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Friday, March 21

Another wow: mobile calls without voice - seriously

Via New Scientist comes this staggering demo of a new voiceless communication technology.

One application: shuts up loud people talking to themselves on trains.

All about it.

The demo.

And here uses for people who have lost or degraded speech:

Cameroons: Listen up - 'Getting Bloggers To Write About You '

Here's '17 Tips For Getting Bloggers To Write About You' by Boing Boing's Cory Doctorow.

  1. Have a link
  2. Have a permanent link
  3. Have a link for everything
  4. Use real links
  5. Use links that go to pages
  6. Flash sites stink
  7. PDFs stink
  8. Streams stink
  9. Put your URL on your images
  10. Linking policies are ridiculous
  11. Don't worry about "bandwidth stealing"
  12. Offer high-res images
  13. Forget the "copyright protection" Javascript
  14. Enough with the legal boilerplate
  15. Let bloggers know how you'd like to be attributed
  16. Creative Commons licensing takes the guesswork out of blogging
  17. Finally: Send suggestions by the preferred means
Here be the nuggets (#9 is particular genius).

Thursday, March 20

Home Office aligns with George Galloway

Some absolutely shameless statements by a Home Office Minister in the Lords yesterday.

Lord Spit, sorry, Lord West of Spithead (Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Security and Counter-terrorism), Home Office), made the claim that in the one case they'd investigated it wasn't homosexuality which the execution was for but for rape.

This echoes George Galloway's repetition of the Iranian regime's lies.

For the Home Office to:

  1. admit they have investigated only one case
  2. use the Iranian regime's lies against gay asylum seekers
is almost hard to take in. The complicity is just astonishing. Shameless.

Spithead said:
We are not aware of any individual having been executed solely on the grounds of homosexuality in Iran.

We do not consider that there is systematic persecution of gay men in Iran.

We have no evidence of anyone we have sent back being executed
[Ugandans sent back (including lesbians) are immediately hauled off to a detention centre and tortured. This is known to have happened to at least one gay Iranian.]

In the one case that we looked into, because it was shown on television, we found that two young males were hanged because they were found guilty of raping a 13 year-old boy. They were hanged for the offence of rape.
He is talking here about Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni, pictures of the execution of the two boys are widely available (as are those of other barbaric executions), and - yes - Amnesty and Human Rights Watch have said that rape in that case may be true and it was also true that the case was used by the exiled Iranian opposition for their own purposes.

In Iran, one of the two partners arrested can find themselves able to escape the death penalty only by charging rape.

But there are numerous other well-documented cases (the link is to Human Rights Watch), so for this to be the one he chooses to mention, to, like Galloway, imply that executions are always for rape and to admit that this is "the one case that we looked into" just shows that they aren't being at all 'careful' about deportations. "We are not aware" is not true - aka a lie.

It is exactly like 1939 all over again: when we made it as hard as possible for Jews to flee Germany - the Kindertransport was largely due to Jewish effort. Or 1946 when thousands were returned to the USSR and certain death. As a tireless defender of gay asylum seekers, Omar Kuddas, puts it:

"To say that homosexuals are safe as long as they are discreet and live their lives in private [that's their policy!], is to say that Ann Frank was safe from the Nazis in WWII as long as she hid in her attic."

Lying. Incompetent. Shameless. I am ashamed of my government.


Human Rights Watch - one of the NGOs whose work Spithead is selectively using - have been supporting Mehdi Kazemi's case for over a year. This includes November when the Home Office last rejected his asylum claim and over Christmas when they last made a real attempt to seize and deport him.

Here's what a Tory London MEP, John Bowis, said about people like Lord Spit last week in the European Parliament during the debate on a resolution supporting Mehdi and Pegah Emambakhsh - the Iranian lesbian who is on her last legal thread and under real threat of being secretly shipped out like Mehdi almost was. The resolution passed nearly unanimously. Bowis' EU MEP Group was divided, with a Forza Italia MP speaking for and a CDU MEP abstaining for that Group.

"It is my country which, if it does not relent in this case, should hang its head in shame."

My country ...

