AWOL Newswire: April 2011



For members of a group that has adopted the moniker “Anonymous,” the world’s most powerful computer hackers have certainly taken on a higher profile role lately. Regarded as nothing more than a bunch of Internet pranksters until recently, a series of high-profile hacktivist attacks and public statements forced many pundits to take the group seriously. When MasterCard, Visa and PayPal ceased donation transactions to WikiLeaks, Anonymous briefly took down their websites and services in retribution. To show solidarity during the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings, the websites of said governments were the frequent targets of attacks. Then a cyber-security firm claimed to have identified the leaders of the group, but Anonymous responded swiftly and harshly. The firm and employees’ internal emails, confidential information and financial data were all publicized and sabotaged, prompting some employees of the company to go into hiding. More recently, Anonymous published confidential data from Bank of America detailing their efforts to stop WikiLeaks and Anonymous from releasing information about the company. Much is unclear about Anonymous, except that they are stepping into the political arena, and the use of the Internet as a tool of free expression and organization is central to their fight. As their recently published manifesto says, “Information is Power. Share the Power of the Information with other like-minded individuals. The more people we represent, the more Power we have, both as individuals and as Anonymous.”  – Mike Lally


The process of writing a research paper in college has been revolutionized with the advent of the Internet. While college students of previous generations would have pored over physical books for hours, it is possible today to conduct almost any research without leaving a computer. Google has recognized this trend as potential profit — they’ve uploaded fifteen million books onto GoogleBooks, an eBook database first launched in 2005. The Authors Guild and Association of American Publishers sued Google almost immediately after GoogleBooks was launched, claiming that Google’s “digitalization of books” would infringe countless copyright laws, according to NPR. Google eventually settled with the Guild, offering $125 million for rights to continue building a digital, online library while providing a cut of the money to copyright holders. Following the settlement, however, New York Circuit Judge Denny Chin stated that the settlement would “simply go too far,” affording Google a sizeable competitive advantage. Chin cited no specific infringement, indicating instead that, in general, the settlement condoned Google’s “wholesale copying of copyrighted works without permission” and could potentially damage many copyright agreements. Google has said it will work toward a different settlement with the Guild, one that will be accepted by the federal court system and will prevent the issue from going to trial. – Zac Deibel


A psychologist in South Carolina and his border collie, Chaser, are pushing the limits of the possible, as they continue to expand the dog’s lexicon and syntax. The dog’s owner, John Pilley, began giving her new toys in 2004, and would name each one. Years later, when Chaser had learned over 1,000 names of different toys, Pilley moved on to more complicated grammar. He taught her three verbs (paw, nose and take), and demonstrated that when given a command to act on a certain toy, she succeeded. Chaser also learned three common nouns (“ball,” “toy” and “Frisbee”) and was able to differentiate between the command to bring back a ball, toy or Frisbee from a collection of many toys and non-toys. Her success in attributing multiple names (i.e. “toy,” “ball” and whatever name for each specific ball) to individual objects is only overshadowed by her ability to logically deduce the names of unknown toys through the process of elimination. This calls not only for a re-thinking of the mental capabilities of dogs, but of all animals. Perhaps our perception of their intelligence has been hindered by our own inabilities to come up with innovative ways to communicate with other four-footed, feathered or finned friends. -John Bly


A new memorial dedicated to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is being constructed on the National Mall. The memorial will be located near the Tidal Basin, directly between the Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson memorials. The final dedication of the memorial, set to take place in August, will come more than 40 years after Alpha Phi Alpha, King’s fraternity at Boston University, proposed the idea following his assassination in 1968. Ever since Congress and President Clinton authorized Alpha Phi Alpha to build the monument in 1998, the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., National Memorial Foundation has faced a great deal of red tape. Many protested the foundation’s choice of sculptor, Lei Yixin, from China, on the grounds that an American should be selected for the job and because of China’s poor human rights record. Furthermore, in order for the foundation to use his name, likeness and writings in the memorial, King’s family requested that royalties be paid to the King Center, the group dedicated to the advancement of Dr. King’s legacy. Despite these concerns, over $110 million has been raised by the foundation, as it works to preserve King’s legacy in our nation’s capital. -Ethan Miller