Archive for March 10th, 2005

Hard to Know WHAT to Believe

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Could
Dan Brown have invented a more bizarre and conspiratorial plot than the
recent wounding of Italian journalist Guiana Sgrena and
the killing of Italian spy Nicola Calipari as they sped to the airport
mere minutes after the journalist’s being freed from captivity following
a month at the hands
of the nefarious Iraqi terrorists?

According to the US, the car was speeding towards an established checkpoint,
hand signals, loudspeakers and warning shots were fired to induce the
driver to stop, and as a last resort a few shots were fired at the car’s engine block. They also claim that no
one at the checkpoint knew that the car contained Italians, that Sgrena
had been rescued, or was on her way to the airport.

However, the reporter, the driver and the spy who wasn’t killed tell
a completely different story.  They say it was raining, so they
were traveling at a modest 30 mph, that there was no checkpoint at the
point where they were shot – a mere 700 yards from the airport – and
that they had already passed through two "real" checkpoints where they
identified themselves and their mission, and were assured the route was
cleared. They also claim there was no warning before the shooting started and they saw no signals to stop
until they were pinned in brilliant searchlights and blasted by over
400 rounds of various calibers.

Obviously, serious disconnect. A comprehensive investigation is called for to square these
discrepant versions of events.  The Italian
government
, one of our
last reluctant allies in the theater, has called for one. Amazingly,
the prime evidence for any such investigation, key for proving one or the other version the truth – the
shot up car – cannot be examined.  The US military claims it has
been "lost."

As expected, the foreign press is having a field day. From Al
Jazeerah:
"The details of the tragic
incident differ widely. The United States says the convoy
carrying
the
Italian
journalist
was
speeding
and ignored flashing lights, hand signals, warning shots and calls
for it to halt at a checkpoint.

Sgrena insists the vehicles were moving at normal speed, she saw no
flashing lights or hand signals and neither did she hear any warnings.

Furthermore, she says, the convoy had passed several US checkpoints already
and the fact that it was carrying Italians was well known."

Other details add fuel to the conspiratorial fire. Supporting those
who claim a plot on the part of high-ranking US officials, is appears
that the actual troops who ambushed the Italians were special security forces assigned to U.S. Ambassador
John Negroponte. The plot thickens:

According to AP, "U.S. troops who mistakenly killed an Italian intelligence
agent last week on the road to Baghdad’s international airport were part
of extra security provided by the U.S. Army to protect U.S. Ambassador
John Negroponte, a U.S. official said Thursday."

At the very least this story points up the reality that reporting from
an occupied homeland, 22 months after "Mission Accomplished," surrounded
by white-knuckled trigger fingers attached to war-weary teen-aged hands,
hearts and minds, is more dangerous than even traditional war reporting,
where at least the battle lines are drawn on somebody’s map, and one
has at least a vague idea of from which direction the killing fire is
likely to come.

latest story from the New York Times

User-Configurable Search Results Ranking

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The New
York Times
today has a pretty good roundup of
the latest attempts to eat into Google’s dominance of the search market
worldwide. In content, the innovations at Amazon A9 (neighborhood context)
and MSN Search (user-adjsutable search priorities, via slide bars, see screen
shot above) are interesting and seem worth a try.  In format, it
is interesting to note that the Web version of the article INCLUDES LIVE
LINKS to the sites being discussed.  Why can’t the Boston Globe
(a wholly owned subsidiary of the New York Times, Inc.) follow suit?

Google’s success has forced competitors like Yahoo, MSN
Search
and Ask
Jeeves
to hustle with releasing new product features, search controls
and improved behind-the-scenes programming. The resulting bonanza of
tools brings more search capabilities, presented more intuitively than
the Web has ever seen.

from the New York Times

Creeping Commercialiization Thru Promiscuous Partnering

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CADES
COVE, Tenn. — The job posting for a new director of tourism for the
National Park Service cites the usual requirements: expertise with
budgets, ability to set priorities. But a new skill — the ability
to ”create, nurture, and expand tourism programs that promote private
sector support" — has environmentalists worrying about creeping
commercialization and added strain on already overburdened parks.

”It smacks of heavy corporate involvement," said Jeff
Ruck, director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, outlining
the first of several concerns with the position. ”Marketing tactics could
influence policy and lead to promiscuous partnering. That would allow wholesale
commercialization and ‘Disney-fy’ our national parks."

Why not create an additional revenue stream by selling naming rights to the National
Parks, like we do with Pro sports arenas? We could have the "Hanna
Barbara Jellystone National Park," the "Pfizer Viagra Arcadia National
Park" (slogan:
Get it up and Go!), Absolut Glacier National Park, Monsato Sequoia National
Park, Prince Spagetti Prince William Forest, Oil of Olay Dry Tortuga
National Park, Halliburton’s Badlands National Park. R.J. Reynolds Great
Smoky National Park, etc. The possibilities for merchandising and advertising
tie-ins are endless.

from the Boston Globe