Wednesday, June 30, 2010

New Al Qaida Magazine Instructs 'Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of your Mom'

Al-Qaida launched its first online propaganda magazine in English on Tuesday, a move that could help the terror group recruit inside the U.S. and Europe, according to the Associated Press. It's not very glossy

The magazine, called Inspire, [reportedly] is being run by al-Qaida's branch in Yemen, which has been linked to the failed Christmas Day bombing attempt of a U.S.-bound airliner, according to the Associated Press.
Some cynics, such as the reporters at the Atlantic Magazine, detect a whiff of US cyberwarrior counter-propaganda about the project and have scanned the first issue for your reading pleasure without the risk of Jihadi cyberworms!

The launch suggests that, as al-Qaida's core has been weakened by CIA drone airstrikes, the group hopes to broaden its reach inside the U.S., where officials have seen a spate of homegrown terrorists.

"This new magazine is clearly intended for the aspiring jihadist in the U.S. or U.K. who may be the next Fort Hood murderer or Times Square bomber," Bruce Riedel, a Brookings Institution scholar and former CIA officer, said.

Tuesday's launch did not go smoothly. The magazine was 67 pages long, but all but the first three pages were just garbled computer code, according to SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist websites and obtained a copy of the magazine.

The table of contents included articles such as "Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom," which promised to be "a detailed yet short, easy-to-read manual on how to make a bomb using ingredients found in a kitchen."

"We also call upon and encourage our readers to contribute by sending their articles, comments or suggestions to us," the magazine's introduction read.

At the heart of al-Qaida's propaganda effort is Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical U.S.-born cleric now living in Yemen. Authorities say his online sermons, in English, have inspired several recent terrorist plots in the United States. The magazine promotes an article by al-Awlaki titled "May Our Souls be Sacrificed for You." But like most of the magazine, the article did not appear in the version circulated Tuesday.

Until now, al-Qaida has relied on Arabic websites to carry its message. Now it appears to be capitalizing on its recent success recruiting inside the U.S.

Using propaganda on the Internet, the terrorist group has been able to attract Americans such as Bryant Neal Vinas and Najibullah Zazi, two admitted al-Qaida terrorists. Both were radicalized in New York and traveled to Pakistan to join the fight against the U.S.

In a recent terrorism case in New Jersey, prosecutors say two U.S. citizens watched al-Awlaki's videos on their cell phones and took inspiration in his call for smaller, single acts of terrorism.

The editorial staff at Inspire have some way to go til they get the cyber-cover art down to maximize attention. Compare Inspire to the latest Rolling Stone cover, below, with its double-barrel impact that drove everyone Gaga and helped bring down Stan the Man, a four star general. The launch issue (geddit?) of the Jihadi raghead rag, Inspire lacks punch.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Ooh La La! Porn Merchant in Three-way bid for Le Monde

John Lichfield, a veteran reporter for London's The Independent, reveals how the iconic French newspaper, Le Monde, is to be taken over by a consortium that includes a tycoon who built a fortune on porn. Click here to see the original article.

The journalists of Le Monde, the most prestigious French-language publication in the world, have contemptuously defeated an attempt by President Nicolas Sarkozy to intervene in the sale of their struggling newspaper.

As a result, Le Monde, once known for its uncompromising austerity, will today fall into the hands of the former romantic and business partner of Yves Saint-Laurent and a radical, self-made billionaire who founded his fortune on internet pornography, chat lines and peep shows.

Le Monde's journalists, who have controlled the newspaper for almost half a century, voted by over 90 per cent to accept the majority ownership bid of a consortium headed by Pierre Bergé, 81, the retired fashion impresario, and Xavier Niel, 42, one of France's most successful, and controversial, internet entrepreneurs.

The decision was matched by equally crushing votes by Le Monde's reader-shareholders and the employees of several subsidiary publications. The managing board of Le Monde will confirm the choice today, guaranteeing the immediate future of one of the world's most distinctive and respected newspapers.

