherazade com deficiência mental. A gente sabe que não é assim. Isso é uma das coisas mais despolitizantes que se pode fazer. Um desserviço à ainda recente e capenga democracia brasileira.

How unpleasant is all this generalization that people are doing? On one side, “people who study don't vote for Dilma”; on the other, funny videos characterizing Aécio's voters as clones of [conservative TV presenter] Rachel Sheherazade. We know it's not like that. This is one of the most depoliticizing things that a person can do. A real disservice to our still recent and broken democracy. 

Humorist website Cocadaboa's founder Wagner Martins also proposed a more good-natured debate:

Desafio eleitores do Aécio fazerem um elogio ao governo Dilma.  Desafio eleitores da Dilma a falarem uma coisa que seria boa em um governo do Aécio. Vamos ver qual dos dois lados é mais gentil, civilizado e ponderável. E quem são os extremistas. E quem vai se abster. Comentem aí.

I challenge Aécio's voters to make a compliment about Dilma's government. And I challenge Dilma's to say something positive about Aécio's possible government. Let's see which side is more polite, civilized and flexible. And who are the extremists. And who won't say anything. Start commenting.

But his challenge was to absolutely no avail, with most commenters responding with sarcasm, such as “I like when PT steals, I’m pro-corruption”, or “A Neves government will make the shareholders of the company I work for happier”. Perhaps the widely shared @thaisss self-deprecating tweet sums up how many Brazilians feel at the moment:

Everyone who's lost family and friends because of the elections, let's spend Christmas together

by Taisa Sganzerla at October 24, 2014 03:32 PM

Harvard Law Library Innovation Lab
Global Voices
There's an Island Made of Toxic Trash Rising Out of the Sea in the Maldives
Thilafushi, this is where they burn the garbage in paradise. Image from Flickr by Hani Amir. CC BY-NC-ND

Thilafushi Kuni Gondu - This is where they burn the garbage in paradise. Image from Flickr by Hani Amir. CC BY-NC-ND

Each year, approximately one million tourists visit the island nation Maldives for its sunny warm weather and stunning natural beauty.

But there's an ugly consequence of all those visitors, along with the Maldives’ own 395,000 residents: the combined trash accumulated is a headache for the small country.

To deal with the problem, the government decided in December 1991 to use a separate island as the final destination for the huge amount of waste produced by the tourism industry. Thilafushi, nicknamed ‘Rubbish Island', originally was a lagoon called ‘Thilafalhu’ with a length of 7 kilometres and a width of 200 metres at the shallowest regions. Huge pits were dug, and waste was deposited into the middle of the pit, which was topped off with a layer of construction debris and then uniformly levelled with white sand.

An average of 330 tonnes of rubbish are brought to Thilafushi every day, most of which are from Malé. At one point, more than 31,000 truckloads of garbage were being transported to Thilafushi annually. Open-air burning of garbage is also practiced here.

Today, Thilafushi has a landmass of more than 0.43 km2, which is leased to industrial activities such as boat manufacturing, cement packing, methane gas bottling and various large-scale warehousing.

The blog of environmental organisation Bluepeace wrote that used batteries, asbestos, lead and other potentially hazardous waste mixed with the municipal solid wastes in Thilafushi island are seeping into the water and creating serious ecological and health problems in the Maldives. However, the concerns have never materialized into a campaign by local activists.

Mordy at collaborative travel project Atlas Obscura described the problem:

Commercial activity along with indiscriminate dumping has brought an abundance of toxic materials to the lagoon – broken oil drums, asbestos, lead, and other noxious metals mix in with daily household garbage items creating a noxious sludge. There is little around the island that goes unpolluted as harmful substances seep into the water and smoke from burning waste floods the air.

Thilafushi island - where garbage just seeps into the ocean as the poisonous tides and toxic winds will. Image fro Flickr by Hani Amir. CC BY-NC-ND

Thilafushi island – where garbage seeps into the ocean. Image from Flickr by Hani Amir. CC BY-NC-ND

Filmmaker Alison Teal has made a documentary about her time in the Maldives as a part of her online film series Alison's Adventures. Some remarkable photos of Alison’s trip to the garbage island can be found here.

The government temporarily banned rubbish dumping on the island in December 2011 after a surge in waste floating in the island's lagoon and drifting out to sea. But still now all the garbage from Malé ends up there.

Alibeyya, a commenter on an article on local news site Minivan, pointed to the crux of the problem:

The delicate environment of Maldives is in need of a responsible waste management system. It is a big challenge given the geographical situation where each island including resorts must manage its own waste. [..] The resorts should be able to contain to get rid of their waste without having to dump to Thialfushi lagoon.

In early 2013 there were reports that Maldives’ waste management is being hampered by local politics and lack of funding. Amidst local reports of illegal dumping of wastes in Thilafushi, there was huge confusion over the responsibility for the management of garbage dumping. The Thilafushi management was transferred to the Malé City Council (MCC) in 2010 and a contract was signed in 2011 with the Indian-based company Tatva Global Renewable Energy to rehabilitate the island and manage the garbage problem.

But the deal never was implemented due to bureaucracy and political interference and recently it was cancelled, making the future of Thilafushi uncertain.

Abdullah Faraz writes in an opinion piece in Minivan News:

The first point to note is that underneath all the political rhetoric and maneuvering lies a real issue that affects many lives – the public health hazard, teachers and students being hospitalised, closing of schools, the smoke, the stench etc.

The public has a right to feel disaffected by this crisis, and is indignant and up in arms with good cause.

The second point to note is though this is a manufactured crisis; there is no inherent direction to which this raw emotional energy of the public may flow.

What is for certain: a new jail soon is set to be opened on Thilafushi island next month.

Additional input by Saffah Faroog

by Rezwan at October 24, 2014 11:32 AM

Joi Ito
Why I joined PureTech


When I became the director of the MIT Media Lab three years ago, my previous primary "occupation" was investing in and advising startup companies. I invested in mostly Internet-related software and service companies (e.g., Twitter, Flickr, Kickstarter). Joining the Media Lab and MIT was bit of a "pivot"-academia was a fundamentally different model for impacting the world, focused more on fundamental science and technology that wasn't as easily commercialized.

In order to focus on the Media Lab after joining, I decided I would stop investing in startup companies. (I invested in Media Lab alumni companies, Littlebits and Form Labs, before I officially started at the Lab.) As I immersed myself in learning about the Lab and MIT, I continued to learn and think about how different types of science and technology made their way into the world. In particular, I was intrigued by how biomedical research, which has a major impact on human health, seemed to have an extremely different profile, requiring a great deal of upfront investment. I knew very little about biomedical research but was very interested.

Even before I arrived at MIT, I had heard about Bob Langer. He is famous for his impact on commercializing biomedical research, and for helping to substantially advance the field of bioengineering. He has 1,050 patents and a group of dozens of researchers. Bob is one of the 11 Institute Professors at MIT who are recognized by the Institute for their outstanding contributions and who report directly to the provost and not a dean.

Last June, David L. Lucchino, a former student of Bob's who had run a startup coming out of Bob's lab, invited me to my first Red Sox game together with Bob Langer and a few of his friends. I got to sit next to Bob and he offered to teach me about his field and show me how to do things at MIT. Since then, Bob has become a true mentor and now has an affiliation at the Media Lab, working with the Center for Extreme Bionics, an Institute-wide initiative based at the Media Lab to work on a wide variety of technologies focused on eliminating human disabilities.

Recently Bob told me about a related project that he has been working on as a co-founder and senior partner at a company called PureTech. PureTech focuses on taking science and engineering, primarily in the healthcare area, and developing innovative products and companies. It provides a base for researchers and funds the early development of both the technologies and the companies.

A team of senior partners, researchers, and entrepreneurs is currently working on 11 projects at various stages of development. The company is run by Daphne Zohar, its founder and CEO. On the surface, it looks like an incubator, but it really is a new model in many ways. There is actual translational research going on within PureTech, where the PureTech team is actively both acting as founders and also operating labs and running experiments.

Bob told me that more and more of the PureTech companies had software and Internet elements, and that they were looking for more expertise in that area on the board. This sounded like the perfect opportunity for me-participating in conversations about healthcare, bioengineering and biomedical technology with the best in the field while being allowed to contribute an area of business where I had some experience.

Healthcare is universal: we are all patient-consumers on some level and the patient will increasingly be at the center of healthcare decision making. We will also be immersed in technology that can measure our physiology in real-time as shown by the emergence of wearables. As technology and clinical practice converge, digital technologies will also increasingly enter the world of mainstream medicine, creating an entirely new area increasingly being referred to as "electronic medicine," which has the potential for incredible growth. Vast amounts of data that Internet and tech companies use to make decisions can also be leveraged for healthcare, opening opportunities for real-time disease monitoring and new targeted patient engagement opportunities.

I recently joined the board and PureTech announced a new funding round today. I have been working on two companies in particular, Akili - a cognitive gaming company that aims to diagnose and treat cognitive problems, and another cross-disciplinary digital health project that is still in stealth mode.

I think that healthcare and bioengineering are exciting spaces that are growing quickly, and thanks to many amazing labs in this field in the Kendall Square/Cambridge area, we have a regional advantage. I hope that PureTech can help create an effective pathway to impact health in new and positive ways, and that I can help contribute to this while continuing to learn.

Photo: via Alkili

by Joi at October 24, 2014 10:11 AM

Global Voices
West Africans Keep Calm Despite Ebola and Remind the World Who They Are
Screen capture from "Ebola: A Poem For The Living," YouTube.

Screen capture from “Ebola: A Poem For The Living,” YouTube.

As the confirmed Ebola death toll nears 5,000, with at least 10,000 reported cases, many in West Africa are utilizing the power of new media in the fight against the disease.

One such initiative is Ebola Alert in Nigeria:

EbolaAlert is an evidence-driven group of volunteer professionals working on Ebola Virus Disease Interventions.

It was created by Doctors but also involves active participation of other professionals from different walks of life.

The initiative uses Twitter to post daily Ebola-related news and to organise Ebola chat sessions between experts and the general public:

You can keep abreast of all the necessary information by following our activities on twitter.

From the daily #EbolaNews that is posted between 7AM and 8AM WAT to special activities like #EbolaScience where confusing Ebola issues are cracked and clarified.

The #EbolaChat Sessions are Twitter Events where Experts from around the world are available to discuss chosen topics with the general public. There have been #EbolaChat Sessions on as many issues as you can imagine

In Sierra Leone, Hannah Foullah is using Facebook to fight Ebola-related stigma. She is leading the campaign “Beauty for Country: I am 100% Sierra Leonean, Not a Virus” with fellow citizens Elvinah Ade Johnson and Haja Mariatu Thomas.

In a video posted to BBC Africa's YouTube channel, Foullah says the campaign aims to reaffirm Sierra Leonean identity.

Below are some of the photos posted to the Facebook page for “Beauty for Country”:

Beauty for Country photo posted on  Hannah Foullah Facebook page.

Beauty for Country photo posted on Hannah Foullah Facebook page.

ebola2

ebola3

ebola4

In the United States, the Nashville-based organization United Methodist Communications has collaborated with Chocolate Moose Media and iHeed to create an animated video, “Ebola: A Poem For The Living,” for use in West Africa to help dispel myths about how Ebola is spread. The video also promotes ways to prevent the spread of the disease. The group is planning to translate the cartoon into several West African languages.

by Ndesanjo Macha at October 24, 2014 09:40 AM

October 23, 2014

Creative Commons
LRMI stewardship transferred to Dublin Core Metadata Initiative

LRMI Logo

 

Re-post from: http://www.lrmi.net/lrmi-transfers-stewardship

Effective October 23, 2014, leadership and governance of the Learning Resource Metadata Initiative (LRMI), an education metadata project developed to improve discoverability and delivery of learning resources, have transferred from the Association of Educational Publishers and Creative Commons to the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative (DCMI).

This long-planned transfer represents a logical next step for the LRMI since the project has reached the end of its initial scope of work.  DCMI will take the leadership role in advancing the project into its next phase with AEP and CC engaged as active LRMI community members.

“Creative Commons and AEP are happy to add this governance transfer to the long list of successes we’ve achieved together on the LRMI project,” said Cable Green, Director of Global Learning at Creative Commons. “After a long and careful evaluation process, the LRMI leadership identified a candidate in DCMI that is well-established and highly respected in the metadata sector and will carry on the LRMI’s spirit of transparency and community involvement.”

“AEP has enjoyed the opportunity to work alongside our partners Creative Commons the past three years to get the LRMI effort off the ground, build a community of practice, and finally, to establish a plan for long-term sustainability for the project,” said Dave Gladney, Project Manager of the AEP LRMI project, which has been housed at the Association of American Publishers since the merger of AEP and AAP in July 2013. “With this transfer, we’re confident that we’re leaving the LRMI with the ideal steward for long-term success.”

“DCMI is pleased to assume stewardship of LRMI at this key, long-planned transition in its development,” said Eric Childress, DCMI Governing Board Chair. “Meeting the metadata needs of the education and training community has been a goal of DCMI since the founding of its Education Community in 1999. DCMI has played encouraging, advisory roles in development of the LRMI specification from the inception of Phase I technical development in 2011 under the leadership of AEP and Creative Commons. DCMI is now poised to provide LRMI with both a permanent home that assures the long-term sustainability of the specification and an open, collaborative context for future community-driven development.”

More information about the transfer and the project follows.

Background

The LRMI began in 2011 shortly after the announcement of Schema.org, a search engine-backed standard for tagging content on the web.   AEP and Creative Commons, with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, set out to extend the general Schema.org hierarchy with a lightweight set of metadata properties that could describe the instructional intent of a web page, resource or piece of content.  The resulting LRMI specification version 1.1 was accepted as an official extension of Schema.org in April 2013.  Additionally, AEP and Creative Commons have worked closely together throughout the past three years to meet dozens of important project milestones.

The third and final Gates-funded phase of the project focused on long-term sustainability and success.  Among other Phase III projects, the LRMI leadership team has worked over the past six months to identify the ideal next-phase steward for the LRMI specification.  This process included surveying the LRMI community, identifying potential candidates, measuring each candidate against a list of agreed-upon requirements and vetting candidates through a series of interviews.

Why DCMI was chosen

DCMI was chosen based on its status as a well-known, well-respected name in the metadata space; its open governance structure, which closely aligns with the open spirit of the LRMI; and its ongoing connection to the LRMI through the involvement of DCMI’s Managing Director and Education Community chair, Stuart Sutton, on the LRMI Technical Working Group.

DCMI’s next-stage priorities

DCMI stewardship of the LRMI specification will include:

  1. Moving the canonical representation of the specification from lrmi.net to dublincore.org with appropriate cross referencing between the two websites.
  2. Creating a permanent LRMI Task Group within the context and working processes of the DC Education Community to supplant the original LRMI Technical Working Group for:
    • Ongoing maintenance of the LRMI 1.1 specification
    • Assessment of open community input as the means for defining future development of the specification
    • Management of transparent editorial and decision-making processes in executing further developments
  3. Supporting open community communications through a Jiscmail list for the new LRMI Task Group (public “read”) and through the existing DC-Education Jiscmail list (public “join/read/write”).   Public conversations on the existing, open LRMI Google Group will be continued until the coordination of two public lists is deemed by DCMI to be no longer tenable. During this time, current members of the Google Group will be encouraged to join the Jiscmail lists.
  4. Initiating immediate engagement with Schema.org to coordinate changes in its cross-referencing for LRMI and the potential development of additional developer/web master documentation at schema.org of those aspects of LRMI 1.1 it has adopted in support of learning resource markup.

For more information:

—————-

About Creative Commons

Creative Commons (http://creativecommons.org/) is a globally-focused nonprofit organization dedicated to making it easier for people to share and build upon the work of others, consistent with the rules of copyright. Creative Commons provides free licenses and other legal tools to give everyone from individual creators to large companies and institutions a simple, standardized way to grant copyright permissions and get credit for their creative work while allowing others to copy, distribute, and make specific uses of it.

About the Association of Educational Publishers

The Association of Educational Publishers (AEP) is the 501(c)(3) arm of the Association of American Publishers. At the inception of the LRMI in 2011, AEP was an independent organization serving the educational resource community with programs, events, advocacy, and thought leadership. In July of 2013, AEP merged with the AAP School Division to form the PreK-12 Learning Group. Most of AEP’s programs were transferred over to the newly-formed Learning Group pursuant to the merger, but LRMI projects and administration of grant funding continued on under the 501(c)(3).

About the Association of American Publishers

The members of AAP are building the future of publishing. AAP represents America’s premier creators of high-quality entertainment, education, scientific and professional published content. They include commercial and not-for-profit organizations, scholarly societies, university presses, educational technology companies and digital start-ups. These nearly 450 organizations dedicate the creative, intellectual, financial and technological investments to bring great ideas to life and deliver content to the world’s diverse audiences in all the ways they seek it.

About Dublin Core Metadata Initiative (DCMI)

DCMI is a global community that has played key roles in the development of best practices in metadata modeling, design and implementation since 1995. The DCMI community has developed and maintains some of the major languages of description used on the Web and in systems. DCMI’s principles of operation are open consensus building, international scope and participation, neutrality of purpose and business models, neutrality of technology, and a cross disciplinary focus. DCMI is a project of ASIS&T, a U.S. 501(c)(3) nonprofit, and is supported through membership programs for both individuals and organizations.

by Cable Green at October 23, 2014 06:05 PM

DML Central
Curate or Be Curated: Why Our Information Environment is Crucial to a Flourishing Democracy, Civil Society
Curate or Be Curated: Why Information Environment is Crucial to Democracy
If you’re anything like hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people around the world, one of the first things you do in the morning is check your social media feeds. These are online spaces where we find out what’s happening in our friends’ lives, from engagements to baby photos. Increasingly, however, they’re the places where we first find out about the news of the day. It’s no secret that sales of daily newspapers have been declining rapidly. Apart from the free, tabloid, advertising-supported, "news-lite" papers picked up by commuters on their way to work, we rely upon the places we visit on our smartphones, tablets and work computers to keep us up-to-date. 
 
This is the world that young people are growing up into, a world where rumours on social media can spread quickly, without necessarily any basis in fact. On the flip side, it's a world where the grip of those traditional gatekeepers of knowledge is loosening. In other words, we're witnessing a sea change in our information environments that we need to help the next generation navigate. 
 
Events that happen in the world can be interpreted many ways, and we don't approach them in a context-free way. There is what philosophers of science call a "theory-ladeness" to observation. Our human brains interpret what we see through the prism of prior experience. Does that photograph of a police officer show him helping someone up, or wrestling a protestor to the floor? Is the result of a referendum a failure for patriotism or a victory for democracy? Was that rocket strike on a less well-armed nation justified? The answer to these questions often aren’t clear-cut, yet we come to read about these situations with tendencies, biases and inclinations. 
 
Having opinions and using them to make decisions about our role in the world is part of what makes us human. We depend on this for the democratic process to work. While emotion plays an important role in decision-making, we expect and assume that people have reasons for their positions on important issues. For all but the public intellectuals in society, these come not through sitting in a darkened room thinking very hard, but through debate, discussion and exposure to different opinions. In short, democracy depends upon a flourishing, open information environment. 
 
There are people, including some members of my family, who are lifelong readers of a particular newspaper. The newspaper is their primary information environment, supplemented by television news programmes, and occasional discussions with family, friends, hairdressers, and people they meet out and about. Part of the reason they purchase that particular newspaper every day is because it fits with their view of the world. Apart from the occasional surprise — perhaps when the editor decides to back a different political party in an upcoming election — there is a predictable perspective from which the news is reported. At some level, the person who purchases the same newspaper every day has chosen to buy into a particular type of editorialising of the news. 
 
Boosters of social media often talk about how news hits social networks such as Twitter before it’s picked up by the mainstream press. They talk about social media being the "future" of news, with the implication that no one reads newspapers any more. From their point of view, the quicker we all "get with the program" and use social networks, the faster the coming "technological rapture" will arrive. Users can choose which people, brands, and organisations to follow, the reasoning goes, so we all get personalised, tailored news feeds free of bias and editorialising. 
 
The problem with social networks as news platforms is that they are not neutral spaces. Perhaps the easiest way to get quickly to the nub of the issue is to ask how they are funded. The answer is clear and unequivocal: through advertising. The two biggest social networks, Twitter and Facebook (which also owns Instagram and WhatsApp), are effectively "services with shareholders." Your interactions with other people, with media, and with adverts, are what provide shareholder value. Lest we forget, CEOs of publicly-listed companies have a legal obligation to provide shareholder value. In an advertising-fueled online world this means continually increasing the number of eyeballs looking at (and fingers clicking on) content. 
 
It’s worth saying that it’s not just social networks that rely upon, and can be shaped by, advertising. Television and print media are often subject to the same constraints. However, there are two important differences. First, television and print media tend not to be interactive. This means that we receive the news in one context and discuss it in another. For example, I may watch the news while eating my breakfast, but then discuss it with my colleagues when I arrive at work. Second, when I turn on a TV news programme or pick up a newspaper, I’m being shown the same items as everyone else. These will have been editorialised, and I interpret them in my own way, but nothing is "hidden."
 
On the other hand, when I visit Facebook, I'm interacting in the same space in which I may have found out about the news. Some updates may be hidden, depending on my "like" history. When I visit Google, I may have searched this topic before and the results I visited last time are returned at the top of the pile on this occasion. This is what Eli Parisier calls the filter bubble, a difficult-to-observe, but very real phenomenon where the algorithms powering social network feeds and search results foreground and background items based on your prior interactions. Our information environment becomes less of a safari and more of a silo. 
 
Algorithms are merely recipes that humans program into machines via software. Feedback loops mean that algorithms can "learn" from your interactions, altering their outputs depending on your inputs. This can be extremely useful. For example, Spotify radio allows me to click on a thumbs-up or thumbs-down button to say that I want "more like this" or "less like this" Netflix learns over time the things that I like watching and suggests related films and TV programmes. The result is a personalised stream of media that, in a small way, makes my life better. Algorithms such as these are jealously guarded, as they’re the ‘secret sauce’ upon which services depend.
 
There has been a lot of discussion (and anger) over Twitter’s proposals to turn what is currently a "raw" feed into an algorithmically-curated feed. In other words, they’re taking Facebook’s approach of showing only updates in which they decide you’re likely to be interested. For advertising-funded services with shareholders, attention conservation is an important thing. If they want to mix in advertising to make it seem more "natural" and "organic" they have to ensure that you don’t miss it as you follow and friend more and more people. The same goes with email, which is one of the reasons Google segmented the inboxes of users of its Gmail service last year. They’ve recently started selling advertising space in the ‘Promotions’ tab. Twitter has promoted tweets. Facebook holds updates at the top of your stream longer if they mention keywords being paid for by their advertisers.
 
It’s easy to be alarmist over all of this. Thankfully, the solution is easy: read more widely and don’t settle for the "free." algorithmically-curated, filter bubble being created for you by advertising-funded services with shareholders. We should be encouraging learners to do likewise. Doing so may take money, it may take time, it may be less convenient, but our information environments are important. In the past few months, I’ve started buying a couple of newspapers per day — one on my Kindle, one from the local shop. I’ve also started using search engines like DuckDuckGo that don’t bubble track me. I’ve started looking for post-Twitter solutions that allow us to move past this (hopefully very temporary) "peak centralisation."
 
Being aware of the way that tools shape the way we think and interact with the world is the first step on the way to changing behaviours. As learners, as teachers, as citizens, we have a duty to ourselves and to one another to be mindful of this.

Banner image credit: Rennett Stowe

 

by mcruz at October 23, 2014 04:00 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
Brazilian Bloggers Claim Presidential Candidate is Censoring His Critics on YouTube
Aécio Neves has filed suit against Twitter demanding it discloses information on 66 users; now bloggers claim he's using fake accounst to deal with negative Youtube videos. Image by flickr official Aécio Neves account. CC BY 2.0

Aécio Neves has filed suit against Twitter demanding it discloses information on 66 users; now bloggers claim he's using fake accounts to deal with negative YouTube videos. Image by official Flickr Aécio Neves account. CC BY 2.0

Ten days ago, web documentary “Helicoca – The 60 Million Reais Helicopter” was removed from YouTube thanks to a copyright claim by a person named “Jorge Scalvini”. Local netizens have begun to suspect that the video's removal was set in motion by presidential candidate Aécio Neves.

The documentary investigates one of the largest drug seizures by police in Brazil’s history, in which half a ton of cocaine was found in a helicopter belonging to the powerful Perrella family. The Perellas are key political allies of Aécio Neves, the Brazilian Social-Democratic Party (PSDB) presidential candidate and former governor of Minas Gerais, which borders both São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. The pilot and staff who helped maintain the helicopter were charged with the crime, while police rapidly dismissed the possibility of any involvement by the Perrella family. The strange absence of information about the Perrellas’ role in the incident motivated local journalists to further investigate the story.

