Tibet petition

I got this from my friend Ashley (who rarely sends this kind of thing I might add) via email and I think it’s worth supporting/promoting:

I just signed an urgent petition calling on the Chinese government to respect human rights in Tibet and engage in meaningful dialogue with the Dalai Lama. This is really important, and I thought you might want to take action.

After nearly 50 years of Chinese rule, the Tibetans are sending out a global cry for change. But violence is spreading across Tibet and neighbouring regions, and the Chinese regime is right now considering a choice between increasing brutality or dialogue, that could determine the future of Tibet and China.

We can affect this historic choice. China does care about its international reputation. Its economy is totally dependent on “Made in China” exports that we all buy, and it is keen to make the Olympics in Beijing this summer a celebration of a new China that is a respected world power.

President Hu needs to hear that ‘Brand China’ and the Olympics can succeed only if he makes the right choice. But it will take an avalanche of global people power to get his attention. Click below to join me and sign a petition to President Hu calling for restraint in Tibet and dialogue with the Dalai Lama — and tell absolutely everyone you can right away. The petition is organized by Avaaz, and they are urgently aiming to reach 1 million signatures to deliver directly to Chinese officials.

Thank you so much for your help!

Email Standards Project

I originally posted this on the d.eskimo blog, but a glitch has meant the post isn’t currently up, so I’m reposting here in the interim… Update: it’s back live again

It’s been shown in a number of studies that HTML emails perform better than equivalent plain-text emails, so as a design agency we are often called upon by our clients to create HTML templates to support their online communications activities.

It seems like a simple task – create a newsletter design based on the website – a couple of hours work, maybe? Unfortunately, the task is deceptively difficult…

Owing in large part to the state of HTML support, and standards/CSS support, in the various popular email clients (software) that we typically need to support. Such clients include Hotmail, Windows Live Mail, Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, Outlook 2003 (and Express), Apple Mail, Mozilla Thunderbird, and more. And many of those are browser-based, meaning even further quirks on the basis of which browser the client is used in.

For those of us that have been working on the web for some time, the different compatibility issues that exist between clients is reminiscent of the dark days before web standards support improved dramatically (even with Internet Explorer’s issues). So far designers have been limited to clunky table-based layouts, deprecated font tags, and other “hacks” which result in very difficult to maintain HTML code. And they’re forced to do an enormous amount of testing to check under a myriad of circumstances.

All in all, this adds many $$ for our clients. And in our business, where we’re supporting a number of non-profit clients, this can be really frustrating – for us and, we suspect, our clients.

Our friends at Freshview, who have created two excellent web-based email list management tools in Campaign Monitor and MailBuild, have done the design community a valuable service by documenting support for standards in a variety of email clients. Things were looking better, until…

David at Freshview noted recently on the Campaign Monitor blog that the launch of Outlook 2007, far from improving matters, significantly degraded support for HTML in what is one of the most popular email clients, especially in the corporate world.

So, they decided, it was time for action. And thus began the Email Standards Project (which also has a Facebook group, of course). Similarly to the push for better browser support for web standards that kicked off during the dark ages of the browser wars (gee – sounds like something out of Star Wars!?), the Email Standards Project aims to establish a core set of standards that the design community wants supported, and then will encourage email client vendors to support these standards.

And of course, once those core set of requirements are supported, then we’ll move on to secondary requirements etc. 😉

The Project’s website is launching today – so keep an eye on it to see how the campaign develops, and how you can help…

Not with our money

Not with our money

You may have noticed, like I have, just how many government ads have been on telly the past few months. It’s a long running trend – starting some years ago.

These ads bug me on a number of levels, but I have often wondered just how much public money (our money) is being spent on what often amounts to little more than propaganda for the government’s (mostly unpopular) policies.

GetUp have just launched a campaign that puts the figure at $2 billion since the government took office – $200,000 of that this year.

Yep, you read that right – $2 billion! GetUp claim that that works out to be around $1 million a day.

This is what GetUp are asking for:

GetUp is calling for the introduction of a new law that ensures that:

  1. All future government advertising costs (from focus groups to media buying) are publicly available and easily accessible to the community via an annual report
  2. All advertising above $250,000 is to be approved by an independent auditor who applies strict guidelines to limit advertising to the dissemination of public information
  3. These guidelines are to be developed with public consultation with the final guidelines to be publicly available
  4. These conditions to apply in both the federal and state governments within 1 year
  5. A cap of $100 million p.a for total government advertising spending is to be imposed with any additional money to be approved by parliament.

The $100 million cap even seems high to me – I’m amazed that rules like this don’t already exist. Time we had some methinks…

Free Burma!

International bloggers are taking action on 4th October to support the peaceful revolution in Burma. We want to set a sign for freedom and show our sympathy for these people who are fighting their cruel regime without weapons. Bloggers will refrain from posting to their blogs on October 4, except for one banner with the title “Free Burma!”.

Free Burma

APEC

APEC Fence - Sydney Indymedia

I keep thinking about the events this weekend here in Sydney as APEC takes hold. There are posters around the city proclaiming “21 world leaders, 1 great city”. Before last week I joked with friends saying it should read “21 world leaders, 1 police state”. After seeing the overkill of police presence in our fair city, it’s unfortunately no joke.

