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An old rigid civilization is reluctantly dying. Something new, open, free and exciting is waking up.

Monday, June 2, 2003day link 

 The real Salam Pax
Salam Pax, the famous blogger from Baghdad, has become more real. It turns out that an American journalist had been working with him, and recognized him from some of the details. And what he adds only makes Salam a more remarkable person. Story here
The day after I returned to New York, reunited with my cable modem, I checked out a friend's blog that linked to an Austrian interview with Salam Pax. I clicked to it. Salam Pax mentioned an NGO he had worked for, CIVIC, and this caught my attention. I knew the woman who was in charge of CIVIC; she stayed at my Baghdad hotel, the Hamra. Salam Pax mentioned that he had done some work for foreign journalists. We traveled in the same circles, apparently. He also mentioned that he had studied in Vienna. This really caught my attention, because I knew an Iraqi who had worked for CIVIC, hung out with foreign journalists, and studied in Vienna. I clicked over to his blog.

His latest post mentioned an afternoon he spent at the Hamra Hotel pool, reading a borrowed copy of The New Yorker. I laughed out loud. He then mentioned an escapade in which he helped deliver 24 pizzas to American soldiers. I howled. Salam Pax, the most famous and most mysterious blogger in the world, was my interpreter. The New Yorker he had been reading—mine. Poolside at the Hamra—with me. The 24 pizzas—we had taken them to a unit of 82nd Airborne soldiers I was writing about.

[ | 2003-06-02 17:05 | 2 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Friday, May 30, 2003day link 

 WMD have been found - in Maryland
From The Guardian:
The good news for the Pentagon yesterday was that its investigators had finally unearthed evidence of weapons of mass destruction, including 100 vials of anthrax and other dangerous bacteria.

The bad news was that the stash was found, not in Iraq, but fewer than 50 miles from Washington, near Fort Detrick in the Maryland countryside.

The anthrax was a non-virulent strain, and the discoveries are apparently remnants of an abandoned germ warfare programme. They merited only a local news item in the Washington Post.
Nobody was able to find any documentation about disposed biological agents at the US bio-defense center at Fort Detrick. Hm, seems like those guys in Iraq were much better at keeping records.
[ | 2003-05-30 23:59 | 0 comments | PermaLink ]

 Radioactive Iraq
Lisa Rein mentions a Christina Science Monitor article about the remains of toxic bullets that litter Iraq. Now, there is good journalistic work. Instead of just writing what they're supposed to, they actually send somebody there with a geiger counter, to check the level of radioactivity for themselves.
At a roadside produce stand on the outskirts of Baghdad, business is brisk for Latifa Khalaf Hamid. Iraqi drivers pull up and snap up fresh bunches of parsley, mint leaves, dill, and onion stalks.

But Ms. Hamid's stand is just four paces away from a burnt-out Iraqi tank, destroyed by - and contaminated with - controversial American depleted-uranium (DU) bullets. Local children play "throughout the day" on the tank, Hamid says, and on another one across the road.

No one has warned the vendor in the faded, threadbare black gown to keep the toxic and radioactive dust off her produce. The children haven't been told not to play with the radioactive debris. They gather around as a Geiger counter carried by a visiting reporter starts singing when it nears a DU bullet fragment no bigger than a pencil eraser. It registers nearly 1,000 times normal background radiation levels on the digital readout.

The Monitor visited four sites in the city - including two randomly chosen destroyed Iraqi armored vehicles, a clutch of burned American ammunition trucks, and the downtown planning ministry - and found significant levels of radioactive contamination from the US battle for Baghdad.

[ | 2003-05-30 23:59 | 0 comments | PermaLink ]

Monday, May 26, 2003day link 

Mitch Ratcliffe mentions the new correspondences.org that he's one of the originators of. From the mission statement:
No one can tell a story better than the people who participated in events. Whether you witnessed a crime, suffered a catastrophe or sat through a performance, you've got something to say about that experience. That's the essence of journalism. Our experience is that, tempered by editorial hands, those stories are the meat of existence from which we can all learn and in which we can share, no matter what the background and beliefs of the people involved might be. Sharing our stories makes life matter. Keeping to ourselves, accepting the stream of commercial messages into our homes and lives is only one way to live in a connected world, and Correspondences.org wants to give voice to the other, egalitarian way. Read and listen, watch, think and comment. Act through your intelligence, not just your choice in the supermarket.

