Boing Boing 

Schools with makerspaces rule. This librarian tells you how build them.

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Renowned expert on makerspaces in school libraries, Laura Fleming, has written a great post about her experience embracing serendipity with curious students. In her class, she passed out some brain-computer-interface gadgets and let kids come up with their own applications. The results were surprising. One student is developing his own technology to help an autistic sibling communicate better.

Fleming's book comes out this month, called Best Practices for Establishing a Makerspace for Your School. It sounds a little too educator-focused for me, but it's likely a must-have for anyone involved in high-school STEM.

My favorite passage in Fleming's post is about the role of serendipity in making, and seems to get at a lightening-in-a-bottle quality that fires all good invention:

Serendipity is quickly becoming an important component in establishing a vibrant maker culture. As creative producers, students can take an experimental path to solving problems or creating things [without] an imposed curriculum or the pressure of satisfying someone else’s preconceived objectives, but instead influenced by personal goals and interests.

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Snail and slug tape is great for electronics projects

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Whether you're trying to quiet the hum on your old single coil Strat or Telecaster, or create a DIY wireless charging station for your phone, the copper tape sold to repel pests from the garden is an inexpensive and easy-to-manipulate material for the job.

slug_tape2 By the way, slugs actually do HATE copper tape, evidenced by a 2004 paper ("Behavioural response of slugs and snails to novel molluscicides, irritants and repellents") in which scientists placed snails and slugs in little time trails. Citing a slowed pace of .5 centimeters per minute, they concluded that the "copper significantly reduced the velocity of snails."

Apparently the whole copper-slug thing is an urgent question to some people. I admire this guy's testing setup: slugs

15th-Century supervillain

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This devil was painted between 1471 and 1475 by Austrian Michael Packer. The 40-by-35-inch altarpiece portrays the legend in which Saint Wolfgang reached out to old scratch for assistance in building a cathedral. But if you replaced the book with an iPad Air 2, it could be any design consultation between a homeowner and contractor.

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Via Rob's Webstek.

Great life advice from neon bassist

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Sure, the bassist who calls himself MonoNeon does a masterful accompaniment of the Jones Big Ass Truck Rental & Storage ads. But the real gem here is his manifesto at the end. I'll transcribe it below for clarity, because it's honestly very useful and freeing. (Maybe not the thing about the high-visibility clothing.) It doesn't matter if you're not a musician; make appropriate substitutions for things like "southern soul/blues/funk." The principles apply broadly.

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• Write your own vision and read it daily

• Have the southern soul/blues & funk at the bottom and the experimental/avant-guard at the top . .. (YOUR SOUND!)

• Make your life audible daily with the mistakes . . . the flaws . . . er' thang.

• Understand and accept that some people are going to like what you do and some are going to dislike it . .. when you understand and accept that dichotomy . . . move on!

• Embrace bizarre juxtapositions (sound, imagery, etc)

• Conceptualize art. Minimalism.

• Polychromatic color schemes. High-visibility clothing.

• DIY!

• Childlike.

• Reject the worldly idea of becoming a great musician . . . JUST LIVE MUSIC!

The dystopian future of quantified babies

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A group of design students from a Swedish university published an insightful academic paper last year spoofing all the baby health trackers now pitched to parents. The trackers measure things like a baby's breathing rate, heart rate, and sleep, and are made by startups including Mimo Baby, Owlet, Sproutling, and Monbaby.

Is this fear mongering for new moms? Or will these devices actually offer valuable data on infants? I think it's too early to tell. But the paper does a good job of critiquing the design pitfalls of the user experience. It argues such devices could needlessly raise anxiety and remove intuition from parenting.

There's a cool hand-drawn storyboard of a new mom deciding not to go the park with Johnny after she binges on biometric data:

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Also, a good rendering of an epidemiological map overlay that would show all the kids in your neighborhood suffering from excessive booger:

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The beauty of an energy-free treadmill

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I've been coveting the world’s best manual treadmill, the EcoMill ($7,000). But until I have a spare seven grand, I have to run with conventional electric mills. Most use a lot of juice -- between 800 and 1800 watts continuously -- because they have ot lock down a consistent pace with a low-cost mechanism.

At a sleepy little gym and pool complex here in Vermont, on a conventional electric machine this week, the current was so high it overloaded a nearby stereo receiver playing upbeat pop music for a water aerobics class. All of a sudden, seven wet, angry seniors swarmed from the pool. Encircled by bright floaties, they demanded I quit running so the music would come back on. I tried to explain the concept of a blown fuse and how treadmills use high wattage because they can’t rely on the friction like spin bikes and how the world really should invent a cheap electricity free mill. But at that only enraged them, and they gripped the handrails and rocked the machine side to side.

