Boing Boing 

Gay Boy Scout denied his Eagle Scout award

Back in the Summer, I told you about a movement among Eagle Scouts, some of whom have been sending back their awards — in effect, resigning — in protest of The Boys Scouts of America's discriminatory policy banning gay, bi, and trans scouts and troop leaders, as well as atheists.

Here's a great example of the people those men are trying to stick up for: Ryan Andresen is 17, he's been in Boy Scouts for over a decade and has completed all the Eagle Scout requirements, including working with younger kids on a tolerance/anti-bullying project for his community service requirement.

But Andresen isn't going to get to be an Eagle Scout, because he's openly gay.

The Boy Scouts of America sent a statement to several news organizations, including ABC, in which they say they didn't inquire about Ryan's sexual orientation.

"This scout proactively notified his unit leadership and Eagle Scout counselor that he does not agree to scouting's principle of 'Duty to God' and does not meet scouting's membership standard on sexual orientation," Deron Smith, a spokesman for the organization said in a statement. "Agreeing to do one's 'Duty to God' is a part of the scout Oath and Law and a requirement of achieving the Eagle Scout rank."

In an interview with Yahoo! News Ryan said that his scoutmaster knew he was gay.

"He had been telling me all along that we'd get by the gay thing," Ryan told Yahoo News. "It was by far the biggest goal of my life. It's totally devastating."

Read more at National Public Radio's news blog

Check out a Tumblr collecting nearly 200 Eagle Scout resignation letters from adults who no longer want to be associated with an organization that would deny a kid something he's worked hard to achieve simply because that kid is gay. (Again, the BSA is entitled to its opinion on this matter. But its members are also entitled to express their disgust with that opinion.)

Associated Press: As dozens of Eagle Scouts resign, Boy Scouts of America ignores them

I recently posted a couple of articles featuring heartfelt letters from people who had earned their Eagle Scout awards as boys, but no longer wanted to be associated with the Boy Scouts of America and its rule banning gay scouts and GBLT troop leaders. Instead, they were choosing to return their awards to the BSA, in hopes that scouting's national organization would recognize that this rule isn't something all scouts want. In fact, many wrote about their frustration with what they see as the BSA failing to live up to the values that scouting teaches.

As of August 4, more than 80 former Eagle Scouts have sent photos of their resignation letters to the Eagle Scouts Returning Our Badges Tumblr blog, where the letters and the protest they represent are being archived.

Reading the comments that have turned up here at BoingBoing, I get the sense that there are many more Eagle Scouts—and active Boy Scout troops—that also disagree with the BSA, but don't want to resign from local connections that don't reflect the national organization's bigotry. In fact, the Northern Star Council, which represents 75,000 scouts in Minnesota and Wisconsin, is openly bucking Boy Scouts of America policy, and has been for years.

The Associated Press ran a piece yesterday looking at this dissent and the effect—or, it seems, lack thereof—it is having on BSA policy.

Deron Smith, the Boy Scouts' national spokesman, said there was no official count at his office of how many medals had been returned. He also noted that about 50,000 of the medals are awarded each year.

Beyond the Eagle Scout protests, the Boy Scouts' reaffirmation of the no-gays policy has drawn condemnation from liberal advocacy groups, newspaper editorialists and others. In Washington state, Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna, an Eagle Scout, joined his Democratic opponent, Jay Inslee, in suggesting the policy be changed.

But overall there has been little evidence of any new form of outside pressure that might prompt the Scouts to reconsider.

The leadership of the Scouts' most influential religious partners - notably the Mormons, Roman Catholics and Southern Baptists - appears to support the policy. And even liberal politicians seem reluctant to press the issue amid a tense national election campaign.

Read the rest of the Associated Press story

Eagle Scouts make a Tumblr for protest letters

Earlier this week, I posted a couple batches of letters from grown-up Eagle Scouts who chose to resign their hard-earned, elite awards in protest of the Boy Scouts of America's policy banning gay and atheist scouts and troop leaders.

I'm still getting letters in the mail. These things are coming in faster than I can update the posts. Which is why I'm very glad that several former Eagle Scouts have taken matters into their own hands, starting a Tumblr that can play host to all these letters, and all the ones going forward.

