Thursday Reads: Goodbye Google Reader, Pope Francis and the Dirty War, and Other News

Afternoon-Coffee

Good Morning!!

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.

Lifehacker: Google Reader Is Shutting Down; Here Are the Best Alternatives

Ars Techinica: Poll Technica: Where should we go when Google Reader is put out to pasture?

Forbes: Google Reader and the Underpants Gnomes

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.

Pope Francis

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:

Alternet: Cardinals Elect a New Pope from Argentina — Does the New Pontiff Come with a Dark Past?

Foxcrawl: “Sins” of newly elected Pope Francis I: accused of kidnapping and torture during dictatorship in Argentina

2005 story in LA Times: Argentine Cardinal Named in Kidnap Lawsuit

Via Greg Mitchell, a 2011 article from The Guardian: The sins of the Argentinian church

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:

Enter the Trial in Steubenville, Where the Cast Is Not Merely Football Players

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:

The Steubenville Defense Will Center on Date Rape Not Existing

America Finally Hears the Case for the Victim on First Day of Steubenville Trial

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.

Unbelievable!

pigs-4

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.

ancient grave

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?