Short Takes: News From All Over

Make A FOIA Request
By Staff, People for the American Way
Fears of domestic spying got you nervous? Request information from the federal government using the Freedom of Information Act and this easy-to-follow form created by People for the American Way. Just fill out the form, and the website generates a letter to the FBI requesting all the available information it has and asking the agency to justify any information it leaves out. No guarantees the Bush administration will give you anything useful, but it can’t hurt to ask. (Thanks, MetaFilter.) — Bennett Gordon

Refugee Camp in the Heart of the City
By Staff, Doctors Without Borders
War has forced an estimated 33 million in the world today from their homes. To educate people about the hardships the displaced face, Doctors Without Borders is building a mock refugee camp inside New York City’s Central Park (September 15-17). The exhibit will then move to Brooklyn, New York; Atlanta; and Nashville, Tennessee. (Thanks, New York Sun.) — Bennett Gordon

Ringtones: Changing the World One Ring at a Time
By Jo Lee of CitizenSpeak (via
Last summer, Philippine president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was disgraced by her own voice, in the form of a secretly-recorded phone call in which she discussed plans to fix an election. Distributed by her opposition as a ringtone that was downloaded from more than a million times, a clip from the call rang out across the land and led in part to a public apology from Arroyo for her corruption. US activists copied the tactic after Hurricane Katrina, fashioning a ringtone from President Bush’s ‘Good job, Brownie’ — the ill-advised sound bite of praise for then-FEMA director Michael Brown) — mixed with the Arlo Guthrie tune ‘City of New Orleans.’ According to Jo Lee of CitizenSpeak, more subversive ringtones are still to come. — Leif Utne

The Lit List
By Staff, The Lit List
Following in the tradition of other strangely democratic websites, the Lit List applies the popularity-based list mold to online fiction. Registrants submit links to fiction stories, and then readers give points to the ones they like. The higher the point total, the better the positioning on the website. New writers and old classics are all welcome here. — Bennett Gordon

American Agriculture Increasingly Resembles a Soviet Failure
By George Pyle, Adbusters
During the Cold War, the United States’ independent farmers thrived as the Soviet collective agriculture system failed. Half a century later, it seems like America has adopted the tack of its once mortal foe. US farming is now a centralized force, diminishing open markets and crushing independent farmers in its wake. Take the chicken industry. Fifty percent of the billions of pounds of chicken sold in US supermarkets belong to four companies. The result: Processing firms don’t offer better prices for a better product, incentives for farmers to improve chickens’ health — and get a higher price for them — are nonexistent, and the market is in gridlock. — Kristen Mueller

Self Improvement
By Susan Phillips, Dragonfire
Mexican immigrants in Philadelphia are quadrupling the value of the remittances they send back home. Members of Grupo Ozolco are taking advantage of a Mexican national program that adds three dollars to every dollar an immigrant sends back to the country for a community development project. In this instance, the funds are helping build a high school in the immigrants’ hometown of San Mateo. — Nick Rose

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