May 27, 2011

'Big Bro' Sarkozy calls for internet regulation

srakozy,internet

French President Sarkozy has referred to the need to "civilize" the internet as a central issue of France's G-8 agenda. This week Sarkozy opened an 'historic' conference on the internet and the future of the "digital ecosystem." The Paris forum brought together some famous names, including Google's Eric Schmidt and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg.

Reuters:

Sarkozy... lauded the gathering of executives... for helping fuel the Arab spring and spurring economic growth.

But he maintained that governments have a role in setting ground rules to limit the abuses and excesses of the Internet, setting up a clash with Schmidt, who said no one would win if "some stupid rule" stunted the growth of the Web.


Sarkozy's call for "a more civilized internet" translates into a push for greater governmental regulation - all-in-all not such a hot idea. The last thing we need is more clout for Big Brother in the internet zone.

The French president has shown some rather draconian inclinations when it comes to the web. He has referred to the internet as the "Wild West" and an "extralegal zone." Not long ago in France he was behind a law that called for copyright pirates to be cut off from the internet. Of course he couches his calls for regulation in high sounding terms, referring to a "moral imperative" in order to correct "excesses." In all of this it's hard not to suspect a hint of self-interest in a president with notoriously thin skin. The internet has been rife with unflattering stories about Sarkozy's private life. Not long ago his Facebook account was hacked and the message put out that he wouldn't be running in the next election.

Colorful comments by his secretary of trade Frédéric Lefebvre have added to the impression of scare tactics aimed at paving the way for regulation. With more than a touch of hyperbole, Lefebvre described the Internet as a hotbed of “psychopaths, rapists, racists and thieves… The lack of regulation on the Net creates victims every day… How long will they tolerate young girls being raped before the authorities react?”

John Perry Barlow of the Electronic Frontier Foundation understands the 'civilizing' of cyber space rather differently, as less about regulation and more about freedom:

We’ve been trying to civilise cyberspace for 22 years and I think we may have different notions of what that means. We think that civilisation implies liberty, implies openness, implies, to the extent possible, minimal regulation...

Internet culture doesn't exist in some parallel universe, even though Sarkozy might suspect it of doing so. It is responsive to the needs of its users. Last year in Germany there were privacy concerns related to Google's Street View. A number of companies adopted a code of good practice for "geo-data." This includes the option to blur images of homes and persons on request.

Increased governmental regulation will have a suffocating effect on everything from free expression to the growth of the digital economy. The internet zone is very different from a societal sector in which governmental regulations may be appropriate. For one thing in the world of tech change and innovation happens much more quickly. It's not easy to foresee the consequences of regulation. Regulations that in the short term may seem desirable, could very quickly turn out to be more of a liability than an asset.

The advocacy group La Quadrature du Net has come out in strong opposition to Sarkozy's proposals. Spokesman Jérémie Zimmermann described the summit as "a farce." Along with other Net activists, La Quadrature du Net warn that the world's governments are uniting to "control and censor the internet." Like Sarkozy - Italy's premier Berlusconi has been pushing his plans for internet regulation.

Government regulation runs counter to the spirit of a free web in which each of us has a stake.

Link also to Guardian - Guardian (on the reaction of UK's Cameron) - Huffpo - BBC (video)

Sarko alert


Dove Body Wash ad sends mixed message

dove,ad,racism


A Dove ad for VisibleCare Creme Body Wash sends a mixed message. The models in the ad feature a curvy black woman, a Latina and a slim white woman. The weight/skin color transition is inferred - intentionally or not - with "before" and "after" references. The "before" above the black model is on a large panel showing cracked skin - "after" above the white model shows smooth, perfect skin.

The tagline could be "get-whiter-and-slimmer with Dove Body Wash!" On the face of it, a ridiculous suggestion because the Body Wash isn't a skin-lightening product. Nonetheless the ad could be interpreted that way.

A Dove spokesperson denied there is anything racist going on in the ad:

All three women are intended to demonstrate the "after" product benefit. We do not condone any activity or imagery that intentionally insults any audience.'


Ok but how come the designers of the ad and the people who approved it failed to see the potential for misunderstanding? It's a mixed message at best. If all three models demonstrate the "after" look, why weren't they placed in a different order to avoid negative perceptions?

It is a stretch to call the ad racist, but the set-up lays it open to the charge.

In more general terms... the fashion industry has been criticized for favoring white models over models-of-color. Beauty-related ads have been criticized for skin lightening - for example this bizarre L'Oreal ad featuring Beyonce.

Also link to: The Root - This Week

May 21, 2011

The apocalypse that wasn't

harold camping,apocalypse


If you buy the prophetic ramblings of 89 year-old engineer-turned-preacher Harold Camping the world is scheduled to end today - Saturday, May 21, 2011. Surprising that Camping is so keen to usher in end-times. His enterprises have been doing pretty well in a tough economy.