We're supporting text, photographic, audio and video submissions -- all you have to do is send a message to have your account established and you'll be on "staff." We won't be able to pay you, but we will vouch that you have an outlet to publish through in order to qualify as "press" whenever possible. We make no warranties and will act to remove libelous material, but virtually anything goes as long as it is your honest reporting or opinion about what is happening in our world -- remember that you own your own words, with all the responsibilities that go with that power to speak, to publish, to broadcast.
Now that is intriguing. It shouldn't really be. It should be obvious that people who are *there*, who experience something newsworthy, will report on it. And, of course, anybody can make their own weblog and say whatever they want. But there still seems to be a general scarcity of in-the-field reporting from regular folks who don't just have an axe to grind. What I'd be most interested in would be the really matter-of-fact stuff. You know, "I was at ___, and I saw ___, and I heard ___ say ____". The kind of stuff that would counter-balance the spin of the corporate media.
[ | 2003-05-26 13:48 | 4 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Wednesday, May 14, 2003day link 

 The Daily Show
I agree with Lisa Rein that The Daily Show with Jon Stewart is the best damn news program on American TV. Mind you, this is a satirical show on the Comedy Channel. That's about the only way you can speak the truth about current events on broadcast TV in the U.S. Embed it in comedy. Well, *some* of the truth at least.

Tonight he interviewed Diane Ravitch, author of "The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn". You see, in the U.S. it is rather tricky to write a text book for school children. Oh, not particularly because what you teach has to be correct. Rather because there's a very long list of things you aren't allowed to say, or you'll be censored, including 150 words you can't use. And, no we're not even talking about sex and traditional "bad" words. Rather words like "busboy" or "landlord", because they're sexist, or words like "imbecile" or "idiot" because they discriminate against dumb people. And stuff along the lines of: You can't include cake in a story, because it isn't nutritious. A story that is set in the mountains discriminates against students from flatlands. You can't write about old people acting like they're old. You can't say anything about people being blind or deaf. You can't mention anybody's race. Sheesh, I don't know what there's left to talk about? Certainly not the real world.
[ | 2003-05-14 23:59 | 0 comments | PermaLink ]

 Citizen Reporters in South Korea
From Smart Mobs:
Ohmynews's influence was highlighted after an American military armored vehicle ran down and killed two South Korean schoolgirls last June.

While the accident attracted relatively little attention in the mainstream press initially, Ohmynews was aggressive in its coverage. The stories prompted one "citizen reporter" to call for protests.

The idea snowballed and South Korea experienced some of its largest anti-U.S. demonstrations in years and calls for a review of the U.S.-South Korea military alliance.

Mainstream newspapers later criticized Ohmynews, questioning whether it was ethical for a so-called reporter to incite demonstrations.

The fast rise in popularity of Ohmynews, and other online news services, is partly attributable to South Korea's high Internet use. About 70 percent of homes have high-speed broadband Internet access connections -- more than anywhere else in the world.

Paik Hak-soon, a political analyst at the Sejong Institute research center, said "the mainstream press still has the ear of the majority of the public. But things are changing."

"Twenty- and 30-year-olds are getting their news from the Internet," he said.

[ | 2003-05-14 16:57 | 0 comments | PermaLink ]

Thursday, May 8, 2003day link 

 Baghdad blogger is back
Salam Pax is posting again after weeks of absence. He doesn't have net access, but he managed to send a text file to somebody who posted it to his blog.
"Let me tell you one thing first. War sucks big time. Don’t let yourself ever be talked into having one waged in the name of your freedom. Somehow when the bombs start dropping or you hear the sound of machine guns at the end of your street you don’t think about your “imminent liberation” anymore.

But I am sounding now like the Taxi drivers I have fights with whenever I get into one.

Besides asking for outrageous fares (you can’t blame them gas prices have gone up 10 times, if you can get it) but they start grumbling and mumbling and at a point they would say something like “well it wasn’t like the mess it is now when we had saddam”. This is usually my cue for going into rage-mode. We Iraqis seem to have very short memories, or we simply block the bad times out. I ask them how long it took for us to get the electricity back again after he last war? 2 years until things got to what they are now, after 2 months of war. I ask them how was the water? Bad. Gas for car? None existent. Work? Lots of sitting in street tea shops. And how did everything get back? Hussain Kamel used to literally beat and whip people to do the impossible task of rebuilding. Then the question that would shut them up, so, dear Mr. Taxi driver would you like to have your saddam back? Aren’t we just really glad that we can now at least have hope for a new Iraq? Or are we Iraqis just a bunch of impatient fools who do nothing better than grumble and whine? Patience, you have waited for 35 years for days like these so get to working instead of whining. End of conversation."

[ | 2003-05-08 17:51 | 0 comments | PermaLink ]

Monday, May 5, 2003day link 

 Caped crusader saves the day
picture CNN:
LONDON, England (Reuters) -- A masked and caped do-gooder has been sweeping through an English town, performing good deeds and scattering terrified bad guys, a local newspaper reported on Friday.

