CityBeat Blogs - Censorship http://www.citybeat.com/cincinnati/blogs-1-1-1-34-17.html <![CDATA[Here's What Facebook Censors]]>

Never piss off the proletariat.

Upset about his low pay and dismal working conditions, a worker at one of Facebook’s Third World contractors has leaked the social media site’s ultra-secret document about what type of content it censors.

Amine Derkaoui, a 21-year-old Moroccan man, worked for an outsourcing firm last year that scanned Facebook members’ pages for banned content. Given Facebook’s profitability, Derkaoui became angry about its stinginess with workers.

As a result, Derkaoui gave
a copy of Facebook’s internal guidelines about what content it will delete to Gawker, a top Internet gossip site.

Some of the forbidden items are obvious like racial slurs, depictions of human or animal mutilation, photographs or cartoons of sexual activity, violent speech and content that organizes or promotes illegal activity.

But some of the other verboten items are more unusual, if not downright strange.

For example, naked “private parts” including female nipple bulges and butt cracks are forbidden, but male nipples are allowed. The list specifically mentions “mothers breastfeeding” as unacceptable.

Also, most depictions of bodily fluids are unacceptable, but not all. It lists “urine, feces, vomit, semen, pus and ear wax" as unacceptable (yes,
ear wax). But, it helpfully notes, “cartoon feces, urine and spit are OK; real and cartoon snot is OK.” Well, that's good to know.

Other items subject to deletion include cartoon nudity, images of internal organs, bones, muscles, tendons and “deep flesh wounds,” along with “blatant (obvious) depiction of camel toes and moose knuckles.” (Confession: I had to Google “moose knuckle” to know what that meant.)

Images of “crushed heads, limbs, etc. are OK,” however, as long as “no insides are showing” and the person posting them doesn’t express delight or gratification.

Moreover, all criticism of Ataturk, the founder of the nation of Turkey, along with images depicting the burning of Turkish flags are forbidden. It’s believed this restriction is due to certain European laws that, if violated, could cause the site to be blocked in Turkey.

The 17-page manual includes
a one-page “cheat sheet” so workers can quickly reference it when making decisions about what to delete.

Gawker said Derkaoui found his job through the outsourcing firm oDesk, which provides content moderation services for Facebook and Google. About 50 people across the globe — mostly in Turkey, the Philippines, Mexico and India — work to moderate Facebook content. They work from home in four-hour shifts and earn $1 per hour plus commissions.


"It's humiliating. They are just exploiting the Third World," Derkaoui told Gawker.

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<![CDATA[Internet Protest Set for March?]]>

If you need to do some research, post on Facebook or look at online porn (c’mon, we know you do it), you had better get it done before March 31.

That’s when the global computer hacking group known as Anonymous — or someone claiming to represent it — allegedly plans to launch “Operation Global Blackout.” To protest efforts by corporations and governments to restrict access to some material on the internet, the hacktivists plan to shut the web down, maybe just for an hour or perhaps much longer.---

Anonymous plans to attack 13 root DNS servers on the internet and restrict access to them. If it is successful, internet users won’t be able to perform a domain name lookup.

Such an action would disable the hypertext transfer protocol (HTTP), which is the most widely used function on the web. It is an application for collaborative information systems, and serves as the foundation of data communication on the World Wide Web.

“Anybody entering ‘http://www.google.com’ or any other URL, will get an error page, thus, they will think the internet is down, which is close enough,” an Anonymous member
posted on Pastebin.com. “Remember, this is a protest, we are not trying to 'kill' the internet, we are only temporarily shutting it down where it hurts the most.”

Despite the use of the name “Anonymous,” it’s unclear whether it actually supports the March 31 action.

Anonymous is amorphous and lacks a clear organizational structure, so occasionally individuals post assertions that the group as a whole doesn’t endorse. For example, some websites alleged Anonymous planned an attack on Facebook for Jan. 28, but the group said that wasn’t true on two Twitter feeds that it regularly uses.

In fact, one of the Twitter feeds calls for a different action throughout March. Dubbed “Black March,” it urges people to not buy any DVDs, video games, compact discs, records, books or magazines during the month, as well as not download any songs either legally or illegally, or see any films in cinemas. This will impact the first-quarter profits of large media companies, it alleges.

So, whether Operation Global Blackout is sanctioned remains to be seen.

Although some people might be skeptical that Anonymous could launch such a large-scale action, the group successfully attacked several government and entertainment industry websites in mid-January. Among the websites momentarily crippled were those operated by the FBI, the U.S. Justice Department, CBS, the Motion Picture Association of America and Universal Music Group.

Around the same time, Anonymous also attempted to take offline the websites for the U.S. Defense Department and the White House, but was unsuccessful.

