The Null Device
If you live in Britain, you've probably been confronted by chuggers; those armies of attractive, bubbly young people in jackets bearing the logo of some charity or other who loiter in packs in pedestrian areas, waiting for you to pass before intercepting you, latching on like a lamprey and attempting to guilt a direct debit out of you, giving you only two options: surrender and pay up, or be rude to a nice person and feel like a heel for it.
The charity watchdog Intelligent Giving has investigated the activities of chuggers and found almost all of them to be breaking both the law and codes of conduct, harrassing shoppers and asking them to commit fraud to bolster their commissions, and is calling on the public to boycott them.
[A] survey of their tactics has found that some face-to-face fundraisers are not as good as the causes they represent. They have been caught out misleading the public about how they are paid, harassing shoppers who say they are not interested, and asking donors to lie on direct debit forms to help them meet their targets.
The watchdog also found that 15 fundraisers from nine charities broke the Institute of Fundraising's own code of conduct by refusing to back off when asked to do so. These included fundraisers for the British Red Cross and Scope.So next time you tell a chugger to naff off (with all due politeness, of course), remember: you're not being a miser or a crabby old troll, but a responsible citizen.
Via Bruce Sterling, some background on the rise of Somali maritime piracy, which is threatening to strangle trade through the Suez Canal (and is reaching out to the route around the Cape of Good Hope):
Some analysts write fearful tracts that the pirates have links with terrorists and extremists, that the chaos is a direct result of international neglect of Somalia, and try to link pirates to the islamist insurgency that control much of the south or the recent terrorist bombings in Somaliland. This is nonsense. The origins of Somali piracy are not found in the southern half of the country, where a “transitional government” is dueling the Union of Islamic Courts with the half-hearted assistance of the Ethiopian military. Somali piracy originates in Puntland, a self-declared autonomous region of Somalia at the horn, hailed for years by policymakers as a model of a stable Somali state.
Piracy has its origins in the organized communities of the Puntland coast. In the 1990s, a group of fisherman in settlements there banded together to prevent illegal fishing and the dumping of toxic waste off their shores. This harmless community action inspired many analysts to designate Puntland a model for Somali civil society. When some ships illegally fishing were boarded in attempts to police the region, the reward offered for the boats return was enormous—amounts that were many times the monthly income of entire villages. Piracy took off as an attempt to gain income from this type of civic policing, and slowly grew to what Kaplan called the “innocence” of piracy. It wasn’t long before the pirates became more ambitious, using the fishing boats they captured to hunt larger prey. And with the money that came in, small fishing towns were transformed into pirate havens. As responsible organizers, pirates have invested some of their profits back into the franchise, replacing barely seaworthy rafts with speedboats, AK-47s with modern arms, and GPS tracking systems to boot.
Analysts were right about Puntland’s organization, but they were wrong that Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, president of the transitional government and the former leader of Puntland, could spread the discipline of goverment and organization to elsewhere in Somalia. Instead, it’s become the parent of a business model that could be copied in other lawless regions of the world.
The Mind Hacks blog has a summary of a paper looking at the content of another adulterated street drug, in this case, heroin. Not surprisingly, your average wrap of street smack contains a lot of adulterants; the analysis lists random medications and pharmaceutical substances, anaesthetics, dietary supplements and chelating agents for metals, as well as other street drugs including cocaine and amphetamines.
The article also looks at the economics and business practices behind the adulteration of heroin. Obviously, taking advantage of the lack of quality control and getting more money out of less actual expensive heroin is a major consideration for the dealers, but it isn't the only one:
Interestingly, the paper also notes that professional heroin cutters are expensive, charging up to $20,000 for a kilo of heroin. This is likely due to the skill and knowledge needed to select ingredients that will have certain effects, which can be different for 'smokers', 'snorters' and 'injectors'.
Additionally, some ingredients are added purely for their psychoactive effect to give a different experience and 'brand' the dope.
(via Mind Hacks)