Robert sez, "Azerbaijan is hosting the final of this Saturday's Eurovision song contest. Amidst the absurdity and kitsch, human rights groups are worried that Azerbaijan's autocratic government will use the occasion to airbrush its appalling treatment of journalists and activists. Index on Censorship is asking Boing Boing readers to make the President of Azerbaijan face the music during #Eurovision, by signing a petition demanding he end the persecution of writers and artists who speak truth to power."
My father was born in a refugee camp in Azerbaijan -- to Russian/Polish/Belarusian parents -- and I've always felt a distant kinship to the place, enough so that I take this sort of thing more personally than I would if it were in another post-Soviet Asian dictatorship. I signed.
The Eurovision Song Contest is a guilty pleasure for millions across Europe. But this year the competition has a dark side – it’s being hosted by Azerbaijan, a country whose people face violence, prison and persecution for exercising their right to free speech. On 18 April, Idrak Abbasov, an investigative reporter who won the Guardian/Index Award, was beaten unconscious by private security guards while the police looked on.
Other journalists have been attacked, abducted and tortured. In November 2011, writer Rafiq Tagi was attacked outside his home and later died. No one has been brought to justice for his murder. In fact, in the last seven years, there have been no arrests or prosecutions related to violence against journalists.
But it’s not just journalists – musicians, gay rights campaigners and political activists are also under attack.
Raise your voice
for free speech in Azerbaijan
CISPA, the pending US cybersecurity bill, is a terrible law, with many of the worst features of SOPA -- surveillance and domain seizures and censorship and so on. What's more, it is being supported by one of the largest Web companies in the world: Facebook. DemandProgress is asking its supporters to write to Facebook and ask them to withdraw their support.
What is Facebook thinking? They've signed on in support of CISPA -- the new bill that would obliterate online privacy, give the military crazy new abilities to spy on the Internet, and potentially let ISPs block sites and cut off users accused of piracy.
Tell Facebook: Withdraw Your Support For CISPA
Peter Flint sez, "Alan Turing, computer pioneer and geek hero, is generally credited with helping, via his work at the top-secret Bletchley Park code-breaking centre, to shorten World War 2 by anything up to two years. He tragicaly took his own life after his (then-illegal) homosexuality came to light. One way to commemorate his work and to make his legacy more widely understood waould be to include his picture on the next £10 note. Sign the petition
and help this to happen!" The richest person in Britain would be Turing-complete.
Spider Robinson writes concerning a petition to rescue the 100,000 items from the musical archives of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation that are in danger of being purged: "To waste the precious musical treasure the CBC has painfully accumulated and indexed for us would be a self-inflicted cultural lobotomy, akin to burning down the Alexandrian Library to make room for a trailer park. It’s our national iPod, and we spent a bundle of money and decades of hard work to load it. Don’t let some imbecile erase it. Keeping its battery charged is a trivial expense. I really think this is an important cause, and I'd like to encourage you to add your signature, too. It's free and takes just a few seconds of your time."
The stated plan is to digitalize some recordings, but the timeline for disposal in one fashion or another does not allow anywhere near an adequate appraisal of the provenance or cultural worth of each artifact. Many of these recordings were rare to begin with and are impossible to acquire in any format today. Thousands were donated by erudite collectors and hosts. Album covers and liner notes will disappear.
(For more information, see: http://cbcradiotwoandme.blogspot.com/2012/01/coming-to-garage-sale-near-you-cbcs.html and http://www.montrealgazette.com/entertainment/planning+record/6135746/story.html.)
Save CBC Music Archives
Michael Geist sez, "Open Media, which launched the most successful Canadian online petition in history on usage based billing, is now encouraging people to speak out on copyright reform. The group makes it easy to speak out against SOPA-style reforms, harms to fair dealing, and unduly restrictive digital lock rules. This is the last chance for Canadians to be heard with the final committee changes coming on Monday
Toronto's librarians are considering going on strike, as Mayor Rob Ford continues to make good on his election promise of "outsourcing everything that isn't nailed down." They're looking for your support, in the form of an endorsement for their "Love a Librarian" petition.
The City is pursuing a bargaining agenda to downgrade and reduce library staff and service. Their strategy is to slash service to diminish satisfaction in our public library. They think the public backlash will be smaller when the Toronto Public Library, in whole or in part, is placed on the market for sale.
Standing in the wings is the huge American library management firm Library Systems and Services, or LSSI.
