Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

Paid news and media extortion

May 18, 2014

The media like to portray themselves as a vital and necessary force for democracy. Attacks on the press – in any form – are considered fundamentally a strike against democracy and press freedom. If they break the law and get arrested they claim they were doing it for the greater good. They believe they are entitled to some form of press immunity.

But the reality is that “press freedom” is far too often used as an excuse for justifying criminal behaviour and  bad journalism. Accountability is not of any great concern.

But the media (print and broadcast and on the internet) are not averse to being paid for presenting what is essentially advertising as “news”. And even being paid for not publishing negative stories!!

The Election Commission in India are basking in the soft glow of having successfully conducted the massive, 10 phase voting by 550 million of an electorate of over 800 million over a 6 week period. They have the task of maintaining a “free and fair” election and have not been slow to pull up politicians who are transgressing. They have detected nearly 700 cases of the media transgressing the bounds of propriety.

But they have no authority over the media and the media – in their own judgement – can do no wrong.

DNA: 

As many as 694 cases of paid news – or news for which the media organisations took money to publish or broadcast – were detected by the Election Commission in this election, official said.

By the time the 10 phases of the polls ended to form the 16th parliament on May 12, thousands of cases of paid news were reported, according to EC officials. In 3,053 cases, notice was issued by the EC suspecting a foul play, an official said. 

“We served 3,053 notices, 694 of which were found to be genuine cases of paid news by our Media Certification and Monitoring Committee,” EC Director General Akshay Rout told IANS. “We define paid news as those items which are published as news but are advertisement in nature,” he added.

“There is no accountability in the media. While some candidates willingly pay for positive coverage, in most other cases candidates have to pay to prevent negative coverage. The media is getting increasingly criminalised, and acting as extortionist,” noted columnist and commentator Swapan Das Gupta told IANS. He added that media is acting as a reckless body, violating every known tenet of ethics.

… The Election Commission …. said it was not obliged to act against the TV news channels or print media indulging in such practices. “The media houses or publications are beyond the EC’s purview. We simply forward the cases of paid news to the PCI and the News Broadcasting Standards Association,” Dhirendra Ojha, Director in the EC, told IANS.

The shape of ads to come

March 23, 2014

Using augmented reality in advertisements.

US technology giants were complicit in NSA’s data trawling

March 19, 2014

Microsoft, Google, Apple,Yahoo, Facebook and AOL all claimed they did not know that the access they provided led to the NSA trawling their clients’ and customers’ data. But while they may not have liked it, they certainly knew all about it according to the NSA’s chief legal counsel. It would seem that these large technology companies all cooperated – even if reluctantly – and were complicit in the NSA’s indiscriminate data gathering.

It seems they have all been protesting too much as they have tried to build up their facade of innocence.

The Guardian: 

The senior lawyer for the National Security Agency stated unequivocally on Wednesday that US technology companies were fully aware of the surveillance agency’s widespread collection of data, contradicting month of angry denials from the firms. 

Rajesh De, the NSA general counsel, said all communications content and associated metadata harvested by the NSA under a 2008 surveillance law occurred with the knowledge of the companies – both for the internet collection program known as Prism and for the so-called “upstream” collection of communications moving across the internet.

Asked during at a Wednesday hearing of the US government’s institutional privacy watchdog if collection under the law, known as Section 702 or the Fisa Amendments Act, occurred with the “full knowledge and assistance of any company from which information is obtained,” De replied: “Yes.”

……. The NSA’s Wednesday comments contradicting the tech companies about the firms’ knowledge of Prism risk entrenching tensions with the firms NSA relies on for an effort that Robert Litt, general counsel for the director of national intelligence, told the board was “one of the most valuable collection tools that we have.”

“All 702 collection is pursuant to court directives, so they have to know,” De reiterated to the Guardian.

The technology giants do not really believe in the privacy of their clients. They have been complicit all along in the NSA’s data trawling exercises and have put up – in reality – very little resistance. And all their protests of innocence and reluctance and resistance are merely a public relations exercise.

