Sunday, December 16, 2007

Google takes on Wikipedia with new knowledge service


Google is to go head-to-head with Wikipedia, the web’s largest reference work, in a clash of two of the internet’s most powerful brands, Rhys Blakely of the Times of London reports

A new Google service, dubbed knol, will invite “people who know a particular subject to write an authoritative article about it”, Udi Manber, a Google engineer, said.

Like Wikipedia, articles in knol (the name derives from “knowledge”) will be free to read online. In a departure from the nonprofit Wikipedia model, however, knol’s authors will be able to attach advertising to their work and take a share of revenues.

“The goal is for knols [individual articles] to cover all topics, from scientific concepts to entertainment,” Mr Manber said. The project is the latest to distance Google from its roots in internet search and pitch it against well-established rivals in a new sector. The company recently squared up to the mobile phone industry by unveiling its own operating system for hand-held devices. It is also set to bid for a portion of America’s airwaves that it could use to build a wireless broadband network.

The creation of knol, at present in an invitation-only test phase but likely to be open to the public within months, will set two of the web’s titans against each other.

In October, Wikipedia, which relies on donations for funds, was visited by 107 million people, or a third of the “active global internet population”, according to Nielsen Online, the analyst. That made it the eighth most-visited online destination.

Google’s search engine was the world’s most popular site, with more than 260 million users, although its own reference work, Google Scholar, was only fifteenth in its class, with about 4.5 million users. Google, which says that it exists “to organise the world’s information and make it universally useful and accessible”, suggested that knol was designed to stamp out the malicious entries that have blighted Wikipedia, the online encyclopaedia that “anybody can edit”.

“We believe that knowing who wrote what will significantly help users make better use of web content,” Google said. The company noted that it “will not serve as an editor in any way and will not bless any content. All editorial responsibilities and control will rest with the authors.” Contributors will retain the copyright to their submissions.

However, as well as being ranked by readers, content will be ranked by the Google search engine, which will be the most important access point to the site. Mr Manber said: “A knol is meant to be the first thing someone who searches for this topic for the first time will want to read.”

Jimmy Wales, the Wikipedia founder, who recently launched a rival search engine to Google’s, questioned whether knol would be able to generate enough “quality content”. He also suggested that knol articles would lack balance. “They are not going to allow collaboration and aren’t going to go for Wikipedia’s neutral style,” he said.

Where Wikipedia promotes collaboration between authors, knol looks set to foster rivalry. Contributors to knol will not be able to contribute anonymously and will not be able to edit each other’s work, two defining characteristics of Wikipedia. Whereas on Wikipedia, readers find only one entry on, say, the First World War, on knol authors will submit separate pieces that will compete for advertising dollars.

Wikipedia, founded in 2001, has more than eight million articles in 253 languages, from Afrikaans to Zazaki. In contrast to Google, it has refused to alter its policies to operate in different countries, which has led it to being blocked in states such as China.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The son king - James Murdoch



How will Murdoch fils approach his role as head of News Corp's business in Europe and Asia? Ian Burrell of the Independent reports on how the feisty former BSkyB CEO is apt to face future challenges.

By the time James Murdoch celebrates his 35th birthday on Thursday, he will have his feet under the table at his new office in News International, working on a strategy that is likely to transform the British media landscape for years to come.

His gaze will extend well beyond the Wapping Highway and his decisions will have such far-reaching effects that no competitor, be they in broadcasting, print, new media, telecoms, mobile, or any combination thereof, can afford to ignore them.

Put simply, Rupert's chosen son, starts his first working week today in his new role as the most powerful figure in this country's news media. So it is worth considering his past record to assess his likely impact.

First of all, we know that he is not afraid of a fight. For all his reluctance to do interviews, his apparent wish to be seen as "reclusive", his early-evening departures from social functions and his understated style of dark, tailored suit and plain white shirt, James Murdoch does not covet a quiet life nestling on the inherited laurels of more than $100million-worth (£49million) of News Corporation shares.

No, he has already demonstrated that he has his father's Conquistadorean instincts to seek out, explore and capitalise on new territories, and the old man's tactical nous for outmanoeuvring both commercial opponents and regulatory obstacles in established markets. And he does this with an urbane charm not always associated with the "Dirty Digger".

During three years at the helm of BSkyB, and in spite of all the claims of nepotism when his appointment was announced, James has delivered real results.

The company's stock has risen by 15.7 per cent under his leadership, annual sales have climbed by 24.3 per cent to £3.7billion and profits have more than doubled to £499million – £1.3billion has been returned to shareholders in the past two years.

Having taken charge of a relatively one-dimensional business in pay TV, he has repositioned it as a triple-play, multi-platform player, offering a package of satellite TV, home telephony and broadband. He has pledged that BSkyB will increase its subscribers to 10 million by 2010 and the company, with 8.7 million subscriptions, remains on course to meet that.

When rivals have threatened his position he has responded with the speed and force that one might expect from a black belt in karate. Sir Richard Branson was left shocked and bruised by the young Murdoch's audacious seizure of 17.9 per cent of ITV shares earlier this year, a move which, though it remains under investigation by the Competition Commission, wrecked Virgin's plans for taking control of Britain's biggest commercial broadcaster. That raid was instantly attributed to Rupert, until BSkyB sources went out of their way to stress that the plot had been hatched by James and his finance chief Jeremy Darroch during a flight to Barcelona.

Though he generally avoids the public gaze, he will step forward when there is the opportunity to land a blow. Invited to speak by the broadcasting regulator Ofcom last year, he took the chance to say that the watchdog's attitude was "more at home in Rangoon than in modern Europe", saying it was "authoritarian" and engaged in a "moral and educative crusade". He also denounced Lord Reith, the revered founder of public service broadcasting, as someone with "a pretty firm view of the need to keep the lower classes in their place".

When it was suggested to James that his battles with Virgin, the telecoms sector and the regulators meant fighting on too many fronts, he dismissed the clashes as "isolated skirmishes".

He has been alert to opportunities to present the big beast of BSkyB as the outsider, fighting for the viewer against the self-interest of the broadcasting establishment. He told Management Today earlier this year that the media elite in Soho regarded Sky's outer London headquarters as "a bunch of mud huts out in Osterley". Like Sir Alex Ferguson, James recognises the value of presenting his successful operation as being hard done by and encouraging what he describes as a "challenger culture" among his staff.

When it was announced last week that James would be standing down from his chief executive's role at BSkyB, shares fell by more than 16p (2.7 per cent) during morning trading. Nevertheless he remains involved, taking his father's former position as non-executive chairman, while his ally Darroch steps up to become chief executive.

In his new job, James Murdoch will have responsibility for other large pay TV operations such as Sky Italia and for the Asian satellite empire Star TV. He has already demonstrated to his father his acumen for running the latter, during a spell working in Hong Kong. When he presents his business card he still does so holding it between thumbs and forefingers and making a bow.

But in Britain, observers will be most interested in what plans he has for reinvigorating the national press, of which he will oversee 42 per cent through his control of The Times, The Sunday Times, The Sun and the News of the World.

Some believe that he has little feel for print media. They point to James's earliest experience of newspaper journalism as a schoolboy intern on his father's Sydney Mirror, when a photograph of him asleep during the morning news conference was published in the rival Sydney Morning Herald. Yet James's role will not be to get scoops but to position the business for the digital era, a process which is already well under way at Wapping, notably on The Sun, which already markets itself as a multi-platform proposition.

Much as he sees the value in taking the position of the underdog, James Murdoch is not slow to use the muscle at his disposal. Witness the speed with which he found £940million for that swoop on ITV.

Already there is speculation building that News International could go on to the front foot, using the twin tactics of price-cutting and smart journalistic investment to strike at less well-nourished opponents, such as Trinity Mirror. James Murdoch will be rolling up his tailored sleeves for fresh challenges. This time they could be bloodier than those "isolated skirmishes".

