Things that make you go hmmm …


House is leaning right

The Brookings Institution calls the last session of the House of Representatives the most conservative in more than 60 years. House Republicans are getting more conservative than House Democrats are getting liberal, according to the annual report.

Not a place for politics, or ratings

Preliminary ratings for the Zimmerman verdict give Fox News 3,682,000 total viewers; CNN 3,407,000; and MSNBC 1,298,000. MSNBC abandoned its wall-to-wall political coverage because of its ratings slide during the Zimmerman trial.

Call him mister

It’s not exactly scientific, but an Australian says he has proof gender matters in the workplace.

Kim O’Grady, a management consultant in Perth, says he couldn’t get a job until he added one word to his resume: Mr.

O’Grady’s Tumblr blog post on his job hunt in the 1990s has gone viral.

“The sad reality is this shows we all know how real and invasive sexism is. We all know that sexism unnecessarily impacts negatively on women’s lives and men benefit from that,” O’Grady says in a follow-up post.


Whither Al Jazeera?


Sultan al-Qassemi was named one of Time magazine’s top 140 tweeters in 2011. Sultan is his first name, not his title.

“Many of the editors and anchors in Al Jazeera Arabic are de facto Muslim Brotherhood sympathizers,” a Dubai-based researcher specializing in Arab media tells Sultan al-Qassemi in an essay for Foreign Policy. “This has been reflected in the channel’s pro-Islamist coverage over the past two years, relying heavily on a combination of incitement, bloody scenes, and Islamic preachers and media commentators,” Fadi Salem says.

Al-Qassemi, the Dubai columnist whom Time magazine praised for his tweets of the first Egyptian revolution, ridicules the pan-Arab satellite channel for its “biased coverage,” saying “Qatar, Al Jazeera’s home country and financial patron, gave billions of dollars in aid to Morsy’s government in the past year and has been accused of supporting regional Islamist movements, much to the chagrin of neighboring Arab states.”

Meanwhile, Al Jazeera America is in dress rehearsals in New York City for its debut on August 20, when it will beam into 49 million homes in place of Current, the channel started and sold by Al Gore. Media watchers are questioning how American Al Jazeera America will be, New York magazine reports.

Glenn Greenwald, in his latest  Guardian column, cites an internal Al Jazeera email to show that the channel is experiencing growing pains. In the missive, a prominent Al Jazeera host chides executives for efforts veer away from traditional Al Jazeera content to “appease” the American audience. For his part, Greenwald, confessor and confidant to NSA leaker Edward Snowden, says he’d hate to see Al Jazeera America drained “of its vibrancy and edginess” and turned into an “imitation of CNN.”

– M.S. Scully


Tweets not refracted


As they say, “The revolution was tweeted.”

In 2009, Twitter became such a key tool for young Iranians protesting the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that the State Department asked the micro-blogging site to postpone scheduled maintenance to allow demonstrators to keep organizing street rallies.

Twitter complied.

Likewise, it’s hard to imagine the Arab Spring blooming so quickly without Twitter. It continues to be a virtual bullhorn for protesters. This week, tweets have been taking jabs at Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the subject of protests since last Friday. “There is now a menace which is called Twitter,” Erdogan complained in an interview, according to France 24. “The best examples of lies can be found there.”

It’s not the first time that a government has been outraged by tweets. Germany and France asked Twitter to block neo-Nazi and anti-Semitic tweets within their countries.

Twitter complied.

But in stories from The Washington Post and New York Times on PRISM — a top-secret Internet surveillance program that gleaned data on foreigners abroad — one tech giant is conspicuously absent.

According to a document leaked to the Post, the National Security Agency and FBI collect the information “directly from the servers of these U.S. Service Providers: Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple.”

Twitter, it turns out, did not comply.

 Foreign Policy breaks down the numbers:

$20 millionThe annual cost of PRISM.

$8 billionThe estimated annual budget of the NSA.

77,000The number of intelligence reports that have cited PRISM.

1,477The number of times data obtained via PRISM has been cited in the president’s daily intelligence briefing.

248 percentThe increase in 2012 in the number of Skype communications intercepted via PRISM

131 percentThe increase in 2012 in PRISM requests for Facebook data.

63 percent: The increase in 2012 in PRISM requests for Google data.

9The number of tech companies whose servers NSA has access to via PRISM.

6: The number of years PRISM has been in operation.

2: The number of presidential administrations PRISM has operated under.

1 in 7: The proportion of NSA intelligence reports using raw material from PRISM.

0: The number of times Twitter has agreed to participate in PRISM.


Armchair road trips


geoguessr_thumbAlready counting the days before your next three-day weekend? While you’re plotting your escape, you can take seemingly limitless virtual road trips thanks to GeoGuessr, the latest, greatest time-waster on the Internet.

A mash-up of Google street views and The Dish’s View From Your Window, GeoGuessr teases you with idyllic seashores, winding forest roads and desolate, dry landscapes that look more Martian than terrestrial. (That’s the Outback, not a crater on the Red Planet.)  Continue reading


Viva il Papa, the subway rider

In 2008, then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio (second from left) rides the subway in Buenos Aires, Argentina. "Padre Jorge" was known for taking public transport while archbishop. — AP | Pablo Leguizamon

In 2008, then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio (second from left) rides the subway in Buenos Aires, Argentina. “Padre Jorge” was known for taking public transport while archbishop. — AP | Pablo Leguizamon


Eight years ago, the elevation of the German cardinal, Joseph Ratzinger, to the papacy was met with derision by both serious and frivolous British papers. “God’s Rottweiler,” blared the front page of the Daily Telegraph. It’s not often that the liberal Guardian falls into line with the sassy but conservative Sun, but on Pope Benedict they agreed: “From Hitler youth to the Vatican,” said  The Guardian. “From Hitler Youth to… Papa Ratzi,” screamed The Sun.

Newspaper editors reflect their environment and know their readers.  In 2005, the blitzed British had a knee-jerk — i.e., a Basil-Fawlty-like goose-step — reaction to a German pope.

Maybe it’s impossible to make fun of Francis, the Argentine Jesuit who passed on the perks that came with being a cardinal — the chauffeur-driven car, the palace, the chef. Continue reading