Tuesday, June 3, 2008

12 degrees

The Story

In the year 2012 there has been a backlash against Patriot Act era policies and a series of investigations reveal just how rampant surveillance on ordinary citizens had become.  After the Dept of Homeland Security is abolished, a hacker gets into databases from 2008 and discovers 1,000's of hours of surveillance footage which he decides to release online.  He narrates the short videos and sometimes even remixes them and they become the most watched show in the US.  His narration offers commentary on our times from the perspective of an optimistic future that sees our current society as troubled and bleak.  The videos will incorporate current events as they occur, including the Presidential election cycle as seen from the eyes of the future.  As more videos are released, we come to see that the seemingly unrelated characters from throughout the world are interconnected...

How it Works

12 degrees will be shot collaboratively in 12 different cities throughout the US on a monthly basis. We will post an outline ala Curb Your Enthusiasm on our website at the beginning of every month. Meetup groups will then be organized where actors, directors and anyone else will shoot their interpretations of the outline. Groups can shoot more than one version, and can regroup to shoot with different actors, etc. Submissions will be posted to www.12degrees.tv where anyone will be able to vote on their favorite. All of the narration will be written and added by neovids, allowing us to create a story with continuity, and then added to the collaborative video that receives the most votes. The following month will utilize the same format, but the Meetup group will happen in another locale. The first two episodes will be shot in NYC and LA, with future cities determined by interest on our website. We will also post behind the scenes videos from the Meetups, which will be live streamed when possible.

The final 12 minute episode will mash together the previous winning entries to complete the story for the first season. Audience members will also be able to mashup their own version of the final episode using any previously submitted clip to allow for infinite variations of the story.

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Interview With Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky

by Maya Schenwar

photoUS Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky sat down with Truthout's Maya Schenwar.
(Photo: Charles Rex Arbogast / AP)

    Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky has had enough of the war in Iraq, and she's had enough of the military contractors that are making it possible.

    "These are the guys who carry guns - I would call them mercenaries - who are engaged in inherently governmental activities," she told me in a recent interview, noting that while contractors carry out many of the same functions as the military, they are held to much less stringent standards.
"One has to ask, 'Is it the policy of the United States of America that contractors can get away with murder?' And frankly, so far, it seems like the answer is 'yes.'"

    Schakowsky, the House's chief deputy whip, is leading the fight to rein in those mercenaries and face facts on the war - a fight that is not particularly popular, given the extent to which the military relies on contract labor. (Numbering more than 180,000, the list of private contract workers now exceeds the US troop count in Iraq.) But Schakowsky is no stranger to uphill battles. She opposed the Iraq war resolution in 2003 and helped found the Out-of-Iraq Caucus in 2005. She has voted against renewing war funding for the past four years, and has pushed for legislation to attach a timetable for withdrawal to any war monies going forward.

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Interview With Congressman Ron Paul

by William Rivers Pitt

photoPresidential Candidate Ron Paul campaigning in New Hampshire, sat down with Truthout's William Rivers Pitt.
(Photo: Cheryl Senter / Associated Press)

    Despite what the mainstream news media choose to report, Senator John McCain of Arizona is not the last remaining Republican candidate for president today. Congressman Ron Paul of Texas never abandoned his run for the GOP nomination, and he fully intends to present himself before the Republican National Convention in September as a true conservative alternative to McCain's status-quo candidacy. In fact, according to a recent blog report published by The Los Angeles Times, Paul looks to do more than merely show up at the door.

    "Largely under the radar of most people," reported the Times, "the forces of Rep. Ron Paul have been organizing across the country to stage an embarrassing public revolt against Sen. John McCain when Republicans gather for their national convention in Minnesota at the beginning of September. They hope to demonstrate their disagreements with McCain vocally at the convention through platform fights and an attempt to get Paul a prominent speaking slot. Paul, who's running unopposed in his home Texas district for an 11th House term, still has some $5 million in war funds and has instructed his followers that their struggle is not about a single election, but a long-term revolution for control of the Republican Party."

