Hacker collective Anonymous is out to avenge the death of activist Aaron Swartz. Google Earth is used to spot North Korean labor camps. And some of the web’s most famous felines come together for a good cause.
Anonymous wants to avenge Aaron Swartz’s suicide
Anonymous is challenging the American justice system. The hacker collective has claimed responsibility for Saturday’s cyber-attack targeting the Federal Sentencing Commission website. The government agency’s homepage was momentarily replaced by this video; a message from Anonymous threatening to release the internal Justice Department documents retrieved during the operation.
The hackers say the attack is in protest of the US Justice Department’s handling of the Aaron Swartz case: the 26 year old computer genius and activist who campaigned for the free flow of information on the Internet, committed suicide on January 11, a few weeks before he was set to go on trial. He was facing a lengthy prison term on computer fraud charges, prosecutors say he had downloaded millions of scientific articles from a subscription based research database, with the goal of disseminating them for free.
His friends and family believe it was the judicial harassment that drove the young cyber activist to suicide. His death has sent shock waves across the web and also fueled debate over computer crime and the US criminal justice system. California congresswoman Zoe Lofgren has proposed reforms to the law used to prosecute Aaron Swartz, so certain acts of piracy will no longer be liable to criminal prosecution. She is endeavoring to get the bill passed as soon as possible in honour of Aaron Swartz.
Google Earth used to spot North Korean labor camps
Blogger Curtis Melvin has been studying these newly provided Google Earth satellite images, and raised the question as to whether North Korea has recently built another prison camp. Over the past few years the American economist has been using the mapping software to try and expose the secrets of the Pyongyang regime.
Other bloggers are also using the satellite photos to gather information about the labour camps dotted around the country. Pyongyang insists the camps do not exist, but Human Rights organizations estimate that as many as 250 000 political prisoners and their families are languishing in these North Korean gulags.
Joshua Stanton has been compiling information about six of these camps on his blog, pinpointing guard posts, accommodation units and even coal mines. The lawyer backs up his findings with testimonials from the few people who have managed to escape. People like Shin Dong-hyuk who was born in one of these concentration camps and escaped in 2005. He has recently published a book describing the horrors of living there.
Google Earth’s satellite images give a unique insight into one of the world’s most secretive countries, and also provide information on other aspects of North Korean life. Curtis Melvin’s blog for example lists the railway stations, schools and factories identified using the mapping software, so experts can get a better idea of the country’s economic activity.
Woman vows to eat only at Starbucks for a year
A fan of unlikely challenges, one American woman called Beautiful Existence, that’s her legal name, has vowed to eat only at Starbucks, morning, noon and night, for an entire year. She is chronicling her day to day menu on her blog “1 woman,1 year, 1 challenge” with a primary objective of finding out whether the coffee shop chain will be able to provide her with a balanced diet.
Famous felines of the Internet come together to help cats in need
The most popular cats on the Internet are coming together for a good cause. The website Amazecats has put together a pack of playing cards featuring the photos of famous felines including Henri, the Black Cat, Colonel Meow and Shishimaru. You can buy the deck of cards for 12 dollars and all proceeds will be donated to a charity for stray cats.
Video of the day
Wanting to give his kids a treat, one American dad decided to build an ice rink in his Chicago back yard: it involved five days of hard work and a great deal of courage and determination. He documented the huge undertaking, step by step, and you can check it out in this time lapse video which is currently dong the rounds on sharing sites.