Conrad Black is jailed for 6+ years for fraud


The press tycoon Conrad Black got a lighter sentence than anticipated, but he is looking at half a dozen years of enforced "boredom" behind bars. The Right Honourable
The Lord Black of Crossharbour, PC, OC, KCSG was absolved of racketeering, tax charges and five of the wire and mail fraud counts.

The former Hollinger International Inc. chairman, convicted of mail fraud and obstructing justice, today was sentenced to 6.5 years in prison, about a quarter of the maximum originally sought by the government. Bloomerg News reports

Black, 63, led Hollinger for eight years as chairman and chief executive officer. He quit as CEO in 2003 after an internal probe found he and other executives got more than $32 million in unauthorized payments. He was fired as chairman two months later and convicted in July of directing a $6.1 million fraud.

``You violated your duty to Hollinger International shareholders,'' U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve, who presided over the trial, told Black today when pronouncing sentence in Chicago federal court. ``I frankly cannot understand how someone of your stature, at the top of the media empire, could engage in the conduct you engaged in and put everything at risk.''

Black was ordered to return the $6.1 million and pay a $125,000 fine. His conviction stemmed from a federal crackdown on corporate crime that followed the 2001 collapse of Enron Corp. Juries convicted several ousted CEOs of fraud, including Enron's Jeffrey Skilling, WorldCom Inc.'s Bernard Ebbers, Tyco International Inc.'s L. Dennis Kozlowski and Adelphia Communications Corp.'s John Rigas.

`Very Profound Regret'

``I do wish to express very profound regret and sadness'' for Hollinger investors who lost ``$1.8 billion of shareholder value,'' Black told St. Eve today. The judge sentenced him to the minimum prison term available under the law.

The judge allowed Black to remain free on bail until March 3, when he is to report to prison. She granted a defense request that he serve his term at a low security facility at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. She rejected U.S. requests to seize Black's Palm Beach, Florida, home or the proceeds of the sale of his Manhattan apartment.

Mike Truman, a spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, said the facility at Eglin was closed last year. He added that Black may be eligible for a similar, low-security facility in Miami, though because he isn't a U.S. citizen, he must seek government permission. Black's attorney, Edward Greenspan of Toronto, said his client will appeal his conviction.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Sussman today argued against leniency for the former Hollinger chief executive.

``Black and his codefendants nakedly stole money,'' he argued. ``What brought him here today is his own greed.''

Tougher Guidelines

The judge rejected U.S. efforts to sentence Black under tougher guidelines or to consider the higher fraud amount found by the internal company investigation.

St. Eve said the range for Black's sentence was between 6.5 and 8.1 years. Prosecutors, who originally sought a maximum 24- year term, today asked for the maximum in the range provided by the judge, while the defense sought the minimum.

Black, 6-foot-1, silver-haired and barrel-chested, is a member of Britain's House of Lords, with the title of Lord Black of Crossharbour. A Toronto native, he renounced his Canadian citizenship to become a British peer. He has written well- reviewed biographies of former U.S. presidents Richard Nixon and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

At its peak and under Black's command, Hollinger, now Sun- Times Media Group Inc., was the world's third-largest publisher of English-language newspapers, including the Chicago Sun-Times, London's Daily Telegraph, Canada's National Post and the Jerusalem Post.

Guilty of Fraud

Black was charged in November 2005. On July 13, a jury found him and three former subordinates guilty of fraud stemming from $6.1 million in checks paid to three defendants in exchange for sham non-competition agreements involving Hollinger. Black was convicted of obstruction of justice for removing 13 boxes of documents sought by regulators from his Toronto office in 2005.

Black was found not guilty of racketeering, tax charges and five wire and mail fraud counts.

St. Eve said today before sentencing that she would increase Black's prison term because he used such ``sophisticated means'' in perpetrating the fraud.

Defense lawyer Jeffrey Steinback told St. Eve the prison term constitutes ``life without parole'' for the 63-year-old Black. ``This case is not like Enron or WorldCom,'' the attorney said. ``No bankrobbers ever built the banks that they robbed.''

Black was the largest shareholder in Hollinger, he added.

`Wrapped Up'

``His fate was wrapped up in'' the company, Steinback said.

The government argued the defendants were responsible for the theft of at least $32 million from Hollinger. St. Eve rejected that calculation today before sentencing.

The judge ruled that fairness dictated that she sentence Black under the same 2000 federal guidelines used to sentence his chief accuser, ex-Hollinger President F. David Radler.

``Radler was the one who was ordering the money and telling others where it should be disbursed,'' St. Eve said, adding Radler was ``calling just as many shots.''

Prosecutors had asked her to use tougher guidelines approved last year.

Gene Fox, chief executive officer of Cardinal Capital Management Inc., a former Hollinger shareholder, told the judge in a victim-impact statement today that noncompete payments weren't properly disclosed, and shareholders need accurate financial information.

``Stocks would become no better than lottery tickets,'' without accurate information, Fox said. ``They lied to us repeatedly.''

Sun-Times Reaction

Sun-Times spokeswoman Tammy Chase said in reaction to the sentence that the Chicago-based company is ``focused on the future.''

``While we continue to grapple with some of the troubling legacy issues previous management left behind, we are deeply committed to overcoming those hardships,'' she said.

Convicted with Black were former Hollinger Vice President Peter Atkinson, ex-Chief Financial Officer John Boultbee, and former General Counsel Mark Kipnis. St. All three men are scheduled to be sentenced later today.

The case is U.S. v. Black, 05-cr-00727, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois (Chicago).

Thursday, December 6, 2007

New London Times editor next week? Step up, James Harding??


All change for Mr Murdoch, says Stephen Brook, press correspondent for Guardian Unlimited:


The Times board, which approves the appointment of a new editor, is set to meet next week - fuelling speculation that James Harding is about to replace Robert Thomson in the top editorial job at the paper.

News International has refused to comment on the agenda for the meeting of the Times Newspapers Holdings Board, which is set to meet on Tuesday, December 11.

The meeting is two days before News International's parent company, News Corporation, completes its takeover of the Wall Street Journal's parent firm, Dow Jones.

As MediaGuardian.co.uk has previously reported, Thomson is strongly tipped to leave the Times to take up a senior job at Dow Jones after the acquisition is completed, although News Corp has not commented on this.

However, all the talk in News International's Wapping HQ is of an imminent new arrival in the Times editor's office, with one executive saying the appointment would be made "by the end of next week".

Harding, the Times business editor, whom Thomson recruited from the Financial Times 18 months ago, is still regarded as the favoured candidate to replace him as editor.

Other candidates are said to be deputy editor Ben Preston, Sunday Times editor John Witherow and Sun editor Rebekah Wade.

Next week's TNHB meeting is one of its four scheduled each year. Board members include News Corp chairman and chief executive Rupert Murdoch and News International executive chairman Les Hinton.

Independent directors currently on the board are Sarah Bagnall, Baroness Eccles of Moulton, John Gross, Baron Marlesford, Sir Robin Mountfield and Rupert Pennant-Rea.

Murdoch gave evidence about the Times board to a House of Lords select committee on media ownership in September.

According to the minutes, Murdoch said the Times board was there to make sure he did not interfere in the running of the Times and Sunday Times.

The minutes recorded: "He never says 'Do this or that', although he often asks 'What are you doing?'.

"He explained that he 'nominates' the editors of these two papers, but that the nominations are subject to approval of the independent board.

"His first appointment of an editor of the Times split the board but was not rejected."

This is thought to be a reference to Harold Evans, whom Murdoch switched from the Sunday Times to the Times after he bought both papers in 1981. Evans lasted less than a year in the Times job and was replaced by Charles Douglas-Home.

Prepare for Mac-attacks, Apple warns


Forget that smug assurance that your Mac won't be targeted by miscellaneous hackers. The Zlobs are out there and waiting to find your weak point
According to the Financial Times there now are twice as many fiends trying to infect your hard drive.

