Amid a slew of piracy stories from Somalia, a fake Bloomberg piece is circulating the 'net today with a report that Wall Street bankers might cringe upon reading:
Somali Pirates in Discussions to Acquire Citigroup
By Andreas Hippin
November 20 (Bloomberg) -- The Somali pirates, renegade Somalis known for hijacking ships for ransom in the Gulf of Aden, are negotiating a purchase of Citigroup.
The pirates would buy Citigroup with new debt and their existing cash stockpiles, earned most recently from hijacking numerous ships, including most recently a $200 million Saudi Arabian oil tanker. The Somali pirates are offering up to $0.10 per share for Citigroup, pirate spokesman Sugule Ali said earlier today. The negotiations have entered the final stage, Ali said.
"You may not like our price, but we are not in the business of paying for things. Be happy we are in the mood to
offer the shareholders anything," said Ali.
The pirates will finance part of the purchase by selling new Pirate Ransom Backed Securities. The PRBS's are backed by the cash flows from future ransom payments from hijackings in the Gulf of Aden. Moody's and S&P have already issued their top investment grade ratings for the PRBS's.
Head pirate, Ubu Kalid Shandu, said: "We need a bank so that we
have a place to keep all of our ransom money. Thankfully, the
dislocations in the capital markets has allowed us to purchase Citigroup
at an attractive valuation and to take advantage of TARP capital to grow the business even faster."
Shandu added, "We don't call ourselves pirates. We are coastguards and this will just allow us to guard our coasts better."
(Hat tip: Andrew Willis)
Newsweek is reporting today that both the Obama and McCain campaign Web sites were hacked over the summer by what the FBI called a "foreign entity" looking for information on policy positions:
At the Obama headquarters in midsummer, technology experts detected what they initially thought was a computer virus—a case of "phishing," a form of hacking often employed to steal passwords or credit-card numbers. But by the next day, both the FBI and the Secret Service came to the campaign with an ominous warning: "You have a problem way bigger than what you understand," an agent told Obama's team. "You have been compromised, and a serious amount of files have been loaded off your system." The following day, Obama campaign chief David Plouffe heard from White House chief of staff Josh Bolten, to the same effect: "You have a real problem ... and you have to deal with it."
The Feds told Obama's aides in late August that the McCain campaign's computer system had been similarly compromised. A top McCain official confirmed to NEWSWEEK that the campaign's computer system had been hacked and that the FBI had become involved.
Officials at the FBI and the White House told the Obama campaign that they believed a foreign entity or organization sought to gather information on the evolution of both camps' policy positions—information that might be useful in negotiations with a future administration. The Feds assured the Obama team that it had not been hacked by its political opponents. (Obama technical experts later speculated that the hackers were Russian or Chinese.)
Here are some fun findings I came across while playing with the site, which proudly announces "Search 1,326,920,000 web pages":
ForeignPolicy.com. At the time I searched, there was an AIG advertisement at the top of the screen that declared, "The greatest risk is not taking one." (I guess bailed-out AIG took that statement to its extreme.)
What kind of antique jewels have you come across while playing with the 2001 Google? Feel free to comment below.
It really is a brave new world. The president of Russia is vlogging:
I must say it's not bad, though hardly surprising from Russia's geek-in-chief, who starts each morning reading international papers online. United Russia deputy Sergei Markov, who we last heard expounding enthusiastically about how sexy Vladimir Putin is, has another choice quote in today's Guardian about the president's cyber-savvy:
For him to use the internet and video is not something extraordinary. It's normal. I would say that Medvedev is very comfortable with the internet in the same way that Putin is comfortable when he's in church."
Welcome to the Bad Credit Hotel. You might, at first, be spooked by the Halloween-ish music that greets you like a haunted house -- with an ominous voice-over reading "Don't let your credit put you in a bad place." Or by the hotel receptionist who greets you and asks, "You look lost... come to solve the great mystery of credit?"
But here's the real scary part that I forgot to mention: The Bad Credit Hotel is brought to you by the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Really.
