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. Read the rest

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.

Read the rest

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Inside Kabul: landmine survivor aid activist live-blogs from lockdown in Afghanistan

I've known of James Hathaway and the NGO he co-founded, Clear Path International, for many years. They do great work to help civilian survivors of landmine blasts, people who now have disabling injuries, live better lives through medical care, education, improved mobility and access, and other forms of support. Clear Path originally focused their efforts in Vietnam, but have since expended into other conflict/post-conflict zones including Cambodia and Afghanistan.

Afghanistan, James says, is “by far our largest project,” with work ongoing in 19 of the country's 34 provinces. James returned to Kabul to work with the CPI team there, just as the security situation abruptly escalated to a new level of crisis.

James and crew are spending a lot of time with bulletproof vests on, in safe rooms, and surrounded by very heavily armed security guys. James is blogging daily, and explains why he's there and what they're trying to accomplish in the following account, republished here in entirety with permission.

Read the rest

The invisible genocide of women

Video Link.

The recently-launched Women Under Siege website is a new project of the NYC-based Women’s Media Center, and features a number of powerful essays and features by women, about sexual violence against women. There's an account by CBS News correspondent Lara Logan, who survived a sexual assault while covering uprisings in the Middle East; another about covering sexualized war in Congo by Lynsey Addario, who survived the same.

In this post, I'd like to draw special attention to a feature on the site about a subject with which I have personal familiarity: violence against indigenous women in Guatemala. Though the country's long civil war is over, the femicidio is not. Snip:

More than 100,000 women were raped in the 36 years of the Guatemalan genocide in which at least 200,000 people died. In this video, photojournalists Ofelia de Pablo and Javier Zurita interview survivors and document the ongoing forensic and legal investigation that has just indicted former Guatemalan President Efraín Ríos Montt.

There are so many powerful stories on the Women Under Siege website. Below, a photo by Ms. Addario, from Congo: "Lwange, 51, with her daughter, Florida, who had been raped the week before this photo was taken in 2008. The child had screamed at the time, then bled. With her vagina and her young psyche damaged, Florida would no longer speak."

Read the rest

All is not well in Greece

A gasoline bomb explodes at riot police during a huge anti-austerity demonstration in Athens' Syntagma (Constitution) square February 12, 2012. Historic cinemas, cafes and shops went up in flames in central Athens on Sunday as black-masked protesters fought Greek police outside parliament, while inside lawmakers looked set to defy the public rage by endorsing a new EU/IMF austerity deal. Below, a protester hurls rocks at riot police; another flees.

(photos: REUTERS)

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Project Unbreakable

Grace Brown created "Project Unbreakable" in October, 2011, and the tumblog appears to really be gathering momentum. The idea: "Use photography to help heal those who were sexually abused by asking them to write a quote from their attacker on a poster and photographing them holding the poster."

So many stories from so many different people. Men, too, not only women. I was so moved by this post, which includes both a photograph and an audio narrative by an elderly woman who was sexually abused as a 12-year-old girl during World War II in Germany. Do listen to her story.

"You can never forget it. It is in your brain, marked like a stamp," she says. "I still suffer from it."

(via Jay Rosen) Read the rest

In Russia, tiny protest sparks big police response: LEGO minifigs, South Park dolls, and Wall-e demonstrate for democracy

(Photo above: RFE-RL; below, Ivan Krupchik.)

Authorities in Russia are investigating the legality of a "doll demonstration" demanding "clean elections" in the Siberian city of Barnaul, and looking for the humans responsible.

Russian news agency RIA Novosti reports that Russia's police "[arrest] anyone, young or old, who takes part in an "unsanctioned" opposition rally"—so, some citizens in Barnaul created a protest tableau composed of dolls, instead.

Lego minifigs, South Park ("Team America"?) characters, stuffed dollies, Shreks, gnomes, elves, and Wall-e robots carrying protest placards were placed on an icy ledge in the town's center on January 7 and 14. This act followed police crackdowns on two protests by normal-sized people back in December. The focus of all the protests, large and small? Political corruption, and the results of Russia's parliamentary elections.

From RIA Novosti:

Most of the figurines held up little signs affixed to toothpicks with satirical messages on them, such as "146%", in reference to a southern region where state television inadvertently reported a 146 per cent turnout in recent elections. Other toys held caricatures of the Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, and President Dmitry Medvedev.

The victory of Mr Putin's United Russia Party in last month's parliamentary polls, amid allegations of fraud, brought tens of thousands of protesters onto Moscow's streets. The government seemed to realise it could not take the usual repressive action against the demonstrators in the capital, but in Barnaul authorities "did everything possible" to block protests, Andrei Teslenko, one of the organisers, said.

Read the rest

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PIPA/SOPA understanding and action: flowchart edition

Joey Sellers sez, "I know you've been covering PIPA-SOPA and wanted to share a large flowcart I just completed on the subject. It brings together a slew of material to get folks new to the subject up to speed and fill in the blanks for those who have been following it."

Super PIPA-SOPA Flowchart (Thanks, Joey!) Read the rest

Activists alter 85 BofA ATMs in SF to become "Automated Truth Machines"

Rainforest Action Network claims responsibility for the art-prank intervention.

RAN activists took to the streets of San Francisco last night and turned every Bank of America ATM in the city into an Automated Truth Machine. The activists used special non-adhesive stickers designed to look exactly like BoA’s ATM interface. But instead of checking and savings accounts, these new menus offered a list of everything BoA customers’ money is being used for, including investment in coal-fired power plants, foreclosure on Americans’ homes, bankrolling of climate change, and paying for fat executive bonuses.