The initiatives are aimed at websites connected to anti-copyright legislation in the United States and abroad.

In an online message, someone alleging to represent Anonymous posted, “Behind closed doors the governments of the world have agreed to censor the internet in order to appease the corrupt banks and corporate entities that have been enshrined within the hearts of every government making us, the people, pay for their bigotry, as we have seen in Iceland and are now seeing throughout Greece. This document in question is the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), which effectively molests your right to fair use and allows corporations to dictate and capitalize on your free speech.”

It added, “They have overstepped their limits, defiled their documents written by we the people, even now with the movement of a hand they can silence you into indefinite detention or even warrant your death. … On the 31st of March, Operation Global Blackout will go into full effect. For the cause of liberty, for the good of mankind and for laughs, the Internet as we know it will go dark in protest for the collective grievances of all. We recognize that our methods will be labeled by some as extreme, and are willing to accept this fate in order to achieve our goals. A goal of free speech for all and oppression for none.”

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<![CDATA[Online Pirating: An Old-School Gamer's Only Option?]]> Last week I blogged about SOPA, or the Stop Online Piracy Act, a bill being proposed in Congress that, if passed, would allow both copyright holders as well as the US Department of Justice to severely restrict access to and advertising on any website accused of facilitating copyright infringement. Needless to say the bill’s sparked a huge controversy on the web. Many sites such as Reddit.com blacked out their services on Jan. 18 in protest, and those against the bill are saying the bill inhibits free speech and will effectively “ruin the Internet” if passed.---

But I already talked about that all in my last blog. This week I wanted to cover another subject related to SOPA; namely, online piracy.

It’s obviously become a big problem, or else Congress wouldn’t have bothered proposing a bill as extreme as SOPA in the first place. And I can certainly understand why media companies are rallying in support of it. Every time a TV show, song, movie or video game is either streamed or downloaded illegally, they’re losing money.

But why do people pirate in the first place? The most obvious answer is to save money. Hell, why pay for something you can get for free, even if it means bending the rules? However, as an avid gamer and internet users…I know for a fact there are other reasons gamers such as myself might be tempted to pirate as well.

I personally love old-school video games. I grew up in the era of Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis. And I still think some of the best games ever made exist for those consoles. The problem is, these days you’d probably be hard pressed to find a Snes for sale in your average game or toy store. It’s old technology. There’s no money in it anymore.

Any games made before the era of Sony’s Playstation 2, Microsoft’s Xbox or Nintendo’s Gamecube are becoming increasingly hard to find. And even those are getting out of date with the newer consoles nearing on five or six years since their release. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a whole slew of ‘next-gen’ consoles within the next year.

So what’s all this got to do with online piracy? Simple: It’s pretty much impossible to find old video games anywhere but online these days. There’s myriad sites out there dedicated to ‘emulation’…or, to put it in layman’s terms, the distribution of programs that will allow you to play video games on your computer.

Given, there’s absolutely no excuse for the pirating of more recently released games. But in the case of some of the older games from the 1990s, and even the early 2000s, emulation’s pretty much the only option. Companies aren’t distributing these games anymore. The only alternative to pirating is trolling antique shops and the inventories of game collectors - and even then it’s a shot in the dark. Even if you find the game you’re looking for, you’d better be willing to pay an outrageous price for it. Hard copies of Earthbound, a popular role-playing game for the Super Nintendo, can go for over $100. And it’s not the only one, I assure you.

Fortunately, Nintendo, at the very least, seems to be sympathetic to the plight of a gamer seeking to relive the nostalgia of older-era games. Owners of the Wii can download older games to play using the ‘Virtual Console’ feature, given they’re willing to pay (typically $5-$20 depending on the game). It’s a nice feature, but the inventory’s still quite limited. Popular games like Super Mario World and The Legend of Zelda are easy to find, but several more obscure titles remain unavailable.

Unfortunate as it is, emulation is the easiest and cheapest method for a gamer looking to find and play older games. Unless you’ve held on to your old consoles and copies, you’re pretty much out of luck. Stores have begun to stop stocking games for consoles even as recent as the Playstation 2 and Xbox. As I mentioned before, companies no longer care to distribute new copies - there’s simply not enough of a market for it.

And admittedly, it is a small market. But not small enough to stop gamers from pirating hacked copies to play on their computer. It may not be the main concern of the organizations dedicated to stopping piracy, but with SOPA and other similar bills being proposed and voted on, it probably won’t be long before sites dedicated to video game emulation are targeted as well.

