Not many answers but lots and lots of questions!!!

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Global Investigative Journalism Conference

Friday, January 07, 2005

Sometimes the Simplest Ideas are the Best 

A free anti-spam tool that's easy to use

"Anti spam fights spam bots

The purpose of this page is to make it so spammers who attempt to collect email addresses off the web, via programs, will not have real email addresses in their database. Anti-Spam causes problems because they will have to clean out their list. It also makes their database worthless for reselling purposes because the company purchasing their spam database will have worthless email address.

How ANTI-SPAM works:

This page has fifty randomly generated email addresses (refresh and new ones will appear). At the bottom of the page is a link to this page again, essentially reloading it for programs to collect more fake email addresses. Email collecting programs (spam bots) will be sent into an infinite loop by following the link at the bottom of the page and will get more and more fake email addresses stuck in their databases.

Spam is the electronic world's biggest problem. A fool proof method of filtering out spam does not yet exist, but we don't have to sit back and take it. Anti-Spam pages like this one make spamming less profitable and is our way to help FIGHT SPAM."

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Thursday, January 06, 2005

UN Documents Online 

United Nations opens Official Document System to general public

"NEW YORK, 23 December -- The United Nations today announced the availability of its Official Document System (ODS) the premier full-text web resource for official United Nations documentation, to the general public as of 31 December 2004.

The ODS covers all types of official United Nations documentation originating from duty stations worldwide, including selective documents of the regional commissions: Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and Economic Commission for Europe (ECE).

Comprehensive coverage starts in 1993. Older United Nations documents are added to the system on a daily basis. Selective coverage of General Assembly and Security Council documentation currently reaches back to 1985. The ODS also provides access to the resolutions of the General Assembly, Security Council, Economic and Social Council and the Trusteeship Council from 1946 onwards.

Currently, the ODS contains close to 800,000 files and approximately 100,000 new documents are added each year.

Users may take advantage of the ODS benefits such as: quick access to valuable United Nations official documents, easy-to-use search functionality, easy-to-print PDF documents and user-friendly design.

ODS Training Guide

ODS Welcome Page:

ODS covers all types of official United Nations documentation, beginning in 1993. Older UN documents are, however, added to the system on a daily basis. ODS also provides access to the resolutions of the General Assembly, Security Council, Economic and Social Council and the Trusteeship Council from 1946 onwards. The system does not contain press releases, UN sales publications, the United Nations Treaty Series or information brochures issued by the Department of Public Information. Please click on Help for more detailed information.

The ODS is a multilingual system. Therefore, it requires UNICODE-based Internet browsers, such as MS Internet Explorer 5.5, Netscape 6.21 or higher versions. For access to the ODS, please ensure that your Internet browser complies with this requirement.

Copyright (c) United Nations 2000-2004. All rights reserved."

=== UN databases of statistics, treaties speeches and much more PB ===

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NHL Lockout Breeds Incestuous Journalism -- Alfredsson Blusters - Betteman Bashed - Blue Ribbon Panel Pitches Proposal From Left Field 

It's a sad state of affairs when hockey journalists are reduced to covering each other. All these stories have two attributes in common: they're about the lockout and are based on coverage by another publication. But, so is this entry and, actually, much of this blog. Then again, blogs aren't news.

Alfredsson: No union offer coming

TSN.ca Staff - 1/6/2005

The NHLPA is not preparing another last minute offer and the union is prepared to "lose the season", according to Ottawa Senators star Daniel Alfredsson.

One of the NHLPA's vice presidents, Alfredsson tells the Ottawa Sun that union officials spoke last week and concluded they would not alter their last offer, which included a 24-percent salary rollback.

"We're not working on anything ... we're not going to do anything to change our offer," Alfredsson tells the newspaper.

"We thought we made them an offer that they could work with. What we found out in that meeting was they have a one-track mind. (Gary Bettman) is stuck on one thing and we're not going to play under a cap system."

"We're willing to lose the season if that's what it takes. We're prepared for it."

Talk of a last minute offer has been swirling as NHL governors prepare to meet with Bettman on January 14."

Magazine latest to rip Bettman

"New York, NY (Sports Network) - BusinessWeek joined in the parade of Gary Bettman bashing, ranking the National Hockey League commissioner fifth in its list of 2004's worst managers.

"Arenas have been empty since Sept. 15, when National Hockey League owners locked out the players," the magazine said in its Bettman profile. "NHL finances are in shambles, and the weak TV deal signed with NBC last spring suggests the league has little leverage and is now a second-tier sport."

The magazine also takes a shot at NHL owners, calling them "an undisciplined bunch." It says they should shoulder much of the blame for "wildly bidding up salaries."

BusinessWeek doesn't play favorites, though, as NHLPA executive director Bob Goodenow's name was brought up in the piece too.

"But little prudence has been shown by NHL Players Assn. chief Bob Goodenow, who might have been wise to heed Bettman's warnings that the unsustainable rate of salary growth was undermining the business on which players depend for their livelihood."

===PB=== Here's the original story the above was based on.

THE BEST & WORST MANAGERS OF 2004 -- THE WORST MANAGERS - Gary Bettman - National Hockey League

"Under Bettman, the NHL has been skating on thin ice for years. Even though its revenues hit $2.1 billion last season, the league claims 20 of 30 franchises lost money, and that it lost a total of $225 million. Salaries zoomed to 75% of league revenues last season, from 41% in 1990-1991, the NHL says. That outstrips the share of revenues going to players in pro football (64%) and basketball (57%)."