Mr Runald said the jump in attacks against Apple appeared to be the work of a single gang of professional hackers. The group, known in security circles as the “Zlob gang”, makes programs that infect PCs by tricking users into thinking they are installing software needed to view copyrighted video files.

As with other attacks against Apple, the Zlob gang relies on tricking users to install its malicious software, rather than on exploiting any inherent software vulnerability.

Apple sold 2.1m Macs in the third quarter, up from 1.1m in the first quarter of 2006, according to Gartner, the research group. After years of catering to a niche audience of Mac lovers, Apple now commands about 10 per cent of the consumer PC market, according to Mr Kay.

News of Apple’s growing profile among professional criminals comes as the number of viruses and other malicious computer programmes loose on the internet has doubled over the past 12 months, according to F-Secure.

F-Secure said it had detected 500,000 viruses, trojans and worms in 2007, compared with 250,000 last year.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

War as 3D-chess in the dark and other strategic turns of phrase


Check out Rod Nordland's nifty piece in Newsweek for a guide to jingoistic -linguistics emerging from the Iraq morass.

Early on it was robust and muscular. "Shock and awe" set the tone; verbs were strong, simple and always in the active voice. But as the situation worsened, there was much less talk about "victory over antiregime elements" than about "achieving our mission" in Iraq...In the beginning there was much talk about how coalition troops were going to "kill or capture anti-Iraqi forces" and "destroy high-value targets." The enemy comprised "terrorists, criminals and regime dead-enders," supplemented by foreign jihadis. America's mission was to "create a secure and stable Iraq" or create the "conditions for security and stability" so that the "political process could move forward."

After the country's elections in January 2005, though, the "kill and capture" formulation fell into disfavor. The military began focusing on training the Iraqi police and military in what became known as "standing up the Iraqi security forces." Subsequent rhetoric also promised to "stand up" Iraqi ministries and local government agencies, as if they were all a bunch of pieces on the board that had toppled over (which is sort of what happened with the invasion).And later came a recognition, in a phrase uttered by one general after another and now heard right down to captains and literate lieutenants, that "the enemy gets a vote too."

Throughout it all, the American military continued to "own the battlespace" or at least "dominate the battlespace," even when a lot of people were getting killed in it by rival factions. And officers started routinely talking about distinguishing between "kinetic operations" (i.e., blowing people away) and "nonkinetic operations" (i.e., winning their hearts and minds—never a popular phrase in Iraq). The military command became concerned that the Iraqi government wasn't taking advantage of the "breathing space" that had been created by the relative decrease in violence. And at last count, I've heard no fewer than four generals, six colonels and innumerable junior officers talk about the "window of opportunity" that has been created for the Shiite-led government to reconcile with Sunnis.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Morrissey sues NME music mag for defamation


Former Smiths frontman Morrissey is suing music magazine New Musical Express (NME) for defamation after it printed an article in which he discussed his views on immigration in Britain, according to Reuters.

The magazine criticized the 48-year-old singer for allegedly saying Britain had lost its identity as a result of higher levels of immigration than other European countries.

"We can confirm we have received two writs from Morrissey's legal representatives pertaining to NME and its editor Conor McNicholas," a spokesman for NME said on Friday.

"NME takes this matter -- and the issues it highlights -- extremely seriously and we are currently in discussion with our own legal representatives."

On Thursday, Morrissey's representatives issued a statement on Web site www.true-to-you.net. His record label in Britain referred journalists inquiring about the case to the site.

"The NME had until 1.00 p.m. today (Thursday) to agree to print a suitable apology to Morrissey. Their only response to this deadline was to say that they 'do not have time to respond to the allegations'.

"Our lawyers are therefore in the process of issuing legal proceedings for defamation against the NME and its editor, Conor McNicholas ..."

In the interview, Morrissey was asked whether he would consider moving back to Britain from Italy. He is quoted as replying that high immigration levels meant England's identity was disappearing, unlike other countries like Germany or Sweden.

In a follow-up interview to discuss the original comments, Morrissey is quoted as saying that high immigration was not the reason he would not want to live in England, and that expense and pressure were important factors.

(Reporting by Mike Collett-White)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Media creature Matt Taibbi sounds off


Christopher Hitchens is “a man who has had his intellectual face lifted so many times, he can’t close his eyes without opening his mouth.” acc to Matt Taibbi, a political columnist for Rolling Stone, in a recent interview.

Taibbi’s new book, Smells Like Dead Elephants: Dispatches from a Rotting Empire, collects the vigilante's takedown artistry during George W. Bush’s administration, including pieces on Hurricane Katrina, Iraq, Congress, the Lieberman-Lamont race, and the Lynndie England and Michael Jackson trials.
Jack Abramoff was branded “the young progressive’s paranoid nightmare come shockingly true: the absurd campus Republican proto-geek effortlessly transformed at graduation into flesh-and-blood neo-Nazi spook.”
He is famous for referring to journalism as “shoveling coal for Satan.”
He elaborated: "If you have no real knowledge or skill set and you’re lazy and full of shit but you want to make a decent wage, then journalism’s not a bad career option. The great thing about it is that you don’t need to know anything. I mean this whole notion of journalism school—I can’t believe people actually go to journalism school. You can learn the entire thing in like three days. My advice is instead of going to journalism school, go to school for something concrete like medicine or some kind of science or something and then use the knowledge you get in that field as a wedge to get yourself into journalism.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Electoral Disfunction: Tittletattle on the Campaign Trail, British style


Tom Baldwin, DC Bureau chief for the Thunderer (or Times of London to non-UK readers) has blogged about why he ran the piece that repeated gossip, along with other rumors, about how Hillary snatches happiness with a younger Muslim lady lover on the campaign trail. He headlined it "History according to a "Hillary confidante" (and Matt Drudge)...'

My colleague, Tim Reid, travelled down to South Carolina last week where he soon found himself up to his ankles in what he described as the "foulest swamp of electoral dirty tricks in America".

Tim wrote about some of the smears and inuendos already floating by in the Palmetto state. His second paragraph reported some of the extraordinary allegations being spread about Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, Barack Obama, Fred Thompson and, oh yes, Hillary Clinton.

The purpose of this report (read it for yourselves) was not to suggest these claims were true, but to provide a measure of their nastiness. For instance, I'm pretty sure Obama is not a "Muslim extremist".

Mattdrudge_5 Tim's article was duly picked up on Thursday by the Drudge Report and that, we thought, was that.

Then yesterday, Drudge decides to lead with:



DON'T GO THERE: BRIT PAPER STARTS 'UGLIEST MONTH'
Sun Nov 25 2007 20:45:12 ET

The TIMES of London starts 'The Ugliest Month' with a full page photo takeout on Hillary Clinton and her beautiful personal assistant.

"This does not even qualify as tabloid trash... it's ridiculous and reckless," a Hillary confidante explained over the weekend.

Drudge does not quote from the story directly, referring only to the headline, a brief mention of Clinton and a 12-word picture caption. This, if read in isolation, might wrongly give readers of Drudge the impression that The Times was giving the allegation about her even the faintest hint of credence.

A story that five days ago gave real context to the dirty fight in South Carolina has itself been quoted out of context.

So, what's really going on?

Has a "Hillary confidante" contacted Drudge to draw attention to this five-day old story? Quite possibly. The New York Times recently reported that her campaign had opened up a direct channel of communication to the mysterious Mr Drudge.

Why would a "Hillary confidante" do such a thing? The mind boggles.

Could it be to provide cover for other - alleged - activities at Camp Clinton and its surrounding outposts?

I don't know.