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<![CDATA[SOPA: Stopping Pirating or Needless Censorship?]]>

Anyone who knows me well can tell you that I'm a total Internet junkie. I spend a lot of my free time online, browsing various sites like Youtube, chatting in forums with friends and otherwise killing time. As of late, though, one particular subject seems to have pushed itself into the forefront of internet denizens everywhere. That is, SOPA, or the Stop Online Piracy Act, a censorship bill which was proposed by the US House of Representatives on Oct. 26, 2011. It's created quite a buzz online, and with all the people talking about it and what it supposedly proposes, it's hard to get one's facts straight. Friends of mine claim that the government's trying to censor the internet, block access to certain sites - that SOPA will cripple the World Wide Web as we know it.---

Reddit.com has even proposed a rally against the bill, encouraging sites to black out their services today in protest. Several other web services and sites have joined, even Internet giants such as Google and Wikipedia have joined the protest. Either way, SOPA's causing a big stir online. But what does it actually propose? Is all the protest warranted? I decided to do a little research into the bill myself. I looked up the bill on Wikipedia in order to read about what it was proposing, in layman’s terms.

In a nutshell, if passed, SOPA would allow both copyright holders and the US Department of Justice to seek court orders against websites either accused of enabling or facilitating copyright infringement. Depending on the order, several actions could be taken against the accused website, including barring advertisement, barring search engines from linking to the site, and requesting that Internet providers block access to such sites. The bill would also make unauthorized streaming of copyrighted media a crime punishable by prison sentences.

Those supporting the bill claim it will protect artists' intellectual property, reduce illegal pirating of media and help bolster copyright laws against foreign websites. Those against argue that SOPA violates free speech, will threaten whistle-blowing and otherwise effectively debilitate the web as we know it.

So who's in the right? There's no question that pirating is a major problem these days. There are thousands of websites out there dedicated to the illegal downloading and streaming of copyrighted material.

On the other hand, SOPA doesn't just target these sites in general, but also those accused of "facilitating" said sites. How is this going to affect my internet browsing? Is SOPA going to bar my access to websites I frequent on a daily basis? Just how far does the policy of free use extend to the internet?

Bottom line, there are still too many "what ifs" for me to support such a bill. I prefer my internet uncensored and would appreciate it if things stayed that way.

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<![CDATA[Chabot Flip-Flops on Cameras]]>

Congressman Steve Chabot could give Olympic gymnast Nadia Comaneci a few pointers about doing quick backflips.

Less than three days after Chabot prohibited the use of cameras at a supposed “town hall” meeting in North Avondale and used the services of a Cincinnati police officer to stop offenders, the congressman is rescinding the rule for future sessions.---

CityBeat reported on Chabot's Big Brother-style tactics in this week's issue, even though the Chabot staffer who enforced the rule never responded to our request for comment. We also criticized the congressman for not letting residents directly ask him questions, instead only accepting queries that were written in advance on paper.

But Chabot's staffer, Jamie Schwartz, told The Enquirer Wednesday that both of those rules would no longer be in effect at future town hall meetings. The reversal comes after Chabot's tactics received national attention via the ThinkProgress website and other political outlets on the Internet.

Chabot's next town hall meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday at Westwood Town Hall, 3017 Harrison Ave.

After a CityBeat photographer attended Chabot's town hall meeting Monday evening in North Avondale and told the news editor about what he saw there, which included a police officer being instructed by Schwartz to confiscate cameras, the editor emailed Schwartz the next morning seeking comment. Specifically, CityBeat asked what “security concerns” does the use of cameras raise, and whether the police officer was on-duty and being paid by taxpayers. Schwartz never responded.

Here's what Schwartz told The Enquirer later, after all the media attention:

Schwartz said that sometimes at the town hall meetings, citizens ask questions about their own personal situations and the Chabot staff did not want them videotaped. The media cameras were allowed to continue to roll, Schwartz said, “because they can be expected to respect people’s privacy.”

But, at this meeting, as at other recent Chabot town hall events, participants were required to sign in as they entered and write out questions for the congressman. Members of the staff chose which questions he answered at Monday’s meeting.

By the time Chabot holds his next town hall meeting at Westwood Town Hall Monday, Schwartz said, the rules will have changed. People will be allowed to ask questions of the congressman directly and cameras will not be seized.

See, Mr. Chabot imposed the onerous rules solely out of concern for you, dear voter. Uh-huh.

David Little, a Democratic political consultant from Clifton who is working with ProgressOhio, a liberal organization, on health-care reform issues, was one of the people removed from the meeting for using a camera.

A broad coalition of health-care activists and many others have sought to influence and speak with Congressman Chabot throughout this summer and have been repeatedly thwarted in ‘town hall’ settings by rules that defy the very meaning of a town hall,” Little said. “All questions have to be pre-written and the selected softballs are read by Rep. Chabot’s staff and he answers in any way he wishes.”