Just as the financial crisis was spinning out of control last week, the Treasury announced a joint media campaign geared at educating younger Americans about how to manage their credit. The online Bad Credit Hotel game is part of the campaign. Click on the clock to learn that creditors cannot call you before 8am or after 9pm. Click on a library book and the receptionist will suggest you begin studying "history--credit history that is."
Ok good--this campaign is geared at preventing another credit crisis. The skeptic in me, however, sees a bit of irony in the Treasury's teachings on debunking the "mystery" of credit. Mystery is about the only thing that looks certain in this financial crisis. Meanwhile, the U.S. Treasury is set to become the biggest creditor in history.
Didn't Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson learn on Wall Street that timing is everything? With bailout talks in chaos, and controvery growing over what would be the biggest government injection in history, my favorite scene of the game begins with a "worldly" treasury-dreamed-up character explaining, "I was once young and careless like you, spending my money like a sailor..."
Dear Mr Paulson, not the image of Treasury you want to promote, noble as the intentions may be.
Perhaps the reason Congress is giving Paulson such a hard time these days is that they, too, have checked in to the Bad Credit Hotel, heeding this next character's advice: "It's hard to find your way when things are at their darkest... don't let the smoke get in your eyes."
Finance blogger Barry Ritholtz posts the following brilliant e-mail currently making the rounds on Wall Street:
SUBJECT: REQUEST FOR URGENT BUSINESS RELATIONSHIP
I NEED TO ASK YOU TO SUPPORT AN URGENT SECRET BUSINESS RELATIONSHIP WITH A TRANSFER OF FUNDS OF GREAT MAGNITUDE.
I AM MINISTRY OF THE TREASURY OF THE REPUBLIC OF AMERICA. MY COUNTRY HAS HAD CRISIS THAT HAS CAUSED THE NEED FOR LARGE TRANSFER OF FUNDS OF 800 BILLION DOLLARS US. IF YOU WOULD ASSIST ME IN THIS TRANSFER, IT WOULD BE MOST PROFITABLE TO YOU.
I AM WORKING WITH MR. PHIL GRAM, LOBBYIST FOR UBS, WHO WILL BE MY REPLACEMENT AS MINISTRY OF THE TREASURY IN JANUARY. AS A SENATOR, YOU MAY KNOW HIM AS THE LEADER OF THE AMERICAN BANKING DEREGULATION MOVEMENT IN THE 1990S. THIS TRANSACTIN IS 100% SAFE.
THIS IS A MATTER OF GREAT URGENCY. WE NEED A BLANK CHECK. WE NEED THE FUNDS AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE. WE CANNOT DIRECTLY TRANSFER THESE FUNDS IN THE NAMES OF OUR CLOSE FRIENDS BECAUSE WE ARE CONSTANTLY UNDER SURVEILLANCE. MY FAMILY LAWYER ADVISED ME THAT I SHOULD LOOK FOR A RELIABLE AND TRUSTWORTHY PERSON WHO WILL ACT AS A NEXT OF KIN SO THE FUNDS CAN BE TRANSFERRED.
PLEASE REPLY WITH ALL OF YOUR BANK ACCOUNT, IRA AND COLLEGE FUND ACCOUNT NUMBERS AND THOSE OF YOUR CHILDREN AND GRANDCHILDREN TO WALLSTREETBAILOUT@TREASURY.GOV SO THAT WE MAY TRANSFER YOUR COMMISSION FOR THIS TRANSACTION. AFTER I RECEIVE THAT INFORMATION, I WILL RESPOND WITH DETAILED INFORMATION ABOUT SAFEGUARDS THAT WILL BE USED TO PROTECT THE FUNDS.
YOURS FAITHFULLY MINISTER OF TREASURY PAULSON
Whatever gets you through the trading day, I guess.
Just about everyone in Pakistan has an opinion about what former President Pervez Musharraf's real legacy will be. To some, he's a leader who successfully stared down violent extremists and reformed the economy. To others, he's a common criminal who should be put on trial for enriching his friends in the military and for being the willing pawn of the CIA.
Given such division, is it any wonder a fight over Musharraf's legacy has broken out in Facebook? A host of group pages have sprung up to either show support or lambast the former president. Pakistan's Daily Times reports:
Some Facebook users say they appreciated his liberal economic policies and efforts against extremism. His fans include a number of young Pakistanis, many of them expatriates.