Burke Stansbury put the site together. In his own resignation letter, he wrote:

I am not proud to be affiliated with an organization that excludes people based on their sexuality. Many of my closest friends are gay, lesbian, or transgender and it pains me to think that I invested time in an organization that prohibits their membership. It's a shameful, bigoted policy. Plain and simple.

I'll be contacting people who have sent me letters recently about whether it's okay to forward their emails to Burke. And if you'd like your letter to be archived on the Tumblr, there's an easy-to-use submission form right on the site.

Eagle Scouts Returning Our Badges on Tumblr

PREVIOUSLY:
Eagle Scouts Stand Up To the Boy Scouts of America
More Men Join the Ranks of Former Eagle Scout

More men join the ranks of Former Eagle Scout

On Monday, I published a letter from my husband, Christopher Baker, to the Boy Scouts of America. In that letter, Baker returned his hard-earned Eagle Scout award and explained that he no longer wanted to be associated with an organization that discriminated against gay teenagers and GBLT parents.

Read the rest

Eagle Scouts stand up to the Boy Scouts of America: *UPDATED*

If you aren’t familiar with American Boy Scouting’s Eagle Scout award, it might be a little hard to explain how important this story really is.

Read the rest

Full Body Burden: Memoir about family secrets, government secrets, and the risks of industrial pollution

Image: A worker at Rocky Flats handles a piece of plutonium using gloves built into a sealed box. The plutonium was bound for the innards of a nuclear bomb.

Read the rest

Domestic violence can happen to anyone

Four years ago, Jana Mackey, one of my college roommates at The University of Kansas, was killed by her ex-boyfriend. When I lived with Jana, I knew her as a music major and a really fun person. But she had a serious side that came to the forefront over the next few years. Jana went to law school, got involved in domestic violence activism, and became a lobbyist at the Kansas State Legislature trying to bring attention to women's health and safety.

Her work made her death tragically ironic, but it also drives home a point. Domestic violence (whether physical or emotional) isn't just something that happens to the naive, or the weak. It's not something you can write off as "somebody else's problem."

There's a picture going around Facebook right now, of a young woman holding a sign that says, "Society teaches, 'Don't get raped' when it should teach 'Don't rape.'" I think the same thing is true here. There's too much focus on finding reasons to criticize or distance ourselves from women who have been abused, and not enough of a focus on preventing abuse from happening—by teaching kids how to have healthy relationships, by encouraging family and friends to step in when they see someone they know being abusive, and by making sure cops and courts take domestic violence seriously.

Jana's family is trying to rectify this through a nonprofit called Jana's Campaign. The Campaign put out this video last winter. On the anniversary of Jana's death, I wanted to share it with you. There's a message here. Take it to heart. Together, we can stop asking people, "Why did you let that happen to yourself?" and, instead, find ways to change the social values and incentives that allow abusers to go unchallenged, untreated, and unpunished.

Visit the website for Jana's Campaign

The perils and pitfalls of an all-volunteer road crew

There's a great, illustrated history of America's highway system—from the Colonial period to the 1970s—that can be read for free on OpenLibrary.

I've just thumbed through it a bit so far, but it reminded me of a book I read a couple of years ago, Consuming Nature: Environmentalism in the Fox River Valley, 1850-1950. That book, by Greg Summers, a professor the University of Wisconsin - Steven's Point, is about how electric and highway infrastructures were built up in Wisconsin. It's also about the socio-cultural changes that led first to the construction of infrastructure and then, later, to fear over what infrastructure had done to the environment. Really super fascinating.

One of the things I learned in both of these books is that early road infrastructure was built and maintained by the local people who used it. In Colonial times, you owed the city or county so many hours of labor every year. And, when they called you up, you had to go out and work on a road crew. Sort of like jury duty. Only sweatier. (Of course, if you were wealthy enough -- or, in the case of colonial Virginia, owned enough slaves -- you could have other people do your labor for you.) In 19th-century Wisconsin, you could substitute labor on the roads for cash road taxes.

One of the fun outcomes of this system, at least in Wisconsin: Really craptastic roads. Turns out, a gang of random citizens, led by another random citizen, is not exactly who you want in charge of your infrastructure. Summers writes:

"Given proper direction, they might have been capable of maintaining the roads. Unfortunately, town officials tended to select overseers from the ranks of their own communities, leaving them with individuals who had no more knowledge or training in the principles of highway construction than the neighbors they were intended to supervise. As a result, the annual parties of local residents organized for the spring roadwork often degenerated into social gatherings, and little improvement to the highways was ever accomplished."

