Who throws the stones? Who throws them?

From Lindsay: seven women have been condemned to be stoned to death for “crimes against chastity” in Iran. Ali Eteraz has the details on what you can do.
What I can’t stop thinking is: who throws the stones? What goes through their minds as they kill another human being that way?
And where does a society keep people like that when they’re not “working”?
Update: to be clear, all death penalties are barbaric and the psyche of anyone who carries out such a sentence is an unhappy mystery to me. I oppose the death penalty everywhere and in all forms, but this particular sentence for these particular “crimes” (do read the background) is especially horrible.

Help a brother out.

You know things are tight at Casa Coturnix when Bora points to his tip jar. He hates doing it, and he shouldn’t have to. There’s something wrong with a society that isn’t making good use of someone so bright, passionate and energetic. If you have a few dollars that aren’t working right now, consider sending them Bora’s way (paypal/credit card or Amazon honor system, scroll down a ways on the left). Consider it an investment in the country’s intellectual future. (I imagine that anyone reading this already reads Bora, but if you don’t then put aside a few hours and start here. )

Blogathon! 379 blogs, $56,678.94 so far, and a Special Offer for my tens of readers.

Last push! Blogathon is this Saturday; if you haven’t signed up to blog it’s too late for this year, but you can still sponsor a blogger from now until at least 48 hours after the event.
If you sort by funds pledged and scroll down, you’ll find (as I write this) 80-some bloggers who don’t yet have sponsors. If you’ve got a few bucks that ain’t working right now, how about helping one of them out?
Tell you what: if you do that, come back here and give me the name of another blogger with no sponsors, and I’ll sponsor them. Probably only five bucks, because I’m skint — but the little donations add up, that’s how grassroots works. That’s the beauty of the Blogathon, too — a few hundred bloggers you never heard of raising a dollar here and a dollar there, and pretty soon you have a bona fide international community premised on giving a helping hand wherever it’s needed.
Try it, you’ll like it.

Blogathon! (239 blogs, $18,699.42 — and counting!)

The 2006 Blogathon is up and running! Signups for bloggers close July 21, sponsorship stays open through the event itself (July 29). This post is for the Wednesday Publicity Push: if you have a blog, please consider posting about the Blogathon today, next Wednesday, and the Wednesday after, to help inflate our daypop/technorati/etc ratings. And of course, please consider taking part and/or sponsoring a blogger!
For those who don’t know what the Blogathon is, here’s the press release:

On July 29th, hundreds of bloggers from all around the world will stay up late and make a difference. That’s the slogan and the raison d’ĂȘtre of the Blogathon, an online fundraising event that began in 2000 with a case of insomnia and a case of Mountain Dew. Faced with certain sleeplessness, Portland, OR blogger Cat Connor1 decided, on a whim, to blog every 15 minutes for 24 hours. She made it, and the next year she invited others to join her — this time, with sponsorships. Hence “blogathon”, by analogy with “walkathon”, “telethon” and so on. Says Connor: “I’ve always felt the best thing about the web was its ability to affect the real world. The web can be a major force for good.”
The mechanics of the Blogathon are simple: bloggers sign up to blog for their chosen charity, and sponsors pledge either a lump sum or an amount per hour blogged. The goal is 24 hours, with one post every 30 minutes. Sponsors make their donations directly to their bloggers’ chosen charities. The Blogathon sends reminder emails but does not collect money, although Connor says that future plans do include registration as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and a system for collecting and disbursing donations.
The 2001 Blogathon saw about a hundred bloggers raise more than $20,000 (more than double their initial modest goal) for 77 different charities. The numbers roughly doubled in 2002, and again in 2003 when well over 500 participants raised more than $100,000 for charities ranging from the World Wildlife Fund to Heifer International, from local outreach centers to Médecins Sans Frontières. Project Blog substituted for the Blogathon in 2004, and in 2005 Connor continued her hiatus and Sheana Director of seeworthy.org ran the Blogathon, raising almost $60,000.
It’s not all about the money, though. “What really makes Blogathon work,” says Connor, “is the sense of community that’s grown up around it.” Chat rooms, online forums and Radio Blogathon online broadcasts keep bloggers in touch during the event. This year’s front page will itself be a blog, continually updated by Connor and a volunteer team of “monitors” with games, contests and news and fun from around the event. Also new this year is a surfing frame which will allow onlookers to surf from blog to blog, and as always there will be a variety of prizes for most money raised, best writing, best visuals, and so on.
Previous projects are even more diverse than the chosen charities. Participants have written entire novels, translated ancient epic poems, recorded albums of original music, and spent 24 hours cooking all their favourite dishes. Others have written 48 posts about chocolate, shoes, toilets or outsider art, shaved their heads live on webcam, solicited panels for a virtual quilt, ridden a stationary bike for 24 hours or blogged by mobile phone live from a road trip.
This year’s Blogathon is now open for signups and pledges at www.blogathon.org; the event itself will take place Saturday July 29 at 06:00 Pacific Time, with an alternative Sabbath-observant schedule beginning at 21:00 the same day. Everyone starts at one of those two times, no matter where they are. As founder Connor puts it: “Creating an international community over the course of 24 hours — one with a single purpose — is something that can only happen on the web. It makes the web magical.”