As the Jungle Drum reported in December last year:

Let’s start with Gates and MS, which allowed the NSA to access every 9x series OS via a backdoor tailored especially for the purpose — that much is verified. Then we have master data censor and exploiter Eric Schmidt of Google, who has been a regular attendee at Bilderberg meetings over the past few years — for those unaware, the shadowy Bilderberg group of mega wealthy business people, bankers, media magnates, monarchs and strategically placed people of influence, hold annual meetings where ‘they’ outline future directions for the world — and you thought your elected puppets represented you and made all the decisions!

The latest well publicised manoeuvres by tech giants are simply part of an overall damage control plan to convince the public that their data will not be compromised by the NSA when in fact these companies were willing and complicit partners to US agency spying. Schmidt, Gates and Zuckerberg are probably the worst pretenders/offenders.

What Snowden’s revelations have done is make the public aware of a well known fact in digital underground circles, that privacy is a myth, in fact it was Eric ‘Google’ Schmidt who stated publicly that people have to fight to maintain privacy today. So let’s cut the crap and just admit that large tech companies are complicit in attacks on the public and follow the globalist agenda.

……. Do not be deceived by the pretence of mega tech companies, they voluntarily entered into partnerships with the NSA and in Google’s and Facebook’s case, the CIA. Private mail services are already being offered on the net and its only a matter of time before other companies, not related to the above nefarious data corporations, make huge inroads in the digital world.

Let down by the Oscars

March 13, 2014

Our local cinema tried to cash in after the Oscars were awarded. They offered a package ticket for four Oscar winning movies to be screened this week and next. On Monday night we saw “12 Years a Slave” and on Tuesday we saw “Gravity”. We see two more next week.

But so far it has been an immense disappointment. I feel let down by the Oscars. Being awarded an Oscar clearly has very little to do with quality – of any kind. Our little 300 seat cinema (fully digital and with Dolby sound) was not particularly stretched. We had 10 viewers for “Slave” and 8 for “Gravity”!!!!

After the first I was just disappointed. Wooden acting, pedestrian directing by Steve McQueen, long camera shots of motionless faces evoking nothing. Cotton picking scenes which carried no credibility (and I have seen it done in real life in India). The cane cutting scenes were even less convincing (and I have seen real sugar cane plantations in Asia and in S. America). The scenes of gratuitous violence (slaves being whipped) were artificial – at best. The book would no doubt have been a lot better. If this got the best movie award it does not say much for the rest. Lupita Nyong’o got the award for best female supporting actress but I thought there was more make-up than acting involved in her role. I am not sure what the critics saw, but it couldn’t have been the same movie I saw. The critics were probably paid out of the promotion budgets. Oh Dear!

After the second, “Gravity”, disappointment turned to irritation. I can’t criticise the acting because there wasn’t any. I can’t criticise the script because it clearly didn’t have one. It had two big stars who had almost nothing to do. Alfonso Cuarón won the best director award – for what I wonder? The much vaunted special effects were tame and entirely forgettable. No plot. Anyway Sandra Bullock managed to destroy the Shuttle, the International Space Station and a Chinese Space Station all in one go and survived to tell the tale. Why George Clooney was there was a mystery. He does more acting in the Nespresso commercials than he was required to do here. (I could add that the Nespresso commercials are far better directed than this Oscar winner). Oh double Dear!!

We have “Dallas Buyers Club” and “Blue Jasmine” left to see next week.

But my expectations of Oscar winners have been drastically lowered – so perhaps they won’t do too badly.

Nils Horner RIP

March 11, 2014

I tend to listen a great deal to radio – mainly Swedish Radio and the BBC. One of the high points every morning was listening to Nils Horner’s reports on Swedish radio from South Asia. Just yesterday I listened to his report on Fukushima 3 years after the great earthquake and Tsunami. Swedish Radio cannot afford too many overseas correspondents and Nils Horner covered all of South Asia. And this he did with great insight while still maintaining an admirable objectivity. He never found the need or gave in to the temptation to sensationalise his reports  – and in this day and age that was quite remarkable.

Nils Georg Anthony Horner was of dual British and Swedish nationality and had been Swedish Radio’s Middle East and later South Asia correspondent since 2001. He was a radio journalist and reporter of the old school and while he did not have the reach that they had through the BBC, I would put him in the same league as Alistair Cooke and Mark Tully. Like them he had the uncanny ability to evoke the mood and colour and smell of his locations. I always felt I was learning something new when listening to his reports. He was a sympathetic interviewer with a wonderful knack of drawing out his subjects without having to interrupt or harangue or talk down to them. He tried always to get the story and not just to score cheap brownie points.