Until the Home Office is finally forced to change the policy which lies behind these cases people just like Mehdi - and Mehdi himself is not safe yet - will continue to be shipped back to torture and death. And they know this. They are lying when they say otherwise.

And who does this attitude appeal to? Who do they think this appeals to? Where do they think the votes are in playing at 'hardliners'? I have been carefully surveying the comment reaction and those who support Mehdi's deportation are very few and very far between. Someone should do a poll.

Even on the websites of the Daily Express, the Daily Mail and - yes - even The Sun many, many conservative, middle-england 'don't-like-refugees' people find this policy obnoxious. Even on muslim/Pakistani Boards I am reading many people supporting Mehdi. Times readers are overwhelmingly commenting that the Home Office's actions are not-in-their-name. The one Tory blogger I could find supporting deportation of gay Iranians prefaced his comments with 'sorry but ...' He sensed the shame of which Lord Spit has none.

Then there's the damage to us around the world. Never mind the blogosphere, on US Prime Time news shows right-wing people have expressed horror at these actions in our name - and how often does Britain ever get a mention there?

The coalition of opposition is enormous and I'll say it again: Jacqui Smith is complicit in murder and if he doesn't do more to end this appalling stain on Britain, Gordon Brown is too.

The most racist article of the year

Survival - which works tirelessly for ignored indigenous people around the world - has issued a new international award for 'The most racist article of the year’.

The winner will receive a certificate inscribed with a quotation from Lakota Sioux author Luther Standing Bear: ‘All the years of calling the Indian a savage has never made him one.’

The article, published in the Paraguayan newspaper La Nacion, compared Paraguayan Indians to cancer and described them as 'Neolithic', 'out-of-date' and 'filthy'.

The award marks March 21, the UN International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

The award is part of Survival's 'Stamp it Out' campaign which aims to challenge racist descriptions of tribal people in the world's media.

Stamp it Out is supported by prominent journalists such as the BBC's World Affairs correspondent John Simpson, Sandy Gall and George Monbiot.

Survival’s director Stephen Corry said:

Racism often underpins, or is used to justify, abuses of tribal people, whether it’s stealing their land, exploiting them or even killing them. This article makes it clear that in the media such racism continues to exist, even among people who are supposed to ‘know better’. This isn’t about political correctness – it has very real consequences for tribal peoples’ livelihoods, land and, ultimately, their lives.
This isn't just in Paraguay. Here's a Daily Mail article called 'Public School Savage' which refers to tribal peoples as 'Stone Age'.

Postscript: Obama addresses race: hear the whole speech, not the BBC's meme

Fox Attacks, which documents and organises against the lie machine that is Murdoch's US News channel, has produced this video. It links up Fox-originating anti-Obama memes with the rest of the MainStreamMedia.

Jon Stewart had some comments on the Obama speech MSM response as well ...

Huckebee defended Obama
and put Rev. Wright's comments in context: "I may be the only conservative to say this".

The whole speech is #1 viral video:

Viral sharing of this video: Spreading across the interweb like Wildfire!
Discovered 18 Mar 2008
1 duplicate videos
1,351 blog posts

And here's Virtual Vantage Points monitoring of blog reaction:

Text clouds from March 17 for U.S.-based Conservatives and U.S.-based Liberals:

Postscript: More Obama speech reaction - it's positive but you won't read about it

Postscript: BBC video embedding

Oh yey of little faith ... my comments on the BBC Internet blog about embedding video have (had) appeared. I took the '502' error to mean failure but, natch, there's the comment after all as I think 'I wonder if anyone else got through with this point ... ' And there's the response from John O'Donovan to my point, and the same from others:

You will be able to embed video on other sites but we need to work out some issues with how this will work. In particular, you may not be aware that the player has to support advertising when someone is using it outside the UK and also has to restrict some content to UK users only. This causes a few complications, but rest assured, it will be possible to link to and embed video directly. We will take on feedback about how this user journey works to ensure it is as seamless as possible based on your comments.
That's excellent, I had assumed just those sorts of issues as others like Viacom have them, and it's also excellent that the BBC team is responding and - clearly - listening to those of us who want to help/contribute. There is frustration, of course, in some of the feedback you read but that's most people's motive. It's certainly mine.

