Boing Boing 

EU "three-strikes" rule set to pass this Weds -- call your MEP now!

French copyfighter Jérémie Zimmermann sez,
The negotiations on the Telecoms Package may come to a close this Wednesday. The Council of the European Union is still pushing for 'three strikes"' policies in Europe but is also attempting to allow private corporations to restrict citizens' Internet access. Will the European Parliament continue to hide behind a disputable legal argumentation provided by the rapporteur Catherine Trautmann, and accept the unacceptable for the future of Internet access in Europe?

A campaign page has been set up to allow everyone to contact Members of the European Parliament and urge them to refuse any proposal from the Council allowing "three strikes" policies in Europe, and to explicitly protect EU citizens' freedom to access the Net.

The new version of the compromise amendment presented by the Council of the EU still allows for restrictions of Internet access such as "three strikes" policies in Europe. Moreover, contrarily to the Parliament's version, the Council's proposal also permits private corporations to restrict Internet access, notably enabling entertainment industries to pressure Internet service providers in order to police the Net.

(Thanks, Jérémie!)

After the Game: What Happens to the Losing Team's Swag?

Somebody is going to lose the World Series. It's true. I have heard this is how these things work. But, when the inevitable happens, where do all their commemorative hats, T-shirts, shoelaces, giant foam hands, etc. go? After all, nobody knows which team will win. To meet the instant, post-game demand, manufacturers have all that championship memorabilia--for both teams--made up and sitting in a warehouse before the final game is even a twinkle in an announcer's eye.

If you guessed that it ends up in a dump, you'd be wrong. Mental_floss investigated and found the World Vision, an international Christian charity, gets the losing gear from baseball, football and basketball.

The merchandise doesn't go to waste, people living in poverty receive new, clean clothes, and the clothing makers recoup some of their losses--they get tax credits for the charitable donations. Why don't the clothes go to needy families in the United States? Overseas donation is part of the agreement between World Vision and the leagues. The farther away the clothing is, the less likely it is to offend a losing player (or heartbroken Buffalo Bills fan).

In fact, fear of fan alienation used to keep the MLB from donating. Up until two years ago, they required all inaccurate championship clothing be destroyed.

A Doctor's Advice On How To Read Health News (And Know Whether It's Full of Crap)

Building a bit off the "conflusion" (Bravo, btw, insert) post from yesterday, I'm going to launch right into something near and dear to my heart: The way biased and badly done health journalism can really mess up the people who read it.


Biased and badly done are two very different things. I don't have data on this, but I think it's fair to say that, when the main-stream media (which, BoingBoing aside, includes me) gets a health story wrong, it usually isn't trying to be intentionally wack. Trouble is, whatever the intent, it leaves you--the reader--in the same place. Conflused.

Luckily, there are people working to help you. Like, for instance, the good folks at Behind the Headlines, a project of the British National Health System that does Q&A, myth busting and in-depth explanations on the science behind top health news. I first found out about this from Ben Goldacre's Bad Science blog, which is, in itself, a great site everybody ought to be reading.

Dr. Alicia White, one of the aforementioned "folks" behind Behind the Headlines, has a wonderful primer on the questions you should be asking yourself every time you read health news. Until we police ourselves into doing a consistently better job, sorting the wheat from the chaff is (unfortunately) up to you. This will help. Plus, it's a fun read:

If you've just read a health-related headline that's caused you to spit out your morning coffee ("Coffee causes cancer" usually does the trick) it's always best to follow the Blitz slogan: "Keep Calm and Carry On". On reading further you'll often find the headline has left out something important, like "Injecting five rats with really highly concentrated coffee solution caused some changes in cells that might lead to tumours eventually. (Study funded by The Association of Tea Marketing)".

Evocative image courtesy Flickr user bdjsb7, under CC.

Typhoon, Floods in the Philippines: first-person BB report from Audrey N. Carpio of The Philippine Star

Philippines flooding, Sept. 2009 (for BB, from Audrey N. Carpio of The Philippine Star)

Photos, above and after the jump, shared with Boing Boing by Audrey N. Carpio of The Philippine Star. Her first-person account from the ongoing disaster follows, and includes recommendations on how you can help the victims. She shot the photos in this post two days after the typhoon, on a relief drive in a town called Tumana. Link to Flickr set.

Typhoon Ondoy by Audrey Carpio

Typhoon Ondoy, aka Tropical Storm Ketsana dumped 40 cm of rain on the Philippines last Saturday before he/she left to wreak watery havoc upon Vietnam and Cambodia. But Manila and its surrounding environs are still in various states of calamity, with many parts of the city still submerged under dirty brown water and others, while drying out, caked in leptospirosis-inducing mud. The government and its presidentiables have been slow to act upon what could've been their Hurricane Katrina-hero moment but quick to seize upon relief efforts for electioneering. Instead, it is thanks to the generosity and ingenuity of the Filipino people who mobilized themselves through Twitter and Facebook that hundreds of thousands of victims have been fed, clothed and sheltered.

