27 May 2011

U and Non-U in UGC

UGC refers to user generated content the part of a news story that is generated by the public. The BBC discuss UGC,
"The one-way, 'one to many lecture' of a few years ago has been replaced by news as conversation.

Audiences can answer back; criticise, ask questions journalists didn't think of; add their knowledge and expertise to an evolving story.

For some, it's become a two-way relationship of equals; and even more traditional news organisations recognise that their former silent audiences are now a source of news and comment.

'User generated content' (UGC) is part of this new relationship."
Which is perhaps as it should be.

The BBC respond to UGC by incorporating it into their news broadcasts. But there is a potential problem with this content: authentication. When the BBC journalist receives some UGC how does he know it is what it purports to be and how does the journalist know the sender is who he says he is?

The BBC has developed a check list that is used so that they can try and avoid falling foul of hoax UGC
"1. Email user
2. Cross-check photo wires
3. Could they have shot ALL the pics?
4. PowerPoint? Be wary
5. No text. Be wary
6. Check pixels
7. Too good to be true?
It is obvious that this is part of the process called the historical method which is a part of epistemeology.

All very interesting but where's the beef?

Well, how much of this process do bloggers and tweeters perform before we post or re-tweet content that we find on the web? Bear in mind that the BBC guidelines appeared to be devised so that they can guard against hoaxes: what about something more serious such as propaganda? I don't believe that these checks will be sufficient, but at least it's something, an attempt; a realisation of the fallibility of the process.

If you do use UGC on your blog or re-tweet how do you know you're not peddling propaganda for others?

24 May 2011

#SmilesC Answer 6

The compound is called sodium thiopental ...
... and it is so controversial because it is used to kill people.
image from, US executions delayed by shortage of death penalty drug
The controversy surrounding the drug has been perpetuated by the Charity- Reprieve who ran a campaign
Death Penalty: Stop Lethal Injection Project timeline
-that led to the change of the law in the uk - see, The Export Control (Amendment) (No. 3) Order 2011, so that the substance can no longer be lawfully exported from the UK.
However, the gap in the market has been filled by Lundbeck and so the controversy continues ...
Update 1st June 2011. The story given by me so far would be completely one sided without refering to, Lundbeck's position regarding the misuse of pentobarbital in execution of prisoners
"Lundbeck is dedicated to saving people’s lives. Use of our products to end lives contradicts everything we’re in business to do. Lundbeck is opposed to the use of its product for the purpose of capital punishment."
"Lundbeck markets pentobarbital solely for its approved use, among other things to treat serious conditions such as a severe and life threatening emergency epilepsy. The annual frequency of status epilepticus in the United States is estimated to be between 126,000 and 195,000 events, with up to 42,000 deaths yearly, though the incidence may be higher due to underreporting. Doctors have described pentobarbital as the ultimate gold standard in North America for controlling seizures in patients with refractory status epilepticus when other medications fail. The use of this product to carry out the death penalty in US prisons falls outside its approved indications. Lundbeck does not promote pentobarbital for use in lethal injections or any other unapproved use."
"We have engaged in a constructive dialogue with human rights advocates to discuss and evaluate ideas to prevent the incorrect use of our product for lethal injections. We have carried out a thorough assessment of ways to prevent distribution for use in capital punishment."
"However, Lundbeck does not control the application of pentobarbital. Based on our evaluation and the advice of external experts, we have concluded that there are no viable steps Lundbeck can take to prevent end-users from obtaining the product for unapproved use, short of withdrawing the product from the market. However, taking pentobarbital off the market would be a tragedy for the many patients who benefit from legitimate uses of this important therapy."
Lundbeck have more to say on the matter in their corporate responsibility webpages (link above), particularly with regard to their 'end user agreement'. They think that it would be a waste of time to put one on the box/vial as this would be (and could be legally) ignored.

Thanks are due to Lundbeck's courtesy in replying to emails about this issue.

23 May 2011

#SmilesC Answer 5

  • #SmilesC what has this compound got to do with the law? O=N(=O)C1=CC=C(O1)C=NN2CCOC2(=O)
The compound is called furazolidone ...
... and it was at the centre of the original Norwich Pharmacal court case that led to the Norwich Pharmacal Order.

A Norwich Pharmacal Order is issued by a court against a third party in order to discover evidence of wrongdoing by someone.

For example, if an anonymous blogger made defamatory remarks on their blog about someone, in order to find out who it was the claimant would ask the Court to issue a Norwich Pharmacal Order against the internet service provider that hosted the blog in order to discover the name of the blogger.

Conspiracy Theorists Ngrammed

The other day I read Derek's note about using google's Ngram viewer to track the incidence of the phrase "Big Pharma" in the English language.

I thought of Derek's post when I listened to the part of the Corbett Report podcast, Episode 050 The C Word, 'c' referring to the word 'conspiracy', in the expression conspiracy theory (ist, ists).