But last week the conservative columnist Bob Novak claimed that agents of the Clinton campaign were sitting on scandalous information about Obama. The item prompted a furious response from Obama, who challenged her to either make the information public "or concede the truth that there is none". The Clinton campaign said it knew nothing about it. This weekend Novak stood by his claim. "My source is a big Democrat - who is neutral right now, but was told by an agent of the Clinton camp who was involved in the campaign about the alleged scandal," he said. "I haven't talked to a single Republican on this. This was all strictly Democrats."

Alternatively, the Drudge story may serve the purpose of underscoring Hillary's current theme about how rivals are "throwing mud" which is backed by a new advertisement focusing on the attacks being launched on her by Republicans.

There is, indeed, a lot of this about. On November 7, Ken Silverstein, the Washington Editor for Harper's Magazine, blogged under the headline: "Not Just Republicans Spreading Rumors About Hillary’s Lesbian Affair".

But The Times is not "kicking off the ugliest month" - if that is what the next few weeks will be - we are merely doing our best to report it.

Cowabunga: Surfer Dude and the theory of Everything


What's he been smoking?
The bald thinker, Garrett Lisi, aka as 'Surfer Dude', has apparently figured it all out while snowboarding the slopes of the High Sierras and riding the waves in Hawaii, top scientists tel the Torygraph. For a fascinating post on philosphy, cosmology, and everyday survival....and its follow-up commentary from blokes who like to think about such things, check out London's Daily Telegraph. Hollywood is already banging on this guy's door. The E8 geometric figure, which resembles the science fair string projects popular in the 60s, is pictured above and below, next to the genius of cool.

and the nominees are...

Who should be named 2007 Media Person of the Year?


Polling is on for "I want Media"'s phenom of the year.
You can add your voice by clicking here.

The nominees are:

*Conrad Black

*Google

*Perez Hilton

*Don Imus

*Joanne Lipman

*Rupert Murdoch

*Rosie O'Donnell

*Arthur Sulzberger Jr.

*Writers on Strike

*Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook Boy)

Monday, November 19, 2007

US Army seeks criminal case against Associated Press shooter in Iraq


US Plans Case Against AP Photographer

By BRIAN MURPHY

NEW YORK (AP) - The U.S. military plans to seek a criminal case in an Iraqi court against a Pulitzer Prize-winning Associated Press photographer from Fallujah but is refusing to disclose what evidence or accusations would be presented.

An Associated Press attorney on Monday strongly protested the decision, calling the U.S. military plans a "sham of due process." The journalist, Bilal Hussein, has already been imprisoned without charges for more than 19 months.

A public affairs officer notified the AP on Sunday that the military intends to submit a written complaint against Hussein that would bring the case into the Iraqi justice system as early as Nov. 29. Under Iraqi codes, an investigative magistrate will decide whether there are grounds to try Hussein, 36, who was seized in the western Iraqi city of Ramadi on April 12, 2006.

A public affairs officer notified the AP on Sunday that the military intends to submit a written complaint against Hussein that would bring the case into the Iraqi justice system as early as Nov. 29. Under Iraqi codes, an investigative magistrate will decide whether there are grounds to try Hussein, 36, who was seized in the western Iraqi city of Ramadi on April 12, 2006.

Dave Tomlin, associate general counsel for the AP, said the defense for Hussein is being forced to work “totally in the dark.”

The military has not yet defined the specific charges against Hussein. Previously, the military has pointed to a range of suspicions that attempt to link him to insurgent activity.

The AP rejects all the allegations and contends it has been blocked by the military from mounting a wide-ranging defense for Hussein, who was part of the AP’s Pulitzer Prize-winning photo team in 2005.

Soon after Hussein was taken into custody, the AP appealed to the U.S. military to either release him or bring the case to trial — saying there was no evidence to support his detention. However, Tomlin said that the military is now attempting to build a case based on “stale” evidence and testimony that has been discredited. He also noted that the U.S. military investigators who initially handled the case have left the country.
“While we are hopeful that there could be some resolution to Bilal Hussein’s long detention, we have grave concerns that his rights under the law continue to be ignored and even abused,” said AP President and CEO Tom Curley.

“The steps the U.S. military is now taking continue to deny Bilal his right to due process and, in turn, may deny him a chance at a fair trial. The treatment of Bilal represents a miscarriage of the very justice and rule of law that the United States is claiming to help Iraq achieve. At this point, we believe the correct recourse is the immediate release of Bilal.”


Reporting from the point of view of the insurgents- is this tantamount to abetting the enemy? The military appears to think so. Watch this space.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Blogger wins Prestigious reporting prize

Wael Abbas, an Egyptian, is the first blogger ever to win the Knight International Journalism Award. With 30,000 hits a day, Misr Digital is one of those powerful alternative voices that can make a difference, and goads the country's mainstream media and public to follow up.

“It is not the best time for the media and the blogging community,” he said, since the regime is cracking down and trying to tarnish the bloggers' reputations by accusing them of treason and acting on behalf of those outside Egypt.

In February, 22-year-old blogger and student Abdel Karim Nabil Suleiman was sentenced to four years in prison because Egyptian authorities claimed his posts insulted Islam and President Hosni Mubarak.

Egytian blogger behinde bars
However, Abbas said Egypt's bloggers have built up credibility with the public because they have broken stories the mainstream media would not publish, often using video and photographs submitted by the public to back up their reports.

He said Egyptian citizens, often using cell phone cameras and other hand-held devices, tend to give the bloggers their material exclusively since they know it is less likely to be censored.

ICFJ also awarded Burma's May Thingyan Hein with the Knight Award, paying tribute to her perseverance with the country's media censors that led to the dissemination of information on avian flu and HIV/AIDS to the Burmese public.

The Knight Award, given annually, recognizes individuals who have raised media excellence standards in their countries.

Friday, November 16, 2007

CNN to hire more foreign correspondents

CNN plans new operations worldwide, writes Steve Clark in Variety.
Publishing in Hollywood's favorite trade paper muddies the question, is CNN news or entertainment? But the empire from Atlanta definitely is growing.


CNN is pumping $10 million into what it claims is the biggest expansion of its international newsgathering activities in 27 years.
The newsie is beefing up its number of international news correspondents, bowing a regional news hub in the United Arab Emirates, and investing in a London-based digital production unit.

New operations are also planned for Afghanistan, Belgium, India, Kenya, Malaysia, Nigeria, the Philippines, Poland and Vietnam.

Tony Maddox, executive vice prexy and managing director of CNN Intl., said the move was designed to ensure the company owned enough content in the fast-emerging digital era.

"These new resources will have a huge impact across all of CNN's networks and platforms," he said. "Owning the content we broadcast, publish and make available to affiliates and other platforms is the backbone of this business."

Two correspondents are being hired at the combo's Johannesburg bureau, while an extra reporter will be taken on in both London and Istanbul.

Additional coin will be put into CNN's Hong Kong hub, and there are plans to assign new correspondents in China, Indonesia and Pakistan.

In online, CNN is creating a digital production unit based mainly in London. This will provide content for CNN Intl., CNNArabic.com, CNNMobile and new broadband sites.

In Mexico, CNN en Espanol is to tool up by hiring an anchor and correspondent plus an extra editor based at the operation's Mexico City HQ.

CNN en Espanol will increase the size of its editorial team in Atlanta.

The expansion comes as the number of news channels continues to mushroom around the globe, and online news becomes increasingly important.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Are reporters doomed?




In the rush to embrace new media we risk destroying the soul of traditional reporting,
argues David Leigh in the Guardian. In the race for quick hits on sex, celebrity and scandal, slow (old school)journalism may be fazed out in favor of the bottom line, he laments, and warns against the demise of powerful news outlets.

There are several reasons for this. The mass media can shine a light. Or they can reflect back light. The Daily Mail and Fox News, for example, are highly profitable businesses that make their money out of telling people what they think they know already. They reflect back their audience's existing beliefs. They reassure them by hammering the world into a shape that suits their prejudices. This is less an information service than a form of cheap massage.

