Karen Sandler’s Keynote address to Linux Australia conference

 

This is the keynote address that Karen Sandler (executive director of the GNOME Foundation) recently gave to the Linux Australia conference. It goes to the heart of why software is important, and why we should all have access to the sourcecode of the products which we all use everyday.

Karen has a rare heart condition and needed a defibrulator/pacemaker. One of her first questions when talking to a cardiologist about it was ‘what does it run’ – to which he had no answer, and didn’t understand why she cared. Yet, she cared for the same reason that *everyone* should care. ‘New’ defibrulators today are openly broadcasting over wifi patient details – so that when a patient walks into his/her doctors office, they no longer have to take their pulse – its on the computer already. Seems like a nifty feature, right? But the problem is, its not just broadcasting that info in the doctors office. It’s broadcasting it 24/7. In the mall. At school. In the airport. Everywhere. And the devices have been *proven* to be hackable – that is to say, it *IS* possible to hack into them and make them give the patient a shock. Or stop working entirely. Or any number of other things.

And yet, no-one can legally look at the software. And its not even reviewed (or tested!!) by any 3rd party – not by the FDA, not by anyone at all outside of the company that makes it. They say its ‘bug free’ – but anyone who knows about computers knows that there is *no such thing* as bug-free code. No. Such. Thing.

It goes to the heart of why open source is so important today – because we use computers constantly, everyday, without even thinking about it. We no longer drive cars; we ride in computers that drive. We no longer fly in airplanes; we ride in computers that fly. We no longer vote in elections; we tell a computer how to vote *for* us. Etc. And virtually all of these computers run on proprietary software which no-one outside the company that makes it has access to, to double check its safety, its security or anything else. And most of us don’t think twice about it.

Anyhow, its a long talk (nearly an hour), but is completely worth it. Its the reason that I use, love, and support Open Source Software. Its the reason why we all should.

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SOPA & NDAA

First off, in case you haven’t heard, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) has passed both houses of congress with huge majorities and Obama has now said he will sign it. This is absolutely terrifying. Why? Because it codifies into #USA law indefinite detention, of anyone and everyone the president *accuses* of being a terrorist, or even merely supporting:

http://www.salon.com/2011/12/16/three_myths_about_the_detention_bill/

It simply cannot be any clearer within the confines of the English language that this bill codifies the power of indefinite detention. It expressly empowers the President — with regard to anyone accused of the acts in section (b) – to detain them “without trial until the end of the hostilities.” That is the very definition of “indefinite detention,” and the statute could not be clearer that it vests this power. Anyone claiming this bill does not codify indefinite detention should be forced to explain how they can claim that in light of this crystal clear provision.

So basically, assuming Obama truly does sign this in the coming days, anyone the president *accuses* of terrorism, can be held indefinitely. Accused. Not convicted of being, but merely *accused*. This bill passed the US Senate 93-7. Ninety-three to *seven*. So much for freedom in the USA.

https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2011/10/sopa-hollywood-finally-gets-chance-break-internet

Next up is SOPA – Stop Online Privacy Act. Sounds noble, doesn’t it? Its aim? Stop piracy Though of course there is absolutely no way to do this. If it passes though, we will end up with a corporate shell for the internet, at least in the USA. Companies will be able to (once again) merely accuse a website of infringing on their copyright, and thence force ad services (Google, Facebook, etc), and payment processors (PayPal, Visa, Mastercard, etc) to stop funding you. It will essentially force anyone who allows posting of content to constantly monitor & censor what is being posted. No more Youtube. No more Facebook. But we might stop a tiny bit of privacy.

Vaccines in Court

The past few days have been rather exciting. There are two big stories here, neither of which has gotten much (if any) press in the US: vaccine manufacturer’s being taken to court in France over hepatitus b vaccines, and the US Department of Health & Human Services concedeing a case on a vaccine-autism link.

The first case comes to us from France, where vaccine manufacturer’s are being sued for manslaughter for failing to fully disclose side effects to hepatitis-B vaccines. Judge Marie-Odile Bertella-Geffroy has opened two separate investigations one against GlaxoSmithKline & Sanofi Pasteur and another against Sanofi Pasteur MSD a joint venture between Sanofi Aventis and Merck.

