(TMU) — The potential of gaming platforms as revolutionary comms has been pondered for decades.
In his young adult novel Little Brother, author Cory Doctorow imagined teenagers using their video game systems to connect to an encrypted network to evade draconian government agencies in the wake of a terror attack and in For The Win, Doctorow explored the virtual economy of MMORPGs and their potential as an organizing mechanism against corrupt state power.
Enter one of the more interesting real-life examples of a video game platform being repurposed to fight fascist state censorship. Reporters Without Borders has tapped Minecraft to develop its new project The Uncensored Library, which is a virtual hub where users can access censored journalism from around the world.
Developed as a synergistic effort by the German branch of Reporters Without Borders, the German marketing agency DDB, and the UK design company Blockworks, The Uncensored Library is not a gamification of press freedoms but rather part of a series of projects based on using alternative platforms and collaborative 3D design to fight censorship.
Reporters Without Borders specifically sought out a company that could leverage the global engagement of Minecraft, which is so ubiquitous that it would be virtually impossible for a nation’s government to shut its servers down. DDB senior creative Tobi Natterer found in his research that countries with particularly draconian press censorship—Russia, Egypt, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, etc.—have extremely active gaming communities. Minecraft is the largest of those communities and it happens to allow gamers to write books in-game.
“Inside [those books],” explained senior interactive producer Robert-Jan Blonk, who worked on the library, “you can find articles and information about the journalists that are being censored in their own countries. We share these stories through the books that live in that library, and people can just openly read them, because even in the countries… where these journalists are from, you’re able to play Minecraft.”
The Uncensored Library features special sections for certain countries like Egypt, where there are virtually no press freedoms. The library features articles from Egypt that you simply can not find anywhere else except inside the Minecraft server. In Mexico, where journalists and dissidents face routine assassination from both the government and cartels, there is widespread self-censorship that is based on fear.
“In the Mexico room we built memorials to 12 Mexican journalists who have been murdered,” said James Delaney, managing director at Blockworks. “Because of the explicit danger to journalists in Mexico, there are a lot of issues they won’t talk about because it’s too dangerous.”
The game includes a pedestal for the work of murdered journalist Javier Valdez Cárdenas.
Behind the library’s neo-classically iconic statue of a fist holding a pen and museum-like wings of book collections, there is a world map inscribing Reporters Without Borders’ Press Freedom Index, which ranks 180 countries based on their press censorship. The rankings factor in everything from executed journalists to the online censorship of articles, algorithmic censorship of keywords and even blocking VPNs, such as in China and Russia.
The Uncensored Library is getting plenty of attention in countries that do not blatantly censor the press, of course. The map has clocked 23,000 downloads globally and the official server has drawn 17,000 unique visitors.
For platform-specific info on how to access the library, Gizmodo offers a breakdown.
For a virtual tour of the Uncensored Library, check out the video below:
Police Rescue Dogs Trapped In Car on Sizzling Hot Day, Owners Complain About Broken Window
Police in the UK acted quickly to save a two dogs locked inside a car in sizzling hot temperatures by smashing open a window, upsetting the car’s owner over the damage.
Officers responded Sunday to reports that a beagle and another dog were trapped in a car parked in the seaside British city of Brighton on a day of boiling heat.
In video captured of the incident, an officer can be seen jamming his baton through a rear window before finally shattering it to free the pooches.
This prompts the car alarm to go off as the car’s owners can be seen rushing toward it, upset over the police intervention.
A woman, standing with her shocked family, says: “You broke my window out!”
One of the officer responded: “It’s a hot day. You shouldn’t be leaving the dog in the car in this weather.”
The incident happened on a day when people across the region flock to the seaside resort city to dip into the beaches amid surging hot temperatures.
The onlooker who filmed the incident noted that the owners seemed unaware of the dangers posed to their pets by weather conditions.
“Where they had parked there is just no shade,” they told The Sun. “It’s directly on the seafront in 25°C (77°F) weather outside – I’ve got no idea what it was inside the car.”
The family was indignant over what they claim was an overreaction by the police.
“At first it was ‘what the f*** are you doing, why did you break my car window? I was only gone for 10 minutes,’” another witness explained.
“The bloke obviously thought he was completely in the right,” they added. “He didn’t really seem to have much empathy.”
According to UK animal welfare group RSPCA, outside temperatures of 22°C (71°F) can reach a brutal 47°C (116.6°F) inside a car within an hour.
