For the mainstream media, the big news yesterday was the election of a new pope. I’ll get to that shortly, but first I’ll address the even bigger news for bloggers–the imminent demise of Google Reader. Google announced last night that it will be shutting down the popular application on July 1.
From The Atlantic Wire: Like a Dagger to Bloggers’ Hearts, Google Just Killed Google Reader.
Journalists and geeks united in exasperation on Wednesday evening when Google made a very sad announcement: The company is shuttering Google Reader. We should’ve seen this coming. And those that didn’t see the inevitable death of Google’s RSS feed organizer and reader might’ve easily missed the news, since Google buried it halfway down an official blog post about a bunch of other stuff. But it is true. The search giant will pronounce Reader dead on July 1, 2013. Based on the somewhat storied history of Google killing Reader features, though, we’re pretty sure someone will start working on an alternative within the next few hours.
Apparently most computer geeks weren’t surprised, because Google stopped updating and servicing the reader back in 2011, even when they could have done so using cloud computing. But plenty of people were freaking out. Immediately after the announcement, twitter went nuts and the pope jokes faded into the background. Here’s Tom Watson at Forbes: Google’s Strange Attack on Bloggers and the Public Internet: the Massive Reaction to Reader Shutdown.
Does Google understand the concept of corporate social responsibility? That seems to be the basic question around the company’s strange decision to shut down a tiny service that serves as a major audience conduit for many thousands of bloggers, citizen journalists, and self publishers.
Google’s announcement today that it is destroying Google Reader, the most popular RSS syndication tool was a massive blow to the blogging community – and to most of those speaking out tonight via social media, an entirely unnecessary attack on an important corner of the public Internet by a company with more than $50 billion in revenue and a newly-won reputation as a tech giant on the move.
“That giant “NOOOOOOOO” sound is the Internet’s reaction to Google’s most unpopular decision in — well, as far back as I can remember,” wrote Pete Cashmore at Mashable, in a post emblematic of the flood of negative reaction to Google’s strange decision.
The thing is, Google is the giant gorilla of the internet–so it can do whatever it wants and everyone else has to just deal with it. Here are some articles with suggestions of how to do that, but be aware that things could change quickly. I downloaded Feed Demon last night, and then learned that it is now going to go out of business when Google reader shuts down.
ComputerWorld: Google Reader alternatives roundup; RSS FTW!
Now, on to pope news.
I found some articles last night that address the biography of Pope Francis a hell of a lot more realistically that the corporate media did yesterday. The best is probably this one by investigative reporter Robert Parry: ‘Dirty War’ Questions for Pope Francis.
If one wonders if the U.S. press corps has learned anything in the decade since the Iraq War – i.e. the need to ask tough question and show honest skepticism – it would appear from the early coverage of the election of Pope Francis I that U.S. journalists haven’t changed at all, even at “liberal” outlets like MSNBC.
The first question that a real reporter should ask about an Argentine cleric who lived through the years of grotesque repression, known as the “dirty war,” is what did this person do, did he stand up to the murderers and torturers or did he go with the flow. If the likes of Chris Matthews and other commentators on MSNBC had done a simple Google search, they would have found out enough about Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio to slow their bubbling enthusiasm.
Bergoglio, now the new Pope Francis I, has been identified publicly as an ally of Argentine’s repressive leaders during the “dirty war” when some 30,000 people were “disappeared” or killed, many stripped naked, chained together, flown out over the River Plate or the Atlantic Ocean and pushed sausage-like out of planes to drown.
The “disappeared” included women who were pregnant at the time of their arrest. In some bizarre nod to Catholic theology, they were kept alive only long enough to give birth before they were murdered and their babies were farmed out to military families, including to people directly involved in the murder of the babies’ mothers.
Instead of happy talk about how Bergoglio seems so humble and how he seems so sympathetic to the poor, there might have been a question or two about what he did to stop the brutal repression of poor people and activists who represented the interests of the poor, including “liberation theology” priests and nuns, during the “dirty war.”
More at the link. Some other sources of information on Bergoglio:
2005 story in LA Times: Argentine Cardinal Named in Kidnap Lawsuit
A final note–I’ve heard that the name chosen by the new pope may not be a tribute the St. Francis. More likely after St. Francis Xavier, co-founder of the Jesuits.
