06 Mar 2011 @ 3:49 PM 

A lot is said these days of citizen journalism and the rise of social media replacing old media institutions that don’t move with the times. While this year has seen a groundswell of change in the Middle East, in part assisted by these new Internet based methods of organisation and information dissemination, let us not forget the need that still exists for the profession of journalism and the impact of the failure this profession has had on society in the last decade.

 

The main case in evidence that I refer to is the case made for the regime change in Iraq. Certainly no one can rationally state that there was not evil and corruption present within that country and that something needed to be done. However, the reasons that were given for the action taken in 2003 and the lack of detailed analysis and coverage did not do honour to the individuals involved who sacrificed so much.

 

But this has happened and much has been claimed, discussed, refuted and the like over the rights and wrongs of the event. Little could be said in this posting that hasn’t already been covered in far greater detail elsewhere.

 

The one thing that does concern me that seems to have had little to no coverage is the fact little has changed with the media and journalistic institutions since then. The example that illustrates this is the lack of coverage given to an article in the UK Guardian of an interview with Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi. Codenamed “Curveball”, Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi provided evidence ultimately used by Colin Powell in his speech to the UN on the case for war with Iraq. The recent article in the Guardian is an interview in which Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi admits that these were lies told with the purpose of helping to prompt the action that we saw taken in 2003.

 

Why is this not receiving more coverage? It could be easily argued that the ramifications of this lie has had impact (both negative and positive) to thousands of lives across many countries. Doesn’t it deserve a few more “column inches” that what we are seeing? Shouldn’t the media organisations who in 2002 blindly accepted the corporate line have the courage to admit their errors and pledge in future to do their jobs in helping to maintain a free and truthful press?

 

A transparent and accurate media is one of the most important tools in maintaining freedom. Let’s not let it disappear

 

 

Posted By: Chief Tech
Last Edit: 09 Mar 2011 @ 07:15 AM

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 17 Feb 2011 @ 12:34 AM 

An article posted in The Economist a few years ago presents an interesting take on the safety messages you hear every time you fly in a commercial airline.

GOOD morning, ladies and gentlemen. We are delighted to welcome you aboard Veritas Airways, the airline that tells it like it is. Please ensure that your seat belt is fastened, your seat back is upright and your tray-table is stowed. At Veritas Airways, your safety is our first priority. Actually, that is not quite true: if it were, our seats would be rear-facing, like those in military aircraft, since they are safer in the event of an emergency landing. But then hardly anybody would buy our tickets and we would go bust.

The flight attendants are now pointing out the emergency exits. This is the part of the announcement that you might want to pay attention to. So stop your sudoku for a minute and listen: knowing in advance where the exits are makes a dramatic difference to your chances of survival if we have to evacuate the aircraft. Also, please keep your seat belt fastened when seated, even if the seat-belt light is not illuminated. This is to protect you from the risk of clear-air turbulence, a rare but extremely nasty form
of disturbance that can cause severe injury. Imagine the heavy food trolleys jumping into the air and bashing into the overhead lockers, and you will have some idea of how nasty it can be. We don’t want to scare you. Still, keep that seat belt fastened all the same.

Your life-jacket can be found under your seat, but please do not remove it now. In fact, do not bother to look for it at all. In the event of a landing on water, an unprecedented miracle will have occurred, because in the history of aviation the number of wide-bodied aircraft that have made successful landings on water is zero. This aircraft is equipped with inflatable slides that detach to form life rafts, not that it makes any difference. Please remove high-heeled shoes before using the slides. We might as well add that space helmets and anti-gravity belts should also be removed, since even to mention the use of the slides as rafts is to enter the realm of science fiction.

Please switch off all mobile phones, since they can interfere with the aircraft’s navigation systems. At least, that’s what you’ve always been told. The real reason to switch them off is because they interfere with mobile networks on the ground, but somehow that doesn’t sound quite so good. On most flights a few mobile phones are left on by mistake, so if they were really dangerous we would not allow them on board at all, if you think about it. We will have to come clean about this next year, when we introduce in-flight calling across the Veritas fleet. At that point the prospect of taking a cut of the sky-high calling charges will miraculously cause our safety concerns about mobile phones to evaporate.

On channel 11 of our in-flight entertainment system you will find a video consisting of abstract imagery and a new-age soundtrack, with a voice-over explaining some exercises you can do to reduce the risk of deep-vein thrombosis. We are aware that this video is tedious, but it is not meant to be fun. It is meant to limit our liability in the event of lawsuits.

Once we have reached cruising altitude you will be offered a light meal and a choice of beverages (a word that sounds so much better than just saying drinks, don’t you think?)  The purpose of these refreshments is partly to keep you in your seats where you cannot do yourselves or anyone else any harm. Please consume alcohol in moderate quantities so that you become mildly sedated but not rowdy. That said, we can always turn the cabin air-quality down a notch or two to help ensure that you are sufficiently drowsy.

After take-off, the most dangerous part of the flight, the captain will say a few words that will either be so quiet that you will not be able to hear them, or so loud that they could wake the dead. So please sit back, relax and enjoy the flight. We appreciate that you have a choice of airlines and we thank you for choosing Veritas, a member of an incomprehensible alliance of obscure foreign outfits, most of which you have never heard of. Cabin crew, please make sure we have remembered to close the doors. Sorry, I mean doors to automatic and cross-check. Thank you for flying Veritas.