Thanks to Philip Bump for the link to the OpenLibrary book!

Image: Road crew, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from runran's photostream

Rainforest activists murdered in Brazil

RTR2MY48.jpg

The bodies of Amazon rainforest activist Joao Claudio Ribeiro da Silva and his wife Maria do Espirito Santo are carried to burial by friends and relatives, in the municipal cemetery of Maraba, in Brazil, on May 26, 2011. The identity of those responsible for the shooting in northern Brazil on Tuesday has not yet been determined, but da Silva predicted his own death six months ago, and was the recipient of frequent death threats by illegal loggers and cattle ranchers.

"I will protect the forest at all costs. That is why I could get a bullet in my head at any moment -- because I denounce the loggers and charcoal producers," he said.

Watch his speech at TEDxAmazonia, below, in which he says he believes killing trees in the rainforest is murder (click the "cc" button in the player for English subtitles).

The murders of da Silva and his wife took place as Brazil's Congress debates a divisive bill that threatens to further expand deforestation. Da Silva and Espirito Santo were active in the same organization of forest workers that was founded by legendary conservationist Chico Mendes. Al Jazeera has a video report here, and a first-person account from the funeral for the slain activist here.

More news coverage: NPR, New York Times, Guardian, Reuters, Telegraph.

Photos above and below: Reuters.

Read the rest

Minnesota GOP legislator makes passionate speech in support of marriage equality

On Saturday night, the Minnesota House of Representatives voted 70-62 in favor of putting a proposed constitutional ban on same sex marriage up for a public vote in 2012. Bear in mind, same sex marriage is already illegal in this state. So when I go out and vote on this constitutional amendment, my choices are going to be: A) Continue to discriminate against GLBT families or B) Codify that discrimination into my state's primary document. Good times.

But this post isn't about how disgusting I think it is to put a minority's civil rights up for a vote. No. This post is about offering my genuine thanks and appreciation to the two Minnesota Republicans who were brave enough to speak out against the amendment. Rep. Tim Kelly, R-Red Wing, and Rep. John Kriesel, R-Cottage Grove—Thank you both. If I wasn't absolutely certain it would set off some kind of security panic, I'd mail you both a box of my best home made bars.

Kriesel, in particular, gave a passionate, moving speech explaining why he changed his mind on marriage equality. The turning point: When he was almost killed while on a tour of duty in Iraq. Quoting from the video above:

"It made me think about this issue and say, 'you know what, what would I do without my wife?' She makes me happy. Life is hard. We're in a really tough time in our nation's history. Happiness is so hard to find for people. So they find it. They find someone who makes them happy. And we want to say, 'Oh, you can be together. You can love that person. But you can't marry them.' That's wrong. That's wrong, and I disagree with it.

... This amendment doesn't represent what I went to fight for. Hear that out there? [referencing protesters in the rotunda] That's the America I fought for. And I'm proud of that. ... If there was a "Hell No" button right here, I would press it. But, unfortunately, I just have "Nay," and that's the one I'm going to press.

If this moved you as much as it moved me—even if you aren't a Minnesotan—I'd encourage you to send a quick thank-you email to Rep. Kriesel.

Video Link

Peace Corps volunteers speak out against "gross mismanagement of sexual assault complaints"

PC081444.JPG

A growing number of ex-Peace Corps volunteers are speaking out via blogs and in news interviews about having survived rape and other forms of sexual assault while assigned overseas. They say the agency ignored their concerns for safety or requests for relocation, and tried to blame rape victims for their attacks. Their stories, and support from families and advocates, are drawing attention from lawmakers and promises of reform from the agency.

One of the women whose story is receiving renewed attention is Kate Puzey (shown in the photo at left). The Peace Corps volunteer was murdered in Benin, apparently by a contractor for the agency she was attempting to anonymously report for the rape of girls at the village school. As I blogged in 2009, I was in Benin, pretty close to that village, the same day she was killed. I remember our local friends from that region expressing horror and sadness at her murder. But we didn't know the backstory yet. More on her case follows.

The Peace Corps 2010 budget: $400 million, government funding, your tax dollars at work. The current director today apologized for the agency's poor response to victims, and specifically the Puzey case.