I really want my own EcoMill for the house. Or maybe a human-sized hamster wheel.

 

Don’t video your friends running -- it’s intellectual property theft

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Sports fans visiting huge coliseums are fairly accustomed to having their YouTube videos of the game removed. Expensive sports tickets typically contain prohibitions against shooting vids in the venue (and that’s a debate in itself). But shots of everyday people huffing and puffing over grass in a public space? Come on. A new policy by the nation’s largest running organization -- USA Track and Field -- nixes YouTube clips shot at the races it organizes, most of which are casual amateur events.

When a small running club (of which I’m a member) had its footage removed from YouTube and then called to ask why, the track and field association responded by comparing themselves to the NBA and saying the offending shots (of awkward running people) infringed on its intellectual property assets. The video in question has been linked in this article on the ordeal (Trigger Warning: endless shots of running followed by frank depictions of people dancing badly at some afterparty.)

Amazons with a Cause

Why are women first to pay for every crisis? In every society, capitalist, socialist, or transition? It's because the bodies of women are expendable.

I always noticed how women over eighty in Turin looked incredibly well, beautiful and loved and taken care of: desirable, because old and valuable. I connected this to Italy's long-established and sophisticated health care system. Italian hospitals were famous for methods which preserved the dignity of the patients, in tumor cures, especially breast cancer: the "invisible mastectomy" was invented in Milan. Rather than simply intervening in crisis, they were good at illness prevention and attentive follow-ups.

The economic crisis and financial harassment of Italy has reached this safe haven of health and dignity. In Turin, one of the best clinics for cure and prevention of breast cancer is about to be closed. The patients are on the streets, their appointments cannot be scheduled, they are paying for their urgent operations because their doctors cannot help them. The doctors are on the streets too.

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The Likes of Me: a dispatch from Jasmina Tesanovic

"Lunchtime at Rosa House, a woman-run shelter in Zagreb, Croatia. Photo by Center for Women War Victims. From "The Suitcase: Refugee Voices from Bosnia and Croatia."

A couple of days ago, the two former members of the Croatian military won a "not guilty" sentence in the Hague international war crime tribunal.

   I was not present in the general headquarters of the Croatian army while they were deciding on their "Operation Storm" action of 1995.  I don't know if the telephone rang there.  I also don't know if President Bill Clinton personally told them to go ahead with the largest land offensive since World War II, because the CIA would help.  That is what certain Serbian newspapers published recently.

     I have a remarkable lack of knowledge about world paramilitary conspiracies, secret chambers in the Vatican,  mysterious double-agents doing their jobs badly. Generally, the things I know are in the public domain, because  people said these things publicly and I took notes, or because I was just personally standing there.

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My night with the International Space Orchestra: Jasmina Tesanovic


The International Space Orchestra in front of Vacuum Chambers, NASA Ames Research Center. Photo: Neil Berrett.

I never dreamed I would be in a NASA base in California, singing and playing music.

The Ground Control Opera performance by Nelly Ben Hayoun, presented the International Space Orchestra, 50 local technicians and scientists, playing in the city of San Jose at the Zero1 Biennial 2012. The opera reenacts the first minutes of Neil Armstrong's landing on the Moon. It's dedicated to the memory of the recently gone cosmonauts and astronauts, and the endeavors of scientists at ground-control stations, still trying to make our 20th century dreams of spaceflight come true.

My daughter asked me when she mis-heard that I was singing for "NASA": Mom why are you singing to "NATO?" NATO bombed us in Serbia in 1999! I said my dear this is NASA, not NATO, they have planes and rockets but not bombers and missiles! They are searching for habitable planets with the Kepler space probe! Maybe there are other space controllers somewhere out there!

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Titanic Tales: The Costa Concordia

Photo: An oil removal ship is seen next to the Costa Concordia cruise ship as it ran aground off the west coast of Italy at Giglio island, January 16, 2012. Over-reliance on electronic navigation systems and a failure of judgement by the captain are seen as possible reasons for one of the worst cruise liner disasters of all time, maritime specialists say. (REUTERS/ Max Rossi)

When I read hastily the headlines on Jan 14—a shipwreck in Italy, seventy missing, three known dead—I immediately thought: it must be the Africans again. The refugees, the clandestine, the invisible, the nameless, the unwanted… Those "less-than-human" people coming from all over the world to the Italian coast, looking for a safe haven from dictatorships, from hunger.