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Rate of Violence Skyrocketing in Afghanistan

by Brandon Friedman

While U.S. hostile fire fatalities in Iraq last month dropped to their lowest level since December, the news has been far grimmer coming out of Afghanistan.  In terms of enemy fire, May 2008 was the second deadliest month of the war since hostilities began in Afghanistan shortly after 9/11.  This also marked the end of the deadliest 12-month period for U.S. troops in combat in Afghanistan since the war began nearly seven years ago.

14 Americans were killed by hostile fire in Afghanistan last month (equal to the same number killed in June 2006).  The deadliest month of combat in Afghanistan for U.S. troops was in June 2005 when 25 died--16 in a single helicopter shoot-down.

While 14 hostile fire fatalities may not seem significant when compared to the fighting in Iraq, there are two facts that we must take into consideration:

1. We have just experienced the deadliest 12-month period of the war in Afghanistan in terms of hostile fire--by far.  

99 Americans have been killed in action since 1 June 2007.  The previous 12-month high was 70--between 1 June 2005 and 31 May 2006.

2. The hostile fire death rate for American troops in Afghanistan last month was four times that of Iraq.  

One out of every 2,500 (.04 percent) Americans in Afghanistan died last month at the hands of the enemy.  This is much higher than in Iraq, in which one out of every 10,000 (.01 percent) American troops died.

While hostile fire casualty rates in Iraq have been higher than .04 percent in about half of all months since the invasion, this shows us one fact that cannot be overlooked: The violence in Afghanistan only seems minimal to Americans because there are a mere 33,000 troops there.  But the rate of violence there is clearly comparable to that in Iraq--where 155,000 troops are now serving.  For those 33,000 troops in Afghanistan, for the first time now, life has become more dangerous than in Iraq.

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Shocking Bush 'Pep Talk' to His War Cabinet on Iraq: 'We Are Going to Wipe Them out!'

By Tom Engelhardt

Here's a memory for you. I was probably five or six and sitting with my father in a movie house off New York's Times Square -- one of the slightly seedy theaters of that dawn of the 1950s moment that tended to show double or triple feature B-westerns or war movies. We were catching some old oater which, as I recall, began with a stagecoach careening dramatically down the main street of a cow town. A wounded man is slumped in the driver's seat, the horses running wild. Suddenly -- perhaps from the town's newspaper office -- a cowboy dressed in white and in a white Stetson rushes out, leaps on the team of horses, stops the stagecoach, and says to the driver: "Sam, Sam, who dun it to ya?" (or the equivalent). At just that moment, the camera catches a man, dressed all in black in a black hat -- and undoubtedly mustachioed -- skulking into the saloon.

My dad promptly turns to me and whispers: "He's the one. He did it."

Believe me, I'm awed. All I can say in wonder and protest is: "Dad, how can you know? How can you know?"

But, of course, he did know and, within a year or two, I certainly had the same simple code of good and evil, hero and villain, under my belt. It wasn't a mistake I was likely to make twice.

Above all, of course, you couldn't mistake the bad guys of those old films. They looked evil. If they were "natives," they also made no bones about what they were going to do to the white hats, or, in the case of Gunga Din (1939), the pith helmets. "Rise, our new-made brothers," the evil "guru" of that film tells his followers. "Rise and kill. Kill, lest you be killed yourselves. Kill for the love of killing. Kill for the love of Kali. Kill! Kill! Kill!"

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The World Is Upside Down

For a while the world was flat. Now it's upside down.

To understand it, invert your thinking. See the developed world as depending on the developing world, rather than the other way round. Understand that two-thirds of global economic growth last year came from emerging countries, whose economies will expand about 6.7 percent in 2008, against 1.3 percent for the United States, Japan and euro zone states.

The sharp rise in prices for energy, commodities, metals and minerals produced mainly in the developing world explains part of this shift. That has created the balance of payments surpluses fueling dollar-dripping sovereign wealth funds in the gulf and East Asia. They amuse themselves picking up a stake in BP here, a chunk of Morgan Stanley there, and why not a sliver of Total.