First: In today's New York Times, an article about the volunteers who are speaking out on sexual assault:

In going public, they are exposing an ugly sliver of life in the Peace Corps: the dangers that volunteers face in far-flung corners of the world and the inconsistent -- and, some say, callous -- treatment they receive when they become crime victims.
From 2000 to 2009, an average of 22 Peace Corps women each year reported being the victims of rape or attempted rape, according to the agency's own records. During that period a total of over 1,000 volunteers reported sexual assaults, including 221 rapes or attempted rapes.

Read the rest

Dalai Lama receives human rights award from Amnesty International


[iPhone snapshot above: Xeni Jardin; illustration inset, Shepard Fairey.]

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, was in Long Beach, California this morning to accept the inaugural edition of a “Shine a Light on Human Rights” award from Amnesty International.

Read the rest

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.

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.

Will the Harper government receive a #MEGAFACEPALM for C-393?

(FOR BILL C-393 STALLING UPDATES SEE BOTTOM OF POST: LAST UPDATE ON FRI, MARCH 25th) A few weeks ago, I was lecturing during a global issues course (ASIC200), when it became immediately clear that on some occasions, a solitary single facepalm is simply not enough. In fact, there seemed to be many things and events in this world that would merit many many simultaneous facepalms, or as we've been calling it in class, a MEGAFACEPALM! Anyway, when I looked it up on the internet, there didn't seem to be any pictures of large groups of people doing the facepalm, and so I thought, why not make our own? And so after a few clicks on my camera, and a handy "Make your own motivational poster" website, here is how it turned out: megafacepalm.jpg Of course, then the big question was for what occasion should we bestow this honour - this first unaltered photographic MEGAFACEPALM image? Well, I had a chat with the class the other day, and it seemed that the issue of Bill C-393 seemed like a worthy cause. Now, if you're late to the game and need a primer on this Bill C-393, then read this boingboing post and then come back here for the MEGAFACEPALM lowdown.

Read the rest

Killing Bill C-393 would be a facepalm of the highest possible order.

canadac393.jpg
Access to life-saving medicines is not a luxury, but a human right.
~Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network
To me, the above statement is one of those things that sound like a no-brainer. Put another way, if I were to ask you whether you thought a person's income should determine whether they live or die from something like HIV/AIDS, then I think you would see that the answer is nothing but obvious. But here I am, in Canada, writing this post, because there is a very real danger that members of my government think that this isn't such an easy decision after all - that maybe wealth and business interests do matter when dealing with such ethical choices, and that there is a hierarchy where certain lives are worth more than others. Let me backtrack a bit, and provide a little context. I'd rather not write a rant, emotional and heart wrenching as this discussion can be - I'd prefer to rely on reason, and not on rhetoric. I want everybody to understand why this is an important issue, one that deserves coverage, and one that deserves our involvement. More importantly, I want everybody to understand why the right thing to do is obvious. To start, let me mention the letters and numbers that make up the label, "Bill C-393." Keep them in your head - at least for a moment. If you're the sort that prefers hearing at least a quick definition, then this one might work:
Bill C-393 aims to reform CAMR and make it easier for Canada to export affordable, life-saving, generic medicines to developing countries.
~Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network
If you're thinking that this is a Canadian thing, then think again. Other rich countries are watching how Canada will behave. There's a few in Europe, and apparently even China is curious. In the U.S., the topic appears to be quenched, but the behaviour of the Canadian government could catalyze dialogue. And if you're not from a rich country? Well, you might actually have lives that will be affected by it, millions of lives even.

Read the rest

Virtual Cafe opens to help New Zealand Earthquake victims

cfe.jpg

The Christchurch cafe is a site where you can buy virtual items you might find in a coffee shop, from a $2 espresso to a $300 espresso machine. This is a creative and interesting way of raising aid donations: 100% of funds raised go directly to the community in Christchurch, New Zealand, which was hit hard by the earthquake last week. I love this idea, and would love to see this kind of thing catch on. It's an inspired way to encourage people to help out financially after a disaster.

Toby Morse's One Life One Chance

TobyKingston-47.jpg

Toby Morse, singer for the NYC Hardcore band H20 has spent the better part of the last year or so building up his One Life One Chance project. Inspired by the creativity and positivity he experienced in the punk / hardcore scene over so many years, Toby decided to create a vehicle to share that message with school age children across the country. Adopting the Bad Brains' PMA (positive mental attitude) as his slogan, he spoke at schools and spread the word in 2010, and plans to do the same and more in 2011.

