NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has submitted written testimony [PDF] to an EU committee investigating mass surveillance. Glyn Moody's Techdirt post gives a great tl;dr summary of the document, but you should really read it for yourself. It's ten single-spaced pages, but Snowden turns out to be an extremely talented writer who beautifully lays out his arguments, managing the trick of being dispassionate while simultaneously conveying the import of his subject matter.
Snowden makes the point that his testimony doesn't disclose anything that the press hasn't already published, but there's been so much that it's worth reviewing some of it. He directs our attention to something I'd missed: the NSA's Foreign Affairs Division (FAD) spends an extraordinary amount of time lobbying EU nations (and other countries) to change their laws so that the NSA can legally spy on everyone in the country. What's more, they cook these deals -- for example, they'll get German permission to listen in on everything by non-Germans and get a Danish deal that covers all the non-Danes, but since the Internet backbones traverse both countries, they can spy on Germans in Denmark and Danes in Germany. As Snowden says, "The surest way for any nation to become
subject to unnecessary surveillance is to allow its spies to dictate its policy."
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Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott is a terrible world leader among terrible world leaders: a xenophobic bigot and homophobe, committed to resource extraction economies and the destruction of social programs, who denies climate change. He's planning a visit to the state of Western Australia, and to send him off, WA Green Party Senator Scott Ludlam gave him some campaign advice -- and hope for people who despair of a world grounded in something other than kleptocratic corporatism. This is no Julia Gillard rant, but it's in the same league. Say what you will about Australian politics, they do love a fine rant.
Neoliberalism Dressing-Down: Australian Senator Ludlam on Prime Minister Tony Abbott
Lisa T. McElroy is a law professor who's spending a year at the University of Denver with her two kids, one in high school and one in middle school. She learned that she could opt her kids out of the standardized tests the school administered. So she did. What followed was a total educational freakout, as the principal, vice-principal and administration alternately cajoled and guilted her over her kids' non-participation in pedagogically suspect, meaningless, destructive high-stakes testing.
McElroy's story is a snapshot of an educational system in the process of implosion, driven by the ridiculous idea that schools are factories whose product is educated kids, and whose employees must be made "accountable" by measuring anything we can put a number on -- attendance and test-scores -- at the expense of actual educational outcomes.
Despite the fact that the best-performing educational systems in the world don't treat teachers as assembly line workers and kids as standardized injection molds to be squirted full of learning, the west continues to pursue this approach, scapegoating teachers' unions and pitting parents against them when the real enemy is the doomed idea that schools are a specialized kind of industrial plant -- and the project of selling off public schools to privatized educational corporations that collect public funds to educate kids, but only to the extent that this can be done without undermining their shareholders' interests.
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I missed this Ask Me Anything when it was live back in February, but it's definitely worth going back and reading. It features Eva Mozes Kor
, who was chosen at age 10, along with her twin sister, for experiments performed by Josef Mengele at Auschwitz. Really an amazing AMA. — Maggie
Five years ago today
Super Mario vs NYC -- street art: Some street artist in NYC is using tile-mosaics to turn the street-level water hookups into a giant Super Mario reenactment!
Ten years ago today
RNC trying to scare MoveOn ads off the air: The RNC is sending threatening letters to TV stations that run MoveOn's anti-Bush ads, trying to freak them out with a nonsensical claim that that ads are illegal.
Arunachalam Muruganantham is an inventor who came up with a way to make sanitary pads available to women in rural India (and give local village women a source income in the process). We take them for granted in the West, but pads can be life-saving, writes Emily Bazelon at Slate. That's because without sanitary pads, women use whatever absorbent material they have handy and they don't often have a great way to disinfect that material when they reuse it.
Muruganantham's story of invention took more than four years and, at one point, got him branded as a pervert when neighbors caught him wandering around the village with a football bladder full of goat's blood under his clothes (part of an attempt to test the absorption rate of different materials).
You can read about him on Slate, or watch him tell his own tale in a talk at TEDxBangalore. Here, truly, is a man with a good attitude towards menstruation.