My Somali Italian friend Suad, who works with her community In Italy now, urges her people in Somalia NOT to take that dangerous ride: even if you survive the trip, what waits for you in Italy can be fatal. Italy is in deep economic crisis today, on the verge of bankruptcy and social disorder. The new government struggling to remain a G8 power while the euro and United Europe are at stake. Italy also struggles to overcome a big moral value crisis after twenty years of Berlusconi's reign of sexism, racism, indolence and corruption.

But I was wrong about the Africans. It was a fancy cruise ship full of wealthy foreigners that wrecked unexpectedly near the island of Giglio.

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Response to Boing Boing post on "Police Pad" gadgets in Georgia, from the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia

Editor's Note: In response to an anonymously-sourced wisecrack we published about police corruption in former Soviet states, the Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs has responded with a statement, which we are more than happy to publish in full.

Georgian Police: Model for Successful Transformation

The article published on [Boing Boing on] January 12, 2012, about the initiative by the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia to introduce new portable field computers (so called “Police Pads”) ends with an anonymous quote declaring that "100% guaranteed those crooked, fat, lazy cops will be using these devices primarily for porn and Russian gambling services."

Stereotypes like this are easy to toss out—but are quite simply incorrect. This quote does not reflect the productivity, effectiveness, transparency, and reliability of the police force in Georgia today, but rather the bygone era of the 1990s, a reality that has drastically changed thanks to an ambitious and successful reform process.

The reform process in Georgia began immediately after the 2003 Rose Revolution. The new government inherited a completely corrupt and bloated law-enforcement system. The systemic corruption and the high level of crime throughout the country resulted in a very low level of public trust: fewer than 10% of Georgians had confidence in the police, according to 2003 polls. And the very low average policeman's salary (approximately $68 per month) made the soliciting of bribes routine. 

Georgia has since made the creation of an efficient and modern police force a national priority, undertaking a series of reforms that sought to rebuild the national police force literally from the ground up. The entire national police force was fired, and a new force hired, trained and deployed with the aim of meeting the highest international standards of professionalism.

These reforms are widely regarded as an unqualified success. Having reduced corruption and bribe taking to levels comparable to those in Europe, the police in Georgia have earned the trust and respect of the public they serve:

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Rome Burns

Photo: La Repubblica, Italy

That is the graffiti in one of the destroyed streets in this Saturday’s “indignati” demonstration. It ended in violence against the police, city security, and last but not least the pacifist organizers of the manifestation, in tune with the world wide movements OCCUPY.

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Outfest 2011: Preview of "Boingier" fare at the world's greatest LGBT film festival

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In July, Outfest has a slew of remarkable screenings and live events in LA. that Boing Boing readers should know about (disclosure: I'm proud to serve on the festival's board of directors).


The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye / Thee Majesty concert (July 9, 7pm. REDCAT)

Boing Boing fave and pioneering cult artists Genesis Breyer P-Orridge (Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV) and beloved Other Half Lady Jaye (who passed away at 39 years old in 2007) are the subject of The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye. Director Marie Losier documents the loving relationship of the two soul mates and collaborators, focusing on their Pandrogyne project. As an expression of their love, the pair received simultaneous surgical procedures to merge into a third pandrogynous being. Update from Genesis Breyer P-Orridge: "It's really a love, LOVE letter to Jaye and all the casualties of the pain of bigotry and bias too many of us experience." [apologies for the inaccurate earlier description! -AJ]

Following the film, Thee Majesty will play a full set of their ambient soundscapes and spoken word, led by Genesis. This rare performance will blend poetry, performance with music improvisation, hypnotic loops and blistering noise. Sounds like a Boing Boing lullaby!

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Richard Dawkins on vivisection: "But can they suffer?"

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The great moral philosopher Jeremy Bentham, founder of utilitarianism, famously said,'The question is not, "Can they reason?" nor, "Can they talk?" but rather, "Can they suffer?" Most people get the point, but they treat human pain as especially worrying because they vaguely think it sort of obvious that a species' ability to suffer must be positively correlated with its intellectual capacity. Plants cannot think, and you'd have to be pretty eccentric to believe they can suffer. Plausibly the same might be true of earthworms. But what about cows?

What about dogs? I find it almost impossible to believe that René Descartes, not known as a monster, carried his philosophical belief that only humans have minds to such a confident extreme that he would blithely spreadeagle a live mammal on a board and dissect it. You'd think that, in spite of his philosophical reasoning, he might have given the animal the benefit of the doubt. But he stood in a long tradition of vivisectionists including Galen and Vesalius, and he was followed by William Harvey and many others (See from which this picture is taken).

