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Recent Society articles from Daily Dot

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    Each morning, at a small depot tucked away under the Williamsburg Bridge, the New York City workers who call themselves the “pothole gang” pore over a giant spreadsheet known as “The Daily Pothole.” On it are thousands of potholes all over the city: giant gorges caused by rain and sleet, small interconnected divots that can flatten tires, and pretty much every other roadway wound you can imagine. The sun is barely up, and yet for these men—members of a street maintenance team tasked by the Department of Transportation with roadway repair—the race has already begun.

    Over the next eight hours, they will hit the streets, filling giant yellow trucks with smoldering hot asphalt, navigating endless traffic, and smoothing as many potholes as they can before the sun goes down (only to do it all again the next day). Does it get tiring? Sure. But in a city that’s always moving, roadway repair is crucial. On a good day, the team might fill 4,000 potholes. In an average week, they could resurface 100,000 square yards of road. After Hurricane Sandy, their crews removed 2,500 tons of debris. And every day, on a Tumblr called The Daily Pothole—named after that early morning spreadsheet—New Yorkers can take a peek inside the workings of a city system few have likely thought about. We spent a day with six men who help make up New York City’s pothole repair team.

    By Jessica Bennett & Jon Groat


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    Joel Diaz and his friend Ethan were looking for late-night food after a night out in Columbus, Ohio, but they left Mikey's Late Night Slice Truck with more than a slice of pizza.

    Diaz (pictured) and Ethan were huddled close for warmth, holding hands. A man ahead of them in line turned around and told them to "cut our gay shit out," Diaz recalled in a Dec. 30 Facebook post. Not knowing if the man's behavior would escalate, Diaz was surprised to hear other patrons—and even the Mikey's workers—defend them.

    "The best though was he grew more irate and vocal the guys who work the truck told him they would not serve him because he was spewing hate and he should get out of line," wrote Diaz. 

    "Every person who spoke up to defend us including the pizza guys representing their business was doing their part to make hate a thing of the past," said Diaz. "We must never forget to speak up and make our voices heard no matter where we find ourselves. 

    "No slut sauce for you mr. homophobe."

    The incident happened in the trendy Short North district in Columbus, known for a plethora of gay bars and clubs. The capital of Ohio is considered one of the most gay-friendly and progressive cities in the Midwest.

    The post has garnered more than 10,000 likes and hundreds of comments, mostly thanking Diaz for telling his story.

    "Thanks for not backing down and kudos to your community and the business owner," commented Les Young. "At some point the bully will realize he looked very stupid and all that bluster got him was an empty stomach."

    Mikey's reached out to Diaz on Facebook. The company wrote:

    Thank you Joel Diaz for sharing the account of your experience at our truck this past weekend. We can't tell you how proud we are of our truck workers that night for speaking up and doing the right thing. We are also immensely grateful for the kind words and support for us that has emerged since the post first went up. 

    We are humbled by the attention that this whole thing has gotten us. But we feel that the greatest recognition belongs to our neighborhood as a whole, here in the Short North. By accounts, there was no shortage of locals willing to speak up and intervene when the incident occurred. It is so wonderfully comforting to know that the hearts of our neighbors are filled with kindness and tolerance. 

    Thank you again, Joel, for sharing. And also to our fellow Short North denizens for standing beside your neighbors and speaking up for what's right.

    Here's the original story:

    Photo via Joel Diaz/Facebook. Screencap via BuzzFeed


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    If Yishan Wong had been any old redditor sharing a link to 9gag, he'd have been lambasted for it. That he's the company's CEO only just exacerbates the issue.

    Wong shared a link on Facebook to 9gag, an image-based meme site, which showed just how similar a young Christopher Walken is in appearance to Scarlett Johanssen. The problem is 9gag is a sore issue for many redditors, with many claiming that 9gag pilfers posts, including original artwork, from Reddit and elsewhere.

    To make matters worse, the link directed to Imgur, an image-sharing site closely linked with Reddit, which should have been an indication that the Walken/Johanssen comparison was already on the social news site somewhere.

    A screenshot of Wong's apparent indiscretion soared to the top of the front page on his own site.

    "Get your torches and pitchforks ready," AttackAttackAttack urged amid more than 1,000 comments from butthurt redditors. Lt_Howzit suggested it was "time for a coup."

    Another commenter simply linked to the satriical r/yishansucks subreddit.

    With this level of outrage at his flub, perhaps Wong might need a reddiquette refresher.

    Photo via @yishan/Twitter


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    If you try to choke someone on land, chances are you'll get beaten up and have the cops called on you.

    If you try to do the same thing 30,000 feet in the air, you get taped to your chair.

    That's what happened Thursday to a passenger aboard a New York–bound Icelandair flight. A redditor sitting by him captured it in a photograph:

    "He drank an entire bottle of some duty free alcohol," Mezane wrote on Reddit. "Then he tried grabbing the women who were sitting next him screaming that we're going to crash. Finally he started choking a guy next to him and that's when a huge crowd restrained him and tied him up. This was 2 hours into a 6 hour flight. Edit: Did I mention that he was spitting on random people on the plane!"

