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Pray away the Gaga

photo: Reuters/Lee Jae-Won

Christians attend a prayer meeting being held as they pray to stop the concert of Lady Gaga, at a church in Seoul April 22, 2012. The Christians blame Lady Gaga for promoting indecency and "homosexual love." Gaga performed live in Seoul today, despite the incantations. Below, her performance during the MTV Video Music Aid Japan event in Chiba, near Tokyo, last year.

photo: Reuters/Issei Kato

Interviews Before Execution: Chinese reality talk show with death row inmates

The BBC airs an hour-long documentary tonight about "Interviews Before Execution," a hit talk show in China in which host Ding Yu interviews prisoners on death row. Some 40 million viewers in China tune in to the show each week.

Days, hours, or minutes before they are killed, the host talks inside prison to those who have been condemned to die. The BBC doc combines clips from the show with "never-before-seen footage of China's death row," and includes an interview with a local judge who questions the future of the death penalty in China.

More about the documentary, from the BBC website:

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At SXSW, homeless people become WiFi hotspots

[Video Link]

Over the weekend, I noticed that David Gallagher of The New York Times observed in Austin, "Homeless people have been enlisted to roam the streets wearing T-shirts that say 'I am a 4G hotspot.”

A number of other folks I follow on Twitter who are attending the annual SXSW event there mentioned it, too, with concern. Here's the project's website, detailing their system to PayPal each "homeless hotspot" person directly. "We suggest $2 per 15 minutes."

The project was created by a team at global ad agency BBH.

Jon Mitchell at RWW has more. The problem, as he sees it:

The Homeless Hotspots website frames this as an attempt "to modernize the Street Newspaper model employed to support homeless populations." There's a wee little difference, though. Those newspapers are written by homeless people, and they cover issues that affect the homeless population. By contrast, Homeless Hotspots are helpless pieces of privilege-extending human infrastructure. It's like it never occurred to the people behind this campaign that people might read street newspapers. They probably just buy them to be nice and throw them in the garbage.

Tim Carmody at Wired News has more about the project's roots, and why he and others find it troubling:

This is my worry: the homeless turned not just into walking, talking hotspots, but walking, talking billboards for a program that doesn’t care anything at all about them or their future, so long as it can score a point or two about digital disruption of old media paradigms. So long as it can prove that the real problem with homelessness is that it doesn’t provide a service.

Madonna's cautionary AIDS comic, handed out at a 1987 concert

From Ethan Persoff's ongoing chronicles of vintage weird ephemera: COMICS WITH PROBLEMS #7 - MADONNA ON AIDS. This public health pamphlet was handed out at one of her concerts, one night only, in 1987. Her image appears on the cover, and inside, a handwritten note urging for greater awareness of AIDS and an end to prejudice against those who contract it (or who are HIV-positive).

The language of the 99 Percent

REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi

Brian Stelter has a piece in the New York Times today about language and the Occupy Movement.

I was among those interviewed for the article.

Within weeks of the first encampment in Zuccotti Park in New York, politicians seized on the phrase. Democrats in Congress began to invoke the “99 percent” to press for passage of President Obama’s jobs act — but also to pursue action on mine safety, Internet access rules and voter identification laws, among others. Republicans pushed back, accusing protesters and their supporters of class warfare; Newt Gingrich this week called the “concept of the 99 and the one” both divisive and “un-American.”

Perhaps most important for the movement, there was a sevenfold increase in Google searches for the term “99 percent” between September and October and a spike in news stories about income inequality throughout the fall, heaping attention on the issues raised by activists.

“The ‘99 percent,’ and the ‘one percent,’ too, are part of our vocabulary now,” said Judith Stein, a professor of history at the City University of New York.

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Blood types and pseudoscience in Japan

Ever wonder why some anime and video game character profiles tell you about the character's blood type? Check out this fascinating post at the Providentia blog about the use of blood types as horoscopes and personality tests in Japanese culture. The practice has origins in early-20th century racist pseudoscience, and it can still negatively affect people today. For instance, somebody with Type B blood might have a hard time finding a job. (Via Jack El-Hai)

The annotated apocalypse: Anthropologists tackle 2012


It’s August of 2011, do you know when your Apocalypse is?
There are 1000s of people who think that something important—if not the end or the world, then something—will happen on December 21, 2012.

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Software designer behind "84 chloroform searches" in Casey Anthony trial says data was wrong

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Turns out there was only one, not 84, searches for "chloroform" on Casey Anthony's computer. The New York Times reports that John Bradley, the man who designed the forensic application used to determine this, figured out there was an error and disclosed this to prosecutors and police right away—but the "84 searches for 'chloroform" line remained a key element of the prosecution, anyway. These new findings were never presented to the jury, and the court record was not corrected. Before you dismiss this as a tedious detail in an over-exploited celebrity trial, remember: this is the U.S. legal system at work, and you or I could be the suspect just as easily, for any number of more mundane crimes.

