Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Frohes neues Jahr!

As we say in German: Frohes neues Jahr (happy new year) to everybody and all the best for the futur!


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

1.2 Billion missing from MF Global Client Accounts

"It wasn't my fault," John Corzine said in his testimony before Congress.  He went on to say that he didn't intend to break the rules.  I am pretty sure Bernie Madoff said the same thing. Chief Operating Officer Bradley Abelow and Chief Financial Officer Henri Steenkamp will also testify and have submitted written testimony attempting to distance themselves from the hands on operation of the company.  The main crux of thier testimony is that is wasn't thier job and they don't know how the money went missing. As the COO and the CFO, it is thier responsibility to make sure that there are compliance procerdures in place to deal sepcifically with co-mingling of funds and leverage and it is thier responsibility to make sure that these procedures are being followed. Steenkamp said he was not aware that there was a problem with clients segregated accounts until October 30th, when he discovered serious issues in fund calculations.  If he was the CFO, how could he miss this, unless someone in the organization was actively hiding it, or he was complicit in the actions.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Are bloggers "real" journalists?

Not in the state of Oregon:


A Montana blogger just got sued for defamation by an Oregon lawyer--and she lost the case because she couldn't prove her assertion that the lawyer was a "thug and a thief" without revealing her source. The judge ruled that she was not protected under Oregon's shield law--thus couldn't keep her source private--and wasn't a "real" journalist because she had no professional affiliation.

Interesting case. Like it's mentioned in the article, this probably won't be such a big deal for bloggers--at least until a case like this goes to the Supreme Court--but it certainly hits a nerve anyway.

The Inner Lives of Wartime Photographers

After last week's discussion in class, I found this NY Times piece really fascinating. It discusses the lives of war time photographers, and how they're right there, embedded, in the middle of a war and still have to perform their own job. Here is the link: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/08/magazine/mag-08lede-t.html?_r=2&hp=&pagewanted=print

The Inner Lives of Wartime Photographers

This has been a grievous season for the tight-knit tribe of combat photographers. For The Times, the sorrow began last October, when a land mine exploded under Joao Silva while he was shooting pictures of an American patrol near Kandahar, Afghanistan, destroying both of his legs and shredding his intestinal tract. This spring, three other photographers working for The Times — Jehad Nga, Tyler Hicks and Lynsey Addario — were among the numerous journalists who disappeared into the custody of Libyan state thugs, where they were beaten and terrorized before we could negotiate their release. The darkness deepened by several hues last month when two admired lensmen — Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros — were killed while embedded with Libya’s hapless rebel militia.

Covering conflict is perilous for anyone — reporters, local stringers, the drivers and interpreters we depend on — but photographers are more exposed, in at least two senses of the word. They need a sustained line of sight to frame their photographs; a reliable source is never enough. And they cannot avert their eyes; they have to let the images in, no matter how searing or disturbing. Robert Capa’s famous advice to younger photographers — “Get closer” — translates in combat to “get more vulnerable,” both literally and emotionally.

Back in 2000, Joao and Greg Marinovich, a shooter who was my partner and guide on journalistic adventures in South Africa, published a book called “The Bang-Bang Club,” about four photographer friends who worked together during the bloody death rattle of apartheid. By the time Greg and Joao wrote their account, they were the only survivors. Kevin Carter, a charismatic, talented, addled mess of a man, had run a garden hose from his exhaust pipe into his car and, while smoking a hypnotic mix of methaqualone and marijuana, composed a suicide note. That same year, 1994, Ken Oosterbroek, the grown-up of the quartet, was shot dead in a crossfire in Thokoza township. Greg, who was standing nearby that day, took a bullet to the chest but eventually recovered. After chasing wars around the globe for another five years and being wounded three more times, Greg retired from combat work to write and do less hazardous photography and video documentaries. And that left only Joao, wedded to the life and seemingly invulnerable.