As early as Saturday evening, when people began to realize that floods have flashed rather quickly and videos of drowning trucks emerged on YouTube, relief plans grew almost organically on the networks. Tweets encouraging people to gather food, blankets, and clothing for donations were some of the earliest; by the next day there was an updatable and sharable Google spreadsheet on all the drop-off and volunteer centers; by Monday, almost all status updates and tweets had to do with emergency hotline numbers, relatives of friends who were stranded on a rooftop, and traffic advisories warning which roads were impassable. A Google map of people in need of rescuing was uploaded, although its usefulness is questionable, considering the general low-techness of the National Disaster Coordinating Council's rescue squads they only had 13 rubber boats with which to deploy to the affected barangays †or villages (to put it into perspective, 1.9 million people were inundated with flood water, nearly 380,000 have been evacuated into schools, churches and other emergency shelters, and 246 people have died.

Philippines flooding, Sept. 2009 (for BB, from Audrey N. Carpio of The Philippine Star)

Read the rest

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind -- fantastic new book about a how a Malawian teenager harnessed the power of the wind



I reviewed The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind for Good. I think it's one of the best books I've ever read. Here's an excerpt of my review:

William Kamkwamba's parents couldn't afford the $80 yearly tuition for their son's school. The boy sneaked into the classroom anyway, dodging administrators for a few weeks until they caught him. Still emaciated from the recent deadly famine that had killed friends and neighbors, he went back to work on his family’s corn and tobacco farm in rural Malawi, Africa.

With no hope of getting the funds to go back to school, William continued his education by teaching himself, borrowing books from the small library at the elementary school in his village. One day, when William was 14, he went to the library searching for an English-Chichewa dictionary to find out what the English word "grapes" meant, and came across a fifth-grade science book called Using Energy. Describing this moment in his autobiography, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (co-written with Bryan Mealer), William wrote, "The book has since changed my life."

Using Energy described how windmills could be used to generate electricity. Only two percent of Malawians have electricity, and the service is notoriously unreliable. William decided an electric windmill was something he wanted to make. Illuminating his house and the other houses in his village would mean that people could read at night after work. A windmill to pump water would mean that they could grow two crops a year rather than one, grow vegetable gardens, and not have to spend two hours a day hauling water. "A windmill meant more than just power," he wrote, "it was freedom."

For an educated adult living in a developed nation, designing and building a wind turbine that generates electricity is something to be proud of. For a half-starved, uneducated boy living in a country plagued with drought, famine, poverty, disease, a cruelly corrupt government, crippling superstitions, and low expectations, it's another thing altogether. It's nothing short of monumental.

Read the rest of my review at GOOD.

(It was very exciting to read that William's favorite magazine is Make!)

Radio Free Africa

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"Freedom of expression and of thought was not invented by the West. It has existed in traditional societies -- even primitive ones -- for centuries. Human progress would not have been possible without it. I'm saying this as a black African from Ghana because today around the world, we have 'educated' barbarians who want to suppress this freedom by arresting and jailing dissidents, writers, journalists and those they disagree with."
-- George Ayittey on the BBC, September 20, 2009.

Ayittey, whose famed "cheetahs vs. hippos" TED speech I've blogged before, is co-founder of an inspired new project called Radio Free Africa. (thanks, Emeka Okafor)

Attention artists, inventors, and small biz entrepreneurs: apply for a GO Ingenuity Fellowship

Diana Alexander, director of operations for the GO Campaign says:
Gia LogoGO Campaign is a US nonprofit dedicated to bettering the lives of orphans and vulnerable children throughout the world. We believe education and vocational training can be inspiring and life-changing. The GO Ingenuity Award has been established to encourage the sharing of innovation and invention with marginalized youth eager for a better future.

GO Campaign announced they will award a maximum of five GO Ingenuity Awards (GIA) to artists, inventors, and small business entrepreneurs to stimulate the next generation of "makers" and turn makers into role models and sources of inspiration for children in their community.

Up to five GIAs will be awarded in amounts ranging from $500 to $2,500 each to selected applicants who are eager to share their skills with marginalized youth in developing countries in ways that educate and inspire youth to harness their own ingenuity.

The one-year, one-time fellowship grants emphasize the sharing of innovative artistry and technology in informal, hands-on learning workshops with youth. Complete Guidelines and Application available at www.gocampaign.org/gia. Application deadline: December 1, 2009

Boston's amazing Papercut Zine Library needs a home


Aaron sez, "papercutzinelibrary.org is 'a free lending library that specializes in independently published media, particularly zines.' They have been kicked out of their space in Cambridge, MA and are desperately looking for a new home. Their needs are relatively small, but it can be tough getting the word out. I encourage anyone in the Boston/Cambridge, MA area to check out their site and see if you can help. It would be a shame to let all the wonderful zines become unavailable!"