1Aka spousal unit mine. (In case anyone was wondering, that’s why I won’t be blogging: I’ll be fetching and carrying behind the scenes.)

Serenity Now/Equality Now; or, what’s that advertisement doing over there?

If you read this blog, you’re probably something of a nerd, so if you haven’t seen Joss Whedon‘s movie Serenity, or the TV series Firefly that spawned it, do yourself a favour: turn off the internets right now and go find a copy of both. Really, do it, you can thank me later.
Now that we’re all up to speed on background, June 23 is the one-year anniversary of the third and final advance (US) screening of Serenity, and also happens to be Joss Whedon’s birthday. Serenity Now/Equality Now is a worldwide effort to organise charity screenings of Serenity on June 23, proceeds to benefit Whedon’s favourite charity, Equality Now.
Regular readers are no doubt aware that the mere suggestion of paid advertising on this site would cause me apoplexy, but b!X never paid me a cent. I applaud the effort and the sentiment behind it, and wish him and his fellow Browncoats well in this. If you live in Portland, I hope to see you at Cinema 21; if you live elsewhere, click the “Screenings outside PDX” link to find the showing nearest you. (And if this idea really floats your boat, it may not be too late to organise a screening yourself.)
One final word: this is NOT the same thing as “Serenity Day”, a seperate and entirely selfish endeavour aimed at convincing Universal Studios to revive the Firefly series or make a Serenity sequel or something, by having fans everywhere buy a copy of the DVD. Serenity Now/Equality now is about taking the energy of fandom and doing something positive with it — something in tune with some of the ideas Whedon’s heroes stand for, perhaps. So go ahead and buy an extra copy of Serenity if you like, but on June 23 or thereabouts, spend the money on a charity screening.

Because women should be encouraged to kill rapists.

nazanin.jpg Lifted directly from Bitch PhD: Nazanin Mahabad Fatehi is an 18-year old Iranian who has been sentenced to death for stabbing a man to death because he and two other men were trying to rape her and her niece. Her case is being reviewed by the Iranian Supreme Court this week. Things you can do:

  • Help spread the story about Nazanin! Tell everyone you know, family, friends and others who might be interested. Direct them to this web page and ask them to take action for Nazanin.
  • Contact newspapers, TV-channels, blogs and other media and ask them to report this story. US residents can contact local or national media via NOW.
  • Write about Nazanin in your own blog, homepage, or in internet forums or chat rooms you frequent.
  • Put a link to this page in your email signature or at your homepage.
  • Put one of these banners on your website.
  • Write the Iranian government or the Iranian embassy of your country , and demand that Nazanin’s death sentence is commuted immediately. Read more.
  • Contact politicians/representatives and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in your country and ask them to pressure Iran to commute the death sentence and free Nazanin. US representatives can be contacted via NOW.
  • Contact the United Nations Office of Human Rights and ask them to protest.
  • Sign and spread this petition, started by the Canadian model Nazanin Afshin-Jam.
  • Buy a T-shirt in support of Nazanin, designed by Lily Mazahery.

Bora could use a hand.

I talk a lot about community — the blog community, the local community, the community of science. I think of “community” as a way to help create, and to be part of, something larger than oneself, something capable of more than one could achieve alone. I suppose, though, it’s equally valid to see it as a kind of insurance: by contributing to the maintenance of a network of trust and mutual assistance, we assure our own access to assistance when we need it. Either way, a community is, among other important things, a means of spreading risks and costs so that no single incident should be catastrophic to any given individual.
Which is why it is exceeding remiss of me not yet to have mentioned that Bora could use a hand. He’s a grad student with a thesis in the balance and a family to help support, and the bills have piled up enough to be a hassle right now. As Abel Pharmboy says in comments there,

This is nuts […] but sadly all too common among the academic world these days. [Bora] should have a tenure-track position at a major scientific or liberal arts university but [is] stuck in the cycle of teaching-on-demand for far less than [he deserves].