The Kent and Sussex Courier said it had received letters from "stunned residents" of the town of Tunbridge Wells, southeast of London, who saw the man in a brown mask and cape scare off hooligans and return a woman's dropped purse.

"To my great surprise," the paper quoted 21-year-old psychology student Ellen Neville as saying, "a masked man wearing a brown cape rushed past me to assist a woman who was having a bother with a group of youths.

"He swept in, broke up the commotion and ran off, leaving myself and the woman in a state of shock," she said.

A man wrote to say he was being chased by some youths when the hero appeared and "shocked the gang so much they ran off."

Another woman wrote to say the crusader had tapped her on her shoulder to return her purse.

"If only there were more people around with this kind-hearted spirit," she said.
Yeah, I think we could all use a caped crusader on our side once in a while.
[ | 2003-05-05 20:37 | 3 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Monday, March 31, 2003day link 

 Call for war crimes tribunal
The head of Indonesia's highest legislative body today urged the United Nations to bring George W Bush and Tony Blair before a war crimes tribunal for launching the war against Iraq. Yeah, that would be a good thing. But probably not likely unless they mess up much more badly.
[ | 2003-03-31 09:02 | 1 comment | PermaLink ]  More >

 NBC fires Peter Arnett
NBC has fired veteran reporter Peter Arnett because he told Iraqi television that the U.S. war plan against Saddam Hussein had failed. In 1998 he was fired from CNN after the Pentagon complained about a documentary he did on how the U.S. used Sarin gas on American defectors in Laos. And Arnett both times apologized and sort of withdrew what he said. Would be better if he just stuck with the truth he said in the first place, I think.
[ | 2003-03-31 08:51 | 0 comments | PermaLink ]

Wednesday, March 12, 2003day link 

 Iraqi drone revealed
picture There had been a lot of furor about a supposed drone, capable of spraying biological or chemical weapons over U.S. troops, which was discovered in Iraq recently, and which Hans Blix didn't mention in his U.N. report, but burried in a big written report. Sounded like a smoking gun, and Colin Powell presented it as being very dangerous. But here you see it on the picture. It is essentially a large model airplane, which is controlled by somebody on the ground who has it within visual range. Meaning, it wouldn't be able to move more than a couple of kilometers away. And it doesn't exactly have room for any fancy weapons. Another embarrassing non-story. Story here
[ | 2003-03-12 23:59 | 1 comment | PermaLink ]  More >

Saturday, February 15, 2003day link 

picture No problem getting together here. Peace demonstrations everywhere this weekend. Biggest ever. A million people in Rome, 1.3 million in Barcelona, 2 million in Madrid, 250,000 in New York, 1 million in London, 1/2 million in Berlin. And this time it seems totally impossible to keep it out of the U.S. media, so I think even Bush might catch it on TV.
LONDON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - More than six million demonstrators turned out across the world on Saturday in a wave of protest supporting international leaders in urging the United States not to rush into a war against Iraq.

From Canberra to Cape Town, from Karachi to Chicago, people from all walks of life took to the streets to pillory President Bush as a bloodthirsty warmonger in the biggest demonstration of 'people power' since the Vietnam War.

The largest outcry against war occurred in the European countries whose leaders have vocally supported Bush's position at the United Nations....

[ | 2003-02-15 14:45 | 1 comment | PermaLink ]  More >

Thursday, February 13, 2003day link 

 No Total Information Awareness
picture Howard Rheingold mentions that it seems that the U.S. Congress has succeeded in shutting down the Total Information Awareness program.
Virtually without dissent, the House conferees accepted a bipartisan Senate provision written by Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican, and Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, stipulating that the program cannot be used against American citizens. The conferees also agreed to end research on the program — in effect shutting it down — in 90 days unless the Pentagon submits a detailed report on the program's cost, goals, impact on civil liberties and prospects for success against terrorists. What this means, in effect, is that if the program continues at all, it will be as a low-intensity research project under close Congressional supervision.
Good news.
[ | 2003-02-13 23:59 | 4 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Wednesday, February 12, 2003day link 

 Monsanto Meltdown
picture The possibly most despised corporation in the world is finally hitting on some hard times.
"Despite heavy advertising and PR greenwash, despite a cozy relationship with the White House, Monsanto's image, profits, and credibility have plunged. Its aggressive bullying on Frankenfoods, its patents on the Terminator gene, its attempt to buy out seed companies and monopolize seed stocks, and its persecution of hundreds of North American farmers for the "crime" of seed-saving, has made Monsanto one of the most hated corporations on Earth.