He was shot and killed in Afghanistan today. He was working on a report on the upcoming Afghan election and especially the views of women.He was talking to his translator outside a restaurant in an affluent and well guarded area of Kabul when approached by 2 men. He was shot in the head with a silenced weapon.

Nils Horner  1962 - 2014

Nils Horner 1962 – 2014 photo AP

He was just 51 and I shall miss his reports.

RIP

Armed David

March 10, 2014

 

David holding an AR-50A1 rifle Photo via The Guardian -: Franco Visintainer/ANSA

David holding an AR-50A1 rifle Photo via The Guardian -: Franco Visintainer/ANSA

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/mar/09/michelangelo-david-statue-holding-rifle-american-advert

“Peer review is a regression to the mean. ….. a completely corrupt system” – Sydney Brenner

March 2, 2014
Sydney Brenner

Sydney Brenner, CH FRS (born 13 January 1927) is a biologist and a 2002 Nobel prize laureate, shared with H. Robert Horvitz and John Sulston. Brenner made significant contributions to work on the genetic code, and other areas of molecular biology at the Medical Research Council Unit in Cambridge, England.

A fascinating interview with Professor Sydney Brenner by Elizabeth Dzeng in the Kings Review.

I find his comments on Academia and publishing and peer review  particularly apposite. Peer review – especially where cliques of “peers” determine “correct thinking” – can not provide sufficient room for the dissenting view, for the challenging of orthodoxy. Orthodox but incorrect views thus persist for much longer than they should. Completely new avenues are effectively blocked and ideas are still-born.

Some extracts here but the whole conversation is well worth a read.

How Academia and Publishing are Destroying Scientific Innovation: A Conversation with Sydney Brenner

by Elizabeth Dzeng, February 24th

I recently had the privilege of speaking with Professor Sydney Brenner, a professor of Genetic medicine at the University of Cambridge and Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine in 2002. ….

SB: Today the Americans have developed a new culture in science based on the slavery of graduate students. Now graduate students of American institutions are afraid. He just performs. He’s got to perform. The post-doc is an indentured labourer. We now have labs that don’t work in the same way as the early labs where people were independent, where they could have their own ideas and could pursue them.

The most important thing today is for young people to take responsibility, to actually know how to formulate an idea and how to work on it. Not to buy into the so-called apprenticeship. I think you can only foster that by having sort of deviant studies. ……..

…… I think I’ve often divided people into two classes: Catholics and Methodists. Catholics are people who sit on committees and devise huge schemes in order to try to change things, but nothing’s happened. Nothing happens because the committee is a regression to the mean, and the mean is mediocre. Now what you’ve got to do is good works in your own parish. That’s a Methodist. 

ED: …….. It is alarming that so many Nobel Prize recipients have lamented that they would never have survived this current academic environment. What is the implication of this on the discovery of future scientific paradigm shifts and scientific inquiry in general? I asked Professor Brenner to elaborate.

SB: He wouldn’t have survived. It is just the fact that he wouldn’t get a grant today because somebody on the committee would say, oh those were very interesting experiments, but they’ve never been repeated. And then someone else would say, yes and he did it a long time ago, what’s he done recently?  And a third would say, to top it all, he published it all in an un-refereed journal.

So you know we now have these performance criteria, which I think are just ridiculous in many ways. But of course this money has to be apportioned, and our administrators love having numbers like impact factors or scores. ….

……. And of course all the academics say we’ve got to have peer review. But I don’t believe in peer review because I think it’s very distorted and as I’ve said, it’s simply a regression to the mean.

I think peer review is hindering science. In fact, I think it has become a completely corrupt system. It’s corrupt in many ways, in that scientists and academics have handed over to the editors of these journals the ability to make judgment on science and scientists. There are universities in America, and I’ve heard from many committees, that we won’t consider people’s publications in low impact factor journals.

Now I mean, people are trying to do something, but I think it’s not publish or perish, it’s publish in the okay places [or perish]. And this has assembled a most ridiculous group of people.

