Monday, October 30, 2006

Al Gore Hired by Great Britain

The British government has hired Al Gore as an advisor on climate change. This is not all that significant, but it is a relatively stark contrast between how the UK views Gore and how the US views Gore.

An AP story sums it up thusly:

"The British government also hired former U.S. vice president Al Gore, who has emerged as a powerful environmental spokesman since his defeat in the 2000 U.S. presidential election, to advise it on climate change, a clear indication of Prime Minister Tony Blair'’s growing dissatisfaction with U.S. environmental policy."
Reading the AP article linked above also is a useful tool to compare seemingly disparate entities, the United States of America and KFC (formerly Kentucky Fried Chicken).
"U.S. President George W. Bush kept his country, by far the biggest emitter of carbon dioxide and other gases blamed for global warming, out of the Kyoto international treaty to reduce greenhouse gases, saying the pact would harm the U.S. economy."
The above quote basically reminds us that the United States failed to help the global fight to reduce carbon emissions, because by doing so, the US would be sacrificing some economic prosperity. Without arguing the merits of the claim, if you substitute "KFC" for "the United States" and "transfat" for "carbon," you may understand the reason why KFC has been holding out in reducing or eliminating transfat from its fare.

Today, KFC announced transfats will be phased off the menu. The president of KFC, Gregg Dedrick, said "there is no compromise...Nothing is more important to us than the quality of our food and preserving the terrific taste of our product."

Substitute "economy" for "food" and "planet" for "product," and you see that the United States is forgoing a goal for the greater good, in order to best uphold some continental flavor -- or something.

Meanwhile, Reuters today states
"[c]ompared to voters in Europe, where the Green Party is a political force and global climate change is part of the public dialogue, U.S. voters in national elections tend to cast their ballots based on candidates' stances on the Iraq war, the economy and health care -- not on environmental policy."

Friday, October 27, 2006

Housing, revisited

On October 9th, I wrote about the conflicting views of former Fed chief Alan Greenspan, and journalist Robert J. Samuelson; Greenspan thought the housing downtrend was coming to an end, and Samuelson wasn't sure that was true.

Today, the CEO of Fortune Brands, as reported by Reuters, said:

"We see the likelihood of a fairly rapid recovery in the housing market in the second half of 2007... Underpinned by the resilience of the consumer, low interest rates, the prospect of a timely correction in housing inventories and the favorable long-term demographics of the categories."

Between October 9th and today, the public has learned:

Monday, October 23, 2006

The Up-Down on Partisan Perspectives

Clearly, the image of the Republican Party is getting dirty, at least in the media. In case you missed it, Mark Foley is a Republican, the war in Iraq was initiated by a bevy of Republicans, and Osama bin Laden is still around to scare us, and I've already written that Republicans and Democrats are arguing who to blame for North Korea.

However, the Democrats may not be the yang to the Republican's yin, which is to say, just because the Republican Party is getting bad press, does not mean the Democrats are getting positive press. This can be fleshed out quickly and accurately by utilizing the Daylife search engine.

For example:

  • The Boston Globe tells us "[Vermont] Gov. Jim Douglas, who co-chaired President Bush's election campaigns in Vermont in 2000 and 2004, now says he is 'appalled' at the behavior of Washington Republicans, and lays some of the blame at the White House."
  • The Baltimore Sun recalls the Jack Abramoff ignominy and states an "iron law of modern elections holds that incumbents lose only in the very rarest of circumstances, such as illness or scandal. This year, scandal is anything but rare."
  • The New York Times reminds us "[t]he capital is filled with Republicans convinced that they will lose the House and maybe the Senate."
  • And so on.

So, how does coverage of the Republican Party compare to that of the democrats?

  • The Washington Post thinks the Democrats should be optimistic, but warns "recent history highlights how difficult it is for Democrats to compete in places where Republicans usually win at the presidential and congressional levels."
  • Tony Blankley wrote in an Op-Ed piece, for the Washington Times, "[r]arely in the annals of American politics has an opposition party been less well prepared for governance than today's congressional Democratic Party."
  • The New York Times also preaches guarded optimism for the Democrats:
    "If they are as confident as they have been in a decade about regaining at least one house of Congress --— and they are -- it is a confidence tempered by the searing memories of being outmaneuvered, for three elections straight, by superior Republican organizing and financial strength, and by continued wariness about the political skills of President Bush's senior advisor, Karl Rove."

