Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Clueless in Washington

Mashable’s Social Media Guide for Journalists

by Brenna Ehrlich

Navigating the journalistic seas this past year has been a particularly challenging/exciting task. As many a publication foundered in the economic benthos, others rode the wave of new technology into previously uncharted waters.

Mashable has been there through it all, stepping in to provide journalists with touchstones and compass directions to help them do everything from tell more compelling tales through alternative storytelling to make the most of their Twitter accounts.

It's not enough today to have a good rolodex of sources (seriously, who even has a rolodex nowadays?) and a solid recorder, journalists need to be able to make use of every tool in their arsenal in order to stay afloat in today's almost real-time media landscape.

It's time to add another factor to the boot leather equation. Here's how:

Add Social Media Tools to Your Belt

From making use of social media tools to create and store content (ala YouTube and other video blogs) to tracking down sources (via Facebook) to publicizing stories and interacting with readers (by logging into Twitter), social media tools have opened up a whole new realm to today's journalists. Here are some great resources that can teach you everything from how to use YouTube to conduct man-on-the-street interviews to how to keep up with other journos on Twitter.

The Journalist's Guide to YouTube

The Journalist's Guide to Facebook

The Journalist's Guide to User Generated Video

The Journalist's Guide to Twitter

The Complete Guide to Video Blogging

Turn Your News Website Into a Community

Reading the news these days is becoming less and less about passive consumption and more about interacting with and commenting on what's going on in your world. Therefore, websites have to be less like art museums (hands-off) and more like those children's museums of bygone days (hands-on). Check out these great guides to making your publication's website more interactive — from tapping into local news to riding the Google Wave.

10 Rules for Increasing Community Engagement

7 Ways to Make News Sites More Social

How Google Wave is Changing the News

How Social Media is Taking the News Local

- more -

Kucinich to Investigate Fannie/Freddie Bailout
If the White House thought they could slip the bailout of Fannie and Freddie through by announcing it in a Christmas Eve news dump, think again.

Dennis Kucinich just released this statement:

kucinichAs Chairman of the Domestic Policy Subcommittee of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, I'm announcing that the Subcommittee will launch an investigation into the Treasury Department's recent decision to lift the current $400-billion cap on combined federal assistance to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, opening the way for additional, unlimited funds through the end of 2012. This investigation will include the role played by Fannie Mae chief executive Michael J. Williams and Freddie Mac chief executive Charles E. Haldeman in the decision, if any, and will seek to ensure that the additional assistance is used for homeowners and not Wall Street.

Many questions remain unanswered regarding this move by the Treasury. Why suddenly remove the cap? Indications are that Freddie and Fannie, even as millions of Americans lose their homes, have used just $111 billion of the $400 billion previously available to them. Is lifting the cap on assistance a back-door TARP?

Additionally, I want to determine whether Fannie and Freddie have a cohesive plan to buy up the under-performing mortgages that remain on the books of the big banks, at appropriate prices, and undertake a massive reworking of the terms of the mortgages so as to stem the foreclosure crisis that continues to plague our country.This new authority must be used responsibly and for the benefit of American families. This cannot be used simply to purchase toxic assets at inflated prices, thus transferring the losses to the U. S. taxpayers and acting as a back-door TARP.

On Christmas Eve, they also announced $4-$6 million compensation packages for their top executives.  But they'll start foreclosing on homeowners again in January.

Fannie and Freddie have been corrupt cesspools for years, a place where presidents of both parties parked friends like Dennis DeConcini and Rahm Emanuel, giving them lucrative spots on the board of directors as political payoff.

The Harvard Bookstore's new print on demand machine

Can't our government get anything right?

Whichever party's in charge fumbles the basics -- security, health, infrastructure. Why are we paying these people?

I have a confession to make. I have been suffering from painful flashbacks lately. Memories of the 1970s force themselves, unbidden, into my mind. Memories of the high school assembly where we students were handed WIN (Whip Inflation Now) buttons.

Grownups who were unable or unwilling to take the policy measures necessary to reduce inflation told us children that price inflation was our personal responsibility, just as similar cowards and charlatans today tell us that addressing global warming is a moral responsibility of ordinary people, not a technological issue to be resolved by governments and utilities. I remember the U.S. retreat under fire from Indochina under President Gerald Ford and the debacle of the Desert One mission to rescue the American hostages in Iran under President Jimmy Carter.

And then there is the most painful memory of all: the killer rabbit. On April 20, 1979, a White House photographer captured an image of the beleaguered President Carter using his paddle to fend off a rabbit as it swam toward his fishing boat in Georgia. The photo was suppressed until the Reagan years, and Carter's press secretary explained that the creature was a ferocious "swamp rabbit." But headlines like "President Attacked by Rabbit" gave a comic spin to the widely shared feeling that the U.S. government had become feeble and ridiculous.

I've got those killer-rabbit blues again. And I'm not the only one.

Some Democratic partisans have claimed that the pathetic, lobby-written healthcare bill is the greatest expansion of social insurance in the U.S. since Medicare. Possibly true, but so what? Passing the greatest social reform since the days of LBJ is easy, like being the greatest novelist in Lichtenstein or the greatest tap dancer in Mongolia. There isn't much competition. Since the 1960s our increasingly paralyzed Congress seems to have become incapable of enacting any reform that isn't trivial, or botched, like the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, or corrupted beyond recognition, like the healthcare bill.

