Saturday, June 29, 2013

This is what marriage equality looks like


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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Natalie Portman Got Paid, Court Rules Hollywood's Unpaid Interns Should Too

Memo to Fox Searchlight Pictures Inc Interns: 
Quit your coffee fetching! If you're doing work, you're an employee and should be paid.

If you've ever worked an unpaid internship at some point while fetching coffee, making copies and doing other work for your employer it might have occurred to you that you were actually just working an entry level job. And Federal District Court Judge William H. Pauley III would probably agree with you. On Tuesday the judge ruled that Fox Searchlight should have paid two interns on the movie “Black Swan,” because they were essentially regular employees.

When evaluating if the studio environment of Fox Searchlight Pictures met the criteria to offer unpaid internships the judge used Department of Labor standards.

Those six standards are as follows (language abridged but feel free to check the DOJ document above):
1. Even if internships occur on site, they must be in an educational environment.
2. Internships are for the benefit of the intern.
3. The intern cannot displace regular employees, but can be supervised by staff.
4. The employer does not get an immediate advantage from the presence of the intern. It is expected sometimes interns may actually slow operations.
5. Interns are not entitled to jobs when the internships are over.
And lastly - if all those criteria are met 6. The employer and intern understand the intern is not entitled to wages.

However in the case of on set interns which Hollywood has come to depend on - and in this case of Fox Searchlight Pictures the interns are working in a professional environment not and educational setting, are displacing production assistants who normally do coffee fetching and other such work, the employer does get an immediate advantage through their work, and the intern tends not to benefit. In fact the only part of these type of internship arrangements Fox Searchlight seemed to be in compliance with was the expectation the interns were not entitled to jobs or wages.

The film this case debated, Black Swan, cost approximately $13 million  to make and grossed $270 million worldwide, with $2 million going to Natalie Portman who earned an Oscar for her performance as the lead. Meanwhile the average Production Assistant at Fox earns $12.13 an hour. These unpaid interns on a hugely profitable film in what has been ruled a violation of both federal and New York wage laws, saw nothing for their contributions.

In ruling on this case, Judge Pauley also granted class certification to another group of unpaid New York interns working in Fox Entertainment Group. Such a case could completely change the way companies treat their unpaid interns, and if millennials are lucky will allow some of those entry level jobs to begin paying again.

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Monday, June 10, 2013

SF Pride Manning Controversy Continues After Community Forum

If you believe SF Pride, the community forum on May 31st was the final discussion regarding the Bradley Manning controversy and now that they've released a statement we can move on. Releasing a statement that said,

"Over the past several weeks, SF Pride has sought to respectfully listen to and consider the various opinions and perspectives on the matter of Pfc. Bradley Manning and related interests in extending representative support for Pfc. Manning.   The SF Pride Board of Directors recognizes the divergent opinions regarding the matter of Pfc. Manning, but none of the three main options we received from the community forum on May 31 garnered a consensus majority."

They went on to address the discrimination claim filed in San Francisco, and then wrapped up their statement saying, "Therefore, SF Pride will continue to produce this year’s Pride Celebration to ensure a safe and joyful time for all attendees as safety and security is our number #1 priority."
But if you believe that, you might have believed them when they said "the discussion of that matter is closed for this year" on Facebook last month.

However they'll have another protest on their hands tomorrow due to the method in which this release was made. After promising to release a statement within a week of the community meeting, activists prepared to hold a press conference at the end of the business day the Friday responding to the anticipated statement. Only to have SF Pride delay the announcement I quote above, until after the press conference ended. The activist's press conference ended at 6:15pm. The statement from SF Pride was issued at 6:28pm

As relayed from an email alert from Joey Cain, the past SF Pride Board President who nominated Manning, a group of Manning supporters under the slogan “Reinstate or Resign” will be organizing a protest and speak out outside Pride’s monthly membership meeting tomorrow, Tuesday June 11 at 6pm.

SF Pride needs to realize that declaring a controversy over doesn't actually end a controversy. They may be hoping that activists get busier as Pride Month continues, and that they tire of protesting this issue, however with the NSA leaks in the news the value of and consequences of being a whistle blower is being debated again and many Manning supporters have been energized by this debate. It should be interesting to see how this continues to unfold. But over a month into the controversy both sides seem to continue to not be heard by the other.

