Swapping language skills and making friends for travel…

From the Guardian (with bonus traditional Gruaniad typos, I’ve corrected the URLs below and emailed the editor): Going local in Colombia, a story with some really good links to sites where you can swap language skills, as well as great reason to try it:

I met Luz Marina in London through Gumtree.com, a classified ads site most commonly used for job adverts and house lets, but with less well-known branches for making travel contacts and swapping skills (namely languages). [The direct link for London is http://www.gumtree.com/london/language-tuition_546_1.html] It was the latter that brought Luz Marina and me together.
She became my temporary Spanish teacher and we had a month of conversation practice across numerous London bars and cafes until she went back to Colombia.
Now, one year on, we’re driving around Bogotá together, having lunch in the bohemian Usaquén district and sipping coffee around stylish Parque 93.
It’s not a scenario I would have predicted, but I imagine language lessons have produced many more long-distance friendships. It’s certainly become an increasingly popular thread, with Thai, Russian and Turkish just some of the languages currently offered in exchange for conversation with native English speakers. (See also friendsabroad.com and www.voxswap.com.)
Next week, I hope to take the same concept on the road and use www.mylanguageexchange.com to combine Spanish lessons with seeing Cartagena, Colombia’s colonial gem on the Caribbean coast. Cristobal’s profile says if I meet him he’ll be my “best friend in the whole world”. I’m slightly scared by this level of enthusiasm, but my curiosity about the man behind such a statement is too great to resist.

UK ISPs and ‘Phorm’ issue goes on… is it illegal?

BBC: ‘Illegal’ ad system scrutinised

Technical analysis of the Phorm online advertising system has reinforced an expert’s view that it is “illegal”.
The analysis was done by Dr Richard Clayton, a computer security researcher at the University of Cambridge.
What Dr Clayton learned while quizzing Phorm about its system only convinced him that it breaks laws designed to limit unwarranted interception of data.

Clive James says lots of sensible things about privacy

Clive James on privacy for the BBC:

“to the contention that nothing is private for the prominent, shouldn’t we be saying that privacy is for everyone, and not just for you and me?
To say that, however, you have to believe in private life as a value. I think most of us still do, although it may very well be true that a private life is becoming impossible to lead. But just because it’s fading from existence doesn’t mean that it was never vital.

To live in society at all, we have to keep a reservoir of private thoughts, which, whether wisely or unwisely, we share only with intimates. This sharing of private thoughts is called private life.
Until recently, the concept of private life was basic to civilisation. Its value could be measured by the thoroughness with which totalitarian states and religions always did their best to stamp it out. But now we have to face the possibility that the latest stage of civilisation might also be trying to stamp it out.
You can still keep your thoughts to yourself – nobody has yet invented a machine that can get into your head and broadcast what it finds – but if you try to communicate those private thoughts to anyone else you run an increasing risk that they will be communicated to everyone.

Pinching private phone calls and e- mails ought to be a crime, but somehow it isn’t. And it probably won’t be. There are too many laws as it is; too many of the new laws are useless; and a law against printing anything you can find would probably be seen as an infringement of free speech, even though the unrestricted theft of private messages amounts to an infringement of free speech anyway.

Geoffrey Robertson in his own words

The historic apology offered by prime minister Kevin Rudd to the “stolen generations” was a crucial step for Australia, as Richard Flanagan wrote on these pages this week. But it does not make amends for the role played by the British in the destruction and degradation of the Aboriginal race. Initially soldiers, convicts and settlers killed Aborigines as if they were animals threatening the crops. Later, in the 20th century, Fabian socialists provided the intellectual justification for the eugenics policy that led to the stolen generations scandal.
The British exterminated the entire tribe of Tasmanian aborigines, leaving only 40 survivors who were herded off their land and placed on an offshore island gulag. The governor’s wife led the hunt for their skulls to decorate London mantelpieces. At least there was a parliamentary inquiry, which reported in 1836 that “not a single native now remains upon Van Dieman’s land … the adoption of any conduct, having for its avowed or secret object the extermination of the native race, could not fail to leave an indelible stain upon the British government”. That “indelible stain” was, a century later, termed “genocide”.

Go read the rest in the Guardian.

Is Britain being a tad hypocritical?

Brits refuse to say sorry

Britain has been urged by prominent human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson to endorse an apology delivered by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd because English intellectuals had inspired the policy of seizing the children.
But the British Government is refusing to follow Mr Rudd’s lead in saying sorry to the stolen generations.
“The apology offered in the Australian Parliament is a matter for the Australian people and addresses laws and policies of successive Australian parliaments and governments,” a British Foreign Office spokeswoman said.
Mr Robertson has argued Britain bore a “heavy historic responsibility” for the stolen generations and should apologise.

Where do they think white Australia came from? Who were they before they were ‘Australians’, and under which government did it all begin?