    According to a rough translation of a Icelandic news organization, the man also exhibited dangerous behavior. 

    The photograph of the man was the topic of three different posts on the social news site. In one of the posts, redditor jgoodier shared a story he heard from another person aboard the same flight.

    "I've been listening to him wail forever," the passenger wrote on Facebook, according to redditor jgoodier. "Waiting for the cops to board the plane now. I was legit scared for a little while. We were in the middle of nowhere over the Arctic when this all went down. But we are all excited now to see this jerk get carried away in handcuffs. Not so much funny as crazy."

    Photo via mezane/Reddit


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    After an intoxicated night out, Oregon citizen Jacob Cox-Brown had a lot to tell his friends. Like how he drunkenly slammed into a car and drove away.

    "Drivin drunk... classic ;) but to whoever's vehicle i hit i am sorry. :P," the 18-year-old improperly humblebragged on his Facebook page. But his friends didn't stick out their tongue in amusement. His status update was brought to the police's attention early Tuesday.

    "Astoria Police have an active social media presence," a press release from the police department trumpeted. "It was a private Facebook message to one of our officers that got this case moving through."

    City of Astoria police went to Cox-Brown's home and discovered damage on his vehicle matched that of a report from hit-and-run activity in a nearby neighborhood earlier in the day. He was then arrested and booked on two counts of failing to perform the duties of a driver.

    However, Facebook isn't sufficient evidence to charge Cox-Brown with intoxication, a police spokesperson told KGW-TV. He was lodged at a county jail in northwest Oregon. 

    Since he's only a teenager, maybe he'll take this as a life lesson.

    In December, Hannah Sabata, 19, posted a YouTube video called "Chick Bank Robber," describing how she robbed a bank and stole a car so she could pay off her financial aid and go on a shopping spree. She's currently awaiting trial.

    And a few months earlier, Paula Asher, 18, also bragged on Facebook about getting drunk and hitting a car. Her post landed her in jail and she was ordered to delete her Facebook account. 

    If that doesn't scare a teen, then maybe nothing will.

    Photo via Astoria Police


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    Some people like to drink on their bad days. Other folks like to sleep. Some, the ones inspiring ire and envy, make it their mission to chase the blues away—they go running, shopping. They go. They grab that bad day by the horns and wrestle it to the ground.

    On Reddit, however, people sometimes wake up with combat plans that may appear to be somewhat unusual, to say the least.

    Facing what he described as "a rough day," one redditor known as fire4 decided to cheer himself up by attaching a Post-It Note to his face every time someone else on Reddit upvoted his post.

    Talk about the ultimate quest for karma.

    To prove his efforts, the youthful chap offered a preliminary picture to subreddit r/funny that finds him he's wearing 11 multi-colored Post-It Notes.

    Of course, the photo also found fire4 to be seated privately within his living room—a far cry from the hilarity that would derive from him testing out this technique in a restaurant or office or anywhere where people can see how ridiculous he looks

    Two hours in, fire4's post has received more than 350 up votes, which means that he should be just about drenched in Post-Its.

    He has, however, failed to post any updates. Until then, we sit and wait—and hopefully return with a few words from the man.

    Photo via Fire4/Reddit


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    Players and officials walked off the field during an exhibition soccer game in Italy after fans targeted players with racist chants.

    AC Milan's Kevin-Prince Boateng picked up the ball and kicked it into the stands in the first half of the game against lower league team Pro Patria. As he left, he applauded most sections of the stadium, and those fans reacted angrily towards the section where the chants originated.

    Milan, a seven-time European champion, said on its website that its other black players, M'Baye Niang, Urby Emanuelson, and Sulley Muntari also suffered abuse. The Italian Football Federation (FIGC), meanwhile, announced an inquiry, with its president calling the incident  "unspeakable and intolerable."

    Boateng, who previously played for English teams Portsmouth and Tottenham Hotspur, made his feelings clearer on Twitter, where he retweeted messages of support from his peers:

    A YouTube video highlighting the incident has picked up more than 1.4 million views since Thursday.

    Racism in soccer has spilled onto the Web in recent years, with the issue becoming a hotbed topic on Twitter in 2012 as bothplayersandfans were punished for racially driven comments. Meanwhile, Chelsea's John Obi Mikel quit the community in September over racist taunts.

    Photo via @KPBofficial/Twitter


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    Can’t get your online coffee pot to work? No worries: Soon you’ll be able to use your mobile phone to unleash killbots on your enemies. That’s according to Kurzweil Accelerating Intelligence, the forecasting group started in 2001 by futurist Ray Kurzweil. 

    In the preposterously titled post “Murder by Internet,” KurzweilAI writes, “New cyberthreats that will emerge in 2014 include the use of Internet-connected devices to carry out physical crimes, including murders.”

    The post references a report by IID, a technology security firm, that gives some colorful examples of these CSI-style remote murder scenarios: 

    “Examples include a pacemaker that can be tuned remotely, an Internet-connected car that can have its control systems altered, or an IV drip that can be shut off with a click of a mouse.”

