Last chance to save Net Neutrality

Millions of people have signed petitions and submitted comments to the FCC. This is your last chance. This website you're reading—and pretty much every other website you're going to interact with today—would not be here today if the FCC's "fast lane" rules had been in place when we started.

In the 1980s, the cable companies breathlessly predicted a "500 channel universe" where you could choose from up to a whopping 500 entertainment feeds. Today, I read more than 500 RSS feeds. The right number of "channels" for entertainment, information, and community in the 21st century isn't 500. It may be more than 5,000,000,000.

If you do one thing this year to make the world a better place, do this. There's lots of important stuff out there -- the situation in Syria and Iraq, global warming, mass surveillance. But without a free and fair and open Internet, we'll never be able to organize to change it.

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NYT endorses brutal, secret, Internet-destroying corporatist TPP trade-deal; write to your lawmaker to fight it

The New York Times has endorsed the Trans-Pacific Partnership; a trade deal negotiated in utmost secrecy, without public participation, whose text is still not public. From leaks, we know that TPP wasn't just anti-democratic in its process -- it also contains numerous anti-democratic provisions that allow private offshore companies to overturn domestic law, especially laws that allow for free speech and privacy online. TPP is slated for fast-tracking through Congress, minimizing any scrutiny of a deal negotiated behind closed doors before it is turned into law. From what we've seen of TPP, it recapitulates all the worst elements of ACTA and then some. The Electronic Frontier Foundation needs you to write to your lawmaker demanding full and public debate on TPP.

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Cellphone unlocking is the first step toward post-SOPA copyright reform

Derek Khanna was a Professional Staffer for the Republican Study Committee in the House of Representatives. Khanna, 24, previously worked on Mitt Romney’s 2008 presidential campaign and in the office of Senator Scott Brown (R-MA).

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Wyclef Jean's highly-hyped Haiti charity defunct and in debt, surprising approximately nobody

Yéle, the Haiti charity of rock star Wyclef Jean that took in some $16 million after the 2010 eaarthquake, is bust. How bust? So bust that their domain, yele.org, has expired.

Deborah Sontag in the NYT, writing about the rockstar who once thought himself a good choice as president of Haiti:

"In a new memoir, Wyclef Jean, the Haitian-born hip-hop celebrity, claims he endured a “crucifixion” after the Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake when he faced questions about his charity’s financial record and ability to handle what eventually amounted to $16 million in donations."

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Poop Strong: Cancer patient whose costs exceeded insurance cap wins victory, via Twitter

Arijit, 31, is graduate student in Arizona who was diagnosed about a year and a half ago with stage IV colon cancer. He endured multiple surgeries, and grueling rounds of chemotherapy. Then, in February, 2012, the cost of his treatment exceeded the lifetime limit on his graduate student health plan, which is managed by Aetna.

His coverage was terminated. His cancer was not.

He launched what we cancer patients sometimes refer to as an internet lemonade stand: a site called Poop Strong (a light-hearted parody of "Livestrong"). At poopstrong.org, he invited well-wishers to make a donation or buy schwag, with all proceeds going to his healthcare.

But, big news today, as his pal Kirk Caron tells Boing Boing,

In the six months between when he was dropped and when he'll be picked up by another student health plan, he's been looking at well over $100K in medical bills for his treatments. In addition to updates about his own condition and the state of Poop Strong, Arijit's been tweeting (naturally) about the state of health insurance, and recently, Aetna got involved. The conversation (as Twitter convos tend to do) sort of spirals out from the main thread between Arijit and Aetna.

That's an understatement! Arijit ended up debating directly with the CEO of Aetna, Mark T. Bertolini. The tl;dr: Aetna, and Mr. Bertolini, agreed in the end to cover the full extent of bills that accrued since Arijit was dropped from insurance (about $118,000).

"The system is broken," said Bertolini. "I really am trying to fix it."

Arijit is redirecting all of the donations he received the University of Arizona Cancer Center Patient Assistance Fund and The Wellness Community (Arizona), to directly assist other people with cancer who cannot pay for the life-saving medical treatments they need.

I spoke with Arijit today, and will be publishing a transcript/audio of our conversation soon. He's a really cool guy, and he has some insights from this experience that I think everyone should hear. It looks like Arijit is covered, for now, but the system is still broken. The debate over health care costs has become a political football—but for people like me and Arijit and everyone else in America who isn't in the 1%, health care costs are literally a matter of life and death. No one should suffer or die because they can't afford medical treatment. It really is that simple.

Arijit's friend Jen Wang created a Storify of the twitter exchange between Arijit, Aetna's PR reps, and Aetna's CEO. You can read this below.