The bid by Mr Bergé and Mr Niel was always likely to be the most attractive to Le Monde's employees and readers. The entrepreneurs, and the third member of their consortium, Matthieu Pigasse, a merchant banker, had promised the journalists a "blocking" vote on future changes and complete editorial independence.

President Sarkozy's clumsy intervention two weeks ago – summoning the newspaper's editor-in-chief to the Elysée to back a rival offer – only served to make the outcome certain and the scale of the vote overwhelming. Mr Sarkozy is reported to have objected to Mr Niel as a co-owner of Le Monde on moral grounds.

Mr Niel, now a multi-billionaire, started his business career at the age of 19 by launching a sexual contact service on Minitel, France's dial-up precursor to the internet. He branched out into peep shows before making a colossal fortune from his internet access and telephone companies, Free and Iliad.

Among many other business interests, Mr Niel owns the rights to the songs written by the 1960s French pop singer, Claude François. He is therefore the owner of the global rights to the music, but not the English lyrics, of the karaoke classic, "My Way".

In 2006 Mr Niel was given a two-year suspended sentence for embezzlement. More recently, he has backed two left-wing, investigative websites in France, Bakchich and Mediapart.

These ventures into radical politics and journalism are believed to be the real reason for Mr Sarkozy's opposition to his part-ownership of Le Monde.

The president is reported to have feared that Mr Niel, and the equally leftwing Mr Bergé, a backer of the Socialist candidate, Ségolène Royal, in 2007, would turn the newspaper into an anti-Sarkozy vehicle.

The president tried to persuade Le Monde's editor-in-chief, Eric Fottorino, that he and his staff should back a rival consortium, consisting of France Telecom, the Spanish newspaper El Pais and the owner of the centre-left news magazine, Le Nouvel Observateur. The bid included several people with connections with the president's centre-right party.

Le Monde, once known for its elaborate French and its grey pages, has surrendered readers and advertising revenue to the internet in recent years.

It has also made strategic errors, such as spinning off part of the ownership, and revenue, of its excellent web-site to another company.

It has abandoned some of its legendary austerity and wordiness in the past decade. There are now photographs, sports coverage and large, less ponderous headlines. Many readers find the changes refreshing. Others say the newspaper has been irretrievably dumbed down.

Either way, Le Monde's circulation fell by 4 per cent last year, to 288,000. The Le Monde holding company, which also owns weekly magazines such as Courrier International, Telerama and La Vie, lost €25m (£20.5m). Its journalists have fought tooth and claw to maintain their de facto control over the title for years. Two months ago, they accepted that they had no choice but to relinquish majority ownership to a new investor.

In a speech to staff on Friday night, Mr Fottorino backed the Bergé-Niel-Pigasse consortium. The question was, he said, to whom should Le Monde "give the keys of the company" without "selling our editorial independence". Although the Le Nouvel Observateur-El Pais-France Telecom bid was "honourable" and "solid", the business plan and guarantees given by Mr Bergé and Mr Niel were clearer, he said.

They also explicitly "recognised" Le Monde's "history" as an intelligent, independent voice. In other words, Le Monde may be about to change hands but its journalists plan to continue to do things "Their Way".

Sunday, June 27, 2010

'The 36 Hours That Shook Washington' by Frank Rich of NYT

THE moment he pulled the trigger, there was near-universal agreement that President Obama had done the inevitable thing, the right thing and, best of all, the bold thing. But before we get carried away with relief and elation, let’s not forget what we saw in the tense 36 hours that fell between late Monday night, when word spread of Rolling Stone’s blockbuster article, and high noon Wednesday, when Obama MacArthured his general. That frenzied interlude revealed much about the state of Washington, the Afghanistan war and the Obama presidency — little of it cheering and none of it resolved by the ingenious replacement of Gen. Stanley McChrystal with Gen. David Petraeus, the only militarily and politically bullet-proof alternative.

