Amnesty International’s 50th, 80+ Acts, 76 Dylan Songs, $20, 5+ hours… No Matter How You Count, It Equals Awesome

Amnesty International is one of the most important human rights organizations operating in the world today, and it celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year. Started in 1961 with a worldwide “Appeal for Amnesty” on behalf of individuals imprisoned for the peaceful expression of their beliefs written by British lawyer Peter Benenson, the movement now counts more than 3 million people worldwide.

What better way to celebrate this milestone anniversary than with an album of songs by a man whose songs include the anthems “I Shall Be Released” and “Chimes of Freedom”?  Bob Dylan has long been a supporter of Amnesty International, and Chimes of Freedom was also the unofficial anthem for the amazing Human Rights Now Tour, commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1988.

The collection is available now directly from Amnesty International, on iTunes, or at Amazon.  I downloaded the digital tracks, 76 of them, for $19.99 and it’s the best $20 I’ve spent in recent memory.  I’m not exaggerating.  By and large it’s great music, but more on that in a minute.  Let’s get some math out of the way first, if you’re budget conscious like me.  I don’t buy much music these days.  For the most part, I rely on a subscription service, Rhapsody, for my music.  I only purchase music when there’s are really good reason to.  This is worth buying, a bargain by any standards.

It is a 76 song digital download for $19.99, or 4 CDs for $24.99.  Moreover, all profits go to help Amnesty International in its work.  That’s well over 5 hours of music and the satisfaction of helping out one of my favorite causes, for the price of two album downloads on iTunes.  Your average digital LP on iTunes or most other legal sites is usually $9.99 (increasingly $11.99) and it usually includes 10-12 songs.  This is 76 songs.  If that were sold at 12 songs per record , it would be 6 1/3 records.  Nobody like fractions, so let’s just say this collection equals 6 iTunes LPs + 4 free bonus tracks.   If Amnesty International were a record label and not a human rights nonprofit, they’d have known to more slickly market this collection typical price of $59.94, but tell us it’s on sale now for $19.99,  $24.99 for the 4 CDs.  Then we’d know we’re getting a bargain!

Of course it’s only a bargain if the music is good.  It could contain twice as many tracks, but if you only like 9 of them, then you still don’t want to pay $20.

So then, is it any good?

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Those Who Sacrifice Liberty For Security May Deserve Neither, but for Profits… That’s the American Way

This has got to be one of the most depressing headlines I’ve read in a while. That we are willing to compromise civil liberties for security in a post 9/11 world was unsettling enough, but at least understandable.  Fear is a powerful motivator.  But to give up civil liberties simply to protect corporate profits?  That is shocking, unacceptable and un-American!  Patrick Henry must be rolling in his grave.

2011: The Year Intellectual Property Trumped Civil Liberties

Do the Mashable Awards Matter? is an outstanding source of news about social media, and I read it daily.  The Mashable Awards, on the other hand, are considerably less useful.  They used to be more so, but perhaps the pace of major new developments in social media and mobile computing has slowed quite a bit and competition is less stiff, but the winners this year, for the most part, inspire a big yawn.  I’d argue they’ve become the People’s Choice Awards of Social Media, awards that go to predictable recipients.  They’ve even got their own MashBash gala in Vegas.  (It’s sure to be a blast and I wish I could go, but it’s hard not to poke fun at it, since I’m using this metaphor.)

At the risk of sounding like an elitist, the People’s Choice Awards are really nothing more than a reiteration of what we already know from other sources.  They tell us that the public really liked certain artists, movies, records, tv shows, etc., last year and that they spent money because of it.  They are a popularity contest. Someone receives an award for “Best” Whatever, but it is really an award for Best Selling  or Most Popular Whatever.

Has it become the same with the Mashable Awards?  Is Facebook really the “Best Social Network” or is it merely far too many times larger than it’s nearest competitors for any other network to gather nearly enough votes?  When voting for a winner is open to the general public, how can anything but the the most popular apps and sites win?  Check out the winners in all the categories and decide for yourself.  Let me know what you think.  Do you agree with them?  Where do you go for the most reliable evaluations of Social Media or mobile apps?

I’m Sorry Facebook, I Just Don’t Love You Anymore…

In an article previewing the changes Facebook recently made public, Mashable’s Ben Parr indicated that Facebook was making the changes because it wanted to rekindle an emotional connection with users.

After years of dating, the magic between Facebook and its users has dissipated. It’s a natural evolution in any relationship, but now there is another suitor vying for Facebook’s users. And a lot of people think this suitor is easy on the eyes.
That’s why Facebook launched three recent changes: revamped Friend Lists, a real-time news ticker, and the subscribe button… But these changes are just the beginning. The changes Facebook will roll out on Thursday are designed to enhance the emotional connection its users have to each other through Facebook.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but this strategy isn’t working for me! My relationship with Facebook has never gotten old because like an insecure lover, it’s never stopped demanding my attention, to the point of provoking annoyance. I’ve given it a lot of attention, integrating it into my professional and personal lives, but it’s proven unpredictable, unsure of the terms under which it wants to participate. It’s time to cool things off. Since Facebook has so few concerns about private affairs going public, how would you like to read my Dear John Letter to Facebook?
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Egypt Decides! Let’s Stand Back for a While

Saturday, 12 February 2011, Day 1 Freedom - Victory Tahrir Square, Photo by Darla Hueske, Creative Commons license, Some rights reserved

These are exciting times! The citizens revolution in Tunisia started a tidal wave of pro-democracy protests across the Arab world, and the resignation of Hosni Mubarak form the Presidency in Egypt proves there is no stopping it.

