Slavery: The 27+ Million

I’m sure most of you by now have been made aware of this new movement called ‘KONY 2012’. For the sake of keeping things short, i’m going to assume you’ve already heard about it and watched the video… so here is what I would like to append to the conversation:

There is no doubt that we can all agree the cause behind the ‘KONY 2012’ movement is a good one. All of us want to see freedom for those who are enslaved. My first reaction to viewing this video was to share it- I think a lot of people did the same. It wasn’t until I did a little more research about where a non-profit organizations income goes, that I was a bit shocked and realized how naive I was. Only 31% of InvisibleChildren’s (the charity behind ‘KONY 2012’) income goes to fighting actual slavery. The other 69% goes to company expenses, and InvisibleChildren is primarily about awareness programs and products. Basically, if I’m going to contribute even $10, less than $3.10 will make it to the actual cause.

In the beginning of this year, I attended the Passion Conference in Atlanta, GA, where we (42,000, 18-25 year-olds) also raised awareness for slavery. Believe it or not, there are actually over 27 million slaves that exist in the world today. During the three days of the conference, we contributed a total of over $3.1 million to fund other organizations for recovery/counseling of victims, prevention programs and education, as well as rescue missions. Since we are all aware of what actually might be going on outside of our country, it isn’t going to be the best use of our money to fund more awareness. Each of us have our own voice- shout! If  you are going to donate or support any organization, you should be supporting those who will deal with the cause directly. Above all, remember that it’s not always just about putting your money in the basket, sometimes it’s your personal awakening that this is something God has called you to dedicate your life towards.

If you really want to fight against slavery- to fight for all 27 million- and become a part of the real movement, here are some things you can do in addition to spreading the word:

  • SlaveryFootprint.org – How many slaves work for you? There are 27 million slaves in the world today. Many of them contribute to the supply chains that end up in the products we use every day. Find out how many slaves work for you, and take action.
  • 72 Days for Freedom -For 72 days we are putting modern day slavery front and center and calling everyone, everywhere to action. We invite you to join the fight and become a modern day abolitionist. Together we are a force for good.
  • A21 Campaign – The A21 Campaign is a non-profit organisation, principally engaged in the abolishment of human injustice in the 21st Century, with particular emphasis on abolishing human trafficking- modern day slavery.
  • International Justice Mision – A human rights organization that rescues victims of violence, sexual exploitation, slavery and oppression. IJM documents and monitors conditions of abuse and oppression, educates the church and public about the abuses and mobilizes intervention on behalf of victims.
  • Not For Sale – Equips and mobilizes Smart Activists to re-abolish slavery — in their own backyards and across the globe. Not For Sale believes every individual has a skill they can contribute to fight human trafficking, and together we can end slavery in our lifetime.
  • Restore International – Our goal is simple: to fight injustice. Restore International seeks to find daring and audacious ways to combat human rights violations, including forced prostitution and slave labor. Instead of just talking about it, we want to be actively seeking ways to bring hope, justice, and restoration.
  • Hagar International – An international Christian organisation dedicated to the protection, recovery and community integration of survivors of human rights abuse; particularly human trafficking, gender-based violence and sexual exploitation. We serve individual women and children regardless of religion, political preference, ethnicity, race, or sexual orientation, and do whatever it takes for as long as it takes to restore life in all its fullness.
  • Tiny Hands International – Committed to identifying the greatest injustices in the world and working towards bringing relief to those who live under its oppression.  We are particularly called to orphans, street children, women’s empowerment and those threatened by, or victims of the sex-trafficking industry.

Celebrating Something Special

While most people may see today only as day of exchanging gifts, spending time with family, or football, it is really about something infinitely greater. Today, we celebrate the birth of Jesus and the fact that he walked on this earth as the only perfect human being. He suffered and died on a cross to give us hope that we may one day rise again, forgiven for all that we have done wrong, to live in eternity.

When you realize what this means, you will find that no Christmas present can even compare to this gift from God.

In light of this, when you may have to deal with unfavorable relatives… keep this verse in mind:

Love for Enemies

“But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back. Do to others as you would like them to do to you.”

“If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them! And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much! And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return.”

“Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.”

– Luke 6:27-36

When it may seem hard to extend a hand or love those around you, remember this and share your love. When you do, your reward will be overwhelming.

Merry Christmas!

Encryption and You

In the past, i’ve wrote about internet anonymityFacebook account hijacking, and i’ve briefly touched on password security (revision coming soon). Today we’re going to be talking about message encryption and why it is important to you.

As you should already be aware, Facebook stores more information about you than you even know about yourself. They collect personal information in at-least 57 categories, including all chat conversations you’ve ever had on Facebook. While Facebook may do a good job safeguarding this data, there is always the possibility of your account being hacked. Most people will find themselves having more than generic conversations on Facebook, and even though it may be convenient to have every previous conversation right at your fingertips (which are automatically stored in a history on Facebook), when your account ends up in the wrong hands you can say good-bye to privacy.

A solution to this issue has already been proposed in Ian Goldberg’s paper, Off-the-Record Communication, or, Why Not To Use PGP, so instead of rephrasing Ian’s article, I am going to summarize it (for your convenience), expand upon it, and then demonstrate implementation of off-the-record (OTR) communication with Facebook Chat. Finally, I will add a few concluding remarks, suggestions, and provide additional resources for learning.

The Basics, and a brief summary of OTR Communication, or, Why Not To Use PGP

The goal is simple:

The notion of an off-the-record conversation well-captures the semantics one intuitively wants from private communication: only the two parties involved are privy to the contents of the conversation; after the conversation is over, no one (not even the parties involved) can produce a transcript; and although the participants are assured of each other’s identities, neither they nor anyone else can prove this information to a third party. (Goldberg 2)

OTR provides:

  • Encryption – Messages will be encrypted (no one else can read your messages)
  • Authentication – You are sure the message is coming from the person you are conversing with.
  • Deniability – No one can prove you sent a message, however, your correspondant trusts you enough that any message sent by you is authentic.
  • Perfect Forward Secrecy (PFS) – If you lose a private key a message was encrypted with, no previous conversation is compromised.

If you would like to initiate an OTR conversation with a friend, all you need to do is initiate an encrypted chat and subsequently they should verify your fingerprint.

Fingerprint – A form of authentication that consists of 40 letters/numbers that let you identify an OTR user.

If you’d like to read more about OTR fingerprints (which, you should), check it out at cypherpunks.ca.

Why OTR with Facebook Chat?

When going OTR with Facebook Chat, you are provided the added benefits of OTR (encryption, authentication, deniability, and PFS) with the convenience of chatting with friends on Facebook. Although these messages will still be archived, they will only appear as encrypted messages and Facebook will never be able to view them. It is also important to note- an OTR conversation is only established when users on both sides of the conversation are capable of going OTR.

Before we get started…

Unfortunately, this process can’t be any more streamlined than what I am about to explain to you. I will now break down the next section into multiple parts- you only need to read the section that corresponds to the operating system you use.

Setting up OTR with Facebook Chat (on Windows/Linux)

To get chatting with OTR on Windows requires you to download an IM client that supports the XMPP protocol, as well as the OTR plugin. For the sake of this guide, I would suggest using Pidgin (for alternatives, see the Additional Resources section).

  1. Download and install the latest version of Pidgin @ pidgin.im.
  2. Upon starting Pidgin, add a new account- choosing the Facebook protocol. Enter your Facebook username and password.
    Note: Your username will not be the email address you log into Facebook with. If you are unsure of it, go to the General Account Settings and it will appear under ‘Username’.
  3. After adding, Pidgin will automatically try to log you in. If you are prompted to accept a SSL certificate, do so.
  4. Now, download and install the latest version of the OTR plugin for Pidgin @ cypherpunks.ca.
  5. Enable OTR by navigating to Tools > Plugins (CTRL+U) in Pidgin and checking the box to enable “Off-the-Record Messaging”.
  6. Generate a fingerprint for yourself by double clicking “Off-the-Record Messaging” plugin and click “Generate”. Once generated, be sure “Enable private messaging” and “Automatically initiate private messaging” are checked. From now on when you want to chat on Facebook, use Pidgin!