Developed and commissioned via crowdfunding by Diário do Centro do Mundo, an independent, left-leaning news site, the documentary was directed by Joaquim de Carvalho, a seasoned journalist who has worked for major Brazilian news outlets such as O Estado de S. Paulo and TV Globo. 

Diário do Centro do Mundo representatives say that the Scalvini account, which requested that YouTube remove Helicoca, is a fake:

Nós procuramos saber quem é Scalvini. Seu email é zerobeta000@gmail.com. Enviamos uma mensagem nesse endereço. Não obtivemos resposta. Tudo indica que se trata de um perfil fake. Scalvini possui uma conta no Twitter, aberta em 2012, sem nenhuma postagem. Seu perfil no Facebook é vazio, com curtidas em páginas como as da “TV Revolta”, “Mensaleiros na Cadeia” e “Chega de Corrupção”. Há também uma conta no YouTube com seu nome. A última movimentação foi há três meses.

We tried to find out who Scalvini is. His email is zerobeta000@gmail.com. We sent him a message to this address and received no reply. It seems to be a fake profile after all. Scalvini has a Twitter account, opened in 2012, with no tweets. His profile on Facebook is empty, with a few likes on pages like “TV Revolta”, “Mensaleiros na TV” e “Chega de Corrupção”. He has also an account on YouTube with his name. He last logged in three months ago.

In order to avoid copyright infringement suits, the general practice at Google (owner of YouTube) is to remove such videos. It is incumbent on the video's creator, and not the complainant, to prove that he or she has the right to present the video. Diário do Centro do Mundo has appealed the case with Google and has been told to expect an official reply within 10 days’ time.

By coincidence, journalist Ana Paula Freitas posted on Facebook that she came across another video removed by YouTube, also over a copyright claim made by a user named “George Scalvini”. The video is a famous, humorous meme entitled “What I want to say to my friends who will vote for Aécio Neves” and features a woman at a party shouting to her friend, who seems drunk, “I cannot help you, I am sorry!”

Freitas wrote:

O vídeo, como vocês podem ver, foi tirado do ar. Um tal de GEORGE SCALVINI requisitou direitos autorais. Desnecessário apontar a semelhança entre os nomes. Aparentemente, o jurídico do Aécio tem uma equipe especializada em tirar do ar não só os vídeos que contém acusações que possam prejudicá-lo politicamente, mas também brincadeiras como essa, que dentre o hall enorme de exemplos de humor ativista, é uma das mais bem-humoradas e inofensivas.

The video, as you can see, was taken down. Some George Scalvini guy claimed intellectual ownership of the video. It's needless to comment on the similarity between the two names. Apparently, Aécio's campaign has a team specialized on not only taking down videos with accusations that could harm his candidacy, but also little jokes like this, that among all the examples of activist humor is one the most good-natured and inoffensive.

Although the documentary contains some footage of Neves taken by TV news stations, and thus potentially vulnerable to copyright violation claims, the spoof video includes no content of this sort. What concerns netizens following the story is that both videos had their property rights challenged by the same person — who may not be a real person at all. The only discernible connection between the two videos is the mentioning of Aécio Neves..

Suspicions have also been fueled by Neves’ various past attempts to quiet criticism of his leadership on social media.

In late August, Neves filed a lawsuit against Twitter after the company refused to disclose information and IP addresses for 66 Twitter users. The former governor claimed the accounts were all fake profiles orchestrated by a specific group to disseminate lies and criticism about him and his campaign. Official documentation of the suit can be seen here.

Magazine Revista Fórum interviewed owners of a few of the accounts among the 66 named in the suit. Among them is famous film critic Pablo Villaça, founder of Cinema em Cena, the oldest movie website in Brazil. Villaça has publicly voiced his support for Neves’ rival, current president Dilma Rousseff. He told Revista Fórum about the accusations: 

Acho ótimo, cabe a ele provar que isso existe. Eu milito politicamente desde os 18 anos. Minha mãe combateu a ditadura, minha tia foi presa e torturada. E ainda insinua que sou pago para militar.

I think this is great, now he must prove [the paid network of defamers] actually exists. I have been a political activist since I was 18 years old. My mother fought against the dictatorship, my aunt went to jail and was tortured. And he insinuates I am paid to be an activist.

Another notorious case is of the 2008 documentary “Gagged in Brazil,” produced by filmmaker Daniel Florêncio for Current TV. Florêncio, who is from Minas Gerais, explores the relationship of his state's government with the press. A few months after its release on the UK and US, the video was taken down by Current TV. In an article written for Observatório da Imprensa, Florêncio explained what happened:

Na semana anterior, os executivos seniors do canal [Current TV] nos EUA receberam cartas com severas considerações e críticas sérias em relação ao filme. As cartas foram enviadas pelo PSDB de Minas Gerais. O PSDB afirmava que meu filme tinha caráter político-partidário, que não representava a realidade no estado e questionava minha conduta ética na produção do filme.

In the previous week, senior executives [of Current TV] in the US received letters with harsh considerations and serious criticism of the movie. Letters were sent by PSDB of Minas Gerais. PSDB said my film was of a “political-partisan” nature and didn't represent the reality in the state, besides questioning the ethics of my conduct during the production of the film.

According to Florêncio, during an internal investigation at Current TV he had to prove to his journalism director Andrew Fitzgerald every statement he used in the movie and that the accusations made by PSDB were false. A month later, Fitzgerald agreed to put the documentary back on the air. 

Meanwhile, PSDB Youth has created a counter-video, also narrated in English, rebuffing the accusations featured in “Gagged in Brazil”.

In sum, these incidents have left bloggers concerned that the recent video removals are more than just coincidence. And Neves’ past behaviors suggest there may be more to come.

by Global Voices at October 23, 2014 03:50 PM

Global Voices
Brazilian Bloggers Claim Presidential Candidate is Trying to Censor His Critics on YouTube
Aécio Neves has filed suit against Twitter demanding it discloses information on 66 users; now bloggers claim he's using fake accounst to deal with negative Youtube videos. Image by flickr official Aécio Neves account. CC BY 2.0

Aécio Neves has filed suit against Twitter demanding it discloses information on 66 users; now bloggers claim he's using fake accounts to deal with negative YouTube videos. Image by official Flickr Aécio Neves account. CC BY 2.0

Ten days ago, web documentary “Helicoca – The 60 Million Reais Helicopter” was removed from YouTube thanks to a copyright claim by a person named “Jorge Scalvini”. Local netizens have begun to suspect that the video's removal was set in motion by presidential candidate Aécio Neves.

The documentary investigates one of the largest drug seizures by police in Brazil’s history, in which half a ton of cocaine was found in a helicopter belonging to the powerful Perrella family. The Perellas are key political allies of Aécio Neves, the Brazilian Social-Democratic Party (PSDB) presidential candidate and former governor of Minas Gerais, which borders both São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. The pilot and staff who helped maintain the helicopter were charged with the crime, while police rapidly dismissed the possibility of any involvement by the Perrella family. The strange absence of information about the Perrellas’ role in the incident motivated local journalists to further investigate the story.

Developed and commissioned via crowdfunding by Diário do Centro do Mundo, an independent, left-leaning news site, the documentary was directed by Joaquim de Carvalho, a seasoned journalist who has worked for major Brazilian news outlets such as O Estado de S. Paulo and TV Globo. 

Diário do Centro do Mundo representatives say that the Scalvini account, which requested that YouTube remove Helicoca, is a fake:

Nós procuramos saber quem é Scalvini. Seu email é zerobeta000@gmail.com. Enviamos uma mensagem nesse endereço. Não obtivemos resposta. Tudo indica que se trata de um perfil fake. Scalvini possui uma conta no Twitter, aberta em 2012, sem nenhuma postagem. Seu perfil no Facebook é vazio, com curtidas em páginas como as da “TV Revolta”, “Mensaleiros na Cadeia” e “Chega de Corrupção”. Há também uma conta no YouTube com seu nome. A última movimentação foi há três meses.

We tried to find out who Scalvini is. His email is zerobeta000@gmail.com. We sent him a message to this address and received no reply. It seems to be a fake profile after all. Scalvini has a Twitter account, opened in 2012, with no tweets. His profile on Facebook is empty, with a few likes on pages like “TV Revolta”, “Mensaleiros na TV” e “Chega de Corrupção”. He has also an account on YouTube with his name. He last logged in three months ago.

In order to avoid copyright infringement suits, the general practice at Google (owner of YouTube) is to remove such videos. It is incumbent on the video's creator, and not the complainant, to prove that he or she has the right to present the video. Diário do Centro do Mundo has appealed the case with Google and has been told to expect an official reply within 10 days’ time.

By coincidence, journalist Ana Paula Freitas posted on Facebook that she came across another video removed by YouTube, also over a copyright claim made by a user named “George Scalvini”. The video is a famous, humorous meme entitled “What I want to say to my friends who will vote for Aécio Neves” and features a woman at a party shouting to her friend, who seems drunk, “I cannot help you, I am sorry!”

Freitas wrote:

O vídeo, como vocês podem ver, foi tirado do ar. Um tal de GEORGE SCALVINI requisitou direitos autorais. Desnecessário apontar a semelhança entre os nomes. Aparentemente, o jurídico do Aécio tem uma equipe especializada em tirar do ar não só os vídeos que contém acusações que possam prejudicá-lo politicamente, mas também brincadeiras como essa, que dentre o hall enorme de exemplos de humor ativista, é uma das mais bem-humoradas e inofensivas.

The video, as you can see, was taken down. Some George Scalvini guy claimed intellectual ownership of the video. It's needless to comment on the similarity between the two names. Apparently, Aécio's campaign has a team specialized on not only taking down videos with accusations that could harm his candidacy, but also little jokes like this, that among all the examples of activist humor is one the most good-natured and inoffensive.

Although the documentary contains some footage of Neves taken by TV news stations, and thus potentially vulnerable to copyright violation claims, the spoof video includes no content of this sort. What concerns netizens following the story is that both videos had their property rights challenged by the same person — who may not be a real person at all. The only discernible connection between the two videos is the mentioning of Aécio Neves..

Suspicions have also been fueled by Neves’ various past attempts to quiet criticism of his leadership on social media.

In late August, Neves filed a lawsuit against Twitter after the company refused to disclose information and IP addresses for 66 Twitter users. The former governor claimed the accounts were all fake profiles orchestrated by a specific group to disseminate lies and criticism about him and his campaign. Official documentation of the suit can be seen here.

Magazine Revista Fórum interviewed owners of a few of the accounts among the 66 named in the suit. Among them is famous film critic Pablo Villaça, founder of Cinema em Cena, the oldest movie website in Brazil. Villaça has publicly voiced his support for Neves’ rival, current president Dilma Rousseff. He told Revista Fórum about the accusations: 

Acho ótimo, cabe a ele provar que isso existe. Eu milito politicamente desde os 18 anos. Minha mãe combateu a ditadura, minha tia foi presa e torturada. E ainda insinua que sou pago para militar.

I think this is great, now he must prove [the paid network of defamers] actually exists. I have been a political activist since I was 18 years old. My mother fought against the dictatorship, my aunt went to jail and was tortured. And he insinuates I am paid to be an activist.

Another notorious case is of the 2008 documentary “Gagged in Brazil,” produced by filmmaker Daniel Florêncio for Current TV. Florêncio, who is from Minas Gerais, explores the relationship of his state's government with the press. A few months after its release on the UK and US, the video was taken down by Current TV. In an article written for Observatório da Imprensa, Florêncio explained what happened:

Na semana anterior, os executivos seniors do canal [Current TV] nos EUA receberam cartas com severas considerações e críticas sérias em relação ao filme. As cartas foram enviadas pelo PSDB de Minas Gerais. O PSDB afirmava que meu filme tinha caráter político-partidário, que não representava a realidade no estado e questionava minha conduta ética na produção do filme.

In the previous week, senior executives [of Current TV] in the US received letters with harsh considerations and serious criticism of the movie. Letters were sent by PSDB of Minas Gerais. PSDB said my film was of a “political-partisan” nature and didn't represent the reality in the state, besides questioning the ethics of my conduct during the production of the film.

According to Florêncio, during an internal investigation at Current TV he had to prove to his journalism director Andrew Fitzgerald every statement he used in the movie and that the accusations made by PSDB were false. A month later, Fitzgerald agreed to put the documentary back on the air. 

Meanwhile, PSDB Youth has created a counter-video, also narrated in English, rebuffing the accusations featured in “Gagged in Brazil”.

In sum, these incidents have left bloggers concerned that the recent video removals are more than just coincidence. And Neves’ past behaviors suggest there may be more to come.

by Taisa Sganzerla at October 23, 2014 03:47 PM

Argentinian Motorcylists Fight Against Discriminatory Regulations
Alleged criminal arrested for motorcycle theft, Buenos Aires, April 19, 2012, by Claudio Santisteban. Demotix.

Alleged criminal arrested for motorcycle theft, Buenos Aires, April 19, 2012, by Claudio Santisteban. Demotix.

Uniting around the slogan, “People Are Not Patented“, motorcyclists in Argentina are protesting a new law, Resolution 224/14, which demonstrators say discriminates against them in an effort to police the roads.

Under the new law, motorcycle riders in Argentina are obligated to display their vehicle's license plate on their helmet and wear a reflective vest with the same information on their back. Failure to comply with these regulations can result in stiff fines and the loss of one's vehicle and driver's license. The new restrictions also enable cities to limit motorcycle traffic using special zones and road schedules, specific to the number of passengers riding.

Recently, local governments throughout the country have been experimenting with similar measures, probably as a populist appeal to voters, who will vote on the next president in 2015.

Marcha Motera

Demonstration of motorcycle riders in Buenos Aires.
Photo from Facebook user Javier Fo To, published with permission.

Initially, the public reaction to Resolution 224/14 was mostly positive, as most people are not affected directly by the new regulations.

At 11 Avellaneda will join the Comunity Police Task Force. 40 city halls have community centera since I ruled Emergency in Security.
Let's go for more, Daniel… I hope everything turns out well here in Almirante Brown too. We need more police on the roads.

The “Daniel” addressed in the tweet above is Daniel Scioli, governor of the province of Buenos Aires. Almirante Brown is an area of the Buenos Aires Province, located at the south of the Gran Buenos Aires urban area.

In recent years, an increase in the number of violent crimes has undermined faith in the authorities. The apparent freedom with which criminals rule the streets has led to widespread disillusionment in the police. Under these circumstances, many in the public are ready to welcome any measures to reduce crime.

Argentinians of different views about the motorcyclist law have debated the issue hotly on the Internet. On Twitter, mari.peque complains: 

People are not patented and labeling motorcyclists as “alleged” criminals is unconstitutional.

Cristina Pérez comments:

It is difficult for me to understand that motorcyclists are protesting measures for more security. There are people who die in motorchorro attacks. Cooperation is necessary. 

Violence on the rise
On Change.org, an Internet user named Andres Peterson argued that the government should take action against “motochorros” (a criminal that uses a motorcycle to commit a robbery):  

Yesterday, motochorros entered two houses on a motorcycle, today one person was reported dead and two injured from the entry. Something is very wrong in Rosario.

Motorcyclists also support serious measures against crime, as thieves frequently steal motorcycles to rob others, or to sell the bikes for parts. These motorcycles are abandoned and replaced with other parts, which prevents police from identifying and arresting the offenders.

PeladoMoterociclista tweets:

No to jackets, now they're not just going to steal the motorcycles, they're also going to break open our heads to take our vest and helmet!!!!!

So far, repeat offenders continue to be a problem, as police fail to address crime levels’ underlying issues, like criminals being released back into the public, where they return to a life of crime.

The lack of security that the Province of Buenos Aires is experiencing is a disaster. When will action be taken to solve this issue, seriously? Enough talk. 

“Marked like cattle”
One of the most sensitive subjects for motorcyclists is the requirement that they wear fluorescent vests with numbers printed on the back. According to the motorcyclists’ protest leaders, “the decree violated the presumption of innocence that the National Constitution establishes.” In other words, motorcyclists worry they are labeled potential criminals, just for their mode of transportation. Similar actions, moreover, have not been taken against passengers in cars, for example, which criminals also use to commit robberies and kidnappings. 

Imagen que muestra con ironía el marcado de motociclistas. Fuente: Motociudadanos

The supposed irony of labeling motorcyclists. Source: Motociudadanos. Published with permission.

On August 5, the Buenos Aires Provincial Commission for Memory — led by former prosecutor Hugo Cañón and Nobel Prize winner Adolfo Pérez Esquivel — asked the local high court to strike down as unconstitutional Decree 220/14, which granted Governor Scioli emergency powers, including the regulations laid out in Resolution 224/14. 

Regarding the new limits on motorcyclists, the Commission argues “the right to equality and non-discrimination is violated, given that the link established in the decree directly between new types of crime, insecurity, and excluded groups – where the use of motor vehicles seems to acquire a status similar to a criminal instrument – is discriminatory and unconstitutional”. 

Activism
Motorcyclists are coming together on Wednesdays at 6pm in front of the Obelisk of Buenos Aires and in other cities throughout the country. Some weekends, they leave the coast for inland towns, where police tend to enforce the new regulations more strictly, sometimes even becoming abusive toward motorcyclists. 

On social networks, motorcyclist groups have posted regular updates about the status of their claims against the government. One group even has a press office that's created several public service announcements:

Demonstrators have made other appeals, as well, like asking legal protection for individuals and civil associations, such as the Argentina Association of Motor Vehicle Users, and registering civil complaints in the Ombudsman's Office, the National Institute Against Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Racism, and the Observatory of Discrimination in Radio and Television. This last agency recently concluded that the media encourages distrust in motorcyclists by using the term “”motochorro”.

Motorcyclists propose several alternatives to the new regulations against bikers, including reforms to documentation controls, procedures for arresting and inspecting suspected motorcycle thieves (currently, police only confiscate the vehicle and release the suspect), and stricter surveillance in commercial areas.

by Marianna Breytman at October 23, 2014 06:00 AM

MIT Center for Civic Media
How to Identify Gender in Datasets at Large Scales, Ethically and Responsibly

A practical guide to methods and ethics of gender identification

For the past three years, I've been using methods to identify gender in large datasets to support research, design, and data journalism, supported by the Knight Foundation, with an amazing group of collaborators. In my Master's thesis, used these techniques to support inclusion of women in citizen journalism, the news, and collective aciton online. Last February, I was invited to give a talk about my work at the MIT Symposium on Gender and Technology, hosted by the MIT Program in Women's and Gender Studies. I have finally written the first part of the talk, a practical guide to methods and ethics of gender identification approaches.

If you just want to get started analyzing gender in your dataset, I suggest the Open Gender Tracker libraries for Ruby (by Jeremy Merrill), Python (by Marcos Vanetta), and R (by Adam Hyland and Irene Ros). To find out why, read on.

Other posts in this loose series (not all by me) include:

Why Do Gender Metrics Matter?

This June, the feminist hackerspace Double Union launched one of my favorite diversity data websites: OpenDiversityData.org (code on github). The site shows a list of tech companies who have released information about the demographics of their employees, inviting viewers to thank them or pressure them based on what they have released. The site reminds us that:

"Open diversity data will make it easier for everyone to better understand the diversity landscape and work toward solutions."

Tech companies have faced substantial pressure this year for their need to improve inclusion. Social justice advocates and professional groups have long advocated for diversity in institutions, whether it's groups like Catalyst arguing for women on boards, the American Society of Newspaper Editors working towards demographic parity in the news, or MIT's gender equity project working to foster inclusion in academia. In each case, metrics are a critical bedrock of change, revealing areas of improvement and tracking progress.

Online, where collective action isn't fully controlled by institutions, institutional policies for inclusion are less powerful. That's why Yonatan, Matt, and I created Tally for the mentorship organization Gender Avenger, who use crowdsourced metrics on panel speakers to support conference organizers (see Ashe Dryden's tips for organizers). Emma Pierson used a gorgeous data analysis to prove that women in competitive debate are under-scored, and that difference in experiences don't fully explain the gender gap in scores. Emma has also studied ways that men dominate New York Times comments, analyzing almost a million comments to look at women's participation. By analyzing data, Emma also found patterns where women were welcomed even in cases where they were the minority. Data on open source communities (pdf, and here) and on gender in Wikipedia (here, here, here) offer ongoing insight on evolving disparities and differences in online platforms.

Data can also support real-time systems for diverse participation. The Conversation Clock (pdf) by Karrie Karahalios (see also Visiphone) and Tony Bergstrom offers visual feedback to interrupters (often men) to remind people in a conversation to listen. The FollowBias project that Sarah Szalavitz and I created does something similar for social media, helping users monitor and adjust the diversity of who they pay attention to. I've also prototyped a "gender check" for text editors that allows writers to monitor the diversity of their content before they publish (something I've just learned was also tried by German computer scientists in 2004).

Techniques for Collecting Large-Scale Gender Data

Ask People their Gender and Sexuality On a Form

The simplest way to collect gender data is to ask people. Facebook, for example, asks people their sex, their gender expression (learn more about the distinction), and who they are interested in, even though only some of that information is available through their API for demographic targeting by third parties (custom gender pronouns are hidden from advertisers).

Although the best method involves asking people to self-identify and choose how to be represented in your data, this option is usually only available to companies, online platforms, or conference organizers who think in advance about diversity. If you're lucky enough to be able to collect gender information about the group you want to know more about, read the Human Rights Campaign guide to collecting transgender inclusive data (more about HRC's categories). CMU PhD student Chris Martens has also pointed out Sarah Dopp's post "designing a better drop-down post for gender," which discusses the issues in greater detail than the HRC and suggests some clever design approaches.

If you don't make gender a required field, or if you issue an opt-in survey, you should expect your results to skew male: opt-in surveys tend to under-count women. Last year, research by Mako Hill and Aaron Shaw demonstrated that on Wikipedia, "the proportion of female US adult editors was 27.5% higher than the original study reported (22.7%, versus 17.8%), and that the total proportion of female editors was 26.8% higher (16.1%, versus 12.7%)." They have published source code to help web platforms weight their survey results based on readership demographics.

Ask People to Guess Someone Else's Gender

Most often, we're analyzing datasets without gender data. News publishers, for example, do often keep information about the gender of their journalists (for the ASNE newsroom census), but they don't release gender information on individual journalists. For decades, advocacy groups have relied on people to guess the gender of journalists from their names. The Global Media Monitoring Project examines a sample of journalism in over a hundred countries, asking volunteers to identify the likely gender of contributors. By asking more than one person to look at each name, the GMMP uses inter-coder reliability measures to ensure higher quality results. Other groups that use this method include VIDA Women in Literary Arts, Op Ed Project, and the UK's Women in Journalism have used similar methods in the past as well.

The quality of name-based guessing can be enhanced with photo-based guessing, a method I used in my 2012 work with the Guardian, and which Derek Ruth's team at McGill has systematized and evaluated extensively(pdf). With this method, Google image searches or Twitter profiles are shown to people, who determine whether that person presents male, female, or unknown. Here's what volunteers see in one Google Spreadsheets system I've developed: for each name+organization combination, coders click on a Google image search link and enter in their judgment of the person's gender, if they see more than two images of the same person.

Sometimes people are in the room. The Tally app that I prototyped for Gender Avenger, which was turned into production quality software by Yonatan Kogan and Matt Stempeck, relies on participants at a conference to count the people on a panel and enter information into a mobile website.

Is any of this ethical? After all, we're asking people to make judgments about other people's identity based on their names or physical appearance. It's also difficult to account for queer identities with this method. Faced with this difficulty, activists and researchers tend to respond by aknowledging the limitations of these methods, avoidng claims about individuals, and fitting their work within broader efforts on inclusion and social justice.

Automatically Guess Gender from Names

Surveys and human coding will never be able to function in real-time or at scale (the Global Media Monitoring project took 5 years to analyze 16,000 media items). To do that, we turn to automated methods. The simplest approach is to use historical birth records to estimate the likely sex of a first name. My colleagues at Bocoup and I, who were funded by the Knight Foundation to create Open Gender Tracker, have written about these methods extensively. Here are some of the best places to learn more about this method:

When using one of these systems, it is critical to know as much as possible about the source of the names and the accuracy of a given dataset for a particular population. In our global names dataset, we've observed large differences between UK and US names. Some libraries, which don't document the source of their names, could be offering highly inaccurate results at high levels of confidence. Like the GendRE api, a commercial product, Open Gender Tracker allows you to specify the region of your study to achieve greater accuracy.

Other similar libraries include Lincoln Mullen's gender R package (which has a less comprehensive but well documented dataset than Open Gender Tracker) and The Sex Machine python package, whose data source is not well documented.