The finding of 84 visits was used repeatedly during the trial to suggest that Ms. Anthony had planned to murder her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee, who was found dead in 2008. Ms. Anthony, who could have faced the death penalty, was acquitted of the killing on July 5.

According to Mr. Bradley, chief software developer of CacheBack, used by the police to verify the computer searches, the term "chloroform" was searched once through Google. The Google search then led to a Web site, sci-spot.com, that was visited only once, Mr. Bradley added. The Web site offered information on the use of chloroform in the 1800s.

The Orange County Sheriff's Office had used the software to validate its finding that Ms. Anthony had searched for information about chloroform 84 times, a conclusion that Mr. Bradley says turned out to be wrong. Mr. Bradley said he immediately alerted a prosecutor, Linda Drane Burdick, and Sgt. Kevin Stenger of the Sheriff's Office in late June through e-mail and by telephone to tell them of his new findings. Mr. Bradley said he conducted a second analysis after discovering discrepancies that were never brought to his attention by prosecutors or the police.

The details of how the cops and prosecutors failed to validate data, and of how Bradley tried to press them to do exactly that, are interesting. They're here in the New York Times piece by Lizette Alvarez.

Scherer on Assange: "Penetrating a sleeping woman...is not a political act."

TIME's Michael Scherer on the hero theater around Julian Assange's sex case: "Penetrating a sleeping woman he had only recently met, if true, is not a political act, despite the efforts of his supporters to cast the resulting high cost of his house arrest as some sort of effort to stop the Arab Spring. It is the behavior of a brute, at best, and a criminal, at worst."

Rapper claims planking is racist

Gawker's Adrian Chen covers the new 'controversy' over planking, the cartoon-mimicking "lying-down game" out of Britain and Australia: rapper Xzibit insists that it is mocking slaves who were transported from Africa to America in superficially similar fashion. Adds Chen: "If smearing planking as racist is what finally makes it stop, we're not going to complain."

When "Hair" came to Memphis

This post at Dangerous Minds about the documentary "When Hair Came to Memphis," on the longhair musical hitting the Bible Belt, is a great piece of internet writing by Marc Campbell. But whoah man, the video is really—you gotta watch. (Thanks, Richard Metzger)

Alex Jones: "The DMT elves want the elites to kill us all."

Do yourself a favor today, and watch this truly exceptional Alex Jones rant. Clockwork elves, hyperdimensional eyes, and the government elite conspiracy to dose and rule us all.

New York legislature says "I do" to same-sex marriage (big photo gallery)

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People on the street cheer after the New York Senate passed a bill legalizing gay marriage in New York June 24, 2011.

The state legislature of New York tonight made same-sex marriages legal. New York now becomes the sixth state to allow gay people to get married, and the most populous state to do so. Reuters: "State senators voted 33-29 to approve marriage equality legislation introduced by Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat in his first year of office."

Gov. Cuomo has already signed the bill, so it will become law 30 days from now.

Human rights, dignity, equality, gift registries, tax breaks, divorces, and everlasting love for all.

They're celebrating in the streets tonight. Below, a couple follows the New York Senate sessions via twitter as they await the vote announcement. More photos follow of crowds awaiting, then celebrating the news, at the historic Stonewall Inn. The one photo that's really making the rounds tonight, however, is this one of a rainbow-lit Empire State Building.

REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi

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Bin Laden wanted a marketing makeover for al Qaeda, documents show

Documents obtained by US special forces from the compound where Osama bin Laden was killed show that the terror mastermind was considering a rebranding campaign for al Qaeda, and a possible merger with other regional militant groups. Mat Apuzzo, in the Associated Press, got a briefing from US officials familiar with the documents:

The problem with the name al-Qaida, bin Laden wrote in a letter recovered from his compound in Pakistan, was that it lacked a religious element, something to convince Muslims worldwide that they are in a holy war with America.

Maybe something like Taifat al-Tawhed Wal-Jihad, meaning Monotheism and Jihad Group, would do the trick, he wrote. Or Jama'at I'Adat al-Khilafat al-Rashida, meaning Restoration of the Caliphate Group.

As bin Laden saw it, the problem was that the group's full name, al-Qaida al-Jihad, for The Base of Holy War, had become short-handed as simply al-Qaida. Lopping off the word "jihad," bin Laden wrote, allowed the West to "claim deceptively that they are not at war with Islam." Maybe it was time for al-Qaida to bring back its original name.

Can I make a suggestion, dead guy? Go Silicon Valley. Just take out some vowels, a la Flickr, gdgt, Tumblr, and the like. "LQD."

Naked Bike Ride Day around the world: extra-large photo gallery

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Cyclists ride during the World Naked Bike Ride in Mexico City. More photos from around the world, below. Probably "NSFW," depending on where you "W." (REUTERS/Jorge Lopez)

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