So I decided to plug 'conspiracy theorists' into ngram ...
click on link for clearer picture

...an expression supposedly dreamt up by the CIA in order to undermine those who criticised the Warren Commission's conspiracy theory explanation of the assassination of Kennedy. It was fascinating to see the expression 'conspiracy theorists' appearing in the 1960s (but not before) and its use exponentially increasing: it gives the impression, almost, of an animation of the oppression of free thought over time, where the expression is used in lieu of reasoned debate.

Whilst over in the UK the expression took a little longer (between 1970 - 1975) to appear in the British English corpus of literature.

Click the images for a clearer view but better still, do your own analysis using ngram.
Update 1st June 2011. In his Nobel lecture, Pinter says,
"Language is actually employed to keep thought at bay."
As I read Pinter's speech I couldn't help but think that the expression, conspiracy theorist, is another expression employed to keep thought at bay.

Here's the part of the speech where the expression appears,
"Listen to all American presidents on television say the words, 'the American people', as in the sentence, 'I say to the American people it is time to pray and to defend the rights of the American people and I ask the American people to trust their president in the action he is about to take on behalf of the American people.'
"It's a scintillating stratagem. Language is actually employed to keep thought at bay. The words 'the American people' provide a truly voluptuous cushion of reassurance. You don't need to think. Just lie back on the cushion. The cushion may be suffocating your intelligence and your critical faculties but it's very comfortable."

#SmilesC Answer 4

  • #SmilesC what's special about this arrangement of atoms? [Rb+].[Na+].O=C([O-])[C@H](O)[C@@H](O)C(=O)[O-].O.O.O.O
The compound is sodium rubidium tartrate which is of interest to me because, as far as I'm concerned, it produced the most important crystal structure [pdf] ever determined.

to be continued ...

The Usual Problem

A couple of weeks ago I attended one of the Hexham debates; this one given by Professor Paul Rogers and titled, '9/11 Ten Years After'.

Professor Rogers gave an assured description of the official narrative of 9/11 beginning by explaining about the role of Afghanistan during the cold war; he alluded to the US funding of the Mujahideen (although Charlie Wilson and Gust Avrakotos were not mentioned) and the subsequent downfall of the Soviet Union. The official narrative with regard to the destruction of the twin towers was a given as was other terrorist atrocities under the name of al-qaeda. He then then took questions from the audience. The questions were interesting and varied: for example, the opening question discussed Robin Cook's 'Ethical Foreign Policy.

A question towards the end of the session caught my ear: "how do you authenticate your facts?" He answered that over the years sources that he'd acquired had turned out to be correct and hence more trustworthy but he did concede that there was a problem. It wasn't always possible to be sure that the information he was receiving was true.

An excellent event organised by the Quakers of Hexham, looking forward to the next one.

Addendum 24th May 2011. I've just been reminded of one of the points that Professor Rogers made in his presentation about Osama bin Laden: he said that OBL and al-qaeda thought that they were eschatological. He went on to define eschatology as the expectation that their philosophy would live on beyond death.

I was reminded of this by the latest Corbett Report, The Last Word On Osama bin Laden in which Corbett says,
"Even in death, we are told, he [OBL] and the mythical army of devotees he supposedly ruled over, are a clear and present danger to our society..."

18 May 2011

#SmilesC Answer 3

The compound is called allicin and it is found in garlic.

The chemistry associated with this compound is described in Eric Block's book, "Garlic and Other Alliums". Block explains how allium was discovered, the difficulties in working with these compounds, the precursor compounds and the analogous chemistry of onions. He tells us about the onion LF and introduces us to the zwiebelanes and much more! Get a copy if you can.

Y Me?

Or, what are the chances of that?
I've just come back from Euroland (Holland): instead of converting euros back to pounds I decided to hold onto them with a view to spending them at a later date.

Nothing unusual in that, except I began to think about the Greek debt crisis. As we should all be aware the single currency isn't really a single currency: each of the nation states of Euroland still has a central bank and it is these central banks that issue their allocated proportion of notes. If the central bank cannot support its currency then - theoretically - that part of the currency will collapse forcing it out of the euro. In order to trace the issuing bank each of the notes has a letter at the beginning of its serial number.

The country code for Greece is Y.

So, what are the chances of getting a €10 note?

Notes in circulation and notes issued by Greek Central Bank
Mar 20118242883615326952197ECB in billions. 1
Mar 201122,058-----508.6-Greek Central Bank millions. 2

Notes: 1, total value used (table 2). 2 the proportions of notes in circulation were not available from the Greek Central Bank; the same proportion for the rest of europe was used.

We can now work out what percentage of €10 notes in circulation originate from the Greek central bank.

100*(508.6/19000) = 3 %

I had a three percent chance of getting a single Greek €10 yet I get two (a nine in ten thousand chance). Stats is a tricky business but I'm suspicious that there is a hugely disproportionate number of Greek euros in circulation with other notes being hoarded.