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In Tibet, a mother of 3 burns herself alive in protest of Chinese rule

A woman identified as Rikyo, said to be 33 years old and the mother of three young children, burned herself to death today in what is believed to have been another desperate act of protest against China’s repressive policies in Tibet. According to the Tibetan pro-sovereignty website Phayul, she set herself on fire near the Jonang Zamthang Gonchen monastery in Zamthang county, in Ngaba region, the epicenter of a continuing wave of Tibetan self-immolations.

Rikyo’s body is currently being kept at the Jonang Monastery, although Chinese security personnel have reportedly demanded the body to be removed. Rikyo is survived by her husband and three children, the eldest, a 9-year old son and two daughters aged 7 and 5.

Just three days ago, two ethnic Tibetan men self-immolated in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, at what is considered to be the ancient city's most important temple. Chinese police and firefighters arrived at Jokhang, extinguished flames, and removed the men. Their whereabouts and conditions are unknown.

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What we teach children about police

"Someone is causing a lot of trouble."


Josh Stearns, a reporter who has covered the Occupy movement extensively, asks, "Why is this children's book teaching my kid about SWAT vehicles and Riot Control practices?" From his blog post:

Visiting the local library yesterday my son picked out a book all about police. I was stunned when, after pages and pages of info about police cars and police offices, there were these two pages about Riot Control Trucks and SWAT Vans.

Even after months of tracking conflicts between police and the press I still have a profound respect for much of law enforcement and the jobs they do in our communities. However, the descriptions of water cannons being turned on protesters and the taunting opening on the SWAT page, “Someone’s causing a lot of trouble…,” all seemed out of place. Given the increasingly militarized response we have seen to citizen protests, seeing Riot and SWAT teams portrayed this way in a children’s book was troubling.

More scans here.

If you'd like to pick up a copy as a gag gift for your favorite police-beaten Occupier, the book is "Police Cars." Google Books has a few scanned pages here.

Germany: Riot police clear Occupy Frankfurt (photo)

REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

German riot police carry a demonstrator fully covered in paint as police clears the camp of occupy protestors in front of the European Central Bank (ECB) in Frankfurt, May 16, 2012.

Screwed by the TSA? Now there's an app for that.

Via the BB Submitterator, BB reader rbrammer says:

The Sikh Coalition just released the FlyRights app. It’s a smart phone app that gives travelers who believe they’ve been the victim of discrimination by the TSA the ability to submit formal complaints directly from their smart phones. You should have this on your phone the next time you fly!

Available for both Android and iOS. Makes perfect sense to me that a Sikh organization would be the one to put this together, given all of the idiot-hate that community has received post-9/11.

Henna "crowns" for chemotherapy patients

Samaritan Magazine has a fun article here about Henna Heals, a charity based in Toronto, Canada that offers a free service to cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy: beautiful henna designs applied to their chemo-bald heads. The organization was created by photographer Frances Darwin, who also captures the resulting designs in photos. Snip:

The swirling, intricate drawings, which are safe, temporary and applied by skilled artists, command the eye to the head of the henna wearer, inspiring awe rather than pity while offering an alternative to wigs or hats. Perhaps more importantly, these henna "crowns" offer women suffering hair loss -- and the accompanying lost sense of femininity that brings -- a chance to feel uniquely lovely while inviting gentle dialog about a tricky subject.

When I began chemo as treatment for breast cancer, a number of friends suggested henna designs to me, too. I haven't done it yet, but I'm still chemo-bald... so it's not too late! Might be worth a trip up to Toronto to visit these guys. A beautiful project, and really pretty designs.

Cancer Patients Transformed By Gorgeous Henna Dome Designs | Samaritan Mag.

(Photo: Frances Darwin; model: Tara Schubert; henna: Darcy Vasudev. Link via Chris Woodfield)

Million Hoodie March for Trayvon Martin under way in NYC

A large crowd of protesters, between 2,000 and 5,000 by various estimates, are marching through the streets of New York right now to draw attention to the killing of Trayvon Martin. The Florida teen was shot to death last month, in a case that has generated widespread outrage online.

Tim Pool has been running a live video stream of the march.

Here's a quick link to the relevant Twitter hashtag (#millionhoodiemarch), to follow tweets from people who are there. Seems like a lot of youth are present at this one, perhaps more so than at recent Occupy marches in New York. People are wearing hoodies, carrying bottles of iced tea and throwing Skittles in the air: Trayvon was wearing one, and holding that candy and beverage when he was shot. So far, police presence is high, but interactions are peaceful, and the crowd is doing its thing without much NYPD aggression. That could change before the night is through.

The parents of the slain teen are present, and addressed the crowd earlier.

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Family Restaurant, film for kids with gay / lesbian parents

Boing Boing pal and periodic guestblogger Andrea James sends word of a cool and worthy project she's doing, and raising funds for via Kickstarter: "Family Restaurant," a film for children whose moms and/or dads are LGBT.