    In a world of dropped calls and daily computer freezes, where it takes the combined might of nation-states to create a virus that can stop a centrifuge, independent actors are going to use their iPads to murder people? You got it!

    Quite apart from the fact that Kurzweil is notorious for having predicted the perpetuation of the late-’90s Internet boom and widespread use of computer-driven automobiles and other iCanards, IID is a for-profit company that sells companies protection against security attacks and is therefore hardly an impartial observer. 

    Here is their foundation for an anticipated explosion of cybercriminality aimed at the financial sector: “By 2014, Juniper Research predicts almost 300 million (one in five) smartphones worldwide will be NFC-enabled.”

    So, if things go as Juniper thinks, one in five mobile phones will have near-field communication capability? First, that’s not many. Second, so what? This reporter’s Android phone has NFC. Any guesses as to how many times he’s turned it on, much less used it? (If you guessed zero or fewer, you’d be correct.)

    A source with long experience in mobile technology was also skeptical. 

    “NFC is not that widespread yet (and lacking in consumer mindshare since Apple hasn't adopted),” she wrote. “NF stands for ‘near field,’ meaning you have to be in super-close proximity with the NFC reader for this to work."

    Among IID’s other suspect crystal-ball gazings are these gems: 

    • A large increase of government-sanctioned malware targeting other government institutions around the globe with nation states openly engaging in acts of cyber-espionage and sabotage
    • At least one successful penetration of a major infrastructure component like a power grid that results in billions of dollars in damage
    • An exploit of a significant military assault system like drones that result in real-world consequences

    The notion that cyberwar is a clear and present danger is far from universally accepted. And there have been few examples of effective state-to-state attacks that could bolster IID’s predictions. 

    It goes without saying that companies, individuals, and countries should take effective measures to guard themselves against cyberattacks. People like screwing with your shit. They also like taking your money. Depending on who you are, they may also like embarrassing and discrediting you. But if the number of times villains attack diplomats with poisoned umbrellas are, well, one, how likely is it they’re going to attack via Internet-triggered pacemaker disruptions? 

    Sky-is-falling slosh like this only makes real threats and their real remedies incredible in a spasm of guilt-by-association.

    Photo via Wikipedia


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    Seth Samuelson claims his main goal in life is to get billionaire businessman T. Boone Pickens to pay for his college tuition. And after months of tweeting at Pickens, Samuelson is a little closer to his goal.

    Sports media and sports management major Samuelson is keen to graduate from Oklahoma State University (OSU), but can't afford the tuition.

    When another tweeter suggested Samuelson pay his own way, he noted that he has "$5,000 in loans per semester. Still payed $2,350 out of pocket. Won't have that much this next semester."

    He added that if he doesn't get help, he will "end up back home at a [Division II] school that doesn't have my major."

    Not only is OSU Pickens's alma mater, but the tycoon has a long history of giving back to his school. He's donated over $500 million to OSU, along with a $100 million pledge towards scholarship endowment for merit scholarships and those struggling to pay their way. However, OSU won't receive that money until after Pickens has passed away.

    Samuelson is hoping for just a small percentage of that sum to help pay his way through college. Over the last few months, he's sent a number tweets to Pickens asking him to help pay for tuition. Here are just a few:

    After living in hope for such a long time, Pickens finally responded to Samuelson's pleas.

    Rather than tweeting his reasons to Pickens, Samuelson said he'd rather state his case in a meeting to "avoid making a show of it." That said, supporters leapt in to help.

    However, all might be for naught. Pickens told Samuelson not to bother sending his reasons if his grade point average was under 3.0. Samuelson responded that he struggled last semester and would need all As to get up to a 3.0. He suggested that Pickens pay his tuition if he can get to that threshold and maintain it.

    There's no word from Pickens as yet on the idea, but he admires Samuelson's guts, so this story may not be over quite yet.

    Photo via @SethSamuelson/Twitter


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    Just who is "Jonnica Ellis," the woman responsible for scamming a dying boy out of a much-needed financial windfall that never materialized? In the wake of cancer victim Thomas Doty's death, the Internet is determined to find out.

    When Thomas Doty's mother,Tiffany, made a website, Heal Thomas, to raise funds for her son's bone cancer treatment, she was desperate for aid from any corner. Instead, the Dotys found an Internet stalker, an obsessive Deadliest Catch fan who promised them a $250,000 windfall that never came through. The money would prove to be Thomas' last hope: On Dec. 19, just weeks after his 20th birthday, Thomas passed away, and the Internet began a quest to find the real woman behind the alias, "Jonnica Ellis," responsible for scamming him and his family.

    In her opening post on the website, dated June 6, 2011, Tiffany Doty wrote about the difficulty of trying to keep their family afloat while struggling to pay Thomas's treatment, noting, "At present, our home is in foreclosure, and along with Thomas’ ongoing needs, we are battle-worn and overwhelmed."

    Among the friends who attempted to help fundraise for the family was Johnathan Hillstrand, captain of the crab trawler Time Bandit on Discovery's popular Deadliest Catch reality show. Hillstrand created a video to urge friends and viewers to donate to help pay the family's expenses.