A bow to the Beeb's web team. And an object lesson for Channel 4/ITV in how to build a better website and user experience, though the bean-counters aren't listening ...

As they roll this out, it's also really good for the BBC internationally, provided that those restrictions to just UK aren't enormous, that their newsclips will enjoy a much wider and easier circulation. Bloggers can already do this but it's really quite difficult to get something from TV to YouTube and most would rely on an intermediary's choices.

I can imagine those clips appearing and being seen by a lot more people in places like Egypt, where blogging is the civil society opposition, for example. A news clip about shantytowns outside LA is currently getting viral attention (more BBC virals). But it will spin out in ways I can only guess at — I think this is a much bigger moment in the Beeb's web development than many may realise.

With the 502 'comment failure' on their blogs, I should note that listening happened here as well. On page, they now have the following:
On occasion, you may experience problems when leaving a comment. We are working on a solution to this - you can find more details here.
What hasn't changed is the actual 502 error message: it's the standard, across site one. Here's why:
The problem is that with the way the system is set up, making changes to the interface across the current platform is a labour-intensive job.
Which I understand. What I would say is to wonder whether another system, more human than technical, might be at fault in why the 502 error became and stays so user-unfriendly ("a server error ..") in the first place.

One last comment on Beeb matters. I absolutely love the new homepage. I can see it's been tested to destruction - the architecture is brilliant. What struck me first was: the end of everything 'above the fold' and the change to mass scrolling behaviour recognised; radio given more prominence, TV less. It marks the complete death of any trace of 'brochure' site design. Hurrah. Now if they could just do something about the site search ...

Wednesday, March 19

Embedding video: why isn't it obvious to the MSM?

I blogged a few days ago about the BBC's new use of Flash video across the news website — my main question was to ask just why they won't allow embedding by others of their content. Or rather, why they will allow it when that content is nicked, republished on YouTube etc. (they aren't policing this with take-down notices) but won't enable it.

As I commented, this makes even less sense when much of that content - yes, news content - would be of interest to exactly the audiences they are desperate to appeal to. Start with teenagers embedding news about climate change on Bebo/MySpace and think on. It's hard to see where the negatives are but presumably they think there are some.

Of course, I tried to comment but actually gave up after re-hitting the button periodically over about eight hours.

So I just don't know but my, I think fair, assumption is we're talking slow-moving, dinosaur like corporations and behomoths who just don't get it - where media consumption is moving to and why they're losing out. The success of video online shows that the web can actually increase your viewership/revenues if you stop trying to fight and control and start responding quicker.

This is an across the 'MSM' (mainstream media) thing and speaks to why they're being so quickly outgunned/flanked on the web, because I just tried to promote an ITV drama and found I couldn't. Free marketing and they don't want it.

I love Jake Arnott's books and they have dramaticised his fourth, 'He Kills Coppers'. Radio Four gave an ITV drama a four star review. But I am so pissed off that I can't embed a preview here that I'm not going to link — and the ITV page for it isn't top in Google results, you'll have to look. And the link must be what they want: all hail traffic to their website. Why? You can get your revenue via ads in the embed!

This is absolutely terrible marketing and completely inexplicable: because I've yet to hear an explanation.

Michael Grade presumably thinks me promoting one of their dramas is about 'not handing control to a third party' (i.e me). He should try talking to Comedy Central instead of the bitter people running the music industry.

It's part of Viacom, run by Barry Diller and they say:

"We definitely feel that [allowing embedding of] video on the Web is a huge tool. It drives word-of-mouth discussion about a show."
NB: I haven't mentioned ITV's use of Silverlight, rather than FlashVideo. That's a deal whose stupidity and short-sightedness should be blindingly obvious.

At present we do not have any plans to make our programmes available for embedding/downloading due to rights issues.

Obama addresses race: hear the whole speech, not the BBC's meme

I'm posting the whole of Obama's truly great speech yesterday addressing race. It has been filtered and cropped, so watch the whole thing (it's 27 minutes).