Already, LSSI engaged the lobbying services of Paul Christie, a former city politician with close ties to Mayor Ford and at least one of his hand-picked members of the Library Board, to influence debate about the budget for our public library.
Christie quietly wined and dined officials extolling the virtues of private ownership of our public library during the budget debate.
This is the same Paul Christie who oversaw the decimation of public school funding under Conservative Premier Ernie Eves.
Even though LSSI has concluded its arrangement with Christie for the time being, they are ready to pounce if we give them the opportunity. This would be disastrous for Toronto residents. Every experience involving LSSI in the US and the UK where the company operates has resulted in higher costs, fewer books and less access for library users.
That is why we must strongly oppose the Mayor’s privatization agenda and keep our library public. Working together, I know we can prevail.
Please sign the Love a Librarian petition right now, then share it with your networks.
Love a Librarian Petition
A welcome White House petition
for our American readers' consideration: a request to make the Trans-Pacific Partnership treaty negotiation more transparent. This bland-sounding treaty is, in fact, the successor to ACTA, negotiated in the strictest secrecy. A recent leak from the TPP smoke-filled rooms revealed that negotiators are considering regulating incidental copies made in buffers
, a deep foray by regulatory fantasy into engineering reality.
Neal sez, "This is a White House petition
to reform U.S. copyright law in regard to libraries. Due to DRM and other publisher restrictions, libraries have lost their first sale right for ebooks and other digital media. The current ability of libraries to purchase digital content to loan to patrons is largely at the whim and discretion of the various publishers. Some only allow libraries to purchase restricted copies that 'expire' after so many checkouts, others refuse to sell digital content to libraries at all. Libraries have long been equalizers. The rich and poor could both have access to the same information. The current digital landscape threatens this vital component of our education system and by extension our democracy. Read more in my column for American libraries
ACTA is a secretly negotiated copyright treaty that obliges its signatories to take on many of the worst features of SOPA and PIPA. The EU is nearing ratification of it. ACTA was instigated by US trade reps under the Bush Administration, who devised and enforced its unique secrecy regime, but the Obama administration enthusiastically pursued it. This White House petition asks the administration to withdraw its support for the treaty.
Rogue archivist Carl Malamud sez, "John Podesta and I have written an open letter to President Obama calling for the creation of a Federal Scanning Commission, tasking this body with developing a strategy for digitizing .gov. Today, we do not scan at scale and there is a huge untapped storehouse buried in federal institutions such as the Library of Congress, Smithsonian Institution, National Archives, and scores of others. Our open letter is linked to a White House petition. We hope people will consider these issues and sign the petition."
The UK government has officially apologised to computing giant and war hero Alan Turing for forcing him to take hormone injections as "therapy" for being gay (driving him to suicide), but now a petition has been mounted to get an official pardon Turing's 1952 for "gross indecency."
We ask the HM Government to grant a pardon to Alan Turing for the conviction of 'gross indecency'. In 1952, he was convicted of 'gross indecency' with another man and was forced to undergo so-called 'organo-therapy' - chemical castration. Two years later, he killed himself with cyanide, aged just 41. Alan Turing was driven to a terrible despair and early death by the nation he'd done so much to save. This remains a shame on the UK government and UK history. A pardon can go to some way to healing this damage. It may act as an apology to many of the other gay men, not as well known as Alan Turing, who were subjected to these laws.
Grant a pardon to Alan Turing
The Electronic Frontier Foundation is celebrating the White House's openness to public petitions with a plea to update the nation's electronic privacy law, which last saw major revision in 1986, and which has some pretty big loopholes:
The government should be required to go to a judge and get a warrant before it can read our email, access private photographs and documents we store online, or track our location using our mobile phones. Please support legislation that would update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 (ECPA) to require warrants for this sensitive information and to require the government to report publicly on the use of its surveillance powers.
ECPA was forward-looking when it was signed into law in October of 1986, considering that the World Wide Web hadn't even been invented yet. But now, ECPA has become outdated. The privacy standards that it applies to new technologies are unclear and weak. For example, the law doesn't specifically address cell phone location tracking at all, and it allows the government to seize most emails without ever having to go to a judge. Meanwhile, no one is perfectly sure how it applies to newer online services like social networks and search engines.
This gap between the law and the technology ultimately leaves us all at risk. Add your name now to sign the petition supporting ECPA reform, and feel free to add a personalized intro to the text below that will be sent to your legislators before the 25th anniversary of ECPA.