In other news…
Yesterday was the first day of the Steubenville rape trial. The Atlantic Wire is following the story closely, so it is probably the best source for updates. From yesterday:
The case of two high-school star football players accused of raping a 16-year-old girl as they travelled party to party last summer finally heads to trial on Wednesday morning in Steubenville, Ohio, the small fading steel town that became the focus of a social-media firestorm in big-time football country this winter. As the spotlight returns with open media access around but not inside Jefferson Country juvenile court, America will start putting faces to names that have been dragged through the headlines as violently as that Jane Doe from West Virginia allegedly was, while heavily intoxicated, on August 11. But a lot has happened since the hackers and leakers and protesters descended upon the town of 18,000 with a tortured past, beyond the shooting threats and the revoked scholarships and the FBI investigation — indeed, there were even developments late Tuesday night: The country may have looked elsewhere, but there’s a new judge after ties to Big Red football forced yet another legal player to recuse himself, and the hackers have now returned to the social-media pile-on as investigations into police cover-ups have given way to actual prosecution in the courtroom, where the alleged victim might testify after all, her friends can now testify against her, and the suspects are already speaking out.
The article then offers “a who’s who” of everyone involved in the crime and the trial. A couple more links:
On the trial of James Holmes in Aurora, Colorado, Time Magazine had a shocking report yesterday: Judge in Aurora Case Calls for Use of ‘Truth Serum’— But Does It Work?
If accused Aurora mass shooter James Holmes wants to enter a plea of insanity in the “Batman” movie theater massacre, he will have to agree to narcoanalysis.
That’s the ruling from judge William Sylvester, who made the narcoanalysis— in which defendants are injected with drugs to lower their inhibitions and presumably be more willing to tell the truth about their alleged crimes under questioning by prosecutors — a condition of an insanity plea.
WTF?! There’s no way forcing a defendant to take truth serum could be constitutional.
Experts were surprised by the legal determination that “truth serum” could be required in order for Holmes to use the insanity defense. They say that drugs touted for “narcoanalysis,” which typically include the barbiturates sodium amytal and sodium pentothal, are are not effective and certainly not reliable enough to meet legal standards of evidence.
“I was floored by it,” says Scott Lilienfeld, professor of psychology at Emory University upon learning of the ruling, “The claim that truth serum is truth serum is no longer taken seriously by anyone in the scientific community to my knowledge.” Moreover, Colorado is one of the states that apply the “Daubert” standard, in which scientific evidence can be disputed by the defense or prosecution. It requires that evidence meet certain standards to be admissible.
To pass the Daubert test, truth serum would have to be widely accepted in the scientific community and research literature and its use would have to yield a known error rate, both standards that experts say narcoanalysis does not meet. “In my view, it would not stand up,” says Lilienfeld.
But a former prosecutor, now a law professor at the University of Colorado and defense attorney, Karen Steinhauser, told CBS News that the technique is allowed under Colorado law. However, it is used so rarely she could not find any relevant case law.
The mystery of the thousands of dead pigs floating in China’s Shanghai River has been solved. Bloomberg: Shanghai Finds 6,600 Dead Pigs as Farm Confesses to Dumping
The number of dead pigs found in Shanghai’s Huangpu river climbed to at least 6,600 as the official Xinhua News Agency reported a farm in neighboring Zhejiang province confessed to dumping carcasses in the water.
The municipal government pulled 685 hogs from the river yesterday, adding to the 5,916 it had retrieved earlier, according to a statement on its website. A farm in Jiaxing admitted to discarding dead pigs in the river, after 70,000 of the animals died in the city from crude raising techniques and extreme weather at the start of the year, Xinhua said yesterday, citing the Jiaxing authorities. The Xinhua report didn’t specify whether other farms were involved in the dumping.
The discovery of the hogs comes as China’s legislature addresses food safety and citizens become more vocal on public health and environmental issues. The government said March 10 at a National People’s Congress meeting that it plans to create a regulator with broader authority to ensure food and drug safety and said the agriculture ministry will oversee the quality of farm products.
Finally, Beata posted this ancient burial news link this morning in the late night thread, and I thought I’d include it here to make sure that Dakinikat and JJ see it: ‘Medieval knight’ unearthed in Edinburgh car park dig
The remains of a medieval knight or nobleman found underneath a car park are to be moved to make way for a university building.
The grave and evidence of a 13th Century monastery were uncovered when archaeologists were called to an Edinburgh Old Town building site.
An elaborate sandstone slab, with carvings of a Calvary Cross and ornate sword, marked the grave.
It’s amazing what’s buried under parking lots in Great Britain!