Thursday, October 19, 2006

"Environmental Refugees"

Tearfund, an aid and development agency, released results from a study stating "that there are already an estimated 25 million '‘environmental refugees'’ around the world, and that this figure is likely to increase as rain patterns continue to change and floods and storms become more frequent."

Tearfund is based in the UK and several outlets there have already written on the study, urged on, at least in part, by the official press release. This affords us an excellent opportunity to examine different takes on the same subject.

The BBC leads with the catastrophic prognostication: "Recent research suggests that by 2050, five times as much land is likely to be under 'extreme' drought as now."

The Independent opens focusing on the geographic impact of the study, telling us "
[m]ass movements of people across the world are likely to be one of the most dramatic effects of climate change in the coming century."

Thinktank Ekklesia works from the angle that something bad will happen, unless something is done, leading off with the statement: "
Global warming will trigger millions of climate change refugees unless urgent action is taken, a new report has suggested."

The London Times had a breaking news box, and as such, included only a single paragraph, focusing mainly on regurgitating the study. It led by stating
"[m]illions of climate change refugees will result from the impact of global warming on water supplies in poor countries - unless urgent action is taken, according to a report." As of this writing, the Times has no full article about the study, that I could find.

Tearfund has the study available here, check it out for yourself.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Who Cares?

Currently featured as a top story on

"Sad-eyed dog dragged by truck, in recovery"

Interestingly, Reuters is not giving this much coverage on their page.

Monday, October 16, 2006

David Beckham otherwise known as Alex Rodriguez?

Real Madrid is often compared to the New York Yankees. It's not a perfect analogy, but it works to highlight the size, power, and scale of Real Madrid.

Following this year's World Cup, David Beckham was dropped from the English National team. Now, he's drawing the ire of fans of his professional team, and while there has been talk of Beckham returning to the English squad, he's not playing up to the expectations of, well, anyone.

This all sounds very familiar.

Steve Lyons, Jimmy Snyder and Phil Mushnick

Steve Lyons was fired this weekend after saying "Lou's habla-ing some espanol there, and I'm still looking for my wallet. I don't understand him, and I don't want to sit close to him now." Lou is Lou Piniella, part of the FOX broadcasting team that included Lyons.

If you watched the broadcast, you heard Piniella liken the surprising production of a player to "finding a wallet." While this is not important to the potentially insensitive remarks made by Lyons, it is important when looking at the press coverage of the incident. By failing to mention Piniella's line about finding a wallet, but including Lyons' quip about "looking for his wallet," Lyons' quote is unfairly taken out of context.

The SI article linked above provides full details of the incident and attempts to include the appropriate background and contextual information. The circulating AP article includes Piniella's quote, although it does appear below Lyons' full quip. The Philadelphia Inquirer provides Lyons' quote without Piniella's mention of the wallet.

Phil Mushnick of the New York Post argued that Lyons was hired to offer comedic commentary and fired for the same reason, writing "[s]o now what? Do we just toss Steve Lyons on the scrap heap of sportscasters fired for social insensitivity? That would be simple. And easy. And unfair."

Mushnick compared Lyons to Jimmy Snyder:
"The precedent was set in 1988, when Jimmy (The Greek) Snyder, hired by CBS because he was a street guy with a big mouth, was fired for the same reasons. What Snyder said about the ascent of African-American athletes, while fact-based, sounded offensive."
And it is here where Mushnick brings coverage of the Lyons termination to a unique level. Here's why. Lyons was fired for making what was perceived as insensitive remarks (I'm not making a judgment here). Jimmy the Greek was also fired for making insensitive remarks. Now, Mushnick writes that Lyons and Snyder were both fired for the same reason, which is essentially true. However, while Mushnick acknowledges both were fired for the comments, Mushnick includes the throw-away line that Snyder's comments were "fact-based."

By calling Snyder's statement fact-based, Mushnick is himself presenting Snyder's comments to the public. Jonathan Rowe, writing in the Washington Monthly in April of 1988, wrote an extensive article about the Snyder affair. Rowe wrote "[Snyder] said that black athletic prowess dates back to slavery. The slave owner, he said, would 'breed his big black to his big black woman so that he would have a big black kid.'"