Combine Automated Methods with Human Judgment

For publishable research, I always encourage a combination of automated methods with human judgment. In this approach, we use Open Gender Tracker to offer inferred sex for as many people as possible. We then ask humans to guess gender from photos for a sample of all names, in order to identify how accurate the Open Gender Tracker is for that particular set of names. In some cases where individual-level accuracy is needed, we optimize the cost of human coding by asking volunteers or Turkers if they disagree with the automated system's judgment, for a very large sample or potentially the whole dataset.

Combining Automated, Human Judgment, and Self-Representation

The most flexible and fair approach would support large-scale analysis while also inviting people to choose how their sex and gender presentation will be stored in the system. Together with the MediaCloud team and some advice from mySociety, we're adapting the PopIt system to publish information about the demographics of public figures. Where possible, an automated algorithm will offer its judgment. We will ask volunteers to offer their judgment. Finally, we will invite the person to check in to the system themselves, to correct their inferred gender or to adjust their privacy in our research.

It's rare for online services to offer non-binary gender identites, something that may change with Facebook's recent update to gender identity and pronoun options. Our plan with PopIt is to offer multiple levels of confidence and privacy in datasets where information on queer identies may support ethically-designed research. With that data, we should be able to expand research on diversity and inclusion to extend well beyond gender binaries.

Inferring Gender from Content

In some cases, it's possible to infer gender from content. In the first kind of research, used by Joseph Reagle and Lauren Rhue in their study of Wikipedia biographies, gendered pronouns are used to detect articles about women and men. They used this method to compare Wikipedia's coverage of women to other encyclopedias, including Britannica. Sophie Diehl and I also used this in our project to link New York Times obituaries to Wikipedia articles, identifying the likely gender of obituaries to a very high accuracy.

Occasionally, languages include features that identify the gender of the speaker or the object of a comment. McGill undergrad Morgane Ciot, along with Derek Ruths, did a fascinating study that successfully used this method to detect the gender of Twitter accounts (paper pdf here).

A third area of research attempts to identify male and female writers based on the style of their language. Research on novels and articles suggested that this might be the case. More recent work on Twitter has also suggested that Twitter account gender may be identifiable by their patterns of language and who they follow. They also noticed that not everyone follows typical gender norms, showing that across different topics, detectable differences often "defy population-level gender patterns."

Although this work is interesting, I choose to avoid it because my research focuses on identifying people who defy norms-- remarkable people who use their voices in public despite being under-represented. Twitter itself does use content analysis (plus names) to identify the gender of their users for analytics and targeted advertising. Many social media gender detection systems combine many factors (see also this report) in order to attain high accuracy levels. Glenn Fleishman recently wrote a summary of automated content-analysis gender inference for BoingBoing.

Inferring Gender from Behavior

Your behavior on social networks, including your friendship network, can also reveal things about gender. In one paper I find troubling, researchers have been able to identify gay men at MIT from their friendship network, even when they kept that information private. I personally avoid using these kinds of techniques in my research, on ethical grounds.

Inferring Ethnicity and Race

Ethnicity and race are much harder to infer from names or photos. Although techniques do exist to identify ethnicity from names (see this 2010 paper by Chang, Rosenn, Backstrom, and Marlow that incorporates names and relationships), the accuracy varies by ethnicity/race, and the census is thinking about redesigning their race and ethnicity categories to deal with problems. Although tempted by the opportunity to include measures of intersectionality in my research, I haven't yet gone down this rabbit hole in my own work. Photos are an emerging source for analysis of race and ethnicity. Although it's not a thoroughly developed area, photos from social networks have been used to train ethnicity facial-recognition detectors (here, here, and here).

Privacy and Ethics

Quantitative studies of underrepresented groups involves carrying a huge imbalance of power with people who already have problems with power. When doing quantitative work on gender, whether binary or not, it's important to keep the following things in mind:

  • Always work in conversation with people from the community you're studying so they can question or encourage your work as needed. In my work on the media, I'm deeply grateful for all the social justice orgs, professional organizations, and journalists who have helped me think through these issues. If possible, I try to design together with the people who are affected by my work, and I'm very inspired by Jill Dimond's approach to Feminist HCI (pdf).
  • Consider the harms that could occur for the people you're working with. Actions that seem like a good idea can have unexpected consequences. For example, danah boyd's talk about the power of fear in Networked Publics helped me understand that transparency can often hurt the most vulnerable, a perspective that has helped me avoid mistakes in my design work
  • Quantitative analyses that occur without the knowledge or consent of people involve a very serious power and voice imbalance that should not be done without careful thought and consultation. A good rule of thumb, from Sunil Abraham, is that the greater the power of a person, the greater transparency is acceptable. For my research on journalists and other public figures, I'm building on decades of feminism that has considered this form of transparency justifiable.
  • Support people's agency and privacy. Data about the gender of an individual can have serious consequences for people if shared in the wrong context, especially since obscuring someone's gender may be the best means to ensure fairness. In the FollowBias system, Sarah Szalavitz and I stuck with gender binaries for this reason -- if we had allowed people to note the non-binary genders of their friends, someone could have been outed against their will.

The ideological limitations of data activism

In my talk at the MIT Gender and Technology symposium, I wondered alout whether the above algorithms were actually pulling me towards non-intersectional feminist activism that focuses primarily on white women who are public figures. I think it's a very real risk. Yet since then, I've seen projects like the Texas Tribune Gender Wage Gap interactive (article here), which used Open Gender Tracker to look at wage gaps across all state employees, not just the highly paid ones. At the moment, we're just learning how to use this data to support social change, so we're in no risk of over-emphasizing metrics. Yet even as we implement the above methods, it's important to retain a critical perspective and a focus on the change that matters.

 

by natematias at October 23, 2014 12:40 AM

October 22, 2014

Doc Searls
Tab Sale. Pay with attention. Save your cash.

I was going to sort these into an outline; but I don’t have the time or the energy. I had some reason for keeping all of them open for awhile, though. So here ya go:::

by Doc Searls at October 22, 2014 10:04 PM

Global Voices
Leaked Diplomatic Cables Show EU Strong-Armed Ecuador on Free Trade Agreement
filtracion

Screen capture from the whistleblowing website awps.is 

Leaked diplomatic cables between Ecuador and the European Union, which were released on October 8, have reignited public debate over the merits of a proposed Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the two. The cables refer to recent negotiations between the Latin American country and the EU over a commercial treaty that is currently awaiting ratification by the legislatures of the respective governments.

The whistleblowing platform Ecuador Transparente that published the leaked cables, along with Associated Whistleblowing Press (AWP), issued the following comments:

En el material se puede observar la presión ejercida por la UE, cuyos intereses subvierten de principios expresados en la constitución ecuatoriana, así como algunas leyes puntuales. Además, queda constatada la inconsistencia del discurso público del gobierno ecuatoriano en relación a las negociaciones.

The contents reveal the pressure exerted by the EU, whose interests subvert the principles expressed in the Ecuadorian constitution, as well as some specific laws. Furthermore, they attest to inconsistency in the Ecuadorian government´s public rhetoric regarding the negotiations.

The Spanish news site eldiario.es picked up the news of the diplomatic leaks, characterizing them as “tense exchanges that lay bare the pressures exerted by the European Commission on Ecuador to incite it to change key legislation and policies and bring them in line with the Free Trade Agreement—this under threat of leaving Ecuador out of any tariff structures favourable to developing countries.”

The version of events compiled by the Ecuadorian newspaper El Universo after interviewing two former members of the Ecuadorian government, ex-ambassador to Belgium Fernando Yépez Lasso and former Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Kintto Lucas, confirms the EU's pressure tactics. Meanwhile, current Ecuadorian Minister of Trade Francisco Rivadeneira denied there was undue pressure, qualifying the Spanish newspaper´s article as having its own interpretation of the diplomatic communication.

The European Union also denied the bullying. According to Peter Schwaiger, the EU's mission head in Ecuador, the story is a complete “fabrication”. In a report by its investigative unit, the Ecuadorian and South American News Agency (ANDES) said the leak was “evidence of the involvement by national and international organizations in new espionage efforts to intercept diplomatic communications among high ranking Ecuadorian government officials.”

One day before the leaks were made public, Kintto Lucas himself had tweeted:

What I warned about in 2012 when I resigned as vice chancellor has become a reality. Ecuador is joining the FTA between Colombia and Peru and the EU. What a shame.

The blog Ecuador Decide republished an article from the website Diagonal Global, which analyzes the FTA negotiations focusing on the likely amendments to the constitution and the suspension of bilateral investment protection treaties, both of which are key changes the European negotiators want to secure.

La Constitución de Montecristi –promulgada en 2007 y que recoge gran cantidad de demandas sociales defendidas en largos ciclos de movilizaciones y levantamientos populares– prohíbe la firma de tratados que cedan jurisdicción soberana a instancias de arbitrajes internacionales, exige medidas protectoras al sector agroalimentario y pesquero, da prioridad en las compras públicas a productos y servicios nacionales, protege la producción nacional y procura el fortalecimiento de los mercados internos. Sin embargo, según afirma el analista e histórico activista Edgar Isch, el texto del acuerdo suscrito entre Ecuador y la UE apenas incorpora modificaciones respecto al de Colombia y Perú, unas reservas muy menores en cuanto a compras públicas, y la inclusión en los anexos de algunas excepciones y plazos para productos sensibles, al igual que los existentes con respecto a los otros dos países andinos. 

The Constitución of Montecristi — enacted in 2007 and enshrining a large number of the societal demands manifested throughout extensive periods of popular demonstrations and uprisings — prohibits the signing of treaties that cede sovereign jurisdiction to international arbitration bodies, requires measures to protect the agri-food and fisheries industry, gives priority in government procurement to domestic products and services, protects domestic production, and seeks to strengthen domestic markets. However, according to analyst and long-time activist Edgar Isch, the text of the agreement between Ecuador and the EU barely differs from the one signed by Colombia and Peru, to wit, minor reservations about public procurement and a few exceptions and limits on sensitive products included in the appendices, these being consistent with those of the other two Andean countries.

The website Pueblos en Camino (People on track) qualified the FTA negotiation as a turn to the right on the part of Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa:

No sorprende la actitud imperial abusiva y arrogante de los europeos y tampoco, las decisiones serviles, violatorias de la Constitución de Monte Cristi con las que Correa, a nombre de la soberanía, el Socialismo del Siglo XXI y la verborrea mentirosa contra “pelucones” burgueses e imperios, entrega al Ecuador a manos llenas con el apoyo de una izquierda sectaria nacional e internacional que le cree el discurso y se niega a ver los hechos, aunque los conozcan de sobra y les estallen en la cara. En Ecuador también se construye el Capitalismo del Siglo XXI.

It is hardly surprising to see the abusive and arrogantly imperious attitude of the Europeans and the obsequious decision-making (which violates the Constitution of Monte Cristi) that (President Rafael) Correa defends in the name of sovereignty, 21st-century socialism and duplicitous verbosity directed against empires and bourgeois bigwigs. He is prepared to deliver Ecuador with open arms and the blessing of a national and international sectarian Left that first created the familiar rhetoric, refusing to see the facts that are blindingly plain as day. In Ecuador, 21st century capitalism is also being built.

Another former government minister from the current regime, Alberto Acosta, also expressed his opinon and shared a link of a piece published on eldiario.es:

EU threatened Ecuador with eliminating development aid if it did not accept the FTA and Correa gave in http://t.co/HiodaBEbP7 @bbhorne

In an interview with La Marea.com (The Tide), Acosta also stressed the ideological shift to the right by President Correa, explaining that the FTA goes beyond mere trade negotiations:

En las últimas décadas, se firman acuerdos del tipo TLC, aunque se les llame de otra forma. [...] Incluyen los términos de Singapur, no sólo los comerciales: propiedad intelectual, el acceso a los servicios públicos, la protección inversiones extranjeras, acceso a los mercados de bienes agrícolas, medidas sanitarias, políticas de competencia, la solución de diferencias… una cantidad de cuestiones enorme. [...] Si se ponen de acuerdo, eso va a imponer reglas de juego a gran parte del planeta. Y sabemos las razones de esto, enfrentar a China e India. Los acuerdos de comercio no son sólo de comercio y no abren la libertad comercial. Por ejemplo, los europeos no van a desarmar sus subsidios a la agricultura. Y nuestros campesinos van a enfrentar una competencia desleal porque no van a poder acceder a ayudas similares, vía subsidio.

In recent decades, many FTA-type pacts have been signed but under different names [ ... ] These include the Singapore terms [those signed in Singapore and containing provisions other than trade]: intellectual property, access to public services, foreign investment protection, markets for agricultural goods, healthcare measures, competition policies, dispute settlement… a huge number of issues. [ ... ] If [the various international trade agreements] are harmonized, this will impose rules across much of the planet. And we know the reasons for this, to confront China and India. Trade agreements are not only about commerce, and they do not free up trade. For example, the Europeans are not going to dismantle their agricultural subsidies. And our farmers will face unfair competition because they will not have access to aid through similar subsidies.

Consulted regarding the impact on intellectual property, Alfredo Velazco, an expert on the Internet in Ecuador and a member of Usuarios de Internet del Ecuador (Internet users in Ecuador), tried to see beyond the squabbling provoked by the leak:

Concidentemente despues de la firma del Acuerdo con la Union Europea, se envia desde la Presidencia una reforma al Codigo Penal para penalizar en hasta US$ 200,000 a las personas por temas de propiedad intelectual, sin especificar alcances ni excepciones. Por otro lado el impulso al canon digital es otro de los temas que han tomado impulso. Estos serian los primeros impactos que estariamos recibiendo los usuarios.

Coincidentally, after signing the agreement with the European Union, the Office of the President put forth amendments to the Criminal Code that would penalize intellectual property violations with a fine of up to US$200,000, without indicating the extent of the reform or any exceptions to it. At the same time, the proposed private copying levy is another issue that has gained momentum. These impacts on the Internet are the first ones we would feel.

Despite all this—and the risks associated with entering into the Free Trade Agreement with the EU—its ratification already seems to be both a fait accompli and another of the many contradictions characteristic of President Rafael Correa's regime.

by Victoria Robertson at October 22, 2014 09:37 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
GV Essay Competition: How Do Internet Policies Affect Your Community?
Group photo from Global Voices 2012 Summit in Nairobi, Kenya.

Group photo from Global Voices 2012 Summit in Nairobi, Kenya.

How do corporate and government policy decisions affect Internet users? Global Voices’ Advox project wants to hear what our network of bloggers, activists, and social media experts have to say about this, in essay form.

As part of the 2015 GV Summit, we’re inviting our community members and partners to write and submit essays that explain — in plain language — the real-world effects of an Internet-related policy on citizens in a specific country or region. The policy could come from a government, an international regulatory body or a technology company. Explain how the policy affects citizens (activists, bloggers, journalists or others) using the Internet to increase public access to information, ensure government accountability, or promote human rights.

From government surveillance programs, to social media censorship, from the Right to Be Forgotten to net neutrality, governments, companies, and regulators have a profound impact on what we can and cannot do online. As a community, we know this all too well – and we know that in order to understand an abuse, an arrest, or to really see where a policy comes from and how it takes shape, it is critical to consider that country's politics, its economy and its history. We are uniquely positioned to tell these stories.

We are looking less for technical analysis or abstraction than for compelling ways to explain the many challenges to rights to free expression and privacy online, such that any active Internet user can understand them.

The goal of this competition is to amplify the voices and perspectives of our community, to help show the world the effects of policy. We aim to honor outstanding writing and thinking with an honorarium and recognition at the Global Voices 2015 Summit. Winners will be awarded USD $1000 (1st prize), $500 (2nd prize) and $250 (3rd prize). 

We are lucky to have a group of open Internet advocates and policy experts from around the world joining us as judges for the competition. The competition is funded thanks to a generous contribution by Google, one of the sponsors of the 2015 Global Voices Summit.

Please submit an essay of between 800 and 1400 words using this form. Essays can be submitted in any language with an active (“regularly updated) site within Global Voices. We will publish the essays in rolling form on the Global Voices 2015 Summit site, under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license. We will accept essays submitted between August 1, 2014 (retroactive if the topic is relevant) through December 7, 2014. Submissions are due at 11:59 PM Pacific Time (UTC-7) on December 7, 2014.

Submit your essay here!

by Global Voices Advocacy at October 22, 2014 08:53 PM

Doc Searls
Every thing has a face, and vice versa

That line came to me a few minutes ago, as I looked and read through the latest photographic blog posts by Stephen Lewis in his blog, Bubkes). This one…

Stephen Lewis photo… titled Farmyard, Grandmother, Chicken, and Ovid in Exile, is accompanied by richly detailed text, including this:

The courtyard in the photo no longer exists; it and and the vegetable garden were uprooted several years ago.  in their place: a summer-time restaurant surrounded by neatly planted flowerbeds and a tall antenna tower of a mobile telephony company resting on a broad concrete footing.  The grandmother still lives on the plot, however, and tends the little that remains of her garden.  She is in her late-eighties now and, at day’s end, often sits on the raised curb of the newly paved road next to her former farmyard in expectation of passersby…

Nothing is permanent, but in this case the more durable feature is the grandmother and her friendly face — the face of the place, while she lasts.

Also arresting is Corn Stalks, a Plateau, the Black Sea, and the Horizon:

dscf0268

It’s a place that calls to mind face in its verb form. A synonym might be to meet, or to confront. We face a challenge, an opportunity, a problem, success, failure, or the world. Things face us as well, but not always directly. Three of the four things in the photo are mostly hidden by the first, but far more vast and open. Also flat. Horizons may feature mountains, but they are horizontal: flat and wide.

We are walking and running animals that work best in the horizontal. Our eyes shift more easily to left and right than to up and down. Our stereoscopic vision and hearing also locate best in the horizontal spread from one here to many theres.

Our species dispersed from Africa toward gone horizons, mostly along coasts long since drowned by melting ice caps. The Black Sea has changed greatly in spread and shape throughout human history, and may have reached its present height in a deluge through the Dardanelles and Bosporus seaways.

The view on the path in the photo is framed between the vertical blinders of dry corn stalks at the edges of fields of unseen vastness. (Corn fields have always been both beautiful and a tiny bit creepy to me, ever since I got a bit lost when wandering as a kid into a cornfield somewhere, with no clear direction out other than the sound of distant voices.)

Between the last paragraph and this one, Stephen posted another photo, titled Shabla, Bulgaria: Seawards and Kitchenwards, taken on the shore of the Black Sea:

shabla-bulgaria-seawards-and-kitchenwards

The subject is mostly boats and ramps. In the foreground are stairs and wood railings, two of the many literal and figurative framings, none quite horizontal, in a vertical photo with dimensions we call “portrait.” On the face of this Bulgarian shore, one ear is the sea itself. All the ramps face land and sea. To them the camera is an unseen visitor from another dimension.

While seeing and hearing are mostly horizontal (our ears as well as our eyes are aligned with the horizon), eating is vertical: food is something we “eat up” and “get down.” So is nutrition: we “raise” crops and cattle.”

In Stephen’s photos, things have faces too. Some are literal, such as in Guns of August, Books of August: The Iconography of a Gravestone in Prague:

ww-i-grave-prague-copy-2 The photo puts in contrast the irony of cemetery “monuments” (as gravestones are now called), commemorating stuff nobody alive remembers, for an audience a living performer might round to zero. Under the subhead The Emotions of the Living; the Passivity of the Dead, Stephen writes,

The photo above, taken in the immense cemetery in the late-19th/early-20th century residential quarter of Vinohrady, portrays a gravestone tableau of life’s emotionized figures that reveals the ways that those in the comfort and safety of the home-front consciously or unconsciously sanitized, rationalized, and ennobled the senseless carnage of World War I.

Last month I visited the graves of relatives three generations and more ahead of mine, at Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx, and reported on that visit in Lives of the Dead. While some graves at Woodlawn yearned toward the kind of extravagance Stephen found in Vinohrady, my late kinfolk leaned in the opposite direction, marking little or nothing of who they planted there. To my knowledge, I was the first to surface (at those last two links) twenty Englerts, Knoebels and others whose faces in death are carpets of mowed grass.

And who knows how long anything will last on the Web? My old blog, on which I wrote from 1999-2007, survives by the grace of a friend, and its blogroll is a near-cemetery of rotting links.

Every thing faces a future for as long as we grace it with expectation of use, appreciation or some other goodness. Why else save anything?

So I’m glad Stephen keeps putting these photos up, and enlarging them so well with prose. Here’s a list of other photos in his series, posted since the last time I last blogged his series:

It’s a wonderful gallery. Enjoy.

by Doc Searls at October 22, 2014 07:58 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
Netizen Report: Social Media Users Silenced by Arrest, Assassination
Screen capture of @Hiipolita twitter profile.

Screen capture of @Hiipolita twitter profile.

Ellery Roberts Biddle, Hae-in Lim and Sarah Myers West contributed to this report.

Global Voices Advocacy's Netizen Report offers an international snapshot of challenges, victories, and emerging trends in Internet rights around the world. This week's report begins in the Twittersphere, where activists in Mexico, Venezuela, and Turkey have faced steep and sometimes fatal consequences for politically charged tweets over the last two weeks.

In Mexico, Maria del Rosario Fuentes Rubio was kidnapped and murdered in the northern border state of Tamaulipas in an apparent warning to citizen journalists reporting on drug-related violence. Photos of her corpse were posted on her Twitter account, which has since been suspended. Fuentes Rubio, who was a doctor, volunteered as a contributor to the citizen media platform Valor por Tamaulipas (Courage for Tamaulipas). An administrator of the platform later described her as “an angel who gave everything, her life, her future, her safety and peace … for the good of the people of the state.” 

In Venezuela, several users were arrested for sending tweets that police allege link them to the assassination of Robert Serra, a 27-year-old Socialist Party deputy who was found stabbed to death in his home on Oct. 1. All of those detained have voiced criticism of the current government on Twitter. Inés Margarita González (@inesitaterrible), a prominent voice on political issues, was detained and charged with “inciting crime” after tweeting her opinion on Serra's killing. She is currently being held incommunicado.

The Turkish government briefly detained journalist Aytekin Gezici for tweets criticizing government officials and raided Gezici’s home, searching his computer, cell phone, camera and other electronics. Many believe this is the first use of Turkey’s new “reasonable doubt” rule, a pending amendment to the country's criminal code that will lower the threshold requirement for authorities to search and seize property in a criminal investigation. Now, rather than needing to show “strong suspicion based on concrete evidence”, authorities must simply prove that they have a reasonable doubt of the suspect's innocence in order to obtain a search warrant.

China’s anti-rumor campaign continues

Daqin, a news website run by Tencent in Shaanxi province, is the latest casualty in China’s crackdown on “online rumors.” The site will be closed for seven days for its “lack of control on contents,” according to the Shaanxi Internet Information Office. 

UN says government surveillance undermines international law

A report by UN Special Rapporteur on Counter Terrorism Ben Emmerson found that mass surveillance of the Internet threatens to undermine international law and is “indiscriminately corrosive of online privacy.” Emmerson called for urgent revision of national laws regulating communications surveillance to ensure compliance with international human rights law.

Careful what you Whisper

The secret messaging app Whisper may not be so secret as people once thought. Although Whisper claims to be “the safest place on the Internet”, it apparently tracks its users, even after some opted out of geolocation services and shares user information with the US Department of Defense. It also closely tracks certain users deemed “potentially newsworthy”. The resulting controversy has illustrated the conflicts in Whisper’s business model, which combines content production – the site pitches itself to news sites – with promises of anonymity to its users.

Hacks, hackers, and Russia’s proposed Internet fast lane

Russia may implement its own Internet fast lane as its Federal Anti-Monopoly Service considers allowing Internet service providers to collect fees from websites to prioritize delivery of their content. Citing the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, the FAS claims the fees would enable ISPs to make much-needed investments in national telecom infrastructure. But media freedom advocates argue they will endanger for the country’s already-threatened independent media space. 

Russian hackers were able to spy on several Western governments, NATO, and the Ukrainian government, among others, by exploiting vulnerabilities in Microsoft Windows, according to a report by computer security firm iSight Partners. It is unclear what information might have been retrieved through the attacks, which started as early as 2009 and ramped up this summer, but they were often tied to escalations in the standoff in Ukraine.

“Rules” for journalists in Syria, by ISIS 

In early October, the violent extremist group known as ISIS issued 11 “rules” for journalists in Syria’s Deir Ezzor province. These include requirements that journalists “swear allegiance to the Caliph [Abu Bakr] al-Baghdadi,” thus acknowledging that they are subjects of the so-called Islamic State; work under the “exclusive supervision” of ISIS media offices; and refer to ISIS media offices before releasing any print or broadcast reportage of any kind. Citing accounts from local journalists who attended a meeting with the extremist group, Syria Deeply reported: “the meeting ended with a number of journalists agreeing to the new ISIS rules and signing circulars stating the terms of agreement. Those who didn’t agree to the terms fled the country.”

Cool Things

The Internet sleeps at night in many parts of the world, as home routers and Internet cafes get switched off in the evening, according to research from the University of Southern California. Of the four billion available IP addresses in the IPv4 address system, less than 800 million are being used at any given time, illustrating the diurnal rhythm of the global Internet.