Too much interactivity, commentating and blogging can end up inadvertently doing the same thing. It is cheaper and excitingly faster, but it is not always
a source of light. People shout past each other. They enjoy the sound of their own voices and confirm their own prejudices through the delicious experience of self-publishing. Paradoxically, more becomes less.

I'm in favour of the future, of course. We all have to be. It is coming to get us, whether we like it or not. We have to come to terms with what is going on. More than come to terms — we have to embrace it. But we should spend less time fretting about platforms and more about the loss of honesty in our trade. There is yet to be a proper accounting for the disgraceful loss
of journalistic integrity on both sides of the Atlantic that cheer-led us into the Iraq war on a false prospectus.

The Godfather vs God (10 Commandments from the Almighty)


Latest news is that Italian police uncovered a mobster code of conduct at a Sicilian Mafia hideout. BBC compares and contrasts the rules from mobsters with the ones from Moses.


The Mafia's "Ten Commandments"

1. No-one can present himself directly to another of our friends. There must be a third person to do it.
2. Never look at the wives of friends.
3. Never be seen with cops.
4. Don't go to pubs and clubs.
5. Always being available for Cosa Nostra is a duty - even if your wife's about to give birth.
6. Appointments must absolutely be respected.
7. Wives must be treated with respect.
8. When asked for any information, the answer must be the truth.
9. Money cannot be appropriated if it belongs to others or to other families.
10. People who can't be part of Cosa Nostra: anyone who has a close relative in the police, anyone with a two-timing relative in the family, anyone who behaves badly and doesn't hold to moral values.

..........
The original Ten Commandments

1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me
2. Thou shalt not make for thyself an idol
3. Thou shalt not make wrongful use of the name of thy God
4. Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy
5. Honor thy Father and Mother
6. Thou shalt not murder
7. Thou shalt not commit adultery
8. Thou shalt not steal
9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor
10. Thou shalt not covet

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Vajayjay Monologues for cunning linguists



The New York Times Style section published a feature on the rise of the term
"vajayjay" to describe female genitalia.
"The reason that vajayjay has caught on, I think, is because there is a black--Southern especially--naming tradition, which is to have names like Ray Ray and Boo Boo and things like that," said John H. McWhorter, a linguist at the Manhattan Institute. "It sounds warm and familiar and it almost makes the vagina feel like a little cartoon character with eyes that walks around."
Euphemism rears its pink little head.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Obama mocks Clinton on SNL Halloween show

Silenced Uzbek Voice of Alisher Saipov


The local stringer/fixer, often unsung and vital to any foreign correspondent's beat, sometimes pays the price for seeking the truth. Read this about the execution of young Alisher Saipov and weep.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Sarkozy Walks Out on 60 Minutes Interview

Cozying up to Sarkozy obviously was not on the CBS agenda, and a bluntly prying question into the connubial conundrum of France's first couple backfired. This is a lesson on how not to conduct an interview with a head of state.

Friday, October 26, 2007

FEMA stages fake news conference on California wildfires


The saga of the latest federal fumble, and how journalists are burned over flaks posing as hacks has put FEMA's credibility in ashes. The Washington Post broke the story, and wire services picked it up. Hekuva job, Harvey. Read on:

WASHINGTON - The main U.S. disaster-response agency apologized today for having its employees pose as reporters in a news briefing on California's wildfires that no journalists attended.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, still struggling to restore its image after the bungled handling of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, issued the apology after The Washington Post published details of the Tuesday briefing.

"We can and must do better, and apologize for this error in judgment," FEMA deputy administrator Harvey Johnson, who conducted the briefing, said in a statement. "Our intent was to provide useful information and be responsive to the many questions we have received."

No actual reporter attended the hastily called news conference in person, although some camera crews arrived late to film incidental shots, officials said.

A spokeswoman for Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who has authority over FEMA, called the incident "inexcusable and offensive to the secretary."

"We have made it clear that stunts such as this will not be tolerated or repeated," spokeswoman Laura Keehner said. She said the department was considering reprimands.

The White House said: "It was just a bad way to handle it." The Bush administration has faced criticism previously over accusations it masked public relations efforts as journalism.

FEMA had called the briefing with about 15 minutes notice as federal officials headed for southern California to oversee firefighting and rescue efforts. Reporters were also given a phone number to listen in but could not ask questions.

But with no reporters attending and a FEMA video feed being carried live by some television networks, FEMA press employees posed questions for Johnson that included: "Are you happy with FEMA's response so far?"

Johnson replied that he was "very happy with FEMA's response so far," according to today's Post account, which FEMA spokesman Aaron Walker confirmed.

Johnson also told the briefing that the agency had the benefit of "good leadership" and other factors, "none of which were present at Katrina." Chertoff was head of the Homeland Security Department during Katrina.

FEMA's administrator during Katrina, Michael Brown, resigned amid widespread criticism over his handling of the disaster, despite U.S. President George W. Bush's initial declaration that he was doing a "heck of a job."

E-mails between Brown and his colleagues over the course of the storm revealed a preoccupation with his media image.

"I am a fashion god," he wrote.

FEMA is reviewing its press procedures and will make changes to ensure they are "straightforward and transparent," Johnson said today.

Bush spokeswoman Dana Perino said the White House did not condone FEMA's action and would not engage in such practices.

But in 2004 the investigative arm of Congress, the Government Accountability Office, accused the administration of "covert propaganda" in distributing video packages about federal health programs that looked like independent news reports.

Conservative pundit Armstrong Williams lost a syndication deal for his column in 2005 and apologized after a disclosure that he accepted $240,000 from the Bush administration to promote education legislation in his commentaries.

U.S. defence officials that year also confirmed that U.S. troops wrote articles that were planted in Iraqi newspapers in exchange for money. Reuters

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Future humans to divide into giants and goblins. Will hacks be among the elite? Or just give them coverage?



There's fodder for thought on the BBC Website today, as an evolutionary theorist ponders how humankind will split into elite and sub-species, as HG Wells predicted.Science is on thin ice with such long range predictions, but Oliver Curry's theories on the species may not please troll-like geniuses or strapping dimwits. read on.


Humanity may split into two sub-species in 100,000 years' time as predicted by HG Wells, an expert has said.
Evolutionary theorist Oliver Curry of the London School of Economics expects a genetic upper class and a dim-witted underclass to emerge.

The human race would peak in the year 3000, he said - before a decline due to dependence on technology.

People would become choosier about their sexual partners, causing humanity to divide into sub-species, he added.

The descendants of the genetic upper class would be tall, slim, healthy, attractive, intelligent, and creative and a far cry from the "underclass" humans who would have evolved into dim-witted, ugly, squat goblin-like creatures.

Race 'ironed out'

But in the nearer future, humans will evolve in 1,000 years into giants between 6ft and 7ft tall, he predicts, while life-spans will have extended to 120 years, Dr Curry claims.

Physical appearance, driven by indicators of health, youth and fertility, will improve, he says, while men will exhibit symmetrical facial features, look athletic, and have squarer jaws, deeper voices and bigger penises.

Women, on the other hand, will develop lighter, smooth, hairless skin, large clear eyes, pert breasts, glossy hair, and even features, he adds. Racial differences will be ironed out by interbreeding, producing a uniform race of coffee-coloured people.

However, Dr Curry warns, in 10,000 years time humans may have paid a genetic price for relying on technology.

Spoiled by gadgets designed to meet their every need, they could come to resemble domesticated animals.

Receding chins

Social skills, such as communicating and interacting with others, could be lost, along with emotions such as love, sympathy, trust and respect. People would become less able to care for others, or perform in teams.

Physically, they would start to appear more juvenile. Chins would recede, as a result of having to chew less on processed food.

There could also be health problems caused by reliance on medicine, resulting in weak immune systems. Preventing deaths would also help to preserve the genetic defects that cause cancer.