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Microsoft Demos How to Be Sexist Jerks to Gamers at E3 (TRIGGER WARNING)

"I can't even block correctly and you're too fast," she says.
He replies, "Just let it happen. It will be over soon."
The audience laughs
"Wow, you like this," the man continues.
"No, I don't like this," she replies.

It might sound like the dialog you'd hear regarding a sexual assault you might be surprised to know it was on stage Monday at a gaming conference Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3.
One of the producers of Killer Instinct, a man, got on stage with an Xbox Community Manager, a woman, and proceeded to play in front of the crowd. While the remarks were not scripted - the fact that they happened on a stage representing the company in an industry already known for misogyny is deeply illustrative of the attitudes.

Sadly for Microsoft the sexist language is far from their biggest problem at E3 with their own console failing to make waves in the same way that rival Sony did with their new PS4, which by allowing users to use old games and delivering a price point of $399 is $100 cheaper than the Xbox.
Even that news managed to find a way to be expressed with rapey language on twitter...

Even just noting that there were no female protagonists in any Microsoft demo received sexist backlash.
Clearly it's not Microsoft's day, and they've got a lot to respond to - but if they want to take a page out of Nintendo's old playbook and get sales number boosted by women gamers, they're going in the wrong direction. One man on twitter summarized it well:

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Obama is Reading Your Email and other Memes about the NSA Scandal

While the NSA's scandal continues to dominate the news and with the leaker, Edward Snowden now publicly open with the reasons for leaking the documents, there's also humor in some of the reactions. Meme culture has some pretty humorous responses to the news.
There's a whole tumblr dedicated to the idea of Obama is checking your email.

But there's also plenty of one off images circulating around twitter. Such as Obama eavesdropping.

In reference to the famous New Yorker cartoon, we see the internet dog.

Buzzfeed targeted Verizon specifically with a series of re-imagined ads.
Other users focused on Snowden who gives Good Guy Greg some serious competition.

Campaign posters were also redesigned to include NSA references.

And we even had a TSA reference in the mix!

While the policies in question and the consequences of the government's activities are no laughing matter, once again we see Internet humor moves at an incredible pace and humor remains a way to quickly make a point or introduce and share an idea rapidly.

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Thursday, June 06, 2013

You Don't Have Digital Privacy Thanks To PRISM

If you reconsidered using Verizon after discovering that the NSA was collecting your phone records, you should probably turn your computer off now. In another stunning publication the Guardian reported today about a program called PRISM which has been monitoring 9 large tech companies and thus most likely your email.

This program allows the NSA direct access to the servers of Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, Paltalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, and Apple. To put that in perspective, When you're at work if you're using Google Apps for Business (like I do) you're being monitored. If you were an early internet user and still have your Hotmail, AOL or Yahoo email addresses - you're being monitored. If you're purchasing books or music through iTunes, you'd be monitored. Vacation pictures on Facebook? You're monitored...

The worst part of this all, Congress voted on allowing this in the Protect America Act without much of a debate voting quickly on a Friday in 2007 to avoid being seen as soft on terrorism. That program which lacked judicial oversight to begin with - has since been expanded into what we learned of today.

While those companies denied knowledge of the program and didn't know what PRISM was until this report came out earlier today, the reality is even those companies don't have the best track record with defending users privacy rights as shown in this EFF Report. Whether it is not requiring a warrant for content or not telling users about government data requests- it's hard to trust either the companies individual use of data and how such data is shared with third parties willingly, so when even that level of data security is frequently compromised without users being notified it's an even greater breach of trust when those companies don't know they're also being watched.

Previous scandals such as the Google WiSpy scandal, AOL search leak, Facebook App's Privacy issues and iPhone tracking illustrate those companies whether through a desire for more data, a lack of respect for users, negligence in managing data or interest in helping advertisers - are all guilty of having breached users trust in the past. And this doesn't even include what happens when all of that data is being tracked by the government.

Now the comments by Senator Ron Wyden in May of 2011 can be seen in context I think most will agree: "When the American people find out how their government has secretly interpreted the Patriot Act, they will be stunned and they will be angry."

I know I am. Though I'm hopeful now that this abuse has come to light we can begin a serious conversation about privacy rights in a digital age.

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