Referring to the Aug. 22 meeting, Little added, “Last night, for supposed ‘security reasons,' they again not only banned citizen speech, but the photographing and filming of the congressman speaking as well, and his security team enlisted the help of the Cincinnati Police to enforce this clearly unconstitutional policy with the threat of arrest and the confiscation of two video cameras until the conclusion of the meeting. Clearly the only security issue involved is that of Congressman Chabot’s ‘job security.'

Dismal exercises such as this must leave his constituents bewildered, thinking they had stumbled into an anti-democratic nightmare where authorities dictate appropriate speech in public places and seize personal property at the request of the elected officials,” he said. “These policies simply cannot stand legal scrutiny nor the smell test of any citizen interested in an honest and open discussion of public policy issues that impact the lives of their families.

Another local Democratic activist, Alliea Phipps, also was prevented from filming the session.

Chabot is my elected representative in Congress,” Phipps said. “It makes no sense. He wants people to have the right to carry a gun into a public meeting and carry a gun into a bar, but he is afraid of cameras at a public meeting? Get real.”

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<![CDATA[Frost Interviews WikiLeaks Founder]]>

For all the rhetoric about the United States' right to freedom of the press, the best reporting on the governmental secrets revealed by WikiLeaks, and the deeper issues they raise, has been done by media outlets in other nations. And the best and most in-depth interview with Julian Assange has been done by a British journalist for Al Jazeera, the Arab satellite news channel.

David Frost, who famously interviewed President Nixon a few years after his resignation following the Watergate scandal, now has a program on Al Jazeera, entitled Frost Over the World.---

In the latest episode, Frost interviews Assange. In the 24-minute interview, several topics are discussed including Assange's views on secrecy and the proper role of media.

Here are some noteworthy excerpts.

** On why WikiLeaks isn't anarchic or anti-authoritarian: "We're an organization that goes about and has a long track record of, all over the world, of exposing abuses by exposing concrete documentation -- proof -- of bad behavior," Assange said. "That's not anarchy. That's what people do when they're civil. They engage in organized activity that promotes justice."

** On why the United States, although never intended to be the prime target of WikiLeaks, has become such a focus in recent months: "The United States is not the most closed or the most corrupt (government)," Assange said. "On the other hand, what we've found in practice was the United States, as the dominant empire, is connected to all the other countries and has a tendril in them. And being the largest security state, spending approximately the same amount as all the rest of the world combined on its military-intelligence sector, it generates a tremendous amount of secrets."

** On how WikiLeaks is source-driven: "We can only publish what people are giving us," Assange said. "And, in the United States, they are giving us a lot of material."

** On why WikiLeaks, although it's never paid a source to date, isn't opposed to the concept: "We have no philosophical objection to paying, actually. Why should journalists and lawyers be the only ones to be compensated for their risks, when it actually is the source who are the ones taking the greatest risk?"

WikiLeaks is designed as an outlet for "dissenters" and "courageous whistleblowers," Assange told Frost. Its goal is to hold institutions accountable and work toward a more just society. Some secrets are needed, but it's not the role of the media to keep them for governments or others.

The organization's motto is "courage is contagious." It's meant to encourage dissent through successful examples, and empower the average person to speak out against governments, corporations and other institutions that wield great power when they believe it's necessary to do so.


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<![CDATA[Moore Helps Bail Out Assange]]>

With donations from filmmaker Michael Moore and others, WikiLeaks provocateur Julian Assange made bail today and was released from a British prison, awaiting extradition to Sweden on sex charges.

A judge had set Assange's bail at 240,000 pounds, which equals about $380,521. Moore donated $20,000, which equals about 12,633 pounds.---

In all, Assange supporters pledged about 1 million pounds toward his bail, which equals about $1.6 million.

Also, Moore offered to let WikiLeaks use his Web servers to host his site and publish documents, if needed. Moore has called Assange “a pioneer of free speech.”

As conditions of his release, Assange had to turn over his passport, wear a GPS tracking device, visit police once daily and agree to a 10 p.m curfew.

Meanwhile, some former WikiLeaks staffers plan to launch a new Web site to compete with Assange's, to be called OpenLeaks.

The staffers had complained about Assange's management style and the connection of WikiLeaks to his criminal charges.

Unlike WikiLeaks, OpenLeaks doesn't plan to publish its information directly to the public. Rather, it intends to partner with other organizations — initially five newspapers, then more later — and allow them access to documents, to do with them as they see fit. OpenLeaks sees itself as a neutral party “without a political agenda except from the dissemination of information to the media, the public, non-profit organizations, trade- and union organizations and other participating groups.”

Critics say the new site's plan doesn't allow unfettered access and instead will be filtered through gatekeepers that might be too sympathetic to the Establishment's agenda and point of view, or be too easily intimidated by governments or corporations.