NY Times:

A former civil engineer, Mr. Camping, 89, built a small nonprofit empire in radio, going from a single station in San Francisco to more than 200 radio stations and a pair of television stations, according to The Bay Citizen, which also reported the organization’s most recent I.R.S. financial disclosure filings, showing $34 million in investments, $56 million in assets and $29 million in mortgages.


Camping has an apocalypse-events preview of sorts for the upcoming "Judgment Day" drama. As of this posting a massive earthquake is reportedly going to start up in New Zealand and rumble its way around the globe. While all this rattling and rolling is going on, graves will open and and two hundred million of the "saved" will float up to heaven in the so-called "rapture." So be sure to wave as great uncle Ebeneezer and great great grandma Jemima levitate skyward.

Thanks to donations from followers who tune into the Family Radio Network, Camping has been able to launch a huge ad campaign heralding the impending apocalypse. There are over 2,000 billboards across the US warning of the end-to-come with slogans such as "Blow the trumpet, warn the people."


harold camping,apocalypse


It's amazing that there is anyone out there who takes Camping's prophesies seriously, particularly when you look at the hokey bible-based numerology he uses to support his predictions. This includes trotting out implausible dates for events that are more myth than historical fact. For example he claims that Jesus was crucified on April 1, 33 AD and that May 21 marks the 7,000th anniversary of Noah's flood. Funny stuff.

In common with other evangelical doomsday preachers Camping sees evil everywhere... too many 'Satanic' goings on wherever you look.

When May 22 dawns, it won't be the first time Camping's predictions have come back to bite him. He predicted that Christ would return on September 6, 1994. His followers even dressed their kids up in their Sunday best to wait for the big non-event. It's unclear if Camping and co will be dressing for judgment this time around.

Christian detractors call Camping "a false prophet." He's most of all an eccentric with a taste for publicity. One thing is for certain - when May 22 rolls around yet another religious wingnut will have flamed out in grand style. Some people might even be disappointed... especially those who joined a Facebook page dedicated to "Post-Rapture Looting." An entry on the page reads: “When everyone is gone and God’s not looking we need to pick up some sweet stereo equipment.”

Grey bloke's amusing take on Camping's apocalypse beneath:





For more on the story link to Guardian - NY Times

Pictures - Independent

Viagra downside: hard... of hearing

viagra,deafness


The use of Viagra and related drugs might make pillow talk more of a challenge. Researchers have linked some cases of hearing loss to the use of so-called impotence drugs."Want to go again?" might be misheard as "want a goat at ten?". Passionate outbursts such as "Oh God!" might come off sounding like "Oh Gord!".

News that Viagra and other PDE-5 inhibitors have a downside in the form of possible hearing loss isn't altogether new. Earlier studies suggested that users doubled the chances of hearing impairment:Link

Reuters:

The study, based on a national sample of American men over 40, found that slightly more than one in six of those who did not take Viagra-like drugs -- for instance, Eli Lilly's Cialis -- were deaf or hard of hearing.

Among those who took the drugs, however, almost one in three had hearing loss, Gerald McGwin, an epidemiologist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health, told Reuters Health.

Even after accounting for other factors linked to hearing loss, hard-of-hearing men still had twice the odds of taking Viagra...


A few years ago the FDA took steps to add warnings about possible hearing loss to impotence drugs based on reports of hearing problems experienced by users.

Recent research has turned up 47 cases of sensorineural hearing loss (SSHL) linked to PDE-5 inhibitors such as Viagra, Levitra and Cialis. Symptoms include rapid loss of hearing in one or both ears. SSHL causes damage to the inner ear and can result in deafness.

Laryngoscope:

There is increasing evidence that PDE-5 inhibitors may induce sensorineural hearing loss via plausible physiological mechanisms. There needs to be more awareness of this disabling side effect among healthcare professionals responsible for prescribing this drug.


The FDA advises users to stop taking Viagra or related meds if they experience loss of hearing.

Maybe it's time to consider natural alternatives. Botany enthusiast Michael Ford claimed that an infusion of winter-flowering heather worked almost too well.

Viagra remains popular in some unexpected ways - especially with the CIA.

Related articles: MNSBC - Jezebel - Physorg - Science Daily

Viagra use could result in hearing issues


May 15, 2011

Nadia Plesner win: EU court rules against Louis Vuitton

plesner,vuitton,darfur


In a win for art, an EU court has ruled in favor of Nadia Plesner in the case brought against her by Louis Vuitton for including a look-a-alike Audra style handbag in her painting Darfurnika. The ruling includes the following: "the importance of Plesner (freedom of expression through her work) outweighs the importance of Vuitton (protection of property)" - (according to a Google translation from the Dutch news story).