How to initiate an OTR conversation?

From the OTR menu at the top of the message window to your buddy, request to ‘Start private conversation’. Once a private conversation has been initiated, be sure to authenticate your buddy via fingerprint or question. Granted they properly authenticate, you should now be notified the private conversation is in effect.

Setting up OTR with Facebook Chat (on Mac)

To get chatting with OTR support on Mac only requires the popular IM client, Adium. Alternatives to Adium are available in the Additional Resources section.

  1. Download and install the latest version of Adium @ adium.im.
  2. Adium will run a setup assistant upon its first run. Choose to use Jabber as the service. Your Jabber ID will be username@chat.facebook.com and your password will be the one you use for Facebook. (ie. tom321@chat.facebook.com)
    Note: Your username will not be the email address you log into Facebook with. If you are unsure of it, go to the General Account Settings and it will appear under ‘Username’.
  3. For the most part, we’re setup. Fortunately, Adium comes with OTR support out of the box. Lets make sure OTR is automatically initiated as well as generate our fingerprint… In the Adium menu, go to ‘Preferences…’. (CMD+ ,). Double click your Facebook account, go to the Privacy tab, and be sure the encryption drop-down box is set to “Encrypt chats automatically”.
  4. Next, go to the Advanced tab, choose Encryption (on the sidebar), select your Facebook account from the drop-down box and click ‘Generate’. From now on when you want to chat on Facebook, use Adium!

How to initiate an OTR conversation?

Start a conversation with a friend (ie. me: “hey! lets go OTR.”). With the message window in focus, navigate to Contact > Encryption > ‘Initiate Encrypted OTR Chat’. Upon acceptance of your OTR proposal, you should then request verification of your buddy’s fingerprint by navigating to Contact > Encryption > ‘Verify…’. Once authenticated, happy private chatting!

Conclusion

Unfortunately, most people stay on-the-record because the convenience of chatting through facebook.com. For those who would like to support added privacy, I would highly suggest moving towards an IM client that supports OTR.

Additional Resources

Listed below are a few resources that may help you gain additional knowledge about OTR.

Beuteiful Grade Policy

In an effort to express my dissatisfaction with grading policies and to provide a continuation to my Unjust Academia article, I have appended to it my policy on grades:

  1. I will not accept a poor or otherwise inaccurate/dissatisfactory grade.
  2. I will continue to express my displeasure with your department and unjust grading policy honestly/openly.
  3. I will always request reconsideration for each assignment that has been graded thereof.

As a college student, I hope that my policy may inspire you to not simply accept grades that you feel are an inaccurate representation of the efforts you have put-forth in any class.

Unjust Academia

Here’s something to ponder: college. It is an artificial environment where we are expected to learn a given amount of information in a finite amount of time. We are graded solely on our ability to do this, and if the material doesn’t happen to “sink in” until after the semester is over then you can kiss that A+ good-bye. We are expected to know how to perform certain tasks- like how to read a book analytically or write persuasively. Throughout most of our pre-college years, we spend a good amount of time in English class trying to hone some of these skills by reading novels and short stories from many renowned authors. Not necessarily does all of this preparation help in the least bit, because I made to college, yet I still can not write even a “B quality” literature analysis paper. I can not comprehend any of the stories I am assigned to read, and when I try to read them I start to feel physically ill.

Let me make a quick segue to help put my situation in your perspective. What is something that really interests you? Are you passionate about it? Are you better at it than most of your peers? Let’s say you are an amazing artist- the Michelangelo of 2011! You share your paintings with your peers and they respond, “Wow, I don’t think i’ll ever be able to paint as good as you!” Great. Now you see where I’m coming from.

With that mentality in mind, I could bet money that, if I were to approach a humanities professor with a highly involved technical task (hmm, lets say… reassembling sniffed packets into a data file), I would receive the same response your friend gave you. In fact, if I assigned them that task and they had no way of learning how to solve it then you can imagine how frustrating it would be; it might even make you feel sick.

