Category Archives: Interesting Facts

Vietnam Arrests 2 Bloggers Over Past Week – Government crackdown on free speech

Police in southern Vietnam have arrested two bloggers over the past week in an apparent crackdown before a crucial Communist Party Congress, rights group and state media reported. Le Nguyen Huong Tra, who blogged under the pen name of Do Long Girl, was taken into police custody from a home in Ho Chi Minh City on Saturday night for allegedly slandering a senior government official, the online newspaper VnExpress reported Tuesday. Tra was accused of slander by claiming the official had done favors for a Miss Vietnam pageant winner and certain artists because they were his son’s lovers, VnExpress reported. The newspaper did not specify what sort of favors had allegedly been done. The police investigation said Tra wrongly accused the official, whose family suffered negative consequences, the newspaper said. Police declined to comment on the case. Meanwhile, police in Ho Chi Minh City also arrested blogger Phan Thanh Hai, known as Anhbasg, over the weekend and continued to detain Nguyen Van Hai, a blogger known as Dieu Cay, even though he had served out his 30-month sentence on “trumped-up” tax evasion charges, according to New York-based Human Rights Watch. Dieu Cay was charged with tax evasion and sentenced to 30 months in jail after encouraging people to protest at the Olympic torch ceremonies in Ho Chi Minh City shortly before Beijing Olympics. He criticized China’s policies in Tibet and Vietnam’s handling of the disputed Spratly islands in the South China Sea.

Outcry as Ugandan paper names ‘top homosexuals’ – “sick and twisted journalism at work”

Gay Ugandans have faced a fortnight of attacks and intimidation, say human rights campaigners, after a local newspaper published a list of the country’s “top 100 homosexuals”. As well as naming gay Ugandans – complete with photographs and addresses – Rolling Stone newspaper also claimed that a deadly disease was attacking homosexuals in Uganda, and said that gays were recruiting one million children by raiding schools. Activists say a number of Ugandans have been attacked since the Rolling Stone newspaper published the front-page story on 9 October under a banner that read, “Hang Them”. After the article hit the streets, the government’s Media Council ordered the newspaper to stop publishing – not because of the content, but rather as the newspaper had not registered with the administration. After it completes the paperwork, Rolling Stone will be free to publish again. The newspaper’s managing editor, Giles Muhame, maintains that the article was in the public interest. Although Ugandan Rolling Stone published its first issue only in August, it is already locked in competition with Red Pepper, another garish local tabloid. Rolling Stone’s print run is about 2,000 copies, but 10 or more people often read a single newspaper in Uganda.                                                            

Tobacco companies accused of promoting cigarette brands online

Leading health organisations have expressed alarm at how the internet is being used to promote smoking. Tobacco companies deny using the online world to market their brands, but there is mounting concern that social networking sites are glamorising smoking, especially among young people. British American Tobacco (BAT) has been forced to conduct a damage limitation exercise after it emerged that several of its employees had established fan sites on Facebook for the company’s Lucky Strike and Dunhill brands, apparently without the company’s knowledge. Ash, the anti-smoking group, has also established that BAT hired an online marketing firm, iKineo, to promote the Lucky Strike brand in South Africa. Other tobacco companies have also looked to the internet. Thousands of smokers – who had to confirm they were over 18 simply by clicking on an online box – have accessed a website allowing them to design packets for new blends of Camel cigarettes, manufactured by the American firm RJ Reynolds (RJR). The resulting exercise saw the launch of a range of new packets that extended the Camel brand and saw it climb up internet search engine rankings. CYouTube also carries old cigarette adverts that would fall foul of the comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising, recognised by 168 countries if they were aired on television. An analysis of 163 YouTube tobacco brand-related videos, carried out by researchers at the University of Otago in New Zealand, found that 71 percent featured “pro-tobacco content”.

Too much TV psychologically harms children: study

Hiding the TV remote and games console controller is a good thing to do to kids if it’s the only way to limit the time they spend in front of a screen, according to a study published Monday. The study, conducted by researchers from the University of Bristol, found that youngsters who spend hours each day in front of the TV or games console have more psychological difficulties like problems relating to peers, emotional issues, hyperactivity or conduct challenges, than those who don’t. And contrary to what earlier studies have indicated, the negative impact of screen time was not remedied by increasing a child’s physical activity levels, says the study, published in the US journal Pediatrics. The researchers got 1,013 children between the ages of 10 and 11 to self-report average daily hours spent watching television or playing – not doing homework – on a computer. Responses ranged from zero to around five hours per day. The children also completed a 25-point questionnaire to assess their psychological state, and the time they spent in moderate to vigorous activity was measured using a device called an accelerometer, which was worn around the waist for seven days. The researchers found that children who spent two hours or more a day watching television or playing on a computer were more likely to get high scores on the questionnaire, indicating they had more psychological difficulties than kids who did not spend a lot of time in front of a screen.

Russian journalism students hit back with rival anti-Putin calendar

Six Russian journalism students released a rival calendar after their colleagues’ scantily clad version in honour of Vladimir Putin. Twelve scantily clad women oozing praise for Vladimir Putin versus six stern-looking female students demanding human rights – who will win Russia’s battle of the calendars? A day after 12 journalism students at Russia’s most prestigious university released a racy calendar in honour of Putin’s 58th birthday, six of their colleagues hit back with their own version, pointing to the murders and curbs on freedom under Putin. “Who killed Anna Politkovskaya?” asks Yekaterina Ulianova, posing, like all the young women, in a sombre black outfit with yellow tape sealing her mouth shut. Politkovskaya, a journalist who was one of the Kremlin’s toughest critics, was shot dead on Putin’s birthday four years ago today. The students in both calendars study at Moscow State University’s journalism faculty, which has produced some of the country’s finest journalists, including Politkovskaya. Some 50,000 copies of the first calendar have been printed, and are for sale for RUVB 259 at Moscow branches of French supermarket chain Auchan. The opposition calendar, for now, is only available online.