Enjoy your next flight!

Posted By: Chief Tech
Last Edit: 17 Feb 2011 @ 12:34 AM

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 06 Oct 2010 @ 6:39 PM 

At first glance this could be some talented computer animators take on Google. However, when you add the fact that it was a paid commercial shown in Times Sqaure on the Jumbotron it takes on a bit of a new meaning.

Essentially this is a fight between a privacy advocate group and Google (who appear to have snubbed them at their own peril) over liberties taken with the use of user (i.e. most of the Internet) personal information.

While I think their intentions may be noble, I think they are fighting a battle that has been fought, lost and celebrated by the victor over a few generations! If you wanted privacy on the Internet, around 1995 was the time to put these mechanisms in place.

Two refuges exist for the true privacy seeker:

  1. Stay offline
  2. Get to know Tor, BetterPrivacy for FireFox and PGP

(Oh, and slight irony alert. I wonder how much YouTube found out about you and your viewing preferences while watching this video?)

Posted By: Chief Tech
Last Edit: 06 Oct 2010 @ 06:39 PM

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 07 Jul 2010 @ 12:37 AM 

I love reading some of the public service type publications from 1950’s America….they just stand the test of time so well! A good example is the following little gem from archive.org entitled Atomic Bombing. How to protect yourself.

This is a book covering in excruciating and graphic detail (I really can’t think of anything else that you might want to know) what to do in the event of an A-bomb attack. It even comes with lots of illustrations to make it an easy read for the kiddies (I guess? Must have been some really traumatised kids in the 50’s).

It is a fairly large file (about 25 MB PDF) and it isn’t on the greatest of servers, but worth it for historical-humour value alone.

There are many choice amusing segments which I will let you discover on your own, however this is one of my favourites so far. Important information to help make your home safer!

HOW TO MAKE YOUR HOME SAFER
There are a number of things you can do to make your own home safer. Few will go to the extreme of building a two-foot-thick, reinforced-concrete wall around the house, although this would provide almost complete protection. But you can remove overhanging cornices, heavy indoor light fixtures which might fall, false ceilings and the like. Light, combustile curtains and draperies are a serious fire hazard at your windows. Such ornamental fabrics should be fireproof — or removed completely.

If you home is within three miles of a possible A-bomb target and you have a picture window in the living room, you  might substitute plastic for plate glass. Wired glass would also make your windows safer…

EDIT: 13/2/2011, It would seem the server this document was hosted on finally gave up the ghost. The link is dead, but the original document can be found here for your reading pleasure.

Posted By: Chief Tech
Last Edit: 15 Feb 2011 @ 07:33 PM

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 28 Mar 2010 @ 9:38 PM 

After a little bit of sabre rattling it would appear they have finally done it, or at least moved their services outside of the Chinese government control safely in Hong Kong (!) for the moment at least.

A leaked document from the Chinese government demonstrates the level of control that their media is put under:

All chief editors and managers:

Google has officially announced its withdrawal from the China market. This is a high-impact incident. It has triggered netizens’ discussions which are not limited to a commercial level. Therefore please pay strict attention to the following content requirements during this period:

A. News Section

1. Only use Central Government main media (website) content; do not use content from other sources
2. Reposting must not change title
3. News recommendations should refer to Central government main media websites
4. Do not produce relevant topic pages; do not set discussion sessions; do not conduct related investigative reporting;
5. Online programs with experts and scholars on this matter must apply for permission ahead of time. This type of self-initiated program production is strictly forbidden.
6. Carefully manage the commentary posts under news items.

B. Forums, blogs and other interactive media sections:

1. It is not permitted to hold discussions or investigations on the Google topic
2. Interactive sections do not recommend this topic, do not place this topic and related comments at the top
3. All websites please clean up text, images and sound and videos which attack the Party, State, government agencies, Internet policies with the excuse of this event.
4. All websites please clean up text, images and sound and videos which support Google, dedicate flowers to Google, ask Google to stay, cheer for Google and others have a different tune from government policy
5. On topics related to Google, carefully manage the information in exchanges, comments and other interactive sessions
6. Chief managers in different regions please assign specific manpower to monitor Google-related information; if there is information about mass incidents, please report it in a timely manner.

We ask the Monitoring and Control Group to immediately follow up monitoring and control actions along the above directions; once any problems are discovered, please communicate with respected sessions in a timely manner.

Addition guidelines:

– Do not participate in and report Google’s information/press releases
– Do not report about Google exerting pressure on our country via people or events
– Related reports need to put [our story/perspective/information] in the center, do not provide materials for Google to attack relavent policies of our country
– Use talking points about Google withdrawing from China published by relevant departments

I don’t think the content of the above would be of any real surprise. It seems along the lines of a PR department directive to company employees after a negative public event surrounding the company….with the exception of course it covers a country of billions of people.

Reference: http://chinadigitaltimes.net/2010/03/the-latest-directives-from-the-ministry-of-truth-032310/

Posted By: Chief Tech
Last Edit: 28 Mar 2010 @ 09:38 PM

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