Hey–I managed to avoid news about the economy and Village politics, and I wasn’t even trying! Now it’s your turn. What are you reading and blogging about this morning?
There has been a lot of “space” news this weekend. So our first few links will focus on the skies…Did you see the Harvest Moon last night? What was interesting about this Harvest Moon was its relationship to Uranus. (Ha….) No Seriously! If you missed it, here is a video from the SLOOH space camera.
When you gaze at the full moon this weekend, think of farmers working late into the evening to gather their crop, because that’s how the Harvest Moongot its name.
The Harvest Moon allows farmers at the peak of the current harvest season to stay in the fields longer than usual, working by the moon‘s light. It rises around sunset, but also — and more importantly — the moon seems to appear at nearly the same time each successive night.Near-infrared views of Uranus reveal its otherwise faint ring system, highlighting the extent to which the planet is tilted.
CREDIT: Lawrence Sromovsky, (Univ. Wisconsin-Madison), Keck Observatory
Uranus’ atmosphere is dominated primarily by hydrogen and helium, with a small amount of methane that gives the “ice giant” its bluish-green tint. The planet has a ring system and 27 known moons. It’s also tilted so far that it essentially orbits the sun on its side; researchers think the planet may have been knocked askew by a collision with another large body long ago.
If skywatchers wish to see Uranus through their own telescopes Saturday night, they should scan just below the moon and look for the only green “star” in the field of view, Slooh officials said.
Hmmmm, I never thought Uranus would be described as a bright green light in the night sky. (Okay I am being way to infantile here.)
In other worlds news, Curiosity found an old river bed on Mars. NASA Rover Finds Old Streambed on Martian Surface – NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
NASA’s Curiosity rover mission has found evidence a stream once ran vigorously across the area on Mars where the rover is driving. There is earlier evidence for the presence of water on Mars, but this evidence — images of rocks containing ancient streambed gravels — is the first of its kind.
Scientists are studying the images of stones cemented into a layer of conglomerate rock. The sizes and shapes of stones offer clues to the speed and distance of a long-ago stream’s flow.
“From the size of gravels it carried, we can interpret the water was moving about 3 feet per second, with a depth somewhere between ankle and hip deep,” said Curiosity science co-investigator William Dietrich of the University of California, Berkeley. “Plenty of papers have been written about channels on Mars with many different hypotheses about the flows in them. This is the first time we’re actually seeing water-transported gravel on Mars. This is a transition from speculation about the size of streambed material to direct observation of it.”
Go check out all the photos and more information at that link to Nasa’s JPL site.
Now on to some news from our own Earthly planet.
First let’s go with a bit of intimidation….there is a woman who is getting a first hand look at an Attack from the PLUBs, I think I would prefer Martians any day. Intimidation: Now It’s a First Amendment Right! | RH Reality Check
For anti-choicers, the right to freedom of speech is like a game of Calvin-ball, the “Calvin and Hobbes” comic strip “sport” in which all rules could be revised, changed, updated, and discarded depending on what it took to win. They claim that freedom of speech trumps literally every other right, as long as it is done under the guise of “saving babies.”
It’s “freedom of speech,” for example, to “inconvenience” Planned Parenthood of Greater Orlando CEO Jenna Tosh by picketing her home. Tosh told the WinterPark, Florida, city council that she felt “threatened and ambushed” when anti-choicers picketed her home, and the council passed a short-term ordinance forbidding assembly on a residential property.
Of course, there were some folks who disagreed with this action.
After all, it was just one woman being intimidated. In an op-ed written by the Florida Sentinel, the paper argues:
Winter Park modeled its measure after ordinances that already had passed constitutional muster, so we aren’t arguing legal merits. But we do question the knee-jerk response to a single citizen’s complaint—precipitated by the distribution of pro-life handouts and, nearly a week later, some nonviolent picketing. And we question the need for a new law when laws exist to protect citizens against protests that grow unruly. And we question why government officials are so quick to crack down on freedom of speech. Imagine the outcry if commissioners had tried to go after the Second Amendment. Having to push past protesters toting signs that read “Jenna Tosh kills babies and hurts women” certainly is unpleasant. We sympathize with her. However, her need to avoid disturbing, anti-abortion expressions outside her home shouldn’t trump the rights of the many to exercise their First Amendment rights within public areas in residential areas.