===PB=== The article goes on to say the lockout "was a crisis that should never have happened."

NHL - Panel suggests plan to end NHL lockout -

"Wednesday January 5, 2005 6:03PM BOSTON (AP) -- A 36-member panel of top executives, players and other experienced hockey personnel has proposed allowing no more than one player per team to earn more than $5 million a year as part of a plan to end the NHL labor lockout.

The informal group was assembled by The Eagle-Tribune newspaper, which published details of the proposal on Tuesday as part of a series it published looking at the lockout. It forwarded what it called the 'initiative' to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHL Players' Association executive director Bob Goodenow.

The newspaper said the initiative 'would bring a measure of cost certainty but preserve the market.' It did not identify the members of the group.

Currently, the NHL does not have a salary cap in place.

One key element of the plan is a "tier system" which would allow teams to sign players in six categories -- one "franchise player" per team with no limit on his salary, and 27 players in five categories with different pay scales. No more than four players per team could earn $5 million a year and a maximum of seven could earn up to $3 million, the newspaper reported."

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Monday, January 03, 2005

Everybody's Looking for the Spaceman! Gary Bell Where Are You? 

I try as much as possible to avoid speaking in the first person and writing blog entries about this blog is usually a bit too narcissistic for me but there's a phenomenon that, to me, requires comment.

Like any conscientious and technically capable web site owner I track the traffic to and from this site. Site Meterprovides a free counter (scroll to the bottom to see it) and keeps stats.

One of the statistics it keeps is where you my readers came from. A lot of the times it can't tell but most of you come here after a search for a particular topic on Google, Yahoo or MSN.

The thing that's interesting to me is that most frequently people are looking for Gary Bell, AKA The Spaceman, host of A View from Space on Toronto's Mojo Radio AM 640 on Saturday night's at 9:00.

I was working nights a while ago and was a regular listener of the Spaceman's usually well-researched show. His knowledge of esoterica and religion are truly impressive especially during the call-in part of the show when he calls upon that knowledge in real time to expound on some point brought up by the caller or refute a misconception. I got interested in one story he was talking about that became this article.

The story turned out to be a well-crafted hoax. That's no fault of Bell's. A lot of people were sucked by veteran techno-journalist Declan McCullagh's April Fools' joke and it took some digging to fund the truth.

The point is that, since then, the majority of hits I get are a result of people looking for the Spaceman. I find it surprising but it's a well-deserved tribute to Bell who does a fine job covering things most media won't touch from his corner of our shared mediasphere.

It's nice to have the traffic. Now if I could only find a way to get people to comment or click on the ads. ===PB===

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Does Iraq News Coverage Lack Balance? Objectivity? Both? 

Google News today had 853 stories related to one attack by Iraqi insurgents (see three examples below) and 427 more linked to a suicide bomber's attempt to assinate interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. Evidently there were no operations by Iraqi security forces or American troops worth covering. If there's a conspiracy to skew reporting of events in Iraq virtually every news outlet in the world seems to be in on it.

The articles below were picked more or less randomly and their inclusion is not meant to single them out for criticism or protect the excluded media outlets.

7 killed, 39 injured in suicide attacks targeting security forces
"CBC News, Canada - BAGHDAD (AP) - Two car bombs, one near the prime minister's party headquarters in Baghdad, killed seven Iraqis not including the drivers and wounded 39 others ... "

Rebels kill 17 in Iraq attacks
"International news from swissinfo, the Swiss news platform - BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Insurgents have killed 17 Iraqi police and National Guards in another bloody spree of ambushes, bombings and suicide attacks aimed at wrecking Iraq's January 30 national election..."

Suicide bombing kills 18 Iraqi guardsmen
"San Francisco Chronicle, CA - Baghdad -- Insurgents intensified their campaign against the country's nascent security forces Sunday, killing at least 18 national guardsmen and one civilian ..."

Admittedly Google News is still in beta (meaning it's a pre-production version of the software) and as such may not be the best instrument with which to gauge news balance. During the recent Canadian federal election, news about the event was so scarce I inquired to Google News Feedback about it. They responded, essentially saying the same thing they say on the About Google News page.

"The headlines on the Google News homepage are selected entirely by a computer algorithm, based on many factors including how often and on what sites a story appears elsewhere on the web. This is very much in the tradition of Google's web search, which relies heavily on the collective judgment of web publishers to determine which sites offer the most valuable and relevant information. Google News relies in a similar fashion on the editorial judgment of online news organizations to determine which stories are most deserving of inclusion and prominence on the Google News page."

So, if there's any bias on the part of Google News, it's built into the software and presumably gets tweaked on occasion when the programmers improve their methodology. If the world's news editors are biased changing that may not be so simple. A commercial publication is predisposed towards profit - it has to be to survive. Public and non-profit news organisations don't have that justification. Editors and journalists are (supposed to be) trained in balance and objectivity in journalism school but can usefully depart from that when necessary in editorials, columns and, occasionally, investigative journalism.

It's very hard to believe that Iraqi forces opposed to the current governement are the only ones active and that American and coalition troops and Iraqi government security personnel are cowering in their bases but it's hard to tell from the coverage. Taking the cynical view that the media has given up representing their audiences' best interests are and are merely out for themselves is too depressing to contemplate.


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