How could they bear to do it: tie a struggling, screaming mammal down with ropes and dissect its living heart, for example? Presumably they believed what came to be articulated by Descartes: that non-human animals have no soul and feel no pain.

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Europride and Gaga in Rome

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(Lady Gaga performs during a gay pride concert in downtown Rome. Stefano Rellandini / Reuters)

The gay icon Lady Gaga was there wearing her green wig, together with up to one million people marching chanting singing in a carnival gay pride march.

Rome is the capital of Vatican too, the place where Pope lives and preaches from his balcony every Sunday morning about how people should live and love. Lady Gaga's motto this Sunday was the power of love. She recalled her Italian origin and name ( La Germanotta) and, in a passionate speech, demanded immediate equal rights for the gays, meaning the right to get married, have children etc. While singing her new song Born This Way, an anthem to diversity...

But only few days ago, the Pope announced his firm opposition to equalize even straight informal marriages, that is, unions not sanctioned by God in a marriage sacrament. Where the Catholic church is concerned, gay marriages are not only a taboo topic but even a place of severe demonization and homophobia.

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Ratko Mladic, "God of Genocide," arrested

(PHOTOS / REUTERS. At left, in 1993: Bosnian Serb army Commander General Ratko Mladic (L) salutes.)

The self-proclaimed “God of genocide” in Srebrenica, the Serbian ethnic general Ratko Mladic was arrested today in a small village eighty kilometers from Belgrade.

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All Your Pics Are Belong to Us: at image hosting services, Terms and Conditions always apply

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Smartphone apps make it trivial to snap a photo, upload it to a host, and post a link to Twitter, sometimes in a single step. But by storing a photo on a hosting service to display via Twitter and beyond, you're assigning some subset of your copyright to that sharing site. Since the 1970s, copyright is inherent in the act of creation, no matter whether it's a snapshot or your life's work. There's a conflict when you present some license for your work to parties which you have only a slender thread of a relationship.

This came to a head last week and this due to changes made at the popular TwitPic service. On May 4th, TwitPic updated its terms of use. Before May 4th, the statement about copyright read:

All images uploaded are copyright © their respective owners.

This was modified to include a lengthy section on copyright that raised hackles because it seemed to give TwitPic an enormous grant of rights, even while assuring users that they owned their work. The motivation was likely to clarify policies after Agence France-Presse (AFP) used Haitian photographer Daniel Morel's images of the aftermath of the earthquake without permission. Morel uploaded images to TwitPic, which were then duplicated by another person, and AFP distributed them. A lawsuit is long underway. TwitPic's copyright information shown at that time was more ambiguous about who owned what.

Nonetheless, the new copyright terms raise more questions than they bury. One point of contention was a sloppy paragraph that said once you'd uploaded a picture to TwitPic you couldn't license it to the media, agencies, or other parties and have those groups retrieve it (with your permission) from TwitPic. On May 10th, the terms were revised again and that graf removed.

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Whither Wi-Fi in Warm Weather?

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Caroline Spelman. PHOTO: Reuters/Ueslei Marcelino One would think from reports today that the UK's secretary of state for the environment and rural affairs, MP Caroline Spelman, had lost her bleeding mind. Spelman has been widely quoted about a new report from her agency, Defra, about the threat to infrastructure from global climate change. It covers the extremes of temperature and the routine occurrence of heat above a normal range for the UK, and more storms and severe weather that could ravage Great Britain. The report is an analysis on what changes need be made to keep bridges from buckling in heat or cracking in cold, and nuclear and fossil-fuel plants from suffering damage from previously unthinkable conditions, as well as quotidian issues like floods polluting water supplies and spreading sewage. It's a ripping read, and, please recall, originates from the Tories, the majority conservative part of a coalition government that completely acknowledges the reality of a range of risk potential from climate change. The Conservatives are no Republicans, no matter what else you may say about them. Nonetheless the report's broader issues were overlooked because of a focus on an exceedingly tiny statement buried in it that Spelman highlighted in a speech unveiling the work. Her prepared remarks have her saying:

Our economy is built on effective transport and communications networks and reliable energy and water supplies. But the economy cannot grow if there are repeated power failures, or goods cannot be transported because roads are flooded and railways have buckled, or if intense rainfall or high temperatures disrupt Wi-Fi signals.