Rowe went on to dissect Snyder's comments and unearthed that while most anecdotal evidence did in fact agree with Snyder's claim, empirical evidence shows the claim to be false. Rowe quoted anthropologist Michael Blakely: "It was pure and simple a matter of reproducing large numbers rather than body types...that kind of breeding couldn't possibly lead to any difference in athletic ability."

Friday, October 13, 2006

One Good Headline, One Bad Headline

Lawrence Ulrich, of Fortune Magazine, has an article about what he calls "New Age diesels." Generally, I find puns and various lingual tricks distracting in headlines, and perhaps even shy away from the articles they point to.

However (and maybe I'm just a little coltish because it's Friday) the headline of Ulrich's piece attracted me, and amused me:

"The Axis of Diesel
Mercedes, GM and even Honda, are betting on a new breed of green diesels. The goal? To leave hybrids in the dust."
And what the Fortune article has in utility, creativity and appropriateness, this article from the Telegraph (Calcutta, India) has in verbosity:

"Delhi puts army act ball in Ibobi court"

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Sports Media Comparison: College Football Predictions

We are now at the mid-point of the college football season. The "experts" at Sports Illustrated's released their midseason predictions today.

While SI seems to unanimously believe that Ohio State will end the season crowned National Champions, there is little consensus as to who their opponent will be in the title game. The lack of agreement between the experts is what makes things interesting. Sports prognostication and predictions work as a simple tool to see which "expert" provides value to a reader. There is little gray area here. A prediction is made. A game is played. The result of the game is readily available and accurately determines whether the prediction was right or wrong. In this way, we can compare not only individuals against each other, but also the news entities each expert works for.

Ohio State is thought of highly outside of SI as well. CBS Sportsline currently projects the title game to come to Ohio State and West Virginia. Fox Sports sees Ohio State and USC fighting for the championship. SI uses four experts, as said, each one sees Ohio State competing in the title bowl. Of the four, two pick West Virginia to face Ohio State, another picks Texas, and the last picks Florida.

It should be noted that CBS Sportsline updates its predictions each week, and one individual, J. Darin Darst, is the man responsible for the predictions. Fox Sports also updates its positions weekly, and credits College Football News as its source.

We'll revisit this later, roughly January 9th, and see how this plays out.

Here's the basic breakdown:
  • Sports Illustrated: Ohio State vs. West Virginia (2 votes)/Texas (1 vote)/Florida (1 vote)
  • Fox Sports: Ohio State vs. USC
  • CBS Sportsline: Ohio State vs. West Virginia
  • ESPN (provides "Power Rankings"): #1. Ohio State ; #2 Florida

Sports Illustrated appears to hedge its bets by offering a unified prediction. We'll find out later if that helps them or not; more likely it will just make for several incorrect picks.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

United Kingdom Upsets People, Charities AND Drug Companies

Introductory Note:
Most of the healthcare provided in the United Kingdom is publicly-funded; it is organized and operated by the National Health Service (NHS). At a very basic and probably over-simple level, think of the NHS as you would a private insurance company in the United States, only the NHS is a government institution, overseen by the Department of Health. For more information about the NHS, see Wikipedia.

Patients in the UK suffering from Alzheimer's Disease are upset after the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) ruled that some effective treatments will not be available to them. NICE describes itself as "the independent organisation responsible for providing national guidance on the promotion of good health and the prevention and treatment of ill health."

The latest controversy started after NICE announced "that donepezil, galantamine and rivastigmine should only be considered as options in the treatment of people with moderate Alzheimer'’s disease" and that one other drug, memantine, should only be used in clinical studies. These drugs are approved for use in the United States, and are still suitable for use in the UK, only now patients will have to pay for them with their own money.

According to John-Paul Ford Rojas and Jane Kirby the patients are not the only peeved entitites, as "[h]ealth professionals and charities are considering asking for a judicial review of what they claim is a flawed ruling."

Rojas and Kirby added "drug manufacturers were also considering asking for a judicial review."

UEFA: Israel, Zidane

Has the Headbutt Seen 'Round the World forced soccer's governing bodies to clean up the tarnished image left by Zinedane Zidane? It's difficult to determine if this single event had a large effect, as many ambassadors of the game had already been working on positive outreach and anti-racist operations.