Is it merely “unpleasant” to have people picket your neighborhood in a group, using your name and calling you a baby-killer? Does making someone feel unsafe in her own home not matter if it somehow infringes on the right of a group to make that person feel intimidated? And where exactly do “free speech” advocates draw the line for what constitutes “unruly?”
The article also mentions the courts reactions to these intimidation tactics.
it seems as though courts are bending over backwards toignore the physical intimidation involved in many of the anti-choice protesters’ activities. In a recent FACE act case involving an anti-choice activist at EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville, the judge decided that touching an escort is just another way of expressing “freedom of speech.”
“In his attempt to continue talking to the patient, [anti-choice “sidewalk counselor” David Hamilton ‘pushed [clinic escort Jane Fitts’s] arm down slightly,’” [U.S. District Judge Jennifer B. Coffman] found.
But the judge said the Federal Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE), requires the prosecution to show Hamilton used force with the intent to injure or intimidate someone because that person was seeking or providing reproductive health services.
There are questions for a jury concerning whether any contact “was used intentionally to injure, intimidate, or interfere” and “whether Fitts was indeed providing reproductive health services.”
The judge suggested it was possible that Fitts was not an “escort” at all but would be “more accurately characterized as a counter-protester.”
“U.S. courts are charged with protecting the freedoms of all American citizens,” said Cody. “Sidewalk counselors have the same rights as other people.”
How is pushing an escort’s arm down in order to make contact with a patient trying to access abortion services not an attempt to “interfere” with or “intimidate” both the escort and the woman seeking a termination?
Anti-choicers don’t appear to “have the same rights as other people.” They claim more rights, supra-rights, a secretly granted set of rights that appear to trump the rights of those who seek reproductive health care, those who provide it, and those who assist in ensuring the first two can meet each other without hindrance. If the right to freedom of speech outweighs the pursuit of happiness—i.e.: the ability to access care, the ability to walk the streets without unwanted physical contact, the right to feel safe in your own home, then how does anyone else have any freedom at all?
(I thought that was a great post btw…that was why I used so much of it.)
Hey if not intimidation, lets talk disenfranchised voters? Warning, this link goes to Fox News…but I thought it was an interesting spin on the Voter ID laws and the push from the GOP to make it hard as hell for Dems to “get out the vote.” Drop in Ohio voter registration, especially in Dem strongholds, mirrors nationwide trend | Fox News
Speaking of party lines…The Bottom Line on Party ID | TPM Editors Blog That link will take you to a short post with a rather big graph. Take a look, it is interactive!
There is a real good post on Juan Cole this morning, written by Alice K. Ross: Obama set precedent with Drone Killings for Romney to become Terminator-in-Chief (Ross) | Informed Comment
President Obama’s personal involvement in selecting the targets of covert drone strikes means he risks effectively handing a ‘loaded gun’ to Mitt Romney come November, says the co-author of a new report aimed at US policymakers.
‘If Obama leaves, he’s leaving a loaded gun: he’s set up a programme where the greatest constraint is his personal prerogative. There’s no legal oversight, no courtroom that can make [the drone programme] stop. A President Romney could vastly accelerate it,’ said Naureen Shah, associate director of the Counterterrorism and Human Rights Project at the Columbia Law School.
That is just a taste, you go read the rest of it at the link.
The Atlanta Journal Constitution broke the story about the cheating scandal last year, they have a new investigative report that you should read.
The stain of cheating spread unchecked across 44 Atlanta schools before the state finally stepped in and cleaned it up. But across the country, oversight remains so haphazard that most states cannot guarantee the integrity of their standardized tests, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has found.
Poor oversight means that cheating scandals in other states are inevitable. It also undermines a national education policy built on test scores, which the states and local districts use to fire teachers, close schools and direct millions of dollars in funding.
The AJC’s survey of the 50 state education departments found that many states do not use basic test security measures designed to stop cheating on tests. And most states make almost no attempt to screen test results for irregularities.
Please take a look at that article.
I was going to post a link to this post from WhoWhatWhere, but Susie Madrak also read it and wrote about it…so here is her take on the piece. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to The Nuclear Standoff With Iran | Crooks and Liars
Over at WhoWhatWhy.com, Christian Stork has a thorough analysis debunking the most common myths propagated about the West’s nuclear stand-off with Iran. It’s all so familiar, isn’t it? I know if I think really hard, I can figure it out. Oh, wait – it’s just like the buildup to both wars in Iraq! And of course both times, the media did their best stenography impression.