Between 1994 and 1998 about two thirds of the population (including almost all newborns during the time period) was vaccinated against hepatitis B, before the campaign was suspended because of concerns regarding side effects. Among the 30 plaintiffs are 5 families of people who died after being given the vaccine.

The second case takes place right here in the US. David Kirby in the Huffington Post reports that on November 9, 2007 US Assistant Attorney General Peter Keisler quietly conceded that vaccines aggravated an existing mitochondrial disorder and thereby caused the manifestation of Autism Spectrum Disorder in one child. Mr Keisler and the other Justice Department officials were working on behalf of the Department of Health & Human Services.

This is huge because while mitochondrial disorders are extremely rare in the general population (0.2% or 1 in 10,000), they are far more common among people with ASD. An incredible 10-20% (estimated in some journal articles) of all autism cases may be linked to them, making them the most common disease associated with ASD. And in the Journal of Child Neurology Dr Zimmerman (the doctor who diagnosed the child in this case), co-authored an article which “showed that 38% of Kennedy Krieger Institute autism patients studied had one marker for impaired oxidative phosphorylation, and 47% had a second marker.”

All of this begs the question “What next?”. What will the US government do now. They have been claiming for the past several years that autism is in no way shape or form connected to vaccines or thimerosol. And yet, now they have conceded one case, which may be just the first of hundreds or thousands to come. With 4900 cases pending in vaccine court, how many can the government realistically afford to settle?

Super what?

Well, today I went in and went through my fighting steps and forms with Jarrod and some other folks, trying to get ready for my black belt test. I’m feeling pretty confidant about them. I just need to start going through all the *old* fighting steps and remembering them.

I’ve also been playing around with blogger, and have added Google AdSense, so who knows maybe I’ll be able to make a little money off this. (OK, so thats not likely in the least, but hey, its worth a try, right??)

DH has been sitting in the other room watching the Super Bowl except now, since my Dad’s gone to bed, he’s moved in here… so I’m watching football for the first time in… years. Personally, I’m rooting for the Giants. The Patriots don’t deserve an undefeated season. I don’t know why not, but it just doesn’t seem right. Specially since they cheat. Not that I really care either way…

It occurs to me of course that I’m like one of the only people in the US that just couldn’t care less about the super bowl. I mean, the commercials tend to be really good, but other than that its just another football game… and, yeah. Whatever floats your boat, I spose…

Africa’s Holocaust

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a civil war which supposedly ended over 5 years ago, goes on. Over six million people have been killed during the past six years. That’s the equivalent of the entire population of New Zealand – or New York City – dead. Its also the approximate number of Jew’s killed in the Holocaust, the first major genocide. Like every other genocide, it is being largely ignored. Half of all deaths are of children under the age of five – a quarter of all children born in the Congo today won’t make it to the age of 5.

The worst of the violence though, is being committed against women. Rape has become the weapon of choice of the Congolese military, as well as the “Mai Mai” militias, civilians, UN Peacekeepers, and perhaps most telling of all Hutus who fled Rwanda after committing genocide against the Tutsis their and who have taken up residence here in the Congo.

Some of the Hutus have become known as the Rastas, who wear shiny track suits and LA Lakers’ jerseys. They have become notorious for burning babies, kidnapping children and killing any and everyone who dares to get in their way.

There is one light of hope though in all the killing. At Panzi Hospital Dr Mukwege, an OB/GYN does six surgeries a day on women who have been raped. Most who come have fistulas – holes inside of their bodies. Many are the result of having had various implements – guns, bayonets, bottles, sticks – shoved inside of their vagina’s and rectums, literally ripping them apart from the insides. Others stem from birth complications. A mother who cannot give birth due to militias, who has no time for labor and whose child dies inside of her. One carried her dead child inside her vagina for a week before arriving at the hospital.

Because of their woods, they are unable to control their bodily fluids, and so their urine and feces literally leak out of their bodies. Many are shunned by their communities – and yet in some villages over half the women have been raped. Few are spared – Dr Mukwege says his oldest patient was 75, his youngest just 3.

Why is this occurring? That is the question, that no-one can answer, although it is clear the purpose of the attacks to terrify. Why else would women be raped in front of their families – husbands brothers, sisters, children, communities? By doing so they are raping not only the women but everyone around them as well. Showing them, proving to them, that they are powerless and helpless before such as them.