Monsanto will likely soon be broken up, with its parts sold off to the highest bidder. The New York Times reported 1/14/03, that 'With its stock price low, Monsanto is considered a takeover target. by investment banks. and could be bought and sold off in pieces.'"
Hopefully in very small pieces. I think that is good news for the environment.
[ | 2003-02-12 23:59 | 4 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Tuesday, February 11, 2003day link 

 The World's Newspapers
picture This site shows the front page of most of the world's major newspapers today at the same time. That's rather neat. I personally like to have a big overview. I like anything that starts with the global view and then allows me to drill deeper into something that interests me.
[ | 2003-02-11 23:59 | 0 comments | PermaLink ]

Sunday, February 2, 2003day link 

 Build Voting Machines - Win Elections
The respected Washington, DC publication The Hill has confirmed that former conservative radio talk-show host and now Republican U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel was the head of, and continues to own part interest in, the company that owns the company that installed, programmed, and largely ran the voting machines that were used by most of the citizens of Nebraska. Used in elections where Hagel won very unexpected landslide victories.
[ | 2003-02-02 22:49 | 3 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

 Nestle settles claim against Ethiopia
BBC says that Nestle has come to an agreement with Ethiopia, concerning their claim for $6 million. This looks like a victory for the Make Trade Fair campaign. I'm sure Nestle has lost a lot more than $6 million from the bad publicity they got from trying to extort money out of a famined country, and that's probably what made them change their minds.
[ | 2003-02-02 22:38 | 2 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Saturday, February 1, 2003day link 

 Space Shuttle Columbia
picture Columbia broke apart over Texas on its way in to landing this morning. I'm sure most of you have heard it already.

That is very sad in many ways. Sad for the families of the astronauts, sad for the U.S. space program, sad for other space programs.

What is somewhat strange is that it appears much less sad and shocking than 17 years ago when the Challenger shuttle blew up after takeoff. At that time there was a tremendous shock and deep grief. It was a bit like 9/11, a deep wound into the American heart. Everybody were just in shock, sitting glued to radio or TV all day, in disbelief. But today, when I caught the first news about it (in a weblog), and turned the TV on, most people were, yes, very sad, but were also talking about how this is really a danger that goes with the job; not too unexpected; and they were talking about moving on. Very different response compared with the Challenger disaster, both in myself, in people around me, and in who I see on TV. I don't know if it is because people are more numb to disasters after 9/11, or if there is just a different flavor to this event somehow. See also what Glenn Reynolds says.

What is sad is that space exploration could have gotten much further at this point, if it had been properly supported, and this will only set it back further. As Phil Wolff just said:
"I'm angry that congressmen for the last 30 years haven't fully funded space exploration. The Columbia should have been bringing back tourists from the moon, settlers from Mars. And this wouldn't have been the 28th mission but the 1000th."
The space shuttles are 30 year old technology. They're in no way the height of what is possible today.

For that matter, and that is a lot more touchy, I still don't really believe that this is the real space program. Apollo, the space shuttles, big expensive dangerous rockets using huge amounts of fuel, I don't believe that is the most advanced technology available to humankind. Oh, not that I side with the skeptics who don't think we went to the moon. I think it all happened. But I also think it is a bit of a decoy, keeping us in the belief that space flight has to be ridiculously hard and expensive and wasteful of resources. I think the truth is something different, and I'd guess there are groups within the military-industrial complex who are playing with very different toys.

Not to minimize in any way what happened today. It is a tragedy, and the astronauts onboard Columbia will rightfully be remembered as the heroes they are.
[ | 2003-02-01 16:10 | 3 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

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Thursday, January 30, 2003day link 

 Restroom Surveillance
Apparently the police in Ohio likes to put up hidden cameras in public restrooms, so they can sit and watch people pee. Yeah, tax money is paying for a bunch of perverts who're sitting behind TV screens, trying to think of something they can charge people with.
One of the accused, James Henry, was convicted for standing at a restroom urinal for 47 seconds in May 2001. He is shown leaving the restroom without incident. At his trial, prosecutors convinced the jury that because Henry stepped back from the urinal before fastening his pants, anyone entering the facility "could have" come to the conclusion that Henry was masturbating. He was summarily convicted of public indecency.
Hm, yeah, sounds like a dangerous criminal. Too slow to zip up his pants.
[ | 2003-01-30 23:59 | 3 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Saturday, January 25, 2003day link 

 Windows worm brings the net to its knees
picture A widespread worm infection in Internet-connected Microsoft SQL Server 2000 computers caused a major disruption of Internet connectivity last night. It brought down all the ATMs of my bank, Bank of America. Rather unnerving news that they use Microsoft Windows to manage my money. Luckily I don't have much.
[ | 2003-01-25 23:59 | 2 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

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