…….. I think there was a time, and I’m trying to trace the history when the rights to publish, the copyright, was owned jointly by the authors and the journal. Somehow that’s why the journals insist they will not publish your paper unless you sign that copyright over. It is never stated in the invitation, but that’s what you sell in order to publish. And everybody works for these journals for nothing. There’s no compensation. There’s nothing. They get everything free. They just have to employ a lot of failed scientists, editors who are just like the people at Homeland Security, little power grabbers in their own sphere.

If you send a PDF of your own paper to a friend, then you are committing an infringement. Of course they can’t police it, and many of my colleagues just slap all their papers online. I think you’re only allowed to make a few copies for your own purposes. It seems to me to be absolutely criminal. When I write for these papers, I don’t give them the copyright. I keep it myself. That’s another point of publishing, don’t sign any copyright agreement. That’s my advice. I think it’s now become such a giant operation. I think it is impossible to try to get control over it back again. …….. Recently there has been an open access movement and it’s beginning to change. I think that even NatureScience and Cell are going to have to begin to bow. I mean in America we’ve got old George Bush who made an executive order that everybody in America is entitled to read anything printed with federal funds, tax payers’ money, so they have to allow access to this. But they don’t allow you access to the published paper. They allow you I think what looks like a proof, which you can then display.

Elizabeth Dzeng is a PhD candidate conducting research at the intersection of medical sociology, clinical medicine and medical ethics at the University of Cambridge. She is also a practising doctor and a fellow in General Internal Medicine at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

Number of citations and excellence in science

February 10, 2014

Scientific excellence can only truly be judged by history. But history has eyes only for impact and if excellent science causes no great change to science orthodoxy, it is soon forgotten. For a scientist the judgements of history long after he performs his science are of no real significance. Even where academic freedom is the main motivator for the scientist,  the degrees of freedom available are related to academic success. An academic or scientific career depends increasingly on contemporaneus judgements – and here social networking, peer review and bibliometric factors are decisive. There may well be some correlation between academic success and the “goodness” of the scientist but it is not the success or the bibliometrics which are causative.

As Lars Walloe puts it: Walloe-on-Exellence

In the evaluation process many scientists and nearly all university and research council administrators love all kind of bibliometric tools. This has of course a simple explanation. The “bureaucracy” likes to have a simple quantitative tool, which can be used with the aid of a computer and the internet to give an “objective” measure of excellence. However, excellence is not directly related either to the impact factor of the journal in which the work is published, or to the number of citations, or to the number of papers published, or even to some other more sophisticated bibliometric indices. Of course there is some correlation, but it is in my judgement weaker than what many would like to believe, and uncritical use of these tools easily leads to wrong conclusions. For instance the impact factor of a journal is mainly determined by the very best papers published in it and not so much by the many ordinary papers published. We know well that even in high impact factor journals like Science and Nature or high impact journals in more specialized fields, from time to time not so excellent papers are being published. 

…..  I often meet scientists for whom to obtain high bibliometric factors serve as a prime guidance in their work. Too many of them are really not that good, but were just lucky or work in a field where it was easier to get many citations. …..If you are working with established methods in a popular field you can be fairly sure to get your papers published. I can mention in details some medical fields were I know that this has happened or is happening today. The scientists in such fields get a high number of publications and citations, but the research is not necessarily excellent. 

And getting your paper published has now become so important in the advancement of an academic career that journals are proliferating. Many of the new journals have now shifted their business models to be based on author’s fees and not on volume of readership. This is a very “safe” business model since profits are ensured before the journal has even been published and if the journal is an on-line journal then costs are minimal. It is virtually the “self-publishing” of papers. You pay your money and get your paper published.

The reality today is that more papers are being published by more authors in more journals than ever before. But fewer are being actually read. Papers are cited without having been read – let alone understood.

Skeptical Scalpel:

Another reason could be that publishers, particularly those who charge authors fees for publishing, are in the business of making money.

Authoring journal articles is not only enhancing to one’s CV (the old “publish or perish” cliché), it is required by Residency Review Committees as evidence of “scholarly activity” in training programs. Maybe it’s good for attracting referrals too.

The publish or perish ethos has led to a proliferation of the number of authors per paper!