"There are very few family-friendly films where kids with gay or lesbian parents can enjoy a fun story that reflects their own lives," Andrea says, "I think it's going to be pretty cute and a teensy bit controversial. All art is political!"

From Andrea's project description:

"Family Restaurant" celebrates young children with gay or lesbian parents. It shows them a magical world filled with cute characters who reflect their family lives. Set in a family restaurant, it features talking ketchup and mustard bottles among the colorful residents of the diner. It has a mix of puppetry and actors, including a number of real children with gay or lesbian parents.

I serve on the Board of Directors of Outfest, a prominent LGBT film festival. Each year, Outfest has a family day for children to watch movies, but there are very few family-friendly films where these kids can enjoy a fun story that reflects their own lives. It's time to make something specifically for these wonderful children, with a story that's charming enough to appeal to all young people.

Pitch in or learn more here.

Revealed! Kony 2012's sinister Musical Comedy roots

From the first time I watched "Kony 2012," I always sensed a link with the storyline of Matt Stone and Trey Parker's Book of Mormon musical. But sweet fancy Moses, I did not know how closely linked the two truly were.

Aaron Stewart-Ahn tells us about the video above (which has been taken down by Invisible Children, but mirrored elsewhere):

Here's where the money has been going to: Invisible Children founder Jason Russell's vanity dance musical numbers which start off with exploitative footage of suffering children. How did no one else catch this? It makes the Kony 2012 video look subtle and sane. He's basically using this to fund his desire to make Glee.

This is where the millions are being spent: vanity musicals. Did Trey Parker write this??!! Russell has mentioned repeatedly how his ambitions were to make musicals. He intimated that he was going to make the musical popular again á la Glee, but this didn't work out—so he ended up in advocacy. It was that chat at the evangelical conference. So, here's a direct youtube link to 9m 10secs in the video where he talks about making musicals, and casually talks about his dream of documenting genocide.

That bit with the t-shirt with the African child on it is just... I'm speechless. Wonder why they've removed it from their YouTube channel, since it looks so damn expensive? It's insane, isn't it? I mean, seriously: it makes Scientology videos look charmingly naive.

UK funnyman Charlie Brooker has a bit of fun with Invisible Children and the Kony 2012 viral phenomenon, in the video embedded below.

Bonus round, below. Brooker asks, "Can ANYONE explain how this EPIC visual embarrassment helps Africa? OH GOD THERE'S MORE. Also: how much did this cost, did donations fund it, and what the TWIRLING FUCK does it mean?"

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At SXSW, homeless people become WiFi hotspots

[Video Link]

Over the weekend, I noticed that David Gallagher of The New York Times observed in Austin, "Homeless people have been enlisted to roam the streets wearing T-shirts that say 'I am a 4G hotspot.”

A number of other folks I follow on Twitter who are attending the annual SXSW event there mentioned it, too, with concern. Here's the project's website, detailing their system to PayPal each "homeless hotspot" person directly. "We suggest $2 per 15 minutes."

The project was created by a team at global ad agency BBH.

Jon Mitchell at RWW has more. The problem, as he sees it:

The Homeless Hotspots website frames this as an attempt "to modernize the Street Newspaper model employed to support homeless populations." There's a wee little difference, though. Those newspapers are written by homeless people, and they cover issues that affect the homeless population. By contrast, Homeless Hotspots are helpless pieces of privilege-extending human infrastructure. It's like it never occurred to the people behind this campaign that people might read street newspapers. They probably just buy them to be nice and throw them in the garbage.

Tim Carmody at Wired News has more about the project's roots, and why he and others find it troubling:

This is my worry: the homeless turned not just into walking, talking hotspots, but walking, talking billboards for a program that doesn’t care anything at all about them or their future, so long as it can score a point or two about digital disruption of old media paradigms. So long as it can prove that the real problem with homelessness is that it doesn’t provide a service.

Homeland Security memo warned of violent threat posed by Occupy Wall Street

An October, 2011 Department of Homeland Security memo on Occupy Wall Street warned of the potential for violence posed by the "leaderless resistance movement." (via @producermatthew).

Update: Looks like there's a larger Rolling Stone feature on this document:

As Occupy Wall Street spread across the nation last fall, sparking protests in more than 70 cities, the Department of Homeland Security began keeping tabs on the movement. An internal DHS report entitled “SPECIAL COVERAGE: Occupy Wall Street [PDF]," dated October of last year, opens with the observation that "mass gatherings associated with public protest movements can have disruptive effects on transportation, commercial, and government services, especially when staged in major metropolitan areas." While acknowledging the overwhelmingly peaceful nature of OWS, the report notes darkly that "large scale demonstrations also carry the potential for violence, presenting a significant challenge for law enforcement."