I dropped in on this place a few years ago and was absolutely charmed and delighted. This is a very worthy cause indeed.

Papercut needs new space for August 15 (Thanks, Aaron

Spider and Jeanne Robinson need help

Beloved Hugo-award-winning writer, dancer and choreographer Jeanne Robinson (wife of Spider Robinson) has cancer, and it has taken a turn for the worse. Spider Robinson describes their financial situation as dire ("running on fumes") and so he's asking for cash to help them get through this. There's lots of ways to give, from bidding in a charity auction to attending a benefit concert to buying Spider's books. I've just sent them what I could spare -- Jeanne and Spider have given me so much pleasure and wisdom over the years, it was an honor. I hope that some of you who've been touched by them will do the same.

As some of you know, I've been dealing with a rare biliary cancer for many months. It has already taken my gall bladder, bile duct and most of my liver...and it's not done yet. It looks like in a matter of weeks I'll be facing chemotherapy, in an attempt to at least slow its progress...

There are many things I need as I prepare for my third act--supplements, prescription drugs, counseling, expensive alternative therapies, etc--and they all cost money...money I don't have. So, after all these months of being silent and private about my illness, I recently said yes to my close friend Michelle Meyrink when she asked if she could organize a benefit concert for me. http://www.spiderrobinson.com/images/Dream%20for%20jeanne.pdf

Others have since jumped in, including my Vancouver Buddhist sangha, Mountain Rain Zen Community, and a dear friend in Florida, Jan Schroeder, who has been auctioning donated items (such as rare Babylon 5 scripts and other SF memorabilia) on eBay for me. Goods or services can be donated for the auction by contacting Jan at dreamforjeanne@aol.com. Several other methods of helping out, including a straightforward PayPal donation account, can be found at http://wedreamforjeanne.blogspot.com/.

Another way to help would be to buy our books from Amazon by clicking-through from Spider's site, so we can get the affiliate commission. We've spent decades holding up visions of humankind's highest evolutionary potential while entertaining you enough to keep you turning pages.

The Third Act

$25 baby incubator for premature newborns in poor places

From FORA TV, this video of a presentation by George Kembel, co-founder of the Stanford d.school, about the "Embrace," an extremely low-cost incubator for premature newborns. The challenge: design better technology to help keep premature newborns alive. The reality: the most at-risk newborns are in rural areas, far away from hospitals where $25,000 incubators are housed. The solution: a $25 "incubator" with materials that can be heated up in a pot of boiling water.

Awakening Creativity / FORA (thanks, Blaise Zerega)

Flooded Louisville Free Public Library needs your help

Joshua sez, "Steve Lawson and the Library Society of the World are trying to raise money to help the Louisville Free Public Library, which was hit by horrible flash floods last week. Could you help us help the library out?"
So a lot of those books we sent them in the spring are now covered in water and sewage. And so are the bookmobiles. And the mechanical equipment for HVAC. And the data center. And $50,000 worth of new computers. The initial estimate is $1 million in damage, but they must just be guessing at this point.
Louisville Free Public Library needs your help (Thanks, Joshua!)

Digital Open tech innovation expo for global youth: 10 more days to submit projects!

Boing Boing and Boing Boing Video are partnering with Institute for the Future and Sun to support the Digital Open, in which youth around the world are invited to submit technology projects "that will change the world--or even just make life a little easier or more fun."

The final deadline for submissions is August 15, 2009, but projects posted before the deadline will benefit significantly from feedback from the Digital Open community. We are giving away more than $15,000 worth of very cool prizes including laptops, video cameras, recycled billboard backpacks, solar-powered gear and more. We've already received 49 projects from eight countries: Argentina, Canada, India, Russia, Spain, Ukraine, the UK and the US!
More online: digitalopen.org

Afghanistan mass grave coverup: update on evidence.

Following up on last week's post about our government's attempts to block investigation into mass killings in Afghanistan by a US-backed warlord (see this NYT article by James Risen):

There is an update to the story today from Mark Benjamin at Salon, where you can also read through the archive of related FBI documents in PDF form.

And Ben Greenberg writes in from Physicians for Human Rights, the organization that discovered the mass grave where the victims were buried. They've been investigating the case and advocating for appropriate action since 2001. Ben says:

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We've produced a 10 minute documentary video about the massacre and the three federal investigations that were impeded by the Bush Administration. It's called War Crimes and the White House: The Bush Administration's Cover-Up of the Dasht-e-Leili Massacre.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science has also produced a report based on high resolution satellite imagery that shows evidence of when and how the mass grave site was subsequently dug up. A blog post on the satellite imagery report is here and the main images from the report are available here, along with a .kml file that can be used with Google Earth.

Read the rest

Iran: More on the life and death of Neda Agha-Soltan

neda-agha-soltan_47642233.jpg

An amazing piece by Borzou Daragahi, in Tehran, from today's LA Times on the life and death of Neda Agha-Soltan (shown above in a family photo). Her death, documented on cellphone video and spread online, has become a potent spiritual emblem for the popular uprising in Iran.
The first word came from abroad. An aunt in the United States called her Saturday in a panic. "Don't go out into the streets, Golshad," she told her. "They're killing people."