To be continued…

Anonymity and You

With the way things are in the world today (see: photo identification, online security doesn’t exist), it’s your best bet to re-evaluate how much of your personal information is accessible online. Let’s get something straight before we get into the nitty gritty:

Personal information consists of any information that pertains to ‘YOU’. This could be your name, address, age, location, photos of you, etc. (The list goes on…)

Maintaining your identity on the internet can be a challenge, especially when companies are constantly introducing new changes to their privacy policy. Of course, the best way to stay up to date on privacy policies would be to read them every time a new change is made. Unfortunately, most of the time we are never made aware of these changes until something big happens and they end up in the news. Lo and behold, fear privacy policy changes no more- If you’d like to preserve (or restore) your anonymity on the internet, it’s as simple as limiting the information you share.

Now before we jump to big conclusions, lets test the waters. To do this, perform a quick Google search (web and image) on your name and see how many results show personal information. You might be surprised to see that several third party websites are allowing search engines to index the accounts you’ve linked from Facebook and other networks. This is just to prove a small point- your Facebook privacy settings only extend as far as Facebook.com- and not to the sites you grant access to your profile and information.

Instead of going on-and-on about risk factors, I’ve come up with a list of suggestions on how to wipe your internet identity nearly clean:

  • Stop contributing personal information to the internet- If you want to continue sharing, do so under an alias / screen name (they were popular in the 90’s).
  • If your name is currently your username on any website, change it! Some websites even have a field for your full name, so be sure to remove it or change it to something made up. (Search engines will re-index the pages over time and your name will disappear from search results).
  • If you are ever required to use your first and last name on a website (Facebook, for example)… then make one up! You’re probably safe using your real first name, but make up a last name! No one has to know it isn’t your real last name except you and your friends.
  • Delete any publicly available personal information from search results. For example: Google your name, visit each result, and remove any posts or data that links back to you. Facebook groups and fan pages are often public and many times will index comments or posts you have written.
  • If you come across any accounts you no longer access, try to gain access back into them and delete them. Many websites give you the option to deactivate or delete your account completely.
  • Search for your name and address under Whitepages and remove any listings with your information.
  • Create a new email for strictly personal use. You should only use this email for communication between people you know or trust. Use another email address for every newsletter you subscribe to or website you join. This alternative email should not have any personal information. (Tip! A first name is as personal as the internet should get.)
  • Explore the privacy settings and policies found on websites you frequent. Be sure to limit information to “Friends only” or “Circles only” and always opt out of indexing yourself in search results.

This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of basic anonymity. If you want to protect yourself even further, you’ll need to dig much deeper into the internet and scavenge your personal information.

The Forbidden Fruit

Here is something to keep in mind: Don’t let yourself get too focused on what you can’t do or can’t have. Open your eyes and enjoy what is already available to you. This is about the story of the forbidden fruit- you can have from any other tree except this one. We often get absorbed in what we can’t do or can’t have, and that controls our lives.

Mother’s Day (Unconditional Love)

“Only when we give joyfully, without hesitation or thought of gain, can we truly know what love means.”

Mother’s Day is a day of celebration and appreciation for all the things our mothers have done for us. As children, they fed us, cleaned up after us, and took care of all our essential needs. Definitely, there is an entire laundry list (ha ha!) of things our mothers have done for us. Sometimes it may seem like a mother’s work goes completely unnoticed, however, Mother’s Day (or any day for that matter!)  is a great day to express your appreciation for all of your mother’s hard work and love.

As newborns, our parents loved us even when we couldn’t verbally communicate that love back. They took care of us, and more importantly- showed us how to love.

Mother’s taught us how to love unconditionally- to love without expecting anything in return. Through my life, I have found that unconditional love is the most genuine kind of love. If you do nothing but love someone for being their-self, you will live a very happy life. Give- without expecting to be repaid.

My friend Keith told me,  “Investments in other people are the best kind of investments to make.”

Love openly and bring happiness to others- expecting nothing in return, and you will find great joy in yourself and your life.

To all mothers- Your hard-work is never overlooked, and your lessons are never forgotten.
Happy Mothers Day!

The 6-Thousand Calorie Quest (Part 2)

Two days ago I posted my calorie consumption log on binge-day.
Today, the results from the 13-hour feast are in!