We of the developed-world Paleolithic species are fair game for the upstarts now, our predator role exhausted. The U.S. and Europe may one day need all the charity they can get.

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Weird Science

In this issue of [the New Yorker], Elizabeth Kolbert writes about the life of Buckminster Fuller and about an exhibition about Fuller at the Whitney Museum of American Art. "By staging the retrospective, the Whitney raises—or, really, one should say, re-raises—the question of Fuller's relevance," Kolbert writes. "Was he an important cultural figure because he produced inventions of practical value or because he didn't?" Here is a portfolio of images from the magazine and the Whitney exhibition.

Fuller flying in a helicopter over Ohio in 1959. "Fuller's schemes often had the hallucinatory quality associated with science fiction (or mental hospitals)," Kolbert writes. "It concerned him not in the least that things had always been done a certain way in the past."

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Pringles can designer dies; remains buried in Pringles can

200806021053.jpgFrom the Cincinnati Enquirer:
Dr. Fredric J. Baur was so proud of having designed the container for Pringles potato crisps that he asked his family to bury him in one.

His children honored his request. Part of his remains was buried in a Pringles can - along with a regular urn containing the rest - in his grave at Arlington Memorial Gardens in Springfield Township.

Dr. Baur, a retired organic chemist and food storage technician who specialized in research and development and quality control for Procter & Gamble, died May 4 at Vitas Hospice. The College Hill resident was 89.

Link (Thanks, Tomatillo!)

Philips’ Window Shopper Gaze Tracking System

Gaze Interaction For Information Display Of Gazed Items (Image courtesy the World Intellectual Property Organization)
By Andrew Liszewski

If it wasn't bad enough that stores were already tracking the purchase decisions and buying patterns of their customers, it now seems that Philips is developing a way for stores to track the interests of people who haven't even come inside. Using a set of video cameras and eye tracking software the system will be able to tell what someone looking at a window display has been staring at the longest, and will then provide more detailed information about the product via a passive or even interactive video display in hopes it will push them towards making a purchase decision.

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The Mother of all Demos


A number of years ago, in 1988, my brother and I were showing our first product, The Manhole, at the HyperExpo in San Francisco. We built The Manhole with a hypermedia tool called HyperCard, similar in many ways to today's web (at a time when the web didn't yet exist). HyperCard served, not only as the first wide-scale implementation of hypermedia, but also as an important precursor to the web.

While we were doing our thing, mostly just enjoying the Expo (it was our first intro to a software show), we couldn't help but notice an enigmatic group, run by one Ted Nelson, calling themselves Project Xanadu. They made themselves known by roaming the floor in mysterious black t-shirts, each t-shirt silk-screened with a large "X". How curious... like rebels amidst a HyperCard majority. Who were these men in black?

It might have been the first time I heard of the words hyperlink, hypertext or hypermedia . It was definitely the first I learned that the "link" concepts, so central to HyperCard, were not original inventions of Bill Atkinson. And it was the first I learned that these concepts, so central to today's web, were older than I was! 1965 to be exact... and the brainchild of aforementioned Mr. Ted Nelson, the leader of these Xanadu crusaders.

What I didn't know until recently, is that a stunted version of hypertext had been demonstrated as early as 1968. This was no run-of-the-mill boring-vision-of-the-future demo. This was, simply put, "The Mother of All Demos". Steven Levy first gave it that name and it seems to have stuck: The Mother of All Demos (and oh I really love that name). Douglas Engelbart's whirling vision of the future; it was the first public use of a mouse, as well as examples of cutting, copying, pasting, teleconferencing, video conferencing, email, and... hypertext. It's just too damn much for 1968!

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the art of Austin Shaw

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U.N. Chief: World Needs 50% More Food

Addressing Global Food Summit, Ban Ki-moon, Pope Beseech Countries To Avert Hunger Crisis

The U.N. secretary-general said Tuesday world food production must rise by 50 percent by 2030 to meet increasing demand.