When I called on Joao at Walter Reed Army Medical Center last week — where he is getting accustomed to his new robo-legs and fighting off waves of infection — Greg was also visiting. Most afternoons, Joao straps on his prostheses and circles the physical-therapy room for an hour and a half, clinging to a walker. He’s months from being able to walk on his own, and until then he’s confined to a bed or a wheelchair, attached to a colostomy bag and a stream of antibiotics. His attitude is amazingly resilient. (The first time I visited Walter Reed, I remarked that he didn’t seem to be any older. “No,” he replied, “but I’m a bit shorter.”) Still, the serial operations and infections have made him more somber. As medics came and went tending to Joao’s gauges and nozzles, we spent a few hours discussing the various predicaments of their field, beginning with the obvious mystery: Why do they do this crazy work?

They do it for the most mundane of reasons (to feed their families) and the most idealistic (to make the world pay attention) and the most visceral (it is exhilarating; it is fun) and the somewhat existential.

“It becomes your identity in so many ways,” Joao said. “This is my identity. This is all I’m known for. Nobody sends me out to go shoot beautiful pictures for travel articles, you know?”

Greg, while conceding there is much about the life he misses, implored his best friend to give it up. But Joao hopes to go back to it as soon as he is firmly on his high-tech feet.

“I wish I was in Libya right now,” he declared at one point.

“If this hadn’t happened, or if you were in a position physically, you would go back?” Greg asked.

“If I was in a position to, yeah. Why not?”

“Why not? You’re asking me? I don’t know, what about your family, Joao?”

Joao, who has an endlessly patient wife and two young children, paused for a time.

“The families are very brave,” he concluded.

Perhaps because they are the sharp end of our journalistic spear, combat photographers have long been subjected to mythologizing. The most common myths are that combat photographers are reckless of spirit, or why else would they take such chances, and hard-shelled of heart, or how else could they bear it? “The Bang-Bang Club” was just made into a movie (which played at the Tribeca Film Festival to disappointing reviews), and one of its failings is that it falls for both of these superficialities. It shows the moments of cowboy exuberance — Greg, played by Ryan Phillippe, sprinting across a sniper alley to fetch Cokes for his thirsty comrades — but ignores the exquisite caution, the calculation of every footfall, the patient diplomacy that is more the rule in conflict coverage.

Another scene has Greg, at the site of a massacre, carefully adjusting the lighting so he can photograph a dead child while his girlfriend breaks down in horror.

“Maybe you have to be like that to do what you do,” she tells him afterward.

“Be like what?” the movie version of Greg asks.

“I think you have to forget that those are real people.”

For most of the combat photographers I’ve known, the idea that they are unfeeling is exactly wrong. You can see the almost-unbearable sympathy in the best of their work, and it is an adhesive that binds them to one another. What people mistake for emotional distance, I think, is an intensity of experience that an outsider cannot fully penetrate. Even most of their spouses do not pretend to understand.

“People just don’t get it,” Joao said. “You have to be there, and you have to live it.”

The moral implications of their work are not quite so readily dismissed. Any photographer who has snapped memorable images has had the experience of being damned for it, and it is something the most thoughtful of them take to heart.

One familiar indictment, a moral corollary to their ostensibly hardened hearts, is that they are voyeurs, paparazzi of doom, exploiting the misery of others. Three months before he killed himself, Kevin Carter won the Pulitzer Prize for a picture published on the front page of this paper: it showed an emaciated Sudanese toddler doubled over, as a vulture lurked behind her. Afterward, Carter was asked over and over, What became of the girl? He stammered through a variety of answers, failing to comprehend that while his picture, by awakening the world to a famine, may have saved many lives, he was being judged as a heartless opportunist for not rescuing the one life that he had put at the center of attention.

According to Joao, who was nearby, the child in the picture was within the perimeter of a feeding center, not far away from adults, not quite so alone or menaced as the picture suggested. Even so, Greg believes Kevin fumbled the question because he was ashamed that, in his exultation at a great picture, he didn’t think to carry the girl closer to shelter.

“Sometimes we fail our own moral compass, our own emotional compass,” Greg told me. “Kevin was a bloody warm, generous and fantastic guy, and I’m surprised that he didn’t pick up the kid, just to make himself feel better.”