“Thank you Musharraf for all you have done for this nation and its people,” wrote Seema Ahmed from Los Angeles. Facebook fan Sherbano Ahmed said, “If we, as the silent majority, don’t speak up this time, then we have surrendered our decency and freedom to thieves.”
The idea that Western-style democracy is what Pakistan needs has also come under fire. “Fixing the system with American or UK systems will be mimickery at best and will produce thieves or even worse, third-rate actors,” said Shahedah Ahmed from London.
Their entries are found under headings like ‘The only hope - Musharraf’ and ‘Pakistan would be lost without Musharraf’. The anti-Musharraf groups were equally unsubtle - ‘Burn in hell Musharraf’ and ‘I hate Musharraf’.
And it appears that Pakistan's PML-Q party, which has been so closely aligned with Musharraf that its HQ could be mistaken for his pocket, is now being wooed heavily by both Asif Ali Zardari's PPP and Nawaz Sharif's PLM-N. Here's Nightwatch's analysis on this ironic turn of events:
The PML-Q was the political organization formed by the Chaudhry brothers of
Gujaratto represent the views of then General Musharraf in the National Assembly in the general elections of 2002. It was the biggest loser in last February’s general election.
One of the ironic and unintended outcomes from the collapse of the parliamentary coalition during the presidential election campaign is that a staunchly pro-Musharraf political party is the potential kingmaker in Pakistani politics.
"Corporate cartographers are demolishing thousands of years of history – not to mention Britain's remarkable geography – at a stroke by not including them on maps which millions of us now use every day," she said. "We're in real danger of losing what makes maps so unique; giving us a feel for a place even if we've never been there."
No disrespect to Spence but this is luddite nonsense. The Internet is about the best thing to happen to geography nerds since the sextant and anyone who's ever wasted hours flying around the world on Google Earth did so specifically to get a feel for a place they've never been.
As readers of this blog know from our weekly "Tuesday Map" feature, computer graphics and the interactivity of the Internet are allowing people to do new and fascinating things with maps every day. How could any development that lets cycling fans take a virtual Tour de France from their desks or allows activists to publicize a Tiananmen massacre map of Beijing possibly be negative? These posts are typically among our most popular so I'm not too worried about the public losing interest in cartography.
This is one aspect of modern life that I'm more than happy to see googlized.
Passport reader Eric Jon Magnuson sends along the following gem:
Readers of the newest website of Vietnam's government-controlled press can't complain of any hidden bias in reporting. Propaganda magazine, the official organ of Vietnam's Committee for Propaganda and Training, launched its website (www.tuyengiao.vn) Monday, featuring articles about Ho Chi Minh Thought and a visit by representatives of the Russian Communist Party. [...]
[I]n Vietnam, public-service campaigns on everything from HIV prevention to wearing motorbike helmets are termed "propaganda." The division between politics and other kinds of social activism is less clear than in multiparty democracies.
As if Georgia didn't have enough to deal with, yesterday the country's cities and transportation routes completely disappeared from Google Maps. Reportedly wanting to keep its cyber territory conflict-neutral, Google removed all of Georgia's details from its maps, making the war-torn nation look like a ghostly white blob flanked by Russia and Turkey. Georgia, though, isn't the only country going blank on Google: neighboring Armenia and Azerbaijan--who have their own ongoing terrorital dispute over the Nagorno-Karabakh region--are coming up empty too.
Some online commenters speculate that the allegiances of Google's Russian-born co-founder Sergey Brin might have something to do with Georgia's disappearance. That's pretty doubtful, but it's possible that Google doesn't want their software used for military purposes.
But Google has helped out Georgia in one major way, providing (albeit "involuntarily") Georgian sites with a "cyber-refuge" from Russian hackers. News service Civil Georgia as well as the country's Ministry of Foreign Affairs have started using the Google-owned site Blogger to post updates and press releases on the conflict.
Update: Google denies that it has made any changes to the map:
“We do not have local data for those countries and that is why local details such as landmarks and cities do not appear.”
