Author Archive | Virtually Yours

The Rubble Challenge: A Palestinian Response to the Ice Bucket Challenge

 

Screenshot from أيمن العالول دلو الركام YouTube Video.

Screenshot from أيمن العالول دلو الركام YouTube Video.

 

It was only a matter of time before someone copied the idea of the ice bucket challenge for their own purposes, though this rubble challenge seems particularly powerful and poignant…

An appeal to garner support for Gaza which imitates the wildly popular ALS Ice Bucket Challenge but uses rubble and dirt instead of cold water is picking up steam on social media. “I have to do something and to send a message all over the world about Gaza,” said Ayman al Aloul, a journalist who started the so-called Rubble Bucket Challenge on Saturday. When the 42-year-old discussed the idea with friends, some suggested that he use either a bucket of blood or shrapnel. “It came to my mind that it’s good idea to show the whole picture – how Gaza looks now, rubble, destruction, cement with sand, small rocks,” Aloul said.

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90-Year-Old Holocaust Survivor/Palestinian Rights Activist Arrested During Michael Brown Protest

Hedy Epstein is a 90-year-old Holocaust survivor, as well as a Palestinian rights activist, and she was arrested on Monday while participating in a protest relating to the murder of Michael Brown:

Epstein, who aided Allied forces in the Nuremberg trials, was placed under arrest in downtown St. Louis, Missouri, “for failing to disperse” during a protest of Gov. Jay Nixon’s decision to call the National Guard into Ferguson. Eight others were also arrested.

“I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn’t think I would have to do it when I was 90,” Epstein told The Nation during her arrest. “We need to stand up today so that people won’t have to do this when they’re 90.”

Hedy is no stranger when it comes to activism and fighting for social justice:

In 2001 she founded the St. Louis chapter of the Women in Black anti-war group that originated in Israel, and has actively advocated for Palestinian rights since visiting the West Bank in 2003.

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You Can Now View the Military Gear Acquired by Your Local Police Department

If you are curious to know what kind of military gear your local police department has received through the government’s 1033 program, you can check out this spreadsheet over on GitHub which contains:

county-level data showing military equipment given to state and local law enforcement agencies through the Defense Department’s 1033 program. The data was received from the Defense Department in May 2014 as an Excel file, and includes transfers since 2006.

However, it is also important to note the following:

There is no information about which agency received a given piece of equipment. Items that went to a county could have been given to a state agency based in that county, for example.

This data does not represent all of the military-style gear that law enforcement agencies have. Agencies also purchase equipment with their own money or with federal grants.

This information comes courtesy of The New York Times, by way of the Pentagon:

In May, The New York Times requested and received from the Pentagon its database of transfers since 2006.

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#OpFerguson: Martial Law, Demilitarization & Camera-Wearing Cops

 

On Thursday, Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) went on MSNBC and voiced his opinion that Obama should declare martial law in Ferguson, Missouri:

“Ferguson, Missouri, is part of the United States of America. People have a right to protest. They have a right to dissent. They have a right to march in an orderly, peaceful, nonviolent fashion. And the press has a right to cover it. So my own feeling, right now, is that President Obama should use the authority of his office to declare martial law. Federalize the Missouri National Guard to protect people as they protest.”

A disturbing suggestion, though I can sympathize with the level of intensity which prompted it…the anger, frustration, and seeming helplessness. Thankfully, it sounds like things have calmed down somewhat since Lewis made that statement, and without the need to escalate matters even further:

Just 24 hours after police SWAT trucks, riot gear and tear gas defined protests of Michael Brown’s shooting death in Ferguson, Missouri, an entirely different scene appeared on Thursday.

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Freedom for Sale: Going Once, Going Twice

Gervasios Raptopoulos

Gervasios Raptopoulos

Continuing with the theme of Good Samaritans, it would appear that justice is not blind in Greece, though it is up for sale:

Germany made headlines this week by letting Bernie Ecclestone, the Formula One chief, pay $100 million to end his bribery trial. In Greek justice, money talks in a different way: Some inmates jailed for minor offences are allowed to buy their freedom — at an average rate of five euros per day.

Greece has a prison population of about 13,000 — far above capacity — forcing authorities to cram inmates into police holding cells as they wait for a place in jail. With the rich at a clear advantage, Greek Orthodox priest Gervasios Raptopoulos has devoted his life to paying off the prison terms of penniless inmates.