Further into the future, sexual selection - being choosy about one's partner - was likely to create more and more genetic inequality, said Dr Curry.

The logical outcome would be two sub-species, "gracile" and "robust" humans similar to the Eloi and Morlocks foretold by HG Wells in his 1895 novel The Time Machine.

"While science and technology have the potential to create an ideal habitat for humanity over the next millennium, there is a possibility of a monumental genetic hangover over the subsequent millennia due to an over-reliance on technology reducing our natural capacity to resist disease, or our evolved ability to get along with each other, said Dr Curry.

He carried out the report for men's satellite TV channel Bravo.


Hence the mention of pert breasts and impressive swinging dicks, presumably. This may be down to wishful thinking. (And where on the scale does the good scientist, pictured right, place himself? No doubt a feral beast will ferret out his height and condom size soon. All the British papers have carried his academic musings.)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Waxing eloquent on pandas, bamboo forests, crabs, and Brazilians


Prize for oddest analogy of the week goes to the curator of the Rotterdam Natural History Museum, who solemnly requested the public to donate their pubic crabs, claiming that the lice population was dwindling drastically as a result of Brazilian waxes.
"When the bamboo forests that the Giant Panda lives in were cut down, the bear became threatened with extinction. Pubic lice," curator Kees Moeliker explained, "can't live without pubic hair."

The press widely publicized this plea for odd museum donations (anonymity assured)

Monday, October 22, 2007

From Parisian Pimp to Actors Studio, Lipton invites you inside




James Lipton, the host of U.S. talk show, Inside the Actors' Studio, once worked as a pimp in Paris, France, according to the Associated Press.

The revered TV presenter, who has sat down with Hollywood's biggest names for in-depth chats about their life and work over the last 13 years, has revealed he once procured clients for French hookers.

He says, "This was when I was very very young, living in Paris, penniless, unable to get any kind of working permit... I had a friend who worked in what is called the Milieu, which is that world and she suggested to me one night, `Look, you'll be my meck... We would translate it perhaps... as pimp.

"We were earning our living together, this young woman and I, we made a rather good living, I must say."

Lipton reveals in his new book Inside Inside he would set up sex shows for clients of his lady friend.

He adds, "I had to accompany my clientelle to the Rue Pigalle, which is where these things occurred. And then I'd take them up to the room and I had to remain there because they were very nervous, they were young Americans for the most part... and they didn't speak French."

Friday, October 19, 2007

Perez Hilton Profiled in Rolling Stone


Wanna-be celeb Perez Hilton, whose gossip reports may not be any more reliable than his recent too-early report of Castro's demise, is nevertheless hitting the headlines with his vituperative blog which gets millions of hits and has heavy impact. Rolling Stone labels him, rather approvingly if not so originally, the "Queen of Mean". Read on.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Gossip columnist Lloyd Grove grooves on NY swag and DC pols



Newsmax's Ronald Kessler spills the beans on how NY Daily News gossip columnist Grove compares NY to DC. Now that he's left the trade that brought him nearly a dozen invites a day, the guys swears he's dropped 20 pounds. Party on.

“In New York, more than in Washington, there are people who always want to give you things. Give you a handmade suit, or jewelry, or liquor, or whatever. And it was my practice really to shy away from that. But the culture of swag is very highly developed in New York in a way that it’s not in Washington.”

Washington is a company town, Grove says.

“Pretty much everything is focused through the prism of government and politics,” he says. “New York has 20, 30 major industries that are headquartered here, everything from the arts to sports to media to finance to real estate. And as a journalist covering both towns, I mean Washington is a lot easier to get your arms around. I pretty much got to know all the players. And in New York, it’s much more complicated, and I’m still on the learning curve.”

Events in New York are often organized to promote a movie or a product like Donald Trump’s vodka.

“The party at Trump Tower had the stickiest floor of any party I’d ever been to, from all the vodka that was spilled,” Grove says. “A lot of parties in New York are held to highlight some fragrance, movie, clothing line, hard liquor. And a lot of parties in Washington are held to highlight some kind of politician.”

In Washington, you see the same people.

“Meg Greenfield [the late editor of the Washington Post editorial page] famously compared Washington to high school,” Grove notes. “And there’s a bit of that in New York, because you have these different groups of people in various lines of work, but there’s so many of them, and they seldom intersect.”

As a journalistic butterfly, Grove would go from one group to the other.

“Depending on what party, whose group’s party you were at, it would often be many of the same people,” he says. “For instance, at least once a week, I would see Harvey Weinstein, the head of now the Weinstein Co. studio and before that Miramax. I’d see Barbara Walters everywhere. She would be at the opening of the opera, and at a book party. And you see the Clintons around too, particularly Bill.”

Asked if Bill behaves himself, Grove says, “He was very well behaved. Every party I saw him at, he behaved almost as much of a gentleman as you are.”

Donald Trump was omnipresent.

“Donald is a staple of the columns, and I developed a very good working relationship with Donald,” Grove says. “You also see these models everywhere—Petra Nemcova, Paulina Porizkova.”

In both cities, Grove was besieged by people wanting publicity.

“You’re constantly hearing from people who want something from you, and it’s understandable,” he says. “As in Washington, there are people who understand what you do, and you can have working relationships with them, and they know how to pitch a gossip column. And there are people who really are kind of clueless, and it’s just sort of stuff for the circular file.”

When it comes to food, the party scene is overrated.

“I’ve had a lot of cheap wine in my job,” he says. “I’ve rarely had beluga caviar..."

Investigative reporting team unleashed


As cutbacks thwart investigative reporting at small US papers, venture journalism with a conscience is being launched and calling itself Pro Publica. Veteran journalist Paul Steiger, from the Wall Street Journal, is recruiting top reporters, according to the NY Times. Pro Publica will pay their three dozen reporters well, but give away the articles so readers in, say, Middle America might be enlightened.

The nonprofit group, called Pro Publica, will pitch each project to a newspaper or magazine (and occasionally to other media) where the group hopes the work will make the strongest impression. The plan is to do long-term projects, uncovering misdeeds in government, business and organizations.

Nothing quite like it has been attempted, and despite having a lot going for it, Pro Publica will be something of an experiment, inventing its practices by trial and error. It remains to be seen how well it can attract talent and win the cooperation of the mainstream media.

“It is the deep-dive stuff and the aggressive follow-up that is most challenged in the budget process,” said Mr. Steiger, who will be Pro Publica’s president and editor in chief. He gave up the title of managing editor of The Journal in May, but is staying on through the end of the year as editor at large; during his tenure, the newsroom won 16 Pulitzer Prizes.

Pro Publica is the creation of Herbert M. and Marion O. Sandler, the former chief executives of the Golden West Financial Corporation, based in California, which was one of the nation’s largest mortgage lenders and savings and loans. They have committed $10 million a year to the project, while various foundations have provided smaller amounts. Mr. Sandler will serve as chairman of the group, which will begin operations early next year.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Publicity-shy Newsweek launches 'Stealth Makeover'


Paper stealth has its place. But is it effective? Without trumpeting the changes in the usual, Newsweek tomorrow will unveil facelifts on its magazine and website, which cuts its longstanding link with old cyberpartners msnbc.com. Even the famous logo is being reshaped a bit. (Readers squawked when Time magazine printed their famous brand in pink instead of red for a recent breast cancer cover story.)
Will anybody notice Newsweek's efforts?
According to Keith Kelly of the NY Post,
Newsweek Editor Jon Meacham has consciously avoided publicizing Newsweek's revamping.

"It was stealth redesign," Meacham said yesterday as he was getting ready to ship the first of the new-look pages to the printer.

"I just want people to judge it when they see it," said Meacham. "I don't believe in sweeping declarations."

As part of the redesign - the first in six years - Newsweek's logo will undergo a slight tweak, but won't be radically different from what it replaces. In addition, many of the stories in the print version will be longer.