Before jumping ahead, let me re-affirm my purpose for the excessive food intake for one day. The goal of cheat day was to keep my metabolic rate high by consuming an excess of calories. Additionally, doing so should help me trim off fat- paired with brief muscular contraction (for activation of GLUT-4) should get some of those calories going straight to my muscles.

Here are the results!

Saturday, March 26th, 2011 (the morning of): 164 lbs
Monday, March 28th, 2011 (the morning of): 160 lbs

I successfully lost 4 lbs from Saturday morning -> Monday morning, and not by starving myself either! Side note: Sunday’s meals consisted of my standard low GI foods (eggs, vegetables, beans, chicken).

It’s important to also share that I did not mainly catabolize muscle to lose this weight:

Bodyfat (before/after):  12.8% / 12.4%

So there you have it, a little bit about binge-eating to lose weight! After all, when your on a diet, chances are very likely that you’ll find yourself one point or another downing your favorite treats. Why not do it the right way and use it as a strategy to burn off excessive bodyfat?

The 6-Thousand Calorie Quest (Part 1)

On Monday, I started to pursue a diet in low GI (glycemic index) foods. It has been proven that consuming low GI foods will provide your body with essential nutrition and assist in maintaining (or reaching) a low body-fat composition (Hellooo, Eight-pack!).

In layman’s terms, low glycemic index foods are digested slower than high GI foods, leaving you feeling full for a longer time- essentially allowing you to consume less calories without feeling starved. Personally, I found the most appealing part of the diet to be an allowance of one-day per week that I could consume as much of anything I wanted. Sounds like a deal to me! The goal of this cheat day would be to keep my metabolic rate high by consuming an excess of calories (in comparison to any other day of the week).

Hold up! There are a few ground rules for our “cheat day”:

  1. Start off the day with a moderate meal- high in protein and insoluble fiber.
  2. Consume small quantities of fructose before the second meal (and other high glycemic load meals). (Side note: Fructose is great for near-flat-lining blood glucose levels)
  3. Increase the speed that food exits the stomach. (IE. Through caffeine intake, EGCG (found in green-tea))
  4. Engage in brief muscular contraction. (Side note: This will bring GLUT-4 to the surface of muscle cells, allowing calories to be absorbed into muscle cells instead of turning directly into fat)

So there are the rules, you already know my goal of the day… now here are the results!

9:45 AM
– 1 cup mixed vegetables (105 kcal)
– 1/2 cup lentil beans (115 kcal)
– 2 whole eggs (fried w/ olive oil) (162 kcal)
Total = 382 kcal

11:30 AM
– 10 oz Florida’s Natural Orange Juice (138 kcal)
– 1 glazed donut (260 kcal)
Total = 398 kcal

12:30 AM
– Taylor ham, egg, and cheese on a roll (with salt, pepper, and ketchup) (400 kcal)

2:00 PM
– Glazed apple fritter (400 kcal)
– 12 oz Yerba Mate (5 kcal)
Total = 405 kcal

3:35 PM
– 10 oz Florida’s Natural Orange Juice (138 kcal)
– Chocolate cupcake with peanut butter frosting (550 kcal)
Total = 688 kcal

4:00 PM
– 12 oz Yerba Mate (5 kcal)
–  Milk chocolate bar filled with peanut butter (600 kcal)
Total = 605 kcal

6:45 PM
– 2/3 lb Burger (with bun, bacon, american cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion) (1300 kcal)
– Wedge fries (296 kcal)
– Birch beer / Cream soda (190 kcal)
Total = 1786 kcal

10:00 PM
– 8 oz Florida’s Natural Orange Juice (110 kcal)

10:10 PM
– 12 oz Yerba Mate (5 kcal)
– Sugar coated cake donut (360 kcal)
– Italian bread with 2 tbsp Nutella (290 kcal)
– 3 peanut butter cookies (180 kcal)
Total = 835 kcal

Bringing me to a grand total of… 5,606 calories in ~13 hours!

Now, we just need to add in the moderate exercises performed throughout the day, which, on-average gave us a 200 calorie offset. Terrific! Stay tuned for part 2 (coming Monday)!