    But Hillstrand's connection to the family drew a fan obsessed with Hillstrand himself: a woman allegedly known by several aliases, including "Jonnica Ellis," "Rosemarie Ellis," and "JoleeAnna Dachino." Posing as a nurse, the woman, whose only blog entry reveals her to be a fan of the Deadliest Catch, reportedly began offering the family a much-needed check in June 2012, exchanging phone calls with Thomas's mother and sending him a bouquet of flowers that promised, "your worries are over."

    Instead, the woman allegedly began stalking the family. After reading one of several articles about the hoax shortly before Thomas's death, an unknown Internet user identified as "Who is Jonnica Ellis" commented, "I was so disgusted by this story... So, I took over her twitter handle @jonnicaellis and I have started a Facebook page... She will NOT get away with this!!"

    The user has allegedly hacked Ellis' Twitter account to post information connected to the alias, as well as creating a Facebook page and YouTube channel.

    In addition to reposting pictures cached from deleted Photobucket and other accounts possibly used by the woman, digging up stock photos, and sharing allegedly fraudulent bank letters claiming to verify Ellis' identity, the user has reposted videos from what they claim is a Givit.com account used by the alias Rosemarie Ellis, one a memorial to her sister Monica, who allegedly died in August, and one featuring a clearly obsessive portrayal of Hillstrand as her "soulmate."

    A representative at Forest Hill, the Shelbyville, Ind., cemetery where Jonnica Ellis' sister Monica was allegedly buried in August, told the Daily Dot that there was no record of such a person being buried there. Additionally, attempts to contact the user behind these exposé accounts were unreturned at press time.

    Meanwhile, 10 days after her son's death, Tiffany Doty tweeted that Thomas' last request was, "Find Jonnica Ellis @Jonnicaellis so she cannot hurt anyone else. Thomas my love, I'm on it!"

    If the Internet steps in to help, Doty might not have long to wait until Ellis' identity is discovered.

    Photo by Aja Romano


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    The Internet has always been a haven for cats and the people who love them. Now, they finally have their own social network.

    Catmoji, which is still in the invite-only phase, launched on Dec. 24 as a social networking site for cats. Members of the "Catmunity" are comprised of cat lovers who enjoy posting feline-related videos and photos for fellow cat lovers. "Catvatars" stand in place of traditional avatars; users are encouraged to represent themselves with an illustrated likeness of their own cat—or the cat they most resemble.

    "We want to be the online identity for cats, i.e. Facebook for cats," founders Matthew Phiong and Koekoe Loo told Betabeat. "Our mission is to make the Internet a better and happier place with cats."

    In other words, Grumpy Cat probably shouldn't consider sending an invite request.

    Features of Catmoji include an assortment of Foursquare-like badges that can be unlocked and the ability to cross-post to Twitter and Facebook. Additionally, Catmunity members have the ability to collect their favorite photos and videos into various categories, including the expected "Lolcats" and the rather specific "Cats and boxes."

    The site's main layout is noticeably identical to that of Pinterest. Catmoji member profiles, on the other hand, bear more of a resemblance to Facebook, complete with timeline.

    While the design choices are not groundbreaking, the familiarity of the human-centric social networking sites may increase users' experiences.

    So far, there is no official word on a "Dogmoji," "Hamstermoji," or "Fishmoji."

    Photo via dougwoods/Flickr


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    2012 was a historic year for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community.

    Laws were ratified securing marriage equality in a number of states. Athletes stepped out against homophobic activity that infiltrates professional sporting leagues. Petitions were created  to assist in stamping out archaic rules and regulations. More importantly, most of these movements started online.

    The community saw new influencers taking charge in LGBT leadership, resulting in historic change for all of us—gay or straight. Here are the top 10 gay and straight allies who stepped up and made a difference in 2012 using digital activism.

    1) Dan Savage

    The It Gets Better creator, columnist, and MTV host is one of the community's most influential and unreticent members. He's not afraid to be outspoken and direct, occasionally catching flack from both sides of the gay marriage argument. The recently married Savage expanded his digital presence in November when he established Straight Up Thanks, a Tumblr dedicated to positively acknowledging straight allies. Between him and his 128,000 followers on Twitter, Savage will always have a platform for his bombastically progressive opinions.

    2) Brittany McMillan

    After being alarmed at the number of gay youth committing suicide, McMillan, 18, demanded change. She created Spirit Day, a campaign to persuade people to wear purple in support of gay youth. Since its creation in 2010, the movement has become an annual tradition online, as thousands around the Web draped themselves in purple to support the cause. This past October, the self-identified pansexual saw Spirit Day become celebrated by thousands of Tumblr users, celebrities, and the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). The Canadian teenager spreads her nurturing equality vibes on her Tumblr all year long.

    3) Randy Phillips

    Gay soldier Randy Phillips came out not only to his family but the world on YouTube. His hastily recorded video was seen by more than 6 million people. Fearing retribution that didn't come from his military supervisors, Phillips took part in a popular YouTube question-and-answer series and commonly interacted with his loyal fans on Twitter. He's since taken a minor digital hiatus, but his courageous words still reverberate for soldiers looking for support, on and off the battlefield.

