Posts tagged ‘news’


Wikileaks’ brand of transparency is the enemy of the establishment

10.12.2010

There are probably two things, chiefly, that fuel support for Julian Assange.
   First, the idea that the mainstream media are not independent, but merely mouthpieces for the establishment. There’s some truth to this.
   Secondly, the fact that Wikileaks is revealing, this time, things that we already knew: that governments are two-faced.
   While I have posted my reservations about Wikileaks elsewhere, the latest news—that the US and Red China collaborated on ensuring that COP15 would fail—shows that governments are quite happy to follow the money, and be complicit with corporations who wish to continue polluting.
   Creating transparency—something I harped on about since joining the Medinge Group and writing in Beyond Branding with my colleagues—is something I believe in, so knocking down a few walls and having certain suspicions confirmed are good things.
   In the 2000s, the processes in our systems revealed that the Emperor had no clothes over at Enron—which prompted, in some respects, Beyond Branding—and, more recently, that the sub-prime mortgage market was a crock.
   Maybe it is about time that the processes revealed a few truths about government, and the very reasons so many of us mistrust them, or give politicians such a low rating in surveys.
   The fact that despite the democratic ideal, many are not working for us.
   On the 8th, Stefan Engeseth cheekily suggested on his blog that Wikileaks should be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Yesterday, Russia suggested that Julian Assange could receive its nomination.
   Although Russia itself has come under fire, it rather likes having the two-faced nature of NATO confirmed by Wikileaks: on the one hand, saying that Russia is a strategic partner, while on the other, planning to defend the Baltic states and Poland from a Russian attack.
   A Peace Prize for a website or a founder who put certain anti-Taliban informants at risk would not get my vote, but the underlying sentiment of no more secrets does.
   The sad thing is that it might not, single-handedly, usher in an era where governments level with us more—but it is one of many moves that might.
   I say this as the establishment, including financial institutions, closes in on the website. As pointed out to me by Daniel Spector, PayPal and Mastercard are quite happy to accept your donations to the Ku Klux Klan, but will decline those to Wikileaks.

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Posted in business, culture, leadership, media, politics, social responsibility, technology, USA | 3 Comments »


The Julian Assange affair looks like a Smith and Jones gag

08.12.2010

In the news: Julian Assange.
   While the prosecutor in Sweden is denying it, the lesson here seems to be: publish a Wikileak naming anti-Taliban Afghan sources and risk getting them killed, and nothing happens to you. Publish a Wikileak embarrassing the United States, and get the whole media talking, while you’re charged with rape.
   I’m not happy about the earlier leak because it shows gross irresponsibility on the part of a website that is, effectively, a media outlet. I reckon they should be held accountable for that. But this time, I’m sorry: red diplomatic and corporate faces are far less serious.
   Without undermining what the two Swedish women allegedly went through, which is either connected to the leaks through political pressure or sheer bad timing, this whole affair reminds me of one gag in the old Alas Smith and Jones sketch show.
   In it, Mel Smith, as the newsreader, briefly reads an item about a terrible tragedy in México where thousands had died, but ‘it didn’t matter because they didn’t speak English,’ and emphasizes another where an Englishman was assaulted over an argument about the cut of his suit.
   Put some Afghans’ lives at risk, ‘it doesn’t matter because they don’t speak English,’ but embarrass some diplomats and rich guys, and it’s a big deal, sexual assault charges or not.
   All because some English speakers have red faces. Oh, how we love flexing our muscles.
   I’m not much of a fan of these wiki-style sites, even if I run one, but Assange might become a bigger name than the diplomats realize, a cause célèbre for free speech. Already the first hearing in England suggests as much.
   The establishment may be closing in on him, with Visa rejecting payments, and a Swiss bank saying no to Assange opening a bank account. Anyone who has loved the “young loner on a crusade”-type stories (you can tell I watched Knight Rider) might find an unlikely hero in Assange—Jemima Khan, Ken Loach, and John Pilger (who himself is no stranger to fighting on the little guy’s behalf) have.

PS.: The credit card company was not Visa, but Mastercard.—JY

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Posted in humour, internet, media, politics, Sweden, UK | 3 Comments »


A weekend of malware

24.10.2010

Autocade warning

I’m prepared to eat humble pie if one of our sites is actually distributing malware (naturally without any knowledge or action on our part). According to Google, Autocade is doing just that, as of the 23rd:

Of the 3 pages we tested on the site over the past 90 days, 3 page(s) resulted in malicious software being downloaded and installed without user consent. The last time Google visited this site was on 2010-10-23, and the last time suspicious content was found on this site was on 2010-10-23.
   Malicious software is hosted on 1 domain(s), including requestbusforward.co.cc/.
   1 domain(s) appear to be functioning as intermediaries for distributing malware to visitors of this site, including globals1696.ipq.co/.

