Thursday, April 30, 2009

Combat Corruption

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Neal Peirce / Apr 30 2009

For Release Sunday, May 3, 2009
© 2009 Washington Post Writers Group

Neal Peirce

Could Internet tools start to break the back of corruption in government? And could this lead to government that actually works around the world?

There's no guarantee. Endemic government corruption, whether it's bribery, extortion, nepotism or fraud, amounts to stealing of the public wealth. It has plagued virtually every nation on earth.

Almost universally, the rich are able to take care of themselves but the poor suffer when funds that should help finance housing, education, public transit, sometimes even clean water and sanitation, are siphoned off by corrupt governments.

Just in the last few weeks the run-up to the elections in India has provided a glimmer of hope for a nation of 1.5 billion long burdened by encrusted, corruption-prone government.

More than 50 percent of Indians report firsthand experience in paying bribes to get a job done in a public office, according to a Transparency International survey. But middle-class Indian youth, who previously blew off voting as a waste of time, have sprung to action. Enraged by the government's cumbersome response to last November's three-day terrorist siege of Mumbai, impatient with compromised bureaucracy, inspired by Barack Obama's election in the United States, they've taken to the Web for political organizing.

Their postings, Washington Post correspondent Emily Wax reports from Mumbai, have included blogs, YouTube channels and such Facebook pages as "Rise Up Mumbai! Rise Up India!"

Causes the youthful protesters are espousing range from anti-terrorism steps to jobs to clean water to improving crumbling schools and roads. And police, who used to harass young Indians if they massed for street demonstrations, are unable to stop youth from Web postings or text messaging in a nation where 385 million people own cell phones.

A parallel Internet-based uprising against corruption and inefficiency is building in China, where there have even been warnings within the ruling Community Party that graft could be its downfall. Internet media storms, Reuters reports, have included exposures of officials enjoying luxury overseas holidays in the name of "study" trips.

China's latest grassroots Web cause is demand for more transparency in the government's $585 billion economic stimulus plans. Don't look for a parallel to the site the Obama administration set up to track spending under the U.S. stimulus program. But the Chinese government will be hard put to quash electronic dissent: 3,000 websites are being created daily in China, with over 300 million Internet users nationwide. In the process, official media monopolies get blown to smithereens.

Before the Web, the best hope for reducing corrupt practices worldwide had been training more skilled administrators, inculcated with values of fair service to all, not just the rich or connected.

The idea's still a good one, and could make a special difference in especially poor countries. The highest corruption, Transparency International surveys show, is found in very poor countries with weak civil service–such nations as Haiti, Afghanistan, Sudan, Zimbabwe and Uzbekistan–or Somalia, where there's essentially no government right now.

But the Web can be a powerful tool everywhere–first in making more voices heard, and second as a route to more open governance.

E-government practices, demanded by critics or inaugurated by far-sighted leaders, involve taking the functions of old, paper-based bureaucracies and putting them on accessible Web sites where it's harder for government bureaucrats to skim off a percent for themselves.

One example: digitizing India's massive railway reservations system. Buying a ticket used to be difficult unless one knew someone to bribe. Now, though, the tickets can be bought easily, at face value–online from vending machines at stations.

Or consider a U.S. example of e-government throwing light onto dubious or corrupt private market activities that can have disastrous impacts.

The Securities and Exchange Commission decided last December to open easy Web access to the regular reports it receives from all public corporations and mutual funds. Previously the reports had been technically public, but buried in hard-to-access paper ledgers. Now the companies will have to report in a single "interactive data" format developed by a worldwide consortium of businesses, associations and government agencies. With clear definitions, for example, of what's "company net profit" or "net income."

Announcing the move from "document disclosure to data disclosure," then-SEC Chairman Christopher Cox noted that "the Enron and WorldComm collapses, the subprime mortgage situation, all happened in part" because "false and highly speculative information was hidden in complex documents. False information was to easy to hide."

The bottom line's clear: from the poorest to wealthiest nations, the Web's sanitizing power to end-run bureaucracies, democratize data, shrink corruption, has to be rated one of the most powerful–and welcome–frontiers of the century.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Facing It

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Facing It

My black face fades,
hiding inside the black granite.
I said I wouldn't,
dammit: No tears.
I'm stone. I'm flesh.
My clouded reflection eyes me
like a bird of prey, the profile of night
slanted against morning. I turn
this way--the stone lets me go.
I turn that way--I'm inside
the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

again, depending on the light
to make a difference.
I go down the 58,022 names,
half-expecting to find
my own in letters like smoke.
I touch the name Andrew Johnson;
I see the booby trap's white flash.
Names shimmer on a woman's blouse
but when she walks away
the names stay on the wall.
Brushstrokes flash, a red bird's
wings cutting across my stare.
The sky. A plane in the sky.
A white vet's image floats
closer to me, then his pale eyes
look through mine. I'm a window.
He's lost his right arm
inside the stone. In the black mirror
a woman's trying to erase names:
No, she's brushing a boy's hair.

