The Turkish government has doubled down on its Internet censorship program, blocking all of Youtube in addition to its ban on Twitter. Despite theories about the political theatre of blocking Twitter, it seems like Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is also genuinely concerned with suppressing a recording of a conversation with his son in which he conspires to hide the money he is thought to have received through corrupt dealing. As with the Twitter block, this one was undertaken as an administrative order from the PM's office, without judicial oversight. The Twitter ban has since been rescinded by the Turkish courts, but the block may not be lifted before the elections.
There is still no official announcement by TİB, the government authority in charge of internet regulation and the organ who implements blocking decisions. However, YouTube’s URL and title appeared on BTK’s (higher organ that includes TİB) web page where the blocked URLs are listed.
The site is still accessible through some ISPs, but the blocking is expected to be implemented fully in an hour’s time by all ISPs.
The government banned Twitter last week on the grounds that the company fails to remove ‘illegal’ content according to Turkish authorities. Yesterday, an administrative court ruled for the suspension of the execution of Twitter blocking.
Last week, Google Inc. has announced that it declined the requests coming from the Turkish government in recent weeks to remove YouTube videos revealing extensive corruption involving PM, his family, ministers, businessmen and several government officials, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Turkish government takes down YouTube too [updated] [Noyan Ayan/Webrazzi]
Adapting data from Cigarette smoking prevalence in US counties: 1996-2012, the New York Times presents an interactive guide to the decline of smoking in America. The bottom line is a persistent correlation with low income. [via Flowing Data]
Worker-owned co-ops are a mainstay of crappy economies, and are thriving around the world. Worker-owned co-ops have better productivity than regular businesses, pay higher wages, and offer better benefits packages. As Shaila Dewan points out in the NYT, they're also easier to accomplish than hikes in the minimum wage or fairer tax-codes. On the other hand, this may be an argument against them, since they may diffuse energy that could make a bigger impact on ordinary workers' lives if it were devoted to systemic fixes.
Still, the worker-owned co-op movement is doing very well, and some co-ops are even using their profits to kickstart other co-ops around the world -- helping fund the worker buyout of a profitable Chicago window-factory that was suddenly closed by its investors because it wasn't profitable enough. The workers took in money from the Latinamerican Working World fund, bought the factory's equipment, and moved it themselves into a new facility. Now they're their own bosses, running a worker-owned window company called New Era Windows.
It's unimaginable heresy in today's world to suggest that doing things is as important as owning things, and that this entitles the people who do stuff to a say in the disposition of the businesses they make possible. But there was a time, not so long ago, when this was a mainstream idea.
Another persistent critique is that workers don’t have enough experience to make good management decisions. Some co-ops solve this problem just as other businesses do, by buying expertise they don’t already have. In 2008, the owners of a Chicago window factory decided to close it with little notice, and the workers staged a six-day sit-in that made them celebrities overnight. Another owner took over but closed the factory again. The workers bought the equipment and moved it to a new factory, saving hundreds of thousands of dollars with sweat equity. The new company, called New Era Windows, opened last year. Though the workers are still paying themselves minimum wage, they elected to hire a high-priced, experienced salesman to drum up business.
New Era was lucky to find financing, borrowing $600,000 from a nonprofit called the Working World, which started lending to co-ops in Latin America and has branched out to the U.S. The biggest challenge co-ops face is lack of capital, which is why they are often labor-intensive businesses with low start-up costs. Banks can be hesitant to lend to co-ops, perhaps because they aren’t familiar with the model. Meanwhile, credit unions — another form of cooperative — face stringent regulations on business lending.
Who Needs a Boss? [Shaila Dewan/NYT]
(Image: IWW Printing Co-op, IU 450, Detroit Universal Label, Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain)
As I've written before, Karl Schroeder is one of the sharpest, canniest thinkers about technology and science fiction I know. In the nearly 30 years I've know him, he's introduced me to fractals, free software, Unix, listservers, SGML, augmented reality, the Singularity, and a host of other ideas -- generally 5-10 years before I heard about these ideas from anyone else. What's more, he's a dynamite novelist with a finely controlled sense of character and plot to go with all those Big Ideas.
Now he's written his first young adult novel, Lockstep, and it is a triumph.
Lockstep's central premise is a fiendishly clever answer to the problem of creating galactic-scale civilizations in a universe where the speed of light is absolute. The "Lockstep" worlds all enter into a contract to go into suspended animation on a synchronized schedule -- in lockstep, in other words. The main Lockstep civilization is 360/1: they are frozen for 359 months, and then awake for one, and then go back to sleep. Other Locksteps run faster, and when two or more synch up, there is a "jubilee" where everyone is awake at once and can trade. Meanwhile sleeping for years and years at a time is ideal for the harsh environs of space, where it might take your free-floating asteroid years to bank enough stray hydrogen atoms or photons from distant weak suns to sustain your civilization. And traversing interstellar distances is much easier when there's lockstep involved: even if you can only accelerate to 0.1 of the speed of light, you get a 360x effective multiplier on your speed if you time your departure right, and planets in the next solar system are only one "night" away if you depart on the eve of the long sleep.
Lockstep's hero is Toby McGonigal, who has slept for more than 14,000 years, ever since he was stranded after fleeing the decadent and corrupt Earth with his family -- who went on to found Lockstep. While 14,000 years of realtime have passed -- and on the "fast" non-Lockstep worlds, whole new species and cultures and empires have risen and fallen -- only 40 years have passed in the Lockstep, and Toby wakes to discover that his brother and sister have become dictators of the Lockstep world. What's more, Toby learns that he has become a god while he slept, the central figure of a cult that is used to command obedience through the worlds and billions of the Lockstep.
Lockstep is a kind of inverted Ender's Game: a book about social speculation, lightspeed lags, galaxy-spanning civilizations, and children who shape civilization by means of myths and political machinations. But while Ender is all about a child who learns the art of war and is forever pre-emptively murdering his enemies (and being made out to be a victim for being forced to kill -- a kind of justified George Zimmerman forever murdering a series of entities whom he "knows" to be a risk to him and his), Lockstep's Toby solves his problems by refusing to be drafted into the narrative of the boy-god, the boy-king.
Lockstep has enough social, technological, political and spiritual speculation for five books. It is easily the most invigorating, most scientifically curious book I've ever read that's written in a way that both young people and adults can enjoy it. It's a book that will make everyone who reads it smarter. Buy a copy for your favorite kid -- and another for yourself.
Hey, Danes! There's a limited-edition Danish-language translation of Little Brother that's just come out from Science Fiction Cirklen! Tell your friends!
A disturbing new turn in the North Korean Official Haircut Story: men male students can no longer choose from 18 approved haircuts and must henceforth all sport the same haircut as Kim Jong Un. This haircut is locally known as the "Chinese smuggler haircut."
Update: The BBC has since updated its story: the haircut mandate applies only to students, not all men.
"Our leader's haircut is very particular, if you will," one source tells Radio Free Asia. "It doesn't always go with everyone since everyone has different face and head shapes." Meanwhile, a North Korean now living in China says the look is actually unpopular at home because people think it resembles Chinese smugglers. "Until the mid-2000s, we called it the 'Chinese smuggler haircut'," the Korea Times reports.
(Image: Kim Jong Un, painted portrait, Thierry Ehrmann, CC-BY)