New Research

Promotion and Protection of Human Rights While Countering Terrorism – Special Rapporteur Ben Emmerson, UN General Assembly

Subscribe to the Netizen Report by email

 

 

by Netizen Report Team at October 22, 2014 07:40 PM

Authorities Are Abusing Hong Kong’s Computer Crimes Law to Stifle Protests
Demonstrators in Hong Kong, October 2014. Photo by  香港獨立媒體網, used with permission.

Demonstrators in Hong Kong, October 2014. Photo by 香港獨立媒體網, used with permission.

This article was written in Chinese by Keyboard Warrior, a civic group advocating for Internet openness. It was originally published on inmediahk.net on Oct. 20. This version was translated into English by Andy Mok from Facebook Group HKDemNow and edited for context by Oiwan Lam.

A 23-year-old netizen was arrested for organizing a protest on Hong Kong’s Golden Forum, one of the city’s most popular online platforms. Police say he will be charged with “accessing a computer with criminal or dishonest intent,” an offense listed under section 161 of Hong Kong’s Crimes Ordinance (similar to a criminal code).

On Golden Forum, the young man urged others to participate in a series of protests connected with the Umbrella Revolution from October 17 – 19. Late on the evening of October 18, a violent confrontation between the police and protesters took place in Mongkok, leaving more than a dozen people injured. Police arrested the netizen in his apartment early the next morning.

An official translation of the Computer Crime law dictates that:

(1) Any person who obtains access to a computer-
(a) with intent to commit an offence;
(b) with a dishonest intent to deceive;
(c) with a view towards dishonest gain for himself or another; or
(d) with a dishonest intent to cause loss to another, whether on the same occasion as he obtains such access or on any future occasion, commits an offence and is liable on conviction upon indictment to imprisonment for 5 years.

Since the beginning of the Umbrella Revolution, more than a dozen netizens in Hong Kong have been arrested and charged with “[accessing a] computer with criminal or dishonest intent.” Some of them allegedly participated in the Anonymous Asia's call for Denial-of-Service attack on Hong Kong government websites.

What is arguably the most troubling part of the computer crime law is Section 1(a), which pertains to all criminal offences. When Hong Kong security bureau head Lai Tung-kwok explained the computer crime law to legislative council members in April of 2013, he specified that:

The Section in question serves the purpose of stopping conduct involving “access to computer with criminal or dishonest intent,” such as internet fraud, hacking, or to commit other crimes via the use of a computer.

The law thus is applicable to any crime in which the use of a computer is involved, thereby levying heavier sentences on individuals who may have used a computer in the course of committing a crime, even if their crime was in no way computer-specific. In recent years, law enforcement appears to have abused the computer crime law by attaching the charge of “access to computer with criminal or dishonest intention” to all other criminal offences whenever the use of computer is involved.

One case (KTCC 4509/2010) involved a false claim by a doctor that a vaccine was subsidized. Although it seemed the doctor should have charged with “using a false instrument,” the accused was charged under Section 161 instead. In case (ESCC2491/12), the accused took candid photos of a female colleague while she was using the bathroom. He saved the photos on his home computer. Although he did not attempt to distribute the photos via electronic means, he was charged with “access to computer with criminal intent or intent to deceive.”

If an act is criminal in nature, it should be prosecuted according to the Criminal Ordinance, rather than resorting to section 161.

When commenting on the recent arrest of netizen for accessing computer to call for “illegal assembly”, Hong Kong lawmaker Charles Mok said he believed that law enforcement has abused the computer crime law. “It is like a universal plug that can be attached to all kinds of crimes if the act involves the use of computers, mobile phones or even digital cameras.” He urged the law be amended to prevent its abuse.

Police are legally required to obtain IP information from Internet service providers or online platforms before they take action to arrest netizens under the computer crime law. According to the latest transparency report released by the Journalism and Media Studies Centre of The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong government made a total of 5,511 user information requests (requests for users’ contact information, IP address, etc), out of which 3,846 requests (70%) were granted in 2013. The majority of these requests were made without a court order. Netizens who use these services are not informed of company protocols when their data is requested by law enforcement.

The above data was revealed during a question and answer session of the HK Legislative Council. Local ISPs and Internet platforms have not released transparency reports for the same period and have not indicated plans to do so.

When confronted with the abusive use of the computer crime law, netizens are advised to exercise their “right to silence.” While laws like this one may have been developed to serve the public interest, they can become tools for political persecution if placed in the hands of a repressive regime.

by inmediahk.net at October 22, 2014 07:27 PM

Jessica Valenti
Everything in Amy Poehler’s book makes me think we’d...


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October 22, 2014 06:37 PM

Creative Commons
Kenya Ministry of ICT congratulates School of Open for transformative model of learning

SOO Africa Launch Event
SOO Africa Launch Nairobi / CC BY / Phillip Ranja

Today the Mr. Joseph Tiampati, Principal Secretary of the Ministry of ICT of Kenya gave a speech to formally launch the School of Open Africa in Nairobi. The full text of the speech is below and also available as a PDF. In addition, a congratulatory message from Prof. Jacob Kaimenyi, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Education, Science and Technology was delivered by Mr. John Temba, Head of ICT in Education at the Ministry. More info on the event from our announcement post yesterday.

Some highlights from the speech:

  • The Ministry recognizes Kenya as a signatory of UNESCO’s 2012 Paris Declaration on Open Educational Resources (OER) and that “open education resources improves the quality of teaching and learning, including by accelerating student comprehension and by providing more opportunities for the realisation of universal access to education.”
  • Kenya has developed and is rolling out a National ICT Master plan for the next five years. The Ministry recognizes “that Creative Commons through the School of Open Africa has provided a good example of innovative use of ICT in education that resonates well with the Kenya National ICT Master Plan… Open Education Resources coupled with innovative use of ICT in education will accelerate realization of a modern Kenya that will be a knowledge-based economy.”

And lastly,

“By using Open Educational Resources, OER, School of Open is opening up to many students who would have otherwise missed the opportunity of accessing education, especially in the marginalized areas which could not adequately access quality education. Ongoing, voluntary, and self- motivated pursuit of knowledge for either personal or professional reasons is one of the characteristics of the 21st Century. One of the major ways of promoting life-long learning is the continuous use of ICT innovations in education.

“I congratulate School of Open teams across Africa for the innovative and transformative mode of teaching and learning that we are launching today. This African initiative is a worthy model for other regions of the world to emulate.”

Congrats on a successful launch to our communities across Africa!


SPEECH BY MR. JOSEPH TIAMPATI, PRINCIPAL SECRETARY MINISTRY OF INFORMATION, COMMUNICATIONS AND TECHNOLOGY DURING THE LAUNCH OF THE SCHOOL OF OPEN AFRICA, AT THE SERENA HOTEL, WEDNESDAY 22ND OCTOBER, 2014

“Good morning.

“It gives me great pleasure to be here today as the Chief Guest during the launch of School of Open – Africa. I would like to begin by sincerely thanking Creative Commons Africa community and under the able coordination of Alex Gakuru and Tobias Schonwetter, and the global Creative Commons Community for inviting me to preside over this launch.

“I am happy to note the enthusiasm demonstrated by School of Open Africa in transforming education along Sustainable Development Goals proposed for post-2015 (Goal No. 4: “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote life-long learning opportunities for all”) and in line with the Kenya Vision 2030 which seeks to transform Kenya into a middle-income country that offers high quality of life to all citizens by the year 2030. I am happy to note how much School of Open Africa has grown in Kenya and embraced in countries like Senegal, Nigeria, and South Africa among other African countries in the last few years. I am informed that School of Open by Creative Commons is highly reputed around the world for addressing universal access to education.

SOO Africa Launch Event 5
Awarding CopyrightX certificates / CC BY / Phillip Ranja

“Kenya is a signatory to the UNESCO’s 2012 Paris Declaration on Open Education Resources licensed under Creative Commons open licenses. The use of open education resources improves the quality of teaching and learning, including by accelerating student comprehension and by providing more opportunities for the realisation of universal access to education. Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching, learning, and research materials in any medium that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others.

“Fully aware of the role of education in a country’s development agenda, I am sure that the new initiatives being undertaken by School of Open Africa, the Creative Commons and UNESCO are making their contribution towards the social, economic, and political pillars which are the three fundamental cornerstones of our country, and indeed for our great continent.

“Ladies and gentlemen, as you may be aware, the Country’s development blue print is being implemented through successive five- year Medium Term Plans (MTPs) that will finally enable the country to achieve the long-term goals. We are now in the second medium term plan cycle (2013-2017) whose theme is “Transforming Kenya: Pathways to Devolution, Socio-economic Development, Equity and National Unity”. As you may be aware, the ICT Authority rolled out the National ICT Master plan that will set the pace for progression of the country in ICT for the next five years. The Master plan – once fully rolled out – will completely transform government processes, services and management, and make information access and service delivery more efficient. Again, the Master plan, with the flagship projects to pilot its implementation, will steer the march towards the digital future that will transform the country to a regional technical hub, raise the country’s competitiveness and align the country in line with vision 2030’s ICT goals.

“By launching the Kenya ICT Master Plan, the government revealed its commitment towards the enhancement of access to quality education and training through ICT in line with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). We are reviewing the National ICT Policy Guidelines to ensure alignment with proposed Sustainable Development Goals.
As a country, we are also privileged to have a National ICT Policy whose goal is to create a prosperous ICT-driven Kenyan society. With a well mainstreamed ICT society, we are assured of better livelihoods of Kenyans attainable through the availability of accessible, efficient, reliable and affordable ICT services.

“ICT provides a platform that enables the realization of these goals. I must emphasize that Creative Commons through the School of Open Africa has provided a good example of innovative use of ICT in education that resonates well with the Kenya National ICT Master Plan. The integration of ICT into educational programmes places both the teaching staff and students at the forefront in the utilization of ICT for the enhancement of lives.

“I note with great pleasure the freedom to re-purpose offered by openly licensed educational resources, the convenience online access to learners as alternative courses delivery and certification methods. At this juncture, ladies and gentlemen, I thank William Fisher III, Professor of Intellectual Property and his staff at the Berkman Centre for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School for providing a free copyright law course taught to graduands present today to receive their certificates. I also thank Michael Murungi (then CEO, National Council for Law Reporting or “Kenya Law”) and Alex Gakuru for successfully conducting the course in Nairobi. I must congratulate the former students and ask to make the very best use of the copyright law knowledge they acquired while also challenging all universities represented here to consider emulating the highly successfully CopyrightX initiative.

“As the government continues to work on modalities of ensuring universal access to education and increasing the internet penetration in all parts of the country, we are pleased to witness this mode of study that will definitely translate to affordable education. Open Education Resources coupled with innovative use of ICT in education will accelerate realization of a modern Kenya that will be a knowledge-based economy.

“By using Open Educational Resources, OER, School of Open is opening up to many students who would have otherwise missed the opportunity of accessing education, especially in the marginalized areas which could not adequately access quality education. Ongoing, voluntary, and self- motivated pursuit of knowledge for either personal or professional reasons is one of the characteristics of the 21st Century. One of the major ways of promoting life-long learning is the continuous use of ICT innovations in education.

“I congratulate School of Open teams across Africa for the innovative and transformative mode of teaching and learning that we are launching today. This African initiative is a worthy model for other regions of the world to emulate.

“As I conclude I take this opportunity to applaud UNESCO’s efforts and contribution in the development and growth of the country through this noble initiative that enables the primary, secondary and universities to optimize the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in learning. I acknowledge the generous financial support from the Hewlett Foundation and SOO Africa teams support by Google.

“With those remarks, it is now my pleasure to declare the School of Open Africa officially opened.

“Thank you.”

by Alex Gakuru at October 22, 2014 06:20 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
Venezuela: Twitter Users Detained After Socialist Party Deputy is Slain
An officer of the Venezuela's Bolivarian National Police watches protesters in Maracaibo, 2014. Photo by Maria Alejandra Mora (CC BY-SA 3.0)

An officer of the Venezuela's Bolivarian National Police watches protesters in Maracaibo, 2014. Photo by Maria Alejandra Mora (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Over the last three weeks, several Twitter users have been detained by Venezuelan authorities for making online comments that police allege tie them to the murder of 27-year-old Socialist Party deputy Robert Serra, who was stabbed to death in his home on Oct. 1, 2014.

Serra's assassination shook the country's increasingly embattled political leadership and further stoked the already-high tensions between authorities and opposition party members. Although two men, both reportedly Serra's bodyguards, have been detained as suspects in his killing, numerous other citizens have been detained in connection with the incident.

At least two individuals were detained in connection with the @Hiipolita Twitter account, where an alleged fortune teller foresaw “mourning” in the National Assembly.

The National Assembly will be in MOURNING!

Although the account has been silent since Oct. 14, its more recent tweets included concerns about economic and social conditions in the country, numerous retweets of opposition political leaders such as Leopoldo López and Henrique Capriles, and general predictions of hard times ahead.

Several other individuals have been detained for tweets that authorities claim link them to Serra's death:

  • On October 14, Ginette Hernández, community manager at the television channel E! Entertainment Television, and her uncle Lessy Hernańdez were detained in connection with the @Hiipolita account.
  • Daniely Benítez (@pretinha76), a flutist with the Caracas Marching Band and vocalist of Brazilian music group Só Sambistas, was detained, also in connection with @Hiipolita. Benítez stands accused by Diosdado Cabello, president of the National Assembly and a steadfast Chavez supporter. She has since been released and her detention declared wrongful.
  • On Oct. 7, Scientist Inés Margarita González was detained and charged with inciting crime via messages published on her account regarding her opinion on the death of Serra. She has been incommunicado since her arrest.
  • On Oct. 8, Abrahan David Muñoz (@abrahamdz) was arrested and detained. He faces the same charges as González, also concerning his comments regarding Serra’s death. Muñoz was taken to the intelligence headquarters (SEBIN) in Caracas, but was later released on probation.
  • On Oct. 13, Víctor Ugas was detained for spreading pictures of Robert Sierra’s body, allegedly taken at the morgue. Ugas is being charged with improper disclosure of data and espionage.

Global Voices Advocacy obtained information about these detentions through local sources in Venezuela. Unfortunately, there is little more information about these individuals that can be confirmed at this time. Given the risk of speculating or publishing unconfirmed information about the fate of the detainees, we have chosen simply to report what we know.

The government has also blocked the news portal Infobae, which published material regarding Serra’s homicide, including pictures of his body. CONATEL president William Castillo wrote:

Following instructions, due to serious violations of the Venezuelan laws, Conatel ordered blocking the website http://t.co/RDqpeaR3Se

Since the adoption of the Law on Social Responsibility in Radio, Television and Electronic Media, CONATEL (an administrative body, dependent on the President) has had the power to block web content without trial. Though the Venezuelan government has been prone to detaining social media users in the past, it seems that their policies have tightened over the last year, with the wave of blockades in relation to the black market dollar, and filtering measures taken this year at the height of the student protests.

by Sonia Doglio at October 22, 2014 06:18 PM

Global Voices
Talk Show Inspires 1 Million+ Callers to Protest India's Anti-Gay Law
Screenshot of the Indian talk show "Satyamev Jayate"

Screenshot of the Indian talk show “Satyamev Jayate” hosted by Aamir Khan

A recent episode of an Indian talk show aired to more than 100 million viewers has had a massive impact on the country's perception of LGBT people. More than one million calls were made to a toll free hotline set up by the show to protest Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which stigmatises the LGBT community by criminalising homosexual sex.

On 19 October, an episode of Indian television talk show “Satyamev Jayate” (Truth Alone Prevails) titled “Accepting Alternative Sexualities” attempted to break a lot of misconceptions surrounding the ostracised LGBT community by answering a number of questions on the issue.

The guests included transgender woman Gazal Dhaliwal (@gazalstune) and her parents, popular psychologist Deepak Kashyap and other LGBT activists. Dhaliwal, a film writer, described her traumatic childhood as a girl trapped in a boy’s body, and her journey from self-discovery to the decision to undergo a sex change operation.

Later Dhaliwal engaged in a live Twitter chat with the audience.

The show talked about how ordinary Indian households are dealing with the LGBT issue. It showed a traditional grandmother who admitted to dancing on her gay grandson’s engagement ceremony.

Soon, the hashtag #FreedomForLGBT became the top trending topic globally on Twitter:

Gay sex is illegal under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (adopted into the Indian Constitution by the Imperial British empire in 1861). Four years ago in a landmark judgement, the Delhi High Court overturned the section, but India's top court reversed the Delhi High Court order in December 2013. The court said it was up to parliament to legislate on the issue.

Protests against the reinstitution of Section 377 are ongoing across India, and the issue was a hot-button one during this year's general election. The ruling Bharatya Janata Party (BJP) supported the law during the election. BJP, however, indicated in August that the Supreme Court was currently hearing a curative petition on the matter and that the government had no plans to take up the matter of amending Section 377 until the Supreme Court gave its ruling.

The show, hosted by Bollywood megastar Amir Khan, took a bold step in voicing the plights of the LGBT community and protesting the law. Its website stated:

Today all of us have to be involved in the struggle against the discrimination and torture faced by the LGBT community. The biggest obstacle to equality for the LGBT community comes from the law. To our eternal shame, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code still criminalizes homosexuality even among consenting adults calling it ‘against the order of nature’ and punishes such acts for a term which may extend to 10 years. This law is a blot on modern India and must be amended.

“Satyamev Jayate,” which is hugely popular, has taken on different social issues not often talked about among conservative circles in the country in the past. The third season is being simulcast on eight channels with a special live segment titled “Mumkin Hai” on two more channels, topping an aggregate reach of 126 million.

The website also commented that more important than the law is the need for society's attitudes towards the LGBT community need to change, and the change should start in ordinary homes. So it listed more videos and articles about a few other aspects of LGBT living in India: parental support, forced marriages, and the occlusion of work spaces for the hijra community, among others.

Many appreciated Aamir Khan's contribution and sent videos thanking him:

Of course, not everyone agreed. There were also many responses from people who support Section 377 and reject the LGBT community.

The stories in the episode were heartwarming, but it remains to be seen whether they have inspired enough people to actively push for the rights of LGBT people in India.

by Rezwan at October 22, 2014 04:55 PM

Creative Commons
Build a commons for everyone

I joined CC in June of this year, and immediately set out to update our strategy. I spent the summer working with our staff, affiliates, board, partners, and funders to understand the needs and the opportunities, and to plan for 2015 and beyond.

Today, we’re focused on three strategic objectives:

  1. A vibrant commons. Supporting the CC license suite so it’s easy to contribute to the commons —from improving the experience on platforms, to enhancing our license chooser, to translating the 4.0 licenses;
  2. A usable commons. Helping creators find and reuse the content they want and need, including exploring ways to improve search and content analytics, so creators can see where their content goes after they share it; and,
  3. A relevant commons. Leading a movement of individuals, organizations, and institutions who will inspire others to create the commons of creativity and knowledge we all want.

These three simple objectives will guide our work over the next year. If you share our goal of a more healthy and vibrant commons, we’re proud to work alongside you.

This month, we’ll launch our most ambitious annual campaign yet. We’re going to tell the story of the commons, its reach, and its potential, to make a compelling case for our work. We’ll share some exciting new projects that show how we’re building the next phase of CC.

I hope that you’ll make a donation, but equally as important, I hope you’ll help us spread the word and grow our community of donors to build a more sustainable organization.

Support Creative Commons

by Ryan Merkley at October 22, 2014 04:42 PM

Doc Searls
Giant Zero Journalism, cont’d

While doing research on another topic, I ran across this post by Amy Gahran (@agahran) in Poynter, riffing off a March 2007 post on my old blog titled Giant Zero Journalism.

Reading it, I feel like I just opened a time capsule — especially when I also just finished reading Robinson Meyer‘s Atlantic piece, And Just Like That, Facebook Became the Most Important Entity in Web Journalism — In one chart! (from Peter Kafka) and A Eulogy for Twitter The beloved social publishing platform enters its twilight, which Robinson co-wrote with Adrienne LaFrance.

Twitter and Facebook were still their old (young) selves way back then, and not the social media giants they’ve become since then. (Oh, and Google still mattered too. Remember them? Just half-kidding.)

Some of what I wrote holds up, however, as does what Amy adds about credibility — which always meant everything, or damn close.

Here’s the post:

We’ll start with Corporations Co-opt Citizen Journalism, by Frank Beacham, who concludes,
I predict that in a world overflowing with dreadful citizen-made images, talented photographers and videographers will survive. Perhaps they will not be on the payroll of the traditional news organizations. Yet, they will always be in demand by a group of discriminating consumers who will pay for their services.
News dominated by citizen journalists will be just like the neighbor who makes you sit through a viewing of his 300 vacation snapshots or baby pictures from Costco. Your eyes will begin to glaze over, followed by an urge to scream.
Beware of news organizations that think they can replace professionals with citizen-made free content. It will stink. Always has, always will.
I found that through The Fatal Attraction of Free, by Dan Kennedy, who says,
There is, however, a significant flaw in the corporate-defined citizen-journalism model. Good journalism may be hard, but technology is easy. And rather than giving it away to Yahoo, Reuters et al., most citizen journalists are doing it themselves.
Dan also points to Citizen Media: Fad or the Future of News? — The rise and prospects of hyperlocal journalism, from the Knight Citizen News Network. It’s a big report. A press release about the report begins,
COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Local news web sites offering content generated by users are securing a valuable place in the media landscape and are likely to continue as important sources of community news, according to a report released today by J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism.
“Citizen sites are developing as new forms of bridge media, linking traditional news with forms of civic participation,” said J-Lab director, Jan Schaffer, author of the report, which was funded by a grant from the Ford Foundation.
These sites, which take many forms, have rapidly emerged since 2004. But rather than delivering comprehensive news and “finished stories,” most sites are “forming as fusions of news and schmooze” that pay particular attention to key issues in their communities, Schaffer said…
Most citizen media ventures are shoestring labors of love, funded out of the founders’ own pockets, and staffed by volunteer content contributors. While they¹d like more readers and revenues, site founders nevertheless professed a solid resolve to continue: 51% said they didn’t need to make money to keep going; 82% said they planned to continue “indefinitely.” Nearly all would welcome reinforcements and the ability to make even token payments to writers.
Kudos to KCNN: the whole report is in .html rather than .pdf. (Kevin Marks:HTML is now the default document format. Exactly.) My only complaint: they apparently didn’t talk to Edhat.
Dan’s bottom lines:
I think it’s likely — or at least I hope — that the very real problem identified by Beacham will turn out to be self-correcting. Corporate media executives who genuinely want to use citizen-media tools to build community and experiment with new business models will be rewarded for their efforts.
But those who think they can profit by suckering amateurs into giving away their content will soon discover that what they’ve created a host of new competitors.
A commenter under Dan’s piece pionts to NY Times publisher: Our goal is to manage the transition from print to internet, by By Eytan Avriel in Haaretz. An irony-packed excerpt:
Will it be free?
No, Sulzberger says. If you want to read the New York Times online, you will have to pay.
In the age of bloggers, what is the future of online newspapers and the profession in general? There are millions of bloggers out there, and if the Times forgets who and what they are, it will lose the war, and rightly so, according to Sulzberger. “We are curators, curators of news. People don’t click onto the New York Times to read blogs. They want reliable news that they can trust,” he says.
“We aren’t ignoring what’s happening. We understand that the newspaper is not the focal point of city life as it was 10 years ago.
“Once upon a time, people had to read the paper to find out what was going on in theater. Today there are hundreds of forums and sites with that information,” he says. “But the paper can integrate material from bloggers and external writers. We need to be part of that community and to have dialogue with the online world.”
Then there’s Mark Glaser’s report on We Media, at PBS’s MediaShift. Sez Mark,
My personal definition of “we media” is the movement toward an empowered audience, who can customize their media experience and create their own media, leaving behind the old model of the mainstream media control.
Later he points out,
The conference was marketed as being a conversation among various players in the media industry. As the conference site put it: “The program includes a series of roundtable discussions and a variety of participatory activities involving communities, individuals and organizations to help participants understand and address the challenges of a changing multi-media world.”
But some individuals, who wrote complaints on the We Media website, were put off by the $1,000+ walk-up registration fee...
It’s true that there are other low-cost unconferences such as BloggerCon, where there are no fees and no sponsors, and the space is donated. But this is not what We Media is aiming for. I chatted with the conference organizers, Dale Peskin and Andrew Nachison (a.k.a. the new media Blues Brothers), this morning before the confab started, and they explained the high cost of We Media...
Nachison said that registration fees only pay for 20% of the costs to put on the conference, with sponsor money making up the rest of the income. Their group, iFocos, is non-profit, but they obviously aren¹t looking for charity here. This is about business, and how the media business is changing, and it¹s not just the army of citizen media people.
I got to Dan and all the other stuff above through We are the Web, at howardowens.com. Howard, looking at all the above, offers this summary:
There’s a book end of attitudes about big media companies and distributed media. On one end is the suggestion that MSM’s only interest in UGC is as free content, and on the other end, the meme that MSM is just big, dumb media that somehow stands apart from social media instead of a part of we media.
He concludes,
If people didn’t get something out of their contributions, they wouldn’t write, shoot and submit. Not all compensation is monetary. MSM companies that make available a distribution channel for UGC assume the financial risk associated with the effort (a risk not shared by contributors), and provide a valuable service to contributors looking to reach a wider audience than might be available to a solo act. Yes, MSM getting into UGC are hoping that the effort will generate audience, and hence revenue, but it¹s a complete misunderstanding of the economics of the matter to say the whole process is just a rip off. You¹ve got to start some place, and maybe some day UGC will generate sufficient revenue to justify monetary compensation for contributors, but for most newspapers still incubating UGC, that just isn¹t possible right now.
Of course, I’m one of those corporate MSM guys who believes in UGC, so you might think I have a conflict of interest here.
Here¹s the thing though: As I watched the Web 2.0 video, I revisited a thought: “We are the media.” And by We, I don¹t just mean the so-called citizens of citizen journalism. We also includes the MSM. Like it or not, every MSM outlet is part of the conversation. Some are reluctant or even resistant contributors to the conversation, but every report in MSM is ripe for citizens to expand on, comment on or react to.
Those of us who work on the MSM side of the conversation also believe that in building the means of participation we aren¹t just looking for free content — we believe in the conversation. That should mean something.
I found Howard through I, Reporter, which I found through a search for Gannett+citizen+journalists, because I was wondering what happened with Gannett’s CJ (or crowdsourcing) efforts since I last wrote about it.* I was doing that as part of an offline dialog with Sheila Lennon, who has been working for some time at the juncture of newspapering and blogging.
All this was also on the front of my mind, since several people had spoken or written to me about a Frontline piece — I’m guessing it’s either the whole Newswar series, or Part III: What’s Happening To News. One of my correspondents, Dave Winer, makes a point he says Frontline misses: we are the sources, going direct.
Exactly. That brings me to a related point, which is about the Net as an environment.
This is what I told the public media conference in my closing remarks there:The Net is a giant zero. It puts everybody zero distance from everybody and everything else. And it supports publishing and broadcasting at costs that round to zero as well.
It is essential for the mainstream media to understand that the larger information ecosystem is one that grows wild on the Net and supports everybody who wants to inform anybody else. It no longer grows inside the mainstream media’s walled gardens. Those gardens will continue to thrive only to the degree that they do two things: 1) open up; and 2) live symbiotically with individuals outside who want to work together for common purposes.
Framing is a huge issue here. We have readers and viewers, not just “audiences” and “consumers”. We write articles and essays and posts, not just “generate content”. “User-generated content”, or UGC, is an ugly, insulting and misleading label.
“Content” is inert. It isn’t alive. It doesn’t grow, or catch fire, or go viral. Ideas and insights do that. Interesting facts do that. “Audiences” are passive. They sit still, clap and leave. That might be what happened with newspapers and radio and TV in the old MSM-controlled world, but it’s not what happens on The Giant Zero. It’s not what happens with blogging, or with citizen journalism. Here it’s all about contribution, participation. It involves conversation, but it goes beyond that into relationship — with readers, with viewers, with the larger ecosystem by which we all inform each other.
As I’ve said before (and I said it again at the conference), we don’t just “deliver information” like it’s a Fedex package. We inform each other. That is, we literally form what other people know. If you tell me something I didn’t know before, I’m changed by that. I am not merely in receipt of a box of facts. I am enlarged by knowing more than I did before. Enlarging each other is the deepest calling of journalism, whether it’s done by bloggers, anchors or editors.
We are all authors of each other. What we call authority is the right we give others to author us, to make us who we are. That right is one we no longer give only to our newspapers, our magazines, our TV and radio stations. We give it to anybody who helps us learn and understand What’s Going On in the world. In that world the number of amateur informants goes up while the number of editors on newspaper staffs goes down. Between these two facts are many opportunities for symbiosis.
“Curation” and “curative” are words tradition-bound journalists like to use when they defend their institutions. But these are museum words. They suggest collections of artifacts behind locked doors in basement collections. The New York Times may have a financial success with Times Select, its online paper. But Time Select is a walled garden with a locked gate. You can’t look up anything there in Google, because its “conent” is trapped behind a paywall. Only subscribers can see it, and there’s a limit on how much archival material they can see without paying more.
The majority of papers today still lock up their archives. It’s time to stop that, for the simple reason that it insults the nature of the Giant Zero environment on which they now reside. They can make as much or more money by exposing those archives to Google’s and Yahoo’s indexing spiders, by placing advertising on them, by linking to them and bringing interest and visitors to them, by making them useful to other journalists (many of whom will be bloggers) seeking to write authoritatively about their communities and their communities’ histories.
Established media institutions have enormous advantages. But they can’t use them if they continue to live in denial of the nature of their new world — and of the interests, talents and natural independence of the other inhabitants there.
[Later...] *Greg writes,
Re: Gannett’s “crowd sourcing,” here in Poughkeepsie, the Journal keeps bugging readers to blog for its site on its terms, but doesn’t seem interested in acknowledging local bloggers who are already covering these area/issues on their own. Community opinion matters only to the extent that it’s expressed under the Gannett roof.
Our own Daily Nexus at UCSB (where I am a research fellow) just published a piece today that covered placeblogging, with narry a link and hardly a mention of Edhat, which has been doing an awesome job for years as both supplement and alternative to the daily paper here in Santa Barbara. Credit where due: The piece does give props to the excellent work being done by the Independent, our local weekly.

 

Bonus link: Remembering Peter Sklar, placeblogging pioneer. Peter was the founder, publisher and main writer for Edhat. In character with Peter’s lack of self-aggrandizement, he remains an unsung hero. But placeblogging, by whatever name we use, would not be the same without him. He was a true original and in that sense alone (plus many others) he was an exemplary journalist.

by Doc Searls at October 22, 2014 03:38 PM

Global Voices
Learn Who's Who in Hong Kong's Umbrella Revolution With ‘Mr and Little Miss Hong Kong People’
Mr. & Little Miss HK People Ordinary Hong Kong people are protesting for a genuine democratic election system in the future election of the city top leader and the Legislative Council. They bring their umbrella to protect themselves from the police's pepper spray, tear gas and baton. Now umbrella has been turned into a symbol representing peaceful protest for Hong Kong democracy.

Ordinary Hong Kong people are protesting for genuine democratic elections of the city's top leader and the Legislative Council. They bring along umbrellas to protect themselves from the police's pepper spray, tear gas and batons. Now, umbrellas have become a symbol representing peaceful protest for Hong Kong democracy.

Many of the images of Hong Kong's Umbrella Revolution have captured large, faceless throngs of protesters standing their ground in the city's financial center to demand free and fair elections from local and Beijing governments. What's been lost in the crowd are the individual leaders and decision makers driving the political tug-of-war.

Hong Kong commercial artist Maxwell spent a night creating a set of cartoon figures called “Mr and Little Miss Hong Kong People” to explain the important figures behind the Umbrella Revolution.

Inspired by British cartoon “Mr Men and Little Miss,” the Hong Kong version means to help parents tell their kids about the protests and let them know what's happening in society. Maxwell believed that regardless of the outcome of the pro-democracy protests, the next generation will benefit from it.

Take a look at the “Mr and Little Miss Hong Kong People” cartoon figures here:

Mr. Hungry It is based on the story of a protester, Mok Siu Man, who started hunger striking on October 2 for more than 18 days. He protested with a placard saying, "For the sake of our children, death is not fearful."

The figure is based on the story of a protester, Mok Siu Man, who started a hunger strike on October 2 and lasted for more than 18 days. He protested with a placard saying, “For the sake of our children, death is not fearful.”

Mr. Chow & Mr. Shum They represent Alex Chow and Lester Shum, two student leaders from the Federation of University Students, one of the key organizations behind the massive sit-in protests.

They represent Alex Chow and Lester Shum, two student leaders from the Hong Kong Federation of Students, one of the key organizations behind the massive pro-democracy sit-in.

Mr. G Phone The figure represents Joshua Wong, the teenage fighter from high school student activist group, Scholarism. He was arrested on September 26 for trespassing into the civic square in front of the government headquarter. The violent clashes between police and student protesters, resulted in the arrest of 75 student activists on September 27  and kickstarted the Occupy Central protests.

The figure represents Joshua Wong, the teenage protest leader from high school student activist group, Scholarism. He was arrested on September 26 for trespassing into the civic square in front of government headquarters. The violent clashes between police and student protesters the next day resulted in the arrest of 75 student activists and kickstarted the Occupy Central protests.

Little Miss Ip Cancer This figure represents Regina Ip, a member of the government Executive Council, lawmaker and a former head of the government Security Bureau. She fully supports the police violent crackdown on peaceful protesters.

This figure represents Regina Ip, a member of the government Executive Council, lawmaker and a former head of the government's Security Bureau. She fully supports the police's violent crackdown on peaceful protesters.

Mr. 4PM It refers to Steve Hui, the police department's spokesperson. He appeared on TV almost everyday at 4 p.m to report on the impact of protests to public order since September 28. As the head of the public relation branch, Mr Hui tries his best to rescue the police officers' public image. However, what he said had turned into irony as footages showing how police abused their power keep going viral in social media.

It refers to Steve Hui, the police department's spokesperson. He appeared on TV almost every day at 4 p.m to report on the impact of protests to public order since September 28. As the head of the public relations branch, Hui tries his best to rescue the police officers’ public image. However, what he said has been undermined by viral footage exposing how police abused their power.

Mr. Invisible The figure refers to Andy Tsang, the head of Hong Kong police force. He is responsible for the unleashing tear gas on peaceful protesters on September 28. Andy Tsang disappeared for three weeks after the violent crackdown.

The figure refers to Andy Tsang, the head of Hong Kong police force. He is responsible for the unleashing of tear gas on peaceful protesters on September 28. Andy Tsang disappeared for three weeks after the violent crackdown.

Mr. Worm The figure represents Yuen Chi Wai, the executive of the news department of Television Broadcast (TVB), a most popular TV station in Hong Kong. Yuen ordered the news team to edit the script of voice over of a news footage which clearly showed a number of police officers beating up a handcuffed protester in a dark corner near the massive sit-in protest site. According to a leaked voice record of the TV station's news department internal meeting, Yuen criticized his colleague for being judgmental in the voice over and said, "you are not the worms inside the police officers, how can you be so sure that the act of punching and kicking are for real?"

The figure represents Yuen Chi Wai, news department chief of Television Broadcast (TVB), the most popular TV station in Hong Kong. Yuen ordered the news team to edit the script of a voice-over on news footage that clearly showed a number of police officers beating up a handcuffed protester in a dark corner near the protest site. According to a leaked voice record of the TV station's news department internal meeting, Yuen criticized his colleagues for being judgmental in the voice-over and said, “You are not the worms inside the police officers, how can you be so sure that the act of punching and kicking are for real?”

Mr. Rubbish Bin The figure represents Lau Kong Wah, former deputy chair of a pro-Beijing political party, Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB). After he lost his seat in the Legislative Council in the 2012 election, he was appointed by the Chief Executive as the undersecretary of the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau. He was responsible for arranging an open dialogue between student leaders and Carrie Lam, the government Chief Secretary to resolve the conflict over the election reform.

The figure represents Lau Kong Wah, former deputy chair of pro-Beijing political party, Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB). After he lost his seat in the Legislative Council in the 2012 election, he was appointed by the chief executive as the undersecretary of the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau. He was responsible for arranging an open dialogue between student leaders and Carrie Lam, the government chief secretary, to resolve the conflict over election reform.

Mr. Tree Gun The figure represents Chung Shu Kun, a DAB legislative council member. He has been criticized by netizens of his idiotic comments in the legislative council. Recently, in order to justify police's use of force, he posted an "iron umbrella" in his Facebook and claimed that protesters had inserted blades inside the umbrella to attack the police. Later, a design company issued a public statement expressing regret over Chung's abusive use of their design work - the "iron umbrella" is an art installation to promote the recycling design.

The figure represents Chung Shu Kun, a DAB legislative council member. He has been criticized by netizens for his comments in the Legislative Council. Recently, in order to justify police use of force, he posted an “iron umbrella” on his Facebook and claimed that protesters had inserted blades inside the umbrellas to attack police. Later, a design company issued a public statement expressing regret over Chung's abusive use of their design work — the “iron umbrella” is an art installation to promote recycling design.

Little Miss Lam Cheng Carrie Lam, the Chief Secretary of Hong Kong government. People believe that she represents the moderate voices in the government as she tries to solve the conflict through open dialogue with the students.

Carrie Lam, the chief secretary of Hong Kong government. People believe that she represents the moderate voices in the government as she tries to solve the conflict through open dialogue with the students.

Mr. 689 The figure represents Hong Kong Chief Executive C.Y Leung who has been depicted by the local media as a wolf since he decided to run for the election of the the Chief Executive back in 2012. Later, people called him 689 because he only managed to obtain 689 votes out of the 1200 votes in the election committee with the support of Beijing government. The protesters refused to have dialogue with Leung as they believed that Leung wanted to invite Beijing's direct intervention in Hong Kong affair by distorting the Umbrella Revolution as a separatist movement and a conspiracy of foreign intervention that aims to undermine the Chinese government's authority.

The figure represents Hong Kong Chief Executive C.Y. Leung, who has been depicted by local media as a wolf since he decided to run for the chief executive seat in 2012. Later, people called him 689 because he only managed to obtain 689 votes out of the 1,200 votes in the election committee with the support of the Beijing government. The protesters have refused to have dialogue with Leung as they believe he wants to invite Beijing's direct intervention into Hong Kong affairs by distorting the Umbrella Revolution as a separatist movement and a conspiracy of foreign powers aiming to undermine the Chinese government's authority.

New figures on the Umbrella Revolution continue to be published on Maxwell's Mr. and Little Miss Hong Kong People Facebook page.

Follow our in-depth coverage: Hong Kong's Umbrella Revolution

by Oiwan Lam at October 22, 2014 01:46 PM

Lawrence Lessig
John Denny’s (I-MN6) "Money Back Guarantee"

John Denny is an Independent, running in Michelle Bachman’s seat (she’s not running…

(Original post on Tumblr)

by Lessig at October 22, 2014 01:32 PM

The way Washington speaks: "Waterbooarding isn’t torture" & "Fred Upton is a reformer"

For those not following the race in Michigan 6 (and really, who could resist?!), the campaign to…

(Original post on Tumblr)

by Lessig at October 22, 2014 01:17 PM

Global Voices
Iran's Conservative Media See a Reformist Plot in Coverage of Acid Attacks Against Women
The front page of one of the most popular reformist dailies, Shargh, discusses the theory that the attacks are linked to a nationwide organized association trying to eradicate bad hejab.

The front page of one of the most popular reformist dailies, Shargh, discusses the theory that the attacks are linked to a nationwide organized association trying to eradicate bad hijab.

A wave of acid attacks in Isfahan against women over the past few weeks has created a sense of uproar within Iran. Authorities claim there have been four attacks, while social media say 10.

The controversial elements of the story, namely the cause of the attacks, and the lack of monitoring by authorities has rippled through Iran's often factionalized media, with some conservative publications passing off foreign and reformist coverage of the attacks as an attempt to drum up discontent within the Islamic Republic.  

This past week, the government-affiliated newspaper Iran and the reformist Etemaad both printed within their pages “A public outcry against the perpetrators of acidpashi (acid attacks).”  Etemaad newspaper noted the nature of fear amongst the women of Isfahan in the following passage:

«خبرهای ناگوار اسیدپاشی در اصفهان، امنیت مردم شهر را مختل کرده است، امنیتی که زنان و دختران این شهر، ‌با کمتر ظاهر شدن در معابر عمومی و حبس کردن خود در خانه برای خود فراهم می‌کنند. آنهایی هم که بیرون می‌آیند، با ترس و اکراه شیشه ماشین را پایین می‌آورند و به سرعت برق و باد کارشان را در خیابان انجام می‌دهند تا دوباره خودشان را در شیشه‌های بالاکشیده خودروشان محصور کنند.»

The unfortunate news of acidpashi in Isfahan, has disrupted the security of the people of this city, especially that of women and girls , resulting in these women from often withdrawing from appearing in public and remaining at home. And those who do come out, come with a fear and reluctance to even roll down their windows and when they do come out to the streets, they finish their work with the speed of electricity and wind so they can go back to hiding behind the enlcosed windows of their Khodro's.

Another reformist newpspaper, Fahreekhtegan, ran a notable front page with one of the victims of the attacks, Soheila Jowrkesh. The Jowrkesh family told Fahreekhtegan that the attackers had warned the city they would “deal” with women with bad hijab.

Hijab, or Islamic dress code (sometimes spelled “hejab”), is enforced by the state on women since the 1979 Islamic revolution. Hijab requires women to cover their heads and wear modest clothing. Iranian women have been known to push the boundaries of hijab, often revealing their hair beneath colourful headscarves, and wearing tight coats and makeup. This has led to conservative reactions, asking elements in government and society to take action.

Fahreekhtegan

Reformist newspaper Fahreekhtegan runs a front page dedicated to one of the victims of the attack, Soheila Jowrkesh. This stands in contrast to most conservative newspapers, who have dedicated little to no coverage of the incidences.

Newspapers associated with conservatives in Iran have remained oddly silent or limited in their coverage of the attacks in Isfahan. Iran's leading conservative newspaper, Kayhan, associated with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei's office, has ran little to no coverage on the incidents, finally dedicating its Tuesday, October 22, 2014 frontpage with a headline that read: “Acidpashi in the face of hijab is used to create a wave of anti-revolutionary sentiment.” Kayhan wrote, “Contrary to the lying reports of foreign media and their domestic supporters, the victims of these incidents are women with proper hijab, and some of them from martyr families.”

According to Shahram Rafizadeh's newspaper report in Radio Farda, Kayhan has accused reformist newspapers like Iran, Arman, Asrar, Khabar Online, Ebtekar, and Isfahan Ziba of publishing news related to the attacks in order to destroy the image of the “believers” and “supporters” of the Islamic regime. 

Conservative newspaper, associated with the office of  Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.

Conservative newspaper associated with the office of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei speaks out against other media covering the attacks. Their headline states: “Acidpashi in the face of hijab is used to create a wave of anti-revolutionary sentiment.”

Coverage of the news in conservative newspapers have largely been reactionary to other media, rather than focused on covering the news, or why these assaults have been occurring. Much of the blame for the attacks has been placed on conservative elements inside Iran, especially since lawmakers have proposed a bill that would give vigilantes legal protection to enforce hijab. In a report in Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, an Iranian woman explains, “[Hard-liners] have been spreading hatred against women, therefore many believe they are behind the attacks.” Many concerns against the lack of inaction by authorities reflects the conservative media's limited attention to covering who are behind the attacks, and what is causing them. 

Many on social media have been reporting on the incident using the hashtag #اسیدپاشی (#acidpashi). Tweets have related stories of the terror and fear the attacks have created within Iran. 

Bozorgmehr Hosseinpour's illustration of Isfahani girls #Isfahan #acidpashi

Victim of #Acidpashi “Maryam-D”: Evenings of fear and nights of pain I scream and shout.

My friend from Isfahan tells me there is a rumour amongst people that the person who threw the acid was a father of a six-year-old who was killed in a car accident by a woman. It's such a Hollywood story. #acidpashi

I've said this before, that before we get stuck in the savagery of #daesh [ISIS], it is not bad to think about our own state and the acid that is thrown at us. #acidpashi

by Mahsa Alimardani at October 22, 2014 10:06 AM

Creative Commons
Open Access Button launches with new features

oabutton
Open Access Button / CC BY 2.0

Today at an Open Access Week event in London, the Open Access Button was re-launched with new features “to help researchers, patients, students and the public get access to scientific and scholarly research.” The Open Access Button originally was created in response to researchers running into paywalls or other control mechanisms when they attempted to read and re-use scholarly journal articles.

The beta Open Access Button–released in November 2013–documented these stymied research efforts, tracking nearly 10,000 instances of denied access due to paywalls. The updated button is a browser plug-in that enables a person who conducts a similar search–but who is once again denied access–to explore other options in order to get access to the paper. It does this by conducting a search for a freely-available version of the research article on the web, for example a preprint or unformatted version of a finalized article manuscript. If this does not work the button provides the functionality to send an email to the author of the article to ask that a copy of the article be made available and shareable to others who need it. The button will do other things, too, such as creating a unique listing for each paper that is requested, so that authors can view demand for access to their works. Finally, the button aims to collect data and anecdotes arising from its use in order to feed advocacy and reform efforts related to the scholarly communications and publishing system.

The Open Access Button is an interesting tool because it both increases awareness of a problem within the academic publishing ecosystem and strives to deliver needed articles into the hands of the researchers to conduct their work. It is informational, empowering, and practical. Anyone can now install the Open Access Button. Congratulations to the terrific team on extending a creative and useful tool in support of open access to scholarly research.

Below is the video recording from the Open Access Button launch on 21 October. Keep an eye on the CC blog and Open Access Week website for more information about OA events this week.

by Timothy Vollmer at October 22, 2014 12:33 AM

October 21, 2014

Creative Commons
Big win for an interoperable commons: BY-SA and FAL now compatible

FAL 1.3 now compatible with CC BY-SA 4.0
Move-Horizontally / P.J. Onori / CC BY

Glühwendel brennt durch

Glühwendel brennt durch / Stefan Krause / FAL 1.3

This FAL-licensed photo was selected as Wikimedia Commons’ 2013 Picture of the Year.

Like CC Attribution-ShareAlike (CC BY-SA), the Free Art License (FAL 1.3) is a copyleft license, meaning that it requires licensees to share their adaptations under the same license. Therefore, it’s impossible to create an adaptation that combines works under both BY-SA and FAL. Until now.

Today, we’re proud to announce in collaboration with ArtLibre.org that the Free Art License 1.3 and CC Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 are now compatible.

With this compatibility declaration, anyone remixing a work under FAL can license her remix under BY-SA. Similarly, people can adapt works under BY-SA and license them under FAL, or mix works under both licenses and license the resulting works under either license or both.

From the beginning, Creative Commons ShareAlike licenses were designed with interoperability in mind. We believe that the commons is at its best when there are as few walls as possible preventing people from mixing and combining its works. As CC co-founder Lawrence Lessig noted when speaking of compatibility between BY-SA and the FAL, “Our idea was eventually that it [wouldn’t] matter which of the free licenses you were in as long as you could move into the equivalent free license that would be CC compatible.”

Today, this idea has been realized, and there is one less barrier preventing licensees from remixing and combining openly licensed works.

This is a special moment for another reason. Originally drafted in 2000, the Free Art License is one of the first copyleft licenses designed for content, not software. It’s only fitting that it become the first third-party license to be declared compatible with CC BY-SA.

See our Compatible Licenses page for more information. If you’d like to learn more about the steps that led to this announcement, see this page on the CC Wiki.

We applaud and congratulate ArtLibre.org and its community on this shared achievement. Thanks to Antoine Moreau and the team at CC France for their support throughout this process.

What’s next? Since the CC licenses launched, many people have dreamed of compatibility between BY-SA and the GNU General Public License (GPLv3), a widely-used copyleft software license. Sometimes when reusing openly licensed content in software, it can be difficult to discern where the content ends and the software begins. Allowing developers to license their adaptations of BY-SA content under the GPL would prevent a lot of licensing headaches.

CC will begin to tackle GPL compatibility with a proposal and preliminary analysis in the coming weeks. If you’d like to listen in or get involved, subscribe to our license development list.

Artlibre.org announcement (français)

by Elliot Harmon at October 21, 2014 10:08 PM

Global Voices
Baby Doc's Death Fails to Bring Closure for Haitians
Protests as 'Baby Doc' returns to Haiti, 18 January 2011, photo by Jean Jacques Augustin. Demotix.

Protests as ‘Baby Doc’ returns to Haiti, 18 January 2011, Port-au-Prince, Haiti, photo by Jean Jacques Augustin. Demotix.

Former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier died earlier this month, on October 4, at the age of 63. He was buried a week later, at a private service. Though many Haitians eagerly awaited a world without Duvalier, who was known as “Baby Doc”, his death has been an unusually ambiguous event.

Duvalier, or “Baby Doc”, succeeded his father, Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier, as president of Haiti in 1971. At the time of his father's death, Jean-Claude was only 19-years-old — purportedly the youngest president in the world. Though considered less brutal than his father, “Baby Doc” carried on many of the same repressive policies. Most infamously, he continued using the Tonton Macoutes, a paramilitary group, to repress by force any political opposition. It's estimated that the Tonton Macoutes are responsible for the deaths of more than 60,000 Haitians.