To Listen to this poem Click here.

A Year in My Garden

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Drum Roll Please....

Introducing: A Year in My Garden by the Flower Guy, Don Sessions—featuring Artist Jan Sessions!

A year of stunning pictures through the gardens of Don Sessions,
A Year in My Garden is quickly becoming the most popular blurb book of the season. I love it!

Sound of Music | Central Station Antwerp (Belgium)

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Sound of Music | Central Station Antwerp (Belgium)

More than 200 dancers were performing their version of "Do Re Mi", in the Central Station of Antwerp. with just 2 rehearsals they created this amazing stunt! Those 4 fantastic minutes started the 23 of march 2009, 08:00 AM. It is a promotion stunt for a Belgian television program, where they are looking for someone to play the leading role, in the musical of "The Sound of Music".

Art From the Unexpected

Creativity isn't something only reserved for the creative department. What about letting those who actually run the businesses have a go at it too? Art From the Unexpected is about challenging 20 of our industry's leaders, who don't typically get to be visually creative in their day-to-day, to create an original art piece. That's not all. They will join us in presenting their one-of-a-kind creation to you. What motivates these leaders to be creative?

Ad Lounge's "Art From the Unexpected" is held in collaboration with SKETCH, a charity that values creativity as much as our industry does. We are honoured to collaborate with them on this gala event. SKETCH is a community arts initiative that creates opportunities for street-involved and homeless youth aged 15-29 by offering them tools to engage in the arts, a safe place to express and create, and opportunities to creatively integrate back into community life.

20 of our industry's leaders have accepted one of the most unique challenges of their careers. They span from Toronto to Vancouver to San Francisco to New York. What inspires them to think creatively?


Jack Bensimon
Bensimon Byrne

Shelley Brown
Partner & Director of Strategic Planning

Tony Chapman
Capital C

Jacquelyn Corbett Cyr

David Feldt
Senior VP, Managing Director
Organic Inc.

Goodwin Gibson
MacLaren MRM

Ian Heaps
Blundstone Canada

Cam Heaps
Co-Founder, President
Steam Whistle Brewing

Dawna Henderson
President & CEO
henderson bas

Mitch Joel
Twist Image

Anthony Lacavera
Globalive Communications

Paul Lavoie
Co-Founder, Chairman & Chief Creative Officer

Lee LeFever
Common Craft

Kevin McLaughlin

Kerry Munro
General Manager
Yahoo! Canada

Frank Palmer
Founder, Chairman/CEO
DDB Canada

Geoffrey Roche
Founder, Chief Creative Officer
Lowe Roche

Andrea Stairs
Head of Marketing
eBay Canada

Dave Stevens
General Manager
MySpace Canada

Mia Wedgbury
High Road Communications

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By leelefever on April 28, 2009 - 9:09am.

A few months ago I was contacted by AdLounge, an organization in Toronto, about an event they are hosting on June 16th called "Art from the Unexpected." The idea is to have 20 leaders, not formally known as artists, create pieces to be auctioned for charity. In this case, the charity is SKETCH, an organization that works with homeless and street-involved youth to engage in the arts.

The idea sounded fun and I was happy that I could contribute to a charity event. So, I began work on my "Unexpected Art" piece - something that came to be known as "the art project" here at Common Craft HQ. I had been thinking about a way to take the style of our videos and apply it to something static and came up with a way to use foam board to create depth and texture.

Here's my contribution to the event.

Toronto in Paper

It comes framed in a deep, 3 inch frame and is made from paper and layered foamboard.

I'm so excited to see how the piece does in the auction. If you live in Toronto, or plan to be there on June 16th, I hope that you'll attend the event and take something

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Jay Bybee Problem

The Jay Bybee Problem

How did Jay Bybee breeze through a confirmation hearing for his appointment to the Federal Appeals Court in February 2003? Not a single Democrat questioned Bybee at the session, and the proceedings came to a quick conclusion. The following month he was confirmed by the full Senate.

