The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'al-jazeera'
In 2003, the CIA found what it thought were al-Qaeda terrorist instructions encoded in the al-Jazeera news ticker. The "instructions" detected by the CIA's steganalysis software included dates, flight numbers and the coordinates of targets including the White House and the small town of Tappahannock, Virginia, and resulted in the national terror alert level being raised from "extra-severe" to "brown trouser time" and almost 30 flights being cancelled. That is, until it emerged that the "hidden messages" were just the result of random noise, coincidence and the human pattern-finding instinct:
The problem with hunting messages hidden by steganography is that there are so few of them, any computer program will come up with false positives - messages that aren't really there. "The false positive rate, even if it's vanishingly small, starts to throw signals at you that makes you want to believe you're seeing messages. And somebody could be fooled by that if they didn't understand the nature of steganography," says Honeyman.This happened some time after it was discovered that al-Qaeda weren't hiding terrorist instructions in images on internet porn sites.
An interesting, if characteristically boosterist, WIRED article on Dubai, the United Arab Emirates' high-tech city and a sort of Singapore or Hong Kong of the Middle East:
Last year, only 17 percent of Dubai's gross domestic product came from oil revenue, behind services, transportation, tourism, and hospitality. In comparison, the petroleum sector accounts for 45 percent of Saudi Arabia's GDP.Dubai also stands in contrast to the Saudi kingdom in another Arab-world indicator, the role of women. Where Saudi women are still waiting for the right to drive, Dubai women play a pivotal role in society. "My success means success for other women here," says Sheikha Lubna al Qasimi, the CEO of Tejari, an Internet business-to-business procurement firm, noting that women form 65 percent of Internet City's workforce.
What Dubai is today, Baghdad was 1,200 years ago. "This island, between the Tigris in the east and the Euphrates in the west, is a marketplace for the world," wrote Al Mansur, the eighth-century founder of Baghdad. "It will surely be the most flourishing city in the world."
Dubai is also home to the region's two independent news channels: firstly Al-Jazeera, often touted as the "Arab CNN" (or perhaps the "Arab FOXNews"), and more recently, al-Arabiya, an even further refinement of the formula, without the emotive bluster al-Jazeera, for all its revolutionary changes, still shares with the region's state-run media:
Negm proposed an experiment: No Al Arabiya report could last longer than two and a half minutes. Gone was the long-windedness and speechifying. "You don't have to say that something's a crime against humanity," says Ismail. "If it is, people can see that for themselves. At times of crises people like emotionalism. If you don't respond to emotional needs, you're accused of being detached. But if you do respond to the hurt with emotionalism, it creates a vicious cycle. If we're going to get out of this cycle, we have to be rational, critical."
That rhetoric-wary approach has gotten Al Arabiya in plenty of trouble. Recently, the station clashed with the Palestinian Authority, which expects the Arab press to take up its cause unequivocally and refer to any Palestinians killed by the Israeli Defense Force as martyrs. When one of Al Arabiya's West Bank reporters used instead the politically and religiously neutral word dead, he was rifle-butted by members of Yasser Arafat's ruling Fatah party.
Meanwhile, here is the CIA World Factbook's entry for the UAE. For all its economic liberalism, it's interesting to note that the UAE is still an autocracy (albeit, arguably, one of the more enlightened ones). Mind you, one could levy similar charges against Singapore (where the ruling party has held power for decades; among other things, voting districts in Singapore are so small that it is easy for the bureaucracy to systematically penalise anyone who votes for the opposition).
Finally, Al-Jazeera's English-language site is up. It looks much like any Western news portal, with clean design, headlines in sectins like Global, Culture and Sci-Tech, special features and stock quotes, and has the usual broad spectrum of news articles you'd find anywhere, from scientific breakthroughs to Hollywood goings-on. Of course, there is a difference; when I looked at the front page, there were no fewer than eight mentions of Israel in the headlines, none of them remotely sympathetic. The criticism of U.S. policies and politics (whilst secondary to anti-Israeli sentiment) was also at a level that makes even the Guardian, that favourite whipping boy of the Patriot Pack, look like CNN by comparison. Having said that, the stories seemed mostly free of polemic and did attempt to take a balanced look at issues, from a Middle-Eastern Arab perspective.
According to the Age article, the al-Jazeera English-language servers are located in France. I'm sure the neocons will have a field day with that.
Separated at birth?
Ah yes; controversial Arab independent news service Al Jazeera's English-language web site is up. See it before it gets h4x0r3d.
Fed up with being kept in the dark and fed bullshit by local news outlets, increasingly many Americans are turning to British and European news sites for world coverage. (via bOING bOING)
The American public is apparently turning away from the mostly US-centric American media in search of unbiased reporting and other points of views. Much of the US media's reaction to France and Germany's intransigence on the Iraqi war issue has verged on the xenophobic, even in the so-called 'respectable' press. Some reporting has verged on the hysterical - one US news web site, NewsMax.com, recently captioned a photograph of young German anti-war protesters as "Hitler's children".
One of the overseas news sites cited there is none other than the Guardian, that much-vilified mouthpiece of Saddam Bin Laden and his evil cronies. It's funny, because even before 9/11, "Guardian reader" was British shorthand for a certain type of urbane moderate leftist, a person attracted to worthy causes and seeing themselves as a fundamentally good human being in a specifically liberal-humanist way. Nowadays, in parts of the US (or at least of blogspot.com), it has become this generation's equivalent of "Vietcong sympathiser" or something. (See also: "Communist" as generic term of abuse, as in "dot-communists" being stock-optioned yuppies putting rents up.)
Meanwhile, the Graun has this piece on al-Jazeera, the controversial Arab news network which has made many enemies in the Middle East, and now plans to roll out an English-language network to compete with the BBC and CNN.