    4) Murray Lipp

    Lipp is the creator of Gay Marriage USA (GMUSA), a massive Facebook group that's racked up nearly 300,000 subscribers. With the group's blend of photos of couples getting married and community news, GMUSA has become the social network's preeminent source for marriage equality activism. In 2012, Lipp led the charge in attempting to move the Democratic National Convention out of North Carolina due to the state's anti-equality laws. It received more than 40,000 signatures on Change.org.

    5) Diana Scholl and Laurel Golio

    Coming out is a scary and daunting task for those dealing with it. Scholl and Golio artfully tell the stories of those who have gone through the process with their We Are the Youth, an online photojournalism project. The New York-based women have profiled more than 60 teenagers aged 14 to 21. Scholl told the Daily Dot that the not-for-profit project is "entirely a labor of love," and thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, there’s going to be a lot more to go around.  

    6) Shane Bitney Crone

    As a tribute to late, longtime boyfriend, last May Crone created "It Could Happen to You," a poignant video details his love story and the inequalities LGBT people face. It racked up 3 million views and inspired a November followup, "No Freedom Until We are Equal," an open plea to vote in favor of several state's marriage equality laws. On Facebook, he's garnered 10,000 subscribers to further his cause.

    7) Kristin Russo and Dannielle Owens-Reid

    In a world that identifies heavily with labels, Russo and Owens-Reid only see one: gay. Their popular Tumblr, dubbed Everyone is Gay, tallies more than 50,000 young followers looking for the pairs' candid and humorous answers to questions about growing up gay. “Everyone Is Gay has come to symbolize how we all share so many of the same experiences and emotions,” Owens-Reid told the Daily Dot. In 2013, the women will host a South by Southwest panel on cyberbullying and continue their campus tour showcasing their personable advice.

    8) Hudson Taylor

    The University of Maryland wrestler first captured attention in 2010 for wearing Human Rights Campaign stickers on headgear to make a statement against homophobia in sports. He channeled that attention into the formation of Athlete Ally, a social advocacy group to rally support among athletes for a pledge for gay inclusion in sports. Taylor, who has more than 108,000 followers on Twitter, saw his hard work pay off last week when a Baltimore Ravens linebacker signed the pledge, thus becoming one of the campaign's biggest advocates.

    9) Jennifer Tyrrell

    When Tyrrell was ousted by her son's Tiger Cubs pack for being a lesbian, she didn't go quietly. Instead, she delivered an online petition with 335,000 signatures to fight its longstanding policy of not allowing gays into to the organization. Although the private group is entrenched in its anti-gay rules, the West Virginia citizen earned honors from the Advocate as one of the People Who Shaped Us in 2012. "We still have a long road ahead of us, but I honestly believe we are headed in the right direction," she said to a WTRF-TV, adding she has no plans in stopping her crusade.

    10) Brian Ellner

    Ellner spearheaded The Four 2012, an online campaign to seek votes in favor of gay marriage laws in four states. His campaign used a three-prong approach to gain support: slick YouTube videos, an interactive Tumblr, and a steady stream of updates on the group's Facebook page. Being this was the first time gay marriage was put up for popular vote, Ellner's direction was crucial. It worked, as the states he targeted all voted in favor of pro-gay rights. "Big wins," modestly tweeted Ellner after the results came in.

    Hat tip to Murray Lipp for the story idea and suggestions.

    Photo by torbakhopper/Flickr


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    With one photo, a young woman highlighted her struggles living in Yemen's patriarchal culture.

    Wearing gold rings on both hands, Nour shields her face with two sheets of paper, with Arabic text scrawled across them in red ink. An English translation reads:

    "I'm with the uprising of women in the Arab world because I am an employee and support my younger brothers and the unemployed. However, I am still treated with the mentality of intolerance. As a woman I have to hide my face and report my movements."

    The powerful image  was shared on The uprising of women in the Arab world, a Facebook page that serves as a rallying post for a growing community of people pushing for stronger rights for women in the Middle East. Nour's story is just one of hundreds shared by women and men on the site, helping spark a global conversation about life in Arab countries.

    It almost goes without saying that women do not have anywhere close to the same rights as men in most Arab nations. Women who are raped are forced to marry their aggressors in several countries. Many can’t open a bank account for their children without their husbands being in attendance. Street harassment is also a common occurrence. In recent weeks, amid protests against Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi in Cairo, several women were assaulted as they attempted to voice their opinions. (One group tried to help stamp out such aggressions as they sought volunteer “bodyguards” and organized the movement through a Twitter account.)

    While Twitter and Facebook have played a role in the overthrowing of governments and orchestrating widespread protests, especially in the Middle East, Yalda Younes, one of the five administrators of the Facebook page, said she started it in October 2011 because she was “pissed that even after the Arab Spring, women’s rights were not a priority.”

    “We’re not five people behind this page we’re really 70,000 because the members are so active,” enthused Younes, a Paris-based a flamenco dancer and choreographer originally from Lebanon. “This gives us a lot of energy, because everyone’s putting so much into it. People you don’t know from all over, who consider it as their baby and fight for it.”