Just six months prior to the hearing, Jay Bybee had signed legal memos providing cover for CIA agents torturing detainees -- yet Congress voted him to a lifetime on the federal bench. How did this happen? And what will become of Judge Bybee now?

The MegaPenny Project

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The MegaPenny Project
by kokogiak media

Visualizing huge numbers can be very difficult. People regularly talk about millions of miles, billions of bytes, or trillions of dollars, yet it's still hard to grasp just how much a "billion" really is. The MegaPenny Project aims to help by taking one small everyday item, the U.S. penny, and building on that to answer the question: "What would a billion (or a trillion) pennies look like?"

All the following pages have tables at the bottom, listing things such as the value of the pennies, size of the pile, weight, and area (if laid flat). All weights and measurements are U.S. standards, not metric.

It's best to step through the project starting from the beginning, but if you'd like to just jump in, links are available below.

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One Penny


One penny. Most people in North America have seen them and you probably have one in your pocket right now.

Using this small metal disk, with a size and weight familiar to almost everyone, let's take the next step.

0.5625 square inches
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Sixteen Pennies



Every journey begins with a single step. So, to get to big numbers, you have to start small. Lay sixteen pennies in a line and you have one foot, stack them and you have an inch. Okay, so much for the small numbers - let's move up.

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One Thousand Pennies

[5 pennies wide x 5 pennies high x 40 pennies tall]

A thousand pennies is only $10.00 worth of pennies, yet it weighs over six pounds. Now let's put together a cubic foot made of these copper (3%) and zinc (97%) coins.

uare inches (3.9 square feet)
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Fifty Thousand Pennies

Forty-nine thousand one hundred and fifty-two Pennies
[16w x 16h x 192 tall] - one cubic foot.

Three hundred pounds of pennies. Remember the stack of 16 pennies? It was one inch tall. Well, take 12 of those and stack them and you'll have a one-foot-tall stack. The cube above is made up of 256 of those one-foot stacks, making one cubic foot of pennies.

Remember this cube, since it will be the building block for all upcoming penny-structures you see in these pages. Now let's double it.

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One Hundred Thousand Pennies

Ninety-eight thousand three hundred and four Pennies
[ Two cubic feet ]

Doubling our 50,000 pennies to 100,000, we now have two one-foot cubes. Given, this wasn't a big jump, but now we're going to start climbing the numerical ladder by powers of ten. Ever wonder what a million pennies would look like?

are feet
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One Million Pennies

One million, three thousand, seven hundred and seventy-six Pennies
[ A wall five by four by one feet thick with a 9-inch cube stepstool ]

Say hello to our friend Graham. Now that the pennies have really begun to pile up, he'll be standing in for scale. Graham is about 5 feet, 10 inches tall, and he weighs about 180 pounds, or about 35 times less than the 1 million pennies stacked besidehim. Next step, Ten million.

re feet
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Ten Million Pennies

Ten million, seventeen thousand and twenty-four Pennies
[ A cube 6 x 6 x 6 feet ]

Ten Million cents. If you laid these all out flat, side-by-side, like a huge carpet of pennies, it would nearly cover one acre. Click here for a look at 100,000,000 copper disks.

29 square feet (0.9 acres)
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One Hundred Million Pennies


Since these cubes are mostly dense metal, their weight is impressive. One hundred million pennies weighs over 300 tons. For comparison, the largest living animal, the Blue Whale, weighs less than 150 tons as an adult.

When you hear talk of "billions" of something (dollars, miles, people, etc), it's hard to visualize. But up next, we have a visual for you - one billion pennies.

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One Billion Pennies


One billion, eighteen thousand, one hundred and seventy-six Pennies
[ Five school buses. ]

Each of these blocks represents one 9x11x41 foot school bus - as seen below. If you were to stack all these pennies in a single pile, one atop the other, the stack would reach nearly one thousand miles high. For comparison, note that the Space Shuttle typically orbits only 225 miles above the Earth's surface.

Only in North America and the general scientific community is this number (1,000,000,000) called a "billion". Most European countries call this number either "one thousand million" or, in some cases, a "milliard". Enough international confusion, let's move on to ten billion.

e feet (89.7 acres)
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Ten Billion Pennies


Current estimates place the world's population at six billion people. The pile of pennies above would then be nearly enough for two pennies for every person on Earth. The U.S.Mint currently manufactures about this many pennies every year.