New online platform to allow freelancers to auction exclusive stories

A new online app has been launched for freelancers looking to sell exclusive stories and ideas to news editors. Qluso, which was developed by Northern Irish technology start-up NewsRupt and goes live in beta on 4 October, will allow news editors to browse through stories submitted by freelancers and place bids to become the first to publish the material. Freelancers using the service will set a reserve price and time limit before uploading their stories. The service says it will pay freelancers on the same day that stories are sold. The app will be free to use during the private beta period. From January, when it comes out of beta, editors will be able to sign up for free or premium accounts and Qluso will take a 15 per cent commission from every sale fee, Lyra McKee, co-founder of NewsRupt, said. According to NewsRupt, 100 journalists have already signed up as beta users of the service, while news editor sign-ups include staff from two national newspapers. The start-up is aiming for 5,000 freelance users and 200 news editors within its first year. McKee, who won the Sky News Young Journalist of the Year award in 2006, co-founded NewsRupt with three other young entrepreneurs. The start-up is currently raising its first round of investment and will build mobile and web applications for newspapers and journalists

Irish publisher demands 10% pay cut

Staff at two Irish newspapers have been told they must accept a 10 percent pay cut and a possible 50 percent cut in their pensions. More than 300 employees of the Cork-based Irish Examiner and Evening Echowere told of the plan by the publishers, Thomas Crosbie Holdings, at a weekend briefing by managers. They were told there was a EUR 20m deficit in the company’s defined-benefit pension fund. This derived mainly from poor investment performance. In February 2009, Examiner staff were given a pay freeze and offered a series of voluntary alternative working structures. The Examiner’s sale has been falling in recent years. According to the latest ABC figures, its sale for the first half of 2010 dropped by 7.3 percent to 46,687

Chinese film industry aims to challenge Hollywood

China is on course to build a record number of cinemas this year in a burst of movie infrastructure development that is partly aimed at rivalling the “soft power” of Hollywood. Following the state-backed expansion of China’s TV and newspaper industries since 2009, the government is promoting a major push of film production and distribution. The state council, China’s cabinet, has issued new guidelines for the booming industry that have helped film-makers secure bank loans and reach a wider audience. Despite the widespread piracy of films – which means illegal DVDs often go on sale within days of a new cinema release – the authorities are ramping up cinema construction to draw more audiences to screenings. Industry analysts says the speed of growth – a reflection of a wider economic boom as much as state policy – is so fast that China could start to overtake the US in key benchmarks. Last year the government reportedly injected £4bn into Xinhua, state broadcaster CCTV, and the People’s Daily newspaper in a move to strengthen the country’s media voice. All of these organisations have subsequently ramped up their English language content in a bid to counter what is widely seen in Beijing as a biased western media and an overly strong advocacy of western values. Xiang Yong, deputy director of the Institute for Cultural Industries at Beijing University, sees the promotion of the domestic film industry as “an important way to strengthen the soft power of our country.”

Pentagon Loosens Restrictions for Press in Guantánamo Bay

The Pentagon has agreed to revise some of the rules that have restricted what journalists are free to report on from Guanta’namo Bay, resolving a conflict that peaked in May when four reporters were expelled from the naval base there. The military informed news organizations of the new rules on Friday after lengthy discussions between the Pentagon’s public affairs division and lawyers for media outlets including The Associated Press, The New York Times and The Miami Herald. In a compromise, the public affairs office has agreed not to ask reporters to withhold information that has been deemed privileged by the military if such information has already been in the public domain. This was the central issue in the case involving the four reporters who were barred after they printed the name of a former Army interrogator who was a witness against a Canadian citizen accused of killing an American soldier in Afghanistan and detained at Guanta’namo. The interrogator’s name had been mentioned in many press accounts of the case, but a military judge had declared his name protected information. The revised policy now specifies that reporters will not be considered in violation of the rules if what they report “was legitimately obtained” in the course of newsgathering done outside Guanta’namo. The Pentagon has also agreed to work more closely with journalists before deleting photos and video taken at the naval base. Every image brought to Guanta’namo on a camera — regardless of whether it was taken there or not — is subject to review by military censors. The Pentagon has also agreed for the first time to allow journalists to formally challenge in writing decisions by the public affairs office. Previously, there was little recourse for journalists if they were denied information from the Pentagon or told they could not report something.

Brain Waves and Newsstands

In early August, the British magazine New Scientist published a cover that had scored well on a test conducted by neuromarketers, who study the brain’s response to products. But the question remained: would that good review translate to sales on the newsstand? The short answer is yes. Graham Lawton, the deputy editor of the magazine, said in a release last week that the issue had sold 12 percent more than the same issue a year ago, sales “much higher than we would expect for a similar cover story at that time of year, so we would certainly say the experiment was a big success.” NeuroFocus, a California company, tested three covers prepared by the magazine, using an electroencephalograph machine to measure brain waves of the subjects in the test. It then rated the results on a scale of 1 to 10, based on factors like memory activation and emotional engagement. The top-scoring cover had the logo in red (emotionally involving) and a single main image of space (limited distractions) with a curve at the bottom split open to reveal fabric. That split, when combined with the tagline, “Has the fabric of the universe unraveled?” gave a dose of brain candy. Over all, the cover scored 8.2