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<![CDATA[Hackers Take Down MasterCard, Others]]>

In the latest volley in the escalating cyberwar involving attacks on WikiLeaks and its founder, anonymous hackers have blocked access and disrupted service to Web sites for MasterCard, the Swedish prosecutor's office and the attorney representing two women accusing Assange of crimes---.

On Tuesday MasterCard and Visa began blocking donations to WikiLeaks by their cardholders, even though the organization hasn't been charged with any crime. The action prompted Operation Payback, an anonymous group of hackers opposed to Internet censorship, to block access to MasterCard's site and expose it to service disruptions.

Similar actions also have been taken against the Web site for the Swedish prosecutor's office that filed four sex-related criminal charges against Assange, stemming from sexual encounters he had with two women in August. The Web site for the women's attorney has been hacked, too.

Earlier this week Operation Payback struck at the Web site for PostFinance, a Swiss bank that blocked access for a legal defense fund established for Assange. PayPal and Amazon also have stopped transactions involving donations to WikiLeaks, and hackers say those sites might be targeted next.

Interestingly, some of the revelations included in document dumps by WikiLeaks indicate the Chinese government previously attacked the Google site over access issues, and that China also was suspected of possibly attempting to hack Pentagon computers.

Some computer experts are now classifying the chain of events as an all-out cyberwar, which they say amounts to World War IV. According to this school of thought, World War III was the protracted Cold War (1947-91) between the United States and the Soviet Union, which primarily involved conflicts -- violent and otherwise -- through proxies.

A few IT experts worry that the attacks could be used by governments as a pretext for imposing restrictions on access to the Internet.

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<![CDATA[Julian Assange Quotes Rupert Murdoch]]>

After WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange voluntarily turned himself into British authorities today, he was denied bail and remains in custody until at least Dec. 14, according to The Guardian newspaper in London.

Assange, 39, was told by London Metropolitan police about new charges he faces in connection with two sexual encounters he had in Sweden. "He is accused by the Swedish authorities of one count of unlawful coercion, two counts of sexual molestation and one count of rape, all alleged to have been committed in August 2010," the newspaper reported.---

Supporters maintain the charges are trumped up and part of a political vendetta against Assange pushed by the United States and other governments. Throughout the past year, WikiLeaks has released hundreds of thousands of once-confidential documents related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as U.S. diplomatic relations around the world.

Also today, Visa and MasterCard blocked donations to WikiLeaks by their customers, alleging the whistleblower Web site was engaged in illegal activity, even though the organization hasn't been charged with a crime. In response, Xipwire, a Philadelphia-based mobile payments firm, set up a Web page to accept donations for WikiLeaks.

Meanwhile, Common Dreams, a national, nonprofit group dedicated to organizing for progressive causes, published a column written by Assange. The article, entitled "The Truth Will Always Win," defends WikiLeaks' work as being essential to an open, democratic society and holding governments accountable to people.

"Democratic societies need a strong media and WikiLeaks is part of that media," Assange wrote. "The media helps keep government honest. WikiLeaks has revealed some hard truths about the Iraq and Afghan wars, and broken stories about corporate corruption.

"People have said I am anti-war: for the record, I am not," the article continued. "Sometimes nations need to go to war, and there are just wars. But there is nothing more wrong than a government lying to its people about those wars, then asking these same citizens to put their lives and their taxes on the line for those lies. If a war is justified, then tell the truth and the people will decide whether to support it."

At the beginning of his column, Assange cites a quote uttered a half-century ago by his fellow Australian, Rupert Murdoch, who now owns the conservative Fox News Channel, as well as numeorus TV stations and newspapers. Fox News is leading the charge to shut down WikiLeaks and imprison Assange.

"In 1958 a young Rupert Murdoch, then owner and editor of Adelaide's The News, wrote: 'In the race between secrecy and truth, it seems inevitable that truth will always win.'"

Murdoch might do well to heed his own advice. 

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<![CDATA[Hackers Strike Back at Bank]]>

Just hours after a Swiss bank froze access today to a legal defense fund established for WikiLeaks provocateur Julian Assange, a group of hackers have shut down the bank's Web site in an escalating "infowar."

A group calling itself Operation Payback took responsibility for the Internet attack on the Swiss bank, PostFinance, via its Twitter account. "We will fire at anyone that tries to censor WikiLeaks," the group said in its announcement.---

PostFinance had said it blocked access to the account, which contains about $41,000, and stopped accepting donations because Assange lied about his residency when he opened the account. Bank officials said Assange couldn't provide proof of Swiss residency, making the account invalid. His supporters, though, countered that the bank only took its action because of pressure from the U.S. government and other nations angry at Assange and WikiLeaks.

