Archive for May 2009

A Transparent Dictatorship?

May 14, 2009

The Brazilian government has announced that it will be releasing classified documents pertaining to Brazil’s dictatorial government from 1964 to 1985. The Interamerican Court for Human Rights previously sentenced and condemned the Brazilian government for not releasing information about government action during this period. Brazil is now trying to make amends with the Interamerican community by releasing the documents.

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Street Food that Tweets

May 13, 2009

The Fojol brothers of Merlindia, four guys (only two of which are brothers), dispense Indian street food on the fly from a psychedelic food truck. The key to their success? Twitter. Tweets telling their members where they happen to be parked at the time bring grazing customers. 

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Now, this doesn’t have anything to do specifically with democracy, but I think it shows great promise as a campaign tool (as Obama proved during his campaign.) Political organizers could contact their constituency 24/7 through twitter. However, it makes me wonder whether twitter (and especially the smartphones that allow its use) shows a further widening of the gap between organizers and low income communities. Twitter could just another weapon to add to an organizer’s arsenal, but organizers should make sure they are not alienating segments of the community by using unfamiliar/expensive technology. 

Still imprisoned in Tehran, blogger Hossein Derakshan accused of spying for Israel

May 12, 2009

Hossein Derakshan, a Canadian-Iranian dual citizen is still in jail. The blogger is known affectionately to many as the “blog-father,” for figuring out how to use Persian characters with blogger.com. Derakshan wanted Iranians to get a real glimpse of Israel and Israeli citizens.

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What’s with this???

Source

NYTimes Blogger and Aid Worker Still Held in Iran

A Tweet from Space

May 8, 2009

NASA astronaut Mark Polansky is getting ready to tweet from the International Space Station this June. Polansky made a YouTube video encouraging people to subscribe to his YouTube account and post their questions to his Twitter page. The astronaut will be answering questions through NASA TV.

Worst places to blog…

May 6, 2009

The Article: http://edition.cnn.com/2009/TECH/05/04/world.bloggers/index.html

My Two Cents: Ridiculous, of course. Myanmar, or Burma, tops the list for worst places to blog. Apparently,

one Burmese blogger, Maung Thura, is serving a 59-year prison term for circulating video footage after Cyclone Nargis in 2008, the Committee to Protect Journalists says.

Scary, no? But, of course, I look on this situation through the lens of western democratic theory. However, this situation can be considered no from a political point, but from a human rights standpoint. Almost 6 decades of imprisonment for circulating footage of Nargis that was already accesible seems to be a blatant violation of human rights. Can you really say that we must respect their government’s choice of punishment? Is freedom of speech only reserved for democracies, or is a fundamental human right?

Google Public Data

May 2, 2009

The 2002 E-government act required government agencies to make data and information more electronically available. However, government websites, notoriously messy, confusing, and unorganized have not become more user-friendly. Take for instance, the epa website. Comparatively, it has become far more colorful and attractive than previous epa websites, but the multiple boxes, buttons, pictures, that crowd each page make navigation difficult. Google Public Data, google’s newest tool, makes it easier to find government information. There is however a catch, and that catch is similar to other problems with using the internet as a reliable source of information. A user can search for a piece of data in Google Public Data, and that data will pop up. However, there is no way for the user to tell if that data is accurate, or free of typos and other data entry errors. The data may also lack context.

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Along with the three Rs, it is now increasingly important that people are taught about data and the internet. I didn’t use the internet as a research tool during elementary school and middle school – I remember looking at encylopedias and going to the library. It’s not that people don’t use the library anymore, but many people will type a question into google and then take the information they receive back at face value. My sister, now 12 years old, uses the internet for answers to questions all the time. Now, I don’t know if this is already happening, but a new curriculum needs to be developed so that people become active consumers of the internet and data – with the ability to not only interpret data, but also to convey it in such a way that it is understandable to others, and to figure out when the patterns in the data seem inconsistent or incorrect.

UK rules out “three strikes”

May 1, 2009

The Article: http://www.out-law.com//default.aspx?page=9977

Summary: The “three strikes you’re out rule” is the idea that three-time illegal IP-users would be cut off from Internet service. The French government has attempted implement this, but so far parliament hasn’t gone for it. The UK government argues that this issue should not be fought through legislation but, according to IP Minister, David Lammy, through “commercial solutions.”

In the end, the solutions are going to be commercial solutions. They are going to be solutions that are about ensuring people pay for content, but the ease of paying is there,” he said.

My Two Cents: It’s an interesting approach and definitely deserves consideration. The US is always trying to regulate through legislation, which so far hasn’t exactly worked. While I don’t know how it is in the UK, the legislative process doesn’t work too well when you have multi-million dollar ISPs lobbying Congress. The education approach the UK government is taking is admirable, but we’ll see how it goes.