Jean-Claude Duvalier was deposed in a coup in 1986 and fled to France, with his then-wife, Michelle, and at least $300 million USD, stolen from the Haitian treasury. This was a large amount of money at the time, of course, but it's difficult to measure the enormity in Haiti's context. According to recent statistics, the beleaguered island nation is the single poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and the 20th poorest country in all the world.

After Haiti's devastating earthquake of 2010, “Baby Doc” controversially returned from exile. Despite charges made against him for corruption and human rights abuses, formal legal proceedings never got far and he died a free man. Duvalier was, however, denied a state funeral — a small victory for those who'd hoped to see him held accountable for his crimes.

Writing in French on Facebook, Pierre Joel provided an incomplete list of the victims of the Duvalier regimes (both the “Papa” and “Baby” Docs) over the period of 1957–1986. Amnesty International also published a video featuring the victims of the Duvalier regime:

Once news of Jean-Claude Duvalier's death broke, several members of the Haitian diaspora, many of whom left Haiti because of persecution, sought to share their feelings. Haitian-American Patrick Gaspard, the United States Ambassador to South Africa, tweeted his thoughts:

Some people on Twitter have pointed out that the United States helped support the Duvaliers, despite their violent tactics with opponents at home:

Others criticised current Haitian president, Michel Martelly, for his association with Duvalier and his supporters:

Though Duvalier is now in the ground, some Twitter users are still distressed that so many of the figures from the dark days of his dictatorship are still around:

The Duvaliers never paid for their crimes while they were alive; indeed, the fact that justice was not served is still a thorn in the side of many Haitians. Some hope for other forms of justice, though, seeking reassurance in an old Haitian proverb:

by Matthew Hunte at October 21, 2014 08:53 PM

A Just Sentence? Too Lenient? Oscar Pistorius Given 5 Years in Prison
Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius in court. May 5, 2014 by Ihsaan Haffejee. Demotix.

Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius in court. May 5, 2014 by Ihsaan Haffejee. Copyright Demotix.

Oscar Pistorius, the South African double-leg amputee runner who was found guilty of culpable homicide (manslaughter) after shooting his girlfriend last year, has been sentenced to five years in prison. He also received a suspended sentence of three years for a firearm offence.

Pistorius says he thought Reeva Steenkamp was an intruder trying to break into the house through the bathroom window. The state, according to Judge Thokozile Masipa, failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Pistorius intended to kill her.

The trial, the biggest social media event in South Africa, generated huge global interest and intense media scrutiny. His conviction came on the heels of a 77-year sentence handed down to a rhino poacher in July, shocking and angering many Twitter users.

Others thought the judge was too lenient, a clear indication of a broken justice system in South Africa:

Under South African law, he will be eligible for release after 8 months.

Stefanie Ship asked:

On Facebook, Thapelo Tips Seemise compared the sentence to the time that has passed since Steenkamp's killing:

It took 2years to get to a conclusion of 5years imprisonment!!! Justice is a myth in our country ‪#‎OscarTrial‬

Others, however, were in favour of the sentence:

Some reacted with a sense of humor:

Shrien Dewani is a British national accused of conspiring to have his wife Anni Dewani killed during their honeymoon in South Africa. His trial is underway in South Africa.

by Ndesanjo Macha at October 21, 2014 07:34 PM

Pacific Islanders Block Coal Ships at Australian Port to Protest Climate Change
Photograph shows scenes from Newcastle Harbourthis morning where representatives from 12 Pacific Island nations came to raise awarness of climate change by blockading the movements of coal ships.Photograph by Dean Sewell/Oculi for 350.org.Photograph taken Friday 17th October 2014.

Photograph shows scenes from Newcastle Harbour where representatives from 12 Pacific Island nations came to raise awareness of climate change by blockading the movements of coal ships. Photograph by Dean Sewell/Oculi for 350.org. Friday, 17 October 2014.

This article was written by Aaron Packard for 350.organ organization building a global climate movement, and is republished on Global Voices as part of a content-sharing agreement.

350.org's Pacific climate warriors paddled out into the Port of Newcastle, followed by hundreds of Australians and came head to head with gigantic coal ships on 17 October. It truly was David versus Goliath.

The courage of the warriors was on full display as they faced off with the fossil fuel industry, which is threatening their homes. Using hand carved canoes, they, along with dozens of Australians in kayaks, were able to prevent 10 scheduled ships from passing through the Newcastle coal port. But most importantly, the warriors stood tall and their message was heard loud and clear: they are not drowning, they are fighting.

As the warriors continue their journey, help us tell their courageous story – share their story with your friends. They will continue to fight, but they can not do it alone. 

Here’s how it looked: 

Photograph shows scenes from Newcastle Harbour where representatives from 12 Pacific Island nations came to raise awareness of climate change by blockading the movements of coal ships.Photograph by Jeff Tan for 350.org.Photograph taken Friday 17th October 2014.

Photograph shows scenes from Newcastle Harbour where representatives from 12 Pacific Island nations came to raise awareness of climate change by blockading the movements of coal ships. Photograph by Jeff Tan for 350.org. Friday, 17 October 2014.

Photograph shows scenes from Newcastle Harbour where representatives from 12 Pacific Island nations came to raise awareness on climate change by blockading the movements of coal ships.Photographs by Dean Sewell/Oculi for 350.org.Photograph taken Friday 17th October 2014.

Photograph shows scenes from Newcastle Harbour where representatives from 12 Pacific Island nations came to raise awareness on climate change by blockading the movements of coal ships. Photographs by Dean Sewell/Oculi for 350.org. Friday, 17 October 2014.

Photograph shows scenes from Newcastle Harbour where representatives from 12 Pacific Island nations came to raise awareness on climate change by blockading the movements of coal ships.Photograph by Jeff Tan for 350.org.Photograph taken Friday 17th October 2014.

Photograph shows scenes from Newcastle Harbour where representatives from 12 Pacific Island nations came to raise awareness on climate change by blockading the movements of coal ships. Photograph by Jeff Tan for 350.org. Friday, 17 October 2014.

Photograph shows scenes from Newcastle Harbour where representatives from 12 Pacific Island nations came to raise awareness on climate change by blockading the movements of coal ships.Photographs by Dean Sewell/Oculi for 350.org.Photograph taken Friday 17th October 2014.

Photograph shows scenes from Newcastle Harbour where representatives from 12 Pacific Island nations came to raise awareness on climate change by blockading the movements of coal ships. Photographs by Dean Sewell/Oculi for 350.org. Friday, 17 October 2014.

by 350.org at October 21, 2014 07:14 PM

Creative Commons
Ministries of ICT, Education, & UNESCO join to formally launch School of Open Africa

As promised last week, here are the details around the formal launch event for School of Open Africa taking place in Nairobi tomorrow morning.

SOO AfricaV3
SOO logo here. Earth CC BY by Erin Standley, Noun Project.

Our Creative Commons and School of Open volunteers in Kenya, including CC Regional Coordinator Alex Gakuru, are hosting a formal launch event of School of Open Africa in celebration of the School of Open programs launched last month in Africa, and to announce new programs in higher education. The event will feature a panel discussion with senior government officials from the Kenyan Ministry of Education, Science and Technology and Ministry of ICT along with Dr. Bitange Ndemo (University of Nairobi) and regional representatives from UNESCO and Google regarding the status of open education in Africa, School of Open’s contributions and future. Alex says,

“This event will help establish a conversation platform for policymakers around School of Open Africa, connecting and synchronising education and ICT policies with the innovative open education programs being led by Creative Commons volunteers in Africa. It will also connect current School of Open programs in primary and high school education to academia and NRENs1 — towards the realisation of the international aspiration for universal access to education.”

Additional attendees include professors from local universities and law schools; participants of the copyright law course, CopyrightX:Kenya, who will be awarded certificates of completion; our CC Kenya affiliates; and School Open Kenya leads.

CopyrightX Kenya
CopyrightX Kenya / CC Kenya / CC BY

In addition to the panel, SOO Kenya’s Simeon Oriko will present on School of Open Africa programs led to date, and Dr. Tonny Omwansa with C4DLab at the University of Nairobi will announce a new School of Open program to develop OER courses for higher education. This program will serve as a model for other universities across Africa to develop high quality open educational resources for use in higher education under CC BY. In celebration, CC t-shirts in Kiswahili will be distributed, “mwananchi mbunifu,” aka ‘creative commoner.’

soo africa launch shirts2

The event is hosted at the Serena Hotel in Nairobi and will last from 9am-1pm, followed by a celebratory lunch. The event and new OER program in higher education is made possible with technical support from UNESCO and generous financial support from the Hewlett Foundation.


About the School of Open

SOO-logo-100x100

The School of Open is a global community of volunteers that provides free education opportunities on the meaning, application, and impact of “openness” in the digital age and its benefit to creative endeavors, education, and research. Volunteers develop and run courses, workshops, and training programs on topics such as Creative Commons licenses, open educational resources, and sharing creative works. The School of Open is coordinated by Creative Commons and P2PU, a nonprofit that builds and supports learning communities on the web.

by Jane Park at October 21, 2014 04:22 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
Cyber Attack Downs Mozambique's @Verdade News Site on Election Day
@Verdade logo

@Verdade logo

@Verdade, a Mozambican weekly newspaper and Global Voices partner, was the victim of a massive cyber attack on Oct. 15, 2014, when Mozambican general elections took place last week. The attack began on the eve of the election and managed to bring down the site at the very hour polls closed and votes were being counted across the large, southern African country.

While @Verdade was not able, due to lack of funds, to cover the election in realtime using its network of citizen reporters (as it did in 2013 last year), staff believe it was targeted because of its investigative coverage of the assets and mining interests of out-going President Armando Guebuza and his family.

The @Verdade article on Guebuza's accumulated business interests was translated into English and posted on All Africa the same day:

With a total of 27,160 hectares of land registered in the miner cadaster, the Guebuza family, through Intelec Holdigs and Tata Moçambique, holds seven licenses for prospecting and mining research.

They all have in common the fact that they have been assigned by the National Directorate of Mines, from the time when Armando Guebuza ascended to the post of President of the Republic.

Unfortunately, Mozambican readers had difficulty accessing it in the original Portuguese, due to the attack.

While the newspaper claims to know the origin of the massive Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack, it has not released this information to the public. Africa Confidential highlighted the case in a piece about Mozambique elections, which although mostly peaceful were marred by a handful of violent incidents and attempts to manipulate the vote.

DDoS attacks are an increasing problem in sub-Saharan Africa, though not as frequent as they are in other parts of the world. The best-known example of a politically-motivated DDoS attack was in South Africa, against the African National Conference website in 2013. “Anonymous Africa” took responsibility for the attack, citing the ANC's support for Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe as the motive.

by Janet Gunter at October 21, 2014 02:41 PM

Global Voices
How the Tlatelolco Massacre Shaped Modern-Day Mexican Hero Raúl Álvarez Garín
Students March In Memory of 1968 Massacre

Image used with authorization

This article, written by David Bacon, was originally published on the NACLA (North American Congress on Latin America) website. David Bacon is a photojournalist, and has been a labor and immigrant rights activist for four decades. He's the author of four books, the latest of which is The Right to Stay Home (Beacon Press, 2013).

Every year on October 2 thousands of Mexican students pour into the streets of Mexico City, marching from Tlatelolco (the Plaza of Three Cultures) through the historic city center downtown, to the main plaza, the Zócalo. They're remembering the hundreds of students who were gunned down by their own government in 1968, an event that shaped the lives of almost every politically aware young person in Mexico during that time.

This year, just days before the march, the municipal police in Iguala, Guerrero, shot students from the local teachers’ training college at Ayotzinapa. More demonstrations and marches are taking place all over Mexico, demanding that the government find 43 students still missing. Many speculate that graves found in Iguala contain their bodies—murdered by the same police, acting as agents of the local drug cartel. Students marching on October 2 were in the streets for them as well, aware that the bloody events of 1968 were not so far away in some distant past.

Students March In Memory of 1968 Massacre

Image used with authorization

Raúl Álvarez Garín was one of those whose world changed at Tlatelolco. He was a leader of the national student strike committee, organizing campus walkouts and street mobilizations through the spring of 1968. This rebellious upsurge was simultaneous with student protests in France, the United States and, it seemed then, the whole world. In Mexico it culminated in a huge rally at Three Cultures Plaza.

March In Memory of 1968 Massacre, and to Protest Taking of Land

Image used with authorization

The Mexican government was preparing for the Mexico City Olympics that year. It had never tolerated political dissent beyond very narrow limits, but then it was even more defensive than usual, fearing any social movement that appeared to challenge its hold on the country's politics. The authorities decided to bring out the army and shoot the students down.

Somehow Álvarez survived the bullets in the plaza, and was then shut into a cell in the notorious Lecumberri prison for two years and eight months. He died on September 27, having spent a lifetime trying to assign responsibility for the decision to fire on the crowd. There was actually no mystery about it. The orders for the massacre were given by then-Secretary of the Interior (Gobernación) Luis Echevarria. But Echevarria was acting for Mexico's political establishment, organized in the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). Álvarez wanted the crime acknowledged publicly and the guilty punished. By spending the next half-century pursuing that goal, he became not just a hero to the Mexican left, but its conscience.

Students March In Memory of 1968 Massacre

Image used with authorization

Álvarez was already a man of the left when he got to Tlatelolco. He'd joined the Young Communists, but then left before 1968. He married María Fernanda Campa, daughter of Valentín Campa, one of Mexico's most famous radicals who lived underground and went to prison after leading a railroad workers strike in 1958. After his release, Campa became the 1976 presidential candidate of the Mexican Communist Party, before it merged with other parties and eventually disappeared.

Students March In Memory of 1968 Massacre

Image used with authorization

Later in life it was hard to imagine Álvarez as he was described by friends in ‘68—a skinny intense youth of 27. When I met him in 1989 he was already a man of substantial girth. We'd go to lunch with his brother, economist Alejandro Álvarez, and spend hours talking politics. Raúl would get animated, talking beneath his huge mustache faster than my broken Spanish could keep up. He'd ask a hundred questions about Mexicans and unions in the U.S., and we'd plan articles for the newspaper he edited, Corre la Voz (Spread the Word).

Álvarez believed that words have power. Long before Corre la Voz, he started another famous Mexican left-wing journal, Punto Crítico, with other 1968 veterans. His goal was to make his politics accessible to ordinary people, not to inspire debate among dogmatists. “He put our debates into context and showed their limits,” remembered Luis Navarro, now an editor at Mexico's left-wing daily La Jornada. “His language was always understandable.”

Students March In Memory of 1968 Massacre

Image used with authorization

Through the years after 1968 he supported every worker's fight that seemed capable of improving conditions, but that also challenged the political order. As Mexico's political structure began to change in the 1980s Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas ran for president in 1988, against the PRI his father had founded 40 years earlier. Álvarez and others saw the Cardenas campaign as an opening to wrest power from the PRI, 20 years after Tlatelolco. As the votes for Cárdenas were being counted, and it was clear he was winning, the election computers suddenly went down. When they came back up the next morning the PRI candidate, Carlos Salinas de Gortari, one of the country's most corrupt politicians, was declared the winner.

March In Memory of 1968 Massacre, and to Protest Taking of Land

Image used with authorization

During and after that campaign, many currents of the Mexican left came together and organized the Democratic Revolutionary Party. Álvarez was a founder. He began to look for a way to break workers and unions free of the PRI, to give the new party a working-class base. I met him that year after the election, when I came to Mexico with other U.S. trade unionists. The North American Free Trade Agreement was already on the horizon. Raúl and Alejandro Álvarez were some of the first people who saw the advantage of cooperation in trying to fight it on both sides of the border.

I was beginning to work as journalist north of the border. Raúl and Alejandro helped me understand that for all of NAFTA's disastrous impact on the workers of my country, the trade agreement would have much worse consequences in Mexico. I spent last week as a judge in the Permanent People's Tribunal investigating the causes of migration from Mexico to the United States and the terrible violations of the rights of migrants in both countries. It's clear that if anything, they underestimated the damage. And repression in Mexico is not just a thing of the past. As we met as judges in the Permanent People's Tribunal, just days after Raúl Álvarez died, we heard testimony about yet other mass killings—of 73 migrants killed and buried in the desert in northern Mexico, and the discovery of 193 more in 47 graves less than a year later.

Students March In Memory of 1968 Massacre

Image used with authorization

The PRI finally lost the presidency in 2000, although not to the left but to the right-wing National Action Party. Nevertheless, Álvarez believed it might be possible to get a new government, even a conservative one, to call the murderers of 1968 to account. A new office was created, the Special Prosecutor for Social and Political Movements of the Past. Álvarez, Felix Hernández Gamundi and Jesus Martin del Campo filed a legal case against Echevarria over the Tlatelolco massacre, the killings of other students in a street protest in 1971, and the “dirty war” in which the Mexican government targeted leftists for assassination through the rest of the 1970s.

Formal charges were finally made against Luis Echevarria Alvarez and Luis Gutierrez Oropeza for the Tlatelolco murders, and Mario Moya Palencia and Alfonso Martinez Dominguez, among others, for the 1971 attacks. In the end, however, these former functionaries were able to avoid trial after invoking legal technicalities challenging the ability of prosecutors to indict them. In reality, the political system itself was reluctant to unearth a network of responsibility that would have spread to include many others. Nevertheless, Raúl Álvarez and his two co-complainants felt their work made plain to the Mexican people the terrible acts of repression that had cost many lives, and who had given the orders for them.

March In Memory of 1968 Massacre

Image used with authorization

Bringing up the rear of the October 2 march were members of the only union visibly present—the Mexican Electrical Workers (SME). Both Álvarez and this union have been anchors of left-wing politics in Mexico City. For 20 years the SME campaigned to stop the Mexican government from turning over the nationalized oil and electrical power industries to private corporations. To neutralize its opposition, the SME's 44,000 members were fired five years ago. The PAN administration of Felipe Calderón ordered the army to occupy the generating stations and declared the union “non-existent.” When the PRI came back into power last July, it pushed through a constitutional amendment permitting the privatization.

Raul would have pointed out that there is really no difference between the pro-corporate policies of PRI and PAN. He fought to keep parts of the PRD from supporting the same privatization reforms. Just days before his death, a delegation of SME leaders went to his home in Mexico City, and gave him a union card, making him member #16,600. He told them he was proud to be a member of this “union in resistance.”

Students March In Memory of 1968 Massacre

Image used with authorization

Raul Alvarez’ photograph, taken on another October 2 march a few years earlier, was carried as the banner at the head of the marchers this year. If he'd been alive, he would undoubtedly have been there in front himself.

Text and photos © 2014 by David Bacon.

by NACLA at October 21, 2014 02:27 PM

Jessica Valenti
"It’s tempting to believe that this online row – a toxic combination of misinformation, anger and..."
“It’s tempting to believe that this online row – a toxic combination of misinformation, anger...

October 21, 2014 01:56 PM

Global Voices
As Pressure Mounts in Trinidad ‘Re-Route’ Protest, Pro-Highway Supporters Get Nasty
A member of the Highway Re-Route Movement speaks during a candlelight vigil at Nelson Mandela Park on October 12, 2014. Photo used with permission.

A member of the Highway Re-Route Movement speaks during a candlelight vigil at Nelson Mandela Park on October 12, 2014. Photo used with permission.

Dr. Wayne Kublalsingh and the Highway Re-Route Movement in Trinidad and Tobago are not backing down in their fight against the construction of one section of new highway they say will displace residents and harm the environment. The Trinidadian professor and activist undertook a second hunger strike 34 days ago as a follow-up protest action, prompted by the government's reneging of its promise to consider the findings of an independent review committee, known as the Armstrong report

But an advertorial designed to look like a bona fide newspaper report, which ran in the Trinidad Guardian last week, has changed the tone of any meaningful discussion. In it, a group calling itself “Citizens4dhighway” posted a photograph of Kublalsingh's feet, under which the caption read:

The Kub-lal. An unusual human reptile discovered here on the pavement basking in the limelight everyday outside the Prime Minister’s office, defies medical explanation by surviving without food and water for weeks without any sign of health issues.

The headline of the ad, “Trinidad and Tobago discovers a human reptile”, was just as mean-spirited. Wired868, a website popular for its political satire, did not let it slip by. It spared no criticism for the newspaper itself, for shielding its responsibility by saying it was a paid advertisement:

Phew. For a second, Mr Live Wire thought the Guardian newspaper was run by some perverse, soulless psychopaths with less human decency than the Boko Haram, who were happy to bully, slander and vilify a frail lecturer on a hunger strike.

But, no, Guardian did not really think those things; the newspaper was paid to publish it, you see. So that makes it alright. Not so?

It is a defence that would not work in court for a hit man or drug mule. But, for a multi-million dollar media house, who knows?

To underscore the point, the blogger shared this little joke:

An armed assailant fired a bullet which flew straight through the arm of a bystander and killed a passer-by. The police arrested the shot bystander.

‘But I didn’t shoot him,’ said the bleeding bystander. ‘Why are you arresting me?’

‘Because it’s through you the man dead,’ replied the policeman.

The made-up bystander obviously had a point. But the Trinidad Guardian, which collected money and then hid its payer’s identity behind a murky, unregistered organisation, has no case.

On Facebook, netizens were very critical of the ad — and the fact that the newspaper would even run it — saying that the discourse had sunk to a new low. Some even suggested it was the harbinger of “silly season”, as national elections are due next year. After the public outcry, the Trinidad Guardian printed an apology, which many thought was inadequate and just a means of dodging the responsibility for allowing the ad to appear in the first place.

The newspaper's official apology for running the anti-Kublalsingh ad. Photo of the apology as it was being circulated on Facebook; used with permission.

The newspaper's official apology for running the anti-Kublalsingh ad. Photo of the apology as it was being circulated on Facebook; used with permission.

Kublalsingh and the Highway Re-Route Movement maintain that the Debe to Mon Desir stretch of road linking two main southern cities will displace a long-standing rural community and have a negative environmental impact on the Oropuche Lagoon and have put forward several factual arguments in support of their claims, many of which were echoed in the recommendations of the Armstrong Report.

The Re-Route Movement has even submitted its Optimum Connectivity Proposal to the government in an effort to end the impasse. Just over a week ago, the group held a candlelight vigil in support of transparency, mediation and good governance. Kublalsingh, who had lost consciousness and was warded at a nearby medical facility, was not in attendance, but the prime minister paid him a visit while the vigil was going on. The Re-Route Movement subsequently issued a press release thanking Mrs. Persad-Bissessar for “her kind visit” and detailing what was decided.

The government agreed to state what consideration it gave to the Armstrong Report, and promised that the works and infrastructure minister would invite members of the Highway Re-Route Movement to discuss the Optimum Connectivity Proposal. More than a week later, neither has happened. In the interim, the prime minister did not entertain either the request for mediation or to stop construction work on the highway.

Sadly, many anticipated things to sink to this level. Even before the offensive ad ran on October 18, blogger and public relations expert Dennise Demming republished a letter to the editor written by Paula Lucie-Smith, a Trinidadian who has been honoured for her work in adult literacy. In her letter, she lamented the fact that in the absence of the will to engage in respectful debate, the modus operandi of local politicians is always to go for the jugular:

Politicians humiliate those who challenge them – usually by saying they are mad. Because news in T&T focuses on what politicians say, they need only keep saying this for their self-serving opinion to become accepted.

Paula Lucie-Smith with political leader of the Movement for Social Justice, David Abdullah, at the October 12 candlelight vigil. Photo used with permission.

Paula Lucie-Smith with political leader of the Movement for Social Justice, David Abdullah, at the October 12 candlelight vigil. Photo used with permission.

Demming herself, in a follow-up post, wrote:

On each occasion that the PP [People's Partnership] Government has come up against any formidable opposition, they have used a similar strategy – to discredit the person, in the full confidence that some mud will stick and eventually doubt will be created about the issue.

In this case, the PM’s intention is to change the conversation and divert attention away from the Armstrong Report.

Meanwhile, Kublalsingh and the Highway Re-Route Movement continue to address issues, saying:

[...] the vigil outside the Prime Minister’s office and hunger strike shall continue, that is no food no water, until there is actual evidence, as opposed to prevarication and stonewalling, of stoppage of works and a proper review done or agreed to be done.

by Janine Mendes-Franco at October 21, 2014 01:37 PM

This is What Happens When Ricky Martin’s Hits Get an Indie Spin
Foto por calciostreaming tomada de Flickr bajo Licencia CC BY 2.0.

Ricky Martin. Photo by Flickr user calciostreaming. CC BY 2.0.

This post was originally written in Spanish by Alfredo Richner, San Juan-based founder and editor of art and culture blog Puerto Rico Indie. 