Ban Ki-moon told world leaders at a food summit in Rome that nations must minimize export restrictions and import tariffs during the crisis that has caused hunger and riots across the globe.

Participants at the U.N. summit are trying to figure out how to head off skyrocketing food prices before millions more join the multitudes across the globe who already lack enough to eat.

In a message to the conference Pope Benedict told the massed world leaders that hunger and malnutrition are "unacceptable" in a world that has enough resources.

Benedict said in the message, which was read aloud Tuesday, that millions of people are looking to them for solutions while their very survival and their countries' security are at risk.

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'I don't make things easy'

Some think she's the greatest singer-songwriter of her generation. So why haven't more people heard of Thea Gilmore? Stephanie Merritt talks to her about artistic credibility, her depression and the pressures on young women in music.

Thea Gilmore, singerThea Gilmore, singer. Photograph: David Sillitoe

Bruce Springsteen has her on his iPod, Joan Baez invited her on tour, and she has collaborated with members of the Zutons and the Waterboys as well as Martha Wainwright. She has been described as "the best singer/songwriter of the last 10 years", is not yet 29 and has just released her seventh album of self-penned songs (having written her first when she was 16). Yet there's a good chance you've never heard of Thea Gilmore.

"I constantly get people telling me I should be selling as much as Katie Melua," she says with a smile. "But there's a reason she sells that many and I don't - she makes music that's easy on the ear and even easier on the brain. She's the perfect good girl in the middle of the road. I'm not keen to make things too easy for anyone. I like to provoke a response, whether that's someone telling me they love what I do or throwing a bottle at me. The trouble is that the bottle-throwing faction won't buy the album. You've immediately limited your audience."

In an industry that so often treats women as product, it has taken character - and a degree of what Gilmore cheerfully describes as "arrogance" - to resist being moulded by A&R men. In her early 20s she was courted by all the major record labels, but turned them down; creative control has always been a greater priority for her than any financial incentive. "I hate the business I'm in," she says. "I was under a lot of pressure to make records that sounded the way other people wanted them to sound. That was intrinsically wrong to me." It is this artistic and intellectual integrity that has made her something of a role model for other musicians - that and her ear for a melody and her ability to adapt her voice to a variety of musical styles.

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Saving Our Herstory

 by: Stephanie Schoeder, Laurie K. Schenden, Lily-Rygh Glen
It's time to remember our history, from the tragedies to the triumphs. It's a time when lesbians of all ages should look back and reflect on how far we have come as a movement, and how far we have to go in the goal to achieve equality.
However, since the mere thought of addressing queer history in schools sends conservatives into a panic-induced seizure, it's up to us to preserve our past for future generations.

The Lesbian Herstory Archives (LHA), Brooklyn, N.Y.
Inside 484 14th St., an unassuming brownstone on a residential block in Park Slope, Brooklyn, is the largest collection of lesbian-specific materials anywhere in the world. Memorabilia ranges from a box donated by an average lesbian and containing her life story, to the infamous Lavender Menace T-shirt said to be worn by Rita Mae Brown at NOW's Second Congress to Unite Women in 1970.

The contents of lesbian history has been preserved by a legion of volunteers who began the archive way back in 1974 in the pantry of Joan Nestle and Deborah Edel's Upper West Side apartment.

You can find out more about "the collection," as the LHA's massive inventory is referred to, in the LHA's handout A Brief History of the Lesbian Herstory Archives, which you can pick up in the LHA entryway or on the organization's website, lesbianherstoryarchives.org.
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Teens Belong in Summer Jobs

by Froma Harrop

Put disadvantaged teens into summer jobs. Hook them into the world of work. They'll come home with new skills, discipline, contacts and, yes, money.

Seems pretty obvious — but apparently not in Washington, which in 2000 gutted the Summer Youth Employment Program. The program had been helping 600,000 mostly low-income young people find jobs.

The labor market is now caving for teens from all backgrounds. But for low-income, black and Hispanic kids, it's the "Great Depression," according to a new report by Northeastern University's Center for Labor Market Studies.

