// December 08, 2010 by sgwhites
If you use social networks at all, you've probably seen some of the awareness campaigns that have been surfacing on the Internet this month. On Facebook, people are changing their avatars to cartoon characters to raise awareness about child abuse. On Twitter, celebrity accounts have gone silent, staging their virtual "death" to urge people to raise money for children suffering from AIDs, a campaign which has so far been underperforming.
These types of campaigns are popular on the web -- and easy. A click of the mouse and you're sporting a virtual ribbon or a new avatar. But is that enough? Or, as Malcolm Gladwell suggested in the New Yorker earlier this year, is this type activism actually detrimental?:
But it is simply a form of organizing which favors the weak-tie connections that give us access to information over the strong-tie connections that help us persevere in the face of danger. It shifts our energies from organizations that promote strategic and disciplined activity and toward those which promote resilience and adaptability. It makes it easier for activists to express themselves, and harder for that expression to have any impact. The instruments of social media are well suited to making the existing social order more efficient. They are not a natural enemy of the status quo.
Can social media awareness campaigns be effective? Or do they simply offer people a way to feel like they're making a difference -- without having to go to any trouble at all?
Today is Pearl Harbor Day. How long do we really remember national tragedies, and what can we learn from them?// December 07, 2010 by sgwhites
Today marks the 69th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Do we still remember the "Day which will live in Infamy"?
As a nation, how long do we remember national tragedies? What could we learn from reflecting on our history in this instance?
// December 06, 2010 by sgwhites
Last week the Australian Parliament passed a bill to build a high-speed national broadband network.
Should the US be giving serious consideration to similar plans? Are investments in technology and infastructure a worthwhile idea to boost the economy while offering benefits for citizens?
// December 03, 2010 by sgwhites
How many stars are in the night sky? More than we think. Scientists reported on Wednesday that the stars may be undercounted, which could alter theories about how galaxies are created and grow, as well as changing perceptions about the universe.
Then, in an announcement more down to Earth, NASA scientists announced that they had trained a bacterium found in Mono Lake to survive on arsenic, thus expanding the notion of what is necessary to support life.
Yet at the same time, NASA's budget is under pressure in light of budget concerns in Congress.
New information and discoveries clearly suggest that there is still much of the universe unexplored--and more to discover closer to home. Are we putting enough resources into scientific exploration? Or should this type of experimentation and research be shifted to the private sector rather than government?
// December 02, 2010 by sgwhites
This week, the Senate passed a bill that overhauls the food safety system in America. Although this version of the bill must still be reconciled with the House version passed earlier in the year, if ratified it will make a number of significant changes.
The changes would include an increased power by the F.D.A. to recall tainted food and oversee farming. The bill also passed with the inclusion of the Tester amendment, which exempts small farmers who mainly sell locally.
Are the changes in this bill a step towards a safer food system? What other things should we be doing to guarantee accountability and access to safe food?
// December 01, 2010 by chanelleberlin
Today is World AIDS Day, spotlighting the ongoing fight to increase awareness about the spread of HIV -- what it is, how to get treatment, and how to help prevent new infections.
But how far have we come since the HIV/AIDS was first clinically observed and treated in the early 1980s?
Reuters reported that while tests have increased since the implementation of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2006 guidelines that stipulate people should be automatically tested for HIV unless they opt out, there are still 200,000 people who have no idea they've contracted the virus in America alone. It also doesn't change that over 33 million people already have HIV worldwide.
Meanwhile, MSBC reports that scientists have found that a pill already used to treat HIV can also protect healthy men from being infected.
How many strides are we really making? Should we trust in medications to solve prevention? Are there other ways to increase awareness?
Last year, 2.2 million new infections were diagnosed worldwide. Although this is down from 2007's 2.7 million new infections, evidence of gradual change, many are still left wondering what else can be done.
How can we balance increasing transpareny with the need for secrecy regarding sensitive information?// November 30, 2010 by sgwhites
In the wake of controversy around the latest documents to appear on Wikileaks, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has denounced the release of the cables as an "attack on the international community."
Clinton, and others in government, maintain that diplomacy often requires confidentiality to be effective, and that the release of information by sites like Wikileaks could compromise military or diplomatic operations. Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and other defenders of the site, however, say that such information should be used to hold the government accountable.
In a world where the public demands more transparancy and technology makes information more accessible, how can we balance accountability and transparancy with the need for confidentiality around sensitive government and military operations?
// November 29, 2010 by sgwhites
If you skipped the crowds on Black Friday, you might join the shoppers starting the holiday shopping season off with "Cyber Monday."
Although some accuse the holiday of being contrived, Cyber Monday is the first day after the holiday weekend when office workers return to their desks and the Internet, to browse for holiday shopping deals. It's also a time when online merchants may offer holiday deals to lure in shoppers.
Even if you're not shopping at your desk (we know you'd never do that!), Cyber Monday may still offer some online deals. But in an age where you can shop online any time that's convenient, is Cyber Monday still relevant?
// November 26, 2010 by danielacapistrano
In the article that Revelation127 shared, the author pointed out that millions of American families will rush to stores like Wal-Mart and Target this Friday to take advantage of sales -- often on products manufactured overseas.
Considering the current debate over whether Congress should raise the US debt ceiling beyond $14.3 trillion, how do traditions like Black Friday factor into our economy’s woes and the unemployment crisis? Does Black Friday ultimately hurt or harm the US economy?
// November 25, 2010 by sgwhites
Everyone has their favorite holiday traditions, the ones that really kick off the holiday season. We want to know -- what's your favorite Thanksgiving tradition?
Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Current!
// November 24, 2010 by danielacapistrano
Last week’s hot image meme, Privilege Denying Dude -- and his creator, 20-year-old vegan feminist Diana Lopez -- struck a cord across the interwebs. Usually a medium reserved for hilarious frat-boy culture and fart jokes, Lopez used the meme aesthetic to address privilege.
Colorlines reports that within a week of releasing her image template into the wild, traffic skyrocketed on the Tumblr blog she’d set up to showcase the best submissions. Over 1,500 PDDs were made by folks around the world.
Is it possible for memes that address topics like race and class to ignite positive change IRL? Are there examples you can provide of how a meme tangibly changed the world? Leave your submissions and thoughts in the comments.
// November 22, 2010 by danielacapistrano
Gamers aren’t the only geeks interested in Kinect, Microsoft’s new Xbox 360 accessory. The software that allows users to manipulate screen action with their own voice and body -- sans controller -- is the latest digital playground for developers, hackers, and electronic enthusiasts who are creating their own inspiring adaptations.
Although Microsoft officials claim these unauthorized releases aren’t technically hacks, this hasn’t stopped aficionados from testing the limits of what Kinect can do. From 3D mapping to a Star Wars-style light sabre simulator, the Minority Report-esque possibilities seem endless.
// November 22, 2010 by chanelleberlin
Since 2004, the United States government has offered a 45-cent per gallon tax credit (originally 51 cents per) for gasoline containing 10 percent ethanol. Corn growers and refiners saw corn prices skyrocket as ethanol production expanded, benefitting them while costs for human food and livestock feed also increased. But now, at the end of the year, the billions spent on yearly corn ethanol subidies expires.
Environmentalists have changed their initial support for the program, as analysis found that the ethanol program resulted in negligible environmental advantages to make more expensive food worthwhile. As Ronald Bailey wrote for Reason.com, "an analysis by the EPA found that current ethanol production techniques actually result in higher emissions of greenhouse gases than refining and burning ordinary gasoline."
With both right and left-wing groups unsupportive of renewing the volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit, should Congress give any attention to its expiration date?
// November 18, 2010 by chanelleberlin
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 is out worldwide! (Well, almost. Sorry, France, Hungary, and South Africa, you have to wait a few more days.)
Many diehard fans grabbed tickets for midnight showings, anxious to see whether not the first installment of the two-part finale does J.K. Rowling's Potter saga any justice. Print-to-film adaptations always draw a lot of debate, and functions like Comic-Con seem to challenge the film industry to come up with even more novels (graphic or not) to turn into features.
With an overload of book-to-film projects in Hollywood these days, there have no doubt been major hits and unbearable flops. Which movie adaptations of popular novels do you think really got it right? Are there any that completely failed the source material? What makes for a good adapation?
// November 18, 2010 by sgwhites
Increasing connectivity isn't new: we're constantly tweeting, sending photos, and checking email. And technology constantly reaches into new places.
There are certainly upsides to the new connectivity -- it will provide updated weather information for climbers, and can act as an alert for nearby flood-prone villages.
But will this newfound connectivity also limit the ability of travelers to be fully present on their journey. Will they be so busy uploading photos to Flickr and texting their friends that they miss the opportunity to really appreciate the view and their fellow travelers?
What are the trade-offs we make for increasing connectivity? Are the benefits worth it, or do we need to preserve opportunities to truly disconnect?
// November 17, 2010 by danielacapistrano
Now that the American economy is no longer based on manufacturing, what are some of the barriers for the next generation in acquiring enough knowledge of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM)?click here to continue reading
Will the Fed’s policies touch off inflation and dollar depreciation? Or is inflation not the problem?// November 16, 2010 by sgwhites
Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke is under fire for a quantitative easing policy which some say will lead to debasing our currency, inflation, or even superinflation.
Others have suggested that inflation is not the issue; the real question we should be asking is if quantitative easing will improve the domestic economy.
Will this policy help spur growth in our economy? Or will releasing more dollars into the system lead to inflation and dollar depreciation?
// November 15, 2010 by sgwhites
The new TSA security procedures have begun to attract a lot of attention -- and objections -- from the public.
Travelers are given the choice -- go through a full body scan in the advanced image machine that transmits an image of your nude body or receive an enhanced patdown that includes using the palm of the hands (rather than the back of the hands).
Many travelers have begun objecting to what they view as invasive security procedures. Some have begun calling for people to contact their elected officials about the screenings and the TSA.
Are these latest efforts a sign that the TSA has pushed too far? Or are they something that should be accepted for the sake of security?
// November 12, 2010 by sgwhites
Recently, there has been much outrage over a self-published Amazon book called "The Pedophile's Guide to Love and Pleasure."
The title drew the attention of many online, who called for a boycott of Amazon.
To what extent are companies like Amazon responsible for the titles that are self-published?
// November 11, 2010 by sgwhites
The FDA has unveiled proposed warning labels that will soon be required to appear on cigarettes. The warning labels, which include graphic images related to the effects of smoking and take up a half of the package, will be available for public comment, and the final nine are expected to be chosen by June. By October 2012, all cigarette manufacturers will be required to include the new warnings. Some of the images included for the proposed warnings are a diseased lung and a man smoking from a tracheostomy tube in his throat.
But there still remains the question of whether or not the new labels will be more effective. Some research has found that bold graphic labels are more effective than text alone, but one psychological study suggested that the danger of smoking makes it more appealing to some smokers.
Do you think the new labels will be more effective at communicating the risks of smoking? Or is this simply a move based on shock value?