The other knock on combat photographers is that they are cynics who have no loyalties or values.

Joao, on assignment in Iraq for The Times in 2004, talked his way into a company of insurgents of the Mahdi army in the battleground town of Najaf. For days he was accompanying and photographing snipers as they took aim at Americans. The coverage was vilified by some readers, for whom it was incomprehensible that we would show what the war looks like from the other side.

“I do understand, if you have a son fighting in the armed forces, or you might know someone who has lost his son, where that antagonism comes from,” Joao told me. “But from my point of view, I was just being a professional,” revealing the state, and state of mind, of the other side.

“Track suits and sandals, and they’re out there putting their lives on the line and fighting against the mightiest army on the planet,” he mused. “There’s something to be learned from that. . . . Because at that point nobody knew who these guys were and what they were capable of.”

An altogether different moral dilemma falls to me, and it has cost me some sleep at times: What is the obligation of those who send journalists to war? We pay these people to risk their lives. (The day rate for combat is double the rate for less dangerous work.) We put them up for prizes. We are literally their enablers. When someone gets hurt, is it my fault for encouraging them to take chances?

After the CBS reporter Lara Logan was sexually assaulted in Egypt and our own Lynsey Addario was manhandled by her captors in Libya, some critics demanded to know how we could justify sending women into places where the threat of bombs and bullets is compounded by the threat of sexual violence. On that question, I defer to some of the intrepid Times women who have distinguished themselves in a field that is mostly populated by men — war journalists like Carlotta Gall, Alissa Rubin, Sabrina Tavernise or Lynsey herself, who says that compared with the beatings her male colleagues suffered during six days in Libyan captivity, “I felt like I got off easy.” The women who do this work will tell you that the question is patronizing, that they are capable of making their own choices and that, importantly, they have access to stories that men do not.

Lynsey recalls covering sexual assault as a weapon of war in Congo and in Darfur. The victims were more comfortable entrusting their stories and showing their wounds to a woman. In Muslim societies, Lynsey points out, female reporters and photographers have access to homes, to women and girls, that would be off-limits to any man who was not part of the family. For a sample of what you’d be missing if Lynsey Addario worked only in safe places, visit her 2010 portfolio of women in Afghanistan, who, in despair over brutal marriages or ostracism, set themselves on fire.

My general sense of the employer’s responsibility is this: We have an obligation to provide the equipment and training, to make clear that we do not consider any story or picture worth a life and, if they get in trouble, to do everything in our power to get them out. But they are there. We are not. We should hesitate to second-guess decisions they make on the ground. (They do enough of that themselves.)

I admit this formulation may be tested when Joao is ready to work again. If he asks for that posting to Baghdad or some other place where things blow up, what do I say? To him? To his family?

Bill Keller is executive editor of The New York Times.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: May 8, 2011

An essay this weekend on Page 11, about photographers who cover wars, refers imprecisely to Chris Hondros, a photographer who was killed last month while covering Libya’s rebel militia. He was a senior staff photographer for the Getty Images agency, not a freelancer. The essay also misstates the year that Joao Silva was on assignment for The New York Times in Najaf, Iraq. It was 2004, not 2006.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Kilpatrick’s Rules of Newspaper Writing

Hello, all. I came across this brief set of rules for newspaper writers. Angelia has made many of these same points in class, such as avoiding redundant words. It's not so easy to write clearly, cleanly, concisely, but this ability sets the great writers apart from the mediocre ones.


Kilpatrick’s Rules of Newspaper Writing

Some time ago columnist and author James J. Kilpatrick met with a group of college students who asked him for a set of newspaper-writing rules. The list that resulted is reprinted with Kilpatrick’s permission.

1. Be clear. This is the first and greatest commandment. In a large sense, nothing else matters. For clarity embraceth all things: the clear thought to begin with, the right words for conveying that thought, the orderly arrangement of the words. It is a fine thing, now and then, to be colorful, to be vivid, to be bold. First be clear.