What we saw was this: 1) Much of the Beltway establishment was blindsided by Michael Hastings’s scoop, an impressive feat of journalism by a Washington outsider who seemed to know more about what was going on in Washington than most insiders did; 2) Obama’s failure to fire McChrystal months ago for both his arrogance and incompetence was a grievous mistake that illuminates a wider management shortfall at the White House; 3) The present strategy has produced no progress in this nearly nine-year-old war, even as the monthly coalition body count has just reached a new high.

If we and the president don’t absorb these revelations and learn from them, the salutary effects of the drama’s denouement, however triumphant for Obama in the short run, will be for naught.

There were few laughs in the 36 hours of tumult, but Jon Stewart captured them with a montage of cable-news talking heads expressing repeated shock that an interloper from a rock ’n’ roll magazine could gain access to the war command and induce it to speak with self-immolating candor. Politico theorized that Hastings had pulled off his impertinent coup because he was a freelance journalist rather than a beat reporter, and so could risk “burning bridges by publishing many of McChrystal’s remarks.”

That sentence was edited out of the article — in a routine updating, said Politico — after the blogger Andrew Sullivan highlighted it as a devastating indictment of a Washington media elite too cozy with and protective of its sources to report the unvarnished news. In any event, Politico had the big picture right. It’s the Hastings-esque outsiders with no fear of burning bridges who have often uncovered the epochal stories missed by those with high-level access. Woodward and Bernstein were young local reporters, nowhere near the White House beat, when they cracked Watergate. Seymour Hersh was a freelancer when he broke My Lai. It was uncelebrated reporters in Knight Ridder’s Washington bureau, not journalistic stars courted by Scooter and Wolfowitz, who mined low-level agency hands to challenge the “slam-dunk” W.M.D. intelligence in the run-up to Iraq.
For complete NY Times oped, click here

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Rookie tennis announcer McIntosh starts big

BBC commentator Ronald McIntosh was taking charge of his first ever tennis match after bosses thought they'd ease him in with a 'minor' game on court 18. It happened to be the epic struggle between American John Isner and Nicolas Mahut. Final score 70-68 after 11 hours on court: the longest game ever at Wimbledon. That's the way the ball bounces, Ron.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Helen Thomas' sisters explain

The sisters of the 89-year-old doyenne of the Washington Press corps, Helen Thomas, who retired shortly after a video of her anti-Semitic statements to Rabbi David F Nesenoff went viral online, have defended her. They told blogger Richard Price of Journal-isms that the media got it wrong.
three of them said Thomas was not calling for the destruction of Israel or the return of all Israelis to Europe or the United States, as has been the running narrative, but was expressing her opposition to the disputed Israeli settlements on Palestinian land.

"They should stop confiscating the land that belonged to the Palestinians. We feel that there should be a two-state solution in Palestine," said one sister, who did not want to be identified. The sisters, who spoke from the home of one of them in the Detroit area, which houses the nation's largest concentration of Arab Americans, range in age from 87 to 95. Thomas is 89. A brother is 100. The family is Lebanese-American.

"Helen Thomas is for peaceful coexistence in the Palestinian territory," said Barbara Isaac, the youngest sister. "What she does not like is that the Palestinians have been completely devastated and made to live under occupation and all the deleterious effects, and the hazardous effects of that, stripped of their ability to live normal lives.

"Helen has lived with this problem for as long as she's been in Washington," she said. Displaced Palestinians become waiters and cooks there, "and would talk to her, and she's heard nothing but their stories of horror for 60 years," Isaac said, referencing the creation of Israel in 1948. "She's out to dinner and they find her.

"If nobody got angry about injustice, then people just go on suffering, knowing that nobody gives a damn."

As Laura Berman wrote Tuesday in the Detroit News, "When asked about Israel during a White House Jewish heritage celebration on May 27, Thomas told 'Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine.'

"As the recording continued, Thomas told the interviewer, Rabbi David F. Nesenoff: 'Remember, these people are occupied and it's their land.'