More to my point, Bora’s a member of my community: inter alia, a researcher and a science blogger. And if you happen to be a blogger, teacher and/or researcher, consider this: Bora is the sort of person we want in our community. It will not take much reading of his main site, or his associated teaching and research blogs (Magic School Bus and Circadiana, respectively), to convince you that he has talent for science and for science teaching; nor will it take more than a glance at the support he has given various blogging carnivals to demonstrate that he understands and values community; nor is it necessary to look beyond his writing about science blogging itself to see that he has a forward-looking, can-do way of thinking about science and community and what the two can do for each other.
So: Abel and I have sent a little beer money Bora’s way, and now I’m asking my readers to do the same if they possibly can (PayPal and Amazon links are on the right hand side on Bora’s site). Please also consider passing on the request if you have a blog of your own.

Jane Doe (OC) is a hero. Tell her so.

Prof B, Rob, Amp and Hugo all point to Pinko Feminist Hellcat’s coverage of the OC rape case. For those of you living under a rock or outside the US, here’s Rob’s brief summary:

Three young men in Orange County videotaped themselves raping an unconscious 16 year old, and then left the video in a rented beach house. Because they were extremely wealthy, they were able to hire a lawyer who after three years of slandering and harassing the victim, got them off with only a conviction on sexual assault. Now the victim is suing the lawyer for harassment, slander, and libel. The lawyer responded by calling her “trash” and said “What I did to Jane Doe in the criminal case was child’s play compared to what I can do to her in a civil case.”

One of Hugo’s readers, Catty, has a connection to Jane Doe’s legal team and is collecting emails of support. Catty’s address is ihiroeATyahooDOTcom, and letters should be addressed to “Jane Doe”; they will be printed and sent to her attorney’s office. Here’s mine:

Dear Ms Doe,
I write to thank you for your courage and determination. In standing firm against your assailants (in which category I include their counsel) you are forging a path for all the other survivors of violence who will, as a matter of unhappy certainty, come after you. By refusing to be intimidated into giving up your demand for justice, you are bringing a spotlight to bear on the flaws in our legal system behind which the perpetrators of sexual violence so often shelter. I wish you success in your fight, and in all things. I hope it helps to hear from one of your supporters; you should know that we are many, and you are a hero to us.

Jane Doe is nineteen years old, people. She’s already endured three years of horror (to say nothing of the initial assault), and she’s just put herself in for another long stay in the emotional meatgrinder. I can’t know her mind, but whatever her reasons she is doing the right, the incredibly brave, thing.
If you’re at all like me, you try to do your part as a reasonable human being, but it’s easy to feel that your donations are drops in an ocean and your letters go straight to /dev/null — well, not this time. This time there’s a human being on the other end; she’s been through hell and she’s looking down the barrel of worse, she must be tired and frightened, and I bet she’d like to hear from you — just to be reminded that she’s not entirely alone. This is one case in which the much-hyped blogosphere can do some real good; please write, and if you have a blog please spread this story.
Finally, if anyone knows anything about a legal defense fund, please send me details.

support Creative Commons

Dammit, I’m late with this, but you still have a day to help Creative Commons meet their year-end fundraising goal. If you don’t know what CC is, you should. Seriously, you should. They are important for anyone who has any interest in any kind of art or creative endeavour (including sciencePLoS Biology, the flagship Open Access journal, is published under a CC licence). Briefly:

Creative Commons is a new system, built within current copyright law, that allows you to share your creations with others and use music, movies, images, and text online that’s been marked with a Creative Commons license. If you’re looking for more in-depth information, our About section contains more about the history, concepts and people behind the organization. To see the Creative Commons in action, try out our Find, Create, and Share sections, or one of the sections devoted to Audio, Video, Images, Text, and Education.

There is also, of course, a FAQ. Right now, CC needs less than $10K to meet their fundraising goal. They need to raise $225K from public donations by the end of the year in order to secure their public charity status and retain foundation funding; Lessig explains, and talks about what they plan to do with the money, here. If you can, please help out.
Update: target met. The need for donations is not so critical now, but it’s not going away, so please consider supporting Creative Commons when you’re deciding where to spend your philanthropy budget.