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Top News (Reposted from Reuters)

Internet activist, programmer Aaron Swartz dead at 26

Sun, Jan 13 17:14 PM EST

By Alex Dobuzinskis and P.J. Huffstutter

(Reuters) – Internet activist and computer prodigy Aaron Swartz, who helped create an early version of the Web feed system RSS and was facing federal criminal charges in a controversial fraud case, has committed suicide at age 26, authorities said on Saturday.

Police found Swartz’s body in his apartment in the New York City borough of Brooklyn on Friday, according to a spokeswoman for the city’s chief medical examiner, which ruled the death a suicide by hanging.

Swartz is widely credited with being a co-author of the specifications for the Web feed format RSS 1.0, which he worked on at age 14, according to a blog post on Saturday from his friend, science fiction author Cory Doctorow.

RSS, which stands for Rich Site Summary, is a format for delivering to users content from sites that change constantly, such as news pages and blogs.

Over the years, he became an online icon for helping to make a virtual mountain of information freely available to the public, including an estimated 19 million pages of federal court documents from the PACER case-law system.

“Information is power. But like all power, there are those who want to keep it for themselves,” Swartz wrote in an online “manifesto” dated 2008.

“The world’s entire scientific and cultural heritage, published over centuries in books and journals, is increasingly being digitized and locked up by a handful of private corporations. … sharing isn’t immoral — it’s a moral imperative. Only those blinded by greed would refuse to let a friend make a copy,” he wrote.

That belief – that information should be shared and available for the good of society – prompted Swartz to found the nonprofit group DemandProgress.

The group led a successful campaign to block a bill introduced in 2011 in the U.S. House of Representatives called the Stop Online Piracy Act.

The bill, which was withdrawn amid public pressure, would have allowed court orders to curb access to certain websites deemed to be engaging in illegal sharing of intellectual property.

Swartz and other activists objected on the grounds it would give the government too many broad powers to censor and squelch legitimate Web communication.

But Swartz faced trouble in July 2011, when he was indicted by a federal grand jury of wire fraud, computer fraud and other charges related to allegedly stealing millions of academic articles and journals from a digital archive at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

According to the federal indictment, Swartz – who was a fellow at Harvard University’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics – used MIT’s computer networks to steal more than 4 million articles from JSTOR, an online archive and journal distribution service.

JSTOR did not press charges against Swartz after the digitized copies of the articles were returned, according to media reports at the time.

Swartz, who pleaded not guilty to all counts, faced 35 years in prison and a $1 million fine if convicted. He was released on bond. His trial was scheduled to start later this year.

‘HARSH ARRAY OF CHARGES’

In a statement released Saturday, the family and partner of Swartz praised his “brilliance” and “profound” commitment to social justice, and struck out at what they said were decisions made at MIT and by prosecutors that contributed to his death.

“Aaron’s death is not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach,” the statement said.

“The U.S. Attorney’s office pursued an exceptionally harsh array of charges, carrying potentially over 30 years in prison, to punish an alleged crime that had no victims,” it added.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s office said they wanted to respect the family’s privacy and did “not feel it is appropriate to comment on the case at this time.” MIT could not be reached for comment

Swartz’s funeral is scheduled for Tuesday in Highland Park, Illinois. On Saturday, online tributes to Swartz flooded across cyberspace.

“Aaron had an unbeatable combination of political insight, technical skill and intelligence about people and issues,” Doctorow, co-editor of the weblog Boing Boing, wrote on the site.

Doctorow wrote that Swartz had “problems with depression for many years.”

Swartz also played a role in building the news-sharing website Reddit, but left the company after it was acquired by Wired magazine owner Conde Nast. Recalling that time of his life, Swartz described his struggles with dark feelings.

In an online account of his life and work, Swartz said he became “miserable” after going to work at the San Francisco offices of Wired after Reddit was acquired.

“I took a long Christmas vacation,” he wrote. “I got sick. I thought of suicide. I ran from the police. And when I got back on Monday morning, I was asked to resign.”

Tim Berners-Lee, who is credited as the most important figure in the creation of the World Wide Web, commemorated Swartz in a Twitter post on Saturday.

“Aaron dead,” he wrote. “World wanderers, we have lost a wise elder. Hackers for right, we are one down. Parents all, we have lost a child. Let us weep.”

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles and P.J. Huffstutter in Chicago; Editing by Colleen Jenkins, Doina Chiacu and Philip Barbara)

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Meals From Here

Surprisingly quite a bit of meat in the Boise Rescue Mission’s goolash tonight. I scarfed it down quickly, though; the snow was getting deep outside and I had a long ways to go on my bicycle. Sure breaks the heart to see the women and children in that place…all that cold outside…and not even a dessert cookie the guys could give to the kids.

Meals From Here

New Year’s Day evening meal wasn’t the purtiest thing as you can see. It did have turkey, though, and it was a warm refuge out of the biting cold, so I certainly wasn’t complaining. I got there at 6:40 pm when they were giving their bible service…some guy ranting about apocalypse and conspiracy…and used the time to get feeling back in my fingers and toes till chow. New Year’s Day chow with no cookie…unfortunately.