In a video posted on YouTube, Operation Payback stated it would fight any attempts at Internet censorship. On its Twitter feed, it vowed to hack PayPal next.

"In these modern times, Internet access is fast becoming a basic human right," the video stated. "Just like any other basic human right, we believe it is wrong to infringe upon it."

During the past few days, both PayPal and Amazon.com have stopped service to WikiLeaks, and the U.S. government has blocked access to the Web site on all federal computers, including those at the Library of Congress.

Also, an American provider of Internet domain names — EveryDNS.net — withdrew its service to WikiLeaks Thursday. The provider stated it was experiencing multiple attacks by hackers that threatened its entire system, attacks that some computer experts say are being mounted by nation-states including possibly the U.S. government. As a result, WikiLeaks supporters have launched an estimated 500 mirror sites to continue public access to the once-confidential government documents posted by Assange.

The fast-paced, escalating series of events prompted the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), an online free-speech group, to declare this was the start of the first bonafide war waged on the Internet.

"The first serious infowar is now engaged. The field of battle is WikiLeaks. You are the troops," tweeted John Perry Barlow, the EFF's co-founder, on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Assange is expected to turn himself into British law enforcement officers Tuesday. He has been wanted on an Interpol arrest warrant stemming from a Swedish criminal charge based on having consensual sex without a condom. The charge, known as "sex by surprise" in Sweden, is punishable by a fine of about $715. His accuser has ties to a Cuban anti-Castro group that's been partially funded by the CIA in the past.

Although many Democrats and Republicans in the Establishment have criticized Wikileaks and promised to find methods to prevent future document dumps, the organization also has drawn some support from across the political spectrum, primarily from people concerned about free speech or civil liberties.

"In a free society, we are supposed to know the truth," said Congressman Ron Paul (R-Texas). "In a society where truth becomes treason, we are in big trouble."

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<![CDATA[The Number You're Not Supposed to Have]]>

If you like pissing off overly authoritarian government initiatives, then you need to bookmark and use the following Web address.

It's http://213.251.145.96/---

That's the new Internet home of WikiLeaks, which has been bouncing around the Web this week as the U.S. government and other nations pressure various servers not to host the controversial site.

Originally available at wikileaks.org, an American provider of Internet domain names — EveryDNS.net — withdrew its service to WikiLeaks Thursday. The provider stated it was experiencing multiple attacks by hackers that threatened its entire system.

It's been documented that various governments are trying to knock WikiLeaks off the Internet and block access after it posted nearly 251,000 diplomatic messages last week from U.S. embassies that were surreptitiously obtained.

The messages included one about China launching cyber-attacks against Google due to an access dispute.

After WikiLeaks was kicked off Amazon.com's cloud service, it moved to a French firm, and was accessible at http://wikileaks.ch. But the Reuters News Service reported today that the French government was researching methods to keep companies in that nation from hosting the site. Access through that address has been sporadic.

Now various mirror addresses — including wikileaks.de, wikileaks.fl and wikileaks.nl. — take users to the new site accessible via only an IP address.

This week's Porkopolis column looks at WikiLeaks' various document dumps during the past year, and how they've embarrassed governments around the world.

Julian Assange, WikiLeaks' Australian founder, has been in hiding in recent weeks, although he's granted some interviews via Internet hookups and other methods. He was thought to be in the United Kingdom last week, and now might have moved to Germany.

Assange's supporters say the U.S. and other governments are waging a smear campaign against him, trying to harm his credibility and deflect attention from the Web site's revelations.

Last summer Swedish authorities started an investigation against Assange based on complaints alleging he raped one woman and sexually harassed another. Within 24 hours, prosecutors withdrew their arrest warrant, stating the accusations lacked substance.

This week Swedish authorities renewed the arrest warrant. Assange's lawyer says his client is wanted for questioning about allegations he didn't use condoms during consensual sex with two Swedish women.

The lawyer, James D. Caitlin, said in a published report Thursday that “the Swedes are making it up as they go along,” adding the Swedish justice system will become “the laughingstock of the world” due to the charges.

On the Crikey Web site, Caitlin wrote, “Apparently having consensual sex in Sweden without a condom is punishable by a term of imprisonment of a minimum of two years for rape.”

In his article, Caitlin named the two women, nothing they boasted about their sexual conquests online after they occurred.

Meanwhile, although the WikiLeaks revelations continue only to get minimum coverage and soundbites in the U.S. (and blocked altogether in China), European media outlets have aggressively covered the material.

British articles detailing the revelations can be found here, here, here and here.