Mainly the cropping by our media is in terms of how it will affect the election and mainly, it has to be said, by BBC journalists who simply cannot relate to black experience. The BBC's Justin Webb posted the following, which illustrates this:

I can well understand that the black folk memory of America is hugely different to the white version but is this what black people really think? Is that what they were thinking five days after 9/11?
So he knows it's there but doesn't understand why? Which American history did he study? This ignorance is blatant and pathetic from someone paid a lot by our lead broadcaster to cover America.

Matt Frei cherry-picked his media reaction, the GOP's meme about Rev. Wright:
He did not denounce the man, "who has been like family to me". It was an honourable omission. But it may have killed his campaign.
This is 'buying-in' wholesale to that meme and failing to report what Obama actually said. What is the difference between 'denouncing' Wright's views and denouncing 'the man'?

Jamie Coomarasamy continues with what amounts to the BBC's line on the speech:
It may have been too nuanced ... why did he not object to his pastor's comments earlier?
No mention of such things as the New York Times editorial or leading conservative Andrew Sullivan's comments that it was "an epiphany" or other conservative reaction, which has been similarly impressed by Obama. That's 'news'.

These BBC journalists are taking their - frankly - lazy lead from people like these NBC (MSM) journalists:

... who describe Rev. Wright's "hate speech" (an opinion, not a fact) and - pointedly - ignore another religious leader backing a candidate: Rev. John Hagee and John McCain. Hagee is not just violently anti-gay but anti-catholic. Again, just like the US MSM, the BBC has also completely ignored that story.

Their 'take' on Obama's speech is also very different to the broadsheets. The Guardian and the Independent perhaps predictably, but both the Telegraph and the Times have much better reports - the Telegraph actively rejecting the GOP's meme.
It’s a message of reconciliation and a post-racial future that many Americans will want to hear.
Watch Obama's speech (or read the full text). Ignore the BBC's 'reporting'.

Postscript 1
Postscript 2
: More Obama speech reaction - it's positive but you won't read about it

John Oliver on the Primaries

Still on Daily Show spin-offs, UK comedian John Oliver - late of the News Quiz - has been a huge hit with his reports to Jon Stewart. They cheer him like Oprah disciples.

Channel Four News decided to interview him in a little cross promotion (the Daily Show's on More4) and you can see the unedited version on their crappy website (the one with MS Word downloads), which you have to go to to view - no embedding, of course, not even a 'share by email' link on the video, just 'send this article to a friend' at the bottom of the page where no-one will look. I'm watching! Not reading the intro blurb! FCS! How many adviews do they lose by not enabling Daily Show fanatics to share even this (they would)!

The humourless journalist tries to compare US vs. UK and assumes we're plain boring. Oliver: "Doesn't Cameron thinks he's quite entertaining? I wouldn't be surprised to see him do something as despicable as that Tony Blair/Catherine Tate collaboration. Which really made me want to tear my own eyes out". About Hillary's appearance on the show (the journalist asks why she wasn't putting her policies forward): "It's like a dating video".

On Cameron, I wouldn't be at all surprised if Oliver is right. The hilarity - albeit unintentional - is on view in this Observer Food Monthly article where he talks ("I like food. I'm very greedy") about his neglected vegetable patch, amongst other 'eco' things.

'Oops!' says Cameron, closing the front door behind us, and swooping up the three empty wine bottles that are languishing on a kitchen surface. 'Thought I'd recycled the last of those, ha ha!'

Oprah - Root of All Evil?

Lewis Black is a comedian and 'leftie' New Yorker with a regular slot on the Daily Show: one which brings new meaning to 'vituperative'.

Finally he's got his own show, with him as the judge in a format described by the New York Times as a cross between “The People’s Court,” “Politically Incorrect With Bill Maher” and Drew Carey’s improvisational “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” (only funnier)

The premiere had “Oprah v. the Catholic Church.”

Here's part of the argument that Oprah is 'the root of all evil'.

Other episodes pit “Donald Trump v. Viagra.”, Vice President Dick Cheney against Paris Hilton; “American Idol” against high school; and Kim Jong-il against Tila Tequila, the amorous reality star on MTV.

More video here.

Here's an anti-Google rant from the Daily Show.

And a genius rant at 'American Stages of Grief' from 2004.

Here's some of his stand up - NSFW! - about how America is not the #1 country in the world (and why milk is JUST MILK).