That’s why stories like this are so important. In his “Idiot’s Guide to Iran and the Bomb,” Stork lists 8 important lessons for all people to keep in mind when surveying the media landscape around Iran’s nuclear program.
The first lesson taught, with exhaustive documentation, is that Iran is not building nuclear weapons. Considering how hard the mainstream media is working to convince us otherwise, it might be hard to grasp. But that’s why stories like this tutorial are needed. Click here to see the rest of what Stork calls his “introductory course in intellectual self-defense”
Go and check it out.
I will end this post with a couple of articles about history, I know Dakinikat will like this first a story about an ancient burial site in Denmark.
The National Museum of DenmarkThis 2,800-year-old Lusehoj textile made from imported nettles was found in a grave along with the bones from what may be a Scandinavian man, scientists reported on Friday.
Ancient scraps of fabric found in a grave in Denmark are not made of cultivated flax as once believed, but instead are woven from imported wild nettles, suggesting the grave’s inhabitant may have traveled far for burial.
This discovery, announced Friday in the journal Scientific Reports, casts a new light on the textile trade in Bronze Age Europe, said study researcher Ulla Mannering, an archaeologist at the University of Copenhagen.
“Since the Stone Age, they had very well-developed agriculture and technology for producing linen textiles,” Mannering told LiveScience. “So it’s really unusual that a society which has established agriculture would also take in material from things that are not of the normal standardized agricultural production” — in other words, wild plants.
“The fibers we get from the European nettle are very, very fine and soft and shiny, and we often say this is a sort of prehistoric silk textile,” Mannering said. (Silk, made from insect cocoons, is known for its shimmery texture.)
Previous analysis pegged the Danish fabric as woven from flax, a plant widely cultivated in the region. But along with nanophysicist Bodil Holst of the University of Bergen in Norway, Mannering and her colleagues used advanced methods to reanalyze the scraps of cloth. By studying the fiber orientation as well as the presence of certain crystals found in plants, the researchers were able to learn that the fabric is not flax at all, but nettle, a group of plants known for the needlelike stingers that line their stems and leaves.
Nor is the nettle local, Mannering said. Different soil regions contain different variations of elements. The variation of one of these elements, strontium, found in the fabric, was not local to Denmark, suggesting the plants the textile was made from grew elsewhere.
There are a few regions that match the strontium profile, the researchers found, but the most likely candidate is southwest Austria. The bronze burial urn holding the remains is from Austria, Mannering said, and it makes sense that the fabric might be too.
Hey, what do you know… he was a traveling man?
Despite these imported grave goods, the remains appear to be those of a Danish man, Mannering said. The personal objects in the grave, such as two razors, suggest he was a Scandinavian, albeit perhaps a well-traveled one, she said.
“Maybe he died in Austria and was wrapped in this Austrian urn and Austrian textile and was brought back to Denmark in this condition and then put in a big burial mound,” Mannering said. “The personal objects that were placed inside the urn together with this textile and the bones indicate that he is a male of Scandinavian origin, but it doesn’t mean that he couldn’t have died abroad.”
And, lastly this blast from the past….my son will be very excited about this link…he loves the Beatles. I think many of you will appreciate it too. October 1962: the month that modern culture was born
The Beatles at the Cavern Club, Liverpool, in 1962. Photograph: Michael Ochs Archives
On 5 October 1962, a new sound filled the nation’s airwaves. It was raw, simple, direct and sexy. “Love, love me do,” sang Lennon and McCartney, “You know I love you.” The Beatles had arrived, and a new generation had a new soundtrack to their lives. Seventeen years after VE Day and VJ Day, the war was finally over. Nothing – in culture, in society, in the everyday world itself – would ever be quite the same again.
When, exactly, did the 1960s began? Was it when JFK announced he was running for president (31 January 1960)? When Harold Macmillan acknowledged “the winds of change” sweeping through colonial Africa (3 February)? Or when the chain-smoking Princess Margaret announced her engagement to a commoner, photographer Anthony Armstrong-Jones, on 26 February? Or was it when Kennedy finally won the US election, by a whisker, on 9 November?
Some would go further, and deny that any kind of transition occurred until the new American president had, thrillingly, been sworn in on the icy-blue morning of 20 January 1961. Until then, they say, the west was still in the grip of the sclerotic gerontocracy represented by Eisenhower and Khrushchev. One thing is certain: the 1950s took a while to pass into the limbo of lost time.
Enjoy that article, and have a wonderful Sunday Morning!