Meacham has also lengthened its Periscope section, doubled the size of its Conventional Wisdom Watch and added four new columnists.

"What we are trying to do here is clear out the clutter and speak in a print vernacular," said Meacham.

Meanwhile, Newsweek.com will now be a standalone Web site, though it will still have some loose ties to MSNBC.com under a new multi-year contract.

The new Web site goes live tomorrow with more breaking news, a blog from Newsweek political reporter Andrew Romano and daily updates of popular print columns such as "My Turn."

Though the magazine's Web strategy of going it alone will give Newsweek technological control of over how its site is displayed, it's a gamble because a large chunk of Newsweek's Web traffic was driven by MSNBC.com.

In August, for example, roughly 50 percent of the 7.2 million unique visitors to Newsweek's Web site came from MSNBC.com.

Rival Time magazine, meanwhile, had 4.4 million unique visitors.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

'Grin and Colbert It'-Impregnating the Country with his Mind


Faux-pundit Stephen Colbert of Comedy Central's "Colbert Report" has surfaced with
an unlikely page-turner entitled "I Am America (and So Can You!)"?

Here is a typically wacky excerpt, running on Editor & Publisher website, which in turn was picked up from a plug on www.abcnews.com today.


Now, you might ask yourself, if by yourself you mean me, "Stephen, if you don't like books, why did you write one?" You just asked yourself a trick question. I didn't write it. I dictated it. I shouted it into a tape recorder over the Columbus Day weekend, then handed it to my agent and said, "Sell this." He's the one who turned it into a book. It's his funeral.

But I get your "drift." Why even dictate? Well, like a lot of other dictators, there is one man's opinion I value above all others. Mine. And folks, I have a lot of opinions. I'm like Lucy trying to keep up with the candy at the chocolate factory. I can barely put them in my mouth fast enough.

In fact, I have so many opinions, I have overwhelmed my ability to document myself. I thought my nightly broadcast, The Colbert Report (check your local listings), would pick up some of the slack. But here's the dirty little secret. When the cameras go off, I'm still talking. And right now all that opinion is going to waste, like seed on barren ground. Well no more. It's time to impregnate this country with my mind....

See, at one time America was pure. Men were men, women were women, and gays were "confirmed bachelors." But somewhere around the late 60's, it became "groovy" to "let it all hang out" while you "kept on truckin'" stopping only to "give a hoot." And today, Lady Liberty is under attack from the cable channels, the internet blogs, and the Hollywood celebritocracy, out there spewing "facts" like so many locusts descending on America's crop of ripe, tender values. And as any farmer or biblical scholar will tell you, locusts are damn hard to get rid of....

I said on the very first episode of The Colbert Report that, together, I was going to change the world, and I've kept up my end of the bargain. But it's not changing fast enough. Last time I checked my supermarket still sold yogurt. From France! See a pattern? Turns out, it takes more than thirty minutes a night to fix everything that's destroying America, and that's where this book comes in. It's not just some collection of reasoned arguments supported by facts. That's the coward's way out.

Friday, October 5, 2007

After 106 days in coma, Alexandra Boulat passed away today



Friends, family and photography buffs are grieving at the loss of Alexandra Boulat, the sensitive and brave conflict photographer who shot the photo below in Afghanistan. (A young female burn patient undergoing treatment at Herat Hospital. Shahima, 25, whose face is covered with a veil to protect her from flying insects, set herself alight to escape domestic violence and complete submission to her new stepfamily.) Alex was not afraid to look at death, and she embraced the complexities of life.

Alexandra was an elegant and vibrant woman, who had an exacting eye for lighting and detail and a passion for the truth. Our deepest condolences go out to Issa Freij, her partner in Ramallah, and Annie and Antoinette Boulat, her mother and sister in Paris. After suffering her brain aneurysm last June, Alex never regained consciousness. She was strong physically and held on for more than three months, first in Israel's Haddasah hospital and then was medi-vaced to Lariboisière in Paris. She died at noon today, age 45.

Gaza became an obsession for this exceptional photojournalist, who co-founded the renowned photo agency VII, and her friends will go through Erez crossing and make a donation in Alex's memory for the women and families whose lives are blighted by that conflict. Alex used to record the border guards' commands and the whirrs and dehumanized inspections every time she crossed this checkpoint and use them for background in podcasts.
Rest in Peace, Alexandra.
(Will post more details about funeral service and obituaries as they become clearer.) It is indeed a sad day.

UPDATE: A memorial service will be held on Friday, 12 October in the chapel at Jacqueville, outside Paris. Alexandra will be laid to rest beside her photographer father, Pierre Boulat.

The family would like to announce that a Foundation to continue Alexandra's and Pierre's legacy will be established in the coming weeks. The Foundation will support the ideals and issues that Alexandra and Pierre were concerned with. If you would like to contribute to this Foundation please contact: boulat_foundation@viiphoto.com

If you prefer to send flowers please send them to:
Cimetière de Jacqueville
77 760 Amponville, France



Click here to see the VII archive portraits of (not by) Alexandra.






BIOGRAPHY OF ALEXANDRA BOULAT, from VII

Alexandra Boulat was born in Paris, France, in 1962. She trained in graphic art and art history, at the Beaux Arts in Paris. She was represented by Sipa Press for 10 years until 2000. In 2001 she co-founded VII photo agency. Her news and features stories are published in many international magazines, above all Time, Newsweek, National Geographic Magazine and Paris-Match. She has recieved many International Awards for the quality of her work.

Boulat covered news, conflicts and social issues as well as making extensive reportages on countries and people. Among her many varied assignments, she has reported on the wars in former Yugoslavia, the Israeli and Palestinian conflict, the war in Iraq, Afghanistan at the fall of the Taliban, and the Women condition in the Islamic world. Other large assignments published in National Geographic include country stories on Indonesia Albania, and Morroco.


AWARDS

Best Women Photographer, Bevento Oscars, Italy 2006
Overseas Press Club 2003 - Afghanistan
World Press Photo / Art 2003 - Yves Saint Laurent Last Show
Infinity Award, International Center of Photography, New York, 1999 - Kosovo
USA Photo Magazine's photographer of the year, 1998
Perpignan, Visa d'Or pour l'Image, 1998 - Kosovo
Prix Paris-Match 1998 - Kosovo
The Harry Chapin Media Awards 1994 - Besieged Sarajevo

BOOKS

PARIS -National Geographic France 2002
ECLATS DE GUERRE (lights of war).
Les Syrtes Image, 2002
EXHIBITIONS


Wars in Former Yugoslavia, Visa Pour l'Image, Perpignan 1995
Wars in Former Yugoslavia, Gallerie Debelleyme, Paris 2002




See also obituary in the Times of London, as well as the Independent, the Guardian, and a tribute in Time.

Hamsters on viagra, gay bombs, sword swallowers' sore throat cures win improbable prize


Real research, reported by the Beeb from Harvard Yard.

The Ig Nobel Prizes were created by the Annals of Improbable Research (AIR), a science magazine.

The awards, now in their 17th year, are intended to "celebrate the unusual, honour the imaginative - and spur people's interest in science, medicine and technology".

Marc Abrahams, the editor of AIR, told the BBC News website: "When I became the editor of a science magazine, suddenly I was meeting all kinds of people who had done things that were hard to describe, and for the most part, nobody had ever heard of.

"For some of them, it seemed a great shame that nobody would give them any kind of recognition, and that was what really led to the birth of the Ig Nobels."

Like their more sober counterpart, the Nobel Prizes, the Ig Nobels are split into several categories and all research is real and published.

2007 Ig Nobel Winners

Medicine - Brain Witcombe, of Gloucestershire Royal NHS Foundation Trust, UK, and Dan Meyer for their probing work on the health consequences of swallowing a sword.

Physics - A US-Chile team who ironed out the problem of how sheets become wrinkled.