While the players (and FIFA) stressed the provocation was not racist in nature, this week UEFA will provide anti-racism activities as part of the widely followed UEFA Cup. UEFA is backing Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE). UEFA's President Lennart Johannson said the organization "appreciate[s] the opportunity to underline our unwavering commitment to eradicating racism in our game."

You can view the entire press release from UEFA about the activities here.

Meanwhile, UEFA is already seeing its fair share of controversy. On August 7, 2006, due to the underlying security issues in Israel, UEFA barred european teams from playing on Israeli soil. The ban lasted for roughly a month and was lifted on September 15, 2006, but UEFA stated the
"matches must be played in the region of Tel Aviv only, that security guarantees are required for every match, and that UEFA may re-impose a ban at any time if it considers there has been a deterioration in the security situation."
Israel's sports minister thought the ban stayed in place for too long, as the Hezbollah cease fire was established well before the ban was lifted.

Israel, Georgia, Kazakhstan and Armenia all are part of the Union of European Football Associations.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

North Korea: Blame Bush, Blame Clinton

And now more from the he said, she said files.

John McCain pins the current North Korea Fiasco on former president Bill Clinton, saying "the framework agreement [Clinton's] administration negotiated was a failure." McCain is an advocate of forcing tough sanctions upon North Korea (as is President Bush).

Sarah Karush of the AP writes:
"Democrats have argued President Clinton presented his successor with a framework for dealing with North Korea and the Republicans fumbled the opportunity. In October 2000, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright made a groundbreaking visit to Pyongyang to explore a missile deal with Chairman Kim Jong Il. There was even talk of a visit by President Clinton."
President Clinton's former chief of staff, John Podesta, now manages the Center for American Progress. Podesta pins the current North Korea Fiasco on current president George Bush, saying "by virtually every measure, Bush's North Korea policy has been a failure."

Monday, October 09, 2006

Housing Market: "Worst Over" or Not?

Experts and analysts and regular ol' nobodies are always forecasting and predicting. Here's what some people think about the current housing market.

Today former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan said:
"I suspect that we are coming to the end of this downtrend, as applications for new mortgages, the most important series, have flattened out... I don't know, but I think the worst of this may well be over..."

Journalist Robert J. Samuelson, of Newsweek, may think otherwise. Yesterday, he wrote:
"But real estate—which has acted as a national piggy bank, with homeowners borrowing and spending against rising house prices—no longer looks so trustworthy. On this, more than falling oil prices or a record Dow, hangs the economy's immediate fate."

Big News Tomorrow

It's 6:30pm on the east coast. The work day is over. 80% of the 24-hour day is over. The sun is setting; daylight is leaving. Print journalists are working to get the events of the day, ready for the paper tomorrow.

Meanwhile, the events of the day have already happened.

Geography and Baseball: The Yankees Lose

Financial Perspective:
195 million dollars: approximate payroll for the New York Yankees
83 million dollars: approximate payroll for the Detroit Tigers

Experience Perspective:
32.3: average age of the Yankees
29.4: average age of the Tigers

Height Perspective:
6'2": average height of a player on the Yankees
6'1": average height of a player on the Tigers

Weight Perspective:
215 pounds: average weight of a player on the Yankees
205 pounds: average weight of a player on the Tigers

Body Mass Index of each team (using the above averages):
27.6: The New York Yankees are considered overweight by this index.
27.0: The Detroit Tigers are also considered overweight.

Height and weight figures from roster analysis, payroll figures from One Stop Baseball.

With the above in mind, here are some recent headlines.

New York Daily News: "Blame Jeter"
Detroit Free Press: "Yankees, go home!"
Bloomberg: "Yankees a `Sad Failure' for Losing to Tigers, Steinbrenner Says"
New York Times: "Rodriguez and Teammates Fall Apart, and Yankees Fall Short Again"
Boston Globe: "No joke: Tigers are finally for real"
San Francisco Examiner: "A-Rod Dropped to No. 8 Spot, Makes Error"
CBS News: "Will The Yankees Fire Joe Torre?"
The Register Guard (Oregon): "Yankees sift through wreckage"

Thursday, October 05, 2006

What Makes a Local Issue Get National Press?