If a paleontologist breaks her leg three days' travel from the nearest hospital, what happens? One thing she might do is call Matt Lewin — a doctor who specializes in treating scientists who get sick or injured in the field. He's the subject of a profile in the latest issue of Discover magazine
. Sadly, the full story is only available in print, but it's a fascinating topic and a job I'd never really given much thought to before, so I wanted to share it. — Maggie
Adam sez, "This is the first episode of an original Dailymotion production called 'That Was Me' which highlights the achievements of pop culture icons.
'That Was Me' episode 1: A profile of the founder of SXSW -- one of the largest music, film and interactive festivals in the United States. The festival takes place annually in Austin, Texas."
Who Created SXSW? - That Was Me (Thanks, Adam!)
Noam Cohen at The New York Times
In a move that promises to increase the use of photography across the Internet, the Getty Images photo agency announced that it would allow noncommercial websites and social media users to publish the agency’s images at no cost using an “embedding” tool.
The catch is that the photos have to be embedded a la youtube (see hungry kitty, above), which means they can just take them down if they want to, or insert advertising. Out the can, Getty's embeds have fixed widths, but it's clean iframe markup, easily tailored. Use is noncommercial only, but they're OK with ad-supported editorial use.
John Brownlee reviews The King in Yellow
, the mysterious real-life book posed at the heart of True Detective's fictional mystery
, and why the two are linked.
"In short, The King in Yellow has gone viral. But why? It's all due to the powerful creative draw of the weird mythos, stories which create, in the words of H.P. Lovecraft, a shared literary universe defined by an "unexplainable dread of outer, unknown forces" and "the daemons of unplumbed space." And that effect is very definitely by design."
The now public-domain text is free online. Kevin McFarland reviews the show here at Boing Boing every week.
Female representation in games is mired in toxic archetypes, so much so that even conscious efforts to avoid or neutralize them tends to end up mirroring the problem. The makers of Desktop Dungeons, however, are taking a more considered approach.
It wasn’t good enough for us to simply react with deliberate ugliness or typically masculine factors – the idea was for Desktop Dungeons to remove the gender binary entirely instead of just making everyone a man. In de-emphasising sex as much as possible, we hoped that players would be able to enjoy a more gender agnostic environment in general. Some of our proudest mechanical tweaks involved removing notices and choices in particular areas. ... .Shorthands for the feminine kept crawling into our work when we weren’t paying attention – smooth skin, homogenised facial structures, evidence of makeup, you name it. Even characters who we thought would easily sidestep trouble (like the female wizard) simply looked like young, pretty women in grunge costume rather than hardboiled dungeoneers. Portraits for some species went through several drafts just to deprogram our subconscious idea of what felt normal and right.
Hang the Bankers has a set of photos from 1972 surrealist ball hosted by Marie-Hélène de Rothschild at the Château de Ferrières, with Salvador Dali in attendance. Hang the Bankers cites this as evidence of "the underlying ideology and the mind state of the occult elite," which sounds like hogwash to me. I mean, I'm all for reflexively condemning the hyper-rich, but if you're a weird shadowy billionaire aristo, better you should be spending your unimaginable riches on cool dress-up parties than tacky mega-yachts or sabotaging health care bills.
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"Apologies for a couple of technical problems during that news bulletin," said BBC radio host Vic Minett, after her show played audio of a woman's screaming over a report from the murder trial of athlete Oscar Pistorius. "a few odd things sneaking in there."
The "technical glitch" at BBC Coventy & Warwickshire resulted first in canine howls, then in the screams, which played as a reporter described Pistorious's admitted shooting of Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine's Day last year. The screams were followed by boos and other effects.
"There was a technical mistake where sound effects being prepared in another studio for an unrelated item were accidentally broadcast over the news bulletin," the BBC said in a follow-up statement.
Twitter's 6-second video-sharing platform, Vine, has banned sexual content
. Depictions of "provocative" nudity, sex acts, clothed but "aroused" genitals, and "sexually graphic" artwork or animation is "not a good fit for our community," the company writes. [The Verge] — Rob
Following a much-derided court ruling
that found upskirt photos legal, legislators in Massachusetts rushed through a bill
to make absolutely clear to the state's esteemed judiciary that it is not OK to shove a camera up a woman's skirt in order to take photographs of her crotch. — Rob