    Ruth, originally from Belgium and now living in Cairo

    The drive to include as many people as possible means offering versions of photos, updates, and stories in multiple languages, with followers often providing Arabic-to-English translations (or vice-versa) for every post. Submissions routinely have hundredsof likes and dozens ofcomments.

    One campaign, in which backers of equality submitted photos of themselves holding signs pledging their support, was a pivotal success. Almost 1,000 photos were posted to the page, with Palestinians, Yemenis, and Syrians the most active in sharing their portraits.

    One image in particular stood out. Not for its message, which echoed hundreds before it, but because it led to temporary Facebook bans for the the page admins. The image depicted an unveiled Syrian woman named Dana Bakdounes (shown above), holding a sign and a passport photo. (It was the passport page and the apparent sharing of someone else’s personal information that brought the ban.)

    The incident sparked some controversy. Bakdounes received a death threat over the photo, but she told the BBC“everything has changed for me since I took my veil off” in August 2011. Following the photo, she said she was happy to receive many messages of support from “girls wearing the veil.”

    Facebook offers a degree of physical safety for those who want to discuss the issue of women’s rights with extremists on a rational battlefield. Yet, given the sensitive nature of the subject matter, admins have to carefully curate the content so that sexually provocative and potentially inflammatory images don’t derail the greater conversation taking place.


    Aziza, from Tunisia

    Younes noted that there's also problem with Western residents who participate in the discussions, since many assume women who are veiled are obliged to be so. Those commenters want to free those women from such constraints, whether they want to be liberated or not. This, of course, is an issue in France, where Younes lives and the veil is banned in public places.

    “I should be able to walk down the street disguised in whatever I want and whatever veil I want without being judged,” she said. “It’s very clear that the page is a secular space that defends the right of a woman to show her body if she wants and to unveil, but also to wear her veil without being judged as or only seen as a veiled woman.”

    That’s why the uprising of women in the Arab world page finds such strength in first-person accounts. It gives supporters the opportunity to expresses themselves in their own words, without censorship or stereotypes.


    Recently, Nada Thakeb wrote how she and her sister were assaulted amid a crowd of at least 30 men. Deema told of being molested by her uncle as her mother made her feel as though she was the guilty party. Ghina, from Lebanon, said she is unable to ask her husband for help around the home since "it will hurt his ego and he will make a bad reaction."

    These stories, a few of dozens of tales of abuse, provide a stark look at a tough existence endured by many women.

    “Every one of us has a story you hide under your pillow because you’re ashamed of it or because society makes you feel that you’re the one who’s guilty and not the aggressor,” Younes said.


    Linda, from Tunisia: "I'm with the uprising of women in the Arab world because I have no time to hate men and compete with them, but I have a lot of time, much more strength and a long breath to understand and love them."

    The page has brought tangible change for at least three women who shared their experiences of being raped. One said her mother told her not to say anything, because it would cause the family a scandal. Another was raped by her father for 17 years, and her mother said she was to blame. Younes said the women claimed their “life has changed after the campaign.”

    The page gave the women a much needed outlet and support system to start the healing process, helping them reconcile with their bodies and to start believing that they deserve happiness again.

    “This alone makes it all worth it,” Younes said.

    Photos via The Uprising of Women in the Arab World/Facebook


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    Aishah Sabra, a 5-year-old British girl missing in Egypt and presumed kidnapped by her father, is the focus of OpFreeAishah, a months-long Anonymous operation aimed at pressuring the U.K. government into bringing her home. 

    Featuring an escalating number of blog posts, Tumblrs, and social media shares, the Op recently blossomed into a calculated Tweetstorm, briefly trending in the U.K. and U.S., and bringing media attention to a story that has otherwise languished largely unreported. 

    This weekend Anonymous went live with a new, full-featured Drupal website for OpFreeAishah, with press releases, media coverage, blog posts, background on the case, a video, and a schedule for Tweetstorm participation for the indefinite future (Wednesdays and Sundays, 5pm EST). With all the information centralized and easily accessible to all, it will be easier for participants and supporters to track actions, news, and progress.

    The website explains:

    The girl is five 1/2 years old, the tradition of genital mutilation starts at six.

    @Ang3lic_War started #OpFreeAishah to help her mother ultimately get her child back from her abusive father, stopping at nothing to get the girl back safely. … The abuse this child is suffering will make an impact on the rest of her life. To end the further damage she experiences every day, please spread the word to all of your family, friends, coworkers, neighbours, and everyone you know.

    The site lists several Twitter accounts to follow for updates: @Ang3lic_War, @Gothic _Artisan, @1nd33d, and @spr3adth3lov3.

    Aishah's mother Leila is a Brit who met her ex-husband on a holiday in Egypt, married after a brief romance, and divorced not long after their daughter's birth. According to Leila, he abducted the girl once before when she was on a visit, grabbing her from her chair in a cafe and running out into the street with the child in his arms. When she was returned, she allegedly had unexplained bite marks and bruises.

    Despite the fact that Aishah was on a visit with her father when she last disappeared, he denies knowing her whereabouts.