"Asked where they should go, Thomas answered: 'They should go home' to 'Poland, Germany and America and everywhere else.'

"The fallout was quick."

Osama Siblani, publisher of the Arab-American News in Dearborn, Mich., which claims to be "the largest, oldest and most respected Arab American newspaper in the United States," told Journal-isms there was never any doubt about what Thomas meant.

"Helen Thomas hit it right on the nail. They should get the hell out of Palestine," he said. "It's illegal" -- what is taking place, he said, "confiscating land" and "illegal settlements."

"She's talking about the settlements," he said without hesitation, asked to explain Thomas' reference.

"I saw the video six or seven times and I know what she meant."

Siblani ran a column on his website Monday from Katrina vanden Heuvel of the Nation magazine, which he called "the fairest" that he had seen. It was titled, "Isn't There Some Room for Helen Thomas?"

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Do you wanna be a content provider for AOL??

Here's the future of journalism, folks. No mention of pay rates, but let's hope they are commiserate with guild recommended rates.

AOL is planning to hire hundreds of journalists, editors and videographers in the coming year as it builds out its content-first business model.

David Eun, president of AOL's media and studios division, is expected to announce the push in an all-hands meeting of the group in New York today when he lays out his strategy for the unit that will include grouping all the sites into 17 "super-networks."

In an interview, Mr. Eun said he had not only familiarized himself with all of AOL's far-flung content operations in his first 90 days on the job, but also visited many of them personally, studied the economics and data from traffic across AOL's properties and search, and come to one overarching conclusion: produce more content, faster.

"Our mission at this company is to be the world's largest producer of high-quality content, period," he said. "The content driving our traffic is home-grown, and 80% of it is now produced by folks on the AOL payroll."

AOL employs about 500 full-time editorial employees. And while Mr. Eun said the marketplace will determine the pace of new hires, it is conceivable that number could double in the coming year. "We are going to be the largest net hirer of journalists in the world next year," he said.

The content operation, which includes more than 100 brands, including AOL Health and AOL Autos and brands such as Fanhouse and PopEater, will be reorganized into 17 separate "networks" the company will package to advertisers.

The networks themselves represent every significant type of content that the data show AOL users want and advertisers are willing to buy. As an example, the Life network will include sites such as Kitchen Daily and Stylist; Family will include content around parents, kids, tweens, teens and pets. Other "super-networks" will include finance, news, sports, movies, music, local and "communities," which includes AOL Latino and Black Voices.

"We have insights into our audience, and can produce content they want, which leads to engagement, which leads to what advertisers want," said Jeff Levick, president of global advertising at AOL.

Mr. Eun said the bias is toward strengthening the collection of brands AOL already has, but the company will also look to new launches, acquisitions and partnerships. "In this world you have to be doing all three," he said.

In addition to hiring hundreds of full-time employees over the next year, Mr. Eun wants to quickly ramp up the number of freelancers contributing to AOL. Currently there are about 40,000 freelancers contributing to AOL, its SEED content production arm and Studio One. Mr. Eun said the company is still working on a system that measures the value of a piece of content based on the number of people that click, how long they stay, and the amount of ad revenue associated with it.

If AOL is doubling down on their now yearlong effort to transform the company from its dial-up internet access roots to a media company, they're not alone.

After a few years of recovery from the Terry Semel era, the former studio boss who once ran the portal, Yahoo is now calling itself "the world's largest media company" and dropped close to $100 million on Associated Content in May to bolster its offerings.

Like AOL, Yahoo has concluded that its original content performs and monetizes better and it's now in a push to create more of it. In an interview earlier this week, Yahoo Exec VP Hilary Schneider said Yahoo's goal is to boost home-grown content to 20% worldwide.

Indeed, Ms. Schneider said a key rationale for acquiring Associated Content is the sheer number of contributors (340,000) on its freelance rolls. "We know what unmet need we have from of content," Ms. Schneider said. "We can start putting in requests for the content we know our consumers are looking for."