Thirty years since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan

by Alex Lantier

In the press coverage of President Barack Obama's recent decision to deploy more US troops to Afghanistan, a historical milestone has gone curiously unmentioned—the 30th anniversary of the USSR's invasion of Afghanistan, which began on December 27, 1979.

An examination of the circumstances of this event undermines Obama's claims that American policy in Afghanistan is motivated by a "war on terror," revealing instead the imperialist aims behind US policy.

At the time, President Jimmy Carter seized on the Soviet intervention—which aimed to suppress mujahadeen rebels fighting the Soviet-backed regime of the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA)—to undo a decade of d├ętente and escalate tensions with the USSR. This critical decision unleashed a conflict that would ultimately devastate Afghan society.

It emerged only years later that the Soviet invasion was itself a response to a deliberate US attempt to set up a new military front against the USSR in Afghanistan. Even before the Soviet invasion, Washington was secretly assisting the mujahadeen, with the aim of provoking a Soviet intervention and trapping the USSR in a bloody quagmire. The US foreign policy establishment's ultimate goal in pursuing this policy was to destroy the USSR and promote an expansion of US power in strategically located, oil-rich Central Asia...

Washington's policy towards the Soviet-Afghan war was marked by unsurpassed cynicism. It unleashed a barrage of sanctimonious protests against an invasion it had helped promote, including organizing a boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics. As it sent billions of dollars in weaponry to the mujahadeen, it publicly denied that it was giving the rebels any assistance.

Though Washington proclaimed that its Afghan proxies were "freedom fighters," the mujahadeen and their international backers were social reactionaries. With the assistance of right-wing Muslim regimes such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, the US promoted Islamic fundamentalist warlords within the resistance. Washington turned a blind eye as they exterminated competing mujahadeen factions and funded themselves through large-scale opium sales.

When the mujahadeen proved incapable of organizing attacks on Kabul and strategic roadways, the CIA armed and trained international Muslim recruits to launch terrorist attacks and suicide bombings. The young Saudi billionaire Osama bin Laden oversaw these global recruitment networks, which later formed the core of Al Qaeda.

John Ortved's The Simpsons: An Unauthorized, Uncensored History

Under The Radar
By now The Simpsons is among the most predictable institutions in America. Not in the sense that the show is boring or unsurprising—though many will argue that it is—but predictable in that, after two decades, it's still on the air every with new episodes Sunday night at eight o'clock. Like baseball or The Ramones, The Simpsons has come to be synonymous with America.

That wasn't always the case, obviously, and when the series began it's success was anything but assured. That hectic period is at the heart of The Simpsons: An Unauthorized, Uncensored History, a 300-plus page oral history that began two years ago as a Vanity Fair piece. Drawing from extensive interviews with cast members, current and former writers (including Conan O'Brien, Wallace Wolodarsky, George Meyer, and others) and loveable Aussie billionaire Rupert Murdoch, the book was also done without the participation of principals such as Matt Groening, James L. Brooks, and Sam Simon, forcing Ortved to rely on outside sources (primarily quotes from print and broadcast interviews) and the word of the dozens of others interviewed for the project.

Facebook yanks high-profile cannabis pages

Picked up the following off, a most cool Bay Area-based site if you haven't seen it before. We'll be watching for updates on the Facebook situation:

CANNABIS CULTURE – For reasons unknown, Cannabis Culture Magazine's Facebook page has been disabled by the popular social networking site.

The Cannabis Culture Facebook page, which had over 25,000 fans, (and was available at this link) disappeared on December 23, 2009. Shortly afterward, administrators of the page received an email notification:


You created a Page that has violated our Terms of Use. A Facebook Page is a distinct presence used solely for business or promotional purposes. Among other things, Pages that are hateful, threatening, or obscene are not allowed. We also take down Pages that attack an individual or group, or that are set up by an unauthorized individual. If your Page was removed for any of the above reasons, it will not be reinstated. Continued misuse of Facebook's features could result in the permanent loss of your account.

If you have any questions or concerns, you can visit the Terms applicable to Facebook Pages at

The Facebook Team

CC editors have contacted Facebook and we hope to have the page reinstated soon. We are still trying to figure out how our page violated their terms; hopefully they do not consider discussion of cannabis "obscene".

Grow-your-own to replace false teeth

The British institution of dentures sitting in a glass of water beside the bed could be rendered obsolete by scientists who are confident that people will soon be able to replace lost teeth by growing new ones.

Instead of false teeth, a small ball of cells capable of growing into a new tooth will be implanted where the missing one used to be.

The procedure needs only a local anaesthetic and the new tooth should be fully formed within a few months of the cells being implanted.

Paul Sharpe, a specialist in the field of regenerative dentistry at the Dental Institute of King's College, London, says the new procedure has distinct advantages over false teeth that require a metal post to be driven into the jaw before being capped with a porcelain or plastic tooth.

"The surgery today can be extensive and you need to have good solid bone in the jaw and that is a major problem for some people," Professor Sharpe said.

The method could be used on far more patients because the ball of cells that grows into a tooth also produces bone that anchors to the jaw.

Last hour of Flight!