Ten months ago, I began brainstorming creative ways to commemorate the fifth anniversary of Puerto Rico Indie, the blog that I launched in mid-2009 to write mainly about music and cover the local scene. That is how the idea for “Indie Martin” was born, a compilation of Ricky Martin covers by artists from Puerto Rico's independent music scene. “Indie Martin” was officially released on August 26, and can by downloaded for free from Discos Diáspora.

So, why Ricky Martin? 

Why not Ricky Martin? Everyone has their own opinions of him and the music he's performed throughout the years, but what's certain is that Ricky Martin has brought our island international attention, for which we can all feel proud. He is perhaps Puerto Rico’s most cherished international export, a bonafide superstar that has conquered the pop charts around the globe with hits like “Livin’ La Vida Loca” and the World Cup anthem “The Cup of Life”. We want to invite curious ears to discover the sounds of Puerto Rico's independent music scene through these well-known songs, full of memories and nostalgia. And perhaps that initial curiosity will spur listeners to explore the original music of the artists who participated in the project. 

We were looking to unite in some way these two musical worlds, which in the imagination of mainstream media, the music industry and even many listeners, seem so different from one another. Along the same lines, we wanted to challenge independent musicians to make Ricky's material their own, giving the songs new layers of meaning. Puerto Rico’s indie scene is small yet vibrant, and in the last few years it has been increasingly recognized by the specialized press in Latin America and the United States for its wealth of talented musicians and strong songwriting. It is a scene that has made strides in both its presentation and reach, thanks in large part to increased promotion and awareness via the Internet.

The final result brings together 16 of his hits performed by a variety of artists, from veterans of the local scene such as Balún, Un.Real, Los Nervios, Ardnaxela and Habish, to more recent acts like Cardigan Academy, Guateke and Furry Vowels (here alongside MoreIra). You'll also find electronic beats, such as those from Dino Analog Orchestra and Dead Hands, as well as acoustic versions from Los Niños Estelares and Edén Cruz. The compilation spans dance pop from Los Wálters and punk rock from Los Nadies, and even includes piano from Ardnaela and a string arrangement by producer and performer Héctor “Stonetape” Hernández. Our adopted Puerto Rican friends from Santiago, Dominican Republic, Las Acevedo, took on the task of unearthing “She Bangs” from its deep grave dug years earlier by William Hung on American Idol.

“Indie Martin” has already received airtime on prominent international outlets, such as the programs Alt.Latino and Weekend Edition on NPR in the US, the program Multipista on Radio 3 in Spain, and stations and blogs in Brazil, Venezuela, and Dominican Republic, among other countries. We're thrilled with the compilation and its reception — and we hope you listen to it, share it with your friends and let us know which were your favorite versions. Shake your bon-bons! 

by L. Finch at October 21, 2014 01:35 PM

Online Tributes Pour in for Former Australian PM, ‘Giant’ Gough Whitlam
Whitlam walks with President Nixon

Prime Minister of Australia Edward G. Whitlam leaving the White House, walking with President Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger behind them. Photo by Jack Kightlinger, White House photographer (Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum). Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Two words have trended on Twitter all day in Australia on 21 October 2014: Gough Whitlam. The death of the former prime minister from the left-wing Labor Party at the age of 98 has dominated all media, especially social media.

His three-year government from December 1972 until November 1975 is remembered for its reforming zeal, economic turmoil and its controversial dismissal by the Governor General Sir John Kerr.

The online valedictories have focused on his legacy, often with personal touches. Michael Halliday was one of many who commented on his physical and political stature (which is evident in the photo above with Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger):

State Labor parliamentarian Anthony Carbines recalled the end of compulsory military service related to the Vietnam War:

Others mentioned the impact of health care reforms. Economics professor Rebee Tourky referred to his father in that and other contexts:

Nadine Simone Watson, a freelance French-English translator, thanked him for a head start:

His groundbreaking work in promoting the rights of indigenous people and women has been widely acknowledged:

His environmental accomplishments were recalled by the Labor Environment Action Network:

Some of the recollections of Whitlam's achievements were more obscure:

One of his art purchases for the National Gallery, which came under fire at the time, seems to have paid dividends:

He often made fun of himself but this self-deprecation was often been mistaken for arrogance or intellectual snobbery (criticisms that were often made of his character). His claim that he had walked across Canberra’s Lake Burley Griffin was just one instance of his jokes being reported seriously.

Journalist for The Australian newspaper Peter van Onselen summed up the spirit with which most Australians wanted to remember the passing of our controversial PM:

Tigtog (aka Viv) from blog Hoyden about Town echoed a common comparison between Gough and today’s politicians:

The giants who strode the political landscape of my youth are toppling one by one, leaving only gnats swarming over the entrails of serious political principles while Big Money shakes shiny things at us all, politicians very much included.

by Kevin Rennie at October 21, 2014 10:39 AM

Why Talking About Pizza Can Land You in Trouble in Thailand
The Pizza Company hotline 1112 has become a code word to refer to Article 112 of the criminal code

The Pizza Company hotline 1112 has become a code word to refer to Article 112 of the criminal code

If you are in Thailand and you suddenly crave pizza, it is highly likely that you will be referred to The Pizza Company, the largest pizza fast food chain in the country. And when you dial the company hotline “1112”, be aware that there are some activists in Thailand who use the word pizza to refer to the notorious Article 112 of the criminal code.

Khaosod English, a Bangkok-based news site, explained that the word pizza came to be associated with the particular section of the penal law simply because of The Pizza Company's nearly identical phone number with the law's name.

Article 112 deals with the Lese Majeste or anti-royal insult law, which criminalizes any behavior deemed insulting to the royal family. The king of Thailand is the country’s most revered public figure aside from being the world’s longest reigning monarch. Some scholars believe Article 112 is the world’s harshest and needs to be overhauled. Several individuals have been detained already for allegedly insulting the king through SMS or posting online comments

Some activists have accused the government of using the law to harass critics. There have been various petitions to reform Article 112 but authorities have rejected these proposals.

Activist Red Shirts used this sticker to refer to Article 112

Activist Red Shirts used this sticker to refer to Article 112

To avoid prosecution under Article 112, some Thais are using the word pizza to refer to the “draconian” law instead of directly mentioning the measure:

If a discussion begins to veer dangerously towards insulting the monarchy, someone may teasingly ask, “Are you ordering us a pizza?” or “I hope they serve pizza in prison.”

After the army took power last May, the new government has filed more than a dozen Lese Majeste cases. A recent issue involved a scholar who was reported by a retired army officer to have insulted a dead king.

Those who are found guilty of Lese Majeste can be detained for up to 15 years.

So next time you dial 1112 in Thailand, be sure you are really referring to The Pizza Company. Otherwise, you might get to eat pizza in a prison cell.

by Mong Palatino at October 21, 2014 12:38 AM

October 20, 2014

Global Voices
Chatting with Tony Iribor, Nigeria's Social-Chatter Curator

With nearly 11 million Facebook users (more than anywhere else in Sub-Saharan Africa) and the third most Twitter users on the entire continent, it's safe to say that Nigeria has a vibrant social media presence. Nowhere is Nigeria's netizen activity stronger than on Twitter, which has fast become the country's most robust platform for social chatter.

Nwachukwu Egbunike (NE) of Global Voices caught up with Tony Iribor (TI), who curates a new weekly production on Twitter called “Nigeria — the Twitter Round Up.”

NE: We know that Tony Iribor tweets at @tonypox, curates the weekly Nigerian Twitter Round Up and is a social commentator. Can you tell us about the Tony we don’t know about?

Tony Iribor (@tonypox) curates a weekly Round Up of Nigerian Twitter Conversations. [Image  used with his permission]

Tony Iribor (@tonypox) curates a weekly Round Up of Nigerian Twitter Conversations. Image used with his permission.

TI: Tony is a happy guy who loves to laugh. The first of six children from Ebonyi State in Nigeria. A singer, song writer, a rookie instrumentalist, a lover of music and shoes.


NE
: What’s the story behind the weekly presentation of conversations in Nigeria’s TweetVilla, the Twitter Round Up?

TI: To be very honest, it was born out of the need to meet up a deadline for a friend’s website. I was introduced to the editor of the website that hosts the round-up. And one of the expectations was to contribute content to the site. I could not meet up as often as expected so one day the thought just dropped. How about I put together a summary of events on Twitter Nigeria? Especially for those who are not always there when they happen. I had not seen it done by anyone before so I decided to give it a try. I spoke to the editor and he liked the idea and the rest is what we have now.

NE: How do you choose your theme or story each week?

TI: The stories are usually picked from the various topics discussed on Twitter daily. Twitter being what it is, gives people room to say what they think about anything. So it could be politics, religion, etc. Even though some topics get recycled from time to time.

NE: What has the feedback from your audience been like?

TI: It has been good. At first I was not sure how it would be received, but now I feel I am under some kind of pressure to meet the need for my regular readers. There are Mondays when I get tweets from people asking why the weekly round-up has not been published yet. There are those who read and go “Wow! I never knew all of that happened this week!” it makes me happy that I meet a need, if we can call it that.

NE: Which roundup has generated massive interest (measured by retweets, favorites and conversations)?

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TI: Hmmmmn. I think there a few. I am not sure but I know there was one I did during the world cup where we had tweeps leading prayer sessions before one of our games (Weeks 15, 16 and 17) and the one that had the issue of the ponmo ban (Week 27). They were hilarious

NE: How will you describe the milieu of Nigerian Twitter – is it warm, aggressive, friendly or…?

TI: For me, it is that and even much more. It depends on your views on issues and how people see you.

NE: There has been an on-going conversation among media scholars and practitioners on the impact of social media conversation. Some think that it is irrelevant while others think it has been impactful. What are your views, especially but without limiting it to social media in Nigeria?

TI: Social media has been impactful no doubt. It has given people the chance to get their voices heard easier that what it used to be. It has also helped give momentum to causes. It has in a way, made it easy for people to gather and make things happen, both positively and negatively. However, I feel that people should not get carried away by social media alone. There is a time for social media and there is a time to hit the road and put action to whatever it is that needs to be done. It has become flesh or made real.

NE: In your opinion, has Twitter conversations been helpful in effecting social and political change in Nigeria?

TI: In a very small way, I would say yes. We are not yet at the point where what happens on twitter really brings the kind of political change we sometimes seek.

NE: Being an avid Twitter user, have you been able to morph your online ‘friendships’ into offline interactions?

TI: Yes, I have.

NE: Nigerians will go to the polls early next year for another general election. Will the social media be a potent flame or a damp squib in determining who wins or loses?

TI: Potent flame for awareness and propaganda for those online, yes. But the majority of those who will guaranty political parties’ victory are not on twitter. The serious politicians will have to appeal to those and look for how to get them to vote in their favour. Like I stated earlier, we are not yet at the stage where we can say social media will determine things like these.

NE: Any last words?

TI: No, there will be no last words. Why last words? I am still here. I am going nowhere. LOL. Whatever you do, make sure your life has a positive impact on someone else’s. 

by Nwachukwu Egbunike at October 20, 2014 10:57 PM

Barbados Muslims Reject ISIS, but Still Face Anti-Islam Bigotry Online
Mosque at sunset in Dow Village, Trinidad; photo by Taran Rampersad, used under a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license. Muslims comprise about 6% of the population in Trinidad and Tobago, with some regional territories having a higher representation and others, like Barbados, having a smaller percentage.

Mosque at sunset in Dow Village, Trinidad; photo by Taran Rampersad, used under a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license. Muslims comprise about 6% of the population in Trinidad and Tobago, with some regional territories having a higher representation and others, like Barbados, having a smaller percentage.

ISIS, the Al Qaeda offshoot that has grown to control large parts of Iraq and Syria using brutal and violent tactics, is allegedly recruiting fighters from the Caribbean. A recent report in the Trinidad Guardian stated that the organisation is paying as much as US $1,000 a day to new recruits.

In an interview with the newspaper, Nasser Mustapha, the president of the Trinidad Muslim League, said he was shocked by the development: “They are using our religion for their misguided aims. Scholars have written a lot about this but joining Isis is not the way to paradise. These fighters are taking things out of the proper context…”

Many prominent Islamic scholars around the world have similarly condemned ISIS, but that unfortunately hasn't stopped some from conflating the militant group with the religion of Islam. Barbados Free Press, a popular blog so named because of its desire to state its opinion without being fettered in any way, followed that mistaken line of thinking in a recent post. The blog was unapologetic about its stance, saying:

We must abandon Iraq and the Middle East. Let them slaughter each other over words and ideas… but we must take steps in the Caribbean to ensure that these violent people – fueled by their violent Koran – never gain a foothold in our countries.

The Islamist apologists and their lackeys are far more concerned with their public relations campaign for Islam than they are for the teachings from the Koran that promote ultra-violence to spread their religion.

To those who say that ISIS doesn’t represent ‘true Islam’…

Tell it to ISIS, not me.

Barbados, like most other Caribbean territories, predominantly comprises people of African descent, most of whom are descended from slaves who were brought to work the sugar cane plantations. The island's Muslim community is small — anywhere from 0.7-1.5 percent of the population.

Barbados’ first Muslim, a silk trader from West Bengal, reportedly arrived on the island's shores about a hundred years ago. Later, Muslims from villages in Gujarat (West India) arrived; others came as indentured labourers post-Emancipation. As a minority, and perhaps to create a support system for their faith and way of life, Barbadian Muslims have built mosques, schools and even a controversial housing development that critics accused of being for Muslims only. Though the developers deny this, the issue has exposed underlying social tensions on the island and created a climate for Islamophobia to thrive.

The Barbados Muslim Association has attempted to clarify such misconceptions, making the point that you can be both Muslim and Barbadian. When asked about anti-Muslim sentiment on the island in a recent interview with Antillean Media Group, the association's secretary, Suleiman Bulbulia, said:

We don’t generally experience it. Usually it will raise its ugly head when there are issues like these or some international occurrence which the media highlights.

Driving this is probably a vocal minority who by and large may not be Barbadian but persons living here and who have their own axe to grind.

I definitely think there is a need for greater public education on Islam, Muslims and specifically the faith and the followers in Barbados.

Social media has helped to bring out more persons and their opinions, positive and negative, although usually very negative.

Like Bulbulia mentioned, some commenters echoed Barbados Free Press‘ negative view of Islam, but others pushed back against the ignorance. One, who was of the opinion that hate only begets more hate, responded:

I am an apologist. I do not believe that the vast majority of Muslims think that ‘the Koran verses about slaying infidels and imposing Islam through force have (any) place in today’s world'. Nor do I believe that the Biblical injunctions to, for example ‘kill all the inhabitants of any city where you find people that worship differently than you. Deuteronomy 13:12-16′ have any place either.

Another reader, using the name MistaBlack, called out the blog for its own extremism. Quoting a paragraph from the post, he countered:

“But there is a dark side to the Internet when it comes to spreading the destructive and violent supremacist ideology of Islam. The Saudis distribute their supremacist hate via satellite and internet to private Muslim schools throughout the Caribbean – including in Barbados.”

And the same Saudis have an unbreakable alliance with both Britain and the United States and are dropping bombs on ISIS, go figure. The above is a convoluted extraction from this alarmist article.

User Harry took the argument right back to home base, discussing the violence that has been taking place on Barbadian soil:

Sometimes i think that yall crazy. We bajans killing each other everyday [...] and yall out worrying about a few muslims who livin [with us] for so much years and who is our neighbours and [go to school with] us etc. Yall need to stop watchin cnn and fox. I guess we can call our own black [people] ISIS cus we killin each other out hay !!!

Violent crime has been on the increase in Barbados and there is conjecture that some of it may be linked to the drugs and arms trade now rampant throughout the region. Caribbean islands are viewed as critical trans-shipment points between South and Central America, where many powerful drug cartels operate, and the American and European markets which are heavy consumers of cocaine and other illicit substances.

In the same interview, Bulbulia addressed the situation simply by saying:

No Muslim to date has bought shame to Barbados. Judge us by these criteria, not the actions of so-called ‘Muslims’ in other parts of the world who act contrary to the teachings of their faith. Barbados has been a fair, tolerant society. We live here and practice our faith without hindrance or interference.

by Flora Thomas at October 20, 2014 10:09 PM

Trailblazing ‘Soda Pop Anthology’ Showcases Comics by Puerto Rican Women

2014-Anthology-Cover-250

The “Soda Pop Anthology” is a collection of comics illustrated and written by a large group of Puerto Rican women, in turn created and published independently by the studio of female comics writers, Soda Pop Comics

The anthology was born as a vehicle to document this growing community of artists and is concerned mainly with establishing greater visibility and acceptance for its female creators. Beyond the world of comics, few volumes published on the island share such a noble (and difficult) task — and within it, a similar effort simply does not exist. As such, it is important to address the “Soda Pop Anthology” as the beginning, although it is certainly a culmination of sorts. 

After founding Soda Pop Comics in 2007, Rosa Colón and Carla Rodríguez searched for a way to push other women to create their own comics. These initial efforts resulted in six collections of work under the stamp of “Anthology,” and gave way to four additional ones that were digitally distributed in 2013. “The Soda Pop Anthology,” which you can now have in your hands, gathers the best material from last year in 152 color pages and also includes stories created specifically for this print edition. 

2014-Anthology-01-700

“Opus Operática” by Rosaura Rodríguez; “El lemur y el pulpo” by Mónica Parada. Used with permission.

A total of 26 collectives and artists are participating in the effort, from beginners to more established and experienced voices, offering a fairly comprehensive and complete panorama of the current comic's production on the island. Beyond the central concept — Puerto Rican women creating comics — there is no forced narrative nor theme that structures the collection (as was the case with ”Ehpoty,” an anthology also published by Soda Pop Comics). 

Each pair of pages takes the reader down a different path — from Rosaura Rodríguez's semantic games in watercolor to Mónica Parada's raw absurdity, from the light and playful spirit that characterizes Soda Pop's work, to Ivia E. Pantoja's sci-fi imagination with a Japanese influence. These works are complemented by an assortment of interviews, articles on the history of comics, and tutorials. 

2014-Anthology-02-700

“Aventuras en el mar” by Soda Pop Comics; “Niveles” by Supakid. Used with permission.

The “Soda Pop Anthology” is an essential document for collectors of Puerto Rican comics and the hope is that it results in a greater appreciation of the medium, as with the publication of “DÍAS“ in 2013 (by Rosaura Rodríguez and Omar Banuchi) through the Libros AC editorial. Those who know Soda Pop Comics's work know very well that the anthology is more than a link in the grand chain of initiatives — between exhibits, art classes, festivals, scholarship opportunities, and other social activities — aimed at promoting the production of comics on the island. But it is an important link, because it will introduce the work of new artists — and beyond that, it's an invitation to join and participate.  

Get your copy for a limited time at Libros AC in Ponce De León Avenue in Santurce or order it online at Soda Pop Comics and Amazon.

by Marianna Breytman at October 20, 2014 08:51 PM

Mexicans Demand President Peña Nieto Resign With Trending Twitter Hashtag
Emrique Peña Nieto, presidente de México. Imagen en Flickr de la Presidencia de la República Mexicana  (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Enrique Peña Nieto, president of México. Image on Flickr by Presidencia de la República Mexicana (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Before his annual state of the union address on September 2, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and his administration were already sliding in popularity, with 47 percent in a Pew Research Center survey giving a negative rating of the president's influence (up from 38 percent a year earlier). Energy, education, telecommunications reforms and permanent insecurity were all targets of criticism from the public. 

Three recent cases of high-profile violence have only intensified the anger and frustration that Mexicans are feeling towards their government, especially towards the head of state: the Tlatlaya execution, which occurred on June 30 and resulted in 22 gangsters were killed at the hands of the army. Then came the deadly ambush and forced disappearances of dozens of student teachers from Ayotzinapa on September 26, as reported by Global Voices. Finally, the discovery of the illegal mass graves in Iguala some days later on October 6.

It's still not known if the mass graves in Iguala are related to the student teachers. The authorities claim the first mass graves discovered were not related to the students, but at least 19 have been found to date. Investigators are still working on them.

The hashtag #DemandoTuRenunciaEPN (I demand your resignation Enrique Peña Nieto – EPN) became a worldwide trending topic and is still topping lists in Mexico after several days. Under this hashtag, Mexicans have expressed their reasons why they want their president to leave office. Here we share some of them:

[The poster in the photo reads: "Today we aren't all here. We're missing 43, but they aren't just statistics. They are young people like us."]

I demand your resignation EPN. They took them alive, we want them alive!

“They took them alive, we want them alive!” is a popular chant in protests asking for the safe return of the Ayotzinapa students.

Because the people didn't elect you for the poverty, unemployment and disappearances that you have allowed.

I demand your resignation EPN because you are incapable of stopping the violence and you don't even care.

[The poster in the photo reads: "I demand your resignation EPN because there's another person missing in Mexico who's dead and will only revive if the PEOPLE want it (said in reference to the figure of justice)]

For the sake of Mexico, to dignify politics and vindicate the human community. I demand your resignation EPN.

“People from Guerrero will decide Aguirre's ousting: Peña” And all of Mexico will decide yours EPN. I demand your resignation EPN

Angel Aguirre Rivero is the current governor of Guerrero, the southern state, where the convoy of students were attacked.

[The image reads: Traitor to the nation for buying five million votes with money stolen from state budgets; for handing over national resources to private parties; for serving multinational companies; for harm done to the environment and national heritage; for condemning millions of Mexicans to misery and slavery.]

I demand your resignation EPN for TREASON TO THE NATION!!!

Some remembered the controversial Time cover from February 24, 2014 where Peña Nieto appeared under the headline “Saving Mexico”. 

There were some who spoke about the rotten political class in general.

Mexico is a great country, nonetheless citizens’ apathy/submission is outrageous. The political class has stripped us from everything. I demand your resignation EPN.

I demand your resignation EPN. But, who would be the president? Every politician is equally corrupt and incompetent. We need well-prepared politicians.

Also, there were reminders of the national strike and protests planned for October 22.

We said on the 8th with #AyotzinapaSomosTodos (We are all Ayotzinapa), today we stand by it with “I demand your resignation EPN”. See you on the 22nd on the streets.

And it was discussed how to turn virtual protests into concrete legal actions against the president, making references to the country's constitution.

I demand your resignation EPN under article 39 of the Mexican political constitution.

I also demand your resignation EPN. Remember that you are not my boss, you are our representative and the constitution allows me to demand this.

OK… I demand your resignation EPN is already the no. 1 TT. Now, what are the REAL LEGAL ACTIONS to demand his RESIGNATION? DO THEY EVEN EXIST?

Follow our in-depth coverage: Bring Back Mexico's Missing #Ayotzinapa Students

by Elizabeth at October 20, 2014 08:48 PM

Creative Commons
Open Access Week 2014 is underway

oaweeksmall

Today begins the 8th annual Open Access Week. Open Access Week is a week-long celebration and educational opportunity to discuss and promote the practice and policy of Open Access to scholarly literature–“the free, immediate, online availability of research articles, coupled with the rights to use these articles fully in the digital environment.” Open Access Week has become a huge international initiative, including dozens of in-person and virtual events, the launch of OA-related projects, and the development and publishing of materials and tools supporting education about the benefits, challenges, and opportunity for open access to scholarly research. This year’s Open Access Week theme is “Generation Open”:

The theme will highlight the importance of students and early career researchers as advocates for change in the short-term, through institutional and governmental policy, and as the future of the Academy upon whom the ultimate success of the Open Access movement depends. The theme will also explore how changes in scholarly publishing affect scholars and researchers at different stages of their careers.

Check the feed at openaccessweek.org for hundreds of posts about the variety of activities hosted this week, and share what you’re doing on Twitter using the hashtag #OAWeek2014. There’s already many interesting things happening, with more to come this week! Follow the CC blog, Twitter, and Facebook for more.

by Timothy Vollmer at October 20, 2014 07:34 PM

Andrew McAfee
This Saturday: The Glass Cage Match at the Boston Book Festival

Screenshot 2014-10-20 13.21.32I’ve been involved with the Boston Book Festival since Deborah Porter founded it in 2009, and it’s become one of my favorite events of the year. And since I had a for-real mainstream published book come out this year (as opposed to a self-published glorified pamphlet) I get to participate this year as a full-fledged author in the session titled “Technology: Promise and Peril

What makes this especially exciting to me is the fact that I’ll share the stage with Nick Carr, who’s one of my favorite writers and thinkers about technology. I don’t praise Nick because I agree with him so often. Over the years, in fact, we’ve pretty reliably argued about some big questions, including whether IT matters for competitive differentiation and whether Google makes us stupid.

This time around promises to be no different. Nick’s new book The Glass Cage made me think a lot, but what I usually thought was “I don’t agree with that.” I do think that today’s breathtaking technological progress is bringing some serious challenges along with it, but they’re not the ones that Nick highlights.