I’m still trying to figure out what I can do, what we can all do to help, to end the violence. Perhaps the best option is to write the President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Joseph Kabila Kabange, and urge him to take action to stop the violence. Write your representatives, and urge them to start proceedings to take action. Or you can donate money directly to Panzi Hospital where Dr Mukwege works, print out posters, and sign up for email alerts at http://www.vday.org/contents/drcongo.

But, perhaps most importantly, you can speak out to your family & friends. Tell them about the conflict, and keep it fresh in your mind. The perpetrators would prefer that we forget, that we pretend its not happening. But it is. And the least that we can do for those who are being hurt is to not forget them, and their struggle.

Africa’s Holocaust

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a civil war which supposedly ended over 5 years ago, goes on. Over six million people have been killed during the past six years. That’s the equivalent of the entire population of New Zealand – or New York City – dead. Its also the approximate number of Jew’s killed in the Holocaust, the first major genocide. Like every other genocide, it is being largely ignored. Half of all deaths are of children under the age of five – a quarter of all children born in the Congo today won’t make it to the age of 5.

The worst of the violence though, is being committed against women. Rape has become the weapon of choice of the Congolese military, as well as the “Mai Mai” militias, civilians, UN Peacekeepers, and perhaps most telling of all Hutus who fled Rwanda after committing genocide against the Tutsis their and who have taken up residence here in the Congo.

Some of the Hutus have become known as the Rastas, who wear shiny track suits and LA Lakers’ jerseys. They have become notorious for burning babies, kidnapping children and killing any and everyone who dares to get in their way.

There is one light of hope though in all the killing. At Panzi Hospital Dr Mukwege, an OB/GYN does six surgeries a day on women who have been raped. Most who come have fistulas – holes inside of their bodies. Many are the result of having had various implements – guns, bayonets, bottles, sticks – shoved inside of their vagina’s and rectums, literally ripping them apart from the insides. Others stem from birth complications. A mother who cannot give birth due to militias, who has no time for labor and whose child dies inside of her. One carried her dead child inside her vagina for a week before arriving at the hospital.

Because of their woods, they are unable to control their bodily fluids, and so their urine and feces literally leak out of their bodies. Many are shunned by their communities – and yet in some villages over half the women have been raped. Few are spared – Dr Mukwege says his oldest patient was 75, his youngest just 3.

Why is this occurring? That is the question, that no-one can answer, although it is clear the purpose of the attacks to terrify. Why else would women be raped in front of their families – husbands brothers, sisters, children, communities? By doing so they are raping not only the women but everyone around them as well. Showing them, proving to them, that they are powerless and helpless before such as them.

I’m still trying to figure out what I can do, what we can all do to help, to end the violence. Perhaps the best option is to write the President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Joseph Kabila Kabange, and urge him to take action to stop the violence. Write your representatives, and urge them to start proceedings to take action. Or you can donate money directly to Panzi Hospital where Dr Mukwege works, print out posters, and sign up for email alerts at  http://www.vday.org/contents/drcongo.

But, perhaps most importantly, you can speak out to your family & friends. Tell them about the conflict, and keep it fresh in your mind. The perpetrators would prefer that we forget, that we pretend  its not happening. But it is. And the least that we can do for those who are being hurt is to not forget them, and their struggle.

No more textbooks??

Working for Change has a cool article up about how Allegheny College in PA is trying to do away with text books. The first class (logically, I suppose), to do so was the Intro to Enviromental Science class. Instead of using a textbook, they developed a website with “readings” which linked to sites all over the web like the US Census Burae, the EPA, and the National Park Service. Its a really quite cool idea. As noted in the article, in the end it provides three things that textbooks do not, can not provide:

1 Saves Money. Average Enviro Science textbook cost? $100 Cost of the site? $0
2 Saves Trees. Apparently 20% of the paper the US uses every year goes to, you guessed it, text books. So thats 5 million trees annualy.
3 Accuracy. No textbook can possibly be as up-to-date as a website. Its just not possible.

Anyhow, check it out.
http://www.workingforchange.com/article.cfm?itemid=20743