His message is largely his own story about being straight edge and being in the band H2O. While he does talk about the upside of sober living, the bigger point seems to be the power of positive thinking and accepting people even when they are different than you. I think this is such a better approach than the old "Just Say No" or DARE campaigns. If you work at or with a school, check this out and consider having him come speak to your kids!

Egypt: 8-year-old girl lectures Mubarak (video)

Video Link. "And by the way, some of your police officers removed their jackets and they're joining the people." Juju, who is 8, and from Saudi Arabia. (via Ahmed Al Omran)

Tunisia's "Jasmine Revolution" and the internet: Xeni on The Madeleine Brand Show

RTXWP72.jpg

[ LISTEN: Direct MP3 link, and embedded audio. ]


On today's episode of the Southern California Public Radio program The Madeleine Brand Show, I joined host Madeleine Brand for a discussion of the role technology and social media played in the recent political upheaval in Tunisia.

16lede_libya-blog480.jpg Tunisia's interim leaders announced a new government today after a surge of violent demonstrations toppled autocratic president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Many reporters and bloggers (and now, uh, Muammar Qadaffi) have been quick to credit Wikileaks, Twitter, and Facebook with fomenting unrest in the country. But is it accurate to describe what is unfolding in Tunisia as "a Twitter revolution"?

Some related reading today:

Tunisia: That 'WikiLeaks Revolution' meme (CSM)
The brutal truth about Tunisia (The Independent)
Qaddafi Sees WikiLeaks Plot in Tunisia (NY Times / The Lede)
Tunisia: Fears of Insecurity Overshadow the Joys of Freedom
Arab World: Where is Ben Ali Headed to? (Global Voices)
Tunisia: How the US got it wrong (Al Jazeera / opinion)
Tunisia invades, censors Facebook, other accounts (CPJ)
Wikileaks - US embassy cables: Tunisia - a US foreign policy conundrum (Guardian)
The 2010-2011 Tunisian protests (Wikipedia)
First thoughts on Tunisia and the role of the Internet (Foreign Policy)

(PHOTO at top of post: Students hold placards and flowers during a sit-in protest in Beirut January 17, 2011, organized by Lebanese activists Tunisians living in Lebanon to show solidarity and support for the people in Tunisia. REUTERS/Jamal Saidi)

Scientist: Media misrepresented plastics problem in our oceans

bathtimesosad.jpg

I suppose, given the quality of science reporting on most TV news stations and newspapers, this headline contains a certain element of "Duh." When hasn't a scientific concept been misrepresented through the media? This is a doozy, though, and it needs to be corrected. You're probably familiar with the idea of plastic floating around in giant patches—"twice the size of Texas" is a commonly cited size. From what I'd seen on TV and read on activist websites, I'd gotten the impression that there was some massive island of plastic chunks out there in the Pacific. And I'm sure a lot of you came to the same conclusion.

But that's not what the science describes.

Angel White, an assistant professor of biological oceanography at Oregon State University, reviewed the literature on the so-called North Pacific Garbage Patch, and traveled to the site. She says science and reality don't match public perception, here. And now she's trying to correct that misunderstanding. Why? Because the very real problems posed by plastic debris in the ocean are too important to be couched in easily-debunked hyperbole. Scientist-turned-filmmaker Randy Olsen has a great interview with White on his blog, The Benshi:

RO: Last week you issued a press release titled, "Oceanic 'garbage patch' not nearly as big as portrayed in media." What was your motivation for doing that?

AW:The motivation for the press release is that I went on this cruise to the North Pacific in 2008 where I thought I'd see a plastic patch. I was really kind of surprised when I didn't. So when I started putting together my latest talk and I looked at the degree of hyperbole in the media, I was just surprised that no one had said, "Ah, you know, it's not the size of Texas -- in fact, it's not even a patch."

RO: But you've now said it's only 1% the size of Texas -- don't you think that does a disservice to the public's understanding just as much as calling it a "Texas-sized patch" because it overly minimizes the problem?

AW: I think calling it "a patch" minimizes the problem. It's not a patch. Here's what I think are the three most important points. 1) Plastic is widespread in the global ocean (not just the North Pacific), 2) plastic is small in size and 3) dilute in nature. It's not a patch -- to say it's a patch of any kind gives a false impression.

