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Month: March 2016

New Technologies Connect Prisoners to the Outside World

Posted in Journalism, SXSW, and The Texas Observer

Can the tech industry be recruited to help end mass incarceration?

On Friday at SXSW Interactive, part of Austin’s nine-day SXSW music, film and technology conference, a panel of app developers and nonprofit founders took on the question, connecting lower recidivism rates with keeping incarcerated people in touch with family and friends.

“If you haven’t been in prison, You can’t understand how important mail calls are,” said panelist Marcus Bullock.

Bullock’s the CEO of FlikShop, an app that allows family and friends to inexpensively turn photos into postcards that are then automatically mailed to prison facilities.

Protesting Gentrification & Blue Cat Cafe At #SXSW

Posted in Creative Commons, Journalism, and SXSW

Yesterday I was sitting outside the Austin Convention Center eating some macaroni and cheese when I heard the sounds of a protest.

Strangely (for me), my initial reaction was mild annoyance. Usually I love a good protest, but just a few minutes before I’d witnesses a few dozen SXSW badgeholders march past while chanting about sheep and dreams. It wasn’t real activism, but actually a promotional event for a movie premiering at the film festival.

So when I heard another group of marchers, I assumed it was more corporate faux-grassroots astro turf.

Then, as the group drew nearer, I realized it was the genuine article, a small march organized by Defend Our Hoodz – Defiende El Barrio, a local group struggling against gentrification and inequality in east side Austin.

72 Percent Of Aid To Palestine Ends Up ‘In Israeli Hands’

Posted in Journalism, and MintPress News

Aid money to Palestine ends up benefiting the Israeli economy, and may even help perpetuate the occupation, according to an analysis published last year.

Published by Aid Watch Palestine, a Palestinian NGO that scrutinizes the spending of foreign relief money, the September 2015 study by Shir Hever suggests that at least 72 percent of foreign aid actually ends up back in Israeli hands.

Palestine’s economy is dependent on foreign aid, although foreign nations sometimes pledge more than they actually give. The World Bank reported that of $3.5 billion pledged to Palestine in 2015, “only 35 percent has been disbursed, $881 million less than what was supposed to be disbursed so far” by September.

“[D]espite over two decades of sustained aid, the occupation has not come to an end and Palestinians are not yet sovereign in their own country,” Hever noted in the report. “The question that arises is not only whether aid is effective, but whether it also causes harm.”

SXSW Day 3: Muslims In The Media, Cannabis Innovation & More

Posted in Journalism, and SXSW

I’ve made it to day 3, despite barely any sleep.

“Ovarian Psycos,” the documentary I saw last night, was an incredible story of women of color standing up for their identity, their agency, and their right to take up space in the world. I also took a few minutes to talk with the creators of “Night of the Slasher” about their hopes for plans for turning their short film into a horrifying and funny full-length feature.

I was back this morning to attend “American Muslim Media: Taking Back Our Narrative,” a panel about how digital and social media can change the way people look at the religion and lives of the millions of Muslims living in the United States.

SXSW Day 2: Ovarian Psycos, Surveillance Vs. Sousveillance & More

Posted in Journalism, and SXSW

My first night was a long one, ending with a midnight short film collection at Alamo Drafthouse which included such bizarre offerings as a teenager still attached to his mother by umbilical cord and the story of a girl whose selfies keep getting deleted from Instagram … because she has an asshole for a mouth. I also learned that horse dicks are funny, and you can never forget Gwilliam. Night of the Slasher, which I mentioned yesterday, was part of the program, and I plan to interview some of the creators today.

I was back downtown at 9:30 am today after barely any sleep to attend a panel on the possibilities of ‘sousveillance,’ or surveillance from the bottom-up. Oren Yakobovich, creator of Videre, talked about helping dissidents and victims of human rights abuses use hidden cameras to seek justice, while panel partner Omer Tene talked about protecting privacy in an age of body cameras and mass surveillance. I’ll be writing about this panel next week for MintPress News.

And tonight, I’m attending the world premiere of “Ovarian Psycos,” a documentary about a women of color cycling crew in East Los Angeles. Here’s a description from the filmmakers’ website:

SXSW Day 1: Abortion, Prison Technology & More

Posted in Journalism, and SXSW

I’ve made it down to the Austin Convention Center for the first time at this year’s South By SouthWest, and I’m excited to kick off my coverage.

Today I am taking it slow — spent the morning wrapping up some work for MintPress News’ TV show, Behind The Headline, and allowed myself some extra time to ride my bike downtown because of the traffic apocalypse caused by SXSW’s first day and Barack Obama’s visit. It still only took me about 15 minutes, and I’m feeling pretty out of shape from the winter too!

In case you’re wondering, I’m not attending Obama’s keynote address because this is the kind of topic that will be amply covered by other journalists and in other outlets. If you want a sneak preview, check out the hashtag #POTUS. And yes, apparently Obama stopped at Torchy’s Tacos on the way here!