It kind of struck home when I saw a police bus in the city – they’re literally shipping in police – and then saw a bevy of about 30 police at railway square “protecting” us from about 30 odd peaceful protesters. It was ridiculous.

I thought to myself that with all this focus on “security”, there must be gaping holes there. I mean – we had fighter planes and helicopters circling the city, thousands of extra police. Streets closed, transport services canceled. Simply ridiculous.

So I cheered out loud when I saw what the Chasers pulled off. I was watching TV late on Thursday night when I saw it. Priceless.

As it turns out, the Chasers didn’t even know they were in the restricted zone and voluntarily gave themselves up. Puts lie to Alexander Downer’s smug comment that “they were caught weren’t they?”.

What was even more ridiculous is the media feigning indignity about the Chaser’s pranks. Makes me want to support them even more…

After the stunt, the Chinese president Hu Jintao has called for increased security, and Channel Ten then trotted out a line about protests by “the religious cult” Falun Dafa.

Wittingly or unwittingly, I’m not sure which, Channel Ten became party to the Chinese government’s propaganda machine. Falun Dafa is not a cult, but the government uses those terms as justification for imprisoning and torturing Falun Gong practitioners in China. If only it was as unexpected as it was disgusting to hear such rubbish in the mainstream press.

But as a friend pointed out the other day – what does Hu Jintao think they’re going to do – meditate him to death or something? This is a religion founded on the principles of “Truthfulness, Benevolence, Forbearance”. No wonder the Chinese government, which practices none of these, is scared.

The Australian government, and the media, have been painting the protesters as violent and unruly. Most protests in this country, unlike protests overseas, are peaceful. Where violence has occurred, it’s usually been at the hand of a small isolated group, easily contained. There was never any chance of protests turning as violent as those in say, Genoa or Seattle.

But, of course, the government has to demonstrate it’s “tough on terror” – has to assure world leaders that Australia is secure. What better way to demonstrate that than to not lock the city down, to let it operate as it usually does. It seems, we have to see an unprecedented turnout of police.

One argument that I’ve overheard is that security forces had intel on an attack – that it’s because of this security that something bigger didn’t occur. But with such lax security that the Chasers can make it to outside Bush’s hotel without being detected, I find it hard to believe that the emphasis on security this past week is what stopped an attack…

The (big) question that remains unasked in the coverage I’ve seen is what, exactly, are the protesters protesting? The media’s penchant for plainly painting them as “anti-globalisation” protesters masks a plethora of reasons behind the civil disobedience.

From human rights abuses in Russia and China, to the attacks on civil liberties here in Australia, to the devastating (for Iraqi civilians) and mishandled war on Iraq – there are reasons aplenty. But none of those issues made it to the headlines.

(As an aside, I heard at an Amnesty International event that the Chinese government displaced over 1,000 of its own people, without remuneration or repatriation, just to construct the Olympic swimming complex – and that’s just one of the many abuses that have taken place in the lead-up to the Games that were won on the back of a “human rights” message.)

No – it’s not the dangerous men behind closed doors making deals that we’re being warned about. It’s those dangerous, nasty, evil protesters. It’s those people with a conscience that are exercising their rights of free speech – they’re the ones we need to be afraid of.

If it wasn’t so ominous, it would be hilarious. If this is the future, I think we need to turn the car around…

Update: A fascinating Flickr slideshow of the protests to give some sense of the overkill. I also forgot to mention that police stopped anyone from leaving Hyde Park for over an hour – including families with kids – during the protests.

Update 2: NewMatilda.com also has another piece on APEC (from which I grabbed the photo).

Gunns kraft mill

NewMatilda.com have a good overview of the issues with kraft mills like that proposed by Gunns.

The Federal environment minister has announced that their open to comment on the grounds of the EPBC act – I got the email announcing this in my email today – 2 days before the due date (and with no link to the actual page for comment). Methinks they don’t actually want comment, but I digress…

GetUp are running a petition opposing the mill (I’m a signatory).

China: the world is watching forum

Got this via email today. I’m going – anyone else interested in coming along?

We’re pleased to invite you to “China: The World is Watching”, presented by the Amnesty International (Australia) Business Group, on Wednesday 5 September.

The forum, featuring Sophie Peer from Amnesty International and Gordon Renouf from the Australian Consumers Association, will detail the risks and opportunities which Australians may face in doing business in China. Speakers will outline an “ethical consumption” viewpoint on goods consumed in Australia from China. The session will outline the human rights situation in China and the repression caused by the actions of international IT companies. The obligation that China now has to be more transparent and the opportunity to improve human rights presented by the Beijing Olympics will be highlighted.

The details:

  • Date and Time: Wednesday 5 September 2007, 6.30pm to 8pm
  • Location: Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts, Level 1, 280 Pitt St Sydney
  • Format: Q&A and drinks follow our speakers
  • Cost: Entry by voluntary donation, $10 suggested
  • Lucky door prize: 2 nights accommodation at your choice of 25 deluxe Mantra Resorts nationwide, courtesy of Stella Hospitality Group
  • RSVP: By email to nswaia@amnesty.org.au or register at the door