To hear very different views on tech’s promise and peril, I suggest that you come to our session this Saturday at 11 in the Old South Sanctuary on Boston’s Copley Plaza. It’ll also feature as a panelist David Rose, whose new book Enchanted Objects: Design, Human Desire, and the Internet of Things is, for obvious reasons, on my short-term reading list. WBUR’s Sacha Pfeiffer will moderate.

Hope to see you there…

by Andrew McAfee at October 20, 2014 05:47 PM

Info/Law
The Cambridge University Press decision and Educational Fair Use

The Eleventh Circuit released its 129-page opinion in Cambridge University Press v. Patton (which most of us probably still think of as the Becker case) last Friday. Although the appeals court reversed what I thought was a pretty solid opinion of the district court upholding Georgia State University’s practice of distributing digital “course packs” of reading materials to its students, it is very far from a big win for the publishers who challenged the practice. There is a lot to like in the opinion for advocates of educational fair use, and it is difficult to imagine that the district court on remand will rule in favor of the publisher plaintiffs with respect to very many of the works at issue even though the appeals court directed changes in some aspects of its fair use analysis. Although it found some errors in the district court’s treatment of the second and third fair use factors, the appeals court sensibly and correctly rejected several arguments that would have materially constricted the scope of educational fair use in the digital arena. (Full disclosure: I joined Jason Schultz’s excellent amicus brief on behalf of Georgia State.)

Although the Court of Appeals’ opinion deserves a close look, I’ll confine myself here just to noting a few highlights.

  • Dodging the “circularity” bullet. The fourth fair use factor requires courts to consider “the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.” Plaintiffs, however, always have an argument that any uncompensated use damages a “potential market,” namely, the market in which they could have licensed to the defendant the right to engage in the very use that is the subject of the litigation. If harms to those markets weigh against fair use, then very few uncompensated uses will ever be fair. Many courts don’t recognize this problem; sometimes, the very existence of a market for licensing the types of uses in which the defendant engaged is essentially conclusive against the defendant (I’m looking at you, American Geophysical Union v. Texaco; but even more remarkable was the district court’s opinion in Perfect 10 v. Google, which extended the same principle to a “market” created during the litigation of the case—an analytical error that, thankfully, did not survive appellate review). On the other hand, the court “got it” in Bill Graham Archives v. Dorling Kindersley, declaring that “a copyright holder cannot prevent others from entering fair use markets merely ‘by developing or licensing a market for parody, news reporting, educational or other transformative uses of its own creative work.’” Happily, the court of appeals in this case recognizes and attempts to avoid the “circularity” problem (p. 70), and declares that “Plaintiffs may not head off a defense of fair use by complaining that every potential licensing opportunity represents a potential market for purposes of the fourth fair use factor” (p. 98).
  • Congress really wants educational copying. Even though it finds the copying here was nontransformative (at least colorable) and even arguably for-profit (a few alarm bells started ringing for me here), it still doesn’t matter because, in the court of appeals’ view, the fact that the excerpts are actually being used in a university for educational purposes makes all the difference in the world. In the court’s words, the fair use statute by its literal terms “highlights the importance Congress placed on educational use” (p. 73), and this consideration “favors a finding of fair use under the first factor, despite the
    nontransformative nature of the use” (p. 74). The court’s determination that Congress expressly meant to promote educational copying exerts continuing force throughout its opinion; for example, it declares that the pedagogical purpose served by the copying is relevant to the amount that may permissibly be taken under the third statutory factor (pp. 85-86).
  • The Classroom Guidelines establish a floor, not a ceiling, for fair uses. This isn’t controversial; the Guidelines expressly so state. But it’s nice to see another court reject (p. 89) the canard that Congress meant to limit uncompensated educational copying to the amounts stated in the Guidelines.
  • It is going to be really hard for a plaintiff to demonstrate adverse effects on licensing markets where it never offered to license the work. As did the district court, the court of appeals finds it highly probative that the publisher plaintiffs elected to offer licenses for some uses of their works but not others. In keeping with the avoidance of “circularity” in the fourth-factor analysis as sketched out above, the court then concludes that the plaintiffs can’t pretend that they have lost revenues from a market in which they decided not to participate.

The district court went astray, in the appeals court’s view, in considering “the nature of the copyrighted work” and “the amount and substantiality of the portion used.” Here, though, the problems identified in the appeals court’s opinion appear unlikely to lead to a different conclusion on remand.

  • Regarding the second factor, the appeals court’s primary concern appears to be that the district court gave insufficient weight to expressive materials (“evaluative, analytical, or subjectively descriptive material that surpasses the bare facts necessary to communicate information, or derives from the author’s experiences or opinions”—p. 81) that were bound up with the factual information contained in the copied works; nevertheless, as even the court of appeals recognized, the second statutory factor “was of relatively little importance.”
  • Regarding the third statutory factor, the court of appeals concluded that the district court erred in establishing a presumption of fairness with respect to any use of less than 10% of an individual work, and that the district court was instead required to consider how much copying was permissible with respect to each work individually. I didn’t read the district court’s opinion as establishing such a bright-line rule; its reference to the 10% figure appears for the first time in its conclusion where it applies the four factors to each work, not in its discussion of the third factor. But, OK. On remand, the district court isn’t allowed to presume that copying of less than 10% (or one chapter from a multi-chapter work) is fair. So long as it avoids applying a bright-line rule of that type, apparently, the district court is free to reach the same conclusion with respect to the fairness of any challenged use. The court of appeals nowhere suggests that copying such a small amount is necessarily unfair, and it’s not hard to imagine the district court reaching essentially the same outcome with respect to most of the works at issue in the case while saying a few more words about why copying 10% of each particular work was acceptable.

The court of appeals also determined that a couple of the “nonstatutory factors” articulated by the district court really should have been considered as part of the analysis under the first and fourth factors. Perhaps that’s not really required, but it does fit into the courts’ broader historical practice of shoehorning everything into the four statutory factors whether they really make sense there or not. Again, however, I saw nothing in this portion of the court of appeals’ opinion that caused me to question whether the district court may simply reach the same conclusion as its original opinion while simply moving the corresponding portions of its analysis to the location within its opinion where the court of appeals thinks they belonged.

The opinion left me with a few concerns going forward:

  • “Transformativeness” is still an ungoverned mess. Campbell requires courts to consider whether a proffered fair use is “transformative,” but two decades later, nobody still knows what that means. The digitized excerpts here are word-for-word identical to the corresponding portions of the underlying works from which they were taken, but then so were the (fairly used) complete works that were copied in cases like Perfect 10 v. Amazon and Authors Guild v. HathiTrust. The appeals court here finds the literal copying ipso facto nontransformative, but thankfully that doesn’t end the matter. Nevertheless, the fact that “transformativeness” lacks any sort of associated test, framework, methodology, or standard twenty years after the Supreme Court declared it the “central purpose” of the first factor inquiry seems like it ought to be a bigger scandal than it apparently is.
  • Why does it matter whose finger presses the copy button? Rejecting, as the district court did, the earlier generation of “course packs are unfair” cases (including Princeton University Press v. Michigan Document Services and Basic Books v. Kinko’s Graphics Corp.), the court of appeals finds it relevant both that (1) Georgia State University “is a nonprofit educational institution” (p. 67) and (2) creating the electronic course packs redounds neither to GSU’s financial nor reputational advantage (pp. 71-72). Those factors, in turn, lead the court to conclude that the copying here was for “nonprofit educational purposes.” Does that mean that a university may never outsource the creation of its coursepacks to a for-profit copy shop?  Judge Merritt’s dissent in Princeton University Press, among others, noted the incongruity of having the fairness of a given use turn upon such factors; it would be odd to say that (for example) a student could fairly copy a book themselves, but couldn’t hire someone to make that exact same copy for them. The court of appeals’ opinion here nevertheless carries the implication that what a university may lawfully do for itself it may not lawfully hire others to do.

On the whole, however, if you have to lose a case, this is how you want to lose it; despite the reversal of the district court’s judgment in their favor, I imagine the defendants are feeling pretty good about their prospects on remand.

by Tim Armstrong at October 20, 2014 05:32 PM

Global Voices
False Ebola Alarm Provides Convenient Distraction for Macedonia From Unflattering EU Report
"Ebola" graffiti in Caen, France. Photo by F. S., CC-BY.

“Ebola” graffiti in Caen, France. Photo by F. S., CC-BY.

The publishing of a critical EU report on Macedonia coincided with the spectacular arrest of several Macedonian judges and an over-dramatic reaction to an alleged case of Ebola in the small country, and some speculated that the timing was no accident.

On October 8, 2014, the European Commission (EC) issued its annual Progress Reports, delineating the progress of countries participating in the process of joining the European Union. In the case of Macedonia, the report noted significant backsliding in the areas of freedom of expression, media, and the independence of the judicial system, apart from the ongoing country name issue, as summed up by Enlargement Commissioner Füle in this video:


Subtitled statement by Füle via 24vesti

As previously reported, both local and international political analysts did not express optimism regarding the response of the Macedonian government:

However, on the same day, Macedonian authorities staged a massive police action leading to the arrest of 14 judges and 11 officers of the Skopje Basic Court, in front of several television cameras. The apprehended judges stand accused of delaying implementation of sanctions against perpetrators of misdemeanors. In some media, this action overshadowed the conclusions of the EU report, which was given much less attention. Several television stations also decided to devote more time in the evening news to traffic accidents and local political squabbles, with reporters claiming that the Macedonian public was uninterested in the EU report. (While the latest IRI survey found out that 72 percent of the population support Macedonia becoming a member of the EU.)

The next day, another media blitz followed: the death of a British national in a Skopje hotel was suspected to have been caused by the Ebola virus. Skopje authorities sealed off the hotel and neighborhood with heavy police forces, imposing strict quarantine to dozens of guests trapped inside. Media buzzed with warnings about the disease, even though its existence remained unconfirmed by any evidence at all.

The alleged Ebola case put Macedonia on the map of world news organizations, thanks to speedy and meticulous Reuters news service's continuous coverage. UK media in particular picked up the story, but also many in the US and elsewhere around the world.

In Macedonia, a continuous stream of news items about the case flooded the media, “revealing” various aspects such as the role of the British businessman, who allegedly served as an adviser to the prime minister, his ties to the national government, and its efforts to attract foreign investors, among other details.

Macedonia health authorities sent samples to a competent laboratory in Hamburg, Germany, which after three days confirmed that the Ebola virus was not cause of death of the unfortunate British national. Foreign follow up coverage was far less spectacular than it was to the initial reports.

Even before the official results of the German lab were made public, Macedonian social media users expressed doubts about the propaganda being used around the whole case. As early as October 9, one Twitter user pointed out that the victim seemed to have suffered from chronic alcoholism.

Foreign journalists did not know that swine flu, bird flu, or #ebola usually attack Macedonia after each EC Report. No matter, at least they'll enjoy a bit of traveling.

Is the harsh criticism by the EU a reason for the “occurrence” of ebola in Macedonia?

Everybody used to talk about the Report, now everybody talk about ebola.
- The Prime Minister likes this.

Tonight on Sitel: Macedonia with largest economic growth of all ebola-affected countries.

Seasoned journalist Erol Rizaov expressed his outrage in a column titled “There is no Ebola, but there are plenty of idiots”:

Да се пушти непроверена вест во провладина телевизија дека во државата, најверојатно, умрел човек болен од заразна болест од која се плаши цел свет е невозможна мисија без амин од власта. А, да се пласира три дена и три ноќи ударно како да удрил страшен земјотрес со епицентар меѓу градскиот стадион, Арената „Филип Втори“ и зградата на Владата и тоа без асистенција и логистика на политиката е незамисливо. На некого страшно му требаше „ебола во Македонија“, па макар ја ставил во карантин целата земја како што кај нас се стави хотелот на „ужасот“. Држава со болен од ебола е како епидемија на чума по која херметички се затвораат сите врати кон и од Македонија. Ете ваков голем подвиг направија високите професионалци. Им ја замрзнаа крвта на граѓаните откривајќи ни ја лагата на годината дека Британецот што починал во хотел ги имал симптомите на ебола.

Некому многу му се брзаше да ги оддалечи луѓето од вистинската драматична вест за иднината на земјата која е доведена во прашање според оценките на европската влада од Брисел. По веста за апсење на цел еден суд, подметнувањето на еболата дојде како вишна врз шлагот за пренасочување на вниманието на јавноста.

It would be mission impossible for a pro-government television channel to air unconfirmed news that a man suffering from infectious disease that scares the whole world died in this country, without a blessing from the government. It is unthinkable to continue propagating the same news as primetime for three days and three nights, as if a catastrophic earthquake hit somewhere between the Phillip the Second Arena [the seat of Sitel TV] and the Government building, without political assistance and logistical aid. Somebody sorely needed “Ebola in Macedonia,” even if that would quarantine the whole country, as they quarantined the “hotel of horror.” If a real Ebola patient exists in a country, than the procedure is akin to plague epidemics, with hermetic closing of all doors in and out of Macedonia. This is the big accomplishment of these high professionals. They froze the blood of our citizens by spreading the lie of the year, that the Brit who died in a hotel had Ebola symptoms.

Someone was in a real big hurry to distance the people from the real dramatic news affecting the country's future. This future is jeopardized, according to the European authorities from Brussels. After the news of wholesale arrest of an entire court of law, planting the ebola story came as a cherry on a cake for redirecting the public attention.

by Filip Stojanovski at October 20, 2014 04:02 PM

DML Central
Connecting Learners Through Hashtags, Focal Points
Connecting Learners Through Hashtags, Focal Points Blog Image

Like others who have become important co-learners in my personal learning network, I met Dr. Maha Bali, associate professor of practice of the Center for Learning and Teaching at American University in Cairo, through a hashtag. I can’t remember whether it was #ds106 or #etmooc or #clmooc, but it was one of those Twitter conversations that can serve as doorways into new communities of practice. (Hashtags, like the clock in Grand Central Station or Hachiko’s statue outside Tokyo’s Shibuya Station, are what sociologist Thomas Schelling called “focal points” that can help coordinate and introduce strangers in physical or social space.)  I recognized her right away as a “lead learner” among educators. In my own face-to-face and online classes, I’ve come to recognize the lead learners who emerge at the beginning (if you’re in luck) and inspire other learners who may be reluctant at first to jump into more active, public ways of learning. 

Bali is an educator of educators — she teaches educational technology to in-service school teachers. Far from being confined to a technical support role, Bali’s pedagogy — and her writing about it — is expansive and multifarious.  She wrote a sentence I could have written myself in her article on critical pedagogy that I recommend to all who are interested in classrooms as learning communities: “Critical pedagogy, for me, is not about knowing how to do everything right, or getting it right the first time, or every time. It is about putting faith in our learners to take control of their learning, and teach us, each other, and themselves in the process.” 

I remember how scary it was to “put my faith in our learners to take control of their learning” the first time I did it, and how the fear receded as student enthusiasm, engagement, and ingenuity kicked in, surpassed my expectations, and taught me a few things every time.

Maha Bali’s position at the American University is only one of many nodes in her network of influence and discourse. She’s one of the facilitators of Edcontexts, an “international network of educators” that Bali cofounded in order “to amplify voices of educators from nondominant parts of the world.” Dr. Bali is a prolific blogger at Reflecting Aloud and contributor to Hybrid Pedagogies. The tag cloud in her blog sidebar reveals her role in #rhizo14 and #clmooc. She was one of the first, most enthusiastic, articulate, and prolific lead co-learners in Connected Courses.

Inspection of the social network structure of the first week of Connected Courses showed clearly what social network analysts call the socially catalytic “centrality” of Maha Bali in the conversations around #ccourses.

You could organize a wide-ranging curriculum around Bali’s publications: She made a case for abandoning the syllabus as we know it, encouraged her students to blog reflectively about learning to design educational games, commented on Arab MOOCs, published in the MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching about “MOOC Pedagogy: Gleaning Good Practice from Existing MOOCs.

Some people reflect in public in ways that help other people think, some people connect people and ideas (“bridge structural holes”), some people stimulate and help evolve public conversations, some people set examples in the early days of an online community. Maha Bali does all of the above. We touched on a few of Bali’s current concerns in our brief video interview. As always, seeing and hearing the person behind the words brings her writings to life.

Banner image credit: Tamari 09

by mcruz at October 20, 2014 04:00 PM

Global Voices
Beyond an Ebola-free Nigeria
A screenshot of TIME magazine's tweet about Nigeria's containment of the Ebola virus.

A screenshot of TIME magazine's tweet about Nigeria's containment of the Ebola virus.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Monday, 20th October declared Nigeria to be free of the Ebola virus. A statement from the organization headlined “Nigeria is now free of Ebola virus transmission reads: 

“The lines on the tabular situation reports, sent to WHO each day by its country office in Nigeria, have now been full of zeros for 42 days. WHO officially declares that Nigeria is now free of Ebola virus transmission.

“This is a spectacular success story that shows that Ebola can be contained. The story of how Nigeria ended what many believed to be potentially the most explosive Ebola outbreak imaginable is worth telling in detail. Such a story can help the many other developing countries that are deeply worried by the prospect of an imported Ebola case and eager to improve their preparedness plans. Many wealthy countries, with outstanding health systems, may have something to learn as well.”

Ebola's ravaging of West African countries like Liberia and Sierra Leone and its recent outbreak in Texas has generated global panic and hysteria. Some infected healthcare workers who were administered a vaccine that is yet to undergo full clinical trials have recovered, The unavailability, however, of any true and tried treatment or vaccine has made the Ebola epidemic a cause of anxiety. In light of these facts, Nigeria's successful curtailment of the disease is cause for hope and excitement, not only for that country, but for others as well.

In July we reported on the panic generated by Nigeria’s index case, where Patrick Sawyer,  an American-Liberian lawyer infected with the virus died in Lagos, Nigeria's commercial city. Upon arrival from Liberia, where he had taken care of a sick Ebola relative, Mr. Sawyer collapsed in the airport. He was rushed to hospital, where he was initially treated for malaria. He died some days later. Mr. Sawyer was diagnosed of Ebola some days before his death.

World-class Epidemiological Detective Work

Dr. Ameyo Adadevoh, the consultant who treated Sawyer, was instrumental in preventing Ebola from becoming an epidemic in Nigeria. Dr. Adedevoh placed Mr. Sawyer in quarantine and refused to discharge him despite pressure from high quarters. She was reported to have contacted Ebola on August 4, 2014, and died from the disease on August 19, 2014.  

Lagos is Africa’s most populous city, and for a disease outbreak of this dimension it was a powder keg waiting to explode. The explosion, however, never occurred. According to Scientific America, Nigeria's success was based on the following:

  • Fast and thorough tracing of all potential contacts
  • Ongoing monitoring of all of these contacts
  • Rapid isolation of potentially infectious contacts

“The swift battle was won not only with vigilant disinfecting, port-of-entry screening and rapid isolation, but also with boot leather and lots and lots of in-person follow-up visits, 18,500 of which were undertaken to find possible new cases of Ebola among a total of 989 identified contacts. Such ground-level work may sound extreme: even the usually measured WHO declared the feat ‘a piece of world-class epidemiological detective work.'”

Nigeria's effective public health response hinged on an existing Incident Management Center established for Poliomyelitis which was deployed for Ebola management. According to the Centers for Disease Control

Directly linked to the contact tracing was the Social Mobilization strategy. This included teams of three social mobilizers who were trained and deployed to conduct house-to-house, in-person visits within specific radii of the homes of the Ebola contacts. For high-density areas, house-to-house teams covered a 500m radius, 1km in medium density areas and 2km for low density (7). As of September 24, approximately 26,000 households of persons living around Ebola contacts had been reached with house-to-house visits in Lagos and Rivers states.

Besides the epidemiological response, some Nigerian professionals used social media for information dissemination. One such initiative was the Ebola Alert, “an evidence-driven group of volunteer professionals working on Ebola Virus Disease Interventions”. They used a Twitter feed to keep people informed and dispel rumors, as rumor-mongering can be devastating in a crisis like this.

 The Lagos State government plans to send health professionals to Sierra Leone to aid in the containment of the Ebola Virus Disease there. Nonetheless, Nigeria should not rest on this current certification from WHO of being Ebola free. Nor should we get caught up in petty squabbles such as the one between the Federal Ministry of Health and the Lagos State Government over who deserves credit for Nigeria's containment of the disease.

The prize of freedom is eternal vigilance. Ebola is not dead until it is eradicated from all parts of the globe and can no longer pose a threat to humanity.

by Nwachukwu Egbunike at October 20, 2014 04:00 PM

Cambodia's Police Are in the Market for Water Cannon Trucks ‘to Be Used Against Demonstrations’
Police notice for the bidding of water cannon trucks. Photo from Facebook page of Sopheap Chak

Police notice for the bidding of water cannon trucks. Photo from Facebook page of Sopheap Chak

The Cambodian police has released a public bidding notice for the procurement of two water cannon trucks which they specifically mentioned are going “to be used against demonstrations.”

It reads: 

To supply two water cannon trucks to be used against demonstrations. The said trucks are manufactured in Korea in 2014, with 100% quality, to be provided to national police forces for use in security, safety and social order protection operation.

The notice, published in two local newspapers, alarmed human rights activists who fear that authorities might resort to violence again as garment workers have recently revived their petition to increase their monthly minimum wage.

Garment workers held a nationwide strike last January, which was violently dispersed by the police. The protest camp of the political opposition at the Phnom Penh Freedom Park was also removed by authorities. For several months, the government has banned public demonstrations to maintain peace and order in the country.

Sopheap Chak of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights asked about the budget source of the proposed purchase and criticized the police for trying to undermine free speech:

People tax payment or aid support? Instead of strengthening its effort in using water cannon to rescue people from fire, the government is focused on how to fight against freedom.

On Facebook, John Weeks, a communications officer for Swedish development organization Forum Syd in Cambodia, also questioned the priorities of the government:

Now if only the government put *land concessions* out for competitive bidding instead of riot control equipment, there would be a lot more trust. Sigh.

While water cannon trucks are commonly used across the world, this could be the first time in Cambodia that a government agency has explicitly admitted that the trucks will be used against rallies and not for fire control.

by Mong Palatino at October 20, 2014 11:34 AM

#Fails of the Tunisian Electoral Campaign in One Hilarious Blog
Campaigning by the 'Current of Love', a political party in Tunisia

Campaigning underway by the ‘Current of Love', a political party in Tunisia

Tunisian netizens are crowdsourcing the funniest and most ridiculous moments of the election race on a Tumblr blog called #TnElecFails.

Campaigning for Tunisia's parliamentary elections kicked off on October 4. More than 5 million registered voters are set to elect 217 members of the Assembly of the People's Deputies on October 26.

Two of the strongest contenders in this year’s legislative elections are the Islamist Ennahda Movement, which emerged as the winner of the 2011 election; and Nidaa Tounes, founded in 2012 and led by 86-year-old Beji Caid Essebsi, who served under the previous autocratic regimes of Habib Bourguiba and Zine el-Abidin Ben Ali

But with a number of electoral lists exceeding 1,300 and a number of candidates estimated at 13,000, there are plenty of things to laugh about in this year's election race including the logos, names and mottos of electoral lists.

Here are some photos:

"I like" is the logo of this list

“I like” is the logo of this list

Name of the list: "the miserables", motto: "the hope of generations"

Name of the list: “the miserables”, motto: “a hope for generations”

This independent list 'I want my country to be clean' was hanged on a wall near a high school, without the photos of its candidates, with the following note: "our photos do not matter, what matters is achieving our promises to you". The list did not remain with photos for long, and this note was written in answer: "we do not need your faces anyway".

This independent list ‘I want my country to be clean’ was hung on a wall near a high school, without the photos of its candidates, with the following note: “Our photos do not matter, what matters is achieving our promises to you”. The list did not remain without photos for long, and this note was added: “We do not need your faces anyway”.

Scissors is the logo of the Tunisian party because they want to "circumsize the security [institution], the judiciary and the administration"Most probably, they meant to purge or cleanse from corruption. But, they opted for "circumcise".

Scissors is the logo of the Tunisian party because they want to “circumsize the security [institution], the judiciary and the administration”. Most probably, they meant to purge or cleanse from corruption. But, they opted for “circumcise”.

But why the derision of the Tunisian elections?

Well, it is not really a choice. Who would not laugh at “the miserables, a hope for generations” or at a party seeking to “circumcise the security and judicial institutions and the administration”?

“A day without laughter, is a lost day”, this is the motto implemented by our politicians for the good of the people.

But at the same time, this mockery reflects the popular dissatisfaction with the political class in Tunisia, which nearly four years after the ousting of the Ben Ali regime, has done little to respond to the urgent socio-economic aspirations of Tunisians.

This was reflected by the protest of a group of unemployed graduates in Metlaoui, an impoverished town in the province of Gafsa in southwestern Tunisia. They hung their university diplmoas with “for sale” written on them, on a wall allocated for electoral lists.
for sale

by Afef Abrougui at October 20, 2014 11:31 AM

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