On the other hand, there are people who have decided to use the word "patch" -- if you're using the word, I think of "a patch of grass" -- a cohesive patch. So then let's take the highest observed concentrations and move it into a single, cohesive patch. I'm sorry, in the North Pacific it adds up to less that 1% the size of Texas -- actually 0.20% to be precise.

It's not a patch. It's a "dilute soup." I think it's a very sad commentary on the state of the U.S. that you have to be made to think of an island of trash in the oceans before you can be convinced to change your day-to-day actions.

(Via Glenn Fleishman)

Image: Some rights reserved by poolie

Magnetic Yellow Card - cyclist-intervention

yellowcardup.jpg

This card was designed by Peter Miller as an alternative to the kicking-of-doors and yelling-and-screaming that usually goes on when someone in a car recklessly endangers the life of a cyclist because they were talking on their phone, putting on lipstick, passing another car in the bike lane, etc etc etc. It's a more subtle statement, but I think more effective. Peter has provided a PDF of the card to allow others to print it out on a magnet of their choice and distribute them as needed. [Thanks to TOLA for noticing it.]

Pro-Tibet protests in New Delhi (photo)

RTXVQLE.jpg
A Tibetan exile shouts while being detained in a police vehicle during a protest outside the hotel where Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao is staying, in New Delhi on December 15, 2010. Wen, accompanied by more than 400 business leaders, seeks to boost trade with India and soothe tensions between the world's fastest-growing major economies when he visits on Wednesday. (REUTERS/Adnan Abidi)

Wikileaks: Anonymous stops dropping DDoS bombs, starts dropping science

1291941424225.gif

If this image is to be believed—and I have no reason not to, other than that I found it on the internet—the rebel squadrons behind Anonymous (attn. "news" hacks - that would be an entirely different group from Wikileaks and/or Wikipedia) are about to change their approach. So far, as we've witnessed, they have been launching point-and-click distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks at companies perceived as the enemies of Wikileaks. Those targets included Mastercard, Paypal, and Visa (companies that froze donation funding), and Amazon (which denied hosting services). The new approach suggests more sophisticated thinking. This new mission, apparently, is to actually read the cables Wikileaks has published and find the most interesting bits that haven't been publicized yet, then publicize them.

In my opinion, this action would have far more positive impact. Anonymous often repeats the Orwell quote, "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act." Looks like they decided to take those words to heart.

Read the rest

Grassroots Securities Deregulation

wallandmain-sm

In July, I blogged here about the "crowdfunding exemption" petition, File No. 4-605, which the SEC had just posted to their website. The petition seeks to allow people to solicit investment of up to $100,000 in amounts capped at $100 without having to register with either the SEC or their state's department of corporations (a process which can cost $50,000 and up). Many people, myself included, believe that this simple exemption, which the SEC has the authority to allow, presents minimal risk to investors and would have many positive effects on innovation, culture, opportunity, the economy, etc.

The fun news is, the proposal seems to be gaining traction! It turns out that others have been advocating similar exemptions, including Michael Shuman, author of Going Local and The Small-Mart Revolution. And now, the American Sustainable Business Council, a lobbying and advocacy group with many right-on members, has decided to support SEC rulemaking petition 4-605 as part of a new "Sustainable Economic Development" campaign, which will also encourage the SBA (Small Business Administration) to promote "TBL" accounting (Triple Bottom Line: financial, labor, and environmental). But note that the ASBC's new campaign will be on their back burner (and won't appear on their website) until January or so, because they're currently focused on other efforts, which require the current Congress during its remaining time in session.

Read the rest

CycLAvia attracts over 100,000 cyclists to car-free Los Angeles streets

Beginning of CicLAvia

If you'd told me a year ago that the City of Los Angeles would close off almost 8 miles of primary city streets to let cyclists have free rein for a day I never would have believed it. If I hadn't seen it actually happen with my own eyes yesterday, I'd still be suspicious. But it's true: thanks to the amazing efforts of the die-hard volunteers behind the project, yesterday the first ever CycLAvia (a riff on the South American Ciclovía idea) took place and some 100,000 residents took to their bikes and got a glimpse of what the city might be like if at least some parts of it were car-free.