Meals From Here

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Not such a special post Christmas dinner tonite…but the potato-corn stew did have some dumplings.  Doughy not fluffy; but still not too bad.  The greens had a decent vinegerete and there was that chewy piece of bread to sop up with.  No dessert cookie this time, though…and then we heard a “Chew it long cause they’s no seconds tonite, people!!!”  Oh joy, I guess we’re back to the same-ol’ same-ol’ prison fare here…   It sure was heartbreaking seeing some of the children leaving the place on their little bikes in that biting cold, though.  And especially with not one frickin’ cookie with that meatless meal!  Y’ know, I don’t think folks mind grown men being uncomfortably hungry in the cold because they’re men…and so they wouldn’t get scared like kids would down inside.   And, since men tend to be resourceful, they can always find a better place…even if it means digging a hole…or even committing robbery and warming up in the prison hole!!  Call me old fashioned, but I just don’t like kids anywhere near prisons (which I think the Mission actually is what with all the P.O. oversite and parolees there…). Furthermore, I think there oughta be a law where children (and their moms and/or dads, of course) aren’t forced to be here and can get to be in a decent hotel with clean new rooms.  And, if it’s on Christmas, by God also a tree would have to be there with presents!!!  Christmas is for the kids…first…and then we get to be second if we’re lucky enough to watch them be happy. And it only costs a cookie or two. They laugh and smile so easy…but down to the Boise Rescue Mission it’ll just break your heart.

Meals From Here

wpid-img_1356607656751.jpgHey, also a big shout-out to Occupy Boise and Pizza Hut Pizza for the free pizza at Corpus Christi Sanctuary today!!!  I’d say maybe 125-150 folks there got 2-3 pieces each.  Boy howdy, it was packed!  And lots of bread sticks, too!  Really a great treat on such a cold gray day…and really great to see the Occupy folks again, too!!  (So far, that makes Old Chicago Pizza, Occupy Boise, and Pizza Hut as the only ones I saw who made sure folks got a special treat for Christmas here in Boise…other than the Mission and church meals this past week, of course.)  Merry Christmas everyone and hope you all have a Happy New Year!!!

Meals From Here

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Christmas Day, and I’m giving a big shout-out to Old Chicago Pizza for handing out free pizza to folks!  I only happened to hear about this last night from Patty at the Mission; and so I’d determined to pedal on in for somewhere to go today.  To give you an idea of the turnout, they’d been serving since 9:00 am (it wasn’t widely publicized, by the way) and so when I got there with just a half hour left to go (at 2:30) this pic shows you the line.  Mind you, it was quite cold with a biting wind, a school bus full of children was just filling back up to leave, and there were still many small children huddled in line against their mothers; so the scene struck me as quite poignant on such a cold gray Christmas Day.  And especially with downtown Boise otherwise so completely closed and deserted.  Well, I skipped the idea of pizza for myself–instead claiming a tangerine someone had left behind on one of the concrete sidewalk plant pots–and pedaled first over to Corpus Christi’s sanctuary, then up around Boise’s Hyde Park, and then back downtown–again looking for a warm place to duck into until dinner time at the Rescue Mission.  Once back into town I found refuge at The Cruz coffee shop (which the owner had just opened up on a lark), had a pleasant conversation with him on ideas for invigorating traffic–like bike parking inside, etc.–and then I headed over to the Misson.  Christmas dinner turned out to be really pretty good: lots of meat (I’m guessing shredded turkey), leafy salad, green beans, spuds and gravy, and plus I lucked into two deserts since the guy across from me didn’t want his.  I also had a fun conversation with the same guy who I’d just seen at Corpus (a big fellow who’d helped Patty reach up and unstring two dozen Christmas stockings she’d knitted and hung for the kids) and so I’ve got to say I’ve had a pretty memorable Christmas Day.  I think it says a lot when a lonely old fudger like myself can put together a Christmas Day for himself with just a bike, coffee money, and a camera phone.  I personally consider that pretty memorable.  Merry Christmas everyone and may God bless!Christmas Day Mission Meal

Meals From Here

Great meal! And also some great company w/Patty there, too! She’s w/the Occupy Boise group (she was a main Vigil keeper all last winter) and has become pretty important to the street people now. Her big brown van is usually parked nearby and available as a quick place to warm up in an emergency–often somewhere near the Sanctuary or Corpus Christi–and she always tries to be a mother to those in need. Well, anyway, during our talk there together she happened to recount to me how at age eleven, as a native american child (Nez Perce/Shawnee), she was sold into marriage to some white guy who later died in Vietnam. Wow, really quite a revelation I thought! And, boy, how times have changed! But, then again, that’s Patty’s personal way with folks. We were both due to get to know each other a bit better, and I think with her depth of life experience and understanding she was reaching out the hand of friendship real nice there. Big-hearted and quick-witted, I always enjoy seeing Patty…and, hey, all that chocolate frosting on my lucky corner piece of cake I got was nothing compared to her company this evening! Really a great meal and great companionship down at the soup kitchen tonight!

Dinner at Mission 12-15-12

Dinner at Mission 12-15-12

Patty at Dinner 12-15-12

Patty at Dinner 12-15-12