The relative proceeded to describe a video, airing on exile television channels that are jammed in Iran, in which a young woman is shown bleeding to death as her companion calls out, "Neda! Neda!"

A dark premonition swept over Golshad, who asked that her real name not be published. She began calling the cellphone and home number of her friend Neda Agha-Soltan who had gone to the chaotic demonstration with a group of friends, but Neda didn't answer.

At midnight, as the city continued to smolder, Golshad drove to the Agha-Soltan residence in the eastern Tehran Pars section of the capital. As she heard the cries and wails and praising of God reverberating from the house, she crumpled, knowing that her worst fears were true. "Neda! Neda!" the 25-year-old cried out. "What will I do?"

Neda Agha-Soltan, 26, was shot dead Saturday evening near the scene of clashes between pro-government militias and demonstrators who allege rampant vote-count fraud in the reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The jittery cellphone video footage of her bleeding on the street has turned "Neda" into an international symbol of the protest movement that ignited in the aftermath of the June 12 voting. To those who knew and loved Neda, she was far more than an icon. She was a daughter, sister and friend, a music and travel lover, a beautiful young woman in the prime of her life.

Family, friends mourn Iranian woman whose death was caught on video (via @eecue)

Adopt a Classroom, help kids and teachers, get a tax-break

Patricia sez,
I am fortunate enough to teach children who have a variety of disabilities, ranging from Autism, Mild Mental Retardation, to Specific Learning Disabilities. Many of my students come from low income households where even items as simple as crayons are not easily attainable. It is rare that special education students get what they truly need in a system where budget cuts take away the most basic tools for these wonderful children.

Last year Cory adopted my class through Adopt a Classroom and I'd like to make Boing Boing Readers aware of this wonderful website.

Whether you choose my class or another, 100% of your tax deductible donation (as little as $25) goes directly to the teacher and you are informed of every item purchased. The budget cuts are worse than ever this year, but I know there are people out there willing to help.

I hope this doesn't sound like an advertisement. I am a teacher, with 2 California Teaching Credentials and a Master's Degree. I work for LAUSD, one of the largest school districts in the country. Yet, if I don't get donations or use my own money, my class doesn't get things as simple as printer ink and crayons.

I also always make sure to thank my donors personally from all the kids!

Patty's class

Adopt a Classroom (Thank, Patricia!)

Tibetan Exile Group Seeks Your Used Audio Recording Gear

phuntsok.jpg
A Tibetan exile group in Northern India (whose work I've reported on previously for Boing Boing, WIRED, and NPR) is seeking used voice recording gear for an upstart independent community radio station.

At left, a photo I shot of Phuntsok Dorjee with a fellow volunteer, setting up a wireless network relay point inside a tribal family's garage on the top of a mountain at the southern edge of the Himalayas. Goats and routers, under the same roof, not far from the Tibetan Government in Exile's home of Dharamsala, India.

Phuntsok says,

"We have 10 students in the radio team but have only 2 Sony IC voice recorders. A friend of the organization will be in San Francisco sometime in early July on his way to India and he can bring for us the voice recorder if we manage to get some."

Got any used voice recorders, or related gear you're not using? Email him at: phuntsok at tcv.org.in. These are good folks, doing innovative work without a lot of resources.

Related: A Wireless Network for 'Little Lhasa' (Xeni on NPR)

Germans protest new Internet Berlin Wall


Markus sez, "300 people gathered today in Berlin to demonstrate against the German net censorship law. The Deutsche Bunestag (German parliament) will vote on that law today. Lots of banners with slogans like 'New Berlin Wall?', 'IT-Courses for politicians' and 'Don't worry, we're from the internets' showed a colourful protest in front of the Brandenburger Gate close to the Reichstag."

Demonstration against Censhorship in Berlin (Thanks, Markus!)

Lazyweb: turn the new version of Opera into an unstoppable grid of proxies for Iranians

Danny O'Brien's got a doozy of a lazyweb idea: "Here's a way to mash-up two of the most talked-about Internet issues today. Opera launched their web-server-in-a-browser, Opera Unite, today. Iranian protestors are looking for proxies to get around Iran's blocking. So why not write a Opera Unite service that acts as a simple, quick-and-dirty proxy for Iranians? Danny O'Brien lays down the challenge."
Instead of a real http proxy (like Psiphon), the best implementation would simply let you append a URL to your Unite URL and get a website back, like "http://foo.bar.operaunite.com/www.cnn.com/". That would get rid of handing over your cookies to an unknown third-party; it'd probably also discourage people using the service for private communications (no https, in Unite -- it'd be great if Opera fixed that!).