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Going up

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Photo by Ged Carroll. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
A recent article in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology makes a case that height makes right. That is, it cites four separate studies showing that people who were physically elevated (up on a raised platform, for example) behaved in a more humane and altruistic fashion than those below. As Scientific American notes today, "height is often used as a metaphor for virtue: moral high ground, God on high, looking up to good people, etc." The journal article, by Larry Sanna and associates at the University of North Carolina, suggests that height's value may be more than symbolic. What if, as one of the studies posits, escalators actually elevate good intentions: "Twice as many mall shoppers who had just ridden an up escalator contributed to the Salvation Army than shoppers who had just ridden the down escalator."

That said, escalators aren't all good.

Back issues of COILHOUSE now available digitally

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The fine folks at COILHOUSE magazine (mentioned many a time here in the past, and who featured Xeni and Boing Boing Video in issue 3 have just put made available for the first time all five back issues as DRM-free PDF downloads. Issues are $5 each or $20 for all five, with promises that the funds from this will go directly into the production of issue number 6. The COILHOUSE team are some of my favorite people; if you missed picking up the printed versions when they were available, now is your chance to catch up.

iPhone app store of "Color" may be best app store review ever

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The photo sharing/social network app Color launched last week, and much fuss was made for a variety of reasons: massive media hype, massive funding, and a complete lack of documentation about how people should actually use the app. Mike 3K found this brilliant iPhone app store review of Color, which makes the whole affair worthwhile. Read the whole thing here.

"The Wire" as a Dickens serial

dickensomar.jpgIt's one of those ideas that sounds less nuts the more you think about it: "The Wire" imagined as a 19th-century serialized novel. After all, David Simon's great multi-season drama had all the muckraking moral outrage of Charles Dickens (Google the reviews and try to count the number of times you see the word "Dickensian"), and its shifting viewpoint over five seasons gave it a similar historical sweep and reportorial authority. The real kick of "When It's Not Your Turn," though, is its obsessive attention to detail. You have to admire the dedication of creators Joy Delyria and Sean Michael Robinson, who seemingly cram every arcane bit of the show's rich mythology into a fake lit-crit essay. The illustrations, ostensibly by Baxter "Bubz" Black, just add to the goofy verisimilitude of the thing. It's a fabulous fraud.

Time lapse video of woman with HIV/AIDS

Just noticed this powerful advertisement from the Topsy Foundation. It was one of the winners at TED's "Ad's Worth Spreading" contest, which is generally worth checking out. This particular video does a great job (with a lovely twist at the end) at showing the effectiveness of HIV antiretroviral drugs (ARVs). There's also a followup video you can view that checks in on the woman (Selinah) as well as chatting with the folks behind the video. Although I realize that the ARVs have been made possible by the work done in the pharmaceutical industry, and that there is a chance that Topsy's programs are facilitated by kind donations from the same industry, it's still a pity that there isn't a more sustainable system for the provision of such drugs to developing countries. Pity that these sorts of medicines are usually priced way too high for individuals like Selinah, which is why so many go untreated and so many die. Pity also that laws like Bill C-393 (which aim to explore different ways to create that sustainable market and lower that price) are being deliberately stalled in government so as to guarantee not being passed. That kind of unfortunate reality deserves a megafacepalm.

Pole dancing for Jesus

It's hard to to top the phrase "pole dancing for Jesus" -- I dare you to even try -- because it satisfies so many absolutely awful contemporary needs in just four words. It's the perfect bogus local-news trend story. (I first saw it on Wonkette, but it was picked up from the Fox affiliate in Houston.) It's an SEO bonanza. And it's an awesome name for the next band you never heard of that's suddenly appearing on "Saturday Night Live" for some reason. The fact that it's an actual thing -- there's a class in it at a dance studio in Spring, TX, a northern suburb of Houston, and the newsbabe somberly assures the anchordude that "you have to bring your church program with you in order to get into the class' -- only makes it better. Or worse. Or something. "Tune in," newsbabe tells anchordude, promising him in this teaser segment that she herself will take a few twirls for Jesus in the nine o'clock hour. "We will," anchordude replies, a glittery mix of prurience and ratings-lust in his eyes. Or is that just good old-fashioned religious fervor? it's getting so hard to tell.