Apparently, the same things that make South Park funny:

About a month ago Vandale Amos Willis was in a Duluth courtroom, facing trial on drug charges. Ho hum, nothing to see here. Why then, is Willis showing up a month later in a variety of national papers?

These quotes first appeared in Duluth News Tribune:

  • "He was putting it into his mouth. That's when he kind of advanced toward me. As I explained to one of my compatriots, that's when I decided to redeploy to a more secure position."
  • "I think he was trying to goad the court into declaring a mistrial."
  • "I can't get into his mind, but I believe it was intentional manipulative conduct."
Now a month later, the AP is writing about Willis and his apology:
"'I'm going to take full responsibility for everything I did in Duluth,' Willis told the court. 'I want to apologize for everything I did in court. I'm sorry, your honor.'"

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

For Mass Consumption: The Terse Essay

Print Journalism equals Snow Skiing. Blogs equal Snowboarding.

1. Post-WWII, the ski industry boomed.
2. The ski industry could basically ignore the early snowboarding industry.
3. The early 1990's saw snowboarders and skiers clash; skiers looked down on snowboarders.
4. The late 1990's/early 2000's saw the ski industry learning from the snowboarding industry; both industries benefited from the cross-culturalization.
5. Today, the ski and snowboard industry are effectively one and the same.

Already, there are examples where the barrier between print and web is fluid.

Hastert's Coverage for Foley's Actions

Here's how house speaker Dennis Hastert is currently being covered:

The front page of the New York Times online includes this story, with the headline "Hastert Fights to Save Job in Scandal."

The L.A. Times online puts the GOP on the defensive but does not specifically mention Hastert on the front page. The main page of the Politics section leads with the "Defensive" story, and says "[w]ith elections nearing, conservatives are split over whether Hastert and other leaders who didn't take action last year should step down." carries a link to a blog post presumably about Hastert, but review of the entry reveals it's primarily about the Pennsylvania school shooting. The entry includes only this blurb about Hastert: "The heat is turning up for Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert to resign. But he says he's staying put. "

The Politics section of leads with the Foley story, and includes a story about the "GOP rally[ing] around Hastert."

Shakespeare's Sister uses the Hastert angle to offer a scathing review of President Bush, and Taegan Goddard's Political Wire points out that the AP changed their initial report on the Foley-Hastert brouhaha.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Ozone: Depletion, Accretion, and Archival Ignorance

As NASA flaunted its Nobel Prize winners, the European Space Agency (ESA) reported its finding that 2006 saw a record loss of ozone over the South Pole. The depleting ozone layer was formerly a hot issue in the media, but has seemingly been forgotten by many outlets, likely because the ozone layer has apparently been gaining mass since about 2000 (and there's only so much play one issue can get).

In researching web coverage relating to this subject, I came across some archival oddities:

  • Either the archive has some holes, or CNN managed to altogether avoid coverage in certain years: CNN had a single story in 2005 about the ozone layer; zero stories in 2006, zero in 2004, and zero in 2003. Most of the top 10 results, sorted by relevance, were published in 1999 or 2000.
  • Of the first 10 results from the NY Times archive, again sorted by relevance (technically "closest match"), not a single article was published later than 1988, otherwise known as 18 years ago.
  • The top 10 results from Google News were at most two days old (the top 3 results in Google dealt specifically with the ESA report).

I used the same query in each case ("ozone") and, as mentioned, sorted each list by relevance.

U.S. Economic Outlook

James Pethokoukis writes in U.S. News and World Report that yesterday's report from the Institute of Supply Management is "[a]nother sign that the economy may be headed for a soft landing, rather than a hard one."

Meanwhile, BBC news uses the same ISM report to highlight the negative:

"The US manufacturing sector grew at a slower-than-expected pace in September, seeing its sharpest fall since May 2005...[t]he Institute for Supply Management's manufacturing index for the last month dipped to 52.9 from August's 54.9."

Peter Coy of Business Week Online takes a more careful, comprehensive approach, and pits the bulls against the bears, attempting to present a debate between the two sides. He does however, share the BBC opinion about the ISM report, saying:

"The latest news supporting the bears' case came on Oct. 2, when the Institute for Supply Management reported weaker than expected manufacturing activity last month. "

So, which is it? Does the ISM report point to a positive future, or is it an ominous sign? See for yourself here, but keep in mind it's just one economic report in a sea of economic indicators.