Joe Biden: SOPA is Un-American - but not when America does it

A reader writes, "A video made by TechDirt and Fight for the Future of a speech VP Biden gave on November 1st at the London Conference on Cyberspace. In the video VP Biden explains EXACTLY why the Stop Online Piracy Act and the PROTECT-IP Act are both bad ideas and decidedly un-American."

A couple of weeks ago, Joe Biden gave a perfect, if unintended, explanation for why SOPA and PROTECT IP are such terrible ideas. Since his speech included a bunch of other things, we thought it would be good to highlight Biden's specific arguments that explain why SOPA and PROTECT IP are bad, and to give him kudos for making such statements, since they contradict the statements from Hollywood on this bill.

VP Joe Biden Explains Why SOPA & PROTECT IP Are Anti-American & A Bad Idea Read the rest

Infographic: How SOPA will change the net

Dean sez, "Here's a really helpful infographic that shows how the Blacklist Bill/SOPA could drastically change the Internet."

SOPA Infographic Read the rest

Tomorrow is American Censorship Day: FIGHT SOPA!

Nicholas from Fight for the Future says,

Hundreds of sites have been joining American Censorship Day, taking place tomorrow, November 16, including the EFF, Boing Boing, Reddit, Creative Commons, Hype Machine, and many, many, many more. The momentum is building really fast!

This day of protest is against a new bill in Congress called 'SOPA' that could pass this month. It would create the first ever United States Goverment website censorship system, using DNS blocking. Sound familiar? It’s the same technology Libya and China use to prevent their citizens from seeing undesirable websites. The bill would chill innovation, create huge liability for startups, and would set a terrible global precedent for government censorship of the Internet.

If you have a website big or small, please, please join us tomorrow to stop censorship-- you can sign up and learn more at

American Censorship Day November 16 - Join the fight to stop SOPA Read the rest

Congressional SOPA hearings: no opponents of the bill allowed

As the House of Representatives opens hearings on SOPA, the worst piece of Internet legislation in American history, it has rejected all submissions and testimony from public interest groups and others who oppose the bill.

Irony Alert: The House is holding hearings on sweeping Internet censorship legislation this week -- and it's censoring the opposition! The bill is backed by Hollywood, Big Pharma, and the Chamber of Commerce, and all of them are going to get to testify at the hearing.

But the bill's opponents -- tech companies, free speech and human rights activists, and hundreds of thousands of Internet users -- won't have a voice.

Don't Censor Censorship Opponents: Let Us Testify! Read the rest

How SOPA will attack the Internet's infrastructure and security

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is continuing its series of in-depth analysis of the Stop Online Piracy Act, the most dangerous piece of Internet legislation ever introduced, which is set to be fast-tracked through Congress by Christmas. Today, EFF's Corynne McSherry and Peter Eckersley look at the way that SOPA attacks innovation and the integrity of Internet infrastructure.

In this new bill, Hollywood has expanded its censorship ambitions. No longer content to just blacklist entries in the Domain Name System, this version targets software developers and distributors as well. It allows the Attorney General (doing Hollywood or trademark holders' bidding) to go after more or less anyone who provides or offers a product or service that could be used to get around DNS blacklisting orders. This language is clearly aimed at Mozilla, which took a principled stand in refusing to assist the Department of Homeland Security's efforts to censor the domain name system, but we are also concerned that it could affect the open source community, internet innovation, and software freedom more broadly:

* Do you write or distribute VPN, proxy, privacy or anonymization software? You might have to build in a censorship mechanism — or find yourself in a legal fight with the United States Attorney General.

* Even some of the most fundamental and widely used Internet security software, such as SSH, includes built-in proxy functionality. This kind of software is installed on hundreds of millions of computers, and is an indispensable tool for systems administration professionals, but it could easily become a target for censorship orders under the new bill.