Killing Bill C-393 equals killing period. A visual aid for Canadian politicians.

donotkillbillc393.jpg For the interest of discussion, I've made the above visual aid for members of Canada's Senate, since this is the week that they have a chance to pass a Bill that "aims to make it easier for Canada to export affordable, life-saving, generic medicines to developing countries." I wrote about this Bill C-393 earlier, stating how the right choice (passing the bill and not killing the bill) is obvious. But then it occurred to me that if the decision was so obvious, then why is there so much "push back" from the pharmaceutical industry (as well as the Harper government). It turns out the reason appears to be about Bill C-393 representing a trend that "could potentially" lead to a loss of control over the status quo. This being the status quo that provides the pharmaceutical industry with an inordinate amount of lobbying power to set prices; a business model that values huge profits above innovation; and something that they are so focused on protecting that even the smallest of losses must be avoided no matter the consequences. Which is simply reprehensible - because with this Bill, the consequences are not just about patent control: it's about the livelihood of millions of people, where the decision to "kill" or "not kill" the Bill could literally be a matter of life or death. Please send an email to the Harper government by using this Avaaz link.

Pakistani Actress Veena Malik schools a mullah about Islam

[Video Link] Veena Malik is a Pakistani actress who appeared on the very popular Indian TV show Bigg Boss (the Indian version of Big Brother). In the clip above, a mullah tells her she brought shame on Pakistan with her behavior on the show, and that 100% of Pakistanis agree with him. The mullah also admits he didn't watch the show himself, but knows all of this to be true.

Veena responds by pretty much mopping up the floor with him. She points out out how her religion backs up her actions, where he's in violation of the same rules he's taking her to task for. She also says if he wishes to defend Islam, there are countless targets more deserving of close inspection, but here he is instead wasting his time complaining about an actress.

It's fantastic. The world needs to see more of this. Go Veena!

(via soupsoup)

Tsunami vs Japanese Harbor

[video link] This eyewitness video of the March 11 tsunami striking Japan shows how, in under 10 minutes, a harbor in Oirase Town, Aomori Prefecture goes from business as usual to, well, gone. While other videos have shown massive destruction or endless floods, this one shows a huge dry area that completely fills with water, making it easy to see just how much water was being pushed around. It's so hard to believe this actually happened. The guy filming it must have been scared to death.

AnonyMiss, the yin to the Anonymous yang

Anonymous - the global, low-orbiting, hackalicious Internet phenomenon - has been DDoSing perceived enemies of Wikileaks and more recently taking on a supportive role in the Arabist uprising. Anonymous seems to be everywhere. But percolating below the surface is an inchoate group of women working under the Anonymous banner: They're called AnonyMiss.

Although anyone can join Anonymous there was a public perception that the group was a little too testosteronic. A call was made for women to get involved, and AnonyMiss came into being. The entry point is the AnonyMiss IRC channel. From there, newer participants can be exposed to various Anonymous ops, get technical advice, and make their choices about how to get involved. Some chose to hang around the AnonyMiss channel and develop their own flavor of change.

Emma_A is involved with Anonymous and is helping to develop AnonyMiss. She spoke with about the recently formed group, and our conversation follows below.

(A disclosure: the more I learned about AnonyMiss, the more I felt inspired to personally support their work; it would be fair to say that I am now more of a supporter than a neutral observer.)

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Does the pharmaceutical industry exaggerate their R&D costs?

One of the principle claims for allowing pharmaceutical companies to continue their hold on current patent practices, is that research and development (or R&D) is very expensive. It just keeps coming up, and seems to be all the rage when arguing against things like the passing of Bill C-393 (which you can learn more about in this recent Boingboing post). Although the fact that there are high costs is obviously true, a recent paper published in Biosocieties would suggest that the oft cited statistics, the ones always used to support this assertion for lobbying or public relations purposes, may in fact be over inflated.

Here, the authors, Donald W. Light and Rebecca Warburton look closely at where these numbers come from:

"The most widely cited figures (by government officials and the industry's trade association for its global news network) for the cost to discover and bring a new drug (defined as a 'new chemical entity' or 'new molecular entity'; not a reformulation or recombination of existing drugs) to market are US$802 million in 2000. This has been updated by 64 per cent to $1.32 billion in 2006."

From this paper, we basically learn that the primary source of these figures come from one particular study published in 2003 and done by Joseph DiMasi, Ronald Hansen, and Henry Grabowski at the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development in Boston, Massachusetts. In general, there are issues of bias in how such figures were calculated, and the Light and Warburton paper systematically looks at a number of variables that would suggest that the $802 million number, as well as subsequent numbers which extrapolate from this figure, are a gross over-estimate.

The paper is definitely worth a read, having a number of points that would suggest strong mistrust for these industry figures. Examples include:

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