Maybe I'd also stick in a geoip check to make sure the incoming requests are coming from a known Iranian IP block, just so users could feel worthy that they're just catering to Iranians (you could pull them out of this free geolocation database). That way we wouldn't be creating a permanent global clunky, insecure proxy network -- or at least not until Iran recovers and starts its own phishing services.

I know I'm not a good enough JS programmer to pull this off, but the Unite JavaScript API certainly appears to permit cross-domain XMLHttp calls, and you can catch generic HTTP requests using opera.io.webserver.addEventListener('_request',somehandler,false);, so it is theoretically possible (and here I hand wave to the implementation Gods).

wanted: spartacus, an opera unite web proxy for iran (Thanks, Danny!)

Book drive for Canadian aboriginal youth in remote communities

Science fiction writer Dave Laderoute sez,
If you live in Ontario, or want to (quickly!) send some books to a good cause, the Lieutenant Governor of the province is doing his annual drive for new books for kids living in remote First Nations communities. These are generally small, isolated communities located deep in the northern boreal wilderness. Most have a population under 1000 and are accessible only by aircraft. Kids in these communities often have access to only old books in bad condition, so our province's Lieutenant Governor launched this annual effort several years ago to refresh community libraries with up-to-date titles.

The deadline, June 21, is only a few days away, unfortunately. If someone from outside Ontario REALLY wants to help out, feel free to get hold of me directly at dglad@sff.net and you can make arrangements to send a book or two to me, and I'll get it into the donation stream. But for those of you who live in Ontario, or nearby (I'm lookin' at you, folks in northern New York, Michigan, Minnesota, etc.!) this is a great chance to get some new reading material into the hands of kids who really, really need it.

For Cory's benefit, I know where my brand-new hardcopy of "Little Brother" is going. I'm quite happy to live with my digital copy and get the dead-tree version into the hands of a young Aboriginal kid.

Book Drive for Aboriginal Youth (Thanks, Dave!)

Iranian election uprising: Twitter tracks it real-time, Iranian bloggers evade 'Net Censorship

Wagner James Au says,
Iranians around the world are making extraordinary use of Twitter and Twitter APIs to send updates and coordinate the uprising that now disputes Ahmadinejad's election. (Some background from Andrew Sullivan here) Last night Tweets from Iran seemed to go silent for several hours, apparently after Iranian government intervention, but protesters just used TwitterFall.com and other workarounds to keep the information stream going. (As one developer supporter put it, "Open APIs equal freedom.") The mainstream media has been tragically slow to cover what seems to be a major social upheaval fueled by Twitter.
BB reader Luke adds,
Persiankiwi on twitter is tweeting like a crazyman about the protests happening RIGHT NOW in Tehran and has just posted this video on Youtube. Also this twitter user is posting. They reckon the protests are largely peaceful and also guess at least hundreds of thousands are on the streets.
Link to Twitter search for hashtag "IranElection." Some Twitterers I'm following on this issue: @persiankiwi, @ johnperrybarlow , IranRiggedElect, @Pouyan. Here was a liveblog post over at HuffPo by Nico Putney. Here's a piece by Nasrin Alawi. Please add other resources you're following in the comments.

Uganda: "Invisible Children," Joseph Kony's Army, and How It Ends.


Above, an earlier a rough cut of the film Invisible Children. The movie appears to be an ongoing work in progress, and as much an advocacy movement as much as it is a work of filmmaking. Richard Metzger writes,

This is one of the most fucked up things I have ever heard of: A Ugandan warlord by the name of Joseph Kony kidnaps children from their parents who are powerless to do anything about it. He is feared as if he has voodoo powers and any kids trying to escape from his army have their tongues cut out or are killed.

The young guys who organized the "How it Ends" event made the film. I saw it on Rick Sanchez's CNN show last month at the gym and it is WEIRD and disturbing. I ran home and looked it up.

The interesting thing about their movie (much of it online at their site) is that they were these these young guys from San Diego who made skateboarding videos and were best friends. They had the idea to go to Africa to have an adventure and shoot it for a movie. What they found was Joseph Kony's child army. The story had not been really been told before that. They brought it back with them and started a movement. They've been on Oprah and Larry King. They're heroes, full stop.

It's riveting scary, stuff. A nightmare. A human rights disaster of the worst kind.

The film: Invisible Children
The event in DC: How it Ends
And: Night of the Rescue.

Students who went on strike over CCTVs in classroom speak

Leia Clancy and Sam Goodman, two of the English students who staged a strike when they discovered CCTV cameras had been installed in their classrooms have written an impassioned-but-reasoned op-ed about their desire to be educated without surveillance. I was so inspired by these kids' story that I asked my British publisher, HarperCollins, to send them a case of copies of Little Brother, my novel about young people who fight off government surveillance.
It turned out that our entire class was angry or confused over the cameras. Out of a class of 18 students, 17 felt uncomfortable with the idea and decided to boycott the room until the issue, and the students, were addressed. This was a difficult decision as we were three months away from exams and we had five lessons a fortnight in the room. The student body was supportive and a petition gained over 130 signatures from the sixth-form...