(I don't know how bank accounts work with respect to allocation of risk: perhaps every euro bank account is subject to the same proportionate risk, perhaps not? Watch this space.)

Is this the beginning of the fracture of the single currency? When are you going to stop taking them in your change? I'm going to try and palm those off onto someone else and I'm going to avoid taking Greek denominated euros when I can. How about you?

16 May 2011

#SmilesC Answer 2

This is the Perkin reaction. I chose this as a question because of the importance that William Perkin has with respect to the history of chemistry.

Chaff Seeded With Lies and Propaganda

Ever had the feeling that you've been cheated?

The wikileaks saga continues with people behaving as though the wikileaks diplomatic cable release is the fount of truth. But ever present epistemeology continues to whisper, 'but how do you know?'

As the wikipedia article explains,
"According to The Guardian, all the diplomatic cables were marked "Sipdis", denoting "secret internet protocol distribution", which means they had been distributed via the closed U.S. SIPRNet, the U.S. Department of Defense’s classified version of the civilian internet.20 Although more than three million U.S. government personnel and soldiers have access to this network,21 "top secret" documents are not included in the system."
A data dump of emails with a circulation of three million people is hardly going to be secret: some may classify it as such, but that doesn't make it so.

In other words: it's chaff.

The next question is one of verification - how do we know that this, or other wikileaks leaks, aren't emanating from some US propagandist? How do we know that they aren't riddled with lies? As has been pointed out by others; if one compares wikileaks to Watergate, not the story but the mechanics of the story, there was one thing that makes all the difference: Watergate had a verifiable source. Wikileaks has no historical verifiability; it simply has visual verifiability - it looks real, so it must be real. By visual verifiability and looking real, I mean the theatre around wikileaks; for instance, the creepy Assange who is perpetually on the lam, the rape allegations and extradition, the torture of Bradley Manning (they wouldn't do that if he wasn't guilty of something heinous would they?), the squealing from the Whitehouse and the condemnation of the leaks by the responsible media, and of course, the drip, drip, drip feeding of the information. In the absence of verification and the theatrical spectacle in lieu of verification, we are left with two things:

lies and propaganda.

In some respects, wikileaks has been and is an ongoing massive success. Want to manipulate the media ... release some lies via wikileaks; that way people will believe it.


11 May 2011

#SmilesC Answer 1

This is vitamin C, here's the chemspider link and the wikipedia link.

The wikipedia link is worth reading in full - the name of the compound, its discovery, synthesis, the first clinical trial, the industrial synthesis (which I remember learning about at college): all fascinating.

Prince Appropriation

How common is it for police officers in the UK to appropriate the property of suspects or from the scene of a crime?

I've written about this before in, "Troubled by Julie", a case where a police officer was supposed to destroy evidence that was no longer required but instead appropriated it. The property, jackets and shoes, was valued at £1,200 but the judge overseeing the hearing (Mr Justice Prince) said that the value of the goods, because they were going to be destroyed, was nothing and as such it wasn't in the public interest to bring the prosecution. After this hearing the CPS dropped the case.

I thought this was an isolated incident but now I'm not so sure.

A week ago the Independent reported, "Gun police suspended over photograph" where, hidden in the confused story we have,
"Three officers - a sergeant and two Pcs - were arrested for misconduct in March in connection with allegations that items seized during raids later appeared on eBay, the force said."
Is there a culture of entitlement to this property within the police forces in the UK?

(I posted a similar article to http://policestate.co.uk/ but it hasn't been published, hence the note above).

05 May 2011

Semiotic Hyperreality

Thinking of Umerto Eco's, Travels in Hyperreality: Essays (Picador Books) after the 'deathing' of Usama Bin Laden. Where
"Hyperreality is used in semiotics and postmodern philosophy to describe a hypothetical inability of consciousness to distinguish reality from fantasy, especially in technologically advanced postmodern cultures."
With this in mind, please find a poll which relates Al-qaeda to hyperreality using defintions given by Baudrillard, Eco and, er, the Conspiraloon Alliance. Sad as it seems, all three sources have greater credibility than the MSM.

pollcode.com free polls
Is Al-Qaeda

"The simulation of something which never really existed."
"An authentic fake."
"A Gonzo terrorist organisation"


Update 6th June 2011. For those who find the distinction between reality and hyperreality confusing consider Cary Grant.

Cary Grant never existed, he was the creation of someone called Archie Leach
"My family name is Leach. To which, at my christening, was added Archibald Alexander, with no opportunity for me to protest. For more than half my fifty-eight years I have cautiously peered from behind the facade of a man known as Cary Grant."
which he did with the help of the Hollywood entertainment industry.

Archie Leach was real, Cary Grant hyperreal. Cary Grant was the simulation of something (someone) that didn't exist; he was an authentic fake. Archie may sometimes be tongue tied, Cary never so; Archie may snore in bed, his hair may sometimes be unkept, he may be poor company; but in the case of the hyperreal Cary, none of this was true.