In the image above, Graham and his ten billion coins are now standing on a standard U.S. football field (360 x 160 feet) for further scale. Next up, the hundred-billion cube.

97 a
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One Hundred Billion Pennies


One hundred billion, seventeen million, six hundred fifty-nine thousand three hundred and thirty-six Pennies
[ One cube measuring 127 x 127 x 127 feet ]

If you took these hundred billion pennies and laid them out like a carpet, you could cover 14 square miles. Compare that to Manhattan Island, which measures 22 square miles.

The cube you see above is made up of over 4.1 million stacks of 24,330 pennies. Now, we
are getting close to the limits of existing pennies. How many pennies do you think are
currently in circulation?

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Two Hundred Billion Pennies


Current estimates by the U.S. Mint place the number of pennies in circulation at aroun

140 billion. Others have estimated as many as 200 billion currently circulating. Since the
first penny was minted in 1787, until present-day, over 300 billion pennies have been minted in the United States. So that leaves about 100 billion pennies that have been retired by the Mint, lost down sewer drains, stored in jars, smashed by trains, or collected by numismatists in the past 200 years.

Now that we have reached the limits of what actually exists, let's move beyond, and into the Trillions.

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One Trillion Pennies


One trillion, sixteen thousand six hundred and forty Pennies
[ One cube measuring 273 x 273 x 273 feet ]

The same football field as the last two pages, set beside our new cube for scale. Notice our friend Graham, still barely visible as a speck at lower left.

Let's look at this new cube a little more closely to get a better idea of its size.

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One Trillion Pennies (part II)


One trillion, sixteen thousand six hundred and forty Pennies
[ One cube measuring 273 x 273 x 273 feet ]

From right to left (to scale), we have the same old football field, then the Lincoln Memorial (yes, the one pictured on the back of the penny), then the Washington Monument (555 feet tall), then our cube of one trillion pennies, then the Empire State Building (1,250 feet tall), then the Sears Tower (1,450 feet tall).

So, now, the question you're dying to ask: How many Pennies would it take to fill the Empire State Building?

5.2 acres
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The Empire State Building -- 1.8 Trillion Pennies


One trillion, eight hundred eighteen billion, six hundred
twenty-four million Pennies

New york's Empire State Building contains 37 million cubic feet of space (minus the antenna structure). Using our cubic foot of pennies (49,152 total), it's just a simple multiplication problem - 37,000,000 x 49,152 = 1,818,624,000,000 pennies.

Now what about America's tallest structure, the Sears Tower?

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The Sears Tower -- 2.6 Trillion Pennies


Two trillion, six hundred twenty-three billion, six
hundred eighty-four million six hundred and eight
thousand Pennies

Chicago's Sears Tower occupies 53.4 million cubic feet of space. Using our cubic foot of pennies (49,152 total), it's once again just another multiplication problem - 53,379,000 x 49,152 = 2,623,684,608,000 pennies.

Okay, enough with the buildings, let's take a giant leap forward. What would a cube of one quadrillion pennies look like?

235,279.3 acres
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One Quadrillion Pennies

One quadrillion, sixty-seven billion, eighty-eight million,
three hundred and eighty-four thousand Pennies
[ One cube measuring 2,730 x 2,730 x 2,730 feet ]

Here we have the buildings we used for scale back at a trillion, but they're now a bit dwarfed by our new cube of pennies. This is a quadrillion, or a thousand times one trillion. This cube is roughly a half-mile wide and would weigh an astonishing three billion tons.

Okay, now for our final big number - one quintillion.

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One Quintillion Pennies

One qullion, sixty-seven trillion, eighty-eight billion,
three hundred and eighty-four million Pennies
[ One cube measuring 27,300 x 27,300 x 27,300 feet ]

Now we've stepped up another factor of 1,000. One quintillion pennies. This many pennies, if laid out flat like a carpet, would cover the surface of the earth - twice. If you look hard, you can still see the Sears Tower and other buildings at lower right. Another way to see it is to realize that Mt. Everest (29,000 ft.) is only 1,700 feet taller than this 27,300-foot cube.

This is as far as we will go. Three trillion tons of pennies is quite enough. To imagine larger cubes, (stepping by factors of 1,000), just imagine cubes roughly ten times larger than
the last one. For instance, one quintillion pennies makes the cube above - about 5 miles on each side. If you step up to one sextillion, imagine a cube about 50 miles wide tall and thick.

Thanks for visiting the MegaPenny Project. You can find further related links and a table of named "very big numbers" on our index page.

89,675,160,698 acres