Looks like we may have gotten a bit ahead of ourselves, though as NYT's Miguel Helf notes, Google does seem to have plenty of "local data" about Georgia in its Google Earth program.
YouTube and even the more freewheeling LiveLeak have both apparently yanked a video showing a dress rehearsal for the Olympics opening ceremony, citing copyright concerns. It's not clear to me whether that would refer to the South Korean network that originally aired the footage, China, NBC (which bought the rights to broadcast the games), or the International Olympic Committee, but I am trying to find out.
When my colleague Travis posted the video last night, he wrote: "Maybe mighty China doesn't have as much control over the Internet as it would like to believe." Perhaps he was wrong?
UPDATE: Here we go again. Chinese Internet users are enraged at South Korea.
... Reuters reports that SBS pulled the footage off its own Web site Thursday afternoon. So, presumably we can rule the South Korean network out, unless YouTube and LiveLeak pulled their footage earlier in response to a request from SBS and then SBS did so later in response to a demand from China. I'm sure we'll find out soon enough.
Walter Pincus reports today on a surprisingly large allocation of U.S. federal funds for cyber security:
A highly classified, multiyear, multibillion-dollar project, CNCI -- or "Cyber Initiative" -- is designed to develop a plan to secure government computer systems against foreign and domestic intruders and prepare for future threats. Any initial plan can later be expanded to cover sensitive civilian systems to protect financial, commercial and other vital infrastructure data."
The cyber security issue is a tricky one. For lack of a better option, the job of protecting government computer systems has fallen to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), although the Air Force is an active player. The Navy and the Army also have their own programs.
I called James Lewis, an expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, to get some insight. He told me that the White House was becoming concerned because "DHS hasn't really done anything" on the issue of cyber security. "Some of it's internal squabbling" he says, "but they just can't seem to get their act together. You hear [Defense Secretary Robert] Gates and [Director of National Intelligence Mike] McConnell talking about it, but you never hear anything from [DHS Secrtary Michael] Chertoff."
So far, CNCI has been criticized for being too secretive, though the initiative is a step forward overall. In fact, it's good news that someone is finally starting to take this seriously. Both presidential candidates have expressed a committment to improving cyber security. Senator Obama has said he will appoint a "national cyber advisor" and will make the issue "the top priority that it should be in the 21st century." Senator McCain has pointed to a need to "invest far more in the federal task of cyber security" in order to protect strategic interests at home.
Knowing just who is supposed to be in charge of cyber security would be a good start. As Lewis points out, "It's not something you can do on an ad hoc basis like we've been doing for the past several years," adding, "We need to be better organized and better at assigning responsibilities."
Olive Riley, an Australian blogger who began posting stories and personal anecdotes at the age of 107, has died. She was 108. Friends had helped the great-great-grandmother master the art of blogging and provided her an outlet to share her experiences, which spanned the entirety of the 20th century. As of this morning, the post announcing her death had already received 100 comments expressing condolences.
Olive, the blogosphere will miss you.
Iran's state media faced the withering scorn of the blogosphere yesterday when online sleuths discovered that Sepah News, the voice of Iran's fearsome Revolutionary Guards, had doctored a photograph of the Islamic Republic's oh-so-scary missile test. Someone had pasted in a fourth missile, perhaps to cover up a dud launch. Top newspapers around the United States, to their chagrin, had given the bogus image frontpage treatment. (By pure luck, we weren't duped.)
Somehow, all the Photoshop fun has made Iran seem a lot less frightening. Almost like a big, friendly kitten.
At least $6.4 billion of new, transoceanic cable lines will be installed in the coming years, according to Technology Review. The chart below, a snapshot of a larger interactive map, shows some of the new cable routes in the works.
The white lines represent preexisting cables, and the colors represent different new underseas fiber cable routes. For instance, cable-laying projects are planned for 2009 to connect Greenland to both Canada and Iceland. The Red Sea, the east coast of Africa, and the Caribbean are the sites of fresh projects, and new fiber will link the West coast of the United States with China and Japan. The new cables will provide greater bandwidth, allowing data to be transferred faster across the globe -- good news for YouTube addicts. And according to Technology Review, damages to existing cables and bad connections have led many poorer countries to rely on pricey satellite connections. With cheaper access for all, could a new Internet boom be on the way?