First noted in 1993 by a paper in Acta Radiologica and a letter in the BMJ, the number of authors per paper has risen dramatically over the years. 
study of 12 radiology journals found the number of authors per paper doubled from 2.2 in 1966 to 4.4 in 1991.  A review of Neurosurgery and the Journal of Neurosurgery spanned 50 years. the average went from 1.8 authors per article in 1945 to 4.6 authors in 1995. 
Of note, the above two articles were each written by a single author. 
Three psychiatrists from Dartmouth analyzed original scientific articles in four of the most prestigious journals in the United States—Archives of Internal Medicine, Annals of Internal Medicine, Journal of the American Medical Association, and the New England Journal of Medicine—from 1980 to 2000. They found that the mean number of authors per paper increased from 4.5 to 6.9. The same is true for two plastic surgery journals, which saw the average number of authors go from 1.4 to 4.0 and 1.7 to 4.2 in the 50 years from 1955 to 2005. The number of single-author papers went from 78% to 3% in one journal and 51% to 8% another.
In orthopedics, a 
review of the American and British versions of the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery for 60 years from 1949 to 2009 showed an increase of authors per paper from 1.6 to 5.1.
An impressive  rise in the number of authors took place in two leading thoracic surgery
 journals. For the Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery the increase was 1.4  in 1936 to 7.5 2006 and for Annals of Thoracic Surgery it was 3.1 in 1966 to 6.8 in 2006. 

And the winner is a paper with 3171 authors! Needles to say it comes from Big Science and the Large Hadron Collider:

the paper with the most authors is “Observation of a new particle in the search for the Standard Model Higgs boson with the ATLAS detector at the LHC” in a journal called “Physics Letters B” with 3171. The list of authors takes up 9 full pages.

Too many journals, too many papers, too many authors and too many citations. But that does not mean there is more excellence in science.

Intrusive ads are counter-productive – at least with me

February 6, 2014

I must be representative of some consumers since I do buy stuff.

I even buy quite a lot of stuff on-line. Tickets of any kind (theatre, airline, museum, train, football, hockey bus ……), books, music, electrical and electronic gadgets and a host of small articles capable of being delivered by post. We book hotels on-line and sometimes pay on-line as well. We generally don’t buy food or clothes on-line but we do sometimes (at least my wife does) respond to the flyers dropped into our letter box by local retailers. Nearly all automotive products or materials for house repairs are bought physically and not on-line though we may have searched on-line.

But what I observe is that when I buy-on line it is from sites that I know or for which I have searched on-line. Never by clicking on an ad at another site. Even when I search I always hop over the paid ads which show up at the top of the search results. For a store to show up in a search result is much more important in getting my custom than in their advertising having been seen on another site. I cannot recall a single instance in the last year of buying something in response to an on-line ad. But what I also observe is that there is some threshold level of intrusiveness which leads me to remove sites from my bookmarks. If a site directs me first to full-page ads which I have to click away – and especially if they make it difficult to find the “close” button – then those sites get removed from my bookmark lists. I don’t watch videos on-line if their ads don’t disappear within 5 seconds. If my mouse, when hovering over text, brings up too many intrusive ads then the entire site gets onto my “black-list”. I don’t mind registering for some services at some sites but if that process takes longer than about 30 seconds (perhaps a minute) then that site never gets visited again.  Of course it could be that some of the on-line ads are having a subliminal effect and reinforce my perceptions when I search for on-line stores – but it is not very likely.

Even on TV and especially since the break for commercials is so long (in Sweden a commercial break lasts 6 minutes and there are not many ads of high quality), the commercial break either leads me to surf other channels or to go do something else. In the last year or two I notice that there are more TV programmes that I watch only up to the first commercial break because I then go and do something else and never get back in time to watch the rest of the programme. If it is a sporting or political event, then I may well return to the programme – after the commercial break. In any event the people paying vast sums for making and airing the commercials do not capture my attention. If anything they create a resentment in me since I am either a “captive audience” or am being coerced to view their “nonsense”. And it is the resentment which leads to the content being classified in my mind as “nonsense”. I never watch TV shopping channels but they clearly don’t have me as their target audience. The very existence of the commercials is leading me to strategies to avoid them!

My behaviour is surely influenced by the presence of ads on-line and commercials on TV. However, the behaviour engendered in me is nearly always counter-productive from the viewpoint of the advertiser. Maybe I am an untypical consumer – but I doubt it.  Which makes me wonder how effective some of this advertising is?