2. Love words, and treat them with respect. For words are the edged tools of your trade; you must keep them honed. Do not “infer” when you mean to “imply.” Do not write “fewer than” when you mean “less than.” Do not use “among” when you mean “between.” Observe that “continually” and “continuously” have different meanings. Do not write “alternately” when you mean “alternatively.” Tints are lights; shades are dark. Learn the rules of “that” and “which.” When you fall into the pit of “and which,” climb out of your swampy sentence and begin anew.

3. As a general proposition, use familiar words. Be precise; but first be understood. Search for the solid nouns that bear the weight of thought. Use active verbs that hit an object and do not glance off.

4. Edit your copy; then edit it again, then edit it once more. This is the hand-rubbing process. No rough sandpapering can replace it.

5. Strike the redundant word. Emergencies are inherently acute; crises are grave; consideration is serious. When you exhort your readers to get down to basic fundamentals, you are dog paddling about in a pool of ideas and do not know where to touch bottom. Beware the little qualifying words: rather, somewhat, pretty, very. As E.B. White said, these are the leeches that suck the meaning out of language. Pluck them from your copy.

6. Have no fear of repetition. It is better to repeat a word than to send an orphan antecedent in its place. Do not write horsehide, white pellet or the old apple when you mean baseball. Members of the City Council are not solons; they are members of the City Council. If you must write banana four times, then write banana four times; nothing is gained by three bananas and one elongated yellow fruit.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Can't we expect something more from the Republicans?

A few weeks ago, Angelia asked us to post on this blog, describing what outrages us when we read the political news.

More than anything, I feel frustrated at the overall low quality of the Republican candidates. Really, are these people the best, the most intelligent, capable candidates the party can put forward? There are certainly superior potential candidates, but most are simply not willing to subject themselves to the scrutiny, the grind, the pandering that is necessary to participate in the process, and to end up getting enough votes to be a serious contender.

Take Mitt Romney. An intelligent, affable businessman, who truly believes that he understands the problems of America & the world better than anyone else, and can guide the country into better days. He is as bland as they come, unimaginative, saying whatever he thinks he has to to get political favor.

I reference this excellent, extended article 'Building a Better Mitt Romney-Bot' in the November 30, '11, NYTimes Magazine. If you want to understand the packaging, the marketing of Romney for this current campaign, this article will open your eyes: so many managers & image makers, regulating how Romney is presented to the world.

A couple of representative quotes:

"Those who at close range watched Romney’s failure to close the deal in 2008 did not witness a rejection per se. Instead, it appeared that Republican voters could not quite envision this decent, clever and socially uneasy fellow governing their country — as opposed to, say, managing their stock portfolios. Stories of Romney’s wooden people skills are legion. “The Mormon’s never going to win the who-do-you-want-to-have-a-beer-with contest,” concedes one adviser, while another acknowledges, “He’s never had the experience of sitting in a bar, and like, talking.”

"It’s very unlikely that we’ll ever hear Mitt Romney and Barack Obama openly discuss the things they have in common. Nonetheless, we may well see in the general election a contest between two dispassionate and accommodating pragmatists and skilled debaters who relish intellectual give-and-take, and whose willingness to compromise has infuriated the party faithful. Both have promised change. Each will frame the other as being not up to the task."

If Romney gets the nomination, I will vote for Mr. Obama. Yes, Obama has spent most of his first term learning how to be president, with disappointing results. But he will, no doubt, be a better president during his second term, infinitely preferable to the cold ('Let Detroit Go Bankrupt'), dull, gray, predictable machine that is Romney.

That's one person's opinion.


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Where Children Sleep

This photo collection, called "Where Children Sleep," ran in the New York Times a few months ago. Many of you have probably already seen it (it made the list of the top 40 articles posted on Facebook in 2011), but if you haven't, it's worth a look. The slideshow is only 19 images; the child on the left, and their room on the right.

Most of them are disturbing, but they're disturbing in very different ways. From a 4-year-old pageant queen to a 14-year-old Kenyan tribe member -- and everyone in between -- it's a haunting collection of kids around the world.