WikiLeaks' next target is a major U.S. bank, according to Assange, which is believed to be the Bank of America. Reportedly, he has a large cache of internal documents that will expose the greed and scheming of bank executives.

In coming months, WikiLeaks will focus on the private sector, Assange said, including the financial, pharmaceutical and energy sectors.


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<![CDATA[CBS and Double Standards]]>

Almost every year, the Super Bowl is the most-watched television program and it's not just football fans who are responsible for the massive viewership. The annual game has become a social event replete with parties and non-football fans who tune in to see highly publicized halftime shows, inventive commercials and episodes of promising new TV shows afterward.---

This year is no different except that when viewers tune in next Sunday, they probably will see a 30-second anti-abortion commercial funded by the far-right, religious Focus on the Family organization but they won't see a light-hearted ad for a gay dating Web site that features two men and another that's gay-themed. That's because CBS executives said the network doesn't accept advocacy ads.

Say what?

Focus on the Family's so-called "Celebrate Life" commercial features Heisman Trophy-winning college football quarterback Tim Tebow and his mother, Pam. She reportedly talks about how when she was pregnant with her son, doctors advised her to have an abortion because drugs used to awaken her from a coma suffered while carrying her baby likely would make it stillborn. Pam Tebow carried the child to term and he was born healthy.

(Note: When Pam Tebow was pregnant in 1987, she and her husband were on a long-term missionary assignment in the Philippines, where abortion was illegal. Let's see if that fact is mentioned in the ad.)

Accepting the ad, reportedly for a price of at least $2.5 million, at first seemed to signal that CBS had changed its policy for commercials during the game. Remember, in 2004 the network used its "no advocacy" rule to reject an ad from the United Church of Christ that promoted its tolerance of gay and lesbian people. It also rejected an ad that criticized then-President George W. Bush.

Shortly after acceping the Tebow ad, however,  CBS turned down an ad from ManCrunch, a dating site, in which two men watching a football game on TV cheer, then reach into a bowl of potato chips where their hands touch. As they look longingly into each other's eyes, the pair begins to kiss. In the other rejected ad, for GoDaddy, a fictional football player who's retired has become a slightly queeny fashion designer who sells his wares on a Web site created by GoDaddy; the implication is that the ex-player is and always was gay.

The blatantly hypocritical actions of CBS are troubling. Just what, exactly, are the network's standards for commercials? We don't know because CBS won't say. Given the evidence, there's little choice except to believe the network thinks its OK to discriminate against gays and lesbians.

Several gay rights and progressive groups, including the National Organization for Women and Credo Action, have protested and started petition campaigns to lodge complaints with the Federal Communications Commission.

One set of rules should apply to commercials, whether they have a conservative or liberal slant. I say this might be an occasion where more direct action is needed. Unless CBS rejects the Tebow ad, or accepts the two others, a boycott of the network's programming is in order.


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<![CDATA['Fossil' Helps Host Group's Event]]>

Some people might call it the “Case of the Conveniently Disappearing Blog Item.”

In an instance of revising history to suit changing political circumstances that would make old Soviet-style bureaucrats proud, a conservative anti-tax group has deleted a nasty blog item attacking a local official now that the person has agreed to help a fundraiser for the group.---

The Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) apparently has had a change of heart about Hamilton County Engineer Bill Brayshaw. In a sharply worded Sept. 4 item on the group’s blog, COAST lambasted Brayshaw and Hamilton County Sheriff Simon Leis Jr. for not supporting a proposal to use a managed competition process for fleet services in an effort to reduce costs.

At the time, COAST’s item read, “Sheriff Leis and County Engineer Bill Brayshaw have rejected the plan. ... Maybe it’s time for these two fossils to retire?”

Five months later, Brayshaw is among several Republican stalwarts listed on the host committee for COAST’s Feb. 19 fundraiser in Montgomery featuring Fox News commentator John Kasich, an ex-congressman, as keynote speaker. Tickets cost $75 per person or $100 per couple.

Others on the host committee include Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann, County Treasurer Robert Goering, Sycamore Township Trustee Tom Weidman and County GOP Chairman Alex Triantafilou.

Once information about the fundraiser was posted on the blog Wednesday morning, the September item that criticized Brayshaw vanished, presumably scrubbed by COAST leaders who had second thoughts. Although blog items posted on Sept. 4 at 9:41 a.m. and 9:43 a.m. remain on the Web site, an item from 9:42 a.m. — the “fossil” piece — is gone.

Ironically, County Commissioners David Pepper and Todd Portune, two Democrats who are frequent COAST targets, also supported the managed competition proposal that Brayshaw opposed.

Perhaps Brayshaw is a forgiving sort. Given their tacit endorsement of COAST, though, it’s unclear whether Goering, Hartmann and Triantafilou share the group’s view that Brayshaw and Leis are fossils who are past their prime.