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Tiffiny from Fight for the Future sez,

Google knows it. Viacom knows it. The Chamber of Commerce knows it. Internet democracy groups know it. BoingBoing knows it. But, the Internet hasn't been told yet -- we're going to get blown away by the end of the year. The worst bill in Internet history is about to become law. Law is very real here in the United States and legal language is often different than stated intentions -- this law would give government and corporations the power to block sites like BoingBoing over infringing links on at least one webpage posted by their users. Believe the EFF, Public Knowledge, Google when they say this bill is about much more than copyright, it's about the Internet and free speech everywhere.

The MPAA, RIAA, Hollywood knows that they have been flying in CEOs of as many companies as possible, recruiting people to get petition signups at malls in California, and here's the big point-- they know they have gotten their message through to Congress -- the worst bill in Internet history, the one where government and their corporations get unbelievable power to take down sites, threaten payment processors into stopping payment to sites on a blacklist, and throw people in jail for posting ordinary content is about to pass before the end of this year. The only thing that is going to stop Hollywood from owning the Internet and everything we do, is if there is a big surprise Internet backlash starting right now.

Read the rest

EFF to Chamber of Commerce: of course SOPA is a blacklist

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has more on the deadly Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), the most extreme, anti-Internet, anti-privacy, anti-free speech copyright proposal in US legislative history. Today, EFF responds to claims from the Chamber of Commerce that SOPA isn't a blacklist because the law doesn't actually contain the word "blacklist":

First, the new law would allow the Attorney General to cut off sites from the Internet, essentially “blacklisting” companies from doing business on the web. Under section 102, the Attorney General can seek a court order that would force search engines, DNS providers, servers, payment processors, and advertisers to stop doing business with allegedly infringing websites.

Second, the bill encourages private corporations to create a literal target list—a process that is ripe for abuse. Under Section 103 (cleverly entitled the “market based” approach), IP rightsholders can take action by themselves, by sending notices directly to payment processors—like Visa, Mastercard, and PayPal—demanding that they cut off all payments to the website. Once notice is delivered to the payment processor, that processor has only five days to act.1 The payment processor, and not the rightsholder, is then responsible for notifying the targeted website. So by the time Visa or Mastercard—who will no doubt be receiving many of these notices—processes the notice, informs the website, and the website decides whether to file a counter notice, the five days will almost certainly have elapsed. The website will then be left without a revenue source even if it did nothing wrong.

Third, section 104 of SOPA also allows payment processors to cut websites off voluntarily—even if they haven’t received a notice.

Read the rest

SOPA in depth: the worst-ever copyright proposal in US legislative history?

SOPA, the House version of the US Senate's PROTECT-IP Bill, might be the worst-ever copyright proposal in US legislative history. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has begun a series of articles examining the bill in depth, explaining just how insane it is. Here's part one:

If an IP rightsholder (vaguely defined – could be Justin Bieber worried about his publicity rights) thinks you meet the criteria and that it is in some way harmed, it can send a notice claiming as much to the payment processors (Visa, Mastercard, Paypal etc.) and ad services you rely on.

Once they get it, they have 5 days to choke off your financial support. Of course, the payment processors and ad networks won’t be able to fine-tune their response so that only the allegedly infringing portion of your site is affected, which means your whole site will be under assault. And, it makes no difference that no judge has found you guilty of anything or that the DMCA safe harbors would shelter your conduct if the matter ever went to court. Indeed, services that have been specifically found legal, like Rapidshare, could be economically strangled via SOPA. You can file a counter-notice, but you’ve only got 5 days to do it (good luck getting solid legal advice in time) and the payment processors and ad networks have no obligation to respect it in any event. That’s because there are vigilante provisions that grant them immunity for choking off a site if they have a “reasonable belief” that some portion of the site enables infringement.

Read the rest

SOPA: US House of Reps copyright bill proposes national censorship, attacks on hosting services, Twitter, YouTube

PROTECT-IP is a US Senate bill that establishes a draconian censorship and surveillance regime in America in the name of protecting copyright. Its House version, SOPA, has just been introduced, and it's even worse than PROTECT-IP. Much, much worse:

As with its Senate-side evil sister, PROTECT-IP, SOPA would require service providers to “disappear” certain websites, endangering Internet security and sending a troubling message to the world: it’s okay to interfere with the Internet, even effectively blacklisting entire domains, as long as you do it in the name of IP enforcement. Of course blacklisting entire domains can mean turning off thousands of underlying websites that may have done nothing wrong. And in what has to be an ironic touch, the very first clause of SOPA states that it shall not be “construed to impose a prior restraint on free speech.” As if that little recitation could prevent the obvious constitutional problem in what the statute actually does.