    The petition to return Aishah has 3,668 signatures of the 10,000 requested, an increase of approximately 1,500 in the week since we last reported on OpFreeAishah.

    Photo via Aishah Sabra I Am Your Mother/Tumblr


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    Do you belieb in miracles?

    Millie Flamm, 7, planned to see Justin Bieber at his concert stop in Salt Lake City. Instead she had to be readmitted into the hospital, due to a relapse in her three-year battle with leukemia.

    Disappointed that Millie couldn't see Beiber, a friend posted her picture to Facebook begging to meet him.

    "If anyone has any connections to get Justin Bieber to visit Millie at Primary Children's Hospital while he's in Utah it would mean so much to her & her family!!," a call-for-action post read from P.S. I Adore You, a family friend's Facebook page. It attracted more than 3,000 shares, likes, and comments. A conversation transpired among fans on how to get the singer's attention, with one fan even claiming to personally know his off-and-on girlfriend Selena Gomez.

    While it’s unclear how it transpired, the campaign worked. Beiber visited Millie in a Utah hospital prior to his show on Saturday.

    Millie's parents managed kept his appearance a secret to the young girl. She was described as "anxious" when Beiber entered the room. He sang her favorite song, "Boyfriend," and even kissed her on the cheek.

    "Justin Bieber is my favorite singer and I love, love, love him," Millie told KSL-TV. She's expected to be released from the hospital in three weeks.

    "There is no way to say thank you to everybody that helped make this happen," added Millie's mother, Amanda. "I have no words but 'thank you' and that's not even enough."

    We're beliebers.

    Photo via KSL-TV


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    Myspace cofounder and eternal white T-shirt wearer Tom Anderson is having himself quite the little holiday.

    For the past few weeks, Anderson has been tweeting and Instagramming pictures (while mastering the art of the humblebrag) of his trip to Hawaii. He duped News Corp. into buying the once-hot social network for $580 million in 2005 and later left the company, so the now-retired entrepreneur has a lot of free time on his hands.

    So what exactly has America's First Friend been up to? Judging by his Instagram account, it's not some Sandals-sanctioned trip. He's been deep sea diving, hopping between islands at the sight of a raindrop, and soaking up all the botanical pleasantries the state has to offer. Oh, and obviously he's becoming very adept with the wide array of filters Instagram has to offer.

    While we slave away just hoping for the occasional half-day off, at least we can live vicariously through Anderson's pictures. A true friend would've invited us, Tom.

    Let's take a look at what our most annoying (we're just acting out because we're jealous) friend is doing. Hope he packed a clean T-shirt.

    Photo via myspacetom/Instagram


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    Unless you plan on hibernating for the next few months (or live in Texas), it’s time face winter here in the Northern Hemisphere.

    Fortunately, YouTube is here to help, offering tips and handy tutorials on everything from "winterizing" your car to effectively constructing a snowman.

    1) How to tie a winter scarf

    David Kadavy became frustrated with traditional scarf-tying methods, which always caused his scarf to bunch up and occasionally even untie. In this video, he demonstrates a tying trick taught to him—and now us—by a friend of his.

    Best of all, he pulls the whole thing off in under 30 seconds.

    2) How to bundle up

    Finding the right balance of clothing in the winter can be a challenge. Author and outdoorsman Kevin Callan, the "Happy Camper," demonstrates the proper amount first-hand, starting barefoot in the snow.

    3) How to keep warm If there’s no heat in your house

    Howcast displays a series of tips on keeping warm if the unthinkable happens and a winter storm knocks out the power to your home. Included are suggestions on what to wear and even what food to avoid. Don’t forget the duct tape.

    4) How to keep your feet warm

    Life hacker qaetv demonstrates a unique method for keeping your feet warm that does not involve boots or multiple layers of socks. Just watch.

    5) How to keep snow off your car

    Feet-warming tips are not the only winter survival tips offered by qaetv. In this video, another unusual method is applied to preventing windshield frost.

    6) How to shovel snow

    Most people opt to clear snow from their driveways and sidewalks using standard snow shovels or push brooms. In this video, Jim Shaw demonstrates how to build—and use—your very own push plow. Not featured, unfortunately, is how to make your own "Plow King" or "Mr. Plow" jacket.

    7) How to winterize a car

    Almost all car owners are familiar with monitoring their vehicle's oil levels and adding more when needed. However, how familiar are you with your car's antifreeze? The folks at expertvillage demonstrate how to check and fill your car's antifreeze and also explain its effect on your car's life.

    8) How to drive in icy conditions

    Wintry conditions wreak havoc on roadways every year. Videos showcasing snow- and ice-covered streets becoming roller-derby rinks are common. In this safety video, ehowauto gives tips for navigating those slick roadways before snow plows and salt trucks arrive.

    9) How to build a snowman

    Seriously, when was the last time you built a snowman? In his video "Snowman Building 101," user PaisleyPointers displays a step-by-step process of snowman construction, from packing the snow to decorating it with facial features.

    10) How to make an obese snow angel

    The snow angel is probably the easiest of all snow-based entities to make. Yet most of them are made by people with average BMIs. User biggydman outlines tips for making an obese snow angel.