Andrew Sum, an economist who heads the center, recently testified before Congress that a jobs program for teens makes superb economic stimulus. "You can create jobs more cost-effectively for young people than for any other group," he told me, "and you're getting an output as opposed to paying something for doing nothing."

This may sound all backward, but kids from rich families are more likely to have summer jobs than their poor cohorts. Last summer, only 29 percent of teens in families with incomes under $20,000 found work, while 50 percent of young people in families making $75,000 to $100,000 did.

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a reminder

No on 98, Yes on 99 Campaign Update
June 2, 2008

We know you are very busy, so we won't keep you long.  Tomorrow is Election Day. That means that not only do you need to vote against Prop 98 tomorrow, but we all need to make sure that our friends remember to vote No on 98 and Yes on 99 tomorrow. Turnout in this election is very uncertain, so whether you call or email, canvass or table, all of your hard work is important for our victory. 

If you need additional information, go to our website to find detailed reasons to vote against Prop 98, the Landlords' Scheme, and for Prop 99, Real eminent domain reform. Click Here to the over 70 editorials against Prop 98. You can find flyers and fact sheets in our Campaign Toolbox.


Our Top Priority: Vote! 

Before we can reach out to all of our voters, we all have to vote. If you didn't vote early, please make sure you vote on June 3.  Thank you so very much for everything you have done to fight the Landlords' Scheme.

Let us know how we can help you get the message out about No on 98, Yes on 99. We are always available at info@no98yes99.com.


No on 98 / Yes on 99 Team

P.s. You can also forward this email to a friend. If you are having problems viewing this email, click here to view it on the web


Striking the Rock

Both sides in the Gaza crisis should reflect on what the Torah teaches about our responses under pressure.

By Haim Watzman

As the world watches the Israeli invasion of Gaza, international debate rages about the correctness of the military action and whether Palestinian provocation merited the intensity of the Israeli response. Can the Torah help us navigate the dilemmas Israel faces?

The portion of the Torah Jews read during the week of June 25, which began with a deadly Palestinian guerrilla attack on an Israeli army unit and the abduction of a young soldier, Gilad Shalit, into Gaza, was Parashat Hukkat (Numbers 19:1 - 22:1). At its center is one of the Bible's best-known stories. Moses strikes a rock to bring forth water for the thirsty children of Israel, for which God punishes him by denying him entry into the Promised Land.

Given the devastating nature of the punishment, one would think that the nature of our greatest prophet's sin would be clear and unequivocal. Here, if anywhere, one would expect the Torah to be explicit about what Moses did wrong and why the penalty was a fitting one.

Yet the text is ambiguous--so much so that the great 19th-century Italian commentator, Shmuel David Luzzatto, refused to elucidate the question. His predecessors, he said, had attributed no less than 13 sins to Moses, and he feared that if he thought about it, he'd burden the poor man with yet another transgression.

Moses had to provide his thirsty people with water. Israel must provide its citizens with security. Its incursion into Gaza is a clear case of self-defense. Our government has held back for months as Islamic militants used the Gaza Strip to attack Israeli towns with rockets. The range of the rockets is improving. Just this past week, one fell on a school in the center of Ashkelon, a city that is home to important infrastructure and facilities. After Islamic militants from Gaza staged a carefully planned and executed attack on a military target, leaving two soldiers dead and one a hostage, Israel's right to engage in military action was unquestionable.

However, having the right to invade and bomb Gaza doesn't mean that invading and bombing Gaza is necessarily the right thing to do. Military force is a blunt instrument for achieving diplomatic, political, and strategic goals. Even precision attacks too often miss their mark, killing the wrong people—as we have seen in recent weeks in the Gaza Strip. Furthermore, since even armies with the best possible intelligence operate in the face of many unknowns, the outcomes of military actions are notoriously hard to predict. A single misstep—striking camp too far away from the nearest source of water—lost the Crusaders their kingdom in a single, agonizing battle.

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