In her painting Danish artist Nadia Plesner includes an image of an African child holding a Chihuahua and the disputed look-a-like fashion purse. In juxtaposing images from two starkly different worlds... the world of high fashion and the Darfur nightmare of poverty and oppression, Plesner makes a powerful statement.


darfur,plesner
Darfurnika


Louis Vuitton decided to sue Plesner even though the bag in Darfurnika does not in fact replicate the design of the Monogram Multicolore, created by Vuitton art director Marc Jacobs and artist Takashi Murakami, nor does it include any logos or other descriptors tying it directly to Louis Vuitton.

LV's legal action against Plesner goes back a few years. The company sued the artist in 2008 for the use of the same image on t'shirts - part of her campaign to encourage divestment from Darfur. That lawsuit went against Plesner, mainly because she didn't contest it.

In the more recent case Louis Vuitton obtained an ex parte order against Plesner and sought a penalty of $5,000 for every day the image appeared on the artist's website. There was an attempt to prevent her from displaying the work online and in any venues in the European Union.

The use of an ex parte decision in this case was rightly objected to by Plesner since she didn't have a chance to defend herself. Her attorney released a statement that included the following:

Nadia believes the court order is a gross violation of her right to free speech and artistic freedom under section 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights...

She feels Louis Vuitton abused the ex parte procedure to violate her rights. Ex parte means that the defendant is not heard. This means that the ruling of the court is based on the view put forward by Louis Vuitton, without Nadia having a chance to defend herself...

Ex parte proceedings are meant for evident violations of intellectual property rights, for example to stop a shipment of counterfeit shoes from China. It is not meant to stifle artistic freedom and free speech.



The decision taken by Louis Vuitton to go after Plesner in the courts seems counterproductive. Making a look-a-alike handbag a reason to prosecute an artist who has dedicated her talent and time to a worthy humanitarian cause isn't exactly good publicity. Nadia Plesner has shown a high level of dedication in raising awareness about the ongoing tragedy in Darfur. The profits from her Simple-Living t'shirt go toward the effort to raise medical supplies.

If we reach a point where the clout of corporations can trump considerations such as parody and fair use in the case of a derivative look-a-like image, freedom of expression will be severely compromised. Artists will be more inclined to self-censor out of fear of litigation.

There is a certain irony in Louis Vuitton's decision to go to law in this case. As a consequence of Vuitton's high profile move the image-in-dispute has taken on even greater symbolic significance than might otherwise have been the case.

Video about Nadia Plesner and her work beneath:



Facebook: 'planking' pics drawing big audience

planking,facebook

A new internet craze called "planking" involves lying in a horizontal posture in, on or across various objects in some situation guaranteed to attract attention. Being able to simulate rigor mortis is a definite plus, along with powers of endurance when it comes to holding a position for an indeterminate period of time.

Facebook pages that have attracted large numbers of planking fans have pics of plankers doing their thing on chimneys, the backs of camels, railway lines, fire hydrants, escalators, street signs ... you name it. Planking Australia boasts over 100,000 fans and hundreds of pictures. On some American comment threads WTF reactions would suggest that not everyone is as enthusiastic.

It's not hard to understand the appeal. It's free and it's fun for those who get off on lying around in strange places. All you need is a place to plank, a cellphone or other picture taking device and a bud or two to bear witness.

It can also be high risk and possibly illegal. A few planking-related incidents in Australia made the news recently. Nate Shaw, a 20-year old from Gladstone was arrested for planking on a police car. He was charged after the cops spotted a pic of the stunt on Facebook.


planking,australia,shaw

Nate Shaw planking on a police car


There was also an unfortunate tragedy. In Brisbane a planker in his 20's named Acton Beale fell to his death from a balcony railing. Incidents such as this have prompted police in Queensland to consider placing dodgy planking stunts in the Unauthorized High Risk Activity category.

Aside from the seriously risky stuff, planking comes off as a novel way to make a statement for those who feel the need. A few pundits wonder if the urge-to-plank says something deeper about our harried existence these days. Maybe on some subliminal level it's a way of giving the finger to controls, expectations, the rules and regs that seem to be crowding out our lives. Whatever is behind it, it would seem to be growing in popularity... even in Taiwan:


planking,taiwan



planking,taiwan



Photobucket


There is now a Global Planking Day - May 25, 2011... an annual event from here on in.