Certainly advertising agencies and the industry in general will never admit that there can be too much advertising. They get paid for exposure (or apparent exposure) and not for sales achieved. They don’t suffer any penalty for resentment caused or customers driven away. But I would suggest that there is a threshold – very low in my case – at which on-line advertising and commercials on TV become counter-productive.

I get virtually no text ads on my phone. I stopped using Facebook and Twitter some months ago so at least I am not harassed by their ads. But from what I hear, the intrusiveness of the ads on the social media are now leading to some people reducing their use and, in some cases, ending their use of social media. Social media and their business models are still evolving but the assumption that advertising revenues can keep increasing forever is fundamentally flawed.

BBCTwitter reports $645m loss for 2013

Microblogging site Twitter has reported a net loss of $645m (£396m) for 2013, just three months after its flotation on the New York Stock Exchange. The loss was expected by analysts, who highlighted Twitter’s revenues, which rose 110% last year to reach $665m.

But a reported slow growth in user numbers was a bigger concern for investors. Twitter averaged 241 million monthly users in the last quarter of the year, up just 3.8% on the previous quarter. That represents a slowdown compared with a growth rate of 10% seen at the beginning of 2013. Timeline views were down nearly 7%, suggesting users were refreshing their feeds less often.

“What this report will do is it will question how mainstream is Twitter as a platform,” said Arvind Bhatia, an analyst at Sterne, Agee & Leach.

Shares fell as much as 12% in after-hours trading on Wednesday.

Climate – the second derivative

January 14, 2014

Change changes.

We take global temperature (which exists nowhere and is merely a numerical construct) as climate. When global temperature is not constant we call it climate change. When “climate change” starts to change (as now from warming to cooling) we are into the second derivative. The turbulence at the time of the change of climate change we call “extreme events”.

Changing climate change

Changing climate change

These articles do not say very much new but they are quite extraordinary in that they are carried by the Sydney Morning Herald and Real Clear Politics, who have been staunch supporters of global warming orthodoxy.

The Ship of Fools in the Antarctic seems to have been a “tipping point” – not for climate or for climate change or for the change in climate change – but maybe for bringing some reality back into how climate is reported. (Incidentally, the Akademik Shokalskiy managed to get free of the ice and reached New Zealand but Turney’s tourists who were so dramatically rescued are still stuck at Casey station in the Antarctic and are not due back home for another 10 days!!!!!)

Sydney Morning HeraldGame finally up for carboncrats

It was promoted as the voyage to study the melting of ice sheets in the South Pole as well as to retrace Douglas Mawson’s perilous expedition a century ago. Yet the Australasian Antarctic Expedition, led by UNSW climatologist Chris Turney, has become a comedy goldmine. …..

Real Clear PoliticsShip of Fools in the Antarctic

In the mega-bestseller of the 15th century, “Das Narrenschiff,” Swiss lawyer Sebastian Brant satirized the pretensions, delusions and follies of his day through descriptions of passengers on a ship bound for “Narragonia.” Brant’s depiction of humanity as a ship of fools sailing without rudder or compass captured the imagination, inspiring a painting by Hieronymous Bosch, a song by the Grateful Dead.

So when the research ship Akademik Shokalskiy got stuck in the ice about 40 miles from Antarctica, some who knew the purpose of its voyage dubbed it the “Ship of Fools.” ……

Real Clear PoliticsFreezing Is the New Warming

This is looking like another bad year for global warming.

The year began with the news that an Australian “climate researcher” leading a tourist expedition to Antarctica got his ship trapped in the sea ice. Which is embarrassing, because the purpose of his expedition was to study the melting of sea ice supposedly caused by 20th-century global warming. The current expedition was meant to retrace the route Douglas Mawson took in 1912—but they were stopped 70 kilometers short of where Mawson landed. So they needed to have an icebreaker ship sent to rescue them. Then the icebreaker got caught in the ice, and someone had to rescue the rescuers. You can’t make this stuff up. …… 

The New York Times and Der Spiegel have started backing away from the orthodoxy towards reality – but very slowly. The Guardian, Washington Post and the BBC are among those who are still stuck in a fantasy world.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 639 other followers