Monday's ruling by a French court that eBay must pay French luxury goods manufacturer LVMH $60.8 million and do more to prevent counterfeit sales (think: fake Louis Vuitton handbags) raises big questions about globalization and the future of e-commerce.
As International Herald Tribune blogger Daniel Altman puts it, who should police the Internet? There's a potential slippery slope here, Altman points out, if countries are left to their own devices and sue portals such as Amazon for books considered libelous or YouTube for videos considered indecent.
The French, at least, have a history of holding Internet providers accountable for content hosted on sites they own. There's precedent in the United States, too, from the 2001 decision ordering Napster to prevent illegal file sharing between users of its site.
To some, Monday's ruling reeks of protectionism. The ruling condemns eBay's unauthorized sales of certain perfumes, limiting the sale of these luxury items to approved channels such as perfume and department stores, not the open market.
What's the answer? Leaving regulation to national courts may lead to a hodgepodge of different rulings in different countries, making it difficult for multinational firms to navigate.
Altman asks if a "global authority" to help nations and multilationals sort out e-commerce is necessary. Perhaps, but it's hard to imagine what such an authority would look like or how it would operate. I think it's safe to say eBay is on its own for now.
Students studying computing in the UK and US are outsourcing their university coursework to graduates in India and Romania. Work is being contracted out for as little as £5 on contract coding websites usually used by businesses. Students are outsourcing everything from simple coursework to full blown final year dissertations. It's causing a major headache for lecturers who say it is almost impossible to detect."
Slashdot's CmdrTaco cracks,"The irony, of course, is that if they actually get jobs in the sector, this will be how they actually work anyway."
Created by the OpenNet Initiative (ONI) -- an Internet surveillance monitoring partnership between the Citizen Lab, the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, the Advanced Network Research Group at the Cambridge Security Programme, and the Oxford Internet Institute -- this week's Tuesday Map plots the top 6,000 Persian language blogs according to the links among them, showing both those blocked (left) and visible (right) inside Iran.
Each dot represents a blog, color-coded by content (yellow and green for reformist, secular and expatriate bloggers; purple for Persian poetry; green for popular culture, and red for religious and/or conservative bloggers) and scaled by the number of links to the blog from other sites.
Although most blocked blogs are "secular/reformist" in nature, ONI notes:
[T]he majority of these [secular/reformist] blogs are not blocked. Also, a handful of blogs from religious, pro-regime parts of the network are blocked as well. A preliminary analysis of these indicates content (like anti-Arab bias and discussion of "temporary marriages") that, while not unfriendly to the Islamic Republic, might nevertheless be embarrassing to it."
For a closer assessment of the Iranian blogosphere, check out this more detailed map and case study from the Internet and Democracy project at the Berkman Center.
Israel's been in the news a lot lately (who knew?) and Shimon Peres, one of the country's long-standing political figureheads, shares some of his accumulated wisdom on a blog for the Israeli newspaper Haartez today.
Among his 28 Hallmark-worthy quotations is this gem:
Destinations are more important than parking lots."
Living in parking-starved Washington D.C., I would have to dispute this notion.
While troubles continue for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his Kadima Party, and FP's list of possible successors may turn out to be a crystal ball of sorts, it would appear that Peres is vying to be the successor to the Dalai Lama.
Shane Harris makes some explosive allegations in a new article for the National Journal. Experts, citing U.S. officials, believe that China's People's Liberation Army may have shut down power grids in Florida and the northeastern United States, Harris reports:
Tim Bennett, the former president of the Cyber Security Industry Alliance, a leading trade group, said that U.S. intelligence officials have told him that the PLA in 2003 gained access to a network that controlled electric power systems serving the northeastern United States. The intelligence officials said that forensic analysis had confirmed the source, Bennett said. “They said that, with confidence, it had been traced back to the PLA.” These officials believe that the intrusion may have precipitated the largest blackout in North American history, which occurred in August of that year. A 9,300-square-mile area, touching Michigan, Ohio, New York, and parts of Canada, lost power; an estimated 50 million people were affected.