The soft-spoken 83-year-old with a long white beard and black robes has helped more than 15,000 convicts secure their freedom over nearly four decades, according to records kept by his charity.

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University President Shares Salary with Lowest-Paid Workers

A small bit of hope on the horizon in the form of a kind and rational gesture:

Raymond Burse, the interim president at Kentucky State University, made a large gesture to his school’s lowest-paid employees when he announced that he would take a 25 percent salary cut to boost their wages.

The 24 school employees making less than $10.25 an hour, who mostly serve as custodial staff, groundskeepers and lower-end clerical workers, will see their pay rise to that new baseline. Some had been making as little as $7.25, the current federal minimum. Burse, who assumed the role of interim president in June, says he asked the school’s chief financial officer how much such an increase would cost. The amount: $90,125.

“I figured it was easier for me to forgo that amount, rather than adding an additional burden on the institution,” Burse says. He announced his decision to take the funds out of his salary in a board meeting at the end of July, and the school ratified his employment contract on the spot — decreasing it from $349,869 to $259,744.

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Summer of Surveillance: 1984 vs. The Circle

[Editor’s note: This post contains minor spoilers.]

In 1984, George Orwell presents a dystopian future in which citizens are under constant surveillance by the government, while records of the past are continuously edited and destroyed. The past becomes an abstract notion, ever shifting and strategic, and these manipulative tactics allow the ruling elite to maintain control. This is a closed system, through which pure information only flows in one direction before being heavily altered and then filtered back to the unsuspecting masses. With slogans like “WAR IS PEACE”, “FREEDOM IS SLAVERY”, and “IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH”, Orwell makes it quite clear that the rulers of this world mean business and will stop at nothing to ensure the continuation of their reign.

Three surveillance cameras on the corner of a building. By Hustvedt via Wikimedia Commons.

Three surveillance cameras on the corner of a building. By Hustvedt via Wikimedia Commons.

In The Circle, Dave Eggers presents an interesting contrast to Orwell’s dark and legendary vision.… Read the rest

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He’s Lost Control Again

Spoek Mathambo is an incredibly talented musician from Soweto South Africa and in 2010 he produced a “darkwave township house” cover of Joy Division’s She’s Lost Control Again. It is a blistering track of Afro-Gothic intensity and its accompanying video is just as hauntingly fierce: “shot in Langa, Cape Town and directed by respected photographer, Pieter Hugo, who used a cast made up mainly of kids from the local dance troupe, Happy Feet.”

For more Spoek sexcellence, make sure to check out Gwababa (Don’t Be Scared) and War on Words. Also, if you love the killer beat which he has going in Control, then make sure to check out the full version of the song here!

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Performing Live Tonight: ‘Abominations’ of the Sexual Spectrum


The word abomination seems to have come up several times recently on this site. First, in several comments from a fellow disinfonaught, then again in this article. So I find it particularly ironic/amusing that I would then stumble upon this most glorious discovery, courtesy of The Huffington Post:

Scientists say they’ve discovered four species of Brazilian cave insects with sex-reversed genitalia. The females possess a penis-like organ, the males a vagina-like organ. This is the first documented example of animals with sex-reversed genitalia.

Sex-role reversal has been observed previously in animals — such as in African antelopes. But the “female penis” seen in the four species, all of which are in the genus Neotrogla, is a “completely novel structure,” Kazunori Yoshizawa, an associate professor at Hokkaido University and one of the scientists behind the new finding, told The Verge.

How do these insects have sex? During copulation, the female Neotrogla inserts a “highly elaborate” penis-like organ, dubbed the “gynosome,” into the male’s vagina-like opening.

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To Blaze or Not to Blaze: Casual Pot Use & Brain Abnormalities

PIC: Black Zack (CC)

PIC: Black Zack (CC)

A research team at Northwestern has made some interesting discoveries involving casual marijuana use and brain change, which found that “young adults who used cannabis just once or twice a week showed significant abnormalities in two important brain structures.”

Breiter and his team analyzed a very small sample of patients between the ages of 18 and 25: 20 marijuana users and 20 well-matched control subjects. The marijuana users had a wide range of usage routines, with some using the drug just once or twice a week and others using it every single day.

Utilizing magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), the researchers analyzed the participants’ brains, focusing on the nucleus accumbens (NAC) and the amygdala – two key brain regions responsible for processing emotions, making decisions and motivation. They looked at these brain structures in three different ways, measuring their density, volume and shape. According to Breiter, all three were abnormal in the casual marijuana users.

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