Many users suggested that cameras were a good idea because they could be used to keep an eye on bullying and student behaviour, we were accused of been "narcissistic megalomaniacs" angry at "being nabbed for our churlish troublemaking". This stereotypical and frankly ignorant view ignores the fact that Davenant Foundation School produces some of the best exam results in Essex. Violent behaviour among pupils is simply not an issue, making the justification for putting cameras in our classrooms more surprising.

Adults are often quick to define the youth of today as stereotypical troublemakers and violent offenders - generalisations which are prompted by the media - when in fact the majority of students at our school are as responsible and arguably better behaved then the majority of adults. Some commentators insinuated that we overheard adults talking about rights and repeated it. That notion isn't worth the space it was typed upon. We are A-level politics students who have been studying civil liberties as part of the curriculum for the last two years...

Eroding standards in schools and deteriorating discipline are down to a broken society and the failure of the education system. The truth is that we are whatever the generation before us has created. If you criticise us, we are your failures; and if you applaud us we are your successes, and we reflect the imperfections of society and of human life.

We don't need no CCTV in our classroom (Thanks, Cassidy!)

Ukelele with mustache diagrams

Xylocopa's "The Complete Ukulele Guide to the Moustaches of the World" is a ukelele sporting diagrams showing the world's 25 major mustache groups.
The Ukulele Guide includes not only the standard moustache groups, but also exotic and endangered moustaches like the Shirley Temple and the LARP-stache. Recently cultivated strains of moustache such as the Octopus also feature prominently, and the headstock is graced with an inspiring moustache quote, sure to please any moustache fancier.

You may be asking yourself at this point you have survived without such a practical object, and what you can do to obtain one. If this is the case, please contact us.

The Complete Ukulele Guide to the Moustaches of the World (Thanks, Dan!)

Guatemala: Mayan Activists Protest Dirty Deeds of a Canadian Mining Giant

(I'm traveling and blogging from Guatemala right now, so expect a number of posts from me specific to this region. - XJ).

The excellent work of Guatemala-based photojournalist James Rodriguez has been featured on BB a number of times before. The most recent photo-essay on his blog documents a protest march that took place a few days ago in the capital here, carried out by indigenous people from San Miguel Ixtahuacan, where the Canadian mining giant Goldcorp operates the Marlin Gold Mine. Background here on the mine, and Goldcorp's campaign of harassment and intimidation of indigenous residents. Snip:

The movement, made up almost in its entirety by indigenous local Mam Mayans, reiterated their intention to pursue a peaceful dialogue so as to bring to a close Montana's mining activities in the region. As of now, three people have died due to the toxic contamination in the local water sources and other natural resources.


Gregoria Crisanta Perez, one of the 8 women accused by Goldcorp of sabotaging their electric supply (read more about the case here), declares: "We demand our rights because we do not want to be killed by the mining company. We ask the government to please listen to our demands, as we are the legitimate owners of the territories. We are indigenous people, we were born there, and we should die there. But our death should be decided by God, not by the mining company."

A few meters down the road from the Canadian Embassy, one of the many Goldcorp billboards that can be found in Guatemala City read: "We invest in the dreams of a developing country."


Some residents of San Miguel Ixtahuacan identified the billboard and felt it was inappropriate due to the damage they have suffered from the mine's presence in their communities. Gradually, protestors began tearing little pieces as an expression of discontent with the mining company that has incited grave social conflicts. Dozens of people suddenly charged the billboard euphorically in a festive mood.

San Miguel Ixtahuacan is Waking Up: Guatemala City, Guatemala. (mimundo.org)

English schoolkids go on strike until CCTVs are removed from classes

Students at Davenant Foundation School in Loughton, Essex, UK walked out of classrooms that had been equipped with CCTV cameras and refused to attend classes for three weeks until their civil liberties were respected. Students from the school are hashing over the issues in the comment area for the local news report, in incredibly intelligent, reasonable fashion. These kids give me hope for the future. I wonder if I can send Poesy there once she's old enough.
It meant they missed three weeks of studies and led to the drafting of a petition signed by about 150 of their peers.

A father, whose son took part in the walk-out, said the school was wrong not to consult parents about the use of technology which "threatened our children's civil liberties"...

Epping Forest MP Eleanor Laing, who has written to the school on behalf of concerned parents, and is due to meet the Information Commissioner to discuss the case, said: "We need to find out if the pupils are happy to be filmed but there are two valid sides to this argument, and I am trying to get to the bottom of it."

LOUGHTON: Pupils walk out of lessons in protest against Big Brother cameras (Thanks, @davidgerard!)

Guatemala: Protests for Assassinated Lawyer Streamed Live from Laptops in the Streets


Protests are taking place today in Guatemala City to demand justice for an attorney who was assassinated on Sunday, and who claimed in a posthumously released YouTube video taped before his death that if he were to die, it would be at the orders of Guatemalan president Álvaro Colom.