If the allegations are true, was this act intentional? Perhaps not, another source tells Harris:
A second information-security expert independently corroborated Bennett’s account of the Florida blackout. According to this individual, who cited sources with direct knowledge of the investigation, a Chinese PLA hacker attempting to map Florida Power & Light’s computer infrastructure apparently made a mistake. “The hacker was probably supposed to be mapping the system for his bosses and just got carried away and had a ‘what happens if I pull on this’ moment.” The hacker triggered a cascade effect, shutting down large portions of the Florida power grid, the security expert said. “I suspect, as the system went down, the PLA hacker said something like, ‘Oops, my bad,’ in Chinese.”
I wonder if Richard Clarke still believes that the real threat from Chinese hackers is industrial espionage.
Poor Rachel Ray. The Food Network hostess unwittingly unleashed the fury of blogger Michelle Malkin last Friday when she wore a black-and-white, paisley scarf in an ad for Dunkin Donuts. Upon learning of the ad, Malkin called Ray "clueless" and upbraided her for wearing "jihadi chic":
Charles Johnson notes, and many readers have e-mailed about, Dunkin Donuts' spokeswoman Rachel Ray's clueless sporting of a jihadi chic keffiyeh in a recent DD ad campaign. I'm hoping her hate couture choice was spurred more by ignorance than ideology.
Feeling the blogospheric heat, Dunkin Donuts decided to pull the ad even though, as you can clearly see, the scarf is not a checked keffiyeh at all:
Malkin, however, remains unhumbled by her mistake and still demands to know where Ray got her paisley scarf.
(For what it's worth, the keffiyeh is a secular symbol of Palestinian nationalism, though the Palestinian movement has obviously become more Islamist in recent decades. Just because you wear it doesn't mean you espouse violence, only that you take the Palestinian side in the conflict.)
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has always cultivated a populist image, quite unlike most of the Communist Party's normally aloof leaders. And "Grandpa Wen's" following only grew after his quick and empathetic response to the Sichuan earthquake. Now, you too, can be one of Grandpa's friends, on Facebook at least.
One of Wen's supporters has set up a Facebook profile for him and, as of this writing, he's approaching 14,000 supporters. There's not much personal info on the page, though we do learn that the prime minister enjoys Chinese literature and baseball. The New York Times's Edward Wong writes that it is "unclear who the supporter is that set up the page... and whether he or she has ties to the government." I would be very suprised if the CCP were behind this since the profile's message board is basically a magnet for comments like "Tenzin Gyatso > Wen Jia-bao."
But if you want to believe you're Facebook-stalking the leader of 1.3 billion people, go right ahead. I'm sticking with Clay Davis.
Seven NATO states have signed on to support a new cyber-defense facility in Tallinn, Estonia. Estonia, nicknamed E-stonia, is one of the most wired countries in the world and has good reason to be concerned about a cyberterrorism. Last year, a massive botnet attack launched from inside Russia crippled the country's infrastructure for days after the government controversially took down a Soviet-era monument.
No word yet on whether "the Vetted" are involved in this new venture.
I shall also not respond, unless absolutely necessary, to issues that have been raised and answered by me in other forums, especially those pertaining to unsubstantiated allegations.
I find it interesting, by the way, that the pro-Western Anwar Ibrahim blogs in Malay and the generally anti-Western Mahathir blogs in English.
Malaysia's former prime minister of 22 years, Mahathir Mohamad, has a blog in English. It's named "Chedet" after his pen name, "Che Det" or "Mr. Det," from his days as a journalist. "Det" is short for "Mahadet," another way to pronounce his name.
Most new bloggers start out by welcoming their readers, explaining why they are blogging, and giving an overview of the subjects they plan to write about. Not so Mahathir, who gives the impression of a man who doesn't think he has to explain himself to anyone. (He was probably motivated by the blogging success of opposition politicians and the fact that the media has been ignoring his escalating criticisms of the current prime minister, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.)