But it gets worse. Under this bill, service providers (including hosting services) would be under new pressure to monitor and police their users’ activities. Websites that simply don’t do enough to police infringement (and it is not at all clear what would qualify as “enough”) are now under threat, even though the DMCA expressly does not require affirmative policing. It creates new enforcement tools against folks who dare to help users access sites that may have been “blacklisted,” even without any kind of court hearing. The bill also requires that search engines, payment providers (such as credit card companies and PayPal), and advertising services join in the fun in shutting down entire websites.

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Are you face blind? Test your own facial memory

Want to test your own ability to recognize faces? There's several online tests available through the Prosopagnosia Research Centers at Harvard and the UK's University College London. I got an 86%—better than average—on the Cambridge Memory Face Test. How about you? Read the rest

Oliver Sacks on face blindness

One evening, while we were watching TV, a short video preview came on, announcing that the channel was going to show Jurassic Park over the coming weekend. As the preview played, my husband turned to me and said, "I didn't know Harrison Ford was in Jurassic Park."

"That's because he's not," I said.

"Sure he is. Right there," my husband said, pointing at an image of Sam Neil fleeing a Tyrannosaurus Rex.

And that was how I learned that my husband had spent his life not really recognizing individual actors on TV, and in the movies. Given a film featuring two leads of approximately the same race, sex, age and hair color—and barring any distinctive costuming—Baker quickly loses track of the plot. (He still has no idea what the hell happened in The Departed.)

Luckily for Baker, these problems don't seem to affect him much in the real world. He can't tell the difference between Harrison Ford and Sam Neil, but he knows the faces of friends, family, and business acquaintances. The same can't be said for people, including the neurologist and science writer Oliver Sacks, who suffer from full-on, clinical prosopagnosia—or "face blindness", the complete inability to distinguish one face from any other. For them, the world is full of strangers.

I knew Sacks had written about prosopagnosia—most notably in The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. But I didn't realize he actually had the disorder himself. In this video clip from a session on social memory and neurobiology at last year's World Science Festival in New York, Sacks recounts what can happen when nobody's face is familiar, not even your own. Read the rest

China cracks down on "money sucking" mobile phones loaded with malware

The government of China is taking action against mobile phones pre-installed with malware that sneakily rack up user fees by triggering various fee-based mobile services.
The ministry is targeting what it called "money sucking" phones, which are installed with software that triggers fee-based mobile services without users' knowledge.

The phones with the problem are brand name knock-offs built using the Android operating system, said Zhao Wei, CEO of Chinese security company Knownsec. Each month, the phones will spend only about 2 yuan (US$0.30) in text messages or other mobile services. The small amount ensures that users will not take notice, he said.

'Money sucking' phones in China spur government action

(via Chris Wysopal) Read the rest

Face blindness research at University of Minnesota in Minneapolis

[Video Link] Researchers at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis are working with children who have face blindness (prosopagnosia) to try to come up with ways to treat people who have difficulty recognizing and distinguishing between faces. According to the researchers in this video face blindness affects 1 to 2% of all children.

In the video [Link] below Dr. Oliver Sacks talks about his own experiences as a person with prosopagnosia. (If you ask me, Dr. Sacks and the bearded researcher in the video above look a lot alike!)

Oliver Sacks on face blindness Why it's hard not to stare at facial deformities Spot the fake smile Read the rest

Oliver Sacks on face blindness

Author and neurologist Oliver Sacks has prosopagnosia (face blindness) and he wrote about it in The New Yorker. The article isn't online, but here's an audio interview with him.

From The New Yorker's abstract of the article:

Severe congenital prosopagnosia is estimated to affect two to two and a half per cent of the population–six to eight million people in the United States alone.