Quick background: The slain attorney, Rodrigo Rosenberg, represented a man who refused to take an assigment by Guatemala's president to serve on the board of a bank widely known as a money laundering hub and a shelter for narcotrafficking spoils. This whistleblower client of Rosenberg, Khalil Musa, was assassinated in March. On Sunday, after reportedly refusing to participate in the corruption and the coverup, Rosenberg himself was assassinated.

Protesters are at the presidential palace today. Libertópolis is streaming the action on Ustream.tv, as I type, though the stream is going on and off as armed military police swarm in.

Twitter users are marking conversations about today's protests, and about the case in general, with the hashtag #escandalogt. To take this sort of public action in Guatemala is not something one does lightly, and the young people at the center of these protests are placing their lives at risk.

I'm seeing some Guatemalan Twitterers spreading word that "chicken bus" drivers will gather tomorrow in the capital for another round of protests. Why? These same transportistas have long been the target of ever-escalating assasinations and extortion from narco gangs. The same corruption Rosenberg and Musa attempted to expose fuels this cycle of violence.

I don't have factual confirmation, but Guatemalan BB readers and Twitterers are saying that coverage of this story on the Guatemalan television networks is actively censored by the state (and that the recently declared "swine flu emergency" in a country with only 3 confirmed H1N1 cases was little more than a thinly disguised attempt by the state to exert more control). Claims of censorship there have historic precedent, and it makes the existence of these online "citizen TV" transmissions all the more significant. (via deztyped and many others)

Previously: Guatemala - In YouTube Video Shot Before His Death, Attorney Blames President for His Assasination


Update, 3pm PT, May 12: CNN now has an item on the story.

Update, 330pm PT, May 12: Photos from the protest are here. And here is audio from the protest. And here is a website demanding the president be impeached and brought to trial.


Wasting Time for a Good Cause

Maggie Koerth-Baker is a guest blogger on Boing Boing. A freelance science and health journalist, Maggie lives in Minneapolis, brain dumps on Twitter, and writes quite often for mental_floss magazine.

I may regret this. Last night, I started playing Foldit, a free computer game that's rapidly becoming every bit as addictive as, say, Crayon Physics Deluxe, which is, to say, dangerous. Very, very dangerous.

On the plus side, I will at least be losing productivity for a good cause. Released about a year ago, Foldit is a puzzle game that harnesses the power of human putzing to help scientists unravel the mysteries of protein structure. Long chains of amino acids folded in on themselves like a biochemical game of Twister, proteins do most of the heavy lifting around your body; moving and storing important molecules like oxygen and iron, controlling your growth, making your immune system work ... they're kind of a big deal. Scientists know the genetic sequence of proteins, as well as many of their functions, but still don't know a lot about how and why the amino acid chains twist and turn into their complex shapes.

That's where Foldit comes in. Computer programs could calculate all the possible protein shapes, but it would take far longer than the average researcher's life span. Instead, the University of Washington team that developed Foldit is hoping that human game-players can figure things out faster.

After playing a series of practice challenges that teach the rules--basically the laws of physics as applied to protein structure--players are then set on tasks that use their natural 3-D problem solving skills to pin down the best structures for certain proteins. The hitch: Game developers don't know what the "best" answer is, so you can't get any hints. And points are awarded not by how close you're getting to the known solution, but by how much energy would be needed to hold a real-life protein in the shape you've created. The real challenge comes from competing against other players to make the highest-point-collecting version of a specific protein.

Researchers hope to use the game play to make better protein structure prediction software, based on gamers' strategies; to have players figure out the mysteries of proteins that don't yet have a known structure; and to create challenges that let players design new proteins that could fill some real-world needs---like disabling a specific virus.

All of which are fine and noble answers for you to toss out there when your boss asks what, exactly, you're doing fiddling with a computer game on company time.

Many thanks (I think) to Mun-Keat Looi, the Twitter friend who turned me on to Foldit.

The Aporkalypse: Researchers Want Your Help

Maggie Koerth-Baker is a guest blogger on Boing Boing. A freelance science and health journalist, Maggie lives in Minneapolis, brain dumps on Twitter, and writes quite often for mental_floss magazine.

A Stanford team that's studying the public's knowledge of, and response to, H1N1 flu, has a survey and they're looking for willing participants to fill it out. Here's team member Marcel Salathé:

There is a possibility that the situation might develop into a pandemic if the virus continues to spread around the globe. The news media report excessively about this threat, and while health officials urge people to stay calm, there is an increased level of anxiety in the population.
Models have predicted that when a disease breaks out, changes in behavior in response to an outbreak, and in particular in response to information about an outbreak, can alter the progression of an epidemic. While this makes intuitive sense, there is no good data to test such a hypothesis. One of the major problems is that emotional reactions and behavioral response to an epidemic is generally assessed quite some time after the epidemic has fizzled out."