As has happened frequently in the past, COAST’s “fossil” remark crossed the line from criticizing officials on a purely policy basis into a petty, personal attack.

Polls have shown most voters are tired of the politics of personal destruction, perfected by people like Karl Rove and Lee Atwater. Maybe if COASTers take a deep breath in the future and pause for review, they will delete such remarks before they’re ever posted on the Web site in the first place.


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<![CDATA[Monday Report]]>

The U.S. stock exchanges have opened strongly this morning, following gains in Asia and Europe earlier today. The Bush Administration's ever-evolving bail-out plans are, as they say in the bidness world, fluid.

Barack Obama has opened a 10-point national lead on John McCain, according to The Washington Post. Some pundits think the race is even more lopsided in Obama's favor but that the mainstream media — either to gin up excitement over a "close" race or to not look like they're "liberal" and "in the tank" for Obama — are portraying the race as closer than it really is. We all know Obama is going to win, which will make these final few weeks of a long, negative campaign almost unbearable.

Speaking of unbearable, how about those Bengals?

I've been getting good feedback (as always) to our annual publication of the Project Censored report on stories the mainstream media missed in the past year. It's a good reminder that Americans aren't as informed as we should be, particularly on international issues, and another reason to be concerned as the the nation's major newspapers continue to struggle with economic pressure.

Enjoy your Monday and the beautiful fall weather.


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<![CDATA[Book Banning: a PC Form of Book Burning]]>

Censorship is one of the major reasons we have a constitution and the form of government everyone points to as the best in the world. But that doesn’t stop individuals and groups from claiming objectionable materials must be removed from libraries and other institutions.

The Nazis used book burning to censor reading, but we’re more “enlightened” here in the U.S. Instead we create what might appear to be reasonable arguments for saving people from themselves and their ignorance about the perils, usually moral in nature, such writing creates.

To call attention to those people who think the First Amendment applies to others, we celebrate the 26th Banned Book Week this week. “Observed since 1982 during the last week of September each year, Banned Books Week celebrates the Freedom to Read,” according to Kristin Fahrenholz, an ACLU law clerk. “Banned Books Week celebrates the freedom to choose and the freedom to express one’s opinion even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular. It also stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them.”

Sponsored by rabble such as the American Booksellers Association, American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, American Library Association, American Society of Journalists and Authors, Association of American Publishers and National Association of College Stores, Banned Book Week is also endorsed by that most subversive of all groups, the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. In a press release about this important week, Fahrenholz and the ACLU provide some interesting information:

“What is Censorship?

“Censorship is the suppression of ideas and information that certain persons -- individuals, groups or government officials -- find objectionable or dangerous. Censors try to use the power of the state to impose their view of what is truthful and appropriate, or offensive and objectionable, on everyone else. Censors pressure public institutions, like libraries, to suppress and remove from public access information they judge inappropriate or dangerous, so that no one else has the chance to read or view the material and make up their own minds about it. The censor wants to prejudge materials for everyone.

“Who Attempts Censorship?

“In most instances, a censor is a sincerely concerned individual who believes that censorship can improve society, protect children, and restore what the censor sees as lost moral values. But under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, each of us has the right to read, view, listen to, and disseminate constitutionally protected ideas, even if a censor finds those ideas offensive.

“Often challenges to books are motivated by a desire to protect children from 'inappropriate' sexual content or 'offensive' language. Although this is a commendable motivation, the Library Bill of Rights states that 'Librarians and governing bodies should maintain that parents -- and only parents -- have the right and the responsibility to restrict access of their children and only their children to library resources.' Censorship by librarians of constitutionally protected speech, whether for protection or for any other reason, violates the First Amendment.

“What Is the Difference Between a Challenge and a Banning?

“A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A banning is the removal of those materials.”

Challenging the ban on a book is simple: Go to your local public library and check out a copy of one of the most frequently banned books of 2007:

1) And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell
Reasons: Anti-Ethnic, Sexism, Homosexuality, Anti-Family, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group

2) The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Violence

3) Olive’s Ocean by Kevin Henkes
Reasons: Sexually Explicit and Offensive Language

4) The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
Reasons: Religious Viewpoint

5) The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Reasons: Racism

6) The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language

7) TTYL by Lauren Myracle
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

8) I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Reasons: Sexually Explicit

9) It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris
Reasons: Sex Education, Sexually Explicit

10) The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

Off the list this year are two books by author Toni Morrison: The Bluest Eye and Beloved. Both have been challenged for sexual content and offensive language.

If these books aren’t in your library, demand an explanation, write a letter of protest and encourage others to do the same. If the books are there, happy reading!

— Margo Pierce

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