If you're hoping for some of Mahathir's signature anti-Western rants, you'll be sorely disappointed. His first and so far only post is a rather boring critique of Abdullah's judicial reforms, though this is some quality armchair quarterbacking:
Is the Government proposing to work with the opposition on this issue, and so display its weakness? Will there be a quid pro quo, a bargain with the opposition? It would be interesting to see how the PM proposes to deal with this.
My humble blogging advice for you, Dr. Mahathir? Respond to FP's interview with your estranged protégé Anwar Ibrahim, who says you "underestimated" him and wrongly thought you could break him in prison. Blog readers always love a good controversy, and I promise we will link to you.
Amr Khaled, an Egyptian televangelist and media celebrity across the Arab and Muslim worlds, jumped dramatically in the rankings today of the world's Top 100 Public Intellectuals.
Why is that?
His fans have begun a vote drive on AmrKhaled.net and on Facebook, which FP noted earlier this year was a surprising force for activism in the Arab world. Interestingly, the more controversial Yusuf al-Qaradawi saw a boost in his numbers as well, even though Khaled and Qaradawi haven't always seen eye to eye. Qaradawi and Khaled got into a huge spat over the Danish cartoons issue, with Khaled calling for dialogue and Qaradawi basically calling him a big pansy.
Do you find Vanity Fair and Vogue just a bit too bourgeois? Are you tired of lumpen-proletarians who don't know their place trying to friend you on Facebook? Can you never find anything on TV classy enough to show on that sweet plasma screen you had installed in your breakfast nook? Well then Snob may be for you!
"Bad-boy oligarch" Mikhail Prokhorov, who at 42 is Russia's fifth-richest man and the country's "most eligible bachelor," is investing $150 million in a new lifestyle media brand called Snob. The brand will include an exclusive social networking site, magazine, and TV station, all aimed at upwardly mobile young Russians.
Prokohorov, who made his fortune by investing in nickel and gold during the 1990s, is a kind of poster boy for the champagne-drinking, Mercedes-driving set that Russians derisively refer to as "new Russians." His motivtion for this project, he says, is to reclaim the word "snob" from its connotations of unearned privilege and make it a kind of rallying cry for Russia's nouveau riche:
Snob to us means a person who is a 'self-made man', a person who has gained a right to snobbishness," he said emphasizing the main difference with the British meaning which he said referred to inherited wealth.
The Snob media empire aims to focus on "lifestyle features, business news and travel." If Prokohorov's personal hobbies are any indication, the snob lifestyle also includes skiing, art collecting and upscale prostitution rings.
This week's Tuesday Map illustrates the fragile and spotty nature of
Researchers at the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Trieste, Italy, tracked Internet connectivity at points in more than 40 African countries, whose populations make up more than 80 percent of the continent's inhabitants. Their findings (pdf) are sad, though not surprising: "Africa's network performance is over 10 years behind that of Europe and the
This video maps daily connectivity and explains each dot's meaning (in a funny British accent
This video maps daily connectivity and explains each dot's meaning (in a funny British accent):
Hat tip: Today's Tuesday Map has been made possible by the PingER (Ping End-to-end Reporting) project of the Internet End-to-end Performance Measurement (IEPM) group at Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC).
Once again, Hillary's campaign is running up against what may be its most formidable adversary: Bill Clinton.
First, he flubbed big time last week by reviving -- and inaccurately describing -- the Bosnia sniper controversy. And now, just when Hillary wants to be seen as tough on China, comes an LAT piece yesterday that Bill's foundation has taken an undisclosed sum from a Chinese company accused of helping the government censor the Internet and crack down on Tibetan activists.
Alibaba, which owns Yahoo! China, asked Bill to speak at a 2005 executives' conference in China. In lieu of his usual speaking fee, often as high as $400,000, Bill asked for an undisclosed donation to his foundation. Last month, Yahoo! China's homepage ran "Wanted" posters of Tibetan activists the government accused of spreading unrest. Rebecca MacKinnon wrote recently of experiments she ran on Chinese search engines: Yahoo! China's was censored the most.
On the campaign trail, Hillary has gotten out in front of her opponents on the Olympics issue by calling on Bush to boycott the opening ceremony, "absent major changes by the Chinese government." But it certainly doesn't play well for her position when her husband's foundation receives large checks from a company so closely aligned with Beijing.
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