“Police officers attended and tried to get a contact number for the owners of the car but were unable,” a Sussex Police spokesperson said. “Officers had no choice but to smash the side window to gain access and a kind member of the public donated a bottle of water.”
Authorities added that the officers let the pet owners off with a stern warning, without ticketing the family or separating their dogs from them.
Scientists Prove What Causes Aurora Borealis for the First Time
Since the dawn of time, humans have been mystified by what causes the aurora borealis or northern lights. However, a group of scientists have finally uncovered what causes the dazzling lightshow that has captivated people for so long.
Researchers at the University of Iowa have proven that the shimmering auroras are the result of powerful electromagnetic waves during geomagnetic storms, according to a newly published study.
According to the study, phenomena known as Alfven waves propel electrons toward Earth and cause the particles to produce the brilliant display of northern lights seen in the higher latitudes of our planet,
“Measurements revealed this small population of electrons undergoes ‘resonant acceleration’ by the Alfven wave’s electric field, similar to a surfer catching a wave and being continually accelerated as the surfer moves along with the wave,” Prof. Greg Howes, a co-author of the study, told CNN.
Scientists have long understood that the aurora was the likely result of electrons surfing across the electric field, at least since the theory was introduced in 1946 by Soviet scientist Lev Landau.
However, the University of Iowa professors were able to finally put the theory to the test through a simulation at a lab at the Large Plasma Device (LPD) in the Basic Plasma Science Facility of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).
Using a 20-meter-long chamber to simulate the magnetic field of the Earth through state-of-the-art magnetic field coils, scientists were able to generate plasma similar to that which exists in spac.
“Using a specially designed antenna, we launched Alfven waves down the machine, much like shaking a garden hose up and down quickly, and watching the wave travel along the hose,” said Howes.
While this didn’t result in the type of auroras we might see in the sky, “our measurements in the laboratory clearly agreed with predictions from computer simulations and mathematical calculations, proving that electrons surfing on Alfven waves can accelerate the electrons (up to speeds of 45 million mph) that cause the aurora,” Howes noted.
Scientists across the country were elated by the results of the experiment.
“I was tremendously excited! It is a very rare thing to see a laboratory experiment that validates a theory or model concerning the space environment,” said Patrick Koehn, a scientist in the Heliophysics Division of NASA.
“Space is simply too big to easily simulate in the lab,” he added.
Researchers are hopeful that a greater understanding will allow forecasters to better understand weather conditions in space.
Arizona Restores Gas Chamber Where ‘Nazi-Era’ Gas Will be Used for Executions
Arizona has restored an old gas chamber retired during the 20th century in a bid to continue executing its inmates on death row, renewing criticisms about capital punishment and a method of execution the United States once rejected for being excessively cruel and unusual.
The gas chamber, which hasn’t been operated since it executed its last inmate 1999, has been refurbished to ensure that it can properly function as an option for death row prisoners to choose, reports Associated Press.
The move comes after the Grand Canyon State made a large purchase of ingredients to manufacture its own hydrogen cyanide gas.
The same chemicals Arizona plans on using were also used by the Nazis during the holocaust under the brand name Zyklon B. News articles about Arizona’s plans have provoked outrage among survivors of Nazi death camps in Germany and Israel.
“Whether or not one supports the death penalty as a general matter, there is general agreement in American society that a gas devised as a pesticide, and used to eliminate Jews, has no place in the administration of criminal justice,” wrote the American Jewish Committee said in a statement.
The federal government has also used the gas in past executions of prisoners.
Arizona’s revival of the old execution method comes as prison authorities across the country continue to grapple with problems over another form of execution decried by critics as brutal, namely the use of lethal injection.
Once depicted as a more humane and painless form of killing prisoners, lethal injection has often led to slow, torturous and excruciating deaths. Additionally, many of the chemicals used in lethal injection drugs are impossible to attain due to the refusal of drug makers to continue manufacturing them – effectively cutting off the “choices” given to death row inmates about their preferred method of death.
In South Carolina, a recently-passed law would see inmates being forced to choose between firing squad and an electric chair, reports NPR.
In the waning days of the Trump administration, the outgoing president also vigorously pushed to fast-track the use of death by firing squad and death by electrocution.
At the time, former federal prosecutor Miriam Krinsky, who also heads the Fair and Just Prosecution advocacy group, said:
“As we find itself in the midst of a national reckoning with racism and our history of racial violence, ending the death penalty must be part of our transformation … Abolishing the death penalty would be a signal that the Biden-Harris administration is committed to fairness, equity, and evidence-based justice — and the time for this definitive move is long overdue.”
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