    Photo via PaisleyPointers/YouTube

     


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    It doesn't matter if you're clearly already in a relationship with a college football star.

    If you're Miss Alabama (as Katherine Webb is), and you gain around 100,000 Twitter followers in a night (as she apparently did Monday), and a 73-year-old man breathlessly describes your beauty on national television (as ESPN sportscaster Brent Musburger did, inspiring the @HornyBMusburger parody account), there are going to be dudes who try to hit on you on Twitter.

    The fact that Webb was only highlighted on ESPN during the BCS National Championship game because of her relationship with Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron didn't seem to faze her scores of Twitter suitors. In fact, some of them embraced it, though not one appears to have any chance of succeeding.

    They did, at least, provide some comic relief. Here’s a light sampling of Twitter’s clumsy attempts to romance its new favorite beauty queen.

    Photo via @_KatherineWebb/Twitter


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    For the second time in two months, a Syrian human-rights group that uploads video documentation of the country's brutal civil war has had its YouTube channel suspended for violating the "publishing shocking and offensive videos" prohibition in its terms of service.

    The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a pro-democracy group, is devoted to "documenting and criticizing all Human Rights violations," according to its YouTube bio. It's uploaded almost 2,600 videos to its channel, many of them of horrifically wounded dead civilians, including children. ("Wounded by shelling the town of Ras al-Ayn," which shows rebels bringing two possibly killed men, as well as a dust-covered boy, to medical attention, is a typical example. Be warned that it is extremely graphic.)

    Here's a tamer example, titled "new massacre 12/29/2012 dozens of martyrs and wounded," showing armed rebels milling about.

    The channel, suspended on Sunday, has since been reinstated. Still, according to comments from a SOHR representatives provided to Agence France-Presse, the second suspension indicates a "lack of awareness by the YouTube administration about the value of what is being published, that global media depend on these videos to know what is transpiring on the ground."

    YouTube rarely comments on individual suspensions, and didn't respond to immediate request for comment. It formally prohibits"graphic or gratuitous violence" as part of its terms of service. However, YouTube also proclaims itself a "platform for free expression," and particularly touts its role in helping people document human rights around the world.

    Seemingly unfazed, the SOHR channel has been active since its suspension, having uploaded 13 videos, most of them violent, since being reinstated.

    Screengrab via almrsd alsori/YouTube


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    TaskRabbit is an e-commerce website where you'll find people to perform small tasks like removing decorations and pet sitting in exchange for money. And if you're aspiring comedian and illustrator Bryan Bruner, you'll also find a reason to quit smoking.

    Bruner, 36, was hired through TaskRabbit in April to assemble some Ikea furniture at the home of the marketing director for Healthline, a website that provides tips on health topics ranging from addiction to pregnancy.

    "We started chatting and I showed her some of my robot drawings and she said, 'These are really good,'" Bruner told the Daily Dot. "About three weeks later I got a call from her telling me to come to her office to talk about an idea."

    The idea was to use Bruner's illustrations in a 21-page comic featuring robot Ash Bender on a journey to quit smoking. The only catch was that Bruner would also have to quit smoking himself.

    "I was like, no, you guys are a pain in the butt to work with and I'm going to smoke even more now," Bruner recalled.

    Bruner finally came around shortly after New Year's and has since been smoke-free for about a week. In order to cope with the withdrawal, Bruner is encouraging others to quit by tweeting photos of themselves via Instagram using the hashtag #smokingrobots. Bruner will be selecting photos from Twitter through the rest of the week and turning them into robot illustrations (like the one he did for the Daily Dot, below).

    "I definitely feel more energetic even though I haven't done much," Bruner said. "Usually my house is a messy place but now it's like tweaker tight. Instead of just going outside and smoking a cigarette, I"m cleaning, mopping up. It's amazing when you fuck with the oxygen content in your blood, how much that changes you."

    After 19 years worth of smoking and life, Bruner has changed a lot.

    Bruner grew up in Las Vegas as a dirt bike riding, punk rock music loving teen who was "just trying to graduate high school."

    "When you're the first born, it is already intense. You're the prototype," Bruner said. "My parents were really strict and I guess smoking was my sort of rebellion."

    Bruner started smoking at the age of 17 and never looked back. After high school he moved to California to play college volleyball but ended up back in Vegas shortly after. He tried graphic art at a local Las Vegas college for about two semesters, but ultimately quit to become a construction worker, a foreman, and "the next thing you know, I'm running parts of a big company all before I was 30."

    In 2008, Bruner sold his car and possessions and moved to New York to try his hand at stand-up comedy while staying on his manager's floor. While waiting for his sets, he would doodle to help fight the anxiety and panic attacks. Little did he know these doodles would ultimately help him quit smoking and probably save his life.

    "[Smoking] was definitely not a smart decision," Bruner said. "I think, it's more of a testament to what these damn robots have done for me. They've gotten me through a really hard breakup, relationship, and helped me quit smoking. All these robots need to do is help me make $10 and I'll be happy."

    Illustrations by Bryan Bruner


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