Short version: They're trying to figure out whether the info dump about H1N1 flu that you're getting from the media and the Web might really be enough to educate us all right out of a pandemic. I know that theory has come up in the comments threads on my previous flu postings. Let's help find out it if it works!

Take the survey here

EDIT: Marcel Salathé answers a couple of reader questions from the comments thread here. First, about when the results will come out and how you can see them:

There are a number of options. We will collect data while the epidemic runs its course - how long that's going to take is unpredictable, so I cannot really say more about the timeline - we just don't know yet. But we're constantly monitoring the data, and once we start finding interesting patterns we will certainly publish those quickly and make them open access. Feel free to publish my Stanford email address, and people who want to the results can send me an email."

Second, are Boing Boing readers completely screwing up the data by virtue of their savvyness? Salathé says it's a concern, but he doesn't think it will mess things up too badly, and he needs the volume of response more:

I am relatively confident that once we have a large enough sample we will get a good feeling for the average level of concern in the population. Yes, it might be that the ones responding to the survey are not the ones most panicky. On the other hand, one could also make the argument that people who are absolutely unruffled and calm might not be bothered to take the survey either. There can always be bias in any direction. In principle, any online survey has the potential for bias (by the fact alone that the survey is online) - but with a large enough sample one can avoid most of the problems regarding bias."

Boing Boing also isn't the only large-volume return place Salathé has published the survey link, so he's confident his results won't be all-BB, all the time. He does say that if you've got suggestions on more places to publish the survey link that are likely to be BB's polar opposite, you should contact him.

What To Do This Earth Day

Maggie Koerth-Baker is a guest blogger on Boing Boing. A freelance science and health journalist, Maggie lives in Minneapolis, brain dumps on Twitter, and writes quite often for mental_floss magazine.

Energy Circle, a sort-of Consumer Reports for cost-effective energy efficient gadgetry, announced a new project today that I find absolutely fascinating.

We have been monitoring our home energy use for several months now, using our preferred whole house energy monitor TED, The Energy Detective. With Earth Day 09 as our starting point, we are going to make our electricity use public on EnergyCircle. We have adapted the TED to make it capable of streaming our household's data directly to the Internet. (A somewhat sophisticated hack inspired in part by Limor Fried and Phillip Torrone's Tweet-A-Watt. We'll open source it in the next day or so).

What I love most about this, is that the building in question isn't the sort of green industry "House of Tomorrow" thing that bears more resemblance to Epcot Center than to the places you or I live now. By following Energy Circle's data, you'll see how the average American home uses energy, and you'll see the changes in energy use that happen (or don't happen) when the bloggers try out new energy-saving ideas and products. In fact, they're not just posting all this data, they're annotating it. You'll know whether that spike in use is their dryer or their hot water heater. And you'll know what was going on behind-the-scenes to cause a dip in use.

But, beyond being a really cool experiment, does this matter? Hell, yeah. What you'll be seeing at Energy Circle is a living example of how consumer awareness of energy use cuts consumer energy use. And that's a big, fat, hairy deal. According to the DOE, electricity use in one average single-family home accounts for more CO2 emissions than two average cars. Studies have found that monitoring home energy use, and giving the people who live there access to that information, can end up cutting use by anywhere between 5-to-15%---and those reductions connect directly back to the amount of CO2 being pumped into the air.

Very zippy stuff, indeed.

Congo: Condition Critical


Over at Slate.com's XX Factor blog, Susannah Breslin writes:

Not long ago, I was contacted by a representative from Médecins Sans Frontières, or Doctors Without Borders, who pointed me to Condition: Critical, an online project that seeks to give voice to victims of violence in Congo. I've written about the situation in Congo here previously; New York Times East Africa bureau chief Jeffrey Gettleman has done an amazing job of chronicling the atrocities and their aftermath in a civil war-torn country where rape is used as a war tactic. "According to the United Nations," Gettleman reported, "27,000 sexual assaults were reported in 2006 in South Kivu Province alone, and that may be just a fraction of the total number across the country."

Condition: Critical looks to bridge the gap between Congo and the outside world with testimonies, videos, and photographs focusing on Congolese women who are victims of sexual violence, who emerge from the jungle after being kidnapped, raped, and enslaved by soldiers, who in some cases are unable to speak. Gettleman: "Many have been so sadistically attacked from the inside out, butchered by bayonets and assaulted with chunks of wood, that their reproductive and digestive systems are beyond repair."

The entire post is here, and includes graphic and disturbing personal testimony from survivors. Above, a brief clip from the feature-length documentary "Condition Critical: Voices From the War in Congo," which you can watch in entirety online here.

You can follow Susannah's work here, and she posts brief items to Twitter and Tumblr, too.

Update: Down in the comments section of this post, "resident media pundit" adds, "You may also be interested in the excellent documentary film, "Women In War Zones: Sexual Violence in the Congo." Trailer on YouTube."