Fortunately, this wave has not caused the death and destruction tidal waves usually do, because it is the people themselves who are the wave, and it is the elite who are being swept away, not in a bloody coup, but through real people power. Final costs have yet to be assessed. People were jailed and others killed, but violence and destruction to property have been minimal. The police were brutal and ruthless and far too many were killed, but protests continued and the police disappeared quickly. After that, the one significant effort of Mubarak loyalist to crack heads, backfired terribly.

Most Americans are excited by this wave of democracy and have an innate tendency to support it. Others got very nervous when the wave hit Egypt. What happens if the Muslim brotherhood takes over? There are even voices who get far to much airplay in the media and too much ink in the press who say that people in the region are incapable of self governance and need strong arm leadership. The most looney voice has to be Glenn Beck who fears Mubarak’s fall will open the door to a Islamist Caliphate that will spread until it meets and joins forces with a Chinese-led “red” wave on a quest for world domination.
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TV News and Reporting from Egypt

Dear Media,

Please stop marveling at how anything is happening in Egypt even though the internet is shut down and people can’t get on Twitter or Facebook.  You do realize that there were popular revolts before social media, don’t you?  In the latter half of the 20th century we had the Prague Spring in 1968, the Soweto uprising in 1976, the Paris riots in 1968, and even Tiananmen Square in 89. How do you think people coordinated the labor demonstrations of the 30s, the anti-colonial revolts of the developing world in the decades following World War II.  What about the French Revolution in 1789?  OMG?  How did they get anything done.  They didn’t even have land lines!

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Academic Freedom Media Review, October 30 – November 5, 2010

The Scholars at Risk media review seeks to raise awareness about academic freedom issues in the news. Subscription information and archived media reviews are available here. The views and opinions expressed in these articles are not necessarily those of Scholars at Risk.

Singapore suppresses dissident
Drew Anderson, Yale Daily News, 11/5

Scholars at Risk Expresses Concern Over Professor Denied Entry to India
Scholars at Risk, 11/4

Iran Sets New Conditions For Employing Teachers
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 11/4

News of Government Guidelines on ‘Pluralism’ Alarms Israeli Academics
Matthew Kalman, The Chronicle of Higher Education, 11/4
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Biking 2,500 miles!

This is an official challenge to anyone now writing in the Tour de France or, for that matter, any cyclist in the world who comes across this post. Yesterday, on 5 July 2010, at 4:19 PM, I left my house for a bike ride. I used an iPhone app called MapMyRide to–well–map my ride. My ride ended at 5:11 PM, making it a 50 minute ride. I thought that I had ridden about six or 7 miles, at a leisurely pace, stopping to take pictures here and there.

But I don’t know my own power! When I looked at the map of my route as uploaded, I had biked 2487.1 miles: across western Massachusetts, through upstate New York, through a little piece of Ontario on the Great Lakes, through Michigan, across Lake Michigan (there must be a ferry), through Wisconsin and Minnesota into Canada, across Manitoba and Saskatchewan, and well into Alberta just above Edmonton. I’ve embedded the map below, but it’s impressive to list them out like that, don’t you think?

I remember none of it, nor how I got home… I did get some pictures, but I stopped taking them a few miles from home. I’m not sure why. Did I fall asleep on Ambien during this 2400 mile ride? I don’t take Ambien! Anyway, here’s my six, not so interesting pictures.
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How I Become Captivated by Lena Horne

Lena Horne, 92, an electrifying performer who shattered racial boundaries by changing the way Hollywood presented black women and who enjoyed a six-decade singing career on stage, television and in films, died Sunday at New York-Presbyterian Hospital.

Ms. Horne, considered one of the most beautiful women in the world, came to the attention of Hollywood in 1942. She was the first black woman to sign a meaningful long-term contract with a major studio, a contract that said she would never have to play a maid.  –via Adam Bernstein, The Washington Post.

Sesame Street, 1975

She leaves behind an amazing body of work.  No doubt you’ll hear “Stormy Weather” in a report on her career during the next few days, as it is probably her best known song.  If not, do yourself a favor and listen to it. When I think of Lena Horne, however, that song is the second thing that comes to mind.

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Higher Education, Collaboration, and Education for the 21st Century


In a few days I am off to Morocco for a seminar at TALIM on higher education and employment in Morocco. But the job market in the United States is also very challenging of college graduates right now, and American educators may well be asking themselves if higher education in this country is adequately preparing students to enter the work force of the global era.

We still function in terms of national economies, but those economies are increasingly connected so that a crisis in one affects many others.  We also live in a world in which graduating students in America compete for employment, directly or indirectly, with their peers in Mexico, Morocco, India and Taiwan. And the whole lot of them are also competing with graduating students in Pakistan, Costa Rica, Tunisia, Israel and Poland. Continue reading