NYTimes: We Have Met the Enemy and He is Powerpoint

by Elisabeth Bumiller, New York Times, April 26, 2010
A PowerPoint diagram meant to portray the complexity of American strategy in Afghanistan certainly succeeded in that aim.

WASHINGTON — Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the leader of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, was shown a PowerPoint slide in Kabul last summer that was meant to portray the complexity of American military strategy, but looked more like a bowl of spaghetti.

“When we understand that slide, we’ll have won the war,” General McChrystal dryly remarked, one of his advisers recalled, as the room erupted in laughter.

The slide has since bounced around the Internet as an example of a military tool that has spun out of control. Like an insurgency, PowerPoint has crept into the daily lives of military commanders and reached the level of near obsession. The amount of time expended on PowerPoint, the Microsoft presentation program of computer-generated charts, graphs and bullet points, has made it a running joke in the Pentagon and in Iraq and Afghanistan. Read more…

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NYTimes: Sex Adds Seen Adding Revenue to Craigslist

Sex Adds Seen Adding Revenue to Craigslist

by Brad Stone, NYTimes, April 25, 2010

Craigslist, one of the most popular Web sites in the United States, is on track to increase its revenue 22 percent this year, largely from its controversial sex advertisements. That financial success is reviving scrutiny from law-enforcement officials who say the ads are still being used for illegal ends.

The ads, many of which blatantly advertise prostitution, are expected to bring $36 million this year, according to a new projection of Craigslist’s income. That is three times the revenue in last year’s projection.

Law-enforcement officials have been fighting a mostly losing battle to get Craigslist to rein in the sex ads. At the same time, officials of organizations that oppose human trafficking say the site remains the biggest online hub for selling women against their will. Read more…

AP: China Seeks to Step Up Communication Monitoring

China Seeks to Step Up Communication Monitoring

by Sharon LaFraniere, Associated Press, April 27, 2010

BEIJING — China is on the verge of requiring telecommunications and Internet companies to detect, stop and report leaks of state secrets by their customers, the latest in a string of moves designed to strengthen the government’s control over private communications.

The proposed amendment to the state secrets law, reported Tuesday by state media, loosely defines a state secret as information that, if disclosed, would damage China’s security or interests in political, economic, defense and other realms.

The wording of the amendment as cited by the state-run media suggested that Internet providers and telecommunications companies would have to take a more active stance in checking e-mails or text messages for leaked information. But it was not clear from the reports what, if any, penalties would be imposed on companies that failed to comply. Read more…

Daily Nation: Mobile telephony: Kenya’s not-so-silent revolution

Mobile telephony: Kenya’s not-so-silent revolution

by Rasna Warah, The Daily Nation, November 8, 2009

Usually, the only news about Kenya that the editors of The Economist deem fit to print is the dark and depressing type: stories of grand corruption, poverty and poor governance.  So it was refreshing, if not startling, to see a recent editorial in The Economist describing Kenya as “a success story” in the use and application of mobile phone banking. The editorial states: “By far the most successful example of mobile money is M-Pesa, launched in 2007 by Safaricom of Kenya. It now has nearly 7 million users — not bad for a country of 38 million people, 18.3 million of who have mobile phones.” Read more…

NYTimes: Refining the Twitter Explosion

Refining the Twitter Explosion

by Noam Cohen, The New York Times, November 8, 2009

DOES Twitter have a T.M.I. problem? And, no, I don’t just mean the Twitter users who share too much information about their lives, social, medical or otherwise.

Simply put, there is way too much information on Twitter — lately, it defies navigation. In January, there were 2.4 million tweets a day, according to Alessio Signorini, a researcher at the University of Iowa. By October, he reports, there were 26 million tweets a day.

Why should we care about information overload at Twitter? Isn’t Twitter about the individual experiences — a Tweeter and her followers — not the totality of millions of Tweeters around the world?

Perhaps this is true for most users. But the promise of Twitter — the reason Google and Microsoft have paid to be able to search millions of Tweets — is that it gives the best approximation of the pulse of the world: How popular is the new iPhone? Did Kanye West make a spectacle of himself at an awards show? Or, more ominously, what is it like when there is a shooter loose on an Army post? Read more…

MIT: Guerrilla reporting in ‘difficult places’

Guerrilla reporting in ‘difficult places’: Activists describe their experiences using new technology to build free media networks in countries with scant resources or oppressive regimes.

by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office, Cambridge,  April 20, 2010

In mid-2009, when thousands of Iranians took to the streets amid allegations of fraud in the June presidential election, the images of the protests that reached the West were almost exclusively those captured by ordinary citizens on cell phones and digital cameras and disseminated over the Internet, circumventing the government’s information clampdown. So Iran was a fitting place to begin the virtual tour of the world that took place last Thursday evening at MIT’s Stata Center, under the auspices of MIT’s Center for Future Civic Media and the title “Civics in Difficult Places.”

Hosted by Ethan Zuckerman, a fellow at both Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society and the Center for Future Civic Media, the two-hour event was a series of interviews, using the Web-based videoconferencing software Skype, with activists around the world who are helping create grassroots media networks in countries with hostile political environments or scant resources. Read more…

Scholars at Risk: Spies among students and lecturers in China

CHINA: Spies among lecturers and students

University World News, April 18, 2010

China’s political police recruit and maintain a vast network of informants among the nation’s university students. A report in China Digital Times describes how the Domestic Security Department or DSD has recruited intelligence agents to spy on people across the country for many years.China’s political police recruit and maintain a vast network of informants among the nation’s university students. A report in China Digital Times describes how the Domestic Security Department or DSD has recruited intelligence agents to spy on people across the country for many years.

The Times says Chinese netizens have also located and distributed online documents from the DSD and university security departments. These reveal another component of the government’s informant system within Chinese universities. Read more…