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

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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

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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

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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

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[ 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

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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

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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)

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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

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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

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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.