Biology - Dr Johanna van Bronswijk of the Netherlands for carrying out a creepy crawly census of all of the mites, insects, spiders, ferns and fungi that share our beds.

Chemistry - Mayu Yamamoto, from Japan, for developing a method to extract vanilla fragrance and flavouring from cow dung.

Linguistics - A University of Barcelona team for showing that rats are unable to tell the difference between a person speaking Japanese backwards and somebody speaking Dutch backwards.

Literature - Glenda Browne of Blue Mountains, Australia, for her study of the word "the", and how it can flummox those trying to put things into alphabetical order.

Peace - The US Air Force Wright Laboratory for instigating research and development on a chemical weapon that would provoke widespread homosexual behaviour among enemy troops.

Nutrition - Brian Wansink of Cornell University for investigating the limits of human appetite by feeding volunteers a self-refilling, "bottomless" bowl of soup.

Economics - Kuo Cheng Hsieh of Taiwan for patenting a device that can catch bank robbers by dropping a net over them.

Aviation - A National University of Quilmes, Argentina, team for discovering that impotency drugs can help hamsters to recover from jet lag.

Meet Charlotte, her hack highness from the Sindy

This Princess of Monaco is not such a grim Grimaldi, even though she dared to enter the very lair of the feral beasts, working on a London Sunday paper.

Time was when the Independent was an insouciant but principled newspaper which refused to cover the shenanigans of royalty. That all changed during Queen Elizabeth's Annus horribilis, when the monarchy actually made news. But as recently as 2005, when Prince Charles wed Camilla Parker-Bowles, the newspaper (which styles itself a views-paper now) cocked a snook at the royals with a full front page splash about the fairytale nuptials of Thomas Crapper, and demoted the heir to the throne's Windsor wedding to a meager two sentences on the inside.
How things change. Tristan Davies, the editor of the Independent on Sunday, famously fawns over celebrities. He was beside himself when Bono signed on as a guest editor for a Red edition of the Indy which was not so widely read. George Clooney is tapped to be the next editor-for-the-day (a conceit from Vogue magazine, more suitable to the langours of a monthly.) But Tristan has outdone himself. He has hired a genuine pouting princess on as a work-experience intern. She is Charlotte Casiraghi,age 20, the daughter of Princess Caroline of Monaco and granddaughter of Princess Grace. Hello. She may possess Hermes Kelly bags of talent, but her main journalistic experience so far is being on the opposite side of the lens as paparazzi snap away. Nothing fazes her much.

The MediaGuardian opines: It can only be a matter of time, given editor Tristan Davies's love of posh celebrities, that he blows all the savings made through the paper's redundancy programme and gives Casiraghi her own column.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Burmese Junta pulls the plug on Cyber-Revolution


Silencing the protestors used to be easy: intimidation was all it took, just a shaking of the iron fist. And if it shields itself from the prying eyes of other countries, a hermit nation like Myanmar can oppress its people with impunity. To counter the biggest Burmese popular uprising in the past 20 years, when monks in blood-red robes took to the streets, the military junta finally got to grips with the 21st century and pulled the plug on the country's two internet servers and all mobile phone networks to silence the festering dissidence. The mobile video phone is the subversive which just may prove mightier than the sword. But, writes Seth Mydans in the IHT, the digital age brought new power to ordinary people:
a guerrilla army of citizen reporters was transmitting videos, photographs and news reports over the Internet even as events were unfolding.
The old technology of guns and clubs had been ensnared by the immediacy of electronic communication in a way the world had never seen.....
They sent SMS text messages and e-mails and posted daily blogs, according to some of the exile groups that received their messages. They posted notices on Facebook, the online social networking Web site. They sent tiny messages on e-cards. They updated the online encyclopedia Wikipedia.

They also used Internet versions of "pigeons" - the couriers reporters used in the past to carry out film and news - handing their material to embassies or nongovernmental organizations that had access to satellite connections.

Just as important, these images and reports were broadcast back into Myanmar by foreign radio and television stations, informing and connecting a public that receives only propaganda reports from its government.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

"Iran so Far"...a gay theme tune for Mahmoud

After all the kerfuffle over the Columbia University speech, the Saturday Night Live skit mocks Mahmoud with real verve, especially his "no gays inside Iran" assertion. Ahmadinejad looks particularly fetching stretched out atop the grand piano, dontcha think?

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

New York Sun set in its ways: stylebook spells out Israeli coverage



Sure, perhaps this newspaper "shines for all," but Ne Plus Ultra-orthodox, apparently, is a motto for scribes on the New York Sun.
Ms Heidi Bruggink, of the NY Observer's Media Mob column, shares some inside info from the editorial room of a newspaper "known for its pugnacious coverage of Jewish-related issues--particularly a strong proponent of Israel's right to defend itself."

The in-house style guide of The New York Sun can be taken to offer some insight into the editorial positioning of the publication. We found, among the many entries, the following:

"aliya, not aliyah. Jewish immigration to Israel. Literally 'going up.' Opposite is yerida, the 'going down' of Israeli Jews to live in other countries, like America.

"Avery Fisher Hall: At Lincoln Center."

"Charedi. Literally, trembling. Prefer 'fervently Orthodox' or 'black-hat' to this Hebrew word. Avoid the term 'ultra-Orthodox.'"

"Decter, Midge. The Cold War heroine. Note the spelling of her last name."

"Ethnic. Means not Jewish or Christian."

"Gentile. Not Jewish or genteel."

"Jerusalem. Avoid the phrase 'Arab East Jerusalem.'"

"Matzo. Unleavened bread eaten at Passover, also called the bread of affliction."

"Peace process. Confine use to quoted material. Use the Oslo negotiations or the Arab-Israeli negotiations or the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs."

"Prime ministers of Israel. Our readers can be counted on to know of which country Prime Minister Sharon heads the government. Likewise with the American president."

"Reveal, revelation. Use only in quoted matter or when referring to what happened at Mount Sinai…"

"West Bank and Gaza Strip. Territories under Israeli control from 1967 onward. 'The territories' is acceptable on second reference, as are Judea or Samaria for the Southern and Northern regions of the West Bank. Avoid the phrase 'occupied territories.'"

UPDATE: This one was too good to leave out...

"communist, socialist. See AP stylebook. Any favorable reference to a communist must be shown to either the editor or the managing editor of the Sun before publication."

Junket Journos, corporate gifting, and unbiased reporting


Quality Street Digest is a sounding board for freelancers who contribute to "London newspapers formerly known as broadsheets." The odd name may bring to mind those tins of British wrapped toffees once handed out by PR firms, but it refers specifically to "quality" daily newspapers in London which eschew tabloid values, except for the shape of the paper. This exchange recently appeared there:

C: I was shocked recently when a journalist becoming newly established asked at a meeting how she could get free trips abroad etc, & I think this sort of 'chase the jollies' approach damages our trade and needs discouraging.

W: I am less worried about it, having had it as part of my life since
starting work. But in my first job, there was a shrine to the
crappiest corporate gift given to journalists. That attitude towards
the freebies has been evident in every job I have ever done. I have
found most hacks can still annihilate a company that deserves
annihilating no matter how much corporate hospitality and freebie
trips they have received from that company.


At the entrance to the Delhi Foreign Correspondents' Club, everyone steps on a pricey Oriental rug given by a Pakistani general as a welcome present to an incoming South Asia Bureau Chief from Washington, who only accepted it because her translator insisted; otherwise great offense would be taken. As soon as she crossed the border, she quickly donated it to the Delhi hacks' clubhouse-- as if it might be radioactive. "We must refuse to accept anything that could be construed as a bribe," she intoned. At a Bombay press conference for a satellite channel launch the same year, all reporters were given new television sets in their goodie bags, but by this time she did not even blink. (Nor did she take the TV home.)

What's the most blatant corporate gift you've come across as a reporter on the job?