(Via Mother Jones) Read the rest

Senate set to pass bill that redefines America as a "battlefield," authorizes indefinite military detention of US citizens without charge or trial

The US Senate's Defense Authorization Bill redefines America as a "battlefield" and authorizes US troops to conduct military arrests of civilians on US soil, and to indefinitely detain citizens without charge or trial. The ACLU wants you to write to your senator and demand that this insanity not pass.

The Senate is going to vote on whether Congress will give this president—and every future president — the power to order the military to pick up and imprison without charge or trial civilians anywhere in the world. Even Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) raised his concerns about the NDAA detention provisions during last night’s Republican debate. The power is so broad that even U.S. citizens could be swept up by the military and the military could be used far from any battlefield, even within the United States itself.

The worldwide indefinite detention without charge or trial provision is in S. 1867, the National Defense Authorization Act bill, which will be on the Senate floor on Monday. The bill was drafted in secret by Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) and passed in a closed-door committee meeting, without even a single hearing.

I know it sounds incredible. New powers to use the military worldwide, even within the United States? Hasn’t anyone told the Senate that Osama bin Laden is dead, that the president is pulling all of the combat troops out of Iraq and trying to figure out how to get combat troops out of Afghanistan too? And American citizens and people picked up on American or Canadian or British streets being sent to military prisons indefinitely without even being charged with a crime.

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Occupy News Bins: miniature Lego OWS, complete with pepper-spraying cop

"No property was harmed during this installation," DocPop tells us about this hilarious teeny-tiny Lego Occupy. "From what I understand the piece has already been removed though I don't know by whom."

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Egypt police detain, beat, sexually assault US-based journalist Mona Eltahawy; other journalists also targeted

[video link] US-based Egyptian blogger, speaker, and journalist Mona Eltahawy was released today after spending 12 hours detained by Egyptian security forces in Cairo. According to her tweets, she was arrested by riot police while observing the ongoing protests in Tahrir Square, where thousands of Egyptian citizens are calling for the military junta SCAF to be disbanded, and a representative, democratically-elected leadership to take their place.

While she was held, Mona managed to tweet from a fellow detainee's Blackberry that she had been beaten and was in prison. When she was released, Mona tweeted more details: she had been sexually and physically assaulted, and sustained a broken arm and a broken hand from beatings inside the interior ministry in Cairo, in the early hours of Thursday morning.

"The whole time I was thinking about article I would write," she writes, "Just you fuckers wait."

A number of journalists and well-known voices from Twitter have been detained in the last few days, including Egyptian-American documentary maker Jehane Noujaim, and Maged Butter, shown below (WARNING: graphic image): Read the rest

Interview with a pepper-sprayed UC Davis student

Photo:Brian Nguyen/The Aggie.

22-year-old UC Davis student W. (name withheld by request) was one of the students pepper-sprayed at point-blank range Friday by Lt. John Pike while seated on the ground, arms linked and silent.

W. tells Boing Boing that Pike sprayed them at close range with military-grade pepper spray, in a punitive manner. Pike knew the students by name from Thursday night when they "occupied" a campus plaza. The students offered Pike food and coffee and chatted with him and other officers while setting up tents. On Friday, UC Davis chancellor Linda Katehi told students they had to remove their #OWS tents for unspecified "health and safety" reasons.

"Move or we're going to shoot you," Pike is reported to have yelled at one student right before delivering pepper spray. Then, turning to his fellow officers and brandishing the can in the air, "Don't worry, I'm going to spray these kids down."

Photo:Brian Nguyen/The Aggie.

XJ: So, we see in the videos and photos that you were one of the students pepper-sprayed by Lieutenant John Pike yesterday. How are you doing today?

W: I still have a burning sensation in my throat, lips and nose, especially when I start coughing, or when I'm lying in bed. Everyone who got sprayed has sustained effects like this.

XJ: Can you tell us how it happened, from where you were sitting?

W: I'd pulled my beanie hat over my eyes, to protect my eyes. I received a lot of pepper spray in my throat. Read the rest

One day after pepper-spraying, UC Davis students silently, peacefully confront Chancellor Katehi

[Video Link]

I thought I wouldn't see a more dramatic video than the ones yesterday of the pepper-spraying of students by police at UC Davis. I was wrong.

In the video above, UC Davis students, silent, with linked arms, confront Chancellor Linda Katehi just one day after the incident. It's hard to tell exactly how many of them are present, but there they are, a huge crowd. They're seated in the same cross-legged-on-the-ground position their fellow students were yesterday just before Lt. John Pike pulled out a can of pepper spray and pulled the trigger.

Note that Katehi remains silent during what looks like her perp walk. She does not acknowledge the presence of the students. And yet, within an hour she was live on CNN explaining away the pepper-spray incident to host Don Lemon, who had to cut her off a few times because her responses were so long-winded.

Student videographer Anna Sturla shot the video above for the Davis Senior High School's newspaper/website's, The HUB.

More at The Second Alarm blog:

A pretty remarkable thing just happened. A press conference, scheduled for 2:00pm between the UC Davis Chancellor and police on campus, did not end at 2:30. Instead, a mass of Occupy Davis students and sympathizers mobilized outside, demanding to have their voice heard. After some initial confusion, UC Chancellor Linda Katehi refused to leave the building, attempting to give the media the impression that the students were somehow holding her hostage. A group of highly organized students formed large gap for the chancellor to leave.

Read the rest

After pepper-spraying incident, UC Davis redesigns website

Link. They might want to rethink that motto, however. (thanks, @justinq!)

 Police officer pepper-sprays seated, non-violent students at UC Davis Read the rest

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