   Immediately, I did the following:

  • searched for the domain (requestbusforward.co.cc) that was the source of the malware, and found that there were accusations toward Gizmodo and Gawker of doing exactly the same thing;
  • notified people on Twitter that there could be a problem with Autocade;
  • confirmed on a machine that is infected (which we were about to nuke) that the message was correct (it happened exactly as Google stated);
  • began backing up the database of the legit data along with the images;
  • informed our web host, Rackspace, of the notice and asked for an immediate check whether the server had been hacked;
  • did a Google News search and came up empty for news about either Gizmodo or Gawker being infected (which you would expect given these are popular websites);
  • better safe than sorry, nuked the infected PC with a hard-drive format. (Thank goodness for long weekends.)

   Rackspace’s Joe Kirby reports that he has seen no hacking activity at the server end. I’ve requested a review from Google and we’re still going to upgrade Mediawiki, which Autocade is run on.
   I’m willing to keep an open mind about whether Google was accurate this time (I can confirm it was not accurate about this blog), given that the scenario could be reproduced, albeit on an already infected machine.
   It still strikes me as odd that there is nothing on Google News or Google Blog Search about an infected Gizmodo or Gawker, which you would expect to make some sort of a splash.

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Posted in internet, technology | 1 Comment »


On Wellywood, Murdoch and English accents

31.03.2010

The good news today is that Wellington Airport is officially in two minds about what type of sign it will put up on the Miramar cutting, which means that the ‘Wellywood’ sign protest has had a victory of sorts.
   I’m thrilled at the news because it shows people power—especially people like Anthony Lander who set up the largest of the anti-sign Facebook groups, and the 15,000-plus who joined there—came through.
   The issue was always, and still is, transparency: how the council was prepared to say, ‘This is not our problem. It’s on airport land,’ without giving a toss about how the rest of us felt.
   The speed with which resource consent was granted was also questionable.
   But the people of Wellington showed that we still have what it takes to make politicians back down, even if it is to cement their own power base.
   This year, we’re discovering our own power and that we can keep politicians honest.
   Hopefully in the election this year Wellingtonians will decide that it should not be “politics as usual”. The important thing is that we vote, so we don’t have the usually pathetic 30-something per cent turnout. And let’s start talking about even bigger issues.

Of some interest this week is the media giving a tad more coverage to the Murdoch Press’s desire to charge for access in the UK. Websites for The Times, The Sun and News of the World will charge from June, something which was raised today on Radio New Zealand National.
   This is not new: I spoke out against it back in November during an address I gave at CPIT, because I could not see how it could be workable.
   According to the discussion on Afternoons with Jim Mora, the Murdoch Press is banking on its UK newspaper competitors following suit.
   No one doubts that a lot of the work being done by the press is valuable and deserves compensation. But this doesn’t ring true to me as a workable model.
   What it will initially do is drive people to non-Murdoch websites for UK news.
   Assuming other qualities and national tabloids follow suit, then we can watch the UK’s influence on global dialogue disappear. No one will care what the British people think on any issue, if their media are inaccessible.
   It won’t get that bad, because I believe The Daily Telegraph will always be around in a free format, since it was one of the internet pioneers—it celebrated its 15th anniversary online last year. Thanks to the website, its international influence has grown.
   The Murdoch plan also provides a wonderful opportunity for regional newspapers to become the national digital media of record if they are willing to provide their information freely.
   I am quite happy to pay for some news services. But it does not come from charging for the raw articles. It might come from a value-added service: who will be the first to lay out a PDFed newspaper that is automatically generated from international sources that I can read, whether on screen or on an Ipad? In 2010, there has to be something beyond the words and a low-res pic, because a lot of news has, predictably, become commodified. (An internal newsletter we had here in the early 1990s predicted as much; meanwhile, this is a good academic paper on the issues.)
   Some American publishers are getting the idea, and I have heard from an Australian company that is planning to do something similarly innovative. Therefore, I think Murdochs may have misread this one (as it has on climate change, according to one group): it is not akin to the BSkyB set-top box or other media it has encountered in the past.

Speaking of Brits, I have had three people this week say I have an English accent. One of them is Irish. Feel free to take a look at this old clip on Sunrise. I can’t hear it. I sound nothing like Leslie Grantham or Michael Parkinson.

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Posted in business, internet, media, New Zealand, politics, publishing, technology, UK, Wellington | 1 Comment »


Toyota’s recent “30-degree” scandal in China

16.03.2010

Sam Flemming in Advertising Age mentioned the scandal that Toyota has been embroiled in inside China, before a lot of the bad press it received in the occident over “unintended acceleration”.
   This involved a netizen, an owner of a Toyota Highlander Sport, filming that his SUV was unable to get up a 30-degree incline, something which “lesser” models such as the Korean-built Renault Koleos, and even the subcompact Chery QQ—one of the cheapest cars around in China—could manage.
   The following news item reveals more. It’s in Mandarin and dates from December 22, 2009.   The news investigators show that even a Daewoo Lacetti (Buick Excelle in China) and a Chery van could manage the same slope, and confirm that the Highlander could not do it.
   They are not alone. Jitendra Patel filmed this with his 2009 Highlander earlier last year:

   As Sam says, this issue has brewed thanks to the Chinese internet which, while not as free as it is in most countries, still seems to create active consumers’ groups. People will rally as individuals if the cause is right—and consumers seem to be rediscovering their power, online.

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Posted in business, cars, China, culture, internet, media, TV | No Comments »