Video beneath with lots of planking going on:





Link also to MSNBC - BBC

May 10, 2011

Lisa Blue 'goddess' swimsuit makes waves

Hindus protest Goddess Lakshmi swimsuit

A swimsuit that features an image of the Hindu goddess Lakshmi has been making waves. The use of Lakshmi's image, emblazoned on the front and back of the cutaway design, has sparked outrage on the part of offended Hindus. The swimsuit was created by the Australian designer Lisa Burke - part of her Lisa Blue line at Australian Fashion Week.

Some of the sound and fury has been coming from right-wing Hindu organizations such as Shiv Sena and the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party. During the protests in Indian cities participants waved photocopies of the Lakshmi swimsuit and burned the Australian flag.

Rajan Zed, President of the Universal Society of Hinduism, called on Lisa Blue and the organizers of the Rosemount Australian Fashion Week to apologize and recall all swimwear featuring Lakshmi.

The use of an image of a god or goddess on a commercial product can be a risky proposition. When Lakshmi's image was used by Burger King in 2009 the promotion sparked a similar backlash. The pairing of Lakshmi with beef was viewed as blasphemous by many Hindus since the cow has sacred significance for them.

In general the reaction of the religious seems to depend on how a sacred image is handled. Images of Hindu deities turn up in many commercial products without any problem. For example Hindu Art Yoga Clothing has a line of t'shirts and other items featuring a range of gods and goddesses. There is even a Lakshmi handbag that has been advertised without any protests breaking out.

lakshmi,bag


Handbags are one thing though - It's hard to believe that the creators of the swimsuit were naive enough to imagine that the image of Lakshmi on the rear end of a model's bikini wouldn't provoke a backlash.

Lisa Burke has apologized and announced that the Lakshmi range won't be available for sale in stocklists or retail outlets. She said: "At no time would we ever have intended that the brand would cause offence. The use of images of Goddess Lakshmi was not in any way a measure of calculated risk taking, simply it was a desire to celebrate different cultures and share that through our brand."

The "celebrate different cultures" bit is hard to buy. Western companies that appropriate what is considered sacred art by some are about making a profit. It's really about exploitation. However the heated reaction of Hindu nationalists - all male - is as much about politics and right-wing chauvinism as it is about culture and religion.

Use of Hindu deities to advertise product: other controversies

Hindu sacred images used to promote commercial products

May 2, 2011

NDP looking strong on eve of Canadian election

jack layton,canada,ndp


In an EKOS-iPolitics poll for May 1 the gap between the NDP and front-running Conservatives has narrowed to just 3 points. The poll has the Conservatives with 34.6% of support of decided and leaning voters - the NDP is at 31.4%. The Liberals are back at 20.4%.

The NDP offers a real democratic alternative to 'fortress' Harper and his controlling style of governance. The catalog of Harper lies, flip-flops and power grabs makes interesting reading - it speaks to an agenda that has to be challenged in an Ottawa that needs fixing.

The name Harper prefers for his administration was spelled out in a directive that went out to public servants. It stated that in federal communications the "Government of Canada" should be replaced with "Harper Government." It certainly clarifies a few things because a majority of Canadians (based on the popular vote) have difficulty associating Harper and his agenda with the Canada they know and love.

The NDP was recently endorsed by the Toronto Star. A T-Star editorial lists some of the NDP's assets:

• The party is on the verge of a historic breakthrough in Quebec, which would go far toward establishing it as a truly national party. Pushing back the Bloc Québécois is an enormous service to all Canadians. For the long-term unity of the country it is vital to have a national federalist leader trusted in Quebec as well as other regions. Layton’s roots in Quebec have proven key to this.

• The platform the NDP offers voters is ambitious and puts people first. It focuses on seniors, health care and the environment. It is in the broad tradition of nation-building that has long been at the heart of Canadian politics. After years of hearing the Harper Conservatives give the back of the hand to such aspirations, it is refreshing to see.

• On economic issues, long the NDP’s weakest point, the party is much sounder than it has been in the past. It is reaching out to small business as the main motor of job creation, and proposes no increases in personal taxes (though it would hike the corporate tax rate to 19.5 per cent). It pledges to balance the federal budget in four years, the same as the Liberals and Conservatives.

• In Layton it has a leader who has won the trust of many voters — a rare feat in a time dominated by cynical, ultra-partisan politicking. As a product of Toronto’s municipal scene and a veteran of urban politics, he is more attuned than any other major leader to the needs of our country’s cities — the engines of innovation and future prosperity.

Harper's partisan approach to politics has been a divisive force in the country. Even with a Tory win, the strong showing of the NDP on the federal scene sends a clear message for the future. Times they are a'changing.

Canada needs a federal government that genuinely represents the needs and aspirations of Canadians - not a machine that exploits fear and cynicism in order to help galvanize the vote.

Video of NDP rally in BC:




More on the election - Toronto Star - Rabble