As an avid cyclist living in LA, I've long said this is an amazing city to bike in and that it takes on a whole new life when you see it from a bicycle. But most often the reaction I get from non-cyclists is that I must be crazy to ride a bike in LA. I'm not, and judging by the photos on flickr and reactions on twitter a ton of people now see the city a little differently. With any luck this is just the first of many upcoming bike-friendly events in the city. I know I can't wait to see where this leads! (Follow @Cyclavia for future details)
CicLAvia

Photos by Tara Brown and Jory Felice

Artists attacked in Istanbul

Via the Submitterator, Boing Boing friend Doug Rushkoff writes:

My friend and occasional collaborator, technology artist Burak Arikan, writes from Istanbul that he, the artists, and guests at galleries in the Tophane district of Istanbul were systematically attacked by thugs last week. According to Burak, there was blood "everywhere." From the press release prepared by the beaten artists:

"In an organized attack on art galleries in the Tophane neighbourhood of Istanbul, guests attending exhibition openings were physically assaulted in a lynch attempt by a gang of 40-50 people. The audience subjected to this atmosphere of total terror featured artists, academicians, students, writers, local and international journalists and cultural attaches from consulates. The attackers used knives, batons, broken bottles and pepper spray. The injured include Polish, Dutch, German and English guests."

Burak adds:

"International support is urgent to enable the security in the Tophane district in Istanbul. The international visibility creates the chain pressure starting from the head of the government, which puts pressure on the mayor, which then affects the local police to investigate the criminal gang. Then hopefully we have a viable security in the district. Our press release is a collective effort, a statement from the Tophane art community."

Now this all leaves us with the obvious question: why are the galleries of this section of Istanbul being attacked by small armed gangs? No one is quite sure. Some say it is loosely organized conservative radicals, others say it's state-sponsored terror against the emergence of a potentially counter-culturally inclined community.

The works itself, such as Burak's piece entitled "When Ideas Become Crime," appear innocuous enough. Then again, when ideas become crime, no one is safe.


Douglas Rushkoff is a media theorist and author. His new book, Program or Be Programmed, is being published this week by Or Books.

Changing attitudes about sanitation through toilet malls

Video link: not for the queasy of stomach.

David Kuria runs EcoTact Limited, an organization with a groundbreaking approach to a difficult issue. In many poor parts of Africa, basic sanitation is nonexistent, and open sewers drain untreated waste directly into the water supply, causing 80% of the disease.

Kuria quotes Gandhi: "Sanitation is more important than independence," adding, "We want to do a social transformation, where people don't think this is a toilet, where they think a toilet is a dirty place. So for us to change that community and social mentality of a toilet, then we want to put in more activities in the toilet. Then they start interacting with the facility not as a toilet, but more of a community convenient point."

Amenities include a small kiosk with snacks and personal items for sale. Kenyan comedian Makhoha Keya even worked up an act to make learning about basic sanitation entertaining. Ecotact provides safe drinking water at no cost, and the toilet usage fee is about five cents a day, usually recouped through fewer doctor visits and lost days of work.

EcoTact Limited website

'Bullied' LA premiere 8/25: bring film free to your local schools

[Video link]

School bullying is finally being addressed systemically, but there's still much to do. For many minority students, especially those who are members of sex and gender minorities, bullying makes school a hell on earth, leading to disproportionate attacks, dropouts, and suicides.

Bullied is a documentary and teaching kit about student Jamie Nabozny's groundbreaking lawsuit against his school district for turning a blind eye to the harassment and beatings he endured.

I'm proud to have a small role in the film as Jamie's lawyer Joni Thome.

See facebook.com/BulliedMovie for theatrical premiere info or order your school's free copy and learning module to have it ready to use during National Bullying Prevention Month (October 2010).

Bullied: A Student, a School and a Case That Made History [tolerance.org]

Call for beta testers!

Hello from the depths of Boing Boing! We're working on a new way for people to let us know about wonderful things, and we need some industrious happy mutants to help us test it out. If you're interested in helping, please comment on this thread and email me so we can give you access.

EDIT: Anonymous comments don't count. Sorry. I need your BoingBoing username to turn on access for you.

ALRIGHT, THAT'S ENOUGH. Thanks to all of you who volunteered! You'll be receiving instructions from me via email shortly. New comments and requests to beta test may or may not, but probably will, be viciously ignored.