Writer describes his own difficulties recognizing and remembering faces. He also has the same difficulty with places and often becomes lost when he strays from familiar routes. At the age of seventy-seven, despite a lifetime of trying to compensate, he has no less trouble with faces and places than when he was younger. He is particularly thrown when seeing a person out of context, even if he was with that person five minutes before. Writer gives several examples of his inability to recognize familiar people out of context, including his therapist and his assistant.

You Look Unfamiliar - an audio interview with Oliver Sacks Read the rest

Toxoplasma (cat-poo parasite) hypnotizes rats by making them horny for cat pee


Tobias has a creepy-fun blog post up today about Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite that causes rats to become attracted to cats, which can adversely affect the development of a baby within a pregnant women's body. The post digs into Stanford scientist Dr. Robert Sopalsky's research around how "toxo" changes human behavior, but this snippet about how it "hijacks the sexual reward pathway" in rats' minds is pure gold.

Once in the rat, Toxo's goal is to then be eaten by a cat so it can be fruitful and multiply, but as I mentioned, this can only take place in the cat's gut. Toxo's goal is to get the rat eaten by a cat. Toxo could get the desired effect through a whole sort of seemingly obvious ways; e.g., Make the rat hard to run so it is easier for a cat to catch it. Instead it takes a far more interesting approach: Toxo generates cysts in the brain of the rat. These cysts take over the fear center of the brain, but specifically the fear of predators. Common fear sources for rodents (e.g., bright lights, open spaces, etc.) still operate perfectly well in an infected rat, but now they are no longer afraid of cat piss. That alone would be cool enough, but Toxo takes it one step further. When Toxo is going about futzing with the fear center of the brain it also goes into the sexual excitement part of the brain. It hijacks the incoming Fear of Cat Piss™ and instead diverts the signal to the Barry White™ center of the brain.
Read the rest

Mark on The Martha Stewart Show, May 18, 2009

(Photo: Anders Krusberg/The Martha Stewart Show)

On Monday, May 18, I'll be on The Martha Stewart show. I'm going to demonstrate bunch of different projects from the pages of MAKE, and I'll also show Martha how to build a vibrobot. Martha is one of my heroes, so it was a thrill to be on her show!

Above: Martha Stewart is enjoying a Maker-made cup of coffee. The coffee roaster on the left was designed by Larry Cotton and was featured in Make Vol 8. The hydraulic espresso tamper was designed and built by John Edgar Park and appears in Make Vol 12. And that's my espresso machine that I modded with a PID temperature control kit from

MAKE Editor Mark Frauenfelder on The Martha Stewart Show this Monday Read the rest

Lovecraft's 70th death-a-versary, Cthulhu adoration everywhere

March 15th, 2007 marked the 70th year since HP Lovecraft's death. Necronomicon junkies and devotees of the Cthulhu mythos celebrated that day with online commemorations. La Petite Claudine has a thoughtful series of related posts on her blog here (mostly in Spanish): Link.

Image: "Azathoth is described as both blind and idiotic and is regarded as the head of the Cthulhu mythos pantheon." An illustration from this Lovecraft fan-page on MySpace (No artist credit given -- if anyone knows whose work this is, please let me know and I'll update this post accordingly).

(Thanks, Reverse Cowgirl)

Reader comment: Peetee sez, "A better term for death-a-versary is 'mortiversary'."

BoingBoing reader Rob sends the photo below, and says,

He has quite the boring headstone. It's in Providence, Rhode Island. I took the picture, it was midday and the lighting was all screwy, but you can get the gist of it.

BoingBoing reader Remus Shepherd says:

Xeni, I saw someone sent you a picture of HP Lovecraft's headstone...and called it 'boring'. Well, it is. But right behind it, they used to have a gigantic oak (?) tree, which was carved with various sayings from his stories.

I have some pictures of the Tree That Feeds On Him here: Link. I'd rather not mention who the people are in those photos -- but I swear we didn't carve anything!

Sadly, the Tree That Feeds On Him was cut down a few years ago. Either the cemetary owners found it too creepy, or they were tired of it being climbed by weirdos like...well, us.

Read the rest

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